End of Season + April

Another off-season is upon us!

And alas, I fell into the trap of neglecting my blog. To be honest, the part I struggle with is knowing where to start when things get tough: how do you coherently articulate the myriad of thoughts that run through your brain when challenges arise?

Well, you start typing.

So here is my promise to you — in writing on the Interwebs (so it MUST be true, right?) — to update more frequently over the course of this summer and upcoming season, even when get things feel hard. And I know they will be: navigating the final off-season before the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is a massive, all-consuming task. Every action I make needs to serve the betterment of my physical training and my mental preparation. If it doesn’t serve either of those purposes, I simply don’t have time for it this summer.

And I promise I’ll try to share all of those thoughts with you here.

In an effort to keep these next few posts a bit shorter, I’ll bring you through the end of the season and my downtime in April!

Crew @ Nationals

The Graybill Crew in Lake Placid!

I wrapped up my season via U.S. National Championships in Lake Placid, bringing home a bronze. It certainly wasn’t my best performance, but after a very loooong season (and competing on a new sled) I’ll take it. Best of all, most of my family made the trek to Lake Placid to cheer me on AND try their hand at my sport! Our federation held a Friends & Family event after Nationals so that our loved ones could get a better feeling for our sports. I had so much fun watching my family bravely hop onto their skeleton sleds! I made my way home a few days later after filming promos with NBC to be used in their commercials leading up to the Games, which was pretty cool!

 

I spent the first week home sick as a dog with a nasty cold. To be fair, I think it was the final iteration of the cold I got (and spread…sorry teammates!) at the beginning of the season coming back around to me to give karma her due. Other than that, April went by way to quickly, filled with appointments, family time, making sense of all of my federal tax documents, a quick trip to the Happiest Place on Earth and GRADUATING FROM GRAD SCHOOL! I finished up my Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Keller Graduate School at the end of April. This girl has her masters, y’all!

Contenders:Ski Jumps

2017 DSG Winter Contenders

I drove back to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center on my birthday to attend a Media Summit for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Contenders Program along with many other Winter Contender athletes. I started working at DSG last summer as an apparel associate and I can’t rave enough about being a Contender. The program offers Olympic Hopefuls a part-time, flexible schedule that works with our training regimens and allows us to earn the money necessary to fund our seasons. I am beyond grateful to DSG, and proud for work for a group where sports matter!

And with that, you are caught up through April! Stay tuned to learn more about my current whereabouts, and thanks for reading!

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The Long and the Short of it

HOLY COW!

Has it seriously been 6 MONTHS since I’ve updated. Apologies, friends!

I realize I’ve been unbelievably bad at updating this bad boy this season. I’ll be honest–I got off to a rough start (leading team trials, then not leading team trials) so it’s been a bit to handle mentally. And, between work, finishing up school and the crazy travel schedule I was handed, I just couldn’t find the time to post. But, I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask how I’m doing (because the blog has been radio silent!) so I figured it was time to brush off the keyboard and do the dang thing.

So, here’s a (very quick) run-down of my life!

  1. Team Trials–I led after the Lake Placid races, not so much after our Park City races. This result put me on the Intercontinental Cup tour.
  2. Left for Igls, Austria a day after team trials ended. Almost didn’t race here (my federation forgot to renew my license, which is necessary to race) but after some phone calls and tears, I made the deadline with 11 seconds to spare. Trained awesome, raced poorly.
  3. Next stop: Konigssee, Germany. Conquered bendaway and kriesel, but only placed 7th & 8th in the races. Not where I wanted to finish–consistency got the best of me– but I slid the best I ever have on this track.

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    The view from Eagle’s Nest

  4. While in Konigssee, I hiked up to the Eagles Nest, a Third Reich-era building built for Hitler, settled atop the summit of Kehlstein. It was rad (but waaaay too much cardio for this gal).
  5. Got pulled up to do the Whistler World Cup. Traveled 20+ hours across 9 time zones and jet-lag was a real jerk. I was out of my mind for 3 days, and lost 10 lbs. Trained well, only placed 10th.
  6. Also raced in the Lake Placid World Cup. My family came to watch me suck epically (<–sorry, just being honest) and lose my track record to an Austrian. I placed 15th, which was mentally tough to handle on a track I typically slide well on.
  7. Went home for the holidays. Ate all the Christmas cookies (gainz, y’all), spent all the time with my family and gave my dog Boris all the snugs.
  8. Traveled to Calgary, Canada on New Year’s Day for ICC races #5 + #6. My flight was delayed by 6 hours and TSA broke my runner case. Had to deal with baggage claims to remedy the problem at 2:00am. Almost cried.
  9. Decided I don’t dislike the Calgary track anymore, and placed 7th & 3rd!
  10. Flew back to Lake Placid for the final ICC races of the icc-overallseason. REDEMPTION RUNS! I won both races and finished the ICC circuit ranked 2nd overall.
  11. QUALIFIED FOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!

That’s right! Because I am currently ranked 3rd in the US, I qualified for World Championships in Konigssee, Germany. I made my way across the pond just under two weeks ago to start training and preparations. Official training started this week, and I race this Friday & Saturday!

If you are interested in watching, below are the links to Heats 1 & 2, taking place on Friday. Check out the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) YouTube channel, where they stream all of our races, for links to Heats 3 & 4 on Saturday. NBC also has some rights to this video in the states, so check your local listings to see when NBC (or NBC Sports) decides to replay!

Heat 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICpz6hPfmHY

Heat 2*: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK5hKC5vrfc

(**If the link doesn’t work, you may need to use a VPN to access Heat 2. This is typically what NBC owns the rights to, and won’t always let you stream it in the US)

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

I promised my friends over at Four Seasons Produce (who all follow my skeleton antics!) that I’d have a new blog post up by September 1st, and lo and behold, here we are! Talk about the 11th hour!  Truthfully, this item has been on my to-do list for ages, but every time I found the time to sit down and write it, I couldn’t find the words.

This summer has been full of changes, so I’ll fill you all in.

Summer Push Train

Summer Push Training

I returned to the Olympic Training Center back in May to start off-season training, this time with a new coach.  The rocky start my to my season last year (read: losing my World Cup spot) was the kick in the pants I needed to make some changes.  I’ve had success on the training program I’ve been on for the past 3 years, but I needed a program that focused more on sprint development; the push start has been my “finicky friend” for the past several seasons, and it’s an area I need to improve in.  Let me tell you–this change was hard.  It’s tough to introspectively look at yourself and point out your flaws.

My programming looks vastly different from what I’m used to, and from what everyone here at the OTC was doing.  It almost felt wrong to take a big step back from the weightlifting aspect of my program in order to focus on sprint mechanics.  It caused me to question everything, from training, to my existence, to my future.

Simply put, change is scary.

And now that we’re 46 days away from our first day on ice (<–eek!) I’m trying to make sure that I put time in each day to take a deep breath and relaaaaaax and try to be present. I panic about the future–and its uncertainty–and it brings so much anxiety that sometimes it’s hard to breathe.  Anxiety about team trials, and Olympic trials.  Anxiety about how badly I want to feel the emotions I saw across the faces of the athletes walking into the Opening Ceremonies in Rio.

It’s a process. Learning how to train, figuring out how your body reacts to different training and treatment, and learning how to handle the copious, fluctuating emotions you feel.  It’s a process I’m learning to live with, and starting to try and learn to trust.

Learning to Let Go

They say success snowballs. For me, so did failure.

Photo cred: Molly Choma

Photo cred: Molly Choma

Last we left off, I was finally back on ice and kicking off the beginning of team trials. I got off to a great start in Lake Placid, quickly picking up where I left off at the end of the season. I was sliding very well, winning the first selection race and coming in 2nd in the second race, finishing the LP series tied for first overall.

The selection races in Park City, UT did not fall in my favor. My training runs got off to a slow start (literally) and I had a hard time finding my rhythm with the track– one I have been very successful on in the past. Though my last two days of training were good, it did not carry over to race day.  Long story short, my poor performances took me from 1st overall to 3rd, meaning I had lost my World Cup spot.

A shot from the Park City Team Trials Races. Photo cred: Molly Choma

A shot from the Park City Team Trials Races. Photo cred: Molly Choma

Not making World Cup this year felt devastating. It felt like a step backward, and it felt like a knife digging and twisting in further and further each time I had to explain to my friends, family and sponsors that I hadn’t made World Cup and accomplished the first of my goals for the upcoming season.

It felt like complete failure.

I returned back to Lake Placid immediately after team trials, as my first two ICC races were to be held there.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t in a particularly great space. I was angry, disappointed and upset about my situation. Instead of finding motivation in my circumstance, I was holding onto this anger and frustration and letting it hold me back.  I stood at the starting block so focused on what should be; on the result I wanted, on the result I needed.

In reality, I simply needed to let it go (←who would have thought that my nephew’s favorite movie song would be so poignant?)

I ended up finished 3rd and 4th in the Lake Placid ICC races, which felt incredibly disappointing considering it’s my home track and I hold the track record.  Following these races, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my performances and my season to this point and realized that I was getting in my own way.  I was sliding for validation, and I was letting my success (or in this case, lack thereof) define me.  It was time for me to change my mentality.

The Whistler ICC Podium

The Whistler ICC Podium

The Whistler ICC races were a turning point for me as I finally stood at the top of the track with a sense of calm (and slight panic–Whistler is the fastest track in the world, after all) and without worrying about the result.  I was so focused on relaxing and melting into my sled that I stopped fighting the track and got out of my own way. I ended up winning my first International race, and finishing 2nd in the final Whistler ICC race, my two best finishes ever.

So here’s what I’ve also learned about failure:

It doesn’t signify the end.

7000+ feet up in the air on the top of Hafelekarspitze in Innsbruck, Austria on New Year's Day.

7000+ feet up in the air on the top of Hafelekarspitze in Innsbruck, Austria on New Year’s Day.

Nobody said that my decision–my journey to make the Olympic Games–would be easy, or without setbacks. I feel pretty lucky to have experienced the successes that I have achieved thus far, as well as the opportunities that have resulted because of the sacrifices I have made.  I’m traveling the world, making lasting friendships and creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I know will lead me to be successful even after I hang up my brush spikes.  I guess I just needed a little perspective (even if it felt harsh) to remember that.

And to those who continue to follow and support my journey and continually remind me that they are proud of me no matter what—those three words of encouragement are the ones that resonate the most with me; the ones that keep me motivated and remind me that I am so much more than just a skeleton athlete.

Chaos and Ice

I think I’ve sat down more than a dozen times to write this blog post and I still can’t seem to find the words to describe how amazing, awesome, incredible, overwhelming, educational, influential and absolutely chaotic my summer has been.  But, considering I get on ice in TWO DAYS I decided to get my butt in gear and get some semblance of my thoughts up so that you can get a recap of the past three months and so that we can move on to the most wonderful time of the year!

Team Red, crushing challenges and waves

Team Red, crushing challenges and waves

Back in June, I mentioned an opportunity at an once-in-a-lifetime internship with Adecco Group, the world’s largest provider of HR solutions.  The internship sounded incredible, and I knew it would open doors and excite me for life after sport, as well as pay very well. I won’t lie- after a summer of searching for job after job, I had put all of my eggs into this basket, a risky move that is not characteristic of any decisions I make (hello, Type-A Planner anybody?).

But, I knew that this internship was what I really wanted to do and figured I would arrive at the boot-camp, be myself, meet some awesome people and hopefully impress the judges and executives.  Little did I know, the boot camp would be the start of one heck of a journey. As someone who lives my life in a state of mass chaos, I thought I was prepared for what was to come.

Boy, was I over-confident.

I'm gonna miss this crazy kids! This was after finishing our final presentations!

I’m gonna miss this crazy kids! This was after finishing our final presentations!

I headed down to Adecco’s headquarters in Jacksonville, FL around mid-July.  The boot camp was a week long, and was designed to make us think on our feet and push us outside of our comfort zones, while allowing each of the finalists an opportunity to shine.  A huge shout-out goes out to the individuals on the Marketing team who made this thing come into fruition and who chose six other insanely amazing, interesting and smart finalists.  These ladies and gent’s are seriously the coolest and spent months planning the boot camp, which from the eyes of the finalists, went off without a hitch.  The boot camp never felt like a “competition” and the seven of us were able to bond immediately.

To Bailey, Joslin, Kelly, Terry, Daquawn and Steven– I am SO glad I had the opportunity to meet you and bond so closely in just a week! I loved getting to know each of your personalities and I am so thankful that we had each other to make it through some of those challenges (like that business case study, amiright?).  I can’t wait to see where the future takes all of us!

Adduce Group North America CEO Bob Crouch and I before our WJXT interview!

Adecco Group North America CEO Bob Crouch and I before our WJXT interview!

The chaos definitely continued  after Adecco Group North America CEO Bob Crouch announced that I had been named the CEO for 1 Month winner. I had paperwork to sign and schedules to coordinate for my official start date two days later. I flew back to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY to re-pack, sort out my workouts and prepare!

And this is the part where I get stuck in completing this blog post. I mean, how does one go about detailing this experience—without writing a novel?

In the interests of letting you all get back to your regular scheduled programming, I won’t go into detail about all of the incredible places I traveled or the fantastic people that I met (<–I could spend days on that one!) so I’ll let the following blogs help on that regard.  I was so honored that Business Insider picked me up for a four-blog series to recap and detail my life on the job.  This made it incredibly easy for my family, friends and interested parties to follow along!

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

On top of the Empire State building with a few of the awesome people I met along the way!

On top of the Empire State building with a few of the awesome people I met along the way!

I do want to extend a heart-felt thank you to everyone that I met along the way–I can’t thank you enough for your kindness, your welcoming attitude and your generosity. You all made me feel incredibly special and valued, and as an intern walking into such a crazy opportunity, I can’t thank you enough for the time you took from your busy schedules to teach me the trade.

So, as the title of this blog suggests, the past few months have been total chaos, but this internship was quite literally the coolest, craziest and best experiences of my life (and trust me, I’ve done some pretty gnarly stuff!).  I learned so much about myself; my strengths, my weaknesses and my goals for my future.

And now, it’s time for the most exciting part of the year…getting back on ice! Stay tuned during the next several weeks as we knock the rust off, get back to sliding and start the team selection process. I’ll be sure to update along the way and keep you all in the loop as we get started on the 2015-2016 season!

A Jubilant June

Another month gone by…can you believe it?! June was a super busy one for me, so here’s the run-down!

I found my way back at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center at the first of the month to continue my training. I dislike being 6.5+ hours away from my family and friends, but my training is at its best when I’m at the OTC. I’m under the watchful eye of my trainers, I have access to Sports Med and treatment/recovery and I’m able to use the push track- the most sport specific tool we currently have. Not to mention, there are zero distractions in this small town!

AUFH Class of 2010 represent! (minus one Anne-Meike de Wiljes...we missed you Annie!)

AUFH Class of 2010 represent! (minus one Anne-Meike de Wiljes…we missed you Annie!)

Just two weeks later, I drove down to DC for my best friend’s wedding! Alyssa and I were college field hockey teammates and roommates and she asked me to be her Maid of Honor on her big day. Naturally, I said YES! and I couldn’t wait for the date! The wedding weekend included a bachelorette party at Nats Park for a Washington Nationals game with friends from every area of her life! It was a great group and we had an awesome time getting to know one another!  Naturally, Alyssa looked absolutely stunning on her wedding day and her groom, Will, looked very handsome. The wedding venue- the Carnegie Institute for Science- was gorgeous and served as an awesome space for the ceremony and reception. We all ate, drank and danced the night away! I had so much fun celebrating Alyssa & Will and had a fabulous time catching up with several of my former teammates who were in attendance!

The women's skeleton athletes before the Gala

The women’s skeleton athletes before the Gala

Right after the wedding, I zipped back up to Lake Placid to get my training in on Monday and to re-pack: it was off to Colorado Springs for National Team Camp! I turned out to be another long travel day for this chick, including a 3am shuttle to the Albany airport. Due to all of the travel and lack of sleep from the weekend and days prior, I actually ended up getting sick for most of the camp. I had fever, headache and sinus issues for most of the week which is never fun. But I made the most of the situation (and took LOTS of ibuprofen/Tylenol) and enjoyed myself all the same. A few highlights of our very busy schedule included rock climbing at the Garden of the Gods, a reception at the Penrose Center and an annual gala at the end of the camp with all of our teammates, coaches, board members and sponsors.

However, one of the most enjoyable- and hilarious- parts of camp involved boat building. With cardboard. And Duct tape.

The coaches and athletes were split into teams and given 45 minutes to collect cardboard and construct a boat that would need to make it down to the end of the pool and back without sinking. It turned out to be a great exercise in teamwork and laughter and honestly it’s better if I stop now and you click here to watch the video our media team put together highlighting the event. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this.

My teammates and I in the most obnoxious red, white & blue gear we could find. Hilary is in the grey t-shirt!

My teammates and I in the most obnoxious red, white & blue gear we could find. Hilary is in the grey t-shirt!

After an almost week in Colorado Springs, I hopped back on a plane east-coast bound to Lake Placid. I’m restarting the training block (since I didn’t train while I out in Colorado because I was sick) and I had about one day to prepare for the WOMEN’S WORLD CUP!  My friends and I grabbed our USA gear and drove to Montreal for the game on Tuesday and it was seriously the most epic event ever. The stadium was packed, the game was intense and we even snapped a pic with 2014 Silver Medalist Hilary Knight (Women’s Ice Hockey) who was sitting two rows away from us!

After the World Cup game, things will cool down for about two weeks before I head down to Jacksonville, FL for the Adecco CEO for One Month Bootcamp! I fly out on July 12 for a 5-day boot camp to compete for the internship! It should be an awesome week and I can’t wait to meet the other finalists, the Adecco family and to soak up all the information I can!

Thanks for following, and I’ll keep everyone posted about the bootcamp!

The May Mash-Up

Hello friends!

I can’t believe how quickly May has flown by!

Just look at that sweet little face…this little man has stolen my heart!

I spent May down in Hampton, VA with my twin brother, sister-in-law and adorrrrable nephew!  I chased after this little wild thing, I pushed him on every swing set we encountered and helped him climb ALL THE THINGS. I had an amazing time with my twin brother and his little family and I know I’ll cherish this time spent with them. I also used this time to try and solidify my spot as favorite Aunt/Uncle; the competition is pretty stiff, but “Ansa” (let’s be honest, he’s not going to be able to pronounce Aunt Savannah until he’s like 6) took a pretty good crack at it.

At the very end of the month, I drove home to un-pack/re-pack, pick up some stuff, and nab an orthodontist appointment (because: adult braces) on Monday morning.  After a quick meeting following my appointment, I hopped back in my car to drive back up to Lake Placid to continue summer training.  The drive was ridiculously rainy and long, especially considering I had driven 5 hours the day before.

And just a little fun fact: I hate car rides, which is hilarious considering how much I [like to] travel.

About 2.5 hours in I’m usually screaming at other cars (like they can hear my tirades behind my closed windows) while pulling my hair out and wishing my radio worked.  As if continuous, unstaticky music would quiet my rage.  Clearly, I need to practice more yoga and learn more patience.

Also, sorry to “bury the lede,” but I found out some big news toward the end of May! I am a finalist for the Adecco CEO for a Month internship! Over 2,100 individuals applied for this incredible opportunity with Adecco, who is the world’s largest Fortune 500 staffing & HR company!  In July, I’ll join the seven other extremely talented finalists down in Jacksonville, FL for a week-long boot camp, at the end of which one of us will be selected to be mentored for a month by Bob Crouch, the CEO of Adecco North America. I’m so, so excited to be a part of this incredible experience and I honestly can’t wait to meet the other finalists and the rest of the Adecco family!

Thanks for following, and stay tuned for more!