Archive for the 'training' Category

January 15, 2010: My Best Turns Ever

Nendaz, Switzerland – Today was the last day to train on the race slope so instead of taking the day off we took this opportunity. The training course was set less turny than yesterday’s race, but still turny in my book, with a little more room between the gates. Coach Mark sat me down in the morning to talk about today’s session. He really wanted me to focus on a rounder and higher line since I got in trouble in the race course yesterday from going too straight, and to keep a quiet upper body when I did my warm up freeruns in order to give my legs the freedom to do what they needed.

I took my freeruns with dead arms, meaning I just let them hang there and did not put any energy into my upper body. It felt pretty good but I could feel the tiredness grow in my legs. After a couple of runs my turn shape wasn’t that of the course and I could feel myself get out of control when riding. As I was going up the poma lift, I tried to clear my head and go to my ‘nothing box’ to give myself a mental break. (We recently were talking about some comedian who was saying that men have a ‘nothing box’ where they can literally think of nothing for sometimes long periods of time, but women can’t do that since all their thoughts are connected, or something like that. I do have a nothing box but it only happens when I’m out in the water, bobbing on my surfboard, and watching the horizon for a wave to come. I literally think of nothing during that time. Maybe that’s why surfing is so relaxing and quieting for me. Hmph.) I didn’t want to think about what I have to do to get to the Olympics, and everything that’s riding on it. I just wanted to think about the desire to ride and race my best. I’ve decided that should have been my focus all along, and let the thought of the Olympics be a result of the goal of racing my best. It’s amazing how the pressure of such a big event affects people; many other riders who are under the stress of qualifying for the Games are not performing well. But I can’t affect the past; I just have to adjust my thinking for the last two events.

For my first run I focused on taking a super round line by relaxing and taking my time. Coach Mark said to look at the point where I want to initiate the turn, and not directly at the gate. I kept my head up and looked where I wanted to turn and resisted the urge to look at the stubby or even the snow. And it worked well. After he said it was a good line and to keep it but be more aggressive in my movement. He explained that some people interpret aggressivity as a straighter line, but it really relates to your movement on the board. For my second run I just maintained the same focus of a really round line. I didn’t think about putting more into the board, I wanted another run with that simple focus before I started to add anything to it. I took a rounder line and was able to find the carve, both on my toe- and heelside, and my heelside turns felt the best it’s ever been, even better than when freeriding! Unfortunately I lost a little of focus over the knoll, went too wide and cranked out a heelside but got caught in the backseat and almost went into the fence. When I went back around Coach Mark said I was generating speed and really carving those first eight turns, and they were my best turns. Ever. I wasn’t thinking about being aggressive or putting more energy into the board. I think the round line allowed me to do it naturally.

It was great to hear but for some reason I wasn’t ecstatically happy about it. I don’t know if my mind is blocking itself from experiencing extreme emotional swings, or maybe subconsciously I don’t want to get too excited and get my hopes up and start thinking too far ahead. Maybe I’m just trying to look at everything as objectively as possible, and take emotions out of the way. My next two runs weren’t as good but I still had some good turns and felt the feeling of being patient and building the turn. Overall it was a good day of training and I learned how important it is to have the discipline to keep your line.

So I’m riding my best going into the next race. I’m not even going to think about the results I ‘have’ to get. The only thing I have to do is keep my round line and everything else should fall into place.

January 13, 2010: Trust Thyself

Nendaz, Switzerland – We trained on a different hill than tomorrow’s race slope in snowy, flat-light conditions. After two days off of snow, it felt good to be back. Tomorrow’s race is a Europa Cup, with the Olympic qualifying World Cup on Sunday.

My first run was conservative. After seeing a few people blow out on just the first few gates, I took it easy to make sure I got through them. But that conservative first few gates set the pace for a conservative run.  Coach Mark told me that I wasn’t carving the first few gates, and it wouldn’t be until the 6th gate that I would find the rhythm, and that wasn’t going to be fast enough. He said the focus should be to trust myself. Well that’s easy, I thought, if my only focus is to trust myself. I don’t have to think about anything technical and just know that I was going to have a good run? Easy-peasy. So with that simple focus of trusting myself, I went for it. I really put myself out there, had a lot of intensity in the run, and it felt good and a lot faster than the first run. I trusted myself that my body and equipment would do what it knows how to do and hold up through it, and I just looked ahead and went for it. I made a mistake by getting in the back seat but was able to get through it. For the next two runs Coach Mark told me that I needed to carry my speed from the first few gates into the flats, and in order to do that I needed to start my turn higher, even if it meant taking a rounder line. I gradually pulled it up, and on my last run of the day I felt I had my fastest first few gates of the day, but I lost focus and slid out coming into the flats. But overall it was a good day.

I found Dr. David Cook’s “Mindset of a Champion” on my itunes and listened to it last night and again after training today. Here are a few key points:

  • Trust yourself and let it happen. Let the talent come through.
  • Define yourself by that which you have control over, not by success or failure.
  • Set your foundation first and understand what is really valuable in life. Those that know that have no fear of failure and are the ones that can really go for it.
  • Trust your instincts. Game day is about trust, and mental toughness is about making the decision to trust.
  • 5 points: 1) embrace pressure, 2) know your response in emergency situation, 3) put on game face, 4) trust your instincts, 5) persevere –make it happen.
  • Mental toughness is a choice.

At this point in the game, I just have to trust myself. I’ve done the work and given it my all. I have to know and believe that I will make it happen. And no matter the outcome, I’m happy knowing that I gave it my all. It’ll still be a fight to the end, but one that I’m looking forward to and ready for.

January 8, 2010: I Love Slalom

Marianske Lanze, Czech Republic – I’ve never been to any of the eastern European countries so I was looking forward to the race in the Czech Republic. I’ve always wanted to visit Prague since I hear it’s a wonderful city, and while we are about 150 kilometers from there, the town we’re in shares the same beauty that I imagine. I also haven’t been to a new country in a long time, particularly one where the language and history are so unique, so this is especially exciting.

The town of Marianske Lanze seems very wealthy. There are several four- and five-star hotels housed in beautiful historic buildings, and there is even a casino that rivals the one I saw in Monte Carlo in terms of size and opulence. I haven’t yet explored the area, but the drive to the hill alone showcased the city’s magnificence.

The ski hill is a small hill just a few minutes drive from the main street in town. The part of the hill where the race will be held has a decent steepness, but is very short, similar to the Steamboat Springs race hill. The snow is also decent; there are some icy parts but still very grippy so that shouldn’t be a problem. What might cause a problem is the 30 cm of snow they’re expecting tonight.

I’ve never thought of myself as a slalom rider. I’ve always liked giant slalom better maybe because of the buildup of speed and the smoothness of carving turns. Slalom is very fast paced with short, not-so-clean turns, and while I have quick feet, I’ve felt that my tendency to go too straight makes slalom a constant battle at each turn where I’m just barely hanging on. But my results tend to be better in slalom, probably because I don’t have to be as technically perfect and being aggressive has more of an impact. I can still remember some great slalom race runs from the past. And after today’s training session, I think it’s now more fun than giant slalom.

My slalom board is used and from older technology, so it’s more snappy and lively through turns. In giant slalom this older technology caused many crashes and even a concussion as I would load up the board and it would spring up off the snow, contorting my body and throwing it in all sorts of uncontrollable directions. But for slalom, the snappy-ness is perfect, and I was really happy that I didn’t get a new slalom board. My freeruns felt good and turny. Coach Mark had said after the last race that I need to start my turns higher and one way to do that was to come under the stubby (instead of looping low), so when I jumped into the course my performance statement was “Stay aggressive, come under the stubby.”

My first run felt surprisingly good and I managed to stay in the course. My first run in slalom after being on my GS board for so long (last time I was on slalom was in early December at a race) is usually sketchy with me going way too straight and not able to finish the course, but this run felt really good. I focused on coming under the stubbies and that helped me to stay round, start the pressure early, and most importantly, release the pressure at the stubby. I also stayed forward and didn’t get in the backseat too much. I was so happy after that first run, my confidence blossomed.

The rest of my runs felt even better, although I did get going too straight at one gate and DQ’ed, but that’s okay. I stayed with the focus of “Stay forward, under the stubby” and it worked really well. By the end of the day I was getting into a really good rhythm in the course (“blup, blup, blup”) and it was so fun since I didn’t have to fight the whole time just to make the turns. I flowed really well, and it was easy to ride. Coach Mark said that it was good riding although on some of the heelside fall-away gates I was getting a little far out of line. He seemed happy with it and I was ecstatic. Yay! I love slalom!

While the next two days of races are not Olympic qualifiers, they are good opportunities to get the points I need to satisfy one of the Olympic criteria. My confidence is high, I’m really excited, and I’m looking forward to riding my best tomorrow.

January 4, 2010: I Love Training… Again

Kreischberg, Austria – Rolling into Kreischberg, Austria, venue for the next Olympic World Cup qualifier, was bittersweet. While it brought back great memories of the Snowboard World Championships in 2003, it was besieged by thoughts of the last time I was there four years ago when I did not qualify for the 2006 Games. But whatever, the snow was awesome and I couldn’t hold back a smile.

After yesterday’s debacle, I desperately wanted a great day of training since it would be my last before the World Cup on the sixth. I wanted to get good feelings back and the much needed confidence that it would take for me to ride my best. Thankfully conditions were perfect: sun was shining, snow was hard and grippy, temps were very cold (which made my boots stiffer and thus more responsive and trustworthy). I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I was able to freeride the racehill once before they closed it, and it’s quite terrain-y. The slope rolls a lot and there’s a big hump in the middle of the course making for quite a steep drop for a few gates. But the more challenging the terrain, including steeps, the better. I’m not the most technically perfect rider out there, so anything that allows me to make up for that with aggression is a plus. I also enjoy that freefall feeling like I’m flying (see past post Addicted to the Drop) so that’s an added bonus. I just have to remember to stay forward, forward, forward coming over that pitch.

The training slope wasn’t quite as challenging but boy was it fun! I still approached each run with the same warm up and aggression as I would a race run. I wanted to keep the intensity high, and my technical focus was to be patient before flipping the board over so I could give myself room to carve. (Performance statement = Stay aggressive, carve.) When visualizing, my thought would be “float/hold – edge – pressure”, with the ‘float’ meaning staying on the old edge without putting any weight down on the board and holding it there patiently until the fall line above the stubby, the ‘edge’ meaning rolling the board slowly up on its edge, and the ‘pressure’ meaning BAM! – on and off quickly within the arc around the stubby by pushing against the board. I also kept in mind to use the backfoot more (or weighting down the tail of the board more) particularly on the heelside by driving my outside hand down towards the back boot. Another racer told me yesterday to think of lifting the nose of the board at the end of the turn since speed is generated by pushing the board through the turn (with the back foot) and it’ll also keep the board from washing out since there is pressure on the edge. After watching some World Cup footage, I did notice that when the men ride they pressure the tail of the board and the nose lifts off the snow slightly.

My runs felt great! I felt I was carrying speed and not scrubbing my turns, and putting pressure on the backfoot, especially on the heelside turns, felt stable and allowed me to shoot myself into the other turn. I didn’t wash out once. Even Coach Mark said I was carving more and that throughout my runs I was getting better at moving forward and keeping my body up with the board.  I was so elated coming up the lift after training that I actually thought, “I love training!” It was a good technical day, but more importantly, my confidence is high going into the next race.

P.S. I am aware that I must seem neurotic with the constant “I love snowboarding… I hate snowboarding… I love snowboarding…” flipping. But it truly is how I feel.

January 3, 2009: Temper, Temper

Saalbach/Hinterglemm, Austria – Today was an awful day. Fortunately I’m writing this way after the fact and I’ve already let today’s training day go so I can be objective about it and not too emotional with the “snowboarding hates me” mantra I had going up the gondola. The snow conditions were very inconsistent making for probably one of the most challenging courses I’ve had in a while. Actually I think it is the most challenging course I’ve ever had since I didn’t finish a single run today. I’d either DQ on the delay or hit a huge hole and blow out of the course. I felt like I had no control and the board was just getting away from me. I felt that my mental attitude was good and aggressive, but my body wasn’t following suit. My front leg was pretty sore from getting through the bumps from yesterday and I think overall I was tired. Just a crappy day. But on my last run Coach Mark said that those six gates that I made it through before blowing out were the best ones I had for the day and that I was carving them more than in my other runs. (Unfortunately I had already punished my board after that last run.) So that was a plus. But I was soooo angry throughout the day! It was like I couldn’t use that aggression on the course but instead it just came out after the run. It was definitely a test in controlling my temper. I haven’t seen that temper in a really long time. Hopefully next time I can use it for good instead of evil.

January 2, 2010: Maintaining the Aggressivity

Saalbach/Hinterglemm, Austria – Today’s training was challenging. We drove to a resort in Austria and had an afternoon session, and by the time we got there the several inches of new snow from last night was all cut up from the morning skiers making for difficult and sometimes painful freeriding. Underneath the fresh snow was a very hard and icy base, and getting launched off the mini-moguls and landing on that base was jarring to my ankles. But once I relaxed and got a little lower and let my legs absorb more of the bumps, it got a lot easier.

The course was on the same surface but we were able to slip a lot of the excess snow off of the line, exposing the hard, icy base beneath, which is great for racing so long as you can keep your line. It was still pretty challenging though as waves would form within the line making for a bumpy course. I want to treat every training run as a race run so I did my ‘bull’ race prep to psych myself up. I took my centering breath and repeated my performance statement a few times (which changed each run depending on my focus but always starts with “stay aggressive”), then slapped my legs and hands hard and got into the start. My first run felt energetic and alive, but I got late coming into a heelside turn and jammed too hard and fell. My second run was better. Coach Mark had told me that as soon as I get on my heelside I should release the pressure and that helped tremendously. Of course by the time I thought about it and did it I was at the stubby, which was where it should happen. I held a pretty good line and was able to shoot myself across to start my toeside. However I was getting too greedy on the toeside and starting my turn too early and as a result couldn’t fully commit to the turn. I made it down the course but on the last toeside gate into the finish I loaded up and it shot me too wide, narrowly missing the finish. Coach Mark said that the first four gates that he could see were good turns and I was carving. He said that type of riding is something we could build upon. My third run felt pretty good and actually easier than the second meaning I wasn’t fighting as hard, which possibly means I wasn’t sliding as much. The top wasn’t as good as the second run but the bottom felt better and I made the entire course. My last run was pretty out of control. I was getting late at the gates and was surprised I made them without crashing, and when I got down I felt the least tired of all my runs. So it may have been my fastest run. Coach Mark even said the top was good.

We only did a few runs to keep the quality and intensity high. The long stretches to and from the course were tiring on my legs so it was a good amount of training. After I found myself mentally and emotionally exhausted due to maintaining the ‘aggressivity’ (Coach Mark’s term) of each run (and probably also from scaring myself a few times), but it felt like I was able to really keep my focus and attitude throughout training. It also helped that when I would come out of the start Coach Mark would yell at me as I was heading to the first gate. I think that helps me to remember to stay aggressive throughout the course. Overall a good day.

December 29, 2009: Back to Europe

Bischofweisen, Germany – After over 24 hours of traveling we made it to Germany a couple of days ago. Again. It’s weird because it’s almost like the six day Christmas break never happened. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas was amazing and filled with lots of wonderful family and friend time, but it all happened so fast that next thing I knew I was back on a plane for my fifth time to Europe this calendar year. Unfortunately I don’t feel as refreshed as I had hoped to be for this very important leg of my racing journey. It feels like I bypassed LA and just came straight from Telluride to continue the last mega trip. But on a positive note I made United’s 100k premier status which means I’ve flown over 100,000 miles in 2009 which roughly equates to over eight days of being in the air. Over a week spent on an airplane. Thank goodness for good movie selections.

Our first day here was spent relaxing and trying to get accustomed to the time zone difference. We’re staying in a tiny town that has no internet access but does have a nice gym. The accommodations are also very nice and at a reasonable altitude so that’s one less thing we have to deal with. But what comes with lower altitude is less snow. We freerode at the hill today and the runs were very limiting with all manmade snow, and rocks and dirt spackling the slope. That combined with about three hours of sleep last night (was up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep!) did not make for the best day of freeriding. The run was choppy from a ski course that was set in the early morning, and was icy in some parts. And I couldn’t find my trusty toeside. My heelside was alright; I focused on driving my outside hand down towards the tail of the board and that worked, but my toeside suffered. I couldn’t get it on edge early enough (didn’t help that I carried my heelside turn too far across the hill instead of letting it go earlier) and then I would jam on it. I put my hand down in the snow a few times and it hit the snow hard and threw me off balance. It was definitely a very challenging day. Overall Coach Mark told me to focus on the basics – quiet upper body so the legs can be free to move; extending the legs through the turn, high and early pressure by building the platform early and with patience, moving the body forward in the turn transitions. The usual stuff. I was kind of bummed because my last day on snow felt so great when I was freeriding, and things were really coming along and now this. But that last day was in perfect snow conditions and I have to learn to ride in this stuff. I mean if I can do it there, I should theoretically do it anywhere. Like Coach Mark says, it’s a decision I have to make.

So hopefully I’ll be able to get good sleep tonight for tomorrow’s night race. Despite the incredible importance and meaning to tomorrow’s race (and actually all the races this month), I’m really excited. This is my last trip to Europe of my racing career so I want to go out with a bang.