The Path to the Podium
Suzanne, a long-time KSC member, had a fantastic World Masters last week in Canmore, taking home a first place and two thirds in her competitive age group. Given my eternal quest to get more women participating in ski racing, and knowing that Suzanne is not only an excellent skier but also smart and focused about her training, I asked her if she would write us a report, about both her race experience last week and her strategy through the last year leading up to her successful races. And she did! Here is her report; I love her attitude, that competing is FUN, and doing the work it takes to compete well is FUN, and for my money, her last paragraph is pure gold. Learn what you can from this, and get yourself fired up for the new training/ski season!
Finding my groove at 70
I just returned from my 4th XC Masters World Cup in 11 years. This year it was held in Canmore, Alberta, site of the 1988 winter Olympics, an extraordinary setting next to Banff National Park. I would have done more of them -- I would have begun sooner and participated more regularly -- if life circumstances had permitted because I just love being part of that scene. I love being with women (and men) who share my passion for being outdoors; I love the racecourses with the expertly groomed downhills that you can fly down at top speed; I love watching so many people ski so well; I love the competition and the camaraderie.
This year, to my absolute astonishment, I won three medals. I thought maybe I had improved from my results in a few local races, the Kongsberger Ski Club's Gunnar Hagen and Stampede, but had no sense of how that would play out with my XC World Masters cohort, a small group of women in my age class I have skied with (and mostly behind) each time I have participated. I was so thrilled to discover I had edged ahead. I credit three things for my success: smarter, more strategic training; an excellent wax technician; and a new shoulder joint. For the waxing insights, you can check in with my husband, Rob Corkran. For the shoulder replacement and the superb follow-up care to achieve full recovery, you can check with Sean Adelmann, MD, Kaiser Permanente Sports Medicine, Seattle.
For the smarter training, I followed a few basic principles dictated by my age and my recovery from surgery. In order to ski as well or better at 70 than I have in the past, I reduced my hours of intensive training and used those fewer hours more specifically; I increased the hours of lower intensity activity and gave myself more periods of complete rest. I walked more and ran less. In fact, I could not run much -- the shoulder surgery in May kept me down for the summer and then an arthritis flare-up in October cut short my fall pole-bounding routine. So, all summer and fall, I walked. I walked fast, I walked slowly, I walked with and without poles, up and down trails and around and around Genesee Park. In late summer, when I was finally given the green light for strength training of my new shoulder, I added intensity to my workouts, generally short intervals with poles on steep hills where I could use my arms and get the same intensity as I could running. Then in November, with the approval of the physical therapy guy, we installed a Concept 2 ski erg in the basement, and I began doing the suggested 'workouts of the day' several times a week. In December, I added skiing to the mix. Here, too, my approach was cautious around doing too much: my shoulder surgeon had warned me against overtraining and developing tendonitis or worse. I had no intention of repeating the misery of my shoulder replacement recovery program, so I followed his advice. I averaged skiing three times per week and did a really intensive hour or two only once each week. During my intensive ski hours, I would bring to mind my Concept 2 ski erg intervals and recreate them on snow. Despite doing less, my skiing felt strong. I felt I was double-poling better than ever and my legs were doing their job. The plan was working.
Even years when I am not racing much, the goal of skiing faster and better is always behind my year-long physical fitness plan. This year, with a plan shaped by a big surgery and my age, I actually met my goals, and it feels great. I would work out and train even if I were not racing, but I love the challenge of a race; the kind of mental preparation, concentration and on-the-spot strategic thinking it requires. Maybe I do not love the way I feel at the top of a big hill climb, but I love rocketing down a steep descent and swooping up the next rise, working with all my might to keep the momentum going. I love the moments in the finish area when, still full of adrenaline, I am excitedly exchanging thoughts about the wax and the course and about my and other's performance with my competitors, who are now my friends. The XC Masters World Cup gives me the very best of that experience.