Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts from 30,000 feet

And….. we’re off!!!!

As I write this I’m currently sitting on the airplane enroute to early season racing in West Yellowstone.  It’s a gorgeous, clear day and 30,000 feet reveals much of Alaskan’s grandeur.  It’s fun to look out the window and see how many familiar features I can name…. Eklutna Lake, looking over the Eklutna Traverse that I completed for the first time with Rob and Toby on skate skis this past spring…. I was sitting on the wrong side of the plane to see Eagle Glacier (our summer training facility.)  As we continued South we flew over Prince William Sound and The Harvard, Columbia, and Yale glaciers.
Pre-travel is always hectic.  Even though I’ve been keeping a detailed packing list for the last week, it always seems to come down to the last minute.  Last night Rob helped me measure out quantities of vitamins, I completed three loads of laundry (because you never want to pack a fresh bag with stinky clothes!)  I bought a new Kaladi coffee mug for the occasion and the beginning of a brand new season.  Time was spent tying up loose ends: Setting my “out of office” notice at work, paying bills, and triple checking that I have my passport with me.  Early season ski travel is funny because I know that when I return to Alaska, it will basically be Christmas time.

Rob cutting our last minute Christmas tree last year

Sitting on a plane always allows an opportunity for reflection.  What was I doing last year at this time? What were my expectations exactly a year ago (Nov 19th) when I took the same flight, Anchorage to Seattle, Seattle to Bozeman.? A lot has changed in the past year including my identity as a ski racer – and my expectations as a ski racer.  Last year I was literally shocked to learn of my fourth place finish in the classic prelim-only sprint and even more ecstatic to win my first Super Tour race (ever) in West Yellowstone. Sandwiched in between last year’s Super Tour opener and this year’s was the Olympics, my first time racing at US Nationals since 2002, my first World Cups and a re-organization of my life and priorities. 

Photo taken after 2009 10k skate win - West Yellowstone SuperTour

Sometimes I wonder if my success last year was due to my “I have nothing to loose mentality.”  The pressure that I felt for my racing was mostly internal and whenever I did well, it was a bonus.  My outlook has always been (and will hopefully always be) to find Joy in skiing and to realize that this lifestyle and pursuit is a blessing – one that is supposed to be fun and challenging. That is why last year at most of the big races I wore glitter to set the tone…   This is not to say that I didn’t take racing seriously because I did – and I do.  When the gun goes off get out of my way (!)  I just think it’s detrimental to take yourself too seriously.  If a race doesn’t go your way, move on.  Don’t let the defeat define your day, your week, or your self worth.

Coaching junior skiers is just another way to remember how FUN skiing really is.  (This past summer we took APU juniors up to Crow Pass with skis on our backs. The first time carrying skis to snow for many!) 

This year I’ve trained harder, I’ve trained more, I’ve gone from working full time to part time, part of the year.  I’ve given up trips in the mountains with my husband for roller ski workouts in town and summer vacations for glacier training camps.  I’ve spent countless Friday and Saturday nights at home, too tired to go to parties with my friends knowing that I need to get up the next morning and have a productive workout.  After all this, it will be interesting to see if I get any faster.  Theoretically the answer would be yes, further dedication and better training should result in improved performance.  But, I suppose only time will tell. I am fully prepared for anything and know that whether I come in first place, last place, or somewhere in the middle, I ski because I love the sport.   

APU Teammates training on Eagle Glacier, August - Alaska

Saw this on the inside of a Forest Service cabin once :)