My offseason goals: strong legs, no sugar
Let me tell you, it is pretty cool to be in a training group with the athletes who'll be my biggest competition at the 2014 Sochi Games. I just wrapped up a great month in Scottsdale, Ariz., training alongside the reigning world-champion bobsled duo, Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Chelsea Valois. I’ve actually known Kaillie for years and we’ve always had an ongoing battle to see who can have the faster start. (I think I have a leg up right now!) I was really close friends with her past brakeman, Shelley-Ann Brown, who was a 2010 silver medalist. The U.S. team stays close with the Canadians, so together we can prevail against Germany!
My coach, Stu McMillan, is based in Scottsdale, and it was great to work with him in person for the month. He coaches my fiancé, Nic, so it’s nice that we get to travel together. Nic follows me everywhere, or we go together, I guess. We were also out there with my U.S. bobsled teammates, Bree Schaaf and Jazmine Fenlator, and U.S. skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender.
But while we had some great training in Arizona, we were essentially living out of a hotel there, which can make it hard to settle in, eat the right foods, that sort of thing. So now we're on to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., for another month of offseason conditioning. There, it's all about the convenience -- housing for us, a great medical staff, great food and warm weather. It’s basically the perfect setting for what we need to be doing right now: getting faster and stronger.
We train six days a week, and each day includes some type of running or strength workout. It’s all about getting functionally stronger in the positions that matter for racing, which means balancing the strength between my quads and hamstrings. Right now, my quads are winning, so building up my hamstrings to the same level is a big focus right now. I’m also trying to lean out my body, something we can’t really do during the season because, with all the traveling, we just need to focus on getting enough calories in. We have a nutritionist in Colorado Springs who I work with now and again, along with my coach. The goal is making sure I’m getting the right balance of nutrients -- enough protein and vegetables and not too many sugary or starchy carbs. I’m not big on protein shakes -- I think they’re pretty gross, actually -- so I have to make sure I eat enough meat, fish and other good protein sources. And this year, I’m going pretty hard-core about no sugar whatsoever. Usually I allow myself a little -- I love red velvet cake or any form of chocolate -- but with the Olympics coming up, it’s all about doing every last thing in my control to get in the best shape I can.
We just had an NBC photo shoot, which got me pretty excited for the Games. I’ve never been a part of anything like that. Basically, we spent the day being shuttled around 14 different photo shoots and interviews -- essentially all the stuff NBC will use for their Olympic promos next year. Let me tell you, it was exhausting. We rushed from room to room, changing clothes in 30 seconds while running to the next room. I came back to my hotel and just crashed afterward. I’m not jealous of models at all! My favorite part was when they taped a segment where I went through what I do before a race. They had my BMW bobsled shipped in and added fake snow and a backdrop of the Sochi mountains. The photographers and camera people were so nice; even if I was doing a bad job (hey, I’m not a pro!), they didn’t let on.
Now, we're back to the endless training at the U.S.O.T.C. It’s easy to stay motivated when you’re surrounded by people who are all training for the same goal. There are a lot of track and field athletes, rugby and beach volleyball players here as well, and it's pretty cool to hear their stories from last year’s Summer Olympics in London.
There is also this huge training camp for Paralympians, and I’ve become friends with Lex Gillette, who is a blind long and triple jumper. It’s so inspiring to watch him jump and run with a guide runner and what he’s able to do.
I’ve also been impressed with discus thrower Jarred Rome. He was here last time I was at the training center, so we chit-chat a bit. He is a huge guy, but has amazing form at things like power cleans. I’d like to say I improved my cleans from him, but I think I’m beyond help.
After this, we're headed back to Lake Placid for the start of next season -- the Olympic one! It's all coming so fast now, I really can't believe it.