This season was a long one for me. It started in November and stayed busy through the middle of February. After a trip to Maine gave me a break, I had about a month and a half of rest (with the Great Ski Race in the middle) until the Mammoth Marathon/Billy Dutton Uphill/Gold Rush triple whammy. My race season has never lasted so long, although it was a little bit discontinuous. It was loads of fun though. As much as I feel tired now, I have a feeling I’ll miss the ski racing by July 4th at the latest. Mostly I am thrilled to be living in the location with the longest and sunniest ski season anywhere in the country. (My knowledge is limited though. Let me know if I have omitted your hidden paradise. Your secrets are safe with me, right?)
I had a few new adventures this year. From the Yellowstone Ski Festival to the Mammoth Marathon, I had the pleasure of skiing on a lot of new trails. Also, working with the fantastic student-athletes at Incline High School was an adventure all of its own. Since I picked up the sport on the relatively late side for ski racing purposes (at age 20), I am pretty excited to see new athletes giving the sport a try. Unlike running (and maybe cycling?), XC skiing has a rather high learning curve. Fitness doesn’t get you very far unless you can first stand up and move your skis without doing a faceplant. No one is born skiing, and there is a lot of work needed right from the start even to finish a race.
Perusing the interwebs I stumbled upon a skier who gave me a great deal of support when I was brand new. Brad Marden was one of just two athletes (out of 14) completing the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic. Wikipedia tells me that the course changes every 3 years. Distances range from about 200 to 380km. It takes days. No grooming or feed stations, either. Sleeping bags are highly recommended. Tents are optional (but heavy!)
When Brad was assistant coach at Colby College, he taught me everything a Los Angeleno needs to know about XC skiing. Mainly: to keep my butt forward and my skis pointed in the same general direction away from any trees or bushes. Credit also goes to Paul Smith, now coaching at University of Maine, Presque Isle, for tolerating some cluelessness on a great many subjects. They had no obligation to help me, but they decided to anyway. The sport thrives because we love it, and we will do whatever it takes to get new skiers excited.
So I have to wonder: When am I going to get up to the Brooks Range for some classic skiing?