Dream days. Those races where everything seems to magically come together—you feel good, you’re focused on the present, and you get out there and absolutely crush it. Yeah, pretty much the days that are a reminder of why you love to race!
When I was racing in the juvenile category (around 15-16 years old) I thought that dream days were based entirely on luck; I would go out there and seemingly do the same thing each race, and sometimes the stars aligned and sometimes they did not. As you can imagine, consistency wasn’t really a word in my racing vocabulary. . . but it was a word I so desperately wanted to add. I just didn’t know how to get there. I spent the next couple years plugging away, training hard, and putting in the work but still felt like I was missing something.
Another year of inconsistent racing occurred with a number of pretty crappy races which finally forced me to realize that the thing I’d been missing was ownership of my race experience. In race situations where things weren’t perfect (maybe the race course didn’t play to my “strengths” or my wax wasn’t bullet proof) I would decide that a dream day couldn’t occur and would count myself out; I had made dream days to be something out of my control and was waiting for them to happen instead of going out there and creating them. Looking back, I think this lack of ownership was partially a form of self-protection— if I didn’t have control over the perfect day then the disappointment of a bad race wouldn’t hurt quite as much. I’m not saying that crappy days don’t happen, or that some races can’t magically just come together, but rather that to race consistently one needs to take those days that may first be labelled a write off, embrace what one has control over and fight through. Because you never really know what may happen until you actually go out and try.
Before Christmas I competed at U23 trials in Canmore. The first race was a Classic sprint and although I’ve always loved sprinting, I’ve also always been better at skate sprints. As well, with trials being over final exams I had an exam the day before and thus spent the days leading up to the race studying hard on top of all the race prep activity. Needless to say, I felt pretty mentally and physically exhausted during the sprint qualifier which was not at all how I was hoping to feel at one of the most important races of the year. Sitting on a chair in our wax room between the quali and the heats I realized I was at a bit of a junction point—I could either take my qualifier time as discouragement and spend the rest of the day just racing to survive OR I could take my qualifier time as something I could improve upon and buckle up for the ride. I chose option #2. The rest of the day was a battle: it wasn’t pretty. It was very messy, but I took what I had control over and pushed through. Throughout the day I just kept reminding myself that the race, in so far as how hard I pushed, was in my control. I raced my quarterfinal 12sec faster than my qualifier and ended the day as 3rd U23. No. It wasn’t a dream day, but it was most definitely a day I could be proud of. And, with another 3rd in the skate 10km, and a 5th in the classic mass start it was one of the most consistent trials I have ever raced.
So, this year, don’t wait for your dream day to happen, go out there and make your own!