Too often, injuries and illnesses can pile up and eventually become the reason an athlete leaves competitive sport. Trust me, this happens far more often than those heroic comeback stories we all love to read about. Finding the balance between training hard enough to be competitive and avoiding the training that can worsen an injury can be incredibly frustrating. The trade-offs are undesirable - Stop training completely, hope your injury heals and sacrifice a year of decent racing, or, try to continue training to maintain some level of fitness, but risk dragging on your injury indefinitely. We are happiest when we can simply train our butts off with nothing holding us back.
I am definitely not the first, nor am I alone in having to deal with lousy injuries. There is no shortage of stories about athletes overcoming adversity that I can draw hope from. I guess I want to write about this to give some insight on what can unfortunately be a big part of an athlete’s career. Injury can have a significant effect on results, and there is so much more to an athlete than what you can gather from a results sheet.
I’m getting better, with the help of my coaches, at finding ways to train as effectively as possible while nursing injuries or dealing with colds. While I’ll always strive for perfect health, living in this balancing act has become the norm for me. After falling short of my training and fitness goals this past summer, I accordingly reassessed my goals for the winter and shifted my focus entirely on the Ski Tour Canada. I accepted that the start to my season might be slower than usual and I made sure to keep my expectations realistic so that I could remain positive and motivated throughout the winter. Identifying the Ski Tour as my goal was instrumental to my motivation, happiness and mental game. It kept me focused and helped me look past the lows.
When I started writing this post, I was feeling rather pessimistic about the state of my injuries. Now, I’ve just come back from my second osteopath appointment, and I’m finding ways to tap back into that optimism I thrive on. Although I’m still in the thick of dealing with a stress fracture, I’ll try to offer some advice to my fellow athletes dealing with injury or illness.
- Seek treatment! It’s frustrating when it feels like the medical system is failing you. If it feels like no one is really invested in trying to get you better, keep searching for the right physician until you find one who cares. Not only is treatment what you need, but it’s so good for your psyche. It has made me feel proactive, and during every treatment I always feel more optimistic about overcoming my injury.
- Come up with some appealing back-up plans! Although I’m nowhere near ready to consider leaving cross-country skiing, I’ve been entertaining the idea of going into new sports. Again, this just helps when I start feeling pessimistic about ever classic skiing again without pain. Right now, although this isn’t the most creative alternative (and would still require my foot to recover somewhat), I’ve been thinking about how I wouldn’t be at all upset if I abandoned being a cross-country ski racer to be a biathlete! (I know it’s still cross-country skiing…let me dream!)
- Always be grateful for what you have! That is a given, but it’s good to remind ourselves of how lucky we truly are.
Without further ado, here is a recap of my races up until the end of February this year!
This was the first race of the season and it was a shock to the system!
Sophie C-L and I were both #strugslife in the classic sprint, posting the slowest semi final times of the day.
Silverstar NorAm – Mid December
First “WOO!” Feeling of the season!
US Nationals, Houghton MI – Early January
After having serious pain on the ball of my right foot for the past few months that got increasingly worse until Christmas, I had an MRI done. It was after this race in Houghton that I got the results from the MRI via email, confirming that the pain in my foot was indeed what I thought it might be – a stress fracture in my inside sesamoid bone. It was a relief to finally get a diagnosis. From this point on I went from only classic skiing a little bit to avoiding the technique entirely, as it was the most painful thing for my foot. I flew home and missed the next NorAm in Thunder Bay to meet with a doctor and rest my foot. I wasn't ready to rest it completely as I had the biggest races of the year coming up, the Ski Tour Canada. The doctor agreed that as long as I wasn't making it worse, I could keep training and skiing on it until the end of my season.
I returned to racing in Mont-Sainte-Anne for the next NorAm. I raced the classic race – my first time classic skiing since Houghton. In case you’re wondering, no, my foot didn’t feel great at this point. The Ski Tour Canada was drawing near though, and all these races counted towards qualification for the tour, so it was pretty important that I race.
Skate sprint – Mentally, this was a great racing experience. My legs felt like poop all day, and I was getting frustrated because I felt like my tired legs were my limiting factor. I had a moment with my coach in which we both acknowledged my poopy legs, and he said to me “Those are the legs you’re stuck with today, so you have to make your legs work for you.” I was already pretty familiar with the concept of doing your best with what you have, but that moment totally changed my frame of mind, and with that new perspective I went into the Final ready to take control of my legs. Mind over matter. I had a great start and held on for third! And I made those legs work for me!
This was the last set of races before the Ski Tour Canada!
Classic Sprint – I had a bomber qualifier! Finally, it seemed like my classic legs were coming around just in time for the tour!
Skate 7.5km – I started off slow. I found some speed on the second lap and was able to make up some time.