The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of travel, training, sliding, eating, sleeping, repeat. It’s hard to believe that I have already been in Europe for 27 days. It seems like just yesterday I finished up my last shift at work and boarded a plane to Germany. Since my last post about Race #3 in Altenberg, I have competed in two more World Cup races. The 4th race was in Konigssee, followed by last weekend’s race in beautiful St. Mortiz.
Coming off a disappointing result in Altenberg, I was looking forward to getting back to Konigssee. You may remember I made a journey there earlier in the fall to get acquainted with the new track and do 2 Europa Cup races. As my last 4 runs there resulted in two gold medal wins I was hopeful that I could keep the streak alive and be able to crack into the top 10 on this more challenging circuit.
The track was similar to how I remembered– sneaky and subtle. It was, however, quite a bit faster than before and required very quick and precise steers. During training I struggled with the Kreisel/doodle corners even more than in the previous visit, probably a factor of the increased speed. Heading into the race I had similar goals to that in Altenberg- two personal best pushes and two clean Kresiels. Although I was wary about setting process rather than outcome oriented goals again, I decided to trust it and see what happened.
On race day the sun came out and the ice was hard and fast. As there was nearly a track record set in training the day before, I expected some blazing times. I was off 4th in the race draw and watching the women slide ahead of me my prediction came true. I had never slid into the 52 s range (although I was close in the previous races), and every one ahead of me did. When I was called to the line I tried to stay calm and focused. After giving my all on the push and relaxing into the sled I navigated the upper portion of the track well with very few mistakes. I knew Kreisel was approaching quickly and in the corner just before, I had a bit too high of a line and flopped off into Kreisel. It gave me a strange line, and despite my best efforts I was too loopy in the second pressure and nearly roofed it on the exit and hit the right wall hard on the way out. It was exactly the line I was trying to avoid. The doodles then became emergency steering mitigation instead of fluid and composed. The rest of the track was fine as I managed to quickly get back into form, but I knew as I crossed the line it wasn’t the run I hoped for.
After the first heat I was in 10th place. All things considered it wasn’t a terrible position. I also managed to squeak into the 52s and have a personal best push! I studied the video in between runs and vowed to get out of Kreisel clean, even if it mean skidding my sled on the exit (which is reserved for extreme situations as it is a very dramatic type of steer that scrubs a lot of time).
In the second run I had a good push and a beautiful top section of the track. My speeds heading into Kreisel were amongst the best. As I entered Kreisel I focused on matching the pressures precisely and making sure my sled didn’t get too much height. At the third and final pressure I was prepared to do what it took to get out clean but fortunately I had quite a bit less height and was able to let it go a tiny bit. I came out clean (only by an inch or so!), and quickly tightened back down into form for the doodles and bottom section of the track. I managed to cut 2/10ths off my time for another personal best. I finished the race in 10th, and again achieved my pre-race goals. This time the results better matched the process so I was quite pleased with that.
With Konigssee in the books we packed up and drove into the stunning Swiss Alps for the 5th stop on the World Cup Circuit, St. Mortiz. I hadn’t slid there since 2008 and so my memories of what the track was like were fuzzy. I do remember, however, the magic glow that St. Mortiz exudes, and the sublime feeling you get sliding down the only natural track on circuit. Therefore I couldn’t wait to get back on the track.
Training went well. Sliding in St. Moritz was everything I remembered and more. The track was smooth and in pristine condition. It’s long, which is good for me, and a great track to let things flow naturally. There is one tricky corner, Horseshoe, which can bite you if not careful, but aside from that it’s like taking a ride down on the smoothest, fastest, and least scary roller coaster imaginable. I found my groove quickly and was able to get some very quick speeds and downtimes.
As training did go well, I knew there was potential to have a good result, but as always training is just training. Heading into the first run on race day my goal was to have a personal best push and a clean horseshoe corner (where I had struggled throughout the week). But what I didn’t count on was my helmet visor breaking in the Sunny corner near the top of the track during the first run. It has never happened to me before, and therefore I wasn’t sure what exactly was happening as the wind suddenly started rushing into my eyes. Once I figured out what it was, I wasn’t sure if the visor would stay on my helmet for the rest of the run, or if my helmet itself was damaged as well. Despite that, I tried to stay as calm and focused as possible and was able to have a relatively good run with the fastest speeds of the heat. I finished in 5th position, which again with all things considered, was a fantastic result.
With only approximately half and hour between runs I didn’t have much time to think about the previous run or re-warm up as I had to do something about my helmet. Since I didn’t have a back up visor of that kind, for the second run I ended up taping the visor back onto my helmet which worked fine. I would like to thank my fellow athletes and coaches from other nations in the mad scramble that ensued to find me something that would work in the very short time between runs. I knew this would be a test of my ability to stay calm and focused for the next run.
When it was my turn at the block I focused on the positive, for example I thought how lucky I was to slide on this track, and decided to soak it all up. I managed to push another personal best, and melted into my sled off the load. I enjoyed every second of the run. I was able to channel speed after getting through Horseshoe clean (hurrah!) and simply fly down the rest of the track. I crossed the finish line unaware of my time or if I maintained my position because there is no clock at the bottom of the track. When I exited the track I was informed that not only did I retain my position, guaranteeing me a top 5 finish, but that I set a track record! I was ecstatic!
Although the next slider managed to beat my time by a tenth of a second, I was still very happy with my result. I even moved up one position and finished just off the podium in 4th position. It was a good day.
Sliding in St.Moritz, the birthplace of sliding sports, is magical. The scenery, the town, the track crew and staff–everything is exceptional. The track itself is a marvel. Because there is no cement beneath the ice, it’s silent. And the natural ice is a pure white colour. Combine that with the sun shining onto it and the very fast speeds, it feels like what I imagine heaven to be like. It was a privilege to be able to slide and compete there once more.
Now we move onto another new-to-me track, La Plagne. Set high in the French Alps, I am excited and nervous to see what the next adventure holds in store for me!