Now that we’ve established that I don’t Skate Ski…but bought a ton of skate skis in the past 6 months…
It’s time to actually try my hand at ski racing. I know I’m slow. I know my technique is awful. But the largest thing that helped me in the paddling world is racing. The more I race, the faster I get. It’s $10 to race the Time Trial. I’ve blown money on worse things. Plus it gives me a legit reason to rock tights. Don’t judge me. Yes I do my squats. The Time Trial itself went like this. One skier at a time, every 5 seconds. I was #29. With the way they assigned numbers, I’m not certain the teens were full. I do know there was a #30 though, as we chatted briefly before chaos ensued. A nice enough fella, with the same look of fear in his eyes as myself.
The day prior, I finally broke down and paid to have a really nice pair of skis fitted at Cross Country Ski Headquarters. I’m notoriously cheap, so everything else I own is second hand, or has been purchased from various internet outlets. I absolutely do not regret the decision to spend the money. Stuart hooked me up a pair of Rossignol X-Ium WCS S2’s that I’ve probably fondled and looked at a million times. They are waaaaaay faster then I can ski them. At this point.
The race itself went like this:
For about 3 minutes I could still see Bike Shop Bob. The new Rossignol X-IUM WCS S2’s were absolute rockets. Wax was spot on, these skis are going to be fast once I get used to them. At the 3 minute mark I screwed up after touching 20 mph on a downhill. When I went to transition from gliding back to skating to climb the steep hill on the other side I skated my left ski off the trail in to the powder. And there I sat, waiting for a window to start herringboning up the hill where I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. I didn’t move for nearly a minute (Garmin confirmed 58 seconds no motion), and when I did it was a herringbone, and not skating.
After that, everything totally fell apart. Hills smaller then what I had skied up with no poles the day previous turned in to a challenge using poles. My skis and wax kept it fun, as faster people that started behind me would go by, and then I’d sail back up to them on the downhills. Garmin shows the peak speed at 24.2 mph. Mainly though, it was just a steady procession of people yelling TRACK or ON YOUR LEFT/RIGHT. Everything I had worked on from a technical aspect was gone. I reverted back to my paddling self, using my upper body to propel me through course. About 4km in I made a decision.
It was time to stop. Take a deep breath and think about what I was doing. I could double pole in the tracks and fly. Or stay in the skate lane doing my Kool Aid man routine. Or there was another option. Stop using the poles completely, and work on actually skating. I’m sure I looked like a fool to the #50’s that were passing me at this point. An athletic mid 30’s male skier in his multi-colored Nike running tights, hands on his hips, rocking gently back and forth, side to side building in to a skate motion.
I really don’t care what they think. I will figure out how to actually skate.
In front of me a pair of bibs appeared in the distance. I was actually catching people. Perhaps poor souls who had gone out too hard? I wasn’t worried about pacing myself, as past trials have proven that I can hold a redline heart rate for a solid hour, and this race was no where near that length. Others though? Maybe the up and down had gotten to them. In reality, somewhere after my reset, I started to actually skate again, using my legs to propel me forward faster than my upper body could.
In the excitement of actually catching someone, my technique slipped badly again. The bibs slowly started to get away.
Stop. Reset. Your skis are rockets. They just need you to guide them.
With about a km to go, I could make out the numbers on bib’s #30 and #25 in front of me. I needed to close the gap and make the pass before the final field and gentle ascent to the finish line. I’d like to say that it was pretty. It wasn’t. It was me in the tracks, hammering explosive double pole after double pole. There would be no magical skate moment. This would be willpower inflicted pain. I may lack technique and skill. But when I set my mind to something, it will happen. #30 would be mine.
#30 succumbed to my challenge with about .5 km to go, after which I started skating again. My upper body on fire from the abuse that it took climbing hills, compensating for my lack of actual ability to skate. If needed I could pole myself the rest of the way in. I can’t honestly remember if I passed #25 or not. With the official results not posted anywhere, I’m not sure. It really doesn’t matter.
In the afternoon, we took the kids down to XCHQ to spend some time with them on skate skis in the practice area. No poles, just working on moving using our legs and “free energy”. Stuart came out to offer some words of advice that really got me thinking after we returned home. Athletic position. Nope. I look like a stickman riding an elephant, stiff as a board. Sure, I rock back and forth nicely. But there isn’t any real leg drive happening. I’m not skating. I’m simply transferring weight from one side to the other in an inefficient manner. There is no drive. No push.
It spurred a YouTube voyage. Surely if I can teach myself how to race canoes and sail boats via YouTube, I can teach myself skate skiing as well.
Found myself “dancing” in the living to this video.
Which led me to this one, the missing link in my “skating puzzle” perhaps. The double flexion and extension. Eliminate the rigid. Flex and drive.
The quest continues.
Debating driving down to Brighton for the Frosty Freestyle next month. We’ll see.