Here we are again, back in Europe for the remainder of the World Cup season! I am in some town in Austria I have never been to and feel totally turned around and have no sense of direction to where I am in this little country. Somewhere near the Salzburg side of Austria is about where I think I am currently located…
It’s been a long few weeks since leaving St. Moritz after the last speed World Cups where the wind sabotaged a good Downhill run I had going for myself and where I earned some of my first Super-G World Cup points in several years then it was back to the states for the World Champs in Beaver Creek. As many times as I pictured the World Champs, thought about it, dreamed about it, fought for it and did all that I could to be there and show my skiing it was still a pretty disappointing week for me. All the great images I had in mind and great hopes were slowly dashed day by day as the speed week went on. It felt like missing Sochi all over again.
I had hopes going into World Champs that I could have some amazing Downhill training runs and show that I had a real shot at making the podium and that I should be given the chance to race. Unfortunately I did not show that spark in the training runs and things felt so stacked against me with not having ever run the Downhill course on the Raptor before, the second of three Downhill training runs being cancelled, the snow being soft and bally the third training run not allowing anyone to push the limit, to the final training run before the Super Combi being stuck on the chairlift for 15 minutes while I stared at the start and watched racers go out of the gate while my start number crept closer and closer till I was only getting off the chairlift when I was supposed to kick out of the gate. As I had the last starting bib of the day the start referee graciously(one of the many amazing workers,officials,organizers and volunteers that made the World Champs run so smoothly) gave me an extra interval to rip my clothing off, click into my Downhill skis, hear a quick scrambled course report and then seconds later kick out of the gate as the lights went out with clouds moving in and putting a dark shadow on the course top to bottom. Not exactly feeling prepared and ready to hurl myself down the Raptor after that ordeal…
In a way I know it was a huge accomplishment to qualify for the World Championship team but honestly it didn’t really feel like much, I know I “should” be happy with how far I have come in the past two years after I was injured but after a time you don’t really care that you were hurt, you want to be good again and reach for your goals and being injured doesn’t give you a free pass anymore. You just have to be fast again and show you deserve it.
I always knew Sochi was a long shot with my injury but really felt like I could be a contender by the World Champs and that was always my goal and I never doubted that I couldn’t do it. In the end I’m not upset with not being selected to race in the Downhill or Super Combi, I simply did not earn it or deserve it. Looking at the results there was no way I should I have been chosen for the Downhill, the numbers simply did not add up. I feel bad about the whole thing in general, but as I experienced with missing Sochi I know it will only be some less than happy memories and that I have the future to look forward to and that anything is possible in the future. One of the consolations I have is that I am actually healthy at this point and skiing and able to do what I love even if it is a struggle at certain moments and I just want to be over “being hurt” and forget the whole thing like it never happened.
As emotionally draining and disappointing not competing in Beaver Creek was I have really tried to pinpoint what I love so much about racing since it can cause so much physical and emotional pain. Sure, we all LOVE going fast, that is probably the most common and frequent comment from a ski racer when asked why we love the sport. That one sentiment doesn’t really do the sport justice though…like I can drive 90 miles an hour down 1-70 in my less than stable Nissan Versa if I want and that is pretty exhilarating in itself as it feels like my car might start self destructing at any moment… talk about a speed wobble. Yikes. Or I can get on cross country skis and ski down a bunny hill, feel totally out of control and like I might actually start my own self destruction at any moment. Point is there a hundred ways to go “fast”. Or is the lifestyle of ski racing that I love so much? From staying in amazing hotels all over the world eating incredible food to sharing a bed with one of my teammates that seems to be having night terrors and flops around in bed all night continually waking me or even mistaking me someone that might want to cuddle in their confused slumber of jetlag and sleeping pills. Or the sometimes interesting cuisine that is served as some sort of “meal”. No need to elaborate on the weird food choices that can be encountered during life on the road as there is not a blog post long enough to share these interesting circumstances… Or is it the winning? When you actually win a race the emotions of happiness, gratitude, and elation that all the time and work you have put in has FINALLY paid off? Let’s be real here, I ain’t Lindsey or Mikaela so my wins are few and far between, heck I won a dual GS race in Aspen over Christmas at the AJAX Cup and that felt like a pretty big deal. It was for a fundraiser for crying out loud! My point is its obviously not about winning for me…or I would have quit awhile ago. Could it be that I love the friends and camaraderie that comes with ski racing? That you spend almost your whole youth with the same group of people, and instead of partying away your twenties you go to bed at 10:00 most nights and know one of your teammates as Momma Stace as she goes to bed even earlier (how she does this I am still not sure…) and your feel like a “rebel” if you’re up past 11:00. That you complain about the loud band or discotheque a few doors down from your hotel that woke you up at 2:00am and you realize you are starting to sound like your father when you complain about the noise of those “kids”.
There are a million different aspects about ski racing that make it so interesting, fun, horrible, great, not fun, worthwhile, painful, fulfilling and at times stupid. It is some weird combo of all these things that make ski racing right or not right for each person. I get why people quit ski racing. Sometimes it REALLY sucks. Other times it’s the BEST thing you have ever experienced. So I understand why people keep ski racing when maybe they should move on with life.
Just a couple days ago I was in Davos, Switzerland for some Europa Cup Super-G’s where the first race I skied like a silly Sally and was over two seconds out (I still do not even understand how that happened, I swear I felt FINE) to the next day having a pretty good run and finally feeling some stuff on course that I have been working at for a long time. I actually felt myself skiing deep into the turn gate after gate, and not panicking and throwing my feet away from me and loosing that connection to the snow and ski, I just kept it going and it was AWESOME. I felt that feeling I have in Downhill where everything is linking and I felt so strong and trusting of myself and thinking “oh yea I’m gonna ski deep in to this turn, and wow, I’ve got like tons of time, I don’t need to hook the end of the turn cause I’m totally cool and confident right now, so I’ll just build the pressure up over my new outside ski, stick my ski right there, nice, and waaaaaaaa, sick turn, ok, now again,….blah, blah, blah,” or something like that.
For me why I keep trudging (at times it only feels like work and no fun) and at other times sailing and skipping along at the sport of ski racing is the love of going fast, the lifestyle of always on the go, the winning and successes you get at times, the comradery and friends, and those runs where it all comes together and a you say to yourself “YES! I felt it! Finally! It was incredible! I wanna do that over and over and over till the end of time! Or till I have to get my knees replaced, then I might rethink this whole skiing thing. But till then, YES! I got it. And I will do it again, I just know it.”
So after Beaver Creek where I felt so let down and crushed, like a total failure and like it was all pointless if I can’t even reach “plan B” as my goal (Sochi being Plan A) and that ski racing was giving me so much pain, stress, unhappiness and ski racing was being a total jerk to me and not being fair or nice that I got right back on that sardine can of an airplane, flew over to Switzerland and had one of those runs that reminded of the good and great things of the sport that keep me coming back. No matter how much a jerk ski racing can be…those great moments of skiing, friendship, camaraderie and sweet moments of success and happiness somehow can overcome all the crappy days when you want to give up.