Run quietly

Run quietly

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Summer races- Let's get dirty

After Boston, I really wanted to hit up the trails. On the trails, it is all about effort. No course is the same. Conditions can vary, and speed is still important. But what will make or break your race if you're out there to compete, is your willingness to endure. There are hills, and then there are mountains. When I race on the road, I don't walk. Even in Boston, I never walked. In trail racing, the strategy needs to change drastically if you want to make it to the end of a longer trail race. Try and run all the hills and you will surely suffer. I needed the change of scenery, pace, strategy, and challenge after training for Boston.
My trail race season started with the 5 Peaks Rattlesnake Point 12.7km on June 9, 2017. It was HOT. I don't remember exactly how hot, but upwards of 30 degrees. The main point in attending this race was because my four year old daughter wanted to race the3km. She tackled it, completed it, and kept a great attitude the entire time. I was totally impressed! I had done very little in the way of training since the middle of May, so I went in with a mindset of enjoy the trails and have a good time.
Results: 1:06:50, second place female - I DIED hard in the heat and she passed me with about 2km to go, looking super strong. I had nothing in me to try and catch her.
The cuteness! One of my all time favourite pics. She took off right after she told me, "Mommy, I just love this challenge." Notice she even "had" to wear a GPS watch. Photo by Sue Sitki Photo
Between this race and my next trail race, I spontaneously raced the Toronto Waterfront 10km on June 17, 2017. I was seriously lacking road racing confidence after Boston and going into this race. I told myself I just want sub 40 min. If I at least still have that in me, then I can do this. Whatever "this" is, I'm still not sure. But this race laid out some confidence and pride in myself that I had been lacking.
Results: 39:53, 18/4748 females, 4th in age group. I raced hard and I was proud of myself at the finish for squeaking just under my time limit. I worked for it, that's for sure!
My next trail race was the Limberlost Challenge 14km on July 8, 2017. I was originally registered for the 28km. But I still couldn't stomach training for anything long after Boston, so I dropped down. It was another hot day, so I really don't regret dropping in distance! This race was SO MUDDY. As in some parts un-runnable, glad my shoes were tied tight because I would have lost them, kind of  muddy. My trail weakness got me again in this race, the technical downhill. I held first until the last 2km or so when a woman flew past me on a downhill, as I danced down gingerly. I finished just under a minute behind her in second place. If there was a bit more flat at the end, I like to think I may have been able to catch her. ;) Either way, it was awesome watching her fly. I'm so envious of those skills!
Results: 1:22:09, second place female, first in age group.
So. Much. Mud.

My next race was the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon. I had been eyeing this race for a while. Given it was one week after Limberlost and a few days after we got back from a mini get away to Manitoulin Island, I didn't know how I would feel. My kids and husband were down for the 4am wake up for the drive to Blue Mountain, but I still felt bad about it. I told myself that I at least had to try and podium, given all they had done for me. I signed up the night before. The Blue mountains looked menacing as I stood at the start line. We were told it was muddy and to have fun. About 2km in, I over-strided, and my foot just kept going in the mud. I fell forwards into an awkward front fall. My XACT Nutrition bars went flying out of my bra, and my knee kinked out of place momentarily. Ugh. I had to walk for a few minutes as many racers passed me and kindly asked if I was ok. I "walked it off", and began running up the mountain again and told myself that if the pain became debilitating, that I would pull out. I got lucky on this day, and the fall, walking or even the MASSIVE hills that I had to power walk/hike up did not stop me. I had so much fun in this race, and other than the walking after I fell, can say that I pushed hard the whole time, as best as I could on that day. Celebrations were easy that day, as my family and I enjoyed the village after the race.
Results: 2:04:25, first place female.
 Plastered smile the whole race. Well maybe except for that never ending gravel hill about 6km in. I retired the Saucony Peregrines in this pic right after this race. 1000's of km, The Wild Bruce Chase, and a few podiums later, they have had a good run. Even thought they were encrusted with mud inside out, and had probably not been totally dry for quite some time, I was sad to put them away!

I thought that the Blue Mountain race would prepare me for my next running adventure, the Squamish50 23km. Well it turns out what Collingwood Ontario considers a mountain is really just a small hill! I was registered initially for the 50km,but I still couldn't commit or get my act together to train for a longer race, so I dropped down again. I am thankful I did, as I don't think I would have had the energy to see all the amazing things Squamish had to offer if I was recovering from a mountain 50km. This race was humbling. In the best way. My crazy fear/inability to run a technical downhill really showed here. Every time I tried to be brave and just go for it on the downhill (as I had watched at least 15 racers pass me do well), I either rolled my ankle (not badly though!), or literally fell right onto my ass. Better than my face I suppose. Jumping over bear scat at more than one point in the race was especially terrifying. BEARS FREQUENT HERE!!!! That will make you run the flats faster. At the finish, you get a high five from Gary Robbins himself! That made for an epic finish!
Results: 2:26:54, 5th woman overall.
Photo by Brian McCurdy

Mountain dirt leg tan!

My last 2 races were Chase the Coyote 25km, and Run for the Toad 25km. I raced them a week apart, with reduced mileage and no speed work in between races. I have been coaching myself since resuming some sort of training in early July, and I know I can handle back to back races. Since these races came after Squamish, my perception of hills has changed drastically. While both have a plethora of hills, most are runnable; with the exception of the monster hill at the end of the 12.5km Toad loop. I always walk that one.
Chase the Coyote Results: 2:10:46, third female overall
Run for the Toad Results: 1:57:23, second female overall

To put how much harder Squamish was into perspective, notice how I raced 2km longer at the Coyote, but finished 16 minutes faster than in Squamish. Or how about the 28 minutes faster with 2 extra kilometres at the Toad. No wonder a lot of Canada's best and most competitive trail racers are from beautiful British Columbia.

All in, I have had a fabulous summer racing season after a not so fabulous first few races of the year. I am thankful that I  have been able to continuously run and still be able to enjoy the summer with my kids; without the burnout and exhaustion that I felt training for Boston. I may still randomly sign up for another race or two before the year is over. I will run because I love it, do one workout a week MAX if I feel like it, and compete on a whim, as that seems to have worked for me all summer. Less pressure on myself that way, and more balanced life all around.

Thanks to my husband and children for happily tagging along and sometimes even racing themselves even if it meant very early mornings. Knowing I have my kids waiting and watching for me at the finish line makes it hard not to always try my best. Thank you to Saucony Canada for the support, inspiration and opportunities that enable all that I do. And thanks to my Longboat teammates for always cheering me on! Having support to do what I love makes all the difference! When I surround myself with positive energy and let myself dream a bit bigger than before, all the fun stuff begins!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Explore Ontario Series- Post 1- Rattlesnake Point Camping

Summer is OVER! And with the end of summer comes the end of our summer adventures. I decided long ago that the all inclusive resort type vacation was just not my thing. All my summer plans revolved around views, lakes, trails and forests. This summer was my favorite to date. We have so many beautiful places that are close to home and relatively inexpensive. I had a lot of questions about where we went, and what we did. So I want to share those places with you, and maybe you can start planning your 2018 adventures! I will explore each experience in a separate post, each covering our itinerary, experiences and any other small details that I think are relevant.

We left the day after school let out and headed to Rattlesnake Point in Milton, Ontario for some long weekend camping. Don't become scared off by the name, there are no Rattlesnakes at Rattlesnake Point. Ontario has just one species of venomous snake and it is the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake which is mainly found along the Eastern side of Georgian Bay and on the Bruce Peninsula. Although I have heard accounts of them being seen much farther South as well..... we only saw a Garter snake on this trip!


Rattlesnake Point is not an Ontario Park, it is a conservation area. The camping fee is slightly higher at $50 per night for the smaller sites. Let me say before I go on that "smaller" still means HUGE in comparison to an Ontario Park site. So unless you are going with another family, a "smaller" site is well equipped to handle an 8 person tent, picnic table, dining tent, fire pit and still leave room for the kids to play, or even another tent or two. We stayed at campsite #18. A medium site is $115
a night and a large is $175. One thing I am happy I didn't have to find out upon arrival is that the "lower" level campsites are WAY better than the "upper" level. The "upper" level sites are essentially camping in a massive field. There is no privacy. Whereas the "lower" level sites are your own little area, privacy isn't an issue. Due to my severe introvert ways, the "hey, where are you from?!" camping conversation with your neighbours isn't one that I am interested in having. ;)

How much profanity does it take to set up a campsite? ;)
On day one, we went for a hike on the Nassagawaya Canyon Trail. This trail can take you all the way to Crawford Lake if you continue to follow it, but we stopped at the Buffalo Crag Lookout point. The views are great and the kids love to spot the Turkey Vultures soaring past. They loved them so much that whenever we see one anywhere they point and exclaim, "look! Our friends!" The panoramic view of the escarpment is especially amazing in late October when all the green has been replaced by a blanket of oranges, reds and yellows.

N loves to climb. Rocks, rock walls, trees, and giant hills. And I tend to not be a "be careful" mom. If it is dangerous, of course I would step in. If it looks precarious, I will try it first. But when he wants to explore, I encourage him and enjoy watching as he builds confidence, problem solves, uses his senses to guide him and builds his gross motor skills at the same time. At the other end of the park, there is a rock face that has a few caves, crevices and stair like parts to it that he enjoys exploring and checking out. C on the other hand is still a bit small and will do what she can, but N is definitely more into it.

Day 2, I went for a run first thing. I just love the trails in the Halton Parks. They are well maintained and not overgrown, unlike some of the trails around my home. There are no bags of dog poo hanging on trees, and I never see any off leash animals. The people in the area seem to actually respect the trails, themselves, others, and their animals. It is about a 14km loop to Crawford Lake and back. The farther into the middle you get, the more technical it becomes with some decent hills, rocky parts and roots to mind. I fell a few times, but that is part of the trail running fun. :) My Saucony Peregrines held up well. I also used them when hiking with the kids. The views from the escarpment upon returning are always welcoming, and worth stopping for. I had never been to Crawford Lake, so after checking it out before returning to Rattlesnake Point, I knew I had to bring the kids back over!  
The first thing they noticed along the Hide and Seek Trail were the massive wooden carvings.

Of course they requested a picture with all of them that they were able to make into a seat of some sort. This trail is short and takes you to a board walk that wraps around the lake.

True to the ways of summer 2017, a torrential downpour came out of nowhere and had us racing back to the campsite, as we had left the tent windows open. Rookie move! Geeze. The great thing about being not too far from everything when camping in Milton is being able to wait out the rain at a local Tim Hortons rather than sitting in the tent or the car.

Night 2 was filled with more campfires, ball in the bucket games, running through the adjacent forest our site was lucky to have and just being thankful the sun came back out! Everything can't always be perfect, ESPECIALLY when camping. I love how going with the flow is mandatory in attempting a camping trip with children. A great lesson for adults and the kids.

If you're looking for a good "starter" camping experience, I think Rattlesnake Point is awesome! If your children are the type that can create their own adventure, do not need to be constantly "entertained" or "set up" with activities and enjoy hiking and exploring the outdoors, then this is a great family camping spot. Alternatively, if you are the type that enjoys camping with other families, then the larger sites would be perfect for that, and there is an abundance of room for all the children to play together. We didn't make it there on this trip, but Kelso Conservation Area is a ten minute drive down the road and they have a small beach area where you can swim and rent boats.

I always take one last shot from the escarpment before we leave. Rattlesnake Point is definitely one of my favourites! Make sure you check it out, even just for a day trip.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Squamish Love

On my recent trip to Squamish, BC, I decided that I REALLY need to get back to writing. I love it. It organizes my thoughts, and makes it easier for me to identify what I am feeling. Part of my previous hesitation with it was who cares what I write? Now I don't even care who cares! I am going to write because I like it, and write about whatever comes to my mind, and if someone doesn't like it, well they can close the tab. Or tell their pals who much they didn't like it, which may in turn have more people reading it anyway. ;)

Now that I have that out of the way, I am going to start with HOW MUCH I LOVED SQUAMISH! I have been to Vancouver twice. And even though Squamish is only about an hour North of Vancouver, there is no comparison in my mind.

In the last year I have been stringent about who and what kind of energy I will allow in my life. I have created distance from anyone or anything who prefers it if I stay small or wants to blame their insecurities on me. As a direct result I have been able to begin to reveal an innate capacity to live on my own terms. I refuse to walk on egg shells for people and I refuse to fuel anyone's ego. And I am not sorry. In fact, I have never been happier, and every aspect of my life has had a positive up turn because of this.

It would have been hard to imagine my 8 year ago self climbing mountains and travelling to the places that call me now. I had been doing the "all inclusive" or the places that "everyone loved". I always came home wondering why I felt worse. Not understanding that comfort, consumerism, busy-ness, mass crowds, big city life and shopping were the last things on this planet that I truly craved. My favourite destinations this year have made me dirty, tired, sore, uncomfortable and hungry for more. Squamish was no exception.

I knew that upon return to Ontario, I need to make some changes. First, write more. A lot more. About any and all the things I want. Unapologetically. I will continue to focus intensely on the things that are important to me. This is how they will continue to grow and flourish. Lastly, because I have removed a lot of negativity and distraction, I have become more aware of the things that are calling me. I can recognize what I am actually going to enjoy, rather than what is just going to keep me "busy".  I am not really great at this yet, but I have definitely made improvements!

On the flight home from Squamish, I knew I couldn't be too disappointed, as my kids were waiting for us, and I am fortunate that I get to take them on a mini adventure of our own the following week. I still need to write about our last one, I am a bit behind!

Obviously this post didn't have a main point, but as my reintroduction back into blogging, I am happy I wrote it.
Post Squamish50 23km dirt!

Lake Girabaldi. 9km up and 9km down made a 4 hour and 25 min hike the day after the race. OUCH! So sore and tired, but the epic views replaced the pain with gratitude.

Peak 1 of Stawamus Chief. 535m of elevation gain over 3km. This was the day after the Girabaldi hike, and 2 days after the race. Muscle atrophy made more tolerable by red wine at the summit.

Climbing the rock face on the Stawamus Chief.

The heights the trees reach on the Squamish trails makes me dizzy!

One of the lookouts on the way up to Lake Girabaldi. We were lucky enough to have it to ourselves for a few moments. I am grateful for the deafening silence when I am up so high!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thanks Boston, but I'm done with the Marathon.... For now.

Even with the simple title of this post, there are so many feelings, experiences and hours that were put into this one race. This post also may not be what some readers are hoping to read.

My daughter started JK this year, which left me with 6 hours in the day that I can fill with anything I like. Mostly, I enjoy being able to take clients during the day now, and not having to work every night. I could also forgo the 4:30am-5am wake ups that have been normal for so long, and run after I dropped the kids off at school.

Every runner I know who I idolize for their speed runs a lot. There is no way around that. More miles in your legs seems to correspond with faster times. So I decided that I was going to try what I once thought was impossible; to run 100 km a week.

Between December 12, 2016 and April 16, 2017 I hit 100km 8 times. I averaged 86km a week for the 18 weeks. In total I ran 1472km in the build up to the Boston Marathon. During those 18 weeks, I ran the Boxing Day 10 miler, and the Chilly Half Marathon; both with disappointing results.

In February, I decided to join the Longboat Road Runners. I am happy I was taken on by the head coach Timo! I had been training myself since late 2015, so taking the guess work out of training was nice.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I was becoming more annoyed with training than I was excited for the actual race. After I fell way short of what I thought I was capable of at the Chilly Half, I questioned whether running more is actually helping me or hurting me. My coach said he didn't think running less would leave me strong enough to run a good marathon. So I tried to plow onwards.

Here is my experience on training too much. What is most important to me is being able to feel good mentally and emotionally. When I am doing too much I know the signs from my body. Taking forever to fall asleep. Waking up repeatedly in the night. Short temper and easily annoyed during the day. Running at all is like pulling teeth. Weight gain of 5-6 lbs despite eating properly and high amounts of mileage. A swollen "puffy" look all over as if I am retaining water. Feeling terrible all day and night is not worth any race to me. Sorry folks, but not even Boston. By the time I displayed all these signs it was too late. Boston was a mere 20-ish days away. The taper couldn't come fast enough.

The race itself definitely delivered. The crowds at Boston cheer you like you are their family. They line the entire route from start to finish. I brought an iPod as I am accustomed to running alone sometimes in a long race, and it is a nice distraction. I couldn't even hear the thing; the crowds were so loud. It was wild!

Right before the race begins, two fighter jets fly over the start line. Already a race like no other! That gave me crazy goose bumps as my corral 1/8 began walking towards the starting mat. I found the first 8km very difficult to get around the crowds and get into a fluid pace. Around 10km they fanned out a bit and I didn't have to weave through anyone anymore.

As promised, my husband was at the 12km mark, in front of the Natick train station. It was great to see him, and at that point the race was flying by and I felt fantastic. Even when I hit the 21.1km mark in 1:32 I still felt really good. I made sure to drink at every water station, as well as grab a cup of water to dump on my head to try and stay cool.

The first hill hit around 27km I think? That seems to be where my pace goes out the window. This is also where I stopped sweating entirely and remember thinking "this may end badly". I wasn't acclimatized to the heat, and don't run well even in the middle of summer in Ontario. The heat combined with the Newton hills almost took me down. I pushed through as best as I could. From 30km onwards I refused to look at my watch or check my splits. I don't really remember any thoughts I had during the last 12km either.

My Wild Bruce Chase teammate/friend Kristin's husband spotted me at 35km and called out. It was so nice to hear my name and see someone I knew. That helped me push on. I saw my husband (who is the master supporter and spectator!) again at the 40km mark, and even though it was amazing to see him again, I was really just wanting to be finished. It gave me a final mental push, although I don't think it accounted to anything physically. I have read so many accounts of the final turn towards the finish line. The crowds are insane. You're almost there. You can see the finish. I'm such a finish line crier, and normally an epic event such as crossing the Boston Marathon finish line would solicit tears from me, but that day there were none. I was too dehydrated.

I crossed the line in 3:10:38. About 1 minute over my only other marathon time. That wasn't what I was thinking about though, as I slowly walked through the finishers chute. WATER was the only thing I was thinking about or looking for. I probably would have passed up my medal to get to water faster. Ha! The finish area was carnage! People laying on the ground, falling on the ground, medics rushing to them, people just sitting on the side of the road before making the 1km trek to the family waiting area, and runners being pushed in wheel chairs towards the medical tent. Crazy what a hot marathon can do to a person in comparison to a cool one. I'm not going to lie, the medics waiting on the sides every 10 feet or so with wheel chairs looked so tempting! I am thankful that I finished and didn't need medical services.

One question a lot of people have asked me is "would you do it again?".

After a month to reflect on this, right now my answer would have to be no.

But WHY?! Boston is the "holy grail" of running events! And for someone who is chasing the unicorn, my view point may seem outrageous or even offensive.

 I am grateful to have been able to do something that many people can only dream about. I am also grateful for being able to share the experience with others. I am still in awe of what the human body can do and tolerate. I have only run 2 marathons, and in each of them my limits were tested in totally different ways. My hard "no" has nothing to do with Boston as a race, and everything to do with the preparation, time and effort that goes into marathon training. As well as a large need in my life for those efforts to be allocated elsewhere.

To train "properly" for a marathon, I really only get 1 chance a year. Spring. That way I can train while my kids are in school without disrupting their life, and still being able to have a life myself. A fall marathon would mean 4am wakeups all week. Truthfully, I am not prepared to do that. I want to enjoy summer with my kids and not be exhausted and wiped out all the time. Paying for day care to run just seems ridiculous to me. For me, running should enhance life. Not be life.

So my priorities have changed again. And that's ok. For a long time I wanted to run a "fast" marathon. So I put in a TON of work, all to have the weather foil it. In running, nothing is guaranteed and what you put in may not necessarily be what you get back. And for now, I need a break from that. Shorter faster races will be the only thing on my running related horizon. My three year old 10km PB of 38:01 seems physically impossible to run now. That was off of 40km of running a week and no real speed work. That's also when I loved running the most. I need to get back to that place.

My plans to get back there involve the open communication with my coach, that I have been really appreciating. Scaling back the mileage, and forgoing the standard two workouts a week. If going down to one workout a week means I'm not as fast, but I feel well enough energy wise to enjoy the rest of my life, then I'm ok with that. Every cycle I have attempted two workouts a week, it isn't long before my nervous system is taxed and all those overtraining symptoms pop up.

One major thing I took away from Boston was how much love and support is around me! I was truly blown away by the amount of call, texts, well wishes and messages I received from my friends and family all over. At some low points in my life where I had made many wrong choices, I felt very alone. I am happy to say that that feeling is long gone. And many years of soul searching and realizing that I can choose what types of people and energies I allow around me has paid off! Thank you to everyone who took the time to reach out to me and support me. It means more than you all know. ♥♥♥

To my husband and kids who tolerated me through the thick of this - THANK YOU!

To my coach and Longboat team and previous team Grand River Endurance members- THANK YOU!

Thank you to Saucony Canada, as their shoes have gotten me through 2 marathons, a 50km and a plethora of shorter races without so much as a blister. How could I possibly have carried 5 gels if the shorts I wore on race day didn't have pockets!?

Special thank you to my friend Stephanie who pushed me to try running my first race in 2011 and hasn't stopped cheering for me since.

Next up is the Toronto Waterfront 10km! Since I really don't like running the 10km distance, I thought this was a perfect place to start. :)


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Self love starts with you.

"Mommy? Is jumping up and down exercise?"

A seemingly harmless question from my four year old daughter immediately had me thrown off.

"We jump up and down because it is fun, and because we like to move our bodies." Was my fast reply.

Without thinking I could have mistakenly said, "yes, it is!" As most parents' first instinct is to praise their children for making a correct observation. Although, I did not really see this as correct. I see it as part of a bigger issue that is rampant with young girls. Even grown women.

I became a personal trainer because of how movement, training, and the confidence it has brought me has changed my life. As a child I would count the minutes in school as they seemed to drag by. All the sitting literally left me bored to tears. I sometimes wonder how my life and the things I would have accomplished could be different if I had not been made to "learn" in a way that hindered my learning capabilities seemingly permanently. To this day, I despise sitting. While writing this, my mind is engaged, but by the end, my body is antsy. I thought that helping other women see that movement and the strength and confidence derived from it could change their lives on some level as well.

The issues young women and girls face today run much deeper than gaining fitness or loosing a few pounds. I have met women who are in the gym only because their tween or teenage daughter is depressed, lacking motivation and self worth. They want to be a role model for them. I have met young girls who dedicate the time to come to the gym, but their lack of self worth and therefore confidence hinders their progress. Even if physical pounds or inches are lost, the emotional baggage still weighs them down. Some have faced cancer diagnoses, or invasive surgeries. How about the all too common scenario of the woman who has grown children, or a thriving career, but knows that she needs to do something for herself. She not only has to face the challenges of creating a new habit, being able to put herself first and the physical objections her body will give her; but the hardest part of all will be deciding and believing that she is worthy of what she is trying to do for herself. If a young girl does not feel like she is worthy and deserving of good things, that feeling of despair and lack will be carried with her throughout everything life throws at her. Then that young girl may have children. Guess what the children learn. You cannot teach what you do not know.

The dialogue we use to describe our actions, reasons and motivations behind looking after ourselves needs to change. Rather than speak about "exercise" around children, or that part of looking after ourselves is to "exercise" our bodies, we need to talk about the things we love to do, and how they make us feel good. Children are not born to "hate" movement. Have you ever watched the doors of a school when the recess bell goes off, or it's time to go home? The doors FLY open. It is as if an explosion occurs, and it is all the energy and excitement of being free and able to move. Children need to move. Instead of speaking about a "diet", let's talk about fueling our bodies. If children are offered real food to eat, they will eat real food.

Clearly the issue is not about exercise, weight, diets, calories, fat, skinny or otherwise. The issue is worth. It is the lack of confidence, self love and strength that children are learning because that's what they have absorbed from their environment, or been told. This is a massive loss in a woman's life. When a mother does not have it, or is not actively trying to build it, her daughter will have a hard time learning it. The variables and circumstances that leave women feeling this way are in abundance. They can be culturally or socioeconomically rooted. Or in many cases, learned in their immediate environment. I do not have all the answers, but I can do my best with what I know; with my children and the women I meet.

This is a massive issue that will continue to plague women everywhere. I work very hard to make a conscious choice every morning to choose my words with integrity around my children. I choose to embrace this daily rather than a traditional "career" because parenting is what matters most to me. That's not to say that working mothers do not think their children are important. And I know some women can handle it all, I simply cannot. So I focus on the few things that I do. I am far from perfect, and I make sure to apologise to them when I make a mistake. If I was to do only one thing really well in my entire life, it would be to raise two good people. Who love themselves, look after themselves, are kind to others, display empathy and know they are worthy of and deserve good things. This starts with me. They touch on it in schools, but what children live at home ultimately becomes their lives.

I hope to somehow inspire mothers and young girls to value themselves. I am not yet sure how I am going to do this. Bandaid solutions do not work for me. Fitness and wellness is one avenue, but may not be they key for all. For now, I will do what I can with what I know. Continue to learn and grow. But being able to guide my children in the best direction for them is my main goal. Always.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wild Bruce Chase Part 2- Iroquoia 25km

With it now being 2 months out from the Wild Bruce Chase, it resembles something similar to childbirth in my memory.
Did that really happen?
 No, it did not hurt as much as I remember it did, right?
Sure I could do that again!  
Ever since I completed my last leg of the relay, I have been somewhat obsessed with the trails. Going back and seeing more crosses my mind almost daily. The fact that I seem to be somewhat addicted to various sources of self inflicted pain (think tattoos, racing, running longgggg), does not make this obsession less.
We arrived back at the Beaver Valley base camp around 4:30am. As soon as I got out of the van, the plethora of stars took me by surprise. That is something you do not get to see if you don't get far enough away from the city often. Simply beautiful. I grabbed a quick shower and was lucky enough to nab a top bunk in a room. Unfamiliar surroundings, post adrenaline rush, and nerves about the morning did not allow sleep to come easily. I text my husband around 6:30am and must have finally fallen asleep shortly after that. 8am. The lights flick on, and it is time to get up and start getting ready to go. Yes 1.5 hours of sleep. Oh man. I tried to not think about how lack of sleep makes me an ineffective blob, and got my stuff together to head to base camp #3 in Hamilton.

Beaver Valley Base camp. I wish I had more time there!
I was not as stressed about my second leg, as I knew I would have daylight, and portions of it would probably have other hikers around. Chantal was going to meet me about 14km in. Erin and her husband Rob positioned themselves at some of the spots where the trail headed onto the road briefly and then back onto the trail. These areas are easy to miss and I was very grateful to see them there!

These maps didn't even make it out of my bag once I was on the trail!

Doesn't look so daunting, right!? 
First let's list a few of the things I am not good at/inexperienced at.
1.I am absolutely useless if I have not gotten enough sleep. There are few things in this world I will forgo sleep for, as I know very few things will be worth the repercussions!
2.I am terrible at running in the heat. it seems no matter how much water/electrolytes I take in, my muscles fail and I cannot avoid dehydration.
3.I mentioned in my last post, I am an amateur trail runner at best. Rolling hills on country roads are a walk in the park in comparison to the never ending mega hills I encountered on this 25km.
This leg began around 3pm. It was close to 34 degrees outside. I had ran 17km only 12 hours earlier, then slept for 1.5 hours. And I am so happy I did not know what was coming with this route! Beginning it, I had no idea how many climbs and descents I was in  for. Let's throw everything I am not good at together and see how a 25km run goes.

Elevation from Garmin Connect. #ouch
When Chantal met me, I think I was still doing ok. Somewhere between 14km and 20km my body checked out. I was walking up the hills. I have never had to do that before! Even as a new runner, I was super hard on myself and would not have"allowed" myself to do that. Well how humbling when your body just will not let you! Each incline I was cursing myself for racing a half marathon only 6 days before, climbing Grouse Mountain the very next day, and for being so na├»ve about how tough this was really going to be. I combated so many negative thoughts; so when Chantal suggested she take over the last 5km for me, it would have been an easy out to say yes.
Truthfully, even though I was dehydrated, tired and probably kind of delirious at that point, I knew enough to realise that I would never forgive myself for backing out of the last 5km, and that the only option was to finish this 25k!
Just a quick note about how bad ass Chantal is. Only a few weeks after the Wild Bruce Chase, she tackled the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler (80ish km). Around the 70km mark she fell. She did not know until she was seen by a Dr. later that day, but she broke her wrist. This woman got up, kept going, and still finished 3rd. Did I mention I could barely walk for nearly 3 days after the relay!? I did not even attempt to run for a week! She is inspiring and amazing.

Chantel and I on one of the rare road portions.
Photo Credit: Erin Dasher

Sherman Falls in Ancastor! SO beautiful.
Photo credit: Rob Scheifley
When we finished under the hydro towers, some team mates were there cheering, and the hand off went smoothly. I could not believe I did it. Up until that date I thought the Toronto Marathon was the hardest thing I could accomplish. Possibly even the birth of my daughter sans epidural. I found the Bruce Trail to be MUCH harder! Not joking. I have viewed road running differently since. I even sold my Scotiabank Marathon bib to a friend, as my heart just isn't in it. Running through buildings in Toronto just isn't very exciting to me right now. My workouts have suggested that I could run a faster marathon than I did in May, and I still have no desire! When your intuition speaks to you, you absolutely have to listen.
I am so grateful for the experience as a whole. It has changed my outlook on my goals, running, and what I expect of myself. Humbling, refreshing and brutally hard all at once.

A few of the ladies finishing up the final leg! A continuous, end to end of the 901km Bruce Trail. And an all new FKT (fastest known time) of 4 days, 1 hour and 39 minutes. Memories for life!

Now, how to recreate an experience that I could possibly fail at? ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Wild Bruce Chase, Caledon Hills

I knew I had to write about the Wild Bruce Chase, but I needed to let it sink in for a while. It has been nearly 4 weeks since the most epic experience of my life! When my friend Erin asked me if I was interested in joining a relay team of 18 women, with the goal of tackling the entire 880km Bruce Trail, I did not even hesitate. How could I turn down an experience that sounded so unique and amazing?! When opportunities such as this arise, I believe you need to make it work. So even though I knew I would be in Vancouver racing the Scotiabank Vancouver half marathon only 6 days before, I would put off recovery and real life until after.


Only as the July long weekend came closer did I really start to think about what I had gotten myself into. I do not run or train on trails. I definitely do not run trails at night. I am terrified of bears, ticks, rattlesnakes, and the pressure of getting lost or messing it up for the team became crushing! I voiced my concerns with Erin, and she has a fabulous way of bringing me back down to earth. I decided that because it brought so much fear out of me, and the scary things are what enable growth, I had to push those fears aside and start having some faith in myself!

Because I had only just arrived home from Vancouver Wednesday June 29 around midnight, and I had to work on Saturday, it was not possible for me to start with the majority of the team in Tobermory on Friday July 1. I met them two exchanges ahead of where I was to begin my first leg of the relay, in Caledon Hills.  I still had some daylight when I arrived and decided to check out one of the spots I enter the trail from the road.
Admittedly, I still could not believe I would be entering this in the middle of the night in only a few hours!
I went for an early warm up to calm my fears. My excitement was building!
I was partnered with Jon to run with me on my night leg. "A Bruce Trail expert" Erin had assured me! He arrived with about 20 minutes until go time. All nerves and excitement, I repeatedly told him I am not a trail runner, and was terrified. Oh, and did he know how crazy anxious I was?! Poor guy. Ha!
First run with a headlamp. I could not stand how it bounced around and ended up tossing it in Jon's bag. I carried a cheap one in my hand.
Around 1am, the tracker was tossed into my bag, and with all the excitement and my terror, I cannot for the life of me remember who passed off to me. Leg #1 was basically half road and half trail, the first portion of it being trail. I led the way and Jon schooled me on trail running basics that I made sure to remember. Picture something out of the Blair Witch Project movie. You are in the middle of the forest. It is pitch black, other than the head lamps. You can hear the coyotes in the distance somewhere. I was so focused on spotting and following the blazes (the white markings that led the way of the main trail), that I did not have any time to focus on my fear. Every time we were back on the road, I made sure to try and make up my time there, as my pace on the trails was slower than my recovery pace on the road. (5:30-6:30's).
My two main concerns about the night leg were wildlife, and falling. I only half tripped twice, both times saving myself. Phew! The only wildlife we saw was a group of bats we had disturbed as we ran through a tunnel. Or I could count the road kill racoon I nearly tripped on. It was on the side of the road and because there were no street lights, I did not see it until it was almost too late! Face planting a dead racoon would have made for a good story though.
Climbing one of the many stiles on the Bruce. Positioned so you can go over the fences without ruining them. Also guaranteed to get face fulls of spiders and webs as you go over. Note my compression shorts to keep the ticks out of my crotch and the compression socks to keep them off my legs. Have I mentioned I am terrified of ticks? I wore my Saucony Kinvara 5's instead of my trail shoes for this leg as it had a lot of road portions in it.   
We ran through brush, forest, tall grass (ticks, ugh!), but the creepiest may have been the corn field. It had a bunch of random pockets of cold air throughout it, and as I ran I tried not to envision Children of the Corn. There was some barking in the distance that Jon assured me was domestic dogs. I was not concerned about them so much, the real question was WHAT DO THEY SEE?! What are they barking at?! Thankfully whatever it was had ran off by the time we passed. Phew.
Just don't think about it !
Back into the forest for the last time after a few km on the road. Adrenaline had stared to lead to fatigue as I am normally sleeping at 2:30am, not running. We were closing in on 17.50km so I knew we had to be close. The crew was waiting and spotted our headlamps in the darkness before we could see anything but blackness ahead. They began cheering, and there is NO BETTER SOUND than your team waiting for you. I exited the forest, the team grabbed the tracker and Momentum Wrap (our "baton") and Tanis was on her way into the darkness. First leg of the Wild Bruce Chase down. Could not have done it without Jon. Who runs with people they have never met before, through a forest in the middle of the night!? What a great guy, I am so thankful!
Tanis awaiting the start of her first leg. At least the headlamps somewhat reflected off the blazes!
Stay tuned for leg #2 recap!