December 3, 2009: Slicing Through

San Vigilio, Italy – Unfortunately my ankle still hurt this morning when we got ready to go to the hill. It wasn’t swollen or anything, just really achy and hurt when I flexed my foot. But what could I do?

The course was difficult and turny on an offset hill (downhill sideways for my heelside) and the soft snow created huge ruts. We set a course identical to the Italian National team so we could run duels, but our course was challenging enough. Coach Mark reiterated the importance of the first two runs of the day and I immediately got nervous with many not-so-positive ‘what if’ scenarios running though my head. But I took extra freeruns to get loose and comfortable and that seemed to help.

My first run wasn’t stellar. I went too round on a toeside and ended up in the powder and almost came to a stop. The second run was better since I didn’t come to a stop, and a rut was forming so I could follow the appropriate line which made things easier. But random and huge holes formed at the gates, accompanied by waves and stair-like step ups. It definitely made for an interesting and challenging course, where the first half was all about survival and staying on your feet. I had my front boot on extra tight and didn’t unbuckle it between runs for fear of my ankle would swell up painfully.

Coach Mark told me that I had to start my pressure a lot higher especially on the heelside, and every time I got bumped out of the course at the stubby (or below) it was because I was pressuring too late. But my late heelsides were just a symptom of another problem: coming out of my toesides in a line too direct to the stubby. So for the next few runs I focused mainly on bringing that toeside turn over further and higher in order to start my heelside turn also further and higher. And it worked. The next few runs felt a whole lot easier since I wasn’t fighting gravity in a bottom turn and staying in the rut. On one of the runs Coach Mark even said he didn’t recognize it was me in the course because I had a lot of speed right before I crashed and ate it.

I only took a few more runs because my leg was killing me. Not my ankle, that was surprisingly fine, but the muscle right above my ankle bone (same problem I had at Copper) was on fire. It didn’t hurt so much when I was riding in the course, more so when I was standing and waiting at the start or riding up the gondola. (I had to scream a few times to let out the pain when I was riding the gondola solo.) I’m finding that when I jam on my turns, which means I’m not patient enough, or bottom turning, or pretty much doing anything incorrectly, my leg hurts. So while it’s cool to have an actual physical indication if I’m riding correctly, it also hurts like hell when I don’t (which seems to be a lot these days).

Coach Mark took a freerun with me at the end of the day where the focus was on higher edge angle at the top of the turn, and also on rolling it over patiently (relax!) and then pressuring (not jamming it all in one movement which makes my leg hurt). He explained that if I could get higher edge angle at the top then pressure would automatically follow and things would be easier, but I need to have good body positioning to get that (no dipping in with the upper body). Higher edge angle would also allow me to slice through the snow and not get so affected by the bumps. He used the analogy of cutting a tomato; if you try to forcefully push a knife down onto the tomato it won’t cut through it, you have to slice to get through it. In order to get that higher edge angle I need to think about driving my legs down into the snow. So we did sections of the run where I exaggerated driving my legs down as close to the snow as possible and he would ski behind yelling, ‘carve! carve!’ to tell me when to drive my legs down at the top of the turn. It was so helpful; I wish I could have someone always yelling at me when I ride. He also had me carve right from the get go, and not wait 50 meters for speed and then start turning. I think that’ll help with carving the first couple of gates.

When we watched video later he said that overall my line is pretty good, where I’m in a good position to do something in 3 out of 4 turns. But now I need to do something. And the something is to really carve the turns by getting the board edge angle higher at the top of the turn.

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