USA Bobsled and Skeleton

Going with the Flow

BY Savannah Graybill 

Let me just throw this out there: I’m a planner.

And not just your typical, organized type of gal.

I’m a crazy, Type-A, to-do list loving planner, whose agenda, laptop and smart phone calendars are completely synced.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a planner.  I plan out what I’ll eat for breakfast and what clothes I’ll wear to workout in for the morning.  I plan trips months in advance and even have my suitcase out a week prior to leaving to start packing.  See, I like control.  I find comfort in having a plan and knowing that if I follow said plan, I’ll reach my goal.  Little did I know, living the life of a skeleton athlete was about to turn my perfect little world of order into chaos.

For me, careening 70+ mph down an icy track isn’t so scary.  But having just one day to plan an entire trip to Europe?  Now that causes my anxiety levels to surge to DEFCON-1.

But that’s what our season is like.  We compete in team trials every October to determine what tour we’ll race on for the upcoming season, and on the evening of team selections, we have a day (or sometimes only a few hours!) to figure out our next step.  We quickly book airfare to our first stop on tour, try to find the cheapest lodging we can and figure out how to manage our money for the season.

As a skeleton athlete, it’s all about going with the flow.

This past season I found myself in many situations that in the past, would have driven me to sheer madness.  After finishing several races in Whistler, Vancouver in December, my teammates and I found ourselves running late on our way to the airport for our trip home.  Air travel stresses me out because of how unpredictable check-in counters and security lines can be.  Shocking, I know.

Anyway, we unloaded our massive amounts of baggage in the International terminal and Meghan Sullivan- my teammate/OTC roommate- and I waited with the luggage as our other teammates checked in to their respective flights and dropped off the rental car.

As it turned out, Meghan and I needed to be in the domestic flight terminal because the first leg of our flight stayed within Canada before connecting to Philadelphia.  The desk attendant kindly informed me of this when I tried checking in at the wrong counter.  My conversation with Meghan went something like this:

“Welp, we’re in the wrong terminal.”

“What?! You’re kidding me. Where are we supposed to be?”

“In the domestic terminal. Then we transfer in Toronto and go through security again.”

“Well where’s the domestic terminal?”

“About 15 minutes (points) that-a-way.”

“Seriously?”

At that, we shouted good-bye to our teammates and took off down the terminal, pushing a cart loaded with two overweight sleds, two runner cases and two pieces of luggage.  It wasn’t easy, but we made it to the right counter, struggled through the checked baggage area -because nobody knows what a skeleton sled is, but they do know want to charge us an arm and a leg to get it on the plane- only to make it to security, who only had one line open.  We then sprinted to our gate, which naturally was at the very end of a very large terminal. 

Now, Meghan also happens to be an intense planner.  Shoot, the girl even has a plan for how to survive the zombie apocalypse (which includes saving me, score!).  I’m still not sure how we managed it, but not once did either of us lose our cool.  In fact, there was never a conversation as to what we were going to do, we literally just grabbed our stuff and ran with it, come what may.  It was a huge breakthrough for us. 

Even worse, this past January, I lost my passport in Germany.  I was traveling with my college friend Annie and we had been out late.  Upon waking up in the morning and prepping for the day, I realized that my passport was gone. 

A few years ago, I would have had a nuclear level meltdown.  But instead, we calmly retraced our steps and determined whether or not we found it that morning, we’d enjoy the day of sight-seeing we had planned and head down to the embassy the next morning to handle it.  Thankfully, we did find my passport (and I may have half-hugged, half-tackled the nice German man who handed it back to me).

While I don’t think I’ll get rid of the to-do lists anytime soon, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: to live more spontaneously.  To expect the unexpected...and roll with it.  I’ve learned it’s far more important to enjoy the moment at hand rather than worry about the next step.  Even all of the preparation in the world can go awry in mere minutes.

Ultimately, you just can’t worry about the future when it isn’t even here yet.  And thanks to skeleton, I’m learning to be okay with that.

Savannah Graybill's college strength coach was contacted by 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers, who was looking for new recruits for bobsled.  Graybill tested out the sport of bobsled before deciding to make the switch to skeleton.  She made the national team her first full year involved in the sport. Graybill played division I field hockey at American University where she was a four-year starter as a forward and finished ninth in career points and eighth in career goals.  Graybill graduated with a bachelors degree in broadcast journalism with a minor in psychology.  Check out Graybill's blog, www.pushfromthetop.wordpress.com, to learn more about her journey, or follow @savvanahjane1 on Twitter.

*Athlete blog entries are the sole opinion of each individual author and may not be representative of the USBSF or its athletes.