Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Our New Path

So stoked that July is here and I finally feel like the waters have calmed a bit.  May and June were out of control busy as I had the addition of 2 running events to my already jam packed plate.  I hadn't felt so stressed in a long time and it's a part of my life that I've been really trying to work on. However, thanks to all my wonderful volunteers, we pulled off yet another successful Loop the Lakes Trail Race (8km,15km and 21km) up at Alice Lake at the end of May and then just an AWESOME new sold out race, the Skyline Ridge Run presented by Manitoba Harvest Hemp 10km/19km on top of Squamish's new Sea to Sky Gondola in June.

Skyine Ridge Run Race
Sometimes I have NO idea how I even got into events and race directing.  As anyone who puts on events knows, the prep time and back end hours is insane, never mind the event day itself!  I suppose I am a detail oriented person though and I find with running races, its a great way for me to give back to the running community that has given me so much over the last 10+ years. I tell ya, I never show up at a race anymore without thinking about how much hard work went on behind the scenes prior to everyone showing up at the start line.  The Skyline Ridge Run was a unique challenge to take on as there was no template behind its organization. It was fun though to create something totally new for runners to enjoy. The trails up on top of the Sea to Sky Gondola are incredible and I highly urge everyone to get out and explore them this Summer.  Stay tuned for our 2015 plans!

On the racing front, I've had to face the hard reality of where my body is at these days. I returned from pregnancy with a settled achilles tendon but I knew it was far from perfect. I decided (against better judgement) to return to 2 early season races - La Mision 50miler in Patagonia and the Zion 100km.  Despite winning both of them, my performance at Zion really upset me. I was in so much pain from start to finish that it was hard to enjoy the scenery and trails that I had fallen in love with over the past few years.   I didn't feel like a runner, my stride was off and technique ugly. More recently I've been seeing physio for a post partum set back, finding out that I'm at risk for a prolapse if I don't take care of re-strengthening my pelvic floor correctly RIGHT NOW.  I thought at first that I could fight my way through that one, doing all my exercises to correct the issues while still running and preparing for Hardrock 100.  I quickly learned that my body had other plans for me and finally, I succumbed to the reality of my situation. An irritated achilles and a potential prolapse was not going to set me up for the race that I wanted at Hardrock this year.  I was miserable when I emailed the RD at Hardrock a few weeks ago to decline my entry but knew that the sooner I did it, the better for the next person in line to have more time to prepare. A Hardrock entry only comes around so often which made it that much harder to give up.  But, it was the right thing to do as I knew that I would not be competing against the top females like I wanted to do.  I sadly also had to let Nikki Kimball know that I wouldn't be able to pace her at Western States this year. Again, totally bummed out. I've never experienced the WS atmosphere and I was psyched to be apart of Nikki's team. She was to pace me at Hardrock and I was stoked to have the most bad ass female in ultra along me as I took on the big mountains. Anyways, another year, there will always be another year :)  Hardrock is just going to have to wait.

So with my body not co-operating for running this year, I've pulled my schedule back to just a few key must do's, the next of which is my High Alpine Run Camp next week. I'm looking forward to hitting my favourite routes above the treeline with a great group of runners.  After that, I return to my physio protocol of rehabilitating this silly achilles with the hopes of a wickedly awesome 2015 and some adventures that have been brewing for wayyyyyy too long!  I need to get better so it's a Summer on the bike to maintain fitness and keep me mentally sane.

However, there is a silver lining to everything!!  Norm, Kiel and myself are now extremely excited and stoked to have partnered with a brand that we believe defines everything of who we are as athletes, adventurers and where we are at in our lives.  We couldn't be more stoked to have come on board with Icebreaker, a company who is as natural in their products as they are in their company values. It's a fit that feels right. For years, Norm and I have been wearing Icebreaker for our base layering, especially in the winter. But now, after experiencing how amazing wool feels in the Summer too, how breathable, lightweight and natural it is, my love for merino based products just rocketed through the roof.  They make products that work for virtually every activity that we do, from running to SUP, to hiking to travel and casual wear. Check out their website and have a read on what Icebreaker is all about.  Norm and I are committed to integrating Kiel into our life of adventure, outdoor play and experiential education. Icebreaker makes the perfect products for us to do this in comfort, style and most importantly, performance.

Adventure Onwards........we are!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Adventures in the Great Bear Rainforest

For years now, Norm has raved about May in the Great Bear Rainforest.  It's a special time up on the remote North Coast when the forests and waters are alive with wildlife, the days are typically sunny and the people living in the special community of Hartley Bay are busy down at Kiel harvesting traditional food, drying seaweed, fishing and preparing for the year ahead. Kiel is their Spring harvesting camp and this is the place that we chose to name our little man, Kiel (pronounced Key-L) after.

I've been to Kiel several times now, almost always in the Fall when Norm and I are guiding SUP expeditions in the area. I was excited to visit in the Spring and see Kiel alive!  Most importantly too, we were very much looking forward to bringing Kiel to Kiel so he could see where his name came from and what the area means to us. With the threat of oil tankers on our coastline, Norm and I both felt it important to get Kiel there sooner then later as all the beauty, the wildlife, the pristine nature could be instantly wiped out and never the same.

Also exciting, Norm had just purchased his first boat and he was eager to get it in the water!  After months of searching and non stop "boat talk" I was equally as excited for him and couldn't wait for Kiel and I to be on board.  We made the drive from Squamish to Rupert (17+ hrs) and survived the coffee hole of death (aka - it's bad coffee from Prince George West until you hit Smithers) yet again!

A highlight on our drive was stopping in to see Norm's good friend Roy Henry Vickers.  Being that Roy is my favourite artist of all time (growing up visiting his gallery in Tofino since I was young) and now owning several of his prints, it was a real honour to meet him.  He recently just published a new children's book and surprised Kiel with a signed copy.  Thank you Roy!  It's a special gift that we will cherish always. We also got to spend a bit of extra time in Smithers with our friends Walt and Amy before finishing the drive and launching Norm's new ocean vessel from Kitimat.

A special gift for Kiel from Roy Vickers.
Confident in Norms boating skills, we made our way down Douglas Channel from Kitimat to Hartley Bay.  Like all adventures and expeditions, this one certainly had it's moments and challenges.  We had to cut our trip short due to some unexpected health issues's of Norm.  However, we managed to see some great wildlife, spend some hours on the water with Kiel and enjoy time with the Hill family.  Following are some of the photo's from our week on the Coast.   If I can recommend one place in the world you must get to, its the Great Bear Rainforest!  Norm is busy planning Fall expeditions and private charters to the GBR all Summer but I sadly, wont' be able to return this year.
Lots of gear means fun times ahead.  
Proud moments, Norm's first boat. 
Norm builds Kiel a boat to participate in the annual Hartley Bay boat race.
He didn't win. 
Enjoying ocean time, waiting for a bite. 
Lots of catch and release. 
Kiel arrives to Kiel. 
Teach them young and let them learn. 
Tide reading and sharing ocean knowledge.
Halibut drying, incredible process of food harvesting. 

Sea Lion rock.
Best way to experience Sea Lion rock is via the SUP.
Evening exploration.
Grizzly bear sitings. 
My first catch of 2014.  Gave to Eva and Cam as a Anniversary gift. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

Thank you Salomon - the journey has been amazing!

Seven days before departing Whistler for my first solo ultra across the Sahara Desert at the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, I signed on with team Salomon.  The year was 2005 and Salomon was just starting to form a trail running team.  It was the beginnings of the brand making a true statement as being leaders in the trail running industry and playing a key role in where the sport is today.

The Salomon brand when I started!
To where it is today!
For me, it was a dream come true to be asked to represent and be branded with a company such as Salomon.  As young 23 year old, the sky was the limit and I was so excited to continue my outdoor pursuits in trail running, adventure racing and mountain biking under the Salomon banner.  I remember attending the very first Advanced Week.  I think there were 10 of us on the International trail running team at that time and our week in France product testing and running was THE BEST to put it simply.  It now seems like so long ago when I look at how the years, adventures and memories have accumulated. 

The 1st Salomon Advanced Week!
And so it is with very mixed emotions as I write this blog to announce that I have recently decided to leave Salomon.  Words can't describe how much I value the last 10 years of being with this incredible company and how proud I have been to wear their logo and call them my sponsor.  I'm fortunate to have travelled the world, made so many new friends and to have challenged myself to my absolute fullest capacity as a runner for them, with them and alongside my running friends.  As I reflect on my career with Salomon, it has been nothing but positive.  I'm proud of what I have personally achieved.  I feel beyond lucky to have had the experiences that I've had under the Salomon banner.

A special thank you to my Salomon Canada family especially Phil Villeneuve and JP McLeod for providing me with so many great opportunities over the years.  I've enjoyed working alongside and supporting both of you as we've worked to spread the trail running stoke throughout our country.  I look at what we have accomplished and the list is long!  And to my International family, the adventures have been amazing thus far and I look forward to running with many of you in various parts of the globe as the years go on.  Thank you Greg Vollet for the incredible opportunity to be on the International team and full fill my own personal goals of being able to use my running to explore the world.
My early days as a Salomon athlete!
And so I leave Salomon on a very positive note, looking upon this past chapter with nothing but fond memories.  The time has come for me to welcome change into my life and as hard as it is, I know the move is the right one for me at this time.  I'm a different person and athlete then I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago and last year. As "they" say, one door needs to close so that another can open.  I'm excited for the new opportunities and challenges that await me in the months ahead. 

No matter what, Salomon has played a key role in shaping who I am as an athlete today and the goals that I have already set for the future.  Thankyou Salomon for a decade of amazingnesss and the opportunity to be apart of something special.

ONWARDS……….the trails are waiting………..

Monday, April 28, 2014

Part 2 - The Zion 100km

We wrapped up an awesome week in Tuscon, AZ at the CBC Bike Camp.  Amazing miles on the bike, hot weather and great riding partners.  Norm, Sheena Harris, Barb Sweeney and I then packed the car up for the 8hr road trip North to Virgin, UT.  This would be home for the next week as I prepared for the Zion 100km and everyone got in some world class riding.

I originally wanted to run the Zion 100miler.  After pacing it 2x (for Slater Fletcher 2012 then for Mary Betts the year after when I was pregnant) I wanted to have a go at the course.  However, adequate training time was not in the cards nor was proper rest.  So I signed up for the 100km as I ultimately just wanted to run some red dirt miles and get up on the mesa’s.

It WAS however, totally self inflicted that I didn’t arrive to the start line rested and refreshed.  I hold myself fully accountable, I wanted to play more then I wanted to put my feet up.  The days had unfolded something like this:

Part of the Zion Traverse with Sheena.
Hadn't been on this trail since I ran it with buddy Matt Hart back in 2012 when we
did the entire 50mile point to point across the park. 

The week prior:  18+hrs on the bike and some running as we trained in Arizona.
Then race week:
Monday REST
Tuesday – 18km run, had to show Sheena the first part of the Zion Traverse as it still goes down in my books as one of the best runs ever!
Wednesday – a 1hr road ride to Springdale followed by a mountain bike ride up on Gooseberry Mesa
Thursday REST

Bryce Canyon - Thunder Mountain Trail
So, I had to put a lot of ego aside in actually signing up to race. I knew race day could go good or bad. I hadn’t run a whole lot since my 50miler in Argentina. My achilles has been less then settled to say the least and work has been busy.  Add Kiel to the mix and lets just say I’m doing the best I can but training looks quite different now.   Still, I wanted to run the Zion race and get some miles under me in prep for Hardrock 100miler.

The great thing I have to say about having a baby on race day is that I’m more focused in dealing with little man then I am on getting nervous.  Just making sure that he is set, bottles are pumped and that my crew had all they needed for him, I wasn’t even thinking about the run ahead.  We arrived to the start and in the casualness of Matt’s “go”, we were off into the darkness with the loom of the first mesa ahead. 

Little Man!  My pre-race distraction.
I started off at a pretty comfortable pace. There were no other woman around me and even if there were, I would have had no idea if they were 100km or 100milers.  I just got to work and enjoyed the first big climb up the mesa. It wasn’t until I cleared aid #1 that it dawned on me that the course was much different from the previous year (I hadn’t studied the map as can be quite typical with me) but it did mean that last year’s winning female ran a 10hr ish race and now I’d have nothing to compare my pace and time too.  In fact, our 2014 course had a whole other mesa on it so correct, much more difficult and longer.

I was in and out of aid #1 in 30seconds and then actually beat them through aid #2 at Sheepskin.  Norm and Kiel were there to cheer but my crew wasn’t. No stress, I filled up my water and headed out, knowing I’d see them at aid #3.  I felt a little off as I headed out of the Virgin Damn aid (#3) and could feel the fatigue on my legs set in.  The rollers were working me hard.  However, it was the climb to aid #4 on top of Gooseberry that really hurt.  Typically, these vertical climbs are mine! I love them! However, this steep section wreaked havoc on the achilles. It was a vertical wall, no rocks to step in, just toes into the dirt. The pure pressure on my lower legs angered the achilles big time. I arrived to the top in pain but a smiling little Kiel to give a kiss to temporarily eased the agony.  

Cheering crew - best ever!
Aid #4 to #5 and back to #6 (all on Gooseberry) was probably the worst part of the race for me.   My foot just wouldn’t co-operate despite the terrain being “flat.” It was technical running up and over all the small rocks. I new the area and the route, I had just biked it a few days prior and was SO EXCITED to run it. However, with a foot that wouldn’t power up and over a rock for 2-3 little steps quickly became excruciating. I actually didn’t know that I could move that slow. I got angry at myself for moving so poorly through this section. I wanted to stop racing as I just wasn’t having fun.  However, I got back to aid #6 and that brought me to 60+km I think.  Well, how do you quit when you are over half done? You don’t.  So onwards I pushed.

It was all dirt road to aid #7.  I’d driven and paced this section several times so I knew it well.  I just had to keep my shuffle going.  My running was ugly at this point. It was terrible.  I got into aid #8 at Eagle Craig and Sheena joined me. However, off the bat, we missed a turn (apparently a lot of people made the same mistake we learned later) so added some extra miles.  However, I just had to plow on and Sheena did a great job of just pushing me to keep a steady pace. We did the loop back to aid #8 and then it was time to return on the same road back to the top of Gooseberry, aid #9.  This part of the race was just brutal. I had lost a tall posture, my gait was off, my achilles and hip flexors were throbbing and my stomach had flared up. We were almost home though and my crew did such a great job of encouraging me onwards. I knew I had time on the next female becase I hadn’t seen anyone all day.  However, I wasn’t exactly competing, I was just surviving.  

Head of support crew Barb Sweeney with little man doing his part!
We descended the mesa and it was homeward bound to the finish line back at the town park.  With Sheena’s motivation, we just kept trucking along. I did a lot of complaining to which I must apologize for.  I had felt so crappy for the entire day.  It was of course nice to win the race but it’s not with a performance that I’m proud of.

Again, I know that it was I who had played hard and didn’t rest prior.  I had a bad run coming to me. My posture collapsed, my achilles flared and my hip flexors stopped working. It was a messy day out there for lack of better words. That finish line to see Kiel couldn’t have come sooner.  Matt the RD put on such a great event once again so I thank him for that.   My crew were awesome and I appreciate their hard work out there for me.  If I can take a positive away from the race, my mental toughness remains so I’m thankful for that.

I also suppose that I did get 100km beneath me and through that, it showed me that I have A LOT of work to do to get ready for Hardrock if I am going to compete as I want to.   Anyways, guess how I celebrated this win?  The next morning I got out for a 20min spin on my roadie despite hardly being able to swing my leg over the saddle or unclip my bad foot out of the pedals.   We then spent the afternoon riding Guacamole – a wicked fun trail that I had been itching to go and do.  My body started to loosen as the ride went on.  And then the highlight came on Sunday.  We packed up and drove to Bryce National Park. By that afternoon, Robyn and Ian Martin, Norm and I were enjoying the coolest ride down Thunder Mountain while Sheena so kindly took Kiel to meet us at the pickup.  It was just a super fun day on the bikes and made me forget all about Friday’s 100km pain.

Flushing the legs post race. 
I guess the moral of the story is that my heart and soul are in adventure. I can’t say no to fun in the outdoors with friends and experiencing and seeing new places even when a race is right around the corner.  I mean how do I sit and do nothing when Zion National Park is right there and it’s call my name????  I have a long list of epic adventures awaiting me and I can’t wait to tackle them. Racing is great but playing without any kind of pressure and just being in the moment might be even better.

Thanks for all your words of encouragement and congrats! Two races down on my post pregnancy come-back.  A long road still ahead!

Adventure Onwards!