The winter continues, early 2015

Third harsh winter in a row, and the worst of all of them. We set a record for February’s unbroken sub-zero streak and also a canal record for longest continuous days of operation. I skated there once — too cold most of the time! At least there was a good amount of snow (after a late Dec thaw). But too cold for me most of the time. I practically didn’t run all winter (turns out having a training goal is necessary for me now) and only skied when I was coaching (no personal outings). My biathlon training attendance was spotty too, because standing still with a large hunk of metal does not keep you very warm!

Mid January Eli and I attended a Cub Scout camp. Beautiful place, not far from Ottawa, and it was well programmed. Even the food was good. Unfortunately the leadership of this Cub pack is not. I’d hoped Eli and I would get to know folks better so he’d like Cubs more. But not a single leader there even introduced themselves the whole weekend (similarly I could never figure out who was who at the weekly sessions and again no one would really talk to me). Plus the leaders didn’t always show the respect to the kids (i.e. Eli) that they promote so much. Nevertheless it was fun for me to spend the weekend with Eli.cubs camp 2

We shared a room with another mom and her son. cubs camp 4

 

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Sleddingcubs camp 5

Yes, it was very cold!cubs camp 3

Saturday evening back in the cabin we made bead geckos.cubs camp 7

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cubs camp

Sunday our last activity was hockey on the frozen lake. It was warmer than Saturday and Eli really enjoyed it.
cubs camp 8

 

 

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American Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, 2014

After the ultra we spent another day in Hagerstown, and visited a local railroad museum. We took a scenic route (along the spine of the Appalachians and through the Shenandoah Valley) down to North Carolina to visit the Taylors. Enroute we stopped overnight in Spencer, NC (only a couple hours from Raleigh) to visit the NC Museum of Transportation the next day. That museum sounded great and Marlene had contacted them to make sure they were open around Thanksgiving — they said they were but something changed and they were closed. Eli was in tears! Also closed was Dan Nichols Park, which likewise sounded like an interesting attraction. A sign at the park gate mentioned something about the state budget causing extra closures. At least we could walk around those grounds.

Marlene initially booked the wrong motel (Courtyard — more $$ and no breakie included) so spent one night there then switched to the intended place, Country Inn & Suites, where we’d stayed before. All we could get was a little suite but Nic was happy with the pullout couch and it was still cheaper than the Courtyard and included breakfast.jfk maryland

Before we left Hagerstown we went to the mall near our hotel where there was a Christmas train display.
jfk trains

There was a little railway museum in Hagerstown, which we visited.
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Dan Nichols Park
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jfk dan park

The boys with Lois outside her residence, Preston Pointe. We rented a room there which worked out great. We got to see the grandparents a lot but they didn’t have us underfoot the whole time. In this photo we were on our way to Dave & Karen’s for Thanksgiving dinner, hence Nic’s proper shirt and Eli’s tie.

my boys

Not in focus but the only shots I have of dinner and Karen, Keelie and Jenna.
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thanksgiving

Dave took a day off work and went out to lunch with us in Raleigh.
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The morning we left the Preston Pointe had just put up their Christmas tree in the foyer. I still had swollen eyes — that happened after the ultra and lasted for several days. Other than that and some dizziness (perhaps both related to dehydration?) the old bod felt great.
morrisville

On the way back we routed through Washington DC and had a short but fun one-night visit with the Vervuurts. At home in DC with Eric and Danielle (actually, Falls Church Virgina).
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We were leaving the Vervuurts early for the long drive home and stopped shortly after for gas and lucked upon this wonderful steam train and old station.

random train

And soon it was Christmas, which overlapped with the end of Chanukah this year (but don’t seem to have taken any menorah photos). The lovely-looking strangely symmetrical tree is artificial — as much as I’m reluctant to have a tree, I’m even more opposed to a fake one! (More crap to store somewhere and eventual go to landfill). Unilateral buying decision on Doug’s part. Maintenance free though. Eli left cookies and a note for Santa, plus water for the reindeer. We tracked their progress courtesy of NORAD — I think I was even more excited than the kids (nerdy mapping geek that I am).

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santa letter 2

santa letter

Kelly was in town and on her own Christmas Day so we had her over for a somewhat traditional festive dinner.
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Kelly brought the dog she was minding.
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After Christmas we traveled to Toronto to spend a few days with the Alt family. Doug stayed back in Ottawa so there was room for me and the boys to stay at Mom’s apartment. Rob and Risa hosted a belated Chanukah dinner. True to form she got the kids some great (and whacky) gifts (as in these hats with scarves and mitts attached).
chanukah

 

Aaron and Vicky opening her giftchanukah 1We stayed over New Year’s and had a lovely visit.

 

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

Fall of 2014

Not necessarily in chronological order, but here’s what we’ve been up to…

You know it’s autumn when we can go apple picking. Just me and E this year but the crop was plentiful, the day was lovely and we hauled home about 20 lbs.

apple picking

 

apple picking 2

Mountain Orchards has a variety of things to do, including corn mazes, a playground and a hay barn.
apple picking 3

A big focus for Marlene all fall was preparing for the JFK 50-Mile Ultra Marathon. Running 5x/week plus did a couple other events as part of the training.

I lucked into this great little running group from MEC, led by the always cheerful, helpful and unstoppable Jonathan. We ran the trails of Gatineau Park, starting at P7, every Saturday morning until the snow came. The run lasts about an hour, with considerable climbing involved. This is a few of us on our last outing of the season, during which we ran every trail off P7, for a total of about 18km.trail running 3

Johnny Boy, Mel and I on the run. Thanks to Jason (also from MEC) for the photos.
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trail running

 

After one of our outings earlier in the season. Do not expect to get out dry or clean! These muddy feet belong to, from left to right, Mel, Chris, Daryl and Jonathan.
trail legs

Some non-running highlights: a visit from Leslie (when I made her suffer the out-of-doors to check out a family fall festival), Nic’s nightly ritual (now abandoned) of doing a dozen or so handstands, Eli as a spy for Hallowe’en, a long-overdue dinner party with John + Isabel + JD + Marcus and Peter, and Nic’s day with me at the Canada Council for the Gr. 9 ‘Take your child to work’ day (along with the other visiting students; Nic enjoyed it much more than he’s showing)
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handstand handstand 2

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john peter

grade 9s at work

If you’re not much interested in Marlene’s running, now would be a good time to stop reading this post!

I was supposed to run two marathons (42.2 km) and do two 45km runs in preparation for the 50-miler, so I signed up for some events to make those runs more interesting. First up was the Cumberland Fall Colours Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend. But I’d been sidelined with hip bursitis for two weeks at this point, with almost no running possible (even walking was painful). I started some ART (active release therapy), embraced pharmaceuticals (Celebrex) and drove to the far side of Ottawa to give it a try. I knew I’d never manage the whole distance but it was two loops of 21.1 km and I did manage one. It was a gorgeous fall day, perfect for distance running. I was hobbling badly by the end but actually had a respectable finish time (only about 10-15 minutes slower than my PB) and a smile on my face for accomplishing that. No one there to take my photo so had to settle for a selfie at the end.
cumberland

Two weeks later I was scheduled for my first 45km. Instead I joined up with the Turcanus, Adrian and Daniela, for an 8-hour rogaine (Google it). It’s basically trail running, bushwhacking, climbing, fording streams (using beaver dams where available) all while looking for as many control points as possible. I figured we covered about 35km in the 8 hours. And we won the Masters’ category! Not bad for my first rogaine. Although the Turcanus are old pros at these things, and adventure racing too. They usually go by the team name ‘Vampire’s Night’ (they’re Romanian) so with me we became ‘Vampire’s Night with a Twist’. By the way, I ran 19km the next day, as per my training plan.

We came in with just over 3 minutes to spare (7:56:49). Soaked to the bone. Once it started raining, about 4 hours in (before the ground had been merely damp, except where we were in a bog), Adrian declared with a big smile, “Now THIS feels like a rogaine! I was too comfortable before.”
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rogaine

The following weekend, another 45km on the schedule. Still having hip issues (at this point I was regretting that I hadn’t chosen the cortizone shot, but not in the end). I’d registered for the MEC Gatineau Park marathon, promoted as the country’s hilliest marathon. My friend Carol was doing it too — we had planned to do some training runs together but never managed to, so the race would be our only chance to run together. But Carol is generally faster than me and I definitely was not in top form. Plus a training run is not supposed to kill you. So I told Carol to just go ahead, and I’d see what I could manage. I figured it might only be 10km. But I ran the whole marathon!! It wasn’t even too shabby a finish time — about 15 mins behind where I might have been without bursitis, and only a couple minutes behind Carol. I was so happy! I even walked the 1km uphill trek from the finish line back to the chalet. Oh, and I ran 20km the next morning.

The chalet at the start of the MEC Marathon. Coincidentally this was exactly where the rogaine was based too.MEC marathon 2

MEC marathon 1

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MEC marathon 3MEC marathon 4

Then a few weeks of tapering (longest run was 19km) until the big event on Sat. Nov. 22. The day dawned clear and cool (just above freezing) but no wind and really perfect for an ultra. The first 23km or so were on the Appalachian Trail, starting at the high school in Boonsboro, Maryland. We ran for a few miles (and up a very long hill) to get on the trail. The trail itself followed a ridge to start, with gorgeous views down to valleys on both sides through the leaf-bare trees. Once off the trail we had a full marathon (42km) on a tow path along the Potomac River. Very, very flat (which I don’t like) and after a while it didn’t feel scenic any longer. Starting running from aid station to aid station (mentally — you don’t want to think about how far the finish line is). Aid stations were 2-4 miles apart and like running up to a Bulk Barn! Crazy selection of real food and snacks. In retrospect I should have been both eating and drinking more.

I drove down to Hagerstown, Maryland, where the ultra was based, with Mel and her boyfriend Darryl — Mel was also running the race and Darryl was our trailside supporter. A role he fulfilled expertly! As a military guy with lots of operational experience he took his role very seriously. I think he was as nervous as we were! And also super happy to see Mel and I come down off the Appalachian Trail together, where he was at his first support station. Darryl had our other runners (non-trail ones), food and even camp chairs. He shouted so loudly at us when we came into view that we had big smiles for the camera.

Photos start with Mel and I in the high school gym getting the mandatory briefing before the start. Because the race started 50+ years ago for the military there’s still a big military/first responders feel to it and everyone who had served or was currently serving stood up to be acknowledged.
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jfk start

The long uphill in Boonsboro to the trail, just as the sun is coming up.
to Appln trail

On the trail and coming down from it.

Appln trail
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Our sweet trail-to-tow path transition, courtesy of Darryl
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The area we were running in is very historical, especially in relation to the American Civil War. We ran past Harper’s Ferry. Darryl took some scenery shots. It would be lovely to visit again (and perhaps only go for a short jog).
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darryl 5

The Potomac River and part of the tow path we ran on. Mostly it wasn’t near any roads, except at the aid stations.
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The finish line — well after dark! The event has a 12-hour time limit and I was delighted to complete it in 10:42. Only 30 minutes behind my age group winner!
end Appln trail

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

Holiday assemblies — two star performers in the family!

Nic is in the third trombone in, second row on the left. Sorry about the shaky camera work! The band is much less shaky.

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

Back in school 2014

And so it begins again — Eli in Grade 3, Nic in Grade 9 (high school!)

I got a picture of Eli with a few of his buddies that ended up in the same class. Yes, the tall fellow is the same age! Unfortunately I didn’t think to get a photo of Nic until he already had one foot inside the school door. And didn’t want to embarrass him by calling him back for a shot.

school starts school starts 1a

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Late summer 2014

Some more images of summer fun.

Camps — Nic went to two computer camps and the same Dovercourt band camp as last year. Eli went to a variety of camps — 1st a Vietnamese/Spanish language one (actually a summer school, so that didn’t work out), then one through the Mainstreet Community Centre that was geared towards kids with learning and behavioural challenges (mostly bombed), then the Diefenbunker Spy Camp (terrible 1st day then he loved it), then 2 weeks at our old neighbour Shem’s home day care (loved it), then an arts & craft themed camp with his good buddy Ben B (good time had by all) and finally another Diefenbunker Spy camp (also good). Just one image of Eli at camp, from the graduation ceremony of that last spy camp, and a video of the closing concert for Nic’s band camp (the band was better last year). diefen camp

Nic continues to enjoy playing soccer. His summer team, again coached by Doug, lost most of their games but the guys still had fun. These images are from the year-end tournament, where they lost 2 games and tied 1 — they got the tie at the last match playing on a hot day 1 player short!

soccer

soccer 1

I participated in a stellar trail event late in August — the Impossible 2 Possible run in Gatineau Park. We started from Lac Philippe on a postcard-perfect morning. I did the 23km out-and-back and added on a 10km loop (there were also 15, 50 and 100km options). What glorious trails and what fun! Everyone was so friendly — even the speedy guys smiled and said ‘good work’ as they blew by me. Plus it was dirt cheap to enter, supports the educational programs of i2P, AND we got into Gatineau Park for free!

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i2p 2

i2p

i2p 1

Finally in the last week of August we had our little summer vacation — camping for 6 days with the Irwins at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park ( a.k.a. Sam de Cham), up near North Bay. Lovely weather (only a little rain) and always fun hanging out with the Irwins. Their 3 boys and our 2 get along splendidly.

Our campsite, right on Moore Lake — smaller tent Nic gets to himself, kitchen tent (all closed up because it was threatening rain) and the main tent, which leaks like a sieve so is protected overhead by tarp-zilla.campsite 2

And another shot that includes our trusty trailer ‘Trevor’.
campsite

Doug drove Nic and Troy back into town mid-week so the boys could attend a Grade 9 bbq at their new high school. The rest of us did a nice little hike that got us a great view high above the Mattawa River.
hike

hike 2

Eli can be convinced to do almost anything if there’s an apple in it for him.hike 1

Nic tried out our youth-sized unicycle a few times and made great progress. uni

Another attraction at Sam de Cham is tubing down the Amable du Fond, from where it flows out of Moore Lake (a short walk from our camp site) to where it meets the Mattawa (then a nice little hike back for the tubers).
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tubing 4

tubing 3

tubing

tubing 1

Another ritual for our Sam de Cham stay is a visit to the Maxwell Pottery shop and the adjoining Liam’s Poutine place (Liam being the son of the pottery shop owners). Both on Hwy 603, on the way into Algonquin Park at Kiosk. Lovely pottery and the poutine is yummy. Marlene was in training for her first ultra so could eat poutine with impunity (im-pountine-ity?)
poutine

poutine 1

Just down the road from this spot is a destination for Eli — easy train track access. We could hear the train go by 2-3 times a day from our camp site but unfortunately for E we didn’t see one when we were there. He did find an old railway spike though.

tracks

tracks 1

New this year in our toy collection — a SUP (stand-up paddleboard). So we brought that, which meant the canoe couldn’t also fit on the car roof.

sup 1

sup

Eli was rather fixated with coal this year, wanting us to buy some to make a fire (something to do with steam engines, no doubt). So our campfires were 2 parts wood, 1 part charcoal. In this shot Eli has been very helpful in ripping some garbage into kindling bits to get some wet wood to burn.fire

coal

Lots of time spent perfecting roasted marshmallows. This one is a winner.
marshm

The weather was wet near the end so we all decided to leave Sunday afternoon (when the tents were actually dry so much easier to pack up) rather than early Monday. The couple at the neighbouring site had a daytime fire before they left and I asked if they could leave it going so we could burn off the rest of our firewood. The kids took the opportunity to also burn off every last marshmallow they could find. Once we’d gone through ours the kids Eli had made friends with (including the two little girls in the photo) went and got more. It was a lovely way to conclude our week. The boys all tried for perfectly golden ones — as opposed to the charred torches they create over our evening campfires.

marsh mania 1

nic marshm

troy marshm

brett marsh

We also used the last campfire for  Jiffy Pop popcorn.

popcorn
On the way home we stopped for dinner at Myrt’s in Mattawa. Can you guess why we chose that place? (Hint: the mural on the wall).
myrts

 

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Summer activities

These are some photos of what we’ve been up to. Not in any sort of order!

Running buddy dinner: Chris hosted a bbq at his place in Almonte to celebrate after he and Wei did the Ottawa Race Weekend marathon. Chris ran an impressive PB but Wei had her worst and missed qualifying for Boston next year. Peter and I had just done Boston the month before. Can’t recall what Daryl had done lately but it probably involved needing to drill his toe nails afterwards.
chris

Marlene took the boys to the Aboriginal Summer Solstice festival at Vincent Massey Park in June. It was a tough choice because that weekend Ottawa was hosted at least 6 great festivals. Here Eli points to the hand print he added to the fabric mural.
ab festival

ab festival 1

Mom came to visit for Canada Day celebrations again this year. We started the holiday as usual with the local road race. Marlene did the 10km event (it was too hot — as always!) and Eli had a smoking fast time in the kid’s 1.5km race, doing it in a 5:20 pace and passing tons of kids. He ran on is own (Doug or Marlene went with in previous years) and he ran the whole time. Was in a major sweat when he was done, and was proud of himself.
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Eli met a classmate when lining up for the start (and beat him, but who’s bragging…).
canada day race

You’ll see Eli just after I shout at him.

The big finish.

That evening we had a picnic potluck dinner at a park in New Edinburgh with Ken and Cheryl and Ken’s parents Dick and Anna. Saw the downtown fireworks from there.

canada day

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Marlene baked a blueberry bumble for dessert for the day Mom arrived.
canada day bumble
 Another outing took us to the Science and Technology Museum. We lucked out because it was the first day that the steam train was running. Eli was of course thrilled and we took a couple rides on it.
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science tech

On the day Mom was leaving we went to Manotick to visit Watson’s Mill (in part because it’s close to Fallowfield train station). We all enjoyed the mill and Eli tried on some of the pioneer clothing.
watsons

watsons 1

watsons 2

We finally had the Irwins over to dinner along with a very special guest — Nic’s old buddy Eric who moved to Washington DC (temporarily) a year ago and was back visiting and staying with the Irwins. Steve got the boys to smile by telling them to think of ‘hairy butts’.
hairy butt

Dinner was pretty simple but I made a special appetizer of crispy fried fennel cakes with smoked salmon and white turnip. The other two appetizers were quicker to throw together, a classic shrimp cocktail and neighbour Mario’s antipasto plate.
fennel cakes 1

 

shrimp lg

shrimp 1

 

mario appie lg

mario appie 1

Our dear friend Cathy came from Maui for a visit and we got together with her at Lee-Anne’s place on the Gatineau River. No photo of Cathy — just of Doug and Eli there playing on a SUP.
cathy

We bought tickets for the fall season of the Ottawa Fury Soccer Club and Marlene took the boys to the season opener and first game at the new TD Place (formerly Lansdowne Park).
fury

Every summer weekend in Ottawa has at least a couple festivals to choose from. Marlene took the boys on public transit (which Eli loves) to see the Busker Festival.busker 1

 

busker

We also attended our annual August favourite, the Puppets Up festival in Almonte. We enjoyed the Puppet Tamer (in photo) and Frogtown Mountain’s ‘Everyone Loves Pirates’.
puppets1

Luc, Siti, Keirin and Mishka came from Singapore for their yearly visit. We got to spend time with them (and Andree) at Sky Zone (a trampoline park) and had lunch afterwards at an excellent shwarma restaurant at Bank and Hunt Club. That was followed by some impromptu tree climbing and wrestling by the boys while the adults chatted. Somehow the boys all ended up picking shirts that morning that matched each other.
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luc 4

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Finally had the Wilds over for dinner and invited the Bourgeau-Code family too.
wilds

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Ever since Eli took a one-day cooking course about pizza making he insists on the homemade variety. And is happy to help.
pizza boy

The modern family: 3 boys + 3 devices = harmony
3 devices

Eli and buddies Erik and Ben ready for camp on superhero day.
3 boys

Still some summer left to come…

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