Post-Nationals Plague: Coughs, Stitches and No-Poles
Well, US Nationals was pretty much the opposite of what I was hoping for. I got sick mid-week, didn’t start the 10k skate, and started but dropped out of the 20k classic. I felt pretty good and healthy for the skate sprint the last day, and had a good day. I qualified 10th, led my quarterfinal and made it to the semifinal. However, I didn’t play my tactics well in the semi and subsequently didn’t make the A-final for the first time in three years at Nationals. Bummer in the end, but glad I got to race at all. My goal going into the season and the week was to podium at Nationals. I knew my chance to achieve that would be in either of the sprints, especially given my recent achievements in sprinting. So, it was frustrating and disappointing to leave the week not having completed that goal, but again, I have to take those losses and move forward. Sure, I sulked for a bit after bad races and being sick. Grieving is part of the process to move forward. I think that’s what shows that it’s important to me, but I’m trying to not dwell too much on the week. This is hard because despite some awesome successes this season, I feel like I’ve been plagued with various things that have hindered my training and racing. I strained my rib muscles in December from coughing too hard for too long, I’ve dealt with a lot of fatigue from not getting enough rest and recovery at home, I got sick at the beginning of what was supposed to be my best US Nationals, and last week I hurt my hand (explained below) and have had to modify my training because of it. But part of being an athlete is dealing with these things and making the most of them.
Before I get too far into this post, I do have to thank my mom for making an extra trip out to Utah for the last two races. Mom, I still appreciate you being there even though I was grumpy and sick and not racing well. Especially since I was grumpy and sick and not racing well. Despite my grumbling and eye-rolling, thanks for making me take my vitamins and taking me shopping. I know you get more stressed out than I do when I race, and it’s hard for you to see me disappointed but I can’t thank you and Dad enough for supporting and encouraging me through every success and discouragement, even if I may not always show it. I love you both.
After Nationals, I spent a week resting and training in Park City before heading north to Minnesota for the Tour de Twin Cities this weekend and next. It was nice to have a few days to literally do nothing and a weekend off from racing to hang out, recharge and reset in the Utah sun. I was looking forward to getting some good distance training in for a few days. However, my restful training week actually did not get off to a great start.
Thursday started off well enough—day off, just hanging out catching up on other things, staying out of the blizzard that had descended on Park City—but ended with a two-hour trip to the ER to get stitches in my left hand. Whoops. I was removing an avocado pit and the knife slipped and went straight into my hand. Nothing like a stab wound to really make for effective ski training. So, I have been skiing without poles. I can use a pole in my right hand just fine, but it’s actually just much easier to go without any poles. Needless to say, my hips and glutes have been working overtime. But a girl’s gotta do what she gotta do, so…. I just took it as an opportunity to really work on using my legs and making them stronger. It actually was kind of fun, and it helped me work on certain technique things more effectively.
This season has definitely been a lot of new experiences, trials and tribulations. This is my third year trying to be a “professional” skier and I’m still figuring out what that means. As this season has progressed, I have tried to change my mental attitude about being a professional athlete. Key word: professional. I can’t just consider this a sport anymore. Even though I don’t really make any money as a skier and I have a part-time job at home, skiing really is my job and I have to treat it that way and make it my first priority, especially if I want to continue with it and hopefully make the next level and have success.
It’s a lot more than just training and racing. It’s what I do with the time I’m not training and racing, like rest! Over the past few years I have really tried to make an effort to make my rest and recovery just as important as the actual training. Recovery things like stretching, using foam rollers and other body care tools, getting body work from a professional, even napping; all these things often take a backseat to training and work for me, yet they are crucial to preventing injury and illness. Injury can be incredibly frustrating and hampers training. So why wouldn’t I make sure I’m doing everything I can to prevent it? Taking measures to ensure that I’m staying healthy so that I can keep up the training and race schedule that I have include proper nutrition and hydration, and yes Mom, taking my vitamins (I know you are doing an “I told you so” victory dance). There are just some things that I have to figure out on my own through trial and error, successes and failures, no matter how many times my mom tells me how much it will help. And yes, it also means that you have to have help from people.
I can take care of myself well enough mostly, but I don’t know everything. I can’t thank my coaches enough for helping me make the hard decisions to not race if I’m unhealthy and also to encourage me when I have doubts about my abilities. I already thanked my parents above, but again, thanks for being there when I need you Mom and Dad.
I also have to thank the people that have worked with me and helped me with current injuries, and to hopefully prevent more injuries: Mack at Alpenglow Acupuncture in Anchorage for helping me over the past few years with all sorts of aches and pains, as well as being a supporting sponsor; everyone at the Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Center of Alaska, for making sure my asthma is controlled so I can race and also a sponsor; Sean at Chiropractic Works in Park City; and Adam at the US Ski Team training center who was generous with his time while I was in Park City this week helping me with my rib injury and how to go forward with stretches and exercises to increase my overall muscle mobility, despite laughing at how tight my muscles are… I appreciate everything everyone has done to help become a better skier and I hope my future results reflect that. Onto the Midwest!