Sunday morning in Houston, Texas, the 38-year-old Natasha Wodak set the Canadian half marathon record with a time of 1:09:41. Twice Wodak has appeared on our iRun cover and she was recently interviewed when her friend Dayna Pidhoresky qualified for the Olympic Games at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. She’s an Olympian, the Canadian 10,000-metre record holder and also a nice person, perhaps all these things are related. Ben Kaplan spoke to Wodak after her record-breaking race.
You looked a little green after the Houston finish line. Is that the hardest you ever ran?
I don’t know if I would say it’s the hardest I ever ran. My race experience was that I barely slept the night before. I was on west coast time and the race was early, a 4 a.m. wake up, which is 2 a.m. in Vancouver and I thought I was going to throw up in the last minute of racing. I don’t usually get nauseous, but that feeling never really went away.
When did you know you were going to do something special?
I knew I was close to 70 minutes, but I couldn’t see the clock and just knew I had to give it everything. I thought I lost so much time in the last 5K because it was so windy I actually stopped looking at my watch but when I did the clock, I was like: Oh, sweet. I was actually sort of surprised.
You didn’t look at your watch, you just went on feel?
I think I looked at it a couple of times, but i wasn’t looking at the splits after 15 and it doesn’t matter anymore by that point—your GPS is off, it doesn’t matter and anyways it was too much energy to take the time to look. We had the 2:19 marathon men in front of us and we were in that group following them. We were lucky to have them for 12.5K. I stuck behind them and was running exactly that pace 16:22 for those two 5Ks and after they peeled off it turned into a race and we had to work.
That’s where the T-Fierce intensity kicks in.
I had a great group of girls to work with and now you just need to run hard and keep your pace. I hit the wind at 14K and one gust literally almost knocked me off my feet. I really had to work my way up and after the guys peeled off, I was in the front of a pack of girls and I latched on to this guy up ahead and made our way to the other pack with [American distance star] Molly Huddle and I was in that pack for a long time and we worked together for awhile, but it was windy and I stopped looking at my watch. You just have to run.
What’s going through your mind at the time?
Fight through that wind. I look at the splits now and I did lose some time, but I had given myself such a good good cushion for 10K that I had 20 seconds to play with.
Was being the fastest female Canadian in the half marathon your goal?
Sub 70, that’s what I have been saying since I started training in November. My goal was: I’m going to Houston and break sub 70, but my fitness took a long time to come back. I took off 2 weeks in October and by the end of November I wasn’t near where I needed to be. I thought: this isn’t going to happen.
I always love when you elites have the same nagging doubts that we back of the pack runners feel. How did you get over the doubt?
I trusted Lynne’s [Kanuka] training. It will come back and in the last three weeks it was like: boom, I was where I needed to be. I had nothing to lose. My PB was 1:10:30 and I knew it was in my realm. It was a Canadian record and there’s a money bonus. In the last 5K, I was saying: this is your record. Go and get it.
And you did.
It was a battle. But yeah, I guess I did.
How is it that you get older and get faster?
Look at all these older women running fast: Malindi [Elmore, who set the Canadian marathon record that same day]; Lyndsay Tessier. I don’t think age has anything to do with it.
What’s it have to do with?
It’s been a blessing I’ve been able to stay healthy and I have all this training I’ve been able to do as a result. I can run faster now because I’ve been consistent for three years and training hard over time results in fast times. Plus, I have the experience of knowing my body and what works for me. A younger athlete might not now, but me? Whatever training it is, I’ve tried it and I feel lucky to have a coach on my wavelength.
There’s no magic bullet? A new stretch, a new workout, a new diet?
I’ve done a lot of thinking of what went wrong at Doha [World Athletic Championships] and I got wrapped up into what other people were doing. I had a hard time doing my own thing and trusting my training and it got into my head that I wasn’t doing what I needed to do and my confidence was shaken. I thought there was a certain way that my body needs to look like and I shouldn’t drink wine ever. I’m at the age where I know what works for me and going into Houston, if I didn’t run sub-70, so what?
You freed yourself from the pressure.
It didn’t matter either way and I lived my life normally. I trained my butt off, but I had wine whenever I wanted to and my body is what it is and I feel like strong as I ever was and I don’t care what the scale says. I feel great and I look great and I was confident knowing that I’m happy with my life.
Can you go faster still?
I hope so. That’s the goal
The PanAm cross country championships here in Victoria on February 29. A week of recovery then racing then the New York half on March 14.
I hope you get to take a minute and enjoy.
I’ll be careful and enjoy my recovery and Alan and I are going to celebrate this Canadian record, but I know that it’s not going to last long. So I’m going to enjoy this moment while I have it, but not be heartbroken when it’s gone.
Photograph by Alan Brookes, Canada Running Series.