Interview #4 - Victoria Coates

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Victoria Coates interview by Steve Weiler, Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Steve Weiler: Hey Victoria, tell me something nice!

Victoria Coates: Hi Steve! My niece, Isabelle, just turned 3 at the beginning of April. She’s now at the age where she understands the concept of a birthday and presents, and it was really neat to watch her celebrate this year (albeit from afar – she lives in Halifax). Her little friends from daycare who she hasn’t seen in a few weeks sent over video messages and the neighbours came out front of their houses to sing happy birthday to her. We sent her a present by mail – a set of plastic dinosaurs – and her parents sent a video back of her excitedly opening the package and making the dinosaurs “roar” at her baby brother. It was just so cute!

SW: Nice! It's great that she can appreciate how awesome dinosaurs are! You've successfully worked through several transitions in your 20s; can you walk us through your primary transitions, between programs and on to post-collegiate running?

VC: During my undergrad I ran for McMaster and once I graduated I went to Queen’s to do a master’s degree and use my last year of USports eligibility (then CIS). I think the hardest part of this transition was leaving my friends and teammates at Mac, but it turned out to be a good opportunity for me grow. The training was a bit different, mainly with more mileage, including a few doubles which I had never done before. I was a little hesitant and decided to ease into things, taking one day off a week as I had done at Mac at first before fully committing to the program at Queen’s. I was also very lucky to join the Queen’s team that had a perfect training partner for me in Julie-Anne Staehli and we worked together really well that year. I won the OUA Cross Country Championships back in Hamilton in front of my old team and my new team, Julie-Anne won USports, and we both qualified for our first national team, FISU Cross Country. The harder transition for me was moving on to post-collegiate running.

Photo: Victoria Coates (left) and teammate Julie-Anne Staehli (right)

The summer after I finished my USports eligibility, I tried to get ready for longer distances and road races, but I kind of started to hate running that summer. I was doing a lot of training on my own which I found pretty tough mentally, and I had some disappointing results. I wasn’t getting the same fulfillment I had as a collegiate runner and I didn’t really see how running was going to fit into my life once I graduated and started my career in urban planning. Luckily, I had one more year at Queen’s to finish my master’s and I returned to Kingston where Steve Boyd allowed me to continue to train with the team. In that familiar setting, it took some of the pressure off, and I just started running for fun that year. The next year I started working in Kingston and continued to train with the team. I had a pretty stressful job that year, and while I continued to run, it took a bit of a back burner. I then moved to Hamilton for a new job and things eventually started to click for me. I had a better work life balance with my new job, and I started training with Patrick MacKinnon (now my coach) who was also running post collegiately, and we formed a little training group that has turned into the Dundas Valley Track Club. I came to realize how fun road races are (something I had never really dabbled in as a collegiate athlete) and once I finally broke 17 minutes in the 5k, the fire was lit again!

SW: I believe for a time there was another club name, prior to DVTC?

VC: Haha how do people find out about this?! For a time we didn’t have a name, so we jokingly called ourselves the Victoria Coates Track Club – VCTC. As you can imagine, this was not my idea (credit goes to Greg Lariviere) but everyone else found it hilarious.

SW: There was formal use of this name for the team component of a 5k road race in London that I helped organize, though I believe the VCTC team ended up being a mixture of different training groups. You mentioned the difficulty of running alone; how great has it been to be able to run with the wonderful Eric Barry?

VC: Eric is my fiancé and we met while running for McMaster. It’s been great to have a partner who shares my love of running. Over the past few years, Eric’s been very busy with school and work, but he’s somehow managed to stay in good enough shape to help me out when he can, pacing several workouts and even sometimes carrying a fuel belt for me when he joins me on long runs. One of the small blessings of this social distancing is that since Eric isn’t able to work right now, he can run with me every day. What’s been even nicer is that Eric seems to really be finding the joy in his own running again, rather than just doing it to help me. But as much as I love running with Eric, I also have to call him out on being a bit of a one-stepper!

SW: One steppers are the worst! What running accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

Photo: Eric Barry (left, a one-stepper)) and Victoria Coates (right). Credit Mieke Aasman Photography

VC: I think the accomplishment that I’m most proud of was placing 6th at the Canadian Cross Country Championships in 2016 and qualifying for the 2017 World Cross Country Championships. It’s not my best placing at a national championship, but it was sort of a turning point in my career. Pat was encouraging me all season to aim for top 6 which would make the team. At first I thought he was crazy, but as the season went on I was gaining confidence and ready to take a crack at it. I don’t think I was really on anyone’s radar, having placed 21st the year before. After the 2016 race I started to believe that I had a shot at making other national teams and being competitive in the Canadian running scene.

SW: Do you have any favourite ‘conversations on the run’ or any memories that you’d like to share before we get into the Finishing Kick (series of short questions to finish the interview)?

VC: Our group has an ongoing debate about which hill in Hamilton is the “worst”. This often includes discussion about where each of the hills really begins and when the climb actually ends – this keeps us occupied for miles!

SW: On that note, what is your favourite running route?

VC: Spring Creek to Monarch (these are two trails in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area).

Photo: Victoria Coates racing the 2016 Canadian XC Champs in Kingston

SW: Complete the lyrics:
1. ‘cause tramps like us, baby we were:
a) born to run
b) in a crib
c) having a nice time with our friends

VC: a

SW: 2. Hey Jude, don't make it bad. Take a sad song and
a) knit a sweater
b) make it better
c) go for a run

VC: I see where this is going...c

SW: I will accept that answer! Physi-Kult will host the next two Ontario Cross Country Championships on the historic Fort Henry course in Kingston; are you excited to race?

VC: I do love racing at the Fort! Of all the cross country courses, I feel the most comfortable and excited to race there.

SW: You just finished a tough workout and you’re really happy with how it went; how do you celebrate?

VC: I sometimes make deals with myself that if my workout goes really well, I will reward myself with sushi. It's very motivating, especially if the workout is on a Friday night.

SW: Final question, what is the most valuable kind of ship?

VC: Friendships! But I also like championships.

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