Thursday, December 27, 2012

Out of my hands

Just back from submitting my application for my Indian tourist visa. In approximately and exactly 7-10 days I will know if they'll let me in the country.  It's out of my hands now!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Not a stick man portrait

Do you have talent? I don't. I am spectacularly talentless, especially when it comes to real artistry. Lucky for me, I have friends, very good and special friends. This one friend in particular, Cecilia, is also a very talented artist. You see this sketch here on the left? She DREW that! Like, with her hands! Hmmm, maybe just one hand. Unless she's ambidextrous and I don't know about it. Possible. 

Cecilia and I met at work sometime around the year 2000. She has told me that we met in one of the many training sessions we had to attend. Typically, I have no memory of this (this will come as no surprise to some other friends.) However, at some point we started having lunch together, then she started sending me doughnuts through our internal mail service, followed by cans of V8, half of a chocolate bar and before you knew it we were doing things outside of work too. Mostly drinking a lot of wine and eating a lot of french fries and cheese cake.

Where the last 12, nearly 13 years have gone, I don't quite know, but Cecilia has certainly been a part of my small circle of friends that whole time. We don't see each other as often anymore. Life is like that.  We don't work together anymore, she's moved out to Mars (a.k.a. Île Bizard), she's had two kids ... The point is that we're still friends and even though we're not a part of each other's every day life, I think on the occasions that we do meet up, we're able to spend quality time together. That's important for me.

A few months ago (maybe it was only a few weeks but when your friend lives on Mars you automatically think everything was a few months past) Cecilia asked me to send her a favourite picture of myself. After sending her this picture, she muttered back to me that it needed to be a picture of my face.(Sheesh, how was I supposed to know?!)  I emailed her back another picture and promptly forgot all about it.

Last week I received her Christmas card, along with a picture of her kids. Admittedly, I was disappointed not to see a reworked comical collage of some kind using the picture I'd sent, seen here to the right. (Also I had hoped her annual year in review letter would be enclosed but it wasn't and have since been told she emails that out in January. I think she's making me wait on purpose.)

Last night we had our Christmas get together and Cecilia presented me with this beautiful (and I mean the drawing itself, not the subject) picture you see at the top of this post. I was floored - I mean look at it! It's incredible! I was also so touched that I promptly burst into tears in the middle of the restaurant.  So I've been wide awake for awhile now thinking about friends and what they mean to me, and why, and lots of other end of year thoughts.  Nothing much to tell you that I can put into words just yet other than Cecilia is a great artist, a true friend and a very special person in my life. I appreciate the thought and time that went into this gift but more than all that, I am thankful for her.  Cecilia, thank you.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter, how you try my patience

Winter arrived yesterday with a snow storm. Then it warmed up and rained. And of course, after that it got cold again and snowed. Because winter, you know, is like that. Mean.

This morning I went over to the parking lot to pick up the key for the community car and found that the lock box was frozen solid.  I could turn my key but couldn't remove the metal plate to get to the keys.  I tried the second lock box and the same thing happened. Feeling very MacGyver-ish, despite it being 8am, on a Saturday morning, standing on ice, in the blowing snow - I found a pen in my purse and tried to scrape away some of the ice that was holding the plate in. Five minutes later, now with my nose running and freezing all at the same time, I gave up and decided to go home and get one of those really sharp utility knives. Back with my knife, I started scraping again, broke a few blades off, pushed the next one up, and then scraped too hard because the whole blade thing fell out of the knife and when I tried to put it back in, put the blade in the wrong slot and then couldn't get it out to move it up or down in the shaft. At this point I called the community car service and explained what was going on and how it was impossible for me to get the car back in time, if I ever did manage to get in the lock box to the key. The agent was able to change my reservation time and car. Phew! But would I be able to get to a key?

Question for you, my audience - sensing my frustration yet?  Oh, it was there. Believe you me.

Back home for my back up utility knife and back to the parking lot. More scraping, more blades, more trying to open the lock boxes. NOTHING. NADA. I gave up and tried calling the car service again, only to get stuck on hold as I was walking over to a second (further) car location and then my phone DIED. Don't know if it's because my phone is old or because it was cold and the cold drained the battery really fast or maybe a combination of the two but now I had to turn around to walk home to plug in my phone to call the car service again. (And there was much heavy sighing.)

Naturally by this time I was all out of what little patience I had to start with. Now with my phone plugged in, I was able to call the car service again, get stuck on hold for 15 minutes and finally speak with another agent (so I got to repeat the whole story again, lucky me!) who cancelled my reservation at the first location and added one to the second location (about a 10 minute walk away). 

You'd think by this point the story would be finished, right? WRONG!

Now that I get to a lock box that opens (!), when I put the key into the car door, it was a bit sticky and guess what? The key wouldn't go all the way in! HA! Yes, there was ICE IN IT!  What a surprise, I know.  So, I opened the door from the passenger's side and got it unlocked that way. (Much more heavy sighing.)  Don't forget I still had to brush the snow from the car and scrape the ice off all the windows. A further 10 minutes was spent doing that and finally by 9:15am - a full hour and a quarter after leaving my house - I was on my way to do my groceries. A very quick shop, return home to drop off the bags and then I zipped back to the parking lot and was able to drop off the car with 10 minutes to spare before my 10am return time. Finally, a horribly cold walk back home, into the wind and blowing snow and finally, time for breakfast.

I can certainly say I earned it today.

On my way out to dinner soon. Hopefully public transportation won't try my patience as much as winter has already today.


Monday, December 17, 2012


Five weeks today I will be on my way to India. I'm taking the long route, which includes 2 nights in Zurich to get a much needed dose of BFF and all the hilarity that includes, before arriving in Hyderabad 'round about Friday, January 25.

Five weeks, people!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

In need of inspiration?

Do you need some inspiration to do something you've never done? To get back to something you haven't done in a while? To push yourself a little harder? A little further? Is there something you want to check off your "bucket list"?

If so, I highly recommend reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.

Maybe you need to let go of the past. Maybe you need to accept yourself for who you are. Maybe ... I dunno ... you want to prepare for a long distance hike.

For me it reminded me of what it felt like to finish (yes, FINISH) my first (yes, I did more than one!) TRIATHLON and how it felt like to finish (yes, FINISH) my second (!) TRIATHLON, and how I want that feeling again and I will make sure it happens again. For the record, FINISHING a triathlon felt like I was/am, to quote Cheryl (apologies to my parents for this language), "a hard-ass mother f***ing Amazonian queen."

Take the inspiration you need from Cheryl's story. And that's all I'm going to say about it.

Monday, December 03, 2012

For Rent

Ooops ... pressed the wrong button a few days ago and deleted the post about my condo.

Here's a link to the ad for my condo on craigslist.

And the one on kijiji.

If you know anybody, please forward the information on to them. I'm open to discussion about the dates (earlier in January, if necessary) and always willing to answer questions.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cold - but not for too long

You know (or maybe you don't, depending where you live) when you're walking into the wind and it's snowing and blowing up hard against your face, and you get that brain freeze feeling except that it's not summer, you're not wearing shorts and there is no ice cream involved? Yes, so that ... I hate that.

But luckily, if everything goes according to plan, in 2 months I won't have to worry about that! Instead you'll be reading my posts Out of India, where I'll spending the next 5 months volunteering for an organization called Shining Stars Centers for Youth Development.

More about all of that as I start to freak out and panic about plans, packing, etc.  For now I'll just say it'll be another item to check off my Life List and how amazing the experience will be.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life List #37: Take ballroom dance lessons

In case you've been wondering how my Life List has been going, I am thrilled to say that I can now check off item #37:  Take ballroom dance lessons.

In true Stephanie form (or maybe it's Titcombe - we seem to have a thing about doing things all the way or not at all), I didn't just take a single ballroom dance lesson. First I found a Groupon for 4 classes (2 private lessons, 1 group lesson and 1 practice party) for $40. Then, after having so much fun doing the first 4 classes (huge thanks to the instructors at Arthur Murray Montreal Downtown franchise), I decided to go all out and really make an event of this Life List item. To do that meant signing up for their beginner's "Quick Start" program (9 private lessons, 4 group lessons and 2 practice parties) and I also gave myself a kind of "race date" end to it all by buying a ticket to the Bal Viennois de Montréal.  (There's the advertisement on the left.)

Last night was the night! After completing all my classes, borrowing a dress from a friend, buying sparkly dance shoes, getting my hair and make-up done, I attended my first ball (a BALL, people!) and danced the night away. (And there's my ticket to the right.)  You can find pictures here.

I danced, in no particular order:  the Foxtrot, the Viennese Waltz, the Waltz, the Swing, the Hustle, Merengue, Salsa and even the Tango! And it was all AWESOME!

This was more than just learning dances. This was about meeting new people, learning a skill and proving to myself and the people attending that ball that I can dance. I may not be great at letting my partner lead on the dance floor (sorry, guys ...), but I'm still learning. I also know now that I want to learn more dances, learn the more complicated footwork, learn about style, etc. This last month of dancing has been so much fun that I'm going to take a few more classes before the holidays, just to keep me going so I don't forget everything I've learned so far.

Take ballroom dance lessons - Done!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

e-Book Library

Now that I'm on the waiting list for 5 books at one library and cannot find anything decent to read in e-books at another, I'm wondering if other people have this problem too?  I'm guessing yes, but know that I can be hard to please, so am willing to admit maybe I'm being difficult. All I want is to have just as good a selection of books to read electronically as I do in paper format. Is that so much to ask?  It is decidedly so (right now.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


In case you don't follow me on Twitter, I was in Ottawa this past weekend, visiting my brother and his family. It was a quiet (or as quiet as a family can be with two young children) family weekend.

Before my other brother Eric arrived on Sunday afternoon, we had time to head to the park to get rid of some energy.  Here are some pictures of the weekend.

Enjoy and happy belated Thanksgiving. I was thankful for a family I could visit at the drop of a hat.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Triathlon recap #2

Once again I will start my triathlon recap by briefly going through the night before the race.

Friday night:  Left work early (and stressed out) to give myself plenty of time to get to the Olympic Basin at Parc Jean-Drapeau to scope out the event site and pick up my race kit. I walked around the transition area which was still not fully set up, watched the swimmers in the water and had a quick look at the exhibition booths set up. Double checked at the wetsuit tent that that was where I would need to go for my wetsuit pick-up on Saturday.  Attended pre-race meeting and then headed home. Managed to get home and get some food into me before Nick showed up. He let me flap around as much as I needed (and also reminded to breathe) and we said goodnight around 10:30pm.

Saturday, race day:  Was awake around 3am thanks to the drunken fools leaving the bar around the corner (and this with earplugs!). Possibly the cops showed up. I was just glad it wasn’t me that had to call. Dozed for a bit but by 4am I was really awake and really nervous.

Earlier in the week I’d checked last year’s race results and was astounded by the times. They were fast. If I did the same race this time as I did last week, I would place 28 out of 30 in my age group. This was hard to take. I knew I didn’t want to be last but I thought if I just pushed myself a little harder, maybe, if I was lucky, I could manage 25 out of 30. In all honesty, I just didn’t think I had it in me. I remembered the words of former IronMan Champion (several times over) Pierre Lavoie, who I’d heard speak Friday morning, when it gets tough, think of the people supporting you, even if you can’t see them or hear them. Do your race, not somebody else’s. So I said, OK, I know I can do a 1:40, and if I push myself the same way I used to in a dragon boat competition, I’m pretty sure I can do it in 1:30. Why not? I’ve been training. I have the distances down. I have no serious injuries (and my shoulder can easily be ignored for a few hours). I’m healthy. I can do this! So that was it, I decided I would do it in 1:30. I knew I would have no idea how I was doing in the swim but I could watch my time on the bike and run and push it when I needed to.

Forced myself to stay in bed until 6am and then got up for some coffee, another coat of nail polish and some kind of food. Nick got up an hour later and convinced me to eat a bagel. It was hard to get it down. I was so nervous I could hardly swallow. We left just before 8am and headed over to the Basin.

Just like last week, we scored a great parking spot. This time right beside the F1 track so we were able to see the first IronMan participants on the bike course. Nick was in awe. I was knock-kneed with nervousness. On site I picked up my race chip, got my body marked with my bib number and age, then went to set up in the transition area. Nick had a look at the expo and the pricy gear and accessories for sale. He was worried it would be an expensive day for him.

We walked around a bit. Watched the bikers at the hairpin turn and then had a seat in the stands for a bit. At 9:45am we headed over to pick up wetsuit. Next thing I knew it was time to get that on. Just as I was heading over to do that, we ran into an old dragon boat friend, also doing the Sprint Tri, and she told me a great tip for the swim:  keep to the right and watch for the cord that goes along the bottom of the basin, it’s attached to the buoys. By following this cord, I’ll be able to swim in a straight line without having to sight so much. Nice. At about 10:20am, Nick had just zipped me up and I’d handed him my flip-flops and was heading into the swim area when I heard my mom calling out to me. There, practically beside me, were my Mom & Dad! They each gave me a hug and kiss and it was time for me to go in. I warmed up my shoulders a bit and then got in the water. Did a short swim just to get some water in the wetsuit. The water in the Basin was so murky! And it was colder than Mooney’s Bay last week. They announced 2 minutes until start time. Kept moving. 30 seconds and then the horn blasted. I was off.

This time I made I started closer to the front of the pack and was determined to stay to the right side. I didn’t want to swim any further than necessary. The first few minutes were terrible. I couldn’t swim. Couldn’t get a proper full stroke in. Kept hitting people and got hit plenty myself. Not in my face, thank goodness. Couldn’t believe how murky the water was. Gross. The bottom of the basin just looked slimy, not sandy and clear like last week. Space around me was opening up now. Good. But the waves! What happened to the nice calm water? It was gone. There were waves all over. I choked down a couple of mouthfuls as I tried to breathe on my left. Tried to breathe on the right; same thing. Ugh. Kept swimming. Breathing on the right was better though because I could see the buoy beside me. It was close. Moved over to the left just a little. No need to get a penalty from the refs just now. Going around the first buoy to cross the basin, as I sighted ahead of me I could see there weren’t a lot of people ahead of me. I kept running into a woman in front of me. Felt bad, tried to keep myself straight. Swimming back down the basin suddenly it was so much easier to breathe. Felt good. Kept my eyes on the cord along the bottom of the basin and followed that. Coming up to the last big orange buoy, I remembered that Nick told me to start kicking hard here to get the blood flowing back into my legs. I would need it to get myself up over the bridge when I got out of the water. Last big orange buoy appeared and I started kicking. Crazy but I could actually feel the blood in my legs. My legs were feeling hot all of sudden. Wasn’t sure if I’d be able to walk. Who cares? Crawl if I need to, just keep kicking.

Came out of the water and my parents and brother Eric were right there in the corner shouting to me. Awesome! I’d finished the swim. As I crossed the mat after the swim, I started pulling down the zipper of the wetsuit but it got stuck. I saw Nick and shouted for him. He tried to help me and got it down as far as he could. He struggled with that and told me to get my arms out. Once I had that done, I kept going through to transition. Here’s where I got into problems. I managed to get the wetsuit over my hips and down past my knees but even though I was sitting down, I just couldn’t move it past my ankles. Took a deep breath and tried not to panic. Saw some women come into the transition area and get changed fast. They were off. I cursed to myself. A. Lot. But slowly, slowly got the wetsuit past my ankles. It was torturous. Now that it was off, I threw on my heart rate monitor (why I bothered at this point, I don’t know), t-shirt, race belt on, dried my now filthy feet to get some of the sand and rocks off, got my socks and shoes on, tucked in my laces, helmet on, gloves and sunglasses. Got my bike off the rack and started running with it to the mount line. Got on it and didn’t worry that my feet weren’t in the cages. Knew I could get them in without looking.
Finally, onto the track and hit my watch to track the time. Going up the reverse direction of the track was disconcerting at first, and keeping to the left also pretty disorienting but I quickly settled into the bike. Had a few sips of water and settled down a little. I knew it had taken me a long time to get changed and was frustrated no end. But I had to get over it and focus now on the bike ride. Going up the river side of the track it was windy but I was able to maintain about 25km/h on Nick’s bike. Wild. Maybe I’d be able to do this in 40 minutes! Came across the top end of the track after a short incline and then started going downhill. Picked up speed, more speed. Changed gear again. More speed. Hit 35km/h. Hit 40km/h. Wooohooo! Felt better now that I knew I could still have a good race on the bike. Coming down into the hairpin turn I hoped to see my family and I did. There they were! Shouting out to me, “Go, Stef, go!” That was awesome. Slowed down a lot to get around the turn (stay on the bike, stay on the bike), stay on the bike) and just as I thought I’d be able to pick up some speed again, the wind slammed right into me. Crap. No speed here. Maintained a steady 24-25km/h again on the second lap up the river side of the track. Pushed it harder going down the straight-away, got the bike over 40km/h in two spots. This track is incredible! This bike is fantastic! At the end of lap 2, my family were there again. Shouting out encouragement to me. Started lap 3. Again with the wind. Ugh. Really felt it now. Maybe the wind was picking up. On this lap I noticed small twigs on the track, along with the leaves that had already fallen. Started thinking about what would happen if it rained. Repeated my mantra:  stay on the bike, stay on the bike. Coming down the straight away kept pushing, passing people but no matter how fast I went, there was always somebody else passing me. Whatever. Just do my race, don’t think about them. Kept pushing. End of lap 3, see the family again and try to give them a smile, if they’re taking pictures. Not sure if they’ll see it. Start lap 4 and the wind is definitely picking up. Pretty sure I dropped down to about 22 or 23km/h. Yes, it was my last lap but I still had to run 5km and my legs were tired. Had a sip of water. Started worrying about the run. Bad. It was too early to think about that. Got my focus back on the bike. Noticed more twigs on the track. Some bottles that had fallen off bikes. Stay on the bike. Stay on the bike. Coming down the straight away decided to push it as hard as possible. Never mind what else was coming. Knew I’d hit about 46km/h but quickly got my attention back on the track. Now wasn’t sure if this was my third or fourth lap. Crap. Where was I? The bike computer said 17 something kilometers. My watch said 33 minutes.  33 minutes? But that’s not possible. Did I still have one more lap to go? Started calculating in my head but I knew that if I did another one I’d be over 20km and I knew that the course was short. Came up to the hairpin turn and shouted out to my family “Am I done?” My mom shouted back, “YES!” Taking her at her word, I pulled to the right of the track and headed back along the road towards the dismount area. Checked my watch. 35 minutes?!  Oh boy, I sure hoped I didn’t have another lap to do. But I’d made it, stayed on the bike. Started running with the bike through the transition area. Yikes, there people everywhere. Volunteers shouting to keep the path clear but I wasn’t sure if they were yelling at me or what. Made my way over to my spot. Got the bike on the stand. Pulled my run bottle out, got that into my race belt and turned it around.

My transition spot was as close as possible to the start of the run, so I immediately started running. Felt awful. Legs were like concrete. Might as well have been walking. Ugh. Running along behind the hangars there was dust and debris flying all over the place. Had to cover my nose just to be able to breathe. Up the small incline and onto the track along the top of the basin, beside the seaway. It was my first time running up there. I had no idea it was just a dirt and gravel track! Ugh. More wind, more dust. Kept running. Short and quick. Short and quick. Nick’s running advice was still in my head. Kept my strides short and quick. Don’t know how quick they were but I was passing people. Slowly but surely. Of course there were a few passing me too, probably just to keep my ego in place. Kept moving. Saw the casino across the basin. Knew I’d done 1km and that meant only 4km more to go. Thank God. Legs still felt heavy and I realised I never did any spinning on the bike before getting off. I didn't give my legs a chance to get that running feeling while still on the bike. That's why this felt harder than last week. Or maybe I’d overdone it by pushing so hard on the bike. Maybe I’d kicked too much on the swim. Kept running. Bad thoughts in my head. Couldn’t get rid of them. Somehow I kept moving and made it to the far end of the basin. Seeing the 2000m marker made me realize (duh) that I was more than halfway finished the run. I only had another 2km left to run. I could run 2km! Yes, I can do this! Checked my watch. Huh. It looked like my time was OK after all. Maybe I could pull off a 1:30. I would try. No pain, no glory – I remembered Chuck, my old dragon boat coach telling us that one night in the gym. Yes, dragon boat – think of all the people cheering me on for this:  Janic, TT, M-Pi, Anne, Annie, Panoy, Chuck. And my family. And Yvette and Cecilia. They would want me to push it. Nick, who’d told me to push it. Now was the time! My legs felt OK. Picked up my pace a little. Lots more people on the track now. Some people walking, some running fast, some slowly but everybody was moving. Yes, I could do this. Sip of water. Watched the markers on the side of the basin. 1500m, 1000m. That meant only 1km left! I really could do this. 500m. Picked up the pace again. I could totally do this! Just over 2 minutes in a dragon boat. I’d told Nick I would sprint the last 250m and when that marker came up I said (possibly out loud …) “In 3, 2, 1 – FINISH!” So I sprinted that last 250m and I gave it everything I had. There was a guy ahead of me and I gave it a little more just so I could catch him at that last stretch going into the finishing chute. I saw my family by the rails and they shouted out to me. There were right there! It felt like I flew past them and then I was through the finish and a volunteer was handing me a bottle of water and taking the timing chip bracelet off of my ankle. I was done! I did it!

Walked out of the finishing area and waited for my family to catch up to me. In a minute they were all there; Nick, Eric and my parents. They took some pictures and started telling me that I’d finished my swim in less than 15 minutes! Incredible! That meant that if my watch was right, I may have actually done it in 1 hour 30 minutes. Too much! We chatted for a few minutes and then Eric and my parents headed home while Nick and I picked up my gear. First I got my lunch from the participants tent, then picked up my gear, returned the wetsuit and we headed home.

At home Nick took the seat off his bike and put it back on mine while I had a shower. When I came out he asked me to look at something. He was looking at his computer screen and showed me what he had up. It was the race results. Are you ready for this? Because I wasn’t!

My final times:
Total:  1:25:16.5
Place:  313 out of 592 participants, 14 out of 28 in my age group (women 40-44) [Editor’s note:  who was worried about placing 25th???], 109 out of 264 (gender place).
Swim, 750m:  13:50.9 – 2nd out of 28!!! (I very nearly cried when Nick told me this)
Bike, 20km:  46:08 – 23rd out of 28 (thanks to all that time lost struggling to get out of the wetsuit *sigh*)
Run, 5km:  25:17.9 – 11th out of 28!!! (if I’d done a sprint from the 500m mark, I might have shaved 13 seconds off my time and finished the run in the top 10, but STILL, 11th place!)

I really don’t know how, but I managed to beat my own personal goal by a full 5 minutes. That is just incredible to me. Wow. What a day! Even with the wetsuit fiasco, I still placed far better than I ever hoped I could. Too much.

Now that it’s all over, I can say I’m proud of myself.  I set a goal and reached it. Good for me.

Special thanks to Nick for coming into town just for this, and of course for loaning me Eric’s old Peugeot bike. Huge thanks to Eric and my parents for trekking all over Montreal on the metro to come by and catch a few glimpses of me over the course of a few hours on a Saturday morning. It meant the world to me to have people I care for cheer for me and me alone. Because I’ll tell you, it’s just not the same when a volunteer at the race shouts at you to keep going. It made all the difference in the world to me. Thank you.

Triathlon #2 (or where I put another check beside Life List #97)

Still lots of stuff going through my head since Saturday's race.  It was an incredible experience and I'm glad I had the first race in me to help me through the complete unknown factor of racing a sprint triathlon.

This time it was a bigger competition. There were 28 women in my age category, not just 11. Somehow I finished smack dab in the middle at 14th place. This is beyond my wildest dreams. Last week I had gone and checked the results of the race in 2011 and discovered how fast the times were. At first this intimidated so much that the best I possibly hoped for was to finish 25-30th place. Maybe if I hadn't read those 2011 results that's what would've happened. But I did read them and that competitive edge I learned from dragon boating asserted itself. I placed myself closer to the start of the swim, I swam faster, I ran through transition (even if I did get stuck in my wetsuit but that'll be another post), I pushed it on the bike (hit 46km/h!) and after what felt like a lame first 2km run, I pushed it on the run too.

The result?  I finished in 1:25:16.

1 hour, 25 minutes, 16 seconds.


Last week, Nick asked me if I could do this week's race in 1:39.  I said yes, I would aim for that and I knew it was totally do-able.  Friday night/Saturday morning I had decided that I would aim for 1 hour 30 minutes, which I already thought was pretty aggressive. I don't know what happened but I knocked another 5 full minutes off that time as well.

For now, I'm quite happy to put another check mark beside Life Life #97 - Complete a Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon.

I'll write my post-race analysis soon but until then, pictures from the race are here. Special and huge thanks to Nick for coming in from Ottawa just to watch and take pictures.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Post-race analysis

My brother Nick has very nicely analysed my race from Saturday (thanks, Nick!). He's good at this stuff and it makes me happy to read.  Here's what he says:

In my age group (women, duh, 40-44 years old), I was:
6th out of the water
6th off the bike
2nd in the run

[Editor's note:  What the what?!]

He goes on to say:  "That’s insane. You had the SECOND fastest time in your age group on the run. By THIRTY seconds. You missed third by two and a half minutes, BUT you only missed SECOND by THREE minutes. Are you kidding me??? That’s insane. And it was your first."

How cool is that, people?

Notes from Nick regarding this coming Saturday's race (oh help, it's in 2 days!):  I should have "a relaxed swim, be a little quicker in T1, push the bike nicely, be quick in T2, and push the run."

Notes from me about this Saturday's race, other than "oh help, it's in 2 days":  Worried about the rain and how far I'll slide if I fall off the bike. Also, after checking last year's race results, the times are FAST, so after the main goal of finishing, the next one is to stay on the bike and finally, have fun.  Oh yes, and breathe.  I may have my priorities mixed up a bit right now but they'll sort themselves out eventually.

PS - start doing sun dances or something for Saturday, please and thank you.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Triathlon recap

In case it wasn't clear in my last post, pictures of the triathlon are here.

Now onto the breakdown of the day (warning: this will be long and boring for a lot of people, just so you know), starting of course, with the pre-race day.

Arrived in Ottawa 3pm, picked up wetsuits, went to site, picked up race kits, attended Nick's pre-race meeting, figured out how to move from transition zones, late dinner, unpack and repack bag for race, prepare drinks/water/food, celebrated Wesley's birthday and my own with some belated presents and slept 2 hours. The following 4 hours or so were spent going through each part of the race in my mind, over and over and over and (decided somewhere in there to change from a white sports bra to a navy coloured one, more on this later), you get the idea.

Race day:
Gave up trying to sleep. Nick and I left early and arrived on site to score a prime free parking spot. As we were pulling our stuff out of the van, I asked Nick if it was too late to back out now.  But I did not back out!  Set up bike, wetsuit, gear for transitions, finished drinking my smoothie, went for a last stop to the bathroom and slithered into the wetsuit.

7:30am:  pre-race meeting at the beach. Nerves mounting. After Nick left me at the beach, took some wise advice and did a short 2-3 minute swim warm up. Good thing - found the sight and feel of the weeds quite overwhelming, felt panicky, short of breath, turned around and swam back just using breast stroke. Watched the 2-3 races start ahead of me. Was surprised by the sound of 100+ people running into the water all at once. Kept rotating my shoulders, swinging my arms, trying to keep my upper body loose.  A woman asked me how I liked my wetsuit. I told her I really liked it and she asked how much I'd paid. She was surprised to learn I'd rented it for only $30 for the day. She complimented me on how it looked. Admittedly, I thought it made me look incredible.

8:10am:  horn sounded, found myself toward the end of the pack and waded in with the other 118 women. Started swimming breast stroke up to the turn around the first buoy before heading straight out to the 300m mark. The weeds were gone by the time I hit the first buoy and suddenly I knew I could do this but my breathing was too fast and I couldn't wait three strokes to breathe, had to breathe every two and found this comforting. A few strokes of crawl and found I keep running into people. Weird because I really didn't think I was moving fast. Changed to breast stroke to get some space and then onto crawl again to pass a few more people. Then continued onto crawl and tried to sight every 10 strokes. Swimming all over the place, far to the left, then far to the right, then touching up beside somebody. More sighting but could only do it on the right because of where the sun was coming up on the left. Good thing I can breathe on both sides. But all of a sudden I'd passed a bunch of people and then realised that the person beside me wasn't wearing a wetsuit and it was a man. Passed him and then soon found myself at the turn around point. Going around that I passed another man, then onto the back stretch and passed another guy there.  Huh - didn't the men start 10 minutes before the women? Anyway, on the way back down the course swam way off course to the left here and thought I was about to end up in the middle of the river but finally lifted my head and swam back in. Kept to the left of the crowd and was able to swim past more people. Coming up to the last buoy, passed another 2 guys discussing whether they were supposed to swim past a certain buoy or not. Did my turn and swam up so far that all of a sudden my arms were hitting the sand. Came up onto shore and spent a good 10-15 seconds hunting for my flip flops that Nick said he'd leave for me beside a tree. Nothing to find because apparently I was about 10 minutes early finishing the swim and Nick wasn't even back down at the beach yet. Started running up the path, over to the Transition Zone and discovered that running in a wet wetsuit is heavy. Did not expect that.  Later I saw pictures that an official race day photographer had taken and was glad the navy sports bra won out because there would've been some embarrassing pictures if I'd kept to the white one. (Enough about that, right? Right.)

Transition 1 (or T1, if you speak "Tri" language): Found my transition spot easily enough thanks to my Swiss flag flying at my spot. Pulled the wetsuit down past my knees (as practiced) and then sat down on my towel and managed to pull each leg out, slowly, but without panicking that I couldn't get the suit off. Dried off a little with a second towel, got my socks/shoes on, got my heart rate strap around me, t-shirt on, then watch, smeared some sunscreen on my face, lip balm on my lips, pulled on my bike helmet and clipped it closed, sunglasses on and gloves. Ready to go.

8:33am: Ran over to the Mount/Dismount line and started the 30km bike ride. Within the first 5 minutes the laces on my left shoe fell out of my shoe and got caught on the bike pedal. Wondered if I should pull over and fix them or not. In the end decided to just do it before I did have an accident and would rather lose 20 seconds than have an accident. Pulled over to the side and tucked them back in securely. Back on the bike, felt the headwind Nick had told me about but managed to maintain a speed somewhere between 27-28km/h. The bike felt good. Spent a few minutes adjusting to the different feel of it. Let some people pass me as I worked on my breathing and trying to control it. Felt nervous again and knew I had to just get over it and remind myself that this was a race - a RACE, not just an early morning training ride.  Took a couple of deep breaths and shrugged my shoulders and honestly, before I knew it I was coming up to the first turn at the 7.5km mark. The ride back was good. Started passing people. A few people passed me, then I would pass them and we played that game for a bit. Came up to the start of the 2nd lap and found that it had taken me 33 minutes to do the first 15km. Had to laugh at myself a bit as I remembered my panic late last week when it took me 25 minutes to do 7.3km.  Things were moving much differently now.  The second lap seemed to go pretty much as the first. Pushed a bit going down the hills so I could gain some speed, also was able to change gears without looking down - hooray!  As I was coming up to the turn-around point, I could feel I needed to pee and remembered there was a Johnny-on-the-spot at some point on the course. Wondered if I would see it early enough to have time to jump off and use it. As it turns out, I was moving too quickly (!) when it did appear and I figured I was close enough to the end that I could just hold it until I was back in the Transition Zone.  I did worry about the state of my legs and how quickly/slowly I'd be running if I kept up this pace, so I started spinning out my legs a bit earlier than I should have. Oh well. I still managed to finish the 30km in 1h 04m (according to my watch). Apparently it took me another 4 minutes to go from the finish of the bike, through the dismount and down the path into the Transition Zone. I did try to run at first, with my bike, but couldn't do it. The grass was so bumpy and my nerves were back, making my legs wobbly again. Decided to just walk it through. In the end I'm glad I did. I avoided falling over or otherwise muddling things up.

T2: Back at my spot, got the bike handle bars over the bar securely and let go of my bike. I was so worried about getting disqualified for touching my bike without my helmet that I think that was the last thing I took off before heading out for the run. Anyway, turned my race belt around and got my run bottle in place, put on some more lip balm and was all ready to try to find the bathroom when I realised I didn't really need to pee as badly as I thought while on the bike. Figured it was just the position of being hunched over, and I knew I could hold it for 25 minutes, so I decided to just run. As I ran out of the stadium, I quickly tried to see if my family was in the stands. Didn't look like it, so off I went.

9:44am:  Legs felt heavy, heavy, heavy. Heavier than any of the bricks or practice tri's I'd done previously. Told myself to take it easy to start with, got my breathing under control again and just kept moving. Passed a few people, some older, some younger - that felt good. Just kept moving. Onto the street portion of the run, felt very much alone, there were people coming back the other way but not many heading out ahead of me. Got onto Revelstoke and there were suddenly a few people ahead of me. Slowly I passed one, then another, then another. Kept going along this road looking for the turnaround point but it never came. Followed the road to the end and there was a lone volunteer cheering on each racer as we turned around at this point. Felt good to hear somebody shout out my name. Now that I knew I was at the halfway point of the run, I knew I could finish this and feel good about it. I'd already done the hard work. Kept my pace steady, had a sip of water, kept going. The way back seemed shorter somehow. Probably because now I knew where I was going and just how much closer I was to the finish line. Coming back through the park, passed a few more people and then noticed I was on the path with some people coming out the water from their swims. That meant I was really close now!  And I was. Up the little hill, around the corner and into the stadium.  There was a woman a few seconds ahead of me. Looked up at the stands to see if my family was there yet but it didn't seem like it. Last few metres and that was it.

10:10am:  I finished a sprint triathlon in exactly 2 hours and 58 seconds (didn't know that at the time).  Had some water, a banana and picked up my finishers medal. Walked around in front of the stands to see if my family was there and I'd just missed them. Nobody around. Went back to the athletes area and finally went to the bathroom. Back to my transition spot, reapplied some sunscreen, topped up my water bottle and sat down to stretch for a few minutes. Wasn't quite sure what to do at this point, didn't know where the family was so headed back to the main area. Walked in front of the stands again, walked around the registration tent and gear sales tents. Couldn't see anybody I knew. Back to the stands and waited. Finally around 10:30 my mom showed up and that's when we realised that they had missed me on the bike and they thought I had had an accident (not unheard of for me, haha), so they were still waiting at the bike dismount zone. Mom took me to get a coffee and a cookie, then back to the stands to wait for the rest of the family.  A few minutes after that Sue appeared and my Dad showed up with my niece and nephew.

They told me how Nick was doing in his own race (half Ironman, if you please). He had done well on his swim and was into his ride and ahead of schedule. They'd all seen him and were able to shout out to him.

Closing in on the end of the morning and I wanted to get home for a shower and a change of clothes. So that's what we did.  We came back in the early afternoon and were able to see Nick at various stages of his run and for his big finish. He finished his race in 5 hours 35 minutes (I think. Sorry, if I got that wrong, Nick.)

Later in the afternoon, one of Nick's friends was able to tell me that I'd finished my race in 4th place (!!!), out of 11 women in my age group, and 51st place of 119 women doing the sprint triathlon. Wow. Just wow. I never in a thousand years thought I could finish so well. It's true I didn't want to finish last but squarely in the middle of the pack, with women of all ages? Nope. And 4th for my age group?!  Never. It never even crossed my mind that I could be in the top 5.

All in all a great day. Yes, there were a few things I would change, but I cannot complain at the final result.

Now all that's left is to finish Saturday's race here in Montreal. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

#97 - Complete a Triathlon (Sprint or Olympic distance)

Item #97 on my Life List was:  Complete a triathlon (sprint or Olympic distance)

I say was because - I DID IT!!!  I can't believe it but I really did it!  Yesterday I completed my first ever sprint triathlon.  And next Saturday I'm going to do it again.  I swear, I hardly even know who I am anymore ... pictures of bikes and running shoes to represent me on facebook, two bikes and a bike pump sitting in my dining room.

So yeah - I've thought a lot about what I might say about doing a triathlon and I still have some more thinking to do before I write about it.

For now though, huge thanks to my family and friends for supporting me with words of encouragement or equipment over the last few months, and listening to me gripe and complain about all the aches, pains and early wake-up calls to go and train.  I couldn't have done it without you.  As cliché as it may be, here are some lyrics taken from a wonderful little John Lennon/ Paul McCartney song, "I get by with a little help from my friends, I am going to try [tri - sorry, couldn't help it!] with a little help from my friends."

Friday, August 31, 2012

T-minus 1 day

This time tomorrow I'll be pulling on a wetsuit and, in all likelihood, panicking only the way I can, as I get ready to start racing  in my first sprint Triathlon.

If you're at all interested in seeing how fast or, let's be honest, how slow I go, you can check out SportStats for all the thrilling time data.

Rest assured, I'll have a super interesting (for me, for you, dear readers, you will probably find it pretty yawn worthy) post following the race.  With any luck, my Dad will be able to take some pictures (surprise, Dad!) and you'll get to see how sweaty and freaked out I can look.

Wish me luck! And speed. And for me not to fall off my bike. And ... You know what? Just wish me luck.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

At last!

At last! Pictures from last weekend at the Cottage are up here.  It was a great weekend and it would be fun to do it again. Next time hopefully the lake will be swim-able (is that word?) and the weather just a little bit warmer.

Apologies for the delay, internet issues at home :-/

Friday, August 03, 2012

Mini-break in Ottawa

Back from a few days of mid-week vacation in Ottawa. Stayed with my brother and his family and had a lot of fun with them.  Pictures are up here.


Welland International Flatwater Centre

Check out this page!  The picture on the right was taken by me last July. I'm so proud to have it up for people to see.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Things I learned on my bike

Update:  Wednesday, June 20

Just found out today that the bike course at the triathlon actually runs in the opposite direction. Now what? I can't train on it that way because the traffic goes in the other direction.  Oh dear ... this is going to worry me ... the unknown. Help, anybody? Ideas?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This morning I planned a 30km bike ride before/on the way to work.  I learned a few things:

The idea behind this ride was to keep my heart rate below 130bpm, and according to my heart rate monitor I had an average heart rate of 133, so I'm happy about that.

With nobody on the bike path, I found it hard to slow down and keep my heart rate low. I kept wanting to speed up just to see how fast I could go.

Decided to do a few laps around the F1 circuit, given that's where I'll be racing in September and boy am I glad I did. I will be going back there a lot now. There are a lot of twists and turns but the hardest part is the straight-away.  Wow, is that windy! On my first lap I slowed down to 19-something/kmh, and coming out of the straight-away there's a slight incline and a turn and that seemed to slow me down even more! Was not in the right gear at all.  Second time around went a little better but still couldn't maintain a good speed on the straight-away. Third lap went much better. That surprised me because I thought I'd be really tired by that point, especially after struggling through the first 2 laps. But I changed gears and found something comfortable that allowed me to keep above 20/kmh (only just, but still) in the straight-away! Was pretty happy about that. Lesson here:  I have gears on the bike for a reason - use them!

Then up to work and made my last big effort to get up the hill without having to walk my bike up. I did it! Not at 130bpm though - hahaha.

Final count was 1 hour, 22 minutes to ride 28 kilometres (2km short of my planned 30km - oops), average speed I think was 20.5/kmh. Obviously I have some work to do. But on the whole I'm pleased. I kept my heart rate down-ish, I discovered I can change gears and finally, I should really plan my route before hand to meet my distance goals.

Also, I did all this before 7:30am!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crap reading

Not a lot of reading going on recently. No, that's not quite right. A lot of crap reading going on. Books so bad that I can't even bear to finish them or add links to them on the sidebar here. That's how bad.

Would rather re-read Persuasion for the millionth time than read one sentence by some popular "author" who can't create a good character or write an interesting story. ENOUGH!

Back to Austen I go.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Have a bunch to say about a cool hike I did this weekend on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, in the Adirondacks (New York). Also have a few pictures. Will try to get that sorted out this week.


First - here are the pictures!  Not that many because, honestly, that was a tough hike and I had to keep my camera packed away or risk smashing it into rocks and stuff.

Second - the details!  We left early Saturday morning and even with a 20+ minute wait at the border, we were ready to start the hike by 10am. Poke-O-Moonshine trail, which I chose as a hike thanks to its hilarious name, was a short but strenuous hike. It took exactly 1 hour 25 minutes to reach the top, and that included a few minutes lost when we got to the washed out trail at one of the beaver dams, and another few minutes enjoying the magnificent view on a cliff ledge, about 10 minutes before reaching the top.  Once we reached the top, the first thing we did was climb the 5 or so flights of stairs up the Fire Tower. Unfortunately the top part of that was locked, so we couldn't get all the way to the top. But the view from the last landing was pretty incredible anyway. The online guides and reviews I'd read beforehand mentioned a 360° view and they weren't lying! It was truly breathtaking!

We spent a good hour or more up at the top, enjoyed a picnic lunch and even a little rest under the clear blue sky.  The hike down went significantly faster; I stopped my watch at 1 hour 2 minutes.

Next we'd planned an easy afternoon hike at Silver Mountain Lake but a little detour looking for a gas pump had us heading to Ausable Chasm, so we decided to enjoy a little stroll around that park before heading back to Montreal in time for a late dinner.

It was a fantastic day and next time plan to stay a little longer to enjoy a few more hikes in the Adirondacks.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nearly ready to head outside

This morning I completed my third run of the week (3 sets of 1 minute walk with 11 minutes running). This means that next week I will start running for 20 minutes straight. I have also decided it will be the week I head outside with my fabulous new running shoes and see how they feel on the real road.

My legs feel great (no shin splints at all). My shoulder feels great (no pain at all with the movement). I am all systems go!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

So many books, so little time

Saturday morning I picked up 3 books from the library. It's Tuesday now and I'm about to start reading the third one.  I'd read faster but there's just not enough time in the day, what with work and gym and having to cook and stuff.

So many books I want to read right now (although ... when was the last time I had fewer than 20 books on my reading list?), so little time. I need a long weekend!  Luckily, with Easter this coming weekend, I'm going to extend it and turn it into a 4-day weekend, so hopefully a few more books that I've got on reserve will come in within the next couple of days. Fingers crossed!

Friday, March 30, 2012

My sister-in-law (Hi, Sue!) sent me a message about a conversation overheard at their house today:

"My aunt does dragon boating because she's awesome."

Please, nobody tell my niece and/or nephew that I had to retire from dragon boating because I'm broken and not so awesome after all. I will have to do something even more awesome to make up for this.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Template

Does this site look a little different to you? It does to me. I'm using a new template and seem to have lost the entire list of what I've been reading.  I did save the links but now need to update each one individually. I can't just do a copy/paste. Argh.

Going to give the new template a little try and see how I like it. 

In other news:  I can bike 42km without too much effort and can run 5km very slowly. Now if I could just push myself to swim 750m, I might be able to get somewhere. More on that soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March Break

Well, I didn't exactly take a week long break this March, but I did manage a long weekend away from home. Travelled by train to Ottawa on Thursday after work and spent the weekend with Nick and his family.

We could not have had better weather for a "spring" break! Friday started off cool and damp but by afternoon it was pretty dry so Nick and I went out and did a nice little 42km ride around Ottawa. Saturday morning we had breakfast at Canada's biggest Ikea store (and I didn't even have a chance to walk through it) and then we went to Fulton's Sugar Bush for a sleigh ride and taffy and lots of other maple flavoured goodness. And to end off, Sunday morning we spent at home, playing outside with the kids and the bikes and some bean bags.

The weekend flew by and I was home just before 5pm Sunday night. It was great to get away for a few days but it's just as nice to be home again. Pictures from the weekend can be found here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Update from my Mom

One of my brothers mentioned we didn't hear much from my Mom last fall during our parents' first trip to India. Here's part of an email my Mom sent me that explains a bit of what she's been doing recently.

It's been quite a busy time for us. The Cochin weekend was great, but very long, tiring and very hot. Everytime I am in an area where it is hot I promise myself never to complain about the cold!!! Three of the boys got into trouble so now they are gated for the weekend, which means that they must attend all the meals, including breakfast and not leave the campus or participate in the fun activities. Ouch!!!

I have now started to teach French for Std. 9. It's really very easy and the time goes by very quickly in the class. I also assist the Exam secretary; we are entering all the data for the Cambridge exams in June. It is a tedious job, but it keeps me out of trouble.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good bye Mom & Dad, again

Today my parents left for their second semester at Hebron School, this time as dorm parents to the Level 12 boys. It's been fun having them back, if only for a brief 5 weeks, which they managed to keep full of social activity. As much as I'll miss them, I know they'll be having a wonderful experience back in India.

So, be good, Mom & Dad, take lots of pictures and don't forget to update your blog. And a guest post from Mom once in a while would be nice ;)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Café Juicy Lotus

Last night I got participate in a cooking class at Café Juicy Lotus. Before I say anything else - that was fun!

The class actually took place at their Harvard Café location and 10 of us showed up. The owner, Gigi Cohen, was away on holiday, but her daughter and general manager Jessica welcomed us, and Chef Tom spent 3 1/2 hours explaining, demonstrating, preparing and getting us involved in making: a basic tomato sauce, a vegan lasagna, minestrone soup, Mexican style vegetables with polenta, kale and avocado salad, and Teriyaki style vegetables. Everything was vegan too, which was great!

I suppose the primary thing I took away from the class was keep it simple. Nothing Chef Tom showed us was difficult, time consuming or required a day's worth of shopping for ingredients. It was also fun to see him demonstrate his knife techniques, the sizzle of a well heated pan, and how to flip your veggies in a frying pan. In having the attendees participate, it was also kind of fun to see who knew how to handle a knife and who did not. (Naturally, I was one who did and I also had the answer to a couple of other questions so I think I would've gotten an A if we'd been graded.)

Would I do another? Yes, I think I would. But I might prefer something with a theme. Eating Italian, Mexican and Chinese style food (tastes) in one sitting isn't something I'm used to, so I found that a bit different. Also, I might prefer a class that took place during the day on a weekend because eating teriyaki veggies at nearly 10pm is a bit hard for me to digest.

Oh yeah, and this also means that #41 on my Life List - Take a cooking class (preferably sushi class but any kind will do) - Check!