Five Days in Heaven - Athlete journal by Kristina Groves

While flying in to Calgary on Tuesday night, the pilot announced over the loudspeakers, “I don’t know why any of you are traveling to Calgary tonight, it’s seven degrees and raining, with winds gusting from the north at forty-five kilometers an hour”. Although his candor made me smile, it was enough to make my heart sink. To elevate it up a notch, I closed my eyes and drifted back to the joy of the previous few days I spent at our cottage in beautiful Quebec. I imagined the rush of the cool, clear, absolutely refreshing water of Lady Lake stream over my body and the warm sun striking my face with such intensity that squinting made me smile. I remembered seeing a little black bear cub swim across the entire lake in the middle of the afternoon while I was out for a quiet paddle. I chuckled at the thought of my dad and I ‘jamming’ one night after dinner, he on the banjo and me on my guitar.

There was great food, biking with my mom, reading, running, sleeping like a log and plenty o’relaxing. It was also the first time in years our whole family was up there together. To sum it up in a word: heaven.

Near the end of August every season, we have a little break between our summer training and on ice training, dubbed by our coaches as ‘transition’. It’s a small slice of freedom; time to do as we wish after eight weeks of unspeakably hard training. It’s a time for everyone in our group to rest, relax, do easy training and stay away from the oval, with the intent of having us all ready to come back to training in September – willing and able. For me it is as much a mental break as it is physical and basically just a time to chill out. This year I chose to fly home for a precious five days to decompress at the cottage. I thought of the idea during a Saturday morning ride in late July, and bought a ticket within ten minutes of getting home.

I arrived in Ottawa on a Thursday afternoon, and we headed straight to the cottage. I had strict instructions from my coach to stick to the training program, due to previous trips home when I’ve either cracked or crashed completely and not done anything (which is not a good thing to do when coming down off a hard block of training). Thankfully the environs at the cottage lend themselves beautifully to running and biking so I promptly went for a run and came back to a feast. My mom had packed enough food to feed a small army. Good thing because I tend to have the appetite of a small army.

Much of the same continued over the next five days: eating and sleeping interspersed with episodes of reading, chilling on the dock, canoeing, running, playing the guitar, mountain biking, and of course an all time cottage fave, napping. I slept so well at the cottage that a couple of mornings I awoke in the exact same position I fell asleep in. I ate so well at the cottage that I wasn’t even hungry when I woke up, but ate anyway. I relaxed so much at the cottage that I never knew what time it was. I had so much fun at the cottage that it was heartbreaking to leave.

However. Of course there is a however. As much as I needed all of that, and as much as I miss the cottage and my family and etc., I found myself excited at the prospect of getting back on the ice. And that is just what the transition is for, to come back with renewed fire in the belly, fresh legs and a rehabilitated ability to suffer. After five days in heaven, I feel like I’m ready for the hardest training I’ve ever done.

Remind me of that on Saturday morning at Edworthy Park when I lose my breakfast after the first three-minute hill run.