Having cut short our summer training in NZ due to injury I had a month of rehab with daily physio whilst trying to maintain some level of the great physical form I had built on during the spring.
It was tough being at home knowing that most teams were still down in the southern hemisphere or even off to Chile for speed specific training but actually in hindsight the weather worked with us and really limited any snow time other teams were getting - in NZ there was too much snow and rain, in Chile there was not enough!
Once Britt (Janyk my Canadian speed teammate!) and myself had proved to be strong enough to endure the forces of skiing we flew out to Zermatt for a speed camp on the glacier. Kindly the strong Swiss women's team had invited us to ski with them so the training really was “Tip Top!” The sun shone, the snow was very speedy, the track perfect, the netting thankfully well in place (if you crash during Downhill at Zermatt the last thing you want to do is come face to face with one of the massive crevasses there!). We had 7 days of intense speed training. Skiing long courses at altitude really helps set up your fitness for the season ahead - the burn in the legs is indescribable - not one of the perks of the job!!
Cortina, Italy (Jan 10). Image supplied by Zoom Agence.
We had our mini team there - still two coaches, a physio and our technician (wow have the canadians got it right!) and it was a great bonding - two weeks of really focused, strong skiing. One afternoon we went a little bit radical and did a hugely challenging tree climbing, zip in course - a lot of fun but massively mentally challenging!
After Zermatt we travelled to Soelden for some technical training on the injected ‘fridge’ - very aptly named as it never sees the sun and the poor shivering physio has to stand in the start fighting to stay upright in the howling winds!
I was starting to panic at this stage. I had only two weeks to go before the toughest Giant Slalom race of the year and I had skied only a few number of GS days in NZ months before. Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to re-learn how to make some really fast turns!
Off to Pitztal which is always dreaded by all ski racers because of the really tough October conditions - namely the black, glacier ice and the free falling steep pitch. It always takes a few days to get your Pitztal legs! We had some great training and the tech team were skiing well - pushing each other harder and faster every run.
The weather this summer was really strange - some teams got lucky, others spent thousands of pounds to ski in NZ, only to get down there and it end up being a physical camp! For once, we were on the lucky side - for three weeks in October we had blue skies and cold snow and perfect training. WOW. And the only time the weather did come in was on out planned days off anyhow (for a video of what we do on days off check out my Team Chemmy Facebook page!). My groin and hip continued to play up - we managed the situation by using hundreds of needles and daily physio but I had to ask a lot of myself because it was our last long training period so I really pushed my body to the limit.
The first race in Soelden always jumps up on you but this year despite missing such a big chunk of the season I felt ready - mentally more than physically. To give myself a little edge over my competitors (Soelden is such a tough race - high altitude as it is on the glacier and long - so long you get that good old lung burn even before you cross the finish line) that if someone tells me doing something will make me faster - if legal - I will ALWAYS try it once. This year I had read some eye-opening reviews about the benefits of beetroot juice on aerobic improvement. So I didn’t just try it - I hammered it! Victoria Stevens (the young Canadian who qualified for her first ever World Cup) and I hit the austrian supermarkets hard and bought their whole stock of beetroot juice! They had no clue what had hit them! Anyhow despite my poor second run performance, I have to say that i wasn’t tired - my muscles held up so i really do think there are benefits!!
So race day - tough conditions, flat light, my first aim was to have a solid first run - not pushing things too hard just skiing with flow and feeling. (Bearing in mind this would be the first huge challenge for my groin.) The first run was rutty, massive cross ruts from where the early girls had pinched the line - you can’t fight these you have to just go with them. I had a solid run, easily qualifying, in a great position to simulate the second run attack when I won the run two years before. Sadly this time it was an attack to the back! I over-tried - I blocked - I forgot what I had been working on. Still it was an easy top 30 finish and after the tough summer with injury I am very happy to be back!!
End october is always a whirl wind of activity for us winter athletes - I have been busy showing my face at the London Ski Show where Graham Bell and I had a very well attended (possibly because we took over the stage after some fabulous dancers!) Q and A session. Thank you to all those who waited patiently for a signed autograph! Then it was off to the World’s first Heli ski show which I had planned to arrive in style from a helicopter but sadly the crazy rain and wind had other ideas - oh well, the tube although less glamorous still delivered!
Last week I went up to the Scottish Institute of Sport for our pre season dreaded fitness tests. It was possibly quite surprisingly one of the best days testing I have ever done - pulled out PBs (Personal Bests!) across the board with my deep squat 1 rep maximum improving to a massive 115kg and my bike tests improving every stage by 10 beats!! Anyhow it gives me huge confidence that the great, individual programmes the institute are writing to us really are working!
My boyfriend, Dougie Crawford, also in the British Team ran his yearly Race Day at Bearsden Ski Club on Saturday. An awesome day with intense racing and games, Dougie and I even ran a fitness masterclass for some of the local young talented racers!! I have to say I am slightly jealous of the community and support that Dougie has from Bearsden Ski Club - they really do have his back the whole way!!! I guess that is one of the benefits living up in Scotland as opposed to the hustle and bustle of London!!
Having said that I spent this Sunday as a ‘ski-fan’ at the Freeze Festival in Battersea which is a huge event. The talent and tricks on Sunday was breathtaking and I had a great time with my family and friends. We even stayed to have a boogie to Pendulum - although I have to say their music was a bit too hard core for me - I prefer cheesy, fun music myself! Hee hee
Now am resting and having a week to collect my thoughts before the season really gets going!
What with Verbier coming on board as my head sponsor and Team Chemmy going strong - things are definitely looking up for a great and fast winter!
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By Mike Valverde