Crossroads: The Intro
Every February I enter into what I call “skier existentialism.” I seem to forget this phase of my life exists until it creeps in, slowly at first, and then gains a lot of momentum by the 3rd week of February or so. Maybe this is what some people call Birkie fever. It’s what I call skier existentialism.
I’m not really sure where it starts. Maybe it’s all the packing and unpacking, not only for the races, but for the practices, too: meticulously checking off items on the list so nothing is forgotten: skis, poles, boots (and the right combo of each, cause wouldn’t it be terrible to show up to a skate race with classic poles! Although it clearly would be much worse to show up with my NNN boots and pilot binding skis), wax, the right clothes for the weather, dry clothes, food for before, during, after, etc, etc, etc. 5 times a week or so.
Maybe it’s the micro decisions: should I classic or skate today? If I do X workout today, then when should I do Y workout? Where should we go ski? This becomes slightly easier when the only options are Elm Creek, Wirth, and Hyland.
Maybe it starts with the waxing. And not just the waxing itself, but the deciding what to put on the skis. And the layers, and the pure fluoros. And the klister:) And now with my ever increasing fleet, remembering which skis I waxed last and with what wax.
Maybe it’s all the driving. During the non-snow months I use running and biking as transportation and do most of my workouts from home. This results in almost no drive time. But every time I go skiing it’s at least an hour of driving plus putting on boots, off boots, etc. This sucks up so much time.
Maybe because it’s dark on weeknights in the winter:(
Maybe it’s all the January skiing not because I want to but because I feel I have to to do well in the upcoming races and this results in skiing around hamster loops for hours.
Maybe it’s the monotony: City of Lakes Loppet-Mora-Finlandia-Birkie on 4 consecutive weekends every year. Can I really race hard 4 weekends in a row? During the “off-season” of 2017 I did just 2 running races- a 4 mile on July 4th and a 27 km in mid-October and that felt about right over 8 months. But can I just ski easy for a race? I mean, I have enough axes so maybe I should just tour the Finlandia. But then others will see my results and wonder what happened to me!
I do know where it ends: my self-induced pressure to do well. This results in nervous race mornings, a month of diarrhea, and too many Saturday alarm wake up calls. I train really hard for 10 plus months out of the year (because I never really take a month off) to do well for these February races. Don’t get me wrong- I love the training. What I don’t love is the racing. I don’t love this me versus you mentality and who has better genetics, is stronger, fitter, healthier, has better skis, wax, etc. I think us skiers tend to be pretty friendly people and this whole notion of racing against each other kind of debunks that. I’d so much rather just ski for fun but then I guess there would be no goal to work for, no objective way to know if I’ve gotten better, no pushing myself to exhaustion.
This is citizen racing. While the pros think about retiring in their 30s (or perhaps 40s if you’re Bjorndalen) many skiers around me have shown that excellent fitness can be maintained into their 60s. That means I still have 30+ years of this lifestyle! That is a really really really long time and I’m not sure I can keep it up. And what am I missing out on? This is so daunting it makes me feel like I need a break. I’m 33 and the obvious answer here (I can hear my mom screaming at me) would be to have children. But is that really a break? And I’m not so sure I want to have kids. And as plenty of skiers have demonstrated, it almost seems having kids make them faster (I’m talking about some dads out there, too). When it comes to making money I’m not about to try and keep up with the Joneses, but it’s a whole ‘nother story with skiing and so getting back to racing after having kids would only intensify the pressure.
So then, why don’t I quit ski racing? This is going to be the premise for a not yet determined number of posts (with some “normal” posts in between) I’m labeling “Crossroads.” I suspect some others out there have contemplated this same issue- perhaps most poignantly in February.