It’s not a very big club but the local master’s biathlon group has been making itself well know the last few years with top results.
This year, Callie Lancaster became the biathlon national masters champion while teammate Lèa-Marie Bowes-Lyon was runner up.
Lancaster felt that she had a relatively successful season this year. Out of 19 events, she finished first in 17.
“The more you can experience it, the more you can prepare yourself,” she said. “And I just like doing it, it’s a lot of fun!”
She felt that since she goes to many different venues, she gets a lot of experience leading up to the more important competitions such as nationals.
“I go to a lot of the BC Cup races as well as a couple in Alberta. I go to the first one in Canmore. It’s usually the first time on skis and you get to work out all the kinks,” she said.
She felt that this year’s weather had its challenges.
“At nationals it was fantastic. Here it’s been up and down. We had some really brutal cold snaps. We had a little bit of a slow start to our season but then we had a fantastic part of the season with all the snow. Fortunately during those nasty cold snaps we happened to be other places,” she said.
During the Christmas period, she was at a Master’s camp in Whistler, while at other times she was competing so she felt she was not affected so much.
“Otherwise, the weather was cooperative and we had lots of snow, if anything too much snow. It has a bearing on the targets and they have to take them out. Our Nordic Centre here is so accessible. We’re spoiled. I ski at lunch time it’s so close and I encourage people to take advantage of this Nordic Centre. There’s a lot of fantastic volunteer effort,” she said.
Lancaster felt the spring conditions were very good.
“It’s perfect sometimes now. It’s spring and that’s the way it is. You see a lot of unfamiliar and an lot of familiar faces up there and everyone has a big smile,” she said.
As far as coaching was concerned, she said that the masters group did not have an official coach this year because the previous one got a new job.
“So we joined the youth biathlon club and trained with them and that was awesome,” she said.
“I learned to skate ski — which is the style you need to do for biathlon — in 2008 and got my first skis at ski swap and started to Google, YouTube, and took every little masters technique class and women’s day ski program I could do, and ski with people who would give me some tips and sort of slowly learn to skate ski because you have to be able to ski for a couple of years before you can do any of that.
“And then I did my first competition in 2012. In my first competition year I did one race,” she said. “I’ve been doing more and more and then I got awarded the high points award the last several years running because I attend the most races as a result of it.”
She said that they are not always easy to get to.
“We have to go to Whistler. We have to go to Kelowna; we had one at Burns Lake and we had one at Prince George. They try to make it fair but the northerners are more keen to travel,” she said.
She had a lot of praise for her teammate Bowes-Lyon.
“Lea-Marie is more preoccupied with a young family at this time,” she said. “Our whole club is kind of tiny but it goes through cycles. It’s on a bit of a down right now. It is what it is.”
She was excited that the entire Canadian Olympic Team that recently competed in Korea was there.
“They were such a cool inspirational group of people. They were friendly and they were giving you advice. It was just so much fun to be out there with them,” she said. “We also had the Canadian Paralympic champion there.
There was a lot of camaraderie and everyone was so supportive.
“One of the really fun things about the masters program is that I now have this network of people that I have met. It’s so much fun reconnecting. Everyone’s there because they love the sport and they love getting out there and promoting health and aging in a healthy manner.”
Training to be a champion
“In summer, I do range training. I don’t do a lot of roller skiing. I consider it a cross-training time. I’m an avid horse rider. I do paddle board. I’m a hiker. I do kick-bo,” she said.
“In the fall, I try to get into the first race in Canmore at the end of November / the beginning of December. The reason they can pull it off is because they make snow and store it. There are not too many places that can get away with that.”
In the summer it slows down considerably but it never really stops. Lancaster tries to go to at least one summer camp and an early season one. Between Christmas and New Year’s, there is a camp specifically for masters and she takes advantage of that.
“I get a chance to actually train with the coach and the ski instructors. They have quite a big group from the Vancouver area. It all helps,” she said.
She feels that the local club does a good job of promoting new programs and is often trying to do something new and that there is a lot of support.
“I love Smithers and I would never move but you have to be prepared to travel. That’s just the way it is,” she said.