zero to 371.

 

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this is it.  The day I leave for Haiti. I’ve been thinking about and preparing for this day for a year.

this morning I’m sitting here having coffee and reflecting back on this past year of my life.  I remember I watched the video from last year’s run on a friend’s facebook page and I asked her to tell me who she knew that was running. I (annoyingly) stalked Paige until she came home from Haiti to hear all about what she was doing.  I remember sitting at the university starbucks with her a few days after she got home and I listened to her stories and felt the passion in her voice.  I remember thinking that this run, and the work Team Tassy was doing, was exactly what I was meant to do, and I was going to do it.

i remember going into work that day after watching every previous Team Tassy video on YouTube 50 times and told everyone that I was going to do this run next year.  I remember my manager saying, ” yup, this sounds like something you would do.” affirmation.  Thank you to my work family for all of the tight hugs where my nose is squished into my skull, and for letting me walk around without shoes to let my feet rest.  And for all of the tears you’ve all shared with me.

i remember telling my parents that I was going to run across Haiti. The first thing my dad asked was if I was ever going to give my body a break.  He came onboard eventually and now it’s all we can talk about.  I remember my mom feeling the same way, but she has shared every post, photo and link I’ve ever posted about Team Tassy and I couldn’t have asked for better support from them.  While they are still parents, and still hesitant, one of the things I love about them is that they have always supported my big ideas, dreams and goals, no matter how far fetched, unreachable or impossible they may seem.  They have molded me into the person I am now, and for that I am forever grateful. affirmation. 

i remember telling my sister that I was going to run across Haiti.  I don’t think she skipped a beat when she thought it was a good idea.  I’ve always been the wild younger sister, unable to stay in one place for very long.  She has been a solid cheerleader for me. From coming to SpinCo classes, to scrambling to find a last minute treadmill for my runAthon, to the text messages and photos-she always thinks that I’m the one who inspires her- but I’ll always be the little sister looking up to her big sister in all that she does. affirmation. 

i remember showing my nursing family the videos from last year’s run and how this was the next challenge I wanted to take on.  The overwhelming support they’ve given me as I qualified for Boston- bringing life sized cut outs of my face on poster board for cheer signs, I knew I’d get the same support from them this time around, but I was wrong- they’ve given me more.  Every class, every practicum, every day they asked how I was feeling and if there was anything I needed.  I was told they would protest and sign a petition to let me go to Haiti if I couldn’t get the time off school.  Luckily that wasn’t necessary. affirmation.

i remember going to Haiti this past summer with Mike and meeting the Team Tassy families and staff.  I don’t know how to put my experience there into words, other than- affirmation.

i remember telling Quinn about this adventure sitting in Cactus Club one day last summer. He’s always been the kind of guy to jump in with two feet and says yes, then figures out how to do it later.  He’s the first to lend a hand when it’s needed, and all of the runners will be lucky to have him on the support crew.

i remember- and will continue to remember- all of the messages, donations, and support I’ve been given from my friends, family, and people I’ve never met.  I will never be able to say thank you in a way that makes you all feel the gratitude that I feel right now.

i remember telling Brody about running across Haiti while we were playing tennis on our first date.  What I didn’t expect was for him to come along with me.  But more than that, I didn’t expect him to be there during every success and failure I had, every long run that I breezed through and every long run that I fought through.  I didn’t expect him to be there when I had my injury and I didn’t expect him to make sure I was looked after by every physiotherapist in Kelowna.  I didn’t expect him to make sure I had enough food to eat, and I didn’t expect him to make sure I had restful sleeps.  I didn’t expect him to wipe the tears from my face with every obstacle that came my way, and I didn’t expect him to know exactly what to say when I didn’t know how to ask for help.  I didn’t expect him to listen on the phone to me ramble on about my days every week he went away for work, and I didn’t expect him to ask to hear more. I didn’t expect him to give full body weight hugs, and I didn’t expect unexpected forehead kisses.  I didn’t expect him to carry me to bed while I fell asleep on the couch after a long training day, and I didn’t expect him to share all of the early nights with me when I had to wake up early to run.  I didn’t expect him to come to the track and run laps with me, and I didn’t expect him to run as far and as long as he did. I didn’t expect him to run to the grocery store the minute I felt sick and I didn’t expect him to bring home bags of groceries and medication to get me healthy again.  I didn’t expect him to give the best advice, and I didn’t expect him to be involved in my training as much as he has been.

i didn’t expect all of these things from him.  But most of all, I didn’t expect him to come into my life and change it in the way that he did.  I can’t imagine doing any of this without him.  I’m going to search for his face on the streets of Haiti, the face that makes me feel like I’m home.

as i prepare to leave today, I’m looking at my two bags sitting next to the door and looking at the antibiotics and vitamin C sitting on the coffee table.  The reality is-  I’m sick. I’ve been pushing through laryngitis and then a bacterial infection in my lungs for the last two weeks.  My cough gets to the point where I can’t breathe and I almost throw up.  I’ve asked God, the universe, and any other higher power at least 100 times– why?  Why now?  Why 2 weeks before I leave to run across Haiti?   I’ve been told that the universe only tests the strongest people and that it’s testing me to see how bad I’m willing to fight for it.  While that may be true, it’s terrified me beyond belief.  What I have learned, however, is that passion and a true, untouchable love for something comes from deeper within me.  Deeper than I thought was possible.  It’s a belief in myself that travels farther than I’ve ever gone on two feet.  It travels farther than my round trip flight to Haiti.  It’s a belief in myself that I still haven’t fully uncovered, and I don’t think I will until I’m at my breaking point during my run across Haiti.  Nothing can stop me from trying.  Nothing can stop me from getting up every day that I’m there and putting my two feet on the ground.  Nothing can stop me from putting one foot in front of the other until there is no road left. Nothing can stop me from fighting for these families.  Nothing ever will.

pou ayiti.

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seventeen to 371

“your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue.  Your only recourse is to call on your spirit.  Which fortunately functions independently of logic.”

tim noakes

after a confident 32 km run today, I can look back on this week with a feeling of moderate satisfaction with my training.  At my staff meeting last week, I felt all of the love poured onto me from everyone I work with.  It was our last staff meeting before I leave and I couldn’t hold back the tears as they wished me the most heartfelt farewell.  I was asked how I was feeling, and I didn’t even know how to answer that.  My emotions are constantly running on high as I edge closer and closer to my departure date.  The only thing I remember saying, is that my mind and heart are both 110% in, my body just needs to keep up.

but there are days where my body fails me. Where my feet plead me to rest.  Where my hip flexors and calves remind me with every step I take in my own apartment to just sit the fuck down.  If I’m being honest, I have a hard time listening to my body.  I still don’t feel like I’m training enough.  I rely on other people’s advice to tell me what the best thing to do for my body is.  I’m a competitive person at heart- and I struggle with letting myself fail at something.  I’m guilty of thinking more is better, especially being seventeen days away from getting on a plane to run this beast of an ultramarathon.  I hope everyone who has given me advice knows that it all sits in a little drawer in my brain that I pull out when I’m at war with myself.  I’m so afraid of not finishing this run.  I’m terrified that there will be a point where my body begs me to stop- and I’m terrified that my mind will follow suit.  It’s not that I’m trying to prove to myself or prove to anyone else that I can run 371km.  It is so much bigger than that.  I want to push myself to my absolute limit and once I reach that point, I want to push myself farther.  I want to cross that finish line in Jacmel on my own two feet knowing I left pieces of my heart along the way.

i’m willing to suffer for reward.  I’m willing to put my physical abilities on the line so our Team Tassy kids can stay in school.  I’m doing this so our Team Tassy moms and dads can have the opportunity for a job and proudly provide for their own families.  I’m running to ensure they are able to receive health care to stay around long enough to watch their grandbabies have children of their own.  I’m willing to do whatever it takes to cross that finish line and give these families a chance at a better life, away from poverty.  That is the reward. No medal or Boston qualifying time could ever touch that accomplishment.

and when I’m back home from this run,  I want our Haitian families and all the people of Haiti to walk along the roads I just ran, and pick those pieces of my heart up when they feel they need help.

or a reminder to know there is an end to all of this.

for haiti.

twentynine to 371

29 days until I leave for Haiti.  I have officially left the 30’s and have less than a month until the race of my life is here.  I know that my blog has been somewhat fixated on numbers- counting down to my departure, how many km’s I’ve ran during the week, what my pace has been hovering around on my garmin- but all of these numbers keep me focused and inspired.

i’ve raised $3,996 so far for our families.

as a team, we have raised $47,451 that is directly going into creating dignified jobs for these families.

in Molea, Haiti, 97% of the families we met regularly experience food security issues

88% of those families do not have a clean water source.

Of the 158 children under 18 years of age surveyed, only 14% were enrolled in school.

in Menelas, where our families live, the median household income for a family of 6 is $30 USD per month.

in 2016 Team Tassy celebrated their first 2 graduates!  They’re studying for university entrance exams with hopes of completing a college degree.

8 surgeries that Team Tassy has facilitated with.

38 Team Tassy kids that are enrolled in school.

we have 140 family members in Menelas and that number continues to grow, giving these families a chance at a life away from poverty.

2 incredible people (and teachers) , Escane and Jules, who I had the privledge of working alongside at the summer school in Haiti, have given our Team Tassy kids the opportunity to improve on their studies, learn English, explore career goals and build a peer network.

i have 2 pairs of running shoes that I’ll be bringing with me to Haiti- both of which have put 1000’s of kilometers into their rubber soles. I’d get new ones but I’ve spent so much time with them that they both feel like my children.

i have 2 people coming with me to be and represent my entire support system from home.  And these 2 people’s lives will change because they are changing the lives of the people of Haiti.

there are 25 runners all running 371km for 1 purpose.

i still have all 10 toenails. (ask me how many I have in a month)

while numbers may seem irrelevant to some, they all sit in a little corner of my heart that pump through my body every day I run- to remind me what I’m doing all of this for.

this week I trained a little differently.  Today I finished an 18km run and it felt amazing to be outside again.  It was still icy, and muddy, but a little mud on the tires never hurt anyone.  I also did a 10km heat training run for the first time at the gym I cross train at.  it was 35 degrees celsius in Haiti this week so I figured I better get my butt on the treadmill with 4 layers on and a toque to try and simulate what I’ll be experiencing in just 4 weeks.  I know for a fact I looked like an idiot,  with sweat pouring off the ends of my hair, but I also didn’t care.  I struggled through it but I was thankful to have a few friends from work come cheer me on half way through.  Heat training is no joke- I finished running at 630pm and was still sweating at 1030pm (to the point where I soaked through two t-shirts after my shower).  I tried to drink as much water and electrolytes that my stomach could handle, but it resulted in 4 trips to the bathroom to pee during the night, and a headache when I woke up. As much as it hurt, I’m aiming to heat train twice a week leading up to my departure, fully knowing that nothing will prepare me for the extreme heat and humidity that Haiti has to offer next month.

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i also want everyone to know that I have days where I absolutely do NOT want to run. Or train. I often see on social media little quotes that say “the days you don’t want to train are the days you need to the most”.  Well I say that is bullshit because when my feet are throbbing and it’s -18 outside and I’m hungry, the last thing I want to do is lace up and say ‘see ya later’ for 3 hours while I up my weekly mileage. So, there were days I didn’t run this week. And I ate Triple 0’s with Brody and felt like a slug on the couch watching the Food Network and enjoyed every tiny second of it.  This, however, did not stop me from believing I wasn’t training hard enough.

the truth of the matter is, is that I’m not a professional runner.  I can’t devote my entire life to ultramarathon running, as much as I wish I could sometimes.  I don’t have unlimited access to massages and physio, chiropractors and foot doctors.  I eat what I can afford and make do with the time I have to train. I’m in nursing school, and the night before I was supposed to do a long run, I had to remove the clothes and the wedding band of my patient who passed away.  I woke up the next morning having to go to work, and try to process the fact that I didn’t feel that I had the honour to remove such a valued piece of who she was.  I hope she knows I did it with all the compassion I had to give.

to our 140 family members, and for the unknown number of people reading this, I wont let you down.

pou haiti.

thirtynine to 371

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hope.  We’ve all used that word in some context or another.  We’ve all hoped for a better body, we’ve all hoped for good grades in University, and we’ve all hoped for the Canadians to beat USA in the World Junior Hockey gold medal game.  As I wore my hope bracelet around my wrist during this long run, a bracelet I took home from my previous trip to Haiti, I’m reminded that we can’t just hope for a certain outcome.  We can’t just wait for someone else to do the work- to do something good.  If we rely on hope for change to happen, then we’ll all look around at eachother, hoping somebody, somewhere, will step up to the plate.  Why not you?  Why not me?

i decided to step up to the plate 11 months ago when I signed up for this Run Across Haiti.  I’m not waiting for hope to make a difference- I am the difference. Even if it is in one person’s life.

raisons, check.
fruit bars, check.
saltine crackers, check.
tums and gravol, check.
GU’s and hydration, check.
150 laps… check.

one hundred and fifty laps around CNC’s indoor track.  that’s 36km and roughly 37,000 steps around and around in a circle, periodically watching three different soccer games below me, and being careful to not be trampled by the track team doing sprints beside me.

I wish I could tell you what went on in my mind for those 3 and a half hours.  But I honestly can’t.  I did five 25 lap segments and restarted after each quarter.  It helped pass the time and it forced me to focus my mind on the here and now.  I wanted to train my body to receive hydration and nutrition every 5km, which is what I’ll be doing in Haiti.  The process worked and I felt energized and fuelled the entire run.  Until I got to lap 125 and my body wanted to keep going. And I did, except I cried. For no reason.  I hit this mental block and started to dedicate the next consecutive laps to my family- lap 125 to my dad, lap 126 to my mom, lap 127 to my sister, laps 128/129 to my grandmothers and lap 130 to Brody. Don’t ask me why I did this- I was an emotional basket case and I guess I needed to find inspiration outside of the white lines beneath my feet and the 4 walls surrounding  me.

lap 150 was dedicated to little Michy.  I remembered her jumping into my arms when we visited them at their home in Menelas-  she put on a 10 minute dance for us, (twice) while her dad watched with the most love on his face that will make your heart grow 2 sizes. I fell in love with this family and they are who I am doing all of this for.thumbnail_img_1641

classes haven’t quite started yet so this week gave me a chance to focus on my training.  I’ve been dialling in on keeping my body agile, strong and healthy.  Foam rolling is the biggest love/hate relationship I think I’ll ever have.

i took my cross training to the gym, pool and steam room.  As I got into the water, I quickly mentioned to the lifeguard that I’m using the pool as part of my training and that I’m not a great swimmer.  (I don’t own goggles or a cap so I keep my head partially out of the water while doing front crawl, aka, I’m no Michael Phelps).  After a few laps, the lifeguard told me the way I was swimming was a lot harder of a workout than doing a regular front crawl.  Legit she was being nice ’cause I looked like a drowning seal.

i really tried to focus on my hypoxic breathing while I was swimming.  Hypoxic breathing means making do with less air.  Breathing every 4-5 strokes.  Swim coaches have favoured hypoxic training for so long based on an assumption that you could simulate the effects of training at high altitude by breathing less often while swimming at low altitude. Studies of swimmers who live and train in places like Colorado (usually at 5,000 feet or more) have shown that they become highly efficient oxygen-processing machines. Among other changes, since your body doesn’t get as much oxygen, it makes more hemoglobin, the element in blood that shuttles oxygen to the muscles. It takes ALOT of hypoxic training to really reap the rewards, but I like to think I’m cool when I do it once a week.

the steam room has been somewhat of a place of meditation for me.  I use it to get a good stretch in and focus, I mean really focus, on my breathing.  There were a few older gentleman in there with me one day and one asked if I was a “yogi”.  I told them I was a runner and they asked what distance I like to run.  like to run.  I couldn’t answer that question seriously, so I briefly mentioned that I’m running across Haiti.  Immediately, one man piped up with, “will you be running with armed vehicles beside you the whole time?”  I’m shaking my head as I type these words.  Armed vehicles?!  Are you kidding me?  This wasn’t the first time this type of comment came up to me.  This is also why I am running. I’m running to show everyone that Haiti is not a place to be feared or pitied- it is one of the most beautiful, kind, and welcoming countries that I’ve ever had the privilege of spending time in.  There is this insanely inaccurate assumption that people who are in poverty are also people who are violent and dangerous.  That could not be farther from the truth.  I hope all of you go to Haiti one day and shake hands with the mothers who work 15 hour days away from their young children to give them the ability to go to school.  I hope you go to Haiti and hug the fathers who collect leather and tire scraps to hand make and sell shoes to put food on their table for their families.

i hope you all get the chance to go to Haiti and fall in love with it as much as I have.

pou haiti.

fortyfive to 371

my current mood after new years celebrations is portrayed beautifully by this little half naked munchkin who fell asleep in my arms before I captured this angelic moment.   Sleep and pizza. Repeat.

quinn kindly reminded me that I only have 45 days left until I leave.  Not 53 which I woke up thinking it was.  My math clearly sucks.

this past friday I set out to do a long run.  I had my GU’s in my pockets, new Kanye on my ipod, garmin fully charged, and was mentally prepared to get it done.  Unfortunately, I was trying my hardest not to slip on the ice that covered every sidewalk, and every shoulder of every road while simultaneously trying not to twist my ankle on the ice blocks that caked the sidewalks.  Despite having traction aids on my shoes, my feet were slipping out underneath me with every step I took and I struggled with keeping a solid stride.  I should also mention that snot was uncontrollably pouring out of each nostril and freezing to my upper lip.  It was a scene straight out of Dumb and Dumber.  I tapped out at 10km and quickly jumped into a hot shower.

the weather should never be a reason to stop training.  Except when the chance of falling and breaking your face and looking like Ronda Rousey after her defeat against Amanda Nunes is greater than the improvement of the training itself. I decided to take my long runs inside- to the CNC indoor track.

the CNC indoor track is a 300m oval that smells like cleat and shinpad sweat from the soccer field it hovers above. The air conditioning and fluorescent lighting also hurts my eyes and makes them water, so please don’t judge me if you ever see me running there with sunglasses on. It’s purposeful, not because I’m a fan of Corey Hart.

300 meters= 1 lap.  I ran 100 laps.

if you’re wondering how many km’s that is.. it’s 30. 

brody ran the first 25 laps with me.  Which I am thankful for because running in a circle 100 times is unbelievably mentally challenging, so to have him do 1/4 of it with me was appreciated.  It’s funny how weak or tough my mind can be.  As we were warming up, I looked at the track and thought to myself, “how the hell am I going to do 100 laps.”  but once I ran 50, I told myself I would run until I hit 65 laps to get some nutrition and water.  Well, 65 laps came and went and I didn’t grab water or fuel until I ran another 25 more.  I did a quick shoe change, fueled up and was back on the track within 30 seconds.  I love pushing myself farther than I think I can. I crave proving myself wrong and feel satisfied when I do. I think I started hallucinating around lap 91.  But that’s yet another thing that I love so much about running: I become so focused on what’s going on in my own head and I forget that my legs are still moving.  It’s a reassuring reminder that my body was born to run.

on the 100th lap, I ran hard. I ran strong. I ran with purpose. I ran for Haiti.

fiftytwo to 371

there are only 52 days until I take my first step of hundreds of thousands during my Run Across Haiti.  One kilometer roughly equals 1,320 steps.  Doing the math, that means after completing 371km I will have taken roughly 508,270 steps.  That makes my feet hurt and my heart pound just thinking about it.  I decided to start documenting my training for these last 7 weeks to share with anyone who cares, and wants to feel inspired.  And ultimately, it allows me to tangibly work through the oh so real struggles and successes I’m facing on a daily, okay… lets be serious, on a minute basis.

for anyone who is reading this and learning about the Run Across Haiti for the first time, I, along with 39 other runners from Team Tassy, are running across Haiti to raise money to create dignified jobs for our Haitian family members.  We are running to show that Haiti is not a place to be feared or pitied.  It is a place with unbelievable strength and beauty that we have the power to reveal.  Every step we take is creating change. A movement.  A way out of poverty.  This run hits home for me because I was given the chance to meet our family members in Haiti this past summer.  A chance I never thought could be possible.  Mike, I am so grateful for you and your kindness.

i’ll post the link to my running page here if anyone wants to learn more: https://www.crowdrise.com/brandys-run-across-haiti-2017

the run consists of 8 consecutive days.
Day 1: 28 miles – 45km
Day 2: 15 miles – 24km
Day 3: 18 miles – 29km
Day 4: 34 miles – 55km
Day 5: 19 miles – 30.5km
Day 6: rest day
Day 7: 29 miles – 47km
Day 8: 56.97 miles – 92km

i’ll give you a moment to swallow the lump in your throat as I do the same.  Daunting, isn’t it?

i’m a goal setter. A goal digger. However you want to call it. I love the fear that is undeniable when setting a goal so big, that it makes people think you are crazy for even thinking it could be done.  I love pushing my body past its limit.  It goes so far beyond just the physical for me – it challenges my mind and the confidence I have in myself that I can achieve what most people may think is impossible.

no matter how many marathons I’ve done, there is nothing that can prepare me for this ultramarathon across the country of Haiti.  I went into this training wanting to be the best conditioned I’ve ever been for a race.  I started training in May of this year, increasing my confidence as I completed 2 long runs a weekend, and “mini” runs as I like to call them throughout the week, ending my weekly mileage around 70-80km.  Waking up at 4am to get my long run in every Saturday and Sunday became second nature to me.  It became something I wanted to do. I would eat my oatmeal and go back to bed for an hour to digest before the long run ahead of me.  I had such a fire in me, and still do.  But the road has been far from easy.

i held a fundraiser at lululemon in November.  It was a 12 hour runathon that raised over $1,000 for our family members, something I will forever be grateful for.  I ended up running 61km on a treadmill, with a team of runners tagging me off (thank god) to let me eat and rest.  But those 61km was taxing on my body and I ended up with a calf strain just 3 days later that took me out of running for 3 and a half weeks.  Injury.  Something no athlete wants to ever hear.  I’m knocking on wood as I type that word.  Injury, I’ve learned, is always a way of your body telling you to slow down when your mind wont.  With much stubbornness that my boyfriend can attest to, I eventually listened to my body and focused on training on the bike, in the pool, and focused on keeping my strength up in the gym while my calf took the time it needed to heal.

3 and a half weeks later without lacing up, I’m back on the road. With zero pain. Hallelujah.  I wanted to test my cardiovascular endurance and proudly did a half marathon in -16 degree weather.  I felt strong, and relieved my calf and lungs were cooperating.  Just two weeks later, I was plagued with the flu and laryngitis that resulted after my final exams in nursing school and carried through into Christmas.  What gives! I was on such a roll with my training and diligently crossing off each training run on my calendar. Stress and the pressure to be physically, mentally, and emotionally conditioned is what ultimately backfired. What I’m learning after each day that passes, is that training for something like this is more mental than anything. You can’t train for something like this without feeling discouraged at one point or another or feeling setback.  It’s inevitable.  But these setbacks are just opportunities for me to train my mind a little harder.  My mind and my heart is what will get me through each day I’m in Haiti, my body is just the vehicle from point A to point B.

the support I have throughout all of this is invaluable.  I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for the donations I’ve received.  I’m fortunate to have such a supportive family that pushes me closer towards my goals and never questions me when I choose to run when it’s snowing on Christmas Day.  Running is and will always be who I am.  My work family, my nursing family, my closest friends and boyfriend:  on long runs I think of all of you.  I think of my boyfriend, Brody, and my friend Quinn who will be in Haiti on the support crew.  Every time my garmin vibrates and tells me I’m at a 5km checkpoint, I think of seeing their faces among the chaos of traffic, and the pain I’ll likely be in. I’m going to search for your faces for that feeling of familiarity and a comforting piece of home.

all of you are a part of my journey.  A journey that is teaching me a new lesson everyday. I’m doing this and putting my body through physical and mental angst to give our Haitian family members a chance at a life away from poverty.  A chance is all I need to keep going.  Every km I run is dedicated to all of them.  I’ve accepted that my training isn’t how I envisioned.  But I’ve also discovered how big the fire really is within me and I’m no where near slowing down.