I felt like a shell of my old self on that May 8th flight back to Calgary. There were so many experiences to process, so many emotions. It was all foreign to me.
For the greater part of the year and four months in Guelph, I struggled inside my own head. I lost passion for the sport, I didn’t believe in myself and I had no self-esteem. I let the chatter (verbal and digital) bother me and I felt a great deal of pressure when others labeled me as ‘the next one’ or when they would put me in the mix to take down the Canadian Marathon record. I don’t lace up my shoes on a daily basis to be ‘the next one’ because my focus is to be better than the man in the mirror. What transpires from there is out of my focus.
I worked multiple jobs (at the same time) after high school, during college, and post-collegiately to be in a position to pursue a passion. Before moving to Guelph, I never had the opportunity to commit all my time to the sport because my hands were too full with work and being involved in the community where needed. The sacrifice of putting life on hold was scary but exciting because I was in control of my own destiny.
Never did I expect others to like me nor did I ever crave entitlement just because I joined Speed River. I actually anticipated a drop-off in “popularity” because groups are so competitive with each other in Ontario. Regardless, all I wanted was to have a positive impact on the Canadian running scene to help shape the future for the better.
I constantly questioned if I was. Individuals would tell me that I was “killin’ it” while keyboard warriors were trashing me. My mind was so split on how well I was actually doing. Everyone around me told me not to sweat the banter but it really wore on me. It got under my skin.
I stayed, and contemplated staying longer, in Guelph because of the group of guys. They pushed me to be better, they were encouraging, they were supportive, they met all my expectations and exceeded them. The group has the resources to help me with psychological issues but making a location change was the only realistic option to help with my situation.
What I learned while out East is that I moved away from the ‘perfect training environment’. Calgary is my safe haven. It’s the place where I can put in work without being disturbed, I can get a competitive advantage because nobody else knows what I’m up to, I can be myself without having others expectations weighing on me, the community cares about how well other runners are doing and they’re genuinely excited to see you accomplish your goals. Aside from that, the city has the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America with 850KM of paved path and 95KM of maintained trails. Include the unmarked single track trails and there is probably over 1,200KM of land to cover by foot. If that isn’t enticing enough, take a short drive west and that should do it.
Now, I roam those pathways and trails on a daily basis with a clear mind and ambitious goals. Everyone can define their ‘perfect training environment’ differently. Most athletes prefer training in a group because the comradery brings the best out of them. Some athletes like to have constant guidance from their coach, some want optimal weather conditions at all times, and some want their superiors to take care of all the logistics. The ‘perfect training environment’ is variable based off of your preferences.
To build back my self-esteem and passion towards the sport, I made simple, low-level daily goals. I completed them and it worked. Those low-level goals built the foundation to support my mid-level goals and those mid-level goals will set me up to accomplish the top-level goals. Goal setting is extremely important to give your training a specific purpose that will allow you to focus on the bigger picture. Too many times have athletes been caught up on specific moments without being able to move on.
The move back wasn’t with the intention of moving on from the sport, it was with the intention to excel in the sport. I’m back with my roots in the ground and back to my old ways – coaching myself and not giving a damn about who is on the start line. And since results speak louder than anything else, it’s clear this is working out.
The coolest moment took place in Victoria over the weekend. At the awards, my placement was called out, followed by full name, then this… ‘from Calgary, Alberta’. This, now, is the dream.