I have not cross country skied in over 2 years now. Two years ago, the snow was terrible. XC skiing was mostly on dirt. No, that is not an exaggeration. Last year, I tore my ACL in November before there was snow to speak of low enough to cover the XC trails. I was not allowed to do much other than walk until May per my Doctor's orders. I was threatened with re-injuring my knee and longer recovery for non-compliance. So I complied.
I am not a great XC skier to begin with. A roommate of mine who grew up skiing and now teaches kids to ski for fun taught me a few years ago. I used to XC ski for exercise and fun a few times a week. It is easier to hit up the lighted trails a few miles from the house for a quick XC ski than pack up a backcountry pack and drive to the mountains for an after work backcountry ski adventure. Key word, used to. And I was never great at it.
That said, I woke up Sunday morning feeling inspired. Days of adventuring in 70 degree weather had me excited for more.
I went to the garage and dusted off my gear. I went out to my truck to load it up and the tailgate was frozen. Great. Since I have a cover on the bed, I couldn't load my skis. They are too long to fit in the cab in any reasonable way. I spent 10 minutes getting the tailgate unstuck. Finally, it popped open. At the end of that 10 minutes, my fingers were numb.
I drove up to the Hillside trails, still feeling inspired. I pulled into the trailhead, only to be met with a entirely full parking lot. Every XC skier in town knew that it was the Tour of Anchorage on this day. Except me. Every serious and semi serious XC skier in town was probably precipitating in the race. My noob self quickly exited the area.
I was still determined. I drove to another trailhead. Mind you, this trail head accesses the same trails as the others, just from a different start point. Bingo, empty trail head. No cars. I pulled out my skies. My hands were already cold. Oh, did I mention that my temperature sensor in my truck was reading -9. That is in Fahrenheit, not Celsius. I only note this because I had just arrived from the land of metric measures only two days before. Where it was 60 degrees F or more.
So I was instantly cold. But still determined. I clipped into my skies and took a few shaky strides. It started to come back. Then I was on my face. One ski was sliding away from me. I was even colder. Turns out I had forgotten how to properly clip into cross country skies. I got up and brushed myself off.
I was still fucking determined to ski.
I checked the note I put on my skis the last time I waxed them in 2014. They were waxed for 10 to 22 degrees F. Definitely not -9. That is also assuming that 3 year old wax actually does something. That might be contributing to my inability to feel like I was getting a good grip on the snow. That and, I always feel a little unsafe without metal edges to control my skis; I am an alpine skier at heart.
I set off, I started getting my rhythm. I continued down the trail, I had it to myself. Then I saw a sign: "TOA" Well, shit. I think I just turned onto the race trail. I started up a hill. I struggled. Three racers came up behind me and effortlessly ascended the hill, leaving me in the dust. I hoped that I could turn off the race trail soon and avoid further embarrassment. I really hoped I wasn't going to fall again.
I saw what I hoped was the turn off in the distance as I heard the swooshing of another approaching skier. I hurried along as fast as I could go. My efforts were in vain; I was again passed by a racer.
I reached the safety of the turn off without being passed again. With the excitement of trying to outrun the racers over, I noticed the burning sensation of freezing bitter cold in my lungs and fingertips. My fingers were going numb. It hurt to breathe. My determination was quickly approaching zero.
I struggled through the last of the trail back to the warmth of the truck. A staggering 9.5 minutes after embarking on my adventure, I was back to the comfort of my truck. I spent longer trying to get my tailgate open to load up my skies than I did skiing.