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In it to Brynne it: McIsaac blogs from JGP Russia

Skater chronicles experiences from second career JGP competition
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Brynne McIsaac (left) hangs out with teammates Joseph Goodpaster and Sarah Rose in Saransk, Russia. -courtesy of Brynne McIsaac

Team USA's Brynne McIsaac competed at the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) event in Saransk, Russia. She kept a blog for icenetwork.

Saturday, Sept. 17

Last night, I fell asleep at 7 p.m., so my sleep schedule was thrown off. I got to sleep in until 8 a.m., however, so I felt well rested for my free skate.

My practice was very good, and I was really excited to compete. Although I did not skate my best technically, I genuinely had a lot of fun performing my program. There is just an indescribable feeling, a thrill, a joy, in skating your heart out with nothing left to lose.

After I competed, I stayed to cheer on our team at the awards ceremony. I am so happy for Christina [Carreira] and Anthony [Ponomarenko] for their silver in dance, and for Andrew [Torgashev] for his silver in men's.

Later in the evening, we all met up for our final team dinner. We exchanged gifts, thanked Ms. Lori Dunn, Mr. Rick Perez and Dr. Stuart Sanders for all of their support throughout this past week. All the skaters were able to talk and joke together over some delicious food. We even stayed up late into the night, despite having shuttles to the airport starting at 3 a.m.!

I am so sad to be leaving Saransk behind, and I wish everyone the best of luck as we go our separate ways. 

Friday, Sept. 16

Today, I actually did need to wake up early: I had the very first practice of the morning, at 7:30 am. I then rushed back to the hotel to put on my makeup and headpiece for the competition. Overall, I am satisfied with the way I competed, but I know there is always room for improvement. 

Immediately after the conclusion of the short program, we hurried to the draw. I will be skating 20th in the free skate. There is a new system for selecting start orders. In the past, the skaters who ranked 1-6 drew to start in the last warmup. Now, if there are 28 skaters, the top three after the short program will draw for start orders 26-28. Places 4-6 will then draw for 22-24, and so forth until the 12th skater (two warmup groups). 

After the draw, I walked around the block to a shopping center. I was looking for some unique souvenirs for my family and friends. Luckily, I stumbled across a cute shop packed with small trinkets and collectables. They even had a few skating-related items! 

Shortly after I got back to the hotel, I fell asleep. I was very surprised that I was so tired; perhaps the cold, dreary weather helped lull me to sleep.

Although I am sad tomorrow is our last day in Saransk, I am excited to perform my free skate! 

Thursday, Sept. 15

Once again, I woke up to the sun shining through my window at 5:30 a.m. I even tried staying awake late last night to ensure that I would sleep in a bit longer. Luckily, I was able to fall back asleep until 8. I went downstairs to have a leisurely breakfast with some green tea (*yay!*) and had a lovely conversation with Mrs. Lynn Sanders, the team doctor's wife. 

I was hoping I would get to explore Saransk today, but it was very cold and rainy, so that didn't happen.

My morning practice was very good; I skated my free skate and was excited to compete Friday morning! 

I returned to the rink later to cheer on my teammates. Christina [Carreira] and Anthony [Ponomarenko] competed midday, so I was able to watch shortly after my practice. The pairs teams -- Nica [Digerness] and Danny [Neudecker], and Sarah [Rose] and Joseph [Goodpaster] -- skated in the early afternoon. Everyone's programs were so enjoyable to watch; they all seemed so happy to be out on the ice. 

The men did not compete until later in the evening, so I returned to the hotel to eat dinner with Sarah and Joe. All three of us then watched Eric [Sjoberg] and Andrew [Torgashev] compete via the live stream on YouTube. 

I was actually quite sad that the day had come to an end. Although it seemed fairly short, my third day in Saransk was just as exciting as the first two!


Wednesday, Sept. 14

This morning, I awoke to the sun shining through the sheer curtains, energized and ready to begin my day of practice! There was only one issue: It was 5:30 a.m.! I did not have an early practice ice. My body just decided that it was time to get up. I did manage to fall back asleep, but it sure was strange to wake up so early after being so exhausted from traveling all day.

I enjoyed the breakfast served at the athlete's hotel. I had a piece of an egg omelette, some sausage and a piece of toast. I usually have tea in the mornings -- I am not really a coffee drinker -- but I was concerned about consuming the water, so I decided to wait until I asked the team leader, Lori Dunn, what she thought. She later told me boiled water was safe, so I will have a cup tomorrow morning.

After breakfast, I got on the shuttle to the ice arena. Apparently, the arena is within walking distance from the hotel! I've heard the walk is very pleasant; perhaps I will try to walk one day before I leave.

My first official practice here began at 8:50 a.m. on the competition surface. The arena is very nice; the ice is great, and there are seats surrounding the entire rink. I skated a short program run-through, and although my practice did not go as smoothly as I had hoped, I was overall satisfied with myself.

I quickly went back to the hotel, took a nice refreshing nap, and went down to eat lunch. There was a large variety of food offered; it was difficult for me to decide what I wanted to try first! I eventually opted for a small bowl of fettuccini topped with some pork sauce. I found it quite filling and felt ready my afternoon practice.

I returned to skate on the practice surface, which is conveniently in the same arena as the competition ice. The air is much cooler and the ice is much harder than the competition surface, but ice is ice. As long as I have ice, I can skate. I performed my free skate and felt more confident in myself by the end of the practice.

I later returned to the hotel to prepare for the draw. Yet this draw was very different; it was not the typical pull a number from a bag and be done type of draw. I met up with the rest of Team USA an finally got to meet everyone. It was so fun exchanging social media handles and talking with one another.

Everyone was taken to a theater about five minutes away. It was a really beautiful theatre, as well; a large stage, comfortable seats and gorgeous chandeliers. For the next hour or so, we all got to watch an amazing show where the performers sang and danced to Russian folk music.

After the show, the drawing began. First were the ice dancers, then the pairs teams, followed by the men's and, finally, the ladies. Each team or individual was called up to the stage one by one and asked to pick from a table-full of small carved horses. At the base of each horse was a number: the starting order. We even got to keep our carved horses as souvenirs!

By the time the whole drawing ceremony had concluded, it was already past 7 p.m.; we were all very hungry. Fortunately, there was a large bar with an assortment of appetizer-style foods to eat.

After trying a few of the different foods, Team USA returned to the hotel to prepare for the next day. When everything had settled down, an announcement rang through the hotel halls. It was in Russian, so no one heard or understood it. Andrew Torgashev ran down to the lobby to translate for us, and promptly announced that a lady said there was a fire. We all rushed down to the lobby with our skates to see what was going on, only to find that it was a mistake and that everything was alright -- whew. This was definitely a first-time experience overseas, and one that I hope not to experience again. Fortunately, I am still in good spirits and ready to see what tomorrow has in store. Best of luck to everyone competing tomorrow!

Tuesday, Sept. 13

Hello, everyone! I am so excited to be blogging about my experiences at the JGP event in Saransk, Russia. 

The first day of my adventure began like any other training day: I had a lesson with my coach, Shirley Hughes, and practiced for two hours. I then promptly rushed home to finish packing (yikes!) before my flight that afternoon. Hopefully I didn't forget anything.

We departed Washington D.C. at 7 p.m. and arrived in Paris at 8 a.m. local time. Although it was long, the flight was very nice. I got plenty of sleep and had a seat on the upper deck. I have never been on the upper deck of a plane before. The food was also delicious, which was surprising, as I am always skeptical of meals served on a plane. Perhaps it's because I have had some "interesting" meals on planes in the past. I recall once eating fish on a plane -- I do not recommend it. 

Our connection in Paris was very tight. We only had an hour to find our way through security in a big airport. It was especially stressful when security paused to look at my skates. Fortunately, I made it through with my skates and arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare. As soon as I boarded the second plane, I fell asleep again! My whole body clock has been thrown off from the many time changes, but hopefully I'll be able to sleep the night through and reset by practice day. 

The final part of our trek to Saransk was on a tiny, tiny charter flight. It was definitely an older plane model. I struggled to keep my eyes open despite having slept on my previous flights. Upon arrival in Saransk, we were loaded onto a bus to our hotels for accreditation and check-in. Time to unpack and prepare for tomorrow!