My Olympic Journey: From the Beginning, Becoming a Bobsledder

When you start your bobsled career at 30, a time when most are settling down into their "real careers" and many are getting married, you can imagine the barrage of questions and the look of, "you're doing what?" that you receive. After two years of telling my story I find myself glossing over most of the information fairly quickly. For the purposes of this blog, words I thought I would never type I'll go into a bit more depth.

My goals for this project is to first, inspire someone to go after their dream, a bit cliché I know, but as the author I get to do whatever I want. If your dream sounds like a real stretch and everyone around you is looking at you like you have completely lost it, it might just be exactly what you need. More and more I am realizing that life is too short to do crap that doesn't make you happy and we only get one shot at it all.

Second, I think it is critical to understand that struggle can often foster opportunity. I know for me I wish I could have felt that in my 20's. People told me that things would get better, that I would have my shot, like most I had to learn the hard way. If I can help one 20something feel like things will workout and ease some anxiety of the unknown, I'll sleep better at night.

Lastly, maybe not lastly but lastly for now, I want to share my journey as an Olympic Hopeful, the good, the bad, the ugly. Everyday I am reminded that if I want to win gold in 2018 I am going to have to do more than just want it. This break from the real world has become a full-time, 7 days a week gig. I find it funny when I hear people say "TGIF" or "I can't believe the weekend is over". Partly, because I remember the relief I felt waking on Friday morning knowing that 8 hours separated me from the weekend. As well as the feeling of impending doom that filled Sunday evening knowing the good times were rapidly coming to an end. It always felt like time stood still on Friday afternoon and went at warp speed come Sunday evening. Now, the only differences between a weekday and a weekend are the gym and sports med hours. It's funny, while I have been an athlete for most of my life, I am just now learning what it means to work my butt off. I guess an older dog can learn new tricks.

So here it goes...

Having relocated to Denver for a promotion. I was just finishing up my Executive MBA at Pepperdine and working fulltime. I was thriving in school, surviving work, and enjoying living in Denver. However, after only 3 years with the same company I started to get bored. All around me at work there were people who had been with the company for 5, 10, 15 even 20 plus years. I found myself both jealous of their ability to stick it out and terrified that my current reality could also be my future. Looking back at it now, I am thankful for my boredom. I can only imagine if I had been satisfied at work I wouldn't be living in the Olympic Training Center for the summer preparing for my third season as a bobsledder; living a dream I didn't know I had or was even possible.

I was at the gym just like any other day, squatting, my favorite. My friend Jill Potter just happened to be in town and was also at the gym. To give you the back story on Jill. She and her wife Carol actually lived in my building in Denver but I never saw her because she was always traveling as a member of the Women's 7's Rugby Team. Jill is by far the toughest person I know, look her up!

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(L: Jill Potter, R: Me)

I'm about 2 sets in when I hear "so exactly how much is that?" Working towards my 5-rep max, 315lbs was on the bar. Yep you read that correctly, I was back squatting 315 for reps. Thinking nothing of her question I went back for my next set when Jill asks. "What do you deadlift?" "Anywhere from 405 to 425 depending on the number of reps." For those of you who don't lift, a deadlift is simple. You take a barbell loaded with weight and pick it up off the ground. After Jill's final question about my ability to sprint I came from around the squat rack and asked her what was up.

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(The Ladies of Front Range Crossfit, Denver, CO)

The words, "I think you should try out for the USA Bobsled Team" was the last thing I expected her to say. My first reaction was to chuckle because at the time I didn't know that bobsledding was anything more than that charming 90's comedy, you know the one I'm talking about. If not, educate yourself; it's a good flick. After the confusion wore off, I did a little research and found out that there was in fact a team and there was a "tryout" being held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, about an hour South of Denver. The first step of the recruiting process is to complete a combine. A combine is a series of athletic tasks that help a coaching staff measure an athlete's ability to be competitive in a sport. A bobsled combine requires a sprint, broad jump, two-handed shot toss and a back squat and power clean.

Most of those tasks seemed feasible for me but at 30 years old it had been a good 15 years since I had sprinted at full speed. Quickly, hamstring pulls and groin strains began to flood my thoughts. What was once excitement faded into a bit of terror and I instantly began to doubt myself. Impulsive by nature, I pushed the thoughts of doubt out of mind long enough to sign up.
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With an email like this how can you not? Well done to whoever crafted this this email, it bypassed all my nerves and spoke directly to my 9 year old self who use to march around my parents basement as Olympic Fanfare played on the record player. I figured even if I didn't make the team I wanted to see what the Olympic Training center was like and it would make for a good story to tell around the water cooler on Monday.

To be continued...

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