“Experiencing life’s ups and downs has really helped shape me into the artist that I am today”-Darude
The last few days have been almost as much of a rollercoaster as the strip of road that we have to drive through to get from our accommodation to any of the training maps. They’ve been highs higher than the tower in the forest that we climbed and I’ve certainly had a few lows as well but just like a classic stitch up, this has really brought us together as a unit.
We had another quality day in the forest on Tuesday, starting with a fun sesh in a mint-as nearby forest. None of us can really remember anything too exciting about this training other than that we were all pretty happy and there were a lot of mozzies (I set a new world record for most mosquitoes killed in a 5 second period). After restocking with some quality cinnamon buns we were ready to take on the Finns at a local event just down the road. We put on a pretty impressive display by rocking up in full uniform and had a very aesthetically pleasing jog to the start. The general consensus was that this was a nice chance to get a race simulation in and there were some really lush bits of forest (and also some reasonably rough rough open).
|Working on our following technique|
A low for me during this period was the abuse that I’m subjected to on a daily basis. Within about seven seconds of our team walking in the door at our accommodation, our host Jouko decided to pick on me for having no muscles (even though at least four of the other boys have the same size or smaller guns than mine) and it’s been a non-stop assault ever since. He’s constantly asking me to tense which cracks him up every time and his wife Mallu calls me Mr Muscles whenever she sees me. I have, however, got a plan in place to get my own back as I’ve challenged him in an arm wrestle and have been stocking up on as much protein as possible in the lead up to this so she’ll be right.
Our rest day on Wednesday brought us a trip to one of Tampere’s main tourist attractions- a big shopping centre. We all agreed afterwards that it was quite big. Political correctness doesn’t really seem to be a thing in Finland, we found an aboriginal themed bottle opener that was an interesting shape and also a line of clothing “inspired by the streets” that featured the text “Black Squad”.
|Tasteful Finnish artwork|
|Dress like a Finn, run like a Finn|
In the afternoon we were treated to more Finnish culture with our hosts inviting us to their local biathlon training centre. Jouko is a former Finnish national champion and Olympic representative (as is Mallu, in gymnastics, as we later found out) so it was a privilege to get a master class from him in a sport that none of us had ever experienced. Jouko also brought two of his thirteen year old prodigies (one of whom amazed us with his ability to spit 19 times within the first 30 seconds of us meeting him). After learning the basic shooting technique, we were ready to put our newly developed skills to good use in a modified biathlon relay against these juniors.
The warning that we should hold back our competitive instincts and go easy on the running sections was obviously completely ignored. I finished my running loop first and opted for the ‘quickscope’ approach in order to look as pro as possible in the first shooting part. After a disappointing first few shots I finished strongly to get what I thought was a solid 2/5 hits and set out to do my 3 penalty loop runs. To my surprise, everyone else was actually good at shooting and barely missed in the first round. Luckily, I was speedy enough on the penalty loops to change over in about the same time as Toby ‘Bullseye’ Wilson. Somehow I managed to fluke my way into a team with three other people who could actually shoot (Winnie, Tara and Aston) which meant our team had a huge lead over all the others going into the second round.
I decided to learn from the others and actually take my time with my shots this time. Legit, I’m sure my first shot was even more of a banga than Sandstorm but for some reason the target didn’t click over. The same thing happened on my second one. Before I knew it, the laughter of my fellow biathletes was ringing in my ears and as tears started to form in my eyes and my hands were shaking more than Winnie after our swim in the lake on Sunday, my shots began flying even wider than before. As I did my five penalty laps of shame I couldn’t help but think that I’d not been a team player and that we’d never be able to work our way back into the race. Our team was redeemed by Winnie and Tara being absolutely lethal and then it came down to Aston ‘Deadshot’ Key and Rachel ‘Noscope’ Allen at the end for the win. Aston showed that he isn’t just speedy in the forest with an astonishing display of quickscoping to get five hits in about 3.67 seconds.
|When Sandstorm comes on|
Everyone else in the team managed to get at least 8 out of 10 shots (including our enthusiastic gun lobby member, Zoe Dowling) but I managed a solid 2. As well as being publicly humiliated and moving even lower in Jouko’s respect books, this brought it home to me that I actually have to be nice to everyone else in the team now if I want to survive this week. Everyone else in the team is thinking about entering the biathlon orienteering world cup next year but I think I’ve got a bit of training to do in between now and then.
|"Just pretend there's a nice fluffy animal you're aiming for"|
Our day of Finnish cultural appreciation ended with another magnificent feast from Mallu and her promise that there would be a special treat after dinner. This turned out to be an inspirational presentation from our hosts on their careers and goal setting, capped off with a team building exercise where we engaged in positive thinking and some slightly creepy chanting to help us lift up our teammates just with our fingers in a gravity defying display of teamwork.
|Just guys being dudes and girls being chicks|
In the last few days I’ve been assaulted by giant bloodthirsty insects, subjected to brutal insults and publicly humiliated about my inability to shoot things. When Hanny went around the circle on Wednesday asking us to share the highlight of our day and everyone else talked about their favourite bits of the shooting, all I could think of was some of the cinnamon buns I had that day. But when I really think about it, the last few days we’ve had have been pretty high quality. There’s been beautiful forests to train in, guys being dudes, girls being chicks, filthy bangerz, Mallu’s incredible food, quality team vibes and cinnamon buns. So overall, life’s actually not too bad after all.
By Pat xx