Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Biathlon Clinic-New Challenges

"Be thankful for what you have and use it to your fullest potential." - Scott Welle

I got a chance to try biathlon when I went to Nordic ski camp lasr December at the Hartford Ski Spectacular.  The camp held in Breckinridge Colorado was for imparied athletes.  As running has become more difficulte, I've been exploring other ways to stay active and compete. I get injured too much when training for longer distances. Plus my times have slowed so much. Noridc sking is fun, provides opportunities to race and is great conditioning.  Biathlon competition combines Nordic sking and target shooting.

At the Dcember clinic I found out my skiing needed a lot of work, but I was really good at shooting.  I guess shooting is in my DNA. When I was researching my family history I found out one of my great grandfathers was a sharp-shooter in the Prussian army.

My goal last season was to improve my skiing enought to start competing at local biathlon races here in Wisconsin. Southern Wisconsin is a bit of a hot bed for Biathlon. There are clubs in Green Bay, Madison and Waukesha.

I took the next step in reaching my goal by attending a 2 day clinic on June 20 and 21st at Black Hawk ski club.

My oldest brother lived for year just 5 minutes away for the club.  The site has a biathlon course, an alpine ski area and a ski jump. I had no idea all of that was so close to a place I spent so much time.

One of the things that have kept my from doing a race is that I was not safety certified by the US Biathlon Association.  I never seem to have the weekend free when my local club does their safety certification.  The clinic of 10 athletes was split into two groups. Half of the group was experiences and spent the morning shooting while we were in the safety clinic. We learned the parts of the gun, about the sport and how to load and safely operate a gun.

One thing I was worried about was skiing with a loaded rifle. I was worried about the gun going off if I fell. I was happy to learn, the ammuniatoin for the gun is loaded into clips. the clips are stored on the side of the rifle and are only loaded into the rifle when you are at a target and ready to shoot.  The bolt is open at all times expcept when shooting.   Once I finished the two day clinic I would be red book certified.

The next part of the clinic was getting to the range to shoot.

When I did biathlon in Colorado we used laser guns and the targets were much closer. I think these were 50 yards away.  The first step was to shoot at a paper target to adjust the gun. I would take five shots and a coach would look at the target through a scope. You want to get a grouping of shots as close together as possible.  Then the gun is adjusted to hit the center of the target.

We had to make several adjustments to my rifle to help it to fit.  I also got feedback to improve my shooting. Once the gun was adjusted it was time to shoot at some metal targets.  There are five round targets in each set.  Boy do they look tiny when looking through the rifle cite.
One thing I learned was to only use the very tip of my finger to shoot.  I also learned to follow through when shooting.That means not to move once I pull the trigger until I see the target is hit.  I also figured out I needed to wear my driving glasses when shooting. My accuracy improved immediately when I started wearing them.

We did lots of fun games too. We got paired up to do a shooting relay.  We each shot two sets of five targets. I was paired with the lead coach  I got a perfect 5 on one of my rounds and I think we won that game.

Something else we did is added is coming in hot to the target. That means your heart rate is up due to skiing or in this case running. It is tougher to shoot when breathing and heart rate are faster.
When racing biathlon, an athlete skis a lap and comes in to shoot a target. There are four laps total. Two are shot standing and two laying down. Because I am a beginner I only shoot prone, Anytime a target is missed a penalty lap must be skied. I shot prone all weekend and used a block to steady my rifle. The more experienced athletes, shot half of their rounds standing which is tougher.

So we ran the ski course, came in and shot our series of five targets.  I cut the course a bit (a suggestion of the coach) since I am a bit slower.  I missed one target on the second and third round and shot clean on the other two.  Instead of a penaty lap, 30 seconds was added for each miss. Although I was a slower runner, by shooting was better than most of the others in the clinic. I finished in about the middle of the pack.
After the race we got to cool off in the spring fed swimming hole that was just off of the course. I was promised bath water, but the water was so cold it took my breath away. I made the mistake of jumping in without testing the water.

The rest of the day we practiced shooting.  The coaches and the athletes were so great. I had so much fun and felt like I really took a big step forward. My goal now is to work on my roller skiing to improve my conditioning.  I am going to compete as a novice this year at my local races.  The ultimate goal is to compete at the Para-National Biathlon Championship in March.  The para-races are a bit different.  They shoot air rifles and in my category I think shooting is only done prone.

I've been in touch with the para-nordic head coach, so hopefully I'll get some direction on next steps. It's fun to be taking on a new challenge and a bit of a surprise to find out I am good at shooting.

In the meantime I've got lots of work to do to be ready for the National Championship in March.


Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  In 2012 she finished 2nd at Boston in the Mobility Impaired Division. She was on the course in 2013 when the bombs exploded.

She has appeared three times at the Paratriathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division Champion.

In 2014 she was the PC Open Champion at the Duathlon National Championship and at the Aqua bike National Championship in 2016. She represented Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015i, Cozumel in 2016 and Denmark in 2018. In 2018 finishing 5th in the 60 to 64 age group.

 In 2014 she represented the U.S. as a paratriathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.  She has won state championships in cycling and triathlon as a senior Olympian. In 2017 she placed 2nd in her age group at the Winter Triathlon National Championship, earning a spot on Team USA for the World Championship.

In 2020 she was named a National Ski Patrol Subaru Ambassador and a USA Triathlon Foundation Ambassador.

She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete and the book “Soup Sundays, A Journey Toward Healthy Eating”.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMTWe currently have 233 athletes in 41 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Vietnam, Iran, Scotland, France, Turkey, Poland, Norway, Mexico, Wales, Ireland and Sweden!. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

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