I have never started a season off strong. I generally tip toe my way through the first couple races, usually still trying to figure a few things out that I didn’t dial in during the summer. This isn’t an attitude that I choose to have, rather one that I find myself in year after year. It doesn’t seem to matter what the lead up to the first race is, but the last couple years have all begun the same way, with me struggling to find my confidence on race day. Although this has been a steady trend in the past, I really believed this year would be different. I had the absolute best summer of my life. Everyday was a new best day, I got stronger, tougher, faster. By the end of October I was skiing fast, really really fast, training became so simple. I felt so good in the start gate, so confident and it was evident in my skiing. All I had to think about was to try and tip it up as much as possible, instinct handled the rest. Coming in to the top of a turn, seeing the gate, the line, the next gate, and knowing exactly what is going to happen the moment I stepped on my ski; That feeling is indescribable and something I was lucky enough to experience a lot in the lead up to this season.
Now, I wish I could say that I went to the fall NorAms, skied like I do in training, placed in the top ten, and continued on with my season from there, that would have been wonderful. Too bad this is the real world and it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. Just like every season prior, racing kicked my ass. I no longer had that “hell ya”* feeling, I panicked and failed to trust the work I put in over the last 6 months. Grasping for anything to give me that feeling again I came up with new focuses, tried to remember cues that worked in the past; I wanted it so badly. Its easy to say what I should have done looking back now, but this is something I struggle with year in and year out. Its a vicious cycle and when I’m stuck in it its really hard to snap out of. I think this is what separates an athlete from a great athlete, being able to say screw* it and simply trust that the work you have put in will carry you on race day. My inexperience shines through during moments like this and the only way to become experienced is to continue experiencing it for myself.
I did have a few awesome days of FIS racing mixed in among the NorAm schedule where I walked away with a couple run wins, a bronze and a gold medal. One day in particular stands out for me though. Four days after racing the NorAm in Panorama, we had a FIS race on the same slalom slope, “Hay Fever.” I knew I could win this race, plain and simple, I believed it. Confident, relaxed and happy, I was ready to throw down. Sure enough, the feeling came back, instinct took over and I just skied. When I crossed the line, I was a little unsure of what to think of my run. I remember thinking I could have gone faster but was glad to have put down a solid race run after the week I had had. As it turned out I won the run by a few tenths only to fall on the second run. I remember writing this quote for a BC Alpine article that day and I think it does a good job of summing up this post, this fall and my early season race career.
“Despite not finishing second run I am happy with how the day went. I’ve known for a long time that I am skiing very fast but have struggled to convert that skiing to race day performance. I believe that today I took a big step forward in my race day approach and proved to myself that i can easily hang in there with the best of them. Of course I’m bummer about the outcome of the race, I would have loved to be standing on the top of the podium but I’m walking away from today with something much more sought after in ski racing, confidence. I’m excited to get after it again tomorrow and fight for the top of the box.”
Heres little video of training on HayFever.
In January I’ll just be road tripping around the West as Europe didn’t get snow soon enough. Nick and I will start off with a drive down to Salt Lake City for six tech starts. Based on what I’ve heard, it should be a sweet little series with a good field so I’m excited to get some more racing in before the next set of NorAms.
All for now and I wish you all a Happy New Year! – Dom
As per usual, thanks to Derek and Johnny for the photos!
*Choice words were replaced.