another dream, this dream is over Van Halen
it is all over. My quest
to make the 2002 Olympic Team ended with the completion of the
50K classic race in Bozeman, Montana on January 13. Over ten years of work finally comes to a close. As most of you
know already, I did not make the team. My chances to make the team rested almost
exclusively on this years Nationals in Bozeman. Because of waxing miscues, unpredictable weather, and timing errors
I did not perform as well as I had hoped for at Nationals.
will not be aiming for 2006. I have expended most of my time and energy
over the past six years towards this goal and I simply have nothing
left to give. Skiing at
an elite level requires a single-minded focus that I can no longer
maintain. So now that my journey is over, it is time to look back. It was a hell of a ride and I think it is about
time I took a few minutes to sort it all out.
Did I Finish?
Where I ended up is hard to quantify. On the USSA points list, I am ranked 20th. But that list takes into account a lot of races
from last season, which was a disaster for me, and therefore does
not accurately reflect how I am skiing right now.
I finished 14th in the US Ski Team Gold Cup
two weeks ago, only a matter of seconds from 8th place. So if I had to guess I would say that I am somewhere between the
10th and 15th fastest skier in the country
right now and they are taking the eight fastest to the Olympics. I was close, but not close enough.
I have no complaints about not being selected. There are five people who are clearly the fastest
skiers in the country right now and they all made the team. It was clear to me in the Gold Cup and at Nationals
that Justin Wadsworth, Carl Swenson, John Bauer, Kris Freeman,
and Andrew Johnson are at a level above the rest of us and deserve
to represent the United States in the Olympics.
Then the remaining spots will probably be filled by specialists
who can do well in the specific events (Torin Koos sprints,
Pat Weaver distance events). There was a lot of controversy surrounding
the selection criteria and the selection races, but when all was
said and done, the fastest skiers made the team.
Didnt I Make It?
I still believe that under the right circumstances, I have
what it takes to make the Olympic team.
To illustrate my point, let me tell a little story. About 10 years ago, the mens US Ski Team
had about 6-8 athletes on it.
Over the next 5-6 years, some athletes retired, but very
few new athletes were brought on board, mainly because the skiers
on the US Ski team were clearly the best in the nation.
The focus was not on developing younger athletes, but on
supporting those who had proven to be the best.
Included on the team during this time were Justin Wadsworth,
John Bauer, Carl Swenson, and Pat Weaver.
Then, in approximately 1998, a new regime took over at USSA.
The team was slashed to 2-3 athletes and a greater focus
was put on developing younger athletes. A residency program was started in Park City
for collegeaged skiers who were deemed to be the future
of US skiing. This program has been underway for 3 years
now and includes Andrew Johnson, Kris Freeman, and Torin Koos.
The results speak for themselves. This years Olympic Team is made up exclusively of members
of these two US Ski Team training groups.
From the ski teams perspective, they have done an
excellent job developing the strongest skiers in the country. But take a look at the ages of the skiers involved. Everyone on this years Olympic Team is
either over 31 or under 24. What
happened to everyone in between?
The late twenties are supposed to be prime years for cross
country skiers, yet no one in that age bracket made the team.
Were there no good skiers born between 1972 and 1978? I dont think so. Unfortunately, for those of us who were born during that period,
it was a matter of bad timing.
We were part of the generation that got skipped by USSAs
development program. When they changed their focus from skiers like
Weaver and Bauer to skiers like Johnson and Freeman, they skipped
over a lot of people in between, like Dave Chamberlain, Justin
Freeman, Scott Loomis, Chad Giese, myself, and many others.
To be fair, skiers who were selected for support by the Ski
Team definitely deserved it.
Johnson and Freeman were clearly the cream of the upcoming
crop when they were first picked.
But others with equally good credentials were overlooked.
When I graduated from college, I moved to Park City and
began training full time. That first year on my own (1996-7), I shot
up the rankings. I was
only 22 and I was ranked in the top ten in the country.
But I did not receive even a second glance from the Ski
Team. I think they were waiting for me, or anyone
else, to make the next jump to being one of the 3-4 best skiers
in the country before giving support.
And for the next few years I continued to hover around
that same ranking. It wasnt that hard to get to that point,
but trying to make the next jump to the top of the list was nearly
impossible to do on my own. I
had to hold a full-time job, pay for all my training and racing
expenses, train on my own, and take care of all my own travel
arrangements and waxing. All of that took its toll and wore me down.
I was never able to focus solely and completely on skiing,
which is what you have to do to be the best. I am sure that Dave Chamberlain, Justin Freeman,
and Chad Giese all have similar stories about trying to make it
to the top. In the past
10 years, very few people have made it all the way to the top
without Ski Team help. For those of us between the ages of 24 and
30, the support was never focused on us.
We worked hard; those of us with jobs had to work even
harder. But it takes more than just hard work to get
to the top. It also takes
a lot of support and a lot of luck.
We just had bad luck with the timing and focus of USSAs
I am not trying to place blame for my Olympic shortcoming upon
those who overlooked me a few years ago. It is also entirely possible that I simply do not have the talent
to ski at that level. In
my career I didnt place too much value on testing, mainly
because it never gave me good news.
The tests I did always told me that I was a better than
average athlete, but nothing special. My VO2 max is a lot closer to an average persons
than it is to Bjorn Daehlies.
My times in running tests were always decent, but not as
good as most other skiers. In
the weight room, I was always hoping no one was watching me try
to do pull-ups. On paper, I wasnt Olympic-caliber material.
Yet when I got on skis, I could compete with people who
had higher VO2 capacities and were faster runners.
I tried to tell myself that I had a little something extra
that couldnt be measured in cubic milliliters of Oxygen
or pounds of resistance. I
was never sure what it was, but it kept me going and kept me competing
at a level higher than many machines told me I should be able
to reach. Maybe that is what kept me from making it any
higher. Maybe I had simply
reached the maximum of my potential.
That could be true, but I dont believe it.
I might be close to reaching as high as I can go, but there
is ALWAYS some way of getting faster, whether through technique,
diet, training or something else. I dont have to be much faster to be the
best in this country and I believe that under the right conditions
I could get there. To
be the best, you have to believe that.
Another reason I did not make the team is that there are simply
a lot of fast skiers in this country right now. In my opinion, mens ski racing in the
United States is as competitive as it has been in at least 15
years. For instance, look at Justin Wadsworths
8th place in last years pre-Olympic World Cup
at Soldier Hollow or Carl Swensons 11th place
earlier this year. Just
as significant as these placing is the fact that they were not
light-years ahead of the rest of the US skiers when they got those
results. Even on their
home-turf they had to fight for victories.
Earlier this year, Marcus Nash was sent to the World Cup
where he posted a few results in the 40s.
There is nothing remarkable about a 40th place
in a World Cup the top US men over the past few years are
usually around that. But
what IS remarkable is that Marcus was not even in the top ten
in races in North America just prior to, and just after, his World
Cups. To me, this says that we have at least 10 guys
in this country who could potentially score World Cup points. When was the last time that happened? A long time ago, if ever. My ranking is another example of the current
competitiveness in US skiing.
Five years ago I was ranked 10th in the country
with 75 FIS points (lower points are better).
Now, I am ranked 20th, with 60 FIS points. Even
though I have improved, my ranking has dropped because there are
many more fast skiers than there were a few years ago. 75 points will only get you into 32nd
place these days. If FIS
points are to be believed, we now have 32 people skiing as fast
as only 10 people could ski just a few short years ago.
That is a huge jump. I
think that they way I am skiing now might have put me in contention
for an Olympic team 6-8 years ago, but not now.
This is bad for me, but good for the sport in general.
I really think our US Olympic cross country ski team is
going to surprise people. I think there is potential for a couple of
top ten finishes and I think everyone on the team has top twenty
potential. This is the
strongest team we have sent in years.
You heard it hear first.
I Did Right
Overall, I am very happy with the path that my ski career has
taken. I made a lot of
good decisions along the way and accomplished quite a bit. Here are some of the things that I think helped me become the skier
I am today.
I worked REALLY, REALLY hard. It goes without saying that if you want to make the Olympics you
have to work hard. But
it is easier said than done.
It is not easy to train twice a day, almost everyday.
It is not easy to have every waking moment be in someway
related to your performance years down the road.
Training isnt just in the back of your mind for six
years, it is front and center, forcing everything else to somehow
fit in around it.
I remained focused. I
remember when I made the decision to keep skiing after college.
I decided that I wanted to see how good I could be, and find out
if I could make the Olympic Team.
I said that as long as I was still improving and still
having fun I would continue to ski. Did I really think I would make it through
all six years leading up to 2002?
Im not sure; it is a daunting task when you look
at it all at once like that. But I took it day-by-day, season-by-season,
always keeping one eye on the task at hand and one eye on the
ultimate goal. There were
times when I wasnt improving and times when I wasnt
having fun, but by being focused, I was able to recover from those
pitfalls and move on.
I didnt give up when I was down and out. Perhaps the accomplishment I am most proud
of is that I did not give up after last season (2000-2001 winter). I was not having fun and I was skiing horribly.
It would have been very easy to call it quits.
But I knew the Olympics were only a season away and I still
believed, despite my recent results, that I had the potential
to be in contention. I think making it to the top in skiing is like
walking up an icy slope with poor footwear. As long as you have momentum, you can walk right up with ease, but
as soon as you slip and start to slide down, it is very difficult
to get going again and regain that momentum.
Last year was like I tripped and felt flat on my face. I was sliding back down the icy slope and there
was no way for me to stop the slide. My results were getting worse
and worse. I had lost
all self-confidence. But I regrouped by heading back East to train
on my own and I was able to get back on my feet and make small
steps back up the hill. I
did local races and trained a lot. Those small steps gradually
got bigger as I worked extremely hard this summer to get back
on track. By the time
this winter rolled around, I had regained the momentum from a
couple years ago and was back in my normal form. It was not easy. Getting
my ski career back on track was the hardest thing I have ever
done. I worked my ass off all summer and fall.
And now, finally, I am proud to say that I didnt
let one bad season conquer me. I stopped the slide and began charging back up the hill.
I moved to Park City, Utah.
In college it became apparent that I was not as good a
skier at high altitude. Knowing
that many important races in this country take place in the west
at altitudes above 5000 feet (including the 2002 Olympics), I
decided that I needed to move out there and get acclimated.
I chose Park City because at the time it had the greatest
concentration of elite cross country skiers in the country (Luke
Bodensteiner, Marcus Nash, Scott Loomis, etc). I still race better at sea level, but over
the years my altitude results have improved a lot.
I hired a coach.
I was spoiled in high school and college with excellent
coaches. They were not
only very knowledgeable resources, but great friends as well.
It wasnt until I was on my own that I realized exactly
how important a good coach is. One of the reasons I moved to Park City was
so that I could work with Torbjorn Karlsen.
For the past five years he has been an excellent coach
and motivator and a big reason for my success.
I started a website. As
far as I know, I was the first cross country skier to document
his journey so completely on the web.
When I first started getting emails from people I didnt
know, who knew all about me, it kind of freaked me out.
I began thinking maybe the website wasnt such a good
idea. Did I really want so many people knowing about my every move?
What if I dont make the Olympics?
Will I have misled them all?
I got over my concerns when I realized that all these people
were pulling for me and supporting me. They werent reading this stuff just to
see the race results. They
were reading because they genuinely cared about how I did and
appreciated my efforts. These people were going through the same ups
and downs I was with their own training and together we were able
to motivate each other. That
has kept me going on many occasions.
I am also glad to have such a thorough account of my journey,
that I am sure I will enjoy reading through at some point in the
Did I Do Wrong?
On the flip side, I have asked myself this questions a lot
recently: What could I have done differently in my career
to increase my chances of making the 2002 Olympic Team?
Since I cant change US Ski Team decisions or my own
genetics (not yet anyway), I have been looking back through my
career for missed opportunities.
I am not doing this so that I can lament my mistakes and
wallow in what could have been, but rather so that you can learn
from my mistakes and not make them yourself.
First of all, I would have found a strong team to train with.
I always train better when other people push me.
The main reason I moved to Park City in the first place
was because of the other athletes to train with.
Unfortunately, shortly after I moved here Luke Bodensteiner
retired and Marcus Nash moved to Tahoe. Scott Loomis and Erik Stange were still in
town and we trained together often, but it was still not a team
atmosphere, which I thrive on.
I should have left Park City about two years ago. At that point, I had done enough training and
living at altitude so that racing up high wouldnt be a problem
anymore. And plus there
was no longer a real team for me to train with.
I think that I should have left for a better team atmosphere
at a lower altitude. The problem was that there wasnt a really
good alternative out there, except possibly Anchorage. Besides, I had just started a well-paying,
exciting job at an internet company and I was reluctant to leave
that behind. In hindsight,
I think I lost some of my natural speed because I trained too
slow at altitude for too many years.
I am glad I came here, but I think 3-4 years would have
been enough time.
I shouldnt have taken the job at the internet company. It seems silly to say that, especially since
I like the job and it has provided me with a mental challenge
to compliment my athletic physical challenge.
But I think the fact that I have to spend an hour in the
car every day just to get to and from work puts an added time
crunch on my already time-strapped schedule. An eight-hour workday
on top of 4 hours of training is too much. My boss is a friend of mine and a former skier,
so everyone was very understanding of my situation. But even so, it has been more stressful than
I would have liked and I think it affected my training. The irony is that without this job, I would
not be able to afford to ski.
Damned if I do, damned if I dont.
So how do I feel about my ski career? Am I a failure because
I did not accomplish the ultimate goal?
Am I a success for making it this far? In the past week,
I have experienced the full range of emotions, here is a sample.
I am frustrated. Regardless
of whether I made the Olympics or not, I wanted to know that I
skied my best and gave it my best shot.
To a certain extent I did that.
But this years Nationals will always leave a bitter
taste in my mouth. I came
into those races as physically and mentally prepared as I have
ever been. Then, because of inexplicable weather, bad wax, and timing glitches,
I was kept off-kilter all week.
I never got into the rhythm I had hoped for. Would it have made a difference as far as the Olympics go? No, probably not. But I wanted to leave town with my head held high, knowing that
I was a force to be reckoned with.
am disappointed. For as
long as I can remember, my goal has been to make the Olympics.
I have always known that it was an outside chance and it
would take a lot of luck as well as hard work.
But I also knew that it was possible.
Now I have to come to terms with the fact that it didnt
work out for me. In the
past few days I have broken down and started crying on a couple
of occasions. It hurts
to try so hard for something and come up short.
It hurts a lot. I
wanted to walk into the opening ceremonies and have a whole country
cheer for me. I wanted to match the best skiers in the world stride
for stride. I wanted to
have the title Olympian on my resume. I wanted my mom and dad to be able to brag
that their son was an Olympian as my way of saying thanks for
everything they have done for me.
(My eyes are starting to well up again
on). Was I shooting too
high? Was my head caught
in the clouds? Maybe,
but no one has ever accomplished anything big by shooting too
I am relieved. At the finish of Sundays 50K race I was
relieved to be at the end of the journey.
One person can maintain the necessary drive and focus for
only so long, and I dont think I could have kept it up much
longer. In some ways I am surprised that I kept at
it for so long. Six years
after college is a long time to devote yourself to a sport that
99% of the world doesnt care about.
I will not miss having to force myself out the door to
train even when it is 35 degrees and raining and I am really tired.
Most of the time the journey was a lot of fun, but not
always. I look forward
to training when I want and because I want, not just because the
training plan says I have to.
I am proud. Over the
course of my career, I accomplished a lot.
2-Time New Hampshire State High School Champion, 3 High
School Ski Team State Titles.
Junior National Champion, NCAA All American, Captain and
Most Outstanding Skier on the Dartmouth Ski Team.
Winner of the Great Ski Race, Lexus Sprint Event, and many
other races. 4th,
6th, 6th, and 10th at the 1999
US National Championships. Under-25
Champion in the American Ski Marathon Series. 10th place in the Birkie. Multiple podium appearances in marathons and
Continental Cup races. World
Cup racer. World Record
Co-Holder in the Dunkin Donuts Challenge.
International Rollerski Series Champion and founder.
I am proud of all these titles.
I know that even if I did not acheive my dream goal, I
did accomplish a lot more than most people even attempt.
I am also proud that while I was reaching these goals I
accomplished a lot off the trails too:
Dartmouth College graduate, an additional degree from Dartmouths
Thayer School of Engineering, a job as a software engineer, and
designer of multiple websites.
I guess when I review all of these emotions, it all boils down
to this: I am disappointed
to have come so close but not reached the ultimate goal, but I
have no regrets about any of it and I am proud of what I have
accomplished. All in all, thats a pretty good feeling.
Its funny, when you are so focused on the here and now,
all of a sudden the future sneaks up on you.
I havent done much planning for my life after last
week, but here are my thoughts.
I plan to race the rest of this year and next year. I have worked for years to get my body in shape
and I am not going to lose it all overnight. I want to take advantage of that hard work and do some more racing.
Besides, Im an addict I dont think I
will ever completely give up skiing and exercising. My attitude will be more relaxed each
race is no longer do or die.
I look forward to enjoying the races and doing more to
promote skiing outside the races. As a racer I have had to be extremely selfish.
It was always other people who were volunteering to help
at races that I participated in. It was always other people who donated money
so that I could afford to train.
I look forward to giving back some of my time and resources
as a way of saying thanks to those who have helped me and to help
others pursue their dreams as I have.
As for this website, in many ways I think it has run its course.
It is all about my life as a ski racer trying to make the
Olympics and that time has passed. Dont worry; I am not going to stop writing
tomorrow. I still enjoy
sharing my experiences and keeping you all updated on race results
and top 5 lists. I plan on keeping the website in its current
capacity at least through the end of this year. I will be doing reports from all my races, and I hope to give insider
coverage at the Olympics. After
that, I dont know. Maybe
I will turn it over to another aspiring skier to share his/her
thoughts. Maybe I will maintain it, but with a different
focus. I am still figuring
The journey to get to this point has been the most rewarding
experience of my life, mainly because it has BEEN my life. If I can put half the time and effort and dedication
I put into ski racing into my other endeavors in life, I have
no doubt that I will be successful.
I have learned many valuable lessons about hard work, focus,
patience, and adversity in my career.
The main reason I chose to pursue my ski dreams is that
I could not bear to wonder, years down the road, if I could have
reached my goals or not. I
couldnt accept not trying. It wasnt an option. It has been said that the only time you fail
is when you dont try at all.
Never have I believed that to be more true.
There are two questions I always got asked when I told people
I am a cross country ski racer.
One is Do you do that shooting thing with the gun? The other is Are you training for the
Olympics? I always
answered the second question by saying, Yes, I am training
for the Olympics, but I am a longshot. Even if I dont make
it, it will have been worthwhile because the journey itself has
been a lot of fun and very rewarding. I have been very lucky to be able to be a ski racer. Not everyone gets a chance to chase his dream
so vigorously. I encourage
anyone who gets a chance to follow his or her dream to take it. Dont be afraid of failure. Dream big.
Chances are that even if you dont make it all the
way there, you will make it further than you ever would have without
the dream. I can say from experience, that in the end
you realize that the journey, rather than the goal, is the biggest
Next month, as you sit down to watch the Olympics and the commentators
drone on and on about all the hard work the athletes put in to
get to that point, remember that there are others out there who
worked just as hard, or harder, and didnt make it to the
games. And their stories are just as enthralling as the ones NBC will show
you. All aspiring Olympians
must have talent, must work extremely hard, have good luck, and
persevere through the bad times.
There were hundreds of athletes who worked for each single,
coveted Olympic spot, but the person on your TV screen earned
it. That is what makes
being an Olympian so special.
If you are a ski racer who begs for support for six years,
when it is all said and done, you are going to have a lot of people
to thank. And I have many. My success is due as much to the help of other
people as it is to my own efforts.
If you are reading this, chances are I am indebted to you
for something and I want you to know I am truly grateful.
I am sure I will forget to thank some people, but I have
My Mom and Dad If I thanked them for everything theyve
done, Id never finish writing.
But I want to mention one thing in particular.
When I told them that I wanted to move to Park City to
train for skiing full time, they had just finished paying for
four years of my Ivy League education. Instead of hassling me about getting a real
job, they bought me a truck and sent me on my way. That was the single most important action in helping me to follow
my dreams (except for, maybe, buying me my first set of skis,
which they also did).
The rest of my family and friends who all believed in me and
pushed me to follow my dreams.
You all know who you are, and so do I.
Thank you so much.
My coaches: Fred Griffin, Dave McGraw, Jim Pammer, Ruff Patterson,
I have been blessed with good coaches my whole career. They have helped make me who I am as a skier and as a person.
Everyone who has donated money to my training fund. I certainly would not have made it this far
without your help.
My roommates Scott Loomis and Erik Stange for motivating me
get up every morning to train.
All my teammates in high school, college and beyond for pushing
me to be a better skier.
John Hanson and Peter Camann for organizing fund-raising efforts
on my behalf.
Everyone who has opened his or her home to me in order to help
me reduce the cost of travel.
All of you who read this website and send me words of encouragement.
I may not always have time to respond, but your thoughts
All the people who volunteer at races around the country.
Nordic Equipment, Inc for the job, Solda wax, Pro Ski rollerskis,
team clothing, and of course, underwear picture in the catalog.
Eric Maas and Infopia, Inc. for giving me a job and being extremely
flexible and understanding with my work schedule.
Dr. Lon Howard and Littleton Orthopaedics for giving me funding
and putting my body back together on numerous occasions.
SkiNH and their Friends of New Hampshire Skiing grants
Rick Halling and Atomic Ski USA
Salomon boots & bindings
Ian Harvey and Yoko Gloves & XL-1 sportsdrink
Odlo/Bjorn Daehlie Clothing
Rudy Project eyewear
ARCS in Park City for grinding my skis
Peter Camann and Nautilus of Littleton