The season is over. The sled is packed away. Runners are stored and sliding clothes are packed and put away.
Now that I have endless time on my hands (not by choice at the moment, but I can’t do much more about it) I figured I would actually catch up with this blog. I know many people read it, and more people ask me about it every day. So it’s time for me to “cowboy up” and update!
I was one of five athletes chosen to represent the United States in the final FIBT races of the season, at the North American Cup finale in Lake Placid. This is the third season I have participated in this specific race, and each year has brought different results and different lessons learned.
With this race came the challenge of not knowing which women was racing until the day before. There were six women vying for four spots. This meant total preparation for each of the training days: sanding runners, prepping the sled, and going into the training race-ready.
The upside of this was that I had some pretty awesome training runs. The downside of this was that by the time the races had ended, I was pretty exhausted. But that’s coming. Luckily, I earned both racing spots, so a lot of pressure was off my shoulders.
The first race didn’t quite go as I planned. I made some major mistakes in my run, and ended in 6th place. Though a top 6 finish is not bad (out of 13 athletes) it wasn’t where I wanted to end. I had a chat with my coach that night, prepped myself for the next day, and decided to forget about sliding for the evening. I watched a new movie and got lost in another world.
The second race was a little better, though still not what I wanted. But I finished fourth overall, just shy of the podium. It was my highest finish of the season, and though I would have been happier with a podium, I was pleased with my results. I had good runs, but mostly, it was fun to interact with the girls from the other countries competing. It was a very friendly race (no less competitive) and there was a lot more interaction than other races.
What I love most about sliding, besides the exhilaration one gets when one realizes they’re going close to 80 miles per hour, is meeting new people. I got to know several of the Canadian sliders, hosted a New Zealander at my apartment for the month, and really was able to enjoy the race.
Another great thing about these races was that they were livestreamed! So friends and family were able to watch me race. It wasn’t as intense as the World Cup athletes get when they’re televised, but the track feed and commentary were streaming online. I got a text from my mom midway through the race and she told me her 3rd grade class was watching from California. They were calling out names of the curves (I had spoken at Idyllwild School around Christmas and so they were able to identify a little bit more) and they recognized me by my sled, which is painted in bright colors. Following the second day of racing, I got another text from my Mom and her kids. It was awesome to hear that they watched, and were so excited!
The final NAC race of the season usually marks the end of sliding…except this season. Only two days after the race, official training for US National Championships began! Now, I will remind you that the US NAC women had been racing off all week, including the actual races. Two races back to back takes a LOT of energy…so five straight days of that was completely exhausting. As such, I took two full days off after the NAC race, which meant I actually missed the first day of official training for Nationals. Since we only had two days of OT before the race instead of the usual three, most people took advantage of every day of sliding they could. Looking back, only doing one day was a good decision.
I was ready to redeem myself after the NAC races, but I was also so tired that I didn’t much care how training went. So I went into the races looking to just enjoy sliding. I didn’t look at my times, didn’t examine timesheets, and didn’t really listen to what other people were doing. On race day, I treated it like a training day, really looking to improve certain parts of the track. I was very calm, relaxed and had a pretty clear head. I had a good first day, and went into the second day of racing ranked 5th overall.
In Nationals, like in the Olympics, there are four heats. Whoever has the fastest combined time of the four heats, wins. Going into the third and fourth heat, there were perhaps six of us, maybe seven, who were all within a half second of each other. In the sport of skeleton, times are measured to the hundredth of a second. It was very close racing the whole time.
My third run of the race was awesome. It felt good, I didn’t make mistakes, and it ended up being only two tenths or so behind the fastest heat time. It also moved me up to third overall, only two hundredths out of second. The fourth and final heat was also a good one, though I made some crucial mistakes at the bottom of the track. But when I crossed the finish line and looked up at the score clock, I saw a big red flashing “1.” I knew that I was guaranteed a medal! It was only until later that I found out I finished only eight hundredths ahead of the teammate who now had been bumped to second, after four miles of ice. Talk about close racing!
I ended in third place, my first time medaling at Nationals! As an award, I was one of four female athletes were were drug tested by USADA! Of course, I had just gone to the bathroom before my fourth run (and that in itself was a last-minute decision). So Savannah and I had a contest to see who could drink more liquids. I downed two bottles of water and a mini Gatorade, before the decision was made to go to the awards ceremony and then come back to do the test. Awesome.
So I held in my pee as we were escorted (yep…each athlete being tested had a chaperone to make sure we didn’t do anything suspicious) back to the top, where head coach Tuffy handed out medals, and then were escorted back down to the lower start to do our drug test. The medal ceremony itself was kind of a blur, mainly because I had to go to the bathroom so badly. But it was really great to medal and be recognized by the coaching staff and the team.
If you’ve never done an official test, let me enlighten you. After doing the mound of paperwork, getting IDs checked and such, an official takes you to the toilet, and unceremoniously watches you pee into a cup. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and makes one incredibly self-conscious. Luckily, I’ve had an official drug test through NCAA once in college, so I wasn’t QUITE as uncomfortable as I could have been. But still. Yes, I know it’s their job, but it still is hard to get used to.
And now that you have far too much information about that…
So, with that, the season was over. The track was open for two more weeks for open sliding, but after the weekend of Nationals, which I spent in Saratoga Springs, I decided it was a good way to end the season. So, I packed up all my sliding stuff and viola. Done.
As for the rest of this blog post, there isn’t much to tell. My sister came to stay for a week during her Spring Break, during which we went to Burlington and visited the Ben & Jerry’s factory, toured a maple sugar “plant” in Lake Placid, and basically just lounged about. She showed me the TV show “Firefly,” I showed her a few movies, and we played MarioKart like our lives depended on it. Overall, it was the perfect way to wind down after my season, and she had a nice relaxing week off.
I also made the move to Saratoga Springs for the summer. Well, technically I’m not IN Saratoga just yet. I’m on the hunt for a good apartment while I stay with some acquaintances in Alplaus, NY. The change of scenery is great, and I’m extremely excited to live in Saratoga, which I fell in love with last year. I’m excited to train at a new facility (Contemporary Athlete) with a new coach, work at the race track (I hope) and hopefully pick up some new sponsors for the season. I’m mostly just excited to live here! It’s the perfect fit for me right now. Not a small town, but small enough to not have droves of people everywhere. It’s gorgeous, active, and is close to multiple venues for the performing arts.
I can’t wait for summer heat to begin, though I’m sure after a couple weeks I’ll be ready for winter again! I have another week or so of off-season before training begins again. It’ll be a tough summer, but it’s an Olympic year, so I’m ready to push. I don’t know much about the way Olympic Trials work for skeleton, but I will keep you all up to date!
As always, thanks for reading, and thank you for your support! I had at least 30 donors help me with an end-of-season fundraiser, the funds of which will help me buy a new set of runners, and will help me pay rent until I am employed again! I can’t tell you all how much that means to me, and I look forward to sharing updates from the off-season with you again!
Keep an eye out for new blog posts! And thank you all so much!