There are moments when loneliness strikes and Jessica Dube will seek out the company of her coaches just to fill the silence.
The figure skater from St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., is going it alone this season after her pairs partner Bryce Davison underwent season-ending knee surgery in October.
With the pairs season a write-off for the former world bronze medallists, Dube is competing in singles as a way to stay sharp and motivated until her partner's return. But it hasn't been easy.
"It's a big change to be alone all the time, I'm so used to having someone to talk to," Dube said in a phone interview from Montreal. "Now, skating by myself, sometimes I enjoy it because I'm in my own bubble doing my own thing. But sometimes I'll go to my coaches just because I need to talk to someone or I just need someone to be there.
"It's a bit weird, but I'm starting to get used to it."
The 23-year-old Dube will compete at the Canadian figure skating championships this week in Victoria, where she's hoping for a top-five finish.
She's more accustomed to the top spot on the podium as she and Davison are three-time national champions in pairs, but her purpose for competing at all this season was simply to have a reason for going to the rink every day.
"I just want to go out there and enjoy myself, because that's why I decided to skate singles this year, to do something and still be happy being on the ice," Dube said. "I wouldn't have stopped skating anyways, and then when I heard it would be six months (for Davison's recovery), I thought, that's a bit long to go to the rink every day and just do whatever.
"At least now I have programs to train and something to look forward to and work toward."
This season was supposed to be a chance to make up for last year's disappointment for Dube and Davison, who were sixth at both the Vancouver Olympics and world championships.
But a week before they were to open their season at Skate Canada in Kingston, Ont., Davison jammed his knee landing a jump. He underwent surgery Oct. 26 after doctors found a three-centimetre bone fragment had chipped off where his thigh bone meets the knee, due to a condition called "osteochondritis dissecans."
Davison, who's recovering at home in Huntsville, Ont., resumed walking just over a week ago, and it's hoped he'll be back on the ice by March or April.
Annie Barabe, who's coached Dube in either singles or pairs for the past 15 years, believes her prized pairs team will come back stronger from this experience.
Dube, who used to skate singles and finished sixth at the 2008 Canadian championships, has traditionally struggled with her jumps. Her triple Salchow proved costly at the Vancouver Olympics when she failed to land it.
Now she's had to expand her repertoire of jumps for singles, adding Lutzes, flips and toe loops, and the result has been more consistency across the board.
"In pairs, they were only doing the Axel and Salchow, just doing those jumps every day, and sometimes if it doesn't go well, you just keep practising your mistakes in the jumps," Barabe said. "When there's more to practise, sometimes you have less problems. Now she's way, way more consistent in her jumping."
Barabe said there's a lightness to Dube's demeanour that she hopes she can carry into next season in pairs.
"When they were getting ready for the season, people were expecting: go to Grand Prixs, win, never make mistakes," the coach said. "Compared to now, she's doing it for fun, she decided to do it at the last minute, there's way less pressure and I can see she's way more relaxed. When she has bad days, it's not the end of the world."
Dube had just three weeks to prepare for her first event in singles after Davison's injury and two of them were spent choreographing and learning her two singles programs.
She finished seventh at the Eastern Challenge event in Mississauga, Ont., to earn a berth at nationals.
"It was weird to be on the ice by myself," Dube said. "At first I was a little bit lost, in the warmup I didn't really know what to do, it took me a long time to get going because obviously I'm not used to it," she said.
"Bryce and I always had our little routine, we always did the same warmup, I think that's what made it so weird, because when I stepped on the ice, I didn't have a plan, so I was like, 'Oh my God, I need somebody to take my hand and do something with."'
After the short program, Dube received a pep talk from Davison, who was in Mississauga to watch her skate.
"He just calmed me down, he just said you know what you have to do, just set a plan, so that's really helped me," said Dube.
She talks to Davison daily, and he was recently in Montreal to watch her training.
This isn't the first time a serious mishap has separated the two. At the Four Continents in Colorado Springs in 2007, they were doing side-by-side camel spins when Davison's blade slashed Dube's face. The gash required 83 stitches to close and the two underwent counselling for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., will be the favourite to win the women's singles in Victoria in the absence of six-time champion Joannie Rochette. Rochette, who won bronze at the Vancouver Olympics just days after her mom's death, is taking the season off to ponder her future.