THE Boat Race


Tomorrow thousands of people will gather in West London next to the Thames River to watch 18 men battle 4 1/4 miles in 159th The Boat Race.  Since 1829 crews from Oxford and Cambridge have met annually to test their strength, stamina, courage and will in a rowing race that many in England hold in higher esteem than the Olympics.

When Malcolm first mentioned his interest in coming to England and rowing in the Boat Race following the Olympics I was a little skeptical.  I knew it would be a wonderful experience – I just didn’t know how much fun it would be, for both of us!  I have cherished this experience for a number of reasons, one of the most important is seeing how much fun Malcolm is having both on the water and in the lab.  Much to my amazement I also enjoy being on the water – except for that first outing (which was the equivalent of beating my head against a wall).  I started rowing (to be honest) because I was jealous of the team environment.  When you leave a sport you’ve basically grown up in, it’s hard to replace that environment.  I’m lucky because I’ve been able to find that in University (Cheerleading team), Dance, Crossfit and now rowing.  But it’s addictive.  Once you have it, you never want to let it go.  I saw it in the Canadian M8+ last year, and in the Blue boat here…

But enough about me. I’m writing this because I’m so proud of my husband. Of what he and his teammates have worked so hard for over the past seven months (and all of the years before).  It has been exciting to see every step of this process, watching how they have come together, pushed one another, elevated each other and have overcome each challenge they faced.  Preparing for the Olympics was a challenge in and of itself, but how these men (and women) balance that training with their academics is more than admirable.

I hope tomorrow the crews have the opportunity to showcase themselves, their talents, their hard work – and to do so without interruption or disturbance.  I’m excited for tomorrow… and if you are too, you can watch the race on the BBC here in England (and on the internet too), or on tape delay on Sportsnet in Canada.  There’s also a live text feature that will outline what’s happening as occurs.  Click here to access the link.

There is also a great article on Malcolm… check the link below!

And some fantastic shots of training (and from the race too I’m sure) here

Tomorrow is going to be a thrilling race, and though I’m not part of the boat I’m honoured to be along for the ride.

My letter to Patrick Chan


Dear Patrick,
First of all I want to say Congratulations on your third World Championship title.  This isn’t a letter to talk about “Chanflation” or other ridiculous things. It’s in fact to tell you, you deserve it! 

Yes, the LP may not have been your finest performance, but you would be the first to admit it.  However, winning a championship is not only about two programs, it’s also about all of the components. And you are the complete package.  Like the Canadian Champions before you, you show impeccable technique and strong performance qualities.  But to me you combine these like none-other.  You are effortlessly powerful AND graceful.  You seamlessly meld footwork into jumps into choreography and back… you show strength not only in your skills but in your choreography… and yet demonstrate a sensitivity and gentleness that makes you endearing too.

But this isn’t a letter to tell you things you already know.  Or to boost your ego.  I wanted to write to you because I saw some of the interviews you did before Worlds and well what I wanted to say is, I get it.

I understand how at the peak of your game you begin to question what you’re doing, and what you want.  How just a year out from the Olympics when things are going so well, for some reason there’s a change – and things aren’t flowing so smoothly.  It happened to me too.  I had come off of being the most medalled Canadian Athlete at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.  Then a knee injury took me out for about six months. Undeterred, I returned to competition as if nothing had happened.  But looking back at what followed, something was happening.

In the 1999 Pan American Championships in Winnipeg a fluke mistake (nearly falling on my face out of a spin) placed me in 4th – and would eventually lead to me not making the 2000 Olympic Games.  Perhaps it was the pressure of the hometown crowd? Perhaps it was the doubts that began to creep in?  Perhaps it was as you experienced, that you just needed a change.

I often think that being in sport one must utilize a kind of ‘auto-pilot’.  This is important so that we don’t interfere with the knowledge and experience of our bodies.  But sometimes when our training gets on auto-pilot we need to shake things up.  I think your change in location is an excellent example of this.

But I think something else needs to shift.  In an interview you spoke about enjoying working hard – putting in time in the gym etc.  But can you find the joy in your skating?  Can you go back to the excitement of how the ice feels under your blades?  The thrill of your feet moving blazing fast?  Nailing your most complex jumps?  The goosebumps when you live the music?

Can you get out of your head and into your body.  You don’t need to force yourself to be good. You are. You don’t need to try hard to be a champion. You deserve it.  You have earned it, time and time again.  Trust your training.  Trust the years of work you’ve put in.  And enjoy it.

During my yoga teacher training Eoin Finn helped us realize we are at our best when we are being a CONDUIT.  Perhaps you could try the same thing with your skating… allowing it to flow through you.

I know, and I think you know in your heart of hearts that you have everything it takes to be Olympic Champion.  Trust that knowledge, honour that faith.  My coach said “you’re too smart for your own good” and I feel like you are as well.  Allow yourself to be all that you are.  Allow that journey to be filled with happiness and fun.  Allow the ups and downs to happen, the good and the bad. And realize that they don’t need to affect you.  You can choose to go with the good and release the ‘bad’.

“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” 
~ Jonatan Mårtensson

I’m excited for your year ahead.  Enjoy it. Embrace the challenges and savour the joys.  Hold your head up high.  And Go For It!  We’re all behind you… well, at least this lady is (and my Nanna is a huge fan too!)

Best wishes xo
~ Erika


International Day of Happiness: 30 Minutes of Wonderful

DOH aim

Today is the first International Day of Happiness as resolved and declared by the United Nations.  It is a concerted effort to collectively change our way of thinking and acting so that we may create a happier society (and world) through bringing happiness to others.  Check on the website to take the pledge, find out how you can nominate a happy hero, send Cheers or learn Actions for Happiness.

A year or so ago I had the privilege of watching a documentary on happiness called Happy.  This incredibly moving film inspired me on many levels as it interviewed and examined peoples’ lives and experiences in different countries and cultures.  For 72 hours, they are renting the film for only $2.99!!! I highly recommend you watch it.  (click on Happy to go to the website!)

Finally, there is an idea that has been germinating inside of me for a little while.  One of my favourite films growing up was Steel Magnolias.  In it, is one of my all time favourite quotes:
I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime full of nothing special.

And so I’m kickstarting my THIRTY MINUTES OF WONDERFUL project!
I am challenging myself (and you) to do something that makes you happy, feel joy, bliss and is wonderful for thirty minutes EACH day!  Take pictures of it, write a comment to me about it, encourage your friends and family to join you!  And remember variety is the spice of life.  Maybe your wonderful will be singing or having a dance party in your kitchen or living room, perhaps it will be trying a new recipe, or picking up the phone and speaking to a friend or loved one.  Maybe it will be getting your sweat on – hitting the gym, the yoga or pilates studio or busting out a killer wod!  Go down the slide with your kids, make crafts, paint a picture, write a poem, take a picture, snuggle your pet!

The aim is to:
* Set aside quality time for you and for feeling good each day
* Make it a decided and focused task (put away the electronics – at least some of the time)
* Choose things that make your body, mind, and soul grow and shine
* Connect with others and share your happiness and pleasure in what you’re doing
* Slow down and learn to appreciate the incredible things that fill your life
* Expand your horizons by trying new things
* Smile, laugh, love and overflow with bliss!

Please join me on this new adventure!  I hope to expand this project to another area of my webpage – but please bear with me (my tech director is currently busy with a big boat race hehe).  I would love to hear from you with your comments, ideas, suggestions and of course how YOU spent your Thirty Minutes of Wonderful!  Email me at

Today I’m going to dance class and will enjoy exploring movement and music with some pretty wonderful people – and then some wine and laughs with good friends!  Bring on the bliss!!!

Find your happiness, share it & see it grow...

Find your happiness, share it & see it grow…

Feel Good News: March 19

Wow. Talk about Terrific Tuesday!
This is going to be a smorgasbord of things to make you FEEL GOOD, find GRATITUDE, SMILE, LAUGH, and hopefully radiate more HAPPINESS.

Thanks to my wonderful sister in law, it was brought to my attention that tomorrow is actually the first UN International Day of Happiness!  Visit the website and sign the pledge: I will try to create more happiness in the world around me.  Let’s help happiness spread like wildfire (or perhaps like contagious laughter) and share some good feelings, good deeds and good actions in your community.  Use the #happyday hashtag on twitter… and then keep going!  And make every day a happy one for you & those around you!!!

One of my “keys to happiness” is GRATITUDE.  If you find yourself struggling to find the joy in your life, discovering the little things you’re grateful for may help to open that door.  To combat depression and seek happiness this is exactly what Hailey did when she began her 365 Grateful project.  As a photographer she captured images of little things in her day that she loved and was thankful for.  It has subsequently become a book and is in production to become a film!  Visit the website to learn more, and to unleash the “extraordinary power of gratitude”.

From time to time I think we all struggle to find the joy in life.  It’s often due to the stresses of our every day lives.  Pressures and deadlines in our jobs, being overwhelmed by our to do lists and the lack of time to get things done, and the want for more down time (or in my case currently – too much down time).  I find myself fighting the flow of life.  Like a fish trying to swim upstream I waste so much energy trying to be happy.  When in fact, I think that deep down our true nature is one of happiness.  I believe that as children we come into this world with a certain understanding of ourselves and of life.  I believe it is this knowledge that feeds our intuition and instincts.  However our challenge in life is that we experience and are taught things that may veer from this innate truth.  That is why I love and appreciate children so much.  Some of the things they say reveal their understanding and how they see the world.  Watch this video and take a peek at some of the incredible insights of this nine year old:

Can you let go of your head and trust your instincts?  Listen to that voice deep inside and know your truth…

Finally, this is a feel good video that may move you to tears (ok it may just be me and my ‘over active tear ducts’).  Before I moved to England, I had the privilege of working with Special Olympians in rhythmic gymnastics.  It was such an incredible opportunity that filled me with love and helped my heart grow bigger than the grinch’s!!! This video was taken from Dale Lowe’s blog.  Kitchener, Ontario will host the Special Olympics International Tournament over the next few days and this video (taken last year) shows an incredible example of the spirit of sport and what true sportsmanship is!

The motto this year is “Yes I Can”.
You can too.
You can be grateful. You can be happy. You can share your joy and inspire others.  You can do good deeds and help others.  You can trust yourself and know that you are a part of this incredible web of life and the universe.  You can make a difference. You can be the difference.


The man with a turnip for a head…

With a little extra day time hours on my hands, the internet becomes a great abyss (and a great time waster).  But I am thankful for it from time to time when I come across little jems like this: The Man with a Turnip for a Head.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a production company called hitRECord.  It features video, image, audio and text from online collaborators – and when you upload something you can share in any profits made.  A pretty cool concept, and a nice way for someone to use his notoriety to promote others!

Take a peek at this wonderful little short narrated by Gary Oldman.

So what’s your turnip?
I think we all have turnips whether they can be seen externally or not.  We have our little hang ups and things we tend to obsess over.  What causes these sensitivities may be a variety of reasons… I now have a knee that doesn’t bend the same.  It’s not a big deal – except if you want to be a dancer or squat a lot of weight (aka live my life).  But I’ve had to accept that it’s who and what I am.  And by integrating my turnip I empower myself to overcome any disadvantages (perceived or actual) it may cause.

If you’re into crossfit there are some videos going around that showcase this.  A man in a wheelchair doing burpees, or a woman who broke her leg doing one-legged burpees!  But there are many more: like this man with brain cancer who won a marathon while pushing his daughter in a stroller! These are examples of people who own their turnip, and don’t let a situation own them… we all have choices to make in how we deal with what happens to us in life.  If we honour the things that make us vulnerable they won’t zap our strength.  And in doing so we then become open to accepting differences in others.  We all want to be accepted and supported.  Treating yourself and others with kindness and grace is how to achieve this.  Some people have no trouble showing compassion to others yet cannot demonstrate the same thinking to themselves.  If you don’t appreciate and love yourself, how can others?

Embrace all that makes you YOU.  It creates a rich tapestry that weaves together your strengths, differences and unique qualities and makes you stronger as a result.

Feel Good News: Sunday March 10

Perhaps you live in North America and the clocks went ahead (and you missed Justin Timberlake on SNL).  Perhaps it’s just a little dreary outside and they’re forecasting snow (and you live in England and missed Justin Timberlake on SNL).  Maybe you live far from a friend or loved one and while you aren’t a worm and don’t communicate through snuggling you still wish you could cuddle up to someone or hold hands like otters…

Ok those last few things may not make a whole lot of sense – but read this article, smile, pretend to be a worm or an otter or the little boy with the Princess and go out and have yourself a good day!


Breaking Open

Today is the day: 13.1

Some of you will have no idea what that means. But for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, they will have butterflies and nervous anticipation as they await the release of the first workout of the 2013 Crossfit Open.

Rewind to 2011. I hadn’t been doing Crossfit very long or consistently.  I remember the first workout was double unders (phew) and snatches. Snatch? What? I spent the whole day trying to learn the lift from videos and hit the gym early to try and make some inquiries as to how one actually gets the bar from knees to overhead (and that magical moment in between).

Snatch miracleI survived that wod (thanks to some ground to overhead leniency) and through the open I learned that I had way more to give than I had ever imagined.  It pushed me to become more serious about my training.  Later, I volunteered at Regionals and set my mind on competing there myself.

2012 brought more surprises.  I was eager to train and compete to help my team, although I really didn’t think I would be in a position to qualify for Regionals.  And that lovely snatch – well my one rep max became my three-rep max (100lbs).  At the end of the Open I shocked myself by been one of the top finishers from my gym (what the?! how’d that happen), and had the honour and fun of representing the Zone at the Canada West Regionals.

Almost hitting 105 at Regionals.

Almost hitting 105 at Regionals.

Another year. And another surprise. I won’t be doing the 2013 open.  Will I miss something like the 7-min burpee AMRAP? No, not likely. Although because I’ll always be a crossfitter I’ll likely do it today just for fun!

What I will miss is:
– Pushing myself past my limits and discovering I can go further than I thought possible, and know I still have more to go
– Watching my friends and teammates learn new skills, achieve new landmarks (PRs), and elevate one another to incredible heights and achievements
– Being part of a community no matter where I go.  In 2011 I went to Square One Crossfit  for one of the wods, and 2012 I did another at Reebok Crossfit Firepower.  Every box meant support, camaraderie, friendship and a competitive push
– The feeling of accomplishment after having faced down my fears, overcome them, conquered them and realized I AM SO MUCH STRONGER THAN ANYTHING I FACE
– The relief once the wod is done. Going through hell is hard. But let’s face it, it’s actually a lot of fun (aside from the burning, nausea, pain etc).  It’s the best drug there is right?!
– Pre/Mid/Post wod dancing (Miss Adrianna Haffey I’m talking about you!)
– Bettering myself.  These challenges strengthen every part of you: body, mind & spirit.

When Crossfit didn’t play into the cards this year I felt like a failure.  I felt like I was letting myself down.  I felt like everyone around me would be making incredible progress and I (by doing nothing) would be on a fast train backwards.  But training for the unexpected means that sometimes life will change your plans.  Sometimes what you want to have happen won’t be possible.  Sometimes it even means that there are other opportunities the universe has in store.  In the same way that our weaknesses don’t mean we’re not strong, being out this year doesn’t mean I’m not learning, growing and getting stronger… it just means I’m exploring other ways of doing it.

And maybe all it took for me to fall in love with an erg was to get in a boat on the water – that has to help my crossfitting doesn’t it?

Once again, I’m humbled by the lessons that life and sport continue to teach me.  And once again I’m going to be counting down the minutes until each wod is released.  Except this time with a few less butterflies in my stomach.

I love that they call sectionals the Open.  For me it is about being just that: open to new things/skills/wods, being open to our strengths and weaknesses, open to learning and growing, open to what other people are doing, and open to what life has in store… I wish all who are competing this year an incredible ride.  I’ll be cheering for you!


Have you hugged yourself today?

This is a beautiful and touching TEDx talk.  Grab a cup of tea and sit down and be reminded what life is about…

It’s true that helping others is one of the most ‘selfish’ acts …nothing is quite so self-serving as the act of service to another.  What have you done today to aid another?

The crap or cone technique is brilliant.  Our thinking creates our reality.  What do you want to choose to focus on?  What do you want to attract in your life – 31 flavours or more poop?  It may seem silly, it may seem simple.  But in fact if you can master this – letting go of the negative – you will be happier, healthier and way more successful.

One of my favourite daily emails says Thoughts become things…. Choose the good ones!

We came to bump, bump, bump, bump

Torpids week has come and gone, and I’m already feeling its absence.  My first racing experience was a lot of fun, and helped show me that sport is sport …and while rowing and rhythmic gymnastics have their first letter in common, there are many more similarities than that!


Day 1:
Wednesday meant our first real exposure to bumps racing.  For the majority of our crew, who have only been rowing for a few months we knew there was going to be a lot of excitement and things to take in. The whole set up of a bumps race is overwhelming – cannons being shot off 5 minutes, 1 minutes and then at GO.  A crew you’re chasing and someone chasing you!  Our biggest challenge was to keep our head in the boat and stick to the technique we’d been working so hard to improve (after our slightly disastrous time trial where our coach wanted to disown us).  We were second in the line up and chasing a crew (Green Templeton) that was 15 seconds faster in rowing on (or Friday’s time trial).  As a result we ended up rowing over – which means racing the whole course and not bumping nor getting bumped.  Pretty good for our first go.

Day 2:
There was a new crew (Merton) in front of us as they had been bumped down from the division up. We were excited to continue our path of improvement and eager for our first bump… except the whole concept of getting so close to a boat to actually make contact or over take them proved to be a bit distracting.  As 7 seat and close to the stern of the boat I have no concept of what was going on behind… but it seemed like when we got close to the crew we were chasing we stopped rowing together (and some of us actually stopped rowing).  Thankfully we got it together and did end up getting them, and most importantly it gave us another learning experience!  NEVER STOP ROWING 😉

As the top boat in our division we became the sandwich boat which means you race as the bottom boat in the division up.  Using our first bump as an opportunity to get the kinks out we were eager to catch the crew in front of us which was Green Templeton.  We knew that they were bigger and faster off the line, but we also knew we were able to gain ground over the course and eager to hunt them down and “make them hurt”.  With a stronger start we were very close to catching them but they managed to hold off.  They ended up bumping the crew in front of them (Exeter) and in doing so set us up well to bump Exeter too!  In bumps racing the crew you bump must continue to row (while a crew that bumps stops rowing).  Another race – more learning and a day with two bumps… W2 was feeling pretty good!


Day 3:
With yesterday’s final race we had moved up into Division 4.  We were determined to stay here as it is a fixed division and means that Oriel W2 won’t have to qualify for Torpids next year!  We were chasing Green Templeton again and knew the job we had to do.  It was another hard push to try and take them.  Our Coxswain Emily kept asking for a hard 10, which was quickly followed by another hard 5 and another hard 10… and I kept wondering where they were and how much more we had to do to get them.  In the end it was another situation like Thursday – they were able to stay far enough away and catch the crew in front (this time LMH), and then we were able to bump LMH.

Day 4:
Our final day, and we were eager to make it our 4th bump in a row.  We were feeling confident that we had improved as each race went on and we were committed to giving that extra bit to close the gap.  We had one of our strongest starts and the boat was feeling good (except for the whole pushing so hard you want to die bit, but that’s a given right?!).  Then about half way through disaster struck… the oar lock on Seat 4 came open, and it was bent so when she tried to close it, it wouldn’t lock.  Now with only seven blades in the water we were not only trying to hunt down a strong crew in front of us but trying to stave off being caught by LMH who could see exactly what was happening… On the side people could hear their Coxswain asking for a push to catch us, but even down a rower we were maintaining the distance.

In bumps racing, there’s often a hard push at the beginning because you know if you give it then the race can end quickly.  Push for the bump and you may barely row half the course (or less! like our M2 crew did most days!).  BUT, pushing  hard early and not getting the bump means rowing the entire course when you’re dead.  Combine that with the confusion and frustration of an equipment malfunction meant a less than awesome last row.  It was definitely not how we wanted to finish.  It’s like having an incredible meal and then dessert is rotten fruit.

But honestly I don’t know if Torpids could have gone better for us.  Our coach took a crew of girls (6 of 8 who hadn’t rowed before), pushed them hard these last few months, and then magically in the span of a week turned them into a team.  We hadn’t rowed together before the time trial and somehow came together with a hungry spirit and determined attitude.  And this is just the beginning. Summer Eights. Oriel W2 is coming for you!

And this is why I love sport.  It’s fun yes, but it teaches you so much.
When I was a gymnast I was never about ‘beating someone else’… in gymnastics it’s tough to actually do that unless you mean literally taking my club and beating someone – and hey, I’m not about physical violence!  It was always about me being perfect. Me being the best version of me.  And I thought that was different in ‘racing sports’.  But my first racing experience showed me that even in a race, when you’re trying to be faster than someone,  you really do have to row your own race.  Especially in rowing when a crew may be behind you and you have NO CLUE where they are.  Especially in rowing when a crew may be gaining on you – but if you start flailing around trying to keep them at bay you’ll likely lose it faster than you think.

The other thing I learned is that sport is like life. And sometimes things happen in life – that you can’t predict, explain, prepare for.  And what do you do then? Learn. Grow. Get tougher. Get hungrier.  And learn some more.  No it’s not fair.  No it’s not necessarily happy or fun to have those things happen, but are they a valuable part of life – yes. Definitely.  Will they make you stronger. 100% (if you let them).

The final thing I learned during this regatta is that my husband is certifiably insane.  Part way through our first race I thought “oh geez Malcolm and his teammates have to do this for 18 minutes”.  And so hats off to you crazy boat race rowers.  I will never race on the tideway, but my experience on the Isis was one I’ll never forget.

I never imagined I’d be a rower, and I don’t even think I can call myself that.  But I am a proud teammate, eager training partner, motivational speaker and of course team mom!  And I never thought I’d say this but… when are we erging next?!!