This weekend marked another first for me, I tried a Biathlon! Actually it was a safety clinic day and an open practice the next but we did stage a fun race at the end of the clinic. I do have to say I’m sadden that on the same day I got to enjoy shooting a gun in a responsible manner, some else used one for all the wrong reasons, killing many and seriously injuring others. I’m not a gun user and before yesterday had only shot a BB gun at tin cans as a kid. My thoughts go out to those lost and those injured in Saturdays shooting.
Our clinic started with some classroom training which included videos and some handouts about safety at the Stevens Pass Nordic Center which is location on the east side of the summit. After that we all made the 3k uphill skate to the shooting range. Once there we paired up and the hands on instruction began. I luckily got my friend’s wife as my instructor which was a plus, as she’s quite good. Unfortunately a lot of the guns were dirty since they hadn’t been properly cleaned and we had some issues throughout the day. This didn’t stop my partner Mike and I from having a blast while attempting our first shots. We practiced both the prone position (laying down) and the standing position. The prone position is much easier even though the target is only 1.8″ across. When you stand it’s 4.5″ across but man does it look small through the sights.
Standing is also made harder by the fact it comes last so your already tired and since your not resting your elbows on the ground as you do in the prone position but against your ribs the guy moves with every breath or movement of your body. I never found my “rhythm” as they call it when you control your breathing and shoot at the same time during each cycle of breathing. I also realized I was not easing the trigger as much as I should have been. Every adjustment and movement needs to be smooth and steady, which is not easy when your heart is pounding!
We practiced until around 2 pm and then had a mock race. I started first and my teammate Mike was to finish the race. I got taking out in the first turn but made up ground fast. I missed 3 of my first 5 shots and all 5 while standing. I had to skate penalty laps for each miss. (see rules here). Mike got 3 prone and 2 standing. We ended up around 5th out of 10 teams. I will say at least two of my misses while in the prone position were miss fires because my gloves were too bulky.
After the race we had to break down the shooting range since the Washington Biathlon Association (WBA) is a volunteer organization. I didn’t have much left in my tank after a long week and it was time for me to skate back to the nordic center and get warm.
I ended up going back up on Sunday for an open practice session. This time I went with my roommate James who has done biathlon a few times before. We ended up having to share a gun since the one I borrowed didn’t fit me properly. We shot a lot and I did much better than Saturday and felt more comfortable. It helped that we got the gun sighted really well and we had made a good eye guard. Athletes will made eye guards for the eye which is not looking through the sights so they do not have to squint. This helps you keep relaxed and you can focus better. While standing I was able to hit 3 out of 5 once and I think I got 4 out of 5 in prone one time. I can see how having your own gun which is fitted to you like a bike would be in cycling would be a huge advantage. Not to mention you could practice.
I’m totally hooked. Biathlon is just one more reason never to have to ride my road bike in the cold rain around Seattle again.
Get out there!