A Long-Awaited Post

Well, it has been about a month since my last post, so the time has come to do another!

Luckily, a lot of things have happened in the last month that are worth mentioning, so you should be in for an informative post! Most of it is about skeleton, which is great because that’s why you’re reading.

Thanks to an early plane ticket purchase (thank you, Southwest deals!) I was able to go back to California for the Christmas holidays, which meant a well-needed mental break. It had been a difficult first half of the sliding season for me, so to be able to put all of it aside and just focus on myself was great.

I spent the first week of the break with a friend in Los Angeles, which was probably the best thing I could have done. I was finally able to experience Musical Mondays (although any future Monday nights not spent in LA will forever be dull), saw the wonderful Megan McGuinnis (who originated the role of Beth in “Little Women the Musical”) in a premier of a (dreadful) new musical attempting to make it one day to Broadway, spent a few days by the beach, ate some incredible food, and of course, saw a bunch of movies. If I could have spent the entire two weeks there, I would have.

Then again, I was also able to go up to Idyllwild, where I grew up, to spend the rest of the time with my parents. We hosted the 25th Annual Salter Family Caroling Party, which was great fun (as always) and I got to spend some quality time with my little sister, who I don’t see as often as I would like, despite the fact that she only lives in Ohio. I also got to spend some time with my new sister-in-law, which is always a joy!

As is often the way in this sport, I had to change some carefully-paid plans to account for some unforseen circumstances. Originally, I had been planning to fly to Salt Lake City to pick up my new sled, but due to severe weather, the construction of said sled had been delayed for at least two more weeks. So, I decided to fly back to New York in order to work New Year’s Eve for a little extra cash.

Naturally, as soon as I arrived back in Lake Placid on the 28th of December, I came down with a cold (passed around my entire family thanks to my sister-in-law!). Unable to work or train, I stayed in bed for a week while I fought it off. Thankfully, there was no sliding during that time, so I was able to really get healthy.

Sunrise view from my apartment on New Year’s Eve

Which brings us to the North American Cup race. I was invited to race in one of the four spots for the women’s team, which was a great surprise. I accepted in order to have the better chance to qualify for 2014-2015 Team Trials. To do so, I would have to podium, which is something I’ve done in Lake Placid before, so I wasn’t too worried.

Official training began shortly after New Year. Though I didn’t have my new sled as I had anticipated, I was still having descent runs through training. Once upon a time, I would have been concerned that I wasn’t the fastest slider during training, but now, I know that the only times that matter come on race day. This helped to take off a little pressure, something which I struggle with.

Another thing that helped was that I was not staying at the Olympic Training Center. Instead, I made the decision to stay at my apartment, separate from the team. This enabled me to really focus on myself. I began to establish a routine, and I was able to do more things in the day than just sit around thinking about sliding. I was also able to cook my own meals, which is huge. I love having people cook for me, and especially love when people clean up after me, but there really is nothing like knowing exactly what is going into your own food.

All of these factors came together for race day. Unfortunately, one thing did not: we didn’t have enough nations participating in the race to make it official. The athlete from Romania had signed up to race, but never showed up. So come race day, the seven women (four from the US, three from Canada) would race, but it wouldn’t count for FIBT points, and wouldn’t count for Team Trials qualification.

Everyone was disappointed, but every single athlete handled the disappointment gracefully. We decided to race anyway, and what could have been a dark and gloomy couple of runs turned out rather fun. All of the girls made positive of the situation.

I do much better when there isn’t any pressure (I’m working on it, I promise) and that came in to play for these races. Both days, I had the fastest first runs of the bunch, which put me in the lead going into the second heats. In my career so far, I have never taken the lead and held onto it in an official race, so it was a new experience. Though I knew it was unofficial, there was still a good deal of nervousness going into the second heat. I had a .30 cushion on Thursday, and made some very big mistakes at the end of the second run, but I managed to hold on to the lead by .24 seconds to win the race. Friday, I had a smaller margin for the second heat, and again had some costly errors in the track, but edged the win by .16.

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Race 1 podium photo!

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Race 1 flags!

It was thrilling to win, especially against the quality athletes who were sliding as well. Of course, the victories were bittersweet: double gold medals, but no FIBT points, and no official podium to qualify for Trials. But there were a lot of lessons learned in those two days, and a lot of new experiences. It takes incredible mentality not to get psyched out for a second run when you are holding the lead, and even small mistakes can cost you the race. I have a long way to go before I am mature enough to handle that pressure.

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Race 2 podium

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Race 2 Flags

I have a lot of things to work on in preparation for my push to Pyeongchang, South Korea (2018 Games) and I’m excited to start now. Hopefully this time next week I’ll be sliding on a new sled, (massive thanks to everyone who sent in donations! I have 3/4 of my sled paid off thanks to you!) and in just a few weeks I’ll be cheering on my teammates as they compete in Sochi!

It’s an exciting time to be a winter athlete, and to experience the Winter Olympics in a town like Lake Placid with all its rich Olympic history is going to be epic. From what I understand, there will be big screens out on Main Street broadcasting the Games throughout the two weeks! How cool! When it comes to the Olympics, I don’t skimp. I did splurge and purchased cable in preparation, as I did for the London Games. I’m already planning on losing sleep, but hey! It only happens every two years!

That’s all for now!

Keep moving forward! (I really must come up with my own catchphrase…)

Lauren

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