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!

A FEW BUMPS ON THE ROAD TO RIO

Hello! Yeah I know it's been a long time since my last blog....sorry! Alright so what's been going on in the life of tash? Well let me fill you in.....

It hasn't been all unicorns and rainbows for the last 6 months.

I went through a bit of a rough patch this Fall, not in my training but in life in general.  Things started to get yucky in September when my boyfriend and I decided to go our separate ways.  Although it was an amicable break up and we are still great friends, it’s never easy breaking up.  We were together for almost 2 years and lived together for most of it.  So us breaking up also meant one of us having to move.  Many things made moving for both of us difficult, so we decided to both keep the place until January 1st.  However, in order to move forward I felt it was important (and healthier) to live separately- so I moved into my friend Catherine Watkin's house- in her beautiful suite downstairs.  Although I spent most time upstairs with her family- who I have grown to love and now call them my "adopted family":) Taya (10) and Olivia (12) are her 2 awesome daughters who are always keeping me entertained!  And of course the life of the house is Cathy's husband Trevor, who always has something funny to say (and also loves giving me life advice whether I want it or not!!! lol).  They welcomed me into their home with open arms and I can never thank them enough or find the words to express my immense gratitude.  I am so extremely fortunate to have Catherine and her family in my life.  Thank-you Watkins!!!  


So even though I was "living" at Catherine's, I was still going back to my place every few days to help take care of my 2 cats.  It was kinda crazy going back and forth all the time....and not knowing for quite a long time where I was gonna live next, or with whom or on my own- was very unsettling.  I was stressed out. But things got sorted out in December when I found a great roommate- Kevin Coffey. An elite runner from Kingston Ontario looking for a place to live and train for 4 months. I was super happy to find a like minded running individual to move in with me. Living with Kevin for the past 3 months has been such a treat.  He is an amazing person and I have really enjoyed living with him.  As I will explain further in this blog, life was a struggle for a bit and he was always there to talk and just listen.  Thank-you Kev- you are a Champ!!!!  And in May when Kev moves out, I'm very excited to have Lanni move in with me for 2 months!


So back to last fall/winter ......I was trying to cope with my break-up and figure out my living situation, when in early October I found out that I was not selected for the Athletics Canada Olympic Assistance Program (carding). This meant I would not get any funding for this year. (minimum of $900 a month).  I was completely shocked by this news, as were all my friends, family and teammates.  It was and still is very upsetting.  And not to mention confusing- it makes no sense to me how I wasn't chosen. I was the only athlete that went to World Championships last year that did not get selected for carding.


They selected 72 athletes, ranging from developmental to elite runners, and I had assumed that breaking the Canadian record in the 10,000m, getting Olympic Standard, being ranked 14th in the World (in the 10,000m), running the 2nd fastest half marathon and 3rd fastest 10km in Canadian history was good enough to get selected for funding.  However, due to my sub-par performances (according to Athletics Canada) at Pan-Am Games and World track and field championships-  I was not selected.  According to AC this is because I performed the worst of all athletes that went.  Even though I still placed higher (23) than many athletes.  That didn't matter- what they looked at was how you did compared to how you were ranked.  So because I was ranked 14th and finished 23rd that was considered worse than someone who went in ranked 40th and placed 38th.  This whole method seemed absolutely ridiculous to me. 


I appealed the decision.  It took 5 months to figure it all out.  It was extremely stressful and I had a hard time dealing with the whole political process.  It was draining both physically and emotionally.  


 I have tried not to take this personally but it’s very hard not to. I can’t help but wonder if my age had something to with it.  I had the best year of my life in running, and to be told I'm still not good enough, was pretty hurtful.  I have worked so hard my whole life to accomplish some of the things I did last year, and it felt like such a slap in the face. I have never been carded by Athletics Canada.  Not a penny of support from them.  I feel like I have finally earned it!  Even though I lost the appeal this past February, I will use this as fuel for my fire to kick butt this year!  Thank-you to Coach Rich and my 2 lawyers- Meredith MacGregor and Rob Lonergan who worked tirelessly for me for so many months.  I appreciate everything you all did for me. 


I had something to prove at Canadian XC Champs this past November. I wanted to go out there, run hard, win it and be like "take that AC!" .  Which is exactly what I did!  I may not have raced the smartest (Rich told me not to lead and I lead pretty much the whole race! Oops...  I was just so excited!), but I got it done- I really had to tough it out in the last 500m.  I wasn't sure if I was gonna be able to win it- Rachel Hannah got a pretty good gap on me around 7km.  But I was mad. So very angry and I wanted to win so badly.  And then my face scrunched up and my lil legs just started moving. I hammered up the last hill past Rachel and pushed harder then I ever have in my life to pull off the win.  I almost collapsed at the end!  I was so proud of myself for not giving up and being able to push myself like that.  


After National XC I had some really solid training in December.  When January rolled around I found myself in pretty darn good shape!  I was training for a half marathon in February but for fun I raced a mile (4:42) and 3000m (9:12)  indoors at the University of Washington in the middle of January.  I was excited to race the half in Japan on February 7th- even hoping to break the Canadian record (1:10:47) if all went well.  2 weeks before I ran my half PB last year (1:11:20) I did a 3X2mile WO on the road-  10:53, 10:42, 10:44 with 3 mins rest.  I did the same WO this year on Jan. 19th but with less rest (2 mins) in 10:43, 10:40, 10:35. I was feeling very confident and ready to smash that half! But then I ran into another setback...


I had a great workout on the track on Saturday Jan. 23rd.  But after it was done I started to feel pain in(on?) the top of my foot.  I woke up Sunday morning and immediately was caught off guard by the pain in my foot just by walking around.  I called my coach and sports med doc and they both told me not to run that day.  I was trying not to panic, but knew in my gut that something was wrong. On Monday I went to see Dr Bovard- my sports med doc. He did some poking around and it was pretty sore in one particular spot on the top of my foot.  He thought it was either tendinitis, or a stress reaction/fracture in my 2nd metatarsal. I was told to take a few days off and then try running again and see how it feels.  So on Wednesday I tried a 30 min run.  It hurt, but not too bad. But after running with Plantar Fasciitis for almost a year, I think my level of pain tolerance for running is skewed....  On Thursday I did a bit more, a bit harder, and same thing- it hurt, but no worse.  On Saturday I did a track workout, and while I was doing it I felt great, even thought my foot was definitely hurting.  And then I tried to warm down.  I could barely run.  This is the moment I knew something was really not right.  My heart sank with the realization that this injury was serious.


On Monday morning I spoke with my coach and told him my foot was not good and something was really wrong.  At this point we both agreed I would not run until I was pain free.  This meant no race in Japan, which I was supposed to travel to in a few days:( I was so bummed:(


On Tuesday I had a CT scan done.  The Radiologist confirmed that it was stress reaction.  I was gutted. Minimum 4 weeks of no running. I had myself a pity party and cried quite a bit.  This meant my whole winter and most of my spring season of racing was over.  And a month or so of cross training sounded awful.  


After a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I snapped out of it and decided being sad and depressed wasn't doing me any good.  I needed to stay positive.  At least it wasn't the summer- right before the Olympics when this was happening.  I would cross train my butt off and be back running in the spring, stronger than ever!  


It was a long month of cross training.  I'm so thankful for Kendra Pomfret who was there with me for most of it dealing with her own stress reaction.  There were many days that I wouldn't have made it out of bed into the pool without her!  Love you Kenny!!!!


The first week I was allowed to start "running" again- I still felt a bit of pain.  I was very fortunate to get an MRI right away and it showed that I actually had a low grade stress fracture.  It didn't seem to be healed 100%.  So I backed off a lot and only did one more "walk-run" that week.  Ugh this was a bummer- I just wanted to be back running!!! And I had planned to be in Flagstaff on March 14th.  On March 7th I was only on my 3rd "walk-run" (about 20 mins total running) and still cross training every day- so we decided to postpone my trip.  Things progressed much slower than I had predicted.  However, slowly but surely the pain in my foot started to get better, and I was able to do more running including Alter-G treadmill every day.  By March 29th I was able to run 60 mins continuously without any pain.  So off to Flagstaff I went!


The first week in Flagstaff went very well.  My foot was almost completely pain free and I was finally able to start doing some harder running.  The second week, my mileage increased quite a bit- from 80k to just over 100k. Plus 3 hours in the pool.  I wasn't sleeping well and was starting to feel fatigued.  But I was still able to have some decent workouts on the track.  I have ALOT of work to do still but I seemed to be coming around.  At the end of the 2nd week I went for a 90 min long run and it was absolutely brutal.  I woke up with a sore throat and felt like a bag of shit.  Thought I could tough it out....but I literally started crying on the run.  Every part of my body hurt and we were only running 7:15 miles!  Thank u Sarah I and Fiona for pulling me along! 


When I got home that afternoon I crawled into bed, cried and then slept for a few hours.  Yeah I know I cry ALOT.  I felt so terrible and I was so frustrated.  Right when I was starting to get back in my running groove, I felt worse than ever.   The next day I felt even worse.  I took a day to just rest.  On Tuesday I felt better and did a WO on the track in Sedona.  While the WO itself wasn't that bad- I still wasn't feeling right.  My energy levels were not good. And I just wasn't feeling happy or positive.  I argued with my coach, which really upset me.  Wednesday I woke up feeling terrible.  Did I swallow a bag of razor blades?  Being the idiot I am I still pool ran for 50 mins then ran 10 miles with Lanni.  Which was an absolute death march.  I stayed in bed for 2 hours after that.  After talking to my Doctor he told me to take it very easy and to get blood work done.  I decided a quick trip back home to Vancouver would help get me healthy, happy and recharged.  


I was feeling very frustrated.  I just got back into running and now I'm hit hard with this virus or whatever is going on. I don't have time to waste anymore.  Rio is just around the corner and I am nowhere near where I need to be.  I'm trying to stay positive but lately it's been so freakin hard.  I feel an enormous amount of pressure.  Sometimes I feel like someone is sitting on my chest and I can't breath!  I know many athletes deal with this kind of pressure. It's very overwhelming.  I have to remind myself to just take it one day at a time.  The fitness WILL come back.  I WILL be healthy again.  And I NEED TO BE PATIENT. One. day. at. a. time.  That's all I can do right now!  Now is the time to "be brave"!  Which I got tattooed on my wrist this past December:)


I just returned to Flagstaff after 3 days being home. I'm feeling much better, and think I'm getting my running MOJO back!  I will be here for another 11 days, then I will go to Palo Alto to watch the Payton Jordan Invite!  I will likely not race until the end of May. 

So yeah the last 6 months haven't exactly been smooth sailing...But I'm resilient! My friend Leon once said- "Tash you are like a cockroach- it doesn't matter how many times you get stepped on- you just keep living!" That always makes me laugh:)

 I am extremely fortunate to have such an amazing support system around me.  Without some very special people I would never have gotten through the last 6 months.  There were many, many days I was struggling....and without some very fantastic friends and family I don't know how I would have got through!!! 


Lanni Marchant- thank-you for holding me together this past week.  I know the emotional stuff isn't your thing- but you have been so good to me.  I know I'll be back racing next to you very soon!  


Katherine Moore- Just typing your name brought tears to my eyes!!!!  love you so much!  Thank-you for ALWAYS being there for me.  Many fun fun nights, but also many nights we cried together- so happy we had (have!) each other:)


To my many amazing PATIENT loving friends- thank-you- I'm so lucky to have ppl like you in my life! Marilyn, Lisa, Catherine, Dayna, Jessica, Lyndsay, Josh, Scott, David, Kendra, Mark- thank-you for supporting me and always being there for me.  I hope that I can be as good of a friend to you as you've all been to me:) 


Mom and Dad- best parents a girl could ask for.   It's always something with me I know....but you never get frustrated with me and you have always supported and believed in me with this running craziness.  Not just the running stuff.....with all craziness that is my life....thank-you for picking me up when I fall apart over and over again. 

Things are looking up and I'm excited for what's to come. Just gotta stay positive and stay focused!  RIO BABY!




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