The Pros and Cons of Olympianism

An athlete who has qualified and is a medal contender chooses not to go to the Olympics. Another athlete who has worked so hard for the chance to go to the Olympics cannot compete due to injury or has an off-year and is deselected from the team.

Life isn’t logical. Sport is not fair. What something means to you may have a different meaning to someone else. I just read this blog titled “Olympic sportsmanship or not!” that got me thinking…

The blog I mention brings up many questions: Because a qualified athlete makes the choice to not to go to the Olympics does it diminish its meaningfulness? Is opting out an insult to those who work so hard for that chance? Should only sports that revolve around the Olympics as the pinnacle of achievement be allowed at the Games? Indirectly – if an athlete is already making millions from their sport does that mean they will automatically feel indifferent to competing at the Olympic Games? On the flip side, does competing and winning a medal at the Olympic Games instantly guarantee stardom and financial success for the struggling amateur athlete?

These days you can be a “professional” athlete competing in an amateur sport. Cycling is one example but I’m not going to get into the what defines amateur versus professional debate here.

I have an old book I love called, “On the Run: In Search of the Perfect Race”. When the book was published in 1979, to give you and an idea of who is speaking below, the co-author, a runner,  Marty Liquori had been ranked 1st in the world in the 1500m and 5000m on the track. He was also the American record holder at two miles and 5000m, while also having run the fifth-fastest mile of all time. When it comes to the Olympics, at 19 years of age, Marty was the youngest to reach the Olympic final in the 1500m. Read the book for the full story. I love it for the insights on the psychological and physical setbacks of a runner, or any athlete who is constantly pushing their limits.

On the run

When it comes to perspectives on a career and the Olympics the following two excerpts, one from a competitor, and one from the author, point out two very contrasting perspectives on the meaning of the Olympics:

“I know the expectations of people in my country. Every day they’d like a new world record. But I don’t care. I’m running only for the Olympic Games. There are runners and there are runners. Some do well in other races, some run fast times, but they cannot do well in the ultimate, the Olympics. The value of the Olympics remains. If you win, you’re lasting. And the Games include all the best runners, they are the true world championships. I’m not the only one who thinks this way. All runners want to run against the very best. The question is not why I run this way, but why so many others cannot.” (Lasse Viren, Finland, Munich Games 5000 & 10 000m champion, p. 41)

“This isn’t track to me, it’s something else – call it Olympianism. It represents the opposite end of my philosophy, which is to run many races and try to win them all. To me, a champion is measured by his durability over a number of years, not just by two races, every four years. I think his way insults the fans and his competitors. I don’t want you to come out and run against me when you’re in the same kind of shape as the jogger on my block. I don’t need that thrill, and you’re probably doing it just for money….I believe kids should go out and get the most they can from every race, they should go out and enjoy every meet for what it is. I don’t think you should always be thinking of the future. I don’t think you should be satisfied with a bunch of fourths and fifths, thinking always that it’s someday going to pay off. That’s not necessarily true. It doesn’t always work out that way. I know. I’m a living example of the fickle nature of sport.” (Marty Liquori, p. 41)

Regardless of philosophy, it isn’t lost on me that where I live in Canada many careers in sport depend on the Olympics. Funding goes to the sports with the most medal potential, which creates jobs that support those athletes and in turn provides more opportunity for athletes to reach their potential. Athletes who have no other sources of sport income (e.g. sponsorship) depend on it. Even in my field, the need for applied sport psychology consultants has grown because of the recognition of the importance of the mental game, especially when preparing for the high stakes, pressure cooker of the Olympic Games: those two weeks every four years when the non-loyal fans actually pay attention.

However, I will not define my career as a consultant by how many Olympians I have worked with, I’m not in that game. Nor do I believe athletes should define the worth of their athletic career based on four-year intervals. Not all sports are in the Olympics that “should” be. Not all athletes who “deserve” to compete get the opportunity to do so. More comes down to luck than most of us would like to admit.

I will always remember what my brother’s coach said when he qualified for his first Olympics in 2000 in Sydney, “Remember, it’s just another race.” And I get the common rebuttal, “Just another competition/tournament/race? It is but is isn’t!” From the outside it isn’t but perhaps the athletes who can remember and practice like it is on the inside can avoid the potential disillusionment of “Olympianism”.They can focus on celebrating every step of their career and ironically be most ready to seize the opportunity to perform their best when it “counts the most”, if that is your thinking…




Ride like Yer Mom!

On Hornby Island, B.C. there is a trail called “Yer Mom”. It makes me smile and think of moms out there riding and I love that it’s a tough trail described on as the “Only trail with significant technical features. Large built up drops, gap jumps and skinnies. Most features have a ride around.New optional feature has been added to the trail. Its a 25 foot road gap that enters just passed the skinny to rock-face.”

However, it also makes me chuckle how often my 6 year son Nico will ask while out riding, “Mom, Uncle Geoff could ride that right?” When examining a feature or a descent its a fun way to assess together whether something is rideable. I may reply, ‘yes I’m sure he could ride that!’ or ‘hmmm, not sure that would be safe for anyone to attempt’. Or I may also need to add, “Yes, and mommy could do it too! Want to see?”


While I appreciate that the importance and value of my son’s male role models to look up to: the older boys at the bike park, family members like uncle, grandpa, and papa, I also take pride in the fact that I can model to my son and daughter that women can enjoy and embrace the technical and physical challenges of mountain biking the same way boys and men can. And that women can go for speed, distance, or strength in any other sport we so chose to participate in!

A friend pointed out to me recently that we are now seeing the first generation of kids riding and racing mountain bikes whose parents raced when they were kids. These parents are often still enjoying the sport competitively, or at least recreationally. The kids that grew up in the 1980s experiencing the beginnings of mountain biking are now raising kids and enjoying the sport alongside them.

I was fortunate and proud to be a member of the amazingly well supported, all-women’s professional mountain bike team, the LUNA Pro Team while racing Xterra triathlons from 2008-2014. After retiring from racing Xterra professionally, I kept running and swimming regularly but found myself begrudgingly saying ‘I don’t have time to ride’. After a certain amount of self-induced bike deprivation I realized how much I missed whizzing along the road, or rumbling down a trail in the woods on my bike. Plus my quads were shrinking, and who wants to lose all that hard earned leg power?! So the balance has swung back and biking has come back up the priority pole. As much as I’m motivated to stay fit enough to ride with my friends, especially my fast girlfriends, I also want to be able to keep up with my kids on their bikes as long as possible. I want to show them that moms don’t need to slow down or stop anytime soon! AND I aspire to be riding the trails as well as my parents, and my children’s grandparents still are in their seventies!

As women, it can be easy to find excuses not to get out there in the still male dominated sport of mountain biking. You’re only too old, too slow, too tired, too busy or too fearful if you continue to tell that story to yourself. It makes me sad when I don’t see more girls at the bike park or women out on the trails. But every time I do I smile and keep up the hope that girls will continue to feel more confident to try riding off-road. And persist long enough to discover the high of flowing up and down the trails on two wheels too! And yes, sometimes mommy can ride the same things as your Uncle Geoff!

Daring Greatly

As the climax of another four-year summer Olympic cycle is rapidly approaching, intensity levels rise, and emotions are charged as dreams will be made and dreams will be crushed. There is a sense of urgency in the air as the time remaining to make the team or the Olympic standard is running out with each passing day.

As an athlete you may feel as if there is constant pressure – to beat the other(s), to impress, to please your supporters, to win the ultimate prize. With all the hard work you’ve put in there can be the fear of losing, coming up short, or failing to make the goal you’ve been striving towards for so long.

On the other side of fear and pressure is courage. In sport there are no guarantees. But choosing to go for it is to dare greatly. It is choosing to put your self out there, give it everything you’ve got and risk falling on your face, sometimes literally. As I watched the women’s most recent cross-country mountain bike World Cup race this past weekend in Albstadt, Germany, the eventual second place women’s finisher took a huge crash on her face at high-speed early on in the race, before shaking if off, getting going again, and coming back strong. Whether falling down literally or not, such moments can knock the wind out of our sails.

Overcoming the falls takes bravery and courage to get back up with pure grit, determination and resolve to find out what your potential really is? Even though failures are unwanted along the way, they are a time to pause and reflect; a time to embrace the emotional consequences and discomfort. In the moment of racing, it is the time to focus on simply doing the best you can. In the end there is no learning and a lot less self-discovery without accepting failures along the way. It means saying, no matter how far you get or how much you may feel is left undone, you can say, “I am enough”.

While most people spend their life on the couch, be proud to be one of the few that dares to step into the “arena”.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

-Thomas Jefferson (epigraph from 1910 “Man in the Arena” speech)

Thank-you LUNA!

Almost exactly eight years ago, with a two month-old baby girl at home I was offered my dream contract as an an athlete – to race with the LUNA Pro team. It was all the motivation I needed to get training and get back into the best shape of my life! Thank-you to Luna for believing in me, supporting my racing and helping me to come back stronger than ever into motherhood times two! It was the ride of a life time as an athlete for seven years on the Luna Pro Team and one year as Luna Chix Sponsored athlete. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to compete at the level I have for as long as I have, and am especially proud to have worked with and represented such a progressive and incredible company as Clif Bar and Luna in this last racing chapter.

As I look back I have no regrets. I’m thankful for the years I had to put into life and racing challenges as a runner on the track, as a cross-country mountain bike racer, and finally as an Xterra off-road triathlon racer. More importantly I’ve met and made so many incredible friends that will last way beyond the next race. I look forward to lots of play in 2016 and maybe the occasional race purely for fun!


Photo during first Luna team camp in March 2008


One of the few times an Xterra run felt almost effortless on my way to 2nd place at the 2008 World Championships

xterra maui 2010

The year our amazing Luna mechanic, Chris, raced the World Championships with Shonny and I in 2011


Lots of amazing places to ride and race via Luna support for Xterra!

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The best support crew ever in Maui 2012 with my family and awesome Luna team manager, Waldek holding Nico

2013 Luna Camp

2013 Team camp – Cheers to Gary and Kit (pictured in the middle and co-founders of Clif Bar) who started the Luna Pro team, a professional women’s only mountain bike team launched in 2001

Sports Parenting in 10 Sentences

Some great succinct advice here!



1 word: Hi.  Greet your child when they get in the car with “Hi” before you ask about practice, the score of the game or homework.  

2 words: Have fun.  In all likelihood you’ve heard this statistic: 70% of kids quit sports before they turn 13 for the primary reason that they are not having fun.    Encourage and remind your kids to have fun.

3 words: Tell me more.  Before forming an opinion or dispensing advice, ask for more information from your child.  This will force them to tell more of the story and give you more information as to what is actually happening.  

4 words: Good job. Keep working.  Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers and parent of a NBA player suggests these four words.  Rivers notes that as parents we are often tempted to say…

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2012 in Pictures

Wow, 2012 you went by way too fast. And here is my second annual choose a random highlight photo from each month of the year….

January: Lots of playtime on the kitchen floor under mommy’s feet!

A lot of play time on this kitchen floor under mommy's feet

February: Indoors or out, Chariots are the most comfortable ride there is!P1010025

March: Luna Pro Team camp in Sausilito, CA


April: Xterra Season kicks off in Vegas, joining my favorite Xterra ladies on the podium

xterra west women's podium

May: Birthday month for both boys in the family!


June: Enjoying the outdoor season at the Calgary Zoo


July: Fabulous fun in the sun at the family cabin on Hornby Island, B. C.

July2012 012

August: At our favourite neighbourhood park with Grand-mama

august2012 072

September: Zoe turns 5, starts kindergarten, and completes her first kids race!

Maui2012 012

October: Not-so-great Xterra Worlds race but great family time!


November: Hey look, we’re back at the same dinosaur with some more friends!


December: After a year long renovation, enjoying our new home for Christmas and guess who needs a haircut?!


My Top 10 Post-Season Reflections

1. Although I was definitely not saying this after crossing the finish line in Maui, since the post-race dust has settled, I have to concur that Xterra racing is truly the most fun, mountain bike racing takes a close second, occasional road triathlons are interesting fitness challenges. and running races always hurt!!

2. My coach and ultimate training buddy (when he is not injured from tree collisions or falling off bridges :)) keeps every season exciting with an incredible variety of challenging training! Thanks Coach Cal and all my motivating CSR training friends!

3. Racing while raising little people has it challenges but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

4. I have an amazingly supportive family: husband, parents, and inlaws that can often travel on demand when needed!

5. Breastfeeding a child beyond two years old will not hinder athletic performance

6. But racing on day 3 away from your breastfed child with full milk jugs can be painful!

7. Maui-like weather is great and pretty alright to race in but I’m a Canadian girl who loves my seasons – bring on the skiing and snowshoeing!

8. Being incredibly lazy, and eating whatever and whenever I want is only fun for about 7-10 days!

9. At almost two weeks into the off-season I’m already excited to get back to my “athletic job” for the best and most supportive professional women’s team that races in the dirt in the world – I’m so lucky to be a Luna Chix!

10. Did I mention how high Xterra racing is on the fun factor? “Forward 2013!!!”

Moms Competing in the London Olympics!

With the 2012 summer about to start, here are a few of the mom’s I know of competing in London, each pictured below in full competition! If you know of any others please let me know and I can add them to this list of moms to cheer on! Click on the athlete’s name for to learn more about each “Olympic Mom”

Aretha (Hill) Thurmond, 35, USA (Athletics-Discus). Aretha was a teammate of mine at the University of Washington and went to her first Olympics as a sophomore. She has a five-year old son, and London will be her 4th Olympic Games.

Jessica Zelinka, 30, Canada (Athletics – Heptathlon, 100m Hurdles). Jessica was 4th at the Beijing Olympics in Heptathlon and now has a 3-year-old daughter. She recently set a Canadian record in the Heptathlon and is the current Canadian Champion in the 100m Hurdles, in which she will also compete in London.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, 39, Norway (Cross-Country Mountain Biking). Gunn-Rita won the cross-country gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games and she is a multiple World Champion. She gave birth to her son in 2009 and won her first World Cup in four years in May showing she is in great form for her second Olympics!

Kara Goucher, 34, USA (Athletics – Marathon). Kara is a long distance runner with an amazing career, she competed in the 10, 000 meters at the Beijing Olympics. Her son Colt was born in September, 2010. She will be competing in the marathon in London.

Christine Rampone, 37, USA (Soccer). Christine plays defender as a member of the USA women’s soccer team. She has two daughters, ages 6 and 2. London will be her fourth Olympics!

Kerri Walsh, 33, USA (Beach Volleyball). Kerri and her teammate, Misty-May Treanor were the gold medalists in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics and have been called “the greatest beach volleyball team of all time!” Since Beijing she has given birth to two sons, ages 2 and 3! London will be her fourth Olympics!

Thinking of getting active again? Thoughts on getting back in shape after having kids

Reasons not to start exercising again:

I’m not getting enough sleep yet, my baby might need to nurse while I’m gone, I might miss a critical developmental “moment” in my child(rens) life, I should really take the little extra time I have to clean the house, do laundry, cook etc instead, it will be depressing to see how much fitness I’ve lost as compared to pre-kids, what if I still don’t lose the baby weight, I’ll feel guilty taking more time to myself on top of work etc, I might not fit in my workout clothes yet, I’m a mom now and my priorities have changed, I want to be available to my kids and family 24-7, I can’t afford a babysitter, I can’t afford a gym pass, I don’t have time, I’ll wait until the weather improves, I’ll wait until the kid(s) are just a little bit older, what if my body has not fully recovered from childbirth, it might hurt my milk-filled boobs, I feel guilty leaving the kids with anyone else but me, what if I can’t keep up to my previous training partners, kids take every last ounce of my energy, when it comes to exercise its all or nothing for me, baby steps are for babies, I’d rather take a nap

Reasons to get out the door and exercise again:

I just want to get moving! ! Healthy mom = happy mom = happy family!