Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Perspective
X-C.com Update: The Crusty Old Guy Pretends to be a Racer Again

- By: Werner Schwar

Hello everyone. Here it is February already and finally we have good snow in Thunder Bay. Bit slow and squeaky, but good skiing none-the-less.

The Crusty Old Guy has recently returned form the Continental Cup/ World Championship Trials in Quebec. You may ask, what is an old guy like me doing at high-level selection races like this. Sometimes I asked myself that question too, but by the end of the trip I had discovered the answer, and this is what I want to share with you in my update.

Yes old habits die-hard. When the opportunity through the support of X-C.com presented itself for me to participate in these races I jumped on it. It would not have been possible financially otherwise. Besides in every competitor, even us old ones, there is still the faint glimmer of hope that a miracle will happen and I will ski faster than ever before and make the World Championship team.

It only took the first race to break that pipe dream. I didnít even make the first page of the result sheet. However, by the last race I was into the high level racing thing again and finished a respectable top 15 Canadian. This let me leave on a good positive note.

Enough about results. That stuff doesnít matter to the old guy anymore. What about the experience? Did it make me feel young again to be racing against many people who were not even born when I began to ski race? In short, no not really. When I am racing I do not feel old. No, I just feel the same as always, actually better than when I was 18. But what about all the other stuff that goes along with a ski racing trip. Ah, thatís where the difference is. Here are a few of the highlights.

Preparation before leaving. I used to just pack and go. Now I have to make sure things are in order for my family for the time away and worst of all I now have a self employed job. As such, I have the most flexible/inflexible boss you can imagine. The day before I was to leave for Quebec a client phones up needing work done before I leave. No choice. Getting one hour of sleep before getting on the airplane was a great way to start the trip.

Bad airline connections. It used to be part of the routine. Relax with a good book and music and the day would pass. I left my home in Thunder Bay at 6 a.m. and finally got to the house in Mont Saint Anne at 9 p.m. Seems like a big waste of a day when you know you have a lot of work to do, but no where to do it and you have a daughter that would have loved to play with you for that time.

Race delays. In Quebec we had lots of delays and changes due to the cold. Again these would end up taking the entire day, when I had planed to do lots of work at the kitchen table that afternoon.

The kitchen table, or any other small flat surface. They used to be for eating meals on or socializing, but now they have become my portable office. Each time I would find a few minutes I would take the table over, drawings and drafting equipment everywhere and do my best to diligently work after skiing, when all I really wanted to do was relax.

Traveling between race locations. I had the fortunate experience of traveling from Mont Saint Anne to Mount Orford with Steve, Chris and Emily in an old green Jetta. All of them were only half my age. That made the old guy feel young again. Traveling down the highway listening to the conversation of young adults and music that my wife doesnít want me to listen to anymore. The highlight of my trip was when Steve asked me where I got my German Army Shirt, since he thought it was cool. Imagine that, me cool, ah the little things.

Coming home. Used to be unpack the bag, do laundry and go about the normal routine. Now coming home is just as hectic as before going away. The countless urgent business messages that turn out to be nothing in the end, and the family that has not seen you in 10 days and wants you to spend time with them. It is the hug from your wife and two year old daughter that makes coming home more special than it used to be. When my two year old daughter says welcome home Papa, good racing, I missed you, well even my heart melts

I probably could go on, but I wonít. I think you all get the idea. I do want to leave with one final thought though. That is the question of where were all the older skiers in Quebec? And why does everyone just stop racing altogether when they stop being at the top. I donít mean follow the racing circuit, but just compete in high level races in your local area. I think we as a country need to encourage not only younger kids to take up the sport and stay in it, but also people in my age bracket to stay in the sport. Not only to help bolster the number of bodies in a race, but to increase the competition level in races. Sure we are not going to challenge the best in the country anymore, but we do have a role in challenging the developing skiers. No one wants to be beat by a crusty old guy, and if they are, they might work harder in the future to ensure it doesnít happen again. So this is a challenge to all racing retirees out there, swallow the ego and get out and race even if just for fun at the local level. You will make a difference to the development of the younger skiers.

Until next time. Happy skiing.

Werner



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