Quite the week this has been. As I write this, I am deprived of a normal sleep cycle and am burnt to a crisp from all the travel, compétition, activities and good times that I had the privilège to share with a great bunch of people. I have just returned from les Jeux de la Francophonie Canadienne which were held in Gatineau from July 23rd to 27th, and despite my heavy pupils and my weary arms and legs, I’d board the plane again tomorrow if I could.
For you english speaking lads and lasses, Les Jeux de la Francophonie, or the Francophone games, are an immense gathering of the french-speaking youth of Canada, put up by La Fédération de Jeunesse Canadienne Francophone. The gathering features music contests, art shows, poetry, and of course, sports. I was honoured to be accepted as a coach of the PEI track and field team. Even though I was just too old to compete and that I was burning to toe the line, I had a crazy time. Leaving the games, I realized exactly how priviledged I was to have lived this expérience along with the people that were there with me.
Firstly, only for me to get there was a battle of sorts. Because of my age, I was inelligible to compete, but at the same time, I was under the minimal age required to coach. I am 18, look 15 and needed 19, so frankly I was short in years. I didn’t know how I’d be able to make the rules bend, but I knew that I needed to see these guys and girls compete at the big évent for which we had been preparing ourselves for a long time. When you coach a number of athletes, you develop an attachment to them. I was not ready to give my spot to someone else only because of age. I wanted to be able to witness the end result of months to years of training. Eventually, thanks to our Chef de Mission, Brian, we found a way to make it work, and I am thankful for his openness and his willingness to accomodate. I as on my way to Gatineau. Here is a look into our week.
The Games were incredibly well run, and I enjoyed it just as much as the athlètes. In terms of compétition, our athletes broke the PEI record for most medals won in track and field, set by a team that I was a part of as an athlète in 2011. Our team placing was 4th overall, ahead of powerhouses such as Manitoba, BC and Ontario. On the track side, we had many standout performances, including times in the 1200, 800, 400 and 2000 and 4x100 relay that would have nabbed provincial gold at PEISAA’s. Among others, Evan Gallant earned the 800 meter bronze by running a time that would have bested the provincial record. Luc Gallant shaved 51 seconds in his 2000m and grabbed bronze in the process. On the field side, we had a brother-sister tour de force, as Constance and Malcolm Gilman each earned a gold and bronze medal. Jonathan Goyette had a big day on saturday, winning two silver medals in his throws, along with helping the relay team (with Jonathan Barriault, Warren Buote-Doucette and Jeremie Willis) win the bronze. Bianca Roche cleared the bar at 1.40m to become the bronze medalist of the High Jump. Barriault, who was starter on the relay team, jumped a monstrous 5.87 long jump, smashed his personal best, and earned himself a silver medal. I could go on. Everyone competed at an impressive level, and they greatly responded to the hard work that they had put in for this évent. It was fun to watch.
What the athletes may not have realized, is that I will never be able to repay to them what they have given me. A few of the athletes I had coached for a good while, but the number doubled in the spring when the team was getting shaped for the Francophone games. The regular, structured team practices started in April. Coincidentally, I was then going through what was probably my lowest of lows in running. I had finished a médiocre year at X in terms of racing, I had trouble finishing workouts, and I was looking for a cause. I was then diagnosed with anémia and needed some serious cutting down in my training. I was incapable to forward myself in my sport, with only a summer to prépare for year number 2 in the AUS, where the compétition would only get stiffer. Having struggled for so long while always trying to do the right things had brought me down to a mental level which I had never thought would manifest in my mind. I thought of quitting. What fun is running when all you do is struggle through obstacles. The fire was briefly lost.
Once my training started picking up, I attributed part of it to my iron levels rising. It was obviously a big part of my healing process, but I would never have gotten where I am today, nor would I ever get as far as I will in the future, alone. Coaching these athletes made me remember why I fell in love with the sport in the first place. Their enthusiasm, their willingness to crush any workout I assigned them, and their desire to improve reminded me of myself before the struggles and helped me get through the insecurity and tough times. Because of them, racing became fun again, even if my health still isn't back to 100%. I started looking forward to my future in running instead of dreading it. The more time I spent with them, the better my racing mentality got. I realized that everyone doubts themselves from time to time, and if I can tell my athletes that being nervous, having bad races, and being hard on oneself are all parts of the sport that we cannot dismiss, I can just as well understand it for myself and apply it to my own running.
So Boost, Blueballs, Uhaul, Honey, Miley, Sid, Petit Frère, Springs, Thief, Shinylegs , Almost, Tumtum, Great Wall, Shotgun, Mini Me, Happy Feet, Rogers, Bambi, Koala and Terry, thank you. You all have taught me more than you’ll ever know. Plans for a post-games party are in the making.
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