When I was in High School, I had a teacher that believed letter grades were simply an arbitrary requirement. He went on to explain that, with the way our school system currently works, these letter grades measure instantaneous intelligence and are very poor at representing how much a student actually learns in class. Therefore, his goal was not for each student to get an A, but rather for each student learn as much as possible while developing a passion for learning. Since then I’ve taken notice of the people in my life who have this “lifelong learner” outlook. These people focus on the steps it takes to achieve great goals, and trust that with hard work, positive results are sure to follow.
I’ve had years in my skiing career where the sole goal of each race was to move up the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) points list. I went into each race knowing exactly how much time I needed to beat my competition by in order to qualify for NCAA’s. It wasn’t until I stopped worrying about placement and started focusing on perfect technique, that I was finally able to qualify. That same year I became All-American, a goal I didn’t even know was possible until halfway through the race.
At the 2016 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships, January 3-9, evidence of trusting the process once again became blatantly clear. Due to the time restraints of Grad School, I have been forced to take a close look at my training and specifically design it to match my race goals. Since all of big goals are in distance skate events, my training all summer and fall have been focused on distance skating. Add in a late start to snowfall and the resulting lack of time to get acquainted with new equipment, and it’s no surprise that my first race at U.S. Championships (10K Classic) was less than ideal. Negative race results are never fun, and it is REALLY hard to keep bad races from impacting your mentality in upcoming events. Going into the 20K skate, I was feeling less than 100%, but knew that if things were going to get better I would have to rely on habits and routines which have already been proven successful.
Nutrition: Parmesan Chicken for dinner and a smoothie for breakfast √
Course Preview: I can ski these trails in my sleep √
Skis: Pick the fastest pair (duh) √
Clothing: Layers on bottom and less on top to prevent overheating √
Strategy: Go out in control, with the best technique you can muster, then crank it up. Stay calm and intense, no matter what happens, you know how to do this. √
With my goals for the day so focused on racing smart, I thought I’d misheard my coaches that the front of our pack was top 10. Realizing that they weren’t wrong, I stuck to the plan and tried not to get dropped. At the end of the race, I went up to my coach and as soon as he saw me, all he could do was laugh. I was laughing too. Not only was it a fun race, but it also proved that all of the training I’ve done this year has worked.
I’d like to say that I never doubted myself, but I’d be lying. Having less than desirable results really sucks, and it’s very easy to start second guessing your coaches and yourself. What separates great athletes from the rest of us is not simply the hours in their training log and their fancy equipment, it’s also their ability to trust the process. They are able to see roadblocks as mole hills, they understand that it’s not going to be easy and above all they never stop believing that their work is worthwhile. As one of my teammates shared with me before NCAA’s:
“I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else, I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.” ~Ken Venturi