Friday, February 29, 2008

Lousy timing

Part of my preparation for this trip has been to think differently.

Not just about taking a Nordic ski trip when our best buddies--Jeff & Carrie--are in Whistler whooping it up gliding downhill and giving in to gravity. But this ole word mason has had to do some math.

First of all, converting miles into meters, or rather kilometers. Over and over I wrestle with the distances we'll have to travel daily--46 to 84 k. Yikes. That's roughly 28 to 52 miles a day on my legs. . .certainly more miles than I put on my car.

And then there's the temperature, converting Fahrenheit into Celsius. Panu wrote today from Oivanki near Kuusamo that the temperature this morning was -20 c which equals -4 f. A bit chilly, but we know how to dress.

And then there's the issue of converting currency--not just where to do it--but where to get the best exchange rate?

After a Public Radio story this morning I wish we could skip that part. We don't need to know two days before departure that the euro has hit an all time high against the dollar, 1.52 to a greenback. I can see Ron's expression, shaking his head, thinking about losing such a hefty percentage of his buying power.

Dang. What lousy timing to travel abroad.

So why would we go? And why now?

Because, to my knowledge, no where else on the planet can you actually ski a groomed track across a COUNTRY.

Leave it to the Finns.

We live in Marquette County in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a skier's paradise. And it has been for over a century. After all, we're home to the US National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Yoopers (that's what we call folks who live in Michigan's U.P.) grow up with a passion for the outdoors and skiing and it's why we have miles of groomed trails that in the summer turn into world class mountain biking. But even as fanatical as we are about adventuring under our own power, we don't have a trail that crosses our county from end to end. The closest we get is our annual Noquemanon marathon the last weekend in January when we groom a 51 k trail from Ishpeming to Marquette. That alone takes hundreds of hours for an army of volunteers to prepare. . .I can only imagine what a 440 k trail from the Russian border to the Swedish border must entail.

Once again, leave it to those Finns.

And to top it off, this is the 25Th anniversary of the Rajalta Rajalle Hiihto. When I stop to think, that means they've been doing this week long event for longer than I've been a mother. Even before cell phones. (Yes, Virginia, there was a time when you went out in the woods to explore WITHOUT a telephone. )

Granted, this may not be the most cost effective ski vacation Ron and I have ever taken, but I'm banking that traveling at a steady rate of return this 440 k will deposit some very rich memories in our "long term" savings account.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ski skeletally

As this journey gets closer the encouraging messages from family and friends are like warm hugs of confidence. Susan Brian, an amazing skier here in Marquette, sent me a note saying, " If it gets tough, think of me, telling you, 'Frida…relax, focus on your technique, don’t use your arms too much, ski skeletally….and smile ‘cause, after all, you’re skiing!'”

That word "skeletally" jumped.

Jeannie Thoren used that word too last Sunday when we were skiing with our husbands at the Blueberry Trails.

Jeannie has spent her career helping women ski better by changing alpine equipment to work with the female body. Years back she convinced me a heel lift in my boot, foot beds, and moving my binding forward would improve my downhill skiing. She was right. I had more control. And I've been sold ever since. Now, thanks to her encouragement, I'm making the shift in my Nordic gear too.

Here she is with her Hot Pink Heel Lifts for Women on Skinny Skis.

Because Nordic ski boots (particularly my Salomon classics) are so shallow, there's no room to insert a heel lift under the foot bed. We had to go more drastic. So last Monday Jeannie's husband Tom Haas put the 1/2 inch heel lifts under my binding.

It's a little nerve wracking to make changes so late in the game, especially when I've got such long miles ahead, but just in the short time I tried Jeannie's skis I could tell the new position was getting my weight forward. My heels didn't feel like they were in the backseat.

So girlfriends, check where the heel of your boot lands in relationship to the camber on the ski. If it lands where the ski starts to slope down (mine did) and folks are always telling you to get forward, (I've been there) maybe you need a heel lift too to help "skeletally" transfer your weight to the fronts of your skis.

It's all about improving kick and glide.

Jeannie & Tom are known for "secret weapons" but none of us want it to be secret. Like Jeannie and Tom I want ALL women to enjoy skiing even more.

The epoxy is dry so I'm heading out to do the test.

A week away

A week from today we begin skiing.

How did this happen so quickly?

Last night our local WLUC-TV 6 did a story on our journey. You can see the broadcast piece at

Tomorrow Dr. Mike Orhanen and Georgeanne Nikula fly to Helsinki. Amy & Lyle Michaels, Jo Samuelson along with Ron and I will fly out Sunday night. Kelly Stahl and Jeff Shipkey leave on Monday, March 3. We'll all meet up Wednesday night in Kuusamo for the pre-trip meeting. That's also where we will meet the other skiers in our group.

I'm brushing up on my Finn listening to CD's of dialogue while driving. I know the most important word, "Apua." I learned that in 2003 when my daughter Eryka and I went to Finland for the Suomi Meloo kayak relay. It was written on the bottom of a kayak. It means HELP!