The first trip of the season - Athlete Journal by James Monson


Let me first start by saying, it's been to long since my last email. I will not go this long without sending my updates again. I have just returned from the First set of World cups in Asia. The first stop on the Essent ISU world cup sprint circuit was in Nagano, Japan. The second was in Harbin, China. The Canadian sprint team left for Japan at the end of November. We spent one week in Nagano and then one week in Harbin.

Before I get into the details of the trip I have a few thoughts I would like get off my chest. When I first started writing these emails I had just finished my first season on the national team. I had finally realized my dream goals of competing for Team Canada and traveling around the world. I was on an emotional high and writing about anything the team did was easy. I would talk about the training, the races, the traveling and all the new things I was experiencing. I had just finished my best season ever with personal bests in the 500m and 1000m. Even with spraining my ankle at the final competition of the year my confidence was not broken.

Why things change and how they change is sometimes a mystery. I feel like I haven't wanted to write anything lately because my skating hasn't been going that well. No matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, I can not seem to find the confidence I once had just a short time ago. The funny thing is, everything else in my life is going so well, I can hardly believe it. God has provided me with so much. I am healthy; I have a great support group of family and friends. Things are good.

Then you throw in some bad races and nothing else seems to matter. I tell myself it's only skating, don't worry about it. But it plays with your mind and brings the rest of your life down. I'm going through a tough time in my skating career but I know things will come around; it's just hard to be patient. I guess I just wanted say this so if there are other skaters out there who have experienced similar emotions, that they are not alone.

We arrived in Nagano on Sunday evening. It seems like where ever we go it always takes about 24 hours to get there. We flew through Vancouver and then to Tokyo. We took a train from the airport to the Tokyo train station and then the bullet train to Nagano. It takes about 3 hours. Usually we have to take the bus and that takes about 6 hours, so this was much better. The weather this year was great. It was above zero the whole time and a few days it was in the double digits. We bring bicycles with us so we can do some workouts throughout the week. Some of us will also ride to the oval. It takes about 15-20 minutes. With the nice weather it was great riding to the M-Wave. That's the name of the speed skating oval there. You just have to get used to riding on the other side of the road.

As far as the racing, Jeremy tied for first in the 500m on day 1 and 2nd on day 2. I finished 28th with a time 36.38, and 33rd on day 2 with a time of 36.37. My races were ok but definitely not my best. I skated only one 1000m on day 1 and got caught up in the crossover so I had to slow down other wise I would have been disqualified. Shannon had a good weekend on the women side with a 5th and 6th place finishing in the 500m.

We then traveled to Harbin, China on Monday. This time we had to take the bus back to Tokyo and that took about 6 hours. We then had to fly Tokyo to a city called Dalian. 1 hour stop over in there and then fly to Beijing. We had a 3 hour lay over in Beijing, followed by a 2 hour flight to Harbin. Basically, we left the hotel at 4:30 am and arrived in Harbin at 11:00 pm. Another long travel day.

Harbin is a city of about 7 million people. This time we were staying in a hotel right downtown. It was pretty cool to be in the heart of the city. We were much closer to a lot of shopping centres and street vendors. We spent a few afternoons walking around checking things out. The only downside was a lot of pollution. We only had one day that was clear the rest were very hazy. Thankfully this time is wasn't as cold as last time we were there. Around -5 to -10 degrees. The previous time the temperature was around -20 degrees.

Again Jeremy raced fairly well and got a 3rd and 1st in the in the 500m and a 3rd in the 1000m. It was great weekend for Shannon Rempel who earned her first world cup medal, 2nd place in the 1000m on day 1. She was really excited. I finished 13th and 18th in group 2 in the 500m. The frustrating part I felt really good in warm up I just wasn't able to do anything in my race.

On the way home we had to go back to Beijing and then fly to Vancouver. Our flight out of Harbin was late and we missed our connecting flight. We had to stay an extra day in Beijing. On the plus side we got to spend the next morning Beijing and were able to go Tiajannemen square and the Forbidden City. It was pretty cool to go to place with so much history.

Our next major competition will be the Canada Post Sprint Championships on Dec 27, 28, 29. That competition will decide who goes to the next set of world cups and world championships.

That's it for now. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Enjoy the holidays.