auf geht's, Austria!

alright, folks- this will be a quick one. I don’t have too many words about the first World Cup in Austria.

The team arrived from Korea to Munich, Germany where we started our trek towards Igls, Austria. I felt confident and ready to get to racing. I’d been coming to this track since I started traveling to Europe in 2009. I’ve been here more than enough to know the difficult sections.

In a World Cup Week, athletes are given 6 or 7 seven runs before the race. We use this time to find smooth lines down the track and to adjust to the different ice conditions. At the end of the week, those of us who are internationally ranked outside of the top 15 must race a preliminary race called “Nations Cup” to advance to the World Cup on the weekend. In the Nations Cup race, the 17 sleds move on. This week’s race had 56 entries- a little under 30% of the field would move on.

The week started with some challenges for me. I couldn’t adjust to the bumpy feeling of the ice here in Austria. I couldn’t relax on my sled and it caused  some serious issues for me. I was preoccupied with the ice conditions rather than focusing on the task at hand.

On my first training run, I came up the finish and hit a patch of hard-packed snow, which sent me flying over my sled. I was fine, but a little mentally shaken up. I took two more runs that morning. My second run was also rough; I hit a few walls on the way down. On the final run, I fell apart. I wasn’t concerned with my feeling on the sled at all. I felt out of control. I flew off the end of the 9th curve and landed on my face. After sliding the entirety of the track off my sled, I gathered myself at the finish line.

I broke my sled and broke my confidence along with it.

The next day the coaches rebuilt my sled. I had 3 more practice runs until the race day so I was feeling confident to get it back together. The first two of three runs that I took were also rough. I ended the night on my cleanest run of training, but my performance was erratic at best. By the time training was finished, it was 9:00 pm and we had very little time to get our sleds ready for the race the next morning. Finally, around midnight, I finished prepping my equipment.

The race started at 9:30 am and I was 21st off of the handles. I felt confident that if I could deliver a clean run, I would land myself amongst those to move on to the World Cup. I remember thinking more about my crashes than about what I needed to do in the moment. To no one’s surprise, I lost control of my sled out of the 5th curve and nearly crashed. I had the rest of the run to think about how much time I just wasted. I came up in last place.

This is not the way I envisioned my first international race going, but it certainly didn’t surprise me after my performance in training. If anything, this was a sharp wakeup call. At the highest level of this sport, you have to give everything. There is no slacking. You have to deliver mentally and physically in and out of training. This week put my weaknesses in stark contrast. I can see that I need to carry more focus and confidence into training. when I’m confident, I’m relaxed. When I’m relaxed I can focus. When I’m focused, the sled goes straight down the hill. Instead of overanalyzing my entire performance, I need to just let it happen. Without judgment or pressure, I want to approach my mistakes with an open mind so that I can improve on them. At the end of the day, this sport is a race against yourself.

I’m heading to Winterberg, Germany for the next race of the series. I’ll put this race out of my mind. I know I can deliver more but I have to find a better mental state first. This week, I’m aiming for clean, consistent runs. If I can deliver that in training, I know that I’ll have much better chance of replicating that in the race.

Up next, Winterberg recap and the road to Altenberg.

Stay tuned for more updates.