Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Take good care.

I just wanted to take a moment to send my prayers and thoughts the Neal family for the loss of their son, Willie, who I have come to learn was a remarkable young skier and more importantly was an amazing person, teammate, brother and son. It is a tragic loss for his family, the Maine Winter Sports community, and the nordic community throughout the whole country.

Willie died on Sunday evening when he was hit by a car rollerskiing with a fellow teammate. [For more information: ] I did not know Willie personally, or his brother Elliot, who both moved to Fort Kent, ME this summer to train for biathlon and join the Maine Winter Sports Center biathlon team, but I have enjoyed learning more about him and his contributions. I spent four years in the County and know how closely knit this community is and how deeply felt is this tragedy. I also know nordic skiing is a sport and lifestyle that strongly bonds so many of us many more than our close circle of skiers. We all circulate nationally and internationally through races, training camps, clubs, etc. and even if we only meet one another in a race, as a coach, or as a young skier commented about Willie, only on one training day where Willie lent him his poles and offered some technique advice; through skiing we have a great influence upon one another that extends our abilities for generosity, compassion, competiveness, empathy and knowledge. Thus, it is a collective loss.

And all together, it is a gain. Take good care to watch out for your self and your teammates and be safe running, biking and rollerskiing on the roads.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thanks St. Agnes!!

I met the 6th grade class at the beginning of their final year at St. Agnes School and had the pleasure to attend their Graduation at the St. Agnes Church last Friday night. Throughout their year I was able to make it into class at least once a season, and nearly each time I was home, to tell them about my travels, what I had learned and experienced. We had fun each time talking about this and that, skiing, traveling, shooting, visualization, geography, the weirdest food I ate, my favorite places and when I will get married. In exchange for my stories, I would get to hear a little about them, what they were interested in and what class they were headed to next.

Each time I left, I felt I left a bit of my self there with them. And little did they know, I too took a bit of them with me. Here are a few of my favorite moments: In the first visit I had the class do a visualization/relaxation exercise. I started by asking about how they felt individually and collectively how the classroom atmosphere felt. They answered “tired” with a tired voice and a slump in their posture. With their eyes closed, I talked them through a narrative which brought them within themselves, then outside into the snow, sky, and trees, to pull them back again to themselves and their classroom. Afterwards with their eyes open, I asked the same question again about how they felt. They smiled and fulfilled a list with warm, happy, calm and my most favorite was when Laura’s quite poetic voice piped, “bright!” I am not around kids very often, and it was such pure joy to see them change in a matter of minutes and to express themselves so honestly to someone they were just getting to know.
In our last visit I used my race bibs and foreign currency to tell about all of the places I had been that year. On the World Cup circuit we get to keep each race bibs and within the ski world it is customary to give your bibs away to supporters as a gesture of thanks and as a token of their support and that they helped me get to that race. So, I picked out 9 and handed them out. In that visit we traveled from Germany to Sweden to Austria to Italy and South Korea talking about culture, food, ski venues, and language. As soon as one student, who also happened to be a skier, instinctively put the bib on, so did the rest. Later that day at our local bike shop where I was testing out a new road bike, in walks Maeve with her bib still on!!
I am very thankful to have met these great girls. I thought of them often while traveling, training and racing. Reaching elite levels in a sport often mean most of the things you do in your day are for yourself. Writing to them in a blog or a postcard brought some balance, a bit of peace, meaning and joy to my days on the road.
An enthusiastic "Thanks" from Hanna

My mom and I at Graduation - 14 years after my 6th grade graduation from the same school.
I gave each of the girls one of my race bibs from this past season. This is Jessie's bib above from Antholz, Italy. They also got bibs from Norway, Italy, Sweden, South Korea, Austria and Germany. looks like home. Thanks for the painting Glenice!

Clearly, you are from Keene if you paint your mountains way above the horizon line and nearly off the top of the page - thanks Maeve and see you on Schaeffer Rd.!!

Nina's thank you, above, lay on top of the pile that handed. Their teachers specifically made mention of their artistic talents both individually and together. This one brought tears to my eyes and along with the rest of them, it is the best gift of gratitude I've ever gotten.
Good luck at the Middle School and have a great summer!!