It’s been a really busy couple of weeks here in Whistler. The Phat Wednesdays are getting more competitive than they’ve ever been, which has been both a surprise and a welcome motivator for me. I’ve been consistently second to different riders at each race, which isn’t my favorite place to be, but these races are for fun and I learn more about race prep, my own fitness and sport psychology after every start than I would have if each race had been “easy wins”. You can’t make mistakes in race runs this year – frustrating, but true – and I’m learning a lot about how important it is to pay attention to details when you’re racing rather than the typical “run for my life” kind of race run that I’ve grown so accustomed to.
One of the highlights of last week, however, was having a note on a napkin handed to me after the results were handed out. It was from a participant I coached during the prior weekend’s Dirt Series camp. The timing of it being handed to me was so perfect and it helped me appreciate that what I do with bikes is less than about Phat Wednesdays and racing and more about getting people pumped on riding bikes. I’ve grown up coaching; it’s something I take pride in doing well and I take the impact I’ve had on the people and athletes I’ve worked with pretty seriously.
I guess that’s what made my napkin note particularly poignant this week. My Dad let me know that he got a call that invited us both to a retirement party for an athlete who started my coaching career way back in the day in Edmonton, Alberta. I remember Olympic Silver Medallist (2010, Snowboardcross) Mike Robertson as a skinny little 12 year old kid at Rabbit Hill pretty clearly. My dad got me into coaching snowboarding when he started a “race night” at our local hill and Mike and his brother Adam came every week with their amazing, supportive parents. It didn’t take long for us both to recognize the talents these kids both would bring to the sport. After starting out as Mike and Adam’s coach, I went on to a long career of working with Adam, running one of the biggest snowboard teams Canadian snowboarding has seen. Over those years, Mike shone as the ideal athlete and role model in the sport, including impressive results at National Championships, X Games, Grand Prix events and World Cups all the way up to his Silver medal result at the Vancouver games.
Pretty soon after Vancouver, however, Mike was plagued by the lasting impact of a couple of head injuries he had sustained in training. It took two seasons replacing competition with meeting with specialists and trying endlessly to train with dizziness and headaches for Mike to realize that his time in the sport had come to an end. If you ever meet or have ever met Mike, you’ll know that he is an absolute champ to the core of his design. His mild mannered attitude and relaxed sense of humor made him a stand out to anyone who has trained with him or coached him. He’s the guy that will crush you in any sport you try to do with him, no matter how much he’s done it (or if he’s never tried it before). I’m proud to know Mike and while I wonder what would have happened in his career if he hadn’t had these issues with concussions, I know he will move on to achieve greatness in whatever path he moves to from here.
Thanks for what you have done for your sport and your country, Mike. Best of luck in the future!