December 15, 2017

Race Weekends

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The format for most BC Cup or Regional Biathlon races is quite similar.

Fridays

Most biathletes, parents and coaches arrive at the range where the competition is being held early in the afternoon on Friday.  The range and courses are usually open for two to three hours for open practice under the guidance of the coaches.  This is an important time to get used to shooting at the range and to learn the courses, practice penalty loops and make sure all the equipment is functioning properly… and to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything at home!

After practice has wound up, skiers take their race skis to the waxing location where our dedicated coaches and parents team up to put some really expensive waxes on the race skis based on the expected conditions for the next day.

There is usually a meeting with the biathletes and coaches/parents at the hotel in the evening (often around 8 pm) to go over the start order of the races for Saturday as well as any special information, assign rifle runners, penalty loop counters, zeroing order, bib pickup, etc.

Saturdays

Always arrive at the range early.  The biathlon rifles need an hour to cool to ambient temperature before zeroing.  There are several things that need to be done before the range closes for the races.  Each biathlete needs the correct bib number and matching leg patch number (for the right leg). Equipment check is also done now – both skis and rifles need to be checked (skis to ensure they are not too short, and rifles to ensure trigger pull weight isn’t too low).  A stamp or sticker will be put on the skis and rifles.

A word about clothing: if you are a parent, dress warm – you will be standing around for several hours in all sorts of winter conditions – from freezing cold to sleet or rain – we’ve seen it all.  Make sure you have two or three pairs of gloves for your biathlete – always keep a dry pair in reserve for the race (younger kids are always playing in the snow… and gloves get wet, which is a real problem when trying to keep little hands warm).  Also have warm clothing for your biathlete to wear after the race.

Each biathlete will zero his or her rifle according to the schedule determined the night before.  With a large team like ours, we often have two lanes side-by-side to get this done.  It is important that biathletes are ready to zero at the time set for them as the hour alloted for this goes by very quickly.  For bears who share a rifle with an advanced, development or masters biathlete, the more senior biathlete will zero the rifle.

Each biathlete is responsible for ensuring the right number of clips are properly loaded for the race, as well as spare rounds.  It happens every season – a biathlete comes into the range during a race only to realize that there are no bullets in the clip or sometimes no clips in the rifle at all – make sure you aren’t that biathlete!  Rifle runners will check to make sure they can recognize the biathlete they are responsible for and the rifle that they will run.  Parents who are assisting with penalty loop counting will coordinate with the coaches (we usually use walkie talkies or texting on cell phones).

Biathletes are responsible to know their start times, race course, number and sequence of shooting bouts, which penalty loop to use and so on.  Coaches will suggest appropriate warm-ups for the biathletes to complete in the time leading up to the race start.

During the race, everyone has a job to do: count penalty loops (don’t help the biathletes other than lots of encouragement – they need to learn to count their own loops), scope the shooting in case adjustments are needed, run rifles, have spare ski poles in case someone breaks one (it has happened), etc. Races on Saturday are usually a Sprint where biathletes start one at a time, 30 seconds between each biathlete – total time for each biathlete determines placing in the race.

After the race, the biathletes and parents are responsible to look after their equipment, including rifles.  Race skis need to get back to our waxing team for prep work for the Sunday races.

There is often a reception or banquet for everyone on Saturday evening where the medals for the races are handed out.  Following that, our biathletes, coaches and parents meet at the hotel to go over the day’s results and make plans for Sunday.

Sunday

Sunday is very much a repeat of Saturday, except it often starts an hour earlier, plus you have to check out of the hotel before heading to the biathlon venue.  Once there, once again need to pick up bibs, check equipment, zero rifles, etc.  Races are usually in pursuit, individual or mass start format.  Once the racing is over and the results confirmed, there is a podium ceremony.  Following that, everyone packs up and heads for home.