In skiing, we like to use metaphors— when you’re peaking, you feel invincible— on top of a mountain peak! When you’re burnt out, low on energy— then you’ve dug yourself a hole, you’re standing on the bottom and you can hear an echo when you shout, searching for a way out.
Last year I found myself in a sizeable hole in the beginning of January. I had travelled and raced a lot over the previous two months. I trained in Forêt, QC and Gallivare, Sweden before racing the first period World Cups. I travelled home for Christmas and raced the Boxing Day Classic at Lappe, then road tripped to Michigan for US Nationals.
I had some good performances, nothing amazing, but some ok days on World Cup, a convincing Boxing Day win and a bronze at US Nationals. I then raced Trials at Lappe and quickly discovered I was out of energy.
For the rest of the season I barely trained, going from race weekend to race weekend on the NorAm, struggling to accumulate CPL points to qualify for Ski Tour Canada. In the Ski Tour I grasped at straws for the energy I needed to compete. I completed the Ski Tour, but it wasn’t pretty. I managed to find a little more energy for the first two distance races at Nationals, finishing a respectable 5th and 6th place, then came down with illness, missed the 50km and the season was over.
This January I find myself in a similar situation, standing at the bottom of a hole; only how I arrived here is a much different story.
After my struggles last winter, I finally recovered in April and entered May full of motivation. I made a goal to train over 800 hours and with my coach, designed an 850-hour year training plan.
From May 1st to the end of my Park City, Utah training camp on Oct. 13th, I trained 460.5 hours. That breaks down to 19.4 hours/week and 2.8 hours/day. The summer and early fall had gone very well! I was very fit, but also very tired upon my arrival home from Utah.
At this juncture is where I believe I started to dig my hole. Although I did take some time for rest, I returned to training before I felt completely recovered. In hindsight, I wonder where I would be today had I taken a longer recovery period following my Utah training camp?
From Oct. 14th, I averaged 14.6 training hours/week leading into the race season, with an increased number of hard intensities. Things seemed to be shaping up ok as I started on-snow training in November. I generally start slow in the first race weekend so I brushed off a poor showing in the AB Cup easily. Small improvements in feeling and performance the following weekend in our team’s Silver Star time trials seemed to reinforce I was on the right track. I thought, with my training tapering for the NorAms, I would find my form.
Something very different happened. The more I rested, the more my body shut down and the slower I skied. It seems as though continuing to train had kept my body going at some level. Resting, instead of causing good feelings, was allowing my body to realize how fatigued it really was. Now it craved more rest and starting the engine was even harder. The Silver Star NorAm was rough, and when I rested more before Rossland, I was even slower in the first race.
Time to shut it down.
Of course, Christmas Eve I was hit hard by a seasonal cold. I hadn’t been sick all year, but a week of rest and whammy, sick.
This is where my New Years resolution comes into play. I resolve to not repeat last winter’s struggle. I will no longer prioritize criteria over my own well-being. I pushed my limits training, misjudged my ability to bounce back and now I must take the time my body needs to recover completely before I race again.
It’s extremely difficult to miss the US Nationals/Canadian Trials races in Soldier Hollow. I’m giving up on many international-racing opportunities in doing so. However, I cannot bring myself to risk repeating my winter last year. I know if I take the time to recover well, I will be able to race to my full capacity later this winter. After my experience last winter, being unable to race to my full capacity, to me, is scarier than missing selection for international competition.
After spending nearly two weeks away from ski training, I am gradually building back into normal training routines. As my health and energy improves, I will increase my training and soon enough I will be back on the race circuit with every intention of skiing strong over the second half of the season.