When the 2010-2011 ski season began, Canadian Brooke Gosling barely had the World Championships in Oslo, Norway, on her radar.
“Every time I was asked about it or thought about it, I just dismissed the notion because I was also starting to shift my focus on a career that wasn’t skiing,” she told FasterSkier.
And her training reflected the change in goals. Before the end of September, she hadn’t done any rollerskiing or strength, instead focusing on things she enjoyed – mountain biking and trail running. When the season started, she wasn’t sure how her base of ski walking, running, and mountain biking would translate onto snow.
But as Gosling, a member of Central Cross Country Skiing (CXC), traveled to more races, and turned in results topping some of the best female skiers in Canada, all of a sudden going to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to attempt to qualify for World Championships seemed like a good idea.
“I didn’t want to be at home watching the World Championships, wondering if I could have qualified,” she said.
In Thunder Bay, she gave it her best shot, finishing second and third in the selection races to two National team women who had already been selected to the World Championship team. While both races were strong, Gosling still thought she had come up short.
“I didn’t think I would get a call, because I hadn’t won a race outright,” she said.
But it turns out that didn’t matter – with only three women named to the team (Chandra Crawford, Perianne Jones, and Dasha Gaiazova) the Canadian squad needed a fourth. And after Gosling’s hot start to the season, she was the natural choice.
She was the top Canadian at the SuperTour events in West Yellowstone to kick off the season, as well as the top Canadian at the 10 k freestyle during the first NorAm event of the season in Sovereign Lake, B.C.
During the mini-tour at the NorAm event in Rossland, B.C., she was the second-fastest Canadian, finishing behind Jones.
And after her two races in Thunder Bay, it was obvious that she was the next fastest Canadian woman.
“I got a phone call about four days after the races and managed only to say ‘okay’ and ‘thank you’ about 20 times,” Gosling said.
“I was surprised, if not shocked, at the fact that it was actually happening,” she said, “I had sort of let go of that goal and dream, so to have it come true when I wasn’t focusing on it was a little overwhelming, in a good way.”
For Gosling, the road to World Championships started in an unusual way.
She was introduced to skiing at a surprisingly late age – standing on soccer field outside of her high school as a 14-year-old ninth-grader. Gosling began skate skiing mainly as cross training for her primary sport of running, and fell in love with the sport.
Gosling attended Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon, Ontario, a southern Ontario high school which has a reputation for producing cross-country skiers, including current Canadian National Team member Brittany Webster. She grew to love the sport in a large part due to her dedicated coaches.
“The emphasis in that system is enjoying the sport, the places it takes you, and the people you get to meet and ski with,” she said. “From there, you can build in high performance and start to think about becoming an elite skier.”
She still counts her coaches and team members from those high school days as an important part of her life today.”Racing fast was fun and motivating, but it was the experience and those memories that I think were more important in my development as an athlete,” she said.
If Gosling got into skiing a little bit more slowly than some of her peers, she entered the ranks of full-time athletics even later.
While National Team stalwarts like Chandra Crawford and Dasha Gaiazova have gone through the full program, including the junior national team, for Gosling, her first year of full-time training and racing without school or work came just three years ago.
As a member of the Alberta World Cup Academy, she improved steadily on the Nor-Am circuit. Last season, she applied to remain with the Academy, but was not named to the team. As a result, she looked elsewhere – and found CXC, which named her to its marathon team. It was originally planned that Gosling was to race loppets; however she was given the opportunity to race Nor-Am and SuperTour events, and ran with it.
Gosling splits her time between Calgary and Canmore, Alberta, where she works and trains. She has reconnected with Robin McKeever, coach of the Foothills Nordic Ski Club, and CXC and McKeever have worked in tandem.
The results seem a little surprising, as Gosling admits she was headed in a different direction this summer. In the early part of the training season, Gosling found herself exhausted, and instead of rollerskiing or strength, she decided to run, and ride her bike.
“Those were the two things I could do with friends, and I absolutely love,” she said.
“I found my legs were so heavy and tired the last few years, and the biggest thing I could tell that changed was doing strength,” she said.
Gosling also focused on a specific goal – the World Mountain Running Championships, which she qualified for. However, she declined her spot in favor of skiing, opting instead to head to a CXC camp in Lake Placid.
That camp in Lake Placid was just her third time on rollerskis – but she made sure to do quite a bit of good quality skiing, with legs only, and double poling.
With a full time job in Calgary working for a pipeline company, Gosling found she didn’t have a lot of time for training. She cut out strength in favour of aerobic fitness, and made sure she listened to her body. That had had some drawbacks, though.
“My sprinting this year is terrible,” she said, “Which is a result of not doing any explosive strength.”
It may seem ridiculous that Gosling has managed to hold down a full-time job as well as train the necessary hours to be competitive enough to get to World Championships, but Gosling acknowledges the support she has been given as crucial to her success.
“They have been so supportive of my racing and training, even though initially when I was hired in the spring, I wasn’t intending to race anything other then loppets,” she said.
While it has worked out well, Gosling wouldn’t recommend the plan. “I was pretty exhausted by Rossland, and was sort of ready to just work and then race the Birkie, but things change, and it’s hard not to get fired up for training again,” she said.
The most difficult part about balancing a full time job and training? Sleeping.
“The sleeping part was hit the hardest this year, but work has allowed me to take a few days off a week leading into…Worlds,” Gosling said. “I can make sure I don’t get sick and train properly. It’s not ideal, but I also didn’t think I was going to qualify.”
Gosling is understandably excited for the experience to race at World Championships – it is her first trip to a World Championship event at any level in skiing, be it junior, U-23 or senior.
“It is intimidating for sure, but it is also an amazing opportunity,” she said.
And the experience is something Gosling will savor. Making World Championships came as a surprise this season; at the same time she was scaling back her ski-specific training, she was looking elsewhere for careers.
Gosling has a degree in finance from the University of New Mexico, and has already made a bit of a name for herself with one entrepreneurial idea. Two years ago, she and a friend began Tweet Headware, a company which sold unique hand-made toques. It took off in the Bow Valley (the area around Canmore and Calgary), and the two were busy cranking out hats.
However, recently things have slowed, as Gosling has moved on to other projects. “It was fun for a bit, and provided some supplemental income,” said Gosling, “but we have put Tweet on the backburner.”
Gosling departs for World Championships on February 9th, and will get in some training in Norway before the events begin in late February.
“We work so hard all year to race,” she said, “That’s the fun part!”