2014 Track Season – Part 3: Madrid & Morocco

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The end of my season was both exciting and a bit anticlimactic. The exciting part: competing at the Continental Cup. It was like taking all the finals of the World Championships and putting them into a two-day meet. The atmosphere was surprisingly fun and low-key considering the level of competition in attendance, and it was the closest feeling to competing on a “team” again that any of us will probably ever have as professionals. The anticlimactic part: my race. You never really know how races are going to go, and championship races are the most impossible to try and guess strategy for. Sometimes they go out blazingly fast with everyone just trying to hang on and die the least. Other times you’re jogging until someone finally bites the bullet and takes the lead, pushing the pace. If you’re lucky, the race goes out according to everyone’s ability and it’s more even paced. I’ve experienced all these scenarios this season, but still I was caught by surprise in my race in Marrakech.

IMG_7671{ Matt and I – the Canadian steeplechase/Gmitroski coached contingent }

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset{ The Jessica’s!  It was great to have Jess O’Connell as a roommate in Morocco. She’s a ton of fun, one of the toughest competitors I know, and overall just an absolute sweetheart. I hope we’ll be on lots more teams together in the future! }

Like many of the other distance races, my race went out at a crawl. The first 1000m felt easy (because at 3:40 we were barely moving), and the last two kilometres felt like I was sprinting. Kicking home with two laps to go is normal. With two kilometres to go… rough. On average each girl ran somewhere between 30-40 seconds slower than their season best, times slower than most of us have likely run in years. It was frustrating because I know my fitness was much greater than it showed in that race. That being said, if I had to run the race over again I probably wouldn’t do anything differently. That’s just how races go sometimes, and as my first major senior competition it was a good learning experience. Onto the next!

But first… pictures from Madrid and Morocco! My teammate, Matt, and I spent just under two weeks in Madrid to prepare for the heat in Morocco and to adjust to the time change. The downside to training twice a day in 30˚C+ heat is that any time that we weren’t out running, we were recovering inside an air-conditioned apartment. Walking around on cobblestones and pavement isn’t really conducive to training, so sightseeing was limited. The upside to being a runner in a new place is that you see a lot more than you would if you were just walking. I also got to come back with my momma for a day and a half on our way home from Morocco.


Processed with VSCOcam with k2 preset{  The track at the Consejo Superior de Deportes (High Performance Centre) Madrid. During one workout the temperature was around 38˚C. I’d take two steps away from the water fountain and my throat was already bone dry again. The first thing I did when I got back to the apartment after track workouts was drink everything I could in the fridge: water, carbonated water, electrolyte water, juice, and almond milk (+ watermelon if I had it). }

Processed with VSCOcam with g2 preset{ Trails in Casa de Campo }

We stayed right off of the Plaza del Dos de Mayo, the centre of the Malasaña neighbourhood. For lack of a better term, Malasaña is a very “hipster” neighbourhood filled with unique shops, bars, restaurants, and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had at Toma Café – I think I went there every single day, and was so sad my suitcase was too full to to bring any coffee beans home with me. 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset{ Plaza del Dos de Mayo – post morning clean-up from the night before. }

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IMG_7674{I had no idea what this place was because it was always closed when I walked by. Apparently they don’t sell tupperware at all, but are actually the best bar in the neighbourhood. }

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IMG_7208This type of crazy graffiti was everywhere. During the early morning and the afternoon siesta you would see even more of it since businesses were closed and their metal doors were pulled down. }

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset{ Koutoubia Mosque }

Morocco seemed like a great place to start my post-season break, so after the meet was over I stayed for a week holiday with my mom. We moved to a riad in the medina of Marrakech and toured around the city as well as taking a couple of day trips to Essaouira and the Atlas Mountains. It is impossible to compare Morocco to any place I’ve ever been, especially to Kenya, the only other place in Africa I’ve spent time in. The thing that struck me most about Morocco was the richness of the culture and history.  Things such as architecture and writings have much deeper meanings than just their aesthetics. It really made me realize how young North America is, but also that no matter how many years go by it will never be like Morocco or any European nation because it’s made up of people from so many diverse cultures-something that I think makes North America special and unique.

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset{ The most basic of rooms inside the Bahia Palace. The room belonging to the favourite wife had stained glass windows, intricately carved panels and painted ceilings, and the door leading to the harem’s quarters. Most associate the word “harem” with the word “concubine”, but the harem was actually more of a group of women being educated as entertainers in storytelling, dancing, and music. }


Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset{ Inside the courtyard of Sinagoga Lazama }

IMG_7148{ A set of numbered squares with symbols inside them were commonly seen painted on walls around the cities.  Each political candidate gets a square in which to post a poster or symbol. Since a large portion of the country is illiterate, a simple symbol is often used as a way for people to identify a candidate on a voting ballot. }

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset{ Goats in a tree!! With the increased demand for Argan oil, farmers are able to afford more goats, but there isn’t much food for the goats to eat. So… they have taken to climbing the Argan trees to eat the berries. }

IMG_7162{ Morocco was filled with beautifully coloured and tiled doorways. Commonly the door knocker was a hand of Fatima to ward off the evil eye. Some of the older doors to people’s homes had two knockers placed on different parts of the door: one for family, and one for everyone else. The woman of the house would be able to know by the sound of the knock whether she needed to cover her head with a hijab or not.  }

IMG_7163{ Entrance to a public bath house. My mom and I treated ourselves to a traditional hammam and massage at Les Bains de Marrakech on our second to last day.  While it was mostly relaxing, my mom was caught by surprise when she got a bucket of cold water thrown at her. I watched it happening in slow motion but couldn’t quite get the words out fast enough to warn her. }

IMG_7168{ We stayed at Riad Slawi and everything was wonderful. Anyone that knows my family even just a little bit knows that we’re obsessed with cooking and eating good food, so it shouldn’t come as a shock then that one of the biggest highlights of our trip was dinner every night. We’ve been fortunate to have experienced many different cultures and their traditional cuisines over our travels and I think we’d both agree that Moroccan food is right at the top of the list for the best we’ve ever had. My mom and I felt almost guilty that we got to eat all of this amazing food and that the rest of our family and friends we’re missing out halfway across the world. We bought a lot of spices, began looking up recipes before we even left, and started the process of preserving lemons a few days after arriving home.  I’m sure any Moroccan food we cook won’t come close to what we ate there, but we’ll be trying our absolute hardest to replicate it as best as we can. }

IMG_7194{ The tiniest kitten in a little beam of sunlight in front of the door to our riad. There are lots of stray cats in Morocco but barely any stray dogs.  There’s some story about a woman who caged a cat and let it die, so now cats are very well treated in Morocco. }

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{ The foothills of the Atlas Mountains. It was such a different landscape from anything I’ve ever seen and so stunningly beautiful. }

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