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.

Pemberton, Triathlon, Whistler

Don’t hold your tongue

As anyone living in the Sea-to-Sky corridor knows, Ironman Canada is here this week.  So far, things have been going smoothly and the general feeling from the athletes is that of excitement and nervous anticipation.

From what I can tell, that feeling is mostly shared by Whistler residents and Pemberton appears to be the linchpin in the success of the race.

That said, if you live in Pemberton and have an opinion, you have a perfect opportunity to share it: The Ironman Community Feedback session.  When we want to grumble about something, we tend to do it with our friends, our neighbours, our hairdresser…

So if you have something to say, say it!  This is your chance.  Better yet, come equipped with constructive feedback, proposed solutions, ideas and information you feel is worth sharing.

Changes can’t happen if the right people don’t know about them.

On a lighter note:

Workation, Day 5.


Day-to-day life, Racing, Triathlon, Whistler


My workation began yesterday.  What’s that, you say?  Why it’s simple.  It’s where you take a week off from your “real” job and immerse yourself into another job.  In this case, that other job would be Ironman Canada.  Because the reality is… if you can’t race ’em, join ’em!

Sidebar: I cannot believe that it’s been 8 years since my last Ironman.  Yeesh.

I won’t lie and pretend that seeing all these athletes on our roads and trails all summer hasn’t made me totally envious, because it has.  Triathlon FOMO in full effect!  But this gig is kind of assuaging me and I think it will likely keep me busy enough that you won’t find me in the registration lineup come Monday morning.  I think.

So should you find yourself in the Expo with some time to kill, do come find me and throw me a high five.  I’ll be easy to spot: I’m the  short one in the sling telling people where to put stuff.


Biking, Kids, Pemberton, Racing, Running, Travel, Triathlon, Whistler

Ironman Canada from the sidelines

So, you’re doing Ironman Canada.  Good for you.

You’ve lovingly convinced/dragged/coerced your loved ones/family/friends/crew to join you for the fun.

As a good, caring and unselfish triathlete, you aren’t going to force these fine folks to sit around in your condo or hotel room and watch you lie about with your legs up the wall while you sip your endurance beverage of choice out of carefully labeled water bottles, are you?

No, you are not.

This is a world-class resort with a lot of things to do and explore.  Let’s be good people and send them out the door with a list of things to do while you rest up in those recovery boots, shall we?

The Kids

I’ll be the first to admit that I love spectating at Ironman.  Sure, there are some boring bits, but those are squished between frantic moments of running around the course, cheering, admiring, eating, crying, coaxing, taking pictures and plotting an eventual comeback.  My favourite thing to see, however, is kids cheering on mom and dad.  They make cute posters, wear dorky matching shirts, scream at the top of their little high-pitched lungs. One day, I’ll be that mom with her kids screaming at her to move her ass. But then, they fall asleep.  Everywhere.  In strollers. On a patch of grass.  In a restaurant chair.  It’s awesome but also makes me feel bad for them: don’t they want to be doing something else?

It’s going to be August which means it’s going to be hot (probably) which means – LAKES.  Hit the lakes!  There are at least 3 fun beach parks that will keep those little people in your life occupied for quite some time: Rainbow Park (the start of the swim course, so perhaps not the best choice closer to race day), Lost Lake park (rent a bike and pedal your way out there, it’s the way to go), Alpha Lake Park (again, use the Valley Trail to bike out there).

Speaking of bikes, put those little suckers into bike camp.  DFX camps are awesome and they’ve turned my kids into confident little terrors on 2 wheels.  Arrange (ahead of time!) a bike rental for getting around town.  There are tons of places to rent and most rent Chariot trailers, too: perfect for hauling picnics, gear and tired little people.

The Municipality here offers a lot of day camp options if your offspring aren’t keen on bikes.  Smear on the sunscreen and kiss them goodbye.  They are in good hands.

If you want a night out (which, yeah.  I know.  Not before race day!  But maybe you’re like me and don’t think that having that 1 beer will ruin your race so you’ll go for it), call the fine folks at Babysitting Whistler.  They’re priced like that because they are good.

There are so many activities that you can do with your kids, too.  The Adventure Zone, Zip-Trek, Rafting, Bungee Jumping (if you’re that kind of parent), Yoga, Swimming, Bounce (if it’s raining which it won’t be), the PEAK 2 PEAK, and tons of playgrounds.

The bottom line is this: if your kids claim that they are bored while they are here, someone’s doing something wrong.

Your ironmate

 (Editor’s note: Worst moniker EVER.  If I called my husband my “ironmate”, he’d divorce me on the spot).

Moving on.  I could go the usual route and write something like “treat your lady to a day at the spa bla bla bla” but WAIT.  Not all who do Ironman are MEN.  This is an equal opportunity blog.  Ha.

So yeah, there are spas, of course.  The Scandinave happens to be spectacular.  But adult-folk can do lots of the same things I suggested for the kids.  The mountain biking in this place is amazing.  If you are keen to learn the bike park, go for it.  Listen, I get that it looks insane and totally intimidating and super scary but there really is something for everyone (and if my 4 year old rode it last year, then so can you).

Golf.  I hear there’s good golfing around here.  I personally run out of steam at 7 holes, but if that’s your thing there are at least 6 courses for you to get frustrated at between Squamish and Pemberton.

If you’re a runner, let me be the first to encourage you to bring your trail gear and explore our valley.  The trail running here is second to none and you can thank me later for telling you to go.  In fact, why don’t you race, too?  The 5 Peaks is the day before Ironman and a perfect excuse to get up the mountain.

If your person wants to cheer you on, well that’s just awesome.  The swim start is at Rainbow park and, unless your fan club has a bike, I’d advise against going out to the start.  Rather, have them stay in the village, enjoy a coffee and watch you and 2,499 or so of your friends fight for open water on the big screen in Whistler Olympic Plaza.  That way, they can enjoy some village time while you pedal your heart out up and down our hills for the next 180 km.

(Editor’s note: Oh yes, you know I’ll be writing my own personal review of the bike and run courses.  Maybe the swim and the transitions too, if I’m feeling particularly detail-oriented.  Wait!  Maybe I’ll GoPro the whole thing!  Actually, no I won’t.)

The bike will be tough to spectate – but let’s be honest, isn’t it always?  Apart from coming into and out of the transitions, your personal cheer squad is going to have to find a way to get themselves out of the village without getting stuck in traffic and/or impeding the race.  Unless they can pedal their way out there?  I’d stick to cheering the run course.  Which is going to be awesome!  With shade!  Pull up a lawn chair, crack a cold (non-alcoholic, of course) one and yell till midnight, at which point you can come and join me for some teary-eyed cheering at the finish.

Before and After

If you can, come to Whistler a week before to experience my favourite event of the summer: The Slow Food Cycle.  It’s a week out from race day – surely the 35-ish kilometers you’ll have to pedal aren’t going to hinder your race prep, are they?

Load up the bikes, the kids, the trailer, bring some water and sunscreen, leave the lycra at home (I beg of you), slow down and enjoy being part of something that will surely be the highlight of your visit.  Trust me on this one.

If you’re sticking around after Ironman, or visiting before, get out of Whistler and explore a bit!  Pemberton has some great trails, a perfect lake (or 2) to chill at, Mile One, Blackbird Bakery, and so on and so on (I’ve bragged abotu these places before… I’d send you to Squamish but all I really know about Squamish is where to ride and I’m sure you can figure that out on your own.

There’s so much more I could share, but really it’s up to you to make the most of your time here. Get out here and do it!

And for the love of god, start waving to each other on the bike.  It’s just rude not to.

Biking, Racing, Running, Triathlon, Whistler

But enough about me.

You may know her as triathlon age-group slayer Liz Cullen.  2x Ironman finisher.  Or perhaps you remember her from her ski bum days as a long-time Whistler local (let’s face it: she may live in Vancouver but I’m pretty sure her heart’s up here).

Some of you may know her as The Sarcastic Triathlete (if you don’t, it’s a refreshing read: go there).

I know her as a training partner/racing ass-kicker/co-adventure planner and good friend.

She’s currently incubating a human, so we won’t be running any races in matching shirts in the early season, but I have no doubt she’ll be back in action in no time.

She’s the first subject in what I hope to become a regular feature here: interviews with some of my favourite folks.

Herewith, I introduce to you Lizzie.

1.     What was your first tri – and why that one?

UBC Sprint tri in July 2003.  Because my mom was doing it so I thought I’d give it a try on her old bike.  I then did a random smattering of tris until 2006 when I actually started training for them.

2.     What was your most embarassing race moment?

Oliver Half Iron 2008.  I got a flat with 4km to go and decided to just ride it back to transition.  There was one final corner 400m before transition and I washed out and hit the curb with most of the town watching.  When I got up to head to transition my wheel wouldn’t turn so I had to jog in bare feet carrying my bike.

3.     Who is your biggest training/racing foe?

This tiny little cycling powerhouse named Christine, she sometimes goes by SMO.  Oh wait, that’s you.  Biggest foe and best training buddy all in one.  I have the swim, she has the bike and the run is getting close.  When we both start racing again it could get ugly.

**Editor’s note: I can’t wait.

4.     Bucket list race?

Other than Kona. Wildflower.

5.     Best and worst part of training in Whistler/Vancouver?

Best: Kits pool!

Worst: rain.  Lots of rain.


6.     Fave post race food

Salt and vinegar potato chips

7.     Race superstition?

Don’t really have one, but I do have rituals.  I tuck notes of encouragement in my race kit even if they don’t get read and end up a squishy blob.

8.     If you could train with one person for a day, who would it be and why?

How ’bout Heather Wurtele.  Because she seems really fun and nice and I like feeling short sometimes.

9.     What’s your weirdest racing or training habit?

Not sure I have any (others may say differently)  I do like doing handstands in the water before races, might as well get a laugh in.

10.  Who’s your athletic hero?  If you have one…

Other than the obvious of Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Kobe Bryant, top of the list: Chrissie Wellington, Natasha Badmann, Lisa Bentley, and so on.

11.  What’s your favourite Whistler event/trail/race etc

Whistler Half Marathon.  Although only in its 3rd year and overcoming course distance growing pains, it’s super neat to run through your own town with tons of supporters.


12.  Describe your athletic style/career in one sentence.

Late blooming, somewhat competitive age group triathlete that combats laziness with lofty goals.

13.  Desribe that nightmare you have before racing (i.e. I show up without pants).

That I miss the race entirely usually because I got the day wrong and show up too late.  I actually did that once to an exam in university so it’s not beyond impossible.

14.  3 words that describe you as a person.

Geez, what is this? A job interview?  I consider myself a perfectionist.  Ha kidding. According to me: humorous, uncomplicated, pregnant (for the next 2.5 months at least).

15.  Dream sponsor?

Ben and Jerry’s. Ok ok, probably Saucony.  You can never have too many bright fun shoes.

Thanks for taking the time, ‘Zard.

So friends: who shall be my next interviewee/victim?