Spring is over, which means training is getting more ski-specific while intensity and strength are getting harder. I was up at the Haig glacier last week which was a ton of fun, and there’s also an NST/Alignment camp going on right now in Canmore. It’s been awesome to get to see so many of my friends and teammates from across the country, many of whom I haven’t seen since mid-winter!
Training in June kicked off with a mini on-snow camp in Whistler. Our club Whistler camp ended up being canceled, but the coaches suggested we head down to Whistler independently if we wanted to, so Katie, Olivia and I decided to do just that.
Whistler delivered its typical crazy mix of fresh snow, pouring rain, and sunshine, but we were nevertheless able to get in some solid training while enjoying the low altitude and humidity. Although having the full team and coaches there would have been great, it ended up being a lot of fun running the workouts ourselves. There’s something to be said for getting athletes to give each other technique feedback and training support– it makes us think more critically about what we’re doing.
One of my favourite things about my teammates is that we can push each other and be really competitive at the right times, but also not make a big deal about the results (we’re not here to win training!). This allows us to identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses logically, and use them to help each other without any pressure to win. A great example of this is during speed workouts; my new teammate Katie is really good at high-speed striding up hills (and I’m not), whereas I’m typically stronger in offset speed. This means we get to take turns working on each other’s weaknesses, making us each become faster than we would be alone!
I love spring skiing because it’s a great time to work on technique. Another bonus is that lots of snow time means those rollerskis can stay hidden in the basement for a little while longer than usual. I don’t mind rollerskiing but I find that when fall comes around it can be tough to stay motivated if I’ve done too much early in the season. To prevent that I try to keep it limited in the spring (my teammates can attest that I go to somewhat extensive lengths to avoid it this time of year).
After the Whistler camp, I had a solid recovery week. My original plan had been to train for a week right after Whistler and then go into a recovery week, but once I got back to Canmore I realized I was too tired (physically AND mentally) to train properly. A rest week ended up being a good plan, because it took me 5 days of easier training until I felt snappy and fresh again. I was able to bounce back by the end of the week and enter the next training block feeling healthy and happy!
The month finished with a 5-day stint at the Haig Glacier. I haven’t been to the Haig in a couple of years, and I forgot how much I love it up there. The simple rhythm of training, eating, and sleeping makes it really easy to get in the hours and stay focused. Unfortunately, I got some foot pain the last couple days of the camp and had to ease off skiing, and I also got a cold right after the camp. Dealing with small injuries and getting sick can be frustrating, but I’m really glad that I have great teammates and coaches who encourage me to train smart. Fortunately after some rest, my foot is back to normal and my cold is on the mend!
Getting sick is something that happens quite a bit to xc skiers. We’re constantly stressing our bodies, which includes our immune system. It’s no secret that most xc skiers are quite particular about staying healthy (we’re the ones you’ll see wearing a mask on airplanes or pulling out hand sanitizer at a restaurant), but despite our best efforts, sometimes germs squeak by. More than all the hand sanitizer in the world, I’ve found so far that the best trick is to just keep my immune system as strong as I can, with:
Sometimes, though, I can do everything right but still get unlucky and end up sick. When that happens, my go-to’s are:
Overall, training been a ton of fun this past month. I’ll be heading home to Athabasca next week for some Saskatoon berry eating and low-altitude training, and otherwise it’ll be a fairly standard upcoming few weeks in Canmore!
I hope this update finds you enjoying the sun (maybe not too much heat in the East) and lazy summer lake days.
It's been six weeks since I last updated you, so this will be a brief (for me!) one.
Last time we touched base, I was 13 weeks post shoulder surgery; incredibly happy with how the rehab was going; and training full-tilt already.
Now I'm 19 weeks and happy to report, all is still well. I was cleared by the surgeon to work into anything and everything I liked in training (as long as my physio was ok with it)...and took that statement and ran (pumping my arms hard) with it!
Thus, the strength training is going well - even doing some banded pull-ups and plyometrics already - and the aerobic work even better. My training time since early June has been spent roller skiing both techniques/shooting on the range/trail running/road riding/strength training down here in Canmore, and skiing on snow up at the Haig Glacier. I've been double poling quite a bit already, as well as doing some roller ski intensity on pavement, and the shoulder joint is taking it all in stride.
This is the time of year where we are starting to transition SLIGHTLY away from a volume and strength focus, and think a little more about intensity and speed...which makes me happy, as there's nothing like destroying yourself in a set of uphill intervals! We do prioritize a large volume of training hours on snow when we ski up on the glacier throughout the summer. Shooting has also been going well, with just yesterday setting a new personal best in a 200pt precision test of 177...and it was actually during a speed 1-shot setup drill; I wasn't every "trying" to shoot my tightest group...I guess natural alignment does indeed work 😉I'm so grateful for all my speedy RMR teammates, whose ski technique I learn from every day, and uplifting attitudes help channel my focus.
For my Ontario Friends, the Listowel Rifle and Revolver Club will again be hosting a shoot in my name on Saturday August 18th, from 9am-2pm. If you're in the area and feel like coming out and trying to shoot some biathlon targets with a .22 rifle, come on by - I'd love to catch up!
I cannot thank the LRRC, the Pinecrest Pistol Club, and Al Simmon's Gun Shop for continuing to support me in such a huge way.
Speaking of support, thank you so much to my other new and returning sponsors so far this year:
-Windtower Lodge and Suites (a roof over my head!) ❤
-nutrition coaching by Georgie Fear
-skate rollerskis from Nordeex
-and others wishing to go unnamed
As well, I recently published a blog post (see previous post) that goes into greater depth on my return to biathlon post-surgery, and the greater healing I underwent. Some of you may have already seen it on social media. It is a pretty raw piece that finally tells the Truth of some of the mental demons I've been facing the past few years. If it resonates with you, feel free to share with any and all female athletes you may know. I apologize for not having the courage to share this truth until now, but am proud that I finally turned over this stone in my athletic career and look forward to building a legacy to help others avoid my mistakes.
All the best - enjoy every minute out there: jump in every cold lake you can; eat all the summer produce; dance -
Make life your playground, not proving ground.
Photos: Two that sum up life these days: training in my glorious mountains (rollerskis thanks to Nordeex - smoothest snow feel!) and in-between sessions, working for Fast and Female from the epic new Coworking Studio in Canmore, the Fusebox. (photo credits to Peter Collins Photography)
Listening to: see playlist below
Dancing to: anything J Balvin at my latin classes
Eating: power bowls (a grain, protein, tons of veggies, tons of tahini/avocado garlic sauce) and Giddy Yoyo banana spears during workouts.
Drinking: afternoon coffee at the Fusebox
Wearing: Oiselle tank + shorts from Backroads London
Reading: Let Your Mind Run (Deena Kastor)
Working on: This morning? Classic roller ski sprints with teammate Katie W. #shefast ...and power in everything.
Rocking at: one breath cycle in standing; one skate on snow at the glacier.
Missing: my family; summer backyard evening BBQs; Ontario strawberries.
My Playlist for the past 6 weeks (an eclectic mix of new and old):
-Like a Rock (Bob Seger)
-The River (Garth Brooks)
-Make Way for the Living (Harry Manx)
-Never Going Back Again (Fleetwood Mac)
-Familiar (J Balvin)
-South London Forever (Florence and the Machine)
-She Ain't Gotta do Much (Classified)
-Bright Lights (Matchbox Twenty)
-Meant to Be (Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line)
-Below My Feet (Mumford and Sons)
-ScheiBe (Lady Gaga)
Not all storms come to disrupt your life; some come to clear your path. – Paulo Coehlo
This message was originally going to be titled “Erin 7.0” or maybe “Facing Fundamental Flaws.” But the weeks have slipped by with ease, filled with focused training and work and enjoying the transition of seasons almost as much as my body’s changes.
And not changes in the way you might think. Yes, the shoulder is healed and I’m back to double poling, doing prone combo, and many push up variations. Lately however, I’ve also been enjoying changes that were a long time coming and painfully difficult, but in hindsight so obviously necessary it’s laughable. You see, this post would now need to be called “Erin 11.0,” and maybe in a few weeks, “Erin 13.0”, and so on and so forth, as I have gained eleven pounds since surgery and am damn proud of it. Maybe “She’s f&*%ing finally walking the walk, not just talking the talk” would be the most appropriate title.
Very few people know that I had I NOT re-dislocated my shoulder this past winter, I would have retired from biathlon and moved on to the next chapter of my life. I would have rounded out my European tours and finished at Nationals and thrown in the towel. At that time, I was frustrated with lack of speed and power on the ski course and therefore struggling to hit all my standing targets; all while knowing I hadn’t made many of my goals in sport, but feeling as if I’d basically done all I could. Given my blood, sweat, and tears full-time since age 18.
Then my shoulder hung out of the joint for 90 minutes and I realized I’m actually capable of a lot more than I thought I am. A rude awakening, if you will. I first thought this injury was the universe saying, “QUIT ALREADY, how dare you still be pursuing this dream that is clearly never going to come to fruition.” And though it was not easy during the Olympics, I tried not to let myself think about biathlon for a couple of months, one month before and one month after surgery. Living in the liminal space post surgery of not knowing what I should do with my immediate future was more painful than the recovery process itself. Give me wall-fisting and straining for zero degrees of external rotation any day over addressing the slurry of confusion in the mind.
The only thing I prayed for through the entire process was clarity on whether I should retire from sport. That clarity arrived slowly and stealthily, almost like the snow globe that was my life - shaken upside down - was settling; as the sparkles cleared I could see what was actually within the crystal ball.
And what was within was an endurance athlete that had been treating her anxiety issues by controlling her food intake for an entire quadrennial; four long years; the end of my junior career and the entirety of my senior career thus far. What was within was someone with body dysmorphia* so extreme she was 5’9” and 122 pounds going into the winter of “her real shot” at an Olympics, but still worried her (very flat) ass was too big to carry up the hills. Little did she know she didn’t even have enough muscle mass to properly propel the length of her limbs at the speed she needed to be moving at; let alone enough flesh to support hormone health and have a regular cycle.
The only “ah-ha” Eureka moment I experienced was during the 24hr fog of general anesthetic post surgery, seeing a photo of myself racing in the Canada suit, and wondering who that waif was, and why she wasn’t using her legs to ski properly. And then realizing that the cold hard truth was, that was me, I really WASN’T strong enough to ski fast in this sport that requires so much power, and in my relentless pursuit of my sport and “getting lean,” I’d taken it way too far. I was never going to be as lean as I wished to be – I don’t have the genetics for paper thin skin over defined muscles – and I’d gotten to the point where I was burning through the little muscle mass I actually possessed. I am using the numbers in this post because I want to have 100% transparency. For comparison, Paula Radcliffe was 5’8” and 119lbs when she set the world record in the marathon – a very different sport from mine – I need to produce high power and speed for ~18-50min long ski races.
I realized that there was no “right” or “wrong” decision about whether I was “meant” to continue biathlon; there was only the truth: that I was too thin and too weak to ever ski at the speed I wanted to. And whatever decision I made, moving on or continuing, wouldn’t really matter anyways, as it would be the decision I was destined to make. I do believe in fate, and that we all have a greater purpose on this Earth. If we listen to our intuition and look for the signs the universe is showing us, we will muddle our way along the path we were meant to take; learn the lessons we need to learn; and, interact with all the people and places we need to know and experience.
The warrior realizes these repeat experiences have but one aim: to teach her what she does not want to learn. - PC
So in using some fundamental decision theory, I realized that I had two options. I could either A) finish my schooling and continue self-medicating my need for the illusion of control through the use of the bathroom scale, and aim my neurotic tendencies towards another sport…. or, I could B) face the gnarly demon in the mirror and continue my pursuit of mastery in the sport I love so much, and still felt I had unfinished business with.
Choice B was the much more difficult one; I’d have to rebuild my fitness and strength post surgery; it was unknown at the time if I’d be able to shoot or ski with two poles properly again; I’d have to fight for new and returning sponsors and my places on teams… And, most of all, I’d have to learn to let go of the illusion of control that had made me feel grounded for so many years, learning to say f&#* it to the voice inside that desperately wanted me to be perfect.
But in sitting in the discomfort of the liminal space, I knew there was also a light inside me that needed to grow and evolve…it was time to face the demon in the mirror. I was ok with the worst-case outcome of this decision; my international results not improving…but I was not ok with the worse-case outcome of moving on from sport; never knowing if in turning over this massive stone in my sporting journey could end up in faster skiing. I owed it to myself, and to the many other women and girls out there suffering silently in similar ways, to find out.
So, because the only way I know how to live is passionately, 110% all-in, I reached out for help and began the messy process that is personal evolution. I truly believe change is a choice, and it has to come from within. The moment we decide to change a fundamental flaw in ourselves - the moment we decide to live in alignment with the truth - is a tipping point we can’t return from. Which is lucky, because as much as the demons come out when I’m tired or sad, I know deep down I don’t want to return to the dark side, ever.
Warriors of light are not perfect. Their beauty lies in accepting this fact and still desiring to grow and to learn. - PC
There are a lot of mundane details about the process of gaining strength as an endurance athlete you may or may not be interested in. Please reach out if there’s anything at all you would like to know about recovering from issues like this – I have nothing to hide! In flipping over this massive log in my path, with gross grubs and stuff underneath, I figured I’d at least share the juiciest ones:
Change is really, really hard. Owning up to your biggest flaws, weaknesses, and vices takes grit and guts and really WANTING to be a better person than you were before. And I want this, I really do, to be strong and powerful and not hindered all the time by thoughts of food or what my pull on gravity says about my self worth. But it’s taking a lot of courage to face that demon in the mirror, day after day, and realize I literally can’t trust the view I have of myself. I’d gotten so twisted, I saw things that weren’t really there (too much fat)…and I was completely ignoring the things that were absent (muscle mass and a period). It’s time to live in truth now.
For 3 years now my coach had told me to gain weight. I talked the talk with teammates, friends, and family about eating more and having healthy hormone levels, but I only tried half heartedly to walk the walk…and that was basically via an attempt at progesterone stimulus and tweaking my macros by including a little more fat in my diet. What it actually took to get a regular period back was gaining weight: being in a positive caloric balance for a few months IN A ROW. And you know what, for those of you who are scared to do so, like I was, it doesn’t event take that much. You don’t have to throw your other healthy habits to the wind and eat a pint of ice cream every day. You just have to listen to your body and trust your hunger signals.
‘That’s just how it is,’ thinks the warrior. ‘I was the one who chose to walk this path.’
In these words lie all her power: she chose the path along which she is walking, and so has no complaints. - PC
Coaches, I challenge you to check in with your female athletes every month. A lean, healthy endurance athlete CAN have a regular cycle EVERY month year-round. It’s actually not rocket science and doesn’t even require hormone therapy, acupuncture, or any other special secret. I know because I am a hypothyroid control freak with high cortisol and low testosterone, that didn’t even hit puberty until age 19, and still I managed to get mine back.
Overall, I don’t know why this subject is still so goddamn taboo. As women we’re lucky we have a (literal) red warning flag saying “whoa, you’re not in energy balance right now.” For male endurance athletes, it’s trickier, yes…. but I do wonder if men feel slightly less pressure to look a certain way, or if most have less tendencies towards perfectionism. I’m not sure. But I do know if we want our young women to be strong, fast, badass endurance athletes, we need to prioritize complete physical health. We need to see the bigger picture from the bird’s eye view: first and foremost the mind needs to be healthy, endocrine system and physical body running smoothly, and soul happy. Even though other women, some very close to me, told me that same message a number of years ago, I still had to learn the hard way…so it makes me sad to think how many deaf ears this message will fall on. And determined to wake some of them up to reality before it’s too late.
A lot of female endurance athletes have suffered from similar issues, usually caused by a similar mindset to mine. You only have to read Olympic Champion Jessie Diggins’ latest blog, runner/writer/businesswoman/mother/coach extraordinaire Lauren Fleshman’s opinions on the topic, or even my own previous attempts to overcome this to see how pervasive body dysmorphia*, disordered eating, and RED-S** (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport - this term replaced the “female athlete triad” about three years ago) really are…and how difficult they are to overcome. Part of the problem is the taboo nature of the topic: the lack of open conversation between most athletes and their coaches, support team, teammates, family, and friends. One of my pet peeves about women in endurance sport is the “gee, you look fit right now” comment we make to each other on the trails/track/gym. “You look fit,” I have found, is code for “you should be eating more; you’re getting too thin.” But no one ever comes out and says that to your face...I think it’s this urge to somehow communicate that you’ve gone too far, but not knowing how to say it.
In writing this, I want to make it clear that it’s ok to just reach out to others and ASK if they’re doing ok. Let’s no longer skirt around this issue. While we’re at it, let’s compliment each other’s emotional and mental strengths a hell of a lot more than our physical bodies. If I heard “gee, you are one smart, sassy skier” for every time someone said “gee, you look fit” my ego would be bigger than Beyonce’s (she walk like this cuz she can back it up…).
In closing, I want to leave everyone with a challenge. Face that fear you’ve been hiding in the closet for years. Dust off your courage and make the change you don’t want to make; do the impossibly hard thing you don’t think you ever could. Ask not what you want from life, but what life wants from you… what’s trying to come into being through you?
Because let me tell you, I spent four long years unwilling to change my mindset; resisting the light and strength that was growing inside me, dying to be set free. I told myself I was not lean enough; I was not fast enough; I would always have to be a “quick and light” athlete and not a “power skier.” Turns out, I was wrong. 110% passionately, all-in, wrong. I can be physically and mentally strong, and it wasn’t even that hard, now that I’m reflecting back on it… So ok, the strength workouts have been soul-crushingly difficult, the grocery bills have gone up, and letting go of so much control in my life is still an ongoing process, but that’s about it… The most difficult part was the tipping point: owning up to my flaw and recognizing that there was a part of me that was holding me back. I was lean and light, but I was tired and weighed down by the shame, stress, and drudgery of my neuroticism. There’s a much more fun, freer way to live, and it involves embracing who I am - thick arms, stronger ass, flaws, and all.
To attain her dream, she needs a strong will, and an enormous capacity for acceptance. - PC
So I have to thank my sisters, teammates, parents, friends, coaches, nutrition coach, sport psychologist, visceral therapist, massage therapist, hypnotherapist, and mentors for every day helping me fumble my way forward toward the light. No one ever said change was easy, but they did say it would be worth it. I have felt ashamed of these hidden demons for years, but now I accept that the longing to continue in sport, this flame inside, still burns because I hadn’t yet seen my journey through to its bitter glorious end. I could go out weak, with a shoulder dangling from its socket, a DNF next to my name, or I could fight a little longer and learn to accept both the darkness and light within me. I think part of the fire inside is I need to leave a legacy behind whenever I close out this chapter of my life. As much as I would have liked that legacy to be an international gold, I think my legacy was working through this incredibly complicated issue; advocating for others going through the same thing; and who knows, maybe showing you can come back from it a badass. We’ll see what the next while brings.
I didn’t ask for this to be my legacy, but we don’t get what we want from life; we get what we need from it. So for now, I’ll keep working every damn day to be a better version of myself in my pursuit of mastery: kinder, stronger, and wiser. And hopefully inspire and assist others as they turn over their own stones in any small way I can.
That is why she is a Warrior of the Light, because she has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than she is. - PC
*Body Dysmorphia: a mental disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not even observable (ie. Fat that doesn’t exist). But you may feel so ashamed and anxious that you avoid social situations that draw attention to it or dress in certain ways to hide it.
**RED-S: Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport is basically a bunch of negative processes caused by low energy availability. It causes a whack-load of detrimental health outcomes (not just a triad as previously thought) including but not limited to: hormonal/ menstrual/reproductive issues, low bone density, psychological issues (depression, irritability, anxiety, neuroticism, OCD behaviour, etc.), lower protein synthesis, low immune function, disordered eating patterns, insomnia/extreme fatigue, and the list goes on.
A special thank-you to Peter Collins Photography for all of the roller skiing, running, and other epic-looking photos in this post. Special thanks also to my fiction literary hero, my mom, for transferring her love of storytelling to me…and to my non-fiction hero, Brad Stulberg, for having the courage to share his own personal battles. Lastly, thank you to Florence and the Machine and her new album “High as Hope” for getting me through the grind (and, ok, Classified's "She Ain't Gotta do Much").
Hallo/Bonjour from Europe! I’ve been away from Canada for almost a month now, U23
Championships are now over, and we’ve just finished our first week of B Tour racing in central Europe.
After leaving Canada mid-January, I headed with the rest of the World Junior/U23 Team to Praz-de-Lys, France for a high-altitude training camp. Unfortunately, I got a head cold the day after we arrived in France. Because of that, I wasn’t able to get in as much skiing as I would have liked, but I took advantage of the free time to catch up on homework. I also took advantage of the cheese platters our hotel put out every night after supper to try a bunch of delicious cheeses that would be too expensive for me to buy in Canada. Despite being sick, I really enjoyed France– it was so nice to be in a country where I could speak the language (shout-out to my parents for putting me in French Immersion).
After a week in Praz-de-Lys, we headed to Switzerland for U23/Junior World Championships. We stayed in a small town called Bellwald, about a 40-minute drive from the race site in Goms. The locals spoke a mix of French and German, so I was again very thankful to be able to speak French. We arrived there a few days before the Championships began, so got in two intensity sessions on the race course before the first race. I also got to catch up with my friends from other countries who were competing at the Championships!
The first race was a skate sprint. The course was probably the hardest skate sprint course I’ve ever raced on (picture a GIANT climb, a technical downhill, and another hard climb), but it was a lot of fun. I had a solid qualifier clocking the 19th fastest time, and my teammates Katherine and Laura also qualified, which made for an exciting day for Canada.
In the quarter-final, I worked to be aggressive and to stick with the top two girls. They made a gap over the top of the long climb and I ended up finishing 4th in the quarter-final, not enough to move on to the semi-final. Although I was disappointed to not advance, I was really happy with my effort and I finished 18th on the day, my best ever result at Worlds. Check out the sprint heat video below (side note: I’m wearing bib #19, and the racer in bib #12 finished 4th in yesterday’s Olympic sprint!).
The next two races were a 10km Classic and a 15km Skiathlon (where you start in classic and switch to skate halfway through). I finished top-50 in both, which was pretty disappointing since I was aiming for a top-20. I believe performance in races is about 50% physical and 50% mental, and in those races I had a tough time pushing hard mentally. Ski racing is what I like to call Type 2 fun; it’s fun but can also be really painful because you are pushing your body to its limits the entire time. It takes a special kind of motivation to push those limits, and after having put so much mental energy into Olympic trials in January, and I wasn’t able to dig deep into the pain cave yet.
Overall, I was happy with the Championships. Although I felt that I wasn’t peak race shape (it usually takes me a few weeks to feel normal again after getting sick) it was a great experience representing Canada.
After Worlds, I headed with some other Canadian athletes to start B Tour in central Europe. We took a train to Klosters, Switzerland, which was my first time traveling by train– and it was amazing! The train route wound through the Alps (queue Sound of Music soundtrack), giving us beautiful views of mountain passes that weren’t accessible by car.
In Klosters, I was able to get in a few adventure volume days, including a long ski up one of the mountain passes around Davos. I also got to see my brother Michael, which was awesome because this is the first time we’ve ever been in Europe at the same place at the same time!
On the weekend, we competed in Swiss Cup, where I finished 2nd in the classic sprint and 7th in the classic distance race. It was fun to do some low-pressure races, and I was happy because I felt strong mentally and found the “pain cave” again.
We’ve now traveled from Switzerland to Germany, where we will be racing in Zwiesel at an OPA Cup this weekend. After that, we’ll spend our last weekend in Europe competing at German National Championships in Oberstdorf. My body feels like it’s getting back into top shape again, so I’m really excited for the upcoming races.
Hello from what feels like the tail end of winter already!
I hope this brief update finds you catching up on some rest post-Olympics, gearing up to cheer on the Canadians at the Paralympics, and finding a good balance between winter activity and moments of Hygge! (Hygge: a fundamental quality of Danish culture, Hygge cannot be translated using a single word. Rather, it includes many of the pleasures we associate with everyday living - relaxing with friends, enjoying good food, and creating a cozy evening by lighting a candle or two.)
This update will be mostly the facts (and less emotion) as I really don't feel like diving too deeply into anything right now. I'll let some Paulo Coelho quotes bring the perspective for me. I did promise a mid-winter update, and owe it to everyone who has helped me in this journey to keep you updated...especially when sport is fresh on everyone's mind after this past month of excitement in Korea.
"Things do not always happen the way I would like them to happen, and I had better get used to that." - Paulo Coelho
As many of you know, my racing tour this winter was cut off almost as soon as it began when I dislocated my shoulder very badly at the Open European Championships in January. It happened on the start line; couldn't have been more public, more painful, and more strange - though I'm told shoulders usually dislocate in funny ways/weird angles once they're susceptible. My right shoulder was out of the socket for 90min because it's illegal in Italy for anyone but a doctor to put it back in, and the patient must be under a sedative. I quickly flew back to Canada to meet with the medical team here and plan the surgery to repair it; I'm very lucky they could rush me in and have the surgery booked for March 7th at the Banff Orthopaedic clinic. They have some of the best surgeons in the world: remember the Canadian XC, biathlon, and most importantly for reconstructive surgeries, ALPINE teams work from there....Because I've dislocated my shoulder once already, and sublaxated it a number of times now, I have to have the labrum (cartilage) repaired to tighten the joint up and hopefully prevent it from ever coming out again. It's actually a fairly common surgery amongst high-impact sports; those who dislocate their shoulder once are at at 92% chance of doing it again, which I quickly did within 2 years of the initial injury...but those who get it repaired surgically after a few dislocations, as I soon will, only have a 2% chance of ever dislocating it again..IF the rehab goes properly - it's a rather positive change in odds!
After my first dislocation I was smart and careful with the recovery, and have been doing my strengthening exercises religiously. Unfortunately, the numerical odds of a reoccurrence were not in my favour when it comes to an unstable joint and thus, (as I wondered the first time if fate had already determined it), I am finally going under the knife. Not much you can do to change cartilage, ligaments, or tendons once they're damaged or stretched, no matter how strong your muscles are or gritty your attitude is...
I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather; to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature. - Paulo Coelho
Though I was not one of the 5 women on the Canadian Olympic Biathlon team, it was difficult to watch from the couch; not finishing my international races, and not even able to ski and shoot right now to prepare for the final tour and races of the season. However, I know there were one hundred other girls from other nations on both the IBU Cup and World Cup watching too, wishing they were one of the 90 in Korea.
Right now, my only plans are to be as strong and prepared for the surgery I can be, and take the full 3 months post surgery to "win" at recovering and rehabbing to the very best of my abilities. I am not sure what my future in sport is; we will need to see how the joint, my head, and my heart feel after 3 months. At that point, in the late spring, I will make some decisions; I can already foresee them being tough, but I am hoping that giving things time to unfold will bring clarity. In the meantime, I will hit the spin bike/lower body strength/walk in the sunshine lots; undertake an Academic Writing Course; and continue my work for Fast and Female, all from my laptop...I'm looking forward to being more ambidextrous by the end of this! I'm so grateful and so blessed to have a wonderful family and friends willing to help me out and literally "be my right hand" for a few weeks while I'm fully immobilized post surgery (likely 4-6 weeks before I can start using my right hand much - thank you Mads!). I snuck home to Ontario for a short visit and to work/train carefully before surgery, as I won't be travelling much for a little while during the recovery. I'm very happy that I can walk from my condo at Windtower to the gym, my physio, and my sports med doc...as well as be in the snow and sun and enjoy the mountains, even if I'm not skiing!
You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. - Paulo Coelho
Obviously, I am so disappointed to have had this happen when I dreamt of much more positive things in the winter of 2018, ever since I was young and watching figure skating on TV. However, I recognize that in the grand scheme of life, it's just another small blip to overcome, learn, and grow from...and yet another time to recognize the amazing people I have in my life and incredible opportunities I have been graced with. I do know that I absolutely do not regret any of the decisions I've made, paths I've taken, or things I've done in pursuit of mastery in biathlon. This is an hugely difficult and complicated sport, and I have always done my utmost best and put forth 110% effort. There are things we can control, and things we cannot, and at the end of the day what is meant to be, will be. People keep telling me that what needs to happen will unfold - not necessarily what we think we want.
Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream. - Paulo Coelho
Through it all, through the 7 years now I've been undertaking this epic journey on skis with a gun on my back, I have suffered hard on the race course...because that means I'm pushing past my perceived limits... but no where else. Everything I have done has been because it has brought me joy and challenged me enormously. At the end of the day, that's what counts.
So, you'll be hearing from me again in June, once I've hopefully tightened up this %^&#$ shoulder for good, re-gained a little fitness and upper body musculature, and definitely found more clarity. I can't thank you all enough for your support, words of encouragement during my (short!) race season and now rehab season, and interest in a journey that seems to be full of many plot twists!
All the best - enjoy some spring skiing, chopping vegetables, hand writing, dominant palm reading, well-pressed Aeropress coffee, and arm wrestling on my behalf over the next couple of months 😉
Thank you ❤
I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfil our destiny, but our fate is sealed. - Paulo Coelho
Like a flash, Autumn is nearly over, and Winter, at times, seems mere days away. It only seems a couple of weeks ago when I returned home from New Zealand looking forward towards the entire Autumn. Today, I’m skiing on Frozen Thunder, and in less than a week the first races of the season will start. I’m excited to get out there and test how things have come together.
This last block of training, from after Mammoth Lakes to now, is one of the most vital blocks of the year. I take the volume training I have done throughout the Spring and Summer and shift gears towards building speed. There have been several tough intensities in the past few weeks. That said, a few were a lot of fun. First, I had the opportunity to race the boys from Foothills Nordic Ski Club in a Classic roller ski time trial up the Norquay road. It was one of the most fun workouts I’ve done on Classic roller skis. The race started as a Mass Start for all the male skiers. I was part of a small pack of five that quickly established a gap on the rest of the field. Being part of a group like that is something I don’t get an opportunity to do that often. I felt I was skiing well, the pace was high, but I thought I could hold it. Unfortunately, the terrain flattened out a bit, and the group strung out slightly as the others switched to double pole. I was not able to entirely hold the power the others can generate on the flatter terrain. As the incline rose once again, I could limit my loses. As I approached the final switchback, I tried to pick up the pace and see If I could close the gap to those ahead of me. I lucked out once again, as they powered away on the flatter finish. Regardless, I enjoyed racing those guys. Subtle changes and I could perhaps stay with the leaders and then see what happens in the final stretch. It was a hard effort but a great way to kick off the intensity block.
The next two intensities are quite literally in the Pain Cave. Well, it is more of a basement then cave, but you are guaranteed some suffering or at least lots of sweating. These two days were some of the most challenging workouts in a year. The purpose of the workout is to expand the heart. To do this, we have to push the body to the max and then beyond to make the gains. It is not only a physical effort but a mental one as well. While you force the body to the max, you have to stay focused. Continuing to push further but also to just remain on the treadmill. Losing that mental edge and your day isn’t going to get any better!
This past Sunday I had the final hard workout for the block. Perhaps knowing it was the last makes it that much better. Still, I thought it was a fantastic intensity and an excellent way to wrap up a challenging block. For the workout I had two goals; one was to increase the distance I skied with each interval. The second, to get my heart rate to 190. I was thrilled to achieve both goals on the final interval. Coincidence or not, I was once again on the Classic roller skis for this workout. It proves that everything is going in the right direction. I can take this workout and the other efforts from this block and go into the first races of the season with confidence.
I’m in the middle of a more relaxed week before I begin racing over the next two weeks. First with two Cross Country races next week, a King’s Court Sprint and a Freestyle Distance race. Then the following week, I have at least two, maybe three, Biathlon races. Here’s to a tremendous dryland season and the upcoming competitive season as it kicks off!
A few weeks ago, at a Fast and Female event during the Canmore mountain bike nationals, I got to listen to Olympic bronze medallist Catharine Pendrel talk about her mountain biking career. (I also got to see her Olympic medal!).
One of the things that stood out to me was when she talked about the injuries she had dealt with during her career. She talked about how injuries are frustrating, because they often prevent you from doing the training you would like to do. She said that training is rarely perfect while you are injured, but that you need to accept that things won’t go as planned, and keep working through it.
That stuck with me, because training this summer has by no means been perfect. My foot has healed really well from surgery in April, but I’ve been dealing with some other foot issues that have come up in the meantime (likely caused just from spending so much time in crutches/a walking boot). As a result, I haven’t been able to put in either the amount or the types of training I would have liked to so far this summer.
As your typical perfectionist athlete, I feel frustrated when I know that I’m not doing the kind of training I would do in an injury-free scenario. Some days, it’s really easy to feel motivated and push myself, but some days it’s hard to get out the door and train. I guess that’s all part of the process though, because improvement rarely happens without challenges along the way. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a great group of people who help push me to be a better athlete and to work hard even when things aren’t perfect.
Despite dealing with an injury, the summer has been a lot of fun so far. I’ve been getting into mountain biking this summer, and although I’m by no means a great mountain biker (still rocking the flat pedals…), I’ve been loving how many great trails and places there are to bike around the Bow Valley!
I’ve also been continuing with Pilates this summer (I started last year), and it’s starting to pay off! Pilates is one of those things I never thought I would have fun doing, but it’s been helping a lot with my body alignment, which will hopefully translate to more efficient skiing come winter.
Up next is a potential Haig camp at the end of August, and then intensity will start to ramp up as the racing season approaches!
Until next time,
Happy early summer! I can't believe it's almost the longest day of the year...last time I updated you, it was the very end of March and these mountains were still coated with snow and I was skiing daily.
I feel guilty at not having updated my friends, family, sponsors, and supporters sooner...but April, May, and now June have been some of the busiest but happiest weeks of my life. I'll make the summaries in this email as concise as I can to share all the love I had planned to - but know I'm healthier and in a better mental and physical state than I've ever been! Training this spring has gone phenomenally well as I eased back in to full-time athlete life after 3 months easy...May was spent on the road bike, crust skiing up in Sunshine meadows, building strength, and running hard intervals around our little quarry lake "track" to finally build me some leg speed and power. I leave for the the first glacier skiing camp on June 27th and couldn't be more excited to combine real snow skiing with the rollerski work we've started on. We've also taken a whole new approach to the range- some radical stuff with my coach John, who had the most successful para-biathlon team on the range in the world last winter - so I think my sniping abilities will be incredibly fine-tuned come winter. I finally feel like I have this incredible focus while I'm training, in the zone and improving every session, but then I'm able to "turn off" and actually recover properly (and be a normal human being!) in between.
...Now for The Most Epic Things that have happened since I last touched base (trust me there's been a bunch):
-April 11th I filmed a segment with the CBC for Petro Canada (they gave me a generous grant!) that is being played in the lead-up to this winter's Olympics. I guess I get to the be the face of Biathlon Canada right now?! Brenda Irving and her crew flew from Toronto all the way here for just one day to put this piece together - we did it at my favourite place to train in the world, Mt Shark, way out in Kananaskis Country - and it focuses on myself and my coach John. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did and you can feel the passion and excitement! My title sponsors got some decent air time as well as Fast and Female :) http://www.cbc.ca/sports/thebond/#25QdksCPWTk
-I went home to Ontario for 2 weeks in April and had a blast, as well as gave a speech at the Building Bridges to our future Gala. Upon request I posted it on my blog, as well as a back-log of sponsor updates I've sent you guys over the past year or so. Blog here: http://erinyungblut.wixsite.com/biathlete/blog-1
- I've been slowly working on my writing, through my actual work as well as my blog/etc. I made the Working Abroad Calendar (volunteer organization) with this photo and caption from my trip to CR ("Like" it!): https://www.facebook.com/WorkingAbroadProjects/photos/a.329662330454373.79768.329397653814174/1369179289836000/?type=3&theater
-My new work with Fast and Female has gone swimmingly as I move into my role as National Media Relations coordinator; it's challenging me and I'm loving all the connections I'm making! Attached are some pictures from the Girl's Run I hosted here in Canmore at the end of May...so much empowerment and inspiration for young girls!
-I was home for a short visit last week to celebrate my older sister Emily and her now husband Aaron! It was the most joyful, blissful, exciting visit home I've ever had and I feel so blessed to have been a part of their special day. The day was absolute perfection - I kid you not - and those vows...wow. Attached a far too many pictures recording the event 😊 Emily could not have been more beautiful and the ceremony/reception more full of love. Don't worry, my younger sister Madeline, my parents, and all our extended family lit up the dance floor. #jumparound I also snuck in another lovely visit in with my dear friend and mentor Julie Sawchuk, at Glassier Physiotherapy in Wingham (one of my most loyal and encouraging sponsors!) and Julie even blogged about it and all the other bad-assery she undergoes daily - truly an inspiration when I "think" times are tough, and an incredible friend I can always rely on. Thank you. http://juliesawchuk.blogspot.ca/2017/06/you-must-crawl-before-you-walk.html?spref=fb
That's it for now! Thank you for your continued love and support. I hope you all have a safe, happy, healthy kickoff to your summer...and a belated Happy Mother's day to all the kind and generous moms, and an early Happy Father's Day to the strong loving dads this weekend.
"When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It's very simple. " - Paulo Coehlo
Pura Vida EY
ps. Saturday August 26th is the annual "Erin's Shoot" at the Listowel Rifle and Revolver Club in Listowel, Ontario...swing by if you can (9-3pm) to shoot some guns with one of my top sponsors!
Happy spring - I love this time of year - warm weather for skiing, sunshine, and the promise of new beginnings. Just thought I'd touch base 2/3 of the way through my little rest/se-set/recovery period!
I set out for Costa Rica a day after my last update, and had an incredible time. It wasn't just a complete 180 from biathlon; it was a complete 180 from anything I've ever done! Over the course of two weeks, I was lucky enough to experience the incredible wildlife and Pura Vida culture in the tiny village of Ostional; a wildlife reserve (on the Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste province - about 100km south of Tamarindo). I participated in early morning patrols, night patrols, nest excavations, and nest density digs, and even saw both hatchling turtles and an arribada - "an arrival" - when tens of thousands of mother turtles pour onto a small section of beach for 4 nights in a row. In other words, I got to experience every single possible role a volunteer with the program could undergo! I learned a lot about conservation and working together with a community and researchers to benefit both the wildlife and humans in a fragile area. The dry season weather was incredibly hot but the ocean was lovely; there were no tourists but lots of locals surfing. The turtles were absolutely fascinating and being up close and learning about both the mothers and hatchlings was eye opening. I stayed with a local family and experienced a bit of culture shock the first couple of days, but quickly picked up a bit of Spanish and loved that part of the experience too.
I have turtle stories and pictures out the wazoo, so if anyone ever wants to hear more, give me a shout. It was tough to pick just a few to attach to this email :) I was so busy working there I had no time to think about sport; I just enjoyed immersing myself in something new and walked the beach, swam in the waves, and ate as much fried plantain as I possibly could! I truly came back a "changed woman," according to my friend, and I'm looking forward to continuing to channel the lessons I learned and sense of peace I found by the ocean in Ostional.
I returned to Canada refreshed, simply happy, and ready to ease back into some more "regular" things! I started back at work and coaching with Biathlon Ontario at Biathlon Nationals here in Canmore the first week I returned, as well as started some hormone therapy. Coaching was the perfect way to get back into the sport and enjoy some skiing again. I started biathlon in grade 12 with Biathlon Ontario, and it was so neat to see the athletes at the same age learning the same things I was. I even hopped in the mixed relay on the last day, and we brought home the silver medal - though racing when you're unfit and feeling wacky from progesterone hurts a LOT! Then I helped my current club, Rocky Mountain Racers, as well as my alumni club, Highlands Trailblazers, out a bit at XC Nationals here in Canmore. Again I hopped in a fun relay, a 2.5km ski cross event, and man did it bring back the fire to compete and push myself as hard as I possibly can! I know I'm doing better and the "spark" is coming back when I'm watching the 30km mass start, a brutally long race on a tough course, wishing I was participating, not being thankful I'm cheering!
Now I'm happy to announce I'm working my way through some big changes as spring approaches the rockies. Next week I am moving into a new place, a single unit condo, through one of my amazing sponsors, Windtower Lodge and Suites. I can't thank them enough for their generosity and continued support. The people working and living there are fantastic and I'm looking forward to joining the community - though of course I will miss my lovely little home here on 3rd Street! The Westcotts have provided me with the perfect place since I've moved to Canmore, and I also can't thank them enough for the past few years.
I am also excited to announce that I am starting a different part-time job. My time at Nutter's (the health food store here in Canmore) has been incredible and I learned so much the past few years as a Natural Product Advisor in the Vitamins department. I will truly miss my coworkers and friends there, as well as working within the natural health industry. However, a new opportunity to challenge myself and grow presented itself with the organization Fast and Female. I will be their Alberta Event Coordinator and National Media Coordinator...a position that will allow me to make my own work hours - other than days I am hosting actual events - and put my communication/organization/passion for sport abilities to good use! I am so excited to work with an organization that embodies exactly what I think sport is all about: following your passion, having fun, and feeling powerful. Check out the website to learn more: https://www.fastandfemale.com
Right now I'm easing into my new position, moving, and doing whatever fun training I feel like here in the rockies. Next I'm headed home to Ontario to visit family and friends April 13-30, as well as do a couple speaking engagements, including the "Evening of Connections Gala" on Saturday April 29 in Wingham, Ontario. The Gala is a dinner and auction in support of the purchase and installment of new playground equipment at the Maitland River Elementary School (a continuation of the new track project from last year - http://www.bb2f.com/new-page/). I can't wait to get some family time in and be home for Easter for the first time in four years!
Thank you all for reading, and all for your continued support as I venture onwards in this amazing journey. I think the biggest thing I have learned the past little while is the importance of balance, and making sure you live a "full-spectrum" life: really challenging yourself and expanding all sides of you...but not getting caught up or stressed about anything... because at the end of the day, we're all simply fighting to make it through the surf, towards the sun, just like the baby turtles. I've made some sacrifices along the way, but I wouldn't trade anything I've experienced and learned on this path. The Paulo Coelho quote I attached sums up how I'm feeling pretty well.
I'll touch base again in the late spring/summer, updating you on the first chunk of the training season! As usual, I can't wait for the excitement ahead.
Thank you - Pura Vida - live the "pure life"
Some Racing Adventures
When you think of ski destinations, the first one to come to mind is definitely not Kazakhstan. However, Almaty, Kazakhstan was definitely a neat venue for the 2017 Winter Universiade.
On January 24th I headed off on a two-day journey, and on Thursday I arrived in Almaty. I had been prepared for the trip with advice from Olivia and Maya, who travelled to Kazakhstan for World Juniors in 2015 so I came equipped with extra food and ready for the smog.
Fortunately, we ended up much better off than the girls were two years ago. We got to compete at a site out of town, at 1500m elevation, where the smog held off until late afternoon and the ski conditions were wonderful. We were also fed tolerable food, although the snacks I brought were much appreciated.
After we arrived we had a few days before the racing started. We got to get a nice feel for the courses, which had some fun corners, one big climb and lots of snow. We skied then skied two 5km races, skate and classic, a sprint, a relay and a 15km. I really wanted to qualify in the sprint and I was able to, along with three other Canadian girls. It was cool to have so many girls in the heats!
The non-racing side of the games was also very interesting. There were athletes there from many winter sports, and we went to see a women’s hockey game. I was good to remember that there are other sports in the world, when you live in the Canmore bubble most of your friends are in Nordic or Biathlon.
It was also interesting to talk to athletes from other countries. The French and American girls were very friendly as well as some of the eastern Europeans. The Russians and Kazakhs didn’t speak all that much English or French, but still managed to communicate their good spirits.
We got a little bit of an opportunity to go touristing outside of the racing. We visited a few places in Almaty including a church and the market, which was the most fun. It was nice to buy some Kazakh snacks, which were different from the athlete’s village's nation neutral food.
After the games I took a little layover in Switzerland/France and did a local race and a marathon, La Tranjurasienne. Despite a lack of snow, they managed a 50km course for the Trans’ju, and I skied my first 50k. I got an elite wave start, so I got to start up with Aurélie Dabudyk, Robin Duvillard, Jean-Marc Gaillard and the other top racers, which allowed me to avoid the traffic, but meant that I got passed by many many men from wave 1.
After the marathon. I was really ready to come home! I got a bit sick over there and it was nice to come home, although the wave of homework and exam that engulfed me immediately needed to be manages. I’m now looking forward to Nationals and enjoying the amazing snow we have in Canmore.
Last three photos creds to Kyla Vanderswet (hockey), Shelby Dickey (me racing) and U sports (team jumping photo).
This is where the latest RMR news will be posted. Postings will be contributed by numerous RMR athletes, RMR volunteers, and the coaches.