2017 in Review: Missteps in the Right Direction

Every December, I write a blog reflecting on my year of running before I dive headlong into another year of training, racing, and adventuring. My immediate impression when I think about 2017 is that it was a bit of a non-starter: I was sidelined for a good portion of the summer and fall with a bad hamstring tendon strain, and because of this I have been finding it hard to start this post this year. Until just for a change, clarity came in the form of my run this morning. About half an hour into the route I had planned, I found myself ploughing through deep snow on a trail I had assumed would be tracked out. I was getting frustrated at how slowly and awkwardly I was moving - this is not what I had envisioned for my last run of the year! I eventually turned around, and was met with this sight...
...which stopped me in my (fresh) tracks, and smacked some sense into me. Who cares if this run isn't what I had expected? It is still beautiful, and fun in its own way, and I am grateful to …

Tillamook Burn 50k 2017: Redemption via Pinot Noir

A month and a half ago, I ran the Chuckanut 50k as my first ultra of the year. As I wrote in my last blog post, I had a pretty terrible run there: I never once felt good, the whole race, and missed my time goal by a large margin. It was, and still is, hard to put my finger on what went wrong that day, but something was just... "off". I came out of that race absolutely wrecked: my quads were incredibly sore for a week afterward, and I took 2 full weeks off running before gingerly easing my body and mind back into training. I was also feeling a little deflated, because I had trained hard through the winter and didn't feel like my performance was representative of my fitness. But as with everything, I had to draw from the experience what I could, then put it behind me and move forward, with my sights set on the Tillamook Burn 50k 6 weeks later. Because of the extended period of time off after Chuckanut, I basically just built my running back toward the 50k distance, figurin…

Chuckanut 50k 2017: From Slow in the Snow to Pain in the Rain

Back in November, when building my race calendar for this year, I decided that 2017 would be a year to focus on running faster over the 50k distance. I planned 3 races, with Chuckanut 50k being a 'B' race - not my main goal race for the year, but a race at which I wanted to perform well. Being in mid-March, Chuckanut is a great first ultra of the year to test your fitness. 
Last year, I found out 2 weeks before Chuckanut that I had been invited off the waiting list into Gorge 100k, so instead of tapering for the race I used the 50k as my last long training run. I had a smooth, easy day on the course and finished in 5:23, placing 22nd overall in a stacked women's field and 1st in the 40-49 age group. I recovered really well from the race, and was back running 3 days later. Leading up to the race, I had really only managed 8 weeks of solid training, due to a nagging hipflexor strain that kept flaring up at the beginning of 2016. Encouraged by that performance considering rela…

Training in (real) Winter: Stumbling into Gratitude

Let me start with this: I'm from Quebec. I am plenty used to training for spring races through brutally cold winters. I've raced a half marathon when it was -30 degrees C outside. I suffered frostbitten fingers after a long run because a truck splashed me from head to toe with frigid slush and my hands got soaked when I tried to wipe the slush off my jacket. I've seen my running partners' balaclavas (yes, we had to wear balaclavas) completely frosted over in white. Having hot showers after runs sometimes felt like being stabbed with thousands of tiny needles. I once ended up in a freezing rain storm so horrendous that I was trying to run with my eyes closed and seriously considered lying in a ditch on the side of the road until it blew over. I used to say my favourite temperature for winter running was -15: cold enough so that the snow on the roads was packed down solid. So believe me when I say, I am not just a fair weather runner. 
But this winter - this oddly snowy, …

2016 in Review: Life, the Universe, and Everything

2016. Much has been written about how this year has been a rough one, in so many ways for so many people. I too have had a year full of turmoil - though, I admit that as I get older I increasingly wonder if life really is just turmoil, and the secret is just to figure out how to find happiness and peace in the midst of all the challenges we inevitably face. I turned 42 this year - which, incidentally, is the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" (if you're a Douglas Adams fan). 42 is also the critical angle at which sunlight refracts when hitting raindrops in order for a rainbow to form, and it is the number of kilometres run in a marathon. So all things considered, I guess I can expect the next year to be a good one - full of rainbows, cosmic answers, and (ultra)marathons. No pressure, 2017.
But back to this year. My running started out with a bang, racing the Chuckanut 50k in March and Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April (my longest run to d…

Wy'east Wandering: Circumnavigation of Mount Hood

Last fall, three girlfriends and I ran around Mount St Helens on the Loowit trail - and had such an incredible experience that we promptly decided to make a volcano run an annual trip. This year's adventure took us a bit farther south in the Cascade chain of stratovolcanoes, to Mount Hood in Oregon. The route around Mount Hood follows the Timberline trail, a 40-mile (65.5k) long Forest Service trail that gains a total of 9,000 ft (2700 m) as it winds around the flanks of the mountain, through alpine meadows, across ridges, and falling and rising in and out of glacial river valleys. We researched the route beforehand and found that most people travel in a clockwise direction from Timberline Lodge - this was also the route that Tara and Alicia had done last year. Based on that experience, however, Tara suggested that this year we travel counterclockwise, in order to cover the most difficult and highest terrain earlier on in the day. This turned out to be a very wise decision (more o…

Running toward Healing

A month ago, August 19th at 10:30 in the morning, I held my hand gently on my dad's chest as he took his last breath. I will never forget that moment: me, my brother and mom clinging to each other in grief as we stood around his bed and felt him leave this world, his big personality and gentle soul peacefully escaping the wasted shell to which cancer had reduced his body. We all touched his face over and over, in numb disbelief despite knowing this moment was coming. And then we gathered our things and left the hospital, even though the staff told us we could stay as long as we wanted. The truth is, we had been saying goodbye for days; weeks, really. He was no longer there, in that room, in that shell. Not to us.

This is a difficult post to write. I've been trying to start it for a while, but every time I do, I get overwhelmingly sad and have to stop writing. But I know that in my toolbox, the two best tools I have for coping with stress and heartache are writing and, of course…