In March of 2016, we published an article penned by Scott “Bjorn” Cummings, a Postbaccalaureate student working towards his Academic Behavorial Strategist K-12 (ABS) Special Education License at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), titled “Why Skiing? How a Sport Saved My Life”. He’s now teaching and even more in love with XC, and we published his “Part III” update in February. Here’s the latest on his summer.
There is an old saying in teaching that “the three reasons why I teach” are: June, July and August.
As a teacher, I have the benefit of getting my summers off to recharge and rejuvenate before entering the marathon grinder that is public-teaching school year — after the ski season ended in late April! This was offensive to say to some of my coworkers, but I loved having an April blizzard in the Twin Cities to extend the ski season. I had several solid plans to fill my increasingly flexible summer schedule, because, as the old saying goes, “Real skiers are made in the summer.”
- Teach Summer School or ESY (Extended School Year). On March 15 (yes I know the Ides of March), I was informed that I lost my job and would have to look for another one. But out went extended-school-year teaching gig. Which is to bad because that helped to pay for a nice pair of skin skis from Pioneer Midwest and other ski accessories such a new Toko Waxing Iron. Both purchases where well worth it.
- Look for a new special-education job in the Twin Cities or Duluth. My last teaching job search was two years ago and I didn’t have a signed contract from the school district until Aug. 15, about two weeks before the school year started. But, after having two years of full-time teaching experience under my belt, and teaching the high burnout and thus high demand field of special education, the job search lasted just two months. I had a job May 15. It was nice to not to worry about landing somewhere over the summer.
- Train 6 days a week for the summer. This plan lasted one week in the summer. I decided to trail run at Salem Hills Park, near where I live, the morning after completing some hard-earned intervals with my ski-training group, Endurance United. Bad idea. I was exhausted. On mile 3 out of 4, I started to pick up speed just to get the run over with. There was a downhill and I noticed newly completed trail work nearby with chainsawed tree stumps and sawdust on the trail. For a split second, I thought that part would be flat and level. One step past the sawdust, I placed all my weight on my left foot, which hit a small-but-significant tree root. My ankle rolled on the inside and I felt instant pain on one of my outside ankle tendons. Down I went — timber! I landed with all my weight on my left knee, thankfully on dirt. I was in shock and I stayed down on the ground for about 10 minutes by myself. Then I realized that I still had one more mile to my car. To add insult to injury, my battered ankle did not appreciate the elevated and hilly trail on the ground. When I got home, I showered, ate some lunch and noticed that my ankle looked like it had two golf balls inside it. It was swelling so I went to urgent care. After being placed in a wheelchair and getting some X-rays, I had two different medical opinions. The radiologist said avulsion fracture and the doctor said severe sprain without a fracture, but the doctor recommend to seeing a podiatrist to follow up. Five days later, the podiatrist said no fracture, but a severe sprain that required physical therapy with TRIA Orthopaedic. There went my six days/week of working out. Two months after my injury, I am still in physical therapy and lost a significant amount of training. I gained five pounds in eight weeks since the injury. Hopefully my ankle will be good to go in time for the NorthShore Inline Marathon on Sept. 15.
- Spend time with girlfriend / just enjoy summer.
This one is a little bit personal and I debated whether or not I should include this here, but others might be able to relate to balancing life and training. I met my girlfriend through mutual friends. We will call her Jessie (yes, I named her Jessie Diggins). Jessie was a fun, outgoing person who I really enjoyed spending time with. She knew skiing was a big part of my life and was accommodating to my endorphin addiction. She attended a couple race weekends with me to Hayward for the 42-kilometer Pre-Birkie and North End Classic, as well as the up to Biwabik, Minnesota, for the Pepsi Challenge. We had a great time and traveled well together. But my performance at my races were below my expectations. I finished Birkie with 4:09:31, above my four-hour time goal. Of course it didn’t help that I had a cold during the race and had to stop a couple times to catch my breath. It also didn’t help that I was in the second wave. I thought people passing me would not bother me, but mentally, it did the opposite. It made me mad and frustrated. But I did the full Pepsi Challenge, which consists of two 25 k laps. The 35-degree and sunny weather was perfect for Jessie and our spectating friends, but it was awful for cold-temp Rossi. The warm, sticky snow made it like skiing on sandpaper, especially on the downhills. Even worse, while drinking water an aid station, I tried to wave to Jessie and our friends cheering me on and crashed face-first in the snow.
Then on March 15, I lost my job. I started to look for jobs in the Twin Cities and near Duluth. I landed a job interview in Proctor, a small town outside of Duluth. The possibility of returning to Duluth really intrigued me, but Jessie was incredulous. I ended up landing a teaching job that was the closest to Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, Minnesota, where I joked I would sneak out during to my teaching prep and do a couple loops.
But Jessie and I started to drift and the damage was done. No longer was I leading the charge but hesitant about her and our future plans. Bottom line, I knew I was having trouble balancing a full-time teaching job, a girlfriend and skiing. Plus Jessie didn’t exactly look forward to working out. She had a completely different lifestyle than me, and it was not a good match. I was sick about once a month and my times started to suffer. I was not leading the active, healthy lifestyle I was used to. Would you rather have a girlfriend or a good Birkie time?
She didn’t have to race ski marathons with me, but I learned that I needed someone who shared an active lifestyle. So I ended the half-year relationship with Jessie in the week before school ended. I ended up spending a good chunk of my summer alone and with my four-legged girlfriend, my dog, Babe Ruth.
- Watch some World Cup and other sporting events to my heart’s content. Once I suffered my nasty ankle injury, I had a good chunk of time to watch all the World Cup matches I wanted. Once the World Cup ended, I followed the Twins. Once they trade deadline passed and the Twins were sellers as opposed to buyers, I started a binge-watching marathon of Seinfeld. That was the silver lining to my summer, as I liked to call it now, the Summer of Bjorn.
I’m ready for a start of a new school year and soon enough, a new ski race season. But before that, I need to get my ankle up and running again. For now, Bjorn is Bloomington’s more eligible bachelor.