It has been a delightful few months since I last posted an update!
First and foremost, I am excited to share my recent and upcoming adventures in the 400m hurdles. The intermediate hurdles tugged firmly at my heart as last year’s outdoor season drew to a close, and thus the last 6 months have been laden with lactic acid and speckled with hurdles, set up around the tight corners of Thompson Arena.
I first raced the 400m hurdles in my last year of high school, almost 9 years ago. I won silver medals both at OFSAA and the 2005 Canadian Junior National Championships, which earned me a spot on the PanAm Junior Team. It would seem that I had some idea of what I was doing. I thought so too, until hindsight showed me that leaping over a hurdle isn’t quite the same thing as hurdling – my amazing high school coaches did the best they could with the mid distance running high jumper they had before them, but I can’t say that I grasped efficient hurdling technique for another many moons…
Even if I had actually “hurdled” in my brief time as a 400m hurdler, 9 years is a long time to hang on to race memories. The same summer that I contested the hurdles at PanAm Juniors, I did my first heptathlon and, well, became a combined events athlete. I’ve learned a lot from my time as a heptathlete. I’ve gotten stronger, faster, better at hurdling, and more tough; if there’s one thing I’ve heard that 400m hurdlers need, it’s toughness!
In preparation for my upcoming summer season I competed in a couple flat 400m races (aka no hurdles) through the winter, one at a SPIRE Invitational meet (where I ran a pb of 55.07 seconds) and another at the Athletics Canada Indoor Open, where I also played around in the long jump. My years of repetition and jumping drills paid off, and I jumped a new indoor personal best of 6.15m, with only a few jumping specific sessions squeezed in around my hurdle work.
April brought with it a month long training/competition camp in gorgeous Santa Barbara, California. The lingering Canadian winter shuddered an icy wave goodbye as my plane angled it’s nose to the sky and raced the sun West. Huge thanks to our gracious hosts, Westmont College and Santa Barbara Track Club!
A few weeks into the camp, the day I’ve been waiting for all winter arrived. It was April 18th and I was set to race the 400m hurdles at the Brian Clay Invitational at Azusa Pacific University. I remember telling my mom in February about how much time it seemed like I had before I was to step up to the starting line in April. But experience had taught me that a couple months can really fly by, and I wanted to be ready…as ready as I could be without access to an outdoor track. My personal motto became “begin now.” If there was something that I wasn’t doing that could possibly help me to feel ready when I got to the starting line, I made sure to add it to my routine that very day.
I did everything I could think of: ran hard in workouts, lifted weights, visualized, worked on mobility, ate cleanly, watched video. On paper, it appears to be the same list that I had followed for years, but this time it was different. I had a renewed vigor. Every moment provided an opportunity for greatness, and I lost myself in doing my utmost best on every occasion. While the heptathlon had made me hope for good performances, I realized the 400m hurdles is my jam, and there isn’t any room for hope on this confidence train.
With virtually zero race experience and facing a bit of a windy day, I comfortably dropped the prospect of entertaining a race plan and decided to simply run. I’d switch lead legs over the hurdle if and when it came down to it. Somehow it ended up being an incredibly smooth race without much stutter stepping and I won it in a decent time of 58.77 seconds, though I finished with more gas left in the tank than I would have liked. My second race came a day later at the Long Beach Invitational. I ran a completely different race but ran a nearly identical time of 58.70s. A small personal best, but a personal best nonetheless!
May is also gearing up to be a busy month, with race opportunities just about every weekend – more details to follow soon!