Who are the two people in the photo?
When and where was this photo taken?
You can give me your answers, or read a long-winded (yes we runners are long-winded!) explanation in my next post.
Canadian Cross-Country Running in the 1980’s (Part I)
For many years during the 1980’s, the powers-that-be at Athletics Canada (or the Canadian Track and Field Association, CTFA, as it was known then) decided that it made good sense to chose Canada’s cross-country team approximately six weeks before the World Championships. This would ensure that team members would be fit close to the big event.
The only drawback was that there was only one place in Canada where you could reliably hold a cross-country meet in early February—Victoria, of course! You might say that this gave a home-course advantage to the athletes who lived in Victoria (or even Vancouver), but I didn’t care. I loved travelling to the balmy West Coast during the winter. It was a treat to be somewhere other than Toronto, which was either freezing and icy or slushy and miserable at that time of year.
It may seem strange, but I have very little memory of any individual races that happened over the many years that the Trials were held in Victoria. My most vivid memories have to do with the Empress Hotel and the lovely semi-wild Beacon Hill Park nearby.
Even though The Empress hadn’t yet been renovated, it retained its old-fashioned grandeur. I felt like a wealthy person when I stayed there.I didn’t have to worry about the cost; my track club in Toronto (Phoenix, club of the legendary Ben Johnson and Charlie Francis’ many great sprinters) ran a successful bingo operation and paid all travel bills. I browsed in the expensive shops (the Rogers Chocolates booth remains clear in my mind) and strolled through the elegant room where High Tea was served. The Rose Garden was another favourite spot. The vibrant colours of Victoria in February were such a welcome shock compared to Toronto’s grayness!
The day before the race, I always liked to follow meandering little paths in Beacon Hill Park, finding private places where there were rocks and clumps of wild flowers. More civilized paved paths wound around serene ponds with little bridges and ducks. Finally, at the south end, the park opened up to the immense vista of the Pacific Ocean. It was in this area of the park, where runners could be exposed to strong, chilling winds, that the cross-country courses wound their way through the rough grasses and the up-and-down little paths that traced the deceptively small hills.
A few years ago, I read a childhood memoir by the great Canadian painter Emily Carr called The Book of Small (1942). It describes Carr’s growing up in the Victoria of the 1870s and 80s, when it was just a little town. Her family lived very close to Beacon Hill Park, and when I read the sections about her picnics and other outings in the park, I had the curious sense of time being suspended. Here I was, a hundred years later, still enjoying the park in many of the same ways that she had done (though I’m certain she never ran an all-out 6K there with a herd of other young women.) I felt very thankful.
Those long weekends I spent in Victoria during the ’80s made me certain that the West Coast was my natural environment. When my husband Paul finished his engineering Ph.D. in Brussels at the end of 1989, it was easy for us to make the choice to move to Vancouver. We arrived in Coquitlam in August, 1990, ready to start a new phase of life and running. We had also just found out that we would be parents by the following April!
I have got out of order in my stories, though—I haven’t written anything about what happened at that Trials race in 1988. You can find out in the Training Log below.
Coming soon—in my next post find more photos and details about Canada’s top female cross-country runners of the 1980s—Lynn Williams, Debbie Bowker, Anne Marie Malone, Leah Pells and more!
February 6, 1988
PM: Raced X-C trials. Came 2nd. Thoroughly beaten by Brenda Shackleton (19:22), fighting with Lizanne Bussiéres, Ulla Marquette, Leah Pells for 6,000m. Still felt jet-lagged, cold almost better. Did long warmdown. Heel OK in race and warmdown, but very sore later. 10 miles counting warmup, warmdown.
February 7, 1988
PM: 45 min easy weights in basement—bench press, pushups, side leg raises, squats, cleans, situps, dumbbells. Exhausted from lack of sleep. Heel still very sore.
February 8, 1988
AM: Swim 1,800m about 38:30. Felt good.
PM: Weights—”pull-endurance.” Worked hard about 70 min. Added leg curl & extension, situps.
February 9, 1988
AM: Ran outside about 48 min, part on snowy roads, part on clear wet road—slow for the most part. Foot warmed up but very sore later. About 7 miles.
PM: Did bike workout at club. 20 min Lifecycle level 6. 7 sets 3 min bike, leg machine adductors, leg lift abdominals on incline. 1 hr.
February 10, 1988
AM: Swim 1,800m 38:38.
PM: Weights—”push-endurance” plus squats, hamstring curls & extensions. Arms very tired today. 1 hr. Heel a bit better. Still have cold.
February 11, 1988
AM: Did bike workout at club. 20 min + 24 min on Lifecycle level 6. Worked hard. Heel & cold improving.
February 12, 1988
Rest day. Heel sore when walking.
This week: 17 miles running, 2½ weight workouts, 2 swim workouts, 2 bike workouts.