The 20-20 Perspective

Well, where to start?

For me, the year 2020 has been one of changing perspectives with the continually fluctuating circumstances throughout the year, and I was forced to adapt and discover new perspectives in my life. Though adapting to these challenges, I gained new perspectives. Yes, I have lost count of the cancelled events that I planned to be apart of in 2020, and the list will continue to grow for some time still. That said, to keep track of the discoveries, new experiences and realizations are far too numerous.

I avoided writing for most of this year. Sometimes it was because I was not sure what to write. Other times, I did not have the motivation to write. I was not sure if I could say the right thing. We are all in this together, but each person is dealing with it differently. I did not write about my experiences because I was having a lot of fun, enjoying doing what I do. I enjoy writing about my journey, but there were times where I did not know how the journey would take shape. That said, I never lost my destination; that is still my preparation for March 5, 2022. Journeys include detours, and 2020 has been a big one!

So now for my journey through 2020. For the most part, the first month of 2020 had been disappointing in terms of racing for me. Dresden and Altenberg were some of my most unsatisfactory performances in some time. I was proud of my final race in Germany. But one race could not make up for the lapses in my earlier performances. There was a lot to be learned over those two weeks in Germany. Upon reflection, it was only the beginning of a year filled with a lot of forced learning. I returned home, determined to have the performances I know I’m capable of producing. I had a month of training before the final competitions of the year. I was in a fantastic mindset and attacked my training to squeeze out every ounce of possible performance.

On March 3, I turned 30. A significant milestone, and I was hoping to start my 30s with strong performances. The day later, I flew to Sweden to start a camp before the Biathlon World Championships and World Cup Finals in Östersund, Sweden. The team was based in a small end-of-the-road town a few hours outside of Östersund. A hidden paradise in all respects. Spectacular scenic trails, fantastic snow conditions and everything a skier needs to train. I was as ready as I was going to be. I felt I was in top shape; my mentality was sharp, and I was prepared to prove my ability at Worlds.

I went to bed on the eve of the Worlds. At around 4 in the morning, my roommate taps my shoulder and says everything has been cancelled. Not knowing any more information, I was in a bit of disbelief. I felt there was not much I could do now, so I tried to go back to sleep. Tossing and turning for the next hour or so. Finally, I got up, and shortly after, there was a knock on the door, just before six. One of the coaches waking us up to get some breakfast and pack because there was a chance some of the team would get on early flights out of Östersund. By noon, the entire team was on a flight to Stockholm and then Frankfurt later that day. In the rush to pack and catch flights, there was little time to reflect upon the situation. The date was March 12.

The next two weeks were mentally tough—the heaviness of what could have been. The seemingly hourly changes as the World started its battle against a global pandemic. I reflected that the period of isolation was not that different than my typical routine. The difference being before it was by choice, where now it was somewhat forced upon me. It was hard to deal with initially. Östersund was my peak for the season, and it vanished in an instant, well into the eleventh hour. Fortunately, I could get outside and ski, channelling my frustrations and emotions into training and changing the mindset from what I might have lost to what I could gain for the following year. I adapted to the restrictions and enjoyed the next few weeks of terrific skiing. There were days where I could ski from literally my back door—a new opportunity to explore a familiar area from a new perspective.


The beautiful Colombia Icefields.

I have felt extremely fortunate throughout this year that I have always been able to train. Yes, at times having to adapt to restrictions but having every opportunity to train at the highest level. Anything and everything I needed was right here in Canmore or the surrounding area. Now, there were emotional ups and downs throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall. The key was to focus on the small things of what I could control and improve in myself as an athlete. On several occasions, I went into a training block, somewhat disappointed because it meant another trip that was not where we had initially planned to be. No, Truckee or Bend, no New Zealand or Mammoth Lakes.


Roller skiing on Moraine Lake Rd PC: Robin McKeever

Though, as each training block wrapped up, I found myself thinking, wow, what excellent training I have had right here at home. I was no longer disappointed for not travelling but excited about the training I had put in. I could see the gains I was making. With this year’s differing focuses, I have enjoyed feeling and seeing constant progress in my fitness, abilities and mentality within my skiing. I look forward to the additional season we are gaining to train and prepare rather than compete before the next Games. As the new Winter season started,






Early Season racing. PC: Dave Holland

I actively pursued any opportunity to compete earlier this season, and as a result, I have two official races under my belt. But that is it so far. Usually, just before Christmas, I am closer to a dozen races. I see the lack of racing as an opportunity to shift my focus away from overall race performance to focus on weaker aspects of my performance. I use each Time Trial as an opportunity to perfect parts of my performance. When it is safe to compete again, I am ready to perform to my best, newly improved ability.

The year 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for all, but we do not grow without these challenges. An open mindset to new perspectives may be the greatest lesson of 2020. I have found significant value in focusing on what can be gained rather than what has been lost this year.

I want to share my heartfelt appreciation to all the front-line workers and essential staff, that have continued to provide services throughout 2020 and beyond.


I wish you a very Merry Christmas, a festive Holidays & Happy New Year,

Mark

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