Tuesday, September 30, 2008

31 Days of Cycling

I have been thinking about ways to mix up my off-season training this year and have come up with a great goal for October. My goal is to cycle 140km per week - that works out to be about 20km a day for a total of 620km for the entire month. For me, its a manageable & realistic goal for the off season. I figure I can crank out an easy 20km in about an hour on the trainer every morning.

Unstructured training is great for a mental/physical break from a schedule - but I am goal oriented and I need something to shoot for to exercise consistently.

I wanted to get some extra mileage on the bike during this fall/winter so I believe this is a great opportunity to do so. We'll see what I can cook up for next month.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I love sushi

I remember back in 1999 when I first moved to Calgary - my first job, after graduating university, was with a web firm by the name of Critical Mass. Great group of people - all of us came from such diverse backgrounds but had a terrific synergy. It was these guys that took me for my first sushi lunch. I remember not really enjoying it - raw fish??? Yuck!!! It wasn't until the 4th or 5th try that I started to come around and start to really enjoy it. I dunno why I persisted...normally when I don't like something I avoid doing it again. But...then there are times in life when you keep going back to something that doesn't seem enjoyable at first because you know (innately) eventually you will.

Now, I would eat this stuff 2-3x week if it were not so expensive. Yes, I live by the ocean but it is still expensive.

We went for a sushi lunch today and I had a spicy salmon roll, spicy tuna roll, and small bowl of heavenly chicken udon soup! YUM!

This weekend looks like it is going to be raining...we have a category 1 hurricane blowing in through parts of the maritimes so we'll see part of that here in the HRM on Sunday. Pulled out my trainer last night so I am ready roll.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sun-shining Day

This past week has been great fall weather in the HRM with lots of sunshine to go around. As I check the weekend forecast I see rain on both Saturday & Sunday - a good opportunity to get my workout room organized and my trainer pulled out and set up.

I ordered a couple of books last night from Chapters online - one being a PHP book (one of my favourite web programming languages), the other being "Training and Racing With a Power Meter" by Hunter Allen. I first heard about this book in an article on the Training Peaks software tool (http://www.trainingpeaks.com/). The reviews on this book have been positive so I thought it was worth checking out. I currently have a power meter on my indoor trainer. The book, apparently, really dives into how to properly train with a power meter on the bike - determine your baseline(s) and the ability to properly train against those numbers to get better. I'm excited to learn something new.

Been thinking ahead about some races for next year and are looking a maybe doing the Hypthermic Half in Feb and a spring marathon. Originally, my big drive was to do the 70.3 back home in Newfoundland with a goal of qualifying for Clearwater. However, I recently found out that the Newfoundland 70.3 has been cancelled due to logistical reasons. Really a shame that, that one got away. Corner Brook lost a great ITU event and now the area lost the 70.3.

Maybe it will be a summer of racing locally or maybe I *might* be able to convince Mel into going somewhere for a 70.3 qualifier. Or maybe we'll just run off to Europe again ;)

Happy Thursday folks!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First Pilates Class...

and it felt like I was learning to walk again...truly humbling and I look forward to getting better and stronger!

Busy Little Beaver

The past several days have been busy - a healthy mixture of work and projects around the house. I will snap some pics of the tiling work at some point this week and post them for those of you who are interested.

Saturday I got up super early, or at least it felt like it, to meet Shawn and Kris for a leisurely spin around my hood. Prior to this ride, I might have been on my tri bike 2 times with the longest ride being approximately 30km. I knew beforehand I was in for a world of hurt - I just didn't realize how bad I would be suffering. Everything was great up until 32km and then the proverbial wheels fell off. Literally, my legs felt dead and I was gasping for air - what a terrific feeling!

Seriously though, I really do enjoy the pain on a number levels - one of which, it drives me to work harder and become better. It was a humbling experience - I wore a smile throughout - I couldn't help but be thankful for it, as strange as that might sound.

Got to the gym for a leg workout on Sunday evening - legs were dead riding home afterwards - I embrace the pain.

Other then that, not much on the G-O. Like most other triathletes, I am trying to catch up on the rest of my life that has been put on hold as a result of training. As fellow blogger Jenna put it...trying to restore some balance in my life.

Part of that involves breaking down some barriers that I have lived with, and accepted, in my life. I particuliarly like another bloggers (Susi) mantra/philosphy of "Believe". Truly, a powerful concept - yet too often overlooked. You should all stop sometime and reflect on what that word means to you.

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Whats new?

A few things have been happening since arriving back from our Paris trip. I finally finished the tiling project in our master bathroom. I think it looks alright for my first crack on tiling - already Mel has lined up some spare tile for the other bathroom on our second floor - no rest for the weary.

Have been running about 2-3 times during the week, which is nice. I'm doing 2 of the runs with my buddy Kevin during our lunch breaks at work. Every time at the start of our run I say "Lets take'r easy today K-Bes" and every time he lays down the hammer and we end up beating ourselves up. LOL, it is good times though!

Been hitting the weight room twice a week for upper/body weights. Focus is on muscular endurance through high reps of light weights. I do about 2 sets of each exercise. Personally, I found weight training has really helped me out over the past couple of years with respect to warding off injuries and being a better triathlete in general. I start weights in the off season and continue doing them until a couple of monthes out from racing season. As I progress through the training, I incorporate sport specific drills to help carry over the strength gains I made from weights. That is a critical step to maintain all the hard work you put in.

Been riding a bit to/from the weight room as well as a short ride on Saturdays. I'm hooking up with Shawn tomorrow for a "social" ride...haha. Chances are I'll be gasping to stay on his back wheel. My goal is ride with him as much as I can throughout the year to become a better cyclist. In return, I am going to help with his swimming.

Pilates class starts next Tuesday - my core is already sore thinking about it. Jarret H swears by it - he cranked out a sub 10hr IM for his first one so I am willing to try anything he has done - within reason :)

Other then that, not much else on the go. Like everyone else who is winding down, I am enjoying the "unstructured" training.

Happy Friday!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Paris - Part 5 - Our trip home

Thursday:

So we wake up super early on Thursday morning and catch our cab out to Charles Du Galle airport. Our cab driver was a real speed demon and both Mel & I saw our lives flash before our eyes more than once.

The day before, we asked one of the hotel staff to book us a cab for Thursday morning with one stipulation - they accept Visa as we didn't want to take out anymore Euros. Well, when we arrived at the airport, wide-eyed and white knuckled he informs us that he "prefers" we pay in cash. Mel insists on using Visa to which he replies "my battery is dead". We both tell him we don't have cash so it is going to have to be Visa, to which he begrudgingly agrees.

I watch him as he rings the card through and gives himself a modest $4.00 tip on a $43.00 cab fare without asking us. I was a little pissed he did that but didn't want to argue with him as we had a flight to catch. I gave Mel the look and she knew right away not to add a tip when she signed the slip...

We got inside, checked in and waited to board our plane. We were taking an Air France flight to London Heathrow to catch our Air Canada flight back to Halifax.

When we eventually got on our plane did I finally start to clue in to a minor detail about our destination on this flight - London City. I lean over to the man sitting next to Mel and I and ask "This flight is going to London right?"

He replied with a smile "Of course"

I then say "Whew...I keep hearing London City as our destination and I've never heard London called that before...must be a French thing?"

Just to be sure I than follow up with "We are going to Heathrow right?"

He replies "No, we are going to London City Airport - it is quite a ways outside of London and Heathrow is waaaayyy on the otherside of London".

WOW! At this point I am absolutely stunned - I turn to Mel and say: "Who knew!?!"

Pannick started to set in for me because we were due to arrive in London City Airport at 8am and had to catch a flight out of Heathrow Airport at 12:05. Mel was cool as a cucumber - not me - I was already doing the math in my head - how long to get through customs, how to get bags, find information, get across London to Heathrow THROUGH RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC!!!

I so anxious to get off the plane.

Once in London City, we lined up in customs (felt like forever) got our bags relatively quickly and found information. We were told it was going to be expensive but were reassured we would make it. It helped to hear that, but I wasn't going to be OK until we were on that Air Canada flight!

So then we got a cab which costed us $50 british pounds to the Paddington Train Station in London. From there we spent another $15 pounds each to catch the Heathrow Express out to the airport.

Sometime after 10am we were at the airport and going through security - hoooray!

We made it on our flights and arrived home safe and sound - minus Mel's suitcase which didn't arrive for 2.5 days afterwards. Not sure what happened, but apparently her bag was left in London despite both of our suitcases being checked at the same time!

Oh - as for the mix up with the airports - well, I had originally booked our flights online with Air France to leave & return from Heathrow Airport. When I was choose the return flight I selected the cheapest option and assumed I was going back to the same airport I was leaving from - not thinking London City was another airport I mistakenly assumed it was Heathrow. I knew of Heathrow and Gatwick but didn't know that London has 3 other airports, one of which is London City - LOL

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paris - Part 4

Tuesday:

Mel and I decided we would take the train out to Versailles to visit the Chateau de Versailles. First order of business was to get some much needed breakfast. Up until this point we had been frequenting local cafes for breakfast. It was costing us rougly 11 - 13 euros each for the meal. On top of that, the French take their time when it comes to meals. So our cafe excursions became these marathon sessions of waiting to get served, waiting for food, and then waiting for the server to get the cheque - which by the way, you ALWAYS have to ask for because they never bring it to you...its a cultural thing I believe.

Anyways, wanting to save some money and time Mel and I broke down and hit up the local McDonald's on the Champs D'Elysees. 11 euros (for both of us) and a gut full of French fast food we were ready to head off for the day. [The McDonalds' menu is completely different then in North America...they also have these McCafes within the chains which provides some lighter and French choices.]

We had to run back to our hotel room and get directions out to Versailles. One 10 minute subway ride and then a 45 train ride we were in Versailles. It was about a 5 minute walk from the train station to the Chateau - walking up towards the Chateau de Versaille is another amazing site. It is quite breathtaking.

Mel and I got in line (which moved fast) and bought our tickets for the Palace and the Park. We decided not to visit Marie Antoinette's garden as it would have tacked on several hours to the tour and we were not sure we had time to do so before catchin our train back into Paris.

Overall the Chateau was quite amazing inside - the Hall of Mirrors is quite stunning and left us both speechless. The artwork that adorns every wall and ceiling has so much detail that you can probably look at it a 100 different times and see something new each time. Again, we took our time admiring everything and took the liberty to see on the old benches (18th century - Yes, they had a bunch of these everywhere to sit on!!!) to soak everything and commit it to long term memory.

The Park behind the Chateau is unlike anything we have ever seen and stretches as far as the eye can see. There were loads of workers there pruning, cutting grass, etc. I kept thinking it must have taken hundreds of workers back in the hay day to maintain something so large, complex, and beautiful.

After a while, we both getting hungry and decided to exit the Park/Chateau and look around for a cafe to eat. We walked around for a bit and couldn't find anything to satifsy our needs. So what did we do? First we hit up a small/quaint French bakery and bought these round, brightly coloured desert treat...I don't know what they are called but Mel certainly did. Then we went to McDonalds again...LOL. We came all this way only to eat at a North American chain. Truth be told, it was about 23 Euros a plate to eat at any of the cafes in Versailles so we said we would save our money and eat somewhere nice in the evening.

We made it back into Paris sometime around supper and hit up the little market next to our hotel for some snacks. Then back to the room for a nap.

I can't recall when we awoke but it was dark. We had a snack and then got dressed up to head out for a drink. There was an old english pub I wanted to try up the road so we went up there and had a night cap before retiring for the night.

Wednesday:

This was our last offical day in Paris. We spent most of the morning just rounding up our stuff and packing - we wanted to get everything ready so we could spend the day looking around. Our plan was to catch the subway down to the Ile de le Citie and revisit the Latin Quarter. On our way there we passed through Notre Dame and took time to visit the Crypts under the square in front of the Cathedral - which I might add, was not what I was expecting and a waste of time and money.

We made it down to the Latin Quarter eventually and just toured around. Stopped somewhere to grab snack before meandering on our way. We decided to walk back to our hotel and took a different route which lead us off the beaten path a little bit. It was great walk and an opportunity to get away from the tourist areas for awhile. We walked by the National Assembly and an area where most, if not, all the consulates are located as you could see the various country flags hung - that, and lots of security everywhere.

We walked under the Eiffel Tower again before making our way up to the Palais de Chaillot and stopped at a cafe just on the other side of it. After supper we retired back to the room for the evening and finished packing our bags. Our flight to London was at 6:30am so we needed to be up early to catch a cab out to the Charles Du Galle airport on Thursday morning. We were asleep by 9:00pm.

to be continued...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Paris Trip - Part

Monday:

We slept in until close to 9am before getting up, showering and getting ready. We decided to try another cafe near our hotel and had another wonderful "English Breakfast". One thing about the food in Pais - is they don't skimp on the ingredients. There is no such thing as "low fat" or "skim" or "light". Everything is made using fresh and full ingredients.

The plan for today was to check out the Louvre museum and visit Notre Dame. After our petit dejeuner we caught the subway line #1 on the Champs Elysee to the museum. Paris's subway system, in fact entire metro system, is extremely easy to use and safe.

Once at the Louvre we bought our tickets - the lines were short and moved quick. After getting oriented within the main lobby under the glass pyramid entryway, I dropped off my knapsack.

First order of business was to see the Mona Lisa! We followed the signs to the Italian Art Gallery until we arrive at a room just off the main hallway. Immediately entering the room you, other then seeing a lot of people, you could feel this energy of excitement. There she was sitting quietly, and patiently on a wall all by herself. Mel and I worked out way to the front of the crowd and stood admiring Mona Lisa for a few moments. My first thought was "I am actually about 15 - 20ft away from the Mona Lisa". I then tried to picture myself next to the artist as he painted this portrait of his subject. Quite cool. We snapped some pictures of the painting itself and of each other with the Mona Lisa!

The Louvre is so big that it is said if you were go spend 1 minute admiring each piece of artwork in there it would take over 4 months to see everything. Initially, our goal for the day was to see the Mona Lisa and kind of focus on one area of the museum. There is too much to take in so we didn't want to overwhelm ourselves. In the end though, we just wandered around the entire Louvre - stopping to take in certain pieces - often times just sitting down on a bench in a queit corner/room to admire everything. After 2.5 - 3hrs though it was time to go as we had as much Louvre we could handle for one visit.

We made our way outside and to a cafe for a baguette and beverages of choices. We continued our way down to the Ile de le Citie and Notre Dame. The Cathedral de Notre Dame is incredible to see...all the intricacies and statues that adorn the exterior are absolutely breath-taking. Its free to enter so Mel and I went inside to look around. We were both speechless. Mel decided to sit and ponder on a pew for awhile - while I went outside to see if I could climb the narrow spiral stairs to the wooden bell tower. I went outside to find the entrance and saw there was a huge lineup and a 10 euro fee to do this! I decided to skip this portion and headed back inside with Mel to sit for a bit.

Eventually we made our way back through Ile de le Citie into the Latin Quarter and stopped into a Greek Bakery for some baklava! We got married in Greece so we are always keen to try anything and everything Greek.

Instead of catching the metro back to our hotel room we decided to walk back through the streets of Paris. By the time we got home we were pooped so we took a nap for a bit. My feet were starting to blister so I was more then happy to sit back and chill for a couple of hours.

Supper was just a mixture of snacks we bought earlier in the little food market next to our hotel. After eating, we got ready and then headed out to do an evening/night river boat cruise along the River Seine. The cruise was beautiful as all of Paris and its sights were lit up. We stopped at the Eiffel Tower on the way back to watch the light shore before heading home for the evening.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Paris Trip - Part 2

Saturday (cont't):

On our way out the door we ask the front desk of our hotel for directions to the Eiffel Tower. It is about a 15 minute walk so we start out on our journey meandering our way along the Paris streets.

We arrive at the square in the middle of the Palais de Chaillot (prior to this we are unable to see the Eiffel Tower) - as we round the corner there it is - The Eiffel Tower! It was absolutely incredible to see - it was larger then life. We stood for awhile admiring it before making our way down the square to eventually sit on a bench underneath the Tower and marvel. There were a lot of people about and all four pillars to the Eiffel Tower had long lines of people waiting to catch the lift up inside the Tower. We decided we would come back in the morning and go up it.

By this time, I was really having trouble staying awake so we began to walk back towards our hotel. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe and had a bite to eat and a drink before returning to our room. I was out like a light sometime between 8:30 - 9:00pm.

Sunday:
Slept in until sometime between 8 and 9am. We got up, showered and got ready for the day. First order of business was to get some breakfast. The little breakfast room in our hotel was packed so we opted to hit a cafe near our hotel. It was sunny and warm out so we decided to sit outside. Luckily, the place we found had an option for a "Petit Dejeuner d'Anglais" - English Breakfast. Most places we seen in Paris offer either an English breakfast or French breakfast. The French one usually included a coffee/tea with a mini baguette/toast. The English equivalent coming with ham, eggs, toast, and coffee.

One other thing to note about Paris is that a lot of people smoke. Most cafes/restaurants don't allow smoking within the premises itself BUT pretty much all of them have the front windows/doors open to the outside seating where everyone smokes. It was a little difficult to get use at first but we were able to "live" with it afterwards.

Another thing about the cafes is that they normally don't bring your bill to you unless you ask for it.

Anyways, after a terrific breafkast (and some people watching) Mel and I headed back down to the Eiffel Tower. We got in line to the West Pillar and bought our tickets to go to the very top. You have the option to either go to Level 1, 2 or 3 - each varying in price of course. There is a wait to purchase your tickets and a wait to go to the first level in the elevator (or you can walk the stairs). You can catch the elevator to the 1st or 2nd level. If going to the top, you have to switch to anothe elevator on level 2. Once there, it is another line up before reaching a top. Also, there are lineups to catch both elevators down!

Really, the best time to go is early in the morning.

Mel and got off on the 2nd level and walked around on all four sides snapping pictures and taking in the sites. I was trying to find all the landmarks I read about prior to the trip. Overall, Paris is a fairly flat city so you can see everywhere!. We got into the line for the elevator to the top. We didn't spend as much time at the top - kinda poked around and took a few more snaps. Once we saw how long the line was go back down we decided to jump in.

Next up, was a short walk over to the Champs Elysee and a visit to the Arc de Triomphe - another incredible sight. I have seen it in pictures but man, it is a lot bigger in life. The Parisians sure know how to build their monuments. The Arc de Triomphe sits right in the middle of a massive turnabout so we sat for awhile here and watched all the traffic and people going up and down the Champs Elysees.

Eventually we started making our way down the Champs Elysees, in the direction of the Jardins Tuileries/Louvre. This street is packed full of people and a lot of high end boutigues and designer clothing. We dipped into a mini mall and found a Starbucks. The French all drink expressos and each vary so vastly in how they make that I just needed something I am familiar with. We stopped in for a bevy before continuing on.

We made our way down to the Concorde, Jardins Tuileries and eventually the Louvre. By this time, we have done a lot of walking and decided to hang out in one of the little garden mazes in the Louvre courtyard for a break and snack. Note, it is wise to bring water and some energy bars on excursions like these.

It was about 4:30pm and we decided we would leave the Louvre for the next day and begin making our way back home. Back at our hotel room, we took a short nap before getting up and then heading out for some dinner. Cafes are everywhere in Paris so we found another location to try near our hotel room.

The place we choose, the waitress didn't speak any english so it was a great opportunity to practice my french. I took french immersion in junior high - while I wasn't bilingual, I was still able to get by. Since then I had lost much of it but now it was starting to come back.

Our meals were interesting to say the least. Mel orderd the fish special which came with the entire fish...head and all. Mine was a seafood pasta with jumbo prawns - heads attached and those beady black eyes staring at me! Needless to say, we both didn't finish our meals.

We went for short walk around the streets before retiring for the night.

to be con't...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Paris Trip - Part 1

We are home from Europe and had a great time - here is a mini-report

Friday:

I leave work early in the afternoon to head up and round up the last my gear. Late leaving the house and rush to the airport. Drop car off at the Park n Fly, its pouring rain, I'm running behind and so I didn't pay attention to the exact letter and colour district I parked. Run to the shuttle and got into an arguement with the driver over my exact letter and colour district. In the end, I told him I don't care...I have a good sense of where it is and can you just take me to the airport. [Aside: another gentleman got on the shuttle without taking note of his exact parking position either.

Lots of construction taking in and around the Halifax Airport so on our way out of the Park n Fly a construction crew closed down the road! At this point, I begin to wonder if I am really suppose to be getting on this flight. We wait 5 agonizing minutes before the driver turns around and takes some side dirt road to get us over to the airport.

I rush in and line up to the Air Canada ticket line. When I get up to the counter, the agent informs me my flight in Ottawa is delayed about 2 hours. (I was flying Halifax-to-Ottawa, Ottawa-to-Heathrow with AC, then switching to Air France to Paris). I find out that because of bad weather in St. John's, NL my flight is delayed going to Ottawa which will result in me missing my connecting flight to London - As Scooby Doo would say "RUT RO!"

Spent the next 45 minutes in line working with the agent to find a flight over to Europe to make my connecting flight out of Heathrow. Turns out nothing was available to go London in time to make my connecting flight to Paris. Instead, they would fly me to Montreal, catch a flight to Frankfurt, Germany then fly directly from there to Paris.

I then had to try and reach Melinda in Norway to let her know I wouldn't be at her arrival gate in London on Saturday (as she arrived from Norway) to fly to Paris with her. Thankfully I got through to her.

I eventually get to Montreal later that night and are supposed to catch a night flight to Frankfurt. I find my gate and "tripled-checked" what I thought was the boarding time - 8:00pm. It was 6:30pm at this time and my gate was packed so I decided to find a nice quiet corner, 5 gates away, to sit & listen to my music and unwind. 7:53pm and I happen to take my headphones off as I figure I would meander back down to my gate. I hear on the PA system that all passengers should be onboard my airplane for Frankfurt and that they are closing the gate.

I said " OH F@$K! "

I sprint down the airport with bag in one hand, headphones dangling off me, shoes in the other. Get to the gate and the lady working there threw an absolute fit at me! Visibly pissed off and basically screaming at me for being late, she told me that I wouldn't make it. Still though, she let me through and I ran down down the boarding corridor to catch them before the closed the door to the aircraft!

I just barely made it! Scared the wits out of myself and royally angered a lot of Air Canada employees along with all the passengers on the plane I'm sure. I missread the Departure Time for a Boarding Time - my own stupidity.

Saturday:

As pay back, I had to sit in the middle seat the entire 5.5hr journey to Frankfurt. Needless to say, when I stepped off the plane in Germany I hadn't slept a wink. I had a 5 hour layover there so the first thing I did was find my gate, check with the employees of Luftansa the Boarding and Departure time, then plunked down on a seat next to the gate.

Eventually I made it to Paris at 3:00pm, along with my luggage thankfully. After figuring out the layout to the airport, I had to catch a train to the opposite end of Charles Du Galle to meet Melinda. We finally connected around 5:10pm and had much to share out about our own journey to get there.

We caught a cab to our hotel and checked in. At this point, I was a zombie as I hadn't slept in over 24hrs. Melinda was OK because she had already been on European time for the past week. Fighting the urge to go to bed, I grabbed a shower and then we headed out the door for a walk.

to be continued...