The Wait Is Over

The wait is over. World Cup season if finally here, my second season with the World Cup team. The races start on Sept. 26 in Shanghai, then Seoul Korea right after. That means we will be spending about two weeks in Asia. I’m looking forward to seeing the cultures, getting some deals on merchandise, trying new foods. My favorite thing about traveling to Asia is the jet lag (hint of sarcasm). There will be a period of about a week that time has completely flipped. China is 15 hours ahead of where I’m from in Salt Lake City.

Last night we arrived in Shanghai for World Cup 1. It’s still a little difficult for me to make sense of where the time has gone since mid- April. A lot has changed for me with training, my recovery techniques, my mentality has changed. For the first time I’m feeling familiarized with international competition and the demands that are made on my body. The jet lag, changes in diet, competition layout, the racing and resting schedule. I have started working with more people (Doctors, trainers, therapists) to help keep me healthy and ready for anything.

Some of the best recovery tools you have are right in front of you. I’ll say that nutrition and hydration are the most obvious parts of recovery. I have learned a lot about these in particular since I am sensitive to gluten and have a tough time staying hydrated. When it comes to my sport (speedskating) I take all of this to the next level. Without letting my body rest and recover, I would never have gotten to the World Cup stage. That’s why many world class athletes use massage therapists, athletic trainers, medical professionals and others to force the issue of recovery. Like a lot of the skaters in SLC I goto Ryan Yakiwchuk (massage therapist) with Ultimate Body Work. He is amazing with helping athletes, especially elite athletes. When I go in to see him there is always a healing and positive atmosphere, which is important for physical and mental well being. He’s genuinely good with taking care of injuries, special needs or anything regarding recovery. That is hard to believe coming from a speedskater, and trust me we are not easy to accommodate… The latest technique we use is called fascia stretch therapy. Visit www.stretchtown.com to see what it is all about!

So what’s the main reason to get this treatment done? Getting a massage and stretching/ unwinding your tight muscles is going to help facilitate recovery. But that means nothing if you aren’t taking care of yourself and getting to know your body. It takes a long time to learn how your body can handle different types of training and recovery techniques. By acknowledging how your body feels and removing any doubt, you allow yourself to fully recover. That’s why I say that my mentality has changed. It affects everything including my performance and lifestyle. When I’m not training I can also feel the difference in my energy and general health. So maybe I was a little overworked in the past, but the fact is that with rest and recovery I can actually extend the lifetime of my career.

If you are an athlete or a workaholic, it’s probably difficult to keep your body hydrated all the time. Drinking more than you think you should is the best bet to make sure dehydration isn’t an issue. Other recovery tools I would like to stress are sleep (lots of sleep, zzzzzzz) and active recovery. Your body is constantly playing catch-up with muscle and tissue breakdown, so getting enough rest is the only way to let your body recover fully. I don’t have to preach about how important sleep is, but Americans are notorious for being sleep deprived. And when you’re not sleeping, another way to recover your body is light, low heart-rate exercise. That can be an easy spin on the bike, swim, jog, yoga, whatever suits you. Your body is a amazing machine which can filter out lactic acid, toxins, and anything you put into it.

Now that trials are over we have actually kicked it up a notch. There is only a limited amount of time to get good training in which means its time to work! But not only are we working hard, but recovering as well. That means cooling down after workouts, stretching, eating well, massages, etc. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish during the week. When I started with the national team it seemed like I had a lot to do. But now we can accomplish so much more as a team. When we decide as a group  that it seems ridiculous. This experience has been truly remarkable and shows me that so much more is possible. I guess that is what the Olympic movement is all about!

Here are a few photos from the past couple months of training. They are pretty interesting since I have been all over the place for training, sponsor events, traveling, so enjoy!

Look for an update after World Cup 1 coming soon

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2013 USANA Convention.

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Time to do work

You may be thinking, “Is it hard to write when you’re busy training?” my answer would be no. I actually need some time to reflect on what I’m doing and take a step back. When it’s off-time for most people the plan is to go crazy. I don’t have that luxury because off-time for me means recharging the batteries. It’s difficult to be a short track speed skater and make time to just relax. Thankfully I’ve found some free time to get reacquainted with my notepad.

For most of my life I have been inline SpeedSkating. A lot of people recognize me from the short track national team, but previously I was on the inline world team. I raced with multiple sponsors like K2 skates, Luigino racing, MPC wheels and others. But the important thing I learned during that time was how to train myself. I had a team while i was racing. However, I wasn’t with them all year round. We had training camps and races together but they were three days long. After all the traveling to races I had to figure out my own training methods. I would skate with my local teammates as much as possible. We would find the best roads for our workouts and plan the training schedule. In most cases we would meet up somewhere with the best roads for intervals, sprints or marathons. For the other workouts I had to reach out and find opportunities in the community. Luckily I had a weight room to work in and access to sponsors to help me with my racing equipment.

Before I started competing internationally there were a couple coaches i worked with. Their families raced in our local club and it was a good place for me to start. After I made the world team I had to learn how to coach myself. I couldn’t get away with missing training sessions anymore, so it turned into a full- time job. That meant going out everyday and doing a specific workout on the bike, skating indoors, on the road, weight training and dry land. That being said, everyone needs a coach to improve. A coach can get you through the beginning of your career, but it comes down to you “the skater” to do it yourself. That is hard grasp at first, because everyone needs a team to get better. Sooner or later the coach can’t push any harder and you will be able to take care of everything yourself.

The competitive spirit is the most powerful weapon in any skater’s arsenal. Being with a team is constantly pushing the limits. Being with this team for the past year has taught me a lot about international racing, training techniques, and how to work harder as a team. But the farther along I get in my training, the more I realize the importance of my early years. I started off training myself to get better, stronger, faster. After getting more attention from coaches and skating with great skaters I picked up a lot of things. So now comes the hard part: putting it all together. I’m really relying on my past training to get me to that next level. All of those days I spent skating outdoors, rain or shine. I would even skate to practice, change my wheels and then skate indoors at the roller rink. My teammates and I went on road trips from one practice to the next. Skating by myself on the hills in Pennsylvania in my high school days. All of that has really gotten me through the labyrinth of trials I’ve encountered.

As for my ice skating career, the last 2 months have been very exciting. When we got together for our first training the energy was high. This would be a little different than normal, except we are just 6 months out from Olympic trials. Everyone that showed up wanted to make this their best year. The main focuses for early season are skating laps and making gains in my training off the ice. The group of people I have been working with have been great. We have been killing it on the ice, in the weight room and in our fitness testing. I have a feeling that all of us will be skating faster than ever before. That’s a good thing because this is the Olympic year and we need to be at our best by the Olympic trials. We have been planning this year of training since the last Olympic Games in Vancouver and have put in three years of hard work.

There have been a lot of improvements this season. Not only with the team but the community and willingness to help out. When we had special requests, the Energy Solutions Arena helped us with our training needs. the University of Utah made a commitment to helping us reach our goals. Also the staff at the Utah Olympic Oval have done their part to help us with all of our training needs. The local foods stores are helping with our nutritional needs. I hope that all the support keeps progressing through the year. It makes our jobs much easier. Within the team we have found a common ground with everyone involved in the sport. We will do whatever it takes to help each other and its a great feeling to have everyone working together. As we get closer to the World Cup trials some skaters may want to do their own thing. Not every skater needs the same training, which is understandable. But for now we all are vested in this program and work well together.

On another note, our team had the opportunity to visit Liberty Heights Fresh. This local-first produce distributor has teamed up with USS to help feed athletes. We went there as a team to check out the spread of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and pasta. The people we met, including the owner Steve, were very helpful, friendly and committed to the cause. Like us, they’re promoters of helping the community learn and eat better. Local farms have even invited us to come visit their farm to pick up food. Here are a few pictures from our visit.

To find out more about this SLC food supplier visit liberty heights fresh- Steven’s Blog

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The best part about writing my blog is getting feedback from you guys. Just saying some words of encouragement it plenty. So feel free to ask about what else I’m doing or general questions you have for me. As always, please share.

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World Cup 5, Sochi

We have the second day of racing in the books. The Sochi World Cup has been a crazy experience. But this isn’t your normal World Cup because it’s the trial run for the 2014 Olympic Games. I am part of a 6 man team that will skate as the US “Olympic representatives”.
I have already raced the 1500m and I had a huge race, qualifying for the A final. Only after the race was over and I sat down the refs went to instant replay. I was called (penalized) for impeding, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to race again. I’ll be racing out of the reps in the 1000m.
As far as the competition goes, i think the Russian federation has done a great job. They are preparing for the Olympics next year and doing everything in their power to make us comfortable. They greet us at every door with hello or “privet”. The security is very tight and we feel extremely safe everywhere we go.
In the time that I’ve been in Russia it has been a pretty cold and rainy. So for those of you that don’t know, Russia is a pretty dreary place. I mean I wasn’t hoping for a tropical paradise when arriving in Sochi. Never the less, it is a tourist destination for beach goers. It seems a little weird that there is a warm climate and just a few miles away, snow on the mountain. That is how this winter Olympic Games are going to be done. The Olympic stadium will be right on the beach, and the skiing events will be just a few miles away.

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In the midst of all this, there will be an F1 race track. That’s right, the following year there will be an F1 race through the Olympic park! But for now, it is still under construction.
The construction effort for this project is mind bottling. There will be a high-speed train to travel between the mountain and short track venues. I believe it can go as fast as 90mph. It is scheduled to be finished by September. It’s hard to put into words what it actually looks like, so here are some pictures to show how much progress they are making.

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Here is a look at the Iceberg short track/figure skating venue.

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My guess is that the construction won’t be finished in time. If there are no hold ups or problems along way, they will finish within a year. When we travel back and forth from the rink there is terrible traffic. Thanks to constant construction our travel takes anywhere from 20min to over an hour… Most of the time highway lanes are shut down during construction, which causes accidents.
Apart from the inconvenient construction that’s going on, the beach is a sight for sore eyes. Here’s a look at the Black Sea.

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Now this is supposedly what it will look like later on.

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In the ware months this will be a full-fledged tourist destination. But for now it’s almost reminiscent of the winter months of the Jersey shore.

That is all I have for this post, but expect more in a couple of days when we finish here and move on to world cup 6 in Dresden, Germany.

World team 2013

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Check out the pics from NYC! I’m so glad I got to visit this great city with my sister. It was a blast walking around and being tourists. I have been in the city a few times before, but not for about 5 years.

The world team trials were last month. Stressful as usual, with plenty of close calls and controversy. But that is what we have been training for all year. Preparing for that moment when all the fastest skaters are in the line together. I’m glad I can claim a spot on that line next to fellow world team members.
Half the year we train and prepare ourselves for trials. The other half we spend worrying about the race itself and making the team. Once at trials, all bets are off. At this point everything you do matters. There can’t be any mistakes since your spot on the world team depends on making clean passes and staying calm.
My world team trials were mostly great. The races were extremely close as I chased the other skaters for 6 spots on the world team. It was possibly my best performance ever and I placed second overall. I medaled in every distance we skated, which has been a goal of mine.

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Immediately following the racing I prepared for my trip to visit my family. I spent my time at home for the holidays; which I rarely get the chance to do with my hectic schedule. I went home (new jersey) for Christmas, my birthday and New Years. There’s nothing like spending quality time with your family.

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My next trip was to visit New York City. I was scheduled to have LASIK surgery with Dr. Pamel on the 4th. Luckily my sister was able to make the trip with me to help me adjust to my “new eyes.” We had a great time running around the city. We went everywhere: Central Park, Rockefeller center, Times Square. We spent four days roaming around and taking in the sights. Chelsea’s significant other, Dan also joined us. I was really glad we had the chance to take a trip together.
After the surgery it was like a whole different experience. I could hardly open my eyes at first, but I could still see better than 20/20. So that’s when the quote, “it’s like I was reborn” originated from. A lot if the other skaters have already gone through the procedure, so they agree that it is life-changing.
Here are a few pictures of our trip. Also some candid pics of me after the surgery.

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