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Racers- how to get back into the mental game?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I had an extremely disappointing race today. After having one of the most productive traing days the day before where everything seemed to be moving in a positive direction, I completely blew it in a USSA slalom.

The first run I was skiing like an out-of-shape beginner. My pole plant timing was absolutely horrible and everything went downhill from there. I was wide, late, and every other negative thing you can say, and the course was about as icy as I've seen. It was unpleasant to say the least. I made it down and thus qualified for a second run, but I wasn't happy with myself.

A couple free runs before the second run calmed me down and refocused me, and I started the second course trying to race instead of trying to finish. Unfortunately, I got late coming out of a hairpin and missed a gate, so I hiked and finished the course. Actually, several people commented that my hiking was the fastest of the day. Nice to win at something. The run was alright, but I know I can do better.

I finished the course and took a beating in the points (not that I care). I asked a few of the coaches and they said I was overturning and didn't look comfortable attacking the gates- and the skiing was nothing like I was doing the day before. They said it looked mental more than anything else but I didn't have time to press them for information on the issue.

So, my question is: when you or one of your athletes have a day like this, how do you turn things around? My skiing outside of the gates didn't seem bad, but for some reason my timing and attitude took a turn for the worse once I entered the course.

Any ideas?
post #2 of 4
Mike, I think what happened today was more than just a case of race day nerves. The key to me saying that is your statement about the course being as icy as you have seen. If your positive training day was not on the type of snow conditions you found at the race, and your not proficient on that surface, then there is no reason to think the confidence you had at practice will carry over to the icy race course. And my suspicion is that the couple free runs you took between the 1st and 2nd runs were not on a surface as icy as the race course so the false confidence you gained would be destroyed the moment you encountered the icy surface of the 2nd course.

This is elementary. You must acquire confidence on the ice to perform successfully on the ice, and to do that you must train extensively on the ice until you figure it out and believe in your abilities on it. There's no quick trick to this, tune your edges and get to work.

[ January 25, 2004, 08:05 PM: Message edited by: FastMan ]
post #3 of 4
I have days like that quite often. Sometimes it is a hill that im not totally comfortable on, or it is a set that im not too thrilled with, or for some reason i am just not 'on' for that particular run. I had a similar slalom race today, so dont feel bad, i know exactly where youre coming from. Wednesday night i was having a horrible time in GS training. There was a VERY tight turn in the set, that i only made about half of my runs, and the rest where i made it were less than stellar. I took a very fast very aggressive free run to convince myself that i would still in fact ski, and turn, and went back to the course. I skied very well that next run, because i still had that 'out of the gates' feeling and aggression.

In all honesty, some days youre just not with it. No matter how hard you try you cant find your rythm, or your quickness in a course. Usually, i try to visualize the run before i actually make the run. Not necessarily where im going to be in relation to the gates, but how the run and speed is going to feel. We all have bad days, sometimes its equipement, sometimes its us, sometimes its the hill or the set... who knows, everyone has them though.

After this weekend i have decided to rework my ski collection, based purely on a course comfort level, so i can push it harder without fear of blowing out. Often things like that are in the back of your head in a run. Today, i skied very slow on my first run because i was skiing a flat LONG course, and i figured id be very tired by the end. So after the head wall i rolled through the rythm section, carrying what i thought was adequate speed, in preparation for the final pitch, which someone decided to put a second flush in middle of... the last flush was my focus... not the rythm where i could have gained a lot of time by pumping off the skis more. As it turned out i nailed the flush like i expected to, and unfortunately wasnt tired when i finished, and i didnt gain as much time a i though i would by skiing the last pitch really well... so i defintely could have and should have pushed it harder.

Sorry or the long length, but i idetify with you. It has taken me a long time to get my skiing in the gates even close to my skiing out of the gates. For so long it was very frustrating for me to see people, who i should be beating easily, beat me by 5 seconds. This season it has finally clicked i guess and im getting to where i should be, but i still have a long way to go. I think i found part of my slalom problem a few nights ago, so i should be able to set it up a little in the near future. Next time you practice, try a course that you really like a lot, even if you only set it for a few runs, build up your confidence again. then move on to a training course, and ski it just like you skied the course you like - same aggression, quickness and speed. Stick with it, im sure it was just a bad day in the gates, they come and go.



EDIT: Oh yeah, and i forgot to put in that you ahve to feel how your turns usually are. And know that you can make them in the course. Race surface is an issue, but if it is smooth ice, you should welcome it as a course that isnt going to get rutted up. If its the ice that got you, remember that your skis will hold, and if you were free skiing you would have no trouble with that surface. Stand on your outside ski and ride the turns out. Once you get going and get a few confident turns in, you wont even think about how icy the course is again, as long as you arent constantly thinking about what youre skiing on.

[ January 25, 2004, 08:11 PM: Message edited by: HeluvaSkier ]
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies. We had trained on ice the day before (different trail, same hill, similar pitch), but it really never got to the blue ice stage. So obviously conditions were a factor. The coach who set the course has a habit of setting interesting combinations that throw me, so that was probably a factor as well. Race day jitters could also play in there.

What really bothers me is that I skied poorly even in the areas that weren't particularly technical or icy. I just plain wasn't "there". I could make those turns- I just didn't. For someone like me who wants to improve so badly, it's disappointing.

I've got two days of training before the next slalom, so hopefully I can turn things around by then. At this point I'd be happy with an improvement over today's performance.
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