I spent a little time riding pipe in Mount Hood, Ore., where the U.S. snowboard team goes to train on snow over the summer, and it's no secret the Olympics are coming. The intensity is high and people have stronger emotions than normal. Everyone is working hard to try to get where they need to be for Sochi, and I definitely can see some people cramming for the test! But I feel well prepared.
I'm thankful I started my Olympic journey three and a half years ago. It makes the summer lead-in much more enjoyable! When you're trying to make up for lost time, you have to work harder and take more risks to try to speed up your gains. I couldn't be in a better place, though. My snowboarding is where it needs to be and I can enjoy the journey. It's a matter of steering the ship straight at this point. When I'm not in Mount Hood, my home base is Mammoth, Calif., and there's a lake about 15 minutes south, where I go wakeboard surfing. I'm working out and spending every spare moment at the lake. My summer is short (I am headed to the Southern Hemisphere, where it's wintertime), so I have to make it count. Work hard, play hard!
It's fun riding in Mount Hood, which is our best option for summer snow in the States. The snow is super slushy, which makes it forgiving and easy to learn new moves on, but it's not a good example of what we'll see in the middle of winter. These are my East Coast roots talking, but I like a firm, icy halfpipe. I like to use my edges, be aggressive and know what I'm getting into.
Soon enough, though. I'm New Zealand-bound this week, heading for Wanaka, which is basically the Southern Hemisphere hub for snowboarding. Our summer is their winter, so we go there and all of a sudden it's straight winter and the sun is setting at 5 p.m. And we go straight into our first contest next week. It's a World Cup competition in Cardrona, just outside of Wanaka, that kicks off the points season for 2013-14. For some countries, these events start to count for their Olympic qualifiers, and some have already decided on their Olympic teams, but I look at it as a good warm-up since the U.S. qualifiers don't start until Dec. 5.
I'll be in New Zealand for a month, doing two events with two weeks of training in between. Then, on the way back, Gretchen Bleiler and I will be stopping for a three-day mini vacation, surfing in Fiji. We were trying to do something for my 30th birthday on July 26, but it didn't work out because of our summer schedules and training. Fiji is on our way home, so we booked tickets with a stopover -- a last hurrah before winter!
So, I made it to the "30 Club," and I joke around about it; but, as I get older in my career, I know it's more important than ever to train smarter, not harder. That means plenty of dry-land conditioning over the summer, and then taking rest days when I need them. Summer is the time to make gains in strength and fitness, which I know really helps with injury prevention, longevity and consistency. The best training for snowboarding is snowboarding, but strength helps a ton. So when I'm not on the snow, I do these mini boot camp weeks where I'm shredding my body for a good five hours a day with strength, agility, mobility, cardio and core work. Then I taper, recover, and I'm back on the snow again.
In between all that, I'm really looking forward to seeing some movies in New Zealand. They get movies later than the U.S., and there's this theater we always go to where everybody sits on couches, living room-style. They have an intermission and sell fresh-baked cookies -- halfway through the movie, you start to smell the cookies baking and you almost can't pay attention anymore because everybody just wants to rush out and get the cookies! It's a ritual to look forward to every time we go, so I've been saving up my movies. It's a perfect way to spend a small-town mountain day when the weather is bad. We like snowboarding and all, but we do enjoy those fresh-baked cookies!