Former biathlete, current coach….all round nordic enthusiast!

An elite athlete competing in the sport of biathlon: nordic ski racing combined with marksmanship

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunburns and Shooting: Mammoth Lakes Biathlon 2013

Earlier this winter I received an invitation to participate in the Mammoth Lakes Biathlon event as an elite competitor. Last year I thought about attending but backed out because I was too tired at the end of the racing season. I'd heard nothing but good reviews of the event so this year I booked my flight earlier and registered for the event so I wouldn't back out again.
I'm sure glad I did! Right now I'm sitting in the San Francisco Airport on my way home from an awesome experience. I have a sunburned face and my body is exhausted, but I'm already looking forward to returning for this event next year if I can.

I went out with seven other USBA racers including three other senior-level racers and four juniors. We stayed at a nice hotel right in town and were given rental cars to get around. In hind sight, I wish I had booked my tickets differently, leaving more time to explore the area either before or after the event. Mammoth is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. In winter they have a massive expanse of downhill skiing, backcountry, cross country trails,

Mammoth doesn't have a permanent biathlon range so they set up a temporary one up on the alpine area. They are working on a range on their nordic trail system at Tamarack but because of permits, it's been a long time coming. As in the past, volunteers, organizers, racers and spectators took a chairlift part way up the Mammoth downhill trails, then climbed into a snow cat shuttle for the rest of the trip up to the temporary range and race trails. Their venue was in a kind of basin off the back side of the (massive) downhill mountain.

Because access is only possible via the downhill trails, we did some shooting clinics in town on Friday for beginners using laser rifles set up in the local fitness center. Saturday we manned the firing points during the beginner and kids races and then Sunday we helped with more races before competing in our own, a 7.5k mass start. I won the women's elite category however not in very impressive form. We all zeroed on metal targets because they didn't have enough paper targets to go around. The result was less than stellar shooting during the race: I finished with eight penalties.

As always, pictures, because I know picture-filled blog entries are so much more interesting to read. Thanks to Greg Williams and Jim Stimson for most of these great shots. The rest are mine.


Friday, before the shooting clinics, Jakob, Sienna and I went adventuring on Mammoth's xc ski trails at was amazing. 

We quickly discovered that everything was frozen so we weren't limited to just the ski trails. We skied all over the place and were just awed by the amounts of snow in places...

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. 

Found this neat building above one of the lakes we skied across....

Jakob tried to ski up onto this buried didn't work out too well. 

Riding in the cat on our way up to the race venue Saturday morning....

The bowl where the race courses and shooting range were. 

The temporary shooting range...not too shabby at all!

Start of the first kids race on Saturday

Mia, adorable daughter of the race organizer, taking off after shooting

Corrine helping a young lady on the range

Jakob helping during the Wounded Warriors race

Raleigh helping another kids racer with her shooting

Jakob getting antsy between races....

Raleigh enjoying lunch from the Burrito Cat

Lined up for the elite wave on Sunday (I'm #7)

Start of the elite wave

Trying to ski hard at 10,000 feet. This was probably one of the harder races I've done this year in terms of how I felt. When you can't get enough oxygen your body starts to hurt pretty quickly when you're working hard. 

Taking aim at standing targets...

Heading uphill in the sun....

And done. So, so very hard! 

Our elite gang after the race.... All smiles!

I will update with more pictures soon but right now I have a plane to catch!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's the Essence of the Sport (that can be frustrating)

This weekend we had US Nationals right here in Fort Kent, ME. We (spoiled) MWSC athletes got to enjoy perfect conditions on our home courses done up "World Cup Style". 10th Mountain pulled out all the stops, brought forth a fleet of volunteers, and put on a great event. Unfortunately it wasn't too well attended, but our sport is small and when most of the U.S. National team members and other elite U.S. biathletes are either in Europe or unwilling to make the trek, numbers are low. Luckily we were joined by a good-sized group of Canadians so the event was still fun.

Friday was highlighted by the 100+ school kids that came to watch from Fort Kent and Eagle Lake Elementary schools. I have been visiting them monthly to talk about healthy lifestyles and biathlon so it was great that they could come and watch our races. They also did a great job of being top notch biathlon fans, making posters, noise-makers and cheering (VERY) loudly. I know the other competitors enjoyed their encouragement as well.

The kiddos cheering section in the bleachers (L), and one of the classes showing off their awesome posters after the races ended (R).

Signing autographs like crazy (L) and more kiddos waiting for the bus back to school (R). 
(Left photo credit: John Metz)

One of the kid's parents made me this awesome flag as a gift and all the kids in his class signed it. Can't wait to hang in up at home....a very special gift that I will cherish. Thank you!

Raleigh, Omar and myself: all smiles after lots of hugs and autographs with school kids. 

My teammate Raleigh bringing home a victory on day 1. 

My races went well the first two days but then I bombed (yes, that's a good word for it) today's mass start event. Friday (sprint race) I shot (1,1) to take the win, following by an excellent day in Saturday's pursuit, shooting (1,1,0,0). For those who don't know, those are Friday I missed 2/10 and Saturday I missed 2/20. Based on the first two races you might conclude that I'm a good shot so the skiing must have been terrible today. That wasn't the case. Today I shot (4,1,3,1). I'm really not sure what happened....usually I'm a very consistent shooter, especially in prone.  I skied reasonably well today as I think Clare (the woman who beat me) and I had the same number of penalties. Clare is a new biathlete so for her, our shooting today was probably pretty good. She's a quick skier so keeping up with me on the range was a big step for her, even if I had to have a bad day for it to happen. I finished within sight of her and she has finished in the top 10 at US XC Nationals a few times in the last couple of years. Improving ski speed was a big goal for me this year so finishing close to someone like her is a good indication that I'm doing just that. Aside from today I've had one other race this season with terrible shooting so I'm trying hard not to let it get to me but yes, it was very, very frustrating.

With this morning hanging over me as I write this, I do need to remind myself that I can't be too down on myself. I did win twice (very decisively) this weekend which makes me a two-time National Champion!

Gentle getting ready to head out on course for the sprint race. (Photo credit: Ali Prescott)

Paralympic athlete Omar Bermejo joined us for the weekend all the way from Sun Valley, ID. I think he had a good time despite breaking a pole before the mass start this morning. He's sticking around the County for another week so if you see him, be sure to say hi. He's a great guy and we've enjoying having him visit!

Mike (L), Raleigh (C), and Omar (R) on the Men's podium after the sprint. (Photo credit: Ali Prescott)

Clare (L), myself (C), and Helene (R) on the women's podium after the sprint. 
(Photo credit: Ali Prescott)

Cody takes off in the sprint while Gentle cheers from behind. (Photo credit: Ali Prescott)

MWSC gold medal winners from the sprint race: Raleigh, Gentle, Cody, and myself. 
(Photo credit: Ali Prescott)

Lydia taking aim in her first biathlon races ever. I sure hope she had fun! (Photo credit: Ali Prescott)

Heading out on course in the pursuit race. (Photo credit: Ali Prescott)

Heading toward the range in the pursuit. (Photo credit: John Metz)

Mikaela (a friend from my days at Gunstock Nordic) is all smiles after finishing. 

Oh so very, very tired. 

Omar killing the one-arm technique on a hill above the stadium. 

Saturday's pursuit podium, same order as Friday. 

What's next? Not a lot until I head to Mammoth at the end of the month. This week I'm hoping for some crust cruising before the rain hits and then hopefully a good time volunteering at the Eastern High School races at Nordic Heritage in Presque Isle before (maybe) doing a marathon at Four Seasons in Madawaska on Sunday.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Final Climb: Nationals, Marathons, and Mammoth

Now that it's March the final push toward the end of race season has begun. This coming weekend (March 8-10) we host US Biathlon Nationals right here in Fort Kent. The following weekend the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle hosts Eastern High School Championships. I'm not in high school so I won't be racing but I'll be there in some sort of volunteering capacity. Sunday of that same weekend is also a marathon (40k) in Madawaska that the current plan includes followed closely by the long drive home (3/20) to NH before flying to Mammoth Lake, CA (3/21) for the final event of my season, the Mammoth Biathlon.

Mammoth puts on a huge event for the general public but has an elite race on the final day featuring invited athletes flown in from all over the place. It's been happening for a few years now but every time I've been too blown out to be tempted so late in the winter. I've heard it's fun so this year I put it on the calendar and I'm going...hope there's snow and lots of sun!

My last couple of weeks have been action packed with volunteering, spectating, training, some racing, shoveling, and snowblowing. Oh, and quite a bit of knitting and sewing too!

Climbing my way up in the Aroostook Cup standings, taking two wins over two weekends. Somehow racing against boys (and men) can make even the smaller races more exciting! The turnout at the Himie Towle this past weekend was great....most kids ever and 51 entries in the distance events! 

Most of the school kids that I've been visiting this year (9 elementary classes) are coming to 10th Mountain this Friday to watch the races. Hopefully the forecast holds strong for them and we get 40 degrees and better weather than that for spectating a ski race! On that note, yesterday's big accomplishment was a team effort to clear the 10th Mountain bleachers of almost 2 feet of heavy, wet snow. Strangely enough, I'm not as sore from so much shoveling as I had expected. 

Helping a 3 year-old up the hill on his first day skiing at Aroostook Youth Ski Day (that's me in the tutu). We had about 75 kiddos show up this year and ended up with perfect weather for an awesome morning of skiing!

If you need something entertaining to watch at some point, check this youtube video out and watch the masses fail to ski a (maybe slightly icy) classic-tracked downhill: 

With all the snow that's been falling of late we have been spoiled with great conditions. 

A perfect afternoon ski on a rest day because I just couldn't help it. The sun was out, I knew conditions were absolutely perfect and nothing could keep me inside. 

A look over my shoulder at the twisting snowshoe track that Seth and I left behind on a fresh-powder morning adventure in the 10th Mountain/Lonesome Pines woods. Wonder if anyone followed us...