September 09, 2011 (Boulder, CO) – What does it mean, to train? Does it mean that every day you go out and pound your muscles until you cannot stand? That you go and charge up the biggest, steepest, hottest hill there is? Or do you go and seek something else? Do you choose an easier path so that you can push harder tomorrow? The hardest sacrifice we can make is to fight a little less hard so we can die another day.
Training your body is much easier, I think, than training your mind to accept that it cannot always fight. Sometimes you have to turn around and walk away, and embrace the fact that you cannot always push your limits. College is not for making yourself the best you can be at every minute- college is for showing you what doesn’t work, so you can figure it out in the middle of the night when you have a research paper due the next day.
So here we are, in college now. Some important lessons have been learned, like coffee really is the most important food in college. All nighters? Let’s have ‘em EVERY DAY!! Workouts at midnight and 2am? Let’s do it. That’s really the stuff that keeps the collegiate athlete going. You didn’t finish your paper until 10pm? That’s okay, just cram in a few interval sessions in the dark, run around your living room for a while and crash on your couch with your head shoved in-between the cushions. If you forget to set an alarm you can be woken by the hysterical screams of your roommate informing you that you are late for the workout this morning, only four hours after you finished your last one in the dark and rain and storms of the ever changing and indecisive weather of Boulder.
That European roommate is flapping her arms and jumping around the living room trying to wake you up, the same one that two nights ago made tin foil hats for you both and raced around on a flat field in a thunderstorm in the pouring rain. But someone told us we were dumb jocks, we were really just living up to their expectations.
A fireball of energy from the Czech Republic, she is as ferocious on the ski trails as any hulking male Russian sprinter, but at home she is bouncy, laughing, opinionated, and ginger-loving. Perhaps a side effect of the bright red hair that adorns her head- gingers love ginger? You need not go to the Czech Republic to know everything about it, you need simply to live in the same apartment for a while and you will learn all there is to know about everything from the washing machines to the food to the training.
She is too flustered now to speak English, she is chattering away in a flood of language you don’t understand but you imagine means something like “move your butt, workout in ten minutes!!!” You whirl around, grabbing your roller skis, boots, helmet, gloves, dropping things everywhere and running out the door, sparing a last glance at your other teammate and roommate.
Your engineering roommate hasn’t gone to bed in the last three weeks, her fingers are fusing with the keyboard of the laptop computer that is her major and her life and her love. Yelling her name in her ear only spurs her to even more impressive words per minute, stopping only to tap on the TI-89 Titanium Plus Edition graphing calculator beside her. She mutters something about torsion, gesticulating furiously at a screen full of Mathematica code. “See? See?” You don’t see. Her external monitor is bigger than you are, but so full of files of Java, C++, and random math equations that nothing can be deciphered. She doesn’t go to the team workouts, she doesn’t ever stop her eternal march of death grinding away at the pile of homework that is always in attendance next to her, interwoven with a stack of math and computer science textbooks as high as your ceiling.
You know she trains, her roller ski boots are always sweaty, her shoes always spattered in mud from workouts in the rain. But when she goes, you have no idea, because evidently it’s true- engineers do not sleep and the engineering jocks must clone themselves in order to get their training in – something they must teach in the intro level engineering courses.
She is a walking encyclopedia, any math or science question you ask will be answered if not by her, by one of the nerd friends eternally glued to the other end of her phone. But rarely will the answer be understand any more than the t-shirt she is wearing that reads “304 Not Modified.”
It is no wonder the US Ski Team discourages their athletes from attending full time school. The lessons you learn while living at college are the lessons that last a lifetime, that teach you about the other world, the world of academia. If our skiers stepped into this world, their view would be tainted, and they would realize there is more to life than just sports. And sports are really about doing as your job something that is, in the grand scope of the world, completely irrelevant.
It is much better to struggle through years of books, and spend a lifetime developing your mind so that you are not satisfied with living in simplicity. To fight a bitter battle in school and come out on the other side facing a lifetime of work that has no joy, is simply work. Or perhaps, as my roommate likes to put it, work where the distance is perpendicular to the force.
Be careful if you choose to live the dream, because if you fall too far, burn too many bridges, walk the wrong path, your life will shift more suddenly than a Czech sprinter can down a beer, and the dream will disappear into the vast collection of the BFG.
Every side of the world lives in this apartment, the ex world cup skier from the Czech Republic, who declined the Olympic team to come here to America. The Californian surfer, whose bloodlines are so full of athleticism she might as well have been bred to compete, who instead chose the most difficult major at the most difficult school she could. And then there is me, I am the broken skier. No one wants a broken model, they return it to the store and get a new one. If the warranty is past, they simply buy another. But sometimes, you find someone who loves you because you are different, and keeps you and embraces all that is you. Sometimes, people take the time to fix that which is broken, and it comes back stronger than before.
Who isn’t broken, really? That is, if you take the time and effort to look. But in all our shattered glory, in a time of need, we found each other. And it is this school, this team, that brought us together to rebuild ourselves again, which is really what college is all about.