K2inCanada's Blog

April 12, 2018

Liquid Sunshine

Filed under: Canada, Hummer, Kayak, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 10:37 PM

Well it is early April and the weather is behaving as it should. A bit of sun, a bit more rain and some wind. We made the best of it I think.

Spent Saturday morning bird watching at our balcony door. Besides quite a few hummers, there numbers seem to get bigger and bigger every year and they are sucking the small feeder empty in almost a day, there were a bunch of woodpeckers around picking at our tree.

In the afternoon we went for most likely our last cross country ski in Manning. It was a +2C day, overcast and light drizzle on and off which once in a while tried to be snow. Conditions were soft and slow but overall good to ski on – just everything took a bit longer and Jeff was almost ready to put his skis back on to look for me by the time I made it back to the car. Ooops. It was “The Stache” weekend at Manning as their long time GM Mike Baker retired. So everyone who put on a mustache was supposed to get $10 off. Well, that offer actually only counted for the downhill area. Oh well. Jeff and I still dressed up since we have to be thankful to Mike Baker for keeping the snow on the road at every Cascade Cup loppet! My mustache worked so well, it stayed on for my full 3+hr ski 🙂

 

Sunday was a paddling day in the Cove. Started out nice and easy up the Arm at a quite leisurely pace but for the way back Jeff had us do 1′ on 4′ rest intervals. Doesn’t sound as hard as it felt! Especially as we always seem to have a headwind on the way back. We were supposed to have current help us but that sure did not feel like it. And yes it rained a bit but also some almost sun.

 

Anyhow, the training did pay off. This Tuesday and we won the TNR AGAIN! Ex sprint national team member Wes Hammer was out and I was sure he would show us back into our place. But he has spent the winter at school becoming a teacher and we were able to hold him off. I am sure it won’t tale long for him to crush us all again as he used to do last year and the year before and the year before that :-). The weather was actually much better than expected – no rain and a bit of sun even. Still kinda cold standing around for the prizes at the end.

 

For Amy’s race report and full results go here: http://www.deepcovekayak.com/raceresult/april-10th-lone-rock-return/  Thanks to Viv from DCO for taking the pictures.

And a race video if you liked the last one: https://youtu.be/hlv5pYjN988

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April 2, 2018

Easter weekend

Filed under: Canada, Kayak, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 10:13 PM

I did not want to go back to work today. What a nice relaxing Easter Long Weekend we had. Friday we slept in and then took the double surfski around Croker Island. The temperatures were much more agreeable than last weekend despite a good headwind on the last portion of the way back. It was a solid paddle. Spent the rest of the day eating and drinking and hummingbird watching and lounging around on the couch.

Saturday we slept in and then drove to Manning for an afternoon ski. Conditions were pretty decent for this late in the season. They still have a good amount of snow but the trails are going through freeze-thaws. It was 5C and sunny while we skied. Quite nice, really, even though the tracks were a bit of a mess in sections. North Gibson and Strawberry Flats was one of the best trails. And off course we finished off with a hot tub visit, beer and a huge plate of nachos.

Sunday was supposed to be another paddling day, after we slept in of course, but the wind was howling with gusts up to 40km/hr. So we were humming and hawing on what to do instead. We finally ended up loading the double surfski onto the car and drove out to Deep Cove. The launch site was protected well enough and we hugged the shore towards Cates just getting hammered by the odd gusts. At Cates Point, we turned around and rode the wind waves back. We did that 3 times. And for good measure we threw in 14 x 1min on 4min intervals. It was hard work and it got pretty cold when the sun hid itself behind some big clouds. But it felt good. Let the racing season begin :-). TNRs starting tomorrow.

I am almost finished with my Newfoundland blog – it’s only 14 pages so far and that is without pictures! And there are so many more stories I missed to tell last year. Hopefully I will be able to catch up before summer.

March 27, 2018

Tough, tough race

Filed under: Animals, Canada, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 10:47 PM

Well, the Mexico Spring Loppet at Nickel Plate in the South Okanagan, BC, Canada, is done and we did not win the trip to Mexico. Even if they would have called my name, I am not sure I would have been able to get up, walk to the front of the room and put a smile on my face for the picture. Don’t get me wrong, for Nickel Plate to be able to give out a price like that was fantastic. In hindsight though I wished I could have bought a ticket without having to ski first…

I secretly had been looking forward to this skiathlon loppet – something different. 14km classic technique followed by 15km skate. I am a classic skier but I put in some 10-12km skate skis over the last couple weeks at Cypress to get prepared. I actually felt like I can do 15km skating no problem, even though I knew I would be slow. Nothing to loose really. But then Jeff showed me the course. I know the area pretty well, especially the trails they used for the classic loppet (30km) they used to hold there in previous year and it used to be one of my favourite loppets. I figured they cut the loppet course in half and use the west side trails around Cannonball for classic and the east side trails up to “Eagles Nest” for the skate portion. The later is the bigger hill but I was okay with it. But when I saw the actual course it went like this – Classic up to “Eagles Nest” x 2 and for the skate they created a new course, with trails I am not at all familiar with. All I remembered from those trails was that they go down the hill quite a bit which means there must be quite a bit of an up to get back to where we started and after that, we had to climb up to Cannonball still, x 2. I was a bit more worried.

We didn’t leave home till mid afternoon Sat – see previous post. It was quite snowy in sections along HWY 3 to Princeton. Winter isn’t done yet! The special treat – we saw a big herd of elk near Princeton. Very cool!

We spent the night in Keremeos, and had dinner at the Thai Restaurant “Benya”. We just made it in time before last call at just after 8PM. Our usual go to place, The Branding Iron, was closed for what looked like a private function. Anyhow, the food was good and not too spicy for a pre-race meal. The night was a bit rough sharing the room with our sometimes a bid noisy ske/paddle buddy JG but I think I did get some decent sleep.

Sunday morning woke us up with brilliant blue skies and sunshine. Nickel Plate had gotten a dump of fresh snow during the week leading up to the event and temperatures were supposed to be between -10 and -2C. Almost ideal conditions for this late in the season. It sure looked great up at Nickel Plate and the ski exchange area was well set up. We got to watch some of the kids races before the main race was to start. Some people were dressed up in costumes as well.

WARNING – a lot of whining from here on. Read at your own risk : -): As usual I lined up in the back and that’s were I stayed the whole time. The classic leg already felt way to hard having to go up right away rather than getting a warm up on the flats. My hamstring still didn’t like the striding too much and I was timid on the hill, loosing grip more often than I should have with my skin skis. Luckily my shoulder/neck was doing okay and I spent some time double poling again but the snow was very slow and soft. Not sun soft but lots of fresh snow soft. I felt slightly better on lap 2 of the classic portion but still came in almost last to the ski exchange area. I was on my own for the whole 2nd lap. All the costume people were way ahead :-). Oh well, I was just there for a ski – only needed to finish 2 laps of 7.5km of skating. How hard cam that be? Off I went on my skates, feeling wobbly as I always do at the start of skating. Usually it goes away after a couple kilometers of easy skiing. But there we no couple kilometers of easy skiing on this course. It went up right away. I slowed down to a crawl on the first hill less than a kilometer into the race. People started passing me, them being on their second lap already. Oh boy, I thought, that’s going to be a slog. And it got worse from here. After the first climb up (I did not even remember that trail going up all that much) there was a steep downhill section, way down. At least with the soft snow I had control snowplowing down the switchbacks, obviously realizing that all this down meant a lot of up. I had to stop a few times on the way up to catch my breath. Tons of people passed me, some of them making the hill look easy but not all. I was not the only one that rested. But everyone else was a lot faster in between rests :-). I finally, finally made it up to lodge level again where the course offered a 500m flat section before it started going up again to the top of Cannonball. Another stop and go slow approach. I was convinced I am going to quite after the first lap. I was sure one was eligible for the big Mexico Trip draw prize based on registration only without the caveat of having to finish. There was one last steep climb left before the end of lap 1. Some of the volunteers were standing on top of it directing racers. Everyone was cheering for me as I stumbled up the hill, maybe you could still call it herring-boning. “Hey, you are almost done”, they called. “Well”, I said, “I actually have to do this again”. “Oh dear” was the reaction from the crowd. Not sure if they were thinking of themselves having to wait for another at least 60min until I would came by again, or because they felt sorry for me for having to be out there for another hour. But that made my decision, I would quit. So I get to the finish line/lap area where I hear the announcer call my name saying I would make the podium – well, he miscounted my laps too :-). I pulled off the course not crossing the finish line to not confuse anyone else and then there was Jeff. He must have finished some time ago, yes he also had passed me, but he still had his skis on. I told him I would DNF and he said “No way – I don’t want to have to read your blog about how sorry you felt for yourself for not finishing”. “I come with you” he said. My resolve to quit weakened, I agreed to continue on. Jeff stayed with me the whole time, trying to cheer me on. I was really struggling though even though I tried to tell myself “You can do this, it’s just a f….g ski”. And with a lot of stop and go slow again I actually did finish. My 2nd lap was 50sec faster. And to my surprise, there was one more person behind me. For people that like to look at the numbers. My time was 3:17. The fastest finisher was 1:27 (which was only 3min slower than my classic portion of the race :-)). The fastest woman was 1:53 (she is 2 years younger than me). Jeff finished in 2:01 – he skates as little as I do – and he beat two of our skiing buddies that are much better skaters than him. Awesome result! For the full results go here.

My body was tired but I think this race was just mentally very tough. I am not used to feel this much out of shape, even though I really am out of shape compared to what I used to. That little bit of weight training in the AM just does not make up for the long bike rides to the lake, the paddling in the evenings, the running I tried for a while, etc. I hate letting myself get old!

Thank you Jeff though for making me finish!!! I know I would have hated myself more for not finishing than finishing last. I did not have to worry about any volunteers out on the course either, other than the timing person at the finish line and the announcer, everyone else was already inside eating – but I liked it better that way :-). Jeff promised me that this would be the last skate race I would ever have to do but I am sure/hope I will try again. Not this year though :-). I wasn’t the only one struggling with the tough course. It was quite hilly and the snow was slow. So maybe, this will get me out of my bad habit of working late and exercising little. Mind you, the last two days I did exactly that…. My excuse, I am still too tired from the weekend.

We saw the elk again on the drive home. I was too tired to stop for more pictures even though the light would have been much better.

March 24, 2018

Holy cold

Filed under: Canada, Kayak, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 3:14 PM

Just in time for spring, the temperatures dropped again, sigh. There was a reason we stopped paddling in the winter. It was wet and cold on Indian Arm today, 3.5C according to the car. We did not bring the right gear! No full rain coats and no pogies. It was okay for the first 50min when we were protected from the wind. As soon as we went out to cross from Jug to Twin we had this icy cold from the east. We were closer to being hyperthermic and only paddling hard kept us going – I could not feel my hands at all at the end. We do HAVE all the right gear to paddle in those conditions but got fooled by the warm weather over that last two weeks.

Last weekend we paddled Saturday in the sunshine for 3+hrs. It was also windy at times but sooo warm, 10+C. On Sunday we went skiing again at WOP. It was cooler than the weekend before, between +2 and +5C I think, but it was still quite warm. Mind you when we left Vancouver in the AM, it was raining in town. 🙂 This time we only climbed up to Loon Lake, via Madeley Lake. The snow was still soft and slow in sunny spots but the differences weren’t as severe as the previous weekend. Grip was on and off and I did hurt my hamstring yet again. Rats!

This past week was the first evening paddle of the season as well. Thanks to my great friend and workout buddy Krista who pushed me to leave work early enough to go paddling. Usually I would be paddling on Burnaby Lake by now but I am getting lazy with age riding my bike up the hill. Hence I took the surfski onto the river. A beautiful, albeit short paddle. No scary tugs 🙂

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This past week was also the end of night skiing. An okay night to end the season, with a light drizzle and warm which kept the snow soft for good ski control. Ready for the last loppet tomorrow!?

March 11, 2018

Holy sunshine, hot

Filed under: Canada, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 9:58 PM

It was a +10C day today at Callaghan. Blue skies and endless sunshine. Almost too hot to climb up to the Journeyman Lodge but the views were spectacular. If not for my still sore shoulder this would have been the best ski yet this season. Mind you, despite using my skins grip wasn’t the greatest on the way up, or I should say my technique sucked to get grip. Because on the downhill sections, the skis were VERY grippy in all the sunny spots. Past Callaghan Lake the trail enters the forest after the long 8.5km climb up along the groomed road all in the sun – I am sure I burnt my nose. In the forest the trail alternated between sunny spots and shady spots. On the gentle up and downhills I didn’t notice much of a difference but at one point I was going down this steeper short hill which started out in the shade and I gained some decent speed. Half way down I hit the sunny section and my skis almost stopped dead. Of course I crashed, landed on my bad shoulder and overstretched my hamstring. RATS. Luckily the pain was manageable and I continued on hoping that Jeff would come down any minute so I could turn around. But I had to ski on for at least another slow 45min, being scarred hitting any sunny spot until we finally met. It would have been only another kilometer to the Lodge but I had enough and was worried about the long and somewhat steep down hill at the end. I moved my binding all the way back to reduce grip and it helped a little bit but the way down was scary as hell. Lots of snow plowing and very tired legs at the end. Legs were more tired on the way down than up. But every time I went from shade (now there were some tree shadows on the trail) to sun I felt this huge resistance in my skis and it tugged on my hamstring. The difference in speed in the shade vs. sun was incredible. But I made it down without another crash, slowly, and despite a sore shoulder and shaky legs it was an incredible, although long ski! One day I want to do it on a sunny, -3C day with a good dump of fresh snow on the night before. And maybe that day I have energy left to explare the trails at the lodge that Jeff always raves about. I am not picky at all, am I? 🙂

We stopped at the Shady Tree in Squamish to refuel on beer and food. Diamond Head was smoking today – be aware of all those dormant volcanoes of the Pacific Rim!

 

March 10, 2018

Finally some easy weekends

Filed under: Canada, Kayak, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 7:37 PM

No races for 3 weeks in a row. Well Jeff was half thinking to do Sovereign this weekend but neither of us are in shape for a 30km skate loppet. Plus the weather in town is going to to be gorgeous. Today we went for our first long paddle which took us and our double surfski around Croker Island at the end of Indian Arm. Now I know why the paddle around Coker Island up Indian Arm is so hard. Per my Garmin watch it’s not only 33km long but 1648m UP. Compared to last nights ski at Cypress with an elevation gain of 164m. Maybe one should not trust those GPS devices too much. Blue skies and sunshine and temperatures were perfect at 12C. Water was quite calm but for the odd motorboat wash. We took it easy on the way out.  Saw some snow geese, I think, just past Silver Falls. Then picked it up on the way back, really pushing it for the last hour. Surprisingly nothing hurt at the end of it, or at least not more than before we started :-). My shoulder/neck (see P’ayak blog) is still giving me some grieve, mostly when I try to sleep. But I am good for skiing tomorrow – a real up experience.

Last weekend we also went for a paddle on Saturday, just our 2hr easy loop to Cates, Admiralty, Twin and back. It was also sunny but not quite as warm as today. Paddling after a 3 week break felt great! The Sunday we went skiing at WOP and I force myself through 2.5hrs of skating. Man, skating is so much harder than classic. No way to cheat like I can in classic. And I ended up with this huge blister in the arch of my foot – need to build up the callouses again, sigh. Conditions were perfect though. Mostly overcast with some snow and some sun peeking through a couple times and -3C to -1C.

Night Skiing

Filed under: Canada, Home, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 7:14 PM

Managed to finally get out night skiing more regularly now up at Cypress and conditions have been pretty decent. Few snowy nights, one icy night but overall quite nice. Even dug out my skate skis. Jeff found another race for us to do at the end of the month, the Mexico Spring Break Loppet at Nickel Plate (which happens to be in the South Okanagan and not Mexico!). It’s a skiathlon of 14km classic followed by 15km skate. And they give away a draw price for a 7 day trip to Mexico for two!

February 25, 2018

That hurt way too much

Filed under: Canada, Ski — K2 in Canada @ 10:43 AM

Well, there is no part 3 to our Across Country Skiing (this year :-)). This weekend’s loppet, Sigge’s P’ayakentsut, was at Whistler Olympic Park, Callaghan, usually only a 1hr45min drive away from home. But we woke up to 10-15cm of fresh snow in the morning. It had already snowed most of Friday afternoon and everything was covered in beautiful white fluffy stuff. The bike commute home from work Friday afternoon wasn’t bad at all, just hard work along the river trail in fresh snow. Most of the people had left by mid day and I got tons of stuff done that afternoon – yeah!

Anyhow, the snow wasn’t the issue driving to WOP on Sat morning but traffic was quite heavy. So every time the hwy narrowed from 1 to 2 lanes past Squamish, traffic slowed to a crawl. But we made it to WOP with plenty of time for the 10AM race start. Actually, only John’s race, who did the 50km, was to start at 10. The 30km race, which both Jeff and I did was to start at 10:20AM. But that was only an estimated start time. Took forever to get the racers through the timing ship pick up and lined up for the start (that was much better organized in the last two loppets). So our race didn’t really start till 10:40AM. No problem though standing around to wait for the start. The weather was beautiful, even though a bit on the cold side for the area. I could have shed one more layer – black lifa and grey shirt under the red race jacket was too much, so where the 3/4 Longjohns. Oh well.

The race itself felt HARD – I was at the very tail end and mostly by myself. This is a combined skate and classic loppet but 99.99% of the participants skate. Classic being slower than skating anyways and me being slow at either resulted in the usual outcome. Close to last (results can be found here) :-). The first lap already was hard. The snow felt slow and I had a hard time double poling due to a pinched nerve in my lower neck. And there were lot more hills than I remembered from Gatineau. Although my “smart” watch said I did more elevation gain in Gatineau than the P’ayak. Maybe it’s only because I know the course at WOP and knew the big hills are at the end of each lap. And there was nobody to push me, except for the last 3km. There was this older male on skates who I had been trading places with. I caught him up, he caught me down. But neither of us tried really – it just happened. Until after the last 3km when we were climbing up to the finish line, his wife waited for him at the low point and started giving him instruction on what to do every fricking step of the way. It was sooo annoying that I, despite my legs and neck complaining like mad, tried my best to get away from them. I did, by over a minute :-). Jeff finished an hour before I did.

We skipped the Chili at after race party and went right to the Shady Tree in Squamish for a nice Mediterranean Wrap and yam fries and BEER!

My lower neck really seized up after the race and I was in pain all evening – still am. Hopefully it will go away so I can go paddling today. Has been 3 week!

February 23, 2018

Across Country Skiing Part 2 – Gatineau Weekend

Filed under: Canada, Ski, Travel — K2 in Canada @ 8:09 PM

Actually, this past weekend was a triple A event – Almost All-the-way Across Country! Gatineau, QC may be just across the river from Ottawa, ON, but Ottawa, ON, is a long way from Vancouver, BC. Takes all day to get there. We left home at 7:30AM for our flight at 9:10AM on Friday (nice short week for us :-)) and we arrived in Ottawa at 5:30PM. It was a bit of a rush that evening – get to the hotel, go to the bib pick up and ski show, get dinner and get to bed early enough so that 6AM EST doesn’t come to awfully early. Once again, we moved around mostly by taxi cab – distances were a bit less that the previous weekend. The hotel was reasonable close to the event and near a grocery store and a big casino. The grocery store came in handy as we found out that hotel breakfast was a) not included this time and b) not served till 7:30AM. The latest shuttle bus to the race start was leaving the hotel at 6:45AM on Sat morning. Hence we stocked up on bagels and cranberry juice. Lucky for me everyone spoke perfect English since my French is almost non-existent any longer, it never was good to start with. At the bib pick up, once the cab driver found the right building, we briefly scanned the ski retailer show and Jeff fell in love with some high end Atomic skin skis that seemed to be better rated for his weight but didn’t quite want to commit to them just yet. There was lots of great stuff on sale, clothing, skis, accessories, etc, but we still needed to get some reel food into us and the show would go on for the next 2 days. On the long flight from BC they didn’t even serve pretzels this time, sigh. The bib pick-up/ski show was right next to the 27km start/finish and 51km finish line and we had a good look at the snow – it looked like sheer ice. The area had gone through a couple freeze-thaws over the last couple days. Icy means the worst possible race conditions for me, not being in control of my skis at the best of times on downhills. I was getting nervous! The weather forecast predicted a very cold night and morning, with temperatures quickly rising to just a couple decrease below 0 by noon. Not very promising. At least it made my decision what skis to use easy – skins it will be.

Weather2 (Medium)

We decided to have dinner at the hotel, the Bistro 75 restaurant, which almost was a mistake. It seemed like we waited at least 20min to be seated – there was no line up and the place didn’t look that busy. Than another 20min for a server. Than 20min for the beer. And I think only another 10min for the food. The food was actually pretty good but they had run out of bread. The coupon we got at the check-in was only valid for their special 3 course Valentine menu which was a bit much. Not the best start to the trip this time so far. Back in the room we laid out all the clothes for race day and went to sleep by 10PM EST. I thought, I may not be able to sleep right away but it didn’t seem to be a problem. The bed at least was quite comfy.

6AM EST did come early but I felt rested enough. The air temperature was as predicted  -15C. Despite that, I decided to dress a bit lighter than in Edmonton. Black lifa, light green MEC shirt, red race jacket on top, single layer Long Johns and ski pants on the bottom, light toque and ear buff on the head. Turned out almost perfect! We jumped onto the 6:45AM shuttle together with at least 10 other skiers that stayed at our hotel, Ramada Plaza, and another 10 from the 2nd sponsor hotel, Crown Plaza. Canadians, Brits, Finns, Swiss, New Zealand, US etc. The Gatineau Loppet is part of the World Loppet Series and has a bit more international participation than the Birkie. Apparently 19 countries were represented – we met people from Finnland, US, Norway, Switzerland, Germany. The bus dropped us off at the 27km start/finish line but Jeff had to hop on another bus at 7:45AM to get to his start. All went quite smooth so far but there was a lot of waiting as the race didn’t start till 9AM. There was lots of space indoors though to stay warm – the race started next to Mont Bleu Secondary school and they used the cafeteria as a staging area and the gym for the ski show. It was weird though to be on my own waiting for the start. 45min before the start I walked to the start area to test out my skis. It looked like the organizers had put in quite a bit of work to turn the sheet of ice into something that resembled snow and the tracks were quite nice – mind you the start area was all flat. But the sun was already out and despite a freezing cold wind I felt okay before the start.

Like the Birkie, this loppet used a wave start but the start times were only 2min apart. For some odd reason, I was in wave B, which was the 2nd wave. As I looked around there were a lot of much faster looking people lined up in wave C. Oh well. Like Edmonton, I lined up at the end of my wave and like Edmonton, I had to pass a lot of people again. I had people with me the whole time, trading places on and off, which was nice. This time the crowd around me looked more my age too. The tracks were in excellent shape and the race alternated between section of wide and gentle elevation roads and narrow sections through the trees with steep climbs and some faster descents. Most of the steep inclines, everyone herringboned. I probably would have had enough grip if the tracks wouldn’t have been all chopped up. It was an interesting course though and I actually enjoyed it very much. A lot of it was double poling even for me. I was faster than most on the gentle inclines, either double poling or striding, same speed at herringboning and a lot slower on the downhills (I am sure I was the only one snow plowing :-). “Woman in blue pants” was the one to keep me honest this race. I passed her double poling, stayed even during striding but totally fell back on the descents. Not only were her skis faster, better glide, she also had better technique. We did the passing games a few times along the way and caught a couple skiers ahead of us. Unfortunately, the last 5km were mostly downhill. I tried to be brave and not slow myself down on the road section but ended up putting the breaks on when in the trees on the narrower, more windy trails. I double poled my heart out along the flat finishing stretch but didn’t quite catch “Women in blue pants”. Darn – 7 sec behind :-). Surprisingly, nothing hurt after the race and I felt like I could have skied on. After the Birkie my elbows and wrist had been quite sore. Not this time. Maybe it was the beer they served right at the finish line, or the freshly made maple syrup lolly pops. I was in good spirit!  Picked up my extra clothes and then waited for Jeff. Saw the first 51km guys finish some 5min after I finished my 27kms. At least I did not get lapped! Jeff finished 40min after I did, just coming in under 3hrs! An amazing result for 51kms, I think and he was happy.

Unfortunately, Jeff’s extra clothes bag was nowhere to be found – or at least not where they should have been in the racking. The girls that were sorting the clothes bags tried their best but there were hundreds of white plastic garbage bags with numbers on them. So we decided to have lunch first and come back later when the racks have been cleared of bags a bit more which would make searching for a stray bag easier. Lunch was served in the school cafeteria. They had quite a big spread – chicken or beef, we both had chicken, with potatoes and veggies, yogurt and fruit and cookies for dessert, all three deserts not just a choice of one. Or at least Jeff and I picked all three deserts and nobody stopped us :-). Quite a bit more satisfying post race food compared to the usual chili or burgers they have at other loppets. World class, I guess :-). After lunch we went back to the ski show were Jeff once more looked at those Atomic skin skis. 15min of humming and hawing before he finally gave in and bought them. We had one more spot left in our ski box for the return flight. They were a very good deal at 50% off! And the guy even offered to put bindings on (at 50% off) but that meant we had to pick them up the next day since he could not do it at the show. I got yet another shirt – but it was cheap! Leaving Jeff’s new skis behind, we walked back to the bag area and yeah, after another 15min of searching they finally found Jeff’s bag. His wallet and ID had been in that bag. Not sure how I would have gotten him onto a plane without ID. By then it was time for the awards. And to my utter surprise I did win one this time. Not for coming in 114th overall, or 24th out of 90 female skiers in the 27km, but for being 1st in my age class (45-49) out of 10 other participants!!! Usually I am last or 2nd last out of 5 when skiing in BC. I was pretty happy. They only announced the top 3 finishers, male and female, overall for each of the races and I had to climb the podium on my own after the official awards were done but I had to do it.

P1230108_crop (Medium)F45-49 (Medium)

We caught the bus back to the hotel. That’s when the tiredness hit me and I curled up on the bed for 45min or so before we hit the hot tub in the hotel. For dinner we walk over to the big casino, forgot the name already, to eat at Banco Bistro – apparently the best (only) place to get nachos and we had a craving for nachos. The line up was HUGE and they gave us a seating time – 40min wait. We tried to kill some time looking at the slots but it wasn’t quite that interesting and I was hungry. We pretty much got a table right at the time they said they would seat us. Quite amazing actually given the number of people that had been and were still waiting. Server arrived the second we sat down and we ordered our nachos and beer. The beer arrived right away and the nachos came not too long after. A much better dining experience than the day before. The nachos were really tasty and loaded with good stuff such as pulled pork and cheese, well and the off pepper, tomatoes and NO olives but the plate size was rather French. So we topped that up by sharing a plate of lobster mac & cheese. Quite tasty!

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The Casino

Sunday was another sunny clear day, temperatures just below freezing. Hot for Ottawa really. We got up rather early, 7:30AM to catch an early breakfast at the hotel and then headed back to the ski show to pick up Jeff’s skis. Lucky for us, there was another shuttle bus waiting at the hotel and we didn’t have to take a taxi. We watched the start of the skate race at 9AM before picking up Jeff’s skis. We left the ski show not only with those skis but another pair of Rossi pursuit boots for Jeff as well. Could not resist the 50% off price tag :-). We took all those purchases back to the hotel and checked out leaving our bags at reception. We still had lots of time till our 6PM flight and took a taxi cab into Ottawa, right to Parliament Hill. We explored the hill and the views from there across to Gatineau. We checked out the Rideau Locks – bit of a scramble. We walked the Rideau Canal – the skates rental line up was just too long. We had lunch at Byward Market. We almost became part of a protest on Parliament Hill – quite a lot of police and gun power around for what looked like a pretty small group of protesters. But we did not stick around to see if the police present was overkill or needed. Instead we walked over Alexandria Bridge back into Gatineau. From afar it looked like there was a small park, Park Jacques-Cartier, with lots of ice sculpture to look at – but when we got there it was all fenced in. We walk along the fence but found no way to get close. Maybe they were still in the set up phase. And the is it was time to find a taxi cab back to the hotel to pick up our stuff for the airport. We were somewhere in the middle of nowhere but despite them telling us a cab would take 30min, one arrived in less than 10 and it only took 5min to get to the hotel.

We planned to get a taxi van to get our now fully loaded ski box to the airport but were told there are none that would come to that particular hotel. The hotel staff called the taxi company though and were told that they would sent a vehicle that would fit our ski box no problem. Well, it was a problem and we had to put the front seat down and Jeff had to lie underneath the box in the back seat. The driver was good with it though and we made it to the airport no problem. Lots of security around again – automatic weapons and all. Turned out, there had been an NDP convention in town and all the delegates from BC were on our flight. I can’t believe how politicians can talk no stop without actually saying anything! But hey, most of them were flying economy! Our flight was late too. The luggage door had frozen shut on arrival of the aircraft and it took them almost an hour to get it open and unload and reload luggage. On top of that, the flight home is almost an hour longer than going east and we didn’t get home till past 10PM. Going to bed hungry that night and Monday morning 6AM came way to early.

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Sunset at the Airport

I would so do it again though :-). Jet leg isn’t a problem on those short trips.

February 15, 2018

Across Country Skiing Part 1 – Birkie Weekend

Filed under: Canada, Ski, Travel — K2 in Canada @ 10:09 PM

This year Jeff and I are putting an A in front of our cross-country ski trips. This past weekend we traveled to Edmonton, Alberta, for the 2018 Birkebeiner. The main event is a 55km cross country classic ski race where you carry a 5kg pack (representing the soldiers who skied an infant Norwegian prince to safety — the story behind the historic origins of the Birkebeiner). But they also offered a 55km lite, no pack, which Jeff signed up for and a 31km short cut version, which was more to my liking. I was dreading this weekend a bit since Alberta has been in a deep freeze for some time, low temperatures and windchill of -25C to -30C was not uncommon. A week ago the forecast for the loppet day looked quite promising with -2C but throughout the week it dropped again and by the time we left home the forecast looked like this – brrr:

Weather_8AMFr

We took Friday off work and left Vancouver at 10AM by plane to arrive an hour and a bit later in Edmonton. Unfortunately, neither Jeff nor I had checked how far the airport was away from the hotel, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Centre on 76th St, and the taxi cab bill was a bit of a shocker. In hint sight we should have rented a car, it would have been much cheaper. Turned out the hotel was in the middle of an industrial area, far away from the Edmonton downtown buzz (not sure there is such a thing). Mind you, the room was nice and the hotel had a pub, restaurant, pool & hot tub, etc, just nothing to look at within walking distance. Well we did walk to the bib pick up, about 4km away along a busy road. There was quite a bit of snow in town and most of the sidewalks weren’t really cleared, if there were sidewalks. Once or twice we ended up walking the road for a bit right beside traffic. Surprisingly, nobody honked at us or tried to run us off the road. I know what you are thinking – who on earth would want to walk in Edmonton in the winter at -20C. But hey, it was sunny and I needed to stretch my legs and get acclimatized to the cold. We left Vancouver at +11C. At the end we had a nice walk, picked up our bibs and timing chips, checked out the merchandise and sampled some free Albertan beer. Alley Kat Brewing Company, apparently the oldest craft brewery in AB. The Salty Caramel dark beer was VERY good! We managed to avoid walking on the road on the way back. Had dinner and more beer at the pub in the hotel, watched the Olympic opening ceremony on TV and went to bed early.

Race Day – up at 6AM to catch breakfast at the hotel restaurant – nice buffet – but we didn’t really wanted too eat too much. I checked the temperature on my phone and it said -22C (not including windchill and it was supposed to be windy). But temps were forecasted to warm up to -7C with sun turning to overcast and light snow in the afternoon. So what to wear? Blue ski coat, black lifa and my grey T-shirt on top, double layer long underwear and ski pants on the bottom and a toque and buff on the head and lobster gloves on my hands. Balmy! To get to the start line, we did not have to worry about transportation, a van came to pick us up at 7AM. There were 9 other hotel guest we shared the shuttle with. Most of them from the US. It was about a 45-60min drive to the start of the point-to-point course at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. From there the race course was winding its way along the east edge of Elk Island National Park and through the scenic Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area:

Map (Medium)

It was barely getting light when we arrived and it was cold!!! Luckily they had a big barn where we could stay warm while waiting for the start at 9AM. Actually my start time was supposed to be 9:30AM as I signed up to start in wave 3, the methodical skiers :-). The start area was on Goose Lake and the wind was howling at 25-30km/hr across the open area. I did a quick ski to test my wax and had tears in my eyes it was so cold. A good reminder to put on my goggles for the race. I watched Jeff’s 9AM start, listening to the National Anthem and 5min of speeches. By then the sun had come up and made it all a bit more bearable. Apparently it was -12C at the start (not including windchill). Jeff lined up near the front and he was double poling the whole race – brave man.

As I was watching Jeff disappear across the lake I decided no way I am going to wait till 9:30AM. I grabbed my skis instead and lined up at the back of wave 2 to start at 9:15. It was the right call after all. We had to listen to the same speeches and the anthem again. The start itself was almost too slow for me. I started passing people right away double poling with the wind at the back and managed to get past half the field by the time the many tracks narrowed to two. After we left the lake and entered the protection of the tree, the wind was less of an issue. I steadily caught up to people and passed some more for the first 10km – no I never made it to the font! The terrain was rolly – not hilly like I am used to but always up and down – undulated they call it. And after a while those tiny little ups start to feel like hard work. The fastest 55km racers from wave 1 came by me at the 11km mark. They had done about 23km by then.  Jeff came by at about 14km, having done 27km already. I had people near me most of the time – either breathing up my neck or in my sight ahead. I usually did better on the flat to small inclines were I could double pole where most people already were striding. But I suffered on the “steeper” ups and they all caught me again. It was fun though and the track setting was awesome. There were a few hairy downhill turns, for me anyways, but I only wiped out on one of those. My wax worked quite well – thanks to wax tech Jeff yet again. Only lost my footing once in the 2nd half and landed on my knees. Both wipe outs enabled the “Women in Red” I had been trying hard to catch in the first 10kms to pass me again. She definitely was a better strider than I and she got quite far ahead on the “powerline stretch” into the wind with the longest climbs. Lucky for me though she stopped at every aid station and I managed to get ahead again. The “rolliness” of the terrain seem to get bigger and bigger towards the end and I had a hard time getting up those “hills” but so did the people around me. Got passed by a couple guys but managed to catch them all again before the end. The last kilometer was once more on a lake, this time into a 20km/hr headwind. It was brutal but I caught up with one more person on it. Finished the 31km in 2hrs55min – a good time for me. Jeff came in ~15min behind me. He was 13th overall and 2nd in his age class with a time of 3hrs23min!!! He had a great race and was all smiles. Not sure how he managed to raise his arms after double poling 55km on this “rolling” terrain. All the hard training he did paid off and he so deserved the two medals, one for first time finishing the 55km and one silver. I finished 102nd out of almost 300 and was 8th out of 20 in my age class. Not too bad, given that I am used to be last or second last :-).

The event was really well organized. Our extra clothes had been transported from the start to the finish line and waited for us as we finished. They had heated change rooms. The food, soup and sausages were served in a big heated tent with lots of tables to sit down at. And most important they had more of the Alley Kat Salty Caramel beer :-). And I think it actually did warm up to -7C. Apparently they had the best conditions for this race in 20 years for this race. Over 1000 skiers participated. The biggest ski event I have been to and it looked like we picked the best year to do it. There is a short article on CBC (if you want to read about sport other than the Olympics).

We stayed till after Jeff’s medal award and then jumped onto the shuttle bus back to…well some transit station in the middle of nowhere. Another tall taxi cab bill to get us back to the hotel. Time to soak in the hot tub for a while, chatting with fellow skiers who were also staying at the hotel. A couple from Newfoundland and the American we had met in the AM on the shuttle. All of those were going to the Viking Feast which we did not sign up for, expecting we’d be way to tired to be social, which wasn’t actually the case. Who knew. Instead, we headed to the pub for a couple nice beer and a huge plate of nachos – yeah!!! Finished the evening watching the Olympics on TV – that’s about as much figure skating as I can stand for another 4 years :-). Next time we do the Viking Feast.

Day 3 – we were back to sunshine and -23C. Jeff was going to take me to the MALL, the famous West Edmonton Mall, since that is THE thing to do in Edmonton in the middle of winter. I am no shopper at the best of times and with this beautiful sunshine it kinda pained me to go inside. But as soon as we stepped out of the hotel into the frigid cold I was sold on the mall trip. Another steep taxi cab bill later we got to the mall which was on the other side of town. It’s is quite a big place. We watched the kids play ice hockey. We saw the Waterpark – a huge wave pool under a glass roof with the sun shining down into it, pretty awesome and I wished we would have brought our bathing suits along. We saw the Santa Maria. We played a round of mini golf at Prof WEMs Adventure Park – gosh I suck at that :-). We had lunch at the food court and it was surprisingly good butter chicken and freshly made naan. We watched the sea lion show at Marine Life. We did some shopping – most of it at Mountain Warehouse which offered outdoor clothing like MEC used to do before they got into brand stuff and they had a 70% sale on. And we went to Galaxyland, the indoor theme park which was much bigger than I expected and rode the Mindbender roller coaster. Been at least 10 years since I have been to rides and I was a bit unsure at first. It was a great rid though and if we wouldn’t have run out of time, I would have loved to spent more time with the rides. For $45 for a day pass definitely an effortable fun day indoors. Unfortunately, after 5!hrs in the mall, the longest I’ve ever been in one!, we had to get back to the hotel, pick up our luggage and continue on to the airport.

Overall a great trip, minus spending too much money on taxi cabs – although we made many cab driver friends :-). We were back home in Vancouver at 8PM that Sunday evening and it did NOT rain.

 

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