White Space

Lucinda Bliss, Pineland 1, pencil and watercolor on paper, 22" x 30"

Lucinda Bliss, Pineland 1, pencil and watercolor on paper, 22″ x 30″

On March 8th, I participated in the Bretton Woods nordic half marathon. As I wrote in My Visual Cue , it was my first Nordic race in 29 years, and I set out to enjoy the experience, not to compete. I have memories of brutal race experiences in high school, at Kimball Union, and I wanted to dip a toe back into the culture without jumping fully into the world of pain.

photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers

The majestic hotel set the stage for the race, as we queued up in the fields below. The Bretton Woods Nordic Center grooms 100k of trails, and I was eager to cover 21k of the gorgeous ups and downs.

I intentionally started in the middle of the pack, not wanting to get pulled out too fast. There was quite a bit of shuffling as the pack narrowed down to two sets of tracks.

photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers


photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers


At 4k in, I was having a blast (bib #197), and my wax was perfect, which made the hills a breeze. My form was pretty rusty, but at least I had forward momentum!

photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers

The issue of wax was significant in this race. A few days earlier, I’d received the following email with the official Swix waxing recommendations:

Pre Tune ski with Glide Wax Cleaner (I0084) to remove any contaminants in the base, wipe clean with Fiberlene (T0150).  LF05 or LF06 will be base layer for glide wax.  Race Wax will be HF08BW (25F to 39F)for 22km race, Marathon Wax Black for the 44km.
Powder will be FC78 Super Cera

VG35 Binder Ironed In
VR45 moving into VR50

If using mechanical grip skis be sure to apply Warm Rocket spray or F4 to Glide zones and kick zones.  Temps will approach freezing and potential for icing in kick zone is high.
Top Coat will be HVC Warm or Rocket Warm.

Panic shot through me as I read. I haven’t raced in a long time, and I couldn’t even interpret the email, much less follow the instructions. I forwarded the message to friend and wax wizard, Rick Chalmers, hoping he could help me relax and come up with a plan. He was sure it would be a klister day, and said,  “Do you see snow in the trees? If not, stick with the klister!” The best skiers can double pole a marathon on rolling hills, but I would need a workable wax that would give me kick. The klister was perfect! Throughout the entire race, particularly after the 12k mark, skiers were talking wax. Some were calling out for waxing help from the edge of the course, manically trying to rub in some hard blue before jumping back into the tracks.  Even though I wasn’t “racing,”  my arms were shot by the half-way point, and I needed to take advantage of the leg strength I’d built up through the running season. That was only possible with wax left on my skis. At the finish, I was spent, but the skis could easily have done the full marathon!

Looking at photos of myself during this race has been an education, and humbling. For some reason, I expected to retain excellent form after 29 years away from the sport. After studying the pix, I have some clear goals in place for next year.

photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers

Developing upper body strength and putting in more hours on the trails are at the top of the list. If I’d had the strength, I could have double poled long sections of the trail; instead, I had to save my arms for long, flat stretches. I felt confident on the skis–my ski legs began to come back this year–now I can work on efficient form: keeping my body and arms straight, rather than twisting my body and letting my arms cross over.


photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers

As for double-poling technique, I was cocky about that. I’d always been strong in that area, and I thought I had it securely in my nordic toolkit. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be squatting over my skis at the finish! It’s easy to see how much energy I’m wasting by bending up and down, rather than using core strength to propel forward.

photo: Rick Chalmers

photo: Rick Chalmers




I finished the race in a hair under two hours, nearly being lapped by the full marathon winners. Though I was slow, I finished happy and eager for more, which seems the perfect way to re-enter the world of racing.



About lucindasrunningblog

Lucinda is an artist and teacher whose work focused on landscape and place. Bliss currently serves as Dean of Graduate Studies at Massachusetts College of Art and Design
This entry was posted in Art, Half Marathon, Uncategorized, X-C Skiing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to White Space

  1. gee vine says:


    this is no spectre in glacial crust,
    hung inside a warm saloon
    where noblesse oblige and harness bells
    jingle ’round a juke
    welcoming the downy[eyed] flake

    nor wharfing barf of fine linen,
    thrown upon a frieze of winterwhite tableau
    informing winter’s ghosts
    of icy terrors
    and Woden’s kommen wegen.

    Fu-uck No! mes amies.
    here lies the great lake’s scolding edge;
    Nature’s impress, stretching out
    beyond all visible horizons.
    O No
    no tugboat of faith survives
    this high himalayan mass
    tamped down and wedged
    into place;
    an ice chunk
    sculpted on Thor’s
    most storm torn anvil

    Oh how this frigus frigidum
    packs wall-lop.
    the blow of cold, stuns.

    blindsided, like great Ceasar
    my stuffings knocked out, numb to newer wounds—-
    i am
    but a speck in boots
    from our backdoor.

    with lilac-hued toes,
    an all-wiggling fact

    i answer
    ‘uhm…..scuba-diving….an existential sea…. my drear….with?’
    ‘oh, Ponce DeLeone…..Merleau Ponty, Sargeant Snorkel….usual low-lifes.’

  2. gee vine says:

    the dead of winter tremblin’ hula blues

    blusters of snow
    drifting into dunes
    dance along the frost frozen strand
    whirling where nude grass and sands,
    ribbed in ice, rippling underfoot
    cry-crinkle, weeping away in unison.
    singing out in their wintery voices
    this chill spray of windchimes
    combines with arctic air;
    shivering, feeling bone-cold naked
    I pass by the ice-stiffened remnant of a muumuu.

    tonight, at home with a comfy fire and a Buddha’s Best Tea steeping on the hearth,
    i will gift-wrap the memory of a warm wet kiss
    in crispy christmas papers and bow
    and next, gift-wrap the scandal [which is everything else…]

    two gifts;
    but just one
    to bury;
    entombing the one at dawn,
    beneath a broken-down swingset
    just below the hightide line,
    nearby a crack in the cosmic egg
    on that frost frozen strand.

  3. I did some XC skiing in high school &college and was never good at it. I think my mom paid for the lessons to try and keep me out of trouble.
    After watching the biathlon events at the Olympics recently, I’ve come to appreciate the sport again. I’m not a big fan o winter sports, but I may try a snow shoe “run” next winter.
    I think we forget that people do XC ski races. Most people don’t even think about running races unless they are stuck in traffic waiting for us to pass!
    Nice drawing also.
    Cheers – Andy

    • Thanks for your comments, and the compliment.

      I was totally captivated by the biathlon this year–that complete collapse at the finish was something to witness! If you’re interested in getting out in the snow, I recommend picking up some wooden skis at a garage sale and heading into the woods. I’ve been doing a lot of that to reacclimate; it’s low pressure and magical!

      • I still have my equipment. It’s just getting out there and doing it. Running takes up a lot of my free time on the weekends. I also have a number for Boston, so this year I avoided anything that may cause injury.
        Those biathlon races were great to watch. I’m sure NBC heavily edited the races, and that kept them more action packed.
        How about all of the wipe outs in the XC races? There was that one turn where lots of people fell. I don’t recall XC and biathlon being so captivating in past Olympics.

  4. Sally Howe says:

    Wonderful write up. Love the wax report. I use Toko wax. The system is simpler and the race recs are so much simpler you can actually do what they suggest.

    I think you’re hooked. Plan on Craftsbury next year, last weekend of Jan. it will be National Masters championships from AXCS with 5 year age groups, a 10k skate and the half marathon classic. Craftsbury is always a blast and this adds to it.

    Doing the upper body strength is a real drag for me which is why a training group is so helpful. Then there’s the roller skiing…

    Take care and enjoy the spring that’s finally emerging. Running in shorts soon. First bike ride today!

    Love, Sally Sent from my iPhone

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