#mytar17 FINISH LINE – My year of living the Amazing Race Canada.

The final leg.  The home stretch.  The finish mat of my own personal Amazing Race Canada 2017 is in view, I’ve dropped my backpack and now there’s nothing left but the sprint to Jon and for him to tell me what place I finished in.   Image result for the amazing race canada

I began writing this post at 30,000 feet on my way back from a whirlwind business trip to Miami, which could not have been more appropriate, as there is nothing more Amazing Race than having spent a few chaotic hours in a city filled with nonstop action and then getting on a plane to somewhere else.  I originally had planned to end this challenge where it all began, but I no longer have access to that bathtub or Toronto condo, so Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood will need to fill in.  This year has flown by.  If you had asked me while I was writing the first #myTAR17 post where I would be and what person I would have become 12 months later, I guarantee I would have told you that nothing would have changed.  I was super wrong.

In all honesty, I began this challenge for purely selfish reasons.  I had just moved to a new city where I knew no one except my husband, and I was worried about becoming a lonely hermit.  This challenge was concocted, with the help of some surprisingly motivational cold meds and that aforementioned awesome bathtub, as a way to prevent me from falling into a lonely rut.  All the activities and people I used to rely on were hundreds of miles away at the time, and it was time to gut my usual routine and rebuild.  The day before I had suffered the annual “you were not selected to compete on the Amazing Race Canada this year” gut punch – I know, I know, I should not take this so personally, the odds of getting cast are astronomically against us, but we all have that one passion in life and if I’ve learned one thing from getting older, it’s not to apologize for that.  Go all in.  Own that shit.  Let your freak flag fly.  If you build it, it will come and all that crap.  If I work for it and believe in it, it will happen.  Maybe not this year, maybe not for a long time, but it will happen somehow.  The point of all of this is that not making it on TARCan had me thinking about the show and ultimately led to my decision to just say “screw it” and make my own challenges all the while documenting my odyssey here.  So I pulled on my leggings, runners and backpack (dress for the job you want, right?) and got to work.

Final tally:

  • Three Escape Rooms – Adventure Rooms Kitchener, A/Maze Montreal, Escaparium Montreal
  • Obstacle course gym – Pursuit OCR Toronto
  • 3 obstacle course races – Rugged Maniac, Dead End Race, X-Man Race
  • 2 City Chase Urban Adventure Races – Toronto and Ottawa
  • CN Tower stair climb for the WWF
  • Moved from Toronto to Montreal
  • Skyzone Trampoline Park
  • Won PAX News’ Canadian Travel Reservation Agent of the Year 2016
  • Auditioned for a Zumba teaching position, because why not?
  • And emotionally and physically assessed myself and my actions and learned so much more about my mind, my body, my soul, my motivation and what makes life so fantastic.

Image result for city chase canadaImage result for rugged maniac

Image result for dead end raceImage result for xman race Image result for CN TOWER       Image result for Pursuit OCR Image result for sky zone trampoline parkImage result for zumba Image result for pax news

In my dreams I would have done so much more, but the realities of life and time and cost came into play.  But compared to previous years, this was a major change, and it only throws down the gauntlet for me to accomplish even more next year.

Shout out to all my crazy friends and family who took part in different components of this wild ride with me.  Almost none of these were done alone, and would have been 1000% less fun without you.

Physically, I don’t feel like the same person I was last December.  I’m a big girl – I like to think I have an Ashley Graham figure – but I’ve always been active and fit.  Think back to back Spin and Zumba classes on a regular basis, no problem, with some weights thrown in on off days.  Because of this, I thought I was already in good enough shape for the Obstacle Course Races I had signed up for.  The wet noodle of reality smacked me in the face the second I faced down the wall climb at Pursuit OCR and ended up with some pretty epic bruises and never actually making it over unassisted.  It was time to get to work.  I transitioned from a predominantly cardio based workout plan to one focused on weights, and in the fall I took the leap and hired a personal trainer.  Now I’ve set PRs in planks, deadlifts and squats, and I’m working closer every day to a pull up.  What was once wobbly flab is now the same size, but made out of tight muscle.  The lack of soreness after the obstacle course races was a major indication that the work is paying off, and it’s only going to get better next year.  Turns out, I love going beast mode – when it hurts, I attack.  I may not be able to do something now, but in a couple of weeks, I will have made it my bitch.  As I told my trainer, you’re not getting rid of me until I look like an American Gladiator.  Fuck skinny, I’m going to be STRONG.
Image result for american gladiators

Like the first pic, but (slightly) less 80’s and much less tanned.

The second pic is just the most flattering pic that’s ever been taken of my figure, so I’m going to post this everywhere at all times because I’m that person.


The physical changes I expected, they made sense, when you work your body differently, it becomes different, but what caught me off guard were the mental changes that I have experienced this year.  “Mental changes” may not be the correct term.  It’s more that I’ve just learned more about myself, what I’m capable of, what I’m willing to stand (and not stand) for and how to properly manage my anxiety.  For as long as I can remember, I have been the de-facto therapist for my circle of friends.  Apparently there is something about me that screams “Frazier Crane, I’m listening” and I have been told I give good advice.  However, I am really, really freaking lousy at taking advice.  My husband, basically the world’s calmest person, is normally the only thing that can get through my thick skull and help me keep my own life in perspective.  But through this process – maybe it’s the blogging aspect?  Whatever it is, it’s caused me to reflect on not only the things that I do, but the emotional response I have to them, and how to better manage my reactions.  It’s like this blog is allowing me to become my own therapist, and I like her.  She’s pretty badass.

Image result for you're awesome

For the past handful of years I have been dealing with the realization that I suffer from anxiety to the point that it was time to seek medical help.  Fittingly for this blog, the day we submitted our Amazing Race Canada application two years ago was also the day I went to my doctor and got my official diagnosis, as well as began a health plan that involves a combination of medication, exercise and talking through my issues.  So you can say that in this way, the Amazing Race Canada has already changed my life for the better.  And this challenge just took my treatment to the next, even more effective level.  Fear, as with most anxiety sufferers, is a controlling factor in my life. In my case, it normally manifests itself in the forms of fear of death and/or failure (which feel exactly the same, FYI). Throughout the challenges of #myTAR17 I have faced failure repeatedly – certain OCR obstacles, Zumba audition, being way slower than expected on the CN Tower stair climb, etc – and survived.  It’s just been a stepping stone to show me what I need to work on, as well as realizing what is important to me in the big picture.  Sometimes failure can show you what you genuinely want to accomplish, and what just doesn’t matter.  But at the same time, I have also seen myself easily complete tasks that I never would have attempted if not for this challenge, as fear would have previously prevented me from even trying.

This same fear factor had always made me hesitant to create waves in personal relationships, as I was more concerned about being the peacemaker and ensuring everyone just gets along to avoid conflict.  But just mere weeks ago I found myself writing a polite but firm email to an acquaintance, drawing my line in the sand and saying “take me or leave me, I’m fine with it either way”.  This is totally not something the old me would have done.   Old me would have tried to bend as far as I could to make something work despite the fact that it didn’t need to.  It was liberating.  Empowering.  And I walked away with this tingly “I’M A FUCKING QUEEN!” feeling that I still have when I think back on it.  Is this what adulting is?  Do I now know my self worth?  Is this self-love and acceptance?
Image result for you're awesome

Yes, this post calls for TWO GIFs.  Deal with it.  There’s a lot of awesome here that cannot be contained.

As my toes hit the red magic carpet that marks the finish line of all Amazing Races, I get my inappropriately long hug from Jon Montgomery and high fives from everyone.  He tells us what place we finished in, but my brain blocks it out.  The placement at this point doesn’t matter – wait, hold up.  I tried to go deep there, but I can’t even pull off that lie behind the safety of the keyboard.  I’m way too competitive, and no one who’s ever met me or read one of my previous blog posts would believe it.  And since this is my fantasy blog, I get to pick the outcome, and guess what?  We WON.  1st place.  Left all those others in the dust.  Boo-yeah, bitches.

This year was a giant, flaming success.  I’m healthier, both mentally and physically, than ever.  More confidant.  Motivated like crazy to tackle more, bigger, new challenges in 2018.  While I may have called this the “finish line”, it’s nowhere close to it.  This is just the first year of many that I stare down the future and lunge at it like a ferocious tiger (so over dramatic, I know, but how cool does that sound?).  2018, 2019, 2020… they’re all going to be #myTAR and they’re also going to be fucking awesome.

And because the new, more confidant me is now comfortable with shameless self-promotion, I just want to let the casting producers at The Amazing Race Canada know that my sexy ass husband and I are always here for you.  This year may not be our year, but quit is no longer in the dictionary and next year, the year after that… until the show is cancelled, we’re going to be applying and ready to run.  Some day #myTAR will REALLY be #myTARCAN, just you wait.  The world is waiting.  Stay tuned.  TARMAT


#MyTAR17 Leg 10 – Dance Revolution

Leg 10 started 2 years ago when, due to illness and no subs being available, my favorite Zumba classes in Kitchener were cancelled for a whole weekend.  Something clicked into my brain “screw this, I could sub for them and we would never miss class again”, and next thing you know I’m certified as a Zumba instructor.  And then I moved away and the whole teaching thing got put on the back burner.  Until now.  I decided that, since the whole theme of the #MyTAR17 challenge is to get out there and push myself to do things that I normally wouldn’t it was time to dust off the instructing shoes and put myself out there like never before.

Image result for zumba

A little backstory.  I’m a super passionate Zumba participant, and have been going to classes for years.  I’m not a small girl in height or bone structure, I remember my Mom telling me when I was a kid to extend all the moves to the tips of your fingers and toes to make them look as good as possible.  In Zumba, if you dance “small”, you’re only cheating yourself out of some of the workout benefits, as the bigger you move, the better your cardio gets a workout.  So I cut a rather large path through class when I’m there, because I’m one of those girls who #Give’r.   I was also that little girl who used to lock herself in her room with her cassette player and dance in front of the mirror.  While I have no formal dance training, I am a gold boombox champion on Dance Central 1, 2 and 3 on my Xbox Kinect.

If you’ve ever attended a Zumba class (or any class with a large percentage of women) you’ll know that there’s a hierarchy to it.  We’re all basically the cast of Mean Girls.  This isn’t official, and I’m not saying it’s fair or right, but it’s just the way we women are wired.  You size up the competition and systematically try to take them down to ascend to your place at the top of the pile.  In Zumba this translates into being in the front row.  You start in the back, like all good peons, and as your skill level improves, both dance skills as well as working the right social connections, you move your way up.  Now I’m positive that there are some women out there, far more virtuous than I, who can get past the politics of it all and just enjoy the dance.  But for me, my competitive nature kicks in and I want to be front row, centre.

And I made it.  Everything was going great.  The next logical step was to just teach the freaking class (as mentioned above).  I had it all lined up.  I was assistant teaching with some friends from that class, it was all just a natural, comfortable progression.  Until I had to move to Toronto for work.  Suddenly all my networking and my connections were gone.  I had managed to, up until this point, avoid the dreaded job applications and auditions because I knew the right people at the right time.  Here I had no footing.  So I figured I would just join a gym, get myself in with the right people and then apply once I had a good relationship with the staff.  Turns out I joined the wrong gym for that, which was totally my fault for not doing the right research first.  Continuing with the Mean Girls metaphor, I was Amanda Seyfried.

Image result for i'm a mouse duh

So ironically, having to move again for work was a good thing, as it got me out of that mistake.  Enter Montreal.  We’re settled, everything’s all good, I have a great gym, and then a friend mentions they know of a place looking for instructors.  Here I am, pretty green and overconfidant with a practically blank CV and a somewhat dusty ZIN certification… the next thing I know I’m blindly emailing them asking if they would let me audition.  And they say yes.

Image result for panic

Then it hits me – what the hell am I doing?  I haven’t taught in almost a year, although I’ve attended hundreds of classes during that time.  And I’ve never gone to an audition before.  I have no idea what to expect, no idea if I’m qualified or not, no idea if I’m ABLE TO DO THIS.  I had a minor crisis of faith – did I even want to do this?  My anxiety is constantly poking me with little needles of panic, and my Type-A side is telling me it’s time to practice my ass off.  Have I jumped in way over my head and now I’m just going to stand in an empty gym and make a total fool of myself?  I’m good at being good at things.  What do I do if I’m not?  My friends, Husband, fellow instructors become my therapist, talking me down from the metaphorical ledges I put myself on and reminding me that I have (most of) the skills and the love, and that’s all you really need.

Since all my good thinking is done in the bath tub, one night before the audition I was lying there, having a good soak, and I realized that this was just another #MyTAR17 challenge.  So, it wasn’t a big event or a one-off adventure, but it was me, staring into the abyss of the unknown, and stepping out there to do something I’ve never done before. The adrenaline before this was way stronger than it had been before my first Obstacle Course Race.  There it was me against me.  Here I was lining up to be judged and scrutinized.  But I was going to show up.  Because if I was on The Amazing Race Canada, I know I would do everything they told me to (the panic and anxiety would totally be along for the ride, too) but I wouldn’t quit.  So there was no backing down now.

Image result for zumba

I practiced my ass off.  I have mainlined so much latin music I’m practically fluent in totally made up Spanish now.  My arms and facial expressions are wildly dramatic.  And I’m super glad I went to the audition.  I may not have gotten the job (you know how it goes, you need experience to get the job and a job to get experience), but I took the leap and learned from it.  And it’s now only a matter of time before I’m up there before my flock of neon-clad party goers, all shaking our jiggly asses together.  And it’s going to be awesome.  Through this I rediscovered my passion for Zumba, as well as how much I love nailing all the little details of a routine, and how good it feels to turn your brain off and just DANCE.

Pit stop:  Second to last.  I may not have soared this leg, but I didn’t fail, either.  Back when there were more teams racing I would have been super happy with this placement, but now that we’re getting down to the home stretch, the margins of error are a lot smaller.  On the upside, this is a leg I will be re-doing soon, and I know it’s just going to keep getting better.

Eliminated:  The team wearing all black without the ability to move their hips.  You cannot survive a Zumba challenge unless you’re willing to look like an idiot, swivel and shake every part of your body, and wear a lot of bright colours.  It’s not a workout, it’s a party.



#MYTAR17 Leg 9 – Me: Unfiltered

Anxiety.  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Funny teeth. Prematurely grey hair. Overweight. Swears too much.  This is me.  I’m in a constant battle with myself, my hormones and my brain to stay somewhat close to functional.  Some days I win.  Some days I quite dramatically don’t.

Friendly.  Great with people.  Contagious smile.  Happily married to my Hero.  Can do a killer winged-out eyeliner.  Athlete.  Good at my job. Obsessed with the Amazing Race. Emotionally fulfilled by my career.  Amazing fur babies.  This is also me.  I work hard.  I play hard.  And my life is fucking awesome.

Call this my truth.  My crusade.  It’s also my therapy.  And you, invisible readers, are my therapists.  Keeping an open dialogue and being able to talk about all the beautiful, horrible, messy, happy things that make us human is so, so important, and that’s why I’ve decided to make Leg 9 of my personal Amazing Race Canada (#MYTAR17) an emotional challenge, not a physical one.  This challenge is just as tough, of not tougher than the Obstacle Course Races and Escape Rooms I’ve thrown myself into on this year of pushing boundries and testing my limits.  It’s about admitting where I fail and reveling in where I succeed and realizing that all of it combined makes me who I am.

I’ve had a really tough past couple of weeks.  I’m crying as I type this.  It’s not a bad cry per se, it’s just pent up emotions rolling out, cathartic and uninhibited.  Here’s a bit of the backstory: I’ve always been the fat kid.  Even now that I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, there is nothing about me that’s small.  I’ve talked about my battle with my weight here before, and this is something I share with probably 90% of the population regardless of their “actual size”.  Most of it is down to  how you perceive yourself.  After moving to Montreal in July, I was just a little out of sorts physically.  Emotionally, this was an excellent move and I am so freaking in love with being here, but I let my workout regime slip a little bit and I probably wasn’t eating the best, as I was just so busy.  Come August, I had found a gym I love and gotten back onto the wagon and was starting to get my groove back.  And then I noticed my weight increasing.

This is where the anxiety comes into the mix.  My brain is hard wired to go from 0 to 100000 in a millisecond, and it made the jump into hysperspace.  What was I doing wrong?  What was I doing to myself?  How is this happening with regular workouts and 2 major obstacle course races?  Friends and family repeatedly tell me “it’s not that you’re gaining weight, you’re gaining muscle, and that weighs more than fat”.  But honestly I still have a hard time buying this line.  It feels like a cop out.  Plus, if I’m gaining muscle why am I not loosing fat at the same time?  This is all not computing and it just results in me constantly scrutinizing and berating myself.  So I started carefully meal prepping and working with a personal trainer once a week, along with my regular Zumba and spin classes, as well as weight training and toning sessions.  There is nothing better than the feeling or being able to increase the weight you can lift or realize that what was practically impossible three weeks ago is now manageable.  I love this.  In my brain I’ve always defined myself as an “athlete”, and now I’m finally training like one.  I see my waist and my thighs decrease in size.

And you know what happened?  My weight went up even more.

I’m bigger now than I’ve been in the past 10 years.  Anxiety sends me into panic mode.  Desperation sets in. Acne pops up.  If I’m doing everything right, why is the opposite result happening?  I’m not comfortable in my skin and it feels like my body is working against me.  Suddenly everything I see in the mirror is wrong.  Things that have never bothered me before are horrible  My teeth, with their very untraditional large gaps, are gross and not white enough. My very gray hair (thanks genetics.  I started going gray at 9.  Yep, you read that right.  Imagine being the fat girl with gray hair in Grade 6) that I have always dyed red was suddenly not red enough and had too many roots.  None of my clothes, even before I put them on, are “right”.  I want to hide my body when I’m not at the gym and push it harder than ever before when I’m there.  And all of this behavior is unhealthy.

My Husband, who knows my brain better than I do sometimes, gave me one of his patented “calm down” talks (where he doesn’t actually use the words “calm” or “down”, because he’s learned the hard way that nothing can make me go nuclear faster than being told to “calm down”).  He just calmly puts everything back in perspective.  Sure, I’m chubby and not fashion industry traditionally beautiful.  But so fucking what?  That doesn’t make me any less beautiful.  And he loves the way I look every day, regardless of weight or hair style or if I put on my eyeliner that morning.  But more importantly he loves the person I am inside and out.  And I love him with everything I have, and I would even if he hadn’t said that. I have so much good in my life, from my husband to my friends, family, pets, job, location… My life allows me to follow my passions and unabashedly focus on things that bring me joy.  I don’t have to struggle to pay bills, to eat, to know I deserve love, to get love… so many people around the world strive to achieve half of what I take for granted.

Then I was watching Dancing with the Stars and Sasha Pieterse mentioned she had gained an unexplained amount of weight that led to her doctors diagnosing her with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  A light bulb went off in my brain.  Have been struggling with ovarian cysts and super irregular periods since my teens, and was actually diagnosed with PCOS about 4 years ago.  At the time the doctor that diagnosed it said to not worry about it, that it was common, so I didn’t give it any thought.  Nothing was prescribed, no plan of action was recommended to deal with it, just go home and keep living your life.  But after hearing about it on DWTS, I started doing some research and discovered that unexplained weight gain, resistance to weight loss, insulin resistance and anxiety were just some of the symptoms amongst many others.  Basically, my hormones are just way out of whack and it’s throwing me off.  It was time to go to the doctor again.

Enter my new doctor, a new perspective in a new province who looked at me incredulously when I told her what the original doctor had said.  Turns out there are lots of both medical and lifestyle changes that can both regulate the hormones, balance your system, and if nothing else, feel a bit better about yourself.  Now I have a strategy and assistance to tackle this head on.  Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a part of my brain that wants this to lead to sudden, stunning weight loss.  I have some pretty sweet muscles under there, and I want my outsides to look as badass as I feel on the inside.  But I also realize that if I don’t loose one pound, but I get my brain and my emotions balanced, it will be 100% a success.  I’m strong, capable, and focused, and just knowing that I’m taking steps in the right direction and have a plan of attack already makes me feel better.  Optimistic.  Emotionally lighter.

Pit stop:  Keep on racing leg.  This is a race against and with myself that I will always be running.  I’m going to be sliding up and down the rankings on a minute by minute basis, and that’s ok.  I’m going to have my feet on the mat over and over again only to have it pulled out from under me.  I’m a beautiful mess, a disasterous masterpiece. This is #MYTARForever.

Eliminiated: No one.  This is a race with no winner, no loser and no competition except yourself.  Everyone deserves to be racing, and everyone deserves to enjoy the journey.


#MyTAR17 Leg 8 – Between a rock and a mountain.

Leg 8 of our personal Amazing Race Canada took us to the base of the Mt. Orford ski resort an hour outside of Montreal.  It was damp, mucky and as we stood beside the powerless ski lift we knew we would be getting to the top of this mountain the hard way.  This was the XMan Race Sherbrooke http://xmanrace.com/en/circuits/xman-sherbrooke/

Image result for xman race

At this point, I’m starting to think I have an addictive personality.  This was my third Obstacle Course Race/Mud Run of the summer and as I write this I’m already planning out my schedule for next year, because I totally have to do more than three in 2018.  These have apparently become my new favorite thing.  Thank you to the #MyTAR17 challenge I set out for myself last December, because without this goal to push myself towards I don’ think this non-runner who can still not do a pull-up would ever have realized that these races are my happy place.  My Husband and I always joke that he’s white collar and I’m blue collar – he excels at desk work and brain challenges where he doesn’t have to get his baby-soft hands (really, they’re like velvet) dirty, while I’m the pack mule of the relationship, most comfortable with tasks where I can just put my head down, do the manual labour and get shit done.  Needless to say, these are my wheelhouse.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m many years of training away from being in the Elite wave, but already this summer I saw incremental improvement.  Things I couldn’t do a month earlier at the Dead End Race were possible now.   Things that once scared me I’m more comfortable with, like being photographed with streaky makeup and bad hair, and then having those photos posted on the internet.  And, most importantly for a klutz like me, I’m learning better ways to fall that don’t end in catastrophic injuries!  Like not kidding.  Check out my legs:


Gratuitous bruise montage!  Left to right:  Post Rugged Maniac, post Dead End Race, post XMan Race.  Give me two more chances and I’m going to come out just pasty white ghost and instead of awkward dalmatian.  Side note, my husband refers to these pictures as “the hot dogs that you wouldn’t eat at the fair”.

It’s also getting interesting being able to compare the different OCRs out there.  Where Rugged Maniac had harder terrain and easier obstacles, and the Dead End Race had easier terrain and harder obstacles, this race quickly became my favorite, as it was a combination of both.  The terrain was brutal and the obstacles were tough, but a bit more manageable than the Dead End’s endless Platinum Rigs.  The weather did not help us out one bit on this day.  It was damp and a bit cool, and the night before it had rained heavily.  This meant the entire course, already softened from the full day of racing that had already gone on the day before, was mud.  Fuck mud pits, they had an entire mud mountain.  Like knee-deep.  Honestly, that night back at home, I struggled to remember the 45 obstacles we had completed, as they almost played second fiddle to the terrain. But that was very much not a bad thing.  This course was laid out to really utilize nature, with lots tons of scrambling up and down rocky streams.

As someone with a well documented history of not being a good runner, this actually suited me really well.  I’m built for endurance, not speed.  Between the terrain and the mud, running was nearly impossible in a lot of places, and even the speed demons, as you can see in the video above, are moving at the slower place the course dictated.  But more than that, this was just really freaking fun.  It was like being a kid again, jumping from rock to rock and then jumping into puddles and streams with dramatic splashes.  In places we were walking up steep hills through the forest and the ground was so slippery that you had to pull yourself up tree by tree with your arms, because you had no traction underfoot.  It was basically competitive off-piste hiking.

The obstacles themselves were fun – sandbag carries, balance beams, walls to climb, a lot of the standard stuff.   The staff were super friendly and helpful all the way through, so I have to give mad props to the volunteers and people running the course, as they were stars.  When we thought we were dead they cheered us on.  When we were stuck at something they gave us tips and talked us though the discomfort.  And when Tracy went wild at the paintball station, they didn’t hold her to the three shot maximum and just ley her keep firing like a maniac.  Slowly but surely we’re all improving our technique and learning the tricks to get us through/over/under/around the challenges as successfully and efficiently as possible.  I’m still working on the warped wall and getting comfortable dropping myself from heights that seem small from the ground but huge when you’re standing on top of them.  But for a first race season, one that I threw myself into without a ton of preparation or upper body strength, I surprised myself at how capable I am, and it feels really, really fucking great.

Side note – there were HEATED SHOWERS after this race.  Holy fucking poop balls those are the best things ever.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

This race was the longest at 7km, and possibly the toughest, but definitely the most fun.  Shout out to my girls (L-R) Karine, Sophie and Tracy, without who these races would not be the muddy joyfest that they are.  These sexy bitches can do anything.  It says something about friendship when you can belly crawl under barbed wire, get naked in a parking lot and use up all your physical and emotional reserves together, but still can happily spend two hours cramped into a Honda FIT after the race without killing one another.  I don’t think it’s going to be hard to talk them into racing the 2018 season 🙂

Pit Stop: Comfortable second place and qualifying to race to the final mat.  There were no hiccups today, unless you count the fact that I pulled into the parking lot at triple the recommended speed while blowing right past the pay booth, before realizing it then screeching to a stop and sheepishly back up towards the very confused man collecting the money.  We raced like we were meant to be there and crushed it.

Eliminated: The team in the spandex gold speedos.  Was removed for health reasons after everyone walking up a hill behind them beat them to a pulp because you could see a lot more of their anatomy than any stranger ever comfortably should.


#MYTAR17 Leg 7. Why is there mud in my cooter?

Leg 7 already.  June and July had basically been my own #FastForward, with the #MYTAR17 challenges coming in hard and fast, basically all one weekend after another with a busy week at my day job in between.  It was totally insane and completely fucking awesome.

This route info found four of us piled into Rhonda Schmidt, our little Honda Fit, and driving out to somewhere past Joliette, QC (if it’s not in the city, my Quebec geography knowledge is basically nonexistent) to commune with nature and a field full of like-minded crazy people.  It was time for the second race in my mud run/obstacle course race/body positivity trifecta, the Dead End Race http://www.deadendraceseries.com/index.php


It didn’t take long to see that this was a different animal than the Rugged Maniac had been.  More than just that this one was 1km longer and had 19 more obstacles.  In hindsight, the fact that this race was a qualifier for the OCR World Championships and the other wasn’t should have been a clue to this, but so it goes.  Whereas the Rugged Maniac had been a big party atmosphere with lots of inflatable obstacles visable from the start line, this one was more industrial, with the hardcore Platinum Rigs and dirt crawls being the first things that catch your eye. This was an obstacle course race, that had been a mud run. And the number of “totally ripped people wearing minimal clothes” on the course was much higher.  Like waaaay higher.  All these carved from marble tanned Adonises (or whatever the plural of Adonis is.  Adonii?) were tearing up the course in their glorified boxer briefs covered in just enough dirt and sweat to make them glorious. And they were really fucking good at this.

But we were game.  Bring it, we got this.  After the pre-race hype speech, during which I wasn’t paying attention to the French being spoken and indicated I was a man, much to my friends’ delight, the hammer dropped and we were off.  This course was much flatter than the first race’s, so at least we didn’t have to start with a sprint up a freaking ski run, and the run over logs and down rocky roads to the first obstacle was much more comfortable.

The obstacles definitely started off basic, with climbs up rock hills and butt slides down cargo-net covered rock chutes and the like.  About 5 or 6 in we reached the more classic OCR challenges we were expecting – pull a water-laden tire up a three storey platform, climb into a waist-deep river and carry a 40lb sandbag around a course on the uneven riverbed.  It was hot and sunny today, so after like what had to have been about 1km of running, it felt amazing to be in the cool water.  However, because I’m still an idiot, I was once again racing without my glasses on.  This meant that I just simply couldn’t see the large rocks under the water as I carried my sandbag, so I had to go ridiculously slow and go entirely by feel.  I’m like 3/4 of the way around when I hear one of my friends telling the others “wait, hold up, Holly can’t see!”  But I muddled through without falling on my ass, which, if you know me at all, know this is nothing short of a miracle.

It had been only 5 weeks since my other race, and while I had done 2 City Chases, most of my free time had been tied up moving from Toronto to Montreal, so I hadn’t really improved on my jogging ability.  I was getting through just fine, we all were, but it was a slower go than we all wanted it to be, and it was hard knowing that most of this was my fault.  And aside from that one water challenge, I can’t even blame this on my vision, because it was never an issue for the rest of the race. PS – I have been practicing more since.  I’m never going to be a runner, those peeps be cray cray, but I want to at least be able to shuffle along a bit faster.  I’m a big girl, and I’ve always trained as such, being far more comfortable with the power moves than the speed, so I did make up time on the obstacles.

From there we hauled a giant truck tire through a sand bed, hopped over some fire, climbed up, over and under a 15 foot metal structure, and shot some targets with paint balls.  For the first time in a month it was a giant fucking relief to finally not be the target of those, let me tell you.  Then we hopped over a few more 5 foot walls, crawled through sand under log bridges (where I hit my head so hard my vision was wobbly for a good 5 seconds while my brain settled back into place), successfully **cough cough** climbed a rope (I have since youtubed how to do this like 100 times) and used some pretty freaking awesome teamwork to hoist us up a 12 foot wall.  And then injury struck.

Image result for injury


Somehow it wasn’t me, but Sophie who managed to wrench her ankle while jumping from one platform to another about 10 feet up.  She was a trooper, and she plugged on.  Ride or die as a team, Ohana means no one gets left behind and all that, it meant that we were now moving at a strong walk.  Not gonna lie, there was part of me that was happy not to be facing the pressure to run from obstacle to obstacle.  Also, I was glad she was ok to continue.  In hindsight she probably should have called it a day there, but we were having too much fun for her to stop.

In my mind I refer to the next part of the course as the forest section.  We were up, down and a round a wooded section with hills and lakes, and here was where the water really began.  We jumped over a wall, attempted to climb from one tree trunk to another like squirrels and slid down a mega waterslide that went so fast it apparently blew my friend’s shirt up.  I couldn’t tell, as I was under water.  Then we were tight rope walking across a lake.  This was awesome.  At this middle section of the course, I had hit my groove, as the focus was more on climbing and muscles and balance than running.  Next came a tyrolean traverse back across the same lake.

Image may contain: one or more people, shoes and outdoor

A climb up a muddy path left Tracy stuck nearly up to her knee – all there was was a sucking sound and then she had stopped moving.  She had to dig herself out of that one, and it could not have been a pleasant experience.  Then on to a second sandbag carry, this one over an uneven woodland course, and a rope climb.  Now that we were extra muddy and wet, the rope climb was not gonna happen.  The superhumans who can do this get all of my mad props.

Curving back towards the sandy area that held the start/finish – oh, we weren’t close to done, this was just a tease – we got to crawl under a beer truck, hoist a keg 20 feet in the air with nothing but our epic brute strength, and climb a 20 foot wall with nothing but a thick chain to hold on to.  This was the killer on the hands.  I had the upper body strength to get myself all the way to the top, I just couldn’t manage to hook my foot over… I struggled up there for what felt like 5 minutes, but was probably closer to 1, until my grip gave out completely and I slid down.  Sliding down that rough wood was dramatically worse than getting up there, as the majority of my cuts and scrapes the next day were from that drop.

The last third of the course I refer to as the “country club” portion, as we were in an area that may have been a golf course once long ago.  There were lots of water hazards, the grass was better manicured and adorable little white bridges crossed streams here and there.  So, naturally, we tracked mud all over it.  We also spent a good amount of our time from here on out in and out of these brown lakes, basically alternating between a land challenge and a water one.  It felt good to be in the water, as we hauled ourselves up onto a floating platform and walked the plank, threw javelins, swam under submerged fencing, traversed a horizontal rock wall, climbed a wet platinum rig and did a spot of archery.  My inner Katniss is a rock star.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling

Love this pic.  It totally looks like Tracy is telling me about some drama while I’m just trying to not fall, while Karine looks super focused beside us.

Image may contain: 2 people

Sophie gives good face.  Also, shirtless guy.

Right next to that rig you had to sit on on a bit of a swing and pull your own body up and out of the water about 15 feet.  The first tug sends that rope right up main street, and ended up with Tracy reflexively yelling “Vagina!”, which the guys in charge of the obstacle found incredibly entertaining.

By now our grip had gone to shit, so of course they give you a 10 foot bar to hang off as work your way from one end to another.  The shirtless guy running this one offered to help us out, and we totally thought he was kidding until I felt warm arms wrap around my dangling thighs and give me a slight boost across.  I honestly thought I had been doing pretty well crossing the bar up until that point, but I am not going to say no to handsome shirtless pressing his face basically right into my butt.

Home stretch.  We were getting so close we could taste it, just a few more obstacles and we woud be sipping our free beers.  Here we encountered the first real MUD of the day, a 50-foot pit that seemed unasumming, only about 2 feet deep in most places, but we were warned that it had a few random holes in it.  Of the 4 of us, I was the only one lucky enough to find one – we were all walking in a line, and suddenly the ground was gone and I started to sink.  They were not kidding about holes, I’m 5’10 and I had to swim my way out, as I couldn’t touch the soggy bottom.  Apparently I also made a “being murdered in a horror movie” screaming sound as I sank.

Once we had survived that, all we had to do was hop over a row of tall concrete barriers, which Karine was the total BOSS of,  climb the fabled warped wall (or slide down it, as was this experience), crawl through some sand trenches, do one last dry platinum rig, and climb up and over a 2-story tower with nothing but a wide cargo net keeping you up there.  This was where the dancing began, we had done it, and it was freaking fantastic.  It was time to party.  As we reached the ground, we hit the finish line and received our medals.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

Phew!  My hair dye survived!  High five!

There is nothing better than that feeling of “I did it!”  And honestly, it wasn’t bad. Exhausting and empowering and fabulous.  There are a lot of things about OCR racing that have a learning curve – it’s not necessarily sheer power, but a lot of technique and footwork – and compared to the first one I saw definite improvement.  There’s also a brand new list of things I need to work on before the next race in August.  But that’s what brings you back for more.  If it was easy you would do it once, get bored and move on.  With the wide variety of skills and obstacles, there’s always something there that you’re going to struggle with and then feel like a freaking superhero when you conquer it.  All four of us will be reassembling in a few weeks to take on another one, and to put our newfound super powers to good use.

We totally earned our free beers, which we enjoyed while watching hot guys try to master the giant warped wall.  Come on, buddy, shirts are pointless.  Take it off, take it off!

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, outdoor

#SuperTeam   And fun random camera guy!

Pit stop:  Third.  There was room for improvement, and certain tasks took longer than needed, but it was so much freaking fun, it didn’t matter.  We felt accomplished when we checked in at the mat, and that made the day worth it.

Eliminated: The whiny sibling team who kept giving up on obstacles when they got too hard.  Whine all you want, but don’t freaking stop moving at any time or you’re toast.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster




#MyTAR17 Leg 6 2.0 – Chasing (and CRUSHING) Ottawa

The second half of leg 6 was epic.  Two City Chases, this one in the Nation’s Capitol, and this was the one we had been planning for for months.  Go time.

Eric and I started this 6 years ago, back when we first lived in Montreal, where we would take our annual pilgrimage to Ottawa, stay in a hotel, and really make a weekend of it.  When we moved to Kitchener, we decided to keep making the 6 hour drive to Ottawa – we were getting to know the city, we both really like it there, we’re good at long-distance driving together and this made it feel like a mini-vacation.  Plus, this is the one day a year I can get him to workout without too much complaining.  He’s an awesome teammate and a pretty epic husband, but we know each other well enough to know that he will race once a year without hesitation, but when I decided on a whim to do the Toronto race as well, there was no point in asking him because that shit was not gonna happen. Especially this year, as, during the one weekend off between Chases, we moved back to Montreal, so it had been a pretty hectic time.

As long term teammates and veteran City Chasers, we had developed a strategy for this year.  Traditionally I had taken the lead on the navigation – I always sort of assumed that since I was the one who really was excited to be here, I would do the brunt of the work as a sort of thank you for doing this with me every year.  That’s not to say my navigation or game plans were the best.  My excitement normally got the best of me, and after determining where the farthest away Chasepoint was we would hop on the bus and try to figure out the rest of our route as we traveled.  However, as Eric is a video game level designer in his real life, he’s a bit more tuned in to layouts and efficiency than I am.  As we drove home from last year’s chase, he asked to take the lead on planning and navigation this year, and I was happy to hand over the map.

His plan:  take the extra time at the start line, solve the clues for every Chasepoint, map them all out, and then take the shortest route possible between all of them.  The concept of “take the extra time” does not come naturally to me – I’m definitely a rush in, ask questions later kinda girl.  Ask my boss.  Sorry Tom.  But Eric was calling the shots this year, and I had to swallow my impatience and let him go about it his way.  We had tried it my way for so long that we knew how well it worked (or didn’t work, which has happened), so we had nothing to loose.  And don’t you know it, the second we had all the points on the map, they laid down a perfect 9-point loop – we had donated to charity to get our “free” Chasepoint, so we already had 1/10 by the time the starting gun fired.  I’m going to say this in writing for all the world to see, he was right.  Very right.

No automatic alt text available.

But that wasn’t to say I didn’t have a few tricks up my sleeves, too.  A big advocate for technology, the City Chase often posts clues on Facebook and Twitter during the race, so I’ve been following them for years.  Through that, and my previous race in Toronto, I had noticed that they always had a ridiculously difficult scavenger hunt Chasepoint clue.  Above is the clue from the Ottawa race.  The ones in Calgary and Edmonton had been similar, but all slightly different.  While you’re racing, when you see this immediately your brain goes (or at least it should) “NOPE.  That will take waaaay too much time to complete” so you skip it and move on.  That clue is basically a direct route to not finishing with a good time.  However, there is no rule stating that you can’t being these items with you before you start.  I wrote down a list of all the items that had appeared on at least 2 of the scavenger hunt clues from previous cities and thanks to my computer printer and dollar stores, had a backpack full of crap just ready to go.  At least some of these were guaranteed to be on today’s list.  As soon as we finished mapping our route, we quickly bought an umbrella and a bottle of sparkling wine from the souvenir shops on Sparks St. and went to turn in our completed scavenger hunt chase point.  We had: stuffed beaver, flip flops, bottle of wine, movie stub ticket (Spiderman Homecoming had come out the night before #nerds), sunglasses, activity schedule from a senior’s home, bar of soap from a motel and an umbrella.  Plus some other unneeded crap, like a Jurassic Park T-shirt, a toy skateboard, a penny and a water gun.  We had walked about 4 blocks total, and we had two Chasepoints under our belt already.  This was going to be a good day.

As to not make it too easy, the Chasepoints closest to the start/finish line always open an hour after the race start, when most of the teams have scattered to far corners of the city. Luck was on our side, though, and since we had to turn in our scavenger hunt near the start/finish, we were already in the right place right at 11am and we were the first team to get to do the animal challenge.  One teammate had to draw a coloured marble from inside a box of mealworms, and whatever colour you drew corresponded to what creature the other teammate had to hold for 60 seconds.  Guess, what we got:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, beard

Seriously, is this man not the most adorable ever? Also, he got to live out his Spiderman fantasy.  It was good times.

Three points down.  Four came half a block later at the second Chasepoint that opened at 11am, the Goodlife fitness on Queen St.  There was a board with all sorts of exercises, like 30 burpees and 50 lunges, each assigned a point value from 250-1000 and you had to complete enough of them to earn 2500 points.  This is also when I learned my techie hubby didn’t know what a mountain climber was.

Conveniently, this put us right at the bus stop to get us to Byward Market.  The market wasn’t super far away on foot, but when given the option to take the faster mode of transportation, you take it.  I’m hyper competitive, he’s admittedly lazy, this is how we roll.  Here we had to search and find someone dressed as Where’s Waldo and answer a riddle.  We’re brilliant hyper geniuses (my blog, my lies), so it was no problem.

A jog brought us to the yacht club, where one teammate needed to hold a plank for up to three minutes while the other had to flip a bottle partially filled with water until it landed perfectly on it’s end.  I got stuck planking, while he put his video-game-honed hand eye co-ordination to the test.  I was thinking we were screwed, because my max plank time was something around 45 seconds on a good day, but Eric saved me by nailing it first try, and we were out of there shortly after I got into position.

We were then headed to a park on the far side of the embassy district.  We knew we were going the right way, but we saw another team coming the opposite way from down a side street and figured that must be a short cut, so we headed down there.  This was another stroke of luck, as it brought us to a gymnastics Chasepoint that we didn’t know existed. One of our answers on the clue sheet must have been wrong.  So we rolled, flipped and balanced around a nicely padded course (yay, when you’re klutzy and bruise easily **cough cough me cough cough **), got our point and continued on.

Finally we arrived at the park we had been looking for previously, only to find it was a dunk tank.  One teammate had to be dunked in a tank of cold water for a full minute while the other threw the balls to dunk them and had to eat a big handful of hot chilies.  Now there is nothing difficult about this, but one of us would have to complete the rest of the race in wet underwear because amongst all the random shit in our backpack, a change of clothes wasn’t one of them.  Out of all the years I’ve raced, I think I’ve done the water challenges maybe twice.  It’s really just for the sake of comfort.  Here neither of us wanted to get wet, and after a short debate, we figured that since we had already picked up the unexpected Chasepoint before this, that we’d just skip this and continue to our next point as planned.  We were still making remarkably good time with a strangely low amount of physical exertion, so what the hell.

Image may contain: outdoor

Zorbs, giant inflatable hamster balls, greeted us at the next Chasepoint.  You dive in and run your ball around a course.  This is something Eric and his unexpectedly good sense of balance is awesome at.  Me, well, let’s just say the last time I did this I slipped and fell right out the hole and ended up being pooped out while the ball rolled away.  Only one of us needed to do this, so Captain Awesome got his time to shine.

From there we took the longest possible route to Strathcona Park, but at least we got to see the impressive, fortified Russian Embassy on the way.  Now it was time to solve a puzzle while being shot by paintballs.  Great.  I still had the bruises from my ass being pounded 2 weeks ago.  A lot of the racers thought it would be an effective way to not get shot by lying as flat as possible, but this just led to a lot of them being painfully hit in the back of their heads as that was the only thing that was still sticking up.  Fatties for the win.  Naturally padded butts up, we dove into the puzzle.  My previous experience with this puzzle was a huge advantage, as I already knew the tricks and was able to get us out of that having barely been hit.

One Chasepoint left, and it was barely after noon.  We had a really good time going, and we knew it.  Apparently, this turns both the hubby and I into epic cocky assholes.  As we waited for the bus we were saying things like “look at those ‘fit’ people running.  They probably only have two Chasepoints.” and “they’re looking at us chubbers like we’re not even competition and I bet we have completed double what they have”.  It got bad.  But damnit, it felt soooooo good!  Being catty bitches every once in a while is everyone’s prerogative in life.
Image result for shade fan

A bus ride all the way across town brought us to some fancy-ass university that looked like a castle, where we had to pull a U-haul truck.  NBD.  The sheer power of our cockiness pulled that over the line.  From there our genius route planning had left us just a short bus ride right to the finish line back on Sparks Street.  One hard sprint, you know, just to make it look like we had been running that fast all day, and we broke the tape in 86th place.  Out of over 350 teams.  Booyeah, Bitches!

Pit Stop: First place.  We freaking crushed this.  Out of all the races we’ve done, this was only our second sub-100 placing, and we did it without Eric doing his annual cursing of my immortal soul for making him do something so exhausting for a full day.  And no injuries!  It was like we had hit our groove all day.

Eliminated: Let’s just keep the shade going because I’m enjoying it and call it the overly-confidant superfit team who assumed their superior running skills would power them to first, but their lack of good route planning and brain smarts took them out.  Bye, Felicia.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster




#MyTAR17 Leg 6 – Chasing Toronto

Leg 6 found us launching ourselves into the depths of the downtown core, but we as yet didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.  It was time for the Toronto City Chase, a one day Amazing Race/Urban Adventure Race that was going to test our navigation skills, problem solving, pain thresholds and senses of fun.

HomeSo, since you’re reading this you’ve probably at lease browsed my blog by now and know that I’m basically obsessed with the Amazing Race in all it’s incarnations.  As a “normal” person, the City Chase is the closest thing I could find that didn’t involve a casting agent. Here’s the rundown:  teams of two show up at the starting line, then at the sound of go, you get a clue sheet to decipher with random locations around the city.  At each one is a challenge, but you have no idea what it is until you get there.  You have a max of 6 hours to do 10 of these 20 or so “Chasepoints” and make it back to the finish line.  The only restriction is that you can only make your way around by piblic transportation or on foot.  Boom.  Needless to say, I’ve been doing these races since 2003 and I fucking love this shit.

This Toronto race kinda fell into my lap this year.  I had only moved to Toronto in December, and thanks to winter, I hadn’t really begun to explore the city in depth yet.  And then we decided to move to Montreal in July, so I figured, why bother?  Then some friends who knew I was never going to say no to a challenge invited me to run the City Chase with them, just three days before moving to Montreal, and I found myself here.  Over the years, and the 10000000 moves we’ve done for work reasons, I’ve raced in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa as well, so not knowing the city wasn’t as daunting as it once was.   Thanks to the invention of superphones, navigation is always at your fingertips, and if all else fails, you just follow others wearing the provided race jerseys.  It may not be the most creative, but the stalking technique can really help you out in a pinch.

All 400 teams began squished in the distillery district, which is super cute, with it’s old factories and cobblestones. Te weather was fantastic too, sunny and fabulous, and not meltingly hot.  After deciphering most of the clues we figured there seemed to be a somewhat linear cluster of chasepoints along the lakeshore, so we decided to head there, going to the farthest one away and working our way back.  There is no set course, you can do any of the points in any order, and having a good route can make or break your race.

We make it to the first Chasepoint to discover it’s an adult tricycle race – one teammate must be blindfolded and dressed like a Super Mario character, then they need to pedal around a marked course while their partner verbally directs them where to go.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor and nature

This is Ada, my fantastic partner, dressed like that time Mario became a South Central gang member.

From there we hopped on a bus to the Princess Gates and queued up to get shot in the ass.  Not kidding.  Our second chasepoint was “suit up in protective gear and run into this giant tunnel tent thing to put together a puzzle as fast as possible while getting shot with paintballs”.  This is probably the only time in my life I’ve been happy to have some luscious junk in my trunk, as my strategy of sticking my nicely padded butt out as far as possible to take the hits worked well.  The paintballs burn when they hit you, especially when you get hit more than once in the same place, but compared to the other people we saw getting hit in the back of the head or the spine, my pain was pretty minimal.  Fat asses for the win! Also, I had some pretty amazing bruises on my tush afterwards.

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Sadistic asshole.  Kidding.  He was super nice and polite while spending his day lining people up and executing them.

This was my first time down at the Princess Gates and the Lakeshore and it was freaking gorgeous.  Admittedly, most of the previous Toronto experience had been more in the CBD, dwarfed by giant concrete and steel towers that blocked out the sun, but this gave me a new perspective.  Toronto wasn’t as cold and emotionless as I thought it was, and this area was lovely.  Right by the water we found our third chasepoint, which was playing catch with bows and arrows.  One teammate got to shoot arrows tipped with what looked like giant marshmallows and the other one had to try and catch them.  Super fun, and I also learned that archery tag is actually a thing.  I NEED to try this some time.

10 blocks later we were strapped together with giant bungee cords, having to keep from being flung around a park while collecting coloured balls on opposite sides of a field from your partner.  Then we were back to the lakeshore for bubble soccer.  I went into this thinking “no problem, just ram the other team as hard as possible and we’ve got this”.  Then we ended up against 2 big guys over six feet, who plowed us over like we weren’t even there and both Ada and I spent the entire time on our backs.  Loosing that match earned us 30 burpees each before we could move on.

Image may contain: tree, sky and outdoor

This portion of the race we basically just hopped from one pretty, waterfront park to another, cutting through Billy Bishop airport and getting increasingly more urban as we went.  I don’t think I’ve done a City Chase before where we did so much on foot without having to loose time waiting for public transportation, which helped our finishing time a lot, especially since there had been a long line at the paintball challenge, so we had burned up a chunk of time there.  At the marina we faced a classic dunk tank (that water was a nasty-ass shade of green by the time we got there, from all the other teams who had come before), and then got to fire off (and catch) pop bottle compressed air rockets at the beach, right next to a really fun and crowded street market.  Maybe it was a Caribbean party there that day, I don’t know, but the food stalls smelled amazing, I was so tempted to stop and shop, and we were later passed by a team carrying coconut umbrella drinks.  That’s how you know you’re a badass, when you run a race while drinking a margarita out of a fruit.

And then we were knighted and forced to joust until we had beheaded the competition.

Image may contain: outdoor

This photo doesn’t do my mustache justice.

We were closing in on the finish line.  A quick bus ride up to Front Street found us singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” on a Karaeoke Stage – we had selected Spice Girls, but the guy programming the machine was like “No, you must sing Cyndi Lauper”, so we sang Cyndi Lauper.  Badly.  No one can hit those high notes unless you’re a cat and it’s 3am.

For the final push we raced back into the Distillery District to find our final chasepoint, only to discover it had closed 3 minutes earlier.  To keep it from being too easy, the organizers normally have hours of operations for the points closest to the start/finish, usually opening an hour after the start and closing an hour prior to the end time.  We missed it by seconds, and it would have been a cool one, too, where we would have gotten a chance to hold lizards or snakes.  However, since the first placed teams had crossed the finish line more than an hour prior, and the staff that were packing up the lizard chasepoint saw the looks of adorable sadness and desperation on our faces, they threw us a bone and gave us the stamp we needed for completing that point anyway, allowing us to turn around and sprint across the finish line just a few feet behind them.

5 hours and a lot of sun, sweat and fun later we had completed the Toronto City Chase, checking in in 220th position.  It rocked.  One of the reasons that I love the City Chase and keep coming back for more is the randomness of the tasks – these are things that you would never encounter in day to day life.  Life is really nothing more than collecting  experiences, and this is an amazing way to check off things that you didn’t even know were on your bucket list, while getting a workout, a city tour and a tan.  For me, personally, this was also a fitting way of saying farewell to Toronto.  Previously I had found the city cold and unimpressive, but I just hadn’t found it’s soul.  Now I had a new appreciation for what attracted people to the downtown, especially in the summer, and saw it all from a new, much more fun perspective.

Pit Stop:  We dropped a position.  We weren’t fast, but we had a ton of fun and crushed a lot of the challenges much faster than expected.  However, we did check in more than an hour before the last-placed team.

Eliminated:  No one.  This turned out to be just the beginning of an exhausting and awesome To Be Continued superleg.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster



#MyTAR17 Leg 5 – Overcoming mountains and mud while finding self-acceptance

Leg 5 began with the application of sunscreen.  Actually the application of 2 different types of sunscreen and then a layer of bug spray.  This is what happens when you take a girl who’s so white she’s transparent and put her out to pasture in the blazing sun for the day.  Oh, and then throw in 25 obstacles and a whole crap ton of dirt and mud.  Welcome to my first mud run, the Rugged Maniac Kitchener – https://ruggedmaniac.com/obstacles  

Gotta admit, that while I’m an avid gym-goer who particularly likes lifting heavy things, I was always intimidated by these mud runs and obstacle course races, partially because I thought they catered more to elite athletes, partially because as a bigger girl I always think of myself as too big to do things, and partially because I don’t like getting wet.  I was wrong.  So wrong.  Except for that last part.  Despite growing up in Vancouver on the wet coast, I will never enjoy getting wet.  But last year, some of my Zumba friends talked about the mud runs they had done in the past, and I decided that one of my goals for 2017, even before this #MyTAR17 challenge had come up,was to complete a mud run.  I read all the blogs about tips for beginner mud runners, went to the OCR gyms a few times and before I knew it the day had come.

The atmosphere was joyful when we arrived, we were running at noon and heats had been going off since 945am, so there were already a lot of finished racers enjoying the free beer and food trucks and DJ.  It was also good to see both people taking off from the starting point and crossing the finish line.  From the pics online, I had come in thinking we were going to be wearing like 15 pounds of extra mud by the time we were done, but people were coming out surprisingly clean, which made me happy.  At this point I was still making stink face when I thought about the wet and muddy parts.  And the few obstacles we could see from the basecamp looked super fun.  Excellent.  Ironically, the starting line was the most intimidating part at first glance – we all knew the race was being held at Chicopee Ski Resort, but I had never expected the starting line to be at the base of a ski run, that you needed to run straight up before you hit the first challenge.

The before:

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, beard, outdoor and closeup

You may remember from my previous blog posts that I’m not a runner.  Like so not a runner.  I strongly dislike it and thusly never practice it, as I’ll gladly get my cardio from something more interesting like spinning or zumba.  As we headed to the starting line there was that voice in the back of my mind asking me what the hell I was doing here.  How was I going to keep up with these people?  I totally became that person who sizes up the competition, looking everywhere for people older/bigger/less fit than me to bolster my confidance – if they can do it, I must be able to, right?  Just to get into the pen that they put each wave in before the starting gun you had to jump over a 4 foot wood wall, and as I was climbing over I got my hand stomped on.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an ominous sign of what was to come?

Boom, we were off, running straight up a ski hill.  I should definately have warmed up better.  I know this, and I was stupid, caught up in the moment. It happens to me all the time with cardio: the the first 10 mins suck, then I hit a wall where my breathing siezes up and the world is a horrible place for about 1 min, and then I get my breath back and I’m fine for all the rest of the time, no matter how long it may be.  Here I found myself walking before I hit the first obstacle, and pissed at myself for being the slowest amongst my friends.  I chose not to wear my glasses for this, which was a really good idea, as the mud and rocks would have destroyed them.  But I don’t have contacts as a backup, so I could see everything, but if it was more than 2 feet from my face it was in soft focus.  This didn’t help with my running either, as I was tentative on the uneven ground, worried about rolling an ankle and being taken off the course by the medics.  This is a legit fear for me, I have a history of being the one who somehow manages to hurt themselves in the most unlikely of ways.

The first 6 obstacles were rough.  Not so much the obstacles themselves, but the fact I was battling my breathing and wheezing in between them.  We jumped over walls, climbed a wooden tower thingie (technical term), and then reached the first mud pit of the day, while crawling under barbed wire.  Before you’re in the mud, it doesn’t look appealing, like sweaty chocolate milk with rocks.  But once you’re boobs-deep in the sloppy goo that had been warmed to the perfect temperature by the midday sun, you can’t help but thinking “this feels really good”.   Another, deeper and goopier mud put followed, then some giant wartime trenches to jump over and a crawl through a steep dirt chute.

This was where I hit the breathing wall and needed to stop for a second.  We were still moving exclusively uphill, though we had almost reached the summit.  My legs and arms still felt fantastic, though, and I clung to the fact that I had trained for power not speed. Despite the fact that I was embarassed at my slow pace, the setting was lovely, with trees and wildflowers.  As we reached the peak, surrounded by perfect sunshine, not only did the killer climb end, but my breathing cleared up and I suddenly felt like myself again.  Don’t get me wrong, it had been tough but it was definately still enjoyable.  With each obstacle I completed my confidance grew, as did my comfort in my abilities.

They definately started us off boring and amped up the fun level of the obstacles as well, as the farther we got into the course the more fun they got.  Here we had to balance our way accross teeter totters, carry weighted sandbags around a marked path (seriously, can there be more of these?  This was definately my wheelhouse),  lift and crawl under weighted doors, run and jump to try hit a hanging gong before landing in a deep pool (I got it) and then climb over another really tall wooden thingie (continued use of technical terms).  Aside from one very steep but short climb, this was all downhill as well.  It was nice, finally to be able to focus on the onstacles and not the trek between them.  This is what I had signed up for, and it rocked.

The next section of the course was what I consider the “off road” section.  It was still predominantly downhill, but we were going down steep hills of loose dirt and rocks, made slick by the water trekked in by the competitors before us.  There was lots of “please stay out of my way, I can’t stop!” and “this is going to hurt if I slide down on my butt”, but I loved it.  I was refreshed and really having aA wade through the deepest, muddiest mud yet, then climbs up and over 12-foot mounds of dirt brought us to a belly crawl under a chain-link fence.  By now we were about half way though the race, and I was feeling awesome, like each obstacle refreshed me, bringing more and more energy with it.  We were all in great moods, laughing and high-fiving and cannonballing, really in the spirit of the day.

Image result for cannonball pool

The mood of the obstacles had changed too.  They even looked different, with inflatables and trampolines, like a muddy children’s party with much more body hair.  We swung across a deep trench, then bounced our way across a field of trampolines to a cargo net, climbed over a giant bouncy castle and then up the famed warped wall.  Since we were all slippery and tired and human, there was a guy stationed at the top to catch anyone who didn’t managed to clear the wall.  Could you imagine that job?  That guy was jacked – who needs a gym when you spend all day hauling people?  I actually did better on the wall than I had done in most of my training runs, reaching the top with my hands, only to get hung up pulling myself up and over.  All I heard was someone say “give me your leg”, so I did and I was flung over before I knew it.  This led to a cargo net climb to a giant inflatable water slide.

Ironically, this was where my team actually ran into injury.   Four of us slid down the really tall slide together, holding hands, only to have us all land on one guy, resulting in a pretty epic floor burn on his elbow that got him all the way down to the cartiledge.  #WarWounds.  But he bounced back right away and soon we were scampering over a giant cargo net, pulling ourselves up through pipes, belly crawling through more mud, jumping over rows of fire, swinging accross rings, and pulling weights up on long ropes.  But we had made it.  One final sprint to the finish line and we were official Rugged Maniacs!  We had made this mud run our bitch!

The after:Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

I felt like a monster.  27 obstacles in under an hour and a half, we had crushed it.  I don’t know if it was adrenaline or training, but I didn’t even feel tired.  I could have kept going, and I already mentally was planning my next race.  I need to do more of these.  So much fun.  We took the photo above at the finish line, and we were all glowing.

That evening though, looking back at this photo, it hit me in the wrong way.  Looking at it, all I saw was the roll of where my wet shirt was sinking into my wide stomach and the way the sunshine rippled off the lumps on my arms.  Arms that, had you asked me that morning, I would say were more muscular than fat, but here made me question my workout routine.  I felt I looked huge, like I used skinny bitches for snacks.  It was a blow to my body confidence.  A blow that made me sad at first, but then made me angry.  I was angry at myself for thinking that way.  This body had just crushed it’s first mud run, had energy to spare, and had breezed through the strength challenges.  Was dramatically less bruised than expected and I wasn’t even sore the next day.  Sure, I had struggled on a few obstacles and sucked at the running portion, but this was my first OCR, a learning experience, and now I know what to work on in the future.  And there will be a future.

Then I remembered that there is also so much more to a good picture than the subject.  I’m no model, but if you cover some models in mud and take their photos on an iPhone they’re not going to blow your mind either.  Plus, I could probably lift them.  Lighting and angles can make all the difference as well.  Here is a photo I had taken two days earlier, while trying to decide what to wear for the race, and I look freaking awesome.

Same weight, more flattering angle, better pose and soft lighting.

Gabourey Sidibe said that self-confidence is like lipstick, you have to reapply multiple times a day.  Preach, sister, preach.  After a few days of forgetting this and wallowing in self-loathing, I pulled out the lipstick, applied a nice, thick layer and said fuck it.  I got this.  And I registered for 2 more Obstacle Course Races this summer.  Even if I train my heart out, I don’t have enough time before then to really change my fitness level or weight by much, and that’s ok.  I’m probably going to see myself as fat in those soggy, dirty photos, too.  But I’m also going to see myself as strong, capable, and truly enjoying life, and that really, honestly is all that matters.

Pit stop – 1st place.  We weren’t the fastest runners or the best at the obstacles, but the emotional improvement pushed us to a lead no one could touch.

Eliminated – The team of ultra-fit dude bros who thought they could show off and ended up with a race-ending injury and a trip to the ER.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster

#mytar17 leg 4 – Look up, look waaaaay up

Leg four began very early on a Saturday morning, with the clue telling us to hop on the TTC and get to the big pointy thing downtown Toronto.  There was only one thing this could be, the CN Tower, which was, until 2011, the World’s Tallest Tower http://www.cntower.ca/en-ca/about-us/awards-and-records/records.html. I was actually really looking forwards to this – I’m still a Toronto neophyte and had never been up the tower before.  I wanted to see the view, but also, I am really interested in someday doing the CN Tower edgewalk, where they basically strap you to a clothesline and let you pop out there and stroll around like that’s something people should be able to do.  This was sort of my test, to see what level of backflips my stomach did when I looked down. However, in order to look down, you need to first get to the top, and we were doing it the old fashioned way, by taking the stairs.  144 storeys.  No big deal.  This was the World Wildlife Fund’s CN Tower climb for Nature.

Image result for cn tower

So, we get there at 8, only an hour after registration had opened, and already we’re being passed by people in their Panda tees, their times emblazoned on the back, as they’re heading to the TTC on their way home.  They’re done?  Awesome.  This is going to be even easier than I expected!  I clearly have no idea about my physical capabilities, which as this challenge progresses, I’m starting to think is a good thing.  It’s leading to me happily signing up for things and launching into them without my normal anxiety-riddled hesitation.  I’m sure you’ll learn more about that later somewhere on this blog.  Anyway, the point is, that all the way through check in and coat check and all the lines after lines after lines that you have to go through to finally be able to climb (there had to be 1000 people there when I was there), I was still freaking excited to go take on this giant tower.  Like we literally jogged down the walkway and up the 4 flights of stairs it takes to just get to the starting point of the climb.

My first thoughts as the climb begins go something like this: “Oooh, it’s nice and cool and refreshing in this giant concrete tower!” “Aw, the artwork from the school kids adorning walls to cheer us on is really cute” “Oh holy fuck, it’s only been 30 floors?” “I can’t breathe.  Why can’t I breathe?”.    It becomes very clear, very quickly, that I’m conditioned fot HIIT and interval training.  Long distance stair climbing is more akin to marathon running, just steady state cardio for an extended period of time.  Totes not my wheelhouse.  I quickly loose my friend (a runner) as I have to stop like every 20 storeys to get my breath back.

Image result for climbing stairs

Random picture found from Google Image search.  Don’t know who these people are, but they probably also beat my time.  And that became the theme of the day.  Me sprint climbing for a burst then standing on one of the landings that didn’t have paramedics on it, because I knew my face was like 100 shades of red, but aside from that I was ok, so I didn’t want them to think I was dying.  And while I was taking  short breather, I was being passed by 7 year olds with their little fucking hummingbird hearts, or 60-ish laddies in blouses and nikes who looked like they were out for a sunday stroll.  How were they making it look so easy?

The climb felt like it took forever, but the second I reached the timing point at the top, the end of the official climb, I was like “that went by so fast!”  I had done it.  I had freaking done it.  The chubby girl from Coquitlam had climbed the gooddam CN Tower.  Booyeah, bitches.  Then the volunteers tell you there’s still 6 more flights to go to get to the viewing deck, which was the only way out.  What the actual fuck?  Had I not given enough?  I’m pretty sure I gave them a Luigi Death Stare as I passed.

Image result for luigi death stare

Now I was at the top of the CN Tower for the first time.   It was noisy, overcrowded with sweaty climbers, and all I wanted was water.  Honestly, I didn’t care that I was at the top and surrounded by a spectacular view on a sunny day.  All I wanted to do was sit down, but I knew that if I did it was all over.  So I made sure to go out onto the viewing platform, in the cold, April wind  to get a breath of fresh air and at least take a second to drink it all in.  And to look down.  This was basically the highest you can get in Canada, so if you’re looking for a place to tackle your fear of heights, this was it.  I fully expected my stomach to lurch and my pulse to race just from being that high.  Maybe it was the fatigue or maybe I’m just not afraid of things like I used to be, but I felt nothing.  Looking down was strangely exhilirating, instead of terrifying.  The whole ride down on the glass bottomed elevator I calmly watched as the ground came at us at 22kmph.

By the time we reached the bottom, I had my breath back, my heart rate had returned to normal, and the exercise endorphins had kicked in.  The natural high hit me like a strong drink.  34:34.  Bottom to top.  A lower end of average time.  I was definately disappointed, and my friend had beaten me by a whole 13 minutes.  But I did it.  I reminded myself everyone has to be a beginner some time, and this was my benchmark for improvement.  Plus, I felt freaking great, and to my great delight, my muscles weren’t even sore afterwards.  I had the strength conditioning down, just needed to work on the endurance.  1776 steps (plus the additional ones before and afterwards that they pretend don’t exist), no big deal.  Giving myself a big “good game” slap on the ass for this one.

Leg four, pitstop:  Second to last place.  Dropped a few spots, but gained a better understanding of physical limits.   Eliminated: it came down to a footrace, but getting lost en route to the CN Tower cost a team the race.  Luckily we had that much of a head start and managed to stay alive, but if I had stopped to take one more breather we may be heading home now.

The Amazing Race Pit Stop Poster


Reservation Agent of the Year!!!!

So, the number of blog posts that have made it onto this page since I launched this blog has been lower than both you and I anticipated.  Sorry about that!  Oh God, can I sound more Canadian?  I do have a good reason for my sluggish posting, I promise.   In my offline life, I’m a Specialty Reservations Agent for Exotik Tours, specializing in Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Europe.  Basically, I don’t deal with the public directly, but I’m the travel agent that your travel agent calls when they need to put together some big, fancy shit.  I love my job, and sometimes it has to take priority, you know how it goes.  But this time, my job loved me back.  Big time.

You’re talking to the Logimond PAX News 2016 Reservation Agent of the Year.


The results are in!

Hell yes!  Internet high five!

I am so freaking excited that I literally want to tell everyone that I know, have ever known and may eventually know of.  You know what’s a great way to do that?  The internet.  So please indulge me this one giant squee of a blog post.  I swear it will only happen once.  Or once a year, if I play my cards right (knock on wood).

A little background on this award.  In the travel industry, we don’t have many awards or events that are open to all companies accross departments, from airlines to travel wholesalers to tourism boards, and this is one of the special few. They just throw us all into a big, happy, passport-wielding pot and let us battle amongst ourslves, Hunger Games-style.  But the coolest part is that it’s a fan-voted award.  Someone has to nominate you, and then the top 10 (ish) nominees get opened up to a public vote, where all your clients get to put their clicking where their hearts are.

I honestly still don’t know who nominated me – the first I learned about it was from a client email, congratulating me on my nomination.  But as soon as I discovered my hat had been thrown into the ring, my competitive streak came out and I wanted to win. Baaad.  It was a long shot, I was one of the newer kids on the block to be nominated from one of the smaller specialty departments, but the next thing I know I’m enjoying a photo shoot while clutching my sparking new award.


They like me, they really like me!  It just feels incredible to be recognized by my peers and see the last 11 years of hard work has paid off.  I’m still riding a high weeks after the winners were announced, and it also reaffirmed that my job is pretty damn awesome and my co-workers and most importantly, my clients are the best in the world.

Check out my interview in the latest issue of PAX Magazine, pag 30 – http://paxmagazine.ca/digital/2017/04/en/#page/30

And thanks for letting me brag.  I promise, it’s out of my system now, I’ll be good.