Overdue and belated blog posts are one of my less favourite things, so I apologize for this one coming so late. I’ll try to keep mundane details to a minimum and do more discussion and toss in a few pictures because they’re the best part of blogs anyway.
World Champs went well. I’m quite proud of my 21st place finish in the sprint, I think I executed my racing well and made the most of the opportunity on the day. What makes me sigh and my shoulders shrug then slump, is that I know what could have done to make it even better. Completely within the realm of my own control was being more diligent with my strength and upperbody training this year. Getting out-sprinted by two girls in the finishing straight was totally on me; my double pole has been pretty sad this year… and I take responsibility for that. Up until World Champs, it hadn’t held me back in domestic races, but when you line up with the best, you are lining up against people who aren’t leaving any stone unturned. (Almost) Everyone in that race had done everything as best they could to be at their very best, and in the end I was one got hung out to dry because I didn’t fully commit to being one of those people… I’ve been trying to keep the “what-ifs” at bay, but man, what if I had the energy and motivation to be all-in? That’s the million dollar question for me right now; do I have the energy, and do I have the motivation to be all-in? I mean, the Olympics are next year, and no one is going to half-ass their way onto an Olympic team.
Outside of the sprint race, I don’t really feel like I raced at Worlds. The sprint was my target event for the Championships, and after it was over I sort of collapsed. The exhale and sigh of relief of posting a solid result and racing well made way for the mental and physical fatigue from the pre-camp, travel, and time spent crunching to keep up with school really set in. Although I was enjoying being part of the team and considerably more relaxed about being at a major Championships than last year, it also sucked the life out of me. I was hesitant about the pre-camp when I committed to the trip, more for concern about the altitude slowing me down more than the acclimatization would help me (which, unfortunately I believe it did), but having spent very little time at camps and travelling this year, I didn’t anticipate how much of an added stress it would be for me…
So even though I still believe taking on this season on my own was absolutely what I needed and was the right decision, I will concede that in some ways I really shot myself in the foot too. I received a lot of cautioning about my plans to self-coach myself throughout this season; that the athletes who choose this path are most often the ones who overtrain and burn themselves out… And I see cases where that has happened, and I can understand why it happens. But what frustrated me the most whenever these cautionings (however well meaning) came my way, was how no one really seemed to see how burnt out I already was from the system. I had dragged myself through a difficult training season in 2015, only to then be raced right into the ground and then almost completely off the grid by the time the season wrapped up in spring 2016. I know I can be a pretty a stubborn athlete, but there were so many times last year where I feel like I tried to reach out for help, or expressed that I was feeling run down on motivation, and didn’t get the support or intervention that I needed…
But now, when I look at how I’ve grown from it through this season on my own, I see more and more clearly the importance of being passionate and driven by something.
Without having any steps I “needed” to take this year, no “next level” to reach, or expectations to live up to, it’s been tougher to get up and out in the morning. Even though I am much less stressed and burnt out than last year, I am also a lot less motivated to improve myself as a skier and perform at the highest level. This was especially true after I qualified for the U23 World Championship team, and then even more so now that the Championships are over. By making the team, and then improving on my result from last year, I don’t have anything to prove any more, I did what I set out to do – to redeem my efforts from last year and to do it on my own terms… But it’s tough to do it without a greater vision. It’s tough to look ahead for what’s next when I’m not sure if I’ll have the energy to take the steps to get there. So with that, it’s time for a break.
After returning to Thunder Bay from Worlds, I took 5 days completely off (probably a lifetime record) training and let myself slowly conform to the shape of my office chair and desk, pouring over my textbooks. By the weekend I felt it was time to start moving and went for a ski, which had me feeling amazing until I got super sick that night. This called for several more days off/very easy before flying to Ottawa for the Gatineau Loppet to do two 51km races. I try to reserve poor decisions like this for situations where I’m the only one who suffers the consequences. My first and second marathon’s went reasonably well, up to about 30km on both days. I left the weekend feeling pretty trashed and seriously dehydrated, but with a strong sunglasses tan and solid payout from the results. In all honestly though, it was a lot of fun, probably one of the best weekends of racing I’ve done all year. I even got to ski with Pierre Harvey for quite a while near the end of the classic day, until he decided to drop the hammer, and I halfheartedly chased after him (mostly fretting about having to ski another 51km the next day as I did so).
Having survived the weekend, a few chill days at home were in order. A couple easy skis with the family, lots of foam rolling, tinkering on my new mountain bike, and even a ride with my cycling-enthusiast neighbours now has me felling marginally better and sort of ready to race the Ontario University Championships this weekend in Midland. I’m super stoked to be back with the Lakehead team and to be competing on some of the trails I raced on as a kid. Good memories hanging out at the Mountainview chalet, eating chocolate, and thawing out cold fingers and toes.
As for the next month and end of the ski season… OUAs this weekend, another 50km at the Sleeping Giant next weekend, then a couple weeks until Nationals in Canmore. World Cup Finals are slated for mid-March in Quebec City, but I don’t think I’ll go if I’m offered a spot. At this stage, it’s more important to me to do races where I can have fun than to try and race my way up a ladder that I’m not even sure I want to be at the top of. Beyond that, well… who knows. Time off skiing and time to think about skiing are near the top of the list. Like I said earlier, I know what I can and would need to do to still become a faster skier, it’s just about finding the motivation to do it. There is definitely still motivation in me to be a better skier, but I think it’s a matter of re-committing to it before I can really embrace it. So to find that commitment, I think that’s the next step.