We are already a full month into the training season and for the most part May training has gone super well. Baseline testing was as good or even better than expected, we got in a couple weeks on snow, and I have a great team around me this season with some young new Alberta World Cup Academy teammates, which is both fun and exciting. I’ve had a bit of a sticky left hip, but it hasn’t stopped me from being able to train properly and it is almost back to being happy.
It has probably been one of my smoothest May start-ups yet. Every year I learn a bit more about what I need as an athlete and person and going into my 9th year as a “full-time” athlete you’d hope that I would have mostly figure it out by now. But event beyond that I really let how my body and mind were feeling guide my spring choices.
This year the off season (Mid-March through April) felt quite different than most years past. Well, the whole year has been different. One of my teammates and friends summed it up best to me recently. She was talking in a different context, but it fits so perfectly with how I was feeling about racing during the pandemic and then breathing out a massive exhale of relief when I finally made it back to Whitehorse mid-March.
You don’t truly realize how much something is weighing on you until it’s not anymore.
It was like I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until I final breathed out fully. This past winter, for every competing athlete and many people around it was the stress of the pandemic. The fear in the back of your mind of getting COVID and not being able to compete, or worse getting really sick from it. The fear of false positives, close contacts, being stuck in a foreign country isolated alone. My teammates and I had strategies in place to minimize stress and we were all fully willing to accept these risks and possibilities in order to have a race season, however they were still there in the background taking their toll on the mental energy reserves. It turns out that it’s not super healthy for the psyche when your initial subconscious responses are fear and stress anytime another person is within 2 meters of you. I wouldn’t say I’m a super go with the flow kind of person. I am the type of person that thinks about all the possibilities in advance and likes to have a strategy. I have worked hard on focusing on what you can control and letting go of what you cannot control, because stressing about what you can’t control is useless. My conscious brain has come close to mastering this, my subconscious is still working on it.
Overall, I thought I had handled the winter pretty well, and after some reflection I still think I did, an emotional toll was inevitable given the circumstances and I am grateful I was able to give myself a full escape and reset during the second half of March and April. I touched on how mentally and emotionally draining navigating last season was in my last blog post, but what I didn’t realize then was just how well and quickly the human spirit can rebound given the right environment. People are so resilient! It’s amazing.
I spent the 7 weeks between my last race and the 2021 training season start in Whitehorse with my family, my boyfriend, his family and some close friends. For the first two weeks, Michael and I were in quarantine but after the hectic European tour life, quarantine felt in a way like a mini vacation. I was super fortunate to be able to get my 1st vaccine doses the day I got out of quarantine, and my second a month later, so that I was fully vaccinated going into my first team training camp of the year in May. The Yukon has strict isolation requirement when entering the territory, so it wasn’t just me who had to isolate upon arrival from Europe, it was everyone entering the territory. Although there were still restrictions and safety precautions in place, being in a giant territorial “bubble” so to speak made for a completely different dynamic between people. On top of that, most had already had at least their first vaccine dose by the time I emerged out of quarantine at the end of March. It honestly took me a few weeks to stop shying away from every person that was somewhat near me. It’s pretty remarkable how far being able to hug the people you love goes.
Having quality time at home was exactly what I needed, it was the first semblance of normalcy I’d had in 6 months. I had also only seen my family two weeks in the past 15 months so being excited to spend time with them was an understatement. In April, I joined the Yukon Ski Team for some training, I went on outdoor adventures with friends, I was playing basketball regularly after far too long of a hiatus and enjoying many home cooked meal. This spring I took an entire month completely away from structured intensity and just exercised when I wanted to. I decided since I had a 6 week break this spring instead of the four weeks we often get when the race season is normal, I would let my body and mind tell me when I was ready to get back to structured training, not a calendar. By mid-April I was feeling motivated and started building in a bit of structure, ski specific intensity and gym sessions so that I would be ready for the full start up in May. By the time I was boarding the plane May 5th, fully vaccinated, bound for the first National Team training camp of the season, I can honestly say the underlying feeling of fear and anxiety that had been constantly in my subconscious all winter had finally fully dissipated.
It was amazing to be able to start this new training season feeling both mentally and physically refreshed and with a sense of security knowing that the vaccine was working hard as an extra layer of protection. I feel motivated for the Olympic season and surprisingly less phased by the little inconveniences and stressor around training and life. It seems to me that navigating through this pandemic and starting to come out the other side, for all its headaches and frustrations, may have helped me get a bit better at not sweating the small stuff and teaching me to remember to step back and exhale every once in a while.
Till next time, Dahria