International Summer Tour 2017: Ontario, Canada!

International Summer Tour 2017

Next Stop: Home Part #1 (Canada)

Destination: Find Darah and Dave

Good afternoon readers, I hope you are enjoying a fall afternoon as relaxing as an athlete in the off-season.

The next stop on the International Summer Tour flew me over the Atlantic and back to my home country, Canada! After a day and half (give or take) of travel, I finally landed on Canadian soil! The saying, “There’s no place like home” is 100% true. The first taste of being home was landing in Toronto, Ontario seeing Canadian currency, staff speaking English, and nearly everyone on their phones with a Tim’s coffee cup in hand. As much as I had hoped to enjoy the moment of being home, I was more focused on arriving at my final stop for the day, because nothing was more important than getting there. Why? you might ask, because I was about to spend three and a half days with my best friend Darah, and her fiancé Dave in either Barrie, Collingwood, or Wasaga Beach. I have never travelled Ontario and these three places seemed interchangeable to me. When I landed I knew I had to get to Barrie and was being picked up by Darah. Anything beyond that did not matter, because we would finally be reunited! I could barely contain my excitement because after five years of living provinces apart we were finally about to spend more than a few hours in passing through to catch up.

The problem is, this was the first time I was about to experience Toronto beyond the Pearson airport. The three cities were all just names on a map and I was about to navigate them all without any preparation. The extra hitch that gave me a sick feeling to my stomach was reading a text from Darah when I got off the plane, I just got in a car accident. Immediately my reaction was Oh my God, I hope she’s okay! But she sent me a text so she can’t be too bad! What happened! What’s the fastest way I can get to her!? Chill out. Breathe. From then on, my  focus was be calm, rushing won’t help, get to Barrie, and from Barrie figure it out. Keep breathing. Once I navigated the Pearson terminals and found my way out on the UP Train I received new information, the accident was a fender bender where one-year-old-Wilson Ford had his back end smashed in pretty good. Darah was okay, and she was still coming to get me! Phew! Crisis averted.


Toronto, Canada


Union Station, Toronto


CN Tower, Toronto

Once the relief of the accident had sunk in, I will admit I felt pretty cool taking the UP train through Toronto. So this is Big-City life? I found myself pretending I was from the area, and what wondering what my life might have been like growing up in a Big City. Once I arrived at the Union Station I managed to board the correct GoTrain to Barrie and realized how much time the public spends commuting in transit. Everyone seemed to know they were going without even lifting an eye from their screen. Even on the train, there was no talking, just dead focus on the screens ahead- I opted for a nap because I still didn’t know what day or time it really was. When I reached the end of the line I also didn’t know which stop I was supposed to get off at once I arrived in Barrie. I was lucky the Travel Gods were in a good mood because by default I got off at the last stop (or the end of the line) and it was the one Darah was waiting at. I felt like a child receiving a puppy for Christmas, I was giddy to finally see my best friend!


Darah and Adrea


Adrea and Dave


Between sorting out how to move forward with the accident, learning how life was as soon-to be Optometrists, beach days, ice cream dates (Thanks Paul!!), jogs along the water, wedding planning, and endless other ventures, I am so proud of the life Darah and Dave have built for themselves. In high school Darah told me she was going to be an optometrist and now she is doing exactly what she set out to do. I felt so happy to catch a glimpse at the life they have built for themselves! In lieu of wedding plans one of the best conclusions I came to was seeing first hand (in their natural habitat of Ontario) that the Darah & Dave combo is real, genuine, and full of so much love. I couldn’t wish for a better guy to sweep my bestie off her feet and I can’t wait to say the Kwolek’s are my best friends and know it includes both of them. July 2018, don’t worry I’ve saved the date!

I’d love to share all the awesome things I did while I visited, but the most important part of my visit was appreciating the idea of coming home. Yes, I was in my home country, and they had a new condo which was Darah and Dave’s home, but the moment I first felt truly at home was when I hugged Darah at the train station and knew she was okay. The second time was when Dave returned from work and I could give him a big hug too. It happened to be the three of us were in their house, but what made it a home was having us together. Darah has put this idea to much more beautiful words than I can, but the quote, “Home becomes a person instead of a place” was truly encompassed throughout my visit. The warmth, love, and genuine happiness I felt visiting their home, made any and all of the travel hiccups or getting caught biking in a torrential downpour worth it.

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For future reference for either myself or you the readers, I also learned to differentiate Wasaga, Barrie, and Collingwood. I learned Barrie is the town at the end of the train station. Collingwood is a touristy Harbour town, with some amazing, cozy coffee shops. Finally, Wasaga Beach is a laid back beach town (with occasional school-kid parties) along Lake Huron with beautiful sand, water, and sunsets. When I have more time there are a ton of trails in Collingwood that I can’t wait to go explore, both by bike and running! Don’t worry Dave and Darah, you’ve set the bait! I will back soon!



Darah – Collingwood 2017

With my heart warm and my toes dipped in freshwater lakes again, it is time to carry on the nostalgia of home. Stay tuned for the ultimate homecoming, Destination: YQR.

Much love,



Travel Reading – Borrowing Darah’s Book


International Summer Tour 2017

International Summer Tour 2017

Wrapping up the Europe tour in Leuven, Belgium!

My outdoor season and Europe trip both reach their end at the same time. Although I felt fit and wanted to continue racing, I knew I have been pushing my body a lot over the past few months and it was time for some rest and recovery. Not to mention, I haven’t been home since Christmas and am more than ready to see my family and friends.

With a long flight ahead of me, I knew I was about to have time to reflect on my second year as a middle distance athlete and be mindful of how the year went. This would be tricky because I felt like I had a lot of success, even though I didn’t meet most of my “Paper” goals I set out for myself this year. Leading into this year my Paper Goals were:

(1) Continue to train smart and healthy

(2) Represent Canada at the Jeux de Francophone Games

(3) Run standard, 2:01.65

(4) Make the Senior Canadian Nationals Women’s 800m Final

I will admit these were ambitious goals, but although lofty, they were within reason. For goal one, other than an early-season ankle roll, I managed to successfully train as I viewed smart and healthy. Unfortunately, going through the rest of these goals requires admitting I struggled with reaching the goals, and was unable to check off any more of them this year.

Number two goal analysis: I met the standards and the other criteria which made me believe I could be at the Francophone Games. As it ended up, so did a handful of other girls; however, they met the standard with a faster time than I did, and have rightfully proved to be better contestants. I whole-heartedly agree their selection is accurate over mine, and am truly happy to see their success at the Games this year. Although, a small part within me hurt and felt like I had let myself down by failing to reach this goal, I felt rejection in its fullest. As I reflect, by not making this team, I was able to pursue a full three week circuit in Europe and ended up gaining valuable lessons, experience, and two Personal Best’s. So goal #2 is two-fold. No I did not make the team I had planned on, but I still was able to gain a valuable set of international experience, raced PB fast, and learned how to move forward after rejection.

Number three goal analysis: Run fast. Gain financial security. Make it easy. These were the objectives and hopes feeding this goal. In contrast to the previous year, yes I did run significantly (and consistently) faster, but again, not as fast as I had set out. As much as gaining some financial security would have helped for the upcoming year, I now have a fire within, with something to prove, and a desire to run what I know I am capable of. Looking back, I managed to run a PB in every indoor and every outdoor event I ran over the year, therefore, I think it would be untrue to suggest I was not successful in improving my times.

Number four goal analysis. Make the national final. The trend continues, The final is comprised of top eight, and as it so happened, I ranked ninth out of the semi-finals. I missed this goal by one ranking, and less than one second. Bittersweet? Undoubtedly. The experience and opportunity to run tactfully in the most unpredictable and competitive Canadian race is invaluable to me. On the plus side I had an extra day to recover and prepare for Europe travel because the jet lag inevitably took its toll on me. One more stress-free day is probably a good thing before leading into international travels, plus it meant I was able to enjoy the rest of the races that weekend without worrying about my own race plans.

To wrap up the analysis of my “paper goals” in black and white, I can only say I managed to nail one of four. I do take ownership of this and realize it is now up to this year close a bigger gap in my up taking of future goals. Coming out of this season, I do feel very accomplished because I truly believe I gained more than I lost, both on and off the track. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I do know I am excited to take some time off, and come back with a fierceness fully blazing. Even more, I am excited for my group Vic City Elite to emerge as a truly official training group, and the marks we will be able to leave together!


Before I close the book on my review of the season, I think it is important to share some of the tourist moments I was able to experience during my time in Belgium!

Most of the highlights of this trip were spent in Leuven with fellow teammates. From forming a bicycle gang heading down to the track (or downtown), to cribbage games, to an inflatable pool for ice tubs, it was a true adventure! I feel obligated to share my one false stereotype about Belgium. The stereotype I had for Belgium, was their fame to Belgian chocolates and waffles. There was one morning (that was not correlated to any race days) I was invited to go for waffles. With the repeated hype I had heard on “Belgian Waffles” I was ready for an unforgettable monumental taste bud experience.

My mind was picturing golden, thick, fluffy waffles to come fresh off of a cast-iron grill, and be smothered in heaps of fresh, and assorted berries. Instead, I showed up to a corner, food vendor shack, had someone else order to share with, and then waited for the magic. Much to my surprise (and partial horror) there was no cast-iron, nor fresh fruit. Instead I learned it was deep-fried dough coated in cinnamon and sugar, with the classic European option to add a Nutella option. To go even more over the top, there was an option for waffles with gelato in them. When I looked down at my torn in half slice of waffle, I watched the steam rise while my heart sank. This doughnut looking waffle was by no means what I was expecting. Tasty? For a mini-doughnut from the local Fair level, yes, it was tasty. Did I think it was worth the Belgium hype? In my opinion, I am happy to say I tried it, but no, it did not meet the hype.

Why am I telling you this? As athletes we have the opportunity to travel and experience many different cultures and menus, however, a lot of the time we are unable to enjoy the food varieties due to our body’s needs for nutrient dense foods. In addition, it is usually not best to try new and foreign foods before a race or important training sessions, because there is no guarantee that your taste buds and digestive system will agree that this new food is “good.” To any athlete in Belgium that has a strict diet (or self-control for that matter), know that you are not missing out with the waffles! Instead, I recommend going to the farmers market and getting your hands on some fresh fruit and veggies. If you really have the chance, go for the raspberries in July. I have never tasted berries so sweet and fresh as I did in the Leuven Farmers Market!

One of the final highlights of Leuven was running into all the fellow middle-distance athletes that were also there. Typically as athletes we only see each other on race day or at the track for race prep. It was a nice change to run into the same people at the grocery store and share a laugh in every day life off without the intensity. Whether it was fellow Canadian athletes coming down to race prep for their IAAF  Worlds meet in London, or next door neighbours from New Zealand, it was great to be able to meet fellow athletes outside of the stress and focus of the typical race days. It’s always nice to share a dinner or host friends over, even if it means turning the beds into coaches to eat dinner off the desk as a table. What can I say? We had good food, and even better company to share it with. By repeatedly having good food and company, in my opinion it is safe to say Leuven met the European charm one would hope for.

leuven cycle DT

Bicycling downtown Leuven


Race Prep at the Round Track in Leuven

Core o Clock



Finishing a Race Prep


Some American Friends

Needless to say it was an amazing Europe circuit, and I am grateful I had the opportunity to gain the experiences I have mentioned, and the numerous lessons I am still internalizing. Although it is always sad to leave a beautiful, and foreign place, The Wizard of Oz character Dorothy is still right because, “There’s no place like home.” My next stop of the International Summer Tour – 2017, leads me back to Canada, to my first home, with my best friend, Darah!

Stay tuned, because there is never a dull moment when we’re together!

Much love,



International Summer Tour 2017: Next Stop: Oostende, Belgium

International Summer Tour 2017:

Next Stop: Oostende, Belgium

*All photo credits courtesy of Casey Atkin

Good morning readers,

Welcome to the first of many, Adrea-Adventures. After a less than adequate, previous day in Heusden, I made the choice to make this day better. Within forty minutes of waking up I made breakfast, changed, and decided on a road trip (aka. train trip- is this the same thing?), and then invited Casey to operation: lets-have-a-beach-day! Other than finding a beach and accomplishing my weekly Sunday long run, the agenda for the day was blank. It did not require a lot of convincing, because within twenty second decision making time, Casey agreed to come to the beach with me, despite most of our group going to the beautiful tourist town Bruges. We hopped on our bicycles, boarded the train and were off to Oostende, Belgium. Prior to arriving I knew Oostende as a coastal town at the Northern point of Belgium, along the North Sea. Other than that, I was a full-time tourist for the day. It was nice to relax and enjoy being in Europe again!




Shells washed on the sand


Classic posed photo

To avoid running in the forecasted heat that afternoon, Casey and I put our backpacks in the train station lockers and went through the city for our long run. This in itself turned out to be an unexpected adventure. First we saw the breathtaking views of the beach and I watched us both let out an exhale of relief as the view washed over us. We agreed we would do our run through the city and make sure we ended up watching the waves at the beach. As we weaved our way through the touristy bits of town we found ourselves entering a sinister neighbourhood. There were beautiful, older homes with thatched roofing, traditionally lined houses, and parks. It was disturbing to see the normalcy of this neighbourhood directly across the street from a silent, walled off graveyard lined with barbed wire. There were no people on the streets, no children at the parks, and no birds chirping. The silence was only broken up by wind gusts that rustled wild grass overgrowing the lined tombstones in the Begraafplaats Stuiverstraat Cemetery.


Begraafplaats Stuiverstraat Cemetery – 2017

I apologize to my coaches, but it was so stunning I stopped during my long run to try and understand this overwhelming feeling of dread, chaos, and reverence as I approached this graveyard. Both Casey and I concluded it was a graveyard yielding from a World War, but we did not know which one. As we walked through the endless rows of family graves, I found myself struggling to comprehend this massive graveyard as the equivalent to a sporting stadium of people, all perished to the tragedy of war. Many were women and children, along with soldiers and unnamed heroes. I did not know a single person, yet I still felt grief and pain ball up in the pit of my stomach. Once our eyes took in what our minds could not, we proceeded to finish our run, landing in an outdoor multi-sport complex.

The feeling of dread had not left, because we soon realized the park was built over top of War bunkers which likely had been through the same turmoil as the previous graveyard. We took the time to explore inside a few bunkers, see where cannon remnants were cemented in, and embrace damage only explosives could cause. In hindsight, I am happy to have shared this moment with Casey because the powerful measure of this experience is something I am still struggling to put into words. It seems ignorant to be unable to explain this passing through, but here is my fragmented attempt: knowing soldiers shot cannons in the exact spot I stood, and likely died there too. Singular words are all I have been able to muster for this experience. Humbling. Powerful. Thankful. Terrified. Sadness. Silence. Speechless. Reverend. Holy Ground. These are the emotions that went through me as I walked along the inside of the bunker remains. Casey and I did not share a lot of dialogue, there were no tour guides, signs, enactments, or dangers presented to us, but the land and area still demanded the utmost respect from us.

As we went to head back into town, I was still trying to comprehend the devastation that had occurred here, and I wondered aloud, why would the city build a park over such an area?! I am not sure if Casey recognized, but her answer really opened my eyes to the situation. She responded with, How else is a city supposed to heal and rebuild?”

This response made me realize I had wanted the war-affected grounds to be left as they are- preserved, and a space belonging to history, not our current jog in the park. The overwhelming feelings of tragedy and devastation we both felt at the graveyard and the Sportpark de Schorre built around war bunkers, were emotions I did not want to face. It has been 100+ years since this tragedy and today I realize the answer to Casey’s question of how to heal and rebuild, requires full acceptance of the tragedy, the strength to learn from the past, but most importantly, the conscious effort to actively participate in being better to enable moving forward.

This town survived German takeover in World War 1 and again in World War 2. Now that I have had a chance to walk through the fields, trails, and paths that have been recreated on these war grounds, I agree, building a park over the war area was a good choice. At first I thought this seemed disrespectful to those who had given their lives in the very places I stood, but I also realized these paths and trails created a peaceful way for the community to congregate people together again. I do not think I can imagine a better change for the grounds than what I saw that day: the laughter of children, dogs running free through the field, and gardens full of singing birds. I think this moment I am able to be enjoy is what the soldiers were willing to give their lives for, and my appreciation can never find words with enough meaning to express my gratitude. Although the graveyard will likely always have a silence surrounding it, I saw first-hand an example of peace having been reached when I observed a few residents still coming in with flowers to remember their loved ones.

Not a lot was said on our way back to the beautifully sanded beaches, but I left our run refreshed by the amount of class, and heritage Oostende has and its harmonious ability to move forward. Although it initially made for a dark war-themed conversation for our long run, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had as a present-day passerby. Once we collected our belongings and bicycles from our lockers, it was time to head off to the beach for some lunch and relaxing. Personally,  I needed to hang out at the beach to try and comprehend the long run experience. Despite the occurrence at the graveyard, the afternoon was very enjoyable and full of laughter due to a good beach day. The following photos are evidence of this good day!

oostende adrea

Digging into some lunch and OJ on the beach!

Oostende shoreline

Walking along the endless shores

Oostende beach hair waves

Beach Waves

oostende water

Beach Views


Down the boardwalk


Favourite view of the Beach




Sock tans are real.


Trying out the Sea!



During our time at the beach, we saw possibly the biggest slip and slide I have ever seen, and a pedestrian covered bike bath that seemed to go endlessly along the coast. We did some seashell collecting, a quick dip in the water, lounging, and biking, before we tried some fresh vendor seafood on our way home for dinner. For some reason beach days seem to leave my mind refreshed, but my body tired. This meant when I arrived back to Leuven, I was able to go to bed fully satisfied with another good day under my belt.

In summary, the experience of this day trip is something I will never forget, and the dialogue it created in myself regarding peace and freedom has truly humbled me. Considering I woke up from a race that I did not want to claim as my own, I was happy to have found myself re-entered, and focused on the more important things in life. Despite the dark undertones, Casey and I still managed to have a really awesome day! Check out the photo evidence (courtesy of Casey Atkin) for more details!

And until next time!

Much love,



The Harbour


Photographer in Action




Biking on the boulevard


Action shot