My friend Peter was in town, and we talked about this pre event slump. Ive experienced it before, and I know other athletes struggle with it as well. There is this strange time where you want to sit down and stop working so hard because you've been working so hard. It exists in the time when your schedule is about to change, but it hasn't yet.
You are anticipating the event, and you know that the week before the event is going to include all kinds of changes, packing, arranging travel, your focus has shifted from long term prep to short term logistics. When you are six or four weeks out, you know that time is coming, but it hasn't come yet. You still need to be working.
Peter and I decided to go down valley and get tattooed. I chose the word FINISH. I wanted to do something that would motivate me when I saw it in the mirror. A long time ago, when I was a student at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, studying acting with Jeffrey Tambour, he gave me a one-word note for the whole season. "Finish." what he meant was to find every thread of each piece of the scene, and really finish each piece.
Twenty years later, I'm still using this note. This time, it meant follow through on the promise you have made to yourself. I said that I was going to do everything I could to be a viable candidate at the tryouts, easing off with six weeks to go was not in alignment with that goal.
Finish, to me, meant to follow through with each aspect of the promise, from training, to nutrition to sleep, to warm up, to rolling out, to yoga, to no alcohol. (Im allergic to alcohol, so when I have a beer, I get a really upset stomach the next day. The cumulative effect is not a peak performance situation for me.)
Finish meant don't say that you want to go to the top and then not do every single thing in your control to get there well. Not just to show up, but to show up knowing that you aren't leaving anything undone.
I would see that tattoo in the mirror, and it would remind me that I had made this promise, and that even if I was tired, or wished I didn't have to do this, I had said that I would, and it was time to man up and get it done as well as it could be.
It encouraged me to stay in each posture with good form no matter how tired or sore I was until the teacher said, "Change". It encouraged me to order Kale and ask for no bread. It made it easy to stick to my guns about not drinking alcohol, even though lots of people would tell me, "Kate, you aren't any fun when you do this, skiing is supposed to be fun. We should party."
I definitely got called a party popper more than once. But I know myself. I know that my biggest challenge is getting my feet to perform as well as they need to. Skiing is the easy part for a lot of the people I was trying out against, they've been doing it long enough that they can have a little hang over or be a little tired and still pull it off. For me, if I wanted to keep my word to myself, to my first coach, Mike, to my school, Aspen, to all the sponsors who had been there for me, to my family who had supported me, to my benefactors who made it possible for me to eat good food and train hard and rehab properly from surgery, I needed to focus on what I needed to do, regardless of whether it seemed "fun" to my friends or not.
It was a huge commitment. I missed my friends, I missed my kids. Kurt and I were working hard. And I kept my part of the bargain. Finish got me to Utah, through academy, and into our own little condo with no distractions. Finish made me run the stairs every morning even though I knew I had blown the first day of skiing. Finish made me focus on bringing my skiing up every day so that the selectors could see that under tough circumstances I could continually improve.
Finish made me feel incredibly successful even though I wasn't selected for the team. Because I was so proud of what I had done, of what we had done, as a community, as friends.
When I got the tattoo, it didn't even occur to me to consider how I might feel having it on my arm if I didn't get selected. I suppose it could have been a bit distressing, to see it every day and have it be a reminder that I didn't make it. But that's not how I feel when I see it. I look at it and I see six years of hard work, I see all the amazing lessons I learned along the way, the friendships I made, the support I gave and received. I see who this journey has helped me become, and I could not have become that unless I had bumped up against the wall of what was possible, wondered if I could finish, and proved to myself that I do have what it takes to go all in and push hard.
I came out the other end a victor, even though I'm not a team member. Because I learned to Finish.