Life has taken some crazy twists and turns recently. Running has been one constant. I’ve been consistently running around 50 miles (80 km) per week and trying to do two workouts, mostly tempos, or kilometre repeats at 10k pace, things like that. A lot of it has been on the treadmill. Josh and I had done a couple of light track workouts. A friend who I work with, Shera and I, ran together in the Ottawa Race Weekend half marathon on May 29, which was so much fun despite the hot conditions; we adjusted our pacing and worked together and were able to finish strong. The night before, Josh and I ran together in the Ottawa Race Weekend 10k, more to participate because we really hadn’t trained for it. Several of our Achilles athletes ran also, and a good friend who I knew from university at Guelph completed her first ever 10k, having just taken up running a few months ago. She did an amazing job, far exceeding her goal time, supported by a small entourage, all of whom sported tutus … why not!!
A poignant memory from that race for me is from the last few hundred metres. Josh has been injured and was not feeling good at that point. The crowd support along the course was fantastic and as we approached the finish, we found ourselves with a little spring in our strides, but because of the noise I couldn’t hear a thing. As we approached the line though, I could feel Josh’s arm, right there beside me. I knew that if I had sprinted, or if I’d been hurting and had to slow down, he would have still been there, and even without being able to hear, I could have counted on it. We’ve run hundreds of miles together over the last six years, through ups and downs, ebbs and flows. It was an emotional moment, a beat in time echoed back across the years, the measure of someone you know to be dependable, who is there for you no matter what … the best kind of friend you could have.
Having retired last year from competitive international running as it were, I’ve been trying to figure out where running still fits in my life. I’ve kept running, simply because I enjoy training, although it really hasn’t been hard training, nothing like before, and it wasn’t fueled by any clear competitive aspirations.
Then, right out of the blue, last weekend, I received an email from Athletics Canada, our governing body for athletics, asking if I had any interest in being considered for selection to the IPC Athletics Worlds team this summer. Because the qualification window extends back to January 2016, they told us that Josh and I were technically eligible based on 1500m times we ran last year.
Josh has been dealing with injuries throughout the year and hasn’t been able to train a lot, but another former training partner, Jérémie is back here in Ottawa over the summer – he is on a track scholarship in Pennsylvania – and was super excited when I mentioned this to him as a possibility and asked him if he might be interested in pursuing it together. We asked Josh, who coaches a group of high school athletes with our Ottawa Lions club, if he might consider coaching us also. Josh agreed to work with us; I’m really happy that he’s involved in this way.
To make a long story short, I hadn’t competed in a 1500 metre race this year, not since Rio in fact. Bruce Deacon, the distance coach for the IPC Worlds team asked Jérémie and I to prove our fitness this past Wednesday in a 1500 metre race; we needed to run 4:18.5 to be considered for selection, or just under 69 second per lap pace.
On Monday evening, Josh had Jérémie and I run a short 1500 metre pace workout, just 4 x 400m at 68 second pace together, my first time running at that pace this year. Aerobically it felt great, but going into the race on Wednesday, I was still feeling it in my legs, which just aren’t used to that kind of running.
In the end though, I think that workout made a crucial difference just in terms of getting refamiliarized with the faster pace. Jérémie and I ended up coming fourth in the race, running 4:14.5. Even doing strides beforehand, we were both feeling good; you know intuitively when things are working well. We ran our first lap in about 66 seconds, feeling relaxed, and got to 800 in 2:14, and I knew then that we were going to be ok. I felt good and was able to attack the third lap. We were 3:05 or 3:06 with a lap to go. I knew I was in new territory but it felt familiar also; old memories from past races die hard I suppose. It really wasn’t until about 200 metres to go that I started to feel the lactic acid. I just told myself to stay relaxed. Jérémie did a great job of pushing me but not pushing too hard. He had been nervous during our warm-up, but in what was his first time guiding in a race, he did an amazing job. We kept it together and had a good finish.
We were really fortunate to have good weather, the right kind of race, to be feeling good, to have the stars align. Its interesting … almost exactly a year ago, at a time when Josh and I were training hard, we ran 4:13 in a 1500 metre race together, just a second faster than last night.
I had told myself that no matter what happened, I would be ok with the outcome. Having been so fortunate to have had the long athletic career I’ve had, running owes me nothing. But that said, when it came down to it, I was determined to try as hard as I could to make this team once the door was open. Those who know me well know that Rio wasn’t the race I wanted to end my track running on. Most of us don’t get to choose the perfect ending. To have this chance to be a part of one more Canadian team along with Jérémie, and with Joshès coaching support is an amazing opportunity, one I certainly didn’t count on. A week ago, I was running primarily for fitness, and mental sanity. I still am, but there is a little more purpose to it now to be sure.
The Games will be taking place in London in mid July, so we’ll have about six weeks to do specific 1500m preparation, and there’s so much room for us to improve and to build on the training we’ve been doing to this point. We’re super excited to embrace this adventure together, to make the very most of it, to work hard, have fun, and leave it all on the track.