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!

better late then never- NYC half recap

Alright so it's been a long time since I've blogged and there has been a lot that has happened (running wise!). I wrote a blog for Innovative Fitness about my race in NYC. So I'm pretty much just gonna share that blog with you guys today. I will write more about World XC, Sun Run and whats coming up this spring in another blog. 

The NYC Half Martahon was a fantastic race experience. About a month ago I went to NYC and not only smashed my half marathon PB, but had a super fun weekend too. The elite athlete co-ordinator, David Monti (and his lovely wife Jane) take such great care of all the elites. They treat us like gold,- amazing accommodation, super awesome healthy food for breakfast and lunch, and every detail of the race weekend is taken care of. It's pretty cool to be surrounded by some of the world's best runners too- I got to meet last year's Boston Marathon Champion, Meb Keflezighi- such a nice guy! 

Ok so lets just get to the race! I couldn’t sleep the night before the race- stupid time change really messed with me. Getting up at 430am EST was not easy, as I still felt like I was on pacific time (3 hours earlier). Felt like I slept maybe 1 or 2 hours....but once I was on the bus to the start line, I forgot all about how tired I was and just felt excited! I was also very nervous as I had been dealing with a few minor injuries leading up to this race. My last few runs weren’t feeling good and this pain in my left groin-abdominal area was flaring up (ongoing issue for past year). My left calf had also been unusually tight....and during my strides right before the race it started to hurt pretty bad. I told Lanni (who was also racing) about my calf and she was like – its just a niggle it'll settle down once we get going- don't worry. She is the Canadian Marathon and half marathon record holder, so figured she probably knew what she was talking about:). This made me feel better and I relaxed a bit and was ready to go! 

The race didn’t go out as hard as I thought it would. Surprisingly I found my self in the back of the front pack for the first 3 miles- hitting 5:21-22 miles and feeling good! I was ranked 15th going into the race, so I wasn't expecting to be right in that top group...But I was, and I felt good, so I just went with it. My calf had settled down, but I definitely still noticed it. For the most part I blocked it out and don’t remember feeling a lot of pain- just more tightness. We went through 5k in 16:26 and this is when the lead pack of 8 girls dropped the pace and broke away. I knew that I couldn’t run that fast so I stuck to my own pace and continued rolling along through hilly Central Park with Lanni next to me. Around 8km we went down a big hill and I got a little gap on Lanni. And from this point on I was alone for the rest of the race. Running through Times Square was amazing- the energy was unreal and really got me pumped! It was the motivation I needed to going into the second half of the race. I split 33:42 at 10k and was still feeling good. My plan had been to go through around 33:45, so I was right on pace. I was relieved that my calf was under control and the pain in my left side was not flaring up. 
After 12km the race goes right down the river for almost 9k straight. We were told that the wind would likely be at our backs for this part of the race. I was really looking forward to a nice little tail wind for the last half of the race. However, I came around the corner and was not happy to meet the wind right in my face. Knowing I was gonna have to run the rest of the race into the wind was pretty lame, but this almost meant so did every one else. And I tend to be a pretty decent runner in the wind. So perhaps this was to my advantage. 

With about 5km to go I could see 2 girls up ahead starting to come back to me. I kept pushing on and with 1 mile to go I had caught one of the girls. I passed her and kept my eyes focused on the other girl still about 100 meters ahead. With 400 meters to go I had closed the gap and was only about 20 meters behind her. I scrunched up my face and ran as hard as I could- I passed her with only 30 or 40 meters to the finish line. I was pretty shocked to see the finishing clock- 1:11:20! A 63 second PB! I was very happy, especially when I was told I was 6th place- I couldn’t believe it! This was totally unexpected and really awesome. I never gave up and pushed when it was really hard. I finally felt like I was “back”. Its been a long time since I ran that hard and it felt good! 

I attempted a cool down but my calf was now very painful....managed a 10 min shuffle/jog but knew my calf was not in a good place...I found out a few days later when I got home that it was strained:( I had to spend a week of just very easy running and cross training while it healed up.

After the race I spent the rest of the day and night enjoying NYC with friends and it was a really great day. We drank wine, ate lots of delicious food and had lots of laughs. 

I came home from NYC feeling motivated and hungry for more Pbs. The strained calf slowed training down a bit for the first week when I was home, but perhaps this was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to recover fully from the hard effort in NYC. When I arrived in China 10 days after I got home from NYC I was feeling recovered and ready to race hard again! I'll save my World XC race for another blog.

Ok that's my lil NYC recap for ya'll! I'll write more soon!

jogging in central park with these lovely ladies

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Gettin back into the Tash Lane!
Alright enough with the procrastination- I am finally writing another blog! Dayna P and Catherine W both blogged this week so the pressure was on to put one together. Lot's to update on since my last post in October...but pretty much all good news! 

Ok so life in general has been pretty darn good.  Got to spend lots of time with my friends and family over the holidays, which included an awesome trip to Seattle with Scott and  a fun-filled getaway to Las Vegas with my friend Lisa for my bday:) I started volunteering at VOKRA (Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue) once a week.  I love it!  Every Friday morning I go in to the Operations Center and help take care of the kitties- feeding, cleaning and cuddling! I even started fostering a kitty- little girl Feeona:)  I love her to bits, but she will be adopted soon and its gonna be tough- we sure will miss her!  

Lets get to the running stuff- Last October I was still dealing with the PF and the peroneal tendonitis. Progress with my PF had come to a standstill and I wasn't seeing any improvement- it actually felt like it was getting worse again. That, coupled with the pain from the tendonitis made each run pretty un-enjoyable. I remember one particular day going out for a Sunday long run with Rachel C, Catherine, and Dayna, and cringing the whole time because the pain was so bad. I tried to put on a happy face but as soon as I got home I started crying, just completely frustrated with this injury. It just wasn't going away! And I was trying everything!!! In early November I went in to see Dr. Bovard again and asked him if I could get a cortisone injection. He said not yet, and to just be patient as sometimes the prolotherapy can take a few months to really work. I was done being patient with PF. I left his office feeling sad, hopeless and completely defeated. 

However, over the month of November my heel started to feel better and I was able to get through most work outs and runs with decreased pain. Some days were still pretty shitty, but for the most part, the PF (and tendonitis) seemed to actually be getting better! I couldn't believe it seemed to really be getting better.  I was finally feeling hopeful again and enjoying running. I decided to give National XC Champs a go about 2 weeks before race day. I knew it was gonna be tough, but I like a challenge:) I certainly surprised myself (and everyone else it seems. Kelly Weibe- “how the hell did you finish 3rd?!”) with a strong race and a 3rd place finish. I was extremely happy, as my goal was just to get in the top 6 to make the Canadian National team going to World Champs in March. I think all these months running with the pain in my heel has made me a tough lil cookie! And Cross Country running is all about being tough:). 

The day after XC Champs I fully expected my heel to be shit and be limping around. But it was the opposite! It felt great! I was very happy to know that my heel was able to take racing again! Yay! Big step in the healthy direction!

December was spent just putting in mileage. I was finally able to get in consistent back to back weeks of training. My heel was co-operating (the tendonitis was still being a bitch sometimes, but it was tolerable). As the New Year came around workouts were going well, I lost a bit of weight and I was feeling fit and strong. Hooray! It was time to start racing again and I was excited!

Jan 11th I raced an 8km in Victoria at the PIH Pioneer 8k. I was finally feeling like myself again, and the race felt awesome. 26:37 - 2nd best 8k I’ve ever run and I felt like I had lots more in the tank. It was a great start to 2015.  Plus my heel held up fairly well- so that was a bonus! 

I recovered well from the race and was on the track 2 nights later doing 1000m repeats with Dylan Wykes as my pace bunny. (Perks of being a member of BCEP- training with some of the best runners in Canada!) He was doing 10X1k with 200m jog, I was doing every second with him, which meant almost 5 min rest for me. (I was doing 5) Basically a full recovery meant I got to run fast. And I finally got to wear flats! First time doing a full WO in flats since March- I was very excited about this! Dylan is a freakin machine. 3:01-3:03s and he was hammering them off in his trainers like it was nothing. I hung on to the back of him for as long as I could, and when he could hear me fall off, he would yell at me (in a nice way!), to stay strong! 3:05, 3:04, 3:03, 3:02, 3:03- I was delighted with that:), and it was by far my best WO since last March. (hold up- had a better one tonight! 8X1k with 2:30 rest- 3:15, 3:08, 3:08, 3:06, 3:05, 3:05, 3:04, 3:04- feels so good to be rolling again! ok sorry back to that other WO- ) It was a great confidence booster, and a good test for my heel. It held up well! Good job lil heel- I don't hate you anymore! So with this WO in the books, I headed to Arizona a few days later to race the Rock N Roll half marathon on Jan. 18th.

Arizona was awesome- ran me a fresh new PB- 1:12:23! What a pleasant surprise:) I knew I was decently fit going in, and was hoping to run about 1:13-1:14. The conditions were ideal (about 10C during the race, no wind, and a pretty flat course). US Olympian Amy Hastings was racing- I had heard that she was going to be aiming to run her marathon pace- about 1:13-1:13:30. This was perfect for me- so the plan was just to run with her for as long as I could and hope I was fit enough to run that pace. The race started and I immediately tucked in behind Amy. The first mile felt fast....and it was – 5:19. I tried to settle in, but the second mile felt fast too- it was 5:21ish. I was thinking, oh god this is going to end very badly for me- I cannot run this pace the whole time!!! Finally after 5k (16:35),the pace eased up a bit, and I was able to get into a comfortable rhythm. We split through 10km in 33:29. At this point I had 2 thoughts- 1. Wow this is fast! I'm going to run a big PB today- just keep pushing!! 2. Wow this is too fast- I am doing to crash and burn around 17k and its not gonna be pretty. I tried to keep thought number 2 out of my head....Stay positive Tash! You can do this! 

Just after half way I decided to take my Gel. I was very out of practice at taking a Gel during a race.....I could not get the damn thing open. Then I finally did, got it all over my hands. Great- sticky hands for the rest of the race. Attempting to swallow the gel was not very successful either. Choked a bit. Couldn't swallow, couldn't breath! Finally got it down, and realized I had totally dropped off the pace. Amy was at least 5 seconds ahead of me now. I tried to drink water out those little paper cups- which I suck at doing and got more in my eyes and hair then in my mouth.  The next 2 km I lost focus and was suffering a bit....I thought it was the beginning of the end. Amy was now about 50 meters ahead of me. Around 14km we started the climb up a pretty significant hill (about 1k in length). I got a second wind and powered up the hill, starting to close the gap on Amy. At this point I had stopped looking at my watch so I have no idea what any of my mile splits were. We got to the top of the hill and turned around and went right back down. Amy is good at downhills it seems. She started dropping me again, even though I felt like I was rolling along pretty well. I started running with a guy and we worked together over the last 5km. Was great having someone there for that last few kms to help push me! I was waiting to hit the wall, but it just didn't happen and I had a strong last few miles- much to my surprise:) I was super happy at the finish line, and it was especially great having my aunt and uncle there to share the moment with me.

This was a big break through for me. It was a really tough freakin year for me in 2014. Even before I got the PF in march, I hadn't felt good running since the marathon in the fall of 2013. I wondered if I would ever be back running fast again. Was I done with competitive running??? I was losing my faith....Thankfully- I'm finally feeling like myself again- its such a relief!  (thank-you to all you amazing ppl in my life who supported me and encouraged me last year- im so fortunate to have the most awesome ppl by my side.) I still haven't beaten the PF 100% so I am still going to proceed cautiously- it's time to be smart and do everything in my power to stay healthy. If I can stay healthy and get in some consistent training, I think that 2015 is going to be a pretty awesome year! Jess O'Connell said something along the lines of- “Who ever stays the healthiest the longest, will run the fastest!”  I totally agree!

I have a  packed schedule of awesome races this spring, and I'm very excited about it! I missed racing so much last year. I don't want to do too many races too soon, so I'm not racing too much this winter- I'm in the middle of a 6 week training block- I won't race until PAN-AM XC Champs in Columbia on Feb.22. After that things start to pick up a bit with the NYC half marathon on March 15th,   and 2 weeks later the World XC  Champs on March 28th.  The rest of the season will be a mix of road racing and track races- its gonna be fun!  

Ok picture time!  

Sweet little Feeona:)
 Mini-getaway to Seattle with my man:)
 Ready for a night out in Vegas!  

Spent a lot of time in the gym at Innovative Fitness last year.  I've never felt stronger or more efficient while I'm running.  Strength training is a huge part of my training. 

What an amazing group of friends and family I have!  Thank-you for coming out to cheer me on at Canadian XC Champs.  Meant so much to me:)

Canadian XC Champs - wearing my lucky cat gloves:)

We've had some amazing weather this winter- beauty run along the seawall this December.

On route to my new PB at the AZ rock n roll half marathon! 

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