Once cross-country season came along I was able to put FISU and Pan Ams behind me and focus on the next goal that I set for myself since finishing the 2014 CIS cross-country championships: win CIS. Getting back to training for cross with the Gryphon boys is something I really looked forward to every year. Good friends, ambitious teammates, and getting hard work in as a team with high expectations is just FUN to be a part of.
My first race at Vic Matthews here in Guelph did not feel great but I knew I had been training pretty hard the week’s prior. I just needed to take it easy for a bit to get some sharpness back in my legs. The next couple races we did were in the U.S. and each one got better. The second race in the U.S. at Princeton I was able to make a push from the front at 5km (in an 8km race). Although I didn’t have a strong last km and faded to just barely a top 10 finish I gained some confidence because I knew my fitness was really starting to come along.
Heading into championship season I was feeling pretty confident. The Monday before OUAs we did some repeats with changes in pace and I felt the best I had in a very long time. I felt very smooth and strong and could push the faster portions of the workout feeling in control and I could bring it back to tempo effort and recover well for the next push. So I gained more confidence after this workout.
I likely made some tactical errors at OUAs that may have cost me a bit in the last couple of km’s of the race by leading the chase pack for the first 2 or so km’s. When the pace picked up around 3k to go I was able to go with the initial pickup but didn’t have another gear to go with the next pickup. I finished fourth but didn’t feel like I slowed down in the last 1.5km. I was disappointed not to medal but knew there was definitely more in me once I sharpened up and tapered.
The next two weeks was all about being 100% ready to go for CIS. I had a race strategy figured out for a few weeks before CIS. So I was able to visualize and focus on my race plan during workouts, especially in sections of the course important to my strategy. I didn’t think the big finishing hill was my strongest part of the Guelph course so I wanted to get well clear of the field before hitting the bottom of it. I figured if everyone was running hard and were already maxing out that whoever got to the bottom of the hill first was likely to win. So that was my plan and it worked out pretty much to a tee. For me personally, I was pumped with how I felt the whole race and I was excited to finally feel and race the way I know I am capable of.
It was hard to swallow getting 2nd place as a team, but I know, and the team knows, that we put everything out there. Victoria played the race very smart and their tactic of getting pretty much their whole team to the front off the gun and their ability to stay there in a pretty quick pace worked out very well. I know the Gryphon guy’s will be very hungry to regain the team title this year!
I am happy to have finished my last University cross-country season with a strong race. Competing for the Gryphon’s is something I’ll be very proud of for the rest of my life. I made a lot of memories and good friends over the last five years putting in work, travelling to competitions and team socials. I am sad to be done competing for the University of Guelph but I’m excited to be part of the cheer squad as an alumni. Now that I am done school, I’m looking forward to see what being a post-collegiate has in store for me as I begin life and wedding planning with my fiancé.
My achilles is 100% now and I am over a cold I had at the beginning of last week. So now I am finally getting some good training in without my achilles bugging me or feeling drained from a cold. It is going to take a while to feel fit again, but I’m looking forward to grinding out some consistent training through February and March before hopping on the outdoor track to race. Speaking of outdoor track, the Speed River crew got a nice February outdoor track workout in last Wednesday. That was pretty awesome, oh it hurt, but was awesome. I will likely get into a road race in early March. That will be fun; I haven’t done a road race in a very long time.
Top of the last big hill, Photo from Mark Yungblut