Happiness Training

As I write this it’s 55degrees and raining, and somehow, defiantly so, I am happy.

I spent the past couple of weeks in an epic pursuit of happiness that brought me out west to snow, sunshine, and good company.  Such good company!  Even now I feel the happiness radiating through me, lingering.


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Although I have written a little about my struggles with my health over the past few months I’ve opted out of acknowledging just how much I was truly struggling out East mentally and emotionally.  In general I like to think I’m a pretty positive person and I’m struggling to write about… struggling.   I don’t want people to worry about me, because more often than not I feel like worry only transpires into self-doubt.

However, my trip to the West was a daily reminder of how truly fortunate and loved I am, and a blatant acknowledgement of just how utterly sad and empty I was this summer and fall.  Somehow, through all of this I’ve managed to find some great clarity, despite the giant jumble of a life I lead.

This summer I might have found bottom.  A training cave of what can most closely be described as dismal…. but in it I also found my strength.  I now know more clearly than ever that even though I’m willing to sacrifice so much for this small portion of my life, I am not willing to sacrifice my sanity… or my happiness.  I now know that if I want to find success in this or any piece of my life I can not do it without being happy.

Throughout the past couple of weeks I stocked up on hugs, and when asked what I was doing in Canmore or Bozeman I simply responded with, “Happiness Training.” …and it truly was just that.  Just what I needed.

I can not thank all the people who made the last few weeks possible enough.  New and old friends, former team mates, and the families that welcomed me into their homes.  Especially (but of course not limited to) The national guard team, the Irwin family and the MSU alpine team, Andrew, Wes, Andie, Stephen and the Montana house.  You guys all made my trip bliss, and for that I can not thank you enough!

I learned that happiness training is more than a diet of wine and donuts.  More than running up snowy canyons, and racing with beautiful blue skies.  Happiness training is good, but having other goobers to share it with makes it great.

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Tis the Season

 

I originally posted this a little over a year ago, but as we head into the winter season I think this is a great time to take a step back and put ourselves in the best place possible to tackle the races that lay ahead.

 

 

Excuses: 

We all make them.  I’ve made plenty of them over the years.  About my school work or grades.  About my sports, training and racing…  I’ve made them about different relationships in my life, with family, friends… but I’m not really sure why.  Sometimes we use excuses to protect ourselves, but more than anything we are just selling ourselves short.  Holding ourselves back.  Why?  Why on earth would I ever want to do that?!?!

You have the training excuses…  I’m too tired, my arms hurt, my legs are sore, its too hot, its too cold, I don’t feel right, I ate too much food, my head hurts, I didn’t sleep well, my skis are slow, its raining, I’m breathing too hard, I don’t like sweat, my spandex is too tight?

You’re holding yourself back.  Intervals are supposed to be hard.  If racing is the hardest thing I do then I’m not trained well enough…

Even better are those pre-race excuses…those protect you right?  So if things don’t go so well you’ve got that excuse already in place.  I threw my arm out in that snowball fight.  The course is hard.  The conditions are slow.  I was sick two weeks ago.  My warm up didn’t feel good.  I’m not as good as these other athletes.

Why? Why? Why?  Do we want ourselves to fail?

Then when it’s all said and done we come with excuses to why you didn’t do as well as you wanted, you didn’t beat so-in-so, you didn’t live up to other’s expectations, your own expectations.  (so you can’t win them all they say…but you can sure as hell try)  They missed the wax, it was windy when I was on the range, I didn’t feel good, I went out too easy, I went out to fast, I don’t do well in long races, I’m not a sprinter, the course wasn’t built for me, its the altitude, this race didn’t matter…

Your self value, your self worth, does not correlate with where you finished on the results list….  So perhaps it’s time to stop looking for things to blame our results on and instead look for ways to make the results better.  You get to choose your outlook… so why do we love to settle on the negative?

This is what happens when I train by myself alot.  I get to thinking.  So I’m challenging myself to not make excuses.  To not settle for excuses.  Living and competing with intention and having ownership in that intention seems a whole lot more rewarding…

In Search of Snow… and other magical things.

I do realize I promised to write you a post about our time in Utah… but in retrospect that might have been a lie?

Utah was great, the training (albeit frustrating at times) was good, the sun was appreciated and the snow was not.  I got to run in the hills, rollerski in circles, eat too much good food.  I had some of my best shooting ever.  (It’s always nice when you can surprise people by doing what you are suppose to do)

Utah was raw.  It was good and it was bad.  But I feel like I’ve moved on.

While the rest of the giggle gang hung out in Utah for another week I headed back to Lake Placid with Jonne to get in some of the coldest rollerskiing of the season… on our brand new roller loop!  HOT diggity-dog, does that not sound exciting???

Over my two week stint in Lake Placid I spent my time making more baked goods than anyone could eat, drinking an entire bottle of tasty liquid iron, and working on feeling fast while trying not to simply flail my limbs around uncontrollably.  Modest success!

Sick of rollerskiing in long-johns, mittens, and the occasional down jacket I decided it was time to find real winter.  And so the hunt for snow (man made or that natural stuff) began.  You know it is time for winter when you’ve forgotten how many layers of nonsense it actually takes to keep you warm, what snow-baskets are, and when you may or may not have found a dead mouse in your pole tube.  (Hey, my car doesn’t stink anymore….)

One direct flight  and a very generous former team mate later I arrived in Canmore with my rifle and jumbo ski bag.  I’ve been putting around for a few days, getting my feet under me, catching up on some z’s, sipping too much coffee  (that or I’m developing tremors), and logging my first k’s of the season on snow.

I’ve only been here for a few days…. but there is something about this place I’ve discovered over the past few years since I started this whacked out sport that is seemingly magical.  The kind of magical place that every time I get sick of the east and threaten to run to some where far far away… Well, that place is here.

*Photo credit goes to my team mates and their iphones. Yah cell-phone journalism! 

Trick or Treat

While you were all dressed to the gills (preferably as sparkly-spandexy-zombie-princesses) I have been tucked away in a sleepy little hallow in Utah.

Have no fear, I am working on a post for you guys chalk full of borrowed pictures and all about  our training camp, pillow forts, not getting shot by hunters, dognapping a dog (too obvious), snowy rollerskis, and of course our trials races…. but for now all I can think about is Halloween.

Although I did  not celebrate Halloween this year  I did get to celebrate it four times in one week last year… so I suppose I can skip a year every now and then.  While out west reminiscing about costumes of past years, drinking a little wine, eating a little pumpkin pie I kept coming across all these pictures from people dressed up as really clever things.

Thinking of getting clever I thought back to my first few Halloweens.  Now, my parents were a clever bunch.  When I was little they convinced me that children were suppose to be the same thing for Halloween every year until you grew out of your costume. Wait what?  For four years I was a bumblebee…. yep.  Oh yes, my parents tricked me real good.  I’m sure at that point I had no idea what Halloween was about.. if anything it must have been about celebrating bumblebees and pumpkins and your parents taking away all of your candy, putting it on a high shelf, and rationing it slowly out until Easter.

Maybe this is why I struggle making decisions.  Don’t mind me if I start to eliminate legitimate choices, I’ll just chose option E) bumblebee.

Take one:

Take two (still loving it): 

September, be kind.

Your bodies number one job is to keep itself alive.  (this is where you yell, “Thank you Captain Obvious!”)

As an athlete you ride the fine line between pushing your body to adapt and get stronger and pushing your body to freak out and get over protective.  This happens often times when athletes get sick, injured, or are under-recovered while trying to maintain their ‘normal’ training habits.

I’ve been feeling flat for over a month now.  Lack of concentration, increased fatigue (wait you’re passing out at 9pm again?)… I feel lazy and have a hard time motivating to train.  This isn’t normal for me. I generally struggle with the opposite!  Frustrated, I brought out all the old training logs, combed through numbers, data, how have you been feeling? blahblah.  But nothing was different.  I wasn’t training more than normal.  I was left scratching my head, and teetering on terrified.  How did I mess this up!?!?!   

Panic was setting in.  “Am I setting myself up for another horrible season?”    “I can’t go through that again!”  “Body why do you hate me!?”  It’s funny how the mind forgets the months of injury and sickness and dwells on the general disappointment.  “Snap out of it crazy!” 

…Then I got my blood results back.    Anemic.

I suppose I shouldn’t be excited to hear the news.  But Yes.  I am excited that something is wrong.  And yes.  I am excited to get better.  Because somehow knowing that I can do something (even if that something is taking those nasty dirty penny flavored pills every day) feels like good news.

So it might be September.  And I might be in salvage mode already… but every day I’m going to get a little better.  My crazy anemic gasping for air will stop.  I won’t bonk every 20 minutes.  Everything will stop feeling like resistance training.

It won’t be tomorrow.  Or next week.  ….I just guess it’s a good thing I like going up hill.

Dear Self; Stop Holding Yourself Back.

April:  Please Make it End

Coming back to the national team this spring was not easy.  Getting renamed to the team was not a right, it was a privilege.  It seemed my coaches and our International Competition Committee looked at me and said, “Alright now don’t mess this up!”   …at least that’s how it felt.

They were giving me a second chance, not because I earned it, or met any criteria, but because they saw something in me I myself am still trying to find.

May:  Fighting It

I more or less careened into the first national team camp of the year, a constant mixture of scared and thankful.

You see I spent  so much of the past season blocking out all the negative things.  Dwelling on all the bad just didn’t seem productive and it appeared I wasn’t going to catch a break.  I thought that if I could ignore all the bad parts maybe then they wouldn’t exist.  …one of those “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” clauses that only works when you are six years old.

I spent so much energy blocking out everything that I started to block out not only the bad but the good as well. I was numb.

It was easier to feel nothing.

No frustration.  No Anger.  No disappointment.
but also
No happiness.  No little triumphs.  Emptiness.

I was protecting myself and destroying myself all at the same time.  And I was tired.  A deep and empty tiredness that sleep couldn’t, wouldn’t fix.

I was overwhelmed.  Coaches. Team mates. I had spent the year hiding, tucked away.  And now everything was out in the open.  And I was fighting it.  I was holding myself back.

June:  Let it Hurt

After the initial shock wore off and I reopened myself to the frustration I could feel myself coming back.  I allowed myself to acknowledge the uncomfortable and get over myself in the process.

I was alive again.  I was hungry again.  I was thriving.

After a year of struggling in survival mode I was finally feeling ok. Better than ok, I was happy.

Sometimes you have to work for your happiness.  And that is exactly what I did.

I moved off complex into a shoebox of an apartment.  Seperating pieces of myself.  My sport and my space.  Balance and focus finally restored.  I was happy.   My internal dialouge was changing.  Hungry to ski, hungry to improve.

July:  Truth in the Moment

We just finished up our annual july camp in Jericho, Vermont.  Picturesque and complete with hot humid days, bugs, and time trials.

And although my time trials were not anything special the feeling I have racing has changed for the better!  When I was first starting to ski race Mr. Burger gave me the best advice a skier could ask for, “Racing hurts.  You can’t avoid it, so you better learn to be friends fast.”  

I lost a little bit of that last year.  One of the biggest things that makes me the athlete I am was gone.  I was afraid to hurt and instead chose to suffer.  But I’m learning again.  Embracing the uncomfortable, finding good in the bad days, and feeling a little be tougher every chance I get.

(If you look closely you can see the goosebumps!)

“Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens.  Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering.  Resistance creates suffering.  Stress happens when your mind resists what is… The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.”  -Dan Millman 

Corrine Goes to Race the Big Dogs

When I signed up for the Loon Mountain Race earlier this summer I didn’t really know exactly what I was getting myself into.   I’ve always admired mountain runners.  Drooled over the possibility of some day racing the Leadville 100, the Bridger Ridge Run, the Gortex TransRockies… (yes I have an adventure bucket list)

When I picked Loon I thought… “Oh neat and fun!”

As we got closer to race day I knew the field would be deep and talented.  Turns out to be the deepest field ever for the US at Women’s Mountain Running Champs.

There I was.  Suddenly  in the toughest field I have ever run with.  On the toughest course I’ve ever raced.

These gals brought age, experience.  They have a credentials.  Running resumes.  Running what?  …Man was I in deep.

One bio after another.   “Olympic Trials Marathon Racer”  “National Champion”  “NCAA Champion”  “Reigning World Champion”  “17 minute 5km PR”    

The only thing running through my mind?  “OH MY WORD!”  followed closely by “What was I thinking!?”

But I stepped on the line in my plain jane running shorts and my Jenkins Mtn Scramble t-shirt surrounded by what appeared to be 24 genetic freaks in race singlets with sponsors plastered across their chests.  Breathe Breathe Breathe.  Don’t freak out.  

Then they said go.  and I went with them.  At least I tried to.  We came through the first mile in something like 6:40 going uphill.  As we hit the first down hill I dropped back.  It was clear my legs aren’t used to turning it over like this girls.

I spent much of the race going back in fourth with Maria, the next youngest in the field at 24 and one of the few other girls not from the West.   We chatted a little bit at one point when we were breathing well enough that we were both coherent.  Cheered each other on.  Joked about  age.  Made comments like “This is the tough part right?”  and “Where are we?”   “Um going up!”   We found icecream to be a strong motivation as Maria yelled out, “Maria is getting icecream tonight!”

We kept pumping our arms.  We kept trying to move forward.  Up the hill.  One foot.  Two feet. I had goose bumps shortly after passing through mile number two. The final kilometer rocked us with it’s 40% grade (yep 700 whole feet of vertical).  I choked on a water feed.  Got my butt kicked by a woman twice my age.  Had to do everything in my power to not eat the incredible wild strawberries as I made my way slowly up Upper Walking Boss.  And finally, just as I promised myself, I got to the finish and sat down.

As I sat there somehow managing to drink the water someone had handed to me (though I have no recolection of actually ever being handed the initial cup) Maria came over and gave me a high five, we had made it, “Twenty more years Corrine, twenty more!”

These women are tough.  As for me?  I’m hooked.

Pretty certain one of the next things I said was, “I want ice cream. And then I want to run it again.”

Here’s a parting shot of the women’s podium (and World Championship Team) from Joe Viger with Mo rocking the top spot!

Spare Rounds: So You Dropped Out of College

For all you North Americans out there I’m sure you are familiar with the great piece Chelsea Little put together for FasterSkier this spring on US biathletes and school… For all you who are not familiar with these articles you can find them here, here, and here... and well also here AND here.  (reading all those links might successfully eat up your entire afternoon)

As a newcomer to the sport it gave me a lot of background and history on my team mates, and made it clear that none of us have taken the same path to get where we are today.  What went through my mind you ask? (humor me okay)  “ Wait!  Hold up!  You mean they weren’t born as 26 year olds with rifles on their backs?  They were kids once too!?”  Mind blown.

It also brought up a lot of questions.  Like…  What choices have I made that got me to where I am today?  College? No college? Going back to college?  Is this really what I am suppose to be doing? BlahBlahBlah.  *It should be noted that these articles started to come out as I was going through a major decision making process with our USBA staff about my own future in the sport and where school may or really may not fit in.

So what gives? 

Well I sort of got here by mistake really…  You could even say it was a long string of fortunate accidents that landed me on the national team.

My secret formula is not every parent’s dream, and although I have an unbelievably supportive family I’m sure they worry.

Here it goes.  I’m giving out my secrets. So take notes.

Step One:  Get hurt frequently.

Step Two:  Get as late of an introduction to skiing as possible. Almost.

Step Three:  Don’t quit.  *Thank you Mr. Burger

Step Four:  Turn down a full ride to college to move out west.

Step Five:  Turn down another full ride to ski instead of run.

Step Six:  Drop out of school forfeiting your academic scholarship for a sport you’ve never done.

Tah-DAH!

It might not be the most finically sound or safest plan out there. But it’s mine.  And now coaches can say things like, “Alright now remember kids, that is what you get with 60% of a college degree!” as you try to lead clinics.  Dream role model, yes? …No? …at least I have passion and grit on my side.

When the going gets tough…

You have an amazing ability to second guess yourself.

Last year didn’t go as planned.  I was ready to bust onto the senior circuit.  I was ready to gallivant around Europe and maybe even kick a little butt here and there.  I was ready…until I wasn’t.  When you are sidelined by injury and sickness perspective is hard to come by.  And when you’re left alone in the states to train all winter you have a lot of time to question everything you’ve done. Doubt can drown you.

I looked at my options.  I even re-enrolled in school.  Coming into the first training camp of the year I was 98% sure I would be heading to Bozeman in August ready and excited to tackle one of my few remaining semesters of college.  That was… until I told my coaches.

Word trickled back to our high performance director and soon enough I was on the phone with him discussing my commitment to the sport.  Discussing the Olympic cycles, discussing what is ‘truly best for me.’  Discussing my underlying motivations to want to head back to college in the first place.  Would I feel such a strong desire to go back to school if this year had gone well?  Honestly… probably not.

We are very lucky to have a staff that really does care about us as people.  They understand that we are not going to perform well if we are not happy.  Many conversations ensued.

“We see potential in you!”

“I know…”

“No I don’t think you know.”

and

“School is not going anywhere.  It will always be waiting for you.”

or

“Well now you’ll have some money to buy a mountain bike since you aren’t spending it on tuition!”

I understand that bad years happen.  I understand that by non-normal people standards  2014 is just around the corner. But most importantly I understand that this is really what I want to do.  That although I may get frustrated at times biathlon makes me happy.  I know there will be days when I feel like an ‘unproductive member of society’, days where I day dream about other things I could be doing.

It is so easy to get caught up in worrying about, “am I making the right choice?”  But that’s the thing… There are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices… There are only options.  Lots and lots of options.

So I might be a college drop out, but at least I’m living the Olympic dream.

 

I’m alive!  I promise!  Today I finally finished up another round of college courses.  Six credits in Six weeks.  (and to think at one point I was considering trying to take nine!)  I’m exhausted.  After a hot morning on the roller-loop a two hour final and finishing up an eight page paper were waiting for me.

But I made it.  I’m alive!

Celebrating?  …oh yes!

A well deserved night on bikes tomorrow to the allure of boxed wine.

Yes I will wear a helmet.

No it will not be going in my training log.

I’ve been busy.  Living in a virtually ceaseless cycle of  training, studying, eating, and sleeping.  We finished up another training camp.  Completed an unbearably hot time trial (or as we like to call it, the hardest race of the year).  Shot 90% in the time trial.  Went on some good adventures.  Finished second in another running race (more on that later).

Now a little thing I like to call….

Things People Never Say to Me: The First Edition

  • Cereal is the best type of dessert don’t you think?
  • I love your crocs!  I’ve always wanted a pair that color.
  • No I get it.  It’s not a fanny pack.  It’s a ‘drink belt’.
  • How do you keep your ski boots smelling so fresh?
  • Biathlon that’s shooting and skiing right?

 

22 and old as dirt… well sort of?

 “22 going on 80: A Whole Lot of Ways Biathlon has Made Me an Old Lady”

  • I have a bed time. And it is early… like… ’10pm is hours past it’ sort of early.
  • All my injuries are related to falling down.
  • I get cranky if I miss my afternoon nap.
  • Velcro waist bands.
  • I have, in fact, cried out, “Ow ow oooow! My hip! My hip!!!”
  • I am always cold. Seriously why am I always so cold!?
  • I am only capable of knitting really ugly things.
  • Most foods are too oily, salty, or sweet for me… but I will never turn down ice cream.
  • My joints frequently ache, creek, and pop.
  • I can’t touch my toes. 
  • One drink and I am just like your Grandma Betty at Thanksgiving… asleep on the couch.
  • I understand the convenience of velcro shoes.
  • At the first sign of the sniffles I will proclaim to everyone within ear shot that I have most definitely “caught death.”
  • I appreciate foods that do not need to be chewed. Apple sauce, yogurt, mash potatoes… 
  • Walking up a flight of stairs is frequently a challenge.
  • I have a strange affinity for really ugly (but oh so cozy) socks.
  • The only thing separating life in the OTC from assisted living is a curtain between you and your room mate and a emergency button by the toilet.
    *Seriously, all your friends live down the hall, hot meals are served three times a day, and alcohol is not allowed on campus. 
  • It is way past my bed time.  Goodnight.