Wednesday, March 4, 2015

World Champs

World Champs...

I think I want to broaden this topic to "big events", including World Champs, Olympic Games, etc. I love "big events". I have had many different results at these events including DNFs, winning second runs, bad results, good results and everything in between. I stood in my room in Beaver Creek and all of a sudden, it hit me, no matter what my results would be at the World Championships, I already loved them.

I started to try to figure out why. At a big event why do I feel like I've still won something even when I straddle? Why is my heart calm even before what is considered a high pressure event? 

1)   Family and Friends

I am incredibly lucky because I have amazing support around me from my family and friends. My friends at home have been known to dress up for the Olympics to have a Canadian tv watching party when I race. They send me songs to give me some "swagger" at the start. My grandparents send me photos that they have found online  and seem to always know what to say on good days and bad days. My mom’s fiancĂ© is one of my greatest cheerleaders. He makes it possible for my mom to travel to see me. (Oh and they met at the Vancouver Olympics) My mom has been with me every step of the way, and finally she was able to come to a big event. And most of you know my dad. He can be found on the side of the hill with the huge lens taking photos. (photo cred: Andy Mielzynski)

   I will always cherish the feeling I had when I realized that Canada podiumed at the team event and 
   my parents and Clay would be able to be with me as I stepped on the podium. This has always been  one of my biggest dreams.

   And of course none of this would be possible without my technician Marco!

2)   Length of Stay
   I know many of you think that we must love traveling every few days, however I am a terrible packer and I hate packing. I love staying in a place for a few days, unpacking my clothes, setting out my toiletries and having time to explore the town. A hotel room begins to feel like home after at least 4 days. Beaver Creek started to feel like home.

    3) Team
   I love when our team comes together as one. I enjoy when our men’s and women’s teams are at the same event. When we can cheer on our team, catch up with friends and maybe if things align play a game of keep up. I love feeling like a team, and in Sochi we were a huge team. The lugers, the skaters, the skiers, the boarders, and everyone else were a huge Canadian family. We were united as one.

3) The Crowd
   At big events the crowd becomes even louder and more loving. Nothing will ever compare to crossing the finish line at the Vancouver Olympics and seeing so many Canadian flags and hearing the crowd go crazy just because I was Canadian. However, the crowd was nearly just as loving at the World Champs in Vail. They cheered for everyone from start to finish, however I think they had a special love for the Canadians as well as the Americans. 

   After the slalom race, I was able to be apart of the awards ceremony because I came 6th. I will never forget standing on that stage with Mikaela Shiffrin on top of the podium. I have never seen a crowd like that. I stood on that stage and fell in love with skiing even more because I saw how many people she inspired that day. She was so strong under pressure and that crowd… they loved every second of it.

   4) Inspire and Be Inspired 
At Beaver Creek I was able to attend a Fast and Female event with some of the young ski racers in the community. For many big events we speak at schools,  or get emails from young racers, or sign autographs, however what rings true time and time again is how inspired I am at these events. How much harder I want to work, how much better I want to be, how I realize that just maybe what I am doing might make a difference. I am so inspired by these young athletes and I learn from them time and time again. Also, how about that Dustin Cook?
   (Can you see him up there?) 
   5) Team Events
   (photo cred: Andy Mielzynski)

My love for team events has been a torrid affair. I have loved duals since I was racing down our small poma hill at Georgian Peaks. I have loved team events since I raced for Ontario at the Canadian Nationals when all the other provinces would call us “Onterrible”. I love head to head competition, however I especially love it when you are competing for your teammates and your country. 

   At the 2013 World Champs, our team was led by Mike Janyk and he was incredibly excited to be racing the event. The rest of us fed off of this energy throughout the night. 

   We finished 4th that year, missing the podium by 0.01. This year our team members were a bit different, but so was the message… We can podium. I am proud of every single member of the team whether they raced or not because that day we were Canada, from team members coming back to win races after bad falls, 

   (Candace was Canada's sweetheart that day!... nice entrance into her first World Champs)

   to others being in their boots all day ready to give us our hats for the podium.

6) Etcetera

     It's amazing hearing people on the streets talking about skiing. "Did you see how strong Ligety was today?" "Yes, it was a real battle between him and Hirscher." In North America, we hardly ever hear this kind of friendly banter about ski racing, especially from random people on the street. I like how we have many days of training leading up to big events. We can start slowly and begin building into these events, without rushing and without panic. I love watching the races and watching what people do; watching them step up under pressure, watching them prove people wrong, or watching them enjoying themselves to the fullest (And smiling into the lens of a camera at the start). (photo cred: Penta Photo)

   I was able to be a spectator at the Cross Country World Champs in Falun. I hiked up the hill and tried to dodge other spectators dressed as Mrs Norway and Mr Sweden. It was amazing to see all of the fans cooking on their coal stoves, and cheering heartily for their Swedish athletes. Lenny and I watched the 50km race in Stockholm on his cell phone in a coffee shop. People kept coming up behind us to see who was winning and what was going on. You have got to love big events :) 

  Big events don’t come around often, and yes there is pressure, however each of these events holds a special place in my heart. As athletes what we do is pretty special, but sometimes this is forgotten and can go unnoticed. At these times it takes a big event to shake things up a little bit. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for being part of my family and team. Thank you for allowing me to do what I do and to represent Canada.

Sunday, January 18, 2015



nounplural journeys.

a traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather longtime; trip:
a distance, course, or area traveled or suitable for traveling
a period of travel:
passage or progress from one stage to another

As ski racers, we journey, in all definitions of the word. This particular journey in my life has been a crazy one. Filled with many ups and down, highs and lows. I knew my journey wouldn't be a linear path, however the past few years have taught me how true the image below is, as well as that there are many ways to define success. 

Recently I was asked how I continue to believe in myself.... Well some days I take this goose's lead. 

Here are a few pictures from the last few months. 
Our camp to Pitztal and Solden was difficult and challenging, as usual. It's always an eye opener training/racing on these steep, rough pitches.

Somedays I look towards nature to cheer me up. At times, I think that animals can feel our emotions and know exactly what we need.

Next we travelled to Colorado for our Levi prep. I felt prepared, strong and fast, and I was ready to begin building after last year. However, this was not what was in store for me.
In Levi, Finland I straddled at the top of the last pitch.

The sun shone in Levi this year, helping me overcome this curve in my path. And I tried to learn from my mistakes and look forward.

(Photo: Pentaphoto)

Next we travelled back to Colorado to begin our prep for the Aspen World Cup and Nor Am races. My prep went well, and we trained hard in the days leading up to 6 races in a row. 

However, I straddled the the top in Aspen, and a little piece of my heart broke. This was not part of the plan. The plan was to build and learn and grow.

Sometimes when difficulties arise all you can do is go back to your roots. My favourite place in the world in my cottage. A road runs around the lake, which my grandpa cleared himself. Every day he takes his motorcycle or tractor out to the beaver dam to control the levels of the lake. Every few days he picks loose rocks out of the road, so that he doesn't run over them and fall. 

I needed to pick a few rocks out of my road.

I had to get back to my roots.

Our next race was in Are, Sweden. I raced to finish. I started 33rd and ended up 16th after first run. As soon as I crossed the finish line, relief washed over me. I finished a first run! I ended up 21st overall and it was a great day. It was my first finish in about 10 months. (Photo: Pentaphoto)

Again I went back to the basics. I spent Christmas with my team in Europe. I was able to see Lenny race in Switzerland and cheer from the sidelines. Then Lenny came to Italy to spend a few days with my team. It was refreshing and rejuvenating and put a fresh perspective on skiing and training. Despite our car getting broken into... it was a great Christmas.

Next stop, Kutai. My rabbit heart almost couldn't take Kutai. It is an interesting feeling standing at the bottom of the race, after you have gone, waiting to see if you were good enough. I didn't think that I would get a second run. When I realized that I made it into the second run, I felt lucky and I wanted to take advantage of what was given to me. I moved from around 28th to 16th in the second run. It was my first time standing in the leader's box in a long time :) (Photo: Pentaphoto)

After a few days of training we headed to icy Zagreb. One of my favourite races. 

After the first run I ended up about 16-18th, but I knew that I could make my skiing flow more. I had a plan. In the second run I put this plan into action. I moved up to 6th place after the second run. I had so much fun skiing that second run and felt in control and calm. And I was able to share the leader's box with Mitch :) (Photo: Pentaphoto)

After Zagreb I decided to try to get better at Lenny's sport... It's a work in progress. 

Which brings us to our most recent race, Flachau. Everything did not go as planned leading up to Flachau, however I knew that I needed to trust my skiing. I was excited because I love night races and my dad was going to be on the hill taking photos. I ended up 12th and it was amazing sharing this experience with my dad. (photo credit: Andy Mielzynski)

Thank you to my sponsors Polar Securities, the Dattels family, Rossignol, Uvex and Leki for joining me on my journey and making it possible. 

It's been one of heartbreak, happiness, tears, believing, failing to believe and so much more; but " the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." (Lao Tzu)