Born to Run – Book Review

I may be the last runner on the planet to read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run.  I’m glad I finally did! It was a bit of a tough slog for the first pages (I’m told 100 pages or so, but I read it on my Kindle so I’m not sure!), but I stuck with it, as instructed.  It was so worth it!  Once I was beyond the slow start, I was 100% invested.  Unlike the Serial Podcast, I came into this aware that this IS a true story and not fiction… I’m never living down my comments about Serial.  IMO Adnan is not squeaky clean, but Jay and others should be implicated as well… so fishy!

Back to the book, I knew it was about barefoot running, and some hippie dude in the canyons or something.  It was so much more than this!  Once I made it through that first bit, I didn’t want to put the book down, and I pretty much read it every spare moment I had.  I laughed out loud so many times, felt enraged at others and simply fascinated by other parts.  I knew of most of the ‘characters’, and loved how they were portrayed.  Of course this is the author’s point of view and no doubt skewed so the best bits were put forward to make it a better read.  It worked.

Reading about the race was intense. I could picture every scene, and feel every emotion and pain. Incredible.  I went down an ultrarunning movie rathole after finishing the book watching every one that we own, and then all of them on YouTube that I could find.  So good.

I read this book during this harsh Ottawa winter and it had me longing to run on the trails again.  It made me want to run far, run hard, run in the heat, and run in new locations.  Steve and I have had a long list of places where we want to run and race.  It’s now expanded further.  I’m a little worried about rattlesnakes though.


MEC Marathon – Race Report

After the Sears runs I was actively rehabbing my IT band.  It seemed to be coming along nicely, I was listening to Coach Ray and religiously following my much reduced training plan.  The Thursday after the Sears run Steve and I ran the ‘Wellness Challenge’ 5k, and I had a PB!  I have no idea how the heck that happens after attempting 100k, but once I warmed up I went for it, coming in at 23:47… 65 seconds off my previous PB!

While my IT band was still a bit angry, I was given the ok from Dr. Isaac (Chiro) to run Marathon #9 with my friend Mike Stashin, who was running 14 marathons in 14 days to raise awareness for the CHEO hospital’s HALO (Healthy Active Living and Obesity) Research program.  I ran alongside Mike and his supporters for the first half, then he and I (and a pack of dogs?!?) for the second half. It was so inspiring to run alongside him, not only is he a tremendous athlete, he is a wonderful person, a wealth of knowledge and hilarious to boot!  He also caught a snake, while running, with his bare hands.  This is where I exercised my lungs and practiced speed work!! A photo from the finish = my body felt GREAT!!

Marathon #9


The following Saturday, Nov 1, was MEC Marathon day and it freaken cold!  I was a worried that there would be frost and ice on the road but we lucked out.  The MEC Marathon was held on the Gatineau Parkway and billed as ‘Canada’s Toughest Road Marathon’.  Don’t believe me?


This was going to be a true test of my leg!  The course is really amazing and beautiful, and to be able to run it on the first day the parkway closes for winter… well, it’s special.  Steve and I had run all parts of it in training, but we hadn’t run any elevation like this since the i2P 100k.  The morning was cold, but it wasn’t raining or snowing, and not horribly windy.  We gathered in the lodge and hung out with some friends, including Mike Stashin, who came out to take photos of the event and show his support (did I mention how awesome he is?  No?  Lapse on my part.  He is amazing).

Great Friends!

The marathon started out on a downhill at the intersection of the road to Camp Fortune and Fortune Parkway and went down and around the bottom loop of the parkway.  The down hurt a bit, but the flat was a great warmup for the first climb.  And climb we did! And I felt fantastic!  It was really cool to see the half marathon leaders blast past us, and as they turned right at the junction to head to Champlain Lookout, we turned left to go down to the bottom of the Gatineau Parkway.  Of course then we had to go back up 😀 .  18km up to be precise.  Yeah baby!!

Steve rocking the first down!

Unfortunately, just shy of the junction I saw Steve bent over in agony with seizing muscles in his back. At the junction I spoke with one of the marshals to give him a heads up that Steve may need some help to get back to the start, and later found out that he did the smart thing and conceded (which I discovered from my friend Sophie who was volunteering and asked where he was since she expected him to be blazing by before I ever got there, and when I told her what I saw she said ‘oh he’s THE BACK’ that was talked about over the walkie talkies).  Speaking of Sophie, I walked a bit with her while I had a Justin’s nut butter, then off I went climbing.  I then bumped into my niece Elisa and friend Richard at the next water station, they were dancing to keep warm, and near the top shared another hug with Susan, an amazing woman who wasn’t able to run it so came out to volunteer.  I also got a hug from a very cheerful (and freezing) Melanie.  Seriously, this race was so well staffed with volunteers/friends, it was incredible.  Kudos to them, because it was cold, and now raining and windy.  My leg was starting to hurt some by the time I got to the Lookout, but I knew that I was all downhill from here (no lie, the next 5-6km are pretty much downhill).

Less than flattering shot near the finish!

I passed several people on the last 4km of the downhill, I just opened up. I was so glad to get to the finish line (which ends on an uphill??  seriously???), which was hilariously being held up by the crew (the generator ran out of gas just as I approached the finish, so I helped hold it up as I went through!) because I was now freezing, tired, a bit queasy and sucking on a ginger chew.  Which explains my expression while hugging my awesome friend Ben!

There’s a ginger chew in my cheek, can you tell?

Ben, who had knee surgery earlier in the year, KILLED this race and qualified for Boston on this course.  Seriously incredible!!

This race was tough, but I was elated with my performance once I defrosted.  I was very very happy with my finish time of 4:21:42 (6:12 pace) considering the three ultras in the weeks prior, the marathon with Mike the week before, and the IT band woes!  This was our last race of 2014, and we are already registered for 2015.  LOVED IT.  Highly recommended!!

Nice elevation!


Sears Great Canadian Run – Ottawa Report

On October 5th, 2 weeks after the Toronto Sears 100k Run, we had the Ottawa to Montebello one! My IT band was pretty irritated still, but I was going for ART and chiro and it felt a lot better.  I had strict instructions to stop if it seized.  I had my fingers crossed that that wasn’t going to happen.  We had a really great run the day before, and came across the run signs!

Sears Great Canadian Run This Way!
Sears Great Canadian Run This Way!

Yeah, I’m a goof.

2014-10-03 13.45.47

We gathered at the Aviation Museum in the early (read dark) hours of the morning to get ourselves ready for the run.  Lucky for us, and super crew family Cameron and Monica, we only live 5 minutes away 🙂

Toronto was amazing, we met so many people at the start, (I forgot to mention ENDURrun Michelle was there!!), but in Ottawa it’s the home team.  The crew are all very close friends of the GGT family, it was going to be a great day!

The pre-run speeches had us in tears again, and determined to get this run underway to show the kids and their families our support.

It was cold and rainy, but we were in great spirits!


Team GGT


The day was overcast and cool.  And then it rained.  All. Day. Long.

It’s a bit wet

2014-10-04 22.30.54

and windy

We had a blast though.  Mike S drove his SUV with speakers hanging out the windows blasting music. Then at 20K he stood on the side of the road holding a serving tray with little paper cups with tiny umbrellas in them… skewered fruit.  At 40k he stood there in the rain with another tray, this time, gelato.  At 60k we were all pretty miserable, and I was freezing and by myself (as usual LOL) and he drove up along side me, and handed me a steaming hot cup of ginger tea with honey (and yes, he grated the ginger by hand on the course).  It was heavenly.  At 80k out came his Coleman stove again, to make us chicken noodle soup.  On a cold, wet, long and painful day for all of us, you can imagine what joy this brought us.  Mike is always ready with a smile, a joke, a hug.  Top notch.

Also of note, our bike sweeper was repeat offender Trevor.  He biked in the cold all day, and at one point couldn’t feel his feet or hands.  He asked on Facebook a few days before the run for our power songs.  I chose Van Halen’s ‘Right Now’.  At one point I was really struggling with my knee, and he put it on.  BIG GRIN.  Then we played games – if I could guess the song at first note, I get to ride the bike. I came SO CLOSE with Sail (Awolnation), but never won.

Big props to Dr. Troy and Dr. Todd and the whole gang at Holistic Clinic, for working on us when we needed them.  Troy fired me at one point because my knee was beyond help and further treatment would make it worse.  My prescription – run until I can’t, then walk, then ice at the hotel, and have a drink.  And that’s what I did.

Somehow I don’t really remember the ferry ride across, which is surprising because I’m terrified of boats.  Once we got to Montebello it was pitch black and the team soldiered on in the dark with our headlamps.  We ran in the last bit to the lodge, and it was so wonderful to be finished!  It’s a lot of emotion in two weeks!

Team GoodGuysTri raised over a whopping $95K to end kids cancers through these two events.  This will make such a huge difference.  I’m honoured to have been a part of it.

Gratuitous angry knee shot.


2014-10-05 11.51.47

Sears Great Canadian Run – Toronto Report

I was volunteer crew for Steve at the 2013 Sears Great Canadian Run.  The experience was incredible, for both of us.  This year we joined the GoodGuysTri team to run both the Toronto and the Ottawa 100k runs.  This was just a bit daunting, but after finishing the i2P 100k, I felt confident that this was going to be doable.

The Toronto run was held Sept 20th, 4 weeks to the day after the i2P 100k.  The nice thing about this is you don’t need to do any more long runs, since you just did one :).  The not so good thing is that you just did one.

Going in to the run I was nervous, but very excited.  We had family (Steve’s brother Cameron and his wife Monica, their daughter Emily and her BF Johnny Young IV), and chosen family (Agnes and Dave), our GGT family, and all their families and friends.  We also won the RV for the day, so we had our crew cars and this amazing vehicle.  After listening to a very moving speech from a young cancer survivor we were in tears and ready to run the distance to show our support.  Some pre-run photos:

Still Dark



The run started in Collingwood. Other than running along some pretty major highway (which was under construction), the route was fairly uneventful.  We had a lot of fun!





Oh, it was hilly though.  I came into the run feeling great, but at 20k I started having problems with my IT band.  I continued to run through it, though it was getting pretty irritated.  By 30k I knew I was in trouble.  Unfortunately some of the other members of the team were also having problems of various kinds, but we all pushed through as hard as we could.  Since we had to stick together, and had to run at a 6 min/km pace in order to finish together, if we fell too far behind we would get swept to the next checkpoint.  My knee was slowing me down considerably as I wasn’t able to bend it, so I ended up being swept a few times.  Once I’d get to the next checkpoint I’d start running or walking again and wait for the team to pass me, until I got swept again.  It really is a logistical nightmare keeping track of everyone, which is why it’s so great to have two runners per vehicle, so everyone looks out for their own.


Love the Hillier Sisters!
Cameron Always Cheering!
Cameron Always Cheering!

The day was very very hard for all of us, there was a torrential downpour at one point, a lot of lightening, a small snake, and a lot of hills.

Steve’s Mom came out to meet us at 70k in or so, and tagged along.  And then we got this.  Yeah, we can keep going.

Cole Never Gave Up
Cole Never Gave Up

Agnes and Nadia shared bike sweeping duties, and it was amazing to have their ‘on the ground’ support.  I can’t say enough how helpful they were.  And Agnes had an excellent playlist.  Also a shout out to David Y who took out ‘The Stick’ and worked on my leg several times to keep me moving.  What a great bunch!  The next photos were taken just before sundown, with around 7k to go.



Pep Talk from Dave
Pep Talk from Dave
93k Mark
93k Mark


By the time we got to Blue Mountain the finish was moved inside for us.  We came in and felt like rockstars.  But it wasn’t about us.  It was about the kids.  Regardless of what we felt, it was worth it. We did it.

GGT SGCR 100k Finish Toronto
GGT SGCR 100k Finish Toronto

i2P 100k Trail Run – Race Report

The i2P 100k trail run was held on August 23-24, 2014.  The run is a fundraiser for impossible2Possible, the foundation started by our coach, Ray Zahab.

This was the first year the run had a 100k distance, and to be honest with my 2014 race schedule as it was, I figured this was going to be too much for me to handle, and thought running the 50k would be a much smarter entry into ultrarunning.   When Ray told me about the concept, and the belt buckle, and I had no choice but to commit.

I organized a pre-run sushi night.  I think we’re having fun 🙂


We parked our cars at Lac Philippe in the Gatineau Park and were shuttled to The Ark by the lovely Jaime Macdonald.  Yeah, we really do like to have fun.

Let’s roll!!


The concept I referred to earlier?  Ray invited his ultrarunner friends to join us for the evening and the first 50k of the run.  They would be there to help us along, keep us entertained and moving us forward.  At the Ark Ray spoke about i2P, and how the money raised from the event fees would be used to pay for upcoming youth expeditions (check out the i2P site for this amazing work).  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of grilled salmon and potatoes, and mingled with the ultra running pros and the other runners.  Most of the runners who signed up for the 100k were newbies to the distance, so there was some trepidation of what was to come.

Steve and I before the run.
Pre-run Photo!


At 11PM or so we were ready to head out.  We strapped on our headlamps to run the first 7-8 kms around a freshly bushwhacked trail, which would be used as a snowshoe trail this winter.  This trail had a lot of little stumps to not trip over, and over 1000 ft of elevation.  We took off, ran by the llamas (heee!) into the dark.  1km in, so far so good.  Then at 2k I start to feel pretty queasy.  Then I realize that the motion of my Petzl is making me motion sick.  Seriously??  I should have practiced more than once running with a lamp.  I popped a ginger chew and slowed it down hoping for the best.  Once we were back at the Ark, a quick stop to pick up our packs, and off we went toward Lac Philippe.  We ran along the Gatineau River on the Trans Canada Trail, which thankfully is a  gravel road, so I was able to turn my lamp to low and wide to try to make it less jumpy.  We chatted with the other participants as we ran, and I realized that I’d never run with Ray before.  It really was fun.  We had to run as a pack so that no one got left behind (this was part of the plan) and it was an easy pace.  Poor Steve had tripped over a root with both feet within the first 5k (I don’t know how he didn’t face plant) and pulled his groin muscle, so he had to stop and stretch a lot, but trudged along quietly.  At 20k the crew opened up their cars with pizza, and at 30k (I think it was, it’s been a few months and my memory isn’t as sharp!!) we crossed the Wakefield covered bridge (it was really something) and ran quietly through the town to the entrance to the Gatineau Park at the Wakefield Mill.  Here we took a short break and were given coffee to warm up.  Ray and Ryan then took off, asking for a 15 minute head start to mark the trail.  From this point onward we could race.  The trail markers were glow sticks, and the guest at the back was tasked with picking them up.  Since we were solidly in the rear, we helped.  Back in the woods my lamp was bothering me again, but I was able to suck on gin gins and mostly put the nausea out of my head.  I had never run these trails before, it was a lot of fun.  We expected to see some sort of wildlife, but didn’t.  Finally we saw the sunrise and I could turn off my lamp.  I was feeling pretty tired before this, but was super charged to see daylight! We arrived at Lac Philippe at 6:30, so we had 90 minutes before the start of the next 50k.  I took the opportunity to change my clothes, wash my face, eat some oranges and salted potatoes, and take a little nap in the back of the car.  My nap lasted about 4 minutes because friends who were running the morning events kept popping their heads in to say hi.

After hobbling for 45kms, Steve made the decision to not continue (smart).  Because he finished the 50K, he received the 50 belt buckle.  While I was thinking during the overnight that I wasn’t going to be able to continue to the 2nd 50 because of the 7 hours of nausea and not eating, I was ready to go and see what happens.

Start of the 2nd 50k

I had been having some minor adductor tightness off and on the weeks leading up to the run, and it was there the whole night, and again when I picked up but as long as I kept moving, I was ok.  I don’t know how I was suddenly alone, but I ran on hoping I was on the right track.  I made it up to Richard’s Cabin (yurt) and on my way back to the checkpoint at the beach, I bumped into the rest of my run buds – I thought they were way ahead of me!  I hooked up with Jaime on the way, we both got off trail a bit, but made it to the beach.  I was tired and decided to wait for my buds and runt he rest with them, as they arrived shortly after.


I’m tired!

We did the next 15k together, firmly in last place – we didn’t care though, we were going to finish our first 100k!  Once we checked in we only had 12k to go and off we went around the lake.  Since we were at the back, Ray sent out support for us (to make we kept moving ;)), in the form of the wonderful John Zahab and Jean Blain.  Laura was having stomach issues, so we walked a bit and listened to John and Jean’s stories, which were so motivating.  I kept drinking because it was getting really warm out, and then when Laura felt better and was able to run again, I was way too bloated to run.  I hated to slow us down further, so Jean and Laura went off and John stayed with me as we walked (and ran when I thought i could) it in.  WE DID IT.

Only a few metres to go! Nope, couldn’t run it.

But oh my goodness the bloat!!  John told Steve to get some salt into me, and some food a bit later, and I’d be ok.  I wasn’t worried, I knew it would settle, but I couldn’t extend the straps on my pack any further and they were really tight.  Yuck.  I got huge hugs from everyone, I finished last for the first time in any event (it was bound to happen!) and felt SO BAD that it took me that long to get it done (Garmin died, but it was somewhere between 14 & 14.5 hours).  I was so happy to be done.  And so happy with my first buckle!!

So happy to be finished!


I slipped on my compression socks and we drove toward home – I was nodding off the whole way. We stopped for pho (that’s all I thought about all day!), and after my shower Steve had the bowl next to the bed!  I climbed in, had some soup, texted with my daughter, and nodded off.  I’d wake and eat more soup, text some more, and nod off.  I woke up to the sound of Steve coming in with DAIRY QUEEN PEANUT BUSTER PARFAIT and the angels sang.  it was still over 30C, so when I took the lid off ice cream dripped all over the sheet.  Of course I licked it off, then slurped from the container because it kept dripping everywhere.  I looked up, ice cream now on my chin and my nose, to Steve staring at me with his mouth open LOL!  He said “you know there’s a napkin right beside you”.  I laughed because I never considered anything other than licking the sheet!!?!?  I finished the best ice cream ever, went to the washroom to wash my face, took the facecloth and wiped the sheet (Steve asked if I wanted to change the sheets or if I was saving the dried ice cream for later LOL), rolled over, and was out until 5:30AM when the alarm went off for work.

Great event.  I’m really proud to have finished!

My first (100k) buckle!

*a couple of the images were taken by Melanie Clement and Jordan Thoms for i2P, which I shamefully borrowed from Facebook.