My First 24 Hour Race

August 22, 2011

 No not my first, Althea’s first!  Two days after we got back from Denver, we were up in Canmore, getting ready for our first camping experience, along with the race.  I will say this about my one lap: it really hurt but I made it around.  The laps were approximately 18 km, with the normal amount of lots of climbing.  The route seemed to be not as much intense climbing, instead more gradual, but more of it.  What really hurt was the last couple of km’s, a gradual up the whole way, followed by a lot of up.  I wasn’t sure I was going to do it, or whether Mr. J would have to come and find my gasping body by the side of the trail, still clipped in, muttering “make it stop”.  Somehow I kept going, and even got up the last hill, my legs just kept finding more and more strength from an unknown reservoir.  I had wanted to do two laps, but had to concede that that wasn’t going to happen, and be happy with my one lap.  Mr. J did five!

I felt isolated from the rhythm of the race this year, as for me it was so much about Althea and looking after her.  With her Daddy doing so many laps, and resting in between I wasn’t expecting him to help much.  It rained almost right up until the race started, and then stopped thereafter.  Good thing Althea likes the carrier (or “How can you carry her around like a kangaroo, you savages” as GGM says) so we were able to move around quickly and see the sights, and she napped in it all weekend.  I did learn that she doesn’t like people cheering loudly near her, it prompted a few crying sessions, poor little munchkin.  For our first camping experience we enjoyed temperatures just above freezing.  I had her in warm sleepers, her warmest sleep sack, with a  hat, and under my sleeping bag, tucked under my arm, and she was just fine.  I kept worrying about her little hands getting cold, but because the rest of her body was toasty they were good.  On the second day she got used to all the noise from cheering and the loud speaker and began to ignore it, and slept well in the fresh mountain air. 

 They added a new feature this year, the flyover as they were calling it that you had to bike over in order to start the race.  Finishing races came underneath it.  My lovely shot of Mr. J didn’t come out very well did it?  The exact moment he gets behind the flag, I take the photo!  I think you can get an idea of how glorious the sun was, and how breathtaking the mountains were this weekend.  I felt refreshed and rejuvenated just being out there.  I’d love to say see you next year, but this may be the last year!  The race has become so expensive, and it is hard to find racers to join the 10 person teams, my team captain didn’t sign up again and I don’t blame her.  I will miss the race, but it is a lot of money for just one weekend.

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Back at the MS Ride

June 14, 2011

After having to miss last year, which caused me great upset, I made it back again this year!  Mr. J had to give up a race he wanted to enter, and I could tell he was very nervous about having to look after the baby for a minimum of 4 hours during the day without me being readily accessible.  This is not because he is a bad Dad, or is not willing, it is just that Althea cries very often when I’m not around, she lasts about 1/2 hour in fact before crying inconsolably.  Or crying until I come back that is.  It is very hard for a Dad to listen to their baby cry, and know that they can’t do much about it as she is just crying for her mother.  Therefore we weren’t sure that I would be able to do the whole ride, or even if the weather would hold as it had rained almost all day Saturday.  But what a surprise, it only rained a tiny bit, and Althea did really well with her Dad, having two naps during the day with him in the car.  We met up at every rest stop so that I could feed her and spend some time so that she knew Mummy wasn’t really that far away.  Mr. J’s mood lifted during the day from one of dread to one of confidence and pride that he had managed his daughter quite well, and soothed her to sleep not once, but twice.  The second time she cried a bit (maybe a lot) but once he took her out of the car, and began wheeling her around at a rest stop she fell right asleep.  So we did it!  The one day tour is around 84 km, but the guide says 94 km, and I finished in good time, just before a huge storm came in actually.  It felt so good to be out for a long ride, I sped up hills, I hammered down them, I felt the wind, I enjoyed the scenery, I chatted with other riders, and just pure enjoyed myself.  Plus I wasn’t even that sore the next day!

Some Salty Dogs

May 21, 2011

Last weekend we headed over to Salmon Arm, British Columbia for the first mountain bike race of Mr. J’s season, the Salty Dog six hour endurance race.  That meant that he rode around the course for six hours, and completed a very respectable six laps.  He probably could have done another lap, but by the time you get off your bike and take a little break, it becomes very difficult to get back on it again!  Especially when you get to hold something so cute:

Althea and I stayed for the beginning of the race, and came back for the end, with a walk and a bit of a lounge in the hotel in the in between time.  She was by no means the only baby there, nor the youngest, and with over 60 little bikers taking part in the mini-race, the Salty Pup, the place was teeming with kids.  These mountain biking events are truly wonderful places for families, hanging out in the outdoors, getting lots of exercise, and having a lot of fun.  Only six years until Althea can be a Salty Pup. 

The baby is now at the age where it is getting difficult to feed her in public, as there are way, way too many other things to look at.  She eats a bit, pulls off, looks around, eats a bit, repeat.  When I use the cover she is generally grabbing it and stuffing it into her mouth pretty quickly, unless she is really, really hungry.  Once the edge is off however, away goes her attention again!  I have discovered I can feed her in the passenger seat of the truck, and it is fairly private, or as we did, head back to the hotel for a few hours.  On the way out there I even fed her in the Lake Louise visitors center in a nice quiet secluded spot, that was until Mr. J turned on the educational display in front of us.  I’m still training him not to make distractions! 

We absolutely loved Salmon Arm, or the Shuswap Valley in particular, which I think is part of the Okanagan Valley area.  In Calgary things are barely, barely getting green, whilst a short six hour drive away, over the continenal divide:

Lush green, lilacs out, warm air, sweet smells, flowers everywhere, big trees, beautiful hobby farms, mountains, lakes, so nice.  It seemed like Ontario but with mountains, which for those of us from Ontario you will know what that means.  No matter how much we like the dry climate out here, we miss the lush greens of where we grew up.  We will definitely be coming back here, and if we had unlimited money we would be buying a little place, I can understand why so many people retire over here.  I’m hoping Mr. J and I can enter as a team next year, hopefully I’ll be able to pull off a lap or two.

24 Hours of Adrenaline

August 2, 2010

Last weekend we headed up to Canmore for what was now our third 24 Hours of Adrenaline, the day long mountain bike race.  This year we had the best weather ever, no rain, and good hot conditions.  After such a cold spring, and early summer, I am still busy soaking up the sun and heat, after all, its only going to be around for another month.  Now that we have done the race a few times, and have gotten the routine down pat, we can really sink in and enjoy the best parts of the two days in the mountains.  The best part is the incredible views from every direction during the day, especially on a great weekend where there wasn’t really a cloud in the sky.  Friday night is all about seeing friends that we haven’t seen, some of them, since last year.  Everyone catches up, has some beers, chats, visits.  Our excellent team captain starts the job of making everyone eat constantly.  There are new neighbours next door to meet, to chat with, to encourage in their endeavour of turning their trailer into a giant hot tub.  Saturday morning dawns nice and early, the morning light is the best for taking photos of the camp.  There is a buzz in the air as all the racers start to get excited, work on their bikes and start to get pumped up for the noon start.  There is an argument back and forth about who is doing the running LeMans start, and the dreaded first lap.  The first lap is the hardest as the competitors are bunched up on the trail, later on everyone is more evenly spaced and there isn’t so much passing and being passed.  The team and supporters head up to the start to watch the run, and cheer on the racers.  This year I could really notice that the first hour or two of the race everyone is so excited, and things are a bit chaotic as the racers get the routine down pat.  But after that everyone settles into a routine that becomes regular and comforting as the afternoon and night goes on.  The racer goes out, someone watches for them at the half way point, then the next racer starts to get ready, and heads to the start line about 20 minutes before they are due in.  Teammates wait at the top of the last hill to cheer their friend on, and boost them towards the finish line.  The finished racer is brought back to camp, they get fed immediately, and then cleaned up to wait for the next lap.  I find the routine soothing through the night.  As it gets dark and the racers put on their headlamps I head up to get a good view of the hill above camp, to see the lights twisting and turning through the woods.  Each year I savour the sight.  The noise from the camps dies down around midnight, but the racers keep going through the night.  In the morning I like to get up early and start quietly cheering people up the last hill, especially the soloists who have been riding through the night.  Many of them appear to be in a trance, but most look over and smile, especially if the encouragement is gentle in tune with the morning peace.  Towards noon there is another burst of excitement as teams try and get their last riders in by the time cut-off, to make the last laps count.  I’m always a bit sad when the race ends, the routine is over, and the clean-up begins. 

Our team did really well this year, without any 2+hour laps, unlike last year.  There were two mechanical problems, a broken chain and dead lamps which meant two laps were scratched which was unfortunate.  One of the teammates had a really unfortunate flip-over at a check point station as she tried to drink, steer, and slow down at the same time, with painful results.  She had about 10 guys come to pick her up however, and finished her lap.  On other racers we saw plenty of dripping blood, bandages, and broken bikes over the course of 24 hours.  There was a number of bear sightings, but everyone managed to get along, especially as one of the bears was a mother and cub grizzly in one of the nearby meadows.  Mr. J finished two laps, and could have done more, he had the fastest time on the team, and no injuries which made me happy.  He sure looked like he was taking it easy as he came into the finish! 

And once again, I can’t wait until next year.

Final Moab Report

March 29, 2010

Just to wrap-up, here is a final photo of Mr. J and I in Moab, on our first day of mountain biking on the sovereign trail:

About 5 minutes after we got engaged.  As in to get married.  Summer 2011 is the estimated date.  The most perfect engagement ring was placed in a bag of energy candy, by Mr. J when we stopped for a rest, after biking around 3 hours.  He then handed me the bag of Wild Berry snacks, and being the brat I am I almost asked for the pineapple instead.  Our joke is now that Wild Berry is my favorite flavour.  I then dumped the candy, with the ring, into my hand, instead of reaching in delicately.  I’m so glad I didn’t drop it over the cliff!  I was very surprised to see the ring in my hand, and insisted he put it on my finger, proper like you know. 

Life is an interesting road, and I’m very thankful that I’ve been out there following the twists and turns, hills and valleys.  I was never sure I would meet a man that I could get to a point at which I could say without any hesitation “Yes I will marry you”.  Mr. J is that man, and I love him very much! 

I think the knee/shin pads add extra ambiance to the photo, don’t you?

Adventures in Arches

March 16, 2010

We had our Sunday ride rained out, but we managed to console ourselves with doing nothing but watching tv (knit, knit, knit) going to yummy restaurants (the best huevos rancheros ever at Elektrica Cafe) and generally taking it easy.  We are on vacation after all!  The weather cleared up for the Monday ride along the road through Arches National Park.

The ride is long, with a few good uphills and downhills, but you can’t beat the views.  I felt sorry for people in cars, whizzing along without time to really contemplate a view, to breathe the fresh air scented with sagebrush, to feel the accomplishment for riding the whole way.  In the morning the rain of the day before quickly evaporated as mist, which is something not seen that often in the desert. 

This weekend was also the maiden voyage of a new member of our biking family, Sunny Biscotti.  Mr. J ordered this bike back in April, but due to delay, after delay, after delay, and finally getting the frame for free, he got Sunny in October, too late to ride outside.  Not five minutes after we left on our first ride someone complimented Mr. J on his bike, which really floated his boat.  Unfortunately now he is faster than ever, but once he makes it up a hill, he comes back down and rides up it again with slow me!

After a rest day, we’re getting ready to do some mountain biking.  The weather has turned warm, we’re wearing our shorts and t-shirts, and putting on the sunscreen.  It feels so good after a long cold, grey winter!

Wow, we had such a nice week, 6 days in the Mount Fernie Provincial Park, 5 days of mountain biking, all of which we did without driving as so many trails intersect with the park.  We only had one noisy night, which not surprisingly was Saturday, once the weekend crowd went home it was pretty peaceful and quiet in the campground.  We quickly established a daily routine: slowly peek out heads out of the tent around 9 am, as that is when the sun was just getting through the trees and warming things up.  One of us would crawl out, put on our warm clothes, and fire up the stove to make coffee and breakfast.  We’d enjoy the coffee, I’d knit and wait for it to warm up some more, slowly taking off the toque, baktus scarf, fleece vest, long sleeve shirt, and wool socks.  Finally around 11 am or 12 we’d get our biking clothes on and head on out for the days adventure.  After riding around for 2-4 hours we’d cool off in the nearby creek, relax, and maybe head into town for coffee and groceries.  We went out for dinner once at the Red Tree Lodge as it was Mojito night, and had breakfast twice at the Blue Toque (what a great name, I wore my blue toque both times we went!). 

The trails were sublime, over the 5 days, and only biking in one of 3 areas around Fernie, we hardly repeated a trail except that I could spend days going up and down Old Goat, up to the top of Snake Bite, over and over and over.  It was that much fun.  Many of the curvy single track trails are through old growths of cedars, which make for quiet riding, a bit mysterious.  There were many tricks that even I could handle, although we stayed away from the “big stunts”.

Anne Going down Verboten Stunt

Riding down Snake Bite is my idea of the best mountain biking; rhythmically flowing turns and curves, up and downs that rock you gently more than jar, fun obstacles to maneuver over, skills used but not taxed, a dreamy song playing in your head the whole way down.  So much fun.

We did not miss the phones, tv, computers, radios etc.  While the light was good I knit away on the back of my snowflake sweater while we made a fire, cooked dinner, or chatted.

Anne knitting by the fire

We listened to the birds, we watched the chipmunks, we watched the bikers cruise by, or other campers, saying hello.  There was a black bear that was supposed to be coming often through the campground, but we didn’t see it, which is good as we spend the first day eating blueberry pie and I wasn’t about to share.  Like most vacations it took me a number of days to relax and decompress from the rigors of everyday life.  By the end however the fog had cleared, and I felt normal again, and very happy.  I read a few books as well, including “Pride Prejudice and Zombies” which was a lot of fun. 

I think we planned well, coming home on Saturday after another huge breakfast at Blue Toque, to hang out with the kitties.  They had really missed their patting, and scritching, so we worked hard to make up for it.  Jackie woke me up from a nap on both days for extra patting, and Piper insisted on sleeping on my hands during my nap instead of just behind my knee.  They missed us for sure!  Getting up for work this morning was hard, but we rode our bikes into downtown which made it seem easier.  And until we get a money tree, here we are!

Unless you are the one drinking the tequila, watching the bike races that is:

Tequila and bikes

I can’t really think of a better way to spend Sunday afternoon on the long weekend in Calgary then to head down to Bowness, find a table at the one decent Mexican restaurant here, order a pitcher of margaritas, and watch the crit races fly on by.  The restaurant was doling out shots of tequila to the lucky patrons in honour of the bike races, which made me double glad that we had toodled down here on our cruiser bikes.  We definitely sloshed our way home after!  The bike races are so much fun with the whole pack of elite male racers flying by every minute!  Whooosh!  Luckily there was only one crash in the final race, and he got up again and went back to the race minus much of the right side of his uniform and a good layer of skin.  It was very exciting. 

We rode home just as it was getting dark and the storm crowds were coming in:

Storm Clouds

Those pretty clouds brought horrible gusts of wind, hail, torrential rain, and incredible amounts of lightening and thunder.  One cat huddled close by, the other crazy cat (the boy) got up on the window to see the rain, hail, and flashes of lightening better.  I was busy huddling under the covers hoping the house did not blow down, and that the fire trucks driving by would keep on going, not stopping anywhere near the neighbourhood.  Mr. J. went back to sleep.  Boys!!

24 HRS Race Recap

July 27, 2009

I had such a good weekend, I don’t really know where to begin.  I’ll begin with the moment that all my stress and worries about my current troubles melted away into one word: “Whee!”.  I was fourth up on the roster, and started my lap around 4:30 pm, a great daylight lap, just after a bit of rain knocked down the heat and some of the dust.  I pinched my finger getting my bike off the stand, and headed off on course.  The race starts with some mild climbing, gradually winding its way up above the nordic center.  It gets fun when you switch onto single track, and keep climbing over roots, and rocks, under a canopy of pine trees.  I was breathing hard, my heartrate was high, but I made it up to the top in good speed, without stopping to walk.  At the top of the climb you switch onto fun, twisty, technical single track through the trees.  Somehow I ended up by myself, with no one in front to try and pass, or behind trying to get by me.  And I thought “Whee!”.  It was so much fun, and it got better from there.  I was careful to conserve my energy on the climbs, but tried to go faster on flat sections and downhill, by the end I was letting it all out and flying up hills.  (Flying for me, not for anyone else).  I passed people going uphill, and had two people kindly move off the trail on some single track to let me go by.  Like I was fast or something!  I felt so strong, so good, and so happy.  I let a bunch of people by me, especially the soloists who were only 5 hours into their 24 hour ordeal, and some of them had come in from Italy, New Zealand, Crested Butte, Boston, so they deserve the right of way.  My goal was to do the course in 1.5 hours, and I finished it in 1 hr 40 minutes, but it had an extra 4 km over last year, which means I did really well.  With the longer course and our 10 person team I didn’t get a second lap, but I had such a great first one, it didn’t matter. 

The rest of the race time was spent cheering racers, wandering around looking at the sights (ummm there were many, many spandex clad people around, plus nice mountains) enjoying the views, making new friends, eating, and a bit of sleeping.  Julian’s first lap started close to 2 am, and I stayed up to see him off, meet him at the checkpoint, and cheer as he finished.  I sat at the checkpoint in the dark watching the racers go by with their lights, with my toque glowing in the dark, chatting with other spectators, looking for shooting stars.  I think the racers had people encouraging them the whole race, especially the soloists who by 3 am were looking grim. 

The toques went over really well, my two teammates wore theirs all night.  I think I need to make more for next year.  There are photos on another camera of us wearing them, I’ll try and get a copy. 

Anne in slow motion, almost done lap

Good weather, no injuries on our teams, smiles all around, and so much good clean fun on two wheels that you cannot believe!  Mrs C. did see one of the three bears in the area peeking around a sign, but she was so scared she just rode right by it, and climbed the next hill at the speed of light.  The smiles on our faces as we finished our laps show how much fun we had!

Adventure Week: Day 2

July 21, 2009

This past weekend we had an adventure in biking up the Jumping Pound Ridge Cox Hill Trail.  The trail description could go as thus:

Head straight up to Jumping Pound Ridge, around a few switchbacks thrown in to fool you that you aren’t going straight up.  After 1 minute of this, watch your heartrate race past “high” to “way too high” and finally accept that it may explode at any time, and its time to get off your bike and push.  The only other alternative is to collapse at the side of the trail in a heap, and that ain’t getting you up to the top any faster even if it does sound rather nice.  Once on Jumping Pound Ridge, head along semi-flat trail for a little bit, think you are doing well.  Then notice the huge  climb up to Cox Hill, and realize you had better grow new heart, legs, and and lungs fast.  The once source of pride from the day is that I did smoke that group of hikers, approximate ages 70-90.  Left them in the dust baby!!

Once at the top, if you survive, the view is rather nice if you can remember to pick yourself up from your face plant and look around:

Anne and Julian on Cox Hill

Jumping Pound Ridge can be seen over our shoulders.  And in a scene repeated on many trails across many countries, it takes this many people to fix a bike:

Bike Repair