Monday, December 31, 2012

Ski Rodeo: First Time For Everything

Waiting to start. Photo Steve Mitchell,
I find racing and racing communities deeply satisfying. There's something fun about going as hard as you can in a pursuit with the presence of others, knowing that everyone out there is finding new limits. Running races have become particularly fun, since I often manage to do well; no matter how unattached I try to be with results, the ole' ego loves a good performance. Last Saturday marked MVSTA's annual Ski Rodeo, which I often see as I'm plugging away on the road, maintaining running fitness. Since I committed to skiing this year instead of running (not such a novel idea living in the Methow, but old habits die hard); I advocate people jumping into running races "for the fun of it"; and didn't have other plans for the day; I thought I should put myself out there and try the race. I knew I would be slow, but I was excited to get out of my comfort zone.

Don't let the jacket fool you. I was totally 
out of my element. Photo Steve Mitchell,
Race day dawned, and I was amazed at how my body prepared as if I'd been ski racing my whole life; I guess the brain doesn't distinguish much between sports. The familiar nerves, followed by calm while I did my warm up and waited for the start was exactly what my body was trained for, despite not being proficient in the actual sport of skiing.

Sam and I skied the new 10k course several days before, and I was pretty excited about the new hill. Since my heart and lungs are in good shape, I figured they could make up for what my technique lacked and propel me up. Starting the race I took Scott Johnston's advice of refraining from making large movements and hence, breaking poles. I made it unscathed; the large pack spread out immediately and I tried to keep an even effort as I made my way out to the meadow. Soon enough, I approached the hill and started my V1. Again, I thought about skiing within my ability. I knew it would be a while before I'd get a break, and my main goal was to not stop. My arms burned, but I managed to make it to the top without stopping and even passed a couple of people. Have I mentioned that running does not make for a strong upper body?

I recovered on the downhill and even got a tiny break when I fell making the turn at the bottom of the hill. Argh! I got up as quickly as possible, envisioning my hard work on the hill vanishing as people could make up time on the turn. I fumbled my way back to vertical and went as fast as I could to try to make up some time. The next part of the trail winds through the forest and is my favorite of the course. I felt pretty good at that point and remember thinking "this is fun!" Another little climb, followed by a fun descent and it was time to cross the road. Thanks to the friendly volunteers, there was a great snow pack and I didn't have to slow down to get across (if slowing down was possible).

It was around here that I started to feel like I was working exceptionally hard and not getting very far. I got a little frustrated at my lack of skill and then realized I wasn't gliding, no matter how well I shifted my weight from side to side. Ah, the complexities of wax and skiing. The lower section of the community trail passed pretty quickly and soon it was time for the final climb before the gradual downhill to the finish. My arms (still) burned and I felt like I was moving in slow motion, but I finally made it across Goat Creek Road and knew I was almost done. Sam was long-done with his race/workout and he came out to cheer me in. The Junior Nordic Team girls and Laura next cheered me on, while doing their cooldown, which was another boost and incentive to remember my technique cues. My biggest concern at this point was sticking a pole between my skis or doing something silly that would cause a fall right at the end. I finally was able to channel Sam near the finish and felt fast as I crossed the line: then I nearly collapsed of exhaustion.

Next time I hope to look more
like the skier on the medal.
I had so much fun and I'm excited to do it next year to see how much better I can do. Thanks to MVSTA and their volunteers for the stellar first-timer atmosphere, complete with silly costumes and hats. I urge anyone who is interested in skiing to give the rodeo a try. Congrats to everyone who raced: it was hard! Sam had to get going to Utah for National Championships, but we stayed just long enough for the awards. He blew everyone away and skied the 12k (due to the modified course) in 31:40! After he got his medal and we were getting our stuff together I was shocked to hear my name called for third in my age group. My time was much slower than first and second; but regardless, I was psyched! I spent the rest of the day lounging and eating. Not surprisingly, the satisfied post-race feeling is the same for skiing as it is for running. With my first one is out of the way, I have nowhere to go but up and look forward to the Pursuit. Until then, Happy New Year!


  1. Hi Alison!
    I just got back from my first EVER cross-country ski weekend. Phew-my arms are sore (and my butt, my back, my neck, my forehead...). While I was out there I kept thinking about this post and so appreciated having your perspective. I kept thinking, to myself 'Ah, yes. It's hard. It's technical. I suck at this. But that's OK. I can't get better at this without practicing it!'

    That trip also put Sam's impressive time into persepective for me. It took me about 30-50 minutes to cover 2k depending on the terrain.

    Angel Mathis

    1. You should come out here and we can suck together!