Right now I’m having similar feelings to the ones I had before I jumped through a hole in the ice and into Lake Okabena.
Before jumping in, I very well knew that in a set amount of time, I would be submerged in an icy cold lake. I grew very anxious beforehand and worked myself up about it days in advance, despite the fact that the act itself would only take a few seconds.
The current issue on my mind isn’t quite the same, but I’m getting the same feelings.
On Sunday, I will strap cross-country skis onto my feet and navigate a snowy trail over a 35 km distance. This is very much a fact – I paid my $80 entry fee for the privilege, turning back would be foolish.
Yet knowing this reality and getting myself ready for it are two very different things.
To start off with, I have no way of knowing that I am actually capable of skiing 35 km – including up hills, and over frozen lakes. In my entire lifetime, I have traveled maybe 2 km on cross-country skis. Not a lot of a sample size to draw any great deductions from about my skiing ability.
At least I finally have skis.
I went to Finn Sisu in St. Paul, a specialty cross-country ski – and sauna – store, where I was fitted with a pair of skis, boots and poles. Cost most of two weeks worth of pay for the entire package, though I did choose some of the spendier options in the process (you can buy quality equipment for less than half of what I paid).
I figured that a good Norwegian needs good equipment, and if my grandfather found out I wasn’t being a good Norwegian, he would no doubt feel compelled to reeducate me…
So there you have it. I got to the store and purchased my equipment, so now I should be ready to ski, right?
Not so fast. There is a critical step in the process that must first be observed.
And no – my leg hair is staying where it is. The wax is for my skis.
For anyone without any knowledge of cross-country skiing, your face may be displaying a bit of a puzzled look at this stage. But waxing is in fact an essential ritual for all cross-country skiiers – like myself.
I won’t embarrass myself by pretending that I know the science of it, but the basic idea is that you need to fill the pores on the base of your skis with wax to maximize your potential to glide across the snow. There is some sort of chemical reaction that takes place – I’ll see if I can provide more detail than that after I’ve been skiing a while longer (I haven’t yet even tried out my new skis). There are different types of waxes you use for different types of snow, and depending on if your doing “skate” or “classic” skiing.
Luckily, I have a cousin that worries about this sort of stuff for me.
My cousin – Jordan Meyer, a member of the Southwest High School ski team in Minneapolis – applied the base layer of oil and wax on my skis and then showed me how to apply further layers.
First,you mount a single ski with the bottom facing upward on a ski bench and clamp it in place.
Then, you choose the type of wax. We went with a blue wax (as opposed to purple, teal, or a number of other colors).
You then drip hot wax onto the base of the ski (melted using a special iron) and smooth out the wax with the iron, being careful not to burn the base of the ski (which would be a tragic ending to my heavy investment).
Then, after all that, you go ahead and scrape all of the wax off. The idea is that some wax will stay in the pores of the (very porous) base of your skis.
This is by far the longest part of the process. First, you use a rectangular piece of plastic to scrape off as much wax as you can. Then you use a copper-bristled brush to remove the harder to reach wax. Then a nylon-bristled brush. Then a softer brush, if you have one.
Then you do the same thing all over again for your second ski.
The result is a glossy surface on the base of your ski – ready to hit the snow. Skiiers – like myself – will have to apply new wax multiple times during the winter, especially if -like myself – they are participating in races.
So where do I stand now? I have skis that are ready to use, but haven’t yet used them. Yes, the race is in five days.
I have been having problems deciding where to attempt to ski around Worthington. The nearest designated cross-country trails I have found through an internet search appear to be in Spirit Lake, Iowa, though of course there is enough snow around that there are plenty of suitable areas to ski.
I just hope I don’t get hit by a snowmobile.
I will further update this blog as the day of the race draws nearer. Stay tuned.
Hopefully I’ve actually gotten on my skis before then.