Cheering for Canada. Ok ok, others too…

I wish I was in Vancouver to see the games. I wish I had a TV right about now, just so I could cheer for the folks I know STILL competing and satiate my winter dreams. So, what does it take to be an athlete, what is that life like?…and why am I cheering for Canada? I was looking through and old workout book from 1997, this was a typical day:

  • Off ice (stairs) 20 mins
  • Bike (warm up & stretch (45 mins)
  • Hockey  – 75 mins
  • Run (cool down)  – 15 mins
  • Weights – 50 mins

Total time: 3 hours, 25 minutes.

Of course, that doesn’t include time to and from the

My field of dreams: yes, two hockey rinks, ice all around, 6 lane running track + weight room, massage every two weeks or so + ice baths on hand. Add snow+ mountains = pretty much perfect

Oval in Calgary, as well as dress-up, dress down time, usually about 15 minutes each way. It was truly the dream place to live and train at, and a shame that because of the global financial situation, the University of Calgary cut the women’s hockey funding this season. It symbolizes the end of an era, started by Shannon Miller, former National/Olympic team coach in 1995 and now at UMD, arguably the most successful women’s hockey coach ever. Her philosophy in starting the program was, ‘come here, and be the best you can be.’ She was also responsible for getting me to play college hockey in the US.

Imagine now doing this for 5-6 days a week, 8 months a year. Then imagine fitting in a day or two at the mountains for snowboarding on the weekends, if no games were on. In the remainder 4 months, you get one month off then its into summer training, consisting of long aerobic sessions such as 2 hour+ bike rides, plyometrics, weight/resistance training. I loved it. Between 1995-1999, that was what I got to do, in Calgary, Canada. I usually spent the off-seasons tagging along with speedskaters, who stuck around during the summer. Now as an Aussie, the Canuckers skated circles around me. That didn’t matter, I learnt to push and go beyond what you mentally and physically think you are capable of: life lessons which stuck. Not everyone of course would go crazy for this lifestyle, but everyone I knew back then did, and everyone I knew back then still remembers those days warmly.

Being an athlete means being disciplined. It means committing yourself to a goal that may elude you at any second. Out of the maybe hundred or so girls who came through the program in Calgary, there are but a handful still on the national/Olympic team. I met like minded folks from everywhere – many like me, coming from the Southern Hemisphere chasing a winter dream. No support from our countries, no sponsors. Huge personal sacrifices – live away from your family, sacrifice relationships or go long distance, be away from your friends, delay school or juggle with it, juggle work also. As an Australian, I knew there was no way I was going to get to the games based on qualification/tournaments. Canada and the US were just light years ahead. So why did I do it? For the same reason the crazy Aussie/Kiwi/South African speed skaters, the Jamaican bob-sledders (yes they do exist and yes they do say ya’mon) do it – because we love it we’re chasing a dream to be the best of what we choose to do, and have fun along the way.

I used to rock up to this entrance almost every snowy winter day...

I lived with speedskaters, with our landlords being the parents of this fellow. One of my housemates was constantly doing imitations – ie. mimicking the motions of speed-skating. He was a long distance skater, who truly gave it his all – no sponsors, no fixed address, just following his dream. Then one day, he switched to sprint distances and then…

I’m cheering for Canada because of all the light and possibility it gave to my dreams. I’m still competing, in different sports and in different ways, but some still continue that same regimen, 11 years on. Here’s one, below, Captain of Team Canada, who took me to see my first Calgary-Detroit game, who kept on going and continues to inspire. Everyone needs heroes. Sports psychologist Cal Botterill, whose daughter Jennifer continues to compete on Team Canada led me to “Way of the Peaceful Warrior“, which spurred me onto so much more – and its a book that has literally travelled with friends all over the world. It was a different nomadic existence, and one I miss and would love to relive in some capacity, though much has changed and many have moved on. Such are the journey’s of life.

taking us along the journey: http://twitter.com/wick_22

So,  GO CANADA and all the athletes who have ever trained or had anything to do with those Calgary Oval days! (and esp. Ms. Wickenheiser here, who proved that Superwomen do indeed exist).

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My Nomad is Calling Again…

We often forget that humanity had to be nomad for a very long period before arriving to the present times; we often forget because it’s hard to imagine leaving everything behind again, and again, and yet once more. But deep inside we unconsciously drive for that extra mile, we always want things to be a bit better, to move forward as much as we can…I guess we humans have never stopped being nomads; at least mentally.

But what about those literally modern nomads? Those who seek new sensations, new landscapes, new ways to experience life? Is there space for people like this in a western civilization that continually tells us how to love the things we have? A civilization with so many rooted milestones (studies, job, house, marriage, children… a cute little dog), that as soon as someone decides to leave that path people ask “why?”

Many people have asked me that question: what is it that makes you go? To be honest with you: I have no answer. There is no rational explanation; but I can describe the feeling. A sudden inner pressure that once there keeps growing, and growing, until one day nothing else matters than the next adventure, and you find yourself looking for jobs “anywhere in the world” as long as they are not “here.” Then, without further explanation, one might trade a very well paid job, a wonderful spouse and a brand new TV set for a filthy back pack and a map. Routine becomes a deep grave, and I bet you can find many nomads under medication because they think something is wrong with them.

But I must say that the above is the superficial level. Deep down every erratic being knows what the final motivation of an endless path is: continuous discovery. But the nomad road is not about discovering other places; it’s about discovering your limits. To push you full speed towards your fears; face your true strength and your humanity every single day of your trip. When one feels totally exposed to a world where nobody knows you and is able to survive, It’s hard to feel more alive than that. The downside is that once you try that kind of life there is no turning back…

So here I am, a little person, hearing that inner nomad calling again. Preparing myself to be painfully uprooted once more from people I dearly love in order to continue my journey. Saying bye is never easy, – I’d even say it’s harder every time – although a true nomad knows that there are no goodbyes, in reality they are just shorter or longer “see you later”s. Next stop? Who knows; the call has not been answered yet.

I have no idea where I’ll end up, but of one thing I’m certain: I’m grateful every step of the way, because thanks to my nomad life I have found an amazing “alternative family” on the way that I love very much. That translates into a huge mortgage of gratitude to be paid daily. You see? At the end we are not that different you and me 😉