Having just completed my (*counts quickly on fingers*) seventh week of sliding, ( my fourth week this side of the New Year), my body is beginning to show signs of strain. This is to be expected when one sprints as fast as one can before jumping on a small metal sled and careening down a ice-covered, mile-long, 20-curve track at 70+ miles an hour. Add on top of that two times-a-week weight lifting, two times-a-week push start training and sprint training, and finally two days-a-week, 6-hour long stints of being on my feet at the restaurant, and you have my typical week. Even an elite athlete gets tired!
While my legs were protesting at work, my body is feeling stronger than it has in quite some time. I think I’ll attribute 60% of this to my own training, and the other 50% to new methods of recovery that I am constantly discovering (That’s 110%! Get it? Like they always say… “an athlete needs to give 110%” etc etc. Yuk yuk!). I’ll explain these in another post later in the week (so I can get pictures!) but take my word for it: they’re working wonders on my legs!
The last week and a half have been frustrating on the ice for me. I’ve been hitting slower times than what I would do otherwise, and I wasn’t feeling comfortable on the sled, nor confident on the track. Needless to say, if you’re a little uneasy in this sport, things can go wrong. I was getting so preoccupied with my poor performance that my sliding was suffering for it.
Not only was I worried about my own performance, but I was comparing myself to my fellow sliders. “Well, this is sports, isn’t it,” You might ask. “The goal is to beat the other person.” Yes and no. At this point in my very young career, I need to be focused more on learning to drive the sled and learning to improve my own performance. Times aren’t as important now as they will be in four years, or eight years. They are a great way to see where one is messing up on the track, and where one is succeeding.
I am extreamely unfortunate in that I’ve always had a shaky confidence in athletics and out. I have a weakness of comparing myself to others and not focusing on the positive. Ask my siblings. Ask my parents.
HOWEVER. I am extreamely FORTUNATE in that I have a twin brother who is not only a gifted athlete, but who also has quite the head on his shoulders. Kendall has been my mentality coach, my sports psychologist, if you will. He calls me to offer support, encouragement and advice. I call him to complain about my runs, only to have him turn the conversation 180 degrees and start listing the things I’m doing right. He has the uncanny ability to make me see things that I just can’t see because of my moping around. He’ll patiently (well, until I get complain-y again…then it’s a qiuck redirection!) steer the conversation away until I am telling him what I need to do next time. Brilliant!
This week especially, Kendall has been incredibly helpful. I was running 59+ and even some 1:00+ times throughout the entire week, when I finally broke down on Thursday, griping that I couldn’t get my head around what I had to do because all I was thinking about was how I didn’t want the other girls to beat me. As easily as if he had been coaching athletes all his life, he talked with me until he calmed me down, and began explaining what he wanted me to focus on for the race on Friday. What it came down to was Mom’s old catch-phrase: “Focus on the positive, eliminate the negative.” In other words, don’t focus on the other girls. Don’t focus on the time. The bad stuff always outweighs the good stuff in sports like this. So, pick a couple curves to focus on, do them right, then chill the rest of the way. I’m here to learn, so learn gosh darn it!
On Friday, I did just that. I wrote goals in my journal. I chose my curves to focus on (1-5…those little buggers have given me some rough rides over the past couple of weeks), and I reminded myself to hold my form and relax. After the first five curves, all I wanted to do was look into the corners, turning my head slightly to do so. This tactic was going back to my very first day of sliding, but I was fine with that.
I did my best not to listen to the announcer commenting on the slider’s time as I warmed up and got ready, though the speakers are quite loud around the track, so it was almost impossible. I don’t like listening to music during my warm-up so I can’t really drown it out. As my turn down the track approached, I felt butterflies, so I used a breathing technique taught to us by some martial artists in December to calm myself down.
I was surprised that my first run was so smooth. I used minimal movements, and after successfully sliding the first five curves without skidding, I relaxed and was able to focus on the rest of the track without much problem. I checked the clock as I slowed down on the out-ramp at the end, checking my time. 58 something flashed in my head, but the number 3 followed the time, indicating the place I was currently ranked. Well, that’s odd, I thought, remembering most of the girls had run 57s, and even a couple 56s. I was happy to hear that I had set a start PR, running a 5.60 second start.
I tried to focus on the van ride back to the top of the track, visualizing the track twice in my head, remembering what I had to do the next round. I wasn’t thinking about the others for the first time in a while. Before I began my warmup for my second race, I checked with Mrs. Sweeney, whose children are also sliders and who was keeping the times recorded for Don. My time she had written down read 57.20. I told her that couldn’t be right, and that I swore I saw 58. Well, don’t argue, right?
My second run was also smooth. I hit my start at 5.60 again (talk about consistant!) and made it down with another 57, and another 3 flashing after my time. It was the first time in about two weeks that I had felt I had a good sliding day, and it showed in my performance. I wanted nothing more than Kendall to be there so I could jump on him and hug him!
The third-place finish earned me a bronze medal, meaning that I now have a complete set. Since the first race back in January, I have finished, in this order, 2nd, 4th, 1st, and 3rd. While I don’t physically have my silver medal yet, I have my gold and now the bronze. But I have to say, the bronze that I just won is sweeter than any of the others and I appreciate it more. With my brother’s help, I fought back from mental poop-hood to medal among a skilled group of athletes. The fact that I had been able to overcome my own naysaying helped me believe that I can actually do this.
To cap off a good day at the track, the girls went to the bowling alley to celebrate Sherri’s 21st birthday. It was a lot of fun, with lots of laughter, smiles, neat bowling tricks, and well deserved relaxation.
It was a great finish to the week, and makes me even more exited to spend time with these newfound teammates/friends/fellow athletes of mine! Before I leave, here is a video I made at the bowling ally of one of Kristina’s most glorious moments of the night.