I embarked on my 26th trip around the sun last week. Celebrating my birthday with sunshine, ski touring, powder snow and fondue in an Alp hut was exactly the distraction I needed. I would love nothing more than to use this post to recap my recent success in ski racing and how I overcame the lacklustre period of racing in January to find some fitness in February, but the truth is, I am still searching for answers.
I happen to share my birthday with some amazing people, one of whom lives just around the corner and shares the love of alpine huts and fondue. To celebrate our mutual birthday, I pulled up a trusted chocolate cake recipe, scanned it over and had more or less of an idea as to how I wanted to convert the North American measurement of cups, teaspoons and degrees Fahrenheit, into a Swiss Schoggi Küchen of grams, dL and Celcius. Scanning recipes and improvising ingredients describes my cooking and baking style, and as I eye-balled my way through the chocolate birthday cake, I couldn't help but think of a ski racing analogy.
After the Tour de Ski in Müstair and my last blog post, I headed to Planica, Slovenia where I felt like my body had rebounded and I put out a fast qualifier in 6th place in a competitive field, and 13th on the day. The 10km skate race the following day saw me in 28th place and a solid fight for me! 'Alright', thought Heidi, 'things are going in the right direction'. Regardless of the results, my body felt like it was something I could work with. That weekend's progress qualified me for the World Cup in Toblach, Italy. The van travel from Slovenia, to Switzerland and back to Italy was poorly organised on my part and spoke to my inexperienced European organisation. Looking back now, there's always the case of 'well, had I known that, I could've done this' and so on. I guess that's called learning! In Toblach, I finished 45th in the sprint and 17th in the team sprint. Eeesh! The ache of heavy legs and no fight was back with a vengeance. It's now mid-January and any chance to qualify myself for World Championships was riding on a spot on the relay team. Cue a reset and rebuild of my training program. That meant a break from racing and putting a training plan in place to readjust for a Plan B. This was so tough! Being on my own (this period coincided with living in another apartment in Davos, away from the few 'home ties' I have here) and trying to navigate my mind and body back to full strength was the hardest phase of my season. An honest confession; the January lows and homesickness were real, trying to keep my mind in a positive space was such a challenge! Getting back into racing in February, I was so excited to have some energy back and grateful to have racing to look forward to. My shape, however, just still wasn't where it should be even after feeling like I had gone to the ends of the earth and back to find it! The joy of racing, the nerves, the excitement and the process is something that I've always enjoyed and am maybe a bit delusional to still find it fun even when my body doesn't respond the way it should.
The COC racing in Zwiesel, Germany in mid-February felt like I was racing in a body that wouldn't pick up a phone call from my brain. My head kept dialling for my body, but no answer. World Championships qualification was now out of the question and was a hard blow to the confident Heidi who thought she'd built herself out of the January lows.
I take ownership of my training plan, and obviously didn't feel like I was following a recipe for disaster. I was so confident that my training season ratio of sugar, flour, salt and butter or intensity, volume, recovery and fun - would get me a great tasting 2017 Season cake. My conversions were off and the improvisation of ingredients didn't work. However burnt or under-sweetened I may be feeling, I am in a great period of learning, re-learning and facing the honest questions of 'why I do this'. As athletes, when the going is good, it is easy to not ask questions because you are in the flow and everything seems to be working. When things go wrong and the plan fails, is where the uncomfortable growth and learning takes place. Thanks to the consistent ingredients of good health, an amazing family and support network in both Switzerland and Canada as well as a opportunities ahead, I will find my way back to normal.
The remaining weekends of my racing season include some of my favourite events - Night Sprint in St.Moritz and the Engadine Marathon! Followed by a weekend of COC races in Seefeld, Austria, Swiss Nationals in Val Müstair and Swiss Cup in Langis. Thanks for checking in!