Reflecting on my success as a skier helps me to ponder and understand my success as a teacher and the success of my students.
I began cross country skiing at a very young age, on a set of wooden skis, without poles. I’d ski with may dad around our local golf course, learning the basics. I learned to grip and glide, climb and descend. After I learned the fundamentals, poles were add to my repertoire of tools. I skied further, faster and better. As the years past, I continued to ski, improving my technique and trying new and better equipment. I made choices about the waxes I would use, the conditions I would ski in and learned by taking risks and trial and error.
In 1995, I volunteered at the World Nordic Games. My eyes were opened to a whole different world of skiers, equipment and techniques. Again, I added new equipment to my ski bag. Skate skis allowed me to ski further and faster. I made choices every day about the equipment and technique I’d use and in doing so I continued to learn and get better.
Fast forward twenty years and I am still loving and learning how to ski. To me, skiing is a learning journey and something I am impassioned with. Learning how to use all of the the equipment available has allowed me to be a successful skier in all types of conditions.
This winter, once again, I trained for the Sleeping Giant Loppett, a 50 km ski race. I joined a Masters program, received instruction and feedback from two great coaches and followed a training plan. On the day before the event, I chose my equipment and selected my wax. The conditions were perfect, I was in great ski shape and should have had the best race of my life…. but I didn’t. I recorded my worst performance ever! Had I failed? Was my result an indicator of my skiing ability? Was all the time and effort I put into skiing worth it? Should I quit skiing?
I set the 50 km Sleeping Giant Loppet as my goal for this ski season. During the summer I purchased a set of roller skies and enjoyed a whole new kind of skiing! I trained moderately through the summer and fall and felt reasonably fit going into the winter ski season. I didn’t enlist in the Masters program but trained using a heart rate monitor and focused on interval training and long, slow distance skis. In February, as a warm up to the Sleeping Giant Loppet, I travelled with two friends to a race in Wisconsin. The 42 km PreBerkie was challenging to say the least! The course was soft and slow. So were my skis and so was I! I completed the 42 kilometres in just under 3 hours and 15 minutes….ten minutes slower than my slowest (last year’s) Sleeping Giant Loppet! Another failure? The following day my race companions and I woke up to totally different conditions and went for a ski! We skied another 25 kms and I felt like I was flying! I felt GREAT!
Fast forward to March and five days before the Sleeping Giant Loppet. I simply wasn’t feeling it. I was tried, fighting a cold and my Achilles tendons were strained. I decided I wasn’t going to race the 50, but join my wife and my 7 year old son Kai in the 8 km event! My son was ecstatic! On the day of the race I gave him a pep talk on the way out to Sleeping Giant Park. He couldn’t wait to hit the trails! Our wax was perfect and the conditions were spectacular! We all had a great ski and my wife and I could’t be prouder of Kai. He skied his heart out and loved every minute of it. He crossed the finish line in just over 50 minutes and 19 seconds, placing 24th out of the 61 under 13 year old males. He had shaved more than 29 minutes off of last years time where he placed 2nd out of the 8 under 6 year old males.
My result? 50 minutes and 20 seconds, finishing 28th out of the 56 over 13 year old males. WHAT IF I would have skied the 50 km? Would the conditions and my training had resulted in a personal best? OR would I have continued my downward spiral? WHAT IF I had elected to ski the 20 km race? Would I have won the 45-49 year old male category? My past 20 km results indicate that I was capable. All this data is hurting my head!
What determines my success as a skier? My ability to use a variety of equipment, waxes and techniques? My grit and determination to ski, regardless of the conditions and temperatures? My ability to teach and motivate others? My ability to adapt? My passion? The result of one ski race……?
Would love to hear your thoughts on how you measure success….