It’s hard to believe, but there is only about a month of the race season left. After many days of training and racing, the end is in sight.
At this late point in the winter, you will have fallen into one of three camps as far as how your season has gone. First, you may be having a break-out season in which you are absolutely thrilled with the progress in your skiing and race results. You would be perfectly content if the season ended today. But why wouldn’t you want to continue your great season by seeing if you can take it to an even higher level?
Second, you’ve had an okay season in which you’ve shown improvement in both your skiing and your results, but you haven’t done as well as you had hoped. Though you wouldn’t be entirely happy if the season ended today, you wouldn’t be really upset either. For you, there’s still time take a decent season and turn it into a great one.
Finally, your season to date has been a real disappointment filled with setbacks or plateaus in your skiing, unsatisfying results, and a strong sense of frustration. If the season ended today, you would be one unhappy camper. Though you may wish for the season to end today—just to put you out of your misery—as the saying goes, it ain’t over till it’s over. With a number of races ahead, it’s not too late to salvage your season and also have it conclude on a real high note.
As for the season that still lies ahead, you will fall into one of two camps. Either you are already thinking about the off-season and jonesing to hang up your skis, get on your mountain bike or paddleboard, or maybe just sleep for about a week. Or, you are still chomping at the bit for the upcoming races and are committed to doing everything possible to finish your race season strong.
Let me assure you that if you fall into the first camp, you might as well end your season now because your chances of having a good end of season are just about zero. Why? Because you won’t bring the necessary drive, intensity, or focus to get much out of your training or for you to give it your all in races. Though there are no guarantees, your only chance to finish strong is to make the commitment to getting the most out of your training and deciding to do nothing less your very best in all races, to the very end.
How this last month of the season turns out depends on your attitude and your actions between now and when your last run of your last race appears on Live-timing.
If You’re Skiing Well
Let me introduce you to Taylor’s Law of Stupidity: If something’s working, change it. That is just plain dumb! If you’re skiing well, my gosh, keep doing what you’re doing. You are in an ideal position this last month for several reasons. First, because your season is already a success, the rest of the season is just icing on the cake for you. Second, the pressure is off to get results, so you can race with reckless abandon and not care about what happens. Just trust your skiing and focus entirely what you need to do to ski your fastest every run. If you keep doing what has worked so far, the chances are good that you will finish strong.
If Your Skiing is ‘Meh’ or Worse
If your season to date lies somewhere between disappointing and devastating, there’s one thing you should definitely not do: panic! If you panic, some very bad things will happen. First, you will shift entirely into result mode, meaning you will focus on the results you need to get to salvage your season. This result focus will cause you to feel immense pressure every time you get in the gate. This pressure will trigger negative thoughts (“If I don’t get a good result, my season will be an absolute failure”), even worse emotions (fear!), and so much anxiety that you will be physically incapable of skiing well.
As hard as it will be, you must let go of the pressure (“Even if I have a lousy season, I will be okay”) and maintain a process focus (“What do I need to do to ski fast?”). This point in the season is the time to step back, take a long, hard look at your skiing, and see if you can identify any changes that will help you get your season back on track.
With the specter of an unsatisfying season on the horizon, your primitive reaction will likely be survival mode which will trigger your fight-or-flight response. When we were cave people, fleeing gave us our best chance of surviving. And that is probably what you want to do now. But fleeing, (in other words, skiing cautiously in the hope of getting a good result) will mean certain death, er, failure. At times like this, your best chance is to fight. This means that, instead of having a pity party and giving up, you need to get really mad and direct that anger into attacking the race course. The reality is that charging won’t necessarily produce a good result; your aggressiveness may lead to a big mistake or a DNF. But I can assure you that, whatever the outcome, you will feel much better having ended your season with a bang rather than a whimper.
Back to Basics
Whether you’ve had a stellar, mediocre, or awful season so far, there are some things you can do that may help you finish the season strong. Go back to basics. In other words, do things that have helped you ski well in the past.
• Take care of yourself physically by getting enough sleep, eating well, and maintaining your fitness.
• Revisit technical and tactical fundamentals that may have slipped during the long season.
• Make sure you’re still doing your complete training and race routines that will ensure total preparation every time you get in the gate.
• Do a lot of mental imagery of successful skiing. The feelings and images you conjure up will build your confidence and get you fired up.
• Continue to engage in quality training with a clear goal, ideal intensity, and a specific focus every training run.
• Lastly, and most importantly, remember why you ski race: Because you love it and it’s fun.
Enjoy the rest of your season!
Jim Taylor, Ph.D., competed internationally while skiing for Burke Mountain Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado. Over the last 25 years, he has worked with the U.S. and Japanese Ski Teams, many World Cup and Olympic racers, and several of the leading junior race programs in the U.S. and Canada. Jim is the author of Prime Ski Racing: Triumph of the Racer’s Mind, he publishes bi-monthly newsletters on sport, business, and parenting, and also blogs for huffingtonpost.com and psychologytoday.com. To learn more or to contact Jim, visit his website.