I'm Not Done Yet

The alarm went off at 6:15 as it has every morning for the last week and a half.  It’s dark outside- winter’s dawn won’t be for over an hour.  My bed feels too hot, and I struggle against the tightly tucked layers of sheets and blankets, to free my left leg and expose it to the crisp air.  Ahhhh.  At first I forget that I don’t need to be awake; it’s finals day for the New Zealand Winter Games, and I failed to qualify.  But my roommates and teammates, Anais and Anna, need to get up, as does our coach Elana.  We are sharing quarters for the month down here as we train and get ready for the biggest potential contest of our lives, The Olympics. For the last week we have been on the same schedule: 6 a.m wake up, slow crawl out of bed, immediately turn the electric kettle on to boil water for our French Press coffee, whose plunger is currently held together with medical tape (it’s all we have on the road).  I prepare 2 eggs mixed with a bit of milk; the gas stove in our kitchenette burns hot, so the eggs cook quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them and getting my gluten free bread toasted perfectly by the time my eggs are done cooking is always a challenge.  After a week, I’m beginning to get it down.

My eyes and head feel heavy.  Abruptly leaving behind the long days of summer for the stunted days of winter in New Zealand makes mornings seem darker than usual—we’ve been cut off of our sun addiction cold-turkey.  My 2 other roommates awaken around the same time and we awkwardly dance through the small living-dining-cooking space, as everyone prepares for the day ahead—Anais with her yogurt and muesli, Anna with some toast with an egg, ham and cheese, Elana with a cup of coffee.  Slowly ski clothes find their way out of the bedrooms, ski pants climb their way up our legs, excess coffee is poured into to-go mugs and we tumble out the door toward our cars.

Elana drives the Ford Ranger—it’s 4-door truck with a short bed, but it seats 5.  All of our skis and poles go in the back of the Ranger (11 pairs in total) and 5 people load into the cab.  My car, as I like to call it, is a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado—“The Prado”.  It’s a huge, wide, very American looking SUV.  We have one of the rear seats up, so that we can fit 6 people, 6 backpacks and 6 pairs of boots.  I climb into the right side of the Prado as the rest of the kids fight over shotgun and bitch.  The auxiliary cord gets passed to the backseat somewhere and Lil Wayne begins to sound.  I’m always shocked at how good rap can make me feel before the sun is even up.

We pull out of our drive, remembering to stay left.  Some days Elana is the lead car, and other days I am; some days we try to break ground speed records and other days we try to practice the skill of patience as we sit behind a car going a mere 90 kmh in a 100 zone.  Elana is typically more aggressive on the pavement in the first part of our drive, while I prefer the dirt of the second half.  Getting up to the base of Cardrona Ski Resort takes between 28 and 40 minutes (depending on how we choose to drive) and the pipe is open from 7:30-11 or 10 or 12… New Zealand isn’t the best at creating a consistent schedule.  But, this morning is a contest day, so the schedule will be a little different.  And then I remember, I’m not competing.

Yesterday was the qualifiers for the World Cup.  Going into it I was feeling really good.  My skiing was progressing nicely, training had been on a steady incline and I was prepared to peak for contest day.  My warm-up runs felt solid, and I was done with about 5 minutes remaining of our 35-minute session.  There were 26 girls competing and I felt confident about being in the top 12 to qualify for finals.  The run that I was competing was fairly basic compared to my best skiing of 2 years ago.  Big straight air, alley-oop mute, 540 safety, alley-oop 5, cork 7 tail, switch 180.  That run earned me 2nd place at this exact contest 2 summers ago.

In my first run I landed really low on my alley-oop 5, I didn’t touch the ground with any part of my body and I fought through, determined to stand up and finish the rest of the run.  I was really proud to have skied away from that trick and glad to feel the strength in my right leg after all it has been through.  Last winter, stepping into my binding was a challenge and now I am able to pull off landings that would be tough for anyone of any age, gender, health or strength.  My score was a 68 and put me in 9th.  I was happy to at least be in finals, for the time being.  I made the decision to keep my alley-oop 5 in for the 2nd run- my thought process being that I’m not going to the Olympics without it, and I felt that I will land it better and improve my score from run 1.  Most of that statement was right, I landed the trick better, but still low and somehow felt really slow going into my 720, last minute I thought to do an air to fakie instead so that I could still do a switch 180, but I decided too late and ended up just flailing on a straight air.  I didn’t fight.  My stomach sank, and I felt that I had just made a big mistake.

My intuition was right.  4 girls managed to land better 2nd runs and I moved from 9th place to 13th—one spot out of finals, one short fight away.  But sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles.  My intention for this first event was to do the run that I did.  My skiing is exactly where I had wanted it to be at this time, but adjusting to where that has placed me was tough.  As I said, 2 years ago that run landed me on the podium (granted it was a little cleaner) and now it didn’t even make finals.  It is a proud moment to observe the growth that this sport has gone through, but an intimidating one.  The path that I have laid out for myself has me peaking in December, taking every step, and pausing there for a moment, one new trick in training, one new trick in a contest run; not skipping ahead just for the sake of a competition.

I'm feeling reconnected with the sport that I once loved greatly and drifted away from for a while.  It feels really good to be motivated again, to want to learn new tricks, to be able to focus on the elements that are in my control, no longer distracted by the doings of others. The Olympics won’t mark the end for me whether or not I qualify to compete, so I will just continue look ahead.  I will progress on the timeline that I lay out, not forcing anything based on the looming event that has us all on pins and needles.  I’m not done skiing yet.

Staying focused on your future goals in times when you fall short of your immediate goal is imperative to success.  Know that you have what it takes to get there as long as you are patient.  Often we are only one trick, one day, or one moment away from being where we intend to be, but we give up just before we can see over the horizon.  Do not quit too soon,  “character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”  Thanks for that, Helen Keller.

(Side note: I watched finals that morning.  It turned into a one run contest because the fog was so intense.  My US Freeskiing teammate Devin Logan, ended up winning.  It was her first contest back from an ACL tear she suffered in New Zealand one year prior.  My good friend Angeli VanLaanen got 2nd, her first podium at a Platinum level event since her return to skiing post recovery from Lyme Disease treatments.  Anna Drew ended up in 5th after crashing really hard on a right 900 in training (her unnatural way of spinning).  I was happy to see her healthy and skiing.  And Anais did a beautiful 900 first hit and went a little big on her alley-oop 5 resulting in a crash. She ended up 12th, but is skiing really well. On to the next one.)

Stepping Back

Yesterday was the 9th time that I’ve turned south off of Interstate 70 onto CO-82 for the Winter X-Games in Aspen, CO and will mark my 8th Winter X-Games appearance.  (It would be my 9th appearance, but I was sidelined last year with a knee injury and attended the event as a spectator. You can read about that trip here.)  I couldn’t help but recount the feelings of anticipation that I’ve had every year, each year markedly different, but this one feels extremely special.  Most of my peers that I began this journey with 10 years ago are retired and no longer competing, male and female alike.  The girls that I would go to registration with, eat, train and party with are no longer by my side.  I will be, at 26 years young, the OLDEST competitor in the WXG women’s ski halfpipe field this year and the ONLY woman to have competed in the first women’s WXG ski halfpipe event in 2005.  As I made the journey to Aspen yesterday, I felt extremely nostalgic, lonely and proud- honored, to still be here, pursuing my dreams after a decade of hard work,devastating injuries, and the passing of friends. I recalled how excited I would get each year heading into town, thinking of the great halfpipe that we would be able to ski, story-lining my imagined success of landing new tricks and landing on the podium.  I’ve never driven to Aspen for X without the belief that I could win, but this year I have.  My knee is not yet 100% normal from my injury sustained over a year ago on January 10, but my strength is at 98% of what it was at my strongest in the fall of 2011.  I am able to ski, but the image that I have of the skier I once was is something I have let go of.  That’s not to say that I will never do the tricks that I once did before, or that I will never stand atop a podium again, but it’s not going to happen right now.  It’s a humbling feeling and an honorable one, to still want to go out, naked, exposed and vulnerable, to allow a judging panel to tell me that I’m not number 1.

For the first time in my career I’m not worried about wining, being the best, or being better than everyone else.  I’m focused on doing the best that I can, with what I have, where I am.  It’s a mindset that I’ve been told about for the last decade, one that is written about in every sports psych book on the market, but one that is scary to adapt, when the will to win carried you so far for so long.  It’s exciting to be in a place where I can watch these young girls throwing both way 900s, filling their runs with more technicality, switch hits, amplitude and grabs, and just feel proud- proud for them, and proud for myself, that I am still here, now, just skimming above the dogfight, doing my own thing.  I can’twait to do some of the big tricks that are in my arsenal, but if I don’t respect my body and I don’t accept where I am right now, I will never be able to do them again.

My sights remain set on competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and the only way to get there is through living every day doing all I can.  Though my circumstances have changed, my end goal doesn’t need to.   Sometimes we have to take a few steps backward in order to move forward again.  It’s in this time that people often doubt themselves, doubt their ability to improve and decide it’s time to quit.  But a lot of the time, this is when you are inches away from your greatest success.

“The secret of life is to fall seven times and get up eight times.  Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” Paulo Coelho

 

25 Hottest Male Winter Sport Athletes

Yesterday I had the pleasant surprise of being featured on the Bleacher Report's list of 25 Hottest Female Winter Sport Athletes.  I'm not entirely sure how I feel about these lists...  On one hand I'm offended that they exist, but on the other hand, I'd be offended if I wasn't included.  There are a few other fellow freeskiers on the list including Ingrid Backstrom, Lynsey Dyer and Grete Eliassen, and though I know each of these ladies is beautiful, it is their skiing that really stands out to me. However, I don't feel like going into a moral escapade over this right now, so I figured that I'd have some fun and create a list of the hottest male winter sport athletes. This way, the men won't feel left out.  Check out the gallery below. Just like the judging in most of our sports, I've rated these men objectively in reverse order, saving the best for last... There is no opinion present.

Moving Mountains

Neu Productions and Pro Skier Jen Hudak Announce Fall Release of “Moving Mountains”

Breckenridge-based production company releases trailer for a fall 2011 web-based ski film series featuring professional skier, X Games Gold Medalist and Olympic hopeful, Jen Hudak

BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO- April 27, 2011 – Neu Productions, a Breckenridge based production company, proudly announces a new short film series featuring two-time X-games gold medalist and women’s freeskiing advocate, Jen Hudak.  “Moving Mountains” is a four-part film series that follows Jen through her 2010-2011 season as she travels the globe, pushing the limits and pursuing her dreams.

As a 2014 Olympic hopeful, Jen hopes this series will motivate others to commit to what they are passionate about, as she has done with her skiing.  Jen explains, “This is not just about the skiing- it is about everything that goes into it and everything you get in return.  It is about the hard work and dedication, the triumph, and the failure.”

The first film in the inspirational four-part series is scheduled to be released in September, 2011, and a full-length TV show will be available on The Ski Channel in late fall.  In Jen’s words, “The series takes a really honest look into one of the toughest seasons of my career.  I was given obstacles to overcome, and in doing so I grew as a human being.  There are always lessons to be learned from these situations. You always gain insight into another piece of yourself.”

John says, “It is amazing to work with Jen, her ability to perform at the highest level, articulate her struggles and triumphs, and smile along the way is inspiring.  Simply, I can’t wait for people to see this project, we focused a great deal on story and hope to reach an audience not just within the core ski community but on the mainstream level as well."

Similarly, Jen states, “John Roderick’s cinematography and editing is amazing.  From the second I saw his work, I knew I wanted Neu Productions to produce my project, I couldn’t be happier with our decision to collaborate.”

To view the trailer for “Moving Mountains”: http://vimeo.com/22921112.

Jen and John would like to thank the sponsors that made this project possible: Under Armour, The Stone Clinic, Paul Mitchell and Volkl/Marker.

 

To celebrate their upcoming fall 2011 web-series, Neu Productions proudly releases, “Moving Mountains” trailer.

 

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Neu Productions is a diverse production resource company based in Breckenridge Colorado, producing innovative content that bridges both commercial and endemic visions to produce powerful branded content.

www.neuproductions.com

 

Newly refurbished www.jenhudak.com features recent photos, blog, schedule, sponsors, etc.  The site showcases insight into Jens amazing personality.  By following links provided on her website you can personally connect with on her Facebook fan page and Twitter.   Jen is a professional skier of 7 years.  Based in Salt Lake City, UT.

 

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the uneXpected

Boy do I wish I could turn back the hands of time. Again, I get to build character this season, with one of the most incredible and simultaneously most frustrating moments of my life. On Thursday night after the men’s snowboard pipe qualifiers went down, the 6 ski girls who made finals dropped in to a chewed up halfpipe. Conditions were certainly not ideal, but everyone has to ski the same pipe. So I stuck with my game plan and I was ready to throw down.

My game plan was to do a “safety run” on my first run, land it and then replace my 7 with a 10. 900 tail, alley-oop critical, mute, alley-oop 540 , 540 mute, tail, 720 tail. First run, my ski popped off when I landed my 7. It shouldn’t have, but it did. So for run 2 I went with the same plan as run 1, get a decentscore, hopefully secure a spot on the podium and then do the 10 on run 3.

But again, my 7 gave me trouble. This hit was far less vert than the previous days in training, and though I popped I could see that I was really close to the deck. My landing wasn’t super clean and I definitely punched the ground a little bit, so I was a bit concerned about the score, but I was optimistic. Sadly, the score came in a 78- good enough for 5th.

Run 3 it was on. I was fired up and ready for the 10. I was extremely conscious not to think too far ahead in my run and forget about the tricks I needed to do before I got to the 10. Dropped in with heat,10 foot 9 grabbed, big alley-oop, grabbed my 5, focused on the tail grab going into the 10, just remember to pop and grab. So I did, and I landed a 10 tail grab. As I began to celebrate (albeit a bit prematurely) and went to turn around, I caught an edge and fell. The run wouldn’t be enough.

For the first time in 5 years I won’t be taking home a medal from X-Games. But I will be taking home a new trick and a new perspective. I have never had so many people compliment my skiing when not on the podium. Though the run wasn’t completed, the 10 was landed, which is what I wanted to do when Iwoke up in the morning. I told myself that as long as I do that trick in my run I would go home happy. I do this sport because I love it and I want to reach my potential. I have unlocked a new level of my skiing that will lead me to incredible places in the future. I didn’t take home a medal, but I am taking home my pride. But before I go, I need to leave you with this: Sarah Burke is back in action and I couldn’t be happier. Witha newly revamped cork 900, and back-to-back flairs that took a year of sacrifice to get dialed, Sarah islooking good. She took home the gold. X-Games newcomer, Brita Sigourney took home silver throwing a massive 900 landed consistently throughout the night. Roz-G took home bronze for the 2nd year in a row, andher consistency is certainly being noted. In 4th, my teammate, Anais Cara deux. She made me so proud with both way 5s andmassive 900. I ended up in 5th. And last but not least was fellow east coater and the number 1 qualifier fromWednesday, Devin Logan. She threw back to back flairs, steezy 5 tails, and a solid 7. It was by far themost progressive women’s ski pipe comp that I have ever witnessed. This sport is going to incredibleplaces. For photos and a full recap visit this link: http://newschoolers.com/ns/content/readnews/id/3674/