This Year’s off-season did not begin in March as per usual – March was filled with trials of the new track in Whistler. I arrived a day after my team mates because I took an extra day of travel to give my 2 kids (Kyle, 7 and Thomas, 5) an easier time of it over the long journey. Calgary to Whistler in one day is about 15 hours and that’s too much for 2 little boys. So, we stopped in Kelowna for an overnight at Grandma and Grandpa Auty’s and everyone was happier. Upon arriving in Whistler we found our way to the home we had very graciously been loaned by one of my ‘behind the scenes supporters’ and it was fantastic for the family. The kids got to sleep in a bunk bed – which is very exciting for 2 boys – and the home had enough space for us all to be comfortable together. Did I mention Grandma Auty also came with us to help out for the first few days of this adventure? Our thanks to Merle for her help getting us settled in and finding our way around Whistler. Aly and the boys quickly discovered the Sport complex and spent almost every day there just up the road from our house. The swimming pool was fantastic for the boys who really enjoyed ‘the vortex’ area and when they weren’t swimming they were skating. They both improved dramatically in their skating skills and Thomas went from having to use a push bar to ripping around the rink on his own. Kyle worked very hard on his ‘hockey stop’ and almost had it mastered by the end of the 2 weeks.
So, what did Dad do while the kids were playing at the sport centre? Well, I went sliding of course! The new track is very impressive and the ice conditions were better than I have ever seen at such a new facility – kudos to the ice crew! We began by taking a few runs from Damen (Ladies) start to get a feel for the track without risking too much right of the start. Even without the top start area and the first 2 corners we still hit 120km/hr! What a fun track. We were not allowed to go any higher on the track until the official ‘Homologation’ (track test for safety), but we didn’t have to wait long as the homologation began only a few days after we took our first runs. Kristan Bromley, Zach Lund, Jon Montgomery, and I were the male Skeleton representatives ‘employed’ to test the track. We quickly found ourselves at the top of the track ready for our first descents. What a rush! The track speeds hit 135km/hr, it is technically challenging, and it is very safe – a perfect combination and an excellent venue for an Olympic race.
After the official homologation the track was given the thumbs up and we were able to take a few more runs from the top after the international sliders left. Certainly not as many as we would have liked, but it was a long season and we all were very tired.
The long trip home was all that was left for me until I could begin my official off-season. April found me at home a month later than usual so it was a very different feel and reality for me. Spring was almost here (or so we thought until it rained and snowed through most of April and May!!!) and I had to quickly get moving on my household projects and strike a few off the list before my training began sometime in June. April 3rd was a glorious day of 20 degrees so I decided to set out my patio furniture – whoops. Just one week later it snowed about 2 feet – and it didn’t stop for another month at least. The worst spring weather in Calgary for 20 years I think.
The end of my off-season was highlighted at the end of April by my annual ‘Amigo’s’ trip. Way back in high school a group of my friends and I began this annual ‘gathering of the minds’. This year was our 20th anniversary! No matter where we are in the world we all gather together to renew friendship and have a few refreshments once a year. This commitment and the longstanding friendships are some of my proudest accomplishments.
So, then came May……..Training begins – general fitness for a few weeks and then a gradual integration of more weights and sport specific exercises. Yes, it was very hard to get out of bed for the first couple of weeks. It is now June and training continues and the sore muscles continue, but every day I feel faster, stronger, and younger! 20 more months to go……… I can’t wait.