“It’s too cold outside for angels to fly” -Ed Sheeran
“It’s too cold outside for you here” -The Neighbourhood
“Way too cold” -Kanye
When you’re preparing to race in subzero temperatures, you undergo a process somewhat akin to preparing for the Hunger Games…if the Hunger Games took place north of The Wall. Not only do you have to deal with the challenge of the other competitors, but there are also a bunch of damn white walkers white walking around. Just because you’ve won the race doesn’t mean you’ve escaped frostbite, and if you’ve escaped frostbite, you probably haven’t won the race.
According to everyone else, because the cold is such a requisite of the sport, we should have figured it out by now. “You’re a skier,” they mock, “You should like the cold.” I suppose cold is a relative term, because when it comes to this kind of cold, the kind that invades your core and strangles your lungs, the kind that grips your digits and tortures your nose, few people love it.
Although, this week’s wake up call from father winter did remind me of those often forgotten details of ski racing, the parts of the sport that go unrepresented to the outside perspective.
Like, no matter how prepared you think you are, when it’s -15 out, you’re going to feel underprepared. Hand warmers? Toe warmers? Double buff, tripple layers, puffy jacket and personal heater? Your butt is still going to be cold. It’s science.
Also, the aggravation and anxiety that comes with not knowing if you’re racing is almost more exhausting than racing itself. Your mood oscillates with the thermometer, from stoke to dread to fear to anger. One minute, you’re armed and ready to hit the course and whatever it brings with it. The next, you’re more like, “Meh, better not.” Just when you’ve resigned to not face the elements, someone tells you that there isn’t even the choice, and anger sets in. “If I want to ski in dangerous temps, I’m gonna ski!” you say, glancing at the thermometer and noting another several degree drop, and thus the cycle restarts.
Perhaps the angst is a result of training indoors, it’s a release rendered necessary by the massive amount of pent up inner energy that simply cannot escape on an elliptical. It’s also a reminder of how lucky we are to do what we do, how irreplaceable these experiences are. It helps you realize how much you want to do something until someone tells you that you can’t (mm, yes, that old chestnut).
That being said, sometimes it really is best not to. Yesterday, as I sat in the heated car watching competitors finish (or drop out, cry, break icicles off their chins, ect.), I understood what it was like to be on the outside looking in. To be thinking, “man, that looks miserable,” felt hypocritical to me. I mean, we’re supposed to be some of the roughest, toughest (skinniest…spandexy-est…) athletes out there, how could I have chosen a car over facing the white walkers and hungry gamers the sport demands? Because it was safer for me, that’s why.
Nevertheless, watching the bold racing, the fearless chase and the gutsy finishes made me proud to be a part of this community and even more excited to layer up and get back out there. Once my butt warms up, of course.