This is It. The Big One

The one we’ve all been waiting for!

Ok, maybe not ALL of you have been waiting for this, but it’s been several months since my last update, and there is a reason for that!

First and foremost, I’ve been kept so busy with work that there has been little time to eat, let alone write.

Secondly…well that brings us to the point.

I suffered an unfortunate injury at the end of January. During a lift, my back and shoulderblades felt a bit sore, but I put it down to muscle soreness from the previous day’s workout, so kept pushing through. Unfortunately, the pain was a deeper issue than I immediately suspected. Following two months of severe, debilitating pain, and a few more months of fighting to ignore how much I couldn’t move, I finally accepted that something was really wrong.

Unable to see a team doctor, since I don’t live at the OTC, am not funded or supported by the USBSF and therefore being unable to use medical facilities, I made the decision to try and get a waiver for the upcoming combine. It was only by asking for the waiver that the team doctor would see me.

Following two clean MRIs and a clean complete bone scan, I am no closer to answers than I was in January.

However, thanks to close to two months of Physical Therapy, my injury is finally starting to turn around. Weekly Graston Technique sessions and exercises have finally started to show, and not just physically.

The aftermath of my first Graston day.

The aftermath of my first Graston day.

I was granted a waiver for the annual USBSF combine, which means I have no time limit on my rehabilitation and no rush to properly heal. The amount of weight taken off my shoulders is substantial, and my outlook on the upcoming season has brightened.

I also finally received my new sled, fitted and ready to go. I had it in my possession in January, but as the saddle didn’t fit at the time, I had to take it to Utah to get refitted by Randy Parker, my sled builder. Luckily, I was in the wedding of one of my best friends, Becky Lippman, and was able to make a stop in Salt Lake City on the return journey.

The memories from Becky's wedding won't be forgotten anytime soon.

The memories from Becky’s wedding won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

I received the sled about two weeks ago, properly fitted, and I am very excited to get on the ice. It’s my second sled, but of higher quality than my first, which was a great beginners sled. All that is left to do is adjust the weight of it, repad it, and it’s ready to go.

The underside of my new sled.

The underside of my new sled.

My summer has been packed full of work, mostly, which left me little time to do much of anything else. Working on the deck of Dancing Bears was quite the experience: challenging, hot, frustrating, delightful. My coworkers (and Sour Patch Kids) definitely were the reason I got through many of those 10+ hour days.

Despite the overload of work, I was able to do a few things on my own, especially towards the end of the summer. One event that stood out, besides Becky’s wedding, was a trip to Rochester, NY in September to see the US Women’s National Soccer team play. I hadn’t seen the team play live since 2007, when I was in college. This time, my coworker, Patrick, and I drove the 5 1/2 hours to Rochester to see them play.

Patrick and me at Sahlen Stadium for USWNT v Mexico.

Patrick and me at Sahlen Stadium for USWNT v Mexico.

Because Patrick had never seen the team play before, it was a delight to see his excitement first-hand, though truth be told, I think I was more giddy than he was. I shouted myself horse cheering them on, and had a wonderful time. Our seats were great, and we even scored an autograph from forward Amy Rodriguez after the game.

Amy Rodriguez signing my FC Kansas City scarf after the game.

Amy Rodriguez signing my FC Kansas City scarf after the game.

There was a lot more to my summer, of course: a trip to NYC to see two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster in “Violet”, Farmer’s Market excursions, the occasional drive to Saratoga Springs, and of course, lots of Netflix and cross stitching.

Still, the time has come to refocus. The weather is getting colder, and ice is being set on the track. Leaves have changed and there is the hint of snow on the peak of Whiteface Mountain. The sky outside my apartment frequently has clouds filling it. Winter is coming…in fact, it’s knocking on the door.

While I did make some money this summer, it wasn’t quite enough to fully supplement my season. I’m holding a fundraiser online, and the finances I raise before October 31 will go directly towards costs. If I do raise the money, I will have enough to help me get to Europe, should I qualify for it. This is a great year to travel overseas, to gain experience at other tracks, and to experience different cultures. I’ll only be able to do it with the help of friends and family.

If you would like to donate, follow the link right here to do so, with my thanks!

As the season goes on, I will be back to this blog, hopefully more regularly. Thank you for sticking around, and here’s to a great winter!

Unplugged

I’m not sure people are really aware of just how much we rely on technology today.

As a former and future outdoor professional, I already knew how liberating a week without technology could be. After all, you can’t take your iPad on a backpacking trip through the Arizona canyons or Virginia wilderness. You can take your phone, but it won’t work in the backcountry anyway. Even a satellite phone is spotty and expensive. That’s reason enough to only use it for emergencies. Some of my fondest college memories came when I was unplugged in the wilderness. I was alone with my co-leads, my trip mates, and nature. Who needs a movie when you can lay in a sleeping bag on slick rock looking up at stars so bright and vast that it brings you to tears?

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Who needs a TV when you have this? (Arizona)

I didn’t make the decision to unplug for a week in a day. It was over the course of several weeks that it dawned on me I was relying FAR too heavily on technology. My main enemy, ironically, was the Olympic Games.

Once every four years (two years, really, but it sounds a lot cooler saying ever four years) I splurge for the outrageous installation fees and first-time payments so that I can have cable and DVR during the two-week-long Olympic Games.

To many people (my parents, probably) that is an absurd reason to spend $200. But for an Olympic hopeful, it’s completely logical. Actors, after all, will attend other shows to fine-tune their craft. Film stars, I assume, go to the movies to support their fellows and to gain knowledge. It’s no different with athletes. The Olympics are our endgame, and so there is nothing that will keep us from watching them. I went so far during London 2012 as to schedule time off of work so I could watch the quarterfinals, semifinals and Olympic final of the women’s soccer tournament. It’s a good thing I did, too. I neglected to take the day off after the women’s skeleton races during Sochi, and I was emotionally affected by it five hours later at the start of my shift that I had trouble concentrating on my tables.

But I digress.

After two straight weeks of almost 24-hour television (seriously, it was on almost straight through the night), I was burnt out. Actually, after only a week and a half of the Games, I realized I just was not enjoying having cable at all. I love the Olympics. I love television (I’m a hard-core fan for a few shows, I’ll admit). But (and I know many of my former English teachers will shudder for my using ‘but’ as the beginning of a sentence) after two years straight of no cable, the sudden intrusion of it in my life was overwhelming. I couldn’t take it.

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My last photo before unplugging

The final straw was the Oscars. I’m a big film buff. I didn’t used to be, but I’ve developed some friendships that have lead me to this point. As an intelligent adult, I’m able to see deeper into a film than when I was a child, when my movie-going experiences was pretty much, “Oh! [Insert actor’s name] is in it! Shiny colors! Pretty locations! Good story!”]. Now, I enjoy watching the films nominated for the major awards: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Supporting, etc, and because I watch a majority of films being honored, I become invested in how they get recognized.

So there I sat, watching the Oscar telecast while scrolling through Twitter on my phone to track what other people were saying about Ellen’s pizza deliveries and John Travolta’s second straight year of butchering a name. At the same time, I was texting two or three different people. I also was on my iPad, browsing through a few websites. All at the same time.

My generation has excellent multi-tasking skills online…but that’s overkill, folks, and I knew it.

A week earlier, I had made a statement on Facebook that I was “…seriously considering a week (at least) away from technology, excepting emergency and personal phone calls, and maybe once-a-day email checks. This will come post-Oscars, but I’m thinking it’s 95% inevitable.” I stuck with that decision, and unplugged first thing Monday morning.

Little did I know how difficult it would be that first few days. As a regular user of the website tumblr, where a person can “track” a tag of something they like (the Olympics, USWNT, Frozen, Jessica Chastain, Veronica Mars are some of my tracked tags), to give up technology the day after the Oscars meant not seeing a million adorable posts, “gifsets”, and pictures from the event itself that make me go “awwwwww!” I do that frequently on tumblr, and to suddenly be stripped of that was difficult.

It is human nature to wonder what it is like to be someone else, and I’m no different. I like tracking celebrities, actors, athletes. It’s a guilty pleasure, and I have no qualms in saying here that I enjoy it (to an extent…I don’t support people or their children being harassed for a paparazzi photo, for instance, and I have been inspired by actress Kristen Bell and her crusade to introduce a No Kids policy with entertainment media). As early as Monday afternoon, I actually caught myself going on Safari and pulling up tumblr (having temporarily deleted the actual app from my phone and iPad to avoid that exact thing). It was ridiculous, and happened so fast that I was actually scrolling the page before I realized I had done it.

That was it. I shut down my iPad and stowed it in a clothes drawer. I switched my phone to airplane mode and shoved it into my purse. I knew I’d bring my phone with me if I drove anywhere, in case of emergencies, but that was all. I didn’t even take it to work.

What happened throughout the following week was rather remarkable, in that it was such an ordinary week that it was extraordinary. It’ll make sense, I promise.

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The stack of books that accompanied me through the week. At the time of this blog, I’ve read three of them.

I ended up jotting down some thoughts in a notebook throughout the week, and I’ll share them now, exactly how I wrote them (retyped, because my handwriting was illegible).

Day 1:

Bored, listless. Cheated already.

1 episode of TV

Started and read cover-to-cover The Book Thief

Day 3: Caught myself peeking on FB/Twitter, but found I was actually wholly uninterested in statuses.

Day 4: Caught myself thinking as Facebook statuses & tweets. Literally would shape thoughts to tailor to a Facebook status. Who cares? –>The thoughts were forgotten and deemed unimportant within a few hours.

Day 5: Want to look at headlines.

“Miss” family and friends but knowing how easy it would be to get in touch with family, if I needed to, helps.

Self-importance:

Things that happen in my day aren’t important to broadcast.

Not really looking to get back on FB-Twitter full-time. Maybe 1-a-day scan?

Cleaning out e-mail spam…unsubscribed from at least 12 mailings in the first 3 days (I checked e-mail once a day until about Thursday, when I did it every other day.)

Day 6: Found myself more occupied at work than I am with my phone nearby (shocker)

Spent less $ than when I had internet constantly

Forgot about taking my phone places

Falling asleep earlier, waking up earlier.

Yesterday, when I rejoined the world of technology, I immediately wrote the following Facebook status:

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I was immediately hit with seven messages (and two texts) saying that I shouldn’t delete my accounts, that my posts would be missed, and that people are interested in seeing what I’m doing. First off: I’m flattered, you guys, and I understand that in this day and age, technology and social media are how acquaintances, friends, family stay in touch.

After a week of not sharing every detail of my life, however, I realized that I’m actually a private person. I enjoyed having my anonymity for a week, and I could logically see myself phasing myself away from social media; specifically, Facebook. I am by no means a public figure. I don’t have paparazzi following me everywhere, but there are enough people who are interested in how I live my life that I feel the need to protect the private parts of my life. I don’t mind sharing things with my family. Really, though, even my family doesn’t care what I’m eating for breakfast or what my political views are.

I have an unofficial athlete page that I’ve tried to promote. It is my ultimate goal to delete my personal Facebook account and use my athlete page to share my journey towards a possible Olympic bid. I’ll still have a twitter account, as it seems to be the best way to promote my athletic goals and do a tiny bit of fandom gushing, but that’s all I’ll keep public.

I don’t mean to climb up on a soap box or anything. I just had no idea a simple week away would change my opinions of social media so powerfully. I had an idea that I would start to lean towards less social media usage, but I didn’t know it would be so drastic. Perhaps I should have known. The worst part of a backpacking trip (other than the ascent out of a canyon after a week of 10-mile days with a 7- pound pack) is the return to technology. Except showers. The first shower back is the best part of a backpacking trip (am I right, PRM?).

I urge you to try unplugging for a week. Jot down your thoughts throughout the week on a notepad. Be aware of what you think and how you think it. Perhaps you’ll find, as I did, thoughts forming in 140 characters. Perhaps you’ll catch yourself online before you are even aware that you’re doing it.

Hopefully, you’ll find that the new episode of TV you’ve been waiting for really wasn’t as important as you thought it was, or that not knowing how Jennifer Lawrence spent her Oscar night won’t kill you. Maybe you’ll discover, or rediscover, that books are just as engrossing as the Internet (I read four books through the course of the week. Actual books, mind you. Not Kindle books and they were all incredible). You’ll probably find that not being in constant communication with your friends via text will give you more to talk about when you see them face-to-face. You’ll definitely become aware of people around you using technology instead of talking to each other, even at the dinner table.

The most important thing to discover, though, is how important you

That’s the biggest lesson I took from unplugging last week. Yes, I learned that I don’t need technology to survive. But I learned what technology was doing to my self-image, and I learned that, though it’s not a glaring thing, social media and constant electronic use was actually self-destructive. I’m an introvert, and I’m extremely hard on myself, and a major part of that is society-implemented. Cutting off my contact with such stereotypes and societal expectations, I got in touch with my own thoughts again.

I’m important, and I forgot that when I was too busy trying to see what my actor idols or sports heroes were up to. I spend so much time trying to prove myself to other people, trying to impress other people, that I completely forgot that there’s only one person I really need to prove myself to and impress: me.

Support my journey towards the 2018 Olympic Games here!

How the USWNT Changed my Life

Soccer and skeleton don’t have a lot in common. Ok…they don’t have ANYTHING in common. For starters, one is played on grass, the other done on ice. One is a team sport, one is strictly individual. One competition is 90 minutes long, while the other is completed in well under 90 seconds. But without soccer, I wouldn’t be a skeleton slider. Without soccer, I probably wouldn’t even be an athlete.

Plenty of athletes can tell you when they first were bitten by the competitive bug, or when they had the first dream of standing on an Olympic podium. They’ll name their favorite athlete, the athlete they most looked up to as a child. They probably have a vivid memory of a certain game, tournament, race or bout that they will immediately describe in detail. Maybe their moment came when their idol put their arm around them for a picture, or signed a piece of clothing for them.

I was 11 when mine hit.

It was the summer of 1999, and my family and I were watching history being made as the US Women’s Soccer Team was about to take on China in penalty kicks after 120 minutes of exciting soccer. I didn’t know much about soccer then, but I was swept up in the emotions streaming from the television set, and from the nervous anticipation of my family around me.

I remember squatting, rocking back and forth with my hands still clenched as Brandi Chastain stepped up to take the final kick. Someone, my brother probably, told me that if she made the kick, the US would win. I remember the building tension, the nation-wide intake of breath as Chastain approached the ball, and then…

Well, there was lot of screaming , and running, and jumping up and down. Not from the team (though they were doing it too), but from me. I don’t remember even watching the soccer players celebrate on TV, as I was too busy proving my lungs still worked. Little did I know, I had just opened the door to a passion that would consume me for years to come. Those “Girls of Summer,” who showed the country and the world what teamwork is all about are who shaped me into who I am today.

Go ahead and laugh. Raise your eyebrows. You’ll probably say, “Really? You don’t even know them. Man, you really ARE obsessed”. Trust me when I say, I’ve heard it all before.

But to understand what I mean when I say they’ve shaped me, I’ll share with you what I’ve internalized since that boiling hot July 10, 1999. From a purely athletic standpoint, that was the day I decided that I wanted that. I wanted to be a part of a team standing on top of a podium. I wanted to have a medal draped around my neck and lift a trophy above my head. I saw what they had: 90,000+ fans in the Rose Bowl screaming, confetti cannons exploding, signs with their names on them, posters, medals around their necks, and I wanted it too.

USA Celebration World Cup 1999

The podium at the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final in Pasadina, CA

It’s 14 years later, and I’m an elite-level athlete about to compete in my first Olympic season, albeit in a sport that is about as far from soccer as it is possible to be, and certainly not in a team sport like I envisioned. I’m chasing my own Olympic Dream, but I can confidently say that without the presence of the USWNT in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They (past and present players) epitomize hard world, perseverance, never-say-die attitudes, passion and leadership. They are the ones I’ve looked up to since childhood.

My sophomore year of high school, I was brought up to play on the varsity soccer team, despite only having one year of soccer experience. I had learned to play soccer from watching the USWNT, reading their books, and trying out their tips on my own, and now I was playing at the varsity level. I was terrified. Excited, but terrified. My coach knew very well that I had no experience, but he saw the passion I had for the game, and he utilized it. During the quarterfinal game of the California Southern Section state tournament, I remember being substituted in towards the end of regulation. It was cold: so cold that the host school had set up electric heaters by the benches, and parents and players alike huddled under piles of blankets. I was nervous, as it was one of the first major games I had ever played in.

Before I went into the match, my coach took me aside, lightly hit the top of my head with his clipboard and said, so only I could hear him: “You go out there and you play like you’re playing for the US women. You’re in a World Cup match and you have to help your team. You can do it.” I’ve never been able to figure out what exactly made him say that to me. But I remember how I swelled with pride at his trust, and how the nervousness disappeared as soon as he told me to pretend I was on the US team. I used those women as my model, and we went on to win the game and have the most successful tournament in 14 years.

When my athletic endeavors took me beyond soccer, there the USWNT was still. As a track and field athlete, I’ve run thousands of repetition sprints. I’ve run so many stairs in off-season workouts that I probably could have run to the moon. When those workouts got almost too tough to bear, I would remember reading about how Carla Overbeck and Joy Fawcett came back to the team after having birth. Fawcett would set up cones in the parking lot of her house after her daughters had gone to bed and run sprint drills. If THEY could do it two weeks after having a baby, I could do it (not having the baby part…that’ll wait a few years).

Joy Fawcett and Carla Overbeck with their kids in 1999

Joy Fawcett and Carla Overbeck with their kids in 1999

Subtly, almost unconsciously, the USWNT acted as my teammates, even as I progressed to different sports. Though I never went to more than one soccer camp in my childhood, I felt like I knew a little of the US player’s work ethics, and I tried to mimic it. Every time the USWNT came from behind in a game to win it, there was always a moment in the game where one can almost see the players steel themselves to push harder. I felt compelled to that in my own training. If I could just train as hard as they do, and push through the times when it felt like the game was up, I could overtake my competition. That’s what I told myself.

Even in matters of politics and ethics, I admire them. I was so taken by the announcement of 18 National Women’s Soccer Players committing themselves as Pro Ambassadors for Athlete Ally, particularly by Megan Rapinoe’s quote on her page, that I contacted the group and became part of it too. Julie Foudy’s work with the Women’s Sports Foundation, ESPNW, and other organizations dedicated to getting women involved in sports is so awe-inspiring. She is such a strong leader and such a positive presence, and that’s what I want part of my legacy to be: helping to improve the lives of girls and women through sports.

If I ever do make it to the Olympic Games, whether it be in 2014, 2018, or even 2022, I’ll owe much of that success to the USWNT. If I don’t, I still have the US Women’s Soccer Team to thank for shaping me into the athlete and the woman I am today. And better role models I could not ask for!

For more on the US Women’s Soccer Team, visit US Soccer’s website.

For more on Athlete Ally, visit www.athleteally.org

To support me in my journey towards the Olympic Games, please visit my fundraising page and consider making a donation, or “Like” my Facebook page and help spread the word!