Athlete-mom interview: Alison Archambault

Meet Alison Archambault, of beautiful Bragg Creek, Alberta. My good friend Richelle Love introduced me to her online. I will let Richelle’s words introduce this athlete-mom. I love Alison’s story, her approach, perspectives and her wise advice:

There is the most amazing athlete mom I know! Her name is Alison. She is a single mom who’s daughter does a tonne of extra curricular activities and she is always there with and for her daughter AND she works full time and then some, is a volunteer firefighter and she trains dogs to be companions for those with special needs! All with gratitude, a smile and an awesome sense of humour. I literally don’t know how she does it all. She is just amazing. I do know that she has fallen asleep on her trainer before….. You would love her D!


What was your life like athletically (or otherwise) and how has it evolved since becoming a mother? 

I have always been active as a runner and a swimmer.  After my daughter was born (Mackaela, now 11), I suffered from postpartum and was really looking for something that was “mine” because the new titles I had like “Mom”, “working Mom” etc were heavy!  My daughter was almost a year old, the baby weight was still there and I was feeling the farthest thing from myself, when I heard an advertisement on the radio when driving to work one day for a women’s triathlon (Strathmore Women’s Triathlon).  I figured since I already ran and swam, how hard could it be to add in a little bike ride?  Famous last words!  The race didn’t come together at all well, but I was hooked!

My athletic life has ramped up considerably since Mackaela joined my family.

My long-time partner was a military veteran.  He was impacted by PTSD and mental wellness issues.  While we were still together, I knew it was important for me to have a stress release from the heavy, dark blanket of sadness that began increasing cover our home – triathlon training definitely did that.   As the stress and sadness at home increased, I trained more and more.  Training and doing triathlons helped me develop the mental strength and clarity to make important decisions about my daughter and my physical safety and emotional well-being.  It kept me grounded.  As a single parent, and especially as my daughter gets older and navigates our body-conscious world, physical wellness has become even more important to me as part of setting a healthy example for my daughter, as well as making sure I have time to myself to re-group before I have to go home to my beautiful pre-teen (and all the challenges and joys of that life stage!).

Did you train during pregnancy? If so please describe.

I continued to train for long distance running races and swimming races throughout my pregnancy until shortly before my daughter’s birth – I honestly think my body would have revolted if I stopped doing something it had been doing for 20 years!   I was fortunate that my OB was a long distance runner herself and a tremendous advocate for “keep doing it”.  Physical activity wasn’t always comfortable as my body changed, but it helped me feel as normal as possible during pregnancy.  I did the Kananaskis 100 mile relay 3 weeks before my daughter was born….I’m pretty sure that’s what helped her make the decision to enter the world a bit early!


What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing? How has your athletic life evolved or change throughout motherhood so far? 

My daughter and our active lifestyle inspire me to train, and keep training, because I want to be able to stay active and keeping up to my daughter for a long time to come.  We live in Bragg Creek and spend everyday hiking to the top of mountains and exploring.  I don’t have an atypical triathlete’s physique, but my athletic dreams and passions aren’t defined by that.   It’s important for me to set a good example for my daughter, her friends and other women about what is achievable when you set your mind to it.   My daughter comes to all my triathlons, and volunteers at countless events to support others achieving their goals and cheers her heart out.  I’m not sure I ever appreciated how much my commitment to physical fitness would create a space of empathy and encouragement in her to support others in their achievements.

My athletic life hasn’t changed much since my daughter arrived, what has changed is how I approach training and what I’m training for.  As her primary caregiver for most of my daughter’s life, like so many other athletic moms I’ve had to juggle training around family and work demands.  I have a high demand executive-level job, life on my acreage requires a lot of work and in my spare time, I’m a volunteer firefighter/medic and train service dogs.  I’ve got a lot on the go, and those passions take time away from training and family.  When my daughter was younger, I would run the highway and  driveway up to our acreage in 15 minute increments so I could check on her, or have her sit in a lawn chair and count my hill reps.  Sometimes I combine my run in the evenings on a mountain trail with her riding her bike and the dogs running alongside me.  She used to practice counting for math class by counting laps at the pool while I trained.  My coach also lets my daughter join into club training swim nights so I don’t have to make the choice between “Mom’ing” and training.  I always carry my cell phone with me to train, on days when she’s feeling a bit clingy, she calls me to chat.  Sometimes we chat for 20 minutes of an hour-long bike ride.


Regardless of the size of my fitness goal, I’ve learned the importance of having a ‘community’ of like-minded people as part of my support network.   Rose and Richelle at Tri It Multisport were instrumental not only in outfitting me in pretty and functional gear to help me achieve my goals, they have also encouraged me endlessly and introduced me to the Triathlete Within Club to ensure I had people to train with safely in, and off, season – many of whom have become some of my closest friends.  The club has members from all walks of life and all fitness goals, but the coaches really unite everyone behind positive attitudes, safety, sportsmanship and the notion that there’s room for everyone’s goals and dreams always.   This year, I invested in a coaching relationship with Coach Chris Lough to help me achieve my wild-assed goals.  Words don’t describe the peace of mind and joy I feel from having him believe in me and my goal (on hard days I feel like he might be the only one of us that does!), but as importantly, hold me accountable to the training & commitment required to achieve my goals.

My daughter decided to do her first triathlon last summer.  I helped her train and prepare for her race and then took a front row seat on course cheering my face off.  She joined Kronos Triathlon Club this year and I’ve had the privilege of watching her continue to develop a positive relationship with her body, its strength and power through sport.  I’ve watched her question her abilities to achieve her dream and then overcome the anxiety to have a great race day.  I’ve seen her develop resilience when the race doesn’t go “as planned” and always show tremendous gratitude for volunteers who make dream days possible.  I’ve watch her learn to defend “why” being active is important to her to her peers.  This all may have happened with a sedentary Mom, but I don’t believe so.

What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2016?

To date, I have competed in 6 half-iron distances and countless long distance running races. My wild-assed goal for 2016 is to complete Ironman Kentucky and I have a few lead up races like IM YYC, Blitz Duathlon and the Wildrose Triathlon to keep it real.

How do you balance family/work demands and interests etc with your athletic goals? 

I don’t buy into the concept of balance.  There’s only so many hours in the day and inevitably there’s some things that are going to get more or less of your attention at any given point in time because they need to.   You can constantly chide yourself for not being somewhere other than you are, but that doesn’t fix anything.

My daughter is the most important person in my world and she knows she’s  my #1 priority.  I am best able to be her parent and co-adventurer when I’m physically fit and emotionally healthy.  There are lots of things I’m passionate about in my life.  Creating a weekly schedule helps a lot to make sure everything/everyone gets what they need – mostly.  But, I won’t sugarcoat it…. there are times after a week full of work and supporting my princess’ life that I leave for a scheduled training run sobbing,  get in the pool with a knot in my stomach or hop on my bike after kid bedtime so late that its dark and a bit unsafe to be training so late, all the while questioning if I’m spending my time in the right places.  You just do the best you can each day and try harder tomorrow.

My coach works hard to plan training around family, work and personal commitments. My runs often take place at 4:30am and training rides often aren’t done until 9pm.  Life lesson…when the RCMP pull you over and offer to drive you & your bike home because its getting dark out – you left your ride too late after chores and homework!

Several of my Mom friends offer playdate on Big Training Days so I can get 6+ hours of training in an my daughter is still having fun.  My Triathlete Within pals and I frequently rearrange our schedules so we can train together and hold each other company – misery loves company.

Fortunately, my daughter is usually kinder to me than I am to myself, and that’s an important lesson to learn. I came in from an early morning run not too long ago, my daughter was awake watching TV before school and I apologized for not being there when she woke up.  Her reply back sticks with me:

“It’s okay, Mom.  You’ve got big dreams.  If strong girls don’t show me and my friends that we can do triathlons, how will we know how big we can dream?”

Being creative on how I get my training in helps and keeping things in perspective, is important.  A few weeks ago, I had a training ride scheduled on a Thursday evening and my daughter begged me to let her ride with me.  My inside voice was frustrated as I needed to get my ride in but Mom duties ALWAYS come first.  An hour later, after she braved her first highway ride, I reflected on how inspired I was by her and how joyful I was about the evening we had.  If I wasn’t physically active I wouldn’t have had that amazing experience. I hadn’t been flexible with the plan for the night, I would have missed out on making memories with my girl.  Finding my joy while training and racing is always a priority!


Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or continuing to train/compete with children? 

Just start.

Be kind to yourself – you will always be harder on yourself than you family will.

Be brave – set big goals and don’t apologize for them.

Sign up for races in your desired sport – the energy is contagious and having community is awesome.

Bring your kids with you to races

Make sure your heart and head are where your feet are – get a good training run in, then go home and be a great Mom.

If you’re feeling super stressed about leaving your kids to go train, trust your instincts: grab a little one close and skip training for the day once in a while.

Be creative in how you train – include your kids when you can.

(Try to) Drop the Mommy guilt.

Offer an encouraging word when you see another woman out training.  A little ‘darn you look strong’, goes a long way to quelling someone else’s Mommy guilt and could in turn remind you, it’s ok to do it too!

Find your joy – do physical activities that make you happy.

Find a support network of pals to train with.

Offer to look after someone’s children so they can get away to train – it’s a priceless gift with amazing karma


Athlete-Mom Interview: Sharon Styles

Meet Sharon Styles, a coach (Team TriLife), runner, triathlete, wife and mom of two teenagers from Calgary, Alberta. While our paths crossed in Alberta such as at the Great White North triathlon in 2013 (pictured below), I unfortunately didn’t get to know much about Sharon, until now! Thanks for sharing your story Sharon, for another awesome perspective and great tips for balancing it all. Read on for another dose of momthlete inspiration as she talks about athletic pursuits with teenage children in the family!

Great White North Triathlon 2013 Overall Women's Podium

Great White North Triathlon 2013 Overall Women’s Podium (Sharon on far right)

1. What was your life as an athlete before and after kids? And how has it evolved as your children have grown?

I discovered I was a decent distance runner back in junior high, doing those dreaded 12 minute run tests.  I joined track in junior high but really started to love running in high school.  I competed in track and field and cross-country running in high school as well as some competitive swimming and cross-country skiing.   I went on to run track and cross country with the University of Saskatchewan.   After my daughter Ayden, now 17, was born I made the transition to 10km road races and continued to race at that distance after my son, Liam, now 14, was born.   After having to take a year off of running due to injury in 2005/2006 I decided to give triathlon a try in 2007 and was instantly hooked.   I started out with some sprint distance tri’s and quickly moved up to the olympic and half iron distance races where I found myself enjoying age group success.  Over the past three years I have seen huge improvements in my racing and I’ve become more competitive, investing more time into training as well as improving my health.

  1. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and/or continue racing?

I feel like being a runner (now a triathlete) was a huge part of what defined me.   Being a healthy mother is a vital part of raising a family and running was simply a part of my daily routine and a healthy lifestyle.   Making time for it was as important to me as brushing my teeth.    I feel the same way now 17 years later, not just because being an athlete is a big part of what I am ( I love training and racing) but also because I value being fit and healthy.   I love that,  with my husband, I have set an example for my children on how to maintain health and fitness throughout your life.

  1. Did you “train” during your pregnancies? How has your training/racing evolved/changed over the years as a mother?

I stayed active throughout my pregnancies, with easy running in the early months and transitioning to cycling and walking in the later months.   I kept my workouts fairly easy.

Over the years my training and racing has definitely become more serious.    When the kids were small I stuck to running only, which made it a lot easier to get workouts in because you can take the kids with you most of the time.  I hauled my kids around in a double chariot for quite a few years!  When my daughter started riding a two-wheeler she would ride along side or sometimes we would even hook the chariot up to her bike and she would pull her brother while I pushed.   As they got older and grew out of the chariot I often ran small loops around our rural property while they played outside or I would get it done on the treadmill.  Even on gorgeous days I remember doing  trainer rides on the deck while the kids played in the yard.

Of course now they can look after themselves when I go out training, or if I am really lucky they will join me on a run.

Sharon volunteering at Alberta Summer Games while son, Liam competed in track

Sharon volunteering at Alberta Summer Games while son, Liam competed in track

  1. What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2015?

In 2015 my goal races are the Wasa Lake Triathlon, Great White North Triathlon and ITU Worlds in Chicago where I want to defend my 2014 age group Gold medal.  I want to continue to get faster in 2015 and hope to improve on my Olympic distance and half iron distance pr’s.

  1. How do you balance family/work demands and interests with your athletic goals? 

In lots of ways training and racing with older children is even harder than when they were younger.   Timing seems to be everything, from weekly training volume to the big races.    I am a running and triathlon coach so I do some of my work from home and train during the day while the kids are in school.   Evenings and weekend are full of sports and extra curricular activities.   Saturdays have become one of the hardest days to get a training session in.  When I train during the school day I will often take my laptop with me to practices and work where ever the kids are.   I will also fit training sessions in during kids’ practices, running, swimming or cycling during volleyball, soccer, baseball, track, guitar….  I have worked out in a lot of different venues, including vacations.  My kids always joke how mom turns relaxation into workouts.

When it comes to racing there are only 2 or 3 races I firmly commit to, and I don’t travel far for most of them.  The rest of my races I try to work around the kids schedules so I can be there for their important games / tournaments / meets.

Of course it helps to have a supportive spouse!  My husband Marty, an avid Crossfitter, is able to be sports dad x2 when I head away to race.   Of course if the crew is free, they are there to cheer me on for the bigger races.   When I recently competed at the ITU World’s in Edmonton they were there to cheer. Nothing meant more than having them there to celebrate with me.

Sharon and family at 2014 ITU Worlds in Edmonton

Sharon and family at 2014 ITU Worlds in Edmonton

  1. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children? And more specifically tips for teenage years?

Make your goals and fitness a priority, but within reason.  Keep it simple.  Your teens need you around, even though they would disagree.    Sure, they don’t want to talk to you 75% of the time, but you can’t miss the 25% when they do.  I want to be at their special events as much as I want them at mine.    I want them to know they are more important to me than racing, and yeah, I do love them more than I love my bike, despite the jokes

Be flexible….   Know that sometimes your workout needs to be done between events and that the other parents will get used to seeing you in spandex and not smelling all that great.    Sometimes the Saturday long run has two options, 6am in the dark or 6pm in the dark, and you make it work.  If you planned on a 1 hour work out one day and only had time for 20 minutes, that’s OK. The benefits to your mind and body are incredible even without the volume.

Menu planning….being on top of this is so important for both you and your family to eat healthy.   Planning meals that  can be eaten on the go or that you can throw in the crock pot help a ton!

Invite your kids to train with you.   They might say no 9 times out of 10, but on that 10th time, you will share something special.

Family bonding Color Me Rad Run Race 2013

Family bonding Color Me Rad Run Race 2013

Athlete-Mom Interview: Katie Palavecino

Meet Katie Palavecino, a “triathloning” mom who lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband, Matias, and two young children: 2.5 year old son, Leo, and 16-month old daughter, Chloe. Katie and I first met in 2008 at a Luna Chix summit and have kept up with each other now and then online since then. Read on to see how this crack-of-dawn rising mom balances family-time, work and training with that other thing we all deal with along the way – mom-guilt! When Katie isn’t training with her current team HPB, she manages to also find the time to keep a family blog ( and a training/racing blog ( You can also follow Katie on twitter: @k80gage


What was your life as an athletically, and otherwise, before having children? How has it evolved before and between each of your children?

I met my husband, Matias, in 2007 at a masters swim practice.  We were married in August of 2011 and soon after had two children, Leo (2.5 years) and Chloe (16 months).

Triathlon has become my lifestyle since I did my first triathlon in 2005. It has had it’s ups and downs since then but has always been and will always be a part of my life. The summer before Leo was born after several years of heavy training all I could think was…I wish I had a baby so I wasn’t expected to go on a 6 hour bike ride every weekend!  I needed and wanted  to find more of a balance in my life.

Now as a mother, the volume of training has definitely decreased…while the intensity has increased….quality over quantity!

Chloe 1 year-15

What has motivated and inspired you to get training and racing again?

Balancing family, work and training is a challenge…but anything worth doing is worth overdoing right?! Managing it all on a daily basis is extremely fulfilling to me.

Since becoming a mom I still have a lot of the same motivation to train…as it has become my lifestyle and a part of me.  And now with a family have added more motivation…I want to set a good role model for my children and I need to stay fit to keep up with my two bundles of energy!

One aspect of triathlon that has somewhat dropped since having a family is the social aspect.  I don’t have as much time to go on group rides/runs/masters practices or happy hours.  I got a coach in August to help with giving my quality workouts that I could do on my own and keep me from overtraining…knowing when I can stop and I have trained hard enough for the day.

Did you “train” during your pregnancies? 

I stayed active through both pregnancies…swimming, spinning, or jogging every day…just got to keep moving.  With both I swam right up until the day I delivered.  I think I did about 500 miles in the pool with each 🙂


What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2015?

After back to back pregnancies and not much racing for 2 seasons…2014 was all about feeling it out at local races…seeing how competitive I wanted to be.  Training and keeping in shape will always be part of my life…but the racing I was unsure of.  My first race back and it was like nothing changed!  I was loving it.

2015…hoping to venture out a bit.  I have always struggled with running.  Hoping to get that more solid and have a successful half ironman, as well as compete in my favorite local races.

How do you balance family/work demands and interests etc with your athletic goals? 

As much as I am motivated and driven to continue in the sport…I still struggle with mom guilt.  Before children I thought it would be about finding the TIME to balance it all.  But I have all the time I need.  I have a super supportive hubby and I don’t like to sleep.  But there is this thing called mom GUILT that gets me!  Or not so much guilt but wanting to be with my kids.  I plan my days and balance of family/work/training to minimize this feeling 🙂  Love hurts!  (in a very good way)

I work at home full-time as a Patent Examiner for the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  The job is extremely flexible.   A typical day is getting up before everyone (4:30am) and rolling up to my office to start work.  Once the family gets up (6ish) we all hang out and they are out the door to daycare (7ish).  Then is my training time.  Then it is back to my desk.  Often days I am able to finish early and pick the kids up and do something fun before the evening routine of dinner/bath/bed.

Chloe 1 year-8

Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children?

Routine and planning!  Making a schedule with your family (hubby) is such a huge help!

Also having the help from a coach…with less time to get in with groups it gives focus and quality workouts and having that accountability to someone.

Incorporating family into workouts is huge too.  Some weekends can be crazy with my hubby and I both trying to fit training in.  Taking kids to the pool with us to play a bit, jogging with the kids in the stroller, riding with the kids in the trailer…all ways to get in workouts while spending time with family 🙂

Athlete-Mom Interview: Richelle Love

Meet Richelle Love! As her name suggests Richelle exudes a love for life, family, and fitness that is contagious. And she blends and balances these loves in her work as the General Manager/Part Owner of Tri-It Multisport, a store for all the latest and coolest swim-bike-run products located in Calgary, Alberta. Richelle and I have put on two women’s mountain bike clinics together in the last few years and it was mainly thanks to her amazing organizational skills! Richelle lives in Cochrane, Alberta with her husband, Jeff and 15-month old son, Rowan. Read on for a yet another unique perspective for my first athlete-mom interview of 2014! As you can also see from the photos below there is rarely a moment Richelle is not smiling when out enjoying her favourite activities!


What was you life as an athlete (or otherwise) before having Rowan? I have always been athletic. Running, mountain biking and triathlon have been my main activities for the past 20 years. Right before getting pregnant I came off a great season of mountain bike racing and my second Ironman.

 What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing again after one child? Doing something for me that I love. My runs (and especially my long runs) are much needed “me” time. Being able to keep up with my little guy also pushes me to stay fit. I want to be that mom who is able to ride her bike with her son and play all day at the park.


 Did you “train” during your pregnancy? What has your training been like post-childbirth? I was really active until around 6 months – teaching cycling classes, running, swimming, coaching a mountain bike camp for women, and I even did a sprint triathlon when I was 5 months pregnant. I then had a lot of fluid build up and got very uncomfortable which led to me not doing as much physically. I wish I had made the effort to walk more at that point as I know it would have helped my fitness and made me feel better.

I had a hard labor that ended up having an unplanned c-section, so I didn’t work out until 8 weeks after my son was born. That was hard, but I started easy on the bike and walking. I then slowly progressed to short runs and built from there. I took my time getting back to it to ensure I didn’t get injured. I built up and ran a marathon when Rowan was 10 months old and ran an off road ultra marathon where I raised money for MitoCanada just before Rowan’s first birthday. It was fun to have those goals.

I have noticed though fitting training in can be trickier as a mom – most moms can relate to this. You just have to be adaptable and flexible. Sometimes you can be all ready for a run and your little one can get sick or childcare is suddenly unavailable. Shorter, harder workouts become a necessity or doing workouts with your kids involved. My new one is “look at mommy make a funny face and do a squat. Oh, it makes you laugh…I am going to do that 25 more times!”


 What are your current training/racing ambitions for 2014? My 2014 goals are the Calgary Marathon 50th Anniversary 50km run and the Lost Soul 50km Off Road Ultra. I also want to get back to Xterra racing with Xterra Canmore.


How do you balance family/work with your athletic goals? I am so lucky to be part owner of Tri It Multisport where as a team we work to ensure we put emphasis on health and wellness. It flows into all aspects of my life. I am constantly juggling things to make sure I am giving my attention to each facet as it is very easy to focus on one or two of these things as the third one suffers.

The reality is you do need more hours in a day so you have to make it happen. Getting up early to get a workout in and staying up late so you can spend some time with your partner – as work and your little one often dominate the day. The extra effort goes a long way to your success. It is hard work and you have to choose to make it happen so no one looses out, including yourself.

 Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape or even competing again after having children? Make sure you don’t rush or push to hard as you get back at it. I have seen a lot of new moms try to get back at it too early and most commonly run into hip or pelvic floor issues. When you are ready get out there and do what you like – it has to be something you are excited to get back to.

Pick a goal. It can be hard to get started if you don’t have a goal. It will also help motivate you to get your workouts in. Moms can have a lot of guilt feeling like they need to spend 100% of their attention on their kids and not on themselves. I know I can fall into that thinking very easily. Let your spouse know your goals so you can work together to make sure you get out and are active.

Be flexible. Sometimes a workout is cut short due to the naps or a sick baby. These things happen. Don’t get frustrated and do what you can. Squats while holding you little one or push-ups while playing can be an excellent workout – you choose to make it work.

If you can, buy a Chariot. They can really help you stay active with your little one. Take them along on your adventures. My little guy loves riding in the Chariot. I will take a peek when I am running and can see him looking around at all of the sights. It is good for them to get out and get the fresh air too; the Chariot makes it possible to do that in all types of weather and conditions.


Great White North Triathlon Round Two Report

It amazes me how we can push ourselves in a race, and then be hobbling around within minutes after finishing. This is what usually happens to me after these 2km swim/90km bike/21.1km run races, most commonly known as the half-ironman distance. For me, my second one in three weeks and last of the season (thank goodness!), was a, as expected, tough day! After a post-race day of total uselessness and complete mental and physical depletion (thanks kids for enjoying two rainy day afternoon Monday movies with me and bringing me Kleenex when the tears flowed during Black Beauty!) I am feeling much more recharged today!

For my second time at the Great White North triathlon, I got my wish from last year, a dry, mostly sunny day. However, the difference this year was a new course, with changes including a one-loop swim (although apparently it was as much 300m too short of 2km), a two loop (or rather out-and-back) bike, course, and a two loop (out-and-back mainly on the paved cycling paths) run.

This year race start was at 7:30am so after less than 6 hours of sleep I was still feeling groggy before go time. I was also still in the port-a-potty line up when they called everyone out of the water at 7:10 saying the swim warm-up was over, doh! I guess I wouldn’t even get a warm-up to help me wake up! No matter, at least I still had time to get my wetsuit on and get down to the beach! And the positive was that the water was warm enough that is wasn’t too much of a shock to the system to dive in with hundreds of others and start swimming like crazy to keep a straight line and not get clobbered in the head too many times! On the 900m stretch to the first buoy things got pretty chaotic about half way there when everyone merged together where a little point of land stuck out into the water. The buoys were hard to see with the sun and I felt like I kept getting boxed in behind people. A not very smooth or straight swim to say the least! On the way into shore I also went too far right and was yelled left by the volunteers in kayaks. Finally out of the water, I was happy to be rolling on my bike but my legs weren’t feeling great.

Annette got out just in front of me but slowly lost me and gained about 3min on me by T2. A newcomer to Alberta, and to triathlon in general, Karen Thibodeau (3rd in 2012 at Ironman Canada and this year’s Victoria Half-Ironman winner), already had at least a five minute lead with her mad swimming ability, and she only gained time on the bike. Meanwhile with lots of cross winds and rolling hill it felt hard to find a rhythm for me on the bike and to stay focused. One plus of mountain biking, there is no time to forget you are in a race with all the excitement the trail alone brings let alone the competition. So hands down to all the road triathletes out there who do so many of these races in the not so comfortable TT position staring at pavement for hours at a time. During temporary lapses of focus I was thinking of when I might sell my TT bike, ha, but focused on pressing on!


Into T2 finally 2h36 minutes later. My amazing ball of energy friend, Suzanne, who though injured at the moment, made the trip with Coach Cal and I as moral support! As I struggled to get my run bag gear open, she let me know I was in 8th place and 13 minutes back. Ooooookay, must be a worse day than I thought. Turns out there were some relay team women in the mix and I actually was starting the run in 5th place. Some work to do regardless! Well, turns out my run legs seemed to be working fine. By the about the 13km mark I had moved into 2nd place (though I still was confused and thought I might be in at least 3rd until after I crossed the finish). I managed to cut 6 minutes off of Karen’s lead with a 1:24:29 run so I was happy I still had the energy/fitness to do that at the end of a long race. I also timed it well and crossed the line just as the sky opened up with a whopper of a thunderstorm downpour, nice!


Congrats to Karen on the smashing win, and to the rest of the ladies on the podium: Lindsey Adams in 3rd, Kristina Schultz in 4th, and Sharon Styles in 5th. Congrats also to my amazing coach, Cal who finished 8th overall in the men (he is not slowing down one bit at age 45!!) as well as the 20 other CSR athletes who raced, many of who set PB’s for the distance! It is so much fun to know and cheer so many others on course, the fun of racing local!

I was also excited to win to ATA Iron Challenger for some extra cash, and a great way to promote racing locally in Alberta!

photo (1)

Next up: Xterra Mountain Championship, Beaver Creek, Colorado, July 20th

Chinook Half Race Report


Over the past few years, I’ve done at least 1 or 2 half-ironman distance triathlons throughout my Xterra race season. The longer distance race is a great fitness and mental toughness test. This weekend, the Chinook Half was probably my most enjoyable half-ironman triathlon race to date.

The race takes place in the south of Calgary, so only a 20 minute plus drive from my door at 6:00am on a Saturday morning. At the 8:00am start it was cloudy, pretty chilly (8 degrees air temp and 16 degree water temp) but with my Orca Alpha wetsuit and Neoprene cap on, after a bit of a warm-up in Midnapore lake, it seemed tolerable enough for a 2km swim. Once we were off I found myself swimming with Emmanuela from Regina, and with her swimming just a bit quicker I decided to stay on her feet and conserve a little energy for a long morning at the office! I was the 2nd women out of the water by 9 seconds (time 31:21), and found out after the race that there were cash primes for the swim, bike, and run. It would have been nice to have known this as I may have pinned it instead of staying steady into shore, oh well! Since my fingers were pretty numb, a big thanks to the great volunteer wetsuit strippers who got me out of my wetsuit and going again in no time!

After one trainer ride on my TT bike on Wednesday to make sure it still works, I set on the bike with my new Giro TT helmet courtesy my Luna team. I love the built-in eyewear, and I also felt like Darth Vader on a mission as I could hear my breathing extra loud. The bike is longer than usual for a half by 6km, so a 96km ride. I put my vest on in transition afraid I would be cold, but the sun came out on the bike and it was just fine! The bike is very scenic and is an out and back on the rolling and scenic 22x highway with the Rocky Mountain back drop. I started to feel my unused TT riding muscles like my gluts and hips pretty quickly but tried to just relax and keep a good but strong cadence. About 15 min into riding I passed Emmanuela on one of the rolling hills and knew I was then the first female, okay just 85km or so to go and hold this position! On the way out the headwind was narly and the false flats and uphills made me feel like I was going nowhere fast. I just tried to stay in the aero position as much as I could, and not cook my legs too early.

Leaving T1 equipped a little different than usual!

Leaving T1 equipped a little different than usual!

At the turnaround, I could see Annette Kamenz was not far behind, a super strong rider from Edmonton. I had to get moving, and at least it felt like I was with a nice headwind on the way home (and a 20 minute faster ride on the way back thankfully and total time of 2:47). Soon Annette sling shotted by me on an uphill and I was determined to keep her in sight. When she had some shifting trouble on the next hill I got by again but not for long. Coming up on 20km to go I still had her in sight. However after that point it got tough as we were coming up on all the Olympic distance triathletes on the way back as well; their race had started 1h15 later than the half. I went as hard as I could to keep contact because I didn’t want to have to dig myself into a hole on the run, and couldn’t remember how strong of a runner Annette was!

Coming into T2 my coach, Cal told me I was 1 minute down. Not bad, I thought. And Annette took longer in transition so when I came out running I saw her almost right away. I was surprised how good I felt running right from the start. As I came up on Annette I contemplated being more conservative to start and hanging with her pace for a bit, but realized I just needed to go my own pace. The sun was still out, the temperature was PERFECT, and I was looking forward to discovering the course on the first of the two loops for the run. After running on the bike path through the neighbourhood for a while we descended into beautiful park Fish Creek Provincial Park. I loved the fact we got to run a few kilometers on shaded dirt paths next to a creek. It was so pretty. There is one out and back point near the end of the first lap and there I calculated I had about a 2 minute lead, no time to take it easy for sure. The lap ends with a nice steep climb back up to the start/finish area. It was fun to see so many friends out watching and racing as I started out on the lonelier second lap. The first lap was full of racers finishing the Olympic distance triathlon.

As usual my legs were starting to hurt and I was started to feel hungry. My own coke had run out and the aid stations weren’t doing much for me but I knew I had enough fuel in the tank to finish! At the second out and back I saw my lead had extended to 6 minutes so I knew I could enjoy the last few kilometres to the finish. As I neared the finish I noticed J-F and the kids had made it watch and was happy to see them after hobbling around a bit at the finish (run time 1:29). J-F, Zoé and Nico had all come down with bad colds on Thursday and Friday so I was just crossing my fingers I would hold it off until after this race. Race morning I woke up with a niggle in my throat and even as I was doing the race, especially by the run, I could feel my throat getting worse. Thankfully my body held up to get the job done but now I’m down for the count with a cold too. Ouch say my nose, throat, back, butt, and legs today but as it always goes, “this too will pass!” 🙂

Thanks to Mike Bock, the race director, for putting on such a great event, with tons of awesome volunteers out there. Thanks to Rose Serpico of Tri-It for encouraging me to enter this race just a few weeks ago and go for the Alberta Iron Challenger (see photo below). Of course, a little financial motivation doesn’t hurt. And thanks to Coach Cal for coming out to watch and giving splits! And of course, thanks to my wonderful team Luna for supporting me with the gear to jump in these crazy road events every so often!


Up next (body permitting): Rundle’s Revenge in Canmore – time to hit the dirt for a weekend of mountain bike and trail running race-training!

Athlete-Mom Interview: Heather Gollnick

Heather Gollnick is a five-time Ironman Champion, mother of three, and a triathlon coach (check out her website here). Heather won her first race as a Pro in 2002, the inaugural Ironman Wisconsin in a time of 9h54 minutes and hasn’t looked back since. At 43 years old she has over 100 podium finishes as a Pro, and she shows no sign of slowing down! Below she tells us a bit about how she does it…
Describe your athletic background before and since having kids?
When I first started in triathlon it was easy to schedule training and workouts because it was only my husband and I. I absolutely loved the sport and wanted to take it to the next level. Once I had young kids starting out with girl/boy twins I was so busy that I did not believe that I could do both and do both well, compete as a professional triathlete and be a great mom/wife. How would I possibly fit it all in? We lived in Wisconsin and after a few years of debating the move from age group to professional I made the jump when they announced Ironman Wisconsin would happen in the fall of 2002. I wanted to do that race as a Pro! After coming in as an unknown for the inaugural Ironman WI, and watching the press conference alone from the back, I went on to win the race after inspiration from my daughter Jordan. A few years later we had a third child and ever since it has been complete madness with my husband and I being out numbered. Training is not the number one thing but I can still get out there and mix it up and love it!
What inspires you to keep competing?
Many of the athletes I first started competing with such as Paula Newby Fraser, Heather Fuhr, and Lisa Bentley have all retired. I will be turning 43 and many ask how long I will still keep racing. I have always said when it is not fun any more or I don’t have that competitive drive I will stop. Well, I’m still going so I guess I still have both!! Natasha Badmann is my triathlon idol, she still rocks it at 45!
How has your 2012 season gone so far?
I had some early season injuries after my 3rd place  in January at Ironman 70.3 Pucon in Chile and had to take some time off. Later in the season I did Ironman New York and a few weeks later was fourth at Ironman Louisville. Then I did my first ultra triathlon, The Leadman in Bend Oregon. Now I am enjoying some much-needed recovery and off-season and hope to start of 2013 with Pucon again.

Heather on the bike at Ironman Louisville 2012 in which she finished 4th

What is your advice to other moms?
Be nice to yourself, we tend to be so hard on ourselves. If we miss a workout or are just too plain tired to do it we beat ourselves up.  Every once in a while I like to treat myself to a hot bath or a mani with my daughter. Also remember training will always be there, your little ones get so big so fast. I can’t believe I have two teenagers and a seventh grader!!!! This year I cut down to just coaching and being a Visalus distributor as far as work and I am so happy to be home. And I have the flexibility to go to every xc meet, every cheer competition etc.

Athlete-Mom Interview: Ginny Sellars

I met Ginny, and her husband Andrew a few years ago when we stayed together at the Xterra Mountain Championship. I enjoyed their company right away and every time we have run into each other since. They truly embrace the athletic lifestyle with tons of passion and infectious positivity as a family with their now six-year-old daughter Maddi. Home base for this family is in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in Vernon, British Columbia. Ginny has competed in many triathlons including Ironmans, bike races, and ultrarunning. Her next event is Ironman Wisconsin coming up on September 9th. Read on to hear more about how for Ginny family life, work, training and racing can all fit together synergistically, keeping everyone happy and fit! Ginny also has a blog where you can read about her adventures here.

Ginny with husband, Andrew and six year old daughter Maddi

1. Can you describe your athletic/competitive background before and after becoming a mom?

My involvement in sport has truly not changed pre and post bringing a child into this world. If anything, I’ve branched out a little more, and beyond Ironman, have taken a stab at bike racing and ultra-running. This is massively due to my husband’s encouragement. We had not planned to have a child. I felt somewhat fragile with my mood, and was terrified that I would fall in my mother’s footsteps, and experience post-partum depression. Given my work as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I’m highly aware of how that can affect the emotional development of a child. When I got pregnant, my husband immediately booked us for a bike tour through the Rocky Mountains, which would happen 6 months after she was born. He also signed me up for an Ironman 7.5 months after her birth. I fumed at him, thinking he had no idea what having a baby would entail. He knew me better than I knew myself, and it kept me active during the pregnancy, and the future events gave me the excitement and regime of exercise to balance my mood. As it turns out, the IM race when my baby was 7.5 months old was a PB. I completed it in 10hr29, and it gave me confidence that as a family we could do great things.

Ginny getting in some IM training

2. Since you and your husband both work, train/compete and coach how do you balance your family, work, and training/racing?

The way that we fit in exercise and training is constantly changing as our little girl grows up and work demands change. In general, we find a mix of being active together, and finding time to ourselves. In the early days, it was a matter of getting everything set up, so that the minute the baby was asleep I could jump on the trainer and spin. Our baby got used to feeding from a sweaty Mama. I would walk or run pushing the baby stroller. As she got older, I found a great daycare, and had to get over the baseless guilt of sneaking in a workout after work before picking her up. She’s now in school, which gives time for training. She’s finally strong enough on the paddle board that I can swim in the lake without a babysitter, and she can keep up on the her bike for my short jogs. My husband has also been very flexible, and we find ways to include our daughter instead of doing it all while she’s absent. It’s not uncommon for one of us to set off for a workout in the park, while the other one brings a picnic and hikes with our daughter to a meeting spot. Most of the time it requires tag-teaming though, and it’s easier when both parents are seeking training time, so it’s more balanced in the marriage.

3. What does Maddi think of her athletic mom?

Until this year, I don’t think it ever crossed her mind. Our active life is all she has known. Just this year she has made some comments about being excited for me at an event, or sometimes being scared for me when she knows I’m nervous. At times when I’m injured, she has written me cards “I hope you get better soon Mama. I’m proud of you.” She has her own first triathlon this coming weekend, and it will be such a pleasure to watch her experiencing the joy of participating herself.

Maddi catching the triathlon bug?

4. What have been/are your 2012 training/competition goals?

After an exceptionally busy year in 2011, with a 7 day bike stage race in Europe, some local bike racing, and two Ironman events, I was ready for a year with fewer planned events. I decided to go with the flow, and join in events as they emerged. This year began with an ultra-run in Mallorca Spain. I ran 64km over stunning mountainous terrain. My initial goal was completion of something new and exciting. I got the competitive bug out there, and ran myself into second place in the women.  I then got the Ironman bug again, and registered for Ironman Wisconsin that will take place in two weeks. To get my feet wet, I did two 1/2 Iron events this summer. The first one was done on very little training, and my only goal was to be in the moment and enjoy it. The second had the same goal, but I had an additional 5 weeks of training. I ran myself into 3rd place woman, and loved every minute of it. I’m now 10 days out from Ironman, and recovering from an injury. At this point my goal is completion, soaking up the joys of the event, and making good decisions along the way to bow out if I’m getting hurt. I will then cheer on my husband in his race.

5. Any advice you have for other mom’s trying to balance it all, while following a consistent training program every week?

I had a motto after my daughter was born…”any exercise is good exercise. 20 minutes is worth it.” After doing longer distances, I had gotten into the mindset that it wasn’t really worth training for less than an hour. This is virtually impossible with children at times, so I realized that a hard 20 minute run gets you strong. I also tried to just move where ever I was. At the playground I would pull myself up on the bars, or do split squats, or play a hard game of chase. Being flexible with your thinking around how and when you will exercise is critical. Sometimes consistency is important too, such as team sessions, so you’ll need a support system organized. I did some ‘trading’ of babysitting to alternate swim mornings with a friend. I’ve certainly had a few 5am mornings on the trainer just to squeak it in. I think the biggest hurdle for me was getting over the guilt that exercise was selfishly taking time from my daughter. Someone shared with me the wisdom that allowing your child to spend time with others, learn from others, and feel confident without you is a gift to them. The demands of parenthood are constantly changing, and sleep and social time are as important as exercise. Hopefully a balance can be found.

An Ironmindset?

In Western Canada it is Ironman week!! Many of many training buddies with CSR and elsewhere are headed to Penticton this week to race in Ironman Canada next Sunday, August 26th. I wish I could go watch with so many people to cheer for! But you know what they say, if I was to go I would likely catch the Ironman bug and get in line to sign up for next year, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet, ha! However, a few weeks ago, I facilitated a fun discussion on mental preparation for an Ironman for my training group. So for everyone who was there (and those who missed it) this blog is a reminder for you!

1. State your dream performance goal. Given your current fitness, the training you’ve done, your motivation, and current capabilities, if everything comes together what is most realistic race day performance goal for you? Is your goal simply to finish? To enjoy your race day? To set a personal best time in one or all three disciplines? To finish at the top end of your age group? To qualify for Kona? Once you’ve got your performance goal(s) clear, file it/them away and focus on the next three points as race day nears.

2. Focus on your reasons to stay confident! For some reason, especially when taper time begins, extra energy starts to mount and some feel compelled to start doubting. With the normal amount of added anxiousness it is not the time to make last minute changes such as to equipment or nutrition. Enjoy the countdown and extra time to put your feet up! Trust in what you know works for you, and in what you’ve already tried and tested especially in the nutrition and equipment departments. The physical training is in the bank, race day will be a celebration of all your hard work! Reflect on your preparation and reasons to be confident without comparing yourself to others. What improvements have you made? What training limitations have you pushed? Reflect on all the hard work you’ve put in to be ready for the day with the time and commitment you’ve had to do so? What have others said about you that encourages you? What specific things have you done to be race ready? Who or what inspires you to do an Ironman?

3. Be ready for anything and everything! In a race as long as an Ironman there are going to be uncomfortable and painful moments. It is important to anticipate as well as you can what will be YOUR biggest challenges of the day and prepare for how you will respond and ultimately stay positive. Things may go way better than expected. Or way worse than expected or anywhere in between. Visualize how you will react and respond with calm to any number or scenarios that could happen….losing your goggles in the swim, getting knocked in the head in the water, a flat tire, cramps, walking on the run, blisters, equipment malfunction such as heart rate monitor….the more you can mentally prepare for any race day scenario, the less it will take you by surprise, and the more you will be able to remain calm, respond positively and keep your energy focused on getting the best out of yourself for the race! What will be your overall guiding mantra for the day (or each race segment if you prefer to have an overall mantra for swim, bike and run)? Some examples I’ve heard are “just keep smiling”, “one step at a time”, “stay in the moment”, “the more I run, the sooner I’ll be done”, “keep calm and carry on”, “this too will pass” (if going through a tough part of the race), “whatever will be will be”  to name a few!

4. Write your post-race obituary. How do you want to feel when you cross that finish line at the end of the day? What do you want to be able to say about yourself? Make a list of all the things you want to be able to say about yourself at the end of the day no matter what your end result is! In other words, focus on everything that you will have control over: your effort, your attitude, your perseverance, your composure, your grit!! You are choosing to get on the start line! You can choose the mindset with which you want to race!

Good luck to everyone I know toeing the line on Sunday! I’ll be cheering and tracking you all!!

2012 Calgary 70.3 Race Report

Stay calm and carry on. That was my motto of the day while racing my 4th Calgary 70.3 yesterday. Although my day started off with a weird series of unlucky events, I managed to enjoy myself by the end and it was a great way to cap off a long stretch of racing at only the mid-point of my season! Here is the story….

To start the day off I arrived at transition to find a new tube stuffed in my bottle cage (at this race, we need to rack our bikes the day before). I realized why when I noticed my front tire was completely flat! Luckily with the great help of Speed Theory, the mechanics on hand quickly changed it for me while I got my gels taped on, body marked, and into my wetsuit. I had about five minutes to “warm-up” in the chilly water at Ghost Lake, before clamouring out onto the dock, where the Pros were diving off for the start. I was sure I had my goggles on good and tight, but as soon as we dove in after the gun went off, my goggles were full of water – doh! After stopping quickly to empty them, I got back with the tail end of the group and was happy to settle in with three other women for the rest of the swim. With my neoprene cap on, the water temp was bearable but I was still grateful for the wetsuit strippers as my hands and feet were pretty numb after over 30 minutes in the water.

A pic of the swim start at Ghost Lake showing was a gorgeous day it was!

Most of all, I was rather excited to be heading out of the water and onto the bike in a group so I’d have some competition to key off of on the ride. (The small Pro Wave starts 15 minutes ahead of the next wave, which can make it a pretty lonely day of racing, I definitely prefer the mass starts for a half-ironman.) Unfortunately as I went to mount my bike, I noticed my bars were completely bent downwards and off to the right. (Later on I noticed my left brake lever was bent inwards as well!). After what felt like an eternity of loosening and re-tightening the handle bar and stem bolts (turns out it was approximately 3:30 that I lost when calculating the difference between my 5:11 transition time and most of the other Pro T1 transition times) I lept on my bike to find my chain was completely off. Finally, with black greasy hands I was off and riding angry and solo! I was totally bewildered at what had just happened to my bike as I had purposely checked and tightened those exact bolts the day before the race! Either way, it took a serious beating from someone as it was even hard to loosen them to fix it, but on with the race!

While it was frustrating to start out for a 94km ride and 21.1km run likely out of contention for a good finish result, I was also happy to get going and just decided to focus on giving it my best from there on and make it a good training day at the very least! After all, it was a perfect 25 degree summer day so I couldn’t complain. One guy passed me from the next wave at about 40km, and I passed one Pro guy, and caught up to one other Pro woman by the end my 2h29min on the 94km bike ride – pretty exciting – there are many reasons I prefer Xterra racing, ha!

Off and running, I felt pretty good right away. I had downed my two bottles, 4 gels, and 3 electrolyte tablets on the bike. Making good use of the coke, water, and cold sponges at every aid station, it didn’t feel too hot at all on the out and back bike path run. At least 2/3 of it was in the shade too which was nice. By about the 15-16km mark I finally did some passing and moved into 8th place by the finish with a 1:26:57 run split, the 5th fastest women’s run split of the day and my best run time on this race course for my 3rd attempt. To note: the fastest women’s run split of the day was by a fellow Critical Speed athlete, amateur champ of day, and new amateur course record setter, Sheila Croft – she ran a 1:24:30!

With one of the strongest fields yet, the amazing Magali Tisseyre (CAN) took the win, followed by Heather Jackson (USA), Melanie McQuaid (CAN), Sara Gross (CAN), and Lisa Mensink (CAN) for the top 5 on the podium.

Well, after a good little fitness test on the road, I will retire my TT bike, and not very existent TT riding muscles for the rest of 2012 and look forward to more riding on the dirt now. Next up is the very fun Xterra Enduro race in Canmore next weekend (Aug 4-5). Come on out for a fun two days of three individually entered events or go for an overall time with a 3k swim, 40km mountain bike, and 21 km trail run!