The reigning Atlantic university cross country champion and athlete of the year has bounced back from a major physical setback to be better than ever this summer.
"After developing a stress-fracture in my left foot early this spring, my goal shifted from building on last year's fitness to simply getting back to where I was before injury," said Cal DeWolfe, crediting coach Lee McCaron of the Halifax Road Hammers for helping him get back on track.
"Thankfully, I've rebounded very quickly to the level of fitness I was last year," the Fancy Lake resident said. "Now that I've regained that fitness, and perhaps even improved on it a little, I'm hoping that continued high-mileage will carry me to a new plane."
His comeback began slowly in early June, when he finished a five-km race over a full minute off his personal best time. But DeWolfe, 22, was pleasantly surprised how well he felt during the Nova Scotia half marathon in July, and wound up finishing in a tie for first place with training partner Matt McNeil.
"Matt and I treated the race as a workout and tried to have some fun with it," said DeWolfe.
"We actually didn't discuss crossing together until somewhere around the 15k mark - it was that or a mid-race game of rock, paper, scissors - so, for the sake of optics if nothing else, we chose to intentionally tie."
Next, the weather was perfect on Natal Day in Dartmouth, when the friends entered the final event to determine Run Nova Scotia's performance series champion in first and second place.
"The course, though – which was comprised of three loops around downtown Dartmouth – was gruelling," noted DeWolfe.
Regardless, he ran over a full minute faster than last year on the same course, finishing the six miles in 30:41 minutes, 18 seconds behind McNeil.
"I didn't pace myself at all for the first half of the race," said DeWolfe.
"I threw myself to the wolves in order to stay in contact with Matt. I was in survival mode for last 4.85 km. By the last kilometre, I was just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and not collapsing."
Although he's a competitor who doesn't like to lose, DeWolfe drew some positives from the second-place finish behind his older training mate.
"Matt has already accomplished everything I'm hoping to accomplish this year, so just getting out there and performing on his level gives me confidence.
"Matt ran 30:36 on the Natal Day course the year he went on to make the win [the Atlantic university championship], become an All-Canadian, and make Team Canada for [the international university games], so I'm right where I want to be with a 30:41."
To reach his goals, he spent much of the summer running 145 kilometres per week and never taking a day off.
The Park View Education Centre grad was an Academic All-Canadian at St. FX and earned the Irving Mentorship Research Award, which is the school's largest in-house research grant. He'll be studying law at Dalhousie this fall.