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!

Wait....what just happened???

Hello hello!  I have been putting off writing a blog for quite some time now....After world championships I just couldn't quite find the words.  I am just finishing my week long break from running and have had some time to collect my thoughts about my 10,000m race at Worlds.


Last time I blogged was after the best race of my life- Peyton Jordon 10000m where I set the Canadian Record.  This still remains the highlight of my season (life!), although there were a few other pretty awesome races afterward this spring.  Ottawa 10k- where I ran 31:58 on the roads being one of them.  At the end of May I was feeling pretty "raced out", so coach Rich and I decided to take a break from the higher intensity track workouts for the month of June, and pretty much just get back into "base training".  When July rolled around, I hopped back onto the track for some workouts and was pleasantly surprised that my fitness was still awesome.  I spent 2 weeks getting in some quality WOs and was feeling pretty fit going into Pan Am Games....until about 3 days before I was set to fly to Toronto (about 10 days out from my race).  I came down with some sort of Flu or sickness and had to take 2 full days off to try to recover.  I flew to TO and still was not feeling great.  I dropped some weight (which was not good) and I was feeling very weak.  For the next 3 or 4 days I was barely able to eat anything because everything made me feel sick.  I tried to get in some runs and WOs but I felt like such a bag of shit.  Luckily the medical staff at Canada House took good care of me and I was feeling healthy again in time for my race.


I thought I would be able to still have a good race at Pan Ams....but it just didn't happen.  I was very nervous, stressed, weak and unfocused during the race.  It was slow to start and very tactical - which I had expected.  But when the pack dropped the pace with 2 miles to go, I just couldn't react.  It was pretty devastating for me to race so poorly at home in front of all of my friends and family.  When I got home I was determined to do everything I could to make sure I was ready for World Champs on Aug 24th.  


From July 25th- until race day at World champs (aug 24th), I did everything I possibly could to prepare for my race.  I have never been so focused in my life on something.  I didn't work, I barely drank (and ya'll know i love my wine!), my nutrition was on point, I was getting regular massage/physio/chiro, I was doing all my strength exercises and stretching, I was continuing working hard at the gym, my sleep schedule was great, and most importantly I was killing my WOs.  2 weeks before Worlds I had one of the best workouts of my life- 5 X mile- 4:59, 4:58, 4:55, 4:53, 4:51- faster then I had done only 4 of them in the spring before I raced PJ 10000m.  This was the fittest I had ever been in my life and I was feeling more confident then ever.  My body and mind were great. I knew I was ready to kill my 10000m at World Champs.  And I was so focused and determined.  In my mind there was just no way that I wouldn't run well....Worst case scenario I would finish in 16th spot (what I was ranked).  But I really wanted to finish in the top 12.  And I felt ready to compete with the best in the World!


I flew to Jeju Island, South Korea on Aug. 13th to meet Team Canada for training camp.  I adjusted well to the travel/time change and jet lag didn't seem to affect me.  My week there was lots of fun, getting to know everyone on the team, seeing the beautiful city and all my running and workouts were feeling good.  


We flew to Beijing on Aug.19th (5 days out from my race).  Until then I had been going to sleep around 8:30pm every night and waking up at 6am- which was fine, but I knew I had to start trying to stay up later because my race was at 9pm.  So the first night in Beijing I forced myself to stay up until 11pm.  But instead of sleeping later in the morning- I was wide awake at 5am.  And this was the trend for the rest of the nights leading up to my race.  Sleeping about 6 hours a night, (I'm used to 9-10) and then not being able to nap in the afternoons.  I was feeling like a zombie already when I woke up 3 days before my race with a sore throat and congestion.  Just great- I was sick again!  I did my best to stay positive.  It was just a cold, I was fine- I told myself.  I have been sicker then this before and still raced well.  I was good!  I was fit and ready to have the race of my life.  I just kept trying to tell myself positive things.  The day before my race at breakfast, I was beginning to crumble.....I was sitting there, feeling completely out of it, when Team Canada Head Distance Coach, Dave Scott-Thomas came over and asked me how I was feeling.  Before words could come out of my mouth, tears started pouring out of my eyes.  No I was not ok I told him....DST was really awesome and said all the right things.  Told me it was good to let it out and ok to feel this way.  I needed to relax and chill - it would be ok.  I felt a bit better after I had my little cry fest. But still deep down I knew that I wasn't feeling right.  


On race day, I slept a bit better the night before and was actually feeling a bit better.  I wasn't super nervous and my confidence was coming back.  I had worked my butt off this year and all that work was still there.  A little lack of sleep and a cold wasn't going to stop me!!!  When we made our way out of the call room into the Bird's Nest Stadium it was one of the most surreal moments of my life.  Seeing the stadium from the tunnel filled with thousands of cheering people....it was so crazy- my stomach dropped and I felt like I was going to be sick. But it was still a really cool feeling!  Once inside the stadium, doing my final strides, I was able to relax and focus.  


When the gun went off my plan was always to run in the back of the pack until the pace dropped and then try to move up.  I settled in at the back of the pack in about 18th-20th position in a somewhat comfortable pace (77\78s).  After one mile, I started to feel tired, which was weird cause this pace should have felt relaxed.  I started to worry cause I knew if I was straining at this pace there would be no way I would be able to pick up the pace when I needed to.  I tried to stay focused and just kept my head down and run with the pack.  We went through 5km in about 16:10-16:13- pretty slow, and something that should have felt easy.  When I ran my 10000m PB I split 15:50 and was feeling amazing.  This was not the case today.  The pace either picked up a bit or I just started to slow down.  But I just had NOTHING.  My legs just weren't moving.  I tried to relax and just run the best I could.  With 9 laps to go I wanted to drop out....but I knew I had to finish.  Those last few miles were torturous as I felt absolutely terrible physically and mentally.  When I crossed the line I was so relieved it was over (and thank god I didn't get lapped.)  I finished 23rd (second to last) in a time of 32:59.  There were no tears like at Pan Am Games.  I think I was just in complete shock.  Did that really just happen?  In my mind leading up to this race, there was no possibility of me not running well.  When I got back to the Team Canada warm up tent a few minutes later, teammates, coaches and IST were all so supportive and kind- with lots of hugs.  I just sort of shrugged my shoulders and said "well it is what it is.  I just didn't have it today".  But still no tears or no real sadness or anger.  Just kinda like- well that really sucked but there was nothing more I could have done.  


A group of us went out that night and had a fun evening drinking till the wee hours of the morning in Beijing.  It was a nice distraction from having to thinking about my race.  And after weeks and weeks of focusing so much on this one race it was so nice to just relax and have some fun!


However the next afternoon, the reality of my race started to set it.  There really weren't any words I could use to describe how I was feeling so I was silent on Social Media.  My friends and family back home just didn't know what to say cause they knew I would be devastated.  Basically my heart just hurt and I felt too upset/confused to even cry.  I didn't want to talk to anyone about my race cause I didn't really understand myself what really went wrong.  And everyone kept asking me what happened.  I DIDN'T KNOW. Was it the lack of sleep and the cold I got?  I was tougher then that I thought.  I was so ready to smash that race- so what the heck went so wrong?


When I got home from China the original plan was to take my running break. However I just couldn't stand to end my season feeling so let down.  Rich and I decided I would continue training for another month and finish off my season with 2 road races- Canadian 5km Champs and the Vancouver Eastside 10k.  No pressure at all, just have some fun and use the fitness that I built all summer.  I continued to train, but cut things back quite a bit- no track workouts, and only running once a day.  I relaxed about my diet and let myself have plenty of wine.  Within 3 weeks I gained 6 pounds!  lol. I was worried this would affect my races- but I felt great in both running pretty decent times- 15:57 5k (1st) and 33:03 10k (1st).  


During this last month I have spent many many days and nights thinking about my race at World Champs. There have been lots of tears.  The worst part is feeling like I let down my friends, family and my coach.  I spend so much time this summer being selfish with my running.  I missed out on a lot of time with friends and family so that I would train and compete.  When I raced badly (for the 2nd time this summer), it was like it was all for nothing.  Coach Rich put so much time and effort into my training this year.....he really believed I would run well at worlds.  Seeing him when I got home, knowing how much I disappointed him was heartbreaking.  I do know he is still proud of me....but still I know I let him down.  When it comes to the reason of why I raced poorly at worlds....well to be honest I'm still not sure.... 


Maybe I was just overwhelmed with being at such a huge race.  I know I have spent pretty much my entire life racing, but never at this level on the track.  I was a baby when it came to international 10,000m track competition.  I still have a lot to learn....

Maybe I dropped too much weight and lost some of my strength.  I was at my "ideal" race weight- 102lbs and 11% body fat (down from 107 14% in the fall), and felt very fit.  (btw I got that small in a healthy way- before haters start saying I wasn't eating right!) But maybe this was too little for me.  Trying to find the right balance of being just the right size in my sport is very stressful! 

Maybe I was actually too focused on this one race.  I have always said that having a balance in my life is key to my running success.

Maybe the sickness and lack of sleep really did zap me of all my energy.  But I'm not gonna use this as any sort of excuse.

Or maybe, just maybe, IT JUST WASN'T MY DAY.  Every athlete I know has an off race, for no real reason, other then bad luck.  I wasn't the only person that had a bad race at world champs....it happens to all of us.  Pretty unfortunate when your off day happens to be the biggest race of your life. 

Lot's of maybes, but really there is no reason/excuse.  All I can do is put it in the past and move forward to next year.  Yes, my race at World Champs sucked....but it was just one race in a season filled with great races.  I have come so far this year!  Last August I was still suffering with Plantar Fasciitis, barely able to run and in my 4th week of prolotherapy.  If you had asked me then if I would be racing at the World Championships this summer I would have told you that you were crazy.  So instead of moping around and being disappointed with myself about the race, I'm going to be proud of myself for being there at all.  It really was an amazing experience being at the World Track an Field Championships!  I met so many fantastic people,  made some pretty awesome friends, travelled to a very cool city and got to race the best 10,000m runners in the world.  

Thank-you to everyone that never stopped supporting me this year.  Just a few special shout-outs- Mom & Dad- Your love and unwavering support is more important to me then you will ever know.  Coach Rich- You got me to a place I never thought possible.  Thank-you for always being there for me on and off the track:) I know that next year your coaching will take me to the next level at the Olympics.  My wolfpack- cathy & dayna- you two are seriously the best.  So much love.  Thank-you for always saying the right thing at the right time, and always making me laugh even when I wanted to cry.  Asics Canada- the best sponsor in the world- thank-you for always supporting me in the good times and the bad!  


Ok- that was silly long- so I'm out!  Happy Running ya'll!!!


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