Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Are You Training for Something?

Like most winter weekends I spent most of my time outdoors last Saturday and Sunday on skis at Trapp's.  Saturday was an interesting day and although it was 24 and sunny at home it was 17, snowy and windy at Trapp's.  That might not sound like a big difference, but it was a little more than I was mentally ready for when I got to the parking lot. 

Fortunately I stay pretty warm while skiing and I brought enough extra layers to stay comfortable.

As I headed out on my first warm up loop I could hear that someone was skiing behind me.  Traffic is common on the flattish loops around the touring center so I didn't think much of it.  When I stopped to take a drink a woman skied up next to me to ask for trail directions.  After some quick recommendations she asked if she could follow me on my route.  She wasn't interested in talking, she just didn’t want to ski alone and didn’t know where to go. 

The snow was surprisingly good given the extreme temperature swings we've had lately, but I took care to avoid the downhills I knew would have icy skied off corners.  She kept pace as we wound our way around the race loop, down Skater's Waltz and across to Aither. 

When we stopped at hilltops or to take off our skis to cross the road we'd spend a minute or two in polite, general conversation.  As we skied into the second hour together we talked more and more about some things we discovered we had in common, which isn't surprising when you consider the general priorities of the endurance community in Northern New England. 

She'd just moved to Vermont with her husband and two daughters and just started a physical therapy office in Essex.  She had a background in mountain biking and road racing.  She also had trouble with depression in the winter and needed to get outside.  We were more alike than she knew.  

At one point she asked "are you training for something?"  I gave my usual polite elevator response along the lines of "I enjoy skiing, but my main focus is endurance mountain bike racing."  At the time I didn't realize how profound her question really was.  Several hours later I was still pondering.
What struck me was that most people I meet on the trail usually ask topical questions like whether or not I'm a racer.  I'd like to think that my skill on skis is what prompts those thoughts, but really it's probably my goofy hats and Swix drink belt.  By design there's usually nothing easily distinguishable about me to say that I'm really a cyclist moonlighting as a skier. 

Her question was deeper than the kind of superficial conversation you'd expect from a first meeting.  I could tell that she had her own stories to tell and her own reasons for getting out to ski.  Talking to some endurance athletes about their training is about as engaging as asking a teenage punk how many ponies his Camaro has under the hood.  Fortunately that wasn't the case here.  

"Are you training for something?"  Long after her simple question and my knee-jerk response I considered my real answer.  Yes, I'm training, but it's not for something, it's for its own sake and its own merits.  It's about the workouts, the fitness, and the journey.  Five years ago I would have given you a different answer, probably with an event name, date, category and target placing.  I could have given her the "yes I'm training for mountain bike racing because I think I want to be a pro before I turn 35 and I have a blog and I'm blogging about what I do to try to be pro and you should read it because I update it a lot and my mom says I'm special."  I didn't.  I'm glad I didn't.

Are you training for something, or are you enjoying the ride?


  1. Better man than I. Looked at the weather, temp and wind; decided to snowshoe in the woods both days. Winter can leave now.

  2. The snow was great, and Sunday was one of the best days we've had conditions wise. Fast, firm and very consistent with no ice.

    I have to admit that my head is definitely not into winter. The truest indicator of that is that I'm surprised by the snow when I wake up every morning. Last week's thaw was a tease, but it's coming.