Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Second Guess

There are some nights when I actually have a few moments to myself. That I will sit and think exactly how far I've come. Sometimes there's a moment of doubt. Occasionally I find myself second guessing, not believing in myself. But sometimes I think again of where I've been and how many people have helped me get here. All of these people over all of these years. If so many have believed in me enough to help me along the way then we can't all be wrong.

So many times have I been told just keep working hard. Ever since I was a kid I feel like someone has told me every year to just keep at it and my time will come. Every year someone has sacrificed something for me without anything in return. People worry about me for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. Some want success for me bad enough they worry about what I put myself through just to have this opportunity. They have to see something substantial. 

I hear all the time about pressure. About not putting pressure on yourself. About doing it strictly for youself and no one else. I don't see it that way. I want it for me and the hundreds or thousands of people that have helped me get here. I want to succeed and share that moment with all of them. When I start second guessing myself it only lasts a moment because then I realize how many people have the faith and belief in me and that feeling is enough to conquer the world. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Trapped in a cycle

This of course is my first go round in this whole Olympic thing. Mid way through next year will mark my first full cycle. The one thing that's always in my mind is what it all means. I am not one of these professional athletes you see on TV. The ones that make millions of dollars and compete 16-160+ times a year. Who can afford a bad day. Who can get complacent and afford to put one in the L column. 

I am an athlete in an Olympic cycle. Which means I have one single shot at this. Otherwise I have to wait four years. Four years? Let's put four years into perspective. 

A different president will be in office. Kobe Bryant will most likely be a retired athlete. Along with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Every Current high school student should have graduated by then. Over 10 million people will die. Over 11 million children will be birthed. And yet all of that happens before the next Olympic Trials.

If this doesn't go my way, if I have an off day I will have 4 years or 1461 days to play it back in my head. What if my prime is gone? What if I suffer a serious injury? What if life's course takes me away from the sport. I am not a professional athlete who suffers an injury and can come back the next season and have the same goals. No. Imagine if every time a professional Superstar gets injured they have to wait four years to compete for a championship. That means Adrian Peterson doesn't run for 2,000 yards last year and isn't the MVP. Peyton Manning doesn't throw for a bizillion yards last season or this year, he isn't the comeback player. In fact he would have been 40 when he was coming back after missing his opportunity in a 4 year cycle. That would have probably ended his career.

There is a lot of importance on the Olympic cycle. You have to plan your life around being the best at the right time in the right year. That is incredible. At this point in the game it's not about speed, endurance, knowledge, ability, or any physical aspect. It's just all about execution through a 4-day window. Nail it then and you have reached the pinnacle of sport. Blow it and you may never have another opportunity.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hard Work

I am a true believer in hard work. A blue-collar attitude. Ever since I was a kid I have been told if you work hard you can do it. Nothing has ever come very easy to me except for math and hard work. When I first started skating when I was five all I did was work hard. Couldn't skate worth a damn but I did everything I was told to do. A couple of years later I was told by my coach if you give me 100% and your focus you will get what you want.

Ever since that moment it's all I've known.

Hard work is a funny thing though, it is deeply restricted by the human brain. When I was first told, 'give me everything you got and you will get what you want.' I got what I wanted and I put everything I had into each practice but that was only 4 practices a week. I didn't think I could have trained any harder, I was 11. 

Then I was told to get where you want to go we have to train harder then you ever have. I did that too, and I gave every practice a solid 100. I got where I wanted to go, I was now 13 and I didn't think I could possibly train any harder then I was. That time I may have been practicing about 6 times a week.

After that I was again told if I wanted to reach my goals I would have to train harder then I ever have. I would have to rest properly, I would have eat better. I started practicing twice somedays, I built a slide board and put it in my bedroom. I put everything after skating, still I was just 15 surely I could not train any harder.

Fast forward until 2013, and I've trained harder then ever before. Harder then I ever would have assumed possible. I don't believe I could have trained much harder up to this point, maybe extend the length of what I will call hell weeks but during those weeks absolute effort was on display. 

Sometimes I think back and only wish I knew how far my body could have gone those years on my wheels. When I didn't believe I could possibly go any harder, there was a lot left to do.

Still I believe absolute effort must be given in order to achieve anything. It's a hard work frame of mind. If you can fight everyday to give it everything you have then you have to get better.

Hard work is the only thing I know how to do. Whether it be skating, work, or life in general I have to work hard.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Drift away

Most nights I lay awake in bed. Trying to sleep but understanding it won't happen. Sometimes it's the pain of grinding out workout after workout without proper nutrition, recovery, cool down. Other times it's the aches and pains of my back or knees that remind me I may be human after all. Or it may even be the stress of work keeping me on my toes.

Other nights it's my mind replaying a scene over and over and over again. It's never a long scene, never a race. Usually a couple of seconds of real time slowed down to last a minute or two, over and over and over again. One corner of one lap of one race maybe. Just a mistake, maybe a couple of inches here or there, maybe a split second of lost balance, or a lapse in mental judgement. Over and over again. Never changes. Never visualize it the way i thought it would go before it happened. This repeat is different, the repetitiveness is simply to prevent it from ever happening again. To dwell on it. To get angry about it. Sometimes it's not even a race. Sometimes it's not even to get angry over. Maybe it's a corner of one lap of one drill of one practice. Maybe it's something done correctly. It stays and lingers and plays and plays over and over trying to create muscle memory through a simple slowed image.

Sometimes it's just motivation. It's not easy to wake up and run your mind and body into a wall everyday, over and over again. It could be a word. Maybe a thought. A feeling. It seems to always be a similar theme, someone else's voice or thought describing exactly what I can't do and why.

Then right before I finally drift off it's always there in some concept or another, some phrase, word, or emotion: watch me. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gut Check

A couple of weeks ago I wrapped up 2013 single distance championships, which by all means was the trial run for the Olympic trials in January. More then that, it qualified athletes to compete in world cups 1-4, 3 and 4 serve as Olympic qualifiers for country positions. In other words, a poor World Cup 3 and 4 would limit how many athletes we take to compete at the games, or in each distance, or if we qualify a relay for the games.

Trials was the same format as Olympic trials. But six qualified to compete compared to the maximum of 5 that can at the games, if we qualify a relay. 

When it all ended I finished 7th. It was very difficult for me to swallow. My pride took a huge hit failing to qualify, to be completely honest. Not because this was my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal since November 2010 when I moved to SLC for ice has been Olympic Trials. The way it all happened is what made it hard. Last summer I gained an inordinate amount of speed in a short period of time, although I had the speed to make the team last year, I didn't know how to skate at all yet. 

This year the focus was trying to learn how to skate, and I made great strides in that regard. But falling down in 4/6 distances and getting DQ'd in another doesn't spell out a great performance. It's more then that even, falling down happens. But the way I fell sucked, once or twice was just random acts of a blade being on the ice instead of in it. Most were because I failed to control the speed I had at critical spots on the track.

Heading into the final distance I was in 6th place. I thought I new what I was doing at a time in my last race and I miscalculated. And in return I failed to qualify. Deja vu. In 2006 the final race of jr inline trials I still had a chance to make the team, and I blew it. You learn from your mistakes, but sometimes they linger.

The week that followed trials was tough for me. The next morning I was at work explaining 100 times that I finished 7th and six qualified. The thought that continued to run through my head wasn't that I failed, wasn't that I wasn't physically as fast or anything else. It was the idea that I'm putting in 80-90 hour weeks between training and work and I didn't have anything to show for it. I didn't have the vindication I was looking for. That's what weighed on me. 

A lot of people like to mention my time on the ice.. Still under three years, and tell me how impressive it is to be where I'm at in that time frame. I acknowledge and appreciate the compliment but in competition no one cares if you've been skating a day or a lifetime. It does remind me I'm learning on the fly, I didn't fully dedicate myself to just ice until last season. But when I chose to move to SLC my timing was mostly based on the idea that I didn't want to get really good in the 2015, the season after the games. I made the move when I did with the idea that if I picked it up quick then I had time to figure it out before the games. 

I briefly thought I couldn't do it anymore that there was no way I could keep it up. My body hurts everyday, regardless of training, just being on my feet, not sleeping, not resting, not sitting, always moving 18-20 hours a day my body aches but I'm only 22. My diet isn't what I wanted to be, but the only two days I don't work I train even longer, some weeks I don't feel like cooking the food required for lunch and dinner for three days at a time. My recovery after training sessions normally consist of a 3min locker room shower followed by rushing off to work. At work I run a department and a few times a week I'm in charge of the store as well. 

Sure enough during my first training session after trials I still had mixed feelings about my capabilities. Then a hard workout put things back in perspective for me. I was done feeling sorry for myself. Within about a 45 minute span I 180'd everything. Now I find myself challenging my mental and physical capabilities. Keeping the purposes of everything in the front of my mind so I can focus on the details that can't be seen.

I have a little over three months and the way I see it, the only thing in my way is me. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What the world owes

First, huge venting blog coming, if you don't care for it, pass it by.

I've come to learn that a lot of people think the world owes them something. Not the entire world (I bet those people exist too) because that would be too funny. But let's narrow the subject field down, let's say athletes. Athletes use these words like 'deserve' which basically means 'I'm better then my competition so this should be mine.' Which is quite demeaning actually. Let's continue though.

Athletes in the US always gripe about funding problems. Usually an argument comes up with if country (whatever country supports its athletes but is not comparable to the United States) can support its athletes the US should be able to. My biggest argument is go move then. To be honest, the country we live in is pretty great compared to a lot of other countries, even ones that support their athletes so if you want to sacrifice everything you do have in this country for a little support go right ahead, good luck.

Next, hard work goes a long way. Those that complain they NEED funding don't, plain and simple. They want funding but they don't need it. Those that NEED something find other ways to obtain it. Saying I need funding because it might affect my training is obsolete. If you NEED something, like money, you go out and make it plain and simple. Most athletes are the laziest SOB's out there. I don't mind saying it. Just because you work hard at a practice doesn't excuse you from working hard in life. Sport is a choice, regardless of how many people tell you it's their life, it's a choice. At least in this country. Skating is my life, but I support that lifestyle.

Sacrifice. This is a good one, sacrifice to athletes means living away from friends and family, putting off school, working hard at practice, and my favorite training through a injury. Those aren't real sacrifices. Athletes NEED something (like funding) so they don't have to make sacrifices, so they can train and then relax the rest of their days, so they can get 8-10 hours of sleep every night. So they can maintain a lifestyle. 

If you want something in life work for it, you might have to make sacrifices, and you might fall short in the long run. But you will never need to look back, and IF, if you succeed there is no greater satisfaction then being solely responsible for your success.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Where the heart lies

First, there are few times if any, that you experience a certain feeling of excitement. There are very few times that you would rather see someone else succeed then yourself. The first time I was overjoyed and just down right happy about someone's success was a few years ago when my brother won the 200m TT at jr trials. This week I was able to experience that feeling again.

I think proud is a better description. Just a feeling of pride washes over you for someone. Like you are just so proud of someone for what they were able to do. I wish I could feel it more often. Following along while Daniel skated trials gave me that feeling again. To be a first year junior and make the team basically off of just the four distance races is rare feat. Most people that make it right away are overall good skaters, skaters that get some points in all distances but aren't necessarily exceptional at any at that age. That wasn't Daniel. What he lacked in short twitch muscles he more then made up for with endurance and a fearlessness of getting tired.

Once upon a time we considered transferring to junior world class and making the junior world team a 3 part process:
First: you had to get strong enough, fast enough just to keep up.
Second: you had to learn how to race, make your mistakes and learn from them.
Third: Put it all together and see the finished product. 

With the top 8 point format that isn't necessarily the case anymore but it doesn't make it any less impressive. Watching the updates of the do-or-die points race was quite exciting for me. To see someone in any division get points on 18 of the last 19 laps (25 lap race) is incredibly rare. To follow along while he managed to be the only other jr man to win a race besides the incredibly impressive Tanner Worley made me pretty proud. 

I guess having practiced with Daniel since he was just a little kid plays a pretty big part. The other part is just how raw he is. So much still to learn about racing. So much to improve upon technically as a skater and yet it didn't matter. That's impressive to me. Plus he is the complete opposite of me as a skater around that age. I didn't finish a long race until I was 17 I think. Didn't earn a distance medal until 18. I've always had a certain appreciation for distance skaters, so much of each race is about fighting through being tired and willing yourself on, realizing everyone is tired and someone still has to win. For me, around 17 that's when i figured out that at the end of races everyone was tired. Once I realized everyone gets tired I could convince myself that my tired was better then theirs. 

Next I realized over the course of the week that my heart is still and always will be with my wheels. I truly believe I'll be back on my wheels at a trials again, I just can't put a date on it. I love the sport that molded me as a person and created every opportunity I have today. That and I still know I had to leave before I was ready so I still have some unfinished business. 

I was proud of the little ole' rink we skated at in Shillington. With our piss poor concrete floor that no one ever shied away from telling us no one could win practicing on. Everyone shows up and works hard and when you don't, you knew about it without being told. I hated when people would come to practice and not work hard. I always tried to work hard even on my worse days because I never wanted anyone younger or slower then me to think taking a day off was okay. There are always practices where the whole team is generally sluggish. I'm sure every team has them, sometimes it's the weather or the time of day or whatever but they happen. Whenever I felt those days and felt that way myself I would try as hard as possible for two reasons:
1. I didn't want to set a bad example
2. I knew if I blew up trying too hard no one was going to beat me feeling sluggish.

Lastly, I was proud of my coach, Jeff. For everything I guess. I never took for granted how much he sacrificed to work with me day in and day out. To do whatever it took, I always understood how much extra time must have been spent just thinking about all the questions and ideas and comments I always had. The best part is that he always demanded more of me as a person then a skater, and that made me the skater I became. I still remember some days it would just be Jeff, Kevin, and I on a late Wednesday night skating, and skating hard. I always wondered if those were the easy days to coach or the hard ones, just two skaters. 

When I first started skating for Jeff I was 9 and just a little kid. We had a huge team(and then we lost our nice wood floor and our team moved on from the sport for the most part. Ever since our team at our rink has been pretty small, but pretty successful.) and sometimes Jeff would address the team even if it was directed at a few skaters. I remember when I was probably 10 he gave us a speech about working hard. That we got what we put in. That if we gave him everything we had he would make sure we reached our goals. That hit home for me at just ten years old. I thought if I just try really hard Jeff can make me win. And it still works.

Before me there was always success at our club. One of the most iconic inliners, Steve Carter, came before me and he was exactly who i wanted to be. As a kid I was so naive I didn't know where or how people even made a world team. Steve would call and tell Jeff he made it again and Jeff would tell us and I would sit there in awe, "Steve's so good he made a world team."

After Steve I was the next one to make a world team, after me there was Sam and Kim. Then my brother, and now Daniel. Seven straight years of someone from one rink making a world team without it being the same person is no small feat. The only thing we all share is the man coaching us. 

And lastly (really this time) there is Kelly Archie. Our other coach and the only other coach our rink has had since before I was there. You always new how to make everyone work hard when Jeff wasn't there, and how to keep everyone trying when they wanted to quit. You always put the skaters way above your own skating and that's a sacrifice a lot of people can't make. You don't get the limelight or the recognition but your contribution to the success of our teams over the years was always felt. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One Of A Kind

I am an athlete. Before I am an athlete I am apart of the working class. And before all of that I am a human being. I am an athlete with Olympic aspirations, an Olympic hopeful if you will. In order to be that athlete I put in my 40 hours every week, no not my training schedule, my job as a department manager at Target.

Some days I wonder how I would perform if I had 40 hours for rest, recovery, sleep, nutrition. What would my performance look like then. Would I tire less quickly because of the recovery time? Would it feel easier? Would my technique improve? Would I be calmer? Would I sharpen my skates more often with time? Would I train more? Would I eat better? Sleep more? Wake up easier? 

I will never know any of these answers and thats okay with me. I took a huge challenge to chase a dream. Moving away from home wasn't that hard, living on my own, not that hard. Paying for all of my training and living expenses? Kind of a challenge while balancing a training regimen designed for success, and managing a personal life on top of it all.

I grew up with a blue collar attitude. I work for what I have and what I want. The success is nothing without the journey. The struggles of today make tomorrow's victories vindicating. I could beg for money and claim how impossible it is to train and work at the same time. But I've always held myself to a higher standard then that. Is it hard? Yes. Impossible? No. 

I have a short temper with myself at practice. I am used to pushing myself. I am used to my best being better then everyone else's. I know every moment is an opportunity to improve, master, and find a new technique. I want constant progression although in reality the idea of one step back to take two forward is more accurate. I hate every moment that I lose feeling, every movement doesn't feel like a progression from the last. I get angry that my body doesn't do what my mind is telling it. And I get mad when my mind shuts down my body. I get frustrated when I make a mistake. I anger every time I can't do something right the first time, let alone the second. There's a certain passion I have for constant progression. In everything I do I want to be better tomorrow then I was today. I don't want to take a step back. 

When I can't keep up for a lap, set, practice, or day I get angry. When I can't run, jump, or lift more I get angry. When I can't stretch further or better I get angry. Angry with myself, that anger drives me to improve. It creates a longing within, a longing to be better, to not lose at anything to anyone. 

Today I will push my body until I can't move tomorrow if its called for, then tomorrow I will get mad at my body for not allowing me to move. Call it what you want. 

I am one of a kind. I don't want fame. I don't want flash, money, or stardom. I just want the satisfaction of making it all on my own. I just want to prove it can be done. So many people have told me the impossibilities of my life. I just need to prove everyone wrong.