Graves on Nordic

SkiTrax - - Contents - By Peter Graves

by Peter Graves

I've been around ski­ing since 1966, when I first took it up in high school. Through it all, as an ath­lete, coach and jour­nal­ist, it has taken me around the world and back, in­tro­duced me to more friends than any­one has the right to ask for and has given me the great­est highs and some of the low­est lows one can pos­si­bly imag­ine. There have been many more good times than bad.

So as we are on the brink of a new sea­son, I thought of writ­ing some­thing more per­sonal in the form of a let­ter to my younger self.

Dear Peter: Wel­come to a new sport, one that al­lows you to stretch your legs, mus­cles and mind. One that will test you in ways you haven't ex­pe­ri­enced yet.

You spent a great deal of time mea­sur­ing up to oth­ers, check­ing your graphs, an­a­lyz­ing your re­sults. The bur­dens you put on your­self did not serve you well. Some­times you were so fo­cused on per­for­mance that you didn't see all the other things. Think of the times you spent in the woods of Prospect and saw only the tracks, and not the beauty of the win­ter land­scape and all of its si­lence. You can do that now.

Early races dur­ing high school and col­lege, you were fraught with anx­i­ety. You thought your turtle­neck was too tight, chok­ing you, but that's what's known as anx­i­ety. You didn't have all the tools to man­age it then. You didn't put your quest for re­sults in per­spec­tive. Now you know bet­ter, but then, you were so ner­vous at times that it pre­vented you from hav­ing the race you wanted to have. You learned over time to si­lence the in­ner critic that said you weren't good enough or fast enough.

You weren't the best skier of the bunch. You tried to make the USST back in the day, but you never did. Some­times you had some re­ally good races, but you ex­pe­ri­enced lit­tle true joy in your rac­ing be­cause you were al­ready think­ing about the next one and about mea­sur­ing up to the top stars. You were so pre­oc­cu­pied with try­ing to prove your worth and fit­ting in that you didn't stay fo­cused and lost a lit­tle bit of the au­then­tic per­son you are. Now you know you were tough enough, and good enough.

You were lucky, Peter. You had great coaches to help guide you and won­der­ful team­mates to sup­port you. You made friends eas­ily; that was a gift of yours.

How many times at night on a win­ter's eve did you look up at the stars? You know that's im­por­tant now.

You were so con­stantly fix­ated on re­sults and medals to prove your worth, you didn't ex­pe­ri­ence the joy of just im­prov­ing – none of this was life or death. Some of it was guided by your im­pa­tience. Things do take time, and now I tell you to have some faith. Slowly, you learned to let that go.

You didn't re­al­ize how new to the sport you were when you started, and that be­tween high school and col­lege, you skied only eight years. You didn't un­der­stand that the longer one trains and com­petes, over a decade or more, brings steady im­prove­ment. You'd un­der­stand tac­tics, you'd re­lax a bit in­stead of try­ing to find bomb-proof kick – re­mem­ber, then you were on wooden skis. That was a spe­cial era – you still re­mem­ber wear­ing knick­ers with long socks and the aroma of pine tar. Say­ing this, I can al­most smell that pine tar to­day.

Now 40+ years later at 63, I hope you feel more com­fort­able be­ing you. You were blessed to find a sport that gave you so much and that you con­tinue to feel pas­sion­ate about.

Thanks for lis­ten­ing, Peter. Now go out and tell peo­ple to en­joy their sport, live au­then­ti­cally with it, take a deep breath once in awhile, and be less oc­cu­pied with re­sults and more con­cerned with do­ing the best you can.

When you were younger, you didn't know all this – no­body does. Some of it you just have to live through and ex­pe­ri­ence. For those who are well on their way to Olympic suc­cess, these words might not be much help, but for all the young rac­ers seek­ing to race well and to en­joy the jour­ney, I hope you learn from me. The ex­pe­ri­ence can and should be joy­ful.

And it is a beau­ti­ful jour­ney.

(left) Sk­i­trax colum­nist Peter Graves at high school event.

(be­low) Ski bud­dies from yes­ter­year: (l-r) Joe Bris­tol, Larry Mar­tin, Peter Graves

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