Thursday 1 March
Soldier Hollow, Utah
training for my first World Cup race tomorrow: some light shooting
and skiing, looking at the course, testing skis to choose two pairs
to give to Martin for him to work his magic on. And, I suppose,
my birthday. How old? Not too old.
Last night the organisers
laid on an outing to a basketball match in Salt Lake City, with
the prize presentation for the biathlon races on the court at half
time: our exposure to US culture, and very entertaining too. The
match laid on as a spectacle, with every break in play filled in
with shenanigans such as acrobatics, dancing and silly games, making
the whole a lot more fun than a straight game.
World Cup sprint biathlon:
an eye-opener. I started as I reckoned a world cup biathlete should
(ie fast), cleared the prone shoot and early in my second loop was
a minute down on the leader. From then on I was going backwards.
This is a hard course with not much rest between some long climbs;
and if you are tired on a long climb, you can lose a lot of time.
I missed my first two standing
shots, which was a shock and a disappointment: I was convinced that
this was going to be a clear day. Missing two is more or less OK
at the British Champs; at a European Cup race I can still get a
respectable result with two penalties; but here it is no good at
all. On the last loop I did what I could but paid the price of my
fast start, to finish 85th.
There are various positive
points to take out of this:
- I am already on far better
form than for our selection race on Sunday
- I cleared my prone shoot,
my first world cup shoot
- my skis were good
- there is plenty of time
to gain in my shooting (I shot in 41" and 31")
- I handled the pressure
of the event well
And Michael Greis from Ruhpolding
came 6th today, with one penalty, in his second world cup race,
having been 65th in his first.
Outing to a performance by
the local rodeo club this evening. Some impressive levels of skill
displayed by the participants, who had to catch a goat tied to a
stake or ride a stallion rendered insane by a rope tied tightly
round a delicate part of its anatomy.
Monday, 5 March
Lake Placid, NY
A very different place from
Utah: a picturesque little tourist town in an area that has been
a tourist destination for New Yorkers for a century; gentle forested
hills and lakes rather than Utah's desert plains and mountains;
and it is cold. And the forecast for tonight is a storm, with all
airports closed, road travel not advised, a foot of snow expected
here on the edge of the storm. And the Slovenes' and Poles' skis
and rifles are in Boston.
We flew on the charter flight
that the race organisers had arranged, from Salt Lake City to an
ex-military airfield 45' drive from Lake Placid. The bad news was
that the flight left at 2230 and arrived 0430: we were put into
a hotel for a few hours, then fed and driven to Lake P, where we
are staying at the Hilton, along with the Finns and Italians: wey-hey!
The skiing here is again of
a very different character: whereas the tracks at Soldier Hollow
are squeezed into a tiny area, here even the course for tomorrow's
10km race disappears off into the forest and seems to go on for
miles longer than it should, eventually returning to the stadium
when your sense of direction has completely gone.
Tom Clemens was due to race
tomorrow but has a cold. This must be pretty bad as it is the first
time we have known him quiet, and the upshot is that I will race
in his place. At lunch he sneezed, blowing orange juice over me:
I took it for saliva and ran away to wash my face before the viruses
could get in. Now I have a sore throat, and I have taken enough
echinacea and propolis (supplied by our sponsors) for the placebo
effect to cure my psychosomatic symptoms.
0830.This morning almost 2'
of new snow. Breakfast delayed for lack of staff; transport delayed
because the roads are not all cleared. A garbled message taken by
a hotel receptionist talking of a delay to the race. Nobody answering
0850. Phone call from one
of the Finns: the race is delayed to tomorrow. Very annoying to
have conserved energy yesterday only to have to do the same today.
I will get fat at this rate.
1300. Plan to do a same-day
pursuit tomorrow: a first in biathlon - subject to confirmation
at the team captains' meeting tonight Norbert Baier was canvassing
opinions at lunchtime and sounded keen.
1900. No pursuit after all.
Fierce arguments - the French against and the Nogs for, as Poirée
is losing ground to Bjrndalen with each race; the Canadians
against as they fly tomorrow afternoon, etc.
Sprint race. The tracks bashed
all night, but still quite soft as the snow was very dry. Sunshine
and a little variable wind. A nice, old-fashioned kind of course,
with twisting tracks and swooping downhills; nothing monstrous.
I wanted to make sure that
I did not do last week's trick of starting off far too fast, so
held back a little to start with; I think I paced the whole thing
well, but was simply not fast enough. I missed 2 prone and 1 standing:far
too many. Jaon and Mike also not going well - Mike missed 4 and
skied slower than me; Jason missed 1 for 70th place (this time last
year he missed 2 for 32nd in a sprint).
Saturday, 10 March
Strategy for jet-lag avoidance
was to stay up all night following the closing party at Lake Placid
Wednesday night. American Airlines permitted us almost 3 hours sleep
the following night. Arrived Oslo like zombies; slept 12 hours last
night. We jettisoned Tom at Heathrow as he has a cold and is fed
up. We regained Emma, and chewed the fat with the BBU's performance
director Mark Goodson and journalist Alan Hubbard.
We cannot use the biathlon
facility at Holmenkollen until Tuesday, so none of us knows what
we are supposed to be doing here in the meantime. The Holmenkollen
festival means that we cannot even ski without traveling miles on
We stay at the Perminalen,
a strange military hostel far cheaper than a hotel, but where the
food is atrocious. So we take a cash issue to cover main meals,
and spend it at our discretion. It goes against the grain to spend
outrageous Oslo prices on food, so it is tempting to stint on food.
Perhaps I will shed some of the fat I picked up in Slovenia and
Took the underground out to
the end of the line and found some tracks to ski on; after an hour
saw a sign to another station, followed it and eventually found
myself on the Holmenkollen 50km loop that we saw in the cross-country
world cup on television yesterday, skiing through thick mist. Eventually
got to the stadium, where people were paying to listen to ski-jumping
(the mist being so thick) and found the railway station, and back
to the hotel after 2 hours skiing.
The Oslo world cup has a reputation
for being fun, and looks like bearing it out. Yesterday was a laid-on
go-cart racing session: 36 biathletes in 10 teams, an hours race.
I was in a team with Sergei Rozhkov and one of the liaison people;
we didn't win but it was terrific fun.
I race in group 1 in the Sprint
tomorrow. We had a test race yesterday to decide who took first
choice for seed groups; I was 2nd. The snow has been very soft and
wet the last couple of days, and I hope that an early start will
give me one loop on reasonably firm tracks, which would be a big
advantage. On the other hand, if snow is falling, it could be a
big disadvantage, so it is a gamble.
To ski really fast you have
to be absolutely committed to it: it does not 'just happen' as a
result of being fit and having good technique. It has to be wrenched
from the depths of the soul every time, and if you doubt for a moment
the necessity of enduring so much pain, it goes. I have hardly achieved
it ('skiing fast' is very much relative to one's ability), but listening
to Frode Andrésen talking about fast skiing really brings
out the mental side of it.
race. Feeling good, good skis; but it started to snow as I started.
The first loop was OK; I missed my last prone shot thanks to a minor
mental failing; halfway round the second loop I was 1'20" off
the leader (Vadim Sashurin at that stage), which put me in the running
for a result under 10% behind. But my skis had already started to
slow in the fresh snow, and got worse and worse. I missed another
target standing, and struggled round the last loop, for a mouldy
I was called for blood testing
before the race. Very flattering, and interesting to see the results.
I have a lot of room for improvement (increase in haematocrit) before
I go over the limit.
some new skis from Rossignol, which is nice. They are shorter than
I am used to, which seems to be how skis are going, and the control
is great. Also a new rifle stock from Larsen, with various modifications
at my request. A lot of money passing through my wallet at the moment.
Watching the pursuit race.
Accompanied by some suitable bits of Rossini and Grieg from the
PA, Frode skied from the start faster than I have seen anyone ski,
followed by Ole Einar, not quite as fast, but a little more elegant.
I expected Frode to blow the shooting, which he usually does when
given the chance, but he stayed in front all the way. Perhaps he
did blow it, as he missed 4, but OE missed 6.
Interesting to see the disparities
in ability through the ranks - if you stand by the track, the racers
come past in a pursuit race in rough order of ability: there is
a clearly discernible decline in both power output and facility
with the skis down the order. I wonder how I would look (we don't
have enough staff to get video of us racing).
Opened my new ski-bag from
Rossignol: too small to fit even my short new skis into. What kind
of idiot supplies World Cup biathletes with ski-bags too small for
any adult's skis? Too late to get my money back as we leave early
Sunday, 18 March
Home, and another season over.
Bracing myself for the deep depression that follows the euphoria
of a racing season. Watching the last race on the television this
afternoon (I arrived home from Norway just as the men's race was
starting) brought it home: back to being a spectator.