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Skiing

Too out of shape for the Tour of Anchorage? Go for the bib, not the gold

Groomers work on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail on Thursday. The Tour of Anchorage cross-country ski race, which uses the trail, is Sunday. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Anchorage just enjoyed the biggest and best (depending on who you ask) snowfall of the entire winter. Daylight is returning at the lightning speed of five minutes per day, and the skiing is arguably the best it's been in five years. I will be racing the Tour of Anchorage this weekend completely out of shape, and I would like to invite you to join me.

You see, this town is full of outdoor enthusiasts and closet athletes. However, many of these people are also perfectionists and don't dare enter races because they are never "ready" or "in shape."

I know this type well. They are typically good at everything they do: work, family, social life. The thought of doing anything subpar or "just because" probably makes their stomachs queasy, and the mere thought of their name being published in the paper with a result anything less than their best may repulse them.

But my question for them (you!) is this: if not now, then when?

It seems to me the longer you go without putting on a bib, the harder it is to put one on in the future. Also, as you get older, free time rarely increases due to increased responsibilities with work and family.

I am a new mom of infant twins and a new business owner, thus I know this concept intimately. There is rarely enough time to prioritize my own fitness — there is always an email to return or a baby to feed.

My life now is vastly different than my previous one. As a professional athlete I used to work out six days a week, often twice a day. I was in shape! Today life is much different and I aspire to play 60 minutes everyday (thanks, Healthy Futures!) but often go days with no formal workout whatsoever.

Holly Brooks skis the women’s 15K race at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (Nathaniel Herz / ADN)

As an Olympian (who is a perfectionist with insanely high standards), it would be really easy for me to never race again because I will never be at the level I once was. I could easily save myself the embarrassment of slow times, bad technique and tight spandex. Upon retirement from sport, many Olympians never compete again because either they're over it or, let's be honest, their egos can't handle it.

Instead I'm making an intentional decision to race — to show people that Olympians are human just like everyone else. I need to practice what I preach and model the fact that there is immense value in participating at a less than perfect standard. My focus will be on the process and the experience of skiing rather than the quantifiable result.

Besides, I think that a long ski or a sub-par race effort has immediate return on investment. I may not have time to play every day, but a slow race for me is worth at least 15 mediocre workouts. The boost I will get in fitness will be worth it alone.

You have to start somewhere, and that somewhere could be this weekend. Whether you're a postpartum mom wanting to get back in shape or an aspiring recreationalist, this is a great opportunity. Or, if you're not a skier, this concept is easily transferable to any experience you might encounter.

Experiences are often what you make of them. The Tour of Anchorage could, in many ways, be just that: a Tour. There is no other time of year when this trail will be perfectly groomed, when all of the tunnels will be filled with snow, when people will volunteer to stand on the course offering food and drink, when others will cheer you on.

Seriously, what could be better? Last year there was a fantastic beer garden and macaroni and cheese waiting at the finish line. Sign me up!

So, I invite you to join me. Let's not let the fear of not being good enough keep us from doing the things we love. At the end of the day, we'll be better for it.

Holly Brooks is a two-time Olympic skier from Anchorage. She competed in the 2010 Vancouver Games and the 2014 Sochi Games.

Tour of Anchorage registration

Online registration runs through 10 p.m. Thursday.

In-person late registration is available at APU's Moseley Sports Center on Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Skiers who sign up at these events won't be seeded in the appropriate wave.

The race is Sunday. The 50K begins at 9:30 a.m. at Service High; the 40K begins at 10:30 a.m. at Service High; the 25K classic begins at 11 a.m. at APU and the 25K freestyle begins at noon at APU. All races end at Kincaid Park.

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