Gratitude.

In the past year, I’ve learned about gratitude. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to compete in the Olympics in 2014- by far the biggest highlight of my luging career. Since then, I’ve had some great moments and I’ve certainly had my fair share of wakeup calls, too. But more importantly, I’ve learned about gratitude.

I’ve been on the sled for three weeks now and there have been some twists and turns. The season kicked off with fall sliding in Calgary. The week consisted of 5 days of training followed by a three-run race. In the beginning of the week, I was getting back to the feeling of the sled.  I hadn’t taken any runs since March so it took some getting used to. I have never been exactly great at driving the Calgary track. The supremely steep start ramp really means that I have hardly any advantage at the start. I am more than capable of making it down this track; I’ve done it thousands of times.  I've struggled in the past at making it down quickly. That being said, this week was not my week. Unfortunately, I could barely put together a half-decent run and ended up botching the race. By no means was this a low point for me. I simply didn’t have the runs I would have liked. Moving forward, I am focused on being present in my training. I am trying to make every run count and, rather than just getting though it, I want to learn from my time on the sled. I have a World Cup race on December 18-19th and I plan to make this my best race in Calgary ever.

After our race in Calgary, we packed up and rushed off for two weeks in Whistler- my home. More so than any other track in the world, I feel at home in Whistler. I have had the most runs there and I know the track like the back of my hand. The week started off as expected. I handled the runs well and I was feeling confident going into the race. The first of two races went okay. A small mistake in the last run meant that I wouldn’t quite get the result I was hoping for. Still, this performance was leagues beyond where I was in Calgary. I built some confidence and I started to feel better on the sled.

Throughout the second week I struggled mostly with my start. It seemed as if I couldn’t find the power I needed for a really explosive pull. The benefit is that, moving forward, I know where I have to work. I can get back to the gym and work on my technique and my strength before the World Cup season.

Between our two weeks of training we were given a day and a half off of training. Thankfully, we got our athletic training done right away and we were allowed to go into Vancouver for the day. After a relaxing day of exploring Stanley Park, visiting with old friends, and seeing the city we headed back to the mountains for our last week of training in Whistler.

Finally, the time came for the last of three preseason races- nationals. I had a solid week of training, aside from my starts. That being said, I struggled immensely coordinating long training days with balancing my studies. This experience was certainly an exercise in time-management.

The morning of the race came and there was nothing left to do. I had faith that I had done everything I could to prepare the best I could for this race.  The first run was a solid run with an okay start. There were a few small mistakes, but I still had a comfortable lead going into the final run.

We were racing in the pouring rain, but this doesn’t affect us much because whole track is covered. Except for when you come up the outrun. While breaking, I slipped on the ice and sent myself flying in front of my sled. Fortunately, I didn’t have any injuries- just a bruised knee (and ego).

The order for the second run usually goes reverse order by rank- meaning the leader of the first run goes last. It’s a high-pressure position to be in because you get to hear all of the times from your competitors. Right off the bat, I knew my second run wasn’t as good as my first. A small error at the top of this track caused my sled to hemorrhage time the whole way down. Luckily, my lead from the first run was enough to secure my first-ever national title. It was a close race, but I am happy that I was able to put two runs together when I needed to.

The next week is our last week at home before the World Cup season. We have a few last runs at home to put on the finishing touches. There are just a few days left to get my life together before I leave. I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks of sliding. But mainly, I’ve learned that if you want something, you’ve got to work for it; wishes, hopes, and talking won’t get you anywhere. I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue this. I know where I have to improve and I’ve got a plan to do it.

Feeling grateful and motivated, I can’t wait to start this season.
@johncanluge.