Alsamade Canada! (Good morning Canada!)

Alsamade Canada! (Good morning Canada!)

Running across an African country is such an eye opener! It’s only been a week, and already, I am amazed by the beauty of this country! The scenery is stunning, the people are incredibly nice, generous and welcoming and let’s not forget about the excellent food!! I am definitely enjoying every moment of this wonderful run! I would like to take this moment to thank Erin Poirier, the founder of the Love4Gambia run. She ran across The Gambia 5 years ago as a personal challenge and since then, it has been an annual run! There have been 5 runners so far: Erin in 2011, Andrea in 2012, Jennifer in 2013, Terry in 2014 and now me in 2015! Anyone willing to take the challenge in 2016? ;)

Entering the Central River Region, 100km done!

Entering the Central River Region, 100km done!

Greetings are very important in Gambian society. Everybody greets one another, either verbally or through handshakes. ‘Alningbara’, (a Mandinka greeting) ‘Esama’ (Good morning) and ‘Salam Malekum’ (Peace be with you) are now part of my daily vocabulary. This is what I say (or yell) whenever I run across a village. You should see their smile when they hear me speak (or try to speak!) Mandinka! :)


Everyday is a cultural experience for me: a mother asking me to hold her baby as a sign of respect, an elderly welcoming me on behalf of the entire village, children running/cycling beside me to keep me company, meeting principals of numerous schools and giving them schooling materials (Merci Franco Cité!), taking a ride in a tiny canoe full of men, bikes and motorcycles…


Helping schools in need

Helping schools in need

Saturday night was the highlight of my trip so far. I had the immense chance to assist to my own Naming Ceremony! Every year, the runner of the Love4Gambia run get the chance to receive a Gambian name. I was named ‘Sanna’ after the daughter of the owner of the lodge we were staying at. She gave me a necklace as a present and I gave her a Canadian flag pin. We spent the rest of the night dancing and singing! They even made me sing a French Canadian song to them (ouff)! So I sang ‘L’arbre est dans ses feuilles’ and everyone tried their best to repeat the words after me! It was a great moment! :)


My Gambian sister ‘Sanna’ and I! :)

We are now 150km into the run. Today is a rest day for us, which will be greatly appreciated by our legs! I’ve never ran that many km’s before in such a short time. My body is slowly adapting to the mileage. Thank you for my amazing support team for treating my like a queen!! We are 1/3 of our way to Banjul! Woot!!! :D

Relaxing after a hard day at work!

Relaxing after a hard day at work!

It’s never too late if you want to help us raise fund for Love4Gambia:


And it’s a start!


The 2015 Love4Gambia team!

We started the 2015 Love4Gambia run on Tuesday morning, right at the border of Senegal and The Gambia. The first 5km are on a dirt road, but it looks more like a hiking trail! Since it’s the end of the wet season (there are only 2 seasons in The Gambia: wet and dry), the roads are full of puddles and mud… But the good side about this time of the year, is that the nature is very green. I did have to stop a few times to take pictures. The Gambia is a beautiful country! :)

The rock that indicates the border of Senegal and The Gambia

The rock that indicates the border of Senegal and The Gambia

First day went really well. I had a week off running before my trip so I was super fresh, but I knew I had to take it easy because there were 16 more days of running in front of me. Yankuba, Pa Modou and Modou are an awesome support crew. There is always one guy running with me to keep me good company! And whenever I want to stop, right away they will offer me water, snacks and they will even massage me with the stick roller! This is what I call first class service!

Getting spoiled!

Getting spoiled!

The second day didn’t start exactly the way we planned.. The jeep got stuck on a dirt road right at the back of the hotel (we wanted to take a short cut….lesson learned!). 2 hours later, we finally got it out with the help of a dozen really nice men that stopped to give us a hand. It’s in the Gambian culture to help each other like that, it’s wonderful!

The joys of the wet season!

The joys of the wet season!

But that means we started our run at the worst time of the day, around noon. It was very warm, humid and the roads were very muddy, but it is part of this whole experience, right?! It reminded me of a saying a friend told me before coming here: When things don’t go to plan, they usually make good stories at the end of the day! That night, we were already laughing about it!


Herds always have the right of way…

Today was my favorite day so far. We started the run on the trans-Gambia highway that leads to Banjul. No more dirty shoes! Yeah! Throughout the day, we had the chance to visit a few schools. The students are always so happy to meet and greet us! They want to shake our hands, take pictures with us and they always thank us for what we are doing. Their smile and energy are fuel for me, for my run. It’s a great reminder of why I’m doing this.


I’m in heaven right now. So far, this experience is beyond my expectations. I’m doing what I love the most, running and traveling, while helping others. I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks! :)

On our way to Banjul!

On our way to Banjul!

Welcome to the Smiling Coast!

After a long 40 hours of travelling, I finally arrive in The Gambia, my home for the next 3 months. I’m warmly welcomed at the airport not only by my whole support crew but with an interview that will air on national TV! Wow, I felt like a superstar! (If I knew, I probably wouldn’t have wore my PJ pants and I would have put a little bit of mascara!)


The next day, Yankuba and I travelled to Essau to attend Pa Modou’s baby christening ceremony. In The Gambia, parents wait one week before naming their baby. On the 7th day, they finally reveal the name and throw a big party where everyone is welcome. Pa’s daughter was named ‘Mama’ and she is adorable!

Little Mama and me!

Little Mama and me!

But to get to Essau we have to take a ferry, or a sketchy wooden boat should I say! And to get to the boat we need to be carried on a guy’s shoulders, which cost 10 Gambian Dalasi (30 cents). Loved it! At Pa Modou’s compound, I get the chance to talk to numerous of his family members and friends while drinking attaya (very sweet green tea). What a great afternoon!


Back in Fajara (little village close to Banjul), I go back to my hotel room which is a located in a lovely little resort beside the ocean! After a short swim and another yummy Gambian chicken dinner I’m off to bed to get some rest before tomorrow’s big day!

Good morning Gambia!

Good morning Gambia!

Today started with a press conference at the Nova Scotia Gambia Association (NSGA) office where Abdou, Pa Modou, Yankuba and I talked about the Love4Gambia run. The NSGA is presently working on having more visibility around the country to promote the run but also their health education programs. The organization has been improving a lot in the past few years, long live the NSGA!

Then we all got ready for the long drive to Basse (at the other end of the country). The trip is about 370km but takes around 5 hours. To my great surprise, the highway to Basse is fully paved and very smooth! What takes time are the military/police checkpoints at the entry of every village and of course herds of cows and goats crossing the road once in awhile! But my guys are really entertaining so it made the trip very enjoyable! :)


Now that I’ve seen the route we’ll be running on for the next 17 days, I’m more than ready and excited to face the challenge starting tomorrow! Yankuba, Pa Modou and Modou, let the Love4Gambia 2015 run begin!!


Aurevoir Canada!

This is it. The day has come for me to leave Canada for a year of traveling, volunteering and discovering. I’ve been preparing for that trip for months now, but it just really hit me this week when I started saying my goodbyes. It’s not the first time I’m leaving home for a year, but I’m a very emotional and passionate person so seeing and hugging my family and friends one last time before my big departure wasn’t easy… Kleenex please!

Packing my life away...

Packing my life away…

Packing was also a tough task. Deciding which one pair of jeans and sweater you want to wear for a year is a complex decision process! I’m glad my airline was allowing me two luggages: my traveling backpack and a duffle bag (very!) packed with running shoes, clothing and nutrition for myself and my fellow Gambian runners, but also school material (pencils, erasers, sharpeners, calculators) that I collected at the end of the past school year. I’ll be handing those to the children I’ll meet throughout my run across The Gambia. I’m sure these will be special moments.

Goodies for everyone!

Goodies for everyone!

So here I am, at the airport, waiting to board my plane that will fly me to a new chapter of my life. I can’t wait to meet my incredible support crew that is waiting for me in Banjul: Abdou, Pa, Yankuba and Modou. We’ve been in touch for awhile now, I’m very excited to finally meet everyone in person!

So, I can finally say it, Africa, here I come!!! :)


My Training Equipment

Here’s a little sneak peek of my favourite running gear:

Nathan-Zeal-Vest-e1376007320836Nathan hydration running backpack: I fell in love with the style of this backpack a few months ago at Bushtukah (my favourite place to shop in Ottawa!). I have never ran with a hydration vest before (I was using a FuelBelt), but I thought it could be a good idea for my Love4Gambia training and for the run itself; I like to be self-sufficient during my long runs. Well, I must say I was pleased right after my first run! I never thought that carrying 2L of water could be so comfortable! The front pockets are also very useful, making it easy to access my gels, IPod, kleenex etc. I’m hooked. I wear it almost for every run now!

IMG_5473Merrell running shoes: I’ve been running with Merrell running shoes for 2 years now and my feet and legs have been very happy so far! Merrell offers a great variety of colourful minimalist shoes for trail and road running. My favourites are the
AllOut Flash and the Bare Acess Ultra.

Compressport calf sleeves and socks: With all the mileage I’ve been running these last months, I’ve developed tightness in my calves and Achilles tendons. Wearing my compression sleeves during my long runs help stabilise my muscles and provide support for my chins and calves. I think they also look good too! ;)

Shorts and tops: My shorts need an integral liner built in, making it way more comfy. They also need to have at least one little pocket (for the house key!). My fav are my black ‘Super Squad Lululemon Short’. My running tops have to be loose-fitting, made with a light and breathable fabric.

IMG_5378Visor and sunglasses: I almost always wear a visor/cap and sunglasses when I run; to protect my eyes and face from the sun or the rain.

IPod: I listen to music often, especially during those 25-30km runs. My iPod is packed with EDM podcasts. My favourites are Group Therapy (Above & Beyond), Tritonia (Tritonial), ClubLife (Tiesto) and Find Your Harmony (Andrew Rayel). Music not only pumps me up like crazy, but ‘studies have shown that external stimuli, such as music, can block out some of your fatigue and spur you to longer distances and faster miles, reducing your perception of you body’s limits’ (Runner’s World). There you go! :)

lgNutrition: I’ve been fuelling on Louis Garneau gels and Xtact Nutrition fruit bars this year. I love the flavours of the LG gels (strawberry/dragonfruit and blueberry/goji are my favourites!). The Xtact fruit bars are easy to eat and digest while running, and they taste just like candy! :P During a 25km run I’ll usually have 1 bar and 2 gels (eating every 30min).

Foam roller and yoga balls: After each run, I make sure to stretch properly. I will also use my foam roller on my IT bands, quads and calves. The yoga balls are great to release foot pain or any tight muscle (back, glutes, hamstrings). Finally, a nice cold LG chocolate recovery drink will put me back on track! :)


Only 2 more weeks before my departure! OMG! :D


My Love4Gambia Training

I thought I was invincible. If I can do an Ironman, I can do anything right? …hum not quite! Training for Love4Gambia is not exactly what I expected. It’s actually a little bit tougher than I thought. Ok, it’s way tougher than I thought!! But I like it! I’m always up for a challenge! As the quote says, “Pain is temporary, but pride is forever!”


Beautiful, but very hilly run during our family trip in Tuscany in July

For the first time in 4 years, I decided not to hire a coach or follow a training program. Since I wasn’t racing this summer, I thought it would be nice to be able to have the flexibility to train whenever I wanted to, however I wanted to, with whoever I wanted to. I am very satisfied with this decision. This summer has been awesome so far. I am able to train a lot, but I also got my social life back which I had put aside for the past few years. My life is more balanced now and I must admit, I’m a happier person!

I’ve never train for just one sport before, so I wasn’t too sure how to organise my running schedule. Erin Poirier (the founder of the Love4Gambia run) gave me one advice at the annual Nova Scotia Gambia Association dinner last June: “Just run, run a lot and stay healthy.” Well that’s what I’ve been doing since June. I’ve never ran that many km’s in such a short period of time. In June, I ran just over 400km, in July just under 450km and I’m planning to run at least 500km during the month of August! Now that it’s officially published, I have to do it!

My training varies every week. But here is one of my favourite weekly plan:

Monday: Recovery day (maybe some hot yoga)


My parents, sister and I at the Champlain Lookout, in the Gatineau Park.

Tuesday: Swim + weights + track/speed workout with Zone3Sports

Wednesday: 10-15km easy run along the canal + hot yoga

Thursday: Swim + weights + 25km run (on the bike paths around Ottawa)

Friday: 20-25km trail run in the Gatineau park + hot yoga

Saturday: Social bike ride

Sunday: 25-30km run (on the bike paths around Ottawa)


Trail running in the Gatineau Park….my new little paradise!

Basically I’ve just been increasing my running mileage by a lot and I continue to do some other cross training sports that I enjoy (swimming, yoga, gym and a little bit of cycling!). The big challenge for me is all those 20-25km long runs! During my triathlon training I was only doing one long run a week, now I’m running 4 or 5 of those! My favourite thing about this is that I’ve discovered plenty of new paths around Ottawa and trails in the Gatineau Park. The tough part is my body adapting to the mileage. I didn’t think that running could be that hard on my legs. I’ve been a pretty lucky athlete in the past and never had a major injury. I must admit that I try my best to take care of my body. My post-training best friends are my foam roller, therapy balls and a Louis Garneau chocolate recovery shake! I also have weekly ‘dates’ with my chiropractors and massotherapists! Huge thanks to the staff at Alta Vista Chiropractic Clinic and the Holistic Clinic. I really wish I could take you guys to Gambia with me!

Less than one month and a half before I take on the challenge of running 425km across The Gambia! I’m getting really excited as my departure date quickly approaches! I have an incredible support crew waiting for me in The Gambia whom I’m so stoked to meet! Thank you to all of you that have supported me in my campaign. For those who still want to donate, it’s never too late:

Now off to Hearst for some running and relaxing time at home! :)



My Athletic Background

At a very young age, my parents taught me that sports and exercise were the key to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, I tried many different sports when I was a little girl: figurethumb_Julz-piscine2-new_1024 skating, jazz ballet, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, swimming, soccer and tennis. As long as I was active, I was happy. At 10 years old, I decided to join the Hearst Phoenix Swim Team with my sister. Soon after, my little brother and little sister followed our steps. Every morning of the week, the four of us were all up at 5am, ready to jump in the pool! I swam and competed with the team for 8 years, until grade 12.


During my first triathlon

I then moved to Ottawa to pursue my studies at the University of Ottawa. During my first year, I was living on the campus, just beside the canal. This is where I developed a passion for running. I ran almost everyday. It was my stress relief, my happiness booster and the perfect way to stay fit. Like everyone else, I started with short runs (3-4km) then gradually increased my mileage (10-15km). It’s only during my last year of university, that I finally decided to sign up for my first running race (the Ottawa Race Weekend 10km) and my first triathlon (the Early Bird Sprint Triathlon), and that was it. I was hooked!


The TriNova crew!

In 2010, I moved to Newcastle, Australia to do my Master of Teaching. I immediately joined the TriNova Triathlon Squad which I trained and raced with for two years. I had excellent coaches (thanks a million for everything Rod and Ben!) and I developed great friendships with the athletes. My schedule consisted of eating, sleeping, training and studying (and ok, a little bit of partying!). During my two years down under, I participated in many races (my first half marathon was in beautiful Sydney!) and completed numerous triathlons, included my first half Ironman (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run) on the sunny Gold Coast! I can say that I made the most of it while I was there!

I came back home in 2012, fit as ever, looking to improve myself even more. I join the Zone3Sports Triathlon Club where I was coached by The Great Rick Hellard. His guidance combined with hard work, brought me to the 70.3 (half Ironman) World Championships in Las Vegas in September 2013. To my great surprise, I finished 3rd in my age group (25-29 years old)! This is when I decided that I wanted to step it up a notch. I wanted to do my first full Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike,42km run)!


Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant. We all qualified for the World Championships!

Last year, I had the chance to join the Équipe Merrell supportée par Louis Garneau. The team is formed of long-distance triathletes from Québec and Ontario and is supported by great sports equipment companies. Wow, I was getting sponsored! I felt like superstar! My whole season was focused on Ironman Tremblant which was in August. My new coach, Philippe Bertrand from Lifesports, and I had the secret dream of qualifying for World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. From January to August, I swam three times a week, biked way too many km’s and ran like never before. I was motivated and dedicated as ever. Triathlon was not only my passion, it was my lifestyle. On the 18th of August, I not only completed my first Ironman, but I even finished first female amateur! I couldn’t believe it, I had my ticket to Kona! In October, I had the immense chance to race the world’s most famous triathlon. It was by far, the most challenging race I did: salty choppy ocean water, incredible winds on the bike, heat and humidity on the run. Nevertheless, I finished with a big smile on my face, 7th in my age group. I couldn’t ask for a better way to sum up my 2014 season. A huge thank you to all our amazing sponsors who made this possible: Merrell, Louis Garneau, TYRPolar and Compressport. Merci du fond du coeur!

10352909_692785877483092_2897844304540196603_n (1)

The 2014 team

After this wonderful year, I felt the need to take a step back. For the last few years, I’ve been very dedicated to triathlons. I trained hard, raced with my heart, travelled to new places, met incredible athletes and I wouldn’t change a thing about all of this. But now, it’s time to focus on another part of me. Therefore, I took the decision to take a sabbatical year to volunteer and travel abroad. This is something that I’ve been waiting to do for a while, but never really gave myself the opportunity to follow this dream. I now have the chance to do it, so I jumped right on the occasion! I feel very lucky to have a job and an entourage that fully support me in this project. Soon after my school approved my leave, I found out about the Love4Gambia run and knew immediately that it was the perfect challenge for me! My whole summer will be dedicated to training, raising money for my campaign and planning a whole year of traveling! I’m so excited about what’s in front of me! Sometimes, you just have to trust life, follow your heart and seize the opportunity! :)


Proudly finishing my first Ironman!

To donate: