International Summer Tour 2017

International Summer Tour 2017

Wrapping up the Europe tour in Leuven, Belgium!

My outdoor season and Europe trip both reach their end at the same time. Although I felt fit and wanted to continue racing, I knew I have been pushing my body a lot over the past few months and it was time for some rest and recovery. Not to mention, I haven’t been home since Christmas and am more than ready to see my family and friends.

With a long flight ahead of me, I knew I was about to have time to reflect on my second year as a middle distance athlete and be mindful of how the year went. This would be tricky because I felt like I had a lot of success, even though I didn’t meet most of my “Paper” goals I set out for myself this year. Leading into this year my Paper Goals were:

(1) Continue to train smart and healthy

(2) Represent Canada at the Jeux de Francophone Games

(3) Run standard, 2:01.65

(4) Make the Senior Canadian Nationals Women’s 800m Final

I will admit these were ambitious goals, but although lofty, they were within reason. For goal one, other than an early-season ankle roll, I managed to successfully train as I viewed smart and healthy. Unfortunately, going through the rest of these goals requires admitting I struggled with reaching the goals, and was unable to check off any more of them this year.

Number two goal analysis: I met the standards and the other criteria which made me believe I could be at the Francophone Games. As it ended up, so did a handful of other girls; however, they met the standard with a faster time than I did, and have rightfully proved to be better contestants. I whole-heartedly agree their selection is accurate over mine, and am truly happy to see their success at the Games this year. Although, a small part within me hurt and felt like I had let myself down by failing to reach this goal, I felt rejection in its fullest. As I reflect, by not making this team, I was able to pursue a full three week circuit in Europe and ended up gaining valuable lessons, experience, and two Personal Best’s. So goal #2 is two-fold. No I did not make the team I had planned on, but I still was able to gain a valuable set of international experience, raced PB fast, and learned how to move forward after rejection.

Number three goal analysis: Run fast. Gain financial security. Make it easy. These were the objectives and hopes feeding this goal. In contrast to the previous year, yes I did run significantly (and consistently) faster, but again, not as fast as I had set out. As much as gaining some financial security would have helped for the upcoming year, I now have a fire within, with something to prove, and a desire to run what I know I am capable of. Looking back, I managed to run a PB in every indoor and every outdoor event I ran over the year, therefore, I think it would be untrue to suggest I was not successful in improving my times.

Number four goal analysis. Make the national final. The trend continues, The final is comprised of top eight, and as it so happened, I ranked ninth out of the semi-finals. I missed this goal by one ranking, and less than one second. Bittersweet? Undoubtedly. The experience and opportunity to run tactfully in the most unpredictable and competitive Canadian race is invaluable to me. On the plus side I had an extra day to recover and prepare for Europe travel because the jet lag inevitably took its toll on me. One more stress-free day is probably a good thing before leading into international travels, plus it meant I was able to enjoy the rest of the races that weekend without worrying about my own race plans.

To wrap up the analysis of my “paper goals” in black and white, I can only say I managed to nail one of four. I do take ownership of this and realize it is now up to this year close a bigger gap in my up taking of future goals. Coming out of this season, I do feel very accomplished because I truly believe I gained more than I lost, both on and off the track. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I do know I am excited to take some time off, and come back with a fierceness fully blazing. Even more, I am excited for my group Vic City Elite to emerge as a truly official training group, and the marks we will be able to leave together!

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Before I close the book on my review of the season, I think it is important to share some of the tourist moments I was able to experience during my time in Belgium!

Most of the highlights of this trip were spent in Leuven with fellow teammates. From forming a bicycle gang heading down to the track (or downtown), to cribbage games, to an inflatable pool for ice tubs, it was a true adventure! I feel obligated to share my one false stereotype about Belgium. The stereotype I had for Belgium, was their fame to Belgian chocolates and waffles. There was one morning (that was not correlated to any race days) I was invited to go for waffles. With the repeated hype I had heard on “Belgian Waffles” I was ready for an unforgettable monumental taste bud experience.

My mind was picturing golden, thick, fluffy waffles to come fresh off of a cast-iron grill, and be smothered in heaps of fresh, and assorted berries. Instead, I showed up to a corner, food vendor shack, had someone else order to share with, and then waited for the magic. Much to my surprise (and partial horror) there was no cast-iron, nor fresh fruit. Instead I learned it was deep-fried dough coated in cinnamon and sugar, with the classic European option to add a Nutella option. To go even more over the top, there was an option for waffles with gelato in them. When I looked down at my torn in half slice of waffle, I watched the steam rise while my heart sank. This doughnut looking waffle was by no means what I was expecting. Tasty? For a mini-doughnut from the local Fair level, yes, it was tasty. Did I think it was worth the Belgium hype? In my opinion, I am happy to say I tried it, but no, it did not meet the hype.

Why am I telling you this? As athletes we have the opportunity to travel and experience many different cultures and menus, however, a lot of the time we are unable to enjoy the food varieties due to our body’s needs for nutrient dense foods. In addition, it is usually not best to try new and foreign foods before a race or important training sessions, because there is no guarantee that your taste buds and digestive system will agree that this new food is “good.” To any athlete in Belgium that has a strict diet (or self-control for that matter), know that you are not missing out with the waffles! Instead, I recommend going to the farmers market and getting your hands on some fresh fruit and veggies. If you really have the chance, go for the raspberries in July. I have never tasted berries so sweet and fresh as I did in the Leuven Farmers Market!

One of the final highlights of Leuven was running into all the fellow middle-distance athletes that were also there. Typically as athletes we only see each other on race day or at the track for race prep. It was a nice change to run into the same people at the grocery store and share a laugh in every day life off without the intensity. Whether it was fellow Canadian athletes coming down to race prep for their IAAF  Worlds meet in London, or next door neighbours from New Zealand, it was great to be able to meet fellow athletes outside of the stress and focus of the typical race days. It’s always nice to share a dinner or host friends over, even if it means turning the beds into coaches to eat dinner off the desk as a table. What can I say? We had good food, and even better company to share it with. By repeatedly having good food and company, in my opinion it is safe to say Leuven met the European charm one would hope for.

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Bicycling downtown Leuven

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Race Prep at the Round Track in Leuven

Core o Clock

“Core-O’-Clock”

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Finishing a Race Prep

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Some American Friends

Needless to say it was an amazing Europe circuit, and I am grateful I had the opportunity to gain the experiences I have mentioned, and the numerous lessons I am still internalizing. Although it is always sad to leave a beautiful, and foreign place, The Wizard of Oz character Dorothy is still right because, “There’s no place like home.” My next stop of the International Summer Tour – 2017, leads me back to Canada, to my first home, with my best friend, Darah!

Stay tuned, because there is never a dull moment when we’re together!

Much love,

Adrea

 

International Summer Tour 2017: Next Stop: Oostende, Belgium

International Summer Tour 2017:

Next Stop: Oostende, Belgium

*All photo credits courtesy of Casey Atkin

Good morning readers,

Welcome to the first of many, Adrea-Adventures. After a less than adequate, previous day in Heusden, I made the choice to make this day better. Within forty minutes of waking up I made breakfast, changed, and decided on a road trip (aka. train trip- is this the same thing?), and then invited Casey to operation: lets-have-a-beach-day! Other than finding a beach and accomplishing my weekly Sunday long run, the agenda for the day was blank. It did not require a lot of convincing, because within twenty second decision making time, Casey agreed to come to the beach with me, despite most of our group going to the beautiful tourist town Bruges. We hopped on our bicycles, boarded the train and were off to Oostende, Belgium. Prior to arriving I knew Oostende as a coastal town at the Northern point of Belgium, along the North Sea. Other than that, I was a full-time tourist for the day. It was nice to relax and enjoy being in Europe again!

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Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk

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Shells washed on the sand

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Classic posed photo

To avoid running in the forecasted heat that afternoon, Casey and I put our backpacks in the train station lockers and went through the city for our long run. This in itself turned out to be an unexpected adventure. First we saw the breathtaking views of the beach and I watched us both let out an exhale of relief as the view washed over us. We agreed we would do our run through the city and make sure we ended up watching the waves at the beach. As we weaved our way through the touristy bits of town we found ourselves entering a sinister neighbourhood. There were beautiful, older homes with thatched roofing, traditionally lined houses, and parks. It was disturbing to see the normalcy of this neighbourhood directly across the street from a silent, walled off graveyard lined with barbed wire. There were no people on the streets, no children at the parks, and no birds chirping. The silence was only broken up by wind gusts that rustled wild grass overgrowing the lined tombstones in the Begraafplaats Stuiverstraat Cemetery.

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Begraafplaats Stuiverstraat Cemetery – 2017

I apologize to my coaches, but it was so stunning I stopped during my long run to try and understand this overwhelming feeling of dread, chaos, and reverence as I approached this graveyard. Both Casey and I concluded it was a graveyard yielding from a World War, but we did not know which one. As we walked through the endless rows of family graves, I found myself struggling to comprehend this massive graveyard as the equivalent to a sporting stadium of people, all perished to the tragedy of war. Many were women and children, along with soldiers and unnamed heroes. I did not know a single person, yet I still felt grief and pain ball up in the pit of my stomach. Once our eyes took in what our minds could not, we proceeded to finish our run, landing in an outdoor multi-sport complex.

The feeling of dread had not left, because we soon realized the park was built over top of War bunkers which likely had been through the same turmoil as the previous graveyard. We took the time to explore inside a few bunkers, see where cannon remnants were cemented in, and embrace damage only explosives could cause. In hindsight, I am happy to have shared this moment with Casey because the powerful measure of this experience is something I am still struggling to put into words. It seems ignorant to be unable to explain this passing through, but here is my fragmented attempt: knowing soldiers shot cannons in the exact spot I stood, and likely died there too. Singular words are all I have been able to muster for this experience. Humbling. Powerful. Thankful. Terrified. Sadness. Silence. Speechless. Reverend. Holy Ground. These are the emotions that went through me as I walked along the inside of the bunker remains. Casey and I did not share a lot of dialogue, there were no tour guides, signs, enactments, or dangers presented to us, but the land and area still demanded the utmost respect from us.

As we went to head back into town, I was still trying to comprehend the devastation that had occurred here, and I wondered aloud, why would the city build a park over such an area?! I am not sure if Casey recognized, but her answer really opened my eyes to the situation. She responded with, How else is a city supposed to heal and rebuild?”

This response made me realize I had wanted the war-affected grounds to be left as they are- preserved, and a space belonging to history, not our current jog in the park. The overwhelming feelings of tragedy and devastation we both felt at the graveyard and the Sportpark de Schorre built around war bunkers, were emotions I did not want to face. It has been 100+ years since this tragedy and today I realize the answer to Casey’s question of how to heal and rebuild, requires full acceptance of the tragedy, the strength to learn from the past, but most importantly, the conscious effort to actively participate in being better to enable moving forward.

This town survived German takeover in World War 1 and again in World War 2. Now that I have had a chance to walk through the fields, trails, and paths that have been recreated on these war grounds, I agree, building a park over the war area was a good choice. At first I thought this seemed disrespectful to those who had given their lives in the very places I stood, but I also realized these paths and trails created a peaceful way for the community to congregate people together again. I do not think I can imagine a better change for the grounds than what I saw that day: the laughter of children, dogs running free through the field, and gardens full of singing birds. I think this moment I am able to be enjoy is what the soldiers were willing to give their lives for, and my appreciation can never find words with enough meaning to express my gratitude. Although the graveyard will likely always have a silence surrounding it, I saw first-hand an example of peace having been reached when I observed a few residents still coming in with flowers to remember their loved ones.

Not a lot was said on our way back to the beautifully sanded beaches, but I left our run refreshed by the amount of class, and heritage Oostende has and its harmonious ability to move forward. Although it initially made for a dark war-themed conversation for our long run, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had as a present-day passerby. Once we collected our belongings and bicycles from our lockers, it was time to head off to the beach for some lunch and relaxing. Personally,  I needed to hang out at the beach to try and comprehend the long run experience. Despite the occurrence at the graveyard, the afternoon was very enjoyable and full of laughter due to a good beach day. The following photos are evidence of this good day!

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Digging into some lunch and OJ on the beach!

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Walking along the endless shores

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Beach Waves

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Beach Views

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Down the boardwalk

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Favourite view of the Beach

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lounging

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Sock tans are real.

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Trying out the Sea!

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Lounging

During our time at the beach, we saw possibly the biggest slip and slide I have ever seen, and a pedestrian covered bike bath that seemed to go endlessly along the coast. We did some seashell collecting, a quick dip in the water, lounging, and biking, before we tried some fresh vendor seafood on our way home for dinner. For some reason beach days seem to leave my mind refreshed, but my body tired. This meant when I arrived back to Leuven, I was able to go to bed fully satisfied with another good day under my belt.

In summary, the experience of this day trip is something I will never forget, and the dialogue it created in myself regarding peace and freedom has truly humbled me. Considering I woke up from a race that I did not want to claim as my own, I was happy to have found myself re-entered, and focused on the more important things in life. Despite the dark undertones, Casey and I still managed to have a really awesome day! Check out the photo evidence (courtesy of Casey Atkin) for more details!

And until next time!

Much love,

Adrea

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The Harbour

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Photographer in Action

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Kite-surfers

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Biking on the boulevard

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Action shot

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International Summer Tour 2017: Liège, Belgium

Next Stop: Liège, Belgium – Meeting International d’Athlétisme de la Province de Liège

Meet Results Link: http://www.timetronics.be/results/luik2017/event004h04.html

Good day to you, and I hope you have been enjoying the last few summer days as much as I have! The next stop on this tour leads into my second European race in Liège, Belgium.

To follow suit with my earlier advice in a foreign circuit: Expect things to go wrong and embrace them. In this circuit I was a rookie, and as a result made some rookie mistakes to learn from.

First, attending this meet was a typical ~60 minute train away from Leuven. Earlier in the week, I learned I was eligible for a GoPass which meant I could travel unlimited train rides within Belgium at a very reduced price. Naturally I assumed it would be a good idea to save time by going to the station early and purchasing my pass the day of. After standing in line, and watching all of my teammates purchase either their GoPass or one-day ticket, I began to consider the idea I had maybe chosen the wrong line up. When it was finally my turn, I was informed the required computer wasn’t working and I would have to go line up again in a different row. So much for arriving early. At this point I was concerned of having enough time to purchase a regular ticket and still be on time for the scheduled departure. Needless to say I managed to create an extreme time constraint. In the end I received my GoPass, ran to my platform and boarded the train with less than a minute to spare. Crisis averted, but with a lot of stress and nerves! On the flip side, I had an early verification I would have adrenaline that night. The panic of likely missing the train to arrive at the meet triggered my adrenal glands.

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Liège Train Station – 2017

Second mistake, with time to spare, we rationalized a 2km walk to the track was a good idea. The last meet we did it in Ninove as a big group, and that worked out, so why fix an idea that isn’t broken? In our case, the 2km turned out to be steep, cobblestone, and all uphill. My question is who put a track at the top of a hill? Without shame, I’ll admit I was sweating and took a break half way up. Evidently we made it on time to the meet, but in hindsight, diverting that hill with a quick taxi ride would certainly be worth it for future reference. I must mention the real hero of this lesson: Brad Curry, our Physiotherapist. Not only did he climb the hill with us, but he also carried his practitioner’s table with him all the way up! Very impressive Brad!

The next mistake I made was misjudging how humid it would be when the sun came out after the thunderstorm. I’ll admit, I am a person who sweats a lot on a normal day. On a day this warm and humid I found myself trying to quiet the voice in my mind asking, How are you going to stay hydrated?  Answer: Keep drinking fluids, add some electrolytes to my water to replenish what I am losing in sweat, and find the shade! It was commented on that I looked like I had showered at this meet, and I know it is not because I looked fresh. I did wear deodorant so at the very least I didn’t smell bad.

When I heard the announcement of final call to check-in at the call-tent it finally hit me, 400m race time! Just one all out effort of one lap. The music was turned up and the vibe was exciting at the track. The unexpected surprise was how many people were in attendance and the amount of fun this atmosphere was. I was nervous knowing I was about to race some fast girls in a race I had not been specifically training for, but the energy was so fun I couldn’t wait to be a part of it! I finally understood, This is what a European race is! There was some fear, but I had never felt so proud to be introduced as a Canadian athlete at the start line. In hindsight there are lots of technical things I would like to have and know I could have run better in this race, but I did end up with a new 400m PB so there were no complaints on my end.

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Bib #99 for this race!

The final mistake I made on this trip was evident upon return to Leuven after the meet. I was still on an energy high from an evening race, but more notably I was really hot and sweaty from the most recent cycle back to the flat. When we walked inside, it felt like a sauna because the window had been closed and the blinds were open. This meant the late afternoon sun blazed in all day with zero air circulation. After eating some food with sustenance and dropping our gear off, both my roommate Casey and I realized how sticky and hot our flat was. There was no way either of us were going to be able to go to sleep in that kind of heat. Plus she had a PB in the 400m that night too, so we were both still feeding off one another’s energy. Solution: go on the slowest, most relaxing, enjoyable bike ride one could imagine. It was 11:00PM on a Wednesday, there was no traffic, limited pedestrians, a safe neighbourhood, and an open road with a cool breeze. I was so relaxed after our bicycle ride that when we returned, I couldn’t comprehend the joking comment suggesting a drink on the town being better than that bike ride. Plus it had been hot on some previous days as well. As a quick fix solution I may have purchased a kids pool for ice tubs because our bathroom was only a shower stall without a bathtub. During our bike ride we stopped at a couple night shops that might sell ice to make an ice bath. We managed to fit the pool in the flat, but unfortunately were unable to find ice for it that night!

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Make-shift Ice Tub Pool

After an icy cold shower, and significantly lowered body temperature, I had no troubles falling asleep that night. In conclusion, I learned the importance of embracing the hype of an international race and more importantly the roller coaster of emotions and situations I found myself in. I have heard of way worse things going wrong before a race, but I am still happy to know when it was time to run, I was able to do just that!

Stay tuned for the third race of the circuit in Heusden-Zolder!

Much love,

Adrea

PS: I have shared the few photos of I had taken of this meet

#adreamade

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Pre-Race 1500m with teammate Mariah Kelly

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1500m Startline

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On your marks! Women’s 1500m

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Pre-Race 1500m with teammate Sarah MacPherson