Nothing gives easy; easy gives nothing.
The fact is, life is hard. Sometimes, it's really f*ing hard. We push, we pull, we grasp and we clutch. There are times that we fall and other times we stand triumphant. Through it all we acknowledge our rivals who knock off our edges and shape who we become. But no matter the outcome, this journey keeps showing me that it has and will continue to transform as it should.
After all, like any big dream - mine grows out of equal parts inspiration and desperation.
The Canadian National Skeleton Program, as promised, planned the Selection Series Races to determine which athletes would start the 2014/15 sliding season on which circuits. This year they were both held right here in Calgary, AB.
Race #1 was scheduled for Saturday, November 1 and Race #2 - Friday, November 7.
The three weeks of training headed into the races were good. The weather was unseasonably warm, which meant that the track changed conditions from day to day, but we were able to adjust. I had ordered a new saddle (the part of the sled that holds my body in position when I am laying on it) as mine had seen far too many years of wear and tear. I admit, as usual, time seems to be more valuable than ever right before Selections, and custom fitting this new saddle was a little rushed. Just the same, I believed that we had welded and moulded it well-enough and decided to race on it for the first race.
In true Calgary fashion, the morning of Race #1 started like a pretty typical winter day. A little grey in the sky, a chill in the air and the possibility of a light dusting of snow. However, once we set up our sleds and park fermé was "fermé", a dominant snowstorm settled in for the long haul.
Yes, I understand that you may be saying to yourself, "But Skeleton is a Winter Sport -what's the big deal?" and sure, we can hold a race in some inclement weather - we wear one-piece speed suits and slide head-first at over 120km/h after all - but that doesn't mean that wet, heavy ever-accumulating snow is our friend when the goal is fast lines and fast times.
That being said, a race is still a race - in any weather. So, I marched to the line and pushed my way into the beginning of my first run fairly well. I could see the snow that had already begun to pile up in the flat areas of the track, but I knew that meant I had to do my best to move as little as possible and try not to fight for any overly specific entries into corners.
Unfortunately, snow races tend to go one of two ways. Slow, or slower. My first run was the latter.
During the time of our initial journey down the 14-turn track, I didn't expect to have to fight so hard to get Phrixus to cooperate. I found myself tapping into the right wall on more than a couple of occasions. And as I hit one final time before the entry to the largest corner on the track, I knew I was in serious trouble. We crossed the line; I caught a glimpse of the time, and all I could do was shut my eyes and let out a defeated exhale. Today was not our day.
Despite a somewhat better second run, the snow wouldn't let up and I finished in 6th place.
To me, this result, in no way, represented my true sliding abilities. But, I also understand this process and was determined to figure out how many of my mistakes were controllable and how many were not.
There were only a few short days between our races, and even one less as the coaching staff made the executive decision, with the majority of the sliders in agreement, that Race #2 would be held Thursday, November 6 (as the weather was once again threatening snow on the 7th). With one day of training remaining I made a last minute bid to re-adjust my saddle. Something was very wrong, even if I had tried to convince myself otherwise. The bruises on both my hips and the constant errors to the right were the red flags I had been ignoring. We re-welded it into a much better body position and levelled it out. I took two more runs the next day and vowed to trust myself intuition and my abilities from therein.
I showed up to Race #2 with a vengeance. Two solid pushes, one decent run followed by one really well-executed run and I rocked my way to the silver medal. It was clear I had done what I could. It was also a reality that 6th place points and 2nd place points weren't as likely to see me secure a top-three overall position. But I waited for the news.
The Skeleton Selection Committee met, and after what felt like an eternity - an email was sent. Overall points were deemed king and as predicted I fell just short of my top 3 goal. Three of my teammates were named to the World Cup team and while I still secured my place back on the Canadian National Team - I will begin this season where I left off last year, as the top sled at the Intercontinental Cup (ICC) circuit.
If you missed the write up in the Calgary Herald please read it HERE!
As our newly named Head Coach, Ivo Pakalns says in the article, "Nothing is set in stone," and I plan to continue to challenge myself at every turn. To demonstrate through performance that I can and will lead this Canadian Team through the next quadrennial. The goal is, as always, to get as many points as possible, do my very best through all the re-evaluation processes and earn my way to chase the Gold at the 2015 World Championships, which will be held in Winterberg, Germany in March.
The reality is, this IS merely year one of a four-year Olympic cycle. And despite some serious setbacks and hurdles in the past 12 months I am already seeing excellent gains and personal best performances.
This journey is one that leads to success.
I know it.
I leave for Oslo, Norway to begin racing this upcoming weekend.
As I have explained (in past posts), and in a recent radio interview on X92.9 -->LISTEN HERE ; regardless of which tour I made this season, Canadian Skeleton has little to no team funding, this year is entirely self-funded.
As such, it is my responsibility to arrange all my own flights, accommodations, vehicle rentals, food, and secure a coach (for Norway). Thank goodness I'm always up for a last minute challenge.
After Norway, I will join Head Coach Pakalns and my other teammates through to December 6.
The start of the ICC Race Schedule looks like this:
Race 1: Lillehammer, Norway - November 18 -22
Race 2 & 3 Koenigssee, Germany - November 25-29
Race 4: Winterberg, Germany - December 2 - 6
I will return to Canada, December 8 to continue training and forerun for the Viessmann World Cup #2 stop - here in Calgary, AB the week of December 15, 2014.
Remember, when there is no more room left to turn - you've just got to point it.