Saturday, 26 September 2015

World Championship 100k in Winschoten, The Netherlands - Race report

   I had the wonderful opportunity to compete as a member of the Canadian National team in the IAU World 100k Championships in Winschoten, The Netherlands on Saturday September 12, 2015.  I had a fantastic trip.  I flew out late on Tuesday September 8th (after meeting my class and teaching the first day of school).  Below is a photo of me waiting at the Toronto airport, before I said goodbye to my husband for the week. I was nervous to travel by myself, but excited at the same time to meet the other members of the National team and race another World Championship 100k.

 Wed. September 9, 2015
   Travel day - arrived in Amsterdam in the morning, and travelled two and a half hours by train to Winschoten, and then 25 min by athlete shuttle to the athlete's village.  This is where I met Armand (the National team manager), and the other members of the 100k team (and their spouses/crew).  The sleeping arrangements were modest (little cottage-type buildings, with a shared common area/kitchen).  I ended up in a tiny room with 2 sets of bunk beds (one was a 3-person bunk bed) was sleeping quarters for 5 in a tiny room about the size of a walk-in closet.  Luckily it was only myself - and for the last 2 nights, my friend Sonja, that would be staying in my room.

Thursday September 10, 2015
   Hmmm the strangest breakfast was served this morning (and every morning while staying at athlete's village) - a cold cut platter, cheese, buns, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt.  I ate it, but it wasn't what I was used to.  Not a huge fan of cold cuts so I avoided those, but what this breakfast was missing was fresh coffee.  We had machine coffee available to us.   I wished that I packed a Bodum french press and some of my favourite coffee.  I know for next time.

   There was the opportunity today to go into the town of Winschoten and tour around.  Jason Loutitt  and I took the tour bus into town, along with 2 Mexican athletes.  The tour bus driver was supposed to take us on a tour of the race course, but he ended up changing his mind and showing us other, more interesting things, on the way to town.  Ask me about it, and I'll fill you in :)

   Jason, myself and the Mexican athletes immediately found a coffee shop in town and enjoyed some real coffee.  That was nice.  The town of Winschoten had a very large windmill in the centre.  It was my first Dutch windmill that I've seen up close.  The race would circle around it, and there would be people cheering from it during the competition.  We got to do some quick shopping, and I bought a running shirt for Greg, and after leaving super-warm Canada, I didn't pack enough warm stuff for Holland- so I bought a warmer zip-up running shirt for myself too.  After touring around a little bit more, we met up with Armand, Lise, and Nadeem for lunch - again good coffee....mmmmmm.

  Later on Thursday, I was asked (along with 2 other Canadians and 6 Australian athletes), to go to a local school and speak to the kids about what it's like to be a World Championship athlete.  This was a lot of fun.  For the younger kids, we had to speak through an interpreter (that was a new experience for me).  The older kids could speak and understand English, so that felt a bit easier.  One thing that was really interesting, is that no matter where they are in the world, kids always have the same questions.  Kids in my class in Brantford, and kids in the Dutch town of Winschoten, both asked the same thing - "What do you eat?"  and "How do you go to the bathroom?"  Funny that there is a some universal questions that always come up.  We had the opportunity to participate in their track practice, and work out with them too.  It was a lot of fun.  It made me feel like a bit of a celebrity.

   There was a community run scheduled for after the school visit with the local running club.  It was a nice, easy 5k.  I had the chance to meet lots of the local runners, who were very friendly and welcoming.  I ran with 2 women who were going to compete in the 50k on Saturday, and we had a nice chat about what it's like to be running, and working moms.  Again, I was seeing how universal the struggle to be an active, working mom is.  There are moms like me, feeling overwhelmed and super-busy, all over the world.  I would end up seeing many of those runners during the race, and I could hear them cheering extra-loudly for me as I ran by.  Thank you Winschoten Running club.  It was wonderful to meet you.

 Friday September 11, 2015
   Today was a busy day of getting ready for the race tomorrow and pre-race festivities.  Armand had asked us to wear our Team Canada kit to breakfast, so we could take the team photos.  The day was filled with team meetings, packing for the race, mixing race beverages, writing out crew instructions, opening ceremonies, flag parade, and pre-race dinner.  During the afternoon, I skyped with both my husband, and my coach.  Seeing and talking Greg was what I needed to feel calm and ready to race.  He told me that he would be watching, and cheering for me from home, and he said that I will have great race, and that I'm ready.  It was all things that I needed to hear.  Thanks Greg.  The skype call with Derrick was great too.  He reassured me that I could run the pace we discussed, and he reminded me to enjoy the experience.  I felt calm and ready after speaking to him too.  Part of me couldn't believe I was sitting there talking about running the world championships with my coach.  It was amazing.  How is this happening?!
  Then the remainder of the afternoon was spent preparing for my race by packing my lap bags.  I am a planner - I like to have the fuel and salts ready (in reusable, numbered little lap bags).  I tend to over-pack more than I need, in case one type of fuel doesn't work for me on that day.  For this race, I packed a mixture of gels, applesauce, and CLIF shot bloks, in each lap bag.  I also included some bananas, CLIF bars, and peanut M&M's in case I needed more variety.

   The Canadian team (along with all the other teams), gathered in the Winschoten city centre for the opening ceremonies.  It included a lot of speeches and kids dancing, but we were so far back, that we couldn't see what was happening.  The flag parade was fun.  We were behind a very energetic Brazilian team who were constantly chanting, "BRA-ZIL! BRA-ZIL! BRA-ZIL!"  At one point someone from our team started joining them, and soon all of Team Canada was in on the cheering.  Once the Brazilian athletes realized that we were also doing their chant, they switched to, "CAN-A-DA!  CAN-A-DA!  CAN-A-DA!"  It was fun.
   The Athlete's dinner following the flag parade was disappointing.  I don't really have a go-to pre-race dinner food, but this was the furthest from what would help an athlete before their race.  We lined up at the pasta serving station, and a small spoonful of hamburger-helper-type pasta was put on my plate, further down the table, there were other options. The vegetarian lasagna looked slightly better-and contained some identifiable vegetables - something my diet was lacking during my recent meals, so I asked if I could have a piece, and the serving person said no.  I considered ditching my plate, and lining up again, but the line up was huge.  I reluctantly took the unappetizing pasta-type meal, and went to the bread table and knowing that the half bowl of pasta will not fill me up, I grabbed about 4 slices of bread.  Another problem with the meal was that there was no liquid served.  No water, no nothing.  They did open the bar, and were selling small cups of beer, water, or orange juice for 2 euros.  Meh.  Luckily I had some food at my room that I ate later that night, because that wasn't the ideal pre-race meal.
   My best friend from highschool -Sonja arrived later that night, and we stayed up (probably longer than I should have), chatting and catching up.  I was so happy to see her.  She would crew for me in the race tomorrow, and then we would travel together to Denmark on Sunday.

Saturday September 12, 2015  - Race Day!
   Race morning went smoothly.  I woke up, got into my race outfit, french-braided my hair, went to the breakfast hall, ate 3 pieces of bread with peanut butter, and a few bananas (that I brought).  I had given up on the coffee, and was hoping that my caffeinated gels would fend off the coffee headache that has been happening since yesterday. They did!  I wasn't too nervous about my race when I was there.  I was excited and I felt like I had done everything I could to get ready to run the race.  I knew the pace that I needed to run to go under 9 hours.  I felt like it was do-able, and I just needed to get it done.

   Then the race started.  The course was 10, 10k loops.  It was very flat with crowd support on almost all of the route.  The whole town embraced the race, and through the surrounding neighbourhoods, the residents were throwing block parties, and having BBQs etc.  I noticed that I got a lot of cheering wearing a team Canada singlet.  Our names and age categories were also on both our fronts and backs, so people could cheer for me by name.  This was great at first.  I enjoyed the cheering, and would smile and say "thank you" to the spectators as I ran by.  At one point there was an elderly man who would stand up and sing the first few phrases of, "O'Canada" as I ran by each lap - he did this about 6 times.  That was touching.  I felt lucky to be able to enjoy another experience like this.  I was managing my pace well, and my fueling was going great.  The first few laps were good.  At between 30-40k I started to panic.  I was getting tired, and I was thinking too much.  With 60-70k left, I was wondering how I was going to be able to run that far.  At around 50k, my quads were beginning to hurt with every step.  I slowed right down.  I was thinking about dropping out.  I was thinking things like, "I don't know if I can make it", "my legs feel like crap", "I'm so slow",  "so many people are watching me suffer"I thought that I would just get slower, and slower and I wouldn't be anywhere near my goal time.  I pictured myself still on the course running after dark.  I was miserable.  Then I thought about all the people who would ask how my race went, and how crappy it would be to tell them that I didn't finish.  I needed to snap out of it and just get this done.  So I rallied and with 20k to go I bounced back.  My last lap was one of my fastest, and I finished feeling strong.  That finish line felt great to cross.  I ended up with a finishing time of 9:10:35.  I was the 38th woman, and 5th in the 35-39 age category.  I was the first Canadian woman to finish too.  Sonja met me at the end, with beer she had purchased for our finish celebration, and we had a few wonderful celebratory drinks.  I'm so happy with that race.  I'm glad I was able to turn it around, and finish strong.  I can't wait until my next World Championship race.
   After we cheered for the final Canadian to cross the finish line, we all went to the Post race dinner.  It was held in a little restaurant near the finish line.... and the food was fabulous!  Maybe it's because at this point I was starving, or my standards of delicious food was pretty low, but whatever.  I enjoyed it.  What I enjoyed more was that everyone was gathered together, and talking about the race, and what's next, having a few drinks and just having a good time.  That was nice.  We all would be going our separate directions tomorrow, and it was great to have a chance to be together before we had to say goodbye.

Sunday September 13, 2015
   Whoa - I was understandably sore from yesterday's race.  I didn't like the idea of stairs very much, and getting up from a seated position was awkward.  We had a full day of travel planned and I found it hard to move after sitting (on the train, or plane) for longer than a few minutes.  Sonja and I travelled to Amsterdam, then flew to Denmark where I would stay for the next 2 days.  While in Denmark, I stayed with Sonja and her husband Vincent in their apartment in Odense.   There's a blog post coming about my quick tour of Sonja's town of Odense, Denmark.  Thanks so much Sonja for hosting me for the last part of my trip.  After staying in the Athlete's village, it was really nice to be in the warmth and comfort of someone's home.  Thanks again for the hospitality.  It was the perfect ending to my trip.

Tuesday September 15, 2015
   My travel day home to Canada - as I was about to board my KLM flight, I was stopped and told to go to the information counter.  They told me that they had changed my seat and re-issued me a new boarding pass.  I didn't care, I was flying alone and could sit anywhere, but I was wondering where they had seated me.  As I was walking through the airplane, searching for my seat, I was happy to see that I had been upgraded to a "preferred seat" that under normal circumstances you would have to pay extra for.  I was beside an emergency exit with LOTS of room.  It was great!  My trip home would not include me climbing over my seat neighbours to use the washroom.  I could stretch out, stand -up, and walk around whenever I wanted.  For someone who needs to move (all the time) this was perfect.

   I get the question "how do you do it (regarding being a full-time working mom and a National-level athlete)".  When I think about it, it's a mixture of the support of many people who come together and help me in their own way, that I'm able to run at this level.  For this race in particular, I'd like to thank the following wonderful people.

Greg - I thought about you and the kids a lot during my time away.  You would have loved to come with me, but was home with our kids.  I really appreciate your unending support of my running.  We skyped daily, and you followed my race online as it was happening -including getting up early for the 4am start!  I felt your support all the way across the ocean :)  Thank you Greg.  Without you,  there would be no way that I could compete at this level.  I'm so grateful.

My sweet girls - thank you for being excited for my big race, for cheering for me when I run, and for doing cute things like having the first phrase of: "I'm running like Mommy!"  I'm so proud to be your Mommy.

My crew - Sonja.  Thanks for making the trip to the Netherlands to crew for me during the race.  You did a wonderful job, and were great at helping me remain calm, and encouraging me when I felt like complete garbage.  You were there during the low points, but also there for the great parts.  Thanks for celebrating with me, and especially for your final job as crew - to buy the cold beer that we would drink immediately following the race :)  Sonja you're awesome.

My coach Derrick Spafford - this was a big, unexpected change to my racing schedule, and I am so happy for the encouragement, and support that you gave me in order to quickly prepare me to run this event.  It was a really hectic few weeks preparing to go to worlds.  Thanks for being so positive and confident in my racing abilities.  I'm learning a lot as I train and race with you.

Armand Leblanc - Canadian 100k team manager.  Thank you for selecting me to run for the Canadian team this year.  Thanks for all the effort you put into organizing the national team.  Also, thanks for the encouragement before, during and after the race.  I can't wait to join you on another World Championship adventure.

My Canadian Team Teammates (Tori, Arielle, both Adams, Gary, Oleg, Jason, and Jeremy) - it was wonderful meeting you (and your spouses) and racing with you.  I hope we get to see each other again, and best of luck with your upcoming races.

Sharon and Holly- From "Tacosaurus" to "100k of inspiration" which will get its own blog post in the near future, you two cheer the loudest for me.  You both are the best!  Thank you.

Dale Harrison - my chiropractor at Coronation Chiropractic and Massage, who does Active Release Therapy magic on me.  After soreness from Dirty girls lingered longer than expected, and threatened my Worlds race, your ART treatments worked and I was able to go into my World Championship race without pain.  Thank you!

My Principal Darryl Casey, and the Grand Erie District School Board - Thank you for your support, and for allowing me the time away from my classroom to compete internationally.  I really appreciate it.

The Harriers, and my friends and family - Thank you so much for all your kind wishes, and support of all kinds during the past few weeks.  I definitely thought of you and felt all the encouragement.  Thanks for following the race online.  A very big thank you to you all.

   It looks as though my time of 9:10:35 will be good enough to qualify for the 100k World Championship team next year.  I'm very excited about that, and I can't wait until they officially announce the location.  I wanted to get on the National 100k team in 2016.  Now that's done, and I get to look forward to another World Championship race.  I'm feeling pretty lucky about my running right now.


  1. Awesome work!(...That breakfast sounds unpleasant.)

  2. Thanks Luigi! It's not unpleasant if you enjoy cured meats early in the morning. For everyone else, it might be :)

  3. It's a me....Mario!26 September 2015 at 17:11

    It's a travesty what they did to a pasta dinner. It's important to get more energy/mushrooms before a race and collect more coins.

  4. Exactly! My buddy Mario gets it. I'm not sure why the organizers of the Athlete's Dinner didn't understand. I nominate Mario and Luigi to be in charge of the athlete's meals at the next 100k World Championship event.

  5. Great report on an awesome race! The food definitely sounded 'challenging'. Tough situation with the coffee too....might need one of those french press travel mugs for next time!
    Will be nice to get back to racing on the trails next weekend!