Friday, February 24, 2006

Empire State Games

The weather has not been kind to us biathlete's this year. God must have other plans. So as we headed into the Empire State Games (ESG) the news wasn't good: not enough snow on the range.

I picked up a U-Haul sport trailer (you gotta try one of these!), packed the family up and were on our way to Lake Placid. For trips of this length and this many kids in the car, it's critical to have a good book on tape. Before we left, I pickedup Eldest - not a sound out of the kids the whole way! We rolled into Lake Placid at about 8:00 and went in search of Steve's place. Steve was kind enough to let us stay at his house - huge place that he's been renting. A big old place right in the middle of town.

We were supposed to do a 10K sprint on Friday, then relay on Saturday. The range didn't have snow, but the cross country course by the ski jumps, about 5 miles away did have snow - they have snow making equipment there. The plan was to shoot at paper targets - 10 shots prone, 10 shots standing, 5 minutes for each. Take the total possible score of 200 pts and for every point less we get a 3 second penalty. That will determine the start order for the next day. First one across the finish wins. So basically your chasing the person in front of you.

Friday dawns and we head down to the range for zeroing at 12:00. It's nasty out: wind is gusting at what feels like 25mph and it's cold. Wind is coming from what seems like every direction. It seems strang to have every piece of winter jacket on I own vs. the thin spandex! One competitor looks like she just walked out of a mall: full lenght down jacket with fasionable boots! We're given the go and everyone gets down for the prone shoot. As the wind rages, everyone pauses waiting for a brief calm. When it comes there's lots of shooting. I get about 58 out of 100 - not good. Standing isn't looking good - how can someone stand still in 25mph winds?!? We're given the go and we start. I feel all wrong - tense, big jacket feels bulky, I start to rush things, ... final score is a dismal 15 out of 100. After talking with some of the other guys, it sounds like the way to go was to break the stance while waiting for the wind to calm down.

Saturday comes very cold, no wind and a light snow. We load up the car and rush down to the course. By the time Caleb, Joshua and I pick up our numbers, get our equipment on and get down to the course, the course is closed. The place is pretty chaotic because we're racing with the nordic guys. Normally all the biathlon guys go off at 30 second intervals - all age groups and genders racing together, so today's format is confusing me. Did I say it was cold? One of the guys who drove in that morning from the west said that a lake effect snow band was coming and we are going to get dumped on. It's really cold. We talk to a couple guys to find out what the course is like: it's a 2k loop - 1st k is up and 2nd is down - don't kill yourself on the first one, cause it's a big hill! Caleb and Joshua do 4k, I get to do 8. It's an awesome location - the start is right under the ski jumps. Both jumps tower above the start/finish. Caleb starts first - this is his first ESG race. I'm really proud he's doing this - not an easy race for someone who just started this skiing thing. Joshua starts about 30min later. He puts in a really good, consistent time for each loop. When asked about the hill he says it's really big. Really big. He gestures up towards the ski jumps, 'up behind those.' That's a big hill. I get out there to warm up and start peeling off layers. Did I say it was really cold? I think I'm going to miss shooting - at least then I get to stop twice to take a short break! They call us down and we start in the order of our score. Curse that standing shoot... My turn comes and off I go thinking about the big hill in front of me. This time, I have my heart rate monitor. After having blown a gasket at the Saratoga race, I figure I'm going to ski my own race no matter what. I come up on a woman get ready to pass, check the HRM and decide, not now. Up the hill we go. The trails are groomed really well, they're wide and the hill is step but not bad. I'm feeling good. Up, up and up we go. I catch up to Mr. blue and settle in behind him. At last we reach the top and I know it's all down hill. And it's a great down hill, long, fast and with a good run off at the bottom. Mr. Blue blows by me. I realize I've got the wrong wax on - too soft. This is not good when I have 1k of down hill - and Mr. Blue is leaving me in the dust. Down through the stadium area and back up the hill. Catch Mr. Blue again and stay in behind him. It's at this point I wish I had followed some advice: get wind proof briefs. The 'wide' stance of the V1 going up hill and 1k of down hill - well, you get the idea. We repeat this catch up and fall back for two more loops. On the fourth loop I catch up and decide to push it some more. Half way up the hill I pass Mr. Blue and try and develop some extra speed going down the hill by double poling and skating. When it's all over I'm happy with the effort: consistent times for each loop and racing with the HRM helped a lot. Talked with some folks about wax and they said it was definately a green day. In fact they said to get as much wax as possible off, let the skis sit outside so that the cold will force more wax out, then brush again. While the shooting and ski times weren't great, I learned a lot at this race.

That night the kids and I get totally bundled up and go out on to the frozen lake to watch fire works. After that we take a hike across the lake. What a beautiful night! Did I tell you it was cold?

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