The Twin Biathletes' RV Diaries - We Survived Week One!
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Tracy & Lanny Barnes are 2006 & 2010 United States Olympians in the sport of Biathlon, and they have been chronicling their training and traveling adventures in Germany.
From Tracy & Lanny Barnes, USA Biathletes
We have now officially survived week one of our adventurous 3 week RV Racing Tour in Europe. We arrived in Europe last Monday and rented a very small RV for three U.S. women to travel, train, and race in Europe. This wasn’t our first choice of luxury travel, but was the most cost effective and also the most adventurous. And to three very adventurous souls… a traveling house on wheels in a foreign country and some nail biting competitions against some of Europe’s best women biathletes sounded like our cup of tea.
Our first stop on the “tour de RV” took us to the forests of Oberhof, or “Foghof” as most people call it. Oberhof is beautiful. It has snow covered forests in every direction and endless amounts of clouds and fog. The first four days were typical Oberhof; cloudy, gray, cold, and dreary. As the weekend and the competitions grew near the clouds disappear and for three days the sun shone in a place where such things are rarely experienced.
The RV had been working out fairly well for us so far. We were warm, had a roof over heads and were feeling good and ready for our first race. The night before the first race we rewarded ourselves with a little treat. A night at an RV Park. Usually an extra 12 euro for a parking place and 240 volts of electricity. Normally we just park right outside the venue and run off of our battery. But tonight we plugged in to the outlet and had our computers charging and ALL the lights on. It was fabulous. We cooked a great pre-race meal and were off to bed. Several hours later we were all awake and shivering. We were out of propane. One of our bottles had run out earlier that day, which wouldn’t normally be cause for alarm, because we have two propane bottles, but the 2nd bottle was faulty and we didn’t find that out until about 2 o’clock in the morning the night before our first race. Tracy was the first to brave the cold and got up to find a thick layer of ice on all of the windows. This was our coldest night in Oberhof yet as the skies were clear and the temperatures outside plummeted without the cloud cover. We fiddled with the propane bottle for an hour trying to get it to work, but had no success. We then tried to go to a gas station that sells propane, but you can rarely find anything open in Europe at night let alone at 2 in the morning. So, then came the long night of turning the car engine on and heating the cab up just enough so we wouldn’t freeze. Needless to say it was a long, and sleepless night before the first race.
The next morning we crawled out of bed and down to the venue where we’d be asking our tired, cold bodies to go all out for 12.5 kilometers against some really fast German women. We zeroed our rifles and warmed up on the tracks, preparing for the start of the race. Still a little jet-lagged and tired from the previous night's adventure, we knew we had to get focused because our competition wasn’t going to back off one bit.
After getting our race skis waxed and checked in and our rifles zeroed we were ready to race. We made our way to the start pin. A place Tracy hates. The start pin is a small fenced in area with a lead out to the starting gate. It’s a staging area, or pin as it is called. It reminds Tracy of a pin that holds cows waiting to be slaughtered. She’d rather you warm up for your race head over to a place in the snow with a line drawn in it, you set your skis down and then declare that you are ready for battle. Instead there is a starting pin. Where everyone runs around in tiny circles swinging their arms, kicking their legs, doing funny jumps and stretches, basically anything you can do to keep yourself warm in a small cooped up area until the time of your start. It’s almost a war in itself inside the starting pin. You have to be careful not to get knocked in the head by some Russian wildly waving their arms around to stay warm, or get kicked by a Swede who is swinging their legs back and forth to shake them out. It makes Tracy want to start on one of the sides of the pin and jump down the middle doing kicks and summersaults while kung fu music plays in the background. That’d get her warmed up for sure and either intimidate her opponents or give them a good laugh.
The race was interesting to say the least. Lanny was low on blood sugar and had that “eyes glazed over” feeling while Tracy spent much of the race looking around at anything and nothing, observing the strangest things. She noticed a guy carrying a little dog with his shoes untied, a certain German coach who would turn his back every time one of the Americans were skiing by (don’t know why), and she noticed the race clock by the start as she skied by it and into the range. When she noticed this she thought to herself that she’d only been racing for 30 minutes and reasoned that she had one loop left and that would take her about 7 and a half minutes plus shooting and she’d probably be taking a much needed nap by 1:00 p.m. Wow! The crazy thoughts that run threw her mind. Must have been oxygen deprivation. Anyways, through Lanny’s fogged over state and Tracy’s illuminated sense of observation, Lanny managed to be the fastest shot in the race in all 4 stages, hitting them all, 20 for 20 shots and being the only one in both the men’s and women’s field to do so. Tracy missed one shot in each of her prone stages shooting 18 for 20 and having the 3rd fastest shooting time. They both skied well, and Lanny ended up winning the race, followed by Nicole Wotzel of Germany and Tracy rounded out the podium in third.
The following day was a shorter 7.5 kilometer sprint race. Having beat the German’s in their own race the day before both Lanny and Tracy felt that the target on their back was growing and that the German’s would be gunning for them. Lanny skied a bit better that the previous day and Tracy suffered a bit from the lack of sleep from the night before the race and felt exhausted. Lanny again shot clean, hitting all 10 of her targets, shooting clean for the weekend! With her clean shooting Lanny ended up 4th, only seconds out of 3rd place. And Tracy missed just one shot in each stage to grab onto seventh place just seconds behind Brigitte Roksund of Norway.
With one of the three race series done, we were now confident that we’d survive our little RV adventure in Europe. We crawled, exhausted into our bunks that night praying that the gas would last us through the night and wondering what sort of adventure we had in store for us next.
Photo courtesy Tracy & Lanny Barnes
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