"I'm only going to get this one chance/...Something's wrong, I can feel it."
As usual for a skier, the spring flew by and here we are again, well into another training season. New goals set; plans written; epic long workouts underway; life is good. Of course I meant to blog during Skier's New Year/Fun month of April, and then definitely a cool update about training and the awesomeness of teammates in May, but writing slid to the back burner time and time again. I woke up in the middle of the night last night with words bursting out of me, and so I new today I had to make the time to get a few thoughts down - or it would literally drive me insane.
(April adventuring with Emily on Grotto Mountain; one of the best ridges around)
I wanted to write a cool blog post about something other than sport today, but I’ve got another update to share in regards to my biathlon journey, and the words coming out are about that right now. A good friend told me to write as I recover, so I’m taking her advice to heart. Her own journey of recovery has been my main source of inspiration the past while, and any time I think I’m in pain or times are tough, I think of her determination and fierceness and it becomes easy to soldier on (I will write a blog post about her, and other awesome females in my life that inspire me, soon.)
Almost 3 weeks ago I was crust skiing up at Sunshine Resort, outside Banff. It’s a gorgeous place with good snow late into the spring most years; a haven for skiers and biathletes alike in May…everyone working hard to log hours on snow before hitting the pavement on rollerskis. Long story short, I was alone at the time, enjoying the perfect conditions and thinking about the upcoming training camps and goals we were planning. I wiped out coming down a hill (#typical) and slid into a tree, slamming the crust hard and twisting, instantly knowing I’d done something really bad. I pulled myself up to sitting with my left hand and looked down at my right arm, and with a sick sense of horror saw my right shoulder was dislocated. I won’t go into details, as everyone knows I’m squeamish and typing this my face is getting all scrunchy, but it was not a sparkly moment. Out of instinct I grabbed my elbow and with pressure from the side from the tree I’d slid into, I forced my arm back in the socket. This all likely happened within about 20 seconds, and I immediately talked myself down so I was calm. Yep, talking out loud, to myself, just the marmots and mountain wind hearing me, so I wouldn’t go into full-on panic mode.
(Sunny crust skiing Tuesday, hauling ass up Sulphur in a sling in the snow on Saturday.)
The whole situation might sound a little bit badass but it really was anything but. I’m extremely lucky something worse didn’t happen. The next few days were full of appointments and x-rays and decision-making, and me embracing the #slinglife. I’ve chipped the top of the bone (either going in or coming out; it happens in 95% of dislocations) and done the most damage to the tendons and ligaments connecting to my bicep. Because I’ve sublaxated this shoulder before, in another crash back in December, they considered surgery, but have decided to wait and see how much strength and stability I can build back on my own…if I ever sublax or dislocate it again, I’ll need to go under the knife to tighten everything up. I truly wish I’d broken a bone somewhere in my arm instead, as when you set a bone it usually heals; though you lose muscle in the area and have to work around a cast. With a dislocated shoulder, all the tendons and ligaments are stretched and those things can never return to the state they were in before. You can strengthen the muscles around the area, but you can never fully reverse the damage (without surgery) because of the nature of those tissues. I’ve been worrying about a lot of things, and number one is even if I work really hard in rehab, will my shoulder ever regain full function and power, for a sport that is extremely upper-body heavy? Are we just kicking the can down the road, saying we’ll operate IF I dislocate it again…when 85% of dislocations reoccur within a year? And I seem to fall a lot? I've been channeling Larry and his saying "Think 'Stand up,' not 'Don't fall.'"
All I can do right now is trust in the team I’m working with; my coach, sports med doc, physio, visceral therapist, and others. Recovery is my main focus right now, though I’ve still been training hard (in creative ways) and getting my hours in. I’m told full recovery can take months, but right now we’re hopeful I could be skiing with two poles again by the end of June. The past few weeks I’ve been living it up on the spin bike, hiking/running uphill on smooth trails (the downhill jostling is painful), and doing lots of core and physio rehab work. I haven’t been able to shoot, as your right arm and that area in particular is pretty important for that (on my rifle at least, I’m not badass like M and B) and I haven’t been cleared to do any activities with “a high risk of falling” – like road biking or rollerskiing with one pole. Very soon, hopefully! I HAVE been able to crush some intervals up Sulphur multiple times a week (nothing like the tourists cheering you on from the gondola), explore some smoother trails in the area as I perfect my power walk technique, and get comfortable with being very sweaty on the indoor bike. And I have been blessed enough to have had unbelievable support and encouragement from family and friends. From two different batches of brownies within 3 days, to multiple dinners being cooked for me, to others doing the grunt work at the health food store, to stories of success in bouncing back from injury, I’ve been well loved and lifted the past while.
(New hiking views; aiming for smoother trails right now and powering it uphill, descending carefully as the biggest worry right now is wiping out and messing up the shoulder again. I wouldn't put it past me. After yesterday, no more scree in a sling!)
Part of me really didn’t want to share this new obstacle because I feel ashamed, somehow, that I have hit another hurdle and my body is “letting me down” in a different way this time. However, I realized that a huge part in why I do sport is to show that if you love something enough and are willing to work hard enough, you can go far. I won’t sugar coat things – in failing to meet certain goals I’ve realized you might not ever make it as far as you desire because that’s the nature of the beast- but you can go far in that you develop a character of steel. Nothing is going to faze me anymore. Biochemical disadvantage, injuries; whatever – they’re part of me being an elite athlete, and they’re teaching me grit, perseverance, and, most of all this time, I think, PATIENCE. If I was going to have a challenge thrown at me, well, now is the time. It’s early in the training season, and I can say for sure I’m going to be more motivated than ever when I get back to more biathlon-specific training. Every single stride and every single bullet will be all the more beautiful and all the more precious.
Besides, I’m forced to take a step back and look at my life from afar right now. My coach likes to call it the helicopter view. I still think like a sniper sometimes and want to narrow my scope in on tiny things, but at the end of the day looking down on the overall scene and evaluating what I’m doing and where I’m going is vital. I see I still need more balance – biathlon isn’t who I am, it’s just what I love to do – and I need more patience. I’ve got so many things to be grateful for. (Example: last night’s gratitude list included me being thankful for Asian fusion tacos, bright sun filtering through the trees, and my two awesome sisters that I likened to my two strong legs carrying me up the mountain). Not to sound increasingly hokey or morbid, but I could have died out there alone with the marmots. I have a mostly healthy body, an incredible support system in my family and friends and team, and I live in a glorious place that allows me to continue chasing my crazy dream, in a rich and diverse free country.
A good friend sent me this quote to keep me going, and I think it applies swimmingly as I slowly advance back towards fully biathlon specific training - and I as discover more tenacity and grit and fiery sparkles inside: “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do…you have to keep moving forward.”
Oh, and Eminem says if life’s handing you lemons, make lemonade then. He makes it sound like a challenge... so challenge accepted.
Listening to, explicit: Rap God, Eminem (I know most of it now, in reading the lyrics again) Listening to, rated G: Rambling Man, Laura Marling, and Messin' Around ( <3 Enrique 4eva) Eating, chocolate-wise: homemade power cacao spread (Giddy cacao powder and cane crystals, almond butter, MCT oil..spread on toast or spoon in oatmeal pre worout, and you go zoom) Eating: epic lunch bowl salads with whatever free bin veg I have, protein, grains, and avo/nuts/bacon/creamy sauce poured on top Wearing: headband Buff now that's so hot! Oh and a super-classy sling. Watching: reruns of favourite old cop shows while I spin. Flashpoint. Enough said. Excited for: training sans sling, shooting again, and a summertime visit home Grateful for: my mom always knowing exactly what to say, and the air cooling down on summer evenings.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!