With winter looming, how can we leverage events for performance, community and enjoyment? Check out why the smaller races are well worth joining.
With winter peeking its head, this time can contain some uncertainty. When will the snow come? How valuable IS bounding? Is it too late to start strength training? Did I remember to put summer storage wax on my skis?
These are my late November musings, and ones I may never know the answers to.
But here’s what I do know:
- I love winter.
- The first real snowfall is ALWAYS magical.
- Skiing for the first time almost always feels half like I’m flying, half l like I’m flying off the trail.
- And as much as my introverted heart longs for quiet singletrack trails that wind through the spruce trees with only little chickadees and the slap of my late kick making noise, I also get filled up by showing up to whatever man-made snow loop is calling only to find familiar faces also making the rounds and calling out small talk banter as they pass me.
There are so many reasons to love skiing: how it makes us feel, gliding through nature, the thrill of the ups and downs, conquering challenges, the SNOW… but why RACING? What brings us from those first wobbly laps on real snow skis to the Birkie? What makes doing a small-scale 8K race in December useful for your late February 50K race?
- Getting out the door. Before you even get to the race, races are motivators. One person on social media commented that he is “drawn to a ski race not really for the race itself but racing gets me out the door to ski on days I normally would not have skied. Once the skis are on, I enjoy most weather. It’s just a matter of stepping outside.” Outside is almost always better. The end.
- Because you can! This is not marathon running. You don’t have to pick one race and put all your aces into one bucket. The body can rebound from ski racing way faster than in other endurance athletics.
- Practice. Not the game that we go out there and die for and play every game like it's our last. Not the game. We talkin' 'bout practice, man! Okay, sorry, I had to. But seriously, aside from the obvious physical benefits of getting your body ready for a longer challenge later in the season, you can also practice different warmups, routines, nutrition, race strategy, technique adjustments, see what feels good and helps get you down the trail most efficiently.
- Support your local ski communities. Most of these events are put on by non-profit organizations, ski clubs/teams, or people involved in their local ski communities. They very often benefit trail systems, programming, introducing new people to the sport, and/or advancing the sport. Win, win, win. When you pause at the prices at some of these events, consider what you’re supporting.
- Did I mention fun? Half the reason I show up to these events is that I know I’ll both see people I know and meet new friends. Throwing yourself into a situation that challenges you can be both internally satisfying for a variety of reasons, but is also socially delightful! I made a mental note quite a few years back that everyone else at the race is really just focused on their own race, and don’t like ME any more or less based on my performance. People are just happy to see you and to be a part of something positive.
Some things we don’t know; some we know. But when I think about how I’m going to spend time this winter, I hope to spend a lot of it outside, a lot of it on skis, and a lot of it with the community.
Hope to see you out there!