By: Blaine Penny
Just 3.5 weeks ago I was running along the hot pavement in the desert of the Las Vegas Marathon. Transitioning from long distance running to Cross Country Skiing Sprints in 3 weeks is not an easy thing to do I learned today. I managed to convince my good friend Kirk Howell – an ex xc ski racer from a previous life - that we should do this race and team up since it was a team relay sprint. Each skier skis 3 laps of the 1 km loop. How hard can it be….right? Carl Pryce and Brendan McCracken teamed up, as well as Carl’s 3 kids. Carl’s wife Rosie was on course cheering louder than anyone and definitely gave us all an enthusiastic advantage.
Running provides good endurance and fitness, but racing fast on cross-country skis requires a lot of upper body strength and speed on top of that. I am definitely lacking the strength and the speed and was quickly reminded of that today. Kirk on the other hand had managed some good strength training through the fall, but was lacking the endurance. Together, we made a decent team to muster through this.
After a week of fine-tuning the nutrition over the Christmas holidays through eating copious amounts of turkey and chocolate, a few too many beers and wine, I was feeling like I had the energy to toe the line and light the afterburners. (You sense the sarcasm I assume). With Kirk having a history of pretty much never losing a sprint finish in his olden ski racing days, we decided he would anchor and I would start. We registered in the Master’s category (30 years +) to avoid being embarrassed by the young guns in the open men category.
The 1 km loop consisted of a climb off the start, downhill, then slight up, down again to the stadium and slight up to the finish. There were approximately 20 to 25 teams and I bravely started in one of the front lanes. We blasted off the start and I went as hard as I could and realized I was out in front – now the hard part was holding it. About a minute later it hit me and I was a flailing carcass of lactic acid. A couple times I got tangled up in myself and missed a few strides, but luckily didn’t fall. I managed to double pole as hard as I could to complete the first lap, but was overtaken by one other skier in the last few meters as I tagged Kirk. As I came into the tag zone Kirk started accelerating as I ran out of gas and had to ask him to stop so I could tag him. Ouch! Not bad I thought, but I was seriously hurting and already felt like I had burned a hole in my lungs.
Kirk started cautiously on his first lap and then decided to light it up when he got to the first hill and overtook the lead skier (Charles – another east coaster from days past). By the time Kirk finished his lap he had a good gap. We kept building on the gap throughout the rest of the race and managed to win by about 45 seconds. Not bad for a couple of old school ski dads I guess.
The only downer on the day was the unfortunate incident of a skier who went down on one of the down hills. Apparently he was unconscious for 5 min and was rushed off to the hospital. I sure hope he is OK. Not what you expect in an old guy masters race, but you actually get going pretty fast on some of the down hills and a fall can actually do some serious damage.
We had a quick look at the posted results and our time of 16:44 for 6 kms, which would have put us about 15th in the open men category, just a mere 1 min behind some Olympians who raced in Vancouver last year. Most of our Canadian National Team were skiing the race and it was pretty cool to watch those guys go. Carl and Brendan came in the bottom 3rd of the pack after making up some ground on the last few laps with a solid finish.
I know the BVH is mainly a running club – unofficial of course – but one of my goals is to get a few folks out for some of the local xc ski races for some cross training. Here’s a list of a few great local races for anyone interested in challenging yourself on the skinny boards:
- Bow Corridor Regional Race (Jan 8): Canada Olympic Park 9 km Skate Race - http://www.bcrr.ca/league.php?scriptName=LEAGUEINFO&leagueID=9899&leagueInfoID=70157
- Canmore Ski Fest (March 26&27): 12/24 Hour Ski Challenge – solo or relay teams. It would be great to see a BVH / MitoCanada relay team entered. I am going to give the solo a go and would love to have some pacing from anyone interested. http://www.canmoreskifest.com/
- Cookie Race (Feb 26): a.k.a. Kananaskis Ski Marathon http://www.foothillsnordic.ca/main.php?p=5
- Canadian Birkibeiner (Feb 12): Edmonton, AB http://www.canadianbirkie.com/
Matt had the idea last year to ski all the trials in PLPP, which has now turned into an annual 100 km ski tour it appears. If anyone is interested in joining us on Jan 2 for the 2nd annual tour, email me at email@example.com or check out the Facebook page Tony Smith of SMITH EVENTS has set up http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=112550458813312