2024 World Cross Country Championships Race Recap

Team Canada posing together in a group photo in competition gear after the race.

The long-awaited event that went by in the blink of any eye!

This trip was my third World XC Championships and so I felt like somewhat of a seasoned veteran heading into the final race prep phase and travel days. National team trips are always well organized and our Team Canada support crew ensures that all details are taken care of so we can just show up and perform.

I was really touched to be nominated as the women’s team captain this year and it made me burst with pride to know that the U20 athletes looked up to us seniors and I think we set good examples! I appreciate all the work that went into making worlds an awesome experience and I am impressed with how we overcame every challenge to give our best on the day.

I am grateful my personal coach Hilary was on the team’s coaching staff. It’s always comforting to have a familiar and grounding presence throughout the nervous excitement of a world championship!

The Prep
Hilary and I, along with my entire integrated support team, worked dang hard heading into this race. While we didn’t do as much specific XC workouts on hills and grass as last year, we put in a lot of kilometres and quality throughout and following the indoor track season. We got a lot of 10k training in, which is my bread and butter – I loved every session!

We knew it was going to be abnormally hot in Belgrade on race day, so we did some heat exposure training on a stationary bike in our apartment’s bathroom; cranking the heat to an air temperature between 35C and 40C. I also went into a couple saunas to try to mitigate impacts of the heat. It certainly wasn’t as hot as Bathurst, Australia last year but it was full sun and when you’re running 10k, any temperature over 20C feels hot!

To adjust to the time change in Europe coming from the west coast (19 hours of travel and 8-hour time difference), I headed out a couple days earlier than the team’s itinerary, which gave me the opportunity to stop in Switzerland on the way and see my good friend Sophie. It was a short visit but I’m so thankful I was able to stop by and briefly see her new home settled in the mountains. Wadenswil is absolutely stunning and I kind of didn’t want to leave! I did one run while I was there and all I wanted to do was stop and take photos – mind you, I was running uphill for most of the 8k!

The Travel
I was in Belgrade for a total of 60hrs – landed in Serbia on March 28 and we raced on the 30th. The time difference and short adjustment period wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule, but the training taper and race-day excitement nullified the effects of sleep deprivation. We then flew out at 6:00 AM the next morning for a fun 24-hour travel day and the longest Sunday I have ever experienced.

The Heat

During a week that would generally be 10C and raining ended up being 28C and full sun. Needless to say, some athletes coming from sub- or near-sub zero temperatures had to acclimatize quickly.

Fortunately, it’s not overly cold in Victoria but it’s still an adjustment to summer temperatures in March. Our support team brought ice vests for warm up as well as coolers filled with ice, towels and nylons to make ice packs for our competition tops. It is important to “warm up” for races and get the blood pumping but you simultaneously must keep your core temperature down to prevent overheating. All these preventative measures helped us keep our cool!

All of the Canadian athletes managed their pacing really well and we didn’t have any casualties on the course from heat exhaustion, quite the contrast from last year, thankfully!

The race

World Cross Country Championships will always have a special place in my heart. Unlike track races, race dynamic and strategy can change leading into the race and even on race day. Part of the fun of cross country is that challenges can be thrown your way by weather, the course and even fellow competitors. I’ve learned to be adaptable and go with the flow heading into these races. I control what I can control and do my best to thrive (rather than survive) in whatever situation comes my way.

We got to the course 90 minutes before race time, allowing us to get settled and do any last-minute preparations. After our warm up and strides, our team of six headed into the call room 20 minutes before race start (the call room closes 16 minutes before race time and brings all the competing athletes into one area for race kit and shoe checks).

The course was in Friendship Park, a green space in the middle of the city. It was made up of 1.9km loops that we did five times along with 270m start and 320m finish straights. Throughout the laps we navigated a wooden hurdle, sand pits, a mud pit, a straw bale chicane, two elevated bridges and lumpy grass terrain. Due to the low elevation gain and non-technical terrain, the race was fast.

Our race plan was to work together as a team as long as we could, starting at tempo effort for the first two laps and then progressing if we felt good. The uneven ground caused me a bit of stress as somewhere in the first lap I took a bad step and tweaked my plantar fascia. The same thing happened at Nationals in November but this time the pulling sensation lasted for what felt like several minutes. I’ve had precarious foot health in the past so my brain went to worst-case scenarios, and I wondered if I should pull up before I did any damage. Fortunately, soon after the feeling dissipated and I could focus on running hard. Other than that slight hiccup, I felt great for the first 6k, moving my way up through the field and moderating my effort. The fourth lap proved to be the hardest and I could not progress as much as I’d planned. I knew others around me were starting to feel the pace too, so I told myself as long as I could stay steady, I’d be just fine. I focused on cadence and form, trying to move as efficiently as I could through the course. The fifth and final lap was a bit of a roller coaster where I went through waves of feeling smooth and then very rough. I made a final push for the finish line a little under 300m to go and caught two more people. Each lap I moved from 62nd to 58th to 49th. I ended up finishing as 3rd Canadian and 44th overall in a time of 35:04. We finished eighth as a team.

Each km split was –

(lap 1) 3:21, 3:25,
(lap 2) 3:30, 3:29,
(lap 3) 3:29, 3:29,
(lap 4) 3:31, 3:33,
(lap 5) 3:34, 3:26
(averaging 3:29/k)

I am really happy and proud of how I raced. I had a calm confidence on the start line and even throughout the entire morning leading into the race, which doesn’t come by often. It was sort of unsettling because I am usually a ball of nerves but as time ticked down towards the race, I simply knew we had prepared well and I was ready to have a great day out there. Not every race goes to plan and even this one didn’t, but I was able to adapt and keep moving forward.

When it got hard, I stayed as cool as a cucumber and turned inward with cues at the ready to get out of my head and tune into my body, acting on what I could do in that moment to keep pushing hard. I enjoyed this race and I had fun every moment heading into it.

Maybe it was from gushing with pride as team captain, knowing I wanted to be my strongest self out there for the senior women’s team and set an example for the juniors; maybe it was knowing I was in great shape and I’d proved that to myself through numerous workouts; maybe it was because I was damn grateful to be there healthy and fully supported. Whatever it was, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity and I hope I get to experience another national team event here real soon!

Onto outdoors!!


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