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 for...you 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.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 USASA Nationals

So it became official around the middle of March - I pulled a 2nd round invite to Nationals this year, my first year going Open Class. With the insane competition this season I didn't think I would be invited at all, but a 2nd place finish at Sierra at Tahoe in early January all but secured my spot.

This year was so much different than the last two seasons, I decided not to pursue any Slalom or Giant Slalom events, so I was only traveling to Colorado for one event. Last year I was there for an entire week and it was exhausting; This year I would make plans to fly in, compete, and fly out within 2 and a half days. I know the race track, and the practice format only allows for a small two hour window 5 days before our event, so it was no use flying in a week early.

Studying the course before Race Day

The Open Class qualifications were similar to what I had seen in the FIS Circuit this year, with the exception of the Time Trials; FIS allows you to correct mistakes on a 2nd timed run - USASA gave us ONE. ONE time trial run, ONE run to dial in your fastest time...and ONE mistake would almost guarantee an early trip home without a chance to make adjustments.

Time Trials started at 10:30am sharp, and as we all received our lineup, we all got prepped. Being intimidated by my competition wasn't new to me, after all this is only my third season doing this. A great friend with some wise words taught me how to get over that, but this time things were so much different. The final roster was stacked with XGames competitors, FIS North American Cup champions as well as FIS World Cup competitors. Scattered around the rider area were personal coaches, wax technicians, and insanely fast racers. I briefly thought I was in over my head; I could very well be eliminated at time trials against a field of this caliber - soon my number was called and I was up.

Beep...Beep...Beep...Beep...Beeeeeeeeep - GONE

I boosted over the Wu-Tangs, pumped the rollers and approached the Entry Step-down. My run felt okay aside from a small mistake early in the course, but I had made corrections to try and keep my time as fast as I could. When I crossed the finish line I stayed down at the finish area with the rest of the riders, waiting to see the final roster. When the final roster was stacked, my name was on it! My first year in Open Class, and I'm IN!

We all headed up top to get ready for brackets; most of the riders dropped their boards off with their coaches and wax techs - I grabbed my wax and started prepping as much as I could.

When the final brackets were listed, we all lined up accordingly. USASA brackets are in 6-man format, compared to the FIS 4-man setup. My heat was next, and I took a quick look at the guys I was up against - WOW. One guy from the Winter XGames Boardercross FINALS, and one front runner for the FIS Nor-Am Championship. I chose to come here, so it was all a matter of sucking it up, getting in the gates, and making it into the top three.


6 men wide, we dropped into the first Wu-tang, and I noticed the crowd shifting over to my race line. I was in the left-most gate, and the course entry funnels directly into my path. If the person in gate 1 doesn't make it to the front of the pack QUICK, they're going to get taken out. By the second Wu-Tang I was running just barely behind the pack. I tried to make a last minute adjustment and ended up railing on an edge and sliding out...GAME OVER. By the time I got moving again it was way too late, a fraction of a second was the only thing that separates riders in time trials, so a mistake like this will cost ANYONE in the heats.

The winner of my heat ended up going on to win all the way up to the Semi Final Round, eventually advancing all the way to Finals. The other two of the top 3 advanced up to Semi Finals as well.

In all, my experience out there was amazing. I was way ahead of where I saw myself this year, and just being able to get in the gates with some of the best racers in the US was more than worth my time and effort. I met some amazing people this year, and I expect things to only get bigger from here. I have so many people to thank for this journey, in fact I'll post something completely separate specifically for you all.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to follow along, stay tuned!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

It aint over!

Picture: Christopher Encina Designs, Elk Grove CA

My apologies for taking such a long break between posts.

Amongst an unbelievably hectic schedule, I'm making some plans to attend the Nor-Am Continental Cup at Mt. Hood NEXT WEEKEND...

I won't know for sure until Tuesday, stay tuned!

I have alot to say about this season, my experiences, the people I have to thank, and what I'm looking forward to in the near future, and I'll have it up soon.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back on Home Turf...

Photo - PPM locked in, gated up and ready for launch

This past weekend was my first USASA Race since last seasons Nationals at Copper Mountain...

USASA South Tahoe Boardercross actually started last weekend, but after learning the hard lessons that came along with competing while SICK, I decided to take that weekend off. This was probably the smartest decision I've made in the last month of hustling all over the globe...

The weekend started off with some much needed on-mountain time with great company. Ian Wu and I got up to Sierra early Saturday morning. We wanted to get in on what was left of the "10 feet" that the last round of gigantic storms supposedly dumped on the Sierra's. Apparently all 10 feet must have fallen SOMEWHERE ELSE; Sierra didn't look too much different than the last time I was there about a month ago. Nevertheless, I had a race to prepare for, and Sierra has always been my favorite spot to go FAST. We met up with a couple other friends and had a blast (Thanks Chad and Melissa!). I ran with a freestyle stance, spent plenty of time on the hill, and had a chance to dial in some Air Time in the terrain parks.

After a full day, Ian and I headed down to South Lake for the night. The 3rd man in our crew was already out there for the weekend, so we gave him a call and brought back an old tradition; Elgin, Ian, and I - Harrah's Friday Night Buffet time! We caught up on old times, ate until we lost track of time, then headed out for the evening. For Ian and I, we got to the room and headed to sleep...Sunday was a big day. By 10pm, LIGHTS OUT...

The weather predicted a partly cloudy day Sunday, but we woke up to crystal clear skies! By 730, we were out of the house and on the way to Kirkwood.

The vibe at registration was SO MUCH DIFFERENT than I've experienced over the past month and a half. USASA has ALWAYS been so family oriented, and it was great to be back in a place where even amongst the heat of competition, it felt like home. I got up to the course for inspection, and got myself dialed in for heats.

I had raced on this course once last season, but Sunday's course was so much faster than it had been before! Coming out of the gates you drop straight down, after about 20ft, a small roller is there to pump even more speed into your take-off. After that, a pair of Double-Jumps / Rollers. Coming into the second double, you're already FLYING. During inspection, the confusion was mostly around this part of the course; "Do I double it? Pump it?...WHAT'S going to give me the most speed?!?" Whatever you decide to do, you have to be stable immediately; between the landing of the second Double and the long lazy turn 1 - FOUR rhythm rollers are waiting to take you right off your feet. Those things were a haunting reminder of the Triple that took me out of competition at Copper just 2 weeks ago. But, the experience prevailed and I killed those things every run.

After the entry, the course was mostly straight forward. The layout didn't give room for any tight turns, so if you were able to stay on your feet and keep the pedal to the metal, you were in good hands. Now, to mix that with a handful of other racers on course...this is where it gets fun.

This was my first season in "Open Class", so from here on out I knew I would be up against nothing but experienced racers. With my recent experience in France and Colorado, I was more than ready to welcome the challenge. Ironically, THREE of the racers from Colorado were there to compete...three GOOD racers. All three had made it past qualifiers at Copper, so it was going to take some consistency and aggressive racing to stay out of the bottom of the pack.

We had an odd number of racers, so heats were staggered a little bit different than normal. Opening heats would take the top 2 directly to the next round, while the bottom 2 would be allowed an LCQ, or "Last Chance Qualifier" to get into semi-finals. Our names were called, and 4 by 4 we got in the gates. When it was my time, I looked across the gates to see who I was running against; two of the guys I had never seen before. 2 gates over - John Retta, a guy I consider THE man to beat in the South Tahoe region. I've seen this guy running for the past 2 seasons, and even had a chance to race against his older brother a couple seasons back. He's got a GREAT pull out of the gates, and he's CRAZY FAST....

RACERS READY! IN...10 SECONDS..............

...eyes on the gates

With the PPM locked in, I RIP out of those gates. Within a half second, I can see that its just John and I - we left the other two behind with a great start. John and I hit the first and second Double side-by-side. He keeps it stable and goes airborne, while I try to keep it on the ground and pump for more speed. Both strategies seem to work, as we enter turn 1 right next to each other. From then on, John pulled away with some amazing technical riding. I wasn't able to reel him in, but stayed right on his tail through the finish. 45 seconds later, and we're in it - on the express lane to semi-finals!

Because of the odd number of racers, I got an awkward seed in semi-finals; one that I didn't necessarily agree with, but I couldn't argue. Instead of getting seeded with ONE winner of opening heats, and two winners from the LCQ, I was seeded against TWO winners of the opening heats. How ironic, it was the other two from the Copper Mountain Nor-Am Cup. No need to be intimidated, but it's going to take some hard work to make it through to finals. Both of these guys have a HUGE pull out of the gates, and both are insanely fast on the course. One of them took 2nd place at USASA Nationals Open Class recently, and the other is also a Speed Veteran, taking 8th place in Open Class Giant Slalom last year...

"Racers Ready....."

With a gigantic pull out of the gates, we all go barreling down course. It's neck and neck into Double #1 - but things almost immediately change. Right alongside me, one of the racers gets a bit unstable in the air. From my view, it looks like a fall is going to send him DIRECTLY into my line approaching the second Double. I'd rather NOT be taken out, so I lightly check some speed to avoid a full-speed pile up. Just as I thought, he lands, veers just barely into my line, but SOMEHOW manages to stay on his feet. My little safety precaution meant less speed into Turn 1, so it was going to be a hi-speed chase if I was going to make it past this round into finals. I remember this round in slow-motion; I would reel him in, and after some unstable flapping of his arms, I would back off to avoid a wreck. Rather than be aggressive and go for the pass, I kept playing it safe - and it ultimately cost me the spot in the finals.

3rd place in Semi's meant I would have to settle for the Consolation Round. After talking to Ian, he said that my timing was actually OFF on the gate-drop. A better pull would have gotten me out in front, and that's the name of the game if you want a spot in the next round. After getting the results, I headed back up to the top - Consolation Finals were coming up quick, and I needed some wax to try and salvage the best spot that I could.

Here it is, "Consi's". Were gated up, it's now a race for 5th place. After thinking about what Ian observed last round, I focused harder than ever on the top of the gates. The instant I saw the top start to drop, I was going to rip those pull handles right out of the snow. By this time we were ALL tired - but I wanted these points, BAD. "RACERS READY!!!....." The gate drops and everything falls silent.

With my BEST pull of the day, I'm GOOOOOONNNNNNE. I blast out of those gates, pump through the drop roller, and hover over both Double's. By Turn 1, I finally come out of the silent hypnosis and realize I'm out in front! WHY did my best run of the day have to be NOW?? Through the tech-section, turn 2, rollers, turn 3, 4, and so on and so forth...with the most speed I'd had all day, I fly through the finish line in first. With a 5th place finish on the day, I can't be any less than satisfied. Still, a little piece of me wondered how things would have gone if I had a different seed in semi's, if I had gotten a faster pull out of the gates, ANYTHING that would have put me through to finals. But in all, I was happy. My first Open Class race, I was in the top half of the field, and I had kicked some butt...

I'll take the positive energy into this coming weekend; Sierra is hosting the final round of South Tahoe BoarderCross - and I LOVE Sierra's track. Thanks again to everyone who's taken the time to follow along, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Breaking Point...

Picture: The Entry Step-Down into Turn 1

The past two weeks have been a huge test...

I'm home from Colorado, still trying to get better, and with no FIS points after all the trouble I've gone through. Colorado offered a familiar venue; During the past two years I've had plenty of time on that race track. This past week, my earlier experiences wouldn't matter. Day 2 was far worse (for everyone) than day 1. The snow started to fall overnight, and continued to fall during practice and time trials. As a result, some of us felt this would improve times since we'd be running on a softer and more forgiving track, allowing us to push the speed a bit faster through the turns. As practice progressed, our speed was actually slowing, as the turns would begin to pile up with loose snow.

As the conditions started to change, all the others would run to their coaches and wax tech's and get their boards tuned for the new track conditions. I started to notice the difference in speed as well, and rushed to wax up for Time Trials.

Time Trials had a different vibe today. The course crew was trying to get through FAST, the weather was pulling in quickly. My first time trial was similar to yesterday; a blazing fast run...up until three turns from the finish. Approaching the final left into the nasty triple roller, you must first clear a nice size double jump into a long sweeping right turn. The problem isn't the features, it's the SPEED. Coming through this feature you're at full speed. Everyone knows about the oncoming triple, so this is the spot where most of us would scrub some speed to enter the final turn safely. For me, I soared over the double with all the speed I needed. When I scrubbed to check some speed, I lost an edge and my board almost completely slipped out, bringing me to a complete stop on the turn...DONE.

When I got to the finish, my time was surprisingly faster than I had thought. This meant that aside from that slide, I was on the money. I looked at the top of the field, and several people had less than stellar times. I could overhear the random conversations about "turn 5 was too loose", "turn 6 had too many ruts", etc. For me, I knew where I made my mistake and it was an easy adjustment. Val and I jumped on the chair to get back up for the 2nd and final Timed run. This is where things would start to take a turn...

I noticed that although the snow was falling, I was running surprisingly slower than normal down to the track entrance. I had plenty of time before the next run, so I opened up the kit and looked for some wax. When I flipped the board over, I saw something that NO racer wants to see..."Base Burn". We refer to it as a "burn", although it resembles more of a freeze, or frostbite. This type of base condition can occur when not enough wax is in the pores of the base to withstand the friction of the abrasive snow passing underneath. In turn, it increases the friction between the board and snow, and slows you down. There's a whitish appearance as a result; when I flipped the board over, the white streaks completely covered my base.

Luckily, I had gotten to know a few of the other competitors, so I felt comfortable going to ask them for advice. One of them (who, by the way, is competing at X Games in 2 weeks), looked at my base and just shook his head. "Man, this base is no good, you better find the hardest wax you have. The only thing you can do at this point is cover it so it doesn't get any worse." Another guy (who will ALSO be competing at X Games) said about the same thing. "WHOAH...You can feel the snow sticking to you right?" "This isn't good at all, if you don't have a spare board on you, better cover it with wax, and get this (board) base-grinded when you get back home!"

Picture: My base - BURNT

What lovely news to have right before we drop in for round 2. I remember having this on my very first snowboard, and didn't know what it was. Back then I had no concept of speed, so it didn't matter. After racing, there's a clear difference...a scary difference. Imagine running the 100yd dash...then getting back in the starting blocks with a parachute strapped to your back. In the same way the wind resistance will dramatically slow you down, base burn on a board will do the same. On the straightaways, it almost feels like you're hitting the brakes.

I did what I could, and corked as much wax as I could into my base. Run 2 started, and my number was coming up. I got the whole wax thing out of my mind, there was no fixing it now, and the wax was only important for the start since I'd be up on my edges throughout the turns. The ONE variable that I didn't take into account was changing...I was on deck, and it was starting to snow, HARD. The adjustment wasn't too difficult, I popped on a face mask and they called my number. Dropping into the course was the same as before, I popped over the pyramids, pumped the rollers, and approached the big step-down. After the step-down things changed, and in a bad way. When I got down to turn 3, visibility had all but disappeared. Come on now, it was one thing to be sick, and it was another to get swallowed up by the course and crash. THIS, was completely ridiculous. I don't know the rules regarding protesting due to visibilty (after all, France ran their event in zero visibility the day I left), so I had to keep running. I ran as fast as I could through the dumping snow, but it just wasn't fast enough...by far. Val and I were both eliminated by 2 and 4 seconds respectively. We still had a 18hr drive ahead of us with the other two guys, so without even stopping to evaluate what was already done, we headed back up to grab our jackets and got off the mountain as fast as possible.

I've had so much time to think about the past two weeks, and the only thing I can feel is an overwhelming sense of frustration. I have been offered an opportunity to write history by being part of the Philippines Snowboard Team. From the day that my Uncle Rodney had called me after seeing a TFC Clip, I had done all the necessary paperwork to be part of history. I worked to get myself in top physical condition, and I had worked to build a budget and publicity to help get me to the required events. When the final schedule for my early-season events was finalized, there was one thing missing that I had NOT given myself. TIME. I had foolishly neglected to acknowledge that the front-runners of our team had taken YEARS to accumulate the points needed to compete in Olympic Qualifiers. When my final budget and schedule was laid out, I would be giving myself three weeks to bridge the same gap.

During the course of this early season journey, I've tested myself on every level. Physically, Mentally, Spiritually, and Financially; I have gone until the meter read ZERO. When I got to France, things were looking promising. However, after all the practice, time, and money taken to get there...we get postponed and I have to leave. I got horribly sick on my way home and was in bed for 4 of the 5 days between events. At first, I thought it was most rational to get healthy and not take the opportunity to compete in Colorado. After some much needed soul-searching, I knew I NEEDED to compete if I had hoped for the remote chance to make it to the last Olympic Qualifier. The day I started to feel better, I jumped in the car with 3 others and drove 16 hours to Copper Mountain. My body put my mind in check, as I was completely ill again by the time the event came up. I arrive at home completely sick, and attempt to go to work the same night like none of this ever happened. On top of that, I've got plans to try to compete in Lake Tahoe and Canada within the next two weekends. Maybe this time I'll give my body a break and actually rest.

I cant help but try and feel accomplished after all this. In reality, the snow season just started. The local USASA League starts up this weekend, and I'll be participating just like I have the past few seasons. Making it to the World Cup is still possible through all of the international races I'm still eligible to participate in. The Olympics were a possibility because of my unique team affiliation, but it meant picking up and competing in an arena that I'd never been exposed to before. Now that I've started, things can only get better from here. I started at the very bottom before, and once again it's time to work my way up.

Monday, January 18, 2010

January 18th, 2010 - Race Day Summary

Today was day 1 of 2, Race Day. Last night I was more sick than I've been since coming home from France, and I doubted I was going to pull out of it by this morning. We woke up around 630-7, and my head was POUNDING still. Last night I went through all the Flu-like stages; Freezing cold chills, uncontrollable cold sweats, it was a nightmare. The ONLY thing I could think of was today, and how on earth I was going to race feeling like this.

I took a Thera-Flu and a Motrin 800, tried to suck it up and grabbed some breakfast. For the past two days I couldn't even stomach the thought (literally) of food, but eating an apple or granola bar throughout an entire day was getting to be a bit irrational. I had a banana, orange juice, some cereal, and any other vitamin filled food I could find. Val and I jumped on the 8:15am shuttle and headed to Copper. By 8:45-9am, the village was overflowing with racers, all loading up to head up top. Val and I got to the starting gates just short of training / practice time.


Just as soon as they made the call, the all-star roster started loading up the gates. We dropped about 30 seconds apart, and got back up top as soon as possible to TRY to get in a second run before they closed the course again before Time Trials. For Val and I, we were able to squeeze in the second run. I'll post a completely different entry and take you all on a ride through the course, stay tuned for that. My first run was a little conservative, and during my second practice run I stepped on the gas and sent it down full speed. BEAUTIFUL 2nd run; My board was dialed in, my timing was on the money, and I felt great (speed-wise). Here comes time trials...

Run 1 - Way too conservative to say the least. Time Trials aren't about being conservative. You either SEND IT, or you go home. I took a bad turn and almost caught an edge into turn 3, and I think that shook me up a bit for the rest of the run. When a hundredth of a second makes a difference between making it or going home, there's no option but to keep your foot to the floor until you reach the finish line, or crash in the process...with that said, I had to regroup and prepare for run 2

Run 2 -
"RACER READY...10 Seconds......in 5, 4, 3, 2....."


Over the pyramids, pumped the rollers, smooth sailing over the step down. Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 3, gone, gone, annnd gone. I was FLYING. Way hotter than any of my previous runs. No time for checking off speed, and no desire to either. I was killing every feature one by one. Coming into the last spine left, I washed just an ounce of speed to enter the deadly triple roller with at least a little stability. Yesterday that triple ended people's day with an injury. Today nobody cared about injury, we just wanted to stay above the cutoff line. I kept that in mind as I pumped the first roller, but with plenty more speed than I had entered it all week long. The second roller was everyone's possible game-breaker, and today it had my name on the extra long list. With my timing just a fraction of a second off, I got popped into the air. Being 2 inches off the ground is no big deal, but add to that a full speed run, and be ready to get slammed. Instead of having my base flat on the ground in time to pump the 3rd and final roller before the finish line table, my nose slapped the takeoff, sending me skyward. It was all over. A billion thoughts went flashing through my head, and I hadn't even hit the ground yet. All I could do was brace for impact...and it was definitely an IMPACT. At full speed, getting bucked off that roller sent me almost all the way to the face of the finish line table...a good 30-40ft away. In the half second it took for me to make sure nothing was broken, I climbed as fast as I could up that table and slowly ran through the finish.

Picture: Triple Roller into the Finish Line Table

It goes without saying, but my time wouldn't come close to cutoffs. The guys that made the cut definitely deserved it. That second run was finals worthy, I'm confident of that. It's funny, I have some bad luck with this track. Two years ago it was Val and I running in the USASA Nationals Finals against each other. I had an amazing run and was in first from the gates all the way to the bottom. A turn before the finish I got bucked by a roller and sent into the wall of a banked turn. Val took first that year. Today the track beat me again. Not tomorrow...

It's about 645 local time, we just finished the riders meeting for tomorrow, and I'm already feeling alot better than tomorrow. The boys are going to Breckenridge Village for a bite to eat and a Bar or two. I'm staying in again to try and recover. I seriously hope I can pull out of this and be 100% for tomorrow...

January 18th, 2010 - Race Day

Sorry I haven't been able to keep this updated, I arrived safely in Colorado a couple days ago. As of last night, that Flu from France came back with a vengeance and I was too sick to jump on my computer.

Practice day went very well yesterday, and there are some EXTREMELY fast riders out there. It's 8am local time, Val and I are getting on the bus to the mountain. Stay tuned everyone, thank you all for the well-wishes. After about 13 hours of sleep, and 3 doses of thera-flu, I'm at least ready to go out there and get through time trials.

...stay tuned


Time trials will be followed LIVE on that link, look for the "Copper Mountain NOR-AM SBX race"

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shifting Gears...

Image Credit: Christopher Encina Designs, Elk Grove CA

I'll have this post cleaned up and in it's full version tonight or tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow morning I'm heading down to Bakersfield to meet with Val Stepanchuk and one other rider for a road trip to Colorado. The Copper Mountain, Colorado event is an FIS North American Cup race. I'm still not feeling 100% healthy after my return from France, but I MUST take this opportunity. After a visit to Dr. Kwan's office yesterday, and a much needed conversation with my Dad and Grandma, things were put in the right perspective. It's about time I go out there and take whats mine!!! If I feel up to it when I arrive, I'll be racing for sure. If not, at least I'm there and I can take the opportunity if I have it. I DO NOT want to regret not attending simply because I've been sick these past few days. This is a golden opportunity for me and our team, and after having TWO events cancelled or rescheduled preventing me from racing, my time is overdue.

Here we go...

Friday, January 8, 2010

January 8th, 2010 - Race Day

January 8th, 2010 – Race Day

Well today started off just lovely. I Woke up at 2:47am exactly, and couldn’t manage to shake it off completely. From 3-4am I tossed about, too many things were going through my head. I looked outside and it was DUMPING snow still. The forecast called for 20cm throughout the night (about 8in.) with another 10cm to drop today. On the brighter side, my nightmares of a rutted out ice-capade of a race course were gone. After what seemed like an eternity of sleeplessness, I finally popped open iTunes, and some much needed Crown City Rockers music got my mind back to where it needed to be. This part of today’s update won’t be posted until everything is said and done, so hopefully when I sign back in, it will be with some decent news. I want so many things to happen today. I want to prove that I have a place here. I want to make it past time trials against a field of racers that are beyond World Cup caliber. I want to earn the necessary points to be eligible for World Cup myself. I want to do my part to show that Team Philippines deserves a spot not only here, but beyond this level of competition. Eden Serina and Jondre Mina have blazed a history making trail, and I strive to maintain what they’ve started. I’m doing everything possible to prevent these things from distracting my focus.

It’s just after 6am now, and it’s almost time to get ready. The lift chairs are on a special schedule today; at 8am SHARP they will open, but for only 15 minutes. This is to give the competitors a chance to get up the hill early and prep for inspection. At 815 the lifts close again until 9am, when they officially open for the public. If there is ANYTHING left on your mental fix-it list, this is your last shot to handle business. Just after 9, we are allotted an hour or so of practice. For those that didn’t make it on the chair lift early enough, this time will be wasted inspecting the course rather than dialing in your line at full-speed. At around 1030, time trials start. They mentioned at the end of last night’s meeting that they “wanted” to give us TWO time trial runs. This would only happen if things moved along faster than yesterday AND if the weather permitted. It turns out that some injuries on the course caused us to get behind schedule yesterday. If it starts to snow, they will go back to the original plan; one shot – go big or go home. Alex Aguilar, a dear friend from way back reminded me to leave everything I’ve got out here… so here I go.

10:19am local time (1:19am PST)

So…about 30min after I wrote the entry above, I get suited up and I’m off. I take the elevator down to the 3rd floor where there’s a side exit door to the hill down towards the village. As I approach the door, it’s noticeably darker than the past few days. I know I left a bit earlier, but there should have been at least some light coming through. When I open the door...WOW…a WALL of snow blocked any hope of getting out. That’s fine, back in the elevator and up to the 11th floor where there’s an uphill access exit. Ha, I get out that door and the “check-in only” parking lot is buried. They predicted 8 inches of snow. At least 3 times that amount fell, and it was still coming down. I know the clock is ticking, so I start trudging my happy little self across the lot and towards the hill. It was incredible; this whole place was completely buried last night.

When I get down to the village I see NOBODY. Maybe I was a little apprehensive, and arriving 15 minutes ahead of time was too early for everyone else? I can see the lights on in the room where we had our last meeting. I walk in and the FIS Europa Cup organizer, the Resort Rep, and the Course builder himself are all sitting there scratching their heads. Francois (FIS rep) looks at me and says “Sorry…I guess you can go back and get some sleep”. No…..No Way this is happening. I said “So, no race today?” “Yep, today no race, whole mountain is closed for avalanche, course is no good”

It’s hard to recall how I used to behave when I was 4yrs old, but part of me thought that this was the perfect opportunity for a full-fledged temper tantrum. I couldn’t believe this; I had travelled THIS FAR, built a GIGANTIC budget, for what? A 4 day snowboarding vacation? That’s not what I came here for.

I left and walked across to the café, just as they were opening and the rest of the riders were coming out to get on the lift. One by one, they all had their choice words in whatever language they were speaking. I saw team Japan again, one of them had talked to Francois after I did. They said that FOR SURE today’s race was cancelled, but the resort was waiting until 9am to decide whether or not to open to the public. As he was finishing his sentence, two deafening explosions came from uphill. They were doing avalanche control, which meant blasting dynamite to set off artificial avalanches (before a regular person comes up and caused the same one). That was the HUGE downside of having no trees up there; it meant the race course itself was under avalanche danger as well. The starting line sits in a gorge surrounded by hills. One mistake up above, and the course and everyone near it would be buried. By now the village café was filled with over 100 competitors, their coaches, and everyone else involved with today’s race. The final word came shortly after; “The Puy St. Vincent Europa Cup has been cancelled for today. At 2pm, we will decide whether or not we can have it tomorrow.”

For some racers, the news wasn’t a big deal. They were staying here anyways. For a handful of the other racers, INCLUDING MYSELF, the news was devastating. We were the few that were scheduled to leave tomorrow. Team Japan was going to Austria to catch the next stop of the Europa Cup in three days, the rest of us were simply going home, but now with no points. If they decide that the race is ON for tomorrow, I can’t even stay. After time trials are finished, I will have missed my taxi to get to the train station. It’s the last train leaving for my Paris connection until early tomorrow morning. Tomorrow’s train won’t get into Paris until noon, giving me only an hour to take a shuttle to the airport, check in, and board the plane. There’s no way I’m taking that chance.

All in all, this is strike 2 for me personally. The first Europa Cup event in Isola France was cancelled due to low snow conditions. This one was cancelled after too much snow fell. What does this all mean? For me it means that TWO World Cup Qualifiers were gone. There are more, but my budget won’t allow me take this loss and simply bounce over to Austria to make up for it. My next opportunity is on the 18th and 19th, during the North America Cup at Copper Mountain, Colorado. The World Cup stop is during the week of the 20th. On the 25th, Olympic Teams are announced. At this point, it is all but impossible to make it to World Cup level by this deadline. I realized this was a long shot from the very beginning, and all of these stars had to line up for bigger things to happen, but it’s only now the reality sets in. I can only deal with it with that much more aggression during my next event. I will still be racing this year; I want to get to Copper next week, Big White in Canada, and it would be a dream come true to make it to one of the events in Japan. I am flattered by the contributions and support that I have received, and I thank each and every one of you for everything you have done leading up to this event.

For now, I think it’s about time to get down to the village and plug my laptop in. it’s 2am back home. “Back home” sounds so great to me right now…

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January 7th – Inspection / Full Speed Practice day

Thankfully today I was able to get back on the internet and catch up with some much needed communication. Thank you to everyone who caught me during my little hour window (130-230am PST) to wish me luck.

Today was our scheduled inspection and practice day, and from the moment I got to the village there was clearly tension in the air. By now we had all seen the roster, and we all knew how large the field of competitors would be. We all travelled here from somewhere (some farther than others), and we all wanted an edge on the others. Every opportunity I had, I would look at the other riders on the mountain, trying to pick them apart and look for any weaknesses.

The weather was much different than it had been the past two days. It was overcast, and small flurries were starting to fall. The sun never clearly came out, so the lighting was flat all day. Our practice window wasn’t scheduled until 2-4pm (2-3p women, 3-4p men), so lighting was going to be a huge variable.

I got to the course early to scrape wax, sharpen edges, etc. By 130p, the entire field was there doing the same thing. It was a zoo. Women started right on schedule; One by one they dropped out of the gates and onto the course, but something didn’t look right. The majority were struggling over the first feature, the ONLY feature on the course I had never ridden before. Boardercross slang refers to this feature as a Wu-Tang. From the side it almost looks like the “W” from the Wu-Tang logo, but from the racers perspective, it looks like a quarter pipe wall towering above you. You come dropping vertically into it, and with a perfectly timed shift of your weight, you compress to lift your board over and out of it.

With flat lighting, cold temperature, and a circus of people riding the course, conditions were much less than race-ready by the time the men got started. One by one they sent us, and we were quick to get back up as fast as possible. As I dropped in for the first “inspection” run, I felt the awkwardness of that Wu-Tang feature. My timing was a bit off, so I landed a little too far out. Tomorrow that mistake means getting sent home immediately, so I put that on the mental fix-it list. The rest of the course was extremely technical. No gigantic hip jumps or 60ft tabletops that you might see on a World Cup or X Games course, but enough tight turns and rollers to take your feet right out from underneath you. When I got back to the top, it was a disorganized crowd of guys bumping, pushing, and elbowing to get into the gates for full speed practice. Imagine 100 guys fighting for 4 gates at the same time. Full-speed run #1; came into the Wu-Tang hot, but compressed perfectly and pulled out with more speed. Turn 1 was a long, flat, tightening left into an off-camber tabletop. Got it. 2, 3, and 4; hard right, into a spine-entry left, into a long right. Check, check, annnnnd check. Turn 5 was nasty; coming out of turn 4 you’re at just under full speed, but this turn starts mellow then tightens into the mother of all “regular-footed” killers, a hairpin left. Add to that today’s randomly arranged assortment of ruts and gouges, and you have yourself a disaster waiting to happen. During my run I caught up and passed someone who crashed on that turn. I was no exception though, as run 2 sent me sliding off course in the same spot. Turn 6 is a sharp right coming out of that hairpin. It’s not a problem since you’re coming out of turn 5 with almost no speed at all, but it definitely plays on that confidence by sending you immediately into a washboard of rollers and the final turn. Turn 7 is going to be a heartbreaker for so many people tomorrow. It’s a sweeping left into the finish line tabletop. Sweeping turn? No big deal, right? Not even, I think the MOST CRASHES happened on turn 7 today. ON THE WALL of the turn (not before, not after, but on the actual bank), two rollers are there to take that first place spot you thought you had, and replace it with a nice crash that you probably won’t recover from. For me, I held an outside line to avoid the sharpest portion, and that kept me safe. After watching the rest of the crowd come down for their final run, things didn’t look so pretty. Out of the 20-30 racers that I watched pass through that turn, about half came out stable enough to take the final tabletop. The rest either slid completely off course (an immediate DQ during race time), or fell and came to a dead stop and had to CLIMB the tabletop (bye bye first place). I can guarantee that turn 5 and 7 are going to determine tomorrow’s results. If a crash is going to happen, its either on turn 5 when you’re slowed to a crawl and get taken out from someone hungry to pass from behind, OR it’s going to be on turn 7, when first place is right in front of you, and you think you can pass him on the inside for the dramatic win…and you end up taking both of yourselves out. If you’re lucky in either situation, you’ll be the one who hops, skips and wobbles to get on your feet in time for 3rd place.

Tonight is the final riders meeting, where we will get the official format for tomorrow. Tomorrow won’t allow a SINGLE MISTAKE. If you slide out, crash, or just flat out aren’t fast enough during time trials…you go home. We will be sent down the course 1 at a time, women then men. For the men, the Top 32 times stay and get seeded into brackets. For 33-100+, you’re done. I’ve worked hard to prepare myself for tomorrow, and I’ll be working even harder to make it to that top 32. This has been my immediate goal since the end of last season’s finish at the USASA Nationals. Whatever happens tomorrow, I’ll be pushing myself to the limit. For tonight, I’ll be preparing with plenty of waxing, sharpening, and sleeping. Time trials start EARLY tomorrow morning, so I probably won’t update until I have my final results. Until then, it’s about time to get to the riders meeting. Thank you all again for taking the time to follow along.

Touchdown France!!!

(Please forgive the context, spelling, and any other errors. Ive been writing this over the past two nights, when my mind was so confused and exhausted from travelling)

January 5th, 2010
So I’m here…sort of. Im sitting in a Train Station at the moment (my laptop says its 6:30am) back in California. Next stop from here is the L’Argintiere Des Ecrins station to jump on a shuttle up to the mountain village. I lost track of what time it is, what time I started, and most notably exactly how long I’ve been travelling for (although it’s probably much better that way). I feel like the sleeping pills helped me to be as prepared as possible for the time change here in France, but I can definitely feel the effects and confusion that comes along with travelling this far.

Next on the list is to figure out just HOW to get on the internet so I can communicate with everyone back home (I’m writing this probably a good 4 hours or so before I can post it). The language barrier has been a huge issue from the instant I left the East Coast and heard the Flight Attendant’s announcements. I’ve been surrounded by something very new to me and it was almost intimidating, especially knowing that I’ve come here alone. By the way, thank you Cindy for the Christmas gift, I’ve already used it to find out where in the world I’ve been going, and to order a $4 shot of Espresso from the Gare de Lyon station that brought me here.

…hours later.

I just arrived at my Hotel, its about 830pm local time. The 10min taxi ride from the train station up to the mountain village was 38Euro (I don’t want to calculate it again, it was heartbreaking enough dealing with it already). When we pulled up we were literally 10min late for the receptionist. Everything was dark, and I’m in the middle of a village with nobody around, its -4C, and the taxi driver says au revoir and takes off. Luckily a resident just happened to come out to the lobby to grab something from the vending machine, and he buzzed me in. I was able to call the receptionist, she walked over within 5min, and FINALLY I can call my travel day(s) complete.

Just my luck, there’s no internet here either, so that means I’ll probably be posting this up sometime tomorrow when I snowboard down to the village and meet up with all the other athletes for registration. For now I desperately need some sleep.

January 6th, 2010 – Recover, Sleep, Practice, Sleep, Registration, and SLEEP

WOW, now I know what Jetlag is…

I tried to convince myself that Jetlag was all in the mind, but there was no denying it when I woke up at 430am locally (730pm PST) and couldn’t get back to sleep. Last night’s extremely expensive cab ride left me with some mixed feelings about how well I planned a budget for the trip. And to add, my electricity adapter I’ve been using for my laptop literally blew up this morning so I needed to purchase a new one (my sincerely sarcastic “Thank You” to Walmart). Also, I didn’t mention it last night (since I thought I was still hallucinating), but that 10min cab ride was more like a Rally Racing dream. This dude driving a 4wd “Scenic” wagon was AWESOME, and I was so exhausted from all the travelling that I just held on, but with a huge smile.

Just when I thought all was lost (budget wise), little things here and there became a huge relief. For le petit dejeuner today it was a Croissant and Espresso. I wanted to use my card since I knew I needed to hang on to my cash for the inevitable expensive cab ride in a few days. The guy said there was a minimum purchase needed for the card, but said don’t worry about it and sent me on my way. Sweet. When I stopped back into the hotel to change, the receptionist reminded me that I needed to turn in my card for the room deposit. But, she said “you are probably busy, you can just do it the next day, or even the next day”. When I came back in the afternoon to remind her, SHE was busy. She just said not to worry about it. Sweet again. I got down to the village to purchase a lift ticket, this is where I was convinced that I would be shocked, lift tickets in Tahoe are around $70USD minimum. To my surprise, lift tickets were only 26,60EU. Sweet yet again. I grabbed my stuff and went straight up top to check out the terrain.

AMAZING! The closest comparison I can make is the Blackcomb Glacier up in Canada. The mountains were gigantic, and completely surrounded the horizon. There were only a handful of trees on the entire resort, which meant wide open riding off of every chair. It had recently snowed up here, so there were fresh tracks everywhere. I was on my race board, so powder wasn’t gonna cut it today, although it was extremely tempting. From my first lap I could already tell there were competitors here. I could see people on the wide open trails practicing turns in groups of 5-10. Later I found out it was the home team, France is registered with 20+ ppl. The race track was being built throughout the day, so I frequently stopped by to lay out the rhythm in my mind. But, I finally gave in and went up top to catch the breathtaking view; some of the pictures posted on my Facebook Page will show it.

Practice went well today, and I got a chance to meet some great people. Hand gestures have become a standard, since I swear French is the most difficult language in the Universe. It’s now 8pm here locally and we just finished up the riders / team captain meeting to grab our jerseys. There are over 100 people registered, which according to the organizing committee is low compared to what was anticipated. This same weekend, the FIS World Cup takes place in Bad Gastein, Austria. Had it not been for so many riders going to World Cup, they would have seen close to 200 registered today. I got a chance to meet Team Japan tonight and was able to communicate with them much easier than anyone else in the past two days (THANK YOU Sanchez-Sensei and Masuyama-Sensei). Judging by the point numbers on the roster, there are some killer racers here. At least a quarter of the racers are well beyond the 50pt. minimum for World Cup entry. None of that is in my head, I know what I’m here for, and I want to take it. A very good friend reminded me that when it comes time to step in the gates, the guys next to you are just as nerve-racked as you are. When I keep that mindset locked in, I can look down my race line and everything else disappears…

Tomorrow is our official Inspection / Practice day. We aren’t allowed on the course until 230pm, with inspections first followed by an hour of full-speed practice. Tonight, my little seafood couscous dinner will be followed by a huge helping of race waxing, edge tuning / sharpening, and sleep. HOPEFULLY I will have this posted by tomorrow, I was able to find another power adapter for my laptop down in the village.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Next stop, France...

As the 2009 year came to a close, I was surrounded by great people and it reminded me just how much I had to be thankful for. With my very first international event coming up next week, it's been important to acknowledge all of the much needed support that I've received. The list of people I have to thank is so much larger than what I have listed on my blog.

To be completely honest, I'm going into next week with VERY mixed feelings. It's my first time traveling overseas. It's my first time attempting to take on an international field of competitors. I'm traveling alone. I've learned about 17 French words. What's really in store out there?

With only a day left before I leave, I also note the brighter side. I may be traveling alone, but I've got all of my reservations laid out and printed. The mountain in France is at an equivalent elevation to our mountains here in Tahoe. I'm READY. My new board is READY. My mind is READY. The European teams want these points, but I want them more. The Philippines team has been working hard all over the globe to make this year historical, and it's my time to contribute.

I leave early Monday from San Francisco, and I'll have my camera out the second I land in France. For those of you that have been following along, I will have my phone but I don't plan on using it. As soon as I'm settled in at the Puy St. Vincent village, I'll have my Facebook Page signed in to chat with you all. Once again I would like to thank each and every one of you for your continued support leading up to this season, I can't wait to come back with some great results.

Kenneth C.