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