Of Failure and Fun

Failure is a terrifying concept.

I've said it before, but I always believed that the scariest thing about admitting a dream out loud is that people are going to know when you fail.

I've been writing down goals for the past two seasons now as part of some "homework" my coach assigns us at the beginning of the season. We've had short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Without hesitation, I wrote down "Olympics 2018" as my long-term goal. How could I not? Last year when I had the chance to attend the Olympic Test Event at Phoenix Park in Pyeongchang, I jumped on the opportunity and still consider it to be my favourite World Cup trip. As homesick as I get, leaving South Korea after being on the road for a month almost felt the same as leaving home. I loved every second of Korea and dreamed of going back. The 2018 Olympics seemed like perfect timing. I'd still be young with my whole life ahead of me, and I would have two good seasons of preparation to go.

Unfortunately, my timing was off.

I didn't make the Olympic team. I wish it were more complicated, but it comes down to simply not meeting the criteria. I failed my goal. I've been struggling these past two seasons with performing at World Cups like I do when I train. Standing at the top of a World Cup course, surrounded by the world's best athletes, is an indescribable experience. It's incredibly difficult to prepare mentally for the feelings running through your mind in the start gate, knowing you have 30 seconds to put on your best performance just so you get a second run.

Beginning of the second block of Giant Slalom in Chile, 2018.

So this season I decided to change some things.

I began with starting to see a sports psychologist for the past 3 months. It's been a summer of introspection and self-honesty in order to create a 'formula' that I can use to replicate my better performances. This has been the biggest shift for me, and my first opportunity for a 'practice run' was Chile. The notorious Chile camp: known for its long sessions, breathtaking (haha) altitude of 2,400m at base level, and "plethora of free-time" following training, walking down to the gym, working out, walking back up, showering, making meals, and sleeping at a reasonable hour. Last year was a tough one for me. After having two days of minute-long courses (our courses are normally closer to 30 seconds!), I felt like I was regressing - so tired that I could only practice bad habits in the course for over a minute. Needless to say, I was absolutely dreading doing it again this year. The day of the minute-long course came and went, and similar to the last time, I felt discouraged and frustrated at not being able to lay down a solid run. So I talked with my sports psych about it. We came up with one simple sentence that really summed up what I was trying to do on the trip.

"Process vs. Outcome"

Sometimes we're so focused on the end result that we completely forget about the process to get there. Sure, timing is important in showing your progress - showing you that you're at least doing something right to get faster. But sometimes you need to work on a specific part of the turn that ultimately will make you faster in the long-run. Maybe you won't nail that same technique every single turn in a run, but that's what learning something new is all about. I had many runs where I blew out of the course and wasn't able to finish the run, and although it's super frustrating, I was reminded that I'm still working on the process. "It will come", my coach kept telling me. And this is where the second part of my new formula came in.

The second last day of Giant Slalom - the day of an epiphany in Chile, 2018.

In order to stay motivated, I had to stay positive.

I didn't realise just how negative I had become until I took a step back and admitted to my sports psych that I was having trouble staying motivated. I had good results on the North American circuit and these good results motivated me, but constantly placing in the 30's and 40's at World Cups demotivated me, and if I want to take the next step forward in the sport, these are the results that matter. There were a few times where a little voice in the back of my head asked "why are you competing?" and "why is snowboarding fun for me?". We can't all love every second of something, even if we love it. Whether it's -30º celsius days in the Yukon, falling in an important race, bad travel days, mental exhaustion or physical exhaustion, we all have our bad days. And when the negative thoughts creep in to overshadow the positive thoughts, that's when the introspection needs to happen. So in order to stay motivated, I had to stay positive; And in order to stay positive, I had to change my outlook on the sport. I had to become more positive about harder course sets, tough snow conditions, trying new techniques, and different weather conditions. I started to look at these hurdles like fun little puzzle pieces. I'm finally starting to see what the puzzle pieces look like, so now it's time to put them all together.

I feel like I'm in the best place I've ever been, mentally, since starting competing. There have been countless ups and downs to the sport, but I've never felt more ready to face them all.

First block of Slalom in Chile, 2018.

Just a little author's note at the end here to apologize for not keeping my social media more up to date this past season! Last season was a stressful one filled with a lot of emotions and I felt like I wasn't in a great place to be honest about how I was feeling. I'd like to thank all the people around me who supported me and continued to believe in me no matter the results. Huge thanks to my gym, TWIST Burlington, my sports psych, Heather, my home club, Beaver Valley Ski Club, my coaches, my teammates, my friends back home and abroad, and of course, my family. ❤️

Let's get after it!