Temperatures have dropped, morning frost graces our vehicles, and the leaves have long since left their branches. Yes, winter is finally here and if you’re like me, you’re eagerly checking the snow forecast each morning to see what kind of goodness mother nature delivered overnight. With the excitement of a new winter’s season, I can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and appreciate some of the incredible things that happened last winter.
At this time last year, my teammates and I were bouncing from World Cup race to race, battling for results to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games in Korea. Tensions typically runs higher on Olympic years as everyone feels the pressure to perform. I was fortunate to have landed on the podium in our first set of races, securing my spot on Team Canada early in the season. This gave me the opportunity to broaden my focus from being strictly results based to more process and progression oriented. My mindset shifted that winter. For the first time in my ski racing career, I learned how to let go of expectations. I began to see the big picture — the importance of enjoying the little moments between the big ones, using self-comparison to value day to day improvements, accepting any mistakes made, but also being aware of the positives that took place. The best part of all was being surrounded by the hardest working, most bad ass, good times ladies I’ve even skied with — Brittany Phelan and Georgia Simmerling.
December to February passed in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, we were in Whistler for our pre-Olympic training camp. Each World Cup team received building dimensions of the Olympic start, so we recreated this drawing to the best of our ability. Looking on from the side, the start section was visually intimidating; standing in the start gate, skis on with handles gripped was paralyzing. Image this — a three meter blind free fall, to a vertical 4 meter quarter pipe that had to be matched perfectly if you didn’t wan’t to pancake yourself on the ground seven meters below. This was followed by a six meter horizontal trough, then another upwards facing seven meter wall. It took me a long time to muster the courage to throw myself out of the gate. Slowly but surely, and with the help of my teammates I started to build confidence in my ability. We all did! For five days, we spent each morning trying to perfect our pulls and drops out of the gate, trying to generating as much speed as possible in each transition. Each time, I imagined what this would feel like in Korea, during the hype of the Olympics and in the heat of racing.
Our hard work spent on hill was equally matched off the hill with gym workouts, physiotherapy sessions and some much needed rest and rejuvenation at Scandinave Spa. Throughout my career as a ski cross racer, I have increasingly come to value the importance of dedicated recovery time. To have access to the Spa during our pre-Olympic camp was a godsend, not only for flushing out fatigue built up during the day, but to also clear my head in preparation for the most important race of my life. My go to spot was the fire burning sauna, top shelf near the window. Here I would visualize the start section, the turns, the jumps, and how the snow would feel under my feet. I visualized the scenery — the rolling hills in the distance speckled with perfectly vertical and spindly trees. I tried to image the cool Korean air on my face, the banners flapping in the wind, and the call from the announcer notifying the next heat of racers to “enter the gate”. I remember feeling my heart flutter in my chest with excitement as I imagined what my future could hold in a few weeks time. Five cycles of deep breathing then cleared my mind of it all.
Fifteen minutes in this wood burning sauna was the perfect amount of time before I started to crave the refreshing sensations achieved only by immersing my body in icy water. From total serenity to complete alertness, nothing kick started my sympathetic nervous system more than that cold plunge. My ultimate treat at the end of that cold cycle was relaxing next to the outdoor fireplace. My senses were awakened, my body tingled, my mind was clear and I was able to just be. Silence surrounded me, both externally and from within. There were no thoughts, just feelings and complete clarity. At that moment, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be, travelling down the path I was meant to be on. Whatever the Olympics would hold in store for me, I knew I would face it head on with passion, drive and self belief.
Olympic Gold & Silver Medalist