Friday, December 20, 2013

Ups and Downs of NorAms

This is the first season since I have been on the US Ski Team that I am coming into the first NorAm’s of the year with a full prep period under my belt, not to mention coming into the season healthy! 
This year the first NorAms were moved from Aspen, CO to Loveland, CO.  This first GS Race was the day after the Beaver Creek Women’s GS, so there was basically a world cup field at the GS Race.  Now, usually the first races have a fairly stacked field but this was insane to say the least.  To put some perspective on this race the farthest back I have EVER started was in the 30’s, and I stared 60th and 63rd.  When we had our meeting the night before and my coach told my whole team and me our numbers we though it was a joke.  We all laughed and then gave each other a strange look waiting for our coach to tell me the right number, but he was not making a joke he simply said that this is the most stacked NorAm field that he ever seen.  My coach, Trevor Wagner, is no rookie he has been around the circuit coaching the World Cup for many years.  When I first saw the start list to see who all came to the race I saw that not only were there girls who raced the World Cup, but rather a handful of girls that had placed top ten in the World Cup.  Also a veteran of the sport Kathrin Zettel was entered in the race.  For those of you who do not know World Cup Skiing Kathrin Zettel has 2 World Championship medals and 44 World Cup podiums. 
I was disappointed when I found out my start number because I had been skiing really good GS and I wanted a chance to prove my self. I though that starting in the 60’s that was going to be near impossible.  Never the less when I got to Loveland and inspected the course I saw that the snow was fairly hard and was going to hold up well.  I just had to send it on my first run.  After first run I was sitting in 15th!  I was super excited about this and had a much better start position for second run.  My second run was not that stellar and I ended up 16th over all for the day.  However, something kind of funny/awesome happened second run; there was a panel out and I skied a GS gate/turn like a slalom turn (see picture below).  Day 2 at Loveland was not as exciting but I made a big move up from 63rd to 20th.
The next week we had Speed NorAms at Copper Mountain, CO.  These races I was very excited for because I had been skiing fast Super G and I had been skiing Copper for over a month.  I also was going to have a much better start position.  During the first Super G I came over a roll a little too straight and went through the outside panel of a gate and tomahawked down the hill.  One of my skis did not release immediately and it caught and my leg/body was thrown around.  Luckily I walked away from this crash with only torn ligaments in my thumb, messed up tendons in my ankle, shattered lenses, and two broken skis.  Many of the coached and others watching the crash were almost positive that I broke my leg, but thankfully I drink a lot of milk and my bones are strong like bull!
After that crash I could not ski the second Super G, and was still in a fair amount of pain when the Downhill came around.  The rule in Downhill is that you must start a training run in order to race the race.  I made the decision to push out of the gate in the training run, but to not ski the actual course.  I then sat out the first Downhill race, which was the US National Downhill.   My coach and I decided to make the decision to race the two days of NorAm Downhills.  I came in to races with no runs on the course while every one else had already had two days on the course.  I ended up 5th in the first Downhill and 3rd in the second Downhill.  I was excited with these results because I skied fast even though I had less time on the course than everyone else
The Vail NorAms were a big disappointment for me.  The first day I was having a really good run, but then got squished and ended up missing the second to last gate on the first run.  The second day I came in with vengeance and was determined to ski fast and make my mark on the podium at my home hill.  That did not end up happening.  On about the second gate I hit a bump and pain shot through my ankle and that was it.  I tried to push through and I made it about 20 more gates until I hit another bump and couldn’t recover and was out of the course. 
Now I am taking some time off to heal up over the holidays and eating lost of cookies.  I head over to Europe on January 4th!
This is called Free Lunch. Crossing blocking GS Gate

Love my Teammates…we get a bit weird

We had some cold race days

Going through the outside panel is not good for the lenses

Copper Downhill Podium (Second Jr.)
L to R Breezy Johnson, Katie Ryan, Me

Hot tubbing with the Teammates

Off time/Recovery time spent with Smash

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Copper Camp

After I came back from Park City I was at home for less than a week before I moved back in with my teammates and we started race training on snow!  You would think that after living with my teammates all summer we would be sick of each other, but it is almost the opposite with my team.  We have become each other’s second family (who we see more than real family).  Surprisingly there is little to no bickering and annoying of one another…I know it sounds impossible, but some how this group, my group has become one big happy family! 
Living and training with one another for months on end in this environment is a huge advantage.  We all push each other on the hill and off to become the best person and skier we can become.  Even some of the World Cup coaches and athletes have taken note of our “family”.  We tend to keep a positive attitude in our team, which could be a reason why our team is skiing really well!
Any way…we trained at Copper Mountain at the US Ski Team Speed Center starting November 1 through early December.  This training was an awesome.  Copper Mountain is the only place in the world where you can ski a full length Downhill starting November 1st.  Not to mention we were constantly skiing with the World Cup team, which means you need to be on your sh** to keep up. 
Towards the end of this block we had our first FIS Races of the season.  These races are considered “warm up” races.  This does not mean that they are any less serious, but rather a way to get us in to the race mind set before we have our first big races (AKA World Cup or NorAm) of the year.   These races went very well for me.  I had my best FIS Point result in GS, Super G, and Super Combined. 
A few weeks after the “warm up” races it was World Cup time! However, not for me but still exciting non the less.  This was going to be the first time that new 2015 World Championship course was going to be run in Beaver Creek, the Raptor is its name.  This course is considered to be one of the most, if not the most, technical Downhill course on the World Cup circuit.  There was a Downhill, Super G, and GS Race.  I was fortunate to enough to forerun the Super G and GS.  Now you might be asking what if this forerunning business, essentially it is sending guinea pigs down the course to make sure it is safe and acceptable for the racers. 

Next are my first NorAm races of the season! 

Chillean adventure time

Sun bathing in Chile

Chilean sun rise 

Part of my family (Julia Ford and Anna Marno)

Running in some of our Downhill skis with Julia Ford

First day of training canceled due to a foot of snow! 

Katie Ryan and I at the US Ski Team Naming at Copper Mountain

Introducing the 2013-2014 US Ski Team Women

Pushing out of the start during training in Copper

Downhill Inspection 

Skiing with the sun in Copper

My sister came to watch my first race of the year!

More team selfless

Forerunning the Beaver Creek GS Womens World Cup 
(photo Jeff Shiffrin)
Forerunning the Raptor Super G at the Beaver Creek World Cup

Europa Cup Speed Team 
AKA My second Family
(Left to Right: Jonathan Weyant, Rob Luther, Jackie Wiles, Katie Ryan, Me, Julia Ford, Abby Ghent, Anna Marno, Jeff Pickering, and Trevor Wagner)