My first time … Whistler


I started this blog the day after I crashed in the Whistler race. I crashed in corner 13 (of 16), and lost my sled around corner 14, travelling on my knees at 97 kph through the final corners of the track. I finished the blog on the plane to Calgary after the second race. I am publishing it in June (cough August) the following year. 

I chose not to race today. I was hurt and at my limit.

So, today I am an observer rather than a competitor. It’s pretty weird, and I do have FOMO but mainly I feel relieved. I am in Whistler, Vancouver; home to the 2010 Winter Olympics track – the fastest in the world. It has a reputation – a reputation that is entirely founded unlike so many other tracks. It us my first time here; I have been here two weeks and raced yesterday in my first Inter-Continental Cup race. Rather like last year in Sigulda, I crashed on my second run. Unlike Sigulda I didn’t have a single run down this track prior to racing where it went okay. Right now, I feel despondent, useless and am wondering why I ever started this sport! Thank goodness for family, friends and teammates that have sent kind and supportive words my way the past twelve hours!

Post-crash bruising

It has been my toughest camp to date in this sport. And I have had some tough camps which include concussions and almost broken bones. Let me explain. I didn’t expect it to be easy – this is Whistler. But I was optimistic that I was good enough to be here and have a go. This optimism has been very hard to maintain over the two weeks!

There is probably some unwritten rule that you shouldn’t really talk about the bad days. But, for me I don’t think that gives a fair representation of my experience doing this sport and that is what I am trying to give by writing this blog. Some people will think I am showing weakness by publically talking about things I struggle with in the sport but in my opinion it is what it is and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Everyone always asks why I chose to do this sport. The answer is easy. It is an extraordinary sport which I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to do. Not to mention the fact that is may lead me to an Olympic games on day in the future. However, in reality it is not so simple. It has taken me years to enjoy the sport; and if I am honest some days are still a huge battle. I think I was unhappy every day in Whistler; I cried more than on any other camp; mostly in the shower!

Day after day I struggled to execute my plan on the track, and in this sport failing to execute often ends in a bit of a calamity or at the very least some drama at some point in the run. It’s not like in long jump (my old event) where you can just try again if you mess something up. Me failing to execute this past week has resulted in bruises, crashes, painful hits and panic. Being out of control is not my favourite feeling in the world anyway but try being out of control with your face inches from the ice travelling over 120 kph headfirst.

I try to draw positives from every run; an approach that helps me focus on progress and helps build confidence. I found this nearly impossible on this camp. More often than not there were tears at the bottom, as the days wore on and I wasn’t making the improvements I hoped it became harder and harder to maintain the belief that it would improve. The tears weren’t just from frustration, they were from fear and pain too. I often crashed out of corner six and or corner 13. Not easy areas and plenty of other athletes were having difficulties here.

Sliding was exhausting – it always is but the added physical and mental strain the track was leaving on me made things quite bleak feeling at times. Of course, when you don’t achieve something you felt capable of your confidence takes a knock and just standing at the top waiting to go again becomes a huge task.

I think you get the idea. And just to clarify not everyone feels this way. I don’t know how other people feel or cope with sliding. Many athletes seem to be able to keep chucking themselves off the top, taking the hits, crashes and drama and just brushing it off; thrive off the challenge. Others click with tracks quicker and find that enjoyment quite quickly. I have experienced both scenarios and many in between too. This is just my experience during my first time sliding Whistler.

It has taken me a long time to post this blog. Partly because I didn’t want distractions as I tried to move on and finish the season and partly because it’s not easy to share my vulnerability. Fortunately, I bounced back in Calgary with the best performances of my career so far. I’m not afraid of Whistler, I’ve properly reflected on the experience and got a lot from that process. I firmly believe that your learn far more from failing; and fail I did! I’ll more than likely go back again over the next few years and that’s cool. It’s a challenge I look forward to, and I look forward to it being better and finding that thrill and enjoyment. And hopefully a new speed PB this time!

Gorgeous Whistler