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).
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!
The XC race season kicked off at the end of November with the first Alberta Cups at home in Canmore. It was an unusually competitive field as many teams from across the continent were staying in Bow Valley to get in some training before moving on to the NorAms in BC. Limited snowfall prior to the weekend meant that the races were held on Frozen Thunder. This created some logistical problems that resulted in some interesting loops and distances. On Saturday’s skate race, the men did 7.5 loops of the course for a total of 13.5km, while the women completed 4.5 loops and 8.1km. Junior girl India McIsaac raced up in the Open Women category and posted an awesome finish in 10th place overall. Anna MacIsaac-Jones came away with a silver medal in the Juvenile Girls 4.5km race. The next day was a shorter classic individual start day. This time, the men raced 8.1km and the women raced 6.3km. After taking a year off of training and racing, Nick Bardak had a fantastic race and placed 7th in the Junior Men category. Andrea Dupont finished 6th in Senior Women, while Sara McLean placed 3rd in the Junior Women category.
The next races for the team were in Silverstar, BC. This venue had plenty of snow and looked like a winter wonderland! It was a little on the chilly side, but not cold enough to cause race delays. These races were a combination of the Canadian NorAm circuit and the American SuperTour, so there was a lot of new American competition. The weekend started off with a classic sprint. The American field showed its strength, claiming 9 of the top 10 places in the Open Women category and the top 5 spots on the men’s side. Andrea Dupont finished 13th overall, 2nd Canadian. The next day was a skate race, with the men doing 15km and the women doing 10km. Conditions were interesting, with snow falling heavily throughout almost the entire duration of the races. India McIsaac showed her skating strength again, finishing 25th overall and 6th among the Junior Women.
From Silverstar, the team travelled directly to Rossland, BC for the next weekend of racing. Unfortunately, the author of this article got sick and had to arrange a rather sketchy and last-minute trip home involving strangers and the internet to avoid infecting her teammates. When she asked her teammates what happened in Rossland, the helpful answers she received were “I don’t remember”, “Nothing really happened”, and “Uh Nick can’t cut potato?”. The team learned that Nick Bardak is unfamiliar with the shape of French fries and cannot be trusted with cooking any kind of vegetable. But back to the (slightly less) important information about the actual racing. It was a cold weekend and most of the races were quite near the cold weather cut-off. Friday started the weekend off with a skate distance race, in which the men skied 15km and the women skied 10km. RMR’s top finish of the day was Andrea Dupont in 8th place. Saturday brought the skate sprints. The team had a strong showing, with Andrea in 7th and Emma Camicioli in 15th for Senior Women, Emma Holmes in 8th for Junior Women, and Nick Bardak in 12th for Junior Men. Sunday’s race was a 10/15km classic pursuit start. Andrea finished the tour in 8th place, Emma Camicioli was 15th, and Emma Holmes was 8th in the Junior Women category.
After a nice holiday break, the team travelled to Soldier Hollow for US Nationals and Canadian WJ/U23 trials. The weather was interesting, to say the least. Over the course of a week, we saw temperatures ranging from -20 to +5, as well as an entertaining assortment of every possible variety of precipitation. The first race of the week was on January 7. It was a skate day, with the men doing 15km and the women doing 10km. This was our only race day with clear skis and no precipitation, so stress levels were fairly low. India McIsaac had an incredible day, finishing 37th overall and as the top Canadian Junior woman, she punched her ticket to World Juniors! Erik Carleton had an awesome performance as well, placing 10th in the men’s category. The next day was the classic sprint, and that’s when the fun weather really got going. Sudden and constant changes in the type and amount of snow/rain/hail made waxing a challenge. The coaches put in a huge amount of effort to get our skis as fast as possible, but we were also lacking a place to test skis that accurately matched the conditions on the course. It was a tough day for the team and Andrea Dupont was our only skier to advance to the heats, qualifying 21st and finishing 25th overall. We had the next day off, during which it rained approximately 2 inches and washed away a significant amount of snow, as well as drastically changing snow conditions. After our rest day, we were ready for the classic mass starts. The rain’s negative effect on the snow meant that our courses were changed and instead of skiing a 5km loop, we were on a 3.75km loop instead. The junior women did two loops for 7.5km, the junior men did 3 loops for 11.25km, the senior women did 6 loops for 22.5km, and the senior men did 8 loops for their 30km. With the sheer number of people on course, there were points where the entire pack would come to a standstill as people herringboned up steep, narrow parts of the course. Erik Carleton had another great day with a 15th place finish, and India McIsaac finished her race in 19th place. Most of the team went home after the mass start, but Andrea Dupont stayed a few extra days and raced in the skate prologue, placing 15th.
Western Championships were in Whistler this year. A snow storm the night before the team departed Canmore resulted in an exciting 16-hour drive, complete with a midnight arrival in Whistler. But we didn’t die, so it was a success. Three days of racing started off with a skate sprint. Due to low registration numbers, Junior and Senior categories were combined for the heats and separated for results afterwards. Maya MacIsaac-Jones placed 7th in Senior Women, and Sara McLean and Emma Holmes were 5th and 6th respectively in Junior Women. The next day brought heavy snow for the 10/15km classic race. Maya had a great race and finished in 3rd. The final day of racing was a team relay. Each team had 3 athletes who each skied one leg of the race (7.5km for the men and 5km for the women). Everybody seemed quite excited for a fun new race format that many people hadn’t done before. Unfortunately, quite a few athletes in the Open categories had to miss this day due to a pre-Worlds training camp in Canmore. Despite the small categories, everyone had lots of fun! Sara McLean and Emma Holmes were on a team with Edmonton’s Sarah Tipples and finished 2nd in the Women’s category. Canmore’s Laurence Dumais and Australian Ellie Phillips were joined by Beth Fowler for a 3rd place finish. The drive back to Canmore was a lot less snowy and our deaths didn’t seem quite as imminent.
At the beginning of February, the team made the yearly trip out to Gatineau for Eastern Championships. The venue had plenty of snow and conditions were awesome! The weekend kicked off with a classic sprint for the Open categories and a 3km classic prologue for the younger skiers. Maya MacIsaac-Jones took the win in the Senior Women category, while Andrea Dupont finished 4th. Nick Bardak moved up to 20th after qualifying 28th in Junior Men, and Sara McLean finished 12th in out of the Junior Women. In the prologue, Anna MacIsaac-Jones skied fast and took the silver medal in the 2001 category. Tatiana Tilley lost some time while getting up close and personal with a creek and ended up 28th in her 1999 category. Saturday was a classic race, where the men skied 15km, the women skied 10km, and the Juvenile and Junior B categories skied 7.5km. Andrea Dupont had another 4th place finish, edged out by teammate Maya in 3rd. Anna was second in her category again with another great performance. Sunday was a 15/20km skate pursuit for the Open category, and a new wave start format for the junior categories. Skiers started in 10-person waves every 30 seconds, and all the times were compiled after the final wave finished. The Junior B athletes raced 10km and the Juveniles raced 5km. Heavy snow throughout the day made Nakkertok’s steep uphills extra tough and everyone put in an incredible effort. Andrea was consistent with another 4th place finish, while teammate Maya placed 2nd. Sara McLean also had a strong performance, finishing 12th in Junior Women. Anna MacIsaac-Jones finally made it to the top of the podium, dominating the Juvenile 2001 category by over 10 seconds.
This season, RMR was well-represented internationally. Maya MacIsaac-Jones and India McIsaac raced for Team Canada at World Junior/U23 Championships in Soldier Hollow and achieved some great results. Emma Camicioli also got some international experience at the Winter Universaide in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The team is now back at home and beginning the final preparations for Nationals, which will be held in Canmore starting on March 18.
Half-way through February...hard to believe. Or maybe if you're sick of winter, you can't wait for March to get here and the promise of spring!
I've been procrastinating this update for about a week now, because I've been going through a tough time mentally and emotionally. But the quote I've attached to this email sums up where I'm at in my sporting career, and my determination moving forward.
I apologize for the details below, but I race with my heart on my sleeve and know that a lot of you appreciate the nitty-gritty of athlete life.
I returned to Europe on Jan 1st fit and ready to race. However, right after arriving in Italy, the universe had other plans for me and I was stuck crawling between my bed and the bathroom for a week, struck down with the worst stomach virus (or maybe food poisoning?) I've ever had. 5 days in, I very stupidly attempted to race...I dragged my weak/shaky body to the finish line after literally falling over on the last loop. Hindsight's 20/20, but I really should not have even considered racing that day. Especially knowing that my gut was not absorbing my thyroid medication, setting me up to feel hypo in the weeks ahead.
A week later the IBU Cup team was in Germany, and though I was keeping food down by that point, a week of not training and not eating didn't set me up well for fast skiing over 15km. After that we moved to Czech and then on to Poland and then to Slovakia. I continued to train and race at each venue, but the speed and power I had in November (and clawed back over Christmas) felt like it had literally been flushed down the toilet when I was so sick for so long in Italy. I continued to have good prone shooting, but in pushing my weak/slow body so hard in an attempt to keep up with the pace, I would come in to the range for standing trembling from the lactate. It was very hard to stay positive when I could feel my goals for this season slipping away, and the frustration built with each passing race in which I didn't perform to my abilities. Well, I performed to my very best of what I was capable of on each given day, but because of the cards I'd been dealt, my "best" was not nearly the speed my "best" had been a month or two prior. And of course, the state I was in was not near where I needed to be to race on the world cup.
I'd planned on staying in Europe for the 2.5 weeks between this IBU Cup tour and the next one, because the two travels this year had resulted in two illnesses for me so far! However, my coach, sports psych, and higher powers at Biathlon Canada strongly advised me to return to Canmore and recover properly, rather than push through the rest of the season and "hope" I could pull together my previous speed and get some better results. I broke down completely after the last race when I realized my racing was not going to turn around unless I made some big changes.
As Julie would say, I'm flipping it, and here are the positives from this tour:
-I can clean my prone under basically any duress, including making massive wind changes and the pressure of starting a relay....After a summer with a dislocated shoulder, in which we didn't know if I'd even be able to shoot prone again with little pain.
-Once I'm in the "red zone" lactate-wise, I'm a ticking time bomb in the standing position and start missing targets the longer I stand there and start to shake.
-I am able to push myself to my max and get the most out of my body even when I'm in the hole.
-Even when competing in such a low physical state, I still had results almost the same as last year, so I must have improved some...likely the technical and strength gains came through (I really worked for any time I could on the downhills and flats!) when my speed/fitness were flushed away.
Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it was a very tough decision to pull the plug on this season...but after a week here in the mountains again, I realize it was the ONLY choice I could have made. If I have any hope of ever getting close to my goals in this sport, I need to take a serious step back from biathlon. The women I am racing are healthy, and they are fast, and there is no room to not be at your 100% best. My spirit and body both need a break - from the frustration and disappointment of the past couple of seasons, and from the constant battering and stress I have been putting my body under. Two winters ago when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, another athlete strongly advised me to take 3 months right then to NOT race, but rather recover and let my system re-set and come back to normal. Two years later, I'm giving in to the reality of the situation and accepting that I am really, really tired. I am taking February through April (instead of just the usual month of April) to actually take a step back from the sport I've committed my life to the past 5 years and figure out who I am besides a biathlete. My goals over the next 90 days are simple: to actually bring my hormones up enough to be considered a normal human and continue to rehab my shoulder; to work on my identity outside sport; and have some fun challenging myself in new ways. I also have a plan in the works for a career post-skiing, but I don't think I'm quite ready to implement it yet.
So, I did the most rash thing I've ever done and booked a ticket to Costa Rica to volunteer at a sea turtle research centre on the Nicoya Peninsula..leaving February 14! I am told that sun and the ocean are healing, but more, I wanted to do something bigger than myself and totally different than everything I have been immersed in for a number of years. I can't wait to experience a new culture, as well as pursue my interest in wildlife and conservation in a remote area and make a small difference. The trip came together because it resonated so strongly with me, and I was able to afford it through some work bonuses I'd saved (and staying with a local family is a lot cheaper than your typical resort:). All sponsorship money I'd planned on using for that third IBU Cup tour are going towards to a new stock for my rifle this spring, and training this coming year!
When I'm back in Canmore on March 2nd I'll ease into some spring skiing and help out Team Ontario at biathlon nationals. March through April will be spent enjoying my time on snow, seeing where my body is at, and working! At the end of April I will be home in Ontario to visit family and sponsors… so let me know if you would like me to drop by!
I hope this email has found you in a good space mentally and physically. I can't thank you all enough for your support, words of encouragement, and positive thoughts in my direction. I truly couldn't be pursuing my dream (Personal Legend?) without every single person that has ever been a part of this journey. Thank you.
Pura Vida - pure life (here's to learning some Spanish - a month ago I'd have thought that was crazy) -
This is where the latest RMR news will be posted. Postings will be contributed by numerous RMR athletes, RMR volunteers, and the coaches.