A Southern-Style, Chicken-Fried Championship

Expectations. We all have them for one thing or another. We expect the taste of a Grande Americano to be the same at every Starbucks. We expect traffic to be busy during rush hour. You probably expect a blog post from me after a 7 month hiatus. Somethings things fall short and other times our expectations are exceeded.

I’m sitting on a flight out of Nashville, Tennessee. I keep opening my book, but my mind wants to go back to Saturday. Saturday spent in “the South,” in Chattanooga, Tennessee with thousands of others with expectations. Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

I owe you a few other posts about how I got here. The training, the races. For now, I’m going to just write about my race while it’s fresh in my mind. I’ll send out the prequel soon. Just know that it took a lot to get here. I worked my ass literally off my body. I enjoyed almost every moment of it. 

Christine and I arrived Thursday night. We ate waffles, heard our first “y’alls,” unpacked our bikes and climbed into bed. Friday was the day before the race and it was going to be busy. Friday was spent doing the usual pre-race things and a few unusual pre-race things. We swam in the watery treadmill of the Tennessee River. It was warm and it was flowing. I wasn’t worried. I feel like a tough swim gives me a marginal advantage over some weaker swimmers in the field. I was disappointed to hear we would most likely be wetsuit legal. The water was way too warm for a wetsuit and again, I think of it as an advantage. We checked in and checked over our bikes.  A shake out ride did less to shake me out and wound me a little tight with the traffic. I’m still hanging onto a little post-partum anxiety and it likes to rear its ugly head when I’m on my bike.  We got our stuff checked in and ate white rice in our PJs.

On ward to race morning. Alarm went off at 5:15am, or 2:15am Vancouver time. It wasn’t really all that bad. I kept thinking about all the people from halfway around the world racing on a whole different day from home. Coffee, breakfast and out the door. We had plenty of time at the race site to set up and to realize I hadn’t charged my Garmin. Would 47% make it through a half ironman? I guess I will find out. If that was the worst thing to happen all day, I’ll be just fine. We hung out on the pier as the pros were announced and then Christine headed off to the corral as her wave went first. I dropped off my stuff and headed down shortly after fighting back pre-race tears and taking those big deep breaths.

 In our regional races, the rolling wave times start at “Sub 30.” At this race, there was “Sub 25” and a few more until 30 minutes. Wow. Who were these swimmers? Katie Ledecky? With the current, I had NO idea what my swim time would be. I started with the 28-30 gang which was over 75 women back from the start. Again, wow. We hung out on the dock and watched the women dive or jump off the dock 10 at a time. I peed. I think a few others did too as it was wet at our feet and there had been no warm up swim. Such a glamourous sport, eh? It was my turn to get into one of the 10 lanes and wait for the beep. It was awesome. Best start to a race I’ve ever done.

 Beep. I took a running leap off the dock and dove in. Funny thing: open water goggles don’t stay on as well in a dive as pool goggles. Rookie move Liz! I swam strong for a few strokes just to get out in front and then took the 5 seconds to put my goggles back on. No big deal. Keep swimming. The current was definitely less today, but it was still there. I used some sailing smarts to feel for where I should be directing in order to swim to the buoys. I was surprised how many women I was passing. I kept passing. I found one set of feet going the same speed as me and the two of us kept passing all the way to the third turn buoy. Really? All of you started in the under 28 section. I got out of the water feeling great and ready to ride. It was quiet in transition so I knew I had had a decent swim. As it turns out I swam just under 33mins, 32th in my AG. One day I’ll have the courage and the swim strength to start closer to the front where I think I belong. Expectations met.

Onto the bike. If you didn’t know already, I should mention this race was all female. For the first time, Ironman separated the field. The women race Saturday and the men race Sunday. It was a very cool feeling to be out there riding with only other strong women. The bike was expected to be tough. With over 1000m of elevation gain and most of that during one climb up Lookout Mountain, the ride threatened to zap the legs of anyone that didn’t show it the respect it deserved. The climb was a smooth road through a dense tree canopy. I fell into a rhythm and rode my own pace. There are no power zones to meet when you are in your easiest gear just trying to move forward with the steep pitches and a few sneaky descents. I knew I could climb this better than most and I think I did. The lookout portion of Lookout Mountain was amazing with a waterfall cascading off the cliff. I took it all in. As we crested the top, the crowds boosted everyone’s energy. Feeling like a rockstar with a huge smile on my face, I made the turn for the more rolling part of the course through the quiet streets of Georgia state. 

With Christine’s wave being 17 minutes before mine and me being the stronger swimmer, I had a carrot out there waiting for me to find her. I was shocked when I could see her matching Coeur Sports team kit up the road only 15k into the bike. My first reaction was that I had overbiked the climb. I passed her and she yelled “already?” I too had expected to be chasing only on the run. Within a few km, she passed me back. I should have known that would have been too easy. We then rode almost 70km trading places (yes, legally) and egging each other on. Who else gets to race a world championship with her friend, athlete, sparring partner? What a surreal experience.  We hit the dismount line together. Expectations exceeded.

The run. Oh, the run. Like most half iron courses, the buzz tends to be about the bike course. The climbs, the winds, the pavement. I’m fairly certain the race director had someone switch his coffee to decaf when this run course was designed. I left transition just behind Christine. I quickly fell into my usual race cadence and did the little mental assessment on how the legs felt. Tired, but not terrible. No threats of cramping on the immediate horizon. I guess it’s time to run. I passed Christine back and she sent me on my way.

I kept my cadence as my main focus and ignored my pace. Use your arms to power your legs. Light on your feet. Take a cup of something at every aid station and just keep going. Smile! Like any looped course, things get tougher on lap two, but you are encouraged with the fact that the bigger mile markers now belong to you. Kilometer 4? Nope. Kilometer 14 thank you very much. With all the wave starts it was tough to know who you were racing and at certain points it felt like the world was passing me all at once. The support from the crowd, fellow Coeur Sports teammates and other racers was staggering. With the final big climb done, I allowed myself to look at my watch and was happy to see I was still pacing for a 1:45 despite the brutality that was this course. The final kilometer is down hill. Let er rip. I let my feet fly, took a beating on my quads and gave it what I had into that finish chute. Expectations blown completely away.

And that was it. I was done. In 5:14:59 I had put to test over a year of hoping and 6 months of dedicated training. I gave it all I had on the day and I couldn’t be happier with what I accomplished. I placed 27th out of 230 in my age category and 193th out of 1450 of the world’s best female triathletes. I kept the little faces of my boys on my mind. I wanted to honour any time I spent away from them training with giving my best. After the race, I was bombarded with messages and posts from friends and family following back home. Messages from half way around the world. I can’t say how amazing it is to have such an outpouring of support for my little hobby. I thank you all. Special thanks to two especially important parts of my team. To my coach Liz, I love the Liz you helped me find. To my husband, there is none of this without you.

Christine and I spent the rest of our day drinking beer, meeting Coeur teammates and chatting with friends. I can’t tell you enough how the Southern hospitality truly lived up to its name. We poured ourselves into our beds at 11pm completely exhausted and content.

On to the next adventure and to new expectations.






For the month of January, the “blog squad” was writing weekly including one “choose the topic” week. It’s now February and I’m still working on this post. It keeps going around in my head:”when did you first consider yourself an athlete.” I had a few ideas down and then read Laurel‘s version of the same question. The short version: she always thought of herself as an athlete. For me, it was almost the opposite.  Although I know I’m ‘sporty’ now, I really wasn’t always and I certainly didn’t consider myself an athlete.

In highschool I tried all the sports teams and was usually benched pretty early, not having the greatest hand-eye coordination for sports such as volleyball and basketball. I still don’t, and won’t be taking up racket ball anytime soon. I did make it onto the field hockey team, but I’m pretty sure I mostly ran around and occasionally whacked a ball. The finer points of team play were lost on me. Finally, at 15 or so I joined the local sailing team where my older sister and brother were already racing. It took a few years of figuring it out, but by grade 11 and at 16 years old, I was the top of Canada for youth sailing, even winning two national titles. I still did not consider myself an athlete.

Sailing is an odd sport involving tactics, boat-handling and strength endurance. Some skills can be learned, but many of the best sailors in the world are just born with the feel for the water. Looking back now, I realize how much strength I had.  I recall being able to do one-armed pull-ups and carry around my 200lb brother. And abs. Whoa, did I ever have abs. Below is the typical position the skipper of a dinghy stays in for much of a race. Rock. Hard. Yet, I still didn’t consider myself an athlete.

Leverage your body weight over the water for hours each week for abs of steel.

After my sailing days, I switched in “type 1 fun” sports like skiing and downhill mountain biking. Considering these are both gravity driven, I certainly did not consider myself and athlete.

I did start to swim regularly and started attending masters more or less for something to do in the cold evenings of Whistler. I took up running in 2005 or so and eventually, the downhill mountain biking included more and more uphill. Was I an athlete yet? Not as far as I was concerned.

So when did I finally consider myself an athlete? I’m not sure there was an exact moment, but when a complete stranger comments, “I dare say, you look like a sportswoman” or your co-workers start calling you the “machine,” it starts to cross you mind. I do recall the morning before my first Ironman in 2011. I stood up and caught a glimpse of my 30 year old self in the mirror. I barely recognized the reflection. That girl looked like an athlete and the next day she would prove that she was one and had probably been one all along.

Jack of all trades.

This week the team of online word warriors answer questions from our fellow members.  Hailey provided me with my topic: Liz- if you could only do one sport (from tri) for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why? Then provide some of your fave moments/routes of this sport, or bucket list things you would like to do with this sport.

We meet so many triathletes that have a clear answer for this. That big guy with the shorn legs is yelling, “BIKE!” while the woman with the gills is waiting for the race that gets shortened to just a swim.

I consider myself a “true triathlete,” meaning I really don’t have one clear winner nor one clear loser. That’s me: “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  I’m decidedly run-of-the-mill in all three sports, so which one do I do for the rest of my life? Let’s break it down.

Swim. I’m a naturally decent swimmer.  I’m very lucky that way.  I never took swim lessons as a kid unless you count the few seasons of synchro during those painfully awkward tween years. Nothing helps a girls’ confidence like a bun and nose plugs. I’m not a first out of the pack swimmer, but I don’t work that hard at it either. I enjoy the water and I would not have survived pregnancy without it. I can see how an aging body could continue to swim long into the golden years. However, with the exception of Vancouver’s amazing Kits Pool in the summer, the view doesn’t change much. A black line is a black line.

Bike. There is no sport that makes you feel like a child free in the world like cycling.  Heading out the door knowing you can make it hundreds of miles under your own power is a disaster preparedness plan like no other. I got a late start to biking also.  I was six. SIX! I recall the day clearly. I needed to get to the beach at my Aunt and Uncle’s cabin. I had been walking there in bare feet on pointy rocks and pebbles. I turned back, pick up one of the many bikes and off I went.  The peddles felt so smooth under my feet. I spent the rest of the time of that vacation riding everywhere I could. Bike is a strong contender.

Does this still count?

Run: all you need are shoes. I could probably end this post on that point. Shoes. No bike to maintain. No water or wetness. There are so many places you can see on two feet. I traveled around Europe solo one summer and was on the other end of many an odd look as I laced up at the hostel and headed out the door to run around a new city. Apparently, I was meant to be so hung-over that I see only the inside of a dingy bunk room.

I have examined the evidence and weighed the pros and cons.  As much as I want to cop out and choose more than one, I shall answer the question as stated. If I could do only one of the three sports for the rest of my life I would choose: running.  It’s social, accessible and I can take up kiteboarding to get the rush lost from riding a bike.  The strangest thing about choosing running is that I really don’t have any “bucket list” running events. Even Boston doesn’t make me tick. There is the ongoing family wager that if I can beat my dad’s PB marathon time of 3:25 he will take up running again (he’s 66,) but that involves running a marathon. Considering it’s been 10 years since my only open marathon, the bucket list might get drawn up very soon.  Thanks for the question Hailey.  Let’s go for a run one of these days. In fact, lets all go: Christine, Jen, Laurel, Caitlin, Elizabeth, and Erin!


Minimal wasted effort.

Hello again. Next up on the blog challenge with the gang (Hailey, Jen, Laurel, Christine, Caitlin, Elizabeth, Erin,) we take on“time management.”  I guess because we are all tri-nerds (or some type of athlete) with jobs and lives and stuff we somewhere got the idea that we should tell you fine folks how to “fit it all in.”  I know what you’re thinking at this point, “Liz, aren’t you a stay at home mom? Don’t you have all the time in the world to eat bon-bons and do the weekly crossword?”  Oh, of course I do!  I’ve already made a casserole, ironed the kids’ sheets, watched my favorite weekly soap and set my hair in curlers before sitting down to write this.  Just call me Betty Draper.


Or not.  I know I don’t have some fancy job or need to commute 2 hours a day, but my days are annoyingly disrupted.  A typical day involves some variation of: make coffee, nurse baby, chase toddler to get dressed, calm fussy baby, get toddler to [enter activity here], open computer, calm fussy baby, write one line of email, nurse baby, drink cold coffee, write another line of email…..etc. I can get things done, but in time snippets of about 6 minutes before I must drop everything to tend to the needs of a small human.

So how DO I get in workouts?  Again, I’m sure you are all thinking, “you can just workout while they nap.”  I do manage to ride when I only have the baby in my charge, but he often wins the fuss battle. I stop mid-ride a sweaty mess and attempt to not soak him while he feeds. Other workouts are done in the evenings or during the amazing 1.25 hours of kid-free time I employ once a week.  I use this 75 minutes to strut around the gym like I own the place, despite the back fat escaping my tank top and that I could probably do my whole workout with a single 8lb dumbbell. I do enough that I’m effectively crippled for days.

I do have one real advantage when it comes to time management. I’m lazy. “How would being lazy help get MORE done,” you ask?  Simple. I need to be efficient.  In fact, I have honestly considered studying to become an efficiency expert.  Nothing drives me more crazy than someone taking extra steps to complete a task. One of the greatest inventions for people like me has been the self checkout at markets and drugstores.  I’m all over that shit. Scan, place item, scan, place item, complete transaction, out.

Other points of efficiency in my life: I wear one of three outfits daily, I eat standing up, I brush my teeth while doing the laundry, I clean the bathroom while I shower, I have a strict 2:1 workout to shower ratio and most importantly, I have remarkably few f#$ks to give. Giving even one f#$k that the house needs vacuuming, the fridge is housing food from last summer or my eyebrows need plucking would take away from the more fulfilling parts of life.  Nope, I efficiently refuse to give a f#$k about all the things that don’t make me happy.

“Be lazier to get more done” – Liz Cullen 2017

7 for 2017

*Editor’s note: I wrote this before reading SMOs entry. Demonstration of brain sharing when you spend an inordinate amount of time with someone. Also note how she “dabbles in parenting.”


I sat down to start writing this “7 things of 2017” post and had a little hissy-fit. I thought these fine women (Hailey, Erin, Jen, Elizabeth, Laurel, Caitlin and Christine) were asking me to set some inconsequential goals for the year that will, apparently, change my life and make my digestive acoustics smell like crisp ocean air. I then thought I should write my usual satirical take on life changing ticks of the clock, but it’s just too easy. Have we learned nothing since 1999?  When a computer reaches 1999, it logically ticks over to 2000. It doesn’t blow up. It just carries on counting. So why do we think our entire lives can change with one change of number at the end of your cheque book? If you still have a cheque book that is. Maybe your landlord lives in the 21st century age of e-transfer.

Then Hailey posted her 7 things and I realized it can just be things we are looking forward too. Ding! I can do that.  So here they are: 7 things I’m looking forward to in 2017.

  1. Fitness. Hello? Is it me you’re looking for? The one things I can say about being really really out of shape is that there’s no way to go but up. Lately, I’ve come home from runs with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m getting to be ok with that. When I do get fit, I’m gonna be that super annoying person that thinks the whole world needs to see her abs on social media. OK, maybe I won’t. That really is the worst.
  2. Numbers. I like numbers. Numbers don’t lie and they, in certain context, can tell a story. I want to use my love of numbers to make confidence decisions about what my athletes are doing for training. I do already, I just want to do it more and do it better. I also want to use my numbers to make decisions about what I’m doing with my own training. I’m self-coached, due to budget constraints, and I can do better at coaching myself. New power meter. New Heart rate monitor. No more excuses.
  3. Trips. Two trips are already planned. The usual trip to Maui with the family and a race trip to Coeur D’Alene for the 70.3. Nowhere new, but at least it’s getting out of town. Hopefully, some others added to the list before the end of the year pending my tethered small friend and his ability to eat without mum.
  4. Timing Chips. I didn’t wear a timing chip at all in 2016. 2017 holds more timing chips, race bibs, startlines and (hopefully) finish lines.
  5. Ocho. I’ll explain another time, but I’m really excited about this one.
  6. Mountains. I miss adventures with my friends. In 2015, it was trail runs up mountains, epic 200k bike rides, skate skiing, skiing. I want to get back to a level of fitness where I can confidently head out the door with my friends and seek adventures. This is no laughable feat; my friends are really fit.
  7. Oceans. In 2016, I swam in the ocean once. It was the day before Elliot arrived. I stepped on a boat once. I miss the ocean and the adventures with my husband. He likes boats. He builds boats; you should buy oneb39574_269b18a1e3d94bf0ac497864c95fe4edmv2. I want adventures on the ocean with all my boys.

So there you go; 7 things that, hopefully, don’t sounds too “resolutiony.”


2016 and stuff.


The year people can’t wait to be over.

I’m not going to write some post about how many people died and why this was the worst year ever.  I’m also not going to write a counterpoint post about how awesome it was either.  If you read a few posts back, this was clearly not my favorite year (until Aug 19 of course.) My fellow blog pals (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) are all writing about their successes in sport and life in 2016. Instead I’m going to tell you about my 2016 and 1998.  Why 1998?  Well, I just turned 36 years old and it blows my mind that it’s been 18 years.

1.       1998 was the year I graduated highschool and started university. I recall finding my first year science classes completely overwhelming at 400+ students per lecture.  I sat near the back and didn’t pay as much attention as I probably should have, considering I paid to be there.

2.       It’s been 18 years and I still don’t know what I should be when I grow up. On this note, I find it hard to fathom how I was supposed to know what to study at the age of 17.

3.       2016 was the year I took the most naps. I recall being the most tired ever.

4.       I spent my 18th birthday on a plane headed to South Africa, so it was a shortened day.

5.       I spent my 36th birthday in Whistler with my family.  It seemed like a long day and I was in bed at 9pm.

6.       18 is considered an adult.  I’m still waiting to feel like one despite having two kids. I drop my kids off at various activities at the community centre and feel intimidated by the other moms.  They seem like adults; I’m still driving a car with manual locks and often forget my underwear at the pool.

7.       19 is the drinking age in BC so in 1998 I was underage.  I used a friend’s ID to go to the bars on campus.  Once, her lab partner was the bouncer and he let me in anyways.

8.       I spent most of 2016 sober (hopefully for obvious reasons) and I missed beer most of all. I’m enjoying an ale as I type)

9.       Swimming was free for students at certain times at the university pool and thus began my development in the sport. The pool was also a favourite spot to study and by that, I mean the national swim team. 😉

10.   Swimming was my favorite thing to do in 2016, probably because I was rather buoyant.

11.   I got a pair of Roots Tuff boots for my birthday in 1998.  I threw them out only a few weeks ago.

12.   My favourite purchase of 2016 is the power meter for my tri bike despite it continually telling me how out of shape I am. 

13.   This summer I went to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I had never been before and although it seems like a nice place (ie. I don’t want to offend anyone) I have no plans to return. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more with beer.

14.   The movie “You’ve Got Mail” came out in 1998 and my hair stylist thought I’d look great with a short, sassy blond cut like Meg Ryan.  (Editors note: I think she was correct and I still have a similar style)

15.   No movies in 2016 have influenced my style of leggings and nice socks.

16. Despite lows of 2016, this is worth remembering:



No inspiration intended.

I’m just home from a run that I entitled “Running Sucks” on my Strava profile.  It does. It sucks.  As does swimming and at times, biking.  Basically I suck at sport.

Before I continue let’s get one thing straight: I’m not writing this to be some poster-girl for postpartum fitness and inspire thousands to get fit post baby.  I’m not meaning to be inspiring in the least.  Inspiring people ride unicorns to the organic market to buy spelt muffins and vegan smoothies.  I’m not that. I mostly want a record of how much I suck on this day so one day I might look back and marvel at how much things sucked.

I know baby E is only 2 months old.  That knowledge has not escaped me, but that doesn’t make this suck any less.  I also know I did it once before and I’ll get there, but that doesn’t make this suck any less.

To recap: I did an Ironman July 2015. On Sept 10, 2016 I rode 17km and it sucked.  I stopped 8k into the dead flat ride to catch my breath.  I cried when I got home.

I have managed to get on my bike 20 times since then and I think it’s sucking less.  I could possibly ride 30k again, but I haven’t tried due to the fear of getting 15k away and not making it home.  I treated myself to a power meter to help get back on track.  It tells me my watts are 100 low from where they once were.  Combine that with the 25lbs extra and it makes any hill look like Mt. Ventoux.  So I ride indoors a lot.  Usually while the kids nap which means the baby is getting used to salty milk and the 3 year old is getting used to Paw Patrol when he wakes up 20mins into a 45 min ride. It’s not ideal.

I have swum a total of 2500m in 3 months. I guess that makes sucking at swimming no surprise.

Running is the worst.  I run 2 minutes at a time and by the end of the 120 seconds my heart rate is at threshold and my body hurts.  Then I walk and try to run another 2 minutes. I probably shouldn’t even be running based on how loose some stuff feels, but mental health sometimes trumps physical health.

The definition of the slang version of suck: to be objectionable or inadequate.

So there’s my update. Training is objectionable and inadequate.