Senna’s Podium Dreams Become Reality!

March 26, 2020

So the last time I wrote one of these blog posts was after our pre-season training camp in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Gosh that was a great way to start this 2019/2020 season! High in the Swiss Alps training on a glacier with ideal conditions – the dream! That seems like a really long time ago, and in some ways I guess it was. It’s now springtime in Colorado and I am reviewing what has happened over the last 6 months. Another season in the sport of World Cup Snowboard-Cross taking me across the globe, pushing my limits, and creating many memories and experiences. This season really tested me as an athlete and as an individual. In my sport, you go into every year with huge expectations and goals that you set for yourself. You have all of this energy built up, and then it is finally go-time and find yourself back in that start gate. The ups and downs of my sport are really quite fascinating. The emotions of when you are on the brink of greatness and get completely shut down and find yourself struggling to find the mental strength to persevere. Then, you have these moments when you are on the limit, and suddenly you have a breakthrough result that you have dreamed of for years. A wild mix of learning experiences, highs and lows, and turning dreams into reality is what this year consisted of.

Pre Season Training CampAfter Saas Fee in the fall, we headed back home to Colorado. A part of our pre-season preparation involves a US Team training camp at Copper Mountain. At this camp we find ourselves training a wide variety of skills to help us better prepare for the year ahead. It has a great energy there, and everyone is preparing to chase greatness so the spirit in the air is pretty high. Sometimes we would be training at 6am as the sun was rising, and sometimes we would be late in the day in the evening light. It all depended on what we were doing that day. I felt so strong at this camp, and I was consistently setting some of the fastest training times, so it was a huge boost to my confidence heading into the World Cups soon to follow. High up in the Rocky Mountains, it was so easy to get sunburnt as we were training at 12,000 feet every day. My CōTZ favorite for this camp was the Face Prime and Protect. Putting a layer of that on every day before training always ensured that I was protected and could focus on my training as much as possible.

Next up after our Colorado camp, we headed back to Europe for a month and a half of training and competitions – including the first World Cups of the season. First up on Euro trip was Pitztal, Austria. This place… gosh it’s cold there. Our team always dreads this place because of how cold it can get. As soon as we got there, we were straight into a European Cup competition. A European Cup is a step below the World Cup stage, but all the World Cup athletes still show up to this race because it’s a great way to get that competition mojo back, so the level is really high. I had a super fast qualifying run and qualified as the top American. I had a physical first round at this race and was edged out at the line in a 3-way photo finish. I rode the best I could, so I didn’t get too down on myself, but I was still frustrated because I knew I was capable of much more. That’s life though, and I set my focus on the next week of intense training. I really capitalized on my training time there which was great – I made every day count. Pitztal is actually the highest glacier in that region of Austria. It is super dry there, and my go-to for our time spent there was the CōTZ Face Moisture – a life saver!

Pitzal, AUSSecond up on this Euro trip was Montafon, Austria for the World Cup season opener. Heading into this race I ended up getting sick which was far from ideal. My hunger for a good result overpowered the sickness, so I didn’t let it hold me back. Due to the lack of snow in Europe at this time, they had a shortened course – a “sprint” event. They did a great job with the lack of snow though, and the course was really fun! On training day, I felt great and my times reflected that. On qualifying day, a small snag in my run put me in the bottom of the brackets that qualified to race the next day. I didn’t let it phase me; all that mattered was that I qualified. On race day I was FIRED UP! The fans were there, the TV cameras were going, and in my training runs I had some serious pace. In one of my training runs I raced against the guys I would soon be racing for real, and I won the heat which was a great last-minute confidence boost.

Now it was the real deal. I remember being in the start gate, TV camera to the left of me, knowing my family and friends were on the other side of the lens cheering me on. The gate dropped and we were off! I had the second-fastest start heading into turn 1. I was in the far outside lane due to my qualifying result. On my blind side heading into turn one I was hit out of nowhere. I remember it in slow motion. This is not what I wanted. I got pushed sideways but still managed to stay on my feet. I was pushed from 2nd to 4th and was now in the hunt trying to make up as much ground as I could. I made up ground and was carrying some freight towards the line – but due to the length of the sprint course, the race was over before I could regain my place. Just like that, it was over. The disappointment set in as I wanted to start the new World Cup season with a bang, but I kept my head high knowing that I did all that I could. I never get down for too long if I know I put myself out there as much as possible. My coach showed me the training times from the morning before the race, and I had the 4th fastest time of the morning. My pace was there, it just didn’t pull together for me in the race. My sights were set on the next World Cup the following week.

Cervinia, ItalyThe third leg of this Euro stint took us to Cervinia, Italy – one of my favorite places! Cervinia is situated on the Italian side of the Matterhorn near the Swiss border. If you want, you can even snowboard over to Switzerland for lunch! I always love this place and it is a venue that I have always had breakthrough results at. Hungry for my first individual World Cup podium, I felt as if the stars were aligning for this year in Cervinia. We arrived to beautiful blue skies, but that would be the last time we would see the sun for 4 days. A massive storm came in that threw a huge curveball in our competition schedule. It was constantly switching between dumping snow, and a thick fog that was nearly impossible to navigate through. Not the conditions you want when you are racing with 5 other guys at highway speeds though technical features pushing your limits. Course testing, training, and qualifying were all disrupted due to the weather.

Now it was the day before the race, and none of us had even taken full runs on the course. The heats for race day were to be seeded by our points from the previous race since qualifying couldn’t take place. When we woke up on race day, it was back to blue sky and we had to dial in the course in two runs before it was showtime. I remember handing out some CōTZ samples to my fellow World Cup riders, as it was the first day with sunshine and people weren’t prepared and were scrambling to find some sunscreen. They all know that I had them covered though! Thankfully the course ran like a dream! My first training run was ideal and set my confidence up. In my second training run though, I was trying to fly a jump low and jolted my knee. I knew exactly the mistake I made as I did it. A feeling I had felt before, jolting the joint line on the inside of my back knee. I knew I needed to go see my physical therapist at the top of the course to make sure I didn’t hurt my knee. It was 10 minutes before TV time and I am on the ground with my PT moving my knee around, testing its stability. I was given the clear to race, but I was definitely in some pain. As I strapped in in the start gate, I squatted down. I felt the pressure in my knee, but it was tolerable.

We lined up and it was go time as I looked down the main straight to turn 1. The gate dropped and we were off! We were 6-wide through the start section, and I was in third place going through turn 1. It was a battle back and forth down the whole course and we were 4-wide in the final turn heading towards the finish line. Instead of jumping the final feature I rode it on the ground, and it gave me the edge I needed to take the win in the first round. I remember crossing that line and feeling a huge sense of relief, as I got my first break of the season. After lining up for the TV broadcast, we jumped on the snowmobiles to head back up for quarterfinals. By the time I was strapped in for quarterfinals, I could barely squat down on my knee though. It had entirely flared up. I knew I had to push through. Once the gate dropped, we were off again! I was in 5th heading into turn one, and then was passed putting me in last. The swelling in my knee limited the explosive movements I needed to be higher up in the heat at the start. I passed up into 4th, and was battling towards the line, but it wasn’t enough to advance to the next round. My ambitions for the day were cut short. I thought it was going to be a breakthrough day, but instead I had a semi-average result and a knee entirely swollen up. Another test, a learning experience. Every race you learn something and go through situations which make you better prepared the next race. My goal now was to rehab my knee and focus on coming back stronger for the next World Cup.

We had a couple weeks after the World Cup in Italy to take a break, which allowed for time to reset and enjoy some fun at home. Soon after though, we headed north to Canada to start the next leg on tour. We first went to Sunshine Village Ski Resort, in Banff, Canada. Here we had a training camp before the World Cups in nearby British Columbia. It was so insanely cold at this camp! Our first day there it was -38°F!!! This is by far the coldest temperatures I’d ever been in, and we were expected to perform in them. And that we did. We made great use of our time there preparing for the next leg on the competition tour. The time at Sunshine Village came and went quickly, and then we were on the road to the next World Cup at Big White Ski Resort.

Big White Ski Resort is famous for always being socked in with clouds. We used to race lower level competitions at Big White before I made it onto the World Cup circuit. It was always a place I loved coming to. This was a place where I have had some great breakthrough results in my progression coming up as a rider, so I thought once again that it might be a place where I could get that elusive first individual World Cup podium. My morale was high, and I was ready for the event to start. On the first day of the event, we learned that the following World Cup in Germany we were supposed to fly to was canceled. The bad weather conditions in Europe prohibited that event from happening. When I learned this news, it set that tone for the competition where you’re nervous because you know you are getting less chances to achieve your goals this season, so you need to make it happen now. On training day, I rode really well and I was prepared for qualifying the next day. On qualifying day, I was sitting in the middle of the qualifying field after the first run as the third ranked American. The weather changed drastically for the second qualifying runs though. My second run was going really well, until I made a small mistake near the end of the course. I thought that it might not affect me, but it did. I didn’t qualify. I was not the only high level rider that this happened to, as multiple others had a similar fate as the speed on the course changed drastically going into the second run. My first run was now irrelevant, and my mistake on my second run was detrimental. Another down moment. This one was really hard to handle, as I had once again had high expectations for myself.

This World Cup was a double-header, so I knew that I would have another chance in two days, but I was down knowing that I wouldn’t be racing the next day. I had to sit at the bottom of the course the following day and watch everybody race, wishing that I was up there. I took this time as a chance to analyze how the course was running and be as prepared as I could be for the following day. When the second race day came, I was hungry. I felt as if my time was now, and I wanted it so bad. From the start of the day, I was on fire. I was fast in training, and I was ready for my first round heat. My first heat was a battle start to finish, but I advanced to the next round. From there it was another battle, and I found myself advancing to the next round again.

Senna QuarterfinalsNow I was in the quarterfinals, and everything was moving so quick. You race, you battle, you cross the line advancing, you stand for the TV cameras, you take a snowmobile back up to the top of the course, and it was time to do it all again. From this point I knew I was either advancing to the semifinals or done for the day. I ended up winning my quarterfinal, advancing to the semifinals. I had only ever been in this position one other time in my career, so the nerves were high, but at the same time I knew how capable I was. I wanted to advance to the big final, and then after a crazy semifinal race, I found myself in it. I remember standing in the start gate for the big final and hearing the crowd cheering at the bottom. I knew my whole team was down there rooting for me as I was the last man standing on our team for the day, and my teammate Faye had just gotten a podium in the women’s race a couple minutes prior.

It was go time. The gate dropped and the battle was on. A fight of positions the entire race. Heading towards the final turn I had just passed into 2nd place and I was on the home stretch trying to reach the line as fast as I could – knowing two others were directly on my tail. I crossed the line in a photo finish, but I knew that I was either 2nd or 3rd. My teammates rushed into the finish coral and tackled me to the ground in celebration. I came third, making it onto my first individual World Cup podium! This was a moment I had dreamed about for so long, and it was finally happening. I could barely believe it was real. It seemed like a dream. My entire team, past coaches, friends… everyone was there celebrating with me. Two of my teammates carried me on their shoulders to the podium where I was soon to be drenched in champagne. What a moment! A moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Earlier in the year when I was stressing out about not living up to my potential, my teammate Lindsey told me “Learn to hold onto your wins much longer than you hold onto your losses.” This was so very true. Up until this moment it had been a very testing year; not accomplishing what I had wanted, not qualifying for the first race at Big White, and then two days later achieving a lifelong goal. What a trip. I was going to hold onto this for a long time.

World Cup PodiumDue to the German World Cup cancellation, we ended up staying in Big White for some North American cup competitions which were a blast. They modified the World Cup course for the races, and it made for some great racing and training amongst the World Cup riders that had stayed. I was able to stand back on the podium again at these races which was another highlight. Once we finished up in Big White, all of us went home for a couple weeks and enjoyed snowboarding for the soul. It felt so good to be back in Colorado. I was out riding with friends reminding myself of the simple pleasures of snowboarding that make me love it so much. Sunny days, great company, perfect snow, and lots of layering up with CōTZ sunscreen to protect myself from those high altitude rays.

After this period, we were initially supposed to head to China for a World Cup, but that event was postponed which ended up being a great thing because by this time the coronavirus was taking over China. Our competition year was thinning out, but so were the other disciplines’ due to the various situations around the globe.

We headed back to Europe for the final leg of the World Cup season, starting in Austria. We arrived in Reiteralm, a resort with a great snowboard-cross training facility. Here we spent a few days preparing for the Spanish World Cup which was a week away. At Reiteralm we had nothing but beautiful spring days in the Austrian sun training on a great course. I was using the new CōTZ Sport in Reiteralm as it was brand new and I was excited to test out this latest product, and Austria providing me excellent conditions to test out what is now my new favorite sunscreen.

Veysonnaz Swiss AlpsIt was soon time for the World Cup in Sierra Nevada, Spain. Spring was in full effect in southern Spain. The weather was calling for short sleeves and soaking up sunshine, so I was glad that I had the new CōTZ Sport. Even though the temperatures were high, the snow conditions were entirely ice due to the previous weather they had been having. The course was scary due to the ice, but it was so much fun! Training day went well, and I felt prepared to race. I qualified into the race and was ready to throw it all out there. Advancing to the round of 32, I was standing in the start gate hungry as can be. The gate dropped and we were into it. I was in the outside gate so I was a little bit slower heading into turn 1, but I was in the race. I passed over the jump heading into turn 2, and then was passed back off the jump out of turn 3. I was sitting in 4th, but I had the speed to make the passes happen, just had to choose when and where. I came out of the last turn tight in the pack and passed from 4th all the way to 1st down the final straight to the finish line. It’s a great feeling when you make it happen in the nick of time and advance to the next round. Soon after in the quarter final I was trying to pass and slid on some ice which killed my momentum, and I wasn’t able to advance to the semifinals. My good friend Lucas who was the hometown hero ended up winning his home World Cup which was a pretty special moment to be there for. I was satisfied with my racing and the momentum I was carrying into the World Cup the following week in Switzerland.

Despite the coronavirus scares, our next World Cup was given the green light, so we moved on to Switzerland the following day. My two most trusted items during this period were my hand sanitizer and my CōTZ sunscreen, protecting myself on all fronts! We arrived in Veysonnaz, one of my favorite places in the world. A big, fast course that provides exciting racing every year. We spent the days before the event lounging out looking over the Swiss alps and getting our mental space where it needed to be. My teammates and I layered up with CōTZ Sport in the spring conditions. We were the few people on the mountain that weren’t getting burnt! You would see some tourists out there looking like lobsters on these spring days! At 3:50am the morning of training day though, a huge wrench got thrown into our plans. The coronavirus was now to a level that our national governing body directed us to leave Switzerland as soon as possible – so we packed up at 4 in the morning and headed to the airport to get on the quickest flights back to the states. That was startling, and we didn’t see that coming! We were saddened to be leaving, but also knew that it was very important to get home and protect our health over everything. As we were traveling home, it was announced that all remaining competitions for the year have been canceled. Just like that. The rest of our competition year was gone. It sure came and went quickly. A year of ups and downs and changed plans.

Competition YearNow back in Colorado, all resorts are shut down. A month before usual, due to this virus. I have been reflecting on this competition year, and how it was special in its own ways even though it was shorter than usual and had some curveballs along the way. I tested myself, grew as an athlete, and accomplished one of my biggest goals; standing on a World Cup podium. The season isn’t entirely over yet though… the only way to snowboard from here on out is to “earn your turns”. Everything we do from now on will be man-powered endeavors into the backcountry – the purest form of our sport. Hiking, snowshoeing, and split-boarding will be our modes of earning our turns this spring. Nothing to be bummed about actually! This allows for a special time to get out in the mountains and enjoy what my home state of Colorado has to offer. Now it is time to create some spring memories and finish the season on a high note with these sunny, warm conditions… and of course staying protected using CōTZ sunscreen along the way.