There are a lot of skills (both practiced and innate) that get you to both the start and finish line of a race. There is punctuality (don’t ever take for granted getting to the start line on time, even after three years of professional racing and eight additional years of high school and college, I STILL have nightmares about missing my start), time management, multi-tasking, organization, fitness, strength (both mental and physical), speed, stamina…the list goes on. But- as I was recently reminded by a father of teammate of Val’s at St. Paul Academy- there is an often overlooked skill. As the father eloquently put it, “and of course, the essential athletic talent of forgetting.”
I’m going to make a slight adjustment. To get successfully to the start and finish line, one needs the essential athletic talent of selective memory.
In any career- whether it is skiing, law, teaching, parenting or cooking- you are going to have bad days. Sometimes caused by things in your control, but also often a result of uncontrollable variables. In fact in a lot of ways, you’ll have more bad days than perfect ones. But to reach those perfect days- when pain doesn’t resonate and everything just falls into place- you need to remember you are capable of a perfect day, AND you not only need to have bad days, but also you need to forget they even happened.
I set incredibly high expectations for myself going into the season. Coming off a kick-ass summer of training combined with some really positive fall time trial efforts, I was ready to take the season by storm. But race after race after race (x3 more races), I fell short of what I feel I’m capable of.
It was incredibly frustrating to finish every race disappointed in the end-result, and I had an incredibly hard time in the moment recognizing the things I could control, and the things I couldn’t; what went really well, and what went poorly. And each time I started a race, I carried that emotional baggage (which definitely took a physical toll) all the way around the course. So by the end of period one- despite actually placing better than I ever have in these opening races (nothing below 12th place, whereas last year I had some high 20 results)- I had six races weighing me down both mentally and physically.
So when my mom forwarded me that text, I was stunned. I had honed all of my other skills- I’m objectively stronger and faster than ever before- but I’d forgotten how to forget, or rather selectively remember. I’d dwelled on things that didn’t go my way or well, and completely forgot to remember all the things I had done to get me to this point.
So with a 14 day training block at home before heading to the ever important nationals races in Par k City Utah, I embarked on practicing the skill of selective memory. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to reflect on less than ideal races, but every time I start a training ski or a race, I’m going to view it as a blank slate and an opportunity to showcase my effort. I’ve had some really positive sessions this last week (I did my first muscle-up!), and also some really wonderful relaxing at home with my family.
I’ll post another update after Nationals, and until then I’ll be snacking on all the best holiday treats, singing my favorite holiday songs, and working on that selective memory (in fact I just recently watched Finding Dory, a movie all about a fish with short term memory loss). Happy Holidays, and now for lots of pictures!