One of my major goals for this quarter has been to ski the 25k version of the Great Bear Chase, our largest local cross country ski race.
Up until now, the longest I’ve ever run is about 13.5 miles (one half-marathon and a relay leg of about the same distance). I’ve raced a 6 mile/10k ski race and probably skied for as much as 10 miles before. So the 25k (15.5 miles) in the Bear Chase would definitely my longest on-foot distance, making it a good challenge and a nice way to develop a training base for races later this year.
With the race in mind, I’ve been skiing a lot more than usual this year. It’s helped that we’ve had consistent snow on the ground since early November and avoided the ice and crazy weather that’s occurred across much of the Midwest. Sure, there has been some Polar-like weather, but it’s winter and to be expected. I also happened to have some extra time this winter. It’s been a good training season.
Getting Cold Feet?
So I was surprise when I realized that I didn’t want to do the race, just two weeks beforehand. Was this cold feet? I’m always anxious about a race in the week or two preceding it, and I suspected I might be wimping out since I hadn’t yet registered. But then I examined my motives and decided that I just didn’t want to do the race, and saving the $80 entry fee might be pragmatic.
- The biggest reason that I’d planned to do the race was because I wanted to spend more time exercising outside and skiing, and I know that committing to a race will motivate me. So after months of consistent skiing and working up to skis 8-10 miles and longer, I already satisfied that goal.
- I was also interested in the race because training to finish 25k would force me to build up a good base for the races I plan to do later this year. It would be a nice feather in my cap to ski 25k, but I wasn’t that interested in a formal race.
- In fact, a formal ski race with 700 people sounds kinda like a nightmare. I do enjoy races, but I much prefer the small, hometown races that have just a few hundred people in them—all stretched out over such long distances that you often wonder if you’ve wandered off course. I volunteer for the Bear Chase last year and was not looking forward to aid stations crammed with skiers, skis, and poles. I’m too clumsy for that!
- Plus, if I didn’t do the race, I’d save $80* and be able to buy myself something fun instead.
- And although I’d already decided that I didn’t want to do the race because I didn’t care enough, I also realized that I had some work travel that involved flying the day before the race. And I’ve learned that there’s nothing like weekend plans to cause a Friday flight to be cancelled**…so
But I committed to skiing 25k and I hadn’t skied that far yet—my max distance was a little over 11 miles.
I set out out for a long ski over the weekend, using the Great Bear Chase race map to figure out a route that would be at least 25k (same loops, but in a different order). When I was planning to do the race, I’d hoped to keep a pace of 7:00/km (about 11:15/mi = slow!) and finish in under 3 hours.
Skiing on my own, I just wanted to finish!
And I did. It went well overall. I picked a good day for it– colder (about 10F), but sunny and with mostly-fresh-groomed trails. The first 2 hours were slow and steady. Over the past 6 months of so, I’m realizing how much I like slow runs and skis that last about 1.5-2 hours because I get a nice little runner’s high out of it.
But after 2 hours, I really started to hurt. Mostly this was because I hadn’t quite trained enough, with my longest ski being 2.25 hours and several weeks earlier. I’d have been miserable in a race situation. But on my own, I’d set it up so I was on the far end of the trails: I had no choice but to ski back, even if it was at a crawling pace.
I spend the last 30 minutes just praying that I’d done the math right and that I would have 25k done by the time I got to the trailhead. The idea of coming up short and having to do an extra loop at the end—even if it was only 1k—to get the requisite distance was terrifying.
Fortunately, I probably did an extra 1k loop at the beginning and I ended up skiing 26.4k. These were the final stats:
- 25k (15.5 mi) in 2 hrs 48 min = 6:43/km (10:49/mi)
- 26.4k (16.4 mi) in 2 hr 58 min = 6:45/km (10:51/mi)
So I did it, and it was pretty unexceptional apart from the soreness—that was exceptional! I felt as tired and sore, perhaps even more so, than after 6.5 hours of the Chippewa Canoe Triathlon. I’ll have to keep this in mind as I plan for some epic running during a Ragnar Relay later this summer.
And maybe I’ll actually race the Great Bear Chase next year.
*I guess I technically only saved $70 because I bought a $10 trails pass, but I didn’t count that because I’d have bought it any way. Support the trails!
**Our local airport is tiny and flights are cancelled all the time. When flying home, I never make plans until the wheels hit the ground.