Ten Years Down the Long Road | by Edie Thys-Morgan
Today marks ten years since I sat down, fed up with the maniacal emotions of ski racing’s junior championship season, and wrote the the “Long Road”…treatise? manifesto? plea? Whatever it is, the Long Road was meant as a way to bring some perspective into a time of year that for ski racers of all ages is fraught with pressure and tension.
What we go through this time of year also holds the key to why we do this. My ten- and twelve-year-old rabid racers are now 20- and 22-year-old rabid racers, and never has that “why” been more apparent to me.
Every year I wonder if things have changed and if the Long Road message is still relevant. Then, as the end of February nears, I realize that as sure as there will be Shamrock Shakes, there will be high anxiety in March.
As with most years, in this lead up to March 1 I found myself standing on the side of a course, this time as a pure spectator. Coaches chatter predictably drifted towards the various championships and qualifiers, and the tensions building amongst athletes and parents in their clubs. After ten years of seeing this movie replay, I know those feelings are universal, and inescapable. They are also an important part of the all-inclusive, non-refundable, irreplaceable ski racing experience.
On one hand, if I knew ten years ago what I know now, about how long it takes to develop in this sport, about how little results matter and for how long, I would have been authentically Zen about these events. But on the other hand, that feeling of urgency, and of needing and wanting to perform at your best, is part of the process. There’s some honor in letting that tweakiness come in, and learning to deal with it.
As it happened, this day found me at a particularly hairy race—one that Moms really don’t like to watch in person. And yet I was stuck there on the side of the course just as the kids were stuck on top of it. At least I had the option of closing my eyes. They had only one option, and it was one they took without hesitation.
More than ever, I was in awe of all these kids—now men and women—having the will, desire, strength and ability to throw themselves down a dark, icy, bumpy, fast course. They could do it because all those years ago they learned to step into the starting gate completely alone, to hear the words, “Racer Ready,” and to GO!
If you need some support this time of year, check out the original Long Road. If you need a little extra support, below is the cheat sheet for some earlier preambles to it, For all the ski racers and their keepers out there, I hope this March is crazy busy and filled with at least some tears of joy.