December 10, 2009: Old Stompin’ Grounds

Steamboat Springs, Colorado – I woke up this morning feeling not-so-great. Fatigued despite the eight hours of sleep I got. The exhaustion persisted throughout the day, the kind where if I could sleep for several more hours I’d be fine but if not it would turn into a cold. I had an hour and a half drive to Steamboat Springs this morning to train since the race is tomorrow so there was no going back to bed. Other symptoms of an impending illness started creeping in – sore throat, sinus headache, general mental cloudiness, desire to crawl into bed – but there wasn’t anything else I could do other than fight through it.

The races will be on Howelson Hill, a small ski hill in the middle of the town of Steamboat Springs designed for racing competitions and ski jumping. I’m very familiar with the hill since I trained here for a few seasons many years ago, but the steepness is still intimidating. The run is also very short, so you can go all out and just hang on, it can be fast. My warm runs weren’t great; I felt like I was out of control going straight down, and I couldn’t work on the technique of getting the board high up on edge early in the turn. I only wanted to do a few runs today since I was feeling less than 100% and was pretty tired from yesterday’s mega-session.

I went to inspect/slip the least crowded of the three courses. There were lines for the other two, and probably with good reason. The top part of the course that I chose was awful; some gates had these weird waves at the stubby while others where just super icy. It was also a challenging and turny set. But I didn’t want to wait in line for the other courses. I was even warned not to run this course, but I figured if this was the most challenging course, I’ll be that much better off working through it.

I was timid on my first run and not aggressive enough when I hit an icy gate and slid out. But I got back up and was pissed and attacked the rest of the course as best I could, and managed to hold on. Coach Mark said I needed to really commit at the top of the course and put that board on high edge angle so it’ll cut through the chop. For my second run I didn’t think about technique, just got aggressive and wanted to attack the course. It was cool because during the run on heelsides I would remember to get the board high on edge and it did slice through. I was out of control but made it down the course, and it did feel fast. I even had the feeling of being patient to find the carve at each turn (more so on the toeside) and I took the time to set up for the turn. I wasn’t jamming at each gate so my leg didn’t hurt. I was going pretty wide on my heelsides to avoid the waves and holes, but as a result I got into the powdery stuff. It slowed me down but was smoother. For my third run I went too straight at the top and slid out. I finished the course as ballsy as I could go and I felt like I was carving a lot of the gates. The board seemed like it had a mind of its own; it got on edge and kind of took off, throwing me in the backseat and I was doing everything I could to just hang on. And somehow I was making the turns and it kept the carve. There were even some turns that I didn’t think I would make, but the board held its edge. Eventually though my backseatedness caught up with me and I washed out third to last gate. Coach Mark said I had some really good turns but I needed to stay forward with the board. I felt the speed the board generated. My last run was good; I stayed aggressive and reminded myself to stay forward. I could really feel the difference in my toesides when I get that board up on edge and I could consciously fix them mid-turn and then push off to generate speed.

It was inspiring because after training a racer on the World Cup told me that I was riding well, and that when I was in the course she wondered who it was because she didn’t recognize that it was me. She seemed quite surprised at that.

Tomorrow I just need to let it all hang out. Got nothing to lose. It’s a tough field again, but if I can bring the confidence and aggressiveness from today, I’ll be in good shape. I know what it’s like to let the board run and trust myself.

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