Sunday, December 20, 2009

Moving to Toronto

ORONTO BOUND! Yes, the decision has been made and I have been busy the past couple of weeks discussing my choice with Bart and those who will be my new coaching staff: Andy Higgins, Carl Georgevski, Bogdan Poprawski and Dave Hay. Everything has worked out well and so far it has been a smooth transition and I am looking forward to actually beginning training sessions and getting my season rolling! I am feeling strong and healthy post hamstring injury and eager to get back to working hard!

indoor/outdoor track

The past couple weeks have been busy as I have resumed training on a basic level with focus simply on fitness. I have found an apartment in Toronto and have been busy packing up and getting ready to take possession this coming week to start moving some things in and making the big move December 27. This will make my first official day of training as a member of the University of Toronto Track Club December 28th!!!!

Your Athlete,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ready to Train

Hello All,

Well time is flying. Can you believe we are officially one month away from Christmas! I bet you are all very excited.

I am coming up on my final week of resting and preparing to start the 2009-2010 training season! I have finished up my appointments with the amazing staff at the ISM (Institute of Sport Medicine) and the results are great - my hamstring is 100% healthy and strong, and after intense work with a bio-mechanics physio and the use of EMG, my glutes and hamstrings are sequencing properly when moving and I'm ready to apply this to my running/jumping/throwing and get back to doing what I do best!

In between all the appointments to take care of my hamstring and body, I have been lost in conversation and thought about where to train from here to 2012. I have had good chats with my current coach Bart and the coaching staff at UofT and feel like I am blessed with two solid training options. I just have to weigh out the pros and cons and figure out which suits me best for training and chasing my goals. And I don't know yet. I 50/50 and don't know in my gut yet where to go ... so I will promise to keep you posted; when I know, you'll know!

Your Athlete,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Best of Us Challenge

Hello All,

Here is a great link I cam across today - The Best of Us Challenge.

This is your chance to compete against Olympic athletes from around the world. Each athlete has created a Challenge video where they show off some of their unique talents. Check them out, and maybe even give it a try for yourself :>

Maybe you guys can come up with your favourite of the challenges or create a challenge of your own, and we can have our own version of this challenge.


Your Athlete,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Photos from JDLF

Once through security, this was the entrance to the Athlete Village

Opening/Closing Ceremonies Canada Outfit

Team Canada (some 250 athletes from 7 sports) walking in the opening ceremonies

Entering the stadium from the highway

Stadium Entrance

Competition Stadium

Warm Up Track

Little dip and play time in the Mediterr-
anean Sea

Views from the bus, en route to the track

The Wooded Hills of Mount Lebanon, en route to the
Jeita Grotto

Rock Bay

Healthy Hamstring!


Good news, this past Friday, my follow up ultrasound revealed a healthy hamstring. The tear has completely closed and there is no sign of scar tissue! On the other hand, the muscle is still quite weak and I have to complete daily physiotherapy exercises to re-strengthen the hamstring to be ready to handle the amount of stress from a regular training session.

I am continually amazed at the attention to detail of the medical staff at the ISM (institute of sport medicine). Minimizing the amount of time an athlete sits out of training due to injury is always a priority. However, it was not enough just to repair a torn hamstring in 3 weeks, compared to a recovery time of up to 6 weeks minus the injections; they needed to know why the tear happened in the first place to prevent future problems.

To do this, I was hooked up to an EMG for my hamstring and glutes to observe the firing pattern. The results we not great and clearly pointed to a cause of my tear. What the test showed was that my hamstring fires 0.3sec too quickly and before my glutes, which is an incorrect order. As a result, I have added to my list of physio/recovery exercises and have to retrain this pattern of fire between my glutes/hamstring to prevent future injuries.

And now, the goal is to work daily at the exercises and retest in 2-3 weeks to ensure I am doing the exercises correctly and then add to the degree of difficulty and get closer to adapting the drills to what I require in my sport. Therefore, it now looks like my season will be slightly delayed and begin this year at the start of December. This seems like a late start date, however, my current season has just ended at the start of October, I needed to fully recover emotionally and physically after one season before a new one can properly begin, and next season will go until the end of October with the goal of the Common Wealth Games.

Overall, I feel like things are going well and I am looking forward to what comes next. As for an update on the coaching front … still no decision … but getting there!

Hope you all had a safe and happy Halloween!

Your Athlete,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

As A New Season Approaches ...

Hello All,

As a new season approaches, I am about to put this one behind me! My hamstring is coming along really well. As of last Friday, the ultrasound revealed that the tear is down to 4mm x 2mm and there is no scar tissue left. I have had two series of plasma injections, weekly massage, and started with physiotherapy to work eccentric load on the muscle. In the next 2-3 weeks I should be able to put this injury behind me and feel stronger and wiser to start a new season.

In the coming weeks I'll complete a stress test with my sport psychologist and determine my level of stress whether I've rested enough to start a new season! And where that will be ... I still don't know. I am in conversation with a couple coaches and will know for sure in the coming weeks. So stay posted!

I hope you are all doing well. I hope those of you who competed in the cross country meet performed well and had some fun out there with your fellow runners! Keep up the great work!

Your Athlete,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Support Canadian Athletes!


Here is a great video, sent to me by my sport psychologist to help gain perspective. I hope we can all get behind our Canadian Athletes this coming Winter Olympics and just support them all the way!

Click here for the video.

Your Athlete,

Photos from Arles Competition

12 Meeting International d'Athlétisme d'Arles

6 & 7 June 2009

Final score: 5696 points - 6th place finish

Your Athlete,

Jeux de la Francophonie

What a learning and eye opening experience the Francophone Games was for me! I arrived and it was a complete shock to my system and emotional state and I even considered just turning around and going back home. However, being able to adapt to tough and uncontrollable circumstances is also a part of being at this level in sports and competing in international competitions.

Before coming, we were informed of the Canadian travel advisory to Lebanon. However, somewhat naïve, you think if they designate this a competition site, then it must be considered safe on some level. Not so much! We had 24 hour military escorts to go just about anywhere. The track was only about 20 mins down the road from the village, however, we first had to load onto a special bus, and the military and police guided the bus down the road. The frustrating thing was that this whole process took up to two hours!

After dealing with the shock, I experienced the first couple of days here and leaning to just accept it for what it was, I started to just relax and focus on the reasons I was there – to compete and take in the experience of a multisport international competition. I was training every day and just focused on being ready to compete. However, four days out of the competition, during my last speed session, and my last 150m I tore my right hamstring. It was frustrating, as there was no indication or pain or tension in the muscle, it just tore mid-stride, and I was finished. I dropped to the track, experienced the fear of being in the hands of the Lebanese Ambulance crew, as I was rushed to the medical centre. Thankfully Team Canada sent a full medical staff, so I was treated by Canadian doctors and physiotherapists.

Unfortunately, putting an early finish on an already frustrating season, I did not compete. I was determined and tried to work with physiotherapist there daily, 2-3 per day, but there was only so much that could be done for a hamstring tear. So sadly, after speaking with the doctors, and still trying to warm up and compete, the pain was too high, and the risk too great, so I had to withdraw before the start of the hurdles.

Now I am back to working with Dr. Galea in Toronto to undergo plasma platelet injections and will soon start with physiotherapy, under the direction of Kevin Hickey and resume eccentric work to rebuild strength in my hamstring. I hope that in 3-4 weeks I am fully recovered and able to start my base training for a new season.

Your Athlete,

Monday, August 31, 2009

Champion In Woerden!


Susan Coltman is back and has a new personal record of 5895 points! This weekend I was the champion of Woerden International Combined Events Competition and took my first podium finish at the senior level! It was a solid collection of results, with just hurdles and high jump as personal event records, but overall enough to amount to a six point improvement in my overall score, raising it from 5889 points to 5895 points!

After my share of disappointments and frustration this past season, I cannot fully express what a feeling it is to have been out there this weekend with a smile on my face event to event and enjoying my talents and seeing the benefit of just relaxing and letting a good performance happen! Thanks to my coach Bart Bennema and to Tom Patrick, sport psychologist, for bringing me to this moment!

I found this quote today, and I think it is very appropriate to share at this moment: Robert H. Schuller - "Tough times never last, but tough people do."

Tomorrow I fly back to Canada and take a small rest, before some serious training leading into the Francophone Games - October 03/04.

Your Athlete,

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Coming Back


Well, I'm smiling and happy to say I'm getting it back in competition! Today was day one of the competition and finally my first personal best result of the season, coming from hurdles and high jump! This weekend the focus is about keeping things simple, just smiling, enjoying and thinking about just one simple cue for each event - and it's working!

Today's results were 13.62 sec on the hurdles. And high jump was the best comeback, clearing 1.73m on my first attempt. My previous competition was the Canadian National Championships where I had a very disappointing and slightly shocking 1.61m final clearance. I opened the competition jumping 1.58m, and jumped clean through 1.61, 1.64, 1.67, 1.70*pb, and 1.73*pb ... well officially my pb in high jump stands at 1.76, taking off from the left leg, but with the switch in take off this past year to my right, my best clearance to date has been 1.69m earlier this year in Italy and France. Then to the shot, only 13.02m. I had a solid warm up for this event and was hitting close to the 14m line, but then in competition I started to feel that mental pressure of "I wanna throw now over 14" and I shut down a little. But I was ok, I relaxed after that throw and was focused to just run the 200m, and it was ok - 24.98sec. Not a pb, but def a solid time and basically can improve yet. After 150m my fitness was failing me, but that will come back , so no worries.

All in all, a solid first day and great sense of relief that things are going back in the right direction and I'm enjoying myself out there :> Now to keep smiling and enjoy day two - longjump, javelin, and 800m!

Your Athlete,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Competition Time


Well after 3 weeks of rest following the nationals, travelling back to Holland and adjusting once again the jetlag, and 6 weeks of training, I'm ready to get out there and compete! This weekend I will be competing in a heptathlon at a mini-international competition in Woerden, in the south of Holland. I say "mini" as in previous years the competition was at a higher level and more international competitors, but anyway it is still a good competition and a nice way to enjoy my last few days in Holland. Tuesday, back home in Canada!

Woerden International Combined Events Competition 2007

Here is a link the the compeition: And for those interested in following results, just click on "Uitslagen" on the left hand menu.

Wish me luck!!!

Your Athlete,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Change Can Be A Good Thing


Well, I hope you are enjoying the final days of your summer holiday! Almost time for school to start again ... sorry, possible sore subject?! hehe

Things are going ok on this end. One week till my heptathlon competition in Woerden and I’m actually getting excited to get out there and compete – been some time since I could actually say that! Training is going well, and I’m gaining one or two things in each event at the moment that I think I can carry through next weekend and play with to just enjoy competing and put less focus on results! Here’s hoping!

I have had a few emotional days making possible final preparations with Bart and discussing options for next year (whether to train here in Holland or go home to Canada!). He’s now gone on holiday, so we have said our goodbyes which this time was much less dramatic in feeling than when I left in June! I think this time around the difference is the sense of rest from what happened this season to date and where I’m heading next year. I was having a hard time shaking this feeling of being scared and unwilling to leave here, but after talking to some good friends, I think I know why.

The hardest part of saying goodbye to Bart was this fear of losing his friendship when I stay in Canada. However, when I’m honest with myself, going home to train does make sense and helps me be in the best position for 2012 qualification. Then a friend pointed out to me that Bart will always be like family to me and we’ll find ways to stay in touch – think about the reverse, living in Holland at the moment I manage to stay in touch with family and friends ok back home!

It’s just that after 4 years together I am very comfortable working with Bart and value his friendship. But I guess this is just part of our journey. He made a joke 4 years ago that if I was serious about training I needed to be here in Holland and he would coach me. Ultimately the joke was on him, because I packed my bags, arranged a visa and showed up ready to train! Thing is, at that moment, it was just what I needed – I saw the opportunity of a fresh start and someone who believed in me, someone who taught me to believe in myself!

Now, compared to 4 years ago, I have a strong PB in the heptathlon, a world ranking, and potential to improve much further still! I am aware of what works and what doesn’t work and finally financially independent as a full-time athlete! All in all, I’m in a position to stand up for myself and not just ask, but demand the best for me!

So, I’m opening myself up to the idea of training with Andy Higgins in Toronto or Les Gramantik in Calgary. I’m ready to embrace this opportunity to challenge myself on new fronts and get back to my roots. But it’s a funny thing about coming home – looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you. After 4 years at university in America and 4 years living in Holland, it feels strange to come “home” to Canada and realize just how much I’ve changed since I left.

I’ve always considered myself a free spirit, go where the wind goes and take chances. I say to myself I am independent, hardworking and stubborn enough to handle what life throws me. I always trust that my family will love me whether I win or lose the various battles, and home would always be there when I was ready – I just didn’t think home would come so soon.

I had hoped Bart would be my coach throughout my career, bring me all the way – that we would stand together in London in 2012, and feel proud of our 7 year partnership and journey. Because of that hope, I felt at first that I was failing to make Holland work. Like going home was some sort of consolation. Then I stopped myself and took a good long look at this past year: how tough it was, how often I struggled and how lost I felt the past few months. Going home is not a consolation at all. It’s just realizing my limits and saying, I need my family and friends – there’s nothing defeated about that!

If I could have the best of both worlds, I would pack Bart in my suitcase and bring him with me, but his life is here. He’s shaping up to be a top coach in Holland and has his own journey to take. Therefore, our paths may soon part as coach and athlete, but I know as friends, we’ll always stay in touch.

Then again, nothing is truly decided for next year and beyond! For now I’ll try stay focused on the upcoming two competitions and getting back to just enjoying my talent as a track athlete! Come October, I’ll take the necessary time to make the best choice for myself and how to proceed forward!

Your Athlete,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Since We Last Spoke . . .

Hello Again!

I hope you are all enjoying your summer vacation! Location wise I find myself back in Holland till the end of August.

My goal this year was to achieve 6000 points and qualify for the World Championships, however I didn't reach my goal. After finishing second at the Canadian National Championships and a score of only 5710 points, I took a break from training. I enjoyed being home with family and friends, and lots of good food without following an eating schedule!

While I was home, I requested the help of Sport Canada and found myself in the hands of a sport psychologist working out of Toronto. Tom is working to help “normalize” my experience of this past year and bring my awareness to the fact that every athlete will experience a moment like this in his or her career, more or less.

Our primary goal is about clearing my expectations and learning to get back to enjoying my sport. I am taking some space and rest from times, distances, standards and the milestone of 6000 points, which I chased all year. I am trying to gain some perspective on these goals to understand their true place.

This year, I was faced with a reality check of sorts. I came to Holland this year prepared to train hard and adjust to a new setting. However, I ask now if it was too much of a good thing?! I thought it was great, training in a great location, great coach, training mates and what seemed an ideal living situation. However, it was all track! The largest difficulty I had this year was that I lacked a support system. I had just me here and it was just training and recovery, training and recovery. With that, more and more of my identity became wrapped up in my performance. Therefore, at this moment I need to learn to remove my self worth from falling short.

Things are going well. I am learning to keep things simple and get back to enjoying just the movements of my sport. I am feeling sure that I will be stronger for going through this year and be ready to resume my path to London, 2012 Olympics!

For now, my plan is to compete in Woerden, The Netherlands (August 29/30) and to finish off my season, I will compete at the Jeux de la Francophonie in Beirut, Lebanon (October 03/04).

Your Athlete,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Good Luck


Just wishing everyone competing tomorrow at the track and field day all the best.

Enjoy and have fun!

Your Athlete,

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Arles Bound

It is now four weeks since my last competition in Desenzano del Garda, Italy. Four weeks spent recovering my injured foot, regaining strength, fitness and confidence after things went every which way but what we hoped for from that competition.

To sum things up: I had failed to meet an important goal that I felt had been a realistic one. I had carried out one of the worst performances of my career when it was most important for me to do my best. This thought has filled me with self-doubt, self-damnation, worry and even guilt for letting myself down. However, I had not tried to do poorly. Moreover, this loss was not me – it was just something I was experiencing!

I asked myself a few questions: do I believe I deserve the success I am having? Am I afraid I cannon maintain that success? That was my fear talking. However, giving over to fear was dishonest to all the hard work, time and effort on my part and Bart’s to achieve our success.

Just like training my skills over the hurdles, or throwing the shot put, learning to make the journey from immediate loss to eventual gain is important – finding the lessons in loss has an interesting way of putting you back in control.

What I learned about me, and what I need to be at my best in competition is quite simple. I need to keep my focus on one task and to acknowledge that all the hard work is done when I go to the start of a competition – I no longer can control any details, but rather just focus on 1 to 2 cues, and just go on feeling great!

As you know by now, quotes help me to express what I sometimes cannot find words for on my own. I thought of many examples, but settled on some lyrics from a pop song – thinking of Danielle's list of Role Models, here’s Miley Cyrus’ The Climb:

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“you’ll never reach it.”

Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking.

So, with a renewed sense of confidence, rest in my head from panic, and a simple game plan, I will make my way to the south of France tomorrow, to compete in Arles. You can follow results at the following link:

I am going out there to have fun, finish the competition in one piece and feel better prepared to head home in just over a week to Canada and prepare for the Trials for the World Championships, held June25-26 in Toronto, Ontario!

Wish me luck!

Your Athlete,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Desenzano Photos

Post Desenzano

Where do I start today, other than to repeat myself – when you fall down, just get back up again!

My goal as your role model is to give you someone to look up to, an example of someone in pursuit of her own excellence. I want to show you my bravery and dedication; in hopes that you will become as courageous and focused to achieve your very own goals.

To tell my story, I cannot only talk to you about success - a large part is learning from personal struggle and hardship. One of the most simple and sound pieces of advice I have been handed in my years as an athlete and over achiever, is this: if it were easy, everyone would do it!

In Desenzano, I was caught up in my nerves and my nerves got the best of me. I let myself and my coach down and I am in the middle of picking myself up and learning that this is merely my new touchstone of when things get rough.

Here is the thing: It is easy to sit around and fantasize about what you want. The hard part is going after it. Interestingly enough, one of my fears (on a long list) might simply be a fear of success. I have a fear of results; I set a high standard for myself and while I think I am able, I do not always believe it. When I was in Desenzano, I was focused on my fear. I was focused on the consequences of failure. Let me tell you, this was overwhelming.

However, I have taken a step back. I have accepted my mistake, as if it truly were a mistake. But really, it was a moment I had a chance to learn about myself. I learnt that I need to look at the numbers before a competition and have a set goal for each event and overall. I know this now, and it does not feel overwhelming, nor out of reach.

A fun fact about fear is, once it is identified, it turns into something else and hopefully on it is way to becoming irrelevant. As for worrying about what I imagine “other” people to think of me, I am reminded of a story from a fellow old university teammate. He recently shared his story and it put this point into perspective:

One of the things that I remember about our former coach is that every once in a while, when I was sitting and stretching before or after practice, Coach would walk by and say, “Hey, guess who was asking about you today?” I would answer, “Who?” And then Coach would say, “No one.”

I chose this career as an athlete for myself. I work hard because I love this sport. I think that what is important to inspire others is sharing the fact that you falter and doubt your ability to carry on, but that you pick yourself up again stronger than before, doubly committed to your goal, and you press on to the end.

Being in pursuit of excellence means we set a goal, make a plan, and work toward it. However, every now and then we need to look around, drink it in, because this is it. I have taken a moment to think of my accomplishments to date and be proud of me; know that I have an inner strength that will bring me through this current struggle and get back to enjoying competition.

As of today, it is just under two weeks till Arles, France. I am using visualization exercises to prepare myself for what it will be like at the start of the events and find confidence to relax. I will find a way to tap into that strength that has gotten me this far and hopefully this will unlock all the training and preparation to be fearless out there!

Your Athlete,

p.s. My foot is on the mend. I have been to physiotherapy and the joint is in place and now it just needs time for the tendons to heal. I have started to run again, slowly for now, but by the end of this coming week we hope to start with some explosive work and sprints. I think there will be some pain, but overall, the foot will be ready for Arles!

Monday, May 11, 2009



Well, there is always a plan B for a reason. If you have seen the results, you know I did not finish the competition. During my long jump warm-up, I was doing some practice jumps on the track and landed one on the side of my foot and injured my ankle/foot.

Long sigh ... it was a difficult choice not to finish the competition. However, I had to think about long term and focus on the mental and physical recovery for the next competition in a months time.

The results of the first 5 events:
100mH - 13.90sec
HighJump - 1.69m
ShotPut - 13.37m
200m - 25.04sec
LongJump - 5.83m

Overall, I can say it was an average result for opening the season, but I was not pleased. I felt very tired and just never found my rhythm here in Italy. I think at this moment, that I put too much pressure on myself and expected too much from just one competition. I need to remember that sometimes we need to just keep taking small steps to move forward and trust that we'll get there.

Now, I will head back to Holland and I will start my recovery. I hope to be back to training in 1-2 weeks. From there I will most likely head to Arles, France 06-07 June.

Well this is all a part of sports. I just have to go through this and get myself ready for the next one!

Your Athlete,

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Have Earned This Moment

Well, the seemingly endless training hours are at a momentary break. I have spent the last six months preparing for and building up to this weekend – the weekend of the 22nd Multistars Combined Events Competition. I am about embrace a moment I have spent the last four years chasing, four years of ups and down, tears and joy and everything in between ...

Tomorrow I will make my way to Northern Italy, to the city of Desenzano del Garda. I will compete in a field of 35 women from 16 countries, such as Russia, India, and Great Britain. I am starting ranked, 11th or 16th depending on which score you use – 5889 points is a wind-aided score, and 5797 points is from the Canadian Nationals in 2008.

Bart and I have spoken a handful of times in the last week and we are on the same page heading into this competition. We are both pleased with our preparations and feel very excited to see what the results will be in a few short days. We have a plan and we know what we are hoping for, but there is nothing left to do but relax and show off the skills we have been preparing.

I feel mentally grounded and focused on what I want and I believe in my potential. As for numbers and speculations going into this competition, I leave that to Bart. I am approaching the start line with a solid preparation. I am healthy, which has always been a major hurdle for us to overcome. I feel great. I am moving smoothly and I feel ready to get out there and get the ball rolling!

A great Steve Prefontaine quote: “you have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self satisfaction and sense of achievement.” This weekend I will step out there and know that this is the moment I have been preparing for and both embrace it and hold on tight – Bart reminded me today, after our last training session, that moments like this do not come along very often, so take hold and do not let go. I am ready and I am excited to show the world a new Susan!

You can follow the results at the following links:

Your Athlete,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

If you want to achieve a very challenging goal, you have to have a reason for doing it, you really have to want to do it, you have to persevere through a series of obstacles, you have to keep in mind why you are doing all this and why it is important in your life.

I have a goal: to achieve 6000+ points in the heptathlon and qualify for the 2009 World Championships in Athletics. I have been persistent in training through the winter months, focused on the recovery and re-strengthening of my patella tendon. I have taken some rest at home to reset my focus. After that, I resumed training, began to put the technical aspects of the events in order, and was off to Tenerife, for a training camp. We peaked in Tenerife, as planned and now we are back in Holland focused mainly on rest, but also starting with competitions.

My first competition has come and gone. I was at a small evening competition to throw the shot put, gain an idea of both where my strengths are with my technique and know if my mental focus was in control. This competition for me is viewed more or less as a training session. We hoped for a solid result, but did not expect a huge personal record. That would have been nice to start a season, but alas not my style! Haha

Ok, that is a joke! Thing is I rarely open a season in a stunning style. I struggle. I come off a long stretch of training, training, training, and I resume competition after some nine months since the last competition of 2008. I make many of the same mistakes; I focus too much on the result and try to control too many cues at the same time in competition. I am just too eager out of the gates, you could say.

Therefore, I need to regain some control. Bart and I know that I am better at doing this during a heptathlon, compared with an open competition for one event, but still this is something I need to improve.

My first result of the season is 13.29m in the shot put. Looking for the positives in negatives, we will move forward to the next competition that will be this coming Friday. I will compete in the 100m Hurdles and the long jump. I need to stay relaxed, and focus on just one or two cues. I have to remember most importantly to enjoy the competition, to stay positive, enjoy every movement, and know that these are the moments I prepare for.

Lou Holtz once said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” With a more positive and relaxed attitude, I will try go into the competition Friday and enjoy myself. I will keep in mind my 350 amazing supporters at Queen Mary and persevere. Because at the end of the line lies greatness, and to get there, we need to remember to persevere through tough times, constantly train, and enjoy the pursuit of excellence!

On to Friday, wish me luck!

Your Athlete,

Friday, April 17, 2009

How Few of Us Are As Brave As Our Dreams

Confidence is the name of the game. The name of the game is confidence.

When it comes to any pursuit of excellence, be it sports, music, or academics, confidence is an essential ingredient. The best advantage any athlete can have is a great sense of confidence, that inner feeling of trusting your instincts and skills in pursuit of excellence. Some of us have it, some of us still need to find it, and sometimes we feel like it goes missing. However, just like athletic skills, confidence is something to be nurtured, practiced and maintained.

According to Terry Orlick, a noted sports psychologist, we rarely begin a pursuit with total confidence. In fact, he believes we often do not know what we are really capable of doing. We acquire confidence through experiences in practice and performance. We grow by acknowledging our improvements, learning from both our successes and failures, and we learn from the wisdom of others.

That last thought, learning from others, is what has me thinking lately. While I was away in Tenerife, Spain, for a 10 day training camp, I had a chance to learn some very important lessons I need to step up in both training and competition this year and those to come.

In literary terms, I would be the hero of the story, who is on a journey, and these important people are known as my helpers. Every hero needs a person or people who can give directions of sorts, or act as a guide. The key to be aware of is that the helper is adding something to the hero, namely something that the hero could not have done on his or her own.

The helper can be a mentor. In literature, the mentor is often an old man or old woman, generally this is to symbolize wisdom, which is associated with age. My mentors at this moment go by the names Troy Douglas and Gert Damkat.

Troy Douglas is a retired Dutch sprinter who ran for both Bermuda and the Netherlands, participating in four Olympic Games. He is someone I have to come to know as having a tremendously positive attitude and open-minded approach. I spoke to Troy about the concern of being a Canadian, living abroad, immersed in Dutch culture, feeling like sometimes the “real Susan” can get lost. I miss my friends and family at home, and the people around me with a similar sense of humor and mid-set. I love being in Holland and training with the Dutch team, and Bart, but I sometimes forget to take care of number one – me. The lesson I took from Troy was that “you cannot do what you are doing and not necessarily as well as you want to do it, if you are not happy in your personal life – that your personal life feeds your work.”

Then there is Gert Damkat, a well-established throwing coach, not in only in the Netherlands, with considerable experience and a down-to-earth quiet personality. We have that in common, the personality part, and I feel trusting to talk to Gert about my fears or areas I see need work. I spoke to Gert about my training, about wanting to step up this year to the next level in competition and that which comes from stepping up in training. The thing is, taking this step is not one I can take alone – I need Bart to take it with me. We are a team, we are in this journey together, and with Gert’s help, I was able to express myself more clearly to Bart and express, with honesty, what I wanted. With a strengthen bond, Bart and I will find our way to step up in training/competition.

That brings me to the helper as an ally. Traditionally, the ally is someone who is always there for the hero and someone upon who the hero can always depend. Bart is my ally. The ally can also be someone who has had his or her own hero’s journey and is now taking part in the new hero-to-be’s journey. Bart, before he was a coach, was a top-level decathlete and world ranked competitor. This has always been a quality I valued in him as a coach: he really respects athletes – he knows what it takes because he was an athlete himself. We can all gain from coaches who help us to feel competent and confident in our abilities to reach our goals.

With all this help from my helpers, I am feeling very confident about heading into competitions, starting next week and about being ready to step up in to a new level and going for the standard to qualify for the World Championships. With an enhanced sense of confidence, thanks to my helpers, I can say, I am as brave as my dream!

Your Athlete,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Training Videos


I'm still here, still training hard. Tomorrow I will get back to posting my thoughts and progress. For now, here are a few videos:

Shot Put Training in Tenerife, Spain:

Hurdle Training back in Papendal, Netherlands:

Javelin Training back in Papendal, Netherlands:

So I'm pleased to say the techniques are coming together and I'm starting to feel confident for competitions which will start next week ... more about that in tomorrow's post ...

Your Athlete,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't Forget Your Passport

One of my favourite aspects of sport has always been the travel. Unfortunately, it is not always as glamorous as it sounds to travel the world. I have been to a handful of exciting cities/countries, but then my adventure and sightseeing is limited to the hotel, track and whatever is in between! On occasion I find extra time and energy to explore my surroundings and learn a little something about the corner of the world in which I happen to be.

In just over a week, my coach, my training mates, and I will make our way to Tenerife, a Spanish island, in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. We will enjoy 11 days of training in the sun and weather in the area of 25 degrees Celsius. After travel and rest days, I will have 15 training sessions and begin to technically attack my events and prepare for competitions.

When we return to Holland, I will then start with a few small evening competitions and test my hurdles, shot put, long jump, and 200m. The other events, high jump, javelin and 800m are solid for the heptathlon out of training.

From there, I will make my way to the north of Italy, to Desenzano del Garda. Here I will open my heptathlon season and compete at the 22nd meeting of Multistars. The date of the competition is May 09-10, 2009. With the confidence that training has been going well, I hope to surpass the 6000point milestone for the heptathlon.

This goal will serve to help me get one-step closer to qualifying for the World Championships, but in addition, when I am over 6000points I have been extended a invitation to compete in the prestigious Götzis Hypo Meeting, at the end of May in Götzis, Austria. (Plan B will be to attend a competition at this time in Arles, France).

Travel, travel travel, throughout Europe, and then back across the ocean to Canada. I will return to Canada in mid-June and focus on the Canadian National Track and Field Championships, held in Toronto, Ontario, and qualification for the World Championships, which will send me back across the ocean to Europe, to compete in Berlin, Germany!

Phew, lots to see and do ... passport in hand and off I go! Wish me luck!

Your Athlete,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Success Has Its Price: Sacrifice

One of the more famous quote from Bill Cosby, which I find helps me on my journey, is: In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.

Fear is a natural part of growing up. Fears are always with us; they just change as we grow up. When you are young, a list of common fears includes the dark, the silence, the bogeyman; the list is endless. Fear arises when we are insecure and uncertain. But we need to learn to embrace the fear, to accept it, and use it to our advantage.

Of course, I sacrifice many things to pursue my athletic dream. However, I do not think I have sacrifice things I cannot do in the future. I still have a handful of ambitious and not so ambitions goals for later in my life and I do not think I am giving them up at this moment – it is just that I have put them in the future, instead of pursuing them now.

My journey has been adventurous, and living abroad, in the Netherlands, has taught me a great deal about myself. For instance, moving here at age 24 I did not know the first thing about buying my own groceries, or cooking edible and tasty food – bit of a spoiled kid I guess! The most important on the list of discoveries however, is that it taught me that I am strong and independent enough to stand on my own, but I need people.

So back to understanding what I sacrifice now, I think the hardest to handle is being away from my family, and closet of friends. I have lost boyfriends, missed important weddings, missed my university reunions, and Tuesday movie night!

I think it is sometimes the silly little comforts of home I also miss big time. Luckily, I had space in my luggage coming back this time around to bring with me: Honey Nut Cheerios, Kraft Dinner, banana bread cookies, Coffee Crisp bars, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, Maple Syrup, and Tim Hortons Coffee … all to embrace small moments of home, so far away!

When it comes to fear beyond giving something up, I have fears related directly to my goals as an athlete. I have a goal and I am making all these previously mentioned sacrifices as the price to pursue my goal. I know that I want to live my life without regrets. I do not want to wake up at 35 and wonder if I could have done it. Therefore, I am trying and I will know one way or the other. Nevertheless, I worry what it my ultimately mean to me if I do not make it all the way. Will a part of me feel like it is missing, and leave me feeling as if I have a sort of phantom limb syndrome? There are a millions steps to be taken in pursuit of my goal. Will people still remember the in between steps I achieved if I do not get all the way?

Well that is an attempt to express my fear in words. But you know what Mr. Bill Cosby, you can beat your bottom dollar I want success more than I am afraid to fail; I want this badly enough! As hard as it gets some days, and it gets hard, I close my eyes some nights and I can almost see it, feel it, taste it even – that end result. It is there just waiting for me to come get it. Even if it is hard one day, the joy is still there so I am able to get up each day and train hard, with passion.

Your Athlete,

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Thank you, Thank you!

Hello All,

Wow, what a week! It was nice to be home, even if it went by so quickly.

It was an absolute pleasure and experience to meet you all on Tuesday and Wednesday. You all left me feeling a little like a celebrity and I cannot even fully describe that feeling and my thanks for all you have brought to my life and training. Your cards and letters are great and I will treasure them.

Thank you all very much again, for your support and encouragement!

Now on to phase two of the year. Phase one was a build up of strength and fitness and preparation. Now we will spend the next 6 weeks building speed and working on technique and be ready for competitions starting in late April!

Your Athlete,

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Homeward Bound

Hello Everyone.

In a few short hours, I will be homeward bound. I have to look forward to one hour on the train to Schiphol Airport, a lovely eight hour flight from Amsterdam to Toronto, the drive from Person Airport to Peterborough, and I'll be home!

I am looking forward to meeting you all on Tuesday at Queen Mary and Wednesday night at St. Andrew's United Church!

Your Athlete,

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Sport Idol

My sport idol is Kajsa Bergqvist. For over ten years, starting in 1997, she was a consistent fixture at the top of world high jumping. Naturally gifted, she grew up competing in the array of track and field events. In fact, until age 18, she was competing in the heptathlon. As a high jumper, she competed and was a medalist at various top-level meets, including the European Championships, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games.

Her career highlight was when she came back from a potentially career ending achilles injury to set the indoor World Record for women’s high jump, at 2.08m in 2006! While I had always enjoyed watching Kajsa jump and compete, this comeback was a true test of character and talent and I admired her for that. In January 2008, she announced that she would retire from high jumping. She had found her life entering a “new phase,” ready to move forward with life outside athletics.

It was through Kajsa's website that I learned of one of my favourite quotations: Dream! But don’t forget to live, and then maybe you’ll find yourself living your dream! From this I learned that we need to have passion at all times in our lives and embrace every moment, both on and off the sport field!

Your Athlete,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rough Week

I trust we have all had days like the ones I have had lately. Days where the routine things in our lives take more energy and more focus than usually, your motivation seems absent and you just feel blah!

Well maybe there are some lucky folks who never find themselves feeling this way, but I know for me this is not the first time. Talking about this with Bart and Aquil it is clear that this time of year is usually accompanied with a crash-dip-block, or whatever you want to call it.

I am happy to say that training has been going well. My times in running workouts are where they need to be or better, for a while I had maintained a relaxed focus in training, my weight training is building up strong, and my technical work is starting to come together. In addition, the new eating schedule I am working with has been going well. I am sleeping an average of 9hrs a night. So on the surface, things were looking ok.

However, I was struggling. I have spent the past week feeling disconnected emotionally from what I was doing. Perhaps it was a sign of over training, or maybe I just checked out early – I am looking forward to going home in just about a weeks time, and I think when I booked my ticket, I was already home in my head.

I think a part of my problem has also been that when things are going well I allow myself to set my expectations a little higher and higher, and forget to stop and put things back in check. Both my head and my body are tired and lacking focus and coordination. I need to accept that this is a moment I need some rest. I need to talk more and let people know what is happening with me and express what I am feeling so that I can make some changes.

The problem may seem strange to someone outside of sport: I am exhausted, but the hardest thing for me in this moment is to take a break. This highlights the importance of a good working relationship with your coach and having trust in him/her. At a time like this, I have to rely on Bart to see my tiredness and scale down the training, remind me to have faith in the hard work we are doing and know we are still moving forward even when we slow down. He reminds me that courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

Your Athlete,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A day in the life of . . .

This is more or less what a typical day for me would look like:

08:00 wake up
08:30 first cup of coffee – I love coffee!
09:00 meal 1 – I have a set meal plan so everyday the same, except Sundays!
1 piece of fruit
30g oatmeal
200mL milk
20g raisins

09:30 second cup of coffee
09:45 bike to Papendal for practice number one
10:00 – 12:30 training (running and throwing events)
12:30 bike home
12:45 meal 2
50g muesli
200mL yogurt
2 kiwi

13:00 - 13:45 shower, check email
13:45 – 15:00 mid-day nap
15:15 meal 3
2 slices of bread
1 slice cheese
1 hard boiled egg without the yolk
100g cucumber
1 grapefruit

15:30 third cup of coffee
15:45 bike to Papendal for practice number two
16:00 – 18:00 training (weights, knee work, jumps)
18:00 meal 4 protein shake
15g protein
5g glutamine
150mL milk
18:15 bike home
18:30 shower
19:15 meal 5
50g pasta/rice/Chinese noodles
75g meat (chicken/beef/salmon)
200g vegetables
19:45 relax, check email, watch a movie or some tv, read if I’m not too exhausted!
22:30 meal 6
2 slices of bread
30g chicken
1 banana
23:00 to bed I go!

So if you are looking for me, I am either eating, training or sleeping!

I love it :>

Your Athlete,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Be the Doer of Deeds

One of my best friends, Khalila, was sharing with me her thoughts on how we all find ourselves questioning the path we choose at some point. I believe our lives are defined my opportunities, even the ones we miss. We are confronted daily with choice after choice and while we have “helpers” such as parents, siblings or teachers in our lives that can guide us, the final choice is always our own.

One of my favourite quotes, from which I draw strength, is by Theodore Roosevelt in his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, April 23, 1910. It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

For me, this relates to the need for personal strength. When we make some choices, not everyone is happy with them. I am reminded of a difficult moment in my career when my former coach disagreed with my choice to train in Holland and confronted me with his hurtful opinion. In fact, a handful of people so close to me did not see this for the opportunity I had. I chose from something unknown to them and as Khalila told me, even people we hold dear can hurt us. That is the difficult part.

However, the relationship you have with yourself is what is important. It is up to you to know what you want and be ready to stand up for that choice. I hope that you are never afraid to try new things and take chances. Just try it. Just see what is possible.

I believe in you!

Your Athlete,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meet Aquil Abdullah

It has been said, the greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches but to reveal to him his own. In doing this for me, Aquil is someone, second only to Bart, who has been there through my tears and frustration that can come out of training.

The most important lesson Aquil has taught me is to define what is hard and only then can you begin to change it. When I find myself at a lost with a given situation, you can bet that one of the first calls I make is to my friend Aquil.

At first I can only say that I do not know exactly what is wrong, things just feel so hard. And he will say, Susan that is not enough. Tell me what is hard. What is possible to change now? What are you going to focus on to turn things around? He has reminded me of the life lesson of breaking things down. When something is not working as a whole, break it down and find one part to focus on and regain control. Then piece by piece it will come back to you.

Aquil Abdullah and his partner Henry Nuzum in double sculls.

To highlight an important moment in his career as an athlete, Aquil was a finalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens rowing doubles, finishing sixth! However, this was not before he experienced the heartbreak of missing the 2000 Olympic Games by a fraction of a second (only 0.33sec). For me, he was someone who knew what it felt like, what it meant to me, to miss out on the Beijing Olympics by a mere 3 points.

With that, his second lesson for me to learn was about finding the courage to dig deeper in training and competition. As he was once told by his former coach, he told me that you will not soon forget this feeling. You need to learn to use if to push yourself in the following training and competitions when you think you cannot go further – you dig! You dig to China if you need it!

What a great friend and supporter to have! I mentioned before that it is important to surround yourself with strong people that can help you achieve your goals, and I consider myself pretty lucky to have Aquil there for me, to bring out an athlete in me I had only dreamt about until now!

Your Athlete,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Answering the Caterpillar and my Coach

Thinking about the classic Alice in Wonderland, I am reminded of the Caterpillar’s question, "Who are YOU?" Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present--at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."

Just as Alice sensed herself changing, I have looked back over the past three years and asked myself how I had changed. This came about when Bart asked me, who I saw when I looked in the mirror. And after some time to think, I had this answer for him:

I recently finished reading the novel, for JOSHUA, where the author comments, "getting anywhere means you have to make a journey. But on this journey, to find where you belong, you really only have to travel one direction – you have to travel inside yourself, not down long, narrow roads."

I came to Holland three years ago now because of the opportunity I saw to get a fresh start. I still had a strong passion to be a top athlete, but I needed to start over; the paths I had been down had not taken me where I wanted to go. Therefore, I showed up in Holland with the courage to take the risk, but lacking the knowledge of what it really meant to do it. I thought I did. However, I still only learnt what it meant in my head. I still only committed this to thought and not to action.

That first year was all about learning technique, theory, patience. I realized that despite my years in the sport, I still had so much to learn. The second year was about testing my commitment, and my passion. The obvious struggle over various injuries was not always about the physical recovery. The mental recovery was sometimes the harder part. It was important for me to look at the reasons why I was going through these various struggles and to know it was something I wanted.

Year three was about owning my dream, my goals and my journey. I remember training one afternoon with Bart and discussing how suddenly I truly knew what I wanted, that my goals were now mine and not that of my former coach or my dad's, but mine.

Since then, I am beginning to appreciate what I have achieved with my life and for surviving all I had put myself through. The novel talks about how "as human beings we want to be rewarded with a Technicolor dream instead of a black-and-white reality – it's about being grateful for what I have and not resentful, angry, or hurt over what I don't have." I do this too much – look forwards too often and miss the present moment.

The author writes, at the end of his journey, “you can never be less than who you were created to be. You never have to qualify. You never have to prove yourself. You just have to be.”

So to answer the Caterpillar and my coach, I would say I am someone who has spend a long three years learning who she is and what she wants. I am ready to be Susan, someone with passion, a strong work ethic, and a dream!

Your Athlete,

Friday, January 30, 2009

Training Glimpse


Ok. Now here is the glimpse of my training. We are all learning together, and I have learned the process of converting file extensions so these videos are readable on blogger - just for you!

High Jump Training:

Shot Put Training:

Running Technique:

Your Athlete,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Angel in the Outfield

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The thing is, sometimes we need people in our lives to help guide us when we feel lost or lacking the courage. We need someone who can tell us to take a step back and gain perspective from an overwhelming situation, someone to teach us that in the face of hardship we can still persevere.

I have dreamt of being an Olympian since before I can even remember. However, there was a moment when I quit. I quit running. I will share with you a personal story about the moment my dad would not let me give up on my dreams.

As I have said in a previous post, my athletic career during my four years at Princeton was always a struggle at best. I loved Princeton, the people I was fortunate to meet and my classes and the person it prepared me to be, but athletically, it was a completely different story. Despite passion and hard work, I watched as my results decreased and I failed to perform. I did not communicate well with my coach, we were both stubborn and simply made the same mistakes repeatedly until one day I was so frustrated I forgot what it was I loved about my sport. So I quit.

My dad, who was a man of few words, knew I was making a huge mistake that I would regret later in life. I remember him talking to me and asking me what was happening, why was I quitting something he has watched me pursue so passionately until that moment. I tried to explain it to him, but all I knew was that I was not happy and did not know how to change the situation to bring about a new result.

The personal character trait I admired most in my dad was his strong work ethic and with that he taught me to persevere. He explained to me that throughout our lives, we would all come up against inconsiderate people that would be more focused on their own agenda and it would feel like they are working against us. Now he used a much more colourful expression to describe this type of person, but the message is the same!

He helped me to see that I was giving up my dream because of this coach, and not because I was finished with running. He would always joke that I had learn to run before I learned to walk. Running was always a large part who I was and he did not want to see me lose that for the wrong reasons. If I had made the decision for myself, fair enough. However, this was not the case and he knew it.

The result was that I did not quit - I ended up taking ten months away from running. I took a break and returned when I felt ready, when I felt inspired with a renewed sense of passion.

Fast forward seven years and I am sitting here, telling you this story from Holland as I am training full time, in pursuit of excellence, and feeling the happiest about training and life more than I have in a long time. I have my dad to thank for this feeling, for not letting me quit when I felt it was too hard to continue. I wish I could sit and talk to my dad about this feeling, but sadly, my family lost our dad five years ago to heart disease. When he passed away, our minister told us that wherever we would be from that moment, that our dad would be there with all of us. I think of him as my angel in the outfield, and I continue to reach for my goals knowing I am not alone.

The message is that you have to keep being yourself and you should never give up on something you cannot go a day without thinking about. My dad taught me that, not so long ago!

Your Athlete,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Power to Heal

I got to thinking today about the body’s power to heal. I thought about the laundry list of injuries I have sustained in my career as an athlete and I think, wow! As athletes we ask so much of our bodies and it is amazing to think of our perseverance.

I have just spent the greater part of my day either on a train and waiting on a train. And why was that? That was because I had to travel to Leiden, in the south of Holland for a physiotherapy appointment. Now yes they do have quality physiotherapist here in Papendal, but I want the best and that is Erik van Putten for me.

We all know that a part of sport is injury. Due to all the eccentric work I have been focused on the past couple months, my left quad muscle has sent me a message – it needs a little rest! During a power lifting session I recently strained this muscle. However, no worries, we will adjust the training a little this week to allow for some rest and by next week this will be behind us.

Otherwise, I am happy to say that training is going well. My coach even commented the other day that he was pleased that we are off to such a great start!

For amusement, I will share a list of the major injuries from the past three years:
-strained quad
-compressed bones in right wrist
-strained left hamstring
-tear in left hamstring
-membrane detachment of right tibia
-sprained left ankle
-jammed/tilted pelvis
-tear in left patella tendon
In the photo slide show, you will notice the array of taping … this is why!

We all invest time, emotion and energy into creating a perfect plan, and when something interferes with our hard work it is easy to get discouraged. Just remember that worthwhile goals seldom come easy. When disruption happens, it helps to think of the Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times. Stand up eight.”

Your Athlete,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Getting from A to B

I think the question I have most often answered in the last three years has been, Susan how did you end up in Holland to train?

I understand the question now, which when I made the decision just seemed so obvious to me. Nevertheless, picture this, the summer of 2005, there I was newly graduated, degree in hand from a very prestigious university, and what did I do – graduate school, cooperate job, family/kids, nope, sorry mom!

I did not mirror those around, my decision was contrary to what people around me believed in, but I saw an opportunity and I just had to take it and see what would happen. One of my greatest friends and supporters, Dean Fred (retired Dean of Admissions from Princeton) taught me never to underestimate the power of serendipity. With that, this decision became the turning point in my athletic career!

Three months prior to moving to Holland, to be honest the idea never even crossed my mind. However, the story starts a few years before that moment. In the summer of 1998, I had made my second national team as a heptathlete and travelled with Athletics Canada to Holland to compete in the Dutch Heptathlon/Decathlon Championships. The trip lasted a week and what made it special was that instead of staying in a hotel for that amount of time, we were placed with host families. I repeated this trip in the summer of 1999, 2000 and 2002.

In 1999, I was competing in the city of Assen, in the north of Holland. I stayed in the village of Zeijen with the Strijker family and after just a week I had fallen in love with each one of them. We stayed in touch, and I made every effort to return to visit each year and spend time with them after that.

(Left to Right: Eline, Jeroen, Jan, Alida, Annemiek Strijker, and Me)

My athletic career during my four years at Princeton was always a struggle at best. When I graduated in 2004, I started to think about what it was going to take to get my goals back on track (pun intended!). I worked with a former coach to redevelop some lost technique, and found myself back in Holland in 2005 for a small heptathlon competition to see if I still had potential. With the support of the Strijkers, I competed in the Open North Dutch Championships and it was here I met Bart Bennema, my current coach!

Bart is a talkative fellow and always looking to learn new things. We had a mini conversation at the completion of the heptathlon and he was asking about coaching techniques and theories I had experienced. In a follow up conversation, I was mentioning to Bart that I was looking to start fresh, to train fulltime and see what I could accomplish as an athlete. As a joke, Bart said I should move to Holland and he would train me. Well the joke was on him, because I gave that serious thought, looked into what was required to get a Visa to live in Holland and three short months later, I showed up in Holland eager to start working.

At that moment, I had taken the first step in the right direction. Now here we are working at our fourth year together, and still going strong!

Your athlete,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Patience, Young Jedi

Looking over my training schedule you will notice the repeat of knee work and you might ask, Susan what does that entail? The short answer I would give you would be knee work represents my test of patience.

The long answer is as follows. In the summer of 2007 I sustained an injury to my left knee during a high jump training session; it was not until March 2008 that I was aware of the damage from that one session. I was struggling with what I thought was jumper’s knee that would not subside after months of physiotherapy and finally went to a sports doctor for an ultrasound of the tendon.

I met with Dr. Zwerver, in the Netherlands, who, after hearing my story of how much I was training and what I felt in terms of pain, thought we were looking for something small. Then the ultrasound revealed an 11.3mm tear – half my tendon. What a shock for my coach, the doctor and me. In addition, obviously, we were further aware of my high level of pain tolerance!

With the help of Marilou Lamay, Athletics Canada medical coordinator, this past October 2008 I was then in the hands of Dr. Galea in Canada to seek treatment. I endured a very very very painful platelet rich plasma and fat injection treatment – a series of three weekly injections that left me unable to walk, run, bike or any form of movement life sustaining to an athlete!

Thankfully that pain was short lived! By November 2008 I was working with Kevin Hickey in Peterborough to learn a series of eccentric exercises to strengthen the tendon and build strength in my core to have a solid base for training. (read: knee work)

Just as with any goal you have, there will be setbacks. I have had many setbacks, many challenges to overcome, lots of injuries, and maybe some people not believing in me as much as I believe in myself.

It is important to keep my goals set, to always believe in myself, and to look at the reasons why I go through these struggles, to look at the results that will come. I think that is the only way through it, to go gradually and continually believing in yourself the whole way. In addition, it is helpful to surround yourself with positive people who listen and lend advice when needed.

So for me, it is all about a little knee TLC for now and maintaining focus on my goals. That is the key to everything when you are down.

Your Athlete,

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Office

No, I'm not referring to the TV show, the cubicle on the 22nd floor, or the desk at the front of the classroom. For me, it's here: Indoor Training Facility at the Papendal Olympic Training Centre

At the moment, an average training week is as follows:
AM Long Tempo Running
PM Weight Training and Knee Work
AM Hurdles
PM Weight Training and Knee Work
AM Middle Tempo Running
PM Rest
AM Sprint Training and Shot Put
PM Weight Training and Knee Work
AM Javelin/Medicine Ball Work
PM Weight Training and Knee Work
AM Hurdles and High Jump
PM Shot Put and Weight Training

This will be my schedule for the next 2-3 weeks as we build up my fitness and strength and prepare for more technical work at the end of the month.

Your Athlete,

Monday, January 5, 2009

Welcome and Hello!

Determining what kind of person you want to become and what you hope to achieve along the way begins with setting goals and then learning the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Because some goals will be more difficult to achieve than others it is important not to make excuses or to stop trying. To maintain focus it is important to know there is someone that asks, what do you dream about, what do you aspire to, and to whom do you aspire to be like?

I believe that athletes can serve as role models in our community to promote not only a healthy lifestyle, but also to teach the importance of dedication and follow through. We must not forget the hard work, the time and passion that translate into the dedication that precedes the moment an athlete’s abilities look easy and natural to an outsider.

My name is Susan Kelly Coltman. I am a heptathlete and a member of the Canadian National Athletics Team. The heptathlon is a two-day track and field event, made up of seven events: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin, 800m.

I have been training and competing in track and field from the age of nine. I began through involvement with my elementary school, progressed to training with a local club, attended Princeton University in the United States, and currently train full time with a personal trainer in the Netherlands.

I am the daughter of Claire and Floyd Coltman and I am Aboriginal, a proud member of the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola, BC. I grew up in Peterborough, Ontario. I attended Queen Mary from JK through grade 8 (my name stands on the Honor Roll for the class of 1995). This is something we have in common a similar starting place.

As we progress in our unique friendship, I hope to fill in the gap from my days at Queen Mary to life as a full-time top-level athlete. I will share with you the choices I have made, and both the struggles and the victories I experience as I progress this year in pursuit of qualifying for the World Championships in Athletics to be held this August in Berlin, Germany.

I will introduce you to some of the many people in my life who have helped me achieve my goals; the people who have helped shape my life.

To start, an important person is my coach, Bart Bennema. We met and formed a great working relationship as coach and athlete about 3 ½ years ago. He really respects athletes. He knows what it takes because he was an athlete himself. He is simply one of those people who somehow knows how to talk to athletes, has tremendous patience, and has been there as I have grown into the athlete I am today.

I welcome questions and comments. To paraphrase the words from a classic film, let this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Your Athlete and new Friend,