Last winter, SNOWED-IN introduced you to a zealous young woman named Megan Farrell, whose Olympic aspirations in the field of alpine snowboard racing were taking her in a direction that most people in their early twenties never even set their sights on. Four-time Olympic Gold medalist Jesse Owens once said, “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”
Ms. Farrell knows a thing or two about determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.
Over the course of the past year, Farrell came to realize that she had the ability to start strong in competitions but didn’t always maintain the focus necessary to come out with an overall win. She began working with different sports psychologists with the goal of getting herself to a new level of mental proficiency and competitive demeanor. After suffering a concussion last January, Farrell was able to regroup and come back with a new level of ambition. “I broke down the pieces in my training and identified what I need to be successful,” stated Farrell. “I was able to come back and win 8 NorAm races back-to-back to grab the overall NorAm Cup title. This showed great improvement from the previous year where I typically would qualify first but failed to maintain the intensity and concentration required to win the race.”
The NorAm Cup title put Megan in a good position heading into the 2016-17 competitive circuit, which is essentially the preseason to her overall goal of making the 2018 Winter Olympics. According to Farrell, this season “shows the selection committee what you are capable of. In terms of the selection process, this season is all about results and next season is showing that those results can be consistent. The official Olympic Team will not be announced until the January or February of the Olympic year (one month prior to competition).”
Based on how strongly she ended last season, consistency is key from here on out.
With that in mind, Farrell went into her offseason training with an entirely new level of resolve. She treated training like it was her job because, let’s face it, it was. The month of August was spent in Santiago, Chile training and conditioning herself with her former national team coach at El Colorado (www.elcolorado.cl/) - a popular training destination for many different national teams. There, she and some of her teammates took part in a camp that focused on high volume on-snow training. Training in South America, where it was winter during that time period, allowed Farrell and her teammates to be on snow that was more consistent with what they would actually experience during their actual race circuit. Since alpine snowboarding requires a firm, hard snow surface, it is very difficult to train in North America during the off season because the snow at the areas that do manage to keep snow into the summer ends up becoming very slushy as the day progresses.
In Chile however, that is not an issue.
Farrell’s time in Chile was also important from the standpoint of being able to continue to test her equipment and make the necessary fine-tune adjustments that ultimately become the difference between winning and losing races. Additionally, as Farrell put it, “It is difficult to get so many hours of on-snow training in-season because you are battling fatigue and it is important to maintain high energy levels for race day. This season, there are World Cups scheduled approximately every two weeks from December until April. This means that I have to stay at the top of my game for 5 months.”
Training isn’t Farrell’s only job though. Training to be an Olympic athlete takes money and a lot of the expenses fall directly on Farrell. In May she began working with a company called Bothwell-Accurate as an Environmental Consultant. Last April she graduated with a BScH in Environmental Science from Queen’s University, and having had a prior relationship with Bothwell-Accurate, the company brought her on with the understanding that they would help support her in her 2018 Olympic aspirations.
Farrell also has an impressive list of sponsors who are helping her pursue her dream. On top of the support she gets from Bothwell-Accurate, Farrell passionately lists her sponsors as: “Kenmark Snowsports, Apollo Colours, Expressions Dental Care, Anytime Fitness at Yonge and Elgin Mills as well as team Mom & Dad. On top of this, I have launched a crowdfunding campaign for the past two years where I have received an outpouring of support from friends, family, and new fans who have all made a significant impact on my journey.”
Next up for Farrell is a trip to the Yukon for more training. This time she will be with the new Canadian National Team coach, Jan Wengelin and it will be the first official training camp for the upcoming season. “The camp spans from November 11-22,” Farrell said. “The main focus is again on volume and consistency in riding to build a good base heading into the first World Cup in December. Our days at the Yukon will consist of on-snow training from 9-3 followed by mental training (goal setting) tuning our equipment, off-snow training (workouts and maintenance) all of which make sure that our time on snow is maximized in efficiency. Thinking of a training day, we spend a majority of the time on chairlifts or waiting to go down the course. This means that we have to make sure every run, every turn, every second is focused. This will be my first time training in the Yukon which is exciting. One of the things that I love about being a professional snowboarder is that I get to travel to all of these new places and embrace new cultures that I would not have otherwise experienced.”
That ability to experience and embrace new cultures will continue after Farrell leaves the Yukon. From there Farrell will get to go to one of her favorite places to compete - Italy, where she will begin the new World Cup season.
“Last season, we spent a majority of December training in Italy to prepare for the first World Cups in Carezza and Cortina,” Farrell reminisced. “This year will be similar. We head out on the 5th of December and train at Hockfuegen, Italy followed by the World Cups in Carezza and Cortina on the 15th and 17th. Training in Italy during December is awesome for a number of reasons: 1) it’s the first World Cup of the season so it’s filled with excitement, 2) the slope of Carezza is steep and the snow is firm, ideal for racing! and 3) the hills are surrounded by the Dolomites, which are breathtaking.”
There is no doubt that Megan Farrell has a lot on the line this season. How she competes this winter will have a tremendous impact on whether or not she is able to chase her 2018 Olympic dreams. The pressure is immense but she is up for the task.
“When goal setting, I try to avoid result based criteria since there are too many factors involved in which I cannot control,” Farrell said. “Instead, I focus on making sure I go into a race feeling confident so that I can execute my plan. I work to break down what I need to make me feel confident on the day of each race. This can mean confidence in my tuning skills, knowing what line I want to take in the course, and feeling comfortable in the high intensity environment at the top of the race course including the warm-up and pre-run rituals. This season, there is a lot of pressure building on results for criteria towards the next Olympics. For me, focusing on the process and making sure that I am getting everything I can out of every training and race day that I can - that is what I can control and what I can improve.”
As Farrell continues to chase her dream - a dream that most people never even entertain - she does so knowing that she has the support of her family and friends. She knows that there will be obstacles to overcome and that all she can do is control the things that she has power over.
Or as Megan says, “My goal for the season is to finish without regret, knowing that I did everything I can.”