Friday Link Feast #18

Outside the window, the sun is shining. I repeat, THE SUN IS SHINING! It's been doing that for the past eight days in a row. The forecast says it's not to last (derr) so I've been making the most of it: digging like a mofo in the allotment, walking round the yard barefoot, eating handfuls of blueberries and nagging Gareth about sunscreen.

Now here be links:

Hell yeah! I'm glad I didn't listen to that gloomy voice that said, "don't go to yoga til you've re-lost that lard". I've been consistently doing Pilates for over a year now, and yoga for about six months. I'm so much stronger than when I started, in spite of wishing for a yoga snorkel at times. If I'd listened to that voice I'd just be another year older and no bendier. With time and practice, I hope to backbend like Amber some day. Rock on.

The rhubarb is back from the dead! Giddyup.

The rhubarb is BACK from the dead! Giddyup.

The Amazing Adventures of Bobbie Williams

This interview came about in a most mortifying way. Remember last year I wrote about a Spinverals spinning DVD called Sweating Buckets and I described all the sweaty cyclists in it? I dubbed one woman "Granny", because "Coach Troy mentions she's a grandmother of 6. Overachiever!".

I got an email a few days later:

Hi Shauna, I am the 'granny' in the Sweating Buckets DVD.


"Granny" is known to the wider world as Bobbie Williams. Sweating Buckets was filmed in 2001, and Bobbie is now 72 years old, living in Texas and kicking all sorts of butt. In her 28 year triathlon career she's completed 7 full ironman triathlons, 18 half ironman races and countless sprint and Olympic triathlons. You can imagine my delirium when Bobbie was not only cool about the whole "Granny" thing, she was also up for an interview about her truly Amazing Adventures…


1. Let's start with the basics… name/age/location? 🙂

I am Bobbie Williams, age 72, until July, and I live in Nassau Bay, Texas (just South of Houston, near Galveston Bay).

2. You write on your blog, I've been a triathlete for 27 years. I started when there were no coaches, no magazines with training articles, no clipless pedals, no aerobars and very few rules. What prompted you to take up triathlon? How did you get started?

Well, it's been 28 years now. I was swimming in the local high school pool one night (we had a group of fitness swimmers and that was the only place we could find to swim in the Winter) one night in early Spring before the outdoor pools were open. A fellow swimmer asked me if I was going to do the triathlon. I asked, "What is a triathlon?".

He explained it was this swim, bike, run competition thing. So I asked when it was going to be held.  He said in about a month. I said, "I don't think so". It was being held at the Texas A&M campus in April. I didn't think I could be in shape for it that soon. It was an Olympic distance race with the bike and run reversed. I swam regularly, ran for weight control and rode my bike recreationally. Nothing that you could call training, so didn't feel ready mentally.

But the following year, I did enter it and it was my very first triathlon. I got a 4th place trophy which I still have and I was hooked. I had no idea the difficulty doing all three disciplines back to back and almost could not get off my bike at the finish.

3. Have you always been an active person? What other activities have you tried over the years?

I've always been an 'outdoors' sort of person. As a kid I played outdoors, ran, rode my bike, climbed trees. I also liked to ice skate and roller skate. I did all the things the kids did, jumped rope, played various ball games. All just play…

4. What is your strongest event in the triathlon? Your least favourite of the three?

My strongest event in the triathlon is probably the bike but that is because Coach Troy is my coach. I was a swimmer first and I still love to swim the most. But because of Troy's coaching I have become a better cyclist. I am a terrible runner! So obviously the run is my least favorite.

5. Tell me how you decided to step up to the mighty Iron Man distance. What was the training like? How did you feel when you finished the big race?

I had been doing triathlons for about 16 years, but only locally and just sprint and olympic distances. This sounds really egotistical but I always placed in the top three in the races and it had become sort of routine. I knew I was going to win or at least place high and was getting to the place where I didn't try very hard and I just showed up and finished. Some of my triathlete acquaintances were entering the Half IM so I sort of got the bug to try it too. I had a friend coach me but I got injured in my first Half IM so I hired Coach Troy from a picture I had seen in a magazine. I had actually entered an IM in Florida and told Troy I needed help. He was great. We went to work and I finished my first IM at age 60.

Troy worked my butt off. I was doing 5 hour bike rides, 4000 swims and 18 mile runs. All I did was eat, sleep and train. I talked to him every week. I was just such a novice! But Troy talked and talked to me. We made it to the race in November of that year and I finished 1st in my age group.

I was so pumped up during the race I felt like I could have gone on forever. That was ridiculous because I was exhausted. There were flashbulbs and cameras at the finish line. I never expected so much attention. I definitely got my 15 minutes of fame 🙂

Bobbie in Kona, Hawaii

Bobbie in Kona, Hawaii

6. How many triathlons have you done? Is there any event that stands out as a favourite?

I have done 7 full ironman triathlons and 18 half- ironman (70.3) races. So many sprint and Olympic Tris, I never kept a record. I have finished Hawaii ironman 4 times but I have qualified about 8 times.

All are special in some way. I really liked IM Canada. It was so beautiful. My first Hawaii IM, which was the same year I did Canada, was special. I finished 3rd in my AG with some of the worst winds in the race's history. We had 40 MPH cross winds and 60 MPH headwinds. I somehow managed to stay on my bike and got a 3rd place award.

7. What are the biggest challenges with fitness and getting a little older?

I think the biggest challenges I face now is recovery and fatigue. I get tired easier and it takes me longer to recover from a hard workout or a race.

8. What foods do you like to eat to keep your energy levels strong?

I eat anything and everything. I really stay on a pretty healthy diet because I have been doing it for so long it is just a habit. I don't change my eating at all. I'm not a vegetarian, I drink alcohol and I eat sweets. But probably in moderation. I just don't think about it too much. I'm fortunate in that I like all fruits and vegetables. I eat only whole wheat bread and drink lots of skim milk. But I do have a weight issue. I guess I should think about it more. I gain weight every winter and every spring I have to lose it. It is such a pain!

9. Tell us a little about starring in Coach Troy’s Sweating Buckets DVD. Apparently you really were sweating buckets that day?

Yes it was a hot photoshoot. The filming was in a client's home, a very large beautiful place and the owner had offered the use of her home for a Spinerval shoot. The view you see through the windows is her property. But the A/C that day was not working. It was VERY hot! The man next to me in the red cycling shorts filled his shoes with sweat… gross! All the people in the video were rather average athletes and it was not a particularly difficult workout. Troy asked each person how they/wanted to be identified at The beginning… student, Judge etc. I couldn't think of anything since I didn't work. I just said I was a grandmother of 7. Troy said,"I like that". Troy is very family oriented and has a great respect for mothers and seniors. He always said I had a lot of experience even though I was never a great athlete. He said I KNEW a lot 🙂

10. Do you have any fellow triathletes that you admire?

My favorite Triathlete is Chrissy Wellington. I love her CLASS.  She is not just an outstanding athlete , she is a classy person. I like that she is educated and can give a speech like an intelligent person. Her concern for the less fortunate in the world is admirable. As you know, she is from Great Britain.

Also, and by no means least, is Coach Troy. Troy is a wonderful person. He is kind, loving and giving. He puts his family first. He is a devoted father. At the same time he works extremely hard and manages to keep himself in top physical condition because of years of consistent training. He is an amazing person. He has worked very hard to achieve the success he has. It took a lot of discipline for him, AND he is extremely modest about his accomplishments.

11. What training are you currently doing? Are you planning any races this year?

I am currently training for a sprint tri in Kemah, Texas (that's on Galveston Bay south of Houston) on April 29 and Eagleman 70.3 on June 10th. Next Saturday we are driving to Tucson, AZ to attend Coach Troy's training camp. In September my husband Stan and I are entered in the 5150 National championships in Des Moines, Iowa. I may do another one or two but not sure yet.Hawaii is in the back of my mind 🙂

12. Could you sum up your “Formula” for living a healthy life in ten words or less?

Living a healthy life. Let's see. 10 words or less… I think I learned it as a child… LIKE healthy food and sports and the rest comes naturally. Boy I could say a lot more but you wanted it short 🙂

Thank you so much for your time and generosity Bobbie. You're a superstar!

Jealousy is useful…

…it's like a big green arrow pointing you to what's missing, or what's not quite right, or what you desire.

Recently I was spewing with envy at Gareth and his fancypants Etape du Tour training schedule. I've no desire to pedal over an Alp or four; I just liked the idea of having a schedule in an important looking PDF file!

Then I was jealous of his new Garmin bike computer thingo. He's never been a Gadget Man – he's always mocked my Wankerphone obsession – but he is quite taken with the Garmin. The graphs, the numbers, the maps. He plugged it in to his computer after a 40 mile ride and looked at the route map, and by pure accident he'd ridden in the shape of a Golden Retriever!

Arf! You need to use your imagination a wee bit… it's sitting in the grass, having a rest!

Then I had a truly sad case of Post-It envy. At the start of the Up & Running 5K course we suggest our runners put 24 Post-it notes on the wall, so they can riiiip one off after completing each workout. It's a great visual way to see your progress. People get really creative and colourful with their countdowns and it's one of my favourite parts of the Course. This time? Aww man. I want Post-Its.

Digging a little deeper, what was really going on there? Beyond the surface gadget and stationery envy, I was jealous of everyone's sense of purpose. I was feeling kinda lardy, left out, left behind.

So… action was required to bust out of this green fog! I talked to Julia and asked her if she'd mind sorting me out with a Proper Training Plan for the Bologna 6km race. She already coaches ten trillon people but she had room at the inn to boss around one more! So now I have a plan, a spreadsheet, and  very my own Post-It countdown:


I am LOVING tearing off those little suckers! There's a teeny tiny little thhhffft sound which is very satisfying. I've also rediscovered the Walkmeter app for my map fix… much cheaper than a Garmin. My routes look more like a little dog turds than big Golden Retrievers, but hey ho!

I admit, sometimes I find it freaking hard to keep my eyes on my own work. Comparing; contrasting. Especially when surrounded by so many people performing great feats of sportiness every day. Sometimes it's also hard to drown out that voice saying wow you used to be so much fitter, why'd you screw that up? But this new training plan is helping me focus on the here and now. Combined with the yoga, Pilates and TRX, I'm full of endorphins right now… much better for the soul than envy!

The Yoga Snorkel


In the car, on the way home from yoga.

SHAUNA: I love this class so much. I just get annoyed with my boobs and belly getting in the way sometimes! Like with seated forward bends… I reckon I could go a lot deeper but I feel like I'm being smothered by my own flesh! I cannae breathe, cap'n!

GARETH: Maybe you could get a snorkel?

The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part II

Today we continue my chat with the Amazing Jilanna and she spills the beans on her maintenance tactics. If you missed Part I you can check it out right here!

7. On New Years Day 2012 you ran a 5K race in honour of your late Uncle Brian and made me blub on the Up & Running with the tale of this big day. Can you summarise the story and what it meant to you?


Jilanna with her Uncle Brian, on her wedding day

My Uncle Brian died very suddenly at the end of July 2011. He had been the picture of health, retired from the military but still very active as a trainer and stuntman. One morning, he got up for a cup of tea and that was it.

We eventually learned that his heart was not as healthy as outward appearances had everyone believe, and that his fitness likely extended his life considerably. After the memorial, my sisters and I talked about what we could do to further celebrate his life. I knew it was time to commit to an exercise program and together we decided to run a 5K on January 1. Up & Running was already on my radar so I signed up for the Fall 5K course.

My previous experience with running was limited to merrily chasing my friends around the yard when I was little and loathing physical education classes throughout school. As an adult, I dreamed about running but I really couldn’t imagine that (a) it would ever be fun, or (b) I would feel good about it. I was convinced that I would be terrible, that I would never be able to run 5K, but I decided it would be good for me to try something new anyway.

For a long time, I thought Brian’s expectations around fitness were too high. He tried to push me outside my comfort zone and I thought he expected everyone else to be as fit as he was. Since changing my eating habits and my life overall, I can see that he was just trying to encourage us to be better tomorrow than we are today. I didn't have a chance to share this realization with him, nor was I really able to celebrate my changes with him in person. Running is / was another opportunity to push myself into uncomfortable territory and learn something new about myself. It’s also a chance to feel close to Brian.

On January 1, I ran 5K. The weather was cool, right around zero celcius and there was a crowd of about 400 runners. My husband saw me off and I started out with a former classmate. I soon found my pace, though, and got comfortable in the crowd. I was on my way down a hill when I spotted my Mum, sisters and nieces waiting at the bottom. They clapped and cheered and I waved and hollered as I ran by.

I felt a bit emotional at that point. The girls had elected not to do the run but they were there cheering for me! And so was Mum! And my nieces! I saw them all again after rounding the same loop and then, around the corner from the finish, I saw one of my sisters and one of my nieces on the sidewalk. I ran toward them, ready to give them a big high-five but they surprised me and jumped in to run the rest of the way with me.

My husband was waiting at the finish and so were the others. It was WONDERFUL to be there with all of them! Mum gave me a big hug and congratulated me on “the first of many!”. I’m sure Uncle Brian was there too.

It felt so good to have done something positive on January 1. Last year was incredibly difficult and I feel like I started this new year off right. There’s no telling what 2012 will bring but I made myself proud on the very first day! I know that my uncle would be proud of me too.

He would also be proud of my new Up & Running friends who encouraged me and did their own runs on January 1. I was blown away by the support I received from the group and I felt a bit teary each time I read that someone was out there, thinking of Uncle Brian and I as they actively celebrated the arrival of a new year.


Jilanna on New Year's Day

8. So what are your impressions of running so far? How does it make you feel – both mind and body?

Learning to run was just the challenge I needed. It helped me work through some serious grief for both Uncle Brian and one of my best friends. It reminded me that I can change my life for the better; it’s just a matter of doing the work, day by day, to make it happen. With the right support, I really can do anything. I now know that if I can change how I feel about myself and running, I can probably do anything.

Running helps me burn off excess energy and refocus if I’m feeling grumpy or stressed. It helps me feel strong and capable of change and improvement. It isn’t 100% natural yet but each time I exercise my will and actually go, or push myself to run a little farther, I feel awesome. I love feeling strong and capable.

I am connected with the women on the UAR forum and I feel a sense of solidarity with each person I see running around town. I know how good they feel and I am proud of them for getting out there. Fast or slow, getting out there and doing the work is what matters. And that little mantra keeps me connected with Uncle Brian too.

9. What’s next on your agenda?

I’ve signed up for the UAR 10K course. I love a project and a plan. I’ve been looking forward to spring and the course will help me get out there and take full advantage of the weather.The Fredericton Marathon is on May 13 – I plan to run the 10K distance that day, do my best and cheer for local runners.

Big picture, I want to make running a part of my life in the long term. I love what it does for my body and soul.

10. You’re very consistent with your exercise and have been successful at maintaining your goal weight. What things are essential to you staying on track? How do you keep your desire strong to eat healthy and move your butt?

Throughout my adventure, I have had great support at home and at work. My husband continues to cheer for me, encourages and celebrates every success with me, and continues to remind me when I need help focusing on my plan. He is my partner in this venture and has never complained about the ways it has changed his life too.

My family and friends have been outstanding, asking how they can help and listening to a whole lot of thinking aloud, providing healthy alternatives to my favourite snacks and helping me clean out my closet and learn to dress my new body. Colleagues still check in after every weigh-in, tracking my progress on my whiteboard and putting up with my stash of veggies in the freezer. Long distance and online buddies have also been great about checking in. I am grateful to each person who has cheered me on.

Here are a few of the things I do every day to make it easier to stay on track:

  • I keep at least one good snack in my purse at all times and my desk drawer is full of snacks, tea and cereal.I keep milk in the fridge and veggies in the freezer at work. I pack a lot of snacks when I travel. As long as I’m traveling within Canada, I carry fruit in my carry on and I pick up milk and a few other essentials as soon as I get to my destination.
  • I eat something healthy every couple of hours and try not to let myself get too hungry. It’s much easier to make good decisions when I’m not out of my mind with hunger.
  • I don’t worry about being perfect. I try to make the best choices I can and keep things in perspective. Today’s version of a bad day is still far and away better than a good day used to be.
  • At the end of every day, I write down what I’ve eaten and add a note about how I feel about my choices.If I’ve had a particularly good day, I give myself a little star or add a note like “More VEGS!” if I think I need to refocus the next day. If I’m traveling or go out to lunch with someone, I jot that down too.
  • I read about nutrition and healthy living almost every day, and I love to read stories about people who have overcome significant obstacles. When I feel discouraged, I remember their stories and carry on.

It’s not always easy but it is worth the effort to eat right and move a little more. I know I have improved the quality of my life and – as much as possible – I have added days to my life. If I keep it up, I will be a healthy mother someday and, in the meantime, I’m setting a good example for my nieces and others in my life. And that feels good.

11. Could you sum up your Healthy Living “Formula” in ten words or less?

Work hard every day to become a stronger, smarter, healthier you.

It’s worth it. I promise.

The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part I

As someone who's been "maintenance challenged" I love to pick the brains of folk who are keeping the pounds off without going batty. Today I've pounced on the lovely Jilanna from Canada for my next The Amazing Adventures of… interview. Jilanna talked to me about her 70 pound weight loss, her healthy living tactics, and how the sudden death of her beloved uncle inspired her to become a runner.


Jilanna – Then & Now


1. Name, age, location?

My name is Jilanna. I’m thirty five and I live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

2. Can you remember how/when you started reading Dietgirl?

I don’t remember exactly when or how, but I know it was quite soon after the big move to Scotland and I've been a regular reader ever since. Your blog and book gave me hope that someday I would get my act together.

3. To set the scene for the statistics lovers out there, can you tell us your before and current weight?

 In March 2010, I set out to lose 60 pounds. I had been holding steady at the same weight for three or four years (about twenty pounds below my all-time highest weight), confident and relatively content, but it was time to make a change.  When I reached -60 lbs, I realized I wanted to go a little further. I have been maintaining a total loss of 70 pounds since January 2011. I now weigh myself every four weeks and my weight fluctuates by about a pound up or down each month.

4. What prompted you to decide to lose weight? Had there been previous attempts?

 Over the years, I made a few half-hearted attempts to lose weight.  I tried different things, like Weight Watchers or going to the gym, but I never took more than a single baby step in the right direction.

Until March 2010, I lived on beige food, believed life was too short to eat vegetables and preferred to eat my favourite, decadent treats at every opportunity. I was on continuous feed, eating while working, celebrating, grieving, cooking and watching TV or reading. I couldn’t see my way free of my habits and although I knew what should be done, I couldn’t wrap my head around actually doing it.

When I started on The Plan (as I like to call it; in my mind, diets have deadlines, plans have a timeline and focus) in 2010, I was ready to change. I had what I would now describe as a clear sense of motivation and I had identified tangible goals. I recognized that although I was self-confident, secure in my relationships and not experiencing any health issues, I would not have the long and healthy life I wanted if I continued to eat in the same way. I was newly married and hoping to be a mother someday. I did not want to teach anyone else to eat the way I did. And I was going to be thirty five before we even thought about babies. I couldn’t do anything about the risks that came with age, but I could do something about my weight.

5. What tools/methods did you use for your weight loss? How did you decide on the particular method?

 A couple of colleagues had tried Simply for Life, a program that teaches clients the basics, provided detailed meal plans and recipes for real food, one-on-one support and strategies for coping with change. I asked them a lot of questions and eventually made an appointment with a consultant. I talked to Jillian about my fears and my hopes for the future. We discussed the number of pounds I hoped to lose, but she never once suggested a number. We agreed to meet weekly and work together to reach my goals and adjust our focus as needed.

It was a big adjustment but I felt better almost immediately. Before long, I was sure I had made one of the best decisions of my life. My energy was up, I was better able to handle stress and my moods didn’t change with the ebb and flow of sugar in my system. I could feel myself getting stronger and healthier. I was shocked by the improvements and I felt empowered by the changes I was making.

Now that I’ve reached my goal, I still meet with Jillian once a month to check-in and confirm my plan. I’m doing the work on my own, choosing everything I eat and building on what I have learned.  We’ve made some adjustments in the past year, particularly as I have taken up running, to ensure I continue to get the right kind of fuel when I need it. My appointments with Jillian help keep me accountable and ensure that I celebrate my progress.

6. How did you get started with exercise?  Have you always been into fitness or has this developed during your weight loss journey?

As a kid, I played outside, swam, rode my bike and walked all over the village. Exercise was a torment reserved for gym class and I was never particularly happy to participate (big understatement). When I was a teenager, I lived with my uncle and his family for a couple of summers.  Uncle Brian was a lifelong runner and taught physical fitness in the air force.  I did cardio and strength training while I lived with them and I got a lot out of it.  I just didn’t keep it up when I came home. In my twenties and very early thirties I tried going to the gym on my own at different points and I did Pilates with friends… but, much like my plans to lose weight, it didn’t take.

When I started on The Plan in 2010, I focused only on improving my nutrition. Exercise was part of the long-term plan, but I wanted to be sure I understood and built a healthy life with food first. My theory was that no matter what, I would always need to eat.  Illness might interrupt exercise, but food was essential. So I focused on food and experienced great results.  Because my energy went up, I felt better and got out and moved more. I walked more, got more fresh air and I was less likely to hesitate if an activity was suggested. There was no routine, but my fitness improved through a kind of osmosis.

Stay turned for Part II tomorrow, where Jilanna shares how running help her cope with bereavement, plus her tips for staying in a healthy groove.