Our last few days at the Snow Farm saw some of the best skiing we’ve had in years. We had full sun, smooth tracks and fresh snow, and I was completely and totally happy being out on the trails for hours. To be honest, it was really hard to leave! If you want to see a great video showing off the skiing and living in Wanaka, check out Andy’s 2 minute film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7DENBqlc2E
It was so wonderful having Anouk Faivre-Picon with us at this camp. So, uh, my apologies to the French Federation and all, but I think we’ll need to adopt her and keep her with us! She is funny and smart and a great training partner. I always love sharing our team with guests from other countries, and it makes the World feel a little bit smaller when you learn more about other counties and people.
On our other day off of training during the camp, we went to Queenstown. It was a gorgeous day and we got to walk around in the sun and as it started snowing we went up the mountain to race the go-cart track. They were gravity-powered and you could hit the brakes, but we went a little wild with it. I felt like I was in a real life Mario-cart game, and it would have felt right to throw a banana peel out of the cart!
I think one of the reasons this camp was so successful was that the coaches and athletes approached it with patience. When you’re out on these amazing, stunning trails and it’s sunny outside and you feel good, it can be so easy to get carried away and overtrain the first week of camp. I know, because I’ve done it.
This time around, we had a 2.5 week camp, so before we even arrived in New Zealand I knew my goals for the camp and what I wanted to get out of it. I wanted to:
1.) work on my classic striding technique, and spend a lot of hours striding and using video analysis to come up with good cues that will remind me how to ski with my best form.
2.) remember what it feels like to go all-out in a race with a few focused, hard efforts in time trials and
3.) learn from my teammates by picking out one thing someone else does well every session, and mimicking their skiing by following them to become better at that technique.
For example, I spent a lot of time watching Simi go downhill and following him (as long as I could) to learn some cornering confidence. I did my best to really get my leg out in lunging by watching Ida and spent a lot of time striding behind Sophie’s smooth classic style. I followed Anouk in V2, Liz in V1, Andy in deep snow cornering and tried to emulate Ben’s sprint starts, and Paddy and Noah’s grit in the time trials.
With those goals in mind, I trained a lot but kept it quality, and kept it in the zone I needed to be in at the time. They don’t hand out medals to whomever trains the most hours – the medals go to those who race the fastest, by training the smartest. The real trick is recognizing what’s best for each individual athlete. And by now I’m starting to have the confidence to train the way I know I need to train. So when it was time to ski easy I kept my pace slow, still focusing on my technique but not wearing myself down. Then when it was time to go hard I opened it up during the time trials and intervals, and I feel like I got a lot out of it!
Let’s address the weirdness that is time change when crossing over the date line. Because New Zealand is a day ahead of us here in the States, when I’d Skype my family back home, I was talking to them from the future. THAT’S CRAZY. I’d set up a time to call them and they’d talk to me on Monday night, but for me it was already Tuesday afternoon.
And traveling home? Again, the travel day wasn’t nearly as hard or stressful as I thought it might be. My flight left Queenstown a few hours after the rest of the team, so after checking my bags I walked down to the lake, climbed up into a large tree hanging out over the water and took a siesta. This was at 2:30pm on July 24th, and after a long flight to the LAX airport, I was getting off the plane at 2:30pm on July 24th. I was somehow in two places at once. THAT’S CRAZY.
However, not everything is rainbows and glitter all the time (ok, ok, just most of the time). This camp had me dealing with a tricky foot situation, and it taught me an important lesson.
It’s a long and complicated story, but here’s the basics: in March, I had two plantar warts cut out of the bottom of my foot. They were right under the sole, where I put the most pressure when running or kicking off. The holes left behind healed up well and everything was fine until 4 weeks ago, when I started having pain during workouts. It went away before I flew to camp, and I’d seen a Dermatologist to check it out, and things looked fine. But shortly after arriving in New Zealand my foot began giving me acute, severe pain under the ball of my foot. It felt like I had a sharp rock in my shoe, only ALL. THE. TIME.
It got worse and started to feel like I was stepping on a tack every time I kicked off, and I instinctively started doing things to relieve the pressure. I was skiing with my toes curled under my foot which then made my feet really sore. I was limping or walking on the side of my foot, which tightened up the left side of my body and made my left knee hurt. The first 30 minutes of every ski were the worst, and it would sometimes make me feel sick to my stomach. One morning I just burst into tears because it felt like I was falling apart, all because of this very small area on my foot that was causing me so much pain. I didn’t want to admit that something was wrong, because when your job revolves around being fit and able to train, admitting that you might not be able to train is a very scary thing for me.
got smart no longer had a choice, and made a doctor appointment at a walk-in clinic in Wanaka. The Doctor confirmed that it felt like a nail in my foot because the skin had formed a tight core in the shape of a cone with the point going into my foot, that got as hard as a fingernail, and underneath it was an infection.
Here’s where it gets nasty. Without numbing my foot at all (still not 100% sure why it didn’t get numbed), the Doctor took a scalpel to it and scraped away the skin that was causing me so much pain, going down to the live tissue layer to get the infection out. This didn’t feel very good (read: tiny surgery hurts when you feel ALL of it), but believe it or not, it was less painful than trying to ski on it.
After that, it was all much easier. My foot was tender from having a sizable hole in it once again, but filled in quickly and I saw a Podiatrist who made me special pads to take the pressure off my foot while it heals. I finished up the camp pain-free and had some of the most productive skis of the summer.
Ok. So. Why did I just take you through that boring story of my foot? Because it was really important for me to learn that it doesn’t matter how tough I am – when something hurts in a way it’s not supposed to, I need to ask for help. I’m not talking muscle soreness from training or the kind of hurt you get in a race – that lung-burning-lactic-acid pain is part of the job. But unusual pain needs to be addressed, and right away. To delay is just stupid. It doesn’t make you tougher or stronger, it just hurts and negatively impacts your training. I should not have waited to go see the doctor, and I thought it was just something I could work through, but I was wrong. I learned a pretty valuable lesson the hard way, and while I’m home in Minnesota I’m visiting the dermatologist again for a followup to take a close look at what’s going on with my foot.
It also indirectly taught me a few things about pain tolerance. More specifically, that I have a very, very high pain tolerance. That’s dangerous in terms of injuries like the one I just had, but great in a ski race, because I can push through a heck of a lot. I’m not scared of hurting, and I know how to suffer in a race. I AM scared to being told I have to stop, of having something sideline me. Which is why I didn’t go to the doctor right away. Now I know better.