I cannot wait to do this again

Today was a very good day.

I woke at 6 AM to the easy strains of my cellphone’s alarm and the cool darkness of an early east coast autumn.

Rufus and Simon – my mum’s two ragdoll cats – skittered into my room, eager to investigate my pre-dawn activities. Simon jumped on the bed and looked at me, his amber eyes still. Rufus mewled, rubbing his head against my leg.

I had laid out my race gear the night before – shirt, shorts, socks, bra, all stacked neatly on the chair in my bedroom.  As I crept downstairs, I was careful to avoid the creakiest stair. I made it to the spare bathroom on tiptoe, where I brushed my teeth and washed my face. The last thing I wanted to do was wake my mum as I prepared for the day.

I am particular about my pre-race routine.

Clothing, face, hair, coffee, food, water.

It doesn’t matter how far or important the race – I find great comfort in this ritual.

Together with my cousin David – who was also running the race – I ate a bagel with peanut butter and watched as the rising sun softly kissed our backyard trees, leaving their leaves aglow in a golden green.

When mum woke she joined us, and we sat and joked about all-natural nut butters.

Before we left, she took this great photo of Dave and I:


As we drove out to the Musquodoboit Trailway, we listened to the CBC and shared with each other our favourite programs and hosts. We’re both big fans of As It Happens, This Is That, The Current and Day Six.

When we arrived, we picked up Dave’s race bib at the registration desk. Although the start line was splashed with sunshine, a tricky wind immediately cut through any lingering warmth we had carried with us from Dave’s truck.

For half an hour we joked and laughed and sipped water and used the porta-potties for the last time.

When the starting gun sounded, my feet were halfway numb.

I am always afraid of going out to fast. Time and again my need for speed has proven to be my Achilles’ heel, but today I decided to go for it.

And I’m glad that I did.

I ran a personal best of 41:03. I was the first woman and sixth overall.

I love running.

I love running purely and truly, and have written at length about this love.

But I also love to see others learn to love to run.

I love to see someone cross the finish line for the first time. See them marvel at their strength. Their resilience.

Revel in the depth of their heart.

In a brief moment, they are unrivaled amazement and awe.

Today was Dave’s first race, and he was extraordinary. When he first signed up he made a goal of finishing in less than one hour. He smashed that, completing the course in 58:18.

He told me prior to the start that he didn’t intend on doing any more races. This was pure bucket-list.

Less than one hour later?

I believe his words were something along the lines of, “I cannot wait to do that again.”


Before heading home to Halifax, we stopped at Martinique Beach.

Today, this stretch of the eastern shore seemed to burn extra bright.

A horizon of the sweetest blue, speckled with fat clouds. The brilliant sun.

White sand. Dunes that danced.

A fall air that burned our lungs and stung our cheeks.


And in that moment, I forgot everything: I forgot uncertainty and fear. I forgot that life can be unfairly underpinned by sickness and a suffocating sense of helplessness.

I forgot distance and longing.

I felt the sun.

And I thought: I cannot wait to do this again.

We depart at daybreak!

Twenty-four hours of travelling and I’m all folded limbs and a parched mouth.

My mother and I meet up at Gatwick airport. We literally stumble into each other’s embrace, just outside of the South Terminal’s monolithic duty-free. It’s a harrowing gauntlet of Lancôme perfumes and jumbo packs of Haribo candy, but somehow we emerge unscathed.


Our flight to Copenhagen is scheduled to leave at 1:40 PM, but we are delayed for two hours. We slowly walk through Zara and Ted Baker, running our hands over the garments we particularly like. My mum has purchased a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich and would rather sit and munch than window shop.

So I carry on solo.

I must keep moving my stiff legs forward. I am afraid that if I don’t, they will turn to stone.

On the flight from Vancouver I dozed and read from Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. He is my travel go-to and I figure it’s always good to immerse myself in these stories. Some might say that’s grim, but nuts to them.

These are the tales we must never let die.

I write this from a darkened hotel room just outside of Copenhagen’s downtown core. I slept maybe all of four hours last night – my restlessness born out of a combination of excitement, jetlag, epic thunder and lightning storms, and my mother’s rhythmic and punctuated breathing.

(One can only assume I would have done very, very poorly in the Gulag.)

It’s 5:30 AM and the sun has been up since 4 AM. She is a good writing partner, but mostly I am reading news coming out of the UK and looking up places to rent bikes.

The coffee I am drinking is instant.

The energy kick I am supposed to be getting from it, is not.

A little Rainy Day Taxi and the tap tap tapping of my fingers is the gentle counter refrain to my mother’s sound sleep sounds.

How NOT to have an anxiety attack in a Danish hotel gym:

  1. Simply don’t go. Try to sleep more or just simply rest.
  2. Don’t immediately begin competing with the woman running on the treadmill next to you.
  3. Or at least don’t compete so that that it’s obvious, so that she then starts to compete back.
  4. DO NOT watch the BBC news coverage of BREXIT
  5. Do change the channel when Nigel Farage comes on and begins speaking about what a victory this is for the UK populace.
  6. Momentarily lose consciousness whenever you hear someone say that the British have voted to “take their country back.”
  7. Try and remember that there are still good people everywhere, it’s just that they don’t sell newspapers, or drive viewership ratings.
  8. Shower up and walk around the sunny cobblestone streets of Copenhagen.
  9. Eat a chocolate pastry and drink a latte.
  10. Breathe, breathe, breath.

At present, my mother and I are sitting on a bed (soon to be two twin beds) in our cruise ship room. We are looking at photos from the day and drinking a glass of vino verde. It’s my absolute favourite wine and we scored a great deal, procuring a GIANT bottle from the corner store just around the block from our hotel. No joke, it had a big sticker advertising ‘33% MORE!’ across the label.

No one ever said that the Gillis women weren’t classy as hell. 

Today we rented bikes and biked all over Copenhagen. For almost six hours, we visited the Little Mermaid, and Tivoli Gardens, as well as the King’s gardens (where we saw a bit of the changing of the guards) and the Parliament and the National Library and everything in between.

Copenhagen is rad as heck. Very, very beautiful and clean, and populated by very, very beautiful (and I would wager a guess) clean people.

The biking is amazing because of the amazing infrastructure. You are never riding on the street and everyone is so cognizant and respectful of bikers. Scooting about all day with no helmet was a total breeze and we just put all of our stuff in our front baskets.

My gut reaction was to be all, “Really goes to show how utterly ineffectual Good Ole Gregor is in Vancity!”, but the city is flat, and perfectly designed for the bicycling set, and as cute as I felt on my push bike all day long, I knew that this would not fly for a second in New West.

Give me my twenty-one speed and my urban greenway, or give me death.

(Greenway please.)

Stay tuned for further adventures!

Tomorrow we take Helsingborg, Sweden by (biking) storm.

Knowing your boundaries – in running and life

Today I ran the Boundary Bay Half-Marathon.

Today I won the Boundary Bay Half-Marathon.


So that was a bit of a surprise!

I had originally signed-up for the marathon, but I quickly realized that giving myself two and a half months to train for 42.2 kilometers just wasn’t nearly enough time. I knew that if I was to attempt the full race, I would probably end up in a wheelchair for (at the very least) the first week post-event, what with my inability to not give it my all once the gun goes off.

So I emailed the race organizers and asked them if it was okay if I could switch.

And lucky for me, it was!

There’s something to be said for knowing your limits.

I had my last training run on Friday morning – just a simple, quick five kilometer pre-work zip about New Westminster’s boardwalk.

I have been having some difficulty with my right knee and left hip – gifts left over from a completely overzealous Thanksgiving weekend, where I ran forty kilometers over three days because everything in my brain was screaming at me that I was unstoppable – and this was giving me some trepidation.

Not to mention, that following this insane running weekend, I went to a concert where I danced my heart out in giant four inch heels.

While unbeknownst to me at the time, this one hundred per cent ensured that my legs were very, very overdone.

Luckily, I have a pretty good physiotherapist who, on Friday, stretched me out, and taped up my knee, so – whether psychosomatic or not – I didn’t have any problems on that front this morning.

On the hip front however – phew. That was a different story.

Everything was feeling so good, until approximately kilometer fifteen, and then I really started to feel the tightness.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning, and I will fill you in on all things hip-wise once we get to that point of the story.

Last night I had the best pre-race sleep of my life. I had a pretty full day, driving out to Tsawassen to pick up my race package, buying birthday gifts, and being bowled over with surprise presents from my ridiculous, handsome, brilliant and too-generous husband, so I was knackered by the time nine thirty rolled around.

After setting the coffee, and laying out my race gear, I crawled into bed and was asleep by ten.


I woke to my alarm at six, and did all my superstitious morning-of puttering.

Washing my face.

Putting in my earrings.

Drinking my coffee.

Eating my banana.

It was all comforting and good.

I even had a chance to burn a CD for Marc and I to listen to as we drove out to Boundary Bay.


My weather app had told me that the morning would be overcast and rainy, but the droplets were not to be found as we pulled into the provincial park’s parking lot.

The wind on the other hand – there was A LOT of that to be found.

I would soon learn, that the howling winds of the start line concourse were but a fraction of what we would encounter on the course.

While waiting in line at the port-o-potties, Marc ran into a work colleague, and we chatted a bit about racing and the day.

Then it was time to snap a few silly photos (including one with the Hamburglar and Grimace!) and take part in the group warm up. This is when all of the runners gather about and participate in aerobic exercises lead by exquisitely enthusiastic and warm volunteers.


Before I knew it, I was taking one last photo with Marc’s dad and then lining up with all the other racers.

When the gun went off, I kept repeating to myself, “take it easy.”

I have a tendency to go out too fast, and I really didn’t want to burn myself out in the first ten kilometers.

Boundary Bay is a hauntingly beautiful stretch of beach and marshland. It is also an internationally recognized “Important Bird Area” as it is a critical rest stop for thousands of birds – including the Red Throated Loon and the Sooty Shearwater – using the Pacific Flyway migration route.

I saw three or four hard-core birders out today along the route, not to mention many, many groups of migrating birds and water fowl.

For the first ten kilometers I ran in the shadow of two older men, and one woman – all three of whom were running the full-marathon.

My legs were feeling so strong, that at kilometer nine I slowly started to make my move to overtake them.

When I got to the turn-around (all courses today were out and back) I was buoyed by all of the volunteers cheering me on, and shouting things like, “Yeah! First woman!”

I could immediately feel my strides lengthening and quickening.

Although I (mistakenly) thought this momentum would carry-on until the end of the race, it did last for at least the next six kilometers, seeing as though I ran past so many other runners who took a moment to cheer me on.

I even ran by my brilliant friend Katie who shouted, “VANESSA!?” which just left me with the biggest smile on my face.

The only thing tempering my joy was the brutal head winds we had to face all the way back to the finish line.

Being smack dab on the edge of the ocean leaves one incredibly vulnerable to the elements, and there were times that I felt as though I was running against a brick wall – especially as we climbed into the higher kilometers.

By eighteen clicks, I was feeling pretty tired and both of my hips were tight and sore.

All I kept telling myself was, “you love to do this. You love to do this.”

Because I do! I really, really love running. And as I repeated this mantra, my muscles would slightly unclench, and my legs would loosen.

As I rounded the last corner, with approximately five hundred meters left, I encountered my amazing parent’s in-law (my consummate cheerleaders!)

Eric eagerly let me know that I was the first woman, and Cheryl was just cheering her heart out.

As much as I wanted to show them how much their presence meant to me, I had no energy left to do anything but propel myself to the finish line.


I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t break 1:30 but for a tremendously windy and cold course, I’ll take it. I mean, the first man finished in 1:18, which really speaks to the ferocity of the elements.

Plus I came first.


How crazy is that?

For my efforts, I received a gold medal, a hug from Grimace, and a free pair of Sketchers.


Which is totally worth some tight hips.

I mean, I’ll just dance the soreness away.

Like sand through the hourglass

Holy frick on a stick it’s been two week since my last post.


I don’t know about you folks, but here in Vancity it is frozen like a frozen thing. We’ve had big puffs of fluffy white stuff falling from the frigid grey heavens for two days straight now. I don’t go anywhere without my massive winter coat and big boots because goodness knows I wouldn’t want to end up stranded in a rogue snow drift unprepared!

Goodness knows.

Speaking of unprepared – can we hit the pause button so I can possibly get my act together and think about what needs to happen in preparation for the big December Two Five?

Everywhere there might be a feeling of Christmas, but there’s also a feeling of urgency and stress!


In similar news, Marc and I keep racing about like mad gophers, trying to keep up with all of our work and volunteer-related commitments.

I’m still doing the comedy thing, but definitely taking on less gigs than earlier this year, what with my sanity being held together by an all too fragile thread. I’ve also been hosting the Storytelling Show, running up a storm (up until the buckets snow started falling to the ground that is), and doing a ton of United Way speaking engagements.

We’ve also been knee-deep in DIY home repairs (Ms. Java can you hear me? I have foolishly followed in your footsteps!), repainting our walls, and installing new carpet in the upstairs.

I am pretty ready for our house to go back to normal.

Whatever that is.


Who knew what a difference a new carpet could make?  I never!

It’s seriously like walking on heaven. My little feets smile up a storm every time I get out of bed and step on that sweet, soft carpet-y goodness.



I promise to actually write a real blog post this week, not just this insane mish-mash of my life’s eccentricities plus a collection of photographs of all the delicious treats I eat.

But until that time!

Here we go…


A+ Snacks.
A+ Snacks.


Evil Nymeria.
Evil Nymeria.


Conspiring to murder.
Conspiring to murder.


Book LOVE.
Book LOVE.


My love.
My love.

Happiest of days to you my fab chaps!

I hope that everything for you is both merry and bright.