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Challenges and Hurdles
By:  Tom McCarthy   (2001/11/28)

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Sometimes not everything goes perfectly in a season or in a training schedule, unfortunately. Positive attitudes and outlooks come easily to skiers, probably as a result of time spent outside exercising and having fun, and usually we are full of optimism about the coming season and the upcoming races. Sometimes, though, we hit hurdles that make it pretty hard to stay positive in the head.

XCOttawa.ca left for a training camp north of Quebec City a few weeks ago. I had a very stiff neck the day we left, and the back of my head had what felt like a big bruise from being hit by a two by four. I skiied for three days, with my neck increasing in stiffness each day, until every pole-plant was accompanied with a grimace of pain. I went to the hospital after a day of rest and was quickly and conclusively diagnosed with mononucleosis, the worst fear of many skiers. Mono is a disease which attacks the blood. It causes extreme fatigue and can cause other complications, which in my case included a swollen spleen and temporary hepatitis of the liver, according to the docs. I wasn’t expecting to be diagnosed with mono, so I was pretty surprised and disappointed. When I finally made it back to Ottawa, I was feeling terrible, and spent two days lying down before going to the hospital during the night worried about my spleen, which was sore. While at the hospital, I fainted, got an IV due to extreme dehydration related to my liver, and had a bad reaction to a medication. I also heard this quote from a nurse, upon looking over the results from a blood test; "Oh geez, your blood is doing some seriously crazy things!" She declined to explain this statement. I visited my doctor a couple of days later and was told to lie in bed for two weeks.

Well, I tried, but I started feeling a lot better after about a week and a half. I watched too many movies and read too many books, and I couldn’t lie there anymore. I started doing stuff like going shopping. I felt like I was getting better; my spleen didn’t hurt anymore, my lymph nodes were going down in size from XXXL to merely L, and I had energy. I was dying to start training again. So I went to the doctor yesterday feeling upbeat and sure that the outlook would be positive. I was disappointed once again. I was told to prepare not to race this winter, that my liver and spleen were still enlarged, and that I definitely wasn’t racing in January. He told me that I couldn’t do as much as I thought I could, and that I had to "rein myself in" before I did too much. I’m allowed to walk and hike until I see him again just after New Years. Oh yeah, and he weighed me; I lost 14 pounds, from 170 to 156, in just over three weeks. I’ve gone from skinny with muscles to skinny with pointy bones.

Needless to say, I was blown away. It’s a pretty tough thing to get over mentally. This fall was going very, very well; I felt an extra gear that I haven’t had before, probably due to lots of hard intensity and speed work, closely managed by our coach Pavol. It’s a blow to think about not racing. So how am I going to respond? Well, first I’m going to eat a lot. Then, I’m going to plan on racing at least for National Championships and the race series in Val Cartier and Vermont afterwards. I’ll get better faster than he thinks. Finally, I’m going to use the time off to motivate myself for next season, to do very well in school and to think about what priorities to carry into next season to make sure I get enough rest and stay healthy. They say that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. We’ll see about that. And to put it into perspective, it’s only skiing and it’s only mono; I’ll get over it. It’s far from the worst thing that could happen.

 
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