The race season is underway in the US with athletes chasing down golden tickets and national titles, and across the globe with the Ultra Trail World Tour. With the way the trail and ultra scene works there are numerous athletes who never even stopped racing, a constant blur of race motion, but I hold my off-season sacred. Since stumbling across the line at TNF 50 in November I’ve been skiing a lot, riding bikes (don’t get a big travel bike you’ll quit running right now), and slowly easing my way back into the mileage game. My season rust buster is around the corner and instead of feeling especially fast I’m getting anxious to get 2018 started.
And in true Corrine fashion, I decided it would be a great idea to head home to the Northland, Hayward Wisconsin, and jump into the American Birkebeiner before opening my running season next weekend at Way too Cool in California. …What can I say, I caught the fever!
For those of you who know me as a runner, what you might not realize is that ultra running is my athletic career reincarnated. After my health crumbled the fall leading into the 2014 Winter Olympics I retired from skiing/biathlon and haven’t raced on my skis since. I was pretty disenchanted and fairly broken and it took me a while to work through my disappointment and quick departure from a sport I was heavily invested in and loved. That will change in a way this weekend, although I’m still quite retired, as Stephen and I classic ski the Birkie. (Questionable decisions being made here)
Skiing and the Birkie have a very special place in my heart. I’ve run, skied, and biked every corner of these trails, and it’s the place that I fell in love with being outside for hours on end. Every February we would get pulled out of school to ski down to Main street in the Barnebirkie, I’m fairly certain I was only in it for the hot chocolate (not much has changed).
I truly fell for skiing, like ass-over tea kettle hard, part way through high school, in large part because I fell into a group of kids who were as salty, as goofy, and as willing to go for a long ski or run every Saturday morning. My friend Molly, her dad Roger, our coach Bill Pierce, and one of our teacher’s, Diane Tremblay, took us out every weekend on foot, roller-skis, or nor-dorking. They drove us to countless trail heads, weekend after weekend. I distinctly remember Roger rolling down the windows and locking them as we rolled into ABR on an early Saturday morning, claiming he was “acclimating us to the cold” but was likely just trying to get us to wake up. Diane, Roger, Steve, and Bill taught us to embrace the suck, thrive in discomfort, and learn to suffer gracefully. Even if that meant running down the ski trail singing, “make it hurt so good” trying to get us to laugh when we were pinned, legs flooded, fighting our way to finishes. I owe so much of my running success to the years of slow “toughening up” I was taught as a junior skier. And those years have served me well, as no sport rewards suffering quite like ultra running does.
Although my life for the time being has moved me away from winter, and the skis I am out on most are nearly 3 times the size of my nordic skis under foot, I know some day I’ll be drawn back in to the peace I find out on the nordic trails. For now I’m in it for the cultural experience that only classic skiing out of one of the last waves of the Birkie can offer. It’s going to be a celebration of all the things I love, the town and community I grew up in, family and friends, and a healthy dose of suffering!
Now the true question is…. will it take me longer to classic ski 55km this weekend or run 50km next weekend?