Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Big White, BC - Arrival and Practice Day

What an adventure...

In keeping with the theme of things moving southward before the eventual upswing, my flight itinerary took me from Sacramento to LA, and then up to Vancouver for the next event in the Nor-Am circuit. Of course nothing this season can be straight forward and hassle-free, that just isn't my luck this year...

While taxiing to the runway on the flight from LA to Vancouver, the pilot informed us that due to some small electrical issue, we had to return to the gate for a mandatory inspection. No big deal, we were only supposed to be delayed for about 5-10min. My schedule was strict though, and this was a late-night flight, so I had about an hour window to work with before I might be in danger of missing my rental car reservation before they closed for the night. Sure enough, 10min turned to 15, and 15min turned into 30. When 30min hit, I knew I was in trouble; missing my rental car meant missing the early morning drive to Big White (about 4 and a half hours east). The rental car station didn't open again until 5am, which would cause a delay in my arrival to the resort, and potentially the complete loss of practice day. In a scurry, I called the rental car station from the plane. I spoke with a rep and told them who I was, he confirmed my reservation and flight info, and ASSURED ME someone would stay at the Kiosk until my arrival. Thank goodness!

45 minutes behind schedule, we were finally in the air. There were empty seats EVERYWHERE! Note to self: Book a late-night flight whenever possible; you can stretch out completely across your row for a nap, move to a different row that looks more comfortable, on in my case, move to the very front coach row so you can get off the place early and RUN to get your rental car in time.

Everything worked out just fine, I got off the plane quick, customs didn't take too long since it was so late at night, and my luggage was off of the plane in no time at all. I grabbed my stuff, and walked as quickly as I could to get my car and get over to the resort. I walk into the rental station and it's a ghost town. No people, no lights, but most importantly NO EMPLOYEES. They were completely closed, locked up, lights out...I was STUCK. With nothing to do from 1am-5am, I pulled up a bench, stuck my gear underneath, and slept until the employees got there the next morning...

My bed for the next 4 hours...

Needless to say, I had lots to talk about with the staff when they finally arrived. I wanted to say so much more, but just talking was costing me valuable time. I was now almost 5 hours behind, and I needed to be on the mountain. I got my keys around 530am, and I was GONE.

The drive took just under 6 hours, and I was dead tired by the time I got there. There was a stretch of about 60-70mi that was covered in snow; looking back, I think it was probably better that I WASN'T on the road at 2am, especially through that patch of highway. Big White was an awesome looking resort, with a gigantic village. I found my residence spot as fast as I could, checked in, and got unpacked / geared up as soon as I could. By the time I found my way back to center village, I was already late for practice...

This course was SO MUCH DIFFERENT than the Copper Mountain course. The turns were so much wider and forgiving and I felt like the rhythm sections had a bit of a smoother flow. The technical features at Copper were pretty creative, and an amazing mental (as well as physical) challenge. I felt much faster through this course than I did at Copper, but that could very well be a result of having only 2 days on the snow before Colorado. That dreaded Wu-Tang at Copper absolutely destroyed me for my first race of the season. Big White didn't have a Wu-Tang feature had TWO. Taller, more vertical, and even less forgiving than the single feature at Copper, these things were in my head as soon as I saw them. But, I didn't travel that far to be defeated mentally; If I was going to lose, it would be from a mistake while actually ON the track.

"WuTang Clan aint nothin' to f..." - well you know the rest

Three to four practice runs and I had those things dialed in. Up until this season, I had never ridden features like these. I had seen something similar in France, but it wasn't as tall or as vertical as what I had now seen at two different venues this season. I kept my base flat, got my timing down, and popped nice and stable right over both of them. The rest of the course was all about picking the correct line. There was one banked turn near the bottom that had gotten completely torn apart and rutted by the end of the afternoon; a few coaches renamed it "The Dealbreaker". A commanding lead could be stripped away with an accidental slip over one of those ruts, and the rest of the course was flat before one last downhill to the finish line, so staying on your feet there was CRITICAL. The ideal line was a far outside entry followed by an aggressive dive towards the inside line just after the apex. It worked for me for my first two runs, and I was able to accelerate out. Later in the day the ruts were way too deep, and my last two runs put me sliding on my butt after I lost control over the chopped up snow. Everything else was solid though, and I was ready for the next morning's qualifiers...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Copper Mountain Nor-Am's - Training Day

Hectic schedule today. VERY Hectic. There are so many athletes out here this weekend; some of us just arrived, but the good majority have been here over the past couple weeks training as the course has taken shape.

We got to the mountain for registration at 8:30, geared up and headed straight up to the top of the course. At first we were told that the beginning of the day was designated for "Inspection" for all athletes; a great chance for us new-comers to see the course in person for the first time. When we got strapped in, the course tech's gave us the updated news that the course was only open for the skiers. We found a way to observe a few portions of the course, but the most critical was the start section. The start is on EVERYONE'S mind. Some features have changed over the past week, most importantly the "WU-Tang" feature heading into the first turn. It's an almost completely vertical quarter-pipe that takes a perfectly flat and controlled takeoff to make it over successfully. We saw every type of crash over that thing today, from snowboarders disappearing head-first over the other side (followed by ski patrol heading down to check on them), to skiers sailing every direction but straight into the air, and slamming to the other side.

Photo - The Wu-Tang that's sent lots of us flying

For me, I had the most difficulty in that section. I couldn't seem to keep my base flat, and my first few inspection runs resulted in flailing air-time into a couple nasty slams. The rest of the course has some technical sections, a few very creative features, and a lower rhythm section that's also proven a bit difficult. I've pieced together the course, but all separately. I wasn't able to piece together a solid run in the limited block of time we were allowed, but I've got a chance to put it together during inspection tomorrow. The weather forecast caused a schedule change tomorrow, so we're all out there again at 830am. Oh, and since so many athletes turned out, we got word tonight that we get ONE qualifying run tomorrow. That means ZERO mistakes. I'm up here with the Squaw Valley Team, and the advice I've gotten from their coach has been huge. I just need to piece together the start, middle, and lower section and I'm good.

My thoughts (and unfortunately this post) are scattered regarding tomorrow. I really wish I was able to come up here and see this course earlier. I'm excited, nervous, worried about the Wu-Tang, but I'm ready to sleep and get it all out of my mind. I need this experience, and I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Touchdown Denver!

The 2012 season; I've been off to a great start with my off-season training, conditioning, and mental preparation. The ONE thing that I (and the rest of the Western US) took for granted was the weather. It's January 19th, 2012 and the Sierra mountains have absolutely NO SNOW. Ironically, a storm is pulling into CA as I'm sitting in the Denver International Airport waiting for the rest of my crew to arrive. What does this mean for my season schedule? To start, my first event, an FIS USSA Revolution tour event at Northstar-at-Tahoe was cancelled. Even with $30mil in improvements on the mountain, there was no money in the world that was going to bring in enough snow for us to have a race track. Luckily, Northstar is in my back yard, so I wasn't committed to any travel plans or expenses before we got official word the event was off.

What does this mean for the season so far? Aside from the lack of on-track preparation, the snowfall (or lack thereof) has been so dismal that even freeride training has been difficult. Ian "Why Turn" Wu came up with me to help train over the features at Boreal, and was able to give some extremely valuable input after watching my stability while in the air. OF COURSE Ian had to put it in mathematical terms, and we agreed my "-x^2 path of travel should start to resemble more of a -1/2x^2 path." I cant honestly say what's more humorous; the fact that Ian can effectively connect snowboarding and math, or the fact that I'm completely comfortable communicating the same way. Nonetheless, his input was priceless, and just as valuable as getting up there 10 times and having to learn my mistakes the hard way.

Photo - The creative "Speed Bump" out of the start, Copper 2012

Tomorrow the Copper Mountain course is open for official FIS training, they've been great about updating pictures of their progress, and there have already been a handful of videos uploaded that show the course from the riders perspective. I've been studying those vids every single day...over and over, to make sure I have that course memorized before I get there. Over the past week, several groups of athletes have already come out to train up there; from a Shaun Palmer SBX camp to the first race for the local USASA Series. If I had the disposable income to chase the snow wherever it was falling, I would've been out here too. But, I've made due with what I had available, and I'm excited to be here this weekend. Once again I'll be up against the best racers that North America has to offer, minus just a couple that are out in Veysonnaz, Switzerland competing in the World Cup. I'm back in California on Monday, back to work for a few days, then heading up to Vancouver for the next stop in the Nor-Am tour. Right now this table is looking like a pretty good place to rest my head for awhile. Stay tuned for some pictures of the course when I get up there tomorrow!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2011-2012: Game Time!

Thanks for coming back to visit - So far I've put together a schedule of 4 FIS Internationally Sanctioned races for the season. Starting In January, I will be traveling and competing for points towards the FIS Snowboarding World Cup.

In the past, sponsorships have been my most effective means of fundraising. Some good friends at Trokal916 are putting together some T-Shirts to help kick-start the fundraising for this season, they should be ready to roll out in the beginning of December. Stay Tuned!

Also, a HUGE thank you to a dear friend, Tyshara Murrell. Thanks to her, I've already locked down stops in Colorado, Oregon, and Vancouver! Girl you're AMAZING, I owe you big time.

Schedule for 2011-2012 (so far)
- January 9-11, 2012 - FIS Race; Northstar At Tahoe, CA
- January 22-23, 2012 - FIS North American Cup; Copper Mountain, CO
- January 28-29, 2012 - FIS North American Cup; Big White, British Columbia
- March 2012, FIS North American Cup; Mt. Hood, OR

The season is almost upon us here in Northern California, so I'll be updating much more often. Thanks again to everyone for your support, its GAME TIME!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's that time of year!

We're BACK! Stay tuned, some great news to follow, with a full schedule for the 2011-2012 season!

Monday, January 24, 2011

2010 - 2011 Tentative Schedule

2010 - 2011 Schedule

January 29th - USASA North Tahoe SBX, Boreal CA
January 30th - USASA South Tahoe SBX, Kirkwood CA

February 3rd - FIS Nor-Am Cup, Alpine Meadows CA
February 4th - FIS Nor-Am Cup, Alpine Meadows CA

February 6th - USASA South Tahoe SBX, Kirkwood CA
OR - FIS / USSA Rev Tour Practice Day, Boreal CA
OR - Daron Rahlves' Banzai Tour, Kirkwood CA

February 7th - USSA Rev Tour, Boreal CA

February 26th - USASA South Tahoe SBX, Kirkwood CA
February 27th - USASA North Tahoe SBX, Boreal CA

March 12th - Daron Rahlves' Banzai Tour, Sugar Bowl CA
March 13th - Daron Rahlves' Banzai Tour, Sugar Bowl CA

April 2nd - 7th - USASA National Championships TBA, Copper Mountain CO

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2011 - It's GO TIME!

It's been a LONG off-season, but I'm glad to be back! Thank you to everyone who is still following along, the Winter has just hit the Sierra's and it's time to get back on the mountain!

To recap, last season was intense, intimidating, frustrating...but no less than rewarding. I had the chance to meet some great people, travel to some amazing places, and learn more about what it takes to make some sort of career of competing on the snow. Snowed out events, some hard crashes, along with some great racing left me looking forward to this season more than ever.

I trained hard during the pre-season, but after April I felt like the 2010-2011 needed some more fine-tuning in the physical fitness department. Fortunately, I've got a family and friends who were eager to help; Tuesdays nights at 24HR Fitness - My Dad's Cardio Boxing and Core Strengthening class, Saturdays in Rocklin - My Uncle's Boot Camp Fitness courses...every other day - the Insanity workout program, P90X "Core Synergistics", and racking up miles on my road bike with Ian "Why Turn" Wu.

Early this past season I was contacted by Dr. Arthur Kwan of Nu-Smile Dentistry in Sacramento. He told me about something he was working on that he thought was right up my alley. He introduced me to The Pure Power Mouthguard - a device that uses the position of my jaw as a means of securing the optimum posture and power. Sound pretty weird? I thought so too...until I had some time to do some research and performed some controlled tests in the office. We tested everything from flexibility to strength and range-of-motion, and EVERYTHING improved with the "PPM". I used it during the remainder of my season and reaped the benefits of the instant increase in power.

With the jump in off season training for these past few months, I learned a bit more about my physical capabilities and where I needed more work. I was quick, but I needed to be quicker. I was getting stronger, but I needed to be at my peak. I felt a little anxious, so I called Dr. Kwan and asked for something more. He promised me he'd do some research, and just about 3 weeks ago I got the phone call I was waiting all summer for.

"Kenneth - you're not gonna believe this, but I think I found what you're looking might want to stop by and see for yourself."

Art was working even harder than I was all summer! He took some time aside after a business trip to talk to me about something new. "It's similar to what you've already got, but I want you to try this and see what you think, we might have something HUGE here." When Dr Kwan makes a promise, he delivers - so I set up an appointment and came back to get fitted with the TAG AgilityGuard.

With some electronics, a couple wires, and eventually a mouthful of funny tasting goop to "register" my bite, we were ready to get me fitted. In record timing (LESS THAN A WEEK), my AgilityGuard was ready! As soon as I got the message, I was in my car and off to Art's office. The crew at NuSmile welcomed me with huge smiles as always, but they all had an eager look on their faces...did they know something I didn't? Dr Kwan came out with my new device and gave me some exciting news. Just as I had arrived, another local athlete was leaving. "Kenneth - we ran the tests on him, and we got some pretty interesting numbers. We're all eager to see what happens with YOU!" We ran test after test after test...the results spoke for themselves.


I define accuracy as the ability to hit a bullseye, to "Hit Your Mark", or to be "Spot-On". It's my body's ability to utilize its power to its fullest potential right when I need it most. When I think of precision, I think of the ability to hit that bullseye EVERY TIME. It's my body's ability to be agile enough to channel that raw strength and power...over and over again.

I've got my off-season training dialed in, and now I've got my secret weapon in its case. This huge winter storm is clearing tomorrow. I'm taking my AgilityGuard up to Northstar at Tahoe, hiding on the backside, and getting some training time in. My racing season is starting up in less than a month, it's GO TIME.