And so it begins…..
As we approach the start of autumn training we are busy getting things ready out here at Haus Tirol. Monika, Gabor and the crew have done an amazing job over the summer and things are getting more up and running with that side of things as the years go on. As you can imagine, it is hard to run a guest house through the summer if you shoot of to Chile for 6 weeks.
With the Ambition October 'camps' just around the corner and the winter season starting, these are literally my last days of freedom (or percieved freedom) until May time. We will chain the work in order to give everyone as many opportunities to improve and succeed as possible. So why not kick of the season and a blog with a few thoughts and perceptions from the summer....
Firstly, is it pre-season? No it is not. For many of the athletes it is getting close to mid season. Alot of skiing has been done and should have been done by now. Following on from my post (probably last year) about being full-time, well if you haven't been on snow yet, you aint full time. You are not a full time skier if you ski for 100 days out of 365 days in the year. That's the equivalent of playing pub / sunday league football, training on a saturday and competing on a Sunday.
Much of this sport is about accumulating time, accumulating hours, repetition - that is how you get it done. Yes you can be the best athlete in the gym, yes you can do all the psychological work, yes you can have the best equipment and tuning ever BUT, you have to get on the snow and work on the skiing for long days. An interesting exercise for most athletes would be to log their days, runs, and some detail (gates / free skiing etc) to see where you end up. Most coaches will do this anyway but its always good to take some responsibilty and see how you are doing - by the time you miss weather days, travel days, injury days etc etc etc - you may just get some answers as to why your annual training either IS or IS NOT working. If you look at Ambition in 13/14 for example with the FIS Group, we were massively heavy on slalom. Cross reference this with results and you will see some patterns. There are reasons for that which will take a full blog in itself so we'll leave the reasoning there for now. Basically what i am saying should be obvious - you want to be good on the skis - then go and ski as much as you can.
There are guys that do this in the UK. It doesnt have to only be about european snow training which we all know is costly. How many athletes go to the indoor slopes 2-3 times a week and train / ski for enjoyment? There are some that's for sure. But there are also plenty who only ski on camps. Why? For some it may be access, being able to get a lift, school commitments, but for others, especially those who are full time, it is about being bothered to do so. It is not rocket science to conclude that if you spend 2-3 evenings a week on indoor slopes or dry slopes working on 1-ski skiing, balance drills, jumps, etc etc, you will improve at those things and become a better all round skier. For those that do train in this way - you've just gained yourself a big advantage over your peers that do not. (Of course there is also the excuse that the technique is so different it will ruin ones snow skiing - which for basic skills progression is not a valid arguement).
FIS RACES & RACING. Ooooh this is a big topic. This could literally go on for pages. There are 2 basic ways of thinking with this. Generally speaking most coaches lean to one side, most parents lean to the other and the athletes are dotted about all over the place not knowing which way to think.
THOUGHT PROCESS A: Good points = better start bibs. Better start bibs = faster times. Faster times = better points. Better points = selections & winning? In a completely simplistic way this is true. But what if you get an injected piste which takes start number out of the equation at times. What if you are at a race and its soft and rutted and a first year comes down and makes the flip when you've just said it's impossible. Chasing points is not a full proof plan. Furthermore the psychological damage can be huge when you turn up to a race with 30 points but realistically you are at the 70 point level, you start in the draw (15) and miss the flip (top 30). You, your coaches, your peers all know you are a fraud and have chased an easy route rather than working on your skiing. It is just not helpful.
I liken it to exams. How many parents out there are encouraging their kids to base their educational choices on where to get the easiest result or where uses the easiest exam board? An 'A' is an 'A' at the end of the day isn't it? I tend to disagree and its the same with ski racing - what kind of lesson is it to teach a student or educate an athlete to just look for the easiest route possible?
So yes for the boys in their first year, having some early points on the board rather than 999.99 can give you a better bib and a better run at a course BUT if you were working on your skiing and focusing on that you could be the guy that starts at the back and shoots up through the field because you ski well. If you are in it for the long term, sooner or later you get caught out and actually have to ski well. Look at the WC guys without Europa Cup points who turn up at races, start with high bibs and smash the races - you look at results thinking 'why's he started back there and how did he win'. Well its from good skiing. So, those who are in it for the short term and just looking for some points as quickly and easily as possible to advertise on facebook, the best solution is to vito whatever training you are doing, buy a car, get a few mates with the same idea and tour around eastern Europe & any obscure race you see pop up on the FIS Calendar. That is the easiest and no doubt cheapest way.
On the womens side, it is a different story as most of the races you find, even as a first year, you have a chances to succeed even when starting at the back with some decent skiing. The back of the race can be as low as bib 35-40 sometimes in European CIT races (depending on location) so the level of skiing comes into it even more rather than your result being affected by conditions. So you have even less reason to worry about getting 'good points'!!
THOUGHT PROCESS B: Take your time and learn your trade. This is a long game. Have you seen Dave Ryding's receding hairline? It takes time. So train as hard as you can for as long as you can and you will start skiing at a consistent level. You will then have a FULL PROOF PLAN that you can apply to any race and you will succeed. This is the harder path. The path that is not so gloryified, but it is the path that will yeild better results in the long term. And specifically looking at Ambition, this is what we did in Chile in 2014. Did we trade training time for racing time. Not really. We made use of the time we had to best effect. The races we did attend, whilst only 2 races for 3 athletes, took 4-5 days out of the program with travel and rest etc. So you have to weigh it up always - what are the chances of this being a successful exercise? If someone is DNF'ing 9 runs out of 10 in training, are they going to perform suddenly in a race? Chances are they are NOT!
In summary, points guarentee a position in the start order, not always in the finishing list, so you have to be on top of your game to take advantage of the opportunities you have. I've heard many a skier talk about the time they were 'on for xx points'. They maybe true stories but invest more in training and you'll be able to convert those opportunities more frequently and take advantage of them.
Lastly, i feel its always important to mention this to any youngsters & their parents who may be starting out in ski racing. This sport requires a huge commitment - time, finances, family dynamics, it is really tough not just for the athlete but for the whole support system around them. BUT it is also a wonderful sport, with so many positives and is an absolute gift to have the chance to be involved with. The surroundings, the memories, the stories, the friendships, the lessons learnt and life skills are just amazing. So lets look forwards to a winter with decent snow, great training and lots of success for all concerned.