For those of you who race, you know the feeling. For those of you who don't race, this will help you understand.
It's so close you can taste it. That fluttery rush of adrenaline hits you when you first see the start line. The palms of your hands get sweaty, tingly and hot as you strap on your poles. You aren't anywhere near starting yet, so you breath and try to calm down. You try to push it out of your head. You succeed, but you can feel it lurking there. Waiting to be let out. It rises when someone sprints past you. It hits you when you see your competitors. It courses through your veins when a distant beep-beep-beep-beep-BEEP reaches your ears. Little things become more obvious. A slight slip of a ski and your mind is there. Feeling out your grip with your foot. Is it good? Should I get it touched up? What if I slip in the race? What if my skis are slower than everyone else's? With your mind racing you breath. Again. And again. Your warmup is almost over. The start line awaits.
You walk over to the start area. There are people everywhere. You can't help but look at other skiers starting. You should focus on getting ready, but you can't tear your eyes away from the spectacle. One after another, they head out the gate. Soon, you will one of them. You can feel it again. You sprint around the start area to vent a bit, but it only gets more intense. Soon enough, your number is called. You step up behind an ever-shortening line of skiers and try to remove the block of snow and ice that has accumulated on the bottom of your boot. You get it out with a minute to spare. There's no turning back now. You try to stay loose, but it's hard. You can feel you muscles tightening from it. You keep moving and try not to think to much. If you think, it can overwhelm you. You're at the gate now. The timer says thirty, then fifteen, then ten seconds, but you can barely hear the words. It starts to growl. Everything slows down, and then the beeping starts. beep. your heart jumps. beep. your arms are locked. beep. you look forward. beep. you stop breathing. beep. your body tenses. BEEP. it roars.
You let it consume you. Your mind goes blank for a few seconds, and your body acts on it's own. You are flying now. People are cheering but you can't hear them. All you can hear is your body. It starts to scream at you, but you can't, you won't let it stop you. You slowly start to think again, and gauge your pace. Everything is easier. Everything is harder. It's simpler now. There's just your mind, your body and a finish line that is constantly getting closer. You sink into a rhythm. It hurts, but you can handle it. You know there's more to come. You pass a skier in front of you, and it lifts you a little. You get passed and it dies a little. You can taste blood now. In the back of your throat. You spit to try and get rid of it, but the taste stays. Your spit is thick and you don't have enough air left in your lungs to expel it. Instead, it dribbles down your chin. It stays there until it drips off or you muster enough energy to wipe it on your glove. The loudspeakers in the stadium cut into your glazed over mind. You're nearly there, but everything hurts. The only thing that keeps you going is the finish line that just came into sight. You pound on your arms and legs and torso and demand more of them. Your vision starts to go. The weights on your legs become heavier and heavier and heavier. Everything slows down. You can see it coming, but it's moving slowly. A few more strides, one more push, and you're across.
Everything stops. You made it. Your mind and body relax together. Like a breath of fresh air, you can finally say: I'm done. You lean over your poles and close your eyes. You did it.
Every race is an accomplishment. It doesn't matter how fast you are, how far you went or who you beat. You finished it. You pushed your body as hard as you could, and there's no sensation like it. Maybe you haven't experienced it yet. Maybe you will. Maybe you've caught a glimpse of it seeing someone else cross that finish line. Maybe you fear it. Maybe you cherish it. You should try it. You just might find that you can't live without it.
The racing season has begun...get out there.