In November I went over to Holland with the GB Parasnowboard Team to race in my first Europa Cup Banked Slalom. Now snowboarding is still very new to me, but everyone told me that the course would be easy and that it was a great place to start. I’m very up for trying things, getting the experience and am not particularly worried about coming last right now, so I was really looking forward to it. Although I wasn’t exactly ready for it.
We were in Snowworld in Landgraaf, which is a huge indoor snow centre – with the piste being 550m long (the one in Hemel Hempstead is 160m, so it is a lot longer!) and has a chairlift, which I was partly delighted about because having the chance to be off your feet for a few minutes when you have one dodgy foot and one fake foot is a godsend, but also partly terrified about, because I really hadn’t mastered getting off chairlifts at that point… However after a few runs I could do it fine and was good to go.
I had a great two days training and was classified in LL-2 (below knee basically) which was all very straightforward and much more simple that my paratriathlon classification was. The set up of the place makes everything incredibly convenient – we were staying on site so everything you need is two minutes away and there are no long drives to get up the mountain, so you don’t really need to leave the place at all. Not good if you get cabin fever, but ideal for training.
Then they built the “easy and a great place to start” course. However this time it was different. It had big steep banks, rollers and everyone was saying that it was hard. Not quite such perfect start, but I was looking forward to it all the same. I’d never been over any kind of roller/kicker/jump thing so I didn’t have much choice other than going into the park and learning asap. We had three training runs on Tuesday and I had a lot of fun, but didn’t get around all of the gates on any of my runs. The two dutch girls I’d trained with in Austria, who are both quite a lot more experienced that me, didn’t get around them all either and most people were struggling, so I wasn’t too worried about it. I knew that the aim for the race would be to just try and get a solid run down the track and that I wasn’t aiming for speed at all.
The course – big banks!!
Race day came around (or more like race evening – 6pm, weird when I’m used to racing triathlon very early in the morning, but it did give it a cool atmosphere!) and my first run was good and I got to the bottom delighted thinking I’d had a clean run, when the day before I’d had no idea at all how I was going to get down it, but they put it up as DSQ. Apparently I’d sat on a gate… Not cool. I mean, I’d sat on the floor a lot, but didn’t think I sat on any of the gates. Run 2 I took incredibly slowly, fell a lot but got down around all of the gates and got a time on the board which was what I wanted. Run 3 felt much better, I had some rhythm and picked up a bit more speed but then flew off into the netting on one turn and by the time I’d freed myself from it and got down, my time was exactly the same as the second run. Slightly frustrating because it was a lot better, but I was really happy to have got down and got two times and it really was just about coming along for the experience. (For someone who likes to be the best at things, that is a big step. I’m learning that doing your best with where you’re at currently is just fine too.)
I came away from Landgraaf very excited to learn more and continue to improve. Although I’ve got a very long way to go, the buzz from going down that course was incredible (even at my rather slow speed…) and just to be able to complete the course at the stage I’m at now is mental! I can’t wait to have a bit more time on snow in December and January, then race in Europe over the next few months!