Grit and Grind, it's almost Track Time! Update from Coach Jess O'Connell
Cross-Post from: jessicaoconnell.blogspot.ca
The last few months have been anything but boring, but not in ways I anticipated. After racing in Brussels, I took a few weeks rest, thoroughly enjoying the things that I choose to limit during hard training – staying up late, indulging in treats and adult beverages, hiking, rock climbing, and even going on a road trip through Iceland! I needed some time to recharge before returning to the rigid athlete lifestyle, and also found myself occupied with Olympic aftermath - speaking engagements, volunteering at events around the province, and a host of celebrations kept the games fresh in my mind and helped me to process the big summer I had just experienced.
The most cuddly volunteer stint
I returned to training in October, renewed and ready to tackle new goals. Gaining fitness by the week, I was happy to be healthy and enjoying working out with my training partner/ Olympic teammate Maria Bernard and our fellow Fossils (the self-proclaimed group of “old” athletes who train alongside the University of Calgary Dino’s team). However, much like my Rio journey, the road to the London World Championships this summer is apparently also not to be without twists and turns…….DUN DUN DUNNNNN. I’ve been pegged as having some questionable luck as an athlete – let me remind you that I was once hit by a car while crossing the street(!!). In unfortunately typical Jess-fashion, mild adversity struck once again.
We love Iceland!
During a 200m interval at track practice, I came around the corner of the track and found someone absentmindedly standing in my lane with her back to me. Calling “track” to alert her as is protocol, we both moved in the same direction to get out of each other’s way. I crashed into her, whipping my head back and hitting it on the ground. Mild concussion, neck injury, or most likely a combo of both kept me out of training for the next few weeks as I nursed a persistent headache that worsened with exercise. Luckily, my hometown of Calgary is a mecca for winter sports (and therefore head injuries), so I was able to receive thorough care from doctors and therapists. My treatment ranged from “normal” modalities like rest and physio/chiro/massage to some pretty funky things like monitoring my brain waves, lidocaine injections in my neck, and IMS points in my jaw! I even went so far as to give up coffee for a few days to see if it would make a difference – it didn’t :) .
Measuring my nervous system activation!
My symptoms have lessened in sort of a step-wise fashion, with big improvements followed by frustrating stagnation, but I’m really really close. Life is much more pleasant now that my nine-week long headache has faded away, and I’m back to full training. Since intensity would provoke symptoms, I’ve actually had a chance to do more base training than normal, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that translates to race performance. I actually did my first "faster" workout just this evening, and I was very pleased with how it went. Though I wasn’t able to race indoors as I’d originally planned, it’s safe to say that I’m now THOROUGHLY REFRESHED and chomping at the bit to get this season going!!
The day after my accident, I learned that my contract with Asics would not be renewed in 2017 due to “restructuring”. Though disappointed, I am very grateful for the support Asics Canada provided as I developed from a scrappy college runner into an Olympian. Asics was a tremendous help in allowing me to pursue my athletic goals during this time period, and for that I am thankful.
Between workouts and rehab, I’ve started a little online coaching business with my long-time friend, Faye Stenning. The two of us have run together since Jr. High School, though our athletic careers have since diverged as Faye is now a very elite Obstacle Course racer. You may recognize her starring on the NBC Spartan Race show or on the cover of Impact Magazine – this girl has found her niche and she’s killing it! One day in the fall while logging miles together, we stopped talking about boys, food, and our weekend plans for long enough to realize that the two of us together have a fairly unique skill set. Thus, Grit Coaching was born! Our athletes are runners and obstacle course racers from all over Canada and the USA who would like more structure in their training. Faye writes strength and obstacle-specific workouts while I cover the endurance portion of programs, and we work together to make sure that the programs are properly periodized and well-rounded. It’s been really fun piecing together the business, an endeavor I’ve never dabbled in before. Check out our website at www.gritcoaching.net ! There is also a blog section where we’re covering topics related to training, performance, and our own
careers – happy for any suggestions.
I’m heading to Flagstaff for an altitude camp for most of April, and my first track race of the year will be the Payton Jordan 5000m on May 5 at Stanford. This will be my first attempt of the season at running under the World Championship standard of 15:22. Though my winter’s been a bit different than others training-wise, I’m feeling hopeful and confident that I will be ready for a great outdoor season. Or at least, I’ve put myself in the best possible position for thing to come together, and that’s all I can really do, eh?
Thanks for reading! -Jess