Part II: Where and What is Home: Finding Home on the Gravel Roads

Phase Five: Home is a State of Mind

When I began working with a new mental performance guide in Victoria, my initial goal was to work on consciously tapping into a mental high-performance arena. I had gone through my PB races and the common denominator was my head space in all of them. I wanted his help to learn how I could plan to get into this headspace on demand. This was a tall order, but I do believe we made headway as I did manage to run multiple PB times every year I have raced. 

In my last year at the AC West Hub, I realized I was no longer working on strategies on how to groom my high-performance arena. Instead I was using my mental performance time to work on strategies of:

– How to shield myself and cope when I overheard teammates gossiping

– How to complete my workouts based on what I need, even though it was different than teammates. 

– How to belong to a team where I felt I had to hide and belittle my self

– How to win a race knowing my success will likely not be celebrated

– Why do I feel guilty doing well in a race and in key workouts?

– How to find “my space” by warming up in the corner and training on the outskirts of the team

Somehow I managed to lose my focus and shift away from my initial goal. 

The little voice was clearly indicating things were wrong and for the first time in 2019 I realized the only place I felt homesick was at the track. After a month of training camp and a return to our home-based training centre in Victoria, I did my first post-flight flush workout and confided I felt hollow, empty, and tired. This was devastating to me because the track had previously served as a place I associated a feeling of home and belonging. I don’t have an exact date of when, but in that moment I knew the Victoria track was no longer a place of home for me. Accepting this realization was difficult because outside of the track I had a beautiful home and life I had created on the island with my work colleagues, neighbours, and friends. These good-byes were very difficult, but the relief and freedom I felt in my decision to continue with my next chapter in sport gave me hope for what was to come next. 

One would think coming to my hometown would be an easy way to feel at home. But I was different, the city had changed, and I was very jet-lagged. I realized home had become unfamiliar. My family home still had the same layout, but I was out of touch with it. Likely because I was out of touch with my self. While I did my year review and planning for 2020  I realized that this year was scheduled to be Tokyo 2020 Olympic Year and I revisited my mental goals to achieve my high-performance arena. I realized I had been there once I made my decision to move home back to Regina. It felt good there. I ran PB Fast at Nationals, in the South, and Europe by embracing this HP arena. 

Without immediate races on my horizon, I have been working on how I can tap into this space beyond a race scenario. This ultimately has been leading me back to the question: What is home and how do I get there? 

Despite the obvious chaos of COVID-19 this year I spent a lot of time on the gravel roads outside the city because the track, weight room, pool, and well pretty much all of the City of Regina was closed. Open sky, gravel roads, the wind, and Adrea-time. There was comfort, beauty, snow, sunshine, animals, sunsets, and ultimately growth. That go for a run “kumbaya” feeling where I belong, feel safe, and am welcome. Away from the city noise, away from racing and every day conflicts. Just running in the middle of nowhere present in the now. The more I normalized the gravel roads into my new normal training grounds, I slowly started finding myself slipping back into my Home state-of-mind which was becoming synonymous with my high-performance arena. I was running free. I was looking forward to running. I was doing 200m repeats in a straight line. My passion was coming back. 

Eventually the track re-opened in an unexpected unveiling of the SK Re-open plan. When I made my way onto the Outdoor Douglas Park track I was startled that I dreaded being there and how uncomfortable I was. Not only was I shocked to see other people, but a part of me immediately cringed and felt uncomfortable. That first night I went to the track I found out it closed 30 minutes later, but in that brief time I walked back to my car and realized I didn’t want to go back to the track. I wanted to continue my workouts on the gravel roads. I wasn’t ready to leave home. (Flashback to my Victoria experience of homesickness!) I convinced myself it was because the gravel roads were closer than the track and this saved me a trip across the city. There were fewer people which made it easier to implement social + physical distancing to ultimately feel safe. Plus the track had restricted and often changing hours outside of when I initially planned to run. 

After x4 weeks of workouts and telling myself the above story, I finally acknowledged the real reason I didn’t want to go to the track. The track had become a place of business, work, and a reminder of the loss of home I had previously felt at the track. On the other hand the gravel roads had become home, a place of thriving, fitness, friendly neighbours, and a place where I felt passion towards running and my sport. My question became how do I feel at home at the track again? 

Starting with once a week I slowly made an effort to be at the track. For strides. For a warm-up before a run around the lake. For drills. Slowly acknowledging the previous shielding and other strategies I had been previously relying on to be at a track. After a few weeks I started realizing I didn’t need to do this anymore. It was okay for me to return to the track and in fact my return was welcomed by friendly and familiar faces. 

I finally realized, I was home. 

Recently I met with U. Regina Teammate Arthur Ward and fellow Olympic hopeful Astrid Nyame to do a photoshoot with Arthur Images highlighting how Saskatchewan athletes have been staying ready and motivated in our time away from competition and being back at home in SK. I am thrilled with Arthur’s project and how it turned out. Seeing my interview in filmed footage reminds me my journey this year with COVID was to fall back in love with running, and learn the lesson of how to move forward from loss. Now that I am home, physically and mentally, I am ready to continue building my empire with the hope for a 2021 competition season. Whether or not it comes to fruition. I will be ready. 

Sportrait Story: Gravel Roads + the Track By Arthur Images

#AdreaMade #TeamAlger #StayReady

Advice for my Younger Self

As part of my athlete community giveback, I volunteer as an ambassador for the Canadian Fast and Female program. This spring, when I helped lead an F&F event, one of the girls asked a really great question to the panel of athletes I was a part of. It was the same question Oiselle founder and athlete Lauren Fleshman has asked, “What advice would you tell your younger self?”

I think everyone on the panel took a deep breath and took a moment to prepare the honest piece of advice they would share. As it turned out, we went down the line and I was grateful to find myself near the end of said line. Mainly because I was able to hear their aha! moments, but secondly it also gave me time to think and consider my own younger-self advice. After hearing the panel’s personal advice to: enjoy the every day moments, embrace setbacks, and know you’re good enough, I realized it was my turn. I suddenly felt nervous to be vulnerable in front of a gym full of girls. I took a deep breath and the answer I gave to the gymnasium that day was, “Dear ten-year-old Adrea, the advice I have for you is be competitive, not comparative.”

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Photo Credit: Josh Schaeffer, 2019 at Saskatoon Fast and Female Event @GetmyPhotos

What does this mean?

In an individual sport like athletics, it is easy to compare times, rankings, number of wins, races, etc. But that isn’t what winning is. When I first joined my training group in Victoria, I was very privileged to have an amazing training partner who taught me the difference between being comparative and competitive. We learned very early on being comparative was not going to make either of us better. We figured out the respect and benefit of being competitive instead. We are able to see ourselves as equal, we, us, being our best, together. When we were shared a race start line, we were excited and fully motivated because the obvious goal was we are taking #1 and #2 spots. Between us, whoever was #1 in that race, great you ran well! Whoever was #2, equally great. #2 means you have the best training partner possible. It meant we did well. We did our best that day, and every day leading up to the race.

This genuine respect for the other person meant there was no room for comparing. Sure, some days she ran faster times, and other days I ran faster times. We didn’t get mad and wallow as a loser because of it. Nor did we look at the times and start creating comparative narratives where we rationalize who is better. Creating a hierarchy was not conducive to achieving our goals. Instead we became competitive. Which meant we also became supportive, were kind, laughed, cried, travelled, ran, and formed genuine friendship. The days I dragged behind, her lead forced me to stay competitive and do the best I could that day. The day’s I felt great, I knew I could return the favour and pull her through a tough session. But in order for it to work we both trusted the other person to show up and be competitive. Together. Empowering each other to be our best both on and off the track.

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PC: Rob Denault, Film 2017 Casey, Maddy, Adrea at a PISE Track practice

 

As I shared this lesson learned, I was lucky enough to have her sitting a few chairs down the line on the panel with me. We have always had an unspoken bond, but to give her the recognition she deserves for making me into the athlete I am today was a real privilege. There are many stories and advice I learned both on and off the track with her, but this is by far the most important:

Be Competitive. Not Comparative.

 

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Casey and Adrea enjoying tempo at altitude 7000′ – Flagstaff, AZ

And don’t forget to have fun! 🙂 

 

Much Love, 

Adrea

 

Unconditional Acceptance

In lieu of Remembrance Day, I found myself doing my annual Nov. 11 traditions. Wearing a poppy, watching the Ottawa Ceremony, being silent for the two minutes of 11:11-11:13, walking along the local Memorial Way, and ultimately taking the time to appreciate two luxuries I have at many other people’s expense: Freedom and Peace.

As I was walking along Memorial Way, I found myself contemplating CBC’s WWI stories I had listened to. More specifically the bravery demonstrated by many people before me in the name of a peaceful world. Very shortly, I came to the realization I did not truly understand peace because I could not explain it.

Yes, I have learned the dictionary definitions of peace:

  1. Freedom from disturbance (tranquility), and
  2. A state or period in which there is no war or war is ended

But living in a world where there are still active wars taking place, how have I never asked myself, What makes a place peaceful? What is the foundation of peace? Its essence? How do I live a peaceful life? Do I live a peaceful life? I have seen the pop-culture with advocates for “World Peace” but what does it look like? How would I describe it? How do I implement it? What is the difference between inner-peace and world peace?

The questions were spilling out of me as I continued walking, and then two words came to mind: Unconditional Acceptance.

  1. Unconditional: Not subject to any conditions
  2. Acceptance: The process or fact of being received as good enough, or suitable.

My brain went a step further and combined these two words into one concept: Unconditional Acceptance: Meaning, the process of being received as good enough, without being subject to any conditions. Acceptance without judgement.

This was powerful. Mind blown. I understood this. A peaceful place, in my experience, is a place where any individual is free and welcome to be the truest version of oneself, without any conditions.

I was still walking as the mental fireworks continued. I retrospectively was remembering the first year I moved to Victoria for track. To say I was struggling with my transition in track and life at this point was an understatement, but there was one day in particular where I had a workout on my own and I had all 8 lanes at Centennial Stadium to myself. I had finished my warm up, walked in through the gates, and let our a huge sigh of relief as I stepped foot on the track. For the first time since I had arrived, I was finally in a familiar space. Just me and the track. No pressure, nobody watching, no judgement. Instead of tension, it felt comfortable, welcoming, and it felt like home. I realized this track didn’t care if I could make rent that month or if I missed a patch waxing my legs, or might throw up when I was done my work-out. It was a track! Whatever stress or judgements I felt that day at the track, I realized were 100% my own. Once I chose to let it go and accepted myself, I ran my times with ease, felt relaxed, and for the first time in Victoria, felt like my true self. I was in a place I now know as peaceful; a place of Unconditional Acceptance.

So what was the lesson? How does this help the reader?

In this reflection, I realized this place is always available to me, 24/7. And not only me, but anyone and everyone. Day or night, the track is always there, accepting whatever and whoever chooses to go to it. Further, this magic happens in a gymnasium, pool, court, mat, turf, field, runway, stage, etc. or wherever your sport takes place. Whether it is quiet moment alone, or a roaring stadium at a championship full of people, the stakes are the same. What are you willing to offer and give in that moment? Are you brave enough to take the opportunity to be your best self?

The beauty of it is you have the freedom of choice, of being accepted by yourself, and others, or not to. This is the luxury of sport. Choosing to experience and express gratitude at the opportunity to be you. The moment looms in those seconds before the gun goes off or the timer starts, but once it does, the choice is in your hands. The privilege to make this choice, I owe to living in a free country. For that I find myself extremely grateful.

Much love,

Adrea

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P.S.

Outside of my own thoughts and experiences, I am curious, where do other people feel Unconditional Acceptance? Or other places you feel free to be yourself? I’d love to hear your stories. Comment or send me a note!