So, here we are. The end of March. We made it. Dozens of finish lines, preceded by races both good and bad, have brought us here: the end of the season.
We really look forward to it, the end. We start dreaming of it around February, when we know we’re not supposed to, when pre race routines have degenerated from exhilarating to obligatory, when the end is just distant enough to be a dream, not a reality.
And why not dream of it? The end of the season brings with it so many great things (beer. French fries). Released from our schedules, we have the choice to do what we want (beer. French fries) when we want (beer. French fries) and how we want it (beer. French fries!). Dancing! Alpine skiing! Staying up late! Skipping meals! Adding meals! High heels! Getting sick! Sleeping in! It all sounds so wonderful, so free, we can’t wait to get there.
But then we’re there. Standing on the line of our last race, 30 kilometers from Spring, and suddenly, instead of forward, we look back. On the last page of a long book, we want more. More of what? We don’t know. We just don’t want it to be over. Sometimes we act like we’re not wild about what we have, until someone tries to take it away.
When I stood there, on that line staring down the barrel of the final race of the season, I looked back on an incredible year. From where I stood, I could see a year of transition, challenge, a little bit of triumph, and quite a bit of growth. For whatever disappointments and trials that come with living this lifestyle, there is a tremendous amount of good that accompanies them. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this sport, in this community, and to have the mitochondria and will power to be able to pursue my goals. For now, those goals still revolve around skiing, and I expect that they will for quite some time.
However, while I look at this week as an end to a season, I’m spontaneously aware that for many of my friends, it will be an end to a career. That’s the cycle. It happens everywhere, in every business, family and town; people grow up, they grow out, they move on to make new goals and find new places. To some people, that change will be amicable, a result of time and new opportunity. To others, it will not. I’ve seen the disappointment of sport tear apart ambitions and leave little room for anything other than resentment. Sometimes recovering from that takes years, but, from my experience, they’ll be back. You don’t just stop being a cross country skier. You can’t.
To those of you leaving, coaches and athletes alike, thank you for all you have done. I’m still a kid, and I know that the culture I’m growing up in is different than yours. You made it better. I had (have) the kinds of role models elementary schools dream about. Your enthusiasm for skiing and motivation to progress the sport, regardless of on which step of the podium you stood, has changed my life. I’m proud of you.
All of that still stands for everyone who has decided to stay. For everyone who sees the insanity and obscurity of our sport but can’t deny the impassioned need to keep on coming back. I’m one of you. I’m looking forward to hanging out.
This is beginning to sound more and more like a conclusion blog, but you should know, I’m probably not going anywhere this spring. Don’t get me wrong, I will certainly be taking my own skiing hiatus (ahem, beer and French fries), but I will not stop writing. I said that this year has brought a great deal of growth and that, in large part, came from writing this blog. The amount of positive support, followers and conversation springing from it amazes me. It validates me. It’s just. Pretty. Freaking. Awesome.
Thank you for reading and conversing and commenting. Thank you for following. I hope that I’m doing my part to add to the community that raised me. That, above all, is my greatest goal.
Now that I’ve crossed the finish line, I feel nothing but (an impressive amount of) gratitude to those who have supported me, both monetarily and otherwise, this year. So to all of you, thank you. To those leaving, thank you for inspiring me, I’ll see you on the trails again sometime. To those staying, see you sooner than we’re ready. And to everyone else, I’ll write as soon as I’ve had my fill of bee—well, you know.
Here are some of those great moments (cue melodramatic 90s nostalgia music)