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!

It’s a wrap!

Sorry I fell off the blogging wagon there, friends. I do realize this post is probably two weeks late, but a lot happened over the past several weeks and I’ve had so many thoughts running through mind; thoughts I wasn’t ready to sure how to articulate.  So let’s back track here for just a minute and I’ll catch you all up.

The race-off didn't go my way, but I did get to spend a week in Innsbruck with these awesome ladies!

The race-off didn’t go my way, but I did get to spend a week in Innsbruck with these awesome ladies!

The last we left off, I was on my way back to Igls, Austria for a race-off to qualify for World Championships.  The race-off was a two-day, best 3 of 4 run set-up, and the race was actually moved up a day because of impending inclement weather (it was supposed to snow and most of the Igls track isn’t covered).  Long story short, I had a good first day, but a bad second day which dropped me out of contention for Worlds and consequently, I was not selected to race in World Championships and was sent home.

I’ll be honest: it sucked (<—-language, sorry!). A lot.

Watching my teammates pack up and head on out to Winterberg, Germany while I hopped in a car bound for the Munich airport was hard.  So I decided to fly back to Lake Placid because I wasn’t mentally ready to come home and face my friends and family after what I felt was a pretty big failure.

I spent the first week back at the training center trying to recover and gather my thoughts from the season, but not without difficulty.  I was upset, I was angry and to top it all off, I wasn’t sleeping.  Fortunately, we have an awesome sports med department and they were kind enough to set up appointments for me to get the treatment I needed.  My strength coach and developmental coach were there for me to talk out some issues and get me out of my own head and back on track.

Unfortunately, my equipment wasn’t due back to Lake Placid until the team got back from Winterberg, so there was no sliding for this chick for a few weeks.  I was stuck in the bio-dome that is the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center…so I took it upon myself to binge-watch the heck out of Homeland.  So I guess it wasn’t all bad.

graybillnats600

Loading the sled during training

Coming back to Lake Placid for Nationals allowed me to find myself again- to rediscover the slider I knew I was but had stopped trusting and believing in halfway through the season.  During the week of Nationals, I wanted to stop trying to make things happen and let my instincts take control.  With the help of my teammates, coaches, friends and family (who made the long journey North to cheer me on!) I successfully defended my title as National Champion and re-broke my old track record, clocking a 55.04 run.

So what’s next?  Well, everything.  I came home right after Nationals and had about two weeks completely off, which I spent on the sofa nursing a nasty cold.  I’ve been doing a ton of yoga in preparation for my off-season training, which will shift into gear in about a week or so.  I’m trying to figure out my schedule for the summer, I’m working with Adecco and the Team USA Career Program to find a job and I’m still plugging away at my grad classes (which in case you were wondering, Accounting is the worst).

I’m a busy gal.

And that’s essentially the update for now! I promise I’ll be better over the summer with updating this bad boy and keeping everyone in the loop!  A huge thank you goes out to everyone who has supported me thus far and for all of the kind words of encouragement over the course of the season.  Your support continually motivates me and honestly, thank you just doesn’t seem like enough!

World Cup #8- Sochi

Hello friends!

A view from the top of the Sanki Sliding Center

A view from the top of the Sanki Sliding Center

The final week of regular season World Cup competition came to a close here in Rosa Khutor, Russia! I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally slide the track that was host to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  The Sanki Sliding Center is a gorgeous venue and although it was pretty warm for most of the week, we had good ice and a smooth track.

The season up to this point had left me feeling (more like reeling) a whirlwind of emotions.  I got off to a great start at the beginning of the season in Lake Placid and Calgary and set my expectations high for the season.  However, I didn’t manage those expectations or my emotions very well second half and that- paired with several poor finishes- really took a toll on my confidence.  I had dug myself into a hole.

The skeleton start

The skeleton start

The first rule of holes is to stop digging.  In Sochi, that was my goal.  I once read that the key to overcoming a slump is finding a difference that makes a difference.  I was so excited to train and compete in Sochi and wasn’t about to let anything or anyone take that excitement and positivity away from me.  I love what I do- the speed, the flow, the travel and most of all, representing my country.  But I was letting my results and negativity from others take that love and optimism away from me, and it seemed to amplify the voice inside my head that didn’t trust my stuff.  I lost sight of my goals and I lost sight of myself, and it took several conversation with my massage therapist back home to show me that.

This week I decided to take it back.

While a 15th place finish wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, I feel like I’m back on the horse (and I’m being softer on myself so that I don’t restart digging that hole).  I had some great training this week that put me in the mix, so I know I have it in me to compete, it’s just a matter of learning to harness my emotions on race day and to be more consistent with my slides which will come with experience.  I like to forget that it’s my first year on World Cup- in which I finished 15th overall- and only my fourth year competing.

Whatta view, flying Sochi to Munich. Such a lucky life.

Whatta view, flying Sochi to Munich. Such a lucky life.

Next on the agenda is World Championships in Winterberg, Germany.  Well, sort of.  First things first, I have a pesky race-off before that happens.

Yes, you read that correctly.

It was decided that if you’re not in the Top 12 in overall World rank, your spot is on the line.  So, we flew back to Munich today and we’ll wait here a day or so for our equipment crate to come in with our sleds and then we’ll grab our gear and drive back to Igls, Austria.

I’m not particularly pumped about the situation.

However, it’s out of my control so I’m rolling with and preparing to crush it.  I may not like the situation, but I sure as hell can win the damn thing and remind everyone why I’m here and that I deserve to race.  So bring it on, and look out World Championships because I’m coming for ya.

#LaPlagneGate and World Cup #6 & #7: Igls

This is a tough blog to write.

It’s been a rough week.  Honestly, it’s been a rough second half.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around this past weekend, but I guess I’ll start from the beginning, which takes us back to last week in La Plagne.

The view from our hotel in La Plagne

The view from our hotel in La Plagne

Long story short, our World Cup race last week in La Plagne, France was cancelled due to ice conditions.  Many nations arrived to the 1992 Olympic track a day early for some paid training only to find the track in rough condition.   La Plagne is a high pressure track, so it’s imperative that the ice is smooth, which it definitely was not.  There were many poor patch jobs down the track that were dry and had not been shaved/smoothed out.  I won’t lie- I was pretty nervous for that first day.  I was prepared and ready to slide, but seeing the ice in that condition was very concerning. But, I put that discomfort aside, took my training run and though a little bumpy, the track was just fine.

We saw a lot of the same throughout the week, and only had one day of official training. However, the ice was perfectly fine that day.  Unfortunately, many nations complained of the conditions which turned the men’s competition into a one-heat race and cancelled the women’s race altogether.  While I value safety (which I know sounds a little “pot calling the kettle black” considering my sport) I personally believe the track was completely fine.  I showed up on race day ready to go, despite only have three total runs down the track.  I think the FIBT- the governing body of our sport- was a too sensitive and soft in their decision to cancel, but I digress.

We didn't slide much that week, but we did take a gondola to the top of the French Alps to a glacier ice castle.

We didn’t slide much that week, but we did take a gondola to the top of the French Alps to a glacier ice castle.

Essentially after a week-long vacay in France, we packed up and drove to Igls, Austria for our next race.  It was here that the FIBT jury decided that the women would do a double race to make up for last week’s cancellation.

I’ve slid in Igls before and while I think that Austria is incredibly beautiful and I love the area, I find the track incredibly boring.  It’s a low-pressure, gliding track that I am incredibly hit-or-miss with.  And this past week was most definitely miss.

My slides down the track were always slightly off, and I came away from each training day and video session more and more frustrated, which in turn caused me to try even harder.  “Trying” is not how one slides fast; flowing freely and working with the track is how speed is accomplished.

On race day I saw very little of that.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but I placed 20th on Saturday, and 18th on Sunday.  My pushes were terrible, my runs were terrible, and embarrassingly enough, those runs will be available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube, forever.

From the first race day in Igls

From the first race day in Igls

I think the biggest frustration second half has been that I’ve felt “off my game.”  I know what it feels like to go fast and to feel so in the zone that it’s as though nothing else exists but the track; my body reacting to the conditions and my mind trusting that my body will produce the correct steers and adjustments.  You get down to the bottom of the track and you almost can’t remember what happened because you were just so in it: a complete state of flow.

I’m struggling right now to find my way back to that.  That place where, with a clear mind, nothing else matters but the task at hand.  I’ve been feeling a lot of negativity and disapproval lately and I’m not handling it well.  I internalize just about everything, and it’s all starting to compound and snowball.  So, I think the first task at hand to move past this weekend and to focus on how to confront and process the source of those feelings and move forward.

So anyway, it’s off to Sochi, Russia for the final World Cup race of the season before World Championships.  I’m incredibly excited to slide the track that was host to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games just last year and to experience Russia.  Thank you all so much for continuing to follow my journey so far….there’s so much more to come that I can’t wait to share.