Saturday, 8 August 2015


If you recall the Grade 6 Greek mythology unit, you may remember that Achilles was a Trojan war hero who’s biggest claim to fame was being completely invincible, except for a teeny tiny spot on the back of his heel. He met his ultimate demise when he was shot in the tendon with an arrow, and from then on the “Achilles heel” has been a metaphor for one’s greatest weakness.

In my case, my Achilles heel is….my Achilles. Anyone who’s known me for a while will surely remember my horrible 2011, where I was desperately trying to rehab an injured Achilles for an entire year. Needless to say, this is not my favourite tendon.

Fun times on the Alter G!
I haven’t had Achilles trouble for years, but unfortunately during a very low key workout just before nationals, my “good” Achilles pulled up a bit, and I went home limping. No big deal, I thought…..but when I showed up at nationals all taped up, I was advised that running was an unnecessary risk and I was permitted a medical exemption. It's not too fun turning down running a national championship, but we decided that this was the safest thing to do. I returned home to deal with my injury, and ended up water running, biking, and using the alter-g anti-gravity treadmill lots and lots in preparation for the Pan Am games. I began land running about five days before my race, and managed to complete a few decent workouts while getting my “running” legs back just in the nick of time. My first workout I was content to manage running 3:12/km pace without hurting my tendon more, and only two days later I could comfortably run 3:03/km pace again – pretty cool how only a few days makes a big difference. With the amount of cross training I was doing, I have no doubt that I didn’t lose fitness, but it inevitably takes time to remind your body how to run! Still, I was well aware that my Pan Am prep was anything but orthodox. 

Lining up for my Pan Am race, I was very unsure of what was to come during the next 16 minutes – would I be able to pull it off and win a medal? Would I hurt my Achilles much more by running the race? Or was I being a baby? Were my two land workouts a reflection of my fitness, or were they giving me a false sense of confidence? How much would my racing flats (rather than spikes) slow me down? It is extremely disappointing and a bit embarrassing to enter a race as the top seed by 15 seconds and finish 7th in front of friends and family who took time out of their days to watch, and I'm beyond grateful for their unconditional support. I wish that these weren’t the cards I was dealt, but a huge part of sport is being able to perform when it counts, and July 21 2015 just wasn’t that day for me.

O'Connell/Comeau fam jam out in full force!
By finishing 7th, I had adequately “proved fitness” to remain on the World Championships team, but I’ve since had to withdraw. After my race, I had an ultrasound on my achilles which showed some tendon damage – nothing overly serious but serious enough that it would likely get worse if I continued training. Even if I was healthy enough to race at worlds, I wouldn’t be ready to perform at my best – gaining little from the experience. Two physios, two doctors, three coaches, and a physiologist all advised that it would be in my best interest to recover and build for Rio next year, and the risk of continuing to train and race this year simply isn’t worth it. Logically I understood, but making this decision was pretty heart-wrenching. I mean, this is what I train for! Still, my gut feeling is telling me that this is the best choice, and as someone who is free of allergies and food intolerances, I gotta trust the gut!

Evening Cheering Squad
Other than this major bummer, Pan Ams were an absolute blast! Team Canada totally kicked ass with amazing performances across the board and it was inspiring to watch so many athletes totally execute. There are way too many to list, but I think everyone was smiling when Alex and Melissa won medals after rough starts to the season, Catherine and Rachel showed nothing but poise during the marathon, and our 1500m runners were so so so competitive all around. Having family and friends experience all of this with me was indescribable.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll save you the eye strain – check out these highlights!:

Closing ceremonies, dressed to the nines!
Our favourite moose

I have the best friends! Reunited at last
My #1 Coach!!

What’s up now? I’m back in Calgary working on my thesis (typical) and taking my end of season break – no training at all, enjoying life as a regular person for a bit. Of course, I'm also rehabbing my achilles aggressively and trying to determine what caused this injury, ideally to avoid it ever happening again! 

Thanks to my family, friends, coach Mike Van Tighem and UCAC track, Athletics Canada, CSI Calgary, and support from Asics Canada, Ultima Replenish,  Elevate Me, and new sponsor Solo Bar for all of the help this season. Though it ended on an unfortunate note, I'm still strides ahead of last year and am so excited to get back at 'er.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your summer!

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