Since coming down with a whopper of a sinus infection nearly five months ago, Skyler Davis hadn’t felt like himself. In his first year on the U.S. Ski Team’s development squad, the 20-year-old tried to shake it.
He tried at the U.S. Ski Team’s dryland camp in Lake Placid, N.Y, but he had to leave early to recover at home in Jericho, Vt. Afterward, Davis rallied and put forth the effort needed to earn his first World Cup starts in Düsseldorf, Germany, in early December. But even there, Davis wasn’t feeling 100 percent.
Soon after, he raced in a World Cup freestyle sprint in Davos, Switzerland, where he was 77th in the qualifier. It wasn’t the result he was looking for, and by the end of December, Davis was back in Vermont training for the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Championships staged Jan. 2-8.
At Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine, he hoped he’d have better luck. He got his wish on the last day of U.S. Nationals, placing fifth in the classic sprint final.
While it marked his best result of the week (he was 14th in the freestyle sprint), it didn’t match his podium from last year, when he was third in the classic sprint at nationals.
He was missing the fitness, especially in the final, he said. But he felt better and his energy was slowly coming back.
A few days after nationals, Davis went to his doctor to have his blood tested. He had similar tests in July, when physicians found nothing unusual about his health. A month later, Davis came down with a sinus infection. Most likely starting in October, he had mononucleosis as well.
Davis learned of the latter diagnosis upon most recently visiting his doctor, who said the virus had been dormant inside him since about December.
That meant Davis trained with mono for about three months and raced with the energy-sapping condition while in Europe.
Now that it was no longer bothering him, the finding came as somewhat of a relief. Throughout the fall, Davis worked with a counselor at the Stratton Mountain School, his alma mater. He considered Dwaine Tait his sports psychologist, and said they both tried to figure out what was going on with Davis.
“He had the same response as me, like, ‘You had mono? That kind of is good news,’ ” Davis said in a phone conversation from Jericho.
“If anything, getting [those medical] results makes me feel good about how I did so far,” he added. “It’s like, if I had mono and I could do that, I should be able to do even better next year.”
While he was excited to race in Europe, especially in a team sprint with USST veteran Andy Newell, he was disappointed with his results. As a team, the two failed to advance in the Düsseldorf freestyle sprint and placed 26th overall.
In the future, Davis wants another shot at the team sprint, an event he feels matches his strengths. In early December, it caught him at a low point.
“I thought I was getting better because mentally, I wanted to be better for the World Cups,” Davis said. “But my energy was pretty low.”
In hindsight, his daily headaches and lack of energy pointed to mono. At the time, Davis reasoned he was feeling the after-effects of a bad sinus infection. His glands weren’t particularly swollen, which is usually a dead giveaway for the virus.
Even if his doctor had discovered it in the fall, there wasn’t much Davis could have done except rest and lowered his expectations, he said. That could have kept him from being so hard on himself when it came to racing results.
He credited his friends and family for helping him through his saddened and sometimes-moody state while he dealt with the prolonged sickness. Using a prescribed nose steroid to strengthen his sinuses, Davis said he was feeling his best yet since becoming ill in August.
“It’s hard to tell how low I was feeling until I started feeling kind of normal again,” Davis said. “Then it’s like, ‘Whoa, where did this come from?’ ”
As for the rest of the season, Davis said he’s focused on racing more and traveling less, with the SuperTour finals as his highlight. He will likely race in Eastern Cups and carnivals, he said, and possibly make the trip to the Madison SuperTour sprints in Wisconsin. If needed, he could tone his schedule down to race per weekend.
After spending some time with his friends on break from the University of Vermont, playing hockey and clearing his head, Davis was optimistic about the rest of the year. On Tuesday, he planned to start his first online class – personal health – through UVM.
He laughed at the irony of the course. Hopefully he’d pass with flying colors.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.