3 letters no one wants to hear: DNF

This is the most painful post I have ever had to write.

I DNF the Donald Half Marathon and it hurts.

So why do I just not ignore it, but instead tell the world about it?

Well… I have always maintained that this forum is for me. It is a record of my achievements and failures. It keeps me accountable and provides an opportunity for growth.

I woke up half marathon morning scared. I mean TERRIFIED. it is something I have never experienced before. I realize now that anxious, nervous and apprehensive are not fear. Fear is a completely different emotion.


I felt out of my element. I was not ready and worst of all, I was going it alone. I didn’t let myself rely on my team or friends.

I walked to the bus pick-up at my resort and boarded the bus with 70 other would be half marathon finishers at 3:00AM. We traveled together in the dark and sat in somber silence.

When I arrived at the EPCOT parking lot, I searched out my team and felt sick. Sick from fear, sick from apprehension and sick from aloneness. How can you be in a crowd of people you like and be alone? Good question but we have all been there and I cannot explain it. This was my first major race – I don’t count the local races because the volume of people just was not the same. Never before in my life had I run with 29 000 other people. For a girl who does not like crowds, this was intimidating.

I approached my team and the first person to catch my eye was Mitch. Relief flowed though my veins. I saw  Brian and we hugged like long lost friends…wait… we are. Teammates that I had knew but never meet before came and hugged me or chatted, photos were taken and jokes were told and the fear in my belly eased.

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We stood around for a long while before the long march to the corrals began. I was hot – too hot for a night race, the temperatures were typically what I finish my Sunday morning runs at. The humidity was high and my hair was a mass of curls. The mile walk to my corral (I kid you not – it was FAR) was lonely. I was the only one I knew. Other teams were floating around me, but I knew not a soul, nor was I in the head space to make friends like I did the previous morning.

I stood in corral P, the last one. 80 minutes away from the first corral. I remembered what Happy told me about standing – DON’T. So I sat amongst the thousands of people standing. Slowly we made our way to our start. The runners from the first corral were making their way to the finish by now. Soon there would be a winner and we hadn’t even begun.

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Donald Duck and Rudy Novotny sent us off. The crowd rushed forward. Soon I found myself in the middle of the pack. Not last, which was a surprise for me, but middle. My knee was throbbing from my run the day before when I had slipped on the uneven surface. I figured at this point I would be in agony by mile 12. However, at no point did I think I would get there.

We ran past Jack Sparrow and the Pirate ship out on the highway, We ran past puppets and birds and bands, we ran past first aid spots of chaff fixing stations and then we ran through the gates to the Magic Kingdom Parking lot. I was getting  closer to the Castle, my goal for the first part of this race. I ran for a while with the Team in Training Coach. Her calm quiet words soothed me as we approached the mile 3 water station. 3 miles in and I was on target. I was well ahead of the sweepers and I was feeling good except for the throb of my knee. I knew how to mentally block that feeling so I was good to see this thing to the end. I let myself think about seeing Mitch, Brian and my girl in Magic kingdom. I was excited to hear the cheers of people on Main Street.

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As I approached the water station I was shocked at the amount of cups on the road. I kid you not, it was ankle deep. To make matters worse, it was a Power Aid station. The road was slick with water from rain that night and greasy from spilled power aid, the waxy cups on the ground added to the complicated nature of navigating across. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been. Me, the girl who runs on ice, knew this would be fine.

I was wrong.

Half way through the station I lost my footing and slipped. I turned my knee in such a way I was sure I would puke from pain. I walked through the rest of the station, took a deep breath and kept moving forward – which is after all Walt Disney’s famous quote – KEEP MOVING FORWARD. So I did. I started to run again.

With the water station behind me and the 5k marker ahead, I felt my knee cry out in pain be very step of the way. As I rounded the bend in the road to cross the 5k mark, I heard the words of Mike Scopa from Mickey Miles Podcast come back to me. He had injured himself before and kept running with big regrets. I had a week of work ahead of me and I don’t get to sit – how was I going to manage? 3 more strides and I knew I was done. The pain was getting worse. I crossed the 5k mark and stopped. Shoulders slumped and a defeated air over took me.

I hobbled over the the van at the 5 k and told him I needed medical. He pointed up the road and said its 1 1/2 miles that way. I replied with a “I will never make it. I am sure I blew out me knee”.

He was on the radio and in 5 minutes a brigade of first aid cyclers pulled up. One gal talked so calm and kind to me that I just started to cry. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The disappointment from pulling yourself out from a race was more than I could bear. Even now writing this I am crying.

They asked me questions and and I told the I had tore my MCL before and knew I had done it again. The pain was the same – only this time I knew what it was. They wrapped my knee and asked if I could walk to the van. I said yes but when I actually began to move – I couldn’t get my leg to cooperate. How did I get from the water station to the 5k mark? I had heavy assistance climbing into the van.

The door shut and there was my journey done.

My dream of “One Day – running the Donald was over”

They drove me back to the finish line where the medical tent was. We had picked up people along the way – people who were swept because they were too slow. They were happy and pleased with their performance and there was me – sitting in pity and trying not to cry.

At the medical tent, everyone piled out before me and then people climbed in to asses my knee. I knew what was wrong, I explained what I was feeling and I told them what I needed. Aside from a hug – I needed ice and help out of the van. Stairs appeared and many hands helped me out and over to the bench where a medical personal assessed  further. He wrapped my knee with ice, taped my knee up and gave me water. As we sat there talking and deciding what to do next, a medal appeared around my neck.

I asked what this was for and the gal whispered into my ear “This medal is not for crossing the finish line, it is for the miles and hard work you put into before you even arrived here. It is for the pain and suffering you endured. You earned this as if you crossed the finish line. Wear it with pride.”


Then I began to cry like my heart was broken. Pain more sever than the MCL injury. Ego is a tough thing to over come.

I made it back to my room, showered and iced my knee some more, took meds and limped over to meet my team. By the end of the day – I had enough hugs and support to feel better until the last one. We were parting ways until later that night when one member wrapped me up and hugged me hard – once again I cried from disappointment but comforted by his understanding. Mitch let me lean on his shoulder and use it in a way I had never relied on anyone before. I needed that sympathy and understanding. Once that was done, I felt better. It no longer mattered that I didn’t finish. It was over and I could move on.

For the first time I allowed myself to feel the disappointment instead of mask it. Feeling it let me move on quickly and look forward to the rest of the weekend. What a huge difference it made.

A week later with some distance behind me, I find I am feeling a bit scared to run. This tells me my knee isn’t ready. It will be soon and I have registered for the next race. I need to have a run with an excellent outcome, I am ready for some good.

Meanwhile, I love my team. Thanks you guys.


The Interview

December 16, 2009.

That was the day I sat at a table in my classroom and cried after school. Well…I sobbed like my heart was broken.

It was, but not in the traditional sense. I was crying because I hated my job. I hated my life and I hated the dark path I was spiralling down. Between that day and January 11, 2010 my life is blank. I cannot tell you what happened or who I spoke to or why I did things. I can’t tell you because somehow, I have erased it from my thoughts. I suspect it was to dark and sad to bother remembering.

Why January 11? I started a conversation with someone that day that changed the way I look at things. I didn’t know it then, but January 11th was the first day of a brighter future for me. I learned about running. I didn’t take it serious and still thought it would never be for me. But it interested me.

I began listening. More importantly, I began thinking.

A friend of mine who would become the most influential reason for change, asked me a series of questions one day. They required answers to questions that I had never thought about. Things that made up me. Books I read, movies I liked, favourite foods, activities I enjoy. It sounds inane, but for me I called this the interview.

The interview required me to examine myself. Look at myself in a light that was honest.

I don’t remember doing that before.

Looking at myself this way required me to examine my life and actions and discover why I was loathsome. Why I behaved the way I did and why did I always put myself last. The ironic part of this whole scenario was – my friend who asked me these questions, asked because they thought I had it all going on and wanted to learn from me.


They soon learned that we were the same except for one small detail: I aspired to change at faster rate to achieve a level that would put me on equal footing with them.

Did it work? No.

I realize now that we were equals. I never saw myself equal to anyone. I saw myself as less than average. Less than normal, and less than what I could possibly every hope to be.

3 years ago I never thought I would be a University graduate. I never thought I would ever run a half marathon, nor would I ever be working at a job I didn’t hate.

2 years ago I never thought I would be starting a foundation that would assist researchers that can find a cure for a disease that changes the lives of children and families in ways that is to painful to imagine it happening to you. I never thought people would stop me on the street because they recognize my face and know my story. I never thought I could do things independently and still be accepted by friends and family.

1 year ago I never thought I would work in the fitness industry. I thought I would always be discriminated against because of my weight. I thought pretty things were never meant for people who looked like me. I thought fitness clothes were just for gazelles and gorillas like me had to wear ill fitting mens clothes. Never did I think I would influence an entire industry and see the change happen in the spring and because I had the courage to speak up and ask for something I think I deserve.

Today I sat and cried just like I did 4 years ago, only this time I am crying because I do not recognize that place where I was. I cry because I turned dreams into goals achieved. Dreams without goals and a plan are just wishes. Wishes are just fireworks that go up in smoke.

A woman came into work the other day because she had heard I was working there now. She wanted to meet me. She wanted to hear my story. 4 years ago I just had a sad story. I still have dreams. Not all of those dreams will get goals and steps to work on. Why? Because I have learned that not every dream comes true because you out grow them. 4 years ago I had different dreams. None of them came true and quite frankly I am happy about that because you never know what is around the corner.

I don’t expect all my dreams to come true, but I have steps in place to make them a possibility.

Possibilities are endless.

This is me 4 years ago.



This is me 2 weeks ago. My new shirt with the Foundation’s named and my new look never would have happened without a goal with a plan. It made all the difference…and so did the interview.









Where is WHAT? @Edm_Marathon #EDMarathon

Last night a couple of my girlfriends and I participated in the Edmonton Marathon’s scavenger hunt. I am not really sure why they had one, but it was fun!

The last time I did a scavenger hunt was back in the 80’s and I was stuck with two team members who weren’t very clever and never believed me when I figured out the clues. Consequently, we lost. I had also participated in a couple that were meant for preschoolers and those were DEAD EASY – and so they should be. Last night’s hunt was easy AND fun, but I suspect it was fun because of the company. Doing it without a team would not be as fun.

It started at the Running Room on 109th Street and the clues led us all over the University of Alberta to places I knew about but had a hard time finding. Lost being the operative word. My team of three each knew lots of the clues and so it was a true joint effort. When looking for a Red Door, one said while jumping with glee, “I KNOW I KNOW WHERE THAT IS!” So off we waddled!

We found ourselves hanging upside down from monkey bars, slipping down slides, standing in a teepee and looking for lions. We harassed strangers drinking chai and hot guys in flip-flops. We jumped on busses that were idling and ran across the quad in search of the engineering wall covered in math equations. Part of the rules was tweeting all the pics we found to @Edm_Marathon and using the #EDMarthon so you can go look up the fun there.

We ended up at Hudson’s on Campus and ate the buffet of bar food (best food group EVER),drank water and beer with the rest of the participants. The prizes were outstanding. My friend won a running jacket that didn’t fit her – so she graciously gave it to me and I bought her drink. My other pal won running pants. The crazy thing about this was it was all free. Free entry, free food, free free free – except the drink.

It was decided then and there that this would be an annual event. Free=Good and Good=Fun therefore, why would we not repeat this every year?

Thanks Edmonton Marathon, it was great! Looking forward to Marathon Weekend and running the half – I can’t WAIT!


Fierce Friday: Half Marathon Spotlight with Tiffany Vanderzyde


I met Tiffany while I was sitting at a large empty table at the Police Half Marathon in the spring. It was a weird day for me. I had just finished course marshalling and came in to warm up. I was frozen, so I was sitting drinking coffee and waiting for my ride. A couple of people had recognized me from my Edmonton Tourist blog, particularly the one about Fat Girls running, and had approached me. One gal asked for my autograph. A very surreal moment in the life of a blogger.  Once they left, Tiffany and her coach came and sat with me. They too were volunteers.

Tiffany recognized me from the blog and we began to talk about what else? RUNNING! She was in training for the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon with Team in Training. I had a ton of questions for her because I am thinking about joining Team in Training so I can run either The Women’s Nike Half Marathon or the New York City Marathon. I am still seeing how training goes and will make up my mind in the new year. Meanwhile, Tiffany and I have struck up a friendship of sorts in the twittersphere and facebook.

There is something about Edmonton Runners that I have a real soft spot for. They aren’t my teammates, so it is different. It is more like a sibling connection – the common community of yeg runners. After hearing Tiffany’s story and seeing the deja vu like similarities to our lives, I asked her if she would let me interview her for Fierce Friday. AND she said yes! Thanks Tiffany!
ME: What inspired you to start running?

TV: My friend had approached me about this program and I knew I needed to change as I wasn’t feeling very good physically and mentally. Also 2 weeks prior a girl and I knew had passed from a rare form of cancer and I knew this was something I had to do.

 ME: Aside from the physical aspect, how has it changed you?

TV: It has leaked into every aspect of my life. I have way more energy for my kids and daily house stuff to even just my mental state I am way more positive than I used to be.  I used to joke saying running was my anti-depressant. Keeps my head clear.

 ME: Tell me about your involvement with Team in Training.

TV: TNT changed my life, when I first signed up I was raising money for a cause that was close to my heart and was just hoping that I would be able to make it through training. As training started I had no idea the impact it would have on me down the road.

MEInspire me to join TNT and convince me through your experience that it is a great idea.

TV: Raising money for a  great cause (my momstown teammates and I raised 33,000 dollars something we  are very proud of), tons of support, there is no way I would be able to continue without my awesome coaches and teammates. Meeting the honored heroes and hearing their stories of survival through the toughest times of their lives and the stories of the people who did not make it had a huge impact on me.

 ME: Was Vancouver Half Marathon  your first run or did you participate in smaller events first then decide to go big?

TV:BMO was my first race. Some called me crazy as I started with no experience and extremely overweight. There was a lot of people who thought  for sure I would never be able to do this and that I should have started off with  something smaller…. But as that just wasn’t me 🙂 it was go big or go home.

 ME: What was the toughest obstacle to overcome with training?

TV: Honestly, just being able to run… as I mentioned earlier I had no experience and was massively out of shape. My first training session ended up with me in tears in front of people I didn’t even know and only being able to run for 30 seconds. But I went back to my next training session and kept going back….. Then we started hill training and at the point that’s when it got real for me 🙂 I was actually doing this!

 ME:How much is mental toughness a factor in your success?

TV:Mental toughness is something I still struggle with, and I know the more I exercise it, it will get better. Doing the half really showed me what I was made of but there was a lot of ups and downs and still are. But I fight through and have an amazing support system.

 ME: Give me a rundown of your race, elaborate now that you have put some distance behind you.

TV: Well the night before was a gong show, I was so nervous and I broke down crying at the mention of the sweeper. That is the one thing I was not mentally prepared for. I also broached the starting line with an injury ( I had severe Plantar fasciitis in my right foot and had been seeing a PT 3 days a week 3 weeks leading up to the race) Being at the starting line was torture 🙂 I just wanted it to start,  waiting was so hard. My stomach was doing flips and I wanted to vomit. The race was brutal it was so hot that day and we had trained all winter I was not used to running over 14 C.  I found a girl who was my pace and we ran most of the race together which was a huge help when we hit our walls we talked it through together. My coach Julia met up with me at about Km 16 and finished the race with me. It was about that point where I really felt like giving up, my foot hurt something fierce but I kept going. My coach listening to me as I talked my way through it and yes there was lots of tears. At one point a race marshal came up to us in a SUV and I thought… this was it I am getting kicked off the course  but he just stopped to tell us that they were merging the half course with the full course and that there was still a few halfs behind me. I have never been so happy in my life and kept going. My pace at this point was slower than a snail but I just kept going I had to finish this. My coach kept along with me encouraging me and I was great full to have her by my side. We started to get near the finish line and I can hear all the people and I got a second wave The last 2km felt like 10km but I was I about to hit the finish line the people on the side lines kept shouting out things like “you got this” and you’re doing an awesome job which felt pretty awesome as well. I saw some of my teammates waiting for me and I sprinted over the finish line and threw my crying self into their arms. I got my medal and got my after picture taken. It was NOTHING like I have ever felt before. I can’t even describe the emotions I felt (I compare it to having a baby haha).  I walked around for a few minutes to catch my bearings and found my husband who also was bawling and told me how proud he was of me. I then got to take a picture with john Stanton which was super exciting. So I couldn’t believe I did it. I was very disappointed with my time 4 hours 19 minutes but whatever I freaking did it!!!

 ME: What do you wish you had done differently?

TV: I wish I wouldn’t have stressed so much and been so nervous, nerves really got the best of me.

ME: What kind of support do you have or is it lacking and it is something you need to overcome?

TV:I feel like I am super blessed that way. I have a huge support network I have some amazing people in my life between friends and family that are with me every step of the way. And all though crappy things happen such as people yelling things at me out the window as I run etc. I can drown that all out with the people who lift me up.

ME: Any new fitness goals or races coming up?

TV:  It’s funny  actually I have 2 more half’s planned this year (Edmonton half and Vegas rock n roll) and a bunch of fun races and I am actually doing another training program with TNT as well called Moms in training ( 7 week program for a 10k that’s in September), but after  reading my breakdown of the race I’m sure people would wonder why I would do it again 🙂 I know it will get a little easier each time and I really want to keep pushing till one day my half time is under 3 hours. I will do it. Someday.  As for fitness goals I have lost 50 pounds so far and I would like to lose another 50. I also want to do the Try a tri next year so we will see how that goes 🙂


Tiffany and the Hubs!


Crossing the finish line is ALWAYS the best feeling ever!


Tiffany hanging with John Stanton after she crossed the finish line.

Now you all understand why I think Tiffany is FIERCE! See you at the Edmonton Half Marathon Tiffany and feel free to latch onto me for support to finish if you need it, but I have a feeling, this next race will feel easy for you because you are more than ready!

Happy Running!

I am down, but I am getting up. Failure is not an option

Total FAIL!


I have let the wheels fall off and I am about to pay big time for it.

I am good at that. I dig myself into some decent sized craters, fill it with water, flail around making assumptions hoping to be rescued and SNAP, the drowning begins.

You think by now I would learn. Apparently not so, I have to be resuscitated before it makes sense to me.

What am I talking about? Well, lots of stuff actually because I just can’t fail in one area of my life at one time, noooooooooooo, I need to screw up everything all at once. I am the ALL or Nothing Girl.

The last little while I have been stressing and working incredibly hard on a University project. It is huge, not because of the amount of work for school – that was big – but because it is an actual project for real life applications and it has life altering consequences if I get it wrong. It is THAT big. I put a lot on my shoulders and didn’t want to let people down. To do that, I neglected my training.

My automatic Dailymille notice postes 11km on my facebook wall yesterday. A team mate said to be “Overachiever”. Ouch (Freudian thing – I typed Couch 5 times before I could get ouch out. – weird right?) Sunday I was suppose to run 18km. Did I? No. Why? I was working. I even missed book club. But when I finished my project, I felt so awesome but more tired than I ever have been.

Monday, I was going to run the 18k (two weeks in a row I have missed my long runs – this is BAD) Why? I don’t know…inner drama? Crappy weather? Poor excuses? I napped?

Last night or perhaps it was early this morning – again… not sleeping. I hate my brain.



I posted this on facebook:

ug…feel like crap and totally regret becoming a runner. Pretty sure I will die on August 25. Should cancel my trip to wdw so I don’t have to die a second, third and fourth time. Stupid lure of medals

It’s how I feel.

The lack of training at this time in the schedule is bad. I have one month to get my act together and show myself I can do it. I can, I will, but right now I really don’t want too. I am brain tired. Emotionally drained and Intellectually empty.

That makes it hard to put my shoes on and go. The irony of this situation is I know running will make it better. Yet DOING it is the second hardest thing I had to do today.

The hardest? I said a temporary goodbye to a friend who inspires me to do more. They have stepped out for a while. That sucks. But I understand. I get it. I don’t like but it isn’t about me this time – shocking but understandable. I will miss you, call me when you need me.

But every cloud has a silver lining.

My silver lining came in the form of two running mates. Mitch and Baz. Both said things to me that made me want to kiss them, hard, on the cheek. Because they are married and all and I love them in that MAN YOU GUYS ARE BRILLIANT kind of way. Mitch talked me through the jump and said “You just got to get out and do it.” He said other things that were perfect and that I needed to hear but that was the point of the message.

Then Baz gave me this:


There is a line near the end that says  “Just show up”.

That is correct too. Basically they said the same thing to me. He also lectured me and as all great friends do, they smack you when you need it most, “ Wth!!! I may not have been linked up with you long but this doesn’t sound like the Robyn I’ve come to know. Read a good running book or watch some youtube running films. You’ll be fine, just find something that fires you up and completely forget the distance, just go with the flow.

Both men are brilliant in my books. So that is what I am going to do.

Just show up, Just do it and see where it takes me.

I have the best friends ever.

Fierce Friday: Dopey Spotlight with Jillian Markin


Every Friday this summer, I will be focusing on Fierce. It has become my new favourite word. The dictionary describes it as:



  1. Having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.
  2. (of a feeling, emotion, or action) Showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.

I love the second definition. It suits me and all the women I admire. I don’t mean to single out men. This is terrible on my part, but society has conditioned me to expect men to be fierce. All the male athletic friends/bloggers/runners in my life fit the definition of FIERCE. They are capable of pushing themselves to limits beyond what regular people think they can or might be able to do.

It is FIERCE women who stand out for me.

I am on a running team where there are lots of runners of all levels of experience. There are runners who have only ever raced a 5k yet have the desire to do more. I admire that. But that doesn’t make you fierce.

Fierce is about getting the job done and not crying about it. Lets clarify that. Crying is fine. When I tore my MCL, you bet I cried – I actually screamed and howled and woke up all of Germany. One might think I was being mutilated Technically I was. But FIERCE is powering through hard stuff. Leaning on your own mental strength to pull through. Fierce is knowing when to asked for advice or help and knowing when you need to suck it up and do it yourself. Not everyone knows the difference.

Having someone hold your hand is one thing, but they can’t carry you across the finish line. Only you can do that. FIERCE athletes understand that.

One team mate of mine from the WDW Radio Running Team is FIERCE – actually there are a couple of Fierce gals on that team who are my heroes. But today’s Fierce Spotlight is on Jillian Markin. (You can read her running adventures blog here.)

As with everyone’s story, I am always interested to know how or why they got started. My curiosity with Jillian was no exception. So I asked her

ME: What inspired you to start running? 

JM: I was never really a runner before.   I was active, but never to the point of more than a mile or two on the treadmill at the gym.  When I moved to New York City several years ago, I started to notice right away how everyone is so intensely active.  Everywhere you look there is someone running, coming from yoga, going to the gym, bike riding, etc.  I found myself wanting to be like the people around me.  I happened to be on vacation in Disney during one of their races.  I saw all of the amazingly active people surrounding me there too.  They were flaunting their metals so proudly, I wanted that.  I took that feeling back to NYC with me, and registered for my first half marathon.  I had 3.5 months to get my act together and figure out what I needed to do to complete it.

ME: Aside from the physical aspect, how has it changed you?

JM:  I have found myself able to be more encouraging of others.  I know how much it meant to me to have someone to go to with questions or concerns I may have had, as well as how much it meant to know someone was there rooting for me no matter how fast I ran or when I finished the race.  The sense of community within my running team has brought me to new levels of desire to run more.

ME: Tell me about your involvement with your running team – WDW Radio and any other.

JM: I joined on to the WDW Radio Running Team back in 2010 for my first race.  I did my requirements of the initial fundraising and then that was it, or so I thought.  When I first joined in, I don’t think I realized how great it was to be a part of something so meaningful.  Each race after that first one, I found myself wanting to do more for the cause.  I met more and more team members, that each shared their stories on why they are doing what they do, which made me love the team that much more!  Each person has their own reason for committing themselves to the Dream Team Project.   These team members have become some of my closest friends, even though we are all over the world!  We work together to encourage each other & raise money for these deserving kids & their families to let them forget about being sick for a little while and to experience a little MAGIC!!

ME: Inspire others to join your team and convince me through your experience that it is a great idea. 

JM: I’ve only been involved with this one team, so I can’t say from experience how other teams are, but I do know that the WDW Radio Running Team- has welcomed me in like a family member.  From pre-race meet ups, to constant communication through social media, these people are in it together!  And for someone who was not a part of a running community in the past, I have the team now to help me where I need it most! 

ME: Tell me about the last major race you ran and the distance. What about your race career, what does it look like?

JM: My largest race to date was the Goofy Challenge in Walt Disney World- January 2013.  The half marathon, I paced myself back a bit to last for the full marathon the following day.  I had not done a full marathon before, and (shame on me) did not train properly for it either.  I finished the half in 2:57:11 and the full in 7:06:33.  Let’s just say I wasn’t in proper form afterwards.  Prior to doing the Goofy Challenge, my races consisted of Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in February 2010 & 2011, Disney’s Tower of Terror 10 miler in September 2012, Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon in November 2012, and the Seaside School Half Marathon in March 2013.

ME: What was your main athletic event/favorite before becoming marathoner/half marathoner?

JM: Before running, I only really took classes at the gym.  Pilates and yoga were a part of my normal routine, as well as being a dancer growing up.  During my training for my races I needed to find a form of cross training and I happened to come across Aerial Yoga, which led me to find classes me flying on the aerial silks.  I never knew I had the ability to hang from fabric like the girls in the circus!  It is such a unique and thorough style workout that helps you find your inner circus artist at heart!  I did this as my cross training with running, and it helped to stretch my body in ways I couldn’t alone with just yoga.

ME:  Toughest obstacle to overcome with training was?

JM:  I’m still trying to overcome a sense of routine and that “waking up early” thing is really difficult to accomplish as well!  As much as I try, I need to find the desire to get out of bed before sunrise (instead of snuggling in bed with my sweet puppy), regularly, to get into the early am running routine.  I understand that living in the land of year-round humidity it is what must be done to not go into heat exhaustion.  However, finding a routine once again is on the horizon, and hopefully it’s not as hard as it’s been in the past.

ME: How much is mental toughness a factor in your success?

JM:  Honestly, I just get out there and run.  I don’t really think about what’s going on, I tend to listen to my body while I’m out there. I believe that knowing yourself and your limits is the most important aspect of putting mileage in.

ME: Is there a secret or ritual you use for mental strength?

JM: I thrive on a sense community.  I believe I’m my best when there are others there to cheer on, and to have them to do the same for.

ME: Give me a rundown of your last race, if you would like to elaborate now that you have put some distance behind you that would be great

JM: My most recent race was the Seaside School Half Marathon in March of 2013.  I was asked to do this race with a lifelong friend, who was not a runner, was a new mom, and did not train very much for this race.  Using my past race experience, I became her running “coach” – encouraging her along her path to and during the race (pretending I knew what I was talking about, I did- I just didn’t practice it myself).  Prior to this race, I failed to do the training necessary for a half marathon, neither did she.  Being a new mom, she found it very difficult to find the time.  I had no excuse.  This was in the time after my Goofy Challenge, and I had just begun doing Cross-Fit as a part of my new fitness plan.  Having Cross-Fit in the plan helped my body get familiar with the strength needed for one of these races once again.  In the weeks before the race, I spoke to my friend about what she needed to do to prepare, and convinced her that even with a lack of training- we were going to finish this race together!!

Race morning was one of the coldest I had ever experienced, a frigid 20 degrees F!  

(* Authors note – I love 20F or -6C it is the perfect running conditions for me!!)Coming from South Florida, this was foreign.  We arrived to the starting line together, all bundled up, and prepared ourselves for the day.  We started the race with a nice easy pace and continued to make it through almost the entirety of the race at a steady 11/12 minute pace.  I continued to ask how she was feeling, she told me she was doing GREAT!  OK~ Let’s do this then!  We did everything as I mentally prepared myself it would be, where the water breaks were, when to run, when to walk, and towards the end- where to set goals.  I told her that we had to break it down into smaller races- 5k, then another 5k, wow-we’re almost halfway done, let’s run/walk here, now run to that sign, run to that street corner, see that tree up there- get to there, see all those people up there- THAT’S THE FINISH!!  Surprising myself, as well as her, we finished the half marathon in 2:53, and both felt great afterwards!

After my Goofy Challenge, I had a very difficult time walking for the week following the race (to the point where I got told that I’m nuts for wanting to do that to my body).  It was also a very hot and humid race!  It took a lot out of me.  This half marathon brought out a side in me that I never knew was there.  I was encouraging & there for someone else other than me!  I suddenly realized that I needed to not only listen to myself, but to listen to my running partner as well….and I LOVED it!  I actually really enjoyed running in the cold weather as well!  If I had a choice, I would have it that temperature for all of my distance races, but NO, I’m not MOVING!

ME: What do you wish you had done differently?

JM: This goes for all of my races—–TRAIN PROPERLY!!

ME:   New fitness goals? Any races coming up?

JM: I am actively training for Disney’s Dopey Challenge- January 2014- with hopes of the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare 2014- completing the Coast to Coast Challenge.  Yes, I’m actually training for this one.  My goal is to get my marathon finish from 7 hours to 5 hours.  Yes, it’s ambitious, but I feel like with the proper training schedule (that my running coach is giving me in addition to my Cross-Fit) I will be at the pace I should’ve been at with all of my other races.  I’m also scheduled to do Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon in November 2013, and planning to complete the Space Coast Full Marathon in December 2013- in preparation of the Dopey Challenge.

(* Author’s Note: The Dopey Challenge is 4 days of consecutive racing. Day 1, 5km Day 2, 10km Day 3, 21.1km Day 4, 42.2 km all this equals a brutal training schedule and mental strength to endure the highs and lows of training, not to mention the pain and exhaustion of racing.)

My training schedule currently consists of 4 days a week of short runs, interval training, and longer runs on weekends, in addition to Cross-Fit 3-4 days a week.

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This is why I think Jillian is fierce. She gets it done to achieve the goal she has envisioned. I am proud to call her a teammate and am excited to watch her receive her Dopey Medal after she completes her 4 day challenge.


Please consider donating on our behalf, Robyn Engel Couture or Jillian Markin here DONATEYou enter any amount from $1 – infinity and beyond

I thank you, my team thanks you and some little kid who’s wish came true thanks you.

For more information about the Dream Team Project, please visit here.




Go Big or Go Home

I have a really bad habit of going BIG or going HOME. I tend to be an All or None kind of girl and this has gotten me into plenty of trouble. At emotional eating group it was a trend for us, “I over-ate and decided WHATEVER – keep going!”

Luckily I am over that.

When I would plan an epic party, I will go OVER THE TOP and stress myself out with details.

Luckily I am over that now too.

When I would take on work – you got it! I would take on too much and eventually sleep for a week.

Yes – I have fixed that too.

I have learned the art of moderation in most areas of my life – except 2.

One is research, if I want to know something for school or for interest sake I will research the living daylights out if it. I am the girl you want on your team for Trivial Pursuit. I will learn things to the nth degree just to satisfy my thirst for knowledge. So when I have to let stuff go without knowing why – it is so painful it takes me awhile to let it go. I will think about it often.

The other is workouts. I will push myself until I am crippled. Stupid stupid stupid.

I have been in search of my Mojo for a while now. I go out for a run and just….can’t…get it together. I have no idea why and it scares that crap out of me.

My friend and I were walking last night and she asked me if I am scared I will put my weight back on. HELL YA IT SCARES ME! Two years of bad habit breaking and all it takes is one EPIC WEEKEND or VACATION and I am back having to emotionally release those habits all over again. I have realised food management will be a life long struggle for me and I am okay with that. What frightens me more, is not being able to get back into the groove of a workout.

Workouts are important for me many reasons:

  1. They make me strong and compact. Losing weight is one thing but being strong is another. I am the same weight I was when I went to weight watchers 100 years ago (I might be exaggerating about the time frame) but I am in a smaller clothing size and I attribute that to fitness. I am smaller because I have muscles. AND I am not hungry which is awesome because I was hungry every damn minute on weight watchers.
  2. I love that my muscles at rest will burn calories….oh ya….doing nothing and burning calories rocks!
  3. I love that little jaunts use to be big huge deals that were exhausting, but now I can run a 10k, do the gardening and go out at night. I have tons of energy.

Fit = Good

So here I am, freaking out about how hard fitness is lately. I am just so tired that everything is an effort. The minute I feel good do I take it slow and rebuild at a normal rate? HELL NO! I go out like a bat out of hell and push.

Yesterday, true to my word, I told my friend I would run, take it slow and see how I do.

I only did 3km.

I did it at my fastest time yet – THAT IS NOT TAKING IT SLOW ROBYN!!!

THEN, I went for an 8k jaunt through Millcreek Ravine. Granted we did not go fast, but walking is hard for me. It hurts, and it hurts my friend. She can cycle 100k in a day but walking is killer. I can run a 14k but walking is BRUTAL. Yet we did it.

So my total kms yesterday was 12k. TWELVE! That is 7.5 miles. That is not taking it easy.

I had yoga the day before and never stretched yesterday.


Because today I am feeling it. I will pull out my foam roller, do some yoga, and get my stick to roll out my legs.

Yet there is something very satisfying about pushing yourself. Something quiet delicious about the muscles being cranky because you worked out. Secretly I love that feeling and I think that is why I will never completely give up Go Big or Go Home.

2 months until the Canadian Derby Marathon Weekend. I was scared yesterday but today? BRING IT!

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Lifestyle or Bariatric Surgery Mo?

Obesity Campaign Poster

Obesity Campaign Poster (Photo credit: Pressbound)

The time has come for me to make a decision. My deadline is April 9th, 2013.

I am part of the Alberta Health Services Weight Wise program. It is a program to help over weight (obese – worst word in the world) people figure out their eating issues and lose weight to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  I have been going to the clinic since November but have been working on this for two years. My team consists of my Doctor, Nurse, Dietician, kinesiologist and the Doctor at the clinic,psychologist, group therapist and surgeon. I have met with everyone but the surgeon because I am not sure about that yet. All of this is paid for by Alberta Health Care as preventative medicine. By getting my body healthy, I save the system cash down the road. I am no longer a candidate for Diabetes, heart disease  stroke or other problems associated with obesity. I am 80lbs lighter thank you very much and 9 of those lbs are from the last couple of weeks. So it is all good on the health front.

The program consists of 9 modules specifically designed to help you understand how food works for you and gives you strategies to overcome major problems. For example, there is a /dinning out module that teaches you about choices, strategy and techniques to use so you can make better choices and avoid bingeing or the “all or nothing” technique. The bottom line is there is not a magic formula to help you lose weight. Most people who are overweight use food in the same way smokers, alcoholics and drug addicts use their substance of choice. The difference is you can’t go cold turkey with food – you will die. That sucks.

After I did the modules, I learned about physical fitness. Physical activity will not lose the weight for you. You need to reduce the calories as well. Lean muscle will burn calories while you are at rest – so that is one of the reasons to engage in physical activity but not the only one. There are a ton of health benefits and trust me, it takes a long time before you start seeing them so keep at it, I promise you it is worth it in the end. Your body will begin to crave the activity of choice. Today is a scheduled rest day, but my body wants to run. I am not letting it because I need to increase my distance tomorrow and I do better after a day of rest.

Once I met with my dietician today, we talked about how I am STARVING before dinner. So we made plans to up my protein levels for lunch and then add protein to my afternoon snack. I need 60-80 grams of protein daily. You need a different amount. Don’t guess, go see a dietician. Worth every moment. We also talked about the BIG DECISION!

I need to decide which path I am going down by my next visit. Do I want Bariatric surgery OR maintain the Lifestyle program.

I didn’t know for a long time.

Bariatric surgey isn’t a quick fix or a cure. It is another tool I can use to change the way I eat, however, the changes are drastic.

1. No carbonated beverages EVER

2. No fluid intake and food intake at the same time – 30 minutes apart

3. Tiny portions – 1 cup of food

4. Bread must be toasted, not fresh from the oven.

These are FOREVER.

I like beer – it’s carbonated. Could I give it up? Yes.

I like wine with my dinner. Could I give it up? Yes.

I like big portions. Could I give it up? Yes and Have already! Yeah me!

I like fresh bread. Could I give it up? Yes, but I don’t want to.

Lifestyle change means, keeping up the work I am doing. Track my food, make smart choices, think about if the calories I put into my mouth are worth it and keep going with the physical exercise. I have already lost 80lbs and am shooting for 10-20% of my total mass. Doable? YES. Do I think I can do it? Absolutely, in fact I AM doing it.

I have made my decision. I am not going to have surgery. Does this mean they will kick me out of the program? No, I will just take the other path, the lifestyle path. Then they will teach me how to maintain my weight.

The bottom line is, surgery is serious. It is a BIG DEAL. I am capable of doing this without it, so I will continue along my journey to health. Making changes that become habit that will lead to forever.

I’ve got this.

How am I doing it? I’ll tell you.

549273_349576008488429_102793663_nI went out last night and ate fish and chips at the local chip shop. Do I feel guilty? No, it’s just food I rarely indulge in. There was a special occasion that called for Pub food. It was my mom’s birthday and to celebrate her adopted British heritage, we went to Brits and then off to the Diana Exhibit at West Edmonton Mall. We saw the Princess’ wedding dress and ball gowns, Sir Elton John’s chicken scratch and Sir George Martin’s musical score. It was kind of cool. All the women of my family went, 4 generations. I am the largest.

That sucks.

I have made serious progress and meet weekly with an emotional eating group. That helps a lot, but I still get asked on a regular basis “what are you doing to lose the weight?”

I have bad news for you. There is no secret. It is simple math. Burn more calories than you intake, in other words: Eat less Move more. There you have it, simple math.

In two years I have lost the equivalent of my daughter = 80lbs. I still need to lose the equivalent of my son. But I don’t think about it much any more. Small changes that I made two years ago have become habit for the most part. Cookies are still my weakness, and I don’t love vegetables (because I am a lazy cook and I hate prep) but I will share with you small changes that I have made to help me be successful.

  1. Record every thing you eat! Don’t lie about it either. I downloaded MyFitnessPal onto my iPhone  I have it on my iPad and on my laptop. Every time something goes into my mouth I record it. This does a couple of things, A) it makes me mindful of eating – grabbing a handful of something out of the pantry while I cook dinner better be pea pods rather than tortilla chips Calorie difference is 40 verses 290. B) It gives me a baseline. When I lose weight in one week and not in another, I can look back and see what I did differently. C) MyFitnessPal does all the math for me, it will scan barcodes for nutritional information AND it lets me record and save favorite meals. I love my breakfast to be the SAME 6 days a week. Greek yogurt, All-bran buds and a banana. Same same same. It is easy and I don’t think about it. Simple. Think about intake this way: A meal has 3-4 different food groups and should be between 300-500 calories. A snack has 1-2 different food groups and should be between 100-150 calories. Add me as a friend on MyFitnessPal, send me a message with your email and we can connect. The more support the better. 
  2. Don’t drink your calories! Every morning before I do anything I drink a mug of water. That is 2 cups of water towards my daily goal of 8. I eat breakfast and I have a cup of coffee. I gave up milk/cream/sugar in my coffee because that is another 120 calories I can eat. Food makes you full and satisfied, beverages are empty calories. I only drink water, coffee, tea and on occasion I drink wine or beer. Molson has a decent tasting beer called Molson 67. 67 calories of one bottle. It even tastes like Canadian beer – I can’t drink American beer because it is watery. I like strong flavors. Apothic Red wine 122 calories. For me it is an indulgence that I enjoy. It isn’t every week, I only drink occasionaly,but I always record it.
  3. Don’t call it a diet! I have changed my lifestyle, I don’t diet. That means this food change is forever and I have to live with it. There is no point in depriving yourself, that leads to bingeing. Having chocolate, sweets, crunching/salty food is just that. FOOD. It isn’t evil, it isn’t forbidden, it is  special. Special means once in a while or occasionally  Just like birthdays. Birthdays are not daily, when you have something special enjoy it. Take it slow. Put the first bite into your mouth and ask yourself about it. Does it taste good? No? Then stop eating it. Save your calories for food that is worth while. Does it taste good? Yes? Then ask yourself after every bite if you need more or are you done. You will likely not need to eat all of it. I have learned that a taste is very satisfying. I swear.
  4. Stop ingesting Aspartame! This was the most difficult thing I have ever done. It is addicting. It makes you crave sweets and studies show you WILL gain weight because you trick your brain into thinking you are eating sugar. The more sugar you eat, the more you want. Since kicking the Diet Coke habit, I rarely want sweets. I went to the Hong Kong bakery last night and didn’t buy myself a thing. I didn’t deprive myself I just didn’t feel like anything. Part of that is I no longer crave sweets. That took a good month to kick that habit. The other part was I was satisfied after eating my dinner and I didn’t feel like I need more food. That leads me to the last tip…
  5. Think about where you are hungry! That sounds redonkulus but its true. If you are hungry, truly hungry, your tummy will say so, you can feel weak or cranky and possibly light headed. This means you need fuel. So treat your body to protein, drink water have fruits and veg. Stick to the food groups. Stop thinking that food is a treat. It is not a treat, Food is Fuel. Treats are new shoes or shiny things, books and a nap. Food is Fuel. If you are hungry in your mouth, you need oral stimulation. Chew gum, drink water, have spicy tea. If you are hungry in your heart (Emotional eaters I am looking at you)  feel your emotion. Let it out. It is okay to feel stuff. Cry, scream laugh – I don’t care but don’t drug it with food. emotions are for feeling not suppressing. It is like any other addiction. Be conscious of your behavior when you intake food.

Remember, you didn’t put this weight on over night. It is going to take months (in my case years 2 and counting) to get it off. I am willing to put in the work. I started moving by swimming, then I walked and now I run. Eat less Move more. Simple math.

So, last night I ate one piece of beer battered fish and a handful of chips (fries) and tartar sauce. I felt sick afterwards. I can’t tell you the last time I ate that much fried food. Total calorie count? Hard to say but a good estimate was 760 calories taking into count the portion size ( I split a meal with my ChatterBox). I had 157 calories left over for the day. I feel sluggish today. I need vegetables in the worst way. But two years ago, this feeling was normal. I now hate it. I love the way I feel when I eat clean. So was last night worth it? Yes and no. It was my mom’s birthday part and that made it worth it. I feel gross today and know I will struggle through my run, water and fresh food will help. Will there be a next time? Perhaps, but it won’t be my suggestion. I will go for a special occasion and maybe next time eat before I go and buy a little something to pick at with the group. Will I feel deprived? No, I will feel empowered.

Choices we make today affect who you are tomorrow.

I use to eat that? What were we thinking Mo?

I am part of an online all female support group who help each other through everything from planting gardens, getting through divorces to exercising and eating clean.  It has been a fantastic ride and I have made new friends. In fact, if I ever get their way I would definitely want to meet them!

One of the things the group has been doing lately is the Clean Eat challenge. I had been practicing this for the most part for better part of this year. I am not strict enough with myself to follow it to the letter, but I think that is part of my growth this year. I have never once felt like I have been on a diet. I make better choices, eat regularly, and move WAY more than I use to. I eventually became more conscious of healthy food choices and learned what foods work for me when I need more fuel. We all need to remember Food is Fuel not your Friend! That emotional battle is being won my me. I eat when I am hungry and  try to eat before the starvation point which is a danger point for me. I am 65lbs down, 3 clothing sizes, 1 shoe size and 3 bra sizes. WOW is all I have to say about that! I did this by learning how to sit in my emotions and fell them, not numb them. Sounds easier than it was. I cried A LOT! It even got me off antidepressants and life continues to tick along at a rate that is good for me. I feel like me once again – only better. I am fitter, stronger and smarter.

This is not to say I don’t make mistakes with food, because WOW I have made some doosies lately.

My entire focus on this journey was not to deprive myself but learning the balance of when its okay to indulge and when to tell myself NO. Sadly, this lessons often comes after the fact, like last Thursday night for example.

I went to celebrate the end of the school year with my fellow teaching comrades. We went to a Karaoke Biker Bar, drank and ate deep fried pickles in between the singing and solid gold dancer dancing. Oh ya…it was an epic night. So Epic in fact I just finished paying for it. I had consumed so much salt that my lips have finally felt normal for the first time in a week. A WEEK! In the olden days I would be fine and carry on. Now that I am aware of how my body feels, all that salt intake was cruel and unusual punishment. All I wanted was water and lots of it for one week. Then I celebrated Canada Day by attending a BBQ. I had deep fried Chicken and was paying for it in a big way. My lips once again felt like they belonged on one of those fish face models who can’t smile. THEN I ate not just 1 but 3 of Granny’s beloved Crack Squares. No they aren’t made with crack but they are addictive like crack. homemade marshmallows rolled in caramel rolled in rice-crispy treats. DEADLY but oh so freaking awesome.

I hit myself with a double whammy. Salt AND sugar. I have been off sugar for quite some time and clearly the gianormous salt intake is just not good for human consumption. I had a MASSIVE hangover the next day and not a drop of alcohol did I have. Sugar addiction is brutal. I am happy to say I survived!

Here is the kicker, the real test that shows me how far I have come and where I am heading. After swimming for an hour on Monday, I went to Costco to pick up groceries. I was STARVING when I got the the car. I use to rip open a bag of something crunchy and salty to satisfy the dragon that roared within. Not this time, I grabbed grapes. The sweetest grapes to ever be considered fast food. I munched on a handful and I did not feel any shakes – no sugar crashing, I was completely satisfied, no post food cravings and They were grapes! hardly any calories! 110 for the cup I had as opposed to 200+ I would have eaten in something salty and less satisfying. This has be come not only habit for me but natural in the way I know what kind of fuel my body is needing.

If you want more information on Clean Eating go here. I cannot believe how drastic my life is from 1 1/2 years ago. I don’t drink coffee on running days because I just don’t want any. I avoid sugar because it gives me a hangover and that feels gross. I am 1 week off of Diet Coke – my arch nemesis. This has been my hardest challenge but quite honestly with all the salt my body has ingested this week, Diet Coke turns me off. Water has been my craving. So far So good Mo! We can keep this up easily because it is being aware of what you eat and how it feels – not the other way around.