By Peter Davies
Firstly, I just want to say thank you for the feedback and kind messages after my first blog!
Skiing is an extreme sport, especially on the racing side of things, and there’s a high chance that you’ll hurt yourself in some sort of capacity. I had one injury in particular that was hard to contend with.
It was the last run on the last turn of a training course in Aldershot and I managed to hit the gate with the tip of my ski. I was sent flying across the finish line but I was stopped dead by the uphill finish area. I took most of the impact with my left arm.
I instantly screamed at the top of my lungs a few swear words. My old coach at the time Andy Robinson was very professional and comforting when it happened, but I could tell I had hurt myself badly because he was turning green by the sight of my arm. It was an open fracture with a lot of blood. I just remember being in a lot shock at the bottom of the slope. I never looked at the injury when it happened, which probably helped with my frame of mind at the time.
After being transferred from hospital to hospital, I finally had an operation the next day. I had metal plating inserted into my left arm which is still in there today.
I missed my AS exams because of this injury, which meant I had to take 2 years worth of exams in one year. I was able to get the grades to go to university but it was by far my hardest year of education.
I still don’t have that much feeling in my left hand. I think the fracture damaged some nerves making it difficult to grip things at times. It doesn’t really affect my life at all but it’s always a reminder of what can go wrong very quickly in skiing.
The reason why I’m explaining some of these terms will become apparent when I talk about my latest race experience (especially round 2!).
Skiing out or DNF
As explained in my last blog post gates are set on the slope to dictate where the competitor should go. If you ski out that means you’ve exited the course and have decided not to complete the run. When this happens the results sheet will show DNF which means Did Not Finish.
When a skier misses a turn in the course they have the right to walk or hike to where they made the mistake and complete the course. This will obviously be slow but if it’s a hard course there’s still an opportunity for racers to sneak on to the podium.
This is when a skier’s tips have gone either side of the gate. It is an illegal way of going around a turn. Sometimes it’s obvious that it’s happened but on other occasions it can be really hard to see. One of the main jobs of an official or gate judge is to call whether or not both feet have gone around the correct side of the gate cleanly. Racers can be disqualified after their run if the gate judge has decided they have actually straddled the gate. Unless they have video evidence that they didn’t straddle they can’t protest the decision.
Saturday 30th April: Norfolk GBR Series Round 1
Norfolk ski slope is one of the best snowsport facilities in the country. I first competed on this slope back in 2005 for my first All England Championships. The Norfolk club received funding from the lottery and they have spent the money wisely. It is still a top class ski slope today.
I had to wake up at 4am to arrive at Norfolk in time for bib issue and warmup. I haven’t had an early mornings for a long time and it was a little bit of a shock to the system.
Like Pembrey, we were lucky with the weather. For the most part there was bright sunshine although when the clouds came over the temperature noticeably dropped.
The format for GBR races are two runs added together through two different courses. Racers have to complete both runs otherwise they won’t be counted towards the official results.
After the first course inspection it was clear to see there were a few tricky turns to contest with. There was a diagonal set towards the bottom of the course that bled speed across the slope. The two rollers are also quite steep, so it’s important to have your body in the right position when you are skiing towards them.
GBR races are suppose to be one of the highest calibre events of the dry slope calendar so the course difficulty is usually high.
My ranking meant I was at the back of the field again (hopefully after the next seed list that’ll change slightly!). It was good that I could get my race over and done with, but it was annoying that I couldn’t watch some faster racers before I went down.
I was in the start gate and I knew the first few gates were important because of the flat terrain at the top of the Norwich slope. I felt comfortable with my pushes but it would be the exit of each hairpin and verticals that would be my downfall.
I seem to have this habit of lifting my foot on tight turns instead of letting the ski run. Lifting my foot is something that I try to avoid in training but for whatever reason is instinctive during a race. This causes me to skip part of the turn, loose speed and become later in the racing line through the course.
Despite running ragged I was pleased that I battled to stay in the course. Through gritted teeth I managed to pull myself across the finish line. It ended up being a very scrappy run. When I was in the finish area I heard I took the overall lead, but I knew this was due to my ranking rather than me having a particularly good run.
After the rest of the pack went down, I was lying in 17th overall position and second in my age category. Considering I was hanging on to stay in the course, I was surprised how close I was to the top 15. It was all to play for in the second run.
After seeing the set of the second course during inspection, I was a lot more relaxed going into the second run. It was a reasonably easy course that flowed well with the hill. There was no diagonal set so the course times were definitely going to be faster.
My starts are pretty good out of the wand but as soon as I hit the floor I don’t move my legs. On the second run I definitely felt a slight delay reaching the first gate (something to work on in training!).
My run was smooth and I felt I carving some clean turns. The bumps didn’t affect me this time and there was less leg lifting. It was an enjoyable run to ski but when I crossed the line I wasn’t sure if it was quick.
I took the lead again; which meant I would at least finish 17th overall. I watched some of the better ranked racers get slower or similar second run times, but because of my first scrappy run the combined time kept me in the same position from the first run.
I finished 17th overall and second in my age group. I was happy with the way I battled through the first course and my second run was respectable. It was important not to dwell too much on the performance because we had the second round the next day!
Race results: GBR Round 1 Results
Sunday May 1st: Norfolk GBR Series Round 2
It had rained over night, but it was more or less the same type of weather as the day before.The second day of double race weekends can feel a bit surreal. I was experiencing deja vu unpacking all the kit from the car and preparing the skis for practise. Everybody goes to their usual spots in the spectator areas and I had the same bib number from the day before too.
The courses however were a lot different. The first course inspection was a unique one. The way the course was set at the bottom of the slope meant that there was two possible ways through the course. This is very rare in ski racing but I have seen it before. It was definitely the talk of the race. I decided very early on before my run that I would go the designed way, rather than go for the alternative way. Some people were fixated by the debate but I was more focused on the other features of the course. There were a few tricky offset gates to watch out for before the end of the course that I knew would cause some trouble.
Usual routine again. Empty my head, focus, then liftoff! I moved my feet a bit quicker to the first gate this time and I felt confident through the top section of the course.
Through the middle I was skiing like John Wayne! I could’ve fitted a truck through the gap between my legs. It made it a lot harder for myself to get around the big offset gates. I was yet again battling my way to stay in the course. I said I would opt to go through the designed route rather than the unknown alternative. This in hindsight added to my time.
I crossed the line and I was immediately annoyed at myself. I had a few brief seconds of rage as I stamped my skis off. I heard that I was in the lead but I knew that it would easily be beaten.
I watched my team mates and the better ranked racers. Some crashed out before they reached the bottom section. The racers who took the alternative way through the course were significantly faster. Looking back, I wish I took that way but I honestly had no idea if it was worth doing. Some of the young Aldershot skiers had very impressive performances which added to the frustration of my run. Although I was happy that they were doing so well, naturally I was jealous of their times.
I was lying in 22nd position and was yet again second in my age category. I was ready to try move up the list on the second run.
One of the younger members of Aldershot asked if I could do course inspection with her for the second run. I was more than happy to help out. I remember asking my older peers when I started racing to help me too, so it was now my turn to do the same. If I’m honest I think she didn’t really need my advice, but there’s a slight comfort having a familiar face around before the race.
The course had an identical pattern of gates for the top few turns. There were a few key big offsets coming out of high speed sections of the course. It was another tough course.
I had extra aggression going into this run. I wanted to prove to myself I could perform better than my first run. This was my downfall…
I pushed myself too hard at the top. It felt good for four gates until, Boom! I was sliding on my butt. I was definitely dazed and was slow to get back up. My dad was gate judging where I fell and was screaming for me to run back up the course.
I eventually went back into the course and completed my run. I didn’t hear the time at the finish but it was of no use to me anyway.
My team mates did the club proud. There was some fantastic performances to round off a great weekend. I managed to cool off quite quickly but I definitely had a small case of dented pride after my crash.
I finished dead last in both the overall finishers and my age group. However, I still haven’t DNF’d this season. I have a huge bruise on my hip but I was thankful to come home relatively unscathed. Not the way I wanted to end the weekend but I still had fun nonetheless.
Race results: GBR Round 2 Results
My next race is back at Norwich for a Club National on 21st May.