Thursday, July 22, 2004 - Athlete Perspective
Haywood Report: Lucky Nuts

By: Sara Renner

There is no day like race day. We have about thirty races a year and spend 335 days preparing for them. I am not superstitious but I do have certain race rituals. It helps to remind me that a race day is like no other.

If my legs feel heavy the day before the race, I fill the bathtub with ice water and sit in it for five minutes. I like to organize my gear in a little pile and in the order that I will put it on the next morning. Exactly three hours before my start time I go for a jog. Right before the race, I jump as high as I can. If it is a sprint, instead of waving to the camera, I conserve my energy and wave with one finger. A routine helps to control the nerves. It is good to have butterflies but you have to be able to manage them and make sure they fly in formation.

Luck isn't always a factor in cross-country skiing. It is about overcoming adversity and the winner of the day is physically the fittest and, more importantly, mentally the toughest. It might feel like a nuclear bomb is being detonated in your hammies but the winner lassoes that last ounce of strength to push over the top of a hill.

For me, our sports defining moment had to be Stephania Belmondo of Italy in the 15km mass start at the Salt Lake City Olympics. She was leading the pack at the bottom of the last climb and broke a pole. The first replacement pole was too long and by the time she got her second pole, she was back in tenth place. Obviously, time was of the essence yet she stopped, rolled up the sleeves and then got down to the business of winning an Olympic ski race.

Good luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Things aren't so straightforward in other sports. My husband, Thomas Grandi, is an alpine racer and there must be a correlation between the chance of mishaps and the likelihood of athletes carrying lucky charms. Their day is over if they straddle a gate, catch an edge, or have goggles that fog. To warn off any unpleasantries, Thomas carries his lucky nuts (walnuts to be exact) as a reminder to ski aggressively because he figures you have to be a little nuts or have big ones to win.

Race days can be the greatest and sometimes the worst days of my life. The 99% parts that are hard are what makes the 1% indescribably good. With a summer of good training, I am counting on not needing any lucky nuts.

Haywood WC Report is powered by Haywood Securities Inc., proud sponsor of theSeniorNational Cross Country Ski Team

Source: Cross Country Canada

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