1 Pretty Sure and 3 Maybes for Canadian Rowers in Rio – my picks

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, this gorgeous photo of the Olympic Rowing Venue was on the USRowing twitter feed

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, this gorgeous photo of the Olympic Rowing Venue was on the USRowing twitter feed

Olympic Rowing begins tomorrow and while I’m not going to be on the shores of the Lagoa in Rio, it doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on how Canada is going to do!

Today, the crews are all waiting to start which is often the hardest part of the regatta. They have had these Olympic races in their hearts and minds for years. Crews haven’t raced for weeks – many since the Lucerne World Cup 10 weeks ago – and can only hope that in training they have made more positive changes than their competitors. For all the drama the World’s press want to focus on … the athletes have a laser focus on the task of chaining approx 220 of their best strokes together, covering the 2000m course faster than anyone else. But now – there is nothing to do but lightly paddle their boats over the course and wait. It’s an exciting and terrifying time.

What do I expect for Canada? I’m pretty sure about 1 medal – and I think there is a shot at up to 3 more. So 1-4 medals; or none <shrug> It’s the Olympics!


I wish I could say the “pretty sure” bet was going to be the women’s 8 (W8+) with Lesley Thompson-Willie at the helm (the cox, and my team mate on the 1992 Team!) but sadly they have been racing outside of peak form. They just haven’t found the rhythm that makes their boat sing.

To get on the podium they are going to have to work pretty hard to defeat Great Britain and New Zealand for silver or bronze, but the Dutch and Aussies must have the same plan. It’s hard to say it – but the USA will have to make a massive mistake to not take the top spot … again.

The draw – which FISA has just posted as I write this – shows us that we’re going to learn A LOT!! about the Can W8+ really quickly. They’ve drawn a 3-boat heat on Monday; Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, where only the fastest boat gets a direct route to the Olympic final and the other two will have to duke-it-out in the repechage (2nd chance race). That start-line is going to be a heart-stopping, breath-holding, OMG-ing moment for all 27 athletes because unlike the other heat that will be won by the USA, someone here has a chance to skip the repechage that will eliminate someone from the Olympics.


My “pretty sure” they’ll win a medal tap goes to Canada’s women’s’ lightweight double. They could easily be considered the favourite to win this event – but Continue reading

Were you “pulling” for me then? Would you do it again?

Canada's Marnie McBean (L) and Kathleen Heddle, gold medal winners greet fans at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. (CP PHOTO/COA/Mike Ridewood)

Canada’s Marnie McBean (L) and Kathleen Heddle, gold medal winners greet fans at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. (CP PHOTO/COA/Mike Ridewood)

Many of the blog entries I’ve posted here are intended to share what I’ve learned, to help others when I can. In this post, I’m asking for your help.


20 years ago this July, I was part of something special.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, I was on a rowing team that won 6 Olympic medals; Canada set the rowing world on fire! When my rowing partner, Kathleen Heddle and I won our 3rd gold medal – and a bronze the next day – we set a standard that has yet to be met by any Canadian Summer Olympian. I was so fortunate to be part of such an incredible era in Canadian Rowing and I want to do something to recognize this 20th anniversary: I want to do something that gives back.

When the opportunity to ride in the 200km Ride to Conquer Cancer came along I knew that this was my opportunity. Many of my teammates and my family – and yes, my teammates are like family to me – have been affected by cancer. I’ve lost both of my grandmothers – one who inspired me to dream huge dreams and the other that I never had a chance to get to know — to cancer. I’m not going to name them as it is there story to tell, but too many rowers that I know have had to fight –and I’m so fortunate to say – and beat cancer. Cancer doesn’t care about your age or your fitness.

My father-in-law has recently beaten his 2nd cancer with the cutting-edge science of stem cell treatment. I want to be part of the team that sees way more victories like his.


I would be so grateful if you would help me to recognize the 20th anniversary of something special – by doing something special. It’s ambitious, but so is Olympic gold and conquering cancer; my goal is to raise $20,000.


Just as every stroke made a difference, so does every donation. When we got home from the Olympics and traveled from coast to coast to coast, Canadians told us that they had been pulling for us. Was this you? Were you screaming at your TV, dreaming our dreams and willing us to win Olympic Gold. Did our win make you feel proud to be Canadian and inspired to try something that challenges you? I’m hoping that if this group would pull for us then, maybe can “pull” for us now. I’d be honoured if you would.


Here is my donation page if you’d like to help



Thank you.

ps – why Team BMO? It’s pretty simple, a friend asked me to join her team and the idea caught my imagination. 200km will be tough for me. These days I spend my time parenting not training. My cardiovascular strength seems okay, but my strength???… I’ve got some work to do in the next month.

UPDATE –  $23,475 raised!!!! 

Over 70 people, and their families helped me to recognize something special and more importantly achieve something special.
On July 11th and 12th, Deanah and I rode in the Ride to Conquer Cancer where over $17.3 million was raised for the Princes Margaret Cancer Centre. This is one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world.

As you know, my goal was to raise $20,000 for cancer research; recognizing the 20th anniversary of the success of Canadian rowing at the Atlanta Olympics, particularly the 3rd Olympic Gold Medal that Kathleen Heddle and I won. This disease has effected too many friends/team mates and family members.

Through my supporters – I was able to raise $23,475 – I am so grateful. The widespread support I received was remarkable. Together, Deanah and I raised $26,675, we are so thankful.

The ride ended up being about 220k. 98 on Saturday and 122 Sunday. The first day – Toronto to Hamilton was an effort!! A huge head wind made it a total grind. Sunday was lovely. Almost all flat and nice roads which lends to chatting and getting to hear peoples stories.

That part of the event – hearing peoples stories – was incredible. From the opening ceremony/start we had tears in our eyes. We heard stories of loved ones lost and battles won. There were many cyclists with yellow flags indicating that they are survivors and along the roads there were hundreds of people cheering, some with signs of encouragement and thanks. One sign that sticks in my brain was “thank you for saving my life, Pat”. She was a survivor thanking the riders for raising so much money for PMCC.

She was thanking you.



PowerofMore_bookjacketSee the Spaces

An excerpt from The Power of More, How Small Steps Help You Achieve Big Goals


… I was burnt out, exhausted both physically and emotionally. I needed a change, so at the age of twenty-eight I retired from sport. Or so I thought. The next year would help to remind me of some important and really doable goals that I had once set for myself.

In my retirement I unwrapped myself from my overprotective lifestyle and learned to snowboard in Whistler, B.C. I thought this would be a good time to go and play on a mountain instead of at a lake; I affectionately referred to this season as “the year of the broken bone.” Before retirement, my health had affected not only my performance but also that of my rowing partner. In this “arranged marriage,” Kathleen Heddle was my dependant, and I was hers. If I got sick or injured, I took Kathleen down with me; a port is no good without a star- board. This had made me particularly sensitive to the dangers of getting injured by doing something dumb. There would be little forgiveness if I showed up with a non-rowing injury. I had pretty much turned myself into a one-trick pony in bubble wrap. This was the first thing I wanted to change. I wanted to have fun, to be carefree, and I was prepared to accept the consequences. For the first time in a long while I felt as if I could take an unplanned risk. What joy!

Living in Whistler and learning to snowboard was fantastic, but I still craved structure and focus. At the suggestion of a friend, I took a course, got certified, and—with the help of Intrawest, the company that owned Whistler Blackcomb was quickly teaching adult beginner snowboarding. What a blast! I would free-ride in the morning with the other snowboard instructors, and then, from ten to noon each day, I’d teach a class. Saying that I snowboarded with the other instructors may be a bit of a stretch. The truth was that I had to do everything I could just to keep them in my sights. If this was a cup (of rice that) I was trying to fill, mine was still mostly empty.

Just as I hoped to progress and learn every day, I watched the other instructors improve their abilities too. They kept trying to get more height off a jump, to do a new trick, or to master a bigger feature. I watched how they would try every day but never put a timeline on their learning. They were definitely ambitious about snowboarding, but they were also patient. It made me realize that I had forgotten patience when I was rowing. I was also struck by how playful sport can be— there was so much joy.

The lifestyle I created as a snowboard instructor made a few other things apparent to me. Not the least was that I wasn’t cut out to be a great snowboarder! I missed Continue reading

Finding Calm in the Midst of Chaos. Parenting vs Doing Nothing….a comment on my productivity


Confucius says "Doing Nothing" above the throne room in the Hall of Union and Peace

Confucius says “Doing Nothing” above the throne room in the Hall of Union and Peace

As an Olympic Champion who’s been to 9 Olympic Games in various roles, I’ve been physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted and mentally exhausted. Until I became a parent – I’d never been all three at the same time.

For the first 5 months of our daughter Isabel’s life, other than parenting, I felt that I was getting nothing done. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do (or to create) something more… it’s that I wasn’t physically, emotionally or mentally capable of doing much of anything. My brain’s logical and creative side shut down, giving way – I assume – to let myself develop some survival techniques – aka-parenting skills. I’ve loved it, but at the same time it has been frustrating to feel so…limited. This wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

While I was pregnant I thought I’d have lots of time to write and read during my maternity leave. I was looking forward to the time that I would have to think stuff through – I get a lot done when I’m at peace and doing nothing. I was going to branch out and put all of my creative thoughts to page. After all – there would be huge chunks of time when I’d be doing nothing but watching a baby. (A naïve mistake I realize but this is what I thought.) Ha! While I did have time, small, randomly spaced blocks of time, I had no idea that I would have no thoughts! (None that I could remember 5 minutes later anyways!) Exhaustion has a way of throwing your mind into utter chaos.

I always find my most, creative thoughts in the steady beat of repetition; this is my idea of peace. Long steady-state rows, runs, bike rides and even walks provide my brain with the white noise that it needs to clear through the chaos of everything and find inspiration. In 2007 in Beijing, I learned the wisdom that accompanies making time for doing nothing. That year I went to China 5 times helping Canadian athletes and teams familiarize themselves with Beijing and the sports venues that would host the 2008 Olympic Games. I became quite the tour guide of the Great Wall, the Silk Market and the Forbidden City. The later, the Chinese imperial palace, was where the Emperor (and Empress) lived and presided over court. It is also where first became aware of the Confucius phrase Doing Nothing. Continue reading