Q&A with Sugar Todd
What’s your family like?
My dad was a firefighter for the city of Omaha. My mom was a mom and did whatever jobs came her way that piqued her interest. They are now retired and live in an RV full time, travelling and staying wherever they like for however long feels right. They are currently camp hosts on a campground at Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border and plan to stay there through the season. They have spent most of their RV-ing time in Mexico and love it there.
I have one older brother, Mikie, who lives in Omaha and works for the Nebraska Humane Society as a dog trainer. I think we are equally jealous of each other's lives. Most of my family still lives in Nebraska. My dad's side of the family are farmers hailing from Union, Nebraska. The only exception to my Nebraska-bound ilk are my rad aunt and uncle - Jane and Bob - who live in Kauai. Their support of my speed skating dreams is second only to my parents.
How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?
My parents have been my number one fans from day one. They have always been supportive and never forced me to go to practice. When I was nine, I convinced them to move from Omaha to Milwaukee so I could train at the Pettit National Ice Center. My mom made the move with me full-time while my dad continued to work as a firefighter in Omaha. He would work 24-hour shifts, every other day, for ten days - and then have six straight days off. For those six days, he would drive from Omaha to Milwaukee to stay with my Mom and me. We lived with that routine from the day we moved until after I graduated high school.
My parents, to this day, still help support me financially. They keep putting things in their lives on hold so I don't have to worry about paying rent. It is because of how much they have sacrificed and how, without question, they continue to underwrite my Olympic dreams, that I put “ MOM+DAD ” on my skinsuit in my primary personal sponsor spot. As far as I'm concerned, they have paid for that logo a million times over.
Do you have another full-time job or business?
Unofficially, I bake and sell biscotti to raise funds for myself. I love to cook/bake and one day I was at home thinking about how biscotti sounded really good right about now. I found a recipe and cranked out a batch. After they came out of the oven and I took a few Instagram-worthy photos, it dawned on me that I could try to sell these in an effort to raise money for myself. It is not a business by any means, but it has proven mildly profitable. And people seem to like them enough to come back for more.
Do you have any pets?
I don't have any pets and the fact that I travel too much to have a dog is a sore subject.
In your hometown, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?
SALT LAKE CITY: Coffee and one of everything at the Rose Establishment, hiking in the hills above the Aves, Mount Olympus, Saturday farmer's markets in Pioneer Park, wandering Cactus & Tropicals and flirting with all the plants I'd like to take home with me
MILWAUKEE: Custard from Gilles, snacks from the Riverwest Co-op, seeing live local music, Milwaukee Public Market (I use to work at the Green Kitchen—get a ginger shot!), sitting on the hill at Kilbourne Reservoir Park and looking at the city/lake
OMAHA: Henry Doorly zoo, slides in the Gene Leahy Mall in downtown Omaha (bring wax paper!), beef jerky from the Murray Meat Locker was my favorite but it has since closed, so go to Jerky Factory in Plattsmouth!
What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?
7 a.m. I sleep 8-9 hours each night and I am a big fan of naps, especially power naps. My teammates joke about how good at sleeping I am. I can and will sleep anywhere when I'm tired and I can fall asleep surprisingly fast.
How much time do you spend training each day?
What’s your typical training day/schedule?
A typical day varies depending on where in the year we are. From May-October is when we do the most volume in order to build a strong base for our competitive season. A typical day during this time looks like this:
Wake up at 6 am. Make breakfast, make coffee, water plants, pack a lunch, pack all necessary gear for the day. Leave at 7 am. Drive to the Utah Olympic Oval. Arrive by 7:30 am. Drop bag and lunch in locker room, put on heart rate monitor, pull up a playlist, throw on headphones. Begin warming up by 7:45 am with TRX, 10-15 minute spin, core, and dynamic exercises. Give yourself at least ten minutes to wrestle your sweaty body into your skinsuit.
On ice at 9 am. Slam a gel. Warm-up on ice until 9:20 am when the team groups up. Coach goes over the workout, brings it in for a U-S-A on 3. Begin speed skating intervals. Eat a Cliff bar. Finish speed skating intervals.
Off ice around 11:15 am. Cool down on the bike for 10 minutes. Pop into the weight room for 15 minutes to run through pre-hab exercises. Grab part of packed lunch and head to the training room to see Fikre, your physio, for ice or cupping or stim or general re-hab. Head back to the locker room to finish lunch on the couch with legs up. Crank out a power nap.
Wander up to the US Speedskating offices to chit chat with random staff. Begin warming up for weights at 1:30 pm with more TRX and a 10-15 minute spin. Slam a gel. Pump iron until 3:30pm. Eat a Cliff bar. Race back to the locker room to grab your hockey skates and head to the ice for bandy. Play your heart out because it's your favorite workout until 4:15pm. Collapse in the training room, tell Fikre you're ready for your treatment and you think you'll just sleep here on this table tonight. Eat the Cliff bar with the most protein. Take an ice bath.
Waddle out of the Utah Olympic Oval by 5 pm. Realize you're still wearing your heart rate monitor. Drive home. Probably stop at the grocery store, the one you're sponsored by. Arrive home by 6 pm. Make popcorn on the stove because you're too lazy to make dinner. Eat popcorn on the couch and watch Netflix. Make dinner. Eat dinner on the couch and watch Netflix. Maybe take a shower. Maybe don't. Take your vitamins. Go to bed.
How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
By staying focused and positive. I realize what an incredible life I am currently living and I am determined to make the most out of every day.
What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?
Bandy [a hockey-like sport]. We play bandy during the summer as cross training and it is hands down my favorite workout. But also cycling. I do love a good, hard bike ride.
What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?
Cycling 200+ miles over three days in southern Utah at the end of June. It was a little hot.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
How many different types of training we do for speed skating - cycling, running, inlining, weightlifting, slideboard, hockey, swimming, aqua jogging, dryland. Also, people are always surprised to hear that I
don't have any dietary restrictions. I really do eat whatever I want.
Have you ever been seriously injured? What did it take for you to come back from that injury?
I had my right knee scoped in June 2016. It was from overuse. Turns out my body didn't totally love being in a speed skating position for eighteen years. It took a lot of patience to get through the 2016-17 season. I am still working on rehabbing it, but I can skate on it. And like coach always says... if we can skate, we can win.
What does a typical day of eating look like during training?
Just eat everything. Eat everything to stay ahead of the calorie deficit.
If you are to indulge, what's your go-to snack?
When I crave dessert and am feeling creative, I find a recipe and make it. When I crave dessert and am feeling lazy, I go to the store and get mint chocolate chip or salted caramel ice cream.
What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing skating?
I honestly don't remember first trying speed skating, but I remember wanting to be the fastest speed skater in the world.
What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?
This is a memory I have because my mom has told it to me over and over. When I was a little girl, I saw speed skating on TV during the Olympics and said, “Mommy, I have legs like those girls do.”
What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see?
Our skinsuits are so tight, they have a tendency to munch on our nether regions.
Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?
Matt Kooreman has been my coach since 2014. We have a great relationship. He is quiet most the time, but don't let that fool you. Under all that shaggy hair and beard is the strongest will to win and a knack for comedic timing.
Who do you socialize with most within your sport or any sport?
My teammates. I am fortunate to have an amazing team that is like a family. When we travel for World Cups, I also get a chance to hang out with my skating friends from other countries. It's the only time I get to see a lot of them.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Your mind will give up before your body.
What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?
It seems easy now, but I think it was hard all those years to stick with this sport, believing in myself but not knowing if that was enough to accomplish my dreams.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
When I was little and didn't want to wake up early on Saturdays for time trials, I would fantasize that a meteor would crash into the building and races would definitely be cancelled. That’s not really a fear, but it is a funny story.
Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?
When I was little, I idolized Bonnie Blair—for obvious reasons (oh hi five gold medals and a bonus bronze). She is a boss. And now I have her phone number and we're friends and she texts me. Dreams do come true.
What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in speed skating?
Focus on your technique. I developed bad habits that I am to this day trying to overcome. It doesn't matter how strong you are. If you can't put your power into the ice, you can't skate fast.
Who is your most interesting teammate?
Paige Schwartzburg. I'm glad speed skating made us friends. We are so different and our paths would not have crossed in life otherwise. I don't know what specifically makes her interesting. Meet her and find out for yourself.
Have you become close friends with any competitors from other countries?
One of my closest friends is a speed skater from Canada, Kaylin Irvine. We both started skating at a young age and have probably been racing each other since we were 12. But we didn't become good friends until after we had a heart-to-heart sitting outside a closed gas station in Inzell, Germany after a World Cup.
What was the best part of living in the Athletes’ Village during the Games?
Being able to interact with not only athletes from all over the world, but other American athletes. It is so rare for our paths to ever cross, it takes going all the way to the Olympics to meet other members of Team USA.
Did anyone ever tell you that you wouldn’t be able to succeed in your sport? How were you able to overcome that?
Dang, dude. That is harsh. If they did, I didn't hear them.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I can whistle with better pitch than I can sing.
Do you have any tattoos?
1. Peace sign on inner wrist was my first tattoo. Me and Savannah Camplin both got them when we were 18. We're really into peace, obviously.
2. Small house above the crook of my elbow. It is a stick and poke that my friend gave me. it represents a house I lived in in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee. Each of my friends/roommates that lived there has one somewhere on their body. Our roommate, Colin, gave them to us.
3. Small triangle on inside of left foot. represents the number three which is for me and two of my friends.
4. Text on my ribs that says “to wild homes” - it's a line from a song by the New Pornographers that goes “to wild homes we go, to wild homes we return.” It's a phrase a friend of mine and I would utter to each other in times of big life change. I've moved a lot in my life, averaging maybe two years per home. I've always embraced that and now home is wherever I go.
5. The Olympic rings on the outside of my right foot. Had it done while I was in Greece because that seemed perfect. It didn't heal right, though, and now half the rings are barely there. Definitely needs a touch up.
Do you collect anything?
I wouldn't say it's a collection in the sense I curated it, but I recently realized I currently have 17 different types of flour in my kitchen. You could say I really like baking.
What charities do you support? How did you become involved?
I am an athlete mentor for Classroom Champions. A friend of mine recommended me and after speaking with the organization's athlete coordinator, I was so in. The 2016-17 school year was my first year and I have already agreed to come back for the 2017-2018 school year. Kids have what it takes!
If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?
Getting paid to travel, explore, eat, and talk about it. That's a real job some people do. I need to find my way into that.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
Early morning romp through the mountains, day beers and hanging with friends while cooking a massive feast, throw in a dance party, and still be in bed by 10pm.
How do you unwind after a competition?
Face-plant back into bed.
Do you have any fears?
Centipedes are disgusting.
Do you like to travel? What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?
I love to travel. I'll go anywhere once. I felt pretty emotional visiting the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens this past April. I love the Olympic Games and everything the Olympic movement stands for so much, and I've spent my life pursuing and upholding those ideals. I would love the chance to visit the ancient Olympic sites in Olympia some day.
What's something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?
I've been dyeing the front of my hair blonde since I was 9 years old. My mom said we should do something fun and different with my hair after our big move to Wisconsin and evidently I begged her for a ”racing stripe.” I've had it ever since. A lot of people assume it's natural because they've never known me without it.
What are some of your hobbies?
Hiking/camping and road tripping to get there. I try to hike and camp as much as my demanding training schedule allows. I have grown to love doing these things by myself, but I always welcome any buddies who are down to play. I am good at banging out long drives and once the idea of a place gets planted in my head, it's going to happen. Driving is a great time to listen to podcasts (I'm looking at you 2 Dope Queens and Radiolab) or work on my karaoke pipes. I love hiking because you can walk anywhere if you want to. You can walk to the top of that mountain or the bottom of that canyon or across all those state lines or right to a greasy burger joint. And I love sleeping outside.
Reading cookbooks like books. I will read a cookbook, ingredient lists and all, cover to cover as if it's a novel. I'll also read recipes online in their entirety even if I have no intention of making it. I don't know why I enjoy that so much.
Do you have any celebrity crushes?
It's not a love crush, but a friend crush. I would love to hang out with Aziz Ansari and eat our way through a city. That guy loves to snack.
Outside of training for your sport, what physical routine makes you feel your best?
Doing anything active first thing in the morning. It sets the whole day in motion.
What are five must-have items you always keep in your gym bag?
Buff, training journal, sunscreen, Chapstick, snacks.
Have you been to South Korea before? What are you most looking forward to about the Games being hosted in South Korea?
I've been to South Korea twice. My first time was to Seoul. I took the subway all over the city and went coffee-hopping to third wave coffee shops. I hit five different cafes. Fritz Coffee Company was my favorite, tell BK I say hi.
The second time was to Gangneung which was also awesome. I think they are going to host an incredible Games.
I love South Korea. I love fermented foods so I fit right in.
Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?
YES. Yes to all.
Have you ever done karaoke? What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Oh oh oh, yes. “Say My Name” by Destiny's Child. I'm not the best singer but I will work the heck out of a karaoke audience. You just have to sell it.
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?
Bringing home the gold, baby.
Will you head home for the holidays prior to the Games? What do you most look forward to? If not, where will you celebrate and with whom?
Speed skating has kind of deprived me of any sort of holiday traditions my entire life. I've learned to celebrate the holidays with my team, who really are like family at this point.
What’s on your Christmas or holiday list this year?
I don't know, but I know I'm never doing Secret Santa with my teammates again since I'm still waiting on my present from Joey Mantia from like three years ago.