Friends, Sunset & SUP = #BestLife

“Here’s to the moments where we chose to celebrate life, simply because it was worth it.” 

Thank you to Vancouver, we love you [the t-shirt project] for creating a community of rad, adventure-seekin’, Vancouver-lovin folks, Red Paddle Co for the sweet SUP boards and ZERBIN for the tunes.

Summer in Vancouver

Perfect summer night in Vancouver.

Two Years

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In August 2011, I left the corporate world in Calgary to start a new chapter.

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Blessed to the brim that I can call the west coast home.

Thank you Vancouver. xo

Summer in the City

This week I vowed to myself that I would start having more fun. Seems pretty bat shit cray to say that out loud, but I often keep myself focused on “achieving” — must improve, must do more, must accomplish. I know that what I truly need is a little less of that. Truth bomb.

Every moment of every day I feel blessed to live in Vancouver. I truly love it here.

Summer is here… it’s time to beach and eat and sun and laugh — and experience a little bit of everything. I’ve scoured the interwebz and found the best of the best in this beautiful city:

Farmers Markets

  • Every Wednesday: Main Street
  • Every Saturday: Trout Lake & West End
  • Every Sunday: Kitsilano

Night Markets

Festivals

Music

Outdoor Movies

Yoga

Let the games begin.

A Little Place Called Home

This morning MoneySense Magazine announced that Vancouver was #10 on their ‘Canada’s Best Places to Live‘ list. I know top #10… eye roll.  Based on their rating factors, a few issues in Vancouver brought the ranking down – average house price ($882k – whoa!) and average household income (a slim $81k). Fair.

I read the survey, freaked out over the rating, then thought – I am willing to put up with the housing costs and low incomes in order to live in this city. Truth! Get a roommate, bunk with your sister, live with a psycho boyfriend – do what it takes to make this city work.

Vancouver makes me feel like I’m whole.

Note: Something I love about the digital world is how random things appear in front of you at any given time. Thanks to Amber for sharing this video of downtown Vancouver. Gave me goosebumps. Well done Joel Schat

Inspired to Run

All the time people ask me why I’m on social media networks. They want to know what value I see in the tools. They want to know why it intrigues me. They want to know why I keep on coming back.

One thing I love about social is how easy it is to be part of a community and align with people who have similar interests. Since learning to run {and later founding Runcouver}… I have immersed myself in health/fitness/running/racing/etc communities online. I follow races, teams, pro athletes, local runners, nutritionists and a ton of inspirational dynamos kicking ass and crushing goals. I join in on conversation via twitter chats, hashtags blogs and message boards. It oozes through my every day {Note: I don’t follow the people who just post ‘skinny’ quotes everyday with disturbing photos of way too thin women. Ugh.}.

A local runner, friend of a friend and someone I need to get to know better is a young man named Dave {he’s a total babe btw :)}. For the last few months, I’ve been following Dave tweeting and Instagram’ing his day to day. He’s a beast. Truly beastly. He’s the king of goal setting and always thinking of a new way to challenge himself.

This morning I randomly woke up {rested} at 6:30am. I was going back and forth in my head – one more hour of sleep… yes… no… one more hour of sleep… yes… no… Then all of a sudden I realized that Dave was probably running.

Dave loves a hashtag called: #10ktostarttheday.

Dave kills it on the pavement morning after morning. My brain turned into competitive “you must continually improve yourself” mode and I immediately knew I needed to run to.

I hate running in the morning – and something I know for sure is that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone.

Running at night – in the dark – is my comfort zone. It’s peaceful, calming and one of my favourite times of the day. Since I’ve been banned from running by myself in the dark {read about that time I fell on my face}… I probably need to start liking early mornings.

So just after 6:45am, I left my house. Runners on, rain jacket on and prepared for a brisk run in the dark {I knew it wouldn’t be dark for long…}. :)

Epic RunI headed to Burrard Bridge… 3K turned into 5K… 5K turned into 10K… 10K turned into 15K… and before you knew it…

I was at 18.9k!

Whoa. So long broken face!!!

My iPhone died just outside of Chinatown, but I continued running to Yaletown. I hit 20k and felt more alive than I have in weeks.

#20ktostartthedamnday

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Dave.

Thank you for getting me out of bed. Thank you for getting my head in the game. Thank you for being a source of inspiration, both online and offline.

Your presence is noticed.

See you on the seawall. Run baby run.

Reflecting on 2012

Reflection is always important — but the end of the year continually reminds me that I need to pause, reflect and determine how I want to move forward. The past 12 months have been a whirlwind.  I started the year with this quote:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” – League of their Own

… and my word, it hit home. This past year was tough! One thing I know for sure is that you need to be thankful for the hard times in your life, because those are the times when you grow and learn the most.

This year I learned:

  • People are #1. Throughout the year I ended up being in a number of situations where I didn’t feel like people were being treated fairly. One thing I know for sure is that people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. In both my personal and professional life, I believe in ‘lead with heart.’ As leaders, we need to be human. We need to respect people’s feelings, listen and truly treat people like we want to be treated. Choose your friends, boss, clients — and every relationship in your control, wisely. 
  • Transparency is the new marketing. No one is perfect — and I don’t believe that anyone wants to work with or be friends with people who claim to be. First and foremost, we’re all human. People want to deal with real people — and vulnerability is a strength. Be open; allow people to see who you are. Talk about your learnings — and your failures. Admit fault when you’ve made a mistake.
  • Don’t fight change. I cried a lot in September — more tears than I’ve had in years in fact. During periods of change, the only thing you can control is your reaction. Everything happens for a reason and change is inevitable. Accept it for what it is and figure out how you’re going to move forward.
  • Always have a plan b. When you’re headed into uncertainty, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Enough said.
  • Trust your gut. There is a lot to be said for intuition. When you get a feeling that something shady/wrong/sketch — it probably is. Use your head, but trust your gut. Take in all the information, but always remember to look out for you.
  • You have to take care of yourself first. I’m continually guilty of taking care of everyone else, before I take care of me. I’ve been falling into that trap for years with boyfriends, best friends and random people I have met along the way. This year I learned to be put me first {it’s still such an odd thing}. I stopped attending events I didn’t want to go to. I didn’t return phone calls when I didn’t feel like talking. I refused to be the go-to, because I knew it wasn’t in my best interest. A little wisdom from Paul Coehlo, “When you say yes to others, make sure you’re not saying no to yourself.” Don’t apologize for making yourself a priority.
  • Slow down. Life is meant to be lived.

Despite the ups and downs of the year, a lot of good happened. I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, Palm Springs, Whistler, Seattle, New York and Mexico. For the first time in my life, I learned the power of physical strength. I learned to run — completing 15 races — and became a regular at power yoga. I learned the importance of fuelling your body with good and keeping a close eye on your health. I cut out wheat, dairy and now regularly spend time in the kitchen. I truly love cooking and exploring new foods. I met a number of new friends in 2011 and throughout this past year, I focused on developing and strengthening those relationships.

Highlights of the year:

photo

January

The year started off with a chilly dip in the Pacific Ocean. In 2011, I was blessed to meet a local entrepreneur, Helen. She invited me to the Polar Bear Swim that took place at English Bay. With 2000 people, we charged at the 8 degree ocean. After a few shrieks in the ocean, we were back on the beach shivering and smiling. 1st Polar Bear swim complete!

February

After finding a deal through YVRdeals {and Chris Myden}, I booked a trip to Costa Rica. At the time I had no plan, just needed a little escape. I had met an entrepreneur {all around fabulous woman}, Shannon Ward, a few months earlier — and she would be living in Costa Rica while I was down there. I ended up heading to Santa Teresa and spent 10 days with my her family. The trip was filled with sunshine, surfing and delicious eats. A highlight was taking a raw food cooking course with Joanne at The Healing Cuisine.

March

International Women’s Day took place on March 8th. I was honoured to be included in Networking in Van’s “Women Making a Difference” campaign. On IWD, people all over the world celebrate the achievements of women, inspire other women and reflect on the progress women have made in our communities. There were a number of events that took place in Vancouver and I had the privilege to learn from a few. I’m thankful to have met a ton of female entrepreneurs in Vancouver — and around the world {including Judy, Jill, Heather, Zoe, ChristineKatherine, Erin and more}. Positive role models who are movin’, shakin’ and making a difference in the community.

April

In April, I had the opportunity to speak at 2 events — York University’s ‘Apex Leadership Conference‘ and Simon Fraser University’s ‘Synergy Conference.’ The events were back to back — with one being in Toronto and the other in Surrey. In a matter of 24 hours, I held a workshop and facilitated a panel, flew across the country and held another 2 workshops at Synergy. It was an absolutely exhausting — and totally rewarding weekend. One thing I’ve figured out in the last few years is that education is a core part of who I am. I truly love teaching students and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to facilitate two very engaged groups of students.

photo_1May

May was busy — with a trip to Palm Springs for a me-cation and learning from Richard Branson at a Board of Trade event. A total highlight was my weekend away in Whistler to visit my adopted family, the GossWards. Shannon, Brett and Kaede had moved back to Whistler from Costa Rica — and I wanted to see their lovely faces again. I  had never been to Whistler, so Shannon and Kaede took me up the mountain to do Peak 2 Peak. It was the end of the season, but skiers and boarders were still taking on the remaining snow. Whistler is a beautiful little gem — from taking in the views at Blackcomb to Sushi Village to a little birthday surprise, I feel lucky to have met {and learn from} this wonderful family.

June

On June 2nd, my niece Maddie turned 1 {and I turned 28}! Maddie was born on my birthday in June 2011. Now we’ll be celebrating together forever! On Friday, I had a dinner party at my place {thank you for being the Executive Chef, Dan!} and on Saturday I took the float place over to Salt Spring for a family birthday with Maddie. We had a fun afternoon in the sunshine at Mom’s house — halibut burgers, birthday cake and a very spoiled  1st grandchild!

July

In July, I headed to New York with Marina for the UN Global Partnership Summit. We spent a few days learning from global change makers from the United Nations, Global Poverty Project, ONE Campaign and Pan American Health Organization. A highlight was learning from Gillian Sorensen, Senior Advisor to the UN Foundation — absolutely inspiring few days determining how young leaders can support the UN Millennium Development Goals and create positive change in the community. In addition to the summit, Marina and I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, shopped in SOHO, dined in Little Italy — and I ended the trip with a run through Central Park.

August

Whether taking a pool day, attending a festival or parade, or running the seawall — the month was a busy one!  On August 10th, I completed my first half marathon {holy moly, eh!}. After an adductor injury mid-year, I was forced to take a DNF for a Seattle half marathon — and then I registered for Lululemon’s Seawheeze half marathon in Vancouver. In retrospect, it was my race. Luon, sunshine and running in the city that I love. Reagan and I ran together; finishing in 2:22 {feeling totally good and injury free!}.

photo_2September

Vancouver is one of the best places to live in the world — and I continually remind myself that I’m blessed to live here. Thanks to the team at Vancouver We Love You, my friend, Kate, had the opportunity to use SUP boards throughout the summer. One day in early September, we headed down to Kits Beach for a SUP sesh at sunset. It was a picture perfect night filled with paddling, laughter and trying not to fall into the ocean.

October

TELUS asked me to blog an international event coming to town, We Day. We Day is a day of celebration, inspiration and an opportunity for youth to take action and create change in their communities. I had an absolutely incredible few days with the team at Free the Children and the We Day youth. From meeting Desmond Tutu to learning from Spencer West to documenting the day — the event was a highlight of the year. It was inspiring to watch 18,000+ youth get excited to positively impact their school and community.

November

Running has hugely changed my life. Throughout my running journey, I was continually asked — How did you start running? How do I start running? Can you help me? … After a bit of brainstorming, I launched Runcouver. The goal is to connect all levels of pavement crushers and trail dominators, into one positive, motivating, goal crushing community. In addition to Runcouver, I launched the #RunCrew. The 2012/2013 pilot consists of 10 young women who are committed to striving high and I’ll be coaching them to their 1st half marathon in Summer 2013.

December

The year came to an end with major job change. After almost 2 years consulting, I decided to go back in-house for an amazing opportunity at a growing company. I am now a HR Generalist at Avigilon. I feel blessed to work on a progressive, entrepreneurial team with a down-t0-earth {and wicked smart} leader. My role supports day-to-day global HR operations, with a focus on employee relations, training and development, benefits and compensation and employee experience.  I’m learning a ton and my days are wild busy — both good problems to have. I’ve officially been there a month and I feel like I couldn’t have landed at a better company. It’s awesome to be surrounded by people who truly love what they do.


“You have to fight through some bad days, to earn the best days of your life.” – Unknown

Officially closing out 2012. To laughter, love and living in 2013.

Trading Baguettes for Buckwheat

Just over a month ago, I was chatting with my friend about our careers, life, boyfriends {or lack of ;)} — and we got on the topic of her Naturopath. She raved about how Dr. Alea Gill at Vancouver Naturopathic Clinic is the bees knees of Naturopaths.

About 5 years ago, I dabbled in the naturopathic world — nothing really came of it and I honestly put in zero effort. Over the last few years, I’ve struggled with my blood counts {generally run on empty — white blood cells, neutrophils and ferritin}… and have yet to receive a diagnosis from a GP. Some have told that my low blood counts are now my normal, others have said I need to get blood transfusions and others think I have an auto-immune disease. My last Hematologist in Calgary was convinced I had celiac disease — and that my consumption of gluten was preventing iron absorption {and the like}. Celiac screen — negative. Celiac scope — negative.

So anyways, add in the Scoliosis and I’ve been around the block when it comes to doctors. :) The good news is that I know my health history off the top of my head and I’m totally up for exploring any type of alternative health practitioner.

I booked an appointment with Alea and thought if she can figure me out, I’ll heart her forever. I filled out the application form in advance {tough questions on there!} and patiently waited for October 22nd! Something I love about the field of naturopathic medicine is that it’s a holistic approach to the body — Alea wanted to know everything from physical health history to major life stresses to health habits to expectations.

Mind – body – soul treatment is totally up my alley.

I made it to my first appointment and we had quite the heart to heart. I’m convinced that Alea is going to be able to get to the root of the low blood counts… we both agreed that something internal is preventing absorption. I’m thinking it may be trial and error for the next few months, but my goal is to get everything sorted by late Spring. Alea challenged me to do a few things — and asked me if I’d be willing to take a food allergy and sensitivity test… To date, I’ve never been told I have an allergy, but I’ve always been curious about the test and thought why not!

A week later I went in for the Vega testing. I was already on a mission to cut dairy out of my diet — see 2012 goals… but I didn’t want to be told that I was allergic to bananas, tomatoes, avocados or any of my favourite things.

The results surprised me… officially allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, chocolate, sugar, MSG, cats and dogs. Oh man, eh.

This is how the results were processed in my brain: I love bread. LOVE BREAD. WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT BREAD? I’m already planning on cutting out dairy. No biggie. Never really liked eggs — talk myself into eating them usually. Sigh, peanut butter, sigh. :| Chocolate? Meh, not a fan anyways. Sugar… ok. MSG… don’t like Chinese food. Not a cat person. Dogs? … ok.

I met with Alea after the test was done and she walked through next steps. The plan would be to cut all of the sensitivities out for the next 3 months and determine how my body reacted. Apparently sometimes you are able to reintroduce sensitivities back into your diet once your body has sorted itself out.

I went home that day excited about the change. I thought this is not big deal, as long as I start to feel better. My biggest complaint on a day to day basis is that I’m freaking tired — all the time. Yes, many of you are reading these words right now thinking — slow the eff down. I know, I know. But to my core, I know that there is more to my constant state of tired. Something is going on in the le body.

Over the next few days I planned how the wheat-free, dairy-free life would look… I wanted to be prepared and organized for November 1st {diet change day}. Yes I sure did have a baguette in my final days with wheat haha. Regardless of my good intentions, the first few days of November were TERRIBLE. I was not organized — and VERY hungry. On around day 4, I realized that this diet change was going to mean a lot more cooking at home, packed lunches and weekly grocery shopping. I took this lifestyle change as an opportunity to get back in the kitchen and enjoy cooking again. I’m a big ‘everything happens for a reason’ person — so I do think this is probably the kick in the pants I needed to find a bit of routine in my life.

“What is always speaking silently is the body.”

– Norman Brown

On a wheat-free diet, you can still have kamut, spelt, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, coconut flour and nut flours. Surprisingly, lots of options — I can still have bread! Dairy-free has been no big deal, as I’d already made the switch to almond milk, coconut milk yogurt and soy-free Earth Balance! I picked up some Daiya cheese and I was good to go. No need to bring up the brie that will arrive at my Mom’s house over the holidays next month please and thank you. I tossed the peanut butter and bought almond butter — which I find nasty by the way {apparently it’s best if you make it yourself} and I’ve just become aware of my sugar intake. I am a brown sugar in black tea kinda girl — but that’s an easy habit to switch.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

For the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting — and totally loving it! Not ever dish I’ve tried has been a success, but these ones sure have:

The easiest way to be successful with diet changes is discipline and routine. I created a recipe vortex in Evernote — and it’s been a lifesaver for ideas and last minute meal planning on the way home from work.

I updated my pantry with some new staples: buckwheat flour, coconut flour, oats, chickpeas, red quinoa, chia seeds, nutritional yeast and all sorts of nuts. One of my favourite food blogs is Oh She Glows — and Angela has a great post on the vegan pantry {for the most part I would consider myself to be a wheat-free pescatarian who dabbles in the raw and vegan world}. A few people have said to me — ‘instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can eat.‘ BUT WHAT ABOUT MY BRIE AND BAGUETTE? ;) I’ve taken away bread, couscous, milk and cheese — but I’ve added way more foods! Way more!

For the most part I have followed the diet to a tee — yes, I did have a mini chocolate bar a few days after Halloween and I did go to La Taqueria one day for lunch {flour tortillas… boo}. I have been craving all sorts of things that I’ve never craved before — and I think it’s just psychologically because I can’t have it. I’m not going to get all psycho on myself when I slip up {it’s bound to happen}, but I do know that I feel ass-tastic when I eat wheat or dairy. That’s what has stopped me from going to Finch’s for a baguette these past few weeks– so good, yet so bad now…

The hardest part of this whole adventure is leaving the house — ha ha. Yes, you read that correctly! All is well when you’re whipping up delicious meals under your own roof. As soon as you leave the house though? You’re not in control and it’s stressful. I now know that I need to find the restaurants in the city that cater to my lifestyle and stick with them. Vancouver is actually a really easy city to be vegetarian and/or gluten free — lots of options {Acorn, Heirloom, Naam, Nuba, East is East and the list goes on}. Last weekend I had a brunch date at Harvest Union and devoured gluten free waffles. So legit — better than the real deal.

Quinoa Cakes

I have no idea where this new lifestyle will head in the coming months — but what I do know is that I feel the best I’ve felt in months — maybe even years. Crazy, eh? Perhaps it’s the paying attention to my body… perhaps it’s the new diet… perhaps it’s a combination of a whole lot of other things going on in my life… I’ve got no idea.

Feeling good is a great thing though.

Regardless if you’re a carnivore, vegetable addict or baguette and brie lover… do what you gotta do to live your best life.

Note: Some people don’t believe in naturopathic medicine, some do. Some people don’t support food allergy and sensitivity testing, some do. Some people don’t support a ‘vegan’ diet, some do. Figure out where you stand and just do what’s right for you. :)

Introducing… Runcouver!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been brainstorming, planning — maybe even scheming.

Yesterday I {randomly} announced the launch of Runcouver!

Back the train… whaatttt? :) I’m not very good at surprises, but for whatever reason, I was this time! Over Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to meet with two young women in Victoria. We went for brunch and had the opportunity to discuss everything from university life to community involvement to travel — and running.

Running has hugely changed my life. A year ago I wasn’t a runner… and I also didn’t have a clue about running shoes or the seawall. Since then I’ve learned so much about myself and the Vancouver community. I’ve learned to breathe — whoa, life isn’t only about work or school! I’ve learned to run — 20k, no problem {…most of the time}! And most importantly, I’ve learned what it feels like to be strong — both in mind and body.

Throughout my running journey, I’ve been continually been asked — How did you start running? How do I start running? Can you get me started? etc etc. — After a conversation with the girls in Victoria, I decided that I would package up my commitment to running and passion for education into a coaching program. My goal is to unite a group of young women in realizing their potential. I want to help them crush goals and become comfortable in their own skin, while soaking up this beautiful city and having a whole pile of fun.

Runcouver is twofold — a community and a run crew.

Run Community: 

Runcouver aims to connect all levels of pavement crushers and trail dominators, into one positive, motivating, goal crushing community. The only requirement is that you gotta love our city to the moon and back. 

Run Crew:

The 2012/2013 pilot of the run crew is comprised of young women who are committed to striving high and kicking some serious ass as they bust towards run goals. 

It is an opportunity for girls to unite together on a mission to improve themselves. The crew will be working towards one big goal (running a half marathon in beautiful Vancouver), but the adventure will also be about continually improving mind – body – soul and getting in some good ol’ fabulous self-development.

In addition to the Run Crew, my hope is that Runcouver becomes a community of people who are passionate about running in this beautiful city. I expect it to be a source of information for runners, an inspiration for those wanting to learn how to run and a support group when the sideways rain is coming down in December and we all know we need to put in 11k. ;)

Thank you to everyone for your support over the last day — I am extremely grateful for the high fives and fist pumps. If you’re interested in the #RunCrew, make sure to read the Quick &  Dirty intro to the program here and then drop me a line at jillian@runcouver.com!

I can’t wait to meet the young women who will be part of the #RunCrew and see how Runcouver evolves over the next year.

With all the run love in the world. xo