Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Really Short Stories: Relay of Doom

This my first attempt at what will hopefully be a series of random stories from over the years that I find worth mentioning.

        After several attempts Pyeongchang, South Korea finally won the bid for the 2018 Olympics. In one of there attempts to prove that they worthy they hosted the 2009 Biathlon World Champs. I was having a decent year and was on that 2009 team. The atmosphere was a break from the central European back country town and racing was going pretty well. The last race was the mens relay. This might be my most favorite race gone bad story.
         It was windy and the first two legs of our team were not adapting very well to it. Jeremy was our third leg and did a solid job but the US team was not on pace for the break through result we were hoping for. And then came the fourth leg. That brings us to my contribution in the relay of doom.
         Most of lap one went as planned. There is a corner that each racer has to go through before coming into the stadium. After three plus legs of racing on it that corner was now the ice section of the loop. For a brief moment I thought I might make it. Shortly after said moment I was sliding on my left ass cheek off the course into the banner. I was not trying to further promote Erdgas. I simply couldn't stop sliding in the banner's general direction. I glanced at my poles and skis to confirm that everything was in one piece. I kept my head up and went on my way to prone.
        I have a certain order of clip placement preset in my head for sprints and relays. I already knew what to expect when getting into position for a prone stage. So this is why I was kind of shocked to notice that I only had one clip in my clip wells. "Why was there not two?" I asked myself.  I could have brought an extra clip or two as if it were a four stage race. But my rifle was heavy enough and besides what are the odds of actually losing a clip during a race? Clips are the things I leave out on the range after training and put myself in the hole 80 euros. Apparently the odd gods were against me that day. I lost a clip during my off course banner excursion. I crammed in my one and only clip. Having eight rounds (because it's a relay) at my disposal was not enough for five targets. I don't know how I shot, but I know I was in the penalty loop. 
       I made it very clear to anyone I knew on out on my second lap that I was going to need a clip if the US team were even to finish the relay. I yelled the news at Lowell and saw a bewildered look on his face as he started to process what could have possibly just happened. I snowplowed through the unlucky ice section / corner and lost a lot of time while still gaining time from the first lap.
      Naturally the coaches on the range had an extra clip or two on them for occasions like this one. What I had, was an older barrel and action. One that was made for the big fat clips that no one uses anymore. There was a range official waiting for me with what looked like a clip in his hands and big smile on his face. The coaches had ample time to explain this and get a back up clip loaded and ready on the range. What no one expected was this differnce in clip chamber to clip technology ratio. The back up micro clip would not fit in my rifle and was almost useless. I can't clearly remember what I did to convey this dilemma to our coaches. There may have some profanities here and there, but they figured it out and sent an old school fat clip my way.
       This is the real clutch in the really short story. During this whole shenanigan the race was still going on. There would be no sub 30 second range time comeback. The goal was now minimized. Just getting five to eight bullets down range was starting to look like a lofty goal. The range official ran across the fireing lans with nice healthy fat clip for special rifle. I joyfully grabbed the clip to slide it into the chamber. I don't know if it was to cold to grip a small object well enough or if that clip was greased somehow.  Because next thing I knew I was fumbling with the clip right before it fell from my grasp, hit the mat, and nonchalantly bounced off beyond the firing line. The one and only feasible clip fell into what might as well have been a black hole.
       These are the things you don't prepare yourself for. I paused for a second to take in what had just transpired. "Seriously?" I thought to myself. "Is this seriously happening?" There was only one more option. I still had the fully loaded micro clip in my reachable inventory. I hand loaded each single round into the chamber. In case you don't know, in relay formats each athlete is allowed three extra rounds per stage that they must use if they need to. So you can see why cleaning in only five rounds is an advantage time wise vs having to use all eight rounds. Well, I proved this logic wrong. I cleaned my standing stage in only five rounds and gained no advantage what so ever. No one knows what my range time was but it certainly wasn't under 30 seconds... or most likely sub 90 for that matter.
       What dose one conclude from a day like this? Well, all I knew was that this was going to make a good story of the age old "what not to do screw up lessons." I took one look at Per after and we both kinda smiled  and decided that was no sense in dwelling on what just happened. Later on in the spring USBA brought in Armin Auchentaller as one of the two head coaches for the mens team. I introduced myself as "that guy on the US relay team with the absent clip issue in Korea." Armin knew who I was after that.