Runner Profiles


Sue Damiano – Striving, Surviving, Succeeding! Ironman Muskoka 70.3

Posted by | Runner Profiles, Training, Triathlon Training | One Comment

Let me introduce you to Sue Damiano, a new Ironman Muskoka 70.3 Finisher!  Sue went from being a non-swimmer in 2012 to finishing a Half Ironman in 2016!  Sue dreams big and loves a challenge.

I first met Sue through our children – we both have kids on local swim teams and we met as we cheered for our children at their practices and swim meets.  Sue is the greatest spectator at swim meets – I ask her to cheer for my son Caleb at meets because everyone can hear her (and nobody can hear me!).  First and foremost, Sue is a mother and an advocate for her kids.  Her kids are her primary focus, yet Sue found the time, energy and motivation to strive for her own dream this year of accomplishing a Half Ironman – a dream that used to seem impossible to her.

I am privileged to have Sue as a friend and to have been a part of her Muskoka Half Ironman journey.  We both raced Muskoka this year (this was my second time doing the race) and Sue tells me that I was a big part in her having the confidence to sign up for the race in the first place – I am thrilled to know that I helped her believe in herself!  I was able to witness Sue accomplish this new feat and see her joy at succeeding at her dream race.

HISTORY – the Lead up to the Half Ironman

JM:  What is your background in athletics?

Sue:  I was a runner in elementary school and did a bit of cross-country running and track in High School (Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School). I always loved running, but had never learned how to swim.

Sue was in fact afraid of the water and it was only once her two children started swimming for the Brock Swim Team that she became intrigued by the idea of swimming.  Sue started thinking to herself, “Imagine if I could do that?!”  Sue decided to hire her children’s swim coach for a few private lessons in her parents’ backyard pool.  Sue laughs as she remembers her learn to swim lessons in 2012; “I will never forget the look on their faces,” (her children, Mackenzie and Brenden), “when I put on googles and a swim cap for the first time!  They were stunned!”  Sue describes how her first lessons started with simply putting her face under water and learning how to breathe.  Soon Sue progressed to Adult Swim lessons at Brock U. and then she eventually joined the Masters Swim program at the Kiwanis pool once she was able to swim and worked on building up her endurance.

Sue completed her first triathlon in August 2014 – the Irongirl race in Grimsby (shorter than a sprint triathlon).  Sue chose this race because it felt less stressful, with no pros completing and no men in the race.  She did this race again in 2015, along with a second Try-a-Tri in Grimsby.

JM: After three short triathlons, why did you decide to do the Half Ironman?

Sue:  It was my dream race!  And you told me to just do it!  I remember talking with you (Janine) at the Kiwanis Pool in the change room when you were signing up for a full ironman in 2015 at Cedar Point and you asked me to do the half ironman there in Ohio.  I wasn’t ready then (2015) but that dream stuck in the back of my mind.  Then this year you were talking about Muskoka and I decided to just do it now!  Yeah, just go for it!

Sue and I signed up for the Muskoka 70.3 in January 2016.  Now there was no turning back…

Sue’s husband, Vince was dumbfounded when he heard the bike distance of the Half Ironman – he kept repeating “90k!  How and where are you going to bike 90k?!”

 JM:  How did you train for the Half Ironman?

Sue trained with the local Masters swim club a couple times per week, did long rides with a cycling club and then did a second ride on her own.  She ran mostly on her own.  In the good weather as her runs got longer Sue’s kids biked along with her on her long runs, along the trails. Sue did hill rides up and down the escarpment.  Sue is quick to add, “next time (I guess another race is already brewing!), I would work on more leg strength; more hills and more speed-work.”

JM:  Did you have doubts that you could finish the race?

Sue:  YES! Not during the race, but the months before the race.

Sue was nervous and didn’t have a lot of confidence in herself at first.  Some unexpected health challenges suddenly arose in the winter and spring with Sue’s son Brenden, and this only added to her doubts.  Brenden has type I diabetes and is entering his teen years, with all the growth and active lifestyle his insulin levels have become more sporadic.  Brenden passed out on two separate occasions, both which ended up with hospitalizations.  At that point, with her son in the hospital, Sue felt like she was going to have to quit on her goal.  Sue describes how she later heard her kids talking about how excited they were to go to Muskoka for the first time and then Sue realized that if she dropped her goal, she would be teaching her kids that it is okay to quit.  Sue did not quit and she gained strength from her triathlete friends, who went on hill rides with her to build up her confidence, and swam with her in the Welland canal to gain experience with open water swimming.  Sue describes how Geron (who I interviewed in another article) told her to “just face your fears!”  Her friends helped her to believe in herself and to keep on going. Sue prayed lots and got through the challenges with Brenden as well.


Sue and Vince enjoyed several days in Muskoka with Mackenzie and Brenden, making the Muskoka Ironman a whole family event.

July 10th at 7:00am Sue and all the triathletes lined up for the swim.  The swim started in waves, with Sue in the Women 45-50 wave, wearing Green Caps.  Sue describes how once she was in the water she started thinking, “Let’s just have some fun!”  Suddenly she was focused and calm and the doubts disappeared.  Sue just thought about how amazing it was that everyone (her family and so many of her friends) were there watching her and participating in the race.  She was proud of herself for overcoming her fear of deep water. Sue did amazing with such a congested start. She survived kicks to the face and just kept swimming. Sue finished her swim in 48:34, feeling great and giving spectators high fives as she ran to the transition zone to get her bike.

JM:  What was a highlight of the race?

Sue:  The bike was incredible.  Muskoka is so beautiful!  I loved the distance – being out there for along time. I felt euphoric as I biked past the lake and little beach areas and beautiful wooded areas.  I also felt strong on the run, having held back a bit on the bike section, saving my legs for the run. I felt good throughout the race.

JM:  What was a low-light of the race?

Sue:  (Without hesitation) The 85 km mark on the bike!  The hill was so steep and hard and I was going up the hill at a pace of 1km /hour.  I hit a wall of pain! There was only 9 km left to go, so I just kept going.  At that point I was telling myself I should have done more Effingham hills!  The beast caught up with me on that last hill.

Sue finished the 94 km bike (she made it up that beast of a hill!) in 4:02 and she was off on her run! Sue did not stop!

JM:  How did you feel for the run?

Sue:  I felt strong on the run.  I had hoped to do 2 hours, but needed to take a few washroom breaks.

Running a half marathon after swimming and cycling is a whole new experience.  Sue has run half marathons under 2 hours no problem, but in the heat of the day after having exercised for 5 hours, just keeping on running is a huge feat.  Sue did keep running, and she completed the 21.1 km run in 2:16:54.

Sue is now a 70.3 Ironman Finisher!  She crossed the finish line to her cheering family in a time of 7:22:01.  Most people have not exercised for over 7 hours.  Sue did what she had once thought impossible.

REFLECTIONS on the Half Ironman Experience

JM:  Now that the Half Ironman is over, what has this experience added to your life?

Sue: A huge sense of accomplishment!  Inspiration for my family to not quit and to stay active.

JM:  Would you recommend triathlon training to others?

Sue: Yes! It is amazing; it makes me so happy and it is a great way to stay in shape.  I have met so many nice people in this sport.

JM:  Will  you do more triathlons?  What is your next race or goal?

Sue definitely plans to do more triathlons.  She is considering doing her first full marathon this fall.  Next summer maybe she will do another half ironman and try to go faster or she may do an Olympic Distance triathlon, which is shorter and she can focus on speed.

Sue always celebrates with others in their successes.  I am so thrilled that we can all celebrate with her as she achieved this great accomplishment of completing her first Half Ironman!  I know this is just the beginning of many other great adventures and challenges for Sue.



“Let the Happiness In!” Ironman 70.3 World Championship

Posted by | Runner Profiles, Training, Triathlon Training | One Comment

The Half Ironman 70.3 World Championship is finished! My friend, Geron Cowherd, achieved a life goal August 30th, 2015. He joined over 2800 other athletes from 60 countries around the world.  The site for the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championship was a picturesque mountain setting: Zell am See, Austria.

Geron won his qualifying spot for the World Championship last summer at the Muskoka Half Ironman September 2014, where he placed third in his age group.  I was there at Muskoka racing my first half ironman and I feel like I have been along for Geron’s journey. We celebrated together at Muskoka last year, when we both qualified (but sadly I could not go).

I am thrilled to interview Geron about his successful World Championship debut. He is a training partner, friend and excellent chiropractor. He rocked the race, overcoming many obstacles in the days leading up to it.

Race Day – August 30, 2015

Geron was strong, steady and focused.  “Let the Happiness in!” was the official race motto, and Geron embraced this attitude wholeheartedly.  He compared the race to “Christmas Morning”; after all his months and years of training, this was the celebration! Geron executed an amazing race in extremely hot conditions (32 C).  Generally Geron is used to beginning a race around 7am; however, at Worlds the pros did not begin until 10:45am and the age categories followed.  Geron’s age category (males 55;59)did not begin until 11:41am.  The delayed start meant the race occurred during the hottest part of the day. From the outside, one might never know all the hurdles Geron had to overcome prior to race day.

Geron had a solid SWIM of 33:53.  His goal was 32 min, but he says the race start was crazy, with 200 people starting at once and all very evenly matched in speed (unlike other races where athletes spread out much more quickly).  At Worlds, all the athletes are strong swimmers!   “It was a panicky start.  Probably the most panicky I’ve ever experienced.”  Geron had been trying to swim in tight close to the buoys, but had to eventually swim out further to avoid the thrashing and kicking.  Overall, he felt he had a great swim nevertheless.

The BIKE is Geron’s strength.  He felt great going into the first climb.  He knew the bike course, having ridden the full 90km 5 days prior to the race, “at a pedestrian pace, with stops for photographs”.  The race course was challenging, with speed varying dramatically with the rising and falling terrain.  For example, Geron averaged 38km/hr for the first 21km, and then averaged 17km/hr for the 13 km climb.  This mountainous road through the spectacular Alps was at a 6 – 8 % grade for 11kms, finishing with a  14% incline for the final 2km, requiring 9 min. of standing on the lowest bike gear!  Then the fun, fast and furious descent! This included 5 switchbacks at a 10 – 14% grade.  Geron averaged 42km/hr for 35min, the fastest he has ever gone for that distance! Geron’s final bike time was an incredible 2:48:15 on a very challenging course.

Heading out on the RUN, Geron was smiling, but did exclaim, “Wow, that mountain took something out of me!”  With the 32 to 35 degree C temperatures, the run was suddenly more a survival experience than a race.  Geron walked through each water station, stuffed cold sponges and ice down his pants (helpful tip: to prevent overheating, apply cold to groin and underarms for the quickest cooling effects).  Athletes were walking long sections, throwing up along the route, and just trying to make it through to the finish.  Geron did it!  He completed the run in a time of 1:56:31.  Though not his goal time, it was completed. Geron finished the race in a time of 5:31:29 and came 34th out of 85 competitors in his age group.

Hurdles Leading Up to the RACE

JM:  “What was the biggest hurdle leading up to the race?”

Little did I know when I asked this question just how dramatic the obstacles were that Geron had to overcome in the week leading up to the race. Never mind the stress of flying overseas, trying to sleep with crying infants on a red-eye flight and then overcoming jet lag to be race ready.

The first obstacle revealed itself as Geron was assembling his bike post flight and noticed a broken nose-piece on the bike. Ironically, he had just replaced this part the week before he flew, so he knew the damage happened during the flight. This piece is essential for braking – without it you have no front brakes (kind of important to have during a mountainous race). Geron solved this crisis with some crazy glue reinforced with tape. When he did his trial ride of the full race route later in the week he was assured that he had successfully repaired the piece and eased his fears over the bike. It was going to hold and the brakes were going to work!

The second obstacle came when Geron strained his rib on a makeshift foam roller he had rigged up out of equipment he found at the hotel (something like a pool noodle). Lesson learned: don’t use new equipment the week leading up to a race. A rib-strain can take at least 2 to 3 weeks to heal. As a chiropractor and owner of Lake Street Chiropractic Clinic, St. Catharines, Geron knows the facts and he knew this was a major problem. With the use of LED In-Light Therapy (a tool he had brought along from his chiropractic clinic), kinesio tape and anti-inflammatory homeopathic remedies, Geron managed to heal quickly and perform well in the race, despite some residual pain and decreased mobility.

The third obstacle to which most athletes can relate: fighting the elements of doubt. “Have I done enough training? Could I have trained more intelligently? Was riding the course prior to the race too much?” Doubts were setting in all the more due to the bike damage and body injury. Thankfully, Geron has an incredible supporter in his wife Shelley. She had thought ahead and asked training partners, work colleagues and family members to write encouragement notes to Geron for the race (he got one from me). Shelley had planned to give the notes to Geron the night before the race, but following the rib-strain, she started giving Geron a couple notes per day. There were 11 cards in all, which leads me to the…

Highlight of the RACE

JM:  “What was the highlight of the race?”

Geron’s highlight was receiving the affirmation from loved ones. Reading and rereading the words of encouragement in the days leading up to the race, as well as reciting them during the event, greatly reduced the doubts and challenges. Geron says these words of reassurance and faith carried him through the entire triathlon! During our interview, Geron read many of these notes out-loud and got visibly emotional as he read the encouraging words. He held onto these words of inspiration in the days leading up to the race and during the race. “Your time has come. You’ve put a lot of work in. I feel that you’re ready now. All that’s left is you have to believe that you’re ready.” These were the words of support from Geron’s bike coach. The cards from his two children were particularly encouraging, as they cheered him on and described how incredible a role-model he is to them. Shelley’s last surprise was a huge custom made banner highlighting Geron’s past race successes. She held that banner up at various locations throughout the race. Geron described how powerful a tool it was to receive that affirmation from others.

Geron is almost completely satisfied with his race. He gives it a 9 out of 10! He did his best given the conditions. On another day, with a different course and different weather conditions, Geron thinks he could break 5 hours.

Future Goals

JM:“What are your goals for the future?”

Geron:  “Barrelman Half Ironman is in two weeks…” Geron is right on to the next goal. He explains that he has worked so hard all year at his swimming and cycling. He knows he as a faster race in him and thinks that now is the time to do it, when he is so fit. “I have a 32min swim in me!” Having said that, Geron also realizes that he needs time to recover from not only the physical training, but also the mental and emotional intensity that are wrapped into such a huge goal event.  Suffice it to say, Barrelman is not a sure thing, but Geron has certainly entertained the thought!

I am impressed at Geron’s work ethic and consistent training. Geron has worked hard for his successes and it is an inspiration to me and many others. I wish him rest and recovery and time to bask in the experience of the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. “Let the Happiness in!”

As I look toward my first Full Ironman race next weekend, it is incredibly inspiring to hear from the successes of others. It is time for me to soak in some of this wisdom and be strong and steady, like Geron, as I focus on Challenge Cedar Point.

Credit for the banner design in the feature image goes to Rebel Storms of Big Footprints Inc., Cambridge ON.

Ride Completed

Riding for the Thrill of it – Matthew Takes on the Tour Du Lac

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Matthew Wake, Book Store Owner in Lausanne Switzerland, world traveller and Kendo Master, decided to take on a challenge with his brother Dom this past week.  Matt is my cousin-in-law, whom I have had the privilege of visiting in Switzerland and hosting here in Niagara last Christmas.  Matt talked last Christmas of his goal of biking around Lake Geneva.

* * *

The Tour du lac is a bike ride around Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It’s a 180 km (110 miles) of undulating road that travels through France and Switzerland, framed by the French Alps.

I’m 42 years old and I’ve been practising kendo, the Japanese art of fencing, for about 20 years. I’ve never been good at or particularly enjoyed long-distance sports and don’t consider myself an endurance athlete. One thing I like is getting up at 05.30 and cycling to the next town and back and watching the sun rise from behind the mountains. I have always dreamed of cycling around the whole lake and had vaguely planned to do it this summer.

My brother Dom visited from the UK. The week before he had cycled 100 miles in a London road race. I asked him on the Friday night if he wanted to do the Tour and he did, so I borrowed a road bike from a neighbour and we spent the Saturday buying food and equipment.

We set off  from Lausanne at 04.00 after a breakfast of sandwiches and bananas. We had chosen this time because we wanted to hit the French border just as it was getting light. The road through France is notoriously narrow with a high volume of traffic travelling at up to 110 km/h, so we wanted to clear this section early. As a consequence, it was dark when we set out and we had our lights on. We had the additional hazard of drunk teenagers staggering into the road.


We had broken the ride into four, 45km segments, and we reached our first way-point at the French border around 06.00. We refuelled and got back into the saddle. I told Dom that I was feeling good. My bum hurt, my hands hurt and my knees hurt, but the pain wasn’t getting any worse and I felt confident on the bike. Dom said he hadn’t been convinced we would make it, and not just because I wasn’t fit enough. We had poor equipment – he hadn’t expected to ride and was wearing Birkenstock sandals. He was on my mountain bike, which is fine for short trips, but it’s heavy and no one’s choice for a 100 mile ride. It was the first time for me on my neighbour’s bike, the first time I’d worn cleats, taken a drink in the saddle, ridden more than 27 km. We didn’t have padded shorts or gloves.

On the positive side, Dom knew how we should nourish ourselves and had the experience of long-distance bike rides. The course, while long, was not particularly demanding. We also had an endless supply of jelly babies.

I was also getting used to the cleats. I had felt very unstable in them to begin with – it felt like my feet were glued to the pedals – but I realised they allowed me to use different muscle sets, giving my upper legs a rest while I used my ankles and feet. While I’m sure experienced riders efficiently spread the movement over the whole leg, this slightly amateurish approach worked for me.

As we cycled into France the rain began to fall and the wind picked up. The worst part of it was that all the bakeries were wafting the smell of croissants and coffee into the road. The road was as narrow as expected and the longer we rode the more the traffic picked up. We were both pleased to leave France a couple of hours later. We stopped at a petrol station to resupply our water and eat.

The third section took us through Geneva and it was fun pointing out the United Nations buildings. Rather than follow the lake path we decided to head into the hills, before descending back to the lake for the last 10km to Nyon, our third stop.

I was starting to struggle and we discussed whether to give up, but with only 45 km left we were too close to fail. It was difficult to get off the bike to eat and drink, and mentally even harder getting back on. The rain was steady and I was constantly shifting my hands and bum to find a less painful position.

A useful lesson I have learnt through kendo is to concentrate on my breathing. It places me in the moment and stops my mind being defeated by difficulty – real or imagined, already accumulated or still to come. So I just breathed in and out and refused to give up.

We arrived back in Lausanne a very slow nine hours after we started. The last 2 kms involved a steep climb. We could have taken the bus or the metro, and we could still have considered that we’d completed the Tour du lac from Lausanne to Lausanne. Almost.

But I think anybody who does some kind of sport knows all about living with ‘almosts’.

We cycled up those last kilometres just so we could say we’d done it.


Happy Trails for Kevin

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Kevin Arnold and Andrew Bridgeman, running down Hydro Hill at the end of the 6km Trail Race.  Photo by Skyler Goudswaard.

Kevin Arnold took to the trails last weekend. He went from a wannabe runner to the real deal. After talking about doing a trail race for years (since we started working together over three years ago!) , Kevin participated in his first ever trail race! On November 15th, Kevin pulled through and explored the lovely trails behind Brock University as part of the 6km Aktiv Trail race. Kevin actually came to my rescue, when a case of plantar fascitiis meant that I could not participate in my scheduled trail race. Kevin was now registered (by me) to run this race and finally put some actual motion into all that talk!

Janine: Kevin, why did you decide to run a trail race in the middle of November? How long has trail running been a goal of yours?

Kevin: I was told I had to by you! It has actually been a goal for a long time and here was a good excuse to get started.

J: What was the most enjoyable part of the 6km trail race?

K: The end!

J: What was the worst moment in the race?

K: The first 3km. I swear they were measured long. There is a long uphill climb in the first half of the race, which is challenging. Wolf (race organizer) said it was a pretty easy course, but I’d have to disagree!

J: How did you prepare for this first trail race?

K: I bought tights and went to bed really early the night before.

J: How do you like running in tights?!

K: Well I have great legs so, yeah it was nice.

J: What are your future running/training plans?

K: Try and run at least twice a week on the trails.

J: Advice to other novice/wannabe runners?

K: Stop making excuses. Sometimes it takes someone forcing you to get out there to actually do it.

J: So I know I kind of twisted your arm into doing this race, but are you glad you ran it and will you run more?

K: Very glad. I’m planning to sign up for the entire race series next year.

J: Was the racing experience what you expected? (this being your first trail race ever)

K: It was pretty much what I expected. I didn’t train so I knew it would be harder than I would have liked it to be, but I managed to run the entire race.

J: That is very impressive without any training! What was your final time?

K: My final time was 32:27. I had told you I was going to break 30min, but with the hills and rough footing, it is a challenging course and I didn’t quite make it. I felt good with my effort.

J: That is an impressive time considering you did no training at all! Many people would not even get up that escarpment hill without training, so you should be proud! Definitely you need to keep at this thing; there is a future for you in trail running for sure!




It “Runs” In the Family: Family and Fitness

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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!



Elaine Going the Distance on the Trails

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Elaine Fung loves running the trails in Vancouver, BC. Just watch her video below as she and her friends bound along the rugged North Shore Mountain trails and you’ll be longing for the great outdoors. Even more impressive, she has done a 50km trail race and plans on running two more this year!

How long have you been running? Since the spring of 2012. I had a few spurts of running many many years back but it never stuck though.

Why did you start running? I joined a Tough Mudder team with some friends from my Muay Thai kickboxing school. I was fit, but needed to get into running shape to tackle the 18km course. I never enjoyed running, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. Because I had a decent fitness base, I was able to get into running much more easily than any previous attempts. By late fall of 2012, at the encouragement from my good friend, Ed, we started running in the trails and that was what really made me embrace it.

Where do you usually run? I always run outside. I’m lucky to live in Vancouver. The climate is mild, the rain isn’t as bad as everyone thinks and we have access to an amazing waterfront route in the city. But what’s really special about Vancouver is that there is an incredible network of trails a very short drive away.

Do you run with other people or by yourself? My runs in the city are usually by myself. But my trail runs are with my running group, We Run Mas. We’re a collection of newish trail runners with ultra-marathoning aspirations. I guarantee I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

How do you motivate yourself to run when you don’t feel like it? I’ve signed up for a couple of 50k races this year already so I really have to get the work in or otherwise I’m in trouble. And what really gets me out the door for the group runs is that they’re always fun. My running group is incredible!

Challenges you’ve faced with running? I’ve had my share of injuries. In fact, I’m coming off an injury right now! I landed awkwardly on a downhill and sprained my left foot. But last January, I had to deal with a minor back problems as a result of car accident and had to lay off for about a month. And then, soon after, I lost another month to runner’s knee.

Have you done any races or events? Do you plan on racing in the future? I have done a couple of 10ks, a 14k trail race, a couple of trail half marathons and a 50k trail. This year, I’ve already signed up for two 50ks with plans to do possibly a third, a couple of trail halfs, and probably some shorter trail races. I like having a race on the horizon because it helps keep me focused.

Other running goals? I want to clean up my technique and incorporate more balance, strength and speed routines. I would love to start running some destination races in the future.

Brag about yourself – What are your biggest accomplishments? Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment was finishing the Squamish 50 trail ultra. It is one of the most gnarliest and challenging courses you can find in North America. I came in under-trained because of the injuries I’ve had to deal with but I was at least healthy. I felt really good up until about 30k in and then I hit a wall and pretty much stayed there for the next agonizing 10k. I managed to catch up and pass two people in the same boat as me and that gave me a boost. For the final 10k, I knew I was fighting a cutoff and just had to power and push through despite all the pain and doubt I was experiencing. When I crossed the finish line, as the majority of the muscles in my legs began seizing up, all I could think was, “Never Again.” But here I am, ready for more!

Click thumbnails to view full image.

All Smiles!

Ashley has never been Happier

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Ashley Law is a new Runner from Philadelphia, with an inspiring story.  She has only been running a year and has already completed two half marathons and has her sights set on a full marathon.  I love her energy and willingness to share her story.  Running has changed Ashley’s life for the better!

How long have you been running? I started in January 2013

Why did you start running? Last January I went through a devastating break up. As someone who already had anxiety, it really broke me. My anxiety got a lot worse. I stopped doing things that I loved and I was having issues concentrating on things, doing my job and I could see things spiraling. I knew I needed to make a change. I promised myself to do something out of my comfort zone. My brother who has run marathons and half marathons convinced me to join him and my sister-in-law in doing the Philadelphia Rock N Roll Half Marathon and I agreed.

Where do you usually run?  I run outside mostly, but since this winter has been brutal I have been running on the treadmill, which I hate. There’s something about running outside… it’s so freeing.

Do you run with other people or by yourself?  Usually I run by myself. When I run at the gym, I go with my girlfriends. Unfortunately my brother lives in Texas so I can’t run with him.

How do you motivate yourself to run when you don’t feel like it?  I have a board on my door that I wrote motivational quotes/reminders to help me. Also the day of races, I always write on my hand: Remember why you started!

What are some challenges you’ve faced with running?  Getting started and finding my routine was the hardest part for me. I stopped doing a lot after the break-up. I needed to find myself.

Have you done any races or events? Do you plan on racing in the future?  I ran my first half marathon September 15th, 2013. Then did a Spartan Race on September 28th. This past weekend I ran the Houston Half Marathon (Jan 2014). My next race is the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington DC in April.

Do you have other running goals?  I want to do a marathon! My brother and I have a bunch of runs for our running list. The biggest one we want to do is the Disney Dopey Challenge! 4 days, 4 races: 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Full Marathon.

Brag about yourself – what challenges have you overcome? What are your biggest accomplishments? 2013 was the year of challenges. I was always there to support and cheer my big brother on but I always thought, “You’ll never see me running one of these!” My brother and sister-in-law have been my biggest supporters and biggest inspirations. The morning of the Philly Half, I was a wreck. I was so nervous, I couldn’t eat, I felt like I was going to throw up and I wanted to back out. But I knew I couldn’t. My parents, nieces and family were going to be at the finish line. I couldn’t let them down – and more importantly I couldn’t let myself down. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t have a time I wanted to finish by – I just wanted to finish. I really struggled after I hit 6 miles but I pushed through. There were a few times I had to walk. I was really struggling by the time I got to the 10th mile. My entire body was aching, but I literally ran into some friends from high school and we ran together until the 12th mile. When I got to the 12th mile, I got the best surprise. My big brother who had already finished the half ran back to meet me. He ran the last mile with me, which made all the difference in the world and led me across the finish line. I finished in just under 3 hours and it was my greatest accomplishment.

We ran the Houston Half this past weekend and we both set PRs. I maintained my pace the entire time and set a PR by 30 minutes! He wasn’t allowed to run back to meet me at the 12th mile this time, but he was waiting for me as soon as I crossed the finish line. Running has completely changed my life. It brought my brother and I even closer together and it has helped me to become the person I was always meant to be. I just needed a push to find myself, and now I have never been happier!


Amazing Amanda

Posted by | Runner Profiles, Triathlon Training | One Comment

Amanda in the centre with her training buddies, waiting to start the Ironman

Nothing can stop Amanda Hoar once she puts her mind to accomplishing something. That is the conclusion I must come to when I hear her stories of her amazing athletic feats.  Few people can say they have completed a full Ironman, never mind transforming from a non-swimmer to a competent triathlete in one year’s time.  Amanda successfully completed the Mont-Tremblant Ironman this past summer – August 18, 2013 in 13.5 hrs.

Amanda was a bit naive perhaps, when her friends convinced her in the summer of 2012 to sign up for the Mont-Tremblant Ironman  for the following August, before she had even started training.  She knew the distances involved in the event. Still, who can fully understand the commitment and energy that is required in training for a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and a full marathon (42.2km) run? Amanda was about to get immersed into the triathlon world and learn all the little tricks of the triathlon trade. I was shocked as I listened to her describe it all!

Amanda’s first swim workout would have probably defeated most of us, and made us question the likelihood of ever completing an Ironman. Wolf, her coach, told her to do one lap. “FYI, a lap means swim there and back.”  This is how little Amanda knew.  Decked out in her “Stongman” Swim cap that she had borrowed from Wolf with a huge #1 on the side (“I felt #1 on the inside”), Amanda set off with full confidence.  After swallowing a bucketful of water she finally made it to the far end of the pool and was confronted by a lifeguard yelling for her to “Get OUT” while holding a life preserver.  Amanda insisted that she needed to go back to the other end, as her friends were waiting for her.  The lifeguard, not impressed, insisted on walking alongside her, as she made the treacherous journey back.  Amanda may have overestimated her initial swimming abilities.  Her arms weren’t even making it out of the water and she was half drowning. That first swim workout was quickly adjusted from doing lengths, to having Amanda hang on to the edge of the pool while learning how to do one arm strokes and how to breathe while swimming.

I assure you Amanda has learned how to swim since that first workout, and she now completes 3km swim workouts with ease.  Impressive!

Cycling was also a new sport for Amanda.  Her experience in this department consisted of a recreational bike without gears and rear pedal brakes. But, she thought, how hard can cycling be? Amanda of course needed to learn how to change gears without falling off the bike; brake with hand brakes; clip and unclip her feet from the pedals (without falling off), and eat and drink while on the bike (without falling off).  After practicing some of these elements with experienced cyclist Wolf Sr., Amanda headed out for the first time – for a 50k ride!  Amanda was “tagging along with the Big Kids”, as she describes her experienced triathlete buddies.  Her goal that first day was “to not fall!”  Fortunately, her mission was accomplished!amanda cycling

There are many other tricks of the trade when it comes to cycling.  Amanda was so excited the first time she managed to eat at the same time as cycling, and not fall!  Her training friend, Bernard, says he has never seen someone so excited.  She does not lack energy or drive!  Amanda filled me in on several other skills long distance cyclists need to have – like “peeing while riding”.  What??  Did I hear that correctly?  My peeing in the woods on a long run is nothing compared to this!  Yes, I had heard correctly.  Amanda elaborated:  “You know those two water bottles on the bike?  Well, one is for drinking and one is for rinsing.”  She also gave me two tips: it is easier to pee when riding downhill; and it’s easiest when it is raining (I could have figured that one out).  Other cycling tips she shared were: to wear padded cycling shorts (I still need to invest in a pair of these); and use specific cycling ointment to protect your special parts.  This is all new to me…

Running was definitely the easiest sport to pick up.  Amanda has an athletic background, having rowed for a couple of years.  Now she just had to channel that energy into running forwards and learn how to pace herself for a long event.  Amanda’s first race was the “Around the Bay” race in Hamilton (March 2013) – a 30km, hilly race.  She had a pace partner who ran with her and had to slow her down at the outset in order to get her through the 30k effectively.  Another mission successfully completed.amanda runnin2

A typical week for 28 year old Amanda means juggling multiple workouts of three sports around her full-time work schedule in the school board, as a communicative disorders assistant. Amanda swims Tues, Thurs. Friday mornings (5:30), cycles Tues, Thurs. evenings and long rides on Saturdays.  Run workouts are Wednesday evenings, Thursday runs off the bike and long runs on Sundays.  Amanda states: “The best part of training for the Ironman was sharing this experience with my friends.  Having them teach me about what they are so passionate about.  Barb always stayed after practice with me if I needed extra work.  She is very supportive!”

Once Amanda has an idea stuck in her head, she is going to go for it.  She has a drive to do her best and she admits that she is very competitive.  Amanda achieved her goal. She completed the Ironman in 13:30:13.  Many people doubted; some even called her a “freak”  when they first heard of her ambitions.  (“Don’t you know that many people who have done triathlons haven’t even done an Ironman?! And you haven’t even done a triathlon!”)  Amanda proves to us that when you set your mind to something and give it your all, you can do it!amandaswim

I had the joy of riding with Amanda and the Trysport racing team on Saturday.  I set off on what I thought was going to be a 90 min ride and returned home 4 hours later.  Another helpful piece of advice from Amanda: “Always bring along more fuel than you think you’ll need; workouts tend to be longer than expected!”  It was a great ride and I understand Amanda’s passion and drive.  Amanda plans to keep training and get quicker.  She is pulling back her distance to do the half Ironman so she can focus on speed.  I look forward to training with her and seeing what new and exciting feats are in her future.

big jimmy

Fat by Forty OR Fit by Forty

Posted by | Fit by Forty, Runner Profiles | 2 Comments

James, aged almost 38, jokes that his goal  is “Fat by Forty”.   He is confident in his self worth, so he can joke about the fact that he has steadily been gaining weight over the past 16 years of our marriage.  James never lost the baby weight of our three children (those sympathy pounds that he accumulated) whereas I did.  Truth be told, James really does want to become more healthy and he often starts diets or runs for even a month here and there, but then the stresses of life take over – or minecraft time cuts into his training and resolve.

James just told me that he would like to run a marathon one day.  He ran a half marathon when he was 22, just after we were married.  James went for the family hike on Thanksgiving Monday and he needed to take a two hour nap when we came home.  He realizes that without some serious effort, he will not be able to keep up with his children for much longer.

Can we change his trajectory – and make his new successful goal “Fit by Forty”?  What can we say to motivate James?  James is considering joining this website, with his story of gaining fitness and being the average man who wants to become more fit.  We have dreams and plans, such as a multiple day bike tour of PEI or multiple day hikes in new and exotic places.  Without some training, these possibilities will not be attainable for James.

James’ comments:

So I feel a need to weigh in here (haha, get it? weigh in? …nevermind). Let me state firstly that this whole thing is my idea. I can’t help but feel inspired when I see Janine and all the other incredibly fit people out there “running for the thrills”. For me, at this point, running is less “thrilling” and more “painfully excruciating”… but maybe with some encouragement and the added social pressure of making my progress public, I might be able to muscle my way past the painful part to get to the thrilling part?

I’m motivated to make my “fit by forty” journey public because I hope that my own experiences will be an encouragement to some of you out there who, like me, are not as fit as you wish you were. If I feel like I’m partnering with people out in internet land on the goal of increased fitness, I know it will help me follow through with my own goals. And hey, if I can do it, anyone can!

Ok, I’m off to do my first run in a while. I’ll report back tomorrow…

(Bonus pic: wow, I used to be skinny.)

wedding pic




Runner Profile: Annette Lyons

Posted by | Runner Profiles | No Comments

Introducing Annette Lyons, newly married and brimming over with excitement and optimism for her new found passion, running!  Annette started running six months ago – braving the outdoors in the middle of February and falling in love with her new found sport.  The gym was a familiar place to Annette, who had been doing the cardio machines and various classes at the YMCA, BUT  it wasn’t until she started running that she could “see the weight flying off”.  After being pestered by a friend for a good month to run outside with her, Annette took the risk.  And it was worth it:  “I couldn’t believe that I ran what I ran on my first day outside running.”  Annette was smart about it, beginning slowly.  Her first run was 10 sets of running for 1 min and walking for 1 min.

Annette is truly a success story.  Today she runs 5km, three to four times per week, without walk breaks.  She has lost 25 – 30 lbs, gone from a size 9 to a size 5.  “People noticed for sure!  Those encouraging comments kept me going.”    When describing the changes running has brought to her life, weight loss is only one of many.  Annette states that she has improved energy.  Her moods are more balanced, she is calmer, better able to rationalize things, which helps her in her home and hectic work life.  She is able to keep stress at bay.  Confidence levels have gone way up.  As she lost weight, she had to buy a whole new wardrobe and she also improved her diet naturally.

There are challenges along the way:  Annette had sore knees, but with the input of physiotherapy, acupuncture, and an osteopath for alignment issues, she is conquering this challenge.  It took time to build up endurance, at times longer than she expected, but she kept going.  When asked what kept her going when she just didn’t feel like running, Annette says initially it was the desire to fit into her wedding dress, but then she states “I grew to love it so much that I just did it.  Even when my friend stopped running, my internal motivation kept me going.”  As long as she gets up out of bed, has the coffee on and takes three sips, she will be able to get out there to run, even at 5:30am.  It’s worth it for “how amazing I feel when I get to work at 8:30am and I’ve already done my workout.”

There are future goals to keep Annette going.  First of all, she simply “wants to keep running” (even now that the wedding dress motivation is gone!)  She wants to increase her running distance and sign up for a race.  Running has made her want to start exploring other outdoor activities, such as biking and even surfing!  Annette will have lots of opportunities to explore the great outdoors, as she starts a new adventure moving to Vancouver Island, BC in three weeks!