18 February 2010

Olympic Fever: The Moulton Biathlon

It's hard to live in Butte America and not catch Olympic fever. Hometown favorite, freestyle moguls skier Bryon Wilson, took the bronze medal on Sunday. Jason Chappuis, a native son of Missoula (down  river from Butte), won a gold for France in the Nordic combined. And Heather McPhie of nearby Bozeman looked like she was bound for a medal before she crashed & burned in the finals of the women's moguls (No guts, no glory!).

I love the biathlon event, mainly because it combines two of my favorite activities--cross country skiing & shooting a rifle. That, and I like saying the word "biathlon"--it sounds simply lascivious. I can only imagine what a winter triathlon might involve. The mind boggles.

Biathlon. If only the United States could muster a decent team. I decided to try out the sport. It's as much fund as I thought it would be. Now, if I had one of these, it would be much easier (the "technical fix," an Eberlestock 2006--from the company's website):

Instead, I made do with the old Mossberg Model 44 U.S. target rifle my late great Uncle Jim (James Murray Munday) bought just after WWII. With a little padding where the forend sits between my shoulders, some Loktite on the peep sight aperture (I discovered it would come unscrewed as I skied), and a double sling to hold it snug on both shoulders, I was ready to go (hope I didn't scare that other skier leaving the parking lot--"Sorry, Larry!"):

Regulation off-hand biathlon targets are a 4-inch disk set 50 meters away. I settled for a standard "A-17" target--a 1&1/2-inch black circle at 50-feet. Skiing with an 8-pound rifle slung on your back changes your sense of balance, but I also found it helped me focus on smooth technique. I set out four targets on four different loops, firing 5 shots at each on two consecutive days. Not exactly off-hand, I shot using a little help from a ski pole:

Not bad, though this target was after a long, easy downhill run:

This one was much tougher--I was sucking wind after a long, steep uphill climb; it also required shooting into a low, bright morning sun. "Oh, oh--two penalty loops for shots outside the black:"

Don't worry there, mother moose--it's not hunting season:
Whew, what a ski. I think my shadow won this race, but don't worry, I'll get him tomorrow:

The Moulton: Montana's finest classic cross country ski trails, just 5 miles north of Butte/Walkerville.


Should Fish More said...

Nice grouping. I think you should invite people to a 'first annual'biathlon, and those of us over 63 get to be pulled on a sled.

~ Msla Sheepheads said...

Hilarious! I know some guys who would come over for this! ~Regards