"Trying to relate to this type of skiing adventure is just not possible for me! What you guys do to get some turns is just amazing. Your fitness is beyond beyond, so much more than I'd ever achieve. It's just really unbelievable. Phew! You go Kate.. "
I thought, its really important to share the fact that I was overweight and unsure of myself ONLY a few years ago. That the struggle back to fitness took years and years. That AFTER this post, in January, I gave up on ever making it back to fitness. Then I started teaching at Bridger a month later, and my life turned around.
I failed to see that this period was NOT a demand: you will now be a victim of your mom body, but that it was a beautiful, natural time when my body accommodated the miracle of the two children that it grew, then nurtured. So eager to get back to feeling like an independent, healthy person, I was impatient with myself to get there. This article was my first step.
This year, I made a commitment that I would race in every Nordic race held at Bohart Ranch, an awesome cross country facility here in Bozeman. My idea was to do the 3k classic (in groomed tracks) and just to finish.
After having ballooned an awesome 80 pounds with my pregnancies, I have, for the last three years, been slowly whittling my weight back down to some semblance of personage I can recognize in the mirror.
Lets rewind a tad. A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away in a land called Truckee, lived a girl named Sue. This Sue was like a sparkplug on redbull. For fun and entertainment, she worked on the back country ski patrol, where, every weekend, she would climb this huge peak and ski down it twice in a day on her teli skis.
This insane bundle of never ending endorphine loving energy would also call me up at nine o’clock at night and say “Hey, wanna go for a ski?”
“Um, Sue, it’s night time.” And I am sitting on the couch eating lasagna and watching a movie with my boyfriend…
“I know, get your headlamp. I’m almost at your house, I’ll be there in five minutes.”
Crap. So I would, much to Tom’s amusement, haul my ever spreading tush off my mother’s couch in the cabin in the woods where we lived, and get my gear on. Then I’d slip and slide my way out to Sue’s car and load my crap in and off we’d go.
Now this part is important: I love Sue. I look up to Sue. I want Sue to want to hang out with me. Therefore it is important that Sue believe I am up for insane crap like this. So I smiled and pretended to be an adrenaline junkie as we strapped on our skis on a full moon night on some fire road out in the Sierras.
We’d take off, my mom’s dog (who was staying with us) galumphing happily along, my headlamp unnecessary lots of times. The night was silent, the moonlight incredible, the snow soft and shushing under my skis. We’d start out together, getting the oil flowing in the joints, chat a bit and then slowly hit our strides. Sue, though a good three feet shorter than me (just kidding, but MAN it seems unfair) is more than three times as fast as I am, no matter how thin or strong I am. She is also a bit like the Energizer bunny. Yes, she keeps going and going and going…
She’d glide away in the moonlight and then return fifteen minutes later, checking in on me, and then take off again. In this way she taught me to love to ski by myself, that my own accolades are enough for me, and that I can do it. I have to do it at my pace, and practice will eventually put me in the middle of the pack, but I can do it.
When we first moved here, I couldn’t get Sue out of my head. I started hiking again, on about 15 or 20 of the over 260 trails in the Bozeman Area, and for a while there, I was hiking about 30 miles a week. I had to start with one. It was hard, slow, and I was out of shape. In a month, I could make it to the fire road at the top of Kirk hill.
A week later, my hiking buddies, Virginia and Liat and I all decided to find out where the fire road went. Five hours later, we emerged three canyons over and called Tom for a pick up. Two weeks later, we doubled that distance without much effort.
So last weekend, I figured, if I can hike 11 miles in a go, I can ski about 2! I got to the race, and found out that there wasn’t enough snow for a classic track, so I would be skating. Now, um, I suck at skating. All my Nordic experience is either in tracks, cutting tracks, or following in Sue’s tracks. And skate skis are VERY different than my little classic skis. Anyhow. Too late now. I pulled on my racing jersey and watched all the seven and eight year olds strip down into their bright red Swix racing suits and warm up. These kids (the BSF Nordic Racing team) kick some serious booty. They are fast, sleek, confident and have great form. I, on the other hand, fell over on my way to the outhouse.
Another alarming realization was that the 1 and 3k were for the kids, and I would need to be in the 5 or 10k. Okay. So now I am in the 5k, skating on classic skis, my giant wobbly mom’s butt jiggling along behind me.
The entire MSU Nordic team lined up on the line. There were about five other women over college age racing, most in the 10k, all in racing suits, all but one about 10% body fat. I lined up anyway. Sue would. She doesn’t care how big her butt is. She just wants to ski.
The race official yelled “Okay, don’t get lost.” Suddenly, I panicked. Wasn’t the course marked? Was the 10k two laps or one? Was the 5k a different course? Ahhhh! Too late “On your mark, Three, Two, One, GO!” Everyone blasted off the line in a beautiful example of skate efficiency. I polled my way behind them, and after the first thirty feet, was a good five feet behind. I kept going anyway. Sue would.
Long story short, it was a beautiful day. It was great to be out on the snow. And it was good that Sue had taught me it was okay to ski on my own, because after about 2 minutes, I couldn’t see a single living soul.
Eventually, I came across some spectators who were watching the 10kers head back toward the lodge, and I asked if I was on the right track. “Keep goin!” they yelled, and waived encouragingly at me. They probably would have thought I was just out for a ski if it wasn’t for the dead giveaway of the tiny racing jersey stretched over my non-racing body.
“Great, thanks!” I called, and continued on up the hill. After about 20 minutes, the 10kers lapped me. It was great, it gave me a chance to have a little Sue-like company, try to emulate their stride (as I had slowed down with no one pushing me and wasn’t really trying to skate anymore, just sort of doing a fast, sloppy classic to get around), and I got to say hi to my neighbor, Wess, who was doing the 10k.
I finished. And that was really the point. They were pulling up the marker flags as I finally rounded the last bend. The entire field had lined up at the finish line because that’s where they were going to hold the raffle, and as I came into view, people started to cheer. I couldn’t believe it. They called out “Good job!” “Almost there!” “Keep going!” and “Yeah!!” and I put a little speed on it and finished the race, about 20 minutes behind the last 10ker.
Name Distance Class Gender Time Place
Gretchen Sellegren 5 J1 F 0:19:41 1
Jenny Kauffman 5 J1 F 0:19:48 2http://beta.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
Jenna Hjalmarsson 5 J1 F 0:20:14 3
Maggie Hickman 5 J2 F 0:20:20 1
Reesa Pierce 5 J2 F 0:20:36 2
Johanna Rydell 5 J2 F 0:21:03 3
Kara Baldwin 5 J2 F DNF 4
Nikki Kimball 5 M1 F 0:16:16 1
Kate Howe 5 M1 F 0:46:39 2
Grethe-Lise Hagensen 5 M2 F 0:16:14 1
Shaun Dunnegan 5 M2 F 0:20:50 2
Brigitte Morris 5 M2 F 0:29:02 3
Kristin Wimberg 5 M3 F 0:21:43 1
Jamie Woelk 5 OJ F 0:15:43 1
Korie Steitz 5 OJ F 0:16:33 2
Claire Rennie 5 S F 0:15:42 1
Mandy Bowden 5 S F 0:15:44 2
Rachel Goldstein 5 S F 0:16:51 4
Frasier Opel 5 S F 0:16:55 5
Karoline Teien 5 S F 0:17:38 6
Maggie Casey 5 S F 0:17:39 7
Kelan Ramey 5 S F 0:18:27 8
Kalen Stanfill 5 S F 0:18:28 9
Becca Kurdnic 5 S F 0:19:12 10
Laura Tuttle 5 S F 0:20:08 11
Allie Phillips 5 S F 0:20:24 12
Ashley Kirchhoff 5 S F 0:23:25 13
Tanner Wiegand 5 J2 M 0:16:44 1
Akeo Maifeld-Carucci 5 J3 M 0:16:46 2
Jack Harris 5 S M 0:15:16 1
Jay Rutherford 5 S M 0:19:20 2
I drank my Gatorade, and stayed for the raffle, where I won a pair of Ear Bags (ingenious little ear warmers), and felt good going home, knowing I had done what I set out to do. I had entered, and completed, my first Nordic race. And on the way home, I thought, I am so glad I had a Sue. And now I can be a Sue for someone else. And they can be a Sue for someone else. And eventually, we will all be off the couch, and out in the deep snow in the moonlight, enjoying the cold air and endorphins and the excitement of being out and doing while the rest of the world is missing it.