Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Last entry cont...

I'm not sure if anyone's still reading this as I know nationals are over, but for those of you whom are, "Hello" my little loyalites (that's a word as of right now).

In my last entry, I left off wanting to touch on: my hip, attitude recovery, and the "limbo zone."

Some of these things also touch on my entry later in the evening on Saturday, in which I referred to some "unexpected things." It's funny how life ties into itself--like a pretzel... maybe my life is a pretzel. Okay, I've lost myself.

Anyway, I took two falls in my short program, both of which were more painful than I would have liked. There's a certain kind of fall that almost every skater has taken where the muscles and [insertion] tendons deep inside your hip are exposed because of the position your body's in, and when you fall, you come down straight on your hip bone, lying underneath these muscles. Consequently, everything between your hip bone and the ice get nailed pretty good and it causes quite a little discomfort anytime you need to use it (which is all the time when you're skating). It also ticks off the bursa on your hip causing another source of discomfort. Conveniently, I did this twice in my short program. Fun fun!!

I went to bed Friday night after icing, heating, and massaging (which probably wasn't the best idea) my hip in an effort to try and keep it loose and to speed up the recovery time. On Saturday however, I woke up with a VERY sore hip and feeling a little defeated--I'm not going to lie--and was less than anxious about a practice and a long program run-through that would inevitably be a part of that practice. I knew I would be very sore and uncomfortable; I knew I would have to manage my hip and keep a strong competitive attitude to combat any defeatist tendencies that so easily seep into our psyche when things aren't going as planned; I knew that I would need to spend some time relaxing my hip that would otherwise be spent having fun walking around and enjoying my nationals environment. I mentioned in a post early last week that it's important to pay attention to your last thoughts at night and your first thoughts in the morning as we often use them for the rutters of our day, steering us in the direction we seem to start with--if it's a bad/unpleasant thought, change your way of thinking and change the direction of your day. I knew that if I maintained my lack of excitement regarding my situation, the day was unlikely to improve. I specifically wrote in my blog to make myself accountable. I wrote, "Basically, today's all about choice!... I'm making the choice, right now, to have a great day, a great practice, and a comfortable evening." Essentially, I was only going to have a bad day if I let myself--why would I want to do that? Especially in the middle of nationals.

I went to practice and spent a lot of time warming up my very sore hip. WOH--can we say SORE?? I got on the ice and simply stroked around for about 4 minutes... it took this long for me to get over the fact that it hurt for me to stand on the ice in any way that would activate my glutes (sp?)(which is ALL the time), and for me to realize that any push from my left side would require an extraordinary effort. I went through the normal routine, starting with some edge exercises... more and more sore as we go... and then moving onto some waltz jumps. This is when things became a little more interesting. My waltz jumps were essentially very flat as I couldn't use my left side--my take-off side--to jump; I couldn't use the muscle in my arse to get myself anywhere. OOOOoooookkkkaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy.... well, we'll see how this goes. (Again, it's my choice to make it good or not) I did a single axel; terrible! I did a double axel, which took a few times circling and a few that I popped if I recall correctly; TERRIBLE!! Keep in mind, this was the easiest jump planned in my program and it nearly took an act of congress to get me to do it. Even when I could get enough energy to muster through the pain, there's the terrifying fear of landing on it again; any little fall in same spot and I probably wouldn't have been able to move--that's not comforting either. It didn't get any better from there. Everything was extremely tentative; everything was extremely weak; everything was extremely pain- and fear-based. For future reference, this is NOT a good way to approach a practice. I wasn't sure how else to cope.

I was third to do my program and needless to say, it was not a very good one. I told my coaches, only one of whom knew my hip was bothering me, that I couldn't do the triple axels and that I would make them doubles, everything else I thought I could push through. I didn't do my opening combination well as I couldn't check-out smoothly, can't remember the loop, doubled the flip, skipped my death drop, stepped out of the triple lutz (not completing the combo), fell on the second double (triple planned) axel, shaky triple sal, missed my combination spin as I couldn't hold my position on the entrance, marked the footwork, double axel tap-toe shaky double axel, doubled the last triple toe, and finished with a marginal flying spin. This was quite a difference from my recently consistent run of nearly clean programs... OOHHHH BOY!

After the program, I had a small conversation at the boards with my coaches regarding my hip... literally went like this

Coach 1: "which hip is bothering you?"

B: "my left."

That's about all I recall. There's not much of a point in complaining about something if it's not going to change anything. At that time, there's really nothing I was planning on changing. My program however, illustrated to me just how sore my hip really was; there was little I could do pain-free and there were a few things I just couldn't do. NOT A COMFORTABLE FEELING. What do I do now? What does this mean for competition? This is when an entirely new set of thoughts started flying through my head. I've NEVER scratched do to an injury--I've never had a pain during competition that was so unmanageable that I just couldn't skate. Would I have to adjust my program? Would I have to take the triple axels out? What about the spins? What about the confidence necessary to complete the rest? How do I approach a program full of elements if it takes everything I have just to stroke? This was a very different position for me to be in.

Numerous conversations ensued regarding my hip, non of which came close to the subject of scratching, and in my head, I couldn't help but to think there was no way... there was no way I was going to be able to do this. Then it occurred to me, I didn't want to; I didn't WANT to compete and have to take my axels out and adjust my spins. If I couldn't be confident and prepared the way I had trained, I didn't want to go and make [what I thought would inevitably be] a fool of myself. However, it'd be weak to pull out; it'd be ridiculous to back away at this point; how much pain can I really put up with for just a few minutes? Then, it becomes a lot more than a hip pain... it's the loyalty to your commitment... it's the follow-through with your goals and intentions... it's being an upstanding student and a hard working athlete... it quickly becomes a lot of things above and beyond mustering through some pain. This becomes a very difficult situation to try and balance. BUT I COULDN'T LIFT OFF MY LEFT SIDE AND I COULDN'T SUPPORT MYSELF GOING INTO A SPIN!!! Was I crazy? Was I scared? Was I weak? I don't know. But I told myself at the beginning of the week that this week was about me and not about managing what other people thought. It's my competition and it's my performance. They're my goals and they're my efforts. They're my interests and my satisfactions. Selfish? Maybe, but I'm not skating for other people, I'm skating for me. The people who are there for me are just that, there for me!! They're there to help me do what I want to do and help me achieve what I want to achieve.

I quickly came to the conclusion that I wouldn't want to skate if my hip weren't any better the next day, and as far as I could tell, and as much as I tried to believe, and with all that I understood at the time, my hip wasn't getting that much better that soon. My trainer/therapist travels with me to nationals, conveniently, and was a big part of this recovery process. She worked on my hip after practice, once we had returned to the hotel. She left me so I could take a [much needed] nap and to ice the heck out of my hip for the rest of the day. I still hadn't broached the subject of withdrawing from the competition with any of my coaches. I didn't want to. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it but again, I didn't have any belief that it would get better--not a good mindset. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to do.

I took a nap and woke up to go have a Starbucks with my trainer. I mentioned that I wouldn't feel well enough to skate if my hip weren't better by the next day. However, I had a new idea regarding my hip... something we had never done before (and something I always told myself I wouldn't even consider)--cortisone! I asked her about it and she had already thought that far ahead. We discussed it at further length, she had already talked to the competition docs, and we were set to have an evaluation of sorts. Essentially, I wouldn't be getting a cortisone shot, it'd be a shot of a simple numbing agent--marcaine--which is like lidocaine (the anesthetic used in dentistry and small superficial surgeries) but has a longer half-life. This gave new hope to the competition but didn't squelch my anxiousness, it simply turned disbelief into apprehension. I had basically spent most of the day assuming that my nationals was over... I wouldn't be competing. The nice thing about this is that I wasn't busy freaking myself out about my program. However, with the new idea of getting a shot, I wasn't sure what to think.

During the ladies' long program event, we met with the docs to look at my hip. I asked for a very small test run of the shot so that I understood what I'd be in for the following day. We used lidocaine instead of marcaine and it didn't seem to do anything. AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH, we're back to where we started. They said they couldn't inject the muscle, they could only inject the bursa, but the muscle is what I needed to use. What do I do?

My attitude regarding the competition had been all over the board during my limbo zone (the period between the short program and long program), from defeated and worthless, to anxious and apprehensive, to selfish and weak, to aggressive and strong, to nervous and worried, to lost and scared, to embarrassed and ashamed, etc..... I mean it--ALL OVER THE PLACE. I didn't know what to think. The way my hip was, I wouldn't compete. But with a shot (the affects of with which I was unfamiliar) maybe I'd be able to do it. How do I wrap my mind around that one?

The next morning we went to the rink extra early to get my hip injected before the warm-up. If it worked, great... if it didn't, oh well--we tried. I discussed my concerns about not feeling the affects the night before. We did it a little differently this time, used a little more marcaine and he sent me on my way. MY HIP FELT GREAT!!! It was still very sore as the numb area was small and the contused area was large, but it was MUCH MUCH better... it was usable and that's all I needed. I was back in business.

After warm-up, I relaxed for about an hour, went back to the rink early and got another injection in my hip... injection #3!!! Again, my hip felt great; still very tight; still very sore. There were two things this was for... I needed to be able to activate the muscle to allow me to use my left side, and I needed to eliminate as much as possible, the fear of falling on the hip again and not being able to get up. These injections accomplished both of these things.

I was all off the sudden back in business. I could skate and do so confidently. I got to do my long program. I was the lucky one to open the event, and remember what I said in my last blog: there is no bad place to skate (in regard to skating order).

The bonus of this whole event (my hip) was that, for the last day I didn't even think I'd be on the ice. I didn't let myself think too much about it cause I didn't even think it would happen. I was excited to be there. I was excited to continue. I was prepared and trusted that of myself. I went through all the normal competition angst and came to the conclusion that I was there to enjoy myself. It was only 4.5 minutes... live it up. I know my program. I love my program. I do my program every day. Go out and do it again and enjoy it. Look up and have a great time. I had a great warm-up. I did a reasonable program, popping two jumps (argggg--I know), but had a blast. I was there to compete and that's what I did. It was great.

The funny thing about the limbo zone was that I had come to conclusions and made decisions about a future situation based on something that existed now and assuming nothing would change. I had basically resigned myself to the idea that my involvement in the competition was over--there's no way I could've continued. WHAT??? THIS IS WHAT WE FOCUS ON DURING TRAINING EVERY, SINGLE, DAY!!!! This is unfair to do to oneself as the time to make the decision was not during limbo. I didn't have to compete until Sunday. It wasn't competition yet. Don't condemn yourself or your future based on what's happening right now. Keep working to make it better and make the decision when you absolutely have to; before that, fretting about it is a waste of time. Consequently though, my nationals turned out to be a few different little adventures that I certainly wasn't planning on, but all of which turned out as well as they possibly could have. I learned a lot, to say the least, about myself and the way I create my own experience.

In regard to my injections, undergoing this kind of procedure, though extraordinarily safe and temporary, was the most drastic action I've ever taken in regards to injury management during a competition. It was a great experience however and certainly something to learn from.

Despite the mistakes in my programs, and disappointing as they may be, I had an incredible nationals and an extraordinary week!! If everything always went exactly as planned, we'd never learn anything, we'd never grow, we'd never feel!! If I could have it to do all over again... I would do it the exact same way!!!!

I want to say a quick thank to my coaches for being an extraordinarily supportive force both in my life and in my skating. Thanks to Susan Williams, Joy Anderson, and Ken Congemi. I also want to say a huge thank you to my family and my girlfriend for being there anytime I need them--you guys are irreplaceable!!

Thanks for all of your interest in my random spoutings and my journey through life.

Until next time,


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Oh, where to start... where to start!

Hello, loyal readers of my blog... and non-loyal, that's okay too.

Today was the big day--we [senior men] finished our long program at the National Championships in St. Paul. It was quite a ride.

There are two posts I would like to follow up on: the one from yesterday morning, to give you a small recap of the short program event; and the one from last night, elaborating on the "unexpected things." For right now, I can only cover the first one of those--the short program recap.

Well, I had a great 20-minute warm-up!! GREAT!!! I was 7th to skate, which meant I was skating first in the second of three warm-ups. Some people seem to have problems with skating first after a warm-up and I have two things to say about that: there is no bad place to skate, and the other... there is no bad place to skate.

I got on the ice for the 5-minute warm-up and kept myself reminded of what I was doing: breathing; taking one thing at a time; and doing everything I say I will do!! I had a great 5-minute warm-up... I felt totally on my game.

I started the program with [if I may say so myself] a great death drop, more centered and controlled than it's been recently, which was a nice way to start the program. I was in the moment and I was having a great time! Next: triple axel. I somehow took off [my heel] and essentially spun around my left side. For those of you whom don't know, that's a bad thing. I took a pretty hard fall on the axel but continued into my footwork without missing the first few opening steps--something that seems to happen on occasion in practice. The steps were good, felt strong... despite the axel, I felt great and was staying in "real time." I did a shaky triple loop. Arghhhhh!! Frustrating, but again, it's over as soon as it's over. I was still breathing the way I intended, I was in the moment, and I had maintained a fluid and free-of-hesitation attitude. Next: triple lutz--OUCH!! I fell on the lutz and to be honest I'm not exactly sure why. I'm also pretty sure it was down-graded to a double (and again, for those of you who don't understand the scoring system, that's a REALLY not-so-good thing). Yet again, once it's over, it's over... I continued on to the footwork, emphasizing what I could, where I could, and making everything the best I could--the program still wasn't over... there's no sense in stopping prematurely. Footwork and my last spin were good.

Disappointing? Absolutely. Are disappointment and anger the same thing? Absolutely not. I actually was a little shocked that I had just done a program that poorly as I can't remember the last time, even in practice, when it was that bad. The funny thing was, I had a great time, which is really what it's all about. The other thing is that I essentially, despite the mistakes, accomplished my goals: Breathing; taking one thing at a time; rotating each jump. I did all of these things. Ughhh--still frustrating, I know.

There's a certain kind of emptiness that comes along with not accomplishing a goal you know your capable of. It'll take me a little while to come up with the words to describe it, but until then, that's what I felt a little bit. At the same time, there's no sense in fretting about the past. What's next and how do I get there? Those are the questions.

Unfortunately, I have to run. I'll fill you in on my hip, attitude recovery, and the "limbo zone" (the time inbetween the short and long programs) as I want to touch on all of these in this entry.

Have a good night!


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Quite a day!

Hello there,

Plenty of unexpected things happened today... right now I'm not going to rate them as good or bad, right or wrong, but some very uncomfortable and some extraordinarily gratifying.

Again, terribly sorry that I can't elaborate a little more... but I'll fill ya in soon.

Tomorrow will be a great day.



Sorry for not posting last night... it's actually just 'cause my internet access died and it was too late to futz with it.

Recap of the short: OUCH! -- I'll fill ya in later today.

Basically, today's all about choice! I'll elaborate on that later as well.

I'm making the choice, right now, to have a great day, a great practice, and a comfortable evening.



Friday, January 25, 2008

Game time!

I am very prepared. I am very well-trained. I do one element at a time. I do each element. I perform. I breathe. I am right here, right now. I breathe. I skate first in the second warm-up. I breathe. I experience right now. I do one element at a time. I do each element. I am a great skater. I do what I do.

I have set my intention for this evening: I take each element at a time! I do each element! I rotate each jump!!

Happy watching!!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The day before... prepare yourself!!

Good evening, my people! (My readers, obviously... don't read too much into it)

I must apologize once again, but I need to make this brief as it's getting late into the evening.



... lol, I'm a sucker, aren't I?

Today was the first day of skating in the competition venue or "the big arena." It's always fun to be out on a surface in a stadium-style arena, with such volumes of space surrounding you, room-temperature air, and lights that'll burn you're eyes out; there's really no other substitute. Each arena however presents a new set of circumstances. In today's case, I found that the placement of a spin made me dizzier than if I moved the spin about six feet to the left. It can be very difficult to not have visual markers telling you where you are, when, and where you'll be going next; your direction orientation all-of-the-sudden becomes your primary focus... not always a great thing in the grand scheme of things. I took a lot of time to scope out the surroundings while I was on the ice for practice, after the practice, and will do some more tomorrow morning before I skate to insure that I'm very comfortable in my environment. I feel much better now, as it is, about the surroundings and after tomorrow morning, it'll be even better than now.

As influential as we [skaters] may let little things like this be, a lutz is still a lutz no matter what side of the rink it's on... same goes for axel, toe, sal, flip, etc.--it's all the same jump we've trained our bodies to do. Essentially, "orientation" doesn't much matter--that's a self-sabotaging head-game we can play if we so desire. Personally, I don't feel like doing it this time, so I'll let it go and stay confident in what I've trained myself to do: a lutz anywhere, a toe anywhere, an axel anywhere, anytime, etc. I'm a well-trained athlete and I know I can skate well anywhere on that ice!!!

I was the first to do my short program today on the earliest men's' practice--usually a set-up for more mind games... this time was a little shaky but not all bad by any means. I knew I had to do my program, so I prepared myself ahead of time. Good axel, good loop, ... won't mention the lutz--lol! No sense in dwelling, remember?

I later did a very short practice at a different rink where I set my goals for the session right before I got on, and I accomplished them. I would do a fast and efficient warm-up: DONE. I would do a long program with everything in it: DONE. I would skate around to feel my legs and put myself in the moment of right now: DONE. In addition, I started my long program on the opposite side of the rink (which switches the whole program to the opposite side) simply to prove to myself that it's not about the side of the rink on which you start, it's not about visual cues, it's not about being comfortable on one side and not another... it's about what I do right now, being an axel, lutz, loop, etc, none of which have ANYTHING to do with who's sitting on what side or where a certain logo is on the boards. Good lord, Braden! Get over yourself.

Today was practice. I allowed myself that. Tomorrow is competition--another day when I'll do what I do everyday... my triple axel, my triple loop, and my triple lutz combination! What's the difference, it's just another day!

"I am very prepared! I do what I do 'cause I choose to do it! I am focused on myself! I land my jumps! I perform! I compete! I do great things!"--some of the many things I have been, am, and will be repeating to myself so that I know them to be true, without question, and to aid in my confidence going in. I know I'm capable, I've done it before many times!!! That's not a question. So, guess what I'll do tomorrow! THE SAME THING!!!

"I do my axel! I do my loop! I do my lutz combination!" No questions!

Tune in tomorrow night for the short program.

Can't wait to give you a great show,


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Makin' the choice!


I'm in St. Paul and all is going very well. I had a great day! It's late, however, and I'm tired, and right now it's either my blog or sleep; right now, I choose sleep!

Fill ya in tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Beautiful things...

It's been quite a day in the little place I like to call "Braden's World." No no, I'm not schizophrenic... don't worry.

Hello, my readers! I hope you're well.

I have to say that today started off with an anxiousness that was pretty hard to squelch. I had almost everything done that I needed to do and everything was moving very smoothly, but I was still pretty anxious and I wasn't sure why (not that it mattered). It's amazing to me how much time we [as people] spend going back over things unnecessarily, simply because we weren't actually paying attention the first time around. Today was riddled with little things like that, which told me that I wasn't really paying attention to where I was or what I was doing. Frustratingly, when you think about trying to move through it, get over it, or beat the anxiousness it simply seems to grow and grow. It's more a shift in focus. It's like trying to beat a bully--there doesn't seem to be a good way to actually combat the stupidity that comes from a bully being that it's normally a statement made or something done just to get under someone's skin. Consequently, we're all just supposed to "ignore" them; this is more easily said than done... as I'm sure you would agree. Literally though, IGNORING it in the full sense of the word... to actually not give it enough attention for you, yourself, to even know it's there, is the best way to do it. This goes above and beyond the usual, "just let them know it doesn't bother you and walk away." By virtue of making the statement "it doesn't bother me" and actually walking away, you're recognizing it, which means it has power. We may try to show people that things don't bother us, but when they ACTUALLY don't, it's very obvious... we don't miss a beat.

I had such a smooth morning that I even had some extra time before my session. I got a chance to meet up with some people and relax for an extra unplanned half-hour. I ate my lunch, TRIED to relax, enjoyed my company... it was a beautiful thing.

I went in to the rink today, feeling slightly sluggish, a little off schedule, anxious, etc.... not really psyched to practice. Today was also the first day of skating without something that holds my hair back--seemingly ridiculous but when uncontrolled, it can be very distracting; I had it "done" the way I think I want to do it for competition... so it was a little bit of a test run. I warmed up, did my jumps, and did my short program. It wasn't until after the very first element, a spin, that my anxiousness actually went away. It dissolved. My focus was elsewhere. I was at the rink. I was doing my program. I was sync'd with the music. I did what I do every day without any other little thoughts attached to it. The best part about it, I did a clean short program!

It was a beautiful thing for me to prove to myself that I could, without feeling 100%, with hair in my face, and dragging, still do a clean short program. Any excuse that I can come up with from now on is only in my head!

Funny funny how life seems to work out.

Then I went to the airport. I missed my flight. It's a really long story! (which is a lie but the alternative makes me look irresponsible). LOL.

After feeling like the earth stopped spinning for about 20 seconds, I actually began to enjoy my day even more than before. I couldn't be that anxious... no matter what I did, I wasn't getting on that plane. I am getting to spend some extra time with my family, friends, girlfriend... I got to eat a real dinner, I get some down time, I'm not going to miss anything at the competition even with the slight alterations in my plans, I'm certainly warmer now than I will be in St. Paul... oh, as strange as it may sound, missing my flight was a beautiful thing.

Even better, it works out that now I'm flying at a time when I can spend the entire flight sleeping and I love that. It'll be awesome!

Life is a beautiful thing!!!

Chat at ya later,


(okay, so I missed my flight because I thought it was at 4:45 p.m. and instead, it was at 4:05 p.m. I thought I was doing really well getting there at 3:30... that's a lot earlier than I normally arrive but today, I just wanted to play it safe. LOL! LOL! Can't let it get ya down)


What up? (yep, I just said that)

I just found out that the hotel in which I'm staying has free internet access in the rooms, which means I can keep you posted throughout the week.

Everything's done, bags are packed, I'm ready to go!!!

Thanks again. Have a GREAT day, everyone!!!


8 hours and counting...

Well, today's the big launch. I'll be leaving for St. Paul this afternoon and I'm pretty psyched.

I'm not going to lie... I wouldn't have minded getting a little more sleep last night than I did. However, I'm up... I'm moving... I'm ready to go [almost--in 8 hours].

There are all the little last-minute things to take care of on top of one more thing I need to make. Speaking of which, my short program outfit turned out pretty well: simple, sleek, comprehensing... exactly what I wanted!!

I'm only skating one session today--pretty excited about too.

Sorry to make this short... plenty more to do and I need to keep moving. I don't think this will be my last entry before competition but if it is, thanks to all my readers!! Keep an eye out on Friday and Sunday for the Championship Men's event--it will be worth watching.

Thanks again,

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's all along the way.

NATIONALS!!!!!!! THIS WEEK IS NATIONALS!!! I'm so pumped, and it's a great feeling.

Hey ya'll (I've apparently accessed my southern side), I hope everyone had a great weekend!!

Well, I have so much to do that I need to make this short. I had a great weekend that was fluid, fun, and very productive--it was awesome!

I woke up this morning with the "buzz" of nationals in my system and it just kept growing and growing and growing and by the time I got to the rink, I was saying out loud (as I'm pumping my fists and jumping (air-guitar style), "It's NATIONALS week!!!"

I started out my session with some of the best stuff I've done in a while. I was flying high, I was riding the wave, I was buzzing...

This is one of those things to be careful of. I actually had to consciously bring myself back down a little and say, I'm still in L.A. Today's practice is today's practice. I'm only doing what I need to--I'm minimizing the impact of the strain-training right now as today starts a 7-day skating week for me... I have to pace myself. I have to very much remember that just like making sure you don't get stuck in the lows of life... you can't get caught in the highs either. Today is just another day that I do what I do. I skate well every day and I'm very prepared.

I did a great long program with two small mistakes... one on a jump and one on a spin. That's not the focus though--it was a great program!!

It's hard not to be bouncing off the walls like a horse ready to sprint out of the gate, but as long as the horse is in the gate, bouncing off the walls isn't doin' anything for him.

I keep myself informed about my readiness--"I'm ready." I keep myself informed about my training--"I am a very well-trained athlete!" I keep myself informed about where I am and when--"I am right here, right now!"

All things are coming together beautifully!!

I'm not sure what the internet situation in St. Paul is going to be like, but I'll write at least once more before I leave and hopefully I'll be able to keep writing while I'm there.

Have a great day everyone!


(I have a lot more to say about today's entry. If I have time, I'll elaborate.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lovin' it!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnndd, it's Sunday; it's still the weekend. I'm pretty excited about that!

Hello peeps,

Today is when the idea of leaving actually starts to set in. Packing and getting all the things done that "need to be done before you leave" start to change the daily monotony of life. "I only have two nights left here, make sure everything's taken care of... what about ____?... what about that ______?... and what about those____?... OH--and make sure to_____! " Historically, this creates a little a little bit of anxiousness and nervousness that surrounds my every little move; occasionally I become a little more distant from whatever's happening in the "right now" as there's a general numbness to whatever's happening around me... as though the importance of the upcoming event supersedes whatever I'm actually doing. Not true this time. I've learned over the 300 years I've been competing that everything will be just fine and everything will get done without a problem. I'm not there yet, so there's no need to feel like I am. I'm still at home in L.A. and I love it. I have more to do than could possibly be sane, but I'm still totally psyched about it. I love to keep moving. I'm excited about next week. Today is one day closer to a trip that's going to be a blast and I can't wait. However, if I don't pay attention to today because I'm thinking about next week, I'll miss an awesome Sunday that I so routinely enjoy!! I'm going to have a GREAT day, I'm going to get a lot done (like my short-program outfit and Bebe [Liang's] long-program outfit), and I'll take an occasional few minutes for myself.

I'm very prepared for next week. Life is working in the little symphonic ways it so often does, where the seemingly choreographed chaos sends us screaming into the next moment like any great roller coaster. And just like today, on a roller coaster, it's our choice to open or close our eyes, put our hands up or clench them tightly against the safety bar, and scream for dear life or hold our fear in our throat 'cause there's no comfortable place to put it. Right now, I'm loving the ride!!!

Have a great Sunday!!!


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Paying attention...


It's become increasingly important for me to pay attention to the last thing I think at night and the first thing I think when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes, we start out on the "wrong side of the bed." Well, my response... then get up on the other side!

I would like to clarify, this is not a comment sparked from being cranky in the least (there is no wrong side of the bed for me... at least not right now), I'm having a great day. I just simply noticed the first few things I thought when I woke up this morning.

A quick aside: I LOVE weekends! So does my body!!!!

I have already, and will continue to spend some time today thinking about how I'm in exactly the place I want to be for next week. It's all about building and maintaining confidence. I'm VERY prepared and I know that. I'm going to have a great week next week and I know that--that doesn't mean I know how, I just know it will be great.

Also, a big "Thank You" to my family for being as undyingly (that's a new word in Braden's world) awesome as they are, my girlfriend for being as supportive, understanding and encouraging as she is, and Becks and Jess, who constantly keep me on my toes and gave me explicit instructions to mention them in today's blog.

Today's a great day. I hope everyone enjoys it!!

(I'm starting to sound annoyingly positive and disgustingly mushy... yack!!)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Woh, big-picture... Woh!

Hear ye, hear ye... LOL! I just wanted to say that.

Hello, everyone.

Today was yet another interesting day in the training life of me. And might I say, it was perfect that I wrote my quick blurb this morning about believing in yourself.

I did a short program today on the first session that started off with a great triple axel only to be followed by a DOUBLE loop and then a good triple lutz combo. DOUBLE loop. My point is not to dwell but to examine enough to learn and move on. I did the short program again and did some not so great things... again!! What was going on? I'll tell you. I had to prove to myself that I'm NOT invincible. As strange as that sounds, I'm not. Bullets may deflect from my chest, and yes, I may have x-ray vision, bones of steel, and the strength of a thousand men, but I still occasionally make a mistake. I didn't feel "present" in what I was doing; my mind wasn't experiencing the right now. This however is the exact mindset that I had to work my way out of--"mistakes, popping, dwelling, not being present, non-invincibility, 'what's the problem' "... blah blah blah; these are all things that I don't like, I don't want, make me uncomfortable and yet, that's where I was focused. We're so quick to try and explain why whatever happened happened and for some reason, we'll come to a conclusion that sounds reasonable enough for us to buy into and then we'll feel better, supposedly. (What's my standard news flash? NO ONE CARES) I had to do another program and prove to myself I could do it the way I intended... this time, a clean program. In the program I fell out of triple axel, reasonable triple loop, double lutz w/out the combo. What the... ? This was not the program I thought I wanted but apparently it was cause I'm the only one who has control over doing it, and I know that I'm capable of doing it.

I did a bunch of thinking to put myself in the place [mentally] where I wanted to be. Just like yesterday, when I had to simplify things, today I was making this short program a much bigger deal than it was; I was looking at the whole thing and it had to be perfect. Why? Because if I do a perfect program today.... blah blah blah (again), a perfect program today means nothing in terms of what happened 20 minutes ago or what's going to happen in an hour; it's only right now... that's the only time I can do my program, right now. It's also one element at a time, I don't do them all at once, stop looking at them all at once. ONE ELEMENT AT A TIME. I know how to do everything in the program. I'm a great athlete. I do clean programs. I stay present. I'm a great skater. This is a great program. I know each move. I hit my positions. I do triple axel. I do triple loop. I do triple lutz combo. Funny, funny... no matter how I try and work through it in my head, I don't do them all at the same time... so I had to stop thinking of them all at the same time. Take it piece by piece, element by element, each one independent of the next. I know how to do each one. So, do each one... one at a time!! First: spin. Second: Axel. Third: footwork. Fourth: loop. Etc, Etc. I went and placed each element with the music, ONE AT A TIME, and it worked out much better.

Now the long. AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I almost can't recap the first one as I can't remember it exactly. It was not what I thought I wanted though. I was looking at the WHOLE program and freaking myself out, yet again. One... element... at... a... time! I do one jump. Then I do the next. Then I do the next. Then I do the next. I did a triple axel combo, I did a shifty triple loop, I did a DOUBLE flip and for less than a second let it get me down. I continued and did the spin that followed. This is where there's a pause in the action of the program and often times my mind starts to work. It was GREAT today. I told myself that I am a well-trained athlete and I can do the lutz combo (coming next) in my program very well. I can do each element in my program very well. I continued and did the rest of the program clean, but not only was it clean, it was free of hesitation. I know I do lutz. I know I do triple axel (after the lutz). And so on. With each element I gathered more and more strength to do the next because I trusted myself, I believed in myself and I believed I was more than capable. The program ended stronger than it's ended for a long time.

I was bummed about the popped flip in the beginning, but overall, that was the only mistake in the whole program--when you're paying attention to right now, you don't notice the big picture until it's over. You have to climb a mountain one step at a time and before you know it, you'll be at the top. In fact, I got a comment from an ex-Olympian/coach a few minutes later who said, "that was an incredible program. I loved it--gave me goose bumps." In retrospect, there was an aggressive mental shift after my flip. I had to relax my mind and trust that I'm well-trained. I had to believe that I can do the things I do everyday. I had to look only at what came next and not three elements ahead or behind. I managed to flip my mind around and do all of these things. This was a great day!!

I started off the day playing with and looking for what I call indicators... almost like the pieces in a logic puzzle: if this, then that. Example: if I do a clean program today, then next week will be great (or, next week I'll do a clean program in competition). It's a way we all make ourselves feel better by thinking we can predict and control the outcomes of something that has yet to happen. NO! NO! NO! So quickly does this lead us into an emotional vortex of destructive chaos and mental malfeasance, it's crazy. A clean program today is a clean program today and that's it. I can do it every day, but it's a choice, and it doesn't matter what happened yesterday or what I think is going to happen tomorrow. If I want to do a clean program right now, then I can do it. I just take it one element at a time!!!

Also, I am adding, "I am a very well-trained athlete" to my list of reinforcers/reminders/"affirmations."

Thanks for tuning in.



Life is a very different adventure when you believe in yourself!

Now, time for breakfast.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Die, evil-Braden-demon. DIE!!

A little dramatic of a title, I know, but I found out today that I have at least two readers/audience members so I had to spice it up a little--you know, for effect and all.

Hello every-one... it's nice to be back at my computer spouting my thoughts to you once again.

Recap of today:

Surprise, surprise, I was cold. I was cold the whole morning. I was so cold that I was getting shivers down my back and on my stomach and did not only have cold fingers, but had cold hands that seemed to freeze their way up my wrists... and my ankles, feeling brittle and ready to crack with each next step, were so cold I wouldn't have minded cutting them off. The best part of this was that I hadn't even gotten to the rink yet. Ooooohhhh yyyeeaaahhhhhh--the rink was even colder!!!

Today was "Outfit day" (means wear our competition outfits)--in my case I just wore the base for my short program (shirt and pants without any spunk added to it yet--just to see the fit). It was almost and instantaneous conclusion that I needed to remake my pants. *&#&(!!! That didn't thrill me to say the least. Not only that, I had to continue practicing in them for the rest of the session.

Well, having gone almost 50 minutes of my hour session without having done a single jump... and feeling like frosty the snow skater, and being annoyed at my pants, I wasn't excited about doing my short program [especially in a lesson]. I was wearing the outfit... had to do the program. Let's not forget I was also there to train and programs are just what we do. Simple as that. They're what we do.

I did a quick warm-up that went reasonably well. I opened the short with an incredible [if I may say so myself] triple axel only to be followed by a DOUBLE loop; I popped the triple. (Popping and falling are two entirely different things. Not to dwell on it but popping is one of the worst habits one can create--I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE.) Metaphoric deflation starts now. NO IT DOESN"T!!! NO IT DOESN"T!!! NO IT DOESN"T!!! The reality is that the program's not over until it's over. Another reality is that my triple lutz combo, which comes after the loop, has NOTHING to do with my loop. I managed to stay reasonably on my game, enough to go and do a good triple lutz combo. The rest of the program was sort of passe. Knowing that I had made a mistake, I let the little slips and slides of every day skating get in my way during my ending footwork and I missed my toe on my last spin (which is the catalyst for my change of feet). The program was fine. Some good things, some not so good. Overall, the program was fine. Darn that triple loop.

The long was the fun one. Today, I grew again, after having a rough bout with a little demon that lives inside my ever-so-bizarre little head. I tasted destruction for one of the first times in a long while. I started my long program with a shaky [but completed] triple axel, triple loop, triple flip, bad triple lutz attempt (I started thinking, about what doesn't matter in the least, but it took me out of right now and consequently, my lutz was kind of half-baked), then came the big SINGLE AXEL (remember what I said about popping earlier)! A single axel. At this point, I knew I was doing a program again... why keep going? I rarely pop any more... why continue as though there's no problem? If the program's already this bad, why not just start over? I missed the hard jumps, what's the point in doing any of the others? Blah blah blah... get over yourself, Braden!!! I continued doing the program and was very in and out of the moment (compare it to consciousness--in and out of awareness) leading me into some things that were reasonable and some things that were not. The program was BAD. It truly was not what I wanted, not what I "intended", not what I expected, etc. but the part that made it bad was that I let a couple things bother me and didn't recover from it. The lutz was over. The axel was over. What I didn't tell myself that I should've was, "Keep moving. The program is NOT over. Keep moving. Keep going. Keep pushing. Keep trying. Keep skating the way I know how to skate and the way I skate every day. Keep going!" I let my own little demon win the battle with my long. I knew I was doing it over again before I left, why should I have kept putting effort into something that's inevitably going to be redone? Well, that's ridiculous--training is not like carving a stone sculpture and when you mess up you start with a fresh piece of stone, it's repeating the desired behavior over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over (get the point) and over again until it's no longer something that is challenging, new, or difficult. We train in an environment where the result doesn't "matter" so that when it does matter, we have all the practice and experience to pull from (that means the training does actually matter). Let's not get confused here either, the "desired behavior" is not a LANDED lutz or a perfect_____, it's a full-intentioned lutz with a confident and doubtless approach where your body and mind are in the exact positions you want them and put them and when the lutz is over, no matter how well or poorly it went, it's over and you move on to the next thing. That's the desired behavior!!! It's not what happens that matters, it's your attitude about what happens and how you work to make it better, make it what you want! Ah, I was frustrated!

I tried to recollect myself and do my long program again. Does it mean anything to you that the only part of this I remember is falling on my triple sal (which is in the middle of my program) and laying in center ice for a quick moment (don't get the wrong impression, I wasn't throwing a fit) wondering why I wasn't doing anything the way I wanted to? I stopped the program--another BAD habit!!! Again, I speak from experience. I was stupefied... utterly dumbfounded at how poorly one, I was skating and two, I was dealing with it. Who am I? Again, get over yourself, Braden.

Today was about simplicity. I had to sit back for a second, again, and figure out how to productively approach the rest of my practice. I had let too many things in to even figure out what to focus on and what not to. What should I be thinking? How should I do this if I'm so annoyed? CAN I do this if I'm so annoyed? Etc, etc. News flash: it doesn't matter! Just go and do it. Don't think about anything if you don't want to, just go do it. Miserable, not miserable, tired, distracted, sore, irritated... no one cares; it doesn't matter. A jump is still a jump. A program's still a program. It's the same thing I do every day. I start with an axel, then loop, then flip, then lutz, then axel, then sal... and so on; just go do it. So I sat back and decided: I was going to do my program with everything in it. I started with a triple axel combo, then triple loop, then triple flip, then triple lutz combo, then POPPED my second axel (AAAAAAHHHHHHH), 2-3 seconds later I said to myself "keep going, the axel's not what matters. MOVE ON!" I did triple sal, then the double-axel sequence, then triple toe. Overall a GREAT program considering where I was earlier. I went back to place my triple axel with the music and popped. WHAT IS THIS HABIT?? AAAAHHHHHH. Then I popped again. Guess where my attitude was going. I paused for a few moments to recollect myself. "Say it. Do it."--a triple axel is a triple axel and nothing else. I again was making it a hugely difficult task. I had to just go do it. So I did. And for training purposes, I did it again. And then, I did it again cause THAT"S WHAT I DO!!!! I DO TRIPLE AXEL!! It's a fact.

That was today. Woh--difficult day. I let myself down but I didn't give up... I learned from it, I progressed as an athlete, and I grew as a competitor. I'm stronger because of it. Man, sometimes that's hard.

Quick aside: I did a clean short on the second session (after having popped the loop on the first session).

Also, I decided today to add the phrase, "I do triple axels in competition at nationals" to my list of reinforcers ("affirmations")--the things I tell myself repeatedly until I believe them, free of any doubt. Sounds crazy I know... just go with it. Well, my "Enter" key just stopped working again so I'm signing off in this same paragraph. Thanks for reading. Hopefully it didn't put you to sleep, but if it did, you have my permission to use it the next time you can't fall asleep. Tomorrow will be a great finish to the week. Can't wait to give you a report. Until then! Braden

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Hello all... or one... or whomever is reading my bloggings.

My "Enter" key works today and I'm really excited about it!!

Here's a little story. This morning I got up and had to be at the rink early as my schedule was a little different than usual. I was freezing, I was in a good mood but without any drive in my system whatsoever--I would have made the best audience member known to man! It took me almost an entire session just to warm up, which is ridiculous, and I still didn't feel like moving. I was a little distracted, thinking about how today's schedule was different, the business-related conversation I had just finished, the fact that I only had a small cup of juice for breakfast, etc.--mostly non-skating things; none of these thoughts were downers, just non-skating. I was kind of just going through the motions in the hypnotic malaise of the everyday monotony without much focus... doing the "ho-hum" thing. I would say my mind was operating at 80-85% of where it's been recently: focused, determined, unwavering! What does this all mean? NO ONE CARES!! It occurred to me a little later that it was just one of those days; there wasn't the same nationals-buzz in the air... it was just kind of flat... buzz-less, if you will.

I thought it would take an act of congress to do a good program until I told myself, "it's not a choice--that's why I'm here. I do my programs every day and I do them well. Cold, tired, sore (which is better today, by the way), annoyed, unmotivated, etc... doesn't matter; I do great programs every day. Is today one of those 'every days?' Yes. So do your programs. I rotate all my jumps. I land my jumps. I do everything in my program. Etc, etc." Well, I did a short program with a couple very minor mistakes--overall, great job! I then proceeded to the long where I did a great program having only stepped out of my second triple axel. I did two great programs today and wasn't motivated in the least. THAT'S HUGE!!!!!! HUUUUUGGGGEEEE!!!! Hey, look at that--I can do a great program even when I'm not feeling on top of my game. This is the kind of day when mental training pays off; it's the kind of day when you don't feel a hundred percent and still need to operate at a high-performance level. Today was a GREAT day. I grew as an athlete; I grew as a skater; I grew as a person!

Here's to another great day!!


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Head games...

I know it seems as though all I'm writing about is the mental side of things... well, that's on purpose! 99% of the game is mental, friends! (My computer still won't let me use the "Enter" key correctly). Just a quick note about my own little head games. I tend to get very caught up in the oh-so-seductive "what if" cycle that is seemingly life-sucking and never ending. While trying to put myself in a nationals setting yesterday--trying to recreate the anxiety, the waiting, the nervous ticks, the discomforts--I found that many of my hang-ups lie in the "what if... ?" game. What if I skate clean? What if I don't skate well? What if I get a medal? What if I skate right after Evan, or Johnny? What if they don't land their jumps? What if I don't land my axel/lutz/flip... fall on spin... lose my focus... get too nervous... don't have good practices... get sick... trip going down stairs... blah blah blah. SHUT IT ALL OUT!! I have been at a reasonable loss as to how to do that--how do you control thoughts going in and out of your head if they're simply a reaction to where you are, what you're doing, etc.? The answer is to actively say to yourself in your head whatever you'd like to be thinking. When it gets even tougher to shut them out and focus on what you want say them out loud. When that is still difficult, raise your voice. Keep going until you are only focused on what you want and what you want to be thinking. I made the decision yesterday that as soon as I start any kind of "what if... ?" game, I would actively turn it into an, "I do... " game. Instead of "what if I don't do a good program?" it will be [something like] "I do all my jumps"/"I do clean programs"/"I do triple axel"/"I do everything I plan"/"I do great spins" ... I do... I do... I do... and so on. Continuously reminding yourself of the POSITIVE things that YOU have control over; I will continuously remind myself of my strengths. The "What if...?" thoughts are hoopla, instead, "I DO...!!!"

Soreness is my life!!

Here I am again, writing to my anonymous audience... hello all!!

(MY COMPUTER JUST STOPPED LETTING ME USE THE "ENTER" KEY AND I DON'T KNOW HOW TO FIX IT; CONSEQUENTLY THIS WHOLE ENTRY IS ONE PARAGRAPH) I got up this morning with a little bit of a sore groin... more stiff than sore. It was important for me to approach the day without hesitation going into whatever I decided to do. Early on I had made the choice to do everything in my programs and to minimize the exhaustive axel exercises that followed, simply to keep my groin in good working condition. Soreness is expected! Pain is expected! Soreness and pain management are also expected--do whatever necessary to improve while avoiding the unnecessary injury-provoking drills. Funny thing is, a little soreness fades into the background when you choose to focus on something else. I had another great day today, starting off with a clean short followed by a long with a couple small bobbles (nothing big) and a fall on the triple lutz--overall a great program though. The important thing for me to do is avoid my perfectionist tendency to say "if it's not perfect, it's not worth doing" and keep my mind on the idea that the overall trend of my skating is slanted upward; everything has gotten far more consistent, I am more confident, my jumps are more secure, and the overall package is continuing to improve. One or two mistakes on a session or in a program do not make or break anything. MOVE ON, staying focused on whatever you set out to achieve!! Keep pushing; keep pushing; keep pushing!! Tomorrow will be yet another day of the same kind of training, completely independent of what's come before and what's yet to come, but exercising the mind to do exactly what I want when I want to do it. Keep your focus on right now, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today (right now), for it's the only time your mind actually has control of. Yes, my groin is still sore though, I'm still working and it won't get in the way of anything I set my mind to. "Thanks for listening"--Frasier Crane. --Braden

Monday, January 14, 2008


Well well, I am still alive. Despite my absence from my blog all is going very well. A couple quick notes to get out of the way:

1) I hope everyone had a great Holiday Season

2) Happy New Year to everyone

3) For those whom aren't keeping track of the calendar, the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships are taking place next week in St. Paul, MN.

Being that nationals are next week, I'm going to try and keep a daily post until I leave for St. Paul--Tuesday the 22nd; this could be anything from a small thought to a rant or run-down from the day... be warned! I can't promise anything after that as I'm not sure about Internet availability, but I'll see what I can do about keeping up during the actual week of competition.

The last two weeks of training have been about 200% of anything I've done so far this season. This doesn't mean that I've only been skating better, but my head is in the right place. With nationals approaching, it's important to stay on top of the game and not let up. There's very little time for puttsing (sp?) around so it's important to do whatever necessary to stay on track. I've spent some active time writing goals and phrases to tell myself that help keep me operating in a goal-oriented direction. Every day I remind myself of these goals and every day I say these little things. Example: "I'm a great skater." Sounds cocky and ridiculous, I know... but it's all about putting yourself in whatever mindset you need to accomplish your goal. Right now, that's confidence, optimism, and positivity.

Today I did two clean programs--a short and a long--and one short program where I only missed the combination jump. This is a HUGE booster with nationals coming up. The most important aspect of training is to prove to yourself you can do something. Often times, as athletes we sell ourselves short of our actual potential. Even better there are times when we can surprise ourselves with our own capabilities--but you have to stay on your game, even in practice. Don't worry, it only took me about 300 years to learn that... just kidding, but it literally took me about 14 years--that's a lot of time spent practicing and reinforcing habits that don't get you very far. The best part of it all, it's the mental training that's going to pay off!!!!!

I mentioned that one of my programs today was not clean. This was the first one I did. I specifically noted the point in my program where my mind lost track and rather than focusing on what I was doing, putting myself if the best position for my next element, or staying "present" (in the moment), I was thinking.... "oh my god, this is almost a perfect program--don't screw it up.... woh, you did your [triple] axel and loop--only one more and this will be clean... just keep yourself together, the axel was good, the loop was good, hopefully the lutz will be good... ah, if only I can do this lutz, this will be the best program I've done... BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!! That's ALL wrong. What's already happened is over--don't let it into your head; landed or not landed, jumps that you've already done are independent of the next and the next and the next. Each jump deserves it's own approach completely free of any baggage from the previous. It's fun to get pumped, but you can't back off thinking you'll save yourself. Stay aggressive. Keep yourself in attack mode and any peripheral nonsense can be shut out--DON"T LET IT IN!!! They're YOUR thoughts, make them what you want. Not 10 minutes later I was doing my short program again. Landed triple axel. Landed triple loop. Landed triple lutz double toe. That was that. I was not thinking ahead of myself and I was not thinking about what just happened. I keep it in my head and as I go I remind myself, "this is triple axel; I do triple axel... this is triple loop; I do triple loop... this is triple lutz double toe; I do triple lutz double toe. Each element is free of judgement, free of doubt and consequently executed the way I know how to do them.

Even now, sometimes I have a tendency to let up after a really good day, thinking to myself, "it's in the bag!" In reality it's not over 'til it's OVER. Yes today was great, but I have four more days this week, and nationals next week; no one cares about today. Tomorrow I will go to the rink do what I do every day the same way I did today. I will have no regard for what happened the previous day, how well it went or how badly it went; I will also be free of forecasts--an axel, loop and lutz combo today don't mean anything for tomorrow or next week; I will take each jump at a time, independent of the others until all jumps in my program are completed. It's important [for me] to avoid the spikes--the highs and lows that come with an emotional reaction to an accomplishment or failure. Nationals is next week. The best I can do is rehearse EVERY DAY the way I want to perform next week. Am I capable of a clean program? YES!! Any other problems I have are roadblocks I set up for myself! I will continue to free myself of any unnecessary nonsense that seems to creep into my head at inopportune times and I will continue to train my mind until it's no longer a task... until it's second nature.

Hope everyone's well. Until tomorrow,