Canadian Rockies Vacation - Part I - JASPER 
Sunday, August 2, 2009, 11:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
When David and Catherine decided to get married in Fernie, British Columbia and to honor us with an invitation to the big day, we decided to go all out and make the trip into an 11-day Canadian Rockies adventure. I'll post more on Banff and Calgary later, but read on for Part I - Jasper.

It all started on Saturday, July 18 when we flew non-stop from Phoenix to Calgary and spent one night in the city before hitting the TransCanada Highway. We made brief stops in Canmore and Banff in search of underwear (can you guess who forgot to pack any? here's a hint - it wasn't me.) and then enjoyed the breathtaking views of the Icefields Parkway on our way to Jasper.

Lessons From My First Few Days in Canada
1. The summer days are ridiculously long in this part of the world. It's difficult to sleep when it is light outside and so we were often up until almost midnight (which is way past our bedtime). However, you can really squeeze a lot into the day when sunset is at 10pm.

2. High school math was useful after all. My experience with racing (i.e. 5K, 10K, 50K) made it fairly easy to convert distances in my head, but I had to work a little harder to figure out temperature in centigrade. Also, I was shocked to see that gas was only $1, until Paul reminded me that they use liters, not gallons.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Bow Lake Summit - Our first taste of the beauty that would overwhelm us throughout the trip.






Peyto Lake - Yes, the lake really is this blue. It's due to the very fine glacial "flour" in the water and it is absolutely spectacular. We parked and took a short hike to an overlook which was conveniently located next to the tour bus parking, which meant sharing this beautiful scenery with throngs of camera-toting tourists.






Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls -
Amazing! Click on this link for a video that Paul took. (It may take a few minutes to load.)






LODGING
Jasper has an impressive system of private home lodging for visitors, which can be more comfortable and often less expensive than a hotel. We had three pleasant and comfortable nights at A&A Accommodations and especially appreciated the kitchenette which saved us from eating out every meal. The location allowed us to walk to the downtown area and the separate entrance gave us lots of privacy.

FOOD
Evil Dave's
We stopped here right when we drove into town, hungry and weary from the long day on the road. The drive is only about four hours, but, with all of our sightseeing and photo op stops, it took most of the day. The soup of the day was fantastic, but our main dish was rather over-spiced and resulted in very clear sinuses and lots of sweat. On the plus side, they had a separate gluten-free menu for Paul - always greatly appreciated.

Coco's Cafe
A tiny, but fantastic spot for breakfast or lunch. They keep gluten-free bagels on-hand for their Celiac customers.

La Fiesta

I know, I know. Why would we travel from Tucson to Canada and go to a Mexican restaurant? Because the guy at Coco's recommended it as another Celiac-friendly place. It was fine. Not bad, but not as great as you'd expect for the prices.

THE ADVENTURES
Jasper Discovery Trail
After two days of travel, we were feeling stiff, lazy and ready for a run. Jasper has a fantastic 5-mile route which circles the town and offers short, rolling hills and quite a bit of trail. For me, it was one of those euphoric, pain-free, full of energy, it's-a-great-day-to-be-alive running experiences. Life is good.





Mt. Edith Cavell
After the run, we spent the remainder of the day conquering Mount Edith Cavell, our most spectacular hike of the trip. We climbed to a point where we looked down on a glacier and waterfall, and then, a few hours later, we were down at the glacial lake with all of this beauty looming over us.





When we arrived at the turnaround point of the hike (according to the map anyway), we were greeted by half a dozen or so furry creatures that I learned were marmots. They were adorable and not the least bit afraid of us hikers. They had obviously met many a human who disregarded all of the "don't feed the wildlife" signs.



Although this was the official end of the hike (again, according to the map), the trail did continue and a number of people hiked on. Paul, of course, was raring to go. I, on the other hand, was second-guessing our decision to do a morning 5-miler before climbing a mountain. But, I finally caved when someone told us that, just a little farther up, there were two caribou laying in the snow. We decided to split up, with me turning back at the wildlife and Paul hiking ahead and continuing on to the summit.



Then I started chatting with a few hikers on their return from the peak who raved about the amazing mountain views at the top, as well as the nine caribou resting on the opposite side of the peak. And the next thing I know, I'm scrambling (on all fours at some points) up a steep pile of scree, hoping to reach the top before Paul started his descent. I'm such a sucker. As luck would have it, Paul had trouble finding the first set of caribou and so wasn't too far ahead.

As promised, the view was magnificent. And it was a fantastic feeling to know that I had made it to a spot to which only a few people venture. However, the best reward was the look of surprise on Paul's face when he saw me approaching the summit.





Click on this link for a video that he shot just before he saw me. (It may take a minute to load.)

While climbing the final, steep incline, I was less concerned about the labor it was taking to get up than I was about how I was going to get back down. One slip would surely send me tumbling, ass over tea kettle, down this gigantic pile of sharp rocks. In the interest of safety and with complete disregard for style, I sat down and used a combination of sliding and crab-walking until we reached more solid ground.

We hiked and jogged our way toward the glacier where we checked out an amazing ice cave (safely from the outside, of course) and then followed the glacial stream back to the trailhead. We stopped along the way to dip our feet in the flowing water and found that the initial shock of the cold quickly gave way to unbearable, stabbing pain. We decided to try to soak our feet for one minute and Paul lasted the longest before the pain became to great - 6 seconds.







WHISTLER'S MOUNTAIN

The Jasper Tramway offers visitors a scenic 10-minute ride to the peak of Whistler Mountain. Whistler's Trail offers a steep 4-mile, mosquito-infested hike to the peak of Whistler Mountain. Keeping in mind that I am married to Paul, how do you think we got to the peak?



The hike was actually gorgeous - dense forest gave way to scrub and, finally, rock as we ascended about 4,000 feet. My legs were tired from the previous day's 12 miles of running/hiking, but stopping to rest meant risking being carried away by a thirsty swarm of mosquitoes. Paul typically hikes ahead and then comes back every so often to make sure I haven't gotten lost or fallen down (which has been known to happen), but my fear of being eaten by a bear meant that he was not allowed to wander more than 20 feet away from me and so he had to suffer at my slow pace.

We came across just one other soul on this expedition - a trail runner who effortlessly jogged past us jingling his bear bell as he went. Paul, ever the loyal husband, resisted the urge to run along with this kindred spirit and leave my slow ass to the bears. He's a good man.

At some point during the hike, I stopped and told Paul that I needed a pep talk. This is code for, "I'm going to have a complete meltdown at any minute." I was wiped out. My energy was gone and my legs were toast. I was an empty shell of the woman from the previous morning's euphoric run. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Paul gave me a hug, told me how much stronger my quads would be as a result of this hike, and made sure to offer praise and encouragement every so often until it appeared the crisis had passed.

My outlook brightened as we got closer to the top of the tram and I realized that I would, in fact, survive. However, it dimmed slightly when I saw all of the well-rested tram-riders happily trekking up a hill and realized that the top of the tram was not the top of the mountain.

I sent Paul ahead, feeling confident that I was safe from bears at this point, and slowly trudged up the path. I was passed by both energetic kids and strolling senior citizens alike, and had to restrain myself from telling every single one of them that my sluggishness was due to the fact that my hike started at the bottom of the mountain, not the top of the tram...and I did 12 miles yesterday, thank you very much.



I arrived at a peak and, seeing that I could hike just a bit farther to a slightly higher peak, decided that the view was just fine where I was. I found a nice long rock on which to lie while Paul hiked around and took photos and then we headed to the tram for food (because I was ravenous) and a ride down (because there wasn't a chance in hell that I would be hiking the descent). I was disappointed that we had to pay for a one-way ticket to ride the tram down. After all of the effort it took to hike up, you'd think they could at least offer a free lift down. However, once on the tram, I decided that the cost may be an attempt to deter smelly hikers from squeezing onto the crowded tram with the clean, well-groomed passengers.

MALIGNE CANYON
We drove from the trailhead right to Maligne Canyon. It was a short visit as I'd hoped to sit and look at something spectacular, but found out that I had to hike to look at something spectacular. Without the slightest bit of exaggeration, I felt like I had just run a marathon. I was completely exhausted and, after a short walk along the canyon, informed Paul that we really needed to do something sedentary.






LAKE ANNETTE

We returned "home" for a bite to eat and much needed showers, then packed a picnic of fruit, cheese and chocolate, and headed to a nearby campground beach to sit and read. Sure, it was 7:00pm, but we still had three good hours of daylight to use! The view was stunning and we even came across an elk when we took a short walk.





Banff and Calgary Reports to come. Click here to see all of our vacation photos on Paul's website.
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Bring on the Birthday! 
Friday, July 17, 2009, 12:17 AM
Posted by Administrator
Paul and I hit the road Saturday morning for a 90-minute tandem ride. We were motivated to get out fairly early as it was forecasted to be 110 degrees that day. All was going well until, about 1.5 miles from home, I heard a strange noise and then felt something slapping me on the back. Paul hit the brakes and then expertly maneuvered us off the road and onto the dirt shoulder. I was sure that we were going down, but he somehow managing to keep us upright and, for this, he has earned my lifelong love and admiration. Okay...he already had those, but the situation certainly reinforced my wise choice of husband and tandem captain.

It turns out that the noise was the tread coming completely off of the tire, and the painful back-slapping was the tread hitting me each time the tire rotated, until it got wound up and looked something like this.



The tube was still intact and so we were able to remove the shredded tread and ride home - very slowly.

I was in bed early that night wondering how I had let Denise talk me into doing the inaugural Run With the Roosters 5-Miler. When I signed up, I had thought that 5:15 a.m. was not a bad time to run at all. I get up that early and run on my own sometimes. What I didn't take into account was that the race was at Old Tucson Studios - a 40-minute drive - and that we needed to be there at least 15 minutes early. All of this meant a 3:30 a.m. wake-up and out the door at 4:00.

As it turned out, once I was awake, I was fine. Or so I thought until I met Denise to carpool and realized that I had left her race packet on my kitchen table. Apparently I was not as awake as I thought.



It was a beautiful morning; the scenery out by Old Tucson is spectacular; and the temps were very comfortable for the entire race. I was impressed that almost 300 people showed up for this early morning event.



I really had no idea how I would do at this race. I had no goal and did not warm up beforehand. My plan was just to run and see how I felt. As it turns out, I felt great! I have absolutely no idea why, but nothing hurt, I had lots of energy and I kept of a good pace despite the rolling hills.



At the first turnaround, I kept an eye out for friends and fellow Tri Girls to holler encouragement and I thought it was strange that I hadn't seen Shari. However, when I stopped to grab some water at the next aid station, I discovered that she had been right on my tail matching my pace. I stayed right in front of her until the final aid station when I stopped for a drink and she kept going. The last bit of the course was uphill and so it was nice to have Shari in front of me now to keep me motivated. I caught her just before the finish and we crossed together which was great.



I highly recommend this race - it's worth the loss of sleep. Denise and I hung out for some breakfast, socializing, free massages, and the awards ceremony. Congrats to Renee for picking up some hardware!





I was thrilled with my time of 48:02 (9:37 pace), especially on such a hilly course, but was disappointed that this still left me at 14th out of 31 in my age group. Could it be that I am an aged 34 year-old in the 30 - 34 age group? You know, competing against all of those young, spry 30-year olds. Studying the results (which were posted that afternoon - always a nice touch) I found that, had I already been bumped up to the 35 - 39 group, I would have come in 8th out of 22. So, I welcome my 35th birthday (which is in 11 days) and look forward to having new goals in a new age group.

Next up? Canada! Paul and I leave Saturday for 11 days of adventure in the Calgary area.
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Firecracker Tri Race Report 
Sunday, July 5, 2009, 10:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
There was a lot of smack talk going on at the Vyriotes' house this weekend. Though we have competed in the same race many times, Paul and I have never "raced" each other. (I don't think I need to explain why.) However, the staggered start of the Firecracker Triathlon presented an interesting situation that leveled the playing field - I got a 30 minute head start.

Here is the text message conversation that took place just after I discovered our start times:
Me: You start 30 minutes after me. Think you can catch me?
Paul: That's just what I needed to kick me in the pants. Let the games begin!!
Me: Bring it.

Paul had not done a sprint tri in a decade (why do a sprint when you can do an Ironman?), but thought 1:10 was a reasonable goal. My previous time for this event was 1:35:48. These numbers gave me a slight edge, but they gave Paul a whole lot of motivation.



As usual, the Tri Girls were out in full force with high energy and lots of encouragement despite the ungodly hour of waking that morning (3:50 a.m. for us). I headed for the purple balloons to rack my bike with the growing crowd of Tri Girls. While setting up my transition area, Rachel "borrowed" a marker and started her own body marking station at our rack. And Lynelle demonstrated a new method for storing Shot Blocks for easy access on the bike - just lick and stick! (See photo below.) This group of women is nothing if not resourceful.







As the 46th starter in the race (slower swimmers go first), I only had to endure about 20 minutes of waiting before starting my swim. I view the early start as the one perk that comes with slow swimming. I took advantage of the new pool (adjacent to the race pool) to do a quick 100 meters to warm up and calm my nerves, and then stood in line with fellow TTG'er Kathy who happened to be #47.



My swim times have remained about the same as when I last did this race in 2007. I was #19 then and so was surprised with my "high" number this time around. But it all became clear as I watched the first swim wave. There were people without goggles and people who swam with their heads entirely out of the water. There were back strokers, side strokers and breast strokers. There were people having conversations while stopped at the wall. There were people clinging to lane lines in the middle of the pool.

As someone whose fear of the swim caused me to delay signing up for a tri for 2 years, I had a lot of respect and admiration for these people who had, seemingly, decided to just go for it. As someone who does this stuff for fun, I had a lot of concern for these people because many of them looked rather unhappy.

With 2 minutes until my start, I got into the water next to Kathy and watched in horror as her goggle strap broke. Being the resourceful Tri Girl that she is, she somehow tied it back on...only to have the other side of the strap break. Nothin' like a minor heart attack 60 seconds before you start a race.

As the seconds ticked by and we got closer and closer to the starting lane, Kathy stayed calm and managed to get the goggles attached to her face just before I took off. Throughout the swim, I would catch glimpses of purple on the other side of a lane line and feel relieved that the goggles held. She handled the whole crisis like a pro!



The first 150 meters went smoothly and then, over the next 200 meters, I was passed by a number of men - some more courteously than others. No sooner had this wave of testosterone subsided when I began catching members of the aforementioned admirable, yet unhappy-looking crowd from the first wave. For the most part, they were very accommodating about letting faster swimmers pass at the turnarounds, although I was somewhat startled at one point to find myself face-to-face with a man wearing gigantic goggles and a snorkel. I'm sure there's an interesting explanation for this rather unusual triathlon gear.

I climbed out of the water in 20:18 which is 30 seconds slower than my previous Firecracker swim. But, this finish is not surprising given the amount of time and effort I have devoted to this discipline. I have been hitting the pool twice a week for about 2 months, but only for 20 to 25 minutes at a time.

I managed to get through transition in 2:22 which I thought was decent until I saw in Elaine's report that she did it 41 seconds faster. There are so many avenues for improvement in triathlon!



The bike was rather uneventful - just kept spinning and tried to avoid the potholes on Euclid. As I rode by the race site to start my third and final lap, I kept an eye out for Paul. I figured that I had probably just missed him as I was seeing racers with numbers in the 140's and 150's and he was #141.

I completed the bike in 43:17 and added another 1:13 in transition. (Elaine got through T2 in 42 seconds. She's the master!) The bike and transition times are lumped together in the official results and, in this block of time, I was 15 seconds slower than in the 2007 race. Yes, this is a trend.

It felt great to stretch my legs and I booked it out of transition with lots of cheers from the Tri Girls, followed by a near collision with an elderly spectator who unknowingly walked into the run out chute. Within 30 seconds, my heart rate skyrocketed and I had to reel in my enthusiasm and my pace. I wanted to push and, though tired, my legs were willing, but my heart rate held me back throughout the run.

About 3/4 of a mile into the 5K, I glanced across the UA Mall and saw Paul just starting out on the run. Holy shit - how could he be off the bike already?!? Though I had really expected to cross the finish line before him, I was prepared for the possibility that he might catch me...just not so soon! But I was thrilled that he was obviously having a great race and so I called out to him, knowing that he would push to catch me. And he did - just before the 2-mile marker. He slowed a bit as he reached me, but I told him to keep going and I continued on my slow slog of a run. After finishing, Paul had plenty of time to grab my camera out of the transition area to document my finish.



The run was hard. Hot and hard. I finished it in 31:09 which is not out of the ordinary for a 5K for me, but is almost 2 full minutes slower than my 2007 run. My overall time was 1:38:08 which placed me 85th out of 139 women. Not great...but that's okay. I had a fantastic workout, did something healthy with my day and had a blast with the Tri Girls. It's hard to be upset with all of that!



Paul and I took advantage of the free massages and then lounged in the shade with the Tri Girls while awaiting the results. We typically leave early, but stayed in the hopes that Paul, having finished in 1:04:11, might place in his age group.



When the results were finally posted, Paul joined the crush of anxious racers searching for their names and he emerged from the crowd looking astounded. Not only had he taken 2nd place in his age group, but he had placed 9th overall (out of 300) and had the fastest bike time of the day (26:19), which was just 36 seconds off of the bike course record set by pro triathlete Chris Leito in 2007. Wow!



While Paul has done a lot of biking and running in the past two years, this was his first triathlon since being hit by a car in June of 2007 while on a training ride for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. That year, he showed up to the Firecracker Tri (as my personal cheerleader and photographer) with one arm in a cast and the other in a sling. This year, he made an amazing comeback.



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Long Weekend! 
Monday, June 29, 2009, 10:47 AM
Posted by Administrator
Taking advantage of some hard-earned comp time at work, I enjoyed a 3.5-day weekend. I kicked it off by picking up a new pair of running shoes at Performance Footwear. I wore Brooks for a long time and then, after some injury issues about a year ago, switched over to Mizuno. While comfortable, I don't think they've been giving me quite the support I need and so I'm giving Brooks another shot. I'm curious as to whether I'll notice a difference...but not too curious apparently, as I forgot to wear my new shoes on yesterday's 6-miler. The comparison will have to wait a few days.

With new running shoes checked off my list, I headed to LA Fitness for the 4:15pm spin class and enjoyed the more mellow atmosphere of this during-work-hours class. It was only half-full and allowed for some casual chit chat with the instructor. Before we had wrapped up, there was a mob of post-workday spinning enthusiasts outside the door, anxiously waiting to pounce on their favorite bike for the 5:30 class. I felt quite satisfied to have my workout behind me and to be starting my weekend.

On Friday, I had a great swim and then thoroughly enjoyed trying out two new recipes, both of which turned out fantastic. Paul is quite happy that camp season has ended because he knows that having me at home means new, yummy food. Check out my latest!

ITALIAN TOMATO TART


CHOCOLATE PANFORTE CANDIES


We dusted off the tandem on Saturday morning - it had been weeks since we'd ridden together - and headed out for a 2.5-hour ride over to the Avra Valley area. Though a fairly flat ride, I was completely spent toward the end. Having slept in and left later than planned, the mid-morning heat took its toll. Not to mention it was my longest bike ride in at least a month.



The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning and cooking in preparation for a post-camp BBQ with some of my lead volunteers. Only five people were coming, but it was a great excuse to give the house and the back patio a much needed deep cleaning. I don't expect it to last for long, but, in the meantime, walking into a clean house makes me smile.

Now, just four days of work until the next long weekend. I could get used to this!
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Home Sweet Home 
Sunday, June 21, 2009, 12:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
For the past two months, my mind and body have belonged to MDA Summer Camp. I spent most of my evenings and weekends at the office, except, of course, for the two weeks I spent at camp - one in the White Mountains of Arizona and one in Salt Lake City.

During the short periods that my body was not at the office, my mind was still on camp. This includes the dreaded camp-related dreams. With 25 activities throughout the week, 83 campers with neuromuscular diseases and 120 volunteers, there was a lot to think - and worry - about. Long story short...camp went well and it feels amazing to be home enjoying my first work-free weekend - for both mind and body - in a very long time.



Summer camp is not conducive to maintaining my daily exercise, my healthy diet and my 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. sleeping schedule. Despite squeezing in a few short runs during each of my camps, I returned home feeling out of sorts, but also very motivated to get back on track. The fact that the Firecracker Tri is just two weeks from today also inspires me to get my butt in gear.

I eased back into the routine with a 800 meter swim on Friday morning, followed by a brick workout on Saturday (12 mile bike, 2 mile run). The rest of Saturday involved swinging by Howard's Orchard in Catalina for fresh veggies, clothes shopping, laundry and cooking. It did not, in any way, involve MDA.

This morning, after giving Paul his Father's Day card from the dogs, I hit the neighborhood streets for a 5-mile run. After 3.5 miles, I made a quick pit stop at the house to run cold water over my head and drink some juice. My legs were heavy, my face was red and I was sweating profusely. It was only 80 degrees, but I apparently need a few more days to acclimate to the desert heat after my two weeks at higher elevations.

I was hoping the few weeks of low mileage would cure my IT band issues, but I can still feel the tightness. Luckily, I discovered that a small strip of Kinesio Tape works just as well in preventing knee pain while running as the big, ugly, uncomfortable knee brace does. I start it in the middle of my hamstring and pull gently as I wrap the tape forward to the middle of my quad.



Tomorrow's plan: morning swim and evening 5K with the Meet Me at Maynard's group.
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