Running / Travel

Canadian Nationals Recap – surviving the heat, the power of mental strength, and a quick trip to Montreal!

Another Canadian Championship has come and gone. Even with this year being a little different in that it wasn’t a true selection trials for a national team, there was no shortage of exciting events and great performances. I love track and field because it brings such a wide variety of people together. We all do different events, vary in age, and come from different backgrounds and places across the country, but there is so much support and respect for one another. There is no better showcase of this on Canadian soil than at the national championships. I was sad I didn’t really get to see any events, due to trying to stay out of the heat and having to catch a flight shortly after my race, but you better believe I was refreshing my twitter feed and the live results every few minutes until my flight took off, and spent the better part of Sunday morning watching the live feed on my iPad.

A week and a half ago I left Victoria for Moncton. It seemed a bit early to get there considering I didn’t race until Saturday, but coming all the way from across the continent I wanted to make sure I was well adjusted to the time change, and to have a solid last tune up workout mid week. Thankfully Rachel Francois got in on the Monday as well and we both kept one another from going stir crazy in our hotel room. Weather-wise the first two days were really nice, and the next two days were rainy and cold. However Friday morning when I opened the curtains it was like someone had completely flipped the weather switch because there was not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature had risen a good 10 degrees from the day before.

20140703-161030-58230605.jpg{ Sunny skies and green grass on Tuesday’s easy run. }

20140703-165539-60939334.jpg
{ Grey skies and rain for Wednesday’s sharpening workout. }

Even before leaving Victoria I had known that the day of my race was going to be hot. Having that knowledge felt like both a good and a bad thing. I was glad I could mentally prepare for it, but at the same time I know I don’t have a great track record with performing well in hot temperatures (Trinidad, Calgary, and Mexico to name a few) and in the back of my mind I always had that little thought of “what if it effects me like it has in the past?”

Whoever decided to put the steeplechase in the middle of the day has clearly never run one themselves. I think there’s a common misconception that having one foot land in the water pit somehow cools you off. I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me in all seriousness, “at least you’ll get to cool off in the water pit!” Yes for the most part the water is cool (as water coming from a hose usually is) but unless you fall into it, in which case I’m sorry, you’re only in it for a second or two at most, and that total of 10-15 seconds over the course of approximately 8.5-10 minutes, does not offset the rest of the race. The only time I’ve ever actually noticed the temperature of the water was when it was freezing cold (a few workouts in Nebraska, and one up in Flagstaff), or when it was really hot (Oklahoma, Mexico, Texas).

I had run into Thelma Wright earlier in the week (who was my coach on my first ever national team for World Cross-Country in Mombasa, Kenya), and when I mentioned being a bit concerned about the heat she looked at me and almost scoldingly said something along the lines of, “You ran and finished that race in Kenya and have that over anyone else! You just think about that because nothing will ever be as hard as that was.” That was a great reminder as she couldn’t have been more right. The day she was referring to it was 35C and around 95% humidity at the time the junior women’s 6km race started. I remember running past girls collapsed on the sidelines of the course, and a few of my teammates were completely delusional afterwards. I personally crawled under a massage table in one of the medical tents and sat there until someone picked me up, carried me back outside and put me in an ice tub. 25% of the field never finished the race and I’m honestly amazed no one died that day.

20140703-221757-80277111.jpg{ A throwback picture to World Cross. The girls team pre-race. }

20140703-224227-81747893.jpg{ Post-race. A few of us didn’t make it… }

The day of the race it was exactly as the forecast had projected. At 10AM when I went out for my shakeout run it was already 20 degrees. By mid afternoon it was at least 25C and probably closer to 30C. I adjusted my warm up, shortening it and stayed inside where it was cooler for as long as possible. In the call tent I went through my final mental self prep, dumped some water on my head, and thought about what Thelma had said to me. Stepping onto the track my initial thought was, “yep, it’s warm” but to be honest I didn’t think about the heat once after that. I was so focused on executing my race plan, while still trying to keep myself fairly relaxed, that all other thoughts and distractions were just non-existent. All doubt and fear was gone. If the heat was going to affect me there was nothing else I could do at that point to prevent it.

20140703-161031-58231678.jpg{ Ready to go! My number even coordinated with my race kit! }

The race went pretty much exactly how I had imagined and hoped it would go. As soon as the gun went off I settled near the front, but not in the lead, and just tried to run as relaxed as possible before trying to make a move later on in the race. As comfortable as I may have looked running, it was still a bit stressful as I was running in the middle of lane one, basically hurdling between Genevieve Lalonde and Chantelle Groenewoud who were running side by side in front of me. In addition, I had a couple of girls right behind me as well. It’s not very often that you run in that tight of a pack in steeple races in North America so it was good practice for my upcoming European races where I expect that to be the case.

20140713-091326-33206209.jpg

Thinking about the race now it just seems like a big blur, but during the race I remember looking at the lap counter every time we crossed the finish line thinking oh my gosh, 5 (4, 3) laps still?! But not in the sense of “I’m getting tired and I still have x number of laps to run,” but more along the lines of convincing myself to stay patient and relaxed because I was getting a bit antsy running in that group. A few laps in, over the span of maybe 4 seconds, this internal dialogue formed in my head: “I’m a little more tired than I should feel at this pace. No I’m not tired. I’m fine.” And just like that the tired feeling was gone and I was refocused on my race plan. It’s amazing how these little internal thoughts can really make or break you. At Nebraska my teammate Katie and I developed the strategy that every mental thought that came into our head during a race had to be replaced with at least one positive thought. When I can successfully execute this in a race or even in a workout, my results are always so much better.

20140713-091324-33204350.jpg

20140703-161030-58230701.jpg{ photo courtesy of Yves Longpré }

Back to the race… With a little over two laps to go, the youngster of the group, Julie-Anne Staehli, made a move to the front and I followed suit moving around the two Speed River girls and tucked in behind her. On the backstretch I figured now was the best time to take over the lead so that I could get the best positioning heading into the second-last water jump to try to open a bit of a gap. The last lap I just concentrated on maintaining my form and thought about my last couple of hard workouts where we had really focused on closing well over the last few hundred metres. It was a good feeling to just be able to go out and compete for the win, because more often than not I’m out on the track racing for a time. It would have been nice to get down a bit closer to the 9:50 mark, but with the heat and the more tactical racing, I was happy with 9:55. You can click HERE to watch video of my race, and HERE to see my post-race interview.

20140713-091328-33208098.jpg

I am thrilled that I was able to defend my national title, and break my own championship record, especially in such a strong field of girls. I’ve said it before, but I’m so happy to have these girls first and foremost as friends, and not just as my competitors. Genevieve and I have known one another since 2007 when we roomed together at World Youth (back when she ran the 1500 as her main event), and you couldn’t find a nicer or more genuine person. Chantelle and I have known one another and competed against each other since 2007 as well. However, I don’t think “against” is really the right word to use. “With” is much more fitting. Just over a year ago I would have said we were more acquaintances than friends. Even though we had been on a World Junior team together in 2008, and had cooled down together after a few meets, I really didn’t know her very well. When we went back to our respective homes last summer after spending all but maybe 2 days together for over a month, I felt like part of me was missing. It’s strange to think that such a short time ago we knew little to nothing about one another. We’re similar in many ways and I think understand one another quite well as a result. It feels like we’ve been good friends for a very long time, and her friendship is something I really cherish. Congrats also goes out to both Julie-Anne and Maria who are running impressively fast for their young age and who will represent Canada later this summer in the NACAC U23 Championships in Kamloops!

A couple more throwback photos:

20140703-221757-80277006.jpg{ World Youth 2007 – sweet hat eh? }

20140703-221757-80277156.jpg{ Junior Nationals 2007 }

After my race I did a short cool down with Gen and Chantelle before quickly hopping on the podium to receive my medal. It’s a long ongoing joke in my family that I am “The Queen” and so when I was announced as “The Queen of Canadian Steeplechase” I couldn’t help but laugh. I don’t think I’ve really deserved that title yet, but it was a nice thing to say! Gen and Chantelle then drove me to my hotel and then to the airport so that I could catch a flight to Montreal. I wish I could have spent more time with them and am really hoping our paths cross in Europe this summer.

20140703-165528-60928448.jpg

Upon arriving in Montreal my mom, who had flown in earlier that afternoon, was waiting for me at my gate. She had decided last minute to come see me and meeting her halfway was the easiest thing. It had been over four months since I’d last seen her, which is the longest time we’ve ever been apart. We went to Cirque du Soleil, walked around Old Montreal, ate good food (lobster poutine anyone? -when in Montreal right?) and just enjoyed one another’s company. We had less than 48 hours together, but it was better than nothing!

20140703-161029-58229496.jpg{ Getting creative with places to hang-dry laundry. }

20140703-161031-58231346.jpg{Cirque du Soleil: Kurios – Cabinet des Curiosités }

20140703-170255-61375307.jpg{ Heading to Europe! }

20140703-161029-58229930.jpg{ Alien fruit for the plane trip: mangosteen, litchi, rambutan, passion fruit and strawberries. }

I’m now in Leuven, Belgium getting ready to race a 1500 on Saturday. This will be my first flat race all year, and I’m both excited and nervous for it. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the faster pace so it won’t be such a shock to my system. The start list looks like I’ll have a fast group of girls in my heat, and hopefully I can just get pulled along and drop my pb by a few seconds! On Sunday I’ll be heading to Switzerland for a little bit of altitude training before coming back to Belgium for a race on the 19th. For the past few months I’ve been saying that I’m going over to Europe to race, but it never really sunk in until I got on the plane. It’s great to be back over here and I’m looking forward to a great summer of racing.

20140703-161030-58230992.jpg{ Belgian fans cheering on their football team in downtown Leuven. }

20140703-165528-60928875.jpg{ A tree lined path near the track. }

Note: race photos by Marc Grandmaison Photography

Advertisements

One thought on “Canadian Nationals Recap – surviving the heat, the power of mental strength, and a quick trip to Montreal!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s