It's taken me forever to finally write this post. I've been done competing for about three weeks now, so here as a snippet of how the latter part of this season play out.
After nationals I competed in the National Track League (NTL) circuit across Canada. Five stops in five cities across the country over 15 days. First stop, Edmonton.
Edmonton International Track Classic- June 29th, 2011
Just a couple days after nations the NTL was to kick off in Edmonton. I say 'was' because things didn't exactly go as planned. For two days before the meet the weather was perfect, the sun was shinning, it was hot and just a slight breeze was present. Practice the day before was perfect, and my persistent knee injury had basically disappeared. Come race day it was the same, I checked my phone for what the weather was suppose to be like and it shared a different story. From 6 till 9 thunder storms were in the forecast. It was hard to believe considering how beautiful it looked outside. I packed my rain gear none the less and headed to the track. Almost like clockwork, the rain came down. At 530 you could see and hear the storm in the distance. With the first strike of lightening the meet was postponed 30 minutes. Then with the second, then the third strike and the down pour of rain the unthinkable happened and the meet was called off. So much for a start to the NTL, next stop Vancouver.
Harry Jerome International Track Classic - July 1st, 2011
Third time is a charm, that being, this is year was my third time trying to get into this meet and finally I got in!! Harry Jerome is always a very competitive meet and the perfect place to run well. The track is beautiful, the competition is fierce and after the elongated rest from not running in Edmonton, the perfect place to race. After nationals I was still a little down, but in Vancouver I was feeling a little bit better. I drew lane one, which isn't always favorable, but it was perfect for me. Throughout the warm up my body and my mind were feeling good. The field was stacked, but I knew what I needed to do. This races was no ones but my own, no matter where I finished or what I ran I was "gonna do me" (as they say). I ran relaxed and calm, aggressive off the start, calm down the back. Others made their moves, but I kept to my own. Coming home I wasn't tired, I just pumped my arms and brought it home. I finished 5th, but the place didn't matter, the feeling is what mattered. I had gotten my confidence back, I knew I could do it still. I definitely had somethings to work on, but I lived to race another day. Next stop, Victoria.
Victoria International Track Classic - July 3, 2011
Victoria is probably one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, I swear. I was in Victoria in 2004 for Nationals, but I definitely didn't remember how beautiful it was. After taking the ferry over from Vancouver I settled into residence at the University of Victoria and prepared for my next race. I didn't go to the track, but I took a nice long walk to get the blood flowing. The focus for travel day was to rest and get ready to run. I was still feeling pretty good from the Harry Jerome meet so I was hoping to carry that over. Once again my warm up felt great, but something was different. Not in my body, but in my mind, my focus wasn't there. It was like my blinders were taken off and everything around me was flooding in. People were talking to me, I was talking to people. My warm up was flowing, but not with the same aggression and focus as two days prior. My race started off with a false start. My first start was great, hard and powerful and lots of drive. Once we got called back I tried to regroup myself. I figured the starter would give us 2 or 3 minutes to get ready, I figured wrong. As soon as the last girl made her way back, it was on to the races (pun very much intended). This race was very different from the last. I ran my own race, but it was all wrong. There was no attack, no aggression, it was flat and mundane. I made no moves anywhere, I just ran, nothing special, just one kinda fast pace all the way around. I finished fourth, kind of close to the time in Vancouver, but ran very wrong.
I headed back to Toronto for 3 days before starting the latter half of the circuit. This gave me a chance to talk to my coaches about the races thus far. We figured what I did good, and what I would change for the next couple races.
The NTL had two more meets on the schedule, Halifax then back to Toronto. Before those though, I made a little detour. There is a new world class facility in Moncton, from World Junior Championships in 2010. So before heading to Halifax we decided to go to Moncton first to squeeze in a race and put down a good time on the super fast track.
Moncton Hub City Classic - July 8th, 2011
All things with standing, Moncton's track was by far the best track I stepped on all season long. With that being said, things in Moncton did not exactly go as planned. Originally a couple of the other girls from the 4 x 400m relay were slated to come to Moncton as well and run an open 400. I guess that memo got lost as some point, and I was the only one who showed up. When one door closes, another door opens. My open door was an opportunity to rabbit an 800m race, and have hilarity ensued. Where to start....
I guess first off, when rabbiting a race the key it to get to the front then bring the runners through the first 400 in a set time. Set time for this race was 58 seconds for the first 400, got it. Secondly, I would probably be best if the rabbit did not false start at the beginning of the race, alrighty then.
Its probably been 5 or 6 years since I've had to do a standing start, so the start for this 800 felt very strange. On the starters command I came up to the line with great excitement, maybe too much excitement. As the starter waited for everyone to settle, I could feel myself falling over, and I couldn't stop it. I tried to clench my core to stop me from falling, but it was a futile attempt. I raised my hand, and everyone was called back. I couldn't help by laugh, great job Ese, way to almost false start. We try again, and this time with success. I take off at the sound of the gun, and as I do I attempt to hit the watch on my hand to help me with the pace. I hit once, I hit twice, I hit three times and miss each time! The whole while, the field of 800 meter runners get away from me. This rabbiting job is harder then I thought. I take off to catch up, and now I have to pass them. Coming off the curve everyone starts to cut in, and at this point I should be at the front. As the waterfall of girls cuts down to lane 1 its clear I am not in front. 'Oh Sh*t' is all I can think. I kick it up a notch, and haul ass to the front. Coming up to the first 200 I'm finally in the right spot, and now all I gotta do is bring it home, I settle into a pace which I think is right on. I look over my shoulder to make sure the girls are right there....and they are not. As I come down the home stretch I slow down the pace and hope that the girls catch up. As I cross the finish I step off the track and let them finish what I tried to start. Rabbiting was definitely harder then I thought it was gonna be, but in the end it was pretty fun, and everyone got a good laugh. On to Halifax.
Aileen Meagher International Track Classic - July 10th, 2011
After an entertaining stop in Moncton it was time to refocus and get back to business in Halifax. Last year I tried to get into the Aileen Meagher meet but they told me I wasn't 'fast enough', so it definitely felt nice to be invited this year. It was time to try and implement some of the things discussed on the break with my coaches and hope it pays off. Aggression was gonna be key to my race. So far my races have been passive and too comfortable. It was time to flip the table on my comfort zone and go after it. For this meet I stayed with some of the members of the 4 x 400m relay team. It was nice to get to know the other girls and talk to them and pick their brains about the 400, the relay and just life in general. It was refreshing to know that we are all basically in the same boat and all fighting and going after the same thing.
The race tactics for Halifax were to be more aggressive and not let anyone get away from me. I had mentally prepared to be in a lesser lane again, and I was ready to put my plan to action. Things have a way of not going as planned for me, instead of an inside lower lane, I was all the way in lane 6, the last possible lane. I wasn't prepared for this, but I tried to stay calm and stick to the plan. As I set my blocks all I that ran through my head was, 'don't let them go'. The gun went off and I took off hard, I powered through the first corner and came up tall on the back straight. I could hear someone coming up on me so I shifted another gear and tried to pull away. Coming into the second curve I knew I was moving, I was flying! Then something went horribly wrong.
I went from full sprint, to petty jog in no more then three strides. I hit the worst wall I've ever hit in my whole life. This wall was like no other. I couldn't lift my knees up if my life depended on it. I came off the corner and the last hundred meters looked like it went on for an eternity. I could hear everyone yelling crystal clear. My team mates tried to give me encouragement, but nothing was helping. Nothing would move, not my legs, not my arms, nothing. Slowly but surely I made it across the line in my slowest time in two years.
Most people would be incredibly discouraged after a run like that, and I definitely was. I wanted to throw something, I wanted to quit, I wanted to cry. There was so much going through my head I thought it was going to explode. As I tried to cool down my team mate approached me and told me what I did was brave. There was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, I went for it and now all I have to do is learn from what I did.
That silver lining is always there, sometimes its hard to find, but its there.
Last stop, Toronto.
Toronto International Track and Field Games - July 13, 2011
By the time the last meet in the circuit rolls around I feel like my legs are going to fall off. I've ran so many races in the last couple weeks its getting ridiculous. For most of my team mates this is a big one, its at home and all their families are coming to watch. Not so much for me, but I'm still happy to be back in my bed. After Halifax my mood is so-so. I know the positives that came from the race, but it's still hard to swallow and forget all the negative. The fear of dying at the end of the race is still fresh, and I don't want it to happen again.
As I warm up I feel as though I'm just going through the motions at this point. Nothing feels sore or hurt, but I surely don't feel like a spring chicken. My race plan is still the same as it was in Halifax, just this time I'm going to control the back stretch a little better. As they walk us out I hear a couple friends in the stands yell my name which puts a little smile on my face. I set my blocks and it down to business. This is the last one I tell myself, just follow the plan and I'll be straight. Attack, stay calm and go.
After one practice start the official calls us in and its time to go. I feel okay, not great, but I know its almost over. One last race. Two very familiar commands, then the gun goes off. I feel myself react, just not as powerful as I would like it to be. I drive, but not as far as I should. I come off the corner and I'm in the mix, but I'd like to be closer. I stay calm and relaxed down the back and prepare to go again in the last 200. I pressed the button and nothing happens. I flick the switch and the light doesn't go on. I tell myself go, and I just stay the same. My legs have nothing left. I feel so flat. I want to go, I want to kick again but nothing happens.
In The End
When I first heard I would be competing in the NTL I pictured it playing out a lot different in my head. I pictured glory and success. I pictured runner personal bests every time I stepped on the track. I pictured autographs, pictures and flowers. In the end, the picture was a whole lot different.
After the last meet I was thoroughly disappointed in myself. I felt like every time I ran I just got worse and worse. I was embarrassed and felt like I just let everyone down. Funny how your emotions work sometime eh.
After settling down and putting some real perspective into what I had just done, I realized I may need to be a just a little easier on myself.
Between June 24th and July 13th I had ran 7 races. 7 races in 20 days, and some of those with only one days rest in between. Then throwing in traveling, (coast to coast), little to no treatment, jet lag, eating out...lets just say the conditions were not ideal, but I survived. I'm not making excuses, but when you put it all together, I guess I did ok :-)
This time last year I had only really raced the 400 twelve times...in my life. I'm still pretty new to this, so the circuit was a great experience. I have a lot of learning to do, so even though this picture didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, I still ended up with a pretty sweet print.