My pre-race jitters have already begun and the first telemark race of the 2013 season is in four days. Cole and I will fly to Colorado for the Vail Sprint Classic and for me, this will be my first appearance in the start gate since the final day of racing at the 2011 National Championships in Steamboat Springs. My stomach churns and rumbles when I think about the upcoming race: the gates, the skate section and the jump. I’m so excited and it’s hard for me to concentrate on little else than racing. My nerves are peaking and coursing through my body.
Due to an injury, I missed the entire 2012 race season that included World Cup races in Colorado and the National Championships in New Hampshire. After a season away from telemark racing, I’m eager to slip on my speedsuit–the one with the 6-pack ab design– thankyouvery much Karbon,fine tune my race skis, and navigate the journey through the course, from start to finish, as fast as possible. Fast as possible: now that is the goal. Also to ski clean (telemark ski racing awards penalties for improper form), to make the jump distance line, and to land, after clearing said jump in telemark position. Whew, it’s a lot to think about, including inspecting a course on terrain I’ve never skied before. Watch out Vail, Montana is coming to town.
I’m hoping my year absence from racing won’t be a limiting factor on Saturday morning. I’m hoping that my healing process and training regimen (including a hysterical first experience at a 12K Nordic race with friends) has prepared me well. So many unknowns, so many factors: that’s one of the many reasons I love ski racing. What I do know is this: besides trying to ski fast through the course, I’m anxious to reunite with my teammates. This competition is served best when surrounded by a crew of skiers, ages ranging from teens to 50s, who seriously love to compete in an obscure and demanding sport. These folks, whether they hail from Steamboat Springs or some small East coast icy resort, are skiers, through and through. These are people who will run alongside you during the sprint section, carrying a spare pole in case yours breaks. These are the people who stay in the finish area cheering on all the participants and not just team members. These are folks, at least those who are legal to drink, who will join you for a beer after the race and joke about the mishaps on the race course. These are folks who will also join you for a dance party, clad in speedsuits, in your hotel room.
We telemark skiers, as I explained this morning to my friend Dani on our dawn patrol skin up Big Mountain, are what continue to draw me to this sport. I’ve got a bit of a competitive bug, and have had it in me since my days of racing Nastar at Nub’s Nob as a youngster and onward through middle and high school and then various beer leagues until I discovered telemark racing, but I’m not one to forgo fun and sportsmanship all for the sake of winning (PS: winning is not exactly what I do. In fact, I’m very good at coming in last or second to last in the World Cup).
So as I count down the days to our early morning flight to Colorado, I’m thinking about the start gate atop Vail’s Gold Peak. I’m thinking about how I will connect with the flow of the race course, how I will launch off the jump, how I’ll burst out of the rap and kick into the sprint (my favorite part), and how, no matter what place I finish on Saturday, I’ll be with my tribe, my telemark racing crew and it will be a damn good time from the state gate to the finish.