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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Stewart

Where am I at?

Mid Off Season Testing

I am going to give you a little bit of insight into what my life has looked like during my first bobsleigh off-season. I think giving everyone a full understanding of what my weeks look like allows you to understand the feelings that flow through me on a daily bases, the good, the bad and the ugly (mostly good though). So lets begin….

For the last 3 and 1/2 months I have dedicated myself to training for the upcoming 2019/2020 season. I love my job I get the privilege of waking up everyday and pushing myself mentally and physically on the track and in the gym. To be clear I consider my job to be training for bobsleigh and pushing myself towards greatness each and everyday… but I will be honest its not always unicorns and rainbows, just like any other job it has up’s and down’s depending on the day.

As an amateur athlete during the off season I fund myself, with the help of friends and family taking me in, and helping take some of the pressure off. It is a lot of pressure to try and work a job to make enough to cover everyday living costs as well as training, traveling, equipment, and my appetite. But at the end of the day I don’t mind working to pay for all my expenses because I know it goes towards helping me improve, and that is all that matters right now. If my squat improves by a couple pounds or I sprint 2 one hundredths better than my last testing then I am moving in the right direction towards my Olympic goal.

So since April I have been in the routine of waking up early Tuesday morning to drive for an hour down the coast to catch a ferry for 45 minutes to Vancouver. I spend 3 days in Vancouver where I sprint with my coach twice, and lift all 3 days. My nights in Vancouver are spent with family or friends on couches or sharing a bed, and I nap in my car between sessions if I am feeling exhausted after a tough workout. On Thursday nights I catch a ferry back to the sunshine coast in preparation for my Friday-Monday shifts at work. I often work evening shifts while I am at home in order to allow me to do workouts before going to work. Fridays are usually an active recovery day, a walk or hike with mom, and maybe a hot tub to help my body relax after a hard 3 days of training. Saturdays I lift and do a bike workout, and sometimes get the luxury of a nap before I leave the house for work. Sundays I do a hill workout, and some extra rolling out to help recover my body for a long night at work. Then Monday is a dynamic light lift in preparation to start my week all over again. I love the path I have chosen to pursue and all the obstacles I am faced with and challenges I get to conquer. I wont lie though just like everyone else I also have rough days at work, and mentally draining days where you just want to check out and hide under the covers… and while It would be easy enough to skip a workout… that my friend is a slippery slope, and one that will not get me to where I want to be anytime soon. The other side of this is to cut a few shifts at work in order to allow me to breathe, and feel like I have some control. But that ultimately leads to a lack of funds, which means something has to get cut from training and again limits progress in achieving my goal. So to be completely honest and let you into the mind of an athlete, its not all sunshine and rainbows but the reward of being the best in your field drives us all to endure the pain and stress and empty bank accounts. We thrive off a challenge and if trying to live an athlete life and a normal life in order to pay for the athlete side of things isn’t a challenge then I don’t know what is.

Well we are now mid July and I had an opportunity to see just how much all my hard work and hours spent on the track, in the gym and at my work paid off. So I packed my gear and drove out to Calgary to take part in a testing camp. I wanted to see where I was sitting mid way through the off-season. I left BC at 4:30 am on Thursday morning and arrived in Calgary at close to 5:30pm. I took Friday and Saturday to move my body do some feel good lifts and quick accelerations in order to have my body primed up for testing on the Sunday. I arrived at testing early to get myself in the zone and ready to go. I went through my warm up like I do every day, had some pre work out, stretched out my hips and got my body feeling good! Before long we were starting our sprint testing, I was 4thin the line up and trying not to let my nerves get the best of me. I did my visualizing, went through the sensations of tension through my body, and then I cleared everything from my mind and walked to the line… Or at least I thought I cleared everything from my mind. My teammates cheered and I started to do what I had done hundreds of times before, only this time there were timers, pink tape lines, coaches, staff members, and 40 participant eyes on me. I took my first step, which by the way should be a launch but instead I over thought everything and took a step and then popped right up to run. I should have used my power to drive hard through the ground propelling myself forward and feeding each leg with so much power it transferred into the next movement… My coach had only been through this with me about 100 times, but nope my brain got the best of me. So I re-grouped, tried not to get to emotional when I saw the time was worse then my previous testing score and told myself “the first one is free” that’s Paul’s rule, I could hear him say it in my head…. “first one is free”. I watched the rest of the participants take there first go, put my clothes on to stay warm and tried to visualize before I was called up again. I hoped this would allow me to turn the thinking part of my brain off and just feel what I needed to do instead. Second times the charm I thought, I took my sweats off and walked up to the line. Cheering started again and I got into position, going through the cues Paul and I work on every practice. I have elastic bands all over my body and I’m ready to explode through them, having them shoot my legs back in the ground with excessive force. I get through the timing eyes and think, damn that felt pretty much like the first one which was not how I was supposed to run. I see my time is a little better, but still worse then last testing. Now I’m Determined to show myself that my hard work has paid off. I take the time to visualize and then I stop thinking!! I wait my turn and as I walk towards the line, I look at the poster with a bobsleigh on it that reads Canada, so I read it three or four times, then I look at the ground and think oh that looks like a nice place to set up… Which just so you all know is what I do in practice when I walk to the line, because it makes me stop thinking about the sprint and instead I am thinking about a white mark on the ground where I have decided I am going to put my foot. I get set up, feel the sensation of elastic bands and then I let my body do its thing, I fall further forward and I keep my body down and drive through the floor until I start to gradually rise. I get through the timers and think well I’m not sure it was faster, but it felt effortless I didn’t feel like I was fighting with my body, it just worked. I go check the time sheet after everyone has finished their last attempt. I feel a little relieved, I am disappointed that I didn’t just make the standard right away, but I just ran a personal best of 3 hundredths faster than my old time. I have to take that as a win, because it means I am going in the right direction. Of course I would like it to be faster but in time that will come, I just have to continue to trust the process. This can be hard though when you don’t always see improvement and the process feels like it is screwing you over… I also had a personal best in the standing long jump testing and throw the 4kg med-ball close to my old personal best. So I will walk away from this midway testing point feeling good. Knowing there is still so much more to do, but not beating myself up and sulking… I just have a hell of a lot more work to do and I can’t wait to get back to it. We may not get to always decide what the outcome will be, but we always get to decide what we take away from it and how we move forward. Some may choose to be angry, or quiet or switch to the next thing, some may cry, feel defeated and take a break, and some may take it as not a defeat but as a reason to work harder, as a lesson to grow from, and to make sure they are ready for the next time that opportunity presents itself.

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