In the past two races, I have earned 3 World Cup points— one in Igls and two in Winterberg. I have yet to qualify for a World Cup race. Needless to say, I’m crushed.
Before we get into what I’ve learned from that, I’ll briefly summarize my last two races: forgettable.
I came to Altenberg with high hopes. I raced the World Cup here at the very end of last season. I’ve advanced to the World Cup every time I’ve been here. I felt confident in my abilities this week. The track is deep in the woods of East Germany- right on the border of the Czech Republic. It’s widely regarded as a challenging track, but it’s also super fun when you get it right. There are lots of hard steers and also areas to just let the sled run.
I had 7 runs to dial in my strategy before the race. The first day of training, I decided to take my first run from a lower start height to feel the ice and find my flow. My first run felt great. This was the first time in a long time that I had a sense of flow. I felt prepared to move up to men’s start. I took two more that night from the top.
I was fighting too hard on the last day of training. Luge is a weird sport where you can’t try too hard. When you aren’t soft and relaxed, you start to skid the sled. I crashed my final run of training and got to take the “loser lap” sitting next to my sled sliding all the way down the track.
At this point, I had nothing to lose. The races aren’t going according to plan so what’s the purpose of even making a plan? I went on race day completely removed. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen. Unfortunately, when I got to the handles, I felt those nerves creep in. I had the same feeling that caused my crash in training. I was just fighting the whole way down. I made it down without touching a wall or skidding, but I lost all my speed in choppy steers and my tense body. I felt like I wasted everyone’s time including my own. We aren’t at this level to come 21st in Nations Cup Races.
#1 Good is not good enough.
Making it down the track is not enough this year. In the past, I’ve been able to slide into the World Cup on my ability to make it down the track without hitting any walls. Now, the international circuit demands more. It is so competitive this year in the men’s field that there is no room for error. You have to deliver your best. So far, I haven’t brought that. I know that I am better than what I have put forth so far. I want to enter these next races and show what I am made of. I want to pull fast starts. I want to throw down my cleanest runs. I want to find that feeling of flow that I had in Whistler. If I can achieve these objectives, I will feel satisfied. No matter the result.
#2 Think, but don’t think too much, and don’t think about not thinking
I finished my nation’s cup run and came up in 17th place. I knew that I would fall back a few more as the race went on. Bree Schaff, a former bobsledder, was at the finish and we laughed about the irony of forcing yourself to relax.
The past 3 weeks of sliding have been a challenge. When I am on the sled, I don’t feel like myself. I focus on negative feelings and I am forcing my way down the track. These feelings manifest themselves physically on the run: I drop my feet, pick up my shoulders, tense my body, and skid the sled. It’s a panicked reaction. That isn’t a productive way to train and it’s certainly not going to get you into races. I call that survival sliding- It can get you out of trouble once in a while. But if you’re doing that from the first corner, you might as well get off the sled.
I know my best results come when I feel that sense of flow. My challenge now is to prep my mind to slip into that state as often as I can.
#3 This is my race to lose
At the end of the day, this is a race against myself. I cannot focus on what anyone else is doing. I have a task to achieve and it’s up to me alone to get there. I am already at the top level of this sport. I have to leave the fear of judgment, failure, or embarrassment behind. There is no shame in trying. I don’t have the capacity to take negative feelings like this into my training or racing.
If I can be present and fully in the moment, I trust myself enough to do well. It’s all about self-confidence from here on out.
I don’t have anything to lose at this point. I have two races left before Christmas.These are the final races in the Olympic qualifying process. This season is not what I expected. But at this point, it cannot get any worse. Not deterred, not defeated, just surprised that I am so far off my mark.
I am heading to Calgary, Alberta. I started sliding on this track when I was 10 years old. The goal for this week is simple; be in the moment and have fun.
Stay tuned, #johncan18
EVERYONE! we CRUSHED my fundraising goal. I can’t believe that I have so many people in my life who want to see me succeed. That is such a powerful sentiment. Thank you all so much. Truly touched :’)