Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Telemark World Cup, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
The above little note was published late last night. It makes me happy, and puts forth the challenge once again of what lies ahead, the World Cup (and World Championships) stop in Steamboat Springs. For those whom aren't familiar, this is what it looks like!
In that short little blurb is years of effort. I had done all the constituent sports of telemark racing previously - tele skiing, and a dabble of jumping and XC skiing. But to pull them into focus, sharpen them to the best I can, has been quite the mission.
It's also been a lesson in kinship. There isn't really "telemark school" handy, at least around here - like signing up for a local soccer team or even an alpine ski racing team. After my first efforts last year in citizen races, I made a hierarchy and road map - the three sports, what critical performance skills/equipment/learnings I needed to accomplish in each, and what resources I could find to help me do so in each respective portion.
Finding excellence on a ski edge or around a gate itself is a lifetime pursuit. Same with a the glide and power of skate skiing. Same again in the air, and all importantly, the reintroduction to ground.
I didn't have a lifetime, let alone three. So I set out to learn as much as possible in a year. I never promised myself or anyone else perfection, just doing it the best I can. Measuring improvement is hard, although it has come as I've seen timed runs drop in duration. Some days I'd think I should go home and take up knitting. But over time the cumulative effect of all the millimeters of body angulation, mobility, sight patterns, lines, etc. started to pile up. I heard some excitement from my coaches in person or on their video comments. A ski patroller whom waited a second in an empty lift line to strike up a conversation with me said "it really looks like you've got those things figured out". A couple people on the hill when I'd stop part way to lean on my poles and take a breather would say "I've never seen anyone carve telemark skis like that". It helps to feel more confident.
But those aren't my effort. I'd be doing the same turns I've done forever if it wasn't for the help of Mike Shragge, whom I've dubbed Telemark Jedi Master. From chatting me up on a ski day and luring me into racing, to our afternoon skis together, Mike knows how to slice the sharpest turns around, and knows the mechanics to coax them out of others. I'm so thankful of that. Each incremental improvement helps, and once you feel it "nailed" in free skiing, then it's time to execute them with these rutted out icy GS courses with these red and blue poles coming at you way too quick and geez do I really have ~25m between these it feels like I have no room to.... argh! Not to mention putting my younger lungs to the test on our skate ski lessons that served as technique tuneups to my brute force training!
But you talk to yourself down the course, you learn as you go. Derek Mortson and Claudio Berto have been dosing me amply in their ski racing knowledge. They're like yin and yang, and I love it. Claudio builds from the ground up, Derek is the "hit the target" man. It's either "turn higher, we want you attacking the line, on the edges" to "get your ass down hill as fast as you fucking can, this is racing, it doesn't always need to be pretty"!
Wesley Savillion and Max Thompson of Altius Nordic Ski Club this year were welcoming, helpful, curious and always supportive from my first "umm, hi, sorry to bug you but wondering if I could talk my way into some ski jump access..." to present!
It's been such a pleasure to meet, chat with, learn from, and... at least thus far in actually making a first goal, not disappoint these people that have helped out so much!