Thursday, January 16, 2014

David and the Goliath

I read this book by Malcolm Gladwell called David and Goliath. He has written many awesome books, but I thought this one was perfect to explain my situation. As I hope most of you know, the story of David and Goliath is about a young shepherd boy named David who takes down a mighty worrier called Goliath with all but a slingshot and a rock. This tale is often used today to show that sometimes the underdog takes over the bigger and the better. In his book, Malcolm Gladwell takes the story of David and Goliath as an example to change our view on what it is really like to be the underdog. According to historians, Davids slingshot was extremely powerful and shepherds at that time and place were very good at using them for scaring off predators from their sheep. Goliath on the other hand, is believed to have had a disease that made him big but have pour vision. So killing Goliath with a slingshot was easy for David. Goliath was a big target and he couldn't even see the rock coming. This example goes to show that being an underdog isn't always a disadvantage. When looked at closely, a disadvantage could  potently be an advantage.

Nakkertok training camp in October in Lake Placid
Last week, I did my first races of the year. It was world junior Trials in Canmore Alberta. The last time I did a big race was at nationals in 2012 in Mont St-Anne. I have been struggling with my training ever since then. It's only this September that I was finally able to figure things out and start training again. Things haven't exactly gone smoothly since then, but it was definitely a turning point. I got to the races last week with almost no idea of how things were going to go. I haven't been going to the gym because of an injury and I haven't been doing intensity because I realized that it was the thing that was making me the most tired. My training has mostly consisted of long zone 1 skis. I didn't know how my body was going to react to racing around a hard course like the one in Canmore. I feared blowing up and not being able to finish the race and I feared racing and feeling awful doing it. Basically, I feared not being able to just race, by pushing my limits and finishing off hard. All these things I was feeling and what I knew about my fitness made me a definite underdog. I was desperate to find myself any advantage over the other skiers because I knew I was missing something. I sat down with my coach the night before the 5 km classic race and he told me to look at the things that I could control. I am good at downhills so I planned to race those well. My other plan was to start out easy and pick it up throughout the race. Finally, I told myself that I had to ski as efficiently as possible because I could not afford to waste any energy.
5km classic in Canmore at WJT
B final in 1.3 km skate sprint in Canmore at WJT
On race day, I followed my plan perfectly. I started easy and finished hard, almost feeling a little too energetic at the end. So, I considered my race a success. Being able to push hard in a race was absolutely amazing and reminded me of how awesome ski racing really is! I ended up finishing 7th in front of some strong skiers. In this case, I believe that my disadvantage was also an advantage in some ways. Because I knew that I was probably not as fit as the other skiers:

  • I started easy which turned out to be a good pacing strategy. On such a challenging course, everybody except me and one other skier had a slower second lap. Starting too hard in Canmore is something that you want to avoid at all cost because, honestly, it sucks struggling up the "wall" (the biggest hill on the course) at the end of a race.
  • I skied as efficiently as possible. I know that everybody tries to do that, but when you are desperate to find any sort of advantage, you try harder.                                                     
  • I didn't feel a lot of pressure. The top skiers were probably feeling a lot more pressure, with a spot on the Canadian team for world juniors at stake.
Also, because I only raced one race with CPL points last year, my points were very low. But, this turned out to be an advantage. I hardly saw anybody on the course so I was able to focus solely on myself and my plan!
The Nakkertok girls after the last race
I've learnt that looking for advantages is extremely important in sport and in every other aspect in life. There is almost always an advantage to a disadvantage. As examples: Injuring your shoulder makes you work more on your legs, qualifying last in a sprint makes people underestimate you, losing someone you love makes you stronger because you know you have survived the worst, not making it into the best school means you won't be over shadowed by the other students at the school you choose and being sick helps you learn more about yourself. Whenever you lose something, you gain something else.

To finish off, I would like to congratulate my awesome siblings, Katherine and Patrick, and my amazing friend, Sophie Carrier-Laforte, for qualifying for world juniors and U23s in Val de Fiemme Italy. They have all put an impressive amount of effort into training for skiing in the last few years, so they definitely deserve recognition. I wish I could be going with them, but I guess I will have to wait until next year!

Thanks for reading my first blog post. There is more to come!


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