Nordic racing is intimidating for some. But it can also be extremely enjoyable and a great way to push your limits. We recently sat down with David Baldwin, a Colorado native who lives in Crested Butte. David has been Nordic skiing for over three years but decided to dip his toe in Nordic racing this year and doesn’t plan to look back. In his first year, David competed in 4-5 Nordic races and a couple of ski mountaineering races. We spoke with David about his inaugural year of racing, why you should try XC racing, and tips to get started.
David does not consider himself to be a highly competitive athlete. But he also insists you don’t have to be to enjoy Nordic racing! “With a Nordic race, even if you aren’t super competitive you can go out and have a good day and get a good workout. It’s a good challenge and you end up pushing yourself in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise.”
David experienced the classic feelings of intimidation when he started but his time spent on a bike helped him prepare. “There’s a lot to learn,” said David, “the technique, all sorts of tricks for a mass start race. I did a lot of bike racing in my 20’s so a lot of that transfers.”
But when it comes to Nordic racing, you can take it at your own pace and enjoy the experience without the need for it to be highly competitive. David says, “It’s less intimidating than bike racing- you can do your own thing a little bit in Nordic racing. In a bike race, if you get dropped off the back drafting is a huge part of that and your day is pretty much over.”
For your first time, you may find peace of mind in not going it alone. “Find someone at a Nordic center that can help you and take a class,” recommends David. “Find a friend that can give you some tips for that first mass start race. A lot of it is finding the right people to hype you up to try it.”
As David prepares for his second year of Nordic racing, he will hop back on his trusty bike to cross train. “Skate skiing and cycling have a lot of aerobic overlap- one feeds into the other. I feel the racing I did put me in good shape for biking this spring and it will probably have the same effect going into Nordic in the fall.”
Does David have any goals for year two of racing?
“I am still relatively new so I want to work on my technique. I had a lot of fun doing some of the longer endurance races. I also want to try a hybrid race like the Grand Traverse.” The Grand Traverse in Crested Butte challenges participants with a combination of skiing, running, and mountain biking. ‘
David adds, “Right now I am grasping to the last strands of winter by biking out to find the last bit of snow to ski on.”
Don’t let the clocks, competition, or crowds scare you away from giving Nordic racing a shot. Take David’s advice, “Go out and take whatever gear you have and go do it. Don’t fall into the trap of saying I don’t want to race or I don’t want to get faster even if you feel like it’s not for you. See if there is something you can glean from it because there are a lot of benefits."
Photo credit Xavier Fane