Hello, World Cup

Feb. 01, 2010, 5:47 p.m. (ET)

We packed up and headed to Europe for 3 weeks of ski racing. It was going to be tough being away from our son Brocton. He stayed in Boston with the Umstead family and his twin cousins. Brocton will definitely have a good time with them.

We started the trip very rested, healthy, and strong. We arrived in Munich, Germany after a long flight, to our coaches and other athletes of the US Adaptive Ski Team.  Everyone was very tired and ready to get settled in. Our first World Cup destination was Innsbruck, Austria where we had a giant slalom and a slalom race. We arrived to a very nice hotel. The accommodations where great, except for the cigarette smoke in the lobby. I just do not have a great reaction to smoke... it makes my eyes even weaker then they already are and needless to say it smells horrible.

Not having much sleep from the flight and night before ... we went to bed pretty early, waking up to our head coach Ray knocking on the door. We were supposed to meet for breakfast and head out to free ski as a team. When he knocked on the door I stood up having no idea where we were... I got so turned around and confused I went to sit back down on the bed.... There was no bed there and I fell on the ground. Ray was still knocking on the door, and I was still trying to figure out where we were. What a rookie!!!!!!

The people in Europe are so kind and helpful. Bettylynn (my guide dog) caught on great to guiding in Austria.  I definitely was disoriented with the different sounds, smells, and way of life. Even the restrooms are very confusing to me. Just the simple things like stairs, doorways, and the way rooms are arranged have been a lot to familiarize myself with. I just had to adapt.

The first day on snow was fun ...we skied the Olympic hill that Franz Klammer won the downhill race in 1976. It is so amazing how times have changed since the old equipment ski racers used in the 1970's, and how the sport of ski racing has not changed much.

It did not take much time to figure out that Austria does not see the sun much this time of year (at least the time we spent there). Despite the thick fog and grey sky this country still had a unique beauty to it. That afternoon after skiing we went to check out the town of Innsbruck, what an amazing place... the history, the massive buildings and cobblestone walkways were very historical. It left me imagining what times where like then.  It was nice to have a few of our teammates with us giving the guided tour.

It was time to start the World Cup races. There were 2 races hosted by the town of Rinn. 1 giant slalom, and 1 slalom...where we finished 4th in both races.  The snow was rock hard, and the skies were grey. These were not the conditions we trained with in Colorado. The fog here was so thick and the skies were dark and grey. These two elements do not help me at all, visually.  I adapted as much as I could and I have to admit it was not my best skiing, and I know there is a lot of room for improvement.

Our next destination was Abtenau, Austria for 5 technical races. (3 slalom, and 2 giant slalom). Originally there was suppose to be a super combined day, but due to the lack of snow they replaced it with slalom instead. This was a quaint and unique town. The welcome ceremonies were very much appreciated by all attending.  It was held in front of a stunning old church, with school children holding flags for all the different countries and entertainment was provided by the locals. We could sense their pride in their town and their enthusiasm with being involved in our World Cup races. What a magical town.

It was unfortunate that we started to get sick. Rob was not as bad off as I was. I had a severe sore throat, high fever, coughing, and major congestion in my head. My ears were clogged, which left me constantly feeling vertigo. It was not a good recipe for ski racing, especially for a visually impaired athlete. No vision, no balance, no hearing, it was a recipe for disaster. This went on throughout our entire stay in Abtenau. I was unable to enjoy the beauty of this small old town in Austria.

It was time for the races to begin. They had not been getting very much snow in Abtenau. The race hill had many bare spots, with lots of exposed rocks. The skies here were very dark and grey. There were too many different elements that where not in my favor. But it was time to "toughen up buttercup" and just do the very best I could do. The first slalom we did not finish. The second, I survived and we finished 4th.  We also picked up 2 more 4th place finishes in GS. The slalom on the last day in Abtenau we made it to the fourth gate and I crashed. Pure exhaustion had over come me and my body. I can not remember the last time I felt this horribly drained physically and mentally. I had higher hopes for these races and physically did not have the strength to prevail.  I cried from frustration, exhaustion, and weakness. I did my best to sleep any spare time I could find. I think all of the training and physical fitness we have been doing was the only thing keeping me standing.

The races in Austria ended with five 4th place finishes, and 2 DNF's (did not finish).

All I can say is "I gave it all I had" I want to thank my husband/guide, coaches, and those teammates who supported and encouraged me.  Rob, who had to take care of me on and off the race course. He was optimistic and was my rock. Our first real World Cup tour was a battle.

Life is not always an easy journey.... But it is one I will continue to conquer.

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