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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 ) 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. 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Picture credit: Schaatsfotos and 小笠原昇)
There are certain things in life you have to experience, or go through, to truly figure out what your purpose is in all you do. Maybe it is because I’m getting older (wiser? hah), or maybe it just the simple fact that I have become so good at mentally handling the challenges that come my way, that I am turning every thing thrown at me into a lesson and try to figure out what the best outcome would be and how I can create it. That was a long sentence.
I’m going to elaborate. It is now September 2016. Two years ago, if you looked at my 1, 3 and year goals, you would have definitely bet on the fact that I would have achieved every single one of my objectives. Everything in my personal, career and health aspect of my goals. Well, guess what? Everything actually went the opposite of everything I set on paper. And that is fine.
I am currently sitting in my basement office, listening to ABBA, drinking tea with a candle on like a little old lady, after a crazy weekend of racing, writing this blog. Looking back at two years ago, I was where I wanted to be; racing the best I ever have, had my life in control and was in conscious charge of my decision making and approach to everything. Obviously that all fell apart last year when I felt my entire life fell apart and I burnt out in my career.
This is now a year later, after having one of the most empowering summers both physically and emotionally (back skating with Gregg), and naturally, I am putting pressure on myself for my racing. As it has been affecting all areas of my life, it has come to the point where I was about to grasp onto anything that I thought would work, and I did. This weekend of racing (specifically today), has made me step back about 18 steps and realize that I am so grateful for just loving what I do. It has also hit me hard with the reality stick, that I need to stick true to what has worked in the past and just TRUST the journey and my program. I am not skating anywhere near where I WANT to be, and more importantly where I SHOULD be. So as I am totally embarrassed of my performances, I am also happy that it has brought me back to square 1. It’s teaching me to slow down and focus on the process. It is teaching me to have trust again, and to pursue what I love, and to go at it full speed.
Yes, I am 6 seconds behind where I should be in the 1000m, and yes I am behind approximately 2 seconds of where I’d like to be in the 500m, but it is okay. It is okay because I am improving each race I am out there, and maybe this has a whole new meaning to things. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten to where I will be two years from now, if I rushed it and tried to jump steps and phases. So this weekend has given me a lot of perspective on life, and made me appreciate the little things again. It has also slowed me down enough to notice little things around me in my race environment and go back to the old smiling Alex, who encourages younger skaters, and talks, jokes, is relaxed and fierce. It has NOT been an easy journey back, but along with Gregg I am confident that we will be back in business 6 weeks from now, prior to my World Cup debut as a Romanian National Team skater. No one said it would be easy, but it is DEFINITELY worth it all.
Thanks for reading.
(@Schaatsfotos – Picture)
When I look at goals, I find myself in a neutral position, looking at what I want to achieve as the only thing that truly matters. As humans we put so much pressure on ourselves or what groups we represent or associate with because of how much media plays a part in our lives (if you let it). In the past few weeks I found myself back at square one; remembering why I skate, what got me into skating in the first place and what kept the motor running. Those reflections sparked something inside that I thought I lost a few years ago when politics kept getting in the way of my performances.
As you all know, my mom was a speed skater on the Romanian team in 1988 and she is the reason I started to skate. I first began doing long track in 07-08 with the Romanian National Team where I was first introduced to the sport while doing school on the go and travelling the world like every other 15 year old on that team. Obviously loved it or I wouldn’t be here writing this blog and still skating.
This last week I made a decision which will change my life forever. I got my official release from Canada and will be following my dreams of skating at the Winter Olympics in 2018, for my homeland of Romania. I had to step back, and look at the big picture and for me to achieve my goals and to be the best athlete I can become, there was no other way. This will give me a chance to train full time, participate and perform at all fall and winter world cups and ultimately to ensure that I have a fair chance at qualifying for the Olympics. I am grateful for the unreal support Romania is giving me and for the offers they have made me. I am also so grateful for the love and support I have been getting from my friends and sponsors in Canada, that truly support me for who I am and what I want to do; thank you for understanding.
I am feeling so excited to follow my dreams and get closer to them than I had started to imagine in the last couple of years. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me while I continue to train in Calgary, alongside my coach Gregg Planert, with my training partners, my sport psychologist / mentor Dan Perdue, my strength & performance team and my friends and family. It’s time for fresh focus, new motivation and time to #CrushIt even harder now.
With just 624 days to go until the 2018 Winter Olympics, I find myself in a spot I haven’t been in, in 3 years, to the day. I woke up this morning and logged onto Facebook, only to find a 3 year memory photo (you know, the ones they bring up) of me in downtown Tokyo during my 3 days off within my 6 week training camp by Mt Fuji. After reflecting on that year and the success I’ve had with my coach, Gregg Planert, and with my training partner, Tomomi Okazaki, I realized this is the first time I have felt this excited and motivated and to have an end goal.
I learned many things this past season that I will take with me and apply to my daily routine and life. I learned a lot about my body, staying true to who I am and trusting the people around me. I learned more about my limits, the things I can and cannot do, how to execute more efficiently and how to talk and express myself when things aren’t going well. I learned it all the hard way. I now know that really valuable lessons either come when you’re a sponge and willing to learn, listen and be excited about everything you hear, or when you have the shit kicked out of you and it takes you 6 months to recover after being burnt out.
I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the timing of it all, because I made one of the most important decisions of my career last week. I decided that for the next two years I am back training with Gregg, and will stay to train with him throughout the Olympics. I switched teams last fall and it ended up hurting everything we have worked on for 4 years.
Feeling motivated has been something I have not been feeling at all in the last 10 months, so you can imagine my excitement now that the good emotions are all back.
I’m looking forward to training with my buddies again on ice when they arrive for summer training at the oval, and looking forward to having my Norwegian Viking training parter, Rikke, back for some team work if she decides to return this season.
I am very thankful for those individuals who have had my back in this journey, and I look forward to this year as an ambassador for RYU apparel and Genethix. I will also start to look for financial support a bit later this summer (with extra to give back!) as I am not a carded athlete this year due to coming back from injury. Only two years to go and going at it full on.
Thanks for reading.