After day one in Seefeld during our first Nordic ski training trip to Austria in December, I couldn’t see this day ever coming.
In fact, I found it so frustrating that I quit. The enjoyment level was in the red and I just couldn’t ever foresee loving this sport.
Half way through day two I switched my skinny skis for the fat boy mountain bike at the rental shop, leaving Slatts and Jonny to persevere on the skis, and headed into the mountains to clear my head.
It didn’t feel great. I felt flat and embarrassed but I offset that by telling myself it’s just not for me.
Over dinner that night I announced my decision to not continue, citing a genuine lack of enjoyment from the sport and a frustration with being a total beginner and thus being very inefficient at it.
The lads did their best to offer words of wisdom and rightly so, tried to convince me to continue with the goal of completing the Arctic Circle Race come March this year. Being told it would be something I’d tell my grandchildren about did hit home very hard and that 3 months hard graft and 3 days racing would be a small price to pay for such rich memories.
I stood firm and just said that it wasn’t for me.
Taking advice and support from my nearest and dearest, I slept on it and knew whatever decision I made, I’d have support.
Sleeping on something really does help as I’ve come me to learn, whatever the decision. Especially as I can be guilty of making emotional decisions in the heat of battle.
Alas, I clipped into my skis the next morning and joined the boys once again. I ate a healthy portion of humble pie that day as I quietly focused on my technique and accepting that with each mistimed stride, each fall, each misplaced pole plant, I was getting better.
Trip one was done and 2 full days had been achieved. I felt that on the final day, I had felt glimmers of efficiency creep in. I studied good skiers and tried to mimic their technique and timing. I YouTube’d techniques and bottled them in my memory.
I felt I had something to aim for on my next outing and when I clipped in for a short session in Yosemite National Park (yes, this sport never fails to take you to magical places), I got back to base with the satisfying realisation that my motor skills and muscle memory had tuned in and found an efficient stride and balance.
Descending on these skis is a whole new set of muscles and coordination but the development was obvious, even after a short session. I guess things in my body were beginning to switch on to the demands of Nordic skiing.
As I write this blog on the flight home from our third trip to Austria in as many months, I can honestly say that I love the sport. Something clicked and it feels very satisfying.
This journey is nowhere near complete but coming away from Seefeld with a new attitude to the sport is not something I would have ever expected after our first trip.
The lessons are huge. Quite simply, I wasn’t prepared to be a beginner at something and lacked the grit to learn how to fall, both in the physical and hypothetical sense.
Knowing how to get back up again in sport and adventure takes the mindset of a champion. There will be no championship medals around my neck ever in this sport but I needed to find the attitude, maturity and patience that is required to truly achieve accomplishment. And those attributes span every sport in the world. We’re all a beginner at first.
This is the first large event I’ve signed up to since becoming a dad and that has kept me going more times than I could count. Setting an example for Seb is a responsibility I’m very lucky to have and to be his role model is the most important goal of them all.
Chairing our fabulous charity is a huge responsibility too and I was conscious of practicing what I encourage others to do. I needed to ditch my cycling and running shoes and genuinely get out of my comfort zone. Hand on heart, I’ve been out in the wilderness when it comes to the comfort zone on this journey and whilst it’s a scary and sometimes disheartening place, it’s where the gold dust is.
Next up is the race itself in Greenland. Our preparation has been as good as it can be. We’ve got plenty of miles in the bank, three sets of three days back to back and a two very long days that supersede the longest day during the race.
I’ve been lucky enough to see some epic finish lines in my life and each one very different. If (when!) I see this one, it will be up there with the most satisfying, that’s for sure.
Again, a big thanks to those who believed in me and kept me going.
Never never never give up.