So here we are. The 2018/2019 season is over and my brain has finally had enough peace and quiet to do some reflecting. I often find myself with a lack of words immediately following the season’s end. This season has been especially tough to summarise, especially keeping it below the word count of a full length novel… I didn’t really know where to begin with this one.
I’ll be honest, this past season was hands down the toughest season.
Over the past seasons, my brain has no doubt been my toughest enemy and my greatest ally. There are days where I feel like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. There are also days that I’ve been able to miraculously harness the ability to use my brain to trick myself into riding better than I ever thought I could. My season certainly started off better than previous seasons, beginning with a second run in the first World Cup of the season in Carezza, Italy, and a personal best result (18th) in the second race in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy. Since my first time racing in Carezza, Italy back in 2016, I haven’t been able to get a second run since, so I was relieved to finally break the curse.
Going into the new year, however, something changed. Falling at the third last gate in the first race of 2019 left me feeling incredibly frustrated, and the two Europa Cups immediately after didn’t go much better. Shortly after that, at the end of January, I fell once again in the middle of a race in Rogla, Slovenia. The quest to figure out why I couldn’t race like I trained continued. As World Championships in Park City, Utah approached, I felt like I had finally come to grips with my frustrations and rekindled the love of racing. Unfortunately, this all came to an abrupt end during the warmup run right before the races began. As with most alpine snowboarding events, mother nature decided to throw us a nice curveball and snow exorbitant amounts the day before the race. Some teams decided to still train the day before, but after being advised by our coach that it wasn’t very safe, we decided to take the day off to prep for the race. Unbeknownst to me, the training run that we were going to use for our warmup run before the race hadn’t been groomed from the day before, so the ruts that were created from training were buried underneath the fresh powder. The excitement of blasting through such light, fluffy powder was too tempting and I foolishly decided to fully send it into the great white beyond. Not even out of my first turn, I felt my board suddenly rocket upwards, and as soon as I saw the sky, I knew it wasn’t going to end well. For what felt like ages, I could only see white fluffy powder as I tumbled backwards down the hill. My brain told me that we were never going to stop rolling, but we eventually did after 3 rolls. I decided I felt “good” enough to race. I didn’t want my entire trip to be spoiled by one fall before I had even gotten in the race course. On the second day, I slid out into the soft powder just outside of the course and decided that was the last risk I was going to take. I went home feeling utterly defeated and on top of that, felt like my brain was about to pop out of my ears due to the pressure on the airplane. After a mixup at the airport, I was able to get on a plane without my parents and arrived back in YYZ, without a ride home, miserable, exhausted, and in a ton of pain. Over the next couple days, I was diagnosed with a concussion and forced to miss out on the next World Cup in Korea - my favourite race in my favourite country.
I was able to fly out to the last half of the Asia trip and make it out to China in time for two races. However, those races didn’t go nearly as well as I hoped, with a fall in the second race and once again, feeling incredibly frustrated at the way I was riding during World Cups. To make matters worse, on the long flight home, I managed to pick up some kind of cold that tore out every ounce of energy I had left. I had one day in between arriving home from China and driving to the next North American Cup race in Holiday Valley, New York. Regrettably, I couldn’t find the energy to compete and ended up with an 8th and a 9th place. Immediately after the second race, we rushed back to Collingwood to make it to Canadian Nationals. These races went much better (thanks Mom for the cure-all shot of alcohol before bedtime that was supposed to fix my sore throat), and I ended up with a 1st and 2nd - not enough to put me in the top 3 NorAm overall spots, but enough to lift the spirits before leaving immediately after the medals ceremony to hop on a plane back over to Europe for the final World Cups of the season.
In an effort to try and replicate the mindset of my performance during Canadian Nationals, I took a different approach.
I couldn’t quite use the same ‘running late’ technique for the race like I did at Nationals, but I could find a more relaxed approach in the start gate. This was what I consider my best result, excluding the Cortina D’Ampezzo skating rink where half the field fell before I even got in the start gate, and the one that I was truly proud of. My second run was extremely lacking, but the newfound hope of being onto something, mentally, was exciting.
My season ended with another disappointing slalom race in Winterberg, Germany. I took my time to mourn, and came out of the season with a ton of mixed feelings. There has been a lot to think about this summer. I could technically call this season my best one yet, as it definitely had my best results on the World Cup; or I could call it one of my worst seasons, filled with falls at World Cups, struggling with a concussion and a bad cold, and two out of four bad races on the North American circuit. All in all, It’s been difficult to find the right words for the season. Of course I regret the bad races, but it’s time to make peace with poor performances and move onto the next season. As with any trip, I’m both incredibly excited and extremely nervous to start my training down south in Chile.
There were times where a part of my brain was begging for mercy - giving up and just going home seemed like mercy back in January. But the other part of me couldn’t give in that easily. After some self-reflection, I realised that the main emotion behind every bad day was anger. I was angry that I kept falling. I was angry at the concept of failure. And when I’m angry at someone or something, I don’t want to let it win. So going into Chile, my fuel will be fighting off the feelings that failure brings. As I said last year, failure is a part of the game, and it’s not always a bad thing; It’s a learning experience. I finally feel like I’m beginning to figure out what works best for me at the top of a race course, but this is just the beginning. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done; and it starts in Chile.
As I sit at my gate, waiting to board my plane, I can’t help but flip between excitement and nervousness - but if there’s one thing for certain, I know I’m ready to re-ignite this fire.