Anna Mounsey is an 18-year old alpine ski racer and official invitee of the U.S. ski team from Alpental, Washington. You can read her thoughts on her injury rehabilitation at http://annamounsey.weebly.com.
G4: We are here today with Anna Mounsey, downhill skier extraordinaire. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background?
Anna Mounsey: My name is Anna Mounsey. I am an 18-year old ski racer from Snoqualmie, Washington. I grew up in the Cascades of Washington State and I am a skier for the U.S. ski team as an official invitee. I tore both of my acl’s and meniscuses in November of 2013. I am on my road to recovery. It is hard but I am working through it.
The Mental Edge of Skiing
G4: You sure are. With what you do in ski racing, tell me a little about mental edge, and how that plays in with what you do?
Anna Mounsey: Well, it’s really all about confidence and being the most prepared on the hill, physically but also mentally. You can train as many days as you want; you can workout as much as you want and push as hard as you can, but when you are on the hill on race day, you can’t think about how many pushups you did during the summer.
You have to think about what I can do right now to win. You can’t think about breakfast, dinner, or lunch; you have to think about how you are going to execute your tactics. When you are in that mindset on the morning of a race, you think about having to be in the moment. That’s what they always tell us. In the moment thinking about what I am doing right now, how is this going to help me win?
Mentality is all about blocking things out. What you need that day. You don’t need your drama with your boyfriend or your girlfriend. You need what the course looks like. How you are going to execute a jump. How you are going to make a 180-degree turn the other way. Your brain has to coordinate with your body. It’s all wrapped up. There are a lot of factors.
G4: So do you spend a lot of time visualizing what’s next? Are you running the course through in your mind before it happens?
Anna Mounsey: Yea, you have an inspection run where you go up, you slip the course, you look at the gates and where they are placed on the mountain and the radius of the turn or how long away the turn is. Then you get to think about that for at least thirty minutes to an hour.
It’s all about how you think about it. Are you overthinking it? Are you thinking about it too much or not enough? Do you know the course? Have you remembered the blind turns? And then you are in the start gate and you think, “Do I remember the course?”
While you’re on the course, if you don’t remember it and you go around a blind turn and you don’t know where the turn is, you let up pressure, you stand up and that’s aerodynamics, and that’s not being aggressive. So that’s dangerous. Or, going over a jump at 12 o clock when the angle is at 11 o’clock, then you are going to jump off — fly off — and you are going to miss the gate and be out of the race, just because you didn’t inspect right.
G4: And your race is typically, from start to finish, what? 90 seconds?
Anna Mounsey: Yea, a minute to a minute and a half. It’s nothing like soccer or basketball where, if you as an individual mess up, then you have — in soccer, for example — 90 minutes left to make it up, to get the ball back and score. In ski racing, if you mess up one turn, that could be seconds off of your time. It’s all about the clock; you’re racing the clock. If you mess up one turn that someone else didn’t mess up, then they will win.
Dealing with Fear
G4: What about fear? When I think about what you do, how much does fear play in? You are going down the mountain at 75 miles per hour.
Anna Mounsey: Yea. The fastest I have been clocked is about 77 miles per hour. You don’t feel it when you are going 77 miles per hour. You get down to the bottom and look at the speed clock and say, “Oh, cool.” But fear is more mental fear than in-the-moment fear.
Inspection is scarier than racing, because you see it so much slower and you see all the factors and all the tiny little bumps that you wouldn’t see at higher speeds and you say, “Oh my gosh.” You blow it out of proportion sometimes. It’s more mental and you can’t do that.
Sometimes, you’re in the start gate and there’s just a big lump in your stomach; you feel like you can’t breathe because you are so scared. But, what I do is in the start gate you say, “I’m committing. I have to do this.” At that point, you can’t un-commit. As soon as you push out of that start gate, the adrenaline shoots up and you totally forget about it and you get to the bottom and you are laughing and smiling and you just had so much fun. But in the start gate, you want to puke sometimes because you are so scared sometimes.
G4: Wow. This is all about you getting back on top of that mountain. With the mental edge and mental toughness that you’ve developed in your sport up to this point, do you feel that some of those same tools are going to be necessary for your rehabilitation in getting back up on to that mountain?
Anna Mounsey: Yea, it’s going to be really tough, especially with the confidence in myself. And getting the confidence back with being able to load my knee and being able to trust it and trust myself to go fast again. And trusting that I will make the right decisions and learn from my mistakes and work harder, because coming back from this kind of an injury is extremely hard and there’s a lot of self doubt that thinks I might not come back to what I was, what I used to be.
But, you can’t think about that. You use other people’s examples. A couple of my teammates have done this; not the double, but you use them. It’s just something that happened and it sucks but one thing you have to look forward to is that first day back on snow. It’s the first step. It’ll take me awhile to get back to the first gates but the first day back on snow will mean a lot.
G4: Anna, thanks for your time.