Tag Archives: relaxing

Lazy Summer Days, and Changes…

Goofing Around

Good day my dear readers. If you have been a longtime follower of my blog, you may wonder where I’ve been in the past month, and if in fact I’m just eating bon-bons and kicking back through the summer. Well, quite the contrary my friends! Things have been as busy as ever, which is why there has been a marked lack of blog updates. In the past while I’ve had a lovely Canada Day paddling adventure, gone to the States for the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race (don’t worry, that’ll be a whole post!), changed jobs, worked on gear reviews, saw my sister and family off on a new adventure to Belgium (for the next 4 years!) AND worked on wedding preparations! Yup, I (and the ever-lovely Deanna) have been quite busy indeed, but this short post should at least serve to bring you up to speed on our latest adventures. As usual, you can find most of my pictures on flickr shortly after events, and also, Deanna is becoming a bit of a shutterbug and has her own flickr account now too! So twice the photos! Read on now for a taste of recent events.

You may have picked up on a couple ‘life events’ in that opening paragraph. Firstly, yes, we had to bid a ‘bon voyage’ to my sister Andrea and the entire family, including cool niece Helena and cool nephew Julien. They are headed over to Brussels to work at NATO for the next 4-5 years. At the moment, it is just Andrea working there, but it looks like Patrick may also get a gig there! Pretty cool to have a nice central European base of operations should we wish to head over for a visit. We’ll miss them alot, but possible Christmas plans for 2014 are already in the works. We wish them all the best and look forward to seeing them back here in October for the BIG WEDDING 🙂

Next up, the new job. Yes, I finally decided to loosen the ‘golden handcuffs’ of public service and head back into the private sector. Ostensibly, and officially, I’m on a ‘leave of absence’, but I highly doubt I’ll return. I’m already having far too much fun getting me feet wet, up to my elbows, and all those other metaphors. What am I doing? Well, I’ve become the Director of Engineering at a small boutique consulting firm, Nordicity Group Limited. We deal in various industries, mainly cultural and telecoms / ICT, and the Ottawa office is all about telecom stuff, and I’m their head technical guy. Pretty cool gig, if not high pressure. But with pressure comes profile, and I have no doubt I’ll be able to carve myself a nice niche there in the coming years!

Canada Day Paddling Adventures

Rewinding the clock just a bit, I did want to chat about an awesome paddling adventure Deanna and I made on Canada Day this year. Our tradition the past few years has been paddling on the Ottawa river and watching the fireworks. However, this year, we opted to head to Trenton to visit and spend time with family. As you all know me, I wasn’t going to be content merely sitting around drinking beers. A couple years back, Deanna mentioned she’d always wanted to paddle the Trent-Severn Waterway, which I filed in my mind. So, for the weekend, I suggested we spend a solid day out on the water. In the end, we paddled 57km in variable conditions, starting from Locks 11/12 and paddling all the way down to Trenton. Deanna’s parents were nice enough to drive us out to the start in the early morning, and even provided late-day moral support, and even ice cream at the take out!

This was a really fun adventure, and one I’ve no doubt Deanna will remember for some time. Making memories like that with the love of your life is truly special, and I’m glad we got some good pictures from the adventure! The only problem with doing something like that is that you’re never sure when or what the next adventure might be. We’ve been toying with cycling across Canada, hiking the Himalayas, etc. etc., time and money are the only real obstacles. All I know is that someday, they will all be crossed off the life adventure bucket list!

Wedding Prep Going Well

As you’ve no doubt read a couple times in this post, wedding planning is going pretty well. Things are already mostly sorted out for the big day, and we’re getting increasingly excited. One of the primary preoccupations we’ve got is ensuring all our guests are well entertained and sufficiently hydrated. To those ends, we recently bottled the two batches of wine that we had specially made for the big day. In fact, we were bottling the very morning we were flying out to Denver for my big race in Leadville! We had the opportunity to sample both the red and the white, and I can assure you that both are quite tasty, and eminently drinkable 🙂 I’ll be surprised if we come back home with too many bottles after the wedding. Now that I have your attention, if any of you are reading this and haven’t yet RSVP’d, please take a moment to do so now 😉

Last but not least, another fun thing we did recently was head out on the kayaks again to witness the spectacle that if Flugtag Ottawa, put on by Red Bull. There are plenty of pictures of that as well, but we haven’t gotten around to posting them yet. Suffice to say, it was a gorgeous day on the water, and quite entertaining to watch all the flying machines try to get airborne, but ultimately end up waterlogged and craned out of the river!

That’s it for my brief update. I’m really hoping that I’ll get around to writing up the experience that was Leadville in the near future, but I have to make sure I do the event justice. It was amazing! Stay tuned friends…

Fencing and ‘Festing for Fun

Darcy supervising

Good day friends. I bet you all thought you wouldn’t hear from me again until the winter race season started, right? Well, I’d hate to leave you all wondering just what it is that ActiveSteve does when he isn’t racing or training ;-). Hence this short little post to keep you all well informed. It’s not secret that I’m not really one to sit around eating bon-bons. If I’m not doing something, I get bored. So I guess it’s a good thing that I’m a homeowner, because there’s ALWAYS something to do when you own a house, even if it is a new house, as I’m learning. Also, given that my training and racing takes me away from home a lot, it also means that I don’t get to see some of my friends as much as I’d like, so this is also a chance to do a bit of catching up with some of my good friends, as well as spend more quality time with my best gal Deanna! This certainly won’t be a long post, so you should have no problem getting through the whole thing, as well as checking out my two sets of pictures, first being my fence re-building project, and the second being some pictures from this year’s Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.

As I’m sure you’ve already pieced together from my intro, the house project that has most recently kept me a little busy was the rebuilding of my fence. One of the reasons I had chosen this house was that it was already completely enclosed by a wood fence, meaning that Mr. Jonah could have the run of the backyard to play. Well, before the winter was even in full swing last year, I noticed that the fence was starting to lean. In the dead cold of winter, I attempted to straighten it temporarily with some metal spikes, but that was a band-aid solution. Truth be told, I agonized somewhat over what I’d have to do to fix it. Fences can be pretty finicky things, and I wasn’t looking forward to doing the work, so in my mind, I thought I’d just hire someone to deal with it in the spring. Well, spring became summer, and summer was winding down, and I still hadn’t dealt with it. Those contractors I did contact all seemed to want to charge a bucketload of money for the work. Essentially, I was going to take down the fence, and was looking for someone to just dig the post holes and set the posts for me, and the prices didn’t seem reasonable.

In fact, it got to the point that I decided I might as well do it myself. After all, I’m pretty handy with stuff like that, and it was just a matter of time and sweat to get it done. I pinpointed basically the one weekend where I could do the ‘heavy work’ of digging the holes and setting the posts, and set to work researching how to do it. I settled on this: Dig a 4 foot hole. Bottom 6 inches line with gravel, then sink the posts and level them with concrete footings (inside a sonotube). Plan seemed fair. Also decided to rent a hydraulic auger rather than the hard-to-handle two-man rigs. I enlisted a few friends to come over on the Saturday and Sunday, plus Deanna’s dad, although reluctant to help, was unable to stand idly by while we worked, as predicted by Deanna :-).

I learned some new skills that weekend. And learned about soil types. My soil, clay. HEAVY, HARD, CLAY! The 4 foot holes became 3 foot holes, and the 6″ gravel eliminated, but sonotubes kept. The gravel was for drainage, but given that there was so much clay, we were more worried it would serve as a place for water to pool, freeze, and heave (since it would be much more porous than the actual soil. Once convinced to dig shallower holes, I toiled 11 hours on Saturday to get most of the holes dug. I got 9 of 11 done. It was hard work. Darcy and Matt came out to help as well, thanks guys! The next day, up early again to finish the holes and get to work on setting posts. This was a less physical task, but required a bit of finesse and thinking. After all, my panels were all pre-made, so I had to get the spacing exactly right on the posts, which was a bit tricky. Luckily, for Sunday, I had the ever-precise Dave out to help Deanna’s dad and I out. We made excellent progress, and managed to get all the posts plumb and set by the end of the day, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

Over the next week and a bit, I added back all the hardware using a water level to make sure they’d line up. Deanna gave me a hand whenever I needed it to put up the panels. Most of them went in perfectly, with a nice snug fit. I had to trim two of them, and then completely re-bulid a couple of them. I had expected that though, since I also moved my fence line along the back to line up with my actual property line. Lastly, I cut the tops off the posts and capped them. It was awesome to be done and look out into the back to see a nice strong, straight fence that I’m confident will last for years to come. Hard work, but totally worth it!

Sampling Cask Stouts

So now we get to the second part of my post, the ‘festing! Of course I’m talking about Oktoberfest here. Deanna and I were a little sad that we wouldn’t be able to make it to Kitchener for this year’s bit Oktoberfest, but it turns out there are some good options right in our own backyards now. I’m referring in this instance to the Beau’s Brewery Oktoberfest celebrations that they just held at the Vankleek Hills fairground. They’ve held it a few years now, and it appears to just keep growing each year, and getting better and better organized. They go out of their way to make this event a true Oktoberfest party. Not only do we have the many delicious beers to enjoy under authentic large beer tents, but the whole grounds are teeming with activity. There was live oompah music throughout the afternoon. There was also more modern music in the evening courtesy of The Peelers, Cuff the Duke, and the Lowest of the Low. There was also a plethora of great food on offer from many local vendors. I stuck to mainly traditional; sausages, pretzels, and strudel, all of which was awesome!

They also had a lot of games on site, including keg tosses, stein holding, malt sack races, and a spouse carrying contest. To see some of that on video, you’ll have to check it out on flickr here and here. It was a hoot. There was lot of room under the tents, which was pretty critical, given that it ended up being rather cold and rainy while we were there. Deanna and I were joined by Dave and Meghan as well as Andy and Irene-Anne, but once on site, I couldn’t believe how many people I ran into that I hadn’t seen in a long time, including both of my bandmates from Comfort Station that still live around here. Of course there was much talk of music and reunions, and hopefully that’ll materialize at least in the form of a nice jam session over the colder months!

As far as the beer selection went, it was top notch. The only problem was that they eventually started running out of all the unique brews that they had on tap, leaving us only with their best seller, the Lug Tread Ale, not that there was anything wrong with that. There was also a whole separate area for ‘cask beer’ samples. Here, there was an entire showcase of different beers available for microbreweries in Ontario and Quebec. I sampled a couple really tasty stouts while in that tent. Beaus also arranged for bus shuttles to/from downtown for those that wanted to avoid driving, which we all took advantage of. All told, it took Deanna and I about 2 hours to get from our house to the fest, between the STO bus, and OC transpo bus, and the Beau’s shuttle 🙂 Oh well, still beats driving ourselves, and we didn’t mind at all.

I must say that after attending many Oktoberfest parties in K-W, and now attending Beau’s Oktoberfest twice, I’m rather fond of the Beau’s version. The all-day fun activities really fulfilled my Oktoberfest desires, and at the end of the day, I lay my head down in my own bed, rather than facing the prospect of a hung-over 6 hour drive home. I love them both dearly, but it’s great that we do have the option of doing something locally now.

I’ll end my stories there for now, as I have to get back to other little chores and projects. Exciting stuff happening in the next few weeks, but you’ll have to wait to hear and read all about it 🙂 I promise it’ll be fun (more so for me than you my dear readers, but I hope to share it with you in some way. Cheers!

All Roads Lead to Relaxing

Mmmm beer

Good day my friends. I thought I’d take a quick moment and write a blog post where the subject wasn’t purely about racing or training. I say not purely because I just couldn’t help myself from at least a little training on the one weekend that I had more or less free all summer. However, in true ActiveSteve style, I managed to combine my relaxing with the training for a truly spectacular weekend out on the Madawaska River at Jim’s property near Calabogie. Of course, I’m talking about his annual Mad River Float, in which he invites a whole crew of friends out for the flotilla on the river. Everyone brings a floaty thing, and we put in 3-4 km upriver of his cabin and leisurely float back, with the aid of tasty beverages. Afterwards, there is a super-tasty barbecue put on by he and Ali, then a roaring fire to finish things off. As per usual, I took pictures of the whole event, and you can check them out on the folder on flickr. Click on to read the rest of my little story, which won’t be too long, I promise!

The weekend of the float was one of the few this summer / fall that I truly had nothing going on. The following weekend would be the 30 hour Wilderness Traverse, and after that, a whole string of other races. Also, we didn’t have the dog for the weekend, so we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. Jim had let me know well in advance that this would be the weekend of the float, so we’d kept things free that weekend. At one point, Deanna and I had talked about making a cycle touring trip of it, using both bikes, and me using a trailer to haul our stuff out there. However, when the time finally rolled around, we realized that it probably wouldn’t work with all our stuff and the fact that the float would start around 12:30. The ride from home would probably take 3.5 hours or more. However, seeing as I had several big races coming up, I wanted to get in a good bike training session. The plan was to ride both to and from the float. I only made it one way, for reasons that you can probably guess 😉

Biking out there, I had planned a pretty straightforward route that took only back roads and should only be about 100km. I memorized all my turns in advance, and hit the road from home around 8am, leaving me seemingly plenty of time. Well, I didn’t plan on new roads and a bit of a route fail on my part. I ended up doing a huge extra loop in one section, adding at least 15km to my trip. Plus, the undulating terrain and winds also slowed me a bit. In the end, I rolled into the cabin area pretty much right at the deadline! So much for lunch! Oh well, the beer would fill me up, right? Yup, obviously I should have eaten something after a 115km ride, before hitting the beer. But what’s the fun in that?

Shortly after I got there, we loaded up a few cars in order to carpool to the put-in. Deanna and I hopped in a truck with our drinks and floaty things. Once at the boat launch, the entire flotilla crew set about inflating their hardware and prepping for the float. Deanna and I had chosen the Ahh-qua Bar this year, and it was a solid choice. Of course, I modified it before we arrived, by adding grommets to each of the 4 floating chairs, and attaching docking ropes to the middle section. That way, you could float free, or tether yourself to the bar and float with that. Having the attachment points, and wearing flippers made this actually work pretty good. The chairs were pretty comfy, and allowed us to sit in the water and stay cool while the sun beat down on us. Oh yeah, and did I mention there were 12 cup/can holders PLUS a central cooler area? Yup, lots of room for suds!

We had a decent tailwind, so our group, which was probably around 20 or more people, actually made pretty decent time. In the past floats, when there is no wind, it takes FOREVER to actually float the river, due to the lack of current. Not so this year. With a little paddling, it took less than 3 hours total, and just about the right amount of time to work through my stash of beers and catch up with everyone on the float I hadn’t seen in a while. Deanna, for the most part, just paddled around on her chair, while I stayed at the bar and let people join me there. Good times.

Once back at the cabin, more fun awaited as we played at the high-jump diving into the river. It wasn’t super deep, so I managed to bash up my foot a little bit, but nothing too serious. And certainly nothing that I was really feeling. Meanwhile, Jim was busy sparking up the BBQ and cooking up an insane feast of ribs, burgers, hot-dogs, etc.! We were definitely not wanting for food after the meal was done! The fire was also going strong as well, and even though the weather did eventually turn sour by pouring rain on us for a bit, nobody really minded. Luckily, the rain passed, and we were able to head back out around the fire. And that’s when I busted out my Jiffy Pop! Yes, I’m mildly famous at the cabin, and for a while had the nickname ‘Jiffy Pop’ from a past poker night, but I was determined. By using a cooking grill, and wearing heavy-duty gloves to prevent burns, I patiently worked my Jiffy Pop until I got the perfect pop. It seemed to take forever, but it was totally worth it!

Eventually, many people left, and the 10 or so people that stayed moved into the screened porch to have a few more bevvies and play some cards. We played well into the night, until eventually, it occurred to me that I should really go to sleep. Although Deanna and I had brought Big Agnes, we instead opted to just sleep in the screen room. Deanna was on a couch, and I just laid on the floor on a thermarest. By that point, I don’t even thing the thermarest was needed ;-). We had a few solid hours of sleep before morning found us again. I felt pretty crappy upon waking up, but luckily, I had nuun to drink, and Ali actually had bacon, eggs, cheese, and english muffins, and was able to make us some kick-ass Egg McMuffins to eat for breakfast. It was heavenly. Once fully awake, I assessed my state, and determined that biking 3.5 hours wasn’t in the cards for me. After all, I rarely just chill out and do nothing, so I decided a hungover relaxed day would work out just fine!

After hanging out a bit longer, we packed up, and headed home. It was another super-fun Mad River Float, and I’d like to say thanks once again to our amazing hosts, Jim, Ali, Tristan, and Xavier! We’ll definitely try to make it again next year. After all, the bar worked perfectly, and needs to come out at least once a year! So that’s it for my relaxed post. As I finish this post, I’m about 33 hours away from tackling my 2nd ever Iron-distance tri, so as you might guess, the next post will be back to a race report! Till then, squeeze out the most you can out of our remaining summer!!

Summer Rolls on, I Run With it!

Good day folks! As you can see, the time has been flying by, and I’ve been neglecting my storytelling duties once again for the past little while. I shall now try to rectify that by writing a couple posts to hopefully bring you all up to speed on my summer fun. This post, as well as the next will pull double-duty. Part race-report, and part general updates on my summer :-). For this post, I’ll focus on the recent 5Peaks trail running race I did, and the few weeks leading up to it.
In those weeks, I had fun at Taste the Danforth in Toronto, camping in Prince Edward County, and catching the International Fireworks competition in Gatineau. Read on for all the details. I’ll start with the race, which I sadly have no pictures for a change. However, there are pictures of some of the other fun, especially since I bought a new camera!

So, about this race… what exactly was it? Well, pretty straightforward little race actually. As part of my commitment to racing mainly off-road this summer, I signed up for the 5Peaks race taking place at Camp Fortune in the park. The race is just a trail running race with two options, the Sport, a 6k race, and the Enduro, a 12k race. My plan was to run the Enduro and give it my best shot to see how all that off-road running training on Tuesdays has been working out.

While I’ve been trying to keep at the training, things have gotten a bit challenging over the summer. Long training days on the weekend have been replaced with have great fun visiting with Deanna in Toronto or the County, or having her visit me in Gatineau. No time for training when we’re having so much fun. So my weeks now generally consist of cramming as much training as I can from Monday to Thursday, then no training on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Believe me when I say that its been worth it though!

The weather on the day of the race was a mixed bag. Although skies were dry when we got up (Deanna was there to cheer me on that weekend), the forecast was calling for rain, and it looked like it would deliver on that promise. I’ve run this race before, and the course was exactly the same as last year, so I’d definitely have a comparison point. There was a good crowd of racers on hand, and although I knew that my hopes were lost for winning the event, I still had high hopes of a strong finish overall, and possibly podium in my age category.

I was cajoled into lining up at the front of the starting line by a couple people, as they reckoned I was a speedy guy. Whilst that notion still makes me laugh, I suppose the truth is that I am at the top end of the pack in these events, which I guess I should be proud about. The race started promptly at 10am, and we took off at a heavy pace, with the trail turning skyward quite quickly. The enduro was simply the sport course run twice, so on the first lap, we were sharing the course with the 6k racers. That meant knowing exactly where I was in the mix was not possible, as we were intermingled. All I know is that I was pushing hard, and the heart rate was soaring. However, I didn’t want to let up at all, and kept up the pressure.

At about the halfway point of the first lap, I managed to pass a few people on the trail, which felt good, but was also in turn passed by a couple people. The goal was really to try and run consistently for the remainder of the race. At the end of the first lap, I anxiously awaited the sight of Deanna, planning to get energy from her support. I didn’t see her, and had to push on. Luckily, after the next short section, I spotted her at the side of the chalet lounging away from the larger crowds and able to see and cheer for me. Spurred on, I continued my push hard, and found the second lap quite bearable, and not having anyone else pass me. The finish was far less dramatic than last year’s event, so that basically wraps up the actual race report.

So how did I finish off this year? Well, the results put me in 9th place overall, and 5th in the 30-39 male category, with a final time of 1hr 4mins 3seconds. This was almost 3 and a half minutes faster than last year’s time, and a couple spots higher in the ranking, so I was quite happy with that! So I guess that means the training is still having positive effects, even though I swear I had to kill myself to keep that pace :-). Now let’s back it up and look at a few other weekend fun activities in the meantime…

First up, Taste of the Danforth festival in Toronto. This is a big outdoor food festival that I always associated with Greek food, as it is in Greek town, bu they have much more food options that just Greek. This was evidenced by the first pit stop Deanna and I made for the day, where we enjoyed Elk Tacos! They were delicious. If you’d like to check out some pictures from that festival, I put up a folder on flickr for all to enjoy. It was also the first weekend that I got to play around with my new camera. For that reason, I’m going to start focusing on only putting up pictures I truly think are good, rather than just put up tons of shots.

A few other things that we did over that weekend were going to the ROM where we focused on going through the dinosaur exhibits in great detail, as well as checking out the middle eastern section of the museum. It was *extremely* crowded that day for the terracotta warrior exhibit, so we opted to skip that. Apart from that, we also spent a lot of time just rollerblading, as well as doing some geocaching in the area (and getting foiled by several of them). I decided that I really don’t care much for geocaching in Toronto’s urban parkettes. There are far too many things you don’t want to find under the bushes in a big city. I’ll take my country locales any day 🙂

After the foodie festival weekend in Toronto, our next weekend trip too us to the much quieter locales of Prince Edward County, to enjoy what might be our last camping weekend in the County for the year, judging by our calendar. Folder of pictures on flickr seen here. Always a welcome escape for both of us from our respective cities, and also a chance to meet roughly halfway between our homes, we’ve really enjoyed our getaways to the County. For this particular weekend, we sort of planned a few things out more than we normally would. First off was a little supper and visit in Belleville with Deanna’s sister Cheryl, her boyfriend Adrian, as well as a couple other of Deanna’s friends from a while back. We met at Applebees, and stayed for a few hours, before finally hitting the road to get to the campsite. After all, we still had to set up our canvas home, and wanted to take in the Perseid Meteor shower, which had just peaked the day before.

The timing worked out quite well. I set up the tent (without the fly), and then we laid on the dock and got blown away by the light show. Well, actually, Deanna did, while I struggled to figure out how to take pictures. However, we also later went back to the field and I also took it in. Very impressive. One of the more beautiful nights I’ve seen in a long time. The next day, the plans included doing a whole bunch of geocaches in the area, as well as doing a nice canoe paddle on Lake Ontario in my sister’s boat. Hadn’t planned on the high wind and monster swells, but that made the day that much more epic and memorable!

That evening, a nice steak dinner I cooked on the grill, followed by Deanna setting up the back of my car for the drive-in. Yup, we headed out with our PJs on to watch a double bill at the Mustang Drive in not too far away. And who should we run into there? None other than Dave and Meghan, who were in Belleville for a party that weekend. For the second show, they even ended up parking next to us (there are 2 screens, and we picked different 1st films)! After that fun, it was back to camp and sleepy time. The weather the next day didn’t look too hot, so we packed up, and headed out for more geocaching. Just as we left, it started raining. Ended the weekend with a little family visit in Trenton, then driving back to Belleville for supper with Cheryl, then heading our separate ways. Another near-perfect weekend (in spite of the rain).

To wrap up the events leading to the 5Peaks race, there was a nice visit from my dad and his wife, as well as the International fireworks festival in Gatineau. This was actually the evening after my 5Peaks race, and was part of the fun we had in Ottawa just doing local fun things; like going out for a nice meal with some Swiss relatives, and showing my dad and Nicole around Gatineau a bit, like heading up to Champlain lookout to let them see why I love living here so much (pictures here). We also managed to squeeze in a round of mini-golf at a place near my house, which I’ve been anxious to try. It was a bit on the pricey side, but the pro-designed course was pretty awesome. You can see some pictures from there in this folder on flickr.

As to the fireworks, I’d heard about the festival for a few years now, just never made it out. I’m pretty sure I’ll be going again next year, and probably buy a full pass. It was just amazing! Sadly, it was pouring rain most of the night, but that couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm for incendiary devices exploding in multiple colours above our heads, combined with music.

We’d taken a bus to the site so that we could share a bottle of wine that I’d cleverly put in a thermos to pass off as hot chocolate, which was quite nice, given the weather. We also stuck around a little bit after and listened to a disco band before grabbing the last bus back to my neighbourhood. Sadly, I took no pictures, but I’m sure they wouldn’t really have turned out anyway. You just can’t capture a fireworks show without properly preparing for it, and I was too concerned with just enjoying it!

Well, this post has grown far too long, so I’ll cap it off there, and invite you to check back in the next couple days if you’d like to read another installment of “racing and summer fun” with Steve 🙂 Hope you’ve all had fulfilling summers, and got to do the things you wanted to!

The Lazy Days of Summer

Good day friends and followers of the world! Just thought I’d pop on here and give everyone a bit of an update on what’s been new with me. When last you checked in, I had been racing my brains out in my toughest 3-day solo race yet, with great success! So since then, you probably think I’ve been training hard and getting ready for the next challenge, right? Well, not really. Instead, I declared July to be my month of relaxing, enjoying life, and spending time with the people that really matter in my life 🙂 Yup, that’s right, the lazy days of summer are well and truly here. To those ends, since UXC, I’ve had a great long weekend for Canada Day (Pictures), including some aerial park fun at Camp Fortune (Pictures. I’ve also got my music fix at both Ottawa Bluesfest (Pictures) and Toronto Beaches Jazzfest (Pictures). Wanna hear a bit more about them, as well as what else I have in store? Well, read on dear friends, otherwise, this opening paragraph and pictures gives you a pretty good idea what’s been going on!

Aaaaah Summer! That magical 2-3 month window of amazing weather in Ottawa, the canal is filled up, people are out and about on bikes, rollerblades, or on foot; wearing shorts and T’s or skirts and tank-tops. People seem generally happy, and the festive atmosphere carries over to all sorts of events! Now obviously I love being outside and doing stuff year round, but you just can’t beat summer for the sights and sounds around us.

First up for my lazy July was Canada Day weekend. I was thrilled when Deanna said she’d be wiling to come up Wednesday night and would stay till Sunday night! It would be our longest visit together and give us the chance to do a bunch of stuff we wanted to together. Starting, growing, and maintaining a relationship with the challenge of distance can be frustrating at times, but long weekends like that make it all worth it 🙂

Apart from Deanna visiting, there were also other friends from out of town visiting. In particular, Tanya and Troy were up for the week, as well as Megan and Karla. I hosted a bbq / party on Friday night to celebrate, but due to a lot of other people having plans, it was a relatively small gathering. However, it didn’t stop Troy and I from staying up late and playing a little muzak like the old days. Other highlights of the weekend included an awesome and beautiful Canada Day, spent downtown on rollerblades, moving from venue to venue. I even managed to get a picture of the Queen waving to Deanna from her car! Hopefully that made Deanna’s nana’s day! To close that day, we did what any true patriotic outdoors-loving Canadian would. We portaged a canoe to put-in downriver of Parliament, then paddled up to enjoy some wine and the stunning fireworks show (no thanks to the patrolling police boats!). It was an absolutely perfect way to finish the day; just the two of snuggled in a Canoe watching the fireworks go off above parliament hill as the water gently lapped at our boat, and we drank some nice red wine.

We also decided to check out the Aerial Park up at Camp Fortune in Gatineau Parc on Saturday. What a hoot that was! Climbing, clamouring, and ziplining our way through the ‘Amazone’ course up there with just the two of us and our ‘guide’. The guide basically stayed below and we had some great banter with him. He clearly was enjoying the fact that it was just two clients and we were more than capable of taking care of ourselves. If you haven’t been up there yet, I’d recommend it. Fun for the whole family, provided their tall enough (I’m guessing!). Judging by the smiles and giggles, I’d say Deanna thoroughly enjoyed it too. Later on, we had a great meal at Shanghai in Chinatown, then spent a really nice lazy day around the house on Sunday. All in all, a near-perfect weekend!

Once I [sadly] sent Deanna back off to Toronto on the train, it was time to start preparing myself mentally for Bluesfest! Yup, as usual, I bought a full pass, and intended to basically camp there for the entire two weeks (apart from the one day that there was no music). It started up on Tuesday the 6th of July, and ran until the 18th. To kick things off, we were treated to Dream Theater and Iron Maiden! Quite and opening night line-up. Obviously, there are sooooo many groups and bands there, I’d get tired typing out everything that caught my interest. There were a number of stand-outs to me though. I’ll list them, but no links. If you’re curious about them, Google is your friend (or Bing, or whatever, I’m not telling you all how to run your lives!).

Some of my top picks (and surely they won’t meet everyone’s tastes):

  • Dream Theater
  • The Flaps vs. The Empircals (head to head ‘battle’)
  • Gipsy Kings
  • Jonas and the Massive Attraction
  • Grupo Fantasma
  • Opensouls
  • John Butler Trio
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • Caravan Palace
  • Rush
  • The Cat Empire
  • That 1 Guy
  • Woodhands
  • Bill “the Sauce Boss” Wharton
  • The Budos Band
  • Blackburn
  • The Lost Fingers
  • Weezer

Yup, there were obviously tons more that I liked, but those are the ones that got my toes tappin and/or had me dancin’ and screamin’ like a fool. Admittedly, I attended a little less than other years. I had to go home each day after work to take care of Jonah, so I usually missed the first acts of the night, and also headed home early-ish most nights, usually after catching the beginning of the headliners. Also, on the weekends, I was a bit lazy making my way down there too. However, I still felt I got my money’s worth. Also, going any more than a 2-week stretch without Deanna gets me bummed, so I was very glad that she was able to come back for the 2nd weekend. Having some Newfoundland roots, she was pretty keen to catch Great Big Sea, and the show did not disappoint. The self-proclaimed quiet one was clapping her hands wildly and belting along to some of the tunes. After the show, I managed to get us backstage to visit with Kris, and as he was busy chatting with someone else, Alan Doyle strolled over to chat with us for a bit (I’m always a bit star-struck and flattered that he knows me and will just come over to talk). After a bit of chit-chat, I thought to snap a picture of Deanna with him (to make all the super-fans jealous!). While they may look cute together in that picture, I maintain that she and I are even cuter together 🙂

With Bluesfest out of the way for 2010, it was time for a few days of well-deserved recovery (oh, and of course, some training, you didn’t think I’d stop completely did you?). However, the festival-free atmosphere would only last a few days, as the next weekend, it was off to Toronto to stay with Deanna, and also to catch some of the Beaches International Jazzfest. Best part of this festival? Well, it was all free, and all outdoors, so we could come and go as we pleased, and didn’t have to feel bad if we missed any shows! My favourite part of the festival was actually Streetfest. Basically, for 3 nights, they shut down a long stretch of Queen Street east, and bands play outside all along the street. There was a very lenghty roster of bands slated to play, several of which we were keen to check out. Much like Bluesfest doesn’t have an over-abundance of blues, I’d also contend that Jazzfest did not have an over-abundance of Jazz. That’s sort of irrelevant though, as the music was awesome!

Our first goal was heading to the big outdoor venue at Kew Gardens on Saturday afternoon. Forecast wasn’t that hot, so we made it a point to dress and prepare accordingly. Sure enough, as we finally closed in on the stage area, the heavens opened up on us! We couldn’t care less though, and stomping around the grass and beer garden with our rollerblades. We got completely drenched and loved every second of it. We agreed as long as we didn’t start to get cold, it was all good. Apparently, it was raining so hard, that even somedogs had to wear raincoats!

Wait a second… did I say beer garden? Why yes I did! While we didn’t drink much, we did each have a tasty Mill Street Brewery Lemon Tea beer. Now, Deanna will be the first to tell you she does *not* drink beer. Yet, at this festival, as with Bluesfest the week before, I convinced her to drink this beer! This little fact struck me so much that we went and made a video about it! Ok, so the video is pretty terrible. I was sort of on the spot. If I’d realized that I could win a big brewery party with this video, I would have put more effort into a script or something. Ha ha! Either way, that’s us, up on the Inter-webs! At least we got free swag from it. T-Shirts all around 🙂 If you vote for it, we might even be one of the lucky winners!

After Kew Gardens, we headed along the boardwalk to check out some cool latin grooves with steel drums, and tried to find a few geocaches on our way home (mostly unsuccessful as yours truly didn’t have the full information on them). The rain didn’t let up one bit, so we were quite happy to ditch the soggy clothes upon arrival back at Deanna’s apartment. Time for supper. And what did we have? Why breakfast of course. Yum! Bacon and eggs. Fuel up, then headed back out on the blades to catch streetfest, which thankfully was spared the heavy rain. The crowds were back en masse, and we spent about 3 hours up and down Queen checking out some great bands, finishing off with tasty ice creams from the Marble Slab Creamery.

To cap the weekend off, we had made plans to head to Toronto Island and/or go for a long run. As often is the case with our tentative plans, they didn’t happen. However, we *did* manage to make it to our reservations at Canoe, one of the highest-rated restaurants in Canada, located high above the city on the 54th floor of a skyscraper. It was an absolute stunner of a day, so we could see far out into the lake, and enjoyed the views of the Toronto Island airport, the Islands, and the boats as we ate an absolutely scrumptious meal as part of the ‘Summerlicious’ promotion, where they offer a ‘prix-fixe’ menu at prices mortals like us can afford.

After the meal, some more roller-blading to a couple parks where we enjoyed the mini-escapes that you can find within Toronto if you know where to look. Well, that is until an absolutely nutters lady sort of scared us off a park bench with her crazy ranting to imaginary people right behind us. I’m not judging here, I was just worried she might think we were part of the story arc where she exacts her revenge on society!! That’s what I love about life. Never a dull moment if you’re willing to be out there and do things.

So there you have it folks. In a nutshell, some examples of how I *am* human, and do love to just relax and have fun. There’s obviously much more to life than training and racing, and I get the feeling I’ll be doing less of that as time goes on, in order to exchange it for even more rewarding pursuits and activities 😉 There’s just so much to do out there! Hopefully you’re all finding the time to strike out and enjoy the summer as well. This weekend, I’ll be testing my luck once again at a race, but it’s just a short one. Kayak triathlon. And I’ll publicly say it here. I intend to win this one! Hope that doesn’t jinx me 🙂 If it does, I’ll still tell you all about it in my next post! Till then, smile everyone!