Ben’s “Bummer” Moment (and some good perspective)

After spending the last several months on the road traveling and racing with my team, I find myself in the situation every 20-something aspires: I’m living at home with my parents. It’s been a busy last month, and there have been some significant successes, but what will define it for me, is my “bummer” moment.

I had a great US Nationals. I fought off some sickness, and managed to accomplish my goal of winning one of the sprint qualifiers during some tricky weather. Of course most of that was because of my Coach Pat’s tireless work on our skis, but after a season last year that was marked by disappointment it finally felt like my goals were within reach, particularly my biggest goal: being named to the 2017 World Championships team.

The final day at US Nationals was another sprint qualifier (this time skating) and it wasn’t my best day. That’s ok, it happens, but when I looked up at the board I saw where my competitors had placed, and I was overjoyed. I had done it. I had done just barely enough, and when I drove away from the venue, dreams of racing at another World Championships were dancing in my head.

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I can still hear it.

I can still hear Pat’s voice as I walked into my room that night. Can picture him sprawled out on his bed. Can picture him turning to me, and shaking his head. Can picture his face, without much expression….not even meaning anything by it.

“What’s up dude?” I asked

“I looked again at the list”

“And?”

“It just doesn’t add up. I’m sorry Ben.”

And my heart dropped.

I tried not to seem too alarmed.

“Wait….Really?”

“Yeah. He gets you on the 4th tie-breaker.”

I knew from the way he said it that he had already triple-checked.

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It just doesn’t add up.

I’d never been “on the bubble” before. It’s a situation all too familiar for domestic skiers, and I never understood exactly what it felt like until that moment came and the bubble popped.

It just doesn’t add up.

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So there. I told you about my “bummer” moment. However, it doesn’t define my month in the way that you probably think it does. I didn’t tell you what happened after.  And what happened after is that, I moved on.

It’s difficult to convey, but I felt like it was my fault, like it was my responsibility, and if I had done something just a little different, I might have been buying a plane ticket to Finland instead of staring at the Super-Tour spreadsheet. So, yeah, I’m human. It hurt when I knew I hadn’t done enough. And for a while there, to be sure, I was envious of those who had qualified. But I took time to think about my season, and about a quote that buried itself in my brain.

“When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.”- Thomas Merton

My goal had been (and still is) to be the best skier I could be. I wanted to make technical gains and physical ones. I wanted to become more consistent in my results. I wanted to work hard on my qualifying and perform when it counted. And I did that.

I followed Paddy and focused on my legwork while skating all summer, and it payed off. I copied Erika and trained more diligently than I ever have. It made me fitter, and more consistent. I emulated Andy and Simi, and had my fastest ever string of qualifiers. I did what I wanted to, and with the help of my entire team, I became a better skier. Without doing those things, I wouldn’t have even had a bummer moment, because I wouldn’t have been very close to the bubble. My “bummer” moment wasn’t only a bummer. It was proof that everything I had been working towards had borne fruit.

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So, I’m back at home. Training my face off, and working towards my goal. I am nearly the skier I wanted to be in June; even if I’m not going to be racing where I’d hoped to. There are many more races ahead of me than behind and I can see that more clearly,  now that the bubble has popped.

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