I'm Back. Well, Kind Of

I'm back. Well, kind of, not entirely just yet.

After my fourth Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, I planned to take some time away from training. Over the past 16 years, I haven't taken a prolonged break longer than ten days. I bargained that I would take four months this Spring, which should allow me to focus on the following four years, perhaps beyond. This break was more precautionary than required. The past three years had not been the easiest, most of which were totally out of my control. The final few months leading the Games were challenging. A constant up and down emotionally with so much uncertainty. And now that my only goal through an entire pandemic was over, I needed time to re-zero myself. To discover what was next and what I still wanted to achieve from my athletic career. I'm closer to the end than the beginning of my career. It was time to check in and evaluate what paths I wanted to explore in the next few years. My focus is on the process and preparation. It can be looked at that I took the break as my first step in preparing for the next Paralympic Winter Games. It is never too early to start training; for March 7, 2026, even if you are not training.


Another reason I took this break over the Spring and into Summer was to recover from back-to-back surgeries on my heels. Both surgeries went well, but there is always a longer road to recovery than you want to believe. I had to slowly build back up to a level where I could think to 'train.' From there, I had to take one step at a time to monitor my progress. Keep pushing but recognize when it is too much, then back off. Learn the loading limit and what circumstances help or hinder training and recovery.

To help the rehab and get away from Canmore to do something different. I headed East to the Island for an extended visit. I thought it might be a great place to ease into some light training. The easier terrain would allow me to control the progression better. I figured I would be less tempted to hike to the summit if I weren't sharing out at a mountain from my window. That part worked. So far, this is the first Summer I haven't summited any mountains since 2006. So far! I had forgotten how pleasant the Summers could be on the Island. In part, because I didn't need to train a lot, I had the chance to enjoy my time. There was no pressure to get in the hours, but rather listen to the body and work my way into handling any form of training once again. I brought a bike with me for the first time since 2007. The new Canyon allowed me to go almost anywhere. I took a few opportunities to rip down the middle of the Island on several segments of the Confederation Trail. It almost made me want to return soon and attempt a tip-to-tip again. I wonder how long it might take to cover the nearly 300km? There was also some quality time with family and friends that hadn't been possible in the past couple of years. Of course, lobster, mussels and the other usual fixings. Along with some golf.

After a perfect time on the Island, it was time to go back to the mountains. I had enjoyed my time off, and the 'planned' element of it made it go by well enough. It was the right amount of time. With that, I needed to get back to it. I was still nowhere near jumping back into full training. Jumping, I could barely hop yet. I had my final check-up with the surgeon, and now I had to take the progression to the next level and see what I could do by joining the team and heading south, back to the Snow Farm and New Zealand.


It felt so good to be back at the Snow Farm, on snow after two years where we couldn't visit. A few things had changed in those two years, but many more were the same. So familiar and comfortable. They had a fantastic snow year. I was skiing along and trying to recall whether there was a fence in certain sections or not. The answer was usually, there is a fence there, but it's buried under the snow. After a rain event where they lost quite a bit of snow, there was the fence again. Before coming to NZ, I had tried classic roller skiing, which felt good enough, but once I got onto the snow, that was a very different story. My heels were not ready for that type of loading yet. My primary focus on snow was skating, which was great because I could focus on only a few elements of my skating technique. It allowed me to cement those few changes within the skating techniques quickly. I don't recall many times when I put so much time into my skating, but by the end of the camp, it was paying off. Knowing that my running wasn't there, I took down my Mountain bike. It replaced my running and allowed me to have at least one other training modality. That was special and unique. I enjoyed exploring some new areas on the bike. I usually don't bike in the winter (ok, it wasn't like I was biking through much snow, well, almost none), but there was that special something about riding in a new country, and New Zealand at that! Something I never thought might happen. The camp was a great way to work me into bigger training weeks and work on that progression towards fully returning. The recovery was promising; some days did a number on the heels, but I could balance it all to complete what I thought was a successful camp.

Progress in NZ was fantastic, but the biggest value came from a few rest days after. The camp loading and the rest allowed me to leap forward once I returned to Canmore. The past three weeks have been very encouraging for progress. I made huge strides forward in my running, from only being able to take a few strides before I felt uncomfortable in NZ to running up to an hour here in Canmore. I focused a lot on progressing the running because I believed that would give me the best chance of returning to classic skiing. Yeah, I'm missing the elegance of classic skiing. But the other day, I tried classic again, which was a huge success. A very encouraging workout that things are headed in the right direction. I hope that classic skiing is back into the quiver of training modalities. I know I won't be able to rely on it quite yet but to be able to use it for the upcoming camp is a significant relief.

It's mid-September, so it's time to head to Mammoth Lakes, California. An altitude camp that provides a fantastic quality of training. Most of Canada's National program athletes will be there, offering no shortage of quality training partners if I am fit enough to keep up. These young skiers are fast and tough to stick with, and that was when I was at 100%. Maybe next year, I can throw down a little better. I'm looking forward to returning to Mammoth; it can provide a small measure of where I am with my fitness. I must keep my training in check and listen to my body. I'm bringing down my road bike this time to give me an option for training on long days. I'm uncertain whether I can handle the longest days just yet if I were to only roller ski, skate or classic.

One of the things I wanted to work on as part of my training was to create a bit more of a life balance. To find some opportunities to take a step aside. So my focus isn't solely or constantly on my training or competing. But I couldn't leave sport that cleanly. Over the past couple of years, I have started taking university classes and coaching courses. I have always believed in being a student of the sport, not only my sport but all sport. I want to learn how success was put together or take lessons from failures or challenges. Could I apply lessons learned from other countries, organizations or sports and use them in what I do? I have been hungry for all sport-related information lately— similar feelings to the coaching courses I've taken this Spring. I am learning some of the whys or hows of what we do. That creates a better understanding and a more substantial buy-in and can lead to greater discussions. It opens up the thinking and curiosity of what else could work or work to greater effect.

A lot of different pieces this Spring and Summer, but many of the pieces are starting to come together. I am curious about what the Fall and Winter hold. I don't look for a typical year (it's been too long since we had one of those), but I look forward to growing as an athlete and person this year. There are some fantastic opportunities still in the works. I can't wait to experience and share most of them with you.


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