I think of things to write about all the time. They’re usually about skating, or training, or racing or travel, et cetera. Sometimes, when I think the idea is really good and the inspiration is strong enough, I actually do write about it. But then sometimes, even when I think the idea is good, the inspiration fades away and I end up letting it go. This is more often than not because I am lazy and just never end up getting around to it. But what also happens is that what I might initially think is a good idea occasionally turns out to be not so interesting or my opinion about it changes, or I just don’t feel that way anymore.
For instance, over Christmas I was going to write about how lousy it is that we always have National Team trials right after Christmas, and how we are robbed of spending Christmas with our families year after year, never getting to go home; never getting to do Christmas things. I was going to call it ‘The Sport Who Stole Christmas’. I was going to whine about how I didn’t have the chance to bake any Christmas cookies or trim a tree or make snow angels and about how I felt so guilty for not doing more for the special people in my life.
But then, as luck would have it, I was in Richmond over Christmas, for the aforementioned National Team trials, and was so very thankful to have Christmas dinner with family after all – with my uncle Alan and his wife Pat, and my cousin John and his wife Suzanne and their two kids. It was a bit chaotic, as Christmas dinner ought to be, but there was turkey!
I also got to see my other cousin Stuart and his wife and their little boy for a wee visit. I went to a Michael Franti concert on New Year’s Eve, which was quite possibly the best concert I’ve ever seen, and then went for New Year’s Day breakie with some good friends who live in Squamish. Amidst all of that I had some good races and it turns out Christmas was not stolen by speed skating at all, but rather just morphed into a different size, shape and colour than I am used to.
So, I didn’t end up writing about that because it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
Then I thought about another idea, about how every January I go through a bit of a lull, and my spirit sags just a little as the winter doldrums set in and I feel a bit blue. I was going to write about how every January we have to race in a competition called the Continental Championships, where we race off against the U.S. to qualify spots for the World All-Round Championships.
Without fail, this is always my worst competition of the year, where I just can’t seem to get motivated and I race my worst races of the season. I try to use it as an opportunity to work on new things and every year I tell myself that this year, I will break the mold and skate well. But somehow, no matter what, I end up stinking instead and justifying my poor attitude with the fact that, for me, these are basically meaningless races, and it’s just a weekend I have to ‘get through’ before the rest of the real season begins again.
I was going to write about that and call it ‘Continental Blues’, or ‘The Continental Curse’, but then the competition came and went, and it actually ended up, for once, not being so bad and I didn’t completely stink in every single race. I did do some things I wanted to do, and the added intensity supplied by two of our girls getting sick and not being able to race really upped the ante in terms of getting all of our spots in spite of a pretty compromised team. I was beyond impressed with the two youngest girls on the team who came through under pressure and succeeded in qualifying the last two spots, not even for themselves, but for two other girls on the team.
Still, I was pretty fired up to write about that, especially after a cost-saving measure had us fly home from Salt Lake City via a five-hour layover in Las Vegas, getting home to Calgary at 3:30am! But then I went to sleep and woke up to a beautiful sunny day, and I didn’t feel cursed or blue at all.
I didn’t end up writing about that either.
The sunshine has stayed for days! The six-week deep freeze finally blew east (sorry) and the mercury has soared to the double digits (in the positive direction!) for many a day. I got to ride my bike outside again; I felt warm sunshine on my face for the first time since I can’t even remember when. My winter blahs began to melt away and I couldn’t seem to remember what it was I felt blue about in the first place.
Many moons ago I raced a World Cup in Erfurt, Germany in the dead of winter. I remember very distinctly at that time being voted, “The Palest Human Alive” by two of my teammates. We had a good laugh about it, but truth be told, it was indeed true, and as they say, the truth hurts.
My Norwegian blood has granted me blue eyes and blond hair – and ghostly pale skin during winter’s short, dark days. I’ve since become a tad self-conscious of my pallid winter appearance and although I would never succumb to indoor tanning or bronzing cream I do try to purposely catch a ray or two when I have the chance.
You can pick out the Norwegians in any crowd – if it’s even remotely sunny you’ll find them standing, with a hand on one hip, quite possibly in ski boots, looking directly up at the sun, with their eyes closed and a slightly euphoric smile on their face. So starved for sunshine are they that they soak up the rays at any opportunity for a bit of colour in their cheeks.
I am one such half-Norwegian. In the past few days I have found myself often turning up to the sun, eyes closed, smiling, with the aim of gaining just a hint of colour, my vanity getting the better (side) of me. But, you know, it’s not just the colour; it’s the energy, the rejuvenation and the oomph I gain from just being outside, in the fresh air and glorious sunshine.
As I embark upon the second half of this pre-Olympic season, I feel strangely refreshed, calmed and excited to race, all thanks to a little ray of sunshine that came to pass me by in the middle of winter. So in the end, I decided to write about that.