Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Since my last update, a lot of things have happened– my foot injury is almost healed, I’m back to training on snow, and the racing season has started.
November for me was “rehab month” instead of the usual race season prep. After several weeks of modified training and endless physiotherapy, massage, and doctors’ appointments, at the end of the month my foot started to make quick improvements. Within a week or so, the swelling went down a LOT, and I was able to start skiing without pain! I slowly eased back onto snow, starting with 10min and building from there.
Having spent a month enviously watching my teammates ski around on Frozen Thunder, the feeling of getting back onto snow was unbelievable. I tend to forget during the summer how much I love skiing (probably because I usually try and convince myself that rollerskiing is just as fun– it really isn’t). The feeling of gliding smoothly over freshly groomed tracks is something that can’t be simulated on pavement.
I’ve now reached the point where I can ski for as long as I want, providing I do my mobility exercises beforehand and don’t let my feet get cold for too long. Although things aren’t quite back to 100% yet, I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to get back on skis so quickly, because many athletes have to miss whole seasons because of injuries or illnesses.
The more my foot improves, the more tempting it gets to stop being cautious. Caution and patience aren’t always easy as an athlete. Becoming successful takes years of dedication and consistent, smart training. When you can see your teammates and competitors out training, the last thing any athlete wants to do is to sit inside and rest.
However, sometimes training a lot is important, but sometimes resting will make you faster. Every athlete has to learn how to balance training and recovery; there’s a fine line between the two, and part of the game is learning when to push the line and when to back off. The past two months, I’ve spent a lot of time playing with that line, and I’ve had to remind myself many times that it’s more important to train intelligently than to train the most.
Since the World Cup races were starting just as I was easing back onto snow, I chose to stay in Canada instead of heading overseas. There were two main reasons for this decision. First, I wasn’t confident that I would be able to continue recovering properly overseas. Second, racing on the early season World Cup is very competitive. Having missed a month of on-snow training, I knew that I wasn’t in good enough racing shape yet to realistically be in the hunt for World Cup points, and I felt that I could prepare better for U23 World Championships by staying in Canada.
As such, my racing season started off with the Silver Star NorAm classic sprint! The classic sprint was nothing special; I felt like I was skiing in a slow-motion during my qualifier and I got knocked out in the quarter-final round. My lack of pre-season on snow prep was pretty obvious. I didn’t feel terrible, but it felt clear that I was going to need some more hard ski efforts to get me back into race shape.
To be cautious with my foot, my coach and I decided that I would skip the distance skate race on Sunday. Instead of racing, I went for a fun ski with the Space Dogs Ski Club, a Calgary Masters ski group run by Dasha Gaiazova (check out their website here: http://spacedogsski.club/).
After spending a couple of extra days in Silver Star, where we go to explore the beautiful ski trails around the mountain, the team headed to Rossland, B.C. for the next NorAm. Rossland is one of my favourite places to race because of the old-style narrow tracks, steep climbs, and fast twisty descents. I grew up skiing on similar old-style trails in Athabasca, and I’ve always loved skiing on that kind of terrain.
The first race in Rossland was a 10km skate individual start. I went into the day pretty unsure of my distance racing shape, but with the plan of pushing as hard and seeing where that put me. I attacked on the climbs and tried to push the epic downhills and flats; in the end, I finished 12th. Nothing special, but something that I know I can work with!
The second race in Rossland was a skate sprint. I had a mediocre qualifier, finishing 6th, and squeaked through the rounds into the final, where I managed to move up a spot, finishing 5th. Although the day was a long way from where I’m hoping my sprinting will be this season, it was an improvement from the Silver Star sprint. Moving up one step at a time!
One of the hardest things about the start of this season has been trying to be patient. I guess I had been wishfully hoping that I could come into the winter as if the fall had gone completely according to plan. Realistically though, since I missed out on a chunk of ski-specific training, getting to top racing shape will take a bit longer than usual this season. With good quality training, patience, and a bit of time, things will come around!