Sunday, March 15, 2009

Are - World Cup Finals - Looking Back

I am sitting here in front of my computer trying to summarize another season, to find insights into the highs and lows, and a way to fully express my motivation heading into next year. However, at this moment, I’m finding my body and mind need some time to ‘catch their breath’. It’s an odd feeling when the race season concludes; the racing has gone by too quickly, yet the season feels like it has lasted far too long. The travel and stress that comes with the competitive season certainly takes its toll in different ways. I know right now we are all excited to be heading home for a week of recovery. I haven’t slept in my bed since January 2nd, the thought of doing my own laundry excites me, and knowing I’ll get to make my own coffee tomorrow morning has me brimming with happiness. But above all of those things it’ll be the massive hug from David upon my arrival that will make me happiest.

With such high hopes and expectations heading into the season I’m sad to finish with so little, as far as end results, to show for it. I look back on this season and I feel at odds with the different emotions that arise. I feel a sense of accomplishment, proud of my perseverance and willingness to face my demons, yet I feel disappointment as well. There is a sense of sadness that this season has passed and I, for the first time in my career, didn’t have a career best result during that winter. I never made any herculean leaps and bounds in my career, however, I have consistently gotten better every year. This is the first season that this hasn’t happened. But again, these sentiments crop up when I think of world rankings and podiums, not when I look at the season from another perspective. In that perspective I see the challenges I faced and I’m proud of the strong performances I continued to demonstrate.

It was a tough year for the Canadian Speed Queens as a whole. I finished as the top Canadian in the DH World Cup standings in 15th, just ahead of Emily, but pretty far back in SG. Both Emily and Britt had rough seasons as well, and as a group we struggled. We have had several discussion about why that is and for each of us the story varies. We all came into this season expecting the high’s from last season to carry on. Sadly they didn’t, for any of us, and we finished with not a single podium and Britt just missing the qualifications for the finals in DH. Still I’m proud of my season on a personal level; with no summer training due to a knee injury, severe whiplash after a DH crash in Lake Louise, an arm infection in St. Moritz, having both my shoulders pop out in Cortina, fighting the chest cold then a gastro intestinal bug, and finally a concussion in Bansko, I still qualified for the finals (you have to be top 25 in the World) in both Super G and Downhill. It’s not like last year, but there are some things there that I know I can build on and take into next year. A few glitches to iron out….and believe me I’m all over identifying them and taking steps to fix them. This is a sport where things can change in an instant, but you still have to work hard for those changes. An example of this is Tina Maze, a fellow World Cup racer who’s had a lot of success but has struggled for a few seasons. She started the season ranked outside the top 30 in both Downhill and SG – she’s now ranked 3rd, 6th,& 7th (GS, DH, SG). It takes a lot, yet not much, to drastically change the path we’re on. I know like Tina, we’ll be back with a vengeance next year.

What will I focus on in training? I want to make a few key changes in my technique and there are some equipment testing I’ll be doing as well– especially with my boots. I’m extremely happy with Volkl and Lange, I just want to be better acquainted with my equipment and in tune with a set up that works best for me. Having missed last summer’s training I felt rushed to decide on a set up for the racing season. Changing boot models the week before we started racing was a tough decision. I’m glad I made the switch, however, during the season I should have spent more time with those boots to play with angles and heights.

Then of course there is the mental aspects of racing, which is vital. I think our team suffered a similar fate as the men’s team did after their record breaking season. It’s rather remarkable how similarly our teams performed the year after such stellar seasons. Once the raw emotions from the season have subsided, and I’ve ‘caught my breath’, I’m looking forward to delving into the mental side of what went on this season for myself and well as the team’s dynamic.

When I list the challenges I faced within the last 8 months I am happy to say I’m still here pushing forward. This season, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I am stronger than I thought I could be and that I can endure. I look forward to getting back to work.

Up next is a training camp in Whistler then another camp in Nakiska later in April.

Till next time,


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bansko & Concussion

Well, that was a tough weekend of travel and racing. I never thought I’d hear everyone in the finish area saying they’d rather be on the track in Val D’Isere! Although, that is slightly unfair to Bansko since the hill was fun and offered amazing potential. However, our Downhill was set with the intent to keep our speeds as slow as possible. Our course, that started and finished in the same place as last year’s men’s Europe Cup, was a whopping 23seconds slower. The track was also reminiscent of Quebec/Ontario snow with a light sugar layer on top and sheer ice underneath. By day two it was a skating rink with bumps the whole way down.

Still, I had good splits and was simply struggling with this one section in particular. I was determined to figure it out and after a training run where I went too round, on race day I went too straight…I was definitely over thinking this section as I felt I needed to do something special when really you just had to suck it up and ride the bumps out. After being the only Canadian to finish on the first race with a disappointing 23rd position, I was getting set for the second DH. Doing what I could to let go of thought and just race hard, but also stay as relaxed as possible. I won the top split but was taken out by one of the wholes they had been working on earlier in inspection. I went down pretty hard bouncing back in the air after the first impact, then coming to a fast stop in the fence going from about 90km/h to stopped within 3 meters. I was amazingly fine after the crash, but I had hit my head hard. I cracked my helmet (something I’d never done before) and suffered some whiplash. Unfortunately, it was the pounding headache and mild disorientation that tipped the doctor off to the fact that I’d suffered a concussion. Although it was a fairly mild concussion, there was no way the doctor was going to let me ski the Super G on Sunday. I was pretty sad, although I understood the decision.

So, I watched the race from the sidelines.

After the race there was a lot of time before the police escorted convoy of busses was scheduled to leave. By 5pm we hit the road, however the American, Canadians, and Brit’s enjoyed a few rounds of bowling (in the hotel) first! That was good fun and brought out a lot of laughs. On the road, the laughs continued in the back of the bus with card games and silliness. After a bit my head was pounding too much and I had move to a quieter spot. Still, I enjoyed the drive. Once at the airport we (meaning the entire world cup) checked in together, and made our way to the flight (the only flight that appeared to be flying that night in Sofia). Once we reached Munich some mild fog prevented our plane (with substandard instruments) to land and we were rerouted to Stuttgart. Once there, we sat in the plane for 1hour before they decided what to do with us. Finally we got our bags and began waiting for busses to arrive to drive us back to Munich. By this point it was midnight, or 1am Bulgarian time. Everyone was tired. By 1:30 am (2:30am Bulgarian time) they said the buses couldn’t take us and we then made our way to the hotel where our big group slowly checked in to sleep.

The next morning, Monday morning, we boarded another set of tour busses and the convoy began its journey again, this time to Munich.

Ah, the joys of travel.

My headaches are almost gone now, and the whiplash is already lessening. My left shoulder took a nice hit and was put back about 2 weeks in its recovery, but I’m extremely happy it didn’t pop out! This week we’ll be training, looking for some GS races, and then off to Are, Sweden for the World Cup finals!

Till Next time,