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The Art of “The Pull”

by Willa Mason · 19 January 2022

How to become the perfect adventure buddy

Author: Willa Mason, Boreal River Rescue

We aren’t very fast, but we like to laugh. I’m lucky to have a fantastic cross-country ski partner. We’ve spent many days training for the Canadian Ski Marathon, a long-distance ski event that takes place near Montebello every February. My ski partner is especially fantastic because she’s learned when to use compassion and when to use what we call “The Pull.”

During long distance ski events, our waves of energy are never synchronized. I’m motivated by both the camaraderie and discomfort of being at the trailhead before dawn. I like to chase the bobbing headlamps of fellow skiers as they take off down the trail, often spending my energy early. She takes a while to wake up. Hours later, with more snacks in her belly and some sleepy miles under her belt, she starts to flow. Her stride lengthens, her movements become more efficient, and I start to chase her.

Like clockwork, when my pace begins to slow, she finds her stride. Making up ground until she passes me, I watch her take out her water bottle for a break. The thought of a long rest with dry socks and a big snack pulls me forwards, only for her to pop the backpack on, just moments after my arrival. Time and again, she steps back onto the trail with a grin and forces us forward again.

Two cross country skiers smiling on a sunny day

This is The Pull: to set your pace slightly faster than the group’s comfort zone. It is to recognize when a long pause will be productive–to tend to blisters or to adjust wax–and when stopping will only make it harder to start again.

Ideally, this creates momentum to gradually pull the group into a higher gear, at a slightly faster pace. Think carefully, and you’ll realize you’ve probably experienced this at some point. Whether it was on a hiking trip or running laps in gym class, many folks employ this strategy subconsciously–because it works! While slowing to match your partner’s pace may create an enjoyable afternoon, it’s not always productive. Whether the goal is to shave seconds off a split or to finish a long-distance adventure before dark, “The Pull” helps increase momentum.

Next time you sense the energy levels of your group or your friends start to fade, contemplate whether they need rest or a little pull. They’re exhausted, and the thought of a break has just gotten them through the previous painful 20 minutes. Instead of risking getting cold and stiff, consider keeping the muscles moving and the laughter flowing. Take off again, just far enough ahead that they have to catch you. As they close the gap between you and start to match your stride, you’ve successfully “pulled” the pace of the group.

Back on track to reach the desired benchmarks and with rejuvenated momentum, hopefully the group will keep on flying. Settle into the middle of the pack and enjoy the newfound flow.

You’ve just become a next-level adventure buddy.


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