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).
I have been fortunate to attend both World Juniors for biathlon (last year) and Cross Country this year, allowing me to race some of the best in the world and learn from them. Going into these World Juniors, I felt that there was no way I could screw up my races too badly… There were no shots to miss, penalty laps to do, and I had confidence that I was the fittest I could be. My first few days there I re-familiarized myself with the course, learning every uphill, downhill and corner on the trail to ensure no snowplowing or unnecessary thinking (my biggest nemesis). In the back of my head I could tell I wasn’t feeling great: My legs and arms were much heavier than usual, I could hardly do a short interval burst without feeling extremely tired, and I just didn’t have my normal zip. However, some of my best races have happened when I have felt the worse, so I remained optimistic. On the day of the first race, a 5km skate, I felt no nerves but only excitement. I tried to ignore the sluggish feeling while I warmed up, trying to focus only on getting out there and racing my heart out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be my day.
It only took about 2 minutes out of the start gate to realize that how I had been feeling all week was accurate… That my legs were not ready to race, despite how hard my mind was trying to push them. That 5km was probably the most difficult race of my life. In Canada, when you have a bad race, you will still place decent. When racing the world, it’s a completely different story. After my race, I fell into the idea that I didn’t deserve to be racing there, that my qualifying was pure luck, and that I wasn’t and have never been fast. That feeling stuck with me until the next race, where everything finally clicked back together.
I was completely dreading the skiathlon… Judging by the way my skate race went, I fully expected to finish the classic portion in dead last, and suffer through the free technique, until I finished what I thought would be my last race of World Juniors. However, starting the classic section with perfect grip and glide the race quickly became one of my favourite races of all time. Surrounded by 2 of my Canadian teammates for the majority of the race, I managed to finish with my first top 30, and two different poles. :)
Although I still wouldn’t say I had my zip back, I was at least able to have a race I was proud of, and one that secured me onto the relay team - The last race of World Juniors where sparkles, hair ribbons and funky socks mirrored the flags of 12 countries. Overall, my experience left me wanting more than ever to become faster, stronger and more competitive. I am currently trying to find where my energy is hiding, as since I’ve come home it has been playing a very irritating game of hide and seek, where I seem to be miserably losing. :) I’m very excited to rest up a bit, and get ready to start training for a brand new season!
This is where the latest RMR news will be posted. Postings will be contributed by numerous RMR athletes, RMR volunteers, and the coaches.