Yesterday was another day out on the ski trails. I've never realised just how lucky we are to have the cross country trails available here that we have. The ones we're working on now aren't even the only ones we have. I had no idea that our cross country ski networks were so vast. It makes me wonder that if I don't know about it, how many other people, like tourists, know about them? I think this may be a untapped resource we have in this city that has been ignored for much too long. Sure, some parts of the trails aren't lit, but with the right motivation, someone could apply for grants to get that stuff up and running and before long, our little town could have the potential to be a "go to" ski hot spot.
But, I digress. The point of this whole thing was not to ramble on about the potential for our cross country trails to be a tourist attraction, but rather to go on about my ski yesterday and the work Coach T and I did.
It was a mild day yesterday and I may have over dressed. I had been out ski gear shopping the day before and wanted to try out some of the clothes before we got to Alberta. That way, I'd have a better idea of what would be too light or too heavy. Looking at the forecasted weather though, I don't think any of it is going to be too light. It's supposed to be quite cold while we're out there. So, not only will I be packing my thermals, but Nala's doggie coat and boots are going too. With the milder weather, we had also expected to get some more snow, but unfortunately, it really didn't fall. We got a bit, but not enough to cover up the patches on the trails that are becoming bare from the milder temperatures and use by ski enthusiasts. This meant we had very sloppy conditions to contend with. Well, I say "very," but since I'm no expert, perhaps they weren't too bad. That said, much of the nicely defined tracks I had been using all week were "washed out" or "scrubbed out" in many places. It also meant that the tracks were wider than normal. I don't know the science behind it, but I'm assuming that when a track is used a lot when the snow it soft due to warmer temperatures, the weight of the people widens the tracks and eventually the walls start collapsing.
Of course, this makes things more challenging for me, but I think it's good in a way. I managed to stay on my feet the entire 6 kilometres or so that we did, except for once, despite the messy tracks. This is a huge improvement I think.
First of all, we used my actual skis yesterday instead of the waxless (AKA fish scale) skis. Coach T waxed them up for me and this meant we were moving faster; change number 1. The waxed skis that I have are also lighter than the fish scale; change number two. This is obviously beneficial as it means less effort to make the ski move, but it also means I have to learn how to control the ski in a different way. With the heavier fish scale ski, I used bigger muscle movements to right the ski or keep it from sliding in the wrong direction when the track disappeared. With the waxed skis, smaller movements were needed and it was really easy to over correct which made me flail a bit more. This will eventually be a positive thing as in races and practices, I won't need to expend as much energy to correct rogue skis.
The other interesting thing I noticed was that I could "feel" so much more with the lighter, skinnier ski; change 3. It meant that I could feel the contours of the trail beneath my feet better and once I started being able to read some things on my own, I was better able to keep my feet under me. Of course I still need verbal description of the trail by Coach T, but being a able to feel the trail better meant that I was more confident when gliding down a hill or even up a hill. Blind people, at least this one, use their feet quite a bit to "see" the world around them. It's not completely noticeable in most situations as it's something you learn to do as conspicuously as possible. Putting the skis on meant that I had to re-learn this skill. I obviously haven't mastered it since yesterday was the first day I really began to notice the information the skis were giving me, but it will come with practice; another change.
On top of going faster, wearing lighter skis which required different movements for control and getting information from my feet, the tracks, as I mentioned, were a mess. There were spots where the track completely disappeared on one side, mostly the left, and others where it disappeared completely. In these spots, there was the potential for me to veer from a straight line of travel which happened a few times, and also the potential for me to fall. Learning how to stay standing when the ground under one foot is different from the other while gliding along on a slippery surface is an important skill. I certainly haven't mastered it by no means, but I think I'm getting better. For example, when Coach T would say,
"left track scrubbed out," I would lean most of my weight on the right foot and glide on that while pushing myself along on my poles. My left foot was still on the ground, but with the decrease on weight, I would just glide over the bumpy/slippery/sloppy bit and keep going. If I kept the weight evenly distributed on both feet, I would find myself wobbling dangerously and have to work very hard to stay upright; really engaging my core muscles. The timing wasn't always perfect since sometimes the scrubbed areas were just a small patch or a bit longer and sometimes I glided on one foot for too far or not far enough, but that will come with Coach T and I learning how to communicate effectively. I think we'll learn a lot of that at this upcoming training camp.
We also practised stopping which I greatly appreciate. We did some more double poling and worked up a few hills; learning how to engage the wax on the bottom of the ski to assist in propelling you up the hill as well as using arm strength. The hills we worked up meant we had to go back down and it gave me an opportunity to glide down some hills at a bit higher speed with some scrubbed out tracks. It's amazing what you get accomplished in approximately 6 kilometres.
I was definitely exhausted after yesterday's outing. It was more physically demanding than some of the other days we've been out, but more importantly, it was mentally exhausting. On the way back to the car, I slipped out of a perfectly formed track just because I was so tired I didn't notice. We had talked about trying on skate skis just for funsies, but I was wet from sweating and absolutely knackered. So, I think we may try them today before heading out for our regular ski.