fitness · Guest Post · injury · triathalon

Guest post: Exercises for a broken wrist

by Mary Case

As I am recovering from a broken wrist, there are several physio exercises that I do on a daily basis. When a friend shared with me that she was experiencing some wrist and forearm pain from her increased computer time, it occurred to me that these exercises and stretches could be a contribution, so I created this video. I am not trained in this area, but I do know what a difference these are making to my recovery. I think they may contribute to some of you who are finding yourselves at the computer, more than usual.  

Mary is a recently retired Elementary School Music Teacher, an Energetic Body Worker, an Access Consciousness Certified Facilitator and a professional violinist. When not involved in any of the capacities mentioned above, she can often be spotted in water, on a bike, or running to prepare for her next triathlon.

competition · cycling · Guest Post · injury · triathalon

What does retirement, Covid19, an orange cast and a cancelled race, have in common? (Guest post)

by Mary Case

In January I wrote a blog post about my first week of retirement. It was filled with the joyful anticipation of long workouts in preparation for a half ironman race in May, a lane to myself in the pool, lots of recovery time, the freedom to train when I wanted and workouts at what I would call ‘civilized” hours.

As the month unfolded, it was all of that and more. Building through February to cycling over two and a half hours on the trainer, while indulging in classical music on CBC radio, longer runs built up to 13k , long swims and a stunning trip to Arizona for hiking and outdoor adventures. I was on target for race day, May 31st.

And then things changed a little. First a small injury requiring a shift from running to walking for a bit. No big deal. This, while somewhat frustrating, could be managed. I did notice however, how challenging it was to “slow down”. Little did I know what “slowing down” would come to mean.

Fast forward one month to March 1st. I was walking my dog Ranger, the last vestiges of ice on the sidewalks, when this walk was cut abruptly short with a fall on the ice resulting in a broken wrist.

I digress briefly in this blog from my theme here, to acknowledge the incredible kindness of strangers I experienced as people stopped their cars, called an ambulance, made sure I was warm, called my hubby and took care of the dog. True angels of humanity.

Many hours later I was sporting a beautiful orange cast. It seemed only fitting that I choose the Balance Point Triathlon team color.

Author on bike trainer, sporting orange cast supported on pillow

Now what? This is taking slowing down to yet another level. As the bones heal, Netflix binging becomes the activity of choice. Sitting still for this girl, proves to be somewhat challenging.

Meanwhile enter the unprecedented times of Covid 19. Social distancing, the closing of many of my frequent hangouts; gyms, pools, yoga studios, physio clinics. While the time frame for wearing a cast and slowing down for it, was somewhat annoying, there was light and recovery at the end of the tunnel. Now what?

The pain of the injury subsides and the body is restless. Slowly I am able to add some time on the bike trainer with the arm propped up and the arm can now be at my side for some longer walks. 

I start to notice something on these walks. There is a sense of peace in this slowing down. I hear the birds, my senses are heightened. The traffic is quiet. There is not the constant mind chatter of the next workout, of pace times, of calculating nutrition needs. Something is shifting.

And then the announcement that the race is cancelled. While this was at first difficult, I do notice that I slow down again. Things that were relevant it my world fade for now. There is more space. Priorities change. My thoughts shift especially as I witness what others are going through. How important really is a pace time?

I know that I will ramp my training up again at some point in the future. My body loves to move, it loves a challenge and it really does not do Netflix well. Who knows what racing will look like in the future and when that will take place?

What does Retirement, Covid 19, an orange cast and a cancelled race have in common? For me it is the gift of slowing down. The chance to be still, to play a little with technology, to read, to listen to the birds and meditate. I reprioritize and experience life in a different way, if only for a little while.

 Meanwhile, the tires remain pumped.

Nostalgic photo of author at empty race site. 

Mary is a recently retired Elementary School Music Teacher, an Energetic Body Worker, an Access Consciousness Certified Facilitator and a professional violinist. When not involved in any of the capacities mentioned above, she can often be spotted in water, on a bike, or running to prepare for her next triathlon.

competition · cycling · fitness · Guest Post · racing · running · swimming · triathalon

Is this what retirement is like? (Guest post)

by Mary Case

Day one of retirement was officially declared a “jammie” day. No alarm clock, a pot of tea, a good book, feet up, sitting in front of the fireplace. It was blissful and lasted almost ninety minutes.

Author in a comfortable arm chair, sitting in front of a fireplace with her feet up, reading a book with her dog at her side.

And then that was enough for the dog who, delighted that there was another human home, insisted on a walk.

Somewhat reluctantly I changed out of my jammies.

It is so quiet and peaceful on this crisp winter’s day.  No noise except the occasional passing car. Was this what it’s like, this retirement thing?

I returned home an hour later, fully intending to return to my perch. (My colorful, cozy jammies now replaced with walking gear, looking suspiciously like running gear), and then I had a vision: an empty pool, a lane to myself perhaps. Was that actually possible? 

Empty YMCA pool.  All lanes free.

It was too irresistible, and so the perch by the fireplace was abandoned again. And there it was: my empty lane. Two kilometres of blissful, uninterrupted swim strokes.

Was this what retirement is like?

The choice to retire from teaching elementary school music was a tough one. I loved my job and was not particularly desperate to get out. 

I had a fulfilling and vibrant career but, I was curious what life would be like on the other side. 

Last fall, in a moment of “but what will I do when I retire?” I wondered what it would be like to be a gym rat, and so I approached my computer in search of half ironman races. These are called 70.3’s in the triathlon world. It seemed a good idea at the time, and it was a distance that my years as a triathlete had prepared me for. 

I chose a date. May 31st, that worked for me. It would have been concert prep time, if I was not retired. 

I chose a location. Connecticut, I could drive there. 

Done! I signed up. 

Oops. I missed a little bit of homework here. I found out later that this half ironman is called the Beast of the East. 

As I write this blog, week one of retirement is almost over. It’s also my 59th birthday. I think about this “fitness” thing. For me, it’s always about the joy of seeing what my body is capable of. I do not have a point of view about speed, competition, losing weight, or much of anything else. 

I love a challenge; my body loves to move endlessly, and the amazing thing is that I am fitter, faster and stronger than I have ever been. 

I think I might  be able to get used to the quiet, the recovery time and being able to head to the gym, my trainer or the road, at hours that do not involve the numbers 4, 5, or 6 attached to “a.m.” 

I think I can get used to this thing called retirement. And who knows, hills may just become my new best friends. 

Author, School photo.  Looking very professional in a pink top and pearls.

Mary is a recently retired Elementary School Music Teacher, an Energetic Body Worker and a professional violinist. When not involved in any of the capacities mentioned above, she can often be spotted in water, on a bike, or running to prepare for her next triathlon.  

cycling · triathalon · winter

Clermont riding in January Sunshine

This past week Sarah and I took our bikes apart, packed them in boxes with our helmets, shoes, and cycling clothes and hopped on a plane to a place where it was warm enough to ride them.

I’ve done a few different kinds of winter riding somewhere warm. I loved my luxury Arizona cycling tour. I also loved South Carolina training camp. Both were beautiful. Both had their charms.

This year was a new thing though. No group. Just Sarah and me, meeting up with Jeff in Florida who is there with his boat. (Follow his boating adventures here.)

Originally we’d thought about the Florida Keys but that didn’t fit with Jeff’s schedule. Instead, we decided to meet up in the middle of Florida in an area Chris Helwig, my former London cycling coach, visits for riding every January.

Where’s Clermont? Smack dab in the middle of the state. It’s a great area for cycling. Lots of rolling hills and even a serious climb or two, some great rail trails, and quiet country roads flanked by beautiful trees covered in Spanish moss and miles and miles of orange orchards.

It’s also home to the National Training Centre. There’s a big pool, group rides, and regular timed runs. Triathletes everywhere!

What makes a place good for cyclists? Varied terrain, for sure. Warm weather. Now Florida had its own version of the polar vortex so it was cold for locals. But 13 degrees is just fine for bike riding and by the time we left it was in the 20s again.

There were lots of cyclists. Just having the numbers makes a difference. I loved a sign that read “You are entering a high activity cycling area. Watch for bikes.”

The roads mostly had bikes lanes. There were also paved paths not besides the road. And in the rare case that there wasn’t a seperate bike lane there were signs alerting drivers that cyclists had the right to use the full lane.

We stayed in the Clermont Cabanas on Lake Minneola so we’d have our own kitchen and space to relax after riding. That turned out to be a great choice

We had four solid days of riding, about 270 km all told, including a day of big hills. It was nice to have route maps all planned. Thanks Chris!

Here we are at the top of Sugarloaf

We did a long ride into the countryside.

And we really enjoyed the 20 mile West Orange Trail.

Oh, and after the hill day I even persuaded Sarah to give Yoga with Adrienne a try. She has a special workout just for cyclists.

We’ll back back, maybe next time with more fit feminist friends. I like you Clermont. What a great way to close out January.
fitness · motivation · movies · training · triathalon

“We Are Triathletes” is an inspiring film but Tracy won’t be signing up for the Challenge Roth

Last night we had a special film event, one night only, through “Demand Film.” It’s an organization that sets up film screenings that only go ahead if enough tickets get sold by the deadline. The film was We Are Triathletes and it followed six athletes from four countries as they prep for and compete in the Challenge Roth, the world’s largest triathlon with over 5500 competitors, held every year in Roth, Germany. 2014, the year the film highlights, was the race’s 30th year.

I went with a group of people who have actually done Ironman triathlon events. I ran into a few people who I used to train with when I was doing the fittest by 50 challenge and getting ready for my Olympic distance events back in 2014. I think almost all the London, Ontario triathletes who weren’t training last night were at the movie.

In addition to following a diverse group of athletes–elite and age-group, men and women, and one para-athlete who had his legs amputated as a child, and the first Chinese competitor in –the film fills in some of the history of Ironman, including interviews with legends like Julie Moss, Kathleen McCartney, Dave Scott, and Mark Allen. It also gives great context for and history of the Challenge Roth, which really does sound like an amazing day for athletes and spectators alike.

Going in I had one worry, which is that I would find the film so inspiring that I would want to do something ridiculous like start training for longer distance triathlons (or any distance triathlons). But that didn’t happen. I did find it inspiring. It’s hard not to feel a little kick of motivation watching determined athletes train hard and hearing them talk about what draws them to the event, what race day feels like, and what it means to them to finish (let alone win).

So what happened was this. I am in total awe of anyone who has ever completed an iron distance triathlon. Whether it was the athletes in the film or the people I went to the movie with, completing a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and then running a marathon is an incredible physical achievement. Timo Bracht, who won the men’s elite category at the 2014 Challenge Roth, finished all that in under eight hours (7:56)! Mirinda Carfrae, one of the featured athletes in We Are Triathletes, won the women’s event in 8:38:53. These are incredible times. So yeah: wow.

Despite being in awe and full of admiration, I really don’t have the desire to do that type of training, which the film made clear kind of has to take over your whole life. I mean, I found Olympic distance training tough to sustain, so I can’t even imagine staying motivated to train for an event like Challenge Roth.

But what it did inspire in me is motivation for the training I’m doing now, which is my 10K training. Time is closing in on my September 8th race, where I put my summer of fairly consistent training to the test. I’m not sure if I can but I would love to get my time under 65 minutes. We’ll see.

I think documentaries like this are amazing for showing what humans can do. It doesn’t necessarily mean you want to do exactly the same thing, but it can inspire nonetheless. I remember how Anita used to love watching The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young:

She liked it not because she wanted to do it, but watching the people do it inspired her to want to do her things.

We Are Triathletes was like that for me (but my friend Ed now wants to do the Challenge Roth, so clearly it has a different impact on different people). Here’s the trailer:

What about you? Do sports documentaries inspire you at all? In a particular way? Not at all?

athletes · competition · fitness · inclusiveness · running · training · triathalon

By the way, fat people also aren’t lying about exercise either

Earlier this week, I talked about the lack of credibility given to fat people when it comes to what we eat. You can tell people, if you’re me, that you’re a non drinking, non fast food eating, vegetarian but people don’t really believe you.

But it’s also true that no one believes what we do when it comes to activity either.

This week Ragen Chastain appeared in People Magazine as the heaviest woman to ever complete a marathon. She’s actually completed two because the first time she didn’t know it would put her in the Guinness book of records and she didn’t notify them.

She’s not alone as a larger endurance athlete. See my post (Updated) Plus sized endurance athletes, we exist!

What gets me about Ragen is not what she’s done, though that’s remarkable at any size, it’s the lengths people will go to deny it. Tracy blogged about it here, When “pathetic” loses its irony. It’s a post about a Facebook group she was in that allowed a lot of Ragen trolling, bashing, and skepicism to go unchecked.

You can follow Ragen’s journey to Ironman here at her blog IronFat.

The Ragen haters have their own blog IronFacts, which is a debunking blog which supposedly tells the truth about Ragen and details her lies. It was last updated in May 2017. Since presumably People magazine has its own fact checkers maybe that’s shut them up. I don’t know. I find the whole thing puzzling.

Like, why would you even doubt that she’s telling the truth?

There are medals, race finishing photos, pictures of completion times. She’s never claimed to run the whole thing. Instead Ragen like lots of amateur athletes runs and walks her marathons. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

To me it can only be explained by a kind of prejudice against larger bodies, that those of us who have them can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be believed. We set out to lie and to cheat people. I’m not sure why people believe this but they seem to.

What do you think? Do you also find out puzzling?

The sun setting over Mo’orea, an island in French Polynesia

cycling · feminism · fitness · martial arts · running · swimming · triathalon

Feminist Fitness Love Stories

Happy Valentine’s Day, Feminist Fitness readers! We love y’all—all 16,000 of you!

In honor of the day, I collected some stories of sports and fitness love from some of our bloggers and readers. I asked these questions:

  • How did you and your sport first meet? Was it love at first sight?
  • If it’s a long-term relationship, how has your love changed over time?
  • Are you polyamorous about your love sports/activity relationships?  How do you manage to keep those different relationships going?

Readers, we’d love it if you would share some of your own sports love stories in the comments section. If we get enough, I’ll put them together for another blog post.

Love and fitness is not a new topic for the blog. Check out previous posts here and here and here   and here.

For inspiration, here are some of their stories below (slightly edited).

J on swimming: It was an arranged marriage when I was 11. My dad decided I needed an event for the Maccabi Games (Jewish junior olympic-style event), and he was a swimmer as a kid. It was the only time he’s been successful as a yenta.
We got really serious from ages 12-21, and spent all our waking hours together in college. Then we broke up when I found cycling and didn’t see each other for more than a decade.

I’ve come back to the sport in the past year after a knee injury, and we’ve fallen in love all over again. Switching from breaststroke to freestyle is a fresh new perspective. Plus, the gear is better now – who knew goggle technology had such room for improvement?  I just have to avoid looking at those (fast!) times from our youth together.

Swimming and I are both major Dan Savage fans, so yes, we believe in ethical [infidelity]. I cheat on it with cycling, kayaking, and hike/ski/snowshoeing on the weekends. And it cheats on me with Michal Phelps (but can you blame it?) The great thing about swimming is having a workout, lane buddies, and coach to motivate me on the days when I’d rather out out with Netflix, instead.

C on running and cycling: My long term relationship is with running, but mostly it’s the lover I am cuddling with on the couch with Netflix, comfortable and familiar and a good affirmation and reassurance from someone who’s known me a long time and still loves me despite my changing body and ebbing and flowing.  The new energy comes from my embracing of cycling, where I’m living fantasies of being the hostage trapped in the hotel with the FBI agent who wants to have their alpha way with me.  I have yet to have the threesome with these two I’ve been planning for years.  Maybe a duathlon in June 😉

A on Taekwondo: I was a child bride. My father arranged it all. Now I couldn’t see my life any other way. We had some time apart in my wild undergraduate years, and things were understandably tempestuous in graduate school, but now we have a mature understanding. I brought in rock climbing as a relatively new but stable partner. It’s more of a summer thing.

K on downhill skiing: A friend of mine invited me to go skiing.  I replied, “I don’t ski.”, which surprised her. I also found it really intriguing that she just EXPECTED me to be into skiing.  I needed to know why.  Her reply intrigued me more, “It fits with your personality.”  That was it.  My skiing crush started.

The first time I went skiing I knew I was bound for a lesson, but at what level? I took one trip up the bunny hill.  I got off the chair lift in one piece, no falls.  Nice.  Then I started sliding down the gentle terrain.  So far so good.   Gradually the speed was picking up.  I don’t know how to brake on these things.  Well, I thought, I know one way to stop.  And, I plopped over.  It sure was fun.  🙂  That was January 1999.  Since then I have gone from being a novice who needs to learn control to an expert who can explore the entire mountain.

I am not a cheater!  I keep things separate by season.  For example, I used to race sailboats.  I got burnt out on that and switched to cycling.  I can only handle one major commitment at a time.  😉

J on cross-country skiing: I flirted with my sport for a few years before committing in earnest. I built a deep relationship during the long winter nights above the Arctic Circle in 2000. Daily (or really, nightly), skiing provided a mental antidote to grueling work hours away from home, and a physical antidote to the other coping method – obscene alcohol consumption.

My love – and it’s really part and parcel of why I love what I love – is a continual process of learning and loving more deeply. There’s always room for growth, and given the nature of my chosen sport this can continue even as I age.

XC skiing is not a new love, but it has retained the passion of a new love. The feeling I get from using my whole body in a coordinated way is unparalleled. I retain many casual relationships, but am faithful to my true love.

Me on cycling, scuba, kayaking, yoga: In life and sports, I’ve had several different loves. Cycling is family—I’ve known it my whole life, starting with my first bike at 4, training wheels off at 5. My real appreciation for it has been in the last 12 years, once I started road biking in earnest, as well as mountain and cross biking. Even when I commute on my beater bike, I can still feel that sense of liberation—I’m moving under my own power, going exactly where I want to! Cycling will always be there for me, and I’m grateful for that lifelong relationship.

Yoga is the friend with benefits I reconnect with from time to time who is very accepting of my busy schedule, and is there to make me feel good. It’s not romantic—never has been—but can be therapeutic when I need some TLC. We’re seeing each other on the side now, and the nice thing is no one ever gets hurt.

Scuba is my new mad crush. We met on a vacation in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, and I was infatuated right away. I’m now getting certified here in Boston, and am going to Puerto Rico for diving in March. Will a vacation fling survive the cold New England waters of reality? We’ll see.   But I’m sort of hoping it turns into something long-term.

M on cycling: The earliest phase of my long love affair was a yellow and black Murray that I got for Christmas at age 6. My dad took me outside, all set to give me my first lesson in staying upright on two wheels, and giddy with excitement, rode off down the street, no lesson required.

After using my bike mostly as a means to get to my friends’ houses, I was given my first “real” bike – a road bike with impossibly skinny tires. I remember riding it on the wrong side of the road because I was too afraid to have the traffic at my back and I felt no joy in that saddle. It seemed so fragile to me. I quickly traded it in for a hybrid and at the same time, some of my friends started mountain biking. It was 1992 and this was cutting edge where I was from. I joined them on my hybrid and couldn’t get enough of it.

It wasn’t long after that I purchased a mountain bike and proceeded to have lots of fun on dirt for many years until I got the nerve to get back on a road bike.  It was 2007 when I heard of this thing called “cyclocross”. I tried a race and adored it. Now as the sport has expanded, and mixed terrain rides on ‘cross bikes are becoming more popular, I feel I have come full circle to the days of riding my hybrid through the woods. This is what I had been waiting for all along. Recently I was riding my ‘cross bike on some local trails with a goofy smile on my face the whole time, feeling just as I did in those early days of love.

P on cycling: I fell in love with my partner and cycling at the same time. He is a cyclist and athlete, and I knew when our love was new that cycling was going to be important in my life. I didn’t realize HOW important and central it would become. Now, after teaching cycling and riding across country, I still remember fondly the first day we rode the Minuteman Trail together and he gave me a gentle push – a push that propelled me into love with him and the sport.

L on running: My sport/first love is running. It was definitely NOT love at first sight. In fact, we didn’t like one another one bit upon being introduced. I forced myself to engage with running for a long time. Slowly, very slowly, our relationship developed and became stronger. I went from only being able to run with others, to only being able to run with music, to finally, being able to run alone and sometimes even without music. It was then that our love blossomed (though as I note below, we are no longer monogamous).

It’s definitely been a long-term relationship: almost 20 years now. Since our courtship became a solid relationship, we’ve been pretty consistently in love for the whole time.

Though I’ve dabbled with others (biking and swimming, primarily), I’m pretty loyal to running. I confess that I also met Ashtunga yoga over twenty years ago. Though we had a casual relationship for several years (I was so young!), we had a falling out. I don’t think I was mature enough for yoga. But seven years ago we met again and for the past six years, I’ve been dividing my love equally between running and yoga. Because they are complementary and not competing for my love in any way, we have a pretty nice polyamorous thing going!

K on cycling: I fell in love with my bike in the summer of 2013, on a trip to Morzine in the southern French Alps. Until then I’d just ridden a lot and thought, ya, this is fun. In Morzine I learned something more: that my bike and I, together, could climb mountains. Not super fast but faster than most, steady and solid. It felt incredible, liberating.

On that same trip a woman my age, a former racer and now coach, told me how talented she thought I was as a rider; that praise hit home like you would not believe. I’d never been talented at sports, EVER. I’d been teased as fat and inept and uncoordinated as a kid. My high school gym teacher used to call me “retard.” (No, really. Thanks, Mr Elgie.)

Since then I’ve ridden with pride, hugged the road, so grateful for my awesome strong body and my lithe, speedy bike. Her name is Ruby. (No, really. Thanks, Ruby!)

Tracy on swimming: she’s blogged about this here, which will inspire everyone to get in the water very soon.

 and Samantha, on Cycling: A Love Story in 3 Parts:

  1. I fell in love with riding a bike as a kid, as one does. I don’t know how old I was. Maybe 8. The bike had a purple banana seat and sissy bars at the back. It was the 70s. This isn’t me but it looks like my bike. We moved a lot when I was growing up, following my father’s work as a baker across Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. At some point the bike stopped coming with and I stopped riding but I remember that bike. I remember learning to ride a bike and I loved the freedom it gave me to come and go.
  1. After more than 10 years of not riding, a friend was riding from Ontario to Newfoundland and she gave up in Halifax. Too many hills and too much rain and bad weather. She decided to complete her trip by bus and ferry and left me her beautiful bike for the summer. It has gears that worked and you could actually get going pretty fast. I started commuting everywhere by bike and said goodbye to the bus. Shortly before she arrived home I took her bike into a bike shop and said I wanted one like it. I couldn’t afford one like hers, it turned out, but instead I bought a pink Raleigh hybrid commuter bike. It was stolen only a a few years ago after I passed it down to my mother.
  1. After steadily commuting for years, I got into running. Approaching my 40th birthday I started running 5 kms 10 kms, and then training for half marathons. A friend who’d done a half ironman suggested we train for a triathlon and we signed up for the Running Room’s triathlon clinic. I also worked with a bunch of serious cyclists who noticed the running and increasing fitness and who said maybe I was ready for a real bike. I bought my first road bike–a red Cannondale, the first in a series of Cannondales–and took it out for a spin with my triathlon training group. All of a sudden I was at the front, not the back, and chatting with people I never got to run with. My friend had to stop for a bathroom back but he told me to keep going and that he’d catch up. I ended up waiting at the car for what felt like forever. He never caught me. Whee! Zoom! I was once slow (running) but now was fast (on the bike). I’ve never looked back.

So readers, if you have love stories to share, please tell us.  And we’ll keep sharing the love…


fitness · Guest Post · swimming · training · triathalon

Swimming to beat the heat (Guest post)

Not a bad way to spend weekday mornings

Mid-December I was struggling with the seemingly enormous task of returning to some semblance of my previous fitness level when I read here about Sam’s run streak. I thought it was a great idea and the concept of ‘little runs’ consistently is quite appealing.

I think on any day I could get myself out of the house to jog for a mile. Multiply that distance by 3 and all of a sudden I build a wall of expectations (too far, too slow, too tired) that create a barrier to getting out the door.

Backing up a little. I was cleared by my GP to return to exercise in August after a long hiatus. Starting slowly I began with regular sessions in the gym, returning to swimming when my local open air pool re-opened in October, occasionally cycling with a local club and becoming a semi-regular at my local ParkRun on Saturday morning.

My long term return-to-fitness goal is a long course triathlon. But for now, I was lost. Standing at the bottom of this fitness mountain looking up and trying to develop a program that would fit all my expectations and needs it was all a bit overwhelming.

My fears were exacerbated by the searing heat of the Adelaide summer. We have already had numerous spells over 40C degrees (104F) and can expect several days over 45C (114F). I am not a little person and I find I get distressed running and cycling in the heat (anything over 30 degrees really). In fact, just thinking about it makes me anxious. So all in all, I didn’t know where to begin. But I knew I wanted to start.

One morning, shortly after reading Sam’s post I was in the pool and I thought to myself. “I should break this down, I always work better with a plan. Breathe, is my stroke okay? Stretch that right arm out. Where was I? Oh yes. Break this down. Breathe on the left, oops, cough, ugh, I really have to work on that. Yes. Break this down. Breathe. I should remember think of this in more detail when I stop swimming.”

Swim-uary was born. My commitment is to swim every weekday in January and February 2016. Focussing on improving my swim technique and endurance through summer seemed like a pretty good idea when starting down the barrel of a scorching summer.

I joined up with a local training group and we have swim squad on Tuesday and Thursday mornings so that will give my fitness and technique a good kick. Most other days I hop in with a tentative aim to swim for 30 mins non-stop. Ultimately my goal here is to swim sub-30 minutes for 1500m. Like running a 6 minute kilometre, swimming 2 minutes per 100m is a benchmark for the also-swims among us.

But I’m not pushing for that every day. The first step each day is to get to the pool, get in and start swimming. In the first few minutes I check-in with how I am feeling. Some days I know that it will be a cruisy 30 minutes and I just enjoy it. Others I’m checking in each 5 minutes – am I still wanting to go on? And reminding myself it is okay to stop if I am tired.

Not setting a specific time, distance or even a program beyond “swim” or “get in the pool” takes the pressure off. On days where I’m just not feeling up to it I can play around and relax or work on something specific. Yesterday was one of those days, so I worked on my tumble turns. Maybe by the end of Swim-uary I will have them mastered? Maybe not.

Breaking my return to fitness down to something manageable has already helped. I no longer feel I am circling the bottom of that fitness mountain looking for the beginnings of the “best” path up. I’ve turned face-on and every day I take another step, however big or small, up.

I already have the next step in mind too – “Run like the win-ter” has a nice ring to it don’t you think?

fitness · Guest Post · triathalon

Trials, Tribulations and Triumph: Lakeside Olympic Race Report (Guest Post)

In Nat’s yard, ready to drive to Lakeside!
Anj & I were pretty pumped about attempting out first Olympic Distance Triathlon on Sunday. You can read our pre-race ponderings here.

Anj: My text reply to friends who asked how it went is that conditions were “Unfavourable”.

Nat: The weather was cold! As we drove out the car registered 14C but over the day the temperature dropped to 10C. It’s hard to believe 6 days earlier we were sweating in 40C weather. I knew Mallory and her brother Miles would be working the event. It was great to see familiar faces.


pre-race candid
great photo taken by the event photographer as Nat and Anj roll into transition to set up

Anj: Let’s start with the water – the grass was creeping me out to the point that I couldn’t relax and swim. Ok, I think I was actually panicking – implement Plan B – Breast Stroke.  Attempts to crawl resulted in gulps of water due to the high waves, so I decided to limit breaths to the leeward side – but the waves would break over my head mid-breath so I still ended up with mouthfuls of water.  This did nothing to appease any panicking so I resorted to the breast stroke a-lot.

Nat: The swim was going great until the second lap after the first turn (~1,100 m) then I realized I was getting too cold to move my arms and I could no longer feel my legs and feet. The race officials had warned us the combined air and water temperature scored 14.5C, the cut-off for optional wet-suit. I’ll never do a long race again without one. I took off my cap and flagged down the rescue boat. I spoke with the Triathlon Ontario Official and indicated my wish to continue with the race even though I had DNF’d.

I was under dressed and cold the whole ride. The wind was gusting strong enough to make eating or drinking a real challenge. I never did get the circulation back in my feet so when I rolled in from the ride I decided not to attempt the run portion.

Anj: The bike portion managed to be more challenging than the swim.  I repeatedly thought “this tri is kicking my butt”.  The bike tested my mental capacity the most, where I remember giving myself permission to pull out.  Trying to make muscles work like that when you are so cold.  My feet were still numb from the swim even after two hours of cycling.

Nat: I know it’s impossible but that ride felt like a continual fight with the wind. I was surprised how lonely 40 km can be since I now always ride with other people. I’m sad now I didn’t at least try the run.

Anj: I didn’t expect my body to run – but it did.  The body can do amazing things.On an uphill grade I learned about cramps.  I hobbled my way to the turnaround and found out that I was able to run again on the downhill.  The next time I got to that steep of a grade and felt the quad quiver – I switched to a fast walk.

anj finish
If you look closely you can see the muscle cramp in Anj’s leg!

Nat: Would I do an Olympic triathlon again? Yes! Would I do Lakeside? It’s too cold for the time it takes me to do this kind of distance. I definitely need to stick to a training regime for this distance.

Anj: Lessons learned: consider investing in wet suit & tri suit; train in many water settings and train to spot and keep direction while swimming; train in all weather conditions and learn what gear works best in all of them.  I would totally do this distance again – and hope to continue working toward longer distances.  My favourite part was being passed by a woman with a gorgeous body – chatting with her on the bike and then seeing on her calf that she was 71.  I remember wondering – does that mean if I keep doing tri’s that I will have the same longevity, health and body?


Anj is now an Olympic Distance Triathlete and is planning all kinds of fitness adventures including a cycling tour in Florida!

fitness · Guest Post · Sat with Nat · triathalon

Sister Time

Nat: My sister Anj is in town for our Olympic Distance Triathlon tomorrow and I thought it would be fun to do a joint entry about our lack of training 🙂 , our goals and how committing to doing sporting events together has impacted out relationship.

Nat holds Anj, Sept 1977. We are definitely up to no good.

Anj: When we admitted to each other we had ceased training as the date of the triathlon drew near, the big question was: “Will I be injured if I do the event?” And the answer is – the body will be fine, the ego might get damaged.  Without delving into the reasons why one would stop working toward one’s goal while being so close to completion, it was easy to review the big reasons for registering for a triathlon way back in January: 1) to get in shape [a.k.a. my coworkers don’t hear me huffing after 3 flights of stairs in the morning] 2) to be skinnier; and 3) to have a date that I would see my sister.  It is too easy to let the time pass by on the relationships with those we care about – but this is what brings us the most satisfaction in life.

Anj & Nat re-united in 2011 for a Try-a-Tri

Nat: I definitely need events to ensure I do any working out. I’m leaning more towards the events being great experiences than necessarily hitting a goal of say, finishing in a certain time, its becoming more of an appreciation of what my body can do for me at the drop of a hat than sticking to my original training plans. I also told a friend that we were getting together to race because it was an excuse to see each other, if we were men we’d build a porch.

Anj: My inspiration for training is the level of fear I have for the distance involved. This is the longest we’ve done, I’m feeling the fear a bit. I pretty much need the shit scared out of me to train because I don’t have self-discipline.

Nat: Oh I’m definitely lacking the discipline. It was your idea in 2011 to do the try-a-tri in Woodstock. I just went along with it. I think this year you were the one to get me to commit. I think my goal was to do it and feel good about. So, I’m going, goal #1 met!

Anj: Being fit means being alive is just plain easier.  Goal #1 – complete.

Nat: My second goal was to be less afraid of events this year. I’m thinking, like Anita says, nothing is riding on this. I enjoy races, they are exciting. Worse thing to happen will be a DNF, maybe an injury.

Anj: This summer, I attended my 20 year high school reunion, and this training season resulted in being the same size as high school.  Goal #2: SURPASSED!

Nat: I try not to hate you for that. I think my upper arm would fit in my high-school dress. I love you anyway.

Anj: Face time with my sister: Goal #3: Priceless.

Nat: My third goal is definitely having something to do with you. I love sharing our training over texts from Ontario to New Brunswick. I think it’s a pretty awesome reason to visit. Doing a different distance has helped me keep track of the years too. I think it’s important to note you recovered from a car accident last year to being able to do this tri, that’s pretty amazing. My blood pressure is under control. We’re both better off than we were a year ago.

Anj: Upon putting things in perspective – without even competing yet – We are winners.

Anj, Nat and Michel celebrate thier first Sprint Distance Triathlon in 2012.


Anj is a recovering butch – finding her feminine side in her 30’s and finally accepting that both femininity and butchiness can come in one package; she’s also a singer/songwriter/performer and motorcycle enthusiast.