Monday, February 24, 2014

"Reciprocal Inspiration"

Two of my biggest mentors in sport are Simon Whitfield and Adam van Koeverden. They have 6 Olympic medals between the two of them, along with countless other incredible achievements. Adam wrote the forward for Simon’s book: Simon Says Gold. In it, he coins the phrase “reciprocal inspiration”, and describes it as this:

“When one person’s accomplishments live on and encourage more people to believe in themselves and accomplish their own goals. As I see it, there are three incredible features of this phenomenon: it doesn’t expire, it can be shared among an unlimited number of people and it has the capacity to cross genres and disciplines”.

Simon was inspired watching the men’s 8 crew win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and soon after won a silver medal in triathlon. Adam was inspired watching Simon's thrilling sprint to a silver medal, and went on to win a medal in kayaking. Reciprocal inspiration.

I’ve been thinking lots about this idea during the past 2 weeks as the Canadian team competed in Sochi. Watching sports that I can’t necessarily relate to. Bobsledding, figure skating and ski jumping have few similarities to triathlon. However, we share a common goal in achieving the Olympic dream, pushing ourselves to the limit, and ultimately being the best in the world at something. I feed off of the success and determination of others, especially when I’m feeling tired, slow, or unmotivated. Training beside an Olympian, watching someone win an Olympic medal, hearing about someone's epic training session - those things fuel me.

The definition of reciprocal is “given by each side”.  I only hope that some day I can return my end of the deal, inspiring others as much as I draw inspiration from all of these superstars.

Bravo winter Olympians. The Dufour-Lapointe sisters, Denny Morrison, Alex Bilodeau, Roz Groenewoud, both hockey teams… there are way too many to name. I look up to you and you were incredible to watch. Thanks for fueling my fire. 

Thumbs up! 


Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year

“It’s a long way where we’re going”.

-5 year old me, on a 12 hour road trip.

Back in 1994, we didn’t have iPods or laptops to entertain ourselves on long road trips, so we spent hours whining and sleeping and counting cows. It felt like we might never get there. "It's a long way where we're going" was my world famous tagline.

I’ve said this same thing to myself many times this past year as I’ve been building back into racing shape. Trying to be like I used to be, do what I used to do, and feel like I used to feel.

My season started last year with winning a small Continental Cup race in Florida. I found some relief and confidence in myself with my first win in nearly 2 years, but I certainly didn’t anticipate that this would be the only race of my season. I wanted that to be the kick-off for bigger and better things. I didn’t expect another roadblock, a season plagued with injury, sitting on the sidelines.

Consistency, confidence and competition. Those are 3 things that I’d like to achieve in 2014, in that order. Each one must come before the other. I need to train consistently to gain confidence in myself so that I can compete to my ability. If I can achieve all of these things, I’ll be a giant step ahead of where I was in 2013.

Sometimes I forget the underlying reason why I do triathlons in the first place. I’ve never thought of it as a career, or as something that I had to do. I trained and competed because I loved pushing myself, challenging myself, and being the best I could be. This translated into success, which made me love it even more. This past year I’ve sometimes lost touch with this true love for the sport. I’ve been battling with a body that seemingly doesn’t want to get healthy or be fast, so frustration overtakes the passion I had for being my best. 

Through these rough patches, I find strength and inspiration in other athletes, in particular those who have gone through injury spells and returned to greatness. It has been done, many times. I’m living vicariously through the winter athletes preparing for Sochi, sensing the excitement and pressure during the build up that I felt 2 short years ago. I truly don’t know if I’ll ever get back to where I was in 2011, but one thing is for certain: it’s a long way where we’re going. It won’t be an easy journey, but nothing worthwhile is ever quick and easy.

I’m heading to New Zealand this month to join Joel and my training partners as a new season begins. I just finished a refreshing semester at University, recharging my brain, returning to good health, being with friends and family, and preparing myself for the year ahead.

Here’s to a 2014 of achieving goals, being patient, and embracing the process of becoming better. Long roads are usually worth the trip, because they take you somewhere great. 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Plant

When I won my first big international race in London 2010, the Canadian Olympic Committee sent a plant to my house in Edmonton.  “Congratulations on winning the triathlon!” said a little piece of paper perched inside.  It was a subtle gesture but it made a big impact on me. It was the first time that I thought “Hey, maybe I could actually make it to the Olympics one day!” The COC had recognized my performance, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. The plant soaked up the sun on the kitchen windowsill while I was busy racing around the world, and my mom watered it every day. Keeping the dream alive.

Two years later, I made it to the start line at the Olympics. Lots happened between that breakthrough race in 2010 and getting to London in 2012. Some great things and some terrible. The plant lived through it all. Serving as a reminder that someone believed in me, representing an Olympic dream, and being a nice thing to look at in the window.

After several years of sitting in the kitchen, the plant had become a part of the house. One of those things you don’t really notice every day because it’s always there. But yesterday morning, I went down for breakfast and there was a big empty space on the windowsill.

“Daaaaadddddd where's the plant?!”

“I threw it out. That thing’s been dying for like 11 months. Plants don’t live forever.”

My dad likes to throw out everything that doesn’t have a clear function, without even asking. It’s annoying. 

I pretended to be cool with it. That plant had a pretty good life. I’m not generally a superstitious person, but I couldn’t help being a little superstitious at the whole situation. This plant, that somehow represented my Olympic dream and triathlon ambitions, was dead and gone.

“It’s a good thing! It hasn’t exactly done you any favors these past few years.” My dad kindly reminded me.

He’s totally right. Even though it’s a little sad to see it gone, I think the luckiness that it once had as a baby plant had run it’s course.

Time for a new plant. Comeback 2014 starts yesterday. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August Already?

It’s fun to write updates when things are going well and the season is unfolding somewhat as planned. Writing an update when things are not going smoothly, and haven’t for 2 years, is not so fun. I’ve wanted to write a blog for a while, but have been putting it off with the hopes that I might have something positive to share for a change. It would be cool to post a blog on August 4th, exactly one year since the Olympic triathlon in London, writing about how I turned myself around and made a comeback to the racing scene. Unfortunately this year has been no easier than last. If I ever get out of this injury rut, I’ll never take racing for granted ever again. 2013 has been about rebuilding, and I knew that it would not be an easy road back, but I never imagined that it would be so ridiculously hard.

After a good winter camp in Florida with the JF squad where I was running consistently, I was looking forward to racing and improving as the season progressed. Before my first scheduled WTS in San Diego, my left hip started hurting, the same familiar pain that I felt in my right hip before London. I stopped running immediately, pulled out of the race, and knew that if I was smart I could get through it quickly. I knew how to manage it, because it was exactly what had happened on the other side.  As usual things didn’t go how I imagined. Week after week, I wasn’t seeing much progress. Now all of a sudden it’s August, the season is almost over, and I’m on the sidelines.

It might seem like I’m spinning my wheels, doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome (which Einstein calls INSANITY). But I have tried dozens of different approaches. Being treated the best physiotherapists in the world, visiting run gait analysis labs, reducing training load, doing a billion strengthening exercises, stretching, rolling, icing, magic tricks, etc etc etc. I'm doing everything that I possibly can. 

It kills me to think about packing up and going home to Canada and taking a break for a few months. I know that’s probably what I need, but it’s definitely not what I want. I’ve done way too much hard work this year, especially in the pool and on the bike, and I feel like that would all be gone to waste. Looking at the “big picture” it’s not really a complete waste. I’ll take the strength and skills that I’ve developed this year into next season and the season after that. But I’m sick of being patient, sick of being positive, and sick of being injured. During my quick rise to success in 2010, everything came seemingly easily. Winning back-to-back WCS races was really cool, but I don’t think I quite understood the magnitude of that accomplishment at the time. I was just training hard, and the results came along. Looking back, I now appreciate how awesome that was. I sometimes watch videos of races that I’ve won, in a desperate attempt to restore some sort of confidence in myself, and I’m so incredibly jealous of the 2010 Paula. I want to be her again!

I’m still the same human, just a little beat up and emotionally hurting, but nothing that can’t be mended. I want SO BADLY to get back to that person who was winning races and training consistently. I don’t know how long it'll take, or if it's even possible. I thought that I’d be well on my way by August 2013, but life is so incredibly unpredictable. 
I’m going back to University this fall, so that will give me a change of focus for a few months. I had my best seasons ever when I was a student/athlete, so perhaps that’s the change of routine I need to get back on track.

Thanks to everyone who has supported my training and rehab this year and who continue to believe in me, especially coach Joel and my awesome training partners. You're a super inspiring group and I'm seriously honoured to be a part of it. To everyone who is lucky enough to be racing this summer, remember that it’s a privilege to be able to swim, bike and run. It’s easy to lose sight of that when things are rolling along well. So be happy, work hard, and appreciate that your body is working like it should! 

Thanks for reading. 


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

Hey there!

The last time I wrote on here my dad was pretty sick and I’m happy to say that he’s doing great. I went for a run with him a few weeks ago and I was breathing too hard to sustain a conversation, which actually made me really frustrated. Maybe I’m extremely unfit or maybe he’s a superhero. Let's go with the superhero thing, plus we were at altitude which totally makes it harder. 

I spent most of December in Arizona at a training camp. It was a great opportunity to escape the cold and do some exercising in the sunshine. Joel has set up a fantastic group of athletes and it was neat to be living with all of them for 3 weeks. I have so much to learn from their wealth of experience. I left Arizona feeling a little more fit, a little more healthy, and ready for Christmas in the mountains. Canmore is the best little winter town and makes me the happiest of all places.

After a good few weeks at home I’m back in the swing of things in Florida, where I’ll be living for the next few months. The hardest part about training right now is I feel like I’m never going to be as fast as I used to be. The last time I raced fast was almost 20 months ago which is a really freaking long time. But, it’s not long enough to forget what winning feels like. It’s the most satisfying, exciting, indescribable feeling in the world. I want to do it again and that's what keeps me going. 

It’s also taking me a while to re-discover the fun of training hard. When I was winning races, training was really enjoyable. Did I race well because I was having fun, or was training fun because I was racing well? Probably a bit of both. It’ll take a lot of hard work to win another race, and it definitely won’t happen if I don’t find some enjoyment in the process. I can’t really force myself to have fun, but I’ve put myself in the best possible situation to let it happen. Great coach, inspiring people and a sweet place to train. 

Happy 2013 everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2012