International Summer Tour 2017: Next Stop: Oostende, Belgium

International Summer Tour 2017:

Next Stop: Oostende, Belgium

*All photo credits courtesy of Casey Atkin

Good morning readers,

Welcome to the first of many, Adrea-Adventures. After a less than adequate, previous day in Heusden, I made the choice to make this day better. Within forty minutes of waking up I made breakfast, changed, and decided on a road trip (aka. train trip- is this the same thing?), and then invited Casey to operation: lets-have-a-beach-day! Other than finding a beach and accomplishing my weekly Sunday long run, the agenda for the day was blank. It did not require a lot of convincing, because within twenty second decision making time, Casey agreed to come to the beach with me, despite most of our group going to the beautiful tourist town Bruges. We hopped on our bicycles, boarded the train and were off to Oostende, Belgium. Prior to arriving I knew Oostende as a coastal town at the Northern point of Belgium, along the North Sea. Other than that, I was a full-time tourist for the day. It was nice to relax and enjoy being in Europe again!

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Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk

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Shells washed on the sand

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Classic posed photo

To avoid running in the forecasted heat that afternoon, Casey and I put our backpacks in the train station lockers and went through the city for our long run. This in itself turned out to be an unexpected adventure. First we saw the breathtaking views of the beach and I watched us both let out an exhale of relief as the view washed over us. We agreed we would do our run through the city and make sure we ended up watching the waves at the beach. As we weaved our way through the touristy bits of town we found ourselves entering a sinister neighbourhood. There were beautiful, older homes with thatched roofing, traditionally lined houses, and parks. It was disturbing to see the normalcy of this neighbourhood directly across the street from a silent, walled off graveyard lined with barbed wire. There were no people on the streets, no children at the parks, and no birds chirping. The silence was only broken up by wind gusts that rustled wild grass overgrowing the lined tombstones in the Begraafplaats Stuiverstraat Cemetery.

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Begraafplaats Stuiverstraat Cemetery – 2017

I apologize to my coaches, but it was so stunning I stopped during my long run to try and understand this overwhelming feeling of dread, chaos, and reverence as I approached this graveyard. Both Casey and I concluded it was a graveyard yielding from a World War, but we did not know which one. As we walked through the endless rows of family graves, I found myself struggling to comprehend this massive graveyard as the equivalent to a sporting stadium of people, all perished to the tragedy of war. Many were women and children, along with soldiers and unnamed heroes. I did not know a single person, yet I still felt grief and pain ball up in the pit of my stomach. Once our eyes took in what our minds could not, we proceeded to finish our run, landing in an outdoor multi-sport complex.

The feeling of dread had not left, because we soon realized the park was built over top of War bunkers which likely had been through the same turmoil as the previous graveyard. We took the time to explore inside a few bunkers, see where cannon remnants were cemented in, and embrace damage only explosives could cause. In hindsight, I am happy to have shared this moment with Casey because the powerful measure of this experience is something I am still struggling to put into words. It seems ignorant to be unable to explain this passing through, but here is my fragmented attempt: knowing soldiers shot cannons in the exact spot I stood, and likely died there too. Singular words are all I have been able to muster for this experience. Humbling. Powerful. Thankful. Terrified. Sadness. Silence. Speechless. Reverend. Holy Ground. These are the emotions that went through me as I walked along the inside of the bunker remains. Casey and I did not share a lot of dialogue, there were no tour guides, signs, enactments, or dangers presented to us, but the land and area still demanded the utmost respect from us.

As we went to head back into town, I was still trying to comprehend the devastation that had occurred here, and I wondered aloud, why would the city build a park over such an area?! I am not sure if Casey recognized, but her answer really opened my eyes to the situation. She responded with, How else is a city supposed to heal and rebuild?”

This response made me realize I had wanted the war-affected grounds to be left as they are- preserved, and a space belonging to history, not our current jog in the park. The overwhelming feelings of tragedy and devastation we both felt at the graveyard and the Sportpark de Schorre built around war bunkers, were emotions I did not want to face. It has been 100+ years since this tragedy and today I realize the answer to Casey’s question of how to heal and rebuild, requires full acceptance of the tragedy, the strength to learn from the past, but most importantly, the conscious effort to actively participate in being better to enable moving forward.

This town survived German takeover in World War 1 and again in World War 2. Now that I have had a chance to walk through the fields, trails, and paths that have been recreated on these war grounds, I agree, building a park over the war area was a good choice. At first I thought this seemed disrespectful to those who had given their lives in the very places I stood, but I also realized these paths and trails created a peaceful way for the community to congregate people together again. I do not think I can imagine a better change for the grounds than what I saw that day: the laughter of children, dogs running free through the field, and gardens full of singing birds. I think this moment I am able to be enjoy is what the soldiers were willing to give their lives for, and my appreciation can never find words with enough meaning to express my gratitude. Although the graveyard will likely always have a silence surrounding it, I saw first-hand an example of peace having been reached when I observed a few residents still coming in with flowers to remember their loved ones.

Not a lot was said on our way back to the beautifully sanded beaches, but I left our run refreshed by the amount of class, and heritage Oostende has and its harmonious ability to move forward. Although it initially made for a dark war-themed conversation for our long run, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had as a present-day passerby. Once we collected our belongings and bicycles from our lockers, it was time to head off to the beach for some lunch and relaxing. Personally,  I needed to hang out at the beach to try and comprehend the long run experience. Despite the occurrence at the graveyard, the afternoon was very enjoyable and full of laughter due to a good beach day. The following photos are evidence of this good day!

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Digging into some lunch and OJ on the beach!

Oostende shoreline

Walking along the endless shores

Oostende beach hair waves

Beach Waves

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Beach Views

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Down the boardwalk

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Favourite view of the Beach

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lounging

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Sock tans are real.

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Trying out the Sea!

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Lounging

During our time at the beach, we saw possibly the biggest slip and slide I have ever seen, and a pedestrian covered bike bath that seemed to go endlessly along the coast. We did some seashell collecting, a quick dip in the water, lounging, and biking, before we tried some fresh vendor seafood on our way home for dinner. For some reason beach days seem to leave my mind refreshed, but my body tired. This meant when I arrived back to Leuven, I was able to go to bed fully satisfied with another good day under my belt.

In summary, the experience of this day trip is something I will never forget, and the dialogue it created in myself regarding peace and freedom has truly humbled me. Considering I woke up from a race that I did not want to claim as my own, I was happy to have found myself re-entered, and focused on the more important things in life. Despite the dark undertones, Casey and I still managed to have a really awesome day! Check out the photo evidence (courtesy of Casey Atkin) for more details!

And until next time!

Much love,

Adrea

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The Harbour

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Photographer in Action

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Kite-surfers

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Biking on the boulevard

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Action shot

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International Summer Tour 2017: Day Trip to Ghent, Belgium

Good morning,

Once the jet lag and first race were out of the way, it finally hit me, I am in Europe!! 

The elation kicked in the morning after racing, and in addition to rest and recovery, my priority was to explore Belgium! After finishing my morning run and breakfast, word was out a day trip was being planned. For those who don’t know me, I am not what you would describe a morning person. After some serious hustling, I made myself presentable, packed a small bag, and boarded the train with fellow athletes Sarah, Dan, Rob, and Kinsey. Naturally, we passed time on the train ride with card games Crib and S.Head. Conveniently we all managed a win before pulling up to our destination, Ghent.

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Ghent, Belgium – Gentse Feesten – 2017

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Graffiti Art in Ghent, Belgium 2017 – Featuring Velociraptor hand

It was meant to be, the day we arrived was the beginning of the annual Gentse Feesten (festival) and there was a lot happening! This is a multi century year old, annual festival, that we so happened to stumble on! For more information on the festival itself, I recommend reading the review below.

https://www.tripsavvy.com/the-ghent-festival-1508376

As we crossed the canal we ended up running into our physiotherapist, Brad Curry with his family to be given the low down. In conclusion, we hit the jackpot choosing to come to Ghent! There were buskers, performers, music, food vendors, graffiti art and local-everything-you-could-think-of on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The water of the canal was intriguing, which we all agreed getting onto would be fun. Ultimately, our goal for the day was to find kayaks and figure out how to rent them. After a successful exploration loop of the grounds, success! We found the kayaks! Besides kayaking underneath bridges, through the canal, beside a castle, along weeping willow trees, while being serenaded by live jazz music- we got to kayak underneath the main stage as music was being performed. Needless to say, that was a definite highlight I won’t forget.

 

With a delicious dinner and awesome afternoon, we were all ready to go home into a food coma. We began walking back to the train, and by walk, I mean jog the last 5/10 minutes to make it on time. If you were wondering, yes we were all nice and sweaty for the ride home. That day we went to sleep with a full belly, warm heart, and tired eyes. I could barely believe how good the day was and slept soundly.

Good Food + Good Weather + Good place + Good Mood + Good Music

= GOOD DAY

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So you are probably wondering, How is this day track-related? 

In my experience in the sport of athletics, there are a lot of struggle days that sometimes cast clouds on the Good Days. For anyone stuck in the clouds, this article is not meant to gloat, but rather instil gratefulness and appreciation for the Good Days we have had, and are yet to come. I realize how lucky I am to have a Good Day on the track directly followed by a Good Day off the track. The day of a PB, a stand out workout or race, aha! moments, are all example of the multiple and varying forms of Good Days. However, the warm you to your core, or your face hurts from smiling so much are the rare days that become unforgettable. These are the days that make it worth it and I am grateful to have had this.

Track brought the five of us together and allowed us the opportunity to have an amazing and relaxing day as earlier described. But more importantly, at the track there are days that are and feel this good. For example. my previous post about racing a PB in Ninove, was an example of a good day at the track. These are the days worth remembering because they’re so good you don’t want to forget. It’s the days like these that keep us accountable to be better on the perceived less-than-good days. Upon reflection, a day kayaking under a jazz stage is a reminder to truly appreciate and be grateful because this isn’t an every day experience. I think this is a lesson and opportunity I was granted because of my involvement with the sport. I challenge those reading this to also embrace and appreciate their warm memories of the Good Days this summer has to offer!

Staying grateful, and until next time,

Adrea

 

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International Summer Tour: 2017 Next Stop: Ottawa, Ontario

Next Stop: Athletics Canada Senior Nationals- Ottawa, ON

Meet Results Link: http://liveresults.athletics.ca/Live_Results/2017/Championships/

Meet hashtag: #ACTF2017

With a brief return to my home training base Victoria, BC, I successfully moved out of my place (in lieu of accepting my new place), celebrated Canada Day, and packed for my next destination: Ottawa, Ontario! A huge thank-you goes out to Scott, Sophie, and Casey; there is no way I could have finished all of these things in Victoria without your help!

In case anyone was wondering, it is a full day of travel to leave from Victoria, BC to arrive in Ottawa, ON. I arrived at the YYJ airport for 6:00AM, and arrived around 9:30PM in YOW. I’ll admit, I opted for the most cost efficient flight, but I do believe I lost a few hours with time change as well. Needless to say, three planes, and one rental car later, I was happy to meet my fellow Vic City ladies Casey and Laurence at the airport. Finally we were in Ottawa and navigated the empty midnight streets to our accommodations

 

As most amateur athletes know, financial burdens of travel can add up fast. When friends and family help out with a place to stay for the weekend it helps tremendously! We were lucky to stay very comfortably with family of fellow Canadian athlete Tommy Des Brisay. I first met Tommy at AC’s warm weather training camp in San Diego, and again in Flagstaff, Arizona. I cannot say enough good things about him and his family! I was happy to be able to catch his race in Ottawa, because Tommy is a busy guy! This weekend he was busy with earlier races, packing, and preparing for travel to London to represent Canada at Para-Worlds this summer. For more on Tommy’s story with running and the awareness and inspiration he brings to autism, I highly encourage watching the stories below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLI-UHHP6as

and

http://www.runnersworld.com/special-report/for-many-with-autism-running-is-a-sport-that-fits

I want to reiterate again, thank-you to Tommy, MaryAnn, Peter, and May, the hospitality was above and beyond what I could have hoped for! I speak on all of our behalf when I say we thoroughly appreciated and are grateful for having a home to stay at during our time in Ottawa!

After Tommy’s race, it was time for me to focus on my quickly approaching 800m semi-final. Until the night before, this race seemed like any other. Arrive, settle in, pick up a few groceries, race prep, relax, and optimize recovery. In general I consider myself laid back, but after I said good night to my roommates and closed the bedroom door, my nerves kicked in like never before. At first, I tried telling myself, this is a good thing, it means there will be some adrenaline stimulated and that is a benefit to your running. Usually I would roll over, and go to sleep without a problem. As the clock struck 2:00AM, I realized this was false hope. I needed to relax in order to get some sleep so the next day I wouldn’t look like a zombie running from The Walking Dead. Instead of ignoring it any longer, at 2:00AM I decided to think about why I was feeling this nervousness.

After rolling through a series of superficial reasons, I finally arrived at some truths. The ultimate reason I was losing sleep was the realization of fear. Not the typical fear of being scared or inadequate. This was the realization that there are at least twenty girls who are all well and beyond capable to take one of the eight spots available in the 800m final. Mathematically that meant there would be twelve, talented, fast, capable, 800m ladies, who would not be racing in the final. The even more terrifying thought was I was a part of that top twenty. This race wasn’t about to be a revelation of who is and who is not fast. It is clear the girls in all three heats of this semi-final are fast, and this was the exciting head to head competition where we all come together and take our shot at tactical racing. Regardless of results, the guarantee was that there would be extreme triumph and extreme heartbreak, with very little in between. Any predictions for the top 8 in this race were as likely as the final eight predictions in NCAA March Madness drafts. It was anybody’s game/ race.

By 2:45am I managed to work out the probabilities of my race. Physically I looked like I was shivering because my nerves had me shaking instead of letting me go to sleep. I think I eventually shivered enough that I tired out and that is what drifted me into sleep that night. This unpredictability was unsettling, but humbling to accept and believe in the high level of athleticism I was a part of.

The next day my only objective was to be and feel calm. When I was finally at the track my coach Heather asked me what my race plan was and how I was feeling. Seeing my fellow competitors buzzing around with their warm ups I was brutally honest and told her I was terrified. Mostly because anything could happen, I was a part of this greatness, which meant it was my chance to stand out amongst the best! An opportunity to go for it. I couldn’t tell you what she said in return, but I felt the same sense of energy reciprocated back to me, that she too was excited and believed I was ready to have a good race. Somewhere during the day my fear switched over into excitement and I couldn’t tell you when that was. I know I finished my warm-up, call tent procedures, then raced. The rest becomes a blur with words that only seem to make sense to me.

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Reality of the results: I ran my second fastest 800m to date, and knew I ran that race to the best of my ability given the circumstances of my section. I didn’t make top two, therefore, I knew I wasn’t going to make the final. But I was still so proud that I was able to leave that race without regrets. My legs didn’t have as much speed as I would have liked in the final 80m and the other girls were smart in their tactics when I tried to make an earlier move. The aforementioned adrenaline kept the lactic somewhat at bay as I watched the remaining two heats.

I was so excited to see training partner Laurence Côté win her heat with a huge smile as she crossed the finish line. As she came around to the athlete exit I gave her the biggest hug and I was (and am) genuinely so happy for her!

In my case, there were no flowers, media, interviews or cameras. Instead I left unnoticed by most which I believe contributed to the ability to leave with a peaceful feeling knowing I had ran a good race amongst a full heat of professional runners. I gained the confidence to know I was capable of more. Yes, it was bittersweet I missed the final eight by placing ninth, but it just gave me more time to prepare for my next set of races in Europe. Besides, I was expected to place significantly less than ninth place. Instead, I went for a beautiful, long cool down jog along the Canal that runs alongside the track and appreciated the beautiful sunset that only comes after a storm. Although I left this championship with one race less than I was planning, the one race I was guaranteed rekindled confidence, and catalyzed focus to move forward to the next race with my head held high. A huge thank-you goes out to my fellow 800m ladies, your fierceness holds me accountable to be better- and I appreciate that!

Stay Tuned: Time to pack for the next stop of this tour!

Much Love,
Adrea