As a full time Personal Trainer I am passionate about training and nutrition. "Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things". Everyday, I strive to share and transfer this passion to my clients, my friends, and my family in order to help them live a healthy lifestyle. I refuse to be average: I am willing to risk going too far in order to find out how far I can go.

"The human body is capable of amazing physical deeds. If we could just free ourselves from our perceived limitations and tap into our internal fire, the possibilities are endless" - Dean Karnazes. This has inspired me to commit to the journey of ultramarathon races.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


 I would like to start by saying: THANK YOU to my client & good friend Marysol for pushing and reminding me every week to write about my last post. Because of her I was able to write and share about my defeat in Haliburton September 2011, and mostly today, to accept it.

Thursday the 22nd of March at 1pm my pops and I left for an 11hrs drive to The Wintergreen Mountain Resort in the State of Virginia ; and was it ever a long day. I woke up at 5am in the morning headed to the gym and trained 6 clients.  I was picked up by my dad afterwards, and thanks to him,  made it to our location just past midnight.

Friday felt like a vacation; we had a breakfast of champions and we ate like kings all day. We went for a little 30min jog in the trails and drove to every checkpoint to familiarize ourselves with the course.


The race start was at 730am. I woke up at 5am. It was pouring rain and about 5-6 degrees Celsius. I have been fighting a pretty severe cold for the past week but I was committed to the race. We packed up the equipment and drove to the starting line. 110 runners/warriors took the challenge that morning to run through those wet and vicious mountains of South Virginia. 

I felt AWESOME for the first 21kms. Standing in 4th position, the course had a lot of ups and downs, some single trails, gravel roads and pavements. Met my dad at the 21k mark, 2h15min in and I only took enough time to give him a “high-five” then kept on going as the race was pretty tight from 1st to 10th place.

At the 3hrs mark I started to have stomach problems again. My body was failing on me again, I knew what was coming. I started to have very severe cramps, from my abdomen to my tiptoes. I was 10kms to the next checkpoint so the only thing I had to do was to keep moving forward and hope for the best. I walked for 90mins mostly up-hills fighting those cramps. To be honest at that point I did give up on myself. I told myself to make it to the next checkpoint and then call it a day.  I was done; I was in pain, it was still pouring rain, my feet were wet for the last 4hrs and my hands were freezing cold. It was the first time ever, during a race, that I mentally QUIT. In that 90mins, I went through a lot of emotions. Some I have never felt before and I can’t explain today. Questioning myself over and over again, why am I doing this? It seemed that every Ultras I have been having those problems and just couldn’t figure it out. 

Reminding myself why I was really doing this over and over again and how many friends, clients and family members were behind me, I managed to run the last 2kms and made it to the half way mark (40kms), where my Pops was waiting for me. 

I took a good 30min at that checkpoint. I had to readjust my goals and regroup.  I haven’t admitted this until now but, seeing my dad waiting for me at that checkpoint was the reason I was able to finish that race. It made me realise how lucky I was to have him as a dad. He drove 11hrs to Virginia, woke up at 5am on a Saturday morning stayed in the pouring rain for hours waiting for me, unable to do anything but hope for the best. MY POPS gave me the strength to keep on going that day. I will always remember that moment. 

I went back on the course as strong as I ever was that day for the last 40kms. I felt like I could run forever after that point. Running at a quick pace, still pouring rain, I was catching up to the top 7 runners. 


The second half course started with a massive climb. It was very long but runnable. I went uphill for a great hour before I reach the next checkpoint. I was pumped at that point because I knew the next 5-6kms were going to be a gradual downhill. As I flew down the mountains it finally stopped raining and I reached the 62kms mark where my Pops was waiting for me with fresh clothes. I started to feel some cramps in my quads and hamstring again. My friend/client/doctor texted me the day before saying that my potassium was low according to the blood test I did the prior Monday. So I tried to eat as many bananas as possible.

Heading back to the course I ran 8kms on pavement to the next checkpoint, I ran at a fairly good pace on a good rolling course. 


8kms to go!!! Feeling strong and catching up to the 6-7th place I knew I had to give everything I had to be able to try and get a top 5 finish. We did a quick transition and I left for the last 8kms, telling my dad to expect me in 45-50min. The first 5kms were all pavement followed by a 2kms descent -wow my quads were killing me- and then by a ridiculous steep climb of 3kms. Finally I got back into the trails.  


To this day, I don’t understand how, but I got lost. Being so in the zone and exhausted, it took me a while to realised I had been running for more than 9hrs and I had taken a wrong turn.  I kept going on that trail second guessing myself for about 1hour. I sat down 10min to see if someone was coming behind me. NO ONE! I knew at that point that I was lost and very very far from the trail and the finish line. I spotted a cottage just up the mountain. An old couple was sitting outside enjoying a cocktail. I came out of nowhere and ask them if they knew where the Greenmountain Resort –the finish line- was. They directed me and they told me I was about 3miles to the finish line. 


2h15min after leaving the last check point I got to the finish line. Poor dad, he must have been so worried!!! I was a bit mad at myself for getting lost but I was also very satisfied to reach the finish line. I came in 14th out of 110 racers, 2nd in my age group 20-29 and running an extra 7-8 miles for a total of 57-58miles/91-93km in 11h15min. 

I didn’t reach my original goal of winning that race or finishing top 3. I did understand and learn that support is a key to success. My dad felt bad after the race as he felt he forgot technical details at the checkpoints. I can say today, that if it wouldn’t have been for him, I was quitting at half point. THANKS DAD! Furthermore, getting lost also taught me that even if you train for a specific distance (e.g a 50 miler), your body is still capable of continuing past your initial expectations when desire, will and lack of other choices comes into play.  

Again, the human mind and body is magical and proof of that can only transpire when one pushes their limits. 

Monday, June 4, 2012


“Mat, take this race as a learning experience.” Those were my coach’s, Ray Zahab’s, final words when we talked 2 days before race day.

On Friday the 16th of September 2011, I left Ottawa towards the beautiful forest of Haliburton. Land of the living forest, an ecosystem at the southern edge of a vast and uniform, northern borealforest.  Comprising of over 80,000 acres of rolling hardwood forests, with meandering rivers make it a runners dream. The course has been redesigned threatening to be the most challenging course in the Ontario Ultra Series. 


Friday evening was pretty cool; a racer’s dinner was organized in a big log cabin. I got to sit down and chat with lots of my fellow competitors. I met some awesome people that evening. Sitting down with a bunch of Ultrarunners with the same passion, drive and desire is a very humbling and inspiring feeling: got to love the Ultra Trail Running community, people are running for themselves and always ready to help others do the best they can. By 10pm I was in my tent, yes we were camping at the race starting line, ready to sleep to be well rested for my 6am start.


The start was at 6am. It was approximately 5-6 degrees Celsius, clear sky but it was still very dark when we woke up. Meeting was at 530 am at the cabin where the rules and prayer were announced. At 5:55am some music from a live bag pipe ensemble directed us to the starting line. It was VERY cool. My good friends and training partners, Mike Bigelow and Pierre Paquette were starting at the same time as me for the 50k race. Supported by my twin brother, my dad, my buddies Marty, Louis and Alex I was under great hands for a long day.


Prior to the race, I had been fighting an ankle injury for 2 weeks. My biggest concern however, were the stomach problems I had on previous races. I had started to work with a Naturopath a month before the race and had been taking natural supplements and vitamins to regulate my adrenaline gland and digestive systems. I was hoping it would do the trick!


I felt pretty strong the first 40km coming in at 4hrs on the nose. My support crew was there with everything I needed every 7-8kms at every station. In second place at that point, I was 5min behind 1st place. Finally at the 65k mark, I was able to catch up to the leader, even telling myself to slow down a bit because the race was still young. We ran together and chatted for a good 15k until we cross the half-way point, 50miles (80km), together at around 8h35min. I’ve heard that Mike and Pierre both had AWESOME races, even if Pierre got lost for a few kms they both place very well. CONGRATS GUYS!

The day was beautiful.  Fighting for 1st place and on pace for a top 3 best times of all time on that course I was sticking to the game plan by taking all my vitamins, supplements, salt tablets, electrolytes; you name it I was taking it! At the 100k mark, my feet were starting to feel a bit tight but not enough to slow me down significantly. I was stopping every 8-10k to stretch them a few seconds and get back on track.
120k, 2nd Place Overall, 13 hours and 30 minutes in…

I arrived at the 120k mark at just over 13 hours and 30 minutes. Still on pace for a very solid time for that course, in second place, 5min behind first, I had a solid lead ahead of third place. My twin brother was ready to run the next 20k with me. My dad was racing in the 26k race that day and just learned he did awesome, WELL DONE POPS, first trail race under your belt; I gave him a high-five and left with my brother towards the last 40kms.


Every 30min my watch was set on a timer that  would remind me to take my electrolytes and salt tablets in order for me to remain hydrated on this warm 24-25 degrees day. 10-15 minutes after we left the last aid station my timer beeped and as I reached into my bag for my electrolytes and salt, none were left.  I had totally forgotten to tell my support crew that I was out and needed to restack at the last aid station. The next aid station was another 15-20k. We decided to push it through. 30 minutes later it started to hit me. My legs were starting to cramp and seize up. It was getting very dark out there and hard to see. The pain was becoming more and more severe. I was only able to speed walk 2min and run 1min for a while since my feet, knees and hips got really sore and were getting inflamed. Just trying to make it to the next aid station I was starting to have nausea and had a rough time walking in a straight line. 


Thanks to my twin brother that who kept me safe and helped me push it through to the next aid station and also to my AMAZING support crew, my dad, Marty, Louis and Alex who also significantly helped. They were all waiting for me in the middle of nowhere, keeping warm beside a small fire camp. Thanks to Mike and Pierre that were waiting for me in their cars at the finish line after a long 50k race.


At the aid station I tried to refuel and change for bigger shoes since my feet were too swollen to finish those last 16kms in my own shoes. I was presently in 3rd place since I had lost a lot of time in the last miles. I tried to do a couple steps after taking 5-10 mins at the station but my feet were in very severe pain I couldn’t handle it. I then decided to lie down in the back of the car for an hour to see if the swollenness in my feet was going to go down. When I woke up from my little nap just having my shoes on was too painful to tolerate. After discussing with my twin brother, we made the very difficult decision that I had to quit at that point for the sake of my health.


It took me a while to accept that I was defeated that day. Before this day, I honestly thought I was physically and mentally unbreakable. I thought I could take on any challenge and failing wasn’t an option. I was very disappointed with myself thinking of all the people that came to support me in the bugs, dark, cold, hot, in the middle of nowhere, and that couldn’t see me run those last 16kms and cross that finish line. It took me more than a couple of days to accept it; it took me a few months actually. It is probably the reason why I stopped writing  about my races. I felt like I disappointed and let down a lot of people, including myself. Today and as I write this, I understand everything I gained in experience that day and how this race was a learning AND life experience. 

“As I said there is nothing wrong with failing. Pick yourself up and try it again. You never are going to know how good you really are until you go out and face failure. “ -Henry Kravis