Monday, August 23, 2010

A New Beginning

I have one question on my mind these days: how do I proceed forward? It was about a year ago now that I accepted the possibility that change could be a good thing and that coming back to Canada and working with a local coach here in Toronto would be what I needed to take that last step into major international competitions. However, here I am standing at the end of a disappointing and frustrating 7 months at UofT and preparing to make a coach and training location switch. Second thoughts creep in, and say that I should not have listened to various people who talked me into leaving my training location in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, that is just the trouble with hindsight 20/20; it feels so easy to say should have, could have, would have ...

When there is a clear ending, there are two questions that come to mind: do you regret the choice? Would you do it over again? To the first question, the answer is yes. However, to the latter, it is complicated to know for sure what I would or should do. I had a great deal of information to make the choice, but it was not enough. If I knew then what I know now of how the situation really is and not what it is made to look like, I know the answer would be no, and so I am starting over. As I prepare to move forward, I take a moment to think only of the positives.

Throughout the year I various conversations with my old coach, Bart, about my struggles, and fears and he would remind me that the person who knows Susan Coltman the best is me; I know what I can do and what I need to be able to perform, so it was time to take control for myself. I also had the great support of my friend Aquil Abdullah, and he too would remind me of my inner strength and that I needed to able to stand up for myself and know what I needed.

A noted American Author once said, "There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning." This moment marks my new beginning. Wish me luck!

Your Athlete,

Season Recap

Here is a brief recap of what my season, from my perspective, really looked like:

The buildup to my season, aka the winter training, seemed rather solid, with 2-3 periods that I thought were just adjustment pains, but were really signs of over training. Then the start of the competition season set off on the wrong foot so to speak and resulted in an injury that plagued my whole season. I was set to open my season in Desenzano in May, followed with Kladno in June, and then Nationals in July, all leading to qualification to the Commonwealth Games in October. I knew this was my plan, but I was persuaded to open my season in California in mid-April as a training prep for how to improve my ability to compete. There I was, an athlete with a new coach who I very much wanted to impress, so I said yes when I should have said no.

Heading into Mt.Sac relays I had been very sick, on antibiotics for a throat infection, and in no position to compete, but the coaches insisted, and I attempted to persevere. Unfortunately, the weakness in my body resulted in pushing my body past its limits and while trying to push myself to be ready in a short period, I had a huge hurdle crash in training, 3 days before the competition. I pushed myself further to compete despite some discomfort in my back, and during the long jump portion of the heptathlon, I hit the board in a compromised position, due to the pain already in my back, and the result was that my back went into complete spasm and I was never in more pain in my career as an athlete; and that includes a long list of injuries!

I flew home right away and was happy to be in the hands of Dr. Galea in Toronto. The medical side of returning home to Canada to train was a major benefit, and I was about to maximize that to no end this year! What was feared to be a potential career ending disc injury was actually a multifidus muscle tear. With treatment from Galea and supporting treatment from Carm Stillo, amazing Chiropractor, I was back up and training and trying to push myself to be ready for Kladno, which was an active recovery period of 8 weeks. While everyone was doing everything possible to help me be ready to compete, the reality was this injury needed 12 weeks complete recovery. I had recovered the tear and was feeling positive and decided that I was able to compete in Kladno and headed over to Europe. Unfortunately, this competition would resemble Mt.Sac as I got through day one ok, and then came long jump on day two and back spasm, that turned out to be a tear this time lower in the multifidus and also in the gluteus maximus. Suddenly I had an increased injury and only 6 weeks till my last chance to qualify so I once again maximized the support of Galea and Carm and tried to push my body to be ready for the Canadian Track and Field Championships. However, the back would not make it through healthy.

Here is where my season would end and I would accept that I just did not have enough time between competitions to heal completely. I had pushed my body so hard this year, but I was beyond exhaustion both physically and emotionally. The greatest frustration that I carried all year was that the coaching staff revealed themselves to be my fair weathered friends – when I was healthy and ready to train, they were there to push me; when I was injured and unable to train, it felt like out of sight out of mind. I had chosen for a coach, who was noted to have a tremendous deal of experience, and I was always searching for support and words of wisdom throughout a difficult time, and instead I was on my own completely. Well not completely, I did have a great deal of support from Galea and Carm, without whom I would not have made it through this year – I am grateful to them both beyond words!

I spoke to Bart at the end of this time, and he felt willing to admit at this point that when I saw him while in Europe he was disappointed in what he saw - it was clear that the coaches had over trained the events, under trained strength, and that I had lost the progress he and I had made in our four years together.

I am now taking some time off, away from the track to heal both physically and emotionally. I have notified this coach that I will not be returning to UofT, and am in conversation with a new coach to continue my journey – to start fresh and build myself up to a new stronger competitor. I have a renewed hope and spirit and happy to have closed that chapter in my life. Today I am embracing the words of Albert Einstein, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

Your Athlete,

Thank You CAN Fund

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about an organization that I endorse called the Canadian Athletes Now Fund. CAN Fund is a not-for-profit organization devoted solely to raising funds and awareness for Canada's athletes. Since 2003, CAN Fund has raised more than 11 million dollars and helped hundreds of Canadian athletes in pursuit of their dream to represent Canada.

I recently became a recipient of the CAN Fund and wanted to share with you the impact that this funding will have on helping me to achieve my goal of competing for Canada in 2012. As I continue to train and compete, I now have some added security with this contribution from the CAN Fund. With CAN Fund I am also able to be more self sufficient as an athlete and therefore reduce the financial stress on my family. I am grateful to CAN Fund for showing their support of my talents as I build into 2012!

The London Games are 2 years away but it is now when your support counts the most and has the greatest impact on our journey. Now is when we give everything we have in pursuit of our dreams to represent Canada on the world stage. I am 1 of 545 athlete applicants who recently applied for financial assistance to the CAN Fund. As a recent recipient, I know first hand the importance of the CAN Fund and the positive impact that this financial support has on our ability to pursue our goals and to compete knowing that nothing was holding us back. It allows us to focus more on performance and being the best that we can be and less on finances. Canadian athletes face a funding shortfall and CAN Fund helps to provide an answer by putting the funding directly into the hands of the athletes.

The unique thing about donating to the CAN Fund is that with every donation you find out the name of the athlete you have impacted.

“Many times when I have made a donation to a charitable organization I often wonder whether my contribution has really helped to make a difference, I am delighted to say that this is not the case with Canadian Athletes Now Fund. When I first became a monthly donor one of the athletes who was identified as receiving funds was a swimmer from Alberta names Annamay Pierse - yes the very same Annamay Pierse who last week set a World Record and won a Silver medal at the World Aquatic Championships in Rome. In her post race interview with Scott Russell of the CBC, Annamay made it a point to thank Jane Roos and the Canadian Athletes Now Fund for helping provide the support our amateur athletes need. While she did not thank me personally - I did feel some sense of gratitude knowing that my money had helped in Annamay's achievement of excellence. Thank you Canadian Athletes Now Fund and keep up the good work!” ~ Ian Hand, CAN Fund Monthly Donor

If you are considering donating to a charity, I strongly encourage you to consider CAN Fund. The CAN Fund has created a vehicle that connects Canadians from coast to coast with Canadian athletes and provides a way for everyone to get involved and contribute to our excellence. Whether you become a CAN Fund monthly donor, donate to the CAN Fund through the United Way, have your company adopt a Canadian Athlete, engage in a corporate matching program, book an athlete to speak at your company etc…your contribution WILL make a significant difference! To find out how you can become a part of our journey and impact the dreams of other Canadian athletes like myself visit

Thank you for considering the CAN Fund and believing in Canadian athletes!

Your Athlete,