A Dark Start
After completely focusing on my athletic career all summer, no trips, no relationships, no jobs, no distractions. I spent my off season taking complete control of my nutrition, maximizing my training effort, prioritize my recovery. It all seemed to be paying off – at single push testing I pushed a 5.42, the second fastest brakes push in Canadian history – leading the field by 13 hundredths. I was restless and excited to get racing – finally showcase how much my hard work could mean to the team.
Looking back on my first race, it was kinda a sick joke. I completed the first heat and strained my calf while loading into the sled. I vaguely remember feeling something strange but with adrenaline at the end of the run I did not even notice that something was wrong. Christine and I posted the top start of the heat and were ahead by three tenths at the bottom. Not until I began my warmup for run two did I realize that something was wrong.
I felt some cramping in my right calf, and thinking that was all it was, I tried to shake it out and loosen it on my own. The pain started to become very intense. I searched out the team physio, Dianna who also tried to stop the spasm. She would stop pushing on the muscle the pain would come back stronger. Was this a joke? Why was I in so much pain? It quickly increased to the point where I could not put any weight on my right toes.
I looked up, the last men’s sleds were lining up, signaling that the second women’s heat would be starting soon. Dianna went to find a coach and I was left standing in the warm up area wondering why my body had betrayed me like this. I had never had a calf injury before, and I like to think I am very in tune with my body – how were there no warning signs – how did I let this happen?
My push coach, Jamie, and Dianna found me – again we tried to get the muscle to relax. I began to panic. This race was important to many of my coaches and to my teammates. I was letting them down. How did I let this happen? I started to panic, what would they think of me? I couldn’t breathe, my heart was racing, I was dizzy with fear. I told him we needed to tell Janine, she needed to warm up, I couldn’t finish the race.
I felt terrible, I could barely walk as I watched Janine run around trying to warm up for a race she was not expecting to be doing. Every bobsleigh team has a pilot and two brakemen, to share the sliding load, help with equipment and make sure the race can go on if need be. But it is always kinda a joke, who gets hurt in the warmup? I never thought it would happen to me. I wasn’t racing anymore but I couldn’t even help move sleds or equipment, all I could do was sit in the start house. I was just in the way at this point.
I watched each women’s team take the line, with Christine and Janine going last. They were able to take the win, come out on top, despite the last minute change. I was so proud of them. So proud of Christine for staying calm in the face of all these last minute changes. So proud of Janine for stepping up and performing excellently in spite of my own inadequacies. I was heartbroken and disappointed in myself for not being ready when I should have been.
That night I still had a lot of adrenaline and caffeine in my system. All I could do was lie in bed – trying not to move so I could not feel the pain – wondering how I could have let this happen, and how do I prevent it from happening again?
But most importantly – what would have happened if this was the Olympic Games? I knew the answer – I would have had to take myself out of the race. After the years of hard work, sacrifice and proving myself I knew that would have been the end of my Olympic Games. Trying to compete in that condition would have been doing a disservice to my teammates, coaches and country. I knew lying there in bed that if an injury would hold me back - I would never put my own pursuit above the importance of the team. I continued to lie there terrified that this could happen again