Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Africa Update!

It's definitely time for an update, but I have a good reason for the delay.  Unfortunately I caught I stomach flu last weekend and was vomiting, nauseous, and lay in bed for about 2 days with no energy.  I went to the doctor though and got some meds and I have made a full recovery.  It was so bad the day I went to the doctor I had to sit down and rest during the 100m walk from the doctor's office to the pharmacy to pick up my presciption!  Anyways.. I am alive and well.  

So lots has been going on with the diet study and I have been jumping in and helping out as much as possible.  The picture below is me in the field collecting stool samples (not me) of the subject and doing breath tests, questionnaires etc etc. 

 Above is a picture of the 3 subjects (sitting on the ground) and two of the people helping me collect data.

This picture below is a different day out in the field doing HIV, BP and diabetes screening.  We went to the most amazing community way out in the countryside.  I got to drive the 4x4 out here and there were a few hills I wasn't sure if I would get up!  It was so beautiful with a mountain right behind all the huts that I decided to hike up!!  Two ladies joined me but they only made it half way and then I ran the rest of the way and took pictures from the top.  It took 40 minutes to get to the top and the view was amazing!!  This picture below is one of the ladies who lives in the community we were doing the screening at.  She really wanted her picture taken.  All of the community members love it when you ask for their picture so I don't feel shy about bringing out my camera anymore.  Lots of the women put clay on their faces to protect them from the sun.
 The picture below is some of the community members whom we screened.
 It still fascinates me how all the women carry things on their heads so easily.  This is three community members arriving at the screening site.
 This picture below is me half way up the mountain.  The two ladies I was with stopped at this point so we got some great photos.  The view was incredible.
 Here are the two women who came with me.  I was so impressed they made it this far, and also so impressed they expressed interest in coming!!
 The view from the top! 

 This is just a pretty picture of the road out of the community from the back of the 4x4 on our way home.
 Last weekend we went to the Umpholozi Game Reserve.  This was my first safari so despite vomiting a few times it was incredible.  I went with Kate and 2 girls from England who run a charity and raise money for Kate to give out food every month.  They were incredible women and young (28 and 30) so we had a great time.  This is a picture of me leaning out the window of Kate's car at the end of our game drive the first night.  We saw so many animals - giraffes, wild dog (very rare), vultures, white rhino, warthog, zebras, lots of elephants, crocodiles, turtles, buck,  and baboons. 
 We were in and amongst about 10 elephants, including babies!  Kate had her foot on the gas ready to accelerate out of there if any of them showed interest in flipping our cars!  We were trying to be still and be "one with the car," but that's always difficult with a 2 year old and 5 year old in the car haha!!
 This giraffe was so close I thought he was going to put his head in my window! 
Since the weekend I have been very involved with the diet study.  A team has arrived from Edmonton (small world) for the diet study.  Gita is the lead lady and has a PhD in nutritional epidemiology.  They have been out in the field collecting 24 hour recall data on 80 community members.  They ask them to recall everything they ate the day before.  I have inputed all the data into an excel spreadsheet for them and will be doing as much as I can to help with their research during my time left here.  I find it fascinating and am excited to learn more about what they do.  I may even have my name published on a few papers by the time I leave here!!

My battery is dying so I am going to end this here.  I hope it makes sense I was typing fast!!

exciting developments in the life of kerry spearing...

to be continued...

A few relevant notes:
1) I have been in 4 different countries in the past 4 days
2) I am about to enter my 5th in a few hours.
3) This is day 4 of airports and flights.
4) I am way to excited to be bored of flying by this point!
5) I couldn't sleep last night - too excited.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Home Sweet Home

I'm back in my favorite place in the world - WHISTLER!! My last week has been absolutely crazy, but I'm so happy to be here. Last Sunday I raced in Holland at the Almere European Cup. It was another race in torrential rain and severe wind and I was happy when it was over. I had a great time though, despite the poor race, and Bryan was a great roomie :)
On Monday I flew to Zurich and took the train back into the Swiss Alps to Pontresina, where some of the irish team was still training. I had left most of my stuff there so I had to go back, but I made the decision I was not going to stay and on Tuesday flew back to Belfast. I spent most of my day on Wednesday packing my things and at 4:20PM called Air Canada to ask if I could get on a plane to Vancouver on Thursday (the next day). The lady I talked to was extremely helpful but there was no flight to Heathrow early enough for me to make the 11am flight to Vancouver. "Can you get on a flight tonight at 7?" "Um it's 4:20 now.. sure why not!" SO I spent 5 consecutive nights in 5 different countries and arrived in Vancouver on Thursday smiling from ear to ear. Al picked me up from the airport and we drove to Squamish to meet my mom when she got off work.
Man I love this place. I had planned to take some time off, but have already been out for 2 rides, a couple trail runs, and even competed in my first XTerra relay (swim and run) since I arrived!! It's so nice to get back to exercising for the enjoyment of it. It can be easy to get caught up in what your trying to accomplish and forget the reasons why you started the sport in the first place.Mel McQuaid was in Whistler for the Canadian XTerra Championships this weekend. Apparently as far as XTerra goes it was a pretty knarly course, but I guess being in Whistler that's to be expected. On Saturday morning she asked me if I wanted to do a relay with her partner, Ross. He would do the mountain biking if I swam and ran. I signed up right away - I LOVE trail running!! It was so much fun and I had a big smile on my face the whole way. It was an 11km run on some pretty sketchy mountain bike trails. I took the downhills pretty conservative as I didn't want to break an ankle, and just made sure not to walk on any of the uphills (although it was pretty tempting!!).

I'll definitely have to do more of these!
Mel and I at the finish (she won).

My good friend Shauna came up to Whistler last night for a visit. We went out for an hour hilly trail run this morning around Lost Lake. It was so much fun, but after the 11km race yesterday I am SO sore now I can barely walk!! Ah the price you have to pay for adventure :)

This is a pretty sweet picture I took at the top of a climb in the Swiss Alps. It was a tough climb but so worth the view at the top!

Gavin Noble with coach Chris and support team Martina and Ricky.
A beautiful lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It reminded me of Whistler.
This was in Almere the night before the race.

The Chief...

lets go to the CHIEF, Hikers to the top..

haha.. sasquatch!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Vegan Spelt Nut Bread, Kale Almond Pesto, and the Terry Fox Run!

Alex introduced me to Elana's Pantry online recipe site last weekend.  Today I made the Kale Almond Pesto.  It was SO easy and so delicious.  On the weekend Alex and I attempted to make grain-free carrot cake cupcakes for Brent's 30th birthday party, and lets just say they didn't exactly cook all the way through (but we left them in 20 minutes extra!)  Not to blame Elana though, we didn't exactly follow the recipe to a T and I think my flax eggs were flawed!  The icing was also a bit of a disaster but we managed to fix it with copious amounts of icing sugar and almond flour haha.  The good thing was  after a couple glasses of wine they tasted absolutely delicious so nobody really noticed the raw center or overly sweet icing :)
I also made Vegan Spelt Nut Bread today and it was delicious too!! Recipe HERE.

 FIREMEN? Helllllo.

The most impressive part about the Terry Fox run in Whistler last weekend were the firemen who ran the entire 7.2km in their fire-kit!!  Good thing it wasn't a hot day!  The run was on trails around lost lake. I ran it hard just because I am incapable of not trying.  I think I was the only person actually "racing" it though which was funny.  Then we went to the Sunday market and got some vegan pumpkin bread and fresh veggies :)  hmm I love Whistler :)

2010: A Year to Remember

May be this story long time ago at 2010. A season wrap up blog post is well overdue. My year in Ireland was definitely the craziest year of my life to date.

In November of 2009 I packed my bags and flew across the world into unknown territory. A new country and a new training environment were inevitable, but what I didn’t know was how truly supportive and amazing Triathlon Ireland would be - the coaches, the athletes, the support network, the “fairness” of their system, and the standards and quality of all the members involved in their successes. For such a small nation I was blown away by the quality of the high performance environment.

Aileen - my best friend for a year :)
Chris on the far left - the best coach I've ever had.
For the first time in my life I was given the opportunity to work with individuals so talented in their fields of coaching (Chris Jones), strength training (Michael Johnson) physiology (Declan Gamble and Ricky Baker) and physiotherapy (Dierdre Burrell and Dave Minion) that I learned more about training in less than a year with these individuals than I had learned in my entire 8 years as a triathlete.

Michael and Declan in Portugal
The 3 Irish Girls!
Dierdre introduced me to a whole new world of physiotherapy... amazing.
I’m not going to talk about my 2010 racing season, I had a lot of bad luck and injury. I went to some amazing places and met some amazing people (see above) and friends. I realize how lucky I was to be able to do what I did and it is definitely an experience I will never forget.

Martina, Me and Conor.
 As for now…

I have been living in Whistler for 2 months now and LOVE it. I mean I already knew it was my favorite place in the world, but to have the opportunity to live here is really incredible. I wake up every morning feeling like the luckiest person alive. My decision to come home to Canada was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. The west coast of Canada is paradise to me.

My life has really changed since I got back. I am in school on Sundays in Vancouver – taking an MCAT prep course as I’ve signed up to write the exam on April 9th. So yes I know it’s still 6 months away, but I still study about 3-5 hours a day. I love it. I love school. I will be applying for medical school in the fall so I guess it’s important that I love it! On top of that I am working at the Trattoria di Umberto Italian restaurant. It’s pretty fun and a great way to meet locals. I go running pretty much every day because I love it, not cause I have to. Last week I did my longest run ever of 1 hour 45 minutes and ran a total of 73km (in the week that is). Oh and NOTHING is flat here so I guess I’m getting pretty good at running uphill. The trails are incredible too. What I do not have though is any speed. I ran a 9.5km road race in Vancouver yesterday and wow… that was interesting. After 8 weeks of nothing faster than 12-13km/hr, 3:45min/km pace felt like death. After 2km I slowed it down to 4min/km and decided a “tempo” run was a better idea HAHA.

As for training, it’s off-season so I’m doing what I please. I do have a strength trainer so am lifting weights 2x a week, and obviously running. I am trying to get to the pool as well but my sciatica has been bad so my heel goes numb pretty quick when I swim and I have to get out. I was biking but it’s got really cold now. The snow will be here soon. The mountain should open for skiing in a few weeks time. I am stolked. I will stay fit with lots of cross country skiing this winter. Maybe you’ll see me on the 70.3 scene next year.

Oh and I was a candy cane for Halloween ☺

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Whistler GranFondo and my summer

My first summer in Edmonton is coming to an end. Unfortunately I spent most of it working and studying and wasn't able to enjoy riding my bike, running, racing, and attending festivals as much I would have liked, but I'm sure the hard work will pay off.. one day.
Rainbow Lake post Fondo.
I wrote the MCAT in mid-August and since then have been really enjoying getting fit again on my bike and getting back into running. Last weekend I joined 5 friends for some camping in Jasper and I rode a total of 11 hours (285km) over 3 days. This was by far the biggest trianing block of my summer. It took me the entire week to recover, but I think it was worth the fitness boost for yesterday's Whistler GranFondo, and definitely worth the mental break from work, exams and medical school applications!!

Riding out of Jasper to climb up to the hotsprings.

Standing at the base of Marmot.
The GranFondo, for the second year in a row, turned into the best day of my summer. Nothing beats standing on Georgia street downtown Vancouver at 6:30AM with 7000 fellow cyclists about to ride one of the most scenic highways in the world from Vancouver to Whistler. I rode fairly conservative because after 10 weeks of studying and only 3 weeks of consistent cycling in my legs, I didn't trust where my fitness was at. I ended up pacing myself pretty perfectly because I was able to keep going strong right into the finish (last year I blew up with 40km still to go), and with 8km to go I tried to stand on a climb and my legs almost gave out from underneath me.. good thing I was almost done! The ride included 1700 meters of climbing and 1000 meters of descent, for a total elevation gain of 700 meters. I averaged 31.5km/hr, not too bad all things considered. Hopefully one year soon I'll be confidently fit going into this ride and I can really challenge myself to go faster.  My mom also had a really great ride coming in at 4 hours, 43 minutes, successfully not letting me beat her by more than an hour (last year I beat her by 1 hour 40 seconds)!! I'm sure I'll never hear the end of it, but that's okay she deserves it!

Mom and I at the finish.

At the finish I had the pleasure of handing out free Vega samples to promote the products and got some fun pictures.

These two were a little too excited :)
The rest of the day was amazing as expected. I hung out in the beer tent with 3 of my best friends Julia, Steve and Meghan, drinking beer obviously, and then hung out at the lake for the first time this summer before hitting up a patio in the village. It was an amazing day all around and I'm so lucky to call such an amazing place home!!

Meghan and I on Citta's patio.

Some other photos from my summer:

With my mom in Sedona, Arizona

With Patricia Walsh at the 2012 Paratriathlon Pan Am Championships in Edmonton.