September 2014 - Run for the Thrills


After The Big Race – The Post Race Void

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Training | No Comments

It has been an exciting year for me with the Boston Marathon in the spring and then all the new challenges of competing in my first triathlons.  The season culminated with the Muskoka Half Ironman.  It was a beautiful day and all my training came together for a successful race.  It was a thrill and my family and friends were there to support me.  Elijah ran around all day cheering for me.  My family, friends and training buddies were there at the end to celebrate with me as I crossed the finish line.  For months I geared up for this amazing race. It had, in fact, been a goal of mine for years and now it is finally accomplished.  BUT, what happens after the big race?

After a couple of days of recovery and getting back to normal life, I find myself asking, “Now what?”  What is my next goal?…

For months my body and mind had been training and focusing on this big challenge.  Now that it is accomplished, I find myself feeling strange…a bit lost actually.  It is a type of withdrawal!  I had been so focused on getting in my runs, swims, long rides, brick workouts….I was so excited and nervous.  Now I find myself missing the focus and determination of a very clear and exciting goal.

How do I deal with this post-race void?

TAKE TIME:  Sometimes it is hard for me to slow down!  Taking time is good….Time to be thankful for all that has happened.  Time to rest a bit and do other endeavors.  I can thank my training friends for all the work we did together to accomplish the race.  I certainly did not get there alone.   I thank training friends:  Nate, Dave, Scott, Lesley, Nicole, Barb, Geron. I thank coaches, Wolf and Barb of the Aktiv Racing Team, and Christine, with Masters Swimming . I thank God for a body that is healthy enough for me to train in swimming, cycling and running.

REFLECT:  What did I learn through all that training and the new experience of the Half Ironman?  I learned that I love challenges and goals!  I discovered how much I enjoyed the variety of three sports and a trying a new challenge.  I certainly like to push myself and strive for new goals.

SET NEW GOALS:  I had no goals in mind for after the Muskoka Half Ironman.  Often I know before a race is over what I will be doing next.  This time I did not have that sorted out!  Rather, I knew my family commitments were going to be all consuming after the race.  This fall Elijah had a heart catheterization at Sick Kids Hospital and I really could not think of anything else past that.  Elijah is doing amazingly well after his procedure and is running around with more energy than ever.

Now I can start to think of athletic goals.  I would love to do a full Ironman, however, I know that this is not currently a possibility.  I will likely focus on local races.  The Multisport Canada Series has a variety of races from Sprint to Half Ironman distances – I will plan to do several of these races next season.  I have not yet done the Olympic Distance (longer than sprint and shorter than Half Ironman) so I will definitely need to try that distance next season.

Post race “depression” is surprisingly common.  After the intensity of training for a big event there is a definite void afterwards.  Learning how to deal with this cycle is a part of the whole training experience.  Have you experience a post-race void?  Add your coping strategies to this article and add your ideas for future races!  I would love your ideas and input into new challenges that may be waiting around the corner!

open road

Take One Step, Then Another, Then Another: How a Big Decision is Made by a Thousand Small Decisions

Posted by | Fit by Forty | 2 Comments

It’s almost my 39th birthday: 45 more days.

Which means it’s almost my 40th birthday: 410 more days.

Which means my ‘Fit by Forty’ goal has to kick into high gear. Or higher gear at least.

When I started my ‘Fit by Forty’ plan last year, I pictured a slow and steady progression towards better health: every day I imagined I would look at myself in the mirror and smile and nod approvingly, watching my figure getting steadily slimmer, filled with inspiration to continue on my fitness quest. I imagined I would look back over all my runs with a twinkle in my eye, laughing at how I used to barely be able to run 5km, while I planned my next marathon.

I did not picture that, one year down the road, I would have made only a little progress. I think I’ve lost maybe 5 pounds, which works out to something like 1.8% of my body weight. Hm.

Still, I haven’t given up yet. On the contrary: as it has dawned on me how little progress I’ve made, I have actually strengthened my resolve. It’s made me realize that the goal was a bit more ambitious than I had previously imagined, and that I’m going to work a lot harder than I thought I was going to. I thought it would be a bit of a walk in the park to get fit over a period of two years: that after a bit of initial sweating, it would get easier and easier. Turns out, it’s going to involve a lot of sweating, and huffing and puffing, and generally feeling uncomfortable and outside my happy cozy squishy comfort zone.

The good news is that I am running again, after a bit of a hiatus. I’m back to running three times a week, without any skipping or excuses. My daughter, Zara, has run with me many times (she has a goal of increasing her cardio, which will help her dancing, so she wants to run as well) and that has been very fun and enjoyable and special. She is a lot like me in many respects: we can run 20 minutes together without saying a word, just huffing and puffing, but both of us are very happy with that. Of course, she’s fitter than me, so she has pushed the pace, and I’m very grateful to be challenged.

I’m also extremely pleased to have found that my consistent running is starting to make a difference. Not in my waistline yet – I look exactly the same – but in how fast and far I can run. Running hurts just as much as it always has, but I can actually go faster and further than I could before. So that’s nice.


I read a quote yesterday from Annie Dillard: ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.’ It really resonated with me. The big ambitions and goals are rarely accomplished in a flash of inspiration and zeal and passion; rather, they are accomplished over and over, incrementally, in each small step that precedes the next one. A big decision is really the result of the culmination of countless other smaller decisions.

Each run I go on takes about 3,000 steps (give or take). That seems like a lot to count, one-by-one. And that’s just a short run, compared to what my beautiful wife does! I’m happy to take each step, because each step gets me closer.

I have about 150 runs to accomplish my ‘Fit by Forty’ goal. I can’t skip any: I’m going to need each one if I’m going to make it.

pina colada smoothie

Pina Colada Smoothie

Posted by | Fit Food | No Comments

For the past few weeks I’ve been making Janine a smoothie every day when she gets home from work.

Here’s the next smoothie: The Pina Colada Smoothie. Refreshing, clean, and tropical, every sip is a mini-vacation to the Caribbean!

Pina Colada Smoothie Recipe

Note: Making a smoothie is not like baking a cake. Measurements of ingredients is very rough and should be adjusted depending on your taste- just add as much as you like and blend it up!

Fresh Pineapple (about 1/2)
Coconut Cream (about 1/2 cup)
Coconut Water (1 cup)
Frozen Banana
Ice (a few cubes)
Fancy Garnish with a little umbrella (this part is important)

1. Chop up the pineapple. Add coconut cream and coconut water. (If you’ve never had coconut water, you must try it! It comes in individual cans, like canned soft drinks, and it is so refreshingly delicious!)
2. Microwave frozen banana for 20 seconds or so until it is soft enough to squeeze out of the skin.
3. Blend. Add Ice as desired.
4. Garnish.
Serves 2.

The Smoothie Solution

Janine used to be cranky, tired, thirsty, and hungry when she first came home, but instead of sitting down, resting, and eating or drinking, she would bustle around the house, cleaning up after the kids (and me). Then she’d be desperate for dinner, which I usually hadn’t even started cooking yet (since I had also just finished my work day).

One day I realized the solution: I would hand her a tasty smoothie when she came in the door from work, it might help keep her happy until dinner. Thus, the Smoothie Solution was born.

aloha sun smoothie

Aloha Sun Smoothie

Posted by | Fit Food | One Comment

For the past few weeks I’ve been making Janine a smoothie every day when she gets home from work.

Here’s yesterday’s smoothie: The Aloha Sun Smoothie. This beautiful smoothie gets mellowness from melon, tangy sweetness from orange juice, and a final kick from pineapple. Lots of pulp in this one.

Aloha Sun Smoothie Recipe

Note: Making a smoothie is not like baking a cake. Measurements of ingredients is very rough and should be adjusted depending on your taste- just add as much as you like and blend it up!

Fresh Pineapple (about 1/4)
Cantaloupe (about 1/8)
Orange Juice (1 cup or so)
Ice (a few cubes)

Chop up the pineapple and cantaloupe. Add enough orange juice to reach your desired consistency. Blend. Add a few ice cubes. Blend some more.
The fresh pineapple will make this smoothie quite frothy: keep the froth if you’re a fan (I am) or skim off if you don’t like it.
Serves 2.

The Smoothie Solution

Janine used to be cranky, tired, thirsty, and hungry when she first came home, but instead of sitting down, resting, and eating or drinking, she would bustle around the house, cleaning up after the kids (and me). Then she’d be desperate for dinner, which I usually hadn’t even started cooking yet (since I had also just finished my work day).

One day I realized the solution: I would hand her a tasty smoothie when she came in the door from work, it might help keep her happy until dinner. Thus, the Smoothie Solution was born.

AT feature2

The Payoff of Running – An Adventurous Lifestyle

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Why I Run | No Comments

Our Family vacation this summer consisted of 80 km of glorious hiking along the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Virginia.  A great payoff of running is an adventurous lifestyle and exciting new experiences with our children.  Many people thought we were crazy – but it was the best vacation ever!  Six very diverse individuals worked together and hiked along the highest mountains in Virginia:  A marathon runner (myself), a web-designer who runs for fitness (James, my husband), my 15 year old daughter Zara and her friend Paige, Caleb, 13 years old, and my youngest son, Elijah, who is 9 years old.  We even brought along the 10 lb dog who always joins us on our hikes.

Our hiking days ranged from 8km to 18km and we climbed to over 5,500ft above sea level to the peaks of mountains (Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain).  We carried all of our gear on our backs.  James had the cooking gear, I carried one tent, and Caleb carried the second tent.  The food was dispersed between all of us, and each person was responsible for their own gear (sleeping bag, therma-rest, clothing, toiletries).  Four nights we slept in shelters along the AT and one night we used our tents.

One of the principles we embraced on this trip was to BE ADVENTUROUS:  we petted wild ponies, we ate wild blueberries and blackberries and we climbed up rock cliffs (that we deemed safe!) to see spectacular views.  We bathed in cold mountain streams and enjoyed our dehydrated food, cliff bars, dried berries and high protein butters (sunflower butter, almond butter).

I have discovered that having a healthy running lifestyle has made me far more willing to try new adventures with my kids.  Since I train regularly for running, I knew the importance of training with James and the kids (and the dog) for the hike.  We trained together on the weekends, hiking most Sundays in the winter and spring to prepare.  We often hiked with our packs to get used to the feeling of carrying them on our backs.  In so doing, we ironed out the kinks with our gear and discovered what pieces of equipment were essential.  For example, we discovered that carrying water bottles in our packs was too difficult to keep properly hydrated (having to reach back – often dropping the bottle or not being able to access it at all meant we did not hydrate frequently enough).  We solved this problem by having a Camelbak in each pack, with the water spout right at our shoulders for super easy access.  This made a huge difference in everyone’s stamina, as now nobody got dehydrated.

My 15 year old daughter was the most reluctant member of the crew – before the big hike that is!  One day into the adventure, she told us how much she was enjoying herself and that she was glad that we had brought her along!  She apologized for having dragged her feet a bit during our preparations.  This from a teenager is truly impressive, and I am so thankful that we were able to do this journey together.  It was an incredible family bonding time.  We had no distractions from media and screens.  It was us and the great outdoors:  evenings we sat around the campfire and played “the questions game”.  We did star gazing; we played cards; we sat and talked for hours.  We breathed in the nature around us and were constantly amazed by the views and the wildlife.

Next summer we plan to discover a new section of the AT.  Our goal is to hike in New Hampshire and Hike up Mount Washington, which is the highest peak along the AT.  I am so thankful that my running has payed off in rewards for my whole family.  Four of us are now running regularly  and looking forward to using that fitness to summit new peaks and discover new adventures.  If you have any suggestions for hikes or outdoor adventures, please share them below!


It “Runs” In the Family: Family and Fitness

Posted by | Events, Runner Profiles, Triathlon Training, Why I Run | No Comments

Caleb, my 13 year old son, did his first triathlon this summer, the same summer that I did my first!  I was as excited to watch Caleb race his triathlon as I was to do one myself.  My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest as I watched him compete. Caleb looked like he was having the time of his life and he looked so strong and confident.  As an athlete, one of the biggest complements and best payoffs of my own physical feats is to see that I inspire someone else to be active and reach for new goals.  Family and fitness are two passions of mine!  Caleb is a very articulate and kind 13 year old and he has told me that watching me race has inspired him to do the same.  I could not be prouder of Caleb!

Caleb’s first ever triathlon was on August 30th – the Guelph Lake 2, Try-a-Tri.  His race consisted of  a 375m Swim, 10km Bike and 2.5km run.  He was so excited and hardly nervous.  Caleb had watched me do the sprint distance in the morning and then raced himself at 1pm.

Caleb’s strength is swimming.  He looked incredible as he ran out of the swim, not far behind the leaders.  His 375m swim took 6:17, a pace time of 1:41/100m.  He quickly ran to his bike….ran back for his glasses (oops)… and ran to the bike mount area, passing people as he ran.

Caleb was strong and confident on the bike.  He had done some cycling with me over the summer months, even doing a ride in North Carolina in the mountains, which was very challenging.  His 10km bike on the hilly course took 22:23, with an average pace of 27km/hr.  Very respectable on his cross-bike; he was keeping up with people on triathlon bikes.  Most importantly he was having a great time.

Coming into transition 2, Caleb looked very strong.  He ran off at a quick pace, however this quickly became challenging.  The 2.5km run was the most difficult part of the race for Caleb.  He got a cramp only half a kilometer into the run which forced him to walk sections.  Caleb persisted, however, and finished the run.

I was so proud of Caleb.  He had a great time and definitely wants to do more triathlons in the future.  He is now starting his second year of swim training with West Park Aquatics and his first year of competition.  I will be there cheering him on at his swim meets!  It will be an exciting year!



Half Ironman Goal Accomplished

Posted by | Events, Triathlon Training | 2 Comments

I did it! I completed the Muskoka Half Ironman: 1.9km swim, 94km bike and 21.1km run! 

This was my goal for my year turning 40. In June, I completed my first ever triathlon – a sprint triathlon.  I did a second sprint triathlon in August in Guelph and this was the ultimate goal for me this year – a Half Ironman.


It was spectacular.  I truly enjoyed the whole experience. When I am engaged in each sport, I think to myself, “this is now my favourite sport…. I just feel so great swimming right now….”, or:  ” Cycling is where it’s at – this is incredible; this is my new favourite sport”,or, “Ahhh, running, my old friend.  This is the best fun!”



The race began with the pro athletes at 8am. I was in the 5th wave at 8:30 – pink swim caps, women aged 35 to 44.  The air was cool; stepping into the water felt lovely.  I was ready!  I felt great actually and when our gun went off I felt confident and ready to go.  I got into a good rhythm from the start and actually felt like I picked up the pace as the race progressed.  The route was a large rectangle, with the finish just past where we entered in a little bay.  Half way through my swim I was suddenly in the midst of white caps (the wave ahead of me). By the time I climbed out of the water I was even seeing some red caps (two waves ahead of me).

My swim time was 33:13 – which is a 1:45 per 100m; even a bit quicker than what I swam in the sprint distance the week before in Guelph.  I climbed out of the swampy water and had a stripper help me out of my suit – my first time with a stripper!  Sounds questionable…

Transition 1 – Then there was a very steep 300m run to the transition area.  I ran past a few people and got to my gear.  Elijah ran up the hill beside me, yelling the whole way!

My plan was to put on compression socks for the ride and run.  No go – could not get those tight socks over cold, wet feet.  Thankfully I had my little ankle socks set out as well. Socks, shoes, helmet on….grab bike and run to the bike course.


Muskoka is a very hilly route – all 94 kms are constantly undulating.  Good thing I love hills.  This is not simply postive self-talk to get me geared up for the race – I actually really enjoy the constant change and find it much more interesting than an entirely flat course.  The Muskoka race is said to have one of the most challenging bikes of all Half Ironman courses.  It is also 4km longer than the typical Half Ironman.

I set off at a steady pace – not too fast, but averaging just over 30km per hour.  Looking at my splits I maintained a very steady pace, averaging 30.5 km/hour over the 94km course.  There were sections where I was passing people on the uphills and then they would promptly catch and pass me on the downhills, and so it continued for many kilometers.  I was in the zone and the views were spectacular – sometimes rounding a corner I was surprised by a clear view of the lake stretching out in front.  I was aware of the kilometer markers along the route, but I wasn’t really counting down the distance.  I was surprised to see the 70km sign and realized I was nearing the end.  I felt great right to the end of the ride.

Transition 2 – I executed my new plan of loosening my shoes and taking my feet out of the shoes, while still attached to the pedals.  I was inspired by the sprinters that I watched last weekend!  I dismounted with sock feet, ran to the transition zone and quickly slipped into my runners.  This saved the step of having to remove cycling shoes in the transition area.  I almost ran off with the helmet on, but was kindly yelled at by a fellow racer to remove it.


Now off on the 21.1 km run – Stiff yes, but feeling pretty good.  I set out at 4:20 km pace.  I had hoped to be able to do closer to 4:00 (I had done that in the sprint), but I could tell early on that I wasn’t going to be able to hold such a quick pace.  The run was also very hilly, and by now I was starting to tire.  I still felt strong, but this was my first time racing over four hours.  My marathon are always completed somewhere around the 3 hour mark.  New territory….I must not forget this is my first!  I held the 4:20 pace for the first half of the run – at around the 11km mark I was starting to hurt.  The last 5km were tough, with me slowing down to 5 min per kilometer over the final tough hill.  I ended up with a final half-marathon time of 1:38:38 and an average pace of 4:40 per km.  The last 5km hurt, but then with 300m to go I kicked it to finish strong!

It was a thrill to complete the Half Ironman distance.  My finishing time was 5:22:01 and, making the whole experience even sweeter, I finished first in my age group (40-44) and 12th female overall.  I had a spot to go to Worlds in August 2015, but I declined, as they take place in Austria.

James and Elijah were there cheering me on throughout the whole race.  I dedicated this race to Elijah, my 9 year old son, who was booked for a heart catheterization at Sick Kids Hospital the next morning.  I spent time along the ride and the run praying for him.  He was an inspiration to me in the race.

Training friends Geron Cowherd and Lesley Chown were participating in the race as well.  Lesley and I were in the same wave and passed each other many times on the bike, cheering each other on and picking off people together at times!  Geron finished 3rd in his age group (50-54) and received a spot that he accepted to go to Worlds next summer.  Lesley also had an excellent race – her first Half Ironman as well.  She had an amazing swim – the first out of the water in her age group (35-39).  She finished 10th in her age group.

I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me in this dream of mine.  It was many hours of training; James never complained about the hours that I dedicated to swimming, biking and running.  I loved every minute of the swims, long rides and runs with my training friends.  THANK YOU for being a part of this ADVENTURE!