Thursday, July 29, 2010


Today I became a Canadian citizen. I am very proud to be part of the country I have chosen to live in and it's just starting to sink in now what a big thing this is. It was a great feeling to hear all the accents and see different faces in the room... people from all over the world being welcomed into one nation. It's been nearly 7 years of paperwork and waiting (mostly waiting) to get to this point, but now it really feels like it's been worth it.

The hair-police will be glad to hear that I had a haircut just after the ceremony and no-longer look like a member of the Bee Gees. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you

Between trying to do a good day's work, getting to grips with the fact I will be married in less than a month... and the surprise that I will become Canadian next week there has been plenty of other stuff going on lately. I estimate that around 50% of the food I have eaten since the summer came to Vancouver has been from a barbecue. In fact, I'm making myself late for another barbecue by writing this. There has of course also been food-unrelated fun. But first, here's something which was no fun at all.

I got my first "real" day at Whistler bike park the week before last. By real, I mean that I was wearing all my body armor and riding my "big" bike. Things were all going very well, until our first run on Dirt Merchant. I got to about the point that Cedric Gracia is riding right about here, taking the line up on the left to jump across the gap to the landing. I am no stranger to falling off my bike, and as the ground approached my reaction was along the lines of "Oh, I seem to have made a mess of this... but why?".  The inevitable sliding, rolling, and bashing on rocks followed, and when I unraveled myself from my heap in the ditch I was pleased to find that my body seemed to move in all the usual directions, and no new ones. Suzanne (riding behind me) arrived and pointed out to me that my bike was not quite right.

Something is wrong here

I had, for the first time in 17 years of mountain biking... snapped a handlebar. This explained my sudden visit to the ground on the landing of the jump, which was nice to know. I replace my bars every year or so to prevent this kind of thing happening. Oh well. I made my way back down the mountain with my detachable handlebar on "Easy Does It", past a bear (yes, really) and arrived in one piece at the base of the mountain. As what had happened sunk in I realised how glad I was that I was wearing a full-face helmet and armor, and how this could have ended up much worse of me. All in all, I have come to the conclusion that this was my lucky day (of sorts).

With my missing skin gradually growing back, there has been some fun to have this weekend. Lina and I ran the Hanes Valley Rout from Lynn Valley to Cypress last night, which turned out to be great, after a bit of a  rough start for me. I haven't run since Knee Knacker and didn't seem to want to either... luckily that changed. Getting home was a bit complex and ended up with us sitting at the bus-stop at 9pm on a Saturday night... drinking beer disguised in a paper bag. Now there's a classy date.

Creek crossing near Norvan Falls

Lina in the boulder-field

Still snow up there!

Today Lina was working over at Deep Cove, out on the water... so I headed to Port Moody with a king-sized group of the usual suspects for a ride. The sun was shining, and I was grateful for every moment we spent in the shade. The trails were fast and dusty and general good times (and a lot of faffing around) was had. These days I am enjoying my fashionably-wide-and-low handlebars. I may be rather late to the party with this trend, but it reminds me of when we all got "really wide" bars about 10 years ago... that were still about an inch narrower than what I have now. What with those and my remote-adjustable seatpost I am almost a dedicated follower of fashion... just a bit slow in getting on the bandwagon. The bandwagon sounds like a fun place to be.

Two kinds of old ironmongery

Forest faff

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why would anyone want to do that?

"The Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run is a challenging 30-mile foot race along the Baden-Powell Centennial Trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove... climbing 8,000 feet and descending another 8,300 feet in the process. Running Wild magazine has recognized the race as one of 25 toughest races in North America".

That sounds very impressive doesn't it? From the "second easiest glaciated peak in the world" last weekend to "one of the 25 toughest races in North America". I must be improving. I first heard about Knee Knacker 5 years ago when a ski-touring friend ran it. Having never run more than 10km (on the flat) at the time it sounded ridiculous. For a start, 50km is a long way... and look at the elevation profile. Outrageous. Five years later I have done some running (though not all that much really) and inspired by the ultra-marathon antics of Lina and Jacek, plus my survival of the Frosty Mountain 50km last year, I thought I should enter the lottery for Knee Knacker. Only around half the applicants get a spot anyway, so I would be fine. Then I got an email saying I was one of the 200 who got in. Uh-oh.

Race-day started with a 4am phone-call from Jacek to inform me that "he was on his way into town to get something he left at work". What could this be... his running shoes perhaps? or perhaps his lucky socks... Fortunately Jacek made it to my place and we drove over to Deep Cove in time to catch the last shuttle bus to Horseshoe Bay. Jacek had lost his heart rate monitor transmitter... so would have to rely on natural restraint to slow him down. He needs to be slowed down if you ask me.

It was really warm at 6am on the start line and I hoped we wouldn't get cooked out on the course. Then we were off. I shared a good bit of the first half of the race with this man, who I first came across in the race briefing on Friday night when he introduced himself to the crowd looking for a ride to the start line. He was quite a character... running along with his GoPro camera held above his head., commentating as he went. I think I'm going to have to get one of those cameras. The clamber up and scrabble down Black Mountain and Cypress was really great... big views and an entertaining descent. I felt just fine at the half-way mark where Lina had come out on her road bike to cheer. It turned out the nice man at Lynn Valley Bikes had helped her fix her broken chain on the way, despite the shop being closed. Thank you!

Cleveland Dam... half way.

I saw Lina again in Lynn Valley... three-quarters of the way though. By now I was pretty tired, but my knee didn't hurt, which was my main concern after the struggle I had with that in Frosty. Luckily there was a motivational banner along the way to encourage me.

Back in familiar mountain bike territory on Seymour and up the last big climb I was ready to get to the finish. The handfuls of sugary snacks and funny-tasting electrolyte drink had kept me going, but there's only so much of that stuff you can take. The boiled potatoes at the aid stations were fantastic... real food! I knew the last kilometer or so of trail would be hard as it's all up-and-down with steps and roots, but I enjoyed being back on trail after a short road section. Running on the road really isn't my thing. Then, after 6 1/2 hours it was all over.

Deep Cove at last!

Is my expression relief or just gormless? I'm not sure.

Knee Knacker was an amazing course, and now I can look over at the North Shore and think "I ran all the way across that". Well, I walked up most of the hills... but that is acceptable ultra-marathon technique apparently. Here are the results, look for me in 32nd place, and Jacek 30 places ahead of me!

Here are some more great photos taken by the volunteers:

Hollyburn aid station

Jumping up a mighty 6" off the ground wasn't so easy by this stage!

It almost looks like I'm smiling

Monday, July 5, 2010

All good in the Hood

This weekend I got to see a new place. One way or another I had heard about Hood River from a few people and how good it was for wind, water, and mountains. We had been looking for a fun place to go for the Canada Day long weekend, but one way or another all our plans hadn't worked out. So... I voted to go to Hood River, ride bikes, and maybe climb Mt Hood. The day after the decision was made (last Tuesday night) a very unlikely thing happened... even by Lina's standards. Lina won the Deep Cove Tuesday night SUP race (this is not the unusual bit), and then got lent a damaged board to take to Hood River where they happen to have a Thursday night SUP race, and the board needed to go anyway to be repaired. One thing I learned on Tuesday night: stand-up paddle boards are really big and are difficult to get into small apartments. However, Lina had a race to enter and a board to race on... 600km from home.

Early to Thursday we drove south to sit in the US border line-up for 2 hours. I was glad to see that finally a system has been invented to try and reduce the massive amount of idling engines at the border. The new system of moving forward in groups doesn't really work just yet... but it is a step in the right direction and I managed to keep the engine off for longer than usual. We got through and cruised down I5 to Portland. We rolled into Hood River in time to buy a bike trail map and for Lina to register for the SUP race. This paddle was to be a little harder than in sheltered Deep Cove as Hood River has plenty of wind and of course, current. There was a good group out on the water who powered off toward the toll bridge over the Columbia.

After around an hour the leading guy came past... looking surprisingly relaxed but moving very fast. Apparently he's a pro kayaker, which might explain that. There was some fierce competition going on in the group of guys behind the leader... then Lina appeared. Due to a bizarre coincidence of Lina wearing the same colour shorts and having similar hair to one of the local girls... everyone thought she was someone else. Lina rounded the last buoy and made it in to the finish line as the first girl, surprising everyone (except me) and reclaiming her true identity.

Coming into the last corner

We were not the only Canadians in the Tucker Park camp group by the Hood River that night. The place was full of BC licence plates and there was even a little impromptu Canada Day fireworks display...

On Friday we drive out to Post Canyon, to ride some of the local trails. We started off on a nice, flowing XC loop, then rode up to the top of the canyon to find a longer downhill run. Things got a little complicated here as some trails were closed. My curiosity paid off and after riding down a few promising trails, only to find they weren't so promising after all we found the top of 8-Track. This was a fantastic fast descent with lots of corners and little obstacles. The red clay-ish dirt packs down into a really great trail surface and makes you bike look like it's been to Mars. What else do you need?

Climbing on the Seven Streams loop

Looking for a way back down

A fun way to get back to your car at Post Canyon 

We stuck to the dense area of trails in Post Canyon, but still managed at least 3 hours of continuous riding. There is a lot more there to explore one day...

After a day of the near-instant gratification of mountain biking we went for something a little harder-earned on Saturday. Climbing Mt Hood seemed like a great idea until we left the sunshine of Hood River and hit the rain and cloud of the Timberline Lodge parking lot. It was 5 degrees and we could barely see the road. As we were there anyway, we filled out our climber's registration and went to sleep in the back of the car with the alarm set of 3am. I didn't think we would be going anywhere the next morning. At around midnight, the parking lot started stirring. We heard several groups get up and go, but I was very grateful for another couple of hours sleep. Our time came tough and we staggered out in the cold and dark... following the trail up the moraine to the side of the ski lifts. I was relieved to see the moon and stars in a clear sky and the headlamps of the other climbers on the glacier above us. Maybe it would be clear!

3am and ready to go

In the shadow of the peak on our ascent

Things went well and we moved fast... passing a couple of other groups on the glacier and meeting one earlybird on his way back down. He gave us a few tips on the route and said it was perfect up there. I was glad to be in the shadow as the sun rose, the air was warming up, but the snow stayed solid and it was quick and easy climbing. Considering this is one of the most popular peaks around (apparently the second easiest glaciated peak in the world), it wasn't too busy and we only got a bit of ice kicked down on us. Helmets were a good plan! We made our way up to the summit ridge, peeked over the cornice toward Hood River, spared a thought for our friend Bob who loved the mountains, and turned around. It was only around 7.30am, but the sun was coming up and we wanted to be down before things warmed up too much... plus I was ready for breakfast.

A tourist on Mt Hood

Lina on the descent, with lunar-landscape

The express route back to the car

We spent the rest of the day eating, faffing, and watching kiteboarders on the Columbia River. A quick swim in the (freezing) Hood River and a celebration beer put us to sleep by 9pm.

We had a lunch-date in Portland on Sunday and it was time to go home, so we got up early (not as early as Saturday though) and went for a quick ride on the 8-Mile Loop (which was 5 miles long) at Surveyor's Ridge. For a short ride, the was fantastic. Fast and dusty trails, great views, alpine meadows... it will be great to come back and do some of the big rides in that area one day.

Lina climbing to 8-Mile Lookout


The descent from 8-Mile lookout

It was great to see Hood River and I am inspired to get back there for some long rides... and to get on the water! A few more photos are here.