Copy of Going off Course Sometimes is Part of the Journey... (repost from 2015)

Gore-Tex Transalpine Run 2015

I don't believe that one year is harder than the next when it comes to the Gore-Tex Transalpine Run. (TAR)  Every year I have ran this race, it has been hard, just for different reasons.  This is partially what I love about this race and what has kept me coming back 5yrs in a row.  My experience in the Alps has taught me a lot about myself, built strong friendships with my running partners, allowed my family and I to travel to places we only dreamed of and further connected me with my community in a way I never imagined.  With these examples alone, I am bursting with gratitude. 

I celebrated my 4th consecutive finish of this epic stage race in 2014 and this year, I was well on my way to completing a long term goal I set to finish 5 times.  Unfortunately, on what felt like my strongest year yet, I pulled out 15km into stage 3 due to unbearable stomach pains (which started on stage one) & was diagnosed with a stomach/intestinal infection.  I was given medication and told to take 3 full days off running.  I knew this was part of the risk in making such a long term goal and that something like this could happen, however never in my wildest dreams did I think it actually would. 

Driving in the paddy wagon back to the finish, part of me felt relieved not to have to run with such intense stomach pain and the other part of me felt this sobering acceptance and started to grasp for what to do next.  I was 4yrs into a 5yr goal and poof! Game changing moment. 

I ended up taking one full day off running, missing stage 4 and happily still managed to plant my feet in the Alps 7/8 stages.  I would , however have to accept a unofficial finish which also meant that my 5yr finishers plan wasn't going to happen this year either. 

Partnership and teamwork is the backbone to a race like TAR and teams either get stronger through the ups and downs, or they fall apart.  There is no middle ground.  I am really proud of Carrie for her finish this year and how we were able to honour the twist and turns in our journey, together as a team.  Even though I was no longer going to be an 'official finisher", it didn't mean it was suddenly only Carrie's race or that my role in the journey didn't matter.  We both worked hard to get to this point and on any given day during the race, we held the weight for each other and helped one another through the low or downright desperate moments.

We have an inside saying among TAR participants, well, actually more of a hashtag: #TheRealTAR.  Under this hashtag you would see moments of great suffering.  Crying.  Moments so low, your partner has to push you up a hill or give you a pep-talk or maybe ten pep-talks.  Where you sing, shut up or laugh so hard you could pee your pants.  Where you cramp so badly you have to sit down and wonder, truly, if you'll be able to continue.  When there is so much cow shit on your shoes, for so long, you stop noticing the smell.  Hand holding, hugging, matching EVERYTHING, tilting your heads back & leaning into a spirited laughter that only you and your partner understand.  It was some of the #TheRealTAR that helped us still earn the finish as a team and strengthened our bond & friendship. 

Photo: Luc Van Oost

Here's the thing. Races come and go. You win some. You lose some. You let it go. I didn't put any energy into feeling sorry for myself and I certainly didn't dwell on it or mope around.  Racing sometimes comes with disappointments and how you handle setbacks is also part of the responsibility of racing and being a well rounded athlete.  It isn't realistic to think that things will always go my way or have a satisfying outcome.  I suppose the uncertainty of our goals is what keeps us so motivated and interested in them.  If the finish (or outcome) was guaranteed, it wouldn't provide a challenge, reward or the opportunity to rise up and/or grow. 

Going off course sometimes is part of the journey.  What's more important is how you get back on track and not giving up.  I feel like this year has held a lot of small defining moments that have really helped me grow.  I have been spending time reflecting the past month and I am reminded that this is what living is all about.  Therefore, I am excited to get after it again in 2016, along with another stage race and a few other personal adventures I am planning.  I signed up for Singletrack 6 before I left for Europe this summer thinking this year would be my last year running TAR after completing my 5yr goal.  It's is wonderful how life surprises and challenges us.

Thanks to Salomon Canada and all my friends and family who continue to support me year after year.  Your encouragement and support really means a lot and this year, receiving all your messages and acceptance during the low moments... cheers and celebration during the high moments, were not only felt but completely cherished. 

Photo: Luc Van Oost

Photo: Luc Van Oost

TAR 2015: Stage Seven

So happy to be feeling better!  Even Betsy was sharing my joy! 

So happy to be feeling better!  Even Betsy was sharing my joy! 

Stage 7 was the featured stage of the race. Better known as the "cave stage" this route has become a favorite of the Western route.  The starting gates were staggered by 10min, allowing everyone room to spread out before the single track which was less than a kilometre from the start. This allowed Carrie and me 10 solid minutes to sing along and bob our heads in fun before we got to business. 


The majority of this stage is mostly runable.  Bearing the fact that it was the 7th day of running and over 200km into the race.  Carrie and I made steady work of running and land marking our way all the way through Uina Canyon and to the finish. The canyon was a lovely distraction and so stunning it seemed to give back energy as we crossed. 


The toughest part of the day was the section just past the canyons as it was a false flat and the terrain was just gradually "up" enough that it made for difficult running this late in the race. The temptation to walk this section was at a priemium and we passed a lot of runners who were in this low energy zone. 


Carrie and I kept each other entertained by telling stories from the books we were currently reading. We had a runner ask us to stop 6km from the finish and sit in two Goretex chairs and pose for a photo in our skirts.   Sure, why not.  After which time Carrie had a strong craving for a gin and tonic. This put us on a whole different topic during the final descent into the finish.  We finished in 5:07 and what would have been 4th female team. 

We were dreaming of gelato all stage and within 30min of finishing we were in the nearest gelato stuffing our faces with fresh Italian goodness. 

Our guesthouse was within 2min from the finish and we decided to skip out on the pasta party and we went for pizza instead. 



Scuol, Switzerland to St. Valentin, Italy  

37,8 km • Vertical gain: 1633 m • Vertical loss: 1369 m 

The 7th Stage finally marks the crossing of the High Divide and the arrival in the Southern Alps. Bella Italia beckons but it'll be a long and difficult path to get there yet. Schlinig Pass (2,261 m) forms the gate to the nowadays unmanned border crossing and taxes the racers with a climb of 1,633 m; enough to starting pushing the envelope of many racers who'll start showing signs of fatigue this far into the race. The spectacle of Uina Canyon and the high alpine plateau in the heart of the Sesvenna Range will certainly make up for some of the toil but won't be able to mask the anguish entirely.

TAR 2015: Stage Four

Behind the scenes

I love seeing how much goes on behind the scenes of a race and even as a race director I had no idea the magnitude of work that happens with TAR. While runners are waking up at 5am, organizers are up at 4am. While runners are taping your toes, there is a race village being set up, baggage being picked up from a million hotels and neighbouring towns, pre-course runners heading out, sound checks happening etc.... 

As the CDN Media Lisaon for TAR, I had more of an opportunity today (unfortunately not participating in the stage) to see what goes on behind the scenes. Let me tell you it's all very impressive. 

The take down happens almost immediately after the last runner crosses the timing mat. People dispurse, fully knowing their responsibilities and there wasn't one idil person with PLAN B on their clothing standing around. You could hear the buzz fill the air!


I was fortunate to get a ride from the race owner, Heini, and a fella named Mike who was one of the sweeps for the race.  We zipped away in one of the organization vans to the first access point along the route where we stopped to cheer the lead to tail end runners along the road.  I loved this part of my day as I got to cheer and see all my buddies. I was happy for my friends and channelled nothing but positive energy to help them up those mountains today!  


I learned that today's stage is actually one of the stages of the 4Trails Race, which is another PLAN B event that happens in July.  The stage was long but sounded like one of the most spectacular!  I had hoped the views inspired strength and perserverence among the PACE Teams and all competitors today. 

I throughly enjoyed the ride over to Samnaun and friendly conversations along the way. I was asking all sorts of questions about the culture, the race and found it fascinating to learn new all sorts of cool things. We stopped with some other members of the race crew quickly for espresso along the way, which was hands down the best cup of joe I have had since arriving in Europe.

I was surprised to see how much of the next stage town was already set up when we arrived. It's unbelievable how fast and steady this team works. A testimate to great leadership from Uta and Heini who have put together an amazing team! 


I offered my hand but it wasn't needed. So I strolled up the hill and checked into our guesthouse and just rested my stomach. I noticed a little improvement today, although still very sore to touch.  I met my buddy for lunch and had a beer. It's the little things in life...

Then we walked over to the finish and waited until our friends started to roll in. So proud of them!  It was a very long and hard stage. Cooler temps and winds brought some relief but the gruelling climbs and descents didn't let up! 


Stage Four was nothing less than 45km, 2800m ascent + 1829m descent. Them good news is that stage 5 is a rest day, hill sprint and we get two nights in Samnaun. 


The team celebrated with our own pizza party at our hotel.  



TAR 2015: Stage Two

Lech, Austria to St. Anton, Austria. 

24.7km, 1899m ascent & 2040m descent.  Looks reasonable, doesn't it?  Well, I learned from 2013 that it is possible for 25km to take over 5hrs, so we didn't put any expectations on the day. 

The route traversed along the famed Arlberg region which is known for its world-class skiing and started off with extremely steep trails that took us up to the summit of the Rüfikopf at 2,339 m elevation. 

The day's second climb lead us up to Valfagehrjoch at 2,543 m elevation, and a brutally steep descent into the posh town of St. Anton.

it was another scorcher but we had an earlier start which helped. Moments out of the starting gate my stomach hurt again and persisted all day, gradually getting worse. Carries quad was tender but luckily she didn't go into cramp town again :)  I thought the stage was stunning and loved it. 



- the stage had a long steady climb to warm up on. Congo line of people but my stomach was upset and I couldnt get a full breath of air so I just tried to just settle in. 

- there were bits of shade along the way that made me close my eyes for a moment and just soak up with gratitude. 

- thinking of Trent along the course and remembering when we were out there together in 2013. 

- seeing two guys leap into a glacier lake to take a dip in the middle of the race. Message received. Cease the moment.  Bravo! 

- somewhat finding my climbing legs on the final ascent of the day for the first time since the race started. I remembered how much I love hills!


- the longest ever in the history of time last "1km" into the finish line that we thought would never end.  

- having our guesthouse so close to the finish line we walked there in 2min. 

Finishing the stage I didn't feel well in general. (Like many other participants from the heat) We got back to our guesthouse and I tried to massage my diaphram/stomach and figure out what was causing so much discomfort. I joined the crew at the pasta party but only managed to fill my plate, take a few bites and I took my plate outside where it was cooler and ate a bit more. I ended up just walking back to the guesthouse and stood in the ice cold shower. Carrie came an hour later and delivered an icebag for me to put on my head. It was sweet of her. I spent the rest of the night hydrating, resting and trying to massage my diaphram. Got to bed early and prayed for cooler weather & a new stomach. 


Behind the scenes stage two

TAR 2015: Stage One

Oberstdorf, Germany to Lech, Austria

Carrie and I were no strangers to Oberstdorf. My first visit was in 2011 and Carrie's & I both visited again in 2013.  We share a love for this mountain town and starting point of the Western TAR route.   There was a very late start (10am) for such a hot day and the temp was already over 20 degrees when we started. There was a good solid mix of nerves and excitement among the PACE crew and all around us.  We just tried to soak in the starting line up while singing along to "keep on running" & "highway to hell".  Both traditions to this event.  


35km + 2,083m vertical gain up and over two taxing mountain passes (2,214m & 1,688m)

The heat was mostly unbearable for the whole day and many individuals and/or teams dropped & many received I.V.  We had our share of highs and lows, as did all teams out there but we were pleased with our finish. 



- The first 15km I felt sick.  Felt like really bad diaphram cramps. No jam in my legs. 

- Carrie tried to play the alphabet game to things that were cold. Like "ass-cream" instead if ice-cream but all I could do was laughed inside. 

- about 12km into the stage Carrie's quad started to cramp and she wasnt feeling well.  We would slow down and walk every time a cramp came on and it got to the point where she had to sit on the ground and grip her leg numerous times. We took action. I started to give Carrie all my salt tablets and anti-fatigue capsules in timed increments. 

- grateful for a random hose at one of the huts. Racers swarmed like bees to fill up. 

- Climbing slower than molasses and still having to take breaks and hang my arms and head over my poles as I swayed back and forth. My stomach continued to cramp/hurt. It was the same motion I used to sooth myself while giving birth to a Carter.  

- Passing a hiker who said something funny to us in German. Everyone laughed around us and we were told he said "not the fastest two out here but sure the prettiest". Nice. 

- experiencing for the first time what it is like when you and your partner are suffering at the same time. Carry quad cramps and stomach pain for me. We figured it out and still worked together like a charm.  

 - finishing the last 5km with new friends we met from Sweden. 

- cooling down in the creek after the stage. We committed and soaked waist down. 

- getting to FaceTime my boys at night before they go off the grid for 5 nights.  

- Arriving to the cutest guesthouse and sweetest hosts. 

- knowing I have such a kind, encouraging and strong partner to kick off this adventure with!  

- sharing the memories with all the PACERs here together. 





TAR 2014: Stage Seven


Stage 7:  St. Vigil to Neiderdorf, Italy

Gore-Tex Press Release HERE

- 42k.  1950m (6,396ft) ascent.  2000m (6,560ft) descent.
- 4th longest distance day.
- 3rd largest elevation day.



- The podium finish wore off and we woke up super tired.

- in our opinions, stage 7 was the hardest day based on profiling.  It had to really big climbs and two VERY steep descents.  

- The route was quite technical, as well.  There were chains (Via Ferrate) routes on some of the descents, which on a dry day we wouldn't have required but the steep rocks were wet and very slick.  Your footing had to be very sure in a few sections on this stage.
- After the first climb, we descended into Wildsee National Park and ran beside a spectacularly beautiful lake.


- Trent was waiting for us because the weather wasn't conducive for him to ride, so he thought he would hike the second climb with us.

- It was fun to have his fresh energy out there and as you will see by the photos, he had lots of time to snap while waiting for us to slowly ascend.


- We were actually in 4th position for most of the day.  Then we hit the road for the last 7-8k and it just beats our bodies up like nobody's business.  Plus we had to pee.  So we ducked behind a barn and saw the US women's team rip past us.

- To our surprise (we felt like we were hours behind) we were only 4min behind 4th place and 5min behind 3rd place and finished in 6:15hr.
- Regardless, we were SO tired, we thought it would be funny to run across the finish line with our poles unclicked.  Well as it turns out it was only hilarious to us because nobody else understood the joke.  LOL  Instead we crossed the finish line with looks of puzzlement and confusion from the spectators and announcers.  ha!

TAR 2014: Stage Six

 Stage 6:  Sand in Taufers to St. Vigil, Italy

Press Release on Gore-Tex Website HERE


Stage six was a hearty 38.5k and 2289m (7,500ft) ascending & 1966m (6,450ft) descending


- The first 5 women's teams (ranked overall) start in the A gate every day.  We were ranked 6th throughout the race so we were starting in the B gate which was for women's teams 6-22.
- First 4km mostly flat running with a combination of road and walking patsh through Sand in Taufers.
- First climb was approx. 3km and 500m (1600 feet).  10min into the climb a wasp stung me not once, but twice in the calf.  Others were stung around me, as well.  I screeched out loud!  It stung quite bad for the first hour and then settled into a dull ache for the rest of the run.


- The route then went into approx. 14km of rolling terrain on paved roads, forestry roads, past corn fields and we ran through a town called Brunico before we dug into the heart of the stage which was on an endless climb up the Kronplatz.  The Kronplatz is a STEEP local ski hill.  This climb was the steepest climb of the whole race starting at approx. 900m and climbing up to approx. 2300m over approx. 6km.

- To put into perspective, our hill sprint was 3000 feet over 6km.  This was 5,000 feet over the same distance.
- Just before we reached the base of the climb we came upon the overall 2nd place women's team.  One of the gals was crying and walking.  Carrie and I stopped to see if we could do anything to help.  We felt terrible as they had been on podium every day in 2nd place and they were having such a strong race.  
- after walking with them for a bit, I stopped and pulled out my first aid kit where I was carrying a special coin that my friends Ian & Jamie gave me.  It read "safe journey" on it.  I pulled it out, put it in the pocket of the injured female runners and told her she needed it more than me and that I hoped even if she could walk that they would finish.  After a quick hug, we carried on to the climb.

- As we approached the summit we had the 3rd place (for this stage) female team in sight and ended up passing them after the the last aid station (on the descent) with approx. 5km of brutally steep, paved road descending ahead of us.  
- We figured we were going to pay for our efforts the last two days but after a brief 30sec conversation (it was either push and pass or settle in for 4th) we decided to go for it!
- Trent and Laura were at every aid station and even near the top of the Kronplatz.  It was so motivating seeing them throughout the day.

- We came in only a couple minutes after the 2nd place team.  We celebrated by soaking in the fountain, eating gelato and we made our TAR shirts.  They had a booth where you could buy a shirt and they would screen X amount of stars on the shirt which would represent how many years you have done the race.  Proudly Carrie got 2 stars and I got 4.

- we bought gelato for the race announcers that day.
- amazing food at the pasta party in St. Vigil.  Chicken, lasagna and a tomato/cucumber salad.  We shared the meal and exchanged stories with a couple we met from Germany the first night in Ruhpolding.
- we were beaming on the podium that night and we had the loudest cheer from the crowd!  The next day another women's team came up to us and said "wow! you have many fans and friends because you got the biggest cheer all week".  It made us feel good because we were making so many wonderful friends along the way. 


TAR 2014: Stage Five

Stage 5: Sand in Taufers hill sprint 

Gore-Tex Transalpine Run Press Release HERE

At some point in stage racing you usually reach a point where the mind and body have a difficult agreeing with each other. You wake up and your body asks "are we done? Can I go into rest mode today?  Please tell me we are in rest mode". It waits for your body's response.  On standby. Ready, but perhaps reluctantly. Then you start running again. And your mind has to make the connection and accept what is in store for the day. Today, my mind had to process a 7km and 3000 foot climb up a ski hill in Italy.  And this was after 4 days of already running approx. 160km and who knows how much elevation.     

The body remains to be a mysterious wonder to me.  How it adapts. How muscles can compensate. And ultimately how strong our will can be when we make up our minds...



Highlights.  Lowlights.  Stats

- Hill sprint. 7km + 3000 feet. Up a local ski hill. 
- There were 3 categories. Individual fastest. Combined team fastest and the slowest of the team was the stage time. 
- They sent the slowest teams went first and then teams left in 20sec intervals. The top team going last. 
- The course started off 1km flat/gradual climb on cobblestone roads and walking path. Then single track until the last 300m. 
- We climbed steady not 100%. Sticking to our "finishers" plan. It took us 1hr 19min and we didn't feel exhausted when we were done.   In fact we chatted and planned out Carrie's birthday which happens the Friday after we are home.  
- The pasta party was at the top.  We had lasagna and enjoyed the views while we waited for Trent. 
- Trent climbed from the bottom up to the very top of the hill. Approx 5,000 feet on a different trail. I included some of his photos in today's blog entry too. 
- Both Carrie and I had a terrible sleep. I felt hot and was tossing and turning. Luckily I could stay in bed late as our start time wasn't until 11:03. So I got up at 7:30am and we loitered and had a relaxing coffee morning. 
- It was laundry day. Time to hand wash and hang dry our gear. Our room was starting to smell like expired Gouda cheese or a hockey locker. Ewe. 
- After we took a gondola down, we soaked our legs in the fountain.  Ahhhhh!  Recovery.
- Carries sister surprised her and flew from Spain to Munich and then drove to Italy. How cool is that right?  She joined us in the fountain. #teamplayer
- It feesl like I have been fighting a cold the last two days. I have had to wear a buff over my ears cause they a he while I run.  Drinking lots of water and I am sure a good nights rest will cure. 
- Got to Skype my Dad tonight.  Felt the love.  Support.  Pride.  Combined with emails from my mom.  I am ready to carry on bravely and see what the next 3 days have in store for us.  The mountains are calling...


TAR2014: Stage Four

32km / 2000m ascent (6,560 feet) & 2400m descent (7,872 feet)

Our personal chauffeur (Trent) loaded us up and we hit the road by 7:10am to make a 25min drive down the valley to Prettau, Italy.  Prettau is literally at the “end of the line” in this valley.  The road basically ends leaving you are surrounded by nothing but high, beautiful mountain passes.  


Today’s route started with a steep climb within 200m from the start.  The climb basically continued for the next 11km before hitting an altitude of 2,513m (8,300 feet) as we crossed the “Bretterscharte” ridge in howling winds and super duper unpleasant temperatures.  This section of the course was cold with blowing snow and made for rather tricky footing as we summit red the high point for the stage.  The amazing views, friendship and Carrie's babushka however, made up for our freezing body parts and we climbed up with smiles and focus. 

From thentop, the trail descended for 6km into feed station #2, hitting the 17km mark of the stage.  The sun did come out around 11am and stayed out, on and off until the finish. 

We had another steep 5km climb up and out of feed 2 before starting the largest descent of the race so far totaling 12km and over 5,000 feet, dropping into the town of Sand in Taufers.  


- There were croissants served at breakfast.
- Grateful for our own form of transportation this morning.
- It was so nice to climb right off the start instead of being on pavement.
- The snowy mountain pass was an absolute highlight for both Carrie and me.   We bundled up, got our climb on and suddenly we were at the top of this incredible out-of-the world ridge.  Too bad our lips were purple and we couldn’t feel our hands.  Otherwise we might have stayed up top to enjoy it a bit longer.  (I wish I had a photo of Carries babushka).
- Stomach issues again today for me.  Found another good use for K-Tape and I spent more time than I would have liked in a washroom in a Mountain hut again.
- People in the middle of the mountains playing instruments.  Tuba, drum and horns.  It was RAD and so motivating and appreciated.
- 50% of the course today was downhill and I just have to say how proud I was of  Carrie.  She was on my heels for both descents totaling 18km + almost 8,000 feet.  She just flew and made it look so easy :)  People coming off the first ridge were literally walking; sliding on their butts and some people looked terrified.  Equally so for the first part of the 2nd descent.  We just made it fun, focused on good form and let gravity carry us into the finish line.  
- Can’t say enough about my husband.  He is so helpful and supportive and again today he showed up in the middle of nowhere on his bike to greet us and lift our spirits.  Today he was out and about and up and down all sorts of roads and passes for over 4hrs.  I am glad the weather cooperated for him to get in a solid tour today.


TAR 2014: Stage Three

Neukirchen Loop - the stats

28km / 1300m ascent (4,264feet)


The rain was still pounding and coming down like a waterfall last night, as we took a gondola up to the top of the mountain we just finished decending in the afternoon. We were greeted to the BEST Spaghetti Bolognese ever! The lodge was cozy and had thick wood beams with little booths to sit and eat in. I am sure we would have had beautiful views, had it not been so socked in. Everyone sat together and we made friends with some folks from the Netherlands bonding over the news coming in about the potential changes for the next day. With heavy snow falling on the mountain passes it was uncertain if we would be able to run the planned route into Italy.

PLAN B was organized and had 3 potential options waiting for us by the time we woke up. We checked in with organizers over breakfast and found out they set a completely new course, as the result of the heavy rains and snowfall at elevation. They also adjusted the start time to 10am, assuming to allow their team to mark the new stage. They had options for drop bags and they chartered buses to drive 600 runners 3 hours from Austria to Italy.  


- We had a great sleep.
- Kinesio tape was our friend.
- We used a blow dryer to dry out our drenched gear.  Unfortunately it didn't eliminate the cow shit embedded in the fabric.  Let's just say my Salomon's won't be on the plane ride back to Canada.
- Kept our strategy the same. Basically Run our own race, minimize stress and stay in the game as more teams drop daily.  
- Saw two goats today. Made me think of my son Carter. I miss him so much. 
- course was beautiful. No mountain peaks but quality single track, bright green mossy forests and I think just being on more single track made it more fun.
-  the drive today was a new adventure. We had our own private driver (a.k.a. same sexy guy we saw on the road bike yesterday) to escort us from Austria to Italy where we drove thru a beautiful valley and National Park.
- doing what you need to do sometimes. Like taking the toilet paper we shoved in our shoes to help dry them it out and use it for our road side "pit stop". 
- we have made trail friends from all over the world people you end up leap frogging with and we really appreciate them. They are like a pep talks. Rays of sunshine. They make you forget how much your legs hurt even if just for 45sec.

- last but not least drinking wine and eating a whole pizza to celebate our first night in Italy. It is a vacation after all...


TAR 2014: Stage Two

St. Johann to Neukirchen, Austria

50km / 1850m (6,000ft) ascent and 1620m (5420ft) descent


 “This is your 26th stage.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.  You always are.”  These were the words my husband whispered into my ear as Carrie and I got in line for our gear check this morning

I woke up feeling nauseous and could barely eat breakfast.  As we lined up in the B gate this morning I was burping, hoping nothing else would come up.  I was also feeling extremely tired.  Partially from stage one which beat me up and reminded me of my lack of training since my injury and also due to the fact that I hardly slept the past few nights.  Last night I was standing in the hallway of our guesthouse knocking on the door of our neighbor who had his TV cranked to a Spanish channel until 10:30pm.

We had an early 7am start as today's stage was just slightly longer than yesterday's and it had more climbing.  That meant we were up at 4:45am and eating breakfast at our guesthouse by 5:00am.  

Conditions started out dry but overcast and cool until around 11am when the rain started.  It came on fast and picked up to pretty much a torrential down pour within 10 minutes where Carrie and I found ourselves on the side of the trail peeling off our wet shirts, putting on our merino wool tops, gloves and jackets.  Within minutes we were climbing up the main ascent of the day with a river of rain pouring down across our feet.  The rain was cold and our feet were freezing. The rain didn't let up until late into the evening.

it was a tough start as we pretty much ran 30km of flat running with a mix of pavement and forestry road, as it weaved through a few towns along the way.  

Today was one of those days that is hard to articulate without coming across as whiny or dramatic.  Here is a quick summary to keep this read light and more entertaining than I felt.

- 6km in I crossed to the dark side.
- I became quiet which I suppose if you ask Carrie she might say was silent.
- Then this sexy guy (Trent) in a pair of “tight shorts” came rolling up the hill on his bike.  For a glimpse of time I forgot about my pain.  This happened 2 more times only on his 2nd visit I almost crumbled on the side of road.  
- Then the walking kicked off.
- And we walked some more until we hit a “crap festival”.  For real.  We used those exact words for over 25k of today’s stage.
- Also indicative of the crap I took inside a café at 22k, which was followed by a little cry and then the decision to carry on.  We referred to this event as the three C’s.
- Then we came up to a mountain and it was as if a switch went off because I think we passed at least 50 people who were dabbling around the mud and waterfalls that were on the trail and Carrie and I said “honey badger don’t give a shit about mud and waterfalls.”  So we hammered 
up that do-dab-dib.
- The “crap festival” hit it’s peak at the top with kilometers of ridiculous mud and rock trail that was un-runable.  More walking. 
- Then it rained harder.
- Then our hands froze.
- We ate candy to dull the pain.
- On the last muddy, steep, knee and hip smashing descent we played the alphabet game to things that are warm as in “Arizona”, “Blanket”, “Coffee”.
- Carrie and I lost track of time and just pushed on to the finish.  I am fortunate for such a great husband and running partner.  Truly, there support made all the difference today.
- We celebrated by standing in the fountain with a beer and then proceeded to roll, stretch and rub Hagina all over our bodies with hopes for a Stronger day tomorrow. 


2012: free your mind and the rest will follow

It has been almost 1 month since I finished the Gore-Tex Transalpine run, an 8 day trail running race through the Alps from Germany to Northern Italy.  It took me some time to get to the point where I really wanted to share some of my feelings about the race this year.

I have resolved that there are a few things that were chewing away at me and that I felt disappointed in myself about, while there are other things that have never made me feel more proud.  At the end of day, a race is just a race and it isn't worth dwelling over or rehashing the what if's or I should-coulda-woulda's for too long.  So I guess this is my way of laying down my cards and moving on...

For starters, I don't really think I was honest with my expectations going into the race this year. I won't go into grave detail, but I am now ready to be more open with myself and comfortable stating more specific goals before racing.  Although unintentionally, I believe the dishonesty with myself prior to the start, effected my focus when I needed it most and ultimately lead to emotional decision making.  I really struggled with my focus after my partner had to drop out and there are just things that have eaten away at me this past month. 

Dealing with the disappointment, emotion, confusion, stress and just overall sense of sadness when Sarah had to pull out was way harder on both of us than we could have ever expected. You know, I think part of that is because Sarah and I are such good friends. It was OUR dream. OUR journey. OUR unconditional dedication to the training, the investment, the time, the HOPE we hung on to and ultimately the commitment we made to support one another no matter what happens or the sacrifices we made to help whomever needed it the most at any given time. Our partnership was solid this year. We built off last year and we had already been through some set backs and surprises in our training leading up to the event. So when the first 3 stages brought set back after set back for Sarah, I did my best to help her in every way and stand by her side. She did the same for me.  What surprised me was after she pulled herself out the morning of stage 4, it was like I lost my sense of purpose.  I struggled to find new focus.  Not because I wasn't capable or that I doubted myself, but more so questioning ethics, morals and desperately seeking approval and acceptance to continue on my own. I needed to give myself permission to go on without her and not feel guilty.  That was the hardest part of the whole race for me.  It played with my mind and emotions for the next 3 stages.  On and off.  Run.  Not run.  It took me 3 days to settle in and finally feel okay with it.  Of course, during that time my performance was up and down based on a series of events that could have avoided if I was thinking clearly.   

It took me a month before I could say I was proud of myself for finishing and actually believe it.  It is a strange thing, hanging on to races like this when you invest so much.  The greatest risk is that you bang your head against the wall, debit your bank accounts and have faith in your story line finish.  The reality is you can do all of these things over and over again and still not have it go the way you want it to.  The lessons always come back to same place.  Live each day to the fullest and don't regret taking risks.  The greatest risks in life are not risking at all.  Besides, despite a less than favorable outcome for Sarah and I as a team at TAR this year - the journey to the Alps started off with a goal that was much more than just about running.  Our sponsors, Western Financial and True Outdoors, set the stage when their generosity to sponsor our return to the Alps and inspired the gift to give back.  Together with an incredible community and friends and family we raised over $5,000.00 for the BC Cancer Society and had one of the most memorable running experiences of my life when a group of us ran from Kelowna to Naramata this summer for the cause.

Races will come and go and just like everything else in life, if they always go the way you want them to, life would be pretty rootin' tootin' boring.  We all need to be challenged and we all need to endure disappointments from time to time.  It will either shape who we can become or reiterates who we already are.  It adds to a story line in our legacy and teaches us to recognize what matters most.  So I say bring on the next adventure and bring on the next challenge! A little grounding here and there is good for everyone and I have certainly embraced mine. 

2012: race summary


We didn't log any updates after stage one.  We did have lots of supportive comments and we held a spot in the top 10.


Hey Everyone! Thanks for all the notes, motivation, support and thoughts you've sent us so far! We just got back to our Pension after another long and challenging day in the Alps. The past two days have brought their share of struggles for both Sarah and me, but we are both very happy to have pushed through. It's not the easy days that you truly appreciate ;)
We are hoping our bodies will start to feel better and that Sarah's cold will be gone by the AM. If not - we will carry on, putting one foot in-front of the other, staying positive (Shelly Wright - turning any frowns upside down) focusing finishing each day.
The views have been great (when the fog and rain stays away) and the terrain challenging with wet roots, rocks, very muddy and slippery descents. Some steep climbs today as we arrived in Kitzbuhel and we hear tomorrow is the 'premier stage' a.k.a. hardest stage with it starting off with a climb up the world cup course.
I will try to send some actual race reports with more details soon, however the days have been very long and not leaving us much time to shower, let alone rest.
crew support has been solid! T & C have driven miles, carried bags, washed dirty socks, gotten up at the crack of dawn with us, rubbed legs, fetched water and tucked us in. Couldn't do it without them.
Thanks again for all your notes - means the world to us! xo


Well, we have just finished what Wolfgang (the course director) has called the premier and toughest stage of the week. After 7.5hrs of running we have put 3 stages behind us and can wake up tomorrow and put our energy into clearing the half way mark.
The day brought new challenges for team Two Canadian Girls on the Run, but we persevered, stayed positive through it all and somehow managed to hold onto 9th place. Although, to be perfectly honest, we have one goal and one goal only this year and it is getting all our attention: to finish. With 50 teams that have already dropped out, legs that feel like they have been beaten with a bat and over 20.5hrs, 133km & close to 20,000 feet in three days we have both gained completely new perspectives moving forward. I have never believed more in the expression 'one day at a time.'
I am very proud of our team work, ability to manage tricky situations or more so, support one another as things have been coming up. Through it all we keep moving forward, even if it means we walk. I really feel our team work is what has kept us on our feet to this point.
Lots of fog today meant zero views again ;( it’s a bit hard on your head when typically we enjoy a difficult climb or rolling ridge when you see the Alps around you. On the bright side – the temperatures are cool and in our favor.
Tomorrow we run to Italy! Thanks again for all the support friends and family… see you there. Ciao.


<entry one> Sad day for Team Two Canadian Girls on the run :( It was a very emotional morning after Sarah was forced to drop out of the race at the first aid station today due to an unforeseen injury. I carried on and finished the stage, however not without shedding tears along the way. I have not decided if I will carry on as a solo runner or start my vacation with my family early. There is a lot to process right now. As for Sarah - she is the toughest and best partner I could ever ask for and I am extremely proud of her bravery, determination and strength over the last 4 days.
<entry two>  Thank you everyone for your words of advise, motivation, support and down right love you have extended to Sarah and Me. you have NO idea how much it means to us.
I decided to toe up this morning and I was happy to spend the day with my fellow Canadian and friend Johnny Hammel. He is running on team Mito Canada with Michael Fitzpatrick and had to stop on day 3 after experiencing knee pain. He took yesterday's stage off and was able to run with me today :). We have been traveling with the boys since we got here. I am so grateful for his support today and for mailing it such a fun stage. We stopped for lots of photos, fed goats and mingled on the trail with people from all over the world.
I was determined to run the day for Sarah and ended up finishing with a time that would have put us in 3rd and on podium in the woman's division :).
With approx 200km and 30,000 feet in 5 days it is safe to say I am pretty tired and beat up but grateful to be in Italy with Sarah and my family.
Thanks again for all your messages. Means the world to both of us. Xoxo


This morning I almost didn’t start the stage. I was up last night with really terrible knee pain and I wasn’t sure if I should run on it. It is really hard to think with a clear head here as so many people are falling apart and running through injuries… going until they are broken or casted etc… I think there are less than 180 teams still in the race. My inner struggle is that 'reason' would tell me I would never run if my knees felt like this at home. I also try to lead by example as a coach and make decisions that I would recommend to my athletes and was very torn with what to do. Of course, my fear is that I injure myself good.
Trent tried his best to guide my decision without outright telling me to get my ass out the door.
By the time I decided to try - it was 7:30am. We packed my gear, out the door, drove to the start to get me taped. I then realized I forgot my race bib. The countdown to the start was happening, I was just getting off the table with my knee taped and the race started without Johnny and me. The sweepers start to clear the course immediately, so all the markings were being taken down too. Johnny and I talked to Uta, the RD, and she called ahead to stop the sweepers. Trent arrived, I put on my race chip and John and I sprinted to catch up… only we didn’t know the direction. The locals started to point and help us and after about 7min we caught up and started in dead last position today :)
My tape fell off after 18min, so it was one step at a time. Sarah, Trent and Carter were at the first two aid stations in-case I wanted to bail. I stuck it out and finished with Johnny in approx. 6.5hrs. Today's stage had a lot of flat and road with two climbs – one major climb that was approx. 8km and I think over 5,000 feet. It was steep! I had to the walk a lot of the downhill. I am just running out of muscles that are left to support them and keep them tracking properly. Johnny was super patience and supportive and made today a lot of fun again. I am grateful for his company and friendship. The poor guy is sick right now but he is also super fast and fit – so my pace seems to be manageable for him ;) We even both took a chug off a guys beer stein before we started the descent… anything to help numb the pain ;)
I think that takes me to 39hrs, 244km, 37,000feet in 6 days. With two days to go, I pray my knees hold up, but really I somewhat feel like I am hanging on by a string. Tomorrow’s stage is really long too – 42km – but it’s through the DOLOMITE! We are so close! So I have committed to the first aid station with Johnny tomorrow and will reassess as the day goes on.
Again, can’t say how much your comments mean to me and how they help keep me going… xo


There was no entry for stage six


There was no entry for stage seven


I remember a few memorable moments from stage eight last year:

  • Johnny running with us from the start for 15min and then turning back to go for coffee instead
  • Running with Mike Fitzpatrick and pushing him up the last climb, holding his hair back while he almost puked.
  • Sharing some trail time with Karine from NS
  • Carter surprising me with 5km to go and finishing the race by my side.
Thank you to everyone back home for all the support, cheering, motivation and words of wisdom during my journey through TAR last week. It was the toughest race I have ever participated in and I am very happy to have finished. 320km, 50,000 feet, 8 days, 3 countries and approx. 50hrs of running I can now put my feet up and enjoy Italy!

alps 2012... here we go again!

It all happened really fast.  Last week on Valentines Day to be exact!  Sarah and I received word that a local business would sponsor our return to the Alps so we could participate in the 2012 Gore-Tex Trans Alpine Run.  I think I speak for both Sarah and I, when I say that we were both overwhelmed with gratitude when Western Financial stepped forward with their offer of support.  It was one of those moments for me, where things just stood still.  I know that sounds cheesy, but this is a really unique opportunity.  What's more is for us to be in alignment with a company who's values are to support local athletes and give back to their community has really inspired us! 

After discussions with Sarah and Trent, (and hopping up and down like school girls) I talked to the rest of my family about our opportunity before accepting it.  I also really wanted to turn our journey back to the Alps into more than just running and fulfilling our dream again.  Sarah and I have proposed a Cancer campaign and together, we hope to raise awareness and funds for the BC Cancer Society. 

Western Financial has been gracious enough to support us and we want to pay it forward!  So not only will we embark on our journey back to the Alps this fall.  We are going to organize some fun, creative and healthy ways for our community to get involved in our training and support a great cause.  So stay tuned for dates on our climbathon and run to Naramata!

I do want to mention, however, a friend of ours who we met in the Alps last year has also played a big role with inspiring our choice to support the cancer society.  Mike Fitzpatrick and his friend will also be racing in the Alps this year as team MitoCanada and will be raising money for a very special cause as well.  Check it out and please support is you're able.  Thanks Mike for the inspiration and setting such a fine example. We are all really excited to follow your thoughtful and generous footsteps! 

Now as for the race this year... we are PUMPED!!!  The route is different.  It starts in Germany again and spends 4 days in Austria and 4 days in Italy.  The route is 50km further with the same, 50,000 feet, elevation.  We feel like we're ahead of the game already with ou training (relative to last year any how) and excited about building new memories and embracing such an incredible offer.  Thank you Western Financial!

2011: stage eight

I can't say that "I" finished the Transalpine Run yesterday.  It wouldn't be truthful.  I need to say "WE" finished the TAR yesterday... 'WE" being every single one of you that reads and follows my blog and has supported me in one way or another along the journey.  After posting my blog on Day 7 I was overwhelmed with the amount of comments and faith and support that I received.  It gave me the confidence and energy I needed to put that horrible stage behind me and carry on to finish what I set out to accomplish.

I choose a career in the fitness industry and coaching because my #1 passion is to help others.  I put more credit into my abilities as a coach and fitness professional than I do as my abilities as an athlete.  Not to mention it has always been more rewarding for me to help others than making my own gains.  So when I received all the feedback and support from my melt down blog on Stage 7, it reminded me of the most important thing in my journey.  You see, when a race is over, it's over.  You can't take the race with you in life.  You can take the experience and memories but you can't 'bottle it'.  But people last forever.  Sarah, my partner.  Trent & Carter, our support crew.  My friends and family who where there for me when I hit bottom.  New friends we have met during the race.  These are the things that matter the most and that I will have in my life forever.

So that is my cheesy job on saying 'thanks' to you all :)  Now on with Stage 8 report:

The morning started off well. I woke up with a fresher feeling in my legs and although not rested, I could tell they had 32k and another 6000 feet in them. Besides, after reading all the comments from back home I had renewed energy. Carter fired up the iPod and we jacked out the Pitt bull on the way to the start. I had three simple goals for the day:

1. Finish.

2. Negative Split - climb moderate but save something for the descent and 2nd half;

3. Stay Positive! "Positive Attitude Changes Everything", right? (P.A.C.E. Sports Fitness)

I was afraid of putting too much out there on the climb because it was still 6000 feet in 11k and I just couldn't endure another shitty day. I was prepared for some low moments, but not another 6hrs of it. So I just put my head down, got into my own head space and climbed on my own for the first few hours.

From the summit Sarah and I took off. It was a beautiful single track ridge that lead into the alpine. It reminded me of home - crawford trails. Gift #2 - familiarly. We ripped it up! Calling each other 'Jo-Jo and Flow' from a poster we saw at the top. It was fun again :) I had to make another pit stop but got 'er done fast and remembered my poles this time :)

Gift #3 - Most of the day was shaded! I dipped my visor in creeks along the way to stay extra cool, but unlike the previous day - the shade made the temps manageable. Phew!

Sarah and I had a strong 2nd half and we finished in the shoot with champagne, finishers medal an embrace that defined a lifetime bond and respect for one another that we would forever have. Carter ran in with us too, so I grabbed him and hugged him so tight!

We got our finishers shirts from the pasta party that night and celebrated with our new friends. It was a positive finish and I was so elated with my experience overall.

Today as I reflect, and put the race behind me I move forward with new perspective. You see, we grow through struggle. It's not when times are good or you're feeling great that really matters. These moments are important in life because they motivate us and make our journey more enjoyable, but it is the days where you have to fight that really have a higher meaning. Where you have to accept help. Where your fears get turned around and you overcome diversity. I am a better mom, athlete and coach because of day 7. What I thought 'broke me' actually made me stronger.

On the last stage (8), I took a community on the run with me. Everyone that helped me get to this point and encouraged me to fight for the finish. Sarah, my partner and friend. Trent and Carter - my family and crew support. Our fellow Canadian friends and competitors and everyone back home. Our sponsors - Valhalla Pure Outfitters, Icebreaker, KC, Udos Oil & Sherwood BMR and I hope you all enjoyed being along for the run as much as I enjoyed taking you. I finished this epic event thanks to all of you.

2011: stage six & seven

I feel kinda bad blogging about today's stage when it wasn't a very good day for me and I haven't had time to blog about the other amazing days, however I am rollin' out with the report on the current day while it is fresh.

Yesterday's stage (6) Sarah and I had a really strong day.  The temperatures and profile were in our favor.  Plus some of the teams were hurting from the previous days hill sprint so we took advantage of it and pushed and pushed and pushed ourselves to gain a 6th place finish in the woman's category.  It was awesome!  Probably the most beautiful stage of all we have seen so far too.

After the stage yesterday my body was done.  I had a hot bath, did some cold contrast, laid in bed and then off to the pasta party.  I was falling asleep at the table.  I was concerned that I may have just left it all out there and that I could pay for it on Stage 7 and sure enough I did pay today.  Deeply.

I went to buy new poles before the race started and the pole expo was packed up.  Luckily Trent found someone to lend me some because mine were either left or stolen at the hill sprint day.  We got to start in B gate for the first time (Sarah was super excited) but unfortunately, my legs weren't up for the fast runners of that gate.  In fact, after 1.5hrs my legs were still not there and I was run/walking everything.  Walking ups, downs, I felt so tired and my legs had nothing in them.  It was a very hard place to be in for such a long and hard stage ahead of me.  over 7000 feet and 37km.  Trent and Carter met us at the first aid station and as I came around the corner, i pulled off the trail and knelt down behind the fence and started to cry a bit.  Yes, very embarrassing to admit.. but I was exhausted and suffering already so much i really wasn't sure if I could get through the day.  Trent gave me a wee pep talk and I carried on, only to feel much the same until aid 2.  I tried so hard to just put one foot in front of the other and not think too far ahead.  With 3000 feet behind us and a 4000 foot straight up 5km at the 2nd aid it was all I could do to march up the 2 track road.  Trent again, reminded me of how important my goal of finishing this race is and how hard I have worked.  Carter gave me some gel and Sarah and I hunkered up what would be the 'death march' of the day. 

This climb was unreal.  It would take us to the highest point of the race, over 10,000 feet.  With my fatigue being what it was it made for a very difficult and exhausting summit.  Beautiful, it was - but the terrain was relentless, rocky, sandy and so steep!  The cool part was there was a tuba player and drummer playing music as we neared the top.

It took us almost 4hrs to get to this point of the race.  As we started to descend, the sun came out and it very quickly got HOT.  We had a 16k descent with a mix of single track, double track and roads.  I rolled my right ankle going into the last aid and ran out of water.  My suffering just got worse and it really was the hardest thing to keep going past this point.  And to top it off, it only got worse.  The heat was starting to upset my stomach and part way down the double track, I had to pull over cause I had the scoots.  Well, when I finished (2 female teams passed us during this time) I started to run down to catch up to Sarah and realized I forgot my poles where I went to the washroom.  So back UP I had to go.  It was demoralizing... I actually looked up and thought about leaving the poles there, but they weren't mine!  If mentally I wasn't low enough at this point, with 4km to go, I rolled my other ankle.  This one hurt much more and it was right before 3km of loose rocky dirt road.  Did I mention it was hot?  I had the scoots?  Both ankles hurt?  I was basically a melt down waiting to happen and it literally took everything in me to keep going.  We passed one of the women's teams and had 2 other teams in our sights running into the finish, but I couldn't even run the little hills leading through town.  I felt terrible, like I let Sarah down today and coming into the finish, I just kept going until I was a block away.

I turned down a street, fell on some grass, under a sprinkler and cried.  I was exhausted, embarrassed, frustrated, tired, really tired, hot and there was this part of me that thought "I can't finish this.  I can't run tomorrow if it is going to be as awful as today... I just can't do it again."  Just for the record, I debated sharing this in my blog... it is embarrassing and it was a very low experience for me.  But it was my day.  And now for the first time I am somewhat afraid of running tomorrow.  I don't know what I will do if I am faced with the same experience on the last day.  finishing today was the hardest running accomplishment of my life.  We did still salvage 11th place and moved up to 8th overall... but I paid for it again.  Having said that today marked another day where lots of teams dropped out.

We started this journey with the goal to finish... even if it meant we walked.  So I will dress up tomorrow, say a little prayer and just do the best I can to get the job done.

2011: stage five

Hill Sprint

6km, 3300ft ascent

Well, I don't really know where to start.  We have not had internet access in any guest houses since now and it hasn't been convenient to pack up and head out to add our posts.  Not to mention, this journey is exhausting and just taking care of my recovery, some time for Carter and getting ready for the next day has been all I can seem to fit in.

We just finished Stage 5 - the 6km, 3300 foot hill sprint stage from Switzerland.  It made for a hard day, as we just completed 4 of the biggest stages, not only of this years's Transalpine Race, but what they claim is the hardest is their 6yr history.  I woke up with some well used legs and sore knees for the first time.  Sarah and I fit in a warm up jog because the stage started uphill right from the center of town.  My calfs burned 1/2 way up the climb and I just tried not to stop and to push myself up as best I could.  I hit a moments today where I could feel the legs have reached their max and no push would make them go faster.  I think the next 3 days will bring the start to some more serious suffering.

'Mountain MacLeod' on the other-hand climbed like she was fresh and just set a pace in front of me.  We didn't realize it until after our stage that teams could start together and split up and they would take the difference of our times.  Had we known that - Sarah could have set out and made up some time for us.  Ce la vie!  We made it up in 1hr 7min and had a beer and pasta at the top.  We finished in 17th o/a today, I think - but it wasn't a deal breaker for us as only minutes were lost at best.  And despite some solid stages, we are competing for a certain finish and continue to run for the experience and make it as fun as possible.

It is nice to have some time off today.  Each day we have finished late, showered, stretched, went back to the pasta part and not home until 8:30pm - 9:00pm.  Bed and up to do it all over again.


Aside from the race Europe is amazing!  Our guesthouses have been perfect (thanks Michael and Suzanne) and we are eating very well.  So much cheese, meat, gelato and pasta.  The boys are keeping busy and getting out to hike or Trent is fitting in some runs early in the morning or afterwards - but they have mostly been busy looking after us.  You have no idea how hard it is to be support for a stage race until you have done it... I am grateful for my boys and they are doing an outstanding job.  Packing up every morning, unpacking at the next stage town.  Getting food.  Grabbing our recovery food and clothes and having it ready at the finish.  Trent has been taping up my feet every morning and cleaning the cow shit off my shoes at the end of the stages or washing our clothes.  Carter has been patient and excited and ran in with us on day 2.  Handing me Canadian balloons (thanks Urness') and getting us food etc...

Tomorrow we leave Switzerland for Italy.  The weather is suppose to be nice and warm again and we are told we have some of the nicest views to come yet!