Beaming down to the hills of Andoria

9 02 2012

Actually just driving up to the hills of Wisconsin — was what it took to get some winter sports fun this past weekend.  Now, I’m not complaining.  I LOVE an Illinois winter with very little cold and snow.  Throw in some extra daylight and I’ll never gripe again.  But my plan for this winter had included a couple of snowshoe races designed to inspire some training through the months which typically find me at my laziest.  It was just a happy coincidence that I had to drive half a day to find one due to the local scarcity of white stuff.

Since my last post regarding the Polar Dash we have gotten a pixie dusting of snow on a couple of occasions which has always melted within a day or two of arrival.  The snowshoe race I had planned to compete in on the last weekend of January ended up being a footrace over frozen mud, and thus I was quite delighted not to attend.  I found a snowshoe series in the northern reaches of Wisconsin and quickly signed up for a pair of races there instead.  The first — the Iola Twilight Snowshoe 5k, a night event — was held in Iola, Wisconsin this past weekend and it was a total blast.

I drove up with my husband on Saturday, February 4, and we stayed overnight.  I had managed to talk him into entering the race with me and even convinced him to train (albeit sporadically) for about 6 weeks.  We arrived at the venue and found the people to be friendly and the lodge warm and inviting.  Turnout for the race was low, maybe only 60 competitors, but that meant a more generous allotment of prizes.  In fact, everyone who entered earned a tasty gift of either Wisconsin maple syrup or organic chocolate bars.

The winter sports complex which hosted the event is located in a forested area with some impressively hilly topography.  After a kids 800-meter dash at 6:00 pm, the 5k and 10k races took off over a lighted forest path coated with a thick layer of fresh snow and ice.  Fred and I had signed up for the 5k.  The 10k was merely a double loop of the 5.  The announcer at the start line had cued us about the course, saying “Miles 1 and 2 have some hills but Mile 3 is mostly downhill.”  It sounded doable.

The first mile did indeed contain some gently rollercoastering hills which were a challenge in the ascent but allowed enough rest on the downslope to provide some catch-up for the legs and lungs.  The second mile was a killer — definitely rigorous with many steep climbs and a pair of double hills with just a bit of mesa in between for respite.  Somehow it seemed longer than a mile too.  But then the tough ones always do, don’t they?  By the two thirds mark, I felt strenuously challenged and was dripping sweat; my husband lost any pretense at enthusiasm and was bitterly grumbling.  Fortunately, the third mile was more forgiving and offered a handful of hills on mostly downward terrain.  Multiple times, Fred swore vengeance on that poor announcer.   But by Mile 3.1 we were done and ready for the hot cocoa.

It was a nice race — my first night event — and it was tough, and I loved it!  I adored being out in nature under a sky so beautiful with its nearly full moon and endless stars, inside the massive forest silent but for the crunching of our footsteps on the snow and the gasps of breath that sustained us.  I loved being surrounded by air so crisp and frigid yet from the exertion feeling so warm.  I even enjoyed the tremendous effort it took to get up some of those hills, repeating my mantra each step of the way “need power? got power”.  It was undeniable proof of the life left in these old limbs.

I never feel as eternally connected with all the forces of nature except in moments like that.  I would’t trade it for anything.  There is no couch, no bar stool, no lawn chair that can give me what I get out there.  And I’d do it again tomorrow.


Training since the previous post:

January 22 – off
January 23 – 30 minutes of outdoor speed intervals
January 24 – tough total body workout for 75 minutes
January 25 – 30 minute treadmill program of hills, followed by 1/2 mile cooldown jog
January 26 – yoga/abs
January 25 through 31 – DAYS OFF taken to visit my Dad in California at the nursing home; no exercise
February 1 –  short cardio and stretch session to reawaken the body
February 2 – 2 mile speedwalking
February 3 – yoga
February 4 – Iola Snowshoe 5k
February 5 – off
February 6 – 30 minutes of speed intervals outdoors
February 7 – off
February 8 – mixed bag of 10 minutes each:  step cardio, compound weight sets, cardio on the Bosu, corework