A little while ago I was entered into the Heron Lake Championships - the home of the BDWWA (British Disabled Waterski and Wakeboard Association) and the place where I spend a lot of my time. I entered both the waterski and wakeboard competition, the first being in the 'advanced' category which I wasn't so convinced about, particularly as it involved skiing through the slalom course which I hadn't done much of before. Still, I figured, you have to start somewhere! The day had a fantastic atmosphere and it was great to see lots of people who go down there, some more than others, and to have some healthy competition.
As there were lots of people to fit it, we only had 20 seconds each to demonstrate what we could do on a wakeboard and only slightly longer on the ski. I was pleased with my performance on the ski through the course, even managing to go round some of the buoys on the outer course, something I'd not managed previously. I think it must have been the 'give it all you've got' for twenty seconds that helped me out. Although my competition were stronger than me, with some great performances by David Wise and Mark Roffey (who hasn't skied in a few years so was very impressive).
On the wakeboard, having recently managed to perform a 360 much to my delight, after doing a few smaller tricks like side slides, touching the water and grabbing the board mid air (harder than you think, mind you!) I decided spontaneously to give it my all and try a 360, once I'd gone round 180 degrees, a trick that would surely bring me to victory if I got it right!
My victory wasn't to be. I came off when trying to complete the spin and had to return to the dock in the 'boat of shame' as it's known. Not my proudest achievement. Still, my other tricks were good enough to give me second place and a very smart silver medal which I have hung proudly on my wall at home beside my Wings for Life finishers medal and another for a 10k I did a couple of years ago. With any luck it'll be accompanied my some IPCAS (International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing) medals before too long! I'm keeping up the waterskiing while the water isn't too baltic (won't be long!) and it's doing my snow skiing a lot of good too.
Since then, besides work, I've been in Hintertux in Austria for a ten day training camp with the British ParaSnowsport Development Team. I had an absolutely brilliant time and was fortunate enough to have some days training one-to-one with one of the coaches whilst my teammate took the days off. I was working of developing my technique and carving the ski rather than skidding (which is something I'm guilty of) and it was amazing to see the improvements that had been made by the end.
The training hill was on a glacier which was over 3000 feet up. We accessed it via three bubble lifts which I went in in my wheelchair, and stored my monoski, conveniently at the top where I would transfer out of my wheelchair into my mono and head down to the T-bar lift. T-bars were the predominant lift here and although I'd never used one before in a sit ski and therefore was quite nervous (given my track record with button lifts! i.e. not great) it turns out that they were mostly fine (with only a couple of scary moments including falling into a crevasse when riding the lift with the coach!)
We skied in the mornings when the snow was best and before it got too soft and slushy, spending quite a lot of time working on technique whilst free skiing (not in gates) which I found really helpful and it gave me the opportunity to really work on getting rid of bad habits I've picked up like skidding the ski instead of carving properly. It was great to be taught by such a great coach with so much experience and expertise and I made some huge improvements throughout the week and by the end my skiing was looking much better and I was starting to carve more consistently. This will be great for racing as it'll mean I'm a lot faster as the ski will cut cleanly through and no speed will be scrubbed by skidding. Transferring this into skiing gates will be an interesting challenge!
It was great to spend the week with the rest of the development team, they are a lovely bunch and are brilliant skiers who are all very supportive of the other team members and I really felt the team spirit. We laughed a hell of a lot during the camp, particularly at meal times when particular pranks and games were played, I'm not sure I've laughed as much in a long time! I can't wait until the slalom races at Landgraaf in November as it'll be lovely to be doing it as part of a team.
Each morning we'd have a 6am start with activation once we were dressed, breakfast and then (a beautiful and very green) walk to the bubble lift for 8am to get on first (the wheelchair card definitely helped here for skipping queues!). After a few hours of skiing we'd head back down one bubble for lunch, then back to the hotel for recovery. We'd have a couple of hours to ourselves in the afternoon, then video analysis followed by a team meeting then dinner. I found the video analysis really helpful and it was good to do it everyday and feed what I'd learnt into my skiing. During our free time we'd invariably be tuning skis - having been almost a total novice in this area, I'm learning a lot and getting lots of practice!
We skied for three days with a day off after that during which we focused on strength and conditioning. For me, we focused on lats and core strength, as that's pretty key for monoskiing so I'm trying activate what minimal core strength I have! It was fun to explore what stretches and exercises were possible and helpful. I've been instructed to try lots of sports for strength and conditioning, especially canoeing/kayaking which is very good for an upper body work out. I'll have to find a club and I'll update when I've given it a go!
I've been back for a couple of weeks during which I've been waterskiing as much as possible (aware that it's nearing winter by which time it'll be too cold to hit the lake), working lots in the office, and I went to a friends wedding at the weekend which was really lovely (and really nice to catch up with friends). I'm back to Hintertux again on Saturday morning for ten days and can't wait!