Monday, March 1, 2010

Nationals - Not a Stellar Day...

You probably all have figured out that because I have taken so long to post that my two races at nationals that things didn't exactly go like I would have liked. The first race was a 10km skate on Saturday and a 5km classic on Sunday. In the last few years, I have developed exercise-induced asthma that I have been taking inhalers to control, but as of January 1, one of the two inhalers I use was put on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) banned substances list so the only way I could have continued to use it was to go through some rigorous testing protocols and submit medical documentation proving that I did in fact need to use it. The doctor I deal with for my asthma is one of the doctors affiliated with WADA so he suggested that instead of jumping through all those hoops that I switch to a new inhaler. He explained that even if you submit all the right medical documentation showing that you need it, there is a medical committee that will review it and then decide whether or not they agree. If they don't and you have gone through doping control, an athlete would essentially test positive. Hmmm, do I really need that added stress? No. And my doctor thought that the new inhaler would work just as well so why not just switch? The chance of me going through doping control is pretty good. In fact, since November, I have been tested four times. I have to submit whereabouts forms that pretty much tell the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) where I am going to be every minute of my life so they can find me whenever an organization, such as Cross-Country Canada request it. It's very common before major games like the Paralympics because Canada doesn't want any surprise positive tests when there is major media attention. Doping control officers have showed up more than once at my front door unannounced, so much so in the last year that every time the doorbell rings and we're not expecting company, I rush to the kitchen to drink a huge glass of water because once they see your face, they limit how much water you can drink per hour and if you max out on the water and still don't have to pee because you're slightly dehydrated, you just sit around trying to be social and ignore the huge white elephant sitting in the room that is whispering "Do you have to pee yet? How about now? Now?" Most of the doping control officers that have shown up at my door have been very polite, but I still like to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible.

ANYWAY, I digress! To make this long story longer, I had a brutal time breathing in both races. I have noticed over the past year that dry weather and altitude both negatively affect my ability to breathe so coming to Canmore, where the humidity is about 45% and is at altitude, is a double whammy. Not being able to breathe in a race is the worst feeling in the world because my brain is syaing "Go, go, go!" but because I'm not getting in enough air, the lactic acid builds up faster and my limbs feel like lead. Not good.

The 5km was, if you can believe it, even worse. First, as I was in the start gate and the last athlete to start in 30 second intervals for the visually impaired women, one official says to another "She is supposed to go at 10:03.30 and it's 10:02:45 so did we miss someone?" The other official checked her list and says, "No, I checked everyone off." Keep in mind that while these two are discussing the problem, I'm standing in the start gate, watching to clock tick away... Then the official says to me, "Oh,you have to wait until your official start time so relax." That is not good! The benefit of going last is that you can better judge where you are in relation to the other athletes because you can roughly judge how far ahead of them you are. A minute gap though makes it harder because it puts you further back to start with. So I immediately started negotiating. "No, no, no, please let me start with a 30 second gap for competitive reasons! A minute gap is too big! Please, please!" Luckily, the officials agreed but by the time all of these discussions took place, I have about five seconds to start (three for Andrea as we wanted to try out our sprint start in an actual race setting) and then they realized the wand I have to push through to start the timer wasn't reset so then the officials were frantically trying to reset it and that didn't go super smoothly either, but finally, it was and I was free to go. Yay!

I just put all that behind me and focused on the race. It just didn't go well. I had a really hard time breathing and just could not get going with that going on, I fell twice (the most ever in a long, long time), including one spot where during our warm up Andrea and I agreed would be the worst place to fall because it would kill any speed we gained on the previous downhill which went right into an uphill. Hopefully we are just getting our bad races out of the way so we will be great in Whistler. I hope so! It certainly couldn't be much worse.

On another subject, this photo was taken at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Aren't the Rockies absolutely gorgeous? We are so lucky to live here! And speaking of Canada, what a fantastic finish to the Olympic Games! We now hold the the record for winning the most gold medals ever by a host country at an Olympic Games - 14 gold medals in total! And both our men's and women's hockey teams won gold so wouldn't it be fantastic if our sledge hockey team also won to make it a complete sweep of hockey in 2010? Regardless, it is so nice to see our country come together and show their national pride! I’ve never seen so many people in one place wearing Canada gear….scarves, toques, backpacks, sweaters, jackets, hockey jerseys, you name it, people were wearing it! And the celebrations aren’t over yet because on March 12, the Paralympic Games will start and I am hoping the excitement felt during the Olympic Games will carry over to the Paralympics. It sure is going to be amazing to have friends and family coming out to support me! 

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