Full Circle Focus for 2015

It all started with a grade six science experiment for school. The details escape me but it involved training with short versus long interval repeats, and running a mile flat-out several times, sometimes on the track and sometimes on a gravel road and see where I improved the most. It hurt every time and my lungs burned. My dad timed every one and cheered me on, he hasn’t stopped cheering since.

Running fast was fun. Battles and wins were fun. I peaked, plateaued and peaked again. A handful of times I experienced that perfect race: effortless, floating, in control with another gear ready to unleash anytime. It is the most amazing feeling when all the hard work pays off. Then my first long-lasting injury.

Why don’t you try mountain biking? Not many girls are doing it. Sure! You only live once! I learned that momentum is everything as I smashed my face into rocks and flipped over the bars. I was bloody and bruised almost every day that first summer. I was hooked. I like to be in control but I learned to let go of the brakes and be comfortable letting it slide. “RIDE IT!!” my brother bellowed from way down below. His teammates were watching on, waiting. I was shaking but I DID IT!! Things that were once scary and sent my heart racing became exciting and fun. I grew quads, developed pedal power and learned how to push mentally through race efforts of over two hours. I learned how to focus through fatigue and fear in order to stay upright at maximum effort on two wheels. I have had the opportunity to race on amazing single track all over North America. The post-race story-telling high can last for hours. There’s nothing like the feeling of flow on a mountain bike.

But I’m glad I dabbled with swim club racing in junior high. Gliding rhythmically through the blue water of a pool, over sea turtles, or next to the tree-lined shore of a glass calm lake is magical. I learned about balance through training for a 3-discipline sport. How all our energy comes from one place and that we need to spend it wisely; how variation and variety are the spice of motivation. From a sport that embraces the young to the very old, the able-bodied to the physically challenged, I have learned we should never set limits on what we think we can do…especially after birthing babies’ ladies! And oh, the places I might never have been and the wonderful friends I have made!

I’ve been away and now I’m back to where it all started. I’m falling in love with the purity of running all over again. I’m a runner who swims and bikes. I’m a triathlete who runs a lot. Either way, I’m having fun and still love the focus a competitive goal brings, the challenge of pushing way past comfortable, that body burn all over at least a few times per week. There’s no way I’m ready to just go easy yet. Maybe one day. Family and health come first. And for now, I just want to run out the door and see where it will take me next, some days easy, some days as fast as my legs can go.

Athlete-Mom Interview: Rebecca Dussault

I met Rebecca Dussault a few years back when she got into racing Xterras as a Pro as she was coming off of her stellar, Olympian cross-country skiing career. Since I first met Rebecca, her family has doubled in size and we met up again recently at the Whiskey off-road race at the end of April. She is a down to earth, multisport mama who recently won the Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail and is ripping it up on her road bike as well. Rebecca lives in Gunnison, Colorado with her husband, Sharbel and four children: son Tabor (age 12), son Simeon (age 7), son Anselm (age 3), and daughter Emiliana (age 15 months). Read on for yet another refreshing perspective on raising a family while being real to one’s inner “default mode” to stay active!

Go Pro Mountain Games

Go Pro Mountain Games

1.  Describe your life athletically (and otherwise) and how has it evolved through having each of your four children?

My husband and I married at 19 years each and I continued to compete for another season in XC skiing. Traveling the world with various teams lead to my early retirement from racing due to the struggle to be myself and remain faithful to my morals. During my 2 years away from the sport we had our first son and then I returned to skiing. It felt much better to be traveling with others who share my Christian beliefs and support me unconditionally. As a family, we committed to trying for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, which I did compete in, and one of the real victories was that my husband and son had come to every race and training camp for three years straight.

Next up was son number two conceived right after the Olympics. Unfortunately, my husband became very ill with an auto immune disease 8 months later and I again had to step away from sport to care for him. I was in survival mode as an athlete at this time. He eventually regained his health after three surgeries and I regained my competitive edge. I narrowly missed qualifying for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (overlooked for being a mother of two who’d taken breaks from racing despite skiing to a National Championship right before they named the team), but instead won a World Championship in Winter Triathlon in Norway 2010.
Ski racing in January 2010

Ski racing in January 2010

Following this win, true to our commitment to be open to life and fruitful in our marriage, we conceived another son and took a summer to learn holistic farming techniques. I got a lot of exercise on the farm just chasing pigs, carrying water and milking cows. I was strong from life, not lifting.
Since then, we have had a mobile wood fired pizza business which operates heavily on the weekends throughout the summer and totally cut into my competition schedule. That and we decided to live in a camper traveling the country for a year of learning. During this hiatus our fourth child, a daughter, born to us on the road in Washington State.
I have had to be content to be primarily a winter athlete until this year.  After a full and successful season of XC skiing and ski mountaineering, I have transitioned onto the bikes for racing and am loving it.
2. What motivated and continues to inspire you to get training and racing again?

I think I’m hard-wired to compete. Each pregnancy or life event, like my husband’s illness (2007-2008) which have taken me away from competition have caused me to fall back on my “factory settings.” It is my default mode to stay active for my own health and to maintain an effective platform for reaching people who need motivated and encouraged. Plus, being a homeschooling mother, I need a break from the kids occasionally and I’m not going to spend it any other way than exercising and having that healthy interior conversation time. I think it’s the picture of being wholly healthy (physically, mentally and chiefly spiritually) that keeps me going.


3. Did you “train” during your pregnancies? How has your training/racing evolved/changed since becoming a mother?

I never “trained” while pregnant, but allowed myself ample opportunities to get out and stay fit. I was able to remain very active almost the whole duration of all four pregnancies. I believe this helped me have four totally natural births and very healthy babies.

Since becoming a mother, my training and racing has looked more like a balancing act. It is of utmost importance for me to keep things in the proper perspective, getting my priorities right daily. I am wife first, them mother, then athlete/mentor/coach. I know I am happiest, and so are those around me, when I stick to that. I have a selfless husband who kicks me out the door to train while he holds down the fort. His support, willingness and flexibility are the only reasons I have risen to the level of athlete that I am.
We make it a priority to travel to races as a family so that it is not just about ME because a lot of the training can feel that way, but it’s about a healthy exposure for our while family. Our children are gifted athletes and already love to race, so they are less thrilled than ever to miss out on competitions. The fun budget is sure tight when everyone comes, but it’s actually priceless to be together.
4. What are you current training/racing ambitions for 2014?

I am not a very scripted person and least of all a planner. My spontaneity has me doing workouts and entering races on the fly. I wait for my window of opportunity to open and I race out the door to train or drop everything and head to a race. With 4 kids and 4 small businesses there’s so much to continually juggle.

I have the ambition of becoming pro in another sport, which this time around is road biking. I have in the past and currently, race pro in XC skiing, Xterra triathlon, winter triathlon, mountain biking, ski mountaineering and adventure racing. I guess “multi-sport momma” is a fitting title. My goals are to inspire women (men and children too!) everywhere to seek to be wholly healthy and I do that through my outreach at www.massstart.org and through my motivational talks, coaching and clinics nationwide. My further ambitions are to grow my fitness business, be a student of sport myself, and to race awful fast while keeping everything in balance.
5. How do you balance family/work etc with your athletic goals?

Drumroll please… A Great Husband of course! Actually, we both have always been entrepreneurs and have conducted business (e.g. www.globalshelters.com) from the home or the race course. I have been blessed to have flexibility to have my family in tow at most races. There is no more important work than I do as wife and mother, so my athletics are just the bonus round.

I do, however, have to confess a great struggle with feeling grounded enough to compete steadily and with my whole heart. For years we’ve wanted to move to the land and homestead, so I feel like I’m straddling the fence with my lifestyles. We are still in the process of hunting for the perfect community and land. I think I have a “best of both worlds” scenario in part, but we need to put down roots soon to stay true to our holistic and bigger life goals.
Also, I for the first time at 33, I feel my window of competitiveness closing. It has been a challenge to still be such a competitive mom while my children have begun to compete as well. We try to never head in different directions on the weekend, but rather stay as a tight-knit family which has me at lots of sacrifices. I feel a little guilty that they’re only really getting exposed to sports I love at this point, but that’s where we’re at. I will always compete until they shovel rocks over me!
7. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting back in shape and/or competing again after having children?
Find inspiring faster people to get out with. Cause yourself to be challenged. Be creative with your schedule and look for that slot where you can get out by yourself too and remember how much you love to move your body as a female athlete. It is a “body battle” just to get your figure back, never mind getting the competitive juices flowing again. Be patient. You just gave life to another human being. Embrace this sacred and precious time in your life. You can smash a new athletic record tomorrow!

The Race Within A Race Recap

Ever since I’ve been an Xterra racer, I’ve always been envious of the fast swimmers. They are up at the front on the race, in control, and know what’s going on and likely what position they are in. Fast swimmers get to head out onto the single track first without any traffic and simply have to charge forward on the wide open trail to hold off as many people as they can for the rest of the race. Racing from the front or chasing from behind? Which is more motivating? I suppose it depends on how you rise to the occasion of whichever race scenario you find yourself in….

Unfortunately for me my first two Xterra races of the season have been long, solo efforts of chasing from behind. While I’ve certainly tried my best to hang on, the ever-increasing swim speeds of the majority of the pack in Xterra are tough. Its my own fault when I lose the front pack and the challenge of catching back up begins. In the last race in Alabama on May 17th I chased all day and gave it my best effort with the 2nd fastest run split but unfortunately didn’t close any gaps so 6th again it was. It was an eventful race with colder than ever temps (14 degrees C!!) in the usually hot and humid south, along with a massive, dark rain storm that left my hands and feet numb and I bounced down blood rock on my bike and tried to get the circulation going again. After one really hard crash on my right knee, which I still can’t kneel on without pain, it was still overall a fun day. But I was missing the real racing battles that I love.

Xterra Bama Mountain Bike - thanks to Trey Garmin for the pic

Xterra Bama Mountain Bike – thanks to Trey Garmin for the pic

A few weeks before the Xterra SouthEast Champs I flew down to Prescott, AZ for the last weekend of April to have a go at the Whiskey 50 mountain bike race. (thanks to my brother for lending me some Aeroplan points for my birthday weekend, and for my Luna teammate Katerina for letting me crash in her hotel room). The event started out with a road criterium on the Friday night. After not racing a crit or a short track race in at least 5 years, and on the verge of turning 39 I was a little nervous about whether I have any fast twitch left in my legs. Feeling extra sluggish with a small head cold, I chugged a few shots of espresso before the race and hoped for the best. When I heard “first lap prime” on the start line, with all systems firing with caffeine, I just went for it up the first hill. Unfortunately after the descent I only came across the first lap line in 3rd, and then realized I had to go up the hill about 9 more times – ouch! I regrouped enough to hang it for 8th but it was a lung and leg busting, post-race cough attack inducing race!

Leading out the crit at Whiskey 50 with a "well this isn't too bad smile" before the pain hit the next lap.

Leading out the crit at Whiskey 50 with a “well this isn’t too bad smile” before the pain hit the next lap.

The Sunday 50-mile mountain bike race was great too, after snow (incredible freak weather) the day before for the poor amateurs, the single track was in mint condition for the Pro races. After hanging with Erica Tingey and Rebecca Dussault in the mom-pack for a bit, it was time to work up the massive long climb. I bridged up to 3-4 girls on the climb and went kamikaze on the last long descent before hitting the road home and pinning it as fast as I could with Heidi Rentz hot on my heels after the last single track to roll in for 9th place.

Last bit of single track for a 3h48 day in the saddle

Last bit of single track for a 3h48 day in the saddle

A week after Alabama, I enjoyed the luxury of a local race, the Oak Bay Half Marathon. Being Victoria, the land of many fast runners, I was hoping for some good company. Unfortunately once the race was underway, Marilyn Arsenault was off the front and my good training buddy, Clare was behind me, and so it stayed for the rest of the race, I was stuck in no (wo)man’s land with no guys either! But a fun test to keep charging and on a slightly hilly but scenic ocean side course I finished the day a few minutes off my best in 1:21:23 for 2nd female, and 5th overall – and then couldn’t walk for a few days.

And most recently was the Island Cup mountain bike finals in Campbell River, B.C., 45 minutes north of my hometown of Courtenay. When I saw super fast mom of two, Carey Mark, on the line I knew it would be tough day. I got to the first single track in front of her but by the end of 1 lap she was still on my tail. She went by and I was looking forward to following her for a bit but unfortunately she took a slight wrong turn and I was back in front. That’s where I stayed, putting as much power in to my pedals as I could to break away and trying to stay smooth over the rocky, baby head descents on my hard tail, rough stuff! And after approximately 1h45 of racing Carey sling shotted around me for the win! The last time we raced I beat her by 1 second! Now that was a race!

Island Cup Series Final Finish Line

Island Cup Series Final Finish Line

Chatting randomly after the race about cyclocross, Carey said, “You should do it, you’d be good with your aggressiveness.” Me? Aggressive? I had to chuckle. But it made me think, I have always raced my best, running on the track, short track, mountain bike, and triathlon, when in a head to head, even body contacting battle! And maybe that is why I will likely never do an Ironman. After dabbling in some 70.3’s the last few years, I returned my Tri bike this year. While some thrive on it, long solo efforts are not fun racing for me. As I head to Richmond, VA for the next Xterra next weekend I hope for the luck of a good battle, another female Pro or otherwise! Either way, it is the race with some of the best mountain bike trails in the series so it will be fun regardless!

Bottom line: No matter how big or small, A-race or not, if you find yourself in a great race within a race, seize the opportunity to bring out your best! And if you like those long solo efforts, all the better too – maybe something like an Ironman or Ultrarunning etc is your thing – knowing your racing personality helps a bit too!


Xterra West Champs Photo Story

The first race of the U.S. Xterra Pro series kicked off this past Sunday at Lake Las Vegas Resort about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas. As you can see the unique landscape is nothing like what I’ve been riding all winter at home in Victoria!

Xterra West Landscape

Xterra West Landscape

It was fun catching up with my coach, Cal, while pre-riding the climbs and surfing down the open, somewhat wide, rocky descents which really only had one good line! (Cal went on to win his age group by about 4 minutes – nice work coach!)


Race morning started out comfortably warm. The water was cool but felt perfect once racing. The two lap swim started from the newly built beach just days before. It was a bit of mayhem heading straight into the sun at 8 am. For the second lap I found myself leading small group before bridging up to Kara LaPoint (a Luna Chix sponsored athlete who finished the day in 7th in her Xterra Pro debut race!)


Am I the only one in the race? Ha

Am I the only one in the race? Ha

Out on the bike my goal was to hold off and then hold on to my teammate Shonny as she was creeping up on me on. Unfortunately that plan derailed pretty fast as my seat bag felt off and was bumping along my tire. I quickly tied it back on before it promptly fell off a second time, a real momentum killer! At that point I ripped it off and shoved in down my chest where it stayed for the rest of the race as you can see in the photo below. It actually didn’t bother me at all – a future way to carry tools, CO2 and tubes?? I do love my new tri-suit from Champion System for sure, especially when it can help hold the essentials over so many bumps, ha!

Gel on leg, seat back down front, fun riding!

Gel on leg, seat bag down front, fun riding!

Onto the run I had big ground to make up. I was feeling pretty good until about the point this photo below was taken, maybe a mile into the six miles. Once out on the moonscape again, my tank was feeling pretty empty, reminiscent of my first year of Xterra racing before I had figured out the training and racing of triathlon.The run followed the first 4-miles of the bike course again and the wind was really whipping up. It was sort of fun passing the many amateurs riding (who had started racing 30 min after us) but not so fun trying to stay out of their way and out of the rocks on the descents. Quite sketchy really. Especially as my friend Mike nearly clipped me while making a pass – the guy he was passing had blocked his view of me and he didn’t even see me until going by – yikes!


Anyway, I ran on but wasn’t feeling too frisky. I could see Chantell up ahead at some points but I was still over a minute from catching her when I crossed the finish for 6th. Flora Duffy killed it for first with a huge margin win, but about 3 minutes separated 2-6th place.(Emma Garrard was second, Luna teammates Shonny and Suzie took 3rd and 4th and Chantell Widney from Edmonton took 5th). A post-race analysis with my coach revealed that after loosing a gel (down my leg) and by miscalculating my drink mix I only put in about half the calories I should have for the race! Rookie mistake – how long have I been racing?? Seriously! Looking forward to tackling the next Xterra in Alabama in about a month and seeing what if a little more sugar in the system will add to the late race fun factor!

Of course one of the biggest highlights of the weekend was catching up with my University of Washington track running teammate BFF, Amy after not seeing her for three whole years. She drove up from San Diego with her youngest son, Charlie (21 months) for Sat night and thanks to her for taking some of these pics and cheering us all on! Next up for me is the Whiskey-50 mountain bike race in Prescott, AZ in two weeks. Should be a good time!

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter weekend!! This means a 4-day long weekend up here in Canada, yahoooo! Bring on the chocolate egg hunting!

With Amy and Charlie post-race

With Amy and Charlie post-race


Athlete-Mom Interview: Emma Garrard

Let me introduce you to Emma Garrard from Park City, Utah, where she lives and enjoys the outdoors year round with her boyfriend, Ian, border collie, Kip, and son, Torin (born December, 2012) . I have had the pleasure of racing Xterra’s with Emma over the last seven years, and as Emma has improved every year from U.S. National amateur champion in 2007 and since turning Pro in 2008.  After giving birth to her son, Torin in December, Emma, 32 years young, got back to training and racing by the spring. She improved and got fitter every race and by the end of the season was 4th at the U.S. Xterra Championships and 5th at the Xterra World Championships at the end of October in Maui. Read on to learn about Emma’s athletic journey into motherhood….
1. What was you life as an athletically (or otherwise) before having Torin?
Since 2009, when I lost my job as a newspaper photographer and moved to Park City it’s been focusing on XTERRA triathlon in the summer while also working at a bike shop and doing dryland coaching for a junior Nordic program. In the winter I also coach and work at a Nordic Center, White Pine Touring instructing, and teach Computrainer classes for Max Testa Training. I also competed in Nordic ski races and winter triathlons. In 2011, my last full season before becoming a mom, I traveled a lot, to Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil and all over the US for races. I was trying to ‘make it’ as a triathlete but wasn’t really planning ahead too much.
2. I know your pregnancy with Torin was a surprise right at the start of  the 2012 race season – what was that like emotionally for you? 
I’m glad I waited until my 30s to have an unplanned pregnancy! It was a shock and really tough emotionally, I was coming off a good start to the season, placing 3rd at the XTERRA West Championships and felt like I was hitting my stride. I was really happy with my lifestyle and really excited for the season and the freedom to travel to races on a budget. I knew my life would not be the same again but knew racing could be an option as there are so many successful athlete-moms out there. I felt really stressed out financially because if I could not race I could not get a large portion of my annual income. Pregnancy in the US is incredibly expensive and my health insurance plan did not cover pregnancy. On top of that I was worrying about funding my racing when I returned from pregnancy. That being said I’ve always wanted to have kids and was planning on having them while being an athlete but I’d hoped to establish myself better as an athlete first to have a bit more stability. It was really stressful making the call to sponsors but they were all very understanding.
3. What motivated (or continues to inspires you) to get training and racing again after Torin was born?
I really love the process and getting out everyday and training, especially when it’s outdoors. But mostly I felt I still had something to prove and had not achieved my goals. It was also important for me to prove women can do whatever they were doing before they had kids whether it’s racing or any other kind of profession of passion. I shouldn’t have to, because there are so many moms who have proved it before me but I still hear doubt and I was still asked a lot if I was going to keep racing after having a child. Initially my goal was to finish an XTERRA and not be last in the pro women, and hopefully score some points for the overall series. Ten months later I was hoping to win worlds, it didn’t happen but I came a long way!
4. Did you “train” during your pregnancy?
Yes. I kept racing until about 10 weeks. Most of the racing I did not know I was pregnant but some I did. I initially did a lot of research and talking to doctors to figure out if it was safe to keep competing and whether or not I could still be competitive and for how long. I made it a goal to finish the ITU World Championships in Pelham, Alabama. I’d slowed down already but it was a very fast decline after that even though most people couldn’t tell I was pregnant (besides the giant boobs!) I’m glad I competed in the race but wouldn’t do that again, I’d probably stop when I knew I was pregnant because I didn’t feel good in that last race. After calling my season quits I made it my goal to exercise during pregnancy, again after doing a lot of research, including reading all the athlete-mom interviews 🙂 and believed it would help my pregnancy, labor and child. Not to mention make me stronger for when I returned to racing. I did not have a coach or training plan but generally exercised once a day for about an hour, a lot of jogging, hiking, swimming, mountain biking and some rollerskiing I was doing for coaching. But it was very unstructured and if I really didn’t want to I didn’t workout, that being said, I rarely felt like doing anything in the 1st trimester but always felt better and less tired and nauseous when I worked out. The heat also bothered me a lot more when I was pregnant and seemed to do a lot better once it cooled off. I tried to make sure it was a break from my training in the past and I stopped and turned around when I’d had enough rather than trying to make it to the top. I tried to do one longer ride a week anywhere from 2-4 hours. We had a late winter but I got out on skate skis a few times when I was pretty big and that was not fun because it felt like I was holding a medicine ball! Classic skiing was a lot better and the day before I went into labor I remember classic skiing and feeling pretty good and making it up all the hills, having poles took a lot of the weight off. I went into labor right after swimming.
5. How has your training progressed post-childbirth?
It felt great to get out again after having Torin and didn’t worry much about times or pace before 4 months. I did a lactate test a couple of months after and I think I was about 20 watts off my threshold pace which wasn’t bad, I know it’s a lot higher now than it was before I had Torin. I certainly underestimated how much nursing would control my life and impact my training so I really had to remember to eat and drink a lot. My workouts are still scheduled around feeding but so much more so early on. When you are nursing every couple of hours that 2 hours goes by so fast. It takes 45 minutes to nurse you only have 1:15 and that doesn’t include getting things ready etc so making it to the pool is pretty challenging. After 4 months I started to feel a lot better and improved a lot between 4-6 months and continued to improve until the end of my season. Any major differences from pre-Torin days? I’ve trained a lot less now and my training is a lot more specific. The biggest thing was logistically finding time to train, for the first 7 months it was mostly Ian and I taking turns working and taking care of  Torin so I found ways to train with Torin whether it was with the Chariot, or riding the trainer inside while he napped or setting him on  the pool deck in his car seat while I swam. I was grateful if I could get out and do anything. After 7 months I had a lot more time to train but still had a lot less volume so I could do all the other mom stuff! It seemed like initially it took me so much longer to get out the door, whether it would be feeding the baby, pumping, bringing Torin over to his aunt’s house along with all his stuff and then getting my stuff ready and remembering to eat. But I rarely think, ‘it was so easy to train before I had a child’ because I always felt like I was juggling a lot and was never just a triathlete. I certainly feel stronger now but it could be because of a lot of things.
5. How do you balance family/work with your training/competition schedule? Doing less of everything else besides being a mom; working, racing, training and spending time together. Taking turns working, riding, and watching Torin. Focusing on a few key races a year and having a low volume training plan. Having someone come to races with me whether it be Ian or my mom was essential. Investing in daycare helped a lot too, that way you can also have more quality time together rather than always trying to do other things while watching your child.
6. Any tips or advice you would have for other moms with goals of getting  back in shape or even competing again after having children?
Be patient and enjoy being a new mom as the races will always be there. But having a race as a goal is great motivation and a break and alone time from being mom. If you don’t have that goal it’s hard to get out the door. A big realization for me was not stressing out about following a training plan exactly, you will have to skip some workouts, but instead being more concerned with how I felt, if I felt fit and fast despite how much training I’d done I believed I could do well in a race and usually I did.
Thanks for sharing Emma! Please check out Emma’s insightful and entertaining blog posts and photography on her website: www.emmagarrard.com. You can also follow her on twitter:@emma_garrard

Snot Rocketing through the Heat in Maui: Xterra Worlds Race Report

Though the Xterra season is long, being from a Northern Nation, I usually feel like I get into my best shape every year near the end of the season after lots of outdoor riding etc all summer. As per usual, Xterra Nationals went fairly well and I was continuing to build that fitness a little in the 5 weeks up to Worlds. Having moved the family out to Victoria, B.C. (back to my homeland :)) on Labour Day Weekend, I’ve also thoroughly been enjoying the new training grounds! I’m now looking forward to a snow free winter, apart from weekend excursions up to Mt Washington for our ski fixes!.

I was counting my lucky stars after having avoided the two rounds of colds my kids have gone through since school started. The day before I flew to Maui, I had a light head cold and was feeling tired but still had good energy in training. Wednesday was travel day and with a gong show of flight cancellations/changes and late arrival, sleep was less than ideal. Thursday I felt like crap and rode an hour on the course. I was a big grumpy pants but from past experience I knew I always feel terrible my first day in Maui with the jet lag and the heat. So it was hard to tell the difference between being ill and adjusting to hot Maui. With congestion and a scratchy throat I wasn’t sleeping well but thought maybe I had a real cold beat by Friday morning when I headed out for early run. But by that evening my sore throat was back in full force and by Saturday morning my cold was in my ears and voice. Fun times! I enjoyed a little swim practice that day and just tried to rest. It was World Champs and there was nothing to do but race!! Heck, nothing to recover for afterwards! Except maybe the post-race party….

Mid-swim beach run

Mid-swim beach run

I was more than happy that race morning started with relatively calm waters. After being full on “scorpioned” by the waves crashing at last year’s swim exit, the few 2 footer waves at this year’s start were nothing! I was excited to get going. The canon went off and into the washing machine I dove with the rest of the Pros in our 2 minute head start over the other 700 or so amateur men (wave start 2) and amateur women (wave start 3). I had some feet until close to the first buoy (500m out) but was sort of alone for the rest of the swim until many of the green capped age group men were going by me. I came out of the water unscathed, phew!

Transition with Helena hot on my heels

Transition with Helena hot on my heels

Onto the bike, the first 3 miles was likely the hardest part. Unlike last year, this time we rode the first 3 miles of the run course, which meant a lot of steep, sandy ups in the full sun. The bike course was rumoured to be almost two miles longer than last year so I knew pacing would be key. My teammate Shonny passed me in the first few miles and I tried to hang with her but failed. She went on to ride the fastest bike split of the day and finish 8th overall. I focused on racing within myself – whatever that meant for the day – and found myself around a lot of the same guys for the rest of the race. When I wasn’t shooting out snot rockets (sorry, gross), or coughing now and then, over the two hours on the bike I made a few catches and actually quite enjoyed the somewhat twisty sections of the last few miles of the course and was making bigger ground on peeps there.

The very top of the course!

The very top of the course!

Finally coming back to T2

Finally coming back to T2

At the start of the run, Melanie, Carina, Kathrin Mueller of Germany, were all within site. So was our amazing young (17 years old) Luna teammate, Hanna Rae Finchamp, who went on to win the overall amateur title. It was a sufferfest as always, but I felt I had at least got the hydration part right for the run. Apparently with the trade winds dying down for a few days it was hotter than usual. Although sick, I actually felt like I still had a little more spark in my legs than I did after last year’s severe leg cramping incident coming out of the swim. But not feeling 100% definitely put me out of contention for my goal of the day – a top 10 after last year’s disappointment.

Starting the run when we all look our finest ;)

Starting the run when we all look our finest 😉

In the end, I managed 16th in one of the toughest Pro fields ever. Every year, the competition gets stronger. We had a new women’s winner this year – Nicky Samuels of New Zealand, who won handily by 2.5 minutes over Lesley Paterson (2010 & 2011 World Champ). Lesley out sprinted Flora Duffy of Bermuda for 2nd. Barbara Riveros (runner-up last year) was fourth. AND….drum roll….Emma Garrard rounded out the podium in 5th to win the Pro Mom category :), on her first season back with a 10-month old son! Full results can be found here.

Post-race with Shonny (8th) and Suzie (10th)

Post-race with Shonny (8th) and Suzie (10th)

So I’m disappointed for sure!! Although I did manage a 5th place finish on this course the first year it moved from Makena beach in 2011, I still miss and prefer the old course. While full of lava rocks and the dreaded thorns on the side, the old course actually required some balancing skills, decent bike handling, and a serious amount of momentum to ride well. I think it is a little sad that this new course is getting dubbed the “ITU Vacation race”. I know our women’s winner is an amazing athlete but it doesn’t look good when the official Xterra race report, quotes this:

“Samuels, 30, who raced for New Zealand at the London Olympics and normally focuses on ITU road events, said she practiced her mountain biking for only three weeks prior to this race. Still, she was able to post the second-fastest bike split among the females at 1:49:36.”

Maybe one day Xterra will consider doing some proper trail building in Maui or even moving the Worlds venue around like many of us have suggested. If not, it is still the toughest race of the year, for length, climbing, and conditions – heat and surf – but not for technical riding – a triathlon that was originally meant for mountain bikers….hmmmm.

As always, a HUGE thanks to Luna Pro team manager (Waldek, also doubling as team photographer) and team mechanic (Chris), for all the amazing race support. Thanks to Chris V. and Brandi also for the amazing support during the race. Thanks to Katie, Debby, and Brandi for being such awesome housemates at Napili Point. I think my ribs and abs were more sore from laughing than from race exertion and coughing! Now time to get healthy enjoy the official off-season!

Xterra USA Champs Race Story

The Xterra USA Championship race is the 5th and final race in the Pro Points series. In order to contend for the overall prize purse it is mandatory to do this race, and one race (your worst result) is dropped in the final tally. American amateurs from all around the country also need to qualify for the race in their respective age categories. However, the Pro category lets us International folks in the race.

Like every other year I’ve been in Odgen, Utah, during the third weekend in September, the sun was shining and the reddening fall leaves were beautiful. As painful as riding uphill at altitude can be, the amazing colors and beauty of the trail always make me smile and grateful to be out there!

Game Face! :)

Game Face! 🙂

Now, I love my main sport of Xterra for the relaxed, chilled out and friendly atmosphere. However, unfortunately the relaxed nature of it all in regards to actual distances was a rather large disappointment when the race started out with the longest swim I have ever done in a triathlon, period! And I have done several half-ironman triathlons. The reservoir we swim in was unusually low this year so some of us thought, that is why the first buoy looks so far out there! We headed out into the glaring sun and boy did it feel like a LONG time before I rounded that first buoy. I had some good drafts for a while, and eventually the surging fast age groupers flew by after starting one minute behind us. And eventually I was settled into a pace with a few blue caps, and Heather Jackson just in front of me and Renata Bucher behind me and that was how we left transition as well 34 minutes later!!! To give perspective, for a 1500m swim I am usually in the 24-25 minute range. After the race, most estimated the swim to be around 500m too long!


That aside, I wasn’t really aware of how long the swim really was until the end! Off an on to the bike, I was feeling pretty awesome. I ditched gloves for this race and likely gained some serious time on the long road stretch for this smart move! Up into Wheeler Canyon, in the shady, and rockier section I was making some good time and quickly overtook Heather Jackson. Not long after that I felt like I was kind of in no man’s land for a while. I was surprised more male age groupers weren’t passing me – perhaps the extra long swim left those stronger mountain bike types farther behind than usual! I loved the short-lived descending and once up the steeper switch back climbing to the summit of Sardine peak I came upon Jackie Slack and Christine Jeffries. I had the last long descent all to myself with no one behind or in front and headed into and out of T2 in 8th place.


Up the first and very steep climb up a ski hill I could see Carina Wasle of Austria just ahead but it would be a few miles before I actually caught her. I was feeling pretty good and before the end of the first, fun, up and down windy single track I came upon Suzie, and then Melanie once back out on the double track. And then I finally saw and caught Carina on one of last climbing sections. I had made it to 5th. But no slowing down yet! It was a lot of gravity running in the last mile plus to the finish and after missing 3rd by 13 seconds last year I wasn’t about to give up any free time this year!

In the end I crossed the line well over a minute behind 4th (Emma Garrard) and was definitely proud of my effort. Although it was one of my lonelier races (e.g. without many people around me much – weird!) I felt like I was always pushing and “racing” my hardest, gave it my best so to speak. Out in the front Leslie took the win, Barbara was 2nd, and Chantell Widney (mom of 5-year daughter, up and coming Xterra superstar, watch for her in Maui!) was 3rd. That equals three moms on the podium!


At the end of the day, I had also jumped from 5th to 3rd overall in the Pro series – a nice surprise! After a slightly crazy couple of weeks prior to the race spend relocating our family to Victoria, B.C. from Calgary, AB and miraculously not getting sick as my kids came down with colds, I was happy to get through this training block and race healthy and fit. Even half of my housemates in Ogden were sick! And many thanks to the Kunz family for opening up their large “cabin” to Branden, Bri, Craig, Josiah, John, Steve, Brandi and I for several nights. It was a fun, relaxing place to hang out, and full of laughs right to the end, except when Branden almost died on the backyard zipline – but that’s another story!

Canadian Chicks! In 3rd, 5th, 8th, 10th and 14th!

Canadian Chicks! In 3rd, 5th, 8th, 10th and 14th!

Now its back to work before the big show off of some beach in the Pacific in exactly one month from today – Oct 27th. In the meantime, I will get back to adjusting to and enjoying life on my favourite island – Vancouver Island – and continuing our rather interesting, and way too time consuming house hunting!

Skills Training at Xterra Black Diamond

With my kids happily settled into to life on Hornby Island and my husband doing some mad landscaping work on our house in Calgary before coming out to join us soon, I enjoyed a weekend away south of the border. After many years it was fun to be back in the land of my running years at the University of Washington. The weekend included a clinic with the Seattle Luna Chix Triathlon team and a new Xterra race adventure in Black Diamond, WA. (Although unfortunately I didn’t get to revisit the famous Dick’s Drive-In for the best hamburgers and milkshakes ever!)

It was a super fun time. On Saturday, my homestay Carrie and I drove down to Black Diamond from Sammamish (pronounced sa-MAM-ish, not sa-MA-mish as I kept saying, ha!). With 12 attendees, we talked the new-to-Xterra ladies through the specifics of swim-bike-running in off-road triathlons before going through a pre-ride of the two-lap 7.5 mile course. It was the most amount of single track over rocks and roots I’d ever seen, twisting like crazy through salal bushes, giant ferns and dark rain forests, quintessential Pacific Northwest style. It also involved almost zero vertical gain, not the best suited course for my strengths but a perfect one to practice my not so amazing cornering skills! Everyone did great on the ride and we all made it across the sketchy slick log for the creek crossing that we had to run through twice on race day (pictured below).



Race morning was perfect conditions, about 20 degrees C, slightly overcast but sunny by the end of the bike. The swim temp was made getting in with a wetsuit easy but wasn’t too warm either. It was a unique 1000m swim with the start taking us out between two large areas of lily pads. After that it was out around a buoy before heading to a tiny island. We were assisted up on to the island by coconut wearing volunteers before running no more than 20 metres across carpet before jumping back in and heading straight to shore. I was surprised to find myself in 3rd spot at this point and out of the water as well. With a bit of lily pad fright I lost a bit of time going too far right of the pads but still made it into shore and T2 in 17:12, nice length for a swim I figure, 🙂

Out on the bike it was nice to not have too much traffic. It was a course that required full focus to try to remember what was around each blind corner! Near the end of the first lap I heard a female voice sneaking up on me and wasn’t too surprised that there could be some stellar local mountain biking talent in the race. Turns out it was Solana Kline of Bend and the girlfriend of Ryan Trebon, and therefore knows my brother Geoff quite well – small world!! She had also just entered and won her first Xterra race at Vashon Island, WA! Solana was in and out of my sight for a while but on such a tight and dense course, it is hard to see anyone within 30 seconds but at least I was enjoying connecting the dots together better on the 2nd lap! As I headed into T2, I saw Solana running out so I had some work to do!


The run was a 2-lap almost figure-8 course with a pass near the finish 4 times. It was much like the bike course, always keeping you on your toes to navigate turns, and leap over roots, rocks and logs – only maybe a mile of open double track to just plain run! After 2h39min I crossed the finish for 1st in the women and 9th overall. A great day, and it was fun meeting lots of new Xterra friends! Thanks to Carrie, Eric, Seamus and Sirus Atwood for the amazing having me stay for the weekend with amazing hospitality! Congrats to Carrie who had a rocking day on the course and set a personal best time – no small feat just over one year after having brain surgery!

Women's top 3, L-R: Heather Zimchek, myself, Solana Kline

Women’s top 3, L-R: Heather Zimchek, myself, Solana Kline

With Carrie and Luna Chix members after the race

With Carrie and Luna Chix members after the race

Next up – JABR mountain bike race, Squamish, B.C., Aug 17th

Xterra Mountain Champs Race Report

I love mountain venues. I think they remind me of my first years of mountain bike racing. A beautiful ski hill resort, lots of fresh mountain air, plenty of climbing usually rewarded by long, fun, technical descents (although the long descent factor was missing this weekend!). A very relaxed place to be for a race!

Back in Beaver Creek, Colorado on Thursday for the Xterra Mountain Championship this past Saturday, I timed my only pre-ride of the course by finishing the last technical descent in the dumping rain. Not the best way to check the feel of the trails which were all dry and nearly dusty again by Saturday! After an ideal pre-race day of run-nap-swim-eat beets I was feeling ready and rested.


I knew being next to Vail, CO that we were high and in thin air but I honestly couldn’t tell you the altitude before the race. I just know it pays to be a wee bit more conservative but otherwise my only plan was to listen to my body as usual – race hurt is race hurt! But for those interested the race included 3,600 feet of climbing on the bike and another 1,300 on the run. It started at 7,400 feet and peaked out at 9,400 feet.

I had a pretty good swim and was actually enjoying myself for most of it. The first lap I was drafting a crazy splashy kicker until I realized I was faster if I pulled to the side and away on my own. I had a good rhythm and felt like I was stroking strong. On the second to last buoy my arms were definitely feeling heavy but the timing was fine with the bike only a few minutes away…


Onto the bike I was down 3.5 minutes back of the leaders Julie Dibens (3x World Xterra Champ back in her first race in nearly two years after battling injury) and Flora Duffy. My teammate Suzie Snyder, as well as Kelley Cullen and Emma Garrard were also up ahead.

As we headed up under the ski lift to begin the first 3.5 miles of climbing I could see Shonny back down the switchbacks. With her absence last year I knew she would be the biggest challenge of the day for me to attempt a repeat win from last year, especially as she lives in Durango during the summer.


By that 3.5-4 mile mark I had passed Emma and then Kelley on the beginning of the pavement climb. By the end of the pavement I had passed Flora and could still see Shonny sneaking up on me. After a few miles of pavement we were back on the dirt and STILL climbing. And the top of all the climbing Shonny caught me and our teammate Suzie was in contact just ahead. After all the twisting descending and flats through some Aspen trees I had lost contact with Shonny but bridged up to Suzie on the next climb. We road together on the traverse across the mountain. After the most fun section of rolling descending single track it was one more short dirt road climb before the final corkscrew descent and into transition. There I saw Julie Dibens and managed to put in a burst to get around her before the descent.

Into and out of T2 it was Shonny, myself and then Suzie for a 1-2-3 for Luna. I did get one split that Shonny was about 2 minutes ahead. She is one of the stronger runners so I knew I would have to have a great run to catch her. So off I went feeling like I was in slow motion up and up through the Aspen trees with a few short reprieves along the way. I knew it was the same for everyone so just kept up one foot in front of the other! A long open road descent towards the transition area broke up the middle of the run. It was only a tease because right as you see the finish you have to head back up again for another loop of climbing before descending back to the finish. I was starting to feel a little queasy on the final climbs. I picked up a running partner, Craig Evans, for the last couple kilometres but unfortunately only managed to make up 25 seconds on Shonny by the end. A good day for sure and I hope I will be as fast as Shonny when I grow up to the age of 44 years young too! Suzie held on for 4th, while mom of two mountain star Kelly Cullen had a great race to run into 3rd. Rounding out the podium was mom #3 of the day, Emma Garrard.

BCpodium Lunateamfinish

Thanks again to our Luna mechanic Chris, for the pre-race support spoilage. Thanks to Branden Rakita (also placing 2nd in the Pro Men) and his parents for the accommodation set up and the most amazing pre-race meal!! And thanks to Brandi and Craig for all the laughs and amazingly fun post-race day ride – recommended to us by men’s race champ and local, Josiah Middaugh.

Beautiful views on day after race ride!

Beautiful views on day after race ride!

Now I’m out on the Hornby aka Hippy Island for a bit before heading to a new Xterra venue, at Xterra Black Diamond in Seattle in a few weeks. Can’t wait to hang with the local Luna Chix team down there as well!

Tropical Storm, Raging River = Go With the Flow!

If there is one thing I’ve learned after many years of racing and learning from the athletes I work with on mental preparation, it is that there are things you can control, and many you cannot when it comes to competition. If you focus on the “uncontrollables”, stay fixated on them and waste emotions on them, you will definitely be using up valuable energy needed to perform on race day! Be ready for anything and whatever will be will be! I like Will Gadd’s philosophy (a rock star rock climber from Canmore); he believes in the “positive power of negative thinking”. In other words, think of everything that could possibly go wrong and be ready for that!

In my first year of racing Xterra, and at my first East Championship race in Richmond, VA eight years ago, while my bike arrived, my luggage got lost and never made it to me before the race. In the two days I had before the race I was madly running around to find rotors, run shoes, a helmet and other race gear, as well as trying to learn the tricky, twisty, “hard to remember what comes next” technical course and feeling pretty nervous about it and the open water swim in the river with a current. The night before the race I had no appetite, barely ate dinner, and went to bed with a horrible headache. Not surprisingly, the next day I felt super flat in the race and had nothing left in the tank, especially by the time I hit the run!

On my first day back in Richmond this year on Friday the rain poured down like cats and dogs all day thanks to Tropical Storm Andrea from the south. Pre-riding was out as the course trails in the James River Park System were closed. Plan B ended being lots of chilling, going to the coffee shop, a short run, and a quick swim in an outdoor pool at the country club with the other Canadian girls in town (thanks to Mel for this rainy fun swim date!). On Saturday, the rain FINALLY let up before noon, and (gasp!) the sun started to come out! Brandi and Chantell had arrived and had not yet seen the course, so Katie and I took them on a ride of part of the drenched run course, and scouted out some of the mountain bike trails. There were draining incredibly fast so we were excited that at least the full mountain bike course should be open for the race if the rain held off and it got to dry out for the rest of the day and night.


Meanwhile, the James River where we were to swim, had risen over 8 feet higher from the rain! It was ugly mud brown and flowing fast. Surely the swim would be cancelled and it officially was by Saturday evening (the only other time it had been cancelled in Richmond was back in 2003). The swim course at this race is already shorter to begin with, and most of our times are roughly 6 minutes faster than the regular full distance swim. With the swim replaced by a 1.6 mile run, the long and technical mountain bike course favored the strong riders more than ever! I knew the run start would give me a small advantage but hardly any over the strongest riders so it wasn’t going to make it any easier! I was either indifferent to the decision or just in my learned Zen, go with the flow, What-ever mindset, ha!

run start

Our Pro race began at 8:00am. I ran in 2nd for the women, 30″ behind Leslie, and once out on the road over the river, Brandi and Mel had passed me before the first section of single track. I kept them in sight as long as I could but a few too many bobbles and unforced errors – to borrow from Tennis – yes I was in full control of my bike but many stupid mistakes over many obstacles added to precious seconds and contact lost over time. Soon Shonny was on me too. She rides as smooth as she talks with her Texan drawl and went by me and onwards to the front of the race with a lead over Leslie going into T2.


Next to creep up on me was my other Luna teammate, Suzie, on the second lap of two. I kept her in sight all the way into transition and managed to bridge back up within a mile into the run. Then it was on and up the Mayan ruins, which makes the legs cramp big time and feel like crap for a few hundred metres. With about 1km to go, I was getting some cold shivers in the crazy humidity and I got another split that I was 25 seconds from 4th place. Unfortunately I was still 20 seconds too far by the finish and had to settle for 5th, but happy to be back on the podium!


A big thanks to Chris cubed this weekend: our team mechanic Chris for the wonderful race support, Suzie’s bf Chris for the great help and feeds, and Shonny’s gf Kris for all the great laughs! Our mechanic Chris even jumped in the race, and rode the course blind and rocked it! Thanks also to our local Luna Chix Richmond team Audrey Kane for the homestay! It’s only uphill from here and I’m happy about it as far as Xterra goes!

Next up: A local one, Chinook Half, June 15