She captured the top female and female masters awards at this year's Manitoba Marathon in a time of 3:02:07. This was the fourth time in six years that Muska-Van Caeyzeele has won the event.
"I do 10 miles a day, seven days a week in Kildonan Park or Birds Hill (Provincial Park), and we cycle and swim," says Muska-Van Caeyzeele, 40, who frequently trains with her husband, Clyde Van Caeyzeele, a former top 10 Manitoba Marathon competitor.
Ken Perchaluk, coach of the Road Kill Running Club, says that what separates Muska-Van Caeyzeele from most other runners is her strong will.
"She's not gifted with real awesome speed, but she can run long distances at a fast, sustained pace," he says. "If she thinks she can do something, she'll go out and do it. She'll push herself."
Muska-Van Caeyzeele was first introduced to marathon running by Doug Sammons, who was her track and field and cross-country coach at Tec Voc High School.
"He took me under his wing and in 1980 at age 17, he was training me and another student, Robin Hill, for the Manitoba Marathon," she says.
She posted a time of 3:58 that year and followed that up in '81 with a time of 3:45. Three years later, Muska-Van Caeyzeele had reduced her time to 3:11. She initially broke the three-hour barrier with a time of 2:55:56 at the 1997 Manitoba Marathon, the first time she won the event.
Even Perchaluk, her coach at the time and current mentor, was doubtful that she could best the three-hour barrier.
"He said before the race that I wouldn't be able to do it, that it's a huge obstacle," confirms the special education teacher in the Winnipeg School Division.
She adds that her best time ever for the 42-kilometre course is 2:48:22 at the 1999 Chicago Marathon. By contrast, Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain set a new women's world record with a clocking of 2:15:25 at the 2003 Flora London Marathon. The men's world record of 2:05:38 was set at the 2002 London Marathon by Khalid Khannouchi, who was born in Morocco and is now a U.S. citizen.
Muska-Van Caeyzeele even met her future partner on the plane while travelling to a race in Chicago.
"I'd heard of his name, but I'd only seen his back side because he's so fast," she says, adding that her husband's personal best in the marathon is 2:38. "Ever since then, we've been together."
This upbeat athlete is also looking at competing in the triathlon.
"I think I'd be good at it, but a bike crash last year scared me. I fractured my leg. But, I've purchased a brand new bike," she says. "I like to compete against myself. I get energized by training. I'm very content and happy with what I'm doing. I just want to run forever and maintain my fitness."
PHOTO MIKE DEAL/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS