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.

A little bit of British Humour

Lately, CBC radio has been driving me crazy in the mornings. This could be down to the fact that my beloved Andy Barrie (I had to look the spelling of his name up, as in Canada, it is said more like “Andy Berry”) seems to be on the air less and less. But I am sure there has been a change in their programming.

Increasingly it seems,the focus of their extended coverage is designed to convince us all that the world is going to s**t and we’ll probably all be dead soon of pollution/gang warefare/positive discrimination. Added to the fact that, in an attempt to reflect the multicultural nature of their Canadian listenership, they seem to have lost sight of what actually consitutes decent music. In my humble opinion, just because some group of dwarves playing the nose flute and six plastic bottles is from Tibet, it doesn’t make them worthy of airtime!!

As such I have been turning to my ipod to keep me amused on the way to work. Thank God for podcasts. I found this one, called “The Now Show” from the good old British Broadcasting Company, and it has me rolling in the aisles. This, to me, is British humour at its best. There’s no political correctness here, and no cultural sensitivity. Mind you, there’s no discrimination here either – everybody gets the piss taken out of them!!!

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…

2 new additions to Team Wanderlust

P1010085During August, my Mum and Dad came to stay. We had a blast whilst they were here. We got the chance to have lunch with Rob’s Dad and Doris and spent the day visiting Toronto Island which was a first for me. Dad fixed my car (it’s running like a dream now, although my efforts to get Rob to agree to me having a new one are now completely scuppered!).

The weekend before Mum and Dad left, Rob, myself and five other friends particpated in the 24 Hour Hot August Nights Mountain Bike Race at Albion Hills (near Bolton). This race involves tag teams and soloists riding non-stop for 24 hours around a 15km mountain biking trail. We start at noon on Saturday and the last rider goes out before noon the following day. So, yes, that means some riders riding through the night with head lights on. What an experience.

Mum and Dad camped with us and kept us going with sandwiches and encouragement, as well as a nice fire when we got back from our respective laps. Most of the photos (I’ve put them in my Facebook album) were taken by my Mum.

I am lucky to have parents who get along so well with my friends and I think everybody really enjoyed themselves.

Most notable performances have to go to Dave Enns who bettered his first lap time (done during the day) by a whole minute during his night time lap. He did 15km in 49 minutes, a whole 11 minutes faster than my fastest time during the day!!! Tecla smoked round on all her laps. In fact, we figured out that our lap times were better than any of those of the other female riders who were part of a five person team.

Dave Scottlander managed his final lap on Sunday inspite of a scratched eyeball, and Matt did his last lap on a bike that didn’t even belong to him after a slight mechanical first thing on Sunday morning.

Mums Cannon 083I’ve included pictures of the infamous “Snakes on a Plank”. The race organizers put this obstacle up at 10am on Sunday morning (when some people who are riding solo or parts of smaller numbered teams haven’t had any sleep) and allow a big crowd of people to watch as you ride over a slippery plank crossing a really nasty pit of muddy water. None of the spectaular falls are from our team, but they are still worth a look!

Bike Touring – Bruce Peninsular

P1010097All these next few posts are going to be in the wrong order. I am enjoying a lazy Sunday (one of the first for about 2 months), catching up on photos and blog posts and continuing to try to figure out how Facebook works.

After saying ‘goodbye’ to my Mum and Dad who stayed for 10 days during August, Rob and I decided to spend the long weekend touring round the Bruce Peninsular. We drove to Owen Sound and road up the East coast of the Pennsinsular through Wiarton and Lionshead, then crossed over the top and down the West side through Tamarac, Sauble Beach and back to Owen Sound.

I think I have found my favourite part of Ontario. The beauty of the Bruce Peninsular on the west side near Lions Head would rival anything you would see in Europe. The water is a perfect colour of azure and the Bruce Trail is as rugged and remote feeling as elsewhere in Ontario.

We lucked out with the weather and were able to “free” camp both nights although the first night hauling our bags along the coastal Bruce Trail path was a bit exciting, but worth it for the views of the sunset over the water and the feeling of isolation.

On Saturday night we came across The Tamarac Inn at Stokes Bay, purely by coincidence. An old, old hotel, converted by a former New Jersey lawyer, Bill Shultz, to a cosy bed and breakfast with a big open dining room that he invites local jazz musicians to jam in on Saturday nights. We were treated to the sounds of Miles Davis, as well as classics like ‘Summer Time’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’, whilst we had a few post ride beers.

It was a gorgeous weekend and we spent the whole trip home looking through real estate magazines to see if we could find a piece of lake front property near Lions Head that we could afford!

I’ve posted the photos of the trip in my Face book photo album and Rob will no doubt be adding a trip review complete with route guide and map on his touring page.

Virgin Music Festival 2007

P9080227I wouldn’t exactly call it a festival. My idea of festivals (I am both a Glastonbury and a Burning Man survivor) is where you go to an event, that allows you a relative amount of freedom with respect to your comings and goings, so you can watch music and relax.

Having paid $75 per ticket, I had hoped to spend most of my time watching music, having a couple of drinks and taking in the vibe. What we did instead was spend at least half of the day in a queue. We queued to buy tickets for drink and/or food. Then we queued, with said tickets, to be allowed into the beer area (laws in Ontario dictate that people who are drinking in public have to be separated by a fence from the rest of the world), so that we could then queue to swap those tickets for a beer. On average one beer took 40mins to actually acquire. If you didn’t like beer, you were unlucky. If you didn’t Budweiser beer, yup, unlucky. If you didn’t like paying $6 for one can of Budweiser beer, you were SOL.

Upon running low on money, having paid almost $40 for four beer and two chicken wraps (not eating hot dogs, hamburgers or pepperoni pizza, we were a bit limited in our options) we thought we’d better find an ATM to make sure we had enough money for the whole day. RBC had not envisioned the complications involved with setting up an ATM on an island and the ATM’s that were supposed to be supplied for the day, weren’t working. The good people of the Toronto Island Tourist Village opened their one ATM (which, given the speed at which it worked, I think is wind powered) for our use and, once again, we queued for 45 minutes to be able to get money so we could go and queue another 40 minutes to get another drink.

Once we’d actually resigned ourselves to being ripped off and to the endless queuing, we actually had a really good time. We arrived at 3pm just in time to see K-Os, who absolutely live.

The Arctic Monkey’s were typically “British bad boy” in the way they performed (not much interaction with the crowd, a lot of farting about with dark sunglasses and ostentatiously drinking bottles of Stella between songs), but they were still awesome live and I am glad to have had the chance to see them. My only regret is that I didn’t know about them before they got so famous – the energy they perform with would be great in a small venue.

I think the absolute highlight of the day though, was Bjork. Not because I particularly liked any of the music she played, but just because her set, her backing entourage and her sound were just SO strange. Strange and beautiful. The sound she creates just with her voice is incredible. Dressed in a big frilly gold lame dress and silver tights, she lept about the stage and performed a set that was kind of choral. She had at least ten backing singers and a full wind section (French horns, trombones, cornets). She also had a huge green laser that beamed out from the stage and made patterns on a huge tree located at the back of the arena. Unfortunately our pictures didn’t catch her performance too well, but I have included them anyway.

We got the chance to watch the sunset over the Toronto skyline and I got some serious people-watching in. So it really was a good day. I just wish the organizers of these events weren’t so bloody greedy and small minded when it comes to the provision of all the peripheral stuff that also adds or detracts from the experience.

I’ve added my photos of the day to my Facebook photo album.

Very Disturbing

salad-fingers.jpgLast night Rob and I were poking around on YouTube and we came across a series of cartoons called Salad Fingers. We ended up watching the first seven episodes. They are WEIRD – I’d like to meet the strange person that thought them up. Here is a link to episode one, the rest are available on YouTube. Watch on – if you dare…