Monday, February 28, 2011

Dust of Snow: A Little Post-Race Cross Training

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.

-Dust of Snow, Robert Frost, 1923

As my friend, fellow runner and blogger Ilana recently put it, you have to master at least three outdoor sports in Colorado or they kick you out. I think I am good to go in this department, initially moving to the state to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and other activities, but the skiing did wind up going to the backburner during the childbearing/caring for infants and toddlers years. This winter has marked a very welcome return, though, to getting out to play in the snow.

In the week following the RedHot, I have been taking it easy as far as running goes, and it feels good. I've felt no pressure to get out there and hammer away on the roads immediately, and have just been to a few dance classes to loosen things up, along with a few slowly paced, short trail runs. The thing I looked forward to all week, though, was my first weekday off in ages, and several hours of cross country skiing. Gliding through the trees is very relaxing on its own, but I believe it to be one of the best forms of cross training for runners. That makes it a win/win activity for me.

The Skyway Cross Country Ski Area is probably one of the best kept secrets in my neck of the woods. It sits on top of the Grand Mesa, just an hour above the city of Grand Junction where I live, but feels like a world away from civilization. There are a multitude of trails in this area, well maintained and groomed by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, of which I became a member this year. When I can enjoy this area for lift ticket or other expenses, and they provide grooming, condition updates on a daily basis, not to mention good events, clinics and races throughout the winter, I figure that's the least I can do.

As someone who is usually up before five o'clock in the morning for runs, or before six to start getting kids ready for school, it was great to just SLEEP IN last Friday, and lollygag over to my friend Cassie's place once I'd gathered gear and had a bite to eat. We take dance classes together, but she also does a variety of other stuff like snowboarding and roller derby, and is always game for trying other stuff and playing around outside.

The drive up was kind of, um, exciting. There's a point on the road once we've passed Powderhorn, our small local ski and snowboarding hill, when the road suddenly gets snowy and icy, and if you're driving through weather, you might be a little, shall we say, snow blind. Well, this Friday, we were driving directly into weather. As we climbed higher and past the Mesa Lakes Lodge/Rec Area, the snow coming down was out of control. Nothing like your buddy saying "Where is the road? I can't see the road!" We made it up in one piece, though, and parked next to just a few other vehicles in the lot this day. Before hitting the trail, we posed for our pre-ski photo, because we're cheesy goofballs that way.

And, this is when we discovered our gear malfunction/miscommunication. We unloaded skis and other stuff from the back of Cassie's truck, and I pulled out my poles. She then asked me "where are the other poles?" I said what do you mean...I thought you had poles. The poles in question were borrowed gear, and apparently each of us thought the other had them. Crap. Well, not much you can do so she said she'd schuss along, pole-free. I told her I'd share the poles but with the kind of skis she had, it wasn't impossible to slowly shuffle along. We received our good karma for the day, though, when we encountered another skiier a few minutes in who happened to be one of my neighbors, and her coworker. Cassie asked her if she had some spare poles, not really expecting to be in luck here. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I've got several pairs back at my car, here's where you can find my hidden car key, go help yourself! SCHA-WEET. Six people up there skiing, and one happens to be this generous lady. After getting fixed up with some schmancy racing poles, it was time to just go back out and have fun.

I practiced my POSE skiing (why, yes, there really IS such a thing!), but mostly just took it easy and listened to the sound of almost silence, save the creaks of the trees, and wind blowing between them. The snow was coming down hard, and if I got out of the tracks meant for classic skiing, it would immediately clump up under my binding. Really wet stuff that just started sticking like glue, and Cassie got very adept at taking her pole to scrape what I couldn't reach on my own. She would make fun of herself and say "oh, I have NO cardio!" every time I'd ski out and back to her, but truth be told, she'd done pretty well the first time we did this, and the lungs seemed to have adapted a bit more. This was all just for fun, anyway. Sometimes it's nice when you're performance driven in other sports to get out of that, and just do it for the sake of getting outside for an endorphin fix.

It was just a giant time suck out there. When my friend said she'd had about enough, it didn't feel like we'd been there long, but upon returning to the car we figured out that we'd been there for about three hours. I guess that's always the case when you're really enjoying something. The time flies by. It was the best of both worlds, chatting with Cass half the time and lost in my own brain the rest of the time. When we took our post-ski photo, I realized some hair had slipped out from under my hood, and I now had a lovely haircicle sticking out the side.

Rock on. Nothing like frozen hair and wind burned cheeks to make you feel alive. Before leaving, I got a few more shots of the wintry conditions. It's hard to believe that while it looked like this up there, it was dry as a bone and fifty degrees back in town.

I foresee more of these days in my future. When you go-go-go all the time, and always have deadlines and other stresses hanging overhead, sometimes the best thing to do is forget about all of them for the day, shut off the phone, shut off the computer, and get away from it for just a little bit.


Anonymous said...

That looks like awesome fun! I love the photos.

Jodi H said...

How cool! Great pictures! Love the generosity of others with the poles!

AKA Darkwave, AKA Anarcha, AKA Cris. said...

Pose skiing? Wow!