5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Ragnar Relay

This past weekend, myself along with 11 #TribeSoleSisters, 4 drivers, and 3 pacers drove to Coburg in order to run the 304km to Niagara Falls as part of the Niagara Ragnar Relay. This was the second time this race has taken place (the first back in 2013) and my first experience with such an event.

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Like many runners I kinda read the Race Bible, knew bits and pieces of what this experience would be like, watched the Ragnar “From Fat to Fit” documentary on NetFlix, but until you actually race an event, you don’t totally know what to expect. So rather than doing a lengthy race recap, I though I would share my key learnings of things I wish I had known before I started the race. Because let’s face it, if you follow me on social, you know I had a blast!

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  1. Bring Food! Now this might seem obvious to you, but we were trying to keep our packing low and we had compiled a list of 24 hours restaurants, so I really didn’t think it was necessary to bring actual meals with us. I did bring bars, gels, Nuun, and other hydration. What I didn’t take into account was the short rely legs, long times in the car, and how speedy our team was. As Van 1 we had to be at the check in point in Coburg for 8am. I didn’t run until 1pm, so we were in the car driving from transition to transition, all caught up in the hype, and all of a sudden it was noon, and I had to race almost 10km without eating since we left TO at 6am. So If I had planned better, had actual food with me, we wouldn’t have been so panicked to find somewhere to eat and I wouldn’t have had 4 sesame bagels with butter and peanut butter from Tim Hortons.
  2. Bring A Pacer. I had a pacer, well two actually, for my 13km leg that started around 10pm. I was thankful for Billy and Brandon because they not only made my run easier by hitting the light buttons ahead of me, throwing out my garbage, and being giants and making me feel like a celebrity as we raced passed (killed in Ragnar terms) 14 other racers, but they also made me push to a pace that I haven’t raced all season, averaging 5:05 per/km over the 13km. Since our team was running for 28 hours straight many relay legs started at 2 or 3am and ran through areas that were a little “sketchy” – Hamilton lift bridge/beach strip area I’m talking to you. I think next time we will make sure we have pacers (aka security, aka wind blockers, aka person cheer leaders on the run) for all runners over the night shift. It definitely brings peace of mind and the social is nice too. file-1(1)
  3. Bring Extra Runner Lights. Each van was required to have two head lamps and two tail lights per runner. We had this, however at about 8pm, when both were mandatory, one of our brand new tail lights broke. Teams without tail lights would receive a time penalty and that isn’t what we wanted, so we eagerly reached out to friends on other times, and gratitude to Trieu Nguyen who had a bag of them and lent us one to race with. So I would suggest having extras in order to avoid the drama.
  4. Bring Attire For All Weather. While I was ready for racing and cheering in the sunny summer heat we’ve been having, I was not prepared for the 3am chill when the weather dropped to single digits and we were cheer along the waterfront with waves actually splashing up on the race path. Sweaters, warm pants, fuzzy socks, a water and wind resistance shell, or even a blanket would’ve been great to have too. Not just warm running gear, but warm cheering gear too. file2(2)
  5. Bring Magnets. So this was a weird Ragnar “thing” we didn’t know about but clearly others did because after the first transition we started “collecting” magnets with other teams names and branding on our van. This was very fun and fun to keep afterwards, but we had no clue it would be happening so didn’t have any to share. A couple notes on what not to do for your magnets: 1. attach a magnet to a bottle cap that will scratch the rental car, 2. instead of using a magnet use a sticker stuck to a rental car, don’t do it. Stick with magnets and make them cute, creative, and connected to your team name and social handle.

We had a blast at this race, and if fun and friendship wasn’t enough the preliminary results (as of May 25th) had us placing top 3 in the Open Women Category, yeah Team Tribe. We worked hard, kept our cool, and placing top 3 just makes it extra sweet.

Follow along  with the fun by searching #TRIBExRAGNAR on Twitter or Instagram. Looking forward to doing this race again, and being that much more prepared.

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Guest Blogger: Andrea Haefele Moving #BeyondAwareness

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I am honoured to share a guest post written by my friend, fellow teacher, and rad mother, Andrea Haefele. For the past four years Andrea has shared her personal story about her family’s mission to bring visibility to children and families living with disabilities in support of her daughter Bella who has severe Autism Spectrum Disorder. Read Andrea’s previous posts here. I have enjoyed supporting my friend and her family, including Kadence, their Autism Assistance Dog Guide for Andrea’s daughter Bella. This time around Andrea gets personal and shares what it’s like to be a mom “in crisis” and the need to move #BeyondAwareness.

I am a 37-year-old mom that is approaching her mid-life crisis, when in reality I feel I am living in a world that is in crisis. For the last 7 years, I have made it my mission to promote awareness – awareness of autism and sensitivity for families living with disabilities. However, I have reached a point in my journey where awareness is no longer enough. I often feel like we reside in a society that simply tolerates my daughter and her complex needs.

My full time job as an educator is my vacation. I equate my journey to school every morning to heading to the beach, a place where I can embrace the sun on my skin and sink my toes into the sand. At work I have full reign of my passion as a teacher. I am in an environment where I can be creative, take risks and participate in cutting edge professional development.

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When the school bell rings at the end of the day, my “vacation” ends. Real life begins, and I switch gears into mom-mode, and like any other mom, I pick up my kids from their respective schools. Then, I make dinner, pack lunches, and go through the bedtime routines, typical tantrums and messes.

Once the sun has set, my life veers again in a different direction and my third shift begins. I now transform into an experienced administrator and manager of a child who has disabilities. I research the Internet to find resources to fund the endless costs of the intensive behaviour intervention therapy program that Bella requires. I juggle the endless therapy sessions, doctors and specialist appointments in our calendar to ensure that her physical health is looked after.  I look to social media to connect with other families who live my life as my professional learning network. As I press ‘send’, I repress the urge to scream through my emails in order to advocate for a system that can provide Bella, and other children like Bella, with the education that they deserve.

By the time bedtime rolls around, my fears take over as I think of Bella’s future. What happens when she graduates from high school? What are our options?

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I’m scared of what the future holds for our family. Although my life seems challenging these days, these obstacles pale in comparison to what our lives will be like when I can no longer continue to advocate for Bella. The reality is that families like ours are often cut adrift when our children with special needs reach adulthood. We are left to fend for ourselves in the face of dwindling social services, and even less than the meagre level of accommodations available to adults with disabilities. It is daunting knowing that it is all up to me to ensure she is taken care of. Some days are happy days, but most days are difficult and feel almost impossible.

A month of awareness, wearing a ribbon of hope and donating money to a charity is simply not enough to improve the lives of people with disabilities. As I write this blog post, I ask myself this question: What could be done to make the world a more comfortable, respectful, and nurturing place for the millions of people who live with disabilities? The answer to this crisis begins with each one of us.

Accept us. Bella’s list of disabilities are more than a doctor’s credentials. Severe Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, Global Developmental Delay and Cortical Vision Impairment are just a few of Bella’s diagnoses. Acceptance starts by understanding that these labels do not make us defective or diseased. When Bella is spinning, banging and licking every toy you give to her, understand that this is how she plays. Accepting us does not mean ignoring or denying our disabilities; it means accepting us for who we are, as we are.

Respect us. We are people, fellow human beings. We deserve to be treated with the same respect afforded to our peers who are typical developing. Respect starts by understanding that we are full, with an individual personality, life experience, goals, and preferences. We deserve an education, access to communication and a place in society to belong as we become an adult. We deserve to live without fear of being abused, manipulated or hurt. We are not less than.

Support us. Because we are disabled in varying degrees and in multiple ways, we need support, services and accommodations to successfully navigate a world that is not made for us. Bella needs intense therapy to help her learn basic life skills. She needs her chewy tube to help her sit and regulate her inability to stay still. Bella requires her service dog to support her physical and emotional well being. Your societal norms are foreign to us. Supporting us starts by understanding that we are connected to a family that can best define what types of services we need, both in education and at home. Only with appropriate supports can we have equal access and opportunity.

Include us. We deserve equal access and opportunity throughout the community and throughout our lifespan. Inclusion is more than letting us be in a room with peers our age. Inclusion starts by understanding that we are part of the community and deserve to be in an environment that is created so that we can meaningfully contribute and participate. Being tolerant of my daughter’s presence is not inclusion. Give us the appropriate accommodations and modifications we require to fully participate. We need to and want to belong.

Listen to us. Bella’s augmentative communication device is her voice. You can say more than a simple hello. She is more than a cute little girl who has a big smile. She has favourite toys, activities and preferences. If she wants to protest or be heard, she knows the power of her ‘finished’ button. If you are unsure of how to interact with her, just ask. Many conversations about the issues that affect Bella’s life take place without her and our family being present. Listening starts by recognizing that these children have a family who have valid, legitimate and important things to say. We must be included in any conversation about our child, because decisions made by policymakers, school administrators, and grant reviewers impact our daily lives and our future outlook.

20161015-044.jpgAs I approach my mid-life, I realize that I want to carry myself with grace and find joy in every day, despite the challenges that our family has been given. I strive to surround myself with people who can build a community of love, empathy and acceptance. I have faith that when I am having a tough day, you will be around the corner doing your part to build a society where everyone has a voice and a place.

Every year my family fundraises for a charity that can have an impact on children like Bella. This year, I am asking you to share your ideas on going  #BeyondAwareness. Through your social media of choice, how will you take the initiative to make your community an accepting, inclusive space for ALL families who live with disabilities?

  • If you are a family who will be affected by the upcoming new Ontario autism program coming in June 2017, how can you share your journey to advocate #BeyondAwareness for the education and services our children deserve?
  • If you are an educator, what does going #BeyondAwareness look like in your classroom or school community?
  • If you know a friend or family member who is navigating the world while living with a disability, how can you do your part to ensure that community organizations go #BeyondAwareness to support our vulnerable citizens?
  • Share an organization you know that goes #BeyondAwareness for people with disabilities and help families get in touch with them.

Please support our communities by moving #BeyondAwareness.

Andrea

5 Moves to Help You Keep Fitness a Priority on Vacation

When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, consistency is key. So don’t let dashing through the terminal be your only workout while on vacation. Here are five full-body moves that are equipment free, and can happen in minimal-space or out on the beach to help you make it happen no matter where you are. Plus, squeezing in a quick workout or two during your vacation will make it easier to get back in the swing of things after you’ve unpacked your suitcases. Here are five moves I shared on CH Morning Live on Thursday April 4th. Watch the segment here.

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If you’re a beginner, do 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds rest per move. Intermediate: 40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest Advanced: 50 seconds work, 10 seconds rest.

1. Traveling Lunge: Standing with feet hip distance apart, step forward in to a standing split position and slowly lower your body until your front knee is bent to at least 90 degrees. Pause and then return to standing. Using the same leg, step backwards with the right leg and slowly lower your body until your front knee is bent to at least 90 degrees. Pause and then return to standing. Those two movements are one set, continue for a designated amount of time (see above) then repeat on the other side.

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2. Plank Walk Out: Start standing with the feet shoulder width apart and arms hanging down to the sides of the body. Slightly bend the knees and bend over and placing the hands shoulder width apart on the floor, so your body is in the shape of an inverted V. Walk forward four steps forward with your hands until you reach a plank position. Walk hands back in towards your feet and return to stand.

3. Marching Hip Raise: Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Lift one knee to your chest, lower back to the start, and lift your other knee to your chest. Continue to alternate back and forth and to make it harder, lift those hands up and decrease your base of support.

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4. Plank Jacks: From a high plank on your toes, jump both feet out and in while keeping your shoulders stacked about your hips and core stable. To decrease the challenge, perform a step touch with each foot reaching it out to the left and back center before repeating with the right.

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5. Push-ups: Get into a high plank position with hands on the bench or stair directly under shoulders. Begin to lower your body until your chest grazes the bench/stair. Keep your back flat and eyes focused about three feet in front of you to keep a neutral neck. Push back up.

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Others ways to sneak physical activity in while on vacation:

  • Explore your destination by foot either walking or hiking around.
  • Hit up your hotel gym and hop on the treadmill or lift some weights before you start your day.
  • Take a drop-on class at a local studio. Not sure where to go? Ask around your hotel or at an active wear store.
  • Bring compact workout gear in your luggage. Consider a skipping rope, resistance band, or folding yoga mat.
  • Partake in local sports. Whether it’s surfing or SUP, who can resit getting active in a stunning beach destination? If you’re not comfortable on the water, take a class, and enjoy this full body workout.

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So whether you’re on the road for work, fun, or visiting family, there’s no need to take a vacation from your workout too!

What’s your favourite way to workout on vacation? Share it in the comments!