Aaaaand… Just like that, it’s summery!

Gotta love life in Calgary. It’s 23 degrees and sunny today. Nothing is growing (yet), but it will be soon. We had a lovely BBQ slupper on the deck this afternoon: hamburgers à la Tammy. And our Chinese neighbors were having a get together too, and they gave us some skewers of BBQed meat to share. We offered some lemon squares in return, but they looked pretty full by that point, and they refused.

Today was a Bow Cyclist Club Saturday ride, so the timing of the weather was excellent. Here’s the scene outside the coffee shop in Bragg Creek:

L to R: Rich, Perry, me, Brett, Chris, Bart, Doug, Phil, Richard and Derek

Richard and I are wearing last year’s kit. Everyone else is in the 2019!

Here’s another picture that I took on the way home. It ended up being almost 110 km under my wheels today. Nice day for it.

Heading back to Calgary through Springbank

Family Ride Down and then Up

Last weekend, when I was leading the BCC Saturday Ride out to Cochrane, I got into a little trouble when picking a route through the town. I was relying on another ambassador on the ride to know the route, but he turned back early because he wasn’t feeling well. So it was a bit of a gongshow.

This morning I resolved that I would scout out the right route, so that I would know where I was going. I “invited” Tammy to join me, and when Ian heard we were going, then he was in. I’m not sure if Miranda volunteered or was guilted into it, but I’ll assume it was voluntary.

I rode out first, and met everyone at the top of Cochrane hill. That got me a good 26 km before the family ride started. Then we all rode down the hill, through Cochrane along River Ave, then across the river and into the residential area on the far side. Then I went up the hill as far as Highway 22 so that I would know the route for the club, and returned to join Tammy and the kids for coffee & hot chocolate at Cochrane Coffee Traders.

Then it was time to climb the hill. It took a little while, and Tammy had a blood sugar crisis partway up, but in the end we all made it with smiles.

Ian enjoying the view halfway up

Then Tammy and the kids drove home and I hoisted the sails: a lovely tailwind all the way home along Highway 1A. That was their first time up Glen Eagles hill, and it won’t be the last.

Spring Break Comes to an End

It has seemed like a long week off, which I believe to be a good thing, but all good things must come to an end. This past week, I have taken vacation at the same time as the kids, so it’s been good family time off. Tammy had to work four evenings last week, but we’ve had the days together. Tammy has been working out every day with the kids. They’ve been doing Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I have to applaud them. They have kept at it, and I’d say even Ian is enthusiastic about it. I joined them today (more on that below). We had a good Earth Hour. It is an excuse to power down as a family and spend time together in the candlelight. We had a good long family talk in the living room and didn’t turn the lights back on until well after the hour was up.

We didn’t really go anywhere on this time off, except yesterday when Tammy and the kids went to T&T Supermarket. There they managed to find lots of oriental treats like miso, mochi and super hot ramen noodles (that was Ian’s pick). We had some of the ramen today at lunch and even with the sauce at 1/4 strength it was about all they could handle. I did a bit at 1/2 strength and it was not popular. 😁

The super weather that we had the week I was in Virden has dampened somewhat, but it was enough to kill our skiing season. When we went to Nakiska on Thursday, we found that the Bronze chairlift was not in operation. I guess the very bottom of the hill was melting beyond saving. That was the first time that we’d been surprised like that: I don’t think either Tammy or I were anticipating that. Tammy got a drive out to Nakiska and not much else. I, on the other hand, had the best run of my life. I was carving my heel edge like I had never done before.

There’s the feeling that spring is around the corner, but everything is still dead and grey-brown. I had my first Bow Cyclist Ride on Saturday (the loop out to Cochrane for coffee), but I think riding will still be intermittent for a bit yet. We had our first BBQ of the season: some burgers.

Today was the last day before back to school for the kids and back to work for me. Tammy is now off for the next two weeks in between semesters at college. Too bad the timing wasn’t better. We “celebrated” with a movie day. We rented The Dead Zone and then Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse off of iTunes. Then we all did a cardio workout to get the blood working. There is just barely enough room in the bonus room for all of us in there. Then the last movie was Solo: A Star Wars Story off of Netflix. My opinion was that they were all good movies, if very different. The Dead Zone was Tammy’s choice, and I think it was the best surprise of the day. We were zipping through iTunes and Tammy spotted it.

My next weeks are going to be very full at work, with a trip to Vancouver on Tuesday, then Edmonton mid-month and Regina early in May. There are other engagements in between and there will be documents to write. I’ve managed to put most of that out of my mind for the week, but I note that as of right now, I have 128 unread emails for work. With that and four meetings tomorrow, I doubt I will have time for much else. Somehow I will have to reserve the time and energy for Camp Nanowrimo. I have got everything in line for finishing my latest novel this month. I have been editing since January and everything is in good shape.

Changing Sports

The weather in Calgary has been unseasonably warm this week, hitting highs of 16 degrees. The snow is disappearing rapidly. In fact, when I left for Virden, you couldn’t see our lawn at all, and when I got back there was only one patch left, and it’s gone now.

The results are:

  • My first cycling commute of the year on Thursday,
  • Buying a badminton set on Friday, and
  • Going for a bike ride with Peter and Justin today.

Thursday was my only day in the office this week, since with the extra time traveling and working in the evenings meant I didn’t need to work Friday. But I had to work for it: Thursday was a hectic day and with lots of meetings and phone calls. It was a good thing I rode my bike: it kept my attitude positive the whole day.

The badminton thing is something that I’ve talked with Ian about: he’s playing it in gym at school and enjoying it quite a bit. We don’t have room in our yard to set up a net, but there is the big field only a short walk from our house. Badminton sets aren’t exactly expensive, so it wasn’t a big deal to pick one up. But there was one in particular at Canadian Tire that caught my eye as being easy to set up and transport.

The picture from Canadian Tire’s website

We got it home and set it up indoors, which is a good thing, because there is some initial “putting together” to do, and then it’s ready to set up and tear down. It’s really quite brilliant when torn down: it is all in a tight package that’s easy to carry.

The net set up in the living room

The field is still too wet to play on, but it won’t be long. Miranda, Ian and I contented ourselves with whacking the shuttlecock around the driveway.

Today’s ride was an ad hoc affair. Tara had been talking about declaring an unofficial club ride this morning, but the weather forecast had a chance of snow. Peter reached out on WhatsApp, and he and I agreed to meet at the shop and go for a ride. Peter ran into Justin on the way to the shop (figuratively) and he tagged along. It was nice to be riding and actually in motion.

Justin and I (I’m the one with the huge butt in front!)

We had fun. Snow is still threatening for overnight, so it might be a bit before there’s an encore.

Leveling up on the Rollers

Today I did something that I’ve never done before: I got onto the rollers without any support to stand on or hold on to.

I got the idea because Tammy had cleared a big space in the bonus room so that she and the kids could do a workout together. I figured that this was an opportunity to set up and not worry too much about crashing into something if it went poorly.

It took about 5-8 minutes for me to be successful the first time. Then I rode for 10 km, stopped to towel off and have a drink and then did it again. The second time was way better. Then I stopped at 30 km and called for someone to take a video of me doing it. Miranda answered the call. Now I’m thinking about moving the rollers to the basement, since I don’t need to hold onto the treadmill now. Then I can get up early and get a workout in without bugging anyone. The possibilities are mind-boggling!

A Shift Back To Winter

Since the bit of snow that we got on Christmas Day, the weather in Calgary has been unseasonably warm and dry. Even our street, which often has hard-packed ice that lingers well into the spring, was clear. It got to the point where we all went for bike rides on Sunday the 13th. I went for a 47-km solo ride, and Tammy and the kids rode 10 km to the library and back.

Yours truly enjoying a mid-winter ride

But this week, the temperatures dove down under freezing and it snowed yesterday. Before the snow was an ice fog, which always leaves the trees in a beautiful state.

Ice crystals on tree branches

Today it’s -17 out there. It’s supposed to be back above zero tomorrow, but we’ll wait and see. I’m off to Halifax next week. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with my air travel.

Miranda’s class went to Bowness High School for a field trip yesterday. She has put her application in to Sir Winston Churchill High School for the International Baccalaureate program for next year, but if that doesn’t pan out, she will attend Bowness. She was impressed by the various programs there, so it’s good that she is excited about Plan B.

In other news, I have jumped back into writing/editing mode. I have three novels that make up a long story, which I started in November 2015 with All Too Human, then followed up in 2016 with Outpost Tyranny and I partly completed between 2017 and 2018 with Who Writes the History Books. WWTHB is probably about 30,000 words from completion, but I decided to go back and revisit everything up to now to ensure continuity and to fix any outstanding edits. I am enjoying that process, and what I’ve done is created a PDF copy of the novels, and I am using the PDF Viewer app on my iPad with the Apple Pencil to make red-pen markup that I will incorporate later. It’s allowing me to scribble quick notes instead of worrying about getting everything perfect. Once I get to where I left off in 2018, I think I will be ready to push through the last part of the book.

This is exciting for me, because it’s been a long time coming, and I can envision the end.

 

2018 Cycling Roundup

Don’t worry, the general 2018 Retrospective is coming tomorrow. Today, I met my distance goal for cycling: 9,000 km for the year. With that, I thought it was a good opportunity to look back at the cycling year.

As I mentioned, I met my goal for the year, but my initial target was 8,000 km. In October, it was clear that I was going to pass that, so I upped my sights.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring, but back in 2014 I wondered how I would ever top 3,000 km.

But enough about me. If 2018’s cycling story was about anything, it was about the rest of the family. Both Miranda and Tammy joined the Bow Cyclist Club, and Ian was one of my biggest riding partners.

It all started in January, when I enrolled Miranda and myself in the Bow Cycle Service School. Miranda had “inherited” Tammy’s bike the previous year, but it was her opportunity to tear it apart and make it her own. I took my Giant commuter and replaced its drivetrain with a 1x system, which was my major cycling investment of the year.

The spring took its own sweet time coming, so while there were a few rides in March and April, nothing really started happening with regularity until May. Then the 2018 pattern established itself: I commuted pretty regularly, rode on Wednesdays and Sundays with the BCC (and Miranda would join on Sundays), Tammy would ride the Tuesday morning ladies’ ride, Tammy and Miranda would ride the Thursday night ladies’ ride with the BCC, while Ian and I would go for a spin along the pathways.

I had two early season “special” rides, both in June: the MEC Century Ride and the Gran Fondo Badlands. Keith came out to stay with us to take part. The weather cooperated, even if the integrity of our tires did not.

Ian turned eleven this year, and while his legs might not be long, he was super enthusiastic about riding his new road bike this year. I got the bike for $275 from Tara, whose son had outgrown it. Ian’s first attempts at riding it were comically tentative, but soon he was pushing himself to try new things, including riding up Canada Olympic Park and registering for the Tour de Victoria. That forced an additional bike rack for the Tiguan, as the Biickerts were all represented in the Tour de Victoria this year. That was the highlight of the year.

The weather didn’t cooperate very well this year. Calgary was choked with smoke through August from the BC wildfires, Victoria followed suit while we were there (thankfully not on the Tour day). Then winter arrived early. There were some further BCC rides in October, but only for the hardcore. For Tammy and Miranda, the season was over when we got back to Calgary from Victoria.

Faced with the prospect of a long, long winter, I opted for variety in the form of a set of cycling rollers. Technically an early Christmas present, it has already been a welcome change from Zwifting every day.

Stepping back and looking at the year again, it was huge steps forward for Tammy and Ian. Tammy will end the year with more than 4,300 km. That’s huge! Ian stepped up and rode lots and with enthusiasm. For myself, I can’t help but think that it was a bit of a step backwards. I know I didn’t reach the levels of fitness in the summer that I did in 2017. I only rode three centuries, instead of six or seven in 2017, depending on how you count them. I was very regular and my totals show it. And there is something very rewarding seeing the others reach new heights.

But looking ahead to 2019, I have already agreed with the BCC that I would shift to leading the Saturday ride instead of the Sunday ride. That will hammer me into shape: 90 hard km instead of 45 easy ones. I also am pondering entering the Tour de Bowness next August and there is something new called the Alberta Gran Fondo Series for 2019. Who knows, I might get back to 2017 levels next year.

Fat Biking

That is not a description of the rider. It’s the tires! 🤪

Today, I borrowed a bike from Bow Cycle and met up with a dozen or so club members to ride up the Powderface Trail, west of Bragg Creek. I was more than a little sceptical. After last year’s ride which was more ice than snow, I was worried that this was going to be an hour and a half of butt-clenching.

It turned out pretty good. The conditions were good, and the temperature was just below freezing.

At the trail head

It was a heck of a climb. Only about six kilometres in, but half a kilometre up.

Powderface Trail map and elevation

There was more than a little bike pushing going on. I know my heart rate spiked over 180 bpm on the climb up.

Pushing up one of the shorter climbs

It was fun, but exhausting. There’s gotta be easier ways to move around in snow than this.  I think fat bikes are cool, but I don’t want to buy one. I’d rather rent one every once in a while. The studded tires alone cost $700.

Rollers

It’s taken a few years, but I’ve finally bought myself a set of cycling rollers. Here they are, set up and ready to go tonight.

Norco Valence and Tacx Galaxia

I’ve borrowed rollers from other cyclists twice in the past: once from Brian and once from Kurt. As an owner of two cycling trainers and a regular user of Zwift, it took a fair bit of thinking to get me to add the rollers to our jumble of gear. If I had to sum up the reasons why:

  • It’s a singular sensation, balancing on the rollers. Always feels like you’re one twitch away from disaster (see video below). And interesting is always in short supply in the long winter.
  • It’s a different workout. I can already feel sore muscles from my short ride this evening. It works the core when you are balancing and it forces a smooth pedaling stroke.
  • Higher cadence, lower resistance. Should be healthier for my knees in the long term.
  • It gives months of bike handling practice. Things like learning how to turn your head without your bike drifting, and things like that.

I’m not cancelling my Zwift membership. I expect to intersperse trainers and rollers through the winter.

Thanks to Bow Cycle for granting me the staff discount for being an ambassador with the club. It makes a big difference.

Updated

I made some adjustments before my ride today:

  • Raised my handlebars
  • Shortened the rollers from #3 to #4 (Tammy helped me measure the axle length)
  • Put a hard surface (some wood) under the rockers/rollers on the bottom to allow them forward/backward movement.

These all were very positive changes, making the rollers much more stable. I’m still the weakest link, but it’s good to know that things are set up more optimally.

Brr. Cold September!

It’s been a lousy, rotten September. And I’m not kidding. I went to Winnipeg and Toronto in the last two weeks, and they are having lovely early Fall weather, while Calgary has been cold and wet, with dustings of snow. Now the forecast for tomorrow is warning of up to 20 cm of snow. There is an actual reason for it. Strongest ridge in 60 years. Arctic air is shooting straight down through Alberta.

That has meant for little outdoor cycling, and yet at the same time, I am not ready mentally to throw in the towel on the riding season. I have found some days to commute to work. And today I showed up for the Bow Cyclists ride with six other hard core (hard-headed) members. It was -3 and dry, with a windchill of -9.

Bundled up against the cold (Bart, Derek, me, Kevin, Wing, Mark and Kurt out of picture)

It was chilly, but the camaraderie was good. When we were leaving the nice, warm shop I did point out that I was there “ASA: Against Spousal Advice”. 😆 There were a few comments during the ride that “we should have listened to Simon’s wife”.

I am still hoping that the weather will revert and give us a nice October and November. We’ll see.