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Making Sense of Mistakes

This past Saturday, February 21, Josh and I raced in a 3000 metre indoor competition held at the Dome, the 400 metre indoor track here in Ottawa. It didn’t go well, as I dropped out a mile into the race. I’ve dropped out a couple of times over the years … other than in the case of injury, it is always a mistake!!

On Saturday, we were running at the back of a group which was going at 72 seconds per 400m – exactly the pace needed to run 9 minutes (the race was eventually won in 8:59). Josh and I ran 8:51 in 2012 but have not been under 9 minutes since, although I felt I was ready based on our recent training. On Saturday however, I started falling off the pace in the third lap and had absolutely nothing in my legs. Ian yelled that we were two or three seconds off our target pace. Josh was screaming at me to pick it up also, and if anything, the encouragement started to work as discouragement. There are days when you are hurting but you can fight , and days when you have no weapons and feel absolutely powerless, like you’re running in quicksand. Psychologically, I probably threw in the towel about 150 metres short of the mile. Ian said that my entire body language changed at that point.

I am never happy about dropping out – there is honour in finishing, no matter how far away you are from achieving your race goal. The mind and body can play tricks on us when placed under duress. There was nothing in the tank on Saturday, and I cracked. If anything, I suppose the time to get the bad race experiences out of the way is now. One positive which I took from Saturday is being reminded that I have such good people around me – Colleen, Josh and Ian who were right there when I stepped off the track – I’m very fortunate. These people have given me so much and they continue to be there to help me in trying to get the best out of myself.

Josh and I had an opportunity earlier in February to travel to San Diego to join a group of Canadian middle distance athletes who are predominantly based in Victoria. We trained at the Olympic Training Centre in Chula Vista, just outside San Diego. Its a phenomenal environment for runners, since it has a  great track and gravel trails on which you can literally run for miles. The views of the mountains surrounding the OTC are stunning from what I was told. The Brazilian Olympic 800 metre champion from 1984, Joaquim Cruz, coaches a number of athletes at the OTC, including several blind runners and their guides who are vying for spots on the US national Para Athletics team. He is very approachable and open to conversation. Its terrific that such an iconic runner is willing to work with athletes of all abilities.

When in San Diego, I was coming off a small injury going into the camp (I irritated the extensor tendon by my right shin). This meant that I wasn’t able to train quite in the way I would have liked to for the majority of our time there. However, I was happy to come out of the camp feeling healthy. It was motivating to be around some of our top middle distance athletes – just seeing what they do and being able to talk with them. The warm California sunshine is something I look back on with nostalgia as the late February thermometer dips towards minus 25 outside!

Josh and I will be back to race at the Dome in two weekends at the final meet of the indoor season in Ottawa, on Saturday March 7. I’m excited about this race because its going to coincide with a special anniversary – the second year since Colleen and I had our kidney transplant surgery. We don’t think about it a lot but when the opportunity presents itself, well … its an excuse to celebrate and to say, here’s to good health!