I dont want to race. I just want to learn to ski, I recall telling my guide that first year I went to Ski for Light. Just managing to stay upright on those long skinny sticks on those frozen trails was enough of a challenge for me. Yet, on race day, the last day of SFL, there I was, wearing a racing bib, shivering with the cold and the excitement as I waited my turn to push off and begin the 5 K rally. At the beginning of the week, I had never even seen a pair of skis before, and it took me 4 days before I could get off the 1 K loop. I was glad that the 5 K ralley was not a race, because all I wanted to do was do the distance. Still, as I approached the finish line, I could hear the cheers, the ringing of cowbells, and the encouragement of the announcer on the loud speaker. I couldnt believe they were still out there, cheering me in. I might have been the last one to cross the finish line that day, so in later years, when I really was racing the 10 K race, I would hurriedly grab some water, put on a warm jacket, and stand at the finish line to cheer in the new skiers. Theres nothing quite so emotional as the moment you and your guide give it all youve got to shave off a few seconds, and then slow down to a stop and receive a hug from the volunteers at the finish line who loop a metal over your head. Everyone gets one. It doesnt mean you won the race, but it does mean that you did your best, overcame your fears, met your challenges, and proved that If you can do this, you can do anything.
At this point, Id like to invite any SFL guides who read this blog regularly to post a comment. It would be great to hear how you feel on a race day. Ive experienced race day at SFL 25 times, so I have 25 stories, but Ill save them for another time, maybe next year.
After the race, everyone goes back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the awards banquet, everyone except for a few of us who stay and ski the course, just for the joy of skiing. The pressure is off and the trails are virtually empty, so we can relax and just have fun. Its a bitter sweet time for me, because I know I wont be skiing again until the next SFL, and I wont be seeing these wonderful friends for another year.
The race was yesterday, and although I wasnt part of it, my heart was there. I pictured the start of the day, with the flags displayed from all the countries represented. I heard the national anthems of each country being played and a few voices raised in pride. I heard the muffled applause from mittened hands. I smelled the wax being applied to skis with an iron. I felt the good cheer as skiers and guides high fived one another as they stepped into line for the start of the race. I heard each teams names announced as they each in turn were given the signal to start. Even before the last team took off, some of the teams were returning from a fast tour of the 10 K course, no doubt led by a Norwegian. I tasted the hot chocolate as we cheered in the MIP skiers, those using specially designed skis for people who use wheelchairs. Talk about inspiration. I wonder if they too get tired of being called amazing. If they can do this, they can do anything.