The beginning of the race season didn’t go nearly as well as I had hoped…as well as I was skiing this summer and fall in training things didn’t quite line up how I wanted. I risked too much in the first Downhill in Lake Louise trying to tighten my lines and instead ended up nearly crashing off the jump but was lucky enough to land on my feet although I missed the next gate. The second Downhill race was a challenge for multiple reasons, first being the changing weather, going from bluebird for the first ten racers to a full blizzard by bib 30. Secondly I let off the gas after my near disaster the day before so I wasn’t feeling the same confidence going into day two and that translated into some passive skiing in sections. Finally for the Super-G I netted some success after my work in the off season and finished 20th after starting in the late 50’s. I was pretty happy with that result, skiing so well in sections and like such a jerry in others…whoooops!! Regardless of the inconsistent Super-G skiing it was nice to leave Lake Louise with a decent result in SG.
My hopes were high heading into Val d’ Isere...feeling good, skiing well, totally confident and yet the top ten still alluded me. In the turns I was top 5…on the flat top 40…yikes. It is almost a sick joke of some sort…all my career I have felt like (and many others have told me) that the turns were my weakest aspect of my skiing and that I had the “touch” on the flat. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be struggling so much on the flat. You just go straight right? Well for the life of me I can’t figure out why I was so darn slow on the flat, I know it’s not my skis as they were prepared the same as teammates that were top ten on the flat. Something just wasn’t clicking for me in the gliding but I know I will get it back and with some of the more technical courses coming up I should be in good shape!
Again in the Super-G in Val d’ Isere I was off to a great start, skiing well in a challenging set that was throwing racers off course left and right, but I was on track for a good result and then I crashed. Boom. Moved inside or something and I was headed towards the A-net on my hip unexpectedly and hauling ass. I was scared as I rocketed towards the net, I was trying to think how to position my body to avoid injury but it turns out there isn’t much you can do to when you’re headed towards the A-net. On TV the net can almost look forgiving…well it sure doesn't feel that way! Feels more like sliding into a somewhat bouncy brick wall, then rag dolling off of it and slamming back into it again. In the first moments after my crash I was certain I injured…both shins were throbbing from the impact with the net and blood was pouring onto my suit from my face. After a minute or two and after I managed to drag myself out of the net I was relieved to realize I was unscathed for the most part…a bloody nose, a cut on my knee, a jammed (potentially broken, still not sure) finger, some insanely sore shins and a tragically destroyed pair of Super-G skis but still with the ability to walk away. Not gonna lie,that crash left me shaking and with a reminder how thin the line is between racing and rag dolling into the net praying you make it out ok.
As I look back on the past few weeks I can’t help but feel a bit confused…I think back to when I first started racing World Cup and it seems like it all came so easily then. I was earning top ten results frequently my first couple years, then the injuries came and I haven’t been able to score those results that seemed like nothing before. The crazy part is how much of a better skier I am now…like seriously waaayy technically better. I’m not going to pretend I was specimen of technical ability in my early years but I was reckless. Maybe the recklessness made up for my lack of ability and now that I have the technical ability I have worked so hard on I have the lost the recklessness in my racing. Not that being reckless is necessarily a good thing…sure it can be fast. But it’s not fast when you crash and break your tibia plateau into 30+ pieces. Seriously, some of these younger racers maybe more “fearless” or whatever than I am now but you break your leg or get injured and you never wanna feel that again. You change the way you ski, learning that skiing technically well can translate to safer skiing and you need less of that young recklessness that puts you so near the edge all the time. I’m not afraid, I feel more calculated with what I am doing and like I don’t need to black out on course and just barely make it down alive. I can now think when I’m skiing and ski with more precision. I know at some point my technical ability is going to help me break through, it is unconceivable to me that I won’t. I have been building on my technical skills for over a year now and it is all going to come together.
After a longish break for the Christmas and New Year’s where I was able to “turn off” ski racing and disconnect from the ski world in Moab for a time we are back in Euro land eating pretzels and wiener schnitzel preparing for the races in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee in a week. Ah ha! I got it…maybe I just need more wiener schnitzel to go fast on the flats! Worth a try? Erm, maybe not, family history of high cholesterol. That fried stuff ain’t good for the ol’ arteries. Regardless 2017 is a fresh start and I’m ready to bring it on! Odd years have always been good for me… :)