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!
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