To bike or take up knitting

This season my excitement and goals were stripped from me very quickly. After a solid seeding run in Whistler, placing P2 in the elite category, I had an aggressive crash which resulted in a very broken clavicle, and a broken ego. This was the third time being sent to the Whistler hospital by patrol. 2017 tibia fibula fracture, 2020 multiple spinal fractures, and now my collar bone. This was the first injury that my thoughts were “why am I doing this' '. Despite my questioning, I am instinctively going through the motions of rehab, with the plan to return to racing late this September.

 

I wish I could write an inspiring story about how my injury helped me grow and taught me a valuable lesson about overcoming the fear of returning to sport. The truth is, I learned those lessons many injuries ago. At this point in my recovery, I’m going through familiar motions. What’s up first after an injury? Initially, it's advocating for yourself with medical professionals and making sure you are ticking all the rehab boxes. Next, it's being mad, then sad. And then it's just putting your head down and saying “well I guess it's the way she goes” or “what can you do”  to everyone asking how your leg, knee, back, shoulder, or head is doing. 

To me, injuries are a few months of emotional dissonance. I am forced to succumb to societal expectations of how I should act and respond with emotions of wellness and growth instead of expressing how I actually feel. Pretending to feel something you don't is truly exhausting. What I have learned is that injuries leave space for thinking. Lots of thinking, scheming, and of course, dreaming.

 

Photo by Olly Hogan

Growing up as a downhill ski racer in an elite training and competitive environment, I quickly realized the hard way that injuries are part of the game, as is recovery.  It's not a matter of if I will return, it's more a matter of how strong I will recover and how successful my performance will be afterward. Of course, some injuries can be career ending which, unfortunately, was my case when I was forced to put ski racing behind me in 2020. 

My past experiences as a competitive athlete kept me pushing the envelope and looking at new avenues to challenge myself. Moving to Revelstoke sparked a forgotten love for biking, although my competitive side could not simply leave this as a leisure activity. Last season, I cultivated a new passion within Revelstoke’s amazing biking community.  With the help of Skookum,  I jumped right into the racing scene not knowing how similar it was to ski racing. Everything from the timing system beeps at the top of the course to the meticulous inspection needed to remember the daunting tracks. It felt good to be nervous at the top, and have all my thoughts escape my mind during a race run. It especially felt good to stand on top of the box again. As an individual athlete, that’s a feeling  I am constantly searching for. 

Surely, once I am at the start gate hearing the 10-second countdown, I will remember why I am doing this and I will be able to continue my racing career without wondering if people are right when they tell me to take up knitting instead.

 

Photo by Olly Hogan

Soleil Patterson
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