Sunday, December 18, 2011

Real Snow & Real Bullets… NorAm Biathlon #2, West Yellowstone, Montana

December 9-11, 2011

Rik Eckert

With nothing but sun & cold in the western forecast, instinct and persistent high pressure pushed me back to wild old Montana, where Truckee XC had found blessed snow over Thanksgiving. This time, though, the stakes were real… Would a summer’s preparation put me in the game at an elite level biathlon contest? Well, I was sure gonna find out!

I rolled road weary into West Yellowstone early Thursday evening & went straight to see our friends at Freeheel & Wheel for some encouragement and a welcome cup of coffee (plus a Toko thermo cork, which I had forgotten to put in my kit!)

Friday’s official training day started in typical winter West Yellowstone fashion… ten below and clear! The skiing was sublime though, and after a couple hours on the range, I was getting warmer and pretty comfortable with my shooting. Really, just training at WY’s brand new state-of-the-art shooting range is a biathlete’s dream! A little dinner with friends old and new from California to Calgary to Maine and a little ski prep with some Toko Jet Blue and I was in bed, dreaming of skiing fast & shooting straight!

Our weekend would follow USBA’s two day format: for Masters, Saturday a 7.5K sprint with two shooting stages, prone and standing (PS), and Sunday a 10K pursuit with standard 5 second interval starts and four shooting stages, (PPSS).

No surprise, at Saturday morning’s rifle zero hour temperatures were well below zero... Chief of Competition Marc Sheppard reminded athletes, tongue in cheek, that biathlon is ‘a winter sport’, and when we kicked at 10:00AM, things were much more tolerable. My thanks to Tom McElroy of Truckee for helping me with a quick and accurate zero. I skied to a 6th place in Senior Masters Men, with 2 prone misses, and, (dang!!), 5 standing misses in 34:48. Kirk Olson of Colorado Biathlon won the SMM race with 2/4 misses in 28:53.

Sunday morning ‘church’ was in the warming tent again, with coffee and powdered mini donuts, and athletes reluctant to head out into the chill. Race we did, though; and things went better for me on the range. I placed 6th again, with misses 2/3/4/3 in the PPSS stages, with a time of 48:56. Kyle Boschen of Colorado Biathlon took the SMM podium with 0/2/4/3 in 43:13.

Auburn Ski Club’s Jordan McElroy brought home gold in Youth competition in both Sprint and Pursuit, shooting prone clean in the sprint, and in one of two prone stages in the pursuit. Wynn Roberts of National Guard/USBA National Team took overall honors in the sprint, and Russell Currier of Maine Winter Sports won the pursuit. BethAnn Chamberlain and Katrina Howe, both of Maine Winter Sports won the women’s sprint and pursuit, respectively.

Sunday afternoon sun low, temperatures elevated into the low twenties, and hours of windshield ahead of me, I headed back out to ski an easy Rendezvous loop. I skied through the lovely quiet & thought of my summer - rollerski intervals, plyos, shooting combos, jumping in the odd mountain bike race... and of this weekend, where every missed shot potentially cost a place in the standings… I settled on encouragement – a year ago I struggled on skis. Today, I’m skiing fast enough that I have the luxury of feeling like shooting better is my opportunity. What a difference a year makes!

1 comment:

Craig Peer said...

Great Article Rik ! You are inspiring me to work harder and learn to ski faster. Craig Peer

Truckee's Premier Nordic Ski Team