Last year, my brother Ryan moved to Norway. He went to Norway because he has a dream –
I am so curious to see how good I can get at skiing… I want to see how much further I can take this. I am beyond privileged to have this opportunity and at the very least I have to try to see what I can do with it. To become the best skier I can be. I don’t want to look back on my ski career and ask myself, “what if”. – ryanjacksonxc.com
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Ryan and I shared a lot of big moments in our ski careers together. Amongst them – both earning our first National Championship podiums in 2013 and making Provincial and Junior National Ski Teams that year, then representing Canada at the Junior and U23 World Championships in 2016 in Romania and again at Soldier’s Hollow in 2017.
I take a lot of insight from Ryan, he’s more of a visionary than me. Following the 2017 ski season and graduating the into the senior ranks, he took the awkward category-transition window as an opportunity to go big and search for better. This meant more than just training harder and smarter, it meant immersing himself in the culture that creates the best skiers in the world.
After spending a year there I now truly realize how much room I have to improve. There is just a level there that you can’t experience anywhere else. I still have so much to learn and explore. And if I am taking my goals seriously, for myself, I have to be there. – ryanjacksonxc.com
All this said and being done, Ryan has locked in to a plan that is taking him towards his dreams (after spending the season in Norway, he came back to race Canadian Nationals and landed 3rd on the Senior podium + top U23 in the 50k in his first year, which is crazy) – but running parallel to him, I’ve sort of just felt myself floundering with what I want to do in sport. Even with encouraging results and measurable improvements with my cycling, it still feels like a lot to ask myself to make a full-time investment again after the disappointment, burn-out, and fall-out I went through with skiing.
But now I think I’ve found a “just right” commitment and opportunity. I’m going to Belgium to race bikes over Christmas.
If you’d asked me one or two years ago what I knew about Belgium, I would have shrugged and said I’ve heard they make good chocolate. Now though, I know Belgium is the epicentre of cyclocross – it’s the Norway of cycling. I waffled for a while over whether or not I should go (after PanAms and Nationals I didn’t really have a choice anymore though). Ryan put it best in likening cycling in Belgium to skiing in Norway, and that the culture and passion people have for their sport will either inspire you and make you believe it’s possible to get to that level, or you’ll feel like it’s completely beyond you. I want to be inspired to race and do better, and if I’m not, then whatever – I took a chance, did something cool and can focus on other things, like just training more ;). Liberating, no?
Now obviously going on a two week race trip is totally different than uprooting your life to chase a dream, but I’m excited to take up this opportunity. The dilemma of what you should do with your life or “career” is something all athletes face – heck, all people have these “life” type decisions… But I think it’s immensely harder to make these decisions when you know they’re unsustainable. To be self-sufficient and live a sustainable life is really my ultimate goal. Yah, it doesn’t sound exciting, but if living somewhat erratically as a relatively young person now garners me experience and perspective that will benefit me in the future, I can take some comfort in that. Provided, of course, that these erratic strategies are intended to still edge me closer to that stable end goal.
I am also extremely fortunate to have family and friends to support and be part of these life and career pursuits. Because what’s a journey if not to share? The past few weeks have me feeling more grateful than ever with the outpouring of positivity and encouragement I’ve shared with the local cycling and extended sporting community. It’s an exciting and stressful time of year, as you start to lay out plans for the year ahead, and I’m happy to have so many people, close and afar, to continue sharing it with.
This trip to Belgium looks like it’ll be very busy, but I will endeavour to have regular updates here and via my other social media channels (Twitter and Instagram @jennjackkson – yes, jenn with two “n”s and jackkson with two “k”s, sorry), you can subscribe in the sidebar for an email update when I post new blogs too.
23 December – World Cup Namur
26 December – World Cup Zolder
28 December – DVV Trofee Azencross
30 December – Superprestige Diegem
1 January – Sven Nys GP
Most of these races will be streamed and/or reposted on Youtube, I’ll try to post links as I find them. If all goes well, I will be solidly mid-pack and you won’t see me much at all! ;)