Because it’s there.
When you ask most people what makes them climb Everest and the other giant peaks on this marble the answer is, inevitably, “because it’s there”. I raced the US Nordic National Championships (against most of the top collegiate and professional skiers in the country) for much the same reason; it was here.
Obviously with my 23 total race starts since starting this sport five years ago I was among the rookiest of the rooks. I also had the distinction of being the oldest racer by 7 years. Never mind the next oldest won by three minutes. I was one of two moms (that I know of and probably). The other mom also had her baby last year and had an awesome day, finishing 19th, and not from the front row either. Go Emma!
The race was on the 2002 Olympics course here in Utah, and the conditions at Soldier Hollow were a tad better than the big alpine resorts right now. It was way, way warmer than predicted, hence my waxing was a little off.
I knew going into the race that the lower you set goals, the easier they are to achieve. Ok, that’s negative. Let’s just say that you should set reasonable goals. I did. They were (in no particular order):
Finish better than last.
Finish without being lapped.
Ski well. In other words, ski without falling down.
Get a picture of my name on the cool Olympics status board.
Well, mission accomplished. I did all of those things. I ended up 60th out of 63 of the best in the country. There were probably hundreds better who didn’t show up, and for that I am probably thankful.
There were a few friends and industry folks out there yelling for me, even on the last lap. But one thing that really impressed and excited me was the number of complete strangers who cheered for me. By name. Ski fans who bothered to look at my number, check their start list and say my name. Of course I gave them plenty of time for research while I was crawling up some of those hills.
Behind every champion there is a team. And behind every old-ass lady in over her head at a huge event, there is also a team. So I’d like to thank the following:
Salomon – they have given me very generous pricing on boots, skis and poles. The boots I wanted because they fit my feet and are nice and stiff for great power transfer. I skied their awesome Soft Ground ski. They were perfect for the mashed potato-looking snow the women’s race skied on after the men and a sudden heatwave wreaked havoc on the snow and my wax job.
Skratch Labs – also gave me some generous pricing on their “secret drink mix” aka Skratch. Of particular importance to me today was the Hyper Hydration Mix, which in extreme conditions like 2500 ft. of climbing in a 20km ski race, kept me from having to take feeds and finish almost as strong as I started. Almost. But that’s not on them.
Bliz Eyewear – It was super foggy and humid today. Conditions that I don’t think would work with anything. The rose colored glasses I got from Bliz helped a lot with the flat light conditions on the downhills. Because remember, I didn’t fall down.
Bill Brooker – my wax tech in-absentia. This guy calls the wax from all the way in New York. Upstate. He is usually spot-on, and I believe he would have been today too, except that the temperature unexpectedly went up 10-15 degrees at the last minute. If I had taken my wax stuff to the venue I could have re-done it, but I didn’t.
My parents, AKA Grandma and Grandpa – they took care of M. while Jonathan and I were off at the races. And apparently they put up with quite a difficult toddler today.
Jonathan – my other half. He came to the race today for moral support, ski toting, water hauling and all around husband-ness. Usually we are both racing, but today he just came for me.
I probably won’t do another senior nationals unless it’s senior citizen. I certainly won’t travel to one; maybe it’ll come back here and maybe I’ll be faster. Maybe not. I am certainly thankful for the experience and for all those who indulged me in this, perhaps midlife crisis-type activity. It was cheaper than a sports car for sure (not much), and probably healthier.
And now that it’s pounding snow up high I’ll be taking the fat boards out for a spin on the chairlifts while I ponder my next aerobic adventure.