Lori Augustine: The Starting Gate
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It was a week of training and preparation unlike any other.
If you weren’t in shape, it showed. Preparation for Saturday’s top-to-bottom giant slalom competition demanded a high level of physical fitness. Speed, agility and quickness were imperative. Accelerating down the extended race course, changing direction and reacting quickly in the shortest amount of time was the mission. Again and again, we crushed gates, bettered our times and prepared our minds and bodies for the longest race of the year.
The course on race day was set by my coach and pro from Tache Racing, Nad Luchetta. The terrain was vast. An artist of the snow, Nad set a rhythmical course while considering characteristics of the steeps, rollers and flats. He had a good eye for even spacing with more than 50 direction changes. With his portable drill and a vision, Nad designed a run complete with tempo and balance. His work of art flowed so all racers could finish, yet was challenging enough for the advanced league to attack.
As the end of the race season nears, more racers are training at Aspen Highlands than usual. I watched and learned as the men from the advanced league practiced mastering the art of great skiing. Personally, getting ready for the race this week was demanding. Nine weeks of arduous training with immeasurable breakthroughs, and suddenly I encountered a plateau that crushed my very soul. Regression.
Rapid advancement at any new sport comes with periods of setbacks. One step forward and two steps back. My assumption that I suddenly had all of the right tools in my toolbox to excel on my own became counterproductive to the desired outcome. I lost focus. I stopped skiing purely with my feet, ankles and knees. It was time to get back to basics in order to improve from the level that I have managed to reach in a very short period of time. Otherwise, advancing from where I am at this moment is not foreseeable.
A day of stern discipline from Mike Tache sharpened the foundation and the philosophies that we have spent two years developing. Mike’s technical knowledge and fundamentals of skiing and his commitment to sharing that knowledge in a simple manner is priceless. His unique approach in and out of the gates is distinguished, respected and admired. At a crucial time in my learning curve, I earned a key and the door had unlocked yet again to another level of progression.
After last week’s spectacular ice climbing adventure, I was in search of another unknown thrill. After hiking up Buttermilk with two of my best girlfriends and skiing a few runs while I was there, I found myself bouldering at the Red Brick Recreation Center with my mountaineering pro, Bob “Slowman” Sloezen. Rock climbing without a rope, limited to short climbs over a padded mat in a gym, may be my calling. Basic necessities are strength, patience, grace and confidence. It was a puzzle involving short sequences of calculated moves and problem solving. A game of mathematics and gymnastics!
We traversed the wall, finding power, strength and dynamics when our mind and bodies were about to surrender. I was truly elated upon reaching the anticipated destination at the opposite end of the wall. The greatest joy of the day came at the end of the climb when Bob presented me with the very first mountaineering gift of my life – a chalk bag with chalk.
A gorgeous day brought 87 racers to the starting gate of The Aspen Times Town Race Series this past weekend. The warm weather also heated up the competition in all divisions and teams across the board. Many thanks to our volunteers, course workers, racers and everyone in between who joined in. It was a flawless day.
St. Patrick’s Day marks the final race of the season. Racers who participate in five out of six races will be eligible to win great end-of-season prizes.
Special thanks also goes out to Stapleton Ski, Tache Racing, Highlands Pizza Co., Epicurious Fine Foods, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Weems Westfeldt for an autographed copy of “Brilliant Skiing, Every Day.” Their generous donations are greatly appreciated. And thanks to Highlands Pizza Co. for welcoming all racers for the post race party.
Race-day registration for this Saturday’s final slalom will take place at Highlands Pizza Co. from 8 to 9:30 a.m., with the end of season party at the restaurant at 3 p.m.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.