Spring Break!

What could be better than cousins, California sun, and Grandparents! 
What better place than the beach? Three cheers for Gramps. At age 91, he will make the effort to find a parking place at the beach and endure  a lot of sun and sand to hang out with his Grandkids and Great Grandkids. We could all take a few notes from that act.
Playing with cousins at the beach is pretty magical.
I took a turn keeping an eye on all the kids while Tim and Seth body surfed. 

I got a lot of credit for not a lot of work! Sign me up to the watch kids at the beach any day. A little sand in the hair is nothing compared to tucking mittens into jackets and rescuing kids whose boots have fallen off in the snow.  
The trails in San Luis Obispo are awesome. I really do miss the canyons California...maybe not the mountain lions but I do miss the long sustained climbs for running and riding.

Even Tim enjoyed running the trails. This speaks volume because Tim is not known for enjoying running.
It was pretty spectacular to be a able to see Grandma and Grandpa's house from the trails across the canyons.
Pretty much this trip was spent at the beach, on the trails, and eating a lot of good food at Grandpa and Grandma's house.

Tim tried to slack line at the beach.
He thinks it would be great ACL rehab. I think it would be better rehab. If you can master slackening you probably will be less likely to tear your ACL in the first place.
I tired too. I had a hard time getting beyond the one legged pistol squat required to get up on the slack line.  I reconnected with the trails and did a really long solo run..

It seemed really long at least. 11 miles isn't very far at 8 min/miles on the treadmill. Forget the minutes vs mile debate. How about we quantify in terms of canyons climbed and vertical feet gained and lost.
I did a lot of climbing and descending and enjoyed spectacular views and terrain.
Unfortunately, I did a little too good of job "reconnecting with the terrain." Perhaps I should work on the slack line to improve my agility.
That moment when your are falling towards the ground knowing you are going to hit the ground long before you stop moving. I opted not to treat my wounds trailside because I thought it might make me a little queazy. Thankfully I was only about 1.5 miles from finish at the time of my blunder. I carefully hightailed it down the mountain ( I call it a mountain at least) and back to my in-laws. I passed a few groups hiking up and got a few stares. I thought about telling them I had enncounter with a mountain lion. Given the pattern of blood dripping down my leg it would have been believable but I decided it wasn't fair to give mtn lions a bad wrap. I'm sure I was also quite a sight climbing the fence back into my in laws hard.
I'm pretty certain in the split second between realizing I was going to hit the ground and actually hitting the ground I uttered "Thank God". Thank God I am not wearing just a sports bra.  Would have been horrible. 
After that it was time to relax. We all need some recovery.

Ava and Isaac are 3 weeks apart. They were a hoot. I know Isaac really loves Ava because  he went out of his way to ensure Ava had Trader Joe's corn chips. Based on the "corn chip of kindness act" I am certain  I will be spending sometime explaining why you can't marry your cousin on a future visit.

Unfortunately Isaac did not behave as gentlemanly towards his older cousin Rachel. Treating her as he would his older sister. He was sure to throw sand.
Throw sand and run. Isaac's favorite things.
Flowers and family are a few of mine.


 We celebrated Easter with a community wide egg hunt.
 The Easter Bunny had his work cut out for him.
 He could have saved himself a challenge and challenged by the children by hiding white eggs.
 I'm certain an Easter egg hunt can't get much more epic than this.

 There is no such thing a bad weather. Only bad clothing

 Dying eggs is fun!

 Somehow the Easter Bunny made it. He delivered flip flops (for California) and ski boot bags for year around usage:)
 After church it was to the ski hill.

 Closing day is fast approaching.
 Not because of lack of snow.

We Wore Green

 We are not Irish
 But on St. Patrick's Day we wore green.
Around town and to the ski hill.
 Annika and friend warming up for Annika's first "race". A lot of talk about skis parallel

 Let it rip ladies.

The Chance to Race

I may have adopted nordic skiing racing a bit late in life but I love it. I am forever grateful to have the opportunity to race right out my door. 
Sometimes I find it a bit challenging to be ready for a 50K in the beginning of January.  Snow coverage can be spotty in November and December. It's also the coldest and darkest time of the year.  
 Yet...the hours and stress we endure getting in a good ski are nothing compared to what race directors endure preparing 50 k for a ski race. This year alone there was a fear of too little snow, too much snow, too cold of weather, weather that was too warm and resulted in rain the night before the event and then became too cold and created a skating rink. A beautiful rainbow shown in the ski just before the sunset on Friday and everybody I know to note. Rainbows and racing. It's got to be a positive omen of some sort. 
Tim elected to race classic earlier in the week. At the time the snow was fresh and soft. For bigger guys (people over 140 pounds) the soft snow is a lot of work for skating. I wasn't convinced the snow would stay soft. I also figured softer snow would be more laborious than hard packed  but I would suffer and sink less than most. I elected to skate ski. I wasn't fully convinced I wanted the drama, chemistry, and physics involved with getting the kick wax right in questionable conditions. Unless one has access to seven pairs of classic skis and an on snow ski tech (ok maybe you don't need an on snow ski tech but why not shoot the moon) it's really hard to get the kick wax right the night before when conditions will be changing. Scrambling around race day morning scraping off sticky kick wax and applying something different gives me anxiety. Sure ..the option of waxless classic is there but in only a few conditions is it a remotely competitive one. 
Temps dropped significantly over night and the race course was anything but soft Saturday morning. It would have been a dream course for the large and lanky. Tim took a gamble on his kick wax and came up short....klister or waxless skins would have helped but Tim didn't listen to his wife and purchase high end skin tech skis as she encouraged. Please note all male readers should take note of this situation. Never disregard a wife's encouragement to spend money on sporting goods.  This left Tim to double pole 50k. For those of you who are not skiers but have been to a gym with a ski erg...think about pulling down those ropes for 3.5 hours. A happy wife is a happy life.  I skated and it wasn't the best day of my life. I sort of felt like I was a plastic bag blowing across a Walmart parking lot.  It was icy. So very icy. I really have the least amount of experience nordic skiing on ice. I was longing for a nice sturdy pair of alpine skis with about three sheets of medal! On the bright side the ice was fast. Likely I will never ski 50k faster.  Negotiating frozen ruts in a pack of many shot my nerves from the start. I skied tentatively and failed to keep my ski flat. Thus allowing my left ski to turn on it's side in a frozen groomer/snowmobile track and I fell. For better or worse I allowed this fall to define the limits of my abilities in these conditions on this day.  I felt like I had to put the "race" aspect of my day on the back burner. Being conservative at that point probably wasn't a bad choice. Later in the day, I was disappointed to note I had more energy to spend. I lacked the confidence to execute the passes required to ski harder.  I sat in on a pace line. I thought I was completely out of the womens race. I skied efficiently and tried to convince myself I was performing to the best of my ability. My self talk went something like this: You know....I did see several people crash and/or break poles while trying to pass. Certainly this pace is faster than the one I would maintain with a broken pole. 
After the race I realized 5 women beat me by 90 seconds or less. I also realized I skied the second 25 k faster than many of the women who beat me. I started wondering if and how my race results would have differed if my mind chatter had been different. I felt frustrated with my situation but also a little lucky because the rutty icy conditions exposed my flaws and now I could work on them. For the next few months I chose to really think about my form skiing and make changes. I did a drills. I worked on the things that I wasn't a natural at.

 We are lucky because we took a master's class/clinic through our local college and expert coaches gave us some feedback. I would not have known what changes to make without their guidance. There are great you tube videos showing different techniques but you need to know what is relevant to you. Change is hard some say. To be honest I wasn't sure I would be able to make the suggested changes. I was not sure I was capable especially when muscle memory is strong. In order to perform the drill I needed to glide longer on each ski. This required several subtle changes in balance and form.  Not long after adopting this technique my "runners knee" type knee pain alleviated and so did Tim's hip pain.  Hmm...and then I noticed my times on Strava were getting faster. I didn't thing too much about that because speed in skiing is relative to snow, wind, and temperature conditions.  I just kept focused on  my drills and awareness of my balance and form. Watching the Olympics was really exciting. Seeing and feeling my own form change and improve was exciting. It was better than any Strava KOM or race trophy for sure ...skiing just became more and more fun!  Soon it was time for the Great Bear Chase 50k.  

This time it wasn't icy. I was ready. I'm smiling. Even though it's early in the race and anything can happen  I'm confident to know I'm going to go home shelled because there is nothing out here to unnerve me. I'm also smiling because I'm in a pace line. Pace lining allows me to go faster than I could ever go solo. Going fast is fun. Going fast is something I love.

I'm also a little bit smug because I know in my heart I am a way better skier than I would have been if I hadn't taken time to make changes. I also believe that by improving my form I have far bettered my chances of skiing late into life.
I know somebody who raced the Noque at 86 (10K). I admire that.
When I get old I'm going to spend my free time skiing. Probably I am going to spend some time waxing, scraping, brushing as well... and then brushing some more because I am told I never brush my skis well enough.
Well ...if not me waxing , scraping, brushing in my free time my husband :)

The send lap of the race course was a lot harder than the first. The smiles didn't come as easily. A squall came up dumping fresh (slow) snow on the course. I left the group I was skiing with and tried with all my might to close the gap on the group ahead. My solo effort was in vein as I never could reel them in. I skied alone in the wind. No man's land is a shit ton of work lonely place to be. I fought off the desire to just ease up and see if somebody would step it up and pull for me. I felt a bit like I was slogging along and wondered if I had popped myself. Judging by who I passed and who did not pass me. I was skiing well and the snow was slow. I propelled myself with all my might  and as I crested the final climb and head down the decent to the finish. I thought about the 5 women who beat me by 90 seconds at the Noque. There were no women in sight but in honor of that thought I tried to chase down a lone male skier entering the finish chute. Just as I approached the finish line I heard somebody skating behind me. It sounded like a helicopter approaching me attempting to destroy me. I did not know if it was man or women but I sensed it was coming for me. "S/he's in my slip stream was the only non obscenity floating threw my head. I knew this person would have the benefit of my draft and if she or he passed me it would be too late to respond the finish was too close. I moved left and moved right trying to shake the person then I threw my poles forward to break the timing wand with my ski poles ...which completely defined me as a dated alpine skier. My competitor lunged for the line then collapsed Jessie Diggins style to the ground. I was still a bit turned inside out from my effort and looking sideways at my competitor who was lying in a heap to realize volunteers were unclipping my skis. As the volunteer released my bindings I fell over backwards. I'm sure our finish was a crowd pleaser but I'm not sure her lunge helped her any more than my attempt to break the timing wand. In citizens racing your time is dictated when the timing chip on the inside of your race bib crosses the line. I thought I beat her but the volunteers kept commenting "it was a photo finish". I'm pretty skeptical that there is camera at the finish line of a citizens race. So I just had to watch and wait for a while longer

Tim and I headed to the high school to shower and get lunch. Finish pasties and bakery treats! I went to the timing kiosk and had my result printed out. It stated my time. Age group ranking 1. Gender ranking 2. Oof. I relish the chance to race. It is a privilege indeed. I would rather race hard and get beat at the line than not race.  The thought of loosing the overall win at the line after working so hard and being in until the very end. Just too much ......I know, I know...there is no crying in baseball. I turns out there was another women up ahead and out of my zip code who took the win by 4 minutes. Phew. Out of my league. It will take me a few more drills and a summer on roller skis to contend with that.

 I turns out there was another woman ahead and out of my zip code.  She took the win by 4 minutes. Phew. Out of my league for now...but never say never. Just say thanks for the motivation.