On Saturday I went roller skiing in preparation for challenge number 3, the Engadin cross country ski marathon. Don't worry, no one else has ever heard of it either. Sarah and I are doing it together, along with 13,000 other competitors in March next year.
We've both been skiing before. In fact, Sarah is an awesome skier, but neither of us have done any cross country skiing. We'd done a bit of research on the sort of training we should do. Apparently, if you can't get skiing on snow roller skiing is the next best thing. Conveniently there are regular courses in Hyde Park, so we both signed up for a 2 hour taster session.
It turns out roller skiing is a lot like cross country skiing. Just a lot less cool. Actually, I'm not sure I can think of a way to look less cool in public on a Saturday morning.
When we turned up we had virtually no idea what to expect. We soon met up with our instructor who handed us bike helmets, knee pads, boots, roller skis and polls. We kitted up and waddled nervously towards a flat section of tarmac by the Serpentine lake. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday so needless to say we had an audience. Great. I'll tell you now, there are zero style points for roller skiing.
We actually started off with just one foot in a roller ski and one foot out so we could get used to the feeling of gliding. At least that's what we were supposed to be feeling. If I'm honest, it felt a lot more like falling with grace (or lack of). Anyway, we both persisted with it as much as we could, scooting up and down a few times before swapping legs. It's a lot harder than it looks! You have to focus on keeping your foot flat and trust yourself to balance and glide for as long as you can before putting your foot down and pushing off again.
Once we'd mastered that we were allowed to put both roller skis on(!). We then did the same exercise skating up and down next to the lake. I was never a great roller blader when I was younger. It turns out I'm an even worse roller skier. Whilst Sarah glided gracefully ahead making the whole thing look easy I was left flailing behind. So much so that at one point both my legs decided to go in opposite directions. I ended up doing the splits and when my legs wouldn't go any further I proceeded to face planted forwards. Naturally, a big group of tourists happened to be walking past, but I was glad I could provide the crowds some level of entertainment.
As we progressed through the session we were eventually given poles which actually made the whole thing a lot easier mainly because I could now balance!
I asked our instructor to take a few photos, for comedy value more than anything else (don't say I don't spoil you). It wasn't an easy task as she was pretty serious and surprisingly was more focussed on the roller skiing than content for my blog. Outrageous! 😂
At the end of the session, despite having lost virtually all street cred (but clearly we don't care about that!) we'd learnt the basics of cross country skiing. Hurrah!
We also had our eyes opened to just how much we still had to learn if we were going to make it round 26 miles on cross country skis. So we're going back for more. Five times more in fact as we've enrolled into the beginner course starting in January. Wish us luck!