Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why uncertainty is actually a spark

On the MacBeth Couloir Col. Spearhead Traverse, April 2017.


I began executing a phase of my plan. I sifted through my belongings and painstakingly triaged what stays and what would go. Once the decision was made, letting go of objects regardless of their meaning was not so disastrous. In fact, I chose to turn the episode into a celebration and invited 100 friends to participate in my “garage sale” event and in doing so, vulnerably allowed others to contribute positively in my transition.

When you open yourself up to the support of others and they come through, you gain unfailing strength.

Sale & Celebration Event. April 2017


It’s no secret that I’m smitten with rock climbing. In October of 2016, I bought a membership and a lesson at the North Shore Hive bouldering gym. I then got “on the ropes” at a climbing gym. The next logical step was to learn how to lead climb. For those who are unfamiliar with this sport, lead climbing simply means that you attach yourself to the wall (or rock) as you climb rather than being secured to an anchor from the top of the route. It also means that falling from a lead position entails a further trip to the bottom and in some cases hitting the wall (or rock) abruptly in a jarring motion or worse. To mitigate potential injuries, the climber and belayer practice by simulating falls. The instructor signals at unexpected moments to let go of the holds, to let go, to release your grip and consent to letting yourself fall into space violently toward the ground.

When you fully entrust your physical safety to tiny gear and to your belayer being apt and alert, and it works out fine, you gain confidence in your ability to fully trust.

Tying myself in to lead my first climb route. April 2017.


I was so scared. We had just shuffled up a steep narrow passage, still locked in ski-mode and for me it was too much effort too early into the traverse. The wind was pummeling us hard. I was slobbering with each laboured breath and my heart thumped inside my throat. I was the last skier up the crest. I looked around, alarmed by where we were perched then realized I was sliding backwards toward the lip of the drop-off. The tail of my skis breached the edge “ooooh” I yelped, then learched forward frantically. Simon calmly skied toward me. He instructed me to stomp forward, then to stomp-sideslip perpendicular down the ridge alongside his skis. It seemed like we were wedged, the tips butting a rock face and tails nearing that drop-off as we inched our way into a rocky funnel. That’s when he said to take off my skis. We all boot-packed down what I later learned was called the MacBeth Couloir-Col.

The section after this presented a short couloir. “We’re skiing THIS?!” Simon smiled warmly and responded “we ARE skiing this. I believe in you”. He sounded sincere and I accepted his encouragement. This was a turning point for me. Someone believed that I could, and it was enough. For the remainder of the trip I dropped-in to whatever was on route and I smiled whenever I was scared because I knew Simon would look back to check on me.

When someone believes in you, it gives you more than confidence. It changes your perspective.

Simon leading our Spearhead Traverse-in-a-day. April 2017.

Life changes, no mater the extent, hold some level of uncertainty. With the support of others, full trust in the process, assurance in your own ability and the confidence that you’ll survive whatever is ahead – that uncertainty becomes a spark.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Building an Arc

Talking about our projects on a long run. Photo by Hilary

I don’t know why exactly I’m doing what I’m doing. I laugh to myself as this thought pops into my head “I’m Noah building the Arc”. I’m not referring to a voice in my head tormenting me to do things. It’s more like a nagging, relentless, furious drive to act, to dive forward. I reckon the purpose will reveal itself at the right moment, as in, precisely when things click into place. I muse that people will then say this plan was mastered from the start. Regardless one thing is clear for sure, time is pressing. 

Every morning I walk into corporate office and think to myself “how do I get out of this?” Every single day my whole being screams... 

“I don’t want to be here”

Am I looking for another office job? No. I sigh at my desk, zombie-like delivering on KPIs. In between writing of boring reports, I spy with envy on Insta galleries of my favourite adventure photographers. I lose myself in the most gorgeous content … the likes of Mountain Life, Adventure Journal, Inner Voice Life, Eskapee with misting eyes. I research the lives of top travel bloggers with a progressively tightening throat.

This image is taped to my notebook. Translation: "wtf am I doing here?"

On such days when my mind wanderlusts, there’s no holding back of a rolling tear. I note that my pod-mates dart away their stares and are likely dying to probe with questions yet are afraid to. They must think I’m concealing a dark and unjust personal tragedy.

My discontent is so intolerable that I cannot do nothing. And so I started a to-do list. It looks like this:
  • sell my belongings
  • talk to my broker
  • declare to everyone that I’m working on something incredibly cool
  • continue to sign-up for mountain-skills certification courses
  • put my condo on the market

Unsure what comes after the last bullet item. I’m executing this list subconsciously. Just as Noah built his Arc. Maybe he asked “why?” or “what happens next?”. It made no sense but he did it anyway. He knew things would work out.

Remember last week with Gary Robbins? We all followed the tweet updates and refreshed our web browsers every 5 minutes for news as he fought his way through the cruel Barkley Marathons. That footage of the finish line certainly gave reign to a range of emotions. For me, it was this pre-race interview that stirred me most.

He said he was doing Barley because of the near guarantee of failure. To Gary, a 0.01% chance of success was still a chance. He said, he believed. If you believe in yourself then all is possible. And no matter the outcome if he gave it all he had, in the end he won an unforgettable journey.

Some people trust experience, some people trust inspiration. Gary believed that his experience made it probable there was a margin that success could be his. Noah trusted inspiration. He didn’t question why exactly he was doing what he was doing. His faith was enough to believe a small margin of success would attain marvels.

I’m aiming for a little of both. I have enough experience to trust that I can accomplish what I set out to complete, and inspired enough to believe that there is purpose in my to-do list. Things will click into place.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How to do more of what you love

Paul Ridge. Photo by Adam. 2016

Recently, I was featured in the corporate Wellness Newsletter of my workplace. Answering the questions for that interview reminded me that I used to blog regularly. I enjoyed blogging. Why did I stop? Various reasons as reasons usually go.

Now re-reading my last blog entry from one year ago, I’m pleased to report that whatever I had predicted for myself actually followed through. I completed all planned races. I continued with my mountain skills pursuits and I checked-off projects from an ever growing list of objectives. 

Well. If you adventure with me, then you're of the same mindset that playing outside is the best thing ever. If you follow me through social medias, then you've liked a lot of mountain photos. I don't know if you get these types of requests but my message box is filled with questions like how do you find time to get out so much? ... do you work? or I'm getting into backcountry skiing, what gear do you recommend I buy? and can you send me your weight lifting program?.

Anyway. In that Wellness Newsletter interview, I concluded the last question saying the best advice ever given to me was to “do more of what you love”. Which kind of implies that I'm doing just that.

For the most part, I like work. No. I like working, but I don’t love what I’m doing right now as a career. It feels like my corporate office job segregates pieces of me. It's like I lead two separate lives. There's me and there's ghost of me. 

So, I need to do more of what I love, otherwise my Instagram Gallery would be a hoax.

Mt Brunswick. Photo by Audrée. 2016.

Have you noticed that when you start shopping for a van or a backpack or a new waterproof jacket, suddenly you start seeing vans, backpacks, jackets everywhere?  

I'm shopping for a new life. And I’ve been noticing the type of life I want to lead. You've guessed it, I see it everywhere. I'm surrounded by awesome people. People with crazy plans who make big heroic changes so they can live a life they love - and they're making a difference while doing it. 

I have a plan. I'll give you a hint: It has something to do with the questions I regularly get asked.

You can expect a new website and a lot of activity in my social media feed ... I'll be looking for your feedback, suggestions and questions as I make progress in this journey, learning how to do more of what we love. 

Below is that Wellness Newsletter feature from my workplace interview for your interest: 

Interview March 2017

How did you start racing?

It started with cycling in the late ‘90s. I competed in cross-country mountain biking, on a team, at the elite level across North America for about 8 years. I wanted to be a professional cyclist but couldn’t make the leap to full-time. Leaving the security of my office job seemed terribly uncertain. 

"... my dreams would not materialize unless I committed to a huge change or hugely changed what I wanted."

I knew other athletes who went for it. At the time, cycling wasn’t something you could earn a decent living on in Canada. Even with national team status and sponsor contracts, amateur athletes tend to work part-time and train 6-10+ hours a day. Stories of friends’ struggles discouraged me. I wondered if a refocus of my energy would address this lingering dissatisfaction creeping-in. Truth was, my dreams would not materialize unless I committed to a huge change or hugely changed what I wanted. Resigned, I went back to school, completed a Master’s program and thereafter transitioned into another profession entirely. I put the bike away.

The career change brought me to Vancouver and to an exciting opportunity with VANOC. It was an unpredictable schedule with little or no time for fitness goals while working for the Olympics (ironically), so I started to run as a sanity outlet. Running was a flexible way to sneak-in workouts in sporadic intervals. With running, there is little equipment required and you get great value from your efforts.

Despite workload I joined and managed to keep up with a strong running club, VFAC. We trained for road racing on the track but sometimes in Stanley Park on the trails, which was for me, much more enjoyable than pounding on pavement. Being on trails felt familiar. The forest reignited joys I had experienced in my past life as a mountain-biker. Soon after, I was introduced to the North Shore Mountains. Then, someone mentioned this race the “Knee Knacker”…

Swan Falls with Jamie. Photo by Adam. 2016.

What was the last race you did and how’d it go?

Fast-forward seven years. Since that initial Knee Knacker, I’ve competed in over ten 50km trail and mountain running events, a handful of 50milers and most recently, last season I raced the FatDog 70mi distance (114km) in Manning Park and finished 2nd female overall.

What one or two things do you do in your training that are keys to your success?

I love to race and to suffer. Yet over the years, my interaction with the mountains has shifted from the competing aspects of the sport to more of a relationship with the outdoors and adventure. My motivation has changed but my training philosophy has remained the same.

Key to my success? It’s corny but seriously, just aim for balance. I train to be a well-rounded athlete.

My training program is cyclical, split into a winter season and a summer season. And it is also periodized within the winter/summer cycles, sectioned into 6-12 week building blocks.

In the winter, I practice ski touring in the alpine backcountry and cross-country ski (skate-ski). I run short distances, max 20km per week for maintenance. For strength, functional mobility and agility, I lift weights 2-3 times a week and regularly rock climb at an indoor gym.

In the shoulder season, I’ve started to incorporate mountaineering as a fun transition into the trail-running season, where my run mileage gradually increases to 30-50km per week.

In summer I reduce time in the gym, time cross training, and increase mileage specific to an event, some weeks running up to 150km. This year, I’m putting less emphasis on races and more on adventure runs – which are usually ultra long distances (30-55km per day) with a lot of elevation over several days. These adventures are self-supported, meaning I run with a 20litre pack (see video of the 10 essentials for backcountry runners). For example last year, I ran sections of the Sunshine Coast trail and circumnavigated Mt Hood.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where non intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man less, but Nature more…
– Lord Byron

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I pay close attention to injury prevention measures, nutrition management and active recovery. It’s not always possible to strip away the stressful agents in life, and stress does affect me negatively if I let the triggers nag me too long. So, choosing to unwind by stretching to music for an hour instead of crashing on the couch to Netflix is usually a healthier option.

I draw inspiration from people who take those better options time after time as a way of being. They have invested in reflecting on their choices and are forever adapting. Right now, two big influencers are friends, adventurer ChrisBrinlee, Jr. and mountain runner ChrisJones.

Brandywine Falls with Audrée and Adele. 2016.

What is the best advice you were ever given? And what advice would you give others who want to start racing and/or adventuring?

Enlisting coachestrainers, and having high-quality training partners is essential. All the local run shops, including MEC offer training groups and clinics. Registering for an event is a strong motivator. My favourite series for advanced runners is CMTS and for an introductory, family-friendly race series there is 5Peaks. Recently, I have been spending time with a mountain mentor to grow areas where I have gaps and to push hard beyond belief.

The best advice ever given was “do more of what you love” ...

Instagram: chloe_longstride

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Winter Update

Glorious bluebird day at Cypress Nordic, Hollyburn Mountain

As you know, 2015 was a rough year. Then again, it curved in an upswing as I recovered from my diagnostic much quicker than anticipated and I do feel stronger having gone through that ordeal, as you said I would. 

Every adventure felt like a win, after battling an Immune/Lymphatic system crash for months.
HSCT photo by Jamie Douglas. Golden Ears photo by Pascal Gray. Tricouni Peak photo by Adam Ciuk.

Fall recap

With regained fitness, I rewarded myself by running a number of local classics including the HSCT, Golden Ears summit, and a first time outing to Tricouni Peak.

In September, I joined Jeff Pelletier as his co-lead for the Fall edition of North Shore Athletic’s trail clinic, which ran every Saturday for 10 weeks. We had two groups of participants, one Intermediate and one Advanced. A handful of past clinic participants and several experienced racers from the community donated their time to help with leading the groups and contribute their knowledge. It was a lot of fun to share our collective passion of trail running with such an enthusiastic bunch on some of the best routes of the North Shore.

Super fun 10-week NSA trail clinic.
Participants and Trail Leaders on Mt Seymour and at Quary Rock.

What’s new

I decided it was time to upgrade my mountain abilities. I joined the BC Mountaineer Club to partake in their alpine touring/backcountry ski, and mountaineer safety clinics. I took a few alpine ski lessons at Whistler Mountain, because, well I don’t know how to downhill ski. And I joined the Hive bouldering gym, luckily benefiting from the expert coaching of my buddy Irish John and our fellow alpinists.

If you’re an ultra trail runner, this probably sounds like a lot of extra cross training. For sure, it’s loads of new things to learn at once. My reasoning is that these skills will transfer over to mountain running. I need more speed on super-technical mountain descents and I definitely must increase my comfort level when scrambling on exposed routes.

To illustrate my perspective, if you’ve heard of Nick Elson or Anne-Marie Madden, both who are accomplished multi-disciplinary mountain athletes have shown that all-season mountain-play can reap as much reward as straight-up road and track workouts. I already love Nordic skiing, so the idea of spending multiple days travelling over mountains on fat skis or dangling on a rope really really appeals to me. And heck, why not. Continuous learning, failing, and getting up again is as good a way to live as another.

Night ski Cypress Alpine. Learning how to link turns and dance on fat skis.
Sliding on snow: happiness. View of Black Tusk from Mt Callaghan on skinny skis.

What’s next

The aim is to maximize my on-snow time to the fullest well into the spring. With that in mind, my trail running races are happening later in the summer with Broken Goat 50K as the key event for my competitive effort.  

Registered 2016 races
Kusam Climb 23K , Vancouver Island, June 18
Broken Goat 50k, Rossland, July 16
Fat Dog 70mi, Manning Park, Aug 13