Thursday, February 17, 2011


This trip has been full of surprises... As you will have read from Hoto's Blog.

Lots of cloudy skies, some Vog (volcanic ash falling from the Big Island), an increase in Tourists, and a sad loss of beaches as Mother Nature does her thing. Hoto has a more scientific explanation but I prefer the Locals' thoughts... "It comes and it goes... It comes and it goes...).

Some things haven't changed though... I still love the beach and the sun baking down on me; I still love swimming in the ocean and snorkeling; I still love an icy gin and tonic in the tropical afternoon, and most of all I love time alone with my amazing husband.

Who wouldn't?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Seven days ago at this time, I was dragging my butt to bed in a comfy bed at the Seattle Fairmont Olympic Hotel... having completed the BC Ride To Conquer Cancer.

Tonight, work set aside, guests gone home, and clean up from my birthday party complete, I feel compelled to write about my experiences if for no other reason than to relay some appreciation.

Friday night we stayed at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel after an excellent meal hosted by our friends Don, Diane, Erika, and Cathy (thank-you!). The hotel is only two blocks from the start line and we wanted to get to the start early so we could exchange our shirts which were .... well... um... ok, they were too small... sigh.

Hoto and I were both a bundle of nerves on Friday night and slept in bits and pieces. We were up by 04:20 and downstairs catching the shuttle bus at 05:15 in bright beautiful sunshine. Even though it was only two blocks we thought it would be easier to catch the shuttle rather than lugging our gear. There were only four of us on a full size tour bus. Apparently, most others walked or caught the 06:00 bus.

It wasn't that busy when we arrived at the site although many riders (including us) had dropped off our bikes the night before (so we weren't hauling bikes and gear) - it was pretty cool to see the sea of bikes in racks. We checked our luggage in the "purple" truck and headed over to the shirt exchange tent followed by the breakfast tent. My stomach was churning with nerves but I managed to choke down a half a banana, a half a bagel with peanut butter, and some orange juice... and then headed straight for the portapotties.... a place I visited numerous times before we left, my nerves getting the better of me.
Slowly the minutes ticked by and the other members of my team (VinoVelo) arrived along with a few die hard fans (thanks Erika, Nina, Mez, Cath, and Maddie). Oddly enough I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in many, many years - Fabio. We had a quick catch up and made a promise to try to find each other at the camp.

We slowly made our way to the group of riders in the start area (staying near the back) and listened to Oh Canada, some speeches, and then the start. As we waited I looked out over the sea of riders and noted the number of bikes sporting yellow flags. The yellow flags denote riders who are either cancer survivors or who are currently diagnosed with cancer. In the sea of the 2,252 riders, there were many yellow flags.

At last we crossed the start line and I mounted up on my bike. A colleague provided me with some start advice. It was "don't clip in, stay alert, and go slow - mass starts are chaos and there are always small crashes and resulting injuries". It was good advice - thanks Bob.

My stomach began to settle as we pedaled along the Surrey roads, which were all cleared for us with local RCMP holding traffic. The police were all very cheerful as were all the volunteers providing us with information about upcoming road conditions and friendly encouragement. This was a theme that was repeated throughout the two days. Both the Canadian and American police officers were kind and encouraging and I can't begin to tell you how amazing the volunteers were. There were also many spectators along the route who continually said "thank-you". It was very humbling.

The ride to the border (and mandatory first pit stop) went by quite quickly. After waiting in a long, long, long, line up for the bathrooms, we opted to drop out of it and instead head for the border crossing. We saved considerable time here as we had Nexus passes and were able to go to the fast lane, by-passing many other riders. The next pit stop was only two more kms and there were no bathroom line ups. We grabbed a bit of food here and some Gatorade as well before heading out again.

We pedaled on.

The next pit stop was about 35 kms and was more of the same, grab some food, some drink, use the bathroom and get back on our bikes. The day was warm and the sun was shining. We saw Johnny and Wendy blast through without stopping and then right before we were set to leave saw Don, Diane, Leah, and Andy with Cathy just pulling in. It was good to see familiar faces. I also saw my colleague Jessica at this pit stop - standing in line for the loo.

The next twenty kms were really tough for me. I felt like my energy was all gone and I was riding really slow. Hoto was pretty worried and kept asking me if I was ok. I trudged along. And then we hit the first big hill of the ride.

I think of it now as the forever hill... because the damn thing just kept going - up, up, up. It never really eased (i.e. it wasn't the kind of hill where you got a bit of relief from a flatter bit). Even though I had been expecting a hill before the lunch break, I hadn't realized quite how long it was going to be. I was pretty happy to see the turn off for lunch and quite pleased with myself that I had conquered the "hill before lunch" - or so I thought.

Lunch was at km 88 and was a really beautiful location - Lake Padden. We took a much longer break here, eating a pretty full meal including pasta salad, chicken, a bun, dessert, and lots of juice paks. I felt pretty refreshed. Although we didn't see the others, there were a number of our team mates stopped at the same time.

As we left the park I suddenly realized that I wasn't finished with the forever hill... it was still going up. I have to say that I was a bit annoyed at this... but hey, what was I going to do? And so I pedaled on. As we approached the top (finally!) a number of our team mates passed by me with greetings and words of encouragement. It's amazing how much better that makes you feel. When my pal Diane asked how I was doing, it felt good to say "I'm getting tired of this f------ hill!" And I could only laugh when she dryly remarked, "Hey, I am soooo in that club too." The far side of the forever hill, was long and winding and down... it felt good to finally pick up some speed and to rest a bit.

At the fourth pit stop of the day (not counting lunch) at km 111, I was actually feeling pretty good. My Ride Guide says it was called the Belfast Feed Store, but I have to honestly say that I don't really remember it that well. I do remember getting my second wind though with only 20 kms to go for the day. I'm sure my Pop would say something about the horse heading for the barn...

I felt strong though on those 20 kms and managed to pick up my speed, much to Hoto's delight. However, at km 130 (which was supposed to be the end of day one and the camp) I thought perhaps we had taken a wrong turn somewhere as there wasn't a tent in sight. At km 131 I accused all of the Ride organizers as being liars born out of wedlock. And at km 132 I thought back to Mezzy talking about how hard the last few clicks of a marathon are when people are telling you "it's only two more kms" and how that seems insurmountable. Then we passed by two women in a golf cart and I KNEW we must be close. And suddenly we were in camp at Mount Vernon. I had been in the saddle for 7 hours and 20 minutes and on the road for 9 hours and 15 minutes and ridden 132.4 kms.

We parked our bikes in some of the few spots left, met up with Fabio who gave us a quick tour of where to find everything and then we headed over to the "purple" line of baggage (note that Fabio had been there for about 3 hours and was showered, fed, massaged and had drunk his two beers).

The tent city was a sight to behold. In fact the entire camp was amazing. Everything was incredibly well organized. We found our tent (set up by volunteers), found our team mates, and headed over to grab a shower. This too was well run and there was lots of hot water. Something either in the camp site or the showers, however, set me off on a crazy allergy attack. I came out of the shower trailer with my eyes burning, bloodshot and tearing and sneezing my head off. I wasn't alone though - there were many, many people in the same boat. I'm still not sure what it was.

We headed over to the dinner tent, grabbed some chow and sat on the grass with the team to eat. I was starving. We wandered around the exhibit tents a bit (and of course I checked out the medical tent too) and then Hoto and I hit the sack at 19:30 hours... We both dropped off into an exhausted sleep. I woke up in the early morning hours and after removing my ear plugs listened to the sounds of a camp with a thousand tents. Lots of snoring... It rained twice in the night and was dark and very overcast when we got up.

I wanted to get an early start as I was slower than everyone else and wanted to try and finish closer to their finish times. As a result I skipped breakfast (mental note - MISTAKE). We headed out about 07:45 after seeing another old friend from my SJA days. The start of day 2 was a really nice ride despite the dark clouds overhead. It was smooth roads and beautiful country scenery all on a slight decline. It started to mist on us and then started to rain in earnest. We saw a number of crashes and wipe outs - a combination of speed and wet roads. It made me all the more cautious.

Again, the first pit stop seemed to come up quite quickly at km 22 - Hoto kindly grabbed me some food while I stood in the bathroom line ( I had a really good waffle and a banana).

The ride to the second pit stop at km 52 was ok as well although my butt was pretty sore and I was doing a lot of standing and squirming on my bike seat. Each time we stopped and then started again, my quads also felt really fatigued - this would dissipate however, once we got going again. We grabbed a quick bite (oranges, raisins, Gatorade, and a nut bar).

We were pleasantly surprised to see the wife of a friend standing behind one of the food tables, volunteering and stopped for quick chat. Then we headed out on one of the most beautiful riding trails (paved) that I've ever seen - the Centennial Trail. Kilometres and kilometres of pathway through the woods and along highways. It was a bit of a climb but then we had a bit of downhill as well. I would love to ride this path again sometime.

I was ready to stop for lunch at km 67 at North Cove Park. The only draw back was that it was raining pretty hard and in the time we stopped to eat and use the bathroom, we got really, really cold. Seven members of my team were there soaked to the skin. I won't forget the image of Cathy sitting on a piece of black plastic, rain pouring down on her as she tried to eat a rice crispy square - it took two hands because she was shivering so hard.

It actually felt good to get going again so that I could warm up - this took a little while though, especially for my hands which were like two ice blocks. And then we hit the hills. While the forever hill from the day before was a long slow climb, the hills through Snohomish and into Woodinville were short but much steeper and plentiful. They too seemed to go on and on. Just when I thought I'd crested the last one, another would come into sight and then another and another.

At one point as I looked ahead to yet another climb, I felt tears well up in my eyes and I thought about how comfortable the sweep vehicles looked. I mentally shook myself though and said out loud "Tears are not going to get you up that hill, girlfriend.... in fact, tears are a waste of energy that you need to pedal." And I pedaled up that damn hill and told myself that I would pedal up the next hill and the next one and the next one. And I did.... with a little encouragement from two kind and considerate gentlemen who also happened to be my team mates. My wonderful husband, completely patient and supportive as always, congratulating me at every peak and Andy, breathing hard behind me and staying at what must have been an agonizingly slow pace for him. I offer my heartfelt thanks to them both.

At pit stop three that day, km 88, I had a quick bite and a quick rest. Diane, Cathy, Andy, Hoto and I were waiting for Don and Leah to arrive as we wanted to ride the last part together. Time ticked by... and we waited. At last they arrived having had to stop and change a flat on Leah's bike. Diane was sporting a skinned knee and bruised hip sustained from a standing fall (those damn clipless pedals!).

While we were waiting, I overhead a volunteer talking to a rider... lots more hills to come. I was ready for them. We left and headed for pit stop number 4 - our last before the finish line. There were more hills - really steep ones. Part way up the last (and what seemed like the steepest) hill, a fellow rider misjudged what gear he needed to be in and suddenly found that he simply couldn't pedal, nor could he gear down as he was well into the steep bit. He ended up having to stop and unfortunately opted to do this by turning sideways on the bike path about 10 feet in front of me.... I was struggling along, determined to get up this last hill and at this sudden obstacle, I could only exclaim "NO, NO, NOOOoooooo", as I had to either stop or hit him. I may have uttered some unladylike words as well... Regrettably, there was no way I could get going again and so resolutely pushed my bike to the top. This was the only time I had to push my bike.

And then there was glorious down hill - very steep and wet down hill. My top speed as clocked on my CatEye was 60.4 kms/hr... definitely a new record for me.

We came upon the last pit stop at km 104 so suddenly that I almost rode past it. Here is the photo Andy took of me as I almost sailed past the stop.

That's my rear tire in the lower right hand corner....

We regrouped, ate a few carb bites and headed for the finish - really quite full of energy and camaraderie. The group kept to my pace of 20 kms/hr or so and the trail was blessedly hill free.

I was trying not to think of the finish - of the fact that I was really almost there - that I was going to make it. I didn't want to jinx myself.

We passed a rider with a flat and Hoto called out to him to see if he needed help. He needed an air pump. Hoto told me to carry on and that he would catch up with me. When he did, he had quite a story to tell. The rider with the flat tire had been hit by a car several kms back. He in fact had gone through the windshield of the car and came away from it with only minor scrapes and bruises. He really wanted to finish the ride though and so once medical cleared him, he ripped off his destroyed derailleur and pedaled on - only to get a flat tire some 10 kms from the finish. My hat goes off to that brave, strong man and to Hoto of course, for offering assistance when many riders had already passed this man by. He made it, we saw him at the finish.

As we entered Marymoor Park, my heart started to pound harder. As we saw Erika, Mark, Audra, Joanne, Ryan, Kevin and Nina cheering and waving at the finish line, my eyes once again welled up with tears... this time I let them fall... and I wasn't the only one. My thanks to the Morrison Family, Erika, and Nina for taking the time out of your busy lives to drive our gear around and cheer us on.

Team VinoVelo crossed the finish line waving, cheering, yelling, and crying. It was a fantastic feeling. As we pulled our bikes out of the way of incoming riders, there were close, tight hugs, and many, many words of congratulations. I had been in the saddle on day two for 6 hours and 45 minutes and on the trail that day for 8 hours and 2 minutes achieving 120 kms. We were wet and dirty and sore and elated.

Our team of 9 had completed The Ride to Conquer Cancer and raised over $25,000 for cancer research. Our team of 2,252 had raised $9.2 million.

There is plenty of time to think and to ponder on a two day bike ride with a slow rider. I thought about a lot of different things. Some thoughts made me smile and others made me sad. Two thoughts kept me pedaling. The first was of a friend with cancer currently undergoing chemotherapy - sick and exhausted with side effects. The second was of his steadfast life partner, working endlessly and tirelessly to help him through it and to hold her family together.

My thoughts are with them still.

Thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this journey.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Training Tales

May 24 - 55 kms
May 29 - 60 kms
May 30 - 30 kms
Jun 3 - 21 kms
Jun 5 - 100 kms
Jun 6 - 70 kms
Jun 12 58 kms

It amazes me that I now think of 60 kms as an "average" bike ride... and it amazes me that the the thought of climbing the 4th Avenue hill no longer defeats me... and that I can now climb it in my second-to-lowest Granny gear instead of the lowest. Small victories count, you know.

The long, back-to-back rides on June 5th & 6th were really tough. On the first day, my butt started to complain around the 40 km mark and was definitely unhappy as I pulled into our home driveway (almost 6 hours in the saddle)... on the 2nd day, it complained as soon as I set it down on my bike seat. Pretty much what I can expect on June 20 I suspect.

There seems to be so much more to remember now that I've added "efficiencies" to my biking. Take clipless pedals... why they're even called that when you have to "clip" in and "clip" out, I'll never understand. At any rate, they are supposed to improve my riding efficiency by 30% so I've learned to use them - sort of. Sometimes when you go for a long stretch without slowing or stopping, it's easy to forget that you are "clipped" in. I have to say that it is a really awful feeling to come to a stop on your bike only to discover that you can't move your feet from your pedals and it becomes a race between unclipping a foot and the ground rushing up to meet you. This is particularly disconcerting when you have an unexpected and sudden stop. There is so much to think about and I tend to think in this order: "DANGER!! NEED TO STOP! Gear down, unclip, steer.... oh, damn... BRAKE, BRAKE, BRAKE!!!" I actually spend time running the words "brake equals unclip" in my mind...

I have finally started to follow H's advice as well when it comes to pedaling. Better to "spin" on a lower gear than kill your muscles on a higher one. This sounds logical but for some reason, I had it in my brain that the faster I pedaled, the more tired I would be... I am now happily pedaling along faster using lower gears, saving both my muscles and my knees.

There is lots of other gear involved too. I have a Cateye to tell me how fast I'm going and what time it is. I have a Garmin heart monitor to tell me how long I've been biking, how far I've traveled and what my heart rate is. I have a bell (although mostly I just yell at people who get in my way) and I wear cycling gloves and a helmet of course.

I found myself in quite a predicament on my last ride. Clipped in and riding up the back of UBC, the top of my head got itchy. Of course since I was wearing a helmet, I couldn't scratch the spot. I did what I thought was logical and stuck my finger through one of the holes in the top of my helmet.... my finger got stuck. So here I am, riding along, clipped in with my finger stuck through a hole in my helmet. I'm sure all the Gods were laughing at me... I know I was.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Still Riding

Some training highlights....

April 17
H suggests we do a 40 km ride... I get my first trip up the hill off Jericho Beach up to UBC... it is very challenging for me (it's steep and narrow) but I make it to the top without stopping. It is raining hard and really cold.
Several things stand out for me from this ride. The first is how kind other people can be. Two separate riders going the opposite direction saw me struggling and called out encouragement. I'm sure they had no idea how much I needed it and I was surprised to feel my eyes burn with appreciative tears. The second standout is a lesson learned: I must drink more water and refuel on longer rides. At the end of 47 kms I am completely wiped out - zero energy - feel as though I have not slept for days and have extreme jet lag. My "worry" level goes up about 10 notches and I am filled with self doubts about my ability to complete two days of 130kms/day. The last stand out for this ride are two short sentences quietly uttered by my hubby at the the top of the hill... "Way to go baby... I'm proud of you."

The next day I managed only a short 22km ride - still tired from the day before.

April 24
Off to UBC again only this time we go up the 4th Avenue hill which I am sure is steeper than the one from Jericho... I am wrong though. It is raining again and the spray from cars and trucks going past douses us with more water and dirt. I drink more water this time and eat a few bites on a quick stop. We do the hill at the back of UBC (along Southwest Marine Drive) several times to get added kms in and do more hill work. This is a gradual hill and I have no issues with it. We spotted a large coyote just off the road who ignored us completely as he watched some small prey in the grass. Gotta love cycling in the city.
At the end of 55kms I actually feel ok.... "ok" as in I thought I could probably bike another 15 kms or so. But wisely did not. We finished the ride soaking wet and covered in mud... I also sported a large smear of black grease on my forehead (I guess I put it there after I had to put my chain back on .... hubby keeps telling me to change gears BEFORE the start of a hill).

I felt pretty good the next day and managed at 30 km ride.

May 8
H suggests an 80 km ride. I agree but find myself very, very nervous. I have butterflies in my stomach and feel weak in my legs. At least it wasn't raining. As we traveled up the 4th Avenue hill, I was going so slow that a bug landed on my ear... and stayed there for a while as I was too winded to bother waving it off. I still can't believe that I rode my bike from our place to Iona Beach.. it's far. The highlight for me was biking across the Canada Line bridge... the train above my head and the Fraser River beneath my feet - very cool. Lots of hills on this ride too and the headwind heading out to Iona was crazy. I was really, really cranky by the time we got there - it seemed endless. Although we ate more on this ride and drank more water, we did not have enough of either and both of us were pretty much out of steam about 10 kms from home. It was all I could do to maintain 15 kms/hr at the end. We rode some 90 kms.
Hubby is very good to me on all of our bike rides... he has to ride twice as hard on his mountain bike and he constantly doubles back to check up on me.

Neither of us felt like getting on our bikes the next day though.

May 15
After numerous short hauls, we find ourselves on Galiano Island and ready for a good training ride. It took me about 25 minutes longer to ride 20 kms than it usually does... Galiano is all hills. It was a beautiful day though and we had a wonderful walk/hike in the afternoon with the dogs we were puppy-sitting.

May 19
Just a short ride today but I am expecting another long ride on the May long weekend... hoping for better weather than what we currently have - pouring rain and a wind warning in effect.

In one month, on June 19, we will be on the road to Seattle. Yikes!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ride to Conquer Cancer

As you know, in a moment of insanity, I signed up to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer on June 19 & 20, 2010. It is a bike ride from Surrey to Seattle. 130 kms (or so) x 2 days.

I keep telling myself that I need to train, train, train... but I'm pretty sure that the I am the most obstinate person I know... Hoto would agree I'm sure.

So I rode on my bike/trainer indoors until March and then I did a few outdoor rides here and there. Today I decided it was time to get serious and do a longer bike ride and get in some of those hills that Hoto's been nagging me about.

It's hard. Really hard.

I managed to ride 41 kms today. I avoided people, roller bladers, dogs off leash, small children, and raccoons. I rode with my skinny road tires through gravel, a ton of debris from the recent wind storms, on flagstones, cobblestones, and over dreaded train tracks.

I rode to Science World and back around the sea wall. I huffed and puffed my way up the hill in Stanley Park (with other cyclists whizzing by me like I was standing still - which, let's face it, I almost was). I rode around the park again and headed back to Science World. I carried on to Granville Island and then rode the road across the Burrard Street Bridge before heading home.

It took forever.

My hands went to sleep. I got a crick in my neck. My back ached from the minimal weight of carrying extra water and my bike lock in my back pack. I stopped being able to feel my feet at around 25 kms. My nose ran like a river with my eyes tearing constantly despite my sporty sunglasses.

How am I ever going to manage 130 kms a day for two days?

Then again... where do people find the strength to fight cancer day after day after day?

Right... guess I'm back on bike tomorrow.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Go ahead and call me a wimp...

Ridicule is being heaped upon my head as I complained about the cold here in icy Mississauga... people who are not from the West Coast just don't understand how much we feel the cold... I mean COME ON..... we have had just finished our warmest January ON RECORD... I came from 8 degrees to -6 (-15 with the freakin' wind chill) - it's COLD, dammit! I wore my socks to bed last night.... that's how cold it is.

And now I have a delimma. My oh-so-lovely room has the acrid odor of dirty diapers everytime I walk into it (thanks Delta) and I am seriously considering opening my balcony door to clear the air.... although I'm not convinced this will make a difference.

Maybe the gift shop has air fresheners.....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Everything it was meant to be

Paris is exceeding my expectations. On our way to Biarritz we had a full day in Paris due to our flight delay. The Eiffel Tower was amazing and worth waiting 44 years to see.

We had a lovely two days in Biarritz and even managed some beach time. Despite thunder, lightening, and heavy rains our flight back to Paris left on time and we wandered the Louvre until my feet ached and I could walk no more. We ended our day with 2 bottles of champagne.

Today is sunny and hot - we spent the morning at a flea market and plan to wander the Marais this afternoon.

Everything is good.