Today’s record is tomorrow’s motivation

My heart starts to pound a little harder, I feel a shake in my hands and suddenly the nerves have me hopping out of the pool running for a pee. It feels like the beginning of a race, but really it’s just another one of my not-so favourite workouts, the 800m time trial swim. As I hop back in the pool and find more reasons to put off the task, my swim partner and I finally agree that once the green hand on the giant clock hits the top, we go. During the quiet of the public afternoon swim on a Saturday we are afforded the luxury to split the lane and just like that I have an opponent; someone to chase.
As we count down to the final second, we charge forward moving the water like two hungry sharks. Out of the corner of my eye, I keep Tracy in my sights the whole way, and for the first 200 metres we are almost side by side. With each fierce kick off the wall I just keep telling myself to not let her go and my arms start to reach even further, stretching for as much pull as my shoulders will allow. I’ve already lost sight of the clock and my focus is narrowed in on closing gap between us. On some laps she pulls further ahead and on others I push closer. I loathe the times when I sense her picking up speed, but love the chase. I can start to hear involuntary gasps and gulps as I desperately turn up my kick and feel the burn in my legs and arms. There are even some moments I feel as if I’ll just pass out mid-stroke, but I’m so transfixed on chasing her down that I don’t even care. Finally, beneath the water I see her touch the wall, her legs sink down into the standing position, and then her voice echoes into the water yelling at me to push the last 10 metres. As I reach for the wall and come to a stop I feel the heat radiate off my face and my heart pounding like a drum inside my chest. Almost in unison as I look at my watch Tracy goes in for the high five with exclaims of, “that was awesome.” I crushed my previous time by one minute. The tiredness in my body is quickly replaced a burst of happiness and energy – I call it my Disneyland happy. The kind of happy where I might cry, I can’t stop laughing and my smile spreads so wide you almost lose my eyes. This is what training is all about. For almost eights months of the year, six days a week, twice a day, I swim, bike and run. I log hundreds of hours and thousands of miles in the snow, sleet, heat, rain and ice. It’s a long, tough road, and most workouts are not sunshine, rainbows and Disneyland moments, but when they do happen they feel pretty damn amazing. I’ve made the mistake in the past of holding onto my failures and forgetting to enjoy the ride. This past weekend was a reminder that this journey can be incredible and is meant to be incredible. Here’s to holding onto the good feeling for as long as possible, or until the next suffer grinder fest kicks me in the ass and coach wipes this dumb smile off my face.

Wintery playground

A slight burning tingle ripples across my red stained cheeks, partially from the cold wind whipping against my face, but more so from smiley so wildly. I can’t stop gleefully giggling like a child on Christmas morning as I fly through the fresh untouched snow, ripping into the delicate powder with the edges of my snowboard.
For most of the year, my free time is dedicated to training, but in the early season while snow still blankets the mountains, some days are reserved for play. Yesterday afternoon, the snow had been rapidly falling since mid morning and with each passing hour the powder was increasingly becoming deeper and deeper. The backside of the mountain was exceptionally quiet and I was more than happy to be alone to roam the hillside like I was the only person left on earth. Every now and I again I would stop just to listen to the eerie, yet calming sounds of nature around me before carving back into the powdery flakes.
Sitting back in the saddle I simply bent my knees and allowed them to act as shock absorbers as I braced for every bounce and bob, just like surfing tidal waves. I felt like a rag doll, yet somehow in control, as I allowed the ride to go on wherever the path seemed to go. On the verge of face planting on almost every turn, I kind of just bounced back around for the next line and kept going, trying desperately not to bail. Falling in this much snow is like digging yourself out of quick sand; you kind of just keep sinking in.  
It’s hard to explain to those who have not experienced it, just how electrifying and energizing the mountain can be. The snow-drenched trees loom as if in a winter slumber, the sparkle of a trillion snowflakes glimmer in the daylight, and the muffled sounds of nature echo against the backdrop creating a breathtaking sprawl of a winter. You really have to get out there to feel it. Whether it’s snowshoeing in the backcountry between the quiet of the trees as you roam for hours in lost solitude, or ripping fresh lines on your board, or tracks on your skis, it’s all just the same kind of play reserved for the mountain.
On the last run of the day, after milking every turn for what it was worth and carving as many fresh lines as I could, I crumbled next to a tree and looked out over the valley. My legs were exhausted, my skin was a mix of hot and cold, and my breath slowly calmed in steamy puffs beneath my nose. The light of day was slowing slipping away and the quietness of the afternoon seemed even more silent. I could have sat there for hours until the moon was the only light in the night sky, but the evening chill reminded me that my day had ended and it was time to return home. Another day with more snow and more adventure would await on the other side of the evening and once again I would play like a giddy, care-free child in my wintery playground.

Running through it all

Winter is here. The sun disappears by 4 o’clock, the temperatures dip below freezing, the sidewalks freeze and so does my snot and eyelashes. Just the other night, I thought about sticking heat packs down my leggings, but instead opted for multiple layers. So far my record is four top layers and three bottoms, including one toque, one balaclava and two pairs of socks. The dreariness of the season makes  running workouts feel torturous some days; not all days, but some days. I can tell you that when the clock hits 4:30, it’s the end of a long work day, the sun is long gone from the sky, the mercury in the thermometer is falling and your workout calls for a two hour endurance run, a warm fire, with a warm blanket, and a warm drink sounds much more enticing. These winter days make me feel like an old, frumpy beast just lugging myself around, sometimes questioning why I’m choosing to torture myself.  I have no idea why people start resolutions to better themselves in the dead of winter when it feels like you’re suffocated by 24 hour darkness and a constant chill. It’s mad to think any one of us feels inspired, motivated or charged to take on a new challenge with spunk and pizzaz, or whatever. In fact last year I didn’t run outside until February. I didn’t think people ran outside in the snow – it seemed almost preposterous. Being an island girl and growing up in a climate that consists of the rainy, rainer, less rainy and sprinkling showers seasons, I was spoiled by good running conditions all year long. Well, since moving to the interior I’ve rode and ran in almost every possible weather condition from hail to snow, rain, lightning, hurricane winds, sleet, and 40 degree heat to minus 25 degree cold. When I first started training I hated the terrain and the weather here. The winters are freeze-your-snot cold, the summers are ice-in-your-shorts scorching hot, the hills are long and steep and the winds are ferocious and constant. But I’ve built a lot of character and a bit of grit from these adventures. It is one hell of a way to start testing your mental strength and commitment, and to really see if you’re cut out for an Ironman triathlon. Instead of hating it now, I embrace it and learn to love it.
As the New Year trods on and people’s resolutions fade away, some of us will just keep trudging on, chasing our delusional dreams. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will keep you going. Here’s to many more cold, dark and lonely runs and plenty more suffer grinder fests in solitude on the spin bike.