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.



Mom, We Made It! Storm The Trent Adventure Race

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Events, Training, Why I Run | 2 Comments

Storm the Trent Adventure Race – A one of a kind adventure!  It was a day of fun, mud, puddles, bushwhacking, nonstop precipitation, perseverance and team bonding. This race was not for the faint of heart.  This race required embracing whatever nature threw our way and I am proud to have faced it with my friend Nate and our 14 year old sons, Caleb and Ben. Storm the Trent took place outside of Peterborough in the town of Warsaw, with three different distances for different abilities.  We embarked on the mid-sized, Trek Race.  The details of the event were kept under wraps until we arrived Saturday morning. Due to the forecast of rain all day, the canoe paddle portion was scheduled first.

Here is our adventure race recap – Team:  Mom R We There Yet? completed the 60 km race in muddy glory, non-stop rain and successfully found all 13 Check Points :

  1. Canoe Paddle: Caleb and I worked as a team in one canoe; Nate in Ben in a second canoe.  It was a mass start in the river with major congestion as everyone paddled along the river to the first check point (CP1) and used our electronic chips to check in at floating stations.  A 180 degree turn and a hard paddle back to the start point was successfully executed.  One canoe capsized en-route, due to the congestion.
  2. Mountain Bike – Section 1: We pulled the canoe out of the water, transitioned to our cycling gear (life jackets removed) electronically checked in at CP2 and headed out as a team on our four mountain bikes.  This section involved locating one unstaffed Check Point (CP30) and finding our way to CP4 with only one wrong turn along the way – thank you to Ben for guiding us the correct way!
  3. Run 1 and Locating Maps:  At CP4 we transitioned to our first run section.  Along this out and back run to Rotten Lake, we needed to locate four maps off the trail (using a satellite map of the run route) which provided vital information required for a later run section where we needed to find four hidden check points.  Caleb and Ben were in charge of recording the information found at the four map stops – a permanent marker and a waterproof map bag were essential during this section as the rain increased in intensity.  At Rotten Lake we checked in electronically again (CP31) and we were back off running to our bikes.
  4. Mountain Bike Section 2:  This was a long intense mountain bike portion of the adventure race.  Mud, rocks, puddles, streams and twists and turns made this a very challenging ride. Rain continued to pour down on us relentlessly. We cycled through puddles that were so deep that we were literally up to our knees in water.  Sometimes we made it through the puddles, sometimes we fell. I have never cycled through water like this before.  We did our utmost to cycle through the rocky terrain, but for some sections we resorted to walking and running with our bikes, after several falls and a bloody knee. This was challenging for the most experienced of mountain bikers, which sadly, we are not!   Three more electronic check points were reached during this ride portion and finally we made it to the second run section.  At this point we were fully drenched, mud caked and cold.
  5. Run 2 and Orienteering: Transitioning to the run was a relief, however, getting running shoes on was extremely challenging as finger dexterity was gone. My “easy” laces were not so easy and I could not open my shoes.  My lovely teammate Nate even tried to use her teeth to loosen my laces – with much assistance I finally got my trail runners on and we were off searching for four hidden checkpoints.  Here we used the information that we had gathered earlier, during our last run. It took us a while to find the first check point; that success boosted our spirits! The running warmed my numb feet and a caffeine power gel energized Ben, who had been fading during the last bike.  With all of our spirits rejuvenated, we were off running as a team to find the next check point in the creek bed (very hidden).  Thankfully other teams helped us find the check point.  Next we were bushwhacking with our compass to find the third check point.  After being lost for several minutes, Caleb got us back on track and we successfully orienteered to the last two check points along this run route.  Then it was a quick run back to the bikes – a switch of the shoes – and we were off riding again –
  6. Mountain Bike Section 3:  This was our third and last mountain bike ride; this one to the finish.  This section consisted of dirt and paved roads, a huge relief after the technical sections we had navigated through during the last ride.
  7. The Finish LINE:  Team:  Mom R We There Yet? made it across the finish line in 5 hours and 45 minutes. (race results to be posted at


We finished together as friends, mothers and sons.

Thank you to my awesome team-mates for their great attitudes and persistence.  Each one of us had our highs and lows along the route, but we stuck together.  As a group we suffered only one bloody knee, many falls in mud and puddles, one blood sugar crash at around the three hour mark and one stuck shoe – not bad for a tough race! – no major casualties and another successful adventure accomplished!


Training for Life: Adventure Race Preparations

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Canoeing! Kayaking! Cycling! Trail Running!

It was a great day in Niagara for the four person team training for Storm the Trent—an adventure race that involves trail running, mountain biking and canoeing.  Today the team of four was in intense training mode.  The team is called “Mom R we there yet?” and is made up of two mothers and their 14 year old sons:  Karen, Ben, Caleb and myself.  Today we had a taste of all three sports spread throughout the day and we are hopeful that we will survive this event, only a mere three weeks away on May 14th!  Today was our first time out on the water in the canoe, so it was an important test for us.  We managed to canoe approximately 4km around Martindale Pond, almost half of the 9 kilometers that we will have to do on race day.

This is such an exciting event to be doing as team.  The adventure involves challenging ourselves physically – we will be engaging in three sports, only one of which we are all comfortable with (trail running).  The next challenge is to work well together as a team throughout the whole experience.  There will be times to be light-hearted and joke around (Ben and Caleb have this down!) and then there will be times to be supportive and serious, such as when someone is  having difficulty with an element of the race.  Learning when to goof off and when to be quiet may take some practice for the 14 year old boys!

In most races, going hard and being the fastest is the goal. In this team event, however, being being the fastest solo athlete is not the mission.  Our objective is to be a cohesive team and do the best we can all together.  We are not going for speed records here (at least not this year!). Throughout the race we all need to be within 100m of each other at all times.  The team element is so vital for the success of the event that there are five core principles clearly stated for all teams to adhere to:

  1. I do not leave my teammates behind me
  2. I keep my teammates within visible sight at all times
  3. I look after my teammates, and expect them to do the same for me
  4. My teammates and I form a unit – we do not move faster if we separate
  5. If for any reason one of my teammates cannot continue, I will stay with them until they are safely off the course

“The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts” – our goal as a team made up of friends and family is to work together, utilizing all of our collective talents and abilities to build each other up and keep motivated for the duration of the 42km biking, 9km running and 9km canoeing!

Easily done!


This is insane and I love it! Being a part of an event like this is going to be something I tell my kids to prove how sprightly and crazy I was “back in the day”. Not to say that this event won’t be challenging, but I strongly believe that we are going to have some real fun completing it –  the “I’m dying, make it stop” kind of fun. The thing I’m most mortified of is having two triathlete mothers (especially the ever intense Janine) preforming alongside Ben and myself; if the race doesn’t kill us, they just might! On the flip side, I’m really looking forward to the mountain biking aspect, speeding down a single track trail with my cross bike and huffing up hills is my idea of fun. It’s a bit out of my comport zone but then again, if it wasn’t, what would be the point of doing it in the first place? On the whole, I’m going to be incredibly happy to preform in this race, but I think I’ll also be incredibly happy to cross the finish line and then take a nap. (Also, “Hi mom! I’m on your blog!”)


Swim Training

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Time to get serious in the pool with longer swim workouts.  With my sights on open water swimming and summer triathlons, I am focusing my swim training on increasing my endurance over longer distances.  Today’s workout totaled 4.1 km and focused on lengthening my stroke and slowing down my arm cadence.  I have a high arm turnover and a strong kick, which means I do well at the shorter fast distances, but I need to learn to translate that speed to longer stretches.  I get into oxygen debt too quickly as I am working harder than I should with my quick turnover.  I am preparing for the half ironman this summer in Muskoka on July 10th and possibly a longer open water race (dare I try a 10km race?)

I had fun in the pool with my “swim toys”; hand paddles make me work harder as I push more water, strengthening muscles, improving technique and slowing down my stroke.  The paddles are an excellent tool to assist in my goal of getting more power out of each stroke.

Here is the workout I did this weekend (Designed by Karen Natho):

  • Warm-up:  15 x 50m on 1 minute (3 pull, 3 back/breast, 3 fly/free, 3 kick, 3 free)
  • 250m Long Stroke focus with hand paddles
  • 2 x 300m with last 25m of every 100m head up front crawl
  • 2 x 600m on 1:45 pace
  • 2 x 250m decrease cadence every 50m, starting at normal rate for first 50m
  • 8 x 50m kick on 1:05
  • 250m long stroke with paddles and drag legs
  • 150m cooldown

It is important to keep it fun in the pool with swim accessories and new bathing suits.  Check out the new Speedo Swim Suits at Trysport Niagara, inspired by the upcoming Rio Olympics – ready for sun and fun.  The bathing suit I am wearing is perfect for outdoor swimming, as the back is cut-away to allow for better tanning (eliminate those annoying tan circles on the back).  This suit did well at staying in place, despite its open design.  It did not shift for flip turns or while pushing off the wall. I recommend this suit if you are looking for something different.




Mountain Biking: Road Cyclists take to the Trails…

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….And hilarity ensues!  Nothing like some falls in the mud to keep oneself humble.  I consider myself a competent cyclist, but sadly this does not translate into mountain biking.  The experience of riding in Short Hills with my triathlon training partner Nate (Karen Natho) was fraught with challenge, fear, excitement and loads of mud, but we eventually accomplished trails 1 and 2….

WHY?  I think it is excellent to keep challenging oneself throughout life.  When I turned 40 I tried triathlons for the first time ever and promised myself that rather than resigning to old age and the gradual loss of abilities and fitness, I would try something new every year.  At 40 I did my first triathlons and a half ironman.  At 41 I did my first Ironman.  Now at almost 42, I am preparing for my first adventure race with my trusty training partner and our 14 year old sons.  The Storm the Trent Trek Race will consist of 42 km of mountain biking, 9 km of trail running and 9km of canoe paddling.  This big event is now less than a month away – May 14th.

Mountain Biking the good, the bad and the ugly…

  1. There is a definite thrill component to mountain biking that does not exist in road cycling.  Shaking and bouncing down steep, uneven terrain and wondering if I will remain on the bike is a scary experience for me.  I am braking more than I should on most descents, but at least I am remaining on my bike most of the time.  There is the constant fear of, “will I make it over that log?”, or ” Will I get through this patch of mud?” I am sweating from fear almost as much as from exertion!
  2. There is a huge technical component to mountain biking:  maneuvering over logs, rocks, streams and sloughing through mud is extremely treacherous.  It requires specific strategies to remain on the bike, rather than experiencing the natural elements up close and personal.  Nate and I did our share of walking, but I am pleased to say, we did considerably less dismounting and more plowing through the mud and elements as the kilometers rolled along.  By the end of our ride, we were managing to get through many challenging sections, while staying on our bikes!
  3. The Pacing of a mountain bike ride is much slower than riding (and Running?!) on the roads.  The fluctuating, hilly terrain means one is covering far less ground than on the roads – at least for us, that is!  I cannot speak for a true mountain biker, but I was shocked at how few kilometers we had covered after what felt like hours!  Our entire ride did not take hours—it was more like 80 minutes—but the exertion felt comparable to hours on the road and we had covered far less ground.  The humility element strikes again:  our average pace was slower mountain biking (5:35 per km) than for our RUN the morning before (4:40 per km)!  Not quite sure how that is possible.  I blame it on all the muddy puddles.
  4. Mountain biking is great for building strength and agility.  Hills are so steep on the trails – inclines can be much steeper on the trails than on the roads and there are more frequent fluctuations in elevation and speed along a mountain bike route.  We rode up very steep sections that we never experience with our road bikes.  Great cross-training for our primary sports.
  5. Mountain biking forces you to take yourself and life less seriously!  You have to roll with the hills, flow with the mud, embrace some dirt and tears… life is not serious on the trails.  Mud in the face, grit in the teeth – it forces you to laugh and let loose and let go of any pretense of looking good and all put together!  A thorn bush ripped my tights and Nate fell into the woods as she tried to make it through a muddy patch.  Thankfully we laughed and enjoyed it all and nobody got hurt.
Four weeks till our big Adventure Race.  How are you enjoying the lovely spring weather?  What events do you have planned for this season?  I would love to hear of all your pursuits, so add comments below!

Tomorrow we are off to Martinedale Pond to practice our paddling…


Run for Joy

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Training | One Comment

My Christmas Day run—pain free, breathing the fresh air—was a wonderful joy this year.  After three months of recovering from a running injury, to be able to run 10km is a gift that I do not take for granted.  I am still awaiting the results from my MRI done on Dec. 21 and I continue to receive regular chiropractic and ART care.  I am cautious, as I still experience some pain in my hamstrings, back and glutes. I am however, hopeful that I will recover fully and once again be able to run a marathon. This is not a guarantee, but I will enjoy whatever my body will allow.  I will be thankful for each run, bike and swim that I am able to do.

Here is my challenge to myself and anyone else who is reading my humble words:

Remember to Run for Joy and to find ways to keep running and fitness fresh and exciting.

1. Each day that you are active, thank your body for allowing you to move and be healthy.  When you push yourself, thank your body for allowing you to work hard and get stronger.  When things feel a bit challenging, celebrate the fact that in that moment you are getting stronger.

2.  Take in your surroundings.  I am blessed to be able to run along Lake Ontario and marvel at the beauty of the Great Lakes. I run up and down the Welland Canal and see Ocean liners from distant countries passing through – running, cycling, hiking are great ways to enjoy your environment and remember the blessings in your life.


3. Be adventurous and always willing to try something new.  One new challenge for me this year is to do an adventure race with my son, Caleb and my training partner Nate and her son, Ben.  The four of us will be a team (name yet to be revealed!) in Storm The Trent, an adventure race involving mountain biking, trail running and paddling (canoe).  The race involves orienteering and the order of the sports is unknown .  I am new to mountain biking and orienteering.  This will definitely be fresh and exciting!

4. Run with or without your stats. I usually run with my GPS watch in order to know all my stats – my pace, distance, time.  This keeps me challenged to keep a certain pace.  This can also become obsessive and unhealthy at times.  I think it is a good practice to sometimes run just for the pure sake of running, without worrying about a certain pace.  I know roughly how far I have gone without a watch (truth be told, I have many distances memorized around my home and city) – but to keep the joy in running, leave the watch at home sometimes.

5. Set goals for yourself to keep you motivated.  If races are intimidating, there are local community fundraisers that are focused on participation rather than on racing.  So far I have two races set for 2016.  Definitely less than my usual goals, but I am being cautious, as I am still recovering from this running injury (which first appeared last April 2015).  My goals thus far are Storm the Trent on May 14 and the Muskoka Half Ironman in July.


What new challenges will 2016 hold for you?  Please share your goals and aspirations!


When You Can’t Run, Keep Moving Forward…

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I am a runner who is not running.  I am staying positive, but truth be told, it isn’t easy for me. When asked (frequently) what marathon I am training for,  I react with pain in my gut and try to figure out how to explain my situation.  I can’t run, but I am still moving forward.

Maybe this is good for me.  I have had twenty years of relatively injury free training.  There were three pregnancies and minor issues after each (plantar fasciitis and some hip issues), but I enjoyed years of great running.  Now is a time to expand my horizons and also to help me understand just how blessed I have been.  So, here is a summary of the injury as I understand right now.  I have degeneration in my lumbar spine between L5 and S1 – the Lumbosacral joint.  This was discovered with x-rays.  There is likely bulging at the disc there, but difficult to determine without an MRI.  Since May I have had issues with my left hamstring and glutes.  This is likely all due to the spine and the nerves being compressed.  My gait is off due to poor nerve function and then muscles are getting strained.  Currently I have chronic low back pain; it isn’t severe, but enough that it would be foolish to run and ignore it.

Good news, I am a triathlete as well as a runner!  I have alternative sports to keep me going.  I also have an excellent chiropractor, Geron Cowherd, who is providing so much insight and advice on how to deal with this injury (next article will be about Chiropractic Care and ART).  Lower back injuries are very common, especially among marathon runners due to the repetitive impact and stress of bounding as we run long distances.  A combination of genetics (low back issues run in my family), 20 years of running and pushing myself too hard in some complementary exercises (see below) are the underlying reasons for my current predicament.  I have a plan and I am confident that it will keep me moving forward.  I hope these suggestions can encourage others suffering from an unwanted injury.

How to combat injury and stay injury free:

  1. Do Strengthening Exercises:  It is essential to identify my weaknesses and do the correct type of strengthening exercises to correct my imbalances and deficiencies. I specifically need to focus on core strength to support my back.  Planks and abdominal exercises need to be my new favourite activities.  My left leg is also significantly weaker than my right (it was my left hamstring and glutes that have been flaring up all year) so I am doing specific exercises to activate my left leg.  These exercises include bunkies, bridge poses (activate glues), squats, lunges and slowly adding in more plyometric exercises as I build strength.
  2. Find a New Outlet for Athleticism:  I may not be running, but I am moving!  I am throwing myself into swimming, cycling and strength training.  Rather than approaching injury as a time to give up, see it as an opportunity to learn a new sport and get good at something new.  I am now planning on doing a 10km open water swim next summer.  This is something I have never done and it will give purpose to my swimming.  I have also joined a gym, something I have not done for years.  Spin classes and weight training will keep me energized and fit.
  3. Invest in Regular Chiropractic Care: Regular chiropractic adjustments restore spinal motion and alignment.  ART (Active Release Therapy) works the muscle tissues and ligaments to break up scar tissue and restore proper movement. Currently this is a more acute problem for me, affecting nerve functioning.  Regular adjustments can help prevent imbalances from getting severe and keep nerves functioning properly.  It often takes an injury to see the value in treatment.

    Chiropractic Care

  4. Focus on Deloading and Elongating of the Spine: The issues I am having are due to compression in the spine.  To reverse this I am hanging upside down in an inversion machine at the gym and doing headstands at home.  I haven’t yet resorted to hanging upside from the monkey bars at the playground! The inversion therapy is a great idea after a long run or ride.  When running, using the 10 and 1 approach (run 10 minutes and walk 1 minute) is a great way to give the body a break from the bounding throughout a long run.  It is effective in deloading the spine every 10 minutes and allowing for a long run.  I will use this technique when starting to run again.
  5. Approach Complementary Exercises with Caution:  Yoga, cross-fit, strength training, Pilates…are all excellent activities, but in my case they are secondary to my focus on triathlon and running.  When approaching these complementary activities I must remember to approach them with caution.  As an athlete it is easy to think I need to always push myself.  It is easy to create an injury in these secondary activities that will interfere with the primary sport.  Not being as proficient in these secondary activities, it is easy to overstretch or tear a muscle.  This is definitely a contributing factor to my current injury situation.  One  yoga class I felt compelled to try the “bird of paradise” pose that was being demonstrated.  I pulled my leg up as high as it would go….not a good idea for the hamstring.  Definitely caused some tearing.  Another day last spring I was in a fitness class and did Box Squats and I jumped as high and squated as deep as i could possibly go.  Again, contributing to tearing in the hamstring and glutes.  More is not always better.
  6. Focus on Nutrition: Proper nutrition is needed to repair and build muscle tissue.  I needed to add more protein to my diet.  I also need to supplement with essential fatty acids:  linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). These oils are found in fish, flax seed pumpkin seeds sunflower seeds and soya oil .  I do not consume enough seafood, so  in my case a supplement is the easiest way to ensure I am getting what I need.  Essential oils help to decrease inflammation in the body; this is essential for every athlete and especially necessary for me at this time when I am fighting inflammation in my spine. 

It is incredibly encouraging to talk to many of my friends who have experienced injuries in the past and are back to doing the sports they love.  I will never take for granted the ability to swim, bike and run.

Getting ready to swim

20 Things you can Learn by Doing an Ironman

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Now that the IRONMAN is completed, I can fill you in on many new and valuable insights:

Things you can learn doing an Ironman:

  1. Many people think I am talking about a Superhero, when I refer to the Ironman.
  2. Doing an Ironman brings about a feeling of Euphoria for days!
  3. A pedicure is not a luxury but an necessity after completing an Ironman.
  4. Doing an Ironman is like childbirth – You think you will never want to do it again, and as soon as it is over you are ready to sign up for more!
  5. You have to keep on going…
  6. Doing an Ironman requires the support of friends, family, training partners, bike mechanics and health care professions.  Many people are needed to accomplish this feat.
  7. It is worth persevering.
  8. Impossible goals can be accomplished.
  9. Pursuing a huge goal and then completing it provides a well of strength that supports other areas of your life.
  10. You can keep on going….
  11. It is a gift to be able to swim, bike and run. If you have the ability to do these sports, do it! It is a privilege to be able to do these sports.  Ask someone who has lost any of these abilities and they will tell you to get out there and use what you have!
  12. Anything is possible.  I did not believe I could do the Ironman when I started training. It seemed impossible.
  13. You really can pee on a bike if you have to (the other one is not recommended).
  14. Putting compression socks on after swimming is a bad idea.  Purchase the calf sleeves!
  15. It is an incredible joy to exercise for an entire day.
  16. If you can adjust your schedule to train for an Ironman, you can adjust your schedule to suit any priority, if you want it badly enough. (Thank you Sheri Penner for this point)
  17. You really can keep going…
  18. Extreme perseverance is developed in training for an Ironman.
  19. You get to know your training partners very well!  Early mornings, all day training sessions…you see them at their best and their worst!
  20. Just keep going… you can do this!
  21. Completing an Ironman is something that I will treasure for my whole life. It is awesome to be an IRONWOMAN!

“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.

feature collage ironman training

Training for First Ironman

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Ironman training brings a whole new intensity to training.  I love working out and I have been running for 20 years.  I thought I was used to hard workouts, but training for my first Ironman is a whole other world.

I am now 7 weeks away from the big day – my first Ironman at Cedar Point, Ohio.  The intensity has turned up and I am experiencing “Firsts” on a regular basis:

A week ago I completed my First Olympic Distance Triathlon – Nickel City Triathlon in Buffalo. This was done to practice putting all the sports together in a race situation.  The event is much shorter than the Ironman, but great practice in doing the transitions and switching gears between the three sports.  The Olympic Distance consists of a 1.5 km swim, a 40km bike and a 10km run.  The highlight of the event for me was my fastest 40km bike, averaging a pace of 34km/hr.  The swim was fine and the run was a bit slow.  Still good enough to place first female overall and closely followed by my amazing training partner, Karen Natho.


My First over-ironman distance swim took place this past Wednesday in the Welland Canal.  A 5.2km swim from the Flatwater Centre to the 406 bridge and back was lovely!  Thanks to Scott Gibson, who joined me in the endurance swim.  Now the 3.8 km ironman swim seems manageable!  This was great practice for the long distance, as well as for the mental challenges that arise in the open water.  There was a pleasant current that assisted me to the bridge, however on the homeward journey that same current made the swim more challenging.  At one point the wind picked up significantly and I wondered if I was moving forwards at all.  A quick glance behind me showed me that I had not moved nearly as far from the bridge as I had thought.  A moment of panic and then I was able to refocus and pick one tree at a time on shore to pass.  I assured myself that I was in fact making some progress and I was able to complete the swim in 1:29:14.

My First over-ironman distance ride took place yesterday with Karen Natho.  We had an epic 207 km bike ride around the full circumference of the Niagara Region.  We visited Grimsby, Dunnville, Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake.  We appreciated our lovely region and smashed the 180km ironman distance ride, something that had seemed impossible a couple of months ago, when 120km felt like a mammoth feat.

Today I am taking a day off.  I had planned to do my long run today, but family needed me and I needed time with them!  A rest day is important too.  Finally time to write a blog post.

Tomorrow I will be up early to get in the long run that I lacked this past week…