Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Making the News and a Retrospect Photolog...

I got trapped by a news crew for the second time in a month yesterday on my commute to work. We won't mention the fact that I was riding to work about an hour later than I should have been so fate intervened in my dis-favor in this case. We also won't mention the fact that you can clearly see in this video that I am riding on the sidewalk which I was doing because of the construction that started on the street likely only just before I went riding by. I couldn't watch it on TV but I did search for the video and watch in online (cringing the whole time) and I am pleased to say that I don't look fat and I don't sound stupid and for once, the news editor chose a clip where I am not bumbling and stuttering over my words which is what I really did for the majority of the 10 minutes I talked to him. I don't really like to talk on camera as it makes me feel self conscious and stupid but in this case I made an exception because the reporter was kinda hot. And because it was about bike path infrastructure in my city. So if you choose to look at the video be warned that the link is of the ENTIRE news and you can find me about 7:30 minutes in (or just beyond). So fast forward. Unfortunately I can't do anything about the 30 second commercial you will be forced to view prior to the start of the news itself.

The other thing I am wishing to post today is that I finally received an email with the link to the photo albums from the MS Bike Tour and I will post some of the highlights. Enjoy.


There's Candy, doing her thing, kicking my butt up the big hill on the first day. You can just see me as a blip of orange far in the background.

Team Lorrie and Paul the Ironman Queen and King and my draft on Day 1

rrrr..... Red River Rebel Rider's Team 2010
Michael, Roxane, Jim, Ashley, Yuri, Mike, Kim, Guy

Me pretending I'm fast enough to keep up with the lead guys on the way out of Dauphin on Day 2

Me looking fast, and again, not looking fat on the fabulous Madone (God I love my bike!!)

Big Mike on a Bike battling some wind or some huge gradient. There was a lot of both.

Kevin. Mr. Under-2-hours on Day 1

Michael (who turns 50! today) and Jim at the end of a big climb.

Andre wondering how I dropped him on the hill.

Me on the hill on day 1... I don't know who the heck that is behind me though.

Mr. Iromman Stig with his race numbers still visible.

Esther and Gyula in tandem. Gyula rode 140 km in two days and then did a larger event just a little over 3 weeks later: Bypass Surgery (He's a miracle man).

Guy piloting his bike wondering how the hill got so small after the Golden Triangle

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two "Psycho" Cross Virgins


Psycho-cross -- a well deserved nickname I've heard twice this week from two different sources. Mud. Blood. Water. Hills. Rock bed. Sunshine. Grass. And a race with over 40 people charging around an approximately 1.25 km course that twisted and turned around the campus of the Canadian Mennonite University. This is Menno Cross.


I asked one of the volunteers at the end of the race how the College was going to like the state of their grounds come Monday morning. There is no doubt that cyclocross does damage to the landscaping. It had rained all week and had been dry for only one day but I was still hopeful when Andrea and I rode up to the CMU campus that my initiation race would be as dry as last week's race at Wildwood. One tour around the to the back of the College where the starting area was had us dipping through puddles and gave us a preview of the already mud smeared course, pretty much shattered that illusion. I had cleaned Dave's bike up prior to leaving my house and wondered, why I bothered.

A Word About Dave's Bike

I spent probably the last 24 hours of the race in virtual panic once I found out exactly the nature of what I was riding. Consider it the Mercedes Benz of Cross bikes. There were small hints you know.  The SRAM shifting. The shiny wheel hubs. The carbon forks and chain stay. The removable back fork. The weight of the bike itself. But I was sort of in the la la land of denial about what I had in my possession until sometime on Friday when it occurred to me that I could look up what the retail price of this bike was quite easily. And so I did. And it was good solid hour before I was able to function normally again. And then I had to email Dave and remind him once again of his awesomeness. I'm sure he's getting tired of me gushing all over him now so I promise, that's it.


Very teensie iensie in the background is me on the gravel road (From the Woodcock Cycle page)

And they're off!

Being my first MCA affiliated race I got to race for Free. In what other sport would this happen? As you know I've been terrified of bike racing. So when they went through the seeding in what I would estimate to be a race with well over 40 racers, as a "citizen" racer I was seeded at the back while Andrea got to start a few rows of riders ahead and this was OK with me to be at the back. I was nervous and I had to have a goal and it might as well be to see if I could eventually catch her. And see how many other riders I could pass in the meantime.

Chris from my triathlon club was back there in the dregs of the start line with me as he was also unlicensed. He and I and Andrea did our warm up laps of the course together and there were a couple moments when I saw him unclip ahead of me on really steep hills. It turned out that he had about a 7-speed bike that he was riding. One big ring and about 7 cogs in the back. Chris was looking at a real grinder of a race but he was a strong rider and an amazing athlete and I had no doubt he would do well.

Barricades at Mound of Mud Part II (Woodcock)

The course went something like this: Gravel path start onto the grass which weaved in and out of itself and up some ball breaking hills, onto some swoopy slanted hills onto the rock garden path which was the curse of many a rider and the cause of more than a few bruises, and scrapes and four letter words, out to the front parking lot of the college to the steep mound of mud (from two angles) that crashed down into more mud and puddles and loose grass and then back around again to the start. There were two areas where barricades were put up. The first was about half way through the early section of the lap and the second was right at the mound of mud the second time you went up to the top. I'm told this is the most "mountain bike" like course of the series and it definitely favoured riders with mountain bike skills. And I don't think my lungs have felt the burn like that since I was a kid racing cross country running.

And this kind of thing is why we got so dirty (Woodcock).

Dirty

We did six laps total. The leaders did 7, so I did get lapped by a handful of riders. I would guess that I was lapped by about 10 riders but it is really hard to judge on a course of this nature that doubles back on itself in multiple places. Half the time I couldn't tell who was ahead of me and who was behind me. I actually suspect that there were a couple of riders that I lapped in the race as well. 

Of all the laps the first lap was the hardest. It took about one lap for the riders to start to spread out and for it to get easier to pass people. The start was full of bottle necks and being at the back I had a lot of riders to contend with in front of me and that actually pumped my confidence and showed me how badly I've been downplaying my own riding and bike handling skills. People were going down all over the place and taking bad lines and cutting people off. At one point on the first lap I noticed I was inching closer to Andrea and was probably about 30 metres behind and then some guy knocked me off my bike on a simple blip of a hill and it was a while before I got that close again.

The second and third laps were my passing laps where I found my endurance kicking in.  This was where one by one I picked off riders in front of me that went out too hard on the first lap and toasted themselves. I just worked on picking off one rider at a time. And until my 4th lap or 5th lap I don't think I got passed again. The guys passing me in the 4th or 5th lap were the leaders.

Filth!

I finished my third lap and looked at the time and it was about 25 minutes into the race so I knew the 2 laps warning was going to come sometime in the middle of the 4th lap. And frankly the last two laps were the most exhausting of all. I remember wishing that I wouldn't get a 2 lap warning and that I would miss it all together and just get the bell so I would only have to do one lap. But no I got two full more laps and they felt like sloggers. My lungs were burning my legs were aching and the barricades that I dismounted in front of and leaped over with confidence in the first 4 laps I started pretty much walking through in the last two laps. On the last lap I could barely lift the bike anymore (the bike that weighs about 18 pounds -- sheesh... how would I be lifting my 26 pound mountain bike over those things after 4 laps). I dragged it over the barricade and noticed I'd inadvertently knocked the chain off. So I lost about 45 seconds on the top of the hill trying to get it back on.

The rock garden from hell...

I caught up to Andrea in the middle of the 4th lap. She was a damn hard catch. When I was finally able to spot her again after the mishap of the first lap I found myself gaining a lot of ground on the technical sections (and she was having her own difficulties with clipping and sharp turning) and then promptly losing it on the big straight away through the end of the lap. I was meters behind her on the grassy loops before the rock garden and I kinda just intended to stay there for the rest of the race (I was toast) and then she ended up falling at the end of the rock garden so I went past. She got up and finished with a sore elbow and that slowed her down a touch.


Coming down the mound of mud (Woodcock)

The Technical Details

I stayed upright for pretty much the whole race. I fell three times. The first time on the first lap when the rider on the hill knocked me over from the side. The other two times was when I stubbornly tried to climb the mud mound at the front of the college on my bike. I had done it on the warm up lap without difficulty without other riders around but got slowed down by riders in front of me on the first lap and went down about half way to the top. Most people were getting off their bikes and running up the hill. That's what I did on the second lap. On the third lap I came through pretty  much alone and tried again but my legs were fatiguing by that point and I went down about a foot from the top. I ran it up for all the remaining laps. That was a tough part of the course.

Andrea at the finish. She was talking to someone when I took this picture. I can't remember who it was but it was hopefully someone cute.

Clipping and reclipping is difficult when your shoes are wet and caked with mud and slipping off the metal pedals. I perpetually had difficulty clipping my right foot as I think my cleat on my right shoe was crooked. I pedaled unclipped for long times on that one side. I took some very steep downhills unclipped as well and they always ended with a big clunk into some puddle that made me thankful for the carbon forks cushioning my blow. Probably save me a little bruising in the nether region too. There were puddles everywhere and you never knew what was at the bottom. At one point water splashed up under my sunglasses and into my eyeball and left me blind for about a minute on one side. But this is all the fun and games of cyclocross. Sometimes I would look down into the drive train of the bike and wonder how the heck the bike was even still pedalling.


How is this Drive train still Working under these abusive conditions?

How did I do? Fairly well I think in terms of placing and extremely well in terms of my personal expectations. Having a citizen's license I don't count in the main placing and official results are pending. Chris came in right behind me (he had done one more lap than me which means he came close but did not quite catch me and fully lap me). We had talked before hand about the pain of cyclocross vs. the pain of duathlon and he wanted to know what I thought now that I had finished the race. And cyclocross definitely wins.

Not a bad start but then again any future races I do won't have me on the Mercedes Benz Specialized Tri-Cross Expert either and even if I am to one day buy my own cyclocross bike it won't ever be of the calibre of the Specialized.

A very dirty expensive bike

Thanks Dave. You got me bike dreaming again. But you kinda knew that would happen didn't ya........ I'm smiling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Super-cycle Me


Man that's a sharp looking bike isn't it? Tribalistic colours and everything. Dual suspension. Wow. It doesn't get much better than that. I should get me one. I should get me two. And look.... only $259.99. It's a total steal! I could get me 15 bikes for the price of my one.

Yes but......

The theme of the week appears to be cheap bikes -- and, conversely, expensive ones as well (more on that tomorrow). I've had three conversations and one minor argument about the value of spending good money on a bike in the last couple of weeks. Because I ride and obsess about bikes and everyone knows it, I get asked my advice all the time about what to purchase. All I can say is this: If you don't want to spend a lot of money on a bike don't ask me for advice because if you tell me you would like to ride more regularly the first thing I am going to tell you is don't go to Canadian Tire or Walmart and you need to spend at least $1000 (regular price... if its on sale, that's a bonus). And if you tell me you are going to participate in a long distance charity ride the first thing I'm going to ask you is if you have a good bike, and if you don't, then please go back and read the advice in the previous sentence. Here are 4 good reasons why:

Big Mike on a Bike

My friend Mike who does the MS bike tour with us every year rides a lovely orange bike which automatically makes him cool in my eyes because he has great taste in bike colours. While Mike is NOT riding a cheap department store bike, he is riding a bike that is only about one step up from that (He spent about $399 on the economy end of a brand name bike. Even name brands make a lesser version of their high-quality-selves). This season he has put nearly 4000 km on that bike. [As an aside, I need to add that I have also put over 4000 km on my handsome Madone. Myself and another rider of an equally ultra light fluffy carbon piece of art agree that in terms of total energy expenditure, Mike wins over me in terms of mileage.] He recently took that bike into a very respectable shop in the city for a once over and when he went to pick it up the guy asked him, "How much weight are you putting on the back end of that bike?"

Mike, being the big guy that he is says, "What are you trying to say?"

But the whole back end of his bike is starting to sag under the weight of panniers and the weight of big Mike. Bikes like that are simply not built for big mileage (maybe 1000 km tops). Nor are they built to tolerate the weight of anyone heavier than a child. If you want to ride a lot, and it doesn't matter how fast you intend to go, once you hop on a quality machine you will never want to go back.

It's true that the difference in feel between a $10,000 bike and a $2000 bike is negligible (the price difference comes down to fancy components), but the difference in feel between a $200 bike and a $2000 bike is eons apart.

Lalalalalalala... NOT LISTENING

My friend Tom, who is also my office mate, plays the stock market, spends a gazillion dollars on home renos and beer, and drives his cars till they are ready for the junkyard, wants to buy a bike so that he can ride trails around his home which is just outside the city limits. He estimates that this trail system is about 40km long. He has his eye on some Sport Chek brand which will cost him about the same as Mike's orange bike but is still probably worse in quality..... He claims he rides these trails about 30 times a summer on his relic of a department store bike that he bought for $75 20 years ago. But he wants one of those dual suspension bikes.

Me: You don't need dual suspension for what you are doing.

Tom: Oh I know I don't need it, I just want it.

Me: You realize that isn't real suspension on those bikes and it just a bunch of crappy springs that look like suspension. You should go on the Alter Ego website. They have Norco brand REAL dual-suspension mountain bikes on sale right now regular $2500 for $1200. Apparently they are not going to carry the brand anymore so they are clearing them out.

He is intrigued. He looks. But of course the first ones he sees are the $6500 Norco mountain bikes which are not under as huge a mark down as the middle and lower priced Norco bikes. (This is a good bike store. Of course they also have very expensive bikes.) Then we get to the bike I was referring too.

Tom: That's a 2008 bike. That's not a markdown. That's depreciation.

Me: (At the point of exasperation) So what. It's still a thousand times better than some piece of crap Sport Check bike with springs for suspension. That bike will last you for life.

Tom: Well my old bike I'm riding now I've had forever and it's still perfectly good. And I pass people on expensive bikes on the trails. (Fat guys with no fitness). I'm not spending $1200 on some depreciated bike that will do the same thing for me.

Me: Ok. Just stop talking to me now. Don't even tell me what you plan to do. And don't tell Jason and don't tell Michael... (our biking coworkers) lalalalalalala NOT LISTENING.

I love Tom. He is the most easy going, generous, and helpful person I know. He helped me put my patio together this fall. But don't talk to him about bikes. And, I repeat, if you've never been on a good quality bike, you simply DO NOT know.

LBS: Cheers!

As a recent post alluded to, I am developing a nice relationship with the Local Bike Shop boys at Alter Ego. Usually I go there with a purpose. But I also like to go there to visit (usually I combine the purpose and the visit). And similar to Norm's experience on Cheers, it is nice to show up at a place where everyone knows your name. Now if they handed me a beer as I came in the door too, that would simply complete the experience.

The store is separated from the workshop area by a half wall and usually somewhere behind this half wall is where I will find Dave. I'll stand and chat with him peering over the half wall as he works on a bike. Then he stops working and he chats too. And then eventually when my purpose is over and I am full on into visit mode, I feel bad and I say, "You're busy I should leave you alone," and then he will say: No, please. Take me away from my shitty bike. And sure, enough, more often than not, he's working on a Supercycle or equivalent.

There is something fundamentally wrong about companies that peddle (pedal?) hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shitty bikes a year most of which are rarely ridden and rust and collect dust collectively in our Canadian winter garage storage and the people stuck fixing them are the high end bike shop mechanics.

But then again, maybe that's the point. These bikes aren't meant to be fixed. They are meant to be thrown away when they are broken. These are disposable bikes meant for "one time" use. Which sort of, when you think about it, is paradoxical. If we are supposed to be riding bikes to help save the planet, then we should be riding bikes that have a long lifespan in order to not have them end up in a landfill upon their death.

The other night when I was visiting/trying-to-find-out-if-my-single-speed-could-fit-cross-tires Dave and young-Dan (there are two Dan's.. they are both kinda young, actually) were both working on a pair of shitty bikes in tandem. [Actually, Dan was working on the shitty bike. Dave was cleaning my bike with a rag to avoid working on the other shitty bike.] Dan had lucked out and got the full-out component replacement on a trashed looking Supercycle. It had $200 worth of parts dangling in various baggies from the handlebars. Isn't putting $200 worth of parts on a Supercycle equivalent to putting a Hemi in a Pinto?

Me: $200! Throw the freaking bike in the garbage and get a new one.

Them: We told him that. He insisted he wanted to fix it.

They tell me the story of this guy's plan. He's going to get a new better bike for himself in the spring (Yeah he's lying, I'm thinking) and he wants to repair this one anyhow as he's going to hand it down.

Me: Hand it down? Throw it out and buy a new Supercycle to hand down then it is the same price as the parts. And buy a good bike. Better yet buy two good bikes.

Dan or Dave (I can't remember which): OK we'll give you his phone number and you can call him up and try and talk some sense into him.

Me: Haha. If he won't listen you you he's not going to listen to me. I'm a woman. Guys like that don't listen to women.

So the moral of the story is. Save the sanity of your LBS dude. Buy a good bike. You'll also help save the planet because your new bike will last longer.

And if that doesn't convince you.....

Today I read a post written by a more well-read blogger than I and he poses four very highly reflective questions exploring the differences between one $7500 bike and one hundred $75 bikes (which is better?). These questions came to his mind while Looking at a  Bike Display in Walmart. I will attempt to answer his four questions here:


1. The $75 bike will only be 1% as much fun as the $7500 bike because it will only last one ride while the $7500 bike will last (barring no crashes) an indeterminate number of rides. After one ride the $75 bike will be bent out of shape and deformed by your fat ass and better used as a lawn ornament.

2. I would be troubled by the fact that the 100 $75 bikes will end up in a landfill after I discard them. Please, I'll take the $7500 option.

3. To be honest the 100 people on the 100 $75 bikes would be a far more entertaining and awe inspiring spectacle over the one rider on the $7500 bike. Nothing could be more entertaining than 100 people with no bike handling skills, on a group ride, on cheap malfunctioning bikes. The carnage would be awesome.

4. These bikes are most suitable for plant holders. Alternatively they might act well as table legs for a pair of end tables. Or as a light fixture hanging from the ceiling. They are pretty and meant for decoration. Walmart mis-stocked them in sporting goods. They should be in housewares or gardening.

Thank you for reading. If you didn't already suspect that I was a bike snob, I have now fully confirmed your suspicious. Snobbish and proud of it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Innocence


My daughter came downstairs for breakfast this morning, dressed and looking presentable, which is not always the case, may I add. She runs to the beat of her own drummer when it comes to clothes. She sat down at the kitchen table and didn't say a word. She had a little pillow in her hand and her fingers stroked it and poked into its little pocket as she watched me with big eyes as I prepared the school lunches for the day.

Oh F*%$. I suck.

You see, the pillow was her tooth fairy pillow and the tooth fairy forgot to come. Emma lost one of her bottom eye teeth last night. Her fang tooth, she called it. I didn't even know she had a loose tooth. She may have told me weeks ago that it was loose but it seems my kids take months to lose teeth. She told me, likely, and then I forgot until she brought it up again after biting into pizza in the car on the way home from RONA last evening. Then she spent the next hour working and working on it until it came out.

Having a tremendously busy day yesterday that had me running around from the moment I got up until the moment of bed time between a school pick up, a bike pick up, patio stone pick up, helping with the patio building and running off to the first swimming session of the fall, the tooth loss was just one more thing. I even was concerned that I was going to forget before I actually forgot. My mind was tired, my body was tired and this is my child who is never tired enough. I can't put her to bed and expect her to be asleep in 10 minutes so I can do my secret tooth fairy duty. With her, there is no point in sneaking up there until she's been in bed for at least 2 hours. Last night she was in bed by 9, I was in bed reading by 9:30 and asleep shortly after 10.

Me:  I guess the tooth fairy forgot to come last night eh?

Her: Yeah.

Me: Why do you think that is?

I'm hoping I don't have to tell her. I'm hoping at this point that she will say to me, "It's because you are the tooth fairy Mom. Duhh... Everyone knows that. I'm in grade 4 now. Geez." I can tell by her eyes that the gig is up or at the very least that her doubt over of the existence of a "tooth fairy" has now been solidly confirmed.

Her: I don't know.

Me: So why do you think she didn't come.

Her: I don't know. I was sleeping last night. I was asleep.

Uh oh. She's thinking she's done something naughty and didn't deserve to have the tooth fairy come.

Me: Well maybe the tooth fairy was tired too and she fell asleep.

Her: Yeah.

Me: Do you want to keep the tooth?

Her: Yeah.

I look for my wallet and quietly open the zipper and find (thankfully, I'm not one for carrying cash), a Twonie. I plunk it on the table in front of her.

Me: Don't tell your brother.

Her: OK. I won't. He's still in bed. He won't hear us having this conversation.

And I know she doesn't tell him because about 20 minutes later she's being a snarky 9 year old again (where ever does she learn these behaviours from?) and I threaten to charge her a twonie for her rudeness. He he says: That's not your Twonie, the tooth fairy gave her that twonie.

So down goes the tooth fairy and it is only a matter of time before the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus suffer the same fate. Chances are she already knows about that too. Kids are far less naive today. I hung on to the fantasy of Santa Claus till I was about 12, which means that I was still fantasizing about Santa around the same time I started fantasizing about boys.

But my daughter amazes me. She has since pretty much birth. She wasn't interested in walking or standing so she scooted herself around on her bum till she was 20 months old. She could copycat big words like Constantinople at barely 13 months old. It was almost embarrassing to go into stores with her because she would say hello to every store clerk and say: Hi, my name is Emma and this is my Mommy Kim. She could barely walk when she was doing that and she was bald and looked more babyish than she was. Somehow she managed to fool us until she was 6 years old about the fact that she has no hearing in one of her ears. In all fairness, this was normal for her. It's been that way, as far as we can tell, since birth. It wouldn't have occurred to her that she was "different" from everyone else. She is wise and she is insightful. Old Soul. And she is sneaky and she is manipulative. She takes news of change in her world with calm curiosity. She's going to be a difficult teen and one interesting adult and I'm glad I get to raise her.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Feeling Cross and Naive

Graphic stolen from Twin Six (I am sure they will not begrudge me for this gratuitous free advertising)

There is pyramid hierarchy in cycling not unlike Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- the psychological pyramid for which the base is all basic human needs like food, water, safety and sex, (I find it interesting that according to Maslow we must achieve sex as a physiological need before love..... Like most things hierarchical, this hierarchy must be based on MEN's needs), and peaks at self-actualization and transcendence, the latter of which is often only achieved at the moment of death.

In cycling, the base need is to get on the bike and pedal, and stay upright without grave injury, and this could be with or without training wheels. The need is, simply, to be able to ride. Most people have this ability. It progresses to a desire to be independent and get from place to place, followed by more of the same as we age but perhaps on a more regular basis and for longer distances. One level up on this hierarchy but one level down in terms of moral standard and self respect, are those riders who race complete strangers on the street, like my man friend I met back in the spring. Next is the triathlete who is willing to race bikes in a sanctioned race, but ONLY if other riders are further away than a minivan and ONLY if bike riding is sandwiched between two other arguably less engaging but diverse sports. Triathletes, also hold the distinction of typically not being willing to ride with others outside of races unless those others are willing to continue to ride further away than a minivan. Which is why the the next level is achieved by becoming a group rider who will draft in a large pack. Group riders can be triathletes (but more often than not, are EX triathletes) hoping to level up. And the final stage of leveling up is the self actualization of the biking world -- those strange competitive souls who race bikes.

As I have alluded to in the past, I aspire to be a bike racer. But bike racing is not like running races where your first event may be the local half marathon where you compete against 2500 other runners essentially guarantying that you can comfortably race invisible to gawkers and family alike. There are also guaranteed to be many runners who are a lot slower than you. Bike racing is also not like the local triathlon where there are probably 200 other racers. Also good odds of not coming in last. In a bike race there may be as few as 7 racers in your category and the likelihood that someone will be slower than you is pretty much negligible. Especially if you are a woman bike racer.

You realize I am an overachiever eh? I could probably write an entire blog post about my overachieving tendencies but not today. I have given up overachieving in a couple of significant areas in my life such as marking student papers (because, for the most part, most students simply don't care about getting better at writing) and of course motherhood. 

But have it be known that I come out of the closet today and will say: I do not like the idea of coming in last.

So an email exchange I had on Friday caused me to do something irrational. I was emailing a fellow cycling friend, Jason, about something that had nothing to do with cycling but had everything to do with me attempting to at least be an adequate mother if I couldn't be an overachieving one, and that was about putting my kid of the masculine variety in cross-country skiing this winter and the email gravitated to me facetiously asking him, since he had done such a good job coaching his own kids in this regard, when he was going to teach me how to bike race.

His response (and I paraphrase several emails):  You already know how to bike race. You can keep up with some of the fastest guys on the road (a bit of an exaggeration). You're stronger than 99% of women out there. (As an aside, let me specify -- 99% of non-racing women and triathletes). And if you want to learn how to bike race for next year then you need to get out and race cyclocross this year because cyclocross forces the best bike handling skills in cycling. And something ...blah, blah, blah....(about spending money) about going out and buying eggbeater pedals, outfitting my single speed, and showing up at the local race the very next day even though I have never seen and have read very little about cyclocross.

And the voice of reason speaks.

So after spending a summer refusing to buy a race licence for road racing, the discipline I know I am good at, I go out and buy a race license to race cyclocross a biking discipline I know nothing about. I then email my friend and bike mechanic Dave and ask him about tires for the single speed. His email back says:

Yeah, Cross lets do it. I have tires that would work for you in stock. You could race tomorrow. Kick someone's A##.

Why is everyone so determined to put me in this race tomorrow?
 
 
 
To make a long story short the tires didn't work. They fit OK between the breaks which is what I feared would not be possible but an unanticipated problem was that they were ultimately too tall to clear the arc in the front fork. No studdly tires on the single speed. So back to plan B. Race with mountain bike.
 
I didn't race. Kids stuff was already on the agenda and the timing was poor. I did go and watch the race with tired daughter in tow post birthday party sleepover and she was very unimpressed with her mother for dragging her there (see... not an overachiever) especially because there was no play structure.  Cyclocross is like a crit on grass and trails with a twisty course. Race 30 minutes and then one lap. It truly is a well named discipline because it is a "cross" between mountain biking and road riding. Then just for the fun of it they throw in a few barricades that are too tall to ride over but not tall enough to be considered hurdles, but you do have to dismount off your bike and leap said barriers. In the race on Saturday the barriers were right before a steep uphill so clearing the barriers also meant running up the hill. It looked like a lung buster race. No doubt about it. I didn't see too many crashes but I did see a guy snap his seat post. That was wild. Apparently his nether bits survived.  And I do get the sense that this is the kind of racing for which it would best to NOT choose to wear white. Which is fine by me because I don't intend to wear white ever again.



So at some point while I am observing the B race, which matches up the non-elite racers with the Joe's off the street and the women and the "citizen" racers which is what I would be, Dave shows up and I fondle his bike a little while he takes off somewhere to go play with his dogs, say hello to the wife, or something. It is a sweet bike and given he works at a bike shop and he is the third man on the totem pole and these bikes are his "bonuses" so-to-speak, you know it is a top of the line cyclocross bike. So when he comes back and I comment about the bike and its frame size and he tells me it would the same size that I would use for a frame, I again, because facetious is my middle name, say: So that means you could lend it to me for the race next week.

And Dave says, Absolutely. And I just about faint on the spot. Are you serious!? And he says of course because he will have to work next Saturday and he can't take off from work to race two weekends in a row. I still wasn't quite sure he was serious until later on that evening after I wrote a Facebook status that said: "This is cool. I could do this."  And Dave comments back, and you could do it on my bike if you wish.  Because he knew what I was talking about.

I'm seriously in awe. As a LBS dude he is king. And it is no secret to Dave, and everyone at the store for that matter, that I have a total crush on him so he's completely won me over now.

So I get to race cyclocross for the first time on a real cyclocross bike. I'll never look this good racing cyclocross again. This could be my one and only chance, although Dave tells me if I break it I'll have to buy it. There is nothing wrong with this. N + 1, remember. Dave also knows that I am a sucker for spending money on bikes. . . . .


There's Dave in pain at the Crit Provincials -- amazing photo by Stefan Isfeld (lifted from Dave's FB page) who Dave tells me he is remotely related to in a convoluted way. But you can see why Dave and I get along so well, can't you? We have the same taste in bike colours and matching accessories.

So I am excited. And I am terrified. On that same status, (This is cool. I could do this) one of my long time friends wrote: "Is there anything you can't do?" And the answer to that is pretty much, NO, if you take economics, financial math, and my complete utter failure at relationships out of the equation.

But to a degree, that is overachieving me. Anything I want to do I have to be very good at it or what is the point. And when it comes to athletics, in particular the kind where you can't really hide in a crowd as it is in bike racing, I have always felt like I should have a certain level of achievement before I try and branch to the next level. I grew up in "nursing culture" where taking risk that is above your experience level is sadly frowned upon and considered arrogant and that thought always sits at the back of my mind too.

Besides, I perform better when naive. If I know too much I tend to overanalyze and overthink. Which is why I tend to wing things rather than prepare. This strategy has worked OK for me in life so far.

So thanks Jason and thanks Dave for giving me that vote of confidence this week. I can't seem to give it to myself so I appreciate that it has come from you. I can now go forward guilt free and start a new era of coming in last in bike racing.

Now I just hope that the moment of self-transcendence in the bike racing hierarchy is not also more likely to come at the moment of death.

Totally NOT a race... no, no. Totally not.

Thanks first and foremost to all my contributors. I managed to raise $1216.39 towards MS research for this years ride. I'm about a week behind in making this post although most of it was written several days ago. I've been waiting to see if pictures show up but its time to get the writing out...... Enjoy


Every season, there is an event that stands out above all others as the Showcase event of how hard I've worked this season. The duathlon series is the baseline event of the season that tells me how well I've maintained (or gained) from last season's training and winter trainer riding. The MS Bike Tour is always my showcase event. Sad because it isn't even a race. 

I curse the day I became one of those cyclists that races charity rides. One of my coworkers asked me the  morning after my return how the MS bike tour weekend went.

Me: Great. I'm really tired today. It was super windy and a bit cool but lots of fun.

Her: So did the 7 of you on your team ride together.

Me: No. No. We are all of different abilities. We couldn't ride together.

Her: So where do you fall on your team in terms of who is fastest.

Me: (sighs)... I would be second fastest.

Her: And who would be fastest.

Me: Well that would be Michael. I would be second.


And I'm kinda proud of that but I feel like hanging my head in embarrassment at the same time about being proud of that. Because this is NOT a race.

The thing about the route from Dauphin to Clear Lake is that it preys on my greatest riding weakness -- which I'm going to try not to reveal here but you'll probably figure it out. Last year I got dropped (or dropped myself -- that's my story and I'm sticking to it) from the lead group at about 4km in to the ride. This year I was determined to do better. I got up early to do a 6km warm up and found that on the flat open straight-away that leads into Riding Mountain National Park was going to subject us to some pretty wicked cross winds.

We are lead out by the Dauphin police and I fully expect race tactics to begin immediately. I am a bit more ready for what is coming this year but there is a pretty good West side wind and I never do well in cross wind. This year the cop car leads us out for a long time. At times it is going slower than we could (25km/hr). It is good draft though. I am in the double pace line beside various rotating riders: Jim, then Bob, then Kevin. The windward side is rotating. I am behind Nettie who is on the leeward side and is behind the police car. Bob says to me, you are riding behind the Canadian national road racing champion. She won't brag about herself so I do it for her. I have met her before and I know this already. She scares me and I want to be her.

It is about 12km to the first hill that brings us up to the park gates. Shortly before this the police car pulls ahead. Nettie and Bob take off and I manage to stay with them and then they slow right down. I'm smarter this year and I know what they are doing. They are trying to get weaker riders to pass them and tucker themselves out. So I just stay behind them and enjoy the slower pace.

I'm still kinda with them when we hit the hill but I've cooked myself a bit on the flat so I am not climbing comfortably. Bob drops a chain and I pass him. The thing about "The HILL" in riding mountain is that it really changes up the ride. Those who climb better get ahead and never get caught and those who don't climb well drop back. This is why I tend to do better overall on day 1 than day 2 and its been that way every year. So I climb the hill and it levels out a bit (false flat, it is still up for the next 10km) and Candy is with me. I pull her and we catch Andre who doesn't climb that well at all. Candy and I leave Andre behind on the next steeper climb and then slowly Candy leaves me behind and I am by myself.  Eventually Paul and Lorrie catch up to me (they have a system going that I will use to my advantage later) and the three of us climb together but Candy is simply uncatchable. We can see her up ahead but I would say she comes within about 100 m of catching the lead group on this climb. I am gaining on the lead too for the moment but they are far enough ahead that we will still be doing the steepest part of the climb when they are well on their way into the rolling roller coaster part of the ride.


It is a hard climb, there is no doubt about it, but to be perfectly honest, this year, after Mt. Lemmon, a dozen or so climbs up airport hill, and riding a mountain bike with slicks up that climb out of Radium and about two dozen other climbs on the Golden Triangle route, I kinda wondered where the hill went.

So I ended up spending the next 50 km with Paul and Lorrie who just did Ironman Canada 2 weeks prior. We had a couple of goals for the ride. Andre powered past us on the first bigger downhill and didn't stay and work with us. We joke that he probably didn't like the idea of having 3 women ahead of him (meaning me, Lorrie and Candy -- Nettie doesn't count, she's in a class of her own) and Candy was still waaay ahead. And of course the fact that he didn't stay with us automatically made him a target. The goal then became: Finish With or Ahead of Andre.

So Paul would lead downhill and suck poor me, who downhills badly, along in his draft. We would get to any uphill and Paul and Lorrie positioned themselves side by side and Paul pushed Lorrie uphill with his right hand on her back. They would eventually overtake me (which just goes to show you how strong Paul really is). I would stay behind in their double draft. Paul would then catapult Lorrie at the top or near the top of the hill and I would chase her down until I caught her wheel, recover, take over and pull until Paul caught up. Repeat. It worked.

And because Andre was not as strong a climber, I knew exactly where we would catch him. There is a section of uphill that is 3km long about 24km out of Clear Lake. We got him and went past him at the top and basically waved and said see ya later.  I thought he might tag on and stay with us but I guess after 40 or so km of riding by himself trying to catch Candy he was cooked.

And naturally that meant our next target was Candy. And we were gaining on her, inch by inch using the same system and we were no more than 100 m behind her when we hit the biggest downhill of the whole Day 1 ride 5km out of Clear Lake. This hill is just past the Wishing Well Golf Course. And then something bizarre happened. The downhill became very slow. And then it became slower and then it became like hitting a wall of wind. You could see the lake and white caps off to the right and then you were almost at a dead stop. I saw Candy get out of her saddle in front of me so I knew it was coming before it hit. And then you headed straight from this assault into another large grade uphill. I gained on Candy more here and caught her somewhere near the top.

And this moment in the ride became the talk of the rest of the day amongst everyone in the tour. The buzz your ears caught was:  What was with the wind at the golf course? It wasn't how hard the 10km of straight uphill felt, it was all about that wind. You would be sitting in the bathroom and someone a stall over would be talking about it.

It was at this point that I realized I had left Laurie and Paul behind. Ooops. This was unintentional but I had also been able to tell that Paul was fatiguing. He was pushing Laurie up every hill and at the point of catapult was pushing her forward further and further away from the top. I had only one single minded focus when I hit that downhill and that was catching Candy. She became my new goal. I had been benefiting from Paul and Lorrie's tandem routine so I was pretty fresh when I went past Candy and said, "Would you like some draft?"  So I pulled her along for a few kilometers until the last hill which is just before Elkhorn resort and then I left her behind. Also (sorta) unintentional. She caught up to me in the town however and we rode in together. There were only 5 other riders ahead of us: Kevin the Olympic rower did the ride in under two hours drafting off the police car for the first 40 km. Bob, Nettie, Michael and Jim were about 17 minutes behind him, and Candy and I were 7 minutes back from them finishing in about 2:20.

But no.... this is not a race.

Day 2

Usually there is too much wine and too much beer on the night of Day 1 but this year we are all old and tired I guess. The only difficulty I faced Sunday morning was that it was cold. So I started out at the front again and wondered what would happen.


My first mistake was not going for a warm up spin. What happened is that I was going along pretty good until the first big downhill   I was on Paul's wheel as I had been the day before and not close enough so the gap widened and that was it. I just don't have the weight to carry me down like those guys. I was OK with this because I knew that with Kevin in the group I was not going to be able to stay with those guys. As it was in the end, I wished I had jumped on Jim's back wheel when he went by because. Kevin ended up pulling Michael and Bob along for about 90% of the route and Andre, Paul, Jim and Nettie rode together. I'd like to think that that I could have stayed with those 4 but... who knows.

As it was I ended up in a group of 5 that consisted of Candy, Jack, Stig, and Lorrie and we were a good pace group. That was, we were a good pace group until we hit a longer stretch of uphill and Candy ended up pulling and maxing us all out. I barely hung on sitting in 3rd position and Candy dropped our Ironman and Woman (Stig and Lorrie). And then we were three. Jack started having gear problems about 5 km from the 10km of downhill and then somewhere on the downhill he dropped his chain and then we were 2.

So Candy and I worked our way out of the park and onto the flat into Dauphin. It was windy. The hill that can give you 80 km/hr downhills on a good day, only gave me 58 km/hr. There was a touch of a head wind but the majority of the wind was harsh from the West. I never did look it up but I would guess 30km per hour or greater. Candy and I took turns but a traditional one-rider-behind-the-other pull system didn't work. Our bikes were easily at a 15 degree angle from the wind and the windward person fought it the most. I discovered quickly that the best place to sit to recover was on the leeward side with your front wheel about mid way up the windward person's bike. This positioning required a lot of trust because the wind gusts were strong enough to push you onto the shoulder, or to push the windward rider right into you. You had to trust that the person pulling could maintain bike control during the gusts. It also meant that that lead rider had to be out part way into the highway lane (backwards from traditional where usually the back riders are further out and the pull person is at the curb).

I trusted  Candy and she came to trust me. It was the hardest section of the whole ride. There is a McDonald's on the highways just as you enter  Dauphin and it seemed like that Big M was not getting one smidge closer. At some point during this section Candy says to me that it has been an honour to ride with me this weekend. I could easily say the same of her.

And then you were there and you turned east into town with the wind behind you. Usually you can manage this portion of the ride in under 2 hours. Under different conditions it would have been easy to manage that this year. Last year we were two hours flat. This year 2:12..... a long way off. I saw Andre after the massage and he says to me, I wasn't letting you finish ahead of me today.

Haha Andre... Not next year. I've come to conclusion that when men choose me as a target to beat on a ride that from now on I am just going to take it as a compliment.

So it was a good ride and every year feels a little different. A little easier. A little stronger.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Good Side: The Writing One, I mean....



I am working hard to not turn into the Alanis Morisette of blogging.

I do realize that embedded in the truth of my last post is a lot of bitterness. The other thing I recognize and want to acknowledge is that, other than the pregnancy part, you could replace the "he" with "she" and it works for both genders. I am guilty of behaving like this too (except I don't believe I was ever insulting, rude, or dishonest during the end of any relationship I've been in, including my marriage). In fact I'll tell you a secret, one of the ages in the age list is my own age at the time of my offence.

When I wrote What I Can't Blog About, Story Teller Holli commented and suggested I let it all out and just see what happens. And I've been thinking for a couple of months on how to do that tactfully. The problem with the discussion about rebound relationships (and if you read it and you didn't know what the hell I was talking about..... there you go) is that it begs you tell specific stories. Several of the men from my past that inspired that literary effort I could write about easily and without remorse but there are a couple that I could and would not write about because thinking too much about it still causes me a lot of pain. I'm not interested in attacking or embarrassing anyone. This is not a revenge blog.

And aside from that, the interesting part about my history with rebounders is not the individual stories, but that there are collectively so many of them. And that it spans my entire relationship history. For me this begs the question of what is it about men in that state that I am attracted to? Like a woman who repeatedly finds herself in abusive relationships (which also, at the beginning, look like dream come true relationships and eventually turn into hurtful nightmares -- these assholes attract women to them somehow so they must know how to pretend to be nice), why am I attracted to hurting and broken and, arguably, profoundly insecure men? I'm still trying to figure that out.

I read something interesting while doing a Google search for a picture that would fit. The article says that rebound relationships never last long, but they will last until the healthy person can no longer tolerate the emotional distance of the rebounder. As an adolescent, for me, that was always 5 weeks. Maybe shorter, because I have often thought that what flipped the switch in the guy, turning him from being a romancer into being an insulter, was my questioning of the emotional distance and my demands for more.

But the great excitement for me in writing Anatomy of a 5 Week Relationship is that it is the first fiction based writing I've done in a couple of years. I envisioned a blog where I took a bunch of lines that guys say to girls during the charming phase of a relationship and then the ending phase of a relationship and tell a painful emotional story of contradiction and baffling inconsistency and it would be punctuated with my (guttural response) but have no narration or over-analysis of what what going on. Yes every single line is something that some guy said to me at some time -- sometimes more than one guy can be attributed to the same line --but collectively it is a giant work of fiction. And to me it reads more like a poem than a short story. 

And I'm kinda proud of it. Proud enough of it, as a matter of fact, that I emailed it to my Mentor to get his opinion.

About 5 years ago, after I finished the 2nd draft stage of my first novel, I applied to a mentorship program through the Manitoba Writer's Guild. This program paired "emerging" writers with published writers to work together for 6 months on a work in progress. For me it was a gift and a dream come true to be selected for this program as writing that book was a huge emotional awaking for me. I was also clueless and lost about what writers went through emotionally while writing and I thought at moments that I was losing my mind on a roller coaster. Writing can be a constant battle with your self-esteem. Some days you think you suck, other days you think you are a genius. I had never in my life talked to anyone about writing before. It was something I did in secret with my bedroom door shut and the do not disturb sign metaphorically visible and in big block letters: Don't ask me about this and don't talk to me. This is MY private thing. I had no idea that what I went through in my writing process was normal. I had never finished a novel before, even though I had started or outlined many. In my teens if I got the urge to write, I would sit down with my notebook and begin and then the phone would ring and someone on the other end would say, "Whatcha doing? Wanna go hang out with so-and-so at such-and-such?" And out the door I went. Writing abandoned.

The confusing part about the mentorship is that the Mentor who chose me was Laurie Block -- a 50-something poet. Why the hell would a 56 year old man who's main literary genre was poetry, have any interest in my girly little teen novel? But it turns out that no more perfect a person could have chosen me to work with. We were psychologically and emotionally on the same page immediately. He didn't pick me because of the story I was writing. He didn't pick me because he thought I was necessarily the most talented writer in the pile (although he did see promise), he picked me because of the passion he saw in the letter I wrote for the selection process and because of the person he saw in that letter. He didn't care about the genre I wrote. It wasn't long before Laurie was not only my writing mentor but he was also my confidant and friend. It was Laurie I looked at one day sitting in his kitchen in Brandon near the end of our mentorship, and without even really hearing myself or my words or what they ultimately would come to mean, said to him, "My book is more important than my marriage."

So I sent Laurie that blog entry because he knows my writing and he knows where the heart behind what I wrote is coming from and because I trust him beyond measure and value what he has to say. He made me burn an entire manuscript of my second novel once because someone in my writers group at the time wrote scathing and irrationally rude comments on it and he could see how those comments were killing my spirit.

Here's what he said about yesterday's post:

Thank You Kim. It works - it's fresh and it's authentic. I'd change the title though. Anatomy suggests dissection piece by piece. This is more about language and trust - the confusion, giddiness, crazy-making stuff that seems glued to love. I'd call it You Say because it's about words and honesty; bullshit and truth. For me it's also about deep confusion, about not being sure of what you hear. Or at times say. I recognize my self, my troubled history in that. It's so hard to ask for what we want and need. It's so impossible to become soft and vulnerable in the face of so many scars that remind you of what can happen when you're open to life. How we give our best selves away, in spite of all difficulties, and how those selves are handed back, stained and worse for wear.

Sure their are mechanical problems about voice - who's speaking and who's opening the basement window to internal conversations but they only add to the emotional vertigo. Besides I'm not responding as a mentor but as friend, as peer. and I agree, this reads like a poem. And I'm trying to picture you reading it out loud.

You are a writer, you'll always be one.


laurie

"Emotional vertigo" -- I like that. And he's right about the title. Shortly after posting that blog yesterday I got an email from one of the boys (now a man) who I include amongst one of the "10" (and I don't know if it is exactly 10 -- I haven't sat down and counted) and he said: "Ouch...I can understand all of that. But in my defense, I was screwed up." And that email gave me the belly laugh that I needed. That guy technically wasn't on the rebound, I don't think, but I did use one of the lines he said to me many years ago regardless so his age at that time shows up in the list. There were a couple like that. This was fiction, after all. Creative licence is essential.

The email exchange carried on for a couple hours between real life work bits. It isn't hard to suck me into chatting about the creative process. And he too talked about what I think is what Laurie meant by "emotional vertigo":

During the read, I did feel that I couldn't trust the storyteller. Which in itself is a great change from most stories. I remember reading a few novels and studying a few more at University like that. Of course I can't remember what they were but I did enjoy the ambiguity. And I did spell that correctly the first time. With relationships it is always a unisex thing. He/She can be the giver or receiver.
I then asked him to clarify what he meant by not being able to trust the story teller because I believe that to mean that it is possible that the story teller is not telling the truth or has an untrustworthy perspective .......

That is sort of what I am getting at, perception. It is difficult to follow who is who, that's the point right? The definition of us and them is crossed in the delivery. You are going to make me reread and give examples aren't you? Not trusting the storyteller is a good thing. It provides the razor's edge, the different sides are the same, the gray area between the white and black, and other cliche examples. If the storytellers opinion changes during a story its more interesting, more real, more from the brain, not engineered but created.
I don't know if he's right or not but I do kinda like the fact that I made him think and he could be articulate about it. I like even better that he took what I wrote for what it was worth and didn't get defensive on behalf of his species. This is a guy who obviously many years later likes who he is and takes responsibility for the hurt he caused others in his past. Even if he was just trying to make me laugh with his original email.

I'm trying to get back to having fiction writing in my life so today's post is about celebrating a small victory towards that goal and I appreciate everyone who took the time to comment on that particular blog both publicly and privately. Fiction is a terrifying thing because so much of your soul goes into it. That post is intended to be literature rather than a blog or a rant or a piece of social commentary. It was a bit of a departure for me in this forum. Perhaps I confused some of you?  Good.

I'm always drawn to writing about the emotional circumstances that drive human relationship. I wrote my first book while trying to escape my marriage and came out of it drowning, grasping for another passion to be my life preserver. That passion turned out to be a person. I wrote my second book while battling heartbreak and frustration. I couldn't write a stitch the whole time I was in the midst of my own rebound relationship and I knew that couldn't be good (In fact some of my early blog entries were written while I was in that relationship and I look back on them now and I find they read stilted.). And in my most recent relationship, (which I was in while this blog was picking up speed so I knew it was a relationship of progress), I used to say to myself, if this doesn't work, I'm going to spend some time writing and figure it all out. Maybe I subconsciously knew that the "writing" was on the wall already. Who knows.

All I know is that I am burnt out from relationships. The end of that last relationship sent me into a bit of tail spin for a while and my writing got put on standby. Relationships period are on standby. I feel I am sending out very powerful don't-go-there vibes to men in general. I have a confession to make. The only men I can stomach flirting with right now are married to other people and I'm doing this because I know these men are safe and aren't going to convince me to go to a place I'm not ready for.

I'm taking writing time now. This is good for me. Baby steps.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Anatomy of a 5 Week Relationship



We meet.

You stare at me all night in the bar and finally get the courage to stop my friend and ask her if I'm single. She, of course, whispers this in my ear, but I've already seen you staring at me for at least an hour and I'm amused and curious about your mixture of boldness and shyness. We have mutual friends. It's New Year's Eve. There's no better day of the year to meet someone than New Year's Eve. We've known each other for a while and there has always been this blistering sexual tension. It's always made me wonder. We meet and there's something there. Something about you strikes me. Something about me strikes you.

You say you will call and you call. Already a gigantic hurdle cleared. We go out. We meet for a walk. We go for coffee as we always have. We meet for lunch and you ask me what I am doing that night and do I want to go to a movie. (Really are you serious? We'll make a day of this?) You say you have a great time. That you want to see me again. And again. And again. That you can't wait to. We kiss. Likely. Because that's kinda how I am.  Sometimes you  kiss me first. Sometimes I kiss you first. I corner you on the front steps. Behind the bar. Sitting on the floor in the basement. Sometimes I wish I could kiss you first but I'm not allowed to. Not today.

You say: When are you planning on getting married? (What!?) How many kids do you want to have? (What! What! It's only been a week!). What kind of relationship do you want? You're amazing. Your beautiful. Hey good lookin'..... Have a great day. You independent intimidating intelligent woman you. (Ooh intimidating. Oh yeah, those were my words. You're teasing me with alliteration. You seem to know who I am.) Things are getting really comfortable between us. Light the candles around the room. I feel really comfortable with you. I want to hear what kind of music you listen to. (Really?) There is something I want to show you if you are willing to learn. I'm really looking forward to sharing this with you. Yeah I'll change my shift and come to that concert. Anything just to be with you. I want to say something but I'm not sure I should. I really feel like I could be falling in love with you (Really? It's only been a couple weeks. This is too soon.) Listen to this song, it is one of my favorites. I'll sing you a song. I have a story to tell you but not until November. (But it's September....??) You open the bag and there is a bottle of wine hidden. (No one has done anything like this for me before.) It's a heartbreaking story.

You grab my hand. (I'm not prepared. I'm sure it was hard for you to lose your father. It feels good that you could share that with me.) You call me twice a day just to say hello. (I like this and I'm starting to believe you could be for real.)

(I give in. I have feelings for you too. I love you. I want you.)

And it turns. Overnight.

You say: Maybe you shouldn't come over tonight. Sorry I was with my buddies. I didn't think you'd still be up. You know I lost $300 when I gave up that shift. (I'm upset and you know it) but you have to tell me about your road rage incident instead. (Hey I'm waiting here. How much longer are you going to be?) You're too insecure. Sorry I haven't talked to you today. I'm in a bit of a bad mood.  I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have said that. I think we need to back things off a bit. I had no idea you felt that way about me. It's very flattering. (Am I 12?) I don't need to talk to my girlfriend every day. I don't do the dating thing. I was with you but 30 minutes later I was thinking about someone else. I need some space. It's your fault.  Of course I could f%$k you and have it mean nothing. (You are lying to yourself.) I didn't mean it like that. Why are you so needy? (Are you KIDDING me?)

You disappear. I don't hear from you at all. I corner you, at your work, on the phone when you can't duck my call, at the corner of two highways. (What is going on?!!!)

And which of the following constitutes an acceptable excuse for this treatment:

a) I'm not ready.
b) My ex-girlfriend called me and told me she's pregnant.
c) I'm still in love with my ex.
d) Any of the above are acceptable.
e) None of the above are acceptable. They are all Bull Sh&t.

I'm not 12 and neither are you. You are 16, 19, 20, 21, 25, 38, 43, 46, 55 and everything in between. I wonder what is wrong with you. How could you give this up? How could you give me up? I feel like I am impaling myself trying to save you. According to you the other one was lying, cheating, neurotic, manipulative, impossible, crazy, high maintenance, she wouldn't let you out of her sight and then she wanted you gone. So you say.

How is it, then, that I only get to be the consolation prize?

*****

And this is how you write fiction. You write what you can't blog about and you make 10 sound like one.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This is Now

The cottage as it stands today 2010

It's a different world today and I'm not sure what is to blame for that. Technology? All those colourful 3D game characters that move and talk and look more like real people. They are really attractive. And my daughter can't stop talking about certain ones. We've come a long way from Atari Pong. But even out at the lake we have more technology. We have satellite TV and when I was a kid all we had was CBC. We have a phone which wasn't installed until I was at least 18. We still don't have any internet access but I'm sure that will be next. And I have discovered that if I walk up to the top of the road, at the highest point I can get one or two bars on my phone, and if I am really patient and pace in a certain spot at just the right speed, I can do a few things like send an email I wrote the night before, or check a voicemail.

But it is nice to be free of the computer. I don't watch TV but I spend as much time on the computer as I used to spend watching  TV.

Or is it paranoia about the great outdoors? Hell being outside can kill you, you know. UV rays .... there is nothing a pretty little princess like my daughter likes less than having sun screen smeared all over her. And heaven forbid a bug of any kind comes within 2 feet of her. (Is this really MY child?). Or what about all those horrible people out there that take kids? My daughter had a friend over last week and when the mother dropped her off she took one look at the park right outside my front door with full visibility from my house and said: "If they go to the park an adult will go with them right?"  Uh, sure. Absolutely. (Not).

But my last post showed pictures of me at the age of about 6 doing cartwheels on the floor base of the new cottage (by the way, we STILL call it the NEW cottage) and climbing on top of the roof (I may have been 7 in that picture). No one air-lifted me up there, I got up there of my own ability. Trust me, my mother was not the type to be able to rescue me if I got stuck. And if I was seven and on top of that roof that means my brother was 5. I doubt that either of my kids could do a cartwheel. I also doubt that either of them would have the courage to climb a ladder and get up to the top of the roof. They seem to have a natural fearfulness of anything risky.


My Mom calls her a "little Kim" but you've seen kid pictures of me now and I think she is prettier. She's daintier, that is for sure. You can tell I was a solid kid. And I NEVER could have sat like this.
And of course the cat had to come to the lake this year. Where once there were 4 dogs, now there is a single cat.

Is this my fault? Do I not teach them enough about how to be physically active? Somehow I doubt it. I certainly  model it. I can assure you that my parents didn't teach me any of that. I was, obviously, just never told that I shouldn't try. There was no constant barrage of "be careful!" Stop. Let me do that for you. (And I don't believe it is me that stops them.... I don't think so.... I've tried every bribe I can think of to get my son on a 2 wheel bike and he won't bite. He's afraid to fall and get hurt.Where did this fearfulness come from? Clearly not from me?)

But my kids love the lake and yes there are bugs and yes there is sunshine and yes there is a gigantic and deep body of water that they could drown in right out the front door and 40 feet down and sometimes the waves are 3 feet high. My daughter is an excellent swimmer and she would be fine but my son is not, although he is far braver this year than he has been in the past.


Last year he wouldn't get off the big rock near the shore. So this is progress. And damn he's handsome.

Grandma and Grandpa Rule

But part of the reason that they love the lake is because they LOVE grandma. My mom is the typical grandma who does everything for her grandchildren just as her mother did for me when I was a child. So I bring them down to the lake and Grandma can do no wrong. They are happy to boot me out the door so I can get on my bike. They colour the million Club Penguin colouring pages she printed for them because she's learnt that is the in-thing right now. They help her in the garden or the yard. She feeds them on demand and does all the clever things with food that I suck at and never think of (or can't be bothered with would be more honest), like cutting sandwiches into fingers or taking cookie cutters to cheese slices. Sometimes they are downright pissed off when I return, they've got it so good. Although, I believe, my mom breathes a sigh of relief.

There I am in front of "caboose 2"

When I come back from a ride (on the days I go -- I don't go every day I'm out there) is when we all go swimming and my Mom usually joins us. I don't remember her swimming much when I was a kid but she gets in there now. Emma usually wants to swim as far out into the lake as I'll let her. I was doing a training swim to an island right before the Kenora tri and she took a body surfing board and paddled two cottages over to meet up with me on my way in. 

Or we get out on the boat and my Dad tours us around to where all the eagle's nests are on the lake.  We check out the cabin growth on the other side, and the number of cars on the parking lot at the Golf course. There is always loon spotting to be done. My kids have a fascination with loons simply because of hearing them call in the darkness out at the cabin. And one of my secret talents is that I mimick them quite well and there are always requests for demonstrations of my loon call because the loons usually answer back.


Same boat we had when I was a kid. Same motor.

Everything takes a little longer at the lake now-a-days. My Dad built an entire cottage in a summer at the age of 41 with the help of all the neighbors but we built "caboose 2" (a misnomer -- it isn't a caboose at all, but old names die hard) about 8 years ago and the ceiling fan and light just got put up this summer. And he put a little deck on the front too. But then again, he was likely slowed down in recent years from his slowly occluding coronary arteries as well.

Mom and Dad on the dock from a couple years ago.

The boat used to come out in May when I was a kid but in recent years we've been lucky that it came out at all. Every year there seems to be something. The motor is always malfunctioning. A tree fell on it one year. This year the dock posts got bent into a Z shape from the break-up of the ice in the spring. The boat didn't see the water until August long weekend and even then only when my brother got out there and forced it. I can understand it. I find it easier to get big intimidating (and frustrating) jobs done when someone offers to help.

Lake Characters

I talked about my Uncle George as one of the interesting "Lake" characters from my childhood but I never did mention John. John was our neighbor on the other side of us and he knew everything about anything mechanical or building related. He wore the same kind of worker green pants -- like Mr. Green Jeans -- and he never stopped working. One of my brother's and my favorite childhood games was "John and Henry" (Henry is one of his two sons). And the John and Henry game was a sandbox game with bulldozers and building blocks because John and Henry were always building.

John was a bit of a pack rat. It would be fair to say you could call him a "collector." He had piles of wood that would probably take 10 years to use up but still he'd be down every weekend and chop more. He apparently has about 30 bikes in one of the sheds out on his lot. His son Richard, who lives in Calgary, is aware I want to lay my eyes on those bikes if he ever gets around to cleaning out that shed.

John had a predictable routine. We could always expect John's visit sometime around 10:00 on a Sunday morning and while sometimes his presence was awkward and ill-timed, if he didn't show up we'd always wonder why. He trusted no one of authority. He didn't like women (post a very nasty divorce) he said nothing but polite small talk to my mother or I, but when I was a kid he teased me and called me a monkey for always doing acrobatics. He did the same with my kids. He knew everyone and visited everyone for coffee the same way he visited us. He was always willing to lend a helping hand and a piece of advice.

John died at the end of the summer last year. He had a stroke, and given his hatred for doctors, he likely refused treatment and told everyone to Go to Hell. It was odd this year not having him around.

Other Photo Memories


All the pictures you saw in the last post came from slides my parents took throughout my childhood. My family takes a gazillion pictures. It could be frustrating at times, like at Christmas when you REALLY wanted to open your stocking from Santa, but today I am glad to have them. I scanned several hundred of the slides from those carousels about 8 years ago for one of my father's birthdays to make him a scrapbook of lake memory photos and every single one of them bring back a flood of memories.

My parents have had this cottage since 1966 and I bet we have 3000 sunset pictures. Every night my Dad looks out the big sliding door windows and checks out the sunset and each one is more spectacular than the previous. At age 74 he still feels the need to snap a picture of every single one.



I ride out to Redditt Ontario a lot on my rides. I didn't remember this but my father reminded me recently that Redditt is the place where the glass bottle house is. I went looking for it on my last ride out there and I wasn't able to find it anymore. But I found this photo:



Man this was a cool place. That was one of the things I didn't write about in my last blog. My grandparents were out at the lake with us often and I was just as enamoured with them as my kids are with my parents being at the lake. My grandfather loved to explore and take day trips and this was one of his favorite places to go. One of his other favorite places was this famous Kenora landmark:


Husky the Muskie -- he's more treed in than he used to be when I was a kid. If you blink on your way out of Kenora you will miss him.

And this is what my Aunty Judy and Uncle George's cottage now with new owners, looks like today. Just a sad shadow of what it was.

 
And no visit to Kenora would be complete without a visit to the Bike Store. Clothing upstairs and an Olympia Cycle and Ski off-shoot downstairs. This building used to be Fyfe's Hardware, hence the nostalgic naming of what is now a sports store.



My Dad never wore a life jacket when I was a kid. This is progress.


Best Buds -- on the MS Kenora a couple years ago. A cool tour if you ever get the chance.

Dad -- in his favorite chair on the porch. I've always thought I look more like my Dad than my Mom. Hard to believe he's 72 in this picture.

Me a couple years ago when I first started biking. And a bit of a view of the inside of the cottage which is a little cluttered but true to who my parents are.

I'm glad to have this place and I'm glad my kids have it too. I don't suspect it will be around forever. If my parents were to give it up, I couldn't afford to maintain it. I'm not sure what my brother would do. I don't know if he could afford to buy it outright anytime in the next 5 years either. But I will continue to enjoy it while it lasts.