Our friend Andy Lieber wrote a price reflecting on life as a racer.
By Andy Liebner, 25JAN2014
For anyone who may read this, know these thoughts I've documented here have taken some time to drive out of me. It has taken stepping away from the very sport that my entire live was based from to come full circle about what it takes to compete with the right mentality again.
When I go out for a run, I don't think the same as when I go out for a ski. In the early days (High School) we'd run for +1 hour straight over rolling terrain and at a consistent pace, we'd do the same during the ski season. Somewhere between in this last decade I've forgotten that.
I realize now, years later, that near the final years of my skiing career, I was shying away from the daily pain of training, the weekend pain of racing. Maybe it was the inner resistance and tiredness. Maybe the routine had become boring and simply going fast on skis through the woods on groomed trails wasn't exciting anymore.
Before I really hit the wall and developed a heart condition 6 months after a heat stroke in 2004, I had no problem training as I felt and more often than not, I would end up skiing quite hard. Same goes for running and during those early years I made the largest development leaps. I remember competing during those years and really pushing the limits much harder than I did (on a consistent basis) later. Yes, I grew smarter about pacing, but I look back over it all now and see where I threw in the towel one thread at a time.
When I had that eager edge and drive to push and fly over the trail, I saw the same look in many of my (unbeatable to me) competitors and I strived hard always improve with every workout. Those who were on their way out, I did not notice their phase-out look although attitudes were obvious.
Nothing makes this more obvious than when uniforms are put on and you step up to that start line; committing to at least one more race experience adding one more result to the ski resume. In the early days I wasn't afraid of feeling the lactic acid and I was even to the point of convincing myself that I would not be affected by it. I would always push way too hard early into each race and build so much lactate the rest of the course seemed way harder as my body tried desperately to keep a homeostatic balance. Through experience and education, I learned how to better control it and the mentality change from runner (something always moving) to cross-country skier (move-pause-move-pause).
I left NMU in 2011 after my best skiing year ever. Why? For multiple reasons: #1 - I wasn't mentally excited to do the long hard hours of training nor excited about competing with a 'Go hard, give it your all 100%' attitude. #2 - I was strongly pulled to develop some of my ideas and start a business, and that is where my excitement went. #3 - The issue with one member of the men's team turned me off from wanting to be on the team another year. #4 - I wasn't really enjoying the weekly success like I would have if I were a lot younger. Doing well in a race did not make me feel any different. When you wake up in a hotel room and your roommate reminds you there is a race that day and of the style and you don't have any nervousness, that needs to be considered. I felt this way 3 years ago.
Somewhere between the high spirit of High School sports and professional ski racing, college skiing exists with its own energy and space in each of our lives. Mine, scattered, but focused with each choice I've made, I realize I've attended NMU when it's been more convenient for me over you Sten Fjeldheim, but I very much appreciate your trust, openness and relationship.
Now, after taking the break, releasing my book, developing my ideas, starting and running my company, coaching a professional athlete to the Olympics I see the fun and enjoyment within the sport. Going FAST! Through all the conservative trainings, and holding back in races to keep lactic acid under control, I now see where I became bored and lost in this sport.
Currently I'm in Seefeld, Austria and I love going fast on my skis. I can't wait to recover so I can go out and fly around on the trails whizzing by the other skiers out here. The night skiing is amazing and with nearly 100 rec skiers out on the trails during any given time between 8am and 8pm its not lonely out there.
I may not be as strong or as fit as I once was, but I do know that my competitive mentality is getting stronger all the time. I would like to believe there are others out there who have had similar experiences, which end their career short of their dreams. And the message from me to those individuals: Find what it is that makes you smile when you think of skiing, find what it is that gives you butterflies in your stomach when you prepare your gear as you know the time is getting nearer to ski again!
Enjoy the sport of Cross-Country Skiing FOREVER!