Returning to Old Crow for the 5th consecutive year spearheading the Father Mouchet Memorial Loppet I was reminded of the true spirit of skiing. The message Father Mouchet preached to his athletes is that a healthy lifestyle engrains a hard work ethic. Pride in one's accomplishments comes from that work ethic, as does the responsibility to contribute to our communities wellbeing. It is about the journey, and what you learn along the way. At this point in my scenic but bumpy journey, I have come to an intersection where it's time to head in a new direction. I'm moving on from competitive sport, and I hope that by reading this I may gain your understanding of my decision.
Eight years ago I had the privilege to watch the Vancouver Olympics. I watched wide-eyed from the top of a giant Sitka Spruce that I'd climbed to get a better view. I saw the red Canada suits flash by. I didn't even know who was who and I certainly didn't realize that seven years later I would share the same podium with these guys having just won Canada's first-ever relay medal. And I certainly couldn't have known that a year after that I'd be sporting one of those red Olympic suits of my own. I've represented Canada on the World Cup, at World Championships, and the Olympics. Although I don't doubt I could keep improving as an athlete, I feel I am at a good stage to withdraw from competitive sport having accomplished these major goals at the age of only 25. I have no regrets and am incredibly thankful to have been blessed with the life skiing has given me so far.
I've never given up on anything, so it seemed impossible for me to fathom the idea of giving up on skiing. There was no timeline; I never had a plan for when I may stop skiing. What I realize now is that I didn't give up; I haven't stopped. I've accomplished a lot and am now simply moving forward, on to new challenges. I've still been skiing several times a week. I love skiing, and I'll keep skiing for the rest of my life until my body gives way or our winters no longer bring snow- whichever comes first.
Anything I ever wanted in life I had to fight for it. I live by the motto that hard work will pay off. I wasn't particularly gifted as an athlete and didn't have all that much going for me in other areas either. I don't come from a background in sport; I don't come from a privileged family; I worked my ass off to get to where I am.
XC skiing is the most physically demanding sport in the world but I've always liked a challenge, and perhaps skiing was the right fit for me because of how damn hard it is. There has never been a "DNF" next to my name. I've never backed down, never not finished a race without laying it all out on the line. I raced with fierce determination, fighting for every second- muscles burning, lungs heaving, ever so desperate for oxygen. As I pushed beyond my threshold, it felt as if I were drowning out on the racecourse in a panic to reach the only relief, the finish line. Exploring my limits has always been something I loved doing. Results are inconsistent and out of your control, giving 100% effort, however, is attainable every time you're on course.
The world of sport is cruel in that I was always left wanting more. When you believe anything is possible, then everything less than perfect is not good enough. I always found myself striving for the next step that I could only hope would bring satisfaction. Instead, it brought only desire for greater success, which only got exponentially harder to achieve as I climbed the ladder. The final step was hard for me, and near the end of my career I began to struggle with anxiety and depression. It took so much energy that I didn't have anything left over for ski races anymore, and I wasn't happy.
Now that I'm retired, I'm finally satisfied. I'm able to step back and see for the first time this giant mural that I've painted, rather than focusing on the many imperfect brush strokes. I feel a cool breeze of fresh air bringing relief with each breath. I'm calm and content.
For those of you who know me, you may also know that I have many passions and desires outside of skiing, of which many have been put on hold. I feel fulfilled in the world of sport and it is now my wish to switch my focus to other endeavors such as returning to my home in the Yukon, working, acquiring some land, building a house, managing my family's trapline and exploring the far reaches and remote mountains and rivers that this wonderful place has to offer.
The great times I've experienced as an athlete would never have been made possible without the generous support of all the wonderful people in my life. My good friends, many of which I've made through skiing will keep a special place in my heart. Together we made the most of this arduous journey, celebrating when times were good and lending a hand when times were tough. My family and my mom, in particular, taught me to be strong and proud, but also caring and humble. I had sponsors without whom I'd literally not have been able to even pursue my ambitions. I've been on the receiving side for long enough and will now do my best to see that someone else enjoys these same opportunities I've been given. As I move on, another will take my place and have the privilege to represent our great country we live in.
I hope to stay involved in skiing, perhaps as a volunteer coach at the grassroots level. The local races will suddenly become much more competitive, and if the National Championships returns to Whitehorse, you can be sure that I'll be strapping on the ol' race boards.
Thank you all for the many years of support and for your understanding as I shift my life into a new direction.