Home sweet home?

After a month long break, our 5th and 6th races of the Intercontinental Cup Circuit were in Calgary. Given it is my home track, I was so excited about these races. I had already been to two new tracks earlier in the season, and done pretty well, so I was hoping to improve on that with home ice advantage.

Heading into the Official Training week though, I started to develop some doubts. The first week back from Europe there was very limited sliding because of the Christmas break, and because I had a lot of shifts at work I wasn’t able to make any of the sessions. After the break, I went to Park City for a week for extra training, and then to Whistler for a week. This left 2 weeks of sliding in Calgary before the IC race. Given I have been down the track hundreds of time, I thought this would be plenty of time for a few little tweaks. However, the first week back sliding was canceled because of ridiculously low temperatures (minus 30C!). Then, the next week I had a couple of work shifts, and on top of that our coach wanted us to rest and requested we take off a few extra days. The few days I did get to slide, the ice was quite different than it had been in November. I was having difficulty getting out of Kreisel, sometimes even popping off of my sled I was hitting so hard. I knew that if I didn’t fix that problem before the race I would be in trouble.

In the 6 runs of official training heading into the race, I tried a number of different lines, but nothing seemed to work. I was having good speeds and good runs, but after Kreisel I would lose a ton of time. It was the first time in years I headed into a race in Calgary that I didn’t feel confident and 100% sure of my driving.

On race day #5, my anxiousness increased as the girls who went ahead of me pushed blazing fast. I have always struggled with my push, but despite being nearly two tenths faster this year, I was worried if I made any little mistake I would fall out of the top 6, or even out of the top 10. As I stepped up to the line, I was prepared to give it everything I had. My push was good, and my run was going well…until Kreisel. I smashed out again, and was 5th in that run. The second run was almost the same, and I ended up 6th overall.

Race day #6 I was determined to start from scratch in Kreisel and just forget all my previous lines in training and just feel it out. After the first run, however, I was in 10th place. I made an elementary mistake in corner 8, harming my speeds in the straight, and hit hard out of Kreisel again. I felt that my nightmares were coming true. I couldn’t seem to fix my problems in the track, and with the caliber of girls in this race, it was going to be really hard to climb back up. Did I mention that the 2010 Olympic Gold medalist, along with 4 other world cup competitors from this and previous seasons came to this race? A curse because of the increased difficulty at reaching the podium, but a blessing to be able to race against such talented women.

As I prepared for my second run, I tried to focus on the present. I could either give up and end up 10th, or worse, or put together a hell of a run and see what happened. I stepped up to the block for my run, and felt the amazing support from the spectators in the stands, including the Canadian world cup team who just came back from Whistler, and pushed as hard as I could. My run was smooth and as I shot through the straightaway into Kreisel I just thought “relax” and “feel it out”. I did just that and lo and behold came out nearly clean with a slight tap! I ended up 3rd place for the run, which moved me up to 5th overall! I was so pleased that I was able to fight through the self doubt and anxiousness and put together a clean run.

Even though I had hoped to do better in the standings, I felt like I learned a lot during these two races. I thought these races would be so easy, so natural, but they were anything but that. This year for me has certainly had ups and downs, but every race is preparing me for things to come. I will be ready when the next opportunity strikes.

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