Recap – Ready to run fast, but no place to do it

It has been a while since I have been inspired to write.  Mostly because I was in a bit of a funk and thought I would wait until I had something good to write.  After a year of excellent training and health, I was in better shape this summer than I have ever been.  My workouts were fantastic and everything has gone smoothly – no injuries, illnesses or setbacks.  My spring races all indicated good things to come in Europe.  After several tactical races in the spring, I was ready for the kind of race where you settle into the pack on the rail and turn the brain off.  No paying attention to splits and no thinking: just racing with instinct and guts. This is always when I run the best and surprise myself with how easy it feels and how fast I can run.    My goal to run the World Championship A standard this summer seemed so possible at the beginning of July and then became a faded dream through the summer as I struggled to find quality races. Last week,  I decided to cut my losses and come back home – although there was another week left in the qualifying window there were no more good women’s 1500m races.  I have been home for two days, and after my initial relief at being home wore off, I started to pretty upset about how I feel like I quit but did not have any other viable options.  Yesterday, I stumbled across the following topic on a popular Canadian running board, TnF North, which posed the following question: Why Don’t Canadians Race More? I decided that it was a good opportunity for me to help explain the situation and let people know it is not by design that Canadians are not competing more, but rather, it is the fact that we have very little control over what and when we can compete once we are in Europe.

Original Posting: Why  Don’t the Canadians Race More?

I’ve always felt that most Canadian runners don’t have enough experience in big races. The National Track league is a great start to having more quality race opportunities.

I see races in Europe that some of our runners are fast enough to be in, yet aren’t – especially our 1500m women who would be quite competitive in the Diamond League events. They certainly could have got in London. The Americans (many who are slower than top Canadians) are in these races.

Can anybody ask me why many eligible Canadians don’t run?
Ellerton, Elmore and Stellinworth especially. Crofts and Smith are over there but maybe a year or 2 from getting in some big races.

My Response: We Would if We Could!

Your topic inspired me to make my first post but it is near to the heart and I think might help answer your question! It’s funny how the track world actually works – it looks so much easier to run fast than it actually is. Because one of the key components of running fast is having opportunities, and in the last few years it has become harder and harder to find these opportunities to run fast. I went over to Europe in the beginning of July with the intention of racing 3 or so times, get A standard, and return home to train for Worlds. After running 4:07 at Harry Jerome, I knew I was fit and ready to run fast and that I was in sub 4:05 shape and maybe even PB shape (4:02).

However, I was denied entry into basically every single race I requested. You have no idea how heart breaking it is to be in Europe, on your own dime, in freezing cold rainy Belgium, away from family, friends and coach with the purpose of racing to find that you can’t get into any meets. Just sitting in the dorm, waiting, waiting, waiting and hoping that something works out. And when I say that, I don’t mean waiting for word from a Diamond League meet, I mean almost any meet with people confirmed with PBs in the 4 teens and slower. I waited for days to hear back from meets, nagged my manager, chewed my nails to pieces and was in a basic holding pattern – you can’t even work out hard when you do not know what your racing schedule is. In the end, I was not able to get into Liege (won in 4:11) and was only able to race Padova on several “conditions” which were presented to me the day before the meet. Despite thinking I was in Barcelona for most of the month, I was told 2 days before the only option was to pace it – and at that they tried to take away the agreed upon rabbiting fee the morning of the race. I was then hoping and begging to get into Budapest because it was setting up to be fast but again was told the day before that I was only permitted to race if I agreed to be the 2nd rabbit off of a 2:08 pace. No thanks, racing is not pacing. I decided that morning to go to Gent (an All Comers type meeting in Belgium) and to come home because there were no more options to race. Let’s just say I was fried by the time I got to the meet. None of the races I tried to get into were “long shots” where I did not belong. In fact I often had one of the fastest PBs/SBs in the field but was still not invited. So…I say this only to enlighten fans that it is much much harder than it looks to get into races.

I think there is a bias against Canadians in Europe because Americans with much less credentials are able to get confirmed in good meets much more easily than most of us middle distance Canadians. I have a few theories why it has become so difficult and I think one of them is the changed economic landscape of the world has forced some meets to shut down and therefore puts extreme pressure on the surviving meets. I also think that Canadians need a stronger voice because we are not as “marketable” as American athletes, do not receive the huge sponsorship deals from shoe companies and therefore have managers who aren’t as motivated to work as hard to get us into meets. I think that this could be a role of Athletics Canada to build stronger relationships with meet directors because I don’t doubt that me or any of the other Canadians close to standard could run faster if we had the right opportunities but at least in my case, I never ran a race that was won in A standard time this year (ok, exception…Doha…jet lagged to the hilt)…they were all sit and kick races so it is really tough to set the pace faster. And anyone who knows about racing knows that leading from the gun usually does not work out. Ok, sorry for such a long post, don’t mean to “whine” just to help people understand the hidden side of things that it is not just a matter of going to Europe, racing, getting standard and life is great again. It is not anywhere that simple. (Oh and please don’t take my description as a reflection of a negative attitude because I usually can stay pretty positive about “carpe diemes” but I just want to paint what was for me a realistic picture this year).

Now What? Track Season ended July 31st, Triathlon Season Began August 1st.

I am back home and there is no better place to be than Kelowna in the summer.  My husband is in his final two weeks of big training weeks prior to tapering for Ironman Canada on August 28th in Penticton (45 minutes from our home). The bonus of knowing I will not be running the first round of Worlds that day is that I can now be his support team – drive him to the start of the race at 4:30 am and cheer all day for him and the other athletes who never cease to inspire me.  I am so excited and proud of him for all the work he has put into this goal and I am very happy to be able to share the day with him.

In the meantime, since I am healthy and fit, I  may compete in the Olympic distance event at the Apple Triathlon in Kelowna August 20th. That gives me three weeks to turn my 800/1500m track taper around to be able to do a 2 hour PLUS event of swimming, biking and running!  Since I have not swum or biked in a year, and my tempo running days have been few and far between,  I have a couple weeks to top up the aerobic engine and be ready to compete.  It is going to be really tough to do on such a short preparation – and because I do not know the concept of “racing easy” or for “fun” and will go as hard as I can with whatever resources I have.  I did the my first triathlon two years ago under similar preparation and managed to win my age group but was so incredibly sore the following week I swore I would never do it again without adequate preparation.  But in the end, a sore body is good therapy for a sore heart, and I think it helps me process the disappointment of not achieving my track goals by giving me something else to focus on in the short term.  And the great thing about it is nobody can stop me from racing but myself!

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5 Responses to “TnF North: Why Don’t Canadians Race More?”

  1. When reading what I write below, please take into account I know nothing about track (ie what is a diamond league meet). At all.

    I am outraged for you, and I don’t actually even know you! To work so hard for so many years, to have everything line up health -wise and training-wise (which isn’t a given each year, I presume), and then to be denied running in a World Championships for your country because you can’t get into races to get your standard (which, in my argument, is something that would’ve happened if given the opportunity considering you’ve run faster than that before) seems highly unfair.

    First of all, I don’t really understand why Canadian athletes aren’t marketable. Hello, Justin Bieber is Canadian — clearly marketable. Ok, all jokes aside, I guess I can see that maybe shoe companies don’t think the American public (to whom they sell) won’t get as revved up about a Canadian athlete, but, then again, who says they wouldn’t. And don’t canadians need running shoes?!? Don’t they wear Nike, too?

    Second, why doesn’t your Federation push for you to get into more races (or were there simply not enough races?). Wouldn’t it behoove them to get you into a competitive race where you can run a qualifying standard and then go onto Worlds, which looks good for Canadian running. And, if you won a medal, looks even better?!? And aren’t you kind of a bad ass and could possibly win a medal?

    Third, is there a per country rule at all in track races? (eg: in gymnastics, only the two top all-arounders from each country can compete in the all-around finals, same thing for event finals. It doesn’t amtter that 3 countries alone have the top beam workers in the world — they get 6 spots out of the 8 for each final).

    I guess I’m just young (well 25, kinda old), naive, and way too idealistic — and, thus far, usually when I work hard, I get what I want…well I haven’t gotten that Chanel bag, yet, or have an income yet, but I’m working on it.

    I hope you stick with it and make it to the ’12 Olympics as revenge. Also, one of my old coaches used to say “hard work never disappears,” so whatever work you did this year will pay off somewhere.

    Finally, good luck in that triathlon! Sounds fun.

    • Malindi Elmore says:

      HI Meggie,

      Thanks as usual for your insightful comments. I agree that Canadians should be as marketable as we do produce some great athletes and celebrities with real “star” power, however, when it comes to running it is much more difficult to get support in Canada than in the USA. I have not had a sponsor in several years and the majority of companies will only support Canadians with gear (nice – but doesn’t help to heat the house and feed the hunger!) unless they are living in the USA or they are very very high profile, ie. Gary Reed. Although I do not know the details, I suspect that someone like Gary had to medal at Worlds (2009) before he was offered any decent sponsorship.

      The role of the Federation is interesting. It is not their “job” exactly to represent athletes as we all have managers who are supposed to do this in exchange for commission on monies earned. However, most of my Canadian friends have different managers and we are all finding getting into meets difficult so I think one of the common denominators is being Canadian and this could be a role where our Federation could step in and perhaps help develop some relationships with big meets. But it is mystery world to me so I don’t know if it would help or not, just an idea. I understand that USATF is fairly active in promoting their athletes to European meet directors which is part of the reason so many meets have so many Americans. In some meets, there are more Americans than Europeans – the meet might as well be in Oregon or Maine or Texas rather than a small Italian town! (Well…ok clearly the lattes and gelato is a big perk of being in Italy over Texas!) On the flip side, Athletics Canada is doing a good job of promoting a series of events with the “National Track League” which includes track meets in 5 cities across the country in the month of July; they have put resources and funds into developing these meets. Unfortunately, the meets are not quite deep enough in across all track and field events to be able to rely on them to be standard-producing races in every track meet; thus making Europe an attractive option, at least in theory. In retrospect I would have been better off finishing the domestic series rather than going abroad but hind sight is 20/20! Anyways, sorry not to be able to provide a more straight forward answer to your queries but I think you ask some very great questions and I appreciate your interest and insights. You are not nearly as naive as you think, by the way!

  2. Marilyn Arsenault says:

    Thanks for posting this Malindi. It was heartbreaking to read so i cannot imagine the disappointment you experienced. AC needs to step up to the plate and do what they are supposed to do: support Canadian athletes which should include helping to secure racing opportunities at high quality meets. How insane that all your hard work and successful preparation has culminated in racing a triathlon. Your positive outlook is far from sounding like a whine-fest. I think Canadian Olympic middle/long-distant hopefuls should whine more about lack of support. All the very best! Mar

    • Malindi Elmore says:

      Thanks Marlene! At least I still love running and the road races are always so much fun to see you and the other speedsters :) Looking forward to seeing you back after your series of unfortunate events!

  3. Kim Maser says:

    G’day Malindi. What a trip you’vr had this season. Had a nice chat with MVT about stuff. Some things never change and it’s too bad. Hope you will stick with it. All the best to you and Graham. Hope you both get out there and rip up the Tri’s. All the best to Graham at the Ironman in Penticton. Steve King will certainly have some great words about that.

    Cheers

    KM

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