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Posts Tagged ‘Recreation’

How Hard Can A Triathlon Be, Said No One, Ever

July 9, 2013 7 comments

Taken in isolation, a 1500 meter swim isn’t hard. A 37 km bike ride is certainly not daunting. And a 10 km run? Please, I could do that in my sleep. Backwards.

So entering my first Olympic distance triathlon, I told myself, was nothing to write home about. (Sorry about that, mom.) It would be an interesting experiment, a way to celebrate my year of finally learning how to swim, Phelps style. (Because in my mind’s eye I swim just like him.) It would be – and I really thought this – easy.

IMG_1843

Get. This. Wetsuit. Off. Where is that cord?!

And what better place to spend a few hours splashing around than Squamish? Fresh from the running Whistler Half Marathon in early June, I put the Squamish Triathlon on my race calendar for early July, enabling me to wallow away the remainder of summer nights reliving my triumph over copious glasses of Pinot Grigio, until it was time to cheer on my (crazy dedicated) friend Chrissy and her (crazy dedicated) buddy Steph in the #Ironman late August. You know, a real triathlon. The big show. At which point the celebration would kick up a notch.

Typical me, I under-trained and paid the price. But you just never know until you try. So. Now I know.

Still, a very cool and gratifying experience, if heavy on set up time (and supposedly training time, who knew?). I balked when the website requested athletes be on site at 7 am despite a 9:30 am start, to set up transitions. My sleep requirements go way past the beauty, and verge on the sanity, so this threw me off. Unlike running races, there is no fall-out-of-bed-get-yo-ass-to-the-start.

And transitions remained a rather murky concept to me – what did I really need for each one? Towels, food, iPhone to text for help? I hated the thought of needing something I hadn’t thought to leave myself. What if I was bored out of my mind and craved music for my run? What if I needed a cheeseburger after the bike? Or a bed to rest in? What then?

I managed to figure it out by simply attaching myself to a couple that seriously looked the triathlete part (sculpted cheekbones and Oakley’s) and were so in love with each other that they didn’t notice me skulking around them the entire time. And beside them at each transition. Stalking has its advantages. I watched them hawk-eyed as they hung their bikes and carefully laid out a tiny towel on which to put their accessories. (Me: folded my beach towel to look tiny and placed socks and gels inside my shoes, just like the beautiful couple, then stealthily put my sandwich I’d prepared to the bottom of my bag before anyone noticed.)

There seemed to be a discrepancy as to wear a wetsuit or not, but when the charming ones donned theirs, I donned mine. I could use this duo in my everyday life. Decisions have never been so easy.

A fellow swimmer didn’t crack a smile when I asked him if he’d mind zipping me up – hard on my ego, but then those swim caps aren’t for everyone – but redeemed himself my giving me a few tips. And then I realized he was gay, so redemption all around! He encouraged me to get in that water and warm up so the start will be less biting, and to swim wide of the buoy markers to avoid the traffic jam. Noted.

My game plan was to hang back and swim wide of the chaos, in my own little world. And so I did, zigzagging myself towards buoys (sighting still not my strong point), and by the time I’d reached the second of the three turns, I started to get into my groove. Basically, just in time to get out of the water. Which would be the theme for the day.

So I made some mistakes. People flew out of transitions like they were on fire while I debated eating my Cliff bar. I had to stop and ask the crowd for directions on the bike, and asked a competitor, how many laps are we doing again? By the time I started the run (what were my words, in my sleep, backwards?), the relief I expected to feel (finally, my sport, this one I can do!) never came. Instead, just point me to the finish line please, I want this to be over.

That mouth is full of Cliff bar. Again.

That mouth is full of Cliff bar. Again.

And so with 1 km to go, and my legs finally beneath me and my stride lengthened at long last, I missed a pesky rock on the trail and took one on the chin. Literally. Sailed through the air and landed on my chin in front of two volunteers, shocking them out of their engaging conversation, in my best Jack Tripper imitation.

So there was that.

But also, there was this: Accomplishment. Pride. Sweat. Happiness. Triumph.

And the best part was that my two biggest cheerleaders, my girls (my oldest away with friends so MIA), were there every step of the way, and were more excited than myself when I finished.

Success, and love.

Still eating.

(Still eating.)

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A European Vacation Experiment, Family Style

May 31, 2011 14 comments
a backpacking travel to europe R002-005

The decision to travel to Europe this summer, en famille, was not a light hearted one. My children tend to complain loudly on any walk that is longer than the length of our driveway, so there’s that to consider.

And then the sheer expense of the sojourn – multiplying everything by 5’s was great when we were learning our multiplication tables, but when we’re talking dollars it can be painful and exorbitant. When people used to tell me, children are expensive, I was thinking more along the lines of the extra toothpaste requirements, not additional plane fares. Yowsers.

Yet we are dying to show our children places that we have fallen head over heels in love with, and France and Italy are chief among them. My husband is taking a rare sabbatical, six weeks off work, and so with such a luxurious amount of time – unprecedented and perhaps never to be repeated – we have decided to carpe diem.

Despite the fact that my six year-old tells me every night she wants to stay home and practice her new monkey bar skills, we are flying to London in a week. After a couple of days there we will be spending time in rural villages in Tuscany and Provence.

My nine year-old is most excited about the mere fact she will be leaving North America for the first time, while my eleven year-old is under the illusion she will be shopping in Paris.

I have attempted to play Italian language CD’s in my car to familiarize my kids with some basic words, but it’s been impossible to hear them over the peals of laughter from the backseat. Mature guys, very mature, I tell them. Then they laugh harder.

Which leads me to ponder whether or not they will appreciate the food, the culture, the language, or the lengths we are going to to show them these things. Children being children, I expect not.

I recognize we are lucky to be able to take this trip – it’s a huge privilege I am so thankful for. Yet when my friends ask me if I’m excited, I tell them excited might not be the best word. More like trepidatious, cautiously optimistic, fingers crossed, hoping for the best.

I have been a parent for long enough to realize this experience will certainly fall short of the Von Trapp’s dancing through the hills of Austria, yet hopefully rise above National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The Griswald’s set the bar pretty low, after all.

Exactly where our happy medium lies is yet to be seen, but come along for the ride for the next six weeks, and I’ll give you an idea.

Day One of Spring Break and Boredom has Descended

March 15, 2011 5 comments

My children started their two-week spring break today. They watched television, played on the computer, played Wii, and then told me they were bored at 10 am. I knew that dreaded adjective would get some air play this week, but even the seasoned mother I am had hoped it would not emerge until day two.

Last week I was looking forward to some time doing nothing, but now I am panicking. My calendar has never looked so daunting in its bareness.

I had been bullish with optimism: at school age, my children are now adept at entertaining themselves (I thought), they are so busy during the school week between education and sports, I thought they’d enjoy some time to chill. They could frolick, hang, perhaps even simply play.

Isn’t this what we did in days gone past? Wander around the neighbourhood, popping back home when our stomaches growled louder than our friends could yell? We played in brooks, chased each other through forests, hung out in our basements. I don’t recall parents getting involved.

Times have changed.

Some gentle intervention was needed, lest they tear each other’s heads off. We went for an adventure walk, to the extreme chagrin of my oldest. We did yoga – my child’s suggestion, they are doing it in school – but she only lasted one downward dog. We baked a cake.

By the end of the day, they were getting the hang of hanging. Tonight I reshuffled my to-do list for the week, and replaced it with one word: play.

Disneyland or Bust

February 17, 2011 5 comments
Disney - Disneyland Rose (Explored)

Image by Express Monorail via Flickr

Deprived of Vitamin D and perplexed with ways of entertaining children indoors as rain and snow pelt their windows, many families throw in the towel this time of year and book a pilgrimage to that storied place that bills itself as the Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland.

But this hot spot can quickly become Nightmare on Main Street if you don’t plan properly. Read this list of dos and don’ts before arriving in the Magic Kingdom to ensure you don’t tell Mickey to take his overpriced ears and shove them where the sun don’t shine.

  • Do plan to be up with the birds. Be at the park when it opens to get a few minutes of peace before the mobs arrive – it only gets busier as the day goes on.
  • Do bring a daypack.  The energy required for hoofing it all over the Magic Kingdom requires more fuel than greasy donuts and pop. Stack your day pack with healthy snacks and bottled water. After a day filled with grease and sugar, even the unlikeliest of suspects will be clamouring for a grape. Once you pass through those gates, there is not a vitamin-filled morsel to be found.
  • Do book lunch beforehand. If your entourage includes little girls who are starstruck by the thought of meeting princesses wearing more make up than Lady Gaga, don’t stand in those long lines at the wishing well to meet Snow White. Book lunch at Ariel’s Grotto, where six princesses will come to your table while you eat your lunch in a booth shaped like an oyster shell. You need to eat lunch anyway, and having the princesses come to your booth can save you an entire day of pain and suffering as you try to track them down.
  • Do start at the back of the park. It’s not easy to drag your children past some of their favorite rides, but books have been written on this subject: start at the furthest reaches of the park and work your way forwards for the best use of your time.
  • Do plan to hit a show at the peak of the sun’s rays. Usually it’s the rides that get top billing, but some of the musicals I’ve seen in Disney rival Broadway. If it’s a hot day, pick a noon time or early afternoon showtime, and sit down in a nice cool theater for an hour of bliss. Aladdin and A Bug’s Life are two of my favorites. No joke.
  • Don’t buy your child a souvenir until the end of the day. Every ride you exit forces you to go through a gift shop for that ride, to the chagrin of every parent alive. Murphy’s Law has it that they will buy the Winnie the Pooh mug, only to find the Jack Sparrow mask they’ve dreamed of ten minutes later. I’ve had great success putting this task off until the end of the day while we are waiting for the parade to start. Almost all of the souvenirs can be found in the shops on Main Street; those Disney marketers know what they’re doing.
  • Do set a souvenir budget. Be forewarned they will be wanting every Goofy hat and Belle boa that walks past them. If you don’t prepare them beforehand, you will spend their education fund on such useless trinkets.
  • Don’t bother reserving a curbside seat for the parade or fireworks. People will stand in front of you at the last minute anyway, and it’s difficult to find a bad seat for the fireworks. Do your souvenir shopping and wedge in somewhere at the last minute.
  • Don’t ask a person with a thousand pins on their banner for directions. They may look like a Disney employee, but these people are not employed by the park, they are just strange people who spend a lot of time at Disneyland.
  • Do use Fastpasses for the most popular rides. As you are hightailing it to the back of the park to begin your day, grab a Fastpass for a super popular ride like Space Mountain on your way, to save yourself an hour long line up later. The caveat, however, is you can only hold one of these golden tickets at a time.
  • Don’t put your little cherub in her Cinderella costume on hot days. I’ve seen more children melting in these polyester torture devices on hot days than exhausted adults. Throw fashion sense out the door and dress all family members in runners and comfortable clothing, with either sunscreen or umbrellas at the ready in your day pack, depending on the weather forecast.
  • Do divide and conquer. Little boys won’t be as enchanted by the magic castle, and my eleven-year-old won’t care to ride the merry go round. If there are two adults involved in this pilgrimage, split up for part of the day to concentrate on child specific requests.
  • Don’t try to do it all in one day. We have attempted this, and it is the equivalent of running a marathon backwards. Don’t frustrate yourself and your children by promises of doing it all. Pick the most important things, and be happy with a few extras thrown into the mix.
  • Do bring Tylenol. You’ll thank me later.

I have seen more unhappy children at Disneyland than any other place on this planet. Plan and prepare properly beforehand so that your child isn’t added to this medley of overtired, sugar-fueled, hysterical orangutan’s during the fireworks.

Home Exchange.com – Let the Games Begin

November 20, 2010 2 comments
The Eiffel Tower.

Image via Wikipedia

We want to bring some unique travel experiences to our childrens lives, expose them to new languages and countries rich in history, show them there is more to the world than our small enclave, preferably while eating good food and watching people who are much more fashionable than us.

In other words, we want to go to Europe.

Up until now, I have felt they were too young to travel long distances.  I thought they would get more out of a camping trip an hour from our house then dragging them to another continent.  But now they are eleven, nine and six; the older two in particular eager for new adventures.  Our youngest will go along with whatever her sisters want, so she is a moot point.

If we are schlepping them so far, it stands to reason we want to be there for a while, preferably a month.  The accommodation price tag alone of housing a family of five would quickly bankrupt us.  So yesterday, I joined HomeExchange.com.

Friends of ours have used this successfully to travel to France and Australia, meeting great families in the process.  We thought we would throw our ring into the hat, and see if we can pull out a rabbit.  Or a castle.

The other day, as sunlight filtered in through our windows – a rare sight in November – I was inspired to photograph our digs.  I ran around, stashing piles of crap in drawers, stuffing clothing underneath beds, and turning lights on even though it was daytime, and cursed myself once again for not taking a photography course.

I miraculously found my USB cord and loaded them onto my computer.  This must be a sign that good things, and surely castles, are coming my way.  Next, I cleverly searched the internet for a coupon for HomeExchange.com; and the first one I found actually worked.  A definite sign.  Call me Princess.  Am I actually becoming internet savvy or have they just dumbed it down?

I filled out the required information about our home, trying hard to not sound like a used car salesman, yet clever enough for our listing to scream “castles only need apply!” in a very discreet way, of course.  I finished the writing part, but then had to search their directory to figure out how to load photos.  It was the first Frequently Asked Question, so again I patted my internet-savvy self on the back, since I clearly was not the first person to inquire about this.

There were four places to list where you would like to travel, so along with France and Italy for this summer, I also added Maui and Naramata, for March break and August, respectively.  You can’t win if you don’t play.  How cool would it be if we could get a sweet place in Hawaii or the Okanagan on a lark?

Presto.  After two hours of work, and a grand total of $85 (the cost for a yearly membership, after my crafty coupon) chez nous is open for business.  Fingers crossed that this experience doesn’t resemble National Lampoon’s European Vacation.