Thursday, January 18, 2018

Diminishing Expectations

Ahh, I remember June, when the training year was young and fresh, when ski season goals were twinkling stars just ahead that you could reach out and touch.  I had big plans for this winter: Gunnar Hagen 30k, three races at MWC, trying to regain my age group title at Langlauf, 54k American Birkie, a 50k in March ... and after a couple of slothful years of gentle skiing and little training, I knew I was going to have do some work in the summer and fall to make those twinkling stars a reality.  I was looking forward to all of it: the endless hours of daylight, the long trail runs, the bike commutes to work, the strength sessions in the gym, the stair running and bounding and roller ski hill repeats.  All of it!  I love the summer and fall training almost as much as I love a good winter of skiing.

But reality smacked me up side the head again, as it sometimes does.  Sure, I had some terrific individual workouts -- hard stair repeats at Discovery Park, that awesome Oystein Pettersen roller ski workout, some bike commutes -- but once again, it was consistency that was my Achilles heel.  Not the occasional terrific workout, as fun as they were, but the day after day, week after week, month after month foundation building that gets you to ski season strong and fit and ready to jump into races.

It was a summer of unexpectedness: I did not expect that I was going to have to take a test and spend valuable July and August weeks studying for it, nor did I expect that my kitchen remodel would take longer than I thought, nor did I expect weeks and weeks of sweltering smoke-filled unbreathable heat wave, with the worst air quality in the nation, nor did I expect a surprise major yard remodel that took up evenings and weekends well into October.

But the unexpected did happen, and there I was, staring at the beginning of ski season, in better shape than I have been for several years but not nearly good enough shape for the twinkling stars of my goals.

So the Gunnar Hagen rolled around, early this year, and I was so discouraged the day before that I wasn't even going to go.  But Lisa B, bless her heart, said, "Go!  It's better than sitting on the couch!" so I did, but only the 7.5k baby race.  I did my best, but it turned out to be a big dish from the humiliation buffet.  I thought, if it would only be June again, I promise this time I'll train!

And now it's just a few days until the MWC.  I know I'm way out of my league even considering this, but I've been wanting to give it a try for a couple of years now, and this year it's in Minneapolis -- and next year it's in Norway! -- and a good opportunity to see what it's like without the big time and money commitment of going to Europe.  I want to just experience the experience.

I totally expect to come in last in my race; I won't like it, but I'll deal with it, just for a chance to line up with a big bunch of women my own age, which never happens around here,  who love the same sport I do and most likely train a lot better than I do.  Today I saw an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that randomly picked three masters skiers registered for the MWC and asked them how they train.  Aha!  A sneak preview into what these super humans do!  As luck would have it, one of the three was a woman in my own age group, and when I saw what she does, my heart sank.  I'm gonna get demolished.

Her typical training week, according to the article, is "10-12 hours, including two weight sessions, two long easy skis, one 5k race pace interval session, one 15k race pace interval session, a ski-specific strength workout, as well as seven hours of coaching on the side."  Sheesh.  And what about her summer training.  Oh, this:  "marathon canoe racing, biking, canoe triathlons, and a monthlong adventure each summer which have included paddling trips in the Arctic, hiking the Haute Route in Europe, and paddling the Columbia River Gorge."  Sheesh again.  As I told my boss, it's just like me! Only not.  Only so so not.

And what about the men?  Here's a 67-year old doctor: "From the end of March until the end of November, I would typically roller ski seven hours per week and cover 100k.  I would also ride my bicycle four hours per week.  Once per week I would perform a series of high intensity interval exercises.  I also would spend about two hours per week on ski-specific strengthening exercises, as well as work on improving my balance and flexibility."

So yeah, I'm going to get demolished.  But you know what?  It doesn't matter!  I'm not a pro, whose livelihood depends on my performance.  I am allowed to suck!  I just want to ski someplace new, with interesting new people, and maybe a little inspiration will rub off on me.  It will be an adventure, one way or another.  Bring it, Minneapolis!

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