1 December 2015
Here’s a surprising story.
I was in Calgary, Canada two and a half weeks ago for World Cup #1. My boyfriend, Simon, and our roommate, Jonathan, had considered making the trip up from Salt Lake to be my no. 1 fans, but ultimately decided they couldn't. Once I skipped town, Simon and I messaged a bunch, naturally. The day before races he was sending me photos from work and selfies from home. The next day, he wished me luck before my race.
I raced my first 500m and afterwards went to cool down on the bikes. Fellow speedskater, upstanding Canadian citizen, and great friend of mine, Kaylin Irvine, was on a bike next to me and asked if I would like to go say hi to her mom and dad in the stands. I had stayed with Kaylin at her parents' house when I was in Calgary last March, so yes, I would like to go say hi. We finished cooling down and made our way up to the spectator entrance of the oval. Kaylin stopped by the bathrooms and said something like, "We'll just meet them here." I wasn't paying much attention to her in that moment because the men's 500m had started and I wanted to watch, so I kept walking forward. A few seconds later I heard someone say my name and turned to see not Kaylin's parents, but my favorite goon. This guy:
Simon was in Calgary. He had booked a flight weeks ago. Except he missed his flight due to untimely circumstances. So he then hopped in the car and made the thirteen hour drive by himself in a day. He stocked his phone with photos he could send me so I wouldn't get suspicious. He got me good.
Have you ever been truly, genuinely surprised? When I saw Simon standing there, in a building in Canada, my brain flipped the "does not compute" switch. How could Simon be at the Olympic Oval in Calgary when he was so obviously at home in Utah? He had been sitting, in disguise, right by the 500m start line. He (wisely) refrained from cheering for me as to not draw attention to his presence and throw me off my game a second before I raced in the first World Cup of the season.
That was a good one, Simon. Very good.
The next week we were back in Salt Lake City for World Cup #2. On the Wednesday before races, I bopped on down to the kitchen studio of KUTV's Chef Bryan Woolley to share my biscotti recipe and promote the World Cup on live television.
This was very cool for me, but my mom was ecstatic. I told her I would try to find a way to get her a copy of what aired so she could watch it.
Ten minutes before I went on air, my family walked in.
"Does not compute"
I knew my dad was flying in the following day for the World Cup, but that was it. Sugar Pops and Aunt Jane along with Simon's parents, Giovanna and Pavel, were the only people that had planned on coming to Salt Lake to watch the World Cup.
My mom, dad, and Grandma Mona drove from northeast Texas to be in the studio for my cooking show debut. Sugar mama had emailed both Chef Bryan and our US Speedskating marketing guy, Matt, to get the details and make sure they would stroll in in a timely, surprise-able fashion. Those little rascals.
Racing started Friday.
I was skating on-ice warm up that afternoon when I spotted Aunt Jane in the stands. We exchanged excited waves. Two laps later, I did a double take.
I had more family members in town. Many more.
I managed a confused wave and frantic smile as I skated past Uncle Mitch, Aunt Judy, Grandma Sharon, and Grandpa Toddy. The last time I had seen any of these people was in this exact same building two years prior at Olympic Trials.
I went downstairs to our locker room after warm up feeling pretty dang happy. And also like my brain couldn't handle any more surprises. Most of my teammates were in the locker room already. I walked in and exclaimed that a bunch of my family had surprised me and was here. Most everyone said something like, "Cool!" Except Mitch.
Good ol' Mitchy. My training partner and teammate for so long that we both just sort of up make a number that sounds about right when we talk about how many years we've been training together. (13?) Mitchy said, "Oh, you saw your brother?!"
Mitch's face went flat. "...no?"
I ran upstairs to find my brother and, surprise! his girlfriend Jill who I had yet to meet. I told Mikie that Mitch went a head and ruined his surprise, to which he cried, "We've been planning this since SEPTEMBER." He'd let Mitch have it later.
So there I was at the the Salt Lake World Cup with a bonus cheering section I didn't know I was going to have. And it was the best.
On the skating update side of things, in case you missed it, I skated another new personal best time in the 500m at the Salt Lake World Cup (37.63) and had my highest finish to date (8th place). That ruled. What made it even better was getting to share it with all the family and friends that came out to support.
I'm pretty glad this is my crew.