Before we left the house I decided that we may well have our very best ski race day yet.  After leaving in the dark of the morning for the ski hill with sleepy eyes and peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches for breakfast, we discovered that it had warmed up to -10 F.  The sun began to creep out from under the blanket of the Cook Inlet fog and the energy of ski team members busily preparing for the race began to help us shift gears from quiet to excitement.

The winter air was calm and crisp.  The snow was just right.  The crowd was small. The spirits were high. The race course was inviting.  It was an unusually uncomplicated race day.  Every time someone asked me, “How are you?” I responded with a sincere, “Great! We’re going to have our best race day ever!” And I really believed it.  What a remarkable power our attitude has over our energy level.

And we did.  Yes, it was -10F most of the day and we took a lot of breaks inside.  Our face masks became frozen from the heat of our breath.  The parts of our faces that were exposed became white with little icicles.  Hoarfrost clung onto everything in sight – decorating the trees and chairlift with the most beautiful white, thick frost that’s unique to the Anchorage region.  The chairlift seats were frozen pillows for the first half of the day.  Our bums were as numb as our noses.

Yet, the course was a rush to run! The spirits were high. Volunteers covered the race operation from top to bottom – honorably standing in the -10 F to judge the gates and keep watch for safety.  The skiers, from ages 5 to 15, were numbered and in cheery form.  Even our weakest beginner skiers were champions on this day.  I was grateful to have surrendered to the initial negative voice I woke with and to have stayed true to our commitment to our home team.  Our children, too, were remarkably excited about this day.

Moments that made this our best race day were plentiful.  As a coach, I was so proud of the young kiddos who braved the cold to ski! In six ski lessons these kindergartners transformed themselves from “never-evers” to ski racers!  This seems like a phenomenal feat when we began with kids whose legs were like spaghetti on the bunny hill for three weeks.  As a team member, I was so impressed – and just down-right touched, by the true spirit of community our volunteer team of coaches displayed as they “took their positions” and made this day happen. Our team captain, an American soldier, was out on the course at 7AM setting up the dark cold! It’s hard to say what drove us most: the military training, our shared passion for skiing, or our collaborative love for our family of kids.  But everybody, be it a high ranking officer, a doctor, an FBI agent, an airborne infantry soldier, a mom, or even a grandma, was on the ski hill in great form.  I felt truly privileged to be a humble part of this team.

Finally, as a Mom, I was brought to tears as I cheered on our 10-year-old at the finish line and saw her complete her very best time. She broke into the competitive racing category – and achieved her goal – to be in the 30’s.  As her friends were calling out to her name, elation took over and the tears poured out.  This moment made every bit of “endurance training” worth it.  Ninety-minutes later when our daughter raced, she improved her time more, and exuberance we haven’t known for a long time on the hill, took over the rest of the day.  Our son and youngest daughter, along with many other team mates also had their best ski times on the hill and were equally thrilled with their runs, which I also gleefully cheered them on for!  This was indeed, our personal best ski race day – a blue ribbon day! (“The blue ribbon is a term used to describe or symbolize something of high quality.”)

In the end, our oldest won her first YSL medal – third place. She was thrilled with this – because it was her first in the very competitive league in three years.  Our youngest also placed third in her age group (although she’s less invested in the winning than her older sister).  Finally, our son did not place because in his group there are some of the very fastest skiers, but he did make his personal best time. In his tears, he boldly asked the team coach why he didn’t win when others with a slower time did. And, he learned about the law of averages in age groups – and the reality of what he’s up against. To his joy, our son did win a huge 2nd place trophy the next day for his fast derby car – and his sisters didn’t.  Ultimately all of us won BIG!

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