Beginning where i left off last winter;  On The Podium, baby!   4th Overall fastest time plus a Silver Medal (AG) on a course that was dirt 24 hours earlier!   Can’t say enough about the Durango Nordic Center’s snow and race crew!   Also can’t give enough thanks for Wholistic Fitness® for this early season podium!   Sunrider Secret Herbs, MAP Aminos,  and Asea Sacred Water…and of course,  HP Yoga®, especially the priceless HP PROP Workouts®!    Thanks to my faithful sponsors; Fischer, Swix, and Tailwind!


Coke Race # 1
10-kilometer classic style
poker draw after each lap (5 laps of a 2k loop)
Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012
Durango Nordic Center

Actually?   i did not even KNOW there would be a Coke #1 Nordic Race this morning until i called Helen Low,  the ever effervescent Durango Nordic Center (DNC) manager on her personal cell phone about 2.5 hours before the Start Gun went off…

oh sure,  i had the date earmarked on my iCal…however,  everything in Durango was dirt 24 hours ago.

“There’s no way they got an entire Race Course groomed and all the staff and timers and awards ready to go within 24 hours,”  i thought as i speed-dialed her number and left her a text message.

“They” – meaning Helen and her spectacular crew of groomers and racing volunteers – sure did!   One thing about nordic skiing in the Southwest,  you gotta be versatile and quicker than snot off a race horse if you are serious about ski racing down here because wild temperature and conditions are the norm.    Moment’s after my text,  it was Helen’s unmistakably delicious English accent,

“Steve?  It’s Helen…i’m driving up to the Nordic Center, so i can’t text…YES!  There is a 10k Classic race this morning and it’s going to be an interval start, 5 laps of a 2k loop, and it’s going to be a poker race, as well…”

“A ‘poker race’?”   ilg has been racing nordic since like 10 years old…i had no idea of what a poker race was…

“Yes,  at the end of each lap,  you get handed a playing card…at the end of the race,  we have special gifts for the best hands!”

You gotta love this town…i mean, the people here are just a collective array of spiritual spark plugs whenever it comes to doing outdoor sports, especially for kids…even 51 year-old kids!

“I’m soooo there!  I’ll call some people, too!”

“Great, Steve!  See up there!”


This was my hand that was dealt to me over the course of 10-kilometers with a heart rate no lower than 175 bpm…
a pair with ace high;  lucky enough to win a beautiful new water bottle from Pine Needle Mountaineering with a Twix AND a Snicker bar stuffed inside it!
Gotta love that!!!

Somehow, 14 nordic racers showed up for the 10k and another 11 for the 5k.  Each, apparently crawling out to race from beneath the freshly fallen snow as if divined by the Divine.  I mean, the Race Organizers were prepared to run a Mountain Bike (MTB) race today due to no snow…then, THANKFULLY, the Snow God’s danced!

I squeezed in an flash version of my personal EMR…apologized profusely to my girls, “Sorry girls,  but Daddy HAS to hurry!  I’m SKI RACING in like an hour and a half from now!”

“You’re SKI RACING TODAY, Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetheart…i just gotta find my skis!”

Sad yet true fact…a fact to which only New Daddies of 5 year-olds can appreciate;  i hadn’t TOUCHED my nordic skis since last season.  I used to be soooo zen about my summer ski base cleaning/summer wax, etc.  Not so much anymore.  With 75 minutes to race,  i was literally blowing off dust from my ski bags and completely blew off any attempt at a race day wax job which takes about 20 minutes per ski…(i normally take two pairs of skis to each race).   Instead?  I superficially applied a layer of florocarbon spray and trusted that the nordic kick tape that I used last season would grip enough on the uphills.  Hand over hand, I dug like a dog into the bin of winter ski boots for my Fischer classic boots.  Into the snow-engulfed car and finally onto the road whereupon ilg was met by super timid drivers on super treacherous road conditions. I’d have to practice  Patience and a lot of Mantra on the drive up to DNC.

Back at the H(om)e Office…yet more renewed Trust in the effectiveness of WF!

Up at the Nordic Center,  i bolted into the lodge to sign up among the teeming throng of young Durango Nordic Club kids and taking sacred pleasure in seeing the usual cast of nordic racing characters after a long summer.  None of us, i imagine,  had yet skied on a nordic track this season…

“Training, schmaining…” i quipped to Helen while putting on my Race Bib, “Let’s just RACE!” Everyone was super stoked about the fresh dump in this drought-stricken haven.   Though I’ve been super strong on the bike all autumn,  bike racing is NOT nordic ski racing…there ain’t no upper body and only paltry reliance upon the core in bike racing;  yet in Nordic Ski Racing? There is a TON of upper body and core strength endurance…and THAT is why I felt confident even without any Classic Skiing since last year…“I have HP  Yoga PROP Workouts within me!” You see, a racer’s most valuable asset at the Start Line is the CONFIDENCE she or he has in their training.  Ilg has a ‘WHOLE’ lot of Confidence in the delightful, full spectrum dance of Wholistic Fitness® training…as Ananda said to me as I raced out the door this morning, “Hey,  everybody is in the same boat…your chances are as good as anyone else’s, go have fun!”

We went off in 10-second intervals on a course that was soft and sketchy with puh-lenty of spots where willow and elder springs poked through the snow as if to grab your skis and derail you from the classic tracks.   The soft snow attenuated my upper body poling power, yet, I did my best to use a higher tempo, quicker pole recall in order to compensate for the soft snow conditions.

A deeply experienced Nordic Master from Minnesota was a new face in my 45+ AG…Mike…super nice dude.  He would start right behind me.   I welcomed him to the area,
“…and just be polite when you pass me, okay?”

Sadly,  midway into Lap#2  he did.   I had gotten my first Poker Card through the Lap Line, and skied with the playing card clenched between my teeth trying to figure out what the hec to do with this playing card while not losing speed while skiing…my options:
* beneath my ski cap
* beneath my ski bib
* into my jersey pocket (i intentionally wore a cycling jersey, thinking i could stuff the playing cards into them)
• into other unmentionable anatomical portals..

I tried the ski cap version first…that’s when Mike passed me, giggling…defaulted i did, to stuffing them under my bib…

By Lap 3,  Mike, Dom (who has bested me in most races) and i were in a pack by ourselves.  during Lap 4, i knew i was getting stronger as the race wore on…however, my season-old kick wax was failing miserably on the uphills,  especially the infamous and appropriately named, “bitch hill” which comes just 600 meters from the Finish or Lap line…we were all herringboning up this pitch, with Dom even falling over in neural exhaustion at  the top…Dom had started 50 seconds in front of me and now I skied past him with vindication.   However, during the final playing card transition,  while I was pathetically stuffing my bib with the playing card,  the card fell onto the snow and Dom passed me again…aaargh!

With supreme core strength and Mantra reliance,  I reeled back both Mike and Dom back in and we finished in a tandem.  The time differentials was within 15 seconds after 10ks of hard racing between us three with another winter season stretching out in front of us for more focused fun on the skinniest, edgeless skis of all.

God Bless Nordic Ski Racing!

I’ll be sending out my Winter Sponsorship Request and really, really hope you can help keep me near or on the Podiums for yet another year racing the world’s most brutal yet perhaps most beautiful endurance sports of all!

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