Archive for the 'racing' Category

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 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 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.

January 9, 2010: Finding the Fun Again

Marianske, Czech Rep Parallel Slalom

Marianske, Czech Rep Parallel Slalom

Marianske Lanze, Czech Republic – I have mixed feelings about today’s race. While it isn’t the result I had hoped for, it’s the best Europa Cup result I’ve had thus far this season. And I was riding well.

I went into today with the thought of having fun. All the races this season have been so stressful with me having to do this and get that result, and in the midst of some disappointing results and tears, I’ve forgotten the reason why I started racing in the first place: because I love it. And why do I love it? Because it’s fun. When I forget about the fun and just focus on the goal, my body, mind and spirit are never really relaxed and able to perform at its best. And frankly I’m tired of feeling so badly after races. I want to feel happy again.

My first run had a bobble at the top of the course but then I got it together and had a solid run. Even Coach Mark said it was good and felt that it was enough to garner a second run. But when I got to the bottom, my time was not as fast as I had thought it would be. After all the riders went, I was in 36th overall but I didn’t know where I stood in my course (they take the top 16 of each course for a second run). I still felt pretty good because without that mistake I rode well. But I really wanted a second run.

So I went to the top to wait it out. Eventually the unofficial list came out and I wasn’t on it. My head dropped. I was so sad because I was looking forward to a second run after a slew of one-run races. I tried to maintain my facial composure and fought back the urge for my eyes to well up. I gathered up my things and as I started riding away, I heard someone yelling my name so I stopped and hiked back up to the start. Turns out I wasn’t on the unofficial list because I was tied for 16th place in my course. I got a second run. Someone up there was throwing me a bone.

The second run was good but a few gates from the finish I shot out too wide on a fall away gate and ended up in the powder. Ah! So close to the finish. But I finished with my best Europa Cup result this season and I rode well save a few mistakes. Coach Mark agreed and said I was carving more on the second run. So it was a little bittersweet but it’s good to know that I’m improving. And I had a little fun too.

January 6, 2010: The Good Fight

Kreischberg, Austria – Life is not going well. I know that is very silly and selfish to say especially since I’ve been blessed with wonderful family and friends, great health and an opportunity to follow my passion, but when your entire being is dedicated towards one goal and that goal seems to be slipping away, it’s hard to keep things in perspective. Because in reality, my life really is great. But my mind and heart do not always live in reality.

The third Olympic qualifying World Cup was a disappointment. After the last training session, I went into the race with more confidence than I’ve had before and I knew, just knew, that today would be the day when I would get my top 30 and finish the day ecstatically happy. I envisioned it. I felt it. I believed it. I didn’t stress about it because I knew it would happen.

According to Coach Mark the top of the run was good. Despite a few bobbles, I was carving more and had a decent line. I felt relaxed but still went for it. Things felt easy and smooth. I made it down the first pitch without problem or hesitation, just trusted that the board would hold and it did. But on the very last pitch, I went too straight at the third to the last gate, jammed on my heelside and washed out, dumping all my speed and losing time. I didn’t come to a complete stop and was able to get moving again into the finish, but I might as well have as I ended up 24th in my course and 47th overall.

Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t slide out. I keep running it over and over in my mind, trying to figure out how much time I lost. Where would I have ended up had I not made the mistake?

I immediately started beating myself up with doubts and wondering if I really did have what it takes, is my best really good enough, is this all for naught. But no matter how down I get, I can’t shake the feeling deep down that I am good enough and my Olympic dream is going to happen. There is a battle inside me between putting myself down and cutting myself some slack. I feel terrible after not doing well at a World Cup, but at the same time I am competing against the best girls in the world. Some have been doing it since they were kids, others have tremendous financial backing that allows them to be on snow year-round with an army of support staff, and most have both. I know I’ve come a long way with my snowboarding career and have already accomplished what would have seemed impossible ten years ago.

So after more tears (ugh) and a great talk with Coach Mark, who remains concretely and steadfastly confident and supportive, I’m chalking today up to a mistake. Today’s result is not fatal, and it’s a learning experience. This journey is about the ups and downs, but more importantly now, it’s about the fight. It’s about getting up when you are beat down and fighting the good fight all the way to the end. I’ve always thought that the true test of character is how you react when times are challenging, so the big question for me is: Am I going to fight harder or just give up?

I’m going to fight, with everything I have left in me.

December 30, 2009: The Switch Unflipped!

Bischofweisen, Germany – Today’s night race was the last race of the 2009 calendar year. Thank goodness. Sadly 2009 wasn’t the best year for me snowboarding-wise, racked with less than stellar race results, lots of heartache and injury. But I’m looking forward to the new year with hopes of a fresh start and a brighter outcome.

The parallel giant slalom course was sketchy. It was surprisingly straight, probably the straightest course I’ve ever raced on, which is good for me since turny courses pose more of a challenge. The snow was sparse with dirt and grass exposed in some parts of the course, with soft snow built up outside of the line. If you were to lose your line and get too round you’d end up in the snow bank with the possibility of going tail over head or coming to a complete stop. Either way you’d lose the race.

I was pretty psyched to race. I’ve been reading the book “Ten Minute Toughness” and employing the advised mental techniques. While I can’t expect them to work immediately, it’s another good base to build upon.  I wasn’t even worried about the snow conditions. As far as I was concerned since the course was so straight, I just had to stick to the line and I’d be fine. I just wanted to be aggressive right from the get-go and attack the course and forget about everything else. I had taken some freeruns in the morning to try to get the feeling back and find my lost toeside, and riding felt good again. Not great like in Colorado, but snow conditions and possibly jet lag would have something to do with that. (I slept amazing last night so that helped a ton.) Coach Mark even said at the end of the freeride session that I found my toeside. So yay! Nothing to worry about since my riding was back.

I did my usual ‘bull’ prep in the start, complete with slapping my legs as hard as I could to make sure they were awake and angry, and got after it as soon as I passed the first gate. I moved my legs through each turn as quickly as possible, and found the carve on my toeside. I felt the urgency of racing at each gate and the need go-go-go. I could feel myself pull away from the girl I was racing and was like, “Yeah! This is what it’s all about!” On one of the toesides my hand caught the panel which pulled my trailing arm back, and for that split second when I was off balance with my body completely upright and in a very precarious position, time froze as I looked at the next gate and thought, “I have two choices: I can either let it get the best of me and crash like I did in the Copper race, or I can fight through it and try to hold on.” When I made the decision to fight, time resumed and I drove that outside hand down hard as I switched to my heelside edge and held the turn. Very weird, but cool.

It was all going great until something happened. I don’t know if that near crash distracted me but I stopped being as aggressive as I was at the start. It was like the switch turned off, mid-course. Suddenly I was conscious of the ruts and snow conditions and I stiffened up, as my drive went into autopilot and I was just cruising. At one gate I even though, “I’m going into it too fast.” I mean of course I have to go into it fast, that’s what racing is all about! And I felt myself losing speed as the other girl was catching up. It was so strange.

I finished the run but about a second out of making the second run. Sigh. So frustrating. I’ve finally got the start down by attacking immediately, but I couldn’t maintain the aggressiveness throughout the course. Coach Mark said the beginning was good with my legs moving well but I started sliding my turns the bottom of the course where I should have been carving, and that cost me time. Ahhhh! Why can’t I just put one great run together instead of just having great parts?!

I could get upset, and part of me wanted to just give up. But I’m not going to do that. Not until the very last freakin’ race that determines if I can go to the Olympics or not. I’m going to fight tooth and nail despite what anyone thinks to get this done. I’ve put too much of myself into this to have it just taken away from me easily. Today’s race wasn’t an Olympic qualifier but it was a chance to get the points I need. Guess I’ll just have to do it all at once. Three World Cup and three Europa Cups left to do this in. It’s coming down to the wire but that just makes it more exciting and suspenseful. After all, if it was easy to do, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

December 17, 2009: A Comedy of Errors

Telluride World Cup - Dec 2009

Telluride World Cup - Dec 2009

Telluride, Colorado – I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about today. Obviously I want to cry, but the hilarity of my run actually makes me want to laugh too.

I noticed when I was slipping the course that my edges were really sharp. I even had trouble getting a smooth slip in because they would catch too well. But I didn’t think too much of it. It’s always great to have sharp edges to cut through if the course is icy (which it wasn’t) or to really hold the edge and not slide out. Of course that means you really have to commit to the carve.

My sole focus was to be aggressive and get after it. As I was waiting for my run, I could feel the excitement building in me, the excitement that I was going to lay down an amazing run, the best run I’ve ever had or at least one equivalent to the best one I’ve ever had. I got into the start gate with the ‘bull’ mentality and went after it. I could feel the girl I was racing inching ahead of me and at that point I thought to myself, “I have to release the turn earlier than what I’m doing and really carve my heelsides.” (I’m actually surprised that I had that focused of a thought within a second of me riding.)  So I release my toeside turn earlier than usual, but instead of riding it out longer to get in the right position to crank out my heelside, I just flipped board and got it on edge as high as I could. My sharp edges caught and I carved right at the stubby, directly hitting it and slicing it off of its screwed in base. I didn’t get affected by running it over, but I did think, “Oh no, I just DQed” since my board had to have run over it to cut it off. I just kept going but saw the freed stubby take a beeline right down the center of my course, on a crash collision with my board. Then I thought, “I’ve gotta beat this stubby and get around it or I’m going to run over it. Again.” I accelerated through a toeside and got past it. (I later heard that it was still chasing me through the next heelside but I managed to get past it again.) Clearly my focus as well as my line was lost, and I jammed too hard on a heelside, washed out and fell. I got up and continued the course and also continued to cut off my heelside turn. I’m pretty sure I DQ’d on another gate but kept going. Then at the gate at the top of the pitch I cranked the heelside too early AGAIN and this time my body went fully inside the panel, DQing AGAIN. A fall, destruction of course equipment and possibly three DQs – my run contained probably the worst elements a run could have, save a crash in the fence or collision with my competitor.

I got down into the finish and just shook my head and almost laughed. What a show, a total comedy of errors. The only saving grace is that I was really going for it and even Coach Mark saw that. He also said I need to bring that into every training run. It was a huge lesson though and really showed me that I need to get familiar with what happens when I put that board on edge on a heelside. I just need to get used to it and know where it’ll take me in my line.