I’m stressing out about my ski race next weekend.

The race format is ideal for people who are excellent at classic technique.

Classic makes my back seize.


BUT, I also suck at double polling because I’ve avoided it so long because of my bad back.

SO, that means that this weekend’s race is designed for me to fail.

So if I do fail because my back seizes, or because of my weak double poll (or because I decidedly didn’t give it my all in order to make up for potential weakness) at least I’ll have a reason. I’ll likely place significantly behind the lead pack, which will legitimize my excuses, instead of in fourth place, which will show that I tried (but failed).

As a cross-country skier I recognize (with the help of my sport psychologist)  that there are at least three layers of internal dialogue (voices) that I deal with when I’m preparing for a ski race.

The outer-most layer is the one that interacts with other people. I can always tell my friends that I’m feeling under the weather or have a sore back, that way they’ll understand that if they beat me, it was only because of my ailments.

The next layer in is coercive.  It’s the voice that tries to lie to me when I recognize my ailments and feel like a debbie downer.  It tells me, “No Britt, you don’t feel bad, you can do it”, but it’s pretty pathetic.  I can tell when I’m lying.  Persuasion only works if I’m completely on board.

That’s where the next layer comes in – The Truth.  This layer decides, above all other layers, what my outcome will be. This layer is how I really feel, regardless of how I’m supposed to feel.  When my back hurts, this layer doesn’t believe I’ll be able to race well.  When I’m telling other people I’m tired, but I’m not, this layer knows that I’ll secretly be able to race well but that I have a safety net in case.  This layer also recognizes when I have given myself an easy way out, a “Plan B” if you will.  If it’s easier, this layer always choses Plan B.

Apparently, what I was thinking of as the core of a gobstopper, that raw instinct at my core (the one that knows how it’s going to end), is a lizard.


I suppose a gobstopper was a little too inconspicuous to represent such a potentially malicious force. Lizard could work.

That resistant lizard seems to haunt me most in skiing.  Ski races are such clear valuations of your worth as an athlete.  If you try hard and succeed, you are both excellent, talented, and admirable.  If you don’t try hard and you succeed, you are talented, but fewer people admire you.  If you don’t try hard, and you don’t succeed you are inconsequential, no one will think less or more of you.  I think the lizard likes this option. If you try hard and you don’t succeed, you’ve failed.

Thinking further, however, utter failure has it’s up side.  At least you can learn success through a process of elimination.  I think that is admirable.  Having the strength to really fail.

Taking a look at this picture of my friend Heidi, I can easily recognize that she is an admirable skier.  Not because she won this race (I mean come on, I don’t actually remember the results of every race), but because she drained her tank.   No excuses.  She never said she was tired.  She never said she was injured.  She never said she had bad wax.  She always has the strength to look her results in the eye and take accountability.  People who don’t put themselves on the line, will never be able to take accountability. But what is on the line? Nobody is going to think less of you or laugh at you. That’s the part that’s hard to accept.

I have to face my own failures when they come and I’m afraid of that.  It’s far too easy for me to forget about that guilty, empty feeling that follows a half-assed race.  All I can see is the failure.  Remembering properly, I know that feeling of guilt, that feeling of “I don’t, and may never, know how well I could have done”, that feeling is worse.  It’s just easier.

This is where that middle level comes in.  I know you were wondering earlier, what’s the point of having a useless level that lies to you and tries fruitlessly to encourage a change of heart?  Well, when that middle level stops lying, it’s the most important factor for success.  That little voice has the ability to acknowledge a bad situation, understand that there is a chance of failure, and decide to persevere regardless.  When the little voice takes that kind of initiative, I can break down the resistance.

On those days where that little voice feeds me logic, things that my lizard can’t refute, that’s when I win.

It says things like, “Who honestly cares?! Are you going to die if you lose? Are your friends going to laugh? You aren’t losing anything my not winning, but you’re not going to win if you don’t try.” It sometimes even throws is things like, “Hey, I bet you that extra little effort you put in, I bet you it burns a couple hundred more calories. Is there harm in that? Never.”

You know, now that I think of it, every time you decide against doing something that’s difficult, you’re probably forgoing tons of potential burnt calories and built muscles.

Dumb lizard is probably fat.

Now that’s more like it.  I think it will be easier for me to defeat the lizard if I think of him like that.

So right now, I thrash.

Instead of trying, futilely, to convince, persuade, and lie to myself one hour before the race, I will prepare ahead of time.  If I understand now, that the only way to reach a desirable outcome next weekend is to completely drain my tank, I will be able to do it.  If I understand now that losing with accountability will get me further than losing with excuses, I will undoubtedly be able to conquer the resistance. Jabba doesn’t stand a chance.  Waiting gives Jabba the chance.  The longer I postpone my decision to give it my all, the longer Jabba has to gather his artillery. Feeble, last minute attempts at self confidence boosts can’t battle on the vast deserts of Tatooine.

I apologize for the excessive Star Wars references, but I think I make my point.  Even internal struggles need to be dealt with as soon as the issue arises.  The more we feed Jabba, the larger he grows.  Every insecurity feeds our desire to take the safe route.

Writing this post, following my own well reasoned thought process is one way of trashing ahead of time in order to ship ON time.  There are no second chances with shipping in a ski race.  One set of OUA championship races in 2011.  Every sub-100% race is an opportunity lost.  I can deal with my challenge.

My teammates face the same challenge.  Any skier, and hopefully any non-skier, who reads this post can empathize.  Sure, in individual endurance sports team doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in hockey, because our team is also our competition. If I didn’t do everything in my power to help my teammates overcome their obstacles, in a way I would be succumbing to the resistance.  The only way I know I deserved my results, is if I know the other athletes were giving their all too.  I’ll be there for them, as a support system, when they are afraid of failure, and encourage them to ski until they yack. Please don’t question the potential negative health consequences of such things… I’m sure it is in fact good for you… somehow.

Either way…

Though giving into the lizard may result in prettier pictures

The energy put into that smile could have been used to ski faster.

I want to look like this again.

just imagine skis. and snow.

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