I’ll admit that I’ve been avoiding long rollerski intervals at Heath’s Bridge. Mostly because they haven’t fit my work schedule. But also because I was afraid my form was far behind where I needed to be, and behind the other skiers in particular. There’s nothing quite as demoralizing as watching guys slowly — or rapidly, in some cases — pull away while I’m struggling just to hold my form together and not crack or cramp up.
The fact of the workout hung over my head throughout the day. I was tired from running around at work. Tired from the previous day’s intervals on the bike trainer. Plus, I was all jacked up on coffee which was contributing to the nervous feeling and competing with my body’s fatigue for attention. At some point, I was going to crash and I was only hoping that it wouldn’t happen before the workout. As I drove the backroads through Sudbury and Concord, caught in after school traffic, I was getting stressed and wondering why I do this to myself. Rushing around, squeezing in workouts in the in-between hours, the crack of dawn or dark of night. With a whole upcoming winter of this to look forward to.
But then I was on the rollerskis and warming up with my teamates, Frank and Andy. We did 5 intervals on the twisting, undulating, pine cone and needle covered roads, alternating between full skate technique and no-poles skate. On the first hill of the first interval, my heart rate was pegged, but we all stayed together. On the second interval, without poles, my legs were locking up. I was really feeling the bike intervals…and the hillbounding from the day before…and the core strength, with a paricular focuson the legs, the day before that. I felt ragged and sloppy. I was slapping my ski hard against the road and dumping lots of energy. My weight was too far back. I focused on my form and kept making fine adjustments while Frank pulled away. There is some secret combination of weight transfer, impulse and body position that I haven’t quite unlocked for no-pole skate. Not yet, at least. Full technique, I felt better and better through the workout.
By the final interval, Frank, Andy and I were skiing in a tight group, on the backs of eachother’s skis. Just like the Tuesday Night races at Weston. These guys are my “competition” but they’re also my training partners. We train hard. We race hard. We force one another to be a little bit better, a little stronger, each time; then we laugh and smile about it aftewards.
On the cool-down, I thought about how great it was to be training with these guys, how they had saved my life, in a sense, after my son died, by giving me something to focus on. How simply and purely happy I was to be there, with them, on a classic New England autumn afternoon at Heath’s Bridge.