Sunday, April 1, 2018

Switching Over

This is always a bittersweet weekend: the last day of skiing, the first day of spring training.  If I could, I'd ski all year 'round, but then, of course, I wouldn't have the eager anticipation next fall as the days start getting shorter and colder.  I remember in January, when I was staring at Gunnar Hagen and MWC just weeks away, I promised that if only it would be spring again, this time I would train.  Really!  So here it is, spring, just as I requested, and I'm happy to spend the next six months or so biking and roller skiing and trail running, getting stronger and fitter, ready to jump enthusiastically on next winter's challenges.

But first, it was goodbye to winter.  I wanted to imprint some good hills on my legs before I put away my skis, so last weekend I spent some quality time on the Berg loop, around and around, remembering Peter's advice, snowplowing less and step-turning more with each lap, each lap a little faster than the one before.  Bonus points for the mini-terrain park left from the kids' races the weekend before, a chance for grown-ups to practice balance and quick reactions!

Then this weekend I headed to Stevens Pass for some absolutely sublime spring skiing: big sky, big mountains, big snow, soft filtered sunshine, fresh little breeze.  I skied up almost to the top, and then took the super-fun Gandy Dancer and Sideline trails back down, all twisty turning downhills, working the step turns and dodging the tree stumps that are starting to poke out of the snow.  Bonus points this time for the off-trail bushwhacking section on Gandy Dancer; I'm not sure what that part is training for, but it sure is fun!

It was a gorgeous day, and a total confidence booster: if I had skied these trails multiple times this winter, MWC would have felt very differently to me!  It's possible there will still be one or two more days at Stevens this spring before they pull the plug, but if this was the last day of the season, I can live with that, and head into the off-season feeling strong.

So now it's April and time to start spring training, and after the delicious weather yesterday, today was a typical Seattle turn-around.  I hiked at Tiger Mountain in the rain and cold and wind and hail, loving the storm and waking up my trail muscles, warning them that much more fun is ahead before we see snow again!

Last year was a difficult year for me on many levels, and my ski season was disappointing as a result.  But I seem to be related to those creepy kids' toys with the round bottoms; you can punch them in the face and they bounce right back up again.  So I take last year's goals, which never came to fruition, and just paste them onto next year!  Of course, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results, so while the goals remain the same, the way to get there has to change.

There is no shortage of expert training plans out there, and I devour all of them the way some people read mysteries.  Each one has something different to offer, and it's a good exercise to figure out how to apply the best ideas to my own life.  So it was particularly fun to find a blog post from one of the Minnesota women who totally rocked the MWC in January and won her age group at the Birkie in February: Jan Guenther, nearly 60 years old, age-group winner (and sometimes overall winner!) in skiing and running and paddling races, and owner of Gear West.  She posts from time to time on her blog about training with aging knees and creaky muscles and a demanding job, and she put up a great article recently about how to get to next year's Birkie in the best shape, most prepared to race, that you can.  Here is the complete blog post,

and here, in a nutshell, is the abbreviated version:

  • strength training with core body focus
  • long pole hikes with bounding (several good local skiers have told me our good old Viking loop is perfect for this!  It's on my summer to-do list)
  • improving nutrition, not necessarily to lose weight but to maximize health
  • roller ski (of course!  Who wants to roll up to Snoqualmie Pass this summer with me?)
  • adding one fun cross-training activity (for Jan, it's swimming; for me, it's hip hop)
  • physically pushing yourself anaerobically one time per week (hello, Discovery Park stairs!)
  • introducing mental happiness training (because, seriously, if this isn't fun, why would we do it?)
  • if all else fails, clean your car or your office.  It's a good start.

So ... hello, April!  Hello, fresh new training year!  Winter is seven or eight months away, and those goals are not going to be magically reached without some work.  Let's jump in!
"The point is not to compare myself to others (there's always someone better-faster-stronger) but to recognize that there is so much room to grow, so many different ways to ask yourself to be surprising and amazing."  ~Heidi Swift

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