10 similarities between the body and the greatest of friends

Life can often throw us curveballs and force us to adapt. The adaptation process comes along with lessons. We have the choice to either see and learn the lessons, or hobble away kicking and screaming. (I'm really good at the latter).  Once again I am reminded of the analogies between endurance and life. My body has spoken, and forced me to stop and analyze the choices I have been making both as a runner, and as a human being. At the same time, my incredible friends have shown up and spoken (harsh) truths. Both my body and my friends have highlighted some realities that I needed to see. Now it is up to me whether to continue my path as usual, or make better choices. 

An injury has resurfaced after a two year hiatus. This little wake up call has forced me to rest and provided me with gifts of fresh legs and patience. It is also an opportunity to reflect on some similarities between the body and the bestest of friends...

1. They call us out. Our bodies are constantly speaking to us. If we're lucky, they will scream. If we're really lucky, we will also have friends that call us out on our shit.  For example, our body will speak up if bad habits have gone on for too long. Whether we're neglecting eating our vegetables, the foam roller, or that extra hour of sleep, our bodies will eventually force us to notice. Whether it shows up as a muscle strain or a sinus injection, the body is speaking to us. It will say "Hey, stop overusing this tight calf without stretching." A good friend also says, "Hey, you've been an idiot in this way over and over. Stop that." Both the body and good friends will call us out on our repetitive self destructive habits. It's up to us whether we listen. 

2. They keep us humble AF. Both our bodies and our great friends remind us there is always room for improvement. Great friends model human excellence. They set goals and patiently tackle them while supporting others'. Try running up a mountain as fast as you can. Then try chasing an inspiring friend up that mountain. The body and our friends will keep us humble. 

3. They check in. Even when we feel like being alone and introverted, our body is there right beside us constantly checking in. Like when we are ravenously hungry and our stomach won't stop making noises. Same with your friends. They'll text and call to ensure we are not drowning in our own sorrows. 

4. They keep us honest. Our body doesn't lie. We can't lie to our body. As well, great friends don't lie, and we won't have them if we lie. Things stop working if we start lying to our body or our friends. For example, setting goals in training requires work and commitment. If we don't put in the work, then the commitment transforms into a lie. Our body may not believe us next time we set a goal. Same goes for showing up for a friend and committing to them. Let a good friend down, and we risk them not believing us next time. 

5. No bullshit. There must be some unwritten universal agreement on a no bullshit clause in all great friendships. If the body senses we're not being authentic and true, it will say so. Same goes for those great friends. 

6. They don't give up on us. Even though we want to curse our injured body, we know deep down inside it hasn't really failed us. (But keep cursing it, and it just might). It's always there teaching what we don't necessarily want to learn. The greatest of friends also do not give up on us. Even though they may have a list of reasons to do so. 

7. They help us heal. Our bodies are healing machines. They are constantly finding magical ways to repair themselves. Our true friends will also help us heal. They show up for us. Pay attention.

8. They show us the silver lining. In order to heal, we need to shine light into the areas that need it the most. (Thanks yoga). In the darkest of circumstances, both the body and friends will highlight ways in which life is all puppies and rainbows. For example, I've spent the last week prepping and painting the Vanicorn (Ford Transit Van home), and would not have had the time nor the energy to start the project it if I was running and training as usual. Friends also offer you time, when you think there is none. They allow you a day or two to put up a fight, kick and scream, and have a self induced pity party. Then they will tell you to shut up, and show up for the putty and paint party. They want you to get shit done. 

9. They always know what is going on, even when you are too scattered to figure it out for yourself. Want advice? Ask your body and a good friend what's up. Just ensure you actually listen. 

10. They're sensitive when we are off balance. Indulge in poor choices or extreme tendencies, and the body will feel it. Great friends will also feel it. Recently, I was making poor choices in relationships, and a good friend courageously shared how it was affecting them. It was not easy to hear. Coincidentally, my shin flared up at the same time. Our bodies are like our greatest friends. Both help us get back into our personal equilibrium. They force us to stop, look inward, and reassess. 

As usual, running lessons and life lessons overlap. Connecting these dots helps highlight the lessons and positives in shitty circumstances. There are many positives thanks to this injury and the wonderful humans in my life.  As coach says, "the lessons are the whole point of this cray shit" (cray shit = ultrarunning). Now it is my duty to show my gratitude by actually listening to both.

Putty, paint, and puppy party!

Putty, paint, and puppy party!

Disney sing alongs with unicorns in the Vanicorn and final paint touches

Disney sing alongs with unicorns in the Vanicorn and final paint touches

That moment your tiny home feels big AF

That moment your tiny home feels big AF

Food (for thought) Fridays

By Tory 

Happy Food Friday! Some (serious) food for thought....

Runners can often have weird relationships with food, and the two of us are no exception. My coach has Food Friday reminders on my training log, and it is a realistic reminder to get in calories (on all the days). I was telling Arielle about 'Food Fridays' the other day, and we got to ranting about our views on mental health, addictions and eating disorders. Just a regular chat between two friends. Both of us have experience with our own mental health issues, and unsurprisingly have opinions on the way in which society frames particular issues. The particular issue we were discussing: eating disorders.

Although neither of us are experts in the field of eating disorders or mental health, we were discussing our frustrations with eating disorders being categorized alongside body image. We believe eating disorders are mental disorders. They are separate from body image issues. They are mental health disorders in the same category as depression, addiction, anxiety, etc. Eating disorders exist because of a mental health disorder. They are a kind of addiction. For example, perhaps someone with an eating disorder has experienced trauma* in the past, and are using their relationship with food to control their world and/or get a 'high' from that control. The addict experiences a euphoria by being in control of everything they put into their body. Often, this individual controls amounts of food, obsessively counts calories, fixates on particular varieties or combinations of foods, limits their own nutritional and survival needs, etc. They live inside their own world that is clouded by their disorder. The result can make the person look physically emaciated and ill. It can also often appear appears as though this person is concerned about being 'skinny,' their appearance, and their body image. However, the disorder has various layers and is as complex as the individual. The idea of having a certain body or being 'skinny' is either just the top layer, or completely non existent within their struggles.  Just like an alcoholic is in recovery indefinitely, so can someone who has suffered with an eating disorder. Even though someone may look healthy, their internal battles with food may be something they struggle with for the rest of their lives. Body image issues and eating disorders are not synonymous.

Body image issues can exist for a variety of reasons. We believe these reasons often relate to external societal influences. For example, thinking a trendy diet may make your body look a certain way, being unhappy with the way your body looks, trying to fit into a jean size, etc. There are numerous industries that make money off of convincing us that our bodies are not good enough and that change is necessary to be good enough. Although one may have body image issues throughout their whole life, it is not something that affects their quality of living on a daily basis. Body image issues can be severe, however, we don't believe they are the same as a diagnosed eating disorder.

Body image issues and eating disorders can overlap, however, we believe it is important to make the distinction. This distinction is important to us, because mental health disorders affect all kinds of people, regardless of gender, socio economic status, body type, athletic history, etc.  Mental health IS health, and we think it is important to have discussions about mental health and its relation to eating disorders. We want to have conversations about mental health issues, which include the topic of eating disorders. We believe that eating disorders ought to be classified with mental health disorders. 

We concluded that no matter what our brain or society was telling us, we all need more practice loving ourselves. Conclusion: Love yo-self!

*Gabor Mate is a physician, author, and world renowned speaker specializing in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology, as well as the study and treatment of addiction. He believes that addition of often stems from past trauma in one's life. https://drgabormate.com/topic/addiction/

Here is Arielle showing off the bag of snacks she made for me along with the new spelling of my name 'Troy.'  

Here is Arielle showing off the bag of snacks she made for me along with the new spelling of my name 'Troy.'  

Change nothing - resolution not required

By Tory

This time last year, we chatted about New Year's Resolutions. More specifically, why we do not make them and why the concept does not resonate with us (more on that here). I think many ultrarunners are naturally goal driven and A-type. We are constantly planning and pursuing big dreams. We do things that scare us. Our comfort zone is plain uncomfortable. When January 1st shows up on our calendar, it doesn't mean much. And really, everyday is January 1st. 

As we embark on 2017, I will not be making standard New Year's Resolutions again. But this time I will be more particular about my non-resolution. My focus now is to change nothing. That's right, no change. I will not be seeking or striving for any physical or spiritual transformations. I will put no effort into changing who I am. I will let go of the desire to control circumstances or outcomes. I will change nothing. 

I recently learned that change causes persistence. Meaning, trying to change anything does the exact opposite of that intention. It causes friction - even at the molecular level. I am increasingly aware of how this is true. There is no need to change, desire to change, or control change. I started applying this to my running, yoga posing, communicating with others, etc. Things became easier. Running just is. That slow pace I'm jogging today? It doesn't matter. Awkward poses just are. Listening is just that. And speaking is just words. Everything just is. Life just is. It just is.  I have also noticed that the intention to change nothing, lightens the weight of the world I often carry. 

Changing nothing is on the same spectrum as GZFs (learn more here), but goes deeper. I am choosing to whole heartedly embrace every weird characteristic, habit, and feature of my flawed self and change nothing. I give fucks about myself, but I am choosing to coexist in harmony with my demons and let go of any desire to change. 

I do not want to confuse having the intention of changing nothing with trying to change nothing. Don't try. Just be. The more I try and control a circumstance or outcome, the more likely I am to experience disappointments in my anticipated expectations. There is no need to try. Let it go. Let it be. 

For a control freak, changing nothing is not easy. "The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience." (https://markmanson.net/feedback-loop-from-hell?spfb_42733). When I'm happy, I'm happy. When I'm pissed off, I'm pissed off. I will not fight the uncomfortable. I will not change it. It just is.  

So I am changing nothing, and making no effort to do so. Now that I have determined what I will not be doing, what will I be doing? Simple. I will be doing what I love. I will be drinking Malbec, exploring more mountains, learning like a Curious George, engaging with people who inspire me, laughing loud like usual, and apologetically interrupting sometimes. 

Happy New Year. 

 

PC - Hailey Van Dyk

PC - Hailey Van Dyk

 

 

Comfort in the comfort and the power of a vision

By Arielle

IMG_5261.JPG

“I started to cry tears of joy half way through the race, because everything I had envisioned was finally becoming a reality.” This is what I told my coach when we were debriefing about my final race of the season.

For the last month leading up to the world 100k championships my coach (Naomi Land) had me write down how I envisioned and how I wanted my race to go. Each night I was to read what I had wrote.  At first I wasn’t exactly sold on this idea, I mean I am already a pretty good dreamer so I didn’t fully see the value in this; however, I did as I was told.  A few things you should note about the race plan was that it didn’t include times, or splits, but instead it included how I was going to feel, what I was going to eat, and where my head was going to be.

When I got to the 60K mark of the race and everything had unfolded the exact same way I had wrote, I got a chill up my spine and couldn’t help but to cry. They say ultras bring out all the emotions and I have no shame in agreeing with that!

“Just keep running, running, running” is what I told myself as I fixed my glare on all the jerseys in front of me.  Next thing I knew I was at the 95K mark, with my team mate Julie just in front of me, and Deb just behind. I looked over at Julie and yelled at her exactly what I told myself I would say. “DIG DEEP!” We both crossed the finish line back to back, shaving 30 plus minutes off our PBs and Deb came in just a few minutes later; also performing a solid race and clocking an enormous PB.  Team Canada took home a 4th place finish, recording the top performance Canada has ever done.

Coming off a high like this isn’t always the easiest though. I now see that I have spent the majority of the past year finding comfort in the discomfort. So now that the work is done, the results are in, the highs have faded and it's the off season. I am seeing that maybe the discomfort is my comfort and the comfort is the discomfort.  So now I am faced with the challenge of finding comfort in the comfort! 

 Can anyone relate? How do you find comfort in the comfort?

What is a Unicorn?

By Tory

We get this question frequently. We speak in Unicorn, are inspired by the concept of Unicorn, and live our life in harmony with what it means to be one. Too often, we assume the general public understands what we are talking about. 

It began as a feeling while circumnavigating a volcano. We had experienced the pure joy in exploring mountains and trails before, but that day around the volcano felt different. We felt something rare and indescribable. We felt liberated to express our authentic selves. We felt connected to each other, ourselves, and the world around us. We felt detached from societal expectations. We felt like Unicorns. 

“You can’t sit with us. Circumnavigate with us.”

Team Unicorn became a metaphor for how we choose to live our lives. Team Unicorn has become the term to describe how we feel running, adventuring, exploring the mountains and getting through life - mostly when we are altogether. Team Unicorn is the experience and feeling one gets when being unconditionally supported by like minded humans. It’s the feeling of expressing your authentic self and being supported no matter what. Unicorns have the ability to help others express their authentic self - simply because unicorns support other unicorns. On Team Unicorn there is no judgement, no expectation, and no pace to keep up with. Unicorns are trending, and we have surrendered.

Life’s not all rainbows, unicorns, and volcanoes. Yet, I’m beginning to see how it can be. As a member of Team Unicorn, have I learned that by surrounding myself with unconditionally supportive and inspiring humans, it is easier and more fun to accomplish the impossible. Surround yourself with those who bring out the best in you and watch the world change. The essence of team unicorn may have been highlighted by our immersion in the ultra running community - a community filled with endless inspiration and unconditional support. However, Unicorn status does not equate with running hundreds of kilometres and exploring the mountains. It is practicing the lessons we learn while taking risks with those that support us. It is a metaphor for life.

12 Signs You are a Member of Team Unicorn:

  1. You embrace what you are die hard passionate about. Not because it makes you look cool (because likely it does not), but because it makes you come alive. It’s in your heart, and you’ve learned how to listen to that thing.
  2. You can find humour in the most challenging of circumstances. You can laugh “when you didn’t think you had the energy to even smile.” - Tara Berry
  3. You are a humanist or a feminist, or both. 
  4. You are self aware and grateful to those that call you out on your sh*t
  5. Crewing and pacing your friends does not only apply to ultra running races - but in everyday life. For example, you are more excited for others’ accomplishments than your own.
  6. You share snacks (cue AMJW) and backcountry gpx files
  7. Mainstream society confuses you sometimes (and this may explain why cocktail parties make you feel uncomfortable). 
  8. Your 'Zone of Optimal Development' is nowhere near your Zone of Comfort. You have forgotten what your 'comfort zone' feels like. 
  9. Dirt cleans the soul. (Failure is the precursor for success)
  10. Sometimes (most times) you just want to introvert. 
  11. Camaraderie trumps winning (cue Jornet and Schlarb at Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run 2016). Numbers are used to measure time on feet, distance, or climbing - not for ranking, speed, or status.
  12. You are not entirely sure what German Sparkle music is, but you want to listen and learn more.

“We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves.” - The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly.  I am lucky to have found my Team Unicorn. The team I am privileged to be a part of consists of humans who inspire and support me no matter what. Unsurprisingly they are mostly female endurance runners and/or passionate mountain enthusiasts. They push themselves because they know that is where the growth occurs. They are not afraid to suffer, even as painful as that may be. I encourage you to seek out your own Team Unicorn. Whether you want to run 100 miles, study tadpoles, or play board games until 4am. Chances are there are other inspiring Unicorns seeking to embrace and share your crazy ideas. The best place to find your team is by continuing to pursue what you love.

That circumnavigation though... photo credit: Tara Holland 

That circumnavigation though... photo credit: Tara Holland 

Aftermath Drive - when not running doesn't mean resting

https://www.ultrarunning.com/featured/aftermath-drive-when-not-running-does-not-mean-resting/

Here is a rant corresponding to our latest podcast recording... 

For those who know me well, it's no surprise when I say that running is personal. Like many of us, I grow and reflect on the spiritual and emotional effects of endurance running. It's so personal, that I have yet to write one of those official 'race reports.' I don't race often, but when I do, I keep it close to my heart. I am gradually coming to terms with exposing myself online, but my truth remains that running is personal and what I accomplish within that realm is for me and often private.  

I have become increasingly fond of analyzing the lessons I learn from ultras and either turning them into some profound metaphor or making an inappropriate joke about it.  The past three weeks I have been riding the high of one of the biggest runs/races completed.  Physically, I felt recovered in a few days and felt as if no race had occurred. My body never felt sore (other than a couple days of feet swelling and attractive back chaffing).  I was inspired by many others and learned about my own patience and presence. This piece is not about that recovery, inspiration, or those lessons. It is about what happens after the recovery party is over and what the road down from the high looks like. I call this road "Aftermath Drive."

I've been to Aftermath Drive before. I remember it fondly, so I will proceed down this road with caution. It creeps up on you, and presents itself in various ways. One needs to be aware and look up to even notice if they're on The Drive. I presently find myself juggling "be cautious" and "stop being a baby." Every time I go down this road after a big race, it feels different, and I learn more lessons. After the biggest event I ever completed, this road feels different than the times before. My body felt great, my brain hurt. I received many thoughtful messages after running 122 miles with the elevation gain of Everest asking how my body was feeling and how my recovery was going. My response was "My body feels great, my brain hurts." People would find that humorous. I said that because I can remember the lessons I have learned from the past when I pushed my body too soon after a goal race. My body felt great, my mind was excited about it, but my brain wasn't ready. Now, older and not even that much wiser, I am trying to be more cautious. 

Matt Fitzgerald’s recent book “How Bad do you Want it?” reminds us that majority of our endurance pursuits is entirely in the brain. My latest Google research has told me that there is not much out there regarding brain recovery and ultra running recovery. I also read that our brain shrinks 6% following a multi day endurance event like running. (It grows back). However, this shrinkage may explain why I needed to limit any exposure to heat, light, crowds, noise, and talking. (Yes, I somehow needed to limit my speaking after this big endeavour). It also may explain why I would take minutes to respond to simple questions and look like a deer in headlights when people were talking to me. My new excuse: my brain is 6% smaller during my recovery. 

Now, four weeks later, I wonder if my brain is still in fact recovering, or I am simply being a lazy brat. I can't tell. Last week I went climbing up a technical trail to summit a mountain in our backcountry in the mud and clouds. This is something I would normally enjoy doing. I shamefully admit, that I did not enjoy it. Sure, I was alone, without any unicorns around, but I usually enjoy solo trail time. I believe that my brain was not ready. So where is this line? If the body is the mind and the mind is the body, how can we separate the two? 

What happens after the recovery party is over? The celebration? After the feet swelling goes down, after the chaffing scars have healed? Are we ready to get back to our passion? Where is the line between mental rest and body rest? If “the body is the mind and the mind is the body,” do we need to even make a distinction? How do we listen to both?

This is not a race report. But whenever I find myself on Aftermath Drive, I am reminded that not running does not mean resting. On our latest podcast recording, we talk about the Endocrine System and the science behind why my brain hurt after physically recovering like a champ. How do I shut my brain off so it can recover? Running usually helps this. Where is the line and what is the balance?  

When it's a week out from a big race and your feet are still wrecked, but you just want to play in the dirt

When it's a week out from a big race and your feet are still wrecked, but you just want to play in the dirt

Needles 50km - back to basics

https://www.ultrarunning.com/featured/needles-50k-back-to-basics/ 

Remember a time when single track trails were endless, countless climbs felt effortless and each view negated any notion of self doubt? When cut off times, awards, judgement, and pride ceased to exist? When start times differed and people came together to support one another unconditionally regardless of intention or ability? A time when we could fill our bellies at the finish with tubs of home cooked quinoa and craft beer? A time when expectations swiftly disappeared as the essence of trail and ultrarunning permeated the scene? I remember a time like this. It was last Saturday.  

On July 23, Rich White and Adam Hewey graciously organized and hosted the inaugural Needles 50km - a stunning 50km 'fat ass style' to and from Silver Ridge Ranch in Easton, Washington. We had the privilege of experiencing a weekend that often exists only in figments of our imagination.  

Hyperboles aside, the weekend began with many runners arriving to the ranch on Friday evening. We camped altogether, beside the start and finish 'line' (an open area behind a field). I arrived after 'ultradriving' from Colorado and set up beside some friends and my exhaustion immediately disappeared. My girlfriends drove down from Vancouver later Friday evening. We spent the night hours laughing about our unregulated start times in the morning, gossiping, and drinking wine in my van. I remember wondering if there was anything better than this - a ranch, inspiring friends, wine, a van, and having the opportunity to explore gorgeous new trails the next day. 

The looped course includes parts of the Cascade Crest 100 miler - connecting Domerie Divide, Thomas Mountain, French Cabin Mountain, Little Joe Lake, Thorp Mountain, Kachess Ridge (aka The Cardiac Needles), and Silver Creek in the picturesque Central Cascades.  It was one of those days, when 10,000 feet of climbing felt like 1,000, and I felt grateful for every drop of sweat and every inch of beauty I was seeing.  The two aid stations included humbling ultrarunner volunteers that also appreciated how special this event was. After ingesting an oreo-bacon treat at the second aid station, I realized I was descending into the conclusion of this run. It was bittersweet. When I finished, I shouted to Adam, "Ummmm can I go again?" I did not want the run to end. 

Needles 50km captured the essence of ultrarunning. I felt the beauty of the natural world coincide with the rawness of human nature. As much as I avoid the word 'should,' the Needles 50km event was a reminder of what trail and ultrarunning should be. It embodied the authentic essence of why we are all doing this - to see beautiful places, meet inspiring people in the ultrarunning community, challenge our minds and bodies, and eat home made quinoa. 

What would you do if you were normal? Taper tests, not tantrums...

Drink more wine? Go shopping? Paint your nails? Walk in a forest without dripping sweat? 

I have intentionally avoided structured training over the last few years. I currently embrace the ultra playing mentality. Ultras are my play, fun, and way to make meaning out of life and relationships. Yet, once or twice a year, I am forced to taper back my mileage in order to be fully rested and itching for a main event or race. Sounds like a dream! Resting the body and mind for a few weeks provides time and energy to work on projects, life maintenance, and attempting to fit into normal society. On paper, yes... 

Tapering and I do not get along. Although it is essential, I have always struggled with it. Everything that running, playing and exploration brings me, is brought to a halt. The better person running helps me become, is also stuck. I can feel like I am injured on 'run / house arrest.'  I also have memories of phantom injuries and niggles debilitating me two weeks before a main event (cue Boston 2013). I find myself with more time than I'd like to over analyze everything, procrastinate, and spin my wheels like a maniac. 

I know that enjoying the process of the taper is essential. The taper will do nothing for me, if I am unable to turn my brain off. As our bodies to not differentiate between types of stress, my mind being stressed during a taper is just as bad as going for a 50km mountain run during a rest period. Ironically, running is what helps me relax and turn my brain off. Painting my nails, just doesn't do the trick. There are many bright sides to my taper struggles. Mainly, it is another reminder of how necessary endurance is in my life. 

Seriously, what the hec do 'normal people do?' By normal, I mean those people that are not out in the mountains and woods for hours on end discovering chaffing in the more bizarre of regions on their body. What does a 'normal week' or weekend look like? I am truly blessed that I have no idea what being normal means, as I believe it to be a privilege to have found what makes me come alive. 

During this taper, I have projects and to do lists. The main one being Vlanning - Planning my van. Yes I'm transitioning my life into a Van, or as I call it my 'Vanicorn.' (More on the Vanicorn later). I also need to sell some possessions I no longer need, move out of my apartment, organize my drop bags, and ensure I have all of the emergency gear for my next event. I'm beyond lucky, as I can also swim in my lake, paddle board, foam roll, go for therapeutic forest walks with friends, and leisurely hike into the alpine mountains in my backyard. 

Over the past week, I have dabbled in the above list. Mostly, however, my productivity includes the art of procrastination, sending stupid joke texts to my friends, twiddling my thumbs, going for caesars with friends, spending money I don't have, over posting on Instagram, creeping randoms on Facebook, and doing the odd pushup. If this is being normal, then please don't sign me up. I prefer suffering all day long in the mountains. 

Tapering tests me, and although I am extremely unproductive with life these days, I am grateful for this process. I have a few more days left. If you need me, I'll be at procrastination station. 

Now, the real test is to rest. (@to_scho)

#taperingisgoingwell

#taperingisgoingwell

Lessons in intuition: Be your competition - not your enemy

The other day To_scho (Tory) and I were joking around about how I don’t to ‘any of the ones.’ I don’t really use heart rate monitors, or watches, or track how far I run and neither does she. There are many reasons why we both don’t use these, but the main one for me is that it STRESSES me out!

I used to be the kind of person who did 'all the ones' and though it did bring me successes, it also brought me some not so fun times.  I have always been my biggest competition. It was never necessary beating others, but beating myself. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Though it can become bad, when your own standards and bars become set so high that nothing you do is ever good enough.

 There’s been times when despite the numerous records I set or the countless times I got to compete on the provincial, national and recently world level -no matter how big the accomplishment I simple felt as though it was still never good enough!

There’s even been times where I’d cry because I didn’t win and took home the silver instead of the gold.  Did I cry because I am a sore looser? No! I’d cry because to me I failed, I wasn’t good enough and I thought that that gold medal would just make me that happier! The truth of the matter is though; gold wouldn’t have been either.  

SO what are we supposed to do? Where do you draw the line and know when enough is enough? How do you mange the constant push -pull with your relationship with success, when you want to be the best that you can be, yet your mental drive leads you walking a very fine line. There’s no one answer to these questions, as it is completely based on you and your intuition. It is also based on your experience - which we have learned is invaluable as we develop as athletes and human beings.

For me I have found that finding comfort in the discomfort, developing intuition in training paces, and setting small goals that don’t leave you placing all of your #ducks in one row.

Finding comfort in the discomfort- Over the years I have learned a lot more, and failed a lot more. But with failure becomes more lessons than with success. Succeeding is easy, failing is not. So find success in the times of discomfort and failure, because that is worth more wisdom and courage than a gold medal around your neck or a time on your watch!

Developing Intuition in training-  This one is my favourite, ditch all the watches and heart rate monitor. Cause lets be real - how much is your watch going to help when it dies half way through an ultra! Train solely on how you feel and learn to develop your own intuitive paces. Here’s what my “zone” training looks like:

ZONE 1: It’s a walk, it’s a ultrawalk to work, a hike.  Or even a moving coffee date. #ultrawalking
ZONE 2: “Lets talk” call up your mom, a friend or even a buddy. Strike up a conversation and catch up on all the juicy gossip. Usually long, slow, distance. #LSD
ZONE 3: Running dance party- rock out to your favourite up beat tunes. Spin those legs and feel strong and consistent in your stride. Be able to belt out a few lines to TSwift or JB if needed. #betterthanTSwift
ZONE 4: Questioning life choices. As Tory's old coach would say "you can answer a question, but you really hope they don't ask you another one." #tempotuesdays
ZONE 5: Turn down for what?! – Balls to the wall, everything you got. #trackthursdays

Set Small- I train purely based on processes. 'The process is a process is a processs...' Finding success in the little things that may have something to do with the speed of my legs, maybe something as simple as reading for 15 minutes before bed, or managing to keep my room clean! Not having all your success come from one area of your life is extremely important in keeping things balanced and fun.

This is how I now train and it's working for me now. Will I probably have a head to head with my own self again? Yes. We need to remind ourselves that we don't always have to be our own worst enemies. We are learning. It's all a learning curve about developing your own intuitive engine. 

CHOCOLATE COVERED SHROOMS!

 This past winter I have been learning about medicinal mushrooms. A few of my favourites mushrooms are Cordyceps and Chaga. 

I could talk your ear off about the health benefits of mushrooms, but for the purpose of this post I will keep it as short and to the point.

Chaga is known for its high amounts of antioxidants, its anti-inflammatory properties, and its immune support benefits. Whereas cordyceps is used for energy and supporting the cardiovascular system.  Both also work great for supporting the adrenals and balancing hormones.

I love in cooperating them into coffee’s, teas, smoothies and now chocolates!
These chocolates are great pre-workout. They are packed with healthy fats, and super SHROOMS!

 

Servings: 8-10

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

•   1/2 cup cocoa powder

•   1/2 cup virgin coconut oil

•   ¼-1/2  cup pure honey or maple syrup depending on sweetness

•   2Tbsp of mushroom powder (Chaga or Cordyceps)  

•   1 cup of crushed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews)

•   Sprinkle with Coconut and Sea Salt
 

1. In a saucepan, combine cocoa powder and virgin coconut oil. Melt on low heat, stirring continuously.

2. Add honey and stir for 1-2 minutes until combined.

3. Remove from heat. Let cool for 1-2 minutes.

4. Add in nuts, coconut, mushroom powders

5. Line an 8×8 glass dish with parchment paper or mini muffin tins. Pour chocolate mixture into the dish.

6. Put in the freezer for 30 minutes (or until hard).

7. Remove from the freezer, break into squares and enjoy!

8. Store in the fridge or freezer, otherwise chocolate bark will melt.

Trusting your gut

By Arielle Fitzgerald

I'm sure by now you have heard of or experienced gut instinct.

Now, take a moment to think about a time when your ‘gut’ felt one thing, but your head thought something else. Which did you listen to? Why? What was the outcome? Where did it lead you? Take a moment to check in with these feelings and thoughts.

Most of the time we listen to our heads because it seems more logical. In my opinion learning to listen to trust my gut and follow my heart, has lead me to much greater things than if I had been caught up in my head and in my thoughts.

 
If you've been tuning into UltraDirt (our podcast via Athlete on Fire), you may have heard us ranting about trying to figure out how to connect the mind and the body like all the yogis do. And yes are still working on this, and quite honestly we still haven't figured it out yet. We are a work in progress, so we welcome any suggestions or advice!

Although I have no shame in saying that I'm not great at connecting the mind and body, I am good at trusting my gut and following my heart. Those who know me and know my story, know that trusting my 'gut' is what lead me to where I am today. Some could say that this is a part of my #swoosh (Tory calls me the 'Nike Swoosh, FYI) mentality. Some may say it's because  I'm young and have nothing tying me down. Some may even think it's because I'm immature and irresponsible. I know myself, and I know it is because of my sense of intuition (gut sense). I know from experience and taking risks that trusting your gut can lead to some unforgettable experiences and opportunities. 
 

“Trusting your gut” is the philosophy I live by, especially when working with my nutritional clients or even just 'life coaching' all my friends. Why do I stand by this? - Because  no matter the goal, individuals need to trust themselves. What works for you, is going to be what works for you! We are all unique individuals and we will never be able to change that. So stop getting consumed in the 'right' and the 'wrong', the 'good' and the 'bad'. Stop looking on social media for the next best thing that may fix you, and simply learn to check the gut, check the head, and check in!

You then  will learn to TRUST the Gut and find the answer or the direction that is right for you! Yes, there will always be lots of good advice and directions given to you along the way (take them into consideration), but at the end of the day, trust your gut instinct! And never apologize.

There are a few guidelines I like to stick to, but then from there…your gut will tell you what feels good and what doesn’t!  

 3 Health to tips for ‘Trusting you Gut’

1. #JERF: Just Eat Real Food. Fuel your engine with the most nutrient dense foods possible. Think colour. Think tip to tail  (including organs and bone broth), think what makes me feel good, and then what doesn't! Simply put: Keep it simple and keep it real! 

2.  Develop an intuitive sense, listen to your body. Check in instead of out. 

3. #GZF- enough said. Refuse to give two shits about what other people say. No one else is you!

 


Set the stage for success: It's not what you can't, but rather what you can

By Arielle Fitzgerald

One of the most rewarding things about what I do, is connecting the dots for people when it comes to their health, performance and wellbeing. Though just as much I am connecting the dots for them, they are connecting the dots for me.

The other day when I was down visiting one on my friends. I've been helping him with healing his gut and he made a very valid point when we got talking about all his dietary restrictions.

"I found It's not about focusing on what I can't have, but instead what I can. "

Its's like a lightbulb went off and I couldn't have agreed more with what he was saying. If you're focusing on what you can have versus what you can't it will make whatever the situation you are in much more enjoyable.

Though, more often than not we are only focussing on what you can't have. Which is then just sending negative messages to the mind,  immediately setting yourself up for failure. Think about it this way...Would you approach challenge by focusing on the problem or the solution?

Which is when I came up with the A.P.P.L.E solution!
(Practice this every day and you're bound to keep the doctor away. )

A- Acceptance : accept where you are, and what you have. Operate in that window of opportunity. Leave what you don't or can't have behind, it's wasted energy that no longer serves you. Learning to accept what is, let go of what was and move forward will set the stage for success of what will be.

P-Perspective: how you interpret a situation will fuel the fire. You can't light a fire with a wet log, just like you won't get very far with a "pity me" card! If you go at the solution with a negative mindset, chances are the outcome will be negative. It's all in your perspective. It's just as easy to focus on 'I can' as it is to focus on 'I can't.'

P-Person:know the kind of person you are! We all have our own bag of tricks that work best for us. Own them and use them to your advantage regardless of what anyone else says! Write a list of strategies and motivations that will keep the flame burning when that storm hits.  Some things that I have found to work well are:

-Keeping it simple: Simplicity is bliss! Keeping it simple and not over complicating the situations will make it that much easier and sustainable   

-Give up on perfection- it doesn't exists

-Make a "can" list: Who cares about what you can't have, what really matters is what you can have.

L-Life: Life will happen, there will be bumps and turns along the way and possibly even a few storms. It's life, it happens, it's meant to happen, we are only human and it's in our nature to struggle. But learning to find the positive when faced with negative will make you that much better at finding the solutions in all the everyday challenges. Practice, practice practice; practicing this will leave you that much stronger, adaptable and resilient in the long run no matter how big or small the goal

E-End results: Eye on the prize! Each day do the best you can in your given situation. Some days will be easier than others, but always remember if there were not rough times, there would also be no easy times either. 


Real life application

For example, say you're out with an injury that leaves you sidelined from running. You know what you have to do in order to get better, yet you still only focus on the fact that you can’t run. A better way to approach recovery however would be by using  ‘A.P.P.L.E’.

A- Accept: that you are injured, that you can’t run. Move on! Focus on all the other activities that you can do that will bring you closer to your goal.

P-Perspective: Yes, we’ve all been down that road. Recovery sucks! But if you only focus on the shitty part, well yeah it is going to suck. By changing your perspective and focusing on all that you can do, the journey through recovery will be that much more enjoyable.  And half the time you end up coming out a better runner.

P-  Person: Know who you are. If you know recovery time is generally a time where you get down in the dumps, well find ways to surround yourself with others who will keep you motivated. Do what you need to do. Personally for me I don’t mind recovery, I look at is as a time to check in with where I’m at, as well as a learning opportunity to how I got there. 

L-life: just like anything life happens, and the healing journey won't all be rainbows and butterflies. It might leave you sidelined for longer than you thought. Let go of all acceptations and trust the process.  

E-End: Eye on the prize! Don’t focus on your next goal race, or what you are going to do when you can run again. Focus solely on the ability to be able to run. Any goal that is longer than 90 days is considered a dream, so set small! 

Coconut energy bars

These bars are packed with energy, and are a great pre-workout snack. I use vital protein collagen powder for the extra benefits that collagen has to offer, but you can easily omit it. The fats from the coconut, along with the nutritional benefits of honey, make these a great guilt free treat.
 

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (80g)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup, ¼ cup honey (or 1/4 cup water and 2-3 stevia packs)

1/4 cup virgin coconut oil

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt
Optional; Vital protein collagen powder

optional add ins: Dark chocolate chips, pecans, cashews

Directions:

1. In a pot, bring maple syrup and coconut oil to a simmer, add in coconut, vanilla and salt.
2. Press mixture into a 7 x 5 container and place in the refrigerator or freezer until solid
3. Cut into 6-8 bars, depending on preferences.