Last Bicycle Ride of the Year - Maybe!

I pulled my bicycle out of the shed this afternoon to go for what might be the last ride of 2004. The temperature was slightly above freezing, and winds were very light from the NE. It had been maybe two weeks since I was last out, and that was on the railbed up to Lewiporte Junction and back. Those gentler climbs are better for me with my asthma than what you face on the roads, especially when it is cooler. I like heading into any wind on the way out so that it is at my back on the return trip. That is why I chose to head towards Little Burnt Bay.

I had dressed in similar clothing to what I would wear cross-country skiing. It is always a challenge deciding what to put on when faced with a high output activity requiring nothing too bulky, while keeping warm. By the time I got to Byron's house I was already cold and tired, so I stopped in for a quick visit. The hot coffee was just what I needed. Before leaving I switched from fingerless sailing gloves to cotton glove. A hat was in my pocket, just in case.

The bike, a Schwinn Santa Monica comfort style, needs to be tuned up again. The back brakes barely slow me down, and the shifters are not changing gears properly. It could use some oil and tightening here and there as well. Lots of things I could do myself, if I only had a place to work. I suppose I'll get a shed/garage someday. For an inexpensive bicycle (under $300), it has served me well though. It has been used for 5 adventure races so far, and all the training and recreational trips in between over the past 15 or so months I've had it.

I try to keep my speed above 15kph, but was barely able to stay above 10 going up the hill past the mussel bed turn. That's the steepest part of this road, and I'm happy to always make it to the top without having to get off and walk. While going through Embree the chimney smoke from all the wood furnace fires was almost enough to choke me. There wasn't enough wind to make a difference as it hung close to the ground. At times I had to hold my breath until I made it through a particularly bad spot.

It didn't look like I would make it all the way to Little Burnt Bay. I didn't want to overdo it, and had planned to be home by 4:00 anyway. The evenings get dark rather early, and will continue to get shorter for another 5 weeks. Since Colin lived at the end of Embree, I thought I would go that far and visit with him, but seeing his car at the church, I decided to carry on to Foxes Dock, the place from which we launched many a kayaking trip over the past season. I paused their briefly to look out over the water and take a few sips of Gatorade.

Riding home was slightly warmer with the hills not so steep. I finished the little over 26km in 1 hour and 18 minutes (20kph average), and put the bike back in the shed until the next opportunity. Monday we are expecting up to 10cm of snow.


Raid Avalon 2004-D

Once more I participated in the Raid Avalon adventure race. I was one of a team of four this time around, so I didn't have to race solo like in two previous competitions.


HMS Calypso/Briton

One of the places I like to kayak to is Job's Cove in Embree where the remains of an old ship rest. Originally known as Calypso, it was renamed to Briton.

HMS Briton Posted by Hello

HMS Calypso under full sail. Posted by Hello

All that is left of this vessel now is a rusted hulk.


Choosing a Sea Kayak

I have been sea kayaking for a couple years, and over that time I've developed some opinions about what I would like to have in a new one. My current kayak is a Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 15 that I am at least the third owner of. It is a good boat, but doesn't quite fit my ideal. The one I had previously, a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 was much closer, and sets the standard by which I'll judge all.

All sea kayaks are good boats. You have to find one built in a style you like, feels good in the conditions you will be paddling in, and fits you.

The number one priority is an adjustable skeg. The Cape Horn has a rudder, and I have yet to put it in the water. A skeg works as well with fewer parts and a cleaner looking boat. The only disadvantage is storage room taken up by the trunk in the aft compartment.

It should have recessed deck fittings, 3 bulkheads, day hatch and good size bow and stern hatches, perimeter deck lines, lots of bungie cords, at least 16' long, under 24" wide, good initial stability, great secondary stability, and a good physical fit.

Besides another Tempest 170, my list of potential boats includes:
Current Designs Sirocco

P&H Capella 166 RM

Necky Chatham 16


Agony of de Feet

Finding a well-fitting pair of shoes is always a problem for me. Being only 5'7" is one thing, but having only size 8 feet because if it is a nuisance. Sometimes, depending on the make, I may need a 7.5 or even a 7. Even with different shoes from the same manufacturer the size can vary. It can get very frustrating. I got lucky with the trail runners I bought on sale at Canadian Tire about at year ago. They fit, and were just what I needed to do my first Raid Avalon, even before I'd heard of it. They were too worn for this summer though, and the search was on again.

Trail runners didn't seem to be very popular in any of the stores, so this made the task even more difficult. After about a half-dozen stores I found something suitable, but not exactly what I was looking for, and at the top of my budget. There was only a week before the race, and I needed something ASAP to at least get in a bit of training, so the Nike TR9000's would have to do.

The next day I decided to go for a little 4 hour stroll over the railbed to break them in. I'd alternate between walking and running up towards the junction for 2 hours and then make my way back. Well, by the time I'd gone 1.5 hours I realized I'd gone 30 minutes too far. The shoes I went to break in were breaking up my feet. The return trip was a bit slower, so I was gone 3.5 hours in total by the time I struggled into the house. Everything hurt from the waste down.

In February I had walked for about 6 hours in heavy, uncomfortable winter boots, so my current state surprised me. It put doubts in my mind about being able to do the race at all if this was the shape I was in. This is a day later and things have improved a great deal. I went kayaking today to give the feet a break. Tuesday the most I will do with them is bicycle, but come Wednesday they will need to be ready for a little more training. The race starts on Saturday morning.


CRCA Level 1 Course

Modern sea kayaks are based on water craft that evolved in the north over thousands of years. While they come in several varieties, one built for touring can generally handle some fairly rough water. The weak point is usually the paddler. This is why is it a very good idea to take a kayaking course. In Canada, the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association (CRCA) has a tiered system rangeing from Flatwater to Level 4. This weekend I became Level 1 certified by the Newfoundland Kayak Company.

Friday evening I arrived at the Aquarena in St. John's. I was a few minutes late because I was over an hour late leaving Lewisporte. It seems like there are always things that come up to delay me when I have to travel anywhere. This meant I didn't have time to stop along the way, do the shopping I needed to do, or get more than a quick bite for supper.

Ian met me at the door. I knew him from when he led our group at the kayaking retreat a couple weeks previous. The class was forced to relocate, so he guided me through some twists and turns and eventually to where my 13 other classmate were. Justin had already gone over some things, and people were introducing themselves. I just got the tail end, so names are still fuzzy.

Following some general instruction on kayaking safety, coastal navigation, and so on, it was time to get changed and hit the pool. Once on the water, it looked like just about everyone else was as apprehensive about inverting their kayak as I was. We had to force the kayak upside down, pound on the hull 3 times to attract attention, wave our arms back and forth as long as we could, grab the pull strap on the spray skirt to release it, and then tumble foreward out of the kayak and come to the surface still holding the paddle and the kayak - no problem.

Actually, it wasn't that bad. I watched the instructors do it, and some of the other students, to program the moves into my brain. I took some deep breaths and threw myself to one side to force a normally stable kayak to roll over. I did each of the steps, and the next thing I knew my head was out of the water with kayak and paddle close at hand. Nothing to be scared of at all. For the rest of the night we performed various rescues as victim and saviour. At about 11:30 I was loading my kayak back on the car and heading to my brother-in-law's place for a few hours of sleep.

On a cool, windy, and rainy Saturday morning we met at Long Pond just north of the university. Here were were going to learn boat control. We paddled forward, stopped, paddled backwards, and then sideways. Next we turned and pivoted. In the afternoon we covered bracing - the art of righting yourself before you tip over. Some people didn't quite get the hang of it until they did go completely  over. That gave us opportunities to practice our resuces again. During the day we did some navigaton and planned our trip for Sunday, so the night session was cancelled. (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the big hockey game on that night...)

Sunday morning we all gathered at the Village Mall parking lot with plans to get underway for Cape Broyle by 0800. That meant another night with not enough sleep, but we needed an early start, if people like me could get away before supper. So, a convoy of kayak topped vehicles set forth down Highway 10. We stopped at a convenience store to grab some extra grub and change into our paddling gear, and then headed for the local beach to load up and do some paddling.


2004 Kayakers' Retreat Weekend Report

I checked in and confirmed my attendance on Friday evening before going to find a place to stay. Wound up at White Sails Cabins in Eastport. It was close to 20 minutes drive from the center of activity, but much cheaper.

0845 Saturday morning we gathered at Pinetree Lodge and got the lowdown on the day's events. It was about 1100 before we got on the water, launching from a beach at Burnside. There were close to 50 kayaks travelling from there to the place we stopped for lunch. At that time we split up, with the "advanced" paddlers heading out first to their more distant destination, and the remaining "intermediate" kayakers breaking into two groups.

John Knight's bunch took the counter-clockwise direction around the islands, and we went clockwise under the leadership of Ian Fong. Our heading was more protected from the wind, which was higher and from a different direction than forecasted, so we only had a couple rough passages. We stayed on the sheltered sides and returned the same route we had travelled out. The other groups experienced a bit tougher time of it. Around 1800, people began landing back at Burnside, and I was one of the first half dozen in. I was surprised by my speed compared to most others all day, especially since I have a relatively short, wide and heavy, and thus slow, kayak. Now I need some skills to go with that.

Saturday night we had a social at Pinetree Lodge. There were kayaking videos and photographs on a screen, plus some live entertainment by a paddling guitar player of great talent, Eric West. The bar was open, and snacks filled the tables, but many people, including us, were heading to bed by 2230.

I arrived at the Sunday morning meeting only to be told that winds were going to be too high, and the official paddle was cancelled. At this point, smaller groups of people got together and did their own thing. Not knowing many there, or the area, I hung out until I heard that St. Chad's was the place to go. This was close to where we were were staying, so I went back to the cabin to let Roxanne know what was up, and changed into my wetsuit. I managed to find the beach, with 5 kayaks already in the water, and 4 more arriving while I was setting up.

This whole section of coast was well protected from the winds by the high hills, and there were no significant waves until a couple hundered meters out. This gave us lots of room to play. There were several NDKs, two wooden kayaks, and one Sea Knife, with plastics being in the minority. During lunch, both of the women practiced rolling, which they made look very easy in the NDKs. While paddlers came and went, I stayed and practiced in the shallow waters for over 4 hours.

Sunday night we gathered for the big meal, door prize draws, and presentions. Gift certificates from The Outfitters and MEC were what I most wanted, but alas, my number was not drawn. Following the turkey dinner, the tables were removed and Ruth Gordon, of the Canadian Freestyle Kayak team, showed photos and gave a talk about some of the interesting places they have visited in the world. She and fellow teammate, Tyler Curtis, received the honor of being screeched in as well.

Monday morning started with packing and loading up the car. This took longer than I hoped, and it was after 0930 by the time I arrived at breakfast. The KNL executive were put to work cooking up a fine meal of pancakes, and other goodies for the hungry paddlers. This was the best social time of the weekend, and I got to talk to a few people I had only met in passing previously. Once again I passed up a chance to buy an autographed copy of Ken Campbell's book, Around The Rock.

At 1030 Ruth and Tyler put on a short demonstration of freestyle whitewater kayaking skills at The Ruins in Glovertown. This was very interesting, but I think I will stick with sea kayaking for a while yet. By 1130 we were heading back home having experienced a full and interesting few days, and hopefully, having started some new friendships.


Let the Kayaking Begin

May 1 marks my first kayaking trip of the season. Randolph came from Fogo for the weekend and we paddled from Lewisporte to Jobs Cove to see the remains of the HMS Briton (Calypso). On the way there we passed over the mussel bed, so a shopping bag was filled for a snack that evening. Winds were light and out of the NE. An excellent first trip.


Changing of the Seasons

The time has come to put away the skis and get out the bicycle. Well, I did have the bike out in February for the Raid Avalon, but that just left it dirty and rusty. It is in the process of being cleaned and oiled, and may get out for a test drive today - if the wind drops out.


Final Ski

Since I figured this would be my last chance to get out skiing before the snow disappeared (a couple days of rain in the forecast), I decided to make it a good one. The dog and I skied all the way to the end of Scissors Pond, a distance of about 7km each way. There were a number of snowmobiles, but most past at some distance. We past a hole in the snow that looked like it had been made by a beaver. On the way back I went exploring and gathering GPS trails to plot on the mapping software. I now have a fairly large network of trails to use next winter, and a few places yet to explore


Moose on the Loose

While I was out skiing this afternoon I saw a moose on the trail. This was the first time in several years I'd run across anything larger than a mink while outside doing anything. I took a couple pictures, but I wouldn't get close enough for them to turn out. I'd just come out on a large open bog and had no protection if it decided to charge, so I kept my distance.


Time is Short, but the Snow Still Deep

In many places in Canada they have long lost the snow they had this winter, but the way we got dumped on it might be July before the last of it is gone. Well, maybe the end of April anyway. There seems to be over a meter remaining in most place as we near the end of the first week of spring. This is not a terrible thing though, it means that I can continue to XC ski for a bit longer.

Today it was so warm (0° C) and sunny that it would be a shame to waste it doing anything else. I strapped on my day pack, with snowshoes attached just in case, and headed out. It was around 1330 and I had about an hour before the kids got out of school and the number of snowmobiles on the go took a big jump, so I took to the railbed with is groomed for them first.

Not knowing how many days like this I'd get, I decided to take some detours and try some new areas. The first deviation was to jump over to the pole line instead of going down to the railbed. There appeared to be only the one snowmobile track here, and it was hard and full of alders, so I put my so-called touring skis to the test and tried the untouched snow. I was surprised at how well I was able to travel on top of it. There was only a slight depression in the surfaces behind me. This was fun for a while, but soon the trees became too thick, and I followed the snowmobile track back to the railbed.

Things were normal here as I headed up to the bog just before reaching the industrial park. I continued to go over the less travelled areas until reaching the point where I usually head back to the pond. Instead, I turned left and continued over the bog to a rock where I had stopped for a rest the previous winter while out snowshowing with Parker. Here I removed my skis and pack, and rested a few minutes while taking a few sips of Gateraide.

I decided to keep going this direction and play things by ear. Reaching the point where the trail heads into the woods, I took a right and went over clear snow to another bog where I found a bunch of snowmobile tracks which took me back to where I branched off, and I continued on to the pond.

The pond was in terrible shape for skiing. The snowmobilers travelled over it a couple days before when it was around +7, and the slush was now refrozen into icy lumps and valleys.
The going was slow and I had to constantly make adjustment for the terrain. After a few minutes I was at the other side and in the municipal park. From here I followed the road until it hit the trail to the left which lead to an old road that used to run up behind the town. I tried to find a way to access it while on my mountain bike the previous summer, but couldn't see a good way to get on it. Things are sometimes easier in the winter.

There is a good view looking over the town and the harbour from the highest point, and just past that is the trail which leads back of the lookout and on to the pond again. There must be a half dozen trail heading off in various directions from the pond, so it is a great place to start and end ski trips. Mine ended with another rough crossing to the snowcovered parking area. There I removed my skis and walked the rest of the way home. It had been a wonderful 3.5 hours out enjoying nature.


Junction and Back

Once in a while I would meet some other skiers while on the trails, and we would chat for a couple minutes. During one of those conversations I learned that others shared my goal of skiing up to the junction and back - a return trip of about 22km from the industrial park. I estimated that this could take up to 8 hours, depending on how many and how long the breaks.

Not one to just talk about things, I decided that March 20th, the first day of spring, would be a great time to do it. I let a few people know about my plans, and posted it on the ski club's website in case anyone wanted to join me, but there were no confirmations. I was on my own again. Oh well...

Originally, I planned to leave at 0900 sharp with the group, and have a lunch in the chalet at Notre Dame Park, but since it was just me there was no rush and I could travel at my own time. It was closer to 0930 by the time I finished a good breakfast and had the car loaded up - dog and all. Then it took a while to find a parking spot. With all the snow there are few places left. By 0950, however, I was on the trail.

Conditions were really good, although it was overcast all day with a light SE wind blowing. This helped to bring the snowmobiles out in force. I wouldn't doubt that 100 passed me on their way to cabins and Mt. Peyton. So much for fresh air. Regardless, I made good time and arrived at the junction shortly before noon. I skied around the loop to head back home and looked for a good place to stop for lunch.

I pulled off to the side of the trail at a cabin intersection (Farrs?), took off my pack, pulled out a cold peanut butter sandwhich and colder bottle of milk, and ate while watching the snowmobiles whiz past. 10 or 15 minutes is long enough to be still in these temperatures, so it was soon time to hit the trail again to warm up.

To train for this event I'd increased my ski excursions from 2 to 3 hours and then up to 4 hours, but that was really pushing it. I was unsure if I could go 5 or 6 hours, if that was what this trip actually took. It would have if I left from the pond like I normally do and gone all the way to the chalet, but going from the industrial park saved me about an hour. This meant I was back at the car again in around 4.5 hours. I'd achieved another goal. Been there, done that. Those other people can just keep talking.


Raid Avalon 2 Completed

I made it through the second Raid Avalon adventure race. It took me about twice as long as the other teams who finished, but after nearly 10.5 hours I crossed the finish line. Much of the excess time can be blamed on equipment. I had waxless traditional skis rather than skate skis, my bike had summer road/hard trail tires rather than studded winter tires, and I had an old pair of wooden snowshoes rather than the modern type. With the right gear I could have easily trimmed at least an hour off my time, and probably 2.

Speaking of trimming, I am not in the best of shape. According to the charts, I could stand to lose 20 or 30 lbs. I don't move overly fast at the best of times, and maintaining a high rate of speed, especially in the cold of winter, is difficult with my mild asthma. Then there was the fact that I was racing alone against 2 teams of 4, 1 team of 3, and 1 other single. Anyway, I knew all this going in and hadn't expected to be anything but last. My goals were to finish, and hopefully not be more than 2 hours behind the leaders. I managed the first part.

The race itself started out with cross-country skiing, interrupted halfway through by an Australian (attached on the back) rappel down a steep slope. That was followed by a bicycle ride through slush, mud and ice covered roads. From there the route went up a long, steep hill, through the dense woods, and over bogs. The final stretch involved crossing over the frozen harbour, and then down the road to the finish line. All kinds of weather was experienced too, but the worst was the 30 to 70km NW wind which blew in my face, and impeeded progress, whenever I was away from any shelter from hills or trees.

The organizers, volunteers and other racers treated me very well, and I was congratulated on my accomplishment time and again. I don't feel, however, that I achieved any more than the others racers who took part. I was just slower, but well, I guess there is something to be said for having done it without the benefit of a full team. Perhaps I'll have one for the next race. Wanna join me?


Still on the snow.

I've been working a lot the past couple weeks, so skiing is limited to the weekends, weather permitting. Today I took a new route. Half the fun is getting out in the woods and exploring. The trails are well used by snowmobiles, so I can't get into any real trouble. I also have enough gear with me to survive a couple days if I were to get lost - as outlined previously.

There is a map of the paths I've used on the Notre Dame Ski Club's website. I've been working on that for a couple weeks, and the bulk of it is completed. The map is made by capturing the plot trails from my GPSr. All the software is free and available to anyone. See the site of the links.

As well as the new route, I made my first circumnavigation of a loop I had only done in sections before. Both combined total about 9km, and I did them in a bit less than 2 hours. That means my speed and endurance has improved slightly. Last week I followed a very experienced skate skier. That was a challenge since he can travel over 3 times faster than me. Other than that time I've skied alone - with the dog. Today, however, I met another skier in the middle of the pond.

The dog, Princess, usually stays pretty close to me and comes when called. Once in a while she'll run ahead, or stop to sniff at something, or chase after a squirrel. I hold on to her when the snowmobiles pass to keep her from getting in their way. There were a lot of snowmobiles on the trails today, and one time she was too busy smelling something to come right away when I called. This caused her to hit the ski of a snowmobile which had stopped in time to avoid running her over. She limped a bit for a few minutes, but was soon running around like normal. I think the people on the snowmobile got more of a fright.


XC Skiing

BC LewisporteI've had my new skis for 5 days, and been out on them twice for a total of about 2.5 hours. They are Karhu Pioneer touring with Salomon SNS Profil auto bindings. My boots are Salomon Escape B5, and the poles are Swix ST061. It seems like a nice package, and I got it for a reasonable price from a good store.

My first hour was spent on familiar ground - the woods and bogs south of the pond at the end of my street. No groomed trails here, only the multiple tracks left by many snowmobiles. Not only did this make for a rough surface to travel over, but the machines were zipping by every few minutes and had to be avoided. I had maybe 3 minor falls on the way out, and none returning. A successful first time on skis.

Today I was a bit more ambitious. I travelled a trail I was unfamiliar with, heading west of the same pond, so I would have to practice my navigation. I also added the weight of my backpack and enough supplies to keep me alive for a day or two in an emergency. Included were a first aid kit, some power bars, map, water, cellular phone, GPSr, waterproof matches, compass, flashlight, multitool, extra clothes, flare, and a few other items. I also brought along the camera.

The terrain was similar, but fewer snowmobiles appear to travel this way, so I only had to get out of their way 3 or 4 times. I had hoped to find my way back to the route I had used the last time so that I would have a nice 5 or 6km loop to practice on. This path, however, seemed to want to keep going generally west, so I decided to turn around an go back the way I came in. The machines had mostly erased my tracks, but I didn't need a trail of bread crumbs to find my way.

I have read that beginners should get really good on the groomed trails, and take a couple lessons before considering going where I have gone, but too late now. This is how I learned everything from computers to kayaking. Besides, in about 6 weeks I could be in much worse while participating in the Raid Avalon.


Training Time

There are about 6 weeks until the next Raid Avalon. This one, being a winter event, will use different equipment than the last race. I've done a little bit of snowshoeing on my father's old wood and leather pair, but yet to do any cross-country skiing. I spent some time reading up on the available gear, and getting to know a little bit about the sport. Some decisions were made on what to get and I should have the complete package by the weekend.

For the past couple months I've been doing push-ups and stretching. Recently I added sit-ups back into the mix. I want to be able to easily do 50 of each at a time by the race. Walking/running around the pond was getting a little boring, so today I went for a 90 minute hike in the woods and over the bogs. I loaded up my backpack and attached the snowshoes to it. That extra weight really makes a difference. I'm going to train with it overloaded.

I don't know for sure if I'll be able to compete in the race, but preparing for it is a good excuse to get outside and get some exercise. I don't think I have stopped eating since Thanksgiving, and have been afraid to step on the scale. If I take to the X-C skiing, and the weather cooperates, I'll be looking forward to seeing what my weight has fallen to. :)
Karhu Pioneer X-C Ski


The Changing of the Kayaks

Mike and the kayaksMy lovely, nearly new WS Tempest 170 sea kayak is gone. Mike showed up at 7 this morning to make the exchange. The movers were packing his stuff up today for the move to BC, so he had to get it back in time to be put on the truck.

What I have now is his WS Cape Horn 15. It is a good kayak, but a big step down - in my opinion. I lose the skeg, which I really liked, and now have a rudder. It is also 1.5 feet shorter (as you can see in the picture of both taken Sept. 2003). There were a couple times out in the Tempest where I would have traded some of its high secondary stability for a bit more primary stability, and the Cape Horn has plenty of that, so it is not all bad. I might also appreciate the extra room in the cockpit.