Part II: Where and What is Home: Finding Home on the Gravel Roads

Phase Five: Home is a State of Mind

When I began working with a new mental performance guide in Victoria, my initial goal was to work on consciously tapping into a mental high-performance arena. I had gone through my PB races and the common denominator was my head space in all of them. I wanted his help to learn how I could plan to get into this headspace on demand. This was a tall order, but I do believe we made headway as I did manage to run multiple PB times every year I have raced. 

In my last year at the AC West Hub, I realized I was no longer working on strategies on how to groom my high-performance arena. Instead I was using my mental performance time to work on strategies of:

– How to shield myself and cope when I overheard teammates gossiping

– How to complete my workouts based on what I need, even though it was different than teammates. 

– How to belong to a team where I felt I had to hide and belittle my self

– How to win a race knowing my success will likely not be celebrated

– Why do I feel guilty doing well in a race and in key workouts?

– How to find “my space” by warming up in the corner and training on the outskirts of the team

Somehow I managed to lose my focus and shift away from my initial goal. 

The little voice was clearly indicating things were wrong and for the first time in 2019 I realized the only place I felt homesick was at the track. After a month of training camp and a return to our home-based training centre in Victoria, I did my first post-flight flush workout and confided I felt hollow, empty, and tired. This was devastating to me because the track had previously served as a place I associated a feeling of home and belonging. I don’t have an exact date of when, but in that moment I knew the Victoria track was no longer a place of home for me. Accepting this realization was difficult because outside of the track I had a beautiful home and life I had created on the island with my work colleagues, neighbours, and friends. These good-byes were very difficult, but the relief and freedom I felt in my decision to continue with my next chapter in sport gave me hope for what was to come next. 

One would think coming to my hometown would be an easy way to feel at home. But I was different, the city had changed, and I was very jet-lagged. I realized home had become unfamiliar. My family home still had the same layout, but I was out of touch with it. Likely because I was out of touch with my self. While I did my year review and planning for 2020  I realized that this year was scheduled to be Tokyo 2020 Olympic Year and I revisited my mental goals to achieve my high-performance arena. I realized I had been there once I made my decision to move home back to Regina. It felt good there. I ran PB Fast at Nationals, in the South, and Europe by embracing this HP arena. 

Without immediate races on my horizon, I have been working on how I can tap into this space beyond a race scenario. This ultimately has been leading me back to the question: What is home and how do I get there? 

Despite the obvious chaos of COVID-19 this year I spent a lot of time on the gravel roads outside the city because the track, weight room, pool, and well pretty much all of the City of Regina was closed. Open sky, gravel roads, the wind, and Adrea-time. There was comfort, beauty, snow, sunshine, animals, sunsets, and ultimately growth. That go for a run “kumbaya” feeling where I belong, feel safe, and am welcome. Away from the city noise, away from racing and every day conflicts. Just running in the middle of nowhere present in the now. The more I normalized the gravel roads into my new normal training grounds, I slowly started finding myself slipping back into my Home state-of-mind which was becoming synonymous with my high-performance arena. I was running free. I was looking forward to running. I was doing 200m repeats in a straight line. My passion was coming back. 

Eventually the track re-opened in an unexpected unveiling of the SK Re-open plan. When I made my way onto the Outdoor Douglas Park track I was startled that I dreaded being there and how uncomfortable I was. Not only was I shocked to see other people, but a part of me immediately cringed and felt uncomfortable. That first night I went to the track I found out it closed 30 minutes later, but in that brief time I walked back to my car and realized I didn’t want to go back to the track. I wanted to continue my workouts on the gravel roads. I wasn’t ready to leave home. (Flashback to my Victoria experience of homesickness!) I convinced myself it was because the gravel roads were closer than the track and this saved me a trip across the city. There were fewer people which made it easier to implement social + physical distancing to ultimately feel safe. Plus the track had restricted and often changing hours outside of when I initially planned to run. 

After x4 weeks of workouts and telling myself the above story, I finally acknowledged the real reason I didn’t want to go to the track. The track had become a place of business, work, and a reminder of the loss of home I had previously felt at the track. On the other hand the gravel roads had become home, a place of thriving, fitness, friendly neighbours, and a place where I felt passion towards running and my sport. My question became how do I feel at home at the track again? 

Starting with once a week I slowly made an effort to be at the track. For strides. For a warm-up before a run around the lake. For drills. Slowly acknowledging the previous shielding and other strategies I had been previously relying on to be at a track. After a few weeks I started realizing I didn’t need to do this anymore. It was okay for me to return to the track and in fact my return was welcomed by friendly and familiar faces. 

I finally realized, I was home. 

Recently I met with U. Regina Teammate Arthur Ward and fellow Olympic hopeful Astrid Nyame to do a photoshoot with Arthur Images highlighting how Saskatchewan athletes have been staying ready and motivated in our time away from competition and being back at home in SK. I am thrilled with Arthur’s project and how it turned out. Seeing my interview in filmed footage reminds me my journey this year with COVID was to fall back in love with running, and learn the lesson of how to move forward from loss. Now that I am home, physically and mentally, I am ready to continue building my empire with the hope for a 2021 competition season. Whether or not it comes to fruition. I will be ready. 

Sportrait Story: Gravel Roads + the Track By Arthur Images

#AdreaMade #TeamAlger #StayReady

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