DOUG: [00:00:00] Well, I think it’s trying to figure out why I hated running. Like, I was a ski racer. If you asked me at eight years old what I want to do, it’s like Olympics, US Ski Team. So, running more than a minute because ski racing is very anaerobic, right? It’s a minute. The longest is two minutes. So, if I was doing something longer than two minutes and it wasn’t skiing, I was not very happy. So, I did what I needed to do. I did the two-mile test. I think that was some kind of a test we had, but I would just rather be doing anything else. And running as a skier means anaerobic threshold, it means pain.
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JESSE: [00:01:26] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today has probably the biggest laundry list of accomplishments of any of my guests so far, so I’m really glad to have him here. When he was a ski racer, he’s a two-time Olympian. He’s the first US Ski Team speed team person to ever win a bronze medal at the World Championship. Since retiring from ski racing, he won the inaugural Spartan Death Race back in 2007.
He’s done numerous ultras including all of those hundred milers, triathlons, and varying distances, all kinds of stuff. But what he’s doing now is really cool. And he created an organization called ELITEAM, where he teaches young athletes the importance of becoming a complete athlete, something we’re definitely going to talk about. If you want to see him other places besides here, you can see him on NBC. He’s a Skiing Analyst. He’s also an Olympic Announcer. Welcome to the show, Doug Lewis.
DOUG: [00:02:25] Thank you, thank you, thank you for having me. I am a fan of your podcast and I’ve spent many miles running to your voice.
JESSE: [00:02:31] Well, I appreciate it. It’s good to know somebody’s listening. I mean, I can see the view count or the listen count, depending on whether you’re on the YouTube version, or you’re on iTunes, SoundCloud, whatever various audio platform. But it’s not often that I actually get to meet somebody that’s been listening to all the interesting conversations I’ve been having. So, I appreciate you spending the hours with me.
DOUG: [00:02:55] It’s good. All of a sudden, I’ve got nine miles in so it works.
JESSE: [00:02:59] Yeah. Well, for the longest time, I’ve been really kind of party pooper for listening to anything while you go run. But that also comes with the caveat that I haven’t ventured to the ultra distance. So, I can see how, at some point, you might want some kind of like external stimulation.
DOUG: [00:03:25] For sure. I listen to a very eclectic music mix as well, somewhat embarrassing. And then I mix it up. And of course, I’m out there just listening to nature as well. But yeah, so I’m 15 weeks out of my next ultra 100, so I’m in — May is miles for me. So, there’s nine to 20 miles a day. I gotta listen to something.
JESSE: [00:03:49] Yeah. So, I mean, is there like — Is there one song that comes on and you’re like, that’s my jam? Or is it — Are you going like — are you going Britney Spears to Tool to Michael Jackson? Is that wide or what are we talking about?
DOUG: [00:04:03] It’s everything. I got Bruce Springsteen, I got something, I don’t even know if it’s right, it’s like dub baby or something. So, it’s all in between.
JESSE: [00:04:15] I left behind my — Well, I’m sure my iPod is here somewhere. I have an iPod Shuffle from like back in high school and that’s the last time I had an iPod. And it’s got such a random — It’s got like music that one of my friends in high school was making. It’s got like Michael Jackson, as I mentioned. I don’t actually have any Britney Spears, but I’m sure I did have Tool. And then we go like classical music. It’s like, who’s whose iPod is this and like, what’s going on in their head? So, I was wondering what other people are listening to?
DOUG: [00:04:51] For sure.
JESSE: [00:04:52] So, that kind of begs the question since we’re already here. You leave behind skiing, you get into ultras. I think when I listened to the episode on the Executive Athlete Podcast you did with Ken Lubin, that you’d mentioned, you hated running when you were younger. So, I mean, how — It’s the complete opposite of hating running unless you’re just the biggest masochist that I’ve ever met. So, I mean, how do you find some kind of love or joy in running when you came from a place of disdain to start with?
DOUG: [00:05:26] Well, I think it’s trying to figure out why I hated running. Like, I was a ski racer. If you asked me at eight years old what I want to do, it’s like the Olympics, US Ski Team. So, running more than a minute because ski racing is very anaerobic, right? It’s a minute. The longest is two minutes. So, if I was doing something longer than two minutes and it wasn’t skiing, I was not very happy. So, I did what I needed to do. I did the two-mile test.
I think that was some kind of a test we had, but I would just rather be doing anything else. And running as a skier means anaerobic threshold, it means pain. So, you have I’m skiing and I’m in pain, that’s how my relationship was with running until I was 25-26 when I retired. The reason I got into ultra running now is number one, my body can still handle it, which is amazing, being a ski racer.
But two, it’s just all mental. I want to — I love going to dark places and seeing if I can get out. I love pushing my limits to see if I can do a hundred miles and just, that’s what I’m about is pushing limits. And that happens to be ultra running right now. It’ll be something else in a couple years, I’m sure.
JESSE: [00:06:43] You know, there’s — I always feel like it’s a love-hate relationship. And you know, I don’t know all the episodes you’ve listened to but I know I’ve spoken to some people about this time when I raced 70.3 Santa Cruz and I did not get enough fuel. The day almost didn’t happen is the long story short. I had a tire that the bike team had to switch out before the — so my fuel got all screwed up. And throughout the run, like I was having like the black tunnel coming in.
Just — I mean, I had guys your age and older passing me on the run and the run is my specialty, just struggling to get to the end. And it’s like, I had to go to the medical tent. That’s the first time I’ve ever had to go to the medical tent. No, that’s not the first time but it was probably the worst time.
And so passing that, the weeks after I kind of felt like, man, I’m a badass. Like, I made it through, you know? But then the years on, I’m like, that was probably not very smart. So, I have a love-hate relationship with that like mentality. I mean, do you struggle with that or am I just being sheepish?
DOUG: [00:07:58] I think it has to do with being a risk-taker, right? A lot of people think I was a downhill skier, fastest I’ve ever skied is 97 miles an hour. You’re a risk-taker, right? And I’m like, I’m not a risk taker, I’m risk-averse. I do everything I can to minimize the risk. Starts with respecting it. You know, people who don’t respect the danger are the ones that are getting hurt. But you got to look at speed and forces and danger in the eye, number one, and respect it.
That gives you that adrenaline rush that focuses you. And secondly, do everything. It’s just hard work. Every time I spend an hour or five hours in the gym, minimize the risk. Every time I visualize the course, minimize the risks. So, every time I got in the starting gate, I could have been lying to myself, but every time I’d gotten to the starting gate, I knew I could make it. I knew I was going to be okay. And so that’s what I bring to ultra running. I never jump into something just oh,
I’m just going to run a hundred miles. That is backed up with research and training. And then the last thing I count on, because I know I’ll push myself to the limit, but the last thing I count on is the grit factor and I will not give up. If the bone’s sticking out of my knee, yeah, I’m giving up. But if there’s nothing wrong and I can continue, I will continue, for sure. So, I guess I’m not going to ever put myself in that — I hope I will never put myself in that dangerous position. I’ve always given me a chance to grit it out.
JESSE: [00:09:26] Gosh, I don’t know why I just blanked on his name, Chris — back on episode six. So, we’re going way back. This is a gentleman — about my age, who also does triathlon and he told a story about a race where he was in contention to win and it was hot out, very hot out, and he was pushing himself so hard, he basically gave himself heatstroke and almost killed himself because he was — he just pushed it so far.
And the lesson he learned, which really kind of stuck with me was, at any given moment, on any given day, you’re in control. You get to decide how hard am I going to go. And nobody else can say, you’re going to go this hard. So, it’s like, when you come to that threshold you have the ability to say, no, let’s step back from the ledge a little bit? Like, maybe not right now. Maybe I’ll come back and peer over the edge in the minute.
DOUG: [00:10:31] Yeah, yeah. I think you’re — I’ve just — I know myself being so old, right? I just know where that cliff is. And I know how to tiptoe right at the edge. And I love being on that edge. But I also respect that it would be bad to go over it. I guess it comes with age.
JESSE: [00:10:51] Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think there’s probably a lot of mentality, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that probably comes with being a downhill ski racer that a lot of us, myself certainly included, I’ve never been on skis at all. There’s probably a lot of mentality that comes with that, that may be hard for us to learn in any other place.
Because you have to do the prep, you have to know the course, you got to have the fitness, you got to do all of that or it’s going to be a bad day. You’re going to hit something, you’re going to fall over. And as you said, the people that don’t respect it, they just go, yeah, whatever. Like, that’s who ends up getting hurt. So, how do you start that? And maybe this comes into ELITEAM with training young athletes, like how — Suppose I’m an eight-year-old and I say, Doug, I really want to go fast down that hill, like how do you get me down the hill, and not have me crash into a barrier or anything dangerous?
DOUG: [00:12:01] I think it has a confidence — it has to do with confidence. So, at ELITEAM, you said it, we teach complete athletes. If you look at me, I’m 5”8, how was I an Olympian much less of bronze medalist, right? I could ski, for sure, but it was my physical fitness as high as I could push it and get there. It was eating well, it was nutrition, and then the big one of these three is sports psychology.
I was in that starting gate, confident, calm, focused, ready to risk. All that mental side is what made me a champion. And going back to ELITEAM, I’m trying to teach those kids, plant those seeds that confidence is a skill, visualization is a skill, relaxation is a skill, you’re not born with it, right? And it’s just as important as the technique of a pool plan or pick your sport, pick your skill, kicking.
So, the key to that confidence, which underlies it all is to build confidence in kids is to learn how to challenge them just outside their comfort zone. You need to find as a coach that individual level and challenge that kid. Give them that goal that’s just outside, not too far, because if the goal is way unrealistic, they’re not going to do it. And it can’t be too easy.
That’s what usually happens in this day and age, right? It has to be just far enough so they have to jump off that cliff and in a safe environment, right? So, if they fall or crash or whatever, they’re not going to get hurt, they’re just going to learn. So, it’s an amazing feeling, though, when you find that challenge that’s perfect for that kid and they fail, they fail, they fail and then the seventh time they get it, oh, my God.
You’ve just changed that kid’s life. You’ve given them confidence. And then every confidence is a brick and you start building that wall. So, it’s tough as a coach to find that skill to challenge the kids right.
JESSE: [00:14:05] One thing I wonder about is you mentioned that all of these techniques, the mental discipline, the mental psychology are teachable skills, are learnable skills. And I find that that is often the case for many things. That we — But it also seems pervasive that maybe it’s the US cultural, at least, that’s where I live and exists.
That people almost take it as like, oh, they look at Doug and they’re like, oh, well, Doug’s talented, that’s why he was an Olympian. It’s like, okay. There’s going to be some talent, you know, but there’s so much you still have to learn if you didn’t put in the time. So, I wonder, the prelude to my question here is, do you ever have to convince people — parents that these skills are teachable? Or that they can be taught versus getting pushed back like, well, Jimmy’s just not ready for that, like they’re not capable. Do you have to deal with any of that?
DOUG: [00:15:16] I think the biggest fight — there’s probably a second — if I don’t answer that question, come back to it.
JESSE: That’s fine.
DOUG: [00:15:22] There’s — one part of this is that you have to convince the parents, it’s not buying them the best skis, it’s not putting them in the best program. It’s not getting the best water bottle. It’s not getting Lindsay — pair of skis. It is hard work. It is skill training. That’s what makes champions.
So, if you can — the hardest part about teaching the parents is like, does Jimmy have it? Let’s see. Let’s push him. Let’s let him drive the train, give him all the opportunities, and let him drive the train and see if he wants to work on all the tough stuff. Because what makes a champion is anybody can practice the fun stuff, right? It’s enjoying the work of the nasty stuff day to day that makes champion. So, that’s my biggest thing about parents is really educating them on that the kids got to drive the train, and it’s the skills. It’s not all the fluff that you think it is.
JESSE: [00:16:19] That kind of makes me wonder too is along those lines, is if you get anybody that wants to be I’ll say overprotective, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but just doesn’t want their kids to fail. And failure is such a — which you’ve been listening to episodes so you know I’ll ask that question at the end. Or maybe we can address it now. But failure is such a — it’s got a bad rap, I feel like. It needs a PR team.
DOUG: [00:16:48] It certainly does. Failure is the gift. Failure is a positive — failure is such a tool. And you ask a lot of these questions. I listened to you like everybody — the winning part, I don’t really care about. I want to know when you suffer, I want to know when you fail. And there are so many stories, more stories than the successes for sure. Just to back that up, some kid I was doing a podcast to a group of kids and they’re like, how many races did you win? So, I raced from eight to 26, right. What is that 18 years — what — I don’t even — whatever.
No — Yeah. I probably won 10 races. I’m like, it is such a brutal sport. The sport is brutal, but ski racing, right, there’s a hundred people in the race, there’s one winner. That means there’s technically, air quotes, 99 losers. So, you better find a better relationship with failure if you’re an athlete, especially if an individual sport athlete. And you got to know that failure, every time you come short is such a gift, and turn it around what did you learn, and next time, you won’t make that mistake.
JESSE: [00:18:01] You know, I think you mentioned you had listened to my episode with Aquil. And the words that he said to me in that interview, if I think back that was episode 94, 95, somewhere around there. He was talking about as he’s gotten older, he’s in his 40s now is he’s — when he “fails” he’s not so critical about himself as he is curious. And I really liked that. He’s like, why didn’t it work? Could I have done anything different? Was the other person just simply better? You know, instead of this, like I said that that bad PR move about failure is this awful monster? It’s like, no, it’s just telling you, whatever you did this time, it didn’t work. Let’s do something different.
DOUG: [00:18:51] Going back to ELITEAM, so we never hide times at ELITEAM. We time a lot, and kids know who’s fast, right? So, say we’re practicing an obstacle course, right, and there’s the fast kid for sure and then there’s that middle-of-the-road kid, whatever. And you got — it’s important, when he finishes that course, take the time to sit with him and say, go back through the course, what did you do well, what can you improve on? What can we learn from the fast kid?
What can we bring from that kid into yours? And now he’s got a challenge, not about winning. It’s a challenge about making himself better. So, you’ve got to really focus it that way. And that’s what you can give kids that fact that if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter. It’s how can you improve? How can you learn from that failure? And if you teach them that, they’re going to be so much more confident. There’s that word again, confident.
JESSE: [00:19:49] This leads me back to — this was last year’s question, but I want to ask you anyway because you’re kind of touching on it. And I asked everybody last year what they thought the purpose of sports was. So, I’d like your opinion on that because it seems like we’re headed that direction.
DOUG: [00:20:07] That’s a tough one. I guess I should have listened to the last two minutes of all of your thing.
JESSE: [00:20:13] I did a compilation. There is a video on YouTube of just people answering this question, which I’ll do this year with this year’s question about failing as well.
DOUG: [00:20:23] The purpose of sport to me on one aspect is it makes me feel alive. Because sport is about being outside, hopefully, which is one of my favorite things. It’s about pushing your limits, seeing how far you can go, not against somebody else, against yourself. It’s about unknown because you don’t know how you’re going to do. I love that, the unknown aspect. So, it’s about being alive. If I say sport, I’m like, I’m alive. So, I don’t know if this is weird.
JESSE: [00:20:56] No, it’s fine. It’s kind of the unanswerable question. Obviously, people have answers, I have a whole compilation of people giving answers. But it’s like, there is no right answer to it. Yu know, sport encompasses so many of our lives and our experiences and things that we take way to other places. It’s like — I’m not, but say I was also a downhill skier racer, what you and I take away from it, probably not going to be the same things.
We’ll probably have some commonalities, but just the way each of us views it is going to be different. And that goes back to the like psychology of sport and how we relate to each other, we relate to the sport, and it just — The short version is it just is fascinating to me what people take away from their individual efforts, regardless of whether they’re skiing or biking or swimming or powerlifting, whatever it is.
DOUG: [00:22:01] I think, going a little deeper it’s life, it teaches you so much about winning, about losing, about the unknown. It’s just a microcosm of life, I guess.
JESSE: [00:22:15] So, we’ll back up a little bit with — talking a little bit more about ELITEAM, which if you’re looking for it, if you’re on the YouTube version, you can see Doug’s t-shirt, which helps with the spelling. But if you’re looking for it online, E-L-I-team, nice amalgamation of words just like Solpri’s an amalgamation of words.
We were talking about that before we get going. You know, it seems like in some ways you moved on, you’re doing ultras, doing triathlons and all these other challenges. Yet, you’re kind of keeping firmly planted in the skiing world. Is that the whole idea where all right, Doug’s retired, but I still want to keep one foot in this room. Is that the whole point of it, or what was the inspiration?
DOUG: [00:23:07] I think I got to go back and you’ve talked to many athletes, retirement was really tough. Like skiing was my life, top three in the world in Sports Illustrated, and then nothing. [crosstalk]
JESSE: [00:23:19] Right. You said, 25-26, right?
DOUG: [00:23:21] Yeah, 25-26.
JESSE: [00:23:23] Which is especially tough at that age.
DOUG: [00:23:25] Yeah. And luckily, I come from a very academic family. My parents, Middlebury College grads, very academic. And so I went to school right away. So, that was like a safety net, which was great, because it gave me a focus. But everybody’s like, go to Wall Street, you got to go [inaudible 00:23:41], you got to be on television, all this stuff, and I kept listening to these other people.
This is what you got to do. And then I really struggled. I just lost my identity. And then I got — someone asked me at the Greenmount Valley School, it’s a ski academy, I went there like, “Hey, can you coach U10s? And I’m like, “Sure.” And all of a sudden, I found my passion, right? I was no longer lost.
Once you have that passion, then all the skills that you had from sports work; goal setting, hard work, focus step by step. So, it was — I don’t know where the question came from. But until I found my passion, to inspire and educate young kids, it’s not skiing at all. I love to ski. I get to ski every day. But I don’t care if the athlete is a skier, or a swimmer, or a triathlete, it’s about trying to — It’s about teaching those kids to push their limits and learn about being a complete athlete. And hopefully, I can make them not make the mistakes or at least the couple of mistakes I made.
JESSE: [00:24:40] Yeah. I think it was when you were talking to Ken on the Executive Athlete Podcast talking about, you know, I think Ken mentioned like 90% of NFL players are multi-sport athletes and you know, you’re talking about learning different skills and learning different skills of ELITEAM, the different drills you do and the drills, you don’t have names for and all that kind of stuff. It reminded me of when I was talking to Kim Vandenberg, who’s an Olympic swimmer, and she coaches kids. And they are much like she was, just hyper-focused on I want to be a great swimmer and I just want to swim and that’s all I want to do. And she tries to teach them no, you need something else to complete your identity as well.
Like, if you’re just this, eventually, you’re going to hit ahead. So, I don’t know if you listen to her episode, but for anybody that didn’t listen to Kim’s episode, you might want to go back to that and go towards the end. I actually got her to play the piano for me because that’s one of her other skills is playing the piano. So, I got like an impromptu concert on the podcast at the same time. So, when you were growing up in skiing, were you doing other stuff? Or is this a little like a hindsight is 2020 and we want to teach kids to be more rounded?
DOUG: [00:26:05] Oh, I did everything. [crosstalk] obstacle courses in the back. I was a hockey player. I played soccer big time. I rollerbladed. You name it, I did it. And we lived down the middle of the country. So, we had to make up stuff. Just run around this tree and then throw the apples at the horses and do it. Besides the sports though, I talked about my parents being very academic. They kept me focused on the academics. So, it was, you’re getting As right? And then the third part was — it’s funny. I played the cello. So, my brother played the violin. My sister played the viola. I played the cello. My mom wanted a quartet. [crosstalk]
JESSE: [00:26:43] Who’s playing the bass? Did she play the bass?
DOUG: [00:26:45] My little brother got to play the drums. Somehow he got out of it. [crosstalk] Imagine me a high school kid at a ski school and I had to play the cello. And every week I had a cello lesson. Oh my God, talk about — [crosstalk]
JESSE: [00:27:01] We need to get your mom on this call. We need to have a conversation.
DOUG: [00:27:03] But, so I had those other things and that was a savior because I had focuses. I was totally focused on skiing from April, May, June, but only in a physical fitness type of way. I wasn’t dreaming because I had soccer, I had cello, I had friends, I had hiking. So, so important not only for the physical aspect, for the mental aspect, you have to be diversified. That’s a big word. You have to have other interests. Now, there are outliers, everywhere, but the majority come from multi-sport, multi-interests, and then they keep that one goal, that one Northstar goal always up there pointing in the right direction.
JESSE: [00:27:47] So, the question for me — I’ve asked other guests this that are involved in coaching young athletes, how do we convince them and convince their parents that specialization is not the way to go?
DOUG: [00:28:02] I don’t know — [crosstalk] you just hammer it into their head. I think with parents, you point to the stats. 85% of NFL players played five sports and 60 probably three sports, you know, if you want to talk about NFL and the regular sports. It’s all about coordination, agility, being a complete athlete. I guess you just have to tell the parents to look at the successful people. They’re multi-sport they are. They’re non-specialized until later on.
And to tell the kids, the best way I can do and it and it’s very ski-specific. So, in skiing and slalom, which is the fast turns, I was a downhiller, I went straight, but there’s a slalom. So, you’re making a turn every one and a half seconds, crossing 12 to 15 feet laterally going 25 miles an hour, right? And there’s stuff coming at you. Well, the stuff we’re skipping backwards or while juggling on a unicycle, the stuff that we do at ELITEAM, these crazy things, you are just teaching your body, you are giving your body a library of moves.
And you — how — It’s amazing in skiing, you are going to come up to a place that you’ve never been before in ski racing, right? Some course, where you’ve never been, set this way, you have to go into your set of moves and create a move to get through that. And so you better have that library of moves. If you only have seven moves in your brain, that’s the only seven you can do and you’re not going to go very far. So, especially in skiing, you have to have all those moves in your head. So, think of it just as a library of 15,000 moves.
JESSE: [00:29:44] It’s like adaptability in muscle memory at the same time.
DOUG: [00:29:49] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, just think about being on a bike, right? Just the balance of being on a bike. You’re not even thinking about it. Right? So, you better have all those skills of hopping on the bike and being whatever, because they’re going to come into play. And if they’re already in your brain, you won’t even skip a beat.
JESSE: [00:30:08] Yeah. My immediate — The way I relate to it is, is through martial arts. I did martial arts growing up. And you do enough moves enough times that like when you’re in the heat of the moment, which you’re going 60 plus mile an hour downhill, there’s no — you’re not having a conversation like we’re having inside your head where you’re going, okay, I need to bend my knees and then I —
DOUG: [00:30:34] I hate to interrupt. It’s amazing — [crosstalk]
JESSE: [00:30:36] Am I wrong?
DOUG: [00:30:37] Things slow down. Like, it’s amazing how many decisions a downhiller makes in a 10th of a second. So, you have the visualization, kind of like Taekwondo, you’ve done that move, right? So, I have the visualization that I’m going to make a right-footed turn at 60 miles an hour. But all of a sudden, I’m going 63. So, that changes the timing. So, I’ve got to set up backwards two feet more. And oh, and there’s a piece of ice. Oh, I better get on my insides ski just for a little bit. It’s amazing. I am still amazed how many decisions you make at speed. It’s crazy.
JESSE: [00:31:12] Well, right. And I just mean, in a sense, the like, were you talking to yourself in your head or just making the decisions?
DOUG: [00:31:20] Yeah, if you’re talking in your head, you’re going to be in the net.
JESSE: [00:31:22] That’s what I’m saying. It’s like — cause I don’t know — [crosstalk] Yeah, I was like, I don’t know about you but sometimes, like, I sit here I and have a conversation with myself thinking about something. But like, when you’re in the middle of it like that inner voice goes away. And it just becomes a matter of existing and making decisions like now.
DOUG: [00:31:44] Yeah. I guess that’s just practice. Putting yourself in those Safe, but crazy situations, and your body just reacts. It’s amazing. And that’s why I’m such a fan of ski racing and cover it for NBC. I’m just amazed at what they do on to two-by-fours going 80 miles an hour.
JESSE: [00:32:00] Yeah, I don’t know. I’ll try to have a link in the description. You had sent, I think you sent it or maybe my assistant gathered it, I’m not sure, a video view, I think it’s from 2002. And you’re doing — you’re like narrating while you’re skiing. And it’s his point of view video which — so check down in the description to check that out.
But Doug’s like going downhill and narrating the run while he’s doing it. And you can basically get a third-person point of view as if you’re playing a video game and Doug is the character. As I’m watching this, and you’re narrating what’s going on, I was then narrating it to my wife who was sitting next to me. I was like, “Oh, there’s a jump coming up.” And she looked away for a second and then kept watching. She’s like, “Where’s the jump?” I was like, “It’s here and gone.” Like it’s — But I was amazed at you doing the run, and having the breaths to narrate it at the same time.
DOUG: [00:33:09] Yeah, it was tough. I practiced it. That was the first-ever MBC job I had. They’re like, can you carry the camera? And this is before GoPros. This was like a 30-pound camera on my back, carry it down and talk the entire time. Talking was only tough because you’re usually — basically, I was saying what was in my mind. So, that’s what’s going in your mind, what’s coming up? How fast am I going? Where am I? Oh, I’m super low. Whatever. It’s fast. But yeah, if you just go Doug Lewis and Google Grizzly because Grizzly was the name of the downhill, Doug Lewis Grizzly on YouTube and buckle up, put your helmet on. It’s crazy.
JESSE: [00:33:48] It was a good perspective, especially like, for somebody like me, I live in Kansas City. I’ve never been on any kind of slope aside from like, a tiny little moun where maybe I’m taking the sled down. So, just having that perspective — because I mean, I’ve watched the Winter Olympics. I’ve watched downhill, you know, it always looks much easier on TV than it actually is. So, it’s nice to get that perspective. So, you should definitely as a listener, check that out after we get done with this episode, to have a little bit better appreciation for the kind of speed that those men and women go through. Yeah, don’t face them at all.
DOUG: [00:34:22] Yeah. You know, for the three years after I retired, I was like, I could still do this. Now as a broadcaster and a fan, I’m amazed the level of all sports but especially in ski racing, because they are basically carving on a millimeter worth of edge on a vertical ice rink and going that fast. I’m blown away. So, I can imagine what non-skiers are like.
JESSE: [00:34:57] And has it, like many things, has it gotten faster and faster? I know you mentioned going 97 miles an hour earlier. I was going to give you an hard time for not getting to a hundred, this nice three figures there but yeah, says me who’s never been on skis before. But I mean, has the speed picked up as well? Are people going significantly faster now compared to when you were racing?
DOUG: [00:35:18] Pre — Yes, definitely everything’s gone faster. So, if I, for example, when I won my bronze medal, I was at two minutes and six seconds to travel the two miles — 3,000 vertical feet down, two miles down, took about 206. Bode Miller won the gold medal 20 years later, and he was a 156. 10 seconds faster over the same thing.
And it’s for sure, Bodie and the new skiers, but equipment changed the sport. Just like they added racket or carbon wheels and biking, ski technology changed the sport. So, when I raced a guy, as small as me, could do it because it’s very technical. I was strong, but it was very technical. Now, because of the skis, they can carve a tighter radius, which means more force per second. You have to be powerful, you have to weigh 200 pounds. It is such a different sport now.
JESSE: [00:36:17] So, if you were a young Doug right now, could you put on the weight?
DOUG: [00:36:23] I don’t know. There’s very few people my age, Andrew Weibrecht who just retired. He had a couple Olympic medals. He was my height, [inaudible 00:36:30] was my height. But I would have to really, the biggest I ever weighed was 185 on a five-eight. I would have to at least be 185, try to get to 200 to be a downhiller just to handle the forces. You look at these skiers now from their shoulders to their hips is straight, it is core, they are just core. Amazing.
JESSE: [00:36:55] Well, I’m thinking about just not only the training but then all the foods you got to put down to build that frame, and then keep it. Like, one of the things that — and maybe your experience is different. But one of the things that I always found difficult and that people didn’t seem to understand because they — it always seemed like they were envious was that you have to eat so much the eating becomes a chore, it’s not always an enjoyable activity anymore.
So, that’s, you know, we’re talking about trying to get to 200, I’m thinking about myself, I’m 5’10, and like the most I’ve ever weighed is like 174, which is not great for a runner. But even thinking about that and trying to put on another 25 pounds, I’m like — of solid muscle, I have to eat so much food, it would just — it would be cumbersome. I would get tired of chewing. So, like I’m imagining all the — this is just a menial activity you’ve got to go through, just a mundane activity of eating something to get to that next level.
DOUG: [00:37:58] Yeah. You got to put in a lot of carbs and protein and fats and work. Thank God, I’m the other way now, an ultra runner. I just — lose some weight running up the hills.
JESSE: [00:38:09] You could slim down.
DOUG: [00:38:11] That’s part, you know, bringing it back to ELITEAM and complete athlete, when I was a ski racer, young guy there, like the coach was like do hill sprints. We’re doing hill sprints and so I would do them. But I was the guy who asked why. And as soon as I figured out that, oh, I’d have more power, quickness and strength, which then translates into a tighter turn faster downhill skier. I was like, I’m doing it. As soon as I knew the why, why wouldn’t you do those tough workouts? So, that’s one thing I do to the athletes at ELITEAM. We tell them the why.
Why are we doing some aerobic work? We’re anaerobic ski racers, right? You got to train all day, you have to build your capacity. So, every run of anaerobic that day is going to be more beneficial. So, it’s really teaching these whys to these kids. And as soon as they know why, of course, they’re going to do it, instead of just yelling at them.
JESSE: [00:39:13] Yeah. Well, I think there’s probably a contingent that maybe for a while was like, well, Doug Lewis says to do it, so I’ll do it. But then eventually, I’m sure you run into somebody who’s like, “Who’s Doug Lewis?” which isn’t — Right. Which isn’t to be disparaging to you in the least. But just knowing that like, it’s a big world, and not everybody knows who everybody is.
So, then at that point, you have to get them on board. So, I think that’s a great way to get people on board. And then they know, both the reason why and the technicalities and how it all plays together instead of just like well, Doug said, jump so I jumped. And I’m not sure why we’re doing this, but now we’re doing burpees on a unicycle backwards with juggling, and is that a real activity by the way, or did you make that up?
DOUG: [00:40:02] I made that one up. I just learned how to unicycle, finally, last year, in the pandemic, because I had nothing to do. But we do some crazy stuff for sure. But the kids don’t know who Doug Lewis is. My metal is rusty, right? I am the crazy inspire, not Doug Lewis, the ski racer, and kids respond. Kids respond. They want to know. They want to be pushed and they want to know the reason why.
JESSE: [00:40:30] It’s one of the things that I’ve kind of found interesting. I had the fortune of kind of being mentored a little bit by a lady who’s an Olympic triathlete, former pro. And when I started racing, it was like 2011, 2012 when I was getting out of college. There was definitely — I remember one guy came up to me afterwards and was like, was that — I was like, yep. But I mention her a lot, in part, to try to keep her in the conversation because she has so much knowledge. But the nature of sport is like we’re just focused on, you know, who’s in it right now.
DOUG: [00:41:10] Michaela Scheffer, do what she does.
JESSE: [00:41:14] Yes. I struggle with that because like, the lessons you learn, I mean, you worked with Michaela, right? I think that’s accurate.
DOUG: [00:41:25] Yeah, she went to ELITEAM, she’s on the cover of our journals. So, yeah — [inaudible 00:41:29]
JESSE: [00:41:30] So, it’s like, you’ve played at least a role to a greater or lesser degree, I have no idea. But like that knowledge that you have, just because things have gotten faster, doesn’t mean that none of that matters anymore. So, it’s something that I struggle with, especially when we talk about transitions out of the sport, right? And that identity, it’s like, in some ways, it feels like culturally, we just like toss the athlete in the bin, and we’re done with you. And on to the next one.
There’s the new young thing. And it’s like that person doesn’t have any value to give anymore. I don’t understand. So, it’s good that you’ve got an ELITEAM to go on and be able to share your experiences and to keep yourself in the conversation if nothing else, just because for those willing to listen, you can learn so much from the people that have come before you. Even if you’re like, the new hot shit on the block that’s got all the skills and whatever. Like, there’s still plenty to learn.
DOUG: [00:42:35] Yeah. And I play a very small role with some of these Ski Team athletes. Now, I’ll write to them. So, if they’re going to Bormio where I won my medal, I’ll say watch out for this. It is the tough course, work into it, and good luck, and whatever. So, if I could just impart some inspiration, maybe a nugget that they can use to help them actually ski better, it helps. But heroes played a huge role for me; Phil Mayer, Franz Klammer, to me, I’m hoping I could play that to the younger crew. Because you need those heroes. They’re so inspiring.
JESSE: [00:43:14] Yeah. It’s like fuel for the fire. You know, I think you mentioned just, you don’t need a whole lot of help being motivated. But it’s like extra motivation doesn’t hurt.
DOUG: [00:43:30] Not at all. Not at all. For sure. Especially when you’re struggling, that’s where you — hopefully, you can find it from your coach, and a hero and a mentor or your parents or whoever.
JESSE: [00:43:39] Yeah, yeah.
DOUG: [00:43:41] It’s like coaching athletes. The ones that are skiing well, the ones that are fast right now, you don’t have to coach them at all. Just don’t screw them up, right? Just let — give them — set the course, give them the stuff, and let them go. It’s the ones that are struggling, those are the ones who need the coaching. That’s where you should look as a coach. Who’s struggling out there? Let’s give them some attention. The ones who are kicking butt, let them go. What do they need? Nothing. So, unfortunately, a lot of energy goes just to best athletes, when on the team, the coach should really focus on the ones who are struggling because they need it the most.
JESSE: [00:44:19] Are there any kind of common struggles that skiers experience in particular?
DOUG: [00:44:27] Well, maybe not particular to skiing, but skiing is two minutes, right? So, over a triathlon, you may have a bad mile, sure, right? If you make one mistake in skiing, that’s too tense. I lost the bronze medal by thirteen hundreds — I lost the goal by thirteen hundreds of a second. So, it becomes really important to handle stress, handle focus.
That’s something particular to skiing. There’s fear. Every run down that hill could be your last. You could be in the hospital and your career is over. There’s just a lot of specific stuff to skiing that you need to work on a little bit more. Not that it’s better than any other sport, it’s just those are specific tools and skills that you need in ski racing, because it’s different.
JESSE: [00:45:13] Yeah. Doug, as we’re starting to wind down on time, you’ve listened to the other episodes so you know I’m going to ask you this question, which is a little unfair, because I always like to surprise people with the question. [crosstalk]
DOUG: [00:45:25] I forgot it. Come on.
JESSE: [00:45:26] No. Well, good, then. Good. I’m glad you forgot. So, the question I’m asking everybody this year is, how do you stay motivated after you fail to reach a goal?
DOUG: [00:45:40] I think the goal is the motivation. So, I don’t recognize the fail. We talked about it earlier, the failure is just a learning tool. So, if you’re talking day to day, month to month, year to year, the failure is just a learning tool. So, that goal, I’m a huge believer in goals, especially that outcome goal, that big goal out there, that Northstar, that’s the motivation. And if you’ve committed as in, feel it in your belly committed to that goal, there’s no failure. It’s just learning or a success. And so to me, those goals that I’ve committed to are the only motivation I need, and failure is just a stepping stone.
Now, if you fast forward to an end of a career like, eventually you’re going to have, my goal is to win Olympic gold medal, or to win a World Cup I never did. So, you could look at that as a failure, but I look at ski racing as the experience. And I’m very proud of what I did because I gave it my all. So, I don’t know if I mixed up failures, but failures on a daily basis throughout it are just tools and goals motivate you. When you have time to step back after your career and maybe look at a failure, not reaching the goal, I think you just got to go: I did everything I could so it’s not a failure either.
JESSE: [00:47:13] Well, it’s like you’ve mentioned earlier, when we touched on failure, talking about in a race where there’s a hundred people, one person wins. So, like your relationship with failure has to change if that’s — if winning, being the number one is your only definition of success. Because, by that account, you’re most likely, you know, there’s — you know, thinking about triathlon, we talked about Chris McCormack, I think before we get going, he probably say the same thing.
You know, thinking about him because I think about [inaudible 00:47:49] who’s undefeated at the Ironman distance. But like she didn’t win the shorter stuff. So, it’s like, at that distance, she wasn’t beating, but she definitely got beat elsewhere. And if she was down on herself about, ugh, I didn’t wait, I don’t have 100% perfect rate, then how does she go on to continue to compete?
DOUG: [00:48:17] I think you simplify it. You nailed it. If your goal is to win, that’s a pretty narrow definition of when. If I got off the hill, or off of the ultra or whatever I’m doing, if I can get off that ski hill knowing I pushed my limit to the limit, and did what I needed to do, whether I won or not, I was successful. Boom, that’s it. I’ve won races and not have great runs. I wasn’t proud, but I won. But I’ve also finished fourth, seventh, ninth and had the best day of my life. So, success is defined by how much you worked, pushed your limit, and executed. The outcome, you don’t have control over.
JESSE: [04:9:06] Yeah. Doug, if people want to get in touch with you, learn more about ELITEAM, see what you’re doing, any of that kind of stuff, where can they find you?
DOUG: [00:49:15] eliteam.com. It’s that weird spelling, E-L-I-T-E-A-M. And we are having an in-person camp this year. We’re back, baby. And we’re also launching a new Dig Deep Academy, an online ELITEAM, where we teach kids about sports physiology, sports psychology, and sports nutrition all while motivating. It’s all about hard work, learning, and fun. So, we’d love to have any U12, U14, U16s come on, be an ELITEAMer.
JESSE: [00:49:47] Awesome. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Doug.
DOUG: [00:49:49] You’re welcome. It’s been awesome.