Dear people of the internet: yes, hello. It’s been a while, and by a while I mean 3 years. A lot has changed in my life since my last update and boy oh boy it sure is nice to look back on the days when I casually won the skate sprint at Newfoundland Nationals in 2014. Tomorrow is the skate sprint at the 2018 Ski Nationals here in beautiful Thunder Bay (only my favourite place in the world) and I feel like I’ve already disappointed myself with my performance. The life of a high level athlete is rough, man, and the life of a high level athlete coming off of two years taking a break from sport to recover from mental health issues is even rougher. There are times when I reminisce about “the good ol’ days” of my juvenile girls 2013 season when I had some awesome teammates and friends to help drive my motivation in training and during my races. Back then we valued our team’s success over our own and worked together to help each other improve. We were unstoppable. But those were times when skiing was easier physically and mentally, and I know I will never have a team like that again. It was extremely special and I am so grateful to my teammates for helping me have something important and fun to look forward to everyday.
Back in my 2015 season when I was in grade 11, and the rest of my teammates were in grade 12 was my last season where I struggled with my training and races, and my mental health issues started to take a toll on me. Despite my love of skiing and my dreams of being the best skier in the world someday, I put those dreams aside to focus on finishing my grade 12 year and also recovering from my mental illness. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Until then, I had been competitively skiing for my entire life and suddenly the lack of physical activity and having something to work towards hindered my motivation to do even simple things like homework, or cleaning my room, or getting out of bed, or sleeping.
I've been skiing since I was 1 years old!!!
I think I’ve always suffered from some mild anxiety issues as noted by an old ski coach of mine, when I started crying in a little ball before a sprint race I had qualified first in when I was 13 years old, because I was so nervous about living up to my qualification place in the heats. Skiing had always tired out my almost endless energy when I was a kid, but as soon as I stopped I started suffering from insomnia which really deprived my body physically but also mentally. After a year of boring counselling I realized that the absence of sport in my life was slowly driving me insane, and that I craved competitive activity more than I craved sleep, literally. I had always wanted to play volleyball when I was younger, and had to turn down the many times I was scouted for one team or another because skiing was the most important thing in the world for me at the time and the seasons overlapped with each other. But luckily because of my many connections in the volleyball world, I was able to play for Canuck u18, a Tier 1 competitive team based out of the Volleydome in Calgary, and my coaches were owners of the Volleydome and ex-Olympians Don and Mylene Saxton.
I am on the top row, far right #9 woohoo best number
Volleyball was such a great experience for me, I was able to be on a team again where we all were working towards the same goal, and it was in a competitive enough environment for me that I felt like I was able to push myself to improve, despite my feelings of doubt and worry going on inside my head. However being a top Tier 1 team and one of the best teams in Alberta, I wasn’t a regular player and sat on the bench a lot during tournaments since the other girls on my team had been playing since they were little kids and I had been playing at that top level for only a few months. Even though I was a sub, my competitiveness burned inside of me, and suddenly I was practicing twice as much as I had been before, out on the grass in front of my house with my younger sister, Clara, who also plays volleyball. I was banged up and bruised and probably wrecked my shoulder but I’m not actually sure because I never got it checked out oops, and rain or shine Clara and I would be out getting grass stains on our knees and hips from rolling around in the dirt to improve our skills.
warning: graphic bruising and abuse to my knees featuring my dog and cat
Unfortunately the problem with volleyball is that it’s a very political sport, and that at the end of the day your coach is the one who decides who gets to play and who doesn’t. Despite my improvement throughout the season, the coaches on my team frustratingly didn’t recognize it and I sat on the bench at tournaments for the rest of the year. I realized that although I like being a part of a team, team sports are not for me. After volleyball season ended I felt lost once again, with no direction to go and still feeling fired up from not being able to show my true potential on my team. My mom, who works for the Zone 4 race timing company here in Canmore, was timing Ski Nationals that were being held in Canmore last year, and suggested I come and help volunteer and immerse myself in the ski community again since it was something I enjoyed so much about the sport. I agreed and volunteered at the finish line recording bib numbers as the racers finished. I can honestly say that this was one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. Since I was writing bib numbers I had to pay attention to who the skiers were that were coming in and it was so exciting to be watching my old ski competitors and rivals giving everything they had to the line. The emotions I saw on so many people’s faces after they finished racing from ecstatic and crying from happiness, hugging their teammates and coaches, to utter despair and disappointment as they sat on their knees with their faces staring emptily at the snow in front of them, every emotion was something I had once experienced with racing and, I realized, was something I wanted to experience again. After the races everyday at Nationals, I dusted off my old boots, skis, and poles that had sat untouched for the past 2 years and shakily went for a ski on some of the easier trails at the Nordic Centre. It was such a bewildering experience for me to be so unbalanced and uncoordinated on my skis, and the way my muscles ached with fatigue after only 20 minutes. Only a few years ago I felt so controlled gliding down a huge hill on one ski with the other taken off and in my hands in the air as I would bellow animalistic screeches into the woods, and now I was, rather embarrassingly, face-planting on uphills when my skis would suddenly decide to slide out from underneath me. I felt regret in stopping skiing so many years ago because I thought that if I had continued I would still be at the same level as some of the other girls I watched race earlier that day. But now looking back, I know how hard those girls have worked to be where they are now, and I dedicate many of my successes in the past to the help my old teammates gave me, and which I’ll never have again with them as they have all left to pursue their education in university.
The team from L-R: Lauren, Morgan, Laurence, Me, Emmy, Georgia
Picture taken in France 2015
A fun ski I went on with my cousin and Clara
Everyday after volunteering (watching) the races at Nationals, and slowly getting more used to being on skis afterwards (falling every two steps), I started to feel sad that I had stopped something that I love so much. When I explained this to my mom, she told me she knew I’d always come back to skiing even though it took some time and a few years where things were not so great for me, because it truly was “my thing”. After Nationals ended, I contacted my old coach Alain and asked about what Team RAD was all about, since some of the guys on the team were people I’ve known and skied with since I joined Canmore Nordic when I was 10 years old. Al was super great and decided to take me on even though I had terrible fitness and strength from not training for a couple of years, and also knowing my history and ongoing battle with mental illness. Now looking back, I’ve realized that although me and Al butted heads a few times this year due to my times of feeling unmotivated, I’m really truly grateful that he was willing to work with me and wanted to help give me these experiences again even though my results have been majorly lacking for the whole race season this year. This ski season has been tremendously hard for me, going from no training to constant training with intensity and strength training on top of it was really difficult for me to stay motivated, especially when I didn’t have my old teammates, who knew me inside and out, to drag me out the door when I was having a bad day. I found myself doing training by myself a lot, which is okay, until it gets boring. I did have some nice guys on Team RAD with me however with them training to compete internationally and me just learning how to ski again without falling I wasn’t able to train the same amount or as fast as them which lead to lots of very, very, very long practices. My biggest weakness in skiing is that I am the absolute worst at training. I love racing especially; the euphoric feeling of pushing yourself to your limits, and then pushing some more is the best feeling in the world to me. However having to train to achieve that feeling in races is one of my least favourite things in the world. Apparently I also suffer from being illogical. My coaches have told me this year that somehow I didn’t lose any of my technique, and in fact that it had somehow miraculously improved from before I stopped skiing. That meant the thing I needed to work on the most was my fitness. Which meant more long hours of training. By myself. Alone.
Newfoundland Nationals 2014
Thunder Bay Nationals 2015
Thunder Bay Nationals 2018
Although this year has been hard getting back into the daily routine of a high level athlete, I am so thankful to everyone who helped me be able to ski and race again. At the very first race I did this year in December, the first Alberta Cup, my mom cried and was taking pictures of me when I started and I, albeit extremely embarrassed, was also crying on the inside because I was so happy that I had the opportunity to race again. The thrill of racing alone slowly waned and I found myself wishing I had my old teammates, or at least some personal motivation to have done more training so my excitement with my racing could also be rewarded with pushing myself harder during my races. But, as all skiers know the famous saying that we all live by, “skiers are made in the summer”, and my periods of feeling unmotivated I see now how greatly they’ve affected my races during the winter. Recently, I’ve started to overcome the initial shock of “oh my god I’m skiing again” and now, especially being right in the middle of Nationals, I’m ready to let my competitiveness loose and really work hard to make this upcoming year better than the last. That being said, fitness isn’t gained overnight, and so during the remaining two races of this Nationals, I’m going to focus on being positive and not letting the results get to me so much, and instead just soak in the excitement and be grateful for the experience. I know that tomorrow’s 1.3km skate sprint race is going to be hard for me mentally, because it is and always has been my favourite race. Since I am not in tip-top form this year, I have to focus on skiing the best I can right now, and not consider “what if’s” or “could have’s”, and have confidence in myself. Although I can slowly feel the anxiety and disappointment creeping up inside me for tomorrow’s race, I also have to remind myself that this is my third sprint race since the last time I raced in Thunder Bay at Nationals in 2015. So much has changed since then, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far at these Nationals!
You can stay tuned with live results and cheer me on from here: https://zone4.ca/event/Ski%20Nationals%202018%20Nationaux%20de%20ski%20de%20fond/