Marathon Mom Running with the Boys, and other Wins from a Lifetime of Firsts

Running with the Boys, and other Wins from a Lifetime of Firsts

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Do you know what I loved doing as a child? Competing. Competing with the boys. Competing with the boys because I could. 

I still remember the day my dad asked my sister and I if we wanted to play hockey like our three older brothers. I was absolutely thrilled. In fact, this moment is one of my fondest memories I have of my dad, who was likely the most influential person in developing my love of sport. It didn’t take long to learn how to skate, by pushing a chair as we did in those days, before I was racing my male teammates at school skating events. Later I would become the first female in my county to play high school hockey in a non-goalie position, back when there were no female high school hockey teams. 

I also enjoyed running at a young age, and like hockey, my coaches could see my passion for sport and some natural talent paired with a coachable and competitive spirit. My high school track coach would place me in pacing groups with the boys, which gave me people to chase while also being chased, making us all better athletes.   

Over the following years, I would continue to strive to normalize some things that were once questioned, doubted, frowned upon, or rarely done. 

  • I could run during my pregnancies without putting the health of myself or our baby at risk. 
  • I could run a half marathon and played a hockey game for fun when six months pregnant with our first and third child.  
  • I could train and race while breastfeeding without compromising my milk production. 
  • I had no issue giving a baby a quick feed in front of my competitors, male or female, before stepping on the start line. 
  • I could beat the odds by recovering from a near career-ending injury by meeting the Olympic standard 11.5 months after surgery, later to be the oldest team member to compete for Athletics Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games. 
  • I could start the 2018 Boston Marathon with the mindset that anything could happen, later shocking myself and many others with my third place finish thanks to Canadian-favoured conditions.   
  • I could be a member of some previously male-dominant broadcast teams for televised world-class marathons.

I could take matters into my own hands, after a terrible first experience as staff with a young girls hockey team, by applying for the next year’s head coach position. I wasn’t particularly passionate about taking on the role at the time, but there was no way I was going to allow those girls to have another negative experience. I’m now entering my third coaching year and am grateful for the influence I’ve had in the impressionable lives of many wonderful young women. 

I’m now presented with another opportunity; to give back as was given to me and help others work towards their athletic goals. Although we’re not yet sure how it will look, I’m happy to be helping Coach Reid with his Coolsaet GO  Bayfront Endurance group. And I’m honoured to be doing so with Anthony Romaniw, making us a coaching staff of three 2016 Olympians. While nothing is formal, I look forward to learning and progressing as it fits, finding my place, and challenging myself and other runners.  

In other events, as I explained in my last blog, I had two failed 10 km time trials (TT) in May and June before taking training back a bit in July and August. Reid scheduled a TT for September 12 with a small group of his athletes, which gave me something to look toward. My goal was to have a decent race and feel satisfied. I had told Reid that I didn’t think I was that fit (hoping for ~3:40/km), but he kept coming back with our group goal pace of 3:36/km for a 10 km of 36:00. I’ve always thought that if I can hit around 35 min for a 10 km and 17 min for a 5 km than I still have it.

The cooler temperature, conservative start, and solid pacing with Michael Gill had me feeling good and settling into goal pace after the turnaround at 3 km, and finishing strong with my fastest 2 km at the end. While my time was 36:08, Michael’s watch clocked us at 35:57. Because I enjoyed it and raced well, I decided to return for another Coolsaet GO TT the following weekend.  There would be a few guys going for a 10 km of 32-33 minutes while I would be joining the 5 km group aiming for around 17 minutes.

Again, we had excellent conditions and the expert pacing of Michael Gill. I found myself keeping pace—the only woman I might add—with the group of six guys. We stuck fairly close together with our finishing times ranging from ~16:50-17:10. Michael’s watch again had us a bit faster at around 17:03, while mine showed 17:10, only 3 seconds off the 17:07 I ran earlier in June. Considering my training wasn’t that specific for most of the summer, I’m very pleased to have run these times. And at 43 I’m certainly happy to still be competing with the boys (men). 

I’ll take a few easy days then refocus as I prepare for my next goal, which is checking off my bucket list item of completing a 50 km. The cooler fall days will make running more comfortable and the leaves changing colour will be beautiful. The timing to start training for this distance is perfect as I’ll be able to start fuelling my long runs using Endurance Tap’s new pouch approach. With this waste-reducing system, I’ll be able to pour up to 5 servings of Endurance Tap into a soft flask from the pouch that holds 15 servings. It uses 75% less plastic than a single serve, therefore creating less waste. Endurance Tap is easy to digest with its three natural, high-quality ingredients: Canadian maple syrup, Canadian sea salt, and ginger.

I’ll place the pouch in Saucony’s new Haul Lite Pack instead of stuffing single-use Endurance Tap gels in pockets and down my sports bra. I’m happy to represent companies that are making changes to better the environment. Saucony has created some apparel utilizing recycled materials and organic fabrics, and has answers to FAQs about the biodegradable collection on their website. Endurance Tap is also looking to make further changes around fueling more naturally and sustainably. I’ll be sure to post these details once they become available.

Keep striving, competing and doing what you can, friends.

Onward.

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