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


Derek and Kathryn Mayne's babygirl, Elizabeth