Monday, September 16, 2013

Silk? Linen? Spandex.

On the weekend, Chad and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. This was the first time we broke with the traditional gifts. Rather than giving each other silk or linen, we treated ourselves to some spandex instead, and registered for the inaugural GranFondo Niagara Falls.
GranFondos are essentially long supported bike rides. There is an elite division that races. They tell the rest of us it's not a race, but they do log your time, and you don't officially complete the event unless you maintain a certain pace. In this case, the roads were closed for the event, but if you didn't stay within the event then the roads would be re-opened and you'd be subject to some pretty brutal traffic. Good incentive to keep up with the group!
We drove up on Friday night to attend packet pick-up. I realized then that I'd forgotten to pack a sports bra. Sport Chek was closed so we made do with Walmart. The extra errands meant getting to bed later than expected and we had to be up before dawn... 5 a.m. to be precise, in order to be in the starting corrals by 6:30 a.m. O Canada was sung at 6:45 a.m., the loudspeakers started to play Queen's "Bicycle Race" and we were off just as the sun was starting to rise.

The morning was considerably colder than we'd expected. I was wearing a short sleeved jersey and had thrown an old cotton shirt over top while we waited in the corrals that I'd planned to discard at the start line. As it turned out, I wore that shirt flapping in the wind for the first 80 km of the ride, because it took forever to warm up!
The course was amazing. There was some really beautiful scenery. We started and ended in front of Horseshoe Falls. The ride was on the Niagara Parkway to Niagara on the Lake, so we passed the American Falls, the Whirlpool, the Floral Clock and Butterfly Conservatory before we started passing some stately real estate. People were out at the end of their driveways in their robes and slippers to wave and cheer. From NOTL we came back along the Parkway (which meant riding UP the Escarpment... ugh) and then did a loop through the Thorold Tunnel under the Welland Canal and around Short Hills Provincial Park. We passed lots of orchards and vineyards and enjoyed some rolling hills that were a lot of fun to ride on.
There were six rest stops along the way with food/drink/bathrooms/first aid/mechanical assistance. We stopped at 5 of them. I am still having back issues and can't ride an hour straight without it pinching horribly. We knew going into things that we'd be off our bikes at almost every stop to give me a chance to stretch out. Besides the stretch, we needed some sustenance. I ate a whole stack of Honey Stinger waffles... love these things... well as some non-conventional fuel... M&Ms anyone?... and several Niagara peaches.
And two of the rest stops had sparkling wine from Jackson Triggs, which was actually quite yummy at 9 a.m. (despite the fact that I never really drink it at the usual time of day).
Me and the world's smallest cup of wine. Good thing there were refills.
Shot from the top of Effingham Hill which was a big effing hill. We were woefully undertrained for this ride. Well, I was. I really slacked off the bike the last part of the summer, and at any rate, even if I'd ridden more - where around here could I train for a hill like this? We were timed on this 2 km stretch of road and the winning times were awarded "King of the Mountain" polka dot jerseys. If you look closely at this photo I think you can see four walkers and two people still on their bikes. Chad made it up, but I walked - hey, it was another opportunity to stretch my back - and I also started shooting photos before I crossed the timing mat at the top of the hill. Those are my excuses for why my KOM time was so ridiculously long.
Luckily the last 20 km or so of the course was net downhill, because by then I was pretty tired. We did manage to stay ahead of the pace car and within the event, so we were awarded medals at the finish line.
More important than the medal though was MORE FOOD - I was ravenous! Jambalaya, salad, and beer for all.
There was a finish line concert too enjoy too - Barney Bentall and Jim Cuddy. Barney must be a fast rider because he was changed back into street clothes. The rest of the band belted out Blue Rodeo's greatest hits (mostly) in their spandex. The woman in purple is Canadian rowing legend Marnie McBean. I'm still not sure what qualifies her to sing in public.
GranFondo Niagara Falls... done!
We spent the rest of the afternoon/night in town. We treated ourselves to a nice dinner at a churrascaria restaurant. Not too much more walking around though; man, was I tired.
Fortunately, we did wander by this place before heading back to our hotel, and felt entitled to order one up. Killaloe Sunrise, of course.
This was the first year for GranFondo Niagara Falls and it was a super event. Kind of pricey, but that's what happens when you have to hire a small army of police to control traffic along 125 km of closed-down roads. I get that that costs money. It was a fun little adventure for a special weekend, so well worth it in our book.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Up til present

I had a couple of blog posts that were semi-started and never finished, but I'm just going to skip over them and keep going. It's September now, the month when things get a little crazy for a few weeks. The start of school went off without a hitch; the kids like their new classes and are settling in just fine. Mallory joined a lunch-hour art club and thinks she is the coolest kid at the school.
Late in the week, she modelled in a local fashion show (Auntie Jenn scored her the job). She did great even if she did look like she was going to throw up a little! I think she was pretty nervous but also very proud of herself when all was said and done.
Liam got a Flock of Seagulls haircut for back to school. Ha ha! This is how he looked when he came home from the hairdresser, but he's been wearing it a lot flatter ever since.
We have been watching a lot of the US Open, which inspired us to go out and play some tennis, right in time for the end of the season. Nice how that always works out right??
And we took advantage of some overcast-but-dry weather on the weekend to go apple picking. It feels a little early for such a fall-ish pursuit (indeed, this was the first weekend the orchard was open), but we had nothing else going on, which can't be said for the foreseeable future. I am out of town for the next 2.5 days for a conference, back for less than 24 hours, and then Chad and I are off on a little getaway.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to school 2013

Today was back to school day, and it went off without a hitch. There were no tears shed by any family members. Last year's Mallory-driven school-administration-involving incident was fresh in my mind, so I took the kids to the YMCA Before School Program and dropped them off unceremoniously. I figured if I took them to the school yard at bell time and stood there in a parent gaggle watching them line up, it might trigger some sort of flashback or PTS episode. Nope, better to pretend that there was nothing special about the day whatsoever.
Well, we did start off by taking a couple of quick snaps on the front porch... that is pretty much a given. We have it down to a science now though - what used to take lots of direction-giving and coaching and time and energy has become a well oiled machine - a couple sitting down, a couple standing up, a couple together, throw in a free internet printable and Bob's your uncle.
To cap the day off, Mallory's first activity started - she was back at the gym tonight for her gymnastics class. 'Cause you know... why not launch headfirst into the craziness of the school year by piling on the activities right from Day 1? At least hockey/swimming/music/skating give you a week or two to settle in before they start up.

Welcome, 2013/2014 school year... hope to make it through to the other side.