Am I crazy?
This is a thought that runs through my mind almost daily during ski season…well, let’s be honest that thought runs through my mind a few times in the summer as well! I think it’s a valid question…and I’m about to go on a bit of rant on why I just might be crazy so buckle your seatbelts!
FIRST OFF, I am extremely lucky and blessed to live this life! I am chasing my dreams and have so many amazing experiences due to ski racing. But, it is not without struggle. My struggles are certainly petty compared to the broader and more troubling struggles happening in this world. My intention is to share some of the hilarity of the struggles relative to myself while also sharing some of the non-hilarity as well. So here we go!
Some of the most annoying things about travel…
Laundry: I actually wonder how many minutes and probably hours of my ski racing life have been spent looking for clean underwear and socks. It’s probably a frightening number, like ten hours of my life wasted looking for clean socks. When you can only do laundry every couple weeks’ things get, how should I say…interesting. Like the fact that it feels like a small victory when a shirt passes the smell test and you proudly tell your roommate “I have one more day left in this shirt” like they should be impressed (which they probably are). Or if the shirt doesn’t pass the smell test you hang it up for the next three days hoping that the smell and Spaghetti Bolognese stains will somehow magically disappear. I’ve yet to have that type of magic happen but it hasn’t stopped me from trying.
Sure, you can always wash some things in the bathroom sink and get ahead there, but then your room turns into some sort of wet, steam room type situation as your laundry dries, and combined with ski boot liners that can create an interesting smell. Not to mention if the maid comes to tidy up the room and you have 17 pairs of wet (but clean!) underwear hanging from every spot possible it sure can make things it a bit awkward.
I also get something I like to call “clothing fatigue” or better known by every woman as “I hate all my clothes” syndrome. This can happen when you have been trapped with the same clothing for three and half months. It gets to the point where you can’t even remember if you wore this shirt or that shirt or those pants last night to dinner. Or where is my “nice” dinner outfit? Do I even have a nice dinner outfit? Does this flannel shirt count as nice? How about these awesome sweatpants? Can I wear my slippers to dinner? I’ve worn my slippers to dinner for the past week…but I had my nice flannel on so it evens out. I think.
Hotels: Ah, isn’t it so nice to stay in a hotel? Away from the worries of your own home, no dishes to put away, no house to clean…just great. That feeling fades after a couple weeks and turns into a conflict of this bed is too soft, this one is too hard, do they really consider this to be a pillow?! What is that gross looking stain on the carpet? Will those noisy children ever shut up? Will those people at the bar ever shut up? Is the bar actually in my room? Because it sounds like it. Finally waking up every morning thinking “where am I?”. A major conflict is: “I am a 26-year-old woman, I’m an ADULT, why in the heck is there only ONE bed in this room??? I am not on my honeymoon and I DO NOT want to share a full sized bed with my teammate!!! OK?”. Well, that happens a lot, just have pretend I am 6 years old again (in case you forgot that I mentioned it already I’m 26) and that I am having a really fun sleepover with my friend and we are “choosing” to share a bed. For three months at a time. Yes, months and months of room and bed sharing. Starts to make cleaning the house and putting away dishes sound pretty good.
If you are lucky maybe there will be a set of the smallest twin beds ever so you at least get your own “bed”. Every time you walk into a new room it is with your fingers crossed hoping you will be blessed with your very own mini bed and if you happen to get that mini bed you look at your roommate and yell “SCORE, we get our own beds!”. Small things, it’s the small things in life that really matter. Right?
Did I forget to mention how much stuff we all have? Lots and lots of stuff, stuff upon stuff. Ski boots, duffel bags, back packs, poles, all crowding us into an even smaller living space in our hotel rooms. Many times I wake up with my face just inches from another human who I do not want to share a bed with and if I try to create more distance I might end up just inches from the teetering tower of stuff upon stuff that at any moment might topple over and suffocate both of us in a mound of ski jackets, speed suits and dirty socks.
Here are just a couple things about ski racing that make me question my sanity...
Speedsuits: Really? Why are speedsuits even a thing? As I prepared for a race the other day I realized (why it took me nearly 20 years of ski racing to figure this out I do NOT know) that I literally just had two different layers of spandex between my naked body and the frigid outside world and that I was about to send myself (of my own free will) 70mph an hour down a bumpy, icy, dark track on skis that are sharpened like razors and could slash through my layers of spandex like bits of tissue paper. As I continued getting ready I thought to myself, “oh I probably shouldn’t wear these arm guards under my suit, they kinda stick out and are probably slowing me down by like a thousandth of a second, but I’ll wear them because it hurts my arms really bad when I hit gates going 70mph and that pain might distract me for a hundredth of second which might cost me a tenth of second”. So in theory I should be faster by wearing the arm guards…This whole thought process in my mind also makes me question my sanity and why I am even coming up with theories like that.
The Agony of Defeat: Could there be a more brutal sport out there? I don’t think so. Not only are you risking your body on daily basis and at some point in your ski racing career you will likely suffer some sort of injury that will come back to haunt you in 20 years (or even right now), but you also have to deal with on an almost daily basis that unsatisfactory feeling that you wish you had done better. Well isn’t that nice, you dedicate yourself to this crazy sport and yet for the most part don’t ever really feel satisfied with it. I guess that’s life in general maybe, but ski racing really has a brutal way of showing you how unsatisfied you should be. With all the emotional trauma ski racing puts me through I am certain I will be prepared for whatever else life has in store. Example; I missed out on qualifying for World Cup finals (only the top 25 ranked athletes in each discipline qualify for finals) after starting 30th La Thuile in rutted, bumpy, deteriorating conditions, skiing my heart out and sending it as hard as I could, to finish 11th! At first feeling the elation of knowing I had just skied a clutch performance when I needed it, feeling so proud and satisfied with myself, to know that I rose to the occasion and did exactly what I needed to do! Having my teammates crowd around me telling me good job, giving high fives and seeing the joy in their faces as well as they knew I had just overcome a season long struggle and finally broke through.
Then minutes later looking at the scoreboard again and feeling my stomach and legs drop out from under my body to realize that even with my kick-ass performance, my best skiing of the season, a defiant run that overcame the conditions, that I missed it by just .07. The distance of 6 feet. Turned out one sneaky Italian ranked behind me in the Downhill standings came through with an unforeseen podium result, effectively knocking me out of the top 25 and crushing my hopes. I finished the regular Downhill season ranked 26th, just three world cup points shy from qualifying. After the struggle of the whole Downhill season, after fighting to overcome bad weather, crappy start numbers, my own mistakes, and to miss it by the length of ski. That satisfied, proud feeling replaced by overwhelming sadness and total helplessness. Clear the decks! Total melt-down about to ensue, and I can’t fight it anymore. I don’t want to be positive in this moment, I can’t tell myself anymore that its “going to be ok” and that I just have to keep working hard, keep my chin up, keep fighting. I don’t want any of that in this moment, I want to lay down and quit. Just give in to frustration and the feeling of total defeat. How could ski racing treat me like that? I feel like a jilted lover, giving ski racing everything I have and still not a lot in return. I have fought so hard to overcome injuries and whatever obstacles were in my way! Ski racing gives me this, a total freaking break down and the feeling of being a failure. Not to mention the stress of; will any ski company want to sponsor me? What will my sponsors think? Do they still want to support me after such a dismal Downhill season? How am I going to pay for anything since I have made like $6 this season? How can this happen after all my hard work? All my dedication and perseverance? What is even the POINT??!!
Ugh, ski racing can just be the worst! It can be so cruel, yet for brief moments so satisfying. Its an ugly battle most of the time, with shining moments of glory. So, I must be crazy along with every other ski racer to put myself through the emotional, physical, financial, trauma in pursuit of the craziness. It surely isn’t about the winning or glory, or most of us would have quit years and years ago. I’m not sure what it is about but something drives us on.
Memory of Goldfish: You would think after the last few paragraphs that I would have packed my bags up days ago, left my skis and boots behind, flown home and try to forget ski racing. But I haven’t! Still here, still fighting on, still going to make things happen somehow. Something inside me keeps pushing on, the belief that it’s not hopeless, that some time from now I’ll be on the other side of the struggle and look back and know that like all the other obstacles in life I overcame it somehow. That in my moment of defeat I knew somehow it was all “going to be ok”. Ski racers like much of the human race are amazingly resilient, and all must have very short memories to continue day after day with the struggle.
So now I continue on with my smelly socks, clothing that I am sick of, sharing rooms and beds when all I crave is some personal space, dragging bags and bags of endless stuff to endless hotels, to risk my life and body while racing down some insane slope darting around gates wearing practically nothing, worrying if braiding my hair is slower than wearing my hair in bun, all to endure the one of most intense emotional roller coasters I can imagine. All for this insanely difficult sport. This insane sport that I still love no matter what.
Maybe I'm crazy, maybe not.
Whew, fresh off of another jaunt across part of Europe! Six to seven hour drives have been the norm this season and it sure has been giving us plenty of time to listen to 90’s top hits playlists and Ted Talks! Nothing like jamming to some J-Lo, Third Eye Blind and Britney Spears for hours on end to make you tone deaf and delirious.
It’s been a tough season for me, with no real results to speak of. At times it can be overwhelming to think about where I am at right now in my ski career, after coming back from injuries that were almost back to back with back to back to back to back surgeries this was supposed to be (at least in my mind) a huge year for me. I’ve mentioned it many times but this was the first preparation period since 2010 where I wasn’t returning from a knee surgery of some sort. Finally feeling strong and powerful, poised for success and instead I am in the midst of my worst World Cup season to date. It’s tough to choke that sentence down and to really admit where I’m at. At times I want to have a complete melt down, roll around on the floor and throw a temper tantrum (ask any five-year-old, temper tantrums are best thrown while on the floor as its much more dramatic) complete with legs and arms kicking and screaming my head off. Unfortunately, I am a 26-year-old woman and those types of antics would be frowned upon, at least in public. What I do on my own time is my own business…hehe better turn the volume up on that stereo!
The rest of the time when I don’t feel like having a hissy fit is the feeling that I am on the verge of great success. With so many good training runs under my belt this season where even with mistakes I was top ten it is almost inexplicable to me why the races have been going so poorly. Yea, for sure I’ve had some bad luck…In Cortina having my poles over the wand two separate times with 10 seconds till kicking out the gate then START STOP and getting pulled back in the start house due to wind, then racing with a headwind anyway… to having what seemed would be a great start number in Garmisch by running early then blowing out of the course in the bumpy, gnarly “holle” section along with five other racers in the first seven starters. Yep, the rest of the racers for sure knew something was up in that section after most of us didn’t make it through there! Even in Super-G I feel like I am the precipice of breaking through, managing to score points in Cortina after some bone headed mistakes and just missing the points in Garmisch after even larger mistakes; turns out being out in the slush just before the uphill traverse isn’t too speedy then following with another mistake with a near straddle where I had to recruit some of my slalom quickness and cross-block a Super-G gate. It’s almost like I have to go through this phase of making huge mistakes till a I break through. Like some sort of painful, frustrating right of passage. Or at least that’s how it feels…
Overall it just seems like things haven’t been going my way…it can’t continue on like this forever though. I know my skiing is at its best right now, after every disappointing race I have watched my video and come away actually kind of psyched. Thinking “wow”, I am actually kind of ripping till I make a mistake or some other mishap happens.
For now, the battle continues, and there are still some chances left to turn things around this season! I am excited for the next few races in Crans Montana and La Thuile, they are going to be technically more difficult than what we have seen this year but I am looking forward to the challenge!