Sunday, March 28, 2010
Scott skied well today. The first course set was nuts and impacted all of the field except two USST racers who nailed it. Scott's description was that it was so non-rhythmic that he had to "think" all the way through and never got in the flow. Notwithstanding, he was 11th after the first pass. He burned the second run, moving into 6th place overall. So for the weekend he earned two Golds, two Silvers and the Combined for J2s. He also, curiously, finished third for the season in Central Region, to which he doesn't belong. I imagine the J2s will be glad to see him leave.
We saw some crazy course sets this week. In addition to straight courses and way offset courses, we saw the following: oblique inside hairpins, hairpins running straight into hairpins, delays into hairpins, hairpins into delays, a hairpin into an inside flush which was oblique, and for the first time ever, a delay into an opposite delay (thus creating a semi-GS section). I guess the FIS requirement for three hairpins, one flush and one delay just isn't enough for some people!
Some coaches feel they need to get creative. They pride themselves on artistry, even when it degrades the competition. Some of them even think they're Picasso... I do not subscribe to those theories. I believe a course should be straight-forward, rhythmic and challenging. Not easy, just fair. The best racer will always win, but fair courses allow all the athletes to measure themselves against the best.
A rule of thumb is that if a course knocks out more than 20% of the field (barring extreme snow conditions), it's the course setter's fault. Since Scott advanced to the FIS level, I've frequently seen 40% of the field DQ in a run. Another disappointing trend is that this often happens on the final day of an event. I've heard coaches joking about "Sunday sets" that allow them to hit the road home early. That's criminal!
Each of these athletes has worked years preparing to compete at this level. They deserve a fair shot. Moreover, each of their families spend about $1000-1500 per event for entries, lodging, meals and travel. I don't think we have the right to be so cavalier about their investments.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Today Scott brought his Slalom points down to 41, thus fully meeting US Ski Team criteria. Of course, nothing is official. The invitation letters go out in May. However, for the time being he's the only non-team member to meet criteria this year, so we sort of expect the letter.
This is a big relief for both of us, although we never doubted his ability. Now that it's done he can relax and enjoy the remainder of the season even more. A good, semi-emotional night for the Snows.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
So we decided not to do the second run, and instead let Scott heal for Giant Slalom tomorrow. The temps are supposed to drop into the teens tonight, so we should have a good, icy, surface for his final event.
Scott also had his first major autograph event. The finish area was jammed with spectators. As he exited the finish arena he ran into a herd of kids wanting autographs on hats, helmets, coats, etc. He was signing like crazy and quite overwhelmed when he noticed Tommy Ford (the next racer behind him) come through the gate. "Hey kids, there's Tommy Ford, the Olympian!" The herd immediately shifted it's focus and Scott escaped, only to run into the "second wave" as he described it.
After the openning ceremony last night, I decided to check out the Olympic ice arena near our house. This is the scene of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice." As I approached the door I remembered the NCAA Finals Hockey Championship was going on. We strode in as though we belonged there and headed to the upper seating. Zambonies were on the ice and another spectator told me they were preparing for a 20 minute overtime to decide the tied game. So we got to watch the climax of the NCAA Hockey Finals live. Good fun.
All in all, it was a very good day!
Friday, March 19, 2010
We arrived at Lake Placid around noon today so that Scott could free ski and train a little on the Super G track. The base temperatures reached a record 61 degrees today and the snow conditions on the slopes were abominable. For those who have trained on the Mt Hood glaciers in July, it was like 1pm there.
Tomorrow promises to be just as warm. They intend to heavily salt the course, which should yield a pretty hard surface... at least for a while.
Scott will be starting 16th, which is an excellent opportunity. The course should still be in great shape when he comes down. Also, the top 30 racers will be shot for the TV coverage on VERSUS March 28th. If he performs well we may be able to see Scott on TV for the first time!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Ski racers can't just compete. Skills are perishable and they periodically need a "tune-up". Due to the addition of a few events by our Region, Scott hasn't trained since Feb 8th. We didn't want to fall into the same trap as least season, so this stop was just what he needed.
But enough about that. Let me talk about the academy. SMS has 120 athletes, divided evenly between alpine, cross country and freestyle. The campus is immaculate and positioned less than 1/2 mile from the slopes. The faculty is top notch. The alpine staff is headed by Mike, a veteran of 9 years coaching the US Team. His assistant is a former CU racer who also coached there. The entire staff is young, highly qualified and very motivated. The feeling is similar to when I'd walk into a well led Army unit. We'd call it "Command Climate", and this place has a good one. It also has a first class facility with a large field house, weight room, therapy rooms and staff, etc The complete package.
Academies aren't for us, but if they were I suspect this would be our choice.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Imagine having nine days of competition and training at the biggest event in your season, then going right back into training. Competition, when done at the right level of intensity, is both physically and mentally exhausting. That means a little down time is needed afterwards. Scott hasn't only been resting the past two days, he's been putting last week's results into perspective and refining his plan for this week. The importance of mental and emotional readiness can not be underestimated.
We spent two days in the same airport hotel just chilling and eliminating distractions (overdue schoolwork and admin stuff). Today we relocated to Kennebunkport and are in an ancient hotel. Scott's off for a run on the beach and I'm going to hike through the historical district. Afterward we'll go eat some fresh seafood (Lobstah skiing!) and maybe take in a movie. Phase two of the downtime.
Tomorrow we start to put the "game face" back on. We'll check in at Burke Mountain, assess snow conditions, prep skis, and get to bed early. Scott will hit the snow ready perform at a high level again on Saturday. Often down time is more valuable than training...
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Jeff said Scott's in for everything, including the GS and Slalom. That would be the temptation... to go for everything and hope for good scores. However we learned last year that success doesn't come without training. Scott hasn't had a chance to practice the tech events since February 8th. Better to be patient and find a place to train.
I called my friend Mike Morin (formerr USST tech coach and head of Stratton Mountain Academy). He's arranged lodging, food and lift tickets with his guys for the three days between the NORAM Super Gs and Alpine Champs. Perfect! Very generous of Mike and very good for Scott.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Maybe it was the big win yesterday -- the fear that by winning the race that didn't matter he somehow put a hex on himself for the championship. Maybe it was the wind I heard blowing last night -- wind that could steal a victory. Maybe it was the sudden temperature drop that might render the chosen wax ineffective. Maybe it was because I acquiesced and let the head coach change his start number from 8 to 4 (I hate early starts). Who knows what it was, but I awoke at 5AM and couldn't sleep any longer. Extra coffee and computer time never hurts, I suppose.
I didn't discuss any of these things with Scott, and went about our race day routine like normal. Good breakfast, equipment check, course inspection, ski preparation, course reports, warm-up, etc. I clicked him into his bindings and skied to my vantage point with a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then racer #3 (his good friend Max Axlerod) had a bad crash. "Start stop! Start stop!" Damn, maybe this was the curse I'd been fearing. "I hope he keeps his focus. I hope he's keeping his muscles warm. All the things he's been taught." Five minutes, maybe more... Finally the race resumed. Scott skied with great strength and confidence, winning the downhill by another convincing margin of one second. Yahoo! The wait was over and the world was right again.
Today Scott completed one of the best weeks ever at J2 Nationals, winning two championships, taking a bronze, becoming the first ever to repeat as a champion. It was great redemption for all those long days working together and those long weeks on the road. He just completed a huge step towards making the US Ski Team and we were both relieved.
Monday, March 8, 2010
The wind was pretty significant today. Some gusts at the top of the course were easily above 25 MPH. But the wind was pretty steady between the gusts so I have no idea the aggregate effect on the race. Fortunately, today's race was simply a FIS race, not the National Championship.
Yesterday I did a pretty detailed post-race analysis of Scott's ski bases, trying to determine how much wax was left and where. Although the snow is warm and moist, the surface is hard at the points where most pressure is exerted on the ski. I found the inside edges of the base "dryer" especially towards the tip and tail. I'm assuming those areas are under the most pressure while turning and the wax is stripped off quicker. Given it was forecast to be 4 degrees colder today, I used a different strategy. I waxed harder under the base and at the inside edges. I still used a warmer wax for the rest of the ski. At the start line I also used a harder application the first 1/2" from the inside edge, then a warmer application over the rest of the ski. Scott rarely comments about his skis, but he told me they felt "slick."
There was also a detailed post-race analysis of Scott's skiing, given his difficulties on the course yesterday. He already knew what to fix, I just had him explain it to me during inspection. All the fixes seemed to work as he won the downhill by 1.3 seconds, a huge margin in speed racing. He also posted the fastest time through the traps at 82 MPH. So it was a good day and we'll try to take this into tomorrow's championship race.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
From a competitive standpoint, the hill leaves something to be desired. The upper 2/3 is steep enough and has variable terrain, but the final 20 seconds of the course is flat and unchallenging. There also are no jumps whatsoever. From our perspective, this hill takes away some of the advantages that normally would accrue to an experienced downhiller.
Scott was second in the training run by .15 seconds. He did, however, post the fastest speed through the traps (81 MPH). If he had finished and told me, "I had a perfect run." I'd be worried. Instead he slipped to a hip and hand on the fourth turn, taking him off-line for that section of the course. He skied great from there down. So tomorrow is a FIS downhill, followed by the National Championship downhill the following day. Scott is confident and looking forward to the race.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
It was the Giant Slalom day. Scott was the low seed going in and nobody in the field had beaten him all year. But that doesn't matter in ski racing and certainly doesn't matter in a championship race.
The first run he cut a little too close to a gate and shinned it, destroying the gate and bucking himself sideways. Notwithstanding he finished in 3rd, just .12 off the lead. He was really focused and determined the second run, but probably tried too hard. He broke the patterning he's been using this year and pinched the line all the way down. Even with that he was running fast and in good shape until five gates from the bottom when he looped low and lost all of his speed. The end result was a Bronze medal.
Perspective -- it's a Bronze medal at the National championships. Reality -- it should have been Gold. He's pretty disappointed with himself.
Tomorrow is the Downhill training day (a non-scored race on the exact DH course they'll race). After that he has two downhills, the second one being the National Championship event. Scott loves Downhill, so no matter what happens this will be a fun ending to the week.
Friday, March 5, 2010
The policy here is that there is no free skiing allowed on speed skis. This policy was imposed after the death of a racer last year. This posed a real problem, given that the transition from Slalom to speed isn't that simple. This morning they allowed warm-up runs for one hour on the lower part of the race venue. Slow lifts converted that to just two practice runs. Scott and I made good use of the opportunity, testing various waxes. Scott's Super G race skis were bent at Aspen, so we've been scrambling to get his trainers up to speed. Based on our tests, we decided to use an experimental wax with a new overlay not yet in the Podium product line. While Scott inspected the course, I prepped his skis.
To get to the point, Scott won the Super G, becoming the first athlete ever to defend a national title at J2 Nationals. This was not without adventure. He charged hard from the start and was still skating after the second gate when he got hung-up on his inside edge and tipped over. He caught himself with his hand and quickly pushed himself back up, having only lost a little time. The rest of the run was great and the skis ran very well.
So now the train is back on track. Tomorrow the Men have Giant Slalom. After that its three days of downhill.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Scott was disappointed, but he's grown a lot mentally in the past two years. After a brief rest, he went out to warm-up for the next run. His question to me before the second run was, "Do you think I can win it?" I told him "No, but you can have fun trying. Impress me." And so he did.
The snow today was soft, and the ruts were easily knee to thigh deep by the time Scott ran. He exploded out of the start and never let off. At one point he was five feet in the air, but he landed and knifed the run top to bottom. It looked more like an Olympic bump run than a slalom. He didn't win the run, but he was in the top 15, only a little way off. The crowd rewarded him with an ovation and he ended the day on a high note. Something to take into tomorrow...