May 6, 2015

Team Larisa version 3.0

I was on a bike ride today when the news was released that I am named to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team 2015/2016.

10 years ago, I received that news for the first time..  what a difference a decade makes.

I’ve received messages today congratulating me on being nominated as a national team member so I feel the need to explain my current career status.

Team Larisa was founded in response to the lack of Women’s Speed team in 2013/2014.  It was one of the most chaotic and completely amazing years of my life.  With the help of so many, I was able to get my feet under me just in time for my first Olympic experience and career-best results.  Team Larisa benefited from charitable donations and corporate partnerships alike.  I will be forever grateful that so many people understood my passion and obstacle-ridden venture.

Fortunately, it got even more exciting in its second year.  This past season was equally as chaotic but having had just one more year under our belts, my support crew and I went on to an even more successful season.  The support and, in turn, the structure grew in all the right ways.  My coach, Kurt, and I are extremely efficient on the road and in creating a program to meet my needs.

So with a third season on the horizon, I’ve landed myself in the exact environment I feel is best for me.  It is guaranteed to be more work than if I were to take Alpine Canada up on their offer, but I simply can’t walk away from this opportunity for Team Larisa to live on.  I have to perform for a mission that I started and my sponsors expect me to pursue.  I’m surrounded by deeply passionate and committed people and that resonates highly with my personal work ethic.  It is no longer a charitable organization but a brand that corporations are partnering with to help promote perseverance and courage within their own companies.  It’s an exciting time for me to be talking about yet another Olympic train when speaking to potential partners.

With all that said, I’m ecstatic to see the Canadian Alpine Ski Team introducing a speed coach to the girls again and taking care of some excellent talent coming quickly up the ladder.  I have a giant spot in my heart for the fire I see in these girls’ eyes and it’s only fair that they have a place to exercise their potential.

And isn’t that what it’s all about.. going to bed at night knowing you’ve done what you do best.  You’ve learned, you’ve fallen and risen, you’ve ripened with age and sought out the means to continue catapulting yourself into the next page of life’s book.

‘Thank you’ is always in order.. to the girls who wrote to me on facebook explaining their goals and asking how to get there, to the women who managed a happy heart over the holidays despite a cancer diagnosis and to the men who cry when telling me their own stories of hurt and heart.  It’s been a beautiful ride and I’m so grateful for the support that allows me to continue this journey… I have loved being an ambassador for trying really hard and looking defeat right in the face.

Here’s to what Team Larisa has come to represent… 

Love, Larisa

March 15, 2015

Méribel muse

It’s Sunday.. quiet time before another race week.  Well, not quite just ‘another’.  This is my first time at a World Cup finals.  Interesting to be 26 and still lots of firsts left in this sport for me.

Today I was skiing and all these feathers were on my jacket.  Mom says ‘when feathers are here, angels are near’.. I don’t tell her there's a hole in my down jacket.  I prefer to see it her way.
I feel very fortunate.  I’ve had results I’m very proud of this year and I see so many girls..  no..  powerful women around me working their asses off too.  Having awareness for others isn’t always the best quality for sport but I’ve always preferred to observe and take it all in.. ‘Blinders' or thinking only of myself will never feel authentic to me.  Sometimes I think of how much a race coming up will mean to someone.  Carolina Ruiz Castillo, from Spain, is at her last World Cup race weekend of her career.  Last time we were in Méribel, she won… her first and only win of her career.  I can honestly say, I hope she does it again.  That’s not to say I don’t hope hard that I win too.. that’s just the awareness that feels true to me.  Or Daniela Merighetti.  She’s not at these Finals even though she’s more deserving than most of us.  She was 4th at the Sochi Olympics.. but no one knows that she landed with her butt (and private parts) on the bindings of her skis just 48 hours prior to being 4th.. at an Olympic Winter Games.  This year she broke her jaw and lost some teeth (still doesn’t have them), got a plate put in, hopped on a flight two weeks later to race the World Championships in Beaver Creek.  Continued her season only to break her leg in Garmisch at the last stop before World Cup Finals.  But manages to look beautiful and poised in an interview from her hospital bed.  Or what about our Canadian rookie rocket Valerie Grenier.. top 20 result at her first World Championships and 13th at her first World Cup race in Switzerland.
There are powerhouses all around me.. I have pity parties sometimes.. I get feeling bad for myself and sad about pain or fatigue.. or missing my family for months.  But I always remember I have a choice and I choose to keep finding out what I’m made of.  That’s not to say I have an endless supply of grit.  But that is to say that I generally have what it takes to do what I want to do.  And if I’m unsuccessful, I’m still somewhat successful because I practiced believing in myself.  I’ll never regret believing fully in the chance that I could be great at something.  That’s the funky part about sport.. you can believe completely in yourself and prepare fully but it will only give you the chance at a result.  There are no guarantees.  So I’ve chosen to continuously redefine success.  If I failed, did I fail completely.  Am I an idiot or did I just miss the mark in a split second?  Probably the latter.
I had a tough experience here in Méribel last time.  I was told at 5pm the night before my race that I would actually not be racing, the spot would be given to someone else.  With that said, I had bronchitis in Garmisch last time and came away with 11th this time.  And I had the shits my last two times in Cortina and came away with my first podium this time.  So I feel confident that I have an ability to redo these stops on the circuit because my life experience is just a bit further along... and I’m drinking bottled water.
I didn’t have much of a point to this blog, only that I’m often humbled by the skiing around me.  I’m proud of my skiing this season and I guess I feel a bit sentimental being at the closing races of my most successful season to date.  “All we did was take the long way.”  I like that because, very simply put, it’s true.  So I fell off the wagon a few years and had to go it alone.. I’ve had a choice with each step I’ve taken and I’ve arrived here, in a beautiful hotel room in the Trois Vallées with fresh sheets and a great rain shower.
Doing my best to ski fast and be brave.

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


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?