Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Start of AT Gear... BOOTS!

Scarpa Diva was the boot model I used when I slogged up Sunshine with Jeff. I was wearing two thick pairs of socks and the boots felt ok though my heel was moving with every foot motion. I ended up with a wicked blister only 1/2 way into the climb. I had to grin and bare it the rest of the way. Took my mind off Jeff's fast pace! 
Scarpa Diva size 23.5 (weight of 25.0 is 1525g) 
For the Vert180 race, I was lucky to get a brand new boot rental at the Calgary Outdoor Centre, the Scarpa Gea. I was impressed how size 22.5, with only a thin liner sock on, felt superbly and molded nicely to my feet as the event went on. The colour was pretty cool, too.
Scarpa Gea size 22.5 (weight of 25.0 is 1360g) 
Thanks to a tip-off from Jeff, he spotted a 36-hour blow-out sale from a store in Spain which actually had my size. The super bonus was it was a high-end boot! I took a chance and ordered a 23.0. Two weeks after placing my order, I received the boots Friday night by DHL. I chuckled when I was handed over a big packaged box that was shockingly weightless. I smiled when the cute little 23.0 boots fit perfectly!!
My Dynafit dy.n.a size 23.0 boots at a mere 782 grams!!
The Dy.n.a.'s are twice as light as the first boots I used going up Sunshine! I look forward to trying them out over the holidays. I'm glad I got to experience the two different boot models before acquiring my own. I have a total appreciation for the effort necessary with heavier gear.

Out of curiosity, I weighed my Salomon carbon x-c ski boots: skate - 518 g, classic - 384 g

Now on to the rest of the gear....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RunningRaw - Tim Van Orden's Daily Raw Diet

I've been following Tim Van Orden's blog for a few years now. He started out eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) and turned towards a raw food diet 6 years ago to promote his athletics.

Tim started out with all the superfoods kind of like I have and has transitioned to solely raw fruits and vegetables. It's pretty impressive and a direction I'm headed. I believe in the benefits of superfoods and want to keep in what works best for me.

Check out this video link with Tim's awesome explanation of his daily raw diet

Best description on "chewing smoothies"!
My favourite video of Tim's: Green Smoothie

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Ski-Mo Vert-180 - chaotic but FUN!

I've been procrastinating wanting to try out a ski-mountaineering event... an event donning AT (Alpine Touring) gear to skin up the mountain and ski down, over an over on a set course.

Olivier & Mary, as we skinned up to Olivier's grandfather's Swiss cabin - Dec 1991

Mary & I lounging in the sun at the cabin - Dec 1991
I don't have the gear, and have only done this once in Europe in 1991 going to an old cabin in the Swiss mountains.

Fortunately, my adventure race friend Jeff took me out on my first AT venture a week prior to the Vert180 event. I was lent Maggie's (his wife's) super duper bombproof (i.e heavy) gear while Jeff was on his skinny minny race AT gear. We started at Sunshine parking lot and skinned at Jeff's breath-taking pace up to the top of the Strawberry chairlift. I was wowed and exasperated at the effort!!
I am smiling, only because we stopped for a break and I had a chance to put on more clothes. Despite the balmy temperature, the wind and blowing snow was pretty nasty.
Jeff helped me remove skins and off we went on one long descent. The whole up/down took about 2 hours.

So, a week later, I was off to try the Vert180 event at COP (Canada Olympic Park) in Calgary starting at 6 pm going for 180 minutes. After fending off challenging road conditions to Calgary, I made it in time to rent gear from the Calgary Outdoor Centre. Bonus, was they had "exactly" my size in a new boot, Scarpa Gea 22.5.  Had just enough time to unload at Al & Di's house, my accom for the night, with Al being innovative to create bootpack hoops on my favourite backpack. There is usually a "bootpack" section in these events where the skis need to be attached to the pack, hands-free.

With minimal time to spare, Al coached me on transition to skins on/ skins off/ binding.

Showing up to COP, it was very exciting and super scary as I was a Rookie! Very cool to see all the new athletic faces of this new sport for me. Just before race start at 6:15pm, the snow started flying down in down feather clumps after what had been a clear day.

The course started at the base of COP, we skinned up to the top near the Canada flag, to ski down with one sharp right corner to the short bootpack section to complete a lap.

I was surprised, and not, to see how quick the pace started. The pros have super lightweight runnable gear. Despite that, I had a pretty good position going up my first lap. At the top, it was literally a gong show to watch me attempt to transition. I was slow, goofy, folding the skins neatly to tuck into my jacket top, not figuring out how to get the ski boot to clamp into the binding. Meanwhile, at least 20 people pass me.

Line of AT skiers on the left skinning to the top - photo Goldenskimo
I ski down in a frazzle at a skimming speed until I felt comfortable with the ground. I could not see anything out of my glasses (forgot goggles). At the bootpack section, I lost my glasses in the snow, fumbled around trying to get the skis into the loops... finally trying to "run" back to the start/finish line.

 I got all set and into my bindings ready to go... only to realize... I forgot to put the skins on!! HA! So repeat all the above gong-showness for 3-4 more laps adding in eyes mostly closed on the descents due to pelting snow. I finally nailed transitions on my 5th lap!! and the next few after. Gosh, it felt good to be competent... and I seemed to be gaining on a few people though couldn't tell as many relay teams were involved.

amazing depth of fluffy snow - photo Goldenskimo
Fingers were a concern for me, as I needed lightweight gloves for dexterity. The fingers started cold, warmed up nicely, then got cold again towards the end due to melted snow. Survived though will rethink how to keep them warmer.

It was awesome to pass the bottom end of lap zone as the loud music was playing and the crowd was supportive with cheers. It was a good social crowd of competitors.

Just starting my 2nd lap, Peter Knight passed me swiftly looking smooth like a race-walker on skis. I got to see him a couple more times as he lapped me. Getting caught in the same scary driving conditions from Edmonton, Peter arrived late to the race. He managed to win the Solo men event even with a 10 min late start. Thanks to Peter, I've been inspired by his perseverance into Ski-Mo the last few years following his blog.

Once I got into the swing of things, I was loving it! I managed to complete 12 laps in 3 hours just missing the cutoff by 1 minute to be able to do another lap. There was no bonus for longest time spent in transition! which I would have dominated!!

Very well organized event and I'd like to lure more endurance types out next time, as it was totally up our alley for effort, intensity and crazy fun!!

After the event there was at least 15 cm of fresh snow on my car after being in the parking lot for 3 hours!!

The Video courtesy Skintrack.... ha, that's me in the still-photo below (white jacket, green boots)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

First Season X-C ski!

I lured two buddies, Tim and Jean, out to ski Morraine Lake road Nov 12/13 weekend in Lake Louise. Pretty early in the season though the snow was awesome and weather was super balmy.
Stayed at the luxurious Fireweed Hostel in Field, we took opportunity to visit the much talked about restaurant Truffle Pigs. Pretty chill spot in a small town of population 300.
Funny, we never got a photo of us skiing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nose Hill Spring

I was tipped off by the Gearhound that there was a spring in an old neighbourhood in Calgary. While I was down for the cyclocross Halloween weekend, I decided to check it out.

It was in a teeny park in NW Calgary just east of Nosehill. I was surprised to see it marked by a sign and also a monument. This spring had been the source of water way back for the Indians, traders and explorers.

Cool shot of my shadow checking out the teeny trickle of a spring sadly now draining direct into a city sewer.

"Africa Hot" at Beans 'n Barley Cross

Off the start, my muscle memory had me take off 2nd to follow Shantel's speedy start. Within the 1st lap, my body temperature rose to what felt like 105F in my Halloween costume. I quickly dropped off the pace.

It amazed me how much more effort everything was on this unusually warm fall day dressed for cold pre-winter temps with my costume... pushing my bike up the hill and barely getting over the stairs.
photo - Andrew Barron
Within a couple loops, I got used to the heat and slowly started to claw back a few positions. When I was back a few spots, I saw that I was speedier on the lumpy bumpy areas so took those sections as hard as I could.
very Safari dry - photo R. Haskell
Ultra fun to hear race announcer Jeff Neilson say he thought he saw me go by then couldn't see me out there (due to my camoflage colours of course!).
Shantel powering up the steep climb - photo R. Haskell
Thursday night before the race, I ventured into Value Village to find bits to piece together a Mr. Potato Head costume. The L.L. Bean virgin wool safari shirt my size jumped out at me. Easily found safari pants in boys wear. Gathered a herd of African safari stuffed animals. Always wanted an excuse to wear a backpack fuzzy bear. I stared at the leopard cowboy hat for awhile wondering if it would be possible to fit it to my helmet. Lucked out with super awesome high boots in the women's wear - Safari costume complete!

Madagascar Lion, Camel from Egypt, Gorilla hanging by one arm off the seatrails, giraffe and cheetah on the rearstays... not to forget the evil teddybear backpak

photo - bikeridr
It was impressive to see all sorts of costumes in all the categories except Elite Men who were ruled out.

Thanks to Hotdog Janet for ensuring animals were secured on my bike - photo bikeridr

photo - R. Haskell

photo bikeridr

hotdog chasing the human-sized Cactus - photo Andrew Barron
A shocking and hilarious incident happened on the Elite men's startline. Top rider Aaron Schooler was kidnapped by a human-sized cactus and a few others, bike and all, with the race starting without him. Schooler escaped to start the race 1 1/2 min down working his way consistently to eventually take the lead and win by over 30 seconds!
"Betty" Cindy Shantel Sarah "Safari Master"

Jack the child-sized snake attacking the Safari Master
On the previous day, I took the opportunity to ride my mountain bike with Kate Aardal and her super dog Toby. We rode Bragg Creek trails Pneuma and Special K. Very wicked trails! Only toppled twice, one richochet of a bar-end off the narrow tree-d path and once after cleaning the steepest section of Special K to only scare myself that I did it so I slid the bike out!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Battle of the Blades - LIVE!

I've watched this show, hockey players meet figure skaters, since it started in 2009. It's amazing to see athletes of one discipline train to learn another discipline, and improve. Always thought it would be fun to see the live taping some day... well...

Marg with Karen's daughter Claire and Karen - bud from 1987 cycle Europe trip
Due to a non-cyclocross race Sunday, I got tickets, booked a travelpoints flight (never works out to use them for races), planned to go with an old running/cycling/travel buddy from Edmonton now living in Toronto for the Oct 23 taping (bonus it was my birthday!). Must say, my BOTB buddy Rhonda got me fired up to book this trip and wish she could have made it, too.

The atmosphere was exciting right once we walked up to the venue. Small hockey arena made into a very cool T.V. set for figure skating. The crowd was very friendly and bubbly.
My bleacher tickets were at a goalie end. I saw a bunch of pink clad women walk in with "Team Bonhomme" on their sweatshirts. I followed them. Had Karen and the girls sit next to them, centre seats across from the judges. Definitely good exposure to be next to Team Bonhomme, the gang from Tessa's hometown Sudbury! (We did get booted out of seats once! before staking claim on better seats!)

The skating was wicked to watch in person and to be so close to the ice. It was super fun though effort to show the poster without hitting the guy next to me.

It was cool to hear Tessa say she saw the sign when they first skated on the ice (she actually pointed to it on TV!)
Thanks to David & Tanya for the wicked slogan for the poster. It was a hit at the venue. Canadian women's team member "Tessa Bonhomme" is the first women hockey player on the show. She is teamed up with "David Pelletier" Olympian from 2002 figure skating. Hence the slogan... I like the Canadian aspect and play on words.

Super excited the poster did get shown on TV when Judge Sandra was speaking. The "Bon" was hidden so the poster showed "Tessa has the Man"! It was a very good effort!!

wicked photo from 1987 - Marg & Karen on the plane ride home from Europe

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Provincial Cyclocross 2011

Most amazing weather for a race late October!

At the whistle, Pepper Harlton lead a fast pace with me latching on and Chantel Widney aggressive to take the inside corner in front of me. Shantel Koenig had a strong effort up the steepest section of the hillclimb breaking in her Van Dessel. I swooped down the descent just ahead of her. Pepper slowly bridged away, with Chantel stopping with a mechanical.

The approach to the sandpit was fast. My plan was to run tight hugging the inside. The speed off the bike was scary launching me halfway running at bike speed and just a few quick steps in the sand before remounting. Could easily bite it at this spot.
sandpit techniques - photo Municyclist Chris Hubick
Just as planned, I had a smooth run thru the sandpit , with Shantel riding on my right. Soon after Shantel’s bike had tire issues.

Just 50m around the corner a barrier came quick when my heartrate was still high from remounting from the sandpit.
Height! photo by speedyskateskier Jean Valiquette
 Cool to find out Pepper had been riding over the barrier. Something I aspire to do.

I chilled in the Agitator circular snail path to catch my breath. Once past the switchback corner, I picked up the speed again riding out of the saddle. On the long pavement section, I hoofed as hard as could.
Strong ITU racer Chantel Widney - photo Mark Kay

Pepper was in the distance. Put my own effort to make distance from the women that would be working their way back to me. Then my shifter started teasing me (had sand issues last Sunday’s race) and it just stopped working. I gave in pretty quick that I would have to singlespeed the race again… then, the shifter started working again!
Shantel with the inaugural race for the Van Dessel
Chantel was back in with a happy bike and strongly catching up. Within another lap Chantel was mighty close. I just started into the Agitator and heard sounds of rider and bike skidding on the grass. Out of the Agitator, I hoofed taking advantage of the extra seconds for Chantel to get in action again.
good Cross Face - photo Jean Valiquette
Squeaked in 2nd within a super strong Elite women’s field with a few awesome contenders from Calgary missing.
pre-race smiles! - photo Municyclist Chris Hubick

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Open Creek Dam Spring

What better than to take a drive off the beaten Highway 2 on some unknown gravel roads to gather spring water.

Left the Red Deer cross race Sunday afternoon and headed west and north ending 31km west of Rimbey on highway 53. Without a map, I lucked out again with intuition to find a gravel shortcut. My first time venture blog with directions.

fast flowing spring water abit cool on my bare feet!
Wish the roads were paved as they would be awesome to road ride.

scenic rolling hills before hitting the prairies again

Singlespeed at Riverbend Cross

Sunday's double-header race venue was at the Riverbend golf course in Red Deer. Very good turn out for their 2nd year.

the girls heading up the steep climb - photo CABC
The start was on a slight inclined long gravel road which was perfect for me. Around a few grassy corners then thru the mostly rideable sandpit. I was just dismounting for the last pitch of the sandpit when "poof", my front wheel bit the sand. Bike and I went down.
Pepper in the Expert Men's race powering out of the evil sandpit - photo CABC
New jerseyed woman (Kim from Northern Ontario) and Shantel passed me. Kim shmucked the barrier with her bike's rear wheel which was funny as we both laughed when I passed by.

Shantel on the rutted downhill - photo CABC
Shantel rode smoothly on a course she didn't get to pre-ride. I caught her on the back straight-away then as I was shifting gears "no click" "no click"... ahhh my shifter was hooped! Possibly from the sandpit. Only a couple lower gears worked in my big chain ring - not my choice though now I was single-speeding! I whined for abit as rider's passed me. Pepper's mom passed me and told me to get on her wheel! It's a long loop, maybe 8 min when we normally have 5-6 min loops.

1st loop up the steep climb when I had gears! - photo CABC
At the mechanical pit, someone tried to help save my shifter though really valuable riding time was ticking away. When the Commissaire asked if I was out of the race, I hollered back "NO"!. I jumped back on my bike and gutted out the 50x15 gear (small chain ring would skip). I had to run thru areas I might have ridden.
Annie from Red Deer in the scenic backwoods - photo CABC
Actually, it was a good single speed course. I wasted abit more time when guys offering assistance said there was a bike I could switch to. Then the pedals were shimano and I use Crankbrothers. It wasn't worth the time to switch pedals.

Elite race, Matt leading the Hardcore boys up the hike-a-bike climb - photo CABC
Off I went again. Next loop I decided to just keep my bike as I was getting used to where I could go hard on the course, where I could coast, and run.

Tim usually riding the sandpit, went for a run - photo CABC
I wish I gave into the single-speeding lots earlier as after being way past last place after lap 1, I managed to catch 3 or 4 women. I didn't realize I was not that far in time from the front women.

Best thing is I got to finish!!

I saw Deadgoat Pat Doyle at the end of the race and told him I thought about him as he is an avid singlespeeder mountain biker.

Awesome shot of Derek powering up out of the sandpit - photo CABC
Shantel had Derek from Red Bike look at my shifter. He said sand was the cause. Back in Edmonton, he worked magic with the lubricant spray (alot of it!) and had my shifter clicking away again!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blowstreet Cross - Old Lady Young Lady!

The crowd seems to be loving the battles lately seeing an "old lady" (me) hanging with the "young ladies"... this race Shantel Koenig and I were neck and neck, with Cindy Koo not so far back.
photo - Andrew Barron
The course was held in a teeny grass park area in Calgary. Every square inch was covered with flagging tape utilizing the whole space! It was an ultra amazing course thanks to designer Lonn Bate.
good sized field - photo Andrew Barron
Personally, I would have loved to follow Shantel's wheel the whole race. The course was flat with a blurb of a hill and many long stretches. Feeling the need to share the wind, I would take the lead in sections I thought I could help most... the long paved path. 
photo - R. Haskell
Shantel would come by me smoothly on the corners switching leads. I was more like a jackrabbit in the corners until I caught on to the pedal-smooth-thru-the-corners technique.
photos - R. Haskell

The barrier location was right before a sharp right u-turn. The inside rider had the best spot. I was on the outside a few times.

The sandpit was rideable when I pre-rode. When we raced thru the first time, it was like a gopher haven of sand mounds all over. I didn't know if it was better to jump over, or run thru. It was sloppy going thru there.
The mounds grew each lap - photo Andrew Barron

cool falltime shot - photo R. Haskell
Down to the last lap, I chose to go hard for the barriers to be first around the u-turn corner. Still another two turns for Shantel to easily wind it up and sprint by strongly to the finish 100m away. I don't think I would have had much of a chance if I waited later.
Shawna Cindy Shantel Marg (Annie missing) - photo Andrew Barron
It was funny to hear the crowd's comments of them not knowing who would take it - so cool to be a factor in making the race exciting to watch!