Kelly Vanderbeek-Headaches come in many forms
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | 12:53 AM ET
Kelly Vanderbeek is a downhill skier. With three world cup podiums and a world ranking of 5th in Downhill, she's looking forward to Vancouver 2010.
Now that was a tough weekend of travel and racing in Bulgaria. I never thought I'd hear everyone in the finish area say they'd rather be on the track in Val d'Isere!
Well, that could be slightly unfair to the town of Bansko, since the hill was fun and offered amazing potential. But our downhill was set up with the intent of keeping our speeds as slow as possible.
The course, which started and finished in the same place as last year's men's Europa Cup event, was a whopping 23 seconds slower than it was for that race. The track was also reminiscent of Quebec and Ontario snow, with a light sugar layer on top and sheer ice underneath. By Day 2 it was a skating rink with bumps the whole way down.
Still, I had good splits and was simply struggling with this one section in particular. I was determined to figure it out, and after a training run in which I went too round, on race day I went too straight. I was definitely overthinking this section as I felt I needed to do something special when really I only had to suck it up and ride the bumps out.
After being the only Canadian to finish the first race — I was a disappointing 23rd — I was getting set for the second downhill of the weekend. Doing what I could to let go of thought and just race hard, but also stay as relaxed as possible, I won the top split but was taken out by one of the holes they had been working on earlier in inspection.
I went down hard, bouncing back in the air after the first impact before coming to a fast stop in the safety fence — going from about 90km/h to a dead stop in the space of three meters.
Amazingly, I was fine after the crash, but I had hit my head hard. I cracked my helmet (something I'd never done before) and suffered some whiplash. But it was the pounding headache and mild disorientation that tipped the doctor off to the fact that I'd suffered a concussion.
Although it was a fairly mild one, there was no way the doctor was going to let me ski the super-G on Sunday. I was pretty sad, though I understood the decision.
The 'joys' of travel
After watching the race from the sidelines, we had some time to kill before the police arrived to escort our convoy of buses. In the meantime, the Canadians, Americans and Brits enjoyed a few rounds of bowling at the hotel. That was good fun and brought out a lot of laughs.
On the road, the laughs continued in the back of the bus with card games and silliness. After a bit of this, my head was pounding too much and I had move to a quieter spot. Still, I enjoyed the drive.
Once at the airport we — pretty much the entire World Cup roster — checked in together and made our way to our flight. Once we reached Munich some mild fog prevented our plane, which was equipped with substandard instruments, to land and we were rerouted to Stuttgart. Once there, we sat in the plane for an hour before they decided what to do with us. Finally we got our bags and began waiting for buses to arrive to drive us back to
By this point it was midnight, or 1 a.m. Bulgaria time. Everyone was tired. Ninety minutes later they said the buses couldn't take us, so we made our way to the hotel where our big group slowly checked in to sleep.
The next morning — Monday — we boarded another set of tour buses and the convoy began its journey again, this time to Munich.
Ah, the joys of travel.
My headaches are almost gone now, and the whiplash is already subsiding. My left shoulder, which had been injured previously, took a nice hit and was put back about two weeks in its recovery. But at least it didn't pop out again!
This week we'll be training, looking for some giant slalom races, and then it's off to Are, Sweden for the World Cup finals.
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