By: Emily Setlack

Before arriving in Flagstaff, I received some exciting news from Athletics Canada.  After finishing off a row of Peak Frean cookies, I checked my email and was beyond thrilled to discover that I was selected to represent Canada at the NACAC 10km Championships in Guadeloupe, France.  Athletics Canada used the national rankings over 10km road times to go and at the time I was ranked second in Canada over 10km.  Time to put the cookies down and start training.  

I have been very fortunate to spend time training at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA with Team West Coast Endurance for 3.5 weeks in September.  It was great having elite marathoner and team mate Erin Burrett there in addition to my coach, Matt Clout.

To get to Flagstaff I took a flight from Edmonton to Phoenix, Arizona and then drove two hours to Flagstaff. I stayed in an excellent location just off of Lake Mary Road with close access to trails.  I naively arrived with fresh legs and my handy little book on hiking trails in Sedona and Flagstaff with the intention of bagging a few peaks. Needless to say, running over 90 miles per week and putting in challenging workouts is pretty exhausting and the book got a little dusty (mostly used as a coffee coaster).  

So, why train at altitude? Training at high altitude triggers a production of red blood cells which help deliver more oxygen to your muscles and this makes you run quicker.  At the end of the day, hard work is hard work and pavement is pavement.  I truly believe that regardless of where you live there will always be obstacles.  However, Flagstaff's Urban Trail System (FUTS) city-wide network of trails made my training a little more enjoyable than HWY 897 in Cold Lake and running at 7000FT makes sea level feel like a piece of cake.  The trails in Flagstaff were beyond epic, 56 miles of clay and dirt trails that weave through the town connecting parks, national forests and canyons.  It was beautiful.   Without trails I'm not sure if I would even run, connecting with nature is a big part of why I get out and run everyday.  This winter and "fall", I'll be connecting daily with the PRECOR, so I better find another reason to run. Music will get me through it. 

 Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

 Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

 Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Thankfully, Flagstaff is a pretty hip little town and it seems there is always something going on, I was lucky enough to it be there during SciFest so I made my way to as many events possible. I need balance, the biggest challenge of spending time in Flagstaff was living like an elite and running, napping, running again, going to bed early and doing the same thing again the next day.  I'll be honest, the naps didn't happen--at all.  Regardless of how tired I am, I can't let the best part of the day get away on me.

 Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

 Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

The last three weeks could not have gone any better and I have logged more mileage than ever.  Workouts have been going well too.  Having Coach Matt Clout there was awesome, it was nice to have his help in workouts and it was a good reminder that I need to push a little harder in workouts when I'm in Cold Lake. I was a little hesitant about coming to Flagstaff and almost cancelled the trip as three weeks before arriving in Flagstaff I found out my ferritin levels were 10!  Ever since then, I have been extremely diligent with my diet, at times consuming more iron than I probably need.  After one week of taking iron supplements I felt like a different runner and I'm feeling like my old iron enriched self again.  

 Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

The plan was to train at altitude and go after a fast time at the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront 1/2 Marathon.  Before leaving for Flagstaff I received an email from Athletics Canada with an invitation to compete at the NACAC 10km Championships in Guetaloupa, France. I'm really thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait to lace up my flats and put on a Team Canada singlet again (even though my uniform is stuck in the post office, Cold Lake snail mail - things take unusually long to get here).  I'm looking forward to making it hurt, running hard and going for the course record that Laura Battering set last year.

When I think of racing, I'm terrified.  I've been reading a lot on mental preparation for races and how to prepare your body to "Flow" and be in that state where everything aligns and you can transcend beyond what you're capable of and shut your mind off.  And so, I made a little poster to remind myself and others about achieving a "Flow State".  There is a really great article from the Hufftington Post about reaching your "Flow State"-- worth a read! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/builtlean/flow-state-how-to-achieve_b_9480926.html> 

 Finding Your Flow

Finding Your Flow