Vacations and training are mutually inclusive. Especially when you have unlimited access to beautiful trails, outstanding scenery, the freshest air ever, amazing food, and the ability to hang out with your kids for the rest of the summer’s day….
Finding my Element on Hornby Island
For me, vacations and training are mutually inclusive. I do not need a vacation from training, as training is simply my recreation, my hobby and my passion, even if it was my job for twenty odd years. My favourite vacations include unlimited access to beautiful trails, outstanding scenery, the freshest air in the world, amazing food, and the chance to hang out with my husband and kids for the rest of the summer’s day.
There are places in this world that we just have an affinity for, for some reason they resonate with our lives and give us that inexplicable sense of well being. These are the places where we feel completely in our element when we are in them. Hornby Island is my soul food and I am sure that it has a lot to do with my own East Coast childhood memories of days spent playing at beaches and drinking sandy lemonade, spending all day in adventures in the open air, and countless hours beachcombing and building forts. Hornby Island reminds me of my love of simple abundance. Give me open air and a chance to run in a trail I am a happy camper. Give me a place where my children are happy running on the beach and watching anemones eat and I am a happy parent. When Maia runs down to swim in the salty tide pools after supper I feel happy. When Ross is running like an agile mountain goat across the moonscape of sandstone formations I feel content. When the kids are on their bikes whooping down a swooping trail I want to laugh out loud. There is something wonderful about parenting, when you realize you are creating happy family memories, memories that seem merely to be another layer of your own existence. From the family board games and endless rounds of UNO, to the ambles along the beach picking up random rocks, there is nothing like being together in a beautiful spot.
The longer I visit on Hornby, the more I realize that the island is telling me something about how I want to live and to love my life. I understand and accept that we live in the age of technology, electronics and social media. Our lives are now intertwined with the reality of Wi-Fi and instant connection and immediate access to any information about anyone and anything at all. In fact, the internet is precisely what has made my transition from full time professional athlete to coach, writer and mom possible. With World Wide Web I can work anytime and anywhere, connect with athletes, coaches, magazines and products on a global scale, and build my job around the schedules of my children and family. Computers have allowed me to access a professional life while maintaining my personal values of staying at home with my children and being a part of their education and exploration of the world around them.
So, when I go to a beautiful and natural place like Hornby Island and unplug, the whiz of connectivity falls away. What takes its place is silence, the sound of wind, the vivid colour of a sunset, the ability to fall silent oneself and switch off, while switching on in a very real and human way. I connect with life through the natural world. As a child we were always outside. I learned early to read the weather through clouds, the pattern of gusts on water, the thickness of ice. I watched ospreys feed and hurricanes blow through on their coastal rampages. We grew up on islands, coastlines and in forests. Being outside is my comfort and I take joy in listening to the croak of ravens, watching an eagle, tasting a salmonberry and feeling sunshine on my back.
Life becomes simple while on Hornby, the daily race becomes stripped back to what’s necessary and what’s pleasurable, and while we can’t—don’t want to even-live like this year round, being in holiday reminds me of the framework of values that I want to bring home. I wrote in my journal while I was there. My favourite journal is a spiral bound Hilroy. I write long hand. At first it’s messy as I do so much keyboard typing these days but as the days go by, the scrawl becomes more artful and elegant. Like a preserver of ancient language I do not want to forget how to create cursive writing. I create art with the kids, often collage projects that we can construct using found objects and the paper supplies I bring from home. Cut and paste and glue becomes a metaphor for the way we all construct our lives out of pieces we love most.
Training on Hornby becomes a daily ritual and a treat. Whether getting out at dawn and having the whole island to yourself for two hours in the trails, or getting in a late afternoon ride as the sunlight slants through the Cedars and falls on the distant slopes on Strathcona, my times spent training are pure bliss. My favourite run is still a loop of Helliwell Park, although the trail to the Co-Op and beyond is a lot of fun with the twisting single track, tall grass and huge trees. Getting up into Mount Geoffrey-the mountain bike park- is a thrill all to itself. There are surprisingly few people out in the woods, as I rarely come across another soul and every run and every ride is like a meditation. Listening to footfalls and breath while surrounded by bird song and trees. I don’ have to rush. There is nothing to get back to, no schedules to keep, nobody waiting for me. I take my time for a change, cooling down at the end of a hilly brick workout, meandering down the driveway hot and thirsty. When I come in, the kids are happily playing UNO with Lance or reading, or they are not even there. They are on the seashore, hitting rocks into the bay with bleached out baseball bat sticks.
Even the food becomes simple, pure and wholesome. I am cooking in another kitchen away from my array or knives and pots, ingredients and staples. I grill salmon and steak a lot, make simple potato salad several times, use up veggies to make a chopped salad. There are herbs on the property: oregano and lemon thyme and chives and they make everything taste divine. I can’t describe the way those fresh picked herbs add a sense of liveliness to food. On Canada Day Maia and I made a special dessert of fresh strawberries and whipped cream layered with Graham Cracker Crumps and drizzled with melted Denman Island chocolate. You make do with the basics, and food is delicious out on the open deck.
Do I train on vacation. Yes I do.
When are you in your element? Find it and run with JOY!