The holidays are usually pretty stressful for most people and I am no exception. There are people to see, parties to attend, and presents to buy. On top of that, throw in some high-stakes sledding and you’ve got a recipe for tension.
Just to backtrack for a minute, I’ll outline what’s happened since my last World Cup. At the beginning of the month, we made our way back to Calgary from New York. We settled back into our homes and before we could breathe, we were back into the gym to get ready for the upcoming World Cup week. It started like any other week training in North America. We had training on Wednesday and by Thursday we had qualifiers. Now, I’ve never been particularly fast on the Calgary track. Something about the tight transitions and super steep start ramp makes it hard for me to generate speed off the bat. That being said, I felt no stress going from the top. I’ve done it a thousand times before (literally). For some reason, this week I had some rhythm issues. Rough transitions and small skids made for slow finish times.
My run in the qualifiers wasn’t anything special but it was enough to snag me a spot in the race. I was able to pull a quick start and make it down the run with no serious issues. I ended up in 8th… or 9th. All the sliders were packed in super tight and I was only 9 hundredths out of third. It was a good spot to sit in but I certainly had some room for improvement. Friday's races blew in with some warm winter weather. The doubles were up first followed by the women. I’ll start by saying I have never seen my team perform like that before. In the span of one night, we had all the girls in the top 15 (including two medals) and the doubles sitting pretty with their first bronze of the season. It was quite the sight to see and certainly set a precedent.
Saturday morning brought with it some fairly heavy snowfall. Not only snow, but that warm, wet, sticky snow that makes racers cringe. It was certainly some of the worst conditions for us to slide in. This is one of those rare times that having a lower start number actually makes you feel good. As expected, the race went on and slider’s times got progressively slower. Typically when this happens, teams make an appeal to scrap the first run and it becomes a one run race. Of course, this happened and the first run was erased. This is the first time that this affected me in a race situation and it really messed with my head. It put all of the pressure on the final run. I remember going through the first few corners and remembering how “off” my lines felt. I can best describe it as a twitchy feeling. I was tense on the sled and trying to force my drives instead of going with the flow and letting my body weight shift naturally around the corners. Obviously, this caused small skids, which accumulated to the finish and really showed in my time. I didn’t need to look at the clock. I walked right off the track and put my sled away. I couldn’t even fake a smile to the camera. I couldn’t predict where I would end up but I knew exactly what a result like this meant. Before I get into that, I should attempt to articulate the polarized feeling I felt for my team. Watching Mitchel and Sam post their best ever results made my result a little bit easier to take. I can’t think of any two people who deserve to have their hard work recognized like that. That being said, it didn’t deduct from how I felt. It just made feel a lot more things.
Our cargo was supposed to leave immediately after the race. The first thing I heard after getting off the track was “don’t pack your box”. In that moment, I had to execute a lot of self-restraint to not blow up. I knew exactly what that comment meant. Shortly after watching my teammates receive all of their awards, I got some pretty hard news. I was told that I would not be traveling with the national team this season. Simply put, I did not post enough good results to continue to travel with them. I was given the option of sliding with the junior national team and my progress there would be evaluated to see whether or not I was eligible to make the jump back up to seniors for World Champs. It was no one’s fault but my own but in that moment I felt frustrated and isolated with sliding.
In the last week, I’ve spoken to many of my good friends and fellow athletes and I’ve had the chance to critically reflect on my performance. I gave myself 24 hours of being sad. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not ready to part with sliding that this isn’t a long term set back. I will miss a number of World Cups and some valuable experience as well, but this is something I will have to go through if I want to proceed. I was given the advice that learning to compete is “finding that balance between making it happen and letting it happen”. And for me that couldn’t be any more fitting. I have the skills and I can put them in place in practice, I need to get the experience of competing out of the way. It is by no means a defeat, just simply an unexpected setback. I’m determined, I’m motivated, and I’m itching to get back on my sled. I’ve surrounded myself with positivity and I’m in a good space. Nevertheless, the holidays are stressful, eh?