The expression ‘to earn a medal’ makes sense, this is a currency of sustained effort, sweat and risk. I was one of many skiers garlanded with a beautiful snowflake medal at the finish line of the Merino Muster Loppet races on 31 August. A powerful symbol of training, self-belief and achievement. I felt ridiculously proud and days later still do, indeed my medal may need to be surgically removed from my body, I ain’t taking it off yet!
Giving it your all
National anthems rang out for the podium winners, Japan for the 42km race (1hr.47), China for the 21km race (49.47) and Thailand for the 7km event (17.06). Herculean successes representing the pinnacle of athleticism.
The spirit of the Merino Muster also embraces many extraordinary people who don’t make it onto the podium. My ‘Ski Musteress Special Awards’ are dedicated to them.
My outstanding winner was No 49 in the 1km kiddies race. This little 4yr old didn’t have the best of starts as the pack sped away, there were tears, she didn’t have enough weight to kick her tiny skis uphill.
Did she give up? Oh no, look at the smile as she proudly crossed the finish line, embodying resilience and determination.
‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’: Nelson Mandela
Next up on my podium, Gherardo Mercati who received his World Loppet Master award after completing his tenth Loppet race, the full 42km Merino Muster. Impressive: Gherardo joins only 5044 other Masters across the world, more people have summited Everest. But get this, Gherardo is a cool 80 years old and has completed these 10 ski marathons since his 79th birthday.
‘How long should you try? Until.’ Jim Rohn
As the afternoon sun bore down and the crowds had dispersed, Marcia and Jim Beckner, both over 70, quietly crossed the 42km finish line together, the last to complete the course after a gruelling six hours. What a partnership, what a team.
‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop’. Confucius
Cars and champagne
Behind every event in New Zealand is a powerhouse of volunteers. Volunteering is in the Kiwi DNA.
Take Charlie, full of beans after organising the car park all day, in spite of missing the ski racing and ceremonies.
Congratulating finishers for hours on end, was former Prime Minister Helen Clark, a passionate cross country skier and supporter of Snow Farm NZ for 28 years.
Ladyship nominations for these two Downton Abbey gals who styled it out in furs and pearls, sipping champagne and startling racers with cries of ‘Well done Sir’ as they waltzed around the course.
Type one fun
The most consistent advice that I received before the event was too ‘have fun’ and ‘enjoy the day’ (thanks Jessie). I consulted the well-known Fun Scale to manage expectations. Type one fun is enjoyable whilst it is happening. Type two fun is miserable whilst it is happening, but fun in retrospect. Type three fun is not fun at all, not even in retrospect. Afterwards, you think, why on earth did I do that.
I was thrilled to enjoy the whole experience and felt euphoric at the end. Sure, my mouth was parched and my heartbeat loud during the Maori welcome, but that soon gave way to a simple sensation of feeling so good to be so alive. Pure type one fun all the way.
Boosted further when I discovered to my astonishment, that I’d won my age category (7km Female Under 60) and finished ahead of the herd of fancy dress cows!
It’s a wrap
Cherry blossom, lambs, ducklings and daffodils have all begun to appear around Wanaka.
For the first time in my life, I feel a sense of melancholy as Spring takes hold. Gary and I have come full circle, we arrived in New Zealand last Spring and will return to the UK winter all too soon.
Snow Farm NZ was a key reason we chose Wanaka as our base and it didn’t disappoint. The Merino Muster was the highlight of our year, our Red Letter Day.
For a moment in time we, the Merino Musterers, were the luckiest people alive. We had each chosen to ski, we had the gift of health and the good fortune to be at Snow Farm New Zealand, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
This is my last diary entry as a Ski Musteress, I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped me along the way, welcoming us into the Snow Farm NZ and World Loppet communities.
Retired Ski Musteress
September 4 2019