And so just like that after training for 8 weeks the first race was done and dusted and we were packed up and on our way South.
I thought, and seemed to be, training better than ever. I was excited to race in Calgary and was really wanting to see how much I could push myself and where this would take me, hoping to be at the sharp end of the field.
However, this wasn’t to be the case. I ended up 16th. Not what I had envisaged.
I was pretty nervous in the first run a product of wanting to do so well, it showed on my sled at the top of the run and I lost time where in training I had been gaining. I was lying in 17th. After the first run was done I was more relaxed anyway and managed to slide well for part of the run. Out of Kriesel the 360 degree turn that had been the nemisis corner for me I hit the wall and this bled me of my speed. I was to maintain my position but not gain on anyone.
16th in the World – hoping for much better next week.
And so it was my bags were packed and I was heading to the airport.Thinking that I would be early enough to get there in plenty of time, I forgot in my early morning state, 3.45am, that I had to fill the car with petrol – A Uturn followed by a quick stop at the petrol station. Only to discover that it wouldn’t take foreign credit cards and at that hour of the morning there was no one there to pay. So I headed away from the airport to the next petrol station, wherever that may be, as I was driving along hearing the clanging of the opened petrol cap against the car. Was this a problem? I thought to myself letting air into the petrol tank. I hoped for the best and carried on driving. Found the petrol station and filled up. Remembered to replace the cap and headed back to the airport.
I arrived with all my bags and apparently no visa to get into the USA. Funny I thought as I had been there just 3 weeks before but no, flying into the USA requires different documentation. The lady directed me to the computers disguised as Christmas trees where I could apply for the visa and back to the counter. Then through immigration, cutting the line guided by the US Airways lady so I didn’t miss my flight, than through security where i got a stern look from the security guard as clearly I was in the ‘this person is unorganised and might miss their flight’ lane and so she took no pity on me.
As I ran towards my plane, shoes untied, laptop under my arm, belt not holding up my trousers - you the story when you ‘ve unpacked your well packed bag to put through the Xray machine.
Arriving with so much time to spare I could probably have stopped for a Tim Hortens if i’d wanted to really make sure that I was living on the edge. The long and short of it, I was in time and flying towards Arizona, in business class - not sure where my luck came with this one. Seeing some sunshine in Pheonix which was my brief glimpse of summer weather in this long winter season.
So next stop Park City, Utah.
I left NZ about 8 weeks ago and we still haven't started racing yet. However, it wont be long as tomorrow we start official training of the 1st World Cup race of the season.
Since being in Calgary 8 weeks ago and now being back here again it has been nose to the grindstone of training training training, testing testing testing, learning learning learning. Being an athlete on the road may seem very glamorous but in reality it is just like a job - only a job that I thoroughly enjoy and am lucky enough to be able to do. Travelling pretty much across the globe and back. From West to East and then back again in the pursuit of excellence.
So where have I been in the last 8 weeks.
I spent 3 weeks in Lake Placid testing my new sled - loosening bits here and there, tightening bits here and there and trying new runners and generally getting a feel for my new sled. And . . . . . I like it. Which is a good because there is no going back now.
In Lake Placid we got a good block of training in - keeping up with our speed and strength and with the weather being pretty good this meant that we could get outside and run on the track, thankful that the -20 has appeared yet. In fact with training cancelled due to warm weather it has been quite the opposite.
Through this preseason as many of the nations are having their most difficult races of the season. Selection for their own National teams, our little New Zealand contingent is busy trying to get access to tracks and training and trying to find coaches that will help us on our minimal budget. All athletes have their difficulties to overcome, not one road to the top is likely to be easy.
This year we are 4 athletes Ben Sandford, Michael Coutts, Rhys Thornbury and myself. In our standards this is an enormous team. In many other nations this would be not be the case. Ben and I were lucky to have the company of Michael preseason as we all try and qualify for the Games this up coming season.
After Lake Placid - having avoided all contact with Crocodiles - it was off to Sochi, via Frankfurt and Istanbul unfortunately not for a visit, much to be adventure travel personalities disappointment.
Again it was tropical - well in Sochi it was, on the Black Sea where I braved a quick dip with Lucy Chaffer from the Australian team.
In Sochi, this was our chance to have more runs to learn the track and how it works and how we can be as fast as possible come February.
So it was pretty intense and involved lots of concentration and testing of runners and learning lines.
Things were definitely better than when we were there for World Cup which gave me confidence that I am moving in the right direction. Which normally would be up but in a Skeleton Racers eyes down and faster is the right direction.
So with plenty of homework still to do it was then back on the plane to Calgary in preparation for the 1st World Cup race of the season. When leaving Sochi I told myself that I would be back in February.
So now as we start racing which are our Olympic qualifiers I have extra motivation to do as well as I can.
See you in February Sochi :)
Despite being super focussed this year. Yep not a minute goes by that I am not thinking of ways to better myself. This way I can be at my absolute best as I try and qualify for Sochi, which in turn makes for a tired brain. When you feel like this it means it is time for some freshening up.
After my first couple of weeks of sliding which has been thrilling, a learning experience, intense and frustrating all at the same time. It was time to have a quick break.
I decided that I would head to the mountains to Canmore – one of the favourite North American cities, along with Park City, Utah. I think it is because they both remind me of Wanaka.
As I was driving out to Canmore along Highway 1 which I’ve discovered is 7821km long – (NZ from top to bottom is 1600km so we’ve got a bit of growing to do.) I was pleased to see my sense of adventure, which is really what got me into skeleton in the first place, has not left me. I saw the sign for a place that I had never been before. So as I was driving towards the slip road I found myself pulling off and heading in a new direction.
Now I do always find it a bit tricky to find down time activities that don’t involve fitness when some of my favourite past times include mountain biking, trail running, kayaking and hiking. Sometimes, though you just can’t help yourself as I found myself traversing rocky cliffs, trying to balance on fallen trees so I didn’t have to stand in the mud and eventually getting bluffed out, even though I was just out for a Sunday drive.
However, like skeleton at the moment it is important to try new things and see what the consequences are. My new sled I am trying on the track has made these first few weeks slightly challenging and making me question my ability. I realised as I was on my Sunday adventure that sometimes you get bluffed out and sometimes it all falls into place and you end up in a brand new place that is better than before.
So it might have been a downtime day but in the end I could still take out of it something that will make me a better athlete.
This is the first time that I have left Wanaka for the season so early. It just seemed that this year I have to make sure that I have left no stone unturned. So before the ice was even on the track it was time to pack the bags and head away as my team mate Michael Coutts and his very knowledgeable skeleton coach Angus Ross were also going to be in town.
So with my bags packed for the season, I had Winter on my mind, no shorts allowed to take up the space. I arrived in Calgary to about 20 deg. Now where were my shorts when I needed them.
The week of training was in the Icehouse, an amazing high performance facility in Calgary. With video analysis, discussion and goals for the season all taking place so that I can be super fast.
This is a huge part of the race where we try and generate speed to propel us down the track as fast as possible. Combine a fast push start with some good driving and you have a winning combination.
So it was well worth the $250 per hour that it costs to rent.
Every day since leaving has been a step towards sliding my absolute best this season. Long may it continue, which is why even though it's not the nicest but following the icehouse the icebath was beckoning.
Probably the first of many. Brrrrrr.
Definitely back up and running now. I have just had 2 weeks training at the Calgary Olympic Park in the 'Icehouse' trying to improve on my push start in both time and technique. It was a great chance to work on a few things that we highlighted after last season. Now I want to be pushing in the top 5 all the time during the World Cup races all next year.
It was great to be able to put in some good training and was pleased to be pushing nearly as fast as last time I was in the icehouse despite having had to have a few lying down days - well just working and no training- which means there is more to come for the season.
Whilst I was in Calgary I was lucky enough to witness many other elite athletes at work. At the Calgary stampede we saw bull riders, bronco riders, barrel racers and chuck wagon racers - all putting in as much time, effort and sacrifice as those athletes aiming for the Olympics. I think there is a bit more money in Rodeo, if only I had loved horse riding as a child!!!
We then caught a glimpse of the man himself Tony Hawk showing us some stuff on the half pipe - and at 45 he's still got. There's hope for me yet :)
Then of course there was many a Canadian skeleton and bobsledder in the gym.
Not to mention seeing Kiss make an appearance at the Calgary Stampede much to many peoples delight and surprise.
It seems that trying to qualify for the Olympics is getting expensive especially when I want to make sure that I am at my absolute best on the 13th and 14th February 2014.
I want to stand at the top of the track knowing that I couldn't have done anymore.
So it is fundraising time, which seems to take more time than training or work.
I have a couple of things going on firstly a crowdfunding campaign on Thrill Pledge, check it out and if you could pass it on that would be great.
Secondly if you find yourself in Wanaka on Sat 31st of August then come to Rippon Hall for a 'Wine Options Night'. This is a wine tasting quiz and should be fun. Test your knowledge of wine or just come and have a taste and enjoy.
Life's great when it's sunny. Especially in Wanaka.
I have been working hard in the gym. It's hard not to in our new High Performance Sport New Zealand equiped gym - it is motivating me to work hard especially as we approach the Southern Hemisphere Winter, yet another back to back Winter for me.
Personal bests have been achieved, I was stoked. My quads and gluts were getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger. I was loving training but it was tough. 5.45am alarms for before work training then after work training each day can sometimes be a bit draining. Lucky for me I had my 2XU gear and my Canterbury Biltong to help me recovery.
It's fair to say it was sunny.
And then it rained.
There I was jumping real high, proud that I had managed to improve from the last training session, and the next moment I was on a big heap on the ground. Simon had to help me off the floor I could barely stand up straight with back pain.
The first words that escaped my lips was 'but it was all going so well'.
So that's what I kept telling myself, it was going well and that is where I will get back to. To be honest it was probably a much needed enforced rest, and after a few weeks of physio it is back to training again and trying to get back to where I was. Nearly there though.
So now I feel it is sunny again. Actually it's snowing but you know what I mean.
OK so for anyone that knows Wanaka and perhaps me then ‘resting’ has a slightly different definition in my dictionary than in most other peoples.
Day 1: 36km paddle with Simone Maier (a world class, professional irondistance triathlete and adventure racer) down the Clutha river, one of the fastest flowing rivers in NZ with GII rapids.
Day 2: 25km mountain bike ride with Dougal Allan and Stu Lynch (World class multisport and adventure racers and when I say World Class I mean like World Champions!!) Luckily for me they had just finished a non stop 70+ hour, 315km adventure race and were feeling a bit tired.
Day 3: mountain biking the local single track, which of course means as much up as down which gives my power athlete lungs a bit of a work out! I was chasing Jo Williams, again an International adventure racer and irondistance triathlete.
Day 4: a 10km run – which doesnt seem that far but into the Fernburn so we climbed a fair bit to our destination. This was with Amy Nunn, a half ironman athlete and my partner when we won the rogaine, a short 33km navigational race in the Central Otago hills.
Day 5: a 1 1/2 hour paddle on Lake Wanaka with Simon, again he’d just finished 6th in the GODZone Adventure race in 99 hours of nonstop racing, with a team who were in their first attempt at an expedition length race.
I dont know whether there are any normal people in Wanaka!! I was pretty glad that my rest week was over, only kidding and thought it might be easier getting back into the gym. Although I’ll regret saying that I’m sure.
I’ll keep you posted with how the off season is going. But it’s firstly it’s back to work.
Sochi – yes. That’s the slogan anyway but it was in reality more like Sochi-not quite.
I was excited to be going to Russia, a new place, a new track. I don’t think that I have seen anything of the real Russia yet. That will have to wait.
We were staying in brand new accommodation that has been purpose built up the valley from Sochi itself, in almost disregard to its surroundings and environment. Although, I’m not quite sure how 5-10 enormous hotels were ever going to be subtle. It’s a bit like what I imagine Las Vegas crossed with Disneyland might be like.
It will be interesting to see what it is like when I hopefully head back for the Olympics.
Getting into the track involved entering a security gate just like at the airport and there were volunteers and police at nearly every corner at the track. No visitors allowed. Hopefully they change that for next year!!
As for the track. It is not difficult to get down safely which meant for an easy time for the Medical staff but finding speed, for me anyway was certainly tricky. With nearly +15 deg temperatures and not quite enough know how to look after the track it meant that the ice was not in very good condition. There was nearly daily meetings to discuss the track conditions and whether we would slide. 2 days in a row training was cancelled but the race in the end went ahead.
I had my worst race of the season here but will look to rectify that come next year. But for now it’s off to find more speed from somewhere. A couple of weeks in Lake Placid testing equipment and trying to slide fast.
Then home to NZ – can’t wait.
Not sure what the wizards were for – maybe to make everything right.