Michael Booth, Surrey Now
Superman, meet Supermom.
Juggling a career, recreational pursuits and a family life — complete with a husband and two kids — is no problem for Surrey’s Shelley Morris. Nope, what she needs is a challenge, and she may have found it at the World Police and Fire Games.
Morris, a 12-year firefighter with Surrey fire department, will test her stamina to the limit in one of the games’ showcase events, the Toughest Competitor Alive (TCA) competition.
Surrey firefighter Shelley Morris, 37, will test her rehabbed knee during the World Police and Fire Games, July 31 to Aug. 9.
Sharon Doucette/The Now
“There are two reasons I chose to do this,” said Morris, 37, a former track star at Simon Fraser University. “The first was to give me a goal to rehab towards. When I was lying on the couch with my knee torn apart, I thought the best way to get me motivated to work out every day, on the physio and stuff, was to have an end goal.
“The second reason was, to put it simply, all of the events in the competition are things I can do. I did shot put when I was a heptathlete in university. I used to be a lifeguard, so I can swim, and I can run because I did that in the heptathlon as well.”
The World Police and Fire Games run July 31 to Aug. 9 at assorted locations scattered across the Lower Mainland. Surrey is home to more than 380 competitors in the WPFG, the most of any community in the province. The Surrey athletes represent Canada Corrections, Surrey fire department, BC Corrections, Canadian Border Services and the Surrey detachment of the RCMP.
Morris is one of those athletes from Surrey, and she will be busy during the games. Less than a year after she suffered a devastating knee injury, Morris will compete in women’s hockey, shot put, javelin and the bench-press events. The biggest event for her, however, is on Aug. 1 in Coquitlam, where she will dig deep to try to conquer the challenges presented in the Toughest Competitor Alive competition.
How tough is it? Well, the TCA involves eight separate events rolled into a single day of competition, including a five-kilometre run, shot put, 100-metre swim, bench press, 100-metre sprint, an arms-only rope climb, chin ups and military-style obstacle course.
Morris had originally planned to compete in volleyball and the high jump in the WPFG, but those plans took an abrupt detour when she snapped her patellar tendon playing volleyball last October. Facing a lengthy rehab, Morris shifted her plans to accommodate her situation — she was not allowed to do any jumping for one year — and looked for something that would play to her strengths, in particular her heptathlon background and her strong upper body. Even while rehabbing her knee injury, Morris was able to work at events that focused on the upper body, such as the bench press and the chin ups.
The toughest part has been working her knee back to health.
“When I started physiotherapy, he had me doing exercises just raising my leg,” she recalled. “That’s it, but I needed to do that just to build up the muscle. I almost needed to learn how to walk again. I was weird because I was dragging my toe a bit and the physiotherapist had to remind me to actually put my heel down when I walk.
“It was so strange to have to actually think about how to walk and then how to run. It was a weird, weird concept for me to have to basically start from square one.”
To help stay motivated throughout the long rehab process, Morris focused as much as she could on the goal of competing in the WPFG. She and her husband, firefighter Rash Dhillon, competed at WPFG in Sweden in 1999, when she won gold in high jump and silver in heptathlon.
This time around, the knee injury pushed her out of her comfort zone and into the unknown territory of the dreaded TCA competition.
“I’m most nervous about the five-kilometre run, which has to be done in under 30 minutes,” she said. “I know it’s doable and knowing myself, I’ll push myself until I want to puke. That in itself makes me nervous. Plus, any time you get to a starting line in a race, the butterflies naturally pop up. The other events will go by much quicker, so there’s no time to get really nervous about it.
While the thought of the long run makes her nervous, Morris says the toughest event will most likely be the rope climb, an event for which she is having a hard time training, given an lack of suitable ropes to practice on.
Another concern is the obstacle course, which involves a series of barriers and one section of dragging a heavy weight.
“I’ve seen pictures of it on the website and I know what it is comprised of, but I have no way to actually try it,” she said. “I know what I have to do, but I can’t actually do it until the day of the competition.”
Morris has been warned there is a huge learning curve between the first and second time a competitor takes on the TCA. Since this is her first-ever crack at the TCA, she knows she’ll be at a disadvantage to the other athletes who have done it at previous games.
“My goal is just to go for it and to bring lots of recovery drinks and maybe a few snacks,” she said. “I think we’re giving us something like 15 minutes between events, so we could get worn down pretty quick.”
As the days elapse and the date of the start of the WPFG draws nearer, Morris admits she is getting antsy. Fortunately for Morris, as she knows from her track days, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“The nervousness never goes away but at the same time, it’s exciting,” she said. “I think that’s also why I’m in this job. Some people thrive on that nervous feeling — you either do well with it or you crumble. I am nervous about it and I am excited about it, but I know if I didn’t do this I would totally regret it. And I definitely don’t want to have regrets.”