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Word From The Wax Bench...

Worldloppet Master, Jay Wiener, Returns for Birkie ’19

With Birkie Week at hand, we caught up again with our friend, Jay Wiener. Some readers have followed our stories on Jay over the last few years and have gained insights and inspiration  to fuel their various skiing goals. For those just meeting Jay now, take a moment to familiarize yourself with this story teller and fifteen-time Worldloppet Master Passport holder. We first interviewed Jay in 2017. You can read more HERE. A year later, we talked again after the Birkie. Read the 2018 Article HERE.

This year, Jay speaks about dealing with Birkie jitters and how to relax and enjoy the festivities. How to not stress out about the wax. Rolling with the punches. There are good bits of wisdom here for all skiers, not just racers. Enjoy…  – Chris

The refrain to The Mamas and the Papas’ 1966 hit “Words of Love” begins,

“You oughta know by now

You oughta know, you oughta know by now”.

Indeed:  Before every race, people nervously ask, “What wax are you using?”  Never once has anyone responded, “Okay.  In that case, I am going to remove the wax from my skis and rewax them.”

The question channels nervousness, but acknowledging that anxiety is counterproductive is better.  Either everything works well, or one deals with problems that arise.  Angst accomplishes nothing other than stressing one additionally and unnecessarily.

Jay revels in the sunshine at the Merino Muster Worlodloppet Marathon in New Zealand.

My attitude is akin to the Thanksgiving video advising, “Just cook the bird!”… “Just ski the race!”  One’s wax will be right, or it will be wrong.  One will have a stellar day, or one will need to overcome disadvantages.  “Just ski the race!”

Rarely is everything perfect.  Obsession with perfection is unrealistic:  Recognize that things are likely to be imperfect, “Roll with the punches” and prepare to resolve issues which arise.

More often than not, I address shortcomings and adapt accordingly.  It is unusual that everything unfolds as desired.  The reward is that one learns from mistakes.  Nothing is learned when details fall into place, seamlessly.  The ultimate objective is improvement, which only occurs after one errs and figures how to anticipate problems and avoid or rectify them.  Once one integrates the practice into one’s repertoire, it becomes second nature and one internalizes a mantra of Muhammad Ali, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…” — the goal being to relax sufficiently to deliver a TKO.

The relevance of this approach was reinforced by how my 2019 racing season began.  I rented skis from New Moon for the Birkie Tour. I almost missed my flight home from Minneapolis-Saint Paul even without checking bags.  [Do not try to fly on race day.  I never attempted to do so beforehand and will never try again].  When I called the airline, en route to the airport, to explore options, I determined that a baggage handlers strike in Germany meant that my change of planes in Frankfurt was unlikely to allow me to reach Salzburg with either my clothing or skis.  I opted to depart two mornings later rather than the following afternoon.  Plan B fell apart at Dulles International Airport.  I thus pursued Plan C and drove to the Dolomitenlauf from Zurich, instead of Salzburg; a six hour rather than a two hour drive.

Indeed:  Before every race, people nervously ask, “What wax are you using?”  Never once has anyone responded, “Okay.  In that case, I am going to remove the wax from my skis and rewax them.”

By the following day, I was ill, suffering badly congested lungs and sinuses.  I completed the classic race at the Dolomitenlauf, two days later, and collected my fifteenth Gold Worldloppet Master, but I could hardly speak afterwards, having obstructed Eustachian Tubes and no voice.  The weather at Obertilliach was 8-12 degrees Fahrenheit on the next morning so I opted out of the second day of racing — correctly — setting my sights upon skiing the Marcialonga on the following Sunday.

I trained in Italy, during the intervening days, skiing most of the first sixty of the seventy kilometers over four days; doing little else other than sleeping.  Even then, I lacked strength and stamina.  I completed the marathon, however.  I was not unduly tired after eating, showering, and napping.

All of this is to state, “Just ski the race!”  There will be good days.  There will be bad days.  Do one’s best.  Do one’s utmost.  When the marathon concludes, one will feel a profound sense of achievement for having given one’s all and done as well as anyone could.

Please take a deep breath and relax:  One has done what one can to compete in the American Birkebeiner Ski Marathon.  Now prepare for whatever challenges arise, confident that they will be resolved.  Whatever the shortcomings of one’s wax or otherwise, “Just ski the race” — and, most importantly, enjoy oneself.

Jay receives his fifteenth Worldloppet Master Passport at the Dolomitemlauf Worldloppet Marathon in East Tyrol, Austria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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