Winter is Somewhere Else

Blog number two on the way to Olympic trials.

After a solid week of training in Whistler, the team packed up and headed through the Rockies to Calgary, Alberta. I call so many places home, but Calgary is really my home. This is where I went to school, it's where my family and friends are, and where I learned to slide. I was happy to be back. 

This week, I chose to stay with my mom. I wanted the opportunity to decompress and enjoy the comforts of being home. 

The week of training started out strong. I know this track inside and out. After a few runs, I had my groove back. My first luge runs ever were in Calgary- 12 years later, I can still make it down. Throughout the week, I made it a priority to find a strong mental state. I know that I compete best when I feel comfortable, confident, and relaxed. I found my way down the track like I’ve done thousands of times before.

The biggest challenge that week was dealing with warm temperatures. When the outside air warms up, the track-workers have to turn up the internal refrigeration all the way. This makes the ice soft and frosty. On top of that, we had to deal with huge bumps left from hundreds of bobsleds that'd been using the track. Those sleds create divots in the ice, which become speed bumps for us. 

Unfortunately, a huge storm blew through the night before the race. The ice wasn’t in sliding condition so the coaches decided to cancel the rest of training and our race. Training in Calgary was finished. 

Perhaps a little shaken from Calgary, I made my way back to Lake Placid. We left Calgary on a Friday and had to be back in Lake Placid for training on Sunday. I took Saturday to recharge in Montreal. I had the chance to see some family and friends, which helped me unwind from training.

The warm weather followed us all the way to New York. The first day of training in Lake Placid was a wake-up call for me. This was the first time this season that I found myself on a track where I felt uncomfortable. The track in Lake Placid does not feel like home to me. It’s rough, bumpy, and the transitions between curves are harsh. It’s a different style of sliding than what I am used to. Unlike the smooth, sweeping corners of Whistler, these corners feel harsh and aggressive. Despite this, the key to the track is to melt into the sled and only drive where you need to. 

On the first day, I set out to try to find that feeling of "flow". I started from the women’s start to get used to the track. I crashed into a few walls but after four practice runs, I could remember what this track was meant to feel like. The next day, I took a couple more and then decided to take my last run from men’s start. Sliding from the top of the Lake Placid track calls for serious focus. The speeds are high and the bumps on the track challenge athletes to stay connected with their sleds. With one run in the bank, I felt confident. I was ready for a solid week of training. 

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had different plans. A huge, warm rainstorm blew through and took massive sections of ice with it. There was no way the track-crew could rebuild it for us. With only one practice run from the top of the track, my prep week came to an abrupt halt. 

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We spent the remainder of our time in Lake Placid working in the gym to prepare for the upcoming World Cup tour. Starting Nov 1, the team would travel for seven weeks to Korea, Austria, Germany, and Canada before finally landing back in Lake Placid before Christmas. I used this time to make sure my body felt the best it could; the World Cup races are super demanding on our bodies. It's important to stay in fighting shape. 

Thankfully we had strong training in Norway and in Whistler. Believe it or not, I feel prepared with the few training runs we had in Lake Placid and Calgary. For me, this season will be about feeling. I want to find that positive, confident sense of sliding I had in Whistler. I know that this will come with comfort. So beyond all else, I know my mental preparation will be my biggest asset heading into the first intentional races.

Up next, my first trips down the Olympic track in Korea. Stay tuned.

#johncan18 

PS. I started a T-shirt fundraiser. If you want to support my training and become part of the movement, check it out on the funraiser tab of my website.