The PyeongChang Olympics.

PyeongChang.

A month and 3 days later. The blog. (I am sorry in advance, but this is a longer read than my other blogs!)

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I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll throw it back to some day in 2003, in the cold city of Toronto, after this little kid had just won her first ability meet Gold medal. I remember this day like it was just yesterday; walking into the Roots Store, in Yorkville, Toronto, getting ready to meet double-Olympic champion, Catriona LeMay Doan, who had just announced retirement from long track speed skating. I was there with my mom and dad, proudly wearing my Toronto Cyclones over-sized blue shirt, and obviously wearing my gold medal. I remember a few things; my hair cut wasn’t any different than it currently is, and there I was with my heart pounding. It was my turn to walk up and get a signed photo. I remember telling Catriona that I won gold in my first race ever, and that I was going to the Olympics. She signed my picture and wrote “Keep Believing in Your Dreams!”.

 

Catriona

 

Fast-forward 15 years, and I still kept believing in my dreams, through thick and thin, until late December 2017 when my whole world fell apart. In a nutshell, in attempt to avoid being stubborn and listen to outside opinions, I tried new things which, in the end, did not work in my favour at all. I figured that out a little too late – one day at some World Cup, seeing my opponents pulling away from me at about 70m off the start line, and thinking “what the hell?!”. After an unreal summer of training, overcoming personal bests in the weight room and being fitter than I had been in a couple of years, there I was, not qualifying for my Olympic Games, when I had one chance left, in Salt Lake City in December. Fortunately, I knew where it went wrong & immediately mentally signed up for another 4 year cycle and promised myself I would never feel this way ever again. The disappointment and feeling of failure hadn’t really kicked in, so I thought I was managing my emotions spectacularly. “Oh well, shit happens.”. Little did I know that a week later, it would hit me like an oncoming train, and I had no where to escape. After 4 weeks of complete depression, lack of appetite, complete breakdowns on the regular & failed attempts at lifting weights + training, I decided I had to set new goals and get out of this mental and physical mess I found myself in.

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Fast forward again, to the end of January. I had just finished World Cup 5, in Erfurt Germany. I did not want to go, nor did I want to ever see the ice again. Never had I ever had negative emotions toward the one thing I had loved so much. I had 5 days on ice, in 45 days, before the race began, and I had one of my better 1000m races toward the end. This qualified me for the World Championships which were after the Olympics, so I had time to go home to Canada, and train for a month and prepare. What else was I to look forward to? Changed my flight, visited Grandma for what I thought was going to be 1 week, in Romania, when I wake up to a bunch of missed phone calls and emails, with no subject, from my coach Gregg. I open the email, and it reads “ The Following Additional quota places have been made available for you : Ladies 500 – 1 Quota”. I can not even describe to you the emotions I felt in that exact moment.

 

We get to the Olympics, in Korea, and it seems like any other competition I’ve been to before, but this time it is just over an extended period of time. I was fortunate to have the opportunity as an Olympic forerunner, in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I have experienced the hype and the Olympic madness in the most wonderful way – at a home Olympics.

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I got that out of my system quickly, and banked those memories. Of course Korea wasn’t as hyped up as us Canadians, and Vancouver was tough to top, experience wise. Nevertheless, it was an Olympic Games, and my first as a participant! I knew going in, that realistically speaking, I would not perform to my abilities, due to the fact (as mentioned above) that I was informed only a couple of days prior to take off, that Gregg and I were actually going to the Olympics. This allowed me to enjoy the experience, take it all in, be together with my coach, Gregg as #TeamGregg, meet people, hang out with my parents, and literally have no pressure of performance. It allowed me to have a relaxed outlook and plan my next Olympic Games where I am certain of top end performance as opposed to bottom end skating. I had a million messages of love and support, and for those I thank you all. I struggled a bit knowing that people would not see me at my best, but I know that this was for the experience, and I only get stronger from here. I am now an Olympian.

Upon arrival, we picked up our accreditation, and got settled in the room. The next day, we went to the Samsung area in the athlete’s plaza, and picked up our Olympic Edition Phone which we could use for the PinQuest collection, and taking pictures. It also came with unlimited data and a Korean number, which was very useful when leaving the village. Pin Collecting, is huge at the Olympics. You will see pin-traders all over the place. This is almost like an Olympic Sport. Seeing as we were the only 2 Romanian team members in our Village, everyone wanted our pins so we got pretty good at bargaining and having win/win situations. During the first week, we met the entire Romanian Team in the PyeongChang Village, for our flag raising ceremony, and signing of the Olympic Truce Mural (wall). Post signing, I joined president Bach for lunch, and we exchanged a few words in a few languages we both speak. The bus ride to the PyeongChang village was about 38 minutes each way, so we did not venture out there often.

Our days were filled with event watching, friend cheering, and lots of Korean food eating! I felt like I was at home. Honestly. Korean food is my main love, and everything in the Olympic Village was no different that my routine in Calgary. Usually for most first time Olympians, things could be overwhelming especially with a bigger team, and perhaps the pressure set on them from coaches, sport psychologists, etc. I was fortunate enough to prepare mentally for this, thanks to visualizing this moment for over 10 years, my mentor & sport psych, Dan Perdue, and of course my coach Gregg and friend, Hayley Wickenheiser who both have experiences coaching at an Olympics, or winning medals at multiple Olympics. I made the Olympic Village apartment my home, personalized and comfortable. I probably drove Gregg nuts for 1 whole month but luckily we are still going for another 4 years (he said yes!). Ha.

 

Routine can become very boring, and on day 8, I started being a little antsy. I wasn’t too overly excited with the whole set up as it was quite boring in the village, and there was nothing in the immediate perimeter of the village, for entertainment. Inside the village there was a Polyclinic where athletes could receive treatment and therapy, for free. I had gone early enough and booked massages bi-weekly, with Seong-Lye, thanks to my newest friend, one of the volunteers there, Yoojin! Each team was in a different apartment building, and some of the smaller teams were all together. We were in building 805 on the 8th level, apartment 803. Team China was also in our building, as well as Belgium, and Australia, and the Olympic Athletes of Russia. There were some other areas, like doping control, and NOC services, also located in the village, as well as a laundry facility at the bottom of the building. There was also an entertainment room, where Gregg, the pinball wizard, would win games constantly. Over time, I ended up beating him in ping-pong, and that in itself is a proud Olympic Achievement, haha. Excitement elevated after I had befriended some volunteers and athletes from other sports and looked forward to lunches and dinners being more exciting again. Sorry, Gregg, ha! (Kidding). Events like these can not properly function, without all the amazing volunteers. Hats off to every single one of you. Just wow.

Post race day, I spent the whole day with my parents, and showed them around the village, and clearly went to “Coffee Street” for coffee, because you know me….coffee lover. I won’t take you through all race day feels but I will tell you it was an amazing atmosphere, and I smiled the entire time. I am shocked at the level of calmness I had in my body, on the start line. I was cool, calm and collected and remember thinking “Really?! This is IT??!” And then “Go to the start, Ready, BAM!”.

 

The end of the Olympics approached very quickly. Just like the Opening Ceremonies, the closing Ceremonies were something very special; walking in with your home team, waving flags and taking pictures. I had the honour to participate in both Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and it will be an unreal memory that I will forever carry in my heart.

To come full circle, I have a picture with Catriona LeMay Doan, at the Winter Olympics, where I told her I was going, 15 years ago. :) I am glad I have not stopped dreaming and kept believing. Everything will happen for you all of a sudden, and you ill be thankful you didn’t give up. I encourage you all to continue doing what you love, no matter what arises on the way. You never know how close you are to getting where you’ve always wanted to go.

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Thank you to all for your amazing outpour of love, support and encouragement. Thank you especially to those who believe in what is yet to come, and for not giving up on me. I would not have been there this year if it wasn’t for my  family, my Canadian support crew, my supporters all over the world, as well as my homeland of Romania. There are so many of you; the list goes on. A special thank you to my  season sponsors, Axel Merckx Project, 2XU, RYU Apparel and Rock On Clay. The future is exciting, baby!!! Stay tuned for my next big announcement – Launching my Personal Training Business! :)

PS-  This is me skating + my new fave K-POP song – LIKEY – By Twice.

 

 

Love,
Alex xox

 

New Year, New Me Bullsh*t.

RDJ

Well hello.

So you stumbled upon this blog looking to read more into something athletic related.

Not this time.

Well maybe it can be, but technically you can relate it to anything and everything. 2017 is slowly coming to an end. As much as I love living in the moment, I am looking forward to rushing through the last few days of December so I can (like most of us affected by the media) say that we are in 2018.

Yes, I am guilty of the “New Year, New Beginning BS”, but at the same time, can tell you that you can start anything on any given day. There are plenty of days that weren’t a Monday, or a Holiday, or a New Year, when I have started a new routine, or changed something for the better, or you know, a diet for most of the women I currently coach. Not that there’s anything wrong with that word, but like I tell them, it has the word DIE in it. Ok, ok, a little sidetracked there. My point is…and the point of this blog, is to tell you that you really don’t have to wait until a new year to start something new.

There’s two types of people in this world; the ones who are born with it, and the ones that have to work hard at it. Whichever category you fall into, you still have to follow the same rules, in order to achieve success at whatever it may be that you’re after.

Sometimes, for us to change, we need to reach total rock bottom, and build our empire off that rock-solid base. (Oh hello, in my case). Sometimes, for others to change, you have to just force a new habit onto yourself, or push through some hard times until it becomes second nature.

So are there things you said you’d always want to try, or do? Here are some of my personal tips that I would suggest to get you going on your new adventure…whatever that may be, and whichever area in your life it may be in! Before you start writing things down, remember to start your ‘list’ with words like “start”, “Do”, etc. Avoid negative language such as “Stop (eating)”, “Give up (cigarettes), “Quit (this and that)”.

 

-Start where you are, start now.

-Half the battle is just showing up.

-Repetition is key. They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit.

-Keep an open mind to being flexible and having a different outcome than you expected

-Have expectations, but learn from failure, if you fail at first

-Be passionate, otherwise you’re only wasting your time

-Set a goal, with a reason why, and give yourself an ‘end date’ for when you want to achieve it

(you’ll see later the end date doesn’t matter in the big picture, because you may go onto other paths)

-Set achievable tasks to give you confidence

-Focus yourself on being committed

-Use a notebook, and organize yourself

-Say no to things that do not serve you

-Spend time alone, and lots of it. Learn to love alone time, it’s where you recharge your batteries!

-Be nice to yourself, when times get tough.

 

The most important thing to remember is that anything is achievable, with enough commitment. On the hard days when you want to go back to your old ways, just remember that every little step forward, counts. It does get hard, I know. I honestly couldn’t imagine eating plain salad without any dressing, for 21 days! (Says the athlete, haha)

Within all of this, remind yourself that ‘you are enough’, you are perfect the way you are and you’ll achieve anything you set your mind to. This was short but you get the point.

Happy New Year, Peeps!
xo.

A.

The Truth

There is no perfect race. There is the best you do when you step on the ice, on that day. Whatever you have done before, is irrelevant, and whatever you say you’re going to do in the future, also is.

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That is one of the many things I have learned in my career skating. I learned a valuable lesson last season, during the first World Cup, in Harbin; only you know how happy or disappointed you are about your results. Everyone else focuses on their own skating and business. Hearing that relieved so much ‘pressure’ I had set onto myself, to perform. A year passed. Had an unreal summer training with Xiuli Wang, Team China, and my coach Gregg Planert. I got strong, confident, and I had a team to look forward to training with every day. I had no expectations going into the season.

 

The beginning of the season started off well. A few national records which, to me, are totally irrelevant as my main goals are to better myself and my personal best times set at Olympic Trials in 2013 and early 2014. Yes, they have been around for that long. Time for an upgrade.

 

I’m sitting in my hotel room, writing this, because maybe I need a self pep-talk. So I am thinking out loud. I skated a less than average race today. Yes; it happens to everyone, and again, only you feel the good feels, or the disappointments. There are so many outside factors that can affect your performance, but it is so crucial to only focus on those you can control. Today, I showed up on that start line, more relaxed than ever, calm, collected, and all was going according to plan. The rest, I barely remember. I won’t write about what I truly feel inside because it will only come across as an excuse.

 

Let me back up a little. This Calgary World Cup, and next week’s Salt Lake World Cup, are my last chances to qualify my spot for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. I have one more shot in the 1000 next week, and three more in the 500, combined with tomorrow’s 500m race. Listen to that! Gawd, even I feel the pressure just writing this! This is just the complete opposite of how things should be.

 

The best part about today thought, is that I am now at the complete edge, instead of being up there where I know I belong. This is now the perfect opportunity to either shut it all down and give up, or shut down on everything else, even though I have shut everything and everyone out of my bubble, to push even harder. Thanks Tony Robbins.

 

It isn’t over. And if the end result, in a couple of weeks, is not what I have worked for, then so be it. I’m not giving up but I know there are some crucial things I have to change in my lifestyle that will only elevate my performances, and in good time, I will do that.

 

I look back at races like the Canadian Trials, or Canada Cup’s and hear the girls in my locker room stressing about that, and I love it! It means you actually care about what you’re doing. Looking at this from the outside, I absolutely love what I do and not to sound cocky, but I know I am good at it too. I work my A$$ off every day and I am strong and powerful. I would love to write you the perfect blog post and tell you I am all okay up in my head and that I am staying positive and that life is so darn wonderful, but guess what, it is not that way. Another Alex shows up on the line, and that has been my biggest challenge since I was 10 years old. I can still qualify for the Olympics and have my demons. The unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves. Ha. Yes I have the World’s Best life mentor and sport psych, and I still struggle. It is not him, it’s not my parents, not Gregg, but the lack of self belief. The lack of self belief literally since I was young and defeated myself before races even started. I got better at it as the years went on, and I kept improving but fell into the darkness pretty damn hard two years ago. So, I should be happy right? Skating better than ever this year, and improving, and actually smiling, but is that actually what is going on? I don’t know, you tell me…because I’m sick of always pretending that everything is alright, and things are going well, when they are not.

 

If there is anything I can teach you, from what I have come across in sport, is to not let others’ results affect your happiness. I used to do that when I was younger, and it played a huge part in how I have grown up. Be happy with the improvements you make, daily, the small victories, because that is what truly matters. Some days are better than others, and you skip a few steps. Take it, feel it, and enjoy it. Some days aren’t so good, but that’s when you need to push. Push through the hard days because that is when you make gains. It is how you act and react on the bad days, that bring you out in front the next day. What is done, is done, and you move on. Always look at what you did well, before you criticize yourself for your performance.

 

Most importantly, remember, it’s just a damn sport, and life goes on after this.

Sorry, The Ramble is Over.

 

Alex

S U M M E R ’17

Summer 17. Don’t even know where to start. Sweet summer smells of mountain air, fresh rain on freshly cut grass, and lots and lots of European coffee. This has by far been one of the most amazing summers I have ever had. Let me take you back through it. B018FD3E-FE46-4CD8-A49F-A45D946ECB10 As we know, staying in one place can drive you nuts. So I decided to take myself to Europe and train there, but sadly on a return flight. My 8.5 week adventure started in Spain where I got to visit my family and have outstanding views everywhere I trained. Oh Benissa, you beautiful thing. I won’t go into too much detail as I once again have not kept this blog up to date and want to get through 3 months of blabber. DCIM100GOPRO Next stop: Heerenveen. I have only been to Holland once in the summer, briefly in 2012, visiting a friend for a few days. This time I was there for just over a month, and it literally took a village to get me to leave. I fell in love. I fell in love so hard partly because I have been feeling the urge to get back to where I grew up and where I come from – small town (lived in Terherne during my stay), bike riding, coffee drinking, Euro land. The best part of this all? The perfect training environment, and being surrounded by professional athletes every day, made my stay there even more enjoyable as I got a taste of what it is like to truly be a pro. The new Thialf building glows in the sun rays in the morning, and in the evening with the sunsets, which we dont really see in the wintertime. My coach, Gregg, also joined for the last 2 weeks of ice training. Overall, t’was nice to also catch up with my skater family and actually see them for longer than 2 stressful days which usually happen during the Fall World Cup. Within my European stay, I also got to visit my dad who lives in Germany, and of course got to go see Aerosmith (11th time..crazy, I know) in Cologne, as they were touring Europe at that time.   48024509-BAAB-4067-A078-633CCCDC8ED2BBF37810-F6CF-4958-82F6-D71DFE13AAB1   Training began in April but the real stuff started in Europe where I tagged along with Team China’s younger rising stars (Peter Kolder’s Team) whom I learned from and truly enjoyed having a fun team again.  A few earlier group rides (as well as my first serious bike crash where I flew over a bridge, head first, haha!) with Team Afterpay, where I did suck big time as I haven’t ridden in a group in 8 years, but that soon changed. DCIM100GOPRO0BD1AF60-CFD4-4C77-870A-DB5D80995A05 Flying home to Canada, I knew training was going to be intense as I was joining the National Chinese Sprint Team here in Calgary. Before all that started, I took off to Penticton to get over my jetlag by riding for 10 days in the heat, and also to do my first ever GranFondo. This year I am very excited to welcome The Axel Merckx project to the family. I am grateful to have Axel and Jodi’s support throughout this Olympic Season. As you know, financially it is the absolute worst right now considering the country switch, but like I said before…never letting that be the only thing standing in my way of the main dream – PyeongChang 2018. IMG_0402 IMG_0441 Fourth Stop: Calgary. Home sweet home…ish. I think of it now and see it all flash before me. Came into this new training group of elite athletes and so stoked to just get to work. Sitting now on the couch writing this, and thinking I never expected to be where I am right now. It’s been intense, to the point where it reminded me of the year I had when I trained with Okazaki in Japan, and she just gave me a run for my money. Countless days of legs giving up, or feeling full, and not sleeping and recovering more than I knew I could. Countless days, of laps on laps on laps…on laps. And countless days of smiling every single day, and absolutely loving what I do, all over again (and still counting ) IMG_1166 IMG_0843 We had a couple of races already, and as it is too early to judge anything, I can safely say I am somewhat content with my results but hungry to always race more because there is so much more in my tank that I feel I don’t leave on the ice yet. With Yu Jing as my training partner, I have pushed it beyond what I expected, and that is what made this summer so great; not thinking, getting out of my head, and just staying focused on the little things you can work on, day in and day out. I am so grateful and excited for this opportunity to team with coach Xiuli Wang, as well as my coach, Gregg Planert and push it all into the unknown this Olympic Season. IMG_1738 Next stop is the first Fall World Cup, in Heerenveen, Holland. Followed by Norway, then on home soil in Calgary for the first three days of December, and finishing it off in Salt Lake City, USA. By then I will have posted another blog post on what is to come, so please stay tuned. Lots of love, Xo Alex

Brighter Days.

We’ve all been here. That moment when you care so much about something and you attempt to hold on to every thing you have left, so you can maintain total control of your emotional stability…and then it somehow all falls apart.

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My world cup tour has ended this past week, with 4 new World Cups under my belt representing my home country of Romania. We started in Harbin, China in November and then travelled to the Olympic City of Nagano, Japan for the second one. We skipped the one after, in Astana, Kazakhstan so that I could get two solid weeks of training in before racing in the skating capital of the world, Heerenveen, Holland. I had also qualified for the first ever European Sprint Championships in History, and made the smart yet tough decision to stay at home in Calgary and train through the 6 weeks leading into the last Berlin World Cup. This was by far the most important race for me, as it was the qualifier for World Sprint Championships which are held in Calgary at the end of the month.


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I started the year racing internationally with some high expectations but now that it is all over I can sit back and reflect on the entire process. Aside from the political aspect of the game, and the total lack of support from the federation, all else was in my control. It is funny how things can change so quickly, be deceiving, or turn on you 180 degrees when you least expect it. This year has definitely been a year of mental training, if anything! The highs and the lows definitely define who you are as a person as well as an athlete, and I am grateful to learn these lessons, even though when it is in the moment, it is the hardest thing. My performances on ice have not only disappointed me, but have left me sometimes questioning a lot of things, including the golden question – why do I keep skating? But then I snap out of it within 30 seconds and remind myself that this is just one year of many, and we have a main goal, the 2018 Olympics, and by the time I get there, I will be back to where I need to be. But oh man, it can be awful.

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If I learned anything this year, it is that you have to be nice to yourself, and love yourself, because you are all you have. When you sink into a dark place, ask yourself strategic questions instead of feeding yourself negative thoughts that only drag you deeper.

I am lucky to be surrounded by an incredible team of individuals who have believed in me when I did not, but also encouraged me to push myself even more when I was comfortable. (Both on ice, and at home) You always have to raise the bar; I live by that. They have truly helped me work through things in my head and keep it straight on. I did achieve a lot of the short term goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year, including improving a little every time I went out there, which I did. Whether it was in rankings, or time…regardless of coming in dead last, or top 10, I know I gave it my absolute best and fought until the end. So I have no regrets, although I was totally embarrassed at certain moments but that just proved that I wanted more and knew I was capable of SO much more.

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I was happy to have decent performances this year at home in Calgary, setting a national record in the 500m, and also finishing the world cup with a top 8 finish in the 1000m which scored me points for next year’s rankings. I have 4 or 5 more competitions here in Calgary left this season, and I feel like I am still moving upwards so I look forward to finish the season strong, relatively speaking.

Thanks for reading, and believing in me.

xo Alex

 

(Picture credit: Schaatsfotos and  小笠原昇)

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