Greetings as we enter the last week of November! I hope you're reading this after a lovely autumn; excited for the snowy winter ahead and happy and healthy to boot. Here in Canmore there are more ski trails opening each day (they're working hard to blow man-made snow), and the Moraine Lake Road in Lake Louise has beautiful fresh powder for long classic skis. We're donning bibs and doing shorter, harder intervals at training...I'm drinking hot miso on the daily...the hair braids are lookin' fine...fingernails are rough from scraping skis...it must be the start of race season! ❄
(photo cred: Jonah Steinberg)
I let 10 weeks slip by since my last update, instead of the usual 7-8. Where did the fall go?! At the last update, I was entering a hard block of intensity training here in Canmore, then headed to the Okanagan Valley (Kelowna, BC) with the Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR) for a volume camp at the start of October. After leaving cold, damp Canmore - September was nasty this year - it was amazing to crush long 4.5hr roller skis in the hot sun again for 10 days! This year, with strength and speed being higher on the priority list than ever before, I kept up short sprints throughout all my longest over-distance workouts (i.e., 12-15 x 10-15second sprints throughout a 4hour workout!), as well as made sure I got at least one heavy strength and one maintenance strength session per week. Now that we're entering the first races of the year, I am continuing to keep up the strength and turnover work, and so far I'm definitely feel more muscularly sound than ever before (thanks Jake - my functional rehab therapist/strength coach at One Wellness).
After the sunny Kelowna Camp, we drove back through Roger's Pass in a snowstorm, and had three days of skiing on fresh snow before it melted.. A Thanksgiving miracle! The team then wrapped up another week of dryland training before Frozen Thunder (manmade snow stockpiled under sawdust from last winter) was spread out into a 2.5km loop. Needless to say, it was amazing to get back on snow on October 20 and feel the real glide underfoot again! We are so spoiled to be nordic athletes in Canmore and have access to pre-season snow, especially when global warming makes the snow situation increasingly unpredictable around the world.
I trained hard through the start of November and had a small scare with two sudden-onset injuries: a super twangy left glute/hamstring connector that made classic skiing and running impossible for two weeks, and a seized-up right shin that forced me to limp for a couple days after that. Luckily for me, I have access to the best practitioners in the country (in the world, IMO), and my visceral therapist Karen Barker was able to manipulate my lower leg and clear up the shin issue, while my physiotherapist Hugh Simson at One Wellness worked out the kink in my hip...all the while Cheyenne, my amazing massage therapist at Wildflower, kept everything loose and moving well! I have to say that after all the rehab with the shoulder, I have been so pleased with how well it has handled all the hard training I've thrown at it...lower-body injuries were almost a nice change of pace!
Two weeks ago I kicked off the race season with the Biathlon Canada trials. I went into these very early-season races with no expectations, as I wanted to train through them and focus on my goal of being fast in February and March this year (in the past 3 years, I have not made it through to the end of the winter, due to burnout, illness, and injury). I felt fit and strong but not speedy yet...as my one teammate Katie describes it, if I were a knife, I would have been a dull rusty blade (durable and reliable, well worn from lots of use over the summer), not a sashimi blade (sharp and fast and ready to slash!). For these races, I was lucky to be on some fast Rossignol skis as I start to explore the feel of this brand underfoot, and loved them!
(photo cred: Matthias Ahrens)
I went as hard as I could in the time trials and felt ok & shot ok in two of the three, collapsing at the finish line in true exhaustion after them all...racing within 10 beats per minute of my maximum heart rate, and peaking at 203 on the final loops...so I truly gave it all I could. The results were not quite where I'd hoped they'd be/wanted them to be right now, but I couldn't be mad at myself because I literally gave it everything I had - and it was only early November - there are MONTHS of races to come! Luckily for me, I have some really amazing teammates and coaches at RMR that reminded me of my mission for this winter: to build into the season, be healthy and happy throughout it, and be skiing the fastest I ever have by the end of it. None of us are feeling race-ready or sharp yet - but we need to trust in the plan and know that the hay is in the barn for the gruelling months ahead.
(photo cred: Nathaniel Mah)
Thus, I spent the week after the biathlon trials making a large decision. Without going into TOO much detail on everything that went into it...bear with me, as I feel I owe everyone some of the thoughts that went into it... I have been doing the sport of biathlon for exactly 8 years: poured mind, heart, soul, and physical body into getting the most of of myself over 7.5km of skate skiing with two shooting bouts (yes, there are other events, but this is the most common biathlon race). I crossed the finish line a few weeks ago, maxed out over a 22 minute effort, and all I wanted to do was go a LOT further! I have worked so hard at the very specific aspects of this sport: ski a 2-3km loop, stop and attempt to calm yourself physiologically enough to execute a fine motor skill for 30 seconds, and repeat...laser-like focus in turning over many stones in the pursuit of mastery. I realized that after all the dedication and determination in the face of many different adversities, the one sort of "talent" I have is to be able to push myself really hard, for a long time, and not give in. Few people can race with their heart rate at 198 beats per minute for 20-45minutes (biathlon length races), or sustain a super high lactate for that long. However, these abilities do not necessarily equal success in biathlon: skiing a (relatively) short race and shooting well (shaky legs and a brain burning up with lactic acid are not easy to overcome on the range)...and even with all the strength work I've done, I am still not a speed-power athlete; I have 100% slow-twitch muscle fibres.
(photo cred: Jonah Steinberg)
I realized that I have been hyper-focused and worked very hard at something very specific for a long time now - and I've never allowed myself to pursue my potential in an area that perhaps was better suited to my strengths. A seed had been planted deep inside: I want to see how far and how fast I can go, without the stress of shooting, and push beyond my perceived limits. I realized that I just want to SKI this winter, and see what I'm capable of over further distances, as well as in the classic technique (in biathlon, we only race the skate technique). All along, when I decided to return to sport after my shoulder surgery this spring, and in facing the demons I overcame during that process, I thought that my "personal legend" (reference to The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo) for this chapter of my life was the pursuit of mastery in the sport of biathlon. I thought maybe I was destined to return to that start line in Italy and re-do that race I couldn't finish last winter; finally get my retribution on the IBU Cup in biathlon. But in a sudden flash of insight (a eureka moment at 4am) it came to me: a personal legend isn't something as specific as skiing 2km and shooting some targets; it's more simple and pure than that: getting the very most out of mind, soul, and body. And in allowing myself to chase a slightly different, new dream, I would evolve more as a person and athlete...and isn't that perhaps the purpose of life, anyways? Personal evolution as we follow our path - and at the end of your life saying, "man, that was a wild ride...and I used every single gift I was given along the way."
What's the point in being strong if you never express your strength?
(photo cred: Julien Hobson)
So, instead of chasing more speed over 7.5km and Biathlon North American Cup points in December and heading back to the IBU Cup in January, I have decided to chase races of 10-50km in length (30min-2.5hrs of racing!), across North America, in both classic and skate techniques..with no shooting. This does not mean I'm hanging the rifle up for good this winter...I can still attend the National Championships in March...It just means I'm going to lean into my strengths for once... and crush myself for longer sustained races, exploring my potential in a different nordic avenue. I will attend the XC North American Cup/USA SuperTour Circuit (racing all the distances, not just the longest ones), as well as hopefully a couple 50kms. This is a very competitive circuit, because unlike biathlon which sends the top 8 American and top 8 Canadian women to Europe all winter, xc-skiing only sent 2 Canadian women and ~6 American women over there right now...and the North American field is extremely deep in this sport! Though it's been a huge mindset shift, I know this was the right choice, because I'm SO excited every day to train - just like I was before - but instead of slinging my rifle on my back the past two weeks, I've been messing around with grip wax and soaking up every last bit of classic technique I can from my xc-skiing teammates. I'm heading to Silverstar BC and Whistler BC in December, then will head to Ontario for Christmas, followed by more racing in the East January through February...such a change from being in Europe in winters past...and I can't wait!
Grateful for teammates and views like this ^
As for the rest of life, outside sport, a.k.a., the real world that actually matters? Family and friends near and far are healthy, happy, and working hard/crushing it in their chosen endeavours...Work for Fast and Female has been great; we are wrapping up a super busy and successful autumn and looking ahead to more excitement in 2019...I've been dancing up a storm at latin/salsa classes, and every morning as I do my mobility and physio exercises...the sunrises from my view at Windtower have been breathtaking of late...and every day continues to be a surprise; full of opportunities and small miracles.
sunrise at home at Windtower
Apologies for the long meandering decision process above. I truly couldn't continue to follow my path - chase this personal legend - in nordic sport without each and every one of my family, friends, teammates, support team, sponsors, and supporters. People probably think I'm crazy to think I could make any type of dent in the results in classic skiing, fight in the pack in a skate sprint race, or have success in what's technically a different sport...They may know the odds, but they don't know me. I'm going to summon up every last flicker of fight from my soul out on the race course this winter and relish in this challenge - technically returning to my roots; I started as an xc-racer at age 14 on the OFSAA highschool circuit! Sometimes in life you just have to accept what is; submit to the path; and lean into your strengths. Yes, we all have weaknesses we want to improve upon...but we all have things we are special at, and I think this winter is as good a time as any to explore them!
Dance for Joy Studio Banff
So over the next few weeks, pay extra attention to the little things around you: the things that make you happiest, and the things you are best at...and use them as signposts as you follow your path. Thank you so much for reading this novel - I'll touch base after a month of racing - Enjoy the snow and start to the holiday season!
If she thinks only of the goal, she will not be able to pay attention to the signs along the way. If she concentrates only on one question, she will miss the answers that are there beside her. That is why the Warrior submits.- P.C. ✨
Pura Vida EY
What I'm... Listening to: see playlist below Dancing to: Cuba Represent and Muevelow (Orishas), Smooth (Santana ft Rob Thomas), Need to Know (Marc Anthony), and Mia (Bad Bunny) 🔥 Eating: peanut butter oatmeal and thai curry like it's my day job Drinking: hot miso broth after a cold ski (thanks Nutters!) Wearing:Trailsports and Windtower logos on my race headband, and the new RMR SuperWoman Race Suit! Reading: "The Power of Moments" by Chip and Dan Heath, and this poem: The Invitation Working on: classic striding efficiency; sprint power; staying present in my technique under physical duress Rocking at: crushing myself every time I don a bib and functioning on less sleep than normal (sometimes you just wake up at 4am!) My Playlist: There Will be Time (Mumford and Sons - V3 African version) Too Much is Never Enough (Florence and the Machine) You Make my Dreams Come True (Hall and Oates) The Fire Inside (Bob Seger) Remind me to Forget (Kygo & Miguel) Would You Call that Love (Kelly Clarkson) North Country (Rankin Family) Lost Without You (Freya Ridings) The Lightning Strike (Snow Patrol) Proud Mary (Ike and Tina Turner) Walk Away (Xavier Rudd) Joy to the World/Calling all Angels (Train) Love is Glorious (Melissa Ethridge)
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!