The holiday hustle

Ah, the bliss of a post-holiday vacation… Testing out — or exchanging — those killer (in whichever sense of the word is most appropriate) presents, munching on tasty leftovers, SKIING, and just enjoying the simple pleasure of care-free day without agenda… Must be nice!!!

While this may be the situation for many right now — of whom I am extremely envious! — it is not the case for me. I did get a blissful four days off for Christmas — my first “vacation” since starting work in April — but as slowly as it came, it went even more quickly, and I am back on the grind. The holiday was amazing, and I particularly enjoyed being able to get some quality time on my skis… in addition to my lack of agenda and surplus of delicious treats, which I may or may not have overindulged in (I’ll leave it at that).

But, time passes, so inconveniently at times, and I find myself doing the holiday hustle, while many others are catching up on some R&R. I am somehow managing a fine balancing act of three jobs in addition to training, and of course taking the time to enjoy the finer moments in life and be a contributing family member and friend. I have become a relative master of this unique art, like a performer at a circus, and most people would probably find me just as crazy. But, while there are certainly some bumps in the road, I have to say, I am enjoying the act, despite its quick pace.

One would certainly be very lucky to be able to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to being an athlete, and call it their career in addition to their passion and practice. But in my experience, that is fairly rare, because life, and in my case other passions, come in conflict. And that’s where the balancing act comes in. I understand that the reality for me is that there are several things I am passionate enough about to want to pursue as a career: for the time being, writing, athletics, coaching and teaching, though there are so many others I only wish I could squeeze in, and likely will do in the future. I have chosen to pursue each of those things, in a quest to see where they will take me, and in an effort to support myself amidst the realities of life (more specifically, bills, and even more specifically, those nagging student loans). And I am doing my best each and everyday to give all that I can to each of these roles, because frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

While I know that my situation is probably not entirely unique or any more difficult than anyone else’s, I do acknowledge that it presents challenges, and is not the easiest path toward attaining optimum success in any one area, including skiing. But, it is the path I continue to chose, for reasons that perhaps only I can understand. And along with the difficulties, it continues to bring me many rewards.

Just before the holidays, my team, North Tahoe High School, raced in their first CNISSF race at Kirkwood. To say that the day was less than ideal is a gross understatement. The weather was unbelievably harsh. But the kids, several of whom were racing for their first time, got out there and gave it their all. And though some of them were disappointed with their results, I felt extremely proud of their efforts. I know there are only better things to come, and I am anxious to see them unfold.

In addition, several athletes I am coaching/have been coaching/ have coached, went out in yet another snowstorm and left everything they had on the Snowshoe Thompson course, and found themselves meeting the JO qualifying standards for the race. That was a first for several of these athletes. And while I couldn’t be there to witness it, I was so incredibly impressed and proud to see their results. A very big reward, for them, but also for me.

On teaching… I have started a few different clinics over at Tahoe XC, including a Women’s only clinic, which has been an immense success thus far. While I have heard feedback that the women are reeping the benefits of the class, I don’t know whether they know that I am too. It is, in so many ways, empowering. To be with a strong group of female athletes sharing in the same goals and challenges and working together to achieve and overcome them is really an incredible feeling, beyond what I had expected. I knew the atmosphere would be great for the women in the class, and conducive to success, but I didn’t predict that I would feel so empowered by it as well. Being able to teach and share with these women has been awesome so far, and I am looking forward to watching them, and myself, progress throughout the season.

I also got the chance before school got out to ski with a few of the middle schoolers that I had coached this summer through the development program. Again, I felt empowered by the atmosphere, though there were only four of us. I could see just how strong their passion for skiing has become, elevated by the season, and how many gains they had made over the summer. It was a sense of accomplishment for me, knowing I had something to do with it. And when these same athletes went on to win the middle school boy’s race, I felt I had a little part in that too, somewhere rooted in the background.

I have not done a ski race yet this year, as I just haven’t felt I had enough solid on-snow training days under my belt yet, but that will come soon. And so too will those rewards. For now, I am doing my best to hustle with grace — my dance of choice — and enjoy the moments along the way.

A new gig

Last week, I started my new coaching job at North Tahoe High School. It went great.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and admittedly slightly nervous on the first day, stepping into a role that has long been occupied by the same all-stars, Elyah Gordon and Randolph Green. What would the kids think of me? Would they welcome me as their new head coach, or be opposed to the change? What would be the first thing I said?

But, luckily for me, both Randolph and Elyah are still around and helping out a TON, which has really helped to ease my transition in as head coach, and also helped make it easier on the team as well. Randolph even showed up the first day — greeted by enthusiastic hugs and hellos from all the kids — to provide an introduction and be a crutch for me to lean on that first day of practice. I was glad he was there.

Since that first day, which ended up being just fine — I committed no major coaching faux pas that I know of! — things have only gotten better. I am already getting to know the athletes pretty well on an individual basis, and learning about their skiing abilities and goals. They are a unique group, each with their own range of experience and very different personalities. It has been a lot of fun getting to know them!

There have been some adjustments, certainly, both for me and for them. I don’t know that they are particularly in favor of my hard-nosed attitude about drills, drills, drills… BUT, they will thank me later. This I know for sure. I mean, you have to learn how to ski before you can actually go ski, right?! I really think they’ve learned a lot already, and it’s showing. I like that! On the other hand, they’ve taught me lots too: the value of “adventure days” and what an adventure day entails; the fact that there is HOT CHOCOLATE in the huts at Tahoe XC (did you know this?! If not, you better get on it!!); the importance of a good apres-practice group sing and dance sess;  just how hysterical teenagers really are this days!! … and the list will only continue to grow.

I think things are off to a great start, and personally, I am just feeling really good about it. I am anxious to see where the rest of the season takes us, and I hope I can continue to be a good guide along the way.

A good start to the season

Hello hello! I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving week has been wonderful. I for one had a great time getting out on the snow and enjoying my first few skis with some awesome athletes!

Over the last three days I led the local Thanksgiving training camp here at home, and it was really great. I hope the athletes had as much fun as I did. For me, it was my first four “real” skis, so it felt awesome to get out there and get things going.

We started off with a double on-snow day on Friday. We took advantage of the new snow and cold temperatures for a nice long classic ski in the morning. We did lots of drills and went back to the basics, focusing on getting our fundamentals right to carry over through the year. We worked on balance, body position, maximizing glide and efficiency and more. I have to say I was super impressed with how well everyone was classic skiing. They looked like they had been skiing for months already! It was great to see. For me, classic skiing felt surprisingly natural and good. Unlike past seasons, I really felt in my element right away, and it made me super stoked for some classic racing. After lunch, complete with plenty of hot chocolate and whipped cream and a little bit of rest, we hit the trails again for a skate ski — my first of the season, but the third or fourth to most everyone else. Again, the focus was on technique, and again I was impressed with everyone’s progress so early in the season. We ended the day with some short relays and a game of ski tag, and I have to say I was not prepared to have to go so fast in order to keep up! I was worked!

Saturday brought a bunch of new snow (as if we needed anymore…?!), and we set out for a classic ski in the powder. It was somewhat of an adventure, but everyone made the best of it, getting in some distance and still putting in some quality technique work, despite blowing snow and chilly wind gusts. We were all relieved to get inside and get some hot pizza, and consume hot chocolate in even more mass quantities than the day before. We were all set to go ice skating at Northstar in the afternoon, only to find that when we got there, there was too much snow on the rink to skate! Bummer! But again, we made the best of the situation, and the athletes got involved in some serious snowplay/ intense snow ball fighting/ fort building out on what is normally the ice rink, but in this case looked more like a mecca of snowplay.

This morning, for our final workout, we did another nice long skate ski, complete with some fun relays. After the mess of snow yesterday, it was great to come out to freshly groomed tracks and blue skies, though the morning was pretty brisk. After some more drills and everyone’s favorite, no-pole skiing, we headed off to get some distance in before meeting back up for some extreme speed relay action. The ladies, myself included, took on the boys in some head-to-head speed action. We couldn’t quite pull off the upset, so we decided to change it up. The boys, always up for a challenge, took us on again in a relay in which they doubled poled and we skated, and we managed to take them down. In the finale, we did a combi relay that consisted of backwards skiing, double poling on our knees (Savannah’s creative suggestion), and frog hops. This time, we REALLY took the boys down, thanks to Savannah’s surprising expertise at the double-pole-from-the-knees technique. It was a fun end to a great weekend.

Thanks to all the athletes for working hard, smiling, and just doing an awesome job. Based on these three days, I think it’s more than safe to say that you guys are going to have an awesome ski season ahead. I can’t wait to watch!

THE SNOW HAS ARRIVED!

In case you didn’t get the memo… THE SNOW HAS ARRIVED! Several feet of the fluffy white stuff has graced the ground outside my house in Glenshire, and I have to say, it is absolutely beautiful. Each year with the first snow comes a change of pace, a fresh outlook and all the promise of the season ahead.  I couldn’t be happier.

The trails around Tahoe aren’t quite open yet, but I just couldn’t wait to get out and celebrate the snow. This weekend, I rung in the season with a couple backcountry adventure skis in the meadow behind my house. While they weren’t quite the pristine skis on freshly-groomed trails that I have been anticipating and longing for, the skiing was a whole other form of awesome in itself. In its own right, nothing beats breaking trail through more than a foot of light, fluffy powder on some beat-up metal-edged crowns with dogs in tow.

And while it wasn’t quite conducive to great classic technique, it still felt like skiing, and that felt amazing. And after a couple two-hour sessions of powder trekking up steep climbs and over logs, and navigating down hills through trees and bushes with less than adequate control, I have to say I am feeling more than sufficiently exhausted, and even more excited about skiing.

This afternoon my good friend Shannon came along, and with the four dogs between the two of us, there was no shortage of good company. Our ski was pleasure in its purest form. I wasn’t thinking about my technique, my heartrate, how to ski the transition, or preparing for an upcoming race. I was just enjoying my sport, my company, the beauty around us and the day. And sometimes, that is the perfect ski. And this year, it was the perfect beginning to what I already know is going to be an incredible ski season.