So as this training block is nearing its end I find myself packing and getting ready for the next big adventure that awaits me. Just one more race series left here on the east coast before I head on out to Vail Nor-Ams which will be followed up by some western university races that are as challenging as they look appetizing, as far as F.I.S points go anyway.
I had a day off today, (courtesy of the projected -30 °F weather), and found this while browsing the internet. It is a post written by Julia Mancuso last season shortly after her parallel SL win in Moscow and also influenced I believe by Resi Stiegler’s first World Cup podium result after her many comebacks from injury. Julia has a great mind set and obviously being so prominent in this sport, knows what it takes to succeed.
It sort of reminds me of something I wrote at the beginning of this season, “The Secret to Winning.” Although all of those words themselves are easy. It is mastering the meaning and wisdom of those words which is the true obstacle to achieve something great. Here’s to giving it your all and having no regrets!
Of course you’ve got your own race day routine that works, but maybe you’ll find something new or relearn something old in here. Or give me a tip that you use…
Race Day – How to Win a Ski Race
Race day! It’s time to execute what you’ve been working toward. So, perhaps you’re in the best shape of your life; more likely you’ve fallen short of your goals. Maybe you’ve had terrific on snow training and you’re totally dialed in; more likely the weather, snow conditions, equipment issues, lack of hill space, or minor injuries have interfered, so you’re not as ready as you’d like to be. Maybe you’ve got brand new equipment, perfectly tuned and fitted; more likely your skis have a few dings and gouges, and your boots hurt.
None of that matters now. It’s race day, what we’ve all been waiting for! It’s time to do the best you can with whatever you’ve got. How will you pull it all together and kick butt?
1. Have confidence! You’ll do fine. You can ski as well as anyone here. If you’ve moved up to a higher level, watch, imitate, and learn; You may not win, but you’ve earned your spot, and if you ski like you know how to, you’ll do just fine, and you may even win.
2. Have fun! Relax. What better way to spend a day. This race is what you’ve been looking forward to and working for. Enjoy it! (If it’s crappy weather, let everyone else be negative. You’re having fun in the great outdoors! That’s a HUGE advantage if everyone else is unhappy.)
3. Wake up! Get a good night’s sleep if you can, and get up early enough so that your body has time to be fully awake at the start. A long scenic drive to the mountain isn’t a bad way to wake up. If you just can’t will yourself awake once you’re on the hill, get some coffee.
4. Learn the course. You’ve probably had races where you haven’t looked at the course, but you’ve done well anyway. Don’t be mislead by that experience; that was a dead simple course, or a fluke. Most of your best races will come when you focus on learning the course, and it will give you an edge. Don’t allow yourself to be lazy. Be disciplined and systematic. Races are won or lost by hundredths of a second. Sometimes you can pick up a lot more than that if you see the line nobody else sees.
• Inspect the start: How high is the wand? How steep and long is the ramp? How hard is the snow where you’ll plant your poles? Is the platform level, sloping forward, or sloping back? Is there anything behind your ski tails to kick off of? Devise a plan to get to the first gate with as much speed, in as little time, as possible. I remember one start that had about a two-foot long ramp, built up on a flat slope. Most people launched themselves out of the gate, through the air onto the flat. Instead, I jumped straight up into the air as high as I could, then came straight down onto the top of the slope of the ramp, which shot me across the flat to the first gate. By studying the start, I gained at least a second.
• Inspect the first few gates: How will you build speed? Is it more important to establish your rhythm and line, or more important to gain immediate speed? Will you be going fast enough for your skis to carve, or will you be stepping? Make a point to memorize which side of the first pole to go on. (I’ve seen people miss the first gate.)
• Inspect the terrain throughout the whole course. Look for difficulties like bumps and fall-aways, as well as terrain that helps you and makes it easier, where you can go a little straighter. Don’t obsess over difficult terrain or fear it; visualize yourself attacking it with agility and grace, and having fun with it. Look for ways to use the terrain to gain speed.
• Look for rhythm changes, traps, and opportunities to straighten out the line. Imagine how it will flow. Try to judge how fast it will be, but imagine it both fast and slow, so you’ll be ready either way.
• Think about where on the course you might be getting tired, and prepare yourself to push through it without giving up. Focus on learning the bottom of the course, where fatigue may sap your concentration. (It’s hard to focus on the end of the course when you’re studying it, and it’s also hard when you’re skiing it!) Visualize skiing through the last few gates, and finishing.
• Figure out the best line through the finish gate. Depending on terrain and placement, it may not always be obvious.
• Take a moment to inspect the area where you will need to stop. It isn’t always easy to stop with tired legs. Look for bumps that might throw you, and know where the exit is, in case you can’t stop. Finish areas aren’t always as safe as they should be.
5. If you have time, take a free run, or two. Start slow, feeling the way your skis work in the snow, and getting balanced over the outside ski. Do some basic drills to help. Build up to race speed, or faster, so you’ll be ready for high speed in the course. Remind yourself to get edge angles and carve before the fall line, and look ahead. If you don’t have time for a run, visualize it. Be ready for speed, and ready to look ahead.
6. At the start:
• Check your equipment – skis, bindings, goggles, poles, helmet, boots.
• Get warm. Hike above the start, do hop turns, swing your arms and legs; whatever you need to do so your core and your limbs are warm.
• Go over the course one more time in your head. If you can’t remember some part of it, assure yourself that you’ll recognize it when you get there, and remember to look ahead.
• Have a confident, happy attitude, and anticipate a fun challenge. Focus; then go for it!