Kids, Race Report, Racing, Running

Glass ankles in the mud.

I could also have titled this post “Foreshadowing”.

Totally called it.
Totally called it.

I was so excited for this race.  We’d put in a few really “fun” training runs in terrible weather, the kids were going to be with me and I wasn’t the least bit nervous.  I love a good challenge, and the Hallow’s Eve Run certainly seemed that it would live up to expectations.  I didn’t really look at the course map – since I’m unfamiliar with the trails in North Van, it would have been pointless, anyway.  I knew it went up and down.  I knew it was going to be wet.  Did the rest really matter?

Early wake up, coffee, kiss the kids goodbye and off we went.  It was grey but not raining and the runners were in costumes – except for me.  I’m lame like that.  We were happily cruising throughout the lower part of the trails and I was trailing Heather, watching her feet and chatting away – as we do.  In my world, trail time doubles as girl time and cheap therapy.  She popped off a little drop and as I followed her, my left foot rolled over and heard (and felt) that sickening ‘pop’.

You have got to be kidding me.

I was less than 4km into a 42km adventure.  I never roll my left ankle, always my right.  Gah.  I told myself to shake it off, the nausea will pass and I’ll just be careful.  *More foreshadowing*

I caught back up to Heather and I did a decent job of being careful for the next little while. We chatted, laughed and sweated for a good chunk of time together.  Her family met us at the top of a climb and it was so fun to get a hug and a high-five mid-race, right before a killer climb.

As I was essentially crawling up this trail (can anyone actually run this? Serious question here – it was like going up a vertical river bed), I was on my own and so I put my music on because I didn’t feel like suffering in silence anymore.

Fair warning: I have notoriously terrible taste in music when it comes to getting me going on the run.

The first song that started to play was “Try”, by Pink.  Well, I thought.  This is a propos, because I AM TRYING, dammit.  Trying to get up this hill!

“Just because it burns, doesn’t mean you’re gonna die”.  Huh.  Pretty sure she was referring to my burning legs, at that point.

As I finally got to the top of the hill, we crested into in a driving wind and rainstorm.  The kind of storm you have to turn your back to in order to put a jacket on and not fly away.  The kind of rain that pelts your eyeballs.

The next song that played was “Between the raindrops”.  Well.  I’d like to be between them, but that ain’t happening.

As we ran along the roads back down Grouse Mountain, Heather caught me and I briefly voiced my concern about my ankle.  It was pretty sore and I was toying with the idea of dropping out.  The problem was that a) I didn’t really know where I was; b) I didn’t have a phone to call someone to come and get me c) I don’t know anyone’s number by heart anymore — technology!

This is where “Warm day, cold warm” came on.  I was NOT warm.  I really wanted to be and had a short daydream about going back to Maui.

At this point, I remembered that the kids were with Lizzie and I didn’t want to let them down by not finishing the run.  So off I went, back into the trails in pursuit of Heather.

Kilometer 18 or so… I went down again and this time I knew it was waaaay worse that the first time.  I sat in the mud, had a little pity cry until a runner dressed as William Wallace – kilt and all – came by and hauled me off the ground.  He made sure I was ok, and I sent him on his way with my thanks.

So what does one do in the forest with one good leg and no clue where she is?

She keeps going.

And plays Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off” on repeat.  And ponders the world. And talks to herself.

Jenny caught me and we had a good bitch fest and speculated on how much longer we had to go.  I told her to get going, and that I’d see her at the finish, no matter how long it took.

A couple of kilometers later, Lizzie – AKA “Voice of reason” – met me at the aid station with the kids.  After a good dose of “dummy, just stop.  The truck is over there”, I pulled the pin and limped to the truck.

And despite having an ankle that looks like something out of “Misery”, I’ll live to run another day.

With better tape on my glass ankles.





Race Report, Racing, Running, Travel

Because we can’t just sit on a beach, apparently.

Sunday morning – on our HOLIDAY – we got up at 3:10AM to go run the Maui Half Marathon.  I’d say it was somewhat easy because I was still on Pacific time, but that would be a total lie.  Getting up at 3:something to do any kind of race is just silly and it sucks no matter how you spin it.

We piled into the car, in the pitch black and headed out the start on the other side of the island.  Standing on the start line, shortly before 5AM, was not unlike standing in the middle of a human sauna.  Foreshadowing: maybe I should have been a little more concerned with fluid loss considering I’d yet to start running and was pretty much already soaking wet.

We took off in the dark, admired the stars and ran somewhat blind for the first hour or so of racing.  It was dark enough, in fact, that I nearly ran head first into the first guy coming back from the turnaround.  I paid slightly closer attention to where I was going after that near miss.

I think it was also around this point – roughly mile 6 – when I started to become aware of the fact that while I was cooking, temperature-wise, I wasn’t sweating that much and I was chilly and covered in goose bumps.  Not ideal.  I figured it would pass if I could get some water down and on me.  And believe me, I tried.

This wasn’t the most riveting course in the world, so I was more than a little relieved when I finally crossed the finish line.  I was rather wobbly, but 2 big guys grabbed me and gave me little choice about heading straight to medical.  Some IV fluids and some chocolate milk later, I was fine.

In the end, good enough to win my age group and finish 7th overall.  And then, of course, hit the beach/pool/post-race beers.

A few days post race, Liz and I decided “Hey, there’s a volcano.  Let’s go ride bikes up it!” Or something along those lines.

Actual conversations held during the ride:

Mile 16:

Me (squealing as something flew at me): “What the hell was that? Did you see that thing?”

Liz: “What? No. Nothing. You’re hallucinating. Maybe you’re seeing cheeseburgers.”

Mile 21:

Me: “I sure hope this volcano doesn’t explode on us.”

Liz: “Shut up, cheeseburger.”

Needless to say, we made it.  It was pretty epic.  10’000ft of epic. And really freaking cold.

Common sense dictates that yes, we did also lie on the beach, nap, lie by the pool, talk,  read books, hot tub, watch sunsets, drink lots of coffee and many, many other beverages, dance, laugh and generally have a very above average holiday. An excellent kick off to this 24th, er, 40th year, I’d say.


Race Report, Racing, Triathlon

Well, THAT was unexpected.

About 2 weeks ago, somewhere in middle of a long trail run up Whistler with a bunch of great girls, Liz and I decided that it would be a good idea to sign up for the Half Iron at Challenge Penticton.  Never mind that it was less than 2 weeks away, that we’d done essentially zero “formal” training or that I was running Squamish 23 the weekend before.  This sounded like a great idea.

A couple days of swim/bike/run later – and foam rolling like it was my job, post-Squamish – we got to Penticton on what has traditionally been one of the busiest weekends of the year for them.  And it was… ghost town.  Weird.

Anyway.  We checked in to our place, did all the pre-race crap you have to do and set ourselves up to have decent races by essentially deciding we were going to do so and not be so damn grumpy.  I think we were able to do just that because we were staying close enough to the start line that we knew we didn’t have to get up before 5:30.  Excellent.

So. Race day. Here’s how it went.


Goal: Sub 00:36 (look out, Michael Phelps). Actual: 00:36:56

I did something I never do. I started on the front line, right behind Liz.  I figured “What the hell.  What’s the worst that can happen?”

Editor’s note: DROWNING, that’s what.

It was fine.  A little rough at times, but I felt myself being pulled along so that was kind of neat.  I think I swam about as straight as a line as a puppy running through the forest, but at least I aimed for all the buoys.


Goal: Sub 3:00, catch Liz.  Actual: 2:52:54, no Liz.

That bike course was no joke. Some really good climbing combined with pavement that was teeth-rattling rough, it was going to be hard.  And it was, but in a good way.  A bit lonely at times but I was able to keep my head down and not lose focus too badly (“SQUIRREL!”) and enjoy the full-body shaking caused by the iffy pavement.


Goal: Sub 1:50 Actual 1:45:15

I can’t believe I am typing this but the run was fun.  I liked the course, it was hot and my body mostly cooperated.  When I finally caught Liz – who’d lost her nutrition on the bike and was paying the price for it on the run – she told me to get a move on, I was in 4th.


I suppose when I saw the lead bike out of transition, I should have paid a little bit more attention to what was going on.

I ended the day 3rd woman overall, and since I pretty much never look over my shoulder when I’m racing, I didn’t notice the pack of balloon-wielding kids who chased me to the line.  That’ll teach me.

All in all, a pretty fun day of racing.  I endured the usual post-race nausea and misery for a few hours, but some Gravol, beer and pizza fixed me right up.

As Liz pointed out, you’re only as good as your last race.  I guess that means it’s on for Maui, right?

Race Report, Racing, Running

“On your left!”

How long have I been racing?  Lots of years, lots of sports and lots of distances.  Lots of mistakes made and lots of lessons learned.


You’d think that I by now I’d have figure out how to seed myself appropriately at the start of a race.  Sunday, 30 seconds before the start of the Squamish 23K run, I looked around as I was chatting with Christine and fiddling with my gear and realized not only was I near the very back of the corral, I was behind a girl wearing those shudder-inducing 5 Fingers and another wearing birkenstocks.

Taking selfies when I should have been doing something else.
Taking selfies when I should have been doing something else.

Not ideal.  If I intend on doing anything that resembles racing at these races, I need to be up front near the bearded dudes who opt to run shirtless and the scary, sinewy women.  Alas, it was not to be today and off I went.

I spent the first 10kms faintly bleating “On your left…. On your left… On your left…” And yeah, I got around 5 Fingers and Birky pretty early on.

My terrible planning aside, this run is a must-do for anyone keen to do a hilly, challenging trail run.  The course is awesome, tough, hilly, technical and oddly quiet when you end up running the back half alone.

Wee bit hilly
Wee bit hilly

I successfully stayed on my feet, I didn’t deplete myself, won the mental battle when I

I'm a nerd and save bibs.  I did not want another one like this.
I’m a nerd and save bibs. I did not want another one like this.

started to get chills – there was no way I was putting myself in the hospital again – and finished feeling happy and good.  Plus, I got a big, sweaty bear hug from a tired GR.  A great way to end my race.

I had the foresight to park about 4 feet from the finish line so I immediately hopped in the truck (which my hips are making me pay for today), drove home and collected various children from various locations.  We finished off our Sunday with a bit of Slow Food Cycle and some time at their favourite place, the beer garden.

Replenishing my carbs.
Replenishing my carbs.

No seriously, it’s their favourite place.

And now for 1 day of recovery, 4 days of taper and then Challenge Penticton!  This ought to be interesting.


Racing, Triathlon, Whistler

Local’s Profile

Nancy Johnston is one of those sort of dark horse competitors.  She seems so quiet and unassuming, but get to know her a little bit and you’ll find she’s a fierce competitor, with a lot of race finishes under her belt.  Quick with a smile and and modest to a fault, if you’re from Whistler, you’ve surely seen her around town.  Nancy was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my nosy questions.

IMC 2013
IMC 2013

Tell me a little bit about yourself, outside of sport.

Originally from Ontario, I’ve been in Whistler for nearly 23 years. I work with a great, supportive group in the Bylaw Department for the RMOW.

Tell me about your athletic background.  

I have 3 sisters, 2 brothers. We grew up in St Catharines with a pool in our back yard. I learned to swim and loved to race anyone who would jump in. But that was for fun. Growing up my sports were all team sports, ice hockey, basketball and field hockey.

What inspired you to try your hand at triathlon?  When was your first race?

A friend of mine wanted to give triathlon a go so I signed up. It was Kelowna Apple Tri in 1996. I borrowed a bike, it was really hard and I loved it. It was so much fun.

What drew you to Ironman in particular?

After sprints and Olympic distance races friends convinced me I could go longer. Victoria half Iron was my 2006 goal. On my second lap of the run I swore I would never run more than 10k again. Since then I’ve done Oliver half iron multiple times and Muskoka 70.3 IM wasn’t an easy decision I knew it was going to take a lot (time, money) but I lined up after watching IMC 2008 and with the support of family and friends and guidance of my trusted coach Christine Suter, I crossed the finish line.

(Editor’s note: In an very respectable time of 12:08:45)

What has you most excited about taking the start at Ironman Canada 2014?

Not sure it is excitement I am feeling. I don’t know why but I am nervous. Maybe because it is a month early?

Do you have a particular goal for this race?

My goal for the race is to really enjoy the day, smile, thank as many volunteers as I can. With a few lingering injuries I don’t want to focus on a time, I don’t want to be disappointed.

Will you complete any races prior to Ironman?

I’ve only done a few running races. With a few lingering injuries more racing just wasn’t in the cards.

How did you find training through the winter months?  

I love the training so I’m okay with the long winter in the gym, pool or on my bike in the living room. I also got up the hill once or twice a week for a bit of cross training.

How do you fit in life, work and training?  Are you able to find balance or did “something have to give”?

My coach gets me program for the week I schedule everything and it all fits in. Just trying to sort it out on the fly doesn’t work. Balance is key and overtraining is a big risk.

What do you consider your strength on race day?  What about your weakness?

Bylaw Cheer Squad!
Bylaw Cheer Squad!

My biggest strength on race day last year for sure was friends, family, colleagues cheering me over the entire day. The support was overwhelming, it gave me a lift when I needed it and that was a lot, especially on the run.

Which brings us to my weakness, the run. It’s not just running (although my hips and knees are not happy about running these days) it is usually the state of my gut by the time I’m about halfway through the run.

What sporting/athletic accomplishment are you most proud of?

I ran a pb at the UBC fall classic this past November. Getting older and faster, I was stoked.

What do you find most enjoyable about training?  Is there anything that you dread?

I love training with my friends in Whistler, and meeting new people who come here to train and race. I am not a big fan of cold water or starting my ride in the rain, it’s ok once I’m out there and it rains but starting in the rain? Doesn’t happen for me.

What are you most looking forward to once you cross that finish line?

Hugs, Hi 5s, and West Coast Float.

Worth running to the line for!
Worth running to the line for!

Any race-day superstitions?

Nothing New!

Name 3 things you can’t live without while training and racing.

Floating, Physio and Massage

If you could have your dream day – perfect racing – describe it.

Sunny, warm, no wind, lots of people on course and all the dogs on leash. ( I nearly got taken out last year by the Whistler Golf Course) 

(Editor’s note: you know what they say, you can take the girl outta Bylaw for a day…)

If you could pick 3 dream sponsors, who would they be?

West Coast Float, Whistler Village Sports and Vega

If you could pick 3 dream training partners, who would they be and why?

Greg Sandkuhl, Christine Suter and Maridee Fitch. I have had great days swimming, biking and running with all three, motivating and fun.

What’s your favourite way to recover after a hard race or workout?

Primary recovery needs to happen right away, get in cold water, Vega recovery protein, rehydrate. Then the fun begins beer, chips, pizza (gluten free please), feet up. Next day, go Float 650lbs of Epsom salts; does the trick.

Thanks Nancy, I’ll be at the finish line to give you a hug and a high 5!  You’re on your own for floating.

Family, Kids, Race Report, Racing, Triathlon

Body: 1, Ego: 0.

I haven’t DNF’d a race since I was racing mountain bikes in 1999-ish.  I broke that streak on Sunday when I pulled the pin on the run portion of the Victoria 70.3.  I wasn’t at all happy with having to make that decision, but when I got off my bike and hobbled through transition to rack my bike, looking for all the world like a human leaning Tower of Pisa, I knew that it was the decision to make.  That was me, being mature and all that.

I may or may not have shed a tear of frustration, disappointment and yes, even a little embarrassment.  I guess deep down, my heart just wasn’t into hurting myself for the sake of running around the lake twice.

Still, it sucks.

On the bright side, I had my fastest ever 1/2 iron swim (not fast by fast standards, but who cares.  Fast for me. And if you tell me the swim was short, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear you.)

For a girl who can't wait to get out of the water, you'd think I'd look a little happier.
For a girl who can’t wait to get out of the water, you’d think I’d look a little happier.

My bike was very average and the indicator that I wouldn’t be running started to become apparent to me when my leg went numb and my back flared up again.  I told myself I’d pull out of the bike after the first loop but as I rode right past the turnoff, but I guess my stubbornness kept me going.  My internal dialogue at that time went something like this:

“Ow.  Stop.”

“Hey, aren’t you turning?”

“Nah, might as well go ’round again.”

“Ok.  But still.  Ow.”

“Oh shut up.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 3.45.37 PM
You don’t expect me to buy pics from a race I DNF, do you?

Let me tell you, I’ve see suns set faster than the time it took me to ride that 2nd loop.  Sheesh.

So now, time to heal this crooked body of mine and really try to figure out what’s wrong.  Being injured just plain sucks.

My partner-in-crime and I decided on a 2 week “don’t-sign-up-for-anything” period to prevent the whole “that was awesome, let’s do it again/that sucked, I need redemption” thing.  This does not stop me from googling races and planning out adventures.  A girl needs something to look forward to, ya know?

Big, huge thanks to my brother for coming with us and holding down the fort as I rolled out of bed at 4:30am for this silly hobby… Big, huge thanks to Liz for always being up for anything… Big, huge thanks to Steph and Chrissy for the pep talks… Big, huge thanks to the kids for being exhausting humans who make me laugh/want to tear my hair out.

Anybody got any bright ideas on what to do next?


Kids, Racing, Triathlon, weekend

Eat all of the things.

And that folks, is my pre-race mantra.  It’s working well so far; I successfully stuffed my face today.  I think I need to have a shirt made.

It’s Ironman 70.3 Victoria tomorrow.  My morale is… meh.  I’d better get my mental act together since the alarm goes off in about 8 hours.  Frankly, I got exactly what I wished for when I said I wanted my next race to be in more moderate temps – I froze my ass off today.

Coach Suter said that I’m to swim as hard as I can (haha), bike as hard as I can (ok, sure) and then see if my foot holds up on the run.  It’s going to be a long walk if it doesn’t.

This means I’m going to take the opportunity to try all new things in this race and see how it all works out.  I mean, on the one hand I can argue that I am rested because I haven’t overtrained.  On the other, I can argue that I am severely undertrained.  So really, what have I got to lose?


Speaking of trying new things, I brought these along with me.  It’s their first time at one of mum’s “big races”:

My own personal cheer squad
My own personal cheer squad

They’ve added a whole new dimension to race prep.

I wonder how this is all going to shake out tomorrow?

Day-to-day life, Family, Kids, Racing, Random


It’s been hot these past few days and it’s awesome.  Feels like someone turned on summer, suddenly.  The kids don’t adapt that quickly — they love it but it seems to sap their energy at the same time.  I spend an inordinate amount of grocery money on popsicles.

Why can’t I find these anymore?


Remember smacking them on the counter and splitting them with a friend?  Or shafting your sibling by eating 3/4 of it and giving them the piece that fell off into the package in the smacking process?  Ah, the good old days.

photo 4

Summer means lots of time biking here.  BMX started last night.  By no means are my kids competitive at this sport, but they do love going to the track.  They ask me for tips and all I can provide by way of insight is:

“um, yeah.  Don’t stop pedaling.”

“But what if I’m in the air?”

“Then don’t pedal.”

“But you said –”

“Never mind what I said.  Just go have fun.”

photo 1 photo 2 photo 2-1 Unknown Unknown-1 photo 6 photo 7

I’ll be on the start line at Victoria 70.3 next week, no matter what.  Which of course means I did this yesterday.  Someone needs to save me from myself.

photo 5


This guys has provided entertainment, companionship and lots of headaches these last few weeks.  He’s adept at escaping from the backyard but I can’t figure out how, despite spying on him (yeah, I spy on my dog.  So what?)  If you see this friendly face on the trail, take him for a ride/run.  He’ll love you for it.

photo 3-2

Any bets on how long this Teacher’s Strike will go on for?  Kids are enjoying the 4 day weeks.  Parents… less so.  Summer vacation starts early, I think…

Day-to-day life, Racing

It’s not going to plan.

Allow me to vent for a few lines.

Planned for Saturday?  Nimby 50.

As it stands right now?  My back is seized, I’m walking/limping like a neanderthal and riding a bike isn’t working out so well.  My kids think it’s funny that mummy lies on an ice pack while they eat popsicles and keep me company.

I was really looking forward to busting out a fresh pair of polka dot socks and enjoying the best post-race burger any race has to offer.

Planned for 2 weeks from now?  Victoria 70.3

As it stands right now?  My ankle/foot aren’t working so I can’t run.

You could argue that this leaves me with swimming but what’s the fun in that?  Besides, I can’t cancel Victoria anyway because the kids are coming with me and they’d murder me if I robbed them of the chance to stay in a hotel and ride a ferry boat.

What does that leave me with?

Frustration and a desire to take up an easier hobby, that’s what.

Woe is me. End rant.

Kids, Race Report, Racing, Running

My weekend warriors

Last weekend, I was on the start line of yet another race, but this one was a little different. Rather than the usual swim/bike/run or girls trip of late, I lined up behind Will and Rory as they prepared to run the Loop the Lakes 8k in Squamish.

Stand next to a girl?  Are you bonkers?
Stand next to a girl? Are you bonkers?

Race mornings for me tend to be somewhat methodically planned out – at least mentally.  Not so when trying to usher 3 sleepy little people out the door by 7:15am.  It was more like “I have a coffee, everyone has clothes on and a sandwich, let’s go!”  The rest would somehow fall into place.

We arrived at the start, signed in and then spent the next 20 minutes before the start trying to keep the boys away from the food table.  No mean feat since the offerings included donuts.

Do you understand boys?  Me neither.
Do you understand boys? Me neither.

We started together and as we crested the first hill, Will took off and that was the last I saw of him till we crossed the finish line.  He would tell me later that he had lots of fun high-fiving people, passing whoever he could on the uphills and drinking the blue Gatorade.  He did also mention that he got a little lonely in the woods at times…

Somewhere near the end. Courtesy David McColm.
Somewhere near the end. Courtesy David McColm.

Rory and I played caboose and it was awesome.  He went in fits and starts – as you do when you are 5.  Sometimes he went fast and laughed and jumped.  Other times, we held hands and talked and walked.  “Mama, I have a crank.”  Cramp?  “Yeah, that’s what I said. Crank”.  He got pretty tired at the end but magically recovered after eating 2 donuts.

photo 4
Another great Dave McColm shot

As for Talky-Talkerson?  She was pretty mad I wouldn’t let her do the 8k with us.  She and I did the 1K and “Mama that was so fun, I am pretty fast eh?”

photo 1
Race attire approved.

I can confirm that wrangling between 3-6 kids (we went with friends who also ran with us) to start a race/put on that number/come here!/ where’s your brother?/ Have you peed yet?/come here! combined with not eating properly (or at all?  Who can remember) and running at a pace that is vastly different from your own is pretty damn tiring.  I was punched at the end of the day.

Thankfully, so was this one.  She slept through her 8736 viewing of Frozen.
Thankfully, so was this one. She slept through her 8736 viewing of Frozen.

The boys?

They played soccer till dinner.

Kids v. Adults
Kids v. Adults


Lest you think I push my kids to do these runs, the opposite is true. I mentioned it in passing to a friend, and they overheard me.  “Can we do it, too?”  I said I’d think about it and ask them a few days before to see if they were still keen.  They were.  Given the alternative of spending the day at home or “an adventure in the woods”, the adventure wins every time.  I never set the pace or push them.  I remind them to watch where they are going and leave the rest to them.

This is a very worthy read on the subject of running and kids.