Val D'Isere before Christmas - what can I say, I feel spoiled. And to rub it in a bit more, St. Moritz before that! Val D'Isere and St. Moritz are generally the main stops on the World Cup for the women's events in December and they never disappoint. We arrived in St. Moritz and to our surprise our hotel was a beautiful old building right in the centre of town. It was a bit loud at night as the streets below were filled with the late-nighters, but still great.
I can say with confidence that I have turned things around. Finishing 13th in the Val D'Isere downhill was a giant leap forward from my 43rd place finish in Lake Louise. I kept my head down and looked at what I can improve and where I could make small changes - not just on my own but with the help of the team around me. The support and belief from coaches, family and teammates means a lot. Don't get me wrong, I was on the verge of just being completely frustrated and upset about it all. Once I stopped, listened to those around me, and put the emotions aside I could start to move forward again.
Ski racing has so many interesting aspects. First you have technique and your natural touch on the snow, then your ability to adapt, to take in feedback from your coaches, and to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Your equipment is a big piece of the puzzle and with that comes your technician, your ski guru. Underneath it all is your fitness and strength, and all of those hard hours in the gym and on the bike in the summer pays off come winter.
But, at the top of that list of factors is the mental game. To me this is the absolute key component. All of these parts work together and are a constant work in progress, just like anything in life, of course!
I was speaking with my brother the other day and he shared with me some of the things he has been working on. In the first two World Cup slaloms of the season he has straddled gates in both and not finished the race. He is skiing really well, and he knows it, so he feels confident. So why the DNFs? Some would say, "well that's slalom - everything happens so quickly, and especially when you're taking risks and pushing the line to go faster." But, he took his frustrations from his DNFs and looked at what he could work on. He and the slalom team had some Europa Cup and FIS races this past week, and he used the opportunity to play with his equipment. He wanted to find something less aggressive to see if that would help avoid straddling gates. It truly is constant learning and constant searching to find ways to be better and faster.
So back to the emotionless approach... In my head I think, well, how can I not be emotional? I've put so much hard work, sweat and time into ski racing. But putting your emotions aside is the first step forward, the first step to getting back on track. Whether it's a good result or a poor result, you need to be able to dissect the day, pull out the lessons, learn from them and move forward to the next thing. I am the only person that judges me for a bad result, but once I get past the judgment I can see all the solutions in front of me. I've got something I can work on and work towards. The hardest part, when you are struggling and frustrated, is to look at things without emotion... at least, that's what I have found over my career.
Next up for me after Val D'Isere was a nice Christmas break where I will get a chance to see London, England for a few days and meet up with Chemmy Alcott. She is recovering well from her crash in Lake Louise but the road ahead will be long for her. I have also just heard that Larisa Yurkiw has been back on snow in the past week and Kelly VanderBeek is also back on her skis. Can't wait to have them back in the start gate. Happy Holidays to everyone at home, see you in the New Year!