Monday, February 28, 2005

downhill training day #2

I just came in the door after today's downhill training run and I'm waiting for the snow on my tires to melt on the doormat, so I have some time to write about what we've been up to here in Klosters. Where to begin?

Klosters is a resort town near its more famous siblings of Davos and St. Moritz. It's not a cheap place, and it's full of tourists from all over Europe. We're staying in a really nice hotel that charges 9 francs (basically $9 these days) per half hour for internet access. At least I can write these posts offline and then paste them into a browser window. The breakfast spread is fantastic, the pool is large, and there are elevators!

Our dinners are served in a huge circus tent in the park across the street. The dinners are a source of no small amount of grumbling among the athletes because while the race organizers' intentions are good, their elaborate events kind of get in the way of the schedule we're trying to keep. Dinner is served at 8 and involves three courses served very far apart. By the time it's over, most of us would prefer to be in bed so we can get plenty of rest before getting up at 6 a.m. the next day. To be fair, though, it's pretty lavishly catered with gourmet food, a big screen showing disabled ski racing highlights, and live entertainment along the lines of a different theme every night.

Today's training run went as well as yesterday's. I'm not sure exactly what place I finished in, but seven of us monoskiers were all very close, within a second of today's leader, Joe. My run was about four seconds faster than yesterday, due in no small part to the much better visibility today. Tomorrow is going to be a great race. I'll be happy with my performance as long as I ski as well as I have the past two days, no matter what place I end up in.

For those of you who aren't so familiar with ski racing, downhill is the only event where you're allowed (required, in fact) to run the course prior to the actual race. The organizers are required to schedule at least two training runs over the course of one or two days before the race. The course is exactly the same for each training run and for the race run, although of course the weather and snow conditions often change, which can make the course faster or slower. Times are announced for training runs, although some people make a bigger deal about them than others. Most people use the first training run as a chance to familiarize themselves with the course and make sure they know where they're going. (Coming up to a blind knoll at 55 m.p.h. can be unnerving if you don't know where the next gate is going to be.) After each training run, we generally watch our runs on video and discuss with coaches what changes we'd like to make to our "line" for the next run. Downhill is all about finding the fastest line through the course, and often the person who wins will not be the one with the best technique but rather the best sense of how to use the shape of the hill to generate and maintain more speed. This is especially true on this downhill course, which is fairly fast but mostly flat and not very technical. There are only one or two difficult turns in the whole course, which means that even a small mistake can be costly because the winner will probably have a near-perfect run.

Anytime you make it to the finish of a downhill course is a pretty amazing feeling. The speed is such a rush, and when you realize you made it down under your own strength, control, and mental skills, it's hard not to feel good about yourself. (Having fast times doesn't hurt, either.)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

world`s quickest post

It`ll have to be fast, because I only have a couple minutes left on this public computer. I`m in Switzerland for the world cup finals. Klosters is beautiful and very snowy. Today was the first downhill training run and I tied for second with Nick, behind Chris. If those were the results on race day we would all be ecstatic. Hopefully it won`t snow TOO much and we get more training in tomorrow. OK, more updates to follow when I`m not under such time pressure!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

GS #1

Our first GS race was today. I made a big mistake in my first run and was 19th heading into the second run. I had a really solid run ended up... yup, 13th again. That's three days in a row. I'm not sure if that's good luck or bad. I'm also staying in room 13 of our hotel. Ralph thinks I should sleep somewhere else tonight, but I'm not that supertitious. I know if I ski both runs tomorrow the way I skied the second run today, I can be in the top 10, or at least not 13th again. (results)

Remember that cool radio station in Minnesota I mentioned a while back? Here's a link to a neat feature about it.
Our first GS race was today. I made a big mistake in my first run and was 19th heading into the second run. I had a really solid run ended up... yup, 13th again. That's three days in a row. I'm not sure if that's good luck or bad. I'm also staying in room 13 of our hotel. Ralph thinks I should sleep somewhere else tonight, but I'm not that supertitious. I know if I ski both runs tomorrow the way I skied the second run today, I can be in the top 10, or at least not 13th again. (results)

Remember that cool radio station in Minnesota I mentioned a while back? Here's a link to a neat feature about it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

slalom days

We've been in Europe since Wednesday morning and racing for the past two days. We trained slalom a couple days beforehand and visited Innsbruck. Now we're in Fendels racing. The past two days we've been racing slalom, and I ended up 13th both days. I've been skiing pretty well, so it's a little frustrating coming in so far back, especially after I was 9th today after the first run. My second run was good (I thought), but so were a lot of other people's second runs, I guess. (Here are the full results from yesterday and today.)

Our hotel is well-furnished and has beautiful views of the Kaunertal valley, but it's not at all wheelchair accessible. Apparently the coaches didn't realize this when they booked it through the race organizing committee. CDY outlined a massive conspiracy theory, in which the Austrian race organizers assigned us to this hotel in hopes that it would negatively affect our performance in the races, letting the Austrian team win back the Nations' Cup. It's not bad, as conspiracy theories go.

In non-skiing news...

For sheer novelty value, small children and fans of indie music might want to check out these links to performances by the Fiery Furnaces and the Arcade Fire on a Washington, D.C.-area children's TV show. (Thanks to Lindsay for these.) As Caroline points out, the Fiery Furnaces interview posted on the show's site is also hilarious. I'm so jealous of little kids who get to watch TV shows like this. I bet my cousins Connor and Lucy know all about it.

Friday, February 18, 2005

gruss aus Oesterreich

I'm in my hotel room watching the Nordic Combined World Championships on TV. (For the uninitiated, that's ski jumping combined with cross-country skiing.) Before this, I caught the tail end of today's World Cup downhill from Garmisch, Germany. This kind of stuff is on all the time over here in Austria, and skiing is probably the most popular spectator sport here this time of year. They carry this stuff live on network TV, not some obscure cable channel.

OK, the ski jumping just ended, and on another channel I just caught a news broadcast about some nudists (or so I gathered — my German is almost nonexistent, but nudity is a universal language.) We also have a channel devoted to broadcasting fashion shows. It's like Vincent Vega says in Pulp Fiction: "They got the same shit over there we got here. It's just over there, it's a little different."

While I wait for the cross-country portion of the nordic combined to begin, I guess I should provide a little bit of an update. We're staying in a medieval town in Austria called Hall in Tirol, just a few km from Innsbruck. We got here two days ago after flying into Zurich and driving east a few hours through the mountains. Yesterday we went into Innsbruck and walked around downtown a bit. We visited an old cathedral, a store that sold absinthe, and a house where Mozart lived, but the highlight was finding a store that sold the Hermann Maier Ski Racing 2005 game. Last night half the team was locked in their rooms playing that thing.

This morning we drove over to Wildschönau to train some slalom. We had a bit of an adventure on the way there when our van got separated from the rest of the group. Alison, our trainer, was driving, and she didn't know the way there, and neither did Laurie or I. We ended up driving around 50 km in the wrong direction before we turned around. After a few more wrong turns, we got to the ski lift over an hour after everyone else. We still got in some good training there.

Tomorrow we might go over to Garmisch, Germany to watch the second of two able-bodied men's World Cup downhills being held there, and then we drive to Fendels, where our next World Cups will be held. We train there on Saturday and then race there for six days straight, beginning Sunday.

Monday, February 14, 2005

'twas the night before europe...

Tomorrow I'll be on a plane to Zurich, Switzerland. We'll be staying near Innsbruck, Austria for a few days, training at nearby ski areas. This coming weekend we'll head over to a place called Fendels, Austria, for World Cup slalom, GS, and super G races. Then we move on to Klosters, Switzerland (near Davos) for the World Cup Finals, where we race all four events — assuming that the weather cooperates. I'm taking my new monoski because I'm feeling pretty comfortable in it these days. It will be a great trip.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

bode notes

So now Bode wants to start his own ski team. What's next — an announcement that he's quitting the sport to become a pro tennis player?

I got my iPod back from MacResQ with a new hard drive, just in time for my Europe trip. (We leave Tuesday.) Yay!

The Wells Fargo Bank Cup is this weekend, and a record-high 27 racers are said to be enrolled for the big money race on Sunday. I'm aiming for a top-16 finish so I can at least earn my race entry fee back. It'll be a fun weekend.

Great rock lyric of the day: "Any idiot can play a Greek for a day / And join a sorority or write a tragedy" (Rilo Kiley, "It's A Hit")

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

mardi gras, mon ami!

I've been waiting for a day like this. After making some more adjustments to my new rig last night, I'm finally starting to feel pretty comfortable in it. I free-skied for a while this morning with Nick, and then we trained slalom after lunch. Also, I'm pretty sure I was wrong last week when I thought I had blown out my shock, because it was working fine today. So in a nutshell, yesterday I was pretty sure I wouldn't be ready to take my new monoski to Europe, but today I'm pretty sure I will.

Let's see, what else has been going on... yesterday I was woken up at 7:30 a.m. (on my day off) by two USADA officials for a random drug test. This was only my second time being tested, and the first time out-of-competition. It's kind of scary because from the moment they inform you you're being tested until the moment you seal up your urine samples, you're not allowed to leave their sight. It's not like, "Here, go pee in this cup and bring it back when you're done"; it's more like, "I will now watch you pee into this cup." Then there's an elaborate procedure involving the unpacking and repacking of specimen bottles and the breaking of seals and the sealing of seals and the signing of declarations that everything was conducted in a kosher manner. They sure know how to cover their asses.

And now, some miscellany:

  • A lot of Dartmouth alumni are total idiots. Take, for example, this guy. I'm sorry, but having a losing football team is not a "catastrophe." In fact, it could be an indication that the college's administration is focusing on more important things.

  • Have you seen Jon Stewart's infamous appearance on Crossfire? It's about time someone called Tucker Carlson out.

  • Right after Christmas, I bought myself a copy of Dylan's new memoir from an Amazon Marketplace seller. When I still hadn't received the book 3 weeks later, I emailed the seller and got no response. A week later I emailed them again, once more in vain. So the other day I filed for a refund from Amazon and left the seller a nasty comment on his profile. Out of curiosity, I checked out the comments other people had left him. Apparently this guy is just a scam artist posing as an actual bookseller. I hope I get my money back and he gets sent to jail.

  • Don't even ask me how I stumbled upon this site... but I'm glad I did.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

mexican ski racers, british grammarians, etc.

First off, congratulations to Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves, 1st and 2nd in today's downhill at the World Championships in Bormio.

It's kind of fun to read the full result list from races at the World Championships or the Olympics and see all the people competing from obscure countries who are just there for fun and know they have no chance at a medal. One who did much better than most people expected was Scotland's Finlay Mickel, who finished 11th. But my favorite has got to be Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe, a 46-year-old Mexican-born aristocrat descended from German royalty. The guy has been racing internationally (for Mexico) since 1981 and also enjoys a career as a third-rate pop singer. In today's downhill, he finished last — 14 seconds behind Bode.

We trained GS this morning and slalom on the afternoon, and to be honest, I was kind of tired by the end. I think I need to get more sleep. I was up late last night reading Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the British bestseller about punctuation. Yes, there's a best-selling book about punctuation. At first I was turned off by how proudly she embraces her stickler-hood, but eventually her humor won me over.

Today's downhill was already on TV, but the USA network will be airing coverage of tomorrow's women's downhill and Thursday's men's combined at noon tomorrow, Eastern time.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

X Games links

Originally it seemed as though there was no mention of the inaugural Monoskier X event in Aspen anywhere on the web, but in fact, there are some photos out there on ESPN's media site. And the Denver Post printed a nice story along with a great photo of Lacey and Laurie's crash.

I'll also post this email from Kevin Jardine, our team's head coach, who served as the organizer for the event:

Hi guys! How is everyone? Hopefully most of you are getting pumped up to go race in Europe. I wanted to send out an email to give everyone a little taste of what we experienced at the X games. It was incredible. So incredible that I can't talk. I lost my voice after the event Monday and still don't have it back so if you need to reach me do it through email for a few days.

We arrived on Saturday to take an early peek at what we had to do as far as
the course changes. What did I see? HOLY CRAP!!! The skier and boarder X
course was out of control. How in the world would we ever make that safe?
Well, we did it. In a team effort the staff made the final call on how to
change the course and make it scary and challenging but safe. Then I met
with the grooming crew that was the world's best. They arrived at 4:30 on
Sunday to do the impossible and right in front of our eyes. It took them 45
minutes. We made some serious changes but left a couple intense and scary
sections. For example: The cheese wedge as we called it was a 4.5 foot
ramp that launched the guys at least 10 feet in the air and 30 - 50 feet
down the hill.

We had a meeting on Monday morning with the athletes at 9:00 AM
as our staff worked on the hill from 6:30 - 10:00 to get the 4 inches of new
snow off the track. We had to do everything from putting in the start gates
to dying the track. But we got it done. After our meeting explaining the
rules and schedule we headed up for inspection and our training run. The
guys inspected the course and then headed down to watch Ben forerun for them (with no helmet or poles). Then it was back to the top for the first and
only training run of the day. This was a full non stop run down the track.
We had a few crashes in training and so we cut the women's field down to 4
and decided to move all of them right to the final. This ment the boys were
up first. 10 minutes before the race we announced the heats and off we
went. The first heat consisted of Joe, Tyler, and Scott Meyer. The second
heat was CDY, Dan Metivier and Kevin Connolly. The third heat was Bramble, Roger Lee and Sam Ferguson from Aspen. Tyler, Chris and Sam all moved on to the finals after a disappointing crash by Kevin. The Women's final was next with Laurie, Lacey, Sarah Will and Katy Orr in the race. Laurie and Sarah got off to a good start and Lacey quickly passed Sarah and went after Laurie. Laurie and Lacey both caught big air on the last jump coming into the finish and both crashed at the exact same time. Laurie was the first across the line with Lacey second and Sarah third. It was a very scary but exciting finish. Tyler had the best start in the Men's final but was eventually passed by Chris about 1/3 of the way down the course. Chris held that lead through with Tyler in a close second and Sam Ferguson third.

It was a fun day to say the least. Some of the most exciting racing I have
ever seen. We put on a great show and had tons of press coverage to follow.
I have attached a few pictures but if you want to see more go to and check them out.

On another note. We leave on the 15th to go to Europe. I will be sending
out more info this week. Thanks again for everyone who came to Aspen to
compete, help and watch.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

i almost forgot...

Last year's disabled nationals will be on TV tomorrow. If you have OLN (Outdoor Life Network), tune in from 4:00 to 5:00 ET and you might even catch a glimpse of yours truly.


First, some links:

OK, now on to the news portion of the post... my friend Abby was in town from Thursday night until yesterday; hence the lack of updates recently. On Friday we drove George to Hot Sulphur Springs, the seat of Grand County, so he could get a new driver's license. Apparently when George rolled his truck last week, he forgot to get his license back from the cops, and they lost it. We skied on Saturday and Sunday, and yesterday we went to Aspen to watch the inaugural Monoskier X event at the X Games.

The event was similar to a regular skiercross race, but with a little less air. (For the uninitiated, skiercross consists of 3 to 6 racers all going down the same course at the same time, with lots of jumps, bumps, banked turns, etc.) There were 3 heats of 3 men and one heat of 4 women. The winners of the men's prelims were Tyler, CDY, and (surprisingly), an Aspen local named Sam Ferguson. (Sam won after Bramble, who should have won the whole thing, crashed.) CDY ended up edging out Tyler in the final by half a ski length — a great finish. In the women's race, Laurie edged out Lacey (who is engaged now, by the way), and they both had spectacular crashes on the last air and slid across the finish line. The crowd watching the race wasn't huge, but people were into it. Hopefully next year they'll make this an official event, move it to prime time, and put it on TV. That would be a huge step for disabled skiing.

Oh, by the way, I think I blew the shock absorber on my new monoski when I was in the terrain park on Wednesday.... d'oh. So it's back to the Yetti for a while until I can get it fixed.