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