Sometimes you just need a good run. 

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The view from Tim’s start line. Hubbards is beautiful!

Every year at my work we hold a “Surviving September” party for the team. It’s a celebration of making it through the events, the hustle and bustle of the “back at it” month. It’s a celebration on surviving those 12-14 hour days getting the events going, the magazine to print, the office moved, and to get everything else going. It’s non-stop.

These are the times that training and the health-conscious me begins hibernation. I know better to sign up for the final triathlon of the season, knowing that my training wains and I end up cursing my way through the course (it only took 2-3 years to realize this fact!). Miraculously, I’ve kept my swimming up, and leading classes at Cyclone keeps me in the saddle. But running. Oh, running. It’s like drying dishes, submitting my taxes, or cleaning out the fridge; I’ll do anything but that. Anything.

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September Sunflowers. My favourite!

I find it sad that running and I were taking a break. We’d become so close over the last 9 months. I promised myself – after countless ‘re-starts’ – that I wouldn’t quit running. If I didn’t give it up, then I wouldn’t have that horrible first run back. You know the one. The sweaty, slow, painful, first run back that hurts the lungs, the head and the heart.

But there’s this marathon that I signed up for in 2 weeks….I’ve been battling about which distance I should realistically complete on October 11th, because I sure as heck aint ready for a marathon. I ran home a few weeks ago (6K) and I wanted to stop and walk, no crawl home. It was hot, I was sore, slow and the whole experience just wasn’t what I had been experiencing with running over the past year. I could not motivate myself to go running this month, even with Tim coming home from really great runs, I just wouldn’t dig out the runners.

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My speedy love, kicking relay butt. (4th place!)

Rum Rummers Relay happened today. Tim and I had signed up for this relay in May, and today was the day. I didn’t set any expectations for myself, knowing my 9.3K leg was a hilly one. I wanted to finish without the desire to crawl into the ditch (that is so 2014). But you know what? I killed it. I frigging loved the hills, down and up. Seriously. I ran hard, pushed myself and wouldn’t let ol’ wheezy behind me pass, though he tried. One woman passed me on the first 3 hills, going up and I promptly passed her going down. I challenged myself. It was amazing. The sun was shining, but it wasn’t 25+C like last year, the wind was moderate and I was well rested and fed. I smiled at the volunteers and cheerers. I love it, and thus loved running all over again.

A good race was exactly what I needed to get my running mojo back. Do I think I can achieve a PB on my marathon next month? Not likely, but heck, let’s give it a go!

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Catching my breath and oh so happy at the finish line! (49:08 / 9.3K)

Challenge Accepted.

I did it.

We did it.

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Crossing the 70.3 finish line for the first time

This weekend was a memorable one. Not only was it race weekend, something I have been counting down to for close to a year, but with Hurricane Arthur landing on Saturday, there was a threat to take our race away!

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What a team! Friday night pre-race gathering.

I kept surprisingly cool leading up to the race. I thought the anxiety would set in as we arrived in St. Andrews….or the night before….surely as I got dressed that morning…or treading water before the horn sounded.

But I didn’t. I knew I trained to the best of my ability, and I was going to give it my all. Funnily enough, I experienced more anxiety with my first sprint race in June, than Challenge St. Andrew’s.

My family and friends made all the difference in the world. They reassured me, they were there to have lunch with me, and play bingo the night before. We didn’t start dissecting the race or freaking each other out. Not even once. I had the best support there and I hope I was helpful to the people around me.

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Race eve.

On race day, the alarm went off at 4AM and Karen and I rolled over to eat our “race cake” from Ironman/Hero Sam Gyde. We thought we may be able to grab an extra 20 minutes of sleep (fat chance!) and we were up and getting ready to move out shortly thereafter.

We racked our bikes and set up transition at 5:30. Karen and I were setting up next to each other, when we heard that dread “POP” of a tire. It was so close to us my eardrums hurt. I was ready…if it was me, I could do this. (Thank you Shane for your lessons.) But it wasn’t me, or Karen or Shannon (huge sigh of relief!), and I did a final check before leaving the transition area for the last time before the race.

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This looks like some kind of bizarre sleepover. Oh, wait….

I didn’t expect to enjoy the pre-race/pre-swim time, but my fellow HTC’ers united and we had fun. A few photos, well wishes, and smiles. Andrea Hachey, you have no idea how much your smile calmed me as I entered the water and swam to the start line, you are an inspiration.

As we treaded water and started at each other, I broke the tension with “What’s everyone drinking tonight!?” Val, Laura, Shannon and Devon, you made it fun.

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Girls (and Tony) just want to have fun

And when the horn sounded, I took a deep breath, went wide (no head kicking, please) and swam. The water was chilly (from 27C on Thursday, to 18C on race day) but calm and the staggered start time made it the best open water start l’ve ever experienced.

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The women’s age group start. I’m in there!

Leg 1 would take me ~40 minutes and I focused on my breathing, sighting, reaching, sighting, and brining my body over my arm. And sighting.

About half way through the swim I took just a few seconds to take it all in. I’d caught up with a few men (!!!!) and a few aqua bikers had caught up with me. I looked at the beach and smiled knowing my support team was there, waiting for me to climb out of the water.

This is actually happening. This isn’t practice on Lake Banook, this isn’t the Navy Sprint warm up race. This is THE race, I thought. Now swim, finish it strong!

I came out of the water at 39:10, knowing that I kept it at my one of two speeds, “Steady as she goes”. The other being “Leave me laying for dead after 500M”.

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Outta the way fellas, coming through.

I had mild fear of race brain. Fear of not being able to locate my sneakers, fear of forgetting the plan to take off the wetsuit and then run up the hill. Fear of forgetting fuel, sunscreen or not putting my helmet on before touching my bike.  T1 went seamlessly – if you saw my time (7:34) you may think differently, but the 400M+ climb up from Katy’s Cove to the Algonquin would clear up that confusion.

I could hear mom as soon as I got out of the water. Mike B. walked/ran up the hill with me, encouraging words all the way. I saw Tim taking photos and coaching me on. And I heard my friends cheer. Jenn & Mark had the biggest voices I’ve ever heard. And they were calling my name. I had no choice to be a grinning goof as I ran with my bike to the mount line. I’ve got this.

Amazing support. Amazing people.

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The mom’s cheering the athletes on!

And the bike. I had ridden the bike course just three weeks earlier, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was familiar. Fuel, fuel, fuel. I dug out my sandwich in the first 5K and had a picnic, loosened my legs, and get focused on the next 3.5-4 hours on my bike.

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Amazing cheers from friends kept me smiling

My first thought as I neared the 10K point was: Ok, it’s time to get serious.  Do I want to finish this racing wondering if I could have done better, or knowing that I gave it my all? Let’s go.

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One of the highlights of the race course, was the partially closed course and Highway 1. Flawless pavement, lots of support and no traffic make for a cyclists dream. The fact that there were 2 loops made it so I always had someone near me on the course. I’ve done plenty lonely races, let me tell you. It’s true that some of those people whizzed by me in seconds, making me question if I was moving at all, but hey, they were there. I didn’t let their race interfere with mine.

I was feeling strong until kilometer forty, when I felt my first pain. My IT band was shooting pain from my hip, through my glute, and past my knee.

I couldn’t believe that my injury was coming back to haunt me so soon into my race. My IT band has never bothered me on the bike before. I was expecting some soreness in the run (which I got) but not on the bike. F*#@. I attempted to stretch on the bike and found that getting out of my saddle to pedal helped. At 60K I had to get off and stretch. Someone from a nearby aid station came to my rescue and offered salt tablets. I was skeptical that they would solve my problem (Do you have any dry needles?), but with no other choice I downed the four tablets he gave me (thank you, kind stranger) gave my legs one last stretch and hopped back on.

The final 30K were decent. I had no more pain, and despite the (up) hilly return, I stayed positive. Leave nothing on the road. The cyclists were fewer and further between, but I kept focus. I was averaging 25KM/hr and needed to remember that this is where I wanted to be – where I planned to be.  For a brief second I thought about some of the athletes that were likely minutes from the finish line. I commended them, and then crushed those thoughts. This is my race.

Seeing Coach Jeff and his wife Ashley at the turn off was like icing on the cake, for training with them in the cold winter months is where it started.

I reminded myself to eat more as I returned. Listening to more seasoned athletes, I knew that I may have trouble taking on calories for the final trek, so now was the time. Fuel, fuel, fuel. Gels, banana, Hammer.

I saw my mom first as I retuned from the bike leg. I heard Tim, his family and my friends. I saw Gus and Dawson dogs. I made it in and out of T2 much quicker. Again, I heard Jenn & Mark cheering me through…when I went beyond the regular T2 activities (having a drink, stretching my legs, perhaps thinking of grabbing a little nap) I could have bet my allowance that I would hear Mark say “Get outta there Becky!”. I heard it before I actually heard it. It made me smile and most definitely got my ass in gear. Thank you.

I couldn’t believe I’d already made it through the swim and the bike portion. I knew I’d been out for over fours hours already, but in an inexplicable way time was flying. I was feeling high as I headed out to the run course and received a high-five from Shane.

A saving grace of getting off the bike at the Algonquin was the gentle decline for the first three kilometers. True, I would have to climb back up (twice!) but to loosen my legs and to feel strong at the start was ideal.

I have yet to talk about the volunteers and race crew of this race. It could be a separate blog post. They are amazing, they were up all night to clear the streets after the hurricane. The roads were spotless, all the aid stations were present, they cheered us on. The people of St. Andrews went above and beyond throughout the run. The water, the sponges and the hoses were my saving grace under that blazing sun. And when I ran through town with Kenny Loggin’s “Footloose” blaring through the speakers, I knew I’d died and gone to triathlon heaven.

The run was challenging, but I managed to keep my pace between 6:10 – 6:40 min/KM. I walked only when at the aid stations drinking. I knew if I stopped for a walk break, I’d be done for. High fives from some ironmen kept me positive as I rounded for my second loop. Even up that final slope to the finish line where I thought about letting myself take a little walk break, I powered through and kept on running.

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Blurry, but captures the moment of friends cheering me to the finish

And then I heard it.

My team. 🙂

“GO Becky”

“You MADE it”

“100 meters left!”

“Amazing, Girl”

“Becky!”

Then, and now when I write this, I tear up.

The support I’ve had every step of the way – from people that may not even realize it – has made this experience more than I could have ever hoped for.

Crossing the finish line was surreal. I wish I could slow it down, or possibly relive it. I kept running an extra 20M to ensure that I was actually over the mat.

A medal. A Finisher T-shirt. A huge hug from my mom.

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In September I set up a goal time of 6:35:00, not knowing many factors (T1, surprise vacation/eating binge, and a 2 month long injury that prevented me from running, etc.). I’m not making excuses; I’m saying that my completion time of 6:45:20 sat really, really well with me, all things considered. Two years ago I ran the Bluenose half marathon for a time of 2:18:10, which was only 20 seconds faster then this half marathon and I had a few other activities beforehand!

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And the fun post-race events that I loved every minute of:

  • The soak in Katy’s Cove with mom’s company.
  • Eating that Mars bar I had tucked away (in transition) for the occasion.
  • That shower. Oh, that shower.
  • The lie in the sun, with Tim, Karen and Gus with an ice-cold cider. Tim you’re the man for me.
  • The awards banquette.
  • The post Halifax Triathlon Club photo shoot/hang out/ice cream. You guys are amazing.

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Loved. Every. Minute.

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I love the people that were there to share this experience and their support I felt from home. To all the people that trained with me, early in the morning, mid-day, early evening; thank you, I know some workouts were better than others (Scott, I’m especially sorry about that bike ride in mid-May). To the people that lent me advice, on everything; thank you. And finally, to the people that have been so patient with me over the past six months (or more) as I put parts of my life on hold to train; thank you and I’ll be reaching out to you for a proper catch up (likely over wine).

Thank you Mom for your continued support and joining me to St. Andrew’s. It was amazing to have you there!

And thank you Tim, for knowing that I could do it. For pushing me out of bed at 5:30am, for walking the dog. Every morning. For making me dinner when I was too exhausted and cleaning up. For picking up spare tire tubes, gels, and other tri gear. For giving up your time to cheer me on always. You’re the best.

In the two hours I returned home from Challenge St. Andrews I had ventured to the hardware store, removed my broken screen door, primed the trim, scrubbed the bathroom and all my triathlon gear. Those chores that could wait until “after the race.” I’m looking forward to some down time…..but of course my head and heart can’t help thinking:

Now, when’s the next one?

Let’s have some FUN!

The final days (hours!) of training and preparing are upon me now. The race day is 8 days away. If I opt in for Bridgetown, that leaves 37 days.

In all honesty, I thought by this time I would be filled with panic, worry and stress.

But what is there to stress about? I have done the training and will do what I need to do leading up to the race. Could I have trained longer, harder, and with more discipline? Always. Could I have improved my diet? Certainly. (More spinach and less chocolate for starters). But I’ve done what I can for this 70.3 and have learned a lot for future races. Let there be many future races!

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It’s true. I requested 36 Gluteny Cake pops to consume all on my own for my birthday. No shame.

I’ve pushed myself further than I ever have before. I’ve had some amazing moments training when I’ve done more than last year’s me could ever thought possible. I have this photo of Tim and I getting ready to race the bluenose two years ago. I was completing my second half marathon and you can tell in the photo – I was terrified! It’s a good reminder of how far I’ve come. I certainly need that when I hit a wall training or get left in the dust by a fellow athlete (this happens a lot).

I also have moments when I’m running (ahem, slogging) up a monster hill and think “why haven’t I been hill training more!?” or biking into the wind using every curse word I can come up with wishing that my legs were strong to push faster, faster, faster. Damn you, wind!

I won’t become an endurance athlete over night.

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A fun 60K in May with amazing support

I wasn’t sporty in high school, dabbling here and there in a multitude of soccer, basketball and track. I never took anything serious and just had fun. I’ve been swimming since I was 5, but not competitively. I never considered myself an athlete…and while I find it hard to consider myself one today, I know I’m moving in the right direction. At 35, I am getting there. It’s a slow journey, but I’m in it for the long run. Literally.  The difference between the past and this year is I’m pushing myself further, following a plan and focusing on an end goal. I know an end goal is key in my progression.

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Team “Cherries Were on Sale” pushed me through a tough 8K in 45 minutes. Without them there, it wouldn’t have happened.

I’ve had some amazing support over the past 6 months. Words on encouragement: (that I thought may be “turn off that alarm clock!” at 5am were actually “I’m really proud you’re sticking with this”.) to advice from experienced triathletes (“you got this!” and “gradually add more time in your aero position to get use to it”) to training swims, bikes and runs with amazing people. A not so great bike ride can turn into a good experience with a good friend to commiserate with and then remind ourselves how far we’ve come! I am lucky and have truly enjoyed this journey, I would have given up a hundred times without the help of my training partners.

I’ve completed my first 90K bike this week, which felt surprisingly good. My bike is fitting and the seat feels good (huge relief on both fronts (and backsides!)). Of course, I should have done more hills.

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My first 90K!

My run is almost back to 100% of where it was, I’d say. I’m even back to enjoying the activity and not constantly focused on “Is my knee ok? ….how about now?….now?” and last week I ran a 61 minute 10K under the scorching sun. I was hoping to break the hour mark but when a friend of mine confessed that she had been chasing me the entire time and couldn’t catch up it made me feel like I wasn’t the only one suffering out there!

And the swim; I’m in the open water and it’s an adjustment. My heart rate skyrockets and I feel like I’m floundering for the first 500M. Practise makes…better and I’m taking advantage of Banook Lake being open for public swims this week.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people through the Halifax Triathlon Club. Here are a few inspirations.

My dear friend commented on one of my triathlon photos from back in the early days…[In the photo I’m trying to get my bike shorts on after the swim at one of my first triathlons. I wasn’t concerned for time or what the other athletes were thinking of me and I was just having a blast. I didn’t know any better]…and her comment was “I hope we have this much fun in St. Andrews”.

Amen. Let’s go have some f*cking fun.

 

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Sprint Triathlon 2010

Fuel for the Fire

 

Diet. It’s a four letter word… but ultimately diet is what you put in your mouth. Properly defined: the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats. I’ve never had success with a strict diet of anything. Low-carb, low-fat, atkins, paleo, it’s just not me. 

The word diet often has me flashing back to my pre-teen days when my parents were following the Susan Powter “Stop the Insanity” program. I can’t tell you much about it, except that everything was measured in baked potatoes with a strong focus on reducing fat intake. “Why eat a candy bar when you can have 34 baked potatoes instead?” It became a family joke that we still throw around today. “Are you sure you want that dessert? You could have 213 baked potatoes instead, you know” we tease.

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Diet – in the ultimate definition of the word – isn’t something I can ignore, and when I am burning an upwards of 2000 calories a day, I need to spend time thinking of my food intake and be mindful of what I’m eating and if it’s enough to keep me kicking. A balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein is key to my performance. I’m sure any athlete can attest to finishing a gruelling workout and when faced with the famish feeling reaches for something fast and, well, there. This can lead to poor choices without planning. 

 

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Garbage in, garbage out

On October 12th, 2013 I made a serious shift in my diet.

NO MORE FAST FOOD!!

Confession time: I’d eat fast food 3 times a week. Yes, I’ll biggy size that. Yes, I’ll have fries with that. And yes, I’ll add McChicken Sauce. I’d eat in my car in secret  because I knew it was WRONG. I am known as the sporty one with my colleagues, family and friends (except with my ironman friends, then I’m classified as lazy 😉 ), but I had a dirty secret. And it was what I was using for fuel, more times than I was willing to admit. And despite my workout regime, some of my pants were becoming rather tighter than when they were originally purchased.  

After one particularly disgusting meal (Spicy chicken combo, biggy sized with a coke from Wendy’s, incase you were wondering) and urging from a wise friend to watch the popular documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”, I knew I had to make a change if I wanted to put my best training foot forward for 2014. So I went cold turkey, I signed up for Home Grown Organic Food delivery and frig, why not? I bought a juicer. It was time to wake up and smell the vegetables. 

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Juicing with Joe

I know the formula for eating right, I just needed the planning and motivation to accompany it. Here I am six months later, not perfect by any means (I made homemade poutine. Three times. And I eat bacon. And drink beer. I could go on….) but I don’t get my food through a window, avoid processed foods and I spend most Sunday’s planning my weekly meals and snacks.

The meal planning is going well, I eat out at restaurants less and physically, I’m feeling much better. It’s becoming more rare for me to eat a meal and feel that gross and guilty feeling, and I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for yummy and healthy recipes. Easter Sunday found me in a sea of some of my favourite recipe books planning this weeks meals: 

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My recipe book shelf – a few of my favourite go-tos.

I’m not saying I won’t be polishing off some chocolate, ham, cheese (and more) this holiday weekend (let’s get real), but on Monday it’s back to the plan of healthy fuel to keep my training on track and feeling energized and not lethargic.

As to be expected, I’ve had moments when all I can think about is chicken mcnuggets. I haven’t caved yet, the feeling passes and I choose real food and feel great about my decision. The cravings are fewer and far between and I find my tastes are shifting…cravings for sushi, pears and hummus have taken the place of fries, burgers and mcchicken sauce.

Eating healthy takes time, planning, investment and desire – I’m not perfect but I’m happy to be moving in the right direction.

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On and Off the Fitness Wagon

For the past 3 months I feel I’ve been doing well on the healthy living side of things. I even made it to the gym quite a few times over the holidays. The food intake was a tad on the extreme side, but December happens and I’ve decided to just embrace it. Even with the best laid meal plans, desserts, gravy and an abundance of butter happens.

I wasn’t prepared for a week in Vegas throwing me off the way it did though. (Oh Vegas! What fun we had). I know what you’re thinking: Its Sin City of course you’re going to get thrown off! But here’s the thing; I made it to the gym or went for a run everyday! I went easy on the portions (both food and drink), was up every morning by 6am being sporty, and felt mighty proud of myself….until I went to my first group class post-vacation. I felt like I was back at square one. Insert a number of explicits here. A large number.

Vegas baby, Vegas!

Thankfully, the January madness at the gym has passed and classes are have gone from barely tolerable back to comfortable. I have lost a bit of motivation, I’ll admit it. With 164 days left to train I’m missing the urgency but know I need to get out of second gear. But I’m writing this post for me, as a kick in the ass to get going again.

What will get me (and keep me) going?

  1. I need some kick-ass tunes. It’s time to bring out the big guns. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m loving Britney’s latest along with Ellie Goulding and JT. But they’re not gonna cut it this time. I’m talking Eye of the Tiger, You Give Love a Bad Name and Start me up. I truly can not go wrong with these classics on my playlist. (These songs each have over 42,000,000 views on YouTube for a reason. Tight pants and mad lyrics.)

2. I must learn to enjoy my rest days. Let the guilt go. Embrace them. Relax, nap, read, plan, love.

3. I have accepted that I’m visual and must make a plan. I won’t just fit it in throughout the week. I need to manage my schedule – write it out and adhere to it. I’ve become pretty good about doing this on Sunday afternoon and checking in Wednesday to make any modifications.

4. I will celebrate small wins…when I complete 80- 90% of my planned workouts for the week, I will be pumped! And I will happily post my workouts in a calendar I walk past 20 times a day.

5. My gym bag is filled with a ton of great stuff. I’ve invested in some great workout clothing/ sneakers and I keep my favourite shower gel for a post-workout treat. I also make sure I have everything I could possibly need (water bottle, make-up (for mid-day trips), moisturizer, towel, etc) to eliminate any excuses to skip the gym.

I will keep my gym bag packed and ready to go at all times.

6. I must remind myself that a bad workout is always better than no workout. And a bad workout isn’t usually that bad.

7. Rely on companions. My runs, swims, gym jaunts are 100 times better with a friend. Over the past year I have surrounded myself with people that have shared similar goals with me and supported me. This makes all the difference. Especially when they are driving by my house to workout – I have no excuses to not tag along!

8. Every day is a new start.

9. I’ve become comfortable going to new gyms and classes and sweating it out with strangers. Actually, beyond comfortable – I love a new class and new people! Halifax is so great for expanding one’s social circle this way. This is an awesome way to mix things up and experience muscle confusion. (Although, for the record, I’m pretty sure my muscles are always confused!)

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(I’m enjoy a 60 minute ride + core @ Cyclone Group Fitness)

10. Food & Sleep. I need a lot of both (just ask Tim) and it needs to be quality. I have been spending time researching quality food and recipes to keep me fuelled. I will not resort to finishing a gruelling workout and eating the first Dorito I see…much.

11. And finally, I must remember this lifestyle change will take time, and I will face set-backs. It’s OK..

Cheese alert! I saw this quote recently and it really resonated with me. And yes, I saw it on pinterest.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

So, I will focus on the short term goals and stick with the plan. With Saturday’s Fanfit challenge, the Frostbite 5 Miler and the 25K Moose Run, I should have just the motivation I need to keep on keepin’ on!

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All I Want for Christmas

Santa leaves some encouragement for me

All I want for Christmas is six months of smooth training that will get me through next July’s race feeling strong and accomplished.

However, there are some things that even Santa can’t deliver.

On July 22nd,  I committed to compete in my first ever 70.3 distance triathlon. Otherwise know as the half ironman distance. Or  as I like to think of it in metric terms: ~113 KM’s without a motor. Call it what you will, it’s a big deal in my world. Something that I was part of (the 1900M swim) in 2009 and vowed I would come back to, someday.

I’ve begun my training, somewhat. I am working on my base, meaning that I have joined a gym for the first time in ten years and attending classes. Lots of them. Spinning, body pump, core classes and more. I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but I am finding incredible comfort getting to know my fitness leaders and sweating (along with grunting) it out with others. All ages, sizes and abilities are in my classes and I love it.

Last week, during a particularly gruelling spin class, my mind wondered back to: why I’m doing this? My goals. And as I looked around the room I think I could safely say that my goals are not the same as my neighbours, and I enjoyed wondering what everyone else’s motivations may have been. I suspect that there are a few triathletes in my crowd from time to time, but I bet we’ve got all types of athletes in the room. Diversity. I love it.

Triathlons bring a lot of diversity and I think that’s why I’ve fallen hard for this sport. The majority of athletes aren’t perfect at all areas, and that’s what makes it challenging and fun. Everyone is looking to improve in some area or increase their distance or work on their transition time. There are so many areas to focus on and I love it. I enjoy running, but found training for a marathon a bit boring and lonely. Mix in swimming and biking – with a club? Now you’re talking!

So Santa, if you are in fact reading this, could you please bring me an injury-free year, with extra motivation and  supreme focus? Let me not compare myself with others, but focus on a better me for 2014. Oh, and new pair of running shoes to take me across the finish line next July 6th.