Sunday, April 24, 2016

Manitoba Runners' Association Hall of Fame Banquet

To promote and support the sport of running for health and fitness for life to runners of all ages and abilities.
Manitoba Runners' Association Mission Statement

We transition from jogger to runner the moment we register for a race and chances are good the race is sanctioned by MRA. This volunteer board works tirelessly to promote running in our community. They expect no thanks or acknowledgement; they simply live and breathe their mission statement in all they do.  On behalf of the thousands of runners MRA serves, See Mike Run sends his gratitude.

Aside from sanctioning 50 events a year, they also promote the MRA Youth Series, deliver seminars, publish a newsletter, provide advice to race directors, and loan out equipment. The MRA also holds an annual banquet to honour Manitoba runners under four categories; Builder, Athlete, Club, and Runner of the Year. This year's sold-out banquet was outstanding and will remembered forever by those in attendance.

This years' inductees were selected from a wide field of deserving nominations. We warmly welcome Stephanie Roberecki (builder/athlete), Joanne Schiewe (athlete), Robert Bienke (runner of the year), and Prairie Sky Road Runners (club) to the Manitoba Runners' Association Hall of Fame. Other distinguished members include Dennis Lang, Georgina Cook, David Fielder, John Murphy, and Dwayne Sandall to name but a few.

All inductees at the 2016 event received a long and heartfelt standing ovation, and yes, there were a whole lotta tears, tears of happiness, tears of love, and tears of joy.

The evening was co-hosted by John Murphy and Ace Burpee. John's eloquence at the mic was met with Ace's biting humour.  Ace's spoke of 'who not to induct into the Hall of Fame' and included such notables as himself and his sister.... you really had to be there!  

The food was delicious and the vegetarian option was well received by many.  The cash bar was well stocked and the service was friendly, but why close the bar at 7:30 just as the speeches were to begin? Many went to refill their glass and were met with a closed bar.  I know we're runners and most nights we're in bed by 9:00 PM, but heck, a second glass of wine would have been nice.

The late, great Prince said "We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life".  That's what the MRA banquet is all about. We gather and laugh, and shed some tears, and hug, and smile, and drink (just one glass though), and talk and listen, and reflect, and give thanks... all in the name of getting through this thing called life. We choose to move our bodies through this thing called life. We cycle, we swim, we run through this thing called life.  We challenge ourselves and we are stubborn. We won't rest until we achieve. We won't stop until we die. We run past the finish line to another line and another line.

We run through this thing called life.

We are a community of runners and we thank Joanne Schiewe, Stephanie Roberecki, Robert Bienke, the Prairie Sky Road Runners for their spirit and we thank the MRA board of directors for their passion.

Kathy Wiens
John Murphy
Dreena Duhame
Judy McMullen
Leni Campbell
John Wichers
Brenlee Muska
Ken Perchaluk
Rockford McKay
Bobbi Nicol
Sam Neis

They say one transitions from jogger to runner the moment one register for a race. I say we transition from a runner to a proud Manitoban Runner the moment we take out an MRA membership.

It's a good day to be alive, but hold onto your hat!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

David's Journey

Welcome to David's story. David is a father, a husband, a runner, and an electrician. He's also a regular dude, someone with whom you'd want to share a coffee or beer. David is now a statistic. He has survived a traumatic brain injury. He's not supposed to alive, at best he's supposed to be in a vegetative state. But he didn't get the memo about the odds of survival. With a lot of love from his wife Mandi, his son Liam, his family and friends (3 waiting rooms full) he survived. He will be there for all Liam's milestones events. He will hold Mandi's hand through life. David is alive, and as you know, it's a good day to be alive.
On July 15th 2013 my husband of 1.5 years and the father of Liam our son (12 months at the time) was involved in a work place accident. He was performing his everyday tasks as an electrician. While changing ballasts on an outdoor sign, he was electrically shocked with enough electrical power to black him out. This caused him to dead fall off an 8 foot ladder hitting the concrete ground. Witnesses found him and he was rushed to Health’s Science Centre, unresponsive in critical emergency care. We received the grim news that he has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, which left him on life support in a coma.  On the day of his accident he required brain surgery to remove the damaged tissue and required a craniotomy to relieve the swelling pressure on his brain. He remained in intensive care in a coma.  I still remember the phone call like it was yesterday saying that I better hurry to the hospital because David was involved in a work accident and was unconscious.  This phone call left a million thoughts racing through my head.   My heart was beating so fast and I began to panic. I called my family arranging someone to come and watch Liam and I rushed to the hospital.  Everything from this moment felt so surreal, making the world around me just stop.

When I arrived at the hospital the staff directed me to the intensive care unit where David was unconscious and hooked up to life support, many cords and machines. At this very moment my mind was over thinking and I thought this was the end of our life together. The man that I loved more than anything and the father to our son was now lying unconscious in a coma. I did not know if he was ever going to wake up from this. After a few short hours of family and friends filling up three waiting rooms, all very concerned and worried about David, the neurosurgeon approached us with the grim news that David was going to need emergency brain surgery due to the excessive  bleeding in his brain.  In fact, on his CT scan 80 percent of his brain was covered in blood. The surgery required was to relieve of the pressure that was built up in his brain. Through the amazing hands of the surgical team and the power of prayer and God the surgery went well. Dr. Bieko, the brain surgeon and his team removed two contusions of brain tissue that were so damaged that they had to be remove. They also performed a craniotomy on David’s skull, where they removed a portion of his skull bone to allow the brain to swell and not cause further damage. This skull bone, referred to as a bone flap and was stored in a bone bank to be later re-attached to his skull, operation took place on October 23rd 2015.
After 3 hours of waiting, thinking and worrying, David’s brain surgery was completed and we finally got to see him.  It was so hard to see David so hurt and injured but we were all so thankful that he was alive. He remained in a coma and on life support, and now it was up to his body to heal.  From that day on it was a waiting game.  We had so many questions, but all that the doctors and nurses would say was to take one day at a time, because every brain injury is different. As the days went on David made little progress and the doctors started to prepare us for the worst case scenarios.  They explained that he may never wake up from his coma, and if he did he may not know who we were, or might be in a vegetative state, needing to live in a nursing home the rest of his life.  We know that they had to prepare us for the worst, but we were determined to remain hopeful, and stay positive.   David remained in a coma for 11 days, and then on July 26th, 2013 he started to open his eyes; which was amazing and the best day ever! Every little movement David made left us all jumping for joy. David started to make progress and had a tracheostomy and a feeding tube put in. He remained in an aphasia state, which means his eyes were open but he was not able to communicate.  On August 2nd day 17 of David’s journey, he improved enough that he could be transferred out of intensive care to the 5th floor step down unit.  At this point David was making little improvements. David received daily physical therapy and was put in a special Nero chair, so we could wheel him down the hall for a short period in the visiting room; however, he still was unable to communicate with us. With us not knowing what his future life outcome would still be, we were so encouraged just seeing him being discharged from the surgical intensive care unit. After many days in the step down unit, David began physiotherapy with a walker, where two people would assist him by holding him with a walker, as he did not have enough strength to walk on his own. Every step he made was amazing for us to witness.
On August 28th David was transferred to Riverview Health Centre, to be under the care and intense therapy program, for people who have suffered severe traumatic brain injuries. The acceptance to this intense therapy program was to me, and all our family, another blessing and a miracle, because we did not think he would be transferred so soon after his accident. When David arrived at Riverview, the intensive therapy began which including physio, occupational and speech therapy.  This therapy continued for months and even continued when he was able to come home. When David arrived at Riverview he could not talk, he was in a wheel chair and could not even go to the washroom independently.  He still had his tracheostomy and a feeding tube, but within a few weeks they were able to remove both.  It was such a miracle to hear the first time he spoke, he said he knew who we were, but did not know what happened. David was improving and was soon walking with a walker and able to talk more. By the third weekend of David being there, he was able to come home for the weekend. This was the best news that I have ever received. I was so excited that I was finally able to have David home with me and Liam. David received weekend passes from that weekend on.
On September 25th I received the news that David would be discharged from Riverview on October 11th. I was so excited and blessed knowing that we would be a family again, and Liam could spend more time with his daddy.
On July 15th 2016 will mark the 3 years since David’s injury and in that three years David has come so far and has accomplished so much. When the doctors had told me that David might never wake up or be a vegetative state, I knew deep down that it would not be true. David is a fighter and a positive man that never gives up.  He went on to complete his journeyman electrical certification after so many people thinking he could not accomplish such a task after surviving such a traumatic brain injury.  He completed many renovations around our home and family member’s homes with help. David is a hero to me and to so many other people.  Most of all he is our son Liam’s best friend and an amazing father. We thank God for healing David and for the miracles in his continued improvements. David now gives back to the community and has joined a good friend Chris Kasdorf as a volunteer at Riverview Health centre on the brain injury ward.  Chris, also a survivor of a traumatic brain injury was a volunteer at Riverview during David’s stay and provided special encouragement and support.  Since Chris is also a survivor he could relate in many ways to David’s journey and ongoing recovery, making them best of friends.  Now David, together with Chris, provides support through encourage others suffering a brain injuring by volunteering at Riverview Health centre.
I decided to do this run for David and to support other people out there affected by brain injuries. Brain injuries affect so many people in so many ways and it can also be such a hidden injury to the outside world. I would like to raise more awareness of traumatic brain injuries, through a run of David’s journey of the accident and his road to recovery. All the money that I raise will go directly to the Manitoba Brain Injury Association so they can help support other people like David. The run will take place on July 15th 2016 marking the three year date of his injury.  I, and other supporters will be running David’s journey, a total of 42.3 km’s a full marathon. All donations can be made to where there will be a webpage provided with David’s story. Or feel free to contact me with any questions
Hey David, it's a good day to be alive, right?
Please click  David's Journey for more information. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Joanne Schiewe, Manitoba Runners' Association Hall of Fame Inductee, 2016

It is 12 months to the day that Jo received the diagnosis of stage 4 Glioblastoma brain cancer. Glioblastoma is a particularly nasty strain of cancer and such news is enough to flatten the best of us. However, as John Ford says below, "cancer picked the wrong person to mess with..." when it chose our Jo. Those of you who know Jo understand her importance to our community. She lives life large and bright. Her unbridled positive energy is her gift to us and we are forever grateful. She is our champion. She is our friend. She is a cancer slaying Ninja warrior!

Congratulations to our Jo who, on the 12 month anniversary of her diagnosis, is inducted into the Manitoba Runners Association Hall of Fame.  The complete nomination is included below.

It's a good day to be alive.


Some people feel the rain, others just get wet. Bob Marley
(photo credit Fern Berard)
Brief Summary of Joanne Schiewe’s Achievements

Ironman (Boulder Colorado, August 7, 2014)
Half-Ironman (June 2013)
Multiple-marathoner/ half-marathoner
Adventure Racer
Kenaston Running Room Instructor/Group Leader (Learn to Run, 10 km, half-marathon clinics)
Motivational Speaker
Curbside cheerleader for dozens upon dozens of races of all lengths
Winnipeg Polar Bare running participant (5 consecutive years)
Running mentor for dozens (if not hundreds) of novice runners
YPOM Beer Mile enthusiast and champion
Ted’s Run for Literacy, committee member (5 consecutive years)
Ace Burpee’s Top 100 Fascinating Manitobans for 2015 (#71)
Glioblastoma stage four brain cancer Survivor (12 months, zero days and counting)
Raised over $25,000 for Brain Cancer in 2015.
(photo credit Fern Berard)

Joanne Schiewe started her fitness journey in January 2009.  With little training she completed the Manitoba Half Marathon in June 2009.  “I finished it, but it was not fun” she remembers.  That fall, she joined the Kenaston Running Room and was introduced to the people who would become very special in her life. 

Joanne joined a Hypothermic-half marathon running clinic where she learned about training regimes and other valuable information.  She completed the Hypo half in February 2010.  In the spring of 2011 she completed the Manitoba Marathon, the first of many more to come.  Joanne then went on to become a Running Room Clinic Instructor, and group leader for a number of clinics. She continues to provide guidance to many runners or want-to-be runners, in addition to being a sought after motivational speaker. 

Facing injuries in 2012, she was introduced to cycling and swimming as cross-training options.  Triathlon was a natural progression. Here she met even more crazy awesome like-minded friends!  In the summer of 2012, she completed her first sprint triathlon, followed by a Half-ironman in June 2013, and a full Ironman in Colorado in August 2014. 

In early 2015, Joanne confided to friends that she was not feeling quite right, although she had been trying to laugh it off.  At their urging she went to the Emergency Department, where it was determined that there was a tumor that was ultimately diagnosed as glioblastoma, stage four brain cancer. A community of family, runners, triathletes, Ironmen, ultra-marathoners, and friends of all stripes rallied behind Joanne as she began a grueling course of radiation followed by chemotherapy. 

The Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon announced that fundraising for the2015 race would target brain cancer research.  Joanne seized the opportunity and organized a head-shaving party to raise what she hoped might be a few hundred dollars. The initial shave raised about $3000, but that was only the beginning.  In the weeks leading up to the WPS half-marathon, Joanne raised a total of $25,000. This represented the largest single fundraising effort in the history of the WPS half-marathon. Not one to sit on the sidelines and bask, Joanne ran a relay leg of the half-marathon despite her compromised health.

Joanne vehemently believes her family and friends have saved her life.  Her life, although not perfect, is well lived.  Joanne embraces life and soaks up every joyous moment. Jo is our friend, our mentor, our coach, and our champion. She has profoundly touched our community and we are forever grateful.

Respectfully submitted,

Lorraine Walton
Ayn Wilcox
Michael Bennett

The following members of Winnipeg’s Running Community endorse this nomination.

Joanne Schiewe is the quintessential returning athlete, whose journey went from learn to run to the marathon and Ironman. While redefining her personal athletic goals and guiding others to succeed, Joan used her tenacity and power of positive thinking to deal with brain cancer.  Joanne has touched the hearts of many in the community, as an athlete and coach and we are forever grateful for her leadership! Joanne Scheme would be a worth recipient of the MRA Hall of Fame under the athlete/builder category 
John Stanton C.M. LLD(Hon)
CEO &amd; Founder Running Room
Joanne Schiewe is a vibrant and colourful member of the running community for several years, both as a runner and as an inspirational role model. Whenever I run into Joanne the discussion would enthusiastically be about the next race, dreams of a BQ, or crazy injuries!  When Joanne was diagnosed with brain cancer one of her biggest disappointments was that she may never get to Boston.  After daily radiation and chemo for several weeks most people would have been conserving their energy and lying low.  Not Joanne!  She mustered up the strength and courage to run the WPS to raise money for Brain Cancer awareness by doing what she loves...running and inspiring others to never give up!! We are fortunate to have such an inspiration in our running community. 
Stephanie Roberecki, BMRPT, MCPA
Physiotherapist Works!
Race Director Physio Fit Run

(photo credit SMR)
I am writing in support of the nomination of Jo in the builder category of the MRA Hall of Fame. I have known Jo for over a year.  The challenges she has faced and continues to face are in themselves massive.  What makes her exceptional is the manner in which she continues to think of others and support the running community while her life hangs in the balance.  Jo is an Ironman and avid runner.  She continues to participate in many running events while suffering the harsh realities of chemotherapy treatment. For 2015 and again for 2016, Jo is a strong advocate for the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon.  While also participating, she lends her voice, time and life experience to efforts of the race to further its profile and to share the word of the struggles of her particular type of cancer. I would be happy to chat further at your leisure, however, it is safe to say, JO represents the best in the Manitoba running community.
Sergeant Nick Paulet
Winnipeg Police Service
Race Director Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon

Over 4 years ago the Dirty Donkey Run team was first introduced to Joanne Schiewe... little did we know what an impact she would make on our events and an even bigger impact on our lives. Joanne has added her touch of commitment, class and crazy (all who know her can attest) not only to our "donkey family" but also to the local running and triathlon groups. I've personally witnessed her cheering participants on while hypothermic, getting the party started while wearing a bucket on her head, tattooing others (and herself...) all in the name of promoting and being the first to arrive and last to leave. Her personal accomplishments and goals in running, triathlon and ironman's are a testament to her strength and courage. When finding out of her diagnosis, those who know her well, knew cancer chose the wrong individual to mess with. Being nominated to the MRA Hall Of Fame is a deserving honor and proves what we all know already... individuals like her are why such strong communities in sport exist and Manitoba should be proud to honor her. There are few with the dedication to sport and a spirit like Joanne.
John Ford
Race Director, Swamp Donkey Adventure Race/ Dirty Donkey Mud Runs/Pain in the ASSiniboine/ Ice Donkey, Swamp Donkey Race Timing

Joanne is a unique individual. We all know her struggle over the past year in dealing with brain cancer and the treatments surrounding its eradication. The strength, commitment and fight to live life and to stay positive are what have amazed me most about her. But what makes her so special is not that she fought to run again as fast as she possibly could, which she did, it's that she continued to be the most amazing cheerleader for everyone else even while she was struggling through her own pain. Joanne has a spirit like no other. Running should be fun and Joanne embodies that both on the course and at our post race parties! A passion for life, running and fitness that has inspired many, including myself to not only be a better person, live life to the fullest but to stay fit and active when life inevitably gets you down.
Rick Shone
Race Director Swamp Donkey Adventure Race/ Dirty Donkey Mud Runs/Pain in the ASSiniboine/ Ice Donkey, Swamp Donkey Race Timing

Her strength and perseverance through this dark time in her life is absolutely remarkable. To continue fighting forward and living life to the max to show who is the boss is something special. I have never had a conversation with Jo and I don't know her well, but I 100% support this nomination,
Jonathan Torchia Race Director Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Half Marathon 

I first met this loud, beautiful, outgoing young lady at the Kenaston Running Room clinic where she was coaching a clinic. She completed several half marathons, marathons and eventually found her way to the world of triathlons. After completing a few triathlons she decided to train for the Boulder Ironman.  Having completed one myself the year before I understood the training and commitment required. She had put in all the required effort and training. Consequently she performed like a true athlete and completed the Ironman. Six months later she was diagnosed with Glioblastoma brain cancer. As an athlete and competitor she stood up and vowed to beat all odds and fight for her life. She continues to outperform and inspire others to take up whatever challenges they face.                    
Jeannine Julius
IronMan, Tri-athlete, distance runner, friend
(photo credit Winnipeg Free Press)
I endorse the nomination of Joanne into the MRA Hall of Fame under the category ‘Athlete/Builder’. I cannot imagine a more deserving individual. In the years I have known Joanne she has been such a mentor to so many runners. We were able to converse together regarding endurance events and she likely didn't even realize that her words at that time encouraged me to continue to compete in some of the toughest/ longest ultra marathons in Canada. She even followed up her encouraging words, with support and an invite for a beer after a DNF. The past year, I am glad to say that I have not seen a different Jo. She has been going through some things that would sideline pretty much anyone in this world with her head held high and a definite spark.
Blake Anderson
Event Logistics Coordinator Swamp Donkey Adventure Racing, Ultra-marathoner, friend

I’m happy to add my name to the many people who believe Joanne should be inducted into the MRA Hall of Fame under the Athlete / Builder category.  In my opinion Joanne embodies the very reason for this type of award.  She has achieved a number of outstanding athletic accomplishments including marathon runner, adventure racer, and triathlete – including an Ironman Finisher in August 2014.  Prior to Joanne’s diagnosis she was training for a BQ in the fall, and I have no doubt that she would have achieved that goal because of her incredible focus, dedication and athleticism.  In addition to being an accomplished athlete Joanne has mentored and coached many along the way – me included.  She’s been an active volunteer at many races, and is always happy to give guidance (even when you don’t ask for it!).  I’ve always admired Joanne’s joie de vivre – she’s always lived life large! – And man, talk about the best jump shots! I’m convinced she must have practiced those in front of the mirror to get them so picture perfect!  When she was diagnosed with glioblastoma in Feb 2015 at 34 years old, 6 months after completing Ironman Boulder, no one would have blamed her if she had just retreated quietly to deal with this devastating diagnosis.  But not “our Jo”!  She’s even more committed to living her life to the fullest – sucking every fantastic minute out of this life she’s been given.  When she can she races, she volunteers, and yes - she still shares her opinion whether we’ve asked for it or not!  She jumps out of planes and goes white water rafting.  She has become an ambassador for the need for raising awareness and money for brain cancer research, and has raised over $25,000 for the cause herself.  She inspires many to live the life we’ve been given and not to take any of it for granted. 
Ayn Wilcox
Tri-athlete, 5 year -and counting- Melanoma Cancer survivor, friend

I have known Joanne since the beginning of her running journey some 6+ years ago. In that time while she has faced many challenges along the way. None, not even the daunting diagnosis of brain cancer, have shaken her resolve to continue to contribute to the running community. From leading run clinics, volunteering with Ted’s Run for Literacy, to completing a full Ironman triathlon, Joanne has shown and inspired others to enjoy the health benefits, both physical and mental health, of an active lifestyle. When cancer tried to step in her way, she fought back and used the opportunity to raise over $25,000 through the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon, for Brain Cancer research in Manitoba. I am Proud to call her my friend.
Scott Thomson
Marathoner, triathlete, friend

As an athlete, Joanne has established a considerable reputation: she has completed several marathons and other races of note, served as a clinic leader, overcome injuries and personal setbacks, and in 2014 became an IronMan.  While these are impressive in of themselves, Joanne’s true contributions to the running community in Manitoba are manifested by her courage, fortitude, and determination while fighting brain cancer. Joanne continues to meet her battle with cancer by absolutely living life to its fullest, and by not simply waiting for her illness to overcome or define her. Rather, Joanne looks for new challenges, exuding positivity, and in so doing inspires other athletes to embrace life.  This, I submit, has brought runners together as a community, making her an excellent choice for the honor of ‘Builder/Athlete’ in the MRA Hall of Fame.
Dr. William Diehl-Jones
Marathoner, multiple Boston Marathons, friend

I fully support Jo's nomination for the MRA Hall of Fame.  I first met Jo while training for a full marathon and as first timers, I think we both learned about the importance of being mentally prepared for a full marathon. She is a fixture in the local running community on many levels including being a committee member for Ted's Run for Literacy and having raised a record amount for the Canadian Cancer Society via the Winnipeg Police Half Marathon all while dealing with a brain cancer diagnosis.   At a time when most people would withdraw from extracurricular activities to deal with their health, grief and the uncertainty, Jo started fundraising and I truly believe that her contribution to this important cause will be felt for years to come. Jo's grit and determination developed in her journey as a runner and Ironman athlete is inspirational.   
Darcie Wadelius
Marathoner, Clinic group leader, friend

"I think she's a nice person" were my comments about Joanne to my wife Margot after a group run I was leading for a 1/2-marathon group for the Running Room. Joanne was training for her first 1/2 and for the first few miles of each Sunday long run the air was blue with the language coming from her mouth. For the rest of the run after the endorphins kicked in she was the most pleasant person to be around. She wanted to learn and I was eager to teach. A few months after her 1/2 marathon, I was discussing my worries with Jo about an upcoming race I had registered. In her own sweet way Jo told me "a wise runner once told me...." then I realized Jo was giving me my own advice back.  The student had become the teacher. And teach she did, becoming an instructor in numerous running clinics. She has continued to challenge herself in longer races and the Ironman Triathlon. She also selfishly gives back to the running community thru teaching, fund raising and leading by example by being a positive role model. Joanne is a nice person who I am proud to call my friend, and so very deserving of this award.
David Ranta
Marathoner, multiple Boston Marathons, friend

Our friend Jo is an Ironman. She is strong and tenacious and she's a champion in every sense. Our friend Jo loves life and life itself returns her love fiercely. Our friend Jo laughs and chats and makes all feel welcome and important. Our friend Jo embraces us, she gives herself freely to us, she gives and gives and gives and gives. We are enchanted with her sparkle. We are warmed by the love of her embrace. And now we give back to Jo for we are indebted to her kind and beautiful soul.
Michael Bennett
Race Director Ted’s Run for Literacy, ‘See Mike Run’ blog, marathoner, friend

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ultimate Direction Vest

What was I thinking? 
An Ultra-vest?

Shoot, now I must live up to the vest and sign-up for an ultra.  

An ultra!
I can't do an ultra!
Ultras are crazy!

Whoa man, calm down, breathe in, breathe out.

You can do it.
Just believe.

I slipped this beautiful vest on the other morning and gazed at my reflection in the mirror.  I searched the eyes and asked "who is this person" and "what does he need to prove" and "why does he think he can run an ultra" and "why can't he be happy with what he has". It fit so good, yet it felt disingenuous. I tucked it back into the drawer for another time and went for a run. 

An ultra!
I can't do an ultra!
Ultras are crazy!

Yesterday I tried it on again.  I fine tuned the fit with tiny adjustments here and there.  I placed a few gels in the tiny side pockets. I filled the water bottles and slid them in place.  Everything about this vest is perfect and intelligent. The detail and lightness are absolutely stunning.  A large double back pocket and a zig-zag bungee meshing for stashing a jacket.  It's all so perfect and it feels so good.

You can do it.
Just believe.

I ran the full length of Harte Trail plus a few laps of Assiniboine Forest with the vest.  Just to try it out. Just to see.  Just to believe. Just to imagine.  As my mind drifted and my legs and heart fell into that blissful rhythm we call running, the vest felt good.  Until I got thirsty.

The water bottle would only release the tiniest amount of water.  I wanted a glug while the bottle released drips! No amount of sucking would increase the water flow. I tried squeezing the bottle. I tried bending the nipple.  I even tried unscrewing the lid to release some pressure inside the bottle from all the sucking. I finally gave up thinking this must be an ultra-thing (so much to learn). Ultra runners probably want to conserve their water. Yeah, that must be it.  So home I ran... with a powerful thirst.

Later that evening I discovered the trick to increasing the water flow.  The UD bottles have a  'kicker valve'.  To release water you need to pull (kick) the nipple (valve) up.  It stand out an inch from the bottle and makes all the difference. So here I am, red faced, sharing my first misstep into ultra running.  Yes, I have much to learn and many, many miles to train.    

You can do it.
Just believe.

It's a good day to be alive.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tuscobia Winter Ultra; a guest blog by Bobbi Nicol

Me at the start of the Tuscobia State trail.
Last year at this time I was running my last race as a man, I did not know it at the time, honestly I look back and I think wow have things ever changed in such a short period of time. That race that I started on January 1st, 2015 was a catalyst to what was to come for me and my little piece of this world.

Running has been such a big part of my life for the last eight plus years that when it was taken away due to a serious injury I went into a bout of depression I have not seen nor experienced in years. My release, both physically and mentally was suddenly gone and I had to deal with emotions and thoughts that I was normally able to keep under control or under wraps so to speak.

On January 1, 2015 I started the Tuscobia 150 mile Winter Ultra in Wisconsin, this race included the requirement to carry a certain amount of safety gear, food stuff, water and extra clothing to keep you safe in case of an emergency. This ultimately means you either carry it on your back or pull it on a sled, I chose the sled. Unfortunately the harness system was too big for my slight frame and I did unknown damage that I will go into more detail about later.

After 65 miles completed I pulled into one of the two aid stations available to the racers to warm up and prep for the next stage, this was Birchwood, Wisconsin. With enduring a very cold night in the backcountry I developed a significant area of frost nip on my nose and with 85 miles to complete I decided I liked my nose more than the satisfaction of finishing one of the craziest races I have ever ran. I DNF’ed at that point and was ok with the decision made. Later I found out how good of a decision that actually was, everything happens for a reason, I truly believe this now as I look back on it.

On the way home from Wisconsin I developed some serious abdominal pain that kept getting worse and worse, enough that I went to Emergency when I made it back to Winnipeg and if you know me I do not like going to the doctor for any reason, let alone hospitals. Apparently the ill-fitting harness did some serious damage to my abdominal muscles, basically shredded them from the repeated pounding from the harness as I ran those 65 miles. This would keep me from running for 5 months, which to me was a lifetime and not having my place of peace to think and sort through things quickened my eventual transformation into who I am today. My next race was the Ottawa Marathon as Bobbi in May, the only race I finished in 2015.

As you can understand my confidence was at an all-time low, I have started some big races in 2015, including the Canadian Death Race and Lost Souls. With my transition and all the changes that were happening to my body and also my emotions I was unable to push myself beyond that point like I used to be able to  and finish them. This was crushing to me, even though I have never been happier, I was finally able to be me, those thoughts that I would never be able to finish that big race again were creeping into my mind. I needed to finish a difficult race and prove to myself that I could still do it and not just finish, but finish strong.

Tuscobia 2016 was that race, with the help of my amazing friend Sue Lucas and her well-fitting harness and sled; I started the 80 miler on Saturday, January 8th. I was nervous and excited and it had been a while since I felt that way, I had a feeling that this was going to be my coming back party. I decided that the 80 miles would be the way to get my confidence back; attempting the 160 miler was in my mind, a few years away. Let’s get this one done, my confidence back and start my year off on a high note. Let me be clear this is not an easy race and the 80 miler is no guarantee in the least. Hauling a 25 to 30 pound sled for 80 miles through the backcountry of Wisconsin with temperatures ranging from -12 F to -40 F is no walk in the park, this was to be my first test and I was not taking it lightly.

My sled, # 54
Thirty-six 80 milers started that morning, a combination of some seriously hardcore male, female and one transgender J runners took up the challenge to run between 22 hours and 31-ish hours to finish the course. The trail started out well packed and groomed and I was off to a good pace as I hit the trail hard. About 5 miles in, the snow started to fall, some amazingly large flakes that added to the resistance of the sled pull but that would not stop me, I bared down and got to work. Temps were holding steady at -12 until the sun went down and then steadily dropped over the next few hours, holding fast in the -20’s until about 2am. This is the scary part about doing these races, the temperatures, it’s so hard to predict what they will drop too and what you will need to have for clothes, this year I took no chances and probably carried an extra 5 lb. of layers that I would not of normally have and I was glad I did. I had everything on by 3 am as the temps dropped to about -40, it was colder than I have ever experienced in a race and I still had about 35 miles to go. It was so cold and I was sweating, shivering and hallucinating, I love this definition: experience a seemingly real perception of something not really present, typically as a result of a mental disorder or of taking drugs….well or running a ultra, lol. 

I was seriously thinking I was seeing the first signs of hypothermia, so I made the rational decision to pull off the trail and get into my winter sleeping bag and bivy (thank you Blake) and try to get my core temperature regulated back to semi-normal again. This took me approximately ninety minutes of huddling on the side of the trail with all types of nasty thoughts going through my head. Was I done again? I could not let this happen, I willed myself to get warm and slowly but surely my core temperature rose and the shivering stopped. The relief I felt was crazy, as I got out of that bag and packed my stuff back into the sled. I was off again with a new found determination to finish this race.

I was coming up on Birchwood, the location that I dropped the previous year and the point that I knew once I passed that this was race was in the bag, this year they did not have a checkpoint here, only one location and it was long gone. But there was an amazing little gas station with a cafĂ© style set up that I decided to stop at and actually use the bathroom instead of freezing my bare bum again. With a quick defrost and a cheeseburger I was once again off on the trail with 17 miles to go, almost home, almost done. I was past Birchwood; this smile was growing across my face, of course being well aware to not be to wide, frozen teeth hurt. I will not lie, the last leg hurt, it hurt a lot, but I kept those legs moving as I got closer and closer to Rice Lake, I pushed along with one running pole, as one broke about mile 40 making my life just that much more difficult as the broken one got a free ride in the sled, lucky bastard. 

I pushed forward and forward and forward some more. Those last miles felt like forever as I moved along, with about 7 miles left I came upon Mike, one amazing runner. Mike is deaf and was running the 80 miler, think about this for a minute, not being able to hear snow mobiles or anything else for that matter and running in the backcountry, totally amazing. Mike and I ran together for the last bunch of miles, really the only person that I ran with the entire way, I like my quiet time and running with someone who is deaf is the perfect situation for me…no chit chat, just running and enjoying.

We pulled into Rice Lake and hit the last leg of the journey, Mike motioned me to run ahead, he wanted me to finish first, what a gentleman, so reluctantly I ran ahead, pulling that sled towards the finish line and my redemption. The finish line was sweet, there were five people out there cheering, you have to remember this is a race when most runners can be hours apart, including Chris (the RD), Scott (a friend from Chicago) and three amazing volunteers. I was never so happy to see that finish line; I was done, both literally and figuratively. After 28 hours and 59 minutes of running and pulling I had finished what I had started. I was elated to say the least, I was back and it felt good.
It felt good to finish this race as I was intended too, knowing I could run an ultra and finish it especially one as nasty as this one brought such joy to me, I could not even attempt to describe it. So whatever you do, don’t settle, be strong, be resilient. Work hard and don’t give up…be proud of all your accomplishments…you earned them.
A footnote, 20 runners finished the 80 miles of those 36 starters, I finished 13th overall and 3rd female (although with my transgender status I would not take the placing and would of passed it to the next female finisher if it was offered), I was so happy with my finish and results, tickled pink actually.

Still smiling at mile 35.
What you look like after finishing 85 miles in almost 29 hours.
It's a good day to be alive.