Tag Archives: summer

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…

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!!

Triathlon Tune-Up in Nation’s Capital

Happy at Finish

Welcome to another race report from me in this glorious summer weather that we’re having. As is often the case during the summer months, it becomes a bit challenging to keep things current on my website. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, it’s summer! I’d rather be outside doing stuff than trying to write great prose on my keyboard. Second, being summer, I have a lot of races and ‘stuff’ going on. Again, this limits my time to get things documented. And finally, this year, some of my races also have me acting as a race reporter, which adds to my post-race duties by producing and editing videos of the events. Getting tons of footage down to a 2 minute clip is actually quite challenging I’ve found, and takes a fair bit of time! At any rate, enough whining. I’m trying to catch up by writing up my race report for this year’s National Capital Triathlon that I just competed in. It was my 6th time competing in this event, and 4th doing the Olympic Tri distance (the other two times I did the Kayak Tri). Looking back, it turns out I haven’t done a proper Tri in almost 2 years, and it sort of showed in my results. I’ve swam about 3 times in that time, so I didn’t have very high hopes. However, with a looming Iron-distance triathlon, I knew I needed a little tune-up, so this event, a month before the Iron, seemed a good idea! Read on for a bit more on my race, and don’t forget to check out some pictures Deanna snapped!

Going into this one, I really had no pre-determined goals or time ideas. In fact, I didn’t even look at my past results or anything. I had no clue how my swimming speed would be, or whether I’d be able to push super-hard in all the disciplines. What’s even more refreshing, I didn’t care! I wore no heart rate monitor, and just wanted to go out, race hard, and have a fun time. My current trend in racing now is more about realizing that I will not improve without a lot more training, and I simply don’t want to commit to that much training for the improvements. Life has a lot more to offer me than training and the sacrifices that go with it. I have a motorbike now! Ha ha. I also have a new kayak that I like to paddle. But more specifically, I’m helping someone else grow their abilities on the bike and in the boats. Yup, I’m just enjoying spending time doing those things with Deanna. As a result, something had to give, and for me, that was podium dreams in most races. I’ll still go for it, but the obsession is just a little less these days. As long as I’m keeping fit and staying healthy and having fun, that’s good enough for me. After all, the pro sponsorship opportunities just never seemed to materialize. Guess I’ll be a working sucker till retirement!

Anywho, on with the actual race report. Luck was with us all once again on the weather front. It was an absolutely stunningly gorgeous day for a race. I was glad that the gun was going off at 8:30am, as a later start would have just been painful in the heat and sun. So, as groggy as I was getting up (and slightly resentful), it was for the best. Also, the early start meant we had the rest of the day ahead of us, and plans had already shaped up insofar as after the race, we’d be loading up the kayaks and heading to Meech Lake for some awesome Kayaking. I got to the site a little late, and had to rush to get my T-zone set up, as well as get my timing chip and body marking done. Along the way, I bumped into my friends Nicholas and Christine Allen, who were doing the Olympic and Sprint Triathlon respectively. I seem to see them at all the events I do, like ARs, Spartan race, and now this! Too funny. Great to see them though, and Nicholas and I ended up sort of racing each other within the race, which was fun. After getting my final checks done, I headed to the beach to zip up the wetsuit and await the start of the race.

To refresh everyone’s memories, in an olympic tri, you first swim 1.5km, then hop on bikes for a 40km time trial, and cap it off with a 10km road run. Taken individually, those are all relatively straightforward races, but string them together in one race, and you can have a lot of fun and challenges on any single leg. For the swim, as mentioned, I haven’t swam in a long time. However, I always say swimming is more art than strength. If you have a good stroke, you’ll always finish strong. Although I’ve not swam much, the overall time wasn’t too bad. I finished the swim in 30:46, which is about 2 mins. slower than the last 2 times I raced, and 2 minutes faster than the first time ever I’ve swam it. In other words, it was average for me. I was 41st out of the water to head to the bikes. The actual swim? Well, boring I suppose. As usual, the excitement at the start is when all the people are clamouring to get their space, with arms and legs flailing, you unavoidably get hit. Nothing new there. I focused on keeping my pace and swimming straight. Had I done a better job, I would have been faster. However, I felt good at the exit, and was ready to tear it up on the bike course.

Now on to the 4-lap, 40km individual time trial bike portion. When I hit the road, there weren’t too many other souls out there yet. I managed a pretty quick transition, and passed a couple folks while in the transition. Good start. Hopped on the bike, tucked into my aero position, and started mashing the pedals. As usual, the bike was super-comfortable, and I got into a nice groove. I expected to be able to maintain a pretty decent clip, and sort of hoped my time would compare to other tris I’ve done. Turns out my legs were a bit slower though. Perhaps it was the hard 50k I’d logged 2 days before with Kev in Gatineau Park, or perhaps I’m just too used to my leisurely commute riding rather than hard racing. Either way, my average speed was around 33km/h for the 40k course. That’s about 2km/h slower than my best, but faster than the other two attempts. However, it was good enough to have the 32nd fastest bike split of the race. So again, I’d call that a solid performance, perhaps slightly better than average for me. That only leaves the run course.

Ahhh running, how I love to hate thee :-). My transition from biking to running seemed even smoother than the swim to bike. I racked my bike, threw on my running gear, and was back out on the course with a very quick turnaround. Again, I noted that I passed a couple folks that had come off the bike at about the same time as me. I settled pretty quickly into a steady pace, once again paying no attention to what my watch might tell me about pacing, and rather, just focusing on my stride and how I felt. I got down to the business of picking people out ahead of me, targeting, and ultimately passing them. After a little bit I saw my friend Nick up ahead. We had been pretty close through the whole race, but he had said the run would be his undoing. I resisted the urge to sprint towards him, and instead just kept my pace. There was a woman with me keeping me at a pretty good pace. I found out at the finish that she was actually the 1st female overall (due to my help, stay tuned!). Working together, we got closer and closer to Nick. He glanced back a few times, seeming to be just waiting for the pass. He said he could hear my breath getting closer. I finally passed him on the first half of the 2nd 5k loop.

Once I had passed him, I kept my pace steady, running along with Michelle and chatting a little with her. At a few hundred meters to go, she said “We have to catch her”. This was in reference to a tall figure up ahead of us. Seeing as I liked targets, I said “sure thing” and gradually picked up my pace, dragging Michelle along with me. The gap was getting closed painfully slowly, and I finally caught up to the other woman on the final climb into the finishing chute. I picked up my pace slightly at the finish, crossing the line just ahead of them, unsure which of the two crossed first. If you look at the results, you’ll see all 3 of us had a time of 2:29:34, but Michelle was just after me, than the other woman. She credited me for the win, as I had paced her perfectly in order to get the pass at the finish. I felt a bit bad for the other woman, but was also kinda happy to be part of a rivalry out there :-). My time of 46:09 for the run was good enough for 14th overall in the run, and sewed up 22nd overall for me in the race. Best I can recall is that at the end of the bike, I had been sitting at 40th overall, so I made up 18 spots on the run. Very respectable. I’m pretty sure I’ll be counting on a strong run at the Iron distance tri to make up for shortcomings in the water and possibly on the bike!

All in all, it was a good day out on the race course, and I felt great for the whole event. So good in fact, that after eating and cleaning up a bit, we loaded up the kayaks and went paddling for over 3 hours on Meech Lake. Our reward for the day? Well, from our kayaks, we spent 20 minutes at one point watching a mama bear and her two cubs from about 10m from the shore. It was pretty incredible. They were foraging, playing and just generally wandering around near the water. At one point, mama let me know I was getting too close by standing up and snorting and huffing a bit. That was enough to convince me to back off a bit. She looked surprisingly large when standing up! Luckily, we were pretty sure we could out-paddle a swimming bear. Best I can tell is that a black bear can swim up to 8km/hr, whereas in my boat, I can easily manage 10+ km/hr (faster if being chased by a bear I’m sure!). So to summarize the whole day: perfect! Great race, great paddle with Deanna, and great relaxing once all was said and done. Next up: a short adventure race with Deanna, including a video review for Get Out There.

A Little Urban Adventuring

Team on Boats

By now, I’m sure most of you have heard of the Amazing Race, and that most of your are familiar with adventure racing, and that you’ve perhaps also heard of City Chase, a race series that sort of (loosely) combines elements of both AR and the Amazing Race. In a word, they call City Chase an urban adventure challenge. Well this post will give you a taste of how the City Chase actually works, as Deanna and I recently competed in the Ottawa installment. Like the Spartan Race a few weeks back, I was taking part in the race to provide a video race review for Get Out There Magazine. If you’d like to see the video I put together (it’s kind of frantic), have a look at the YouTube video. I actually had no idea how the race would actually play out, as I only knew roughly what it was about, which is that you race around the city using public transit to complete ‘Chase Points’. First team of 2 that does 10 of them and returns to the finish wins. Plain and simple. Well, as we learned, it isn’t quite as straightforward as that. For our first time, we were actually pretty happy to finish in 172nd place in a time of 5hrs 26mins out of over 500 teams that started out. Besides the little video review I put together, you can also check out the photos that I snapped and posted on flickr. As I was focused on the video and racing, there aren’t too many I liked. When you’ve had a peek at those, pop on back and read about the race!

Okay, so we’ve established that in City Chase, there are Chase Points and you race around the city. You can only go by foot or public transit, which in the case of Ottawa means the O-Train or buses. Every participant was given a 1-day bus pass to use for that purpose. Being a Saturday though, I knew a lot of the routes would have limited bus runs, so Deanna and I did a lot of walking instead of waiting. Lucky for us, the weather on race day was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny skies and temps that would eventually climb to around 30 degrees. Hydration would be important over the course of the 6 hours. I should point out that the race has a hard cap. All teams must have crossed the finish line by the 6 hour mark to officially finish. This can be tricky with the public transit equation, and plays into strategy. Given that 40 or so teams ‘tied’ for 384th with a time of 6 hours even, I’m guessing they let that slide a bit. Amazingly, the top team finished in just over 3 hours! Preparation is the key, which leads me to the explanation of Chase Points.

After a group warm-up at city hall, and a race briefing, the Chase was on. We were told the Official Clue Sheet was available at Lisgar Field, meaning all 1100 racers would be bolting over there to get the information. The clue sheet outlines the Chase Points, and lays out the rules. In total, there were 31 possible Chase Points set in 4 groups. In the first 3 groups, you HAD to complete at least 2 of the chase points (these groups had 3, 4, and 4 CPs respectively), then choose 4 from the 4th group. I expected each clue would just tell you where to go and the nature of the challenge. Nope! It is actually a list of different puzzles, like cryptograms, plays on words, cryptic clues, etc. For example, our first CP we went to was called “Tinkle Toes” and the clue read: Bih-kuhm uh pruh-fesh-un-nl bawl-room dahn-ser aht wuhn uhv thee lee-ding dahns stoo-dee-ohs in ot-uh-wuh. Meet uhs aht wuhn huhn-drid and fif-tee-wuhn Chap-uhl Street. Obviously it was just a phonetic clue, so I got it quickly, but there were all sorts of other puzzles to unscramble.

Experienced teams took clue sheets and basically sat down with a map and smartphone. They worked at unscrambling the clues and trying to figure out where each of the challenges was, and tried to plot an efficient route between them that they could complete as quickly as possible in order to get back to the finish line quickly. Also, those keen on winning probably did CP #1, which was done in advance by raising at least $50 for Right to Play. Deanna and I were not quite as experienced, instead trying to figure out a nearby one we could start with. However, there were also 3 CPs which were awarding VIP line passes to the first 25 teams through, allowing teams to skip to the front of the line if they got to busy CP. I thought that might be a good idea, so with that in mind, we bee-lined for the dance studio to do Twinkle Toes. This was a matter of a jog through downtown to get to Rideau and Chapel. Luckily, we were amongst those first 25 teams, and the challenge, which had us do a dance routine, wasn’t too hard, and we were awarded our VIP pass. Happy with this, we set back out into the sun to get to our next CP, which we hadn’t decided on yet. We’d already burned up about 45 minutes for 1 CP!

To solve a couple of the clues, we had to get creative, first calling on Kevin to try and work on a crossword puzzle for us, then rummaging in a store recycle bin to get a Friday newspaper, which had a clue buried within it. While working on the puzzles, we headed back to the Ottawa U campus on foot, where one of the CPs was, and it was right up my alley! Put on by the Ottawa Orienteering Club, you were given a map of the campus indicating the location of 10 control points that you had to punch. I got to work on it right away, running from point to point with Deanna on my heels. We got all 10 controls in about 17 minutes, one of the fastest times of all the racers. Having completed only 2 CPs, we were starting to get nervous already, as we had 8 to go! We decided we’d need to actually do a little planning and strategizing. We now had 2 ‘optional’ CPs done, and needed all our mandatory ones. With that in mind, we solved a bunch of the clues and made a rough plan. We would head downtown where we could pick up 1 CP on Queen Street, 2 CPs on Bank Street, then head out to LeBreton for another CP. Grab a bus towards Westboro where we’d pick up 2 more CPs, then take a bus to the O-Train. From there, take train to Mooney’s Bay for our final 2 CPs before transiting back to the finish line. With a freshly-minted plan, we headed out on foot with purpose.

Our next CP had us at the Royal Oak at 188 Bank, where we had to each prepare a drink and serve to the judge. There was a huge line-up, but our VIP pass was used for maximum benefit here, allowing us to skip the line. Perfect! Sadly, there was no real alcohol in the drinks, and they weren’t something you’d want to sample, as it was dirty glasses and questionable ingredients. Too bad, as it was getting pretty darn hot. Deanna had one slight problem with her drink. Rather than reading ‘1/2 oz’ of Vodka, she tried pouring a 1/2 glass of vodka! The judges admired her strong drink mixing skills, but decided it might be best to try again :-). In spite of that, we were in and out quickly.

Further down the street at Bank and Gilmour, we grabbed a Blackberry from Rogers for the next challenge, which was to take 4 pictures (out of 6 possible clues) within 30 minutes and bring them back to the judges. This was another pretty quick task, which we completed lickety-split. We were now getting a bit more confident and had found our groove. There were lots of other teams out and about, all having a great time and shouting out to each other all through downtown. We now headed up to Queen Street to find the GoodLIfe fitness. Once there, we had to spend 7 minutes on spin bikes sweating it out as an instructor shouted instructions. If we weren’t totally hot from the sun, this workout put us WAY over the top. We finished the challenge and stepped back out totally drenched and looking for some relief.

Lucky for us, our next CP was just the ticket. We now made our way to the west end of downtown to find the whitewater practice area around LeBreton Flats, where inflatable kayaks awaited us. For this challenge, we had to grab a boat, and navigate the whitewater gates down the river for a bit before pulling out and carrying the boat back to the start. The water was a nice refreshing treat, even though we didn’t get to stay or swim for very long. However, the rocks and sand were absolutely scorching, causing both of us to burn our feet! Once again, we had a great run there, and were back on our way soon, this time heading for the transitway to grab a bus to Westboro. Destination? The Ottawa Gymnastics Centre for a super-fun CP where we got to do trampoline work, climb ropes, play on the rings, the pommel horse, balance beam, and the rings. The piece de resistance for us here was doing 5 cartwheels in a row, which anyone who knows Deanna might realize she wasn’t particularly good at those. However, under pressure, she nailed it!

Our reward for a job well done awaited just down the street at the CP called ‘The Mask’. This CP was located at a spa, and entailed me giving Deanna a lovely cucumber and peppermint facial. She had to wear the mask for 3 minutes. Once the time was up, I cleaned her up, and we had to take a ‘mystery shot’, which ended up being apple cider vinegar. YUCK! Luckily, it was watered down by the time we got to it, thanks to the many teams before us. With this CP done, we were left with only 2 more CPs, both of which were at Mooney’s Bay. A bus and the O-Train later, we were jogging to the site. First up was a puzzle CP where we had to assemble 6 puzzles of places in the world, and match the name of the place to each one after making the puzzle. The puzzles were pretty straightforward, and we quickly worked through them, also correctly matching the place names since I knew most of them from sight. Our only problem was the wind which had picked up and kept blowing our puzzle pieces away. Kind of frustrating, but what can you do?

Our very last CP was right up my alley as well. It involved paddling a kayak out to a buoy and back. However, it wasn’t THAT easy. The real challenge was that your teammate had to be seated on the front of the boat as you paddled. If you flipped, you had to start again. There were a range of boats, and one caught my eye. Fat and wide. Ultra stable. I told Deanna to just hop on the front and we’d get ‘er done quick. Sure enough, no problems. As we were out there, we saw another team trying the same, but they had picked a sleeker kayak, and didn’t fare well. In other words, they flipped! On our return I suggested they take our kayak. After all, we were all done and only had to get to the finish line now. Wrapping up was quick and painless, as we just had to take transport back to the Rideau Centre and walk over to City Hall. We’d had a great day and were plenty hot, so we were looking forward to finishing up. Hand in hand, we ran to the finish to complete the Challenge. Once there, they told us we were among the first 180 teams to finish, and directed to get a goodie bag.

Amongst the goodies? Two free beer tickets to use at the Hard Rock for the post-race party! Awesome! What a great way to finish the race. After hanging around for a little bit, we hit the market and the bar for beers. We sat with a few other racers and swapped stories. It was fun to hear about some of the other CPs that we didn’t get to try, including one where you had to let a tarantula or snake crawl all over you! The bar was totally full now, as more and more teams finished off and made their way here. We only stayed a little bit, as we’d also decided to head over to Zak’s for milkshakes, then join Dave and Meghan at Hintonburger for some delicious supper. All in all, a really fun way to spend a summer day with Deanna, and getting to show her a bit more about the city she now calls home. Can’t say for certain, but I can see us doing it again next year as well. Next time I’m sure we’ll approach it even more strategically and try to better our last time :-). Till that time, have fun, and hope you’re all enjoying the fine weather as well! Ciao.

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!