Saturday, July 25, 2015

A little thought to sleep on.

It's the eve of Ironman Canada, and I will close my eyes in 3 minutes.

People keep asking if his is my first ironman.  I did challenge penticton in 2013, so no.  Somehow this feels very different.  I think I have greater expectations.  I've put more forward onto this race.  When I toe the line tomorrow AM with 100 other women in my age group, and far more other competitors, I will just be so thankful and grateful and excited. 

There are going to be a lot of fast women out there.  I am going to do the journey, controlling all that I can, and letting go all that I can't.  I will fill the dark spaces with flowers and rainbows, and high rive as many people a possible.  I will try to dance down the finish chute.

Thank you for doing this journey with me.  For believing in me, for pushing me, for laughing with me.  For not getting annoyed with me and ironman talk. For feeding me lots of food, and forgiving me when I'm too tired.  Thank you for inspiring me with your words and your own training, and your support of one another.  Thank you for leading me, for teaching me and for loving me.

The journey has been going for a long time.  This is where it rolls out, and I am so so so stoked to be on it!



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dear Media in Edmonton:

Hello,  

I am wanting to write about a public inquiry that is happening this week at the Edmonton courts, with the hopes that it might get covered in the news. My sister, Shaunnie Rebecca Payne, passed away in September 2012, while she was under care at Alberta Hospital.

Rebecca was 31 when she passed away, after years going in and out of different facilities.  She was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder, and had all the difficulties associated with it: couldn't hold down a job, difficult family relationships, housing troubles, substance use, etc. etc.  At any rate, long story short is that she was in Alberta Hospital in intensive care; after having been taken off her medications and started on Clozapine, she passed away suddenly.  On a Friday, she had a physical assessment by an MD, and then she was found dead in her bed on a Sunday morning. The post-mortem indicated that she had a toxic amount of clozapine in her blood. No one knows “why,” and thus, our family called for a public inquiry. 

As someone who works with, and cares a lot for, folks who live with Mental illness and substance use, I am very interested in advocating for better care for this population.  My hope in the inquiry process is that there will be recommendations that will be made, which cannot be ignored.  People should not die while they are in psychiatric intensive care.  I want the public to be made aware, and I don’t want other people to die from the same (possible) mistakes that were made. 

I see media as being a very powerful tool to help with these types of this, hence my reaching out to local media. People with mental illness should be in the hospital to when they need to improve, heal and be kept safe.  Medications provided to any patient should have the keenest of knowledge around them.  Policies surrounding staff competency, staffing levels, and observational rounds should be rigorous and promote safety for clients.  People should not spontaneously die while in a psychiatric ICU.   

My sisters death will hopefully open a door to preventing accidental deaths in controlled psychiatric environments.  No one going forward should die from a toxic level of their anti-psychotic medication in their blood serum. Health care needs to be kept accountable, and this should not be kept quiet. The inquiry is at the courts in Edmonton Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Please feel free to be in touch, my phone number is 778-628-1909, and I am around! (Though, on the road today from Vancouver, so coverage is spotty.)

Cheers, 
Amelia Birch, RN, MSc. 
Sent from some sort of handheld electronic device

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Oliver Half Iron Race Report

Oliver Half was a last minute entry for me, as I had planned on racing Cultus Lake Loop, the weekend after.  However, I'm really happy with the weekend, and the time spent in Oliver, and heading back to the site where my first BC race was, after I moved back from Montreal in 2012.  We arrived on Friday, after a beautiful drive through the North Cascades, and then had a good swim.  It felt like it was going to be the hottest place on Earth.  My shoulder has been a bit twingy, so I decided to not swim on Saturday & give it ice and a rest.   Up early on Saturday, got a great bike in (fast, with a low HR), and quick brick.  Then, mostly legs up with a bit of wine tasting!  I was also sipping on electrolyte water all day long. 

My goals were to mostly try to race what Ironman should feel like: comfortable, but not insane.  Drink more fluid than I think is needed.  Race smart, race strong.   I think my pre-race warm up was well executed (run with strides, a little time in the water, lots of arm swinging).  It was hot already (had to stay in the water to stay cool) and I knew I would suffer: I am not awesome in hot weather racing, particularly in running.  The race start was delayed, but, once it got going, things were smooth. I think a downfall is that I haven't had good "heat" race experiences in the past, and that is kinda stuck in my brain. 




The swim was FAST! I also didn't feel my shoulder *at all* which I was worried about, and subsequently relieved about.  I never had a set of feet to follow, as the #1 girl and I got separated by the 1st buoy.  Lots of men to weave through, and came out of the water in 2nd, with a 32xx ish swim... the swim was long, but awesome.  I'm confident that if it was true to distance, I would have been sub-:30.  In fact, when I look at my garmin, 2000m past at 29:15.

Off onto the bike, where I wanted to keep control of my HR (in the 140's/low 150s) for as much as possible.  It was a good ride. Other than a few lonely times on the first loop, the second loop was quite excellent though, I ended up riding predominately with another strong female rider (Sarah, from north van), who ended up being an excellent match.  We were able to ride controlled and steady. I felt like I would've been able to take in more fluids (at one point, I was stuck with empty bottle, and only had a superloaded carbo pro bottle), and perhaps more salt.  I've been testing out potatoes for fuel, and they have been going well!  I had one gu close to the end, and lots of bits of prima bar and chomps.  Again.. still think this could've been upped a bit.   HR avg 151, so I would say that my goal was well hit. 

Got off the bike, wanting to run SLOW.  I wanted to "negative pyramid" it... I.e: first 5k at 5:15, 2nd 5km at 5:05, 3rd at 4:55, 4th at 5:05 and last 1.2 km all out.  This did not happen at all.  A solid mistake I made was not taking the first two aid stations seriously.  I felt good at the first one out of transition, so I took nothing. The second one was "minimal."  This was Not the day to do that. ice, water, cola and gatorade was the pattern for every other station.  I wanted to pull out of the race, with lots of negative thoughts of "this is too hot, why should we suffer like this, I don't want to ruin myself" blah blahs.  I think that in racing like this, its not when the darkness comes (it will arrive for a while), but how you handle it when it comes.    Eventually, once I started hitting the aid stations appropriately, that was able to change.  The slowness through the aid stations really slowed down my splits, but at least they kept me running in between.  All in all for the run, it wasn't "awesome!!!" but I was glad to overcome what was some pretty negative thinking.   My Favourite bit was when I asked myself "Why do I do this?!?!"  And the answer came: BECAUSE YOU'RE GOOD AT IT!  BECAUSE YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING THAT MANY OTHER PEOPLE CANNOT!  BECAUSE YOU DEDICATE TIME AND MONEY AND EFFORT.  BECAUSE YOU ARE STRONG AND POWERFUL AND CAN FINISH THIS!"  Avg HR 164... which is actually about Par for a race. It certainly wasn't a "steady 164" though... a bit all over the place. 


I was excited to have an age group win!!!  but I didn't feel "stoked like crazy" with my race.  I know that the category was small, and probably slow (d/t Victoria the next week).  But, I'll take it!  I haven't had an age group win for a while.  I was super sore after the race, with lots of twitchy crampy muscles after the race. 

SO now, its on to Ironman Canada!  Anyone have a 5-week to ironman training plan!? :) 


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Legs up!

It's the night before a race, and there is a whole lot of nothing going on!  Exactly the way I hope. We drove to the OK yesterday after meeting Sean and Sam following the epic Alaskan bike and ferry ride. Then we drove an amazing highway: the North cascades across to Osoyoos.  soSo beautiful!
 

I am going to be racing the Oliver Half Iron put on by Dynamic race events.  The last time I was here, it was 2012, I did an Olympic, and it was my first race in BC after moving back from Montreal. This race is #2 of 3 scheduled for the year, and I feel relaxed! We are staying at beautiful Spirit Rodge resort, and it feels like a race-cation.  Today we even got some wine tasting in, and pool side sitting.  (All, of course, while I taking plenty of salty water and a few more carbs than normal.)

I was out on a ride today, and I was able to go fast without much effort.  Exactly what you hope for.  The day before a race.  It is going to be ridiculously hot tomorrow:  in the likes of 35 degrees.  Last year, when sean and I did the granFondo, it was just above that (37 or so), and it was Tough!  So: what are my goals?  

Time goals are out of the window: the bike is an extra 5km, so I doubt it's a PR day wih that extra 10ish minutes of riding. 
Consistency is up there: starting my run manageable, with quick cadence and controlled HR. No fly and dies & running the hills.
  Keeping cool will be essential tomorrow. 
Good nutrition is up on the goals list: to fuel like I will in Ironman.  Plenty of fluids (I think I can handle more than I drink now), potatoes in race time.  Eat to fuel a marathon, even if I am only racing a half. 

Go hard.  Race with all my heart.  Feel happy to be wrecked tomorrow after the race. 

See you on the flip side. 
Also: my pre race photo:  are these legs or hotdogs!?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

8 weeks out!

Oh boy!  I cannot believe how quickly this spring had passed by.  Seriously, it is summer already, and Ironman Whistler is just around the corner.  

These last couple months, particularly April, have been super hectic.  At the end of March, I had a couple weeks of feeling like I was never feeling healthy.  So much so, that around Easter, I was so sick that I was (well... Still am) convinced that I had mono.  I've never had it before in my life, and my symptoms were right on.  It wasn't strep, which was my other likely.   At that same time, we had a wedding on Vancouver Island, so my mum came to visit.  On her first day here, she slipped and broke her arm.  She stayed for 3ish weeks.  

Around that time, sean and I travelled to California (it was awesome!), and I had one of my slowest 1/2 Iron distance races ever.  It hurt SO bad.  I learnt a very basic message:  you can't race fast and efficiently if you don't train!  It was, however, a beautiful and well organized race. If you want a great early season race, HITS Napa Valley is a good choice! 
Then, while we were in California, we bought a house.  We bought a house in Squamish!  We going to be living in beautiful Squamish!  So, of course we had to get our condo ready to sell, and list it, and sell it.  That is super exciting, but definently not UN-busy.  So, I guess this means the cat is officially out of the bag!?  We will move in early August, right after the race.
Life has settled down again.  Sean is on a bike trip up in Alaska and the Yukon right now, and will be gone until his Friday. I have two fellows at my place, helping me out with the dog and with cooking, but life busy.  Ironman training is H.A.R.D.  This is the last day of May, and this month I have swam, biked, and ran more that any other month in my triathlon history, ever.  I have managed longer, higher quality work than I did before challenge penticton, so I hope that qualifies for faster stronger racing in July.  The time spent with friends training for this goal has been invaluable.  It's such an incredible connection that you build with people, when you are a) doing something really hard, and b) have a common goal. 







So, as I sit eating my delicious lunch from JamJar on the drive, I can only think of how grateful I am for this journey.  I've had a bit of an ironman crisis weekend this weekend:  one where I feel overly busy, overly hungry, overly tired, with not enough time and a flat tire on my bike, and my husband away (I miss him!).  I've been on the edge of a few tears today, but... It's ok.  This is expected, occasionally.  It's part of the journey.  I'm excited.  Because, I fell like I am going to be successful in my race in July.  I'd say it's not probable that I will qualify for Kona.  But, it certainly is possible.  And, if it is possible, everything I do for the next 8 weeks will be to make that dream even more probable.

I'm racing next Sunday in Oliver, BC.  Wish me luck! 

All of these places are awesome companies, with awesome people.  They make me faster and better looking.  Check them out. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Outreach Nursing

I am at home sick today, after sleeping for 12 hrs last night. I have been fighting a chest cold, which is not as bad as the plague that hit me in january, but certainly not fun.  I hate the ongoing debate that happens in your head when sick: stay home, or go to work?  Do a bit of exercise, or relax?  Only eat ice-cream, or cook food?

That's the kind of day it is.  So far, I have decided: staying home, relaxing, a bit of cooking.  It sure is boring being home all day.

At the beginning of March, I started back at Primary Outreach Services as an outreach nurse on the Shelter team.  Honestly, I was unsure about what it would feel like to return; being in Public Health for 8 months really helped me define what I like about public health, and what were the areas of practice that I did not love about that position.  That was the same way I felt about returning to outreach nursing.  I know that there are a TON of things I love, and a few things that I was not looking forward to.

Being back for the past week and a half has been great.  I love the work, the clients, and being outside in the neighbourhood.  However, of course, there are reasons as to why I originally left the position for a while, and why I needed a break.  I understand how easy it is to "burn out" in a complex role such as outreach nursing, and dynamics that exist within healthcare surrounding marginalized and complex client populations.  It's not easy work, that's for sure.

I am happy to be back, and I am anticipating the coming weeks as I re-integrate into my role on the team.  I think there is still lots to learn, and ways to build the role again.  I am excited to see how that happens, and seeing where it goes.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

First race of 2015!

Wow.  Can you believe that March is right there?  It is so close that we can touch it!  And, here in Vancouver, it feels like it.  Bright, sunny skies. Flowers blooming (?!?!) No snow on the mountains.  Outside riding already!  Hooray!

This winter has been quick, spring is right around the corner, and the summer… well, let’s pretend it is still far away. I will be returning to my job at Primary Outreach Services, in the DTES, on Monday.  I have been away for about 8 months, and there are many things I am looking forward to in returning.  This time in public health has really served to teach me many things, and has really served to show me what components of public health nursing that I love, and which I don’t.  However, that is a whole other post, for a whole other day.  Maybe next week, once I am back.

This past Sunday, I ran my first race of 2015 at the Fort Langley Historic Half.  Unfortunately, it was after having a month of BLEH in terms of training.  First, there was that flu. Then, there was that knee injury.  Then, there was being in Prince George.  If felt like my fitness was going out the window, even though I know it doesn't quite work like that. What I certainly knew, was that I was not going to be breaking any half marathon personal bests.  It would be great if I could just run the whole thing.  The week of training was challenging, hard, and heavy.  I think going into the race, I had about 17 hours of training in the days before: including my first long ride on my cervelo & a brick workout. The first 14 km went fine.  It was steady, I was motivated, all was a-ok.  Then, my legs said “no more!”   It was a jog-walk-jog all the way back in. 

I’m ok with that. Sure, it would have been nice to be in the 1:40's, but it was not my day. It's about trusting in the process, much of the time.  Not wishing for bigger, better, faster, than what you are ready to achieve at that direct point.  Sometimes you will be, other times you will not be. The process is hard... its not meant to be easy. Today is 5 months out from Ironman Canada/Whistler!  The journey continues to get more exciting, and I will only get stronger, fitter, faster from here. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Strong powerful women!

II'm sitting in the airport right now, waiting for my delayed flight to Prince George.  If you know where PG is, there are not many reasons that you would choose to go there in the middle of February.  Right now, a ton of athletes are going there for canada winter games... But not I.  I am using vacation days to go for the workshop portion of a rural nursing course. My only hope is to come back with awesome nursing knowledge, and successfully get at least a good handful of workouts in, now that I am past my flu slump.  I'm not in the clear with my knee as of yet, but... Fingers crossed for continual ability to train.

Yesterday, My friend and former coach, Mary Eggers, posted an incredible pic on Facebook.  Now, many is pretty much a social media queen, and her photo garnered dozens (way over 100!) likes and comments.  Other people posted photos. It was a frenzy.  What was the photo she posted that garnered such a response?  It was a photo of her abs and stomach. Complete with an umbilical hernia. Complete with low tone and some stretch marks. Complete with her layer of healthy fat. 

This woman has competed in numerous iron and, coached athletes, bore a son, swam in collegiate athletics.  and she has no six pack.... Nor did the dozens of other women who posted ab selfies as a response. 

This whole thing touched a deep deep tone with me. As an athlete, it is frequently on my mind: how can I be better? Faster? ... Errr... Leaner? Gulp... Skinnier? As a "quiet feminist," it is frequently on my mind: how can I empower women (and myself) to be stronger? More confident? More secure? Happy with their body? And it's tough.  We see athletes... Actually, we see magazines or online images of people... With these incredible, likely unattainable, bodies. And we think "I need to be that way. I want to be that way. If I look like that, I will surely be faster, stronger, better looking, better liked, more successful..."  Have you ever bought into that? I know I do.

No longer. It is not ok to objectify (Mary used a much stronger word... Pornify) athletic bodies. Stong, fit, healthy bodies come from consistency and dedication.  Sure, be inspired by fitness and health.  But don't be discouraged by it, in attempting to obtain the (likely) unattainable.  Your body has done amazing things, and it should be celebrated. My body has done amazing things, and it should be celebrated. 

So, with that it mind, I introduce you to my six-pack-less core. It's hard for me to post this... Because I wish it looked different... Because I'm self conscious... Because it's easy to objectify athleticism...



I train many hours a week. I do my core strengthening. I eat predominately clean. This core has gotten me through division 1 rowing, two ironman 70.3 world championships and more than 10 half irons. It has not bore babies, but it will one day.  It's not perfect. But it's me.  And it's beautiful. And it should be celebrated. 

#badassisbeautiful #fuelanathlete #amodoesIMC 

Sent from some sort of handheld electronic device

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

3 kicks of the can

This week has been a bleh week!

Even during my last post, I had NO idea.  I was sick last Monday, and I was struck down by the flu.  3.5 days off work in order to cough and hack in bed, and binge watch things like... the bachelor. *cough cough.*  I went from and AWESOME training week, to one where I got nothing.  seriously, 1.5 hrs of exercise all of last week. Some dog walking, but other than that.... zilch. I wished that I could do it, but I was not able to do it.

Then, I had a job interview.  I lost my voice the morning of the interview, and thus, I was an octave lower, scratchy, and whispery throughout.  Despite that, I felt like I did well.  Despite the fact that I felt like I did well, I did not get the position.  Which, was disappointing, as I felt like it was a role that I would be able to grow into and do very well at.  However, I don't yet have the required experience level for it... unfortunately, I pretty much agree with them.  I have the knowledge, I have the ability to put theory into practice, I also have the ability to learn quickly.  But, for the position and location, I need to be able to "take the bull by the horns," so to speak.  I'm not there yet.

Then, last night, when finally, I have been starting to feel better and get training again, I was sidelined by two 70+lbs dogs.  A german sheppard cross tried to hump Ilala, when we were at a local play field.  She swerved to avoid him, and they nailed me in my left knee, causing a ridiculous hyperextension of the joint.  I immediately felt light headed due to the pain, and nauseous.  After laying down for a bit, I was able to eventually get up and weight bear, which was a good sign.  However, that was the decision to not run... again.  I thought that Ironman and I were good for a breakup for a bit.

Fortunately, the seems that it is going to be OK.  A little bit of some ligament sprains, but, after a few days of rest, it should be good to go again... kinda like a twisted ankle, but my knee.  I am so grateful, as it could have been much, much worse.

I am itching to get back to "normal."  Both with training (I have a 1/2 marathon in less than a month, and I want to rock it), and with my job (I will be heading back to outreach nursing at the beginning of March).  I was really looking forward to a new employment possibility, but I am now at least focused and knowledgeable about where I am going to be in a month.  It's been fun at Raven Song public health, and a good change for a while. I will be going back to outreach, having learnt a lot during my line.

Here's to moving through this little slump, and stepping forward. 2015 is still going to be the best year.
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Also, a plug: Betty Designs is having a 15% off sale for today... you still have 3.5 hrs to get your order in.  Click HERE!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Long January day

I'm having a bleh day.  

After an awesome week last week, and a good (albeit busy) weekend, I have been strucken with the blehs.  My chest is tight, and I am congested.  And boy, am I tired!  It's like my body looked at the upcoming recovery week and said "ok, time to quit."  I hate that.  I stayed home today, and it was a helpful day.  What sucks though, is knowing that there are a lot of priority things that are happening at work, wanting to be there to take care of them, and not feeling good enough to handle them properly.  The conundrum of work vs healing. 

So far, 2015 has been awesome.  If you are in Vancouver, you know that these past couple days have felt like April.  Can you believe that there are already green plants peeking out? Amazing.

This January had been filled with great things, and emotional things, and learning things. It has been filled with new things and consistent things.  Let me name a few of those.
- two weeks ago, I ran about 47 km during the week.  I think that may be my longest distance running week ever, expect for something with a race in it. That was empowering and awesome.
- last week, I trained a 15hr week. I was supposed to do 17 hours, but Saturday didn't workout as planned.  But still: 15hrs of quality work in January? That's good stuff.
- I've been learning lots as work.
- I was given a dura-ace crank for my cervelo.
-  the discounts that the #teambetty2015 athletes are getting are amazing!
- Sean and I had a great visit with my dad in Tacoma.  It was a replacement of a Christmas visit, and it may have been my fave weekend ever in Tacoma.  It also included a Seahawks come from behind win!
- it was my brother in law's 40th birthday.  We had amazing dinner.
- our good friends/rector and his family at St James, has moved back to Wales. It was a beautiful and melancholy last service that Mark led.  But it is so so so good for them, and so exciting!
- I have some exciting upcoming possibilities with work, and my fingers are crossed for good outcomes!

And, that's it for now.  Cause I'm sick and tired.  Goodnight, all!