10 November 2014

New Website!

Hello friends,

I really appreciate all who have visited this website and contributed their comments, support and suggestions. I've taken some of those suggestions and have started working on a new website that is a little sleeker, and a little more grown up. Check it out HERE and please let me know what you think!! 

I've got a ton of Brooks gear and discount coupons to give away, and at the end of the month I will randomly select some of the commenters as the lucky recipients of this swag. Comment on either this or my other website, and let me know which you like better, and why. Don't forget to include your name in the post!

Thanks again, and as always... RUN HAPPY!!

6 July 2014

Diane Cummins: Ode to a Hero

One week ago today I ran my 5th Canadian Senior National Championships in Moncton, NB, and claimed my second consecutive title in the 1500m. This was no easy feat: I barely held off a fast-charging Nicole Sifuentes, who kept me honest through every single stride. In the end, only 9 one-hundredths of a second separated us. We both ran 4:10 and change, which is the fastest finish time at a National final that I can remember. Although placement at these Championships didn't impact National Team Qualification this year (both Nicole and I had already been named to this summer's Commonwealth Games team), it was really special running stride for stride with this amazing competitor and comrade, knowing that we will be representing Canada together in Glasgow later this month. 

(Barely) winning the 2014 Canadian National 1500m in Moncton
It is impossible to adequately describe the emotions the accompany crossing the National finish line in front of your friends, family, teammates and supporters, victorious and elated. I have had the fortune and honour of realizing this twice and I have yet to find the words to do justice to this experience. It is even harder to imagine winning a national title 10 TIMES. As far as I know, the only Canadian athlete who can tell you how this feels is my hero of track and field, the ageless and sensational Diane Cummins. 

Proud after winning bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games
I grew up watching Diane on tv--in that glorious age of Canadian athletics when track and field meets still warranted live air time--and remember thinking that she was just the best thing since sliced bread. I began as an 800m runner and focused the event for years before finally moving up in distance during university. It made sense that Di, the Canadian 800m record-holder, multiple time medalist on the international stage, and all around awesome gal would be my role model. I idolized this phenomenal competitor who epitomizes athleticism and eloquence. She has always been beautiful to watch, not only for her striking looks and fluid stride, but because she is strength and passion personified. When Diane steps on the track, she exudes a confidence, focus and grace that captures her audience and makes a little piece of you want her to win, even if you have another favourite in the race. Her devastating speed and raw grit are balanced by her poise and sportswomanship; win or lose, thrilled or disappointed, Di is classy, honest, and positive. 

Smiling (as always) after Nationals. I love this woman!
They say you should never meet your heroes, because once those you've idolized take on their human forms they somehow lose an element of their majesty. The opposite was true when I met and quickly befriended Di. Her spirit is, quite simply, infectious. Despite being bubbly, joyous and full of positive and seemingly boundless energy, she somehow remains completely down-to-earth, unassuming, humble, and genuine. At first, I was starstruck; it was hard to believe that the woman whose performances and passion had brought me to tears many times as a teenager and inspired me countless times since could be so REAL, and that she would want to be my friend! But that's just who Di is: what you see is what you get, and you get a whole lot! Over her 15+year career, Diane has inspired hundreds--maybe thousands--more than just myself, and I know that many people reading this will relate. She is a proponent of fair and clean sport, an outspoken advocate for equality and accountability, and just truly wants everyone to do their best and love the journey. I cannot imagine a more perfect athlete for the role of mentor, idol and friend.


Last weekend's Nationals were significant in that they marked the final Canadian Championship that will see Diane Cummins compete. At 40 years young, Di claimed the bronze medal in her ultimate championship race, bringing the stadium to their feet and to tears. My dad stood next to me, tears on his cheeks, appreciating all that this tremendous woman has done for Canadian athletics and for his daughter. Di's retirement denotes the end of an era in track and field, but it needn't be a sad occasion; she has made her mark, and it is indelible.  For those who are in the Vancouver area, Di will be racing one last time at the Harry Jerome International Track Classic on Thursday, July 10th at Swangard Stadium. I encourage you to come out and join me in thanking this trailblazer for her enormous contribution to our sport and our lives. Thank you, dearest Di.

*all photos taken from Diane Cummins' personal Facebook page and/or the Athletics Canada official Facebook Page

5 June 2014

The Journey to the Commonwealth Games

Yesterday Athletics Canada revealed their official team list for this summer's Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. I am so grateful, excited and proud to be named to this team and to have the opportunity to wear Canada's red and white on the international stage again this year!!!

There are so many incredible people and experiences that led to this National Team nomination and the past few months have been a hell of a ride.

"Ginger Spice and 
The Left Turns"
This year marked my first exposure to altitude training, and although it came with its challenges, I found it an incredibly valuable and worthwhile experience. Everyone who has been there boasts about how beautiful Northern Arizona is, and it certainly lived up to the hype. Flagstaff and Sedona are both breathtaking and the running trails are next to none. Being there with the Athletics Canada team and under the watchful and knowledgeable eyes of our amazing staff (thank you Heather Hennigar, Trent Stellingwerff, Wynn Gmitroski, et al) I was able to deal with allergy and illness frustrations early and effectively and ultimately put in an awesome training block. The theory goes that in addition to the benefits of living and training at altitude, athletes experience a "training camp effect" anytime they're in an environment that allows them to focus solely on training, recovery, and optimising health surrounded by others who are striving towards the same goals. Rooming with Nicole Sifuentes, chasing Dan Gorman around the track at NAU, drinking delicious espresso at the famous Macy's Coffee Shop, and having evening jam sessions with Geoff Harris, Rachel Francois and Kendra Pomfret made for the best training camp effect I've ever experienced.

Mid-distance ladies all smiles post-workout at NAU

To make my trip even more exciting, my amazing partner Peter surprised me with a visit to Flag! We took a day away from the track to visit the Grand Canyon, and I was totally blown away. This was a good reminder for me that while focus and dedication to training are critical, if we don't take the time to look around, explore and really experience the tremendous places we travel to, we miss out on more than we'll ever make up for in a race.

Peter and I enjoying a gorgeous day at the Canyon

After 4 weeks in Arizona, I traveled to California and kicked off my racing season at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford with a second place finish, my fastest ever season opener, and a World B standard. Although I was pleased with my performance, I knew I had a lot more in the tank. I spent the following 2 weeks in glorious Santa Cruz with the wonderful Quinn family, who have been my gracious hosts for the last 3 years of Californian training camps. The Quinn's live 500m from the ocean and 2 miles from a National forest, and although the scenery and running options are spectacular, I found myself preoccupied with the anxiety of racing again. I knew that in order to truly secure my spot on the Commonwealth Games team, I needed to better the World A standard of 4:05.5 and that I only had one more decent shot at it before the end of the qualifying window: The USATF High Performance Distance Classic in L.A. (formerly the Oxy HP meet). I know that I perform best when I let my instincts take over, run with composure and just race rather than chasing time standards. However, when those standards mean the difference between making a national team and not making it, letting go of the pressure can be easier said than done. I went into Oxy feeling antsy and nervous, but being back with so many familiar, supportive athletes really helped me to relax and enjoy the ride. Although I so desperately wanted an A standard, instead I left L.A. with a win against a very strong field, and another personal best of 4:06.87. I didn't run the 4:05 I was aiming for, but taking the lead with 200m to go and holding off a slew of my idols down the final stretch was pretty freakin awesome and I have no regrets. 

Gorgeous sunset off the Santa Cruz coast
While in Cali I got a chance to meet and hang out with the members of the Brooks Beasts and their amazing coach Danny Mackey. The Brooks Canada contingent is awesome but small and getting to meet so many talented athletes with the same Run Happy spirit and expand my Brooks family was a real treat. 2014 marks the 100 year birthday of Brooks as a company and in between my races I learned that they were holding a birthday bash in Seattle the day after Oxy. My running tights and racing flats weren't going to cut it for such a monumental celebration, so I bought a dress and some heels and rearranged my travel home to accommodate a short stop in Washington. It was a blast. I got to meet the Brooks CEO Jim Weber, sit in on a panel discussion about the future of elite athletes, learn about the evolution of the company, visit the new headquarters, and go on a boat tour/dance party in the Seattle harbour with some of the craziest and funnest (its a word) people I've ever known. That trip just reinforced what I'm already so sure of: Brooks is a one-of-a-kind company comprised of the most passionate, innovative, caring and happiest people in the industry! I am so grateful to be a part of it.  

Adding my name to the 100 year Brooks banner

Dennis and Jenine busting a move on the party boat.
The Canadians were far and away the best dancers!

Nick Symmonds leading the panel discussion in Seattle

A few good lookin' Canucks at the new Brooks HQ in Seattle

Charlotte helping Emma blow out her
birthday candles
I am in love with this tremendous, adventurous, unpredictable life I'm leading and I'm so grateful for the excitement and joy that the 6 weeks away brought. But as always, returning home to my family, my team and my community can't be beaten. I've hung out with my hilarious niece, celebrated my beautiful sister's 25th birthday and enjoyed Toronto in all its spring beauty. I've been reunited with my Athletics Toronto crew and returned to workouts at U of T's Varsity Stadium, where the energy on any given evening offers a boost of inspiration and pride. I've finally begun living in the apartment that Peter and I moved into only 5 days before I left for Flag, and am really enjoying feeling settled, if only for a few weeks. In the words of ruby slipper-clad Dorothy, "there's no place like home". 

21 January 2014

For Madison Holleran

I am sitting at a picnic table outside the laundry building at Vacation Village in Clermont, Florida where some of my Athletics Toronto teammates and I have been enjoying a sunny southern training camp for the past few weeks. We don't have wifi in our rental house, so we often come to this communal space to pick up the Village wifi and connect with the online world.

I woke up early this morning and headed to the gym for a strength training session and a short run, picked up some groceries on the way back and spent the following 3 hours refuelling and chilling out on the couch in preparation for my afternoon 10-miler. I meandered over to the laundry building to check my e-mail, catch up on the headlines of the day, and finish a blog post recounting my time here in Florida.

Instead, I saw a photo posted by Runnerspace on instagram of a beautiful young woman donning her school's colours and gazing confidently past the camera mid-stride at a cross-country meet. The photo is striking and caught my attention--the caption is devastating and made me catch my breath: "The track world lost one way too soon this past weekend...U of Penn freshman Madison Holleran died Saturday night after jumping from a Philidelphia area parking garage". 

Photo of Madison Holleran posted by Runnerspace on Instagram
Article about Madison Holleran's death

The death of a member of the running community is always startling and heartrending in a way that hits close to home.  When we lose a fellow runner, even if we didn't know the individual personally, we grieve collectively and mourn the loss of "one of us".  To learn that a 19 year-old runner committed suicide is tragic in a way that is nearly impossible to express, never mind to comprehend. To know that a young woman was so profoundly unhappy with her life, with her supposed lack of success, with the mounting stress of academics, athletics and the transition away from home, and with things that none of us will ever truly understand, that she felt her only option was to kill herself is beyond words.... 

...Except that this should not have happened. Madison Holleran should not have died this way. This teenager's life should not have ended on the edge of a parking garage roof. 

My heart breaks for Madison's friends and family, who are currently living through the indescribable horror of losing their daughter, granddaughter, sister, teammate, and friend. My hearts breaks for lovely Madison, who must have been experiencing a pain and hopelessness that she thought nothing could fix, and that drove her to the most extreme ending. And my heart breaks for every other person suffering with mental health issues; for every person who feels lost, confused, hopeless, depressed, anxious, inferior, and scared; for every person who suffers silently, who hides or diminishes their anguish, and who thinks there is no other way out.

I know how this feels. I know what it is like to feel so overwhelmed by fear, pain and despair that you consider the most final and otherwise unimaginable option. I know what it is like to want anything other than the hell you feel trapped in. I know what it is like to think about, even fantasize about ending your life. 

But I also know how unbelievably freeing it is to find your way to greater peace, happiness, calmness, fulfillment and control, and to be able to look back at these thoughts as a part of you life, not the end of it. I am grateful every day that I had and continue to have the love, support and care to see me through my darkest moments, and I am devastated that so many people don't get to experience the light at the end of their tunnel.

Dear Madison's death comes one week before the annual Bell "Let's Talk Day" (Jan 28th), an initiative born greatly out of Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes' own struggles with mental illness and her commitment to raising awarenes of the harsh realities of mental illness in the world of sport and beyond in Canada. This is just one of many recent attempts to broaden the discussion about mental health/illness and it is a good step in the right direction, but SO MUCH MORE must be done. This work must be done in our schools, our homes, our places of worship, our offices, our political arenas, our sports fields, our town halls and our dinner tables. Madison Holleran's story should have been that she was a beautiful, talented, hard-working young woman who struggled with mental illness but was ultimately equiped with the tools and resources required to guide her to happiness, strength and success.  

Nothing will bring back the life of this young runner, but the least we can do is work every day to prevent this tragic story from recurring. I wish that Madison will rest in peace, but that others will live in peace.  

To Madison: I am so deeply sorry for the pain you felt. I am so sorry that you weren't able to find the support and treatment that you needed to prevent this tragic outcome. I am so sorry that there isn't more dialogue about, better understanding of, and deeper compassion for mental illness. I am so sorry that at some point you were failed by a society who was supposed to protect you, nurture you, and hold your hand as you grew into whomever you dreamed you would be. I am so sorry, Madison, that your life ended this way. May you rest in peace.

You've been taken by the wind
You have known the kiss of sorrow
Doors that would not take you in
Outcast and a stranger

You have drunk a bitter wine
With none to be your comfort
You who once were left behind
Will be welcome at love's table

All the nights that joy has slept
Will awake to days of laughter
Gone the tears that you have wept
You'll dance in freedom ever after

You have come by way of sorry
You have come by way of tears
But you'll reach your destiny
Meant to find you all these years.
-Cry Cry Cry, "By Way of Sorrow"

21 December 2013

Brooks Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Hi Friends! Thank you to all who entered my contest for FREE BROOKS RUNNING SHOES!!!!!! Tonight I did the draw and the winner is announced in the video below!!

Even if you didn't win this time, there will be lots of opportunities for free Brooks gear in the future, so keep visiting my blog to be sure you don't miss them!!

Cheers and RUN HAPPY!!!

13 December 2013

Run Happy!!

I am very proud to be affiliated with Brooks and what they stand for.

Little critters eating away at the Brooks BioMogo
Brooks is arguably the most "green" shoe company on the market: the BioMogo midsole found in many of their shoes breaks down in the landfill--get this--50 TIMES faster than the EVA which comprises most non-Brooks running shoes, without compromising the integrity of the product. The average running shoe takes 1,000 years (yes, you read that correctly) to disintegrate after you've thrown it away. In 2013 there were over 50,000 participants in the New York City Marathon weekend and over 40,000 in the Ottawa Marathon weekend: that's roughly 100,000 runners and therefore 200,000 running shoes in these two races alone. If you extrapolate that to the number of runners in North America, you can imagine how many shoes get tossed each year!! Now consider the environmental impact of a shoe that takes 20 years to biodegrade as opposed to a shoe that doesn't break down for 1,000 years! Pretty significant! Also, check out their CMP midsole manufacturing process, which further adds to their eco-friendliness!

Brooks is also committed to environmental consciousness when it comes to their packaging, namely their shoe boxes, which are made from recycled and recyclable materials, using energy-conserving methods (remember, every one of the 100,000 participants in Ottawa and NYC this year wore a pair of shoes that came from a box...thats a lotta boxes!) Plus, Brooks encourages you to be creative with your shoe boxes once you've removed your awesome footwear. They recommend creating dioramas, and I am in full support of this idea (stay tuned for Brooks shoe box dioramas!)

One of the things that drew me most to Brooks was my ability to connect with their philosophy: "Run Happy!"  There are a lot of great slogans out there, but its hard to beat this one, because what would this sport/lifestyle/challenge be without a deep sense of passion, love and happiness! There have been periods throughout my running career when I've been pretty down, and these are things we can all relate to: being sidelined by injury, feeling overwhelmed in our personal lives, being sick or just plain tired! But striving every day, through every run, with each high and especially every low, to find peace, love and satisfaction in this great sport of ours...well, that's what pulls us through and makes every stride worthwhile. I try to "run happy" every time I lace up, and although some runs--and some days--are tougher than others, this philosophy has really helped me to appreciate my body, mind and soul and develop a beautiful relationship with running. I wish the same to each of you, my dear readers!

May you always RUN HAPPY!!!

Now, in the spirit of this inspiring slogan, I have partnered with Brooks Canada to launch my RUN HAPPY tab. You can find this on the upper right tab of my website, and checking it out will not only provide you with regularly-updated info on products and events, but will also feature some awesome contests and give-aways! In fact there may be one happening right now....

28 November 2013

Toronto's Pan Am Potential

In honour of Throwback Thursday, I wanted to take a few moments to relive one of my favourite events of 2013, the Toronto International Track and Field Games. For those who aren't as familiar with the world of athletics, the Toronto International Track and Field Games (TITFG) is one of 5 meets held across Canada during the late spring, which collectively comprise the National Track League (NTL) The NTL events are held from coast to coast--Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria--and serve as the only elite track and field opportunities in Canada, outside of the Canadian National Championships.

With its inception in 2011 the TITFG helped to establish the NTL, and I have watched it grow tremendously over the past 3 years. I have competed in the 1500m each year, winning the event twice (2011 and 2013) and placing second in 2012. Each year the calibre of competition has improved, the crowd has grown in numbers and enthusiasm, the prize purse has expanded, and the Games have developed a renowned level of prestige and excitement.            

From an athlete's perspective, the TITFG is arguably the most ideal and elite track and field meet in Canada: Toronto is centrally located and easily accessible, the weather for the past 3 years has been close to ideal (unlike Halifax the week before when the weather is very unpredictable or the West Coast in July when the pollen is very high), it is an exciting destination for out-of-towners, the facility is in the heart of the city and therefore has tremendous visibility, and it is always 2-3 weeks before both the Canadian and USA National Championships and is therefore used as athletes' final preparation leading into their international qualifying meets. It is highly valued on the pre-Championship racing circuit, as evidenced by the 40 Olympians who competed this year.

For those of us in the GTA, The TITFG is the only event of the year that our entire support base (family, sponsors, friends, teammates, coaches, fans, etc) are
able to attend. With Nationals being held in Moncton, and other high level meets only found either in the USA or Europe (or NTL events in other provinces), this event in Toronto is the only opportunity for our community to see us live, in action. As anyone who has been to a live sporting event can attest, nothing can repliate the real-life experience of being there in person, feeding off the excitement of the other spectators, absorbed in the thrill of feeling the competition unfolding before you. This simply can't be imitated by watching a race online or reading about it after the fact.

My amazing rabbit Vanessa McLeod
The 2013 TITFG had an enormous personal impact: it is the meet at which I ran my first "World B Standard" in the 1500m, helping to secure my position as a member of the Canadian team competing at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia. Crossing the finish line in Toronto in front of my home crowd and seeing my time flash across the scoreboard was one of the most exhilerating moments in my athletics career. It simply wouldn't have been the same--nor do I think it would have even been possible--had it not been for the hundreds of supporters whose energy propelled me around the track faster than I had ever run before, and who celebrated this victory with me. It felt like a
giant, loving hug enveloped me at the finish line. Two weeks following the TITFG I won my first Senior National Title in the 1500m at the Canadain Championships, solidifying my spot on the World's team bound for Russia. The confidence I gained from the TITFG undoubtedly aided in my win at Nationals, and this confidence continued to translate throughout the remainder of my most successful season to date.

Toronto is in an incredibly exciting position: we are poised to be at the pinnacle of international sport in 2015 as host city of the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games!
We will welcome athletes from 41 countires competing in 65 sports, and will be given the opportunity to showcase not only Canada's athletic prowess but also all that Toronto has to offer as an athletic, economic, political and cultural powerhouse. However, in order to make the 2015 Pan Am Games all that they can be, we desperately need events like the Toronto International Track and Field Games to build a strong fan base within the GTA, and give international athletes and supporters a taste of what they can look forward to in 2 years.

The TITFG serves as that major attraction for both die-hard fans of the sport and those who are looking to check out an awesome event on a beautiful June evening in the heart of Canada's largest city. There is an untapped appetite for amateur sport in Canada, and events like the TITFG are how we uncover that potential leading into 2015 and beyond! Check out what elite athletes at the 2013 TITFG had to say about the anticipation of the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games HERE! (*NOTE: all photos in this blog post are courtesy of the official Toronto International Track and Field Games Facebook page)