Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Nordic para style

A month or so ago I received an invitation. It came at a time when things were piling on top of each other on the calendar and I was just about to leave for Cuba. I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to make it work, but I knew that I needed to try. This was my chance to learn how it all worked, if I was capable and if I really wanted it. It is being back on skis. The invitation was for a dryland training camp for Para Nordic skiing. It was a weekend St. Catherine's, meeting at the YMCA and using the Welland Canal trail to ski on. Being at the Y at 8:30 am required a couple of overnights so I decided to take a traveling companion with me - someone who also loves to ski.

Michele Studhalter and I. Sporting our matching buffs - thanks Erin :)
Michele is one of my former student athletes. Freshly graduated from Laurier Business she has found herself a position as a marketing specialist in the start-up soaked city of Waterloo. She also has some serious training goals - competing in the Mt. Tremblant Ironman this August. So when I picked her up in Waterloo she piled all of her training gear, including her bike and her roller skis, into my car. Off we went, in the rain and the wind, all the way to Niagara where the fruit trees were all full of blossoms - so beautiful.

Michele has always been my video girl - when she was on the team at Madill we always had great end of the year videos to celebrate with. She has since upgraded to using a gopro - which was exciting and here is the YouTube of what she put together.

In true Nordic Skiing style we were out in all weather. The first day was, shall we say, damp? After that it got a bit nicer, but I was reminded about the difference wind makes - best to start with it in your face and return with it at your back - not the other way around!

Just like downhill skiing, Nordic requires a sit-ski that attaches with a regular ski binding to the skis. If you look carefully you will see a couple of different sit-skis that I used over the weekend. None of them were actually designed for me or fit me properly...so make-shift materials were used. The duct-tape is the most obvious but you may also see a car seatbelt, foam from a floor mat, a pool noodle, foam pipe insulation and lots of velcro. Red Green eat your heart out.

The tighter the bucket is attached to the user, all the better for maneuverability. In order to make turns  you almost need to throw your body in the direction you want to go, lifting your skis up off the surface (pavement in the case of roller skis or tracks in the case of snow). This was the part that I found quite difficult and I was grateful for all the coaches (especially Michele) who were there to keep me going in a relatively straight line. The second day I skied while seated in my wheelchair (instead instead of the sit ski) it was much easier for me to go where I wanted.

The best part was the feeling. Strapping on ski poles and just going. It was like coming home - hard to explain. With very few exceptions I have skied every winter since I was three or four. Not knowing if I would get back to it or not, this weekend was very revealing for me. I saw what others were able to do given the limitations their bodies had placed on them. I met women the same age as me who were not just skiing, but also kayaking! I completed a baseline endurance test on the ski erg (like an upright rower). I also got to be coached rather than be the coach (which at times was tricky!) Having someone to guide me, remind me to breath, the importance of rest and giving me permission to do so. It was so welcoming.

I came home with a new perspective, an understanding that I can push my body a little bit harder than I have been. If it were possible I'd say that I had a spring in my step. Michele and I both made new friends and connections - not just to skiing but to other sports and to our shared interests in coaching. It was like I was returning to a family that I had been away from for a long time, and I hope that I will be able to see them all again soon.

Speaking of perspective, Michele writes her own blog, and it just so happens we were thinking along the same lines! Michele's Blog

I'm not sure where this will all lead me, but you know I am going to try it again - even on snow :)

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