I’m so tired of the cold and snow this time of the year that it’s surprising to me that I’m at all interested in watching the Olympics. But the fact that it only comes around once every four years always wins, and I’ve been a dedicated and committed Olympics fan this year. (Also rooting for Bob Costas’ eye recovery; Jenn and I have both had our fair share of eye infections so we have deep sympathy for him while giggling about it. Bob: We feel your pain! Or not-pain. Eye infections go both ways!)
I’ve loved watching figure skating, even though I fail epically at identifying jumps, no matter how hard I try. I even studied this gif guide to figure skating jumps and am sad to report it did not help even a little bit. I’ve loved the snowboarding events; I’ve loved the downhill skiing events. I love the intensity and suspense of speed skating. And, of course, I’ve loved all the back stories and commercials that make me cry. (Those commercials this year that go backwards in time? Tear!)
But there is one event that I watch utterly dumbfounded. Nope, it’s not luge or bobsled or skeleton. It’s not even ski jumping or curling. It’s any of the cross-country skiing events.
I love to ski. And as someone who skis (occasionally), I’ve gone through the beginner trials and tribulations of learning to ski on beginner hills and easy greens. The problem when you’re just learning to ski — and when you’re skiing flatter hills — is that occasionally you hit a stretch of flat mountain without enough speed to get to the next downhill portion. This can happen on lots of slopes actually, or near the bottom of a mountain — you’ll be indecisive about which lift you’re hitting next, lose momentum and then have to pull and walk yourself wherever you’re going. If you’ve ever had to get your ski-bunny self 100 yards to another location without momentum, you know what I’m talking about. It takes every bit of energy you’ve got to “cross-country ski” your butt there. Granted, my technique is horrible, and cross-country skiiers have different skis and way better form, but I have had that ever-so-small glimpse into what it must be like to ski uphill and to ski flat surfaces. It is beyond hard, and as far as endurance events go, these cross-country distance events have to be up there in terms of difficulty. In fact, you know how those cross-country pros collapse when they cross the finish line? It says a lot about a sport when your body can’t even manage to stay upright after finishing a race!
I’m sure I’ll always prefer to ski down a mountain; even with gravity and momentum on your side, skiing is a crazy workout. But I’d probably give cross-country skiing a shot if given the opportunity. I’d love to see how much of a difference the right skis make — and I’d love confirmation that cross-country skiing has got to be the toughest winter event out there!
Does your jaw drop when you watch those skiiers do distance? Were you rooting for Bob’s big comeback, too? —Erin