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!
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.
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!