A few years ago I decided I wanted to hike the West Coast Trail. It is on the west coast (duh) of Vancouver Island. It is seventy two kilometres give or take and is quite difficult. You have to carry all of your supplies with you and carry all garbage back out again. My backpack was 45 pounds and I may have been carrying a couple (make that 35) extra pounds on my body. All in all my poor legs had to haul around 220 ponds. But the physical difficulties aren’t the worst part. There is no cell phone coverage and if you are hurt someone has to hike to get help. It can take a day or two for rescue. We did it in 6 nights and seven days. Suffice it to say it is really, really hard! Those who know the trail know what I am talking about. Those who don’t, google it.

My nephew is an outdoors kind of guy and he was joining me with his girlfriend and his seventeen year old son. Rene’ wasn’t keen on the idea but he came along for the ride. Or rather, walk. I was talking to my niece Tami and asked if she wanted to come along. She is usually game for anything although she was well known for being a five star kind of gal. Yep. She was in. Sounds good. Can’t wait. And so I booked it early as there are a limited amount of people allowed on the trail each year and some dates are usually rainier than others.

A few months passed and I got call from Tami. She was a little more interested in this “hike” we were going on. It turns out she had started telling people about the trip and quite a few of the responses were along the lines of “Oh my God! Good for you.” It made her a little suspicious that people were so impressed with her undertaking this particular “hike”. Poor girl. She had no idea what she had signed on for but she came along. It was magical. Holy shit hard. It was truly an incredible experience. We were all changed just a little by our time together and when we all returned home we found we had trouble fitting back into our lives. As Tami put it “I miss my people”. We had to look out for each other and lean on each other. We developed routines and we kept each other on an even keel. There were tears. Laughs. Bad food. Rain. Annoying trail mates who we made fun of in our bonding. Tami was sleep deprived because the f#&*%$g ocean was so loud. A bond develops when people journey together into the unknown. And so it was with our small group of six. We came home a changed group of people.

And then… a few months later came the payback call from Tami. Did I want to go into a competition with her? It was called Femsport. A womans competition. Of course I said yes. Never say no is our motto. The ages are split up so it lulls you into a false sense of security. They make it fair. I was in the Masters group. Over fourty. It didn’t matter if you had ever competed or not the mature women were all together. At the time I didn’t think much about it. Since then I have learned that fourty-year old women are pretty incredible. I was 57 at the time and my training consisted of doing what I had always done. I do yoga four or five times a week. I did zumba once a week and Rene’ and I love to take long walks. I do lift weights and I am fairly strong. Drew also helped me and we developed some strategies which truly worked. It turns out that people train specifically for this competition and there are classes and groups you can join. Tami thought my training was hilarious. To put it into context, let me describe the competition.

There are six events. First box jumps. Jump on and off an eighteen inch box fifty times. Do it in less than three minutes. There are rules too with a judge watching and deciding if the jumps count. Next there is a tire pull. Drag a large tire while running backwards. There are ropes attached to the tire which makes it sound easier. Oh yeah, um… the tire can’t lift and they put a ton of weight in the tire. Again the judges watch for penalties. Then come burpees. Remember junior high? Well they don’t get any easier. You have to do fifteen in less than three minutes. Oh, there is a catch. First you reach down to the ground and clean and jerk a fourty pound sandback up over your head. Then the burpee with your chest touching the sandbag on the ground. Repeat fifteen times. Horrible. Then we get to flip a tractor tire. Six times. Three in one direction and then run to the other side and three more coming back. Time stops when the tire stops bouncing so gals throw their bodies onto the tire after the last flip, What next? Oh the kettle bells. Basically pick up a kettle ball and run 25 feet and place it on a stand. Run back and cross the line and grab a second kettle bell and repeat. The kettle bells get heavier but the stands get lower. The first kettle bell is around fourty-five pounds and you lift it to a point as high as your head. The last kettlebell is close to seventy pounds and awkward. But you only have to place it around waist height. Again there are judges and rules. And finally there is the obstacle run. Whatever they decide to do is what you do and at the end you push a truck. It changes every year and every location so you can’t really train for it. They tell you to train for anything. So I did yoga. I also thought about losing weight. That didn’t happen.

Well that was last year and it didn’t suck. I decide to change my ways and do it again this year. I was going to train hard, I was going to be prepared. So what did Tami and I do two weekends ago? Femsport. Guess how prepared I was? Less than last year. Big surprise there. The only thing I did different was NOT have three glasses of wine with my pasta dinner the evening before the competition. I practiced burpees once with two twenty pound dumbells. I tried to do box jumps on two separate occasions. The results weren’t good. I decided to wing it. I rested the last week before the competition, stayed up talking until two in the morning the night before and got up at seven. In the end, I met a really nice gal in line at the registration on Friday night. We called ourselves the “Just Met” team. We set up camp beside a woman named Angela who ended up winning the masters division. She rocked every event. She is doing all five of these Femsport competitions this summer. She was an inspiration. She screamed at me through each stupid idiotic event! It helps. My Grandchildren hugged me and made me feel good. My results? I will find out when they email them to me. I know I didn’t do better than the last year. But I did the burpees and box jumps in the allotted time. That is a win. I didn’t throw up and I didn’t rip my pants. These were my biggest fears going into this competition. What this experience taught me is that even living my ordinary everyday life I can go into something like this and walk away knowing I tried. The reality of this competition is comraderie. People cheer you on. If you are struggling they cheer you on more and more and shout encouragement. And when you finish the crowd roars. There are those who rule the podium but at this event every woman is celebrated for just being there. I have never really been a part of anything like it. It is uplifting It is empowering. It was payback from Tami… And I loved it.

I learned training is a good thing. I already knew it, I guess I just need to put it into practice. I think we know that won’t happen. We have another challenge of an entirely different nature in November of this year. It will be hard too but I won’t have to do burpees so that is a plus. And then it is my turn to challenge Tami the crazy person. I am leaning towards a pole dancing competition or hiking the Chilkoot trail. Either way I will train hard. You know… Yoga and walking with a little zumba thrown in for that touch of cardio.


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