I had a great race today. I skied well, I felt strong, I pushed hard. I made it hurt, I went out strong, I stayed relaxed and I kept picking up the pace. I had fast skis and good kick. After catching my breath, I was grinning all day. This is why ski racing is fun.
It was a 10k classic race as the first day of the RMISA western regionals here in Truckee, CA. Sunshine and 45 degrees with nice fast snow. Really I couldn't have asked for a better day. Then I had to go ruin it by looking at the results. After feeling so good about my race, my high was markedly deflated when I found out I had only placed 29th: barely better than the rest of the season, and by no means a best result.
After being bummed for a few minutes, and sharing in the bummer session of driving home (our other UAA guys didn't place as well as usual, nor did they feel good during their races), I got over it.
I don't race to beat people. If I did, I would be the saddest kid at the end of every race, consistently placing in the 30's. For me this sport is about personal goals, personal successes, and personal improvement. Success for me has almost nothing to do with how well I place. I had to remind myself of that today.
I had to remember back to a speech I made to my graduating class. It was all about how ski racing is a metaphor for life. In that speech I made the very important point that ski racing isn't about beating other people. For all I know, the person starting next to me could be a norwegian olympian with a team of doctors, coaches, wax technicians and sponsors backing his performance. How could I compare myself to that? If I had the best race of my life, would it be a "failure" if he beat me? I say absolutely not.
So what is the goal in ski racing, if it's not to beat everyone else? My goal every time I put on a bib is to finish the race knowing that I skied as fast and as hard as I possibly could have; knowing that I made every stride count. My reward isn't a medal or a trophy, it's the satisfaction of knowing that I did everything I could have in that race. And that satisfaction is intoxicating. It is what propels me out of bed for morning strength workouts, pushes me out the door to rollerski in the rain after work, and makes me love the hard intervals that leave me in a panting heap.
I tasted that satisfaction today, and I won't let any numbers on scoreboards get me down. Granted, it would have been nice to see that I'd really moved up in the ranks for a little external validation, but now I know it's not that important how well everyone else does.
Tomorrow I'm looking forward to a 15k skate mass start, and I'm considering not even looking at the results.
There is a shot of me coming up the top of the last hill posted at Macbeth Graphics, but my favorite shot of the day was of Nils and his awesome race face.