Meeting my 20-year-old self after overcoming RED-S
Hey, Vancouver Island Race Series community!
My name is Ellen Pennock and I am a 2023 Vancouver Island Race Series ambassador. After each Island Series race, I will be sharing my experiences at each event including the highs and lows that come along with toeing the start line. I hope that you may find some parallels between our experiences, get inspired to keep stepping outside your comfort zone and feel permission to celebrate your own personal victories.
A little bit about me
I moved to Victoria from Calgary in 2011 to train on the Canadian National Triathlon team and I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. My international triathlon career lasted 10 years and included the following highlights:
– 2014 Commonwealth Games team member
– 2013 U23 World Championship silver medallist
– Paratriathlon guide to Paralympian Jessica Tuomela
– 2015 Pan American Games with a sixth-place finish
However, I think possibly my greatest claim to fame may be holding the 20-24 Bazan Bay 5K record 😉.
Why I’m running the 2023 Island Series
Although I retired from competing in triathlon in 2020, it turns out I still love to challenge myself, connect with the running community and feel that competitive drive. So when the new team competition VIRS CUP was introduced, I wanted to help my team (Esprit Run Club) go for the cup.
On a personal level, I have a goal in 2023 of running faster than my 20-year-old self at the 10K (34:40), which is an arena I never thought I would ever even be close to.
Let me explain…
In 2015, I began to experience symptoms of what is now known as RED-S (relative energy deficit in sport) due to low energy availability (LEA). I lost my period, had a higher rate of injury and my performance began to decline significantly. It took a big emotional toll. Additionally, I experienced heightened anxiety, bouts of depression, lower confidence, and a loss of identity as a “high-performing” athlete. One of the hardest things was that running never felt “good” anymore — I felt uncoordinated, awkward, and heavy-legged. I quit the sport in 2016 at the age of 23. I then attempted to make a comeback the following year but never returned to the same level. It was a confusing, lonely and quite frankly it was a heartbreaking journey.
By the time I officially retired in 2020 at age 27, I had fully come to terms with the fact that the fastest I’d ever be was when I was 20 years old. And I was mostly at peace with that.
Fast forward to 2022: I joined Esprit Run Club after my good friend Meg Lewis-Schneider encouraged me to get back into some running. It was really fun, the group was great and our weekly Wednesday sessions quickly became the highlight of my week. The craziest thing of all was that I started to feel “good” again. My paces started to enter the territory of my previous 20-year-old self as well.
So in 2023, my goal is to run as close as possible to the 20-year-old me. To prove to myself that it’s possible and to show others (especially younger girls) that you can come out of those tumultuous young adult years stronger and more resilient if you stay patient and keep believing in yourself.
I think my best chance of running under 34:40 will be at Sun Run in April. Running the Island Series races will be the perfect opportunity to practice pacing, get back in the racing mindset, and have a lot of fun with the Victoria running community as well.
As for Pioneer 8K, it was great seeing everyone on the race course. I especially loved the stretch of road before and after the turn around where I got to say hi to so many familiar faces. I’d say I was moderately happy with my race but will need to run faster to get closer to my 2023 goal.
If anyone reading this has experienced or is currently experiencing RED-S and/or LEA, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I know firsthand it can be a lonely journey and it doesn’t have to be that way.
I can’t wait to see everyone again at the Cobble Hill 10K. Good luck with your training!