Short Distance Trail Racing. 5 simple tips to go from suffering to celebrating.

In the last month or two I’ve run 2 short distance trail races.  One was outstanding and one was horrendous.  The latter was just another reminder of the controllable aspects of competing that can make or break your day.

When the race is short the difference between 1st & 2nd can be a matter of seconds, so every detail must be dialled in.

Foot work!

Short distance trail racing is like getting to play in an outdoor natural obstacle course. Foot work, grit, guts, speed, strength & fitness all come into play.  Instead of trying to occupy your mind to pass some time, you’re thinking as fast as your feet are moving.  Reacting and planning all at the same time.

The climbs are challenging, trying to go fast but not completely gas.  The descents are a test of trust with your feet.  The trails are thin and steep, needing agility, balance, and fearlessness to keep your speed and not get passed.

Race 1 – 8km – 500 m elevation gain –  1st Female overall

Cap Crusher

Cap Crusher was an 8km trail race put on by Gary Robbins’ Coast Mountain Trail series and it was hands down the most fun I’ve had racing to date.

I was 100% ready and felt physically perfect, and I finally came in first in a race!

Race 2 – 5 Peaks Trail Race – 12km 450m elevation gain –  5th overall 2nd in age category.


Death.  After the bad race I walked away shaking my head.  This time I had no ‘rookie mistakes’ excuse. I was just not prepared properly.

Here are 5 lessons I learn again and again. They could be a game changer in your race.

1. Prepare your gear! Having the right equipment for the day is the simplest thing you can do to prepare so all of your focus can be on performance on race day.

After my first ironman experience when I was so underprepared for the weather, I had to take a garbage bag out of an aid station and wear it on the ride. You’d think I would have learned.  The 12km race was a rainy and cold morning and the start line a few kms in from the parking lot.   I looked around at the expensive gortex bags and jackets and then sadly down at my own system.


The lack of fancy bags and jackets doesn’t bother me too much, but the one thing I total blew was the shoes.   It was a wet & muddy slippery race and I tried to run in regular running shoes.  The worst part is I came across a perfect pair of trail shoes the day before but just decided I’d be fine. I was so wrong. I fell 3 times, was fully horizontal and landed rolling for each one.

2.  Take care of your injuries. Sounds simple but we tend to ignore things we don’t want to deal with, and when the seconds count you’ll really wish you took the extra few minutes to take an ice bath or get IMS.

Sticking to a recovery program for IMG_0464.JPGnagging injuries seems to be the hardest part of competing for me.  I think because doing that would require taking time off.  I currently have this rib injury that is driving me nuts.  The muscles are so tight around it and it keeps pulling my upper rib out of place.  Andy felt it pop out and could stick his thumb in the gap because it was so far out.  I didn’t think it would bother me for the race but as soon as I got running up hill and was breathing hard, in combination with the elevation gain, I couldn’t breath at all.   Breathing apparently, is pretty important.

3. Take the time to stretch. This goes with #2.  Training can take so much time and money.  Stretching and rolling out your muscles is vital to making the training hours count.

I have a knot in my hip so tight that I couldn’t lift my leg properly and I’m sure this played a roll in my falls. Especially since all 3 falls were from my left foot hitting a rock or a root.
4. Nutrition. Your energy output is a direct result of the type of energy you put in.

I’ve known this from the time I was 10, but for some reason just chose to ignore it the day before the race.  I had been on a really good no sugar kick and for some reason the day before the race I chose to end it. I came across one of those vegan gluten free cookies that pretend to look healthy but if you actually look at the ingredients the first ingredient is probably sugar.  I took a bite and thought, well this will probably hurt tomorrow.   It did.  I was sluggish and sloppy and even more angry that I sacrificed any speed.

5. Once again note to not do heavy squats within 10 days of racing! WHY does this keep happening? All I can say is squat as heavy as you can, and then go for a run a week later and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The common theme of these errors are that they are preventable.   While physical mistakes are often inevitable, concentrating on the mental things, which you can control, will increase your chances of winning. More importantly, you can walk away knowing you did everything you could, win or lose.


I realized I knew the photographer and he caught me saying hi.

BJJ Tournament – Western Canada Championships Oct 22nd

Gi – Gold
No Gi – Gold

This post has taken me a while to write.  I’m usually excited to recapimg_1980p my events while they’re fresh in my mind, but something has been holding me back this time.  In retrospect I think it’s because my feelings are completely split down the middle. Half happy, half frustrated.  It’s a difficult feeling to express, but here goes nothing. Let’s start with why I’m frustrated.

Part 1. I’m annoyed because I didn’t win on skill.

I was physically stronger than my opponents, but their technique was better. That means that if we were matched in strength, I probably would have lost.  On one hand this make me feel like my win wasn’t deserved.  On the other hand, I’ve spend a lot of time lifting heavy stuff, so I’m strong because I work damn hard to be strong.  Lifting heavy can be gruelling and hard to recover from, but it makes your whole body more powerful.  I go back and forth on this one, feeling split once again.

I’m also annoyed because all the things that made the day challenging were things that have been told to me, repeatedly. My coach has told me over and over that I need to learn more submissions. I honestly thought that I had.  I was sure I knew a few well and would have a couple of go-to weapons when the time came.

As it turns out, I was only comfortable setting up one.  I had a total of nine fights, with five submissions and four draws. I used my single move three times. The other two submissions were more intuitive—knowing what would hurt and doing it. AKA not pretty.

My experienced teammates gave me a few key tips:

  1. Slow down and breath.
  2. If one thing doesn’t work, change to the next. Don’t just keep trying the same move.
  3. Careful of your forearms, you can burn them out in just a few minutes.
  4. It’s going to be a long day.
As usual the key to success is your training partners and coaches

It took me all of three minutes in my first match to confirm everything my teammates had told me.  I went all out and just couldn’t make anything happen. I tried a collar choke the entire time until my arms froze over.  It ended in a draw, but it shouldn’t have.

As for the length of the day, I could write a whole post on just that.  Let’s just say we showed up at 9:30am and my no gi fight was at 6:30pm.  They weren’t kidding.  I totally underestimated what ‘long day’ meant.

Part 2 – I’m pumped because there was improvement during the day


The only match of the day I was really pumped about was the no gi match. My opponent was a  16 year old that was supposed to be in the advanced group, but there wasn’t enough girls.  I was the only girl to submit her and she was big and strong too.  This was the only match in which I slowed down to breath. I tried to read her movement and set up moves, using timed bursts of energy.  This was the match I broke my toes in and I actually think it worked in my favour.   I tried to get to the other side of her body and I landed on my foot straight down. My outside two toes just broke straight sideways. I ended up in side control with her in a choke, but I could see my two toes flailing off to the side.  I knew there was about a minute left and that if I had to use that foot, I’d have to tape the toes back first so I couldn’t really move.   At this point I finally remembered what people had said about slowing down and moving inch by inch. Every time she exhaled I tightened my grip a little harder and leaned my shoulder a little more into her face. I wasn’t going to blow my energy holding on as tight as I could, I just kept my weight steady on her chest and squeezed a little tighter and a little tighter.  I wasn’t sure it was going to work but with about 10 seconds left she finally taped. I was SO PUMPED.


Andy taped my toes to my foot before my last two more matches.  I knew I just needed one submission and one draw to guarantee gold.  I really think the foot made me slow down again and use my head a bit more.  I submitted the next girl too.   At this point my foot was really starting to hurt so I went in for a draw. I hate to do that but it wasn’t worth hurting them more.  Luckily she kept pulling guard, so I just got up and walked away a few times to buy time.

Overall I’m happy with the experience, but I’ll need another shot at one of these tournaments.  There is one in March of next year, so that will give me ample time to get a good technical base and hopefully even stronger.  Those in combination with fewer rookie mistakes and I feel good about a more satisfying outcome.


4 Reasons why I’m Falling for Climbing.

I was a tad unsure about this one to start with.  It looked like fun, but my fear of the unknown made it seem like a way bigger deal than it turned out to be.  Now, just a little over a month since my first attempt, I can confidently say I’ve found a new life-long hobby.

Lighthouse Park

Long distances races are fun, but I wouldn’t recommend them to everyone.  You really have to love being alone and tortured for that. Rock climbing, however, is something I think EVERYONE and their brother should try.

Here are my top 4 reasons I think you should get out there already:


1. The mental benefits of getting in touch with nature and living in the moment.

People talk about unplugging, getting outside, and living in the moment a lot these days. Plus there are proven benefits to spending time in nature that are hard to ignore.

My first climb!

The idea of just going to sit in a park or at the beach is nice, but how many of us actually take time out of the  day to go sit and enjoy our surroundings?  Going for a hike is an option, but even then you can zone out and think about work as you’re trekking along.

Climbing gives you both time in nature, and a chance to be mindful.  You get to go to some of the most beautiful, places on earth and focus with your whole mind.

When you are climbing, you are forced to be in the moment.  It’s truly amazing. Trust me you aren’t going to be climbing up something and thinking about anything other than where to put your hand or foot.  It’s the easiest way to start a meditation practice I’ve ever encountered.

2. The rush is just enough.

Just a tiny bit of fear.

Adrenaline is fun.

Rock climbing is just enough of an adrenaline rush to be thrilling, but not so terrifying that you need weeks to get up the courage.  The trick is to start with someone that knows what they are doing. I thought I’d be way more scared, but my climbing buddy is really good about keeping the line tight and repeating “I’ve got you”.  Feeling the line tight makes the whole thing far less scary when you get up high.

 3. You have to admit defeat.

A lesson in humility. If you get tired half way up and start to struggle and can’t get past a point, you have to vocally give up.  I love this for so many reasons. It’s a clear and simple way to track progress and improvement.  It makes it frustrating and rewarding, calming and meditative all at once. Amazing right?  It’s essentially yoga on rocks.

Forcing yourself to say out loud “I fail” is liberating.  There is no justifying or excuses. All you can do is make a plan to get stronger, more flexible, and smarter.

Juniper Point

4. The Fitness!!!

Obviously!! I love fitness.  Climbing is strength, flexibility, stamina, and mental fitness all in one.   You will use every muscle group, including a few you didn’t realize you had.  You’ll move your body in ways you didn’t know you could.  You’ll hold on way past when your muscles fail. You’ll push farther than you ever would in a gym (because let’s face it, even with a harness.. falling is scary).

I could go on and explain how strength is improved and you learn more about your body than you thought possible in 1 single hour, but I’ll save you the screen time. Just go out and try it!

Life saving rope holding stuff. I took a mediation break to take this picture cause he was stuck there.



Ironman70.3 Canada

July 24 2016

Another Ironman70.3 in the books!IMG_0781

This one was hard.  I did my first 70.3 last year and my goal was to finish, learn something from the race, and get a decent time.  I came 19th in my age group and finished the race feeling like I would recover quickly and move on to the full distance Ironman a month away as prepared as I could possibly be.

This year, I wanted to be fast.  I wouldn’t say I was less prepared, but my training was a bit more of a clusterf*ck.   I improved my cycling and running on their own, but in my new found freedom from having a coach I think I really blew the recovery.  That, in combination with trying to race a 70.3 hard, nearly killed me.  As it turns out, half ironman is A LONG WAY.  oops.

My dad and I before the swim start.

After my swim performance in the 5051 two weeks before, my old coach called me and told me to get in the pool every single day between races, so I did.  It made a huge difference. I came out of the water in 34 mins, which includes the run in and out.  My plan was to go hard on the bike and make some gains.

My plan failed. I went hard on the bike but there were no gains. The climb back up to Whistler was a grind.  I came off the bike at 3:04:48 and started the hardest triathlon run I’ve experienced to date.

The run starts in the village and then loops around in a figure 8, so you go through the village twice before the finish line.  My legs were immediately toast.  Mentally I had to break down the run into portions and just try and grind it out. I knew I’d loop through and see my friends and family at around the 5km mark, so my first goal was just to get

My 2nd power up!

that far. You get some sort of power up when you see them. I figured after that I just had to go for a 10km jog, zone out a bit, and I’d see them again around 17 or 18km. After that you just ride the high of the finish to the end and then you’re done.  So, at km 2 I was struggling, but in my head I was essentially finished.  It’s funny how during these moments it’s entirely mental.  Convincing myself the race was over, my pace picked up and I passed a few women and handfuls of men.  My age cat was the fastest in the race with the top 5, also placing top 4 in the gender.

I had a blast the last 10km. I really do love these races and Whistler is the most beautiful setting.  I got to that 2nd power up and pushed to the finish line, coming in 11th in my cat.  It was a tough day, but given the talent in my group, I was really happy to improve by 8 spots.

The only regret I have is not being fully recovered at the start of this race and I’m sure that’s what killed my legs.  The 5051 Olympic distance race was 2 weeks before. That’s a tough race to give it your all in and then fully recover for a half iron 2 weeks later and I think that hurt me a little.  I also got a little carried away in those two weeks and crushed my legs with some heavy lifting. That was really dumb, but I’ve just loved lifting lately and, as per usual, when I love something active I get a little carried away.  The Thursday before I lifted hard enough to not be able to walk that night, and that one got me.

Looking back over the spring and early summer, I’ve had a fairly gruelling race schedule. My half marathon, 13km trail, 10km, full marathon, ultra, Olympic tri, and Ironman70.3 were all just a little too close together. And while all this has taught me that I can tough it through just about anything, I’ve also learned that pacing yourself applies to much more than individual races.

Until next time, Ironman!

My parents come to everything they can.  I’m 30 now but I still love having them there!



Triathlete Training

Podcast – July 9, 2016

AftTTP.jpger my big race last year I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Eric of the Triathlete Training Podcast.  I learned SO much from listening to his podcast I felt honoured to be invited on to the show.

I was just recently brought on as a guest for my 3rd appearance to explore my recent experiments in training and nutrition.  I’ve made some crazy running and biking gains with all high intensity interval training and lifting over the winter.  I’m excited to continue playing with my training and see what happens!

Listen Here:

Triathlete Training Podcast

Here are Eric’s show notes:

Hilary Spires makes her third appearance on the show to talk about her experiments with her training and diet and the much faster run times she has achieved.

Her 5k time dropped from 24 minutes to 20:19 and her 10k time dropped from 47 minutes to 42:30.  She has resumed her triathlon training in prep for a half ironman.

Last fall she started training for Muay Thai.  She also switched to a ketogenic diet (high fat/low carbohydrate).  When she returned to running she had huge drops in her time despite very little run training and some very high intensity workouts.

Hilary was on episode 55 talking about her first year of racing as she prepared for Ironman Canada, and she returned on episode 64 after she completed Ironman Canada.

Links/Show Mentions

Torbjorn Sindballe on low fat diets – Triathlete Training Podcast episode 14

Netflix documentary on Barkley Marathons

Hilary’s High Intensity Workout
Incline 10
Per Hillary, level 7 is an 8:30 mile, level 9 is a 6:40 mile, level 10 is 6:00 mile, and level 11 is a 5:30 mile

90 seconds level 7
90s rest (stand on rails)
4 sets

60 seconds level 9
60 seconds rest
4 sets

30 seconds level 10
30 seconds rest
2 sets

30 seconds level 11
30 seconds rest
2 sets

Hilary ran a 20:19 5k after this.  This is a very high intensity and difficult workout. Slower runners should reduce the speed and/or incline for this workout.


July 10,2016.  Olympic Distance.

A disappointing swim at the ‪#‎subaru5051‬ Olympic distance triathlon, but came 1st on the bike and 5th in the run for a 6th place finish in my cat. I am so happy with the bike and run improvements and just need to get my swiimage000006.jpgm in check for ‪#‎Ironman70‬.3 ‪#‎Canada‬ in 2 weeks !

The morning started with a flat tire and feeling rushed in the transition.  I still can’t change a flat quickly without you tube so I was more than lucky when a nice spectator took my wheel over the fence and fixed it up while I set up transition.

The Swim – 30 mins. I stunk. A large ship came by and I swallowed 2 large gulps of salt water and couldn’t recover.  It’s no excuse, everyone had the same conditions.   I didn’t draft as well in this race either.  My one piece of advice is practice drafting. Learn to love feet in your face.

The Bike – 1:15 and fastest in my cat!  It was supposed to be 40km but it was a bit long.  Moderate elevation but very technical.  This was a great mental prep for the 70.3.. which will be tackled with race wheels and I cannot wait!!

The Run – 52 mins, but 11km.  I ran a good race and I was happy with this.  My legs took a minute to remember what run after bike feels like but them my brain kicked in. It’s all mental in my opinion.

Now it’s recover, train, swim, taper, eat and IRONMAN70.3 Whistler!! I’m aiming for top 5 my age group.  It’s a lofty goal, but I’m ready to push the whole way.

Ultra Marathon

June 11 2016.  55km and 2000 meters elevation.

IMG_0076I made it! Technical trails are hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever raced.  Two weeks ago I ran my first trail run and immediately wanted more, longer, higher, harder. I signed up for an ultra marathon in the trails of North Vancouver. Trail running has the best mix of people I’ve ever raced with. They are so friendly and relaxed. I can’t believe they do this multiple times a year!  One thing to take away – you can never have enough wax.  Lube up friends, and don’t forget the bottom of your feet. Here is my race report:

1-10km this is fun!
10- 15km oh dear we are still climbing.
15 – 20km decent #1 OMG this is the funnest most beautiful thing I’ve ever done! Racing down mountain bike trails hopping over stuff and swinging on trees!
25 – 30km oh no.  What have a done?! I have to throw up.
30 – 35km either I’m hallucinating or that’s @kvdub a rainbow suit.
35- 43km up again.
44km – 44km- back to 44km. How many times can I get lost??
45km – 47km get me off this trail. NOW.
47km – 55km thank god there is some road to run. But I’m not running, I’m shuffle hop limping. When will this end?!
55km – shouldn’t this be over? Where is the end?
57 km  – 9 hours later I finally finished, mid pack. Ultra marathon ✔️

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