*Ben Saxton checking in.
The spring is a great time to reset. The ski season is over, and the snow melts away along with many of the worries of competition and travel; it’s a moment in which you can take a deep breath. Even nature seems to agree that there is a period during every year where things get to start again.
This past year I finished with some of the best results of my entire career, and I cracked my way into the World Cup for the first time ever. It was also a catastrophe of inconsistency. For each of my highs, I seemed to find an equal and oppositional low. I didn’t end the season in the manner I had hoped to, and left Spring Series with more questions than I had answers. This year, I’m thankful for the spring.
I’ve had plenty of time to think about the last 12 months. Don’t get me wrong, the days were sunny more often than not. But the truth is, I didn’t reach my goals. A charitable reading of my year was than I frequently lapsed into autopilot. A less charitable one says I was racing scared, and it cost me. Regardless, I can’t fool myself into thinking I’ve achieved some personal degree of success, because a life spent skiing is a life spent facing what’s in front of you. And the truth is, I didn’t measure up. I have a lot of work left to do to reach my goals. A LOT of work.
Some of the best advice I’ve received about that work was from my friend Lenny Valjas. Sitting together for a moment, sharing drinks on our last night in Quebec, I asked him if he had any advice now that his career was over. We have talked about a lot of things over the years, but what he said about there about “the struggle” was the most important:
“You gotta love it. There isn’t much else.”
Contrary to the self-importance our tiny world can tend to perpetuate (I’m looking in my mirror right now) success in athletics really doesn’t mean that much. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Whatever medals we may win, come with the caveat that only a small group of people will ever understand the pain, joy, and hard work that went into them. But that’s not a fact worth bemoaning. Because the truth is, success comes with no magic power or influence. It’s simply a recognition of what you’ve accomplished so far. And while it’s true that many athletes have gone on to do great things in life, it’s also true that many others have not.
What makes skiing a worthwhile endeavor is the work itself. It is a rare thing to live in such a self-determined world. You get out what you put in. That’s what makes this sport the perfect prism for understanding yourself; you’ve got all the answers. If I’m not happy with my season, there’s something I can do about it. I just have to actually, you know, do it. It’s a simple realization, but complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before you leave it behind.
This spring had a lot of shattering moments for me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that conversation with Lenny, and about my goals. This last season left a lot to be desired, and this spring is chance to start over again. I’m excited to get to work.