May 15, 2014

In response to..

I'm posting this in response to the news that I've been named to the national ski team.  I'm really happy that my process and my results last season have secured me a spot.  However, the announcement implies that I'm fully-funded, which I am not.  My funding situation is unchanged and Team Larisa is my means to continue a World Cup career.  It's a successful structure and requires immense generosity and faith.  I continue to look for efficiencies by merging with another country's program.  I will forever be proud to race under the Canadian flag, however, I will need to make up for the Team Larisa budget shortfall and put the fun back in fundraising.

Please share this post in celebration of your support for a breakthrough season and an even better one next year!


May 7, 2014

Get-outta-the-way May.


2014 is the year of the Horse... which means a time of 'unremitting effort to improve oneself'.

This is Mom and Sky, my neighbour's dog.
I have been living in Toronto for a month now.  I don't fit in but I don't care.  My home has candles and red wine and sweaty gym clothes and a desk that takes up half the apartment and that's as homey as it's going to get.  I'm here for a reason.  I'm here to train like an animal at York University and network like a neanderthal.. I'm going to hunt and gather my way to Team Larisa's second season of extremely fast ski racing.  Some sponsors are coming back on board and some were committed to the one season and now have other places they've committed their money.  Either way, last season changed my life and I'm excited to show you how Team Larisa blossoms in the next few months.  It's not necessarily comparable to a blossom that sits beautifully in someone's garden with dew on its petals.  It's more like a blossom that someone created with a photosynthesis science fair project that took weeks and weeks to prepare and grow.



Dave MacDonald (in a 'tie coat') and me at Mentor Mornings
This morning I went to a meeting called Mentor Mornings and the content was successful CEOs speaking about the value of corporate culture.  It was a very stimulating session.  I was blown away at the amount of concepts we could relate on.  As they discussed their hundred million dollar companies, how they had "big, crazy, hairy goals" and maintained "happiness at the company", I thought about how big, crazy and hairy some of my goals must've seemed to some.  I thought about how important it was for me to be in such a free, flexible and fun work environment and how successful that became for me.  I'm well aware of the tall order that is my circumstances.  For some reason, people feel the need to remind me of the challenges I face.  However, a key point I took from today was to 'lead by example'.  I am an advocate of following your dreams and being brave.  How do I continue to promote such a feat if I can't even say the same for myself?

Me in Sochi

Me just being badass
It's get-outta-the-way-May and it's up to us to put carrots in front of our noses.  We may not ask for life to corner us but when it does, we often see what we're really made of.. or more importantly, what's worth what.  That's a tough, but necessary, question to answer every once in a while.  In this picture, I clearly knew what I wanted.. I wanted the training wheels tactfully cropped from the base of the photo so as to appear that I was just that good.

I feel grateful that I'm in a place I can continue to work hard alongside my passion.  I haven't always been so lucky.  There are grind days and grand days and I will continue to try and keep my head and trust myself.  That's what Mr. Kipling advises and I've been staring at his poem on my desk for 5 years.

What will you do with your get-outta-the-way May?

March 6, 2014

Team Larisa: Year One

I'm home now.  My armour is off and I'm staring at my computer screen trying to find witty and profound ways of sharing my second half of the season.



My last post was news of my Olympic qualification.  That was a proud moment.  After the chaos of a good result, I got back to my room, put my nighty on and called home.  Calling home has been a saving grace this year.  Sometimes I call home and have pillow talk with Mom.. sometimes I call home and just listen to my parents argue about the volume of the tv.. sometimes I have a nice chat with one of my brothers and just watch him pet the cat the whole time.  But it's always lovely.

After I had qualified for Sochi, Kurt and I went to some more races.  We wanted to keep ramping up and building momentum towards the Games.  We traveled to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy for the next World Cup speed week.  I was quoted saying, "I don't think anyone is preparing for the Olympics by staying home and resting."  Sometimes, I think I'm so smart.  During the first of the four races planned in Cortina, I landed off a jump and made a mental note that I didn't like the way that felt.  After finishing the race, I knew I had to get out of there.  One of the Italian coaches caught me crying behind one of the portables but otherwise, I made it out discreetly.  In the next 24 hours, I had three medical opinions, an MRI and a handful of homeopathic injections.  Ironically, I prepared for the Games by 'staying home and resting'.  I added 10 days off snow to 1 day of gate training to equal my Olympic preparation.  Initially, I was devastated.  The dejavu of being injured before the Games again was almost too much to handle.  But everyone said nothing they felt in my knee would keep me from going.  So Kurt kept me very focused on looking ahead in the most confident way possible.  I really believed that I would win medals for Canada.



In the end, I haven't performed to my potential since qualifying for the Games.  Even with filling my belly full of drugs, I couldn't override the distrust in my health.  I felt like I was racing this past month with the E-brake on.. 

Finally, Kurt and I decided to call it quits after the last race in Switzerland and find out just exactly why my knee was still upset with me.  I mean, my knee and I made a deal for the Games but there were no promises for any races after..  

It's three days later and I've closed the season.  I miss my coach, I miss skiing with a clear mind, I miss feeling athletic enough to slide around on hardwood floors with sock feet.. But shit's gonna get real soon.  I have surgery on March 20 to reconstruct my MCL and clean up the medial meniscus.  I needed to put my body first this season but I needed to run Team Larisa more first.  Unfortunately, I was abusive to my body with such a non-stop program for the last year and, additionally, I wasn't able to hire a therapist.  I feel grateful that, nonetheless, I was able to have an experience that changed my life.  

...Before you assume that I'm feeling some sort of reflective closure, you're wrong.  I'm hungry.  I mean, I need to eat some lunch.. but even after lunch, I'll still be hungry.  Kurt and I have a program that is solid and growing into something very powerful.  I understand the risk and I understand the reward.  I feel very confident that after my body gets this tune-up, I will be in a place to accomplish much more than before.  I will need the help of some substantial and excited partners in order to keep my health as a priority and go full steam ahead with my founding member, Kurt Mayr :)



This season, I qualified for the Olympic Winter Games and I went from being ranked 77th in the World to 12th in four races.  I qualified for World Cup Finals for the first time in my career.  Besides an Olympic medal, I accomplished everything I set out to do.  And most important, my heart developed into something tough and soft.. tough because I learned to handle obstacles with as much grace as possible and soft because when it was time to feel, I felt.

I don't know what the next few months will bring.. other than some armpit chafe from crutches and quite a few naps.  But I know exactly where I stand with my passion for sport and, for me, that's the point.. 

I did weigh my options.  But it became clear to me immediately after the surgeon told me the news.. because I was already counting on my fingers in my coat pocket how many months away I could start skiing again.

Thank you for following my journey and believing so deeply in what I attempted to do this season.  

Here's to the time of our lives.

Love love love.
Larisa.


January 14, 2014

Altenmarkt

Being home at Christmas was yummy and comforting to my soul.  I saw people I love and that does wonders for my heart.  

However, returning to Europe was a challenge.  With so much momentum prior to the holidays and then such a restful time at home, I was nervous about how to pick up where I left off.  Jet lag will punch a good Christmas break right in the face.  I didn't give myself enough time.. First day of training in Austria after the holidays, first run in the course, I fell.  I sprained my ankle and got a great taste of whiplash.  So Christmas was extended well into January for me and I took the next three days off. 

Approaching the World Cup in Altenmarkt, Austria, my brain was full.  I hadn't realized I had just that weekend and the next (four chances) left to qualify for the Winter Games.  And then I didn't realize that we only had two Canadian spots in SuperCombined.. so that left three chances.  

I missed some gates in the first training run and the second training run was cancelled.  There was also some extreme honeymooning going on that week in the hotel room next to me taking away from any quality sleep prior to the race.  

My last time pushing out of the downhill start in Altenmarkt a few years ago, I beat everyone else.  I was the fastest female in the world that day.  So in the start on Saturday, I was just sick.. sick to stomach.  The next two minutes were a blur… so I posted the video here (my run is around 2 minutes in).






It's an incredible feeling to have qualified for the Olympic Winter Games.  I remember playing Nagano on N64 with my best bud, Brooke.  We were both terrible at the speed skating.. standing upright with hands behind back for a short track sprint.  But the positive in this is that I chose alpine ski racing in real life so my hands will probably be out front driving hard towards an Olympic medal for Canada.  It's amazing to even just write it.. that I have a rare opportunity to make myself and my country proud.




This is the moment I want to thank my supporters.  There are some special men and women that said yes to my passion.  They have enabled me to progress.  Please check out my sponsor page and memorize these generous corporations.. there will be a quiz on Friday.  No, but for real, picture it.  Some girl, trying to fit in heels and her mom's skirt, pitching an Olympic dream with a small amount of corporate lingo.. asking for money.  I don't know what part of my story was relatable but I'm blessed with some genuine help.

I've had two wonderful rest days in Salzburg, Austria.. next stop: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy tomorrow for the next speed weekend.  Stay tuned for some epic pics of the Dolomites!!

And feel free to comment.  It's nice for me to document my journey but if you'd like to ask questions, do.


December 22, 2013

Val d'Isère




I think this past week is blog-worthy. Returning to Val d’Isere was both monumental and sentimental.

Kurt and I got in late Wednesday night.. we chose to do some Europa cup races and sacrificed the first World Cup training run in Val d’Isère.  We knew the risks.  If the organizing committee, or mother nature, decided there would be only the one training run, I would not be allowed to start the World Cup downhill on Saturday.   Fortunately, we lucked out with a training run on Thursday and the winds were calm enough to start from the very top (also something key in being able to start in Saturday’s race). 

But on a more emotional level, I wanted so badly to ski this track again.  Last year when I returned to Val for the first time since my injury, I felt like I needed to conquer it.  This time around, I just wanted to have a really fun time together… really rekindle our French affair.. eat some crèpes and share a cigarette. 

I want to say I was totally revved up Saturday morning but ‘ready’ for me, this season, is ‘relaxed’.  I skied a bit in the morning, talked about ridiculous things with Kajsa and Lotte and then went to the start.  We were all well aware of the delays.. but I’ve always been proud of my transition into oblivion when course-holds are 15 plus minutes.  That can only mean one thing.. it’s hairy out there today.

The day before, my head sponsor, Derek Mayne, and his family arrived.  I dropped by their room before heading to the gym.  When I walked down the hall and knocked on the door, I knew immediately that this was my room in December 2009.  I sat on the bed and thought of so many things.  The phone call home.  The hugs.  The mask I wore in those first few hours telling everyone I would be ok knowing full well that I had no idea.  I took a bath that night despite how challenging and painful it was.. I didn’t want to stop my routine just because I was a little sore.  Painkillers were slow coming because the French take lunch breaks, even at the hospital.  But I knew after crashing, when I was still sliding, that I wouldn’t go to the Olympics. 

But walking into that room on Friday, it was special.  I had memories, but that was it..  I had to get to the gym. 

Now, it’s Sunday.  I had another one of my best career results, 14th place.  I’m clearly aware of the Olympic criteria and needing one more top-12 World Cup result to solidify my spot… so, when I saw the placing, I was a bit ‘so so la la’ about it.  That’s what Kurt says when you feel ho hum about something (in German).  But he would be upset with me for calling that race so so la la.  He’s really proud of me and he’s teaching me to be proud of myself too.  That’s not something I have felt very often in my life.  Not because I haven’t done things in my life worthy of pride, it’s just not an emotion I allow myself to feel very easily. But if it were easy, everyone would do it.  Wait.. I don’t think that phrase applies here.  Anyway, when we get in the car after a race, Kurt and I always debrief and unwind in a very positive and productive way.  Sometimes we laugh.. but I’ve been known to cry, too.   Actually, when we left the race yesterday, he made me laugh so hard my abdomen cramped and I had to recline my seat completely to stop it.

I hope that happens a few more times over Christmas.  It’s been an incredible two months.  I will never forget in July on my first camp in Zermatt, Switzerland when Kurt and I had our first ‘worst case’ meeting.  We sat in the backyard at a table and chairs and talked about what happens if it’s Christmas and nothing has come to fruition.  I shrugged a lot and looked down at my feet.  He walked me through the options and, ultimately, I knew it was a conversation we had to have.. but it was very painful.  In the end, our worst case scenario was not booking a post-Christmas flight.. that would be the end of this independent venture.  So, last week, when Kurt told me the flight was confirmed for January to return to Europe, it was no surprise but it was a milestone.  It makes this flight home, writing this blog, a whole lot easier.  I’m so happy to be with my family.. and eat cookies.. and then rally someone to come run them off with me.   Christmas is going to be perfect.

Frohe Weinachten


Larisa

Derek and Kathryn Mayne's babygirl, Elizabeth

November 10, 2013

Celebrate good times, c'mon

Tonight I'm celebrating.  Not actually..  I'm about to the hit the hay and it's not even 9pm.  But, I made a bangin' soup tonight and got my first race bib of the 2013-2014 season!  Something about that extra elastic band nudging around my midriff makes me feel so racy.  I'm racer ready.

But in addition to being ready, I'm clad in Columbia this season with some great patches sewn on.  I almost cried when I picked up the jackets on Thursday.  I worked tirelessly all summer to create a financial platform in order to execute my plan of reaching my potential and being the fastest girl on the World Cup circuit.  Now, it's now.  I have a story behind each patch and the pursuit of it, full of sweaty palms and, ultimately, very sweet people.  I'm humbled to say that the current Team Larisa supporters are now exclusive to this season and I'm celebrating..

I'm selling T-shirts on my website for the next two weeks..  They're black, the new black of course, and gold.. the jazziest of the golds.

If you'd like to join the Team, buy a tee or simply jump up in the air with your arms above your head yelling, "I'm awesome!"  That has been known to do the job as well.

Thank you for following my progress this summer!  I promise to keep in touch.

Love,
Larisa

October 18, 2013

Welcome to the team, Cresco FX!

It's Friday night in Europe and I'm excited.  I have a weekend ahead of me training downhill with World Cup men's teams and ski testing for the winners that want to drive the fastest for the race season. I'm spending the week with a 78-year-old technician who started is career with Franz Klammer and I feel confident with my pre-season preparation so far.  I have learned a lot and laughed a lot too.  And here's my good news.

Cresco FX is a foreign exchange brokerage run by Derek Mayne.  I was introduced to Derek by Emily (Brydon).  Derek is a father of one (pleeeease see the CUTE pictures below) and a husband, uncle and son.. and now a sponsor of my journey!  Kurt and I met the whole family in Zermatt last week and I feel completely humbled by their genuine interest and support of what I'm trying to do... not to mention how refreshing it is to talk about the apex of the turn with them.  So with a common love for skiing and a connection that's allowing me to get my race face together, I'm very grateful.