Finding Fitness and Earning It

Now three weeks back in Thunder Bay and I’m starting to feel a bit more like a skier than just an exercise junkie. Over the summer I managed to amass some ridiculous amount of fitness, but my body was somehow left behind – I couldn’t find function for the fitness with ski-specific workouts. To remedy this, I’ve spent the past couple weeks focussing on ski-specific intensity (bounding, rollerskiing) and being crisp with my technique at all times, in all zones.

It’s been both fun and frustrating to have this strange mix of fitness and lack of form… Fun, because I can go fast and be aggressive with my technique all the time while still being “in zone”. Frustrating, because I have to consciously make my body work harder than what feels natural to keep myself “in zone”. New normals, I guess.

Other new normals, since my return north, include training primarily with the Lakehead Varsity nordic team, or on my own. The varsity team usually practices on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Saturday mornings, and the occasional Sunday. We had a super nice long skate rollerski this past Sunday. Sean, Graham, Noah, Noah, Adam, and I rolled up then down Mapleward, and were treated with the start of fall colours out towards Lappe.

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Rolling with the LU crew

With just a couple evening practices a week, and all of my classes scheduled around midday, it often feels like there’s too many empty hours in the day outside of training, school, and other miscellaneous chores and errands. It’s crazy how much my perspective has shifted since the summer, coming from a pretty slammed work-train schedule.

Next weekend is the annual Sawdust run at Lappe Nordic. 5.4km of suffering around the trails, hopefully resulting in a cookie-medal at the awards afterwards. I’ll be interested to see how my running is. I’ve done the Sawdust run every fall for the past three years and have steadily improved my time… so hopefully that trend continues! It’s somewhat unfortunate timing that the NDC athletes will be returning to Thunder Bay from the CCC Alignment Camp in Park City the day after the race. It would’ve been much more fun and exciting to have them there to duke it out with!

After the race I’ll be up on a plane and back for a visit home for Thanksgiving and fall reading week, and possibly a couple extracurricular bike races… I’ve never ridden, let alone raced cross before… so I’m all the more stoked to give it a go. I think taking on new challenges has been, and will continue to be, an important part of staying fresh and enjoying training and racing this season.

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Hopped in the Forty-Miner (48k) mountain bike race last week in TBay. Long ride…

For the first time in at least the past 4 or 5 years, I’d be ready to start the race season any time now. I’m ready to rumble. Normally, I feel like I need more time; more time to get ready, that I won’t be ready for the race season in time, that I won’t be fast enough. But now… I don’t know how fast I’ll be, how fast I need to be, or how fast anyone else is. I haven’t trained with, or compared myself with my competitors so far this year; whereas in the past, I’d train all through the summer with them and be constantly looking over to see what they’re doing and how they’re getting on.

Sometimes I’ll feel unsure about if I’ll be able to qualify for U23 World Champs, win NorAm races, or even compete for top 5’s… But it tends to subside, because I don’t expect or feel I deserve to be the one who gets to race for Team Canada, to be the one who gets to raise my arms at the line, or to stand on a podium, any more than anyone else I’ll compete against this winter, or ever. And somehow, that’s a key differentiation I’ve made in my perspective of competitive sport over the summer months – that I don’t deserve any of this. I don’t deserve spots on teams, carding, training camps, wax support, support staff, sponsorships… None of it. But somehow I still have it… Why? Well, I believe it’s because every opportunity, and every privilege of being an elite athlete is earned. Just like every second in a race is earned: we get what we earn, not what we deserve. Deserving something implies expectation – and expectation is not something I want to carry with me anymore…

I say all this in earnest, and want it to be taken at face value – not with any undercurrents of me trying to boast about what I’ve earned because that is not at all what I mean to convey. I want people to understand that this is about explaining how I’m making my pursuit of sport more honest, simple, and peaceful.

So what do you say, time to go earn it?

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