Nearly six years ago, I double-poled across a bustling finish line in the former Olympic stadium in Lillehammer, utterly exhausted from 58k of racing and already wondering how I was going to get back to Oslo. I handed my backpack to the gentleman at the scale, and he confirmed that I had finished the race carrying the required weight, that of the newborn prince carried along the same rugged route through the mountains of southern Norway some 800 years earlier. Stumbling forward, I stopped to take off my now-clumsy skis and ate some of the cookies and yogurt that were stacked high on a line of tables. Forty-five minutes later, I was staring out the window of a coach bus watching the snowy countryside passing by. Little did I know, after having been racing on skinny skis for a decade, I had just finished my last ski race.
In the subsequent years, my focus shifted to racing bikes, and I only find myself on skis a few times each winter. Last week I was back in the Midwest to do some lab work at the University of Minnesota, so I brought along a couple pairs of skis and took advantage of the amazingly snowy winter the region has had.
My parents and sister have been skiing quite a bit over the past few years, and I was fortunate enough to have a couple days on which I could join them on the trails where I used to spend countless hours training. I also got to spend a couple days along the shores of Lake Superior, tending to some more research-related tasks (which provided some amazingly intriguing data) before swinging through western Minnesota to visit some friends out on the prairie. I was able to ski on nicely-groomed trails everywhere I went, and the technique and balance returned quickly. The arm strength was lacking, but even so, some of the racing desires worked their way up from the depths of wherever they disappear to. Should I ever find myself living in a place with real winter again, ski marathons will be back on my calendar.
Emphasizing how things have changed since my privateer ski racing days, I also pleasure of spending a few hours at the headquarters of a great Minnesota company that's sponsoring me for 2011 - Salsa Cycles. I have long been a fan of Salsa (evidenced by the Salsa shop apron I've had since high school), and the attitude of the company meshes seamlessly with my own. After leaving their office, I am even more excited for this season and the adventures that are on the not-so-distant horizon.
Upon returning to Boulder, I quickly built up my new Spearfish frameset and put in a couple 7-hour days of pounding soggy dirt roads and loving every minute of it. And my legs are feeling stronger than they have in months, and clearly stronger than they ever have been so early in the year. That bodes well for the first racing of the season, not even two weeks away now!