March 16, 2009: A New Beginning

Norquay, Canada – Today’s first day back in gates was a mini roller coaster of emotions. I started the day feeling confident because I had been freeriding on my raceboard for several days and felt comfortable on it, forgetting that I even had a brace on.

My shoulder is intact and generally feels good. It doesn’t hurt when I ride; if it wasn’t for the risk of my arm re-dislocating (and then having to have surgery for sure) I wouldn’t have to wear the brace. Wearing the brace is a precaution against dislocating it in the same manner as before (arm overhead and popping out of the socket), and it makes me feel a little more secure. However, if I were to fall on my toesides and stick my arm out to brake my fall, I could still dislocate in a different manner since it isn’t as strong as it used to be.

My first run was extremely awkward. Not like freeriding at all. I was riding with my upper body, flinging myself around to get the board to turn to make the gates instead of powering the board with my legs. There wasn’t a lot of feeling with my feet and legs. But I just chalked that run up to first run jitters.

My second run was a tad better and I was really focusing on driving with my lower body and not throwing my upper body around to compensate for lack of feeling. Still not feeling confident, especially on my toesides. I was able to get down the steep section fairly comfortably, but adjusting to the flats and the rhythm changes of those gates was difficult and I was unable to generate speed at each gate. I kept looking down directly at the gate out of nervousness instead of looking two gates ahead. I didn’t feel like I could trust the board or myself.

On the third run the assistant coach told me to tighten up my line on the steep section so I tried that and got too straight and was jamming on each gate just to make it (a bad habit from before). On one of the toesides  I jammed too hard on it and fell onto my bad shoulder. But to my surprise I instinctively and quickly pulled my arm into my body so that when I fell I slid on the outside of my shoulder and helmet! So no damage there. I was pretty relieved that my reaction to a fall was to pull my arm in close to my body. But I was bummed that I couldn’t trust my board and my confidence wasn’t there. I wallowed a bit on the chair ride back up thinking it’ll take a long time to get back to where I was before the injury, and that I don’t have enough time to get there.

But I got my head back into it and my fourth run was better. At the third gate I started to get pissed off about how poorly I was riding and turned on my ‘aggressive’ button and forgot about things and just rode and not let the course get the best of me. I wasn’t fighting the course as much, just flowing with it and I noticed that at the end of the course I wasn’t breathing as hard as the first few runs. It was actually getting easier and that run felt way better. The assistant coach even said it was like night and day from my first couple of runs to that one. So I was psyched.

Before the next few runs I talked to Mark (head coach) and he said that I should do what feels more solid (e.g. taking a rounder line in the steeps) and we are focusing on getting my confidence back. He also said I should focus on slowly building up pressure in each turn. And that’s what I focused on and it worked! My turns still felt solid but were faster than my earlier runs, and I was getting the snap out of the end of the turns by using my back foot more. And things came together and felt like the old Eden.

For my last run of the day I let it all hang out in the steeps. I focused on building pressure and snapping the board at the end and I was going pretty fast and felt slightly out of  control (a good thing). But I wasn’t ready for the transition to the flats with all speed and crashed at the gate, a toeside. But once again I had curled up almost into the fetal position so my shoulder was safe. Unfortunately those falls aren’t quick to recover so I did lose a lot of time. I got up and finished the course and felt confident.

Afterwards my coach said that overall I had a really good first day back training and that even within a few runs things clicked and I made a few steps up. He also said that the last run (top section) was better than I had been riding before the injury, the fastest he’d ever seen me ride! I was soooo happy about that! I really felt the speed in that last run and my confidence was back by the end of the day.  And my teammate said it was the fastest she’d seen me ride.  Yay!

So phew! The day that I’ve been waiting for with nervous anticipation is over and it’s taught me something. It showed me that the start of the day does not dictate the rest of it; despite a rocky start I am in control of how the day’s going to play out, and I have the power to turn it around and make it a great day. Now that the I’ve cleared the shoulder hurdle (knock on wood) I can really focus on going as fast as I can.

Thanks for reading this long entry!

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