Lanny Barnes represented the USA in Biathlon in 2006 in Turin, 2010 in Vancouver, and 2014 in Sochi. She also competed on the US team alongside her twin sister, Tracy, in 2006. We asked this Shaklee Pure Performance Team athlete to reveal a few details of her race, the Women’s 15 km Individual, and what it’s like to compete in the Games. This is her account.
When anyone asks me what it’s like to compete for the US team, my head fills with excitement, nervousness, joy, pain, honor, country, family, and…“Lanny, GO!”
Suddenly, I’m back in the middle of my Biathlon race in Vancouver; I look right and see a blur of red, white, and blue. The only thing clear to me is my breathing, and my lungs are expanding and contracting at a blistering rate. Although I’m moving fast, there is silence. I’m in a place where an athlete’s mind goes when you are too tired to think and the pain is almost too much to bear, which I’ll call the “Void.”
When an athlete goes to that empty void, the eyes glass over and the grimace becomes an emotionless stare. It’s a quiet place, but I don’t want to be here. And then BAM, “Reality” hits.
In Reality, my ears are overwhelmed: people screaming, my heart pounding against my chest, my skis gliding across the snow. My senses are back, and also the pain I was escaping in that empty void. I welcome it. It lets me know how hard I’m pushing so I can push harder. Here in this mindset—in Reality—I’m racing. I focus on the skiing technique, reaching with the arms, good weight shift, pushing with the legs.
Now I’m charging up a hill heading into my final stage. There are four marksmanship stages in this race, and a grueling three-kilometer loop between each stage. Each stage consists of five attempts to hit four-inch steel plates at 50 meters, with a minute added to your overall race time for each miss. I’ve hit 15 for 15 and have five targets left. There are 128 women, all vying for a gold medal and I’m one of them. With a “clean” stage (20 targets with 20 attempts), I’ll be near the top. No pressure, I think to myself, as I ski onto the range. At this point, my mind does a reversal. I’m no longer a skier; I’m a marksman on skis in my comfort zone.
It’s a funny thing, but I woke up that morning knowing I was going to clean the race, and as I’m heading into the final stage, I’m thinking: Man, I love this. Biathlon is my ultimate sport: fast-paced, head to head, and action-packed with the adrenaline-pumping thrill of the physical chase.
I sling my rifle off my back and get into position. I repeat a few words in my head and my whole body relaxes, even with my heart pounding over 180 beats per minute. I quickly fire five times, throw my rifle on my back, and push out of the range with a smile on my face—I’ve cleaned it! Now onto the last loop, where I’ll push harder and faster than ever before. After all, this is the Games.
On the first hill after the range, I see my sisters Tracy and Christie running alongside with American flags draped over their shoulders. This is one of the best parts of the race; it reminds me that I’m racing for them and for all the people I represent in our great country. I smile briefly, give them a wave, and then I’m powering up the next hill with everything I’ve got.
I am well fueled because I ate my favorite Shaklee 180® Meal-in-a-bar before the race and now the energy is kicking in. I’m skiing alongside a Norwegian, matching her stride for stride. Normally, this competitor out-skis me, but not today. Today, I’m racing an inspired race, and I push hard toward the finish. A great part about the Games is that everyone cheers for everyone, not just the favorites or their own country, but for everybody and in every language.
Fatigue sets in and I want to go to that empty, happy place. But I consciously open my eyes wider because this is an opportunity like no other and I’m not about to miss it. The finish line draws closer and the Norwegian and I are racing hard. One kilometer to go…500 meters…100 meters. I reach forward with my ski as far as I can, knowing that each second will mean a higher ranking.
I collapse at the finish line, exhausted. I try desperately to get my breathing under control. I stand up and look at the scoreboard. I’ve won!
No, I haven’t won a medal, but I’ve won my own personal race. Until today, I had never cleaned the targets in a four-stage race. I skied faster than I had all year and in my previous Games. I placed 23rd out of 128 women, the best finish for an American in this event in more than 16 years.
Although I didn’t win the gold that day, I was happy knowing I left everything on the course and gave every ounce of energy for my country. By the end of my Biathlon career, I competed in three Games in Women’s Biathlon. I didn’t bring home a medal, but I brought home something else: I can honestly say I gave my best and was honored to race for the USA and for the Shaklee Pure Performance Team!