Thursday, February 10, 2011

Western Regional Biathlon Championships, Soldier Hollow, Midway, UT

February 5-6, 2011
Rik Eckert
Saturday, 10K Sprint:
Dawn brought new snow to the venerable Olympic range. At 0:830 Zero Time there was three inches of wet-ishdust over old crust, and it was still snowing lightly. At the range I received a wonderful gift – Former US Biathlon Team member Casey Simons came out to help me and his college buddy Phil Violett zero rifles. All business on the Carl Zeiss scope, Casey called out sight adjustments, and I was set with only three magazines fired. I skied the punchy, soft course once to warm up – two short but steep climbs out of the stadium, a long descent to the creek bottom, then a challenging gradual climb with one steep ramp back to the range. A dream came true for me at the start gate as the clock hit zero and I kicked onto the Olympic trails… My skis ran respectably with a heavy coat of Toko HF Red on the Ultra Tune i5 grind. I felt like a champion after hitting 4/5 targets prone. Casey yelled ‘Good shootin!’ trailside and I hit the second lap hard. My standing shooting suffered for it – I came in a little too hot, and hit 1/5. I finished in 58:11, 21stoverall in the field of 46, 6th in Civilian Masters, satisfied enough, but hungry to make up some ground in the Pursuit. Marc Sheppard of West Yellowstone, MT won with a time of 45:52. My pal and Far West racer Phil Violett of Brownsville, CA was fourth at 47:27.
Sunday, 12.5K Pursuit:
Skies cleared overnight to reveal a spectacular Utah morning. Almost exactly nine years ago, I stood in this desert basin and saw the flags of many nations hanging still in the same cold air, watching as athletes and coaches spoke in languages I didn’t understand, and rowdy Norwegian fans drank American beer for breakfast… I would have scarcely believed that, years later, I’d be skiing with a rifle on my back on this perfect, firm track, warming up for a race! Phil and I set up a scope and fired at paper. My zero from Saturday held true, and I skied the course once on WCS2 skis that, with a Jetstream Red topcoat, ran like lightning! A Biathlon Pursuit is exactly what you’d imagine – a profound chase. The shooting format is PPSS (two bouts prone, two standing). You have to focus on your individual effort, in both skiing and shooting, but you’re hyper-aware of what is happening around you, especially ahead. I skied very well, chasing down 3 or 4guys that started ahead of me. My shooting was OK – 2/5, 3/5, 0/5, 3/5. At one point, I fell in the skier-cross style penalty loop, tripped by another racer, but recovered to finish 18th in the field of 43, 6th in Civilian Masters at 1:16:52. Phil Violett won with a time of 49:28.After he finished, he stood on the climb out of the range, urging me over top and helping me gain a valuable few seconds on the long descent. Congratulations to Phil for running down those three guys ahead of him… THAT’s Pursuit!
Thanks to Soldier Hollow and the US National Guard for hosting this great event, to Roger Chaney and Toko for providing wax and tools, and to Casey Simons, a real straight shooter!

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