AUGUST 11, 2010

It’s been over 10 months since I’ve driven my own car, slept in my own bed and watched my own TV for as long as I’ve been able to on my current home stand.  Today is my last full day at home after being here for 2 weeks; amazing isn’t it?!? It’s been a wonderful ‘problem’ to have yet it is still a nice feeling to have been able to relax for this long.

These two weeks have been very recharging for me as I’ve finally had the time to clear my head and bring back into practice one of the most effective practices I picked up while I was an athlete, which I’ll get into in a bit.

Honestly though, there wasn’t one place I was more excited to be for a couple weeks than here inCalgary.  It is my getaway and I’ve been happy to see some of my very best friends during this trip back.  I trained here for 7 off-seasons for many reasons; my coach, Stuart McMillan, lived here and it was most important to me to have his expertise every day as I developed as a push athlete.  

Calgary is also home to North America’s only indoor ice push track, a luxury that afforded me the ability to hone my technique early in my career.  On a normal training day on the bobsled hill we take two trips down the track, giving a push athlete only two chances a day to perfect his craft.  In a one hour icehouse session I would be able to take anywhere from 8-12 pushes while keeping quality high.  That’s practically two weeks worth of bobsledding for a push athlete rolled into an hour! 

One of the final reasons I decided to stay here and train over the past Olympic cycle has been my discovery of my favorite hobby, fly-fishing.  Once I caught my first fish in the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies a couple hours from my house in Calgary, an hour from the nearest cell tour, I was hooked! 

Fly-fishing became my escape and the one activity I could do that would truly distract me from the stress of Olympic preparation.  There would be weeks where training would be so difficult and strenuous that by the time Saturday came around I could barely move.  But there would be one thing that would get me out of bed on Sunday, my one rest day, and that would be the rivers and streams of Alberta calling my name. 

My good friend Scott would knock on that door almost every Sunday no later than 6:30 a.m. and off we’d go.  A two hour drive to our favorite spots followed by 10 hours of hunting Cutthroat, Rainbow and Bull Trout, focusing on nothing but the patterns of the water and the coming hatch of fresh bugs that were certain to drive our prey bonkers.  After hiking upstream for the day, we’d have to find our way back to a path or a dirt road and return to the car for the painful two hour return to civilization. 

By all accounts this would be about the worst thing I could have been doing to my body after a huge week of training.  Talk to any physiologist and they would most certainly agree.  For me though, it was an escape.  It was hours upon hours of not dealing with the current stresses of the week, the month or the year.  I was fully engaged in what I was doing, just as I was fully engaged in my training when I was on the track. 

When I’d return to training on Monday, consistently one of our biggest training volume days of the week, I’d be fresher than ever.  The day of driving and hiking paled in comparison to the stress relief my favorite activity provided me and that proved to be my training trump card.  I was recharged, more mentally and emotionally than anything else and that was all that mattered.  My mind healed my body. 

I now travel the country telling my story and hoping people can learn and be inspired from my experiences, both my failures and successes.  This one lesson is something that I can not emphasize enough with people…try it, just once.  It doesn’t have to be fishing but on your next day off, shut your phone off and BE the activity you’ve given yourself for the day.  Try it just once and you’ll be ‘hooked’, no pun intended!

I’m off to Vancouver tomorrow with a sponsor for the week, a place where I of course have fairly fond memories.  This will be my first time back since Team Night Train and I ended that 62-year drought in late February.  Needless to say, I’m excited to return!