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Choosing Your First Cross-country Ski Race

Race Resources Monday, August 5, 2019

Feeling fast? Want more cowbell in your life? It might just be time to start racing. Nordic ski expert Nathan Schultz shares how to set yourself up for success.

Set a goal that is attainable.

“If you’ve never skied more than 30 minutes, don’t opt for a 32K,” says Schultz. “Find a distance and a course that’s a challenge but doable.”

But if you have to go big, go small first.

“If you have friends dragging you to a big event like the Birkie, it’s good to get a few smaller events under your belt so you get a feel for the process. If it’s your first race, you want something low pressure where failure won’t be devastating.” Or expensive. Or embarrassing.

If you can, keep it local.

“You want to make things as easy as possible—easy to travel to, easy to access, somewhere you can get support from friends.” Local series and weekly series are good places to start and just get out there to hack around with some friends and then build up to bigger events.

Better yet, stay home.

“If you can race at your own center, that’s helpful. You’ll know the course, logistics, parking and the like, and you won’t have to pre-ski the course.”

Give yourself snow time.

“You’ll want at least 2 to 3 weeks of on-the-snow time before you schedule your first race, so think about that when you pull the trigger.”

 If snow time is scarce, train smart.

“If you can’t be on snow, roller skiing would be the best; ski bounding, hiking with poles are all good as well. You’re trying to get the most ski-specific workouts you can. Intensity is also important.

In order to race well, race often.

“Say you want to do the Birkie; you’ll want to race as much as possible before it, because racing is great for fitness, and gets you in shape even better than just intensity workouts. It’s hard to get that physiological stress any other way, so those races really make you stronger. A race simulation will never quite be the same/as motivating as real race. Because there’s no cowbell.”

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