Lyndsey feels excitement, pride and just a bit wistful about Women’s Aussie Rules Football (Guest post)

Image of women playing football from the AFL site, http://www.afl.com.au/

Image of women playing football from the AFL site, http://www.afl.com.au/

Earlier this year was the inaugural Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) season. It was an 8-week season, with eight teams from across Australia competing. The Grand Final was a close and exciting game, won by a narrow margin by the Adelaide Crows over the Brisbane Lions.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Australian Rules Football has been officially around since the 1850s, when it was first codified, with the first league founded soon after in the 1870s. It is a highly skilled game, and is played with a uniquely-shaped ‘prolate spheroid‘ ball. Australian Rules Football is the world’s oldest football code, and is particularly beloved in its home town of Melbourne where huge crowds flock each week to watch the game, and newspapers regularly have football ‘news’ stories splashed across the front pages… followed by football ‘sports’ stories in the actual sports pages. Even during the off-season! There is now a public holiday prior to the Grand Final, and it is quite acceptable for Melbournians to wear their football scarves to the office in the finals season.

The history of women playing AFL football goes back to the early 1900s, and women have been able to play football as juniors for quite some time. As a high school student in the 1990s, I played for my school’s women’s team against other local schools. Playing the game was very physical and hard, but it was a lot of fun, and I still have very vivid memories of the games I played in. But it never occurred to me that it was something I could play outside of school – I wasn’t aware of any local women’s leagues at the time. There was certainly no visible profile of the sport as something that women could play. Instead I played basketball and later, in my twenties, got involved in road cycling. Playing football was more of a novelty at the time, and it was a great honour to play for my school team, which was known as the best in the region.

This year, I watched several games of the AFLW, including the Grand Final, with a mix of excitement and pride, but also wistfulness. All the games were free to attend, and the crowds were beyond the AFL’s expectations. As a viewer, what delighted me the most was the normality of watching the women play. The players wore the same style of uniform as the men (no skirts or bikinis here!), and the games were very physical and tough, with hard tackling, exciting goals and thrilling marks. There was no attempt to make the game ‘sexy’, ‘cutesy’ or a novelty – to me it was just watching fit, skilled people (who happen to be female) playing a good game of football.

The inaugural season has inspired more women and girls to get involved in playing the game, with new regional leagues starting up, and plans to expand the national league in 2019. Over time, as the players become more professional and are able to devote more time to training and playing at a high level, and as the game at junior and amateur levels develops, the pace and skill of the women’s game can only increase.

The wonderful normality of the women’s game extended into the post-season celebrations in a way that men’s league is yet to achieve. The Best and Fairest Awards were held after the Grand Final, with the players and other attendees dressed in their finest for the dinner and speeches. When Adelaide Crows premiership player Erin Phillips was announced as the winner of the Best and Fairest award, she leaned over and kissed her wife, Tracy. Erin Phillips became a professional basketballer after being told at the age of 13 that she couldn’t continue to play football with the boys. Being able to return to football all these years later – and win the Best and Fairest award – made for a sporting fairy tale, which the media loved. The fact that Erin attended with her wife, and thanked her in her speech, was treated in the media as normal, and was nothing to be surprised or shocked about. Perhaps one day soon there will be AFL male players who feel comfortable enough to attend the Brownlow Medal awards (the men’s equivalent best and fairest awards) with their male partners as well.

 

This is a selfie of Lyndsey and Watson on the water. Lyndsey is wearing a hat and a bright yellow PDF. Watson, is peering over her shoulder.

Image description: This is a selfie of Lyndsey and Watson on the water. Lyndsey is wearing a hat and a bright yellow PDF. Watson, is peering over her shoulder.

BIO: Lyndsey is an ecologist from Melbourne, and enjoys walkies with her dog Watson, bike riding and bush walking… and watching the football.

Miranda’s first 10 km! (Guest Post)

On April 30th, I ran my first 10K. I run with some frequency, although I haven’t run in an organized race in years (okay, in decades). I decided to run in the Forest City Road Races 10K for a variety of reasons, but mostly, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

I’d like to go on to describe my strenuous training schedule, to explain, in detail, that I ran diligently three to four times a week, adding in longer runs and building up my stamina, and that I did strength training to protect all the muscle groups in my body.

But I can’t write that. You see, I have a full-time job and three young children (ages 10, 7, and 4). Running is definitely something I do for myself. It is “me time.” It’s the one activity that I do on my own, no matter what. I don’t even bring my dogs with me. That said, it’s also an activity that gets dropped when other things come up. If I were writing this post for a women’s magazine, this is where I’d make some profound statement about work-life balance and how women can—and must—balance their work-lives and their home-lives, ensuring that they devote precisely X number of minutes to themselves each day (I’ve found the number varies from magazine to magazine). Thankfully, this isn’t a women’s magazine, and I can be honest: I think the whole notion of work-life balance is bullshit.

Balance is a myth. Scheduling, time management, and, frankly, sacrifice are all real. There I said it. For me to run, I have to schedule it, and I don’t mean schedule it in the “I wake up in the morning and decide, Oh, it’s a lovely day, I think I’ll go for a run this afternoon.” I mean, I have to enter any run on our family calendar. My runs have to work around my teaching and writing schedule, around my partner’s teaching and writing schedule, around both of our seemingly endless meetings, around our children’s school schedules and their various activities, and around any community commitments we may have. Often running is the first thing to go on a really busy day. Some weeks it was easy for me to run three or four times for 45 or 60 minutes. Lots of weeks, most in fact, I was lucky to get in two 30-minute runs. In fact, between January (when I registered for the race) and April, I only managed to run ten kilometers twice. Most of my runs were between five and six kilometers, although I did get in about ten runs that were seven to eight kilometers long.

So when I woke up on the morning of my 10K, I was nervous. I knew I could finish it, but I was nervous about how long it would take me. Plus, the weather was less than desirable—cold, windy, and a bit drizzly. I decided that I would be happy if I finished in 70 minutes. This was a calculated decision on my part. I can, and usually do, run a five to six minute kilometer. But I also struggle with pacing myself, so by the time I get to the eighth kilometer, I’m tired. For this race, I gave myself permission to go slow.

As I ran, I consciously chose to run near people whom I knew were running a bit slower than my normal pace, and I slowly picked up my pace. I used my FitBit’s exercise feature to help me keep track of my time, so I knew my pace for each mile (my FitBit tracks in miles, not kilometers, and I haven’t had the patience to reset it). I ran the first through fourth miles between 9.36 and 9.39. I had to stop for a pee break during the fifth mile (three kids, remember?), so it was a just bit slower, 9.59 (again, three kids, so I am accustomed to peeing fast). By the start of the sixth mile, I felt good, and I realized I had a real shot at finishing in under an hour. So I picked up the pace. I ran the last mile in 9.04, and I finished my first 10K in 59.09, a time I am really proud of. I also felt like I could have kept running, which tells me that I am capable of going longer distances.

After the race, my family found me, and my middle child hugged me hard and said, “Mama, I’m so proud of you. I want to run a race now too.” That made me as happy as my time. You see, another key reason that I run and exercise is to encourage my children to do so, to teach them that it is important for everyone to do something physical that they love. Hearing my kid say that reaffirmed that this message is getting through.

My oldest child asked if I plan on running another race. Without hesitating, I answered, “Yes.” And I do. I taught myself that I can do it. I also learned that I enjoy it. So, yes, I will do it again, hectic schedule be damned.

 

Miranda Green-Barteet is a teacher, a feminist, a parent, a writer, and a runner. She also plays soccer and occasionally manages to read a book just for fun.

Kim steals Sam’s QOM and you’ll never guess what happens next…

(Nothing too dramatic. Sorry. I’ve just always wanted to write one of those headlines.)

As you might have read yesterday morning Kim kicked off the cycling season by stealing another of my QOMs!

Of all the comments on Facebook when I shared this news, as one does, I liked my partner Jeff’s response best, “it’s early days.” It’s the start of the cycling season and time to rebuild fitness  I’m not going to worry about QOMs just yet 

Later, I’ll worry. Here’s my post about end of season QOM hunting.

There are two ways to be best on a particular segment of a ride on Strava, all time best and best so far this year. I laughed yesterday because I’m currently the fastest woman riding up the hill to campus in 2017. That’s because so far this year I’m the only woman who’s ridden up the hill and who uses Strava. My time is 1:14, not even close to my own personal best of 44 seconds. That was in October 2015 

It’s not bad overall, 7th, but I plan to move up the list this summer. Kim currently holds the all time QOM at 29 seconds. I think that one is safe in her hands 

You need to get a good run at it, have the traffic light timed perfectly, and not have any students or geese walk out in front of you. I’m usually too fearful to go all out. But maybe on the weekend, or early in the morning, maybe…

Wish me luck!

Here’s how I feel end of season about Strava QOMs.

But this is more how I feel right now.

Row Row Row Your Boat Out of Your Semi Existential Funk (Guest post)

by Samantha Walsh

I would like to thank Fit is a Feminist Issue and specifically Samantha (who shares my name) for the opportunity to write a guest blog post.  Over the past two years I have been looking for, and thus experimenting with, new sports and new challenges. The impetus for finding new fitness activities was a neck injury that changed the way I have to participate in sport and activity.

 

A little bit about me

To begin a little info about myself: I am 33, I am doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Toronto. I have held positions in both non-for-profit as well as post secondary institutions. I identify as a feminist and have an interest in social justice work.  I also have a condition called cerebral palsy which effects my coordination and ability to walk. I use a wheelchair to get around.   Much of my research and written work focuses on the social position of disability as it relates to class position and intersections of identity.  This blog post will venture in a new direct as a personal reflection on shifting your paradigm and identity.  I hurt my neck two years ago, and had to give up many of the activities I really liked, for a time.  I have been cleared to go back to most of them but, still really struggle to get back to the level of fitness I once had. It was the pursuit of new activities that brought me to rowing; and rowing which shifted the way I think about my own situation.

Row Row Row your Boat But, Wait There’s More

I took a “Learn to Row” from the Argonauts Rowing club in Toronto last year (2015). A “learn to row “is a beginner program where you literally learn to row; I was introduced to some of the rowing lexicon. I was taught how to row with the most efficient form.   During this time I had the opportunity to row a single.  I was also taught about the different adaptations that can be made to a boat to support a disabled rower. For example: A fixed seat so the rower is using their torso and arms, if they do not have coordination of their legs.  In competitive adapted rowing it is my understanding that rowers are classified based on their ability and then their times are compared.

It was also at this time, I learned the beloved childhood song “Row row row your boat”, is delightfully inaccurate, as it should likely include the phrase “Legs, back, arms” or “Oh my hamstrings”. Rowing was a full body workout and unexpectedly profoundly challenging.  I had befriended some varsity rowers during my undergraduate studies and had always thought the sport was neat.  I had wanted to try but, really struggled to find a rowing club that would accommodate the fact I have cerebral palsy and cannot walk. I had shelved the interest until a neck injury, mentioned above, made it difficult for me to participate in my usual fitness activities.  I was looking for something: that was a full body workout; that was social; not a team sport; could be done recreationally and able to be adapted.

Finding a New Sport Not So Easy When You Have a Disability

I started googling…An ongoing challenge I find as a disabled person whom is interested in their own fitness and recreation but, not interested in competition or team sports, is that I really struggle to find opportunities that provide: a challenging and comprehensive workout with a social component.  I find it is difficult for me to simply enroll in a sport ’n social league or other recreational things because, they often assume the participant will be able-bodied. The able body is almost compulsory for joining any sort of recreational sport.  For example: I have able bodied friends who are learning how to curl.  This seems like a great winter sport. It’s a fun game with the tradition of a beer after.  I know there is Wheelchair Curling. I have seen it on TV. However, I cannot find a league near me which supports wheelchair curling, so I do not curl.

I find often when I do find mainstream activities that welcome me and are reflexive to adaptation it is through a friend, a fitness instructor or coach who is excited to have different bodies in their class. I still find that the most common refrain for finding adapted sport is to rely on a team based program such as wheelchair basketball or a rehabilitation initiative. Moreover, adaptive sports equipment is often double or triple what an “able bodied” athlete would pay. For example: Running shoes versus the cost of a Racing Wheelchair. I long to be able to join beer leagues, workplace softball teams and drop in yoga classes. I am at a point in my life where my leisure time is limited. I am not interested in the lonely pursuits of excellene or segregated sports (these of course have their place). This is why, I was impressed to see the Argonauts advertised an adapted learn to row on their website. I was able to join for a fee and with very little self disclosure of my disability.  While rowing is a sport which typically favors those of higher socio-economic status it was a pleasant surprise to find out that the club had an open-door policy in regards to ability. However, I do recognize that it is my own privilege of being employed and having a disposable income that made my adventure in rowing possible.

You Are Only New Once…Or In The case of Rowing You Are New For Almost Two Years….

As mentioned above, I took a “learn to row” in 2015 and then returned for a second year of rowing in an adaptive program in 2016. I was really focused on rowing as a way to get a full body work out. I chose to row a single with a sliding seat that was comparable to an able bodied rower.  The single had pontoons on it as almost a training wheel system while, I learned to balance.  At the end of the 2015 season, I met another rower, Bill  (who was an single leg amputee) at an end of season party.  He offered to row a double with me.  In 2016, I practiced rowing both a double and a single.  While I had really enjoyed rowing a single; I liked the coaching I was receiving and really appreciated the solitude that rowing a single occasionally brought (other times it was a lot of trying not to row into things).  Rowing a double was a bit of a game changer for me.

 The Little Voice in the Back of your head, Or  If You Row the Person Speaking To the Back of Your Head

I had been very happy rowing a single.  The coaching style of the rowing club was one of positive feedback and constant things to build on. I felt like there was an assumed mutual respect. I was not in a subordinate position but, rather someone happy to learn from another person whom was happy to teach. This coaching style was in part why I looked forward to rowing, it was a happy add on to the beautiful scenery and comprehensive workout. Rowing a single though had not yielded me very many social opportunities. I did not know very many of the other rowers and often only spoke with my only my coach on the dock.  Additionally, early on I had told the club I was not interested in racing or competitive rowing. That I would be rowing just to get back into shape. Pleasantly, everyone seemed to respect this. To be fair though a novice rower does not usually compete.

The first night I rowed a double with Bill he made a point to introduce me to everyone he knew on the dock. Each person we encountered he would have a little story for. He would always introduce me with a little quip about losing a bet and having to row with him; or some interesting fact about me. I met a lot of different people very quickly.  In the boat Bill sat behind me doing a lot of the balancing and steering. He gave me feedback on my rowing.  He told me I was fast. He said I was always improving. Bill would go out in any kind of weather. Every time, I said the weather was bad, he would say something about the perfect day never comes. Often, I went with him on whatever adventure course he was set for.  He introduced me to more people. He talked to the coordinator and coaches about my progress.  He told me I should race. An interesting nuance or at least how I understood it.  The idea of racing was not to seize elite status but, to race for myself. Race as a challenge; a way to get more involved in the club; a way to meet more people. Everyone around me was receptive to this idea. I started to work on race starts, and being able to row racing distances.

Race Day

The regatta Bill and I enter was a recreational one hosted by our club. The water was awful that day.  It was windy and choppy.  At one point a coach remarked we would likely not be in the water but, it was a regatta.  But, remember, if you wait for the perfect day you will never go rowing. We rowed. It was too choppy to do a race start. The only goal was to make it to the end and not flip the boat. Just keep rowing!  We made it to the finish line. There was apparently an issue, our time was lost. I am pretty sure we lost. I was not really focusing on other boats just my boat and moving to the finish line.  When we got off the water there was a reception with social to follow.  I rowed a race, I met some new people and I left feeling better than I had in a long time.

Changing the Tide: Rowing as a metaphor for life

As someone who studies the workings of societies and social dynamics it is hard for me to believe that an individual’s success is not the collective sum of their social position and the resources they have access too.  I understand concepts of “positive thinking” or that individuals have total control over their destiny to be deeply flawed mired with classism and an erasure of systemic oppression. While I maintain these assertions to be true; acknowledging that even the opportunity to both try, and then continue rowing is made possible through a complex network of my own privilege and resources. I am forever, grateful that the opportunity to row and to race with Bill has reminded me: not to limit myself through my own expectations. Not to wait for the perfect day to try something and despite the choppy water and the ups and downs to keep rowing best you can; even if you are scared, even if you have to stop for a time. Rowing reminded me of my own resilience and ability to change courses even when the water is rough.  I am forever grateful to the great coaching staff and my doubles partner.

Getting ready at the dock! #adaptiverowing #adaptivesport #row #rowing #summer #summer2016

A post shared by Samantha Walsh (@walshsam) on

 

 

Party Run: 2016 Mudmoiselle London (Guest Post)

By Elan Paulson

(Shown above: Team “Slick Chicks” post-race)

This is a follow up to my previous blog post on party runs, which I published in anticipation of the 2016 Mudmoiselle London fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society. In my previous post I had signaled some concerns about party runs, highlighting examples of runs that are currently available in North America. So, here’s me reporting back on where the Mudmoiselle stands in relation to these concerning issues.

The corporate issue: The event was well-organized and fully stocked with smiling volunteers; cheerful music; and a series of tends for registration, bag check, and changing. The Mudmoiselle “template,” with standardized pink/yellow/teal colours, was used for signs and medals. Registered participants received modest draw string swag bags with a shirt, trial-sized protein bars, and assorted gift certificates. About the only noticeable corporate branding was a guy at the photography booth dressed up like a Best Buy ticket.

What I think I liked most about the run was the camaraderie it inspired. There were some cooperative obstacles, but it was the occasion itself that brought out our team’s support for each other. That’s something no amount of sponsorship could buy, and perhaps it was in part because there was little corporate presence that we could focus on motivating and having fun with each other.

The “dress up” issue: Our team chose “business slick” attire: white men’s dress shirts, ties, sunglasses, and lipstick. Our costume was determined less by gender norms and more by what was comfortable but also ironic for a mud run. At our after-run lunch back at the captain’s house, our team was already talking about next year’s costume. Most seemed to like the idea of formal gowns.

The health issue: The course was not competitive, or even timed. An announcer warmed up teams at the start line. The obstacles were challenging, but not insurmountable. And some were quite amusing. Our team particularly liked the diagonal pole we had to slide down (with the aid of applied lubricant) to avoid falling into a mud pit. We encountered encouraging signs (“It’s just a hill; get over it”), water stations, and cheers from by volunteers and medical staff. So, it was a healthy activity, but afterwards we chose to have pizza and beer.

The environment: On this well-marked course we ran up and down a local ski hill on a beautiful, sunny day. We pulled jeeps in neutral, flipped large tires, and navigated through strings pulled taut across woody bike paths. Other than the water and soap to make a “slip ‘n slide” down a larger part of a hill, most obstacles seemed to use existing spaces well, and did not seem environmentally damaging.

The fundraising issue: The London Mudmoiselle met its fundraising goal—nearly $80,000—and our team met its own goal as well. I took my fundraising seriously, and through asking friends and family for donations raised almost $900. While I may have ran the Mudmoiselle run, it’s those who donated to the charity who are the real champions of the day. So, I’m listing below those who donated for me to acknowledge their generosity.

I had only one family member refuse to donate to the CCS because he thinks they aren’t transparent about how they manage their funds compared to other charities. And while the day served the purpose of fundraising, at the starting line there was no explicit mention by run organizers of the charity or its efforts (at least none that I had heard).

Overall: As an event that emphasized fun, friends, and health, but without over-the-top competitiveness or a barrage of corporate gimmicks that undermined the run’s social purpose or personal benefits, Mudmoiselle’s pros and cons netted out pretty evenly for me. It was a party run, but it was fun and it promoted an inclusive type of “partying” that many would find to be a welcome alternative to a traditional booze bender on a Saturday (complete with ties around our heads).

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Guest Post: Canadian Duathlon Nationals – Race Report (Aug.24/16)

My primary goal for the 2016 duathlon season was to qualify for the 2017 age-group world championships to be held in Penticton, BC.    I had three opportunities to qualify – Gravenhurst, ON in July (2 spots per 5 year age group), the test event in Penticton, BC in August (10 spots) or Montreal, PQ in September (5 spots).  I knew with my recent weight gain and low level of fitness this summer, I would not be able to qualify on the hilly Gravenhurst course.   I was pretty confident I could qualify on the flat Montreal course to be held on the Formula 1 course at Parc Jean-Drapeau but with it being the last opportunity of the season, I didn’t want to delay until then.   I chose to compete at Penticton, both because I felt confident I could finish top 10 in the women’s 50-54, and because it would give me a chance to test out the 2017 Worlds course.

I reviewed the course profile online before registering.  It showed that the run course had a significant 400m hill at the 1.0km mark.   I assumed this meant we would go up it twice for the 10k and once for the 5k.  The bike course showed as completely flat, going along the west shore of Lake Okanagan.  A friend warned that this route could potentially be windy, so I was apprehensive about that.  Since I was so out of shape at the beginning of the season, I carried on with adding volume, speed and hills, and did four duathlons, five club time trials and three running races.   I completed the full distance of this race 17 days prior at MSC Bracebridge, which gave me confidence that at the very least, I had enough endurance to complete the full distance.  My time there was 3:18, which is about 40 minutes slower than the last time I did this distance duathlon.  I hoped to be able to improve on that time.

After Bracebridge, I had a few more long and hard workouts but then moved into my taper.  I ended up working a lot leading up to my trip, which meant I missed a couple of my lighter workouts.  In the last couple of days, I was worried that I may have tapered too much.  As well, my plantar fasciitis was flaring up and I had a nagging hamstring twinge.  Rather than get treatment, I participated in a 5 Beer-5km race five days prior to this race with my hamstring taped up.  Hey, life is too short to miss doing Stupid Human Tricks!

We arrived in Penticton two days prior to the race.  By this time a full race preview was available.  I learned that the run course was actually a 2.5km loop, meaning we would have to run up the large hill SIX times.  It was also far longer and steeper than I had anticipated.   The bike course however, was very flat and the wind at our 7am race time, was fairly calm, so that was a relief.

Going into the race, I knew I had the endurance to finish, and I knew I could get a decent time on the flat bike course.  I knew my challenge would be the hills on the run.  I spoke to some other competitors and they pointed out that the run turnaround was at the top of the steep hill.  Running up and immediately down a steep hill like that four times and then transitioning to a hard bike ride, would also be difficult.

Race day finally came.  I did about a 10 minute warm up with lots of stretching of my calves and hamstrings.  I didn’t feel anything worrisome during my warm up, especially with my hamstring taped up.  My legs actually felt fairly fresh, which made me relieved that I had tapered well.

Run 1 (goal 6:00/km, actual 5:50/km) –  When the gun went off, I settled into my pace and covered the first flat kilometre.  As we hit the uphill the first time, I was pleased to find that the hill actually flattened out in the middle so that we had a bit of a rest.  I decided that I would count the hill in pieces, ie my first run up was 2 hills done, second time up was 4 hills done, and so on.  With such a long race, I play games like this in my mind. The nice part was that the downhill was not as painful as we had thought.  As well, the downhill grade carried on for a fair bit past the visible end of the hill so I was able to carry my downhill speed.   Then with a final turn, the first 2.5 km loop was done.

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I continued on and found that the short loop was easier psychologically than a big one loop 10km.  I got to see the same water station and cheering volunteers 4x and got to go through the start/finish area 4x.  I got a nice boost every time the announcer called out my name, especially on the second time through when he announced that this was my fourth time racing Nationals and that I was a consistently strong finisher.  Not sure where he got that information from but it sure was nice to hear.  By my third lap, I was being passed by the faster competitors, but even at their 35-40 minute 10k pace, they were good enough to cheer me on as they passed.  I tried to reciprocate before they were out of range.  Finally my four laps were over and I was thrilled to see that I had run under an hour in 58:30.

Bike (goal 27km/h, actual 28.7km/h) – The bike course travelled out of town along the south shore of Lake Okanagan, past the motel strip.  The road was quite rough here but then we turned right to travel north up the west shore of the lake on the highway, where the road surface was very smooth.  Highway 97 at this point is two lanes on either side, with traffic going at least 100km/h.  The course was set up so that we had a closed lane in each direction.  It was a bit unnerving to have traffic going at that speed so close to us, but I did not feel unsafe.   Our course was two out and back 20km loops.  I checked my speed at about the 5km mark and was surprised to see that I was already at about 28 km/h average speed.  I was in my big chain ring and a mid-gear at the back and rolling very well.   It felt like I had a slight headwind but I didn’t think this could be possible if I was going that speed.  I have been tricked by the wind before so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Sure enough though, when I came through the 10k turnaround, I got a tailwind and my speed went up even further, to about 30 km/h.  I started getting lapped by the faster riders, who were absolutely flying on their second bike lap.  Now I started to get excited.  If I could hold my speed, and do a decent final 5km run, I might be able to break 3 hours in total.  I got back into town for the 20km turnaround at about 41 minutes.   I headed back out and started to push my pace a bit more, now that I knew what the course felt like.

2016-08-24-bc-trip-race-day-033

With the highway portion of the course being so flat, and only changing gears occasionally, I found myself getting mesmerized by the unchanging scenery and the traffic passing beside me.  Whenever my mind wandered to something other than focusing on going hard, I repeated in my brain, Stay In The Box.  What this meant to me, was to stay in the feeling of discomfort, of pushing harder than my body wanted and to empty my brain of anything other than that focus.

I knew that once I got to the turnaround at 30km, I could push as hard as possible and just shuffle my final 5km.   That is what I did for the final 10km of the bike.  My quads and hamstrings were getting very tired, but I just ignored them and pushed through to the end of the bike course.

Run 2 (goal 6:30/km, actual 6:28/km) – Due to pushing so hard on the bike, I had a rough transition to running. Whenever this happens, I focus on leg turnover speed, even if it means taking short, choppy strides.  At least it gets me moving forward.  I hit the base of the big hill and opted to power-stride it.  This is a positive way of saying, I was walking!  I was able to run through the flattened portion and then strided the top portion.  On the steep downhill, I was able to run again.  Once I came through the start/finish area, I was elated, knowing I only had one more 2.5km lap to go.  I did the mental math and saw that I would be able to go sub 3 hours, if I just kept moving.  Once more up and down the Vancouver Ave. hill, and then a short 500m to the finish.  Sure enough, I came across in 2:58 with a huge smile on my face!

Results – I needed to get a top 10 in the Women’s 50-54 in order to qualify for the Worlds race next year.  During the race, I became aware that there were not many women my age and over, so I was pretty much assured that there were fewer than ten in my age group, but I didn’t know how few.  When I saw the results, I found that I was 3rd W50-54…. out of 3.  This is the third time I have gotten a bronze medal at Nationals (also 2012 and 2013) but the first time that there were only 3 of us in total.

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It is disappointing and awkward to explain this result when asked.  A standard distance duathlon is a difficult sport with the two runs and it will always be less popular than triathlon.  It is hard to interest people in participating in a race of 55km.    It even seems a bit mind-boggling to me that I can propel myself over 55km in less than 3 hours, at age 53, especially while carrying extra weight.

Where does the motivation come from, to participate in obscure competitions at middle age?   It has to come from within.  (Yes, I am paraphrasing Chariots of Fire’s Eric Liddell there!) I have regained the confidence in my body’s physical abilities.  Motivation also comes from friends who see my age, my size and my life responsibilities and tell me that they are now inspired to try activities that they once thought were impossible for them.  That is humbling and motivating for me.

Now that I am back to being a sub-3 hour duathlete, I am very excited to continue my training and see what 2017 brings!

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Finally, a shout-out of gratitude to Girls Who Bike, 20 Minute Daily Groove, Runners Choice London, London Centennial Wheelers, Multisport Canada, and of course my FamJam.

Guest Post: 5 Beer – 5k Race Report (August 19, 2016)

This is the second time I have done this race which is a long-distance version of the Beer Mile.  Instead of drink a beer, run a lap of a 400m track four times, it consists of drink a beer, run a kilometre, five times.

Yes, that’s right… drink a beer first, then run a kilometre, repeat five times.

There are very strict rules for the race.  The beer must be a regulation size can or bottle.  A certain Mexican beer is out as the bottles are too small.   The beer containers must only be opened one at a time, before starting each kilometre.  All containers must be emptied completely, and proven by turning it upside down over one’s head before starting the next running loop.  If one vomits, an extra kilometre must be run as a penalty.   If one is able to keep the vomit in by swallowing, there is no penalty.  No nudity is allowed.  Apparently something happened in 2015 that necessitated this rule.  Unfortunately I missed the 2015 race so I can’t report on the nudity occurrence.

There are several divisions including wine and spirits as well.   I choose to drink non-alcoholic beer which means I am included in the beer division but I am not eligible for a trophy if I were to win.

Here is my race report, including words of wisdom for myself if I choose to partake a third time in the future.

I hesitated to take part in the event this year as I had a twingey hamstring from doing 500m repeats several nights prior.  I was also concerned due to my upcoming goal race of the season being only 5 days later.  Would I risk jeopardizing my goal race for a silly beer run?  Yes, of course I would!

I had a busy afternoon at work and didn’t end up eating my lunch until 4pm.   3.5 hours prior to race time….. my quinoa salad should stay down fine, right?

I picked up my beer on the way home, direct from the local brewery.  I had decided to use their new 0% beer.  I had never tried it before, but it sounded good.  How different could it be from the grocery brand that I had used previously, right?  I left the chilled beer in my car to warm up to the ideal temperature, somewhere between cold and hot.

The race has gotten sillier over the years and some runners are starting to wear costumes.  I use this as an excuse to wear my running kilt, which I otherwise reserve for Highland Games running races.   I figure if you’re going to do something crazy, you may as well ramp it up.

We got to the race location with about half an hour to spare.  Lots of time to sign the waiver and figure out the running course.  This would be a 500m out and 500m back flat course.  There were about 50 runners and as many spectators as all runners are required to have a designated driver.   Much smack-talk ensued at this point….. ok, maybe it was just me mocking people who were opting to do the race as members of a relay team.  I can be a bit obnoxious when it comes to Stupid Human Tricks such as this.

At 7:30, the race began.  Drinks were opened and poured.  It instantly became apparent that we were going to have a new champion.  Our Aussie transplant quickly chugged his first beer in about 5 seconds and was off for his first kilometre.  I am not a chugger, but I was done in about 40 seconds.   With my first taste, I realized that I didn’t like my new beer choice as much as my prior one, but I thought I could tolerate it.  I headed off for my first run.

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The worst part of each kilometre is the first 200m.  If you are lucky, you will have a couple of belches and then be on your way.  My body did not disappoint and I had a good first kilometre.

Onto my second lap…. I didn’t remember the second beer being so difficult to get down last time.  IMG_2525

Finally I was done and off running again.  This time the belches didn’t come quite as easily.  At about the 400m mark, the Aussie lapped me.  I plodded back to the finish.

Beer #3 was very difficult to get down.  Another woman who was running my speed asked me if I wanted to switch to a relay midrace, with her.  I agreed but she had a change of heart so I was off to do lap #3 on my own.  At this point I was questioning my decision to participate but being the stubborn Taurus that I am, I kept going.   Now everyone was starting to lap me.  Getting my belches out was not a problem at this point.  I started to realize that the beer I was drinking had a ginger taste.  Wasn’t that supposed to settle your stomach?   Nope.   Another big burp and I tasted my quinoa salad.  This was not a good sign.

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(After this point in the race, I think my picture-taking husband was laughing too hard to take any more photos!)

I finished up that lap and cracked open beer #4.   The Aussie came in to his finish at this point, with a 17:20 overall.  I slowly swallowed about half of the bottle and started to gag.   I realized I was going to lose it.  I ran to the side of the house, not wanting to yack in front of everyone.   Up came the beer, and probably some quinoa salad, but I managed to keep it in my mouth and swallow it back down.  Triumph!  Back to the driveway and I finished the rest of that beer.  Out for my second last lap.

By the time I got back to start my 5th and final beer and lap, at least half the pack was finished and the crowd was getting louder by the minute.  People tend to finish the race sober, but become very drunk about 5 minutes later as their bodies metabolize the alcohol!  At this point I decided I was going to finish no matter what.  I slowly swallowed down the last bottle, and headed out.  Just as in my last 5B-5K, the final lap was fine.  For some reason, once you get to a critical mass of beer in your gut, running is fine.   I finally came in to the finish in 35:50, about 3 minutes slower than my previous attempt, but good enough for 6th woman in the beer division.

Some interesting things to note, if you ever want to attempt this type of race.

  • As someone with a very small bladder, I am surprised that I don’t feel the urge to pee through the entire race. It actually takes me at least an hour after finishing before I am able to pee at all.
  • To assist with this, I stop drinking anything about 3 hours before the race start.
  • I did eat about 3 hours prior to the race start. I would move this back an hour or two next time, to decrease the vomit-probability.
  • After the race I had pretty severe stomach cramping for about an hour, until I threw up a couple of times and was able to start peeing again.  I did not have this cramping with the prior beer I used.  I think that may be due to the ginger flavour.  I would go back to my prior beer for future attempts.
  • The Women’s Winning Time for 2016 was 24:58. As far as we are concerned, this is a World Record!

Would I advise that you do this type of race?  Sure, but probably try it first as the member of a relay team.  I will probably be out there next year trying to better my time….  Life is too short to forego doing silly things occasionally!