Brave Girls: inspiring female adventurers

I just watched an inspiring TED talk by Caroline Paul: To Raise Brave Girls, Encourage Adventure. For starters, Caroline is an amazing role model: eloquent and intelligent, she’s also a paraglide captain, a firefighter, and she once attempted the world record for crawling. (She crawled for 12 hours!)

Caroline tells us how there is a gender bias in promoting bravery at a young age: while young boys are encouraged to engage in “risky play”, young girls are often told to avoid risks, to be careful. I’m not going to lie, when I asked to play hockey at age 9, I was registered for figure skating. (Although, I ended up finding a way to make that risky, attempting triple salchow over and over and over.)

This is part of the reason why Jo, Nancy and I made Girls Gone Wilderness, to do a small part in shaping opportunities for young women to be tempted by adventures that promote excitement, fun, and a bit of courage. It’s not always natural when we’ve been raised to see mostly guys doing adventure sports, especially in biking, skiing, and the extreme adventures. (Ps! Our next event is almost sold out!)

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After watching Caroline’s TED talk, I wanted to go back in time and meet some of the most courageous women throughout history. I went down a (wonderful) rabbit hole learning more about Katherine Switzer, (she broke the rules to become the first woman to run Boston Marathon) and Lynn Hill, (she was the first person, male or female, to free-climb The Nose in Yosemite) and Ann Trason (she broke, like, 20 world records in ultra-marathons). It was overwhelming, in a great way, and so I had to focus closer to home.  Today’s blog is about an inspiring BC mountaineer, whose first ascent was Grouse Mountain!

Introducing Phyllis Munday

Local BC lady Phyllis Munday, born in 1894, had a lifelong mission in the mountains. The first woman to reach the summit of Mount Robson, she was unique not only for her first ascents, but for her style of achieving them: she and her husband Don achieved many first ascents together, even after having a family.

Phyllis and Don pioneered routes in some of BC’s most sacred places, like Mount Waddington, where they spent over a decade of failed attempts. There is now a Mount Munday in the Waddington range (which, of course they summited, in 1930).

All this during a time when women weren’t really meant to even wear athletic attire:

Her male team members barely blinked when she’d stash her respectable city skirts somewhere on the trails and carry on in her bloomers. This was somehow less risqué than wearing trousers or knickerbockers.
Account from Experience Mountain Parks

To put this in perspective, when Phyllis was in her 4th or 5th attempts at Mount Waddington, US women had just gotten the right to vote, and women in Toronto still weren’t showing leg in public.

Time to do more, worry less. Like this time I had to crab-walk down a descent in the Rockies that scared me:

Terrified

Photo by Julien.

“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible, and when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others” – Amelia Earhart

Featured image, by Tory Scholtz.

Salomon Adult Fun Run Camp in Moab Utah! A day in the life of Ultra Running Academy 2017.

Your NEVER too old to go to camp and run around like a kid! Salomon UltraRunning Academy was full of playing, learning, meeting new friends, and talking about what we all have in common; running and playing outside.

The camp felt pretty surreal the whole time; from when I found out I was going, when I was on my way there, when we arrived, and even on the way home; It was an amazing  and humbling dream world! I think when we all applied most of us thought our chances of actually getting picked to go were pretty slim (at least I did). I couldnt have been more excited, and the camp was beyond what I even imagined! 

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Red Cliff Lodge down below– where we stayed 

 

Day 1: Most of us flew into Salt lake city and met at the airport. We took two different vehicles and Claire  drove our van to Mohab (about a 3 hour drive). This was mainly a travel day, but of course when we arrived we all had the same idea in mind~ to do a little run and explore the area before dinner.   

 

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Corrine Malcom & Jessy Forgeuf

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Jessy Forgeuf

 That evening everyone was “presented” and we individually introduced ourselves; where we are from, what we do for work, how we started running, etc. It was great to learn a bit about everyone before the week started! 

 

  

Meet the Salomon Staff & Ultra Players:

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Men.jpg

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Corrine, me, Arden Young

Day 2:

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Danny Garrett

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Uphill with Anna Frost

Each morning of camp (besides the race day) started off with morning yoga led by Anna Frost, breakfast, then Q&A time with Anna and Max King. We discussed different topics about running; such as nutrition, preparing for hot or cold races, and whatever other advice we wanted to talk about! Thank you!

 

 

We then went out for our first run as part of the camp. This day was about uphill running techniques. We broke off into 3 groups; one with Greg Vollet, one with Anna, one with Max and switched every 20 minutes.  I realized I really need to work on my uphill and I learnt a lot about how to use poles (I’ve barely used poles but Ive been doing it all wrong)! This uphill workshop really made me more aware of my footing and posture the rest of the week!  When you have been doing something for awhile you dont really think too much about technique and I just go out and hike or run! It was great to go back to thinking about some basics!

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Chris Mocko & Marianne Hogan- Both won the 50 miler Behind the Rocks

After the uphill workshops we continued running  around fisher canyon. Unfortunately Jessy rolled her ankle during this run and was in a boot the rest of the trip… :(.  She still kept a smile though throughout the whole time at camp!

Greg also dislocated his toe, in which Salomon Ultra player (podiatrist) Annie helped snap back into place on the trail!  Greg powered on the rest of the week, and even ran the race! He is crazy tough and you wouldn’t of known he had this injury! 

After running we usually quickly fit in lunch (Usually Burgers! yum).. before heading off to afternoon workshops! 

 

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Salomon Ultra Sense ~ new shoe love!

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Every afternoon we broke out into smaller groups for workshops from 2-4, and then 4-6 pm. We switched groups over the next two days to get to all of the workshops…The workshops included a video group with Sebastien Montaz-Rosett; we ran around having fun learning how to use go pros, drones, and various filming equipment and techniques in the hills above our lodge. Another workshop consisted of communication and social media with Robbie Lawless. We also got to meet with Pierre Minary, product line manager to discuss shoes and look at different types of footwear and some protoypes. There was also a physiotherapy block section where each group was scheduled with Kristin Berglund.

During each workshop we talked a lot about  why we run, how we started running, and we had the opportunity to share our experiences and stories. I really enjoyed these workshops, as all of them gave me a chance to really learn a lot about everyone’s backgrounds and experiences doing something we all love. I found these sessions extremely powerful and inspiring from both the individuals leading them, and all of the athletes. 

In the evenings we had dinner and then usually there was a presentation or videos. This evening we had a health and anti-doping information session and learnt how to access SHOL (Sport and Health Online) in which any athlete can contribute to anti-doping. It was great to see that Salomon is really taking a leading role in this; protecting their athletes, contributing to the anti-doping fight, and keeping this sport clean.  

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Day 3:

Was about “Accepting the downhill. We had Yoga in the am at the lodge, breakfast, Q& A with Max & Anna, and out to Castle peak for a run. First we had to run wayy up before we could run down! 🙂

 

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Castle Peak

Jumping photo

Photo by: Robbie Lawless

Me- running castle peak

Photo: Robbie Lawless

Dakota Jones joined the camp the prior evening and Greg had him demonstrate some downhill techniques. Running downhill from the top of castle peak was sooo much fun! I really love technical downhill, so I felt like i was in my element here (and was my favourite area). There is a great downhill video on Salomon Facebook of a group of the guys running down:

https://www.facebook.com/salomonrunning/#

I was already at the bottom.. not because I am faster though ! .haha.

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Day 4:

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Photo: Robbie Lawless

We woke up earlier than usual this morning (left by 6 am to get to Dead Horse Point) to do Yoga during sunrise. IT WAS SO COLD but amazing!  

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Chris Jones, Photo by: Robbie Lawless

After we went for an easy run in the arches before the “Behind the Rocks” 50 miler race the following day.

Arches

Photo by: Robbie Lawless

Arches 2

Photo by: Robbie Lawless

Day 5:

50 mile Race day- we were up early again and left the lodge by 4 am. (It was a 50 minute drive to the start of the behind the rocks race).

Since Orcas 50 km at the beginning of February, and even before that, I have had a nagging hamstring issue. I wasnt doing super long runs… But, I rested enough that I was not completely injured in time for the camp!  I was able to get through the race feeling much better than I expected!!!  I went into it wanting to have as much fun as I could and thought of it as an opportunity to explore the area. It still was hard at the end (as any ultra is), and I was really feeling any of the hills! 🙂 I used the downhill sections to get excited and push when I felt good. There were some difficult sand sections on course, but also tons of fun rocky technical sections!

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Me ~ about 60 Km in at the Behind the Rocks Ultra drinking all the coke.  Photo by: Robbie Lawless

 

 

 

 

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Arden Young, during Behind the Rocks Ultra Race. Photo by: Robbie Lawless

 

Day 6:

We had a big breakfast and then travel day back to the airport and home…

Now what?! Finishing camp felt a bit like finishing a race (and we also did do a 80 km race)!  The rushing thoughts of: 

What adventure do I plan?!

What do I sign up for next?!..

…All crept up very quickly. Luckily I have the most amazing trail running friends who jump on that opportunity and join in on the planning immediately.   I already have some long adventure runs planned for this summer with all my favourite trail runners. 

After complishing a race or adventure run I always get that feeling of setting a new goal. This summer UTMB is already on the calendar, but more than any race, I cant wait for these fun adventure runs with friends; most likely in Colorado, California, locally, and in Washington (Wonderland Trail), and more.

This whole camp experience definitely gave me a lot of insight into the trail running world and what Salomon is doing within our trail community. We had the opportunity to learn a lot of about our own goals, Salomon’s goals, as well as how Salomon is taking a leading role in the trail running community.

Going to this camp gave me an immense amount of inspiration from others around me. I was honoured to learn from amazing athletes about how they got into running, why they run, what they want to achieve, and about all of their amazing stories. I am lucky to have met such amazing new friends. I cant wait to follow along in their journeys and see what they all do next; whether that be having fun on the trails or racing.

I feel so lucky to have been able to experience this amazing adventure and excited to share what I learned with others in the trail community! If this sounds like something you are interested in and you are passionate about ultra running-  be sure to apply next year! I know I would do it again!

THANK YOU Salomon for such an amazing week I will never forget and for sharing your knowledge and inspiring all of us! Moab is such a beautiful place to play! #timetoplay

 

 

 

 

If you want to check out videos from the week check out Salomon Running Facebook page for links to videos by Sebastien Montaz-Rossett:

https://www.facebook.com/salomonrunning/

My You Tube Video Application:

 

Keep it Humble and Fun: One first place, one last place

The weekend of February 24th & 25th was marked off on my calendar for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I would have the courage to go through with it. The idea was to attempt the Sigge’s P’ayakentsut (P’ayak) 50km cross country ski race in Whistler on the 24th, and then the Grouse Mountain Snowshoe Grind race on the 25th. I had never done a cross country ski race before, or a snowshoe race. (Sure, I do snowshoe quite a bit, but my cross country skiing is a disaster.) I wasn’t too worried about the snowshoe race, but how would I be able to do it if I was semi-destroyed from the ski race? When the idea came to me, I was hoping Joanna & Arielle would bring their Canmore Nordic Center abilities and their enjoyment for weird weekends like this. (Three suddenly feels like this is a popular idea.) I messaged them, but Alberta is far, so they weren’t going to join. I tried recruiting others by saying if they also did the “P’ayak / Grouse Double“, I’d buy them a beer. (There were no takers.) Even though it was clear I would be doing this alone, the uncertainties intrigued me. It all seemed foolish, but fun. I decided I would sign up at the last minute.

When race week arrived, I realized the nordic ski race was a really bad idea. I hadn’t “skate skied” since 6 weeks prior, and even then, my nordic ski training was nothing like the route in the event. But then, something came over me with one hour before the P’ayak race registration deadline… I was suddenly feeling amazing, and I was excited. I signed up! And for whatever reason, I also signed up for the 50k, which was 20k longer than I had ever skied in my life. (There’s something really exciting when you sign up for something that scares you!)

On the day before the epic snow race weekend, my blisters finally healed up from the previous weekend of ski touring in the wrong boots. I was ready!

Day 1: The P’ayak

Because I haven’t skied a lot, the cutoff time looked really scary to me. (My first 25k had to be done in 2.5 hours.) Heck, I can spend over one hour just eating a meal and putting my shoes on.

In order to finish, my plan was:

  1. Wax my skis for the first time ever, which should yield about 1k an hour.
  2. Stop at all the aid stations and devour lots of Clif bars.
  3. Start at the very back of the group, and don’t go anywhere near the real skiers.
  4. If timing gets close, just take off skis and run!

With this plan in mind, I took to the start line for the 50k with about 50 other skiers. The start confused me because there were all these classic tracks, and I thought we were doing a skate ski race? Confused and having never been in tracks before, another skier confirmed that I was in the right race, and that we were all meant to start within these tracks. I went inside a track doubtfully and waited for the start.

Within the first kilometer I was about 5 minutes back from the entire race, and I wondered what the hell I was doing! I navigated the turn-offs doubtfully and started to feel great anxiety for what lay ahead. It didn’t help that I had never felt the sensation of waxed skis before! Adding to my anxiety, after a while the 30km race began and hundreds of skiers came flying by on the narrow trail downhill. Meanwhile, I prayed I would not get trampled.

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Questionable technique.

My prayers were answered not only in avoiding the trampling, but being given a ski buddy! On one of many awkward moments in the race, I stopped for a minute wondering where to go. Just then, Raj skied up behind me and showed me the right direction, and it turned out we were exactly the same pace. From that point, which was about 5k into the race, we skied the entire 45k of the race together! It was amazing to have a buddy to laugh with, and to celebrate. Because Raj was wearing a GPS watch, at some point we both realized that we were well within the cutoff times, and we were skiing the route much faster than we had expected. So, for the whole second half of the race, it was pure smiles and laughs.

We finished! And although I came dead last in the women’s category, it didn’t matter at all. I felt so proud to have finished, one hour ahead of what I expected, and I even beat my best 50km run time, which I wasn’t expecting. It’s interesting to know that you can come in last, but still feel proud!

I felt great after the P’ayak, admittedly, my “just try to finish” cross country ski race style is much, much easier than my “try to kill yourself” running style. After lots of food, I was in great spirits, feeling surprisingly springy, and ready for day 2!

Raj skied 45k with me!

Raj skied 45k with me! Note that, as a joke, the t-shirt I was wearing was from the Golden Ultra and had a giant bulls-eye on the back that said “Leader”. Thankfully no one saw that, or they would have been really confused!

Day 2: The Snowshoe Grind Race

Let’s be clear, I run the Snowshoe Grind every single week, twice a week, as part of my fun job guiding at Grouse Mountain. So, I know the course pretty well… I knew this course would be really fun as a race, because it was only about ~20 minutes of work going uphill, then a fun downhill reward, to the finish.

Even though I snowshoe run a ton, I thought it might be weird to try and go really fast in the snowshoes. Maybe they would fall off? Technical difficulties seemed likely. I decided I would avoid full on sprinting, because I had never tried that before. My strategy for day two was:

  1. Use the downhill!
  2. Warmup… it’s such a short race that I felt a warmup would actually be useful.
  3. Wear a party dress…

And mostly, to have fun! The weather was looking perfect, and it was just turning to a bluebird day as the race was getting started. Plus there were so many friendly faces around with Ian, Herman, Ray and Daniel racing in the men’s, and Allison, Nancy, and fellow Grouse guides Lesley and Kristina racing in the women’s, plus a fun surprise– Terry Bremner came to watch!

Day 2 fun begins!

Day 2 fun begins!

We “ran” (mostly power-hiked) to the top of Dam Mountain, then 32 minutes and one second later, the race was already over! If intensity of breathing is any indication, that one felt much harder than the 50k P’ayak. (Somehow Allison Tai didn’t overtake me, which I was expecting, and I was able to snowshoe my way to a 6th overall / 1st woman on day two.) It’s quite clear where my strengths lie…

Party dress finish at the Grouse Snowshoe Grind. Great racing by Herman & amazing cheering by Terry!

Party dress finish at the Grouse Snowshoe Grind. Great racing by Herman & amazing cheering by Terry Bremner!

Time for a beer!

Overall, the random snow sports weekend was such a blast. I know a lot of people have an attitude where ski touring is at the top, and then resort skiing, and then everything else is below it. But for me, it’s so much fun just to be outside doing all types of activities. It’s fun to try new things, becoming humbled from some and gaining confidence from others. And once in a while, getting a surprise with doing much better than I had expected!

Who’s in for next year?!

Full Results: 2017 Grouse Snowshoe Grind Mountain Race

Full Results: 2017 Sigge’s P’ayakentsut

With winner Paulo, great job Paulo!

With Snowshoe Grind winner Paulo, great job Paulo!

 

Armchair adventuring: best books and films for the sick, longing adventurer

Sometimes I keep telling myself, I need to take a rest day… and then I put that thought away, because Grouse Mountain, or the mountains in Squamish want to play.

The nice thing is that I can’t out-trick my body, so eventually it just tells me what I need to do, and overrides all plans and ambitions with a sick day. (Or four.) Sick days are annoying, until you just give in and become an armchair adventurer. Just let other people take you on adventures… while you stay in and drink delicious tea! Sure, it’s not the same as real life. But I love how a great adventure book can bring me along with the characters and introduce amazing places, and it’s like I develop this special bond with the places we travel in the book, even though I didn’t physically attend. I love how, when I do go to these places in the physical world, I feel like I already had an experience there, a special connection to the place.

Here are some great adventure books and movies I’ve enjoyed on sick days in the past couple of years:

Books

I’ve just started this book and it makes me so excited to get back outside. While it does drift into some long-ish tangents about particular runs, there’s some great inspiration between the stories. For example, Kilian addresses what winning is all about, and the mental state he uses to push his mind and body to achieve a dream. Reading it all makes me reflect on my own experiences, and wonder if I’ve ever really pushed myself to my limit?

Major learning: the mind is the gatekeeper of our dreams, and the difference between performing within expectations, and into a whole new realm of possibility. Also, Energy Cake sounds delicious.

This is a book about the massive 2003 avalanche in the Selkirk range of BC, which resulted in 7 fatalities. The author Ken was the Assistant Guide on the trip, and this book is his story about the decisions that led to the avalanche, and his life afterward. I really, really enjoyed the chapters about the avalanche, as the story was fascinating, and I learned quite a bit about decision-making and snow safety from his story. I found myself less attached about three-quarters through the book when the narrative switches to tell the struggles he faced in his personal life following the avalanche, and I almost found this part to be more painful to read than the avalanche portion of the book. I would definitely recommend the book for its first half if you’re interested in skiing and avalanche safety.

Major learning: social dynamics can be deadlier than any avalanche.

I picked this one up from a shop in Zion National Park a couple years ago, and I really enjoyed it. In the book you get to join Brendan as he moves into his station wagon after a breakup, and meanders across the most scenic wild places in ‘Merica– as he ponders life’s big questions. This book was a fun read because I’ve been, or plan to go to most of the places Brendan describes, and his stories really bring those places to life. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with a good dirtbag dream story.

Major learning: if you move into your car and dirtgbag around the US, you may not solve all your problems, but you should definitely write about it.

Though this is not an adventure book per se, it really is from an entrepreneur standpoint. In this book, Phil Knight, Founder of Nike, describes the crazy journey he took to start and build Nike to where it is today. If you love your running shoes and you’re interested in entrepreneurship like me, this book will have you all-consumed for the next little while. Throw in interesting stories with idols like Steve Prefontaine & Michael Jordan, and you can’t go wrong.

Major learning: entrepreneurship involves more endurance than the most extreme endurance sport.

 

Films

This is my favourite adventure film. The film is about a group of three climbers who dream to climb The Shark’s Fin route of Meru in Northern India, a peak that’s eluded climbers as one of the toughest in the world.

“The layout of the 21,000-foot mountain’s perversely stacked obstacles makes it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world’s toughest climbers. Hauling over 200 pounds of gear up 4,000-feet of technical, snowy, mixed ice and rock climbing is actually the simple part of this endeavor. After crossing that gauntlet you reach the Shark’s Fin itself: 1,500 feet of smooth, nearly featureless granite. There are few pre-existing fissures, cracks or footwalls. It is simply a straight sheet of overhanging rock.” (Source: Meru Film)

Expect the amazing scenery and intensity of a typical mountaineering film, plus incredible characters and a great storyline.

Major learning: Jimmy, Conrad and Renan are my idols…

This movie is such a spin from a typical hard-core adventure film. It’s adorable. Set in New Zealand, it’s a tale about a trouble-causing adoption kid, and an unlikely adventure with his new foster uncle in the NZ backcountry. The film is heart-warming and humorous, and loaded with beautiful imagery of the NZ countryside. Watch it if you’re in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

Major learning: #1 Fat kids are funny. #2 NZ is beautiful. #3 Trails create great friendships.

I devoured this book in 2012 and still hadn’t watched the movie until last year. What a classic. I was really impressed with how closely the movie followed my vision from the book. Plus it’s got an amazing soundtrack, and beautiful imagery of all those places you’ve been and loved, or plan to go: Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, California Redwood forests, a shady downtown LA scene, Fairbanks… I loved having read the book first for this one, because it made the story seem less sad, having already gone through the emotions during the book.

Major learning: don’t go into the wild alone unless you know the place really well. Don’t ever feel too cocky to bring a map. And, perhaps, bring extra rice?

I rented this movie two weeks ago and watched it in segments during study breaks. Based on Into Thin Air, I thought for sure the movie would be amazing. (Although, I haven’t read the book.) I spent the entire movie on an emotional spectrum wavering between immense excitement to see what would happen next, and huge frustration at the climbers and their decisions. By the end of the movie, I was frustrated at the climbers and their whole reason for being. And, for that matter, Everest climbers in general…

Major learning: #1 don’t climb Everest. #2 respect turn around times. #3 beware of summit fever. #4 if you MUST choose to die on a mountain, at least do it while talking to your significant other on sat phone.

I loved the book, and quite disliked the movie. I found the book to be a fun roller coaster to read, with some short dramatic and depressing parts, but overall a lighthearted and funny book. On the other hand, the movie seemed to focus more on the dark/depressing/serious elements and so the movie had a much darker, more serious tone. Still some great imagery of the iconic PCT, so I find the movie worthwhile just for that. If you’re choosing, I would choose the book over the movie.

Major learning: turn to the PCT if ever undergoing life crisis / breakup / encounter with hard drugs. Or perhaps there is something more broad here… a grand adventure can soothe the soul?

Those are just a few that have given me entertainment and inspiration during healing. What about you? What are your favourite adventure movies?

Alicia reading.

Hey there, Squamish!

It’s now one month since our move from downtown Vancouver to downtown Squamish. Here are my first impressions after month one!

Squamish & Friendships

On first glance, it seemed like we were moving farther away from most of our friends. Maybe we would see them less? Yet so far, I have only found the opposite! In the first week after moving, we had three separate visits from friends, which is almost equal to the amount of visitors we had the entire time we lived in False Creek. Being situated at the gateway to the Sea to Sky mountains, this place is right on the way for friends coming on their journey to or from adventures, and it doesn’t hurt that we’re located right near Mag’s, the giant-portions Mexican hole in the wall. I didn’t really see friends much during the weekdays in Vancouver anyway, so the frequency of visits with friends hasn’t changed. Locally, people are so friendly and welcoming, and my small town conversations have been everything I hoped for. We discuss brown sugar at the grocery store, share news of bear encounters, and enjoy random conversations on snowy trails. Everyone here seems to have a love for ski touring, climbing, and playing outside– it’s a special place where people have come for their love of mountains.

Nancy comes for a mid-week sleepover / run to work!

Nancy comes for a mid-week sleepover / run to work!

 

Running to Elfin Lake with Drew and Dave!

Running to Red Heather Hut with Drew and Dave!

Sea to Sky Commuting

Living in Squamish and working in Vancouver is not everyone’s idea of a good time. But for me, it’s a small price I’m willing to pay. I love my home, and I really like my work, and the commute between just allows me this awesome combination where I can have both a small-town lifestyle, and an exciting start-up job in the city where I am learning lots. The key for me is that I joyride with my boyfriend three times a week, and I take the Squamish-Vancouver Connector twice a week. On the shuttle days, I can sit back and read or sleep, and there is this great energy in the bus. It feels like we’re a bunch of kids on our way to a field trip!  I’ve also met some incredible people on the Connector shuttle. On driving days, I add fun outdoor exercise to make the commuting worthwhile. On the way into work, Julien drops me off on the beach in West Van, and I run the seaside into work. On the way home I play in the mountains, guiding snowshoe running up at Grouse Drop-In Nights, or Nordic Skiing with Julien at Cypress. Although those days are long, they are lived to the maximum in every moment, fully appreciating the sea to city to sky.

 

My commute. Running at sunrise from Dundarave -> Downtown.

My commute. Running at sunrise from Dundarave -> Downtown.

 

Lions Gate Bridge -- my favourite! Looking back at Ambleside & Grouse in the background.

Lions Gate Bridge — my favourite! Waving back at Ambleside, Crown & Grouse mountains in the background.

Squamish Trails

I probably don’t have to tell you that the trails here– running, biking, skiing– are amazing. With the abundance of activities around, I feel so much balance. For once I am swayed slightly from running and more likely to go ski touring, snowshoeing, or nordic skiing. I feel so healthy and inspired from the variety at my doorstep. It was worth the wait!

Skiing down from Paul Ridge area in Squamish.

Julien skiing down from Paul Ridge area in Squamish.

 

Out the back door in the Squamish Estuary.

Out the back door in the Squamish Estuary.

Post-Adventure Food Discoveries

So there is more than the Howe Sound Brewpub and The WaterShed? In our first month, we’ve discovered a few favourites beyond the breweries that typically lure us: Essence of India, (amazing rich Indian, great for eating in or takeout) Bisla Indian right down our street, (more homestyle / less rich style of Indian, great for take-out) Mag’s, (amazing gigantic Mexican and beers!) and hearty homemade soup and sandwiches at Squamish Seniors’ Activity Centre (halleluja, all ages can go!)… Oh, and the best hot chocolates to be found are over at The Ledge Community Coffee House, where you can also gaze at art in their lovely two-storey space. Curling up and eating in by the fire is also super fun here, especially after a long day outside.

Only Downsides!

So far, there are only a couple of downsides with living here. First, the train. The train running through downtown Squamish is wonderful and enchanting while we’re awake. But at 2am, it’s not our favourite stimulus. As a heavy sleeper, I’m lucky to sleep peacefully through the whistles, but I know that not everyone in my house is so lucky! Any ideas, Squamish friends?!

The other terror is my hair after it’s been soaked with a nice hard water shower. The minerals cling to the strands, forming tufts on a daily basis. The only solution is to braid my hair like I’m Katniss Everdeen or something. Oh, and gross vinegar hair treatments!! I may just resort to hair vacations to friends’ showers in Vancouver once a week but any advice would be great! :p

Yes, I look more and more like Disney’s Brave every day with the hard water, but for me this is a small cost to a new adventure, and living in a place that makes me super happy.

squamish_view_header

The Tantalus, being hard to get as usual, so close but so far (across the river).

2016 World Trail Championships in Portugal: Still Smiling, Still Foolish

On my first step, I fell in love with Porto. Jet-lagged, disoriented, it didn’t matter. Porto totally seduced me at any time of day. This was totally unexpected, as I had just come initially as a stopping point to run the race.

When we were introduced to Peneda Geres National Park on Wednesday before the race, it did not disappoint. On the northern Portuguese border with Spain, this park is full of ancient forts and ruins, tiny little villages, and lush green valleys capped with rocky granite formations. The running was a delight and full of surprises at each corner.

For the few days leading up to the race, we stayed in this area called Bom Jesus do Monte that was literally a sanctuary. Local Portuguese and tourist pilgrims hike up to Bom Jesus to visit the churches and the beautiful Baroque steps (which Julien uses to Strava-race) above Braga. I was lucky to hang out in this sanctuary with the 2016 Canadian team: Cassie Smith, Mallory Richard, Beverley Anderson-Abbs, David Jeker, Darren Seaman, Sebastien Roulier, & Roy Kok.

Last year I ran at the World Trail Championships in Annecy, and I became so nervous that it crippled me. This year, my plan going into this race was to just be confident, and pretend I was running an adventure run with Tara. I removed all stress, expectation and doubt and in their void came fun. Actually, pure joy! The first 55km of the race were pure joy, running through this beautiful park with inspiring runners from all over the world.

Of course, ultras are full of challenges. My big challenge came at kilometer 55, when the heat finally got to me and just roasted me alive. The race was 10 degrees hotter than expected, and a white girl without heat training does not thrive in an oven. (Always heat train!) It sounds strange that 55km could seem breezy and then suddenly, every step forward can take all of your might. But that’s what happened. Fortunately, quitting was not an option for me on this day, so I made tiny little goals. My goal was to get to the next water station 5km away. And when that seemed too far, my goal was to get to the next stream where I could cool off for 5 minutes. When the stream wasn’t appearing like an oasis, the goal became: get to the next trickle of water where I can dunk my hat. Eventually, I came out the other end of this suffering and finished the last 75-85km with a sense of happiness, gratitude and pure joy. Yes, 190th place and in the dark, but still, full of joy.

Beautiful Northern Portugal

Another amazing photo by Nadine Marie.

Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible for me. The wonderful people in Portugal, my team, our crew, and my sponsor RunGo. Until next time, Portugal! Keep it unbelievable…

Link to race results

Link to event Facebook page

Blonde Moments in the Endurance Capital of the World

On Friday, Tara and I jumped on a plane to Sacramento with a goal of making it to Auburn, California… a town which introduces itself as Endurance Capital of The World. We were going to run Ann Trason’s Overlook Endurance Runs, which is now in its third year, on the Western States Trail.

Although I managed to run Ann’s 15km race without any big screw-ups, (this time I used RunGo during the race to stay on course!) most of the trip, I felt like a walking liability. Here are a few (painful) lessons from this trip!

1: Please, please never forget your driver’s license! 
This one was the most painful. We had an Expedia car rental that was pre-paid, and unfortunately the booking was under my name– then I forgot my driver’s license. You would think, that you could go to the front desk of the car rental place and just ask them to put the car in your friend’s name, who is right here next to you, with all the proper licenses you forgot. Unfortunately what ensues is you get caught in a dark, dark, black gulf of service, an uncertain area where both Expedia and car rental company seem to have no control and no “access” to change your itinerary. 60-90 minutes on hold and various conversations with Expedia may occur. You will eat all of your trip chocolate right out of the gate and maybe cry aloud in pain/frustration before you just opt to pay again. Fuck it.

Just. Bring. The driver’s license!!

Flying Over Seattle

2: Nexus does not = passport!
I’m not sure why, but the night before my trip I put my passport down on my bag, and then consciously removed it and put it away in the cabinet on the morning of the flight. All I need is Nexus for ID! I thought. Although not as painful a mistake as #1 above, airline and customs people don’t love to deal with creative formats of ID and it just amounts to adding 10-15 minutes at each airport you visit. Vancouver, Seattle, Sacramento, and then the return flights… not to mention your poor friend standing next to you! Packing ultra-light was misguided.

3: Not all dish soaps are equal! 
I felt very useless as a guest in Ann’s home, with cooking skills that were inferior to the lovely Italian guests, and general unawareness of my surroundings. At some point I realized that I could help out by jumping in and doing the dishes. (Which isn’t actually that helpful, considering it involves a dishwasher!) Anyway, I found some sort of organic soap under the sink, and pre-loaded it into the dishwasher for Tara and I to complete our task. Inevitably I went for a run with Ann’s dogs and came back later, walking upon a scene of Ann and Tara, cupping large handfuls of frothed soap from the dishwasher and transferring them into the sink. I had used the hand-washing soap instead of the dishwasher soap!! Thankfully by the time I came back from my run, both were laughing at my stupidity. We dumped some balsamic vinegar in the dishwasher and I vowed to not touch anything in the house, or on this trip, again. So much for being helpful!

Ann's Dogs

Outside of the general life skills, I think the running went well. Tara came 2nd in the 50km off of very little training, and I had a really nice run in the 15km, where I got to run with a new friend, Paolo. My favourite part was watching so many people finish the 50km all afternoon long, some people hand in hand with a friend or loved one, some laughing, some crying for joy, and all the while, drinking some delicious beer from my reusable collapsible cup.

Thanks to Auburn– for the never-ending trails, and to Ann for the endless inspiration. I feel so lucky to take part and meet the kindest people in California at Overlook every year.

Full results ~ on ultrasignup.

The American River!

The American River!