3 Underrated Eats in Vancouver

When I was in Vancouver a few weeks ago for the SeaWheeze Half Marathon, I ate.  I ate a lot.  I like to call post-run hunger “Runger”…and since we were in town for a whole lot of running, it was a given that a whole lot of eating was to follow.  These were my favourite diamonds in the rough.

1. The Red Wagon Cafe – 2296 E Hastings St (Website)

This place technically isn’t even “underrated” – it was featured on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (just like the OB Noodle House in San Diego I was lucky enough to visit in April!), so it has definitely gained some attention!  We went on the Sunday after the race for brunch, and we had to wait for about 30 minutes for a table, but it was well worth it.  I had the Pork Belly breakfast, and Claire had the Pulled Pork Buttermilk Pancakes – they come with JD-Spiked Maple Syrup.  Lucky for me, she couldn’t finish it all, so I did.  Yup.  “Runger” can continue for more than 24 hours, right?

Pork Belly Breakfast

Pork Belly Breakfast

Pulled Pork Pancakes

Pulled Pork Pancakes

2. Five Elements – 1046 Commercial Dr (Website)

As a Calgarian, I am pretty picky about my Vietnamese food.  Calgary is a mecca for it, and I feel really spoiled sometimes with just how awesome it is here.  But Five Elements was a very pleasant surprise.  Our table ordered an array of soup and vermicelli dishes, and everybody was extremely satisfied.  Plus – the portions were HUGE!  Like 2 or 3 meals huge.  And the best part about this place is that they use NO MSG at all.  Amazing.

Lemongrass Pork Vermicelli

Lemongrass Pork Vermicelli

3. Motomachi Shokudo Ramen – 740 Denman Street (Website)

Okay.  Maybe my perception of this place was slightly blurred since I was tipsy on celebratory post-race-day champagne when we arrived, but I’m just going to go ahead and say that this was the BEST Ramen I’ve ever had.  EVER.  I ordered the Extra BBQ Pork Ramen (which was way too much food, but again, I’ll blame the champagne) and I wish I had privacy to lick the bowl.  The restaurant itself is tiny, but adorable and completely authentic.  If I lived in Vancouver, I’d eat here several times a week.  I’ll be dreaming about this place for years to come.

Extra BBQ Pork Ramen

Extra BBQ Pork Ramen

Where are your favourite spots to eat in Vancouver?

Do you have a favourite type of Cuisine?

Posted in five elements, food, food porn, motomachi shokudo, pork belly, pulled pork, ramen, red wagon cafe, restaurants, review, travel, vancouver, vietnamese | 2 Comments

Women in the Wilderness – 6 Backcountry Babes Share their Tips & Tricks for Outdoor Awesomness

A few weeks ago, I was going to put together a list of my ultimate tips and tricks for outdoor adventure as a woman.  I always have friends and colleagues asking me for hiking tips after they see the handful of awesome photos I post online when I return from some adventure in the mountains.  While this is always flattering, I can hardly call myself an Adventure Expert, although I wish I could.  So, I decided to reach out to a few of the most badass outdoorsy chicks I know, who all happen to be from Canada (and better still, Alberta!) and put together one massive post which includes advice from all six of us.

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1. Ashley

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My name is Ashley, and you may know me as the voice behind this blog, Adventure To Anywhere.  I’m a mid-twenty-something who takes every opportunity I can to get outside, whether it be for a run, a bike ride, or a weekend in the mountains.  I live to inspire the people around me, and I do what I do just as much for the people in my life as I do it for myself.

How long have you been experiencing backcountry hiking and/or camping?

I went on my first backcountry hiking trip as a part of a high school program when I was 17, and I was hooked.  We spent 6 days camping and hiking in Yoho National Park.  After that, I took any opportunity that came up to head to the mountains.

Yoho National Park, October 2008

Yoho National Park, October 2008

Who is your go-to hiking partner, and why?

My boyfriend, Sean, because he’s my favourite person on the planet and I’d go anywhere with him, but also his dad, Gord.  Gord is like Survivor Man.  He’s spent countless days (weeks, months) in the backcountry, mostly by himself, and through his trial-and-error process, he’s learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t when you’re out in the mountains.  I feel especially safe when he’s with us.  Plus, he always brings the most delicious food.  We eat like kings and queens in the backcountry when we’re with Gord.

What originally inspired you to start hiking?

I love the solidarity of the mountains.  The past few years have been a pretty traumatic personal time for me, and the strength and permanence of the mountains have been my greatest solace throughout this time.  I love exhausting myself to get to beautiful places where nobody can reach me on my cell phone.  That, and taking epic mountaintop photos!

Buller Pass, Kananaskis, AB

Buller Pass, Kananaskis, AB

What are a few of your must-have products or gear when you’re in the backcountry?

Product – Wysi Wipes.  They’re a little tablet that expands when you add water, and they turn into a thin, disposable wipe.  They can be used to wash your face, wash dishes, wipe off equipment, or to clean up after a meal.  They’re also great for travel, I used them a ton when I was in Asia.

Gear – Hiking poles.  They don’t need to be expensive, but the poles help relieve the weight and pressure from your knees, and make hiking a much more pleasurable experience.  I never go backpacking without poles.

What advice do you have for new hikers?

Take it easy, take it slow, and invest in a few quality pieces of good gear – like the right boots, good all-weather clothing, and a well-fitting pack.  Every hiker is different – maybe you prefer long nature walks with little incline, or maybe steep ascents and sketchy scrambles are your cup of tea.  Try everything, and then pursue what you like the best.

What words of encouragement do you have for hikers who are nervous about wild animals such as cougars and bears?

I myself am very nervous about wildlife when I’m in the backcountry, so I always try to remind myself that they don’t want to see me any more than I want to see them.  Unless threatened, bears will most likely run away before you even know that they’ve spotted you.

Waterton Lakes National Park, AB

Waterton Lakes National Park, AB

Follow Ashley’s adventures on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or on her Blog.

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2. Megan

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I’m a nature nerd. If you ever go on a hike with me, I’ll probably spout off random facts about edible plants, sweet wildlife or other cool things you can see in the area. I’m a medic too, which turns out to be pretty handy – most of my friends and I are pretty clumsy. Oh, and I should mention, my passion for adventure/landscape photography absolutely consumes all of my free time.

How long have you been experiencing backcountry hiking and/or camping?

Probably since my early twenties, but I’ve had some serious issues with my knees in the past. So I took a break from running, healed up, and now I’m making up for lost time this summer. I have slept more in my tent then I have in my own bed- just how I like it!

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What originally inspired you to start hiking?

When I was little, my Mom would take my sister and I all over the mountains to go hiking and camping. It was really in those moments that I truly fell in love with the wilderness, a feeling that has stayed with me as an adult.

What are a few of your must-have products or gear when you’re in the backcountry?

For me, I am always cold… and being constantly cold can really be draining on a backcountry trip. However, I take my Nalgene water bottle and fill it with boiling water, screw the lid on and enjoy a hot water bottle whenever I need it. I trust no other water bottle- you really don’t want a leak in your sleeping bag. Also, I adore my ultralight MSR PocketRocket stove. It fits in the palm of your hand and yet is stable enough to support a large pot. Heck, I’ve even roasted hot dogs over it in a pinch!

What is your best wilderness safety tip?

Always carry bear spray. Always. Make sure you have it somewhere easily accessible too, because you may only have seconds to pull it out. The other day, I was in the middle of nowhere fly fishing when I heard a small twig snap behind me. When I turned around, there was a 300 pound black bear 4 meters behind me. Thankfully, he just walked away, but I was glad I had my spray clipped to my hip!

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What advice do you have for new hikers?

Find a good hiking partner, the people you go with can make or break your hike. I like to group people into 2 categories- the goats and the bears. The goats are the type of people that will essentially speed along and take some risks along the way (Stand way out on that ledge? They are game). The bears prefer to amble along, taking in everything as they go. Can bears and goats hike together? Of course, but sometimes it’s best to have others along too that enjoy your hiking pace. Someone who can push you, but also have patience with you is your best bet.

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What is your favourite thing about being in the backcountry?

Having a beautiful area all to yourself. I love the feeling of solitude! It’s so incredibly peaceful and you can be as goofy as you please. Do you want to strip down and jump in a lake? Go for it! Want to howl at the moon? Do it, the coyotes and wolves might just join in. It’s the ultimate freedom.

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Follow Megan’s adventures on Instagram or on her Blog.

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3. Rachel

Top of Mt.Vimy with the Waterton townsite behind me

I am a 30 year old desk jockey (about to become full time student) who is obsessed with the outdoors and being outside as much as possible. Fitness and healthy living are extremely important to me and I blog about my workouts, gear, food, and of course, my hiking.

How long have you been experiencing backcountry hiking and/or camping?

I grew up on the edge of Fort McMurray, Alberta and literally had the forest as my backyard, but I really got serious about hiking in 2010, when I moved from Seattle to Waterton Lakes National Park. I’ve been exploring that park for years now.

Who is your go-to hiking partner, and why?

My dog, Rocky. I bring our pup Appollo now too, but Rocky and I have been hiking buddies for almost three years now. My husband is not a hiker and he’ll humour me with one or two a year, so I’m always going out with just the dogs.

Top of Turtle Mountain with my two hiking buddies

What is your all-time favourite hike in Alberta?

I haven’t done enough to say in all Alberta but I’ll say my favourite hike in Waterton has been Mt. Vimy for sure! You get a view of Crypt Falls on one side and look down on the town site and Bears Hump on the other. It’s amazing! And with Mt. Vimy, you can bike the first 4 miles!

Mountainbiking in Waterton

What is your best wilderness safety tip?

I would say my best safety tip is to make sure someone knows what trail you’re doing and how long you expect to be out of cell service. I always do that so if I am unavailable a couple hours after I said I would be done, my contact knows to contact someone.

What advice do you have for new hikers?

Just go!!! So many people tell me they would love to hike but the aren’t in good enough shape, they don’t have the proper gear, they’re scared of getting lost, and the excuses go on. You don’t have to cover 20 km to say you did a hike, there are plenty of 2-5km hikes that are easy, fun, and you don’t need a ton of gear (or a high fitness level) to finish. JUST GO!

What words of encouragement do you have for hikers who are nervous about wild animals such as cougars and bears?

I tell people they have a much higher chance of a car accident on the way to the mountains than they do of a cougar or bear attack. The problem is, when an attack happens, it’s plastered all over the news and scares folks. Be prepared; carry bear spray and talk while you walk to make noise. I feel really safe when I have my dogs with me, not because they would save me (because they are big wimps and wouldn’t), but they will alert me if another animal is nearby.

Winterhikes are fun too

Follow Rachel’s adventures on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or on her Blog.

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4. Morgan

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I am the creator of the blog Beauty In The Backcountry and co-owner of the company Backcountry Beauty Essentials.  Born and raised with the Rocky Mountains as a weekend playground, I am an outdoor enthusiast that likes the girly things in life as much as summiting mountains. I started the blog to strive to inspire girls to get outdoors and push their limits while breaking down the intimidating world of backcountry sports. Backcountry Beauty Essentials was born from a personal frustration that backpacking friendly beauty products didn’t exist in the outdoor gear world.  Furthermore, there is a sense of shame for girls that try to extend their feminine ways into the backcountry. So my friend and business partner, Andrea, decided to defy that stereotype and fill the gap. Being a beauty in the backcountry extends from the beautiful places you venture to, as well as the beauty that grows from within you from pushing yourself to try new things.

How long have you been experiencing backcountry hiking and/or camping?

I was pretty lucky that my parents were also backcountry enthusiasts.  There’s family photos of me on my first backpacking trip when I was around 3 years old.  Growing up, backpacking, hiking and cycling was something we did as a family.  I also attended the YMCA Camp Chief Hector for almost 10 years.  Camp was awesome as it increased my wilderness skills and confidence and allowed me to explore new backcountry sports I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. As a young adult, I realized a lot of my friends were interested in the same activities but didn’t know how to get started.  Needing friends to go on adventures with, I naturally became the trip planner and have been spreading my passion for mountain sports that my parents instilled in me.

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Who is your go-to hiking partner, and why?

This sounds cheesy, but my boyfriend Mark is always up for anything in the mountains.  He’s my adventure partner for sure.  That being said, I will hike with anyone, fast or slow, it doesn’t matter! It’s all about getting outside, getting some exercise and having fun!  Some of my most memorable hiking trips have been with my girlfriends.  There is just something about being outside, away from all distractions and having some quality time with your gals.

What are a few of your must-have products or gear when you’re in the backcountry?

Beyond the essentials (i.e. water, first aid kit), day hiking I always bring my rain jacket. Weather in the mountains can change rapidly, and weather on top of a mountain can be a different season from the valley where you started.  A rain jacket is small light weight and can help protect you from the elements when you need it. A warm, dry hiker is a happy hiker! My must-have product for backpacking is a tie between my wine bladder and Bananagrams! Hiking only takes up so much time of your day, it’s nice to have a glass of wine in the evening and win a couple rounds of Bananagrams (I’m not competitive at all).

What is your best wilderness safety tip?

Stay hydrated & dry. When I was a kid, I was told “the best place to carry water is in you”.  Your body and brain functions so much better when you are hydrated! Not only will this make hiking easier, it will help prevent headaches and keep you in positive spirits which is essential for long group trips.  Staying dry is essential, especially when it comes to backpacking.  Because you can’t always depend on there being a fire and the mountains don’t always see super high temperatures or you may be in the shade of the trees the whole time, it can be difficult to dry things out once they get wet. That means waterproofing everything and wearing rain gear when it rains.  A tip is to change out of your sweaty hiking clothes into warm dry camp clothes once you reach camp.  This keeps your sweaty clothes separate from your dry clothes and prevents your perspiration from chilling you.

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What advice do you have for new hikers?

Set yourself up for success! Choose trails that are appropriate for your skill, don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Use the proper equipment; a proper fitting backpack and hiking boots will make or break your experience.  Don’t be afraid to invest in these pieces of equipment.  Be positive! Hiking is hard, it’s surprising how tasking it is on your lungs and legs when you walk up a hill for hours, so don’t be too hard on yourself, try to remember you’re supposed to be having fun.  When you get to the top and see the view, you will forget how disgruntled you were.

What is your favourite thing about being in the backcountry?

To me the backcountry is a place where I can shut off the outside world and live in the present.  I LOVE that there is no cell service.  Not only can you disconnect but you can have uninterrupted time with your friends, time to really connect with each other.  It’s almost like a meditative experience, I’m more mindful of how my body is feeling and my surroundings.

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Follow Morgan’s adventures on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or on her Blog.  Also, be sure to check out her awesome online store for her exclusive line, Backcountry Beauty Essentials!

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5. Joanna

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I’m Joanna, a young professional, athlete and mountain girl residing in Canmore, Alberta. I have a passion for sharing stories about my adventures and living a healthy, active lifestyle on my blog, Living Mint Green.

In my professional life, I work within the tourism and hospitality industry in marketing. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in some pretty amazing media adventures at work: helicopter tours of the Rockies, moonlit snowshoeing treks with world-class photographers, playing football with the Calgary Stampeders and more.  It’s definitely a great fit for my interests, strengths and personality.

When I’m not working, I’m usually hiking, running and exploring the outdoors. I’m happiest when I’m outside and moving my body.

How long have you been experiencing backcountry hiking and/or camping?

8 years. I used to be an occasional weekend warrior though. I fully embraced the lifestyle when I moved to Canmore in early 2014.

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Who is your go-to hiking partner, and why?

My boyfriend, because he’s my best friend and I love him.  I relate to his open mindedness and adventurous spirit and he is literally up for anything. Not only that, we share similar life schedules – we work 9-5’s during the week, but once Friday evening rolls around, we don’t stop moving until Sunday evening.

What are a few of your must-have products or gear when you’re in the backcountry?

-Electrolyte tablets. Mild dehydration from sweating (or even over-hydration) can lead to electrolyte imbalances. Replenishing electrolyte stores keeps you hydrated and energized.

-Hiking poles. I used to think they were for seniors or people with bad knees. It’s surprising how much they reduce fatigue!

-SCAT Belt: Holds your bear spray, keys and phone

-LifeStraw to filter out sediment if you can’t find a fresh waterfall or stream to collect water

-Advil

What is your all-time favourite hike in Alberta?

Such a tough question! I have two:

Mount Yamnuska:  You experience a little of everything on the way to the summit: hiking, scrambling, ridge walks, traversing across a cliff edge and the best part: a scree slope down the face of the mountain. This is a great hike for early/late season hiking because of it’s low altitude and the avalanche risk is next to none.

Lakeshore Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park: I’ve never experienced such a varied ecosystem in a concentrated area: the forest is constantly changing. At times, you’re surrounded by aspen trees, the next moment, you’re trudging through thick ferns and thimbleberry bushes. There’s a plenitude of secluded beaches and swimming holes to explore along the way. Not only that, the peace park is shared with Glacier National Park. At the end of the trail, you can take a boat back to the Waterton townsite from Goat Haunt, Montana or continue hiking further into Glacier National Park.  It’s pretty cool that you can walk from Canada into the United States and claim you’ve hiked in two countries within the same day!

What is your best wilderness safety tip?

Don’t risk your safety just for a photo op. Instagram has been influential in boosting tourism within the mountains and too often,  people lacking mountain safety and experience will put themselves in dangerous situations to capture a cool shot for social media. Ie. climbing into ice caves, mountain caves, or attempting hikes and climbs that require meticulous technique.

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What advice do you have for new hikers?

-You’re going to feel really out of shape, possibly discouraged and question your sanity.  But that’s how you’re supposed to feel! Hiking isn’t easy. The great news is, over time, you’ll become stronger and more resilient. Take as many breaks as you need and focus on one step at a time.

-Don’t hike in running shoes! You need hiking shoes with proper grip and support otherwise you’re probably going to end up injured and blistered. Salomon and Merrell are great brands who make cross-over trail running/hiking shoes. (In fun colors, which is ultimately what we gravitate towards, right?)

-Cross train, strength train and stretch. You will become a much stronger adventurer/athlete/person who is better equipped at handling strenuous activity (and life).

Best strength moves: Weighted squats and lunges, dead lifts, push ups, planks and weighted crunches

Stretches: Pigeon, supine butterfly, or just go to yoga

What is your favourite thing about being in the backcountry?

The sense of total freedom and connection. It’s where you go to plug INTO life.

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Follow Joanna’s adventures on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat (@livingmintgreen), and on her Blog.

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6. Melissa

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We are a Mother/Daughter duo who love to explore everything outdoors. Backpacking, hiking, paddling, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping, we do it all for the pleasure of being outdoors together and hoping to inspire others to do the same!

How long have you been experiencing backcountry hiking and/or camping?

I have started backpacking and hiking as a teenager with my parents, but my daughter revived the love I had for the outdoors and we now have been doing it together since she was a few months old. She is now 5 years old.

Who is your go-to hiking partner, and why? 

My go-to hiking partner is of course my 5 year old daughter, who not only inspires me with her desire to learn and explore but as she gets older she is also there to push me when times get hard. We are such a good team and we inspire each other.

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What originally inspired you to start hiking? 

I wanted to show my daughter that there was such a beautiful world outside of the now common indoor activities. I wanted to raise her to be a strong independent girl with a love for nature and so far I’ve done a great job. ;)

What are a few of your must-have products or gear when you’re in the backcountry? 

Because I do everything with my girl my must have items are mostly safety related. My safety kit comes wherever we go. My number one item is my inReach. It is so nice to have a backup security plan. The SOS button is a piece of mind for me. I also love my Ghost whisperer Mountain Hardwear down jacket. I get chilly easily and use it on EVERY trip!

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What words of encouragement do you have for hikers who are nervous about wild animals such as cougars and bears? 

Even with all the time I spend outdoors I still get nervous about wildlife and I think that is a good thing. We have had encounters but it always turned out positively. Get well educated and carry proper tools such as bear spray.  Go out and play, the world is too beautiful to pass on!

What is your favourite thing about being in the backcountry? 

Everything! The last time we were out in the backcountry I woke my girl up at midnight. We hiked to the lakeside and laid down in the grass. We watched the meteor shower while hearing the glacier calving. What an amazing experience that was.

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Follow Melissa’s adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on her Blog.

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Who is your go-to hiking partner?

What are your backcountry must-haves?

What are your ultimate backcountry tips that you like to share with others?

Posted in My Adventures | 2 Comments

Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon 2015

*This recap is specifically for the SeaWheeze 2015 Half Marathon – the race only.  For details about the entire Race Weekend including the Yoga, Exclusive Runner’s Shop, Swag and Sunset Festival, check out these recaps from my dear friends and fellow SeaWheezers, Kaella and Angela!*

My alarm rang out at 4:00am and woke me from a dead sleep on the couch of our rented apartment in downtown Vancouver.  This was surprising, as I usually have trouble sleeping the night before a big race, but for some reason I was totally calm the night before SeaWheeze and I slept a solid 5 hours like a baby.

We signed up for this race 11 months ago, in a frustrating flurry of online registration during which I lost one of our registrations and thought Claire was going to have to do it alone.  10,016 tickets sold out in a matter of minutes, so we felt very lucky to be going.  I had been training seriously for those 11 months, and despite battling an injury in the winter and having to start with a 5k program all over again, I felt confident and strong heading into this race.  My original goal was to achieve a time of 2:30:xx, so I kept that as my fallback goal, but I set my realistic goal to 2:20:xx based on the paces I had been running recently.  Just for fun, I threw out a dream goal to the universe – 2:15:xx – but I knew this was a stretch.

Claire and I stumbled around the apartment getting ready, which really didn’t take much.  I ate a banana and a homemade “Marronthon” Bar, drank some more water, and made sure I had time to use the bathroom before we left.  It was raining but still warm out, so I opted to wear my crops and tank top as planned, but I brought a black garbage bag to keep warm and dry until it was time to run.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

We left the apartment around 5:30am and walked to the convention centre.  It was already buzzing.  We checked our bags, snapped a few photos, and then participated in the morning warm-up at 6:20am, which was actually very helpful.  After that, we had one more chance to use the bathroom before we walked to the start line to line up in our waves.  Since Claire and I were planning to run different times, I said a tearful goodbye to her once we got there and headed for the 2:20 wave.  Emotions were running high.

I need to take a moment just to express my gratitude to the Lululemon team and all of those who supported this event – Saje Natural Wellness, SPUD.ca, Vega, and all of the incredible volunteers.  The entire weekend, but especially the race, was so tightly organized and beautifully executed.  They absolutely rocked it.  I think that’s why I was so relaxed!

The "Pace Beavers" Huddle

The “Pace Beavers” Huddle

Marathon Fashion at its Finest.

Marathon Fashion at its Finest.

The Start Line

The Start Line

The race started at 7:00am, with a new wave leaving every 5 minutes.  I honestly have no idea how it happened, but the 2:20 wave ended up accidentally going with the wave ahead of them.  Or at least most of us did.  My garmin wasn’t on yet, my earbuds weren’t in…I thought we were just slowly running to the start line, and then I realized that we had already passed the start line and were actually on the course.  So that was pretty funny.  I just went with it, but took it nice and slow since I was waiting for my garmin to connect to GPS.  It ended up taking a few minutes, and I calculated that I had lost about 0.3km on my watch, but it actually ended up being a really great mental trick throughout the race because I was always further ahead than I thought I was.

When it comes to the race itself, I’ll be honest – the entire thing still feels like a little bit of a blur.  Between the adrenaline, the anxiety, the “I can’t believe I’m actually here” feeling, and the accidental start of the race, everything felt totally surreal.  Plus, I’ve dreamed about this race so many times, I found myself wondering if maybe I was dreaming.  But as I looked around me, taking in all of the beautiful sights of Vancouver, I was reminded that this was indeed reality.

I took the first few KMs nice and easy.  I made sure to stay close to the 2:20 pacers, since 2:20 was my realistic goal for this race.  I figured as long as I didn’t lose sight of them, I’d finish happy and with a decent time for my first Half Marathon.  I had taped up my right foot in the two spots that I usually suffer hot spots and sometimes even blisters – on the outside of my big toe, and along the inside edge of the soft part of my mid-foot.  At around 3k, I could feel that the blisters were going to be a problem. More of a problem than they’d ever been.  I’m pretty sure the way I taped my foot was actually pulling on the skin and doing more damage than good, but I didn’t want to risk taking it off and rubbing my skin raw.  So when full-blown pain set in at 4k, the race became a mental game of not giving in to the pain in my foot.

It makes me kind of sad to realize that the majority of my first Half Marathon – the blissful, beautiful, coveted SeaWheeze – was spent talking to myself in my head about pushing through stupid blister pain.  But those of you who have had blisters know how excruciating they can be to run on.  It was 50% pain, and 50% worry of how much worse they could get in the remaining 17km that kept my brain occupied.  It was nothing short of brutal.

I had planned to have fun with the race – taking lots of pictures, high-fiving tons of volunteers, and enjoying all of the beautiful scenery.  While I did enjoy the views and bump fists with a few volunteers, I was focused beyond belief on not crying or stopping to deal with my foot.  Was this smart?  Probably not.  But I know myself well enough to know that if I were to stop, my motivation to start again would be minimal, and I’d be throwing my realistic goal out the window.  I wasn’t willing to do that.  I figured the faster I kept going, the faster the race would be over, and the faster i’d be able to deal with whatever mess I was creating in my sock.  My eventual agreement with myself is that if the pain was truly unbearable – like raw skin on the bottom of my foot sending that shooting nerve pain up my leg – I would stop at an aid station.  So I pushed on relentlessly, tempting myself with the thoughts of how badass I would feel after I told Sean that I ran a Half-Marathon on a blistered foot, hoping it wouldn’t come to stopping.

The first half of the race was extremely entertaining.  Lots of gentle hills, tons of awesome themed cheer sections, an out-and-back section over the Burrard Street Bridge, which led to the most epic cheer station and provided an opportunity to watch all of the runners coming from the opposite direction, and tons of spectators with hilarious signs.  I was grateful for the distraction, and tried my best to enjoy the moment.  Especially that moment of relief when I was headed back over the bridge and saw the “Halfway There” sign.

I didn’t stop for much.  I took water a few times, fuelled with my Sport Beans every 4km, but I always kept a slow run going.  Once we got to the final stretch of the race along the Sea Wall, the mental wall hit me.  My foot was throbbing, begging me to stop.  It didn’t matter that Eminem was screaming at me in my headphones.  I laughed when a song faded out and I could hear my own breathing – and realized that I was literally wheezing at SeaWheeze.  It was more of a sad, painful whimper really, but still.  It made me giggle out loud.  I repeated my favourite mantras over and over again to myself – “I Am Stronger Than My Past.  I Can Do Hard Things.  Pain Is Temporary.”  I bargained.  I did math in my head and played mind games with myself to make the remaining 8km seem shorter than it actually was.

The frustrating thing was that, until about 19k, I actually felt fantastic.  My lungs were happy, breathing in the oxygen-rich, sea-level air.  My skin was happy, enjoying the mild weather and the light sprinkles of rain.  My legs were happy, feeling properly warmed up and conditioned, strong, and ready to tackle the final push.  I actually didn’t find the race itself that challenging.  It was my damn foot that made it so hard.

By 20k, I was fading fast, and I was trying to do the math in my head on my watch, which was still lagging behind in time and distance, but I was pretty sure that if I pushed hard for the last kilometre, I’d be able to squeak in under 2:20.  I knew I was ahead of the 2:20 pacers, so I thought maybe I’d be able to pull off a 2:18 or so.  I began to run harder.  My foot protested painfully.  I told it, out loud in a whisper, to shut up.  Shut up, foot,  Shut up, foot. SHUT UP.  We’re almost there.

As we rounded the final corner to sprint for the finish line, I was defeated.  My energy sapped.  My foot in agony.  But then, something remarkable happened.  The two ladies in front of me, probably in their late 50’s, looked at each other – one smiling, one nearly crying.  You could tell that one of them was stronger than the other.  The stronger one reached back for her friend’s hand, pulled her forward, and said, “You can do this.  You are ready.  Look how close we are.  I know you are crying, but I’m going to push you, ok?”  The struggling friend shook her head and said “Just go ahead and get your medal.  You’re faster than me.”  And then the stronger friend said two words that have been the pinnacle of my training – two words that reminded me what Sean would have said to me in this exact moment if he were beside me.  “Dig Deep,” she said.

And they took off down the course, sprinting hand in hand, and finished together.  I stayed right on their tails, tears of pain in my eyes.  The moment I crossed that finish line, tears came rolling down my cheeks.  I thanked the universe for those ladies, because without them I wouldn’t have found my final burst of energy to sprint the final stretch.

I limped over to collect my race medal, collected my finish line swag, and sent Sean a sloppy text message that said “I did it.”  It took me over 15 minutes to muster anything else.  It wasn’t even so much that I was exhausted, I was just stunned – in a total daze.  Did that all just really happen?  I could hardly even remember the race.  I knew my foot was in pain, but I stopped caring.  I looked at my medal and realized that it was in the shape of a carrot.  I laughed out loud.  I collected my bag, sat down on the floor and just watched the people around me for a few minutes.  People hugging.  People crying.  It was remarkable.  In that moment, I knew that I was absolutely addicted to the beautiful distance of 21.1km.  I just kept thinking, “I can’t wait to do this again.”

Finish Line Selfie!

Finish Line Selfie!

Once I came down from my high, I took off my shoe, assessed the damage on my foot – which shockingly still had skin on it – sent out a few text messages to friends and family, and then logged on to check my time.  I could not believe my eyes.  I ran the SeaWheeze in 2:15:01.  I had actually achieved my dream goal.  I kept reloading the page, expecting the number to change.  But it didn’t.  I ran my dream goal on an extremely painful foot.

My Foot right after the Race

My Foot right after the Race

I passed the time waiting for Claire to finish by calling Sean, posting a selfie with my medal to Instagram (of course), and chatting with the other runners, but mostly I just sat there in silent gratitude and disbelief.  Never in a million years did I dream that I’d be able to ever run 21.1km – ever.  And I certainly didn’t think I’d be able to do it in two hours and fifteen minutes the first time I attempted it.  And what’s more is that I never thought I’d ever want to do it again once I did it the first time.  But now I was sitting there like an absolute junkie, wondering how I was going to get my next hit.  I want more.  I NEED more.  I can’t wait to do it again.

When Claire walked up to me after crossing that finish line, my heart could burst.  She was still smiling.  She even said she’d do it again.  Here was this amazing friend of mine, the one who pushed me into signing up for this race in the first place when I said we wouldn’t be able to do it, the one who is indirectly responsible for my love affair with running, here she was – optimistic, smiling, sore and happily exhausted after running 21.1km with minimal training.  I am so proud of her.

Claire and I with our medals

Claire and I with our medals

Runner's Brunch

Runner’s Brunch

We grabbed some brunch and took a few photos before heading back to our apartment (after a well-deserved stop at Starbucks) to get showered up.  We then proceeded to lay on the couch for the afternoon watching TV, and Claire passed out for a solid 2 hours.  It was a perfect day.

SeaWheeze was such an amazing race, and such a special first Half-Marathon.  I hope I can come back next year.  And next year, I’ll wear better socks so I can actually enjoy the race. ;)

SeaWheeze 2015

SeaWheeze 2015

According to my Garmin, here are my splits;

Avg. Pace:  6:21

1km – 6:04

2km – 6:47

3km – 6:34

4km – 6:13

5km – 6:15

6km – 6:25

7km – 6:23

8km – 6:19

9 km – 6:14

10 km – 6:28

11 km – 6:24

12 km – 6:18

13 km – 6:22

14 km – 6:11

15 km – 6:35

16 km – 6:14

17 km – 6:23

18 km – 6:14

19 km – 6:50

20 km – 6:04

21.1 km – 5:57

– – – – –

Do you remember your first big race?  How did you feel afterwards?

How do you cope with terrible blisters?

What is your favourite thing to do in Vancouver?

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12 Days To Seawheeze – Thoughts on my first Half Marathon

Yesterday, I completed my longest training run between now and my first Half-Marathon, the Lululemon Seawheeze, on August 15th in Vancouver.

We had an absolutely amazing 20km run yesterday, I couldn’t believe how good I felt.  My energy was endless up until I hit about 12k, where I hit a small wall, and then I struggled again at around 17km all the way until the end.  I have 3 large blisters on my foot, several smaller ones, aching joints and sore muscles, but I am so proud of myself.

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I think one of the reasons I was feeling so good is because I was well hydrated, and I ate a homemade “Marronthon” Bar (recipe here) about an hour before we started running, which kept my energy high for the first half.

When we finished the run, it felt bittersweet.  Sweet, because shit – we just ran 20km and that is a huge accomplishment.  Sweet, because I actually feel ready, confident and well-prepared for Seawheeze.  Sweet, because it was over, and I could look forward to going home, drinking tons of water and eating delicious things.  But it was bitter because from now on, I’m on my own for my long runs.  At least for a while.

My "Solemate"

My “Solemate”

Sean didn’t mean to train with me.  It happened by accident.  When we were camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park a few months ago and I had planned to do a 10k, Sean decided to come with me – I think mostly because he didn’t want me running in unfamiliar territory alone.  Up until this point, his longest run had been 8km, but he did great.  He learned how to slow down and pace himself for longer runs, and he felt really accomplished after we finished.

A week later, I had a 12k run on my training plan, and I guess he figured since he’d already run 10, he could probably run 12.  And the same thing happened the next week for the 14.  And then the 16.  And so on…all the way to 20.

The morning I ran my first 11k...full support crew in tow.

The morning I ran my first 11k…full support crew in tow.

He was by my side every step of the way.  Encouraging me with kind words when I’m sure he probably felt like he was going to die.  Reminding me to ease up on my knees when we would run down a hill.  Telling me to dig deep near the end of a long run when he knew we were both struggling.  Waiting with a high-five the second I pressed the “stop” button on my Garmin, when we could both bask in the knowledge that our long run was finally over.

Sean and I after completing Mud Hero in 2014

Sean and I after completing Mud Hero in 2014

He was standing in the East Village cheering when I ran my first 10k at the Calgary Marathon.  He’s been there for Sunday afternoon naps when sheer exhaustion takes over.  He has been awake at 6am every single Sunday since the end of May, sleepily trudging around the house, lacing up his shoes and waiting for me by the door.  He was there on the day we ran 12k in 30 degree heat and both ended in dry-heaves that we were sure would turn to vomit.  He was there on the Friday morning that we had to run 16k in a raging thunderstorm and then each work an 8-hour day.  We only passed one other runner at the reservoir that morning.  It was ugly.

Taken before I ran the Jugo Juice 10k at the Calgary Marathon in May

Taken before I ran the Jugo Juice 10k at the Calgary Marathon in May

He’s been there through the freezing winter runs in the snow, back when my passion for running first exploded.  He’s been there all through my injury, driving me to my physiotherapy appointments on the other side of the city, and sitting patiently at Quarry Lake in Canmore while I ran/walked my 1 and 1’s around the loop of the water.  He’s been there every time I’ve cried, been frustrated, or been angry.  He’s celebrated with me every time I’ve triumphed.  He’s congratulated every single one of my minute achievements, whether it be a new PR, a new longest distance, or simply making it out of the door on a day when I’d rather pull up the covers and stay in bed forever.

Wintery Solemates.

Wintery Solemates.

But now, I’m going ahead on my own.  He won’t be there on August 15th when I cross that finish line in Vancouver.  He won’t be standing along the course somewhere, cheering me on, giving me the encouragement I need to smash through those final few kilometres.  He won’t be there the night before to help me talk down my nerves.  I’ll have to take care of myself.

I have always thought of myself as a fiercely independent person, and I still do – but there is something so comforting about having the love of your life supporting you during one of the greatest challenges you’ve ever faced in your life.  I’m not upset that Sean isn’t coming to Vancouver.  I’m going with one of my best friends, and I can’t wait to spend a few days with her on a mini girl’s getaway.  I know we will encourage and support each other in every way.  And Sean will be spending the weekend with his dad, camping, hiking, fishing, drinking beer – doing “boy” things.

And I’ll have to remember to dig deep, ease up, keep going, take it easy, push harder, keep going, breathe – all on my own.  Without my most trusted companion, my soulmate, my best friend.  But I know I’ll be okay.  He’s given me such a strong foundation of strength, perseverance, resilience and confidence.  He’s taught me so much, and he’s shown me – silently, without even knowing it – what it means to be dedicated.  I was dedicated to the run, to the race – and several times when he’d struggle, I’d tell him it was okay to quit.  He wasn’t training for anything.  He didn’t have to do this.  He could wait at the parking lot, and I could pick him up in an hour when I was finished.  But he never listened, and never stopped running – not because he was dedicated to the training, but because he was so dedicated to supporting me – and so he never quit.  And neither will I.  I can’t wait to call him when I cross that finish line next Saturday.

More rare footage of Sean accompanying me on a chilly morning run in the winter

More rare footage of Sean accompanying me on a chilly morning run in the winter

I’m definitely nervous for my first Half-Marathon.  I’ve got a time goal in mind, but my ultimate goal is obviously just to finish the thing.  I’m already registered for another Half in October, which will be more of a push for me.  Mostly, I’m just so excited to experience the energy of this incredible race and all of the awesome events that go along with it.  I’m excited to spend 5 days with Claire.  I’m excited to meet up with other friends and bloggers in Vancouver.  I’m excited to watch 10,016 people cross that finish line, achieving something that they once thought could never be possible.

Another group of insanely supportive people - my Alberta Bloggers!

Another group of insanely supportive people – my Alberta Bloggers!

Thank you to all of the readers, followers, friends, family, fellow bloggers, and kind strangers who have offered support, advice and strength throughout the last 11 months.  I can’t believe it’s been that long since we signed up for Seawheeze.  But thank you especially to Claire – for pushing me to sign up for something like this in the first place – and to Sean, for always believing in me – and for learning to believe in yourself somewhere along the way.  I love you all.

– – – – –

Have you ever had a running partner who changed the game for you?

Were you nervous for your first big race?

Are you going to be at Seawheeze on the 15th?

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Five-Ingredient Matcha Protein Shake

Good Morning, guys!  Happy Wednesday / Hump Day to those of you who work a normal schedule.  Wednesdays are my Mondays, so I’m always very focused on getting off on the right foot fitness and nutrition wise.  This morning, I went for an awesome 9k run that has me high on endorphins for DAYS.  When I came home, I decided to do a little experiment in the kitchen, and it turned out so well that I just had to share it with you.

matchashakeIf you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for more ways to include Matcha in your life.  I just realized how insane that sounds out loud.  But honestly, I am obsessed with this green super-powder.  Matcha is a more concentrated form of Green Tea, because instead of steeping the tea leaves, the entire tea leaf is ground into a very fine powder and consumed wholly.  Yeah.  That’s right.  WHOLLY MATCHA.

Anyway.  I threw this together this morning and it turned out AMAZING.  And I feel like I’m seriously on some kind of a buzz right now because of it.  Or maybe because of running.  Or maybe because I’m having a fantastic hair day.

Five-Ingredient Matcha Protein Shake

  • 1 Scoop of your Favourite Protein Powder (My fav is New Zealand Whey Vanilla)
  • 1.5 Tsp (or to taste) Matcha Powder (I get mine from David’s Tea)
  • 1 Tsp Agave, Honey, or Maple Syrup (Optional – if you like a little extra sweetness)
  • 1.5 Cups Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • OPTIONAL – Ice Cubes (I added ice because…Warm Protein Shakes = Ew.)

Combine in blender until smooth and bask in your creamy, green heaven.

Nutrition Facts

*Approximate – May Vary based on brands / ingredients used*

Calories – 244

Fat – 3.8g

Carbs – 17.8g

Protein – 30.7g

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Yeah – You Are Welcome.

– – – – –

Do you love Matcha as much as I do or am I as insane as I feel after writing this post?

What’s your Favourite Protein Powder?

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The Importance of Self-Care and Feeling Our Pain

Today’s post was actually supposed to be about “Breaking Bad Habits”.  That’s what I had scheduled to write about in my calendar.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, because the last few days have been really tough, and I didn’t feel like writing about something in a negative light – such as how I really want to stop late night snacking after a long night shift or how I need to be more diligent about foam rolling after a long run.  So instead, I decided to put a slightly more positive spin on things.

Some of you may have been able to read my most recent post, “The Real Reason I Chose to Run a Half-Marathon”, before I made it private.  I was feeling very strong and brave and wanted to share my story and the struggles I felt that I had overcome this year with all of my readers, because you guys are amazing and supportive and always have such kind things to say.  But I guess I didn’t think about how posting something so intensely personal would affect the rest of my family, who I now know aren’t ready to share this story yet.  Even though I worked really hard (like 3 and a half hours hard) on it, out of respect to them, I have privatized the post.  I never meant to upset anybody, but since then, I feel like I’ve been walking around with this dark brooding cloud over me.  I felt like a weight had been lifted when I was able to get all of my feelings and thoughts out in the post, but now it feels like that weight has steadily settled right back down onto my shoulders.  But that’s okay – it’s no different than how I felt before.

You know that old saying, “Always Be Kind, because Everyone is fighting some type of Battle?”  It’s true.  As a reader, you’re probably now thinking about all of the struggles and challenges you’re facing right now in your own life.  We all have our demons.  We all have something that we feel is working against us in our lives.

Back in February, when I got the call that prompted me to immediately fly to BC to say what I thought were my final Goodbye’s to my Dad who was losing his battle to severe chronic alcoholism, I received an outpouring of love and support from my social circle.  I was open and honest about everything.  I figured if Dad was going to pass away, people were going to hear about it anyway, so why continue to keep it a secret?  One of my dear friends, who also lost her father recently, reached out to me and spoke to me about the importance of Self-Care.  At the time, I was overwhelmed and didn’t really have time to process what she was saying, especially when my father was discharged from the hospital by some miracle, but now I understand what she meant completely.

selfcare

When we are fragile, vulnerable and heartbroken, we have a tendency to do two things – Wallow, and then Escape.  I did both.  I wallowed for a little while, spending a lot of time in my bed with the blinds shut, watching a lot of Netflix, looking at a lot of old pictures, and crying a lot of big, warm tears.  Soon after, I escaped, packing my schedule with travel, running events, and lots of work.  While these aren’t necessarily unhealthy things at a first glance, (like, say, escaping with alcohol would be) I also don’t believe that this was the best way for me to process what was happening, either.

I think it is important for us as human beings to feel our pain.  To feel everything.  Our love, our joy, our heartache, our disappointment.  We are emotional beings and as such, we are destined to feel everything.  But the funny thing about feeling our pain is that – surprise! – it HURTS.  So we look for ways to make the hurt go away as quickly as possible.  Maybe we distract ourselves with a new lover.  Maybe we indulge in retail therapy.  Maybe we run away to spend 10 days alone in Costa Rica (guilty.).  Maybe we use narcotics to numb ourselves to reality.  Whatever our escape route, we all have one thing in common – we are absolutely terrified of FEELING OUR PAIN.

What if we could feel our pain for an acceptable amount of time (whatever that time may mean to you) and then be our own hero who swoops in, scoops ourselves up into our arms, and gently lays ourselves down into a warm, cozy bed, telling ourselves that everything is going to be okay?  We could allow ourselves to watch our favourite movies, eat our favourite treats, and go for relaxing massages.  But then we could also remind ourselves to take nice long walks, eat nourishing foods, get lots of sleep, and surround ourselves with loving, understanding people – people who recognize our needs for space, for comfort, for an unbiased ear, for love – for whatever it is that we need in that moment.

I urge all of you who are going through painful situations to honour your need for self-care.

Below are a few of my favourite methods;

  • Take a long bath, complete with candles and relaxing music – if that’s your thing
  • Take up a healthy or creative new hobby
  • Treat yourself to a gift of self-improvement, such as a good self-help book (here are a few of my faves) or a yoga membership
  • Spend time with animals – they are very healing
  • Spend time in nature – also very healing
  • Journal.  Sometimes when I journal, if a lot of negativity comes out, I will rip out the pages and burn them as a symbol of letting go
  • Watch a favourite movie from your childhood
  • Plan to work towards accomplishing a Goal that you’ve always wanted to accomplish
  • Cry as much as you damn well feel like crying and don’t apologize to anyone about it

The Big Idea here is to simply allow yourself to be sad, or angry, or hurt.  Don’t push your pain away because you think you shouldn’t be feeling it – or, God forbid – because somebody tells you that you shouldn’t be feeling it.  (This is a MAJOR peeve of mine and I could write an entire post dedicated to the assholes who tell people that their feelings aren’t justified.)  Fight the urge to bury your feelings and focus on other things – even though this may temporarily be helpful – I promise you that those painful feelings will be back with a vengeance sooner or later if they aren’t fully processed and released.

When we feel our pain, we heal our wounds properly, with much less scabbing and scarring than we would have had if we’d just thrown a band-aid over the wound and attempted to keep running through the battlefield in ignorance.  And when we heal, we learn.  We grow.  We strengthen.  And, if we’re lucky, we just might inspire others along the way.

IMG_1663What are your favourite methods of self-care?

Have you ever taken up a new hobby or activity that helped you through a difficult time?

What is your go-to escape route?

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Protected: The Real Reason I Chose to Run a Half Marathon

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Overnight Hike to Ribbon Lake

Good morning everybody – and HAPPY FRIDAY!  Does anybody else feel like this has been a super long week?  Maybe it’s because I lost my entire weekend to epic adventure in the Kananaskis Backcountry…I don’t know.  Not that I am complaining.  It was freaking awesome.

Speaking of which, this post is going to be all about our weekend camping in the Alberta Rockies.  Two full days of hiking, one night of backcountry camping, countless delicious snacks, and a total of just under 25km covered.  Here we go…

RibbonLakeGraphic

 

Day One – Buller Pass to Ribbon Lake

We were set to leave at 8am, so it was a relatively early morning since we had to get our packs ready to go.  Oh – I should probably introduce who “we” is.  There was four of us on this hike – Myself, Sean, Sean’s Dad, Gord (the epic Mountain Man who loves to plan these kinds of things) and Carie – who can only be described as a family friend who is more like a second mother.  She’s always game for cool outdoorsy stuff like this.  This was a last minute hike (we decided to go only a few days before) to celebrate Carie’s very belated Birthday.  Gord got the camping permits, gear, food and logistics organized – as he usually does, because he’s freaking fantastic – and we were packed up and set to go bright and early on Sunday morning.

My Pack, Boots and Poles all ready to go

My Pack, Boots and Poles all ready to go

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Adventure Mobile

We left the city and headed for Kananaskis Country in two vehicles so that we could park one at our starting point – the Buller Pass Trailhead – and one at our finish point, the Ribbon Creek Trailhead.  Once all was said and done, we hit the trail at around 10:30am, and began our 10.5 km, 5 hour ascent to Ribbon Lake.

The first part of the Buller Pass hike is a steady uphill trail through the trees, but unfortunately many of the trees in the area were wiped out by a forest fire.  But instead of taking away from the experience, it added a sort of eerie beauty to it all.

Hiking through the Burned Trees

Hiking through the Burned Trees

A little Waterfall on the Buller Pass Trail

A little Waterfall on the Buller Pass Trail

After about 3 hours of hiking, sweating and cursing (this is all a part of the experience for me) we arrived at a large valley with a massive wall of a hill at the top of it.  I was then informed that we were going to hike over that wall.

"The Wall" at Buller Pass

“The Wall” at Buller Pass

“The Wall” actually wasn’t as bad as it seemed, although it was partly loose rock and scree, so I was grateful to have my poles and my full hiking boots instead of just my trail shoes.  It took us just under 30 minutes to reach the top of “The Wall” – which provided the most stunning, rewarding views.  We stopped here to have a long rest and a snack before we began our final stretch of the hike down to Ribbon Lake.

At the top of Buller Pass, with Ribbon Lake in the Distance

At the top of Buller Pass, with Ribbon Lake in the Distance

We hiked for another hour and a half-ish before arriving at our Backcountry Campsite at Ribbon Lake.  The site is actually quite large, with 20 tent sites, 4 picnic tables, several bear-proof food lockers, 2 firepits with ample firewood, 2 outhouses, and of course the stunning Ribbon Lake itself, which was bigger than I imagined it would be.

Campsite Amenities

Campsite Amenities

I will never be able to stop laughing at Outhouses that look like this.

I will never be able to stop laughing at Outhouses that look like this.

By the time we got the tent set up, our beds made, and all of our food stored, it was after 4pm.  We spent the remainder of the afternoon fishing, building a fire, and cooling our reward beers in the ice-cold creek until Gord cooked us the most delicious dinner I’ve ever had in the Backcountry – Fettuccine Alfredo with Herbed Chicken and Veggies.  I swear, one of these days I have to convince Gord to start a blog of his own.  He’s a backcountry genius.  (Spoiler alert: He has no interest in starting a blog, ever.  Haha.)  We hung around and chatted by the campfire for a while, enjoyed a hot chocolate with Baileys and homemade Banana Bread, and headed to bed around 10pm exhausted but sooo satisfied.

*Not-so-fun Fact: Sean caught a few fish, and one was big enough to keep – so we cooked it over the fire in butter minutes after it came out of the lake.  It was delicious.  But just as he was about to dig in to the best part of it, he dropped it and the fish fell into the dirt.  I felt so bad for him, I almost cried.*

Sean Fishing in Ribbon Lake

Sean Fishing in Ribbon Lake

This is how Canadians keep their Beer Cold ;)

This is how Canadians keep their Beer Cold ;)

EPIC MEAL TIME

EPIC MEAL TIME

Sean and I slept in the tiniest tent we've ever slept in and it was hilarious.  We don't even sleep in the same room at home so this was an accomplishment.

Sean and I slept in the tiniest tent we’ve ever slept in and it was hilarious. We don’t even sleep in the same room at home so this was an accomplishment.

Day Two – Ribbon Lake to Ribbon Creek

I actually slept surprisingly well, considering that I usually get nighttime anxiety, especially in the wilderness.  It was a quiet night and nothing exciting happened, which is just the way I like it.

We woke up with the sun and went out to the group area to start a fire.  At first, it was gorgeous and sunny, but pretty soon some massive dark clouds rolled in and it started to thunder and rain.  Chef Gord struck again at breakfast with Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Wraps, and we ate pretty quickly so we could get our stuff packed up and hit the trails to try and beat the storm.  We didn’t.

Sunrise over Ribbon Lake

Sunrise over Ribbon Lake

Hiking out from Ribbon Lake

Hiking out from Ribbon Lake

Carie and Gord take a selfie!

Carie and Gord take a selfie!

I think the majority of people hike IN to Ribbon Lake the way we decided to hike OUT.  It was a long day (13-ish km, almost 6 hours of hiking) and included every type of terrain imaginable, from scree to scramble to trail to sand to scaling down a cliff face with chains.  In the pouring rain.

We stopped at a BEAUTIFUL waterfall for about 15 minutes so that Sean could do a bit of fly fishing.  It was honestly so stunning, I wish we could have stayed another night, right there.

I’m just really grateful that I was hiking with such a supportive team.  I was ready to have a complete mental breakdown when we were climbing down the chains.  I’m not the best with heights to begin with, but trying to hold on to a wet, slippery chain and find foot holds on wet, slippery rocks made it that much more challenging.  But with the kind, supportive words from my team of kickass humans and a lot of guidance and encouragement when I was coming down the face, I was able to complete it without a temper tantrum.  My legs were shaking for about an hour afterwards, though.

*I’m pretty sure this would be a LOT easier going up.  And also in fair weather.  I don’t want to deter anyone from doing this hike, we just had terrible timing.*

The first stunning Waterfall we came across on our Descent

The first stunning Waterfall we came across on our Descent

Sean fished in the waterfall pool for about 15 minutes and caught-and-released several small fish.

Sean fished in the waterfall pool for about 15 minutes and caught-and-released several small fish.

Sean told me to smile, so I smiled.  But I was definitely freaking out.

Sean told me to smile, so I smiled. But I was definitely freaking out.

This was almost a meltdown.

This was almost a meltdown.

After we got past the chains, the rest of the hike down was relatively easy.  Slight decline, nice trails (for the most part) and lots of trees to protect us from the rain.  We passed the legendary Ribbon Falls, which did not disappoint.  The end of the hike felt so long, mostly because we were just sore, tired and hungry, but once we got back to our car, we drove to Canmore and gorged on a well-earned meal at Wendy’s.  #AllOfTheSalt

Ribbon Falls

Ribbon Falls

By the time we got back into the city, it was after 8pm, so we threw our laundry in the wash, aired out and put away all of our gear, took a long, hot, well-deserved shower, and passed the F out.  It was an absolutely incredible weekend, and I would recommend this hike to anyone.  It has now become one of my favourites.  It’s challenging, but not impossible, and it is so, SO rewarding.

 

Have you ever been to Ribbon Lake?

What is your favourite Backcountry Hike?

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Anger and Gratitude.

Today’s post will be short, but oh so sweet.  Well first it’s going to be bitter.  But then it will be sweet.   Oh and also – it’s personal.  So if that’s not your thing, now would be a good time to move along.

For the last two months, I have been losing sleep, stressing out, feeling sick, and making myself crazy over the thoughts of what will happen should I need surgery on my wrist and have to take 8 unpaid weeks off of work while I recover – and then can ‘hopefully’ return to my career that I love so much as a Hairstylist.

*Please note that unpaid time off is the standard in my industry. My employer has been nothing but supportive throughout this endeavour, so please don’t think that they haven’t been – as a tradesperson, we just simply don’t have sick or disability pay.*

The pain in my wrist has been plaguing me for about 3 years now – ever since I became a Hairstylist.  (However – there is apparently no way to prove that this is “work-related” according to WCB.  Lovely, right?)  I know it is related to my job.  I know that it gets worse when I overwork myself, and it gets better when I have a stretch of time off.  I know that it would probably subside if I changed careers.  But I don’t want to do that, because I love my job, my coworkers, my clients, and the life that I have created for myself around and within my career.

Ashley Scissorhands

Ashley Scissorhands

For three years, I have been told that the lump on my wrist is a Ganglion.  This was only ever visually assessed by a doctor.  As a result, I have had friends, family members, coworkers and colleagues tell me to “just smash it with a book” as they used to do in the old days.  Barbaric, right?

But people would say things like “Why are you going through all of these tests when you could just fix it yourself!?” And “I’m sure you could find a video on YouTube and save yourself a ton of time.”  And “Oh I’ve had one before, and it wasn’t even that bad.  Just hit it really hard and it will go away like mine did.”  

Well it turns out that “smashing” it would have been damaging (duh) and wrong.  Because, after numerous tests and imaging, it has been determined that I don’t even have a Ganglion after all.  I have chronic damage to a major tendon in my hand that is causing pain in the wrist.  If I had “smashed” my wrist, I would have caused permanent damage to my wrist that likely would have ended my career.  I hope that just one person who gave me that “advice” is reading this.  Because it makes me SO damn angry when people offer unsolicited medical advice in the first place, and it makes me even angrier that people would recommend I do such a thing when my hands are literally my life.  My income, my career, my livelihood – depends on my hands.  How inconsiderate to belittle someone and insist that their problem “isn’t that bad” when their entire wellbeing depends on it.  Huff.  End rant.

Anyway, this is good news.  Very good news.  I mean, it sucks, and it doesn’t give me any answers yet, but the reason I am taking it as good news is because it means I don’t require immediate surgery like I would have if it had been the massive cyst we thought it was.  My doctor wants to send me for an MRI (which will take months) to determine exactly what can be done (if anything) and then we will go from there.  But my biggest fear was taking 8 unpaid weeks off of work (while we’re trying to save money for our new house that we will be moving into this winter), losing or upsetting my clients, causing more damage than good during the surgery, and/or having to consider a career change sooner than later.

At least now, I’ve got time – time to think, time to breathe, time to consider my options.  Sure, I’m still in pain, but I can handle pain…especially now that my doctor has confirmed that I’m not going to do any further damage as long as I stop when my body tells me to.

So, the moral of this massively disorganized, bitchy, whiny post is this;

IMG_7049

‘I will not let what I can’t control destroy what I can enjoy.’

These words have been with me since I was very, very young, but over the past few months, I forgot them.

I worried.  I stressed.  I cried.  I googled every type of cancer that I probably had.  I made myself sick over the “what-ifs”.  I spent days – days – researching alternative career options.  I thought about going back to school.  I cried some more.  And I lost countless hours of my life to stressing out over something that was – and still is – and will always be 100% out of my control.

Sometimes we all need a reminder.  If nothing else, I hope this reminds you.

I will not let what I can’t control destroy what I can enjoy.

Have you ever made a major sacrifice in your life for the sake of your health?

What do you think I would I be if I could no longer be a Hairstylist?

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How We Raised $4,561.00 for our Volunteer trip to Bali with IVHQ

In March of 2014, Sean and I traveled to Bali, Indonesia, to participate in the Teaching English Programme offered by International Volunteer Headquarters, or IVHQ.  (Read more about that amazing experience here.)

We began planning our trip 10 months in advance.  Not only did this allow us significant time to get organized and plan our time off of work, but it also allowed us ample time for fundraising.  It took a lot of time and effort, but we were absolutely ecstatic (and totally surprised) to raise a total of $4,561.00 CAD prior to our departure on February 28, 2014.

Here’s how we did it:

Cash Donations from Friends & Family – $2,685.00

We were incredibly humbled by, and overwhelmingly grateful for the generosity of our amazing friends and family members.  By utilizing the crowdfunding site gofundme.com, reaching out via e-mail, Facebook, and in person, and by suggesting donations instead of birthday and christmas gifts, we were able to raise a staggering $2,685.00 from 23 different donors.  To this day, we still have trouble finding the words to properly express our gratitude and love for all of the incredible people who helped us experience something so incredible.

Bottle Drive(s) – $346.00

We collected and returned empty bottles and cans from our friends, families, coworkers, workplaces and local businesses for several months leading up to our departure and were able to generate $346.00.  This one was smelly and sticky but fairly easy to do.

Collecting Bottles in the Rain!

Collecting Bottles in the Rain!

Fundraiser Concert & Silent Auction – $914.00

I am a hobby singer/songwriter and musician, and with the help of some other talented and generous musicians in my circle, a local bar and the generosity of several donations of auction items, we were able to facilitate a small fundraiser that included live music and a silent auction.  It was a really fun way to spend time with our friends and family and raise $914.00.

Performing at our Concert & Silent Auction Fundraiser

Performing at our Concert & Silent Auction Fundraiser

Yard Work – $250.00

One of our generous donors offered to make a donation in exchange for help with some yard work around her house.  We spent a few afternoons helping her out and were able to raise $250.00.

Stella & Dot Fundraiser – $155.00

I reached out to a mutual friend who is a sales rep for Stella & Dot Jewelry, and she generously offered to host TWO jewelry parties at our house and donate a percentage of the profits.  This could also possibly be done if you have a friend who sells something like Epicure, Pampered Chef, Tupperware or Avon.  Through this, we raised $155.00.

GRAND TOTAL: $4,561.00

4 Tips for Successful Fundraising

1. Have a copy of your Verification Letter and a detailed, personally-written information page ready at all times.

When sending out email enquiries to local businesses – or when reaching out to friends and family for donations – it is a good idea to include a copy of your verification letter, just for added proof of your participation in the program.  We also had a generalized letter that we sent out to all of those who we asked for support (read it here).  We even went one step further, and had an entire BLOG dedicated to our fundraising, preparation, and experience.  (This was before Adventure To Anywhere existed.)  It took a fair amount of effort to put this all together, but it was extremely effective – and a huge time saver in the future – when asking for support and donations.  You can check out the blog we created here.

2.  Be Passionate.

Keep in mind that you are asking people to give you their hard-earned money so that YOU can go and travel to somewhere amazing.  Yes, you are doing something incredible, and yes, you will be working hard to better this planet, but in order to convince these people to support you, your passion will have to be evident and entirely infectious.  Believe in your cause and others will believe in it, too!

3. Do Your Research and Know Your Programme.

People WILL ask you questions before offering their support.  What exactly will you be doing during your volunteer placement?  Where will you be staying?  How do you plan to make a difference?  Why do you want to do this?  What are your goals?  Be prepared to answer all of these questions and more before you start reaching out.

4. Thank your donors!

Upon our return from Bali, we sent out hand-written thank you cards, along with 3-4 photos of our volunteer experience, to all of our generous friends and family members who had donated to us.  It took a few hours and cost us about $100 for the cards, the photos, and all of the postage, but it was absolutely worth it and was very much appreciated by everyone who made those donations to us.

Other Ideas

Below are a few other unique fundraising ideas that we considered, but didn’t end up having time for.

Yoga / Pilates / Spin Fundraiser

Do you have a friend who is a fitness instructor of some sort?  Ask them if they’d be willing to volunteer their time to teach a donation-based fundraiser class.  Invite all of your friends on an entrance-by-donation basis, and enjoy something fun, exciting and challenging together!

Calendar Fundraiser

Launch a pre-purchase calendar fundraiser, where your friends and family make a donation (either a set amount or whatever they want).  Keep track of your donations, and, upon your return, turn your travel photos into a beautiful calendar for the following year and distribute them to your donors.  This can be done inexpensively through online programs, iMac programs, or at your local print shop

Garage Sale

Host a garage sale – either with set prices or a “By Donation” sale (have a small sign explaining your upcoming volunteer placement and a copy of your verification letter ready).  Advertise in your local paper and enjoy the added bonus of freeing up space from clutter in your home!

What are some of the most effective ways you have raised money for a cause?

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