I often think of skating as synonymous with having a bank account. It’s a special kind of bank account though, because not only do I own the bank but am also its one and only client, responsible for its one and only account. I like to think of it as Kristina Groves Financial Services Inc. Skating is like having a bank account in many ways; like when I train it’s as if I am making a deposit; every session is money in the bank. When I race I make a withdrawal and take out some of the money I have worked so hard to put in.
The thing with this bank account, as it is with any bank account, is that it is not as simple as just depositing and withdrawing money. Many other factors come into play throughout the fiscal year. For example, when traveling to other countries I have to deal in different currencies that don’t always balance out in value with the Canadian dollar. A race that costs me say, a thousand dollars in Canada, may end up being worth a thousand Euros in Germany.
This makes for trouble balancing the books. Also, my bankcard doesn’t always work in other countries, so sometimes I can’t take any money out at all! If I get sick at some point throughout the season there’s the issue of whether or not the illness (and the rest that comes with it) lets me make a deposit or whether it takes a bigger toll on the body and makes me take money out instead, leaving me with a potential deficit.
Then there is the task of determining interest rates and service fees. The more training I do, the greater the principle and thus the interest. I am also rewarded with a higher interest rate if the balance of my account is kept above a certain amount. I have to pay service fees for things like withdrawals at other banks as well as transfers (i.e. taking money out on a weight session to use for a test in the lab).
The trickiest part is knowing how much I have put in and if and when it’s okay to try and make a withdrawal. If I take it out too early there won’t be enough to see me through the whole season, but if I wait too long I end up with a surplus at the end of the year, which leads to not realizing one’s full potential! If everything goes smoothly, I end up with a balance of zero dollars and zero cents at the end of the year, give or take a few.
This year has been an interesting one for me. I tried to make a big withdrawal at the World All Round Championships in Hamar, but came up a bit short. At first it seemed like my account was empty, but after going back and reviewing my monthly statements it became apparent that there was some unusual activity during December and January that led the CEO to put a hold on my account. Unfortunately the CEO (me) did not inform it’s only client (me) that this was the case and for several weeks I kept trying to make withdrawals, but insufficient funds were available. I skated the longest string of bad races I can remember.
In retrospect, I couldn’t be happier that I made such a good financial decision without informing myself. Because of it I have learned one very important lesson: you cannot force the bank to let you make a withdrawal – that would be like robbing the bank! And you cannot expect to get the exact amount you request – that would be like asking the teller to count it as you rob her! However, the bank is more than happy to let you make a withdrawal if you fill out the right forms and go through the wicket like every one else, and if you let the amount you require dictate itself at the exact moment you need it. Translation: forcing a race never works, you have to let yourself feel what you’re feeling and race accordingly, an invaluable lesson.
Two weekends ago I competed in the World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships in Seoul, South Korea. The currency in South Korea is Won, where ten dollars Canadian is worth about eight thousand Won. My bank worked very hard to balance the books and make sure that all withdrawals and transfers were done in the right currency. After battling a few problems at the head office (head cold and jet lag), the time came to race.
In the 3000m I approached the teller with a blank withdrawal slip. When the gun went off it became clear to me how much I was able to take out and how much I would need to finish. I skated the fastest first lap of the competition, 31.6; it came easy but at a high price. By lap seven I was shaking the piggy bank out for the last few coins. My lap time dropped off quite a bit, but it didn’t matter. I ended up in 6th place, just 3.5 seconds from first; the smallest gap ever. Considering the race I had in Hamar, I couldn’t be happier. I created the race instead of forcing it. I stood in line at the bank instead of robbing it.
The 5000m the next day was the last race of the season. I was paired with my American teammate and nemesis Catherine Raney. We have battled back and forth many a time this season and we both knew it would be a fight right to the end. We were dead even every lap. By lap 6 I found that I could no longer see. I had tears streaming down my face from the dryness and felt a pain in my legs that left me strangely numb. I was working my way down to the last few pennies in my account. Miraculously I finished the race and from what I heard it wasn’t pretty! In a dramatic sprint to the finish Catherine edged me out at the line to win our pair by a few hundredths. I was a fair distance off the winner, my teammate Clara, and even though I ended up 8th,I was satisfied with myself, and my effort. I had cleared the account.
Well, okay, I left a few bucks in the tank to whoop it up that night at the year end party, but who’s counting?!