A much-needed break in between shots

"Just try to look like this, Shani"

Back in the gym with my main man, Olu

Before I get started I want to sincerely apologize for the delay in blogging! Everything's picked up tremendously lately and I find myself up to the neck in things to do, from training to appearances to media requests. I try to blog about things that touch me in a way where I can relate my message to the reader — to the everyday person or fan who really wants to know what's going on in my world. This process is something I can't fake. It has to feel real to me, so sometimes I struggle in choosing topics. I can sit around for hours at war with myself until some idea prevails, then, victorious in the topic dispute, I'm off to work!

At last blog I was putting the final touches on summer training in Salt Lake City, getting in my final long canyon rides and last short-track laps with the national team. I'm definitely going to miss chasing the short trackers around those tight corners and finding extra motivation to climb Little Cottonwood Canyon pass. But it’s time for my annual transition. So, excited that the season is around the corner, I packed up my car and headed back to Milwaukee, my fall training base.

The first week in Milwaukee everything went according to plan: wake around 8 a.m. for morning training, then rest and recovery in the afternoon before evening ice from 4-7 p.m. I was getting used to being back, training in the low lands of the Midwest, being close to home and fighting the urge to consume large quantities of dish pizza and Italian beef (a battle I lost the first night I was home!). I thought it would be smooth sailing until the fall world cup trials, a time to simply put all of my focus into training and take those precious steps toward a strong season. But an unexpected wave of media requests and sponsor obligations almost capsized my ship.

It's a challenge for every athlete to balance the competing priorities of sharing your face and voice with the world while preparing for the upcoming racing season. In an Olympic season this challenge always seems to be even greater, and I try to never allow the foreign (appearances and media) to overly interfere with the familiar (training). I've always relied on my strict training and competition prep regimen, a unique and personal blend of developing ice 'feel' and creating workouts based off how my body feels on given days. I'm largely self-coached, so I'm the main one that has to write and perform the workouts AND monitor myself to ensure that I'm progressing properly. Some days are more difficult than others, of course, but finding that delicate balance has never been as much of a challenge as it has been lately.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to shoot a major television commercial, my first! I'm not sure if I can disclose who it was for, but I was told it will be a 30- to 60-second 'spot' that will air leading up to the Olympics. I arrived at location around 7 a.m. chipper and well-rested. They provided breakfast so I was properly fueled and ready to go. The interview part of it went well: I answered each question confidently, and after an hour or so it was over. Then it was off to make-up for the commercial's action scenes. A quick wardrobe change then we'd hit the ice.

As I was tying up my skates the producers came over and showed me sketches of what they were looking for on the ice. No problem, I thought: skating is my career, so this portion should be easy. Boy, was I wrong! After a quick warm-up around the track while they adjusted the lighting and cameras for the shot, I was called into action: "Skate this corner and look as closely as you can like the drawing of you skating." I did so once, twice...what seemed like 100 times! As I write this I'm still haunted by these words: "Very good Shani, great shot! Could you do it again but this time a bit closer?" and "We just missed it. Do it again, but with more ferocity and intensity!" The butterflies of nervousness that were in my stomach in the beginning of the day had turned into dragonflies of stress by the time we finished. Eventually they got the shot...four hours later!

Aware of my rigid training obligations, they production team showed some mercy, which I was thankful for. We switched to some one-liners and quick cut-and-paste camera shots, then we wrapped at around 3 p.m. I was finally free to train! I went outside to get a breath of fresh air and get away from cameras, directors...everyone. I needed a moment of peace. I laid out on the warm concrete in the sun to defrost and get my mind right for training. As I gathered the last of my energies to finish the day strong, I felt deep down inside that this was a major test of will: only pure determination would get me through these long training laps after an eight-hour commercial shoot. It was also a microcosm of the challenges that awaited in Sochi, with the Games' non-stop media and sponsor demands. Trustfully, I'll be that much more ready for action in February!