|Tuesday, 5 December
Did a couple of little local
races at the weekend: a sprint/pursuit biathlon. Missed a shocking
1+4=5 in the sprint, then 0122 for 5 in the pursuit. In the pursuit
this was the best shoot of us ( the others missed 7 or 8), but it
is still far from an adequate performance (our World Cup gang regularly
clear 4-shoot races, and still do not break into the top 30).
I raced on some skis that
I had just had stone-ground at Antholz: although not the fastest
in test, I gambled that it would be warmer and wetter in the forest,
with water dripping from the trees, and I think I won - I appeared
to have faster skis than quite a few others (I overtook Kristian
Mehringer and Hansi Stöckl, two of the Ruhpolding gang). This
is good to know, although I still need more skis.
Today cold again - and icy,
having rained a little yesterday. My training skis are too soft
for icy conditions and I skid about like a novice. I did a modest
shoot, sprinting into the range, and thought I would add another
4 shoots after my usual 8. I cleared the first 3, got to the penultimate
and pulled the trigger inadvertently, putting the bullet miles from
the target: curses.
Tonight is the culmination
of a peculiar Tirolean pagan tradition: a Krampus is a thug dressed
as a bear, who goes around with a stick and a few mates similarly
equipped, and 'beats the evil out' of any citizens he encounters,
with stick and boots. For a citizen to resist is considered bad
form, and an even better kicking ensues. The typical Krampus's grandfather
was in the Hitler Youth, and he doubtless would be too if he could.
Last year one of our team had to be rescued by the police when a
gang of a dozen Krampus decided fists to the head were more effective
than sticks to the legs.
This afternoon a hilarious
session on classic skis: in the fading light I headed up the valley
with Marc Walker, with the tracks frozen solid and klister (horrible
stuff that sticks skis to ice or even slush) on our skis. We found
a track we had not done before and followed it to its end; the return
was a steady descent that would normally be no problem; today, it
was icy and we could barely make out where the tracks went; occasionally
there were bits that needed a jump where the snow had fallen into
a stream underneath. We both took falls, and the tears of laughter
made it even harder to see.
The first European Cup biathlon:
sprint at Obertilliach. It rained all night and was pouring when
we pulled up at the car-park, so we sat in the bus until it abated.
I zeroed my rifle, got the trigger pressure tested and went to test
skis: my best were reasonably clear, and I realised that my start
time was about to come up, so I stripped off my warm-up clothes
and skied straight to the start-pen.
I started briskly, but misjudged
the first fast bend, taking the line that had been good when the
snow was hard: I pushed against the snow bank, and my ski went straight
through and hung in the air over the stream (this was on a bridge).
I span round and went down - fortunately on the bridge rather than
in the water.
The first shoot was pretty
poor: 2 misses, so twice round the long, stodgy penalty loop. Then
exhausted up the hill and round the back, emerging into the field:
up and down those miserable, exposed tracks with the poles sinking
through to the grass.
And the standing shoot: 3
misses. Well, at least I didn't waste time on it.
So, overall, 5 penalties and
a rotten result. As it happens all the other Brits did badly, but
that is no consolation - I don't want to compare myself with them:
5 penalties is a bad race, whatever my friends have done. The trick
is to learn and improve, but that is easier said than done: I can't
identify a reason for today's bad shooting, although I think that
if I had started more conservatively I could have gone faster -
a familiar story.
|Sunday, 10 December
Pursuit race today - I finished
6'49" behind the winner yesterday, so started that long after
him today. I had a great race, clearing my first 14 targets before
a narrow miss (standing) spoiled it. I missed another, again narrowly,
on my 4th shoot, to finish with 2 penalties, or 90% hits - my best
yet. Yesterday I was 22% behind the winner (ie not very good); today
9%. The benchmark for promotion to the World Cup team is to be under
10% - but consistently (promotion also requires one of the World
Cup team to be underperforming badly - which is not happening yet).
So why did I have a bad race
yesterday and a good race today? I really don't know. Friday night
I spent waxing and planning my race in minute detail. Saturday night
I went to a big party in the next village. Both nights I went to
bed later than I would like to, and last night I slept badly (too
many Cokes). Perhaps my advisors are right, and it really is best
not to think about it.
the World Cup team raced a 20km at Antholz, with skis prepared by
Martina Glagow's father (he follows her around, doing just her skis,
so has time on his hands): they had fantastic skis, and Tom and Fred
scored sensational times. Unfortunately, the shooting... But these
athletes often do shoot well, and sometimes clear, so to say that
if Fred had shot clear he would have placed in the top 20 is no idle
fantasy, and underlines what a benefit a really expert ski-technician
would make to the team.
Talked to Franz, the German
women's coach last night. Asked about the German men doing a test
race yesterday, with regard to recovery for Saturday's race, and
the total monthly burden of races. He says that it is very good
to do a hard session (such as 20' at around race pace) two days
before an important race, as the body overcompensates in the 48
hours it has to recover from the hard work. I asked if I had made
a mistake in taking Thursday off: 'yes, definitely'.
Back in England for a long
break. I have no roller-skis here, so running, weights, kayaking
and so on will do. And of course lots of standing dry-shooting.
Had a moderate 20km race on
Saturday: skiing conservatively, but still missing 5 of 20, far
too many, given my ski speed. Sunday's sprint was another bad shoot,
but skiing very well.
A series of panics on Saturday:
it snowed all Friday, and the weather forecast said between -2°
and +1° C for Saturday morning; but when I awoke at 6am it was
clearly colder. I rewaxed a pair of skis for -5°, and went to
the race area. Down there it was a lot colder, -12°C, with humidity
25%. It was clear that all my waxes were too soft and would stick
on this cold, fresh snow. I and two others drove back for the fastest
rewax job ever, which made one pair of skis significantly faster
than it had been (we use an electronic speed trap for testing).
I zeroed my rifle, and went
up to our admin area to get ready for the race, only to find that
the minibus was not where I had last seen it. I ran around until
I found it (my racing hat and glasses were inside), and went to
the start to get my rifle tested.
The rifle's trigger pressure
must be at least 500g, and is tested by hanging a weight from the
trigger. This job was doneby two local peasants who blew their cigarette
smoke into my face as they informed me that my rifle (which I has
done two seasons and never failed a test - and I have never adjusted
the trigger pressure) was illegal. They were not to be persuaded,
and did not have a screwdriver, so it was back up to the admin area
to find mine. This exact problem caused me to miss the start of
what should have been my first international, so I now know roughly
what to do about it. I gave the adjustment screw a speculative half-turn
and the rifle passed, leaving me very stressed in the start pen
with only a couple of minutes to compose myself and get my warm-up
Not ideal mental preparation, and it showed in
Back in Ruhpolding. The Christmas break a big hole
in my training - a mistake to go home so early.
There is adequate snow in Ruhpolding, much of it
artificial, and a lot of work going on at the biathlon centre to
get the place ready for the 'biathlon challenge' tomorrow.
Arrived to find snow falling in Austria, turning
to rain as I drove over the border into Bavaria - as ever. Desperately
slow snow in the biathlon centre, even slower than the DMS roller-skis
I spent the Summer on.
An accommodation crisis in Ruhpolding and the Tirol
- it turns out that the Germans and Dutch like to spend Christmas
away, so absolutely nothing to be had in Ruhpolding. I ended up
in a camp-bed in the corridor at the flat the gang of Brits here
More snow last night, and colder this morning,
so a nice classic ski around the lakes. I would like to do more
classic skiing, but usually I have an urgent technical issue to
attack in my skating, which takes priority.
This evening the Greenlanders Uiloq and Øysten
Slettemark came over to cook us some Greenlandic specialities; we
had already planned a cheese fondue, so had a huge feed - preparation
for the test race we plan to do tomorrow.