Oliver Apel

Q&A Nathalie Daigle: ditching the road for the trail.

norda: Can you introduce yourself?

Nathalie: At 56 years old, I am the self-confessed retired Jill-of-all-trades. Originally from the Quebec Eastern Townships, I now live in Brighton, Ontario. It is a quaint small town roughly 140kms east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario. The town is home to the Presqu’Ile Provincial Park, which offers both easy access to water (beaches and marshlands) and lots of beautiful trails. Most trails here are soft packed but there are plenty of single track and technical terrain to test you as well. 

norda: Tell us more about your recent journey from road to trail running 

Nathalie: I started running as a teenager to cross-train in the speed skating and Nordic skiing off-season. Those were my primary sports back then. Fast forward many years and I started doing triathlon so running was always the constant; predominantly on the road. I would trail run mostly in the fall to “unplug” from the training plan. I found it very cathartic and therapeutic but as soon as the new triathlon season training started, it was back to road running; that is, until COVID hit. With all races cancelled, I took the opportunity to really evaluate my trajectory/goals and hit the trails to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. After years of Ironman and short distance racing ranging from local races to World Championships, I craved something new yet familiar and I settled on trail running.

norda: What are some of your trail running rituals? 

Nathalie: I run solo for the most part. It’s my time to slow everything down and shut everything out. I take part in the occasional group run either to explore new trails (I don’t have the best sense of direction so it’s safer that way) or meet new people. This might surprise many since I almost always share music before my training sessions on my Instagram stories but when I hit the trails, I like to run in silence. It’s a dance between me and the terrain; listening to nature, my (at times laboured) breath and the sound of my feet – a meditation of sort.

As far as pre/post run rituals, I keep it fairly simple. I’m a creature of habit and prefer to train early in the day (because most days I do double workouts and prefer to run first) so it’s mostly a good cup of coffee, breakfast, music to get in the zone, some dynamic stretching and then I run and follow it up with some yoga sequences.
A typical training week consists of 3 swims (when triathlon training), 4 bike sessions and 4 runs but sometimes, I swap out one of the cross training activity to squeeze in a 5th run. I’m still unsure if I will strictly trail run next season or if I will venture into off-road triathlon during the summer months so I like to keep the other two disciplines in the rotation to maintain skills and fitness. Being relatively new to trail running, I chose a 25K fall race for this year (my impulsive side wanted to hit the 50K but I resisted) so I am currently running 55-65kms/week. However, after following the Bromont Ultra race weekend, I’ve set a goal to run the 55K there next fall. Going back home for my first ultra seems fitting.

norda: You are a self described “Knitter of Things”? 

Nathalie: Ha! The most unlikely hobby anyone would have thought I’d pick up.
I was diagnosed with RED-S induced cardiovascular dysfunction in 2017 and my cardiologist suggested I find a non-physically involved activity to do while he put me on total rest for a minimum of 4-6 months. I was so depleted that going up a single flight of stairs required me to stop midway to catch my breath and rest. Yoga was also out as I was getting winded going from one pose to the next; it was bad. So I picked up knitting to keep my brain busy and stay (relatively) sane. My “All-In” nature accepted the challenge. I now test knit patterns for a Dutch designer before they are published and it helps keep the balance in my days. There’s something about the rhythm of the needles and the stitch pattern sequencing that helps me relax and unwind; the daily Yin to my Yang.

norda: What do you run for? 

Nathalie: I run for the journey each run takes me on. It’s an opportunity to pay attention and there’s always something to be learned from every run. Either about myself, my limits, my potential, my mental strength, the people I run with…or about the area I run in, the change in the environment, the subtleties of the weather, etc.; each outing is a lesson of sort. If I am lucky, every once in a while, there’s a little spark of magic that happens; that’s what I chase most over any time and/or split; just give me all the feels. It’s a time to connect with many parts of who I am but also with nature and the environment I happen to be in; to get grounded in the moment. And it’s an opportunity to be thankful for so many things in my life…because today, I “get to do this”. Again.

norda: Tell us more about your experience with the norda001.

Nathalie: One thing you should know is that I have run in one brand of shoes since 2003 so making the change to norda was a big deal for me. However, it was a necessary one. In September 2018, I tore 3 ligaments in my left ankle and despite months of physio and rehab, it is still not 100% and every trail shoe I tried (I was the Goldilocks of trail shoe trials) left me feeling nervous about re-injury. It was either good ground feel and grip but not enough cushioning…or the opposite; it felt too stiff and/or too heavy…I was always running scared or limping along after because the shoe came up short. Then along came norda.

It was love at first run but I waited to run over 100kms in them before expressing my enthusiasm and love of this shoe. To me, they are unmatched. Comfortable from the moment I laced them up. Very lightweight and nimble yet they feel solid. The cushioning is amazing for the steeper descents and the grip lets you navigate the more technical or greasy surfaces with confidence – which to me is a big deal. To run with confidence over different terrain types was a game changer for me; all this while still providing me with a great ground feel and no lingering effects after. They are the total package for me; and the closest to a road shoe feel I have found in a trail shoe. For a lack of better terms, they feel like an extension of my body rather than something I run on, you know. In fact, when I bought a second pair, I decided to run barefoot in them for shorter runs. That’s how comfortable they are.