Instead of setting a mileage goal for 2014 (like I did last year, then beat handily) I am challenging myself to race once a month. I love the energy and experience of racing, it’s a great motivation to train and push my limits.

Running races are hard to find in Idaho in the winter, so for January’s race I chose the Billy Goat Loppet freestyle nordic ski race run by the Sun Valley Ski Club. I am not a ski racer, but I decided it didn’t really matter. I figured I’d just get out there and do my best.

January Race Report: Billy Goat Loppet Freestyle Ski Race

It didn’t escape my attention that I hadn’t actually been on my nordic skis in over a year. Ignoring rational thoughts is the better part of any race. I loaded up my ski gear and headed to the start.

The race was supposed to be at a ski loop called Billy’s Bridge, and was scheduled to be a 10k. Due to lack of snow the organizers moved the race and lengthened it slightly to 12k. 12k is a little under 7.5 miles. 7.5 miles on no ski training sounded hard, but not impossible.

I registered, got ready, and looked around. There were 50 racers, and approximately 45 of them looked serious. I saw many sponsored racers, a local (and intense) women’s ski training group, and four other people who looked like me. We lined up to start. The men started a minute before the women. I placed myself at the very back of the women and set a goal to enjoy the race.

January Race Report: Billy Goat Loppet Freestyle Ski Race

Mike is fighting tendonitis in his shoulder so he didn’t race – instead he took pictures. It was a stunning bluebird day in the Boulder Mountains, with temperatures in the 30′s and no wind. The race was an out-and-back, and the climbing was intense. I silently cursed the hills while reminding myself to have some fun. I passed a few racers (I’m a decent climber and usually use hills to pass people when running) but most folks were out of my sight almost immediately.

I had on my Garmin, and checked it occasionally. For a 12k I knew the turnaround would be around 3.75 miles. 3.75 miles passed and still no racers had passed me heading back to the finish. I kept thinking “Where the heck are they?” followed by “This can’t be good.” Eventually the men’s leaders did pass me, and as I cruised I wondered where the turnaround was. 4 miles? 4.5? It wasn’t until the 4.75 mile mark that the turn appeared. 12k…not so much.

January Race Report: Billy Goat Loppet Freestyle Ski Race

The race after the turnaround was faster because it was (with the exception of one notably large hill) mostly descent. I cruised along, giving a tired but happy smile to Mike 2.5 miles from the finish.

Racers who were already done were skiing a cool down lap and when I passed them, they cheered. I knew I was in the back of the pack, but their encouragement was uplifting. I glided into the finish at 1:14:58 which was ahead of a few, but way behind most. The final distance was 9.4 miles, or 15k.

January Race Report: Billy Goat Loppet Freestyle Ski Race

And that’s my January race done! I was aiming for a half marathon in Boise in February, but three weeks of illness in late December/early January threw off my already tight training schedule. So now I’m in the market for a new February race – any Idahoer’s out there have a recommendation?

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