It is Sunday morning and your US National Team is on its way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a two week training camp. Some of us feel a bit tired, a bit beat up, a bit like we may hack up a collective lung, because yesterday was our first time trial of the season. Time trials are essentially practice races. They don't serve as a qualifying competition to make a team. There aren't any medals to win. They're just practice. Skaters all over the world race time trials at their respective ovals all season long. When we're not racing at World Cups or World Championships, we're likely practicing by racing at weekend time trials.
The first races of the year are used to brush off the cobwebs - to get the body and mind back in the game. So naturally, I felt all kinds of feelings about that. It's a mix of excitement and hesitation. Of so badly wanting to prove yourself right out the gate but knowing not to expect the best performance of your life because you're only, supposedly, going to focus on executing a good race technically but still secretly hoping your summer training has prepared you to be a badass and you'll pop off personal best times like it's no big deal but understanding this is still only practice and the gold medal isn't on the line but being a little nervous like it might as well be. It's so many more feelings than if we had just done last week's intensive intervals again.
It is in this moment I have to remind myself that this is what I train for. This is literally the reason I spend day after day practicing. This is the FUN part. When I stop worrying about how fast I may or may not be right now, I can find comfort in the fact that I like doing this. I trust my training and now I get to race. Racing is fun. Racing is fun, guys!
Yesterday, I raced a 500m and a 1500m. I'm happy to report back to you all that I am feeling good about how my first races of the year went. My 500m was faster than any 500m I skated last year. I know that sounds freaking awesome, but that sentence is not as impressive as it seems. (We won't get into it here - simply put, last year was not the pinnacle of my skating career. But it is a sign that I have already departed from the struggle bus I was riding all last season.) The 1500m was also solid. Moving forward, I know I can improve on it and it's nice to be able to attack a 1500m again as I didn't race a single one last year. I have my teammate, Paige Schwartzburg, to thank for making me race it yesterday - thanks Paige, you're a good little bully.
What I'm getting at here is that it is important to remember that speedskating is fun. Does my body preemptively anticipate the pain a 1500m brings by making me nauseous before I even get to the starting line? Duh, of course it does. But the challenge of a race is too exciting for me to be intimidated. I have devoted my life to this and race day is not the day butterflies in your stomach decide you don't feel up to the task. This is what it's all for. So,
Game on, world