“Because I can.”

I checked off a bucket list item on Labour Day Monday morning.  I swam with the Triathlon Club of Burlington (TCoB), in their annual Pier to Pier swim.  This swim is 2.8km, across Lake Ontario, from the Burlington lift bridge pier to Burlington’s downtown pier.

Usually on Labour Day Monday, you can find me in my happy place, along the Lake Ontario shoreline, on a long solo run to clear my mind and get myself mentally prepped for the upcoming school year.  With a teacher husband and two school-aged children, Labour Day is like my New Year; a fresh start, new goals, big dreams.  And every year, I’ve noticed the TCoB crew climbing out of the water with big smiles and high fives, and sunshine on a glassy lake only adds to the appeal.  Always up for a challenge, I wanted in on the fun, so a little over a week ago, I signed myself up.


2.8km looks really far from this finish-line vantage point; that red circle is the lighthouse where we jumped in.

IMG_9438My husband thought I was crazy; 2.8km and I haven’t swum a stroke in almost a decade.  In fact, I’ve never even put on a wetsuit before, and I didn’t have time to test my borrowed suit out before yesterday’s event, so it was a jump-in-and-hope-for-the-best situation.  But, I used to be a lifeguard, and a decade ago I did a handful of triathlons, including a 1.9km swim in my 2007 half-Ironman.  So while I haven’t swum in many years, I hoped my previous experience, swim technique, and fitness could carry me through.

Monday morning at 7:15am, two of my girlfriends met me at home, and the three of us trekked down to the pier.  They were rookies too, although one is a regular lap-swimmer and one had just come off a great triathlon season.   They gave me tips on getting into my wetsuit (a workout in itself!), BodyGlide advice, and how to loop my zipper string.  I was woefully underprepared, and felt like I should personally introduce myself to the kayak support boats.  Deep down though, I knew that sheer determination (stubbornness?) would get me across the water.

It did.

I finished in 58:36, just under the one-hour mark that my obsessive Google calculations of “open water swim times” told me I could do.  And while I don’t plan on adding swim training to my schedule, I truly enjoyed the experience.  I enjoyed the nerves, the challenge, the friends and family, the sunshine, the sense of accomplishment, and the gratitude that I am physically able to do things like this.

“Why would you want to do that?” someone asked me.  “Because I can.” And oh how I love a challenge.

In fact, this just may become a new tradition.


A Conundrum

We just got back from a wonderful March break vacation.  We spent a couple of days in Florida, and then went on a four-night Disney cruise through the Bahamas.  It was as magical as you would imagine it to be; after all, Disney does magic like no other.  This was a vacation more than two years in the planning, and we travelled with dear friends of ours who have a child similar in age to ours.

We had sun and sand and waterslides abound (Travel Tip: when attempting the tube slide at Disney’s private island, be aware that you will shoot out the bottom like a human cannonball and end up choking on Caribbean seawater; fun for the whole family to witness.).  It was a week to remember, and our children, ages seven and four, are the perfect mix of old-enough-to-participate-in-everything and young-enough-to-believe-in-everything.  And that’s where my slight hesitation comes in…..

Let’s not call this a problem.  There are bigger problems in life than Disney cruises.  Let’s not even call it an issue.  Let’s perhaps call it a conundrum.  Yes, let’s call it that, because conundrum is not a word I have ever used in a blog before and likely never will again.  My conundrum is this:

Disney princesses are a big part of a Disney cruise, and perhaps a big part of the whole Disney experience itself.  In fact, you have to line up just to get tickets that allow you to line up to actually meet said princesses.  Now, my four year-old daughter is not what I would call a girly-girl, but she is somewhere between that and a tomboy.  She likes to wear dresses, likes to have her fingernails painted, but also likes to have messy hair and play road hockey.  Perhaps she would also like shoes and jewelry, but having me for a mother, she has not been exposed to much of that.  Sorry ’bout your luck, kid.

unnamed-4But I played along, and we packed her princess dress and her crown, and lined up to get the  meet-the-princess passes.  My inner feminist was screaming “why?”  Why am I encouraging this?  Why am I teaching my daughter that she should strive to be a princess? I believe in independence!  In strength!  In celebrating accomplishment rather than beauty!  Has Disney not read my blog?  Harrumph.

And then I dialled it back and ate a Mickey bar.  And I realized that imagination and wonder and make-believe are all important, incredible things, even if they come to us in the form of a makeup-ed, hair-sprayed princess.  My little girl actually believed that she was meeting Princess Anna and Queen Elsa.  She felt happy and confident and inspired.  And you know what else?  She actually believed that she was a princess too.  So that’s a wonderful thing.



*** Disclaimer:  Now I know some of you Disney fans will be thinking, “but what about so-and-so?  She’s a strong princess that Disney has created!  It’s not all Cinderella and Prince Charming anymore!”  And while perhaps that is true, this post is more about the image of a princess in general.  I recommend that you eat a Mickey bar to see my perspective.


High on Accomplishment

Two days ago, I ran in Burlington’s Chilly Half Marathon.  This was the 20th anniversary for the event, and I’m guessing that I’ve participated in six or seven of those twenty.  The Chilly Half is a staple in my life.  There have been years when I was fit and fast, years when I struggled just to finish, and years when I ran with friends for fun.  Sunday seemed to be a combination of all of the above.

Approaching this race, my mindset was different than ever before.  This time I was running for only me, ignoring the self-imposed pressures of race times and previous bests.  My dear friend Michaela was set to be at my side, but unfortunately got sick the day before and couldn’t make it.  So I ventured to the start line solo, took a picture to offset some nervous starting corral energy, and off I went with the pack.

I started much faster than I’d planned, getting caught up in race-day adrenaline and swept along with the thousands of footsteps around me.  Perhaps it was my imagination, but I heard panic in the voice from my running app as it announced my pace per kilometre.  In hindsight, that panic was likely my internal dialogue, as I knew I could not hold onto the speed I’d started with.  I have lots of racing experience and have probably completed upwards of thirty or forty half marathons; going out too fast is not an error I make often, but one that I know the full ramifications of.  And sure enough, I paid for it: my right foot went sporadically numb, my chronic hamstring injury reared its ugly head, and my obliques were screaming from those awful toes-to-bar in my CrossFit Open workout two days prior. Kilometres six through nineteen were a blur of self-talk…..

“Breathe in.  Breathe out.”  “Keep going.”  “Hold this pace.”  I read signs and repeated them in my head to the cadence of my footfalls:  “App-le-by Line.  App-le-by Line.  App-le-by Line.”  I did the math over and over: “If I slow two seconds per kilometre for eight kilometres and then pick it back up for the last two, what will be my finish time?”  “Just get to the turnaround.”  “Just get to the next kilometre.”  “You can do it.”

But this post isn’t meant to be a race report.  To write a race report, you must race, and that’s not how I approached Sunday; I was over-scheduled, under-trained, and certainly not prepared.  Instead, this post meant to tell you what happened after the race.  I finished in 1:42.  My personal best is 1:23 (in 2004).  This means I ran nearly one minute per kilometre SLOWER than what I used to run.  And yet, it’s hard for me to remember a running moment I’ve been prouder of than I was on Sunday.

You see, this was waiting for me:

My kids.  My friend’s kids.  The medal, the music, the energy, and they were caught up in it all.  My children have been to dozens of finish lines to cheer me on, but this one seemed different.  Their excitement and pride shone through their smiles, bigger than ever before, and I could physically see the impression I’d made on them.

The truth is, I talked myself through that entire 21.1km.  I finished through sheer will and stubbornness.  And that’s why I keep running, keep racing, keep coming back for more: the runner’s high.  And really, the runner’s high is just fancy lingo for a sense of accomplishment.

On Sunday, my children got that runner’s high too.  So all my struggle was worth it.