Still Learning & Making Mistakes 25 years into the sport

By: Emily Setlack

Sometimes racing is rough; okay, maybe it's always hard. But I love that my feet take me on an adventure and I get to see the world from a different perspective. Racing in Guadeloupe, France was an incredible experience and I was lucky to have my sister, Kendra Brennan there to share it with.

Something about racing  pulls me in, the intangible drive to capture everything aligning. Those "magical" races when everything goes right are addictive, it's what keeps me hungry for more and terrified at the start line. Within every race, I get to a point where I have to make a choice to either settle or go to the "dark place". The challenge is recognizing when the choice to settle/push is presented. When my legs are burning and I'm gasping for air, it is difficult to recognize that the "dark place" is within reach.

Maybe that's why I have a love/hate relationship with racing and get nervous to the point that I feel sick to my stomach; my body knows how much it's going to hurt. I'm still learning to stay calm and have found it helpful to read articles about racing, draw, attempt to write poetry or listen to music. What helps me most is remembering to be grateful that so many volunteers, coaches and athletes have created an incredible community that bring us  together to do what we love. At the end of the day, we're all trying to do the same thing - push ourselves and do the best we can. Whether you finish first, 50th or last -- we're probably all feeling a similar level of pain and sense of joy when we cross the finish line.

Setting Goals

I don't like setting big goals and focusing solely on an external outcome. I would rather learn to appreciate and understand the cycle and process of what I am doing day-in and day-out. I set goals for myself going into big races but they are usually in the back of my mind, I am focused on the smaller steps and the moment I am in. Racing at the NACAC Championships I did just that, I wanted to win but most importantly I wanted to get to the start line healthy, feeling thankful and be prepared to get to the dark place (I may have had a few thoughts about winning some euros and blowing them on travelling around the island with my sister too...).   

Getting to Guadeloupe

Getting to Guadeloupe from Cold Lake, Alberta was quite the ordeal.  I left Cold Lake at 5:30am on the military shuttle bus known as the IBBS in military terms. (IBBS -- and I am not talking about Irritable Bowel Syndrome folks). I arrived at the Edmonton Airport after 5 hours on the bus and waited around for a few hours before flying to Toronto. I then met up with  my sister Liza Tallen and we shared a lot of laughs over a few pints. It was so nice to catch up, being a military spouse means living away from the famjam so I cherish every moment I get with my family.  We didn't cherish waking up to bed bugs on the walls at the airport hotel. It was gross, but I got a few free nights out of a nice hotel so I was stoked; I like free stuff.

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Next morning I flew from Toronto to Barbados, spent the night in Barbados and flew the next morning from Barbados to Dominca and finally Dominca to Guadeloupe. It was a long trip that took three days total.

I enjoyed meeting other runners and we shared plenty of laughs trying to understand one another.  I was absolutely spoiled by the NACAC race organizers, from getting to and from the airport, meals and accommodations couldn't have been any better!

The race itself was rough, it was quite warm and I started off too quick. I ended up running solo for the second half of the race and really had to focus on staying in the moment to get through it -- the wheels rolled off and down the hill somewhere out of sight, leaving me lactic and done like dinner. I broke the race into segments and focused on staying positive which really helped pull me through. I couldn't help but smile when I saw the long awaited finish line and my sister, Kendra Brennan waiting for me. I was so happy to see her.

Had the PRIVILEGE of chatting with Micheal rochus At the terminal mile, check it out.... 

Back in Cool Pool

I arrived back in Cold Lake to frigid temperatures and pretty landscapes.  The other day I tossed my camera in my pack and hit the Iron Horse Trail. As I stood on the trestle bridge I watched as the steam rolled off the river and a moose swam underneath me. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Nature always resets and calms me and I feel so lucky to have connected with it.


Massive thanks to the team of fantastic people at NACAC and the town of Petit Bourg for treating me so well. It was a true honour to race in Guadeloupe. Coach Matt Clout, for intricately putting training together for me; I am so thankful for your help. I would not have had this opportunity if were not for all of your help, thank-you! My famjam, for cheering and supporting me every step of the way-- thanks for caring! And finally, my husband Matt Setlack for pushing me to work harder and encouraging me every step of the way. I was also really touched by all of the people who reached out to wish me luck and congratulate me after my race, it meant the world to me - thanks!

Happy trails and don't forget to LOVE & APPRECIATE EVERY STEP