Interview #15 - Melanie Myrand

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Melanie Myrand interview by Steve Weiler, Saturday, May 30th, 2020

Steve Weiler: Hey Melanie, tell me something nice!

Melanie Myrand: Lol. I was thinking of something nice to tell you and I thought honestly nothing is really nice right now with COVID, no racing etc but then I thought a little further and I was like no!! I experience something nice every day even during these hard times. There’s always a silver lining. Anyways so yesterday was my day off work and I went to the water with my sister and had some wine 2m apart. An older gentleman came by and started chatting with us, he’s 85 years old. He started giving us life advice and told us that we should never look to be happy because happiness only comes in moments so enjoy those moments and that’s it. Anyways I thought it was nice and very true, even during these hard times we can still make the best of it. Running teaches us that as well, the happiness we get from our results are never as great without the hard work we put it.

SW: Nice! And we'll certainly get to COVID later, but first let's go back a little ways - how did you first get into competitive running?

MM: In elementary school thanks to our physical Ed teacher who had all the students run a lap around the school at lunch to train for a race on Mount Royal that took place every fall. So kids in grade 4 ran 1km, 5-6th graders ran 2km. I seemed to really care about racing. I guess it was my competitive drive. I remember getting butterflies and wanting to reserve my energy for the race and not play soccer like the other kids were doing right before the race. Anyways I ended up loving it and once I reached high school I joined a local club and was hooked.

SW: Did you have any major gaps in your running, or continue fairly smoothly over the years?

MM: Lots of gaps! I ended up getting pretty serious from the age of 14-16. I developed disordered eating and over trained. Luckily it was all caught pretty quickly from my parents and I recovered well but I ended up stepping away from the sport until I reached CEGEP. At 17-19 I would run with the same local club every summer but would lose motivation over the winter and just stay fit at the gym. Then I started nursing school in cegep so from the ages of 20-22 I just ran 10k a day easy to stay fit. Then I started working as a nurse in January 2008 still just running my 10k a day. In September 2008 I went back to school to do my bachelors in nursing at McGill so I ran varsity 2008-2010, I continued to run with the team for fun after I graduated and then switched coaches and started running with John Lofranco as my coach in 2012. I have been the most consistent since 2012 until now.

SW: What have been the main factors that have kept you somewhat connected with training (in some form) over the years?

MM: Running is my therapy! It gets all my energy out and reenergizes me at the same time. It clears my mind after a day of work. I know even if I’m not competitive I’ll always run for the joy of running and putting one foot in front of the other.

SW: I suppose that's as good a point as any to transition into discussing COVID-19. Can you give us some insight into your current situation, professionally and athletically, and how things have played out the past few months for you.

MM: Right now I’m working full time. I’m divided into 2 places right now, the usual family medicine clinic where I work as a nurse practitioner in primary care. We do mainly telemedicine right now to protect our patients and only see the patients physically in person if necessary for physical exams. I’m also giving a helping hand as a nurse at a hotel that has been converted into a COVID unit for patients who’s seniors residence can’t accommodate them. So it’s a COVID unit for patients who’s level of care is 3-4 who wouldn’t require a hospital admission. So for example if the patient goes into respiratory distress to the point that they would need intubation well we wouldn’t do that because these patients have made the choice to not be intubated and we would start palliative treatments for them.

Athletically I was supposed to do Berlin which is cancelled. The goal was to try to get the 2:29:28 Quebec record. So now I’m running anywhere between 100-130k a week and roughly 2 workouts a week. Workouts are shorter and less intense than usual but that’s good. I’m staying in touch with fitness but I don’t want to accumulate too much fatigue to protect my immune system since I’m working every week directly with COVID patients.

SW: It's great to hear you're able to maintain that level of training while working as a nurse in Montreal. Shifting back one year, though it seems like more, please tell us about your experience representing Canada in the marathon at the 2019 World Championships.

MM: It was definitely the hardest race of my life! It was definitely hard to gauge running in that heat. In previous marathons (besides my first in 2014 lol) I have always been able to gauge my effort and run pretty even or a positive split of about 2 mins still maintaining control which is good to me. For Doha it was so hard to know how fast to go out, we used science to figure out what my pace should be but I did slow a lot in the last 14km and that part is what was hard for me to accept for a while. I was disappointed in myself that I didn’t run more even and blew up so hard. I prepared as best as I could but I guess a couple more key workouts in that type of heat, which is hard to replicate, would have been nice.

SW: Looking back, what are the key positives you take with you from that experience? Earning your spot on the team, I expect, but any others you'd like to share?

MM: I think the big positive for me was overcoming the challenges of heat and a midnight start. Those challenges will make any other marathon I do and the planning that goes behind it easier. So I definitely can say I think I will come out a stronger runner. I haven’t raced since Doha so it’s hard to say but I believe I will come back stronger from this. The experience of being on a team was also great and spending time at training camp with Natasha Wodak and Andrea Seccafien was really nice. In Doha it was great to share the experience with Lyndsay and Sasha. It’s a privilege to get to spend such a unique experience with the other athletes and it definitely can bring you close and creates great friendships.

SW: Earlier, you mentioned disordered eating and catching it quickly. What, if any, insight can you offer into addressing such issues quickly and dealing with them effectively?

MM: Eating disorders are a mental illness and while you’re in it it’s so hard to get out of it on your own. It truly takes a team of people to help support you to overcome it. I would say coaches and team mates need to be observant of their athletes. It’s everybody’s responsibility so it’s not ok to just keep sweeping something under the rug if it’s observed on a team. Often there are some clear signs such as amenorrhea and disordered eating patterns but they can be really hard to pick up. My parents basically gave me an ultimatum which was gain weight or you can't run or race. It was a bit harsh but it worked and I was followed by me paediatrician who was also specialized in eating disorders. I think the topic needs to be brought up once eating disorder symptoms or REDS is picked up. Now I know there are guidelines for coaches (green, red and yellow) to help guide athletes who suffer from reds. I think psychological support from a ED specialist is also important because often there are some underlying issues like anxiety, self esteem and wanting to maintain control.

SW: Very well said! Do you have any favourite memories, comments, or shout outs that you’d like to share before we get into the Finishing Kick?

MM: I’ll say 3 of my favourite memories: 1) at Francophone games in Abidjan 2017 my friend Emma and I went shopping and used the rest of our currency to buy gifts and souvenirs forgetting to keep money for the taxi ride home so we had to get the police to escort us back to the athlete village lol; 2) my last training camp in flag Lyndsay Tessier, Clara Langley and I used the bushes as a pre workout pee stop and the neighbors saw us and called the cops. The cops followed us and asked me to stop and I literally said to him “I’ve got 5mins left of this interval can I stop then” he said no lol. So we got a talking to and didn’t get arrested; 3) my last racing/running memory is Tessier and I having a dance party in our Canadian gear before the race in Doha. Bottom line if you hang out with me the cops may arrive or we end up dancing lol.

SW: Okay, quick questions coming up - what is your favourite running route?

MM: In my life to date was in St Moritz along the lake Silvaplana.

SW: What is your favourite race distance?

MM: 42.2.

SW: Song lyric questions: 1. Complete the lyrics to this song Kygo remixed in 2015: Jolene, Jolene, Jolene,
a) Melanie
b) Dolly
c) Jolene

MM: Hmmmmm C ???

SW: Yes! 2. Complete the lyrics: I'ma…
a) run down on you
b) run up on you
c) run around on you


SW: 3. Billie Eilish says:
a) You can call me Queen Bee
b) So call me maybe
c) I'm the bad guy


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

MM: Friendship

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