It’s that time of year again. The leaves have left the trees, the temperature has dropped (kind of), and it’s time to slide. It seems like summer hardly started and now winter is rapidly approaching. I’ve had a lot to be thankful for this summer. But most importantly, this summer offered me the chance to learn, to improve, and to rethink.

Throughout the past 5 months, I’ve endeavored to go back to school. I was lucky enough to finish five courses in that time. I am currently working on another that will wrap up in December. Between school, classes, and pretending to have a social life this summer proved to be the most stressful time I’ve had in quite while. However, this forced me to strongly take accountability for my education and training. There are only 24 hours in a day; once you take time away for sleeping, eating, and driving- there isn’t much left. Fortunately, my support network was flexible and accommodating. My coaches trusted me enough to train on my own before and between classes. My mom helped prepare meals that I could quickly eat while moving to my next appointment. My friends understood that they wouldn’t get to see me very often. And, more often than not, the time I would get to spend with them I’d be exhausted (or eating).

I may have been stretched pretty thin this summer, but that cost was certainly not without benefit. I had more gains in the gym than in any other summer. I hit personal bests in all aspects of my training. My strengths, starts, and physiology all improved from last year. I am bigger, stronger, and more mentally fit than in years past. I think this happened because I forced myself to take responsibility for my actions. Training on my own schedule meant that I didn’t have a team to push me; I was solely responsible for finding my own motivation. I think these were the ideal circumstances for my training. I was on my own and I was determined to do it all. Thankfully, the hard work and lack of sleep paid off in our midsummer start camp where I broke my personal record by .07th‘s of a second (a football field in luge terms). Moving forward, I know that the work doesn’t end there. My goal for the season is to get to World Championships in Germany where I want to do the best I possibly can. Until then, I am going to put my head down, work, and pay attention to the small things.

While I experienced many positives this summer, I also had my share of negatives, too. That unwelcome passenger “doubt” kept plaguing me this summer. I found myself asking, “Why do I keep running myself into the ground?” -the simplest response to that came to me was that it would all be worth it in the end. I want to be the best athlete I possibly can be while, at the same time, setting myself up for success after sport. I came to a large, and important, realization that my sport doesn’t define me. I have so many different aspects of my life that I am proud of. I’m a student, leader, a friend, and family member, proud dog owner, and a luger. Last season didn’t play out how I thought it would. Getting cut from the national team shook my confidence like nothing I had experience before. For a while there, I felt completely lost. I am happy to say that I’ve reclaimed that purpose and I am looking forward to whatever this season has in store for me.

As far as this season goes, I will happy if I can leave a race feeling like I’ve done everything to the best of my abilities. That includes, my preparation on and off the ice. I clearly learned the importance of humility last season and I will be grateful for any opportunities available in the future. At the same time, I can look back on the summer of preparation and feel confident in what I have done.

Be sure to follow my weekly updates along the way and to pass along any feedback you may have! Happy thanksgiving, folks!  (the best part about being an underweight luger is that I can stuff myself at thanksgiving without any shame)