Ski races are not known to be the happiest places on earth. You’ve got a few different personalities in the crowd at a ski race, and this is how it usually breaks down.
You’ve got the winner. This guy is psyched. He just beat everyone there. The only thing he is trying to figure out is a good response to the question, “how’d it go?” “Oh, I won,” sounds too pompous, “I did pretty good,” too cavalier. Seriously, it’s an awkward question for the winner, but they’ll figure out that you beat them later so for now, a simple “great” usually does the trick.
Next you’ve got the guys who were close, literal and relative to skill/age. They like to keep that smile on their faces and congratulate those around them, which is usually genuine. They are content but not satisfied. At the back of their heads there is this incessant nagging feeling. “If only I had done this or that, maybe that feeling wouldn’t be there and I would be happy.”
After that you’ve got the ones who explode. Watch out for these people, because you’ve got a show coming your way. These guys are under the impression that since they blew the race, their entire world is imploding. This usually results in snapped/thrown poles, kicking and spiking helmets, and my personal favorite, the ski shot-put. Obviously to the onlooker this is atrocious, un-sportsman like conduct, but to the athletes, we understand. We’ve all been there. If not physically throwing things, than mentally. It’s not a very good excuse for the behavior but to be honest when things like that happen we tend to laugh instead of scoff. And usually after they cool down, the offender can laugh about it too.
And then comes the introverted approach to it. This used to be my personal go to. Sit in a corner, be quiet, and no one better bother me or I’m going to give them a death stare until they go away. Leave me to my dark thoughts so I can think of every tiny detail of what I did wrong to remind me of my ineptitude.
Sounds healthy right? Maybe throwing shit would have been a better idea, in retrospect.
I think that pretty much sums up the standard characters at a ski race. There are of course the outliers in this situation though. It is one of them that I would like to talk about.
One of my good friends on the circuit, Chris Acosta, was competing in a race with me last week. After the race, I fell into that category where I wasn’t “happy” with my result. I had that nagging feeling, but hey, I’ve got some 50 odd races left to my season. Whatever. Chris, I had figured would be in the same boat as me considering it wasn’t an amazing race for him, but certainly a good start to the season.
When I got back that night, I was browsing Facebook when I saw Chris’ status. It read simply, “Slalom was so much fun today.”
That simple statement blew me right back to reality. Shit, slalom is fun! In fact, skiing and racing in general is totally fun. Focusing on that tiny “bad” part of the day is an extremely narrow view of the reality happening around you. Why are you doing this, (excuse the cliche), if you don’t see that you love what you are doing?
Whenever I have a conversation with someone who has since hung up their skis in a competitive sense, I consistently hear one thing. “Skiing isn’t everything.” Another simple statement, but one I think racers don’t fully understand until after they see those days in their rear view mirror. I understand that. I have been doing this for a long time, and plenty of others have done it for longer. Most of your life thus far has been dedicated to becoming a better skier/athlete. But what I think is important to remember is that while this sport may shape you in a way, it most certainly does not define you. It does not set the standard for who you are. Only you can do that.
Now, as you can imagine, everybody loves Chris. He never throws his skis, he’s never been in a corner sulking. He’s always got a smile, regardless of how the day turned out. It is not that he doesn’t care about the result, he is way too good of a competitor for that. I think he just understands the sentiment that even though ‘skiing isn’t everything’, it is the only thing that he’d want to be doing right now. He doesn’t let the results dictate whether he is having a good time or not, because he is skiing. And that is what he is doing this for.
It is important to practice what you preach, and for me these are all new things I am just starting to figure out. Lesson 1, it helps to stop staring at the ground in your corner and look around. You might be surprised at what you see.