Whistler Gold

It’s been a week of exciting racing out in Whistler for the 2013 Ski Nationals.  Clear, sunny skies that are perfect for giving you that surprise sunburn that is deftly drawn across your forehead along your hat/headband line and around your sunglasses.

That’s one reason why I’m glad my mum is here, to make sure I put on my sunscreen (things haven’t changed much since primary school, I just got taller.).  Another reason is that she makes some mean spaghetti – the one and only flawless pre-race meal, as every athlete knows.  It’s nice having my mum at races because she makes it feel more like home.  I don’t have to stress about not knowing how to turn on the weird stove, or what to do when it catches on fire.  I don’t have to panic because my carpool forgot to pick me up on race morning (that happened once), because my mum can drive us up to the race site.  She helps take care of all those little things, those mom things, because she knows it’s the kind of help I need.  So thanks mum, thanks for being there, and thanks for being my mom.

The nice weather isn’t only good for working on your tan, it makes the ski prep easier for the wax teams.  I couldn’t count the number of times this year where I’d be out for a ski and I would loop around to see my dad on the side of the trail testing hairies, zeros and klister, all getting ready for Nationals.  It’s been a constant fixation for him, trying to figure out how to make the skis work when the weather goes haywire.  We’ve both heard our share of horror stories and have seen first hand how fast the conditions can change out here in the Callaghan Valley.  One minute you’ve got slightly overcast skies, and 15 minutes later you’ve got 10cm of fresh snow on the ground and you’re standing on the line with klister on your skis… not awesome.

My dad has done so so so so so much for me, my brother and our whole team.  Like a lot of other ski parents, he’s prepared to get up at the crack of dawn to head up to the race site and work away in a claustrophobic little wax building, filled with toxic fumes and the faint aroma of Pav’s expresso machine drifting by the wax cabins before the sun rises and the racers arrive.  I’m not exactly sure how or why he does it, but I’m glad he does.  It’s probably one of those parent things that you only understand if you have kids. I don’t know.  So thanks dad, thanks for being there, and thanks for being my dad.

Before I get started on the play by play of each and every one of my races this week, a few more thanks are in order.

Thank you to Team Hardwood, my teammates, all the parent volunteers, the coaches – Ron & Patrick, and our other supporters.  Without you, this literally would not have been possible.  It takes a lot to run such a successful program and I appreciate everything everyone has done. So thanks, thanks for making this so real.

Thank you to my coaches, Jack and Pav.  You guys have both made such a difference in who I was when we met and who I am now (mostly for the better).  I have learned a lot about how to be a better skier, a better competitor and a better person from you.  So thank you, thanks for being there.

Thank  you to my sponsors; Salomon and Ski*Go (and mom & dad).  Without you I would probably still be using three-pins and bamboo poles or whatever I managed scrounge up at the local ski swap.  Thank you for your support, it means a lot to me and has given me the opportunity to continue to pursue my goals as a skier.  So thank you, thanks for being there, and thanks for giving me cool stickers.

Ski racing… Well it’s been a pretty crazy week.  I learned a lot this week, a lot of good things and a few things that were tough to swallow.  But I’ll start with the good things because I’m feeling optimistic right now!

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Nationals started off really well for Team Hardwood.  We picked up two medals on the first day of racing in the team sprints.  A silver by Mary and Erin in open women, and a bronze by me and Bella in challenge girls.  I think the team sprints are such a fun event and an awesome way to start off the week.  It would be really cool if they brought back the relay event.  I never got to do the 4 x 5km relays, but I think they should mix it up a bit.  It would definitely stir up those provincial rivalries.  Maybe they could do provincial relays and team sprints on an alternating basis or something…
Anyways, the team sprints were a lot of fun, three times around the 700m loop each was a quick go but more than enough to get me into a racing mood.

That racing mood carried over onto Sunday’s 5km interval skate race and I popped one of my best races this season.  One of my big goals this year was to win a medal at Nationals.  While winning one in the team sprint does technically count, I really wanted an individual medal more than anything.  So to win a team sprint bronze on day 1 and an individual gold on day 2 was pretty spectacular.  It was one of those races where, when I look back at it, things went right.  If you’ve ever had one of those races where everything seems to come together and you’re left with a bit of a dazed ‘how the heck did I manage that?’ look on your face when you check out the results board, then you probably know what I mean.  If not, then keep on racing, keep on working, keep on pushing until you find that flawless race, because it’s so worth it (okay so there isn’t such a thing as a truly flawless race, but sometimes it’s close enough to feel that way).

What made this day even better was that I wasn’t the only person who had a great day.  For the first time in a long time, Ontario made a full sweep of the podium! 1-2-3 and 5 as well, all Ontario girls.  Huge ups to Mia, Bella and Sadie for their superb races as well.  I’m so happy that I got to share the day with you girls.

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So far Nationals had been 100% ups and I could hardly believe it.  It was too good to be true.  Maybe I should have known better, that it won’t always be smiles and souvenir medals.  And I might have known -subconsciously,  perhaps- that these results, these races, heck, this whole season has been almost too good to be true.  I’ve had more than a few races this year where I got the ‘how the heck did I do that’ feeling, and before day 3 of Nationals I hadn’t yet experienced a serious case of ‘why did this have to happen’.  I won’t mope around much about the 10km interval classic race because, as far as I’m concerned, it’s gone.  It took me a little while to come to terms with why I had a bad race, why I couldn’t make myself go for it, why I couldn’t find the motivation I had on Sunday, and why I felt so terrible about it all.  But after a few pep talks, some venting and some good honest tears, I finally came around…  Only now do I realise how important it is to let some things go.  There’s always something to be learned from a race, and in this case, it was how to let it go.  This experience taught me how to take a moment in time and make it disappear.  Sometimes it’s not worth reliving a memory.  If you’ve already taken what you can learn from a moment, then you can let the memory go and get over what happened.  The same goes for the best days as well as the worse days, you can’t get hung up on the memories where you felt invincible because you won’t always feel that way.  Again though, take what you learned from those great days, find out what made you feel so good, what gave you the motivation to achieve what you didn’t think was possible or remotely likely, and use it to make today even better.  It’s all a learning process I suppose.  To mix a few good quotes: ‘live and learn’ and ‘don’t dwell on the past’ – learn from the past but don’t dwell on the life already lived.

Enough of that, more about winning.  Like how about my brother Ryan winning his first Nationals medal!?  It was uncanny how my results and Ryan’s aligned.  A perfect inverse of each other’s.  He won a medal on every day I didn’t.  I fell in both classic races, he fell in both skate races.  He had a dynamite sprint qualifier, I had the most shoddy sprint qualifier of my life.  I had one of my most abysmal days of racing ever, he had the race of his life.  It was so weird, and a little unnerving.

Ryan on his way to a silver medal

Ryan on his way to a silver medal

Sprint days are always a bit crazy.  My sprint stats are pretty crazy too.  I have a history of throwing down sick qualifiers, then bombing heats. … okay so I don’t always drop the ball in heats, but I’ve had more than my fair share of bad heats.  As a matter of fact, before the sprints at Nationals I’d never had a sprint result where, in the heats, I improved my position from my qualifier.  Never better, always the same or worse.  But that changed when I fell in the qualifier.  The fall gave me the opportunity to change those statistics and to turn things around after my not-so-hot race the day before.  I was pretty rattled after falling in my qualifier, usually I’m pretty good about staying on my feet but I by some stroke of luck I went for a tumble down into the grainy morning snow – good luck or bad luck? I’m not sure…  Needless to say I was out for redemption in the heats.  Things went quite smoothly through my quarter and semi.  In the final things were going great until the downhill back into the stadium… It’s worth mentioning that I had awesome skis on the uphills, but they were definitely on the slow side down the hills and on the flats.  My wax wasn’t dragging, but they just seemed a little sluggish.  In the end things turned out well, not the fairy tail ending I was looking for, but a bronze medal to be proud of nonetheless.

Then there was the mass start…  Last year, at Nationals, Scott won the junior boys 15km mass start race.  The 7.5km skate mass start suited me pretty well so I thought ‘hey, why not try and make a club tradition of this.’.   There’s something special about winning the last race of the season.  It probably has less to do with winning, and more to do with simply going out on a high note and having that winning feeling to carry with you.  Being able to finish off the race season knowing you were on top of your game is a great motivator to not get too fat during April.

And so here I am, sitting on my computer at 8am on Easter Monday.  It’s supposed to feel like 5am because I just got back from being on Whistler time, but I don’t think I ever got onto Whistler time so I’m up early anyways… Sitting here, reflecting on all my races, deliberately putting off the week of missed school work I have yet to crack open, thinking about going out for a nice long ski (okay maybe not, just looked outside and it looks rather blustery and cold), and I don’t even know what to say about what happened this season.  … It started out pretty rough in the early summer months, but I got back on track in the fall with some good coaching and training camps.  When the racing started in January, things really took off.  It seemed like it happened overnight.  The people who used to be a mile ahead of me were finally in sight, the big races weren’t quite as scary, places not so far away (except Thunder Bay, that’s still one heck of a long drive), and goals almost within reach.  I feel like I’ve made a big jump this year, it’s exciting and a little nerve racking.  I’ll be graduating this year so there are some big changes on the horizon.  I’ve been kind of all over the place with what I want to do, and where I want to go next year… but I think I’ve finally made a decision (for real this time).  … sorry, you’re going to have to wait for the press release for the announcement haha (:

So once again, thank you, thanks to everyone who has been at any races, training camps, just out on the trails, who actually reads my blog, thanks for being there and thanks for being part of what has been a very memorable season.

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