5 Questions With: Spencer O’Brien

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Photo credit:  Peter Maxwell Morning

As a kid, I always dreamed of going to the Olympic Games. How special must it be to represent your country and compete against the top athletes in the world? Spencer O’Brien made her Olympic debut last year in Sochi, Russia where she represented Canada in the slopestyle discipline and placed 12th overall. Watching her compete at both the Olympics and also the Winter X Games, I’ve always been impressed by her calm and laid back attitude. She always seemed like such a positive and cool competitor. Last weekend, I had the privilege of meeting and working out with Spencer during the Nike Women 15k race weekend in Toronto. I must say, she is just as amazing in person! Spencer will be heading to the Southern Hemisphere to resume training later this summer. Her next goal: learning a 1080, 3 full rotations! Couldn’t be more stoked that she took a few minutes to chat with me last weekend. Hope you’ll enjoy my 5 Questions With Spencer O’Brien:

1) What first got you into snowboarding?

I’m from Vancouver Island originally so we grew up in a town that’s close to Mount Washington, which is the only resort on the island. We just started skiing as a family, so it was something to do with my family on the weekends. I eventually had the choice to continue skiing or start snowboarding, so I followed in my sister’s footsteps and took up snowboarding. 

2) How much have you seen the sport evolve and grow since you started snowboarding? How much has the sport changed for women?

It’s been so incredible. There’s been so much evolution in women in sports in general in the last ten or fifteen years but to have been in such a young sport like snowboarding with such different dynamics than a traditional sport, it’s been incredible to see that progression. It’s an entirely different world from when I started and to see the women coming up now who are just pushing it so hard, it’s really incredible. It keeps me so interested in my sport because there’s always something new to try or something new to progress towards. I know wherever I take the sport, it’s going to get taken so much further by the women after me. That’s a really exciting thing.

3) There are so many incredible Canadian female snowboarders and skiers competing in slopestyle and halfpipe, how does that push you as an athlete?

It’s so cool, especially in these action sports where there aren’t as many women participating yet, you really find liaisons in other sports. So I’m really close to a lot of the female skiers and I find so much inspiration in what they’re doing. They’re maybe not doing the exact same sport as me but their goals are the same. They want to progress the sport and want to take it as far as they can. It’s definitely nice being a Canadian athlete and having so many women to look up to. 

4) You went to your first Olympics in Sochi last year. You’re currently training to hopefully head back to the Olympics in South Korea in 2018. What do you want to do differently this time around?

The Sochi games were definitely trying for me, it didn’t go my way. It was such a unique experience. You do so much prep for it, trying to prepare for your first games but there’s really nothing like it. I learned so much from that experience and I feel a lot stronger for it. I’m really looking forward to just relaxing a little bit more in Korea and making it my own. I think just not looking to everyone else’s expectations as much and just doing it on my own terms. I’m really excited at a second shot at the games so hopefully I’m going to be representing Canada there. 

5) Through snowboarding, you’ve had the chance to travel the world, what are some of the most memorable places you’ve visited thus far?

Japan was incredible, I loved snowboarding in Japan. The people and the culture there are so wonderful. I’m a really big fan of Europe. The Swiss Alps are some of my favorite places to ride. But also at home in Canada, I love Whistler. I’m such a BC girl, it’s always closest to my heart. 

 

Road to Nike Women’s 15k – Week 10

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Week recap:

It took me a while to get around to writing this recap because it took a while for all the emotions from this past week to sink in. Race week was one heck of a week for me! Not only was I incredibly busy with all sorts of events and fun things, but race week also made me feel all sorts of emotions ranging from excitement to anticipation, nervousness, joy, fear, etc. I was particularly nervous because it was my first 15k race experience and after the 10 weeks of intensive training I had just accomplished, I didn’t want to let anyone down. I was fortunate enough to be given all the tools and support necessary from the amazing team at Nike (info on nutrition, hydration, stretching, coaching, etc.) so I really wanted to make everyone proud.

Race weekend really got underway on Thursday. We were lucky to get a media preview of the amazing facilities that Nike Women had put together at Harbourfront Centre. It was incredible to not only see all the latest Nike gear but also meet all the incredible Nike Master Trainers from across North America. We even got to do a special workout with them prior to all the NTC classes starting on the Crystal Coliseum, a floating barge in lake Ontario. That was super fun!

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On Friday, I took an incredibly fun yoga class in the afternoon with Joselynne Boschen, a Nike Master Trainer from Los Angeles and also got to check into the luxurious Trump Hotel for the weekend. I took it upon myself to make the most of it by spending their dreamy pool, hot tub and their gorgeous room!

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Saturday started off with an early morning NTC class with my two partners in crime; Meghan and Chloe. We followed that up with a very inspiring special media shake-out run led by NYC run club coach – Coach Bennett and triathlete Paula Findlay. We also got the yummiest post-run brunch at the Trump Hotel, where we had the privilege of meeting some of the Nike athletes that were in town for the weekend, including Ironman triathlete and Paralympian Sarah Reinersten, Olympic snowboarder Spencer O’Brien and also one of the top female surfers in the world – Lakey Peterson. I couldn’t have been more stoked to meet her, having been following her surfing career for the past couple of years. I had to take a pic and throw shakas with her! I finished off my day Saturday with the women in sports panel, a panel featuring some of the amazing athletes that were present during the weekend. It’s so neat to hear women that excel in sports talk about the career and their journey.

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Photo credit: Nathalia Allen

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Photo credit: Jess Baumung

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I was so incredibly nervous when I woke up on Sunday but seeing the crew of ladies I had been training with undoubtedly helped calm some nerves. We didn’t get the sunniest race but we did get some cool weather, which was definitely appreciated. All in all, the actual race itself was such an amazing experience. One of my race highlights: running on the airport tarmac and seeing the city of Toronto behind me. What a thrill!

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How I’m feeling:

Physically, I felt pretty good all week and on race day. After all this training, I was happy that my body didn’t give up on me the day of the race. I am giving my body a little bit of a break this week but the break won’t last too long because I have already signed up for another race. My fiancé and I will be doing the Spartan Race on July 18th, which is exactly 1 month away! Mentally and emotionally, I can honestly say that this training journey and the race itself, is something I will always remember. It’s had a profound impact on me and I’m already thinking of what’s next…

What I learned:

There’s no greater feeling than the feeling you get when you cross the finish line. As cliché as it sounds, it’s so true! The last two kilometers of the race on Sunday were the hardest. I pushed myself on the last few minutes of the race to have an even better time at the finish line but I started feeling a little shortness of breath as I was running towards the end. However, seeing all those people cheering as I turned the corner towards the finish line filled me up with joy. I think my face in the photo below says it all. I was elated when I crossed that finish line. My eyes even started swelling up, I became completely overcome with all sorts of emotion. I felt proud, excited, accomplished and most of all happy!

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The finish line is only the beginning. After training intensively for 10 weeks, I’ve realized that crossing that finish line on Sunday was only the beginning. The beginning of what? I’m not entirely sure yet. The thing I am sure of is that it’s the beginning of a healthier me, the beginning of a more confident me. I doubted myself a lot on this training journey but crossing the that finish line on Sunday proved to me that I am capable of a lot more than I once imagined. Will there be more runs in the future? Most definitely!

Thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to read my training recaps every week. Thanks to all of those who encouraged me along the way (special thanks to Offner!) Thank you for being on this journey with me. I hope your training journey was just as rewarding and positive as mine! Last but not least, a big thank you to the entire Nike Toronto and High Road team that made this journey extra special and memorable. I couldn’t have done it without your support!