2016 in a Nutshell

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Photo Credit: Adam Ciuk

2016 was a rollercoaster. Up, down, sideways and backwards, it threw me for many twists and turns. While I’m not sad to see a new year start, I also feel like I can finally look back on the challenges and frustrations that I’ve faced down and acknowledge (begrudgingly) that they have played important roles in continuing to shape who I am, and I’ve undoubtedly learned more about myself through the adversity than I probably would have had it been all smooth sailing. That’s what the kids call irony.

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And splat.

In a quick nutshell, I quit my job (of almost eight years) to go back to school full time and completely change careers (graphic design! I love it!), worked through a sucky injury (torn calf! no fun!), dealt with several incredibly stressful and painful personal challenges (would rather not have!), travelled all over North America adventuring (all the adventures!), and ran a couple of rather long races (this is an understatement!) along the way.

Rather than go into all of the nitty gritty details, I thought I’d simply do a summary of some of my favourite memories from the year – no lowlights included here, because f*ck ’em.

Races:

Fat Dog 120

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Photo Credit: Tara Barry

So my proudest accomplishment as an ultrarunner to date is responsible for the colourful, shiny belt buckle that sits on my bedside table and reminds me that I am, in fact, a Fat Dog. At just under 200km and 34 hours long, Fat Dog 120 miler is a race that I have been working towards for several years, and I was very excited to finish on the podium in a race that I was just trying to finish.

Gorge 100km

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Post race hugs with Tara.

Another racing highlight was the Gorge 100km, which I first ran in 2015. I went back this year to assess my progress, and managed to knock almost an hour off of my previous time, which felt pretty darn good (at least once I could walk properly again). I also spent much of the race running with the amazing Tara Holland, which basically made a 13.5 hour race feel like one (long) girls date.

Needles 50km

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The Canadians!

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the inaugural Needles 50km, which was essentially a giant road trip weekend to the Cascade Mountains with some of my favourite people. Basically take a normal person’s idea of a camping weekend, with a 50km fun run thrown in to balance out the beer and hot dogs. Perfect, right? I even wrote a fun review of the race which got published in UltraRunning Magazine, so that was kind of cool too.

More Cool Stuff:

Canadian Running Magazine Cover – 2016 Trail Special Edition

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Cover shot by Brice Ferré

So this was pretty darn cool, and a massive honour to be on the cover of Canadian Running’s 2016 Trail Special Edition. Annnd there’s my 15 seconds of fame, right there. 🙄

Saucony Runaways

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My friend Chris Brinlee, who I met last year in Kenya, called me up one fine Spring day to say that he was doing a feature on Vancouver’s trails for Saucony, and would I like to feature in it? Obviously I said yes, and we romped all over the trails for several rainy days (very funny, Vancouver) putting together an awesome tale of trails, along with my good friend Adam who joined us for the adventure.

Brand Ambassador:

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…when Kenyan adventures show up on bulletin boards in Salt Lake City!

I was also fortunate enough to go on multiple trips this year with Lifestraw as a Brand Ambassador, and my well-hydrated trekking took me to Colorado, Utah, and California. I was even able to reunite with some of my favourite members of the Lifestraw Kenya team…definitely some of my most memorable moments this summer!

Adventures:

Fastpacking

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Our crew and cabin. Photo credit: Adam’s long arm

Another favourite memory was a fast packing weekend on the Sunshine Coast Trail this summer, which was made infinitely better by the company I shared it with. Jeff, Chloe and Adam are all pretty fantastic friends of mine, and we met up with two more friends, Matt and Alexa, at the halfway point of the trail for a memorable evening of whiskey and dehydrated food – all enjoyed in a tiny cabin perched on the highest point of the trail. There just aren’t many things better than that fine combo.

Mountaineering

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Photo credit and expertise: Jeremy Thom

After Fat Dog, I found myself fairly allergic to running for a while, which worked out well as I had a two week mountaineering and climbing trip planned for the fall. I’ve been steadily working on my mountain skills over the past few years, and this trip combined alpine camping (on top of a 10,000 foot mountain in the snow!), long days of mountaineering while wearing a heavy pack, and much travelling through glaciers. This trip took me through Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and the Rockies in BC. I’m extremely lucky to have learned my mountain skills from the very best, and my partner and resident climbing expert Jeremy Thom made this trip a grand adventure extraordinaire.

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Pretty much sums it up.

Death Valley

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The Badwater Squad

Two words: Team Pineapple✌🏼. Through the wonders of social media, I ended up connecting with the good folks at Under Armour in the fall, and subsequently hopped on a plane in October to a destination unknown to participate in and document what was being billed as the “toughest running camp ever”. Turns out it was held in what is one of the most hostile environments in North America, Death Valley.

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Over three days, we ran, bonded, camped (with scorpions and tarantulas for campmates!), and embraced the suffering. It was glorious, and I loved being able to use my newly minted photography skills to document the experience for Under Armour’s social media channels as we went (although my lungs were less enthused about adding 8lb of camera gear to my body while attempting to keep up with some very speedy runners).

Honourable Mentions:

I can’t possibly end this post without giving a big squishy shoutout to the wonderful people in my life who have redeemed this year countless times and shown your worth when the going got tough. You know who you are😘.

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Some of my unicorns ❤️

I’m also super grateful for the fantastic group of strong, badass female adventurers (aka unicorns) that I am lucky to call my friends. These ladies are my favourite brand of crazy.

Sunrises (aka shoehorning time into crazy days)

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While 2016 has certainly been a doozy, looking back I realize that I’ve shoehorned some pretty amazing adventures into the chaos…and I’m taking forward a clearer understanding of who I am, what’s most important, and what I want.

2017, you better watch out! I’m coming for ya. 😜

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4 thoughts on “2016 in a Nutshell”

  1. Damn right you’re a f*ck’n unicorn Hilary!!! Xoxox

    How I miss you. I always felt so good to my core after talking with you and when I need a dose of your brilliance I come to you blog.

    You are simply exhilarating Hilary Ann!

    Love,
    Jacquie

    1. Aw Jacquie!! How lovely of you to stop by! Man I miss our chats!

      How are you? Let me know if you have plans to come to the mainland and let’s catch up!! Much love!❤️☺️

  2. You are awesome, girl! I stopped by (and am totally subscribing) after you followed me on IG @katerunswild.

    I love your spirit and share the same zest for life, in addition to the lovely hurdles that like to challenge and teach us along the way. 😉 Currently I’m working through a herniated disc in my neck causing chronic pain that’s prevented me from running these past 6 months with 6-9 more to go. And while while I’m counting the days, minutes and seconds until I can hit the trails again (as well as dance, paint, work and travel – my other favorite things that are put on hold for sake of healing) I am putting that energy into action of personal growth. Although I can’t run, it feels really freaking good.

    Thanks for sharing your stories and sharing your light. ❤

    Hope to meet you on a trail one day!

    Kate

    1. Thanks so much for reading and saying hi, Kate! I can’t imagine how frustrating your injury must be. And that’s such a long time not to be able to do what you love. It sounds like you are taking such a great approach to it tho, and having this time to reflect on what you love most (and find new things to tide you over) will absolutely make you stronger for it. Hang in there!!

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