Lindsey Vonn eased into her first day of downhill training, holding back on her opening run simply to get used to cruising at that rate of speed again.
By her fifth and final pass of the day on Wednesday at the U.S. Ski Team's speed center, Vonn was charging so hard through the two-mile course that she bent over in exhaustion soon after finishing, trying to catch her breath.
More and more, the four-time overall World Cup champion is feeling like her old self again as that surgically repaired right knee gets stronger and stronger.
"Everything is good," said Vonn, who scrambled for the warmth of the lodge following a bitterly cold workout session. "I feel fresh and training hard. Everything is perfect."
Vonn shredded her knee in a crash at the world championships in Schladming last February, but has progressed much faster than anticipated.
She even thought about competing at the season-opening race in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 26, only to skip it to give her knee more time to recover. Asked if there were any regrets, Vonn said: "I was definitely disappointed It's hard to say no for me. I felt like I needed more time."
These days, all of her training is geared toward being in the starting gate for the Sochi Olympics in three months.
So instead, she returned to her original plan of returning to the World Cup circuit in Beaver Creek later this month, with boyfriend and pro golfer Tiger Woods possibly even showing up to cheer her on.
"We'll see," Vonn said, laughing.
For the next few weeks, Vonn will be working on increasing her speed. She feels like she has her super-G dialed in and has now turned her focus toward the downhill, the event she will defend in Sochi.
"My skiing in general is really, really good right now, especially in super-G," said Vonn, who lives in nearby Vail. "I just need to get a couple of more miles on the downhill."
At first, Vonn was caught off guard by how much velocity she was picking up on the hill.
"The speed is much higher, kind of took me a second to get used to it," she said.
She quickly got the hang of it, cruising through the course at about 75 percent of her typical race speed, she estimated.
After each run, Vonn pulled a journal out of her bag and jotted down notes about her equipment, almost like she would during a training run at a World Cup stop. Then, Vonn would slip into a different set of skis and head back up the lift for another pass.
"I just felt good ... for my first day of downhill," said Vonn, who plans to train a few more days at the speed center. "Yeah, it was good."
The goal now?
"Get faster," she said. "I need more miles."