Posts from the ‘News’ Category

What Trail Runners Have to Say About the Retreats

It’s easy for me to get excited about the various trail running retreats I offer. After all, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t absolutely LOVE it and if I didn’t get inspired by every single runner that attends.  It’s also really easy for me to list the multiple great reasons why you (and a friend) should attend my next one October 13-15 (sorry guys, this time its a women’s only event) in Blue Mountain. But I’m going to hold myself back. Instead, I’m going to share what others have said about past retreats.


I may be a bit shy in new groups but you really did an amazing job setting up a safe environment; everything about the retreat was perfectly executed! The weekend really motivated me to reconsider what I love about running, and really helped fuel me to not doubt myself and my abilities. (Michelle)

Women in this sport are so supportive, honest and inspiring. It was amazing being out on our runs with groups made up of super-ultra runners, mid-packers and those like me just starting their trail running journey. It was a good reminder that we can all go out and enjoy the trails together regardless of ability or experience. It’s amazing how a few hours in the forest can bring people together. (Jamie)

Jennifer is not only a super accomplished runner, but an absolute delight.  She was an amazing hostess and I loved that she stressed that although there was structure to the weekend in terms of speakers, sessions and scheduled runs, there was built in down time. 

I really loved the trails. The Bruce Trail is so beautiful. I loved that it was a women’s only event as I feel like we all got to chat about topics that we normally would not have with men present. The food was delicious. The women were great. There were lots of options for runs and the distance you wanted – no one felt pressured to run more or longer. (Tania)

What a great weekend!  We had so much fun, and the time and terrific effort you put into the event really paid off.  The venue was excellent, the meals were perfect and the advice was high end. The people you attracted also made the weekend special.  Their willingness to be involved with the sessions made for good exchanges but outside of the sessions, they were also very fun.  I have already had numerous Facebook friend requests, which always speaks well of the camaraderie amongst the group. (Kim)

Need more convincing? Check out what last year’s participant (Jamie) had to say about it. Click here to hear about her experience.

Need more convincing? Happy to chat with you about it.  Email me @runningthetrails.wordpress.com! Or learn more about the Women’s Trail Run Retreat.

But hurry up…as space is limited!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Post Trail Run Retreat Reflections June 16-18 2017

Another retreat has gone by, and once again I’m amazed how easy it seems to come together. These weekends are always a pleasant reminder of just how much I love hosting these retreats, bringing together a group of people to embrace the magic of the trails. There were 18 of us, some trying the trails for the first time, others training for their first 50 miler. Yet that didn’t seem to interfere with the group dynamic; if anything, it made it better. It didn’t matter that some people were more experienced than others, or that people ran (or hiked) different paces. Or that the ages ranged from early thirty’s to late fifty’s. The trails are very welcoming and offer the perfect setting to embrace our differences. And maybe that’s part of the reason why I’ve been able to adopt a “go with the flow” attitude when it comes to hosting these retreats.

largegroup.jpg

When I first started organizing these weekends, I would worry constantly. Will I have enough participants? Will there be good group cohesion and dynamics? Will the weather cooperate? Will everyone’s needs and expectations be met? Have I set the right schedule?

But there’s been a shift recently. It’s not to say I no longer have worries. My mind continues to be on auto-pilot as I try to ensure that all needs are being met. But I’ve also learned to simply trust that things will work out. And to leverage more on the collective energy of the group, and let them direct the flow of events.

The most challenging part of the weekend is the thoughtful consideration of the agenda; trying to anticipate the right blend of run time, discussion sessions and down time is tricky, especially when I know very little of the participants ahead of time. And the weather can certainly put a wrench into my most well laid-out plan. But compared to past retreats, I was more laid-back in my approach this time. Although I had a general outline of how the weekend would unravel, I was equally prepared to adjust it on the fly as needed. Between the other coach Alistair Munroe and I, we had a large variety of topics that we could easily talk about based on the needs of the group. And Hockley Valley has no shortage of trails to explore; other than darkness, there are no official closing hours so the runs can easily be adjusted. Despite the gloomy weekend forecast, I stayed optimistic, albeit ready to switch to Plan B as needed. And as luck (or fate) would have it, the heavy rain, strong wind, lightning and thunder did indeed clear up when it was time to head out for our run. When our evening bonfire had to be cancelled due to rain, we all enjoyed our fallback plan of stretching out on the floor and watching the Barkley Marathon.

atfence_smallgroup.jpg

But perhaps most importantly, I would simply take a pause here and there, and get a feel for what the group was seeking and adjust accordingly. Maybe this meant veering off topic and discussing an entirely new topic, or shortening (or lengthening) the run; whatever the need was, I could adjust. And over the course of the weekend, I would observe a similar response by the participants.

One of my favorite parts of the retreat is witnessing the evolution of the runners. And I’m not just talking about their increased confidence levels on the trails (it’s amazing how much more fluid and skilled runners are on Sunday compared to Saturday!) So often, runners show up on Friday night, motivated to get a certain amount of distance under their belt. But as the weekend progresses, most of them come to realize that this weekend is more than the physical exertion. Come Saturday mid afternoon (or earlier), many of them have adopted the care-free vibe of the retreat and embraced the trails even more, taking a pause in their run to take pictures and simply appreciate nature’s beauty.

oldcar.jpg

The retreat is truly a collective effort of the group. Each person brings something unique to the experience, and serves as an inspiration. Our guest speaker Chantal Warriner inspired each and one of us, as she shared her tips for balancing being a mom, working full time, and attempting to run solo the entire Bruce Trail (close to 900km!). Alistair is a prime example of how a master runner adjusts his training to continue kicking some serious ass! Furthermore, each participant has their own personal story to tell. And this is what makes the weekend truly remarkable. Although I can wear my project manager and coaching hats, this will only take me so far. It’s truly a result of the collective effort of the group to share in their experience, to relax and to let the weekend evolve as it should.

group.jpg

I’m very grateful to have spent the weekend with the group, especially since they inspire me in my own running ambitions and with my future retreats. I’m now planning my next retreat “The Women’s Trail Running Fall Retreat in Blue Mountain on October 13-15”, and I couldn’t be more excited. I wonder how I can make this future weekend even better than the last?

TRAIL RUN RETREAT

Women’s Trail Run Fall Retreat October 13-15 2017

Super excited!!! View here to find out the scoop!

TRAIL RUN RETREAT

 

My Dark Friend

My Dark Friend

There’s been a tall dark stranger in my life for many years. Although I’ve managed to keep my distance from him, I always sensed his shadow, lurking around the corner. I had gotten accustomed to his subtle presence, never realizing the extent to which he led me to be cautious and afraid.

But now, I’m ready to come face to face with him. I’m ready to stand up to him.I’m even ready to become his friend. Let me introduce you to him: his name is FEAR.

fear

Chances are, you’ve met him as well. He’s that type of guy that everyone knows yet no one really wants to let into the “in” group. We like to think that if we don’t acknowledge his presence, he might simply go away. But the reality is that he IS everywhere, in all aspects of our life-our career, our relationships, our ambitions, and our running.

Yet, here’s the funny part: once you decide to stop running away from Fear, you will find that life takes on a whole new dimension. By listening to the message that he’s trying to convey, you end up learning a lot about yourself. In this respect, your relationship might even evolve to “friends with benefits” status!

It wasn’t until last summer that I began to understand the way in which Fear was limiting my running. In my post race reflection of the North Face Endurance Challenge Blue Mountain race, I wrote the following:

…As I was journaling in my hotel room the night before the race, I realized that part of my relaxed approach to racing was actually fuelled by fear. The fear of not knowing what type of hills are around the corner; the fear of going out too hard only to bonk; the fear of disappointing myself and others; and the fear of losing the love of running. By racing cautiously, I was in control. I was seeking the familiarity of my reliable running pace, having full confidence that I could sustain the pace. I was reducing the uncertainty, the fear. At the same time, however, this control was limiting my running experience.

With this new insight, I decided that it was time to be brave and to approach this race differently. I got out of my comfort zone and ran more aggressively with a little bit of risk taking. I ended up having a stellar performance while still appreciating the surroundings and the comradery of other runners.

13728269_10157224577225055_712944082_o

Crowd Surfing at Race Awards NFEC Blue Mountain

 

This was a turning point for me: I realized that facing fear, rather than running away from it, allowed me to experience running on a new, even more positive level.

So now I’m taking it a step further by embracing my fear with road running. Although I’m a trail girl at heart and I will never go back to doing a lot of road running, I realized that part of the reason why I’ve dodged road races (I’ve done 2 races in past 8 years) and avoided structured speed/interval training (I haven’t followed a plan for years) is because of FEAR:

Fear of the pain of running hard and holding an aggressive pace.

Fear of not being tough enough.

Fear of getting injured.

Fear of running by pace as opposed to running by feeling.

Fear of facing reality and quantifying my fitness.

Fear of taking it too seriously and losing my passion for running.

Ironically, most of this fear also applies trail running and limits my off-road accomplishments. But now I’m ready to face my fears even more. I’m ready to be vulnerable. I’m ready to go with the flow and see what happens. So I’m beginning with baby steps.

The first step is attending weekly quality workouts with MB Performance, an extremely welcoming and fun group that I also started coaching with. It’s been around 9 years since I’ve trained with a group and where I’m chasing specific targets. Although its only been a few sessions, the fear I bring to the workout is pretty obvious—I’m afraid to push the pace; I’m afraid to over-exert myself, go out too hard, and completely bonk. Much of this stems from the fact that I simply lost touch with my abilities, my thresholds and myself. I’ve been so focused on running for passion and pure pleasure, that I let this part of me slip away. So now it’s time to explore this part of myself again. It’s not always easy! At one of the earlier sessions, I stopped 50m early in the 2nd interval. I had pushed the pace and suddenly felt very spent and exhausted. Rather than pushing through it for a tiny bit longer or slowing down the pace, I got scared and stopped. I think I could have kept running it thru; but because I’m not used to running at this intensity any more, I freaked. This is not a tactic I’d recommend to my fellow athletes-but hey, I’m human and have my weak moments too!

MBP.jpg

Cross Country Provincials with 2 Teammates

 

I’m also standing up to my fear by jumping into a few road races. There’s no doubt that I prefer trail races to road races for many reasons including the scenery, the culture and vibe. But a big reason why I avoid road races is because a) I doubt my abilities; b) I’ve built it up in my mind that its going to be super painful (I’ll take a 50K over a 5K any day!) and c) I’m afraid of being disappointed with the numbers.

You can bet your money that there will be stress and anxiety and I’m almost certain that I’m going to try and talk myself out of running the race the night before until my husband politely tells me “suck it up buttercup and get out there and run.” And I will, and I know that afterwards I will be grateful for doing so. But I also know that with each race, I will have taken one big step forward and that my fear will have lessened a bit more.

And you know what? It’s kinda fun to flirt with fear. Maybe you should give it a try.

 

 

Let’s Have Some Fun!

I’ve been busy planning the spring season, and more details to come! But in the meantime, take a look at two upcoming activities that I have planned:

Trail Run Camp June 17/18

There’s a reason why we are going back to the Ecology Retreat Centre for a third year in a row–because it’s that amazing!!!

This camp will have something for everyone from the novice trail runner to the hardcore ultra runner.  More details to come the first week of February.

Pool Run Clinic Feb 5 2017

Come spend an hour with me and learn how to get the most out of your pool run workout.  Just as its easy to fluff your way through the workout, if done properly you can get a really tough workout in! Cost is only $25. More info can be found here Coaching, Clinics and Camps

pool-running

For more info about any of these two exciting activities please email me at runningthetrails.wordpress.com

 

 

Keeping it Simple

“Mommy, why are you planning a get-away for runners?” my 7-year-old son asked me the other day.

Without hesitation, I replied, “because it’s fun and I love it”.

“Oh, Ok”, he responded with a smile and walked away.

For him, this simple answer was enough. But for me, it left me pondering a bit more. Why do I do it? Certainly there’s more to the answer, isn’t there? After all, if you looked at the amount of time I invest preparing for this event, and consider the fact that I usually just cover my costs, it certainly doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.

So I started to think a bit more about the retreats from the past two years. Almost immediately, I can visualize the stunning trails we ran on, smell the fresh scent that lingered in the air, taste the nourishing and delicious foods we devoured and feel the coziness of the rustic and charming lodge where we stayed.

But then after taking a pause, I realize there’s more to it. In fact, the memory that lingers the most is the group dynamic and cohesiveness that seemed to naturally evolve over the weekend.

group2

It’s not to say that the discussions, workshops and run sessions didn’t leave a lasting impression. Who doesn’t have fun exploring new trails, identifying new ways to train better, perfecting one’s technique and simply escaping from the daily grind? After all, these elements are what brought people together in the first place, and I think its safe to say that we all felt quite fulfilled.

But with each retreat, I was blown away by the human interaction that occurred as a result of bringing together 20 people in a shared space. Generally speaking, you either get good group dynamics or you don’t. Sometimes it’s luck of the draw, and sometimes it’s not. With my retreats, I think that the positive group dynamics was inevitable, even though the majority of the group didn’t know each other and that the participants ranged in ages, sex and level of experience. Despite such differences, we all shared a common passion: trail running. For some, the retreat gave them a “reboot” and rekindled their long lost love with trail running. For others, the weekend sparked a new interest and gave them the confidence to make trail running part of their regular routine. And for others, it was somewhere in between. But together, we all shared the desire to bond with nature and to explore the trails. And from this, a sense of community evolved. Listening to the chatter that took place during the runs, you’d think that everyone was old friends. The generous cheering and high fives that were exchanged when practicing our running drills made everyone feel part of the group. The sharing of lessons learned and helpful tips was invaluable (and by the end of the weekend, the nature of the tips became more intimate—guys, did you know that you could put clear nail polish on your nipples to prevent chafing?). And by the end of the weekend, new friendships were formed, new running partners were found and new trails were discovered.

group

Upon further reflection, I also realized that a big reason why I invest so much energy on the retreats, as well as my one-day clinics for that matter, is that I simply love helping others find their groove with exercising. I love helping runners gain confidence on the trails, and discussing ways to further enhance their training. I enjoy promoting the notion that exercise should be an inherent part of one’s lifestyle, and not simply an add-on. And finally, I’m grateful that I can help inspire others—and I’m even more appreciative of the fact that they in turn, totally inspire myself.

Bringing people together. Creating a sense of community. Helping and inspiring each other. Learning new ways to train etc. There are many reasons to explain why I do what I do. But then again, perhaps the simple answer is enough. I do it because it’s fun and I love it. And I can’t wait for the next one on October 21-23rd!  Hope to see you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Unsteady to Feel Grounded

We all have “ah ha” moments. Sometimes it smacks us right in the face and couldn’t be more obvious, whereas other times this “awakening” is a bit more subtle. My moment came this past weekend at the North Face Endurance Challenge Blue Mountain in Collingwood.

In the days leading up to the trail marathon, I spent a lot of time reflecting on other matters; without going into too much detail, a common thread that I’ve been working on is letting go of always feeling in control. This applies to my work, my parenting style and my relationships. Instead of feeling the need to be in control, I’m working on being ok with feeling unstable. I’m learning to accept that I don’t always need to know what lies ahead, and to have faith that things will work themselves out. I realized that my desire to always seek certainty and predictability was limiting me in many ways. I hadn’t realized until the night before my race that this applied to my running as well.

Normally I race cautiously. I like to run by feel, find my groove and just go. I always hold back a bit, playing it safe. I run with an imaginary yellow bubble around me, shielding myself from my competitors. I’m not usually bothered if someone passes me; after all, they have their pace and I have mine. This approach works well for me, fuelling my passion for trail running rather than getting caught up with the pressure of performance.

As I was journaling in my hotel room the night before the race, I realized that part of my relaxed approach to racing was actually fuelled by fear. The fear of not knowing what type of hills are around the corner; the fear of going out too hard only to bonk; the fear of disappointing myself and others; and the fear of losing the love of running. By racing cautiously, I was in control. I was seeking the familiarity of my reliable running pace, having full confidence that I could sustain the pace. I was reducing the uncertainty, the fear. At the same time, however, this control was limiting my running experience.

I decided it was time to stand up to my fear and to embrace the uncertainty. To even let myself be influenced by my competitors. I started the race with a game plan in mind, knowing that my opportunity to push the pace was between 10-34km. Initial thoughts of “what if I can’t maintain a more aggressive pace for this long?” was replaced with “you don’t know unless you try. You can always slow down if needed” and “take a risk and see what happens”. Half way thru the race, I allowed myself to feel excited about the possibility of beating the boys. Normally men aren’t allowed in my yellow bubble, but this time I thought “wow..it would be really neat to beat the boys”. Although I didn’t know how far back the two lead men were, I leveraged this pressure to keep me going strong and to continue pushing the pace a bit. I got out of my comfort zone and ran instead on shaky ground.

To my surprise, none of this took away the pleasure I always get from racing. I was still in my happy place; I still appreciated the stunning views; and I continued to exchange pleasantries with other runners. But this time, I also felt a different type of excitement, one that was intrinsically driven. It wasn’t just because I had won the entire race (even 15 minutes ahead of the lead man); this excitement would have been there regardless. My winning time was also irrelevant, as it wasn’t about the time on the clock. Rather, this excitement came about from the simple fact that I didn’t let fear stand in my way. That by allowing myself to feel unsteady, I would come out feeling more grounded than ever. A new sense of confidence and satisfaction emerged.

I know that there will be future races that don’t go as well. There will be times that I go out too hard and bonk. At the same time, there will still be races where I won’t want to push myself as hard. In other words, there will still be unknowns, uncertainty and unpredictability. What I do know, however, is that I will be at the start line with a greater level of awareness and self-confidence, making the experience that much more enjoyable.

13728269_10157224577225055_712944082_o

ok…maybe feeling less grounded here while being body surfed at awards presentation!