I kept saying I would write about my races last season. After each race I would make a mental note to put the experience into writing, but then it would already be time for my next race and I would decide that it would be best to write a recap of a few races… an overview of the season so far… a mid-season update… and then my season was over. Hurrah! I can write about the entire year! And now I am mid-way through my 2016 season, and I have yet to write about any of my races.
So here we are. Less than 90 days out from the Rio Olympics. Before I can summarize my 2015 season of racing I have to first drop a “holy crap! I’m going to the Olympics”! Flash back 4 years ago and I was likely a little drunk and crashing with some law school friends deciding what to do about my Olympic appeal and my sudden state of homelessness and unemployment. Beer. Dancing. That’s what I did… mostly. I also found myself sobering up doing 400s on the track and hammering out long runs with my buddy Jaime heckling me from his bike. I was fortunate to have some really great friends at Michigan State who helped kick start an online campaign to get me to the Olympics, reminded me that I did in fact like being a lawyer, and offered to go for more than a few liquid lunches… all of which gave me the space and time I needed and I appreciate that they never once asked me why the hell I was still sleeping on their couch. We all know the story. The Olympic appeal campaign didn’t succeed, I broke my ankle soon after, I stabbed myself with a safety pin at World Champs 2013 and came back to break the Canadian Marathon Record that Fall.
Since 2012 the goal has been Rio. Specifically, the marathon. Everything had been geared towards running an Olympic qualifier sometime in 2015 and to demonstrate fitness Spring 2016 to punch my ticket early and avoid any of the drama (read politics) of my 2012 season. Then that fat foot thing happened and suddenly it seemed as though everything would be derailed. And then “BOOM” (yep, I’ll jump on the “boom” bandwagon) everything suddenly was on a new track (excuse the pun).
2015 opened up with the NYC half marathon, the Modo 8k in Vancouver for fun and then the Stanford Invitational 10,000m. NYC half went well, but was not anything I was overly thrilled about. The 8k was a solid workout effort that I followed up with 3k, 2k, 1k with Dayna Pidhoresky. I had hoped that the Stanford race would have a bunch of girls chasing the World standard of 32:00… what I got was Flannigan and an Ethiopian going low 31 min pace and me running a solo 32:11. I was happy with the PB but was worried that I was not going to be able to put together an event to qualify for World Champs. A week or so later I learned that my 32:11 might not be good enough for Worlds 2015 but it was good enough for the Olympics! Rio standard had been set at 32:15… I had done it! I had made the Olympics!!?? Wait… what? The 10,000m? But I’m a marathoner.
Next up came the Toronto Yonge Street 10k, Payton Jordon Invite, Ottawa 10k/National Championships, and Calgary Half marathon/National Championships. Flying into Toronto I had the confidence that I had broken 32 minutes on that course before (2013) and had the goal of doing it again. Thanks to a fast pace set by Tarah Korir off the start, I came in with a 31:48. Two weeks later I was toeing the line with my teammate Natasha Wodak to chase a sub 32. We both did it… Natasha a tid bit quicker than me ;P getting the Canadian record in 31:41 and I came across in 31:46. Maybe it was because most of our Canadian distance crew was there cheering, maybe it was because I was able to share the experience with Natasha… but it wasn’t until that race that it really set in that I had an Olympic standard (and the World champs monkey off my back). Don’t ask me why, but the original plan was to run World standard in the 10,000m then jump back up to the marathon for Pan Ams and then maybe try to run the 10,000m again at Worlds… Why I was signing up for such torture? Perhaps because I was still thinking “but I’m a marathoner”. Then Ottawa 10k happened. Damn, I like consistency… I ran 31:49. Natasha and I lined up and stuck on the Kenyans as long as we could. We raced like we belonged up there with those girls and my brain caught up with my body and I realized… “hey, but maaaaaybe I’m also a 10,000m runner”. I met with my coach that week and we changed the plan to do Pan Ams 10,000m, Worlds 10,000m and then shoot for a Fall marathon to try and knock out standard there too (cuz to quote my coach “I just think doubling at Rio would be really cool”). At the end of the week I was boarding a flight to Calgary for the Canadian half marathon champs and had a new game plan.
June was pretty much a training month with a small 5k on the roads in California (I will always regret being too afraid to head down to Portland to run that 5 on the track) and the Scotia Bank Vancouver Half at the end of the month.
I entered the Canadian track champs to run the 5,000m mainly to get more experience racing on the track, but also to test out racing in spikes. I finished second to Nicole Sifuentes’ awesome kick while wearing a pair of “spikes” that were basically flats with small pins… baby stepping that whole spike thing.
I spent most of July second guessing my decision to run the 10,000m at Pan Am Games in Toronto… everyone in the country knew me as a marathon runner and I couldn’t help but feel like I was letting some people down. That identity crises was silenced when I stepped into the stadium to race. Holy heck that atmosphere was amazing. The air was charged with the excitement from the crowd as Natasha and I did our last few strides before the gun went off. It was hard to contain my nerves and excitement during the first few laps of the race… I kept wanting to get caught up with the crowd, knowing my family was in the stands watching… cheering… seeing what it actually is that I “do”… but I managed to stay calm and stick to the race plan from my coach – DO NOT LEAD until you’re in the last 2k... which meant slowing the race down to a 90s lap because I refused to take the lead when one of the Mexicans tried to relinquish it. With 1k to go I took the lead and finally allowed myself to feed off the crowd’s energy and just run. That last kilometer was probably the most fun I have ever had with racing. I finished with the bronze, a new found love of the track and having run my first ever 10,000m in spikes!
Then came World Champs in China. Training leading up to it went decently well until I arrived at the prep camp in South Korea. It was humid (as we expected) but it was more the availability of places to run (or lack there of) that was problematic. Yes, I was now a 10,000m runner… but I am mileage based and a 500m gravel loop or a 2k out and back rubber path left me feeling stale and flat heading into China. Walking into the Birds Nest in Beijing initially made me really nervous, but it was a different feeling than walking onto the track in front of the “home crowd” in Toronto. I was able to calm myself thinking about lawyering of all things. Unlike walking into court when I know everyone in there will be looking at me, watching me, waiting to hear what arguments I have ready to present (me waiting to know if words will actually come out of my mouth when I open it), walking out onto that track I had 24 other women there that the crowd was watching… all of us with our own goals, fears and expectations. The race went out slow. The middle stayed slow. And the finish was who can run the fastest 2k… I might be a 10,000m runner now… but I’m not yet a kicker. I finished 18th and disappointed. A few days later I looked at my splits and felt a bit better about the race… especially after I realized I was only 5-7 seconds out of my top 15 goal. In my mind, that’s a lot better than the safety pin incident of Worlds 2013.
And finally, cuz why not? I tacked on an extra 7ish weeks of training to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (after a week of elephant riding, scuba diving, and loads of treadmill running in Thailand). I decided that I would head back to Flagstaff for a brief training stint. I figured it would be difficult to be motivated and excited to run by myself in Chattanooga. Just before heading out to Flag I went down to Atlanta for Music Midtown… which meant I had to do a 15k time trial on a track in the middle of the day. Ok, so I didn’t have to… but I wanted to see X-Ambassadors play, so I watched them and then went next door to the track for my workout. It was hot and a bit monotonous, but I did have live music to listen to and I killed the workout.
I lined up in Toronto with the A goal of Olympic Standard (2:29:50) and the B goal of breaking my own record (2:28:00). I crossed with 2:28:09… ouch. Coming around the final bend to see the clock click over my record time stung for a minute… but I knew about 5k out that my left calf, having started cramping between 25k and 30k, was not going to let me press the pace. I know from experience (safety pin) that pressing my calf can lead to me losing chunks and chunks of time and I decided over the last few kilometers to stick to the A goal and worry about my record some other day. Still though 9 seconds in a marathon is nothing and it sucked. Until I realized that now I’ll have something to chase after Rio… that breaking my own record with a 7 week build might make me feel less enchanted about running or trying to lower it again later… not breaking my record reminded me that marathons are hard. My record is hard… and I need to respect both if I ever want to call myself a marathoner again.