charity · competition · running

Mudmoiselle 2018 (Guest Post)

Biopsy. It’s not a great word. The first time I heard it directed at me was six weeks after a reprehensibly bad gynecological procedure done by a horrible male doctor. I had always believed doctors infallible. This guy changed my mind. And so, after refusing to return to him when the going got awful, my new doctor requested the biopsy. In contrast to the previous fellow, she was lovely. The biopsy, on the other hand, not so much.

Out of an abundance of caution, we proceeded with treatment as if the results came back positive. A week later, when the results returned inconclusive, I was glad we had. It took another six months before we could repeat the biopsy. Mercifully, it came back negative. There are certain moments in life when you realise you haven’t been exhaling properly. That day was one of them.

I was fortunate that my results came back as they did. I’ve known too many others for whom things turned out differently. I won’t pretend I have the eloquence to capture the toll cancer has taken on the people in my life. It’s a nasty, pernicious, destructive thing.

For me, six months wondering gave me time to think and time to prioritise. I walked away from the experience knowing that I would do my best not to take my health for granted again. I was also determined to be a better advocate for my own self-care…and to punch cancer in the face every chance I got.

Mudmoiselle Guelph was an opportunity I fanatically embraced. The event, run by the Canadian Cancer Society, is held annually at Cox Creek Cellars just to the north of the city of Guelph. It is a 5km obstacle course designed for the moderate to advanced athlete. (They recommend you train for at least six weeks in advance.) The event does allow Mudmonsieurs, by the way, though anecdotally, I’d say most of this year’s 500 participants were women.


(Image of me covered in mud wearing a Mudmoiselle medal.)

My team of five intrepid Mudmoisellers called ourselves “The Flailings.” Our team slogan: “Let’s get ready to FLAIL!” None of us had participated in the event before, so we figured t-shirts would be handy to help us pick each other out in the crowd. Obviously, a flailing air dancer was a perfect mascot. (Even if it did end up looking like a weird, ghost-like creature according to my five-year-old.)


(Snapshot of the back of our team t-shirt with the words “The Flailings” and “Mudmoiselle, Sept 15, 2018.” A neon green flailing arm dancer is the centre image.)

Our team was a part of a mid-day heat. The organisers had us begin by reciting the “Mudmoiselle oath,” a moment of sobriety that, I fear, only heightened my team’s sense of giddiness at the ridiculousness of five grown women running around a vineyard in the scorching heat. I don’t honestly remember many of the obstacles that we ran through, though some are etched in my mind forever. First among them, the second obstacle, which was true to the event name.

This memorable obstacle was nothing less than a giant pit of fenced in, man-made, oozing mud. I suppose I give Mudmoiselle credit for putting it so close to the beginning, because if you’re going to get muddy, you had better get to it sooner rather than later. And, of course, the only way to get to the other side was to crawl through the goo. By mid-day, participants had established two parallel ruts, one on the left-hand side of the pit and one on the right. I looked at my team members beside me. We cheered a good cheer. And then I made the only possible decision: go down the middle.

Throughout the remainder of the two-hour experience, we launched ourselves over hay bales, scaled muddy inclines, walked through bogs (while, obviously, singing “Stand By Me” and praying for a lack of leeches), and swung from tires. By the end of it all, I had rope burns, ripped knees, purpling bruises, and exhausted triceps. I also had a blast. I do not remember the last time I cheered on strangers, particularly as they muscled themselves over questionably stable wooden walls. We were all there to help one another along, because goodness knows for many of the participants these obstacles were symbolic of so much more.

(I crouch on my hands and knees on top of a large hay bale.)

There is something unique about the sense of community that emerges out of a group of people dragging themselves through the mud together. At the end of it all, my team and I sat at a table, marvelled at our crusty, sore bodies, and shared stories of people we knew who were touched by this awful disease. We raised a glass to those we had lost.

On the car ride home, with multiple towels draped over my seat to protect the car, the children moaned about mommy’s awful smell. And all I could think was, yes my dears, that’s the smell of being alive…and bog water. Actually, it’s mostly bog water.

(I walk sideways along a wobbly wooden plank while holding on to a guide wire.)

Kimberly Francis is Acting Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Guelph, where she is also an Associate Professor of Music and a passionate feminist musicologist. She’s not ashamed to say that Taylor Swift, Guster, and many, many tracks from Big Shiny Tunes can all be found on her workout playlist.

Guest Post · running

Really, how do you forget a mud run? (Guest post)

On Tuesday of this week, I received a text from a friend telling me that she was no longer able to run with us on Saturday. Nothing came to mind. I didn’t recall having plans to run with her. I checked my calendar. There it was: MUCK MS run, Hamilton.

Oops. That.

I’d forgotten about it.

This year’s flood of fall was intense for me. September hit; my workload skyrocketed; personal and professional commitments collided. The sum total of my intentional exercise has been two yoga classes since August 29. I have not got the rhythm and routine of fall down yet. I’m still active (ish) – the dog and kid make sure of that, the labyrinthian building and third floor office help too – but I know I am not at my usual level of fitness. I am, however, also not at my usual level of stress…

So, let’s go do a 5 km mud obstacle run!

Because I am a big kid who likes to play.

Because I know I will do at least one obstacle that makes me feel that I can complete anything.

Because I like to see my friends taking on challenges too.

I saw Sam last night at an event where she was the featured speaker, and she reminded me that muscle memory is a wonderful thing, that I’d probably just be sore for longer after the run. I’ll let you know. Right now I have to go pull up my knee socks and get to Hamilton.

Guest Post · racing · running

Recap: Dirty Girl Mud Run Buffalo (Guest Post)

Preamble: Last year, on 8 September 12, my team “Filthy Lasses” ran Dirty Girl Buffalo. I brought along an old digital camera that was held together by duct tape in order to get on-course shots. By the end, it was covered in mud, of course. We don’t shy away from getting dirty, as the photos attest. At the end of it, we vowed we’d do it again. So we did. It is so much fun.

feet in - dirty girl

The Dirty Girl Mud Run is “a 5 k mud run for women of all ages and abilities.” I often describe Dirty Girl as the baby sibling of the mud run family. Warrior Dash, which Samantha blogged about here, is akin to Dirty Girl, although open to both men and women. The obstacles are more challenging at the Warrior Dash; Dirty Girl has no obstacles that require only your own strength to get over them. Tough Mudder or Spartan are more intense, both in physical demands and in the attitude that surrounds the event. There’s an attitude that surrounds Dirty Girl, for sure, but it’s more like “hen night meets inner six year old.” Want to feel better about what your body can do? Had rough first week of September? Run around a track with your girlfriends cheering you on then careen down a slide into some mud.

This year, for reasons that remain obscure, our team name was not allowed, too close to obscenity or some such. Many of the names of the teams referenced breast cancer awareness, the usual charity of choice for the run. (So, “lasses” was somehow frowned upon, but “titties” and “tatas” and “boobies” etc, were all acceptable.) Instead of our stencilled and spray painted tank tops, we opted for fringed fuschia t-shirts, assorted tights and shorts combos (to protect the legs), and bandanas. In the realm of Dirty Girl costumes, these are tame. We saw tiaras, tutus, lots of day-glo combos, and Wonder Women. Last year, I wore a tutu, but it gets really heavy, really fast. And then it falls down.


There is more makeup at this run than at any of the other races I have ever done combined: lots of glitter, press on rhinestones, bright pink lipstick. At least, that’s what it looks like at the race start.

By the end of the race, you look like this:

end of mud run

Unlike last year’s run that took place on a ski hill, which provides its own set of challenges in terms of making the event fun for all abilities, this year the run took place at a speedway, so it was flat. At the start, loud music and a Zumba instructor kept us moving. (We were grateful for this distraction: it began to rain and the temperatures began to drop just as our wave was starting). The first obstacle was about 750 m from the start, then obstacles followed every 400m to 750 m. My favourite of the obstacles involve climbing; the net wall is arguably the most challenging of the obstacles at Dirty Girl, because it involves both height, movement, and having to change directions at the top.


We got the dirtiest on the big slide (no surprises there — you slide into a pit of mud feet first). I also got my one and only bruise from the event on the slide too, because I hit the bottom of the pit with my left hip. Overall, for this event, I preferred the flat race with more obstacles to the ski hill race of last year.

Here’s the thing about a MUD run: you are meant to get dirty. I’m a fan for lots of reasons, including that it is really hard to be pretentious about, well, anything – including diet choices, exercise regimes, how one looks in spandex – when you are covered in mud. Mud is a great equalizer, as it turns out.