Michelle Barker's books on Goodreads
Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)

The Beggar King The Beggar King
reviews: 8
ratings: 21 (avg rating 4.00)

Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories
reviews: 4
ratings: 15 (avg rating 4.07)

Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales
reviews: 4
ratings: 14 (avg rating 3.79)

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Writer in Training

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to start a blog about this other thing I do in my life besides writing. This initial post has been on my mind, but I’ve puzzled over how to frame it and what I really want to say in this blog.

            Then this morning I woke up to go on my long run. It was Sunday, the day after my 54th birthday. I got ready—which meant about 20 minutes of activation exercises—then got into my car because I’d already decided the day before that I wanted to run around Stanley Park, and I had to drive to get there.

It was cold out (well, cold for Vancouver), still dark and pouring rain. And I couldn’t help but think: I love my life. There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing than what I am doing right now.

            I love that I get to go running on a Sunday morning. Strange, I know, but I’ve had to struggle so hard and for so long to be able to run again that every time I do, it feels like a privilege and a gift.

            I hadn’t run around the Stanley Park seawall in probably thirty years. It was something I used to do every Sunday in high school, and then occasionally in my twenties. And then life happened: I had four children, got busy, and developed severe back problems that seemed to be exacerbated by both running and cycling. I was told by a physiotherapist that my running days were over, so I started swimming instead.

            Swimming was the beginning of a miracle cure. After about ten years of it, I dared to get back on my bike and found that my back muscles had been strengthened enough by my work in the pool that I could do it pain- free.

            But running? No way. Even three minutes of easy jogging had me in agony the next day.

            Ironman has always been a dream of mine. Ever since I first heard about it in the 1980s, I wanted to do it. But a life with four children makes things like six-hour rides an impossibility. That dream went on the backburner for decades.

            Then I turned fifty-one. My kids were almost grown up and I’d run out of excuses.

            Fifty-one is kind of old to decide okay, now I’m going to be an athlete. For several years I’d been swimming and riding but not in any serious, committed way. But I decided I would dip my toe in by doing the Victoria 70.3 as a relay. I would do the swim and the bike, and one of my sons would do the run.

            I got injured IN MARCH and I panicked. Laugh if you want to. I laugh now when I think of it. But mentally I guess I wasn’t ready to race quite yet, so I backed out—and then had to endure watching my daughter race the 70.3 in Victoria from the sidelines. It was an appropriate punishment for me and it had the desired effect. Next year, I thought. I will do this next year, and not just the swim and the bike. I’m going to do the whole thing. I was absolutely determined.

            That summer I went to a new physiotherapist and said it out loud: “I want to do the 70.3 in Whistler next summer. But I’ve been told I’ll never run again. Can you help?” It sounded crazy. I was embarrassed.

            But she said, “Of course.” And we began the project of rebuilding a four-time-pregnant body.

            Turns out, it was easier said than done.

            First, I discovered I had no core muscles. ZERO.

            Then, I discovered I had no glute strength. NONE.

            Then, I stumbled upon the mess that was my pelvic floor. (Women, we’ll talk).

            I spent at least an hour a day just doing exercises to strengthen those parts of my body. It required an amazing amount of dedication, but I’d seen my daughter cross that finish line. I was determined to do it too.

            And slowly, very slowly, I started running again.

            There were disasters along the way. I’ll talk about those in another post. But the following summer I did compete at the Whistler 70.3 and I finished it. I did it again the summer afterwards, taking an hour off my previous time.

            And this summer. . . it’s the full Ironman at Whistler for me, which I hope to complete with two of my children.

            This blog will be a weekly record of my journey. I hope it will be inspirational to someone out there. I’m no expert, so don’t expect anything technical from me. But I’ve learned many things the hard way, and I don’t mind laughing at myself if it helps just one person along the way.