As I write this blog, I have so many emotions swirling. I am still trying to digest everything, so I will try to keep this post short and interesting. Before I dive in, I want to give a big thank you to everyone that has helped me to achieve this dream. Matt, my family, Coach John, my awesome training partners and friends, my SDP teammates, the Latvian Athletics Federation and the Latvian Olympic Committee for believing in me and granting me this opportunity. To everyone that helped my family get to Rio, your support means everything to me. I was moved to tears by your unbelievable kindness and cannot thank you enough. A huge thank you also to my awesome sponsors Brooks, Generation UCAN, Sole Sports, and P&G!
I flew in to Rio solo on Thursday August 14th. I wanted to give myself some time to get settled before the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night. I made it safely, however my luggage did not. I did not end up getting my luggage until Sunday evening after both my husband and I had been fighting with American Airlines all weekend and after an unsuccessful trip to the airport in Rio to locate it late in the evening. That was exhausting. Luckily the Latvian Olympic Committee had outfitted the team with plenty of gear, so the only thing missing were my own training shoes and all of my Generation UCAN!
I was in awe of the Athlete Village. It was a bit overwhelming at first, especially trying to find my way around. However, I felt completely safe the entire time that I was in Rio. There was a hair salon, dry cleaners, 2 mile running/biking path, pools, dentist, physical therapy clinic, gym, dining hall, casual dining, McDonalds (!!) everything at no cost.
The Opening Ceremonies were simply amazing. I was overcome with emotion walking with the Latvian Team and really had to hold back tears. The dresses that they had chosen for us were beautiful and our entire team looked so fabulous.
In between training and discovering things in the Athlete Village, the week seemed to fly by!
After Ottawa Marathon on May 29, I had a few hiccups in training as I returned to running only 2 days later. Usually after a marathon I take 2 weeks off to recuperate both mentally and physically. For the entire year, I have been doing nothing but training for marathons without any break. I was simply tired. In July, I went up to Flagstaff and was feeling better each day. I nailed some great workouts and was feeling very positive. However, the Olympic team was not announced until July 14, so just the stress of not knowing was hard!
Come race day, I was feeling good. I knew it was going to be very warm and I had paid special attention to hydration in the days leading up. My goal was to run the first half in 1:20:30, which I hit almost spot on. I was then planning on picking it up the second half of the race to finish as high place-wise as I could. The course support was awesome and I was so happy to be there and to be running. I was feeling as great as one could be running in the heat.
At about 30k I started to have severe stomach problems. I haven’t had issues in a race for a very long time, I don’t know if I ate something weird, nerves, if the heat made me sick, or if my body was just off. I couldn’t see restrooms anywhere and literally had to slow to a walk a few times. There was nowhere to exit the course to find a restroom as we were barricaded in. I had to stop and ask an official who then opened up a barricade for me a few yards off course. I ended up losing the positioning I had and finished with my slowest time in over 4 years 2:50 106th place out of 163- 15 minutes slower than my personal best time. I know others had finished 10-15 minutes slower as well, but it is definitely not a performance I am proud of. I stayed in it when it was a battle with my stomach just to get to the finish line and for that I am proud. Unfortunately this happened in the biggest race of my life.
Although my race did not go as planned, I have immense pride in our Latvian team and in my teammates. Performing at this level is very difficult. You spend months, and months, years, and years training for this one day on a world stage. You eat, sleep, and dream about it. You make sacrifices to reach your goals. However, the thing about athletics is that sometimes your body refuses to cooperate on the day you need it to and want it to so badly. Every Olympian in Rio wanted success and tried their hardest, which made being there so immensely inspiring.
Ilona and I, she finished in a very strong 2:41!
What is next? Well, Matt and I have some big news in the works which I will hopefully be able to share in the next few weeks. Running-wise I am 3 days back into training and can’t wait to get back on the roads to represent Latvija the best I can! I am running the Big Sur Half Marathon in November as my comeback race and will focus on a good solid speed block to run a PR (1:14) in the half marathon this winter. I am considering a spring/summer marathon as well. My main goal in the next 4 years is to break 2:30 in the marathon. Although I know that it sounds like a pipe dream right now, I am excited to go after it. I am looking at you Tokyo 2020! Until then I know that I need to work on a few things, my Latvian language fluency being a big one, and to especially not let negativity and stress get to me. I am a people-pleaser and when I feel that people don’t like me, for whatever reason, I really internalize that. I’ve always been sensitive and shy, and I have learned that running at a high level means that I need to work on growing a thick skin and letting negativity from others fuel me instead of paralyze me.
Overall my Olympic dream was nothing short of amazing. It was an unforgettable experience. I met some great new friends and learned a TON about competing internationally on a big stage. I am so grateful to have been able to go to represent Latvija and look forward to showing stronger performances for Team Latvija in the future.