— Project Talaria

Start LineGetting a Feel for Distance Again

The pre-travel, travel to Victoria has become a smoothly integrated slap dash, last minute part of every race for me now. But I’m getting better.

First lesson learned. When you have to travel on Good Friday, DON’T. Go the day before, you won’t regret missing 12 hours of grid lock traffic. Nonetheless it was a beautiful day and we had the most pleasant exchange with our border guard yet.

When Matt, Alex, Fiona and I arrived in Oregon and drove into the Menhimenin’s, the venue for the pre-race party and Trail Running Film Fest, we all kinda felt like we’d crossed into another world. The entire place is amazing, highlighted by an onsite brewery, distillery AND winery as well as multiple venues to enjoy each accompanied by a meal of anything from fine dining to burgers and fries.

The Film Fest offered all of these in the comfort of the in-house theater while watching some of the most gripping and relevant trail running films of modern times such as  “Roll Out”…. and a few other ones by some guy named Kilian and another by Krissy Moehl….

We retired to the cabin we rented at Bridge of the Gods Motel and RV, which was a really nice set up if a little bit pricey, and began another time honored tradition, the “stay up waaay too late on the eve of the race” game. Still, the morning began with exuberance as we rose to the sound of bird songs and the slowly expanding glow of sunlight through clear blue skies. It had the feel of a perfect day for a good long run… around water falls.

The race start as always was full of familiar faces and an array of expressions from anxiety to intoxication. After catching up with some friends I found my own little place to get my mind and body ready for it’s first +30k run since August of last year.

James Varner came by with some maps and info to pass on to Matt (who was filming the race) and a pat on the back and a “good luck, have fun”. From all that I had heard of this course, the fun was in the bag but according to my body at that moment, luck was not in the cards.

Almost all at once, every pain I had had since last summer was visiting me. As I joined the wash of runners flowing towards the race start I thought, “we’ll just see how far I can run, then we’ll see how far I can walk, then we’ll see who I can convince to carry me”. I filed in with the middle of the group as James Varner gave us the safety goods on the course and wished everyone well. I rubbed my quads, ITs, calves glutes…. everything hurt. Neat. We were away, along the grassy start and then across the bridge and along the lake and I felt….. amazing! Pure joy somehow replaced all nagging pains and as we made our way to Metheman falls I was quickly filling up with uncontainable gratitude and enjoyment for where I was and for all the help I had getting there.

Feeling absolutely phenomenal… with 40+ km to go… I was well aware that there was more than enough time to mess it all up with a foolishly placed effort on a course I had no intention of racing. That being considered, I did feel REALLY good and that first +/- 2000ft climb was VERY run-able. But so was the downhill on the other side.  I was realizing, as I (my perception) flew down the decent,  just a hairsbreadth from unrestrained, that for the last 4 months of running, this was pretty much all I did. UP and Down. Up and Down. And I loved it. With the sun spilling it’s golden light through the trees the entire world around us all became surreal. The colours were intensified and the striking contrast of the rushing white water against the lichens, ferns and moss-covered rick was almost transfixing.

I am seriously astonished on a moment to moment basis that I managed to stay upright throughout the run. I almost couldn’t tell you what the trail bed itself was composed of. Even the Columbia river, with its intensely rouge and copper coloured rock faces looming above, seemed excited for the warming spring weather as white caps danced along its surface. I heard Matt shout from down in a hollow and stopped to give him the papers James handed me earlier and said a lot of stuff that I’m pretty sure made no sense but probably got the point across that I was having a good time.

Further into the run everyone gets to run underneath Pony Tail Falls and if I could describe that feeling I’d probably start crying again. Of course Glen Tachiyama was on course to capture that moment. Thanks Glen!

Ponytail Falls

I fell into a rhythm and a great conversation with John Bittle from Arkansauce who knew (as I  am beginning to expect does everyone else in AR) Paul Turner and Robert Vogler AKA  PT and Po Dog of Leadville race report fame. We got to talking and the km’s slipped beneath us as we shared our ideas and passions in life, joined by another good egg Cory, who was in the midst of his first ever 50k.

We slipped out onto the road section, the only part I was not looking forward to, but the conversation and camaraderie delivered a short sweet trip up the road to the last aid station.

I love aid stations. Can’t help it. Won’t help it. A friend of friends (now a friend of mine) was volunteering at the last aid station and as my comrades smashed and grabbed there way through in good fashion, I lingered and ate and drank and babbled about the vibrance of colours and sounds. I never claimed that aid stations like me but that’s one of the hazards of volunteering I guess.

I’m not a fan of out-and-back sections, but for the record, I loved this out-and-back section. The climb was fast and the waterfall (yes ANOTHER) at the turn around, where you pick up a poker chip to prove you completed it, rewarded your efforts with a refreshing spray as you stand almost beneath it pondering just taking a quick dip in the pool.

Back out on the road section our trio had regrouped and grown to four as we made our way back to the start and I was so stoked to see my friends from Victoria, B.C. on the outbound as we high-fived and whooped along.

Suddenly a car on the other side of the road sped up and swerved in, mere inches from John, laying on the horn in what I can only hope was a disgusting idea of a joke and nothing more malicious. Understandably shaken we slowed the pace a little as we got back into the trail and just fell into a steady and pleasant rhythm as the four of us conversed and commentated on the surroundings.

Matt was filming at the next aid station and ran with me for a good 5-8km as comrades found their own pace and Matt and I caught up on the days events. The entire time I felt amazing, fresh and inspired but also a little weary of the final climb that had been such a fun and fast downhill. This was where Matt turned off on a short cut to his car and as it turns out there was nothing to worry about, nothing a little power-hiking couldn’t overcome anyway.

Away down the final decent to Matnemah Falls and back along the grassy path around the lake where the finish could be seen and heard. It was a perfect day. Four plates of salad and fruit later it was time for pizza and brews, compliments of Rainshadow Running. A good patch of grass to enjoy the sweet tones of The Pine Hearts string band in the sun and cheer on the rest of the amazing finishers. Recapping the race with friends old and new was a treat, to re-live those inspiring moments and congratulate new goals achieved is always one of the greatest highlights of the finish. The celebrations carried on from the finish line back to Mehimenins and as the night wound down it all seemed enchanted.

Woke to another beautiful day and went for a very short run to shake out the legs before the drive back north and enjoyed the quiet of the Sunday morning by the river side. The sleepy morning held the promise of lighter traffic and faster travel times and apparently in the fine print somewhere, running out of gas on a highway bridge… Being from the Island, Matt and I had no real hesitation and did what comes natural. Pushed the car. Fiona jumped in and within a minute or two a passerby stopped and hooked us up to a tow rope and towed us right into a gas station… ****Project Talaria has dug deep into the Karma bank and will be doing our best to make a considerable deposit ASAP**** We thanked the man as best we could (unsure of how to express that amount of gratitude) and carried on. The rest of the drive went on without any further incidents and once back in B.C. my trip ended as is customary. A strong embrace and thanks to my good friends and a parting of ways after another amazing adventure and a ferry ride into the sunset, back to my little island home.

There is nothing cliche or excessive about thanking the Volunteers ever. I truly appreciate all of the amazing work they do and in a lot of cases the distances they travel to do it. With out these amazing people there would be no events like this. Thank you all so much!!

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The camera loves you

Lots of happenings in the land of Project Talaria. We’re happy to report an arrangement with Rainshadow Running that will see us video documenting more of their awesome races in the future! We are very excited to have 3 of our videos featured in this weekend’s Trail Running Film Festival in Troutdale Oregon. They will be premiering our 2013 Orcas Island video as well as the Deception Pass video and of course the cult classic… Roll Out!

Dave will be making his long awaited return to the Ultra-Running scene THIS WEEKEND outside of Portland Oregon at the Gorge Waterfalls 50k. Very excited for him, good luck Dave! I’ll be on the scene as well filming the race. Smile for the camera if you’re running the race.

The Zion 100 draws near, I’ve been training hard and have kept busy running some tune-up races. I’ll give a brief recap of some of the action.

Thanks to Glenn Tachiyama and Chris Thorn for the great photos.

 

Deception PassDeception Pass 50k – December 2012

Coming off abdominal surgery in October I was excited to get back into a trail race. Deception Pass was a new 50k for me and a chance at an early (or late, depending on how you look at it) season effort. I was happy with my training post-surgery and found my fitness to be returning well after the layoff. I went in with the goal of pacing my best 50k to date. I went out quite relaxed and just enjoyed running some gorgeous new trails. The course is very creative with a lot of little ocean front “lollipop” loop sections. the folks at Rainshadow really milked the most out of this beautiful area. Deception Pass is a fairly fast course with really only one steep climb to speak of. There are a lot of rolling sections but most of it is quite run-able. I knew this going in and wanted to save something in my legs for a strong finish. I had a very steady burn of a race with no real dips. Easily my most controlled 50k effort to date. Props to Vancouverite Colin Miller for cruising past me towards the end with a really strong finish. Congrats to Gary Robbins as well, who had quite a comeback party at this race, running strong to a new course record. My time of 4:23 had me in 7th place overall.

I expected nothing less from Rainshadow Running, but I found a great December 50k quite close to home.

 

Orcas IslandOrcas Island 50k – February 2013

As usual… Orcas was awesome! Such a beautiful setting to absolutely thrash one’s body. The course was updated this year with MORE climbing. I find it hard in Victoria to replicate the Orcas climbs (and descents) in training. This is part of why I love running it, a challenge in the truest sense of the word. This course really tears up my quads, but undoubtedly leaves me stronger in the end. I paced a fairly even race, determined to improve on my complete explosion from last year (first 50k. Hard, hard lessons). The famous powerline climb was situated later in the race this year (32k) and it really delivered, slowing the pace of the even the fastest runners to a literal crawl. It’s hard to describe the grade of this climb. At times if feels like you aren’t really moving forward at all, just up, very slowly.

***Let me take a moment to share the most clear-cut lesson I’ve learned so far in my young Ultra-Running career: When someone uses the term “POWERLINE” to describe a climb on a race course, be it in Leadville, Orcas Island or wherever, you take that S*#T seriously***

After this point in the race it’s a bit of a painful blur. Leg cramps were threatening but never fully took hold. I just bared down and closed it out. I’ll never forgive Adam Hewey for blowing my doors off with 1km to go. Just kidding Adam! Impressive race, veteran savvy. Crossing the finish line at Orcas is a wonderful feeling. A very hard earned and honest 50k mountain race. I snuck under the 5hr mark with a 4:57, good enough for 8th overall on the day. I want to take a minute to thank any and all who are involved with this race. Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s a wonderful thing.

 

Dirty Duo 50k – March 2013

Final ultra-distance race before April’s Zion 100. I was excited going in to really push myself and see where my training had taken my fitness. The course was unchanged from last year and I knew it well. I was focused on taking a good bite out of my time from last year. Jeff Hunter, last year’s winner was going to be there again so I knew there would be some solid competition to push against. Last year I went out too hard and blew up around 30k, suffering to the finish. I was a year older and “smarter” but more importantly my body had been through a few battles since then and I knew I was more fit this time round.

Jeff and I started together at a fairly conservative clip. The field separated in a hurry and soon it was just us, with Jeff taking the lead on the first set of climbs and stairs. I was happy to sit back and let my body ease into the race. The course was in great shape, amazingly dry for this time of year in the North Shore Mountains. The day was perfect; cool and sunny. I caught up to Jeff at the first aid station where he stopped to pick up a water bottle. We ran for some time together after that, chatting happily while starting to ramp up the pace. Jeff is a super nice guy and I’m happy to call him a friend. We shared some laughs while pushing the pace through the early km’s. I knew from last year that Jeff is a very talented downhill runner. I consider my self to be a work in progress when it comes to flying down technical descents. The race played out as I thought it might, with Jeff pulling away slightly when things got more technical. I was however matching his pace for the most part while remaining fairly controlled and relaxed. Again I was happy biding my time and keeping him in sight. We hit the first extended climb of the first loop (the course repeats two big loops), I was feeling strong. We both ran the whole climb. After summiting the climb the course heads down “Ned’s Atomic Dustbin”, a steep and technical Mtn Bike descent that goes on for quite some time. I knew Jeff would gap me on this section. I just focused on relaxing and getting down it as fast as possible with minimal effort. By the bottom he was out of sight. I was starting to worry I may never see him again!

The course then heads onto the flat and fast Bridal Path. With my road running background I knew if anywhere, I would have an advantage on these sections. A chance to really open it up and get the legs turning over. On the long straights I could see Jeff in the distance. He hadn’t gained too much on the descent, I took some confidence from this. I started to ramp up the pace and narrowed the gap slightly on this section, again happy to run comfortably and keep him in sight. We completed the first lap like this and started out on the 2nd lap. I was starting to feel really good, and thinking the day might treat me well. I was making up ground on the flats, though Jeff was holding me off well. At one point I looked at my watch and We were running 3:20km pace on the flats. I was careful to dial it back a touch and save something for the 2nd extended climb. We turned left off the trail and after about 3 minutes of climbing Jeff stopped and said “I don’t think this is the course”. I had been completely zoned out, just following along mindlessly. I hadn’t noticed the lack of ribbons. We turned around and headed back down the trail. At the bottom we found that we had indeed gone off course. Completely our fault, the turn we took wasn’t marked at all. We lost 6 minutes through this detour.

PursuitBack on course we ran stride for stride through some awesome flowing trails. The pace was FUN. We came to a bridge with some dogs on it. I remember thinking “I hate wet bridges” and then… WHAM! I’m down. My knee hurt like a _______. I sprung up and kept moving, pretending it didn’t happen. Jeff was very gracious, stopping to make sure I was OK. I assessed the damage while running… no joint or bone pain, it wasn’t structural, just really bloody. Keep running.

Soon after this we hit the base of the 2nd big climb. My knee has numbed up by this point and I was confident it wouldn’t be a problem. I could tell Jeff was moving a little slower on the climb this time around, and it seemed his breathing was a little more laboured than mine. I saw a chance to make a move as I was feeling quite strong. I pushed up the climb without looking back, running the whole thing again. I looked back at the top and couldn’t see him. I dove into the 2nd round of “Ned’s” descent, again just trying to get to the bottom as quickly as I could without crashing into something, like a rock or tree. I kept expecting to be caught on the descent. Looking back near the bottom I still couldn’t see Jeff. I’m a bit of a headcase when racing, and I’ve learned I really don’t like being in the lead, at least not yet I don’t.  At one point I had to give myself a talking to.

“Stop waiting for him to catch you and RUN you idiot!”

I was back on the flats now. From here on out I just hammered as hard as I could. Deciding that if Jeff was going to catch me I was going to make him earn it. The course finishes with some tough shorter climbs and stair sections. Careful to stay upright, I navigated these areas as efficiently as possible. My legs still felt relatively good. I spat out of the trails and knew the finish was close. I was relieved to have some gas left in the legs to finish strong. My time of 3:50 was good enough for the win, with Jeff coming in at 3:57. We both added 6 minutes to our times by going off course. Congrats to Nicola Gildersleeve on a great run, winning the women’s race.

One final note. Jeff told me in the days before that he might not run because of a fall he had taken a few weeks back that had compromised his training. Congrats to him for toeing the line despite the injury and for providing such great company and competition.

 

Comox Valley 1/2 Marathon – March 2013

I have a soft spot for running fast on roads til I want to puke. This race really satisfied. Despite being focused on a completely different type of event, I’ve been maintaining some road speed through my 100 mile training. I’ve had this marked on the calendar for quite some time as my last race effort before Zion. Going in I knew my fitness was headed in the right direction. What better than a road 1/2 marathon (my favourite road distance) to use as a measuring stick?

The day offered cold temps, wind and rain. I started off fast but controlled. Determined to pace a smart race and save some gas for the last 5k. My legs felt good from the start. The course is out-and-back with the first half gaining some elevation and slowing km splits. What goes up must come down however, and the back half of this race is blazing fast. I planned for this going in, relaxing through some slower early km’s knowing I could gain it back later. The plan worked well. My legs and lungs held out and afforded me some strong km splits towards the end of the race. I finished in 1:17:17, good for lucky 13th overall. This was a 2.5 minute 1/2 marathon PB for me. Very happy with the result and even more happy with a strong recovery, getting right back into a solid training week.

 

That concludes my binge race reporting. Sincere thanks to all the volunteers and organizers that make these races possible, your efforts are appreciated.

Good luck to Dave and everyone else running Gorge Waterfalls this weekend. See you on the trails!

 

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Here we go! Let’s wake this website up…

First and most importantly, I want to congratulate Dave and let everyone know he is back running strong and feeling good.

He’s overcome a lot of challenges these last few months. It was inspiring to see his outlook through those times when running wasn’t an option. He stayed calm about it and got the help he needed, educating himself on the causes of the breakdowns in his body. I’ve asked him to write a piece about his experiences with the running injury as I think it would be a very good read. Cmon Dave!

So now that we’re both running strong and healthy, it was only natural to choose a few more long and beautiful footraces to challenge ourselves with. My next big one is a hundred miler on April 19th in Utah. The Zion 100. I knew I wanted to get back on the 100 mile horse sooner than later after my Leadville debacle, this meant an early season race. I also knew I’d like my next 100 miler to be closer to sea-level, so as to eliminate the highly volatile altitude variable. The Zion course looks absolutely breathtaking. Lots of running through desert valleys and on top of mesas. The photos from the course look other-worldly, something like Mars. I’m running 100 miles on Mars. The race is 5 weeks away and I’m very excited to say the least. To go to Mars.

Dave chose a later season 100k race for his next “big one”. Smartly he is giving himself lots of prep time and opportunities to run “shorter” 50k and 50 mile events before tackling 100kms. His race is the Ultra Race of Champions in Vail Colorado. Sept. 28. We ran in this area on our trip to Leadville. The trails are incredible. This race promises to be as scenic as they come. He also gets to toe the line with a who’s who of Ultra Running talent, as UROC is an unofficial world championship race. The best of the best will be there. I think Dave is suicidal a tough SOB tackling another race at high altitude. If anyone can get it done with a smile, it’s Dave.

Soon I will post a recap of some recent 50k winter races that I’ve taken part in. We’ve had a winter full of great people, great running and of course great FOOD. Spring is coming, I think it’s fair to say bring on the sun, singlets and sandals!

We’ve also been doing a lot of filming so look out for more videos emerging from the Project Talaria Laboratories.

That’s all for now. The trails call…

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A recent video interview I did with Victoria trail running legends Mike “The Trail Guy” Suminski and Moe “The Eagle” Beaulieu behind the camera. Had a great time doing the interview. Always a lot of laughs and good stories when hanging out with these guys.

Check out Mike’s other video sessions for lots of useful Ultra Marathon and trail running tips.

 

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Another video! This time showcasing all the fun that was had at the 2012 Deception Pass 50k.

Thank you Rainshadow Running for providing us with these stellar events.

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Yaar, time for an update!

Technically it will be the end of the 2012 running season for me. It feels a whole lot more like the start of my 2013 season however. In one week I’ll be running my 6th ultra distance race, Rainshadow Running’s Deception Pass 50k. Looks to be a beauty of a course. Lots of single track, much of it along the ocean.

It’s been a bit of a strange ride the last few months. I had abdominal surgery in October which sat me down for three weeks of recovery. It’s never easy to stop running entirely but this break was planned, making it a little easier to process. I like to think my legs were due for some “real” time off anyway after my first season of Ultrarunning and the corresponding increase in mileage.

Dave has been having lingering knee issues since dancing with the cruel mistress we call Leadville. After a few tough months I’m so happy to report he’s back out on the trails. After Deception Pass we’re both planning to be at the start line for the February gem that is The Orcas Island 50k.

Last year my focus was running more and being injured less. A simple target. For the most part I accomplished both by including more rest in my schedule while targeting specific hard workouts each week. My game plan for 2013 is similar but with the addition of some distinct phases of training, each with a unique focus. This plan will culminate with my next 100 mile race, The Zion 100, April 19th in Utah.

I’ve never known much about running except that I love it. This ideal has been magical though for me it hasn’t come without its share of injuries. Having never been coached and being late to the running party I feel I’m lacking some fundamental knowledge of physiology, training plans and the like. Lately I’ve trying to fill those gaps by reading books by running legends, attempting to soak up their knowledge en masse. One book that really hit a home run for me was “Daniel’s Running Formula”. I now find myself right in the middle of my first ever “base building” phase. You know what? I love it. I’m more focused on training than ever before. It feels great to have a game plan, believing in the training I’m conducting. An increased understanding has made it easier for me to relax and build slowly, trusting the process.

This week I will again try to perfect the art of the race taper. I’m eager to test myself against what will surely be another tough course courtesy of Rainshadow Running. Dave will be filming all the madness from the sidelines. You know what that means… Another forthcoming  masterpiece from the Project Talaria video labratory!

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For your viewing pleasure…

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Full disclosure. For the last 8 months, Bikram Yoga Saanich has been sponsoring Project Talaria by provoding us with free access to their classes. We approached them with the idea because we see the extreme benefit yoga has to offer runners. They have not required us, nor asked us to write this blog entry.

If running is the Yin, Bikram yoga is definitely the yang. if left unnatended, the sore, locked up, mobility limited body of the high mileage runner can degrade until injury breakdown occurs. Bikram Yoga provides a release, a counterbalance to all those hours of training. What I learned however is that Bikram Yoga is not just this release from the training, it is “training” in itself. Both physical and mental.

It is well documented what Bikram Yoga can do for your body and mind, regardless of who you are. I won’t touch on the fundamentals. I want to write about my personal experience at Bikram Yoga Saanich throughout my training for the Leadville 100 Mile race.

First off, no matter how hard I train and how fit I become, every single time I enter the room for the 1.5hr class it is a very challenging workout. Some days are harder than others, the struggles do change. A common theme remains; it is a tough workout that leaves me drained, but feeling amazing. I love the feeling of laying down in the hot room before class. My body feels great in that moment, as if I’m quenching a thirst. The next 1.5 hrs are all mine, dedicated to increasing mobility and flushing toxins out of my body. The Bikram routine and it’s poses are thorough and well thought-out. The entire body is stretched during the class. One of the greatest benefits I’ve seen from my practice is a clear awarness of the limitations and problem areas of my body. Tight muscle groups are exposed. Imbalances from my left and right sides, previously unknown to me, have become obvious. When stretching, getting massage or using the foam roller outside of the Yoga studio, it is now clear where the problems are and what to focus on.

The combination of the 1.5hr duration and the heat of a Bikram Yoga class make it a challenge to maintain focus. At points it seems you can’t stay in the room any longer. I cherish this feeling as it has a direct connection to endurance running. I believe endurance running to be more of a mental test than a physical one. Ultimiately there is no one but yourself keeping you from dropping out of a race after 100km’s of running (or at 30km into marathon for that matter) This mental toughness is a skill in itself and can be trained. I firmly believe that the focus, the hot, sweaty focus required in the Birkam Yoga class is direct brain training for those tough spots in endurance races.

Shavasana “After the exertions of the practice, Shavasana allows the body a chance to regroup and reset itself”
This pose is referred to as the most important in the entire series. Laying on the floor, it is a calm, motionless relaxation between the more active streching postures. Fresh blood flows to the area stetched by the previous pose. The mind and body are allowed a moment of rest and reprieve.

While laying in Shavasana during a particularily challenging class, a moment of clarity hit me. I realized that a Bikram Yoga class is a microcosm of my entire training routine. While training for Leadville I had a breakthrough with my running schedule. I ran fewer days each week, rested more, yet ran more km’s than ever before while avoiding serious injury. I did this by cutting out “junk miles” and focusing on each workout being challenging and having a direct purpose. After most hard workouts, a day of rest would follow. Run, rest, repeat. Those days of rest often included a Bikram Yoga class. Within those Bikram Yoga classes there were bouts of tough, focused, deep stretching, followed by rest and recovery in the form of the Shavasana pose. Make sense? I realized what had taken me years to figure out in my run training was already embedded into the Bikram Yoga structure. Focused, hard work followed by adequate rest and recovery is the ultimate foundation to physical improvement. This is true in becoming a stronger runner and also true in becoming a more flexible and healthy yoga student. I now know this, and apparently Bikram Choudhury has known this since the 70’s!

While still a novice student at Bikram Yoga, I have no doubt that my continued practice has left me stronger, healthier and more aware than ever before. From a beaten-up runner’s perspective the benefits of Bikram Yoga are quite clear. Being in the studio however, I have seen what the practice can do for people from all walks of life. For first-timer’s, the Bikram Saanich studio is a welcoming environment and a wonderful place to learn the ropes. It’s never too late to start. Your body will thank you!

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