I bear many scars, but I also carry within me moments that would not have happened if I had not dared to go beyond my limits.– Paulo Coelho.
Yet again, 3.5 months have flown by since I last updated my supporters, extended family, friends, and sponsors. This time I have a half-decent excuse: there were certain people that needed to hear the contents of this message from me in person, and many of them were far away/traveling/etc, so I waited until the last important conversation happened just yesterday. This update has been ruminating in the back of my head, reminiscent of that old kombucha scoby or foul-smelling sourdough starter I know many of you have lurking on the back shelf of your fridge. Today is the day, my friends, that I pull that jar forward, twist off the lid, and add some fresh tea/starter to the murky contents below.
I actually already wrote this update once, three days ago. It took me a solid three hours. Then I learned, not for the first time, the danger of using keyboard shortcuts and not backing up your work properly. After sulking on my walk to the gym and throwing around some iron (ok fine, lifting some not-that-heavy weights), I realized that the words I’d written were destined for my eyes only, and had been therapeutic for me, but likely would have been TMI for most. My entire career I’ve tried to be upfront and honest, but I’ve often toed the line of over-sharing. This had also been a REALLY long (even for me) passage. Thus, here is the slightly abbreviated version of those rambling thoughts, much of it neatly organized into list form, saved twice in multiple locations; still far too wordy…
I last left off at the start of February, with many races still to go before the break from racing and training every spring, affectionately coined as the “Skier’s New Year.” Between then and now, here is a rundown of the more interesting events:
I raced XC Easterns at my home club of Highlands. Though the classic sprint was shockingly the most enjoyable day, the highlights of the weekend included: staying at Chateau Green (consuming, simply put, THE BEST food ever), sneaking in technique sessions with Rick and waxing with HTB, cool down chats with Shelby, being wined and dined by JC himself, and family coming from far and wide to cheer in the pouring rain. Thank you to everyone single person mentioned above, and the countless others involved in making such a high level event happen in Duntroon.
I had a lovely snowstormy week in the Ottawa Valley with Mads and the Woodfines, leading into my first ski marathon: the 52km Gatineau Loppet Skate Race. I crushed the first 26km, ripping past every aid station carelessly, loving every second and leading the women, until the lack of drink/fuel hit me like a wrecking ball and I bonked so hard I think my body began consuming brain matter for fuel. Is that even possible? Instead of stopping and forcing down some gels/sport drink, I dragged myself to the finish line (thank you to the master blaster dressed in yellow for pulling on the flats and downhills) in 5th, vowing never to do that again.
Until later that night, after half a beet cake, and realizing how much I wanted to fix the mistakes I’d made - I was still psyched to start in the elite wave of the 50km American Birkie 6 days later. However, that race was not meant to be, as an ongoing family extenuating circumstance meant I last minute had to stay home. This left me with unfinished business in the ski marathon world.
I then suddenly proceeded to go through a period of burnout worse than any other illness, injury, or mental demon I’d faced yet. For the 4 weeks leading into XC Nationals, I went from extreme stoke levels for racing a 50km, to not even wanting to go train for 30min of running with my sister. With the help of my sport psychologist and dear friends, the goal became just to get to the start line in Ottawa, and complete the season because I’d worked too hard for too long to turn my back on everything. I had not truly respected the toll emotional fatigue can take on the physical body and mental state until the past 8 months. Over-trained I can handle; over-wrought and over-wrung I realized I am just not strong enough to handle for extended periods of time. I have so, so much respect for the rest of my family for being so tough and putting up with me when I began to backslide. Thank you.
I did make it to the start line of all 4 races at Nationals, and did my best on each given day. Again, I was so blessed to have family cheering, RMR and HTB teammates to hug, chipper volunteers to thank, and multiple gels to consume during the 30km classic… I was so done by the end of the week that all I wanted was to get back to the mountains and into my own space and sparky mindset again. I ditched the idea of hopping into Biathlon Nationals in Whistler when it became clear that all I needed to enjoy the sport again was sunny combo drills the last few days of March, hitting all my targets, with teammates by my side… I didn’t need the bib and self-validation of completing a final set of races.
True rest is the act of doing an activity without needing to progress. – Brad Stulberg
Between late March and now mid-May, I went from 3 months on the road, living the racing athlete lifestyle and being with family, to going Full-Send Erin: all in, every day, no stopping, no thinking, just doing. As an athlete, I’ve never been very good at slowing down and resting; it doesn’t make me feel good spiritually…so I didn’t. Here’s another (probably more enjoyable to read) list of what I’ve been up to this spring, flying by the seat of my pants:
Trail running or skiing on the last of the snow here in Canmore every morning. Hitting up interval sets with the Dirtbags, and feeling faster on foot than I have in a long time.
Pumping iron at the beautiful gym in One Wellness, proving to myself day in and out that no matter how much I desire it, speed/power athleticism is not my forte.
Dancing up a storm. From going from being a true a salsa newbie to learning bachata/kizomba/tango/merengue/rueda, to being wayyyy outta my league at the International Salsa Congress (that sh*t is hard to fake when your partner is a pro), to long nights with the Canmore Salsaeros learning choreo, to attempting to tame my wild style with the structure of Flamenco at Dance for Joy in Banff….for me, there are 3 activities that I’ve ever done that ignite my soul and promote the flow state: xc skiing, trail running, and Latin Dance. Ole! Andale!
Hitting up a backcountry ski cabin with teammates and escaping the world for a night. The stars, the stories, the brownies…
Attaining new ink…photo attached…capturing the last decade of my life….thank you to my dear friend Corson at Primitive Imprint, for everything.
Acting in my first non-sporting commercial (thanks Graham; glad my look was the perfect hotel maid for you), and modelling in a snowy bridal shoot (thanks for the laughs, Twin Zebra and Georgie!). PHOTO CREDIT TO TWIN ZEBRA!
Crashing weddings. For real. What a weekend; what a party – congratulations to Geoff and Danae, and thank you to the amazing Lampard family (can’t wait for the next one; I need my own seat though in case cousin Colin shows up).
Living the 8:30-5 life (with some weekends and evenings;) running the Fusebox Co working Studio…making lots of new friends and connections, drinking lots of quality coffee, and typing up far too much instagram sarcasm. Oh, and still getting my Fast and Female work done too!
Life is the dancer, and you are the dance. – Eckart Tolle
Living life so full-on the last little while, I came to a few realizations. After the long dark winter, spring really did arrive (despite what the weather was doing), and brought a fresh new outlook for me. I came some realizations about the last decade of my life - since learning to ski at 14 and learning to shoot at 17 – in which I’ve dedicated myself to getting the very most out of my body, mind, and soul through mastery of the craft of xc skiing and biathlon.
If I so chose, I could make some big changes to my training, both physical and mental, and continue to turn over stones in my pursuit of excellence in this sport. I have no doubts I could slowly chip away at better results, and perhaps even someday, make my ultimate goals. Would that happen around the typical peak biathlete age of 30-32? Would my underlying hormonal issues ever let me reach my actual, full potential? Hard to say, for a late bloomer, and latecomer to the sport, like me.
Were the other things pulling me stronger in other directions? If I was being totally vulnerable, the answer was Yes. Was the flame of passion deep inside, my biggest asset and driver as an athlete, flickering when it came to thoughts of committing myself to the elite athlete lifestyle again? Yes. Hadn’t I always promised myself that I would move on, and Look Back with Love (thanks Jess), on an amazing career, whenever the moment came that my passion for the sport began to dwindle…so that I would never reach the point of resenting the sport? Yes.
Would I be going out on two amazing seasons, full of the result goals that I wanted? No. Was that my fault, due to injury, extenuating circumstances, and maybe just plain bad luck/not-meant-to-be-edness? No – I truly had given my best in this pursuit - chopped a lot of wood; carried a lot of water. Would continuing for further years, either in biathlon, or the pursuit of ski marathons/longer distance racing, continue to help me grow and evolve as a person, or would it ultimately more likely continue my cycle of burnout? At the end of the day, would deciding to retire cause more fear and restriction in my life, or more love and freedom?
The final answer was love and freedom. Thus, it is with a heart full of light and soul full of peace (oh man, my hippie side is flying high these days) (ok not literally; I’m still on the doping control list and peeing in cups on the regular!)…that I am officially Retired from my first career; being an Elite Biathlete. Whew. We don’t often get to choose the endings or beginnings we want in life, so I am so damn grateful for the start, end, and everything in-between during the last decade of my life. What a wild ride. There is so much to say in terms of people to thank, what I learned, and where I’m going in the next few years. But I’m realizing just how long this update is because my peaches are getting sore here in this chair. Thus, I will give a brief lowdown of my plans for the summer, and vow to send one final update in early September, after my final race…at that time I will give out all the proper thank yous to all the epic souls that have been a part of this journey, share my life plans, and recognize some of the greater opportunities I was graced with and things I learned from sport.
Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.– Pema Chodron
For now? I’m headed down under, to Australia, June 8 – Sept 6, after accepting an xc skiing coaching position! I will spend June exploring Queensland with my kickass friend AJ and his tribe, then fly south and into the mountains to coach on snow for July and August (that’s their wintertime) up at Falls Creek, with the Birkiebeiner Nordic Ski Club. I’ll be training and coaching on snow alongside their Junior NT, masters, and school kids alike, living with the locals, and experiencing everything I can in the Victoria area. It’s a super neat opportunity for a foreign elite athlete, and I’m so grateful for the chance to explore yet another corner of the world thanks to skis on my feet and sparkles in my heart. How fitting that I get to close out this epic chapter of my life with another grand adventure…and even get to do one final international race; a 42km skate – the Kangaroo Hoppet; a World Loppet series marathon, on August 24th.
On that note, I’ll be in touch, again in 3.5 month’s time…after my final hurrah. For now, I can’t thank each and every one of you enough for your support, love, and light throughout my athletic career, particularly the last 7 years since I moved West to the Rockies. I am so proud and so lucky to have had such an amazing tribe by my side, through the highs and (many!) lows that come along with being an elite athlete. From racing on the World Cup, to training on the glaciers, to anchoring relays for my nation, to laughing at the dinner table with teammates, to saying far too many “sorrys” and almost having to kiss a lot of random European men…it’s been a slice. Of apple strudel. In case this novella was not enough, here’s a lovely article the Citizen wrote about my career, released today – thanks Shawn!
I hope you all have an amazing summer (I’ll be enjoying a warm winter…the record low in Falls Creek is -9 C…I kid you not). Feel free to follow along with my Aus adventure on Facebook (Erin Yungblut), or Instagram/Twitter (@erin_yungblut). Alrighty, mate, I’m knackered….cheers!
One always has to know when a stage comes to an end. If we insist on staying longer than the necessary time, we lose the happiness and the meaning of the other stages we have to go through. Closing cycles, shutting doors, ending chapters - whatever name we give it, what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished…You can spend a long time wondering why this has happened. You can tell yourself you won't take another step until you find out why certain things that were so important and so solid in your life have turned into dust, just like that…None of us can be in the present and the past at the same time, not even when we try to understand the things that happen to us…Let things go.Release them. Detach yourself from them. Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Do not expect anything in return, do not expect your efforts to be appreciated, your genius to be discovered, your love to be understood…Before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished: Close the circle. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because that no longer fits your life. Shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust. Stop being who you were, and change into who you are. – Paulo Coehlo
Pura Vida EY
What I'm... Dancing to: any Bachata remix by DJ Tronky, Mil Pasos (kizomba version), Danca Kizomba (Stony), Global Warming (Pitbull), The Jump Off (lil Kim), Karaoke (Big Freedia), Tiptoe (Jason Derulo)
Eating: epic meals when I’m fed by Georgie or Joline; leftover vegan curry when I’m foraging for myself.
Drinking: Americanos at Fusebox, that I pulled all by myselfie. Wearing: A new Nutrition Loft One Piece! And Flamenco dresses and salsa heels. Reading: "The Passion Paradox” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.
Working on: slowing down and not scheduling every second of every day.
Rocking at: Skiing, dancing, and running at three different speeds: fast, faster, and dearly beloved.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!