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Biathlon 2020

I've gotta start by apologizing for the crappy cell phone photos. Once again I left the house without my camera but naturally I had my cell phone because without our cellular tethers we might as well be walking around with no clothes on, right? And Lord knows THAT'S awkward and disconcerting.

Anyway, more photos equals less writing, although with the new website it also equals more screwing around downloading photos, fitting them on the page, and trying to figure out where that Biathlon file went that I so cagily created because it would be WAY more efficient than having a bunch of random photos scattered under the heading of "pictures". But we wanted autonomy on the website and now we've got it along with taking responsibility for our scattershot efforts at computer mastery. So quit whining, Mike. You whiner.

The photo demonstrates far more graphically than I can put into words how much the Seeley Lake Biathlon has grown and matured. For the numerically challenged I'll make it easy and reveal that there are 10, count 'em, 10 targets on the range these days. The biggest complaint from the early days of the biathlon was that we had 5 shooting stations and racers wound up standing in line waiting to take their turn with a gun. The clock keeps ticking while you're standing in line with the sweat cooling on your back, which obviously makes the racing part of the event a bad joke. There was virtually no waiting this year and from my casual observation there were always at least three or four stations open for shooting.

That probably also translated into more missed targets because if you're standing in line your heart rate is dropping, theoretically improving your ability to steady the gun. Shooting is part of the program and if you're a serious biathlete missed targets are a big deal, but for most of our racers shooting is a novelty and part of the fun, to the point that people were almost bragging about how many targets they missed.

Another big improvement is how well organized the race has become. In the past there were too many categories and long start times, causing the race to go on and on and on with racers standing around either waiting for their event to start or waiting for later races to finish so we could get on with the awards. Now we have 3k, 9k, and 21k races without differentiating between skate and classic. We start the racers about 10 seconds apart and the timekeeping is done remotely by Competitive Timing. Consequently the racing started at 10 and everyone was finished by about 1:00. At 1:30 we were starting the awards ceremony. Throughout it all there were burgers being served along with cookies and other snacks, but I have got to say the coffee was lame. Instant Folgers? Are you serious? F minus on the coffee, you guys. BUT, there was half and half so I'll raise your grade to a D-.

For spectators this is the ultimate Nordic event. These two had it figured out and parked themselves at the shooting range for the duration of the race. Since the range is situated adjacent to the start/finish as well as the penalty loop it's easy to catch all the action.

Some spectators were more engaged than others. #notimpressed.

The penalty loop is less cruel than in years past. It's still a dizzyingly tight circle, but we hauled in 2 or 3 loads of gravel last summer and leveled that sucker out. Here we have your basic shuffler packing his gopher shooter and my girl Cora with her full-on competition setup. This is a true come one-come all event.

The biathlon requires a small army of volunteers on race day. The shooting range has a monitor at each shooting station plus a couple more to keep things moving. The guys with bright vests on are all volunteers, mostly from the Wilderness Sportsman's Club.

There are a lot of moving parts to the biathlon and it takes a ton of coordination to bring it all together. Chris Lorentz was the race director and main push behind this effort and he deserves a lot of credit for making it all happen so efficiently. He was at the trails this week almost every day, making preparations and overseeing the range setup. The day after the race he was back there again tearing down the range and hauling those heavy-assed targets back to the groomer shed. Having been involved in competitive shooting for years, as well as being one of our most reliable groomers, Chris was the right guy for the job and he pulled it off without a hitch.

If you've ever considered racing in the biathlon, you should quit thinking about it and just do it. Take the plunge. It's a true community event, you can race as hard or as easy as you want, and nobody cares about your skiing or shooting skills. Try it for the fun. I guarantee you'll be glad you did.



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