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Season of David - Part XIII
By:  David Zylberberg   (2003/07/22)


The following is part of a series of weekly articles by the "infamous" David Zylberberg, one of the original members of XC Ottawa. He is the writer of numerous amusing and sometimes controversial articles which have been the subject of much discussion within the Canadian cross-country racing community over the last 8 months. While David does not possess an advanced degree in physiology or sports science, hopefully the articles will be the source of much entertainment while you are putting off work, school, or chores. David's articles will be candid and will not be censored by the editors of XC Ottawa. (At least not usually) Please address your comments and questions directly to David.

I liked racing Cross-Country Running in High School. I don't do many cross country races any more so I was hoping to do one this summer. When I realized that I hadn't raced in a few weeks and nothing was coming up for another few, I decided to do a running race on July 19th. I sent out some invitations and created a course at Laurentian University Ski Trails (old gully, wall, Sophie, extension). Unfortunately not many people showed up since they all found better things to do. I mananged to drop the rest of the field on an early downhill, extended my lead and ran alone for the last 7 km (of 7.5). The rest of the field took a short cut once they realized the race was won so results would be of little benefit to post. I did learn the importance of running on trails without chest high brush since Sophie's loop was slow. I also got in a good workout that should help remember how to race.

A first lesson from this race is the importance of going downhill fast. Ski race (and running or biking) are decided by who can cover the entire distance fastest. This includes the downhills and time gained on downhills contributes towards a better result. I have been attacking the downhills lately in training since I can race down them while in zone 1 and it is great fun to go really fast. It has also improved my technical skills. THis is a lesson to learn for all racing and something I should try to do while training on snow.

Now to the main lesson of the week. Many people say that there are no secrets to success in this sport and they are right when it comes to training. But one lesson my old junior coach Dave Battison taught me seems really important. That lesson is that success comes down to wanting it more than others and being willing to push your body harder than anyone else's in order to ski fast. It is important to learn how to make sure that the effort and suffering is leading to faster skiing but this rule still holds.

Most of what gets read about how to ski fast deals with training but racing hard is as important as training well. Training improves physical capacities, technique and can help develop a good feel for racing hard but it cannot replace putting a full effort into a race. As a sidenote, those who truly want to succeed the most will be properly trained and prepared for the racing season. Racing hard cannot cause someone who is seriously out of shape to win big races but it does decide the outcome between people who are well prepared. I have sometimes been the person who has beaten others by wanting it more or been the person who has lost because another wanted it more, but I hope to have found the motivation to be the former more often than in the past.

A good example of the greater desire leading to victory occured in the Men's Sprint at U.S. Spring Series in Houghton, Michigan last April. I assume that sprint qualifying gives a fairly accurate portrayal of who the best skiers are on that course and that day. One skier had dominated qualifying while Devon Kershaw of the Canadian National Team was a long way back. I had not qualified for the final (part of the sprinting weakness mentioned in part II) so I went to the finish line to watch the final. As the skiers came towards the line they were spread out and it was obvious looking at their bodies and faces that Devon was more determined than the others. It was also obvious that he was suffering more then them. He ended up winning that sprint convincingly. Though he is a very good skier and quite fit I do not believe that he was the best skier that day, but that he won because his was willing to push his body harder than the others for the victory. This is an important lesson that I have learnt from his performance and one that I think a lot of people should notice. Sport is one of the few places in life where effort is generally rewarded and we should appreciate that.

Interesting Reading. . .
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