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in the Pain Cave, with my heavily braced left MCL knee injury at kilometer 4 at 9,800′ during the snowshoe in the King of the Mountain competition (10k classic ski into 5k snowshoe) at The Chama Chile Ski Classic weekend, February 18-19, 2014 near Chama, New Mexico.  I finished 2nd Overall in the KOM by 3 minutes.  

I wrote in THE OUTDOOR ATHLETE (Johnson Press, 1985),  “You never get a second chance at your off-season training.”   I think often of that old quote during these precious racing weekends during my peak competitive time of the year; winter racing season!   If you followed my training programs – online or through my books – and you are a winter racer?   This is the FUN time, because you’ve already laid down all the hard efforts.  The grunt work has been done.  Now?  It’s Play Time!   Time to enjoy toeing those Start Lines and cash in on all the physical work!  So now, especially with National Championships coming up?  It’s more about the Mental Fitness and Focus, then it is about the physical fitness.  Now is not the time to try to increase CV or  respiratory fitness or any other variable inherent to endurance sports – all that should have been done by now.   There is one exception however,  the most important one;  Mental Fitness.

If you are like ilg,  you know there are only two seasons;  winter and waiting-for-winter.  I spend my summers getting wholloped by the local elite, sport-specific cyclists on Durango’s infamously brutal “Club Rides.”    I don’t think they are called Club Rides because  of any hint of social friendliness potentiation.  Nope, ’round these parts, they are called Club Rides because you’re likely to get bludgeoned by the insane speed and accompanying pain dished out by these spinning slugfests.  My affirmation during such Club Rides?  “This pain is preparing me for winter sports!”   And it does.



“Then it’s time to focus on shorter intervals and skill sets,”  my Kahtoola racing teammate Sandra Lee “enjoying” one of our pre-season Threshold workouts at about 10,300′ near Purgatory Ski Area this late autumn.  pic by ilg.

Come early autumn,  i seek out the fresh, high snows with my snowshoes and/or backcountry skis and enjoy long excursions across the sacred snows.  As the snows fall closer to home,  that’s the signal to begin long (45 minute+ Threshold uphill efforts on my snowshoes or skinned-up skis).   As my first nordic and snowshoes loom even closer, then it’s time to focus on shorter intervals and skill sets).   It’s an ideal prep and once again, it’s paid off for me so far this season with 6 podiums in 6 races across 3 different winter sports, even while enduring a Grade II MCL knee injury which I got while dancing with my 6 year-old daughter just before my first race!

Race Season?  It’s all about the strength of our capacity to focus on mind during racing,  with injuries or without.  Inner calm, outer action.  Let’s revisit my Teaching about what is most vital to both racing and mental fitness;  Motivation.

Motivation is the harnessing of one’s emotions. I feel that motivation is a karmic impulse toward Rise Higher in our soul evolution.  The greater the value of our goal (be it losing fat, winning a race, or attaining Enlightenment), the stronger our c(om)pulsion is to achieve it.  Motivation incites fear and envy in those not in possession of it.  Motivation divides the elite from the norm.

As a young nordic-combined skier here in Durango, I grew up on motivation.  I challenged myself to its enduring call, daring my motivation to dwindle.  Or to shatter.  Long after teammates had showered went off into the shudder of cold evening air toward food and family,  I remained skiing.   For me, skiing WAS my food,  WAS my family!   Skiing was, and remains, my deepest sense of h(om)e.  I cared little for the conventional comforts of the domestic sanctum.  TV held as little attraction for me as did schoolwork.  I spent little time with either. Instead?  I skied. Often, well into the moonlit night.  In the frost-lit darkness I came to know my skis not as simple staves of fiberglass and wood but rather living beings.  I recall naming on of my skis, “Pain,” and the other, “Discipline.”  I drew energy – prana, chi – from the snow beneath these two beings and from the twilight swirling around my head.  I learned to capture natural power from the sacred snows to become an empty, no-minded conduit of s(om)ething much, much greater.

There are no ordinary dreams for those who aspire to better ourselves .  The Winter Athlete is reminded of this in cellular, spiritual ways which vibrate higher,  I feel, than is felt by dry-land athletes.  Perhaps its due to the crystal structure inherent to our immersion in snow, or perhaps it’s the negative ionic field which is so much more intensified in winter sports.  Maybe it’s the cold, pure pranically-saturated air in which we train and race.  Whatever ‘it’ is?  Ilg loves ‘it.’   So do you, I reckon.




 “It is training that brought us, to the bonfire of our growth.  Motivation is the kindling.  Constantly, we search for the inner kindling to keep our fire ablaze,”   some of the pre-season Skill Sets that I work with is descending fast and without superfluous effort on snowshoes…you might be surprised at how much technique there is in descending fast on snowshoes in a variety of terrain and snow conditions!  


C(om)mitment to an effort is a hard thing for many to accept.  It is easier to just go skiing or snowshoeing than it is to train for skiing and snowshoeing.  Then again, it’s easier to just eat a Snickers bar than to will oneself not to.  Easier to just get drunk and forget problems than to stand sober to their challenge.  For those who have touched bliss through the discipline of training there is no longer a question of “easier” or “harder.”   There is only the Path Higher.   For those who battle against mainstream mediocrity born from an addiction to comfort and duality a sagacious fulfillment of a much Higher sort is realized.  It is training that brought us, to the bonfire of our growth.  Motivation is the kindling.  Constantly, we search for the inner kindling to keep our fire ablaze.  To find it we must dig into our shadowy aspects, stray from comfort to find more, walk narrow, dark paths and sometimes break it off from larger things.  More often than not?  There is some around.

We just have to look closely…at ourselves.  That is precisely why God created Start Lines, for in toeing a Start Line we resolve ourselves upon a great and positive end; the Finish Line.  In between the Start and Finish Line?  Lies a bardo, a transitory pain realm whereupon our inner mirror shines so bright that we have no choice but to breathe, again and again, into the pain and thus clothe ourselves in self-reliance, power, and bravery.   In the End, when we enter our real Bardo…after that m(om)ent whereupon we cannot take another precious inhale?  It will be those three qualities which dictate, form, and fortify our filaments of consciousness which propel us into our Next…

See you on a Start Line, s(om)ewhere soon…

head bowed,
spirit vowed,

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time is crucial!  if you have not contributed to coach’s Winter Racing Sponsorship Request,   please do so now, right HERE.
keep coach racing toward the podiums; within and without!  THANK YOU!   



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