Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ontario Cup Schedule: 2012

Wow, with the summer and fall being totally occupied (excuse the word choice ...) by the Ontario election, I have to say that November -- and the winter training that traditionally starts with that month -- has really snuck up on me.

However! The Ontario Cycling Association newsletter included the schedule above, just to bring all us mtb racers back to reality, and the trainer.

A new Northern Ontario venue has appeared at the beginning of July which is very exciting indeed. I still sigh fondly over the good old days at Elliot Lake so hopefully the as-of-yet-unnamed Sudbury venue will be equally as memorable, and challenging.

Somehow I have missed the past two chances to try out Woodnewton, so maybe the third time's the charm.

And I see Duntroon is back on the schedule for provincials as well which is a welcome repeat since I didn't get to ride it in 2011, and everyone said it was epic.

Thanks to Chico Racing for providing what looks like another amazing slate of events! Mark your calendars!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Report: Singletrack Challenge

What better way to spend a sunny, fall day than mountain biking for more than four hours in a row on a course that's 98% singletrack?

This was my first visit to the new-ish fall event held at Hardwood Hills. It was also my first time on a mountain bike -- or doing anything remotely resembling healthy physical activity -- since the 24-Hour back in August. The Ontario general election sucked up every ounce of oxygen between then and now so I was really not sure what to expect on race day.

Kind of added to the fun, to be honest.

So, surprise! Legs felt okay, handling was better than I expected even with the slick roots and mucky leaves but wow. Kids, don't let your cardio go. My chest felt like it was clamped in a vice.

Then I realized my under-layer was perhaps a little too constricting. It was a last minute addition and truth be told it was actually just a bandeau but I thought it would help keep my core warm. I don't recommend this. By the end of the second lap, "Radical", I was having a hard time feeling my feet -- not so radical. So I took a break trail-side and removed the offending garment and it felt SO GOOD, the relief almost made it worthwhile. (Reminds me of a quote I like to use: "So what's racing feel like?" "Like hitting yourself with a hammer non-stop for two hours" "Then why do you do it?" "Because it feels so good when you stop!").

Once that was sorted out, and blood could once again travel freely between my torso and the "engine room" (my legs), we were off for the final three loops. Sean Ruppel of Chico Racing fame was my riding buddy for the day and if he hadn't been there I probably would have quit, so thanks Sean. While I struggled with mountain-biking skills level 1, he was clearing tough climbs and obstacles on a single speed 29er while still having the time to leisurely chat with the other racers, answer texts, fix broken chains, remove dead-falls from the course and even at least three nature breaks. I felt like a shadow of my racing self. Sigh.

But I finished it! I think I was the 5th woman overall, and 2nd in my category which meant that for all my suffering I was duly awarded a snazzy plaque and I even snagged a doorprize as well -- a handy nacho bowl, chips and two kinds of delicious salsa which for sure I will be eating tonight for dinner because I am too tired and sore to even consider walking to the grocery store.

It will be a sad little meal in comparison to the post-race repast Adam Ruppel and his lovely wife Jen made for us over in Uxbridge last night. A boisterous dinner party of seven sharing Jen's most-amazing-ever short-ribs and other Thai cuisine was the perfect end to a great day of riding (even though the "racing" left something to be desired.) So thanks to them once again!

PS Next time you see Adam (aka Chico), ask him to tell you about his ghostly encounters. I'll be getting over those spooky tales for a few more nights to come.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Race Report: Hot August Nights

Last weekend before the real race begins, so what better way to spend it than turning laps with the mountain bike crowd at the annual 24 Hours of Hot August Nights. As luck would have it, Randall had a few spots available on his 10-person team and they were open to ringers! I didn't really have the whole weekend to spend up there, but thanks to his generosity, I got to have my cake and eat it too.

After working a bit in the morning, I headed up to Albion in time to say hello, meet my new teammates and do some quick socializing. Even had the Shimano guys tune up my whip!

Quickly ran into Race Director Sean Ruppel who was looking for volunteers to help marshal the kids' race. Why not? So I helped the little ones make it around the course with much cheering and pointing the way. Not that they needed me -- Canadian Mtb legend and Olympian Seamus McGrath was leading the pack! The kids loved it and there were freezies and medals for everyone at the finish.

By then I was ready to turn a lap. The course was so so so fun. My favourite yet I think. I felt like PacMan out there, having an awesome ride, smooth and flowy even though I was seeing the course for the first time. Love rides like that -- straight to the racy place. Coming around the last corner, there were the "Tree Fairies" (so-named by Chico himself, Adam Ruppel) cheering me on. And they were there at the line with a beer -- it's a good recovery drink, you know. I didn't even have to walk my own bike back to the campsite. They did that for everyone which is what team work is really all about I think: being there to cheer, hand over a beer, and listen to the war stories on the way back. I am secretly hoping for an invite to future 24s with this crowd, as they clearly know what they're doing.

Later that night, they also let me share their dinner with them. they cheffed up some wild pacific salmon that had arrived by jet the day before. We had chantrelle mushrooms fried with a demi-glaze of red wine and who knows what else. Roasted potatoes with rosemary. Caeasar Salad. All this over campfire. Seriously?!

After dinner had digested a little, and I'd had a quick nap by the campfire I did a night lap for them to let the guys get a little more sleep in the hardest part of the race -- it is never that fun to drag yourself out of deep sleep in the middle of the night to go ride your bike as fast as you can. I finished just after 1am, and then called it a night, heading back to Toronto and in bed by 2:30am.

Wish I could have stayed but I had a spin class waiting for me at 9:15am. The TRCA Tree Fairies managed an awesome top 20 finish in the end.

Thanks Tree Fairies!! I had a wicked good time. Still glowing :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

France 2012: BOOKED

There's always a reason to say no, but sometimes you just gotta say yes!

That's basically the reasoning behind our decision to book a "trip of a lifetime" with Trek Travel.

That's right, Dad and I are going to do a father-daughter cycling adventure for six days and five nights riding up and down the Classic Climbs of the Alps.

Every July, for Dad and I -- like most cycling fans -- France becomes Mecca and the scenery, bike-crazy culture and heroic feats-on-wheels captures our imagination. So we decided to go, ride where they ride, eat where they eat and best of all, roll how they roll!

Trek Travel is regarded as one of the leaders in bicycle tourism, providing eveyrthing you need for an amazing time, from route planning to accoms to just not having to worry about your bike. We don't even have to bring our own! They provide one! And not just any bike -- I'll be cruising around on a gorgeous Trek Madone 5.2 (the one I will likely be purchasing next anyway -- what a great chance to test-ride!). Our accommodations look beautiful (and they have "Palace" in the name, so that's a plus!), and we'll be based mostly at Lake Annecy which promises amazing culinary options, markets and even swimming post-ride.

At the end of the trip, our proverbial cycling belts will include deep notches for the Col du Marais, Col de la Forclaz, Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier and of course the famous 21 switchbacks of Alpe D'Huez. We will have enjoyed the best of French wine, cheese and pastries, guilt free.

And best of all, we will have some great memories to share of that time we went to France.

Only 343 days to go.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Early Birds

Earlier this summer I started running with Nat, an ironman athlete who lives around the corner from me. It's great to have someone waiting on the curb two or three times a week just to make sure I roll out of bed in the morning -- and by the way, so far neither of us has ever slept in so it's working!

This morning we weren't the only early birds! Nat's keen senses picked up on this fellow so I snapped a pic. We know it's a hawk, but not sure which kind. He was a bit too grey for me to guess "red tail".

Anyway, I've come to greatly enjoy our runs together for the conversation, company and of course the training. But today was our last time out for a bit because I'm about to start running a different kind of race.

If anyone's looking for me between now and election day on Oct 6, kindly leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Ontario Way

Just a quick note to see if anyone's watching a certain website close to my heart (and fingertips ...).

Check out for great stories about how Ontarians are working together to make our province a leader.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My First Running Race

Chico Racing is branching out this year by adding a whole series of Ontario Cup Trail Running Races to the usual menu of off-road riding goodness. Next season I hope to do a few more of these, but for this season, I was happy to at least be able to tack the final stop — Woodnewton, near Uxbridge — onto my race schedule.

It was a different world. So here are some observations from a mountain biker turned runner.

1) Guy to girl ratio. Almost exactly opposite to mountain biking. So THIS is where the girls are! And I don't blame them. It was so much less hassle getting ready to get out the door for the running race than the bike race. No equipment to worry about and its seemingly neverending rabbit hole of adjustments and personal preferences. Plus all the trappings -- tools, fuel, bottles etc that all need to be prepped in advance before they're stuffed into pockets. Not to mention remembering to bring essentials like gloves, helmet and shoes. For the running race, I got dressed, drove to the venue and what I was wearing was what I was racing in. The most complicated part of kitting up was remembering to do a double knot on my shoe laces. Easy.

2) Pre Race fueling. Clearly, I have no idea how or what to eat before a running race. When Nat and I go out in the mornings, I hardly eat anything at all because it makes me feel icky. So I tried eating based on that, keeping it light (fruit, toast, coffee) but still with enough fuel not to bonk. But it was the wrong strategy as evidenced by the stabbing side stitches that dogged me for the entire 11km. Before a mountain bike race, I eat a bazillion calories consisting of a few regular staples and feel awesome and bonk-free. Bonk-free I accomplished. Feeling awesome? not so much. Hopefully I can figure this out because I feel like without a speed limiter like a cramp in my gut I could really get a move on.

3) Warm up ...? Before a mountain bike race, I spend about an hour spinning and throwing in some hard pieces/climbs to get the legs ready for the effort. I was a little taken aback at the casual attitude the other racers had leading up to the gun. No one seemed to be doing more than laps back and forth to the johnny-on-the-spot. Hmmm. This one I couldn't let go, so a fellow rider-turned-runner and I did a lap of the parking lot/registration area just to see how things were feeling. I felt like everyone was looking at us like we were nuts.

4) Attire. I wore what I always wear running: shorts, t-shirt, short-socks, shoes and sunglasses. But I usually run on the road. I started to feel out of place when I saw the fancy trail-running shoes some of the other competitors had on. There were compression tights in full effect, tall socks that went about halfway up the calf and some runners even wore thin versions of XC ski gators. I had the definite feeling that these runners knew something I didn't ... and quickly found out what. I'm sure they didn't have the same problems I did: No blisters on the bottoms of their toes from all the quick turns and elevation changes thanks to their special shoes; No burrs, seeds, pebbles and grass finding their way into their socks and contributing to said blisters; And no Poison fother-mucking Ivy on their ankles and calves thanks to their tall socks. Noted, trail runners. Noted.

5) Race Strategy. The act of actually running the race was of course different too. It was like mountainbiking but in slow motion. The start almost had me laughing out loud. I felt so ... slow! And without the bike I felt bouncy and disoriented. It's hard to explain, but it was funny. So I settled in to a pace I thought I could hold and then tried to figure out how it compared to the other racers'. I passed a girl, but since everything goes slower in running, getting away from her took a longer time than I expected. Likewise when she passed me back, I felt like the process took a loooong time and it kind of messed with my mental game a bit. There was always this breathing right on my tail, and so I was constantly on the gas trying to get some distance -- to my detriment in the end. The stupid side stitch wasn't having any of that. Maybe it would be less slow motion without that. Also going uphill I found almost easier and how annoying that in running, I was actually LOSING time on the descents! I think I need some work there because the climbs were definitely a place I was catching other racers. A shame to waste the gains once gravity is actually on my side!

6) Good vibrations. During a mountain bike race, I usually suffer for the entire two hours straight. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the suffering, and all those feelings you get when you find out what your body is capable of but one of the greatest things about racing is the part where you cross the finish! It's like the anecdote about the guy who keeps hitting himself with a hammer. "Why do you do that?!" they ask him, incredulously. "Because it feels so good when you stop," comes his reply. Okay, throw all that out the window for running. Holy smokes, stopping is the WORST! I had no idea how hard I'd pushed myself or how bad I was feeling until I wasn't running anymore and then all I wanted to do was throw up or sit down so the world would stop spinning. How can you go from feeling great, pushing up a hill or kicking it up for the last stretch and then two second later feel like you've been repeatedly punched in the gut!! I guess the key to running is don't stop!

Anyway, in the end I came 3rd place, which I think is none too shabby. I had a lot of fun and made some new friends over the weekend so that was a great bonus. Big thanks to Chico Racing for putting on awesome event after awesome event. Check out for information on upcoming races or to check results.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

King Weekly Series

Post-race sunset over King

Last night I decided to pay a visit to Matt P's series up in King, at last. I WISH I had known about it sooner -- if you have never been, go. Amazing course (especially if you need to work on cornering as I quickly discovered is the case for me), great crowd, awesome draw prizes courtesy of Trek Store Toronto and Joyride 150 and a regular post-race outing at a nearby pub (so make sure you bring decent civilian garb).

Even got to meet Canadian "elite amateur" mtb legend Andrew Watson ... although he only managed a second place finish to Sean Ruppel's W. Elbowing notwithstanding.

Thanks Matt for putting on a great event. I hope I can squeeze in another visit to the flowy trails of King before the season's out. Four Wednesdays left if anyone wants to check it out!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce ...


Baby Eleanor "Ella" Claire Mombourquette arrived on July 26 at 6:35pm, weighing 8 pounds 15oz. Proud parents Kim and Bryan have been kept very busy with her robust feeding schedule and diaper changing needs. She likes celtic rock music and always wants to be a part of the action. Living in a house that is so musically inclined — and sharing a birthday with Mick Jagger — leads me to believe that she has got some pretty talented genes and we can look forward to many touching performances.

Then again, maybe she's a future champion mountain bike racer.

Who knows?!

Can't wait to get to know her, and spoil her (which is my right and responsibility since I am "the cool aunt")

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Race Report: Ocup 6, Kelso

Oh hiii.

Long time no posting, je sais, and I'm sorry about that. But today I had such a fun time at Kelso I am inspired to share a race report!

I haven't been to many races this year so the usual "race stuff" was not coming naturally to me. Hence, I spent all of yesterday preparing, slowly, so as not to forget anything. Even with all that careful preparation, somehow this morning I still managed to leave later than I should have. I arrived at the venue with barely enough time to register before hitting the road to warm up. Yikes!

The drive to Kelso involved torrential downpours so I was not sure what to expect. But the beauty about a weather "limiter" is that everyone has the same one so it is what it is (and it ain't what it ain't.) Luckily, the gods smiled on us and the sun came out just in time for our start. I think it was because I paid my dues riding a time trial in the pouring rain on Wednesday, but I digress.

The start was good ... great, even. Despite being a little flustered over my late arrival, I got myself together and was calm and collected on the line. At "Go", I found myself a spot in the tight pack as we went up the start hill, down the other side and then ended up in a single file as we began the BIG climb. Oh Kelso ... how you hurt us so. For those who aren't familiar, the BIG climb goes from the bottom to the top of the Niagara Escarpment. Parts are in the shade, but most are exposed to the sun. It is steep, long, and hot. And yet somehow I felt GOOD!

I made a move early in the climb and by the second part of this three-parter, I was sitting comfortably third wheel and our group was pulling away from the pack. That is, until I confused my lock-outs with my shifters, mis-shifted and sucked my chain on into the wrong side of the rings -- thank you oxygen-debt. I was too "dumb" to figure out what to do so I tried a couple things then let my heart rate come down to "thinking" and "seeing" levels. By this point, the entire women's field was past me, and the next category was rallying up too. Oh no!

Trying not to panic, I sorted myself out and began my race again, this time with a lot of fire in my belly. I actually wonder if it wasn't a sort of blessing -- although I'd gladly take that time back, thanks! Racing from behind, I was definitely "in the hunt" which is a great way to be. The first lap seemed to fly by and I gobbled up a couple girls. The second was more of the same. My final mark was Erica on the hill, and then it was one final time around. side note: huge thanks to Sean Ruppel for his colour commentary at the top of the hill. For the record, I do NOT have a drinking problem in case you happened to be within earshot.

Anyway, happy to report that besides a recurring chain-suck issue, the race was very "clean" despite slippery conditions from the earlier deluge. I'm super happy to have rode well -- and safely -- and to come home feeling stoked on a job well done.

Here are the results. My time was 2:07:08.84 and the next fastest was Laura at 2:04:22.60 ... that means that even with the stops I had to make (maybe 2-3 minutes total?), I don't think my time suffered all that much. So 6th place, and that's all me, baby!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I owe this blog a massive update -- but for not, here is a massive picture of all the great things Ontarians are accomplishing together! Get the whole story at Hope everyone's having a wonderful summer!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Raw "Cheese"cake

This weekend my new roommate arrived and to welcome her, I made a cake! This cake is actually healthy for you, full of good fats, proteins and nutrients from living macadamia nuts and cashews, dates, lemons, berries, coconut oil and honey.

I'm super happy with how well it turned out, and it's so easy I'm sure I'll be making it pretty regularly -- I'm dying to know how it goes with every kind of berry.

To get the recipe, visit Her photos are way prettier than mine too, but I'm still pretty proud of my creation!

Step 1: Macadamia/coconut/date crust processed in the Vita Mix and pressed into a pie plate
Step 2: Processing the "cheese"
Step 3: Firming up in the freezer
Step 4: Added the sauce, pureed in the Vita Mix (raspberry!) and it's ready to serve.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Musselmans Lake

Worlds collided this morning when some of us from the office decided to spend some extracurricular quality time together sur velo! Let me tell you, it sure beats golf!

Four of us parked at a perfectly suited lot full of others enjoying some early morning cycling at Victoria Square. Then off we went for some rolling hills around Aurora. I recognized part of the course from 2007 (?) Ontario Cup road provincials by Magna but otherwise it was a totally new route for me.

The best part was the loop around Mussleman's, and just that makes it worth the trip.

Thanks to Jamison, Grahame and Sean for an awesome ride! And special thanks to Sean for the data below (since I screwed up my own by forgetting to hit go again after a nature break ... classic).

Can't wait for our next outing!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Life Lately

It's been awhile since I posted last so this could end up getting a little lengthy. a LOT has been going on.

Bikes and Training

Ocup 4 is this Sunday?

I think I said earlier I would race, but it turns out I'm not sure it would be a good idea. Albion has snuck up on me and I don't think I'm ready to get back in the saddle. It's been pretty much the craziest month of my life, and bike riding hasn't really been in the picture. It got pushed off my very full plate.

So although I have the few hours required for the race, that doesn't change the fact that I haven't had time to prepare leading up to it. So you girls will have to have fun without me ... bummer because I wanted to see the new bits of Albion on the track. Maybe I'll just go up for the preride and socializing. :)

Speaking of training though, I'm excited for a new addition to my routines: a regular run twice a week with my friend and neighbour Nathania. She's an IronMan and has my utmost respect -- I just do what she tells me and so far it's been tremendous. I hope she's enjoying our runs as much as I am.

Gerhard has left the building

I think the thing taking up most of the room on my very full plate is Gerhard's recent departure.

Figures you finally find Mr. Right, and then he picks up and moves to California. My broken heart aside, I'm so happy for him and his exciting new job as Managing Editor at TransWorld SNOWboarding. It's the biggest snowboarding magazine in the world so when they came knocking, G had to answer. (There's a little more about that story a couple posts ago.)

For me, this has meant an all-consuming process of administrivia, grieving, organizing, and of course making the most of our last few weeks together. It's been the best of times and the worst of times.

Last week (wow, was it only last week?) we had an amazing farewell tour with the amazing people we're fortunate to call our friends, delicious food, and free-flowing libations at places like Le Papillon, C'est What, that place with the nose on Queen E that serves awesome Italian food, Murph's and then the final farewell for G and about 40 friends showing the love at the Rhino. Sounds like G will be seeing a ton of us on his doorstep, looking for a free place to stay in SoCal.

Congratulations Sasha and Linsey!

To close G's time in Toronto, Sasha and Linsey were kind enough to throw us an amazing party in Aurora on his last night. They got married in a ceremony featuring one of the best vocalists I've ever heard, before getting the party started at the Manor. It was such an amazing time with the people I've known and loved the longest I almost forgot G was leaving the very next morning.

We danced the night away, and even cued up "A Whole New World" (thank you iPhone/iTunes) for Sasha and Linsey to dance to. Which they did phenomenally well! I almost think they were expecting our little surprise! They even sang the words to each other while the wedding guests stood in a circle around them making for a very memorable moment -- even with all the Sasha-esque girlie drinks that were made available fogging things up.

Disney music has a special place in our hearts -- we used to sing at the top of our lungs while picking berries at the farm where we all worked. We'd bust it out whenever we were in the car together and sing along. And although Linsey is the newest part of our social circle, she too has an Aladdin connection since she played the part of Jasmine in her school's musical back in the day. Obviously they were meant to be and the song was perfect on so many levels.

That dance was my favourite of many magical moments that night and I'm super happy for them. Congratulations Sasha and Linsey!!

Goodbyes and Sad Pandas

All too soon, the night was over and the dreaded moment arrived. We made our way to the airport and didn't even bother trying to make small talk. I wanted to cling on for as long as I could so I parked the van and followed G through his check-in, held him up so we could have breakfast (which neither of us felt much like eating) and then tried to hold it together while I watched him disappear into the security line.

And that began a long day of difficulties, which I decided to take out on the grocery store and nap time. By the time I felt fit for human company again, Bruce arrived to cheer me up. We got some pho, caught a movie and it seems life does in fact go on. But I'm not going to pretend like everything's okay. I do my best, but the "sneak attacks" keep ambushing me at the most inopportune moments. For example this morning on the subway when "Set Fire to the Third Bar" played on my iPod. Remind me to thank Snow Patrol for writing all that down for me.

New Roommate

In the life-goes-on spirit, I'm excited to welcome my new fantastic roommate on Saturday so I've been busy getting the place ready for her and our new arrangements. Basically it's been a great excuse to get rid of stuff, and finally get around to proper spring cleaning.

I'm excited about her coming and I think I'm going to make a raw cheesecake from Priscilla's website to start things off on a sweet note. She and I share similar values when it comes to the foods we eat so I'm looking forward to smartening up when it comes to my diet since it sounds like we're going to try to team up in the meals/food department.

Tonight, I made tabouleh salad for a work party tomorrow, a cucumber-mango salad which I sampled and think is pretty much the best salad in the world and I also finished up a raw curried corn chowder (also found on Priscilla's website) I made the other night.

Best Salad in the World:
1 mango chopped into cubes, 1 cucumber peeled/chopped same size, 3 green onions chopped, handful of cilantro chopped, juice from a lime, 2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger, salt to taste. Throw it all in a bowl, let it rest a couple hours then serve with chicken or pork or add in a cup of cooked quinoa to make it its own dish.

The Office

The last thing on my plate is of course work. I count myself pretty fortunate to work where I do, doing what I love with people I can't imagine life without.

This summer especially. With the election coming this fall, our whole team is pulling as hard as we can to deliver the only party with a positive plan for Ontario's future -- the only party I'd trust with my soon-to-be-here niece's future -- back into government. See what I mean:

My projects are pretty large and time consuming (hence, training has been a little dicey) and while they are my number one focus right now, they are also serving as an excellent distraction from all the other stuff going on.

Also, I'm back on the coffee train. Which is also why I'm up at 12:30am on a weeknight, writing novels for the internet.

So with that, I bid you goodnight, adieu, and thanks for reading.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pennsylvania Long Weekend

Did a different kind of riding on the long weekend just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.

We headed down Friday afternoon narrowly escaping a gnarly looking storm cloud in the rearview. Crossed without incident at Lewiston and rolled on into New York. Driving is much nicer in the US in many regards: people know the passing lane is for passing for example. And the scenery between here and Pennsylvania was just beautiful.

We arrived at G's aunt and uncle's place and they have three beautiful horses (well, two horses and a pony technically). They were amazingly generous, hospitable hosts and we all -- me, Gerhard, G's brother Adlar and Adlar's girlfriend Eva -- were treated to an amazing weekend full of culinary adventures, relaxing, libations and of course, riding!

Dorcus was our mount of choice -- she is a retired harness-race horse, and at 15 she is just at the beginning of her golden years, chilling at the farm. Boomer, their other retiree is about the same age, but he still has some crazy eyes going on revealing a little too much spirit for the saddle (at least for us).

But Dorcus treated us all to many tranquil laps of the paddock. Girlish ideas about wanting an equine friend of my own came back in a rush. Maybe one day, after I win the lottery.

Next, Belle gave us a turn. She's a Welsh pony, beautiful, but bratty. Apparently this is the case for almost all ponies which is kind of funny because they're the toughest to handle, but kids prefer them because they're a little shorter. I guess some trade-offs are okay to make. Welsh ponies were used as pack animals in the mines back in the day. But Belle's working days are over too ... unless you count kids' birthday parties.

Anyway, amazing meal after amazing meal including Pennsylvania delicacies like beef jerky had me gain about 7 pounds by the time we left. I thought I'd bring a bike, but decided against. Bittersweet really -- on the one hand, the roads there would be amazing for road riding. On the other hand, their twisting hilly nature would make it difficult for cars and bikes to get along together safely. Still -- the Tran-Sylvania Mountain Bike Stage Race is now looking like a major bucket list item. SO GREEN.

Huge thanks to our hosts for the weekend, it was definitely one we won't forget -- good times!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Return to California

I loved California when I was there with Matt P and Pete G back in January. But I had no idea how big a role the region was about to play in life-as-I-know-it when I visited then.

Because this is the internet, and no one has an attention span longer than 2 seconds, I'll get straight to the point. Gerhard has accepted a new job at the biggest snowboard magazine in the biz: Transworld.

Transworld is based in Carlsbad, CA about half an hour north of San Diego, right on the coast. Don't ask me why snowboarding magazines always seem to be published in the most un-snowboarding of places (Toronto, as another example ... no offense Blue Mountain).

And so here we are, riding the rollercoaster of life in the fast lane, trying to figure out what happens next. Because California is a loooong way from Toronto on pretty much every level.

So how did this all happen? Well let me just brag and say it wasn't like Gerhard was looking for a new job. This job came looking for HIM. And if you follow his articles with Snowboard Canada, you'll know why. Or maybe they just saw this:

Anyway, one thing led to another, and that led to a job-interview in Carlsbad. A quick trip, but I decided I needed to be there to try and make more sense of all this impending change. Maybe palm trees and ocean breeze would be the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

And it was.

I travelled via Vancouver where a former colleague and her boyfriend were kind enough to put me up for the night. That lined me up for an early flight to L.A. the next morning.

When I landed, I was immediately hyped. I went to pick up the economy car I'd reserved from the rental company, and let them up-sell me to a red convertible. It seemed like the obvious thing to do. Then I booted down the interstate blaring the pop-tunes, and letting my new cut and colour fly around in the wind.

I got to the hotel first, so I had the tedious honour of waiting for G. In the mean time, I got a sandwich and a drink from a place up the road and made like ten friends who all had great advice on what to do and where to eat for our little stay. I got back to the hotel and finally Gerhard arrived. We spent the rest of the afternoon booting around in my whip, checking things out and imaginging what life could be like there.

We thought the actual interview the next morning would be over in time for lunch and surfing, but it turned out to be an all-day appointment. So I had nothing left to do but take myself shopping! I also checked out the flower fields which are famous in the area and took myself out to lunch at the "Naked Cafe" before poking my head in some neighbourhood bike shops.

To celebrate the success of both our days, we headed to San Diego to try some fish tacos one of my sandwich-friends recommended. We drove by a rollercoaster and stopped for some spontaneous thrills and poetic symbolism.

It was a great trip. But is it real life? For one of us, starting June 6 it sure is.

Gerhard has been beavering away to get his documents in order for a move to the States. Lucky for him he doesn't have to "immigrate" in the formal sense because he is a dual citizen. But chasing down passports and social security numbers plus trying to squeeze the most out of his last weeks with healthcare have kept him busy.

I have been working on finding a roommate and fussing over Gerhard's to-do list. We're having a going-away party for G next Thursday by the way if you'd like to bid him farewell (and ingratiate yourself to him so you have a place to stay if you ever want to go to SoCal.)

So that's been the overwhelmingly heavy, scary, exciting, happy, confusing, sad, proud news around here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Early-Season Break

So that was a first ... I skipped a race the other day because I didn't feel like it. AND I'd already paid too. I think I'm slipping.

But guess what! I'm skipping the next one too. I have a friend's wedding the night before and while I'm sure I could make it work [by either not drinking, or just racing hung over] on the other hand, why bother? For the glory of finishing mid- to back-of-the pack? For the dust and heat Hardwood usually delivers (except that year it SNOWED)? For two days of driving back and forth up the 400 (not to mention Sunday night traffic)?


That flame has flickered.

For now, I've got a whole flock of ducks to get in a row that have nothing to do with racing, so that's the update from here ... in case you were wondering why there hasn't been much activity on Racer Diaries lately.

I'll be back in good form and spirits for Albion. Til then, stay tuned for non-racing/riding updates from our recent adventures in San Diego, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Coming soon!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend

This weekend started off with a surprise trip to Charleston Lake. Couldn't have worked out better. My mom texted me around noon on her way East via Toronto wondering if I'd like to join her. Already, I'd been mulling over the idea of going home for Mother's Day weekend, but was a little daunted by traveling alone.

So this was perfect! After work, we packed up my bike and drove out to Charleston, joining my aunt and uncle, and of course my grandpa who lives in the area was around as well. Always great to get a chance to visit with family!

Saturday, after an amazing sleep in the quietest, darkest place to catch some z's in Ontario (seriously -- the sleeping there is worth the three hour drive, every time), I woke up and got myself organized for a quick little skills ride to check out the riding in the back of the house my mom grew up in.

The woods and fields back there were sporting a spring carpeting of trilliums. There are some great farm roads and lots of rocky features to practice riding up and down. Very enjoyable appetizer before heading back to the house for lunch.

After lunch, I headed back out again, planning on just spending some time on miles and endurance. Since I had the mountainbike for a whip, that meant I could be free to explore some roads I travel less often (in Leeds/Grenville, sometimes the pavement stops abruptly and turns into gravel, so a road bike is best used on trusted routes only).

The second installment of the day's training turned into an unexpected epic ride*.

*rides are billed "epic" if they include one or more of the following features: long hours/miles, water crossings, 2+ hours climbing, muddy conditions, above-average danger, long hike-a-bike sections, questionable directions. Feel free to add criteria in the comments

I meandered around, letting my iphone maps app guide the way. However, I can't believe what passes for a "road" on that thing. Before long, I found myself leaving the pavement, riding some gravel, and then that too gave way to what can only be described as double track.

Also, here's a law of nature I discovered the hard way: if there is a puddle covering the 'road' of questionable depth and integrity, then FOR SURE, the sides of it will be lined with hawthornes. Luckily, this was only a problem for a few "crossings" because it didn't take long for me to lose my balance and fall in, thus negating the need for caution on future water traps.

And so I continued. The ride also included snarling packs of dogs keen on taking a bite out of my ankles (two packs of four, actually) and I'm fairly certain that at some point around hour 2, the black flies hatched, making stopping impossible.

Even with all the unexpected obstacles/hazards, it was a great day on the bike. I got home safely and treated both bike and rider to a good hose down, and then for a recovery drink, white wine spritzer with some of my favourite ladies: my mom and my aunt.

Needless to say, I slept well that night, no thanks to the Canucks however.

The next morning, we all had breakfast together again and packed up our things to head into Gananoque for a Mother's Day lunch with Grampa. I had some training I still wanted to do, but with my bike shoes still wet from the day before, it was a great excuse to head out for a run. Absolutely perfect weather for it too.

So I headed out ahead of my mom, and she picked me up in Lansdowne after a personal best on my ten k time. I think I have her to thank for that actually, because about half way through, she pulled up and said I'd better run faster or we'd be late for lunch. And when you're dealing with Hortons, you don't want to be late for lunch!!

We picked up my grampa, and then dined at the Champagne Bay Grill which was super yummy and a spot I'm sure we'll go back to in the future.

Perfect weekend! Thanks mom, and Happy Mother's Day! Glad I got to spend it with you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Race Report: Ocup 1

Glad that's over with. The first race of the season is always a bit of an exercise in blunders and nerves. Case in point, guess who forgot to pick up race gels until just before leaving for the venue!!

Anyway, now that's all worked out of the system. So next race will be better. Mansfield was not too kind to me yesterday in terms of results, but I felt decent enough (although a little flat in the legs by the second half) and it was a privelege to line up with some of Canada's best. Emily Batty even showed up -- one of a few riders helping to make our category the most stacked it's been in a long time.

We also said "Bienvenue" to team Quebec who decided to join us for some early season fun. Those girls know a thing or two about going fast on bikes, for sure.

The course started with a wall of a climb which was probably the most nervy part of my day. I knew it would be fast up that road, and success would be determined greatly by how well girls could stay together with their hearts pounding from rest to red line in less than 200m.

The singletrack at Mansfield is thankfully forgiving, because any tighter and I don't know if my oxygen-indebted brain could have navigated the handling after that climb.

The course also featured a few really fun downhills. A couple wide open, and a couple technical singletrack descents. It was good times for the full suspension, but for the rest of the day, I kept the rear pretty well locked out. This is now my new favourite thing. I can't afford to keep more than one mountain bike in my quiver, but with the new remotes from Shimano/Fox I'm laughing -- it's like two for the price of one. Or even more helpful: two bikes in one so I can now really customize my rig from lap to lap.

So the race went -- short course and fast laps so it was over before I knew it. I also tried racing with coca cola for the first time. Worth repeating I think, although it did kind of make me thirsty so some more honing in training before I get the hang of that.

The best part of the first race of the season is seeing everyone in the mountain bike community after a long winter. You can't go anywhere without stopping to chat for a few minutes. It's awesome seeing everyone and their new bikes, too.

Cherry on top? Although the forecasat said rain, it didn't do anything of the kind until we were halfway done the drive home.

Here are the results:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Katherine Cove

This month's Ontario Outdoor desktop calendar is dear to my heart!! Stoked to be looking at it for the next 31 days!

Katherine Cove is on Lake Superior and perfectly positioned to serve as a lunch stop on the long drive to Kama Bay, where our family has been summering (and springing and falling) for my entire life and back a couple generations.

It's got a sandy beach in the cove, amazing views of the lake and big Canadian Shield rocks to climb over and get your blood flowing before getting back into the car for the second half.

I've spent many an afternoon at this beautiful Ontario spot -- it's worth pulling in off Hwy 17 should you ever find yourself on your way to the North Shore.

View Larger Map

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mansfield Ontario Cup #1 2011

The Weekend is here and that means it's time to switch gears to race mode! Mansfield is always one of my favourite stops on the Ontario Cup circuit -- I think mainly because it's the first one, and it's exciting to see how all the long hours of training over the winter translate onto the first dirt track of the season.

Preride tomorrow, racing Sunday, and for now, I'm off for a nice spin to make sure the bike is tickety-boo -- which I'm sure it is thanks to the amazing support from Sweet Pete's!

Have a good weekend all!

(PS - Wasn't the Royal Wedding just amazing?? Unapologetic monarchist, right here.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Paris to Ancaster 2011 ...

So as I vowed after last year's P2A, I did NOT sign up, I did NOT make the long drive, I did NOT let them scratch my bike in the rental vans, I did NOT spend $60 on a race that bores me to tears and takes all day doing it ...

I did NOT race the P2A.

And wow, was I ever glad I didn't when I looked out the window at the SNOW and RAIN coming down. From the comfort of my couch and a Grey's Anatomy marathon, a race course was far down the list of places I'd rather be ... just below the dentist and the office-on-a-weekend.

I did however go out for a run with the Skinny Bitches. We did 9km to prep them for their first-ever 10km at the Sporting Life thing coming up. Go girls go!

First race of the season coming up in about 12 days -- Mansfield. Stoked on it, but I hope the spring kicks in soon. I remember years where Mansfield was shorts/jersey weather ... and years when it rained and snowed. Fingers crossed.

But before Mansfield we have the Easter long weekend. I plan on turning it into a bit of a long miles training camp before tapering into Ocup 1. Not sure where I'll be yet, but I know I won't be in BC as originally planned, which is a sad thing indeed. Sigh.

Other than that it's work work work!

In other news, huge congrats to Emily Batty for her Sea Otter win -- looks very good on her.

And even though it's not the funnest race, Congratulations to all who toughed it out, especially this year, at the Paris to Ancaster.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spinning 2.0

Gone are my days as a spinning client, and begun are my days as a spinning INSTRUCTOR

I'm super excited Mike at RPM Spinning + Gravity Studio has invited me to join the ranks of his talented staff and so far things are off to a great start (by that I mean no one's walked out yet :)).

If you're looking for a good work-out, come see me on Mondays at 6:15pm chez RPM.

Call/email via the info below to reserve a bike and we'll see you there! Tonight: Hills, inspired by the Mugu State Park ride we did in California.

This week, I'm also leading the 6am class on Tuesday and Thursday, in case you're more of an early bird.

Happy riding, indoor or out!

RPM Spinning + Gravity Studio
2109 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Commuting Begins!

First commute of 2011 complete! So much nicer than riding the TTC. I admit I rode my race rig though, which is something I would like to avoid this year.

But how could I resist my shiny new bike (AND new shoes!!)

Tonight, I'll take the Long Way Home to make it legit training thus not in violation of my do-not-ride-the-race-bike-as-a-commuter-bike resolution.

PS -- Come tax return time, I'm totally going to pick up a new bike. One with a basket. And a bike lock. Gears optional. It's going to be awesome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April: Bikes!

Loving this month's Ontario Outdoor desktop calendar photo selection. Fitting too, since April is the first month of 2011 I did NOT purchase a metropass ... c'mon good weather!

Fire in your new shoes!

Haven't posted a Race Track in a while, but today this one is fitting. Finally test drove my new shoes: Giro's Sica (and yes, they were on fire -- their maiden voyage was a 29 minute time trial this morning, ugh).

Overall I'm super pleased with them. I'm always a bit daunted by cleat positioning (which is why it's taken me so long to try them out) but I think I actually got it right on the first try. Perfect amount of space in the toe box, complemented with the perfect amount of support on the sides and under my arches. That's extra good news at the moment because for some reason, my arches have been giving me trouble lately in both cycling and running shoes. They're noticeably light, and carbon soles were the cherry on top -- I didn't really know if it would make that much difference, but yep, that's firmness you can feel.

Sweet Pete's is now carrying Giro shoes (which I believe are a fairly new addition to the cycling-shoe market) so check out a pair for yourself if you're looking. They are priced remarkably fair (unlike Sidi's *ahem*) so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Looking forward to getting these puppies dirty!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ride Shake Down 2011

Took a little vacation with Gerhard while he was reporting on the 2011 Ride Shake Down in Mont Saint Sauveur, QC. We didn't go far, and we weren't gone for long, but it was definitely a departure. Although I live adjacent to snowboarding almost all the time, thanks to G's line of work, I don't often visit that strange and colourful land. But when I do, it's always an excellent time.

The weekend began with the Friday night Rail Jam where Jeremy Cloutier won $5000 for his efforts (see photo to the left, taken by SBC Sr. photo Oli Croteau). I don't speak Snowboarder unfortunately, so if you want to know what tricks he pulled out of his hat, I strongly recommend visiting They speak snowboarder fluently. Anyway, Jeremy is apparently a big deal, but to me he's that guy I lent my sleeping bag to and drove all over town when he and his crew came to Toronto. He was nice, polite and hilarious, so watching him win the competition was good times.

After G finished his interviews, we headed to our hotel, stopping at St. Hubert (when in Quebec ...) along the way for some nourishment. It's like Swiss Chalet only better. Our hotel reminded me of the resort in Dirty Dancing. I could totally picture people meeting up at the gazebo for salsa lessons in the in summertime. Plus, they had a breakfast buffet which is up there on my list of 'favourite dining experiences'.

Saturday was supposed to be a crappy day, but the gods smiled on the Shake Down and it turned into the nicest circumstances for spring skiing I've ever encountered. It was hoody and sunglasses weather. G and I ripped around on the soft snow, then baked on the chair-lift before calling it quits in time to get a poutine lunch, washed down with a pitcher of sangria, just for us. We watched some of the semi-finals of the "Main Event" set for that evening, then the circus act of skateboarders trying to ride the snowboarder rails, and before we knew it, it was time to be reporters again. (Well G was the reporter, I was just the annoying sidekick trying to figure out the difference between 50/50s and 5-0s.)

The snowboarders hucked themselves off this huge jump before checking their speed just enough to shred the rails on the bottom half of the course all night and for spectators, it never really got old. The organizers set the course up for maximum benefit to the cheering crowds so everything was happening across the hill, giving us the best view.

At the end, a big fireworks display kept us entertained while we waited to find out which flipsytwistyjumpyspin was the best of the night. It was the Shake Down's 10th anniversary afterall, and let me tell you, it was quite the birthday party (Croteau photo, a gauche).

In the end Seb Toots took the win, a local kid now $15,000 richer. He's also kind of a big deal, but I've never lent him a sleeping bag.

Saturday was party night! The official party was looking like it was going to be Montreal's answer to a night on the Jersey Shore, so we skipped that. Instead, we hit up an awesome little hole-in-the-wall bar called the Bulldozer with the Ride guys. I was still in Snowboarder Land, but we'd now travelled to its capital city: Boys Being Boys. I'll leave out the details, because I definitely heard some stories I would not repeat to my mother.

Really though, snowboarders I feel are an often misunderstood bunch of dudes (and sometimes gals, but not at the Shake Down). Once you get through the cool-guy veneer, you'll almost always find thoughtful, considerate, globally-, open-minded characters with a flair for Good Living.

Long drive home including a stop at Schwartz's (of course) and that makes a rad weekend. I'd like to thank my sponsors, @gerhardgross and @snowboardcanada for another amazing time. Peace.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Look Ma! No poles!

Spring ski season is in full swing, and there's still lots of fun to be had at Blue Mountain, as confirmed yesterday by G and I on my inaugural shred.

It went way better than I expected, and I managed to survive the chair lift, the one-footed pushing business, linking turns, riding in a straight line AND even a cat track leading to a BLUE SQUARE. It was a big day.

Admittedly, I started out slow. Very slow. But my patient coach/boyfriend helped me figure out how to link up my turns without falling on my arse every time. By my third run, I'd improved so much I could actually feel the wind on my face! Wow! I'm not breaking any speed records yet, but I already can't wait to get back out there and keep going.

Huge thanks to G and SBC for being such amazing enablers. It's so much fun to be "new" at something again!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Now I just need to learn how to snowboard ...

G brought home these beauties for me last night and I couldn't be more stoked!

Hopefully we'll get to get in a couple more turns before the snow's all gone for 2011. However, adding to their allure, these boots are actually from the future! Model year 2012 -- so maybe it's okay if I don't get to ride them til next season.