I’ve been to quite a few track meets over the years, both as an athlete and coach. Maybe 60 or so? I’ve sat in the crowds with other athletes, parents and coaches – as well as officiated some events. In the past three years I’ve volunteered at our annual Multi-event track meet here in Ottawa, featuring athletes from North and South America. But, I’ve never attended a major athletics competition – and I’ve also never attended a track meet as just a “fan” and not under some sort of official role. When Lanni Marchant and Tasha Wodak qualified for the 10,000m, I started looking at tickets right away for Thursday evening. Luckily, it was around a weekend that I was planning on being in Toronto anyways. My Mom paid for my ticket (thanks Mom) and we selected our front row seats months ago. When I selected our seats, I believe the entire section was empty – by the time Thursday arrived, the event was nearly sold out.
We travelled to the CIBC Pan Am Stadium, located at York University by GO bus. Public transit was free if you had a ticket – so we chose to just take the bus rather than sit in traffic and pay for parking. It appeared there was lots of parking if you arrived early – but who wants to pay for parking if you leave close enough to public transit? Plus – I got to sit on the front seat of a double decker bus!
We arrived really early – so we did a smart thing and ate dinner at the student centre at York prior to going into the Stadium. Once you were in the event, you were in. We talked to a really nice volunteer who also told us to pick up some water bottles there as well – if they were unopened, you could bring them in! $1 water is much better than $3 water! We ended up at Shopsy’s and had a hot dog on National Hot Dog Day!
Around 4:45pm we started to head towards the track. You had to go through security – which was no big deal. Once you were in, you were directed either the grandstands or the temporary stands that surrounded the track (our side). There was concessions at three locations: grandstand, and the north/south sides featuring standard concession food: hot dogs, black bean burgers, pizza and poutine. There was also drinks, including beer! I’ve never seen beer at a track meet before!
Unfortunately the side we were on was the sunny side of the track. It was super hot! Luckily I wore my Canada tank – but I was sweating up a storm!
We were seated at the 200m start line right in the front row. We brought a Canadian Flag to hang – and I might have “borrowed” some duct tape to hang it up. I know some of you could see my flag on the live stream! There were lots of people on our side of the track including Jenna and Christa from Team STWM, Lanni Marchant’s family, members of the Multi-event group from the Ottawa Lions (Pat Arbor is a member of the club) and several Team Canada athletes. I think our side was pretty energetic!
We saw several events that evening including the Men’s 400mH final, Mens 800m final, and the 200m semi’s. During the 800m, I could tell that the parents of the American who won the event were on our side. They were super excited that he won!
The 200’s semis were fun to watch because of Andre Degrasse, who would eventually win and break the Canadian record the following night.
But, we all know who I was there to watch – Team Betty and Veronica: Tasha Wodak and Lanni Marchant! They were in the stands for a little bit, just before starting their warm up as their families were also on our side of the track – I was able to wish both of them good luck. I also found out the night before that Desi Linden was in the race as well – for whatever reason (and we still don’t know why), her maiden name, Davila was listed on the roster. So – until I saw that she was running on Twitter – I had no idea she was running. Desi is also a fantastic runner and I really was rooting for her during this year’s Boston marathon where she came in 4th, but 1st American. She 10,000m PB is just a smidge faster than Lanni’s, but her marathon PB 2:22, which is much faster than Lanni: so, I knew that this was going to be a good race.
The race started and off they went. The 10,000m is 25 laps of the track – so it takes some time. Usually the runners start off pretty slow and then pick up the pace. The last few laps of the 10,000m is exciting and if there are several leaders in a pack with 3-4 laps to go, anything can happen. This 10,000m race was a pretty steady race for the first 5000m or so. Everyone was tightly bunched together and positioning was constantly changing. Lanni was hovering at around the 5th position for most of the beginning of the race, but also a bit to the outside. I also noticed she was wearing her spikes – which is only the second time (I think…) in recent years that she has worn them. Tasha was up at the front of the pack for most of the first half of the race. Both runners looked strong!
After a bit (at around 18:00 minutes in)- the pace started to pick up a bit and at last we had a lead pack, with Lanni, Tasha and Desi within the mix. They were starting to move quickly and with that, the crowd started to get louder. As the women moved around the track – the crowd noise would move with them because every time they passed a group – people would cheer and slam their feet on the stands. That was really cool – kind of like a noisy “wave” of sound.
I’m not sure what happened – but at around 22 minutes in, Tasha, who does hold the Canadian 10,000m record started trailing from the lead pack. Her face looked like she was not having a great race. She ended pretty far away from the lead pack. It then become a smaller lead pack with Lanni, Desi (who now appeared from the middle to lead the race), the Mexican runner and another American. Eventually, Lanni took the lead and the crowd really went wild. In the stands, I had my cell phone, Rebel camera, and my “adult beverage” – I had to hold on to everything with my legs because the crowd was making the stands shake like crazy. I have never experienced anything like it. Trust me – the live stream/TV coverage did not do the crowd volume justice!
At 25:00 in – there was just four in the lead pack with about 5 laps to go. One of the 1000m was clocked at 3:11 – that is just insane. At 3 1/2 laps to go – Lanni starts to make her move. Lanni does move faster towards the end of a race, but doesn’t really have a great finishing kick (yet…). So, I think it was her thinking to start moving a bit quicker to maybe drop a runner – that didn’t work to drop Desi (a marathoner) or Flores – but the American, Costello, was soon seen over-striding and looking exhausted. By 1000m to go, she was gone and it was just the three left. At this point, Lanni takes the lead again and the crowd just goes INSANE. We were all on our feet by this point for the remainder of the race. I took this picture at maybe the 800m to go mark?
Last lap/bell lap time – Desi and Flores surge past Lanni and sprint around the track one more time. It was a race for the gold between Desi and Flores – at just past 150m, Desi looks behind her and boom, there is Flores who is still running cool as a cucumber. At 100m to go – Flores takes off and is sprinting to the finish, finishing with maybe a 30-40m gap between herself and Desi and finishes off her run with a heel kick. They were side by side at 120m! All three medalists apparently broke the Pan Am Record.
After the race – the three of the runners were given their countries flags and they went around the track. Because we were in Toronto, Lanni took quite a long time to get to the 200m area. I saw Desi and yelled “Great job, Desi!” and she came right up to me and gave me a high five. Awesome! Soon Lanni approached me and I got a high five from her as well.
If you follow both Ange (@cowgirlruns) and I on twitter, you may have seen this exchange (which both Lanni and Desi favorited):
After the 10,000m came the 1500m event of the decathlon. There was a very good chance that Damien Warner would be breaking the Canadian decathlon record. Also, as mentioned above, Pat Arbour is part of my track club (and hates the 1500m) and I wanted to cheer him on. The race? Well, Damien Warner just made it look so easy. He took off right away and was gone from the pack quite quickly. All my pictures of him are pretty much him alone on the track. Usually that doesn’t happen for a 1500! Pat did well, and placed 6th overall – not bad! Damien did break the record and won the gold medal and once again the crowd went wild!
Afterwards, my mom and I tried to wait for Damien, but he was taking his time chatting with everyone there and we was whisked away just a few metres away from us *sad*. I did end up saying hi to Pat though!
We also were able to see Lanni get her medal!
After all of that, it was nearly 10pm and we started to head back to the buses. We were on our way at 10pm, and home by 11pm – not bad for a 100% public transit ride! It was off to bed for me, as I was getting up early to do it all again the next morning!
Stay tuned for Friday AM recap tomorrow!