This year has been a year of experiences. This weekend I capped off my spring season in Calgary at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships, my first national championships for running since cross country in 2008. In the past several weeks, I’ve taken in some races and venues that I’ll never forget, and most importantly I have been able to share this thing that I do with some family members that have never been able to see me race. It’s been incredibly rewarding to have such amazing support from all corners of the country, and I believe these last few months have made me a stronger athlete and person. So let’s recap!
WOODY’S RV WORLD MARATHON WEEKEND (10KM) – 2ND PLACE (36:01)
A week after the Bare Bones Duathlon, I wanted to do a 10km tune-up before Calgary. While I may have benefited from using the weekend for one last long run or tempo workout, but I had heard great things about the Woody’s RV World Marathon and wanted to take part. It didn’t hurt that there was a pretty decent prize purse on the line for all of the races. It was…an experience. Kieran McDonald showed up to race his hometown race, so I knew the win was likely going up the road as he put 4 minutes into me in St. Albert. I was coming into this one pretty hot at the end of my last big half marathon block, so my focus was to put in a solid effort, and maybe put up a decent time. However, after a solid pace for 4k those plans were scuttled by Mother Nature. A family of geese decided that it would be a good time to cross the course just as I was about to run by. As some of you know, I am TERRIFIED of geese. Petrified. I did what anyone would do in my situation…I stopped and waited for them to cross or someone to come to my rescue! Eventually a lead bike came back to scare them away, but not before Mama Goose and I had the stand-off of the century. I ended up cruising in for 2nd in 36:01, though my moving time was slightly closer to my half marathon pace (~34:55). At least I’ll have a story now!
CANADIAN HALF MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS – 21ST PLACE (1:15:51)
After Red Deer, it was half marathon time. The excitement slowly built while my training slowly tapered off, due to Calgary representing my spring focus. Though my #1 goal this season is a good performance at the National Duathlon Championships, it has helped to have a goal to strive towards this spring, with a bit of rest to look forward to afterwards. I love championship racing, and the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Calgary fit the bill perfectly as something that I could get revved up for. It would also serve a dual purpose of providing an excuse for building up a ton of volume base in the spring before scaling back and sharpening up my speed during the summer. It would also give me a chance to spend some time with my youngest cousins in Calgary, and as I would later find out, to race the event with my Uncle!
I took the weekend off of work so that we would go down Saturday morning to the expo and pick up my race kit. I also squeezed in a quick race prep workout to scout out the start/finish of the race. With the Stampede Grounds getting a retro-fit for the weekend to create finish line right in front of the grandstand, it promised to be a heck of a finish! Race morning dawned EARLY due to the 6:30am start time. Like ungodly early. Good thing I slept a lot Friday night and Saturday afternoon, because 3:30am comes ridiculously fast. I am thankful for the early start though, because we woke up to perfect conditions (slightly overcast, 9 degrees, and calm wind conditions). The morning cool was a perfect calm before the storm, as I got in a good warm-up and was in a great headspace leading into the race. The race itself was a tale of two halfs: the first 7 miles, and the final 10k to the finish.
During the first half, I was feeling GREAT. Maybe it was adrenaline, or maybe I was just experiencing a perfect collision of peak physical fitness and a great headspace. After an initial surge the first 400m, I settled into a solid pace just under 5:40/mile (~1:14:30 pace). I was passed by the lead women’s pack (who started a bit more sensibly than I did) at about 5k, but from there I had a steady stream of casualties of the hot early pace up the road to drive me forwards. I also had the eventual bronze medalist in the women’s race, old university friend Dayna Pidhoresky, to push me and provide some motivation to keep the pace high for much of the race. I reached the 10km split in 35:24, and focused on the second half of the race.
It was around this point that I noticed two things: (1) that my legs were starting to rebel against me and (2) that I was struggling to get as much oxygen to my muscles as I am accustomed to. I expected the first, but glossed over the second in my preparations. I was still on my pace goals, but I knew that I was probably short a long run or two that would have made my preparations perfect. So I knew that the second half would be tough. What I didn’t account for was the altitude. Hamilton and Windsor are at sea level, while Edmonton is at ~2000′ and Calgary is at ~3500′. I’m still trying to adapt to training in a location higher than sea level, and racing in Calgary with the extra altitude and accompanying dry air was a bit of a struggle. I had wondered why results and records in Calgary were typically a tad slower than I knew those runners were capable of, and this is likely the answer. Browsing the results afterwards confirmed that it was indeed a tough day.
The stretch from 7 to 10 miles was a physical struggle. I just kept telling myself to keep the pace as steady as I could until 10 miles, and then anyone can suffer through the last 5km. I just put my eyes on whoever was up the road and focused on reeling them in, before moving on to the next athlete. Just before 10 miles, I turned to Dayna and huffed out “Let’s just get to 10 miles, and then there’s only 5k left”, which I think we both needed to hear at that point of the race! My 10 mile split was 56:54, a full 23 seconds faster than my time in St. Albert, but I was in a world of hurt. All I could do was grit my teeth and focus on getting to the line as fast as I could. That last 5km were a blur as I poured everything I had into it, and before I knew it I was re-entering Stampede Park and the last stretch. There were still two half marathoners just ahead of me as I entered the last corner, so I launched my final sprint and crossed the line in 1:15:51…a new PB which would be good for 21st overall at the National Championships!
I unexpectedly made a few appearances on the Athletics Canada live stream of the race, which you can view here. You can see me in all my glory at 10:55, and from 32:55 to 34:25. I also uploaded this race to Strava, so that you can check out my progress mile-by-mile.
While this result did come short of my goals, my philosophy is that you can never complain about a PB. I cam here to run fast, and I ran faster than I have ever done before in my life. Sounds like mission accomplished to me! Reflecting back on my spring season, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have a few days off to reflect and recover and this post is already getting super long, so expect a reflection post with my thoughts in the next week or two. I would like to thank all of my amazing supporters from all corners of the country, including my amazing team at Ignition Fitness, Skechers Performance Canada, and 3SIXTY5 Cycling. But right now I want to talk about an issue that popped up this weekend that is very important to me:
Honestly, ^^this^^ is likely the only time you’ll ever hear me use this phrase, which often comes out when a male is beaten by a female in a race…because I hate it. I think it’s something that we as endurance athletes need to exorcise from our vernacular, because it creates a stigma where there really shouldn’t be one. The thing I love about this sport is that it is 100% black and white. Regardless of our differences, all runners can be boiled down and compared via a series of numbers, and those numbers are simple and pure. Let’s look at some personal bests:
- Runner A – 31:46 (10,000m)/31:49 (10km)/1:10:47 (HM)/2:28:00 (Marathon)
- Runner B – 31:41 (10,000m)/31:59 (10km)/1:11:20 (HM)/2:35:16 (Marathon)
- Runner C – 15:11 (5km)/31:35 (10km)/1:16:24 (HM)
Based on those numbers on paper, how would you expect those three runners to finish in a half marathon? If you guessed the order they are listed, then you would probably be right. And here’s the kicker…on Sunday you would have been: Runner A is Lanni Marchant, Runner B is Natasha Wodak, and Runner C is myself. I finished 21st overall behind these two ladies in Calgary…and there is no reason to believe anything else would have happened. In fact, without having Dayna (another incredibly talented athlete who is also faster than me on most days) to push me for most of the race, I likely would have finished even further behind. The fact of the matter is that I finished 21st at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships, behind 20 truly speedy Canadians. Nothing more, nothing less. So let’s remove this phrase and the attached stigma from our language, and appreciate these strong, talented and occasionally world class ladies for what they are: some seriously fast runners who work just as hard as you do, and who may beat you on one day or another. And there is not an ounce in shame in that :).
Until next time…keep Du’ing it!