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 toCanmore 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 toexperience 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) -
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!