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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion
  April 4-10

After the season ended, a bunch of us were anxious to get a little vacation. A common misconception among non-skiers (such as coworkers, roommates, etc.) is that our winter is one long vacation. Yes, it is a lot of fun, but it is hard work too. We travel to some of the most beautiful parts of the country and the world, but we never really get to relax because we are always getting ready for the next race. So before Spring Series, we booked a houseboat on Lake Havasu, Arizona for 4 days. Basically we wanted to escape to the warmest place possible for a few days. When we saw that the average air temperature in Lake Havasu is 90 degrees in April and average water temp is 73, plus it is a popular spring break spot, we knew exactly where we were headed. Now I am not going give a race-like play by play of the whole trip, but here are the highlights.

April 4 - Scott, Erik and I headed to Zion National Park to do a rollerski photo shoot for Nordic Equipment. Look for the pictures all over the spring catalog.

April 5 - After more pictures in the early morning to catch the good light, Scott and I packed up the car and headed to Las Vegas where we met up with James Upham (who flew out from New Hampshire just for this), Phil Bowen, and Jamie Fortier. We planned to make a good stop in Vegas on the way home, so we split town right after finding the other three and headed south. We stopped at the Hoover Dam, which wouldn't have been all that great, except that we ran into Eddie Van Halen. Yeah, that's right, Eddie Van Halen. Scott and James (both guitar players) recognized him and his wife and Phil went up and made small talk to confirm the sighting. That night we camped out in a campground on Lake Havasu, where we rendezvoused with Abi Holt, Lara Kendall, Chris Klein and Andrew Johnson, who all came down a day later so they could ski in Park City one more time.

April 6-9 - We picked up the boat on the 6th. That night we found a great little cove to beach the boat. We quickly settled into a routine. Once we got on the boat, it was ultimate relaxation. Our normal day:

Beach the boat around dusk in a cove all to ourselves.
Make dinner and a campfire. Hang out, have a little party, tell stories, etc.
Climb into a sleeping bag on the top deck of the boat, fall asleep watching the stars.
Get up when the sun became too unbearable too sleep any longer (usually 9 am or so).
Spend the morning swimming or hiking or floating around our private cover.
Load up the boat and cruise the lake.
Sit on top of the boat laying in the sun. When we get too hot, jump in the lake. When we get cold, lay in the sun. Repeat as necessary.
Find a nice place for lunch, and a vicious game of four square.
Load up the boat and cruise the lake.
Sit on top of the boat laying in the sun. When we get too hot, jump in the lake. When we get cold, lay in the sun. Repeat as necessary.
Find a place to camp for the night and do it all over again.

April 9 - We unloaded the boat and headed back to Vegas, where we hit the town for the night. Being poor skiers, we didn't gamble too much money, but we did see the sights.

April 10 - Headed home. The trip was the best time I've had in quite a while. It was just what I needed after the winter.

April 23
Wow, where did the winter go? One minute, it was November and I was Silver Star, British Columbia skiing on foot upon foot of fresh powder snow, gearing up for the first races of the season. The next thing I knew, I was on my way to Lake Havasu, Arizona for a short vacation at the end of the season. But while it seems like the season flew by in no time, I did manage to do a lot of racing and see a lot of wonderful places. And now that I am settling back into life at home, I finally have a chance to sit down and collect my thoughts.

To be honest, this year was disappointing for me. I had flashes of promise, but I struggled with frustrating performances all year. Last year had been so good for me that I had great expectations for this year. I set my goals very high:
1.To qualify for the sprint team for the Goodwill Games.
2.To have a top three finish at U.S. Nationals.
3.To consistently place in the top five in national FIS races
(U.S. Nationals and Continental Cup Series).
4.To win a race in the American Ski Marathon Series.
5.To end the season with FIS points under 60 and be ranked in the top eight in the

I am disappointed to say that I did not accomplish any of these goals. But having said that, there were some high points. Early in the season, I skied very well. I had my best international finishes ever at the Continental Cup races in Silver Star, British Columbia, taking a 4th and a 5th during Thanksgiving week. Right after that, because of the lack of snow in Utah, I had to endure a lot of extra travel traveling to stay on snow. I worked very hard to keep up my training during this period and I think I did too much. I got sick, and after that, my season never recovered. U.S. Nationals, which are usually my best races of the year, were extremely disappointing. By the end of the season, I was starting to get back on a roll and I had a few good races at Spring Series, but by then it was too late.

I've had enough ups and downs in the past to know that one season does not make or break a career. There were enough positives this season to get me excited for next year. This year was disappointing, but it did not set me back at all in pursuit of my ultimate goals, the U.S. Ski Team and the 2002 Olympics. The slightly bitter taste left in my mouth from this past season will serve as a great motivator in the coming months. I plan on learning from some of my mistakes from this year, such as training too much at altitude, traveling too much, and not racing in the off-season, to improve next year (see the new list for Training Changes For This Year). My dreams are still within reach and I plan to make the most of the next year.

The most important thing to remember is that even when I have an off year, it is still very rewarding and a lot of fun to be a ski racer. This year more than ever, I realized how fortunate I am to have such incredible support, and to be able to pursue my dreams. And next year will be much better.

April 24
Last year, I took a solid month-long break from training at the end of the year. Even though it had been a great tear for me, I felt like I needed it. I was tired and a little burned out by the time Spring Series '99 finally ended. Plus, I think that in the back of my mind, I was also considering my rest to be a reward for such a good year. There wasn't really any problem with that, except that when it came time to get back into training, my motivation wasn't quite what it should have been right off the bat. My first month of training, May, I trained only 26 hours instead of the 40-45 I had planned on. I got out of my rut soon after that and began to train seriously, but in a lot of ways, the damage was already done. How could I build on my successful year if I was no longer in good shape. I almost felt like I was starting from scratch rather than just stepping it up a level. At the time I really didn't see all this, but in hindsight, I think my season was already in jeopardy right from the start.

Now maybe I am remembering last year in a harsh light and it wasn't quite as bad as I just stated. But by remembering it the way I do, it helps me to not repeat the same mistakes this year. I said I was determined to train more in the spring this year, and the best way to motivate for that is to look back at what happened last year. So this year, I still took three weeks very easy, to rest and recover, but then rather than ease into it like I did last year (ie.-no training schedule, just work out when I felt like it), I put myslef onto a strict schedule right from the start of the training year. The training year, by the way, starts today. Businesses have a fiscal year, and I have a training year. All the ups and downs from the past 12 months are wiped clean and I start with a fresh slate. Zero hours. Zero workouts. Zero races, good or bad. From here on out, everything is done with next season, and the 2002 Olympic season, in mind. I recently started a new job in Salt Lake City, where I will be working in an office (yikes!) from 11-6, M-F. This means that when I get into the heavy training in a month or two, I will need to be on a pretty rigid schedule in order to get in two workouts a day. So rather than ease into the schedule, I put myself on it today. From here on out, I will get up at 7 a.m. to do my morning workout. Then start my second one right after work at 6:30 pm. Since right now I am usually only training once a day for no more than an hour and a half, it really isn't necessary to be on such a strict schedule, but I think it will pay off to be already into the routine when the training hours increase, which will happen very soon.

April 28
If I want next year to be better, I have to work for it. This is obvious and I know I just wrote the other day about how I need to be more focused right from the start this year. But today I got a good reminder that I cannot rest on my past laurels and expect more in the future. This morning, after I hit the gym for a workout, I met with Torbjorn for a little chat about the upcoming year. Basically he told me that I was not getting as much out of my potential as many of the other skiers he has coached. At first this stung a bit because I took it as him calling me lazy, and I know that I have been working very hard for years now. But the more he explained, I understood that he meant it more as a challenge. He was saying that he thought I had the talent to achieve my goals, but that I can't expect to get there just by working hard. Each year, I have to work harder. If I thought that I was focused and committed last year, I have to be even more so this year. Just doing what I have done in the past in no longer good enough. I have to step it up even more. In many ways, I think I had already figured this out, what with my new training routine and all, but it still helps to have your coach call you on it once in a while. That little meeting, more than anything, told me, "OK, its time to get to work."

April 30
Because it is time to get down to work, Torbjorn met Erik and I in the weight room this morning to go over a number of exercises that we should be doing. I had already been for an hour run before hand, so I was expecting a short little demo/workout. Which to some extent it was, but it still lasted an hour and a half and was enough to make me very sore on the run home. Last year, I didn't do any leg strength in the gym. Instead I did a lot of rollerskiing without poles and some hill bounding to improve my leg strength. I don't think it worked out all that well. So this year, I think I will try the gym again, in combination with more specific activities like bounding. I've always felt like my leg strength has been lacking, but hopefully with these new exercises that Torbjorn showed us, I will be able to gain the strength I need.

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.