Friday, December 9, 2016

Reflections on a Great Leader

The news of the Athletics Canada head coach, Peter Eriksson, being let go came as a complete shock to me. After having 4 of the most successful years in Canadian athletics history, Athletics Canada (AC) has decided to part ways with Peter. How does that make sense? I just wanted to give my thoughts on the matter and share my personal experience with Peter and other head coaches from the past.

I have been competing at the highest level in athletics since I was 17 years old, having competed in 4 World Racewalk Cups, 1 Pan American Games, 3 World Track and Field Championships, 1 Olympic Games and many other Canadian teams. I have to say that in all of these 13 years I have never had the individual attention from an Athletics Canada head coach like I have from Peter. Its not because I have been more successful these past few years. Simply in the past, the head coaches didn't even take the time to have a conversation with me while at a major championships. Peter not only talked to each athlete individually at the championships but in my experience, he followed up with me throughout the season.

My first experience with Peter came after having my daughter Isabella and competing at the 2014 World Racewalk Cup in China. I was shocked to see that the head coach would be travelling to China to help and watch us compete. When I met Peter there for the first time, I told him how impressed I was that he came and he responded by saying, "Of course I came". As if it was to be expected. This had never happened before. He made me feel very supported and like Athletics Canada actually cared about racewalking, the event that is definitely at the bottom of the totem pole in most athletic federations. He also watched every the racewalk races at Nationals every year which was not common for the AC head coach. He continued to impress me.

I understand that Peter has been controversial with some of his decisions but I feel like the general public gets outraged when they don't know all the facts. It is easy to listen to an athlete who is upset and contacts the media about something yet they don't explain the procedure in which the decision was made. They just say that it is unfair because of xyz. It definitely cannot be an easy job, like any other job of authority, tough decisions need to be made. I am sure that some decisions were made that truly were unfair and that is very unfortunate but overall as a program you cannot argue with the success.

I want to take a minute to talk about the carding situation. Every year people get outraged because specific athletes don't get carded. For example, this year most of Canada's top marathoners did not get carded. Many of the marathoners are very vocal in the media and because it is an easily understood event by the general public, people get upset that "how can you be the best in Canada and not get funding". It mostly bothers me because the marathon is only ONE event in track and field and Athletics Canada has to look at the whole athletics team as a whole and compare each athlete in each event based on their individual success. They cannot card an athlete who, for example, comes 25th at a major Championship just because they are the Canadian record holder and not card an athlete who performed higher and achieved the carding criteria. If they could give funding to every athlete on the team, I am sure they would BUT they are only given a certain number of cards per year from Sport Canada. They need to have guidelines to distribute those cards and unfortunately some people don't end up making the cut. I have been on the short end in the past, even competing at the Olympics in 2012 and not getting carded after that. I didn't perform well, what can I expect when others had performed well. Through my many years in the sport and dealing with Athletics Canada, I have come to a much better understanding on the whole system and why certain decisions end up being made. For me personally, it has pushed me to step up my game and be more successful.

I hope that moving forward that the media will contact more athletes in several different events in track and field for opinions instead of staying with the few voices that are repeatedly heard. As a whole, Canada's track and field team has been the most unified in these past few years under Peter than it has been in the decade before in my personal experience. As a whole, the athletes and coaches have had more input in decisions that impacted us throughout the season and I think that was reflected in performances. I hope that whoever takes over as head coach can continue these things moving forward.

I just wanted to thank Peter for his support and motivation throughout these last 3 years. I enjoyed getting to know him. He is a big family man and I appreciated that understanding being one of the few athletes on the national team who has a child. I wish Peter all the best in the future, I am sure he will be given many good opportunities as he truly is gifted at running a successful program.

Keep on walking,


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Olympic Nightmare

In an Olympic year you mostly only hear about Olympic dreams but not as often about Olympic nightmares. My Olympic season started off with complete certainty that I was on the Canadian Olympic team. People would ask me if there was a way that I could not make the team and my response was always that it would take a disaster for me not to make the team. I had no reason to be worried. All I had to do to stamp my ticket to Rio was prove fitness to Athletics Canada, easy peasy. After all, I had my best season yet in 2015 and I was poised to build on that in 2016. They always say that things happen when you least expect it. For the most part, people are talking about positive things in your life, not bad things. Unfortunately, you can’t choose when the bad things pop up.

For me, my nightmare started off slowly with some tightness in my hamstring in December. Nothing concerning, more just annoying that it wasn’t loosening up. I was able to maintain my regular training and just continued to get my weekly therapy. It didn’t start to get any worse until the middle of January. I started to not be able to do much or any of my hard workouts because I had pain in my hamstring. I was able to maintain all my easy workouts, even up to 25km’s with little to no hamstring issues. I started to get increased treatment to try to figure out the problem. I started getting a bit desperate that I was starting to see a bunch of different therapists, searching for someone who could fix it.

I was able to keep up most of my regular training but at the beginning of March I had my final straw when I tried to do a speed workout less than a week before I was supposed to leave for Japan to race. I got a doctor’s appointment to get an MRI and while I waited the week to get the scan done, I took time off training to see if that would help. The week off didn’t help, it actually made it worse when I tried to racewalk again. While I waited for the results I decided to go to Albuquerque to work with my former regular therapist, Jonathan Pierce. I had seen Jon every week for 4+ years until he moved in November 2015 so I was very confident that if anyone could help me, it was him. While I was in Albuquerque he worked on me for 5 days, twice a day and we found a lot of mechanical issues that we thought were causing the pain in my hamstring. We thought with some corrective and strengthening exercises that I would be able to overcome this. I got the MRI results and turned out I had a partial tear in each of my hamstrings and a lot of tendonitis in my left one. I was surprised about the right hamstring since I had been having no pain at all on that side. I was a bit shocked overall because we really didn’t think it was a tear.

From then on we came up with a treatment plan to see a chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist once each a week. I was also going to see my trainer twice a week to make sure I was doing all the exercises correctly. On top of these 5 appointments a week, I was also seeing my sports psychologist to keep sane. All of this on top of trying to racewalk but mostly cross train on the elliptical, it was a lot. It was all so worth it though to keep pursuing my goals of making it back with enough time to compete in Rio. I still had plenty of time, it was only the beginning of April, tons of time.

I started to see some progress as we came up with a smart plan to comeback slowly. It was going well until I started to do some faster workouts again and then I started to have some setbacks again. The frustration was building and we started to feel more and more desperate. Even with all the treatment I was getting and the trips to get worked on by Jon, nothing was working enough to have me completely pain free.

At the beginning of May we decide
d that it was time to explore other options. I went back to the doctor and we decided to do a small amount of PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injection. I felt like this was my last hope to be able to get back in time to still make this happen. I immediately saw improvements. I used to be extremely uncomfortable just sitting for any length of time and would be constantly fidgeting. This stopped after the PRP. I started to feel like this is what I should have done sooner, that we finally found the answer to fixing the problem. We followed the doctor’s orders of how to get back to training and didn’t attempt anything harder for 2 weeks after I got the injection.
The first harder workout I did was pretty promising except the fact that in the last interval I had a sharp pain. I couldn’t racewalk the next day and that’s when I felt like it was over. I spoke with Jon and we decided that he would come to San Diego to work on me for the weekend and see what was going on. After a few days of intense treatment, I was back to feeling great, the best I had in months and my spirits were lifted once again. Four days after getting treatment from Jon I did a hard workout and it was ok, nothing great but no real sharp pains so that was good. I should say that all of these workouts I had done totaled at the most 6km’s of fast racewalking…it’s not like I was even doing much when I’m used to doing 15+ km’s worth.

June 11th, we decided I would jump into my first race to just see where I was at, no matter what the result was. To say the least, I was nervous. I hadn’t racewalked 5km in a row in months (I had been alternating racewalking and running to keep the load off my hamstring) so to try and do 5km’s as fast as I could in a row was a little daunting. I made it 2200m’s and couldn’t take it anymore and I dropped out. I felt my hamstring every step but I would say that it wasn’t enough yet to drop out. It was my mind spinning and realizing that I wasn’t ready to see where I really was at. After the race was over, I decided to pick myself up and try to do some intervals to at least get some kind of a workout in. After doing another 1600m’s worth, my hamstring started to hurt more and so I called it a day.

The next day, Sunday June 12th, I went to training hoping to do an easy 15km’s and made it about a minute and couldn’t handle the pain and the emotional stress anymore. That was it, it was over. I burst out crying like I had been doing all too much the past few months. I knew that I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew that my journey to making my 2nd Olympic team was over. Tim and I took a walk to decompress and reflect on everything. This was the FIGHT OF MY LIFE! That is what I often thought throughout this process. I wasn’t going to not do everything I could to achieve my goals and I definitely can say that I am confident that I did everything I could and so did all of my support team.

It has only been a few days since deciding to end my journey and I still feel like I have this whole time, that I am in an alternate reality. That this cannot be happening to me. I have never even had a minor injury and so to have a major injury in an Olympic year is a complete nightmare. I still have not woken up from this and I feel as though it will still take months for me to overcome this reality. I don’t think that I am depressed but this injury has torn me down to the point that I have become unmotivated to even cook my family’s daily meals. My relationships have suffered because I can barely deal with the relationship with myself.  I now feel like I really want to escape my reality and curl up into a ball somewhere. I am finding that I need to force myself to stay busy otherwise I don’t think I could take it. How did this happen to me?

This process has been so emotional. You go from feeling invincible to feeling like a total failure and everywhere in between. Even now after taking 3 days away from racewalking and only doing activity that doesn't irritate my hamstring, I find myself feeling optimistic again that I am healed, that I am actually ok. Sometimes I feel like I would rather have it that I am just not fit enough, not injured, that at least I could work harder and improve my fitness. Injury just comes with so many uncontrollable variables that it is so difficult to comprehend. 

I feel like people only follow the journey of those who make it. I made it and should be in Rio but despite my best efforts and circumstances I can’t control, I will not be there. I am not alone and I know that. There are more people who have hopes and dreams of being at the Olympics than those who actually make it. It is not an easy thing to take or get over as the opportunity only comes every 4 years.

I still plan on continuing my career once I overcome this injury and I plan on returning with even higher goals than I had for myself this year. I will be wiser from this and I know that I could have far bigger problems in my life than a tear in my hamstring. Even though that is all true, at times, this can feel like the end of my world. Athletes put so much of their lives into their training and racing that it is really all consuming. This is who we are, this is how we define ourselves. Since there has been nothing that I could control in this situation, it really does feel like the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

I need to thank my support team that worked so hard with me to get me back. Tim, my husband and coach. Even though he felt helpless most of the time, he was extremely supportive and did everything he could to help. I know that this injury has affected him just about as much as it has me. Jonathan Pierce, he spearheaded my whole comeback plan and was the mastermind for all my team of therapists here in San Diego. I am eternally grateful for his help and wish I could have produced a better outcome for him and all his hard work. Ben Kleinert, my strength trainer. He worked with Jon to learn all of the different therapy techniques that Jon thought were important for me so that he was able to do ART on me during our sessions. He put together all of the strength exercises to overcome some weaknesses that I had developed. I so appreciate his devotion to me and I can’t wait to keep working with him. Dr. Okazaki "Dr. O", has been my chiropractor on and off for 6 years. He has always gone above and beyond for Tim and I, staying late and coming in on holidays to work on us. He has made a big impact on us and many of our training partners. Tara my massagetherapist and Ian my acupuncturist. They were both brand new therapists for me and came on in the heat of my injury. Without hesitation, both were willing to commit to my case and make me a priority with no prior relationship. Dr. Anne Shadle, my sports pyschologist. I have worked with her for a year and a half now and she really revitalized my career last year to help me get to the point where I truly believed in myself. She has helped me keep perspective during all this and let me bare my soul. She is not only a great therapist but a good friend. You truly do find out the people who are willing to go to the end of the earth to help you when you are at your worst. These are the types of people you want in your corner but most importantly, your life. Click on their name to go to their website to get more information!

I plan on enjoying my summer as much as I can by spending time with my family. I am also going to figure out what we can do now to fully heal my hamstrings now that I have more time to do what it takes. I will be back though, don’t count me out. Thanks for the encouragement along the way. I would appreciate the continued support as more tough times are yet to come. Thank you, thank you J

Keep on walking,


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Update: Diagnosis and plan of ATTACK!

Ill cut straight to the MRI results came back that I have a partial tear in BOTH hamstrings, woohoo! I also have extreme tendinitis in my left hamstring. Yep, that sucks! I was definitely not expecting to hear that when the doctor called me. He started off the call with "How are you feeling" and me being optimistic, as I am, I replied "I think I am doing a bit better". Well he asked me that question because he was expecting me to say that ive been in a lot of pain based on the MRI report and images.

I definitely wasn't expecting to hear this news...partly because I have had zero pain in my right hamstring which is good news. I didn't think I had any tears because usually you feel a pop of sorts or have bruising when a tear occurs. Well this is also good news that I had neither happen. The fact that it hasn't been healing or getting better indicated that something was wrong though because usually I respond well to treatment.

A few days before I even had my MRI we decided that I was going to fly to Albuquerque for 5 days over Easter weekend to see my former physio Jonathan Pierce to get some intense treatment. I have worked with Jon for the past 4+ years in San Diego but in the fall he took a new job with the Brooks Beast Track Club in Seattle. Since I have worked with him for so long, he was always able to just read me and what was going on with my body when I walked in the door for treatment. In Albuquerque, he treated me everyday, most days twice and he found that my body was very tight and locked up in many areas. It was not allowing me to have the best mechanics and was putting pressure on my hamstring. This is something that I believe should have and could have been caught earlier but moving on...

I left Albuquerque physically feeling better and mentally in a better place. Jon and I came up with a good plan to attack this injury and get me back to where I should be. I revamped my team of therapists here and everyone is staying in touch with Jon as my main therapist/leader. We want to make sure that we all work together and that everyone knows what everyone is finding.

I went to see a top sports medicine doctor with my MRI results and he prescribed me some strong anti inflammatory medications (yes, I made sure they are NOT on the prohibited substance list) to get the inflammation down in my left hamstring. We think that if we can get that down/gone that I should be ok since that is the main source of the pain.

So, i've been cross training super hard on the elliptical and hiking as second workouts. I've been doing all my regular racewalking workouts but on the elliptical instead. Its so nice to be able to work hard doing something that I have no pain doing. Today, however, I was able to run for the first time in a month and had no pain! I did 15km's total alternating 1km hike, 1km run while pushing Isabella in the stroller. I have felt good the rest of the day and so I am going to try to racewalk tomorrow.

The hardest thing in this is being patient and not pushing too hard or doing too much too soon. Even though I have time, I feel like I dont have time. It is now April 3rd and this is not where I would have hoped to be at BUT this is where I am and I have come to terms with it BUT I am not settling for it. From all of this, I have come to realize that your biggest competitor is someone coming back from adversity. They cross train their butt off, they are more fired up than ever and it is all getting bottled up and ready to explode for when it counts. Trust me y'all, im coming! This comeback is going to be better than the last and the last was goooood.

Ill keep you posted on my progress. I am excited for what is to come because I know that what is to come is going to be my best ever. How can you not be excited about that! Thanks for the uplifting words of encouragement.

Keep on walking,


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bumpy Road

Right now I am supposed to be in Tokyo having a blast and preparing to try and redo the magic from my first sub 90 minute 20km I did last year at the same race in Japan. Instead, I am at home enjoying family time and feeling like I am starting my season all over again. The last time I wrote, I recapped my 2015 season, my most successful season to date. I wish I could be writing to say how great my training has been going and that I knew with certainty that this was going to be another successful year. Right now, I am feeling uncertain on what is to come.

My training in the fall went pretty well. For the most part, I was training better than last year and felt very excited for the coming season. I did a 10k "race" on January 2nd where I did in a controlled effort and walked 44:34 with a HR 7 beats lower average than I do most of my 20k races at a slower pace. This made me feel super optimistic for my hope to go sub 1:29 this year. A few days after the 10k I started having some pain in my hamsting. It didnt seem too serious at first, especially considering I had no pain on any of my easy workouts (5 days a week) but when I tried to go fast I had problems. It has now continued and its now 2 months later and I am still having problems. Seems like a long time and it is but during this time I have seen a lot of good things that has made me continue without being too worried. I have had a few of my best workouts ever and had no pain doing them, I have had 2-3 weeks during these 2 months with the pain gone and thought I was over the hump. A week before I was supposed to leave for Japan the pain came back when I tried to do a workout and I knew at this point that I had to cancel my trip and really take care of this problem for real.

I have been getting therapy 2-3 times a week since the beginning of January and nothing seems to be getting rid of this for good. I have now just completed a full week off training and since I have started back training a few days ago, the pain is still present. I am now in the process of getting an MRI to just make sure that the hamstring isnt torn. We are hopeful and think that it is just tendonosis, inflamation but we just want to rule anything else out. This is my first real injury in my whole career and so it has just been a learning process on how to deal with it.

In the mean time, I am trying to be positive and optimistic as the Olympic year is getting underway. I know that I can get in shape quickly and that I have become a totally different athlete these last few years and that will help me moving forward. Once I am pain free, I know that ill be able to get to where I was before all this happened. It is still early enough in the year that I have plenty of time to get ready. All I need is one GOOD race and that race is still just over 5 months away, the Olympics. Im fortunate that I already have my Olympic standard and all I have to do is prove fitness.

Not the update I would like to give but its an honest one that I sure others can relate to. Everyone is always looking for perfection in an Olympic year but the reality is that you cannot control everything and sometimes that is a good thing. I am trusting the process and believing that I am capable of great things this year but that it will be a different path than usual to get there. Thanks for all of the support.

Keep on walking,