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.
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.
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.
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.
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?