Sunday, 27 March 2016

What It's Really Like to be an Athlete

I'm only 24 but I've been involved in sport, specifically speed skating, for almost 20 years now.  In high school it was something that I did after school and on weekends, I wasn't able to do school sports in the winter because there was no time, in the summer it was something that I would train for in the mornings or evenings with days and time off to have a social life and a job.  

When I moved to Calgary, speed skating became my full time job.  As an amateur athlete in a fringe sport there was no way I could afford that level of training by myself, the training fees alone are over $4,000 not including boots, blades, protective equipment, and flights and accommodations for competitions.  In order to get the smallest improvement I've been training twice a day, every day, 6 days a week.  Some people are able to do skating and school at the same time but if my marks were good my skating would suffer.  I've lost jobs because I would have to be gone for weeks at a time to attend training camps, and competitions that I would have to fund myself.  I haven't been home to see my family or friends for more than two weeks at a time for almost 5 years, I miss out on some social things because I know that if I don't get the right amount of sleep I can't perform as well at practice or in competitions not to mention that on paper I look like I've just been slacking off because I have no degree or diploma, no stable job, and don't even have a ton of speed skating results.  

Don't get me wrong, I love skating and there's nothing quite like to feeling after the execution of a perfect race, or even just one perfect pass or block but I've come to realize that you can pour everything you have into something and try your hardest and still not achieve what you've been working towards.  Elite sport is exhausting not only physically but also mentally and emotionally; it can be absolutely draining in every sense of the word.  Sport can be greatly rewarding but I can also attribute the few times in life that I've been completely shattered, heartbroken, and beaten down to sport.  There are so many people in different sports in the same position as me who never get any recognition, who try their very hardest but just don't make it, and there are even more people who will never understand the sacrifices and hard work that go into being a high level athlete.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

2015-2016 Season in Review

When I think back on this past season it's kind of hard to quantify since it was so different than previous years and I didn't compete in the same competitions that I normally do so I have very little to compare it to.

Andy Young SunPulse 
The first kind of 'bigger' competition I skated this season was the Inter-Continental at the Oval in Calgary.  Calgary invited a bunch of international skaters to compete and a select number of the Oval Program skaters got to compete against them.  For me this competition went spectacularly terrible.  It was a complete train wreck.  Because of where we were in the training period I felt exhausted and I was so tired that I felt physically unable to do my normal passes and strategies because I simply didn't have the energy in my legs.  I became very frustrated and very upset because I felt that I was skating so bad and I was embarrassed that people would think that was how I skated and I didn't feel like myself.  I think I only had one race that I could feel even a little bit good about that I managed to pull off through sheer will and anger but that was kind of taken away from me when I heard that someone I trusted and had depended on in the past for support and advice in skating had said something pretty hurtful during and after that race.  After that competition I was so hurt and upset and in such a bad place that I just wanted to be done.  I just didn't want to feel the way I was feeling anymore and I think that if I hadn't already booked plane tickets for later in the season I might have just packed up and gone home.

Instead of skating the Canadian circuit this season I went and trained with Great Britain's national team for three weeks, something I was able to do since I have British citizenship through my dad.  While I was there we travelled to Sweden to compete in a Star Class competition.  By that point I was feeling a lot better about my skating although it took me a long time to feel confident racing again but it was nice to compete against a field that was almost all people I didn't know and who didn't know me.  It felt like there was no pressure and no expectations of me so I was more free to try things and not be so stressed out.  In some races I feel like I could've finished higher or done better but I came out of the competition with a third place trophy and I didn't cry once so I'm putting that one in the win column.

It's the end of this season that feels the most weird for me because I really didn't have a big end of year competition like I have had in the past.  I skated Winterfest, the final competition at the oval where I had some decent results and some good races and then I was done.  I think I had some good experiences this season and some good races but it is a little difficult to tell since I don't have any results to compare to previous seasons.  This season I really wanted to get a new 500 time and unfortunately that didn't happen but I'm happy with the skating I did nonetheless because I feel that although I didn't get any faster times I got a lot better and more confident in my racing.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

2016 Reading Challenge - February

This month was not as productive as the last for reading since I didn't have a concussion so I was slightly more busy.  As of the 28th I've only completed two books and unless I spend the next 24 hours straight reading I expect the month will end that way.  The books I completed are Robert Galbraith's (aka JK Rowling) debut detective novel The Cuckoo's Calling and Grace Helbig's tongue-in-cheek style guide Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It.  The book of the month for me this month was The Cuckoo's Calling, and I now only have 25 books to go to complete the challenge.

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith
This novel has been my favourite book I've read so far this year.  The novel introduces down-on-his-luck detective Cormoran Strike a former military investigator who lost part of his leg in Afghanistan and now works as a private investigator.  We're introduced to Cormoran through Robin, a young, recently engaged woman who has been hired through a temp agency to work as a receptionist for the private investigator.  Although Robin was originally only meant to stay for a week she quickly becomes a kind of partner for Strike throughout the course of the case.  On the same day that Robin starts working for Strike he is hired by John Bristow to investigate the death of his sister, and famous model, Lula Landry.  The original investigators have ruled her death a suicide but her brother is convinced she was murdered.

I was (like everyone else) intrigued to read this book when I found out that it was written by JK Rowling.  I read a few reviews on GoodReads where people said that they didn't like her writing style when she was writing for adults but for me it's one of the things that I enjoyed most about the novel.  Rowling creates these characters that feel very real through her descriptions of them and through their flaws and although the book was long it was very easy and I loved reading it to the point where I was carrying it with me wherever I went in case I had a spare second to read.  I really enjoyed this book and I've added the next two Robert Galbraith books to my reading list.

Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It - Grace Helbig
In many ways I feel like Grace Helbig just gets me.  I don't know if it's her preference for giraffes (my favourite animal),  her honesty about her underlying anxiety, or her love for sweatpants (my favourite type of pants).  This is the first 'YouTube' book that I've bought since it was more than just an autobiography and I was interested to see what someone who seemed to have a similar view and relationship with fashion and beauty that I do (although she is a lot funnier and better at expressing herself).

The book includes some personal stories and favourites, some random and silly sections, and a recurring story about a pair of sweatpants going off to college called "The Sweatpants Diaries."  The personal stories and favourites were probably my favourite part of the book because I felt I could relate to them and I am a nosy person and I love to know what other people have in their makeup bags etc.  As someone who wrote a short story called "The Land of Lost Socks" in elementary school I was able to appreciate the personification of clothing in "The Sweatpants Diaries" and in general I just thought it was fun.  Some of the more silly parts were very reminiscent of one of her videos but I'm not sure if they translated as well on paper.  I think that if you like Grace Helbig and you enjoy her videos and sense of humour you will have fun reading this book, I know I did.