Halvorsen’s Light at the End of the Tunnel
The road to recovery can be a long, lonely road with many bumps along the way. But when an athlete sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and with the tremendous support from family, friends, and teammates, they know that the hard work will pay off.
Davis U.S. Cross Country Team member Hannah Halvorsen is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as she recovers from the devastating injuries suffered when she was hit by a car while crossing a street in downtown Anchorage last November. In addition to head, back, and neck injuries, she also suffered a serious knee injury that required surgery.
Hannah’s road to recovery, which she has documented on her Instagram feed, began with a trip to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah in January where she was able to focus 100% of her attention on recovery and specifically building core and leg strength. All the while, she was following her teammates on the World Cup and Super Tour circuits and taking inspiration from them, knowing that with continued progress, she would be able to rejoin them later in the season.
Hannah was excited to cheer her team on at the 2020 Coop FIS Cross Country World Cup in Minneapolis, which would have been the first time cross country skiing World Cup competition took place on U.S. snow in 19 years. However, COVID-19 threw everyone a curveball and forced the cancelation of those plans for Hannah, as well as the annual spring team training camp in May in Bend, Oregon. Regardless of the pandemic setbacks, Hannah has kept her eye on the prize of returning to 100% health. Earlier this summer, she returned to Anchorage to train with her Alaska Pacific University (APU) teammates, and while she has had to hold herself back at times, she continues to make tremendous progress.
“The biggest mood booster of late has been rejoining team training. I have done countless hours of training and physical therapy on my own over the past months and I have an even bigger appreciation for what it means to be surrounded by a team.”
– Hannah Halvorsen, Davis U.S. Cross Country Team
But those countless hours of training alone are paying big dividends.
“Hannah has made an amazing return to training,’ said APU coach Erik Flora. “Her incredible hard work and perseverance have brought her back months earlier than I would have projected. The thing that has impressed me the most is that while she is making this impressive return she is coming back with more focus and positively inspiring her teammates to step up their level as well. I see her returning stronger than ever.”
“I have seen some really positive progress and I am in a much better place than I expected to be at this time of the training season,” Hannah said. “If you asked me two months ago I would’ve said I wouldn’t be able to roller-ski until the fall, but I am able to ski with my teammates and even do low-level threshold.
“I can’t do the high-intensity training...but I can do the warm-up and cool down, and I do a pulled back version that is more focused on technique while my team is doing intervals,” she continued. “That said, having a lot of unexpected improvement has made it hard to stay the course. I am constantly tempted to try to jump into speed or go faster in threshold [workouts]. I have done that a few times now and sometimes I think I get away with it. But after a few times the inflammation in my spine and neck will flare up and then I am set back again with pain.”
Building toward intensity training is the near-term goal for Hannah, but it is a learning process between managing the pain while building strength and speed.
“It is a long road,” Erik said. “She is progressing faster than projected. She is getting back to normal training with dry-land including roller skiing, running, and strength. Every week she is improving.”
While there are a number of uncertainties in regard to events as the 2020-21 competition season nears, one thing that is certain is that when Hannah is ready to race, she will return stronger, faster, and mentally tougher.
“I am on the right end of that curve and starting to get in a productive groove and prioritizing things in the right order so that I can maintain my health for the short and long term,” she said. “Being asked to find more patience when I feel like I have been patient for nine months is hard, but the progress I have made has been motivating and I am excited to see where I can take this if I do it the right way.”
Follow Hannah’s journey on Instagram at @hannah.g.halvorsen