Where to start?

It’s been a very long time since I last wrote and way to much has happened for me to give a catch up in one short post. However most things have changed. We live in a different house, in a different city, we now own a ski chalet, a hairless dog and, I think at least two more bikes. In addition to these momentous changes, the world now has iPads, you can buy a Kindle in Canada and an Icelandic volcano held up the world’s air travel for over a week. Wonders will never cease.

So really, what to write about? Perhaps nothing very much to start with, just to ease me in gently. But be prepared, once I find Rob’s camera, for an onslaught.

Dukes Epic 8 Hour Endurance

EnduroRob and I are a bit stiff in the legs and lower back this morning after the Dukes Epic 8 hour race yesterday. We rode round and round a 9km loop as many times as we could for eight hours. It was a hoot.

We were lucky to be parked in the solo area with the True North team and their support crew. Housed underneath a huge tent, complete with Max the dog, they adopted us and were just brilliant, helping us with their encouragement, filling water bottles and passing us food.

I felt dreadful at the end and didn’t really have as good a day as I had hoped. With the pain behind me, I can see where I need to improve in my training and, it was a great learning experience to take forward to the rest of the season (most notably the Crank in September).

In a nut shell, my long distance training to date has been to do a maximum of four and a half hours of riding, and, sure enough, up to the four and a half hour mark yesterday I felt great but after that, I was more or less just focusing on finishing without doing myself any damage.

All that said, Team Wanderlust (Rob, Tecla and I) and the True North guys did really well. Mari and Jen (True North), who were doing a tag team, came 1st in the Women’s Tag Team category, Rob was fourth in the Solo Men’s 40+ category and I was sixth in the Womens Solo (which isn’t defined by age groups because there were only 13 of us, so, just in passing, I’d like to note that two of the women who beat me where under 29).

Jasmin took quite a few photos of the day, and I’ll link to them when they are up on the web, but just to give you an idea of the sort of state you get into after 8 hours of riding in the dust, check out the one above taken at the end of a similar race last year. I’m still trying to get the grit out of my eyes this morning.

He’s the Greatest Dancer!

Rob and I are in an 8 hour endurance race tomorrow and so,following the instructions of our coach and all the advice of the books about racing, we’ve been taking it easy this week. I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed this enforced relaxation (which has made me more RESTLESS than RELAXED), but I am prepared to give it a go. One of the good things that came out of being couch potatoes was the opportunity, last night, to catch a TV show called “So You Think You Can Dance”.

Young amateur dancers lined up to audition for a shot at the big time in Las Vegas, and this guy, in the YouTube video below, was absolutely incredible. I have no clue how anyone one can move like this, but I could watch his set over and over again.

On Being Really Impressed by Material Trappings

car photo 258126 25 450opRob and I have been “negotiating” for about 24 months on the subject of a new car. He has the VW Westfalia and I have my ’97 Civic. Lately, Rob has been riding into work everyday. This is just one of the reasons why he looks like Canada’s answer to Lance Armstrong at the moment and is in the best shape of his life (I won’t take any credit for my cooking here). He has bought good rain gear and his ride to work is relatively safe on local roads. It seems like an arrangement that will stick.

I can’t ride to work as I frequently need my car for meetings, the dress code is more professional, we don’t have showers and I work further away. However, I have been getting increasingly more frustrated with my little car as it gets older and more and more things seem to go wrong. First the drivers side window stopped rolling up or down (I have to get out of the car whenever I enter a car park where you have to collect a ticket before the barrier will lift). Also, whenever I go over a bump the windshield wipers switch themselves on, which isn’t that useful on a dry day.

Negotiations concluded last weekend and we decided that we really and truly are going to sell the van (honest!) and we would shop for a new car. We’d pretty much decided on a Toyota Matrix. Reasonable gas mileage and a good sized boot (or whatever you call it in Canada) for all our gear.

Off we went to the Toyota Dealership in Milton (Gorruds for anyone wishing to avoid a really awful customer service experience) with our “we want to spend money at your outlet, what have you got?” faces on. I am not even going to give details on the bull shit we had to wade through with their people just to buy a car that we had already decided we wanted before we arrived, but needless to say, after about the fourth attempt to sell me financing, rust protection, multiple extended warranties and then some nonsense about how it was illegal to throw in a roof rack that was probably worth about $2.50 at cost, we left, deciding that there is only so much insulting our meagre intelligence could take.

Again I’ll spare the details, but we ended up with the most amazing car that I thought in my life I would never be able to say that I owned. A Mazda 6 Hatchback. It has heated (leather) seats. You can actually hear the stereo above the engine and it goes like s**t off a shovel. I am not ashamed to say that I am impressed with myself when I am driving it. The hatchback is huge, enough for at least two bikes and all our gear (although, God knows I’ll have a fit the first time we put muddy stuff in the back).

It is not fuel efficient by any stretch of anyones imagination, and I did dream that Al Gore paid us a personal visit last night to give us a telling off for being so flagrantly irresponsible, but it is a pleasure to drive and Rob, I am sure, is making up for our carbon consumption by riding in everyday, so I don’t feel too guilty. Zoom, Zoom as they say…

Our First Ever O’Cup

05-Juliette trail1For the uninitiated, an “O’Cup” refers to the Ontario Cup cycling races that take place each year here in…Ontario. There’s a cross country mountain biking O’Cup and a road riding O’Cup. I don’t know much about the road series, but the MTB series consists of 8 races over the course of spring, summer and fall at various locations across Ontario (surprise!).

You get points for where you place in each race. The best five of your races gets added up to decide on where you place in your category for the season. Top 3 get some kind of kudos, and probably a prize. There are various categories for both men and women as well as a “Sport” category for people who are less serious and an “Expert” category for the hard asses. Needless to say, this being my first O’Cup season, I am in the Sport category and after last weekend, very glad to be there. The standard is high!

We drove up in the VW with Mari, bumped into Debs and Carl on the way, and met loads of people we knew once we were up there. It served to soothe the nerves a bit, seeing so many familiar faces.

The race was really very different to anything I’ve done before. Usually we do long races of 60km and more. You keep eating, maintain a certain heart rate and at the end, sheer guts and determination get you through to the finish line.

An O’Cup race is totally different. Firstly it’s very short, about 18km-20km. There is no time to eat, drink, look behind to see where your competitors are, or make any major technical or mechanical mistakes, it’s over in a little more than an hour. You ride like your pants were on fire and you’re being chased by a bear. You can’t hear yourself think because you’re breathing so heavily and you wonder whether your lungs are going to explode. You feel like you are going to vomit as you push, push, push to the finish line. The gaps between first second and third can be less than a minute. It’s bonkers. I loved it. I have never ever felt my competitive streak in such a visceral way. I am hooked.

I pulled in a respectable fourth in my category, due partly to the fact that Tecla was hot on my heels the entire race (and there is just a smidge of friendly rivallry between the two of us). Rob actually podiumed with a third place in his group and Debs and Dave also came third in their category.

We did really well as a group and afterwards hung out in the sunshine and swapped war stories. Our next one is in two weeks. I can’t wait.

Lisa, Dave’s wife, who is the best support person anyone could hope for, took some photos of the day. I have put the ones she sent to me on my Facebook page and Tecla has some other really nice ones on her Flickr site.

Paris To Ancaster 2008

me-1Although the official date was a couple of weeks ago, for me, the beginning of Spring is marked annually by our participation in the Paris to Ancaster bike race. More like a cyclocross race than a mountain bike race, it is usually a mud fest and can be quite the epic. This year almost everyone we knew did the 60km, peddling against 20km head winds to try to beat last year’s time.

Each year they have some kind of celebrity rider take part and this year was Sue Palmer, the Candian Olympian. Dave Enns who is kicking butt this year already, had the pleasure of actually beating her by 30 seconds!!! Rob was only a couple of minutes behind. Debbie wasn’t quite so chuffed about her participation, as they are both in the same age category, but she still pulled in an awesome time inspite of the fact that she was riding the 60km for the first time.TnT-1

I’ve included a couple of pictures here that Caitlin took of the beginning of the race, you can just see Matt smiling from behind the guy in the Oscar the Grouch shirt in the first one and then the second one has Tim riding hot on the heels of Tecla (who looks like she is going out to kill someone).

It was a fun day, rounded off with a couple of beers on our patio afterwards. Arrrr, the season has begun at last.

Rob is now officially an old fart

Robs on his 40thApril 8th was Rob’s 40th Birthday. Since it fell on a Tuesday I decided to wait until the following Saturday to celebrate. I organized a surprise party at the Ceilidh House Irish Pub in Hamilton. Apparently it didn’t come as any kind if surprise to the birthday boy. Must be something to do with Rob’s military training that he is impossible to do anything to surprise – his birthday present, a new Cyclocross bike, (bringing the bike count to twelve) was no biggie either.

Tecla, who has a real knack for catching people on film, especially it would seem, me acting like a twit, has posted the photos from the evening at this link.

Paul’s Dirty Enduro

Pauls EnduroThis post, once again, is in the wrong order compared to the one below, but I am doing some catch up on the events of the last four weekends.

Last weekend (the Thanksgiving weekend) Rob, Tim and Tecla went climbing in Kentucky. I stayed home, tired and burnt out from a hectic couple of weeks at work, and I had the bit between my teeth about redecorating our bedroom. It has been a gloomy blue since I moved in and I wanted to brighten it up. It looks amazing now and it was nice to have some quiet time at home. Thank you to the friends who made sure I didn’t feel lonely on the long weekend.

The weekend before we were at Paul’s Dirty Enduro. A 100km mountain bike endurance race in the hilly Ganaraska forest in aid of the Canadian Mental Health Association, and in honour of Paul Rush, a well loved and well known mountain biker who took his own life after battling with depression.

Tecla talked me into it, and I was a bit nervous after realizing that last year only 6 of the 15 women who entered, actually finished. This year there were even fewer female riders (8). We did our own race, ate and drank properly and finished with good times (I did 7 hours 50mins, Rob did just over 7hrs, Tecla 8 hours 40 mins and Tim 8 hours 30 mins). The trails were beautiful and fun, although there was a huge amount of climbing which got the better of a lot of people.

The picture above, though not the most flattering, is of me with my third place trophy. Thank you to Matt for a really fun first half of the race – can’t wait for next year.

Something I said I’d never do!

remote tvThe leaves are turning red, the temperature (with the exception of a 30 celcius Monday last week) is dropping and there is a nip in the air in the mornings. I didn’t realize I was such a slave to the seasons (as if it isn’t enough to be governed by ones hormones), but it seems as though every year at this time I get the same urges:

  • I get nostalgic about living in the UK (the weather reminds me of England and Xmas is close which makes me start to think about being with my parents).
  • I get an overwhelming desire to stay in doors and make soup
  • I start making plans to redecorate at least one room in the house

Rob calls it “nesting” and isn’t always terribly enthusiastic about the change in pace.

However, yesterday we did something that I think will make nesting with me seem a bit less of a drag…..

We bought a 46″ flat screen TV…with surround sound…and a DVD player.

It kicks ass.

I haven’t watched TV since staying with my parents in the UK last December and haven’t even thought about it at all since then. We do watch a lot of movies though, usually on Rob’s laptop.

After seeing how amazing movies look on a large screen at Debs and Carl’s last week, I was hooked. Admittedly, we don’t have the amazing stereo set up that they have or a High Def DVD player (are you impressed with my newly acquired understanding of technology?), but it is a step I thought I would never take and one that I suspect will change me forever….

I have already figured out how to turn it on, AND I know how to get to The Food Network, OLN and Discovery. I may never leave the house again…

A Gem of a Statement

hair-on-fire.jpgMost people who are in regular contact with me will now know that I have gone back to my former career as an accounting and finance head hunter. Although we saw some early success with Qube, and financially it was fairly lucrative for a business so early in it’s development, I could not stand to work from home alone and was going quietly doolally in my basement.

I realized that it was time for a change when, after being alone in my home office for an entire week, Rob went away climbing for the long Easter weekend, and I spent most of it drifting around our house, brow beating and bemoaning my isolation like Lady Macbeth without the soliloquies.

I need people, I need interaction, communication, laughter and most of all human support from real people. So I guess, unless I go into business with someone else at some point in the future, self-employment is not looking to be a very likely option for me being, in my experience, a very solitary activity.

Fortunately interaction, communication, people and a certain amount of drive, are required for recruitment and I have been fortunate to have been invited to join a well-respected and established practice near to my home. I am now working for The 500 Inc at their Oakville corporate head office. They belong to the prestigious Ian Martin Group of Companies, and I am loving it.

Today, after a long day spent on the telephone, listening to a seemingly endless list of people, who all told me they wanted to leave their current accounting position because they wanted a “challenge”, but were not quite able to define what “challenge” actually meant to them, I ended up speaking to a gentleman from Sarnia. He reminded me exactly why I get such a kick out of talking to new people. In response to the question “why are you looking to leave your current organization?”, he said “Well, I work in Government and the pace is very slow…..and really, Juliette, I am the type of guy who likes to travel at 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire. I will never forget that statement, question is, who is recruiting for a stunt man with a CGA?