Cross Country Skiing #2

Training (and over training)


The early morning low cloud and fog shrouds the starting line. It feels cool and damp, but I’ve done a warm up ski of a kilometer up the trail and back, and the snow feels surprisingly fast and my wax right. All around me skis are being prepped on work benches and athletes are stretching, laughing and talking quietly in pairs and small groups.

I meet a couple in their 70s who were minding an extended gaggle of grandchildren and best friends of grandchildren, all under 10 and all entered in the event, the Larch Hills Reino-Kelski-Salmo loppet in the hills above Salmon Arm, BC.

In my mind I am back on the trail at Callaghan Valley near Whistler last winter, wearing a competitor’s bib, my glutes crying and my lungs feeling like they are going to burst. My outfit is drenched in perspiration and I am grinding it out against yet another hill. Now it is another season and I have been following a plan to better prepare me for the cross country ski race at Whistler Olympic Park than I was last year when I did it for the second time. Even though I had improved my time, I felt I could have prepared better.

At 10:00, the serious, high level athletes set off, for the start of their 34km ski. The juniors are off at 10:05 for their various distances, and the duffers like me, doing only 17km set out at 10:10.

A little plug for Salmon Arm here. This was a community event like I have never experienced. The youngest entry was two years old and the oldest was 84. There were over 450 entries but the astonishing number was the over 200 volunteers. It ran like a well-oiled machine.

Check this video out: 

This race was classic only, as opposed to the newer, now very popular skate (freestyle). I had only taken classic up with any intent about three years ago. So doing a longer distance was unknown territory for me. I wanted to take it easy and just to finish. The chocolate chip cookies and liquid at 6 kilometers were more than welcome. By 10km, much of which was uphill, I was starting to feel overheated. I paused very briefly to take off my toque.

At the 10km check point I took some of the proffered warm Gator-aid, guzzled while moving, and kept on. Not long after, there was a long downhill and I really cooled off while taking tight, fast turns on those skinny skis with no edges through the woods. The next long climb was easier than I thought it would be and soon I felt the end was near. When I finished I felt like I still had “something left in the tank.

The rest of the day was just filled with joy, from the after race programme at the  community centre in Salmon Arm to the potluck dinner with members of my ski club to a session on the foam roller, before bed.

I used the Larch hills loppet to jump start an effort to improve my endurance, which has always been a weakness. Since then, I have been doing extended sessions without rest stops, several times a week, instead of climbing the steepest hills and taking breaks as needed. This builds on the many months of first cycling, swimming and hiking last summer and fall, sport specific stretching and weights, and daily use of a foam roller and some yoga.

The Whistler race is a week from now. I’m skating it (freestyle) again. Yesterday I skied the course for the second time this season, non-stop, holding back to a very doable, steady pace. I had shaved more than fifteen minutes off my time of an hour and eleven minutes from last year, even with the conditions of slow and sticky snow.

In a moment of hubris, I felt like I could, or even should do the 30km, because the 15km no longer seems like the challenge it was. But my better judgement says “wait, save that for next year”, and train up to it, like I have this year. And to just enjoy the event, and the success of being ready for it.

Here’s a great link on training

Hope I’ll be seeing you on the trails.



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