Hey kids, it’s time for another Countdown To Raceday blog, this time from Kimberley, Canada. I have raced here for the first time last year and it has since then become my definitely favorite venue on the NorAm circuit, maybe even World circuit. Another reason why I love it so much is the fact that it’s a speed week, consisting of 4 downhill training runs over the span of 2 days, followed by 2 downhill races and 2 Super-G races. While the course is not especially difficult, it is neither especially easy and the speeds of top sitskiers easily reach 90 kilometers per hour. Flying down the hill with that kind of speed, scaring yourself $h!tless every time is an insane amount of fun – at least for anybody as crazy as we are.
I joined the NSCD team in Winter Park for what were meant to be 4 Super-G training days – my first and only ones this season – but the nature doesn’t read coaching plans, so 2 of the trainings got cancelled as Winter Park was getting 10-15 centimeters of powder every day. We left Winter Park on Sunday, driving the van down to Denver. My bad luck that keeps hitting me on the head all season struck again and I have been the first casualty of a stomach virus, that got many of us glued to toilet seats for that night. I was basically ready to stay in Denver, not knowing whether I can travel for that long without another stomach virus incident, but the boys convinced me to come with them anyway. Corey’s pills saved most of my problems and off we flew to Spokane (Washington), rented a car and a cargo van and drove to Kimberley, Canada. It was a fun ride that overrode the feelings of being tired from the travels.
The first day definitely didn’t go as planned for me as my ski bindings kept releasing on a hole in the course that formed up at Gate 2. Twice, I had to get help from the course workers to put my ski back in and get me back on course. I didn’t feel very good as I was constantly pulling off some rookie mistakes, like keeping the ski flat instead of on edge between gates, which makes it feel slightly out of control all the time. Also, since my recorded times included the time it took to get me back to the binding, I had no idea how I’m ranked in the pack.
Sadly, the 2nd day wasn’t any better. My ski released again by the hole at Gate 2 and frustrated to the point of quitting, I was ready to skip training run number 4 altogether. As Scott convinced me to give it another try, we turned the stiffness of the sitski shock up to help with the issue. Also, NSCD program director Eric asked Scott to change my skis with the skis of a teammate. I was skeptical about the idea, as my binding was releasing when pinned (meaning, there was a plastic block in the back to prevent the release), and the new binding wasn’t pinned at all. But as an athlete, I tend to listen to the coaches even when I don’t fully agree with them, so I went with it. Gate 2 came again, my line was good this time around, but the back of my binding released again and I landed the ski and broke it. As the Australian coach Steve was picking me up, he looked at me and said: “Man, you’re having zero fun, huh?” I had to say, despite looking forward to Kimberley all year long, this was frustrating beyond belief.
After the day was over I spoke with the coaches, and we have come to an agreement that it is better for me to skip the downhill races, go freeski and concentrate on both Super-G races. It was a difficult decision for me, but it has proved to be a good one. I got up a little later then usual and freeskied some Super-G turns, keeping my focus on leveling the shoulders, good upper and lower body separation and keeping the vision down the hill. It was a great day, and I felt really good about figuring out something new about my skiing once again.
2 Super-G races tomorrow. We will try to attach metal wings to the side of the footplate, just to be 200% sure the footplate stays in the binding. Let’s hope my bad luck will be sound asleep this time around…