Running / Travel

Europe 2014 Part 2: Heusden, 9:33, and a change of plans.

Fact: I am terrible at posting post-race updates in a timely matter. Case in point: It’s been almost three weeks over a month since I raced in Heusden, Belgium and ran a new PB. I usually start writing a post on the flight home from wherever I’ve been competing, with the events of the race fresh in my mind. I never finish it though, and once I get to wherever I’m going it gets put on the back burner for a few days while I get settled in. Over the next week (or four) I’ll be out on a run and something I want to include will pop into my head.  The post becomes this big mess of thoughts that I have such a hard time organizing and then I usually just end up deleting half of it anyways because I don’t like the way it sounds. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, after giving an interview, thinks about a better or different answer I could have given to a question. To me the best thing about a personal blog is that I’m able to edit my thoughts and make sure they’re conveyed the way I want them to be before I hit “publish”.  Even though it takes me a bit longer to post an update I think it’s probably best that I don’t post something within the first few days after a competition. Often my immediate post race thoughts and emotions are much different than they are a week later, and giving myself some time lets me reflect on the race with a little better perspective. So I’m not promising any faster post-competition posts, I’ll just try not to take quite as long in the future.

Rewinding to over a month ago: I had been training up in St. Moritz for a little over a week and all my workouts had been going great. There was just one problem – I didn’t know if I would be actually be able to run in the race I had been preparing for for the past month. Before even heading over to Europe to race I had been told it should be no problem to be accepted into the race in Heusden, now it seemed that wasn’t the case. Each day that went by made it seem less and less likely that I would get in. It was Tuesday afternoon, a day and a half before I was scheduled to leave, and my hope was quickly diminishing. I was at the track and had just finished some activation exercises when my coach, Wynn, came up and said, “Well it looks like we can go ahead and stick with plan A.” It took me a second or two to comprehend what he was saying.  Plan A – racing in Heusden… I’m in… I’M IN!!! Sometimes I think things work out when you finally give up trying to force them. Less than an hour earlier I had messaged my mom to tell her it looked like I wasn’t going to get into the race and that I was probably going to have to extend my stay in St. Moritz, and change my flight to a later date. Hearing that I had been accepted into the race was the hugest relief since Heusden was my best chance to run fast, and the main focus of this entire European racing trip. One last sharpening workout, treatment session and easy run later and I was headed back to Belgium. (Plan B for those of you wondering:  Stay in St. Moritz two extra days, race a flat 3k in Ghent, Belgium on the 21st, and then hang out and train in Leuven until the 2nd when there was a steeple in Ninove, Belgium.)

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{ One last run on the trails. }

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{ A different viewpoint on the way back to Zurich. }

I had 48 hours from the time I got into Leuven until I raced.  It felt like so much longer.  I had breakfast the first morning with my fellow Canadian steeplechaser, and good friend, Chantelle (who had got into the race even more last minute than me), drank coffee with a bunch of the other Speed River athletes, went to the track to do race prep with my teammate Rachel, and then out for a dinner that ended up taking way longer than expected. My friend Jeremy joked that we waited two hours for food that we ate in ten minutes – except it wasn’t really a joke because that’s actually what happened. On race day Rachel and I jumped on a bus with a bunch of other athletes for the one hour drive to Heusden. After we got there and got our race package we were lucky that we were able to get a ride to the meet hotel. A shout out and big thank you to Tim Nedow for letting us crash his air-conditioned hotel room and hang out until it was time to go back to the track. This was a huge help as the day of the meet was quite warm, and there was not really any place to stay out of the heat.

If my legs had felt like lead pipes in my shakeout run a few hours before my race (and they did), they felt like feathers in my warm up. If it’s possible, I had even less nerves than before my race at Payton Jordan. My only goal was to run as fast as I could. I don’t remember much from the time the gun went off to when I crossed the line. The one thing I do know and can remember is that it was one of those races where it’s like your body does exactly what your mind is telling it to, without any fight. Run faster? No problem. Hurdle smoother? I can do that too. This feeling of being almost invincible doesn’t happen very often, so when it coincides with an important race it’s like winning the running lottery.

When I finished the race I didn’t know my time. The clock had stopped when the winner (Nicole Bush of the USA – with a huge PB herself) had crossed the line. It wasn’t until I had gone back through the call room, taken off my spikes and race numbers, and collected my bag that someone finally gave me a number: 9:33. I don’t remember who told me or what my initial reaction was, but I don’t think it was much more than a smile and a nod of acknowledgement. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m not happy or excited about my performance, because I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s just that I wasn’t really surprised. Before the race a few people had asked me what I was hoping to run. Considering my personal best was 9:48 at the time, most probably thought I was aiming a little high when I said I wouldn’t be happy with anything over 9:40 and ideally my goal was to run between 9:30-9:35. I knew what I was in shape for, and I feel like rarely, if ever, do I set unrealistic goals.

IMG_6864{ I’m always so happy to have this girl on the start line with me but having her for support post-race is even better. Both of us were finally able to have breakthrough races and our whole cooldown was spent excitedly going back over the race and  talking about our hopes and goals for next season. }

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{ The Sunday after the race a couple of the Canadian athletes hosted a big pot-luck dinner. It was such a nice evening spent visiting with friends, and the view from the apartment they had rented was beautiful. }

I think I am happiest about what this time will give me, rather than the actual time itself. Finding fast women’s steeple races in North America isn’t hard, there just aren’t that many of them. This year there were maybe five quality open races: Payton Jordan*, USATF High Performance Meet (formerly OXY HP), Speed River Inferno, The Prefontaine Classic*, and The Adidas Grand Prix*. Of those five, two had rabbits (Pre and Adidas), three had individuals run under the IAAF “A” Standard (also the Commonwealth Games “A” Standard this year)*, and four fell within the qualifying period for Commonwealth (all but Adidas). Because my personal best was only 9:51 and not fast enough to get into either Diamond League race, I had three chances to try to achieve standard. After having pretty much the best outcome possible in my season opener, my second race (USATF), looked like my best chance to hit a qualifying time. It was supposed to have a rabbit, but when the pacer assignments list came out there was a blank beside women’s steeple. This was a disappointment and a bit frustrating, but honestly not really that much of a surprise. Steeple is especially difficult to find pacers for since it involves hurdles – and ones that could be season ending if you hit them. When there are only a few races on North American soil to qualify for National Championships and National teams, most of the girls who would be fast enough to rabbit want to run the whole thing (and who can blame them?). Hopefully now having run under 9:35 I will be able to get into some of those faster races. I love being able to actually race and not having to be so worried about hitting splits, or feeling like I’m time trialing instead of actually competing.

Although my season had been quite short (only racing six times total), Wynn and I had decided beforehand that if my race went well I would pass on the next few meets in Belgium and end my season at Heusden. After coming from a point a few months back where I didn’t know if I was even going to have a season, I went to bed happy and content with the way it ended. I woke up the next morning to an email from Wynn saying that I had likely put myself in a position to be selected for the Continental Cup in September. After a quick FaceTime call a new plan was in place and my season had been extended. I just had to wait out two weeks to see if anyone from Canada, Central or South America would run faster and displace me from my current position. Those two weeks have passed and I am happy to announce I’ve been selected to represent the “Americas” Team in Marrakech, Morocco in September!

So while most athletes are getting ready for cross-country season, or are taking some down time after a long season, the track is still my office for the next few weeks as I gear up for the last part of my season. The difference between where I am now to where I was a year ago at this point is almost incomparable. Last year at this time I had just returned home from Europe and had a month before my last race in Nice, France for the Francophone Games. After a full NCAA indoor and outdoor season, as well as an international summer season, I was exhausted. Workouts at home were tougher than they should have been, and recovering from them was even harder. My result at Francophone Games is a clear indication of this. Because I had such a late start to my training and racing season this year, I feel like I’m just now hitting my peak, instead of trying to hang on for dear life and hope for the best. Of course I wish that I wouldn’t have been coming off an injury at the beginning of the season, and could have been a tiny bit more fit earlier on this summer, but you can’t always have it all and maybe the “reason” behind that early season hiccup was so that I could be healthy and more fit for the later part of my season.

After leaving Belgium I got to spend two and a half weeks at home.  I hadn’t been home since leaving for Arizona at the beginning of January and it was so nice to sleep in my own bed and do things like cook and eat meals with my family. Mostly I was glad I got to spend a little bit of time with my brother before he jetted off on a surf trip to Central America for a few weeks and then headed back to school. I ran loops around Wascana Lake (a route I could probably do with my eyes closed), caught up with some good friends/former club teammates/training partners, shot some cool photos with my friend Arthur, and enjoyed every minute I got to spend with my family and close family friends.

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{ Where it all began. }

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{ My club coach’s wife, Doris, feeding their local squirrel. }

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{ I take this lake for granted. Just disregard the colour/cleanliness of the water… }

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{ Back to my prairie roots in a couple more of the photos my friend, Arthur, took of me. }

For now I’m back in Victoria, BC and am soaking in as much of this cool, damp weather as I can.  There were a handful of days last week where it felt more like October than August and while normally I’d be upset that a few of those last precious days of summer were not sunny and warm, I kind of enjoyed them knowing I’ll soon be in a climate where there is no escape from the hot, dry heat. On the 25th I’m heading back over the Atlantic to Madrid for a bit of a preparation camp leading into the race in Marrakech. Spain was the country I spent the least amount of time in on my trip last fall (I had just over 24 hours in Seville), so I’m looking forward to having a couple of weeks there to get more of a feel for the Spanish culture.  I’m also really excited that I’m going to be able to spend some time in Morocco after my race. My mom and I had planned to have a bit of a holiday together sometime this fall, and when I found out I had made the Continental Cup team she decided she would come over and watch me compete and then we could spend a few days in Marrakech afterwards. Morocco isn’t a place I’ll likely find myself in again anytime soon, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity to explore a new place. As it will be the real end of my season I will be able to just enjoy everything without having to worry about getting to bed early, walking around too much, or being careful about what I eat.  If anyone reading this has been to Morocco before and has any travel tips or recommendations I would love to hear them! It looks like such a unique and beautiful place and I really can’t wait to wander through the souks, admire all the gourgeous tile work, and stuff my face with the olives that I’ve been reading are the best in the world.

Last but not least, some photos taken over the past few weeks I’ve spent in Victoria. I will NEVER get sick of this city.

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset{ Fog along Dallas Road one afternoon. }

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 preset{ 17 turtles all in a row. }

IMG_7011 { “Fairy’s Only” – how adorable is this?! }

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 { View along a Saturday afternoon scenic drive. }
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{ Pacific Ocean = the best ice bath }
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 { One last trip to the farmers market. }
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