| 8-25 January
Chevalier (1,400m). Trying to knock three complete novices and two
intermediates into racing shape in a week. Got some short, steady
sessions in, a few sprints and a lot of technique work. Nice skiing:
some trails I have not seen before, and beautiful classic conditions
early in the mornings. Strong sun and warm later. Unproductive time
on the range: mostly coaching and trying to get people zeroed.
OK, but far from great. A cold for the first few days, but I have
to race for the team: it does not seem to do any harm. I get the
wax wrong for the novices' race when the sun hits the race area
while they are queuing to start (it had been overcast when we looked
at the course the previous day). I didn't get it quite right for
the main classic race, the 15km, when we used klister (as did most
people); Brian Cole used a stick wax and took 90 seconds off me
- and I won this race by 4 minutes last year. The biathlons go a
little better despite some rotten shooting: I am skiing really well,
which is a nice surprise.
have really neglected the hard sessions on snow this year: not many
of them, and when I do try, as often as not it does not work. However
I have had some good hard ski-ganging and running sessions, and
these are primarily about cardiovascular and mental development,
so I hope they will have done the job.
| 27 January-6 February
National Champs. Everyone reckons I am out to prove something, when
in fact I have hardly trained since last Winter. I have done a reasonable
amount of skiing, but very little of what I could call training.
3 feet of perfect fresh snow in the village when I arrived. Unfortunately
I did not do any filming, as it started to rain a couple of days
later and washed down to almost nothing. The biathlon centre retains
snow quite well so we had an ample quantity of nasty stuff to race
biathlon team is now wearing a far nicer race suit than we did the
year I was in it: maybe I should try for it again after all.
first race is the 10km
another bad shoot, slow and inaccurate (3 penalty loops) but skiing
well for 5th place.
quite a close start with several others close behind me. Whoops
of delight from Marc Walker when he clears the first shoot and skis
past the rest of us on the penalty loop; karmic retribution when
he misses 11 of the next 15 shots. Meanwhile I too am missing a
lot (total 9), and skiing back past the other Brit team biathletes
between shoots. This carries on for a bit until we end up in much
the same order as we started (me 5th official, 6th counting Tom
Clemens who was disqualified from the 10km for not skiing far enough:
I skied the first loop in a bit of a dream until I was passed by
Michael Greis of the German B team, 30 seconds in 3.5km... I woke
up a bit after that, and put in a reasonable time (by Brit standards),
but slow and inaccurate shooting spoilt it again and I ended 12th.
got a scratch team together at the last minute for the biathlon
started on the back row of a 43 team mass start... I had never realised
how hard it is to work through a pack that size, and it was not
until the end of the first loop that I was able to ski freely, having
caused a couple of embarassing pile-ups on the way. Moderate shooting
(used 4 of my 6 spares) got me out of the last shoot with Craig
Haslam and Tom Clemens in sight; a bit of a burn brought me onto
their tails, and me to me my knees. I found myself thinking of justifications
for allowing them to beat me: Craig was a World Cup racer for years
and still a full-time biathlete; Tom is on the World Cup team. But
indecisiveness ruled, and I was still there when Craig seemed to
falter, so I passed him. Tom seemed to realise and pulled away.
Should I have put in a huge burst to pass him and (hopefully) demoralise
him? Talking to him afterwards he had not known I was there, so
he would probably have been able to respond. But I think I should
have had the mental strength to make that decision, and to view
the situation as an opportunity rather than looking for excuses
to end the horrible pain three minutes earlier.
day I will win the 15km
Unfortunately it did not happen this year, due largely to my lack
of expertise with klisters. I was praying that it would start to
snow so that I could use my Peltonen Zetas. But no: I went on a
long, thick layer of Swix red klister with a bit of silver, which
seemed to work when I tested it. I started with Fred Gee, slipped
on the first hill and never saw him again. Then Mike Dixon passed
me on a downhill and I could no longer kid myself that it was tough
for everyone. The whole experience was very depressing and I finished
15th, over 4 minutes behind Craig Haslam, who won.
had promised that I would be back at work on Tuesday, so was unable
to defend my national title in the 10km free race. In fact I went
down with a cold and had lungs full of fluid on the day so would
not have done anything great.
Ferguson said something to me about rejoining the European Cup team
for the remainder of the season, on a self-funding basis. I thought
this ironic, since I would be the only member of the team who has
to sacrifice his income entirely in order to ski; for me to fund
my own place is therefore for me to pay twice for what the other
team members get for nothing. In any case I have to get back to
work to fulfil my commitments there, and weekend trips are not really
good enough for the European Cup circuit. On with the marathon races.
| 19-20 February
my first big race, in terms of both number of participants and duration.
72km skating. I could not get a flight or a sensible train, so borrowed
my parents' car (they were in South Africa, which legally counts
as having given permission) and drove. I arrived to find snow falling,
water running down the streets and traffic jams. Too late to ski,
so I picked up my number and went straight to my accommodation.
Waxed my skis according to the information I could get; realised
when almost finished that I was doing the wrong skis, so had to
start again on the others. I find it important to believe that I
have done everything I can to ensure that I will race well, and
that extends to using the right skis even if it means an hour less
at 0445, porridge for breakfast and onto the coach to take us to
the start. An unbelievably long drive: surely some of these other
well-hydrated athletes must be having the same difficulty as me?
Finally we stop to drop the women at their start, and two of us
jump out for a leak.
snow is fresh (there was none 48 hours ago) and soft. Temperature
around zero. Do I wear a thermal shirt? Yes, after much uncertainty.
Into the start pen: luxury here for the elite group - no need to
reserve a space, just put my skis next to the peg with my number
on it. Apprehension when I notice that I am the only one without
a bum-bag and water bottle. I am still stretching when I notice
that everyone is moving, and a moment later comes the bang of the
starting signal. We move off with a bit more exuberance than will
be shown later. But for now the pace and terrain feel easy. The
support is amazing; people line the tracks cheering, clapping and
ringing bells which sound like they were stolen from the local church
rather than the usual cow-bells.
an hour I am beginning to get bored. I play little games, setting
myself challenges. I realise that I have made a mistake on the food
and drink front, having passed only one feed station in an hour.
Then we get to the big hill: a 200m climb into a forest. At the
top of the climb I take over the lead of a group of about 12 skiers.
After a mile or two more, I step aside to let someone else take
over - and I just can't bring myself to step back in behind them.
Another group comes up and passes me, and I am staggering along,
wondering if it will all end face-down in the snow on this desolate
hill... Fortunately an Italian throws some food to me, and I survive
the terrifying descent to the next feed station. There I alternate
carbohydrate 'shots' and cups of sweet tea for a few minutes, before
continuing. As I leave the station, the first cramps hit me.
end must be near now, so I drag myself on, amending my technique
to rest the muscles that are cramping worst. Other racers stream
past me, and there is no chance of my staying with them in my state.
I pass some numbered signs, but they cannot be distance markers
as the numbers are wrong. I ask someone how far to the end and he
tells me about 8km, which is about what I think given the time.
I carry on, and gradually realise that the signs are distance markers
and tell a horrible, depressing story. But I can't pull out now
as it will be ages before I get back to my gear: surviving to the
finish is the best way of achieving comfort as soon as possible.
But I feel so terribly cold... Then the finish comes into view:
hooray! and beside it a sign saying '5km': boo! They send us out
up another hill, but this is OK, just like a biathlon race, and
I weave past broken skiers (including the strong-man I had handed
the lead of my group over to when the trouble started) before turning
back towards the finish. And then... another diversion as the track
turns away from the finish and up a steep hill. But this really
is the last, and thank goodness as I do not have much left.
the finish: tea, cakes, medals, warm, dry gear, stories, the post-race
meal... A great race, recklessly skied by me, and some lessons learned.
203 of 2,500
Transjurassienne web site