“Obstacles are those frightening things that become visible when we take our eyes off our goals.”
Did I ever feel that this season. My biggest struggle has been finding out how to get myself back “on” mentally. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind.
Since Scotiabank Half in October I have had some of the best training of my life. I have averaged 100-11okm/ week with weeks over 125km. My workouts are light-years faster than I have ever run.
Workout 1kmx8 348/35/45/32/43/33/40/25
Longrun 25 km with 11km of tempo in the middle at 410-405 pace
First, let’s break down this season so far
In the week after that 1km workout I raced the most important race of my life. Refrigee-Eighter 8miler. And…well you all know that story! But it was one race I will never forget. The race felt great I was rolling solo in a decent pace finishing in 49:02. I have my race mantra that I had thought of for this year- no fear. I was thinking about Ryan Hall’s retirement and how he always ran with no fear, and I wanted to bring a piece of that into my races. All the excitement post-race just added to a very special day – but you know those details. If you don’t you must live under a rock.
I was on such a high with training and ready to crush this season…Then something just turned “off.” Not sure what happened, because my training still was going great but my racing began to turn subpar.
The next race would have been Chilly Half-Marathon. I knew with my training I was strong enough to run for a personal best. I didn’t taper for the race as I knew it wasn’t my A race and needed to train through it. I had a really nasty trigger point in my left quad that week that I could not work out for the life of me. I was even limping on it. It seemed to be mostly better by race day. My last half (STWM) I went out in 3:42s and died finishing with a 3:49 average – so we planned for me to run more conservatively. I started chilly at 3:49s. The problem- at no point was I comfortable in this pace. Very quickly I realized I wasn’t settling into a pace that should have felt easy (at least for the first 5!). I was running with Mike and I couldn’t hold onto him. I just felt off. Not to mention the stomach cramp I had for the entire first 5k. Fast forward to 8-9km my hips were cramping which never happens. Then my hip cramp moved down into my upper quad, then as I reached 13k it engulfed my entire leg down my ITband. I ran on it for a few more kilometers going over my options in my head. I knew the only option was to stop. After limping my way to 16km slowing each km, I called it a day. I walked back to the finish (along the race course) very frustrated but knowing there was nothing I could do. In the week following Chilly I had an intense pain through my low back, glutes, and hamstring where I couldn’t sit. Therapist Josh 😉 and I diagnosed it as a pinched obturator nerve (which runs through the glutes). I still managed 86km that week since it mostly bothered me sitting. The first few days we didn’t know what it was. As soon as we identified it and did some nerve flossing within hours I found relief. I found no other issues with it after that week. So either my body held me back knowing I would injure myself with this pinched nerve (imagine if I had finished the race!), or the knotted quad that I had caused this issue during the race. Hard to know for sure.
Training resumed but my ego was quite bruised. Running is about confidence and as I said something was off. I knew my next race was going to be Around the Bay so I tried to refocus.
Bay City Music Hall 5k
Josh and I entered a small local 5k in Hamilton two weeks before ATB as a tune up. It was very windy that day but decently warm. I decided to try Rob Watson’s blowout race and just hammer and suffer the consequences hoping I could break the 18minute barrier. Well..when you go out in 3:18 the fastest km you’ve ever run..you know it’s going to be a fun day! I still ran a decent time pushing from the front completely solo (no men around either) but the course ate me up as the 2.5-4km was into a headwind and I payed for that 3:18 hard. I finished in 18:47 confused at the time because my effort was so hard. Josh and I both found the race to be 150m long and seeing it was a 5k around 18:20s I felt a bit better. I was happy to win hoping that would boost my confidence.
I put in a few more hard weeks of training and a few speed sessions hoping to tune my legs into 5k fitness. Josh and I had a theory that perhaps my legs are tired from the mileage so I tapered a lot for ATB down to 60km (including the race) for the week. I knew I had a good shot at the podium and I wanted to pb. ATB was colder than expected. I lined up was underdressed. I visibly remember being cold during the race – not a way to run fast. I got off the line more conservatively than last time. I was pushing myself the first few km chasing the girls in front of me then the cold wind hit me and I found myself just “jogging” which you have no time for in a 5k race. I tried to pick myself up and tell myself I had to run hard after the turn around but the turnaround came and I was still settled into a slow pace. It got worse as I was running for 3rd at this point and a girl came by me and I tried to go with her for all of two seconds and just gave up. I ran the rest in and finished 4th in 18:17 not the pb I wanted or placing. I was not happy. What was wrong with me? Something clearly was off.
Josh and I discussed the possibility of being overtrained and we backed off my mileage from 100k weeks to 70/80 to help bring my legs back to life. Am I stuck in an evanescence song or what?
Race Roster Spring Run Off
I made it my goal to get my head back. I wanted to run race roster as mentally strong as possible. I was aiming for top 5 not sure who would show up. This was a new race so I had no idea what the course would be like but I heard it was very hilly.
GRE all made a pack that we would not look at our watches this race and just race it. I went out aggressively (which I know now was 3:20 …again? oops!) and stuck with the 4th or 5th girl for the first few km. We headed down the hill and I made a move to pass her hoping she wouldn’t come with me and I could gain a gap to leave her behind me. Well.. after that down hill was an uphill so that was NOT the place to make that move. And she soon came sailing by me up that hill. I must have looked so silly! How embarrassing! Since it was an off distance (8k) I made it my focus to run strong and mentally tough. I was feeling like the old me, running aggressively and pushing. I definitely ran a bit rich for my blood and should have paced it a bit better but as my last 2km death march set it I was happy with my effort vs my ATB jog mentality. Splits: 3:20/28/40/405 (hill)/46/44/403/420 (hill). In the last 1.5km a female passed me to put me into 6th and I had nothing left to be able to go with her. Then I did not kill the hill, haha, I just wanted to be done! I was disappointed for the 2nd race in a row to be one place off the overall prizing. Though, this race was much better than chilly and ATB so I was happy with that.
In the month leading up to Mississauga Josh and I were contacted about racing Montreal as elites. We were excited about a new race and a fun travel adventure so we switched our race plans from Sauga half to Montreal. Leading up to the race I was so excited! I wanted revenge, I wanted to have the race of my life. My pb was 1:20:41 from Scotia Toronto and I knew I had a great shot at the top 3 if I ran a pb. I did a huge taper for this race running only 30 or so km that week. That previous sunday we did a longrun with 10km at goal half pace I ran 38:11 and was frustrated that I couldn’t hold my pace. On monday, I woke up with a sharp pain in my foot. I was limping around on it for the week which contributed to my huge taper. I missed my wednesday shakeout workout. Therapist Josh saved the day again and took me in for RSW (Shockwave) treatments on Wednesday and Friday after I figured out it was a peroneous brevis strain (problem was in my lower leg outer shin but referral pain was the 5th metatarsal head at the peroneous tendon attachment). Leading up to the race, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to run on it.
We arrived on the Friday and met up with some new friends Sami and Kip. We explored Montreal with fellow Skechers athlete David Liu. I felt very calm before the race and excited to roll. For the two shakeout runs in the days leading up to the race Josh KT taped my foot and it completely eliminated the pain. I was so relieved for the first time that week – I had no pain. I knew I could run on it.
First, I want to give a huge thanks to Canada Running Series and Ian Cater. He made this experience the best experience I’ve had racing ever. He had everything organized for the elites including transportation, a nice warm area to wait and get ready and an escort to the start. Big thanks for making the experience so grand and taking the stress out of the day.
Typical race warmup and drills and before I knew it the race was off. I felt so “on” I knew it in my heart today was the day I was going to have a big pb and that I was in shape to do so. I set my goal to run 346-347/km to put me 1:19:30 -1:19:50. I thought this was definitely reasonable seeing I should have run faster in the fall if I didn’t run so stupid. I ran my first 8 km perfect 3:44/47/46/46/49/45/45/43/47 and had a group of guys I was rolling with and I felt so good. I was feeling great and I knew I can do this. The lead 4 girls were way ahead I didn’t see them. As we ran through the formula 1 track I started to lose my group. I felt as if they were speeding up and I made the decision to let them go for fears they would run too hard and I would spend the rest of the race suffering for that mistake. I let them go. Then, NO MANS LAND. I was running solo and into the windiest section of the race. I now realize they weren’t speeding up, I was slowing down. I didn’t start to feel bad or in pain or anything my body just WOULDN’T run the pace I was telling it to. Over the next few km’s I watched my pace and pb slip away 3:53/51/54/50/53/53/403/403/401/357/359/352. The only solace I had was in the last 2km (as I thought I was 6th female and having a pity party for missing the podium again) I saw a female in front of me completely bonking and collapsing on the ground. I knew I could get her. I made this my goal and picked it up to go after her. After fearing I wouldn’t have enough room luckily I was able to pass her and move into “5th”. I later found out I was 4th because someone dropped out and that made it even better. I was shocked as I passed the line to see my finish time, I actually said “how did I just run that slow.” Not pleased with my time (1:22:15), I had to be happy with my placing. How could I feel so good and then just slow down completely with no real mental breaks or physical pain? I tried to enjoy post-race celebrations as much as possible as I racked my brain for something to tell me how I could get my race season back on track.
In the week after Scotia Montreal I felt rough. Not too sore but just completely drained. I made it my goal to fight this poor running spell with nutrition. I ate very clean and took in vitamin D, C, beet juice, liquid iron and a multi every morning. As I don’t eat meat, I’ve been suspect that my iron has been low and have been taking iron but not as religiously as I should have been. I scaled back my training to help recover from the half but I knew I had this 10km and wanted to run well. As the week went on, I grew excited to run a no pressure race. I’ve been running bigger races this year and I needed the ego boost of a small town win.
Fast forward to race day. Josh and I made a trip down to Oshawa to visit my nephew Joaquin for his birthday for a few hours which helped distract us. As we headed back to the race we realized that Josh lost his race bib at the expo which created a bit of the panic. Luckily the race director found it and sent it to the start line where it was waiting for him. I was calm and relaxed before the race, not really…race nerves were setting in. I was ready to go sooo early. I had my warmup and drills done and looked down still 20minutes to go! Jeeze! Had to add on a few more k’s to kill some time and stay warm.
I led from the gun, I heard the lead biker roll up beside me and I ran over to him. He knew what he was doing and I quickly realized there was no way I would be able to pace off him. I had a goal that I wanted to run 3:42s for my average pace and stayed with that for most of the race. I was running solo in no man’s land for the entire race but I enjoyed it. It gives me confidence pushing from the front. I slowed down in the last half of the course which was the slow part of the course. Super twisty trails where every turn you lose momentum and there was a crazy wind that couldn’t decide what direction to go. But conditions are never perfect. I was so excited to take home the win and break the tape. I felt the best I have this entire season. I felt in control running my pace and I could actually push myself. I finished feeling as though there was more in the tank. My 10km pb is 37:07 and I ran 37:21 on a slow course so I was happy with that.
Clearly my training wasn’t the problem, my workouts were better than ever and even with backing off mileage my body didn’t respond well in the 2nd half of my races. I went back to my watch data and found the problem.
Did you catch it? Check out the heart rate data. Do you see it now? My heart race was 190 on average for almost all of my spring races outside of Mississauga 10km. Clearly the nutrition thing was working. Clearly my iron became way too low at an unsustainable level for my body. In workouts it seemed to be okay but the second that extra push of a race came in my body shut down. Mississauga’s avrg hr was 140. That’s much more in the realm of where it should be. I should not be at almost my max heart rate during a half-marathon! I’m excited that I found this data. If after only 5 days I could see dramatic improvements let’s see at the end of this month what I’ll be able to do! I’ve learned this season that sometimes things don’t go your way and sometimes you just have to take the training as a training block that will progress you and your fitness regardless of whether it is showing during races.
Next up, CALGARY HALF CHAMPS! #thinkfastbefast #golikeneverbefore #choosegreatness Big thanks to Skechers Performance Division who provide me with the support I need to chase my dreams, GRE for the best damn team I’m proud to call mine, and Josh for being everything and more.