You know what always sounded kind of silly to me? The biathlon. Because what goes together more than skiing and shooting? It makes some sense in the context of hunting in snowy Scandinavian countries (or, actually, according to Wikipedia, Norwegian military drills), but man, what an unobvious pairing that was to me. Because of that, I always saw it as kind of silly. But you know what? I think I'd like to try it.
I've actually never skied. It should come as no surprise to most of you that if I were ever to ski (big if), it would be the less popular, more strenuous, and (of course) older version: cross-country. Because downhill is so popular and trendy and omg lol sold out amirite. Shut up. Cross-country is also generally more scenic (I'd assume) than just zooming down a hill and then riding a lift back to the top over and over again.
I mean, I doubt I'd ever do it competitively. I like to push myself, to challenge myself. To do better, be faster every time. I'm really only competitive with myself. But it's much like walking fast in the city. I don't do it to be an asshole, or because I'm in a hurry. I do it for the challenge, both physical and mental. And because it feels better than shuffling, slumping, shambling from place to place. So that part of the biathlon would probably be fun. Sweaty, exhausting fun. With pretty scenery.
But the real beauty of the biathlon is in the shooting. Because what I never realized in my youthful mirth over what I saw as a nonsensical juxtaposition is that while yes, it takes work to be the best at two things instead of just one, there's a lot more going on. You are at the peak of your exertion, going as fast as you can over hill and snowy dale and then you have. to. stop.
And things become very slow. With your pulse pounding and your breath heaving, you have to steady a rifle and pick off a target.
Timing the squeeze. of the trigger. between. your. heart. beats.
I remember thinking about this when I took archery class for gym in college (yes, I had had the concept explained to me by then). Monitoring my breath. Timing my pulse, trying to slow it. Choosing the moment to let the arrow fly, the moment to surrender control of it to the inflexible laws of physics. And let me tell you, that shit is awesome. Zen and the art of archery. Be the target. Get out of your head. Get out of the way. It is amazing to practice focusing on nothing more than the barest essentials of life: oxygen and blood. No one can live life that way, but it's a wonderful thing just to glimpse it.