As I stood at the starting line of the Mt Van Hoevenburg sliding complex today, on what I knew would likely be my last day of sliding for the 2014-2015 skeleton season, waiting for the track to be cleared, I was only thinking one thing:
“What the heck is that?”
I was totally distracted by the fact that there was a big ‘ol glob of goo stuck in my shoe.
It appeared that my rubber shoe guards had finally decided they had had enough. A hole that had been teasing me all season finally expanded and separated from the offending cover, and the rubber bit had now lodged itself into the tiny needles on a shoe that was my only hope against falling on my face…again.
Still, with 19 seconds on the clock and still counting down to zero, there was no time to dwell, or even to pick it out of my shoe. Hoping against hope that I wouldn’t slip, I set off.
I didn’t slip (yay), had a fairly descent run (yay) and felt great and ready for a second run. When I got back to the top and gave my runners a quick look, that thought of a second run quickly dissipated. Down a good inch and a half of my left runner was a nice, big, dark gash leftover from the run (boo). So much for a second run.
Still, I figured ending the season on a good, semi-fast (for the conditions) run was better than ending on a popped groove, which happened to me the day before on my last run.
As I lugged my sled up the three flights of stairs to my apartment for (what I hope will be) the last time this season, I thought of how different the season was from what I expected, and how much I learned from it.
Today, marks almost 14 months since I suffered my debilitating back injury. But 14 months ago, I wouldn’t have been carrying my sled up the stairs of my apartment by myself. 14 months ago, I couldn’t even pick my sled up, let alone carry it. I couldn’t slide, couldn’t lift, couldn’t run, couldn’t work, couldn’t even sleep. Today, the only remaining problem is trouble sleeping, and lots of discomfort riding in cars or planes or sitting in a movie theatre. It’s a hell of a lot better situation now, I’ll tell ya.
After wondering if I would even be able to make it down the track, I managed to make it through Team Trials in October, though not with the performance I had been hoping for. Because of being unable to lift or train heavily, my start suffered immensely, with almost a half-second difference from the previous season. As someone who once prided herself on her start, it was quite a difficult time for me.
I made the North American Cup team, though, and was looking forward to the first full competitive season in my four-year career. It took the first half of the season to work out how to compete at my best with the least amount of pain possible. I invested in a cart to pull my sled along rather than carry it, I recruited the help of my teammates and friends to help me lift it in and out of cars and trucks. I adjusted my training priorities to make sure my back was as manageable as it could be to race. This essentially meant taking off of sliding every couple of days, and taking the day before a race off completely.
Taking the day off before a race was the biggest adjustment, since I always wanted to have as much time the track as possible, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Taking the day before a race off meant coming to terms with decisions about sled setup and lines. It meant a day to dwell on what had happened throughout the week, then to let those thoughts go. It also usually meant a day to myself at the condo, house or hotel we happened to be staying at, as the rest of my teammates usually were at the track.
The strategy worked. I came away from the first half of the season with two medals and two more top-six finishes in what was the beginning of my most successful sliding season in my career. Following a quick stop at home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents, I headed back up to the Great White North, earning two more silver medals at my favorite track in Whistler, BC and two bronze medals in the final two races in Calgary, Alberta.
What a proud moment it was to stand up on the podium to accept the 2nd place overall trophy for the North American Cup. It was the first time since I had started sliding that an American woman had been on the podium,, and I was more than humbled in that fact.
The success was twofold: the podium in the first Calgary race automatically qualified me for 2015 US Team Trials. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and only on the third race. Because of that podium, and the rest of the season’s success, I have elected to not compete in 2015 US National Championships. Like last year, the main benefit of skipping this race is to give my injury time to heal.
Last year, it was a necessity because I could hardly walk comfortably, let alone slide. This year, though my back has improved drastically, it is still not 100%, and certainly hurts more after I slide. In order to work towards having a fast start back next year, I am taking steps now to be ready for that training intensity later in the summer. Unfortunately, that means not competing at Nationals.
It was a tough decision, but ultimately, it is the best decision for a long-term career.
And so the curtain drops on this season for me, but there’s a spotlight shining on 2015-2016. My immediate goal is to be healthy for trials, which also means to get my start back in a competitive range from the rest of the world. I’ll be working a lot over the summer, probably two jobs in order to finance my upcoming season, but it will certainly not be all-work and no play, as I have plans to attend the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in June, among a couple other fun things.
But that wraps it up for this season! Thanks for following along, and as always, keep on smiling!