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June 4, 2014 - Taper Time

33 weeks pregnant

I have less than a month to go until the baby's June 27 due date and I'm definitely feeling ready. I think mentally, since I've hit nine months, I feel like I should be crossing the finish line.

In a way, I've been preparing for this particular weekend each year for the last five or so because it's the same weekend of our national track and field championships. So, not unlike any other year, it's taper time. But, this time I'm tapering for something a bit different

Similar to tapering for a race, I'm trying to take care of all the important details to eliminate any last-minute stress. I'm eating well, resting lots and tapering my own exercise and work. I've also started to mentally prepare for the focus I'll need to endure for up to 24 hours of labour...Read more...

April 30, 2014 - Addicted to Biophilia

Hiking on Vancouver Island

Yesterday morning I ran 20 minutes at 6:30 a.m. at 6:00 per km pace, nearly 90 seconds slower than my pre-pregnancy easy run pace, and enjoyed every second of it. As I ran down my street on this beautiful spring day, I was drenched in morning sunrise and greeted by melodic birds. I hopped on the Elk Lake forest trail, following it along the rushing stream that lead me to the lake and main trail, which I had all to myself that morning. I heard, saw and smelled nature, exactly the senses and feelings that bring me outside each day, no matter what the weather, to run, no matter what the pace: I'm addicted to biophilia.

Biophilia is the love of life or living systems. It's the deep affiliation humans have with nature. Studies of biophilia say that experience in or with nature can have positive benefits on health and well-being. Some suggest that contact with nature can help reduce stress and improve mental restoration and help people positively cope with attention deficit (1)...Read more...

March 26, 2014 - Introducing my new coach: Ricky Bobby

Testing: training and pregnancy

More and more people seem to be hiring personal coaches recently to get more serious about their training, while I on the other hand have gone in the opposite direction. I've always preferred to have a coach to rely on for a training program and advice, but being pregnant has changed that for the time being (I'm due June 27). Dave Scott-Thomas and my husband Trent have been the coaches that I've relied on for the last nine years and will continue to post-baby. However, for my pregnancy they've stepped back to let me make my own decisions and go on "feel."

But, I realize I'm not really the one making the calls, instead it's my new coach who we've nicknamed "Ricky Bobby" for now. Trent decided since we haven't settled on a baby name that he'd start naming him after Will Farrell's character in Talladega Nights. This WILL NOT be his name, but for now it works.

So, "Ricky Bobby" has been writing my training program. Some weeks he's implied it might be my last week of running because my pelvis and planter have flared up due to his growing need to dominate the space in my belly. I've gained about 20 lb. so far and I feel like it's all in my belly! However, "Ricky Bobby" hasn't stopped me from running just yet, he just feels better if I mix it up with some pool running and elliptical. Some days he lets me run up to one hour and is quite happy to bob along, sometimes even allowing me to add in some fartlek and hills, as long as I keep my heart rate below my personal anaerobic threshold (180 bpm). Other days, however, he is pretty adamant that I only run 20 or 30 minutes at a time and walk up steep hills (and shows this by kicking and moving around)...Read more

Feb 20, 2014 - Half Way

Me + baby bump cheering on Team Canada in Sochi

I’m just over halfway through pregnancy, at 5 months. So far things have been pretty smooth, despite lots of new experiences for me. In some ways being an athlete has been advantageous because I think I’m pretty aware of my body and good at listening to it. However, in other ways I’ve had to shut off my athlete brain and try to be more flexible and “laissez faire” with training.

Trent and I took a trip to Chile over Christmas to speak at a sports conference, do a hiking trip in Patagonia and travel around a bit. Since I’ve been teaching full-time and volunteer coaching, things have been pretty busy and I was looking forward to relaxing and getting in a bit of training camp. I was able to do both (pics below of my "weight training" without a weight room), but definitely had to account for how travel, jet lag and heat would effect the pregnant me. As an athlete, I’m always cognizant of those things, but this time around took more days off and pull back when I was tired much more.

Trent and I infront of Lake Pehoe in Patigonia, Chile.

I’ve learned that pulling back is the best thing I can do when I’m feeling off. As athletes we’re so used to pushing through discomfort and fatigue that it’s hard to turn that mentality off, but being pregnant and having another human being to worry about has helped my more rational side come take over. In retrospect, I probably could have used that more in the past! Read more...

Dec 29, 2013 - News for 2014

I have to apologize for how long it’s been since I’ve blogged, but I do have a decent reason. Although training has been going well and I’ve gotten into a good routine this fall with covering the basics of base/endurance training, short speed/power training and strength through weights and plyometrics, I’ve definitely had to take a step back as I’ve been really tired, getting slower each week and gaining weight on a fairly regular basis. If I haven’t given enough clues, I’ll get to the point, I’m pregnant!

With Rio two years away, Trent and I decided this year would be a good year to take off racing to have our first child and everything has worked out as much as “planned” can go. My due date is at the end of June and we couldn’t be happier.

So far, pregnancy has treated me well, not that I have any comparison, but so I’ve been told by other woman. I’m 14 weeks in and haven’t had any sickness and major problems. I found out I was a month pregnant a few days after running the ½ marathon at the beginning of October. Since then I’ve maintained an average of about 35-40 miles of running a week with 2 workouts a week: one tempo and short 15” hill sprints and one fartlek followed by 100m strides or diagonals. I’ve also been able to continue lifting weights and doing plyometrics 1 or 2 times a week.

My experience thus far is that running pregnant feels kind of like being at altitude: I’m running at a slower pace to keep in my normal heart rate zones (150-160b/m for an easy run and no higher than 180b/m for workouts), I need more rest between intervals in tempos and fartleks, it takes longer to recover, I’m more tired and I’m more hungry for carbs.

The best advice I’ve been given for training, which holds true for any runner, is to listen to my body and error on the side of caution. I’ve had a couple instances early on where I felt dizzy during a tempo run and that was all the indication I needed to tell me I was overdoing it. Lesson learned.

Although I won’t be racing until at least the fall of 2014, I do plan and hope to continue training as far along as I feel is safe and healthy for my body and the baby. Everyone is different so I’ve been trying to pick the brains of athletes who have gone through pregnancy. For this reason, I will try to give as many blog updates as I can for anyone interested in my experience.

Nov. 3, 2013 - New York City Marathon

Marathon Fuel Tracking - NYC Expo

No, I did not do the NYC Marathon, although I was there to soak up the atmosphere and it was truely inspiring. Trent and I were there in conjunction with a PowerBar sports nutrition conference where we both had the opportunity to participate in presentations and Q&A panels. Trent also spoke at the expo so for those of you who requested it, the fuel tracking form he showed is linked above. This is to help people come up with a hydration and fueling plan leading into a marathon by tracking sweat rates and fluid and carbohydrate tolerance/intake.

Although I really did enjoy my half marathon experience in Victoria a few weeks ago, I'm happy to transition back to mid-distance-focused training. I'm still doing base training, which includes easy mileage, tempos, and fartleks, I have started training back in the weight room and as a result haven't been able to lift my arms above my head for a week. At least I know I'm getting training effect! I've also added short 15" power hills before one tempo a week to build power and speed, as well as doing a few speed intervals or diagonals after my fartlek.

I'll continue this type of training through the rest of the fall and just focus on training without any competitions so I can get a good block in.

Oct. 18, 2013 - Victoria 1/2 marathon
2013 Goodlife Victoria Half Marathon

Well I survived my first ½ marathon race and actually had a blast doing it. I was lucky a lot of our top Canadian women weren't running this year's Goodlife Fitness Victoria half marathon since they were getting ready for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in Toronto next weekend. So, I actually won in 76:10, which was in the range of my goal time (post-race interview).

I learned so much racing such a different event than my specialty. It was such a different feeling from running mid-distance races on the track. I did find it a lot easier than the 1500m from an aerobic standpoint, although maybe I didn’t run it hard enough as I was a bit cautious knowing I hadn’t done that many specific workouts leading in and I didn’t know what to expect. It was strange to never really feel cardiovascular distress. However, what was totally new to me, something I wasn’t quite prepared for, was the feeling that my legs might give out in the last 5km. Pounding the pavement for that distance (I know, marathoners are thinking – suck it up and try a marathon before you talk!) was not something I’m accustomed to since we do most of our long runs and tempos on soft trails. I did do 2 workouts on pavement with about an hour of quality a few weeks leading in, but in the future I would do more and increase the minutes of quality closer to my race time.

Another thing that was a completely new experience was taking PowerBar gels on the fly and trying to wash it down with even a sip of water from those little cups. I am fortunate to be married to someone who dedicates his life to knowing proper fueling protocols (yes he calls them protocols!). So I just did exactly what Trent suggested: take 1 PowerBar gel a few minutes before the race (my choice was Café Latte with 25mg of caffeine), take another around half way. (It turns out this takes some skill as you have to make sure you’ve sucked back the entire gel before the water station, then try to actually grab a shot glass-sized cup of water from the volunteer while running at 3:35/km pace. But the hardest part is actually getting even a sip of water into your mouth, while the rest seemingly ends up all over the front of you. Thanks to Bruce Deacon who showed me a new method after the race of squeezing the cup to make a spout and then pouring it into your mouth on an angle from the side – will have to try that next time.)

Then I actually took a 3rd gel about 5km from the finish, but this time I didn’t actually ingest any, I just put it in my mouth, swished it around, and spit it out (be prepared that this is not a very clean experience and you will notice your gel ending up all over your race number). So why did I do this? Because there’s new research showing that carbohydrate mouth washing tricks the brain and body into perking up and gives you an energized feeling, which significantly increases performance -- which you definitely need in the last 5km. I could have ingested the gel, but I didn’t actually need the fuel and there is a risk of stomach upset that late in a race. We practiced this in training and I really did notice a difference in how I felt – placebo or not, it seems to work.

Anyway, the whole experience was very positive. Physically and mentally I pushed my body into new territory, racing and focusing for much longer than 4mins. I’d love to run another ½ in the future, but I am still not ready to let go of my goals of running faster on the track so I’ll still focus on that in the near future.

Now, I’m off to Toronto to support lots of friends and my training partner Marilyn in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing some records go down and some pbs get broken! Good luck everyone!

 

Oct. 1, 2013 - Change of pace

Tour de France finishline in Paris
Hiking in St. Moritz, Switzerland
Long run at 8500ft on Tahoe Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe

Time has flown by since the summer. I enjoyed doing some fun down time activities such as travelling, camping, hiking, kayaking, and some fun trail running. I’ve slowly built back up my training and have taken a bit of a different approach to my base training this year.

I ran a 10km road race about a month ago and was happy with my fitness so decided to explore some longer workouts to keep my training partner Marilyn Arsenault, who is training for a marathon, company. Since I’m pretty goal-oriented, I felt I needed to have something to shoot for so I decided I’d aim to run the half marathon in Victoria (Oct. 13) instead of the shorter 8km race that I've done in the past.

Most people who hear I, a 1500m runner, am running a half marathon, think I’m crazy (and I did confirm with Dave and Trent that I'm not!). However, I think a lot of people don’t realize that many middle distance runners train anywhere from 100-160km a week most weeks of the year, aside from racing season. I tend to average around 120km/week and do long runs between 20-25km. So it isn’t that much of a stretch to run a ½ marathon, but it does take some different training to “race” a half; where the specificity needs to happen is the pacing over longer workouts. It’s been a good challenge for me to have to hold back my pace at the beginning of workouts so I can last often double the time in minutes of hard running that I’m used to. I’ve been lucky to have Marilyn and Trent helping me out.

Last week I did my longest workout ever, which was 4 x 15min tempo with 2 mins jogging between, getting faster each repetition (we started at about marathon pace and got 5-7secs per km faster each rep). I was really surprised that even though I was tired on the 2nd interval, I I was able to do double the work at a pace only slightly slower than if I were to run 30 mins of tempo because it wasn’t as intense as I’m used to. It’s amazing in the longer stuff how much of a difference relaxing by a couple seconds a km can make. Of course this can be significant in your overall time, but I expected I would have to slow down a lot from my 10km pace to hang on for a half, but in training at least, it doesn’t seem so. I guess I’ll find out in a couple of weeks!

Either way, I’m learning a lot about my body and my mind when doing this longer stuff, which will definitely help me when racing back down in distance on the track. I also really believe in constantly changing the stimulus of training so your body doesn’t get used to one thing.

So for anyone who’s around Victoria Oct. 13, come out and run or cheer us all on at the Goodlife Victoria (Half) Marathon.

July 24, 2013 - Euro Tour: Ins and outs of racing on the circuit

After a good 1500m in Vancouver and an ok 800m in Victoria, I headed over to Europe in hopes of getting in some races and putting my hard training and fitness to work. Unfortunately, because I hadn’t run very fast this season, I wasn’t able to get confirmed in any races prior to departure. But from experience I know that it’s a lot easier to convince meet directors to let you in races once you’re already in Europe because they are more likely to pay your flight within Europe than from Canada. Obviously with fast times, meet directors are willing to do a lot more to get you to their meets, but when you’re on the bubble or going to meets with a smaller budget, your chances are better if you can afford to get yourself over to Europe first.

So I got over to Europe, camped out with friends in Switzerland, and between my manager and myself, we got to work on contacting meet directors. It’s not that my manager Kris didn’t have me on every meet list in Europe possible; it’s just that so many people are either dropping out or begging to get in that unless you’re one of the very top athletes, you have to constantly follow up with meets to remind them you’re ready to go. I don’t think many people realize outside (and maybe even connected to) the sport realize that it can literally come down to the last hours before you know for sure you’re in. For example, last year at the Lausanne Diamond League after the Olympics, I really wanted to run the 800m there, but a lot of the Olympic 800m finalists were slated to run so I was on the wait list. Both my manager and I were in Lausanne already so when a couple girls cancelled we were ready. Kris called me the day before to let me know I was in. I ran a pb the next day.

Athletes in different sports are always surprised to hear how difficult it can be for track athletes to get into races because for many sports it’s based on world rankings or points. Besides major championships where we qualify based on time and place at nationals, the rest of our competitive opportunities can be based on how fast you’ve run in your life or that season (which I think is the most fair way to do it, but then again life isn’t always fair!), but it can also be based on who your sponsor is and if that corresponds to the meet’s sponsor, it can be based on which country you’re from and if they want to have a well rounded representation at the meet (or sometimes have certain obligations to have 50% European representation), or it can be based on who your manager is and how his or her other athletes are racing, which can be used as leverage to get other athletes into meets. Moral of the story is, you have to take the race opportunities when you get them, especially when you get into a fast meet, because you never know if you’ll have another good chance to run fast…or if you run fast that can help you get into another meet.

So on this European tour, my first stop was Madrid World Challenge. I’m pretty sure what helped get me into this race at the last minute was that I was already in Europe and the fact that I paced another Spanish meet with the same meet director two years ago and helped 2 Spanish girls qualify for World Championships. He wouldn’t let myself and Malindi Elmore in this particular race because he had to have 50% Europeans and thus it was full, but he instead asked us to pace and would return the favour someday, which he did for me this year.  Madrid is always a fun meet, but can be tough to run fast because it’s at a bit of altitude and often very hot and dry. Our race ended up being pretty tactical with a blanket finish for the top 9, but it was great to get in a race and be competitive. I was 8th, less than a second from 2nd.

For the next race, I also got in at last minute because someone dropped out due to an injury. So I was off to the Morton Games in Dublin for a mile. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this meet because I’d never heard of it before, but I was excited to race at Santry Stadium, which is famous for hosting some great athletes and races. It turned out to be a great meet, with an amazing fast Mondo track. It was another tactical race through half way, but I took the lead from there and tried to make it honest because there were bonuses for running under certain times. I nearly held on for the win, but just got beat by American Brie Felnagle who I was hoping might be tired from running a pb of 4:05 just a few days later, but I guess not! We both ran 4:30 off a 2:20 half way split so not a bad finish.

My final race was at another famous stadium at Iffley Road track in Oxford, UK, now named Roger Bannister stadium since he run the first sub-4min mile there in 1954. Unfortunately we had very windy conditions and I had a little bad luck nearly getting knocked off the track in the last 100m so I ran a very disappointing 2:05. I am now on the wait list and waiting to hear if I get into the London Diamond League. If not, that will be the end of my season and I’ll take some time off to be a normal person and enjoy some time with friends and family.

July 4, 2013 - Finally a positive step forward!

Harry Jerome 2013 - 4:07.51 for the win.

After a disappointing 4th at the Canadian Championships, I was pretty down and struggled to find motivation and reset my goal. Since my main focus had been on competing at the World Championships in Moscow, and that opportunity was eliminated when I didn’t place top-3 at nationals, I had to reset my focus. Luckily my natural competitive instincts took over when it came time to race on Monday at the Harry Jerome Classic.

We had a great competitive field of international women and a rabbit setting the pace around 4:05. I tried not to worry about splits and just race, which is when I run best. I was a bit cautious for most of the race because I didn’t quite know what to expect from myself since this was the first 1500m of the season where I was healthy (besides nationals, which were tactical). I ended up feeling really strong and more like myself. So I kicked for home with 200m to go and got the win in 4:07.51. Not crazy fast, but much better than my previous races this season and I definitely crossed the line feeling like I had more in me. See race here.

So I’m really excited to get into so more fast 1500m and see what I can do. My workouts have been great, but it’s nice to finally have some progress in racing and confirm that I definitely wasn’t myself this spring.

Next up I’m racing an 800m tomorrow night on home turf at the Victoria Track Classic, which will be shown in Flotrack. I’m then heading to Europe to run in a few yet to be confirmed races – that’s how it goes!

June 28, 2013 - Now what?

After taking a few days to process the fact that I won’t be competing in Moscow at the World Champs, I’m ready to move forward. Obviously it was an extremely disappointing national championship for me, being the first time in 9 years that I didn’t reach the podium (I came 4th by 0.10 of a second in the 1500m), and I could interpret that as a decline in my performance. However, since I’ve been at this for over a decade, I know when I’m fit and ready to run fast.

Since getting over my lung infection, my workouts in the last few weeks have showed I’m in pb shape. Unfortunately, the way championship races go, you don’t always get to test that fitness out with tactical races, which is how this one went down. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t’ want to discredit my competitors who ran well and deserved to get on the podium – they showed up and performed better than I did on the day and that’s what it’s all about. This was one of the most competitive Canadian Championships I’ve raced in since about 2004 when we had 3 women who had run 4:02 or faster, so getting top-3 was not an easy task. Nevertheless, I felt I was prepared to do, but unfortunately it was not my day.

Disappointment is part of the sport and I’ve always said I’ve learned more from my losses than I have from my wins, which have defined me as an athlete and made me stronger. If I look at the US athletes, so many with A standard or even Olympic or world medalists did not qualify for worlds so I can’t complain too much or dwell on what’s not to be. Instead, I intend to take advantage of all the hard training I’ve put in and the fittest that has brought me and go out and race my butt off to run some fast times. And when it comes time for Moscow, you can bet I’ll be watching my competitors closely so I’ll be ready for them in the future. Good luck ladies!

I do want to say a special thanks to Trent, Dave, Brenda, Ron, Chris and my Speed River teammates whose support in Moncton was huge and very much appreciated! I'm also so proud of my teammates Chris Winter and Alex Genest who will be competing in Moscow in the men's steeplechase!

June 16, 2013 - It takes a village…

We’ve all heard the cliché, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, I’ve definitely felt like I’ve had a village of people behind me the last few months. Track might be an individual sport when it comes to competition, but it definitely is anything but, when it comes to orchestrating training, recovery, health and life around the athlete.

In my last post I talked about some of the breathing problems I’ve struggled with due to what we thought were allergies messing with my asthma, which happens to me every spring. But thanks to the diligence of my sports physician, Dr. McCluskey, who has had me in for several check ups in the last couple months, my most recent blood test showed my body was fighting an infection. This didn’t come up on the blood test just 5 weeks earlier, but it was evident all the breathing issues I’d been dealing with were partially due to a lung infection. He quickly got me on a five-day infection and within a few days I could breath again! Phew!

Trent, Dave and Dr. McCluskey were in contact daily and we decided I wouldn’t race in Portland last weekend and instead focus on training and recovering before nationals 2 weeks later. I’m so glad we made that decision because we were able to monitor my fatigue levels and base training around how I was feeling without the stress of a race and travel. I’ve had some of the best workouts of my life in the last week, again thanks to more help from “my team” - Trent, Jim Finalyson and Kris Swanson who made for some fantastic pace makers.

It’s also nice over the last month to be in 2 places where I have so much support: Guelph and Victoria – where everyone from coaches, teammates, doctors, physios and chiros have all made me feel like a huge priority in helping me be the best athlete I can. So, although it seems we’re cutting it close with nationals next weekend, I feel like I’m hitting my stride at exactly the right time and so excited to see what I can do in the coming days and weeks.

It will not be an easy feat as 3 women in the 1500m already have world standards and only the top-3 at nationals will be eligible to go to the world championships. My first step is I must be in that top-3, and my second challenge will be to go and run a world standard (A=4:05.50, B=4:09.00). I feel I’m capable of all of the above, but now I just need to go out and make it happen!

So I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has supported me and made me a priority over the last few months, you’ve all done your job and beyond, now I need to go and do mine.

June 1, 2013 - Making progress

After a pretty rough May, I'm happy to report I'm making progress. My allergies and asthma followed me to Oxy where I was on pace for a personal best and totally bit it the last 200m. It felt like someone was strangling me and I was breathing through a straw. However, in a strange way, the fact that I was not 100%, but still could run 1300m at pb pace was encouraging for me because it showed me I'm in good shape and should be ready to run fast once allergy season clears! I ended up running a disappointing 4:10 - very frustrating given the race was won in 4:04 and weather conditions were perfect for a fast time.

My race in New York was a bit better in that my breathing wasn't feeling as restricted, which was likely due to the fact that it was pouring rain and 10C. However, this combined with strong winds made for a slow and tactical race and so my time didn't improve from Oxy.

I went on to run an 800m in Guelph at the first Speed River Inferno meet on our new track. Although the meet was delayed due to thunderstorms, which brough cool and wet temperatures, we were able to run the meet and I ran a solo 2:04.1, feeling good. It was awesome to run in front of a "home" crowd (Guelph is definitely like my 2nd home) and have the support of Speed River, New Balance, my family and the amazing Guelph community.

It was also great to spend a couple weeks training with my coach Dave and Speed River teammates. I feel stronger and fitter than when I arrived and my allergy/asthma symptoms have started to subside.

I'm now on my way back home to the west coast and I'm going to give another 1500m a go next weekend at the Portland Track Festival.

 

May 12, 2013 - Chipping Away

1500m opener at Payton Jordan

After a great 800m to start off the season, I followed that up with a good 1500m opener at the Payton Jordan Invitation running 4:09.02. That was just off the World Championship “B” standard, which would have been nice to run, but I’m not too concerned as my focus is on running the “A” standard (4:05.50) and feel I’m on track to do that before July 29. This 1500m time is about as fast or a bit faster than I opened last year in my first mile of the season.

My next race in San Diego last weekend was unfortunately not quite as good a the week before. Over the last few years I’ve had increasing struggles with allergies, which tends to affect my asthma and breathing at certain times of the year or even particular days. With the help of some great doctors, I’ve been able to keep things under control and reduce major breathing episodes, but for some reason last Sunday in San Diego was a bad day for me in that I got ½ way through the mile and was having major breathing issues. I ended up a disappointing 6th place in 4:33, definitely not showing my current fitness. I’ve been feeling progressively better since the race so I’m looking forward to getting back out on the track to race next weekend.

I’m heading to L.A. for another 1500m on Friday (Oxy), which looks like a great field of US and Canadian athletes going for fast times. Following Oxy I’ll be running another 1500m on May 25 at the NYC Diamond League, which is the highest non-championship level of races so should be another great opportunity to run fast!

I’m also looking forward to spending a couple weeks in Guelph training with my Speed River teammates and running my first race on the new world-class track in Guelph, the Speed River Inferno on May 28. It should be a good few weeks!

 

April 25, 2013 - Good training camp, good start to the season

Myself, Matt Liano and Marilyn Arsenault in Sedona

My last week and a half in Flagstaff went really well – and by that I don’t mean everything came easy – but I had a really hard training block and I was happy with the workouts I did and how my body responded. My weeks consisted of about 65-70 miles (100-110km) with a longer tempo or fartlek session, a race specific track workout, a short end weight/plyometric and speed session (60-80m repeats) and a split workout day of fartlek in the morning and shorter intervals (ie. 4x300m) on the track in the afternoon.

In the 3 weeks I was in Flag, I did 2 race specific sessions at lower altitude (4500ft) in Sedona to get ready for upcoming races and those workouts showed me I am at least at the same fitness level as last year, if not a bit better. So after a few weeks of that, I was pretty spent and didn’t know what to expect going straight into a race.

Red Rock HS Track in Sedona, AZ

 

From Flag I went down to L.A. to race Mt. Sac Relays, 2 days after coming down from altitude. Although everyone is different and there are lots of different theories about timing of racing after coming down from altitude, I find the best for me is to race within 2 day of returning to sea level, or after at least 7 days.  For anything between 2-7 days, I tend to have more variability in my workouts and how I feel so I try not to race within that time period. Research says altitude effects (from increased red blood cells) can last up to 4 weeks so it is always good to have a race at least in that period. However, I find there are lots of good training effects that last beyond this 4 week period, meaning the tough training at altitude can really help spring board fitness and help your training and racing far beyond a month.

Anyway, I raced an 800m at Mt. Sac (video) and wasn't feeling great leading in, but it was a stellar field of 7 Olympians and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity so I just focused on being competitive. I ended up running 2:02.39 for 4th place in a very even race going out in a conservative 60.8. This is the fastest opener I've ever run, which is a very encouraging start to the season!

Next stop for me is a 1500m at Payton Jordan in Stanford, CA and a mile in San Diego a week later.

 

April 8, 2013 - Get off Facebook and go for a run already!

I’ve now been in Flagstaff for 12 days and things are going quite well. I feel like I’m adapting better than in previous camps so I’m excited to see how I come out of it. As usual in the first week of altitude, we’ve just been focusing on aerobic or tempo-type work and short speed and weight sessions. The real test will be this Wednesday when I do my first 1500m-specific track session.

So while in training camp mode, much more of my day consist of resting and recovering than training, which makes me think it should be called a recovery camp except that we are still training really hard, it’s just concentrated into about 3-5hrs in the day. So besides the 9-10hrs of sleep a night and 1hr naps – what happens the rest of the day? Some cooking, reading, socializing with training partners, and of course, the beloved social media. It’s amazing how much time you can waste looking at friends’ pictures on Facebook and learning in 140 characters or less what the rest of the world (or world of your following) has been up to. Although I remember life without Facebook and Twitter (even without email – gasp!), I have definitely become comfortable and used to life within this social media space and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. I have to say, when I lived abroad in Switzerland for 5 years it did help me to feel more connected to home, but I do think it can be damaging in large doses. And apparently there’s research to prove it…

As I mentioned, I also read lots of books while at training/recovery camp and I just finished one about the study of happiness called Thrive by Dan Buettner. I found it quite fascinating the way Buettner documents his global travels and research in places where happiness experts claim they have found the happiest people. He interviews people in these places and delves into exactly what lifestyle components make these people happy. Although I learned tons of interesting facts and stats related to this, I just want to highlight a few.

According to Buettner, the happiest people:

  • spend time in nature each day
  • watch less than an hour of TV a day
  • spend between 30-60mins a day on social media (the most unhappy people spend 4hrs or more)
  • socialize with people at least 6 hrs a day (I assume this is face-to-face)

There are many more trends I’m leaving out but these ones stuck out for me. Moral of the story is: get off facebook, grab a few friends and go for a run outside in nature – you’ll be happier for it!

 

March 26, 2013 - Back to Flag

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster over the last month since the end of the indoor season, but I’m on the upswing. I took a week off after Millrose Games to regenerate both physically and mentally before ramping up training for the outdoor season. I got back to a regular routine of training pretty quickly after that and was feeling good, but then got hit with a chest cold that lingered for a couple of weeks and resulted in some missed training. I don’t get sick very often, nor do I take unscheduled off days from training very often, so I was frustrated to have illness break up the rhythm I had just got back into.  At first I tried to run through it, thinking it was allergies and would pass, but when I found myself feeling like I was breathing through a straw and fatigued even on easy runs, with little motivation to train, that was a good indication that my body needed a rest. Lesson learned – advice to all runners: listen to your body!

I started feeling better late last week, which was a relief because I was scheduled to leave for a three week altitude training camp in Flagstaff today and it’s very dumb to go to altitude sick because you just won’t recover. I would have delayed the camp if I wasn't getting better. But I was able to get back into some fartlek over the weekend and had a really good track session yesterday that showed me I’m back on track and good to go. A good indication for me was that I woke up this morning feeling a bit sore, but not completely drained, and still motivated to get out for a run.

So I’m looking forward to the next three weeks in Flag. I’m meeting up with my training partner from Victoria, Marilyn Arsenault, who went a week ahead, and we’re staying with a college friend Alicia Shay (nee Craig) who I’m excited to see back training and racing after some illness and injury. We’ll have a good little training group and I hope to meet up with some other athletes while there, which is never difficult considering Flagstaff is the mecca for pre-season altitude training on this side of the world.

From Flag I’ll get right into racing with my first stop at Mt. Sac Relays April 19/20.

 

Feb. 22, 2013 - New PowerBar Commercial

A few weeks ago I went down to Boulder, Colorado with my sponsor PowerBar to shoot a really cool commercial on PB Harvest Energy bars. It was a ton of fun and a beautiful setting. You can check it out here: PB Commercial.

Millrose Games Report: video

In nearly a decade of professional running, until last weekend, I had never run at the historic Millrose Games. So it was a great honour to be invited. Ray Flynn, David Monti and the NYRR did a fantastic job organizing this world-class event.

Although the meet has historically been held at Madison Square Gardens on a 150m track, it changed venues last year to the New Balance Armory Track and Field Center. This was quite a controversial change, especially for fans who loved the unique and historical site of the MSG, which was host for 104 years. Since I did have the MSG experience, I have to say racing at the Armory was one of the aspects that drew me to the meet. I think many current athletes share my feelings. I guess we’re spoiled in this day and age of track and field with all the amazing facilities we race in, so we prefer and are used to running on nice, fast tracks. But I definitely can appreciate and respect the historic elements of certain venues – I would love to race at Iffly Road one day (site of Bannister’s first sub-4min mile).

In the end, athletes and fans definitely got what they came for at this year’s Millrose Games. I don’t know the exact stats, but several senior and junior American and Canadian records went down. This included Sheila Reid in the women’s mile (4:27.02) and Cam Levins in the men’s two mile (8:14.69). Congrats to them both for fantastic races.

In terms of my own race, I have a bit of mixed feelings. I ran a pb of 4:30.50 for regulation size indoor track (I have run a bit faster on a 300m indoor track but it doesn’t count in the rules because it’s oversized), but I was hoping to run closer to that Canadian record time and finish higher up in the field.

We had a great field of women with impressive credentials and a rabbit to go 1000m so I was hoping for a good race. However, experience told me that in an early season US race, people might be reluctant to go with the rabbit so I was prepared to do that because I didn’t want another race like Boston where no one follows the rabbit, we all trip over each other until the last 200m because the pace is ridiculously slow, and then we sprint for the line and all run disappointing final times that don’t really indicate the shape we’re in.

Since I don’t race a lot indoors, my goal for Millrose was to run fast and test my fitness to get ready for the outdoors season. So, as predicted, no one went with the rabbit in the first lap so I got to the front and led the race. Having just run a 3km pb a few weeks ago, I knew I was strong and hoped that even if I led I’d be strong enough to kick in the end. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have it and ended up 6th overall. Thus, even with a pb, I was disappointed with the results, but I’m still content that I put myself out there and tested my fitness – I’m confident when the important races come this summer, I’ll be ready to step it up as I did last year. That puts an end to my indoor season, but it fueled my fire and I’m looking forward to a great outdoor season.

 

Feb. 4, 2013 - Love-Hate Relationship Among Distance Runners
New Balance Boston Grand Prix women's mile finish - Hilary 2nd inside.

Distance runners definitely have an odd competitive relationship, and I was reminded of that this weekend in Boston at the New Balance Grand Prix. It’s always fun to get back into the big international meets and see friends/competitors you haven’t seen in awhile, as well as meet new ones that are coming onto the scene. Usually it goes something like this: athletes congregate over meals at the hotel that the race organizes and you catch up on how everyone has been, as well as reminisce about the season before. Most of the distance runners sit at the same tables, as they tend to be good friends. This doesn’t seem to be the case as much for sprinters who appear to hang out with people in their training group more than competitors, but of course there are several different personalities and it does depend on the person. Anyway, distance runners are typically social and friendly with each other because we tend to train with competitors at training camps and bond during grueling workouts or races. For example, I will often warm up with a few girls in my race, but I would say the mood drastically changes as the race gets closer. Once the warm up jog is over, everyone puts their "game faces" on, and by the time we step on the track we want to rip each other apart – and we often do! I came out of the mile this past weekend with a few good gauges on my shins and had to throw a few elbows myself to protect my space – to me it didn’t matter which competitor my elbows were going to – you gotta do what you gotta do to stay competitive and try to win races. Although not quite at the same level, my mile race in Boston felt like being at the Olympics again in that it was very tactical and positioning was important. I think I put myself in a good place throughout the race, with my goal of being in position to take the win. It came down to the final 200m where 5 of us ended up crossing the line with in 0.7 seconds. I ended up 4th and 0.5 seconds out of 1st (photo of finish above). I felt good and kicked as hard as I could, but just didn’t have that extra gear I have when I’m peaked and sharp in the summer. I’m hoping my next race at the Millrose Games will be a steady, fast pace, which I think I’m more suited for at this point in the season. And thus, as quickly as the mood changes after the warm up jog before the race, it similarly does once the race is over. It’s amazing the empathetic bonds that can be made from the stress, nervousness, excitement, and euphoric sense that come with racing.  The same girls I’m so eager to take down in the race, I’m cooling down with and chatting about meeting up at training camps in the future. I guess that’s the beauty of sport and leaving it all out on the track.

 

Jan. 23, 2013 - New PB to start off 2013!

My indoor season got underway a little earlier this year on Jan. 12. Since we don't have an indoor track in Victoria, I wanted to use this first race as a high quality workout so I doubled for the first time probably since university. Mainly for scheduling reasons (3hrs apart), I ran the 800m and 3000m. The goal for both events was to just race, which was very refreshing after spending most of the 2012 outdoor season focused on running the Olympic standard.

The 800m got off to a slow start, which is to be expected so early in the season when no one really knows where they're at. We went through 400m in 67 secs - not even my 1500m pace! I took the lead in the last 400m and ran 2:08.11 so about 60 sec last lap, which I was happy with. It actually took more out of me than I expected as I was pretty tired warming up for the 3km a couple hours later. I guess I got the stimulus I was looking for in a workout!

We had a rabbit for the 3km because one of America’s top distance runners (she would prove to be the top in this race) was going for the US high school record of 9:17. The pace was set for 9:15 so I figured since my pb was 9:09 I could handle this pace and kick off the back end. That’s pretty much how the race went, with the pace winding down each lap after going through the mile on 9:15 pace. It was a good mental battle for me because I started to hurt with about 1500m go to (a little daunting considering that’s my race distance!) but didn’t hear splits so I told myself I better be able to run at least 9:15. So it was great when I crossed the line in 9:05.76, a new pb by 4 secs from 2009. (watch race here)

Mary Cain ended up shocking us all by winning in 9:01, breaking the American record by 15secs – she’ll be one to watch in the future. I also have to mention that my training partner Marilyn Arsenault ran a Canadian Masters Record of 9:43 (a very fast time for a 44 year old, but doesn't surprise me considering what she can do in training). Unfortunately, none of these records actually count on this track because it’s over 200m, but still worth mentioning. The track is 307m, but I don’t think it’s much different than running on a 200m banked track – that’s just my opinion though!

I am really happy I did the double because I feel I got a way better workout than I would have in training, and a good reference point for where I’m at starting the year. Sometimes with long training blocks of high mileage, intense workouts and big training loads, workouts can be mediocre or even up and down. I really find it beneficial to pull my training load back a bit and enter into the competitive racing environment, even when I am not in my peak shape for the overall year. I think athletes can still benefit a great deal from a non-peaking race season to increase fitness and to keep a competitive edge.

Next up I’m headed back to Seattle this weekend to run an 800m and then on to the New Balance Boston Grand Prix on Feb 2 and Millrose Games on Feb 16 – running the mile in both.

 

 

2012 Posts

Dec. 26, 2012 - Happy Boxing Day (at least for Canadians, Kiwis, Aussies and Brits)
2012 London Olympic semi-final - me missing the final by .10 of a second: this is the picture I keep on my desktop leading into the 2013 season for motivation when weather is bad or training in tough and it reminds me just how bad I want it. Looking for a New Year's resolution - I suggest finding an image to motivate you!

It's hard to believe 2012 is almost over after so much anticipation leading in with London Olympics. The year has flown by, but I’ve tried to stop and take it in as much as I can.  I feel truly blessed for the experiences and accomplishments I’ve had and look forward to building on them in 2013.

I have to acknowledge that 2012 will remain one of the most memorable years of my life because of competing in the Olympics, something I’ve dreamed about since I was 10.

I’ve had some interesting post-Olympic conversations with many people expecting that after the Olympics athletes will either lock in for the next Olympics or retire from sport. I have seen a lot of athletes do both – some psyched after London and ready to refocus for another quad and some not satisfied with their performance in London and want redemption in Rio (2016), or others who have decided to move on from sport because they’ve lived out their goals and dreams and/or some for more difficult reason such as injuries, funding cuts, or sponsorship contracts not being renewed.

Unfortunately, these difficulties are part of the sport and it’s tough to see fellow athletes – many with extremely impressive accolades – get cut from sponsors or quit the sport unsatisfied. This is when I feel very fortunate to be going into my 8th year with Team New Balance and Athletics Canada carding, and 6th year with PowerBar Team Elite.  I also think, funding aside, having a strong support system and being surrounded by people who help foster my goals is key to success and longevity in the sport. So thanks to everyone for their continued support! I am also happy to be in a sport where we have something to focus on each year instead of only every 4 years – this year being World Championships in Moscow in August.

I’m really looking forward to the 2013 season. Even though I started training about a month behind last year, I’ve had a really good block of training this fall and winter and in similar territory leading into the indoor season. We decided to change things up a bit this fall and added in some new weight training and plyometrics, which we don’t usually start until December. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new strength will help –  it has been a learning curve to do Olympic lifts in the weight room and more explosive jump training (which kicked my butt at the start), but I have enjoyed pushing myself into new territory while still maintaining good mileage and workouts. I even ran a new 5km personal best on the road in a time trial a couple weeks ago – I ran 16:19, which isn’t spectacular on the world scale, but it shows I’m making ground in an area that I have traditionally been weak in.

So now on to some indoor racing, which will start off in Seattle on Jan 12 and 26 with a coupe 800s and then on to mile races in Boston at the New Balance Grand Prix on Feb. 2 and in New York for Millrose Games on Feb. 16.

Before then I'm going to ring in the New Year with a traditional V02 max workout with Speed River on Dec 31st and then try my best to make it to midnight!

Happy New Year!

Nov. 11, 2012 - Back into routine

We’ll I survived my two week training camp in Guelph! It took some pain and suffering, considering I wouldn’t have made their university XC team when I showed up, but by the end I think I would have snuck on. Given they just won both men’s and women’s Canadian University Championships, I would have stiff competition! Either way, it was great to train with the group and remind my body what hard work felt like after a good break from that type of training. I’m now back to full training of between 60-70 miles/ week with 3 running works (tempo, fartlek or long repeats on the trails) and weights/plyometrics twice a week. We’re tweaking my weights and plyos program to phase in some weeks where the focus is on the speed and strength side of things and some weeks were we pull back in the weight room or with plyos and emphasize harder running workouts. Each year we try to change things a little bit to get that added stimulus so the body doesn’t adapt too much to one thing and stop improving.

In an effort to add some content to my blog, I’m going to add in some favourites of the week….

Favourites of the week

Workout:

We do a workout called the Foxy Frog that I’ve referenced before but may not have explained. First, the name is a bit random and came about from someone on the Guelph Gryphon team who suggested a fun name for a workout that jumps around between paces, making it pretty challenging – evidently the name stuck and has been used for the last decade.

The workout usually comes at a time in the season when we’ve been doing tempo workouts for at least a few weeks and Dave wants to shake up the pace and simulate race situations. So here’s an example, instead of doing 3 x 8min tempo with 2 min rest between we do an 8min piece like this: 2min tempo+4min of (4x 30sec surge/30sec tempo)+2min tempo. This makes a tempo workout significantly more difficult, moving beyond anaerobic threshold during the “foxy frog” and then trying to regain control back into the tempo. Thus, we often start with doing only 1 tempo piece with foxy frog and eventually working to all of them with surges, and then making the pieces longer such as 2 x 12min (4’tempo+4’foxy frog+4’tempo).

Recipe:

I tweeted this one and got requests for the full recipe. I simply took a banana muffin recipe and added in some Teff flour, which is an ancient grain used in Ethiopia for their traditional injera bread. It’s high in dietary fiber and iron, as well as a good source of protein. Some people call it Ethiopian millet because of its similarities to millet or quinoa in its grain form. I buy it already ground into flour from a health food store.

Banana Teff Muffins
(adapted from ReBar -Modern Food cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup teff flour
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt or sour cream
  • ¾ cup of walnuts and chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

  • Pre heat oven to 350F. Butter muffin tins. Combine first 5 dry ingredients.
  • Cream butter and sugars, beat in eggs and mash in bananas and yogurt.
  • Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and mix thoroughly. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.
  • Pour batter in muffin cups. Bake for 20mins or until nothing sticks to toothpick when poked in middle of muffin.

Website:

Girls on the Run (GOTR)http://www.girlsontherun.org/ or http://girlsontherun.ca/

Girls on the Run is a program I learned about originally from my sponsor New Balance who has been one of their major sponsors for several years. This is a program aimed to help girls in grades 3-8, through a curriculum-based self-esteem/self confidence program implemented via a running training program. The goal is to help give young girls the skills, strategies and confidence to deal with things like peer pressure, bullying and negative media images. While girls are developing and practicing these skills they also work toward a common goal of training for a 5km race at the end of the program, which means each session includes a run or workout amidst the discussions.

I’ve always had amazing female role models in my life who have inspired me to do great things and be a better person, which is why I approached GOTR about getting involved. As an athlete I often have to make selfish decisions to do what’s best for my performance, but sometimes it’s nice to balance this out by giving back and hopefully acting as a positive role model for young girls. And as a teacher, the age group GOTR focuses on really appealed to me because this is a crucial development stage where self-esteem and self-confidence can really change a child’s life, goals and long-term success. So having a program that does this through run is perfect!

I definitely recommend checking out their website and considering getting involved if this is something that interested you. GOTR groups exist all over the US and right now, in various parts of Ontario (with plans to expand to other provinces over the next couple years) and they are always looking for volunteer coaches.

Oct. 14, 2012 - Post-Olympic Fun
Napping in the hammock.

After a very intense year of full-on training, travel and racing, it was nice to come home and relax...but I have to admit I don't do "relaxing" well. I know how important rest and recovery are so I tried to keep busy in non-running ways such as biking, hiking and kayaking, as well as some other fun stuff.

First stop, "Olympic Survivor Chef." My friend and fellow Olympian Dave Calder (4-Time Olympic Rower, Beijing Silver Medalist) is Mr. Victoria when it comes to community involvement and invited me to participate is a really cool event at a local organic farm, Madrona Farms, who sponsor him with yummy garden gems. So the way the event worked is local chefs were paired with Olympians as relay partners to run through an obstacle course that included jumping over compost piles, running through mud pits, crawling under irrigation pipes, canoeing to an island to fetch a condiment bag and zip lining into the garden to forage for food. Chef and athlete would then go to cooking stations and prepare a meal that was auctioned off for charity.

We had 13 chefs from the best restaurants in Victoria all cooking up meals to die for – I was in heaven because I love to cook and I got to experience life as a chef for an afternoon. I was paired up with Jamie Cummins from Relish Victoria, an eclectic Victoria café popular for breakfast and lunch. We had tons of fun and I now have a long list of restaurants to visit in Victoria with amazing chefs.
Team "Relish"
Potato sac race (me front right)
Mud pit
Boat race to find ingredient bags
Corn foraging
Foraging w/ potatoes in shirt
Jamie cooking
Final dish: sable fish and kale rolled potatoes and zuchinni

Event #2 was the Goodlife Victoria Marathon – no I did not run a marathon, but I did bike around the course and watch our crazy ultra runner friend Adam Campbell run the entire thing in a 3 piece suit in Guinness Record time of 2:35 – he had soaked through his attire within the first 10km, but looked fresh as ever crossing the finish line.

Adam finishing strong

Trent and I were also asked to speak at the event, which was a lot of fun. Trent of course gave all the runners some good fueling advice, while I was on an athlete panel with 4-Time Olympic Triathlete, Gold and Silver Medalist Simon Whitfield and Olympic Track Cycling Bronze Medalist Tara Whitten – I was definitely in a humbled place! Nonetheless, it was a great experience to be interviewed with Simon and Tara about our Olympic experiences because we’re all in such different sports

The night before the marathon I also had the honour of doing the motivational address to some of the athletes competing. Although I’ve never run a marathon and couldn’t quite empathize with them when it came to the distance, but I do think everyone who’s run an important race goes through the same nervousness and doubts – worrying whether they’ve done enough training for the event or what will happen if they don’t feel good in the race. My advice to them was to stay positive and confident by reminding themselves of all the good workouts they’ve had. I also told them my story about qualifying for the Olympics this year after having food poisoning. The reason I thought this story was applicable is because I used to think I had to feel perfect leading into a race and during a race to run a personal best, but this experience taught me that if you can stay positive and confident, your mind can overtake your body. I’ll never forget that experience and will forever use it as a motivator when I’m feeling sorry for myself in training or racing.

Goodlife Victoria Marathon Olympic Athlete panel interview with Steve King.
Steve King, Tara Whitten, Simon Whitfield, Laura Ockenden, myself

And speaking of which, I started slowly building back to run over the last two weeks and although it feels great emotionally to get out on the trails, it physically feels horrible! As I said at the beginning of this blog, I know rest and recovery are so crucial to recoup from the previous season and reload for the upcoming one, but I HATE being out of shape! I can feel for all those people just coming into running and all I can say from experience is, “IT WILL GET EASIER.” It usually takes me about a month to feel like things are clicking again.

However, I’m going to get somewhat “thrown to the wolves” next week when I head to Guelph for a training stint with the Speed River crew and University of Guelph, most of who are in the middle of x-country season. But I’m really excited to get back with the team and start getting fit again. While I’m there, I’m going to be participating in an event called, “Lessons from London” in which several of the Speed River elite athletes will be speaking about their experiences this year, as well as what worked and some of their challenges. Anyone who’s interested in going can sign up here. From there I'm headed to my favourite US city and one of my favourite events, the NYC Marathon to do some work with PowerBar and watch a few friends race. That will definitely spark me into motivation mode for the indoor race season!

Sept. 1, 2012 - And unforgettable season coming to a close
Lausanne DL 800m, trailing Cdn rec holder Diane Cummins and Olympic Champ Savinova.

I'm finally on my way home after 10 weeks on the road. I left two weeks before Canadian Olympic Trial, with some of the biggest races of my life ahead of me: one that would decide if my dream of becoming an Olympian would come true with a top-3 placing against Canada's best 1500m women, and two others that made my dream a reality by finally competing as an Olympian for Canada in London.

It's been a long road since missing the 2008 Beijing Olympics and there were moments when I wasn't sure I would make it, but racing at the London Games made the journey well worth it. Even as I walked to the Olympic Stadium I had nervous doubts that I was going to be able to perform, but that's where all the physical and mental preparation took over and I was able to rise to the occasion and truly enjoy the experience. Once on the track racing, I was completely in the zone and confident in my ability because I knew I had the best team to help me prepare. I feel we left no stone unturned. As I said in my last blog, I was disappointed not to make the final, but that was truly because I felt I had the ability to be in it – Dave, Trent and I had planned and prepared for this. But I am proud of my performance and feel this experience in London will help prepare me for what it will take to make the final at next year’s world championships in Moscow.

Trent and I hanging out at our fav park in Lausanne.

I have thoroughly enjoyed racing this year and it has really got me excited and motivated to see what I can do next year. After London I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to race in 3 more Diamond League races in Lausanne, Birmingham and Zurich in which I ran an 800m pb of 2:01.22 in Lausanne, placed 3rd in a tactical race in Birmingham and mixed it up with the best in the world at the Diamond League final in Zurich. After running near pb’s twice at the Olympics, I was really focused on running a significant 1500m pb in Zurich, but unfortunately the weather was cold and rainy, which made for a tactical race.  That ended my track season for the year and I’m quite excited to get home and chill out.

From the start line in Zurich.

I have one more race on the calendar in a few weeks, which I just could not pass up because I love the event so much – the 5th Avenue Mile. New York City is my favourite US city and running a mile race straight down 5th Ave is an unbelievable way to experience it and cap of a great season.  After that I’ll take some down time and then back on the horse and ramp up for next year!

Aug. 15, 2012 - My Olympic experience
I had the best seat in the house for the Closings Ceremonies, on the shoulders of men's 8+ rower Conlin McCabe.
Trent and I in Olympic Stadium with the torch.

It's been an absolutely amazing ride over the last couple weeks. I can only attempt to describe my Olympic experience and all the emotions that went along with it. It was an emotional roller coaster of every kind:

nervousness and excitement on my first day of competition as I waited to warm up and finally hit me that I was about to actually compete at the Olympics, a goal I’ve held for most of my life;

pride when I walked into the Olympic stadium for the first time with Canada plastered across my chest and a smile painted across my face;

relief and confidence after I automatically qualified for the semi-finals from the heats running my 3rd fast time ever, and feeling I had prepared perfectly for the event;

Waiting for results after semi.

frustration during the semi when I couldn’t seem to find an opening to get out of and get closer to the front;

disappointment when I saw the 2nd semi was run much faster than mine and I would not make it to the final, despite running my 2nd fastest time ever;

jealousy of those who were in the 2nd heat who nearly all ran pb’s to get to the final, wishing I had been in their heat, but understanding it’s the luck of the draw and part of racing;

happiness when watching my other Canadian teammates compete well, especially seeing Derek Drouin win a very deserving bronze in the men’s high jump and watching his coach Joel Skinner, a long-time Sarnia friend, beam with pride when realizing all he and Derek’s hard work had paid off;

Cam Levins, Simon Whitfield, Mohammed Ahmed, Hilary before Closings

desolation when our 4x100m men’s relay team learned they would not take home a bronze because of disqualification;

overwhelming gratitude for my great team around me in London such as my husband Trent, Dave and the rest of the Scott-Thomas clan, all my parents, my brother, sister and brother in-laws, Margie Grimes, Anne Taylor, Canadian teammates, and Athletics Canada support staff and coaches, not to mention all the amazing support I received via emails, Twitter and Facebook. And of course to New Balance for my sweet personalize spikes!

With my brother, parents and Margie at New Balance suite in London.

Thank you so much to everyone who sent me messages of support over the last month, I really did feel an amazing amount of support and motivation from that. I learned a lot about myself this year in terms of mental and physical strengths and weaknesses. There’s always things I’ll be looking to improve on for next season, but I am really happy with my consistency and mental toughness this season. I had some frustrating and panicky moments this year with not getting in fast enough races to get the Olympic standard and then being less than ideal with food poisoning when I did. However, with a lot of help from the team around me, I’ve learned how to stay calm, focused and confident.

I am hoping I get a chance to take advantage of some of those skills a couple more times with some more races this season. My first stop will be Lausanne Diamond League with an 800m and then hopefully a 1500m in either Birmingham or Zurich.

Trent's blog from London Olympics

July 26, 2012 - Ready to roll!

My first stop in the Olympic Village in London.

It's now 11 days out from my first round at the Olympics and I'm getting anxious to get out their and race. My training camp up at altitude in St. Moritz went as good as I could have hoped - I ran some of the best workouts of my life and adjusted to altitude quite smoothly. In my last week there I mimicked the rounds at the Olympics by doing 3 hard workouts in 5 days, as I'll have in London, with my last workout being an 800m race in England on Saturday.

Although I was tired and the workouts were really challenging, I was able to nail each one and then pb in the 800m race in 2:02.01 (should have leaned at the line!), good for the win. This gives me so much confidene leading into London because now I know that I'll be ready for 3 rounds and, even though I know I'll be tired leading into the semi and final, I'm still capable of uping my game and running personal best performances.

Solihul 800m - picture courtesy of BMC.

After my race on Saturday I went into London and got settled in the Olympic Village for a couple days. Athletics Canada wanted us to go in early to go through the long accreditation process and get fitted for our Team Canada gear. It was awesome to be in the village and get excited about the Olympics, but I'm glad I didn't stay for a whole 2 weeks before I compete because it's a bit too much stimulous and hype. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally excited for the experience, but I think it's important to save my energy for racing.

So now I'm in Germany with the rest of the track and field team at a training camp until Aug. 2. We have a whole training venue to ourselves and it's quiet and calm. It feels really nice to go out for training and feel normal and just do what I need to do to get ready for my race in 11 days. The atmosphere here is consistent with what I had in St. Moritz and I really feel I'll be energized and ready to go when I get to London!

Thanks to everyone for their messages of support and encouragment on my site, Facebook and Twitter. Sorry I can respond to everyone but I feel your positive vibes and appreciate the support!

July 10, 2012 - Training high

St. Moritz track.

It's been back to business since Olympic Trials. From Calgary I headed straight over to Europe to start preparing for London. My first stop was a 1500m race in Sollentuna, Sweden (results).

I have to admit that this was a really tough race for me emotionally, but I knew I needed to get a hard 1500m effort in before the Olympics and this was the only race I had a definite "yes" from (still waiting to see if I get into London Diamond League this Friday). The reason I say it was emotionally tough was not really because I was going in jet lagged, nor was it because I didn't think I was fit enough, it was because I struggled to find a reason for this race to matter after the last two 1500m races I ran were 1)a pb and Olympic qualifying time, 2) Olympic Trials and final Olympic qualification.

But after toiling in my brain during my warm-up, I gave my head a shake and reminded myself I had a job to do, which was to prepare for London and stay competitively sharp - it wasn't going to do anything for my confidence or focus for me to let this race go. So, my race plan was to go for the win (no need to push the pace, God knows I've worried about that enough this year!) and not take the lead until the final straight.

Since many of the girls in the race were going for their last shot at getting the Olympic A standard, many were eager and the pushing was fierce. The rabbit did an excellent job for the first 400m (64"), but slowed considerably in the next few laps (68-69") and then stopped dead in the middle of lane 1 with 1 lap to go (her job was done!), causing a bit of a crash and a lot of foul language, but luckily no one went down. Australian Zoe Buckman led the charge on the final lap with me following close behind and was able to kick by her in the last 80m, taking the win in 4:09.14.

Lake St. Moritz - glacial fed and great for ice baths!
Another nice view outside our window.

In the end, I'm really glad I did this race because it not only got me ready for the tactics that I'll likely face in London, but it also got me excited and focused to race again after a very stressful nationals.

Now I'm in St. Moritz, Switzerland at 1800m (6000ft), one of my favourite places in the world to train because of the amazing trails and calm setting, getting a couple weeks of altitude in before joining the rest of the Canadian team at the prep camp in Germany. So far training has been fantastic as this is the quickest I've ever felt adapted to altitude. I will likely do one more race before the Olympics, but that is TBD.

July 1, 2012 - On my way to London!

Photo by Rob Massay

I celebrated Canada Day in the best way possible today, by officially being named to the Canadian Olympic Team for London. I've been dreaming of saying that for as long as I've been running. What a journey it has been since I started and what a journey it will continue to be. Obviously when I ran my first race at 10 years old and decided I wanted to go to the Olympics, I had no idea what a feat that would entail. However, this makes every excruciating workout, depressing defeat, sacrificed social event, or absence from family and friends, very much worth it. Of course, with all of those difficult things comes so many amazing experiences and achievements and I think this will top them all. I'm so excited to be joining 3 of my Speed River teammates in London: Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis in the marathon and Alex Genest in the steeple chase.

As the title of my last blog said, top 3 at Olympic Trials was what I needed to do to secure my spot in London. It was one of the most stressful races of my career because I couldn't take any risks or make any mistakes, which hasn't exactly been my racing style as of late. This year I've taken lots of risks in racing by going out hard or taking early leads to go for fast times, but in those races if I didn't win or even come top 3, it didn't matter because the time was what I was after. Olympic Trials was the opposite where the time was irrelevant and the place was everything.

Olympic Trials 1500m Final

So, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I crossed the finish line in 2nd place. Yes, it would have been really nice to be Canadian Champion, but Malindi (Elmore) had a blistering kick to pass Nicole Sifuentes and I in the final straight and deserved the win. I'm actually way more bummed Malindi didn't get the right race at the right time to qualify for London and won't be joining Nicole and I in London. But as I've realized in many of the past seasons, you definitely need the right race opportunity in order to run world class times. I am so grateful that I had the chance to race Rome this year (thanks to my manager Kris!) and I'm even more confident now that I can run faster and compete well in London.

Dave, myself and Speed Riverian Alex Genest

I want to thank all the people who have supported me through this journey, including my loyal sponsor New Balance. Thanks to everyone for the amazing messages of encouragement and congratulations, and thanks to my family, Trent and Dave and the amazing Speed River support crew who helped me get through this weekend and will continue to get me ready for London. Onward we go, now it's time to refocus and get back to training prep for the Olympics.

My parents and I at official Olympic Team Canada announcement

 

 

 

See Olympics Trials race here.

 

 

 

June 26, 2012 - One more step: Olympic trials top-3

"Lift off to London" Victoria athlete send-off

The excitment of having run the Olympic A standard has now subsided as I have to get back to business this week and make sure I follow through with the rest of Canada's qualifying criteria.

The Canadian Olympic Trials for track and field is the last of all Canadian Olympic teams to go through selection and starts tomorrow in Calgary. The last step for me at the trials is to finish top-3 in the women's 1500m in order to be selected for London. This will not be an easy feat as the depth in my event is very strong and we potentionally have 4 or 5 women that have been running well enough this year to put them in contention for a medal.

So, realistically this race is one of the most important of my athletic career thus far and I'm ready to execute. I know I'll be have bring my A game and be ready to battle it out so I'm prepared to do that and get the job done. The last few weeks have been great and I feel like I have a world of support behind me so I thank everyone for all the messages of encouragement.

Before I left Victoria the sports centre where I train and Trent works (Canadian Sports Centre Pacific) had a great send-off for all their potential Olympic athletes. It was awesome to hear the stories and motivation of athletes in other sports and definitely got me fired up to secure my spot on the team. CSCP has been a great new source of support for me this year and I really have to give a shout out to all the staff that I've worked with this year who have really helped me prepare for the season not only physically, but mentally as well because the general attitude is of performance excellence and of being ready to compete in London so being in that environment with other athlete, many of whom are Olympic medalists already, as well as our support staff, has helped me stay focused this year.

Speed River in Canmore: Ross Proudfoot, Hilary and Andrew Nixon

Now I'm into the last couple days of prep in Canmore with some of my Speed River teammates, our physiotherapist Brenda Scott-Thomas and manager Chris Moulton who have both been great at getting us ready to go. We'll head to Calgary tomorrow to meet the rest of our teammates and support staff. Dave has really gone all out this year and is bringing a full staff of paramedical support with us to Calgary so I feel the most prepared I've ever been and excited for the challenge that I have ahead of me Thursday and Friday.

CBC sports will be covering the event, but I'm not sure if everything will be included. I race the 1500m heats Thurs at 6pm MT and the final Fri at 2:25pm MT. Here are the details for CBC coverage:

Online at www.cbcsports.ca Friday 5:30-7:30pm MT and live broadcast Sat 2-4pm MT.

June 15, 2012 - Back on the track

rowers
My cheering crew: Canadian Olympic rowers.

It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride since racing in Rome. It actually took me a few days to recover from being sick and racing, plus flying back home to Victoria. I was feeling back to normal energy-wise after about 4 days so was able to get back into training.

However, I think my body must have took a bit of a hit because a few days after getting into training my achilles started acting up. I'm lucky to have access to amazing physiotherapists and chiropractors in Victoria and Vancouver who helped get me back on track pretty quickly. I played it safe and decided not to race the 800m I had planned in Vancouver at Harry Jerome. I also stayed away from the track for about 2 weeks, which was good for me because I got back into some aerobic training on the trails.

This week I was feeling good to go so decided to run the 800m here in Victoria. It was awesome to run in front of a great crowd that included lots of Victoria friends (see pic of me and the rowers that Trent works with who came out in the cold and cheered their lungs out...and they have pretty crazy lungs - Trent tells me they're 7litres+!), as well as Trent, Dave and a big Speed River crew.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate and it was about 8C and breezy. However, I still ran a season's best by a hair of 2:02.93 and hope to bring that down by another second or so in July. It was a pretty big shock to the system, not having run that pace for a few weeks after racing so many 1500s and not really getting speed work in. I was fortunate to run among great company as the Canadian 800m women have been ripping it up. Melissa Bishop and Jessica Smith both have run Olympic A standards dipping under the 2-minute barrier, while Diane Cummins and Lemlem Ogbasilassie both have run under B standard (2:01.30).

With Olympic Trials in just two weeks, it's exciting times for Canadian middle-distance women (among others of course, but I'm biased and can't highlight everyone!). In addition to the competitive 800m, our 1500m will also be stacked with Nicole Sifuentes and Malindi Elmore both having run under the B standard (4:08.90) and still looking to run A before the trials. And the young Sheila Reid who surprised us all last year by taking the win, is coming off a great year in the NCAA and recent 1500m pb of 4:10. Thus, I am not taking the trials lightly! Now for a two weeks training block to get ready for Calgary.

See 800m in Victoria here.

 

June 4, 2012 - Time is on my side; Olympics in sight!

I have to apologize for the delay of this blog, but I was so delirious when I left Rome that I forgot my computer charger and couldn’t get one until arrived home to Canada yesterday, thus not being able to access my website.

Where do I begin…well first with the good news, I came home with the Olympic A standard and a new personal best of 4:05.08! The last part of qualification is placing in the top-3 at Canadian Olympic Trials at the end of the month in Calgary.

Now for the adventures:
After running another B standard at Oxy, I headed over to Europe because I felt that was my best chance to run fast given the circumstances of previous races. So I called up a good friend of my from Switzerland and kindly asked if she’d take Malindi and I in for an unbeknownst number of days.  As great friends do, she agreed without hesitation and thus Malindi and I had a home base that included the idyllic mountain and lake views that seemingly come with every Swiss address, as well as the comfort of friendly faces everyday (which many athletes who travel around to competitions will know to appreciate).

So, we land in Europe and our first stop for racing is…Africa. Luckily only a 3 hr flight from Geneva, we make the trip to Rabat, Morocco. The field was pretty competitive and looked like a good shot to run standard. Unfortunately, it was again evident how difficult it is to find good pacemakers due to the lack of depth in women’s distance running (the best pacemakers go to the Diamond League races to make money and everyone else who has the ability to run the pace wants to be in the races). I ended up overtaking the pacemaker in Morocco after we went through 800m about 7 seconds too slowly. I pushed the pace for the next 600m and got passed in the end by two Moroccan girls to take 3rd in 4:09.01. 

Next stop Rome. Thanks to my savvy manager Kris Mychasiw, I squeaked into Rome Diamond League on a cancellation, ironically by my former training partner Maryam Jamal. I was over the moon to get into the race because only 14 girls get the opportunity to race 1500m at 6 of these events each year (after the race my time is 11th in the world, but leading in I was over 30th). However, the next 48hrs leading into the race were a nightmare. About 8hrs after being confirmed in Rome, I found myself passed out on the bathroom floor and spend the next 8hrs puking my guts out. Evidently, I picked up some kind of stomach bug or food poisoning in Morocco – what timing!

The next morning I was so weak I barely made my flight to Rome. It was the day before the race and all I wanted to do was lay in bed. At that point I wasn’t sure if I would be able to race, but I tried to stay positive and hope that time was on my side and I’d feel better by race time the following evening. Instead of my normal pre-competition track warm up and a couple 200m strides, I slept, and instead of pre-race pasta, I choked down plain rice, a bit of chicken and some electrolyte packs. My sports doctor Margo Mountjoy who I had been communicating with by email, as well as Trent, reassured me I was doing everything right.

On race day I was getting some energy back and a bit of my appetite, but I was still very weak. I slept most of the day and tried to go for a short jog mid-day. This is when I started to freak out. My email to Dave and Trent went something like this: “I’m freaking out, my shake out run felt horrible: dizzy and nauseating. How can this be happening now?!”  To which they both responded, “You have to stay positive and if you can get on the line, you have to believe you can do it.” Despite how I was feeling and not knowing if I’d make it to the line, I tried to trick my brain by telling myself I came to get the standard and I would get it today. And later I would learn just how powerful positive thinking and the brain really are.

Fast-forward several hours later to the track: I felt good enough to warm up for the race. However, my warm up felt so terrible that at one point I told my manager Kris, I thought he’d have to scratch me from the race. But I am so gratefully for his belief in me because he convinced me to at least try to start and drop out if I had to. I am sure he was also in regular communication with Dave and Trent so this was truly a team effort!

Needless to say, I did make it to the line (apparently looking quite terrible according to my darling friends!) and I did make it through the race, achieving what I went there to achieve. This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do mentally, but it wasn’t the race that was the actual hard part, it was getting myself to that line when I knew I didn’t feel 100% ready to race. This is where I thank my sports psych Alan Edmunds who has helped me work on mental toughness. I think this is such an important lesson to show that sometimes you can overcome the doubts that we ALL have before races or any big pressure situation – my mind definitely had to fight my body and luckily won on this day. I want to thank everyone for all the amazing messages of support, they definitely mean a lot to me.

So, onward to the next step of Olympic Trials to solidify a spot to London. I’m racing a couple 800s as part of the Canadian National Track League (NTL) and will be cheering on my teammates Malindi and Taylor who will be aiming to get their standards at these NTL races. Fingers crossed – they are both fit and ready to go!

Watch Rome race here>>

Related Articles:

Prospective Olympian battles through food poisoning - Sarnia Observer

Stellingwerff runs gritty Olympic standard race - The Record

Stellingwerff gets 1500m "A" standard - Canadian Running Magazine

 

May 23, 2012 - Getting closer

Last 100m in Oxy, Morgan Uceny leads, Hilary just behind.

Unfortunately I don't have the good news I'd hoped for this blog. I did run a season best at Oxy of 4:07.64, but I still need to run under 4:06 to qualify for the Olympics.

It was another pretty frustrating race for me in that it didn't get out as fast as I'd hoped (the pace went 2:14 through 800m), but even more disappointing was that no one in the race seemed to want to run fast. I felt like the 2nd rabbit, as all my competitors just sat on me until the last 100m. I went there thinking girls would be ready to get after the Olympic A standard and instead it seemed like people were more worried about who they would beat or get beat by than running fast! Granted some of the US girls don't need to run the A standard since they have it from last year, but there are several that still need the time. I'm all for winning, but at this point in the season I mostely want to run as fast as possible!

Anyway, I have no regrets and I'll keep putting myself out there and run the best race I can. My goal is to cross the finish line of every race this year with no regrets, feeling like I gave everything on the day and made the best out of each race situation. So far I feel like I've done that so I'm confident I'm on the right track.

So to change pace a little from the domestic North American scene, I've decided to head to Europe. Luckily I have some company in fellow Speed Riverarian, training partner, friend and competitor - Malindi Elmore. Yes, we are going to toe the line at Canadian nationals aiming to beat each other, but we'd also like to be in London together and feel we have a good shot at getting A standard if we can work together and get into some fast races in Europe.

We have set up camp at a good friend of mine's in Switzerland, which has served us well to have a house to stay in rather than a hotel, and home cooked meals rather than restaurants - not to mention good company and familiar place to train (thanks Inge and Martine!)

Our first race will be at the World Challenge meet in Rabat, Morocco this Sunday. After that we are awaiting confirmation into Rome Diamond League, but if that doesn't happen we still have a spot at a smaller, but good meet in Flora, Norway. As many people hopefully are starting to realize, it's not only about being fit enough to run the time, but also about getting into the right meet, which can be the toughest part. However, our manager Kris Mychasiw is working hard to make sure we have good opportunities so we're taking them as they come and going from there.

 

May 17, 2012 - Oxy High Performance Meet

After 3 weekends in a row of racing, it was nice to have last weekend off and get in a solid 2 weeks of training, which I did in Guelph with the Speed River group. Everything has been going very well and all my workouts indicate I'm in better shape than I've ever been in.

So back to racing this weekend in L.A. at the Oxy High Performance Meet. The fields look good and the pace is going to be set for about 4:03. I'm really excited to race and confident I can run a pb. If I can just do what I've been doing in previous races and in training, I'll be on target.

The races will be shown live here starting at 6:15pm PST (9:15pm in Ontario) and my race goes off at 8:05pm.

Hope to bring good news in my next blog!

 

May 6, 2012 - Distance running in a sprinting nation...deceiving

With a naively enthusiastic crowd who cheered when the announcer claimed how remarkable our rabbit was for setting a pace of 2:00 for 800m (she went out in 61" seconds for 400m instead of the requested 65" and practically walked between 600m and 700m), it was both invigorating and frustrating at the same time. Invigorating because the stadium was packed with a Jamaican crowd who love track and field and celebrate it with a festival-like atmosphere. But, frustrating because it was evident their track and field knowledge (but thankfully not their enthusiasm) ended with the sprints.

I took the chance to race in Jamaica because it was supposed to be a world-class field and equally qualified pacemakers. But sometimes it doesn't always workout as promised and you have to play the cards you're dealt. I believe this meets wants to develop distance more, but there's still some work to do.

So this is how it went down: including Malindi and I, there were 5 international level women, but the other 3 were running off distance from their usual events (800m or steeple chase). Additionally, there were a few local athletes. As we were walking into the stadium, I heard a coach tell his local athlete that she was to set the pace for 600m. So, I proceeded to ask her if she was the rabbit, she looked at me terrified and said, "I don't know," which of course really confused me. Thinking she didn't understand me, I then asked her if she knew the pace, again, "I don't know." At this point I knew it would be interesting race, and likely tactical. It is possible to run fast without a rabbit, but you have to have a solid group of athletes ready to work hard to push the pace and this didn't seem probable. Malindi and I have done this before, but with someone else setting the pace for at least 800m.

The gun went off and the rabbit busted out like it was an 800m and didn't look back. As I said earlier, she slowed significantly after 500m and we passed her leading into the last 2 laps. At this point I knew it was slow (about 2:20 through 800m) and wanted to get things going so took the lead. Malindi followed closely behind me and it quickly turned into a race between her and I. We both ran about 2:06 for our last 800m, which will definitely bode well for a championship race. I took the win in 4:12 (results) and she was a second behind me.

Things are a little up in the air for me right now in terms of upcoming races, but my manger (Kris Mychasiw) is working his butt off to get me in some good ones so I have the opportunity to run an A standard and pb, which I know I'm in shape to do. We are looking into various options including a few world-level Asian races, Europe Diamond Leagues at the end of the month, as well as eyeing the upcoming US races. This is how it goes at this time of year so I just need to wait to see where I can get in and run fast when I'm there. That's the business and you gotta be ready when opportunities come!

In other news, Speed River has been getting great recent news coverage:
Video from Flagstaff, Guelph Mercury
"Building a community of runners in Guelph" - Globe and Mail

 

May 1, 2012 - One down, one to go

I took one step closer to Olympic qualifcation this past weekend at Stanford, running the "B" standard of 4:08.76. We were fortunate enough to have an excellent pacemaker in fellow Canadian Diane Cummings who is one of our most experienced national team members currently competiting. Di has competed on every major championship stage, winning several medals in the women's 800m for Canada. So, as I said, we were very lucky that she agreed to help us because it's extremely difficult to find good pacemakers on the women's side with less depth than on the men's.

With Di setting the pace, I knew it would set us up for a good race, especially with great competitors who also needed to run standards, including Malindi and a few Americans. I won't go into great detail about the race because it's best to just watch it here. But I will say that I had a great battle with Brenda Martinez from the US who really helped push me to run fast. We were on pace to run "A" standard (4:06.00), but wore each other out a bit too early. Neverthless, from experience I know that once my body is reminded of the pace it needs to run, it bounces back well and I'm able to run that pace or faster in subsequent races.

Now that I have run a "B" standard, I just need to run the "A" and come top-3 at Canadian Nationals to punch my ticket to London. Still a lot of work ahead, but I'm confident I'm where I need to be to achieve these goals and be on my game for London.

Next up I'm headed to Jamaica for another 1500m this weekend.

(Flotrack post-race interview with Diane, Malindi and I.)

 

April 26, 2012 - Finally a "metric" mile!

I've had a good week of training, recovery and some maintanence rehab so I feel like I'm in a really good place to get after a fast time in the 1500m, or "metric" mile as some may call it, this weekend at Payton Jordan. The fields look pretty good and it sounds like we have a rabbit going about 2:11 through 800m. Flotrack will be covering the meet live on Sunday here. I run at 7:28pm PST.

From there I'm off to Jamaica next weekend to run another 1500m. I'm really excited to race infront of a Jamaican crowd as they are always very motivating with their drums and chants. I'm sure it will be a packed stadium as Usain Bolt is set to run.

Also, to give some perspective of all of us athletes chasing our Olympic dreams right now, check out CBC sports commentator Scott Russel's most recent blog. Scott has been in the trenches and offers great insight into the triumphs and tribulations that come with putting it all on the line for the chance to compete at the greatest sporting event in the world: The Olympic Games. Unfortunately, there are lots of broken hearts in the process...I learned that the hard way in 2008 when I missed Beijing by .5 seconds, but that heart break helped me reflect on why I do this sport and realize the journey is worth every moment. I've still got fight in me so onward to London!

April 23, 2012 - "Heavy weight" champion of the mile

Mile win at Mt. Sac Relays

After a long 8 month hiatus from 1500m racing (since last Aug since I ran the mile indoors), I was excited to open the season this past weekend at Mt. Sac Relays. But alas, I will have to wait one more week to run that desired 1500m as the meet changed the elite race to the mile this weekend.

There's no denying or hiding from the fact that my main goal from now until June 30 is to run an Olympic standard (4:06.0) in the 1500m, so I was disappointed about the change to the mile. To the race organzier's credit, he did have a clock at 1500m mark (incase we wanted to try to get a time enroute) and tried to provide a good rabbit. So leading into the race I was still aiming for a standard.

Unfortunately, by halfway the pace was 5 seconds too slow and although I got to the front and ran hard, it was too much time to make up. When I knew the chances of running a fast time were gone, I changed my focus on crossing the line first. In the end, it was a really fun race to win, with the crowd cheering us on from lane 8. For the win, I got a unique "trophy" or title belt as in wrestling and some prize money to go along with my new fashion accessory, which was interesting to carry around after the race and fit in my carry-on bag home!

Fortunately, I'll be stepping on the line again very soon, this Sunday, April 29 at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford, CA. It looks like a good race so I'm psyched to get into a competitive field and go after a fast time.

See Mt. Sac mile race here and post-race interview and awards ("belt ceremony").

 

April 9, 2012 - Game on!

And so the racing season begins...my race on Saturday went great - about what I was hoping for so happy to not find myself dillusional. Nevertheless, it was still a major shock to the system, as first races usually are.

I ran 2:02.94 for 3rd place behind fellow Canadian Lemlem Ogbasilassie who took the win in 2:02.82, which is a great start for her as well. We were lucky to have a few front runners in the race who wanted to take the lead since our pacemaker got injured before the race. I went through the first lap in 59.8, which is about a second slower than I'd normally go out in to run 2:02 range. However, this gives me confidence that my strength is good, having run a more even race.

I was actually quite nervous for the race for the following reasons:

1) I am always more nervous for the first race of the season because of the unknown of no races
2) I am 50-50 for good results this close (1 day) after coming down from altitude so it was a bit of a gamble
3) I was going in pretty tired after a really hard block of training in Flagstaff
4) I felt pretty crappy on my warm-up, but I've learned this is NOT an indicator of how well I race (I have felt near nausea prior to races and ran well)

But, I was all pretty motivated for the following reasons:

1) I'm coming off a great few weeks of workouts
2) These workouts and training have kicked my butt and made me feel exhausted, which has prompted me to kick up my recovery routine (more sleep, good nutrition, ice/contrast bath, taking easy days EASY - which all started to help leading into race day. And usually a killer block of trainig like this helps me run well once I start recovering.
3) I was super excited to get the racing season going, which always helps motivation!

Anyway, I wanted to make the above points because I think a lot of people have the skewed perception that elite athletes are super heros and that's absolutely untrue - we make mistakes, we have self doubt, we do get tired and run down, but we are lucky to have great resources of people to help us through some of those things. For example, in the last 3 weeks of training camp Dave and Trent have had to keep a close eye on all of us and have had to tweak things in my training so that I adapted properly and didn't over do it; I also saw our phsysio Brenda every other day for maintanence, along with a local massage therapist Monica, and talked to my sports psych Alan weekly to keep me in check. So the best advice I can give to any level of athlete is to surround yourself with qualified people who care about you as a person and athlete.

This support system seemed to have helped all the Speed River crew as we had a couple personal bests on Sat and lots of solid performances to start off the season. See more info here or follow @Speedriver.

Thanks everyone for your support and all the amazing messages after my race- lots more to come this season! Next up a 1500m at Mt. Sac Relays on April 20.

 

April 6, 2012 - Time to catch my breath

Speed River crew after fartlek in Buffalo Park.

My Flagstaff altitude camp has come to an end and it's time to go back to sea level and getting rolling.

Although really tough, training has gone fantastic. We took the first week to adapt, only doing 1.5 fartlek sessions ranging from 15-25 mins of hard bouts, but focused more on a polarized model of training: low-intensity endurance through easy runs and hikes, and high end neural work through short speed, weights and plyometrics.

Dave giving feedback after w/o in Buffalo Park.

After our "adaptation week" we took a major training hit, doing something hard 5 out of 7 days - that meant 2 fartlek sessions of 25-30mins total work in about 70-90min running on trails, 2 short end speed sessions (100m or less intervals adding up to 500m of work) and one intense track workout focusing on 1500m or faster pace down in Sedona at 4500ft. By the end of that middle week I was spent, but feel really confident that I'm in the best shape I've ever been in leading into the track season.

Malindi and I on the track in Sedona.
Taylor, Kyle, Alex and Chris in Sedona.

Over this last week we trained on a more normal level, doing our last intense track session on Monday and a lighter farlek Wednesday. So now it's time to test the fitness with a race. I'm going to start the season of with an 800m tomorrow at the Sun Angel Track Classic in Phoenix. We have a good crew of Speed River athletes racing 800s or 1500s. As a group, everyone has been tearing it up in trainign so I'm really excited to see lots of pb's for everyone this season! After this weekend's tune up we are all headed to Mt. Sac on April 19 to start our quest for London qualifications!

Speed River and Aussie girls after easy run.

 

March 25, 2012 - Runner's High - respecting the altitude

Trent and I at the Grand Canyon.

It's training camp time again and I'm in Flagstaff, Arizona enjoying sunshine and a high altitude of 2100m (7000ft). We have a pretty big group here from Speed River, including 12 athletes, 2 coaches/physiologist, a physio and 3.5 cheerleaders (our coach's kids and teammates baby). It's been both motivating and entertaining to have our full team here: we've been training hard and having some fun on the side. There's also lots of other groups of runners trickling in from Australia, Netherlands, US, etc, so we'll be doing as much collaboration as we can.

Speed River athletes at the Grand Canyon

We used the first 5 days here as our adaptation period where we did very aerobic-based easy running (using heart rate monitors, Garmins and attempted intuition to read our efforts), combined with short end alactic work such as short sprints, plyometrics and weights, all with lots of rest. Hitting both ends of the training intensity curve allows us to adapt our aerobic system without taking an anaerobic hit too early in the altitude camp, which is very difficult to recover from (even at sea level) when you aren't getting the normal amout of oxygen. We were also welcomed to Flagstaff by a meter of snow so we took advantage of it and did some of our aerobic work in snowshoes a little higher up the mountain.

Speed River group snowshoeing at 10,000ft.

Our first workout was on day 5 and it was a combo of longer temp and short farlek. Since I hadn't worked out in 5 days I was eager to get some work into my body, but I was quickly reminded why I need to respect the altitude and adaptation process. As I said, being here with great training partners (Malindi Elmore, Marilyn Arsenault and Rachel Cliff) and fantastic running environment puts me on a runner's high and makes me want to train really hard and run super fast...but I know that will happen if I'm patient and read my body well.

The most shocking thing about being at altitude is how quickly you can go from the aerobic zone to being anaerobic - one small hill or a tough head wind can put you over the edge and I find it really difficult to bring my heart rate back to the right zone. The cues one uses at sea level such as increasing heart rate and breathing patterns occur much more drastically at altitude so staying in control early on is key. So I'm trying to do a good job at being patient and focusing on nailing the 1500m-based workouts we'll do a littler lower in Sedona (1500m).

I'll be here for 2 more weeks before heading down to Phoenix on April 7 to run an 800m and I'm really excited to take my fitness to the next level before racing season begins. I'll post on my twitter (@hstellingwerff) and here as much as I can. Also check out Malindi's blog for good training insight.

 

March 4, 2012 - "The Perfect Runner"

In recent years there seems to be ever increasing interest in the nature of endurance running. I'm sure the increasing popularity of the marathon, ultra running and XTERRA events has helped drive the sport of running into the spotlight. I've noticed a huge increase in participation even at road races. For example, today I ran the Bazan Bay 5km in Sidney, BC (ran 16:32 for 2nd female) and was expecting it to be a small local road race and it had nearly 1000 entrants. I also looked up some stats and learned that participation in US marathons has increased 30% in ten years from 2000-2010.

Although I'm not a huge advocate of promoting new runners to the marathon, as a distance runner, I think increased participation is a fantastic thing and happy if it brings more people to our sport. If only to help decrease the obesity and cardiovascular health problems in modern society, getting more people interested and learning about running, and their health, is a plus. The goal would be to get more people running for life and not just for their bucket check-lists.

This week I recently received an email from an avid runner who is also an accomplished anthropologist and documentarian, Niobe Thompson, who asked me to check out his new documentary titled "The Perfect Runner" (check out trailer here). It is a pretty wicked movie on how we evolved to be long distance runners, based on evolutionary biology, he researched everything from reindeer herders in Russia to persistance hunters in Africa, as well as explaining some of the science behind barefoot running. He also has some cameo appearances with some of our top Canadian runners and guru Canadian chiroprator Larry Bell.

This documentary reminded me a lot of one of my favourite books, Born to Run by Chris McDougall, who follows the famous Taramuhara Indians of Mexico in their daily running activities both for life and pleasure. I think this book really sparked the barefoot or minimalist running craze.

So, if these topics interest you and you want to learn more, while watching some amazing cinematography, check out this trailer and watch the full documentary, "The Perfect Runner" on CBC's The Nature of Things March 15th at 8pm EST.

 

Feb. 21, 2012 - Why rest is crucial and how racing short can help the long

Thanks to years of data collecting on many spreadsheets, I have access to every run and workout I’ve done since 2005 (mostly thanks to my science-geek husband); and thanks to my Garmin, I have paces for pretty much all those workouts and many runs since 2010, as well as mileage trends.  I’m not trying to encourage everyone to be super-anal and compare everything; I certainly don’t cross reference every workout or even every training week, but I do find it nice to look back on benchmark workouts to see where I'm at, always trying to push ahead into new boundries whether that be faster workouts or new training stimulus.

So, this week I started back into workouts after taking last week off following the completion of my indoor season. I did a 90 min long run yesterday, which I felt pretty stiff and sore on, but good energy-wise. Today I had a 25 min tempo in a 75 min run, in which I felt pretty uncomfortable since it’s been about a month since I did that long of a tempo in one shot (still been doing fartleks, but not as many long tempos), yet I had one of my fastest tempos this year. I didn’t really realize it when I was running and just went on feel, but noticed after I checked my Garmin. Tempos are definitely my weakest training exercise so I was pleased to see that my high mileage fall and winter is paying off, even when I stepped away from it for a bit to hit some track work and shorter fartleks.

In chatting with various athletes, I think many people make the mistake of doing the same thing over and over again in training, which is why I decided to write this blog. A few reasons why I think I had this improvement:

  1. Change of stimulus (Dave and Trent are experts in this department) – which means not doing the same workouts week in and week out, but adding in new things like hills for a few weeks or some intense speed sessions once a week and then going back into more endurance phase. We are always changing things up in each training block so the body has to adapt.
  2. Improved efficiency with some speed work (once a week), combined with plyo routine – I do plyometrics year-round after each hard workout, but I only do true speed or lactic workouts on the track leading into a racing block. You don’t need a ton of this work because the anaerobic system responds quickly after a few sessions and those workouts can fry you out. But a short phase of this training can really boost your fitness and is necessary to get you ready to run fast on the track.
  3. Stronger in weight room – I started working with a new Strength and Conditioning coach who has me phasing my weight program better than I have in past years, as well as doing more sport-specific exercises. I think the overall program has made me stronger and improved my running economy so that I keep my form together when I’m tired.
  4. Great IST and treatment – although we just moved to Victoria, I have been lucky to find amazing paramedical support in physio, chiro and massage, all of which I try to get once a week.
  5. Improved fitness from racing – anyone who’s run a race of any distance and at any level knows how hard it is. But I think when you put your body through some pain and suffering it does boost your fitness (as long as you recovery properly – see below). I also think racing some shorter distances can help improve running economy and thus running speed, which will help in the longer distances as well. That’s why you see marathoners or 10km runners like Kara Goucher or Galen Rupp running a mile.
  6. More focus on mental training - I'm working with a great sports psychologist who has really helped me set goals and mental strategies to get the most out of every training and race situation.
  7. Take a rest period after hard training/racing block, which also boosts fitness. People often take this part for granted. You will NEVER get fit if you don’t train hard, but you’ll also NEVER get fit if you don’t rest and recover. If you dig yourself into a deep hole and don’t take proper actions to recover, you will not be able to get your body to the point of really benefiting from that fitness because it can’t rebuild after the breakdown. That means taking ice baths or getting massage/ART after hard sessions, getting adequate sleep, taking in proper nutrition immediately after training and taking days or weeks off at certain times of the year. In past years I’ve taken a few weeks off after the outdoor season and one week off after the indoor season. This year I’ve actually taken a week off after the fall season and indoor season, but have been able to train harder and get more out of myself during training blocks.

Hopefully that means more gains and faster times outdoors...until then, more hard training to come! But as you can see there are a few key things that can play a role in making gains, but it's also important to have the right people with the right skill sets around you for what you need.

 

Feb. 12, 2012 - Another indoor pb!

The University of Washington track seems to be serving me well as I ran another indoor personal best there yesterday in the mile of 4:29.37 (video) good for 3rd place, breaking my previous best of 4:30.89 from 2010. However, the race in 2010 I got dragged along by some very fast girls and I was near the back holding on. Yesterday I lead most of the race and fough pretty hard to try and hold on for the win, but got passed in the final straight by Sally Kipyego (2011 World 5000m Silver) and Katie Flood, a young collegiate star who has been on fire lately and looks to have a great shot at winning NCAAs.

Although it would have been nice to get the win, my priority and plan leading into this race was to get the most out of myself and really test my fitness. I felt had nothing to lose by going to the front and running hard. In fact, I feel like I learned a lot about my current fitness and racing strategies that will help me leading into the outdoor season. It also gives me a lot of confidence to know I can run from the front and still run a pb. The time converts to 4:09.15 1500m (if I ran 1500m, not what I went through 1500m in), which puts me 13th on the world list and 3rd for the mile - I'm totally stoked to be back in the range I was in 2007 when I ran my outdoor pb and made the semi-finals at worlds.

I also got the qualifying time for world indoor championships in March, but I've decided not to go because I really want to focus on running fast outdoors and qualify for the Olympics as early as possible so I can be ready to compete in London. So that will end my indoor season and racing until April.

In other news, this was a phenominal weekend for track and field with some super fast record-setting times all around (see letsrun.com). My Speed River teammates tore it up in Ohio with several personal bests and Canadian leading times, which proves as a great motivator for us all as we move forward this year. Go River!

As an aside, I've also updated a few podcasts on Trent's site - one in particular is on Recovery and Performance, which I think might be helpful for many athletes so you an check it out on his link on the right.

 

Feb. 10, 2012 - Back to Seattle

So I unfortunately didn't get into Boston or Millrose, which has been frustrating, but it seems the fields were set pretty early this year and they didn't have much wiggle room. I'm sure if Alison Felix wanted to get in last minute, it wouldn't be a problem, but I have some records to break and medals to win before I have that kind of inflence! And to get started on that, I'm headin back to Seattle to race the mile tomorrow. The field looks really good so I'm just looking forward to getting in a solid effort, run fast and set myself up for outdoors.

Jan. 30, 2012 - Indoor pb in Seattle!

It turned out to be a really good decision for me to race an 800m at the University of Washington this past weekend as I ran a new indoor pb by about 2 seconds in 2:04.81.

It was actually really strange to be back at a college meet, I felt totally out of sorts. It's amazing how familiar and comfortable I've become at professional or international meets, but a college meet totally flustered me - I felt like a rookie! The main reason was that the UW track is 307m around, so a very odd distance. It was completely packed on the infield with athletes, coaches and spectators since there is no room on the outside of the track to stand. So I just found it difficult to get my barrings since the only thing I could find was the finish line (I guess that's imporant!) but every race started at a different spot and the splits for 200m and 400m obviously changed for each race too.

When I finally figured out where my race started, I decided that would be enough and I'd just listen for the 400m split. After that it didn't matter because my plan was to go hard in the 2nd half. I had no idea what to expect in terms of how I'd feel considering the last two years when I've opened the outdoors season with an 800m in April I've run 2:06 and felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. So I was pleasantly surprised during the race when I felt great going through the first 400m in about 61" and crossing the line in 2:04. This makes me super excited for what's to come in 2012!

I'm not exactly sure what's up next. I am hoping to get into a 1000m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston this weekend. The Canadian Record is 2:38.24 and I feel like I could take a good shot at that. But alas, I will have to play the waiting game to see if I can at least get a spot on the start line. TBC...

Here's the Flotrack race video and post-race interview from Seattle. I have to give a huge shout out to the guys at Flotrack who have totally open the doors of track and field and made it accessible to friends, family and fans who otherwise would never get to experience these races and interviews - thanks guys!

 

Jan. 25, 2012 - Welcome back to racing

My main goal in racing a few indoor races is to shake off the cob webs with a good race stimulus, as well as regain and refine my tactical strategies. My mile race this past weekend at the New Balance Games was perfect for both.

Going in, I was expecting we'd have a pacemaker because we have in past years, which is valuable for a race this early in the year considering no one really knows where they're at and is super confident to take it hard from the front. However, we unfortunately didn't have a pacemaker so the race quickly turned into championship-style racing tactics (sit in the pack and try to win).

Start of New Balance Games Elite Women's Mile.

I was position #1 on the line and didn't get out hard enough (race tactic reminder #1) so got boxed in for the first half of the race. We crawled through 400m in 75" and 800m in 2:27, which was already 12-13 seconds slower than goal race pace. I spent most of the first 4 laps knocking elbows with my competitors to protect my space and stay on my feed - great championship simulation. I finally found an opening and was able to get out into lane 2. With about 600m to go I decided to push hard for the finish and see how many women I could drop. I ran 2:11 for my final 800m and 63" for the last 400m and was in the lead until about 50m to go when Brenda Martinez used her 800m speed to sneak past me and take the win.

I was disappointing not to win, but I don't regret pushing the pace from a ways out because I think that is my strength at the moment until I get some more speed work under my belt. I'm going to do just that by running an 800m this weekend in Seattle, which will hopefully set me up well to run fast at Millrose Games back in NYC on Feb. 11...still waiting to see if I'm in, but fingers crossed.

New Balance Games race video, my race at 1hr30: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hGSY_K85r8&feature=relmfu

 

Jan. 16, 2012 - It's go time!

Happy New Year! Wow, time is flying and I'm so excited that 2012 is here. I've had a really solid block of training since taking a week off in December. I'm currently at training camp near Phoenix, Arizona to get in some warm weather as I prepare for the indoor season.

I've been here for nearly 3 weeks and been doing most of my training with Malindi Elmore. Malindi is a good friend, but also one of my toughest competitors in Canada so some people think it's a bit strange that we choose to train together. But it's worked out really well because we both have different strengths: she's stronger at longer end stuff and I at the shorter fast stuff, so we've really been able to push each other in different ways. It's been very beneficial to have someone to share the training stress with and it helps that we also get along really well considering the life of any individual sport athlete like track can be isolated.

As for training, our weeks consist of 3 workouts a week: tempo, fartlek and track; 3 plyometric sessions, 3 weight session, a long run and about 80-85 miles a week, plus lots of sleeping and recovery. Last week we did a solid workout together where our strengths met in the middle: 5 x 1200m averaging 3:40, so about 15:20 pace for 5km. That's about the best I've ever done that workout at this time of year, especially off high mileage so I'm really excited about where my fitness is at. We've also been working in with a group of other Canadian athletes coached by Wynn Gmitroski and Heather Hennigar, both national team coaches, and they have been really helpful in letting us jump into a few of their workouts and inviting us to some recovery sessions that Wynn puts on since he's also a physio. I have always considered recovery to be important, but it's been nice to learn a few more things to add to my repetoire.

I have a few more days here and then I'm headed to my favourite US city: New York! I'll be making my 8th appearance at New Balance Games in the mile at The Armory, also one of my favourite US tracks. And so the season begins...

 

2011 Posts

 

Dec. 6, 2011 - Au naturel

I have a week off running and thus more time on my hands, so I've decided to take on a challege. No, I'm not going to walk around in the nude...but I am going to attempt to eat a completely natural, made from scratch, diet for the next week and see how I do. It's not that I eat terribly at all, but I have to say that being in the US for the last month (much love to my American friends!) has inspired me. I found it so tough to find preservative-free, natural products; even in organic grocery stores I couldn't find one bin of granola without corn syrup in the ingredients! I'm not saying Canada is so much better because we definitely have our fair share of unhealthy products and eating habits.

Speaking of which, usually when I take time off I'm really lax about what I eat so I figured this time around I'm at least going to know exactly what I'm eating. I've also been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Polland, which is along the same lines of knowing what's in your food and going back to basics with raw ingredients. So, that combined with the fact that I love to cook and have a great resource in my sports physiologist/nutritionist husband to keep me up-to-date on the latest nutrition research - I'm going to seek out new recipes and add them to my repertoire. And since I always appreciate getting recipes from friends, I'm going to post what I come up with on my blog for the rest of the week...I don't have any running news so it's a good trade off!

So here goes, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (sorry, had to stop there because I'm off to the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre Endurance Conference)

On another note, Canadian sports writer Chris Kelsall who has written for Flotrack and Canadian running has started his own website: http://athleticsillustrated.com. He has a ton of interviews and articles worth checking out.

 

Dec. 2, 2011 - Sucker for punishment

Our last week in Albuquerque went really well - I felt fully adjusted to the altitude, well, enough to feel good in workouts and hit 85 miles for the week.

The last week since coming down has been challenging. It started with the San Jose Turkey Trot. I went in to the race not feeling so great: heavy legs and a bit disoriented (not sure how else to describe it, but I figure it was the adjustment back to sea level - I just felt neurally off).

However, once the race got going I ended up feeling great, which is one reason why I NEVER use my warm up to gauge how I'm going to feel in the race because I've had it both ways. So I did something in the race that I think I've had bad dreams about, but never done - misjudged laps. I think I was so excited to be feeling fit and good in a 5km race (usually a weaker event for me) that I got distracted. Basically I had in my head that it was a 3 mile race of 3 laps, but really it was 4 laps! So half way thru the 2nd lap I was feeling great and decided to push the pace much earlier than I would normally (usually in a longer race I'd let the 5km types lead the way and try to sit and kick). As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I'm trying to take more risks in racing and not always be so conservative. And risks did I take!

I kicked with what I thought was 800m to go, but was really 2km. I realized I had really screwed up when I was way ahead of the field and no one was attempting to go with me. I knew I was in good shape, but not good enough that I would be destroying this type of field! So I had a little panic attack leading into the 4th lap where, for a split second, I considered the fact that I might not be able to finish the race. Then I gave my head a shake, bared down and figured I was just going to be in a serious amount of distress for the next 1200m - which I was! I was fully expecting the entire field to swallow me up and come blazing past me, but fortunately that didn't quite happen. I was passed by a few girls, but I was able to fight my way to 4th place in 16:26. I'm definitely happy I gutted it out and held on, but I was really hoping to run low or under 16 mins. I take full responsibility and this time will have to settle for the idiot award instead of a podium place. Lesson learned.

Needless to say, I was sore from the race for about 4 days - at least I know I got a good training effect from it! I suffered through a long run/tempo and fartlek session before my legs came to at the middle of this week. Just in time for my last hard session before a bit of down time: mile repeats on the track. This is a workout I have a love-hate relationship with. Love because I know how strong it makes me as a miler; hate because I find it really tough to run the distance of my main race hard 4x. But since I wasn't satisfied with my 5km time in last week's race, I really wanted to redeem myself. I was lucky enough to have our friend Ian run the whole workout with me and Trent jump in and out to help. We were also really fortune to have a sunny Dec day here in Victoria, which I'm told is a rare ocassion. We ended up running the first three around 5:00 or just under and then the last one in 4:49, which was a nice surprise because I didn't feel like we'd picked it up that much. Since it was a true V02 max we had full 5min recovery between - this felt like 2 mins by the end!

This likely wouldn't be a ground breaking workout for an elite 5km runner, but for me as a miler, being able to compare with previous years, it is a good indicator that I'm entering new territory on the endurance end of things. So I feel like I did redeem myself after the race and am really excited about my current fitness. I still have a lot of work to do before I'm ready to run a fast 1500m, but I'm definitely ahead of where I've been in previous years and looking forward to a great 2012. For now, I'm going to take a much needed week off and then start transitioning into some prep for the indoor season.

 

Nov. 16, 2011 - Wild wild west

Long run in Sandia foothills, ABQ.

Well we've made it through 2 weeks at altitude and fully adapted just in time to leave! I guess you should never get too used to one training stimulus anyway.

I think this has been my best adaptation at altitude and it's about my 5th time. Albuquerque (ABQ) isn't quite as high as where I've been before: St. Moritz, Switzerland (1750m), Flagstaff, Arizona (2100m) and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2300-2700m). What's nice about ABQ is that the city is around 1600m and the foothills are around 1900m and up. So we've been doing workouts in the city (track, trails or bike path all flat) and our moderate running in the very hilly foothills. It's a great combo. Another difference to my previous trips is that we've added in some higher altitude hikes, about 2-3hrs once week at a steady hiking pace at around 2500m. I love that that's been integrated into training because it's been awesome to get the longer low-impact training in - Marilyn and I have really enjoy exploring the more rigorous trails that would be tough to run.

2.5 hr hike up La Luz trail (2200m-2700m).

But it's definitely not all fun and games, we've been training hard and had a few humbling experiences. The hardest workout I've done was this past Monday: I did 3 x 9' tempo with 5 x 30" surges in the middle, taking 3' jog between in an 85' run with hills sprints before the workout. When I do this workout at sea level, going between the surges and tempo pace is tough, but I don't usually go anaerbic. However, at altitude, once your heart rate gets up, it's really difficult to come down unless you take full recovery. So you have to read your body really well. I found myself halfway through the first tempo with a heart rate of 190bmp (my tempo HR is about 180) and sucking wind pretty bad. I just tried to stay relaxed and keep the steady pace without letting my HR go any higher. It ended up being a really tough workout, but a good one that I feel I benefitted a lot from. It definitely helped callous me for tougher training to come.

Marilyn and I after a 12 mile run in the foothills.

This week I'll hit about 85 miles with 3 workouts, a long run and about 6 double days, which will cap off the camp well. Then I'm heading to San Jose next week to race a 5km road race on American Thanksgiving. I'm going in 2 days before to test out how my body deals with racing 2 days out of altitude. This will help me prepare for this Spring when I do it again...or maybe not if I don't feel like it worked well. The common idea is to either race within 2 days of coming down, or after 10 days - for some reason racing in between, when you're body is re-adapting to sea level, tends to hinder people more - it's very similar to jetlag. Either way, I'm really looking forward to seeing how I feel racing hard after this last bout of training!

On another note, my teammates from Guelph kicked butt last weekend capturing men's and women's titles at the Canadian University champs - congrats to Guelph Gryphons and my coach Dave Scott-Thomas! Guelph has been attracting all kinds of good press lately for their on track success and fundraising efforts to finally build the much needed outdoor track we've all been dreaming of - anyone got a million bucks they're not using?? Let me know!

 

Nov. 1, 2011 - Left coast adventures

Amazing trees in forest on Vancouver Island near Tofino.

Time has flown since my last post as I've been getting situated and adapting to life on the "left coast." But so far so good. Training has been great - I've been able to handle more mileage at a consistent rate than ever before and still get in the needed quality. However, as I emailed my coach Dave recently, I feel like a Tour de France rider: some days I'm so fatigued that I'm hanging on to the peleton for dear life, but the the next day I feel good enough to go for a break away. It's crazy how the body can rebound after feeling so tired - I guess that's what training is all about.

Victoria Marathon 8km

In the midst of training, I've had two races. I ran an 8km road race at the Victoria Marathon at the beginning of October. It was a good reminder of pushing myself beyond tempo for that long. I ran most of the race alone so it was a good mental and physical test. I ended up winning in 27:59, which felt like a good effort. I went right back into a 3 week training block averaging about 75miles a week, which is starting to feel much more manageable compared to a month ago.

I finished that training block last week and ended it with another race at BC XC Champs near Vancouver. It was a really hilly and tough course in which I definitely suffered in the last half of the 6km course. I was in 3rd-4th for most of the race but was able to catch the leaders and take the win in the last km. I've been working a lot of my mental toughness and figure these early season races are a good time to practice for when it counts the most. There was definitely a point in this weekend's race when I was in 3rd place, about 100m behind the leaders, contemplating if I could push myself harder to catch up or be satisfied with staying in 3rd - the answer was no to the latter. Don't get me wrong, it would have been much more comfortable or less painful to stay in 3rd, and of course my body was telling my mind to back off. Every runner has experienced doubts creep in and the fight between body and mind. I have given in before and not been willing to test myself, but I always end up disappointed when I know I didn't get everything out of myself on the day and I hate that feeling. So I'm really trying to make each race count, big or small, so that everytime I step on the line I know I got something out of it and hopefully that will better prepare me for bigger races to come!

That will be it for my racing schedule until the end of November. I will be spending the next month training in sunny, mile-high Albuquerque, New Mexico with my new training partner Marilyn Arsenault - looking forward to a good training camp!

 

Sept. 26, 2011 - Laying down the foundation

After a couple weeks off, a nice vacation in Italy for friends' wedding and a move across the world, I'm finally settling into a groove and starting to lay a nice foundation of base work that is crucial for the year to come. And thus my training for 2012 has begun, but it really isn't much different than any other year besides adjusting to a new environment.

A month ago Trent and I moved back to Canada to Victoria, BC where he took a new job working with the Canadian Sports Center-Pacific. It is also a nice fit for me because Victoria is a running hub and beautiful place to train. I'm very excited to be at "home" leading into the Olympic year. So far we've found some great training partners - locals Marilyn Arsenault and Ian Hallam who have been giving us fantastic tours of the awesome trails and helping kick my mileage into full gear as they are both getting ready for a 1/2 marathon.

But, as I said, this year will not be hugely different training-wise at this point in the season because it is ALWAYS so important to take the fall to run good base mileage and build a strong aerobic engine so that when it's time to do the more intense training my body is aerobically fit and able to recover from more anaerobic hits.

Lately, a typical week of training looks like about 120-130km with two workouts: one longer tempo run around 30 mins, which I usually start off with some short hills to get me warmed up, and another fartlek or interval session with shorter reps anywhere from 2mins to 2km - adding up to 30mins of hard running in about an 80min run. Other days I'm doing double day easy runs, with at least two circuit sessions a week, two plyometric sessions and one day a week after a run I do "diagonals" where I sprint diagonally across a field and jog the end, continuosly for about 10-15 mins, and finally at least one long run a week of between 90mins-1h50mins.

For a marathoner, this training regime is nothing, but for me it's quite a tiring time of year so I'm doing lots of ice baths, getting in quality recovery nutrition and lots of sleep. That's all for now, but will give another update in a couple weeks after my first race of the season: 8km at the Victoria Marathon.

 

Aug. 10, 2011 - Frustrations

I'm absolutely gutted - "the chase" is over for me this year and I unfortunately came up short - 1.28 seconds short to be exact. Trent always jokes with me that if he goes to work and is 99% successful in all of his task it's an excellent day, but for me if I'm even 1% off it can make a huge difference, which was the case in my last race. On Friday I ran 4:07.18, just 0.4% this year's world standard and next year's Olympic standard.

The weather was perfect, the pacemaker did a great job and I had 2 other girls in the race going for the standard - so all the criteria I'd been hoping for in the previous races. If I had to make one critique it would be that I had to do more leading and work at the front than I was hoping, but it wasn't windy so I can't complain too much. So, when I cross the line and saw my time I was extremely frustrated and disappointed - all these weeks of battling bad weather, dodging fallen athletes and struggling to get into good races - all the while trying to stay confidence, refine my racing tactics and jump at the chance to run the breakthrough time I felt I was ready for. Man, this sport is tough!

The upside is that despite some struggles this year, both with sickness early season and the things mentioned above most recently, I still managed to have my most consistent season ever. Yes, in 2006 and 2007 I ran my pb and 1.5 secs faster than this year, but if I take my top 5 times of the year, I am way more consistent at the high level (with about the same number of races each year) than ever before. So this is why I have been expecting, and still do expect, to run a breakthrough time. But, alas it didn't happen this year and of course I can analyze it to death, but the reality is what Trent jokes about: I'm 99% there and since they don't give medals out for being close I am still very much motivated to reach my tipping point because I know it's within reach.

However, I have decided to call it a season. I tried to string it out a little longer by doing some workouts this week to see if I could get myself ready to race again, but I realized I am mentally and physically drained from pushing my body into a zone like never before for 6 races in the last 5 weeks. Plus, there aren't really any good races left now that most athletes are preping for worlds - and the races after worlds will be almost impossible to get into if you haven't competed at worlds. So, instead of pushing my body into further stress this season it's time to chill out, regroup and live a bit of a normal life (not that I'm complaining because the life of an athlete is pretty great, but like anyone, I need a vacation!).

I don't think I will have any problem keeping my mind off running for a bit as Trent and I are leaving Switzerland and moving back to Canada to Victoria, BC in the next month. We're really excited for a new adventure and I'm very much looking forward to training on home turf leading into the Olympic year and feeding off the excitement and determination of like-mind Canadian athlete, as well as being closer to my Speed River training group in Guelph. We will of course miss Switzerland and all the great friends will be leaving behind, but will no doubt be visiting any chance we get.

Finally, I just want to thank those who have supported me and sent me messages of encouragement this season. Even in the individual sport of athletics no one can be successful on their own and I very much depend on my team who I'm in constant communication with no matter where in the world and any of who bend over backward to help me out.

I want to give a special thanks to my sponsor New Balance for kicking butt this year with their new shoes and gear, to my physio Brenda Scott-Thomas who kept me in one piece all year, to Dr. Margo Mountjoy and Dr. Alan Edmunds - whose advice were paramount in helping me through this season both physically and mentally - my manager Jacky for helping me in last minute race situations, and of course my coach Dave Scott-Thomas, club manager Chris Moulton and my husband Trent - these 3 guys work harder than anyone I know and are the glue that holds my training, racing and sporting life together - which isn't even ANY of their full-time jobs. Thanks guys! If I was as successful as Usain Bolt I'd repay you by donating all the money needed to finally get a stadium and track built in Guelph - I guess I better get moving (unless anyone else has other ideas;))

 

Aug. 2, 2011 - Quick note from Budapest

Just a quick update for now - Budapest was good in that I ran a season's best of 4:07.80 in a wind storm, but the unfortunate part was that the weather was not great. I'm not even looking for perfect, I just need some decent weather and not crazy wind gusts and I will run fast.

So I've got one last shot this weekend before the deadline to qualify for worlds. When I was in Budapest last weekend a few friends from Poland told me their manager was organizing a good women's 1500m tomorrow because three of their girls still need the time. I jumped on that chance and booked a flight to Gdansk, Poland right away. So as the French say, "On va voir!"

 

July 29, 2011 - Fighting for position

It's been a bit of a struggle lately: if I'm not fighting for position during a race, I'm fighting for one just to get in! When it comes to high level track and field, there is more to running fast than just being in shape and ready to go - getting into the right race is just as much a factor.

At the moment I'm fit and ready to go, but it's been so difficult to get into races in Europe as a non-European. Last weekend in Barcelona the meet director gave me the bad news that his meet was full and he couldn't let me in. Instead, he asked if I'd pace the race. My first reaction was, "No way, I need a race!" But after looking for another good race that didn't seem to exist, I asked him if I could try to finish the race if I paced and he said yes. I knew this would be a tough thing to do, especially when they wanted a 4:00 pace until 1000m. Then I found out Malindi had also been asked and accepted the pacing job so we'd at least be able to work together. So we flipped a coin to see which order we'd go in - I drew the first 500m and she the second, after that we'd just see how we were feeling.

It was a crazy race to pace because there were 22 girls on the line so I felt like I had to go into a full sprint just to get to the front. We hit the splits required pretty much dead on. I kept running until 1100m (1lap to go) and passed 2:59, but at that point I felt like I do in a race with about 150m to go and the pack was starting to swallow me up. I made the decision to jump out of the way because I knew I wouldn't finish in my goal time of the world A standard and it would have taken a considerable effort just to finish in any decent time. For those who have raced in any sort of running competition (and more so in cycling), you know that it takes much more effort to run from the front then to draft and get pulled along by someone else. The good that came out of pacing is that I know I can run that pace and I am confident that I can run the time I need if I don't have to go out in a full sprint and lead most of the race.

So, that brings me to this weekend. After a bit of back and forth, planning to run in Belgium, but then getting into a good race in Budapest last minute (thanks to my manager Jacky who pulled some strings for me!). I'm now here in Budapest and ready for a good race tomorrow. I haven't seen start lists yet and I can't read the meet website since it's all in Hungarian, but I've heard our race will be paced for 4:00 and there are several girls going for A standard. I'm just excited to be "in" a good race and looking forward to capitalizing on the opportunity!

 

July 13, 2011 - Mother Nature not cooperating!

Just a quick update on my race in Liege - it was similar to the pacing in Madrid in that it was good for the first lap (65") but the pace maker slowed to a 72" second lap which made it into a sit and kick race. But besides that, the weather was terrible - 12C with heavy rain and wind so not an ideal for fast times, but I was still game to try and run fast. Unfortunately, no one else in the race was going for the world A standard and seemed content to just sit and kick. I am trying to put it into perspective and use those type of races as good practice for championships. BUT, I still need to qualify for the championship so am eager to get into a race that is fast the whole way...and some cooperation from Mother Nature would be great too!

So my next race is hopefully in Barcelona this Friday, but I'm waiting for confirmation tomorrow. I think this should be a great opportunity to run fast so I'm banking on that for now.

 

July 9, 2011 - Nascar anyone?

Upon first glance of my race result in Madrid, one might think it was a step backwards for me given I only ran 4:09, a second slower than my last race. I also expected to run faster given the excellent competition and near perfect conditions of Spain, but instead of a faster time, namely the World A standard I set out to run, I gained a whole whack load of race experience not much different than that of a Nascar.

First off, we started the race with 22 women on the line so I was expecting a pretty physical race and sharpened my elbows beforehand. The race got off to a fast start with the pacemaker going through in 61" for the first 400m - I sensed the quick pace so tried to hold back and went through in a more reasonable 65". Unfortunately the pacemaker only lasted another 300m, which is when the pace slowed considerably and it was like an accordion effect.

Then the inevitable crash happened, luckily I didn't go down, but a girl fell directly in front of me causing me to come to a complete stop and then hurdle over her. It was quite an adrenaline rush and I did manage to catch the lead pack again, but I unfortunately used too much energy "fartleking" in the race that I just didn't have it in the final 100m when I need to kick. So I went from 5th to 11th in about 200m - ouch! I still managed to run 4:09 and this type of racing is very similar to championship style where you're fighting for places so it gave me a good taste of that. It also taught me that when racing so many bodies, it's probably best to stay closer to the outside of the pack since you don't have much of a change to react or avoid problems when you're stuck on the inside. Lesson learned, on to the next race in a few days in Liege, Belgium!

 

July 1, 2011 - Getting closer: World B in Jerome

Finally I had the breakthrough I was looking for this past weekend in Vancouver at the Harry Jerome International where I ran 4:08.04 (see race here), which is under the World B standard. After such a rough Spring I knew I was playing catch up, but that I was getting close to where I should be at this time of year.

Nationals gave me some confidence that I was getting sharp because I felt strong in the final kick. In Vancouver I actually surprised myself because I felt so good when the rabbit dropped at 1km that I was ready to push the pace and take the lead. My coach Dave told me not to go too early, but we were about 4 seconds down at 800m (2:14 instead of 2:10) and I felt I had another gear. However, when I found myself out front with a small gap to the field I second guessed myself thinking, "what's going on why isn't anyone with me" - instead I should have just kept pushing harder. In the head Malindi had a super strong finish and surprised me just before the line to win in 4:07.86 (Full results).

However, I still don't regret pushing the pace early because my main objective is to run as fast as possible and I have to go with my gut (see race interview here). My goal coming into this season was to take more risks and not always play it safe because I feel like that's when you can suprise yourself and run beyond what you think. So, I'm going to stay with that attitude and keep pushing forward in the next races. And after Jerome I'm confident I can run at least a few seconds faster, but the main objective is to get the A standard of 4:05.90.

Right now I'm taking it race to race because I am not confirmed in all the 1500s I was hoping for this month. I am racing in Madrid this Sat and will hopefully get into Liege (July 13th) after that, but am on the waiting list. That's how it goes so will definitely be taking advantage of the opportunity in Madrid!

 

June 25, 2011 - Silver lining

Butterflies in the stomach, sleepless nights, silent treatments for loved ones- it's that time of year: championship racing season. I always find it funny how much nerves can affect me and this weekend at the Canadian Championships was no exception. I didn't think I was that nervous, but Friday night after cheering on my Speed River teammates who won several medals in the steeple chase and 5km, I found myself tossing and turning in bed unable to fall asleep because I was nervous and excited about my own race the next day.

Luckily I know from experience that a sleepless night before a race has no effect on how I feel in the race so I didn't panic, I was more surprised at how nervous I was all of a sudden. But for me this is a good thing because I usually race well when I'm really nervous: it means my mind is registering the importance of the race and telling my body it's time to gear up.

So it was finally time to toe the line and I was having all the usual nauseating emotions, which meant I was ready. The gun went off and we all dashed off the line and settled into a very slow pace, anticipating the final kick for the finish, but just waiting to see who would initiate it. We crawled through the first 400m in 75" and then 800m in 2:24. Malindi got things moving after that and the race was on. Apparently Malindi and I had put a small gap on the field with 200m to go so we were pretty focused on battling with each other. In the final 100m I passed Malindi and was surging for the win when Sheila seemed to have found another gear and flew by Malindi on the inside and surprised me for the win.

I was definitely disappointed to be so close to winning and then come 2nd, but tactical champioships are all about surprises and Sheila saw a good opportunity and capitalized on it so I have to give her credit. It was a great race and it's exciting to have some great Canadian women to race against. In terms of the overall season, it was probably my best race and gave me confidence that I'm coming around and ready to run fast.

Next up is Harry Jerome on July 1 in Vancouver. It looks like a great field of women and we'll have a rabbit to lead us through on pace for world A standard. My goal is to put myself up near the front and go for the fast time, but of course I'll be gunning for the win as well!

 

June 15, 2011 - A step in the right direction

After a frustrating last race in Hengelo, I was pleased to take a small step forward this past weekend in Watford, UK. Although I was hoping to run faster, my 4:14 was a solid effort and showed me my body is coming around.

The overall race wasn't super-fast off the line and I felt I raced well in terms of putting myself in a good competitive position and racing aggressively. The only thing I wasn't happy about was my finishing 150m, but I think that will come now that I'm starting to lower my training load and hit more speed in training. You can watch the full race here.

Rockies in Canmore.

I'm now back in Canada training in Canmore, Alberta, which is absolutely beautiful. Canmore is at about 1400m (4600ft) and 1hr from Calgary where our Canadian Championships will be in 10 days. Canmore is the Olympic training site for our top x-country skiiers so there are tons of athletes in town - in fact, it seems like everyone is doing some kind of sport, so it's a great place to train.

So I'm looking forward to getting in some good training and recovery before toeing the line at nationals in what looks to be a pretty competitive women's 1500m on June 25th.

 

June 3, 2011 - Oxygen debt

In my last blog I talked about the importance of never being too comfortable in a race...and boy was I uncomfortable in the following race in Hengelo! Unfortunately it wasn't because I was running so fast. I will say that I ran my guts out, but it seems I'm allergic to Holland.

This Spring I've been dealing with a lot of allergy and breathing problems, but since I've been back in Switzerland I've been really good. However, as the days past in Holland I was having more problems and in the race it was the worst oxygen debt I have ever experienced, but unfortunately not due to how fast I was running, more because I couldn't breath. My lungs were burning and my heart rate went through the roof. I didn't quite realize what was happening - I just told myself to suck it up and stay tough, racing hurts! But when I saw the time was at least 10secs slower than what I expected to run based on my training, and the fact that it took me 30mins to recover after the race before I could even jog, I knew something was up.

Luckily I have a great team around me and within a couple days I saw a allergy and lung specialist as well as consulted with my sports doc from Guelph to get me back on the right track...not to mention having Dave and Trent to offer some good perspective. I'm on medication now and already feeling better so I'm eager to get back on the track and race.

Although it was a frustrating race, I am actually glad to have some answers and solutions to some problems I've been having on and off over the years. Every athlete has ups and downs and I think it's important to stay positive and confident that if you take care of details and things in your control, train hard, and rest well, results will come. So I'll start the next race fresh and with the same expectations I had going into Henglo!

 

May 26, 2011 - Don't get too comfortable...

Over the last few weeks I've had some great training and really enjoyed being back in Switzerland. The weather has been unbelievable so I've finally been able to do some much needed speed work.

I tested that speed last night in an 800m race in Nijmegen, Netherlands. My goal leading in was to run under 2:05. I got out well and split in 61 secs for 400m, which I felt was reasonable (the leaders went out in 58" and I didn't think I was quite ready for that!). One mistake I made in the race was to relax or "get too comfortable" between 500m-600m thinking I needed to gear up for a big kick. HOWEVER, by the time I hit 100m to go I was already going lactic and that big kick was not going to happen. I finished in 2:06.10, which is actually a bit quicker than my opening 800m last year at this time of year so I'm on the right track. The biggest thing I got out of this race was the reminder that the 800m is very different from the 1500m in that you can never relax or you will lose precious seconds in the end.

Next up I'm running a 1500m in Hengelo on Sunday and I think after running the 800m the pace should feel more comfortable. It is a great field of athletes with about 7 women having pbs of 4-mins or faster, but also several around 4:05-4:09 so I think it should be a good race for me.

Between races I've been staying at the management company headquarters that organizes both races - Global Sports - they manager such athletes as Geb and Bekele. In fact, the pictures on their walls of all the athletes they've represented is unbelievable.

Although we only lived in Holland for a year, I always enjoy coming back and feel very much at home - I suppose since I married into a Dutch family and we made really good friends while here, that makes sense. Yet, everytime I'm back here I can't get over just how many bikes they have and how many people go to school or work by bike - they are very fit people!

Bike parking lot in Holland.

It's also been fun to stay at Global because it reminds me a bit of being in Ethiopia. Among the 30 athletes staying there are about 20 Kenyans, Ethiopians and Ugandans. They function very much like small tribes, sticking together for everything: training, eating meals and hanging out. Although I will say the Kenyans and Ethiopians live quite separately and don't talk much, but that is likely a language barrier issue and maybe a little competitive rivalry too!

Today I met a young Kenya girl who told me she was 17 and this was her first trip out of Kenya and in fact last night was her first 1500m and she ran 4:22 (I'm sure she'll run much faster soon!). We met because she came and sat right beside me while I was working at my computer and just kept starring at my screen and touching my computer. Perhaps it's the first time she saw a computer or maybe a Mac, not sure. She seemed very enthralled so I asked if she wanted to see something (not in a rude way, although I have never had someone be so obviously about reading over my shoulder, but in this case I was not offended). I don't think she knew what I meant so I just brought up the results of the Rome Diamond League. Within 20 seconds I had 15 Kenyans around my computer asking me to see all the distance races (and actually men's 100m) and commented on all their countrymen and women, cheering when Kenya was first.

Next generation of Ethiopian runners.

For how isolated some of the Africans might be or live, they definitely live for track and field and are extremely knowledgable about the sport and the top athletes. They are students of the sport and absolutely embrace every aspect. It does go to show that to be the very best in your sport there should be no sitting on the fence or doing anything mediocre: it takes hard work and discipline and you can never get too comfortable because there is always someone that will be happy to take your spot.

 

May 4, 2011 - Racing to race

Well I opened up my season this past weekend in California at the Payton Jordan Invite at Stanford Uni. It definitely was not what I was hoping to start the season with, as I ran 4:16. However, as of even 2 weeks ago I wasn't even sure I'd make it to the race.

It has been a pretty rough last month for me. I'll preface this by saying that I've been incredibly lucky for a distance runner that I have had very few injury problems - I seem to be quite durable (knock on wood). And this past month I had no injuries to stop me, but I did have some health problems that kept me down and made training incredibly frustrating. It started with allergies and asthma/breathing problems, then a bad cold, then a sinus infection that sent me to the hospital with high fever. Needless to say, I missed some training and had to delay specific track training until only a few days before the race.

So, when I say I was racing to race - I just mean that I wasn't quite physically ready to race this past weekend, but needed to get in a race to get my body ready for those to come. I consider this just a bump in the road, as I realize other athletes have WAY more frustrating bumps with months of injury rehab to deal with.

It's annoying and frustrating not to be where I would like at this point in the season, but I know all the training I've put in during the winter months has got me strong and I'm optimistic with a few weeks on the track I'll regroup for my next race at the end of May.

I'm back in Switzerland now and enjoying the warm spell that has come over Europe and ready to rock some hard training and kick butt this summer!

 

April 4, 2011 - Spring has FINALLY sprung

Luckily life has been pretty busy so although it's been a super long winter, I haven't notice too much. But I have to admit that when the snow was coming down hard last night I was not a happy camper! However, today was as Spring as it gets with 15C and raining. We were doing fartlek on the trails so everyone came back good and muddy. We did our usually 6 x 15" short hills and then on to 24mins worth of fartlek - but mixed it up with some long and short intervals to start getting us ready for track training.

So I've been logging some pretty good miles and just trying to get strong over the last couple months since indoors. Last week was our first time on the track; it's been a low transition. I was thinking about racing in a couple weeks, but since the long winter did delay our access to the track I decided to wait and open the season on May 1 in California.

I'm also in my last practicum of teacher's college and it's been a hectic but rewarding year. I'm teaching gr. 1 right now and they definitely keep me on my toes - they are so much fun! I figure the extra mileage of chasing them around will do me some good. So I have two weeks left and then I'll be back to full-time athlete life of eat, sleep, train, race, repeat - that's what my summer will look like and I'm looking forward to it!

 

Feb. 7, 2011 - "There's always room at the front"

The title of this post is actually a quote from my former university coach at Wisconsin, Peter Tegan. Peter was an excellent coach, known for his crafty strategies and artistic coaching style. This is what he always said to us if we ever claimed we had been boxed in during a race. I mean, what can you really say to this right?!

So I was reminded of this quote on the weekend, as I cross the finish line in Boston in 5th place with a slow time - so really not much to show for myself! I was frustrated because I didn't try to kick early enough and then when I did, I couldn't find a hole to get out of and ended up kicking with the pack. I guess I should have listened to Peter!

I find tactics in indoors much different than outdoors - with more turns you really have to get to the front early or you end up spending most of your time in lane two on the curves. But this is definitely a good lesson in tactics for championship racing.

So, my indoor season is over just as quick as it began - after two races I'm happy with the stimulus it gave me and satisfied with the motivation it provided me to get ready to race this summer. I'm excited to build on my current fitness and go into the season ready to roll.

See full Boston results here.

 

Jan. 24, 2011 - New Balance Games

2011 NB Games
Photo courtesy of John Nepolitan.

This past weekend I raced at one of my favourite races, the New Balance Games at the Armory in NYC. I love this race for a few different reasons: it’s actually a high school meet with just a few elite races and I really like the energy the young athletes bring to the Armory; Ian Brooks the meet director does a great job at providing competitive races in a low-key atmosphere, which is nice for a season opener; and New Balance, with their increasing focus on sponsored athletes, does a nice job at bringing our Team NB together and setting the stage for a positive and motivating start to the year.

So, this was my 6th time racing this mile. Going in I’d had some good workouts, but I feel stronger than fast right now. I’ve focused more on mileage and endurance work longer into the winter because of Commonwealth Games going so late into last year and I needed to catch up on my usual fall of base training. But I have been on the track once a week for the last month so I was pretty confident that I could get in there and put up a good fight.

I ended up running 4:31.72, which is actually the fastest time I’ve run at this meet in the last 6 years so it was a good start to the season. Overall, I felt really strong and maintained contact with the lead group, but I lacked that extra gear in the final kick to finish in the top-3. I ended up a close 4th and looking forward to racing again in two weeks with the hopes that this mile woke my body up a bit and my kick will just keep getting better. Nevertheless, I’m really pleased with where I’m at right now and feel like my strength will only help me leading into the summer. Indoors is really just for breaking up training and getting a bit of extra stimulus.

Next up, I’m hoping to run the mile in Boston at the New Balance Grand Prix (formerly Boston Indoor Games).

Jan. 18, 2011- Why obesity is becoming a pandemic

I'm going to take a different spin on my blog today to talk about something that I think is really important in general society.

So, as much as I love coffee and do appreciate the comfort and consistency of Starbucks no matter where I am in the world, this coffee corporation has caught my attention in a negative way today. They have announced the release of a new size of iced drinks called the Trenta, which is 31 ounces or 916ml - that's nearly a liter of liquid calories (often called empty calories because our body doesn't recognize them in the same way as food, thus it doesn't fill us up in the same way).

My question is who really needs to consume this size of drink? Just to put it into perspective, I got Trent to "run the data" (for those who know Trent you won't be at all surprised to hear that he is the one to send me the article and had already done the stats and had a nice ppt slide ready to go when I asked for it!). Here goes:

Drink: Trenta Iced Peppermint Mocha = ~900kcals, 20g sat fat
Translation: A 60kg (132lbs) person would have to run 15km to burn this off!

I'm going to say this in my most diplomatic "teacher voice" - but if you wanted to make a "healthier choice" you would be better off choosing a full breakfast of bacon and eggs with some fruit. You'd be getting much more nutritional value for the calories taken in.

This is why I think the US (and Canada, although you don't see it as much) needs to introduce a couple of food policies: 1) ban free refills on drinks, 2) regulate portion sizes in restaurants to be more standard. Some people might argue that it should be about free choice and I agree to some extent, but I do think this probably with obesity is because people haven't been taught how to make good food choices and have come to think it's normal to consume these ridiculous mass quantities.

And for the record, I'm speaking to the seditary population who need to make better nutrition and exercise choices. Most runners likely don't have to worry as much about these issues, but my guess is you still care about your health enough not to order a litre of iced coffee...at least not on a regular basis!

 

Jan. 7, 2011 - Happy New Year!

Last week was one of those training weeks that I was excited to write down in my log.  Our Speed River club went down to Chapel Hill, N. Carolina for “warm” weather training. Although upon arrival we were greeted with a nice blanket of snow, it did warm up during the week and we were able to train on the outdoor track.

Group after long run in NC.

After surviving the first semester of Teacher’s College, it was nice to have a two week break to be a full-time athlete again.

At training camp, I was able to run just over 80 miles (130km) for the week, as well as doing some great workouts. We did our annual New Year’s Eve (well Eve-day) V02 max workout. As a 1500m  runner, I get much more excited about doing speed workouts and somewhat dread V02 sessions, but I do realize how much they help me.

Me finishing up VO2 workout.

This year we did 4 x 1 mile with 5 mins rest with some of the youngsters doing 1200m reps, but we were all able to work together. Thanks to UNC coach Pete Watson and DST and Trent who shoveled snow out of lane one, we were able to do the workout on the outdoor track. I averaged 5:02 for four of them and cracked under 5mins for the last one so it ended well.  We usually do this workout 3-4 times a year and I’ve never averaged quite that fast so I am pleased with where my fitness is at right now.

The rest of the training camp consisted of a fartlek, speed work and really hilly long 13 mile (21km) long run. By the end of the week I was spent and sore – just what I needed to get me ready to race indoors.

Trent and Reid clearning snow off track at UNC.

So now I’m back to school and  training in the snow, but the break helped and I’m pretty excited to jump into some races to break up the winter and get ready for outdoors. My plan is to race a 1500m this weekend in Toronto, the New Balance Games mile (Jan. 22) and a 3km in Boston in mid-Feb.In the meantime, I’ll be strapping on my YakTraxs (awesome for snowy runs!) and layering up with all my NB windstopper gear!

 

2010 Posts

Nov. 30, 2010 - GO RIVER!

This past weekend was both an exciting and painful one as we (Speed River/Guelph) hosted the National XC Championships and I decided I didn't want to pass up the chance to help my team win on home turf. But, that meant running a hilly, snowy 7km XC course after about a month of training, which isn't quite enough for me being a middle distance specialist!

But, I suffered through it, survived and would even do it again. I ended up 11th overall and our women's club team won the title, which was really exciting since it's our last year hosting the event. Dana Buchana was our top finisher in 4th place, good for a spot on the World XC team.

Our senior men's team also captured the title with Rob Watson running a gutsy race leading the 10km race from the gun and unfortunately being overtaken in the last lap by a young, up-and-coming talent Cameron Levins. Rob took silver, while Reid Coolsaet was 3rd, both are in the midst of marathon training.

Overall, 8 athletes from our group qualified for the World XC champs, so it was a very successful weekend. And, it was a bit of a crazy day as about 5-6cm of snow fell the morning of the race and made the already-challenging course even more so. I suppose that's what Canadian XC is all about though!

That's enough XC for me for this year, I'm going back into training mode for the rest of the winter. Since I missed a lot of the fall base training because of preparing for Commonwealths, I need to get that in this winter. I will likely do a couple indoor races, but my focus is definitely the summer racing season.

 

Nov. 8, 2010 - Sad day in the running community
Trent and I with Haile at 2007 Lisbon 1/2 marathon

After failing to finish the NYC marathon today because of injury, Haile Gebrassalasie sadly announced his retirement. An emotional Haile said he didn't want to complain anymore about injury and seemed really frustrated that he'd trained so hard leading into NYC and it didn't pay off.

Seeing Haile so emotional and to end such an amazing career in this way brough tears to my eyes. I realize most top athletes don't stop when they are on top, but it was so sad to watch a man I know to be extremely positive and upbeat, so down.

Haile is arguable the best runner in the past 1/4 century, having set about 30 world records in everything from the 1500m to the marathon, and still holds the marathon WR. He's an astonishingly decorated athlete, but more than that, he's an amazing person that has inspired so many Ethiopian and athletes world-wide. He's also given so much back to his country and currently employes 1000 or more Ethiopian people in his many businesses, which I expect he will now focus most of his time on.

I've had a chance to meet Haile on a number of ocassions and each one was memorable. I'll never forget what he told me when I asked what his secret to success was, he said, "First you must win yourself." And he really did show this confidence in the way he competed. Unfortunately, it seems today he lost this battle. But, I'm still not ruling out the possibility that he'll be back!

Eitherway, I'm greatful to have witnessed so many of Haile's great sucesses and wish him all the best in future endeavours. He has a huge running community of supporters and I hope he seeks out the support he likely needs at this difficult time.

Oct. 22, 2010 - Back at it!

My break has come and gone so it's time to start the base phase, which I always enjoy. After two weeks of downtime I feel very refreshed and eager to start training again. I was quite busy student teaching Kindergarten during my downtime so I was using my energy in other ways. It was awesome though...anyone who thinks Kindergarten is just glorified babysitting is completely wrong, those little guys are brilliant and busy!

So now I'll start gradually adding in the mileage at pretty low to moderate intensity. I had a meeting with Dave tonight to talk about strengths and challenges from the past season and our goals for next year. I find this is a great coach-athlete activity to give closure to the season and make sure you're both on the same page for the upcoming one. I usually get both Trent and Dave to write down what they felt I did well and what we can improve on, then their goals for me for next year, while I do the same. We are all on the same page and excited for this year!

I am thinking about doing some x-country races this year, which could be fun since it's been about 4 years since I've run cross. I'm still deciding and will see how the next month of training goes.

Other fun stuff coming up, New Balance asked myself and Reid Coolsaet (also Speed River club) to go to NYC to do a commercial so I'm really psyched about that. And this Sunday is our monthly Speed River brunch where Taylor Milne, Eric Gillis and I will all be talking about Commonwealth Games and/or Toronto Marathon experiences. Anyone in Guelph, it's at 10am at Shakespeare Arms. Should be fun!

 

Oct. 11, 2010 - Disappointed with 11th
Me in the heats in Delhi.

Sorry for the delayed update, but it was a quick turn around after my final as I left the next day for the 24hr trip back to Canada and started my first teaching practicum in Kindergarten today! Needless to say, I was a bit out of it this morning, but the kids didn't seem to notice.

Anyway, my final result in Delhi was disappointing. I ended up 11th overall and my goal was to minimally come top-8. It was a very competitive race with the Olympic champ taking the gold and the championship record. Nevertheless, I went to Delhi with the intent and confidence to compete with these girls and I came up short. But I am definitely motivated by failure and this just fuels my fire. I know I made some big steps forward this year and was fitter than I've ever been.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to race a few key races in August that would probably have helped my prep a bit more, but these things happen and are out of my control so I just have to stay focused on my goals for world champs in 2011 and Olympics in 2012. The good thing about the upcoming championships are that they are in the midst of the competitive season, which I think I'll benefit more from instead of being so far after the major season ends like this year. Either way, each race and season bring new experiences, as well as personal and professional growth that challenges me to reflect and set new goals that I continue to build on.

As for now, I'm taking two weeks away from running to focus on school and rest...perhaps some yoga and hiking, but no running so that I'll come back refreshed and energized to start building for the 2011 season!

 

Oct. 7, 2010 - On to the final!

It was a bit of a close call this morning in my heats as I nearly fell flat on my face with 20m to go in my heat, but still was able to qualify for the final! Being in the first of two heats, I knew my heat would be fast and I was ready for that. I hung in the pack and with about 600m to go, four of the top women started to pull away. I wasn't feeling great at this point, but I knew if I could stay in top 8 I would have a chance to get in the final.

I kicked with the second pack and was in about 6th position when a girl from Uganda came to pass me on the inside (I think it was about 20m to go, but I haven't seen the replay) and I stumbled and nearly fell over - at the same time she and one other girl passed me. I was able to regain my stride and sprint for 8th. Luckily, the second heat was slower and my time was faster than all of them, so I am good to go for tomorrow's final, as is my teammate Nicole.

It's nice to have the heats out of the way. I always find them really nerve-racking and I rarely feel good. But it's usually a good wake up call for my body and I think I'll bounce back hopefully feeling better tomorrow night. I'm excited to race again, it will be a very competitive final with the Olympic Champ in there and five other world finalists.

We go at 6:45pm Delhi time so hopefully CBC will show it at 9:15am EST.

 

Oct. 6, 2010 - Ready to race!
Taj
Me in front of the "Taj Mahal"

I've now had a few days to adjust to India and I'm ready for my competition to begin. So far things have been going well. The heat and humidity were challenging to train in for the first couple of days - I just felt heavy and tired - but I feel like I've adjusted well and felt great training this morning.

Tomorrow we have our first round at 10:50am Delhi time (1:20am EST) and 12 women will advance to the final. I believe I'm ranked 8th off my season best so it will be tough, but attainable. I am definitely not taking the heats lightly since I know anything can happen - ever Olympic champions fail to make it to the next round in some cases.

As for day to day life, I'm so glad to have the rest of the team around because it would get boring justing waiting to compete. People often comment how neat it is that us athletes get to go to so many cool places, but we rarely get to actually "visit" the places where we are racing unless its after we compete. Hence my picutre in front of the "Taj Mahal." Yes, I am in India and in front of this spectacular buildings, but only a poster that was up in the village because I won't get to visit the real thing - it's about 4.5hrs each way (100km, but crazy traffic)!

Between Trent and I, we have been taking some photos, but I'm going to have to delay putting them up for now - sorry!

 

Oct. 3, 2010 - Greetings from Delhi!

I made it to Delhi in one piece and I have to say the travel wasn't too bad. I went to Brussels for a couple days first to start adjusting to the 9.5 hr time change (I was more than half way there with Brussels 6hrs ahead of Toronto). That helped tremendously because it broke up the 14hrs of travel and getting up for our 10am team meeting today (we landed in Delhi at 9pm last night and were processed and in our rooms by 2am!) I felt okay. Today it's about 35C with lots of humidity - I haven't run in it yet, but will test it out later tonight.

As for the village, it's actually really nice, despite the media hype. There are some glitches and it looks like they literally just finished, but the rooms are pretty Westernized and food is great. It seems like most athletes have arrived so some great colour with all the countries around the village.

The vibe on the Canadian team is fantastic and everyone seems excited to be here and ready to compete. CBC will be showing he opening ceremonies on TV - I guess it shoud be about 9am EST and likely repeated later. I have decided not to go because they've told us it will be an 8hr ordeal and since I compete in 4 days I don't want to be on my feet that long. It's unfortunate because it's usually a great way to start a games, but I have to think about competition first. Trent will be walking in the ceremony so look out for him.

I will try to post some photos in the next couple of days - Trent has the camera right now so hopefully he gets some good ones at openings.

Sept. 29, 2010 - Onward to Delhi

I'm sitting in Toronto Airport getting ready to head to Delhi...although my flight is 2 hours delayed, I'm super excited to get going! All the news we've been getting from our Canadian mission staff already in Delhi is that things have progressed well and they are ready for us. Many people have been asking if I'm still going because of all the bad press about the village not being finished or security worries, but I figure the Canadian Commonwealth Games Committee has put together an experienced team whose job it is to test the site and let us know what's safe or not. My job is to compete and that's what I plan to do.

As for my race in NYC on the weekend (5th Ave Mile), it didn't go as well as I hoped or planned. I take full responsibility as I seemed to have lost my toughness or guts somewhere between 1200m and the finish. I was running well, at the front for the first 3/4 of the race and then a big pack passed me and I started to think too conservatively that I don't want to go too early and I'm not sure I can stay with them that long - and in that time, I lost them and it was too late to catch them, but I realized I probably could have held on judging by how I felt in the end. Don't get me wrong, I was hurting bad, but still felt strong.

The good thing is, it was a valuable wake up call to tell me I'm fit enough to run with those girls if I put my mind to it, I just need to stay confident and run tough. It was a good thing to consider before leading into the championships and I feel more race ready after not having raced for a month. Plus I'm pretty motivated for redemption!

Anyway, I'm going to try and post updates and photos as much as I can while in India so stay tuned.

 

Sept. 26, 2010 - 5th Avenue Mile

I'm sitting in my hotel room getting ready to run the 5th Avenue Mile and I can't believe a month has gone by since my last post. It's been a crazy one - going back to school and preparing for Commonwealth Games. I love school, but it feels pretty strange to be back in that setting. Training has also been going really well so I'm excited to test myself today.

They've set up excellent men's and women's races for the mile here in NYC. The weather is great (18C) and the course is apparently fast. The race will be streamed live here.

I have some extra motivation after watching Speed River teammates Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis run huge personal bests at the Toronto Marathon this morning. Gillis took nearly 2 minutes off his previous time (2:12.08) and Reid ran 2:11.23, which is 2012 Olympic standard! Great start to the day - hopefully Taylor (Milne also running here) and I can follow their lead!

 

Aug. 30, 2010 - No luck, super frustrated!

Well, I didn't end up getting into Reiti so at the last minute I decided to go to a Flanders Cup race in Antwerp, Belgium. The field was meant to be okay, with a couple girls around 4:09-4:12, but I fully expected I would have to do a lot of work to run fast. The meet director assured me he has a good pacemaker who could run 1km at 4:05 pace. I knew I was in good shape and needed a race since I hadn't raced since Canadian nationals so I went.

Unfortunately, on the morning of the race, the storm clouds rolled in and it was super windy and stormy all day. Our race was delayed by 45mins because of weather, which was pretty cold and windy, but luckily not raining when we races. So, I went off with the pacemaker and we hit 66" for the first lap (1 sec. too slow, but still fixable). I asked her to pick it up and she did for a bit, but then I felt it slow again. When we came through 800m we were 2:15, at this point I passed her and tried to go it alone. I'll be honest though, when I saw how slow we were at half-way my morale took a hit. I tried to get the pace going faster, but with the wind and no one to race it was tough. I ended up winning the race in a very slow 4:15! Not what I was hoping, nor reflective of my shape.

Going to Belgium I was really determined to run fast, but I think the let down of not getting into Rieti (which ended up being really fast and perfect weather!) hit me pretty hard and then with the factors of bad weather and slow pacing, I just couldn't run the race I wanted. It's really disappointing and I'm pretty down about it.

Moral of the story...sometimes things don't go as you planned and you really have to take advantage of good (racing) opportunities when you have them.

But, I have to move on and focus on getting ready for Commonwealth Games in 5 weeks. At least I'm hungry to run fast and race well so I think after a few days off to reload, I'll be ready to take on the next challenge and start training hard again. I'm hoping to run in the 5th Ave Mile in NYC at the end of the month so that will be my next competition. In the meantime, I'm heading back to Canada to start Teacher's College next week - back to school!

 

Aug. 23, 2010 - Dying to race...

The last two weeks since Luzern, or what was supposed to be Luzern, have gone so well that I'm dying to race. The 800m in Zurich didn't work out because it was only U20 so I ended up doing an 800m time trial in training last week and actually ran a pb of 2:02.1. Of course I'm happy to be fit enough to run that in training (with a good pacemaker of course, a friend from Lausanne sport who did an excellent job taking me through in 59-high and 1:30). However, running a pb in training is obviously not worth the same as doing it in a race where you have that real result.

The 800m and a few other key workouts show me I'm more than ready to pb over 1500m so I'm just dying to race. I am waiting to hear if I get into Rieti, which would be the perfect opportunity - Rieti is consider the "magic" track where everyone seems to come away with a pb. I should know today or tomorrow if I'm in. Fingers crossed!

 

Aug. 12, 2010 - Sans Luzern

I have to apologize for my delayed update on Luzern - I've been getting lots of emails asking what happened. Although I did not race, I am fine - no injuries, still health and fit.

Luzern was really frustrating...I actually missed the race! At the last minute (I'm not exactly sure how close to the race), the meet organizers decided to split the women's 800m into an A and B section. Everyone in the A had run sub-2mins this year. So, I got put in the B section, which I would have been completely fine with because it was still a fast race. However, they also decided to move the B race into the pre-program (2 hrs earlier than previously scheduled) without advertising this on their website or giving timely notice to those travelling to the meet.

My notice was this: I show up at the track and hear my name being called and my race walking onto the track. I was far from ready, still in normal clothes and not warmed up. I ran over to the official who was very sympathatic (especially since I wasn't the only one in my race confused and unprepared). We had to wait for the meet director to come explain that there was nothing he could do (the B race had gone by this time)- he was told all the athletes had been emailed and he couldn't justify putting me in the A section (which was still at regular time, 2 hours later) because I hadn't run sub-2mins this season. I understand his principle, but felt they should have dealt with their own mistake by letting me race - the A section did have 9 girls, but it's not like I take up a lot of room!

Needless to say, I was super bummed out and didn't even watch the race. Well, mostly because at that point I still needed to do something so had to get a workout in on the trails while the meet was going on. Now I'm looking into possibly racing an 800m next week in Zurich as part of the national program, but it's still up in the air because it might only be a U20 race. I guess this is part of being an athlete - you definitely have to be adaptable at this time of year when race schedules can change very quickly! For now I'm just focusing on getting in some good training in preparation for Rieti at the end of the month, and of course Commonwealth Games in Oct.

 

Aug. 4, 2010 - Canadian Nats recap: Disappointed with 3rd, but happy to have secured spot on Commonwealth Team

Although it's an "off" year from many athletes in the world with no major championship (Worlds or Olympics), this was probably the most competitive women's 1500m at national championships I've raced since 2004. It also served as the Commonwealth Games trial, which meant you had to be top-3 in your event at nats, plus have the qualifying time standard to make the team.

In this year's women's 1500m, three of us had the time standard, two others were less than 1/2 second off and a couple more were within 2 secs. So, leading intot the race, I wasn't sure if those who were just off the standard would try to make it fast. Otherwise, I figured it would be tactical.

I really felt I was capable of winning the race, but of course had to be a bit conservative because the crucial criteria I had to fullfill was finishing top-3. It ended up being a very slow and tactical race with no one interested in leading in a fast time (we split the 800m in 2:24 - that's on pace for about 4:26), which meant we were a huge pack leading into the bell lap. As much as I was getting really anxious and wanted to push the pace early, it wasn't in my best interest to lead too early and risk everyone sitting on me.

Instead, I decided to kick with 100m to go and did get a couple steps on the field and thought I had the win, but then Malindi and Nicole came flying by wide in the outside lane with about 50m to go. It was so close to the finish that I didn't have time to react and thus crossed the line in 3rd. I was really bummed not to get the win, but in hindsight I guess I should have been a bit more patient and waited to kick closer to the line so I could react closer to the finish. We ran our last 800m in 2:10 and the last lap in 61" so it was rolling along by the end and, as I said, a very competitive group of women.

In the end, unfortunately, only two of us from the women's 1500m will go to Commonwealth Games (Nicole Edwards - 2nd and myself) because we fulfilled both criteria of time and place by the July 31st deadline (winner Malindi Elmore didn't have the time, and Carmen Douma-Hussar had the time, but was 4th). It was a bit ironic because Malindi and I warmed down together after the race and were both kicking ourselves with mixed emotions (me wishing I had won and her wanting to have the standard). C'est la vie. Not much we can do at this point and we've both been their before so could sympathize.

Moving on, I'm really fit and ready to run fast so I'm going to continue on racing and will run an 800m this Sunday in Luzern, Switzerland.

 

July 19, 2010 - Step by step: season's best in Paris

Paris definitely went better than Lausanne, although still not as fast as I was hoping for. One month ago in New York I ran 4:07 and my training since then has been at a level that shows I'm ready to pb so when I saw the screen Friday night in Paris: 4:06.99, I was disappointed not to have run a pb.

It was a good race to be in to run fast, but I had to race smart after going out too fast in Lausanne. So, when the pack went out in 61" for the first lap I could sense this and backed off, which meant I (along with a couple other girls) let the lead pack gap us and then chased them the rest of the race. It was a bit strange to run a race like that because you almost feel like you're not exactly "in" the race. But, I knew I wasn't ready to go out in 2:05 through the 800m (which is what the leaders passed) so I needed to be confident in running my own race.

In the third lap I waited a bit too long to start really trying to catch the pack and I think this cost me a couple seconds because I wasn't with them at the bell and this would have definitely helped in my finishing kick. I finally caught them with 200m to go and was able to race a few people to the line.

All in all, it's a good race experience and gives me another good quality 1500m that will only help my body get used to the fast pace and hopefully adjust to run even faster! I'm feeling good and really motivated to keep improving with each race.

Next on the agenda is Canadian National Champs where I am going in ranked second, but will definitely be going to race for the win. This championships also serves as the Commonwealth Games trials (in India this October). Three of us have the qualifying standard and four others are very close so it will be a good battle - top 3 in each event with the qualifying time will have a chance to compete in India. It will be exciting and I'm looking forward to the challenge!

On another note, while in town for the Lausanne meet, Ryan Fenton of Flotrack stayed with us and took some good videos that are quite entertaining and give you an idea of what it's like in our neck of the woods:

Chalet-a-Gobet - a run in our local forest outside Lausanne
Swiss Riveria - a tour around Lausanne and area
Walking to Stadium with Trent and Dave
Nutritioin while at the meet (for those NOT competing!)

July 9, 2010 - Welcome to the big leagues!

What a race last night...first off, thanks so much for everyone who come and watched, the support was fantastic! As for the race, I went in feeling great, ready to go and from the gun it was full on. I split the first lap right on target (65 secs), but then the pace kicked up and my next lap was 63-high. I was definitely feeling it at that point as I had never gone out in 2:09 before, but I figured now is the time to take some risks and see what happens. I continued on through 1200m really well, splitting around 3:15, which is another pb! But that's when it got really ugly as I barely made it through the last 100m and ended up running 4:11.

Definitely not the result I was hoping for since I know I'm in pb shape, but other than the ever so crucial last 300m (I realize this was the downfall of my race) I am actually pretty happy with 75% of my race and even think if I ran a similar race in a week (funny I'll have the chance in Paris!) I will run better after having adapted to going out hard in Lausanne. Sometimes you have get a big shock and go down before you come up.

So yes, I am disappointed in the final time and overall place, but still feel like I'm making progress and feel like I'm on the verge of a bigger performance. I can say that it was an extremely competitive race last night where the top 3 times in the world for women's 1500m came from our race so besides major championships this is as big as it gets and I'm still motivated and determined to keep battling my way up the ladder.

I have one week to recover and get some training in to get ready for Paris on July 16 - looking forward to it!

June 26, 2010 - A win's a win
Hilary in 2nd position. Notwil 800, 2:04.26 (1st)

This past Saturday I toed the line for my 2nd 800m of the season at a small meet in Notwil, Switzerland. It was an interesting set up for such a small meet in that they had rabbits for every section of every race, which is great! And apparently I was deemed the 2nd rabbit in my race as when I arrived at the meet, the organizer, some coaches and a few women in the race said one of the best Swiss girls in the race needed to run the European Champs standard of 2:02.50 so would I so kindly go behind the rabbit (who was scheduled to go out in 59-60" through 400m) and Monika (Swiss 800m runner) would follow me.

I found this predicament a bit strange and funny at the same time: I couldn't help but think to myself, "Leave it to the Swiss for being ultra organized!" However, I didn't care too much since I was just there to run fast and was happy to help someone else try to get a qualifying time since I know all to well how that feels... with that being said, a race is a race and I was still there to try and win it.

So the race, or pre-arranged time trial, went off with the rabbit passing 200m in what I understood (in German) to be 28" - yikes, a bit too fast so I was hoping I had misunderstood, but then I heard Trent yell "57, 58" as we passed 400m. I know 1 or 2 seconds doesn't sound like a lot, but in an 800m even half a second can make a big difference at the half way point in how lactic you get. When I heard this split and the rabbit dropped out, my plan was just to push as hard as I could for as long as I could before fully expecting to hit the wall. However, I didn't feel nearly as bad as I anticipated and even got through 600m in 1:30.6...but then I did hit a wall in the last 100m. Luckily, so did everyone else in the race since everyone went out way faster than they could handle. In the end I won in 2:04.26, which is 2 seconds quicker than my first 800m of the season, but still slower than I had wanted.

I'm hoping to run at least one more 800m this season and take a crack at my pb (2:02.20). I definitely think I'm fit enough to do that in a more even race and perhaps battling some more girls down the home stretch.

Now I have a week and a half to get some good training in before Lausanne Diamond League on July 8, which I'm really excited for because we have lots of friends coming to watch, including a huge Nestle crew and Dave is making his first trip here...hopeful bringing Taylor Milne (fellow Speed River teammate) who is on the waitlist.

 

June 17, 2010 - Small breakthrough, moving in the right direction!

It's funny how as athletes we think we need to constantly be pushing and training really hard, especially when things aren't going well and we feel if we push a bit more we'll get the improvements we're hoping for. Sometimes this might be the case and don't get me wrong, training hard is a huge part of success, but sometimes it's the rest and recovery we neglect on our list of importance. My husband Trent is always telling me and other athletes he consults (he's an exercise physiologist) that we actually get strong when we rest from training, which breaks you down.

So, where am I going with all of this...well, if you read my previous blogs you'll know that I was feeling pretty tired in the last few races. Training has been going great, but I wasn't quite recovered when it came to racing. Dave and Trent had me pull back a bit leading into New York this weekend, and it was amazing the difference I felt compared to two weeks ago in Windsor.

I ended up running 4:07.76, which is under the 4:10 Commonwealth Games standard, not to mention my 3rd fastest time ever. Needless to say, I'm very pumped! It's about what I thought I should run, judging by my training, but training and racing are two different thing so it's nice to have the mark at this point in the season. I don't think I've ever run that fast this early so I consider it a small breakthrough and a step in the right direction. The next step will be working on my pb of 4:05.

I'm back in Switzerland now and will moving into the European ciricuit of races, starting June 26 in an 800m at a small race in Switzerland. After that, I'm running a 1500m here in Lausanne, which is quite a big race - as it's another Diamond League. It will be fun to race at home!

June 5, 2010 - Speed River in action

So my 800m on Wednesday went okay - I ran 2:06, which is an alright start. I was hoping to run a bit faster but we didn't have a rabbit, so I lead the entire race and was a bit hesitant to go out too fast for my first 800m of the season; I've done that before and it doesn't turn out well. Anyway, it was a good race effort and I'll get a chance to run another one in a few weeks when I get back to Switzerland.

Tonight we have the third and last race of the 401 series here in Ontario. I have been confirmed to race the 1500m at the Diamond League in New York next weekend so we decided it was best if I just paced the women's 1500m tonight. I'm excited to be able to help out my Speed River teammates and other girls hoping to run fast on home soil. We're aiming for about a 4:10-4:12 pace. And the men's mile is heating up with Taylor Milne (see feature article) looking to run fast and others will be using him in the quest to break the 4-minute barrier, which would be the first in Guelph!

Come out and watch if you're around Guelph, events start at 7pm.

May 31, 2010 - Ups and downs

Since my last blog, we had a great turn out at the Town Hall Meeting and it seems there's lots of community support for Speed River and running in general so hopefully that will kick start more. See Guelph Running for more info.

I also raced a 1500m in Windsor on the weekend. After about a month of fantastic training, I had a not so fantastic race. I just didn't feel right from the gun - it just felt tough and I'm not sure if I'm just tired from the hard training block and still recovering or if the drastic temperature change (aveg. 33C and humid) in the week leading in hit me harder than I thought. It was a bit like a time trial with my training partner Amber and I trying to work together for a fast time. We worked hard, but I guess it wasn't a good day for either of us as we were well off our 4:10 or under goal (we ran 4:16 and 4:17).

But, as I said, we've been having great workouts that show we should be able to run our goal time so I'm staying postitive and focused on the races to come. Just a blip on the radar and still a tough effort that provided good stimulus.

Up next I'm running an 800m in London, Ontario this Wed. I don't get a chance to run many so I'm really excited! I'm thinking this will make the next 1500m feel nice and slow compared to the pace of an 800m!

May 17, 2010 - Community Outreach

In my last blog you saw our Speed River Track Club shoveling manure for a club fundraiser, which ended up being really successful - so thanks to everyone in the Guelph area for supporting us!

This week Speed River has been getting quite a bit of press about an upcoming Town Hall meeting we've called to try and raise awareness about our group in terms of our elite athletes, but also our community involvement and outreach. It's always been a big part of our club's philosophy that we have a social responsibility to get involved in our community to promote general health and well-being starting from our youth programs to masters runners to connecting with the recreational fitness community. If we as elite athletes can help inspire others to be fit, then it's a good start!

So, by following through with our own social responsibility, we also hope that the leaders in our community might be able to help us out by rallying for more funds to build better facilities (ie. we need a rubberized track!) as well as get sponsors on board and support our programs so we can help more future and current Olypmians, as well as live in a healthier community! And that's what brings us to the Town Hall Meeting.

If anyone is going to be in the Guelph area May 25th at 7:30pm, stop by Rozanski Hall at the University of Guelph to join us for the meeting. Our goal is to have world-class Canadian athletes training with the best track club in Canada, in the fittest city in Canada! Check out more info here.

May 7, 2010 - Good start

So the race at Stanford was a pretty good start to the season. I ran 4:13 in a sit and kick type race. It was a windy night so no one really wanted to lead and we slugged through 800m in 2:18 (my split). It got going in the last 600m and I ran about 80 seconds for my last 500m (~64 last lap), but the top 3 girls closed in 61 so I definitely need to work on my kick. I'm not too worried as we haven't done much speedwork and it's about 3 weeks earlier than I usually open the season, yet still ran the same time as personal best years. So, eventhough I think I'm fitter than the final time I ran, it still shows me I'm on track!

It was also really exciting to be at Stanford to see my former Wisconsin teammates kick butt in the 10km - Chris Solinsky ran an American record and I think a world lead of 26:59 and Simon Bairu broke an 8-year-old Canadian record running 27:23. It was amazing to watch - great job guys!

I'm not going to race again until the end of the month so I'll have some time to get in several good track sessions and still keep decent mileage going. I'm planning on a few different racing blocks at end of May/begining of June, mid-July and Aug so I can focus on training inbetween.
Speedy Manure club fundraiser

This week has been okay for training, although I was pretty tired on Monday after Saturday race, Sunday morning long run and then 12hrs of door-to-door travelling home from Cali. I'm glad I'm not racing for a bit! Instead, this weekend I'm doing some supplemental training for a Speed River club fundraiser. Each year our club raises about $12,000 selling manure from a mushroom farm used for gardening. So tonight I spent about 3 hours shoveling and bagging manure to get ready for delivery tomorrow. I think I'm going to be more sore from that than my track workout this afternoon. But at least we can help the club out!
Me and my team shoveling manure.


 

 

 

 

May 1, 2010 - Let the racing season begin!

In just a few hours my racing season will get underway with my first 1500m of the season at the Payton Jordan meet in Stanford, California. I guess in my last blog I said I'd be running a 3000m here, which was the original plan, but they decided not to have one so 1500m it is!

The last month of training has gone really well. It's been a transition phase into track so some days I feel like a completely different athlete compared to others. For example, in one week I'll do a workout of up to 35 mins of tempo, a track session of 1km repeats and another of fast 200s. But I like the dichotomy of training and know it will be important for my endurance and longevity throughout the season.

As for the race today, I’m not quite sure what to expect. The competition is strong and I’m hoping for an honest pace and a good starting point for the rest of the season. We haven’t done a ton of specific work – I guess I’ve been training in Guelph for two weeks now and we’ve done one workout geared to 1500m, but it felt surprisingly good. So, I’m just excited to get out there and race and go from there.

After racing tonight, I'm heading back to Guelph to train for the next month and I'll run in our 401 Distance Series races that will be aimed at providing some good local racing opportunities.

For those interested in watching the race live, I run at 7pm PT, see here.

March 27, 2010

Finally Spring has arrived and training has become a lot less frigid...at least in Switzerland, although I think my training partners in Guelph might still be dealing with snow (sorry guys!).

But weather aside, I've had a really good last month of training. I took a short break after Birmingham - just one week of a few 1 hr runs, mixed with a few days off. And since then I've had a good endurance phase - averaging about 70miles (110-120km) a week, with one longer tempo run (up to 30mins), one workout of a fartlek or long repeats on the track, and a split day where I do a bit of tempo in the morning and hills or shorter speed work in the afternoon. And I've added in weights twice a week and plyometric training 2-3 times a week.

It took me a couple weeks to adapt to this load again so I was pretty exhausted and was crawling on some of my easy runs, but then by the third week it's like my body woke up and I started to come around. I'm still tired a lot, but my workouts have been on target or better, which tells me I'm handling the load well. If my quality was going down for a significant period of time I would be worried I was overdoing it, but that hasn't happend.

So, I thought I'd give myself a little wake up call or test by entering a 10km road race tomorrow in Holland. I am here visiting friends and there is a good race closeby so it was a good opportunity to race. It's suppose to be cold, windy and rainy - typical Dutch weather - so a perfect way to test myself BOTH physically and mentally!

After tomorrow I won't race again until I start on the track May 1 at Stanford in California. This year with the long season leading hopefully into October for Commonwealth Games, I decided to start with a longer race, so I'll do the 3000m at Stanford. It's a distance I don't get a chance to run very often so I'm excited!

Feb. 23, 2010 - Good close to indoor season

I finished off my indoor season this past weekend at the Birmingham Grand Prix. I have to be honest, since Stuttgart I was a bit hesitant to run in Birmingham because it was another world record attempt and the startlist was quite slim initially. I'm all for challenging myself, but I think it's important to make sure I'm in the right race at the right time. I'm really happy with how my training has been going and was confident that I was in indoor pb shape, but getting into a sub-4:00 race with only a few women in the field, is something I'd be more ready for this summer.
In the end, the field at Birmingham ended up rounding out much better than initially planned and I decided to give the race a go. The field was still very elite, but I knew besides the few at the front (Burka and Jamal) I was in shape to hang with the rest of the field and run a fast time. So, that's basically what happend. You can read more below, but I ended up running a new indoor mile personal best of 4:30.89. I just missed the Canadian qualification for world indoors (4:30.64) but since my focus has always been the outdoor season, I'm quite okay with this. I'm really excited to end the indoors in pb shape and continue on with a good training block into the spring. I'll likely open my outdoor season sometime in May.

More updates to come!

Feb. 8, 2010 -  Where do I begin...

I have to apologize for the long delay in updates - my computer crashed in early January and I'm still waiting to get it fixed. So I've just figured out how to update on here without accessing my files.

Anyway, my indoor season is underway and I have mixed feelings about it so far - in that I'm really excited about where I'm at in training, but have yet to achieve what I want in races. But from experience, I realize racing doesn't always match up to training right away.

A quick update since last time...I stayed in Guelph (Canada) for a few weeks after Christmas to train with Dave (Canadian coach) and some new additions to our training group - Dana Buchanan and Amber McGowen (Canadian girls who were training with Oregon Track Club), along with some of the collegiate girls. We did some great workouts and I really felt like this kick-started my fitness.

We did a little test in Toronto at a small indoor meet, basically switching leads to run 4:22 in the 1500m, which felt good. At that point I felt strong, but not sharp - pretty normal for the start of indoors when we still focus a lot on endurance training and just once a week on the track.

From there we headed to the New Balance Games, which is always one of my favourite meets. New Balance treats us well, as does meet director Ian Brooks - who always makes this early-season meet so much fun. I also got asked to do a high school training clinic for New Balance and was very impressed with the local athletes who attended - they challenged us with some great questions! (see photos)

The New Balance mile featured a great field of women and ended up being a good test on tactics - it went out pretty slow (2:17 for 800m) and wound up for a fast finish. I ended up 5th in 4:34. I was aiming to run faster, but I made the mistake with 3 laps to go of not covering a move by Erin Donahue, which was a good reminder that when a gap forms in a 1500m race, it's pretty tough to get it back.

So, this past weekend I ran in Stuttgart, Germany which was a very different race than in New York - the pace was set to be at 4:00 (close to world record for indoors) at the request of Ethiopian Gelete Burka. There was only 7 of us in the race and all were strong competitors. The race split a bit and I was in the 2nd group, but we still hit the 400m in 64.9, which is right on my outdoor pb pace! So I knew it was going to be a matter of holding on and testing my fitness out. I know I'm fit, but realistically I know I still have work to do before I'm in pb shape so when we went through in 2:45 for the 1km I started to struggle. I managed to stay with the group until 1200m, but then things got pretty ugly. I finished in 4:17 so I really tough last 300m considering I split the 1500m (via the mile) in New York if 4:15.0.

But I know a race like that, although disappointing because of the overall time, is still a good race stimulus that will just prepare me better for races to come. My plan is to run the mile in Birmigham, UK on Feb. 20. So I have a couple weeks to get a few good workouts in and improve on my latest performances. I'm pretty confident about my progress in training and just want to get the most out of these indoor races to set me up well for the more important outdoor season.

 

2009 Posts

Dec. 7, 2009 - Rolling along...

I had another pretty good race in Geneva this past weekend so things seem to be moving along in the right direction. It was nothing ground breaking, but I ran faster than last year and was happy with a solid, yet painful in the end, effort that will help my adjustment into the indoor track season.

It was actually a pretty exciting race because it ended up being the most competitive field I've run against thus far in Geneva. Recent winner of the NYC Marathon, Deratu Tulu (who also ran last year) was second, along with some other good Africans and a couple of European women getting in one last race before next weekend's European XC Champs in Dublin. Since I'm jealous I can't run in the European Champs, at least I can see how they fair and make a comparison of where I'm at.

Overall, training has been going well and I've been able to keep up good volume through these road races. I have one more next weekend before going into another training block that will transition me into the indoor track season, which I always enjoy!

 

Nov. 26, 2009 - Sometimes we think too much!

My road race season officially began this past weekend in the small village of Bulle, Switzerland - just 45mins down the road from us. Switzerland has an excellent series of road races that feature races of 1km for small kids, up to 6km for elite women and 10km for elite men - plus all the age groups inbetween. It's amazing to see so many people out racing - it goes on all day with the elite races at night under the city lights - among streets filled with screaming fans, making for a great atmosphere.

I was pretty happy with how my race ended up, although if I didn't stick with and end up beating a large pack of women who had caught me mid-race, as I was paying for first-race-excitement of going out too hard, I think my analysis of this race and my overall fitness would have been much different. And thus the title of my blog - sometimes as athletes we tend to over think or put too much weight on one race or workout. I could have very easily ended up 15th in Bulle and when the big pack of women passed me I started doubting my fitness, but then I just told myself it's a race and everyone is hurting, I am fit and I better get my butt in gear to stay with them and beat as many as I can. So in a matter of seconds my change in attitude changed my race outcome and probably my ultimate outlook of my fitness. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy I dug in and finished well, but all the training I've done up until that race would not have become null and void if I'd finished 15th place.

My point in all of this is that I think it's important not to get too caught up or over analytical about one race or one workout. I remind myself to trust my fitness and stay confident because this will get you through a tough race almost more than being super-fit will...of course both are ideal!

 

Nov. 15, 2009 - Getting stronger, loving training

I really have to apologize for how long it's been since I've updated this - not much of a blog if I'm not putting regular posts up! It's been a busy Fall and my website has taken a bit of a backseat to other things, but I think I'm back on track.

Training has been going really well - I am definitely ahead of where I've been in previous years. I'm stronger in workouts and have run better in my first "test" at the Lausanne 1/4 marathon. I can't claim any major changes in training, but I have to say that my husband Trent being in full marathon training in preparation for the NYC marathon definitely helped push me and I think I'm just getting stronger with more years under Dave's program.

As official cheerleader, I went with Trent to NYC and I have to say it's a spectacular event and a marathon everyone should experience once. I definitely will run it at some point. And Trent ran great, 2:51 which was right in his goal range. I did feel bad for all the runners that day as they had a head wind for the first 20 miles.

I've also been working on some of my duties as female athlete rep for Athletics Canada, which has been very rewarding and will be even more so if I can help make improvements - I think any time you're intimately involved in the strategic planning and process of something you love it gives you more accountability and motivation to help better the system and the sport. I've also been able to see how passionate our Canadian athletes are about T&F and achieving their goals.

Anyway, I'm going to start racing next weekend and am excited to rub elbows with some good competition and push myself to see what I can do. I WILL keep everyone posted.

 

Sept. 18, 2009 - Back at it!

Wow, the last month has flown by and I can't believe it's already into Fall training. I took some much needed time off of active recovery - I enjoyed doing some hiking, biking, swimming, as well as visiting with friends and family. I actually found it tough not to be running during the World Champs - I really wanted to be racing, which is good motivation.

The women's 1500m was a crazy race in Berlin as one of the pre-race favourites got knocked down with 150m to go by a Spanish athlete who ended up winning, but later was disqualified, thus crowning Maryam Jamal the World Champion for the second time in a row. I have to give props to the American and British 1500m women who have been running some really fast times and great races. Having raced most of these women in the past eight years and being in the mix with them, this is very motivating for me!

Although some athletes are still rounding out the track season, I have officially started my Fall training - also known as base phase. In the next few months I'll be laying down a good base of lots of endurance training and longer interval or tempo workouts. It's still really important to mix in strides, plyometrics and circuit training during this phase to keep the fast twitch muscles firing - which I'll integrate in a couple times a week, along with yoga and Pilates once each a week.

Speaking of fast twitch muscle fibers - research has found that you actually activate these fibres during long runs: when your slow twitch fibers start to get tired, the fast twitch kick in to give the slow ones a break (known as the overload principle in muscle contraction) . Perhaps, this same phenomena occurs with regard to fartlek training or even the African style of racing (surging) because it indicates that surges or activating fast twitch fibers could actually help you in long runs and races by giving your slow twitch fibers a break and time to rejuvenate. So the next time you have been running/racing for a long period of time, and are starting to fade, try putting in a little surge to see if you can active those faster twitch muscle fibers - it can't hurt to try!

Anyway, that's some science behind why we do our training in such a way. And besides lots of training, I'll also run a few road races in November just to put myself through enough pain that I don't forgot what racing is all about! I'll be posting updates as the season progresses.

Aug. 1, 2009 -

Frustration + Disappointment = Quest for redemption

Fit, ready and determined - all things I left Barcelona with and went into Stockholm knowing, but a small niggle in my hip flexor and hamstring turned into a big problem mid-race that resulted in a bad outcome and a very disappointed and frustrated me.

All athletes know what if feels like when your body starts to breakdown from a lot of competitions, combined with travel. I am usually pretty resilient when it comes to injuries (knock on wood), but I still deal with some nagging stuff that I try to stay on top of and have never had a problem in a race. I guess there's a first time for everything because what started out as a nagging hamstring and hip flexor, turned into a big problem mid-race in Stockholm.

Unfortunately, it was cold and windy and the meet was a bit behind so we had to sit in the outdoor call-room for about 20 mins basically cooling down. I've dealt with this before so I didn't let it bother me - at major championships it's pretty common to sit in call-rooms for 30-45mins after you've already warmed up, but usually they're inside or at least warm.

Eitherway, I started the race only feeling a bit of tighness in my hamstring, but halfway through a felt something pull and gradually it felt as though I was running on one leg. From there the race go progressively worse.

It was super-frustrating because I finally felt like things were going in the right direction this season and I was ready to pop a personal best. I also got into this race by a hair so it was very disconcerting to run so poorly. You're only as good as your last race so bad performances can really hurt getting into future races.

Nevertheless, this experience and this season leaves me with a hunger for more and a determination for redemption. Although this will end my season, I plan to rest, get some treatment, regroup and then get back on track and ready to run fast again.

Best of luck to everyone going to Berlin, I really wish I could be there, but I'll be taking notes and getting motivated for next season.

 

July 29, 2008 - The waiting game...

This morning I woke up, packed my bags with the usual race gear, went for an easy run and got ready to catch the bus to the train station that would take me to the airport. However, in all my morning preparations, I actually had no idea if I was in the race for which I was preparing and wasn't quite sure when I'd find out.

Since Luzern, things have gone quite well. I went to Heusden, Belgium (also not knowing if I was in the race or even if they would have a women's 1500m until the night before). It ended up being really windy, but it was still a good race as I ran 4:11.18, with a really strong second half. Even though I didn't run faster than Luzern, I was regaining my confidence and progressing with each race.

From there I flew to Barcelona for another 1500m, in which many of the fast Spainish girls were running, among others. There I took another couple seconds off my season best, running 4:08.96 and again having a really strong last lap. Unfortunately, even though the international deadline to qualify for World Championships is Aug. 3, July 26 was the deadline for the Canadian team, I raced Barcelona on July 25th and needed to run under 4:06.00. It was bittersweet because I know I'm peaking as the days progress, but time has run out.

Nevertheless, I know I am fit and in personal best shape so I wanted another shot at doing this. From Barcelona I immediately contacted my manager to see if he could get me in Stockholm. It turned out the race was full, but if there were cancellations, I could run.

So this brings me to this morning, awaiting a call to see if anyone had cancelled and I could take her spot to run in Stockholm. I had reserved a flight and could book it up until 1 hour before, but by the time I had to get on the bus to the train station, I hadn't heard. My manager gave me the phone number of the meet director who told me to call him back in 45mins - so I got on the bus with my luggage and proceeded to the train station, hoping I was in.

Ten minutes before the train, I called the meet director back and he informed me I was in luck, someone had cancelled. Phew! I quickly bought a train ticket and got myself to the airport to buy my ticket.

Now I'm on my way to Stockholm and really excited for another opportunity to run fast - this time with a bit more adrenaline behind me! This is how it goes in the world of athletics...well perhaps unless you're Usain Bolt and have meet directors begging you to run in their meet!

 

July 16, 2008 - Season best and one step closer!

The race in Luzern last night wasn't quite as good as I hoped since three of the top-seeded girls pulled out at the last minute, but it still was a step in the right direction. I ran 4:10.70, which is a season best by 3 seconds. I was pretty happy with this time since I ended up doing most of the leading in the second half of the race after the rabbit dropped out.

So, now I'm heading to Belgium to race in either Heusden (18th) or Gent (21st), depending on if the first has a women's 1500m - still pending at this moment! After that I'll head to Barcelona for a good race on July 25th.

Stay tuned!

July 9, 2009 - Can't help but have amnesia!

If anyone looked up results in Lausanne they'll see that it didn't go very well. The weather was less than ideal - cold and rainy - but I felt good going in and felt find until the last lap where I lacked the pop needed to close it out. Talking to several Canadians who had similar travel schedules as I, coming from Nationals, they expressed the same feelings so I got the first one out of my system and ready to move on.

I can't help but have amnesia about this past race because workouts have been going well it just won't make sense if I don't run fast. Given that logic, I simply plan to do just that. I'm racing in Luzern on July 15th and according to the meet director the pace is set for 4:04 - which would be great so you can bet I'll be hanging out in that company!

At Montreaux Jazz Festival with visiting athletes.

Other than the race here in Lausanne, it was a great week with lots of fellow athletes in town staying with us or close by. It felt kind of like a Team Canada training camp, which I always get a lot of energy from so it's been positive. And a bunch left today to head to Athens to run fast! Best of luck to all getting ready to race and I'll keep you posted on my journey.

 

 

 

June 27, 2009 - Good for silver...

Courtesy of Guelph Mercury

It was a tough fight for the medals this past weekend at the Canadian Champs. I gave everything I had in the very tactical race that came down to the final sprint. Although I didn't satisfy my questl for another gold, my effort was good for the silver medal. Malindi (1st) and Nicole (3rd) put up a good fight and both look ready to run fast, so I'm in good company.

I'm back in Europe now and ready to run fast times in good races. My next race is at home here in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 7th, which is always a good race so I'm really pumped and will be ready to lay it down!

On a side note, I've added a new link to my site for Trent's new website. Obviously I'm biased since I'm married to him, but I do think if you're interested in gaining more knowledge on sports nutrition and physiology and want reliable info, you should check it out!

 

June 24, 2009 - Ready to go!

 

 

 

 


It's been a great couple weeks of training and seems like everything is coming together at the right time. Since my last race in Vancouver I've had some great workouts, even pbing in my speed workouts, which is exciting! So I'm especially looking forward to translating that into my upcoming races. My first race at Nationals is in three days, the 1500m heats, and the final is Sunday.

I want to thank everyone for all their supportive emails. I also want to give a shout out to Jean Little Elementary school in Guelph - I've been volunteering there for the last month while training in Guelph and really enjoyed working with all the students who have inspired me with all their energy and motivation. They even helped keep me honest in our race last Friday. Thanks guys!

 

 



 

 

 

June 16, 2009 - Moving in the right direction

I'm back from Vancouver and feel like I took a good step forward in the last week. The Festival of Excellence in Toronto was a great competition and lots of fun. Unfortunately, the weather didn't quite cooperate and it ended up raining for most of the meet. I wasn't very happy with the time I ran (4:33 mile) but I was a bit too hesitant to go with the front pack and let them get too much of gap on me in the middle of the race. However, I realized in the end that I'm fitter than I gave myself credit for because I made up ground and felt strong in the finish. I should have stayed with the leaders, but it definitely got me excited to race again.

So, in Vancouver I raced more aggressively and stayed with the lead pack, which I think was a good strategy overall and would have worked out well if our pacemakers didn't open the first lap in 61 seconds instead of the 65 seconds we were hoping for. We all paid for it in the second half of the race - many girls ran about 5 seconds off their season best due to the early fast pace. Thus, I'm optimistic that in a good race I am ready to run under 4:10 right now and am quickly approaching the fitness and race sharpness I need to run in pb range and faster.

Next up is Canadian Nationals in less than two weeks. I am looking forward to getting in a couple strong workouts and then getting ready to defend my national title!

June 9, 2009 - Ready for the Festival

I'm happy to report that I'm healthy and ready to go for Festival of Excellence in Toronto on Thursday night. I've had a solid couple weeks of training with my club Speed River in Guelph, Ontario, which not only has been beneficial for physical training, but it's also been great mentally. It's been a good confidence booster just to have Dave at my training sessions and get in with the group here so I can shut my brain off and just run! When you have a group you don't have to worry about every split, which is great. Trent was also able to be here for all of last week's training, which helps me because he and Dave work well together and can bounce ideas off each other to get me to where I need to be in training and racing.

I'm running the mile on Thursday night and it looks like a good field. I've been watching a lot of fast times go down in the women's 1500m all over the world and I'm ready to join that group! After the mile, I'll head to Vancouver to run at the Harry Jerome Classic on Sunday in the 1500m. I will report when I can, but results should also be on the websites.

May 20, 2009 - Small bump in the road
If anyone has seen my most current race results at the Carson meet, they're probably wondering what happend. It was a pretty stressful and disappointing weekend. It was a difficult decision to actually race because in my last workout in Flagstaff I somehow strained my calf, which put a lot of pressure on my achilles. I didn't run for a couple of days, hoping the rest would help for the race. During my warm-up for the race it didn't feel too bad so I decided to race, but I think all the stress leading in with perhaps some compensation of running differently made me feel really off when it came to the final sprint. It's possible I could have also felt off from only coming down from altitude two days earlier - it was my first time doing this so it's tough to see. Either way, the combo wasn't good.

However, I got back to Canada and was able to get in to see my doctor, John Vargo, right away for some electric stim and active release. So far it's been working well and today I ran with little pain. I think I'll be good to go for some great training just in time for being back in Guelph with my coach Dave and the rest of the Speed River group next week!

Hilary's Dad and John Gibbons handing over car keys

On another note, I want to give a big thanks to John Gibbons Motors of Chatham for supporting me with a car to use during my time in Canada - it means so much to me to have community support.

 

 

May 9, 2009 - Good week of training

Flagstaff track

I keep telling myself that I have to be getting fitter with how hard training is up here, even if the times are difficult to relate since you run slower than at sealevel. I keep hearing different conversions like mile repeats are about 15 secs slower up here, but I just figure if I run on effort and run as hard as I can on the days I need to, I will get fitter! [more]

One other side note I just had to share - I was reading race reports on IAAF and noticed a local track meet in Kenya attracted 350 men in the 5,000m - they had to split the race into 3 heats! Sometimes it's hard enough to attract that many people in a local road race in Canada. I suppose this is why distance running is their forte and hockey is ours. I'd say we have a good goal to reach in Canadian running! Check it out. [IAAF story]

 

May 1, 2009 - One week survived in Flag

Me at the Grand Canyon

I can't believe I've already been here in Flagstaff for over a week. It took me about 8 days until I started feeling normal in terms of my breathing and heart rate. It's still a challenge, but I feel much better.
[More...]

 

April 23, 2009 - Running High at 7,000ft (2100m) in Flagstaff

Buffalo Park, Flagstaff, Arizona

After a week in Phoenix, Arizona at a training camp with the Canadian Team, I've started my altitude training camp in Flagstaff and have to say I much prefer it up here compared to Phoenix. I've been here four days and it's been absolutely perfect - about 20C, sunny and little wind, which is great considering they had snow a week ago! [more...]

P.S. Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Female Athlete Rep election, I'm really excited for the challange and looking forward to making an impact.

 

 

March 31, 2009 - I have to say that I'm eagerly awaiting the warm weather so I can get some good quality track sessions in. It's been a tough winter of training, but I feel like I have some great base under my belt, which should help keep me going through the upcoming track season.

Over the last month I've continued to build my base with long runs, tempos and fartleks, but we've added a few track sessions in and a bit of speed. I am heading to Phoenix, Arizona in just under two weeks to join some other Canadian athletes for a training camp. After one week in Phoenix, I'll spend one month at altitude in Flagstaff before starting competition in May. I can't wait!

On other fronts in the Athletics world, Jordan hosted the World Cross Country Champs this past weekend. Although it was clear there was an African dominance, it was exciting to see people like New Zealand's Kim Smith and US's German Fernandez running up near the front. And hey, I'm not one to complain about the strength of the African runners because I believe they've worked extremely hard to be great champions and all we have to do is match them on our work ethic and tenacity or will to win. On that note, I will mention that I was equally as excited to see Maryam Jamal, who I've spend a lot of time training with, finish 8th in the senior women's race.

One more interesting note...I definitely feel fortunate that New Balance has continued to sponsor me through this economic crisis, but other athletes haven't been as fortune. One in particular, Romain Mesnil, a French pole vaulter lost his Nike contract so decided to attract some attention in hopes of new sponsorship by running naked through the streets of Paris. Interesting way to attract attention, that's for sure!

That's all for now, I will post updates from Arizona.

 

Feb. 22, 2009

Well, as fast as the indoor season came, it is over. I have to say I'm not completely satisfied with how it went for me, but unfortunately getting sick hindered my performance. I think if I had a couple more races I would have ran the times I was looking forward. But that just gets me eager for the summer.

Overall, I think I still got a boost in fitness from the races. I feel like I'm in pretty good shape and plan to build on that in the coming months for outdoors. I am now taking a week of down time and will start back up in a few days, slowly building into specific track training.

I am really looking forward to spending a month in Flagstaff, Arizona starting mid-April and then getting start with racing by mid-May. I will keep everyone posted on how things are going as the season progresses.

Thanks to everyone for their support and emails!

 

Feb. 15, 2009 - Under the weather...

As you will read in the news on Dusseldorf, I was unfortunately not well and my performance showed. It's disappointing considering I only have a few indoor races, but out of my control.

My focus now is to recover and hopefully be healthy enough to run Stockholm on Wednesday. I will keep everyone posted.

Feb. 9, 2009 - A good start

I opened my indoor track season in Stuttgart this past Saturday. Although the time was a lot slower than I was hoping (4:17), I have to say that I truly enjoyed racing and being competitive. I didn't think much about the time during the race, but we were already 2:16 instead of 2:12 (the rabbit's projected pace) at 800m.

Nevertheless, I didn't really know what to expect because I haven't been doing anything on the track that is directed at 1500m pace except a few 200s three days before. Although, I do think the plyos and hill sprints have helped keep some sharpness.

My goal for Saturday was to come top-3 and run 4:12 or faster so I hit one of those goals by placing 3rd in a pretty good field, and I'll aim for the time goal in the next couple races. Although my focus will first be to just race!

See more on Stuttgart below in Latest News.

Feb. 5, 2008 - Time to get racing!
After a couple months of a good training block, I'm ready to start racing. Although my indoor season will be short, it will help remind my body and mind what competition is like.

Training has been going well in the last few weeks. I've been averaging about 120km a week with about a 20-22km long run. We changed my program this winter a bit in that I only do two workouts a week (long tempo and fartlek or interval session) and other days are moderate running, but also mixing in weights, plyometrics and hills to keep my speed active. Hopefully this will keep me fresher and ready to undertake the really tough training that is required to run fast in the outdoor season. As well, the goal is to use the next few indoor races to rev up my fitness.

I will keep you posted on how they go!

Jan. 16, 2009 - Happy New Year!

Indoor track w/o in Guelph Dec.31.

I always find this time of year the toughest in terms of the grind of training. I'm sick of the cold (although I have to say Switzerland has been a heat wave compared to what we experience in Ontario over the holidays!) and I'm eager to get into track mode. Lately I've been averaging about 75 miles (125km) a week with basically lots of endurance-type training such as longish tempos (30 mins worth) and fartleks. But to keep my speed fine-tuned I still include things like weights, plyometrics, short hill repeats, and fast strides, a few times a week.

I did get a chance to jump on the indoor track while in Guelph (Canada) over Christmas and joined my club, Speed River, for a tough workout of 4-5 x 1200m (4mins rest). I just did 4 since it was my first time on the indoor track and averaged some pretty uncomfortable 3:48-3:50s on the 180m track! It was a good wake up call and will hopefully get me ready to race a few indoor meets in February. But the bigger picture still remains to be the outdoor season.

I hope everyone is surviving and enjoying the winter! I will keep you posted on how the indoor season goes.

On another note, I just read an interesting article comparing running on a treadmill vs. running outside. I have run on treadmills a number of times to avoid slippery or cold conditions and actually don't mind it. Anyone interested in how they compare to outdoor running should read this article.

2008 Posts

Dec. 5, 2008 - Back in the groove...

My apologies for not posting sooner on my experience in Japan. Once I got back home, it took me longer than expected to get back into the swing of things.

As for Japan, it was a great team experience and so nice to bond with some fellow Canadians. Our team was 9th overall, which was a decent showing. We would have liked to be in the top-6, but there were definitely some strong teams, especially those from Japan. (Check out full race results and info here.)

My race was a different story. I was not happy at all with my performance and was really disappointed not to have run better for the team. I know I am in better shape than how I raced, but I think all the travel (from Ethiopia to Europe and then a day later to Japan), combine with racing 5 days after coming from altitude was a bad mix for me. It was a bit of a gamble I'll admit, but you don't know until you test yourself. The good thing is now I know for the Spring when I will spend more time at altitude in Flagstaff and then race on the track.

But after a week back at home I'm feeling much better. Overall, I seemed to have responded really well to all the training in Ethiopia. I will have another go at racing tomorrow in the Geneva Escalade - one of my favourite road races because of the amazing fans who line the old town of Geneva as we maneuver our way up and down the winding streets of the old town. And you can always count on great competition.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Training Camp: Nov. 1-19, 2008

Nov. 18, 2008 - Time to go home
I've had a great two and half weeks here in Ethiopia, in which I've gained a lot of knowledge and experience about training at altitude. It's been especially helpful to have other athletes with much more experience give me guidance. I will definitely be back here and hopefully with a similar training environment and group. More.

Nov. 15, 2008 - Two miles high and on the edge
A significant lesson I've learned here, both from experience and from watching other people, is that your body reacts differently at altitude: you recover slower, you run slower and your body is on the edge. More

Nov. 12, 2008 - Ethiopian Style

The Ethiopians have their own way of doing things: some things are traditional, some intuative, and other things are just plain inefficient. More

Nov. 8, 2008 - Ethiopian Culture from food to dance

I have to apologize for not posting blogs more frequently, but our internet and power has been sketchy at best and goes on and off frequently. So, I have been writing, and will post everything when I can.

We had the chance to eat at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant a few nights ago, check it out...

Nov. 6, 2008 - Training at 2700m

'm started to feel more comfortable at the altitude and really enjoying the training, even though it can be really tough, especially on hard days. But I figure that all the great Ethiopian runners have trained in the same places and in the same way as we are and it's benefitted them a great deal, so it's worth a try! More...

Nov. 5 - Meet the athletes

As my last blog said, it's really incredible here and I feel very fortunate to be having these experiences, not to mention the benefits of the great training environment. All the athletes with us here are very motivated and serious about training hard and getting the most out of the training camp. Check out this video to meet everyone and get their perspectives.[Video]

Nov.2/3

Nov.1, 2008 - Day 1 - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

And so it begins, my training camp in the land where some of the best distance runners live and train: Ethiopia.
We arrived early this morning at 4am, I came in on the same flight as Lidia Chojecka (Polish,1500m) one of the many athletes joining our camp for the next month. We were able to pick up our visas pretty quickly and were picked up at the airport by her boyfriend who had arrived a few days earlier.
The first thing I noticed when existing the airport is how nice the locals are...okay, I don't want to sound too naive because I do know they weren't carrying my 25kg bag for nothing! Nevertheless, the Ethiopian people are very nice...more.

 

Oct. 8, 2008 - Getting back into rhythm
I've been back to normal training for about a month now and finally finding my rhythm again. Although I appreciate taking time off, it is always tough to get back into shape...and I'm nowhere near that yet! But I am feeling stronger each week and have been able to increase my mileage steadily.
I'mgoing to ru n a 10km road race at the end of October, before heading to Ethiopia for a few weeks of altitude training. I've had the pleasure of training with Maryam Jamal here in Lausanne for the last couple of years and have been invited by her and her husband to join them in Addis Ababa for a training camp with a few others from various countries. I'm really looking forward to experiencing a new culture, especially one that is so famous for its runners, as well as taking advantage of some great training partners.
While there, I hope to give updates and post videos -- provided I have the necessary internet connection.

Aug. 28, 2008 - Rejuvenated and refocused
After a good break that I needed both mentally and physically, I am ready to embark on the year ahead. It was definitely tough to watch the Olympics from home, but I had a great support system around me in my family and friends to help me get through it.
Some surprising and difficult news that did put a bit of salt in my wounds were the announcements of eight doping violations in the women's 1500m all before the Olympics: 4 Russians, 3 Romanians and 1 Bulgarian. There are still appeals going through and it will be awhile before we know the outcome. None of them competed in the Olympics. This news was tough to take considering our qualification standards for Olympic and World Champs are based on averages of times that include those of these doped athletes. This also means instead of 18th at World Champs last year, I would have been at least top-10. But, at the same time I have to rejoice in the fact that they are catching athletes and making our sport cleaner! This will mean good things for the upcoming seasons.
On a positive note, the Canadian athletes represented our country well with some very exciting features. Personally, I found it amazing to watch Priscilla Lopes-Schliep win bronze in the 100m hurdles, and found myself screaming at the TV as 2000 Olympic Champ Simon Whitfield battled back from being in 4th place with 1km to go in the men's triathlon, to win silver - that was inspiring!
Great job to all the athletes in Beijing!
So, with the 2008 outdoor season coming to an end for most athletes, I am getting back into training and looking forward to having a good endurance phase of training through the fall and winter. I will be running a few low key road races and will report on how things go.

July 20, 2008 - Sport is tough, life is not always easy
It's been a very rough and emotional ride in the last couple days. After a big rejuvenation at Canadian Nationals, I came back to Europe and ran two 1500m, neither of which went well. I haven't had too much time to analyze what went wrong except the fact that I am both mentally and physically exhausted from chasing the Olympic standards. As an athlete, I think you can only go to "the well" so many times before you crack and I think you only have so many big performances. I think I've hit my limit for this season.

Unfortunately, I pushed pretty hard in May and June in an attempt to hit the times I needed and only later found out my iron was low, which explained my struggles. And although I bounced back at Nationals, I don't think I quite regained my physical and emotional energy from the month before. It's a really tough pill to swallow, knowing I won't be going to Beijing, especially when I know I've worked so hard and done everything possible to make the team. At this moment I'm extremely distressed and upset.

But, I believe this will make me a stronger athlete and person. I am not giving up on my goals and dreams because I do believe I'm capable of so much more in my athletic career. This experience has taught me a lot and given me a new desire to succeed.

I also want to say how blessed I am to have such an amazing support system. I've received so many emails and calls of support from friends and family and I want to say thank you to everyone for your support because that definitely helps me get through this tough time.

I also want to congratulate all the athletes going to Beijing and wish them the best of luck - I'm still a proud Canadian and will be cheering them on from Canada!

 

July 15, 2008 - Just back from Belgium and heading to Paris in a few days. Unfortunately Gent didn't end up being a good opportunity to run a standard. It was pretty windy and no real front runners, which meant Malindi and I ended up at the front doing all the work to keep the pace. So, we missed the time. However, I'm confident that Paris will be the race to qualify with great competition. It always feels easier running fast with bodies around and not having to do the pacemaking. It looks like a great field of competitors and good conditions. In the next couple days I'll be getting back into race mode and focusing on doing what I need to do: qualify for Beijing!

July 8, 2008 - Hi everyone - sorry for the delayed update. This one will be quick, but I wanted to make sure I could fill all of you in who have been supporting me and asking about my current situation.
I am thrilled to have captured my second Canadian 1500m title this past weekend in Windsor. I couldn't have done it without my amazing support team. Thanks so much to everyone for coming and cheering me on.
But, some of you may have figured out that I still didn't get the Canadian Olympic Standard. However, we put in a medical appeal based on my blood results of low iron in the last month and Athletics Canada has agreed to give me (as well as 5 others) an extension until July 22 to fullfill the criteria! I am so happy and relieved to have a second shot. I am confident after this past weekend that I can run the A+ standard. Now it's just about getting in some good races. I am trying to get into Athens (July 13th) and Paris (July 18th). I will keep you all posted.

June 30, 2008 - After a very busy week of travelling and racing, I'm happy to be back at home in Canada just chilling out before Olympic Trials. My two races last week were not what I was hoping for, but they were a bit better.

However, I did get a few answers before those races when I got some bloodwork done which showed I had very low hemaglobin and iron levels. This helps explain how I've been feeling in races, but it doesn't give me too much time to correct it. I got an iron shot a week ago and was hoping it would help for the race on Friday. Although I am already feeling better, I wasn't quite there yet.

Nevertheless, I'm optimistic that I'll be feeling better next weekend. My plan is to just go for it and lay everything on the line - meaning go for A+ standard. There are a few others in my same position so I know they'll also want to run fast and we can work together!


June 16, 2008 - Unfortunately I don't have any big results to report, but I'm staying positive and keeping an open mind for the next couple races. I have another week to re-group and then I'll run two races in 3 days before going to Canada for our Championships.

Thanks to everyone for their support and encouraging words, I feel blessed to have so many people behind me.

June 7, 2008 - Well, Greece didn't quite go as well as I had hoped, but I still feel like I'm making progress and confident that things are coming around. I really enjoyed racing this week and was pretty aggressive to follow the fast early pace. Sometimes you take a risk and maybe your body isn't quite ready the first time around, but I know I'm getting strong and it will come.

To me right now, the most important thing is that I enjoy what I'm doing and satisfied that I am doing everything I can to run my best, which I am. Of course, I was disappointed with my time, but I'm going to get back on the track and race another 1500m next weekend in Morocco. Looking forward to it!

I'll keep everyone posted.

 

May 31, 2008 - Well I'm getting a bit stressed and frustrated about these qualifying times, but I think that just gets me more fired up to run fast and get things done.

Dave and Trent keep telling me to be patient and not freak out because in the last two years I've had a few slower races to start and then been able to run 4:05 once I get into the season. They have both been a huge help in keeping me calm and focused.

It amazing how much stress levels can go up in an Olympic year, I really sense this from all athletes because it's something we all work so hard and long for. But at the end of the day we just have to do what we know best and just push ourselves to be the best competitors possible!

I got some good advice from my mom the other day saying I just need to stay in the moment and be confident and focused on what I'm doing in the race and not stress about anything else. It was good advice because, despite Belgrade not going so great, I enjoyed racing and competing instead of being so stressed about the times. I believe with this strategy times with come!

So I'm heading to Greece tomorrow to race on Wednesday. It looks like a great field of competitors and I'm crossing my fingers for good conditions.

 

May 19, 2008 - This weekend I was reminded about how tough racing can be and how much you should cherish the perfect ones. Loughborough was a bit disasterous for me. It seems that at the beginning of each season I have to get one bad race out of my system where the pain of racing consumes me and then I become stronger for it.
It was a cold and windy day yesterday in the UK so actually no one got standard in our race. I ran a really good 1200m and if continued on would have been pretty close to nailing down one of the standards I need. But, a bear jumped on my back (so to speak) with 300m to go and I lost a lot of time. So not any better than Doha.
However, last week I had one of my toughest and best training weeks where I ran two track sessions faster than I've been able to do in the past. This tells me I'm fit and strong, but I think this training, coupled with good mileage, caught up to me come race time. At this time it's a fine line between training hard and coming down for races. I am confident that the work I've done in the last month will start benefiting me in the upcoming races. And we will bring things down a bit over the next month so that I'm ready to roll in races.
The best thing to come out of a disappointing race is that I'm hungrier for success! And everyone around me have been amazingly supportive helping me stay calm and relaxed, giving me confidence that the best is yet to come - this is just the kind of support I need. There is lots of season left and I'm excited for each step!

May 12, 2008 - And so the season begins...I started off my outdoor season this past weekend in Doha, Qatar. Overall it was a great competition: well organized, good weather, top level athletes. However, the race itself definitely caught me by surprise.

Just before the race, the rabbit announced she would go through 1km in 2:40, which is 4-min pace. So my plan was to get out mid-pack and be pulled along to a fast time - ideally an Olympic qualifying time. However, I think everyone in the race had the same plan of just sitting in for a ride because no one wanted to lead or follow the rabbit and thus we passed 800m in a pedestrian 2:17!

I definitely learned that even if it's a big race with the best competition, I can't depend on others to make my race - that was a big mistake. Next time around I'll be more willing to make things happen, instead of coming home pouting about my slow time. For more on the race, see Doha news item.

All suited up at the Doha banquet.

Besides the race, Doha was an interesting experience as the organizers gave us special clothes to wear to the banquet the night before. It was a neat cultural experience.

Anyway, I'm keen to get back out there and race another 1500m so I've changed my plans of racing an 800m next Sunday in Loughborough and have switched to the 1500m. Looking forward to it!

April 25, 2008 - Back on the track!

Maryam, Jo, Hilary: track session this past week.

Sorry it's been so long since my last update -basically life stuff got in the way. We moved into a new apartment at the beginning of April and between unpacking, set up and training, it’s been busy. But all has been going well. After about a month of base training (tempos, fartleks and a couple V02 max sessions), I’m back in the track.

Yesterday I had my first 1500m-type track session and it was a good “welcome back” workout. It was really tough because I haven’t had to deal with lactate in awhile, but I was lucky to be in good company with two training partners Maryam (Jamal) and Jo (Mersh). We did 8x400m with 4 mins rest. I was really happy to average 62 seconds. I’m hoping in another month or so I can do the same workout with 1 less minute of rest and eventually bring it down to 2 mins rest. You can check out some great photos of our workout taken by Asker Jeukendrup.

Plyo session

So basically I’m getting ready to race a 1500m in Doha, Qatar on May 9th and then an 800m on May 18th in Loughborough, UK. After that I’ll focus on some good 1500s at the end of May and into June, but still narrowing those down at the moment.

I’ve also been doing two good plyometric/weight sessions a week and got some cool photos last weekend down by the lake near our house, also taken by Asker.

 

March 21, 2008 - An inspiration: Meeting The Great One

Trent, Haile and I in Lisbon

Last weekend I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Haile Gebrselassie at the Lisbon 1/2 marathon during a PowerBar product launch. Haile was an inspiration to talk with - his charisma can light up a room, he gives you his full attention when he talks to you and is extremely down-to-earth. Considered probably the best distance runner ever - one might expect him to be conceited, but he actually seems more comfortable giving advice rather than speaking about his own ambitions. Don't get me wrong, he's extemely confident in his abilities, but this confidence is exuded more in his stories or in the advice he offers.

When I asked him what keeps him motivated and how I might overcome the defeat of not always achieving the results in which I aim, when I know I've worked so hard, he had some great advice. With his permenantly displayed grin, he urged me to "win yourself" meaning I must have full confidence in my hard work and that I can be the best; believe no one else is better. After explaining to me that breaking 4-mins in 1500m is easy, he states that in this sport you have to be a selfish and step on the line showing you belong there - even throw a few elbows now and again - don't let anyone push you around, he said! All things I agree with and try to practice, but I still feel quite priviledged to have had a pep talk from the greatest distance runner ever - I'm ready to go!

I had a nice week of down-time. I really feel refreshed and ready to embark on a great summer season. I know my fitness is good and I plan to build on that with a hard training stint leading into May when I start my competitive season.

For more photos of my weekend in Lisbon, see here.

March 11, 2008 - Trial and Error

I apologize for not having an update sooner, internet was a bit sketchy in Spain. But for most people who saw the results, you will know that I am very disappointed with my performance. I'm learning that it's such a fine line for me at this point when it comes to good and bad performances because I've just started being competitive at the top level and if I have an off day (which is what unfortunately happened) it means that 1 or 2% decreased performance results in me not making the final. But it still motivated me to keep reaching for the top and once I can even consistently run in the range of my current personal best, an off day would still mean making the final.

So, onward we go! I'm looking forward to a good summer and since training has been going well I am not overly worried. Nevertheless, I think it’s still important to do a bit of an analysis of training, especially what I’ve done in the peaking phase, to see what has worked and what has not. So, we will go over that and see if we need to change some things. Peaking is somewhat of an art and it take a bit of trial and error to see what works with each athlete – we’re getting there.

I’m going to take a little down week and then get back into training and get ready for summer. I will probably start my competitive season sometime mid-May. I will still keep updates going on training.

Here's some photos from Valencia.

March 4, 2008 - Off to Valencia with the Maple Leaf!

This winter has flown by and the end of the indoor season is this weekend. I head to Valencia, Spain tomorrow to compete in the World Indoor Champs for Canada. The competition looks pretty good - with two Russian leading the way (one with a new indoor world record to her name). I'm ranked 10th going in to the championships. My main goal is to make the final and go for top 6.

The last two weeks of training have gone really well. I've been on the indoor track once a week to get a bit of speed work and had my last big workout on Friday: 2 x 600m+200m with 1' between and 10' between sets. I ran 1:33/29 and 1:31/30. I've done this workout outdoors and run only a bit faster when I was in 4:05 shape so I'm hoping I'm on track for an indoor pb. Although times could be irrelevant in championships - good tactics and making the final are more important. Just one more small workout tomorrow and then it's time to get ready to race.

I'll try to give updates when I can, but you can also find results here.

 

Feb. 15, 2008 - New Canadian Running Magazine hits stores today!

Canada finally has it's very own running magazine - Canadian Running Magazine (CRM) - set to hit stores today . I think this is a great thing to get the Canadian public fired up about running and to help profile some of our athletes, which is why I was so honoured when they asked me to be on the cover of the first issue.

Professional running is not like hockey in Canada, which means we are a far cry from famous so it's great when you have a chance to help profile the sport you love and hopefully encourage others to embrace it in the same way. So, thanks to CRM for giving me that opportunity and I hope everyone at home will pick up not just the first issue, but many to follow. For more info, check out the news release here.

On another note, I finally put up a photo gallery from my Phoenix training camp and also threw in a few from New Balance Games in NYC since it followed the training camp. And, check out new website of fellow Canadian Megan Metcalfe .

Feb. 11, 2008 - I have to say that I took a little sigh of relief after the race yesterday after running 4:10.32, which is my second fastest indoor time and the World Indoor A standard. Not that it would have been the end of the world if I didn't qualify for World Indoors, because that is more to help with racing experience in prep for Beijing. The relief is more about being able to bounce back after a bad race last weekend. Running is so mental that sometimes it doesn't matter how fit you are, you have to be strong in the head too, which I wasn't last weekend so I'm really happy to make a turn around this week.

With this being said, I'm not going to settle with that, I do want to run better indoors this year and think with another month of hard training I can do that. Now, with championship racing, that might not necessarily mean running faster, but can be gauged on how I compete and race at the championships.

Next up I'll run an 800m at the Swiss Indoor Champs on Feb.24th, can't wait!

Feb. 4, 2008 - Well, as anyone can see from the results in Stuttgart, it was a rough day at the office for me, so to speak. I was very disappointment with my result, but it just wasn't my day. Actually more than that, I'm going to have to figure out a better way to approach the 3000m because I have not had much luck with it. You can read more on my thoughts in the race report here.
Moving right along however, I am really looking forward to racing the 1500m this weekend. Workouts have been going well and I feel confident I can bounce back and have a good one.

 

After a run in Sedona, AZ.

Jan. 22, 2008 - After two weeks in sunny Phoenix and a weekend of racing in NYC, I'm back in Switzerland. To my relief, I come back to fairly warm weather (10C) and no snow except that in the distance on top of the mountains.

I had a decent start to the indoor season in the mile this weekend. You can read the update here. I have to take this time to say a few thank yous to people who have made a difference for me in the last few weeks. Thanks to all our friends and family who came to cheer us on this weekend, it was awesome to have the support. And thanks to New Balance and NYRR (Ian Brooks & co.) for taking care of us so well. Finally, a big thanks to PowerBar for the sport nutrition support at our Phoenix training camp.

I will get back into some good training for the next two weeks before toeing the line in a 3000m in Stuttgart, Germany. I'm gunning for a new pb and I feel I'm in good shape to do it. It's about time I break 9-mins since my current pb doesn't really match up with my other events, so we'll see what I can do!

 

Taken by Asker Jeukendrup

Jan.10, 2008 - Happy New Year!
I have had a great start to 2008. After ringing in the New Year with friends in Guelph, I travelled to Phoenix and have spent the last week training in sunny AZ with my training partner Jo Mersh (Fenn). Sara Hall has also joined us on a couple sessions, which has been great!

We have been getting in some great training - this pic is from one our our hill sessions - cactus and all! I've been averaging about 75 miles here with most as double days. One long tempo run a week, a fartlek of shorter reps and an interval session on the track so the New Balance Games and the rest of the indoor season won't feel completely foreign!

Sara Hall and I during a track session.

Nevertheless, I have the summer season clearly as my main focus so it is crucial that most of my training is endurance or aerobically-based and I only use the interval-type intensity to keep that system awake.

Since I've been here I had a nice chat with Peter Gambaccini from Runner's World who is covering the New Balance Games and you can see his write up here. I will also put up more pics and video at the end of the trip.

Dec.27, 2007

Running in big snow storm.

Wow, it's hard to believe that 2008 is in just a few days. This years has gone by so fast, but I have to say it's been a good one and I feel very blessed.
The last couple weeks have been going really well for training. I've averaged about 70 miles a week with 3 workouts that include a long tempo, hill repeats, fartlek and either an interval session or shorter fartlek (see link here for detailed training log). I've also been really focusing on staying on my plyometrics and weight training to keep my dynamic or explosive strength in tacked while I'm in this endurance phase.
There have definitely been some tough days with really cold temperatures and some crazy snow storms, one of which occurred on a long run day where I set out for 1hr40min and came back in after 45mins because I couldn't see more than 50m infront of me and the footing was terrible. I added on on the treadmill, but cut it short and did my long run on a Tuesday that day - it's not worth getting injured and sometimes Mother Nature dictates the training schedule. So, in lieu of some of this bad weather, I can't wait to get to Phoenix on Jan.2 for some warm weather training!

Dec.10, 2007 - I've had a few people request that I update this site more often, so I sincerely apologize for taking a week since my last race to post. I really enjoy reading other athletes' blogs and I appreciate all of your interest in mine and hope I can offer some insight to other athletes, so I will try to post more frequently.
Last weekend I raced on my home club turf in Guelph, Ontario, at the Canadian XC Champs. Of course I'm bias, but I really think the group did a great job at putting on an amazing XC meet on a true XC course that included hairpin turns, steep downhills and lots of snow, with -8C temps. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite ready for 7km XC and was thus pretty disappointed with mine results. I think I needed another month of endurance prep, which I will have now. But, it was still good to be running at home and to see our other Speed River athletes run so well, including a senior men's team title and 3 individual team medals!

Check out full coverage from Flotrack here.

Nov. 30, 2007- The Great White North

Well the last couple weeks of training in Switzerland have been quite an introduction to winter. We had about a 30cm of snow and it was -8C when I raced in Bulle. Not the most pleasant weather, but in retrospect, it will serve me well.

Now I'm back in Canada and racing the National XC Champs tomorrow. The course is covered in snow and ice and the forecast is -5C (23F). Welcome to Canada! A week ago there was no snow and temperatures were mild so you just never know. But in x-country season you've got to be ready for various types of course and weather conditions and everyone has to deal with the same things so you just have to take it in stride and go out and race.
We have the Flotrack guys here in Guelph covering the event so you will be able to check it out on video from there website.


Nov. 16, 2007- It's funny how running affects your mood...
I had a bit of a bump in the road last week. When I was warming up for what I was hoping to be a good, strong, fitness-boosting workout last Tuesday, I twisted my ankle and was forced to forfeit the workout and head back home. Unfortunately, I lost a few days of training, but I tried to be smart about it and just run easy and on flat surfaces.
You would figure that since it's Nov. and not really an important time of the year, I'd be okay with this little bump, and I thought I was. However, when my ankle finally came around, I realized how grumpy I had been for about a week and how much happier I was to be able to do normal training. Yikes, it's pretty crazy how much running affects my mood! Well at least I can try to use that to my advantage and realize that in really hard workouts and races I know if I can everything out of myself and have a good performance, how high my moods can soar.
This week I was back to running 70 miles with a fartlek session and mile repeats on the trails, which went well. I've also had the enjoyment of an amazing training partner the last few weeks. Jo Fenn, British 800m runner and 2004 Olympian is here training with us and we've had some great sessions together. Tomorrow we will both do another 6km road race in Bulle.

Oct. 25, 2007 - Back to work!
Well I'm back from a few weeks of down-time, feeling refreshed and ready to go. During my down time I took some time away from running, taking an amazing holiday with my family (see photos here), doing some hiking and other fun stuff I don't often get to do.

Now it's back to business, I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm excited for the journey. As I start my base training, I'm refining my plan for the year with Dave(coach) and Trent(husband/coach). Right now I'm planning to do a few road races in November and then head to Canada for the XC Champs.

This past weekend, after a couple weeks of getting back into training, I decided to test myself in a 10km road race. It was definitely a hard effort, but I was able to share the pain with some friends, which makes it a lot better. Check out the write up here.

And finally, for those who are interested in sports science, I have added two articles in my wellness section, one related to my V02 max data this year compared to 2005, and another on Athlete Reactive Hypoglycemia.

That's all for now, stay tuned.


Sept. 10 - Time for a break
This season has come to an end and I'm ready for a break. It's been a great year and I feel that I've made some significant steps forward in terms of the training I've accomplished, as well as the racing experience I've gained. I succeeded in personal bests in the mile, 1500m, 1000m and 800m so my goal to continuously improve has been achieved. I would have liked to run a bit faster overy 1500m, but sometimes races don't always go perfectly planned and you have to just "race" instead of go for time. I think my ability to "race" this season has improved so much and a major part of that has been due to having to opportunity to run in some of the best races in Europe, as well as at World Champs.

So now I'll take a couple weeks off to let my mind and body relax, then training for Beijing begins. Next year is a big year and all my focus and preparation will be towards the Olympics.

Again, I'd like to thank all of you for supporting me this season. There are so many people that have played a part in my success that I can't even begin, but I do want to say that I appreciate ever word of encouragment that I receive. Please stay tuned, we have a big year ahead!

(Check out my journal and photos from Osaka.)


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