Saturday, April 24, 2010

The glories of biking..the ride of the Valkyries!

April 24th 2010 was a gloriously sunny and warm day. It was such a nice day that the KNBC ride drew a crowd of over 24 riders. We descended upon Richmond like the Valkyries, proudly astride our war horses of carbon, steel and aluminium, our helmets gleaming in the sun, our fists clutching our water bottles in triumph.

Such a site we were to behold that children stopped to count us, and when I went to the local subway the sandwich makers were struck. They had, perhaps, never seen cyclists before!

We sat in the small memorial park across the street from the Richmond bakery and had coffee and our lunch while the sun gently rewarded our efforts. Cycling is a glorious thing!

The riders were all shapes and sizes. There were corpulent riders who stretched shiny lycra cycling shirts over their ample bellies, matching it with yellow shorts. They looked like black and yellow bumble bees on bikes, burly yet able to move. There were tall thin riders whose legs seemed to stretch endlessly down to their pedals, older riders and younger riders. There were experienced and inexperienced rider but what we had in common was a keen desire to celebrate life.

There is nothing like getting on a bike on a pleasant day and smelling the new mown grass and watching the awakening farmer's fields in the distance as you ride. There is no feeling that can match it.

I was late and rode to the start point in a hurry. I passed a group of motorcyclists who roared noisily to the next stop sign or light. At each stop, they would catch up to me, or I to them. The difference is there is no roar or smell of exhaust or engines when I start...just a soft click of my pedals. The bike, the ultimate stealth machine.

If you have never experienced the sheer joy and pleasure of riding a bicycle, what are you waiting for! The Ride of the Valkyries awaits you!

Woman on a bike trip...a morning journal

Rowena and I decided to ride our bikes to the start point for today's bike ride. We agreed that 9am would be a good start time.

Here is my prep diary
900pm last night, lay out bike clothes pack lunch
700 am get up
715 feed my dogs
730 have breakfast
745 decide bike clothes not suitable..pick out other outfits
815 decide lunch is not good, repack lunch
845 fill water bottles and check air pressure
850 find correct pump to fill up tires
855 Rowena calls to say she is leaving without me
900 am decide to bring leggings 'in case'
908 decide to pack a baseball cap and a sweater that matches better
909 change my mind about the cycling gloves
910 return to put cell phone and camera in the pack
915 tighten bag
920 leave, ride to Rowena's. She is gone
926 remember what Rowena said and ride like a bat out of hell

The moral of this story is as follows: I need to prep completely the night before and hide any other bike clothes so I wont decide at the last minute to change, ditto for lunch options. I will also resolve to fill my tires the night before and not frantically try to do it in the morning.

Today's ride was a lovely relaxing ride with a large group from KNBC. After riding at breakneck speed (rarely dipping below the 15 km to arrive at Centrepointe) I was ready for a nice break.

Lots of fun!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Since I started cycling, I have often read about the dreaded bonk. That state where you do not have sufficient fuel in your body and you have enormous difficulty cycling and moving in general.

Today I went with the KNBC for an 86 km trip with a slight wind. I signed up for the faster S3 group as I had been riding with them since March. The difference is, since March I have been on a somewhat drastic protein fast which enables me to lose about 4lbs a week. It has lowered my blood pressure to 100/60 and I feel great.

I lift weights four times a week and am stronger than ever. BUT this was not enough.

10km into the ride, I was in trouble. My legs were exhausted and I could barely pedal. I waited for the slower group and limped into the restaurant for lunch. I was exhausted and exasperated. This had never happened to me before!

After lunch of a salad and soup...I was fine and once again able to resume my riding even with a headwind. Bonk is real!

The moral of my story is in order to ride, you need fuel. From now on on my endurance ride days, I will bring small snacks like the nut bars that I make that will slowly release sugars into my system.

I don't need a lot of fuel, or the extra calories but food that slowly releases sugars into my bloodstream is clearly what was needed. I had read about Bonk before,and assumed it only applied to endurance cyclists or marathon cyclists. I never assumed it would hit me on an 85km ride.

It is obvious that a protein fast where your sugar intake is almost zero, and your caloric intake minimal, while effective is simply NOT a good idea for endurance sports.

Lesson Learned...DEATH TO THE BONK!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Ottawa Bicycle Club

The Ottawa Bicycle club has a storied history in Ottawa. It is a large club over 100 years old. The riders ride in a pack or pelethon and it always seemed to me that this club was for Tour de France wannabes.

This year I joined and today went for my first ride. I choose the slowest speed group, rode only 44km (more on that later) and made some new friends.

When you ride in a double pack you have the opportunity to chat with people. As a social person, I like this.

The group was a little too slow for me, and so I spent all of my time in the front of the pack. There was a very stiff wind and the temperature was cold. I rode my touring bike and wore my mountain bike shoes as they are somewhat warmer than my road shoes.

Unfortunately, my shoes are designed for summer. Although I had woolen socks and toe covers, I came home after a short ride..albeit against the wind with no feeling in my feet.

Inventors take note:
Please make bike shoes that are heavier. We don't need all that ventilation when the wind is howling and the mercury dropping!

Please design wool socks that actually can keep your feet warm

Please install windblocks on the shoes. I have tried duct tape...but it always falls off.

The tour leader told me that the OBC was not a very social club, but I found it very social, at least on my first ride. It is all a matter of perspective!

This Tuesday I shall ride with them once more and then again on Sunday.

Life is good!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Simple Joys and the holy grail

It seems that North Americans are on a quest for happiness. It is the holy grail of our times, and like the holy grail, illusive and the cause of much frustration and unhappiness.

The marketing industry is happy to fuel our missions by telling us that we need a vacation, or a new car, a cottage or the latest ipod gadgets. The ipad can read a book. Imagine that! Something that the printing press enabled us to do centuries ago. Of course, you have to pay to download a book but what a marvellous thing, to be able to read a book on a screen without the tactile pleasure of actually holding a book. You cannot live without this one.

The diet industry has been prolific as well by pushing a mountain of weight loss plans, diets, workouts all for people to have the perfect body. There are diet meals full of additives and assorted poisons, margarine, meat products that have been so adulterated that they can hardly qualify as food, and of course mcfoods. To counter the illnesses that we incur from our highly processed and toxic diet, the pharmaceuticals are quick to produce pills that will lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure etc. etc. One industry supports the other!

Perfect toys, perfect body.

As if this were not enough, there is the dating game industry that promises emotional happiness if you buy into their program and get matched with someone else. Perfect toys, body and partners! There is an entire industry that has diagnosed millions of people as 'depressed', merely because they have not attained the 'perfection' that they are told that they should have and are entitled to have. Hence the huge market for antidepressants.

The flaw with all of this is that it is fueled from a false creation of unhappiness. Popular culture has created a society of individuals who want and who are convinced that their lives are half empty. They need to fill it with things, possessions, experiences, food or intimacy. In order to be driven to buy toys, or seek the perfect match etc, one must be convinced that one is miserable in the first place. Why else would you change? Our marketing industry has been very careful to point out that simple pleasures like a home cooked meal, or a walk with a dog, or reading a book from a 'gasp' library is for losers and you have not really 'made it'. Translate 'made it' for 'spend money'

When I say a false creation of unhappiness, I mean that our popular culture tells us that it is okay to be momentarily unhappy if we do not have the goals that they have set, and then encourages us to buy these goals. We need and demand immediate satisfaction of all of our wants.

Real pleasure however, does not arise from a childish satisfaction of wants. It comes from taking time to be mindful of the blessings that we have. To be mindful or deeply aware of our surroundings, of the wind and the rain, and the food that we eat. Real pleasure comes when we shut out all of the shrill cries of the advertisers and marketers and simply focus on our life as it is. We will quickly realize that our lives are overflowing with blessings and pleasures to be enjoyed.

Such mindful awareness is the key, I believe to being able to fully appreciate the many many simple joys that life offers. When we tune out the mindless chatter of pollsters, advertisers, marketers and look to our own lives, to our friends, to our surroundings, our health, to the day itself, we will see that the glass is not only half full, it is overflowing.

The holy grail has been in our hands all of this time!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday 2010

When I was growing up, good Friday was a morose day. My mother would close the curtains, we could not watch television or do anything lest we incur the wrath of God on our household. In fact I recently came across a childhood diary and at 13 I had written: Good Friday Good Grief!

My parents never wanted to do anything and I was not allowed outside. I began to resent it. I liked Easter, but I did not like the darkness and the goriness of Good Friday. My family was Roman Catholic of the old school variety and so traditions and rituals were very important. However, we did not pray at home and it just seemed so artificial to keep the house dark as if a terrible punishment would befall us if we smiled. To this day, my mother, who loves telephones, does not call on Good Friday.

I still go to church but for many years I kept to this somewhat dark tradition. I did not shop, I did not go was a funeral day afterall.

Good Friday 2010 however was a glorious sun filled day in Ottawa. I called a friend and we went biking. There was still a touch of snow, hence the picture. The shops in Quebec were all open, people were eating on the patios, sunning without shirts. I half expected to see the curtain of the temple torn in two and an earthquake or at least a storm but it remained sunny and bright.

I had a great time biking. I sometimes think that our religion, or at least our understanding of it can in many ways cripple us in life. It prevents us from truly enjoying the creation and basking in the sunshine. The religion of my childhood was one of many prohibitions and nos. There was no earthquake today, no temple curtain being torn in two...nor were the dead raised. I wonder if God was also enjoying his creation!

Karine's Blog

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