2022 Birkie winner and Olympian Biathlete Nathan Smith lists five tips for participants

In 2022 Nathan Smith participated in the 55 km Madshus Birkie Lite. He finished in an amazing 2 hours and 29 minutes and winning the first place in the Madshus Birkie Lite. His accomplishments attracted our attention. Roberta Hyland, volunteer on the marketing team, had the honour to ask Nathan a few questions.

What age did you start skiing and how did you start in biathlon? 

I started skiing with my family almost as soon as I could walk, but only as a family activity. I started in the jackrabbit program with Foothills Nordic at about 6 or 7, then began biathlon at 10.

Who has been your biathlon inspiration or mentor? 

Although he is only a year older than me, Jean-Phillipe LeGuellec from Quebec was a trailblazer for Canadian biathlon and a strong competitor who showed that Canadians can compete at the highest levels in a sport dominated by Europeans.

How long were you on the Canadian National team?

I was on the national team or development team in one form or another from 2007 to 2019

How was your transition into retirement? 

It was a big change and took at least a couple years to really make the full adjustment and feel a sense normalcy with a new routine. I had to go from centering my life around training and racing to the next chapter.

What was your happiest or most fulfilling moment/s as an athlete?

  • 2016 WCH silver sprint
  • 2017 WCH bronze men’s relay
  • 2012 International Biathlon Union (IBU) cup in Canmore
  • Time spent with teammates, whether it is overcoming the hardest weeks of training, travelling to races, racing head-to-head, or unwinding after a stressful winter season.

How do you deal with working through the physical pain when racing and/or training?

It usually does not feel too painful during the race. If you start thinking about the pain its a sign that things might not be going so well, and your focus is wandering!

What is your favorite type of workout to help you prepare for competing?

I always did a 2 to 3km race intensity loop followed by 3x2minutes maximum effort laps one or two days before important races.

Is there a type of workout you think the amateur should not forget?

There is no magic bullet workout, meal, or warmup that will give you the perfect race. It’s all about consistency, staying focused on the goal, and working on your weaknesses.

How many times have you completed the Canadian Birkebeiner event?

Last year was the first time I did the full distance. I did a shorter distance when I was around 12 years old, when I Iost a glove down the porta-potty right before the start! I just left it down there…

Tell us how you completed the 55 km event so fast with a time of 2 hours and 29 minutes?  

I double polled the course with no grip wax. In biathlon we do not compete in the classic technique, so I felt more comfortable double poling, especially with the fast snow conditions last year.

What is your favorite Canadian Birkie memory?

It was fun lining up at a start line for the first time in a while. No matter the place, I always still get the same feeling. Let’s Birkie baby!

What are your five tips for all participants in this year’s Canadian Birkie?

  • consistent training all year round
  • identify your weaknesses and make a plan to improve on them
  • find training partners to challenge you
  • find specific types of training such as roller skiing
  • enjoy the process of training and spending time outdoors

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