This past weekend marked the start of my race season with two NorAm biathlon races in Canmore. As these were not only my first races of the season, but also my first ever biathlon races, I definitely had some nerves running through me heading into the weekend!
One of the new things I’m having to get used to in biathlon is the additional tasks you have to add your pre-race routine. In normal nordic races, I usually head out of the lodge about 45 minutes before my start for warmup, ski a few intervals, grab my race skis and head to the start. In biathlon however, you have to also zero your rifle, so your sights are aligned with the target, and go through equipment check, where race officials inspect your rifle. These definitely required some extra time this weekend! In fact, this meant I had to start my warmup an hour and a half before my race, far earlier than I’m used to, but something that is often the norm in biathlon races. These were some of the largest ever biathlon races in North America, with nearly 300 competitors, which meant that both equipment check and zeroing was very busy on race morning- the line for equipment check was almost 30 minutes long!
Fortunately I planned my morning with enough time for these added tasks, and before I knew it I was in the start gate. Saturday started out with a 10km sprint, where we shot twice, once prone, and once standing. For each missed shot, we had to ski a 150m penalty loop. I ended up making it through the day with four misses- two prone, two standing. While I am definitely working towards better accuracy and faster shooting times, I was satisfied with this for my first race. On the skiing side of things, I felt like my speed was at a pretty good level… which showed up on the results page, as despite my misses I ended up in a solid 5th place! Overall I was pretty happy with the race!
Sunday was a 15km mass start, where we skied a 3km loop five times and shot four times, twice prone, twice standing. Once again we would be skiing 150m penalty loops. New this year in the biathlon world is the skating start to mass starts. Instead of a double pole start, which is normal in mass start cross country races, biathlon now lets racers skate from the start of the race, by having fewer start lanes. The race was seeded of our results from Saturday, and because a couple of the Canadians in front of me in the sprint had headed off to Europe, I was in the front row of the start. I definitely liked the new format… though maybe my opinion would change if I were further back…
As this race had relatively more shooting than skiing, compared to the sprint, I knew that I had to improve my shooting percentage if I wanted a similar result. Unfortunately, that didn’t happened, and my shooting percentages took a step backward from Saturday. I ended up skiing 10 penalties, which means I had to ski an extra 1500m throughout the race. Not only does this add extra time, it adds extra fatigue which slows you down on the rest of the course. Naturally, I fell a little further down the results sheet. While it was a bit of a let down, this was only my second race, so I did my best not to be too dissapointed. And on the brighter side, my ski speed once again felt pretty good, so if I can just improve my shooting a bit, I know I will be headed back up the results!
We’ve continued training in Canmore the past few days, and tomorrow we’re headed off to northern Minnesota for our next races. We’ll be racing four times in five days, so I’ll be stacking up the biathlon experience pretty quickly!