Solo Mission

I do a lot of stuff alone, particularly when it comes to sport. I mostly train alone and have never played team sports. All that togetherness and camaraderie, it’s all very intimidating and so not me.

The closest I come to Team Sports.
The closest I come to Team Sports.

Don’t get me wrong. I love running and riding with my friends when I can, mostly because it’s a fairly rare treat. I even like swimming with friends (we know how that goes – you chat for 30 seconds at the end of the lane then debate where to have post-swim coffee).

Perhaps what makes training alone so rewarding is the culmination of it all, which for me traditionally results in a trip somewhere with a bunch of friends to do whatever race or event you’re gunning for. You prep together, analyze the forecast together, etc etc. And of course, post-race beers. Post-race beers are the best beers.

Now, here’s a question.

Am I going to still have post-race beers after Austin?

Because Austin is the first time ever (I think) that I am going to a race completely by myself. Like a big girl.

I can’t even recall the last time I even went to a 10km running race where I didn’t at least have an acquaintance to chat with on the start line! Maybe I’ve been spoiled. Anyway.

Austin fit into the schedule for me and initially, I was pretty convinced in my own powers of persuasion and that I’d talk some friends into coming with. Well, lo and behold, people have lives beyond a triathlon that I picked that suited me. And so, here I am. Solo mission.

There’s a part of me that’s super excited to have 5 days alone with no one to think of but myself (hello, selfish triathlete nature), to live in my little vintage camper that I scored (no one over 6ft allowed) and to do what I want, when I want, particularly if that means having breakfast for dinner.


There’s a part of me that is already fretting. Who’s going to remind me to bring body glide to the start? What if I sleep through my alarm? What am I going to wear? There are 2 transitions! I have a headache already. Who is the first person I am going to talk to at the finish line?! Am I just going to follow some randoms to the closest brewery?

“Hi folks! I’m Canadian! Can I have a post-race beer with y’all?”

Man alive, you’d think I’d never been anywhere on my own, ever.

Time to put on my big girl pants. Sheesh.

My teeny home away from home.
My teeny home away from home.


4: Missing the little things.

When I was 14 or 15, my uncle Frans came to spend Christmas with my family on our farm. He was a complete novelty to us, this big Dutch sport and candy loving uncle of ours. We opened our presents on December 24 as was our tradition, and I asked my uncle to tell me all the names of the things we were opening in Dutch and I’d parrot them back to him.

I announced that I was going to learn Dutch and his response was “Don’t. It’s a useless language.”

I was a dumb teenager and needless to say, learning Dutch was a passing whim that never evolved beyond learning swear words.

And it’s also something I regret.

My aunt Maud, uncle Frans, Mum in Holland.
My aunt Maud, uncle Frans, Mum in Holland.

When Mum died, we spent a few days going through her stuff, sorting, donating and sharing. We found a box of old letters that she had written to her mum when she was a new mother and beyond. They are all in Dutch, in her somewhat illegible hand. Maybe when my Omi died, mum went there to sort her things, too? I can’t remember. Somehow, she ended up with this box that her Mother saved and that we found buried under stuff.

About 6 months ago, Dad relinquished this box to me. When I got it, I scoured the internet for an over-priced Dutch/English dictionary and began to chip away at what I could. It isn’t easy: Mum writes in a shorthand that she and my Omi shared (much like all mother-daughters, I think). Sometimes, I can’t even decipher the words. I had these grand plans of sitting down one afternoon and powering through, but that’s just silly.


So I take it bit by bit. When I have a bit of time, I take a letter (generally undated, but I can sort of guess when it was written based on the contents) and I work out what I can. It’s not precise science. But it’s a glimpse into a lifetime of raising children and living her life and sharing it with her Mum.

I have a folder in my inbox full of emails between Mum and myself. I still can’t bring myself to read them. It’s still too hard.

Sometimes, the Letters Project makes me extra sad and I put the letters aside for weeks. Other times, I tackle it like an assignment. But above all, it makes me long so much for the little things we used to share as mother-daughter. I miss her notes, her advice, her scoffs. I miss getting emails title “Alo Smotje”… our own shorthand, untranslatable.

September used to be my favourite month. Birthdays, Labour day, renewals, autumn… That’s no longer the case. I think September kind of sucks.

“Oh my God, I’m becoming my mother!”

Don’t I wish.

I’m noticing more and more that we share traits. I am a worrier, like she was. Sometimes, I will look down and notice that my hands rest in the same position hers did. I sip my wine like she did. But I don’t have an ounce of the strength she did. I don’t know how she did it.


The kids and I talk about Omi quite a lot. Will remembers her, Anja claims to. I think they carry more the idea of her than the actual memories. My job is to keep those ideas alive, to share stories and my own memories.

4 years now. 4 years since I (we) lost my guide. 4 years during which our family has grown around her memory and her missing presence. 4 years since much of our family life was dictated by cancer. We don’t talk about her too often. When we do, we always share a laugh and a smile. I still wait for the sadness and the longing to fade. It’s not as acute; it’s more of a fuzzy outline to my day-to-day life that comes and goes. And yet, sometimes it can still completely take my breath away.

Maybe one day, I will finish the letters. Maybe one day, I will be able to share them. Will they be on interest to anyone else? Probably not. But it’s a tangible link to someone I miss so very much. My own guidebook, if you will. A glimpse into a life I miss being a part of. More memories and ideas to share with my children. A salve for the regret I feel at not having taken the time to delve deeper when she was alive. I take comfort in knowing the words and stories are there for me and my family.

I can’t be possible that it’s been 4 years.

Mam, I miss you.

Smotje xo.


Sound bites of summer

“Dropping in!” (can refer to anything from trampoline time, bike rides and hurling one’s self off the top bunk).

“Mom! Watch me!” (can refer to anything from trampoline time, bike rides and hurling one’s self off the top bunk, and let’s not forget everyone’s favourite: handstands in the shallow end).

“HEY! Don’t touch my XYZ!” (any child at any given moment referring to any given thing).

“Can I have a freezie?” Rinse and repeat.

“Aw, do I have to?” (refers almost exclusively to showering).

“Can I have something to eat?” (why, why, why are they always so HUNGRY?)

“Have you seen my XYZ?” (refers to everything, including the clothes they are currently wearing.)

Parents, do you feel me?


Consistently inconsistent

I mentioned this briefly in my last post.

Has anyone seen my giddy-up? You’d think that with a break in racing and structured training, I’d be raring to go. Seems I work the opposite way: the less I do, the easier it gets to skip the next workout. The more consistent I am, the more consistent I want to be.

**Noted: same goes for blogging. Or keeping the house clean. Or getting work done. Yeesh!

Lately, every time I make up mind to get back to it, in some way, I get jolted into some stupid stop-start routine. Typically, it’s about 4 days of training followed by 4-5 days of travel/work/etc. that wipe away any progress made whatsoever. It doesn’t help that my drive is driven (see what I did there?) mostly by incentive (races, adventures, etc.) With nothing on the calendar to give me a kick in the pants, it was too easy to kick back and do nothing.

Also? Event food is the worst when you are tired and will power is at level nil #allthecandy.

Therefore, I can summarize training this summer as consistently inconsistent.

My options were: continue to try to get my act together without a looming race (success level: negligible), or sign up and have a race loom (success level: TBD).

So it’s a trip back to Texas for me. It fits the work schedule and it’s far enough away that the looming isn’t so… loomy.


I hear the roads in Austin are bumpy. Getting a head start.
I hear the roads in Austin are bumpy. Getting a head start.


Summer snippets

It’s Monday. A holiday in the USA. Technically, a work day for me. The house is messy, my inbox is overwhelming me and deadlines loom.

Kids are running wild, shooting cap guns and refusing to eat the healthy snacks I put out, instead choosing to subsist on freezies and crackers.

I realized the other day that I had completely dropped the ball on summer camp registrations, and now I’m staring down a summer of kids using this house as base camp for all manner of adventures sprinkled with statements of “I’m bored”.

I honestly have no idea how parents find the time or the inclination to helicopter parent.

Summer got me like…

Since April, and the last race I did, all motivation to train and be fit and put in the work required to do well at the exercise contests I am so fond of evades me.  Life gets in the way, excuses become too easy to concoct and the reality is that I need a carrot at the end of the proverbial stick to get myself going. Doesn’t help that my training buddies are just as busy with life as I am (I hate the “I’m busy” excuse, but we’re all prone to it) and one of them is baking a new bébé.

So I’ve taken to scouring the race calendar and trying to entice friends to sign up with me. Beware friends, my powers of persuasion will soon be turned on you…

Oh. Wait. I did another race. The Test of Metal ended it’s 21 year reign and I felt an obligation to take part. Was I undertrained? You bet. Did I not want to do it one bit when I woke up? 100%.

I changed my attitude on the start line and ended up having a ball. Truly. 4.5 hours of muddy good times. I won’t lie: I’m proud of myself for that one.

This morning, I was up at 5:30, per usual. Will woke a full 5 hours later. Is 10 the new 16?

I am not ready for this.

I’m jealous.

I have a deep, unabashed affection for summer beach reads. Anyone in the internets have any suggestions? I just finished House of Wives and Engaged. Both highly entertaining reads.

Does anyone else feel like summer break totally snuck up on them this year? I survive by repeating my motherhood mantra:

Fake it till you make it.


Invictus Games 2016

Snippets from my 2 weeks at Invictus Orlando:

Days were long, hot, sweaty, stressful, tiring, a mad rush, long waits, flurries of activity. I was alternately elated and frustrated, buzzing with energy and exhausted. But the Invictus Games were nothing short of inspiring and gave me a whole new level of perspective. Many of these men and women shouldn’t be alive, let alone smashing themselves in wheelchair rugby or diving into that beautiful pool. 

I saw an alligator. Granted, it was from the comfort of a car going 100km/h, but now I know how tourists feel when they come to Whistler and see a bear. There was squealing.

Mickey rules all in Orlando. Including the food.

“Are you Nick’s sister?” I hear this a lot. Games gypsies are a small family. Nick led the way for me. Working these types of events allows me to meet people from all over the world and make life-long connections. Best of all, my crew was made up of 2 of my most favourite people. The late-night giggles and inside jokes were all-time.

Volunteers make the world go ’round.

Yes, I met Prince Harry. The “he’s royalty” factor wears off pretty quickly when he admits to being just another ginger suffering in the sun. His dedication to these athletes and hands-on approach was admirable and unexpected.

We invented a new game called “Spot the Secret Service”. We thought we were pretty good at it. We probably have no idea what we are talking about.

We met a Harry Stalker. That was something.

I loved how family-driven this event was. Each athlete was invited to bring along 2 or 3 supporters with them. It added a completely different dimension to the Games.

The best part of being away and working myself into the ground for 2 weeks is coming home to cuddles and hugs from my people.

Invictus Toronto 2017?

Orlando OUT #boom.
Orlando OUT #boom.