Natasha Wodak

2016 Olympian. Canadian 10000m & 8km record holder. 12 time national team member. Ambassador for Smith Optics, and Polar Global. VOKRA volunteer/supporter. My passion is running, but kitty cats are a close 2nd!

AUGUST 12TH 2016- MY OLYMPIC RACE

Its 7:30am and my alarm goes off- but I'm already wide awake.  I've been awake since 6am.  Today is the day.  Finally!  I get to race the 10,000m at the Olympic Games.  I slept surprisingly well for the night before a big race.  I usually only manage 3 or 4 hours of sleep, but last night I got 6 or 7.  As I turn my alarm off, my roommate Krista, says good morning.  She's already awake too.  We chat for a few minutes- she's excited for my race, and asking me how I slept and how I'm feeling.  I'm excited!!!!  I can't believe today is finally here.  


I go through my usual pre-race getting ready routine.  All my clothes, and everything I will need for the race is all set out for me.  I have a shower, put a bit of make up on, tie my hair back, put my team canada uniform on and head up stairs to the Team Canada lounge for breakfast.  I have 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter and a banana.  And coffee of course:). There's a few athletes hanging out having breakfast and watching TV- they wish me luck and I head back to my room to brush my teeth (always the last thing I do before I leave for a race) and grab my bag.  Krista isn't there any more, but she's left a note on my bed.  "No regrets- be brave!".  This makes me emotional.  It is time to be brave!!!  It's been tattooed on my wrist since December.  Today I am ready to put it all on the line.  I have a calm confidence I've never had before.  Today is my day!


I meet Lanni downstairs in the lobby, where a team canada manager checks our bags to make sure we haven't forgotten anything.  We walk about 800m through the Village to the busses. Its really nice sharing this Olympic experience with Lannii.  We are such good friends, its comforting to have her there with me. We chat a bit, nothing serious, just trying to keep things as normal as possible.  This was advice I had received from many previous Olympians.  Treat race day (and the race itself) like any other race.  Keep calm and don't get too amped up.  So today I was just trying to chill out and act like it was just any ole race.  


The bus ride to the stadium takes about 30 minutes.  I listen to my Ipod, and start to feel the nerves.  Certain songs get me pumped up- but also very nervous!  I turn my music off and take a few deep breaths to calm myself.  The meditation I've done over the past few months is coming in handy.  Just concentrate on your breath Tash....in and out, in and out.  And finally I'm calm again.


We arrive at the stadium and walk to the warm up area.  I run into Diane Nukuri from Burundi, a friend I've raced many times before.  We chat a bit and decide to warm up together in a few minutes. Lanni and I drop our stuff in the Canada tent and hit up the washrooms (along with every other 10000m runner. Lol). It's busy in there and there's a lot of nervous girls.  When we get back to the tent, we both do our own activation exercises.  This takes about 5 mins and we are ready to meet Diane for warm up.  It has started raining so we quickly fuss with our hair to put hats on.  


The 3 of us jog around the warm up track for 20 mins.  We see Lanni's family waving from outside the fence- we wave and yell hello!  I wonder where my parents are- hoping they will make there way down to say hi.  I am very happy they are here today and I can't wait to see them!  


After we finish the jog, I head off on my own to do my drills and strides.  I do my best not to look around at the other girls warming up.  This can be very intimidating.  I just do my own thing, like I have so many times before.  My body is feeling good today.  I am relieved, as my left glute had been causing me problems all week.  I have been worried it will flare up during the race.  But, this injury has been something I've dealt with all season.  I've gotten through many awesome workouts with it hurting.  So I know that even it starts hurting, I will get through it.


I hear the announcement for women's 10,0000m first call.  Lanni and I stop by the Canada tent one last time to grab our spike bags and drop some of our warm up clothes.  We get lots of good luck cheers from athletes, coaches and IST.  I am feeling really excited right now.  It is almost go time!!!!  As Lan and I walk to the first call room, I say to her "this is it Lan!  We are racing at the Olympics!!!"  She smiles and says "i know!  Its so exciting!  We did it!"  And I think to myself, we sure freakin did.  Lanni and I both struggled through the spring with training.  It was tough, but here we were-The olympic games representing our country. 


In the first call room we wait for our names to be called.  Each girl gets checked off the list, and then we are lining up to walk to the final call room inside the stadium.  Once inside the second call room inside the stadium, it gets hectic.  No one really seems to know what is going on.   Race bib numbers are being distributed, bags are getting checked and we are also being told to "take your clothes off!!!".  Its craziness in here.  37 competitors is a lot and its the first track and field final of the games.  So this is new to all the officials as well.  I have no time to really get nervous because its so crazy in here!  Frantically trying to put my number on, take my warm ups off and get my spikes on.  And ugh I have to go pee!  But I have no time now!  Guess I'm holding it!  


They are now calling our names to line up to get ready to go out to the track. As they call our names they are telling us what hip number we need to get.  But there are only 2 girls handing out hip numbers and they aren't going fast enough.  We are being told we need to go to the stadium now- but half of us don't have our hip numbers.  Dominque Scott from South Africa is lined up in front of me, and we laugh about how chaotic it is.   


The line of ladies starts to move and its time to run into the stadium!  There is a big camera right as you enter the stadium.  Being the spunky girl I am, I go right up to the camera and give a big 2 handed wave with a silly smile on my face.  I'm at the Olympics and I'm gonna enjoy every moment!!!  I run through the tunnel and into the massive stadium.  I'm overwhelmed with nerves and excitement.  I look around the stadium and think about my parents sitting somewhere in this huge stadium, probably feeling just as nervous as me! I feel an immediate sense of calmness knowing they are here somewhere. No matter what happens today, they will be proud of me.


We only have time for a couple of strides.  After being in the call rooms for almost 30 minutes, it feels good to get the legs moving.  I can feel the energy of the olympic stadium.  I'm buzzing and so ready to get this race underway!  We are now lined up on the start line and they are doing the introductions for TV.  I am hit with a huge wave of anxiety. This is really happening?!. Holy shit.  I think i'm going to burst into tears.  I can't stand still at the line for one more second.  Please start the race before I start to cry!  And just like that the gun goes off- and the biggest race of my life begins.


I get a good start and settle in right on the inside along the rail.  Now Tasha just stay calm, relax and be patient.  This is a long race.  The first half of the race you should just shut your mind off and settle in with a pack. I go through 800m in just under 2:30 and I'm midway in the pack.  I know that this is gonna be a fast race.  I am excited. I had worried it would be a "sit and kick" kinda race.  I don't do well in those.  

I'm feeling good today. My legs are feeling fresh and my mind is calm.  The nerves have settled and I'm getting into the zone.  We are clipping off lap after lap and the pack is starting to break apart early.  I know I am running about 31:30 pace, and I'm in about 20-25th spot.  This is gonna be a crazy fast race!  I am in a good pack, there's about 8 of us.  I tuck in behind Diane, with a few aussie and british girls in front and beside me.  Unlike many other races I've been in, there is very little pushing and jostling.  At one point, a British girl nicely asks me if i can move a bit to let her out.  No prob I say.  Us Canadians are polite eh? :).  As I'm running I look out into the crowd every so often- wondering where my parents are.  I tell myself to stay focused.  One lap at a time.  You are doing great Tash.  Today is YOUR DAY.  Be brave.  You are fit.  You CAN do this.  


I go through half way (5k) in 15:42.  Wow this is fast.  This is really fast.  If I can hold it together I'm gonna run a PB and break my Canadian Record (31:41)!  And I might be able to crack the top 20.  Just hold it together Tash.  Diane makes a move at 6k and I attempt to go with her.  But this move is too spicy for me.  I can't stay with her, and after a few laps I'm starting to slow down. The girls from the earlier pack have now caught back up to me and a few of them pass me.  There is 6 laps to go and I'm starting to hit the wall.  The pain is rushing in and I am beginning to struggle.  But I keep telling myself Yes you can, yes you can.  Push. Fight.  Push. Fight.  I am battling the negative thoughts and pushing through the pain.  


I go through 8k in 25:26, 4 seconds faster then i split when i ran the Canadian record.  But unlike that race where I felt amazing at this point, I was dying.  I knew I was still going to run a good time, but to get under my record was gonna take something really special.  I fought hard those last 5 laps.  I fought for every spot, and gave it everything I had. 


I crossed the finish line and saw my time- 31:53.  I was thrilled with that, considering the pain train I was on the last 2 miles.  But mostly I felt a huge sense of relief.  I did it!!!  And I ran well!!!  I didn't shit the bed like I did at world champs last year.  I was so proud of myself for racing my heart out.  I immediately turned around to see where lanni was- and there she was crossing the finish line only 13 seconds behind me.  I gave her a big hug.  As we walked off the track I congratulated other girls.  Diane did great- she was 12th!  (Ugh I wish I could have stayed with her!). We walk through the zig zag of media.  I stop to do several interviews, but I just wanna be out of there and find my mom and dad!  The results are finally up on the big screen and i see i have placed 22nd.  Not bad Tash, not bad at all!  


Finally I am out of the media zone, got my warm up clothes back on and I'm making my way to the canada tent.  Lots of hugs from fellow Canadian athletes along the way:). I am smiling from ear to ear. I grab my phone and try to call my parents but its not working!  They aren't receiving my texts either.  So I head to the area of the stadium where I saw lanni's parents earlier and hope i might see them. And its my lucky day!  There they are!!!  I give them both huge hugs.  Im overwhelmed with emotion.  And so are they.  My mom asks me how I'm feeling and the tears start to flow.  I tell her I'm so relieved I ran well.  I am happy its over.  I had experienced incredible anxiety leading up to the games.  I was so scared I was going to run poorly.  But today I ran with confidence.  I ran bravely.  I ran with my heart.  I was proud of myself.  And my parents tell me how proud they are of me too. I am so happy to share this moment with them.  Being there in the olympic stadium after my race with my parents was one of the best moments of my life.  



Every obstacle I had over come, all of the hard work, sacrifices, injuries, it was all worth it to have been able to race at the Olympics.  I will forever treasure this experience.  


Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my Olympic journey- I have received so much love and support - it's amazing and made all the difference. 


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