16th World Master Biathlon Championships 2013 – Kontiolati Finland
This was an amazing trip, filled with ups and downs, but an experience I will not forget. There were a few slight delays with luggage, but it all worked out and we only lost a day. We had built in some buffer travel time, so didn’t really affect us, other then $$ and some frustrations. (Kyle, Dean and Walter ended up buying a new plan ticket from Frankfurt to Helsinki…) We had 3 days to get acclimated, skiing, shooting and getting to know the range and track. We could feel the extra O2, now that we were at 400ft instead of 9000ft. Different skiing then at 9k for sure… Mental note to work on ski speed on / off snow before we head back next year.
The venue is world class, as they do hold a World Cup there each year and will have the IBU World Championships in 2015. Race organizers are awesome, and the friendliest people you ever meet. We shared a Wax cabin with Norway, Germany, Latvia, Australia and changing room with Norway and Aussies. They all were great people to be around and made some good friends. The range with 30+ targets was amazing. Electronic targets that self set after shooting 5 rounds. We need these. I thought that I would be disappointed by the track, since we were only doing 2km loops each time. However, they did not disappoint. We had two loops totally different. “A” loop was just this rolling terrain that was balls out V2 the entire way. Then B loop we drop down near the lake at 40+mph and had this serpentine climb out that was full on V1, and a step midway that you could slam a couple V2 strokes in to get your speed up before climbing the rest of the way up. Then multiple short steep bridges we skied over and under. It was a small section of what the World Cup guy’s ski but good addition. By no means were we disappointed in the shortness of the loops, especially when a couple of the guy’s would put a 1min per lap on you ! (legal speed ?)
The sprint for me was great. My ski speed was still a little slow, but I only missed one in Prone, struggled in standing and missed 2. After my penalty loops, I held on the last lap to finish in 9th overall. I met my trip goal of top 10 ! On top of the World !
The Relay I would rather forget… we put way too much pressure on ourselves, thinking we really could do well. All that pressure turned into poor shooting, even with the extra relay rounds. It was some of my worst shooting in the last 3 years. Walter was skiing fast that day, so he managed to keep us off the bottom. We had to race with the 35-44 age group, since both Kyle and Walter not yet made the 45 cut off. So there were some fast 35+ guy’s out there and a couple just off the IBU cup. We pimped Dean off to the Aussies and the USA National Guard guy that made the trip. They managed to do quite well in their age grouped relay. Dean shot really well all week !
Saturday Rest day ! Amazing I normally don’t get tired legs from back to back races or two sprints back to back, but I think due to the extra O2, ability to go faster, my legs were trashed. We were more limited by our legs then lungs. I spent an hour 1/2 skiing zone 1 that day, which in Colorado is very had to do at 9k ft. We all got in some good shooting and our confidence came back from the previous day’s relay.
The Individual was another great race. Still skiing the same A / B loops, but now we get to do A, B, A, B, A… , consisting of prone, standing, prone, standing. I was happy with my prone shooting, only missing 1 each time, but really struggled in standing and had to take extra seconds to make my shots. I missed 2 each time, but they were hard fought and wasted time on the mat. My legs had seemed to recover, and my ski speeds were up. I think it was the fastest I had skied the entire trip. The good shooting and ski speeds landed me in 8th. Oh Snap ! Two races meeting my goal of Top 10. Not bad for having one of the worst Summers for fitness and just never felt good all year. I managed to pull something together the weeks leading to Finland and had some good races.
After some pictures, quick storage waxing, and good bye, we re-packed all our gear at the venue and headed to the airport. 2hrs early I mind you and only to find out there was only 1 other person at the airport… The café attendant. We ended up watching the entire Happy Gilmore movie before someone showed up to check us in. An Overnight in Helsinki and uneventful flights back to Denver.
There really wasn’t much time for us to see or visit, as far as tourism in Joensuu. Our daily agenda consisted of eating breakfast, rest, drive to range, wax, ski / shoot, change, drive back to Hotel, rest, eat dinner and go to bed. Uneventful, but living the World Cup life… Not much to see either as no tourist shops any place and even the museum was closed. There are about 70K people in Joensuu and I think 30k are from the college. I would think there may be more open and stuff to see in the summer, but wouldn’t count on it. Lots of lakes every place so I’m sure they have bird sized mosquitoes and lots of fishing. Not a tourist destination, but beautiful area for sure. The trees and forest reminded me a lot of Minnesota. Only 30km from Russian border, so Russian’s drove and brought their wax techs, fleet of skis, and dedicated coaches… They take it serious, as you could tell by the round the clock wax tech’s testing the fleet of ski’s. The food was good, and not the normal Finish food I would think of (Fish). There was some Reindeer that was eaten (Rudolf I’m sure), potato cakes, pastries and great Bread ! Some cow cheek, and Reindeer liver, but other than that just standard food. (good quality) Coffee kinda sucked. Think they forgot to finish roasting it, as it was still green and tasted very sour. Our hotel was great, with good beds, quite rooms and just overall comfortable. I’ve been in many place in the US were I wasn’t as comfortable as I was here.
I wasn’t sure if or when I would go back, but now I’m pretty sure I will go back to seek my revenge on the Russian’s and Latvian that placed in front of me. Between guy's from CO, MT and CA, we should have a very strong group of guy’s going next year.