developing my green thumb

One of the nice things we've discovered this spring is the garden at the house. The previous owners left behind a gorgeous perennial garden, and now I'm trying to learn what to do to keep it looking good. The entire front yard is garden, and the backyard is all patio and garden beds. Bonus - no grass to mow! We had lots of daffodils in April, tulips now, and it looks like irises and peonies will be blooming next. I've been getting help identifying some of the plants, although there are still a few I don't yet know.

 Since I am spending more time outside and in the yard, the cats have been out to explore the yard, as well. It is way easier to come in and out (especially with hands full of food for the BBQ or tools to work in the garden) if I'm not also fighting to keep the cats inside. We've implemented a limited open-door policy, and it's working well - the cats come in and out when the door is open and one of us in the yard, and they are generally good about coming in when it's time to go. Often, they're back inside before I am!

We planted a few seedlings this weekend, before the weather turned (there's threat of frost tonight!), hopefully they'll be ok until it is warmer again later this week. We put in cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, snow peas, spinach and beets. I've also started zucchini and cucumber plants from seed, but they won't be ready for the great outdoors for a little while.

The other benefit of having our own garden: fresh ingredients for baking! I made a rhubarb-apple pie, with rhubarb fresh from the backyard. Yum!


the bike nerd honeymoon

Back from the most super awesome vacation ever, and feeling pretty recharged to get back to riding as it warms up. Can't wait for the trails to dry out and get back on the mountain bike, too!

Overall, we were gone for 19 days, rode 550km (mix of cycle-touring, cyclosportives, and smaller group rides), and mostly had the coldest weather I could imagine (just above freezing, but so grateful it didn't rain until our last day!). Our trip could pretty much be be divided into three parts, with plenty of highlights and adventures.

  •  Amazing scenery, with few trees and high of winds
  • Lots of time relaxing in naturally-heated hot tubs
  • Driving the Golden Circle route, to see waterfalls, geysirs, and ponies

Europe & sightseeing
  • Wandering around in Amsterdam
  • Amazing bike paths riding to Rotterdam

Bike race madness
  • Tour of Flanders Sportive
  • watching Tour of Flanders
  • Scheleprijs (I got Fabian Cancellara's autograph!)
  • Paris-Roubaix Challenge
  • Paris-Roubaix live from the velodrome
  • cobbles and hills and general fun on the bike

One of the major highlights was staying at The ChainStay, in Oudenaarde. For a couple of cyclists, we could not have found somewhere that fit for us better during their Spring Classics "Bed Bike & Breakfast". Great food, group rides on most days, a well-stocked beer fridge and staying with a group of like-minded people, all there to take in the bike races. Did I mention the full bike room, the awesome hosts, Gregg and Holly, and being right in the thick of the legendary cobbles and climbs? We also used Airbnb for our first stop in Amsterdam, and our time in Lille - both cases, we had great apartments with tonnes of space. I'll definitely be looking into options through Airbnb for future trips, too!

Other major highlights were also the sportives. Riding part of the courses for these legendary races, one day before the pros, was a dream come true - I've loved Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix for so long, and it was incredible to experience how hard the climbs (even at my non-pro pace!) and how difficult the cobbles are. The Tour of Flanders sportive was awesome, partially because it was so popular - they capped the field for all three distances at 16000 - there were tonnes of people on the roads, always groups to ride with, and lots of crowds watching on the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. I did the 80km loop, and it was so fun. The Paris-Roubaix Challenge was also fun, with an element of death march to it... I did the medium distance (150km), mostly because I really wanted to do Arenberg. Or, as I put it on the ride, I would either really regret doing Arenberg, or really regret not doing Arenberg... and I went with doing it, because I may never have the chance again! The Paris-Roubaix Challenge was quite a bit smaller, only 2000 riders over 3 distances, so it got a bit lonesome out on the road, and I was definitely glad to have Wes' company for the long day! Riding into the velodrome still felt pretty amazing, but overall it was a pretty tough day. Between the two, I think they are both worth doing if you are interested, but I definitely preferred Flanders, and would totally do it again - even a longer distance. It's great to have the experience of Paris-Roubaix and its sectors off my non-existent bucket list, but not sure I loved it enough to do it over again!


i did it!

I did it! I did what I said I would never do - I raced Buckwallow blind, without a pre-ride!

Admittedly, I use the term race pretty loosely, since I wasn't exactly in the mix, or even remotely close to the rest of my category (or the category that started behind me) - but I did have a number plate and had paid and all that plus there was a start and finish line, so technically it was still a race, even though the Boy told me afterwards that you aren't supposed to session a section in a race, even if you are DFL and just want the validation that you can ride it.
Anyhow, we woke up bright and early on Saturday to pack the car and get up to Gravenhurst. Just after we picked up Mike, we learned that pre-riding was closed for the whole day due to pouring rain. We decided to head up early anyway, getting the drive done, and arriving exactly during another torrential downpour. Oh great! Course was definitely closed for riding, but Mike and I opted to walk it (I may never do this again - it took two hours, and I swear my hips are still sore. Also, I hardly ever walk anywhere, let alone hike, so I caught my foot and tripped about every 10 minutes. PICK UP YOUR FEET!). Lengthy walk in the woods done, we went to check into our home for the night, and then out to the team dinner/potluck.

Sunday morning I certainly didn't feel like I was there for a race - far too relaxed, and I didn't touch my bike the day before. I managed to feel a bit more in the mood by the time we got into the start corral, and was feeling better since no one else had pre-ridden either. My tentative first lap was not ok, but after I had one go-around on the course and knew that I was last, I just decided to hunker down and get some good practice with the mud and wet roots. And yes, that may have included re-riding a couple of rocks on the back end of the course!


Summer Epic 8

Saturday was the Summer Epic 8-Hour, at Hardwood. Or, as the 8-hour races are sometimes referred to in our house - training camp. The Boy and I signed up as tag-team, but decided to use it as a training opportunity, rather than chasing a podium placing - although I not-so-secretly wanted to do both.

My training goals were to get some practice riding in a big group, and get in a longer stint of over 2 hours. To achieve both of these in one go, we decided that I should do the first lap, and stay out for a 4-lap stint. The first lap was a bit congested, but definitely good practice for staying with a train in the single trap, and racing blind. Lap 2 probably felt the best - I knew how to pace myself around the course, and I managed to ride all of the sections where I'd had trouble the first time through. Lap 3 also felt great - I knew the course, and even though the first part was a slog, the last half was lots of single track, and felt like it had more downhill. The course definitely ended on a more fun note! By my last lap, I was definitely ready for a break!

I had a 4-lap break while the Boy was out there, and then I headed out intending to do a double lap. My front tire slid out on a rooty corner, and before I even knew what happened, I was lying on the trail, trying to get unclipped! I was mostly winded, so got moving to finish the lap, but my singletrack mojo was gone. I decided to call it a lap, and passed the baton back to the Boy so I could recuperate. In the end, I was too sore to go out again, so after The Boy finished up a few more laps, we decided to call it a day. We later realized that we *were* in second at that point, but since we stopped with about an hour and a half left, didn't get enough laps in to stay there. But it was still a fun day and we got lots of riding in!


real life

Things have been a bit busy around here. As I said to a friend, it's been a busy-work-project, wedding-planning, home-buying kind of spring. Sadly, when the real life stuff gets busy, something has to give, and first it's the blogging, then the training and racing. So let's get caught up!

Very proud to say I've got a pretty interesting (though busy) project happening at work, and as a result, a promotion. It's good stuff, except that I am still getting the hang of it and figuring out how to stay on top of it all without working late every night.

I did get a race in there, at Mansfield. Due to lack of training, it was nothing to write home (or here!) about, but it was still fun.

Two weeks ago, the Boy and I threw a little party. I feel so lucky to have such great family and friends, and to be able to share this celebration with them. It was a bit overwhelming, but in the most awesome way. All in all, it was a great weekend - got a new husband, celebrated with very wonderful friends and family who traveled from near and far to be there, and had great weather for the whole thing (including the post-wedding Buckwallow ride).

And the other thing that's been chugging along in the background is a recent purchase. Moving in September - can't wait!


learning new tricks

This week, the Boy and I each learned a new trick in the kitchen.

First, I learned how to to change the faucet. Our kitchen used to have one of those taps with separate hot and cold knobs. Hardly ideal for when you have sticky, dirty hands and just want to get them clean without making a huge mess!

The Boy supervised, and I learned a bit about plumbing.

I am loving the new faucet, and am excited to have learned how to change them. It was easy in terms of skills required, but challenging because it is cramped under the kitchen sink, and a certain amount of contortion is needed to get it together.

Later in the week, this little cyclist had a birthday. And I got a homemade birthday cake! The Boy's first foray into baking, and because I was at work, it was entirely unsupervised.
This photo brought to you by the self-timer function on the camera
Chocolate cake, with broiled coconut topping. Absolutely delicious!


long live the queen!

Last weekend was the annual Icycle ice race, and the end of my time as the champ.

This year, there were 6 women competing, so we started with two initial heats of 3 riders each. I cannot begin to tell you how awful my first race was! I was feeling pretty comfortable in practice and warm up, but racing is such a different pace! Those corners seem so much worse at race speed, and I was all over the brakes. Frankly, pretty embarrassing, especially for the defending champion!

I had a bit of a break before the semi-final, which was a good chance to re-group. I stayed inside to keep warm and gave myself a pep talk. There were 4 in the semi-final, and only the top 2 were going on to the final, so I knew what I needed to do if I wanted the chance to defend the title. I am happy to say I pulled out a much better race - I was smoother in the corners, and much more agressive. I got passed in one corner, and raced full out to get back into the lead to win the heat. Yay! So much happier with my racing.

The finale was great, the kind of close racing that is so exciting - to watch and to take part in. It stayed together for the first half, and then Linda and I pulled away, with Linda leading. With a few laps to go, I was working pretty hard to get into the lead, and Linda was doing a great job of holding onto her position. With one to go, I was giving it my all, and took a corner faster than my tires could hang on for. I slid out, and Linda rode clear for the win. It took me a minute to get going again, and limped in for 4th. While I really wanted to win, at least I know I was pushing my limits. I got some pretty good bruises up my left side to show for it, too.
Toronto Grand Prix Tourist caught me mid-slide

All good things must come to an end, and in this case, it was a good run at being the "Ice Queen." I was reigning champion for 4 consecutive years, earning consistent results to go with that sweet nickname. Some years I won quite handily, but more recently, the level of racing has stepped up, and it's been some tight battles to hang onto the crown, making it an exciting event. Even though, each year, I would spend the days leading up to the race claiming I didn't want to race again, I think it's pretty safe to assume I'll be back again next year!