No, I didn’t join McKinley High School’s Glee club, nor am I moving on from skeleton.
I am, indeed, taking a new direction, but this time, it’s on the track and on my sled, and everything in between.
Team trials proved to be a rough couple of weeks for me, both as an athlete and as a person. To be finishing at the bottom of the pack is something I am not familiar with and something that I didn’t know how to handle. I was frustrated run after run, and was digging myself into a hole. I couldn’t figure out how to get myself out of it.
Luckily, I have the benefit of wonderful coaches surrounding me and I took advantage of it. Our AC coach and former skeleton athlete, Rebecca Sorensen, spent hours with me both talking about my problems, and helping me with equipment. I won’t get into details, but there were both tears and laughter involved.
Most importantly, the amount of knowledge I have gained from Becca during the last three weeks has helped me view my Team Trials experience as something completely different than I had been seeing. I was frustrated, unable to see how I would ever slide well again, unsure of why I wasn’t sliding well, and embarrassed that I was performing so poorly in front of the coaching staff and my teammates. After my discussions with Becca, my mindset finally began to change.
Its hard to put in words what I have learned, and maybe I had better not try. But I now believe that I was put through this difficult time for a reason. I might not be able to see the reason now, but I think part of it is already letting itself be known. Instead of traveling to Park City and Calgary to compete on an international level, I have stayed in Lake Placid to train domestically for the rest of the season. Two weeks ago, I saw this as a tragedy, a season-ending result that put a strain on my confidence in continuing with the sport.
Thanks to the one-on-one coaching I got from Becca, and from advice and help from my teammates, my mindset has changed. I see this now as a unique opportunity: an opportunity to learn about myself as an athlete, as a slider, and an opportunity to learn about sliding itself. I had the added bonus of being dead last in every training run and almost every race. I now had a base to work up from, a base on which to build through learning. I had an empty “bag of tricks” following Team Trials. Now, I have the chance to work out, from the bottom up, why I’ve not been sliding well.
In this first week of training alone, I have learned so much about the track at Mt Van Hoevenburg, thanks to many, many track walks, curve analysis, curve theory, video review, and visualization. I had no idea before this week that there was so much to learn about this sport…ok, I had an idea, but the vast amount of information one can get is overwhelming. Thanks to people that I know at the track, off the track, and elsewhere in the country, I am making big strides towards becoming a better athlete.
After being moved down to Start 3 following Team Trials, I was able to see the track slowed down…literally. Start 3 takes off at the entrance of Curve 4, so the speed is less at the bottom, though still fast. While some would see going down to Start 3 after sliding from the top for a year as punishment, I saw it as a godsend. Since I have had unending problems with skidding, discomfort with my sled, and lack of focus on the ice and off. I knew that Start 3 was what I needed.
I’m back on the new sled that I bought over the summer, and after four more hours of playing with the saddle, it’s starting to work out for me. Granted, if I’m not in the correct spot on the sled, the first hit will send my hips into the bars. It’s not too comfortable, but it’s getting better. It took me at least two days from Start 3, but I started to feel the track and to keep my head down. My form got better, and I started to skid less.
There’s a long road ahead of me, but I’m confident that I can come back from my Team Trials performance. I’m hoping that I can represent my country at the end of the season in the eighth and final America’s Cup race, but I am finding that any opportunities I have are ones that I need to take advantage of, no matter how “small” they seem.
I know this post is unorganized and such, but I’ve been writing it over the course of the weekend, and I haven’t had enough patience to sit through and write it all in one go. So I’m sorry for the lack of clarity. And I promise there will be pictures coming soon! I just have to take my camera with me to the track!
Thanks for reading!