Putting 'normal' holiday on ice

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Training and competition schedules mean short holidays for Brittany Bowe.

You might think we’d go easy and relax a bit as we head into the Olympic trials in Salt Lake City on Dec. 27, but we’ve actually been hitting it pretty hard, both with training and racing.

I’ve raced 18 times in the past five weeks, including four World Cup competitions. And even this past week we were training hard, with intervals and tempos and a time trial last Friday. It sounds funny to “train through” the Olympic trials, but our ultimate goal is Sochi, and while trials is important, it is also just a stepping-stone.

This is my first Olympic trials, but the races won’t be different from any of the World Cups -- or at least that’s what I tell myself. So I’m planning to go into them with the same prerace routine as I always do.

I’ll get to the oval three hours beforehand, and warm up for about 45 minutes off the ice. Then I’ll stretch and get on the ice for 20 minutes. I’ll cool down, then relax, close my eyes and think about what I need to do. Hopefully, I’ll go to the line thinking about the same things I have all year, and attack the race each time.

I’m feeling excited, even with all the pressure. Every time I’ve stepped on the track in the 1,000 meters this year, I’ve medaled. So that’s encouraging! The 1,000 is my strongest race, but I’ll also compete in the 500 and 1,500 meters. U.S. Speedskating will then pick three or four of us to compete in Sochi for each race, based on our performances at trials. It’s nerve-wracking, for sure, but I have confidence that I’m in very good shape to make it.

My first race is on the 28th, so the schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time off for the holiday. Thankfully, my mom and my sister can come out to Salt Lake on Christmas Eve, and I’m just planning on enjoying their company. I spend so much of the year away from my family that it’s extra special to be spending Christmas with them.

My housemates get in on the holiday spirit as well. I live with fellow speedskaters and National Team members Heather Richardson, Sugar Todd and Mitch Whitmore, and Sugar lives up to her name. She spoils our household with baked goods, and not just at Christmastime. When it’s someone’s birthday it’s pretty much like it’s everyone’s birthday. I’m sure she’s going to go on a baking run, so we’ll definitely be having some treats courtesy of Sugar Todd.

Nontraditional Christmases are nothing new for me. My family came out here last Christmas, too, and really, the holidays have not been what a “normal” person would consider normal for as long as I can remember. Even when I played basketball in college, we got maybe two or three days off.

A lot of people would say that’s crazy, but that’s just my way of life. The holidays are important, but the path I’ve chosen doesn’t take that into consideration. I do what I can to enjoy them, but it’s one of the sacrifices of being an athlete. The trade-off, though? Well, if all goes well, I’ll get to compete for my country at the Olympic Games.

I’d definitely say it’s worth it.

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