Already prepping for Sochi

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Julie Chu is at the U.S. national hockey team selection camp this week, hoping to make the training squad for what would be her fourth Olympic team.

I can’t believe we’re already here at the Olympic training camp, trying out for the 2014 roster. It seems like just yesterday it was 2010 and Sochi felt like it was forever away. The past three years went by in a blink! But as fast as it’s gone, we also feel ready to show off all the preparation and work we’ve done and take the next step in our 2014 Olympic journey.

Forty-one of us arrived in Lake Placid on Sunday, and we kicked things off first thing Monday morning with on-ice testing -- something that definitely gives you the old gut check. Even if you're in fantastic shape, you feel miserable. Your legs are burning with lactic acid; your muscles feel like lead. Basically, you skate as fast as you can from goal line to goal line and back, then repeat it seven times. Usually it takes about a minute, and we get a five-minute break and do it again.

We were psyching ourselves up beforehand, saying it’s only two minutes of work. But it’s a painful two minutes. Still, when you’re cooling down afterward you have a great feeling of accomplishment. In a game, you'll need to be able to push through that pain, so mentally you feel a little tougher after this test.

On Tuesday we had a two-hour practice in which we started to get used to playing on an Olympic-size sheet (rink). The NHL sheet is about 10 feet narrower, and those extra feet make a huge difference in your ability to make passes or close in on someone in a corner. It definitely feels different, and most of us have NHL-size sheets in our local communities so the new dynamics take a little adjustment.

On Wednesday and Thursday we were divided into two 20-player teams and we played some intense scrimmages. At this point you know that every time you step onto the ice is an opportunity to prove yourself and try to make that roster. So they were some really competitive, physical games, but it’s also encouraging to see the culture of Team USA. We’re battling but still supporting one another, because we know if we’re not working together as a team we won’t be successful in the end.

This camp is a bit calmer than the development training camps we usually have where we do lots of other training on top of practice and games. At this camp, it’s important to maximize our recovery with things like naps and ice baths between sessions. I’m not a fan of the ice bath, though. I use something called the NormaTec, which is a compression sleeve you slide onto your legs. It inflates and deflates, and it’s supposed to help with blood flow and recovery. It’s better than freezing to death in the ice bath!

And we find a bit of time for fun, too. We’ve been really into watching the NHL playoffs. We’ve got a mixed group of Bruins and Blackhawks fans, so that has made it interesting. We’ve also got a game called Bananagrams -- essentially speed Scrabble – that we're addicted to. You can spend a lot of time playing Bananagrams.

We’ve all known each other and been teammates for so long from college and the national team, so we’re friends who support one another and enjoy hanging out on and off the ice. But make no mistake, when we get back on the ice to compete, we compete hard. And for this camp, it's all about competing hard.