Triathlon, Cycling, Running, Swimming, Volunteering, Knitting……and Biathlon? If there’s a competitive component to it, teammate Roberta Smith, does it all and always gives it 100%. Read on about Berta’s first race Biathlon race of the season.
So in the off season, I race biathlon. Many people who know that I am cyclist and a triathlete think that biathlon is biking and running. Nope, biathlon is skiing and shooting. Yes, shooting a .22 rifle after your heart rate is racing from skiing hills at altitude. I have been racing biathlon for 4 years now. It started like many crazy ideas- drinking with a friend. I won’t bore you with the details but when I met my husband Paul, he was on board with picking up the sport. About the time in our relationship when a call to the parents with excitement usually means engagement jewelry, the call to my parents in late November 2008 was to let them know Paul had purchased an Izmash biathlon rifle for me….and thus began my real entry into the sport.
So Saturday’s race was my first of the season. As we all know the snow conditions have not been ideal. It was not until last weekend that I actually got out on skis. I have been spending time on my bike on the computrainer so I am not totally out of fitness but you do use different muscles. One thing about racing biathlon is you sometimes have to predict the weather when you are choosing your wax for the day. In cycling, I do choose my wheels based on conditions but in some way choosing the wrong wax is much more frustrating than choosing the wrong wheelset. It was -11º F when I got to Snow Mountain ranch but I was racing in wave 2 and at noon when our race started I knew the snow might have a chance to warm up. So I went with blue Swix wax and hoped for the best. I volunteered as timing chief for the day. Unlike cycling races, the officials here are also racing. When you volunteer as an official you do have to have the proper certification but we always make sure there are enough of us so that we can race and run the race.
Another thing about biathlon racing in Colorado is that the majority of participants a members of the Colorado biathlon club. So unlike cycling, everyone who is racing is wearing the same kit! It is actually pretty funny if you think about it. The biathlon community is small, kind of like cycling, so when you race your first race of the season there is a lot of catching up to do with the other racers. I really like this aspect of the sport. However, I would hate to ever hold a grudge against anyone that I race against because, lets be frank here, everyone is holding a rifle at some point! This brings me to the categories of racing. We have age groups as a grouping but then you are also classified by if you are carrying a rife or not and if you are using a cuff. A cuff helps you to stabilize your rifle when you are shooting in the prone position without one it is harder to keep your gun steady. So given all these criteria I usually have a handful of women that I am actually racing against.
Before you start any race you “zero” your gun. You do this to make sure that your sight is set up for the conditions that day. You shoot on paper targets and the goal is to shoot consistently and precisely. You know in statistics when they show you bulls eyes to help you understand these terms, well that is what you are hoping for. Specifically you want your shots to be in the middle ring since this represents the target size in the prone position. Prone is when you shoot lying down. This target is a 2 inches in diameter. Standing targets are 4 inches in diameter since standing is a harder position When participants don’t carry their own rifle or when they are not using a cuff, they get to shoot on standing targets regardless of their shooting position.
I feel like I have to explain the sport a bit so you will understand my race. So on Saturday I did my “zero” and I wasn’t shooting very consistently or precisely for that matter so I decided to leave things were they were and hope for the best. The race was a sprint race and we had a time-trial start and we would be shooting one bout in the prone position and one bout of standing. A good short race to start the season! As with all sports in Colorado there is always an Olympian in the field. Well the gal who started 30 seconds after me is from the Czech Republic (and has raced skiing most of her life) and the gal 30 seconds behind her could probably also qualify for the Olympics at some point. So I knew the first few minutes of the race would be humbling so I told them if when they passed me if they could just look like they were working hard. My first lap was hard and sure enough 3 minutes in I was passed by the two gals starting immediately behind me. I know I am an endurance girl and that each lap would get a little bit better after the first lap. I came into the range for my first shooting bout and well I missed all of the targets. When you miss a target you have to do a penalty lap for each target that you miss. So, being a strong skier, I can get my penalty laps done quickly and still stay in the race with the better shooters. So I did my dizzying 5 laps and set out on lap two. Same lap as the first one, the snow was softening up and I was getting a good glide but just when I turned the first corner to head uphill, the wind kicked up. I appreciated the push up the hill but really needed to fight the wind on the downhill. The other gals that had a good zero probably were worried about how the wind would effect their shooting. Me, I was going to use the wind to my advantage.
Sure enough, in my standing bout, I got my third shot and I am certain it was not from skill but the help of the wind. I finished my shooting part shooting 10%. It was better than 0% I was telling myself. One gal that I race against is a better shooter than me but we are comparable in our skiing. Until this point I was ahead of her but she was shooting more around 60% so even though I only had one less penalty lap than my first bout, I needed to give it 100% to catch up. So it was on the third lap that I decided between my 10% shooting and giving it 100% to catch the racer in front of me, that I was actually racing at 110%. Overall, I finished 4th in my racing category and if you break that down to age groups, I was first. So even though my shooting wasn’t the greatest, I had a great race. Like all great playtimes, after the race, everyone volunteers to pull up the shooting mats, pull in the lane dividers and pick up the brass from the shells. It is a community event and I look forward to the next race that will be a relay. I will do the relay with my awesome shooter husband Paul Majors and will hope, just hope, we can raise my shooting average. But good shooting, good skiing or not, I will always give it 110%!