Thursday, April 23, 2020

Meaning, Melancholy, and Moving On (not necessarily in that order): A Look Back on the 2019-2020 Season

Around the Birkie this year things seemed to take a deep dive. I was deeply disappointed to not requalify for Elite Wave. Then I had really bad back pain after The Great Bear Chase that made it difficult to roll over in bed and to work at my desk job. This made me wonder why I was so upset over the Birkie, but mental pain is real, too.

And then COVID-19 cancelled the Minneapolis World Cup. This was perhaps the biggest bummer of all. It seemed akin to the Birkie getting cancelled in 2017. In other words, it felt like the world was ending. The MInneapolis World Cup had been 1.5 years of anticipation, my brother coming, taking the day off from work, and then nothing. NOTHING.

Well, except I still took the day off from work, Erik worked from home, we put on some glitter, and went off to Wirth to ski. Jessie was out there and I skied behind her for a bit and Erik showed her his glitter. So maybe it wasn’t nothing. And after that cardiac arrest a couple days prior, well, it actually felt like SOMETHING had happened.


Getting the GLITTER ON!


It’s all about perspective. The numbers showed New York City blowing up bad with COVID-19 cases. The Minneapolis World Cup did the right thing. But it still hurt.


An admittedly terrible photo of Delta planes grounded due to COVID-19 as we drove to Hyland for man-made skiing

In terms of skiing, this year started and ended a bit strange. With knee and shoulder injuries, I took two-ish months off from running and doing pull-ups in May through July. Despite this, I trained fairly consistently and relatively hard from August to the end of the season. Except I somehow managed to do my hardest intervals of the year in June.

Training hardcore with Vakava at our fall camp where we did a couple long rollerskis in the snow! Photo: Erik

Owing to a heavy February race schedule, I didn’t race in January and that suited me well. As a result, I did lots of threshold work on my own in January. By this I mean every single weekend to get ready for my February races. I wasn’t feeling so motivated to do 3 hours skis this year but certainly did a number of 2 hour skis and of course eeked out a few 3 hours skis.


Some Sauna-Swim on the St. Croix with the Vakava team in January!

Despite all the threshold work on the weekends and shorter intervals at Vakava on Wednesdays, I still didn’t feel as prepared as I would have liked for the race season. But then again, I had to remind myself I never feel as prepared as I want. It’s better to be undertrained than overtrained.

Especially in December and January, the darkest months of the year, I often found myself running to and from work rather than figuring out how to get skiing. It’s ridiculously efficient: driving wastes so much time, requires extra packing, and when the snow isn’t good, the man-made trails can get heavily rutted or a mix of ice-suck snow in the evening.

It’s 5 miles one way to work. I’d usually take the bus in on Monday, run home, and then run both ways on Tuesdays and Fridays for 25 miles per week. This is a lot of running for me. But the thing is, with a 5 mile run, it’s such a short distance it doesn’t make me feel like I’ve done anything. So by splitting my 10 mile runs in half, I kinda felt like I wasn’t training at all.


Substituting some bowling with my coworkers for a running workout- this photo is for Mom who always told us to just go bowling:) Turns out I've done this twice now in adulthood. Photo: Kyle Constalie

I made a big gear change and have some thoughts about new gear for next year.

I got new classic boots. These were my first NNN classic boots ever. Not only were my old boots completely falling apart, but they felt too big. I stuck with Salomon, but instead of going with the women’s version as I had for my previous pair, I went with the men’s version which has a bigger toe box. As a result I was able to go down two sizes and got a snugger fit. I’m not sure if it’s the snugger fit or the binding change, but I feel more connected to my classic skis than ever before.

My current classic racing skis are 15 years old. Sadly, it’s time to retire them, and not just because KJ tells me so. I’m starting to get worried that they are so old they aren’t good anymore. When I lose faith in my equipment, it’s time. But they’ve been with me for so so so long!


Likely my first race on my new classic skis- the Loppet 2006! This was like 4 suits ago...probably time for new classic skis. Photo: Bruce Adelsman


In terms of my racing, well, I accomplished my goals at the City of Lakes Loppet, felt good about Mora and Finlandia, and then was troubled by my Birkie performance.

As much as I had thoughts of quitting ski racing after the Birkie and was deep within a Crossroads existentialism, I rebounded for the Great Bear Chase and my last couple weekends of skiing on man-made. The thing is, I’m not done working my body hard. I’m not done seeing if I can’t break through that ceiling I feel I’ve been stuck under for years. It has got to be made of glass. I still need to learn to stride efficiently and easy. I’ve got to learn how to balance to get more power out of my V-2. I need to learn how to jump skate in my V-1. And somewhere there has got to be room for improvement in my double pole. I’m just not done yet.

I watch a lot of women’s World Cup skiing. This can make me feel pretty down on myself if I start comparing myself to them. I listened to a podcast about comparing yourself to others and in general we seem to compare up rather than compare down. While it’s nice to have images in my head of beautiful technique and it’s fun to strive to be better, it’s also degrading to compare myself to others.

There’s some pop song out there with lyrics that go “It’s wanting what you’ve got.” I need to remember to live by this every day.

Sometimes wanting what you've got is merely enjoying a beautiful April snowstorm in the city (yes, this photo is from the city- evidence you can find wild places just about anywhere)

And so it’s important to focus on the positives as they come.

While I’m humbled by how slow I am, on the flip side, I often get heartfelt comments that I’m a wicked double poler or that I myself am so fast. Everything is relative.

I might not win the race, but wow, I’ve gotten very good at transitions (cornering, keeping speed into and out of hills) and getting power double poling downhills! I also marvel that I changed tracks a few times in the Great Bear Chase! I really stuck to my plan of L3 skis in January!

I’ll leave this post and season with my three favorite skis of the year.

Towards the end of January, during some warm weather, Erik and I had a late evening ski at Wirth from The Trailhead (where we celebrated the Loppet Founder’s Dinner) to the Wirth Beach Parking lot. Temperatures were around freezing with relatively fast new snow that made it easy to get an edge. The sky was overcast, reflecting the city lights and thus allowing a perfect dusk-light ambience to see perfectly. This was city skiing at its best.


A photo from a different city ski this year that wasn't quite as good as the one above.

OK, the next few aren’t exactly one ski but rather a series of skis on man-made snow at Wirth and Hyland from March 14th to the 22nd. These were all incredibly special as I spontaneously skied and talked with friends. Yes, we tried to social distance as best we could, but we all savored some much needed conversation and physical human contact while skiing under great snow conditions with sun and spring temps. It may not have been a snowy trail in the woods and mountains with solitude but it’s the next best thing.

Maybe one of these years I'll post on top 3 best sledding adventures of the year- I'd have to go more than twice though:)

Then there was the ski the day after the Great Bear Chase at the Swedetown Trails. I had packed light for the weekend and only brought my classic gear but after my back went out on me, classic skiing was pretty much out of the question. I debated going for a walk but seeing as my winter boots were wet, I decided to try skiing. Erik had to literally help me put my boots on. My friend, Eva, lent me her skate skis. I thought the ski would be terrible skating on classic boots but what ensued was one of my favorite skis of the winter.

The snow was great- either freshly groomed and slightly icy or just freshly groomed but hard. Conditions were fast and as long as I free skated or V-1’d and kept my weight completely under me, I could ski pain free. While I avoided the most curvy hills, I still felt very confident going downhill and even step turning. I guess that’s when I know I’m a good skier, or at least very comfortable on my skis.

And skating on my classic boots went just fine. Most of the time I forgot I was even doing this. It makes me think I should do skiathlons next year and use my classic boots. This will be a fun mix-up from my normal winter routines...so here’s to 2021, the year of the skiathlon!

3 comments:

  1. Just this morning on MPR, Carrie Miller was talking with author Rebecca Winn (100 Daffodils) and quoted (can't remember who) this: Comparison is the death of joy. You wrote about how deflated you can become when you compare your skiing ability to others who are "better". Resilience is the ability to show up, work hard, and stay the course. And not be so hard on yourself...progress, not necessarily perfection can be an achievable and rewarding goal. Remember: ski hard, ski fast and have fun. And when all else fails: go bowling (if able to socially distance)!

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