Fall is an exciting time for skiers. The leaves change colours, the temperatures start dropping, and everyone is getting ready and excited for the upcoming ski season. As the races draw closer, intensity and ski specific training ramps up as we start to prepare for the long ski season. Training well and properly is even more crucial than in the spring and summer.
I'd been having a stellar autumn of training until things derailed slightly a few weeks ago. I was out for an easy rollerski after work one day when a stray pinecone on the recreational pathway jarred my left ski to a complete halt. Miraculously, in a frenzied flurry of flailing limbs, I managed to safely roll into the grass without faceplanting. It was a close call I knew, as I glared at the offending pinecone and kicked it off to the side of the path. I'd been travelling on a slight downhill, with a fair amount of speed, so a crash would have been quite nasty.
As (bad) luck would have it, I didn't need to fall in The Pinecone Incident (now graced as a common noun) to injure myself. The next day I was sidelined with sharp pain in my left hip that made it difficult to walk, or even move around. Running and classic rollerskiing were out of the question. Strength was limited to non-weight bearing exercises and I soon learned that while I could skate rollerski, any intensity above z1 would get my hip aching. So, in the midst of a crucial time of training, I was unable to complete any ski-specific intensity and was seriously lacking training methods.
A pinecone, similar to the one that tripped me on that fateful day.
As with any injury, I quickly got it checked out by the wonderful athletic therapists at Carleton University. The diagnosis was straightforward. The abrupt stop of my left leg and continuing movement of my body during The Pinecone Incident, had put a lot of strain on my hip joint. I'd irritated the cartilage lining my hip joint, which lead to the pain I felt for certain movements involving my leg. The treatment? Avoid irritating my hip until it no longer hurt, otherwise I risked a long, and serious injury.
The good news was, that there was noticeable reduction in the pain after just a few days. Of course, I was going to need to recover a lot more before I could go back to normal fall training.
In the end, injuries are just a part of life for skiers and athletes in general. It's almost unheard of for an athlete to go an entire career without at least one serious injury or setback. Sophie Caldwell (USST) broke both her elbows this season. Justyna Kowlaczyk competed at the 2014 Olympics with a fracture in her foot. Injuries can be devastating if improperly treated, but don't have to ruin a season. You accept them, treat them, and move on to Plan B.
A pinecone in its natural habitat. Innocent and sweet-looking, but I'm not fooled anymore.
Side note: This is not the first time I have been hurt by a pinecone. One summer, while working as a sailing instructor, I was pummelled on the head by a pinecone falling from a large tree just outside our clubhouse. It was not unlike something you'd see in children's cartoons. It really happens to people (if you're me, at least).
The past few weeks I've been able to perfect my Plan B. Mainly, I upped the amount of swimming I've done to compensate for the lack of running and mostly rollerskiing. Swimming is a great full-body workout, and is excellent for cross-training for skiing, as I learned during my 8 years as a competitive swimmer. Being injured has let me do workouts I normally wouldn't consider. For instance, I finally got to do a 6am swim workout (this time with triathletes) and it reminded how much I love morning swims. The combination of swimming, modified strength training, some biking, and easy skate rollerskiing has allowed me to meet my weekly training hours, and still complete the necessary intensity.
I couldn't find any old racing pictures of me swimming, so here's one of me in the Deep River Triathlon this year.
It's now been three weeks since The Pinecone Incident and I'm happy to report that the pain in my hip has mostly faded. I've slowly introduced classic rollerskiing and running back into my training regime and am looking forward to fully getting back into the fall training!
Interesting Reading. . .