Monday, August 26, 2013

Unaccounted for

I am having a hard time believing it's been a week since I last updated. Where did the time go? I had a couple of work-related events at night last week, but the rest of the time is unaccounted for. Quite honestly I think I needed a bit of time to veg out and brace for the upcoming weekend, which was a busy one. 

On Friday night we went to a local outdoor movie screening at a park. The movie started at 8:45 (and it started on time, unlike last time we tried to attend a similar event and due to technical difficulties, the movie started an hour late!) But it meant the kids weren't in bed til close to 11.

The next day we hosted my family for a get together... in between trips to the soccer field. It was the Day of Champs for both Liam and Mallory. Both of them won their games and played some awesome soccer to close out the season. (Mallory scored two goals in her game, which she tried rubbing in Liam's face; to which he replied, "Yeah, but last week I scored two goals in one period." We did remind him that it took him four years to achieve that feat, lest he let it go to his head.)
On Sunday morning we packed up and left for our annual trip to Fawn Island. The weather was perfect for a day spent hanging out riverside.
This is in the St. Clair River and you can see how the cottages are situated on a sandbar - the kids can wade forever and it's clear to everyone exactly where the dropoff occurs.
Liam fell in love with stand-up paddle boarding. There's a SUP club at Erieau that always seems to be out when we swim; maybe something to think about if he really feels an affinity for it?
Mallory was more digging the kayaking.
The annual kids' shot - we were missing a few this year, but had a great time with the ones we did see.
From Fawn Island we took a hop over the border on the Sombra Ferry because we'd received an invite to a member appreciation event at the Detroit Zoo. It was great in theory - members only, zoo open at night, special events (enrichment activities, rides/games, etc.) In practice, it was quite crowded, long lines at the rock climbing and bouncy castles and other things they had on, and a lot of animals were simply not out - not sure if they get 'put away' at night or were otherwise off exhibit. And of course by 8:30 p.m. or so, it's too dark to be looking for the bear hiding in a cave in his habitat, anyway. I'm glad we did it once, but if we're members again next year, we'll pass.

We weren't in bed til midnight last night and so today was a lazy day. We took the day off work, slept in til 9, and spent some time poolside. I'm glad we're having another kick at the can with the weather this week, because it's hard to believe Labour Day is just a week away. I want to feel really good and ready to be done with summer before this time next week.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Strong finish

Sunday was the last triathlon of the year for me, the event where it all began at Rondeau Park. This is the third year I've done the full-distance race (4th year, if you count the shorter try-a-tri event that was my first race ever). I was feeling a little low heading into this race, having woken up one day in the last week or two and suddenly realized that it has been a significant length of time since I'd done any serious biking. Like, before our Algonquin trip. Lately I've been following a structured running program, and the biking just kind of fell by the wayside. NOT good when the bike component is the longest component of a tri. But Liam was pumped for his race, Chad was going to race the du, the weather looked beautiful, and let's face it - this is a sport that you can only participate in for three months of the year. I didn't want to wake up one cold, snowy day in February and regret not having raced when I had the chance.

I didn't feel much better when we got to the race venue and the water was choppy like it had been the day before. I'd done two sprint races here before and I'd eaten it on the swim both times. I had been hoping for some redemption.

To make a long story short though, I had a great race, and am so glad I did it. The water conditions were tough but I put my head down and swam, something I have not had much success with in the past and I totally credit it to getting out to Erieau every week or two this summer with someone from my tri club for some open water practice. It really is such a different beast than swimming in the pool. It was not a fast swim, on account of the chop, but I finished it faster than I'd finished in the two previous years, was comfortable from start to finish, didn't mind the contact from other swimmers and in fact welcomed it - I was swimming with the pack rather than lagging behind! The bike was slower than last year, but I expected that. The run started out slow; it had been a while since I'd run right off the bike - but I put down some successively faster splits, and I think I ran my fastest 5k to date in this race. The run focus seems to be working!

At the end of the race, a friend from my club and I sprinted it out to the finish - this is probably my favourite race photo ever - I love that even though I am dying at this point, I am having a ball, and so is she. In the end, my time was awesome - I shaved 5:00 off last year's time.

And with that, the 2013 tri season has come to a close for me. I finished 3 races this year, went sub-1:30 on two of them (though that milestone eluded me on the Tomatoman course again this year - that one is still my nemesis!), stayed injury-free, and had a lot of fun belonging to a tri club for the first time. I feel very fortunate to live where I do as it relates to this sport. Being in a small town surrounded by cornfields has its drawbacks some days, but the easy access to the lakes and country roads make for some great swimming and biking opportunities.

A few more non-tri events are still on the calendar for the next couple of months, so there is no rest just yet. Taking it easy for a couple of days, and then I'm going to jump back into the running program and see what else I can make happen this year.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tri, tri again

Today, Liam competed in his second triathlon, the same Kids of Steel event at Rondeau Provincial Park that he did last year. I didn't have to ask/encourage/persuade him to register at all. He said earlier in the summer that he was going to do it, simple as that.
The water was rougher than it was last year. Not rough-rough, but choppy enough to have small waves breaking on the shore. Not ideal for swimming, when your practice has been in a pool.
He also moved up an age group. This year he competed with the 8 and 9 year olds, and the distances increased quite a bit: 100m swim, 5 km bike, 1 km run. Here are the kids having their pre-race meeting with the race director.
Out into the water they go. Luckily the swim course is pretty shallow and they can touch most of the way. There is also really good lifeguard coverage; there are more lifeguards out there than there are kids, in case anyone needs to be helped along.
Liam struggled a bit with the swim, but with conditions being what they were, I can't blame him. And I know the feeling all too well. Still, it didn't seem to get him down at all. He came into shore a little behind schedule but none the worse for the wear.
He aced transitioning. It was like he was an old pro. He did better than I usually do at finding where he had racked his bike!
I figured the bike would be his strong suit, since he loves riding his bike so much and does it almost every day. He was slower on the bike than we'd anticipated, but I'll bet that's because he was recovering from a hard swim effort. I won't say much about the fact that a couple of the kids on course, who were riding Felt bikes and wearing Zoot unitards and clearly had more invested in the sport at the age of 8 than I do at 38, were being paced by their parents on their bikes, fully outfitted in their tri kits, too. This is blatantly against the rules and it would be one thing if they were total newbies helping their first-timer kids out... quite another when these kids have travelled 3 hours to this race and have clearly been touring the provincial circuit all summer.
OK, I guess I did have something to say about it, after all.
Off on the run. Liam flew through the run and made up some good ground. Too bad it wasn't a longer distance - I think this is where he could have closed some of the gap that opened up on the swim!
Still looking fresh at the finish.
Mallory was so proud of him that she wanted to have her picture taken with him. We were all so proud of him. I know sometimes I have moments during races where I'll all like, what the HELL was I thinking signing up for this?? I'm paying for this? I'm doing this for fun in my spare time... why?? I'm glad that he seemed to enjoy it so much and that he persevered even when the start of the race was hard and probably a little scary for him.
Oh crap... it's my turn tomorrow.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The shot heard 'round the world

Tonight, during the last regular-season game of his fourth season of play, Liam finally scored his first soccer goal.
What amazes me most is that I was there to see it. This season he and Mallory have played at the same time on pitches at opposite ends of the complex, and I have occasionally received a text from Chad indicating that Liam is playing a period and hustled my way down to watch a bit - but I have largely not seen his games this year, because someone needs to be there with Mallory. Tonight, Liam was playing a makeup game to compensate for one that was rained out earlier in the season. Mallory's league does not play makeup games and so we were all on the field to watch Liam. After a fairly dismal first half of the game, he had a breakaway, gave the ball a boot...
...turned to get visual confirmation that we had indeed witnessed history being made... and then returned to his usual stoic face as the teams set up again at midfield. The strong, silent type. But he couldn't contain his happiness. He kept breaking out into silly grins at random moments:
And then I guess he decided it was such fun that he did it again! This time there was more luck involved; Liam kicked the ball and it bounced off a purple player into the net. Liam got credit for the goal. Here's the ref taking down his info.
It was a pretty darn exciting night for the little guy. More random smiles.
Four seasons of toting my camera to the field have finally paid off; I got a shot sequence of the all-important first goal. So happy for Liam that this day came.

Oh, the humanity. Er, felinity.

Poor little Lucy-Lou went for her spay this week. She's 4.5 months old now and they kept putting the surgery off because she was so small. At 4 months they do it regardless of size, so we made the appointment and in she went. We picked her up Wednesday night, completed the adoption to make her officially ours, and brought her home. The good news is that she is in good spirits, surprisingly so. She seems genuinely happy to be back at the house and will climb on top of us and settle down for a nap, purring all the while, the purr amplified through the giant cone on her head. So there is bad news point number one: the cone. It looks like the most uncomfortable thing in the world, though she really does not seem to mind it. We can hear her clunking around the house with it at all hours, and it makes it awkward for her to eat and drink. We also have to leave the basement door open, because she can't fit through the cat door to get downstairs to the litterbox with that thing around her neck. On the bright side, it means she has to take the stairs one at a time, which is good. After you spay a kitten they tell you to make sure the kitten stays as inactive as possible for two weeks. Um, what? Have you ever met a kitten? How exactly are you supposed to do that? So the fact that she can't barrel up and down the stairs is indeed good. The other bad news is that she had an allergic reaction to the stitches, so she has a big lump on her belly, and she had to make a return visit to the vet because of it. And speaking of her belly, they did a real hack job on shaving her fur. She is half naked now but there is a surprisingly small incision for the actual surgery, so why they had to take off so much fur is not entirely clear to me. Also, she's still covered in iodine (?) which I guess we are just supposed to let wear off onto our furniture and carpets... She looks bad enough, between the cone and the belly, that when Mallory first saw her, she grew wide-eyed and silent until she fearfully asked whether Finnegan would have to have the same thing happen to him. I was happy to be able to tell her that it had already happened to Finn, under someone else's watch. Anyway, the important thing is that it's done, she seems to be doing well, and she's officially ours now, which means that in about six weeks and a day, when our free pet insurance runs out, we will probably discover something major that's wrong with her. Or, you know, hopefully not. On the drive home from the vet, Liam commented casually that we'd kept Lucy alive a lot longer already than we'd kept Pip alive. He has a point.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In training

We have a big weekend coming up. Some of those in these pictures in our house have been diligently training, and some have been, shall we say, a little more lackadaisical. Too late to do anything about it now. Hoping to have a good race, and hoping he has a great one.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

This is going to be good

Another movie to add to the list of what I want to see this Christmas. I think this is going to fuel my wanderlust even further.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Date night

(OK, so this is a picture from our camping trip - hence the stacks of sleeping bags and Rubbermaid bins full of food behind us...)

This week, the kids are having another sleepover with Gramma and Grampa, and as usual Chad and I are giddy at the prospect of some alone time. Sorry kiddos, we miss you lots, but let's face it - ten years from now you will be largely removed from our lives, and this man and I will still have to wake up in the morning to face each other and hopefully still have something to talk about. We'd better keep things humming along in the meantime. We decided that we were going to go for a nice long bike ride (have I mentioned that we have a ride coming up next month that's 127 km long, and the farthest I had gone this summer was not even 40 km? Yikes) and get some dinner on the way.

The plan was to ride out to Erieau, which has become my favourite destination this summer, and have dinner at the Bayside Brewpub before returning home. We figured it would be about 35 km each way and shouldn't take much more than an hour in either direction.

Unfortunately, I got stuck at work late, and then we loitered a little at home before we set out. And once we set out, we realized that the wind was blowing strongly out of south. And our course was pretty much due south. The first hour, we made gruelingly slow progress. We finally got to Erie Beach and from there the wind subsided or was sheltered a little; but it still took us much longer to get to Bayside than we expected.

Then dinner took longer than you'd have thought; we had to get the bikes situated, get seated, and every trip we made back and forth to the table or the bathroom or wherever was painfully slow, because we were skidding about on slippery hard floors in our cleats. Then our pizzas were held up because of a backlog in the oven. You get the idea.

To make a long story short, it was 8:30 when we headed for home, despite having inhaled that pizza faster than I've ever eaten anything in my life. I have a paranoia about cycling in the dark, but at this point we were just starting the ride home when it was darker than I would normally consider even finishing a ride. Oh well - nothing to do but go for it. We both had our blinky lights on us, thank goodness, and we shaved a couple of kms off the return trip by choosing a busier road. This actually turned out to be a wise decision, because by that hour it was not terribly busy, and yet the approaching headlights really helped to illuminate potholes and other obstacles on the route. Normally the drivers in our neck of the woods are pretty rude to cyclists, but props to everyone on Charing Cross Road last night who gave us a super wide berth and made me feel as safe as possible for someone cycling on a country road in the pitch dark.

We did make it home in one piece, rolling into our driveway a little after 9:30. Despite my worries, the ride home turned out to be quite lovely. The wind we'd hoped would be at our back had pretty much died away, but at least it wasn't blowing in our faces. The crickets were chirping and it was peaceful. And it was a good sense of accomplishment to pedal almost 70 km total, though my back was killing me by the end - something I need to remedy before we tackle the long ride in September.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Algonquin 2013

A couple of weeks ago we went back to Algonquin, 3 years on from the last time we were there. Of course, places like Algonquin are timeless. It's not like going back to a favourite city and seeing that a store you liked has closed or that there's new construction or a re-named street. No, at Algonquin you remember where the sandy spots are on the bike path where your tires stick, or that the big boulder marks the place where the trail turns. The lakes and rivers and islands are all still there. It feels like you've dropped in exactly where you left off 3 years ago.
But something did change in that time - our kids' interests and abilities, and they changed for the better. When we visited with a 3 year old and a 5 year old we had a good time, and when we visited with a 6 year old and an 8 year old, we had a great time. It helped that the weather was beautiful and there was plenty of food and that we didn't have bad campsite neighbours, terrible bugs, or another run-in with a hungry bear. But what really helped was that our kids were interested and active and could actually do so many of the things that you do when you go up north: paddle a boat, swim to an island, hike and bike and fish, and they could do it all with the enthusiasm that comes from being a kid and doing these things for the first (or nearly first) time.
I don't think any of us expected fishing to be the highlight of the week, least of all me, and yet that's exactly what happened. On his first day out, Liam caught 4 fish and a snapping turtle. I rolled up right as he was pulling the turtle out of the water and I don't think I will ever forget the look on his face when he realized what he had caught. 
After hearing so much about Liam's success, Mallory decided she wanted to fish, too. She fished and fished and fished, as Liam reeled in a few more catches here and there, and she didn't catch a thing. Poor Mallory, we said, how we hoped she would catch SOMETHING before our week was up. 
The following evening we were out in a canoe we rented to paddle up the Madawaska River. We brought the fishing poles with us and as the bugs chased us back to shore, we stopped for a brief time so the kids could drop their lines in the river and see if that might be any different than fishing in the lake where we were camped. Finally, Mallory caught a fish that night, and she couldn't have been any happier...
...unless she had gone on to catch sixteen more fish. Which she did. The very next day!! It was ridiculously, really. Every time she cast her line, she pulled in another fish. Poor Liam was going through a dry spell while this happened and I think he was bugged. When all was said and done, Mallory caught 18 fish on our trip, and Liam caught 17 plus the snapper. So it all evened out in the end.
Besides the fishing, we did lots of hiking. The kids loved this because of all the rocks on the trails. They weren't content to stick to the paths but instead had to try to clamber up every boulder and rock face they could find. Rocks like these simply don't exist where we live, so it was all novel and fun. And, because they were old enough to read the signs saying WARNING - TRAIL VISITS A CLIFF - KEEP CHILDREN UNDER CONTROL AT ALL TIMES, they didn't run around like lunatics at the top of said cliff. A lot less unnerving than last time.
We had some good wildlife sightings - five moose, a bear cub who came out to see me on my morning run and on that same run, once I'd looped back into the campground to pick up Chad to see if we could find the bear again, a wolf.
Plus the usual campsite critters (note the fishing line tied around the peanut - Mallory is attempting to reel him in:)
We ate delicious, terrible camping food, walking tacos and skillet brownies and pancakes speckled with fresh wild blueberries we'd picked that morning, banana boats and s'mores, lots of s'mores:
We caught the news the old-fashioned way. Despite them advertising cell reception along Highway 60, I couldn't really pick anything up. I waited about 20 minutes for the CNN headline to refresh to IT'S A BOY but waited for the following day's paper for the full story:
We made camp crafts:
And paddled to our heart's content, in kayaks, canoes, and even doggy-paddling at times:
And we fell into bed each night when the sky was dark and the campfire burned out, and we slept like the dead until morning, when we woke up and did it all over again.
It was a fantastic trip. (One of these times, we are going to have The Vacation From Hell, to make up for all the good karma we've had when traveling.) Rather than tent it this time around, we booked a campsite with a yurt, which looked like this inside:
It came equipped with an electric heater, which was lovely when the temperature dropped into the 40s overnight. These yurts are available year round, and there's a part of me that has a hankering to head back up there for a few days in the winter, knowing that it could actually be quite comfortable. Not this year, but maybe next. We'll see.