Friday, August 26, 2011

I need running tunes

6:38 sunrise
21:37 sunset

In two weeks I have to run a half marathon.  Actually, it’s only 20km but that’s far enough as far as I am concerned.  It will be my 5th appearance in the Klondike Road Relay from Skagway, AK to Whitehorse.

I used to sort of like running.  I got a sense of accomplishment out of it and I often felt good after a run.  These things do sometimes still happen but I spend more time not wanting to run than I do actually enjoying the after-effects.

I have been saying that this is my last year for the KRR.  I’m guessing that my friend Julie will try and hold me to that.  

In the meantime, I have rediscovered running with music and it seems to help.  I need to put together 2 hours and 15 minutes of awesome running tunes together.  Can you help?  I’ve got a few core tunes I’d like to include and yeah, they’re of the pop variety.  I’m definitely not into mellow yoga music while running (Ben is – isn’t that cah-rayzee?!).  So a couple of Lady Gaga’s tunes (Bad Romance is my fave), some Jay-Z (Empire State of Mind) and Jessie J (Price Tag).  Don’t Judge!  Music along the lines of The Be Good Tanyas (Light Enough to Travel) or The Killers (All These Things that I've Done) might also do the trick.  Can you help me come up with more.  Please?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A 60s Wedding

6:33 sunrise
21:33 sunset

On August 24, 1968 my parents got married in a Lutheran church in Kitchener, Ontario.  While it's true that they got divorced some 15ish years later, today would have been their 43rd anniversary.  And divorce or no divorce, I adore the photos of their wedding.  I suppose in some weird way looking at photos that commemorate a failed marriage is a bit odd but I can't help loving the professional photography and all the details in everyone's outfits.  I love an occasion to get dressed up!

Here my grandpa is walking my mom in to the chapel.  I think he looks so dapper in his suit and slim grey tie. My mom's dress hung, for years, in the closet of a downstairs bedroom at my grandparents' house.  When I was a little girl I used to try it on from time to time.  I didn't have any grand visions of my own wedding or any desire to be princess-like or anything.  I just liked checking out my mom's "old stuff."  The dress was plain - very much my mom's style then and now - with a bow at the empire waist.  Sometime between being a teenager and an adult, my mom's dress disappeared from the closet and that has always kinda bummed me out.  I don't know if I would have worn it to my own wedding (is that bad luck?) but it would have been a neat option.

Here are my both my parents.  They look so cute (and so young!).

This shot to me is like a still from Mad Men.  This was taken at the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary building which was built, in 1963, on the campus of what is now Wilfred Laurier University. They were married in the chapel which is the glassed in area behind them.

This shot appeals to me because we get to look at the back of these women's dresses which is a bit of a unique angle on things.  Check out the bow in the hair of the woman talking to my mom.  And I guess mustard yellow was in that year?

So happy un-anniversay mom and dad?  Thanks for letting me keep your wedding album.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Beach Nostalgia

6:23 sunrise
21:45 sunset

The weather so far in August has been craptacular.  Autumn is very much around the corner but rather than just cooler temperatures and some yellow leaves, we have had lots of rain.  Makes me cranky.

So I thought I would cheer myself up with a little post on summer.  When I was a kid I spent a lot of time in Southampton, Ontario at my grandparents' place.  When my mom was growing up she spent all her summers there too.

This is my mom, age 10, on what I swear is the same swing set I played on.  At the very least, I played on this same beach.

Then there's this awesome 60s photo of my mom and aunt outside their cottage.  The cottage was sold by the time I was born but my grandparents bought another, year-round house, that was still close to the beach.

I can't actually see much of my current self in this 2 year old version of me.  This beach looked the same throughout my childhood but I haven't been there in more than a decade.  

Ah - another classic Jenn shot.  The beach and an Archie comic.  If I was lucky, I might get to have a can of coke too!  My grandfather died in 1994 and my grandmother two years later.  Eek - that's not a decade ago, that's nearly 20 years!  My mom went through Southampton this summer and took my nephew to the beach.  She said it made her nostalgic.  Old photographs like this certainly do the same for me.

Edited to add: As I posted this, I noticed the date: August 20th.  It would have been my grandma's 96th birthday today.  So this post seems rather fitting.  Perhaps I am thinking of the beach and her house and my summers with my grandparents all because it's her birthday today.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Wedding Portraits

6:13 sunrise
21:56 sunset

You've probably already seen these shots - or ones like them - since it has already been a couple of months since the New York Senate passed a bill to legalize gay marriage.  But I still love this series.  Look at the smiles!

So if you haven't seen them - go check out the rest of the photos.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's my sister's birthday today

Today is my sister Andrea’s birthday. She is 5 years, 3 months and 3 days younger than I am which makes her 33 years old today.

Having a sister is complicated business. At least, in my family it is. Andy and I aren’t particularly good friends. Actually, if I am being totally honest, we aren’t friends at all. We don’t particularly like each other and I'd even go so far as to say that there isn't much respect between us either. The best I can come up with is that I think there is a sense of loyalty to each other underneath our disinterest. Like I said, it’s complicated.

However, I want to share a few photos of us throughout the years. Call it a bit of birthday nostalgia for my sister and a wish for us to perhaps one day figure things out.  Remember that if you click on any of the photos you will get an embiggened version to look at.

Here we are with my mom in Florida, Christmas 1978. I am wearing a red Snoopy watch that was a gift that year. I remember Woodstock being on the on the second hand, which I thought was cool. Andrea is almost 6 months old here and I'm 5 and half.
I actually quite love this next photo. It was taken on my grandparents' back deck and I'm guessing it's the summer of 1980 which makes us 2 and 7 years old. I can only laugh at our matching bowl cuts. I think I went through a protective phase with Andrea and I am told that, for a little while when I was around 8 years old, I actually liked playing with her. And there's Snoopy again. I think my grandparents liked that comic strip because the creator's last name was the same as theirs.
Fast forward a few years and here we are as teens! Well, Andrea's 12 and I'm 17 but close enough. I remember thinking those flowers looked so cute in her hair and I was vaguely jealous.
This photo was taken at Peggy's Cove, less than 24 hours before Swiss Air flight 111 crashed into the ocean mere kilometres from here. That's a horrible memory, but I have good ones from this trip. Andrea was starting her second year at Dalhousie University and I drove her out to Halifax from Ontario. She was moving into a great big lovely house with several other women. I remember thinking she was attending school in a super cool place.

And this is the most recent one I can find. It was taken in April 2010 in Nassau where Andrea currently lives. We don't see each other much - due partly to our disinterest in each other but also due to the ridiculous geographic distance between us. I managed to make this trip because I was in Ottawa for work and the flight from Ottawa to Nassau is considerably more reasonably priced than is the flight from Whitehorse to Nassau.

So Andy, I wish you a very happy birthday. May your next year be filled with adventure (and I think it will - considering that you are contemplating a teaching contract in Hong Kong!) and happiness.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Soggy Report

5:53 sunrise
22:19 sunset

Well, I'm back.

The Soggy Bottom 100 is one crazy race. And I only rode a third of it: 56km from the Devil's Pass trailhead back to the town of Hope. It took me considerably longer than I ever would have guessed and, even though I expected rain and mud and cold, it was rainier and colder than I imagined it would be. One of these years I am going to be learn how to be comfortable in cold and wet conditions when on a bike.

Many riders DNF'd and a few smart folks didn't start. While the day started out with decent looking weather, the passes were windy and, after about 4pm, the rain began and the temperatures dropped down to 5C. I'll say that the mud wasn't as soul-sucking as the mud in last summer's TransRockies, but it splashed everywhere and this event is clearly appropriately named.

At 9am Carlos, the event organizer, counted down the start and they were off! Thirty-eight solo riders (I think) and 6 relay teams headed out towards Resurrection Pass.

Ben, Monika, Dan, and I headed over to Cooper Landing - the first checkpoint.
We had high expectations for Jonah. He's a strong rider and we figured he would be among the first few in to Cooper Landing. Indeed, he arrived in about 4 hours. He wasn't feeling great and he debated dropping out but, after a sandwich and a 10 minute rest, he turned around and went back on course.

Tristan came in to the checkpoint 10 or so minutes after Jonah. Having skipped his morning coffee, he downed the one we brought for him pretty quickly.
With our two solo riders in and out of the checkpoint we had more than an hour to wait for our teammates to come in. Paula and April had a great ride, but they said the pass was really windy and they just barely missed hitting a bear cub on the last kilometer of the trail!

Once Dan and Monika headed out for leg 2, it was on to the next checkpoint at Devil's Creek.

Jonah and Tristan both contemplated abandoning the race when they came in but, after a rest, some food and warmer clothing, they also both decided to plug on.

The sweeps were scheduled to head out at 6:30pm and so as 6pm approached, Ben and I got dressed and prepared to head out. It looked like the organizers were going to allow us to start before our teammates came in. At around ten to 6pm, Dan arrived and Ben got on his bike. I waited until about 6:10pm and then decided to get going. It was raining and I was already chilly just sitting around the checkpoint.

I met Monika about 5 minutes out and while she nearly didn't see me coming up the trail, she actually seemed chipper (although tired). I was in a good mood.

The first hour of riding went well. In places, I was cruising through wildflowers that grew above my head. It was wet, but beautiful. I couldn't wait to get into the pass and see what it looked like there. I warmed up considerably and, while I knew I was climbing, I was actually waiting for it to get worse. The good news is that it never did. I found the climb quite gentle and (thank gawd) I didn't have to get off and push at any point. I had to re-arrange my clothing choices early on and I snapped this photo before coming out into the alpine.
As I left the trees, however, the wind and the rain picked up. I was incredibly grateful for the pvc jacket that I bought specifically for this race. Once again I stopped to add more clothing and grab a snack. Oh - and to take a selfie as well, of course. It immediately became clear to me that stopping was not a good idea. This would not be the photo-filled ride I had hoped for. I was not climbing enough to keep warm and even adding clothes and eating food did not compensate for my lack of movement. I tossed a peanut butter cup into my jersey, chugged the accelerade I brought and hoped that I could get through the pass and back down the other side before I would need to eat again.

Although the rain was bad and I was cold, I was feeling pretty good when I got to Devil's Pass cabin. I changed into dry gloves, took this photo of the volunteers, and got ready to climb the last few switchbacks to the top.
Then, as I began to descend, things started to go badly. The wind was whipping around and the extra breeze from going downhill did not help. It took less than 20 minutes for me to have feet that felt like blocks of ice and fingers that couldn't pull on my brake levers. I was using my wrists to pull the levers back. This was not good. My teeth were chattering and I didn't know how to get warmer. The cold saps one's energy in the most horrid of ways. I just kept going.... but slowly. I remembered Paula saying to me "Jenn, you are going to love the descent" because the first part of her leg was the last part of mine.

There was no love for the descent. There was a lot of really, really cold and unhappy and distressed Jenn. But of course you keep moving because what else is there to do?

Then I was passed by a solo rider: Kevin. We chatted briefly and I let him by. Perhaps 15 minutes later I saw his bike on the side of the trail and, partly worried, partly curious, I stopped. Immediately I saw why he had dismounted. Two hikers were setting up camp for the night and they had started a fire. Kevin was warming his hands. I joined him.

We both stayed there in the rain and chatted with (Jeff?) an elementary school teacher from Moose Pass. Jeff was *awesome* and if anyone in the magic interweb universe has any idea who he is, please please pass on my eternal thanks to him for saving me from hypothermia. Kevin and I stayed for perhaps 40 minutes - until our fingers could bend again.

Soon after, I descended into the trees and, while it was still cold, it became a tolerable, deep-set cold. There were occasional short climbs, which helped increase my core temperature. I must say, I have never been so thrilled to see uphills as I was during this race.

However, I was not able to push myself to ride quickly. I was just too damn cold and the wind generated by my own movement seemed worse than the slow pace at which I chose to labour. That was probably a mistake and in retrospect I should have tried harder to hurry up and finish because I ended up having to ride the last 10+ miles in the dark. Ben completed the same leg in 2 hours less than I did. I'm slower than he is, yes, but not that much slower. I knew I had to keep moving to stay warm but I wish I had pressed on with more focus.

The last 10 or so miles seemed interminably long. The narrow, overgrown trail was a challenge to navigate. Riding in the dark, in bear territory, through muck and bushes, sucks. It was slow, I was scared and, despite the awesome lights borrowed from Sierra and Tony, visibility was a challenge. I thought every stump was an animal. My heart was pounding.
Finally, I decided to wait for a rider to catch up to me so that I wouldn't be alone. His brakes were toast and he wasn't able to ride downhill but I didn't care. I was happy to have someone with me. We alternately rode and walked our bikes out to the road, yelling "woah bear," "youpie," or "hey hey" at the regular intervals.

Just before we came to the road we were caught by the sweeps, Tim and Oscar. I was so happy to see them. Tim asked if we had seen the bear as they were following fresh tracks in front of them (which meant the bear was between us...). No, we had not seen any bears but I had seen lots of scat. *Shudder* - that freaked me out even more. But at least there were four of us together now and once we got to the road I knew we were home.

Dan actually came out to see if I wanted a ride back to town. It was very sweet of him but a ride?! At that point?! No way in hell was I getting into a car. A gravel road with no bushes or mud to contend with was like sleeping in your own bed after weeks away. I was just so happy to be there.

So Bo (the last solo rider - did I get his name right?), Tim, Oscar and I rolled into Hope around 1am. There were people there cheering for us which was super awesome. My teammates were there too - yay - and Carlos made sure that we went inside the social hall where the fire was on in the wood stove. Monika stripped my wet clothes off of me and I stood for some time warming up by the stove. I had some water. I had some beer. Bo and I shared the halibut burger that I asked my team to buy for me if I didn't get in before midnight. I thought about the whole experience.

It's a crazy thing, this wilderness mountain bike endurance racing routine. And I didn't even ride the full course! Those 100 mile guys and gals are truly amazing. Jonah finished 6th, Tristan ended his race by running out (he was cold) and all of our relay racers completed their legs. It was a successful trip for the Yukon contingent.

Would I try it again? Strangely, yes. In order to solo successfully I would not only need to be dedicated about training (I know I can do that) but I would also need the weather to cooperate. I honestly don't know how the racers who came in to the second checkpoint managed to HTFU and go back out. But I'd like to try it again. I'd like to get into that head space where you are alone with just your personal experiences and wherewithal. I found myself using Jill Homer's surefire way of figuring out how things are going. Ask yourself: "Am I about to die? No? Then press on." It's remarkably effective. So Soggy Bottom 100, I might be back to see you again next year.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alaska Bound

5:43 sunrise
22:30 sunset

In a few hours we are off to Hope, Alaska for the Soggy Bottom 100. I thought I'd post a wardrobe remix style photo of me and some of the stuff I was packing last night.
Shoes - Specialized. More or less destroyed in Trans Rockies last year but they're really comfy
Socks - Pearl Izumi. Cute but not wool so likely to be replaced with a different pair.
Bag - Vaude 14+3 (referring to litre size of bag and bladder). Full of treats like jelly-bellies and almonds plus some first aid stuff, a multi-tool, tube, pump and of course my camera.
Helmet - Giro.
Knickers - Louis Garneau. New and purchased based on a recommendation for comfy women's bike shorts in Outside magazine. I'll letcha know.
Shirt - MEC. Wool
Gloves - Kona. Worn but still my comfiest pair.
Glasses - Oakley. Not all that stylish but great lenses and they vent well.

What you don't see in this photos is my new PVC rain coat which I am hoping will save me from the rain that (right now) is being forecast at 50% likely.

It has been raining in Hope all week and as Tim Woody so eloquently put it, "looks like this year's Soggy Bottom 100 will have bottomless sogginess." I am fully preparing myself for a rainy, wet, slow ride on Saturday but I am hoping, hoping, HOPING that it might not rain and that I might get to check out some of the beautiful terrain in this part of Alaska. Wish me luck and I'll be back with a report (or at least lots of photos) next week.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just another awesome vintage dress

5:35 sunrise
22:38 sunset

Well, it's August. Here in Whitehorse, it's the first month of fall. Or at least of "finter." Right now the weather is still fine (not great, just fine) but I am so aware that soon the fall colours will be out and our overnight temperatures will be down around 0C.

It is partly because our summer is so short and partly because I am trying to be a good girl and save my pennies for a kitchen renovation, that I haven't snapped up this awesome rainbow dress from Small Earth Vintage. But, I can share it with you.