I have a friend named Stephanie who is incredibly athletic. She is one of the fittest women I know and never shies away from a race, challenge, event or ass kicking moksha yoga session. We raced the Squamish MOMAR together. I am a fan of everything she does and frequently model my actions after her; so far I’ve had pretty decent success following this strategy. There is however, one thing that Stephanie does that I just don’t get. Over and over again, I’ve tried to follow her lead but have been met with terrible results.
You see, Stephanie doesn’t train for races or sporting events. Ever.
I don’t know how she pulls it off, but she walks into every race totally unprepared and kicks ass. Last month some friends and I decided to enter the upcoming Yeti Snowshoe Race as a team and of course Stephanie imposed the no training rule. To my knowledge, everyone has adhered until yesterday when I broke the rule and drove up to Mount Washington for an afternoon on the trails. I have many good reasons for doing so but still secretly hope that Stephanie never reads this.
If you know her, please don’t tell her…I’ve lived in Courtenay for a week and a half and hadn’t been to the mountain yet. It seems like everyone around has lift tickets hanging off their jackets, ski racks on their car and sore legs. Seeing these guys every day for 10 days was too much for me. I knew that I had to get up there doing something. The upcoming Yeti and the dusty snowshoes in my garage seemed like a pretty good excuse.
I left school and headed directly to the mountain; I went the back route to scope out some potential riding routes and was amazed by the beautiful farmland surrounding the Comox Valley; I was seriously tempted to turn around and get on my road bike instead. The thick rays of sunlight streaming between the pines lining the roadside were heating the pavement and sending steam drifting off into the beautiful bluebird sky. Tidy cedar fences ran for hundreds of meters along the road and silently grazing cows looked up carelessly as I drove past. At one point I pulled over to admire one particularly beautiful scene.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me but noted the time and exact location so I can try and get a shot if the weather ever cooperates with me.
Once I got to the Raven Lodge at Mt Washington, I quickly got my snazzy running suit on and got out onto the trails. I had heard reports of fresh powder this morning and was hoping to find a trail that had been used so I could avoid breaking trail. It has been a full year since I’d been on my Atlas Snow Race’s and the bright yellow decking brought back memories of the last Yeti I raced. It was one of those perfect alpine days: bright blue, the sun high above and no wind. The event truly is a race everyone can and should do – participants ranged from the hardcores wearing their bright XT Wings and sponsor jerseys to first time snowshoe-ers in thick heavy winter clothing to the snow queens, all dressed up in their Sunday best (you have to see them yourself, words don’t do them justice). There was several inches of fresh snow that race day and running through it sticks in my mind as one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – surpassed only by the Squamish MOMAR.
There’s something cool about running through the snow that makes me enjoy it more than any other running surface. Road running to me is bland and unexciting. Trail running is much better – twisty trails and mud puddles get me excited. Finally, running on the snow gives off this almost romantic je ne sais pas.
I remember one particularly steep hill about 45 minutes in when everything just seemed to fall together perfectly. Clearly defined sunbeams were flowing out of the trees beside the trail but a cold wind was biting at my cheeks, reminding me that it’s still winter. Loose snow flung up by my snowshoes was flying all around my head; every few seconds a piece would land on my neck and send a chilling rivulet of ice water down my back. My iPod had once again picked the perfect song to run to and I kept pace with the strong beat with my feet and my man-dance head bobs. My heart rate was high and I could almost feel each individual heart beat throughout my body but I was breathing regularly, focusing energy to my legs and screaming calves. A perfect mix of hot and cold, pain and calm; total sensory awareness yet total removal as well. Sports psychologists call this moment ‘flow’ and if you’ve ever been there, you know how amazing it feels.
After two laps of one of the snowshoe specific trails and one last sprint up the final hill of Raven’s Revenge all I could think of was the sauna waiting for me in the lodge. I jogged back up to the lodge, confident of what to expect from myself in next weekend’s Yeti.
I can’t promise that you’ll achieve this same level of consciousness if you participate in The Yeti but I do promise that you’ll enjoy it immensely and have loads of fun.