Sunday, November 16, 2003 - Perspective
Finding the mental mojo: Fighting the urge to trade training for Haagen Daz

- By: Sara Renner

From the Calgary Harold

While some Canadians still lament winter, skiers know the best route through the cold. And if anyone is ready for winter, it's the Canadian Cross Country Ski Team. At least that's what we like to tell ourselves.

After an intense summer of training, our first World Cup is less than three weeks away. The bulk of the work is over and I must have a firm trust in quick legs, efficient technique and a big thumping heart. Nervous? Yep.

Imagine lining up with 80 uber-fit women, who have worked as hard as you, and who want it just as much. The final results will largely be determined by who wants to hurt the most.

We've been preparing for winter since May. The general pre-competition schedule consists of hours of long distance training punctuated by sessions of maximum intensity effort and workouts in the weight room. The challenge is to balance the hard work with enough recovery time and to find the mental mojo to push through the times when you would really rather log the hours in the hammock with a pint of Haagen Daz than do an uphill double pole roller ski.

The theory is that the tough workouts, which in mid-stride reflection, couldn't possibly be natural or right, will pay off with good form, mental toughness, an incredible feeling of accomplishment and ultimately my first World Cup podium.

The road to the racing season ends with a snow chasing pilgrimage. For the past decade, Nordic keeners head to the traditionally great skiing in Fairbanks, Alaska. Being ejected straight into winter an hour south of the Arctic Circle can certainly shock your system. The first breath of crisp air would freeze unsuspecting nose hairs, and send us back inside the airport in search of hats, scarves, balaclavas, mitts, earmuffs and long johns.

A Nordic venue with consistent early season snow or snow making, cold weather, grooming equipment and a dedicated Nordic chief is almost as difficult to find as a man who works around the house, cooks and cleans, holds down a decent job, makes you laugh and is good in bed.

This year we skittered around on three centimetres of expertly groomed snow and birch leaves in Fairbanks, while it miraculously dumped 20 cm of snow in my backyard in Canmore.

We bailed a week later when it started to rain in Alaska, did a dance for the snow gods and returned home as soon as the grooming machine lumbered into action at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

I travel the world chasing snowflakes and have a cult-like addiction to Internet weather reports.

This early winter is like winning the lottery and has enabled our team to put the final touches on our training season.

For those who don't like hat head and runny noses, let's face it; winter is here for half of the year. Put on your woollies, get outside and enjoy it.

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