Belief: A retrospective look at National XC Champs

It’s funny, I look back on cross-country championships in Kingston and I still cannot believe that actually happened. Not just that I won, but that I took off from the field with ~2k to go; it’s just all so outside of my normal racing tactics. But even in retrospect, it just felt right.

Leading up to Nationals was not the ideal preparation. A half marathon three weeks before. Then a super-intense period of study. Provincial XC champs. Another period of intense study. And then I had 9 days to rest, recover, and focus.

But maybe it was the ideal preparation. I didn’t over-think of over-analyze the race. I did just enough mental preparation to get myself ready for a 10k XC effort. I listened to my body when I could, I put some demands on it that I just could not avoid. But I did what was necessary to pull the pieces together at the right time.

Most of all, I repeated the words, I believe in myself. Over. And over. And over again. All of those women had trained and worked equally hard, we are all passionate, we all believe in what we are doing, and we approach it in a ‘same same but different’ kind of way.

cyxnawiuaaaasetThe race was four loops of the 2.5k circuit at Fort Henry. For Kingston, and Fort Henry, the weather couldn’t have been better. No wind, above freezing, snow and mud on the ground, and lots of people cheering, i.e. perfect conditions.

The race went out pretty hard, but I hung back with Rachel Hannah and some of the other girls. Around the 1.5k mark we were all grouped up again. Rachel (Cliff) and Katherine made a move on the pack after the first loop and took off on us.

Just before the halfway mark we closed the gap on the leaders. This seemed to splinter the pack because around the 6th kilometer there was a pack of the top 6. Around here the pace really slowed down, which I think started the games. Everyone started to take over the lead and push the pace and through the start of the last lap we were back on pace.

15272285_10154366984848052_8832501243670862134_oIt was still a pack of 5 or 6 girls as we started that last lap. As we started to climb, heading away from the start line I could feel the pace quicken and some people drop back. About 500m later I think it was down to three, definitely down to myself and Rachel Cliff. On the back stretch as we climbed that second last hill it felt like Rachel was slowing down and my gut screamed, ‘go.’ My brain was reluctant but I committed to the move and kept pushing as I let me legs go on the downhill. I just kept repeating ‘go,’ ‘push.’

As I came through the banner with about 1km to go I knew it would get tough. There is a fast downhill, that15304200_1354420481267178_3697566700188521605_o had some technical, slippery turns. I do not remember much about the last 500m. I remember hearing Chris Napier say ‘I’ll share the Muddy Buddies,’ and if any of you know the snack, you’ll understand why he didn’t just give me the bag (and yes Chris, they are in the mail).

15272330_10154366987093052_2475581520280700748_oI also didn’t know what to do crossing the finish line. Shortly before I did crack a smile, I thought to myself ‘I’ve done this, I’ve actually done this’ – and still trying to make my legs go as fast as they could to get to the finish line. I don’t like to celebrate. And I guess I thought very last-minute to raise my arms, because in all honesty I was just going to run through the banner. Thank goodness there are a few good photos!

It was an awesome race for a variety of reasons. First National Championship Win. First sub 34-minute 10k. First time Canadian women have run 10k at Cross-Country Nationals. Lots of lessons learned. Lots of fun. And an unbelievable way to finish off my 2016 race year.

And ok, cross-country, I am learning to like you. I certainly don’t love you quite yet.

Lessons Learned:

  • Respect Your Clothing Needs: I get cold, I get really, really cold. Despite all my year’s as an alpine coach I do not have a tolerance to the cold. And really, if I had thought about being an alpine coach, I always wore a ton of layers to stay warm. Why wouldn’t I do the same thing for running? This year I wore long sleeves and long pants. (and it was warmer than last year!) I definitely credit this as part of my success
  • Respect Your Competitors: As I said above, everyone worked hard to get to this national championships. This could have been anyone’s day. Looking back at the footage, I had no idea how far ahead Katherine and Rachel (Cliff) got ahead of the pack. My thinking had been I could reel them in, and we did, but they took a risk to try to gap the field.
  • Love what you do: I have always loathed cross-country. With a little reflection, I think I convinced myself that I didn’t like cross-country, and furthermore that I wasn’t good at it, as an excuse not to do well. What’s not to like? Mud, sweat and tears.
  • Make your weaknesses your strengths: Following on the heals of the above, I needed to make cross-country one of my strengths. I needed the endurance, it will only make me better on the track.

I accepted the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2017 World Championships in Kampala, Uganda; how could I not accept the opportunity to race in the birth place of long distance running!? Leading up to the race I will be running the Pan American Championships in Boca Raton, Florida. Sounds like a lot of fun in the sun.

But for now, it’s snowing outside and it’s time to think about the holidays, to spend time with family, to eat a whole lot of yumminess. Remember to check out my social media for a chance to win something this holiday break, the 10 days of gifting are on, and I have lots of fun stuff to give away.