December 22, 2014

Confidence is overrated



I'm going to retract that statement.  Not completely...  Confidence is this word so widely used but how well do we really understand it?  
I think we can all find blog posts and articles about people who, step-by-step, returned to their elite form, gaining confidence, after an injury or tough slump.  Here's why I'm broaching the confidence conundrum.  I've had a better start to my ski season than ever before.  But it really makes no sense.  There was no step-by-step, in my opinion.  

I was in Europe for September and October.  The longest pre-season camp I've ever experienced and the fewest number of productive days.  I can count 3 days in those two months that I walked away from the hill content because I was able to at least try what Kurt was asking me to do without pain getting in the way.  Fine.. tough couple months, big whoop.  

November was a bit better with more forgiving snow.  Then, ready or not, races started.  Lake Louise, Alberta was the first race week and I was between 40th and 46th position in the training runs.  I was trying.  I was training but I was committed to using it as a chance for three more days of downhill training (what would almost double my total downhill preparation for the season).  On the Thursday night prior to the first race, I told Kurt not to worry.   The positive is that he's a bald guy, so the stress doesn't show by way of losing hair.  But how can you not be stressed.  It seemed apparent that my lack of volume in preparation would prove to be a bigger problem than we hoped.

I cracked open a beer and sat in bed writing down my tactical and technical plan for the next day.  Same routine.  Not much in the bank.  A lot of work to do to make the weekend special.

By Sunday night I had a career best result and another couple solid results around 20th.  When people ask me about confidence, I generally agree that those results help my confidence.  But I don't agree that it's completely necessary.  When I arrived in Val d'Isère, France last week, I felt insecure.  I was 4th in the world the week prior but I still managed to feel inadequate the morning of my next races.  I had the 55th fastest training run in my pocket and a ton of 'fixes' for the race. 

In the end, that was key.  When I have a ton of work to do and a big challenge in front of me, I tend to rise.  Evidently, I seem to be a magnet with obstacles.. it's almost comical.  Not the kind of comical where I'm rolling around laughing, but it's worth a smile sometimes.  I mean, Kajsa (my swedish buddy) gets a real kick out of me coming 55th in training and then laying down a top-15 the next day for the race.. I just tell people I got 4 more seconds on the course than them.

Jan Hudec came for dinner last week on his way through Austria.  We talked about 'pulling results out of nowhere'.  He said it's not actually out of nowhere.. and I realized he's right.  I skied Lake Louise close to 100 times in my head during my 2-minute intervals on the bike in the summertime.  I don't like talking much about confidence, but belief is cool.  Belief, to me, means I'm a good friend to myself.  I would sit on my Norwegian or Swedish teammates' beds any day and tell them how well they ski and how powerful their turns are.. or remind them of past results that blew everyone away.  I would tell them how they put plenty of hours in to deserve success like the rest of the superstars....... but when did I ever sit myself down and tell myself those things.  I could easily beat myself up with banana-cup results (the cup for the slowest).  But I've chosen to be a friend.. it's taken a lot of years to get to this point.  I was a giant bully to myself in high school.  I was just bitter for a while after getting injured and missing Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  But in the last couple years, when I had to fight for myself and my own program, I decided that if I was going to do this, I'd need a lot of support and it would have to start with me.  Me supporting me.  "Good morning, Larisa.  This could be your best day yet."  "Good morning, Larisa.  You were slow yesterday but you have all the tools to be fast today."  "Good morning, Larisa.  It's effing early but there's a coach waiting for you to prove your potential."  "Good morning, Larisa.  You danced a lot last night but that was your choice and you still have to go to the gym this morning."

So, for me, with a friend in myself and friends around me, hard work seems to be more tangible and powerful than confidence.

Thank goodness because I'm about to spend time with my big brothers and they're up to way cooler things than ski racing and I'll always be the big baby in the family.

Merry Christmas xx

October 15, 2014

Onnit

I'm now, officially, a member of the Onnit Honour Roll!  Alongside superstars like Bode Miller and Joe Rogan, I am supported by Onnit with supplements, high quality foods and fitness equipment.

Click here to see my Honour Roll profile and my first article written for the Onnit Academy about my unconventional path through injury rehabilitation :)

So excited for all these amazing opportunities and forms of support!

October 10, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! (With love, from Austria)


Happy Thanksgiving!

(With love, from Austria)

It's my 5th week here in Europe and I'm thankful for 5 things:
1.  I'm thankful that my coach, Kurt, and I can be flexible.  I think a vision is always important.  But swaying from this hard line enables us to be constantly engaged and responsible.  Our approach is often unconventional.  In our environment, over the last 5 weeks, we have had to 'sway' daily.  With my return-to-snow program, we are able to do both on-snow and off-snow training in a ratio that allows me to progress forward.. and it's a progression we respect.
2.  I'm thankful for friends.  Pictured above is Muha, my technician this year and a place of constant positivity... mostly belly laughter.  In merging with Sweden more officially this year, we will be spending lots of time together.  The girl to his left is Kajsa Kling.  We climbed the ladder together and I'm so grateful for our friendship.  She got me through one of my harder days last week.. just by riding the t-bar with me.  And buying me chocolate.
3.  I'm thankful for FaceTime.  Period.
4.  I'm thankful for the no-sheet rule here in Europe.. Sheets are my nemesis.
5.  I'm thankful for my health... because a 7-year-old girl named Sophie from Owen Sound, Ontario has been fighting cancer for two years and it's not fair.  Today she received her ultimate wish, a playset in her backyard.  Walt Disney says that, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."  Sophie is a fighter beyond words.  Big Thanksgiving hug to you, Princess.



Welcome, Alex!   

A couple weeks ago, I met Alex Fröis in Bludenz, Austria.  After traveling 8 years with Marcel Hirscher (very decorated Austrian ski racer), he decided to stay at his clinic and 'hang up' his passport for a while.  It is because Alex decided to stay home this season that I'm able to benefit from his amazing experience.  With his own horrific injuries, a ski racing career and many years building programs and treating successful ski racers, Alex is an incredible addition to Team Larisa.  I'm able to hire locally and take full advantage of enhancing my athleticism between ski days.  He has his hands full with a knee that had a 3rd and 4th operation this past summer, but he is fully committed to getting me in the best shape of my life.

Jim Adlington, Company Owner at Planks Clothing

"Planks clothing is super stoked to be providing Larisa with headwear for the upcoming season. We usually do not support ski racers as our brand is aimed more towards the freestyle / freeride market. However, we were blown away by her story and how committed she is to her sport. We decided she would be a great ambassador and are proud to have her representing our company.  Larisa's passion about skiing is mind blowing and she is a true inspiration to us all. Go Team Larisa!"








What's Next?
With a handful of days left here in Europe, our agenda is this:  test the speed skis and filter the fastest from the slower ones with Rossignol and bank some more volume in gate training to nail down the timing of powerful turns.  I will have two weeks at home at the end of the month to build on all the physical facets of being extremely fast this season.  I will also use this final window at home to find the last couple contributors to join Team Larisa for 2014-2015.  Then it's off to Colorado for an epic month of shifting gears and revving for the races in December!




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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.