Monday, September 28, 2009

One gold star for Merritt

I am 32 years old. Who would have thought it? On Friday night we had a party at our place to celebrate the passing of time, and the fact that I have still not been successful in getting Lina's engagement ring the right size. I think we have finally got there with the ring, but need to wait a couple of weeks for it. If you ever need to avoid doing something the easy way, you know where to come for advice.

The party was fun, a very eclectic group... and I got "The Hungry Cyclist" from Paul and Angie. This seems like I book I should have written. But I didn't. So, I'll just have to read it instead. Somewhere in the midst of the reverie we organised a trip to Merritt to enjoy some dry trails with Paul and Angie. We got a couple of great rides in, ate some food, camped, and took a lot of photos.


Yes, we staged this one.

Paul has terrific photos here. My photos are here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unlucky for some

I usually insist (when people ask) that I'm "really not that much into racing". I'm going to keep telling people this, but to be honest it's starting to be a bit unconvincing. Last weekend Paul, Jacek, Marc, and I rode Whistler Bike Park, then with a slick change of bike and gear I headed over to Vancouver Island with Marc for a Cyclocross race. I wrote about that here.

This weekend was something different, new, exciting, and painful. At some point I agreed that running an ultra-marathon sounded fun. At some point after that, I entered the Frosty 50km trail race with Lina and Jacek. After that I mostly forgot about it.

On Friday afternoon Lina ad I drove over to Lightening Lakes and set up camp. We managed to do some real "car camping" for a change and brought most of the contents of the apartment with us. Luckily we have a small apartment and a big car. Our pre-race preparations involved trying to figure out who to invite to our wedding (we're going to get married), eating curry... and sitting by the lake in the sunshine. So far, I was enjoying the ultra-marathon experience.

Saturday morning arrived with the arrival of wind, rain, and Jacek... along with Gail (who took the photos. Thank you!) plus Dan and Meeko. We tried to figure out what to wear, how to stay warm, and overheard various useful sounding course discussion from some seasoned runners. Apparently the first 25km was one huge climb and descent... then the second 25km was much easier. That didn't sound so bad.

What you can't see here is that I was lucky number 13.

Nervous laughter?

An unusual German man set us off with a "ready, steady.... boogie! (?)" and off we went. The first climb was humongous. I lost sight of Jacek after about 10 seconds, and then Lina disappeared into the forest when we hit the first long drag of climbing. I settled into following a guy with long yellow socks. Stylish.

As usual (for me) I started to feel better after about an hour of running and began working my way past a few people... then eventually caught sight of Lina again! This was about 2 hours into the race. The rest of the climb to the summit of Mt Frosty was spectacular, with clouds billowing over the ridge line, steep drops, and weather beaten rock... it was windy and cold, but Lina and I kept moving quickly together to the top and welcomed the downhill. Once we were out of the steep, loose, rock the downhill was a welcome sight. A relief from the brutal climb. But, the descent went on for sooooo long. We must have run downhill for over an hour, and the pounding on our legs was pretty harsh. Although Lina and I hadn't planned to run together, we ran into the 25km aid station and things seemed to be working out so well we just carried on. Lina is faster going up, and I am faster downhill (or just more reckless?) so we're pretty even.

25 down, 25 to go.

The rumors of the second 25km being easier were a little optimistic in my opinion. Another huge climb to a ridge line, with a series of climbs and descents along the top, followed by another long descent. Ouch. My body was starting to give up as we pounded down the last long descent, but I really wanted to finish, and it couldn't be far now... right? We came to the last aid station and learned that there was 8km left to go. One of my knees felt like sharp metal things had got inside it, and I really didn't know how I was going to drag myself to the finish. Luckily Lina had stuck with me. With some great encouragement I limped my way over the line (still just about running) in around 6 hours 20 minutes. Phew.

My post-race celebration involved standing in the freezing lake until my feet went numb and eating a lot of cake. You can't argue with that. Despite the pain of the last 8km, I really enjoyed the race, travelling fast through the mountains, and the camaraderie of the whole thing. I'm hoping to get my legs better prepared and do another 50km next year. Maybe Knee Knacker would be appropriate....

It seems that bike riding uses different muscles to running as whilst neither Lina or I could really walk convincingly after the race, we managed to ride to the pub for Marg's birthday. Happy Birthday Marg! Then we went mountain biking in the sunshine on Mt Seymour with Tracy today. I can even get up the stairs in under 5 minutes now. A testament to the healing powers of standing in a lake, eating cake.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The long and the short (weekend) of it.

This weekend was 3 days long. A long weekend. As I am self employed and Lina is about to be a student again, we did things our own way and made it back into a short weekend. There was some logic to this I promise.

On Friday afternoon we made the long drive to Rossland, the home of the Seven Summits trail. We camped in a handy provincial park just outside Rossland, then in the morning moved to the slightly strange (but very nice) Lions Club campground in Rossland. We planned to do the point-to-point ride human-powered by riding up the highway to the north end of the trail, then making a loop out of it back to Rossland. On the map we spotted the Plewman Trail, that took us up to the Seven Summits with much less highway riding than gong all the way to the usual start. We only missed a few km of Seven Summits and thought it would be worth investigating. The Plewman Trail was tough going... some good technical climbing (on the bike) and some pushing/carrying/sweating. We made it up to the ridge and straight away got a fantastic descent.

The sky was ominous, but the trail was dusty and we had a great ride. There were no other riders! I think everyone was saving themselves for the Fat Tire Fest poker ride on Sunday.

This is the only good photo I took all weekend.

After the long and fast descent down to Dewdney trail to the highway, we slogged our way back to Rossland in time for a quick tour of town, a bit of impromptu clothes shopping, then curry-in-a-bag and wine for dinner. YUM.

Sunday was wet. We had a fantastic breakfast in Rossland, then got the heck out of there. The drive home was made a lot more fun by stopping for a swim in Christina Lake, and a run around Lightning Lakes in Manning Park. Apart from spending a little too much time in the car... a great , short, long weekend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I've got a lovely bunch of.... stuff to write on here.

There have been things going on, and I haven't been writing about them. Slack. So here we go...

Lina and I guided a group of 6 fantastic folks from the UK on a trip for Great Explorations. The schedule was frantic. On the first day we drove to Squamish, did a mountain bike ride around Alice Lake, then hiked up and down the Chief and back in time for tea (just about). The following day Lina and I had the challenge of getting (luxurious) food for 8 people, for 3 days up to Garabaldi Lake... a 3 hour uphill hike from Squamish. We loaded ourselves up like packhorses and got on with the job. After hauling all that gear up the hill we were greeted by a view that made it all worth it.

I set about using the beautiful (and cold) lake as a fridge for our food. All the perishables were stuffed into a mesh bag that sank and buried under rocks at the bottom of the lake. Just be sure, I made a rope leash to prevent the food drifting away if it made a break for freedom. Maybe not the most convenient, but you can't argue with a swim-in fridge.

Our first culinary adventure was sweet and sour chicken with cashew nuts. The MSR rocket-engine plus little propane stove combination worked great for boiling lots of water to keep the cups of tea flowing. Seven Brits in one group means a lot of boiling water.

The next day we guided the group on Mt Price... a slightly vague trail followed by scree and a little snow patch crossing got us to the summit. It was fun to look out at the Sphynx glacier and the start of the Garabaldi Neve ski tour that I was on only a few months ago. Now I know what's buried under all that snow!

Day 2 dinner was chili with hand-made (with our own hands) guacamole. The fridge was working well... and my evening swims to catch dinner from the lake were very refreshing.

Day 3 had us hike up Black Tusk, a local landmark. Ken and I braved the sketchy, loose scramble up the volcanic plug. If I ever do that again, I'm taking a helmet! Dinner was I think our greatest triumph. Fresh lake-caught red pepper, mushroom, and chorizo in cheese sauce on pasta. Good stuff.

After some changes of plan, and frantic logistics, Day 4 worked out well. Lina guided the group out to the north where our van had been dropped, and I hiked back out to the south to my car with all the tents, the kitchen stuff, and spare food. My pack was pretty hefty, but I made it down fast and drove back to Vancouver to work.

While I was back at home getting along with the business of earning a living, Lina took the group up to Whistler for a couple of days of fine-dining, scenic biking, and a bit of whitewater rafting. I think I got the short end of the stick there. I met up with them all back in Vancouver and it looked as though everyone had a fine time. Ken wrote about the trip here, though something peculiar has happened to that page (on my computer at least) so the text is the same colour as the background. If you select it all, you can read it. Just like disappearing ink... without the lemons.

Please pause here for a cup of tea

Now, onto last week. I was lucky enough to visit all of Lina's family in Ontario. It was a bit of a last-minute decision to go, but turned into a really fantastic trip. Straight from the airport we set off for Lina's family's farm on Crow Lake in "Cottage country". On the way I started getting to know Lina's sisters Rasa and Asta and 2 year old nephew. Kiefer loves anything with an engine... truck, digger, motorboat, truck, truck, digger... etc. That's pretty handy when you're on the road for a few hours! We stopped off in Kingston, the town where Lina and both her sisters went to university. It was a good feeling to be surrounded by some attractive stone buildings. I've got used to Vancouver's wood and concrete architecture, but you can't take the Britishness out of a Brit. I like the odd bit of history.

We made it to the cottage in the dark, and I was struck by the clear sky full or stars and racket of crickets chirping in the bushes. The farm is a fantastic old building, surrounded by mysterious barns. The next day I was given the tour and thought how much of an adventure this place must be for children. Kiefer definitely loves the place.

We swam across the lake, paddled and rowed boats, had a campfire, ran, and jumped off rocks into the water. I even caught my first fish... with quite a lot of instruction from Lina's Dad.

Our next stop was Toronto to stay with Rasa and Mike. I've heard a lot of things about Toronto... and not all of them good, but I really liked the place. It's a big city, but full of interesting little neighbourhoods, it's right on Lake Ontario, and pretty bike-friendly. Thanks for the bike-tour Rasa! We made it out to the pub to meet some university friends of Lina's. The pub was in an old brick house, complete with sofas and piano. It was like a British pub from a parallel universe, which I suppose is almost exactly what it is.

Before heading over to London (Ontario, that is) for me to meet my final member of the family (Grandma) we visited Asta and Mike's place in Port Credit, just along the lake from Toronto. We were trusted to look after Kiefer for the night and did a pretty good job! Then we all (minus Kiefer) headed to Wasaga Beach... another bit of "cottage country". The event was the annual Lithuanian baseball weekend. It's been a while since I had a night out as strange as this, but we had fun and finished the night off with some sketchy camping on the beach in a storm. Good times.

Our last days in Ontario were filled with a Lithuanian cultural education for me (from Grandma), eating lots of food (from Grandma), eating lots of cake (from Grandma), and then a return to Port Credit. Keifer took to the slackline like a pro... though I think swinging on it and bouncing were more his thing than Lina's slackline yoga.

It was a really fun trip, and great to finally meet the people I've heard so much about. We'll be back for Christmas!