by Colleen Cannon, Founder of Women’s Quest
Cross county skiing is my favorite sport. I love everything about it from the gliding on the snow, the animals I meet on the trails, the aerobic conditioning and just the peace and quiet! But, it did not all start out this way. I came to love the sport in a rough way.
I moved to Colorado from Southern California in December in the middle of my professional racing career as a triathlete. I went out for a run as soon as I arrived in my warmest outfit, which was my long sleeved t-shirt, Hind tights, socks that I used for gloves and a baseball cap as my hat. Needless to say, I froze because the small snowstorm that arrived turned into 3 feet of snow by the time I finished my run. I cried for days because I had left the perfect weather for triathlon training in Southern California with all my friends. I had no idea that this cold weather would spark me into the best training and racing of my life.
How I fell in love with the greatest sport of all: Cross Country Skiing
If you move to Colorado you have to find something fun to do in the winter. The sun is always shining, but one thing I did not take into consideration with my outdoor triathlon training was the snow. I grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana and Scottsboro, Alabama. I did not have opportunities to learn downhill skiing or do anything with the snow except make snow people.
I moved to Colorado in the winter. Who does that? All the professional triathletes were in Southern California. All but Scott Molina (best triathlete EVER) and myself. One day Scott tells me that there is a Winter Triathlon coming to Vail, Colorado. The race director wanted to know if we would participate. We were very excited and confident in our ability because Scott and I were ranked number one in the US in triathlon. Piece of cake we thought!
About one week before the competition, the race director decides to bring Scott and I up to Beaver Creek Ski Resort for interviews before the race. We were thinking that this event was an indoor triathlon. We just assumed it would be indoor swimming, cycling and running on a treadmill or something like that. We were super surprised to find out that this triathlon was a winter triathlon called the Mountain Man! It consisted of 12 miles of Nordic skiing, 14 miles of a snowshoe and 11 miles of ice skating. Neither Scott or I had ever been on skis, EVER! The race director got us set up with the equipment and a lesson to help us stand up on the snow. We literally could not move on these skis and when we figured out how to make them move, we could not stop them!
The gear for this event was very foreign for a professional triathlete. It was skate skis, snowshoes and ice skates. The ice skates were another issue. I had figure skated as a child but had never been on hockey skates. So this was yet another complete disaster.
The race day was fast approaching. I had my equipment but then my friend told me I should have a ski outfit to look cool, because this event was to be televised. I told her to just pick up something subtle, but pink, which was my favorite color. She found me a pink outfit all right. It was a lycra pink and black zebra print! It was made by a company called Original Skin, but they dropped the K, so it said Original Sin on the outside of the outfit. This was my first surprise of the race morning. I was going to stand out on the camera.
We were thinking that we were in such good shape from training for Ironmans that this event should be a breeze. We had a huge awakening and lots and lots of bruises in store for us!! The race went like this:
We started the race cross country skiing with a 200 yard climb straight up the ski slope and I mean straight uphill. We did not know how to get up this hill and we kept sliding backwards which, of course, they caught on camera. As the whole race left us in the dust, we are stuck there with our skis tangled up. We finally were escorted up this little patch of a hill and we continued on our ski adventure. What we did not realize was that what goes up must come down! We had to ski down blue runs on our Nordic skis. Those runs are not blacks, which is the hardest, but they are not GREEN either, which are the easiest. We were doomed! Luckily my husband, who was on the ski team in college, got to the downhill portion of the race and was waiting to help us crash down the hill.
We made it into the transition area. Dead last and next to dead last! But, our next event was our strongest. It was snowshoeing.
Another interesting fact: all of the winter athletes had snowshoes that actually had their running shoes drilled on. Scott and I had the tracker version of snowshoes, which were 3 feet-ish long and very hard to walk on, let alone run up a mountain on.
We started our 12 miles snow shoe run and Scott immediately leaves me in the dust. I was super smart and caught up on the downhills because I would sit back and sled on the back of my snowshoes which they outlawed the next year because I was so fast sledding down the hills. By this time I had lost complete track of Scott, but I am determined not to be the last person to finish!
I get to the third leg of this winter triathlon, which is the 11 mile ice skate. By now the pond was completely torn up by all the skaters. If you have ever speed skated you know that any time you catch an edge you fall hard on the ice! I did this for about 15 minutes, was completely soaked and was so sad and depressed I looked at my husband and started to cry. He immediately went to the store and got my favorite things. Chocolate Turtles. Then, every time I came around on the ice, he would give me one. Guess how many chocolate turtles I ate that day?
I finished the race second to last, sick from all the chocolate turtles and everyone had gone home. I was soaked and bruised to the bone! But, this crazy adventure inspired me to learn how to cross country ski!
The Universe set me up. I got back to Boulder and immediately ran into my friend Ingrid Kristianson from Norway. She was a marathon runner and the world record holder at this time in the 10K, 20 mile and marathon. She grew up on skis and she used cross country skiing in her training. I decided to follow in her footsteps and learn this incredible sport.
Now, some 35 years later, I love love love to cross country ski. It is by far the best workout you can do, very peaceful, good for the soul and extremely fun! 15 years ago, I started a Learn to Ski Day at Snow Mountain Ranch so that I could share my passion and training with women of all ages and skill levels. I did not want anyone to feel left out, frustrated or feel like they could not move on the skis. Many of us have been athletes, moms or have young children now and it can be intimidating to get on the snow or even worse, back on the snow. That is why I created a safe and fun environment wrapped up in a day for everyone to enjoy and get away and play!
Interested in joining Colleen and the Women’s Quest staff and friends for the 2019 Winter Wonderfest? Get all the information and register at www.womensquest.com. We can’t wait to see you then!
by Colleen Cannon, Founder of Women’s Quest