Drove up to Hanson Hills with TeamNordicSkiRacers Steve Kuhl and Aaron Tarnow for our first classic ski on the season. Although we've been able to skate on minimal snow, ice and frost on local golf courses, there hasn't been enough snow to stride.
The tracks at Hanson Hills were worth the trip. Conditions were mid-winter! In mid-December! Trail conditions were relatively firm on top, but a little soft underneath - the groomer hasn't been able to groom often enough to really pack the snow down. That meant the tracks would occasional give way underneath us, pushing down a fraction of an inch.
We skied for 45 minutes before tossing away the poles and striding legs-only up a gentle hill. This is great technique work: If you don't commit to your kick with total weight transfer, you won't move very fast. It's also great for balance, since you can't depend on your poles.
I felt very comfortable striding without poles and, in fact, took off up a longer slightly steeper hill.
After 20 minutes, we put the poles back on and headed out to do the rest of the trail system. We tried to keep it easy - at least for the first couple hours. We did a few pickups in final 45 minutes. My heart rate was near race pace a couple of times...
Toward the end, we were slipping more as the muscles used to compress the ski tired. I found climbing gentle hills easy and confidence building. Steeper hills felt awkward; I need to work on my hill running technique.
My shoulders and elbows were a little sore, but otherwise, I felt good after almost three hours of skiing.
...until today. My hip flexors are sore!
Hip flexors bring the thigh up towards the abdomen - what you do at the end of a kick to return the ski forward. You also use them to pull your foot close enough to pull on socks. Mine felt miserable - I had to sit down to get my leg up. Steve said he had to use his hands to lift his legs into his car this morning! I'm sure Aaron is equally miserable.
We should have expected this. We've been rollerskiing all year, but we're mostly double polling or kick double poling; we spend little time diagonal striding. And here we are striding most of a long training session. (It probably would have been equally as bad if we had only strided for an hour).
So I'm taking it easy today. But I'm hoping the little bit of freezing rain were getting today will make for good golf course skiing tomorrow night!