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!