.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Learning By Not Racing
By:  Arno Turk   (2004/02/04)

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This weekend was supposed to be the annual Nakkertok Invitational-an unusual test of strength, and more importantly, skill, on the famous trails of Nakkertok South.

The sky was a super deep blue, the snow levels plentiful, my energy levels high, but alas, the race Gods would not let this combination explode into a catharsis of skiing today. Our race was cancelled, due to the cold weather that this high pressure system brought with this vibrant sun.

My teammates and our coach elected to continue with a preview of the race course. Half way through the second loop of the course, we saw a narrow trail groomed only by snow machine and a flurry of adventurous diehard skiers. My teammates and I all knew about the vast network of trails this venue had of this nature, but never considered it as training, just child-like fun. So of course we decided the timing was right to check out how this year's frost heaves had changed these twisted trails.

As we skied along what I called the "rolly polies", I dwelled on the disappointment that I wouldn't get to force my classic technique into shape on the race course against my competitors. My teammates understand that classic technique is something that I seem to have to learn from square one every year. It progresses to a satisfactory level, I get one great race in and then the snow melts.

There were places on this trail that the ground was so lumpy that one would have to kick with one's left foot, glide 2 metres, kick with the right, then glide another disproportionate distance just to get kick again. For those who are accustomed to beautifully groomed trail, these trails are an exercise in frustration. But for us, it was a chance to taste of XC skiing's more traditional history, and more importantly, a method to accelerate our technique improvement.

The descents were also lumpy, narrow and demanded light and quick step-turns. Some of us were caught off guard, descending with straightened legs and thus ejected into a gracious nordic pole vault into the snow. Yes, it was technique learning at it's best.

Even when we reached flat hard ground, the trail was off camber, forcing us to meet the snow's demands. Other times, the track would be soft and loamy when we crossed the swamps, prompting us to again change our kicking style.

Once we rejoined the race course's groomed trail, I'm sure all of us were skiing differently. I know I was. It prompted me to wonder what would've benefited me more, the race, or this pleasant diversion?

 
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