And That’s A Wrap for Indoor Season

Last weekend was the Canadian University Track and Field Championships at the St. Dennis Centre at the University of Windsor. It’s been just over a week since it ended, and honestly, I still don’t think my accomplishment has sunk in yet. A very near and dear person to me, and a fabulous coach, Andy Higgins, said that it should take some time for it to completely sink in.

IMG_5810But before too much time goes by I need to tell you about what the weekend meant to me (Upfront apology, this might be a little long). The weekend wasn’t about the number of races I ran, or that we brought the banner home (more on that coming), it was about being part of one of the greatest CI’s teams in history. And no, not just the women’s team. The men that were down there, plus all of the coaches, made it the best team I’ve ever had a chance to be a part of.

I will start by saying thank you. Thank you to all of my teammates. You accepted me with open arms in January when I decided to start my PhD in Engineering Education. You already had four months of training together. Years of getting to know each other. You opened yourselves up and really made me feel like part of the team from the moment I said I was coming back to school. It was an inspiring moment to be accepted by so many great champions.

The path to CI’s was a well thought out plan. It was collaborative with myself and my coaches to practice not only all of the events I planned to run, but the short amount of rest I would be facing over the three days. When I sat down in November the plan was to try to help the team as best I could to win the team title; I was willing to run as many events as possible to try to get the team the most points possible. Ontario Championships was a big test along the way, it went so well that we added another event to the mix!

I know I am a stubborn person and I know I set high expectations of myself. I wanted to run as many events as I could and I asked my coaches to enter me in all the individual events I had qualified in, the 600m, the 1000m, the 1500m and the 3000m, and to consider me for the relays, especially the 4×800. I didn’t want to enter the events to stop others from running, I wanted to run them to test myself, to see just how strong I was. And I knew that me running as many events as possible was my way of contributing to the total points for the banner.

Here is how the events unfolded. There was the 600m heats on the Thursday night. The 1000m was Friday, 90 minutes later was the 3000m, and about 2 hours after that was the 4x800m relay; although we were making the decision for the 4x800m after I ran the 3000m. Saturday was the 600m final followed by the 1500m an hour and 45 minutes later. Trust me I didn’t think I had a guaranteed spot in the 600m final; I knew I had to work hard to get into that final.

Here is how the events unfolded:

The 600m:

DSC_4280The 600m is the only distance event that has heats at CIS Championships. I had run the fewest 600’s all season and I was still trying to figure the distance out. All I can tell you is that you position yourself in the first 400 and give it your all in the last 200; or maybe that’s how we distance people run it.

Rachel and I were in the first heat of the 600m. With Rachel Francois, the number one seed, in heat 2, we knew we had to set a fast pace; it was top 1 plus next 4 fastest times that qualified. I won the heat in 1:30.40, a new PB, and Rachel was just behind me. We did our job and set a blistering pace. Francois won her heat in 1:32 so we knew Rachel had secured her spot in the final on Saturday.

I have to be honest, the 600m felt really, really hard. My legs felt like tree trunks and it made me really nervous going into Friday that I wouldn’t survive the there days.

Francois has won the last three 600m finals. She is an amazing 800m runner too. She has far more speed than I do and I knew she would take it out hard. I was supposed to stay a little further back since I run it from the endurance side. I still split 57mid, that’s basically my 400m PB! I knew it was going to feel rather lacticie and hard going through in that pace. And did it ever. I finished in 1.29.71, another PB and with a silver medal. Congrats to Francois on her 4th consecutive 600m victory! (Heats + Finals + Video + Prelim Video)

1000m

The 1000m was the first event on the Friday. I was seeded #1 going in, having Canadian Runningrun 2:39.70 at the Spire Invitational earlier in the season. With so many races scheduled I didn’t want to take it out hard and I didn’t want to lead. The plan was to let the Guelph Ladies lead, just like Gabriela had done at OU’s.

All of a sudden Gabriela was out front with Sophie Watts on her shoulder. I tucked in, stayed relaxed and made sure there were no gaps. I was relying on my kick for this one.

And my kick paid off. We ran a steady 2:14 low through 800. At about 500m the pace picked up and with 200m to go Gabriela was charging. I stayed on her shoulder until about 100m when I started to make a move to come around. As we entered there straight away I made my final move to come around. We were 7 one-hundredths apart and I had won my first gold medal. (Results + Video)

1500m

The 1500m was the final event of the meet. After the 600m final I felt really sluggish. I thought there was no way my legs would recover for the 1500m with how I felt after the 600m. I headed out for my 7 min warm up and my legs actually felt ok.11038122_10152996577283880_431679839629476100_n

I had zero expectations for the 1500. My coaches told me I didn’t have to run, we had enough points by that point that the banner was secured as Toronto’s. But I had signed up for. I had to get on the start line and at least try, the worst that happened was I finished last; if I didn’t start I would never know what would have happened.

I knew I couldn’t let any gaps form. When Trinity Western picked up the pace, I focused in and stayed right on their shoulders. I wanted to get to that finish line first, I wanted so badly to win the last event of the distance series. And I came pretty close. Fiona Benson really picked it up with 300m to go and I stayed right on her shoulder. I was relying on my wicked kick, but I think it had fatigued just a little. Fiona got me by 8 one-hudredths. But at least I knew I tried as hard as I could at the end. (Results + Video)

3000m

The 3000m was 90 minutes after the 1000m. You really have to switch gears to go from running a speed event to an endurance event. When Ross and I talked we had no expectation for this event. The plan was to try to get on the podium but if the race went out fast I had to let the leaders go.

I guess I didn’t listen but the pace also didn’t feel all that quick. It must have been pretty quick because I ran a 9:14.10, which was a 7 second PB from OU Championships. With 80FullSizeRender-20m to go I really felt my body relax and get ready to go. I could hear Terry in the stands coming around the corner into the home stretch, and I swear his voice got higher with every lap.

With about 140m to go I called upon my kick to bring me home. I dug in and tried to take off on Fiona Benson; she had taken over the lead with about 1200m to go. I never looked back and thought  she was breathing down my back the whole time. I had gapped her and put about 2 seconds on her as I crossed the finish line taking my second victory of the night. (Results + Video)

4×800

This was the highlight event of the three days; an event where you get to run with  11050775_10203942294905108_365104655608887884_nyour best friends and training partners. I wish that there were more distance relays at the Olympics and World Championships; how come the sprinters only get the glory. I think I decided I was going to run the 4×800 before the 1000m but I announced that I really wanted to do it after the 3000m. With only 100 minutes in between I had to get some food in me and get my legs up for a few minutes.

I again had to switch gears and go from the endurance event back to the speed event. My strides felt a wee bit wonky trying to pick the pace up again. Rachel was leading, Honor was second and handing me the baton, and Gabriela was our anchor. Gabriela asked, getting me a big lead so I have a buffer against Francois, and I obliged.

2:11, 2:09, 2:05, 2:05… which made for a 8:32.36 total time. Not only was it a new CIS Meet Record, it was the Canadian Open Record. And only later did we find out it was the first ranked world time for 2015! Winning that gold medal represents everything that I had worked so hard for. (Results + video)

The Banner

10956985_10152996577598880_1787633427192138534_nThe coveted banner. The overall winners are given a banner at the end of the meet. U of T has been chasing one for 10 years now. I witnessed one in 2003 when the women’s X-Country team won and I was the captain, sitting out injured. I wanted to win one so badly.

By the time it was all said and done we had 151 points, second place had 78 points. My total point contribution was 46 (8+10+8+10+10 – if you count all the points from 4×800). I think the team still could have pulled off without my contribution. What I don’t know is what the points would have been with the redistribution of my points.

Regardless, we won the banner. All 22 girls on that team contributed and I was so proud to be part of something so truly awesome.

MVP + Track Athlete of the Year

I was also hIMG_5827onoured with the award of meet MVP. It may be an individual award but it was a result of all of my teammates, theIMG_5811ir love and support helped me through all those races.

On the Thursday at the opening awards banquet I was also honoured with the Track Athlete of the Year Award.

To The Ladies that Inspired Me…

I learned so much over those 3-days of competition. I can’t wait for outdoors. But before that there are some people on the team that really made the event extra special. These teammates in no particular order are.

Maggie H. You lady are so powerful and so graceful all in one package. I love watching you get ready for your 300’s. I have really enjoyed your shouts of encouragement, especially when training and I feel like my eyeballs are bleeding! Can’t wait to see what you can do in the 400m this summer.

Ellie. I feel like I only know the surface. But anyone who donates their hair for wigs for people with Cancer can only be made with a heart of gold. Ellie always believe in yourself, you are so talented. Your stride is beautiful. When and/or if you decide to run distance I can’t wait to train with you and get to know you better.

Rachel. When we went to the awards banquet on Thursday I got more insight into the amazing person that Rachel is. Not only is she an inspiration on the track but all the things she manages off the track; Rachel you are one amazing lady. I am so excited for you to start your Masters. Great things are to come from you.

Fiona. You run with heart and soul. We could see how heartbroken you were after you fell at the finish line of the 4x200m. You showed us that you gave us your all when you fell down. You pulled yourself together and you ran an outstanding leg on the 4x400m. Pulling U of T into first you knew you were passing the baton off in good hands when you gave it to Rachel. I’m glad I warmed up for the 4×400 but I was far happier to watch you all of you kick ass and win that gold medal.

Honor. You are my hopelessly optimistic ray of sunshine. I love training with you. I love watching you go after what’s important to you. You are only going to get faster from here. You are a mix of badass strength and endurance and I’m so excited for what’s to come for you.

Kelly. Your giggle makes me smile. This season was a challenge for you but you never gave up. I know you can’t control getting sick but I loved watching you chase after it. All of that training will pay dividends, and shortly. I can’t wait for your outdoor season because you are about to show us all what you’re made of.

Gilly. You are the greatest rookie, although I’m not supposed to call you a rookie. You always come to practice with a sense of style. Thinking of you and Mads dancing to Uptown Funk always brings a smile to my face. You are going to get so fast, I better watch out!

Shannon & Colleen. Yes I know you’re not actually one person. You two were the greatest captains a team could ask for. Injured and unable to participate you stood behind us every step of the way. You are both amazingly talented women who are going to great things. Injuries will heal and I am so excited for all our years to come. I have watched you two through high school and now you graduated and are graduating (Oy, I feel old!). You two have grown up into bright, beautiful women who will change the world.

Hayley. You are one badass chick and I will call upon you when I need a body guard. You inspire me to work hard on the track. You give it your all every practice. And I will admit I see a lot of my younger self in you. Never stop being you, always speak the truth. You are world class and are only going to get faster. You will always have me in your corner as a Hayley-Champion.

Madd.K. I wish I could have unbroken your foot. I was heartbroken when we got the news. You are the greatest breath of fresh air. I love how mature you are, yet that you are still living your young years. You showed us all how to be brave, you didn’t have to come to CI’s but you were there every step of the way to cheer us on. Every race I thought ‘Do it for Maddy.’

Gabriela. G there are not enough words in this world to describe how awesomeIMG_5835-1 it is to have you as a teammate and a friend. You inspire me to be stronger, both on and off the track every day. You are a courageous young woman with so many great races to run. I can’t wait for the years together was we grow up racing and training together. You are my rock on the track. I hope I can always be there to hold your hand and pray before you race; I’m not spiritual but your prayers make my heart flutter.