Wednesday, September 9, 2009

End of Summer

The notorious marker of the end summer fun is here….September. The month that, for me, feels the most unsettling. The calm before the storm. Like how I feel waiting for a check-up at the dentist. Stuck sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair trying hard to focus on the article in Good Housekeeping while thoughts of whether I flossed enough invade my every fiber. Does my future have needles and freezing and fillings in store or was my conscious effort to avoid ungodly amounts of sugar, pop and coffee successful at keeping cavities at bay? It’s one of those things you can prepare for, but never guarantee. The future is unknown. The month of September is being stuck in a holding pattern after a long and tiring flight. The hard part of planning and traveling is over and you’re about to reap the rewards on your pending trip but at the moment, there is nothing you can do, except…well…wait.

The summer was jam-packed with training. Utterly exhausting, can’t eat enough, can’t sleep enough kind of training. But it felt good. While I technically had last summer ‘off’ while I recovered from the shoulder surgeries, this summer it felt good to sweat again. To hurt again. For my muscles to feel sore. But I must admit that every prelude into the Olympic season seems a bit easier. Certainly not physically, but emotionally. When the Olympic clock is counting you down day by day to the pinnacle race of your athletic career, rolling outta bed to start yet another day of hurt somehow doesn’t seem so bad. That proverbial carrot transforms into a dangling gold medal…and who wouldn’t chase that?!

Physically I feel great. Better than ever. No further injury or pain has held me back from training, although it did become evident at certain points that I was playing a bit of catch-up from my year-long hiatus from the weight room. But I quickly closed those gaps the best I could and feel ready to race, to get back in the game.

And although the summer months can feel like they stretch on forever, I knew that it wouldn’t be that long before the white stuff blankets the ground and tank tops are replaced with race bibs. But in the rare and precious days that we weren’t training I took the opportunity to have some fun too!!

After purchasing my first road bike, I took part in the Ride for MS as well as the Fernie Highline 100. I challenged myself to hit ALL of my shots on the golf course without stealthily snatching it out of the sand for a more desirable lie. I became a humbled beginner in a Learn to Row class out on the water at the Glenmore Reservoir. And I did my best to ‘rough it’ while camping with my family! Next year I will get around to some other goals and interests – learn to cook, take a hip-hop dance class, own a Ducati Monster, compete in my first triathlon and plan my dream wedding in Manhattan, NY! Yep, life is full of exciting opportunities! But I think right now, I’ll get back to the one right in front of me, the Olympics!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


In 310 days, the Olympic flame will be lit in Vancouver. And then I will have approximately three minutes and 27 seconds to prove to myself, my competitors and the rest of the world that I am one of the best luge athletes on earth.

Yeah….no big deal right?!!!

With the 2008/2009 competitive season more than a month behind me, I have returned to the part of all sports that athletes outwardly dread but secretly crave – off season training. Yep…. we’re the ones who, in our appallingly short amount of ‘time off’, continue to train so that we are ready to begin…well… ’training’. Us athletes never claimed to be clever, only somewhat brave and a tad obsessed! But we call that ‘commitment’!

Maybe it’s because surgery had me sidelined for the majority of last years season, or maybe I just feel at home when I’m surrounded by people who have the same sick satisfaction of pushing their bodies beyond a tolerable amount of pain, in the vain hope that they too will emerge the worlds best, but I couldn’t be happier to be back in the gym. I have a shinier, brighter appreciation for my health and the ability to train. Last season I rode the pines. I took my hits. I did my time. But now I’m back. And fiercer than ever.

This past season was, let’s say, tumultuous!! Last summer I underwent major bi-lateral shoulder surgery to repair the rips and tears in both my shoulders as a result of 15 years of luging and training.

The surgeries were a giant success and it seemed the hard part was behind me. I was wrong!

No-one ever sat me down and warned me that this metaphorical ‘Road to Recovery” was situated along side a cliff without guard rails and littered with potholes, and black-ice and road-kill and sharp switchbacks – all threatening my safe ascent to that final destination at the top – recovered! No-one told me that some days I would wanna shrug my shoulders, admit defeat and walk-away. Or that smiles and laughter were as common-place and abundant as tears and hair-pulling frustrations. I’ve experienced confidence and doubt in the same split second. And no-one ever gave me a guarantee that I could come through it. But I did. Here I am!

After missing the entire summer of training and the first half of the competitive season, I let my shoulders regain a passable amount of strength and mobility before returning to the team and subjecting them to the full gamut and demands of World Cup competition. It quickly became obvious that missed training and races had a measurable impact on my performance.

My races were solid and my form was top notch…but those precious, almost immeasurable thousandths of a second out of the starting handles that I was missing, handicapped me incredibly at the finish.

I felt like no matter what I did on the ice, there was a big iron gate chained around the top ten girls, locking me out of a group I knew I rightfully deserve to stand with.

That humbling lesson in patience sometimes felt like my best friend and sometimes like my worst enemy. Even though I knew that I was still recovering and that I should probably give myself a break, it was hard not to want things to happen faster than they seemed to be. In luge, everything is supposed to be fast!

I wanted to be back already. I wanted the ‘recovering’ to stop and the ‘recovered’ to begin. Sometimes I wanted to either rewind to Regan pre-surgery or fast forward to Regan post recovered. Because being stuck in the middle sucks. It’s incredibly lonely.

My shoulders were beginning to feel better but my ego and pride were taking a couple of hard hits.

So, with the help of an incredible support system, I made a decision to be positive. After all, I was able to race half of the world cup season, including the World Championships – a feat the medical staff were not convinced would be possible at all this season. And, still finishing just outside the top 10 and within striking distance of the top women, mid recovery, I knew I was going in the right direction. I just didn’t have the horsepower to get there a few increments of a second faster. But wait until I do!

And even though it’s not easy to surrender even a little bit of that competitive fire that burns fiercely in each one of us athletes I had to keep myself in check - it’s literally tenths, hundredths and thousandths of a second I’m battling for and that separate medals from the top 10, and the top 10 from the top 20.

It was easy to start wondering about all the what if’s and maybe’s in the next year to come with the Olympic Games tucked not so shyly around the corner. But that’s the thing, in life there are as many ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybe’s’ when everything seems ideal as there are when it doesn’t. It’s just how you embrace them.

Challenges are merely placed in front of us to help us grow and learn…not to stop us. Because without sour, there wouldn’t be sweet.