Bouncing back, burning it up
Going into the Beaver Creek World Cups in early December, I was a shadow of my old self. One month before in Sölden, Austria, for our World Cup opener, I was fresh, fit and fast. One month later, after training for four weeks at over 12,000 feet, I was eight pounds lighter and getting burned out -- every day waking up early to warm up, every day the same training, every day the same food and every day skiing worse and worse.
By the time I hit race weekend in Beaver Creek, I skied like someone they just picked up randomly off the street. My energy was totally gone. My good vibes, my good feelings and my strength felt depleted. It was a very bad day at the office.
Less than a week later, at our next stop in Val d’Isere, France, it was another disastrous day. I had been on the road for seven weeks. I was shot. I sat down with our head coach, who wanted to know what was going on with me. All I could come up with was that I needed to go home ASAP and regroup.
I flew out that Saturday night from Geneva to Salzburg and finally made my way home to Bergen, Germany. I have never been so happy.
Over the course of my years living in Europe I have trained out of the Olympic Training Center in Rif, Austria, on the outskirts of Salzburg. It is there that I have my trainers Niki Obermaier and Dr. Christian Schiffermueller. Christian is like Yoda. He is the developer of my program. Niki is there daily to beat it into me. The location is great because it is central to everything. I can train on snow in the morning, drive to Rif in the afternoon and be home to cook dinner.
On Monday morning I arrived in Rif and Yoda was waiting. I explained to him what had been going on with everything in the last month. He saw how much weight I had lost and could tell by watching the races on television that something was not right. After a lengthy discussion, we decided that I would be staying home through the week instead of joining the team in Alta Badia, Italy. It was time to get the energy back and recover.
Over the course of the week I did physical training, but the kind that brings your energy level back up -- very light-weight explosive sets, core and spinning. To be honest, I was scared I wasn’t going to be fit in time for the race on Sunday in Alta Badia. This race is the definition of giant slalom skiing. It is a GS skier’s holy place. So I stayed away. I must have eaten for three people the entire time I was home. The ability to cook what I wanted, sleep in my own bed and simply breathe -- my bubble that makes me strong was in full effect. I was not going to leave it until I was ready.
On Friday I skied again, back in Alta Badia. I took three runs only and stopped. On Saturday I did the same thing. All the while Chris and Niki were sending me my program for fitness each day to come back to center.
On Sunday, it was game day. After poor showings in the previous two World Cup GS races, my confidence was not what it had been, and my start number had moved back. I, however, was fresh. I ripped. I skied from bib 31 to 11th place on the first run. The best part was that I felt zero fatigue in the run.
On the second run I stood in the start gate. I said to myself that if I could not put it together now and ski to my fullest potential here in the holiest of our races, I would never do it. This truly was for my career. I skied out of my mind. I felt strong, powerful and so focused. I put everything on the line. I crossed the finish line in first place with the crowd screaming! Green lights mean you are in the lead. I had the greens over legend Benjamin Raich. I threw my arms into the air and fell to the ground in pure joy.
I finished in fifth place. I was so proud of the work that went into it, and too finally put down an amazing race, a race that showed my true and full potential. I could not think of a better way to finish up before the start of the New Year.