Running / Travel

The Off-Season 

It’s been a while! Ok, a long while since I last blogged. The beginning of November to be exact. A lot has happened since then, but at the same time, seemingly nothing at all. I’ve travelled a fair amount, run a lot of miles, and spent as much time with my family and friends as I could. As far back as elementary school, this has basically been my life in a nutshell. It’s a pretty good life.

Many things have changed in my training since my elementary school/high school/university days, but the biggest difference I’ve found in the past year and a half has been the emphasis on recovery. The physical recovery between workouts and on easy days, yes, but more significantly, the mental break and reset that occurs during the off-season. This past summer, before I raced in Morocco, before I ran my PB in Belgium, and before I even left St. Moritz, I sat down with my coach and went over the general plan for the fall and the rest of the year. After my season was over I would take a good long break and then slowly build my mileage back up. Pretty typical, I know. During that conversation I remember two things well: first, how excited I was for the next year before my current season was even over, and second, my coach’s emphasis on coming off the break feeling really motivated to train. I’ve taken breaks before, so I thought I knew what that meant. I was wrong. The type of motivation he was talking about is not the feeling you get when you haven’t run for a few days because of a little injury, nor is it the urge to run when you’re two days into your post-season break. It’s not the type of motivation you feel when you’ve had a bad race and throw yourself into training, and it’s not the feeling of coming back after a long break due to injury. I’ve experienced all of these. Some of them multiple times. I’m sure most runners have.

It wasn’t until I was partway through my second fall training camp that I really understood. I was in the middle of a mile repeat workout where the loop was almost all uphill. It was raining, I was running by myself, and I was so sore from weights two days prior that it had taken me the better half of my three mile warm up to run even semi-normally. It was exhausting, and I was loving every second of it. In the middle of the workout I found myself looking forward to getting to Arizona to do this hill/tempo/surge session/death workout my training group does when we’re down there. My mind flashed back to that conversation in St. Moritz and suddenly I knew exactly what my coach had been talking about. It felt like a light bulb had been switched on in my head, completely involuntarily. I wasn’t searching for this motivation, and even if I had been, I don’t think I could have found it no matter how hard I tried. In a sport where so much is in our control, both mentally and physically, it was an unexpected moment that helped remind me of why I love running as much as I do.

This past fall wasn’t the first time I’ve taken some time off from running by choice, but it was the first time I’ve really realized how important it is to do so. Last fall, when I essentially went over a month without running, I knew it was going to be hard to get back to the type of fitness I was used to. Although I plan to never return to that point of physical and mental exhaustion where I need that much of a break, I know now that I needed every single one of those off days last year. It was hard to get back into shape, but even with a late start to my fall base building, and a few bumps in my training in the spring, I surpassed the level of fitness I’d ever been at before. Most of the credit goes to my coach and his ability to bring me to that level, but I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have had the breakthrough I did this past summer without that down time in the fall.

This fall I took a more reasonable three weeks off and then built up my mileage really slowly. There were days where I felt like running and forced myself not to, and there were days where I didn’t feel like running and forced myself to get out the door. I had little to no structure in my training aside from the two two-week camps in Victoria. All that unstructured time allowed me to do things that I can’t really do during the rest of the year. Mainly – spending time with my family.

From the beginning of January to mid-September I get to see my family and friends very little. For someone who has always been a big homebody, I find this is the hardest part of being a full time athlete. I was accustomed to seeing my family multiple times during the year all through university, going home for most of the holidays, and spending a few months at home each summer. Now I’m lucky if I see them for a combined total of nine days in that nine-month period. So when it comes to the fall, I jam as much into those few months as I can. Here’s a little glimpse of what I got up to for anyone who wants to see!

Calgary:

I spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving weekend in Calgary with my mom and some of my extended family on her side. I did arts and crafts with my little cousins, ran with my aunt, watched an older cousin play hockey, cooked delicious food and just enjoyed being able to spend so much time with family.

{ Prepping Thanksgiving Dinner }

{ Playing dress up before dinner. }

 

{ Running in the park with my cousins (and Indy). Starting them young! Gray told my mom that her new running shoes made her fast and made her brave. 🙂 }

{ Walking to school. G is starting a new fashion trend: Minnie Mouse socks over leggings. You saw it here first. }

{ Pre-run activation exercises with Addy. }

{ Post Game with Kelly – I love watching my cousins play hockey. }

  { Jessica’s reunited! Post-run we met Mark McConnell, an old club teammate of mine, and university teammate of Jess’s at a coffee shop. He didn’t know I was coming so it was a fun surprise and nice to catch up after not seeing one another for almost a decade. }

{ Walks in the off-leash dog park. }

{ An impromptu mid-afternoon nap. }

{ This little goofball loves wearing glasses. }

 { A walk down to the Bow River before dinner. }

Tahoe:

I hadn’t physically seen my brother since January, so I took a few days to go visit him where he goes to school in Incline Village, Nevada. The school is two blocks from the lake front, which is unbelievably stunning. Pictures don’t do it justice. I’m just a little jealous that this is where he lives for the better part of nine months a year. We went on hikes, drank good coffee and ate amazing food, and I had zombie nightmares from watching “The Walking Dead.”

{ Sunset view from the Stateline Fire Lookout }

 { I wouldn’t take back the time I spent at Nebraska, but I could easily see myself having taken the Environmental Science Program at Sierra Nevada. It sounds AMAZING. }

{ Emerald Bay }

{Lake views on a Sunday drive. }

{ The little brother.  Pre eggs benny and giant buttermilk pancakes at Jax. }

{ Monkey Rock }

{ I want to live here. }

Vancouver:

I spent a few days in Vancouver before heading to Victoria for my second training camp.  I met my youngest cousin for the first time, ran around Jericho Beach Park cheering on friends at XC nationals, and extended my trip one more day so I could have more time with my girl, Channy G! (It’s never enough!)

  { Can’t get enough of this face! }

{ Capilano River Regional Park }

Victoria:

Ok, I lied. I want to live in Victoria. I’m in love with the sense of community and support for local businesses, the mild weather, mountain views, and the smell of the ocean. If I can’t live here, then training here for a large portion of the year is the next best thing.

{ Vancouver Island – my favourite view from a plane. }

{ VO2 Max Testing. First 3/4 – piece of cake. Last 1/4 – DEATH. }

{ Walks with Santo along Dallas Road. }

{ I have a new appreciation for Seinfeld and loved this card. NO SOUP FOR YOU! }

Home:

A little while ago I had to answer a question on where my favourite place in Canada was. My answer was really specific, but for those who know me well, not at all surprising. My parent’s house on a Friday night is the place I love to be most in the world, never mind just in Canada. For years we’ve hosted Friday night dinners that are sometimes fancy and elaborate, and other times laid back and casual. The food is always good, and the kitchen is always filled with my family and our good friends. Christmas holidays are the best because these types of get togethers happen all the time. Brunch on a Wednesday morning, a Sunday afternoon eggnog party, late night baking any day of the week.

Outside of gatherings involving food, I spent most of my time running on the treadmill. It wasn’t so much about not running in the cold, but more about getting in quality. When the ground is covered in snow and its -20C, quality is pretty much impossible. If there’s one downside to being home for Christmas, this is it.

{ I could run this stretch of Wascana Lake with my eyes closed. }

{ It’s a tough call between which season is prettiest in my neighbourhood. The summer when the trees make fully shaded canopies over the streets, the fall when the leaves change colour, or the winter when the bare branches are coated in hoar frost. }

{ Too much time on the dreadmill… }

{ And not nearly enough cross-country skiing. }

    { The list. Yes, that is 32lbs of butter… }

 {  Lemon tarts in the making. }

If I tried to write about my time in Scottsdale, Victoria, Flagstaff, and the two races I’ve run so far, this blog post would go on forever. I’ll save that for next time, and leave you with a few articles I’ve read in the past few weeks that have really stuck with me.

The importance of waiting to specialize in sport – NY Times

10 Words Every Girl Should Learn – Alternet

On having a moral bucket list and focusing on “eulogy virtues” – NY Times

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4 thoughts on “The Off-Season 

  1. Hi! I run for ASU (I’m pretty sure I raced you in the steeple at one of our meets this year:) ) anyways, do you have any encouragement/advice about coming back from burnout or overtraining? I’ve really been struggling :/

    • Hi Anna! Yes, the 2k steeple?! I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with burnout. I would love to chat to see if I could help. If you want to send me an email (my address is in the contact page) or find me on Facebook that would probably be easiest way! Looking forward to talking to you!

  2. Loved reading this post!! 🙂 really inspiring! Might I add you are an incredible photographer! What type of camera do you use? 🙂 haha!

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