Sunday, September 21, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
My knee injury has kept me from competing for most of the season this year, but the rest of my clan is keeping up the Smith family tradition of excelling at outdoor pursuits. Dad, at 73 is racing his bike in the BC Senior Games this fall. Jo, while finishing up her Ph.D, just rode 100 miles to raise money for MS, and Dan just qualified for Hawaii IM on his first attempt. And that was not just his first attempt at qualifying; it's was his FIRST IRONMAN!
I may have been the sibling to pursue a career in competitive sports, but I certainly share competitive spirit with my family members! Growing up in our house was not for the faint-hearted. We turned everything into a competition, even dish washing (doing them in record time etc). If it was Mastermind, Boggle or ping pong, then you better be prepared to take it seriously. Scores counted and and were recorded. We actively searched for things to do where we could try hard and compete. Even if we were hiking, there were rocks to climb UP, and if there was ice on the pond there was an excellent opportunity to have a slide-off. I did a lot of racing around trying to keep up. There was no easy win when playing games with Dan. But I always came back for more.
After years spent racing Lasers, Windsurfers and mountain bikes (with a little triathlon in the '80's: Dan did triathlon long before I did. My running-only training regime was not to be messed with when I was younger), Dan decided to train for Ironman. The day after cheering me on to my 9th place finish at IM Canada in 2007, he signed up. (It gets them every time. Watch the race and you feel compelled to do it).
And did he ever do it. His 2nd place age group finish and Hawaii spot were cause for celebration in the family. His 5 hour bike split made us all proud. We've always been the kind of family that values honest effort and hard work as much as results, and when it comes together for a great day in sport, we can celebrate with joy.
Way to go Uncle Dan, we are proud of you!
Lucy, Maia and Ross
Monday, August 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Mount Munson, Penticton
Almost Back to Normal
At least I can run around with the kids now, as seen in this photo taken on our family trip and LifeSport triathlon camp in Penticton. That's Ross, flying down the gravel beside me. At this point, I can see that I will be back training by the end of August, just in time for....next year!
10 Minutes of Running for Joy x 4
I remember doing a half Ironman about 2 years after Maia was born, and all I can remember from that run was that I was running without pain. I was so noticably pain free that it was all I could think about. I had spent a year recovering from back and pelvis pain, so just to be running was something to be happy about.
Right now I am up to 10 min run intervals with 2 min of walking, and while things are not perfect with my knee, running for 10 minutes feels pretty good, and the funny thing is...that the two minutes of walking are not bad either. I can look around, breathe, relax and appreciate the surroundings.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
This is my prized purple Mongoose. Lance gave it to me. Lance has given me many useful gifts over the years, many that I still have and use all the time, like my first set of nice Lagostina cooking pots. Lance gave me this bike for Christmas in about 1994. I think he sold his first carbon fibre bike frame in order to buy it for me and I clearly remember how he surprised me by hauling it onto our king sized water bed on Christmas morning. I think that at the time, Lance figured we might get some mountain biking in, but I don't think he could have foreseen just how useful this bike would be.
I have probably logged more miles on this bike than any other bike I have ever owned. This would be owing partly to the fact that I've owned this bike longer than any other bike, and unlike my sponsored Cervelo and Orbea racing bikes, you just don't replace your beater bike every year; then it wouldn't be the beater bike.
It's an ordinary old 35 pound mountain bike with great heavy fenders and a cool bell. I can tow kids on it, and I can ride it in the rain, and I can tool around town with it. I can hop on and off trails, and I can ride it to school with Maia (though she really hates it when I show up in my spandex and colourful jerseys. "Why can't you dress normal, like the other mums?"). I rode it when I was pregnant because I could stay safely on bike paths, and I used it post childbirth as the position is easy on my back. It doesn't get flats and although they are getting old now, it has enough gears to get me up and down hills without too much stress.
Today I rode my 35 pound beast for one whole hour and forty five minutes. My longest ride since Ironman Canada last summer. My purple Mongoose is now the Official Bike of my Knee Injury Rehabilitation, and until I can ride several 2hour pain free rides, I won't even think of getting on my carbon fibre Orbea. If I get on my road bike, then likely I will feel too much like an athlete again, and will try to train, instead of the spinning and strength therapy that riding is fulfilling right now.
Back when I was a 3000m runner I used to train with a woman who fluctuated wildly between being one of the fastest runners in the world, and so injured she would get fantastically out of shape. We always knew she was back in racing shape when her racing suits came out of storage. We called our skimpy little racing shorts 'bum shorts' and for the information of the bikini wearing triathlon masses, track and field athletes have been competing in public in bathing suits for years.
I realize I feel the same way about my mountain bike
I can ride incognito on my mountain bike; meaning other road cyclists don't feel they have to compete with me, as all they see is this nerdy purple bike with a 40 year old woman motoring along. I am left in peace to ride and enjoy the scenery, concentrate on form and getting my leg better. So far so good.
Monday, May 05, 2008
by Lucy Smith
Copied from the May 2008 Issue of Island Parent Magazine.
When I was a child I was called a tomboy. I remember processing it as a compliment, not a taunt, and took it as praise for being athletic, a fast runner, interested more in the outdoors than talking about dolls and boys. I was naturally athletic and I loved competition. I ran and played soccer and basketball at school. I sailed all summer, loved camping, hiking, rock climbing and back country skiing: anything that tested my physical limits. I took pride in being brave and fearless and tough. As the third and youngest child in an active family, I no doubt got positive feedback for having an independent attitude, and early success in sports only served to encourage my athletic interests. I had boys that were good friends, and all through high school had more boys that were ‘chums’ than boyfriends.
As a child, I felt happy identifying as a ‘tomboy’, and during my adolescence, I believe my athletic abilities gave me inner strength to weather the high school scene. As I became a young woman, however, I gradually came to wonder how the boyish label fit with being a girl: I also liked nice clothes and shoes and had heartbreaking crushes on countless boys. I home permed my hair (with disastrous results) in grade 12, experimented with make-up, and stared at fashion magazines, all the while training for the Provincial Track and Field Championships.
By the time I had reached University and my first women’s studies classes, I had outgrown the tomboy label and was a bona fide elite athlete, starring as a distance runner at University and going on to travel the world competing on national teams. At 23, I knew I wanted to be an Olympian and carve out a career as a professional athlete. I had forgotten all about the word tomboy, until I got to that inevitable crossroads in early adult life, where I had moved away from home and was trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted from my life.
Over the next few years as I became aware of the forces of sexism in our culture, it slowly dawned on me that tomboy was a strange sort of expression to apply to girls. Why would we label an active girl to be ‘sort of’ male? It seemed a little confusing to me, as the messages that I saw around me, mainly through the media, seemed to suggest that being a girl and a woman, had a lot more to do with choosing the right eye shadow and preparing for the perfect dream wedding. Tomboy seemed to be a good thing when I was little; now that I was growing up into a woman, what was I?
For a while in my late twenties I lived in Paris, racing as a professional triathlete on a French women’s triathlon team, but still mainly training with, and hanging out with male athletes, as women professionals were pretty scarce. While I loved the adventure of being in Europe, nothing could have felt more glaringly odd to me as a young woman than being a female athlete in the city of breasts, fashion and fragrance. I looked around at the billboards displaying airbrushed photographs of women without muscles, wrinkles or body hair. I knew that no amount of cream would melt fat or cellulite. I decided that someone was delusional, and it wasn’t me.
Like a lot of women born after the start of the feminist movement I had learned to be wary of media images of beauty, and had learned to be a critical reader and observer of popular culture. Nevertheless it was hard to be an athlete and a young woman and to never, ever see myself reflected in those popular images around me. I didn’t know what to think for many years. I felt so strongly that I needed to reject the ‘girly girl’ image that seemed so false (and dangerous, as I noticed eating disorders, low self esteem and disempowerment) that in a very concrete way, I was rejecting the ‘buy in’ to the culture of beauty that I felt was so demeaning to women because it refused to celebrate who women really were. In rejecting female stereotypes, I did in turn embrace a lot of characteristics that are part of the gender roles of males. And that is the essence of being a tomboy by most definitions.
From a pure etymology angle, tomboy is a word with an interesting history. At first a derogatory word to describe women who dressed like men way back in 1590, it gradually came to mean, as fashions changed and most women started to wear trousers, a women who acted more like a man than a woman, and by the time I was 10, it was considered cute to be called a tomboy.
Or did it only serve, for a while, to give me permission to be less like a stereotypical girl? One has to wonder, why should a girl or a woman who is athletic, sporty, strong, confident, competitive, competent, brave and smart be compared to a boy?
Women, like me, who are athletic and who like to wear mascara off the playing field, are just that: women who like sports among a whole host of other passions. I also like reading and writing and cooking and looking after my kids. As I reflect on my youth, I see that being called a tomboy was more confusing than helpful to me as it created a barrier to people (and myself included) seeing who I truly was. It would have been so much easier as a kid if I could have just been able to accept who I was as an active girl without having to deal with trying to decipher what being a tomboy meant.
Now that I am forty and balancing my athletic career with raising my two young children, my athleticism and accomplishments are embraced and respected. I am honoured to give inspiring talks to women who are beginning a journey to fitness and I enjoy giving back to the community that supports me by being a role model for kids, talking to them in gymnasiums and racing them around soccer fields. Nobody calls me a tomboy anymore and I see many young women who are fearlessly choosing to be athletes. Girls can play hockey, soccer and golf, though still not with the same opportunities as men. The balance is far from equal—there are far greater professional opportunities for male athletes than female, but girls just don’t need to be called tomboys anymore. And when the word disappears from common use and into the history of the language, that will be a good day.
I have noticed that in the post-feminist “Girl Power” movement, there is a strong reclaiming of the term tomboy amongst girls. I see girls trying to infuse power in the term, by saying they are proud to be tomboys. What I envision is a possibility that girls and women can transcend the whole issue of what their position is in relation to traditional power. Instead of responding to the term, I would like to see girls embrace a reality for themselves and one that embraces the whole of their radiant natures.
I have a seven year old girl. She has girl friends that I care about. I want these girls to grow up happy to be who they are. If they want to play with Barbie, then they should be happy about that need to explore. Barbie is an invitation to conversations about why every single Barbie has such crazy long legs, no muscles, such a tiny waist and big breasts, but I still think that if they want to play with dolls that’s just fine. And if my daughter feels like running, skipping or mastering a skateboard, I would like to think that she feels free and happy about that too, and I would hope she doesn't feel that she’s a little bit of a ‘different’ girl and tomboyish because she exhibits such daring and strength.
Last month, I sat on a small chair at a classroom table with my daughter and her grade 2 teacher. The three of us were in the classroom discussing friendships among a group of girls in the class. Her teacher, a compassionate and motherly woman, mentioned that my daughter might like to find other friends who were into sports. ‘You’re sort of a tomboy; maybe there are some other girls in the class who share your interests,” suggested her teacher.
My daughter paused before answering, glanced at me, then looked at her teacher and stated. “I don’t really like that word, tomboy, as it means that I am sort of like a boy, and I’m not. I’m a girl and I like sports and running and stuff. I’m a sporty girl. The word, tomboy doesn’t exist for me.”
My heart did one of those mother bursts: I felt such respect and love that she could reflect on her teacher’s use of words so well. I was surprised that our conversations about what it means to be a girl in this world had created this kind of awareness in her. I admired too, the way her teacher took the comments. She sat up straighter and opened her eyes in that sort of ‘aha!’ way that people get when they look at something through a different lens for the first time. This is a woman with a daughter too, a girl who is passionate about soccer. “I never thought about it like that”, she said. “I can see how you wouldn’t want to be compared to a boy like that.”
Having a career in sports has been a rewarding life path for me. I have travelled the world, had experiences in different cultures, and have met interesting people: all these have enriched my life. I have overcome obstacles and challenges. I have learned how to live with extremely stressful environments and people. I have learned how to stay balanced and in the moment while dealing with the highs and the lows that sport inevitably brings. The knowledge gained from a lifetime of athletic experiences helped me through childbirth and has made me a better parent and partner. After doing three Ironman triathlons and giving birth twice, I am not afraid of anything physically challenging or stressful. By staying true to my dreams, I feel that I have transcended my early tomboy label, and found true joy in my career path.
I am not a tomboy. I am me and tomboys don’t exist for me either.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I might be injured but that doesn't mean that life is dull. (Life is never dull with kids around). This little push bike is built for a three year old to learn how to ride, but that doesn't stop Maia from using it as a stunt bike for her after dinner shenanigans.
This one's for you Linsey!
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I stole this title from another article I wrote about finding a sense of balance in your life when you have lots on the go. 'Having lots of balls in the air' is a common expression you hear, but to me, it has an underlying anxiety to it, as at any time, one of the those balls might drop. So, when I hear than someone is juggling career, parenting, and a passion for training for the marathon or Ironman, it sounds like they are stretched, hopping from one activity to the other without a pause for breath. Determined to keep all the balls afloat no matter what. But oops! They are forgetting to breathe! The focus on keeping all those balls up, means the thought pattern is: better not drop one!
Wouldn't it be great if we could keep all those balls up there, and be thinking only: Isn't this awesome; I love the way these balls keep spinning around!
So I wrote the orginal article, pointing out how, with a few strategies and insights about yourself, it was possible to feeling like you are dancing with your passions, gracefully and energetically, and fully present to the moment. So that when you need to train, your gear is ready, you have a plan to follow, and you are free to enjoy all the moments you are training. When you are with your kids or loved ones, you are fully present with them, giving them the attention and authentic love that they need.
There are times when I really have felt that my life is a dance, usually something like Swing, and occasionally hip hop. I feel organized and on top of things like childcare and schedules, training and racing goals. But here's the reality. Everything is always changing (including my hormones) and I'll be honest that occasionally, it all feels nuts. Something happens and the dancing gets into a kind of crazy tempo, and suddenly I am juggling it all again, desperately trying to keep all the balls in the air. I know that motherhood requires juggling...the soccer, the lunches, the play-dates, the homework, quality time for self and others...but throw training goals in there, and it's a tough dance to master.
I don't know about you, but I don't like feeling maxxed out. I like having a full life, and I will always have passions like triathlon that I want to experience at a high level, but I'm not crazy about stress or anxiety. Anxiety is the little inner voice, always full of drama, that wants some attention. As soon as you wobble on one of those balls, it sees the opportunity to pounce. "HA!" It says, "You might drop that!"
So, what I have found in this imperfectly perfect path that is life, is that sometimes I will feel like I am juggling. One of the kids gets sick, or I lose a valuable babysitter so have less time to train. Maybe it's a ball that changes: an injury that throws me off my plans and mission for a while. when the tempo of the dance changes, I work on accepting the new dance. Anf guess what? The new dance is a good one too!
I have discovered that I can juggle and still carry on the dance, and that is progress!
Monday, March 10, 2008
OK, then it was my turn, and how could I not have a great time when everybody was already smiling and relaxed. I talked about finding that fun in sport, about using your time wisely and well, about setting goals that are truly meaningful and then surrounding yourself with people who will help make your dreams come alive.
I was reminded of a really powerful message as I finished up my talk Mena's clinic, and that was the power of having a great attitude. That, expecting to have a positive experience is a big part of training and racing. I think that sometimes we wait until the end of the race or training session to feel good about ourselves. Starting out with a smile is just as important.
I watched those women head out of the gym for the training run, laughing and chatting, big smiles on their faces, and I thought to myself: those women get it!
Monday, February 11, 2008
1. At the start of the season write down your goals. Write down what you want to achieve, not what you think you should do. This is important to ponder. If your goals do not line up with what you really want, then you will be far less committed than if you embrace your true desire. If you sign up for Ironman because your buddies did, but you really want to test yourself over short course, those long rides are going to seem endless and even pointless.
2. Once you have your goals written down (and you should write them down) then you need to look at your priorities in life and decide whether your goals match your priorities. I have coached several people to Ironman who were clear about it being a 12-month commitment that they had worked out with their families. If you have chosen Ironman, yet you know you will only be able to train on a very limited basis for the distance, it is worth adjusting your outcome goals to match this. If your priorities do not line up with your goals, then you will be frustrated and grumpy about your progress. It is ultimately more enjoyable to be fully emotionally present at your daughter’s Saturday afternoon soccer game than to be worried about the training miles that you aren’t getting in.
3. Decide to be flexible and adopt an easy-going attitude about your sport. Plan for your goals to happen by setting short-term goals, a training schedule, or at least a weekly plan that includes time that you can train. Having a personal coach and finding workout partners are great ways to make your training happen and to make the most of limited time. At the same time, busy people with demanding jobs and especially parents with small children, need to be flexible with their lives. Being able to accept that your children are sick and need you, or that you have to travel to a business meeting is an easier task if your priorities are clear and you know that over the long haul, you are being consistent with your training.
4. Be consistent about sleep. For instance, if you have an infant, or do shift work, you likely do not get enough sleep, so you need to make the most of the sleep that you get. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time on a regular basis will ensure you are as rested as you can be. Be aware of the things that will interfere with a good sleep too: alcohol, caffeine and chocolate in the evening, though they may be part of your daily treat schedule, can detract from a good rest.
5. Understand your energy patterns and organize your day and train accordingly. Most of us have energy highs and lows in the day, parts of the day where we feel most alert and energized and those where we just want to take a nap. If you can, schedule your training around the times when you feel you are at your best, especially if you do only one workout a day. If you routinely train at night and have trouble getting to sleep, change your workout time and notice how it affects your training and your sleep patterns. Getting into a working routine with your sleep and your physical activity is part of optimal training.
6. Go out and play. Participation in sport is playtime: adult fun in a life of responsibility, jobs, mortgages, and other such seriousness. Be one of the athletes who have tapped into their inner strength—competing with a sense of happiness as well as determination is how you perform at your best.
7. Eat well and stay hydrated. Learn as much as you can about good sports nutrition, including what to eat and when, and what proportion of your caloric intake should be protein, carbohydrates and fats. Without being obsessive with your diet, make choices that feed your body and your soul, providing you with adequate energy to support your active lifestyle. Instead of those empty calorie junk foods, replace lost calories with a high nutrition alternative. A Power Bar Pria with your morning coffee provides treat factor with a healthy doss of nutrition.
8. Take care of your toys! Be proactive about your equipment and be as organized as you can so that you are always ready to go. There is nothing more aggravating than finding a flat on your bike when you have an hour to ride. Stock up at the bike store with spare tubes and any equipment you may need and keep it on hand by your bike. Have a race day equipment list and print it out. Organize your gear the night before a race. Have a spare pair of your favourite runners on hand.
9. Stretch your hamstrings and breathe! Take a Yoga class and reap the many benefits for athletes. Through yoga you can learn to tap into and increase your core strength, the strength that you need to initiate all other movement in a balanced and efficient way. You will stretch out tired muscles and strengthen and lengthen your back after all the pounding of running. As a refreshing change from competing there are no performance incentives in yoga besides having a stronger more flexible body, a suppler spine and more relaxed mental outlook. Learning how to really breathe will help in your racing and in your busy life, and most athletes feel rejuvenated and enriched by the mind and body connections of yoga.
10. Be gentle with yourself. Look at your life and your sport as a work in progress. Each challenging opportunity opens the door for further growth. If your time and energy are limited, make every moment count. On a day that you are tired, give yourself credit for getting out there, savour the sunshine, the forest, the camaraderie of your peers instead of focussing on how slow you feel. Some specificity is better than sitting on the couch. If your current training routine is not working for you, if your life feels unbalanced or hectic, accept that and move on. Re-frame the problem into an opportunity. What would work better now? What would you change if you could do it again?
Participation in sport is a rewarding path in life, especially to those who view their training as a process of self-discovery and personal achievement. If you have clear priorities and intentions and are living out your responsibilities to yourself and the other people in your life, then your training and racing is something that will add joy your life.
Friday, February 08, 2008
(first appeared in Her Sports 09/04)
From the moment my daughter was born, my priorities in life have gradually shifted. As an elite athlete balancing my life’s joys of running and parenting, I have to choose where to put my valuable energy resources. I stress less about various trivial details, while other broader issues have come more into focus. I have been fascinated by the paradox of athlete/motherhood: how to take care of my own needs and commitment to being in top form while at the same time feeling an organic compulsion to give up everything for the adorable child that I love so much. I don’t know if it’s motherhood, maturity or a combination of both, but when I travel to races these days, it is a with a real sense of consciousness and purpose.
It was serendipitous that an e-mail asking me to be a part of a National Team for the Yokohama Women’s Ekiden came across my desk. At the time, I was only four weeks into the new year of training: the tiring volume period of endurance running, and getting back into the swing of balancing my active three year old with my own training schedule. The chance to go alone to race in Japan, to stay in a luxury hotel, to train, write, walk, stretch, practice yoga and just “be” was just what I wanted. I said yes, and took care of the important childcare details afterwards, knowing that my husband loves to be the “go-to” guy when I am on the road.
The Ekiden is a road-racing format run frequently in Japan, and not so frequently elsewhere in the world. Ekiden means "relay”, and a team of six runners race between 5 and 10k in a leg to complete the marathon distance (42.2km). Runners pass a brightly coloured sash or “tasuki”, which loosely translated means "circle of friendship". I have been racing Ekidens on Canadian teams since my early days of international competition over fifteen years ago and the event is a special one, where runners from across the country are invited to be team-mates and to race together overseas. Being a relay there is a sense of shared responsibility and teamwork not found in other solo running events and there is the added opportunity to adapt and learn while preparing for personal excellence in an unfamiliar environment.
In Yokohama, we stayed at the Yokohama Intercontinental. Shaped like a wedge of Gouda, and with eight bars and restaurants, we were not roughing it at this race. The hotel is in the modern neighbourhood of Minato-mirai 21 (ports + future). The area is anchored by the solid and soaring Landmark tower, the hotel, and adjacent to that, the enormous Cosmic Clock 21, a sky high Ferris wheel that takes fifteen minutes for one revolution and goes around so gently that it doesn’t even stop to let passengers in out of the gondolas: the doors open and people just hop out onto the platform and several seconds later new passengers hop in.
On my first morning in Yokohama, I woke at 5AM and forced myself to lie in bed for another hour before making some green tea and stretching. When it was light enough I eagerly headed out for my run. I had stayed in this same hotel for the Ekiden in 1998, before Maia was born, and being a sentimental person, I love to revisit places from a different time of my life. Since arriving at the hotel I had felt in a fog of déjà vu, as if someone had erased some of my memory but not all of it. This memory lapse could be due to that childbirth phenomenon, although jet lag could account for some of it too. I did remember that to get to Yamashita Park, the compact park where we train, we used to have to thread our way through a construction zone, old warehouse sites, past chain link fences and across vacant lots besides the bay. Since my last trip an amazing transformation had taken place: the whole area is now an open network of walking paths and spacious squares.
From the boardwalk in front of the hotel, I ran across a restored train trestle, “Kishamichi Promenade”, past the Yokohama “World Porters” (This odd name stumped me until I ventured inside one morning: food and clothing and furniture shops galore!), around the Shinko Circle Walk and past the restored 100 year old Red Brick Warehouses, where our race was to eventually start and finish. From there I ran up and across the Yamashita Harbour Railroad promenade, then down a ramp into Yamashita Park. Yamashita Park is not big, but it is next to the sea and there is always a fresh breeze, it has wide boulevards, beautiful trees and marvellous sculpture. It was wonderful to come to Japan, and to be able to run beside the sea without having to cross a street once. In the days leading up to the race, it was common to see groups of six or seven foreign athletes, running back and forth along these pathways by the bay, and stretching in the small spare parks.
By midmorning on the first day, I was sitting at a Starbuck’s writing. I had a vague sensation of cheating: travelling halfway around the world should have precluded me from sniffing out my comforts of home. Interesting difference though, there is no Venti in Japan. Short, Tall and Grande are your choices, reflecting the smaller portion sizes characteristic of the country.
For most of my life, the day before race day has been a challenging mixture of anxiety and impatience: a desire to just get the show on the road! This year, I felt calm and relaxed the day before the race. I missed Maia and her lovely loving spirit, but it was with a sense of gratitude. For the first time I didn’t feel guilty or sad about being away. I thought about my home, my husband and my daughter and I felt lucky to have the life that I do. It filled my heart with peace and courage and in there I found the desire to run and perform, to make my own magic on the racecourse the next day.
Race morning was gloriously sunny, warm and very windy. My leg would be ten kilometres straight into the wind. We were briefed by the coaches again about the check-in process, reminded at how the Japanese officials would be strict about the formalities, our race numbers and the busses to our legs.
An hour and a half before my start, my bus parked beside a small dusty park that was already filled with people and officials in green coats. Some families were there playing on a playground and I had to suppress an urge to go and climb with them, to make friends with the children. The other runners on the bus, women from Japan, Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Russia, were all so serious. This is such an adventure and I smiled at them, but athletes have their game faces. Have I become less serious about sport, I think to myself, knowing what I do about family and children?
During my warm up I felt excited and suddenly nervous--nerves mean that I want to succeed and I became aware that I felt the pressure of running well for the team. As the first runners approached we were rounded up and hustled by officials to the exchange zone on the road; we heard the helicopter drawing closer and Japanese chattering with increasing tense and excited voices. For the athletes, we could only think about one thing: seeing our lead runner racing around the bend with the sash, and the start of our own leg.
The first runner appeared and the women jockeyed for position on the road in order to receive their sash. Not far behind the first runner, I saw my Canadian teammate, clearly in discomfort and with a grimace of exhertion on her face. I grabbed the crumpled up sash in my hand and sprinted off down the road after a Japanese woman who was a mere five seconds ahead. The wind on my leg was severe and I told myself how adverse conditions are a reason to rise to the challenge. All along the route, locals cheered and waved paper flags. I will always remember these races, by the rustle of a thousand paper flags and the occasional “Cah-nah-dah!”.
After ten kilometres of racing along pavement beside endless nondescript grey buildings, I flew down a hill towards another park and passed the sash to our next runner and on it went for 42 kilometres, our bright pink circle of friendship travelling through the streets of Yokohama. At the park, locals asked for our autographs, children peered at our racing shoes, our strange faces, and us. And then the officials rounded us up again; we hopped back on the bus to the finish. Hundreds of people crowded the finish area, and the massive Red Brick Warehouses rose high above the scene, historic and solid.
In the end, the fleet footed Ethiopians won the relay, beating out the National Team from Japan, and they were crowned with wreathes of ivy and flowers in front of the crowd. Not on the podium, we milled about with the locals in the square, getting photographed with children and smiling a lot.
The morning after the race I went for a quiet run by myself. There had been a strong wind and rainstorm the night before and Yamashita Park was wet and covered with bits of leaves and twigs. Running in the fresh sun and wind, relaxed, I noticed a small, statue “The Girl with the Red Shoes”. It reminded me of my own little girl and how much I love her. Racing and travel has always been about adding dimension to my life, about coping and finding peace and joy in foreign places. More than anything on this trip, I felt connected once again to these gifts of my running career.
Friday, January 11, 2008
As an athlete, and as one who has been pursuing dreams and goals for over 20 years, I relate to the all consuming passion to climb, for while I have never been the most obsessed runner out there, my life has been running and training for almost as long as I can remember. When I hit 40 last April, I thought that maybe some magic age-related psychology would kick in and that I would start to feel less passion. Maybe I could kick back a bit, eat more potato chips and drink more wine. All that happened is that as time has gone by, and as my children Maia and Ross have appeared and added a dimension to my life that didn't exist before, old dreams have faded into becoming a part of my history. Whereas there was a time that I obsessed about making the Olympics, I now understand that this one goal will not happen and I have gently let it go. So now, at 40, I took a month off after New York City Marathon and was soon training again, building a foundation for another year of racing.
As an elite athlete, the pursuit of high performance racing goals has to naturally run it's course. While I still won races outright in 2007, this year, I have my sights set on not only crossing the finish line first, but having some fun competing within the masters category in which I now find myself. Some athletes find the desire to compete wanes once they can't run as fast as they did when they were 26, or when they stop consistently winning races. When I look forward to 2008 and consider some of the races that I can include in my calendar, I get excited.
My life long dream has been to be a runner and triathlete. I embraced fitness, health, racing and goal setting at a very early age and most of the decisions in my life revolved around these passions. Fortunately, running and triathlon have no age date on them. Competitive spirit and goal orientedness are character defining attributes, and ones that probably become more refined as we mature. I lived my dream yesterday when I went for a 30 minute easy run along Lochside Trail in the pouring rain. I lived my dream when I took off for an hour into the canyon behind the resort in Mexico where I was vacationing with my family. I ran along dusty tracks where huge green cactus sprouted up around me and Vultures soared overhead on their vast black wings. As I ran to the top of one hill I felt compelled to stop for a moment and look back to the ocean that stretched fuzzy and blue far in the distance. I could feel the heat and the dry air and, because I had stopped, I saw the most amazing insect with iridescent blue-turquoise wings and curly black antennae. Taking a deep breath, that moment defined my life as a runner at least as much as the Olympic Trials in 2004.
While many dreams are tangible and linked to specific goals, like climbing Everest or competing in Hawaii Ironman, dreams are also the way we have chosen to live our most fulfilling lives. The dream IS the joy of doing what you love everyday and finding personal meaning there.