HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Ivy Bialowas’ last two cross-country running races have been sharply contrasting endurance tests, but still highly successful.
On a cold and wet late November Saturday over a snow-covered Wesley Clover Parks course, the Ottawa runner was highly motivated by family, friends, former coaches and the challenging conditions and finished an impressive eighth in the six-kilometre, women’s U20 junior race at the 2021 Canadian cross-country running championships in 24 minutes, 15 seconds.
Little did she know at the time, but that result was the seed that would eventually lead to her next cross-country race, when Athletics Canada selected her for its 22-runner national team to the Pan American Cross-Country Cup in Serra, Brazil on March 27.
A first-year business administration student/athlete at the University of New Brunswick, Bialowas was informed by Reds cross-country running head coach Chris Belof on Feb. 1 that Athletics Canada had opened its window for athletes to qualify for the Pan Am Cup team. Bialowas also has joined the Saint John Reds Track and Field Club to train year-round with Belof.
The Glebe Collegiate Institute grad and Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club product worked with Belof to adjust her indoor track training program to focus more on endurance running rather than just the 1,500 and 3,000 metres. She ran some distance races at indoor meets and produced some strong times.
By early March, Bialowas learned she had been named to her first Canadian national team, which would deliver her to the summer heat and humidity of Brazil from the bone-chilling temperatures and snow of Fredericton.
“It took me a while to absorb it,” Bialowas said about her first true international running opportunity in a phone interview Wednesday. “One year ago, I wouldn’t have believed something like that. But I’ve had a big jump in training.”
Following a new cross-country training program with Belof, which focuses more on practices than competitions, and coming off a productive first-year season with the Reds, Bialowas was fully prepared for the Pan Am Cup six-kilometre race, but not the weather – it was 31°C, feeling like 40 with the humidity, for the late morning race start.
“It was different than any other race I’ve ever had,” she added. “It was 40°C. I just came from Fredericton, which was –20°C, cold, windy and snowy.”
While Bialowas tinkered with her training schedule, she also did some sauna training to simulate the Brazilian weather race conditions.
“It was so hot (before the race). We had ice and towels, but it was hard to stay cool. I’ve never had such a short (race) warmup. We just tried to stay cool,” she said.
Bialowas opted to run a conservative pace and raced with another Canadian at the back of the pack of 14 runners (only 12 would finish) for the first kilometre. By the halfway mark, Bialowas was moving up into the thick of the field.
At the finish line, Bialowas finished in sixth place, stopping and crashing in 24 minutes flat. She went to the medical tent on a stretcher to recover from heat exposure. She was treated by the Canadian team medical staff – a doctor, a physiotherapist and a massage therapist.
Canadian teammates Jalen Marcil of the London Western Track and Field Club and Caroline Ash of the Newmarket Huskies were eighth and ninth in 24:28 and 25:16 respectively. A fourth runner withdrew because of an injury, which meant Canada couldn’t contend for a team medal.
Brazil’s Gabriela de Freitas Tardivo won the women’s U20 junior race in 23:05.
“It was my first international race. It was very cool. I tried to stay calm. I knew I deserved to be there and I trained for it. The Canadian team had a good support team,” Bialowas said.
“I was stretchered off. I was so hot. The team doctor, team physio and team massage therapist helped to keep me cool with ice water and fluids. I didn’t feel good for a few days after, but it was worth it.”
The Pan American Cross-Country Cup filled a March competition void, left vacant with the cancellation of the annual world cross-country running championships because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bialowas had a strong cross-country season last fall with UNB. After finishing 41st overall (and ninth out of first-year runners) at the Western University Invitational and 24th in the Fredericton meet against Atlantic and Quebec universities, she placed 12th at the Atlantic University Sport championships, was the top UNB runner and led the Reds to a women’s team bronze medal.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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