Two Traits We Are All Being Tested On
As I am sitting here on the airplane watching the sunrise over the ocean somewhere between England, Norway, and the mainland of Europe, I am reflecting on the unusual time we find ourselves in. It sure seems strange to be traveling to race on the World Cup circuit during an uptick in the Covid-19 outbreak. How will the races turn out? How will the logistics flow? Most importantly, will the added stress and headache of the current circumstances trump the comfort, familiarity, and options for exploration that Alaska has provided during these times?
The World Cup season got cut short last spring right before the biggest race of the season for me. For the first time since before the 2002 Winter Olympics, the U.S. was finally going to host a World Cup on its own soil, and it was to be a skate sprint, my specialty. When this race and the other remaining races on the World Cup schedule got canceled, I found myself home in Alaska much earlier in the spring than normal, and my goodness, there is no other place I would rather be when the world was seeming to shut down.
I have always loved Alaska, both the people and the place, but this past spring and summer took that affection to a new level. Where else, as the unknowns of the Covid-19 virus were flooding the news and fear of what could be was running wild, could one escape out into the springtime snowpack, lose cell-phone service, and lose any worry that the world was entering into a pandemic?
This spring, I was fortunate enough to be named to the 2020-2021 Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, or ‘The National Team’ for short. Normally this naming would involve a late spring camp with the Team in Bend, OR followed by periodic training camps throughout the summer. Of course, none of that happened this year. Although I felt a bit deflated about not being able to take full advantage of achieving a life-long goal, the bright side was that this only meant more time in Alaska and exploring new places that have always been in my “backyard” but that I just never have made the time to visit. I consider myself very lucky to call Alaska home, where space is plentiful. As the saying goes, “Alaskans…socially distancing since 1959”.
In my opinion, if there was one trait that I felt that this whole virus situation has tested us all on, it would be flexibility. Okay I lied, two traits, flexibility and adaptability. I’m sure we have all witnessed it. From work plans and procedures, to even how Starbucks hands its and drinks and food to customers, this year has been in constant limbo as new policies and mandates effect everyday life. Fortunately, as Alaskans, these two traits are something that we specialize in. Where else can the weather change through multiple seasons during the morning commute?
The preparation for this upcoming World Cup season has required large portions of adaptability and flexibility. With race schedules changing constantly, countries opening and closing their borders, Covid-19 policies evolving daily, it has been a little difficult for me to get really excited about traveling and racing and leaving the calm, wide open and free Alaska that I got to become more familiar with throughout this year. To be quite honest, it is hard for me to look forward to nearly constant mask wearing, isolation, and other policies put in place in order to reduce the spread of the virus while we are racing and traveling. But, the racing, the racing is why I do it. After training all summer and fall, I am excited to test my limits, and see if I am any faster than last year. Perhaps it is only the nerves that are keeping me from getting really excited. I applaud all of the different organizations who are being flexible and adaptable, and creating environments that will allow the races to happen safely.
So here I am, across the pond now and a long way away from the place that is familiar to me. The place and the people that create calmness for me during global circumstances that are anything but calm. It is time for me to be thankful that the races are happening at all, and time for me to become more Alaskan and learn to be flexible myself and adapt to the new normal. It is time to race!
Fortunately for me, Alaska will still be there and waiting for me when I return.