How to Decide to Race (or not) in 2021.

Are you planning to ski race this winter? This year, that question isn’t just an individual choice. We’re all waiting to see what types of events will be possible and safe. But personally, I am so excited just to have some say in the choice.

My friend Charlotte racing the Craftsbury Marathon in 2019

In the winter of 2019, I was just beginning my long and non-negotiable recovery from OTS. Last year, winter 2020, I had no choice but to forgo racing, having not made nearly as much recovery progress as we had hoped. Now, it’s been three years since I last raced. And with about a year of highly irregular training under my belt, it seems that this year, when it comes to racing, I have a choice.

But do I want to race? Perhaps this is a question you are asking yourself. Do I want to race this year? Is it worth it, with all the stresses and restrictions resultant from the pandemic? Here are three questions I recommend asking yourself (they helped me clarify how I feel about racing this year!)

1) Does my enjoyment of the sport increase significantly when I’m training for an event?

A YES to this question is a pretty clear plug for racing, although that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to join a bunch of official races. There is still lots you can do to engage the performance-oriented side of you.

If your answer is complicated, you might want to check out last week’s blog post, or an old favorite, The Athletic Identity Crisis.

2) Am I relieved at the idea of races being canceled?

Again, a YES is a pretty clear indication. If races being canceled feels like it’s letting you off the hook, consider letting yourself off the hook! It’s a crazy year. We all need to do what makes us feel good, and what is right for the safety of our families and communities.

If you’re bumming about race cancellation, well, join the club. But hang in there, because though in-person racing may be hit and miss, there are other options! Consider a Strava challenge with friends, chasing a personal best, or joining a remote competition series.

3) How does this season fit within the bigger picture?

I’m a fan of the whole “big-picture” thing. Widening perspective can get us through some tough times, and help us make decisions that are more aligned. So when we zoom way out, how will the winter of 2021 fit into the view?

For me, 2021 will be the first year I was able to race again after a prolonged and life-changing encounter with Over-Training Syndrome. It will be a year of learning how to maneuver racing around my still-fragile health, optimizing races where I can, and taking care of myself through the still-occurring bouts of extreme fatigue. I don’t anticipate setting the world on fire, but I’ve never been more excited to pursue mediocre race results.

So what do I need to make this a successful season?

I sincerely hope there will be organized races available to me this winter. I’ve bought all my passes and licenses and personal timing equipment, and I’m just waiting to see if Covid restrictions will permit events. This year, emphasis within the ski world is on local, low-impact races. I’m ecstatic. Yes, it will give me a chance to slip back into the folds without too much scrutiny. But more significantly, that feels more like how ski racing should be: lower hassle, lower cost, lower carbon footprint.

I’m also really excited about getting out for close to home, solo challenges. To that end, I have organized a

remote competition series

to allow athletes to bring some competitive heat to their solo-sessions this winter.

The series will run from mid-December through March, and includes weekly emails detailing the upcoming challenges, as well as the updated leaderboard. Some competitions will be speed-based, but many will not, which makes it friendly to skiers of all levels, including runners who occasionally put on skis 🙂

If your answers to the above questions indicate that you’d like to do some competing this winter, I hope you will join me for the remote series. It’s safe, it’s cheap, it won’t get canceled, and there are prizes! Oh yeah, and you can do it from anywhere. So invite your friends, and let’s see what we can make of this wacky, unpredictable winter of 2021.

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