December 30, 2010

2011 Goals - How About the Test of Metal?

Julie Miller and Ryan Letchford after finishing the 2005 Test of Metal

Gary Baker (left) rides at Elfin Lakes near Squamish

Twelve hundred metres of climbing - are you ready?

Mountain bikers show their mettle

Test of Metal, a hardcore 67-km race in Squamish, draws hundreds of diehard riders

By Margreet Dietz, Vancouver Sun December 30, 2010

If you're looking for a fitness goal for 2011, you may want to grab the bull by the horns on New Year's Day by signing up for the Test of Metal, an epic 67-kilo-metre mountain bike race held in Squamish.

The 16th edition of the race, set for June 18, is popular with elite mountain bikers such as two-time Olympian Geoff Kabush, as well as novice riders keen to test their resolve on trails that include Nine-Mile Hill and the Powerhouse Plunge.

For Julie Miller and Ryan Letchford, The Test, which has riders climb more than 1,200 metres and features 35 kilometres of single-track, offered more than a personal challenge -- it also brought them together as a couple.

When Miller and Letchford met around 2002, sparks flew between them. But before long, Miller realized Letchford was after a girlfriend who could keep up with his active lifestyle.

"He put me through your typical girlfriend tests before he could decide I was worthy of more than three dates," says Miller, 36.

Read more

December 29, 2010

Art by Michiko: Sunset From My Window

Sunset from my window by Michiko Splinter 18x24" oil on canvas

Michiko Splinter started painting when she was a young teenager in Japan, where she was born and raised. She formed an art group at the age of 18 and has exhibited her paintings in annual shows with this group in art galleries in Osaka for the past 25 years.

Michiko moved to Squamish in 2005. Inspired by her new environment she began painting landscapes, a subject she'd not done before.

I met Michiko at the beginning of 2009, shortly after I'd moved to Squamish, at a local visual arts group and we've become good friends. 

Sunset from my window is Michiko's latest work, another of her paintings I love. She currently also has two of her paintings exhibited at the Adventure Centre in Squamish:

Estuary of Squamish river (oil 20x24")
Waiting for Summer (oil 18x24")
 Check more of her gorgeous paintings at Art by Michiko

December 27, 2010

Timeless Running Wisdom by Richard Benyo

I just came across this new book Timeless Running Wisdom by Richard Benyo, which looks great. Here's an excerpt: 

"Millions of runners ply the world’s highways and byways. They weren’t always runners, except in the relatively rare instance in which they ran track and field or cross-country during their school days and continued to do so after graduation.

"Go to any local 5K race and hang around after the race is over and talk to a group of the runners. Ask them how they got into running. If there are eight people there, seven of them will reveal that they weren’t athletes in high school. In each case they will be happy to confirm two things:

1. I never imagined that I was a runner until I became one.

2. I’m more comfortable with myself now that I’m a runner than I’ve ever been in my life.

"The nice thing about running is that the runner is always there, patiently waiting to be released. There isn’t a predetermined starting date or a firm expiration date."

More information, check Human Kinetics

December 20, 2010

The sincerity of running a marathon

Taking on a challenge like running a marathon demands sincerity and commitment. There is no hiding or playing games, especially not in the final kilometres of the 42.195-kilometre challenge. 

As Benjamin Cheever writes in Strides: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete:

"I like the people at a marathon. Maybe this is because as a species, we’re so good at concealing ourselves. And the signals we give one another are like the feints a ball carrier might use to outwit a tackler. We hate or love our jobs, depending entirely on who’s listening. We didn’t mean to buy this car. ‘After circling the globe, I never thought I’d wind up in this town.’ ‘I didn’t mean to marry him.’ When you run a marathon, you mean it."

December 17, 2010

Do you reward yourself for consistent training?

In my book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, 53 female runners talk about their motivation and inspiration. One of them is Laura How who started running at the age of 27 because she wanted to lose weight.

As a novice runner, she decided to reward herself by putting $1 for every kilometre she ran into a money box. She hadn't anticipated that this would soon become expensive.

The distance she covered increased steadily as Laura trained for and completed the Gold Coast marathon within seven months of taking up the sport. “As I became a better runner I found the $1-per-kilometre scheme hard to afford. When I eventually broke open the money box I had hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” she says.

Laura used the funds to help pay for her Gold Coast marathon trip – she booked five-star accommodation and a massage. These days she rewards herself for special accomplishments in training and racing with chocolate and ice cream, much more affordable for a marathon runner.

Be inspired by Laura and the other 52 female runners in Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, which also includes separate chapters with advice from two top coaches.

December 16, 2010

My sister set to run first half marathon

Sis and I on top of Chief '08
My sister Angelique is set to run her first half marathon on Saturday in the Netherlands and I am very excited for her. I wish I were there to cheer her on. My parents will be and I know they will do a great job, as the experienced running and triathlon supporters they've become in the past decade.

My sister and I have always been close, including in age. She's three years younger than I am. Unfortunately we haven't lived in the same country since 1995, which is when I moved from the Netherlands, where I was born and raised, to Belgium. Granted, it's not far but it crosses a national border nonetheless.

Angelique helped me in my first cross-border move, helping me load all my stuff from the apartment in Gouda, where I and my two chickens had lived for the previous two years, into a rental van which we then drove to a house in Brussels where I'd rented a room.

I'd quit my nice marketing job to pursue a master's degree in international and comparative law fulltime at the University of Brussels so I went back to a student's budget. (My student house didn't allow for chickens and my parents had found a nice home for them at a friend's farm.)

When I moved from Belgium to Canada, she and our parents visited me there. It was always tough to say goodbye, even though we did see each other `regularly'.

Shortly after I moved to Australia, I met Angelique in Taiwan where she was on business. She'd also been able to take a few days off so we travelled from Taipeh to the south, where we got laughed at since we were so much taller than everyone else. My sister is about 5cm taller than I am, which is 176cm (or 5' 8").

By 2002 I was set to race my first Ironman in Australia, where I'd been living for almost two years, and Angelique travelled from the Netherlands to cheer me on (as did Tim's brother John from his home in New York).

In 2004 Tim and I had taken a year off work to travel and spent three months living at her home in the Netherlands. We raced Ironman Frankfurt in Germany that year, and Angelique came to see her second Ironman, while my parents watched their first.

A year later Angelique and I did our first running race together - a 4km in Lelystad in the Netherlands during my three-week visit. It was very special, particularly since she had yet to start running.

A year later she returned to Australia for another visit, though this time no races were involved. 

My sister has always been an active person, doing jazz ballet for years as a teen. She's an experienced diver and got her motorbike license shortly before she moved abroad for her work. During the four years she lived in Istanbul, Angelique started running initially in preparation for Nike's Human Race.

It was great to go for runs together when I visited her there, such as the gorgeous long run we did along the Bosphorus.

Me and sis at Garibaldi Lake, BC
In the meantime, I moved from Australia to Canada. Angelique has come to see me here three times now, and each time we've hiked and run together. While I wish I were there in person on Saturday,  I will be in spirit. Have an awesome race sis - you've done the training and are more than ready!

If you happen to be at the annual Kerstloop in Dronten, please cheer extra loud for #419!

December 15, 2010

Sunday long run sessions

Squamish has a great triathlon club. Recently I was asked if I wanted to help out with some of the running sessions. I'll be preparing for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, held May 1, and thought others in Squamish might be preparing for the same event, or simply might want some company on those long runs. 

So here's what I proposed on

"Each Sunday leading up to the Vancouver Marathon in May 2011, Margreet Dietz will be doing a long run and club members are invited to come along! Margreet is an experienced marathoner and has written three books on running and triathlon. 

"Meet in Valleycliffe at 9am each Sunday - just bring water and some gels/bars. More details, including her schedule, are posted on the running page. Please note that, for now, this is not an "official" Titans event - we're just spreading the word about something great!"

December 13, 2010

"Running makes me happy"

The third chapter of my book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend profiles Angela Adamson, a working mother of three who decided four years ago that it was time to join a running group. Here's an excerpt:

  “I knew that I could run. I had done treadmill work at the local gym on and off for around four years. I am a very determined and highly motivated person who seems to push herself in everything that she does. I just wanted to make that next step and get on the road,” Angela says.

Angela took that step and then some—a year later the 33-year-old started training for the Gold Coast 
marathon and has never looked back. “Running has become rather addictive. My goals are constantly changing from running 10km, to running a half marathon and now a marathon. What’s next?”

Like many running mothers, Angela enjoys the time she spends training because it recharges her batteries. “I have three small children, work four days a week, and can honestly say running is my release.” 

She knows her family benefits too. “Running is a major part of my life. It helps me keep fit and healthy. It is me-time. I am away from all those stresses in life. I don’t have to think about work, family, homeI just focus on me.

“Sometimes I think it is a bit selfish but then I realise that as long as the balance is right I am happy—which in turn makes for happy children and happy hubby. I think I am a lot calmer, more patient and less resentful when dealing with the children. I really enjoy the time with themI feel I can give them 100 percent of me. Running gives me energy to chase my little ones. It helps me mentally to stay focused and enjoy life.’’

Angela says running has given her more confidence, therefore greater self-esteem. Her main motivation to run is because she enjoys it. “Running makes me happy.’’

December 12, 2010

What I am Reading: Run With the Champions

Marc Bloom's Run With the Champions: Training Programs and Secrets of America's 50 Greatest Runners is a great book that I've been reading in the past few days.

A couple of quotes that I particularly liked so far were:

"Running has given me so many gifts: courage, responsibility, discipline, motivation - attributes that readily transfer to other of my life. The joy of being physically fit -  physically clean, if you will... Even on days when a run starts out with a little struggle, you come home so refreshed." Lynn Jennings in Bloom's Run With the Champions

"To me, running means freedom, but you need the discipline to gain the freedom." Doris Heritage, who ran a 2:02 800m in 1968, in Bloom's Run With the Champions

December 10, 2010

Ultra Signup

Every ultrarunner who hasn't heard of Ultra Signup should check out this great website - a superb tool for raceplanning and daydreaming with, currently, 43 races and hopefully counting!

I came across it today checking when the online registration for the Diez Vista 50km starts.

December 05, 2010

Painting of a poem "Believe"

This is another painting I did of one my of my poems. Titled "Believe" this poem about confidence was selected for an anthology of verse, Island Mists, scheduled for publication by the Poetry Institute of Canada in January 2011.

Using the paper from my final printed proof copy, I applied the poem onto the acrylic paint while it was still wet. Acrylic on 16x20" stretched canvas. Ready to hang. $50 (plus postage if you need shipping). Pick-up in Squamish. Includes a signed paperback copy of my book Sunshine on a wooden floor.

Interested? Contact me via the email at the top right hand of the page. Check out more about my paintings here

Please click the photos for a better image.
Detail of Believe 16X20"

Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Painting of a poem "Flight"

I turned a few poems from my book Sunshine on a wooden floor into paintings. Using the paper from my final printed proof copy, I applied the paper onto the acrylic paint while it was still wet.

This is the painting I did with the poem "Flight". Acrylic on 20x30" stretched canvas. Ready to hang. $50 (plus postage if you need shipping). Pick-up in Squamish. Includes a signed paperback copy of my book Sunshine on a wooden floor.

Interested? Contact me via the email at the top right hand of the page. Check out more about my paintings here

Please click the photos for a better image.

Detail of the 20x30" painting

Detail of the 20x30" painting

Detail of the 20x30" painting
"Flight" 20X30" acrylic on stretched canvas

December 03, 2010

Back to speed training

Today I did my first speed session in, well quite a while - four months. Having run two ultras in that time, a 50-mile at the start of August and a 100km at the start of November, I used going long as a good reason (you may read: excuse) to take a break from going fast.

Doing speedwork requires mental commitment and concentration, more than running far does in my opinion. In the past five years I've been extremely commited to improving my speed and most of the time I enjoyed the workouts that take courage and willpower to begin, and complete.

Kathrine Switzer writes in her book Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports, “People always admire runners for their ability to withstand pain; that is not the issue. What people should admire us for is the ability to have the courage to face it. These workouts, especially the high-volume, fast intervals, were going to hurt. I did’t want to do them, but I also didn’t want to be a coward.”

In the months leading up to the 50-mile I did in August I had noticed a mental fatigue toward doing the sessions that require you to run hard, something that in hindsight probably had been building up for much longer than that. However, without fast sessions I can forget about ever achieving my goal to run a marathon in less than 3 hours so I'd been determined to stick with them.

As I enjoyed the 50-mile trail race in August so much, allowing myself to be a beginner without too many expectations for my finish time, it seemed easier to sign up for another ultra, the Haney to Harrison 100km, than to resume training for a marathon. I simply ran for distance, without much structure and definitely without speed work.

Running the 100km was still a challenge of course, but the focus was on extending the distance beyond what I had tried to do before, instead of on lowering the time it took me to cover a distance  completed already. Sometimes the pressure to PB can weigh you down, instead of lifting you up.

As I did my first of four strides to warm up for an easy speed session today, I felt a rush from the sensation of running fast and I instantly knew that the ultra-break had been something I had needed.

I did four sets of 4 minutes fast, with a 45-second break in between each. As soon as I begun the second one, I laughed to myself - easing back into speedwork? Easy and speed rarely go hand in hand. But I loved pushing myself again and I am ready for more!

Triathlon training programs

My book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon is featured on the website of Peter and Julia Plourde. Please check out it here.

December 01, 2010

Run Like a Girl film

Run Like a Girl by Charlotte Lettis Richardson is not a new film but it's simply the first time I came across this documentary.

The film's website has an overview of the history of women's running (which is the reason I came across it). A link for the Run Like A Girl website is here. A copy, on DVD or VHS, can be ordered for $20.

A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km

Find it on Facebook
I am working hard on finishing my next book, A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km. As the title suggests, it's about the motivation to cover one hundred kilometres on foot.

I wrote most of the first draft for this book during my preparations for the 100km Haney to Harrison. Because we always ask ourself the question, Why?, during the most challenging moments in a race I thought I'd better think about some answers!

Stay tuned...