GeneralNewsTrainingThe World’s Great Age Begins Anew: Athletes Mark May 1

Gavin Kentch Gavin KentchMay 7, 2019
David Norris (APU) and Luke Jager (University of Utah) (very small skiers on trail in background) ski up Archangel Road, Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska, on May 1, 2019. (photo: Gavin Kentch)
David Norris (APU) and Luke Jager (University of Utah) (very small skiers on trail in center background) ski up Archangel Road, Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska, on May 1, 2019. (photo: Gavin Kentch)

If you’re reading this website, you’re probably well aware that the nordic skiing training year begins on May 1. In a sport where most races happen between November and March, and demand of athletes that they repeatedly race to the point of nearly losing consciousness, the preparation for race season had better start a long time before that. As the well-worn, but accurate, saying has it, skiers are made in the summer.

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Embracing the start of May – either May 1 per se, or a conveniently located Monday a few days on either side of that date – as Skier’s New Year is nothing new. Indeed, here’s Luke Bodensteiner, at the time a struggling Olympic hopeful, in the opening lines of his book Endless Winter: An Olympian’s Journal, describing a training day 26 years ago this week: “Monday, May 3: Salt Lake City, Utah. This is it. Training begins today for the 1994 ski racing season. The focus this year is on the Winter Olympics to be held in Norway in February, but the season won’t end until the final races are over in April. … It isn’t like I ever really stopped training, but now instead of pick-up basketball and soccer, back-country alpine skiing and the odd midnight kayak trip with my roommates, training has to get serious. … My little black wristwatch suddenly rules my day.”

Or here’s a notably ambitious Cory Smith, in the ur-skier blog “Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion,” writing on April 26, 1999, while acknowledging that he was doing so five days earlier than custom and generic expectation would suggest: “April 26: Yes, I know that it is still April, but I am writing in my May journal. That is because today is the official start of the 1999-2000 training year. To preserve a sense of continuity it is just easier to assume that May is the first month of the year and squeeze a couple extra April days into the month. I hope this doesn’t screw up your crop planting or biological clock or anything. So what did I do to kick off the year? I went for a run. I know, it’s not very exciting, but you have to start somewhere. Besides, I am only supposed to be training 8-12 hours per week this month, so I shouldn’t do too much the first day. But at last I am underway and ready to prepare for an even better winter next year.”

Or here’s Noah Hoffman, writing on April 30, 2014, in a post entitled, “Start of the Training Year”: “Today was my first scheduled training day of the year. … I started my two hour double pole outdoor roller ski session (Double poling is the only outdoor roller skiing I’m allowed to do right now.) before 7 a.m.” (And here’s the follow-up, from May 1: “I am SORE today! Yesterday was my first real training day of the year. It was all upper body based (with a two hour double pole and strength), and now I can barely lift my arms.”)

While Instagram has largely replaced blogs (or a book (!)) as the platform of choice, the message has changed far less than the medium: Early May is perpetually a time for new beginnings, new hopes, big plans, and maybe a self-effacing crack about being out of shape or needing to go find one’s rollerskis. Here is a look at how an unscientifically selected group of athletes marked the occasion online, with the only emphasis being on athletes who were posting about new training rather than about new sponsors (corporate sponsors being more characteristic of European skiers than their impoverished American counterparts):

Rosie Brennan, APU (also Hailey Swirbul and Sadie Bjornsen): Crust skiing in Alaska

Caitlin Patterson, Craftsbury Green Racing Project: Backcountry skiing in Montana

Tyler Kornfield, APU: Trail running in Alaska

Caitlin Gregg, Team Gregg/Madshus: Winning a ski race in Iceland

Hannah Halvorsen, APU: Nordic skiing in California

Joanne Firesteel Reid, U.S. Biathlon A Team: Learning how to run again in Colorado

Federico Pellegrino, Italy: Crust skiing in Italy

Jonna Sundling, Sweden: Season highlights from 2018/2019

Astrid Jacobsen, Norway: Logging the year’s first track session

Charlotte Kalla, Sweden: Announcing her scholarship for local juniors

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, Norway: Singing light opera

Didrik Tønseth, Norway: 8 x 1km on the track

(per Strava link in bio: splits of 3:06, 2:59, 2:56, 2:55, 3:01, 2:59, 2:57, 3:03, with 80-90 seconds recovery. 2:55/km is a 4:42 mile pace, for those of us who measure skiing in km but running in mi. And what were you doing at 8:47 a.m. Saturday morning?)

Andrew Musgrave, Great Britain: City sprint festival in Norway

… and last but not least:

Honorable mention: Stina Nilsson, Sweden, April 24, sitting on a beach in Greece

Gavin Kentch

Gavin Kentch

Gavin Kentch is a lifelong Alaskan. He skis with the Alaska Pacific University Masters team in Anchorage, plays with his two adorable daughters, and occasionally works as a solo attorney. He has a cat named Marit. He was probably on snow this year before you were.

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