I recently wrote a short article as part of the new USSA’s coaches manual. I was addressing ways of taking a competition day and making it a learning experience instead of a nervous stress-fest. You know…set small goals, focus only on what you can control, like your warm-up…but in the process of writing it I realized that the biggest part of making racing fun again was to embrace cross-country skiing as a team sport, not an individual one. Aside from relay days, it’s very easy to assume that xc skiing is a selfish endeavor and one can do it without a team, but this could not be farther from the truth. I need my teammates to push me to be the best that I can be, and in turn I challenge them to exceed their expectations. We support each other’s good races, and help each other through challenging ones. When I am having a bad day, there is always someone on the team having a good one that can pull me into their positive mindset, and I do the same for my teammates. And when I am racing, if I need more motivation I remember that the depth of a team is important and it’s up to each of us to work together and score points for our country. This was as true for me when I was racing in high school trying to help our team qualify for state as it is now when I race World Cups, trying to score points for the Nations Cup. A big part of taking the pressure off of race day while finding motivation and fire for racing is to see it as an opportunity to help my team, to be part of something larger than just myself.
So, in honor of Anne Hart’s latest Birthday (22 years old! Yay!) Here are 22 reasons why you, me, and everyone in the world needs a team.
1. Who else is going to plan a stylish birthday celebration for you, no matter where you are in the world?
2. Someone to challenge you in intervals. Because everyone on the team is the best at one type of workout, and there will always be someone else to follow when you’re working on your weaknesses. Everyone has something to learn from someone else on the team!
3. Because cooking for one sucks.
4. When you are having a bad day, there will always be someone who is having a good day who can pull you into their good mood!
5. Because then you have other people to blame when the van smells like dirty boots…it’s not just you!
6. You have a reason bigger than yourself to push hard and race fast for.
7. You have other people’s successes to celebrate alongside your own, because you helped them train and they helped you achieve your goals.
8. The hard days aren’t so hard when you have friends by your side. The intervals in the pouring rain, the long runs when it’s hot out, the epic sprint simulations are all less painful and more satisfying with a team around you.
9. Teammates will always come up with funny ideas and things to keep you guessing.
10. They make being away from home and on the road for months at a time an epic, fun adventure.
11. They spot you when you need money for impulse-buy chili dogs.
12. It’s more fun organizing community events when there’s a lot of people to help you run them!
13. What’s the point in having a sweet, totally sick suit if you’re the only one wearing it?
14. They pick you up when you need it. Sometimes, they literally hold you up.
15. Let’s be honest…nobody ice-tubs by themselves
16. They support you when you feel the need to do some dorky stuff
17. They get you places
18. They always keep you laughing
19. They are your family
20. Nobody can do this by themselves
21. Because cheering at ski races is a fun, stylish and exciting venture and it’s way more fun when you are personally invested in the people racing.
22. Because without these guys to keep us in line we’d probably go crazy!
Math isn’t my strong suit. It never has, never will be, and that’s ok. But even my mathematically-challenged mindset can’t deny that all the little things that happen over the course of training, living, interacting, coaching and general tomfoolery add up. It’s so hard to find out what the real workload is that you’re putting on your body, because life is a lot more than just training and racing!
It’s the little details that build me up and make me happy. It’s also little details that slowly wear me down over time and tire me out. Sometimes there’s a lot of overlap…the things I need to do to be happy also wear me out if I don’t take a break. In the end, I figure you are your own best coach because only you know what it’s like to be inside your head and your body, and it’s up to you to decide if you need to be training smarter, harder, resting more, or doing some non-skiing activities.
This week, I found out that I needed to take a break from all my extra-curriculars and just spend more time resting in-between skiing. A month’s worth of really fun adventures and things that I would not take back eventually caught up to me, and it was time for a little more rest. So, I seized the opportunity! It’s funny how I didn’t realize how badly I needed to take a little time off until I took it. The rearview mirror is always 20/20, right? So, 12 episodes of Gossip Girl later…I feel a whole lot more rested.
This past week I was on a slightly different training plan than most of the team, but still joined the key sessions. We had an epic 24 hours of pouring rain, and then some really nice training days as well. Best of all, the Stratton Mountain School was hosting their BKL camp and Junior camps this week! We did Q&A with the kids, helped lead some technique and agility sessions, and watched their skits at the end of the week.
One pretty cool workout we did on a closed road, and the Junior skiers came to watch and then do their own version of the workout. We were doing L4 intervals, sprint-style, and worked on skiing in a tight pack and staying controlled while poles and skis were flying everywhere. It was really fun to have the Junior campers there cheering us on!
One little detail that has really been adding up to some great results this summer is all the video Pat has been doing with us. Coach O’Brien has some mad skills when it comes to biking next to a pace line of skiers while simultaneously cheering and shooting video. It’s great instant feedback, and good to look over later and see things I need to work on with my technique. For example, check out this still frame from our L4 intervals. When I get tired or am trying to sprint really fast, I forget to utilize my core and I get this sway-back going on. It’s not that efficient, and it’s something I’m working on changing. The video helps me see what I really look like, not just what I think I look like in my head (hint…in my head I look like a TOTAL ROCKSTAR).
The other cool part about the video is that Jason Cork, our USST coach who writes my plans, can see it and talk with me about what I’m working on. Matt Whitcomb, our USST women’s coach, can also stay up to speed with how my technique is progressing. And the three of us can talk with Pat on what technique cues I’m going to be focusing on for the week, and Pat can help remind me during workouts and make sure I execute them well. It’s a pretty awesome system!