August 19, 2009: Follow the Rut

Mt. Hutt, New Zealand – It poured rain all yesterday afternoon and we heard that a ton of snow had accumulated on the mountain, making for challenging training conditions. We were to train slalom, but in the event of over 20 cm of fresh snow, we would take our freestyle boards and ride powder. I was pretty torn – I semi-hoped for a day off because my legs were fairly tired and could use a day to reenergize for two more intense days, but I really wanted to ride powder and have fun.

But conditions were decent for training slalom and it was the coldest morning we’ve had on this trip. But it was absolutely beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, an amazing sunrise, and an abundant covering of fresh, pure snow. We took a freerun from top to bottom and the snow was perfect. A little on the soft side which would make a course extra-rutted, but freeriding was sweet.

My slalom board was super snappy. I’d put pressure and it would just take off and I could barely control it. It took a couple of runs to get used to the board and the quickness of the turns. We set the course on the lower half of the mountain (flatter part) and the snow was soft; after just a few people ran, the course already had deep ruts and if you didn’t follow that line you’d take a beating. And I did.

My first run I charged out of the start gate but got in the backseat. That combined with running a straighter line than the rut made for a few ejections out of the course. Because my line was too straight, I’d fall into the rut at the stubby and then get thrown out on the other side. After a few gates like this I couldn’t hold it. Coach Mark told me that I needed to get forward, take a rounder line, not be so hard on the edge like in a GS course, and do quick pressures. I tried that on the next run and half way through I was too bent forward at the waist on a toeside when I hit a bump in the rut and got ejected out of the course. I was a little frustrated but then saw that everyone else was also having troubles on the course, even the fastest guy. So I thought I’d give myself a break and just keep working. The good thing was that I had the drive to do better.

Coach told me that I needed to follow the rut, and I did and finished the course. But it definitely took a lot out of me and I was huffing and puffing when I got down the course. I found that if I placed the nose of the board into the rut and just did a quick downward pressure that ended by the stubby, my board would follow the rut and I could get over to the next gate easier. My run felt a lot smoother although I still wasn’t getting forward enough and getting tossed into the backseat on my toesides. But my time was slower.

I repeated the same tactic for the next run and it too felt smooth. And once again I realized just how important and life-saving getting forward can be. There were times that I was getting in the backseat and way offline, but if I just dived forward I could get back in line again. Unfortunately that was the last run but I think if I was able to keep going things would definitely get better. But tomorrow is another slalom day and I’m ready to nail that course. We watched a little video of the boys riding and they just fling themselves to the next gate and their legs just follow. There’s a lot of recovery motions but they are fast. So tomorrow I’m just going to hurl myself down that hill by throwing my upper body towards the upcoming gate and expect my legs and board to follow. Enough riding like a girl.

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