WOW, it took a long time to get to this post! Anyhoo, here we are. Back safe and sound from an amazing 3 days at Mt. Hood, Oregon, training for the D-Team tryouts with Rob Sogard, Nelson Wingard, Chris Kastner and Sean Smith.
In a (large) nutshell: here it is:
I got back from checking the lovable and slightly stressed Liat into Avalon Hills, and had two days to get my s**t together to get to the Demo Team tryout training. (Sob, sob, here's the sob story...) I was freaking out a bit, because I haven't worked out in a MONTH, as Liat and I had been on hard core crazy watch, my (new!) skis were dull, and I don't know how to tune them yet, and I hadn't packed, watched any of the film I had meant to watch, or prepared in any way for the last month or so. Oh, and I got a raging sinus infection on my way back from Salt Lake, and had a fever of 103, feeling like someone had hit me in the face with a hammer, and just wanted to sleep all day.
None the less, my Head Check trainer, the incredible Dr. Marvin Backer, had told me that everything was do-able, so rather than freaking out, I decided to just believe him, and used those words as my mantra for the next two days. Tom and I, of course, immediately got into a huge row the night I was supposed to pack, which took all night to resolve. SO, consequently, I packed super fast, which I hate, sure I would forget something, and threw my skis in the car. In the morning, I went to the courthouse to resolve the issues that needed resolving (tags on cars, insurance, yadda yadda) and then headed up to Big Sky, arriving about 2 hours late for the 13 hour drive.
Excellent. So I was driving with Troy Nedved and Jill Imsand from Big Sky, and I was all nervous, because I'd only met Troy like twice before and I wasn't sure he was a big fan of the superlate SuperKate so, I was late, nervous and...
It was fine. It was actually fun. I learned a lot about Troy, for instance, that he does a mean Celine Dion impression (Allll by myself... don't wanna be... all by MYSELF! AnyMORE!!) That did it right there, I had a whole new respect for the man immediately. Unfortunately, I did NOT get it on tape, but I promise you before the end of 2007, I will have that man singing that song, and I will post it RIGHT HERE for your viewing enjoyment. Needless to say it was an easy 13 hours.
We got in at 2am to the Huckleberry Inn in Timberline at Mt. Hood, (after driving through all kinds of orchards and wineries, who knew?) and tried to check in. Unfortunately, the short order cook for the 24 hour diner was also the desk clerk, so we had to wait an additional 20 minutes for him to finish cooking dinner for his customers before he came over and couldn't find us in the reservation book. I'll skip all the nonsense that happened from here, but let me just say, it was an adventure just getting our keys (actually, he wouldn't give one to Troy, he said "just go knock").
We lugged our crap up to our rooms, and we were kind of shocked to find that Jill and I were sharing a room with 2 sets of bunk beds, and about 4 square feet to stand in. We threw our crap on the beds we weren't using, and crawled into "bed", bed, of course, being a 2" thin mattress with one thin blanket on it. Whatever, we were tired, it didn't matter. Five thirty in the morning came really quickly, and downing about 6 each of Tylenol and Advil, we changed quick and headed down to the breakfast fiasco. I mean, buffet. I got a warm welcome from Rob, which was lovely, as I was a bit nervous to be skiing with this lot, as I am just a level 1 cert, and everyone there had tried out for the D Team once before. Gulp! But he put me right at ease, as he always does, and on we went.
I'll skip all the hilarity that ensued trying to convince the cooks that we were with the group buffet breakfast that was supposed to be included in our room, and skip right to the mountain. We drove up, meeting at 6:30 in the morning to get our tix and see all the folks that were coming up from Portland or camping. The venerable Ben Roberts, who put this whole thing together, was handing out tix and looking all official, it was great to see him again.
The Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood was beautiful, and I couldn't figure where I'd seen it before until Troy told me it was where they filmed The Shining. Are you KIDDING ME? Awesome. I have to rent it again just to see it. It was cool. Anyhow, feeling rather psychotic myself from no sleep, ill preparation, and a vicious head cold, I followed the gang out to the lift, and got on, riding the Timberline lift over acres of dry dirt, to a little tiny postage stamp of a glacier, with rivulets of snow running down three gullies.
We loaded on to our next chair to get up to the top of the glacier, and figured out what Ben meant by "lanes". The glacier is groomed carefully, and each group gets a lane, like a bowling lane, about 4 cat tracks wide. We were in lane 7 on the first day, the first lane being for the general public, then there was the US Development Ski Team, the US Juniors, Lyons Race Camp and so on and so forth, and then us, PSIA in all its glory.
The first day I was really nervous. First off, I suck on Ice, and Ben had warned us to come with sharp skis. But lucky for me, some of the skiing I'd been doing, especially my last trip with Spohler to the Beartooths, paid off a bit, and I actually had some turn shape, right out of the gate.
It wasn't QUITE bulletproof ice, because they salt it for a little bit of bite, but it was hard, and all I could think during my first couple of runs was "Andy (Docken) says if you are chattering, you are asking your body to move inside more than the ski wants you to. Give the ski what it wants. If it wants to let it run, let it run" Or something to this effect. I tried to tune in to my feet, and ski a foot under the snow, as Meagan (Harvey) had asked, and I was proud to actually be doing okay.
Now, for comparison, uh... Rob and Nelson and Ben just carved that stuff up like it was nothing. I think maybe Ben likes to go fast. Just a hunch. Anyhoo...
Rob gave me a task for the day, and that was as follows: Your skis make a shape, from the toe piece to the heel piece, and across to the other ski, they describe a square, or a parallelogram, and the shape will change during the turn. My job? To make the platform a shape that I wanted it to be. To make it whatever shape I needed it to be, and then maintain it, mindfully. To make my platform the shape it needed to be for the task, but to do it on purpose, be mindful of it through the whole turn the whole run, and so on.
Sean gave us this great "stable platform/position of strength" drill, which just enforced the task all that much more.
This was my job for the day. Let me first say "YAY ROB!" that was great advice. Which is not surprising, but hey, it gave me a HUGE breakthrough, which I kept secretly all inside, because, you know, its just not cool to go bouncing all around the slopes going "I get it I get it I get it!! YaY!" Alright. Day 1, purposeful platform.
Then we headed in to do some movement analysis of the video that was shot, and to talk about what they are looking for at the tryouts. One thing I heard again and again? "The ski has to keep moving through the turn, without loosing speed or momentum. The ski needs to always be working, and be working on purpose." Excellent.
At about 4:30, I was ready just to go to bed, but part of the job of a D Team member is to go out with the gang, get to know them, and have fun, no matter how tired or icky you feel, and I really didn't want to miss the opportunity to visit with these guys. Okay, lets be honest. I really don't need a good excuse to go out all night for a beer. You know. It's that whole, mommy doesn't really get out at night very often. And as long as Tom is watchin' the boys, well, lets train to do this job right, and go out drinkin'! (Oh, my, its really unfortunate that's part of the job... I just, I don't know if I can handle being expected to go out and chat and make friends over a pint every weekend... gee...)
At first, we were going to go to a hot springs, so I put on my bathing suit and cover up and got all set, but then we decided to just hit Charlie's, the local watering hole.
Couple a beers later, we were ready for a scrumptious dinner at the Huck, and then back to Charlies for a few more and some pool... by 9:30 I was just about to fall into my beer head first, and my fever was back, so I thought I'd probably hung out long enough to have paid my social dues, and begged off for bed by 11.
Five thirty came fast, after waking up several times on that paper thin mattress with the two blankets (stole em from the other beds) with massive coughing attacks and needing more Tylenol, (poor Jill, she can't have slept well with me coughing and heaving all night long) and again, we were off to the glacier.
Day two: The snow was hard again. But lucky for me, Ben Roberts happened to have some ski tuning crap in his pocket, because, you know, he's Ben. So we all got a quick tune up, and then... because I had a stable platform, I accidentally used both my skis. I know Josh Spohler has been after me to have a "strong inside half" for months, and I was really reaching for it, but, you know, you have to not only STAND on that inside ski, but USE it. This was new. My third turn or so, my outside edge of my inside ski hooked up and I felt this pure, lovely feeling of my skis (BOTH OF THEM!) bending, biting, turning, pressuring, building forces, and ALAS, because I was attempting to create my platform mindfully, I wasn't hucked into the backseat, I was just pushing more and feeling it all happen right under my feet.
Holey Shit. I have no other words for it. I had goosebumps from head to toe. I was so freaking psyched, I was sure I looked like a frickin' rock star out there. I was riding up with Chris Jones (who, for the same money we were paying, was staying in a friggin' PALACE next door with Troyella Princessa, whatever....) and I had to squeak it out, I felt it, I felt it, I felt it!
It felt just like an edge take off jump in skating, like the loop jump, you enter into it, spiraling inwards, adding force to your edges as you compress the circle, and in skating, you release into the air, on skis, you release so you can go the other way... This made me wonder if I could maybe DO a loop jump on skis... something to look at this winter maybe... how cool would that be?
They put brushes in the snow, (which is like running gates, but you don't have to deal with an actual gate, so its better for us total beginners), and I swear to you, I thought I was tearing it up. With my new stable platform and my using BOTH my skis like a big girl, man, could I ski. Sean put in another set of brushes, and Rob gave me a new job of driving my skis into the turn from the top brush to the two brushes that signified the apex of the turn. This was fun for me, I like any instruction with the words "drive" "Hard" "Force" or "Strength" in them. I got forward, and stayed forward, certain that I must look at LEAST as good as Ben did coming down that course. Okay, maybe not. But it sure felt good.
The course got really rutted out by about 11:30, and all the sudden, I was being bucked out of the course, sad because my SuperBad self couldn't do it anymore. But Ben could do it. What's that all about? I started stalking him, and he gladly gave a tip of using the ruts, kind of like a pool lip on a skateboard, just aim high and ride it around. It worked! I stayed in the course and had a blast.
We headed back inside for video and lunch, and I had two very interesting experiences here: first, the guy that shot the video for us on this day... um... well, he didn't think that I was part of the group, so he didn't shoot very much of me. Ah. And then, what he did shoot, well, I was going so slowly, that I didn't get to see all of my turns in a run. And the capper?
I SKI LIKE MY GRANDMOTHER! Rotate, ski, Rotate, ski, Rotate, ski... oh my GOD, it was AWFUL! I mean, I know in my heart that the picture I make when I ski can't REALLY look like Ben just yet, but WAAAHhhhhh!!! Like my GRANDMOTHER!? Really???
I got lots of props from the VERY Supportive group, and I sheepishly went back to my seat, determined to make a visually significant change on the next day.
That evening, we decided to forgo the exquisite cuisine of the Huck, and headed out to a waterfall on the White River that Troy had run in his kayak once before. We weren't sure entirely where it was, but we were game to find out. We came across it about an hour later, and wandered around looking at it. There were these immense basalt cliffs on either side of it, and I think I saw a bolt and some chalk up there. I took some pics for Tom, its a long drive, but MAN it looks like good climbing. I wanted to go swim in the pour over from the waterfall, but we'd left our suits in the car, so we decided to drive down to the Dechutes River and go for a dip there.
We drove through some tribal land where the native Americans fish with super long spears from wooden towers in the river, and Chris spied someone who had caught a salmon that went up to his WAIST! Very cool.
We found a nice turn out and changed, and went for a swim in the very cold river. Jill, our resident polar bear, managed to stay in until she didn't feel cold anymore, and that looked fun, so I gave it another try. Troy, of course, water man that he be, stroked out into the middle and enjoyed a brisk, rather military swim. Chris stood on the bank with his toe in and said it looked cold for about an hour (maybe the water in Mexico agrees with his sensitive skin more?), and then we all changed and ate dinner in Maupet, population... I don't know, 216 or so? And we headed back up to Hood.
When we got in, it was late, and we realized we were totally out of gas. We figured we'd deal with it in the morning as nothing was open, anyway. Chris and I decided to head back out to Charlie's, and we ended up at some girls 80's themed birthday party! It was most excellent, Charma Chamelion, Purple Rain, The Cure... ahhhh....
At about 12:30 we realized we'd better get our acts together and made it back to the hotel by about 1 or so... another late night, another early morning, but OOPS! Out of gas. We were about 1/2 way up the hill to the ski area when the Subaru choked, and Jill, the ever level headed, flipped us around, and we coasted in Neutral back down to the gas pump in town. No pushing, no towing, no walking. EXCELLENT!
We were late getting to the ski hill, but no worries. I was still sick as a dog, and still determined not to let it interrupt this experience, so I finished off my bottle of Tylenol, drank a Red Bull and sucked it up. Day three: because I had a purposeful platform, and I was using BOTH my skis, I was able to let my feet travel away from my body, as it faced down hill in the front seat. Hmmm..
Strange STRANGE experience! I was having all kinds of trouble with my hands, and I was getting all kinds of shit about how Robotic I looked. I had been asking and asking people "What do I do with them?" and they kept telling me to just relax them.. . But I have heard SO many people getting yelled at for having lazy hands, and Josh Spohler had handed me a lunch tray back in February. "Here, Kate. This is your lunch tray. Carry it in front of you and don't put it down."
Well, finally, exasperated, I asked Troy what to do, WHERE exactly to put my friggin hands. He said "well, I am the last person you should ask for advice on hands, but..." and I just was so frustrated, "But YEAH, you know where they are SUPPOSED to go, even if you don't do it, right?"
He looked surprised. "Oh, yeah. One foot out, two feet up, hands outside of elbows, elbows in front of torso."
I looked at him. "Are you serious?"
Great! Thanks, Troy! And in that moment, I finally had permission to put down my lunch tray. And guess what? Jill came up to me later in the day and said "Hey, Kate, you don't ski like your Grandma anymore." That's about the nicest thing I've ever heard about my skiing. Rock on.
The day was spent skiing tasks and talking about what they are looking for when we ski these tasks at the try outs:
Skiing the tasks in 50/50 groomed and crud, on frozen coral reef, in big bumps, in slush, and the turn needs to be the same no matter what, the skis working effectively, no matter the terrain, the ski tips both bending and working, the ski not loosing momentum, the inside ski driving, if you air, the tip of the outside ski coming down first, continuing to drive, move and work.
Check, check, check.
I had so much fun on this day, I never wanted it to end. We did short turns to a big turn to short turns in a new corridor, medium turns to short and back to medium, all the while I was concentrating on making my platform the way I wanted it to be so I could send my feet away from me.
I camped out with Rob and Sean for a while and listened in on a bunch of Movement Analysis, chipping in when I could, and learned a TON about what they are looking for, what the nuances of the ski working were, and then taking it out and trying it on my own. Rob pegged me for the impatient person that I am "Right, I get it, and I want the next instruction", but said it was good that I went back and forth between laying one down and pushing my limits, and then backing off and working on my control again.
All in all, it was an awesome day, at the very end, we did three runs of ENORMOUS turns, just the biggest, fastest turns I've ever made, they were SO much fun I was literally cackling all the way down the hill. We had to get going because we had another 13 hour drive ahead of us, and Troy and Jill had to work the next day, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to do an indoor presentation.
I got the topic "Discuss how lateral learning relates to building the skill set" and freaked out for a minute, but I had 5 minutes in the hall to prepare, and luckily, I got to double check what lateral learning meant as one of the guys came out to use the bathroom.
I took my turn, and made my point, almost ran out of time, but nearly fit it all in. It was fun to talk in front of a group again, I haven't done that since training the Spire guys, and before that, since speaking to the Venture Capitalist group that I was pitching Jungle Gym to. That was a real rush, and this was just about as thrilling as that.
Rob gave me some good notes, and told me his one comment would be not to talk directly to the selectors, because he felt like I was talking to him nearly the whole time. I was concerned, because I felt like I had been making an effort to connect to as many different people as I could, but I nodded and took the note, because when you are speaking, its hard to really know how fast you are talking and how many people you've engaged. But then Nelson, who was sitting on the other side of the room, piped up and said, "really? i was going to give the same note." And then, jokingly, I asked "Anyone else?" and Jill stood up and said, yeah, I actually thought you talked to me a lot, and the guy behind Rob and someone else raised their hands, too. So I felt pretty good about that, then, five people in the room all thought I spent the whole time talking to them, I'll take it!
We said our hasty good byes and got in the car, and by this time, the peril of having ignored the fact that I was sick for five days started hitting me hard. We had a long drive ahead of us, and we started in at about 3, again about 2 1/2 hours later than Troy had been expecting. He had to be up at 5 for work, as most of Yellowstone was on fire, and he is kind of in charge of allocating assets in the park. Whoops!
I really wasn't sure I was going to be any help on the drive, but after an Applebees feast, I perked back up, and we got to Jill's house at 4 in the morning. Night, all!
I got back to my house at about 5am, and slept until Wednesday. I've been so long posting because I was in bed for a week after that. Today, finally, I feel human. Yesterday was okay, today is great, back to the gym tomorrow!
If only it would start snowing! We had a huge thunderstorm the other day, and the weather has officially changed from 90's summertime to 60's fall weather, I've broken out the long sleeves and jeans with the hopes of egging on the winter... and I have to admit that I checked weather.com, just on the off chance that it was going to snow on August 16... patience, Kate, patience...