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 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.

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