Friday, 25 January 2013

Europe part 3

After a 1.3km classic sprint, 10km skate interval start and a 20km skiathlon, the individual races in the Czech Republic are now over. And what a humbling experience it has been.
As far as ski racing goes, I consider myself to be competent; in Canadian races it is rare for me to be off the podium. Coming to Europe, and for World Champs no less, I knew the competition was gonna be tough. I expected to not be on the podium at all. But I also expected to be relatively competitive. Now, after three races of finishing in the 40’s and 50’s competitive is not really a word I would use to describe my performances.
In the 10km skate especially I expected to be in the top 20 or 30, so, when I finished in 53rd position I was devastated. Wednesday after the race was definitely an all-time-low for me. It was, unfortunately, one of those days that makes me question why I ski. This has got me thinking quite a bit these last couple days, and finally, I have decided that my skiing career is now over.


I am definitely not finished with skiing!! But it’s true that I’ve been thinking (wow I didn’t know that he does that!), and so, I will try to define my train of thought here before it derails.  Grab your trusty bottle of voda and bare with me. . .
A bottle of "Voda"

So, why do I ski? Well, I like a lot of things about competitive skiing--in fact, I like most everything about the sport. I like training for skiing, I really like the people involved in skiing (seriously, skiers tend to be awesome people!), I like the places that skiing takes me and, generally, I especially like racing.
Why do I like racing? Firstly, I like to go fast! I love the variety of ski racing (this week I did three completely different distances of races using 2 different techniques on 3 different race courses!. Cool.). I like the feel of classic striding or one skating on and on up a big climb and I like the feeling of attacking the steeps with all the energy you got.  I like the feeling when you clip into your bindings only to feel the skis almost slip out from under you--they’re THAT fast--and I like the feeling of hammering that last hundred meters to the finish line when you think you can’t push anymore but actually you can!  I like the feeling of feeling of being absolutely exhausted after a race and, on good days, I even enjoy “the hurt” that I experience out on the trail. 
I like to chase the ever elusive “perfect performance” and I really enjoy the feeling of accomplishment you get after some solid results.
If I was asked to describe my personality in a few words, “competitive” would most certainly be one of them. For ski racing--for any kind of racing--this is an important character trait. But it can also be one’s undoing too.
When you have a lot of success in a sport it’s easy to start to focus on the rush that winning gives you. From there, you start to forget the other reasons you like your sport and you start defining each performance based on how you did relative to other people. Now please do not misunderstand!!! “The will to succeed” is what drives a person to the highest levels of his/her sport--if you don’t have it then you are probably not a competitive athlete! But it is certainly not everything.
After much success in Canada this year, (and for many years) I have started defining my performances relative to those of others. I have motivated myself during races with the thought of the podium. It is clear that, in international races, this won’t work. I can’t lose sight of my competitive spirt, but I must start coming up with reasonable goals. To use a nice cliché, I’ve got to “take baby steps” to make my way up the international ranks--and with my most recent results, up is the only way to go!!
Now you’re probably saying “wow, Zeke is such an idiot! Isn’t the ‘baby steps’ cliché drilled into athletes from the start?” “has it taken him 19 years to realize the obvious truth that you can’t climb Mount Everest in a day?” Apparently I learn best from experience (meh).

So what’s next? I’ve gotta start using a trait that does not make it into the short list of words to describe myself: patience.  I’ve gotta start evaluating races in a different way.  I’ve gotta start doing what I’ve been telling myself to do for awhile and treat each new race as a learning experience and as a rung in the proverbial ladder.  I’ve gotta start bridging the performance gap between domestic and international racing and I’ve gotta realize that it won’t happen over night.

And my thirst for success on the results list? It’ll have to go into hiding for awhile. But believe me: I have every intention of climbing that World Cup podium some day, and, even if it takes me years to get there, I will--as always--give it my damnedest to achieve my goals.

Ski fast, push hard (be patient) and Dream Big, People!!!!

Phew, Zeke is done with his crazy rant (and apparently speaking in third person). Zeke does not have that many cool pictures this time around (apologies), but, he does have a couple!  
Also enjoy the theme song for this trip (I swear every radio station in Austria and the Czech Republic plays this song, like, every 2 minutes.
Stoked to be rep'n team Canada!

The awesome Tinker Bell shoe mat in our wax room

This grammatically amazing sign directs people to the second buffet table in the Hotel Babylon! I resisted the urge to add a question mark after the first word.

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