Chris Schooner demonstrates the proper way to hold a .22 calibre rifle.

Bike biathlon is on target

Anyone who has ever shot a rifle knows that hitting the target takes a clear mind with focussed concentration and a steady hand

Anyone who has ever shot a rifle knows that hitting the target takes a clear mind with focussed concentration and a steady hand.

This can be hard to do in the calmest conditions, especially for beginner marksmen – but imagine having to hit that target in the midst of a bike race, adrenaline pumping and heart racing, and you can begin to understand what it’s like for competitors of the bike biathlon, happening Oct. 13 at the Terrace Rod and Gun Club.

“It’s all about the breath,” says Chris Schooner, veteran marksman and coach and organizer of the 3rd annual Terrace Bike Biathlon, which combines an event that many people are comfortable with, biking, with an event that is new to many, shooting.

The bike biathlon started here in Terrace following the club’s experience with the 2010 Winter Games.

As some residents may remember, there was a definitive lack of snow for the duration of the games, so the biathlon competition, which combines cross-country skiing and target shooting, ended up being a running and shooting competition instead.

After witnessing how the biathlon could be transformed, the group decided to begin hosting a bike biathlon, where participants would bike the biathlon route instead of ski.

The last two years have seen the event increase in popularity, and this year should be no different – especially since the club is in the midst of sprucing up the facilities to accommodate more shooters, groups and athletes and provide neater grounds overall.

“The ultimate goal is multi-use,” says Schooner of the historic military grounds that now hosts a myriad of different types of shooters like bows, pistols, muskets and rifles like the ones used in the biathlon.

For the biathlon, the club provides ear protection, safety glasses and .22 calibre rifles that were donated years ago for youth training.

They are in the process of upgrading the sights on the rifles to ones that have competition aperture sights, which make it easier to focus on the target.

Schooner wants new shooters to have success hitting the target, because ultimately it’s about having fun.

“Our whole feeling here is we want to make it an intermediate, fun level event,” says Schooner, noting that a number of families participate and that there are scores of coaches and volunteers on hand to help beginners through the process.

“It’s very straightforward,” he says.

Participants bike a minimum of three loops of the trail that winds through the Rod and Gun Club’s property – and which will be readied and maintained with the help of TORCA, the Terrace Off Road Cycling Association – stopping in between each loop to shoot at a series of targets, ranging in distance depending on the class of competition. Each loop is timed, and there is a 20 second penalty for every missed target.

And if you’ve never shot before, but still want to participate, the club hosts open practises every Saturday morning from 9:30 a.m. to noon so interested parties can try the rifles and get a feel for the trails to ensure a safe event.

“Safety is the biggest issue here,” says Schooner.

And especially at an event with lots of beginners, like this one. As such, there will be one-on-one coaching at the target and shooters will be firing prone, which means lying down.

“It’s probably the safest rifle position,” he says.

Three people at the club are now “Biathlon Bears” coaches – a program similar to CanSkate – who, aside from being able to coach, can train adults to act as supervisors for biathlon training.

The club was the recipient of a grant from Biathlon BC, which helps to keep the cost of the event, at $10, low. Participants need to provide their own bikes and helmets. Registration is at 9 a.m. with a 9:30 until noon run time.

And although the shooting range might not seem to be spectator friendly, this is not the case.

“We welcome and encourage people to come out,” says Schooner, noting there will be a seating area. “It’s a lot of fun to watch.”