Being a mother to a young child often requires more than a fair share of early mornings — but one Saanich, B.C., mom-of-three has happily put even more on her plate with regular morning trail runs.
Care Nelson has spent the last few months training for the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships, set to take place in Innsbruck, Austria, this weekend.
Nelson is one of 38 athletes representing Team Canada at the championships, where she'll be taking on the women's classic up-and-down event, a 13.7-kilometre run with 720 metres of elevation gain.
While the run may sound gruelling, it'll have the benefit of taking place against the beautiful backdrop of a historic European city nestled in the Alps.
"[It's] pretty spectator friendly from what I've read, which is really cool because we start down in the town of Innsbruck and do a steep climb up into the mountains," Nelson said.
Running up and down a mountain may seem daunting for many. But Nelson has been running since she was a child, did track and cross country while studying at McGill Unversity and then took up mountain running when she moved to Victoria.
Last September, she placed first in the women's classic up-and-down in the inaugural Canadian Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Vernon, B.C., with a time of 50:13.
Nelson says southern Vancouver Island has provided the perfect training landscape, giving her an advantage many of her Canadian teammates haven't had.
Alongside plenty of running trails near her home, she said Mount Douglas in southeast Saanich has given her an opportunity to go through the more technical aspects of the run, from "the actual mountain climbing of it" to descending steep terrain obstructed by tree roots.
Nelson, of course, also has to deal with the daily realities of raising her three children, who are aged seven, four and two.
She said motherhood has changed her perspective on trail running.
For one thing, she's realized she has to really love what she does if it means missing mornings with her little ones.
Her husband, Mark Nelson, says he doesn't know how she has the energy or the motivation to get out the door every morning for her run, but it's incredible to watch her keep up with something she loves so much.
"This time of year, maybe I get it — it's a little bit lighter and it's sunny and nice out. But through October, November, December, it's rainy and gross and yet she's still out the door," he said.
"There's a group of ladies that she runs with here ... and I know they all motivate each other to get out the door and and do workouts together."
Care Nelson said the early mornings also provide some mental release that she believes makes her a better mom.
"I find on days that I'm back in the door at 7 a.m. after an awesome training run, especially when it's with my sister who lives down the street or my friends, that it definitely kind of hits the reset button for the day," she said.
"And I like being a role model for my kids. ... So, from them watching me work really hard, me admitting when I'm nervous or what I'm feeling about a race, to them making sure that they see I have a positive body image, and the way that I fuel — it's on my mind a lot that they're watching everything I do."
With the last six years focused on "momming," Nelson said it's been quite an adjustment to think of herself as a Team Canada athlete but she's excited to be representing her country this weekend.
The event in Innsbruck will be the 11th annual World Trail Running Championship, and will be the first time the event has been joined with the mountain running championship.
The weekend includes four events: the vertical, short trail, long trail and mountain classic races.