The Frostbite 45 Cross Country Ski event happened on Saturday and it was…..SO MUCH FUN! I had a terrific time. What an unexpectedly pleasant turn of events. The main factor in this was the weather I think. It dawned cold, minus 36, but the expected wind did not arrive until later in the day, so the temperature was quite manageable. In fact I was never cold.
It was just a great ski. The trail alternated between winding through the woods and straight paths down long lakes with open views. For the first while I had other people near by, but for the last half I couldn’t see anyone ahead or behind me. It was just me and the wilderness. That was definitely my favorite part, the solitude. The flat white expansive lake, the bright blue sky, radiant light everywhere, and one small trail leading me forward. It gave me a small taste of what it would be like to be a polar traveler – just miles and miles of flat snowy trail to cover. But in my case, I didn’t have to worry about getting lost in a white out, dragging a heavy sled with tons of gear, or not having my cozy and real bed at the end of the day. The best of all worlds! I found myself blissfully happy at the experience. I’m not at all sure why, but something about that place felt like meditation – when the mind goes quiet, all cares slip away, and one is just experiencing the moment. Happiness.
The event was fantastically organized – there were four warm tents along the way manned with friendly volunteers with homemade goodies, and pots of warm water. I drank lots but food was a big problem. Everything in my pockets froze solid and so I didn’t have nearly enough to eat for the day. Plus, you can’t do much with big fat mitts in ski poles so eating always involved taking the gloves off. Still, the body is an incredible thing and mine didn’t complain too much about the lack of calories. Its amazing what you can do if you just show up and put one foot in front of the other. This applies to endurance events of course, but is also I think a good metaphor for life in general. Sometimes I can see the ways I don’t show up in life, and the subtle means of escape that I indulge at times. Its okay to do this sometimes, but the task for us all I think is to make sure we show up for life most of the time. There is something about being outdoors in the wilderness that makes this easier to do. I think that may be why I love it so much.
My friend Laara and her family showed up to cheer for me at the first check point. What a wonderful surprise. As a participant I always find peoples’ encouragement to mean so much. It really makes a big difference, more than the observer can know. And then, near the end, I met a real live fairy. My fairy god mother in fact. My friend Jenn skied out to met me with about 3 kilometers left to go. Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I had just started the last lake crossing, into a nasty and cold head wind. The wind had removed all the newer snow from the trail so we were skiing with no glide. It was so wrong that I stopped to check out the bottom of my skis, sure they were somehow iced up. Then I imagined my technique had gone to hell, because of being tired. Nope, there really was no glide. But then, what do I hear but a cheerful greeting, and what do I see but a fairy. Jenn was dressed up, with an enormous orange and blue and pink frothy tutu over her ski gear, the look completed by a plush brown top hat sprouting flowers. A sight for sore eyes (once I realized that I wasn’t actually hallucinating!). She skied with me across the lake and it was again great to have the support of a friend. I didn’t ask for any martinis as I was worried I’d be seriously blotto if I had so much as a sip, but no doubt she had all manner of goodies in her bag. Thanks Jenn!
I skied up the last hill to the finish line on my own, and there it was – the finish, a few patient, cheerful volunteers and timers, and one watcher, my husband Martin. I saw him there waiting for me with a big smile and a warm hug and I burst into tears. It was so lovely to have him there for me. (He also did the race, but finished as expected about an hour before me).
Interestingly, we both managed to get some frostbite. Martin was stopped on the trail by the frostbite checkers, who noticed his earlobe was white and firm. He warmed up in a tent for 15 minutes and was good to go. Mine somehow escaped notice, I think because it was never uncovered. But now my earlobe is red and sore and swollen. Its so insidious, that cold. I wasn’t cold on the outside, and only rarely felt the sharp knife of the wind on my face and ears, but that was enough it seems.
In any case, I’ve been bitten twice. By the frost and by the Frostbite 45 – I’ll definitely be back for more! I hope to have some photos to post soon, but here is one we had taken at the heritage photo booth the next day at the winter carnival. As you can see the ski didn’t wear me out too much, but it had a big toll on Martin.