When was the last time you did something for the first time?
How I tried something new for the first time, failed, and then fell in love with it.
THE MOUNTAIN MAN TRIATHLON
In 1987 I was a professional triathlete winning major races around the world but was about to learn a HUGE lesson from competing in a different sort of triathlon…..
The Mountain Man Winter Triathlon
This is how my obsession with cross country skiing began.
One December day as I was running down the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California with beautiful weather and beautiful people surrounding me, I had this crazy idea to move to Colorado. I had wanted to live in Colorado since I was in grade school. In the time capsule from my 6th grade classroom at Otter Creek Jr High, I had written down:
I was going to live in Colorado, marry John Denver and have 2 white horses. Today I live in Colorado, my husband looks like John Denver and I have 2 white horses!
It didn’t take me long to convince my California native husband to try something new and before we knew it we were living in Boulder Colorado.
The day we arrived in Boulder it snowed about 3 feet and I was scheduled to do my long run. My winter clothing consisted of a long-sleeved t-shirt, tights, and I made gloves out of socks. I went for my 2 hour run during which I froze to death and immediately came home to my husband crying. What have we done!! I did not understand how anyone could run or ride their bike in this weather. Luckily for me I got a call.
Our good friend, training buddy, and winner of almost every triathlon on earth, Scott Molina had moved to Boulder the year before. He got a call from a race director in Vail, Colorado that was putting on this Winter “Mountain Man” Triathlon, and they wanted some pro triathletes to come.
I remember talking to Scott about it because we thought,
“How hard can this be?” Winter Triathlon must be indoor swimming, cycling and running!! Right? No problem.
This event was to be televised so they wanted us to come up and do live interviews before the race. We went to Beaver Creek and we were happy to do the interviews but… what we learned was that this was not your regular triathlon. Their tag line was something to the effect:
“The Mountain Man triathlon is one of the most brutal tests of winter Mountaineering and endurance that the human body is capable of performing in one day.” OMG, I heard that and about fainted
This triathlon was going to be:
Cross country skiing 11.5 miles in the mountains UP and Down the Beaver Creek Ski Area;
Snowshoeing for 9.1 miles up and down the mountains; and finally,
Speed Skating for 12.4 miles
All of this over the rugged mountain terrain of Colorado’s White River National Forest. This race was also over 8,000 feet and the highest point was 11,400, the summit of Beaver Creek Mountain.
The race director saw our terror as he explained the race course and immediately got us lessons in skate skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating. BUT the race was in 2 days. We tried our best to learn all three events that neither Scott nor I had ever done. We borrowed skis, snowshoes and ice skates (Scott got hockey skates and I got speed skates) and got to work.
The only positive good thing was I got an outfit given to me, because I knew I was not going to go fast so looking good was the most important thing. It was a fuchsia and black zebra skin, one-piece lycra racing suit from head to toe. I looked super-fast for the cameras until they got up close and personal and found out that I was crying.
Scott and I talked about forfeiting but we didn’t want to look like wimpy professional triathletes from California. Again we thought “how bad can it be?” So.. we ate a huge dinner and got ready for the race.
The 11.5 miles of cross country skiing
The start gun went off and all the athletes took off straight up a big hill, I mean straight up. Scott and I were trying to skate ski up this wall of a hill and no matter how hard we tried, we would just slide back down. The cameras were on us as they expected us to be at the front. Finally, the race director helped us get up that first part but then we had 10 more miles of uphill to go. We slogged our way up the hill and I remember there was one downhill turn that I missed where I went flying into a snow drift that was over my head, because I did not know how to turn, or even more importantly, how to stop. Lucky someone saw me get launched off into this huge snow drift and they had to get a snowmobile to throw me a rope and pull me out. This was also filmed!
I crashed 100 times on the downhill but finally made it to the transition area.
By this time I was completely in last place and very bruised up.
Second event was the 9.1 snowshoe
The snowshoe race was the only part of the whole event where I felt comfortable. I had these HUGE old-school Sherpa snowshoes. These were the original large snowshoes that people would wear into the backcountry to kill a bear or something. The other athletes in the race wore super savvy and fast racing snowshoes.
At this point of the race I believe I am almost last, and I have no idea where Scott is or if he was still alive.
I start running in these insanely large snowshoes straight up the slopes of Beaver Creek ski area. My only saving grace was that I figured out how to sit on the back of the snowshoe and make them into a sled for the downhills, so that is where I made up all my time. I went flying by tons of people on my super snowshoe sled.
By the end of the snowshoe event I had now been freezing cold for 6 hours, my whole body was aching, and I was using muscles that I had never used before and they were not happy. AND I had one more event to go. There is no Ironman training to get you ready for this.
The 12.4 ice skate on a small pond
The last event is the ice skating around and around on a small pond. They had a special machine called a Zamboni to keep the ice smooth for the ice skaters. The Zamboni broke or something because by the time I hit the ice is was melted with lots of cracks and deep divots from the other skaters. Every time I got over my ice skate to glide I would crash. This was very unpleasant.
My husband could see I was not happy and hurting from falling on the ice at least 10 times per lap. He went into the emergency racing food stash which was a big bag of chocolate turtles. Every time I came around the ice-skating loop he would give me a chocolate turtle. This made me so happy. I was completely drenched, it was dark out, I had been out for 8 hours and was completely exhausted but the turtles luckily kept me going.
I finished the race in almost last place BUT I FINISHED!!
Scott ended up pulling out after the snowshoe.
That day I swore I would learn how to cross-country ski, snowshoe and ice skate. It also gave me a huge appreciation for these Mountain Men and Women athletes in Colorado and for EVERYONE that:
DOES SOMETHING NEW FOR THE FIRST TIME!!
Learning to ski:
Luckily, I lived in Boulder where there are so many world class athletes and at that time we all hung out together.
I went right to my friend Norwegian marathon runner, Ingrid Kristensen, who at the time held the world records in the 10 K, 10 mile and marathon. She gave me a pair of classic skis and I followed her around our local ski area for hours and hours. It was the best cross training ever, low impact and super fun. I was HOOKED!
That Spring I won my first 11 REAL triathlon races and I knew it was because I had trained all Winter on my skis.
You get so STRONG!!
Cross country skiing is magical and unlike any other sport that I know. You get to glide through the forest on groomed or ungroomed trails (maybe seeing a Moose). It is a well-balanced, full body, aerobic sport and you also burn a ton of calories while doing it.
It is so peaceful and SUCH A GOOD WORKOUT
I honestly LOVE THE WINTER because I have learned how to dress for Winter.. (“there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!”) AND I learned how to ski.
You don’t have to go through the ordeal of a Mountain Man Triathlon to learn how to cross-country ski. You can come learn with Women’s Quest in a supportive atmosphere with lots of other fun women and great instructors to guide you.
C’mon.. it is time to enjoy the Winter!!
Life Lessons from Cross Country Skiing:
* Balance is key
* Commit and trust. To ski properly you need to transfer your weight, commit to your ski and trust.
* Pace yourself on hard terrain. So when things get tough or there are uphill’s in your life.. know that there are always downhills to come… where you can catch your breath
* Go your own pace! On the downhills stay relaxed, stay low, hands in front, bent knees. And enjoy the ride down.
* Glide. Gliding is fun and effortless, just like life. Kick and glide and build momentum towards your dreams.
* Dress for success.. warm gloves, a warm hat and wind pants. And make sure your clothing is also breathing or breathable.
* Skiing helps you get outside, connect and enjoy nature in the Winter.
* Relax Always!
* Head up! Look where you want to go. You get what you focus on so look where you want to go and your mind and body will follow!
We held 2 Fun-Filled Winter Wonderfest Retreats where women learned new skills, meet new friends, relaxed, restored and ENJOYED WINTER!
Jan 25th, 8:30-5, Snow Mt Ranch, Winter Park, Colorado $120
March 5-8th, Snow Mt Ranch, Winter Park, Colorado, $1,650