Branching out over the summer...

Here I am, sitting in my condo in Calgary, with some of the warmest temperatures of the summer; it’s hard to think that winter is just around the corner. When I left for New Zealand at the end of July, I more or less mentally prepared myself that it would be the end of the warm weather for me. After spending five weeks in the southern hemisphere’s winter, I can’t honestly say I mind this extra dose of sunshine. Earlier this summer, I found myself quite occupied with the dryland regiment that the team’s strength trainers had me working through. Monday to Friday, I was in the gym at 8 am. The morning sessions mainly focused on strength, power, and agility. In the past, I’ve been nicknamed the ‘Agility Ladder Destroyer’ by my teammates which I can credit my two left feet for. More often than not, I was either wrapping the agility ladder around my feet or kicking the mini-hurdles across the gym. I definitely welcomed the added agility into the program, and as the summer training block progressed, I was really starting to feel that I’d made some gains in this department. Morning training sessions usually last between three and four hours. Afternoon sessions were mainly focused on aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. Biking, swimming and running were on the agenda most afternoons. Monday and Thursday afternoon workouts were especially gruelling. Whether it was circuits of stair sprints with weight vests, or military-inspired G.I. workouts, the pain was inevitable.

Brad Spence - Branch Out Bike Tour 2011 - Panorama, BCBack in June I took part in the 1st annual Branch Out Bike Tour in Panorama, BC. Two of my good friends took on the task of organizing a fundraiser for neurological disorder research. The 100 km ride started at Panorama, headed down the Toby Creek Road to Invermere, and around Lake Windermere. After 80 km of riding, there was a lunch stop set up, with delicious pita wraps courtesy of Tazza (If you live in Calgary and haven’t discovered this gem in Bridgeland, I highly suggest you do!). After getting off the bike, resting my legs, and filling my belly, it was a tall order to get back in the saddle, especially because the last 20 km was a tough climb back up the mountain to Panorama Resort. There were definitely times on the ride that I was thankful for all of the cross-training I do for my skiing career!

The event was a huge success with nearly $50,000 raised. For more information on the event and next year’s ride, the foundation website is The Branch Out Foundation has a great mandate and I am proud to associate myself with such a worthy cause.

This summer wasn’t all about exercise however. Almost every weekend I was able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and head out to Lake Windermere with my girlfriend. I even took up a new hobby this summer: golf. This is the first year that I’ve spent any time playing the game, and now I get how so many people are addicted to it. For a long time, the bad shots heavily outweighed the good, but slowly I’m able to sneak more and more good ones into each round. What I found interesting about the game is that it’s really a great way to train my mind in a similar fashion to skiing. I’ve heard numerous people refer to the game of golf as ‘the most frustrating game out there’, and I couldn’t agree more. The most interesting parallel between ski racing and golf for me is the similar feeling I experience after I’ve just had a bad shot. In a slalom race, if my first run doesn’t go as well as planned, I have to sit there for close to 3 hours before the start of the second run, before I can go back out and give it another shot. 3 hours is a long time to sit and self-reflect, especially if I am mad with myself for making a silly mistake. It is better to analyse what went wrong, set a plan to fix it, and the move on. In golf it can be very similar. If you have a bad drive off the tee, you have to wait until you pull your driver out of the bag on the next hole to fix it. Instead of getting frustrated because my ball sits two fairways to the right, I focus on one or two things that I need to do different next time to fix the problem, and then move on. The immediate feedback gives me the ability to stay focused on the positives and not get too frustrated if I have a few bad shots.

Brad Spence - Chuckwagon Races - Calgary Stampede 2011

Another highlight of my summer is always the Calgary Stampede. Growing up in Calgary, in a family of active volunteers, the ten days of Stampede in July were always a very special time for me. This year was no different as I got to experience the thrill of riding in a chuckwagon around the Half-Mile of Hell. Jason Glass, the driver of the black-and-white checkered Shaw GMC wagon, was gracious enough to take me out during one of his training sessions. It was an eye-opening experience for me as it is tough to gauge just how fast they are going until you are sitting on the wagon and feel the strength of four thoroughbred horses reefing on the reigns. I have always considered myself a little bit of a speed junkie, but I found myself feeling quite nervous while on the wagon – the reason being I was not in control of the speed. Whether it is charging down a mountain on skis, or flying down a hill on my bike, I always feel that I am in control of my own demise. Sitting on a chuckwagon is different: you have to turn over all trust and control to the four beasts hitched to the front of the wagon. It has been a long time since I felt the rush of adrenaline like I did that morning.

Looking ahead, I will be in Calgary for the next four weeks hitting the gym for one last block of off snow training before the season really kicks off. I will be heading to Tignes, France in October for another on-snow camp, then head up to Norway for final preparations before the first World Cup slalom race of the season in Levi, Finland.

With the start of the World Cup season just around the corner, the feeling of excitement is building. The start of a new season brings new opportunities, and I have set a goal for myself to finish the season ranked in the top-15 in the slalom standings. I am feeling strong on my skis, and really looking forward to taking this next step toward my ultimate goal of standing atop the Olympic podium in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

Until the snow flies,



Written on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 00:00 by

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