Saturday, August 6, 2016

Women: Just Do It!
Back in high school, there were twice as many girls on my Nordic ski team as boys. At the races, there were about equal numbers of boys and girls. When I went to college and joined a club team, there were twice as many boys. When I “burst” onto the marathon scene in 2004, it quickly became obvious I would be skiing amongst a lot of men, and the occasional woman, for the rest of my “career.” (aka half century)
I’ve thought about this a few times. In running races, women now actually make up about half the field at marathons and the majority in many shorter races. This wasn’t always the way it was, and it has taken about 30 years. So why hasn’t this happened in skiing?
Skiing takes more time than running. You can just run from your door and it requires little gear. But for skiing, you needs skis, boots, poles. You need to wax your skis. Then you need to drive somewhere, change into ski boots, etc. Hence, a one hour ski actually takes at least 2 hours and that’s if you are really efficient at dressing, getting out the door, and don’t have to drive too far. I feel this every ski season. I train less during ski season because I spend so much time driving and dressing and deciding what wax to use and waxing. Men are likely better at making training a priority and likely feel less time pressure than women.
I had a conversation with Caitlin Gregg regarding the paucity of women who ski marathons compared to men. She suggested it’s an equipment thing. In other words, skiing requires lots of equipment (see gear list in the last paragraph) AND waxing. It’s the idea that men are better at tinkering with tools and toys than women (think bikes, cars, etc) and this results in women getting turned off from the sport. We think men might be better suited to these logistics (picking the right wax before races).
Here’s my favorite theory. This is something more innate about men and women. Men have the idea “I’ll just do it, tough it out” and so even though they haven’t trained, their testosterone is going crazy and they’ll get through. Sure, they may get injured and start out too fast, but they’ll finish. Women on the other hand, are smarter. We like to be well trained and prepared for the distance. We are better able to pace ourselves. And so, if we feel we don’t have enough time to train, we’ll be more conservative and sign up for the shorter race.
But the problem with this is, if you never commit to a longer distance, you will never challenge yourself and break through that barrier. When I did my first ski marathon, the Mora Vasaloppet, it was 58 kilometers. I was foolhardy, and even though I’d only ever skied about 25 kilometers at one go before, I did the race anyway. And you know what? I finished and survived. And this gave me confidence to do another one and another one and after I’d done about five, I found myself saying “wow, I don’t even respect this distance of 50 kilometers anymore.” Had I never taken that plunge though, I’d probably never have skied more than about 30 kilometers at one time. Sometimes we have to do something outside our comfort zone, even if we feel like dumb men doing it.
I’ve struggled with how to be nice with other women when discussing this topic, but I really just want to say: women, just do it. So women, here’s the deal:
2016 Birkie Skate: 3662 men, compared to 895 women (women made up 20% of the field).
2016 Birkie Classic: 1913 men compared to 573 women (women made up 23% of the field).
This is pathetic. Let’s do better. Surprise yourself, unleash some of your testosterone (women have it, too) and make the next race you sign up for a full marathon distance.