Risky Business

The APU Elite Team just finished our first glacier camp of the summer training season. This past week was my sixth time on the glacier and I finally feel like I understand the drill. Wake-up, drink coffee, eat breakfast, ski for 2-3 hours, eat lunch, bake (my energy supplier), read, wax skis, ski again for 2 hours, make dinner, eat, and go to bed…it all becomes a blur by the third day. While in the past I often became a little bored during each afternoon’s downtime, this year I found it a pleasant break from my day-to-day schedule of training, then work, then often biking or rollerskiing home from work to second training, then on the really crazy days, heading to a second job—whew! However, by the end of the week, while I was pretty exhausted from A LOT of training, I secretly looked forward to getting back into my busy schedule down in Anchorage.

This summer has looked a bit different than past summers in Alaska. While my first summer I found myself quite busy with schoolwork finishing my M.P.A. from NMU and ski training, and last summer I tutored and trained, this year I jumped off the “busyness” cliff and took a summer office job, continued tutoring, enrolled in APU class, and have grabbed any odd-job opportunity I can (looking for a house sitter: I’m your girl!). For a couple weeks in May, I diagnosed myself as psychotic. I felt like I was in a constant whirlwind of deadlines, places to be, logistical planning and not a moment to breathe. As a carless Anchorage-ite, I rode my Huffy (more adequately named my Huffy and Puffy as it weighs about 100lbs and only has two working gears—hard and easy), or rollerskied as my main form of transportation. I felt like a fool, as I would rollerski across busy intersections in Anchorage with my backpack full of work clothes and lunch. However, towards the middle of May things started to get easier. I got in better biking shape, I started realizing that after sitting at a desk for six hours the only thing I want to do is train and be outside, and everything became a bit more manageable. And then manageable became awesome. I remember summers in Bozeman and Marquette where I worked at hotels housekeeping or at McDonald’s, on your feet the entire time, but still quite energized to train a second time. Your off days become secret gems of anticipation and you look forward to the weekend like the rest of society. Long ODs of three hours seem quite short, and much better than deskwork for six. Everything becomes relative and instead of feeling drained, I, all of a sudden, seem to have more energy and positivity than ever.

I spoke with a teammate of mine who works a lot. She unfortunately is on her feet most of the time and deals directly with a fair amount of rude customers. Outside of the occasional horrible day, we both remarked how while work seems like a drag some days, overall the sense of purpose, and the filling of our days with activity outside of our sport, lets us bring more of ourselves to the table each training session. Now I understand everyone is different. I know athletes who need to solely focus on training and do not operate the same way as me. I know athletes who train and work full time jobs. Everyone is different. I do not see my outside obligations and pursuits as disruptive to my athletic goals and the process to achieve them.

I do not operate with 100% intense focus on skiing year round. I love to train, but training is part of my lifestyle; a run in the mountains will help me achieve my athletic goals, but it is also one of my favorite activities to do. Sometimes I struggle with finding the balance between working towards my goals and the outward futility of each baby step in the process. Will I ever get to where I want to be? My first year skiing with APU, results within racing and training took a new level of importance. Since I was “a professional”, I felt I had to act a certain way with a certain presence and level of knowledge. So although I was making technique and fitness gains beyond previous years, I fought internally with how to be the athlete I am, especially when it did not always fit into the stereotypical “Nordic Skier” mold. This also diminished my confidence and enjoyment I experienced training and racing. This past year, after spending a large chunk of the winter training alone, I started to question if I was pursuing something even achievable. Self-doubt breeds into a lack of confidence, and eventually race results show this.

Everyone analyzes their season in the spring, determines what went well and what failed. Oftentimes, the analysis discerns that an increased focus on training and a limitation on outside obligations are necessary. While true for some, I realized this is not how I operate. I am at my happiest, most productive, and therefore, “fastest”, when I am juggling with more than one ball. Of course, I am only human and so have hard days and need vacations, but overall this summer so far has been awesome—partly due to taking the risk to burden myself in addition to ski training. A wise teammate once said, “taking risks is essential to what we are as athletes, be it in a race or the big decisions of pursuing our sport full time”; while I continue to pursue skiing as my first and most important priority, sometimes the risk taken is to be authentic in your individual approach and believe in your process. My process this summer includes some outside pursuits, but pursuits that nonetheless enhance the journey to my end goal of performance on the snow. And of course, making some money can’t hurt either.

My only photo of the glacier, whoops!
Little O'Malley Trail
Yummy cake post-glacier camp!
Willowa Lakes