It hasn’t been the best winter for snow. But not the worst either. We need only think back to last year to know that. So far we have been fortunate to be able to find ski trails with reasonable snow and eek out our kilometers as we train for our February line-up of long distance races. The City of Lakes Loppet, Mora Vassaloppet, Book Across the Bay and American Birkebeiner define the month – every weekend is committed. It’s those 50+ kilometer races in particular that keep us going, adding to the length of our longest ski each week. Just like marathon training, that “long ski” is needed to built up our endurance for the big race.
Despite the kilometers I’ve put in, the results have been less than stellar. I just haven’t felt things click, and my times continue to linger over 5 min/kilometer. While that’s not exactly a lightning speed goal, it’s my goal and I cling to the desire to finish the Birkie in under 4 hours again. But it has seemed very elusive this year.
Until now. Finally, a day of perfectly wonderful skiing! Not only was the sun shining, the sky blue and the wind moderate, but the trails were in terrific condition! Being out reasonably early on a weekday morning definitely has its advantages. I skied on nearly virgin corduroy, enjoying the fresh grooming and good snow coverage. And I realized the benefit of firm, wide and stable trails – they promote good skiing! It makes a big difference having a reasonable base to smooth out the bumps, and plenty of width to skate ski. I was so pumped it was an easy decision to make that my long ski for the week.
The multi-use trails were also in pristine condition. Normally I shun those trails, with too many footprints and dog tracks trampling the snow to make them attractive. But this day they lured me away from the ski trails. I had no idea where I was going! I skied and skied, wondering just where I would end up, yet sensing that they were vaguely familiar from cycling the bike trails last summer. I admit that they were only mildly undulating and unchallenging, but infinitely enjoyable as I racked up the kilometers.
Forty kilometers later, I skied to my personal finish line. And best of all, I finished in well under 5 min/kilometer. Hallelujah! What a boost to my confidence and morale.
Naturally, I can’t assume we will have perfect conditions for all those races. But a few more days like this one will go a long way toward feeling like I just might have the right stuff to go the distance. So come on, Mother Nature, bring on the snow!