March Madness for Adult Racers
03.18.2017 | Lisa Densmore Ballard
It’s a long winter. By March, you may yearn to get back on your bike and your friends may already be golfing, but there’s still a lot of ski racing to do. Some of the biggest events from NASTAR to Masters occur in March. For Masters, which we will be talking more about in this article, the Phillips 66 U.S. Masters Championships is in March and the FIS Masters Finals are even later, in April. For NASTAR, we’re about to wrap up the season with NASTAR Nationals beginning March 23.
Staying fired up at the end of the winter can be challenging when you’re tired of schlepping ski gear. Your back aches, and you need to tune your skis for the nth time. But don’t succumb to the spring doldrums! Here’s how several members of the Spyder U.S. Alpine Masters Ski Team maintain their edge through ski racing’s version of March Madness:
1. Is it more difficult for you to stay “up” mentally or physically at the end of the winter?
LeeLee Goodson (LG) – Women’s Class 7 (Masters age class 55-59): I go regularly to the gym, so mental preparation is more difficult for me. [Last winter] I hadn’t raced in a Masters program, let alone the nationals. I was extremely nervous before each run and easily psyched out by all the “tech talk” during course inspection and at the start. I played music in my helmet headphones to calm my nerves.
Chris Maxwell (CM) – Men’s Class 6 (Masters age class 50-54): It’s more difficult for me to stay up physically. As I age, my body needs a little more maintenance.
Pierre Jeangirard (PJ) – Men’s Class 9 (Masters age class 65-69): Racing is the only time I get to run gates, so burnout at the end of the season is not a factor. I get better by the end of the season with more races under my belt.
Thunder Jalili (TJ) – Men’s Class 5 (Masters age class 45-49) : I try not to race in the two weeks leading up to nationals, and I try to be smart with my training volume so I’m not worn out. If I have energy for one more run in training, then it’s time to stop for the day.
Knut Olberg (KO) – Men’s Class 10 (Masters age class 75-79): I don’t have any issues with staying motivated mentally throughout the season. Physically, I have learned to pace myself more and do other forms of exercising besides skiing, like going to the gym and cross country skiing.
2) What do you do to stay motivated over the course of the winter?
LG: I don’t find it difficult to stay motivated, because racing on the Masters circuit is new to me. I enjoy traveling to races, staying in motels and meeting fellow ski enthusiasts. I find the people really helpful.
CM: I follow World Cup skiing thru Fantasy Ski Racer and listen to their Piste OFF podcast. This helps me follow the sport in a fun way.
PJ: It’s definitely easier to stay motivated when I have good results, and if not, trying to get faster is good motivation.
TJ: It’s not hard for me because I love getting out on the hill. It gives me an excuse to get out of the office and hang out with my friends. I never get to ski as much as I’d like.
KO: Some of us Masters who have the opportunity to ski almost every day can easily get burned out. I listen to my body, maybe shorten my sessions and mix gates with free skiing. Staying motivated over the course of the winter is not a problem for me. I love being in the mountains. I get an incredible amount of pleasure making a clean arced turn. I feel fortunate to be able to do this at my age. I’m like a kid in a candy store.
3) What’s the most important thing you do as the nationals or other big races approach to get ready and stay focused?
LG: Fitness is key for me, and staying friendly with my local ski tuner. I bring my skis to him before traveling to each race, including the nationals.
CM: I don’t over train. I just concentrate on a few good training runs. I’m also lucky enough to freeski speed runs daily in Sun Valley.
PJ: I’m much more detail-oriented regarding testing equipment, using better wax and spending more time tuning. I make sure everything is working, such as the buckles on my boots, my pole straps and my bindings.
TJ: If I have any chance to forerun a junior or FIS race, I take it. It’s better prep than a Masters race because there is more tension in the air. I don’t know everyone there, and there is usually a crowd watching. I’m first, and the courses are challenging. I feel this pressure helps me practice the focus I want to have for my own big races.
KO: At big races, it is important to eliminate additional stress. Check your equipment, know the schedule and familiarize yourself with the hill.
4) How is this different from what you do for other races (or not)?
LG: Because I have little self-confidence, I bought a book called “Prime Ski Racing: Triumph of the Racer’s Mind” by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. Dorky, right? But I think it has helped.
CM: I treat all races, whether it’s a club race or the nationals, with the same level of intensity.
PJ: It’s a lot different. During weekend races, I do not spent time on my equipment or other details. It is more a training day for me. Sometimes I even race in my warm ups. It’s all fun.
TJ: The atmosphere around my own local [Masters] races seems more relaxed since all the competitors know each other, and the venues are familiar.
KO: After 40 years of going to the nationals, I’ve made a lot of friends. It is easy to have one too many beers.
5) When you’re at a big event at the end of the winter, such as the Masters nationals, what helps you stay energized over multiple race days?
LG: I have no problem staying energized. I am so excited and nervous that I have to work to calm myself. Last year, I had only skied one super-G prior to the nationals. It was the first event. I didn’t do well. Afterward, I thought, “Well, crud. I’ve traveled 2,000 miles to get whupped. Better try harder tomorrow!”
CM: I try to engage as many fellow competitors as possible. That helps me and everyone else rise to the level of competition. Everybody wins!
PJ: The desire to do better every day. Learning from the day before.
TJ: I take a few runs, freeskiing, to explore the mountain. Also, I take time on the chairlift or skiing to appreciate being part of such a great event.
KO: I use common sense – eat the proper food, sleep, and I don’t overdue the socializing.
6) Any other tips for skiing well at the nationals or other big events?
LG: Don’t let yourself get intimidated by the fancy equipment and big talk around you. Believe in yourself, and regardless of the results, enjoy the experience.
CM: Come into the race super healthy with a high level of confidence.
PJ: If you try your hardest and others beat you, then congratulate the winners. You won’t lose your job, and you won’t make the World Cup, so enjoy the process and the camaraderie.
TJ: Keep it simple! Don’t overblow the “tricky”, “turny” or “fast” parts of the course. Enjoy the run. Trying to do too much is overwhelming and leaves you vulnerable to mistakes.
KO: Always try to make the most out of adversities. When fellow competitors complain about poor visibility and bad course sets, use it as a source of confidence.