outside, skiing

Winter fun in Hayward, Wisconsin

post-Birkie fun at Louie's

All Smiles at Louie’s

This past weekend included lots of snow, copious amounts of laughter and catching up with 10+ friends, a fair number of hours spent lounging in a comfy cabin watching snow accumulate, plenty of good food, more than enough beer and wine, a little reading, some good music, two hilarious snorting dogs, layer upon layer of puffy and/or fuzzy warm clothes, a dreamy hour of skiing on a cloud (er, Moose Lake), and even some hydration (note the liquid in the Miller Lite cup in the photo above). My photos documenting some of this are here. A whole lot of other peoples’ photos from Hayward this year are here: what a hoot, especially the Barkie Birkie ones!

The 4-day weekend also included a 23k classic ski race –the Kortelopet event in the American Birkebeiner festival– for me. I am so glad that it’s over that I could just cry. Or squeal with glee. Or, surprisingly, take an evening this week to wax my skis.

This was my third skinny-ski race ever, and the second time on this course. I improved my time, and yet also came to a decision about my feelings for nordic ski racing: I really, really dislike it and don’t plan to do it again. Those three hours of racing, pretty much every minute except the last few, when near the finish line I heard, then saw, my friends, were not fun at all; the other four hours dealing with the event were a little more amusing: they were spent getting to and from the race, and joining my friends to cheer for my amazing husband, who was also doing the race, just behind me.

icicles on a cabin

At the Moose Den Cabin: Frozen Cabin Drool

This may be the first (hopefully the last) race in which for the duration I simply wanted it to end, as soon as possible. So of course, the last seven kilometers crept by like salted slugs, and those were the only kilometers that had markers. I was taunted! What sweet relief it was to cross that finish line and eject the equipment. Mark, one of the aforementioned friends, apparently connected to me via ESP maybe on hour before that: he offered to set fire to my skis and poles. I’d been dreaming up a Warrior Dash-eque gear pile, where racers could dispose of the stuff ruined or otherwise rejected by the efforts of the race.

It would be easy to say that my frustration that day was due to my failure to add the appropriate glide wax to my skis, the night before, and also to the foot injury that has sidelined a lot of my training for three months. However, I know that I usually gravitate toward a good long slog for the lungs, and the Korte certainly delivered that in excess. So, if I stop and compare the day to some of the times in the past few years when I’ve really loved hours out on the skinny skis, it’s pretty obvious that crowds are not present, and there’s no time “crunch” at all. Not even a specific meal time, much less a timer and bib/chip arrangement. You finish when you finish. Maybe you find some terrain that allows you to work on your technique; maybe you find something worth capturing in a photograph. Maybe you breathe in that mountain air, that home air, and feel comfort, joy or gratitude. Maybe you stop for a Polish beer.

To those of you who do still enjoy classic or skate ski racing: good for you! I’m happy for you, that you can take part in an activity that you love and that in this part of the country, it’s possible, most years. I may even come out to cheer for you. But I won’t be littering up the course, at least not on race day, again.

And so my four-year affair with skinny-ski racing comes to an end. There have been decisions in my life that I have belabored longer, but I think this qualifies as one that has had a pretty good go of it. I’ve threatened to quit before, but somehow the “only 1000 spots left!” emails from the Birkie folks –for two years running–  had frozen my brain and wiped clean all memories of misery related to the combo of skinny skis and timing chips. By 6am this morning I had already sworn off the racing- but it seemed very timely that the podcast I tuned into today, during my treadmill workout, was about quitting. Interested? Check it out here on Freakonomics.

Need help making a decision? Freakonomics can help, here. And if you’ve had something that you just can’t seem to quit, I’d love to hear about it in the comments of this page. What’s addictive about it? What’s so easy about sticking with it?