As a child, I learned the importance of spending time outside.
My father taught me that fresh air was a mandatory part of everyday life, through a wide variety of outdoor activities. On weekends, he would drag me out of bed early in the morning, regardless of season, and take me into the vast wilderness that was our home.
Down the McClintock Valley Road, river on one side, forest on the other, we could go anywhere we pleased.
One dark midwinter morning, I was awoken at the usual time; my father stood over me with his cup of coffee, smiling.
We were going snowshoeing — across the frozen McClintock River, and up the mountainside.
By the time I rolled out of bed, the sun was peeking through the trees.
I pulled on my long underwear, multiple shirts, two pairs of socks, and another pair of pants. I was going to be warm.
We trudged through snow, and climbed up hills, until stopping at a clearing, and packing down a spot for lunch. We made a fire, and delighted in the frozen world around us.
That day, I fell in love with snowshoes.
Sadly, over the years, snowshoe journeys faded from my itinerary.
However, in the winter of 2008, that changed.
The Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Yellowknife were fast approaching, and a close friend of mine had been spending time at the biathlon range. But instead of cross-country skiing, she was snowshoeing.
So, naturally, I signed up.
It wasn’t the type of snowshoeing that I was used to, though. These shoes were smaller and made for racing.
Best. Thing. Ever.
Unfortunately, by the time I had joined at the range, I was too late to go to the AWG with the biathletes. I was redirected towards the snowshoe team and earned a trip to Yellowknife.
I finished fourth in in the first two days of races.
The last day I promised myself a medal.
I ran as hard as I could. No stops, no excuses. My neck-warmer froze into a solid ring in the -30°C weather, leaving my cheeks and lungs burning in the cold.
No excuses, no stops.
On the final leg, I forced my muscles into all the action I could muster, snowshoe-clad feet pounding on the track.
It took me a few moments — occupied by the devouring of a Mars bar and juice-box — after the race to realize I had achieved my goal.
I stood up on the podium that night at the awards ceremony, grinning ear-to-ear while I received my bronze medal. I had never imagined one of my happiest accomplishments would come on a pair of snowshoes.
I still enjoy strappin’ on a pair of old shoes and wandering the snow-covered woods, or bounding over the labyrinth of trails surrounding my house, just to catch a breath of fresh air.