My wife calls me Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards. My three teenage children call it a midlife crisis. I prefer to call it a midlife opportunity.
In March, I will be competing in the World Masters Biathlon Championship in Finland. Biathlon is a Winter Olympic Sport almost unheard of in the UK, but massive in Europe with France, Germany, Russia and Norway dominating the field.
I am the 7th and least experienced competitor of the GB team – the team leader has been to the Olympics 6 times. Of the 100 or so entries so far, half are Russian and train at dedicated clubs, the remainder are mostly from European countries that have snow for at least four months of the year. There are 5 Australian entries who have probably struggled with the same issues I have. I fully expect to be competing for the wooden spoon.
Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Distances range from 10 to 20km interspersed with shooting 2 or 4 times from prone and standing positions. Missed targets incur a time penalty or an extra 150m per miss on a penalty loop, depending on the event.
As you can imagine, the skiing side of things is challenging in the UK. I use roller skis to build my sport specific fitness. I have had to teach myself ski technique from analyzing videos of the best in the business. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I’d say I’m now comfortably the smoothest roller-blader around Exeter Riverside!
With the shooting, I practice at home with an electronic target system then I use live fire at two local clubs. That’s where I get to practice on the metal knock down targets on a 50m range, exactly as in a competition. In the last 12 months I have fired in the order of 15 thousand rounds.
With my training outside of the sport specific elements, I again try to emulate the best in the world. The guy in the picture above is the all-time great. His name is Ole Einar Bjørndalen. He is to the Winter Olympics what Michael Phelps is to the Summer Olympics, holding the most gold medals of any athlete, his last at Sochi 2014. At the age of 43 he is still competing, currently ranked 7th in the world. The six above him and the six below him are on average 15 years his junior.
His training is based on developing VO2 max, power to weight ratio and, of course, endurance. The CrossFit programming with the split of Strength and Engine WODs are an effective method of working on these three factors in a time efficient package – CrossFit has become a key feature of the overall training plan.
Biathlon is a precise, elegant sport requiring athleticism and marksmanship – the appeal is the challenge of performing both disciplines at the same time. Attempting to hit a target the size of a golf ball at 50m, 85% of max Heart Rate, gasping for breath, delivers a real sense of satisfaction when the target turns from black to white.
It’s a daunting challenge and way out of my comfort zone, but I’m incredibly excited for the ride. So my kids can call it a mid-life crisis, it doesn’t matter, I hope to prove them wrong by bringing home that wooden spoon!
Thanks for reading,