Skiing is hard. So hard, in fact, that we devote seven of our 12 months to training, strengthening and sharpening our bodies in order to be able to handle the physical stress of racing during the other five. On the SMS T2 team, we have athletes who have been training and racing for at least a decade each, we have the experience and the years to know and understand and predict what seems like a simple fact: skiing is hard.
And yet, when it hurts, we’re still surprised.
To wake ourselves back up from a post-October camp low week, we joined the SMS high school kids for a classic simulation sprint time trial this morning. Here at SMS, the kids are participating in their annual Championship week, where they simulate the races of US Nationals (distance FR, sprint CL, distance CL and spring FR). The point of the week is to simulate a race week and gain fitness, but also to remind everyone how much racing takes out of you, how hard it actually is, and how to practice positive mental energy when things go well or poorly.
Today, during the classic sprint, everyone performed a prelim separately then distributed into mixed gender heats based on those times. In the prelim, on a course which is mostly uphill, I couldn’t believe how much my lungs hurt. It must be my asthma, I thought. “Or your warm up,” Pat reminded me.
Then came the first quarter, where I got to line up with some speedy Stratton dudes. This time it was my entire body aching and complaining for the work I’d been doing. I must be getting sick, I told myself. “Or you went out too hard,” corrected Pat.
This was the time of the day where the Tandrum/Tears part of my blog title came in, simply rooted in my wanting to win and not winning. Pat was unimpressed. In his words, today was a “crush in your skull, this does’t feel good kind of day.” Up until he told me that, I was having a crisis over my burning lungs (insert legs/arms/core). But in that moment I had a complete change of heart. Knowing it was supposed to hurt, I was like “Wow! I’m doing a great job today!”
But what did I expect? This is cross country skiing. The world’s hardest sport. The training we do is not to make it hurt any less, but actually to make us be able to hurt more, longer. It hurts for everyone, the trick is making it hurt good.
Lining up for my last go, the boys in my heat were excited. They were chatty, energetic. They wanted to know how the format of sprints worked, calculating what finals they would make. They, along with all of their teammates, could almost taste the season, they could feel it in the work the session brought out in them. They wanted to make it hurt.
That’s the choice we made today. You can either run from discomfort, fear lung burn, rue lactic acid, or you can choose it, own it, control it. I followed the lead of my heat homies and laid it out on my own terms. Did it hurt? YES. Did I have fun? Indeed.
This is why we call this part of the season “sharpening.” We’re all a little rough around the edges, but with a little time (and pain), we’ll be ready to chop it up this season.