I am packing for San Jose today. I leave for Nationals early this coming Thursday morning. And like the last few, this is another year when I can be a cheerleader since I have no "horse in the race." However, this year is the Triple Crown, the World Series, the Indy 500 of skating because it is the end of the quadrennial and that means only one thing in in skatingdom - Olympics!
It's always a time for me to get somewhat teary-eyed remembering back, oh nearly 30 years now, to those first forays onto the ice. How quickly that time has gone.
I don't mean to sound maudlin at all. I wouldn't trade a moment of it. In the early years of competitions, it was fun and games. We'd go to the rink, warm up, skate, go out for pizza and go sightseeing. Even if it was somewhere close to home and a place we'd been many times before, we'd find fun things to do.
Somehow, that all changed when things got "real." Not real in the truly real sense; real as most skate parents perceive real to be.
For a way-too-long time, sightseeing at competitions - both non-qualifying and qualifying - became something like this:
- Map out how far it is from your hotel to Starbucks
- Look at the practice schedule
- Map out how far it is from the hotel to the practice rink
- Figure out the time between getting from practice back to the main rink
- Map out how far the main rink is from Starbucks
- Figure out if you can bring Starbucks into the main rink or do you have to bolt it down outside, or find a way to sneak it in
- Look on line to find where you are sitting and how far away it is from the nearest bathroom
- Find out who you are sitting near because you may need to move
- Calculate how many laps you need to do around the concourse to get some modicum of exercise, then not do it
- Find the nearest cafe that sells wine in the arena
- Look for a restaurant close by so you are sure not to miss a moment of official practice ice
- Look for over-priced essentially junk food on the concourse because there isn't time to go out for a real meal (oh those Nachos..)
- Buy souvenirs from the vendors that you end up throwing on the ice, never to be seen again
I mention all of this because if you are a relatively new skating parent, or even a skating fan, I'm mapping out what your reality may be. I know some of you are sitting there saying, "Oh no, that's not ME. I love to get out and see the sights." Okay. I believe you. I used to say that, too. I still do. And, I'd like to say that it has changed. Sadly, it has not.
Yes, I do get out more now that I don't have a competitor, but when I go to Nationals, most of my best sightseeing could be categorized more as sightings.
Nationals is an annual family reunion on steroids (not the USADA kind; we don't have to pee in a cup - well, at least not on purpose). While you would like think you can escape from the arena, chances are you won't even make it out the door. I rarely make it from one section of seat signs on to another on the concourse without getting stopped by another skating family, a skater, former skater, coach, official, friend or fan. I'm as guilty as everyone else when it comes to this. I have my friends whom I stalk at Nationals. We've even been known to text, Tweet or Facebook to find one another.
"Where are you?"
"I don't see you."
"Look up. Im' in section 108."
"I still can't find... Oh, I SEE YOU now!"
It's a game we play every year that allows you to either see your favorite family members - or avoid that crazy relative you can't escape if they corner you.
So, as I pack for San Jose, I'm grateful that I've "been there; done that." If I see the light of day, I'll count my blessings. If I make it to their fabulous art museum again, I'll consider myself lucky. The good thing is that I KNOW where Starbucks is and how to get to my favorite restaurants quickly. The rest? I'll map it out when I get there.
As we do our sightseeing in the SAP, all I really want to do is see our athletes do their best, no matter the outcome. Good luck to all who are looking to earn their way to PyeongChang. If you make the team, it will be a sightseeing trip like none you've ever imagined.
|Madison Chock and Jeremy Abbott - Photo by NBC|