Saturday, December 27, 2008

Skiing my way through the holidays

Kayak Christmas Lights!! (surfski on the left)

Black & White Christmas!
...with my nieces and sister-in-law... Darn I'm the shortest!

Monday, December 01, 2008

November x-c skiing

Snow is slow to come this year. The first place with predictable snow is on Morraine Lake road in Lake Louise. I've been out 5 times in November. Each week getting better and better. Minimal snow levels with excellent conditions.
The bonus is training at a mild temperature around freezing with the brilliant sun shining.

Kamren showing fine classic form of single kick-double pole!
Kamren joined me on Saturday for 18 km classic on Morraine Lake Road and 20 km skate on the Great Divide. Super nice to have a buddy to ski with.

The view 9 km up on Morraine Lake Road
Lake Louise frozen over
I've got a snow dance going to get more snow in Kananaskis in the coming weeks.
Best websites for up-to-date trail information:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fall Paddle

Tuesday paddle upstream in the North Saskatchewan River. Notice the bits of frozen ice on the shoreline. It was nice to get on the water again!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fall Riding 26C!

I met with Kamren and his buddy Zach for a fun ride on our 'cross bikes in the warm 26C afternoon. We followed Kamren from Millcreek up & down every grassy hill or trail that he could find... all the way to Goldbar including a loop of Goldstick trails. He even made us climb Gallagher ski hill on the grass!
Photo - downtown Edmonton from Goldbar bridge

The fall colours were amazing and unbelievable to have such a nice weather day for riding. I couldn't believe the rooty singletrack trails Kam took us on. I did my darndest to keep up and not crash.

Photo - Kamren riding up Kinnard Ravine

Thursday, October 02, 2008

One Last Swiss Hike

The morning after a cold night sleeping in the unheated hotel, I had a nice last visit with the wedding guests at breakfast. Most people were going hiking from the hotel that morning. I took the first van shuttle down to the Talstation.

Two buses and a few train connections later, I arrived to Einsiedeln, the site of the fast mountain bike race called Iron Bike, 101-km with 3,600 m elevation gain (12,000'). I was meeting up with Sandra Tschümperlin who was the 3rd place women finisher at Tour-Trans-Austria. Sandra raced the 77-km version of this race and came in 2nd. Not bad for her first year of racing. Ironbike is a race I'd like to go in sometime.

The next morning, Sandra took me up the local mountain Grosser Mythen 1,902 m/6,240'. It was a well trodden path that lead up the steep switchbacks on a rocky trail. Every path is marked with a yellow sign indicating the walking time to the next village. The red sign marked the route of the Ironbike race which went by the base down a technical rocky descent.It felt good to do something different when Sandra gave the option to hike or ride. The sunshine made the hike pleasant. We passed many people on-route similar to the masses that climb up the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver.

At the top, we took a break at the "restaurant" for some delicious pumpkin soup served in - a pumpkin!
The 360 views showed endless rolling farmland and mountains with villages all over. On the descent, Sandra had a bound in her step with me hurrying to keep up with much less bound. My legs were abit sore the day after from the steep descent.

Spent my last night in Zurich with Alex and Ruth. It was nice to chat about the wedding and their upcoming trip to Nepal. I was filled in the translation of Alex's wedding vows and they were similarly touching as Ruth's.

The view from my airplane window upon landing near Edmonton. Downtown visible in the far upper left side. I was trying to describe to my European friends how flat it is at home with riding square grids for training. The pilot announced that the temperature was 27C. I thought he was mistaken though surprisingly correct for Oct. 1! Nice!! and the leaves are still on the trees!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Swiss Wedding

Saturday morning, I was off to my friends Alex and Ruth's wedding in a remote area of Switzerland. I took the train and 2 buses to get to the Golzern Talstation Seilbahn (gondola). Picture below shows the incredible road built out of the mountain that I saw from the train.
The 2nd bus ride was from the village Bristen up an insanely steep road built on the side of the mountain. I was sitting on the side of the bus that gave the high view of the steepness. It was scary! At the last stop, there were pre-arranged shuttles for the wedding guests to transport us up the mountain goat road to the church and hotel Maderanertal.
The hotel was the Swiss version of the Banff Springs hotel on a super small scale and in a very remote location.
View from my top floor room with the mountain Bristen. The hotel was age-old, wooden and creaky kind of like the Old-Timer's Cabin in Edmonton. It made the whole wedding event cozy being far away at this place.
The teeny church up the hill.

Alex and Ruth - post ceremony. The service was both in English and Swiss-German. Some of the songs were sung at the same time in both languages making it unique to listen to. I didn't understand Alex's vows as he spoke in Swiss-German. Ruth's vows were in English and were the most touching interdependant vows I've heard. Very cool!
Alex's triathlon group Tri Uri rode their mountain bikes up and gave them their wishes!

Rare pic of Marg in a dress (and those darn nylons!) with Alex and Ruth. It had been nice weather earlier. A fog blew in and it was super cold at photo taking time. Alex and Ruth posed with each guest for a photo.

Alex, an accomplished Swiss mountain guide, was encouraged to show his skill with his mountaineer climbing gear over his suit. His Swiss guide friend set up ropes for him to use ice-picks and crampons to climb high up the tree for the wedding guests.

The dinner at the hotel was great. Each guest had a teeny rock "cairn" with their name on it marking where we were to sit at the table. There was an English translation and a Swiss-German translation for all the British, Canadian and Swiss-German guests.

After dinner, there were many entertaining games played which had Switzerland (Alex) versus England (Ruth) in competition. It was good fun and with many laughs. The dance started with Alex and Ruth, then they split off and gathered more partners until almost everyone was dancing. I had a great time meeting Ruth's relatives and friends from England, and more of Alex's family and friends.

It was an adventure to make my way to Alex's and Ruth's wedding, and I'm super glad I went.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Epic 3 Passes by Bike

Next morning, sunshine greeted me. I could see the snow at the tops of the peaks. Breakfast was a bun, butter and jam. Good thing I stocked up with fruit, yogurt and chocolate from the grocery store.

My bike route for the day, the epic 3-pass climb… Furkapass, Nufenenpass and Gothardpass. Should be about 3000m of climbing.

I stopped to borrow a bike pump at the local sports store. Adrian who helped me just happened to race with Rocky Mtn few years back and used to go to San Diego area to train. It was great to chat with him. He thought the route I planned was a good one.

Leaving my B&B with more clothes than I wore on the rainy cold Day 1 at Tour-Trans-Austria, I was prepared for a leisure comfortable ride. Within 10-km, I reached the start of Furkapass. Ultra-scenic as I snapped a lot of photos. The 900m climb seemed to fly by with the open exposure and views. At the top, I put on extra clothes and slowly descended the steep switchbacks. The views were outstanding and jaw-dropping to see where the heck they built the road into the steep mtnside. Reaching the bottom, the next pass climbed immediately from the village. Fortunately, I bypassed this one and kept descending into the lowlands. The scenery began to look Canada-like with many evergreen trees. After abit of flats in the warm sun, the next pass began Nufenenpass. This one seemed to linger as the scenery was not as spectacular and the road just climbed relentlessly. Approaching the top, I passed two guys from Germany on a training ride. They stopped for lunch at the top. I put on warm clothing and flew down a super long descent at a gradual grade. It went on and on until I hit the village where Gotthard pass began. From afar I could see the pass roads way up and was surprised that I’d be up there soon enough.

Gotthard pass, built in the early 1800’s was mostly a road of carefully laid cobblestones. As I began climbing, I was tired and wondered if I wanted to bump bump bump the whole way up on the cobblestones for 900m. With a few breaks of fresh pavement, I decided I must take this old road. The other option was the paved highway. The sun was out and I removed a lot of my extra clothes. It felt great to climb with less restrictive clothing. This pass flew by as it was ultra scenic with the twisty cobblestone road. A strong headwind made one direction super difficult and I looked forward to turning a corner to get the tailwind for abit. On and on, bump bump bump, I reached the top. Threw some warm clothes back on for the final 13 km descent to Andermatt. Fast gentle descent. I stopped by the sports store to let Adrian know how the ride went. He said my 5 ½ hours for the 100-km, 3000m elevation climb was pretty good. That was probably the longest 100k ride I’ve ever been on, though also most scenic and fun.

Riding on La Salève

On Wed, Mary, Nigel and I took a road trip to the community farm they participate with. Putting in a few hours a couple times a year gets them a weekly assortment of fresh veggies. Our duty was chopping the last of the basil leaves from the plant. Nice smelling job anyways.We then went into France to where Mary’s partner lives in a renovated farmhouse. The outside looked like an old stone barnhouse.The inside was very modern. On their land, there were a lot of apple and fruit trees. We picked some yummy apples and coaxed a few walnuts off their tree. I’d never picked walnuts before. Leaving there, I was off by bike. Mary sent me on some small roads which would get me onto the road up to the mountain standing behind Geneva called La Salève.

After a short descent, it was 900m of elevation before I hit the descent that would take me back to Switzerland. The climb was amazing and a pleasant 5% grade. I had views of France on my right and Switzerland hidden in the mist on my left. Riding the road in the forest was refreshing. At the top, a mist was hanging at that level and it was very cold. Once I hit the village of La Croisette (a couple houses and a restaurant!), the descent was quick - twisty windy and steep 12-18% grades. It would have been a tough climb. My hands were freezing and I was more cold than I had been in the Tour-Trans-Austria. I stopped once to warm up then continued down the steep descent. Getting closer to the bottom, the road still twisted thru residential areas. I crossed a main highway and could see the border crossing up ahead. (Photo - view of La Salève from Swiss border) I zipped thru to Switzerland and was still descending. A sign said Geneve 6 km away. I followed the signs and found my way to Mary’s apt without looking at the map. I made it just before darkness.

On to Andermatte...

Next morning, Mary dropped me off at the train station. I was off to Andermatt via Brig. Out of the blue, I saw Sandra who was off to Bern to visit some people she met on the train the other night. I had met Sandra for Pain Au Chocolat and tea near the fountain the prior day.The train ride was super scenic from Brig with sunshine and huge mtns on both sides of the valley. I was optimistic I’d have a good ride from Andermatt,. Arriving to Andermatt, I just left the train when a “hello Marg” greets me from an approaching car. Surprise… it was Ruth and her sister, her sister’s two kids, mom and Alex’s parents. Ruth and Alex are my friends whose wedding I'm headed to this weekend. They all just happen to be on a drive. We chatted briefly. I tugged my luggage to my B&B 200 m away. My B&B is very basic though good enough. It is right next to where the Oberalp train goes up a huge climb. I can see the train outside my window. It looks like a ride from Disneyland with the train called “Glacier Express”. The trains are quiet and don’t toot their horns like in Canada.

A fog and misty rain blew in.

I ended up reading my intriguing book “Three Cups of Tea” and taking lots of naps. The book is about mountaineer Greg Mortenson and his pursuit to build schools for girls in the small mtn areas of Pakistan delving into Taliban country. I’m enjoying how the story unfolds and his connections with people developing. He lived a hobo lifestyle and managed to pursue the Pakistan project with what little he had and a great vision. The book documents his pursuit before and immediately post-9/11 while he was still in Pakistan. Very interesting commentary.

Monday, September 22, 2008


"Une amie à ma mère vient visiter la Suisse. Elle dort chez nous. Elle rentre d'Autriche où elle a fait une course de vélo sur sept étapes. Elle a finit 2ème et le tour s'appellait Tour-Trans-Austria." - written by Nigel Burzminski 22.09.08 for French writing class in Gèneve

DAY 7 – Everyone’s a Teammate!

On the start line Leah said she wanted me to cross the finish line with her holding hands in the air. Cool thought though I said if it works out, great!
The race started with a decent pace. Whoever was at the front broke the headwind for all.

The first climb was a gradual average grade of 5%. I was near the front of the pack with Leah. Then a 14% grade snuck in there and some of us drifted back. Our own little pack formed and we continued to climb at a hard comfortable pace.

Soon our small group caught the front group. Again, the pace went hard up a steeper section. I was breathing so hard I was amazed a lung didn’t burst. I was the last one in our group up the crest though was still in contact with the pack for the descent. Great - except I was cross-eyed from lack of oxygen and it was difficult to relax at the fast pace they swept around the sharp corners. The pace-line was too long and decelerated too much by the time I got to the corner. I had to accelerate to catch-up each time. IT HURT. The wind was strong and I soon lost the draft.

I descended on my own much more easily thru the corners. On the flat, it wasn’t long before 2 more teams caught me. We flew ahead and within a few km caught the lead group again. I didn’t have long to rest before the group took off again. The small group we formed had Leah and myself in it and six other guys. It was a great pace and perfect size group.

I got caught up in the paceline and pulled to the front. Leah helped get the 6 guys to do the paceline and we kept back of them with me behind her. I needed all the rest I could get. We all stayed together thru narrow roads of the small villages. Some areas looked more like mountain bike trails with all the tree cover over us.

The final climb of the day had me working harder than ever in spots before the pace would settle. We had to descend 1 km on hard-packed gravel and then ascend. Training on the 5-km gravel section near Predator Ridge in Kelowna was perfect for this. The final climb had Leah take off with another guy, and a handful of us scattered.

My new chain and cassette made the bike feel brand new. I still managed to drop my chain past the small chain ring with a quick bad shift. Twice I had to stop to manually put my chain back on, doh.

Meanwhile, I crested the last climb with some riders that just caught up. Bummer that they were poor descenders. I speedily caught up to one guy that braked at the last minute around a sharp corner which had me abruptly brake to avoid hitting him. My whole bike skidded out and there was ample opportunity to crash… though I let go of the brakes and all was ok. Must be my mtnbike skill as I wasn’t even freaked out though it must have been scary for anyone behind me.

Again it was difficult to keep on anyone’s wheel with the strong wind. With 4 km to go, the 1st place mixed team came whooshing by. This was their hometown so they knew every corner on the high speed descent. I jumped into their group and we stormed to Velden city center.

After a fast pace thru town amongst chaotic moving traffic, we finished at the edge of the lake. Many racers hung out a long time on the wooden docks eating post-race food. A lot of racers jumped in the lake or got thrown in.
I hung out with Leah and her mom for post-race by the water. Later, Team Tanner and I sat and soaked up the warm sun on the dock. We were happy to just sit.

Earlier I took the opportunity at the Scott Bike weigh-in for the lightest bike/racer combo. I removed everything I could from my bike. My clothes were skimmed down to jersey, shorts, helmet and shoes with insoles removed. I just came back from the WC so was ready for the weigh-in at 55.7 kg. Without the bike 48.2 kg (dehydrated!). The bike alone was 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs). Another woman won at 53.9 kg with bike, wow! The heaviest guy with bike was 113 kg!!

When we finally made a move to search out where Team Tanner needed to drop off their bikes to get shipped back to the race-start in Kirchberg and where I’d find my bike bag sent from the start to here. The race organization was just having my bike bag delivered to my hotel. I was able to stop the van and hop in with my bike. I was driven to where my gear bag had already been delivered to the hotel, picked up my gear bag, said sorry but thanks to the owner, and got dropped off at the place where all the other Cdn gals were staying.

Meanwhile, Erin and Sandra dropped off their bikes for the journey back then made the long walk to the hotel in their socks. They each carried a plastic bag with their extra clothes and bike shoes in it. They were pretty tuckered when they got to the hotel. They had to walk thru the main area of town like that. I’m amazed no-one gave them some coins!

Tonight’s last pasta party was awesome – no pasta! We had grilled sausages and pork with lots of choices of salads and baked potatoes.

Everyone got their awards and finishers jerseys. Leah's Mom and I sat back while the Cdn girls got their leaders jerseys.
We took our last chance to meet with a lot of racers. One rider sat by me during dinner and we chatted for quite awhile. When we exchanged email addresses I asked his team number and it was 51! I had wanted to thank and meet #51 since he helped me in the race yet didn’t know what he looked like. I was thrilled Lutz was him! This Tour was a very social bunch. A smaller group of racers meant a greater opportunity to meet the racers. The mix of teams with individual racers went well with all working together. With more individual racers, the incentive was there to be more open to meet others. More friendships formed all around.

Quite a few beers were dranken at our table!

Marg & 2nd place Mixed Team - Annika & Joachim
Uta & Günter who met on a TA Team in 2005 and are now married with kids

Friday, September 19, 2008

DAY 6 – Best All’Round Day

A cool 4C start with a neutralized descent to 26-km. We are getting very used to riding in these cool temps though I’d never wear as little as I have on at home in these temps. We had to go down quite abit of elevation and cross three sets of train tracks. Fortunately the Race Director’s car lead the neutral start at a wickedly fast pace. It was a feat to breathe deep and stay warm. Once we crossed the 3rd set of tracks, the group went a good pace up the gradual climb. It was perfect for me to hang with the lead group. (TA photo - Marg, standing of course on the RHS at the back with the neon orange jersey under a white jacket)Once we hit the first steeper grades, I dropped off the pace as did some of the bigger boys including my favourite three Italian guys from Team Paola Pezzo. I knew if I could hang onto their steady pace I’d have good company on the descent. (TA Photo - Marg just behind Team Paola Pezzo in blue)

Soon we hit the last 3-km of the climb where the grades turned super ugly at 11-18%. I sadly dropped off the pace of my Italian group. The leftover snow from earlier in the week made the mountain view outstanding. Up ahead I could see the final few curves with 100 metres elevation to climb yet. This gave me a surge of energy. I put my head down and just worked the final stretch and just caught up to the Italians before the crest. The solo Italian guy asked me if I just climbed all that in my 53. I was out-of-breath and it took me a moment to understand what he was asking. I then mistakenly said “no, my 50” meaning what large chain ring I had on my bike. I was mostly climbing in the big ring though they didn’t see me when I was in my small chain ring the last steep grade of the climb. So the Italians were impressed!

All four of us descended wickedly fast with hard braking for the tight switchback corners. Towards the bottom of the descent, I heard some foreign noise. I looked down and thought I dtopped my chain off the chainrings then realized I had NO chain! I stopped and dismounted and saw the chain dangling on the rear derailleur.

I saw a man walking and asked for assistance. I just needed someone there as I was breathing hard and shakey. He kindly helped hold my bike as I got out a spare chain link. We both clumbsily worked at fixing my chain when half of the link dropped into the dirt. We spent the next few minutes looking for it. Whoosh… a lot of riders go by.

Finally we found the link. I assembled it. Asked the man if he was with the race. He said “no, just on a walk”. I gave him a hug and went on my way. Next group was my original crowd I had been hanging with… the 2nd place mixed team and Team 89. We flew down the rest of the descent, me a little pensive with the chain.

With only 4-km to go, my chain released again. I stopped and almost thought I was doomed to fix it and might have to “run it in”! Calmly, I coaxed the link back together. Jumped on my bike to another mixed team I hadn’t ridden with yet. A woman that did Tour-Transalp in 2005 with an unknown guy for a partner. They fell in love and have since had two kids! Quite a TA story.

Soon a small group of fast guys swooped us up and took us to the finish in Murau. The sun is out and it is beautifully warm. Made it nice to socialize at the race finish.

I am super pleased with my day. I made the climb up strongly and fixed my own mechanical twice! All in all, if I had finished with the Italians I would have been 3-minutes behind Leah today. The Swiss woman Sandra in 3rd place almost caught up to me with finishing 2-min back. (I found out she lives in Switzerland near where the famous Einsidein -Iron Bike- mountain bike race starts. That race is Sep 28… hmmm…. possibilities.)

I only lost 8-minutes with fixing my chain which was a good lesson for me for another time. I again did not bring a chain tool with me. I fortunately had the spare link and that was all I needed this time. I have been carrying a tiny Crankbrothers pump with me in case of a 2nd flat. I have one CO2 cartridge with me. I thought that was a step up in gear for me!

Murau has a historical town in its city centre. I could see the old rock wall around part of it when I biked to my hotel. Tough to pre-book accom in Murau and I ended up with a crazy nice 4-star hotel. I’m writing this as I’m sitting in my clean bathrobe on the balcony in the sun with the mountain view! It’s rare I get this opp.

Leah is still storming up the front. Team Tanner were excited to finish well and have a good day together. Erin is an awesome climber and Sandra a speedy descender. They split up at times and catch up later.

Off to check out the old town!