May 20, 2018

Yesterday, Tara Murray, Dean Capone, Brian Capone, and I, participated in a PA biathlon event in Nescopek, PA, which is about a 1hr 45 min drive from State College. As you know, it rained yesterday morning, and while the rain seemed to let up in State College, it continued to downpour in eastern PA the entire morning throughout the event.  

The biathlon was set up as follows:

  • 1 mile run
  • 25m shoot in prone (5 shots)
  • 1 mile run
  • 25m shoot in standing (5 shots)
  • 1 mile run

The run is a 1 mile out-and-back course, mostly flat, through a corn field, and you have to take a 70m penalty lap for each shot missed before heading back out for the next mile loop.

pix biathlon crew

The crew from State College, left to right: Tara Murray, Cheryl, Brian, and Dean Capone

No experience is necessary, but if you've never participated in biathlon, you must attend the beginner's clinic which is before the race. We all went to the clinic which was really helpful and informative. (We also learned that there used to be a biathlon event here in SC at Scotia range.) We learned about the rules and history of biathlon, how to use a .22 caliber biathlon rifle, and then had a chance to practice 5 shots in prone and 5 shots in standing (with individual supervision/training). I surprised myself, never having handled a rifle before, and made 4/5 in prone and 2/5 in standing (during practice). If you have your own .22 rifle, you can use it.

Just before the event, we had a brief meeting and then got started. They sent people off in sets of 1 or 2 on the minute. We wore biathlon bib tanks over our race clothes and it had the number which told you when you started. I had number 7 and so I started in the 7th wave.

To start, we ran a mile on the well marked, out and back course. The course conditions were very poor...uneven footing, flooded, with deep, unavoidable puddles that seemed to get bigger and deeper on each lap. To add to the challenge, I had to stop and tie each of my shoes again during the first mile (despite double knotting them beforehand). But honestly, I LOVED it! Well, I probably would have overall enjoyed myself more if it were sunny and 65F, but the ridiculousness of the hard rain and xc style mud brought back a lot of fun memories of cross county! There was really no way to run super fast through the course, although the women's winner, a local, very experienced biathlon competitor, managed close to a 6:30 pace to win the entire event. Also, since it was an out and back course that we did 3 times, you saw all the other competitors a lot, which added to the enjoyment.

After the first mile, you head to the range. There is a walk zone where you must stop running as you enter the range. The range marshals then direct you to a lane where you set up and shoot. If no lanes are open when you get there (which didn't happen to me), they will give you a time deduction for the time you spend waiting. Anyway, for my prone shots, I only made 2/5 this time. My rifle jammed on my 3rd shot and I had to raise my hand and ask for help. It took a minute or two, and they couldn't fix it, so they changed out my rifle. Supposedly, they deducted time for that, but I'm not sure how much or exactly how they figured it out. Honestly, I wasn't really too concerned about that since it was my first time competing, and it was pouring rain. Anyway, since I missed 3 shots, and I had to do 3 penalty laps and then head back out in the mud for another mile.

pix capones shooting

Dean, Cheryl, and Brian Capone (top, middle, and bottom) shooting from the prone position

After my second mile, I headed back to the range. For my standing shots, I only made 1/5. No problems with the rifle, but it was a lot to remember to how set up in the ideal position, and it's harder to control your shot when you are still breathing relatively hard. Four more penalty laps.....

pix tara shooting

Tara Murray demonstrates here standing technique

I then headed out for the last mile. At this point, each of my "lightweight" trainers weighed about 5 lbs each. But who cares?!?!? It was such fun! Classic XC style running!!! At least I finished my run before the sideways, torrential rain came down. Dean, Brian, and Tara were not so lucky. Hahaha!

In any case, we all won awards. I took 1st place Masters Female and Dean, Brian, and Tara all won their age group. (Dean ran with Brian yesterday as we were initially concerned about his safety, but everything was so well done and Brian did great! Minimum age to participate is 12.)

Oh, and for each shot you miss during the event, you get a ticket to put in a raffle. And we all won raffle prizes too! In fact, everyone won a prize! Yay!

Aside from the rain, the only real bad part is the bathrooms. It is a true outhouse, not unlike the ones at Whipple Dam...although much grosser. But overall super fun!!!! We all enjoyed ourselves a lot. There are several more events this summer, with with next one being in Altoona on June 23rd. 

If you are interested, I encourage you to try it. It was a really fun experience. Check out their home page. Our very own Sara Noss made the cover photo from last year's(?) Altoona biathlon.

Here are the race results: