Racing a champion
By Marlene Farrell
My daughter, Alice, beat an Olympian the other day.
It might be hard to imagine a girl just over a decade old trouncing a four-time Olympian, but that’s what she did.
What does it matter that it was all in her head?
That day we were at the Icicle River Trailhead in Leavenworth, getting ready for a family skate ski. My son, Quentin, and I were still getting skis out of the car and slipping on mittens when Alice snapped her boots into her bindings. She was off to ski the 1-kilometer loop we call Bessie’s Barn loop.
An impressively short time later she was back, with flushed cheeks, hair flying and a bit tangled, and bursting with a story to tell.
The tourists and pedestrian skiers that she passed never knew a thing, but for that 1 kilometer Alice was locked in a fierce ski battle with none other than Torin Koos (if you live in the Wenatchee Valley and don’t know who Torin Koos is, let me educate you—he’s one of the finest athletes to come from our region, and he represented the USA in Salt
Lake City, Torino, Vancouver and Sochi in cross country skiing events, specializing in sprints).
In Alice’s words, “It was a mass start of only two people, but we still double-poled at first. Then I started skating. After a little while I double-poled in the track. Torin wanted to take it easy on me so he double-poled too. I went as fast as I could …”
I could imagine it. Alice, when she wants to, can ski with a forward lean not unlike a mountain lion on the attack. Her pace is a rapid-fire pole, glide, pole, glide, pushing through her core as she zips by with smooth movements. It’s a style that gets her noticed by strangers who shake their heads and ask, “Exactly how long have you been skiing?”
Alice continued, “I was so good at double-poling that I mesmerized Torin Koos, and he couldn’t keep up.” She said her strategy was to double-pole the flats and skate the slight hills. “The finish, well, I just blew him away. He tried to lunge for the line and fell. His face crossed the line but not his boot.”
It was all so crystal clear.
The three of us went on to ski relaxed, and we chatted along the way. For the whole ski, Alice made it look effortless. Her story — her fantasy race — delighted her as much as it did me. Although my kids grump and groan now and then when putting on their ski boots, they’ve skied so many kilometers now that they move like veterans.
Why not picture edging out a champion for the gold? Maybe we all should do that now and then — whether it’s a ski or a run — feeding our dreams of what is possible. Maybe it adds a bit of fun to our routine, especially on the trails and paths we know so well.
I know it works for Alice.
At the end of our ski, she got ahead and didn’t hear me call to her. Later, as we were putting our skis back in the car, she said, “Sorry. I couldn’t stop. I was in another race, this time against Kikkan Randall.”
Marlene Farrell is a writer, long-distance runner and coach. She lives in Leavenworth.