Monday, January 27, 2014

Cleaning, Dirtying, and Technical Difficulties!

On Sunday we wrapped up the North American Biathlon Championships in Jericho, VT. After winning the sprint race on Friday by just three seconds, I knew I had hard work ahead if I wanted to stay on top for the remaining two races.

In Saturday's pursuit start 10k, I started off very strong, shooting [1, 0] for the first two prone stages. It was only the second time I have ever "cleaned" in a race. Hitting all five targets (recorded as 0 misses) is called "cleaning" because when you hit each black circle target, a white pedal swings up to cover the black, so when you hit all five you are left with a clean white target.
Target with Echo and Delta hit.
With fast skiing and 9/10 prone shooting, I was well ahead of my competitors at the midway point of the race...but then came the standing shooting. In small part due to gusty wind, and in larger part due to my inexperience and nervousness, I shot [3, 4] in standing, meaning I had to ski seven penalty laps in the second half of the race.

My main competition, Katrina, caught me after the final standing stage as I skied my fourth and she skied her only penalty lap. Then we set out on course together for the final 2.5km loop before the finish. I knew she was right behind me and knew that I needed to beat her by 15 seconds in order to win, having started 15 seconds ahead of her. So I really motored to the finish and ended up winning by 9 seconds. Another close race!
Saturday's pursuit podium
On Sunday, I was very much looking to a mass start format, during which I could race Katrina and the other women head-to-head. I had a good warm up despite the barely-legal -4F thermometer reading, and toed the line with high hopes. I came into the range after the first loop about 10 seconds ahead of the others, got into position, and could not see a thing through my site. Some snow had gotten in there and frozen completely so I had no visibility whatsoever. I spent probably over two minutes on the range blowing hot air through the site trying to clear it out. Finally I shot and missed 4. Still, I set out from there thinking that if I skied fast and hit every target for the rest of the race, I could still win!

When I came into shoot the second time, my eye cup-- a rubber cylinder through which you view the site-- fell right off, probably from having been wrestled with during the ice fiasco, and though it is not actually fundamental to the rifle's zero, it makes using the site much easier. 
Rear site without eye cup. See that tiny hole? Yeah me neither.

Rear site with eye cup (shown just above the thumb).
Long story short: I maintained a positive attitude about getting in a good skiing workout, but the shooting went to shambles and skied 15 penalty laps, five of which resulted from my first (AND HOPEFULLY ONLY) time "dirtying" the target. By my calculations I skied almost 15k for what should have been a 12.5k race. Needless to say I do not have a podium photo from Sunday! I'm glad I have that behind me as I head to Europe a week from tomorrow.

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