Nordic Notes with Simi Hamilton: Try dipping your toes into hell’s lap pool |

Nordic Notes with Simi Hamilton: Try dipping your toes into hell’s lap pool

Simi Hamilton
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen Nordic skier Simi Hamilton from Oct. 25, 2017.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

If you want to see what grit looks like, go watch a World Cup cross-country ski race. I’ll admit, I’m a little bit biased when it comes to determining what the physical manifestation of toughness looks like, but I truly believe that this funny thing called ski racing, that we dedicate tens of thousands of hours of our lives to, is pretty freaking hard.

Imagine clipping into your alpine skis and propelling yourself a distance equivalent to Carbondale to Aspen in two hours. Oh yeah, don’t forget to throw in about 8,000 feet of climbing and descending along the way. Granted, as a sprinter I race much, much shorter distances and we use significantly lighter and more agile boots, skis and poles, but the physical pain we endure and the mental fortitude we rely on to get our heads through an experience like that is, we’ll just say, quite a lot.

I grew up in Aspen, and I’ll be the first to admit that my life is and was easier than the lives of about 99 percent of the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn how to work my butt off in order to achieve something unfathomably hard. I was raised to value the feeling of making your body hurt and your mind uneasy in order to do something that made you stronger and more proud of yourself than before you started.

And that’s why I ski race. Putting on a race bib is daunting. You know that over the course of the next three minutes in a sprint or two hours in a 50 kilometer, you are going to feel like you are dipping your toes in the deep end of hell’s lap pool. But you also know that when you throw your foot across the finish line at the end of the race, you will have experienced something so intangible and rewarding that few people in this world ever get to taste it.

And that’s a cool feeling.

I ski race to travel the world 11 months a year, to meet fellow athletes and world citizens that grew up and live in societies vastly different and similar to ours, to learn what it means to both succeed and fail as a team, and to glide faster on snow than anyone else in the world. But mostly I just ski race because I love it and I love reminding myself that I can push my body and my mind to a place that normal people don’t even know exists.

And so I’ll leave you with this challenge: Go try something that is hard, that scares you, and that gets you out of your comfort zone. I don’t care if it’s renting a pair of cross-country skis and skiing from Aspen to Snowmass on the Owl Creek Trail, setting a new personal record on your skins up Little Nell, or even shouldering your snowboard and hiking up the Highland Bowl once this winter.

If you’re ready to take on the pain and struggle in your head, the discomfort of knowing that it’s only going to keep hurting more until you reach the top, or the frustration of trying something that you just plain suck at, I guarantee you’ll cross whatever finish line you set for yourself and walk away with the feeling that you can take on anything you used to consider impossible.

Editor’s note: Nordic Notes is a weekly column written by Aspen-raised cross-country skiers Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman as they compete on the World Cup circuit ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

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