Archive for September, 2013


This morning my blog post is inspired by a video from Arc’Teryx. As I thought about what I wanted to say, something popped into my mind and that was how awesome the brand Arc’Teryx is. There is a reason I really like this company and it goes deeper for me than the quality of their gear. Let me tell you why.

If I could hop into a time machine and back life up by a decade or so, you’d find me standing in Mountain Equipment Co-op almost on the verge of tears. Being obese and deciding to enter a backpacker’s world was not an easy thing—it required a pretty thick skin. Being plus-sized and finding gear for such adventures was a humbling and disappointing experience for me. After I tried on four or five different packs I came to realize that my tummy was just too big for the hip belts on most packs on the market at the time. I was visibly upset and ready to give up on my dreams because it just seemed impossible. But nothing is really impossible, is it?

Enter Andrew; a wonderful MEC employee at the downtown Toronto store who I will never forget. We chatted about his hike on the Annapurna Circuit which happened to be the same region that made me want to become a backpacker in the first place. Serendipity perhaps? We talked about how I wanted to change my life and live actively but was having such a hard time finding suitable gear. He said he could help but I felt like it was futile and I was about to use this as an excuse to give up. However, Andrew wasn’t going to let that happen. He ducked around the corner and came back with a lovely expedition-worthy pack from Arc’Teryx. I tried it on and the hip belt was the same as all the others. Sensing my disappointment, Andrew said “Not to worry, Laurie… the beauty of Arc’Teryx is that the hip belt can be changed for a larger size.” Off he went into the back of the store with the backpack. He returned with a pack that fit me comfortably. I could have hugged Andrew.

Thanks to Arc’Teryx and MEC, I was going to start on a journey that I could never have imagined.

I got off the couch.

I hiked. I backpacked. I paddled and portaged. I snowshoed.

I walked my son to and from school every single day.

I rode a bicycle for the first time in decades.

I played at the park with my children.

I bought running shoes, a treadmill, and signed up for a 5K race.

I ran a half marathon.

Moving changed my life.

All it took was to take one step and keep going.

This morning Arc’Teryx shared a video. Now I will share it with you because it conveys an important message and it reminded me of an incredible turning point in my life. There are no excuses… all you have to do is…


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love the bling

love the bling

Well… that was wet. Rain and more rain!

What a fun place for a race. I’m pleased with the time considering the rainy weather, lack of sleep, inconsistent training because of vacationing, a hilly course with lots of twisty-turny-narrow bits, and a very sore ankle.

I started out slow. I remembered not to go all-out at the beginning this time. My feet got wet pretty early because of the steady rain so I just ran through the puddles rather than trying to avoid them. I kept thinking about the warm, dry socks that would be waiting for me in the Jeep at the end of the race. I saw my friend Mandi a few times and got the high five from her. She was a bit ahead of me.

There were a few spots that were too crowded for me to pass people. Go figure, me being able to pass people. I saw baboons or some sort of cute primate and somehow missed the giraffes entirely. Seriously, how could I miss such a tall animal? I also missed the hippos but managed to get a glimpse of the hyenas. I imagined them laughing at all the humans running in the pouring rain. There were gorgeous pink flamingos that were brilliant against the drab day. Did I mention it was raining?

There was one long downhill where I was running faster than I think I have ever run before. It flattened out and then there was a hairpin turn. A guy who I now know is named Kevin, passed me going up the hill earlier. We had been taking turns passing each other, unintentionally throughout most of the race. He gave me a high five from the opposite direction as I was approaching the turn. He was really giving the race his all and the gesture from a stranger was heart-warming and propelled me forward.

The ankle was good and I only felt a slight twinge on the downhill sections. I babied it a little because I have Run for the Toad in two weeks. I finished strong and very wet. Carla finished before me so we waited at the finish together for Bryan and Tobias to complete their 5K event. Bryan was pushing Kaia in the stroller and later we dumped a few cups worth of water out of the seat. Good thing she was dressed in an MEC Newt Suit. That little girl of mine was a trooper. So was her big brother.

All in all, it was a good run. I had been hoping for 1:29:00 but today wasn’t the day… however I am totally happy with my race result and that I survived my first really rainy race. Say that five times fast.

I discovered that I really should purchase some rain gear better suited to running as my waterproof breathable shell for backpacking/padding is too big by a mile and it is way too hot.

Oh, I almost forgot to post my results. It was a PR by roughly 8 minutes. I finished in 1:31:02. I had wanted a sub-1:30:00 but close enough. The time quoted is my official chip time although Garmin time is 1:28:57. It appears that the difference between the chip and Garmin times are from when I paused to remove the jacket because I was sweltering in it.

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It seems like I haven’t posted in quite some time, much to my surprise. I didn’t realize that it had been so long but I have had an adventurous summer and time to blog has been scarce. So many things have happened since July 16th and here is a little bit about what I’ve been doing with myself…

The Family Adventure

chutes aux iroquois - Labelle, QC

chutes aux iroquois – Labelle, QC

In mid-August, my husband Bryan, the kids, and I embarked on a cycling adventure in the Laurentiens with our dear friend Mandi. We biked with gear trailers from campground to campground. Well, I had my daughter in a child trailer behind me but everyone else towed gear. Around the 120K mark, after two days of cycling in a lot of rain, we decided to switch things up and we camped next to a gorgeous waterfall for the remainder of the trip. Mandi left on schedule via a shuttle back to the start of the trail. Bryan went back to the start with her and then returned to the campground with our Jeep.  We even played on the beach at Chutes aux Iroquois.

The trip was beautiful, despite the rain and we will return to explore the region a little more next year.  I have fond memories of peddling past Mont Tremblant in the downpour and riding along Lac Mercier.  There was one spot, past Tremblant, where there were horses in a field which was dotted with big hay bales. The hills were in the background and the mist was dancing near their rounded tops. It was almost magical in some strange way. If it hadn’t been so rainy I would have loved to have taken some photos. We had some delicious meals at little bistros along the trail. In all, our Quebec adventure was a wonderful one and although it didn’t turn out quite the we had anticipated, we learned a few lessons that will be applied to future bike-packing excursions.

Giving Back

Team Tyrel

Team Tyrel

Bryan and I have friends, Sandi and Phil, who have helped us through so many difficult times including our house fire. I’ve been friends with Sandi for a very long time—since my days at university and before I even met Bryan. Sandi and I have been there for each other over the years but this has been the toughest thing Phil and her have had to deal with. You see, their 13-year old little boy, Tyrel, was in renal failure. This required hemodialysis 3 times a week and being put on a transplant list. He wasn’t on that list long and the transplant happened shortly after we returned from camping in Quebec.  Everything transpired very quickly. Sadly, even though much of the expense is covered in Ontario, there are some things that aren’t and it is starting to mount for the family. These include loss of work, transportation, fuel, modifications to the home and such. Once he is home there are medications that aren’t covered by the family’s prescription benefits. I don’t have the means to help as much as I is needed and I felt helpless. However…

There were a few things I could do. I could be a friend and offer emotional support but I wanted to do more than that. I thought about how I could raise money in a way that people could afford and that would make it interesting for Tyrel—something that could make him smile. Thanks to some inspiration from a fellow runner named Laura Ingalls, who is founder of the Happy Races, I came up with a great idea to host a virtual 5K run/walk!! With Laura’s help I made our event a reality and now runners and walkers all over the globe are helping out. You can find out more at www.racemenu.com/teamtyrel and if you could sign up, that would be great! It’s fun for Tyrel and his family to see runners, from countries around the world, sending in their photos.


In August I went back to the cardiologist, Dr. J., for another set of tests including an echocardiogram. In February 2012 I was diagnosed with LVH or Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (enlargement of the left side of the heart). That has been reversed and the mild aortic stenosis I’ve been dealing with is vastly improved. This just shows the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle. In the words of Dr. J., “Laurie, I’m pleased to tell you that your heart is very happy!” He gave me the go ahead to train for a full-marathon or any other distance as long as I keep it under 50K. Yay!

Training & Fitness

While I’ve kept my fitness up, I haven’t been training as hard as I probably needed to. That’s okay; I’m on track for my next race that takes place later this month. It’s the 10K ZooRun in Toronto and I’m participating with friends so it will be great fun. In October I’m also running in a 50K relay named Run for the Toad, the 5K Colours of Hope, and finally 5K at Horror Hill. That will be it for races until the New Year. I think.

Last year at this time I was extremely excited because I was anticipating training for my first half marathon. I’m going to run the same half marathon in 2014 but my big goal race for next year is the Sulphur Springs 25K trail run. I loved running in that area during training for the TREAD relay in 2012 so it will be a beautiful place to participate in an event.

I’m tossing around the idea of taking my first climbing lesson and becoming certified to belay at the Guelph Grotto. Bryan and I have also been discussing the possibility of joining a local boxing gym. Both would be quite fun although I might have to get over my extreme and irrational fear of gravity if I am to even consider climbing.


I finally ditched the business name GJ Studios. I’ve never been keen on the name since it was first registered in the nineties. It was time for a change and one that suited the direction in which I’ve been working. My company is now named Outdoor Adventure Press and I couldn’t be happier with this new business identity. The new brand will better reflect the adventure related publications, camping cookbooks, and my other freelance writing projects. It’s exciting and there are a few new things in the works.

I’m still working on that third manuscript and having great fun with it. The book should be complete by the New Year and then I’ll embark on the tedious task of the final round of editing. I’ve been having issues getting great photos for the work because it always seems to rain when I am cooking at camp.

The Big Basket of Peaches

Remind me next time my darling friend, Kristin, sends out an open invitation to come over with a basket and take home some peaches, that it will be a crap-load of peaches! I had expected the typical quart basket worth of yummy deliciousness. It was practically a bushel! I happily took her up on the offer and spent an enjoyable morning in her kitchen before I went home to embark on the process of preserving what she had given me. I ended up with several large Ziplocs of frozen peach slices, three 1L jars of canned peach slices, four 500ml jars of freezer jam, and days of heavenly fresh peach eating. I had never canned peaches before so it was a learning experience. It was also the first time I had ever made freezer jam. Kristin canned a considerable amount and I was quite inspired by her dedication to the project. Thanks Kristin!!

So, that is where life has taken me since I last wrote on my little blog.

Have a Happy Tuesday!

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