How To Survive Racing In The Cold
Racing in the cold is a huge challenge that biathletes from Saskatchewan must learn how to manage.
Racing at -20 is Dangerous
One of the most dangerous situations that athletes often put themselves in is to race when the temperature goes below twenty. What can happen is the athlete will “burn” the top part of their lungs and destroy any chance of them ever becoming an elite performer. The lung damage is permanent and has ended countless careers.
While is is possible to train in temperatures below minus twenty, training and racing are not the same. Athletes who are going full speed in zone 4 with maximum effort breathe in 68% more air than when they are in zone 1. The frigid air will freeze the tips of your lungs as hard as a piece of bacon that has been left outside for twenty minutes at -25.
(Interestingly, the Norwegians never race at a temperature below -16.)
How To Cope If It’s Colder Than -10
· dress warmly, often two pairs of long johns and a vest help. Two or three pairs of socks are a must – prepare to sacrifice performance for comfort and understand that layers can always be shed if needed
· wind briefs (underwear with windproofing sewn in the front) are a necessity
· boot covers drastically help keep your toes warm, often used in warm-up or for much longer “loppet” style races
· wear overmitts overtop of your shooting gloves. Only take your overmitts off to shoot. Often athletes will leave a hotshot in their mitt and some will even ski the first lap of a race with their overmitt on and discard it before the first prone shooting. (World Champion Jacob Fak lost a finger because he refused to follow this advice.
· make sure your heart is pumping before you go outside. Warm up inside. Zero and go back inside. Be certain that the wax-room playlist is excellent.
· change your dryfiring routine before zeroing to a maximum of five shots or none and be efficient, and consider only dryfiring standing. Athletes that freeze to the matt in zeroing always lose. Accept that your zero may be only 5 or 10 rounds and that you receive a correction after only two or three shots.
· your coach may choose to have you confirm with a short, range loop right after you have zeroed. Then go inside and stay warm.
· don’t forget to eat. You burn more calories in the cold and need to adjust accordingly.
· wear a substantial buff made out of thick cloth (thick flannel or polar fleece) that covers your face. If the coach can see more than eyes, you are risking problems with frostbite. Vaseline and ducktape are for fools. Again, be prepared to sacrifice performance for not doing permanent damage to your face or lungs. Skimpy nylon/lycra buffs are insufficient at warming enough air which is the main reason that spandex is not used in the making of traditional Inuit clothing.
· make sure that your rifle is ‘clean as a whistle’. If there is too much buildup of residue it with effect bolting and accuracy.
· and the most important rule – never eat yellow snow!
The Saskatchewan Advantage
Often Saskatchewan athletes tend to deal with the cold better than athletes from warmer places. This is a competitive advantage and helps to balance the fact that we have to wax with Start Green for three quarters of the season.