ASPEN - November has been quite a pain for Lindsey Vonn.
The four-time World Cup overall champion is working to regain her form after a puzzling intestinal virus that landed her in a Vail hospital for two nights last week. While she was forced to curtail her training, Vonn proclaimed Friday that she is healthy enough to race in this weekend's Aspen Winternational.
At least in one event, anyway.
The 28-year-old will take part in Saturday's giant slalom on Aspen Mountain's Strawpile course but has opted to skip Sunday's slalom to conserve energy for next week's trip to Lake Louise, Alberta. She has won four straight races at the Canadian resort - which affectionately has been referred to as "Lake Lindsey" - including a rare sweep of two downhills and a super G in December 2011.
Vonn was a late scratch from last year's slalom on Ajax because of lingering back pain.
"When I thought of the possibility of not racing here, it made me really sad," Vonn told a throng of reporters and photographers at the St. Regis. "It's definitely been a rough couple of weeks, and I've been working hard to get my strength back to be ready for tomorrow. I'm not exactly sure what to expect, ... but I'm just excited to be able to race in my home state in front of the home crowd. Racing to me is the fun part."
Vonn was attending the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Association's Gold Medal Gala in New York on Nov. 7 when she said she came down with a stomach virus. When rest and medicine did not alleviate the problem, she was admitted to the hospital.
"I'm not going to lie. It was really bad," the Olympic downhill gold medalist admitted. "It was definitely the most pain I've ever been in in my life. I'm not a person who willingly goes to the hospital. ... I was not happy about it, but it was definitely worth it. I was at a point where the pain was too severe, and the medication I was getting wasn't working. I needed to resolve it."
Doctors eventually identified the right antibiotic to combat Vonn's symptoms. She was released and spent nearly a week in bed before doing some freesking at Vail on Nov. 17 and light gate training the following day.
"It's still a struggle with my appetite, ... and I definitely lost some strength and some cardio stamina," she said. "I feel like the strength is back, but I'm still more out of breath than I normally am, especially here in Aspen with the high altitude and the steep, difficult course. I get a little more tired than usual, but every day I've gotten a lot better. Before, I couldn't do half a free run before I was falling over."
Vonn has eased back into training this week with a relatively light workload. In addition to freesking, she's completed three full downhills and just two three-quarter-length GS runs.
Vonn has not competed since Oct. 27 in Soelden, Austria, where she clipped a gate with her left hand on her second run and crashed. She skipped Nov. 10's slalom in Levi, Finland, as was originally planned.
"I'm still taking it day by day to get to where I was," she said. "I'm not 100 percent, but I'm close."
As a result, Vonn said she doesn't expect much of a result Saturday on a hill that has been notoriously unkind to the star. Vonn's best result in GS here was a fourth-place finish in 2008. In her last three trips, she was 12th, did not finish the first run and then failed to qualify for a second run.
"The snow looked perfect (during Friday's freeski). They did a great job preparing the hill. But to be honest with you, Aspen is not exactly my wheelhouse," Vonn said. "It's a very difficult hill for me. It's very tough physically and just doesn't feel good - you have to fight the entire way down. I'm not expecting to feel good tomorrow, but I'll definitely go out there and give it my best."