No way, I’m in Norway.
Since my recent position change after the Calgary World Cup, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. I spent the last two weeks training in Norway for Junior World Champs. I came into this race with some high hopes. But, as I’ve come to learn, sometimes high hopes mean long falls.
I left Calgary January 2nd during a blizzard. I was en route to Frankfurt and ultimately on to Norway. Unfortunately, we got stranded in Frankfurt for two days because we missed the last ferry for the weekend. After a few days of battling jet lag and many reworked plans to get to Lillehammer, we settled on driving to Copenhagen and taking a different ferry from there. All in, the trip was exactly 88 hours to the minute door to door (I started a timer leaving my house). That day, we put together our sleds and headed out in the cold to slide.
The track is situated on the north side of a river valley. The landscape reminds me of Northern British-Colombia with more ice and snow. The facilities were the site of the '94 Olympics and have held up very well. The track has a nice rhythm to it that reminds me quite a lot of the track in Whistler. It has long transitions with nice, accepting entrance profiles in many of the corners. There are two technical sections. Curves 7,8,9,10 are part of a combination that is imperative to get right called "the labyrinthine" . The last tricky part is having a good line out of curve 13 into the straightaway. Overall, the keys to the track are nailing the technical sections and letting the sled fly.
I’ve found the speed there before. In the past, I’ve felt good on the sled there and I know what needs to be done to have a good line. I’ve been coming to this track for the past 3 years so I feel quite familiar on it. The week started off great. I quickly moved up the top of the track after taking 3 runs from the lower start. I trained fast and I felt good on my sled. On Thursday, I raced the bib race, which determined the start order on race day. I won that, which meant I got the first non-seeded position. Number 14 it was.
The weather warmed up dramatically on the day of the race. At the base of the mountain it was raining. As you moved up to the top of the track the rain had turned into wet, warm snow. This meant that a good start number was more important than ever. I settled into the handles and quickly went over my lines in my head. I thought to myself “Quick to the first paddle, set up right, let it fly”. The funny thing about sliding is that the best athletes can find the optimal line with the least amount of steering. The trick is to steer enough that you don’t skid or hit the walls. That’s the part I missed. My first run of the race was by far the worst I had all week. I was bumping and skidding my whole way down the track. I came up to the finish and almost chuckled. I knew that the run was bad, but I felt empty, irate, and fazed when I saw my finish time. Heading up for my second run, I had to think about what was going to motivate me to do another. I knew that I had thrown the race out the window; so it was just time to enjoy it. I listened to Mambo no 5 and did my best to find the fun. I ended up gaining 5 spots and finished the race in 10th. I sent my junior career out with a fizzle rather than a bang. And that’s okay.
The message that I can take away from my time in Norway is that plans will only take you so far. You can do everything you’re told will make you successful, but in the end your performance is what counts. You can set expectations and those mean nothing if you can’t perform your skill when it counts. I trained fast. I had the race mapped out in my head. I knew what I had to do to do well. All of that's irrelevant because I am trying to run before I can walk. In certain cases, it’s necessary to take a step back before you can leap forwards. My positivity towards sliding is being tested right now, and I am confident that I will prevail through this process.