9 Hours Later….

I once attempted a 50 mile race. This was back in December 2013 at The NorthFace (TNF) challenge in San Fran.  Weeks before that race I was experiencing some new nagging pain in my inner leg, but it came and went, so I thought very little  of it. As runners know, we are often good at ignoring minor signs of injury in order to keep moving along, and this is what I was certainly doing. I also had an ongoing pelvic injury/issue which had stuck around for months (I was a bad runner/patient and didn’t rest when I should have!), but had still been running well that season, so it seemed silly not to keep on plugging away.  In any case, that little nagging pain, turned out to be a stress fracture (most likely) at the lesser trochanter of the femur. It wasn’t diagnosed until the following March, so you can imagine the frustration I was having day after day, unable to identify this pain.  That pain, which became quite excruciating at times during TNF race, caused me to think twice about running the full 80km’s, so I pulled out, disappointed at my defeat, but glad I didn’t make things worse for myself.

So, fast forward to 2015.  That 50 mile distance was still unattempted and unfinished. It had become the new nagging issue in my head rather than an injury.  I very much wanted to conquer that distance, but it still scared me, it still made me think I wasn’t quite ready to be on my feet for so many hours.   In fact, the longest I had been out prior to Saturday’s race was during Trailstoke last year.  Having missed a turn, and added on about 5km’s, I was out for a little under 7 hours and around 54km’s.  It was a frustrating race for me, but my body held up, which gave me some confidence that a longer race would certainly be possible, especially if I was in good health.

To be honest, when I put my name into the Squamish 50 race earlier this year, I wasn’t 100% sure I would actually end up there.  My Summer schedule wasn’t set, but in the back of my head I thought it may be good to find a new race at that time of year, despite the fact that I love the event and all it has to offer.  But, as August approached, and I had put off entering anything else, Squamish 50 remained on the table.  I knew the last 50km’s of the course quite well, but still, the idea of being out there for so long, on a slightly injured ankle, frightened me a bit. I was nervous. This was perhaps the first time in years that I had felt so anxious about a race. I questioned my training, my ability to fight through discomfort, my ankle stability, and wondered if I would just make a fool out of myself and have to pull out of the distance once again.  In the end though, the story had a happy ending (albeit I did have some moments of regret, frustration, anger, fatigue, and maybe some wimpering when I jammed my ankle and bailed quite a few times during a good chunk of the race).

So, here is the recap of my very first 50 mile race.  Perhaps I now feel like I can call myself a “real” Ultra runner, but maybe that only comes once you finish 100 miles….

It was 3:30 AM when I woke on Saturday. I had woken up frequently during the night to check my watch, so it wasn’t much of a struggle to wake naturally before my alarm that day.  With little appetite at such an early hour, I barely managed to eat breakfast, and all I really wanted to to was just start the race.

5:20 found us at the start line. I gave my last nervous look at my husband, turned the head lamp on, and stood amongst a group of runners who were ready to conquer the beautiful trails of Squamish.

Unlike a road race, very few people were in a rush to battle for a lead spot.  There were many many many……more km’s to come. The daylight was slowly creeping out from the dark sky as we made our way along the regional trails of the town before hitting single track goodness at about 11km’s. Along the way, I managed to have a little chat with super downhill Ultra star (and winner!) Cassie Scallion from Colorado.  We had met briefly in March while racing Chuckanut, but it was nice to chat once again.

The first climb, much to my surprise, was more of a scramble than I imagined. It was short but sharp, but nonetheless a great way to warm the body up to what was in store for the next “few” hours. I love going uphill, and don’t mind powering up when I can, even it’s in the form of hiking rather than running, but to be honest, my downhill skills have never been strong, and to make matters worse, I was so worried about my ankle. I had been improving these downhill running skills over the last year, but still, the thought of spraining it again after less than a 3 week recovery form the initial injury, made me even more cautious and therefore, quite slow on each and every downhill section.  Looking back, I think I could have taken more chances on those downhill sections, braked less, saved my hip flexors (which started to scream at me from 25km’s in!), and run at least 20 minutes faster over the whole course. However, my cautionary skills allowed me to finish uninjured, and to that, I thank myself. Sometimes you just have to take that chance.

Within the first 40ish km’s, I had the chance to play leap frog with Cassie. Her incredible downhill skills blew me away. I was in awe and could take some major pointers from her!  I moved well on the uphills and flowing single track, but each slick, dusty downhill killed me.  However, having company in this back and forth fashion, allowed me to stay motivated.

Once we hit the ‘big’ climb, which I personally love in this course due to it’s mostly runnable terrain, I caught the lead lady Amanda, had passed Cassie, but knew I would be seeing her fly by me in the km’s to come. What goes up, must come down, so that long uphill meant a long downhill which I was dreading to some degree.

Fast forward a little bit, and this is where my body and mind went downhill. I began to loose focus, I was running alone after Cassie took a strong lead, I was nauseous, my head was pounding, I was overheating, and stumbling a lot. The hip flexors were on fire, my ankle felt rough, the sun was beating down, and I wondered what I was doing out there.  Looking back though, I think I had taken in fewer calories at this point, made the mistake of not getting some ice at the past aid station, and the negative thoughts overtook me for almost 25km’s!

At 62km’s good old Garmin gave up and shut down. I was partly glad to see it die on me. I was tired of watching my pace shuffle along (not that ‘pace’ really matters, but I lost motivation to push). All I could do to keep me mildly ‘in the game’ was knowing that at Aid station 7, there would be cold water, hopefully ice, salty food, and a wonderful husband to keep me going. I also tried to convince myself that I was doing a measly 50 miles, while some people battled trails for 100 miles in rougher terrain. Suck it up Cat, you can do this!

Aid station 7, I love you! This was honestly one of the best moments of the race.  What a crew of volunteers. They doused me in water, shoved ice in my pack, passed 2 warm, unappetizing cups of coke my way and I shoved a handful of salty chips in my mouth, chased by a salt tablet and m and m’s. What a sight us runners must be at times! We are like wild animals, making odd noises, shuffling in and out of the stations with an occasional smile, some grumbling and mumbling, but believe me, we are ever so thankful for this havens along the way.

However I may have looked, I thanked them, had some words of encouragement from my man, and all of a sudden, knowing what lay ahead of me for the next 10km’s, I found another level of strength.  How is that even possible?  After hours of feeling sorry for myself, questioning why I would enter a race like that when clearly 50km’s is enough, and feeling so much fatigue and discomfort in my hip flexors and some in the ankle, I somehow found myself, my true racing self, and bounded (well, kind of…..) up the trails and smoothly made my way towards the centre of Squamish.

With less than 2km’s to go, I could see a lovely lady cheering me on.  The amazing Anne-Marie Madden had come out to see me finish my first 50m race. Her voice and motivation made this one of the most wonderful ways to finish strong. Thank you AM!

And so, after 9hours and 12 minutes, I ran across that familiar finish line and gave one the most passionate race directors I know, a big hug. Gary Robbins, you are truly incredible.  Your races are tough, so very very tough, but they are also incredibly well organized and without a doubt, spectacular.  Your crew of volunteers couldn’t have been better and the pink flagging that dressed the trails of Squamish are still envisioned in my head.



I learned a lot that day. I also realize that my 50 miles, barely covers what some Ultra runners do. And however I may have felt in a portion of that race, doesn’t take away how I felt when I finished strong at 80km’s.

I’m not quite ready to get training yet. I respect my body too much to do that.  I want to return to feeling normal before I do anything too strenuous, and I am appreciating having my legs up a little more this week.  Have I thought about doing another 50 mile race you may wonder?  Ask any runner after they finish an epic event, and I doubt anyone (despite the discomfort), would say ‘No’. There are too many trails to explore out there, and each one is so unique. It’s hard to get bored of trails. So, yes, I would race another 50 mile event, but give me some time to recover before I set any goals.

Cheers Squamish 50! And a big thank you to Compressport for keeping my legs happier in the trail shorts and socks once again this year at the race (no blisters!). Thank you Julbo eyewear, Frontrunners Victoria, and of course Joe for all of your support. Happy running everyone.


Super trail runner and cheering squad, Anne Marie Madden

Race interview

Race interview



Awards post race with race director Gary Robbins


Hazy skies in the Shuswap the day after the race

Summertime. Mountain time. More time please!

The heat of the summer has been strong, sometimes over powering, but nonetheless, inspiring for some mountain get aways with some post-adventure lake dipping. To be honest though, I am hoping that the rain returns (preferably on the week days…and during the night), so our reservoirs can return to normal levels, our trees can thrive, and the wild fires can be dampened.  Despite my love of long summer days, I worry about our land and the path that our planet is taking with changes in climate.

During some amazing Summer weekends, we’ve been finding a few Alpine meadows to play in, beautiful rocky peaks to admire, and creeks to cool off in mid/post run.  These outings have been rejuvenating to say the least.  And although I haven’t been racing as much this summer, I have found more energy in my trail outings in recent weeks after a major drop in energy during the Spring to Summer transition. Low iron levels, busy work schedules, moving and unpacking, and perhaps a mild case of burnout left me backing off of intensity and seeking more rest than I had needed in the Spring. I am hoping my body is bouncing back and readying itself for a very long run.


Most weekends we found trails that lead to beautiful views. Some of which I had experienced in the past, and others which were new. Above is our very own Vancouver Island view of Strathcona Park.

Back country camping/hiking and then running up to Mount Albert Edward is always rewarding. It was my second time running the route a few weeks back, and the first for Joe. Conditions couldn’t have been better that weekend, and the mountain energy was appreciated (as was Helen Mckenzie lake at the end of a long hot day!)

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We climbed up and down these trails, fuelled by Alpine views and without any physical issues, however, the following day while running on road and flat chip trail, I somehow managed to take a wrong step and roll my ankle mid step, resulting in a mildly ugly foot and lower leg. Those dangerously easy routes are things to avoid apparently! It stopped me from running for a few days, and knowing more mountain trips were coming up quickly (not to mention a race in 3 weeks time), I stuck to the pool for a little therapy in order to avoid more ligament damage.



With the healing coming along nicely thanks to a little rest, massage, physio, good old Compressport socks, and knowing a long tough race was approaching, another weekend in the mountains with back to back trail runs was welcome.  I used some caution on the downhills as my foot and ankle were still a little angry and jammed up, but this mini 4 day getaway provided me with some much needed time off of work.

During my time as a tree planter, I spent many months exploring various areas of this beautiful province. One area I had always loved was the Chilcotin’s in the interior of BC. I had spent long summer days working in the Northern part of the region, replanting clear-cut landscapes, fighting off mosquitos and avoiding close counters with bears, but hadn’t yet explored the South Chilcotin’s which is accessed via Pemberton or Lillooet.  And, after watching Adam Campbell‘s mountain running video which was filmed in the Chilcotin’s a few years back, and having talked to a few friends who had ventured into Tyax Lodge for some mountain biking, I was determined to get to this region as a runner (rather than slaving away as a tree planter!)


En route to this amazing interior BC environment, we fit in a great run up to Elfin lakes near Squamish on day one of what became known as “training camp holiday”




We set up camp lakeside just past Pemberton,  a location we had once visited 7 years before, and admired more breathe-taking views around us


Once we finished the slow drive through canyons, along rivers and lakes, and dodging landslide rocks and boulders, we arrived at Tyax lodge and headed uphill for some gruelling climbs and much deserved views


I should mention too that this route is one in which most people take on as a downhill adventure rather than and all uphill grind.  With sandy soil and dry conditions, this made for a tough mountain bike route, and a much smoother (albeit tough) run route.  Nevertheless, we got our needed views and avoided the in coming storm that had been threatening that afternoon.

Day 3 of ‘holiday camp’ found us on a wonderful gradual climbing route (again, most people get flown into the Alpine and ride down this trail). Gun Creek trail has such a diverse landscape. It varies from river side trails, forested single track, sandy rockslide scrambles,  burnt out forests, Aspen groves, and of course some Alpine landscapes. The full route is 30km one way, but based on time and planning, we managed to fit in about a 40k return route.


Amongst the young trees heading up Gun Creek, testing out my new Julbo eyewear!


With only a half day left, we woke early on day 4 and ran up to get some amazing views at Joffre lakes, as well as taking in some more flowing trails in Squamish before fighting traffic and ferry lines to make it back to our beloved island.

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It’s times like these that make me wish I was still in school, where summers are free and full of week long, or even month long adventures.  However, in ‘real life’ we must work, and be responsible adults from time to time.  Finding time to get into the mountains and enjoy what summer has to offer keeps me motivated though.  These days on the trails have not benefitted my road running abilities, but it has given me a boost of energy that I was lacking in June and July. There are not nearly enough hours in the day, days in the week or months in the year to fulfill all the lists of places I would love to experience. I’ll take one at a time for now though, taking it all in.

We live in such an incredible place. BC has endless offerings and endless beauty. I am ever so grateful to live here and have the opportunity to use my own body to get me to these heights. Although I have seen beauty all over this planet, there is something extremely special about our own surroundings.  Here’s hoping there are more trails to find, more mountains to explore, and more energy to gain from wherever I may roam.

Oh those views

Oh those views


Soaking it in

I have been on the go for weeks now. Moving, traveling, racing, working and even a small amount of socializing when I am not completely worn out from my busy days. With 3 big races in May, and one more at the start of June, I have taken some time to back off of my feet for a short period of time.

May began with the Canadian Long Distance Mountain Champs which was part of the Dirtyfeet series in Vernon.  I absolutely love the trails in Kal Park, and to run 50km’s of those trails made for a perfect day.  Despite bailing at 18km’s, kicking a sharp rock into my medial ankle bone (which now has a nice little bump), and almost falling face first when I tripped on a root on a downhill, the race went smoothly and was a close even split for the two loops.


Kal Park

Two marathons came back to back at the end of May. Both felt decent, and it’s not something I would necessarily do again, or even suggest anyone else try, however, I gave the experience a go, and had the opportunity to run amongst some wonderful athletes in both Ottawa and Calgary.


The Ottawa marathon is a world class event. The line up on race day in both the marathon and the 10k is incredible. It’s an honour to race amongst these elite runners, and to witness the speed during the 10k Canadian Championships the night before (which saw Lanni Marchant and Natasha Wodak battling for a win and racing some incredibly fast times).  Ottawa hadn’t been in the original plan for this Spring, but when offered a spot at the race only a few weeks prior, I decided to take it on and see what these 50k trail legs could do on the road.  Rooming with Krista Duchene made for a great weekend as I could feed off of her positive and intelligent attitude towards sport. And, to make the weekend even better, I managed to pull off a decent time of 2:42, and see Rachel Hannah début in an amazing 2:33.


Two of Canada’s best marathon ladies

Post race with Rachel Hannah (Top Canadian in 2:33! Incredible!)

Post race with Rachel Hannah (Top Canadian in 2:33! Incredible!)

With only 6 days to recover, I wasn’t sure if the Calgary race would happen (or be a smart choice), however I was going to be there visiting friends and family anyway, and, by the Wednesday morning, I felt mostly ‘normal’ and decided to take a chance and run another marathon that weekend. It wasn’t an easy feat, nor was it pretty at times as one of my Hamstrings decided to act up, cramp, and cause me to walk for a while.  However, I held onto 2nd, and avoided injury in the end.


Post race with Loudmilla, the winner of the Calgary marathon


Good people, good ice cream!


Family time in beautiful places

Following those two weekends of travel and race, I found myself in Whistler once again, for the the fourth year in a row, running the NorthFace Whistler 10k (rather than the half). It’s a favourite event and a highlight of the year, as Dave Clark puts on an incredible event, treats us like gold, and always seems to organize great weather on top of that! With the weather, the people, and the location, it was perhaps the best way to finish off a triad of race weekends


Post race hike with the man


Sunday trail run


Victoria crew. Marilyn 1st in the Half, Jim Fin 1st in the half, and myself 1st in the 10k

Although I managed to run all three races in decent form, I now find myself needing the time to catch up on recovery.  The trails are calling, and the lakes are too inviting to avoid for some open water swims.  Despite the somewhat chaotic way of life over the last few months, I continue to enjoy my runs and the company that comes along with the running world, but I know I have to back off of the volume an intensity in order to recharge. And I honestly know that in no time, I will be ready to start building once again.

I am 9 races into 2015. Three marathons, two 50km trail races, two halves and a two 10k’s. Perhaps I am not a typical runner, in fact, I am possibly far from a typical runner in my racing schedule, and the mix of road and trail I incorporate into my life, however, I am still smiling and enjoying the ride. With amazing support from Compressport, Arcteryx and Frontrunners Victoria, along with family and friends, it’s hard not to enjoy all that is around me in this sport. I am so very grateful for this life I live!

There are no set plans for racing in the near future, but I am sure my body and mind will begin to desire a new focus in the coming weeks.  For now, it’s time to tend to the garden, settle into our new little home and play on the trails more often.  It’s hard to find a balance at times, but it has to exist in order to avoid burnout or boredom. Here’s to a lovely Summer



I often tell my patients that ‘movement is medicine’, and if I truly believe in these wise words, which I do, then I have had a good dose of ‘moving medicine’ in the last month.  There has been so much going on in our lives, that I haven’t had the time to put my feet up and relax, let alone write a blog post. However, I am making an effort to get some writing down now that the settling has begun. It will come in stages, so I can slowly catch up with our going-ons, so here it is, part one of movement…

After finalizing our first purchase of a house in early April, we ventured off to Austria and Switzerland before the big move was  to happen (as well as all the chaos that comes with moving your belongings from one house to another). It was a work trip for the husband, and a ‘tag-along’ trip for me.  Since I hadn’t explored Austria when we lived in Europe, it seemed sensible to go along and explore the city of Vienna which is bursting with ornate buildings and coffee houses, the spectacular Austria sub Alps (since the snow level was still low enough to prevent true Alpine running), the much welcomed thermal baths, and of course, visit our past home and friends in Switzerland.

In a nut shell, Austria was beautiful. The weather was ideal, we managed to find some trails in the mountains, and we moved across the country from East to West with ease despite our lack of German speaking skills.  To top it all off, I found a 1/2 marathon in the city of Linz Austria, and raced the Lausanne 20 10k the night before we left (which is a race I ran in 2010). Both were completely unplanned, and I was unrested for these races, but it was a wonderful way to see the city and attempt to get my Ultra focused legs on moving a little quicker than they are used to. I am not convinced that they went very fast, but I had a blast being out there, running with the Austrians and running with the Swiss once again. Speedy races like those seems more and more foreign to me these days, but I do believe that they are a good training companion to the longer/slower/technical trail runs.

So, to avoid too much writing (as I am now needing to move once again!), here are some photos of our adventures back in April.


Seeing a city by bike is always a must!


Finding some hills in the Salzburg region


Beauty in the sub Alps


The hills are alive!


Cully, our home village




Soaking the sun up in the mountains



Brave Anya taking a dip in the cold lake





Slip Sliding Along

It has taken me three years to finally run the ever so popular Chuckanut 50k.  In 2013 I was whisked off to Kenya during the Chuckanut race weekend (tough choice, but Kenya won in the end).  In 2014 a tough physical and mental battle was occurring in my body as I tried to heal from multiple hip issues/injuries.  This year, well there was nothing holding me back other than the worry I wouldn’t be properly prepared for a very competitive trail ultra race.

In general, I mix my running time between road and trail. As much as I would love to visit the local trail terrain on a daily basis, it just isn’t always feasible. And to be honest, keeping some road leg speed, can be an advantage in endurance races, whether on trail or road.

Chuckanut was to be my first trail race of the year, and certainly not my last.  I did my research in regards to the race. Asking fellow Ultra runners Jeremy Clegg and Ellie Greenwood what I should expect out there that day. Both of these incredible runners had raced this event (Ellie being last years winner) and knew the in’s and out’s, and ups and downs, of the race.  It was obviously a poplar course with both friends, as they had given me a play by play of the race, and it couldn’t have been better.  It gave me some confidence while I moved through the trails, knowing (ever so slightly) what was coming up ahead.

Friday night after work found me heading down South, over the boarder to where the Canadian dollar gets you nothing currently, in the passenger seat of Anne-Marie Madden’s truck.  It was the perfect time to catch up, unwind, and hedge our bets on what the weather would do the next morning. It wasn’t looking like the sun would poke through, so a soggy run was expected.

The threat of rain and wind, and the assurance of mud and puddles had me undecided as to what to wear (like the runners version of what to wear on a first date I suppose!). Jacket on or jacket off? Arm warmers? Water bladder full or half empty?The gusts were strong as we readied ourselves just minutes before the race was to begin, so I opted for a hat that wouldn’t fly off, and threw on a long sleeve over my pack (kind of looking like I was wearing a fashionable shrug…), thinking I would rather have the option to take it off after the start if things warmed up, rather than being caught cold on a higher peak later on, wishing I had something to protect me from the wet conditions. In the end, it was a somewhat useless piece of clothing as it spent the majority of the race around my waist.

The beauty of this race is that is can appeal to both a climber and a not so skilled climber.  Although I am not horrible at moving up hill, I still have some work to do.  Having 10k at the start and the end of the race of rolling, easy terrain, allows people like me to stay in the race a little easier.  For many, the last 10k of flatter, rolling trails (much like what you see on the Goose or Elk lake for you Victoria folk), is not a welcoming aspect of the event.  From approximately 35km to 40k, there is a significant drop in elevation. It’s a perfect place to bomb down the switchbacks amongst beautiful trees, but it can also do some damage to the quads if one isn’t careful.   For me, it was a feeling of freedom going down that last slope, and I kept in mind that in a short amount of time, I would be able to utilize some road speed on the flats, hoping it would give me a gap between myself and the next female runner who was on my heels.

What’s the earlier part of the race like you may ask?  Well, after the first 10k of easier terrain, you begin the first climb. There is some great flowing single track, and due to the rain, a lot of slippery mud, puddles and slick rocks to be weary of. Around the 18km mark is a good long slog of a climb on a logging road, followed by more muddy ups and downs.  The final climb, called “Chinscraper”, said to be the nastiest climb (although it was my favourite for some odd reason), begins around 33km’s, and after that, the downhill slope begins. Overall, the race has some technical aspects, and of course some open and speedy sections. With the rain, wind and mud, I would hazard to say it was a slower run for most people out there. However, it didn’t disappoint. What’s trail running without some dirt and close calls along the way?  I am sure there is a health benefit to mud baths.

One trail race down for 2015 and I am extremely content with the 2nd place finish behind one of the USA’s strongest runners, Magdalena Boulet.  I didn’t expect to place so high up, but I won’t complain about the result.  I know I still have a lot to learn from these trails I am running on.  My confidence has increased in the last couple of years, but there is so much more to gain out there.  This change from road to trail and Ultra running only feeds the fire within.  Running through the woods, weaving over uneven terrain, listening to what nature has to say and hearing my own breathing as I make my way up a mountain, couldn’t be more inviting. Every turn and each new climb offers something different.  The challenges are numerous, but so rewarding. Bring on more dirt and longer runs. Happy running my friends. Enjoy the mud!

IMG_20150321_133906A view from above. Compressport compressed legs in a puddle!

IMG_20150321_172342Care Nelson and I post race, She was one of many Nelson runners that day! A family of strong runners indeed.

IMG_20150322_182410 Taking in some post race treats. Trail butter, oh yes!

Back to the Races 2015

It felt like I had been away from racing for much too long.  Getting these legs to move quickly again seemed like it may be a struggle.  I had been logging on some decent miles over the winter months, being cautious not to over do things.  A great balance of trail and road to keep my body familiar with both. I am not ready to completely disengage from road races, and I don’t feel like I am 100% trail material, especially the more technical and elevated mountain running, however, I love both, so why choose just one?

The races I want to do this season are vast, the trouble I have is choosing a select few, and making sure they all fit nicely on paper can be challenging.  It’s a bit overwhelming to see the choices that are out there to be quite honest. And if I was super human, I may just race every weekend in order to experience all that goodness.  However, thinking back to my injury, I realize that I can’t  subject my body to such craziness if I want to maintain what I have. Falling back into an injured state isn’t an option, both physically and more so, mentally.  Running brings me peace of mind, and it has connected me with amazing people across this globe. It’s a community I am proud to be a part of.  So, keeping this in mind will only help me in my race planning (or so I hope!)

In  a ‘normal’ year, I would have raced one or two of the more local road races by February. However, with a chest/sinus infection in December, and the fear of trying to run at a pace my legs are unfamiliar with these days, I chose to skip those events and wait things out until the First Half.  Perhaps I should have forced myself into an 8 or 10Km race to wake my legs up, but I chose to wait instead. And besides, 21.1 km’s seemed short enough for someone who starts to feel warmed up at about 18km’s.

That First Half was nothing to write about in regards to my time or placing, but I was satisfied with the end result, and it gave me some confidence for the longer events that will come this season (and some catching up with lovely running pals). In the back of my head, that race felt like it would prepare me for my first marathon of the year. A marathon which I wasn’t exactly doing as a focus race, or resting for fully, but simply a race that I kind of threw into the picture on a whim (truly, it was a great excuse to spend time with my lovely friend Stacey Cleveland!)

So, on the 26th of February, I jumped on a plane and headed to Arizona for the Phoenix marathon.  I was a scatter-brain leading up to that weekend.  Flipping back and forth between places to stay and how the logistics may work out. It seemed like a bit of a disaster in some ways, but the ticket had been bought, work was booked off, so off to the sunny South I went.

It’s true that I have traveled a lot in my 35 years, but not so extensively in the States.  Generally I am good at finding deals and keeping costs down, but sometimes, as I learned this weekend, it’s best to choose hotels that get really good ratings, not mediocre ones….

The first stop in my 2.5 day whirlwind tour was a hotel close the ASU campus. It was dark when I arrived, but at a reasonable hour.  As I peered out of the taxi window I could clearly see that the exterior of the hotel wasn’t pretty, and once I entered the room I realized it wasn’t any better on the inside.  Sure the staff were friendly and accommodating, but damn, they need to do some work.  Doors locked, and fan on to mask the street noise, I got in a broken 6.5 hours of sleep, woke to some sunshine and warmth, moved my legs on an easy run, and packed up to meet friends (good riddance to the less than average/somewhat sketchy hotel….)

I was delighted to see Stacey (Fantastic Ultra runner) at package pick-up, and knowing that I had another hotel to stay at that night, put me at ease, however, I was wondering if this next hotel may be just as bad as the first.  The host hotel was full (disorganized me didn’t get a room booked in time when I decided to go down for the race), so my only option was to find another home for the night, close enough to the shuttles that would drive us to the start (point to point race). I was convincing myself that the next couldn’t could be as bad as the first, could it? Well, the answer to that, is yes, yes it really can be. In fact, it was worse.

After a relaxing lunch and great conversation with my friends, we drove to the hotel where I would book in, put my legs up, and relax until I hopped in a taxi the next am at 4:15 (3:15 BC time). I believe I was there for a total of 12 minutes after checking in before I turned around, said no thanks to that room, called the Hyatt (they luckily had a couple of cancellations for the night!) asked for a taxi, and left the premises tout de suite! The sketchy cleaning lady, the drug deal, and the ‘cleanliness’ of that room, got me moving quickly.  And, to be honest, I am not very picky when it comes to these things. As I said to my husband, I was a tree-planter for 8 years, I have stayed in some fairly rough hotels in my time, but this, this just wasn’t going to happen.

So, long story short, my body and mind only began to settle once I entered my new hotel room (where the cleaners did not look like addicts, and no drug deals were going down). It would be another short night of sleep, but I really didn’t care.  I felt safe, happy, and truly had no idea how this run would go.

3:30 came quickly on the 28th (2:30 am BC time). I shot out of bed, fixed up some coffee and oats, got my gear on, and off I went with the crowds to board our 4:45am shuttle to the desert start line.  It was dark, but beautiful nonetheless. Bats flew above our heads, and the sunrise in the distance began as we approached the start line. It was a lot of pavement to pound for the day, but in the end, it was worth every step.


As the sun rose, we made our way down hill (net loss course). The air temperature was perfect and a light wind had begun.  I controlled my decent, so not to hammer my legs early on in the race.  Two women pulled ahead quickly, but I didn’t concern myself with what anyone else was doing.  I was happy to keep my pace where it was, and had to monitor my GI as it was acting up a bit.

At about 7.5km, after finding a small group to run with, we came to the one and only true climb in the race which lasted about 2km. I felt comfortable enough to push a little bit and gained on the 2nd lady.  Once we hit the downhill again however, she sped on her way, but I kept my eye on her in the distance, wondering if she may faulter later on, but it seemed as though she was cruising right along, getting further away.  At this point, the race became mostly flat.  This could have been a great advantage to us. A PB could easily be attained had the winds not become so strong.  I would guess that we had about 6km’s or more of full on head winds throughout the race.  Putting my head down and pushing through was the only choice I had. No tall runner in front of me to block the wind, and no way to avoid it.

As we came into the last 15km, I realized I was quickly gaining on 2nd.  By 28km’s I pulled up and passed her. My body finally felt like I had a steady rhythm. My pace picked up with ease.  I was determined to stay in 2nd after having such a rough experience with hotel craziness in the last 1.5 days. I did not dare look behind me though. If someone was on my heels, I would just have to deal with it later on.

Somewhere around 30km, the unnecessarily large number of Police escorts were beside and in front of me, informing me that I was now the lead lady. They quickly sounded their sirens to get the 10k and 1/2 marathon walk/runners to move over. It seemed like overkill, but I had no choice. I couldn’t really tell the officers to move over and out of my lane!  As I inhaled in the fumes of their motor cycle exhaust, I began  think back to past races where road cyclists have ridden close by me, wishing I could replace those motorized things with the road bikes!  Fingers crossed my lungs wouldn’t suffer for this in the future!

As I took the last turn with about 400m to go, the motor bike gang moved off course (Finally!) and I could see the clock ticking away in front of me. Knowing there was a bonus for running under 2:45 got my legs moving even quicker.  Had the wind not been so strong on the course, I wouldn’t have had to worry, however, here I was, down to the wire.  With only seconds to spare, I zipped through the finishing line in 2:44.54. Phew! That last km, being one of my quickest in the whole 42.2km’s, and  I would guess that the last 200m’s was even faster.


It wasn’t a PB, it wasn’t an amazing race by any means, but for a whirlwind trip/race, and with little specific marathon training as of late, I was happy with the result and even happier to see Ultra runner and ultra nice friends, Stacey and Dave, at the finish.  Thank goodness the 2.5 day trip ended on a high. Now I can look forward to the first trail race of the season. Hopefully the legs remember how to climb after that race….

IMG_20150228_152331773~2 IMG_20150228_152455783~2 IMG_20150228_153149967_HDR

Winter, all its darkness and a side of snow

I can’t say I love the short days of Winter.  There is very little daylight to take advantage of during these months.  Sunshine is so invigorating, and when that sun ceases to shine, it can be a struggle to thrive outdoors, or indoors for that matter.  Despite these dark and rainy days, I still love getting outside, however soggy or cold I may get.  Part of this maintained motivation is the fact that my body is no longer is pain, fighting an injury, as it did this time last year.  Other than fighting a terrible cold and sinus infection as of late, which brought with it, some incredible fatigue for the last few weeks, I have still been able to enjoy some shuffling out in the woods, through some snow, and along the ocean front.  The last year was a struggle, for so many reasons, and I can only hope that 2015 will be a little easier on me both physically and mentally.

The highs and lows of 2014 are numerous. From injury, loss of loved ones, and a poor mental state, to enjoying summertime sunshine, travel to various places on the globe, a few Ultra’s, and the experience of racing at the IAU World Trophy 50k. I have some fond memories of the last 12 months, and others I don’t care to think about too often.  Yet, through all of the ebbs and flows, I always felt fortunate to have good people around me to keep me strong.  I truly believe we thrive on the support of others. We are a social being, no matter how much many people love to be alone, we still require a certain amount of contact to make us stronger and happier.  So, to all the good and amazing people in my life, thank you.  Each one of you keeps me smiling, keeps me strong, and keeps me honest. I may not love these darker Winter days, but I certainly love my extended family (which includes my dear friends).

Happy New Year

A few photos to reflect on the last 12 months

IMG_20140202_113313118_HDRFrom therapeutic walks/hikes

IMG_20140228_113005To cross training while injured

Gwyn Jones, my Dadcu

Gwyn Jones, my Dadcu

Saying good-bye to my lovely grandfather, whom I miss dearly

IMG_6022To seeing my family in Britain.

IMG_9235And reuniting with old friends

IMG_20140819_111720Spending as much time with my boy before we said good-bye

IMG_20140914_052835603~2~2And revisiting our home in La Suisse

IMG_6139to see friends (and drink some Lavaux wine too!)

IMG_6061Where I happily raced the JungFrau marathon!

IMG_20140418_155508Camping along the Coast which rejuvenated me

IMG_20140803_094223526Finally running up Mt Albert Edward!

IMG_0231And running for Canada at the World Trophy 50k

IMG_9265With an amazing Canadian team!

Through this year I have had continued support from Arc’teryx, Compressport and Frontrunners Victoria, Thank you all once again!

Finishing with a smile.

Finishing with a smile.