Why masters racers shed a tear or two this month BY BILL MCCOLLOM
We’ll probably even replace them with a different set of summer sporting
friends, but, nonetheless, we’ll cheer for them, agonize with their misfor-
tune, and share intimate details — of every race run, that is. Whenever we
try to explain the nuances of those intense 60 seconds of racing (“In the
first gate I went right after it, but by the second gate I was already run-
ning too direct…”) non-racers give us glazed eyeballs and weak excuses to
go turn off the water somewhere. Of course there are other subjects and
interests that occasionally sneak into a discussion, but with our racing
crowd, we can be totally self-indulgent, and fit right into the flow of the
AT OUR FINAL New England Masters ski racing awards banquet, I finally
find a moment to sit down and reflect. This isn’t easy amidst all the hugging
and handshaking going on, especially considering I get a bit blubbery on
these occasions. But upon sitting there and surveying the crowd, I realize
why it’s so tough for so many of us to switch gears and move into another
season. Letting go of the sport, the routine, the mindset, and friends that
have so dominated our lives, it’s just so…sniff, there I go again.
Another reason we’re left hanging at the end of every season is that it
ends so abruptly. It’s like taking a joy ride at 100 miles per hour, over hill
and dale with the adrenaline pulsating for a full four months — and then
suddenly someone takes away the car keys. Your system is still surging
with energy, but there’s no longer an outlet.
This is a committed crowd. It’s total immersion for a full four months.
I’ve been told that males think about sex an average of once every 11 seconds, and if you then add in the time spent during the winter thinking
about skiing (at least once every five seconds), there isn’t much time left
for many other subjects. Ski racing
occupies every weekend, several afternoons a week for training and a
few hours each week for freeskiing.
Early-morning drives to races and
late-night returns are all part of
the routine. Jobs, spouses, friends,
and any semblance of a social life
are put on hold while we spend a
small fortune traipsing around our
respective regions turning around
hinged plastic sticks stuck into the
And that’s not the worst of it. Our
entire sense of self-worth can hinge
upon the whims of one second
from that day’s race, and we are
destined to carry this burden for at
least a week or until the next race.
We tell ourselves to “let it go,” but
we seem condemned to watch our
every mistake get replayed on the
mental video screen, whenever we
might not happen to be thinking
By April, we’re rudely reminded that there is a time for every season, and
in this case, it’s time to move on. My aching body is telling me this, as well
as Mother Nature. With the warming temperatures, we are now able to
stick a tentative elbow out the car window; we can safely venture out of the
house without long underwear; and the snow pack on the lawn is quickly
reduced to mud and leftover doggie
doo-doo. It’s pretty definitive — no
snow, no skiing. Yes, the ski season
is over so quickly that we can’t re-
member how we actually got here.
Wondering where the season actu-
ally went, I flash back to those first
races of the season in December.
With minimal effort I’m able to re-
call every detail, particularly the
hope and optimism that I felt go-
ing into the season. I thought that
surely this year, I would learn how
to ski GS, bring my line up the hill in
slalom, and develop quads of steel
from all the freeskiing I had planned
to do. I also remember groping for
the names of many racers that I’d
known for years, and I’m pretty sure
I recall screwing up my second run
of GS. But my most vivid memories
revolve around how excited I was to
race and eager to see what the sea-
son would bring.
And then there are the friendships. We are social animals, and
to be able to interact so easily with
those with common backgrounds
and interests is a rare treasure.
We may not know what our closest skiing friends do for a living,
or how many children they have.
As I now watch my fellow masters
competitors reveling in the final
gathering of the year, I can’t say that
I get too consumed with evaluating
the season on the basis of results.
For me, it’s always pretty much the
same from year to year. Instead, I
shut my eyes and see a montage of
images from the season: a perfectly
sliced turn at Loon Mountain; a spectacular day at Cranmore with Mount
Washington basking in the sun; going so fast at Sugarbush that I think
my head is going to fly off; and hiking back to the scoreboard at Okemo to
hear a rumble of approval when my time is announced.
More than anything, while I survey the party scene, I feel we should all
take a moment to think about how grateful we are to still be able to participate in such an exhilarating sport, be among so many friends, and arrive at
the finish line in one piece. That is, if we can work around those moments
every 11 seconds when we might be thinking about other things.