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Ski Moms - The Joys of Living with a Cross-Country Ski Racer
By:  Dianne Thurber   (2003/10/05)


Canadian skiers are largely funded by the Bank of Mom and Dad. If you arenít a ski racer or parent of one, you may wonder why it is that parents allow their children to spend hundreds of hours gliding on skis at their expense. Seems silly, almost as crazy as those racing suits they wear. Well XC Ottawa athletes asked their mothers to share their thoughts on having a ski racer in the family. Maybe the advice of these experienced Ski Moms will encourage parents to enroll their kids in a Jackrabbit or Junior racing program.

Here are a few of the unique thrills of living with, and sharing the ups and downs of, cross-country racers.

We must recognize that being a cross-country racer is a passion. For a racer, just as with any love affair, it consumes all aspects of one's life, friendships, recreational time, and career decisions, and determines where one lives, what one eats, how much one sleeps, what one wears, what one reads, and so on ad infinitum.

Cross-country racers have other cross-country racers for friends; with so much of one's life spent in training, relationships with non-skiers are hard to fit in. As intense training can be a solitary activity, you, the family, are happy to see that the skier has friends to ski with. Other skiers are always welcome at home-the house is full of active buddies, always coming and going. This, of course, has the side-effect of placing an extra load on all household systems such as the following.

Water: Skiers need lots of it. First, consider the laundry pressures-just think how many clothing changes all this training takes-at least three a day. The house has a constant "hum" of washing machine and dryer; there seem to be damp clothes hanging everywhere, and piles of clothes, waiting to be washed, waiting to be dried, waiting to be put away...Some of the piles have a "Do not go near" aroma. My advice would be to avoid this whole scene, but it never disappears. Second, showers and baths-continual; towels-used once and dumped; there are never enough; soap-you are always running out; more towels mean more laundry; towels never dry!

Drinking water: Well, yes, they need lots to drink. This means water bottles cluttering every horizontal surface in the kitchen. They don't conveniently fit anywhere--they just hang around.

Water-dripping everywhere, with ski boots drying out, ski clothes oozing puddles, the whole mess of "wet everywhere".

Clothes: They need and use lots of them. One sock, or one glove, is always lost. You also end up with a collection of "orphan" clothes. Because they are valuable to "someone", you hang onto them forever, moving them from place to place.

Tuques: These come in wonderful colours and shapes. You will amass boxes of them, but the "right" one is always missing.

Boots: How many? They cover any standard entrance hall-racing boots (skating and classic), pre-race boots, hiking boots, telemark boots, water-proof boots--and many types of running shoes, track shoes, etc. That's only for one racer-multiply by the number of family racers and friends. Also, they usually have big feet-so these are big boots!

Being part of the excitement of ski racing has had a huge beneficial effect on my reading habits. I have added the Ottawa Sun to my list of newspapers (only during the ski season); I have to buy this on my way to work, because the local shop near my office is often sold out by noon. That means I have to bring the paper to work and make a point of telling my colleagues that no, I am not checking out the latest "Sunshine Boy"-but I have learned about aspects of Ottawa culture that I might otherwise have missed completely, thanks to my ski family!

Yes, I must admit that I do sneak peeks at cross-country racing web-sites, whenever I am able, in order to find out my family's race results.

The lasting memories, of course, will be the emotions, rather than the trivia of daily life. The exhilaration of a ski race-crisp air, blue sky, the bright colours on the racers, and knowing each one has done his or her best; the highs when a personal best is also enough for a good placing in a race; when the best wasn't good enough today, the learning and dreams for "next time"; the determination to aim for victory when it is measured in milliseconds and affected by the vagaries of ice, wax, snow, and mental readiness.

At a time when, in our culture, self-esteem is pampered and coddled in many arenas, these racers dare to face the objective reality of their performance, race after race. They have learned to live with the results, and add them to their reservoir of experiences. So, life with ski racers offers a contrast between commonly tolerated mediocrity and tenacious striving to do one's utmost-a bittersweet mixture of highs and lows, excitement and realism, camaraderie and joy.

Interesting Reading. . .
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