Rolling Uphill

8 Dec

There is a process, a time, a way to do things. Some days it’s different than the day before. There’s no telling if it will be. Not everyone has the answer. And then it can start all over again. This might be close to describing the first 24 hours of work in Haiti.

I’ve been used more already this trip for managing paperwork and encounters. I thought I had the process figured out, but I missed a few key steps. The kind of steps that mean the difference between someone getting the surgery they need or not. Not the ideal situation to be in and I don’t believe treatment would be denied, but I don’t want to find out.

All was sorted out in due process and I was guided by someone who runs a tight ship…a woman after my own heart! I met some wonderful people who do a great job at managing patient information and watched from the inside as they did their jobs. It must be frustrating for them as many people can’t afford the roughly 5USD for a chart that comes with the opportunity to see a doctor. Many people have to ask family, friends, and others in the lineup for help. This is the only fee that patients pay when they are treated by the Broken Earth teams. It is still very challenging for many of them.

The team continues to see patients, operate, and provide nursing and physiotherapy care. There are teaching opportunities everywhere for the surgeons and nurses. Yesterday, the orthopaedic fellow from Calgary guided an orthopaedic resident and paediatric resident from Haiti in the debridement of an open wound. It is this opportunity that has been fostered through the hard work of Dr. Andrew Furey and Dr. Joanna Cherry, and each team that has been here from Broken Earth. It’s the dedication to education that continually improves the care available to all Haitian citizens. These are baby steps that lead to long term sustainability.


Return to Haiti

5 Dec

 It has been awhile since I have been in Haiti with Team Broken Earth and I am excited to be here again. Much has changed from previous trips and much has stayed the same. What I notice the most is progress.

I am not sure if I would notice as much had I returned somewhere in between this trip and my last. Clearly, the area for triage was well on its way to being finished when I was here before, but an entirely new emergency area, a new triage area, and a brand new volunteer housing complex are complete. An ICU area is under construction and will increase the capacity for patients requiring ventilation. The old volunteer housing has been turned into more rooms and beds for patients allowing the hospital to treat more people requiring overnight stays. These changes are monumental.

One thing remains the same….the dedication of the team members to doing everything they can while we are here. It requires pacing, some diligence, the ability to adjust to anything life throws at you, and an unwavering heart. These are all qualities I see in the individuals who have given their time and their vacation to be here. For some, this is their fifth trip; others their first. No matter how many times you’ve been here, you always leave the experience changed.

We spent the day prepping for the coming week. Inventory of supplies, organization of donated items to the hospital and Broken Earth, and getting the lay of the land. Clinics start tomorrow. Operative cases are teed up. The team is ready.

Ready to be the change.

**If you would like to donate to the efforts and join the Broken Earth family, please visit the following link:

The Carrot

29 Aug

It’s been an 8 month hiatus from writing with plenty of thoughts swirling in my head. So much has happened this past year that made it difficult to focus on anything remotely close to training. We had business issues, we had personal issues, I had health issues, and a right hip that just did not want to get better on its own.

The last time I ran was sometime in March, I believe. I never imagined in a million years that I would miss running. I missed the smell of the air, the feeling of sweat dripping down my back, the sometimes breathless hills, and the enjoyment of needing to recover. It just made sense.

Running is one of the only physical endeavours you can take with you everywhere you go. A good pair of running shoes and a local map and you’ve got it made. You can run in the city, you can run on trails, you can run through the forest, you can run to the top of a mountain….I’m sure you catch my drift. It can take you anywhere you want to go.

I have missed that. I missed it on my trips for work. Montreal was beautiful when we were there in June, but I didn’t get to see it from my running shoes. The mountains have been beautiful all summer, but only from a bike or the car. Training camp in Penticton was awesome, but only the swim and the bike. Even my race in July was only a swim and a bike….no run.

To say that running is an important part of the trifecta of triathlon is an understatement. It is at the end of the disciplines and it is physically demanding. The training contributes to overall fitness because it’s weight bearing and the transition from bike to run is crucial. It is an integral part of the sport for many reasons….most of all, it’s how you finish.

It was with trepidation that I took my first running strides in 6 months. How can 8 minutes of run/walk be so terrifying? The last time I ran, it hurt for days. Not the kind of hurt that is a good feeling of a great workout, but the keep-you-up-all-night-don’t-you-dare-move-if-you’re-comfortable kind of hurt. The sign that things had been ignored for far too long and that I didn’t have the answers I thought I did.

When I finally caved in and saw the sport med doctor, there were numerous thoughts regarding the cause: hip impingement, labral tear, bursitis, femoral head damage. All of these would require investigation, some more invasive than others, so I opted to take the conservative road and see how 6 weeks of intense physio and next to no activity in weight bearing (aka no running). I’m glad I did because there was significant improvement in the level of pain and an increase in strength. We were on the right track, but it was going to be a long track….6 months to be exact. So, with exercises, stretches, and an intimate relationship with rubber bands and foam rollers, I kept working. The big test would ultimately be 50 one-legged squats without pain…and it wasn’t easy. There was form to follow and, when you’re weak, it’s not easy. Days and weeks went by with little wins and added exercises. There were small improvements and some setbacks. Walking would sometimes set it off, uneven surfaces were a no-no, and long periods of sitting didn’t help either. My physio was amazing and guided me through the challenges and setbacks with a kick in the butt or the stern reminder to hold back. Somewhere in the middle was where I needed to be. And that’s what brought me to last week….

It was a rainy Friday, much like today, and I knew if I waited around for the rain to stop to go for a run I’d be waiting forever. I drove to the flattest trail I know and started out with my 5 minute warm up walk. My heart rate was already high with excitement and anxiety. Would it hurt? Would it last? Was I going to be able to run for a minute or two? It took every ounce of effort to take the first steps into the unknown. And then, it happened. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel free, but it didn’t hurt. And then the minute was over. Start again. Two minutes. One minute. Two minutes. And it was done. My first run and, even though it was amazing, I couldn’t help having a little bit of sadness knowing where I had been a year ago. A 5K was just a warm up. A 10K was a light run. The flip side is I know it’s possible. I’ve been here before.

My third run back was yesterday. I did 10 minutes total run time. The last interval my heart rate started to settle in, I felt relaxed, the running felt free. That’s when it hit me….the carrot….the piece dangling in front of me that I want to reach for…..freedom. I want the feeling of freedom that comes with running. The feeling of your body taking you anywhere you want to go. I want the feeling that comes with time and training that makes you believe you can run forever.

When I taste it, it’s going to be the best, sweetest, crunchiest, garden-fresh carrot you can imagine.

I hope you can join me for the feast!


20 Jan

It was a tough day today. I was thinking about where I was a year ago and it was hard to not shed a tear. I was on top of the hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with an awesome team of people. We celebrated birthdays of two team members with an impromptu cake from the UN. Little did we know that one of them wouldn’t be with us come July. Today is Spencer’s birthday and I found myself thinking about him and his family and friends who miss him immensely. I can’t imagine anywhere else that I would have rather been today than out on a beautiful ride with magic surrounding me.



We went back to Joshua Tree National Park. It is a place that is quite magical. Trees that you don’t find anywhere else, rocks that seem to become giant in the strangest of places, and winding glorious pavement that takes you past all of it. We set off this morning to reach the other side of our turnaround point from two days ago.

IMG_3451 IMG_3449


 The climb was steady over rougher pavement for the first part of the morning. Charles (coach) let me know that no matter what we would get through the whole ride today. It wouldn’t matter if we finished after dark or that we were the last two to arrive. We would be doing the whole thing and there was no pressure to do anything but what I could do.  Fair enough. Game on.



We hit the east gate of the park and all of a sudden the pavement was glorious. It is the nicest, smoothest, gorgeous pavement I have ever ridden on. It made me feel fast and it was slick. We dropped down into the desert again and then began a long climb up to the White Tank Rocks. It was a tough climb and all the while I was thinking how much Spencer would enjoy this adventure. It was somewhere I had never been. It had beautiful scenery from the desert floor to the top of the climb. There was heat and sun, but a cooler breeze at times. It was magical.


 I was pretty emotional when I got to the top of the turnaround. I didn’t think I was going to be able to push all the way up there. I felt privileged to be there.  When we made the turn down, the sun was on the other side. I had a shadow beside me the whole ride back and it felt like I had someone riding with me all day. Charles was an incredible support as I had a bit of a bonk on the way back and needed both water and some food. The way I felt, I might have fallen off my bike at some point. I was a bit dizzy and the sun was really hot.


 We continued up the last climb and then hit the downhill. It was crazy fast and I was having a great time. Charles let me go ahead and said, “It’s your ride. Let’s finish!” I did everything I possibly could to put the hammer down. I pushed hard and kept my legs spinning over. I could see 55, then 60, then 65 on the speedometer. I felt fast and it was a good steady downhill. I thought, maybe I can push it and go even faster. I also didn’t want Charles to catch me 😉 I watched as the speedometer ramped up 67, 68, then 67. 68, then 69, then closer….then 70.2 and I pushed as hard as I could.


When I hit the last corner, I could see the entire team from camp waiting for me to cheer me on. I thought they would be long gone, but 15 people stood there cheering me down the home stretch. It was awesome! High fives and giggles….and Charles coming in behind me. He had given me a 25 sec head start and didn’t catch me. It was one of my favorite parts of today.


Once again, I learned about hydrating and fueling. I didn’t have enough, but I managed. I found a new strength in my technique. I climbed better. I need to shift my cleats. I rode barefoot in my shoes. I changed it up and was successful. I went to the place outside the box and found the magic. Thank you, Spencer, for being such an amazing influence in my life.


Comparison is the Root of Frustration

18 Jan

It takes a lot to look within and not compare yourself to others around you. It takes even more to minimize the comparison to where you were…even if there isn’t here. Make sense? Probably not.



Day 3 of camp began with an early start and a drive to our starting point. Anyone familiar with the Tour de California might recognize our ride from Stage 2 in 2013. The riders took a 200 km route from Murrietta to Palm Springs and ended with a 6 km climb to the tramway. It was a King of the Mountain climb and our group now knows why.


It was one of those days where you know something is coming, but you are not really sure what. Now that it is all over, there are comments that indicate it might have been the hardest thing some people have ever done. I didn’t complete the full 6 km of the climb. I made it half way. When I decided to turn around, my legs were shaking, I could barely turn over my pedals, and my legs were well past what I would call a “burn”.

I watched teammates climb and other riders follow suit. It was tough. Even though I did not make the entire climb, I felt like I went to a place that I’ve never been before. And then, the comparison came…the rider I was last summer would have ridden this better. I think back to riding in Zion and Dead Horse Point in Moab in March, Norquay road and Tunnel Mountain in May and June, and I think that rider would have performed better. But, would she? How do I know that? I have never ridden this climb before. I have never been at a training camp in January before. I have never….so how could I think some part of me would have been better? Maybe the rider in me didn’t have the ability to even contemplate this ride last year, let alone do it after two full days of training. What is it that takes us to that place where we are not happy with what we have done instead of relishing in the accomplishment? Is this part of what continually drives us to be better? Is there a better way to get there?



The day was not finished after the climb. We hit the pool for a good workout that we needed after absorbing the road and tension of climbing. Our upper body has been working as hard as our legs to keep us upright and moving onward. Anecdotes of the ride abounded and, when the swim was over, we all remembered what it was like to be the ‘pool rats’ that many of us grew up as. We hit the waterslides and had some fun in the sun to end our training day.


Wash all the expectations away and what do you get? Another great day of movement, laughter, and sharing the experience with an amazing group of people who appreciate life and all it has to offer. Go Solo!


Can’t is a Four Letter Word

17 Jan

It’s amazing how a day can make a difference. My body rested well overnight and the day greeted me with a clear head that felt incredible. I was excited because we were going to ride in Joshua Tree National Park today and it is a place that I have wanted to see for a very long time. I used to have a picture on my door through high school and university of the places I wanted to go. Joshua Tree was one of them. It was a bucket list kind of day.

Bucket list activities should be awesome and provide an opportunity to embrace all that is around you. They are sometimes those “epic” moments that you hold dear in your heart until time stands still. I was hoping for one of those days. It was beautiful. Blue skies, no wind, temperature was 76 degrees, and a gorgeous winding road to ride through Joshua trees and crazy rocks. What I didn’t expect was the feeling in my legs.

We started up the hill from the parking lot. It was a climb for a reasonable distance and I watched as my teammates slowly pulled away up the hill and disappeared. I looked down at my speedometer and it said 8 km/h. I think I could have walked faster. I started to remember the feeling. It was the same feeling I had in my first triathlon. I got on the bike after the swim and my legs “didn’t show up”. It was a devastating feeling and it took awhile for it to go away. It felt like the power was being sucked down a drain through my feet and it was harder and harder to push. Today was no different. The climb made my quads scream and made me want to stop…but quit is not in my vocabulary.

I continued up a few little hills that felt like mountains that would never end. Todd (coach) was up ahead and I started to falter. In my mind I was thinking, “If I could just spin”. What came out of my mouth was, “I just can’t….” and then I stopped. The filter of my memory quickly brought to mind a phrase I used to use when I was coaching. There is no such thing as can’t; you can do anything if you try. And then I told Todd the same thing because I knew I couldn’t give up. I just needed to try and spin my legs. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t work; it was that they needed to spin to get all the cobwebs out from the day before. There wasn’t an opportunity for me to spin, just push, just climb, and accept that it wasn’t going to be stellar. It was going to be steady.

I made it near 37 km and started to see my teammates on their way back from the turnaround. I heard rumours there was a 5 km climb back up if I continued. I opted for success to the end of my day and turned around before dropping down the hill. It didn’t end there…I had a little adventure off the side of the road into some gravel and sand, and decided that the best thing to do would be stop. After some food, some fluid, and some fun with Emilie and Kim, my well-being picked up. An awesome bike train followed it with Jenny, Kwan, Carol, and Cathy that helped drag me up the long incline that would have presented a much bigger challenge. It seemed like there were more hills than we could remember from the beginning of the ride, but when we hit the downhill….it was time to rock and roll. I felt like I had earned the speed and my legs finally felt the spin they were looking for all day. I now have a carrot to work toward. I know my engine needs some work, but I want to be able to be stronger on the bike. I want to be faster and more efficient, so that the run will not be as challenging to finish. I want to keep up with my teammates and ride with them, and not always be playing keep up or catch up 😉

The day ended with an evening recovery run and all I could think about was how much the “kids” I used to coach were on my mind a lot today. They tried their hardest to do things they never thought they could. I didn’t let them get away with “I can’t”. I only hope I honoured my deal with them today.


Photo courtesy of K. Dykes

P.S. Thanks to the awesome chefs that put together the meal plan and the awesome dinner tonight!


16 Jan

Do you ever wonder if you have bitten off more than you can chew? Have you ever jumped into something and wondered, “What did I just do?” This sums up much of how I have been feeling leading up to today. The day that camp started.

First up was the pool on a glorious morning in warm weather and in the outdoors. Life is good when you see the shimmer of the sun in the bubbles under the water. It is one of the things that makes me fall in love with swimming over and over again. The gurgling of the bubbles as you breathe out and the way the sunlight catches them is astounding…enough to take your breath away (which is really what those bubbles are doing ;))

The pool held my first revelation of today. It was midway through the main set with 3x100m fast with 15sec rest. I was making the turn on the second 50m and when I looked across the pool, I felt like I looked right into the eyes of my teammate, Jenny. We were making the turn simultaneously and it was then that I realized that I was swimming with Ironmen. Men and women who have made the journey and crossed the finish line….only to prepare to do it again. I usually swim on my own, so to be in a pool of big fish doing the same workout was mind-blowing. And so started day 1.

We moved onto the bike for a 60-ish km ride. It was a tough day not to have bike envy. Tri bikes were dialed and ready for action. It was a stop and start ride due to traffic lights, but it got us out on the road and moving. It was a struggle for me today. I woke up with a headache that was not leaving me. Perhaps a sign of not topping up the nutrition tank the day before. Sometimes it’s tough when you travel and don’t pay close enough attention to intake. I realized very early in the ride that a higher heart rate was making it worse. I tried to assess the ride and figure out what I could do to finish. I had my second revelation. What can I learn from the ride today that will help me on race day (or any other not-so-perfect training day)? Turning the challenge around and trying to find an answer helped me to learn more about electrolytes today than I care to elaborate. The ability to manage the situation to turn it around or make the best of it is key to surviving the distance…lessons that are hard to swallow, but fully worth it.

The bike was followed up with a run…choose your distance. I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. I didn’t think it would be good. Runners were put on and we were out the door to a nice flat run. The run was somewhat tough, but not impossible. I felt the warm breeze turn slightly cooler and the sun start to fade in the distance. As I passed my teammates out on the run there were high fives everywhere. This is a new experience for me. I usually run alone. To be congratulated for being there and being a part of it, that’s what it was all about. As I ran back toward the house I was thinking to myself, “This is the best part of today.” And that’s when it hit me….Life is so precious…Get out there and live it!

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