Some things just don’t work out the way you planned. For me, last season should have been the best one of my life, the one I was training 4 years for. Instead, it was my worst year ever. It has taken me a long time to deal with this fact and I apologize for not posting regular updates as I planned to do leading up to and during the Olympics.
I had other issues to deal with. If I back-track a year to last spring, I was feeling really good and strong after the first training camps. Exactly how you want to feel leading up to an Olympic year. Then, in July it was decided that I should go for knee surgery. This was due to a problem I’ve dealt with for about 5 years. The arthroscopic surgery was supposed to improve my comfort level and I was supposed to be ready to train with the team after about 2- 4 weeks, 6 max. Five months later, I was still rehabbing the knee, still feeling pain and starting to feel frustrated and still not able to train. My knee was much worse than before surgery. I couldn’t do all the regular workouts with the team. In October I started to introduce some roller skiing into my training and just over a week later my knee swelled up once again and I was back to square one… It seems like the orthopedic surgeon was more aggressive on my knee than I, or the coaches, expected.
It was decided that I should go to Europe for the first World Cups in November, however my knee did not hold up to the training and racing.
I had a meeting with the coaches in Europe and I suggested to them that I go back to Canmore to work with the strength coach, physio therapist, and osteopath; to try to salvage my Olympic year. I felt like this was my only chance to try and revive my winter. The coaches agreed and back I went, to Canmore, borrowed a truck from my massage therapist and found a place to stay. Time was running out. One month and counting.
Everyday I would drive in to Calgary (100km each way) to get treatments (strength, physio, osteo, you name it). Then I would drive back to ski at the Nordic centre, under the lights at night. I was training alone but I was determined to do whatever it took to get my fitness back. My parents came to visit me one weekend for a little moral support. It was nice to spend some time with them and have some ski buddies for my slower workouts.
February. Time’s up. I had to get back to Europe. My leg was much better than a month ago, but it was not as good as before surgery. Two days after landing in Europe, I raced a WC sprint in Toblach, didn’t qualify. The next event was the Big Show.
Our team arrived in Sochi and were happy to see that so many hotels and tourist areas were completed since we were there last January. The mountain athletes’ village was way up at altitude and it was amazing. They really took care of us and made our Olympic experience very enjoyable. We felt safe and we had amazing venues to compete at. Everything was great, until I started feeling sick. Not now, and not again!! Four days before my sprint race, I ended up in bed with a bad cold. I had to be isolated from the team. I had to stay at lower altitude at another hotel, could not have any physio or massage treatments in case I contaminated the therapists. So, I was alone again trying to stay positive. I was able to meet with my family in Krasnaya Polyana where I was quarantined. They tried to cheer me up but I could see the concern in their eyes.
On the day of the sprints, I got up and did my warm-up and headed to the start line. In the warm-up area, one of the race officials asked me if I should be racing. He saw what I was coughing up and gave me a tissue for my nosebleed. I was trying so hard to clear out my nose before the start that it eventually started bleeding. It was my Olympic debut. The Olympic sprint course is what I was dreaming of for a long time. It suited my style of skiing.
My first Olympic event: I went out there and gave it all I had that day. I ended up 36th , 2nd Canadian, and missed qualifying by 2 seconds. I was really happy with my effort, I can honestly say I skied to my potential considering everything I have to deal with and the body I was given on that day.
Three days later, It was decided that I would not race the 15km classic, one of my favourite races, due to my cold and let another athlete have their chance.
Five days after the sprint was the 4x10km. This was the one event that I really looked forward to racing. Alex and Devon decided to save themselves for other races because I wasn’t 100%. That left Ivan, Graeme and Jesse. I wasn’t even sure that I would be racing at 11pm the night before. If I didn’t race, there would be no Canadian team entered. If I raced a hard 10km classic leg, I could end up hurting my lungs. The decision would have to wait until the morning.
In the morning, I couldn’t believe it. It was like a miracle. I felt the best I had felt in days. Not 100%, but a lot better. It was game on. I skied the first leg, Ivan skied the second classic leg and Graeme and Jesse skied the skate legs. We came in a respectable 12th. The same result we had at 2013 World Champs with the full WC team.
Three days later was the Team Sprint. Alex and Devon won this event at World Champs in 2011. They were looking for a repeat performance in Sochi. As luck would have it, it was Devon’s turn to get sick. He was quarantined at lower altitude and couldn’t train on snow before the event. I was the alternate for this event and I was excited, recovered, and ready to race if needed. The day before the race Devon said he felt better it was decided that he would get the start.
Our team’s results at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games were not what we were expecting. Early on, we had some issues with ski selection and tricky wax days. Our tech guys managed to fix those problems and we had some of the best skis. Other problems, like illness cannot always be avoided and you just have to deal with it the best you can.
OK, with the OWG and illness behind me I was really pumped to race the final sprint race, in Drammen. This is one of the most (if not the most) prestigious sprint courses in the world. I love this course and I have good memories of my first WC podium (2nd place) here in 2012. Time to redeem the season. Technically, I put down one of my best classic races ever. I finished in 34th place, .37 sec out of qualifying. However I was told to keep warming up because 15 of the racers were recorded on video skating up the hill in a classic race with skate skis. Technically this is illegal. I did not skate, I was one of the few to use classic skis in this classic race, and I was still only 0.37 seconds from qualifying despite others cheating, knee surgery, sickness, and many other disappointments to overcome. The officials took 45 minutes deciding what to do. They decided that there were “too many infractions. It would affect the outcome of the race.”.
So that’s my season: I had too much surgery at the wrong time, I had a 10 month rehab, I raced when I was sick, I didn’t get to race when I was well and then I was bumped out of qualifying because I chose to ski by the rules.
This was the hardest year of my life so far. I received a lot of media attention and so much fan support before the Olympics. When things were going south, I felt like I was letting a lot of people down. I’m not discouraged after all of the disappointments. In fact, the opposite is true. I am more determined than ever to train smart (I learned a lot about myself through all this), and race hard. With everything that was against me, I still wasn’t that far off the best in the world.
I want to thank the people that stuck with me and believed in me even when the odds were stacked up against me, you know who you are.
I felt the good vibes from all my fans during the hard times. I appreciate everyone who has joined Team Lenny. You guys inspire me to keep on going! Thank you!
I’m back to training since the beginning of May. I took a few weeks off in April to surf, windsurf and snorkel in Maui. I kept up my knee rehab in Maui and that mixed with long hours in the water I returned to Canmore in really good shape (much better than the winter). Even though I didn’t rest too much, it was a great change of activities and exactly what I needed to recharge mentally and strengthen that little leg of mine.
I am excited to train and race this year with my knee feeling better and building muscle. I am coming back stronger mentally and physically than ever before. I know what I need to do and I know how tough I can be in tough situations, especially with all the support of the people behind me.
Looking forward to working with our new WC coach, Tor-Arne Hetland. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of alpine skiing in chest deep powder with T.A, in Davos on a day off. T.A has been a good friend of mine over the past few years and has always been there to give me pre race pointers that have helped me win medals. So I am excited to work with him all year and get even stronger.
Gearing up for World Champs in Falun 2015, I’m now back training and doing intensities with my teammates and I know I will be back fighting for the podium this season.