It has become apparent to me that I must be reaching some well-ripened athlete status. I can train more, I am less nervous for intervals, and I am nominated to drive the van more often than not. I also get sick less. Last year was my healthiest ski season since I can remember, perhaps my Junior High School days. Younger skiers get sick more often in general; partially they’re not as ready for the training load. They’re also inexperienced and have fewer antibodies. Us seasoned veterans have a little advantage in this arena; we’ve seen sniffles before and can stare them down without flinching.
But I still get sick.
Unfortunately, I managed to choose two very inauspicious weeks to be ill this summer. In July I was sick during the first week of Women’s Camp in Alaska, after coming down with a cold on my way to a family reunion on the east coast. I get especially frustrated when I am sick around US ski team functions because I worry that they won’t ever choose me for the team since I am sick too often. This train of thought is illogical; if it came down to that kind of discretion, I probably wouldn’t deserve to be on the team anyways. Nonetheless, that little fear-gremlin lurks in my head come camp-time. I think this self-applied pressure affects the timing of my illnesses, as my second cold of the year started on the first day of camp in Utah. Matt Whitcomb, if you’re reading this, I won’t hold it against you but I detest how often your mere presence gives me the sniffles.
The trick to staying healthy is to relax. The minute you start stressing about getting sick, you’re done. Better to scratch all the training off next week and go to Hawaii, because this ship is sunk. Unless you can stop stressing, come to terms with the possibility that you might get sick, and sleep a little extra, you’ll be spending a few days reading Outlander and watching Arrow. Words of wisdom for the youth out there. It seems simple enough, right?
Relaxing is harder than it should be. Even as wizened as I am, even knowing exactly what sinks me, it can sometimes be impossible to let the panic go. When you’re going into your favorite altitude camp of all time (that you had been waiting all summer for so that you could get in epic aerobic shape at), the fact that you may be getting sick seems like a miniature apocalypse in your microcosm of athlete focus.
In retrospect, I needed a little more perspective. The camp was my one chance at dryland altitude training this year, but the majority of the work had already been done in Alaska. We aren’t even racing at altitude this year except the first two weekends of SuperTour, so it isn’t even key preparation for Nationals or World Championships since they’re at sea level. Self-flagellation for messing up this one camp (that I had pinned all my aerobic and pre-season fitness goals on) is unproductive. In reality, I can’t pinpoint anything that I did poorly. I didn’t do a redeye after drinking from a sick person’s water bottle, I didn’t even pack that late before flying. Worrying about those things is what gives me colds first place. If I can’t find a specific mistake to learn from, it’s time to move on. When it seems like you’re not where you want to be, whether it’s injured, immuno-compromised, or just out of shape… the best thing to do is realize that you can only do what you can do. It sounds complicated, but it’s the simplest thing ever. Don’t expect the world, just keep plugging away at it and eventually the world may show up.
I still got to do a good hard rollerski up mirror lake, I only had three days when I couldn’t do anything at all, and I managed to quarantine myself so well that not a single one of my Alaska Pacific University teammates got sick. I mean really, that’s not so bad for two weeks in Utah.
My current motto: keep perspective, relax, and it’s not over ‘till it’s over.
Here are a few shots from my time in quarantine- hiking a little and drawing in the sunshine, as well as chicken noodle soup on a cold snowy day and happy girls done with our last rollerski of camp!