I have been more than delinquent with my updates lately. I have been meaning to post something for over a week now, but the last two weeks have seemed like a hurricane. I guess that is what happens when I have 11 races in as many days. My world feels even more upside down right now after walking away from the races with some of my best finishes coming in slalom.
My block of racing started off with two NorAm super g races, a NorAm super combined, and a FIS super g at Nakiska in Alberta, Canada. I came into those races with high expectations. I had been skiing well in super g leading up to the races and had the chance to train on the race trail beforehand. When the race started I was ready to roll.
Unfortunately, I did not come out of the starting gate in the first race ready to go. I skied cleanly, but was missing some extra snap. Super g can be tough because you have to ski well, be relaxed, and yet look for speed everywhere. In super g, you only get one crack at it. It is a one run race without training runs. I skied well and was relaxed, but was not looking for the extra speed. That was the difference between my 10th place finish and winning.
I changed my game plan for the second NorAm super g and had a much better result. I finished fourth, getting bumped off the podium by .01 seconds. That finish was more of what I was looking for and hoped to carry that skiing into the following FIS super g and NorAm super combined.
In the super g run of the super combined I had two small mistakes and found myself finishing in sixth place. It always amazes me how such little things can add up and just like that the time is gone and cannot be gained back. With a run of slalom still to go, I really could not dwell and sulk over my performance. My slalom training since Chile has been limited to say the least so I had to focus.
The snow for our slalom run was less than ideal. It was soft and the conditions quickly deteriorated with each racer. It was a struggle for me just to make it down the slalom course. The plan of looking for speed and making good turns quickly went out the window and I switch to survival mode. It was a painful 40 seconds, but I made it down and managed to hang onto sixth place. Walking away I thought that it sure could have been a lot worse and I need to work on my slalom.
With a day off after Nakiska’s races I made my way west to British Columbia for another NorAm Series in Panorama. This series consisted of everything and included two super g races, one super combined, two gs races and two slaloms. It was a long six straight days of racing.
I was glad for a change of venue and ready to challenge the last six days of my trip. The super g races were first and it was more of the same from Nakiska. Small little mistakes that kept me from reaching the podium. It was frustrating to say the least and by the second super g I was glad to put away the long skis for a while. Shortly afterwards it fawned on me that I have essentially been skiing and racing downhill and super g for three straight weeks. I have always like skiing all four events. I find each one enjoyable, but if I spend too much time with just one discipline I get burnt out on it. As hard as it is I prefer to ski all four events and think that it makes me a better skier. On the day of our second super g I was invigorated strapping on the slalom skis for a run to complete our super combined.
The snow for slalom was incredibly better in Panorama than in Nakiska. I could work on making quick snappy turns instead of just surviving. I had a solid slalom run considering my lack of training and went from 9th place after the super g to 5th. It was a solid move up and a big step forward in my slalom skiing.
From super g and super combined we went right into two gs races and I could not have been happier to put on giant slalom skis. In the first gs race I had a solid first run on a difficult course. I was ready to ski well in the second run and have another big move up, but I am still not sure what happened. My run second run felt solid and fast, but that was not the case. No one that ran the course right before me or after me was that fast. It lead me to believe that the fog rolling in and out combined with the snow conditions to favor the earlier racers. It is frustrating, but it’s an outdoor sport that that is just another variable.
The second giant slalom went much better. I had two solid runs and finished 7th. It was not my best gs skiing, but a step in the right direction. I think that I am very close to being really fast in gs. Just a bit more time racing and training and I’ll be ready to go.
My last races were slaloms. I was a bit nervous before the started. I have been a strong slalom skier throughout my racing career, but with my recent success in speed I have significantly changed my training. Like with many other sports confidence plays a huge role in slalom. I had a good slalom run the super combined a few days before. I used that performance to reassure myself that I could do well. Our first run of slalom was a weird course to say the least. There was no rhythm or flow to the course; survival was key. I made it down and was not too far off the leader. I was in 16th after the first run and 1.6 seconds behind. For me, that was another step in building my confidence.
I knew with a good second run I could be right there. Between runs I had a brief talk with Brandon Dyksterhouse the coach of the BC ski team, who I worked with extensively throughout the summer and fall. He reminded me to be quicker in the transition between turns. Something about that though clicked in my head and I went out of the starting gate second run with all the confidence of a World Cup slalom veteran. I ended up winning the second run and moved all the way up to 6th place.
I was ecstatic with my result and I am pretty sure that I surprised quite a few people. In the second race I kept the ball rolling by finishing fifth in the first run. I was happy, but looking for more in the second run. I skied well on the top, but ran out of energy before the finish and had two mistakes. It was not a terrible run or one to lose confidence over, but I was bumped back to 11th. I was disappointed, but reminded myself that if I had been told entering the slalom races that I would finish 11th I would have been happy.
So after all of this racing I did not have the results that I had wanted to in super g, but there definitely were some bright spots in all of it. I left Panorama in third place in the overall NorAm standings (the winner gets a world cup start for the following season in every race), I took a step forward in my gs skiing, and proved that I can still ski slalom.
I am on a plane completely exhausted from the past month. I am looking forward to being home for a while after being on the road and living out of my bag for six weeks now. Christmas is right around the corner and I am looking forward to spending time with my family, friends, and hanging out with my dog. I have no idea what is in store for me after the holidays. I was hoping to head to Europe to race and earn some more World Cup starts, but that is not a definite yet. It all lies in the hands of the US Ski Team; however, I will not be holding my breath. Plan B includes a lot of training in preparation for the next NorAm stretch in early February and a run at the overall.