If the first month of 2018 is anything to go by, then the rest of the year is going to be simply amazing!
After ATY, I had a couple of easy weeks where I spent time walking the pups and then gently jogging to allow my body to recover from its exploits in December. It felt so good to be back just jogging although the legs did still feel a little tired, but it was nice to get back out on the nearby trails and enjoy the views and being outdoors.
|Back on the trails and enjoying the recovery runs :-)|
It also gave me some time for reflection and as I looked back at my performance at ATY, I decided that I would put my name forward to the GB team selectors anyway - as coach Adam said, the worse outcome would be that they would say no which wouldn't exactly be the end of the world. So I pinged an email and put things out of my mind - the team would be announced on January 25th so no use spending all my energy thinking about it.
That same week, I had some exciting news - I had been invited back to the Aravaipa Racing Team for the third year in a row, and I was ecstatic! I'm one of those people that never takes things for granted - yes, I'd had a great year of racing last year but there are so many other amazing lady runners in Arizona that are continuing to improve every day, and I certainly aren't getting any younger! I always feel that others are far more worthy of a place on the team than I am, so when I received the email from Hayley I was once again over the moon :-) Being a member of such a strong, focused, dedicated team gives me the motivation to compete and do the very best I can and I am so happy to be back for another year.
Of course, life sometimes gets in the way of running, and for Andy and I, we were at the point where we needed to extend our visas, and for me my work permit, if we wanted to stay in the US after April 2018.
In order to do this, we had to leave the country so that we could "land" again and have that official stamp and with being permanent residents of Canada, we headed north of the border and back to Calgary where we would have our interview at the US Consulate. Despite knowing that there really shouldn't be any issues, there is always that lingering doubt that we may get refused. It didn't help that the three people in front of us had their visas refused there and then, and we were beginning to think that we too would be walking out of the building disappointed and not knowing what steps to take next.
Fortunately for us, we were approved which meant we had to spend the next week in Canada whilst waiting for our passports to be returned.
|US Visas Approved - whoo hoo!|
This really wasn't such a bad thing, and from the day we touched down in Calgary to the day we left, I was on a permanent high and couldn't stop smiling - the only thing missing was the dogs which we'd left back home in Phoenix in the capable hands of Mackenzie (who has now gone grey from all the stress!)
Although we did spend some time having to work whilst there, our week in Alberta was amazing and it felt like we had never been away. It was fantastic to see so many of our old friends and catch up on their news and we even managed a visit up to Banff where I had an awesome snowy run up Tunnel Mountain and along the banks of the frozen Bow River. We also headed over to Lake Minnewanka where we'd got married 3 years ago and not surprisingly, it looked as beautiful as ever covered in snow and surrounded by the mountains, and then we headed a little further into the mountains as we paid a brief visit to Lake Louise and had a wander around the ice castle.
|Snowy Run in Banff|
|Beautiful conditions for running :-) Lake Minnewanka|
On the Thursday evening, I joined the Calgary Road Runners for one of their evening runs at Twelve Mile Coulee, the location for one of the annual cross country races, and it was fabulous to be back on those trails that I have many fond memories of when I'd ran the cross country there every year that we'd lived in Calgary.
|Calgary Road Runners|
After heading north to St Albert for the weekend and checking out Leduc and the surrounds, we were back in Calgary where we stayed with another fantastic friend. Dawn had to work so we were left in the company of her wonderful dog Brutus and both Brutus and I had a lovely 5 mile walk through Fish Creek Park in the snow on another beautifully sunny day. He absolutely loved it and at every opportunity he was having a roll in the snow and having such a great time.
|Brutus! Don't tell Wilson, Brandy and Tillie!|
I was determined to run whilst in Canada and manged to get outside pretty much every day. Although chilly by Phoenix standards, temperatures of -5 to 10 degrees c wasn't actually that bad so I was making the most of it and running outdoors, thankful that the pavements weren't too icy and avoiding a fall.
The night before flying home, Dawn had a track session at the indoor track so I headed over to Mount Royal Uni to do my 6 mile steady run on the track. Running loops got me thinking back to ATY and it was then that I remembered that the GB 24 hour team selection meeting had taken place that day and the decisions had been made. If I didn't hear anything tomorrow, I would know that I hadn't been selected.
|Fun at the Track - PC Dawn Ladds|
We headed back to Phoenix on the Wednesday with our flight leaving Calgary at 6am and us not arriving home until 12 hours later. It was a long day of travelling and we were pretty tired, but it was so good to see the dogs and Khayman our little moggy and they were sure happy to see us too! We took them to the dog park and they went crazy seeing all their friends that they hadn't seen for a week.
We were straight back into work the next day and I still hadn't heard from the GB selectors. It was already mid-afternoon in the UK and the announcement was due anytime soon. I'd still not heard anything but had already resigned myself to the fact that I hadn't made the cut.
As I was eating breakfast, I received an email from UK Athletics and I really didn't want to look at it for the fear of rejection.
I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected for the British Athletics Team in the IAU 24 Hours European Championships to be held in Timisoara, Romania on 26th & 27th May.
I read the first two lines and started shaking. I read them again and started to cry. I read them a third time, convinced that I had misread it or they had go the name wrong, but nope, my name was there in black and white. OH. MY. GOSH!!!!!!!
I have never been so excited to be selected to represented Great Britain. In the past, I had been at the peak of my running career and could compete with the best in the country to get my name out there, but this time, I really didn't think I would make it. Even now I am completely flabbergasted that I will once again be wearing the GB kit and will be representing my country of birth in Romania.
Being selected to represent your country is one of the greatest honours and something that I thought was well beyond my capabilities after all these years. And yet here I am making plans to do just that. It motivates you in such a way that you want to get even better, train even harder to make your country proud. The reality is that I don't have to change a thing. What Adam had me doing in the lead up to ATY is exactly what I need to do for the European Champs - it worked before, and I trust his judgement and guidance as a coach. There are of course areas that I can improve - I need to work on strengthening my hips and glutes and improving my flexibility so that I don't have the same issues I had in the latter stages of ATY. If I can master that, I believe I can run the same distance once again, if not further. I'm excited to see what I can do :-)
My training has already started to pick up again as I get ready for my other forthcoming races here in Arizona, starting with Elephant Mountain 22km next weekend. Yesterday I ran a 10 mile negative split. It was the further I'd ran since ATY and I was very happy to be hitting sub 7.25 pace for the entire run. Today I headed over to Apache Wash for another 10 miles, this time on the trails - I felt really good and positive about the coming weeks and months - all I need to do is avoid injury and stay consistent, and all will be well.
There are some changes ahead over the coming months that I know I will have to deal with, but as with everything I'll work through them and take each day as it comes. For now though, I'm ready to start training again, ready to start racing again, and ready to set my focus to the end of May where I hope to be at my very best and to perform once again to the very best of my ability.