19 days on snow, 7 training days, 14 races, no break.
Since I last posted, this is what I've been up to. To say life has been busy and tiring is an understatement. To be honest, I actually lasted pretty well through this stint and could have had a day off, but it was more beneficial for me to plow on through.
We started out on the 3rd of February, with five days of training after our wee break, the last day also being a travel day to San Vito di Cadore for two slaloms. This little hill in Italy was the flattest Slalom I have ever done and having raced at Cardrona, I didn't think that was possible. But nevertheless we rock up to this place and 4/5ths of the course is so flat you could almost be going uphill... there was a steep, but it only lasted the final 5 gates of the course. For it being so flat I skied reasonably well but found it hard to continuously generate speed down the run. After the second race we travelled back to Leogang for some Slalom training on the morning of day 7, leading into an afternoon of extreme tetris and traveling. And I really do mean extreme tetris. We needed to pack one of our smaller vans with Super G's and GS skis for 6 people as well as all our gear needed for the next couple of weeks. Luckily we had the part-time Juniors still at the base, so they were able to bring our slalom skis to Bormio for the English Champs. Somehow we managed to fit everything in and still have seats to sit in for the journey to Krvavec, Slovenia. Here we tackled two GS races and two Super G's. I skied well the first of these days, albeit with a few mistakes, placing fourth, but the second day I was far too tentative first run to be able to do well. As for the Super G's on day 10, I was far too nervous and ended up holding back quite a lot, resulting in some pretty poor skiing.
Anyway, after these races we were in for a 7 hour van trip across to Bormio, Italy. We were fortunate enough to be able to train Super G on the Bormio race piste on the 13th which was incredibly beneficial to boost my self-confidence for the upcoming races in that discipline. Most of the team took this day or the 14th off but I felt I needed to train Super G and also wanted to train Slalom before the first day of the English, as I hadn't done it in over a week. Subsequently, I ended up having to plow on through as the next 8 days were all races. So... Day 13 and the beginning of the English Champs. It was the first time I've ever been, in the past I was flying home around this time to head back to school. This series was kicked off with a night Slalom, in which I skied relatively well but made mistakes which cost me time. This was followed by the first GS race and I had a mixed bag of a day. With the tiredness beginning to take its toll on the turn-filled course, I had an interesting one-good-turn-one-bad-turn effect down the entirety of the pitch (which, unfortunately, was the majority of the course...). This brought me to day 15, the Super G's. By this time I was in need of an espresso before my race runs and although it is good to do before every race I had been savoring the indulgence until I desperately needed it for a better effect. To my surprise the Super G's went relatively well for me and I scored in both of them, so my points will lower from 123 to 118 which is still something. The 18th of February gave us round 2 of the GS. To be quite honest I don't remember much of this day and have just consulted my training diary to find I didn't write a huge amount about it. Just that I needed to keep balanced over my outside ski and commit more to a cleaner ski. Although it was the last day we skied at Bormio, it was not the last day of the English. The children needed the piste for their Super G so we moved over to the neighboring ski field of Oga for our final race of the series. Here the decent pitch gave way to a horrific flat that, I kid you not, went uphill for a solid 6 gates... I skied the pitch well first run and seemed to carry a little bit of speed over the uphill section. Second run, as my British team mates like to say, I "shanked it" on the pitch and ended up carrying next to no speed uphill and across the flats. Despite the disappointing afternoon, it was made a lot better after the overall prize giving where Ambition became the English Academy Champions for 2015! Needless to say our celebrations consisted of an early bed for the 1hr 40min drive to Valmalenco for the last two Slalom races of this long trip.
Day 18. Knackered. The word that covers it all. Even the two espressos before the first run could do nothing to help. In fact they did the opposite. Because of them I was caught between feeling like I would throw-up in the near future to feeling I would throw up now. In the end I did neither but hit the second gate of the second run with the tip of my ski forcing it to pop off. It was a horrible day all round. Made worse that I had found out the night before that James Patterson-Gardener, whom I boarded with at school for 5 years had just died in a Helicopter accident. He was a spectacular person who had so much to live for. From the many messages I've seen dedicated to him, it seems I'm not alone in thinking that, at least he died doing something he loved. Fly high James, you'll be sorely missed.
Yet still, I had to continue. By our final day at Valmalenco I was completely emotionally drained as well as physically exhausted. I was so beyond tired that I was literally running on empty. And because of the unpleasant experience of the previous day I decided against the aid of espressos. I ended up putting down two relatively solid runs and scoring my best ever slalom result, 54.07. Thankfully this brought an end to the chaos and we were able to have three, relaxing days off. Unfortunately for me, with everything that had just happened, my hypothyroidism took a turn for the worse, leaving me with lower energy levels. But I managed to better my last Slalom result at the Piesindorf CIT race yesterday, scoring a 53.42! Which will lower my Slalom points to 53.74 when the next list comes out. I have a lot of positives to take from the last few weeks and several things that I can work on too.
R.I.P James Patterson-Gardener 04.02.1997-19.02.2015 Fly high and rest easy mate.