The Kitsilano neighbourhood

The Kitsilano neighbourhood where the story takes place is close to the ocean on the west side of Vancouver. Zoning regulations prohibit the demolition of houses in the area, so almost every house has a basement suite and some houses are divided into three or four units. The spring and summer gardens are a riotous bloom of hydrangeas, rhododendrons, flowering pink cherry trees and magnolias. It’s always a terrific relief when the cold winter rain finally stops and the flowers take over again.

Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach is an area of Vancouver that figures prominently in the book. It’s one of those places I can’t get enough of. I love the trails along the beach and around the nature preserve. I love the sail boats and freighters, the view of West Vancouver across the water, and I love the sand and logs. I love Jericho Beach in the morning, afternoon and evening, but most of all in the early evening.

The kind of neighbourhood cats like


During the summer months, a large number of cats can be seen in our neighbourhood lounging on doorsteps or poking their paws out of hedges as you walk by.

Excerpt from Chapter I:
The houses looked much the same as they had a century ago, except many were divided into suites and had two front doors. The sidewalks were bordered by rhododendrons, hedges, and massive messy trees that shed leaves, sticks and seeds throughout the year. It was the kind of neighbourhood that cats liked, where you could still hear pianos and push mowers.

Bosu Queen

bosu-queenMy daughter the bosu queen!

Several months after my awesomely famous St. Patrick’s Day race, my daughter also began training with David at Rep1. Here she can be seen easily jumping from one bosu to another, doing the kinds of moves that eluded me.

Excerpt from Chapter 4, “Gym Ball of Terror”:

David particularly loved having me use something called a bosu, which sounded like “boh-soo”. I hated even the stupid name. The bosu was a half-ball full of water or something really wobbly. The idea was to stand on it and try not to pitch off sideways while the thing bobbed around under my feet. With my awful balance, it was a serious test of my willpower and patience.

The UBC Endowment Lands

I don’t think there is anywhere on earth more beautiful than the forests of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Soon after I started running, I began taking the trails in the woods near our house.

Excerpt from Chapter 23, “Almost a Trail”:

On both sides of 16th, the deep, dense woods of the UBC Endowment Lands spread to the north and south. The UBC Endowment Lands were a big chunk of real estate – about 3,000 acres worth. They began twenty blocks west of us and included a large regional park and a protected ecological preserve. The entire area was crisscrossed by a complex maze of trails where people hiked and jogged, walked their dogs, rode horses and mountains bikes. Just a few steps inside one of the trail entrances, an indescribable silence descended, broken only by bird calls.

St. Patrick’s Day Race

Photos from the amazing 5K St. Patrick’s race at Stanley Park, Vancouver! The race is an annual event that draws 2000 runners. Learn more on the race site

Finding Lycra

targetThis was the sad view facing me in the changing room at Target as described in Chapter 15, “Finding Lycra”.

Hours later, I found myself in the changing room at Target having a reality check. I sat and stared in the mirror with despair at the sight of my thighs. Not just my thighs but the whole thing – my bust, stomach, hips and thighs. Everything from the neck down looked enormous. My head was totally out of proportion to the rest of my body. I had lost so much weight in my face and neck that my head looked like a little pinhead on my body, like a cherry on a mound of desert.

It was the first time I comprehended the enormity of my task. On St. Patrick’s Day I was going to be hauling 75 pounds more weight than most of the other women. Even the men were going to weigh less!

Yuri’s hats

yuris-hatWe were pretty excited when Alec, a developer who worked for our company, came to work one day wearing a winter hat that tied under his chin just like Yuri’s. Alec was a good sport and let us take his picture.

Yuri loved wearing hats. I don’t actually know that for sure, but he always seemed to stand a little taller and look more self-important when he wore one of his hats.

His collection included several winter toques, a hippie sun hat from the Oregon Coast, a Paddington Bear sou’wester from Victoria and a Lolita min-top hat. We bought the Lolita hat at an anime convention in Seattle and he wore it to conventions for several years.

Yuri was just one of those metro dogs who looked good in hats.

The challenge

the-challengeThe challenge facing my trainer David was enormous – about 90 extra pounds in this picture. A year later, when I started training at the gym, I had gained even more weight and had to stop riding my bike.

Excerpt from Chapter 3, “March of Shame”:

I arrived for my first session dressed in a low-cut purple V-neck t-shirt and some leisure capris. This outfit was the closest thing I had to gym clothes. I didn’t realize we’d be leaning over so much and of course the loose top proved to be a disaster.

I didn’t have a proper sports bra and my chest ─ which had grown to an enormous 44 inches by that time ─ appeared to be the largest physical thing in the gym. The walls were covered with mirrors and my purple bust loomed right back at me, quickly followed by the spectacle of my 54 inch bottom. I couldn’t seem to get away from the absurd sight.