Mammoth to Stratton

 When I awoke on Saturday morning I could see the sun was cresting over the peak of the mountains, there was no wind, and I just had a feeling it was going to be a great day.  I made my breakfast as usual, eggs, toast, avocado, tomatoes and a superfood smoothe, visualized some and stretched.  I was ready for game time.

The pipe looked great, dressed with all its fences, banners and blue dye lines, with a perfect shape to it.  I was really in the ‘zone’ dropping in for practice.  I only needed three runs to get comfortable and ready to be judged.  I had two smooth runs which landed me in eighth place.  Roberto didn’t say anything to me, but I was relieved when I heard “Katie Tsuyuki made it to finals” after my last run.  I was pumped but I knew there was more to come. 

A couple of the other Canadians, Harrison Gray and Sarah Conrad
The whole day passed before the women went, and although in final’s practice my board was fast, when we finally dropped in for our one practice run after men’s finals, I could feel my board sticking to the right wall.  The sun had been baking that wall all day! I had a feeling this wasn’t good. 

No matter how much brushing I did to my board there was just no wax left in the base and white patches were showing though.  Oh no!! I had no choice but to roll with it.  I threw my run as best as I could, but it just looked off balanced, with one side of the pipe having more amplitude than the other.  I was unable to better my placing.  Still at the end of my runs I pulled up my goggles, smiled for the camera, and waved to the crowed.  Can’t let them know about my disappointment…I wanted to be the best sports woman I could be! 

As soon as I could leave the bottom of the pipe I had to make a break to where I was staying to get things in order before leaving.  It was already three-thirty and my flight out of Reno, a three hour drive away, was at eight-twenty.  I had to take a very quick shower, pack, and gas up and I was on the road an hour later.  I was traveling to the US Open.   

I just made it into Renowith enough time to check my bags; it was going to be a long night ahead of me. I flew from Reno to San Francisco then a red eye to Newarkon to Albanyand finally a two hour drive to Stratton.  Twenty hours of travel…it’s almost less to New Zealand!  Not to mention when I got off the flight to Newark it was by birthday! For the day I did have a great Thai lunch with my friends and a celebratory martini. 

When I arrived in Stratton, still my Birthday, I spent the day and night sending Birthday wish thank yous to everyone who sent me a message.  I thought it was a good time to ask for them to ‘like’ my fresh Athlete Page on Facebook, it took me hours to send a hundred and thirty messages, and then some, to everyone, but I felt great after.  By the way, thanks to everyone who liked my page <3  

Today was the only day of practice for the US Open and I was so tired from all the travel and work the day before.  When I arrived at practice I felt as thought I was in another world.  I decided, after I couldn’t do my run, that I would go home and nap during the break.  This was a great idea because I came back charging with half full batteries instead of empty! I landed my run a bunch of times then headed home to get some rest and more work done.  Tomorrow I have qualifiers and have to perform.  So lots of rest tonight, good food, and then it’s back to wearing my game face.  This in one of my favourite contests, so I am excited for it!



No Matter the Weather

When I turned up at practice on Monday morning I was ready for anything; thank goodness because of the 80km wind gusts and sometimes white squall conditions were unfavourable.  Practice started late because the pipe maintenance people had to deal with the six inches of snow in the bottom and when the course did open we had to ride in the gusty cross winds. 

Many athletes left training with only a few runs under them but our crew, Lauren Shanahan, Coach Roberto Marfia, and myself, stayed until the end.  I had heard a storm was coming in and I wanted to get a good feel for the pipe.  The pipe its self had a beautiful shape…it was just the stubborn weather that was adverse.   

I awoke Tuesday morning to sun out my window but still there was that pesky wind.  I had a bad feeling about practice.  Sure enough the message came down the line that practice was cancelled for both snowboarders and skiers.  This was going to be the last day of practice before qualifiers.  A bit annoying but I was okay with this, I had Bob Palmer that evening, so I was going to ride in my mind anyway. 

This extra time gave me the opportunity to get some much needed work done.  I started my athlete page on Facebook and sent the word out to my FB friends.  I updated my website with news and some pictures.  In addition to all of that I set up a meeting with the Make-A-Wish foundation to see if I could be a part of their Rope for Hope event.  In this event 90 participants who raise the most money repel from a 30 storey building in the heart of downtown Toronto.

When Roberto came back from the riders meeting that night it was said that if the skier qualifiers were cancelled on Wednesday then the formatting would be changed to a one run qualifier including both skiers and snowboards, opposed to the separate days for skiers and snowboarders who get two runs each.  Again this was all good because I have Palmer in my corner.   

My meeting with Bob Palmer was great.  We went through some preparation exercises that will give me the edge on my competitors.  To me I had a great day in the pipe, working my passes and running through new tricks I want to land.  I ended the meeting in a state of readiness. 

That night I went to bed listening to the howling of the wind outside my window and even was woken up by it in the middle of the night.  I had a feeling that the skier qualifiers would be pushed back and the alternative format would be implied. 

Sure enough today, the now 160km winds cancelled the skier qualifiers and there was no practice for anyone.  Here is a picture taken with my Sony NEX-5 with a fisheye lens.

Once again I am left to snowboarding in my head where it is always sunny and with a perfect pipe.  To me, I have already performed my run about twenty times and practiced a bunch of drills. 

Tomorrow it should be sunny out, go figure.  I might only have one run, but I am ready for that run and will make it count!      


Between Contests

The last couple of days in Toronto were good ones.  I met with my web manager and spoke about changes to be made on my website.  I visited my favorite hot spot in Toronto, Iyashi.  I found a new love with Chef Alex Burgess at recently opened resto-lounge Bloke and 4th, and spent valuable time with family.

If you arrived at the blog through then be sure to return there soon as some changes are going to be made.  It was exciting to meet with my web manager as we shot the new intro video for my homepage and discussed changes that will occur over the next month.  I always have fun being on camera which makes it easy to shoot these things, and I am proud to say we captured what we needed in only a few takes.  Maybe in the future the next chapter of my life will include more on camera opportunities as I seem to have a knack

I was lucky to get into Iyashi Bedrock Spa  for treatments.  Torontonians are finally catching on to this unique spot, therefore spots are quickly filled.  One treatment was a traditional style where I enjoyed just laying on the heated black silica rock soaking in the healing properties of the rock’s emissions.  The second treatment was hot yoga where I benefited by the lengthening of my muscles getting them mountain ready.  Both gave me time to relax my body and mind and left me rejuvenated and ready the upcoming events.  To me this place is a little piece of magic!

If you are in the Torontoarea you have to check out Bloke and 4th at 401 King St W.  This new resto-lounge is the talk of the town providing beautiful food and drink in a catchy atmosphere.  I am fortunate to have Executive Chef Alex Burgess as one of my longest known friends and he provided hand picked selections off his menu.  My favourite was the scallops and risotto main, but everything I ate made my taste buds and optic nerves buzz with excitement.  Not only was the food delicious but so were the drinks.  Drink specialist Jeremy made it seem as though Dr. Suess stepped behind that bar and started maxing drinks, every sip was delectable.  Here is their write up in Toronto Life, take a read and get hungry. 

I was especially thrilled to spend time with family.  I took my nieces for an afternoon, one when to gymnastics and the other was entertained with Rock Band.  My eldest niece is excelling in gymnastics, among the other sports she participates in, and the changes in her personality are noticeable.  Sport has given her more focus and a needed outlet for her inherent abundant energy.  It can be seen that sport will play a big role in her life as it has in all my family member’s lives. 

I also had a couple good meals with my parents, who are always up for giving me the pep talk.  In those pep talks my Dad always references Rocky by saying “what does Rocky do when he’s knocked down? He gets right back up”.  This is always followed by the singing of the Rocky’s theme song.  Priceless. 

As you can tell it was a busy two days in my hometown but it was a great time.  Work, rest, play and family were what filled my time.  To me, these past days have been about balance.  I have preached this before and I will continue to in the future, but balance is huge in any career.  It realigns my concentration and boosts my focus.  Now I am ready for the next step of the Mammoth Grand Prix and for the ultimate goal of excellence.             

The Quebec World Cup

Getting to Quebecwas a little crazy.  First was the flight from Denver to Toronto, which was the best part of the trip.  We upgraded to First Class and it was great.  Truly a more civilized way to travel, being fed and lots of moving around room is the way to go.  Thank goodness I had upgrade credits that needed using.

We arrived at Pearson airport on time but it always takes so long to get luggage, plus clearing customs, we ended up spending an hour in the air port.  This was not good because coach made the decided to drive to Montrealthat night so we could hit up the first day of practice. 

Once all was said and done, eating and saying hello to the parents, it was already 7pm, we had a 515km drive a head of us and I knew my Aunt would be waiting for us to arrive.  We needed to get to Montrealquick. 

The 401 highway was our main route and about 40kms in to the trip the speedometer went out, so I had to drive according to RPMs.  I am used to this because of my boat training; sometimes the speedos didn’t work well on the boats, so you would do what you can.  Driving fast, I was driving with my head on a swivel.  Lady luck was on my side and I made it safely to my Aunts in less than 5 hours. 

The next morning there was practice at the resort, Stoneham, at 10am, and we were still 280kms away.  Roberto drove the rest of the way while I got some sleep so I would have some energy for the 3 hour practice I would have to ensue and perform in. 

We made it and were on course, with accreditation and bibs, by 11:45am.  Phew! I was a bit surprised to have such good practice.  I thought I was going to just do straight airs but I was able to pull it together and get my run down a couple of times.

It was also great to see good friends at the top of the pipe.  I have slowly befriended Chinese rider Xuetong through her coach, my friend, Christopher Clark.  “tong tong’ is her nickname on their team and she’s always smiling and high-fiving when we meet up.  Her and ‘crazy Dr. Loo’ are very patient with teaching me Mandarin, it’s taken me a while to learn ‘how are you’ and ‘I am fine’.  It’s much different from the Japanese that I have learnt in the past, and I have troubles with the intonation, but I am happy to try.   

Coach and I were relieved to finally get checked into the hotel, unpack, eat, and catch some Z’s. 

Tuesday’s practice when very well, with the sun shining and pipe having a much better shape, I practiced various runs with ease, and I could feel the energy building for the contest.  That night I had a meeting with Bob Palmer  to get my mental game up too.  It was great, and I was fired up.

The late morning of Wednesday was a snowy one with light fog in the half, the men rode first and there ended up being a half foot of sugar snow in the bottom.  Neither of this mattered to me because I was so in the ‘zone’.  It’s hard for me to describe to you exactly what happened or what I was doing because it was almost dream like.  I was on auto pilot that morning.  I did my runs and nothing else mattered.  This is what the ‘zone’ is like.  I didn’t even notice anyone else’s runs…I leave that up to my coach.  At least I got that right that day; that I definitely found the sweet spot in the zone. 

When I reached the bottom of the pipe I heard from the announcements that I had made semi finals and I was so stoked.  On to twitter I went telling everyone about my accomplishment.  I had made it though…or so I thought I did. 

Later that night, after preparing all evening, I received a call from Canada Snowboard telling me there had been a tabulation mistake and I actually missed finals by a point and a half.  I was SO BROKEN!!

Just heartbroken with this news! I was in the dumps.  My balloon had been totally deflated.  This contest meant a lot to me, and this mishap made me feel as though I was on the brink of quitting.  I know a lot of people envy what I do, but I also envy what everyday people get to do too.  Life is way easier to punch a clock, get a steady paycheque, and sleep in your own familiar bed every day.  There is so much ambiguity in my life that at times it drives me crazy and the people around me crazy.      

So, with all that happening I am lucky I have the support of some great people in my life.  My Mom and coach who help keep things in perspective; friends who make time for me when I am around and fully understand when I need to work.  I get a lot of love from these people.  At least how I live helps separates the real from the fluff.  No matter what the result of the contest I know I am always winning at life with these people around me.  There will be more contests and it’s a build to greatness.  It is a hard road, but would be much harder alone.    


Hearts, Guns and Training

Valentine's Day is always a funny day of the year.  Statistically it's not the day with the most breakups, actually two weeks before Christmas takes that title, but it's third on the list just behind Spring Break.   Actually I was surprised when I looked into some stats on Vday.  The biggest one that surprised me was that approximately 40% of the 180 million Vday cards purchased is done so by parents.  I believe this because I have gotten more cards by my Mom on Vday than by boyfriends.  I also suppose that parents also buy cards for their partners as well.  
My Vday was spent at the gun range unloading magnums of bullets at cans and targets.  Then on the slope with the snow feature I love the most, the half pipe.  I made chicken noodle soup from scratch, yes I love to cook too.  And cuddled down with the special person in my life to watch movies.  I guess to me it's not about spending money or doing lavish things, although flowers don't hurt but I feel that way with any day of the year.  Valentine's Day is about doing things I love to do.  I was sure to call my parents and let them know that I love them.  
The last two days have been training intensive working on drills, visualizing and trying to get  more breakthroughs.  I also have been playing travel agent booking flights, cars and hotel rooms.  There has also been the dealings with Canada Snowboard about confirming spots for contests which are a couple weeks away.  I was amazed at how I could not get a confirmation for contests that I needed to book logistics for.  Or a concise schedule for Canadian Nationals at Canada Olympic Park, I wonder if they know that flights do not get cheaper closer to the date? Well this is nothing new to me, just a little frustrating when you are trying to snowboard on a budget.  My sponsors are awesome Sony is really supportive for what I need.  More sponsorship would be great to cover a training/competing years which costs over $50,000, non Olympic, and over $80,000 for a Olympic qualifying year.  Canada helps with a couple thousand, which is a grant, that I apply for every year and haven't ever benefited from.  Thus is life.  When you get lemons, make lemonade as the story goes.  
I am thankful my parents raised me to pursue and that I really love riding half pipe.  There are ALWAYS challenges and triumphs and new things to learn.  I feel I am expanding as a person in life, love and labor.  
Still, this week is flying by so quickly, the Quebec World Cup will be upon me soon.  It will be a great contest!   

Winter Dew Tour - Toyota Championships Part II

The contest is over for me but it was a good one.   We had an extended practice of 3 hours but I only practiced for 1 hour.  I was afraid of over training, which is a real problem in contests like these.  The sun was out and the pipe was soft, almost spring like conditions, for the beginning of February.  Everyone looked pretty on point today.

Here is the top of the pipe with coaches Roberto Marfia and Chris Clark, with riders Xuetong, Leslie Glenn and I.  Taken with my Sony NEX-5 with Fisheye conversion lens.

I was too, landing some great runs in practice, including putting down my cab 540 after my frontside 720, a breakthrough run.  I have not done this in my full run yet.  I even added a last trick of a switch backside 540. Roberto my coach was so pumped, I should have been too but I knew it was only practice.

When it came to my run I was in the "zone" with a little Beyonce remix on my Walkman.  First run went great with a little butt check on my last hit, but I was relieved to finally get that cab 540 down in a run in a contest.  FINALLY.  The run was good but scored a little low, to be expected as I was near the front of the pack in dropping order.

Second run was smooth, I changed it up with a hand plant and backside 360.  I bumped up my score by 12 points.  I was frustrated that I didn't make the cut for finals but I can't dwell on this.

With every contest, bad or good, I have to see what I can improve on and what the small steps were that goes towards the goal, the Olympics.  For this one it is that I did a trick I haven't put into contest run yet and I succeeded.  That cab 540 had been plaguing me for over a year now and now the fight is over.  I did it, I know I can do it, and now it's been done.  I also look at what I need to improve on and practice.  The next week is without contest and I will have a chance to improve on my run and take that to the World Cup in Quebec on the 24th.  

So, in the end I will celebrate my accomplishment and create a plan for the improvements needed.  This is not just for contest but also for life.

Dew Tour - Toyota Championships

I have had my first day of practice here at the Dew in Utah at Snowbasin Resort.  The weather was partly cloudy and the pipe was full of energy.  It was great to see all the women riding the 615ft long pipe well, including Kelly Clark and Gretchen, who are almost always in top form.

Right now I am battling a cold that is probably due to overuse of my body and mind after the Canadian Open and hanging out with my friends who I haven't seen in years.  So it was a struggle at times to get into the "Zone", as my mental trainer Bob Palmer explains the mind state.  I have learned a lot from Sports Excel and continue to learn and try new things with every session.

Most important thing I have learned was to get excited for the contest.  I used to worry about what the contest would bring me, having anxiety about a million different things.  Now I see it as a chance to showcase all the things I have learned over all these years of riding half pipe...the most frustrating discipline of them all.

So I must say that I am excited for tomorrow's qualifiers.  I am going to put in my new trick and it's going to be great!! As my friend Joyce Castle said "you are going to fly today"!