There are sports out there that you can compete in while sick, or coming back from a cold, and still do decently well. Cross Country skiing is not one of them. Darn it! So when I caught a small head cold (sore throat, stuffy nose) on my second day in Canmore, I was pretty bummed out. I only had to take 1.5 days off from skiing, but the rest of my time here has been slow L1 on snow, working on technique and sitting out the intervals to make sure I don’t drive the cold into my lungs while I recover. While I’m extremely grateful for the time on snow, it’s been really hard to not hammer around the way I’d been hoping to.
As an elite athlete, getting sick is part of the deal. It comes with the territory. Everyone catches a cold sooner or later. But it always stinks, and it’s never easy or fun to have to take a day or two off from training! Although it doesn’t affect your overall fitness and is only the smallest setback, it feels like the biggest deal in the world at the time. Usually, when you get sick the team puts you in a separate room (sometimes a separate hotel) and basically chalks an X on the door. See you in a while. But that’s where this team is different, and makes such a difference to me.
While I did move into a new room, my teammates were amazing. They came knocking to check on me and tell me that I’d be better soon, no stress. They brought me get-well cards, baked goods, fizzy water, and gave me their Netflix passwords so I wouldn’t get bored. I know that good vibes alone aren’t entirely responsible for me feeling good enough to ski the next day, but I’m convinced they were a large part of it. I felt so much love and support, and I know that whether or not I can ski, they’ll treat me just the same. And when I wasn’t able to race the sprint time trial today, I was able to pour my energy into my teammates and cheer for them during all the heats, which made me feel much better.
It’s easy for a team to get along and be nice to each other when everything is going perfectly and stress is low. But it’s when something goes wrong that you really get to know your teammates. I feel so lucky to be on a team where I know that my teammates have my back no matter what, and will be there for me, just like I am for them. Yes, I know I tend to gush a lot over how great this team is on my blog….but hey, I write straight from the heart about things I’m passionate about, so you’re likely to hear quite a bit more about how much I love my team over the years.
Now, lets discuss what happens in my head while skiing on frozen thunder, or any other confined loop of snow for that matter. It’s an interesting feeling, because once the initial “Whoo! I’m on snow! Take that, roller skis!” feeling wears off (usually after the first hour) I realize that I’ve been going in loops of less than 2km for a long, long time. My brain starts to send signals to my shoulder angel, who says “dude…you’ve been skiing in circles for hours….you are so dumb. Get a life!” The trick for me is to brush that off, and concentrate on one very specific technique element at a time. Maybe one lap I’ll ski with only one pole to emphasize what that arm is doing, where I’m planting my pole, how I’m activating my core as I push off it. Then the next lap I’ll switch poles, or go no-poles and focus on how my legs are pushing off. Funny enough, this whole practice-skiing-with-one-pole drill came in handy last year, so I’m probably going to keep doing it, even if it’s just to alleviate boredom.
But wait! Skiing in loops isn’t the only training mode available here…there are great trails for running, biking, and there’s also a sweet roller ski track at the Nordic Centre. I’ve worked up to 30 minutes easy jogging pain-free on my foot, and some plyos on dry land. I’m really thrilled with this because I enjoy running and it’s been good to get outside more instead of being on the spin bike!
Of course, we’ve done pretty well hitting up various coffee shops around town for social time and then internet time. I really enjoy hanging out with my friends – I think it’s one of our biggest hobbies as a group 🙂
I also had to share this picture from back in Park City, because I forgot earlier (shame on me!!) and it’s pretty cute. We have this tradition with our Park City camps – when we have a looooong roller ski starting in Kamas, the coaches pick up these monster donuts from this one gas station, and have them for us to share at the end. It’s such a nice treat at the end of a cold hard ski!
This is an interesting time of year because it’s when I tend to have the hardest time keeping my confidence high. Starting in May, I begin laying this brick wall of confidence and belief. Every high five or hug from a teammate, every word of encouragement from a coach, every smile I see on the face of a Fast and Female girl I’ve worked with adds a brick. By the fall, this wall is getting pretty high, and it needs to be if it’s going to last the entire season. Because at some point in the season, I will have a bad race, and at some point I’ll probably get sick, and I’ll definitely get homesick once or twice. But if this wall is high enough, it can keep out the creeping wave of self-doubt that sometimes tries to wash over the top. Every year I’m becoming a better brick-layer, and my teammates, coaches and family are a huge help with this.
The fall is when it’s hardest for me to keep putting down layers of belief and confidence, because right before the season is when I don’t yet know if all those hours of preparation have worked. I don’t yet know if I’ll be in good race shape in November, and that can be tough, especially in times like this when a cold is preventing me from testing out my fitness in time trials. I know I’m not the only athlete that feels this way – in fact, most people I’ve talked to say that right before the seasons starts is when they are most stressed out and intimidated.
You’re probably wondering….why are you sharing all this, Jessie? Aren’t you supposed to be a role model or something? Shouldn’t you have great confidence after a good race season? Well, yeah, that’s exactly why I’m writing this. Because everyone has moments of self doubt. Every sports hero you’ve ever looked up to is human, and has had to build their own brick wall of belief to deal with tough moments. All my role models have had to find tricks to boost their self confidence before races, and when I learned that I felt so relieved, because it meant that even Olympic champions are human and maybe I can get there one day, too.
So! That said, I’m going to continue to train as hard as I can, rest as well as I can and build up my teammates as well as my own confidence.
I also have to announce -I’m so excited! – that I have signed with Podiumwear as the official ambassador the new custom women’s line of athletic wear. This is so fun for me because I basically get to help design my ideal training jacket and suit, and see it come to life and become available for everyone!
For more information, check out this link: https://www.podiumwear.com/2013/10/jessie-diggins-partners-with-podiumwear