April 24th, 2014
I have been thinking about writing this post since the beginning of April, I actually had it written only to find out it wasn’t saved and I was going to have to start from the very beginning.
Anyone who has been reading my last few posts knows that my last big races of the season were in Sochi. From there I went onto Canadian Champs and Saskatchewan Provincials and if you read the previous posts it is also easy to see that I had a really good time competing amongst my Canadian peers and bringing back the Sochi experience to everyone back home.
Before I could settle down in Canmore for the month of April I had to make one last trip, it has been a trip I have wanted to do since first skiing in Silver Star in 2009. My girlfriend and I packed up our car and headed 7 hrs to Silver Star/Sovereign Lakes. The ski conditions were great, the trails nearly empty and the sun high in the sky. It was amazing and after 2 1/2 and a 160+ kms we were pooped and ready to come home, even then it was hard to quit skiing as there are 105 km of trails and the sun was shining.
After returning home there were things I couldn’t avoid any longer. As usual there is a bit of procrastination during the race season, your focus narrows and you push things that aren’t pressing to the side. But when the season is over it is time to take those things back on, one of those things and the one I had been avoiding the most was a season debrief.
A season debrief is pretty simple, you recall your season and think about what was good and what went bad and what you will do differently in the future. However when you aren’t really satisfied with your results it is not so enjoyable to relive the season in your mind.
I had some really good races this season, most of which took place in a relay events. I am not complaining as you always want to bring your best when your teammates are counting on you but I struggled to crack the top 30 for the first time in a few years. I may have improved in certain areas but it wasn’t enough and not as much as the rest of the world. The first two races at the Olympics were the real exclamation point, everything went wrong and I needed an answer.
I don’t know if there is a right or wrong place to start when you begin a debrief of your season, maybe the start of the training season? the race season? or just moments within the year? I started with a few of the disappointing moments. These were moments where my coach had already suggested possible factors, so I revisited those first. I wanted to try to find a reason for any struggles I had.
The first was when I was told I would not start at World Cup #2, it was not a great feeling but something that happened. I remember discussing my slow start to the season with my coach, I didn’t understand. His suggestion was that “maybe because I was already qualified for the Olympics I wasn’t fighting as hard as I could. As I didn’t have to.” At the time I quickly dismissed it but now it was time to revisit it. I thought about it long and hard but again dismissed it, I fought hard all training year and understood what was on the line every moment of every training session. Summed up I still wanted it and wanted it bad.
The next moment I revisited was over the Christmas training break. We were putting in a training block in Canmore before returning to the pre Olympic World Cups. I suggested staying at home for a longer training block and heading into the Olympic better trained and rested than most would have the luxury of. Out of frustration my coach again asked “Do you even want to race in Sochi?” I was even quicker to dismiss this suggestion, Sochi is what I had been dedicated to for the last 4 years if not the last 8. It was the reason I regularly tried to go the extra mile. I didn’t really have to revisit this but it was a moment of disappoointment. Coincidently it was the relay in the final World Cup before the Olympics which inspired another post I am writing now titled “The best moment of the year”.
The final moment was back at home in Canmore. While sitting in my coaches office we lightly discussed the year, next year and the short comings at the Olympics. I was still confused as to what had happened in Sochi. This time my coach had suggested that maybe “because my family and friends were in Sochi it added a extra stress that I failed to manage.” Now this had the hamster spinning. Of course I have read or heard of times when family or friends created unnecessary or unwanted distractions leading into major events. Was this the case for me? So I started to recall the days leading into the first race in Sochi. I was pretty tired the first few days in Sochi but by the final training session felt quite good. And even though my family was in Sochi I hadn’t talked to any of them before the start of the first race. During the race, I executed just like any other race and after the race it was absolutely relieving to see that my family was grinning regardless of the result. Something I am not sure I would have believed had I not saw if for myself. If it was stress related it surely would have struggled in the men’s relay a week later. The situation of struggling for the first week and the other 3 men showing great form put me the most stressful situation of my career. I had to find confidence where there was none to be had, in the end I responded which felt great and allowed me to dismiss that stress was a significant factor in my poor Olympic opener.
After considering those three moments I was disappointed that I failed to identify the reasons for these disappointing moments and why I failed to have the year I had trained for. I started the year fully qualified and naturally was more enthusiastic than ever to turn over every stone for the tiniest advantage.
So next in my ever pleasant debrief was to back track to the beginning of the training season, all the way back to April.
Last April when returning home from the World Cup finals I arrived to find a fresh and energetic Brendan Green. Brendan had been in recovery from back surgery but had enough kilometres in his system that he was back to good form. I joined Brendan for many of his April training sessions a few of which were pretty hard intensity, for me anyways. So I thought, had I over done it before the season even started? I was in great shape for May but maybe there was a element of recovery missing? Although unsure I dediced I had mentally and physically recovered as I spent the latter part of April in Maui catching rays of sun and reading books on the beach.
I know this is getting long so bear with me, imagine writing this behemoth twice.
Next was the training year, May – November. And there are a million questions you can begin to ask yourself. Did I train enough? Was it specific enough? Did I recover enough? Did I focus on the right things in technique? Shooting? Did I dry fire enough? Live fire? Was the work that I did high enough quality? Did I strike enough of a balance in my days, weeks and months?
I am not going to answer each and every of those in this blog as it would be tedious and you have already probably checked Facebook once in the time you have been reading this post. The answer is that probably 90% of the time I was doing the right things with the right focus. I worked hard and had great teammates to work at it with. It is the 10% that bothers me though, little mistakes that shouldn’t have been made.
It is disappointing that I don’t have a concrete conclusion, I could tell you there are some things I will change next year but I won’t know if they work out until next February. Just like my first couple races at the Olympics I have to accept I may never know what happened. Even after skiing 160km in Silver Star my legs felt better than when I was supposed to be peaking in Sochi.
The most daunting moment of the entire debrief though is realizing the dream is gone. I imagine many Olympians have this moment and it is part of the struggles some have when they retire from sport. I trained every day for the last 4 years believing that I could stand on a Olympic podium. Not that I necessarily would but that I could. That with excellent training, great skis, top form and a little luck I could be there, it is something you dream of when you are out on your roller skis for dozens of kilometres everyday or dry firing in your garage after a day of hard double training, but not anymore. In realizing one dream, which was making the Olympic team I lost another.
As cliche as it sounds if there is one thing that allows me to accept success or more significantly failure it is having given it my all, to have truly tested myself.
After failing to make the Olympic team in 2010 I knew it was 4 more years of training, now though I will take it year to year. I look to a quote from Oprah to explain why. ” I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if I enjoyed the process.” Enough talk about failure The reason I am going to continue pursing my Biathlon aspirations is because I love the process and I still believe I can improve. I learned a lot this past season and will use every lesson to my advantage.
Looking foward though I am looking at the 2015 World Championships Finland, 2016 World Championships Olso and contributing to having 5 start spots at the 2016 Biathlon World Cup in Canmore, Alberta.