On February 2, 2019 I will be running the self-supported non-stop 450- Mile Yukon Arctic Race, to raise awareness about the murder and disappearance of Indigenous Women and Girls all over the world. Especially those who disappeared along the Highway of Tears; a 450 mile stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
94% of indigenous women are victims of sexual violence in their lifetime. In Canada alone, there is an estimate of 4000 indigenous women and girls missing. The Highway of Tears has been a particular dangerous area for MMIWG. The Highway of tears, along Highway 16 is known as the “Highway of Tears” because of the high number of indigenous women who have disappeared or been murdered along the road. These are some of the names of known victims of The Highway of Tears. let us not forget them.
Gloria Moody, age 26
Micheline Pare, age 18
Gale Weys, age 19
Pamela Darlington, age 19
Monica Ignas, age 14
Colleen MacMillen , age 16
Monica Jack, age 12
Maureen Mosie, age 33
Shelly-Ann Bascu, age 16
Alberta Williams, age 24
Cicilia Anne Nikal, age 15
Delphine Nikal, age 16
Ramona Wilson, age 16
Roxanne Thiara, age 15
Alishia ‘Leah’ Germaine, age 15
Lana Derrick, age 19
Nicole Hoar, age 25
Tamara Chipman, age 22
Aielah Saric Auger, age 14
Loren Donn Leslie, age 15
Madison Scott, age 20
According to Outside Magazine, “The Yukon race is considered one of the toughest in the world. The race takes place on part of a trail build each year by the Canadian Rangers for the Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile dogsled race, and it’s as much a feat of logistics as it is an athletic contest. It is continuous, not a stage; competitors are self-sufficient, carrying all their camping and survival gear, spare layers, food, and water in sleds they pull behind them. Temperatures are cold enough to kill and it’s dark for roughly 14 hours everyday. “ The race will be a difficult and dangerous journey for me. However, it will not be as dangerous as the journey that awaits thousands of indigenous women and girls around the world on route to school, work, or visiting friends. This is an epidemic that exists because we don’t care enough to demand an end to violence against indigenous women. It’s time the victim’s families have an answer about their missing loved ones.
#MMIWG #stolensisters #invisiblenomore #YukonArcticUltra #highwayoftears
I am training to compete as part of a team at the Great Pacific Race in 2020. A race that happens every two years from Monterrey California to Hawaii, over 2600 miles of nonstop rowing. I started training and generally learning to row the last 4 months. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, I was just something that caught my attention and after my first row, I absolutely fell in love with it. I spend most of my days now training and thinking as a rower, I still enjoy running but I most look forward to being in the water rowing. The bad part it’s the isolation. I mostly train alone and since I am not competing in running races I don’t have the usual group of people that I use to talk to in my life anymore. There are times that I want to go back to my old life, the running life, not because it’s what I want but because I miss belonging. I know that transitioning to Ocean rowing is what I should be doing. I want more than running ultra races was giving me in terms of experience and growth, except for a couple of races that I still would like to do like the Yukon Ultra and the Barkley’s Marathon I no longer spend hours reading about upcoming races. I am continuing on this path, not because is easy, not because is well defined, but because I am after adventure and ultrarunning it’s just too mainstream to appeal to my wandering heart. My training routine is generally an Hr hike with my dogs at 5 am then rowing and hr or two in the water or the erg,( if you think running for a couple of hours is mind-numbing you haven’t tried the erg, fortunately, you get used to it eventually) followed by an hr of weights. I am trying to put muscle and get stronger so I am lifting heavy about 5 days a week. Last week I did 10k’s of rowing and this week went way down before I ramp it up to 20K of rowing/ day/ 7 days. Fortunately, I am not traveling much so it shouldn’t be as bad. My documentary is still making its rounds around the world so once in a while I get to travel and speak but it seems to be slowing down. I will be posting my specific workouts on my next post. Keep training, keep growing, don’t worry if it’s taking a long time or if it’s hard, you have to make a decision, do you want it or not? if you do then you just have to keep going until you archieve your goal, it’s that simple.
Is it me or women’s fitness magazines are increasingly looking like men’s magazines such as Maxim?. I stopped reading fitness magazines because it gave me the anxiety to look at the perfect bodies on their pages, and I can’t think of a single person that thinks, I really need to feel bad about myself today. I mean, it can’t be positive that I am incredibly fit and healthy yet somehow according to those pages I am still far away from my ideal body.
I fell in love with adventure and endurance sports because I loved the freedom of not caring about what I looked like. In fact, it was exactly that what drew me in, I will never forget my first stage race where I spent a week of running in the Sahara desert without showering because it was a self-supported race and it was designed to be raced in the wilderness.I felt years of growing up in a culture that put the value of women on their appearances than any other accomplishments washed away the dirtier I became. 10 years later, the ultra-community seems to have fallen into the same trap that I wanted so desperately to leave behind. While there are so many amazing examples of men and women that don’t give a damn about anything other than having fun and doing what their love, there is an increasing tendency on platforms such as Instagram to equate fitness with washboard abs and seemingly perfect butts. I spend on average 3 hours a day doing something physical because that is what I love, but I don’t have washboard abs and have lots of cellulite and stretch marks, and you know what, I don’t care, I don’t love it, but I don’t care because it no way impacts my lifestyle negatively.
Now, I don’t want to police women’s choices, if that is what they choose to pursue as a goal go for it, what I don’t want is the pressure for other women and especially young girls to feel that being healthy is not good enough, you also have to look a certain way. So please stop selling me your heavily photoshopped photos and starving bodies as a healthy lifestyle and instead label them as what they are, looks oriented lifestyle.
Last night Mayweather took on McGregor in a much- hyped fight. I didn’t want to watch but even if I made my intentions clear from the beginning it was received with eye rolling. Mayweather has several convictions for domestic violence, in one incident his own son called the police when he was beating the boy’s mother and Floyd’s wife yet he is reportedly got close to 300 million for the fight. Maybe I am naive but how are not more people more enraged? I think we are becoming accustomed to protesting but not following through, marching for women’s rights but not showing up to vote to make sure the people we elect to share our values, we like to think we are outraged with politicians not taking global warming seriously but continue to buy bottled water when tap water is safe to drink, say that we are not racist but call Confederate monuments part of history or think that a football team calling themselves Redskin is just fine. Even in my own house, the fight was on, I try to retreat to my room and was met with more eye rolling and was told that I was exaggerating. One particular low moment for me was watching a celebrity show up to the fight to support Floyd, that in itself wasn’t the problem, many celebrities showed up to the fight because they knew it was going to be watched world wide, this celebrity, however, received an award from a victim’s of domestic violence shelter for advocating against violence, I know because I received the same award that night, of course he didn’t show up, he sent a short video pledging his support again. I wonder how the victims in that shelter felt last night if they saw that, I know how it affected me, it made my blood boil in anger. Anger over the fact that he could accept the award and be called a hero but not accept the responsibility that entails like it was just something this particular celebrity needed to do to further his image, and I know it has to be because there is no way I could stand there in that venue and not feel deeply the pain and fear Floyd’s then 10-year-old son felt that night when he had to call the police when his dad was beating his mom with the help of one of his friend James that stood guard on the door to make sure his friend Floyd could assault his wife without being interrupted ( see his testimony in the picture below) . Victims still pay a higher price by being discriminated against, criticized for staying and the few instances that they reported they are called gold diggers while the perpetrators are celebrated and worshiped. So please tell me again how last night fight was worth watching or celebrating. Maybe this is the first time you heard this but if you knew about it and decided to watch anyway it says that as a society, we value more our right to be entertained than we value an other human being’s right to dignity.
: showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace.
How wrong I was about my documentary Be Relentless, it was a dignifying tribute of my early struggles and a celebration of the woman I have become. I showed up Friday at the Downtown Independent Theater to a sold out crowd, I was so nervous before the film begun, but the warm reception quickly calmed my nerves. Brad Riley, the director, had a surprise meeting with survivors of human trafficking, it was as emotional as it was beautiful. After 40 minutes at the meet in greet, it was time for the movie. I am not going to spoil it for you; the story flowed beautifully between hardship and triumph. People in the audience waited for close to an hour after the film ended to talk to me, the common feedback is that they left the theater educated and empowered. Thanks to everybody that contributed to the making of Be Relentless, Brad Riley, Jessie Marek, Creative Visions, UN Women LA, CAST, UN Blue Heart Campaign, TV Azteca, Fiesta Americana Hotels and all the private donors.
My new documentary is finally released this weekend. I dreamed that story for years before it became a reality so why am I not excited? By now the narrative has been diluted to suit the perception of the audience, years of abuse reduced to a tabloid headline, “Former Sex Slave Shatters Guinness World Record.” My world record was meant to empower victims and educate the public that I am much more than what happen to me, somehow my story turned into a roadhouse freak show. I want to talk about the circumstances that led to the abuse, but the conversation seems to focus rather on the details of what happened. I get that is important to talk about it, after all, it was me who open up that dialogue, it was important that as many victims identified with my story as possible so they could draw strength in my story that it is possible not only to survive but also thrive. I did and interviewed this morning for the BBC Outlook, and I reached a point when I couldn’t go there anymore. I want you to know that I been in places of imaginable pain because of the abuse and I survive it and what is really remarkable is that I have no desire to stay there, locked in the pain and time in my life but will rather focus on where I am and where I am going, so if you are in a place where you can’t seem to be able to escape or move forward do know that is only temporary, I can’t tell you how long you will be there, it all depends on your personal circumstances but don’t quit. The most upsetting part of telling my personal story is the painful realization of, not only, the apathy of so many people that could have helped me but how close I came to giving up. I can recall the times easily when giving up felt like the best option, and by living large now, I am celebrating life. I hope you take comfort in my story to know that while the road might be hard and full of obstacles, the view from the top makes the journey worthwhile.
I have been frustrated lately because I am still struggling when training. I had been experiencing severe nerve pain in my neck and shoulders since the world record almost three years ago. I guess it didn’t help that I went straight into racing after the world record, I didn’t take any time off and I guess now I am paying for it. I took last year off, and this year I am training very little and focusing more on rehab and form. I kept looking at races and adventures I want to do and just led to more frustration. Lately, I tried a different approach I am letting my body dictate the length and intensity; I guess a lot how it all started. 11 years ago I just headed out for a trail run or a mountain bike because it made me happy not because I had to train for a race, at the beginning it was about finding peace and enjoying the moment and it’s exactly the opposite of what I have been doing lately, I been pushing my body too hard without giving it a break because in the past my body had been able to sustain the grueling training schedule but right now my body need a break and so does my mind. Since the new approach, my mood has improved, and I can workout more than I was able to recently simply because I am training smarter. Even on the runs that I feel great, I take the time to stop enjoy my surroundings, a little reminder that life all about the journey. I am not sure why is so hard to listen to our bodies or to the internal voice, maybe is because we are bombarded with information from so-called “experts” telling us what they think we should do, but in reality, we should spend more times listening to ourselves. After all, I know the difference between the good hurt and the bad hurt both physically and emotionally. Ask yourself this question when confronted with physical or emotional pain, “is this making me stronger or is this making me sick?” Sometimes we don’t have the option to stop a bad pain, after all, I went through a divorce and many other challenges in my life, but I made sure that during those times I was more careful than usual and I didn’t add to it, that is why I didn’t drink or dated while I was going through my divorce and that is also the reason why I haven committed to any races this year yet. Sometimes the best medicine is practicing self-care.
The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself – Steve Maraboli
“Your dreams don’t have an expiry date, take a deep breath and try again.”
It sure feels like a new beginning, the last year and a half it felt like I was catching my breath as waves kept pushing me down. I get that it’s to be expected given the fact that I undertook a difficult battle; the right to live authentically. Browsing through social media I often see a post regarding authenticity, in reality, however, I see conformity. I am usually fine at pursuing my interest, but this time, however, criticism got to me. I found myself afraid of making decisions, and when looking at races, I kept second guessing myself, this is an unusual state of mind for me; I felt paralyzed. I could have justified it to protect the ego, and I often did, by thinking out loud “maybe I have done enough” but I know deep down that this isn’t true, there are many goals that I wish to achieve. So I took a step back and tried to figure out where the doubts were coming from, some were things as financially I couldn’t afford to pursue some of them, at least not yet, but the major problem lied on emotional and physical burnout. In my search for the truth I jumped the cliff but fail to check how deep was the water, I had not practice safety, just like I do during an expedition or a difficult race, when advocating I fail to have a safety plan in check. And that is what you need when pursuing dreams, the bigger the goals, the more you will need to anticipate setbacks. Anything is possible it takes a lot of determination, grit and the ability to pick yourself up after a fall that will get you there. The most important point is to believe that is possible. Long time ago when my youngest son was in grade 3, he came home with a note saying he had spent time in detention, when I asked him what happen he told me the teacher told them they could do anything in life, that there were no limits, his best friend leaned over and told him that that was so stupid, he wanted to be liked by his friend so he said to the teacher exactly that, that that was stupid, after the teacher got mad he tried to outsmart her by saying ” if I pump my arms up and down is not like I can fly is it” and when everybody laughed he was sent to the office, after listening to him instead of getting mad, I asked him, ” have you tried yet” he looked at me and asked ” what” ” pumping your arms until you fly” he said ” that’s impossible, EVERYBODY knows that!” I smile and said. “unless you are willing to spend years pumping your arms up and down without results your claim is just a theory, just like your teacher’s is a theory so is yours” he didn’t say anything after that, all I wanted as to rescue my son from the world of reason, a little insanity is more fun, Robert Siltanen quoted,
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
I went for a short run today, and I am still struggling with pain on my neck and shoulder from the world record two years ago. I took a year off racing hoping it will help heal it but it has not gotten better. I am looking for answers, and so far it only seems to be related to extreme fatigue, the world longest triathlon was hard on my body. I am attending physio and doing yoga, and my doctor seems to be very optimistic about it. I also bought a guitar to help with the stress since I can’t exercise as much I would like. I had such a great workout yesterday, my body felt strong, and I was able to push as hard as I am accustomed, have you ever trained and it feels like your insides scream? I have, I get that feeling, like a primordial scream that tells me I am alive, I get that feeling on my runs or during my swims sometimes, and I sure miss the feeling of my soul and body connected. I am learning patience, while my mind is ready for the next adventure my body still needs more time. I guess you can say that I sit at my computer looking at photos of people doing races and I feel heartbroken like I am watching pictures of an ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend. The reason why I have been absent on social media is that I love going on expeditions and I been feeling blue lately because I had to take a break. Sports is part of who I am, but every athlete goes through a period in life when the body needs care and TLC, where I am active is in advocating against violence against women it takes a toll on me emotionally, but it’s a conversation that is much needed. So I hope you don’t mind as I jump in here from time to time to rant about what keeps me up at night, good and bad. May your life take you on many adventures.
Much has changed since I last posted or rather not enough has changed. I didn’t race at all last year. Instead, I went to several high-profile conferences to speak about my personal experience as a survivor of sexual violence. At first glance, it was a huge success, I been praised for my courage and victims from all over the world thank me for giving them hope, and then I went into a deep depression and suffered a nervous breakdown. I keep thinking why I seem to make a breakthrough and then go on to experience a paralyzing setback, and the answer is that maybe I haven’t learned what I am supposed to learn about this part of my life. Let me take you back to what happen after I set the world record for the longest triathlon.
I set out to break a Guinness world record to get attention about sexual violence and human trafficking thinking the problem lied on the reluctance of talking about rape and human trafficking but the problem was not the lack of communication but rather how we communicate about this issue.
After I had spoken for the first time about my experience, there was no shortage of interviews or people that wanted to hear more about my story, to the point that feeling encouraged I shared parts that I never intended of sharing because the pain and trauma were simply more that I could handle. I kept sharing and denying my pain because I thought this was my duty to help. The more I shared, the more it seemed to open up people to discuss this issue it didn’t matter if I was left in pieces every time. Something that I notice was that while I was on stage, people listen and seemed to pay attention but after I step down from the stage is where the resistance continued. As a society, we like the idea of doing something about it but lack the desire of actually changing our behavior to make a real difference, for lack of better words I had become a symbol of an ideal, not an actual agent of changed, a prop of this cause if you must know. It took me a while to figure out that while we like the idea of being part of a movement, we lack the desire to take the steps necessary to carry the movement forward into action. Maybe social media has a lot to do with it; sharing information and letting the world know where you stand is a vital step forward but not enough if you aren’t willing to take it to the next level. Like checking labels and making sure you are not consuming products that use force labor, denying people of jobs that are dignifying, and having zero tolerance for any behavior that promotes objectification and violence towards women and children.
I also notice a trend to praise people or organizations that cater to victims of sexual violence and human trafficking, the white savior syndrome, usually a white male that witness an injustice and decided to do something about it. Doesn’t sound that bad right? The problem doesn’t lie on the desire to help; the problem lies that we spend more time and resources and maintaining these heroes that we do supporting victims.
I spoke at an event recently, I stood on stage for 15 minutes trying to educate wealthy supporters about human trafficking, and why they should care, the president of that organization took the stage after me and spoke for a full hour about the horrors he had seen and heard. I could hear the thunderous applause after the director was done speaking. While my broken bones and terrifying memories of suffering at the hand of so many drew sympathy from the crowd, it was the director the real hero in this story. I got a jacket and a water bottle with their logo and got sent home to struggle to feed two kids as a single parent and while he collected a percentage of the total amount raised that night as part of his salary. Now you see the problem? I went home and listened to some of my survivor friends and realize it wasn’t an isolated event, every single one of us is highly sought after on stage but struggled in real life finding opportunities. I would like the conversation around sexual violence to be different from now on, fewer questions about how many men have raped me and more questions regarding what can we do today to support and empower victims.
Right now I am not training or racing as much as I would like to, as we speak, every part of me would love to be immersed in training or hide at a 100-mile race but being still and feeling my discomfort is the best I can do to advocate for other victims.
We need to look at advocating for victims of sexual violence, and human trafficking beyond a sad story you hear on the news and more like a systematic problem society is facing.