I was attending a 3-day speedskating camp and was about to begin the second day of early ice practice. I joined fellow competitors on the ice as we listened to coaches explain the technical details and drills we would work on during the session. After an hour, we were finishing our last set of lap drills; practicing passing at race tempo. My group was gearing up for the final set; single file and building speed, we jostled for position, taking turns fighting for the lead. As we entered the last corner, a large piece of ice broke free, or in skater lingo “chunked out” under my blade. Before I could react, I was airborne. As with most accidents, time suddenly passed in slow motion as I landed squarely on my left knee cap, immediately crumpling into a painful ball spinning down the straightaway. The sound alone had all heads turn as I tried to choke out a silent cry. Blood immediately began to seep down the leg of my lycra skin suit. The force of impact was so great it had torn through my cut-proof knee padding to reveal a grotesque avulsion where my patella was safely covered only moments before. I would later learn at that moment, my coach said “It’s never good when she goes down.” You see, I rarely crashed, but when I did, it involved an injury- broken rib, twisted ankles or stitches- yet would always be followed with a recovery. This time, it would end my skating career. I just didn’t know it yet.
For two years I tried to make a comeback. Summers filled with two workouts a day, hours of squats, lunges, jumps, low-walks; cycling and running. Skating seasons filled with mediocre race results and not achieving the ultimate goal of returning to National Championships. Eight years, four as a nationally competitive skater, suddenly felt very heavy on my shoulders and it pained me the day I decided to retire from my beloved sport of speedskating. When one trains and competes on a high level for years, retiring from that commitment leaves a huge hole. A space of knowing what you used to be and what you currently are not leaves very little in the motivation department.
To fill that space, I took up running after a 13 year absence (I used to race quite a bit before skating) or in most pace circles “jogging”. I tend to run a turtle’s pace vs. the hare’s…making sure the knee stays healthy and is not over worked. I began to run for the enjoyment rather than competitiveness and convinced myself I was happy. My husband didn’t quite understand how I could just go and run with no goals, no ambition, why I didn’t train a bit harder to go a bit faster. My answer was always the same, “been there, done that; I’m happy just plodding along.”
I had lost my Mojo; my inner competitor was dormant, nowhere to be found.
That was until I went to Contemporary Athlete last summer. My husband and I would go to CA once a week to work out with a handful of others. Some were rowers, runners, cyclists, and still others were there just to challenge themselves to get into a better fitness routine. It felt old-school; simple and straight forward- squats, push-ups, pull-ups, ab work, kettle bells, dead-lifts, sprint work. You never repeated the same workout. It was hard. The body hurt in a way that was very reminiscent of days past after hard work; and it made me happy.
One night, after months of weekly workouts, something inside clicked so loud I thought it may have been audible to anyone standing nearby. The competitor was back and she was not happy at the lackluster attitude that was taking hold. She was taking names- well, just one name- mine-and she was making me accountable for losing Mojo and demanding her return.
In the gym there are a few black boards, but one that flanks the left wall is reserved for the warm-up and goals. Lists of personal goals, right there in black and white for all to see. A few weeks ago, I started the workout in my usual manner, but somewhere in the middle, focus took over. I had a new sense of motivation- that old familiar feeling was back- and by the end of the workout, I walked over to the board, picked up a piece of chalk and for the first time in years, wrote down a goal.
I found my Mojo again and this year, we are planning to kick ass.