Thursday, February 13, 2014

Out of my Comfort Zone!

I have kept this blog for years now and while it's fun to get to know others through these forums and hear people's comments  about my adventures, it's also a "diary" for myself. I have raced Triathlon from Mexico, to Canada, to Hawaii to Florida. And yet, this "little" race in Bethel, Maine will be etched in my memory as one of my toughest days.  And it wasn't a triathlon. 

While I do spent hours and hours each week swimming and biking and running during most of the year, my winters are also absorbed with many hours on snow. I'm one of those people LOVES to hear the weatherman "warn" us of an impending snowstorm. We live in Western Maine, just a short little ride to the ski mountains, and we get all we can out of it.  After all, we live here! Winters could be long and hard if we didn't get out and play in the white stuff. So, we do. My husband was strapped into skis as a small toddler. He grew up at the mountain and grew into one heck of a skier. He raced alpine and nordic and won the ski meister competition as a Sr. in High school. {top scores for the two events combined} He won that meet while his parents were in Calgary cheering on his sister in the 1988 Olympics. She raced in '80 and '88 on the Olympic teams in Nordic skiing. ( How awesome is that!! ) Skiing is  in the Bancroft blood..... 

Meanwhile, I grew up in water.  I was on swim teams all my life and while I did ski some, it was gently and with the understanding that I wouldn't show up to practice Monday morning with a busted knee from messing around on skis over the weekend. that would have been very very very bad.

I never really went XC skiing.  Maybe once or twice. With friends, through the woods, while singing and laughing and really not working very hard. It was just like a walk in the woods....  

My three boys were all on skis by age two. Now, at ages 14, 12 and 9 they out ski their mother without a thought. I'm not sure how / when it happened... seems like yesterday when I was next to them yelling, "Turn! Slow down!" and now... they are gone. In a flash. 

Ok.. that's the downhill stuff. They have also picked up the nordic skis and are getting better and better at that. Cameron races on the Middle School teams and is in the running for Ski Meister. He's the only one in his school on both teams and he's working his tail off to make it all work. 

Watching him race on the Nordic skis and being more and more involved with it, has made me hungry for it. Years ago, our family got some new XC skis. I got the Classic kind. We went out a few times with the boys on some nearby trails. The kids were Very small and it was a long trek.  Two years ago, I got some Skate skis. I went out on them a few times last year. And, I have been out on them a few times this year. I even had a short lesson with my aforementioned sister-in-law!!  The first time I went out, I fell a lot. And, I couldn't get up. I pulled myself back up by grabbing a little bush and yanking with all my might. But I LOVE it so much. It's fun and it's an amazing amazing workout. I feel muscles I didn't know I had. I work up a hot sweat and feel like a rockstar (albeit a clumsy one ) every time I go out. 
I am way off track here.... 

The point is, I haven't been on the Classic skis in over two years. I've been out 4-5x this winter on my skate skis but I still have Terrible form and even a 30 min jaunt exhausts me. I have no easy gear because my form is so bad. 

I decided last winter that I wanted to enter a few nordic races. Why not! It's Great exercise, fun outside in the snow and something different for me! No matter what, I love a good race. 

The problem, however, is that Cam's ski meets are every Saturday. And, I wouldn't Dare take away our Sunday from downhill skiing since the other two kids are just watching their brother. My opportunities were few. 

And then... last weekend he had a Classic XC race scheduled at Gould Academy ( right near the mountain we downhill ski at ) &  it was part of a race event that ALL of us could enter! Nick and Tommy were IN for the 2.25K race.  Cameron was in of course. The big question was whether or not I should enter. Mark didn't want to...his Classic skis aren't race skis so he never really considered it. 

Let's see.... It was Wed before the race and I had to decide. 

 I haven't been ON my Classic skis in two years. 
Even when I did ski on them, I didn't really know how to do it.
My race would take a bit longer than the kid's races and I'd delay us getting back to Sunday River for the rest of the day on downhill skis.
That's it! 

A race! 
A race "with" my kids. 
Outside fun in the winter on a nice day. 
Amazing exercise--.> a good way to get a "run" in on what's typically just a ski day. 
I would be challenging myself with something new and hard and that can't ever be a bad thing. 
Make new friends? Maybe!! 
A chance to hang out with my friend Mary Lou.
Potentially show the kids that it's OK to do hard things that are a little scary and way way outside one's comfort zone. I hope they got a little of that.... {Please! It hurt a lot so I HOPE that came out of  it!! :) }

As you can see the PRO list far outweighed the cons!! So what if my husband ( you know, the X- awesome nordic skier guy ) was giving me  the wide-eyed you really are crazy look!!!  You see, I had an option. I could enter the 7.5K OR the 22K. Of course, I was only really considering the 22K. I figured if I did the 7.5K it would be like a sprint race and I would feel the need to really go crazy hard and that would be too much.  And I'm more of a long-distance person now. My endurance is my strength now. That would help me. Right? And, Mark's doubt actually pushed me more towards registering than not.  I'm a little stubborn and pigheaded that way. Don't tell me or suggest I can't do something. That's about it all it takes. And I asked MaryLou too... she knows me as a triathlete  and she is a very experienced and great nordic skier. She said Go for it without a single bit of  hesitation. 
I was in. 

22K race on Classic Skis.... Here I come. 

Still Happy! Totally Naive. Clueless. Totally clueless about what I was about to do. 
I wish Cam was around for these shots...but he was with his team. (Nick, Mark, Tommy #82 ) 

Yay for us! This will be fun guys!! good luck! ( that's what I was saying. at this point.. haha.... )

It was time to line up on the tracks and I put myself in the back. There was a fairly diverse crowd racing. I saw High School kids that looked seriously tough, I saw people who looked like me, people younger, & people older. I really had No idea what meant what. There was one woman I know from Triathlon racing that I was excited to "see" race. She grew up racing XC and knew Mark from those days in HS. I knew she was good.  And of course, my friend MaryLou was there too. She had been helping me and calming me all morning. I was so grateful she was there. She listened to me stuggle with what to wear. She assured me I could do the race. She was just simply, a good friend. And she made me happy to be there.  I hope I am like Mary Lou over the next 20 years... she truly inspires me. Back to my race.  :)  My plan was to try to copy the people around me. I was going to watch MaryLou's form, and anyone else I could see that looked like they knew what they were doing. ( ahem, turned out Everyone else except me appeared to know what they were doing.) 

Oh yes, one more thing. I was chatting with Sarah, the woman I know from Tri racing before it started.  I asked her about the course. She said, "OH you know it! It's the old run course from the Bethel tri years ago." 
Are you KIDDING Me??? 
um...... oh no no no. 
Hills, hills, curves and turns and climbs and.... 
"'s a pretty technical course."
 oh no no no.... what have I done? 
It was 3 times around that little gem of a trail too..... 

The buzzer started and we began our two loops around the Gould Field before heading off.  

I know.. .Double pole!!! I have been watching. That's what you do on CL skis when it's flat. I can do that!!!! 
And... I almost fell. Good save Ange... 
Don't fall now... people are watching. 
Ok.. keep poling. No... now people are starting to ski. Ok.. ski! I can do this!
Phew.. I'm tired! 
Now down the hill..... I can ski down... be strong be strong watch the tracks.. just like skiing on alpine...sort of.  Pretty wobbly! Balance balance be strong.  Phew. I made it. Ok.. GO! 

I can do this! Wow... people are really far ahead of me already! How is everyone up there? Wait. Is Anyone behind me? 

Bueller? Bueller ? 

whatever. .. just race! 

Go go go ... I was working SO HARD! I was pushing and pulling and gliding ( sort of ) and finally, I dared look at my garmin to see how much I had already logged. Time to start tickin' off the miles!!! Yes!! Let's do this! I'm racing Nordic! woohooo!!!!! It's only 13.6 miles and it Must be faster than running!! Right??

Ok... look at the watch.. let's see... 

Not Six. POINT SIX! 
POINT six?????? 


I was in trouble. My heart rate? 176.

I kept going.. ( of course ) and assumed I would get into a groove, my HR would settle and all would be fine. 

That never happened. But I did keep going..... I pushed & pushed and worked SO hard. I imagined in my head how I should look, I remembered the techniques I learned on the youtube videos. I thought of tips Mark and Cameron have given me. In my head, I thought I was doing ok. But wow... I was really all by myself out there in the woods. 

I laughed a few times. Before the race started I reviewed a couple rules with MaryLou and others. One of them, "If I have to pass someone, or someone is trying to pass me, I yell "tracks!" Right?"
Ha... that actually never became an issue!!! 
Except...when I got Lapped!!! The loops were each about 3+ miles remember... and I got lapped. 
But I was racing nordic skiing! Or.. at least pretending to race in my head. 

The 'race' got lonelier and lonelier. It took forever and a day to get around that first loop. And I had two more to go. I was dead. And I had only gone about 4 miles. Nordic skiers talk in kilometers. So I had gone 6.4K. That was not encouraging. I had over 15K to go.   My Heart rate was in the 180s. oh my gosh. The 180s. That's basically my threshold. 

I started the self - talk. The internal motivation. I reminded myself what a kick butt workout I was getting if nothing else. I was proud of myself! And also, a little irritated that I thought it wouldn't be this hard. I think part of it was the hills. It was really reallllllllllly hilly. I was lucky to have waxless skis so I didn't have to deal with it pre-race or worry about it wearing off. But, it also made me really slow going Down the hills. I guess if it hadn't I would have wiped out even more but still... I had to pole going Down a lot and it felt like I had brakes on so that was annoying.  

I tried to distract myself by watching some other skiers through the woods every now and then, and by thinking about what a beautiful day it was and remember good times at that Bethel Tri years ago. And then I started wishing I could just kick off the skis and just RUN up the hills... I realized that would be easier. 

This is getting so long. Sorry. 22K ended up being really really long. 

Oh.. it was so hard. My hip flexors were on FIRE. I was using muscles that have been dormant apparently. I was trying to wake them up in a Big huge way and they were rebelling.  I know I'm in decent shape... by no means am I near my best fitness right now. AT All! But I have a good strong base and I do workout most days of the week. But wow... I felt like I had just jumped off a 3 years couch sit and into something I was NOT cut out for. I do realize technique is huge in nordic skiing. I get that. I think it's a lot like swimming that way. However, aerobically, this sport is intense. It is intense. 

I went around and around and like in an Ironman, I said to myself, "IF you just keep moving forward, you will get there eventually."   

I guess it was around mile 9 when my garmin died. My HR was averaging in the upper 170s.  I just stopped too and told myself to breath. Relax. Time to just ski. I was done trying to go faster than I could manage. I was way way way wayyyyyyyy behind almost everyone and it was ok. I was already proud of what I had done and decided to just get through it the best I could. 

The final stretch was out of the woods and across the street and back up the hill to the field house. THere were about 6-7 volunteers shoveling snow on the road for us to cross. I smiled and said something, and then FLOP! I fell FACE first into the snow. Flat on the road. Right in front of the group. The first batch of people I'd seen in a while and I wiped out. Lovely. I am so graceful it's not even funny. 

I got up, laughed and hammered on to the finish which they announced was 1 mile away. The guy next to me, who actually seemed even MORE trashed than I was, if that was possible, said, "Can it please NOT be a whole mile?!" 
I chuckled. I felt the same way dude. 

WHen I fell, my little running gloves got soaked. I hit the wind on the trails back and my wet gloves froze. Insult to injury.  

I worked hard up the long last hill to the finish loop. 

And then, it was the Most anti climactic finish. Everyone was gone. I was 'that person.' The one "still out there so we have to stay a bit longer."   :) But wait! Mark, Tommy, Nick and Mary Lou were over there cheering my name! Yes! I love my family and friends and wow, was I ever happy to sliddde across that finish. 

2:08! beatiful! My new PR for the 22K!  

And with that, I  clicked off those skis, grabbed the free baguette they gave out, and headed for a few ours of alpine skiing. 


more on that & a few deep thoughts later. 
Watch out Kikkan! ha.... 

Why yes, I will Stop and talk and have a little drink.  :)