February 8, 2010: I Didn’t Qualify for the Games

Los Angeles, California – Since my last blog I spent a week in Quebec, Canada, for the final race and my final chance at qualifying for the Games, and then a week devoid of snowboarding left alone with my thoughts. For the first time in a really long time I didn’t feel like writing (which is very uncharacteristic of me if you’ve been reading my past entries). I wasn’t sure what to say, and I couldn’t muster the courage or energy to put my feelings down in writing. Frankly all I wanted to do was crawl into bed.

The days going into my last race were great. I was riding well, confident, and with little fear, even on the steep stuff. I figured out the right line to take (round) and I felt fast and wasn’t blowing out of the course. The biggest change was my boots; Coach Mark noticed the springs in the back were too loose and when he tightened them it made a humongous difference. While I was happy with the now extra responsiveness of the equipment, part of me thought, “Could this have been hurting me all along?” On race day I took a round line just like what worked in training. But it wasn’t fast enough. I ended up 19th in my course, just three spots out of making a second run.

So I didn’t qualify. For the second time. I guess I can’t take two years off due to financial constraints and expect to come back and compete against people that not only did not take those two years off, but also have the money and emotional backing of their national federation. The Philippine Olympic Committee did say that they would support me, if I qualified for the Games. But what about all those years and all the money it took to get me to the point where I could qualify, and all the sacrifices in the process because I couldn’t afford to have the best equipment, the best trainers or the right food when I was going up against fully supported athletes that had a team of staff to cater to them? But that’s neither here nor there.

I believed I could do it. I prayed I could do it. I had the hope that I could do it. I worked to the bone that I could do it. But in the end it didn’t happen.

I’ll probably spend the rest of my life wondering why. I guess I just didn’t have it in me? But I know I did, with all my heart, deep down I knew I could do it. So how could I be so wrong? I know there are choices that I made within the process that I’ll regret. Everyone says it’s about the journey, not the destination, but for me this time around, it was about the destination. And I didn’t get there.

While I am grateful for the opportunity and the wonderful and continual support from everyone, it’s hard to describe the loss and pain. People say to me, ‘at least you tried for your dream,’ but I think your dream stops being a dream when you really work at it and devote your life to it. For me my dream became my existence, my purpose, and now where does that leave me. Very empty, and definitely unfulfilled.

My friend who also did not make the Games likened the loss to the death of your spouse. But I look at it as my spouse that not only cheated on me, but also drained our bank accounts, maxed out the credit cards and took off leaving me to pay the bills with a mountain of humiliation. I feel completely betrayed by snowboarding after everything I’ve put into it. Before I said it was the one thing that made me feel good, even after a day that it made me feel bad. But as of right now, I don’t ever want to snowboard again.

I’m not writing this to gain pity or for comforting words. I guess I’m writing it to be kind of a closure for me, an end to the story, a real end to the story and not the overinflated ‘I’m fine, I tried my best and I’m happy with that.’ Because it’s not the happy ending I was hoping for, and I feel I’ve let everyone down.

I do want to thank you for your support throughout all these years – financially, emotionally, mentally. My current emotional state does not ignore nor belittle that. You all are the team I wish I could have had on the road with me, cheering me on, and carrying me through the tough times. I couldn’t have done this without you, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Maybe as the feeling of failure dissipates, I will begin to realize and appreciate the journey. But for now I’m just trying to make it through each day.

January 17, 2010: Another Costly Mistake

 

Nendaz World Cup

Nendaz World Cup

Nendaz, Switzerland – There were a lot of high hopes coming into today. Last training day was great, my body was recuperating and overall I was feeling pretty good. We had done cold baths a couple of times which consisted of sitting in a bathtub of 55 degree water (although I’m convinced it was colder than that; we didn’t have a thermometer) for at least 5 minutes, and while painful at the time, my legs appreciated it afterwards. Everything on my side at least was in alignment. I was in good spirits.

This morning had a bit of personal drama that put me in a foul mood and took my mental energy away from what I needed to focus on: racing. I know that mentally tough athletes should not be easily susceptible to such things, but unfortunately this emotional matter gnawed at me relentlessly until I confronted it. I don’t know how much it took away from me; it only consumed me on the rides up the poma lift when I wanted to be in my nothing box. Once I was riding and at the start I was able to refocus on the race.

For the qualifications, I was in the last pair again but racing with a fast girl. Because we have similar points, we have been racing with each other for a lot of the season. And while it’s great to race someone that is typically faster than you, it tends to make me take too straight a line which ends up being slower. So my focus today was to keep it round and keep my own line, and look where I wanted to turn above the stubby, and not directly at the stubby.

I came out of the start gate but for the first few turns I thought, “My boots feel too loose.” The girl I was racing got ahead of me but I refocused and told myself to keep my own line. I got into a rhythm and started gaining on her but I cranked out a heelside too much in the flats and flung out of line. Now had it not snowed a bunch the night before I might have been fine and able to maintain my speed, but the buildup of slipped out snow from the line was like riding in jello. I knew right then and there that any chance of a second run disappeared just as all my speed had, and I finished the run in a dismal 48th.

Another mistake. But I guess that’s what racing is all about; it’s not just about being the fastest, but also about who makes less mistakes and who makes great recoveries. I don’t know if I was in an acceptance mode or what, but I wasn’t in tears. It was a challenging course and I did the best. I can’t be upset about that. With one more race to go I’ve got to keep my head up high and keep moving forward.

Nendaz World Cup

Nendaz World Cup

January 15, 2010: My Best Turns Ever

Nendaz, Switzerland – Today was the last day to train on the race slope so instead of taking the day off we took this opportunity. The training course was set less turny than yesterday’s race, but still turny in my book, with a little more room between the gates. Coach Mark sat me down in the morning to talk about today’s session. He really wanted me to focus on a rounder and higher line since I got in trouble in the race course yesterday from going too straight, and to keep a quiet upper body when I did my warm up freeruns in order to give my legs the freedom to do what they needed.

I took my freeruns with dead arms, meaning I just let them hang there and did not put any energy into my upper body. It felt pretty good but I could feel the tiredness grow in my legs. After a couple of runs my turn shape wasn’t that of the course and I could feel myself get out of control when riding. As I was going up the poma lift, I tried to clear my head and go to my ‘nothing box’ to give myself a mental break. (We recently were talking about some comedian who was saying that men have a ‘nothing box’ where they can literally think of nothing for sometimes long periods of time, but women can’t do that since all their thoughts are connected, or something like that. I do have a nothing box but it only happens when I’m out in the water, bobbing on my surfboard, and watching the horizon for a wave to come. I literally think of nothing during that time. Maybe that’s why surfing is so relaxing and quieting for me. Hmph.) I didn’t want to think about what I have to do to get to the Olympics, and everything that’s riding on it. I just wanted to think about the desire to ride and race my best. I’ve decided that should have been my focus all along, and let the thought of the Olympics be a result of the goal of racing my best. It’s amazing how the pressure of such a big event affects people; many other riders who are under the stress of qualifying for the Games are not performing well. But I can’t affect the past; I just have to adjust my thinking for the last two events.

For my first run I focused on taking a super round line by relaxing and taking my time. Coach Mark said to look at the point where I want to initiate the turn, and not directly at the gate. I kept my head up and looked where I wanted to turn and resisted the urge to look at the stubby or even the snow. And it worked well. After he said it was a good line and to keep it but be more aggressive in my movement. He explained that some people interpret aggressivity as a straighter line, but it really relates to your movement on the board. For my second run I just maintained the same focus of a really round line. I didn’t think about putting more into the board, I wanted another run with that simple focus before I started to add anything to it. I took a rounder line and was able to find the carve, both on my toe- and heelside, and my heelside turns felt the best it’s ever been, even better than when freeriding! Unfortunately I lost a little of focus over the knoll, went too wide and cranked out a heelside but got caught in the backseat and almost went into the fence. When I went back around Coach Mark said I was generating speed and really carving those first eight turns, and they were my best turns. Ever. I wasn’t thinking about being aggressive or putting more energy into the board. I think the round line allowed me to do it naturally.

It was great to hear but for some reason I wasn’t ecstatically happy about it. I don’t know if my mind is blocking itself from experiencing extreme emotional swings, or maybe subconsciously I don’t want to get too excited and get my hopes up and start thinking too far ahead. Maybe I’m just trying to look at everything as objectively as possible, and take emotions out of the way. My next two runs weren’t as good but I still had some good turns and felt the feeling of being patient and building the turn. Overall it was a good day of training and I learned how important it is to have the discipline to keep your line.

So I’m riding my best going into the next race. I’m not even going to think about the results I ‘have’ to get. The only thing I have to do is keep my round line and everything else should fall into place.

January 14, 2010: Doing My Best

Nendaz, Switzerland – The Europa Cup was set on a fairly terrain-y slope, nothing steep but roll-y with some offsets. But that wasn’t the challenging part. The challenging part was the super turny set that you really had to set up for. Going too straight even on just one gate was a time killer as it would take several gates, as well as time, to get back on track. You had to be near technically perfect to race well. And as past blogs indicate, turny courses are not my forté.

Most of the World Cup field participated since the upcoming World Cup is in three days on the same slope. My start number was 64, in the back of the pack. I don’t mind starting towards the end of the field because a rut is established by the time I start and I can witness areas in the course where people make mistakes. But it was a really cold day and the lower part of my body, especially my feet, was freezing up.

After watching several girls, I knew I had to go really round, particularly on the first three gates. Before I went I stared at the point high above the second gate where I wanted to switch edges and initiate my turn. The first three gates felt good; I set up for them correctly and didn’t feel like I lost speed. But going into the flats I lost my focus and overturned on a heelside and dumped all my speed. I stayed on my feet and kept going. Then my straight riding came into play and I was cutting off heelside turns, and on one my nose of the board went over the stubby and I possibly DQ’ed if the gate judge caught it. I finished the course and it felt fine, but was out of contention.

I’m not sure how I feel. I wasn’t in tears like I normally am after a bad race, I wasn’t angry and I definitely wasn’t happy. But at the time, I was doing the best I could. And the mistakes are part my riding and ability so I have to accept them as part of doing the best I can do. The question did cross my mind for the first time this season, ‘Is my best going to be good enough?’

Regardless of what happens, I am doing my best. Given the resources and time I’ve had to dedicate to this goal, I can confidently say that.

January 13, 2010: Trust Thyself

Nendaz, Switzerland – We trained on a different hill than tomorrow’s race slope in snowy, flat-light conditions. After two days off of snow, it felt good to be back. Tomorrow’s race is a Europa Cup, with the Olympic qualifying World Cup on Sunday.

My first run was conservative. After seeing a few people blow out on just the first few gates, I took it easy to make sure I got through them. But that conservative first few gates set the pace for a conservative run.  Coach Mark told me that I wasn’t carving the first few gates, and it wouldn’t be until the 6th gate that I would find the rhythm, and that wasn’t going to be fast enough. He said the focus should be to trust myself. Well that’s easy, I thought, if my only focus is to trust myself. I don’t have to think about anything technical and just know that I was going to have a good run? Easy-peasy. So with that simple focus of trusting myself, I went for it. I really put myself out there, had a lot of intensity in the run, and it felt good and a lot faster than the first run. I trusted myself that my body and equipment would do what it knows how to do and hold up through it, and I just looked ahead and went for it. I made a mistake by getting in the back seat but was able to get through it. For the next two runs Coach Mark told me that I needed to carry my speed from the first few gates into the flats, and in order to do that I needed to start my turn higher, even if it meant taking a rounder line. I gradually pulled it up, and on my last run of the day I felt I had my fastest first few gates of the day, but I lost focus and slid out coming into the flats. But overall it was a good day.

I found Dr. David Cook’s “Mindset of a Champion” on my itunes and listened to it last night and again after training today. Here are a few key points:

  • Trust yourself and let it happen. Let the talent come through.
  • Define yourself by that which you have control over, not by success or failure.
  • Set your foundation first and understand what is really valuable in life. Those that know that have no fear of failure and are the ones that can really go for it.
  • Trust your instincts. Game day is about trust, and mental toughness is about making the decision to trust.
  • 5 points: 1) embrace pressure, 2) know your response in emergency situation, 3) put on game face, 4) trust your instincts, 5) persevere –make it happen.
  • Mental toughness is a choice.

At this point in the game, I just have to trust myself. I’ve done the work and given it my all. I have to know and believe that I will make it happen. And no matter the outcome, I’m happy knowing that I gave it my all. It’ll still be a fight to the end, but one that I’m looking forward to and ready for.

January 11, 2010: A Humongous Thank You!

Nendaz, Switzerland – I just want to extend my tremendous gratitude for all the positive emails and comments in this enormously critical time. I cannot even articulate how much your support and well wishes mean to me; they push my spirits higher, maintain my motivation, inspire me to work harder, and keep me from getting too down on myself during the tough times. They have brought tears to my eyes, tears of knowing that people believe in me and want to see me succeed, and tears of knowing that I am not alone in this journey. Your words are taking me to where I need to go.

My success is every bit as much yours as it is mine. One of my biggest hopes is to make you proud.

Maraming salamat / Thank you very much.

January 10, 2010: A Silly Mistake

Marianske Lanze, Czech Republic – I almost didn’t write today’s blog. I wanted to wait until I could write good news. But I felt the best way to let go of the race will be get it out of my head, write about it, and move on.

There were four less girls for today’s race. My only thought was to be aggressive. I knew I still had to ride under the stubbies, but in the past my best slalom races were when I was focused solely on getting down the hill fast. I thought about the technical issues when I was inspecting the course and waiting at the top, but I just wanted to be aggressive in the start.

The first few gates were a little tough with icy, but grippy, conditions. I came too low on the third gate and slowed almost to a stop but still had the focus of getting down fast. I attacked the rest of the course and just let the board run. Even towards the end I wasn’t sure I was going to make it but I just kept going full tilt. I’d rather blow out with a fast run than finish with a slow one. There really wasn’t a thought in my head except to ‘go, go, go,’ and I finished the course. Eighth in my course!

I was a bit nervous for the second run since I had a legitimate shot at getting in the top 16, the finals. But I still knew that I couldn’t be conservative, I still had to go for it in order to have a really good run. I had the same focus for the second run but I think I was thinking too far ahead of myself. My first few gates were good, with my line under the stubbies. I had a little bobble but just threw my body down into the next turn and got going again. The middle part of the course was pretty fast, probably because I was out of control and just throwing myself down the hill, hoping my board would follow. I gained on the girl I was racing and got too greedy. Started going too straight, and right after I had that thought, I went into a toeside turn five gates from the finish also too straight, hit the rut, washed out suddenly on my belly, and slid past the next two gates. Disqualified.

I was so incredibly angry. Not sad. Pure fury. I wanted to throw my board into a tree (but didn’t). A stupid, stupid mistake. Had I just held on, I would have made the finals in a good position, possibly in the top 8. After seeing the times of the people that made the finals, even a conservative second run would have gotten me in. I’ve gone over and over it in my head: what I could’ve done to prevent it, the results I could’ve had. But ‘could haves’ are getting me nowhere.

What will help is letting go of the negatives and focusing on the positives. The positives that I can take away are I really went for it and rode on the edge and out of control, the type of riding that I need to have for the next few races. I also had good riding, probably some of my best slalom riding ever. I know what focus works best for me in the gate. And I know I have the ability to ride fast. So while it was not the result I wanted, I have some great things to take into the next races, as well as even more drive and determination to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I guess it’s best to get the quirks out of my racing now before it really counts.