To say I’ve been slacking on posting to my blog would be a bit of an understatement. It’s been over a year since I’ve last posted anything and although I didn’t write about my adventures while they were happening, I did in fact have exciting experiences occurring in my life. Major events include: the most amazing Christmas holiday, completing my last indoor and outdoor seasons for the Huskers, graduating from university, and traveling and competing all over Europe. There were lots of other small things that happened too, but to write about everything would make this post much longer than it already is. If you don’t like reading, well, I’ve included lots of pictures – because let’s be honest, that’s what people like best anyways, right?
My family, two best friends, and our good family friends all traveled to Nicaragua for three weeks over the Christmas holiday. The first half of the trip was spent doing some more organized activities such as city tours, hiking, kayaking, zip lining, and volcano boarding! The second half of the trip was spent at Monty’s Surf Camp. As much as all of us loved the tours during the first part of the trip, we all loved the time we spent at Monty’s best. Days were filled with morning workouts on the beach, naps in hammocks, helping with community projects, sunset surf sessions, guitar playing and singing, lots of games, and a whole lot of nothing but enjoying one another’s company. For more about that trip check out Nine in Nicaragua.
Indoor/Outdoor NCAA season:
My last year as a Husker athlete was filled with great memories. There were a few goals I had set for myself that I didn’t accomplish, but that’s just how the world works sometimes. You make sacrifices for other pursuits, learn from failures and become that much more determined to achieve new goals. Highlights of the year included the Indoor Big Ten Championships where I followed in my former Husker teammate Ashley Miller’s footsteps winning the 3000m, placing second in the mile and 5th in the 5000m. As a team we were close to becoming repeat Conference Champions but fell just three points short. Outdoors I broke 10:00 in the 3000SC for the first time at the Mt. SAC Relays in April. This has been a time barrier I have wanted to break for the past few years, and finally doing it was so gratifying.
I had a short turnaround from NCAA Nationals in Eugene, Oregon to Canadian Nationals literally across the entire continent in Moncton, New Brunswick. I had a few days in Nebraska to pack up my things before making the 14 hour drive to Regina. I was only home for about a week, but it was a much needed time to regroup, get some physio treatment and do some quality sharpening workouts with my coach. Heading into my race I knew I was physically fit and just wanted a clean, controlled race. The field was small and when the gun went off no one wanted to take the lead. Not wanting to run a slow sit and kick race, and not wanting to block the wind for anyone else, I put in a bit of a surge to gap the field and was able to hold on for the win with a new Canadian Championship meet record. Even though I was running out by myself for the entirety of the race I knew my Canadian teammate and good friend Chantelle Groenewoud (who was also under the previous meet record) was close behind me and that really pushed me to run the time that I did.
Although Canada is the second biggest country in the world, the population size is not very big. Coming to the national championships is like a big family reunion; at the national level almost everyone knows everyone else. Regardless of your event, province or club, you support your friends be it before, during or after competition. It is this type of community that makes me love the sport that much more.
Europe Part 1:
This trip started off in Kazan, Russia for the World University Games (FISU). It was great to represent Canada in a solid field and although it fell apart a bit in the last 300m I still came away with a new PB and a 5th place finish, right behind my Canadian teammate Chantelle. Race #2 was a flat 3000m at the Lahti Games in Pajulahti, Finland. It was one of those races where I was unnecessarily nervous. My coach and I had decided I should train through it and focus on the two upcoming steeple races, and so it was essentially only a workout. As soon as the gun went off the nerves were gone. Partway through the race I had to make a decision on whether to move up, or just sit and relax. Even though my legs weren’t the freshest, my mind told them to move faster and they responded. An athletes mind can either make or break them, and in this case I was able to push any negative thoughts out and run to a new PB and a 3rd place finish. After Finland it was on to Sweden, where after a long day of travel I only managed a mediocre race the next evening.
From there the group of us traveled to Ninove, Belgium for what was the last chance to qualify for the World Championships. I wish I could say it was a fairy tale ending and that I had an incredible race, ran a new Canadian record, a world championship qualifying time, and made the team. It almost happened. The first 2940m of the race was pretty much perfect. Despite feeling sore and flat leading up to the race, as soon as the gun went off I felt great. I settled near the front, ran controlled and was smooth over all the barriers. With a few laps to go I surged to the front and didn’t look back. I had Canadian teammates all around the track, one of my best friends sprinting back and forth across the infield, all yelling encouragements. With 200 to go I knew unless I really hit a wall I was going to hit the time I needed. Still leading the race I came out of the water smoothly and around the corner onto the straightaway. I remember thinking all I had to do was run for 15 more seconds, getting over the last barrier was a non-issue – or so I thought. This is where the fairy tale ends. I’ve never hit a barrier in a workout or race in my life, and honestly I only know I hit this one with my knee because of the massive bruise I had on it immediately after. One second I was on my way to accomplishing the goal I had worked towards the entire year, and the next I was laying on the track. Everything was in slow motion. I must have been down for quite a while before I realized what had happened because by the time I did figure out what was going on, a handful of girls had cleared the barrier themselves and were a good ten metres ahead of me. My first thought was “it’s over, you’re not going to run what you need to” which was immediately followed by “NO! Get up and finish the race because you might be able to still get it.” My legs felt like jello and lead all at the same time for the last 60m and I ended up running just over a second slower than I had in Russia, five seconds over the World Championship qualifying standard. Failing to reach my goal was a hard pill to swallow. Being so close made getting over that race more difficult than any I’ve ever run in all my years of competing in track. As difficult as it was, I’m glad I was so close. Even though I didn’t run the time, I know for a fact that I was capable of it and that I am capable of much more. It made me excited for the next season, with newer, bigger goals on my mind.
One day later a group of us were in Dubrovnik, Croatia for a little holiday. Anyone I’ve ever talked to that has been to Croatia couldn’t say enough about how beautiful the country is, and it more than lived up to my expectations. Days were spent with lots of walking, swimming, cliff jumping, and eating of pizza and gelato. It was a much needed recovery period.
Europe Part 2:
After just under a month at home in Regina, I packed up my suitcase and headed back over to Europe for my last race of the season at the Francophone Games, which were being held in Nice, France. With three laps to go I started to feel more tired than I should with that much left in the race. From there I had to focus on each individual lap and ended up holding on better than I thought I could, but still didn’t run the race I had hoped for. No matter how good you feel leading up to a race (both mentally and physically) holding a peak for over a month, especially with an entire NCAA indoor and outdoor season on top of an international summer season, is nearly impossible. A big shout out to my Canadian teammate Genevieve Lalonde who ran an amazing race, setting a new PB and finishing 3rd!
This was the end of my season. I didn’t achieve my biggest goal, but it was without a doubt a year full of my strongest performances to date. For every ten minutes of racing I did, there were hours of training, planning, analyzing, treatment and a whole lot of other things that are daily staples in an athletes life. Although individual drive is essential, I couldn’t do most of these extra things myself. I could not have achieved the success I did this past year without my coaches, family, friends and teammates. Their belief in me is just as strong as my belief in myself and I don’t think I could find a better group of people to surround myself with.
After this race it was time for a real break. My friend Derek and I had talked about traveling around Europe together two years previously, and this was the perfect opportunity. We had both had long seasons and were ready for some down time and since we had graduated in the spring we didn’t have any school to get back to. When most of the team headed back to Canada, we said au revoir and headed on a one month trip around Europe.
If I were to go through and even give small details of each place we traveled to this would become a ridiculously long post and wouldn’t do any of our experiences proper justice. Maybe I will post bits and pieces from the trip at a later time, but for now I will detail the “where” of our trip. We planned as we went and took planes, trains, boats and automobiles from Nice to the base of the French Alps, Rome, Capo Vaticano, Salerno, Athens, Santorini, Kos, Porto, Seville, Albufeira and finally Paris, with many other side trips to little beaches and towns along the way. We saw some amazing places, took in some ancient history, and spent a large amount of time doing absolutely nothing but laying on numerous Mediterranean beaches. After a few days in Paris, Derek headed home to get to a wedding and I flew to Dublin for the last stop of my trip. My friend Robbie and the Elsafty family were amazing hosts/tour guides and the time I spent there was the perfect ending to my holiday. Ireland is beautiful in the fall, and I’m so glad I got to experience it.
It’s been an incredible year and some days I think about the past twelve months and can’t believe many of the things actually happened. I set personal bests in almost every event I raced, spent lots of time with my family and friends, traveled to over a dozen countries I’ve never been to before and met some amazing new people along the way. I’m looking forward to 2014 and doing it all over again.