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Bumps in the Road

I'm writing this update as I wait to depart the Calgary Airport, flying to Finland for the season's first World Cup. Strange to think that it was just over two weeks ago I didn't know if I should be going on this trip. I was struggling with some lingering injuries that were refusing to go away. I had little confidence that I could even 'race.' I might be able to ski a distance, but only in free technique. I haven't been able to classic since mid-October. I should have expected but hoped against any bumps in the road to recovery and back to my typical top performance. There might have been a dozen reasons that contributed to the injuries, and I probably will never know for sure. Whether it was too much loading during the Mammoth camp or pushing myself too early. It could have been the activities I had been doing or not doing. I thought the Mammoth camp was a very successful camp for me. I was starting to find the old me. I was very encouraged by the progress and was looking forward to the late Fall, early races and Winter. A few days after returning from the camp, I was on the range, and as I jumped up to get off the shooting mat, I felt an intensely sharp pain in my knee. A few moments later, the knee was fine. But something had been tweaked.

With lots of confidence in how things had been going, I was trying my first intensity in classic a few days later to see how the body and heels would handle the sharper, more powerful movements. The heels held up; it was the knee again, which I felt as I started intensity. Over the next week, I cautiously played with the training modes, testing out what was safe or what triggered the knee. One of the best forms of training was on the bike. As I headed into an intensity block, I enjoyed exploring new aspects of training by doing my intensities on the bike—something I hadn't done before. After being 'forced' to adapt and have to bike, I now think that more cycling and especially intensity on the bike will be a feature of future training plans. I will save that for next year.

As I tested which modalities could work with my knee, I concluded that classic, with its linear movements, didn't bother the knee as much. So as Frozen Thunder was being rolled out, I had that itch to ski, so I did so classic. Because of the knee, I couldn't skate, so I went for back-to-back classic skis. By the end of the second, I thought I should make sure not to do a third, but it was too late. I had pushed it too far, and my Achilles flared up. That was a hit to the confidence and an emotional downer. I found myself questioning a lot of things as both issues progressed exceptionally slowly. I had to make the call to pull out of the early races. That was a tough decision. I always enjoy those races, whether the Biathlon Canada Trials or the Frozen Thunder races. I wasn't close to being capable of competing. My focus needed to be on recovering. I moved through the following weeks, slowly getting better and testing every few days to see what improvement there had been. Now it was painfully slow to recoup both injuries.

The team had some treadmill testing planned, so I needed to see what the body could take. That was a brutal hit to the mind. I was way off what I expected or hoped for myself. I had serious questions about what the season might look like after that testing. I knew from the beginning that this year wouldn't be my best. But at the moment, that is sometimes hard to remember. Fortunately, I had a few close friends that reminded me that I didn't go through this Spring to be fast this season; I did it to enjoy what remains of my athletic career and to go fast in 2026 (in particular, March of 2026). The treadmill testing showed I was far from where I wanted to be. Understandably, but it still isn't fun.

A week later, I was preparing for my season's first official race. I was anxious about the prep and wondered how much I could handle. I was pleasantly surprised at how it went. Of course, it was nowhere near my best. It was encouraging to me. The next day I started my 2022/23 season. Sure, the race was not my fastest, nor did I feel the best, but elements within the race were noteworthy. I had a focused, slower start to ease into the race, which went very well. From there, I managed to get onto my top pace quite quickly and held into the pace, surprisingly, for the rest of the race. After a few days to recover, I was comfortable to start my second race. I was opening my biathlon season at the first Calforex Cup in Canmore.

Again, I was nowhere near the peak form I was in nine months earlier, but it felt fantastic to be out again racing Biathlon. Maybe not my best race tactic, but as I was coming into the range for the time, I realized I hadn't done any intensity combo yet this year. I not so much panicked at that realization but relished the opportunity to challenge myself. Shooting has been one of the aspects of the year that has progressed nicely. I could quickly get into the mindset I needed to perform on the range. Yes, I was more conscious and deliberate in my actions, but the process was engrained well enough. I kicked off the Biathlon season with a clean sheet.

I would love to say things were leaping forward, but it was more like slow, turtle steps. But they were going in the right direction. Doubts about whether travelling to the first World Cup would be bad have faded. I do need to be realistic and set appropriate expectations for myself while I'm in Finland. I'm open to the challenge it presents and learning how best I can benefit from it. For now, I will commit to being a Biathlete. That holds some unique aspects that though I might have called myself a Biathlon specialist for decades, it's something I have never fully embraced until this season. Let's see how out goes!

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