Back in June when we first featured Canadian elite Hilary Stellingwerff, she had secured the qualifying standard for the London 2012 Games and was making preparations for a good performance at the 2012 Canadian Olympic Trials.
We started off our follow up feature with Hilary as she shared her final preparations for the 2012 Trials in Canada: “My final prep for Olympic Trials was a tough balance because I knew I had to go there and perform really well to secure a spot on the Olympic team, but I also knew I wanted to be in peak form for the Olympics so it was important to keep a decent training load and then bring it down just a bit before the trials”.
“It worked well because I felt completely prepared and ready to go at both the trials and Olympics. I am lucky to have two intelligent guys directing my training program – my coach Dave Scott-Thomas and husband /physiologist Trent”.
While she had already ran the qualifying standard for the Games, everyone had to perform at the Canadian Trials and Hilary shared her emotions leading up to the Trials with us: “The final at the trials was probably the most nerve-racking race of my life. Our trials were in Calgary, which was at altitude so it was pretty unlikely that anyone would get the Olympic standard there. But even though only 2 of us in the women’s 1500m had the Olympic standard going into trials, we still had to finish in the top 3 to get on the team”.
“With tactical championship races that come down to a kick it leaves so many more people in the race, which is what made this race so nerve-racking. In normal, sea-level circumstances I would have tried to push the pace early to drop more girls, but you never know how your body will react racing at altitude so I decided that would be too risky. In the end it worked out and I was able to kick fast enough to get 2nd and secure a spot on the team. It was a huge relief”
After the Canadian Nationals and Olympic Trials was out of the way, our middle distance elite had officially booked her spot for London and it was time to fine tune and make all final preparations. It was time to train hard but smart and every day would count and could not be wasted in any way: “My prep for the Games went fantastic. I went to St. Moritz, Switzerland to train at altitude for 2 weeks, which I had done before and knew it worked for me and exactly how many days I needed to come down before peaking to race. While at altitude I mimicked the Olympic rounds by doing 3 really hard workouts in 5 days, which went great. This gave me a lot of confidence to know I was in low-4 min shape and should be aiming for the Olympic Final”.
While we saw several thousand athletes walking into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the London Games however, as track and field was during the 2nd half of the Games, part of team Canada just as several other countries, decided not to go in until a few days before competition to avoid getting too overwhelmed or distracted with the hype of the environment. “We did watch it on TV and it was definitely a proud moment for me to see Canada walk in and realize my Olympic dream was about to begin”.
As per her Olympic Village experience, Hilary said: “The Olympic Village was great because we were in our own little bubble as athletes, which is important to stay focused on competing. It was amazing to be surrounded by the best athletes in the world, at the pinnacle of their fitness,
all aspiring to be great in what they do. To be with people who truly understand and share in the same goals is unbelievably motivating and inspiring”.
Hilary felt really good about her performance in the heats as she was able to execute her race plan well. The plan was simple, to stay out of trouble and automatically qualify for the semi’s. “I couldn’t believe I nearly ran a PB (4:05.79) and that the race was that fast because it felt much slower. I guess that’s what peaking feels like”!
In the semi-finals, Hilary recorded a personal best time of 4:05.57 but she had very mixed emotions about the race and not making the finals by only 0.1 seconds. “At first I was super disappointed because I felt amazing in the race, I knew I was ready to run much faster and wished I had that opportunity by being in the much faster 2nd heat. But I also knew I did everything I could to have my best race – I stayed calm when I was boxed in for 1450m and kicked as hard as I could in the last 50m to go from 8th to 6th, but I needed 5th. That’s racing and the luck of the draw. In the end it just makes me more motivated to run faster and qualify for the finals at 2013 World Champs”.
Her performance at the London Games boosted her IAAF world ranking as she went into the London Olympics ranked 24th in the women’s 1500m and left with a 16th place world ranking. “I’m not satisfied and still feel I can take a bigger step forward so that’s what motivates me going into 2013”.
While she expected more, most will say that Hilary performed pretty well at the Games and throughout the 2012 season. Much of her performance was due to having a great coaching team and she was happy to speak about what contributed to their success: “I have an amazing coaching team with my primary coach Dave Scott-Thomas who has worked with me since 2004, as well as my husband Trent who is a coach/physiologist. They work well together and do
a good job at communicating with each other to make decisions with and for me when it’s appropriate. As an athlete, sometimes I need to be part of the planning and sometimes its best if I can just focus on putting one foot in front of the other as fast as possible without worrying about extra stresses.
In addition to her great coaching support, was the support of her friends and family which got her through her journey to London: “My family and fan support was overwhelming while in London – I received so many amazing emails and messages that helped motivate and inspire me. I also had family and friends at the Games, which was a special experience on its own –
seeing their excitement and pride was almost as good as competing in the Games”.
As with all elite and developing athletes, funding is a key ingredient towards a successful season and for Hilary, Athletics Canada, New Balance and a few other sponsors played their role towards her success: “Athletics Canada supports me with federal funding or “carding” as we call it and that didn’t change at the Games, but qualifying for the Games will help me continue to be funded. I also hope that will help my New Balance and other sponsorship contracts, which I (or my manager rather!) will renegotiate for next year”.
After the London Games, Hilary took the opportunity to take on a few races while she was in great condition to run fast times: “My competitions after the Games were a bit mixed. I ended up getting sick right after the Games and contemplated if I should continue racing, but then I found
out I got into a few Diamond Leagues and wanted to take the opportunity to run when I was in such good shape”.
“I started off with an 800m PB of 2:01.22 in Lausanne and was keen to knock a few seconds off my 1500m, but that unfortunately didn’t happen because Birmingham was tactical without a pacemaker and Zurich was cold and rainy so no one wanted to go with the pacemaker”. TrackField97 asked our Canadian distance elite to share her plans for the immediate and distant future with us: “My plans are to take some down time to let my body recuperate from a long
season. I will start running again in early October and just focus on training for the rest of this year. I plan to do a bit of indoor racing, but my main focus will be on World Championships in Moscow next year”.
“As for the distant future, I’m not thinking too far ahead as I’m just really enjoying running and racing, in fact, this year has been one of the most enjoyable and successful years I’ve had in my career. I’m 31 and people ask if I’m done now that I’ve been to the Olympics, but I’m not ready to be done and my body has shown me that it’s not ready to be done either. I’ll just take one year at a time, but I’m still very hungry and motivated to run faster”.
Web site: www.runhilaryrun.ca
Feature by: Stewart for TrackField97.com