Kikkanimal kicks it in NY

Olympic cross-country ski champion Kikkan Randall finished today’s NYC marathon in a bit under three hours. See NBC Sports. She ran with fellow former US Ski Team members Liz Stephen and Ida Sargent.

(NBC Sports photo)

One of the things that’s most impressive is her calm and reserved public manner. Maybe she’s hyper-focused and goal-oriented all the time or perhaps she’s a private person. In any case, it’s refreshing.

Runners World has a nice article about her journey to today.

More about Kikkan in her website.

För framtids segrar

Photograph by Nisse Schmidt / Vasaloppet

All winter recreations owe their glory to the absence of friction

Bill McKibben

Back in February I pointed to an NPR story about Mora Minnesota and people helping to save their local Vasaloppet. This week comes an article in the New Yorker by Bill McKibben, who participated in the actual Vasaloppet in Sweden. McKibben is a lifelong cross-country skier, and he’s also an environmentalist. As we all know, cross-country skiing depends on hitting the wax, which is a lot harder when weather becomes unpredictable.

Not only is winter affected. You may have heard multiple areas in Scandinavia had a drier and hotter summer in 2018, contributing to a remarkable series of forest fires:

As temperatures warm and winters shorten, traditions like the Vasaloppet (or the Iditarod) become ever more tenuous; friction tries relentlessly to reassert its claims

Bill McKibben

McKibben writes that the Vasaloppet, “like everything to do with ice and cold, is now under existential threat.” But he sees glimmers of hope.

He points out that funds and institutions are divesting from fossil fuel companies because their primary value is projected to decline. We know the US military regards climate change as a serious threat to operations and national security. Acknowledgement, acceptance, and action by big players with economic and political clout is crucial.

As is activism at the literal ground level. Masha Gessen, writing in the New Yorker last year, described a Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg and her protest to demand stronger efforts by the Swedish government in response to climate change. Thunberg’s steadfastness has generated a groundswell of support among students globally.

Yet even progressive governments shy away from acting with urgency. The stakes of climate change are much greater than merely the risk to the status quo or a recreational activity. We are already inducing an unnaturally rapid shift in the climate that all living things have called ‘normal’ for over 100,000 years. We don’t want to think we’re pushing Mother Nature toward a cliff, but we’d be wise not to wait and see how hard she pushes back.


“30s are brisk…”

… 20s are ‘cool’, teens are ‘chilly’, single digits are ‘cold’. You can only say ‘freezing’ when it’s subzero, and wind chill doesn’t count, because it’d be dumb to go outside nude in the wintertime. It’s a mantra that’s served me well.

I’m not alone in pushing back at the way weather reporting encourages a fear of normal winter weather. Viking Nordic’s Facebook feed recently posted a link to this article in Outside magazine:

Over-Hyped Weather Forecasts Are Bad for Skiing

Weather sites and reporters on weather events maximize attention by emphasizing risk and hazards. The article contends this is harmful to winter sports and the businesses that depend on them, and possibly to endeavors that require a measure of ruggedness.

Wasthington crossing Delaware in winter

“It’s like [reporters have] all been exiled to Vermont from some tropical paradise. Lots of them really seem to hate winter.”

Eric Friedman, marketing director at Vermont’s Mad River Glen

The article goes on to talk about how skiing is about having fun in the snow, but “We are far more risk averse today than we used to be.”

Cross-country skiing (at least until it goes exclusively into ski tunnels or on man-made snow), means we take what nature gives us. The activity involves moving parts that are loosely attached. What with weather, equipment, and coordination, at any moment we can have an ‘uff-da’ realization (oy vey! for Noo Yawkas).

And with that I sugue into a second mantra that serves me well:

“je ne regrette rien”

The cross-country skier has to enjoy the totality of the experience, not just the moments we feel mastery and competence.

This YouTube video features the total opposite of that feeling. It’s an edit of crashes and pratfalls at a ski marathon in Estonia, in the middle of which a set of titles appear that seem to say: ‘can this really be happening?’

Losing your dignity is a feature, not a bug

At about the 11′ 30″ mark is a series of spills at what seems like a pretty innocuous corner, accompanied by heavy metal music. The conveyer-belt like stream of people going down brings to mind Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.

As in those old comedy movies, no one is seriously hurt- this is not extreme sport. The actual risk is to composure, and it’s funny because I identify with it: there are so many times I’ve looked (and probably felt) the same way. And like the skiers in the video, I shake it off, enjoy, and come back for more.

Cross-country skiing. A recreational activity in which losing your dignity is a feature, not a bug.