UPDATE: Big congratulations to Steph for doing a great job, recently finishing 10th in her age group in her Ironman Kona World Championship! We can't wait to hear more from her and see what new awesome adventures shes up to next!
On the road to Kona -- Our newest City Series features Vancouver's own Steph Corker, who is a 12x Ironman finisher who recently qualified for not just one, but two Ironman World Championships. Next stop, Kona for Ironman Hawaii 2015. While Steph currently resides in our beautiful coastal city, she can also be found riding her bike in Whistler or on a Hawaiian island throughout the year. In addition to this, she runs a thriving people consulting business, injecting heartbeat strategies into companies who care about their people, and is a proud triathlon coach for Jasper Blake at B78 Coaching. After Kona, Steph plans to jump into the trails for a change in scenery from the endless miles on the road this year. Recently, we asked Steph for some tips for first time trail runners, and to peek inside her bag—packed ready for Kona.
Q&A with Ironwoman Steph Corker
What first sparked your interest/love for trail running and active living?
I grew up as a competitive swimmer and was always fascinated by the triathletes in our group who would leave the pool and jump on their bikes! When I moved out west from Ontario, my dad bought me my first triathlon bike and I signed up for my first half marathon clinic, because I thought that's what everyone did in Vancouver. I guess you could say that I got drunk on the Vancouver water, because since my first half marathon finish line I don’t think I’ve ever truly stopped! Running the Knee Knacker was very special to me, because it was the first time I had done anything for more than 5 hours. I remember crossing the finish line and thinking, "if I can run this far, I want to do an Ironman!". The next summer I signed up for Ironman Canada in Penticton. I've raced 12 Ironmans since and I am en route to do my second Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
How do you prepare yourself and get ready for events like an Ironman—mentally and physically?
Preparation for an Ironman is exceptionally intentional and methodical. I must give all of the credit for this process to my coach Jasper Blake, because really, I don’t do any of the thinking–I just do the executing - he writes my program and I put in the hours. In my opinion, the secret to preparing for an Ironman is finding joy in the consistent volume of big miles. It’s hard work, week after week and you are often balancing a fine line of what is “too much”. Yet, once you are able to, you start to adapt to the volume, create balance in your life and enjoy the journey. By the time you get to the start line, it really feels like a day of celebration.
How do you fuel your active lifestyle?
I have really taken on my nutrition this year! My goal is to eat veggies/lots of greens with at least two meals a day. I make it a point to be mindful of my carb:fat:protein ratios (it's really easy as a female to not get enough protein or fat in our diets), stay hydrated and always leave room for a piece of dark chocolate. I usually don't go a day without eating almond butter on something, vitamixing a lot of kale and Vega protein powder—our home is never without avocados and bananas.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Well, I gave up dairy this year and surprisingly, it knocked out my ice cream habit almost immediately (dairy = extreme bloating for me #notgood). However, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a total sweet tooth. I make it a weekly goal to make cookies or muffins that are as healthy as possible and usually sneak in a vegetable for my man to uncover—home baked is always better.
What ultimately drives you to do these types of events at the end of the day?
I am driven by the phrase “how you do anything is how you do everything”. My goals in my business are as big and hairy as my audacious athletic pursuits. Personally, I think consistency is sexy. So, be it my business, sports or relationships -- I want them all to feel as special as racing on the Big Island.
"I am wildly motivated by what's possible."
What motivates you?
I am wildly motivated by what’s possible. Call it cliché, but I think it is really easy to become a complacent adult and I think that is boring. Ironman is a hobby that I’m passionately obsessed with; it has become a way of life and regardless of what happens in this lifetime, I’m pretty certain that some form of swim/bike/run will be with me for a really long time.
How do you go about setting goals for yourself?
I am a huge fan of Danielle LaPorte and her book: The Desire Map–the essence of her book is focused on inspiring people to set goals with soul, as opposed to goals that are simply "to-do lists." Instead, the book focuses on generating your core desired feelings. Personally, my core desired feelings (CDFs) are: Abundance, Adventure, Love + Aloha. I use these as filters for how I live my life–from the goals I set to what I make for dinner. Crossing the finish line in Kona has been a goal I’ve been chasing for 3 years, however; generating a little bit of aloha every single day has made the journey to get there way more fulfilling.
In an article on your website you talk about goal setting with the Grouse Grind–how did you set this goal for yourself?
The goal was set simply in an attempt to go after the female record. It was inspired fully by Chip Wilson, founder of lululemon and Kit and Ace and a very avid Grinder himself. He once told me that he didn’t want to hire anyone who couldn’t do the Grind in 50 minutes. So, my goal was to do the grind as many times as possible (under 50 minutes!) in one day. At the time, I was the Director Global Recruitment for lululemon and we used the day as a cool recruiting event. To be honest, my biggest struggle was timing the gondolas down–I ended up losing time in the lineups and decided to call it a day after 11 ascents.
What are your top 3 places to hike in Vancouver?
Rubble Creek Trail in Garibaldi Park: There is a 25 km trail run that starts near Whistler and ends near Squamish, after passing the base of Black Tusk. To me, this epitomizes Beautiful BC and yet it offers a super accessible and gentle trail.
Baden Powell: This trail runs from West Vancouver to Deep Cove; there is no bad section of this local trail—every aspect of it is pretty spectacular. The Knee Knacker race takes place in July along this 50 km stretch and will forever be a special race for me, as it sparked the beginning of my desire to "go long." My favourite section would have to be the portion from Grouse Mountain to Deep Cove, with a pit stop for a Honey's Donut to celebrate, naturally. This is a year-round delight—I especially love it during the rainy season because parts of these trails are rather gnarly and will ensure your running shoes leave the trail with mud-puddles of approval.
- Elfin Lakes: What I love about this trail is in the summer time it is simply stunning with wild flowers and green pastures and in the winter time, it is an annual adventure we take on snowshoes with hot cocoa at the Red Heather Hut. Again, another year-round delight, however, be forewarned that in order to get to this trail head in the winter, chains and four wheel drive are mandatory. We have been stuck on the side of the road in a Jetta, just sayin'.
What is your dream trail running destination?
Being surrounded by epic people who do epic adventures makes the wish list quite long. However, top of the list is to run the Grand Canyon for sure!
Tips for New Trail Runners
BRING A FRIEND & MAP: It's always nice to have a friend to explore new places with, but a map isn't a bad idea either. However, most importantly, bring your sense of adventure, because sometimes getting lost just happens.
SHOES: No joke. Shoes are the most important (and really, ONLY!) piece of equipment that you need to run in. Find a pair you love and you will never run an unhappy mile.
SOCKS: While great shoes are important, I think excellent socks for the trail definitely help to prevent blister when running through the inevitable mud/puddles/rocks that trail runs bring.
- WATER: I like to bring a hand held bottle or a camel back with water when out on the trails. We are blessed with some gnarly technical stuff and serious climbs on the North Shore mountains or even in Whistler—hydration is important! I usually pack a gel for good measure. If you get lost, bringing some extra calories are not a bad plan.
- KNOW YOUR BODY: I personally like to run on a rather empty tummy, but figuring out what your body can handle before a run will make your run a lot more comfortable.
Steph running in: SAUCONY Women's KINVARA 6
What's in Steph's Bag
iPHONE: 'Cause there is always something to Instagram, right?! #pineappleseverydamnday
SOCKS: A little secret: I always put a brand new pair of socks in my transition bag on race day. I figure a marathon deserves fresh socks.
SAUCONY KINVARA 6: These are hands down my favourite pair of running shoes
SMITH SUNNIES: I wear Smith sunglasses to train and to race, and for everything else in between.
NUUN: These are great! Kona Cola is my go-to day time electrolyte flavour. I find that it tastes best in a Method water bottle, where I spend my winter months, spinning and sweating indoors.
VEGA MACA CHOCOLATE: A square a day, keeps my sweet tooth away
SAJE PAIN RELEASE: A Vancouver success story. I travel with their full product line, but this special bottle comes in handy for the days after the race.
#TRUTHBOMB FROM DANIELLE LAPORTE: Inspired by Michael Franti, I believe that when you do it for the love, you will do whatever it takes.
HERSCHEL PACK: It fits everything a girl needs, and the Mango, Orange Sherbet colour is a pick-me-up on a grey, gloomy Vancouver day.
- BIRKENSTOCKS SANDALS: Nothing feels as good as slipping into some Birks with tired, blistered feet after the race. They are also so easy to travel through airport security.