It’s early and I’m sitting in a crowded Galena Lodge in Sun Valley Idaho, it’s minus something and I’m waiting before the start of the Boulder Mountain Tour, a 35k Cross Country Ski race. I haven’t had my coffee yet so I don’t feel like making small talk.
I question why I’m there. I could be spending time with my family, I could be training for triathlons, I could be working, I could have done this with the Chariot, it would give me an excuse to ski slow.
Motherhood and racing has been a challenge and remaining positive can be exhausting. I certainly get down on myself a lot, especially this time of year when other athletes living the full-time athlete lifestyle year round and racking up the miles during winter when I certainly feel far from professional.
I’m grateful for the increased exposure being a mom gave me this past year, a few decent results helped too, but I’m still working on getting my sponsorship, as a whole, back to what it was before I became a mom – and that is frustrating. When I eventually get paid the prize money I won in 2013, I believe it was equal to what I earned in 2011, my last full season before becoming a mom, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. The downside is my overall my income is ‘two-thirds full’ what it was before I became a mom and that is before all the additional expenses. Some of it is my choice to work fewer hours, but a lot of it isn’t and for someone who has always valued independence it bums me out.
The upside is I get to slide around on snow a lot this time of year. It’s hard to remember the last time I didn’t put on skis or hang out in windproof clothing all day and before you don’t feel sorry for me, it can be tiring work chasing kids around on cross country skis, ringing cowbells, and teaching adults how to put on cross country skis for their first time, and my 10,000th time.
My rest days sometimes include activities like five hours of back-to-back ski of lessons on cross-country skis just begging for 5 minutes of downtime in between so I don’t eat my hand. By late February I am just longing to put on jeans and keep them on all day. Although I seem to gravitate toward low paying professions, it is some steady pay and it’s still a way for me to stay afloat during the winter when I’m not racing triathlons. I’m grateful for the jobs I have in winter and generally enjoy them an it forces me not to do too much too soon, although a training camp in Tuscon or Kona does sound pretty nice right about now. When spring rolls around and I can train, and more importantly recover more, it seems a lot easier than my schedule right now. And hey, at least I don’t have to worry about overtraining…ever again.
But each winter I tend to get confused, am I a triathlete who skis or a skier who does triathlons? My upper body strength would have the needle pointing toward two wheels. But it’s hard to not add skiing into the mix come winter when I live in a ski town and I’m watching the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen fall outside. After all, cycling indoors and trying not to get hit by a snowplow on a run can get old. I still enjoy cross-country skiing and find it a nice change in the winter.
Despite work and being a mom, I’m still finding the time to ride indoors, swim, and incorporate some strength training into my routine in an effort to produce more power and prevent injuries. I’ve even started running on the treadmill, which really takes a lot of the fun out of running but seems to be beneficial and convenient. It feels really good to build on the fitness I gained in 2013, and know how much further I am ahead of ‘this time last year.’ I can’t always go to all the races I want, which is a bums me out, but getting consistent training, even if it’s only 12 hours a week, feels like money in the bank this time of year.
This winter I got back into cross-country ski racing and coaching after not doing either in 2013. Besides enjoying racing I believe it counts as some good training, if not a good kick in the pants. I also believe I can still improve my skills which keeps me motivated. I raced one Wasatch Citizen Series race before jumping into the US Cross Country Ski Championships, that are cruelly scheduled during the holidays. Fine if cross-country skiing is the only thing in your life, but not if it’s you’re off-season and there is chocolate and wine to be consumed. I raced my first US Cross Country Ski Championships in 2000 at Soldier Hollow and I remember it being an incredibly humbling experience that made me feel incredibly slow during and after.
In my mind I’d come a long way since then and the hills at SoHo would feel like speed bumps. I could ride my bike uphill effortlessly for hours and if I’d endured childbirth I could endure anything…except maybe a 10k at Soldier Hollow.
After my first race, a 10k Individual start Classic race it was just as hard and Hermod’s Hill was just as big as I’d remembered and I’d wondered if I’d come anywhere as an athlete in the past 14 years. The 20k Skate Mass Start was much better, despite starting at the back of the pack I managed to pull off 19th place, 2nd master, and was perhaps my best finish at a US Championships. I will note that it was a pretty international field as it was an NCAA race, and yes I was at least 10 years older than most of the competitors. It was a hard, hard race, 4 laps of the Olympic 5k, and I came to the conclusion that skiing and racing at Soldier Hollow will get you in shape for pretty much anything.
Although I felt good about my experience and it was awesome having people out there cheering mid week, financially it was not a smart idea to do these races. USSA Charges way too much for annual memberships and was the reason there were only a few other master skiers competing, which is too bad because there are a lot of master skiers in the US and Cross country skiing is a fast growing sport and being more inclusive at events like this could certainly help the sport in so many ways. I was certainly made to feel like I did not belong there on several occasions. Hearing, “You’re racing?” multiple times was not encouraging.
It really made me realize the importance of specific training when trying to compete at an elite level. I went on to win a few more local races, and is maybe where I belong as long as I am a multisport athlete and don’t have time to wax 10 pairs of skis for one race.
Which brings me back to the Galena Lodge, sitting on the carpet under a bar that cold morning not in the mood to initiate a conversation when I hear,
‘You’re Emma right? I’m pregnant and I really like reading your blog so I just wanted to say thanks.
My first thought when I hear something like this is ‘Oh, people actually read my blog.’
We chatted for maybe a minute and I offered a congrats and have fun out there.
But really the thank you needed to be returned because it really made my day and made me feel better about being there. Even more awesome was the fact she was participating. It gave me a reason to go hard, but more importantly finish. I did just that, a hard battle for 8th after missing the lead pack as soon as the gun went off, but enough for a top 10 finish and some prize money.
I like supporting the Boulder Mountain Tour because they do a great job of being inclusive, whether you’re a pregnant mom, or elite cross-country skier hoping to make the Olympic team someday…or both.
Which brings me back to the question of skier or triathlete. Which is perhaps the beauty of multisport, jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none means you can have so much variety in your training, and maybe even some skiing…if winter is your thing.
And, if stars align I will cash out late October.