My Community

Running.

it levels the playing field

we’re on par with each other
we’re connecting thru one medium

we’re one, together.

there is no old
there is no young
there is no fast
there is no slow
there is no rich
there is no poor
there is no judgement

there is no royalty

there’s you
your shoes
the company
the laughter
the memories
the pounding of your feet on the ground
the sound of your breath with each step

the sheer joy of running

this is what we share
this is why we show up
this is community.

In the past week and a half, I’ve not only experienced this but lived it.

First, the 2nd VRC Annual Flight Crew X East Van Run Crew Summer Social – a gathering of run crews and runners from across North America.

Almost 200 wicked people that you’d want to get to know running through the streets of Vancouver, and then finishing up with delicious food, cold beers, rad hats, and statement socks. Conversations were flowing and friendships were strengthened and formed. Geographical barriers were non-existent. Laughter filled the air into the late hours of the night.

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Two days later, one of the biggest running parties took over Vancouver. The SeaWheeze Half Marathon brought together 10,016 runners from around the globe to crush a goal, experience Vancouver for its raw beauty, and celebrate over yoga and music in beautiful Stanley Park. The two biggest highlights for me:

  • I was part of a special group of 40 people who were Pace Beavers and were privileged enough to lead groups to their goal time. But beyond that, I was connected to not only the Pace Beavers who were all lululemon ambassadors, but to all ambassadors who came to SeaWheeze. Through multiple events, ending with a picnic style dinner at the SSC (lululemon head office), we shared, mingled, and connected, creating friendships and bonds that go beyond the weekend.

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  • As a Pace Beaver, there is a responsibility I have to have integrity in the promise that I will carry my runners across the finish line in a certain time. It may not seem like much but it is a true honour to lead and hold tight to the trust that runners from near and far have given to me. This was my 4th year as a Pace Beaver and I cannot begin to express how excited and overjoyed I get when I help someone achieve and crush their goal. This is what drives me to continue giving to the community in any capacity I can.
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Photo Credit: @lululemonYVR

Luck doesn’t begin to describe it. I feel as though I’ve won the jackpot when it comes to life and I keep getting the winning ticket. I’m an ambassador for both Vancouver Running Co and lululemon, each providing me avenues to connect to my community and space to create more. My passion is so deeply rooted in authentically connecting with people through our shared unbridled love of run and celebrating every success along the way. In all capacities. On all terrain.

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At the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival… with multiple run crews and ambassadors from around the globe, all as one.

An Emotional August

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Do you ever feel so overwhelmed that you become speechless? Does your heart ever swell so much that the only way to express it is through tears? Do you ever sit back and wonder how you got to be so lucky?

Those thoughts and feelings have been coursing through my blood for the last while. August was an extremely emotional month for me – so much so that I needed to give myself some time and space to find the right words. But, the right words will never come so these will have to do.

Like I said, August was an emotional month. I couldn’t have packed more into it:

There were only 5 weekends in August and 3 were full. Somewhere in there, I had to fit in training for my next ultra (Cle Elum 50k), lead the lululemon Robson Street Run Club, see friends and family, and relax.

In and amongst all of that, two very unplanned things happened.

On the Wednesday before SeaWheeze, it was a day like any other. Work during the day and then Run Club. Run Club gives me so much. I had a vision at the beginning of the year for Run Club and it was to build a run club that was a strong tight-knit supportive family, and it was very much becoming a reality. These amazing people inspire one another, support one another, motivate one another, and they make Wednesdays the highlight of my week. The fact that they are continually present for one another and for me is a pretty special thing. On that day, we were planning a route that goes down Bute to the seawall and then running along the seawall. Andrea, an educator from the store, asked if we could do our weekly icebreaker at the park a few blocks away and I agreed. The weather was gorgeous and it’s a nice short walk. So, that day, like any other, we left the store and walked up Bute towards Nelson Park. Two blocks in, a group jumped out cheering and with signs – it startled me! My first thought was, “Who are we surprising?” and then, “Why don’t I know about it?”

Lo and behold, that person was me. Earlier in the year, I set out to start an initiative called #GoalForward. It was an initiative to bring together the things I was passionate about – community, running, goals, and philanthropy. People would apply for #GoalForward, a program where they would get rewarded in charitable dollars for attaining a SMART goal. I would offer to coach and guide them along if they wanted. If not, it was just a matter of connecting with them and if they crushed their SMART goal, then I would send them $100 in charitable dollars. The money from which I was drawing was part of another campaign – One Year, One Percent. This campaign challenged you to put aside 1% of your annual earnings towards charity. I took this campaign and topped it up to an even $1,000 to be given out to 10 people.

lululemon Robson Street was surprising me that day with the gift of paying it forward. They were supporting my #GoalForward initiative by gifting me $500 for the program. So, now, I am able to pay it forward and reward 15 people instead of 10. I was humbled, floored, and overwhelmed with gratitude.

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The second occurrence was around SeaWheeze. I was a Pace Beaver last year and it was so much fun. This year, I was asked to be a Pace Beaver again and I was definitely excited. I was going to be pacing 2:10 and was so happy about it because that was the goal time of some of the people in my run club. Not only do I get to watch them train up to the half marathon distance, I now get to bring them across the finish line.

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Kat, Alex and Winnie from Run Club were toeing the line with me and my fellow 2:10 beavers, Susan and Marisa. The gun went off and we set out to find our pace. Susan, one of the other 2:10 beavers, and I were keeping each other in check to make sure we weren’t going too fast or too slow. Our strategy was to give ourselves a couple of minutes cushion and to finish just under 2:10 so that anyone who finished with us would not only reach their goal of 2:10, but they would in actual fact crush their goal. Not too long after we started, I realized Kat was the only one with us so I kept my eye on her, encouraging her, reminding her to fuel, pointing things out on the course and throwing in a few comments and jokes along the way. We were also running with another girl who ran SeaWheeze last year and she said that I got her across the finish line in her goal time – awesome.

We entered Stanley Park and I knew things were starting to get tough for our group. But I knew we could do it. For Kat, I knew she had it in her to do it. After all the physical rigours of training, it all comes down to a mental battle. When your body starts to get tired and sore, self doubt starts to seep its ugliness into your brain. Distraction is the best remedy. So we kept the chatter going – or maybe it was self-chatter for me. We got to Lumberman’s Arch and saw Maya, another Run Clubber, cheering and it definitely lifted spirits. There’s a big hill at Lumberman’s Arch and Susan and I were shouting encouragements to power up the hill. When we got to the top, we realized we had almost lost our group so big brakes came out until they caught up. Oops, a bit too excited. I still hadn’t seen Kat and I knew that it would be bad news if I continued without her so I didn’t. We were well under our goal time so I basically hung back until I saw her. Then I continued forward in baby steps until she caught me. My Run Club knows that I’m a bit of a mother hen – I call them my babies, in fact. So, to leave one of my babies to fend for herself – not going to happen. All the while, I knew I had a responsibility of being a Pace Beaver. But I had time. I had minutes to spare. So I was safe. Kat and I resumed our positions – me slightly ahead and her just slightly behind. I kept telling her that she was going to get her goal (and she was!), that we was doing SO great (and she was!), and that we would do it together (and we were!). I told her not to rush it. We were going to do it in HER pace, not mine. When, and ONLY when she saw the finish line, and if she had it in her, she could pick it up, but we were going to cross that line together.

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And damnit, we did. And it was fan-freakin-tastic. I can’t even express the emotions I was feeling – words don’t do it justice. I was so proud of her. That day changed both of us and we will forever be bonded by that experience.

And, if you check the results, she actually finished 2 seconds ahead of me. 🙂

And a Patridge in a Pear Tree

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I love setting goals and it seems I’m a bit late in getting this post out. Really, goals can be set anytime, but the romance of declaring goals and resolutions at the start of a year is irresistible to many. The sentiment of my declaration being late, admittedly, was only directly related to the fact that I had chosen my blog title 2 weeks ago. 🙂

Ultramarathons entered my life in 2011 after road running injuries put me on the sidelines for nearly 3 years and it gave me affirmation on something that I felt was true down to my core – I am a runner. Ten years ago, I would have had neither the confidence nor the conviction to make that statement. Today, and every day going forward, it’s a part of my life and who I am. Road or trail? That still remains to be seen but I think somewhere in the middle.

I’ve noticed that there are a few recurring themes in my life and after writing my goals down, it’s very evident: Running/Fitness, Personal Development, and Community.

Major goals (in no particular order):

  • Run Way Too Cool 50k Ultramarathon in March
  • Run the Terry Fox Tribute Run on April 12 (marathon distance)
  • Run a 50mi (2nd one!) or 100km (1st one!) ultramarathon by October 31
  • Reintroduce yoga into my program by practicing at least twice a month
  • Read a book a month
  • Meet my fundraising goal for the Union Gospel Mission of Dinner for More than 2000 by December 31
  • See my Dad at least twice a month

Minor goals:

  • Run 100km cumulatively during the Bagel Chase from February 2-8
  • Run the Ragnar Relay NW Passage in July
  • Be a Pace Beaver for the SeaWheeze in August
  • Run a marathon by December 31
  • Reintroduce snowshoeing into my program by going at least once a month until March 31
  • Try each of these sports at least once in 2013: skiing, skateskiing, cross country skiing, swimming
  • Find an ultramarathon to do in China/Hong Kong by 2015

So there they are. Two ultras, two marathons, yoga, books, community.. and a partridge in a pear tree. 🙂

From the other side of the fence

Organizing sporting events has been my career for the last 4 years and the participant’s experience has always been my top priority. In order to this this, it is imperative to build a team that believes in this as well, comprising of a dedicated event crew to a strong community of volunteers. Ask any event organizer and they will tell you that volunteers are the cornerstone to a great event. They often are the face of the event and have the ability to change someone’s day from good to great.

Over the last month, I decided to see things from the other side of the fence – from a volunteer’s perspective. I volunteered at two brand new events – the SeaWheeze lululemon Half Marathon in Vancouver and the Meet Your Maker 50 Miler and Relay in Whistler.

ImageFor SeaWheeze, I volunteered as a Pace Beaver. So what’s a Pace Beaver, you ask? Called by many other names, such as Pace Bunnies or Pace Leaders, a Pace Beaver’s duty is to run at a steady pace based on the terrain of the course and keep runners motivated to reach a certain goal time. It may sound simple but it’s actually a lot of responsibility and requires some strategic planning! Runners are counting on us to help them reach their goal time so a fairly even pace, with no large variations, is key. My plan was to ensure I crossed that finish line within a minute of the goal time so that any runners behind me would not only meet their goal time, but crush it! At the end of the day, however, we’re here for the runner and to make sure they have the best day possible – checking to see how they’re doing, pointing out different things such as sites or aid stations, reminding runners to hydrate, and all sorts of other good tips. All in all, the event was a great success and the Pace Beaver team is excited to do it again next year!

ImageFor Meet Your Maker, I started off as a volunteer for Package Pick Up. It was an impromptu commitment as our group of friends were heading up to Whistler for a weekend away. We had heard through the grapevine that volunteers were needed so two of us, Hozumi and myself, jumped in for a short stint for Package Pick Up. During those 4 hours where we checked in runners and gave them some quick information on what they needed for the race the next day, Hozumi became the official sweep for the first half of the race. What transpired over the next 12 hours was as unforeseen as my 2 hour taper run turning into a 5 hour taper run. Alarm clocks rang at 5am and 3 tired people changed into running gear and sluggishly walked to the start line for 6am. For those unfamiliar, a sweep’s responsibility is to stay behind the last runner, but it also sometimes entails clearing the course of any markings. Today, it required both. Backpack strapped to Tavis, Hozumi and I pulled flags attached to thin metal poles out of the ground and signage off the course. Every so often, we would stop and unload our hands and load up the pack on Tavis’ back. My original plan was to get to 30km where there was an aid station, thinking it would be roughly 3.5 hours – a little more than planned but I was ok with it considering we were going slower than we would normally. What we didn’t plan for was the extra time and effort it took to remove markings from the course and the weight of the flags. By roughly 20km (and almost 4 hours in), Tavis and I had to let Hozumi continue without us. We finally made it back but not without a quick phone call and rescue pick up from Ron and Cat.

Every volunteer in an event has a certain amount of responsibility and if they care, which they often do, they will take it seriously and do the best they can. Volunteers give up their free time (and sleep!) to be there for you, the participant. Constructive feedback is extremely helpful as organizers cannot be everywhere all the time, but as you’re providing your feedback, think of those volunteers who tried to make your day the best day possible before hitting send. Or, if you find yourself thinking about giving back, get up off the couch and give back.  Nothing in this world is perfect, but a smile and a helping hand can make it grand.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to every single volunteer in every event I’ve worked on, as well as every event I will work on. It has been, and will always be, my privilege.