Since then I've matured as a person and an athlete. I was confident going into the first weekend of Continental Cups last weekend. More confident than I have ever been before. I've learned that sports are won and lost in the mind. Fitness and talent matter to a certain point but I truly believe the mind is the most important tool. This past weekend I made the biggest breakthrough of my career so far. I used my newfound confidence to post career best finishes three days in a row.
Starting at the front of the race is important for me. While my xc skiing has improved drastically, I still feel most comfortable and always have my best races from the front. On the first day I jumped to 4th place which put me right where I want to be. I was able to start out smooth and controlled while getting a grasp of how the skiers around me were skiing. As the laps went by, I began to realize this was going to be a career day. I was still towards the front of the race around the halfway point. However, on one of the downhills an Austrian skier came flying past me and pointed at my feet saying, "Your ski is broken." I glanced down and saw that the base of my ski had peeled off from the tip and was catching in the snow. Instead of panicking, I tried my best to remain calm and not get pulled out of the zone. In every race, my goal is to get into "the zone" or "flow state". This means that there are no thoughts running through my head. I'm existing in the present moment and the pain my body feels from racing kind of just becomes numb. All of my best races come from this "zone" or "flow state". An incident such as a crash, getting passed by people, or in my case a broken ski, can try to pull you out of this state by making your brain kick in and start producing unnecessary thoughts. I kept skiing for probably another half kilometer. My coach yelled at me when I passed saying, "Bryan is going to give you a ski before the next climb." I made it to Bryan, popped my ski off, put a new ski on, then kept going. I could have created thoughts in my head such as, "I'm screwed, why did this have to happen," but I blocked the negative thoughts out and kept fighting. In Nordic Combined, the fast skiers that do not jump to the front of the race usually form packs. They work their way through the field with the goal of catching the lead pack. Unfortunately on the last lap I was passed by one of these descent sized groups. I ended up coming into the finish line in 12th place. New personal best!
I was happy with the result but I was even more happy with my teammate Ben Loomis's result! He jumped to 2nd place and finished in 4th place just off the podium. For those of you who don't know, Ben Loomis is 17 years old. Stephen Schumann who is 15 years old finished 25th, 27th, and 26th. The development pipeline of our sport is stronger than I can ever remember. I'm stoked for these guys as they have garnered results that will put them on the national team next year!
I stood there with my family just taking in the moment. I could see the happiness on their faces. This was as much their accomplishment as it was mine. They are the ones who have supported me day in and day out. Through the good days and the bad days. I was happy, but not ecstatic. At first I couldn't figure out why. Then I thought about one of my all time favorite quotes.
"When you make a choice and say, 'come hell or high-water, I am going to be this,' then you should not be surprised when you are that. It should not be something that feels intoxicating or out of character because you have seen this moment for so long that when that moment comes, of course it is here because it has been here the whole time because it has been in your mind the whole time" - Kobe Bryant
It's not that I wasn't happy, I just wasn't surprised. My mind no longer holds me back. I knew I was capable of results like these before the weekend had even started. Cheers to unlocking the minds potential and not setting limits on achievement!
I later found out I had been beaten in the photo finish for 5th place. I guess I need to work on my sprinting. There will always be improvements that need to be made and better results to strive for. In this sport, one guy goes home as a winner and the other 40 to 50 guys go home as losers. It's important though to celebrate and cherish days like this. I may not have been on top of the podium but I improved, and improvement is the only way to get there. I'm so thankful for all my sponsors, coaches, family, friends, and teammates. I want to say congratulations to all my teammates who competed this weekend as almost all of them set new personal best finishes which is huge! Thank you Rudy Project, One Way, Madshus, Sport 2000, Feed The Machine, and Honey Stinger. Also a huge shootout to all the people who have donated money to our organization USA Nordic Sports. We wouldn't be where we are without you. I feel blessed to have this amazing support. Love you all!