Geocaching: The Perfect Micro Adventure

“Geocaching is using multi-million dollar satellite technology to find tupperware hidden in the woods.” Such was the text of a meme I recently came across online, &  it cracked me up . . .  because it’s true! img_0838

I first tried geocaching a few years ago, & my most memorable find has been discovering a cache in the tiny Inuit hamlet of Kimmirut, Nunavut on my trip to the north in 2013. But geocaching isn’t just for remote locations. We spent some time in Nanaimo during Spring Break last year, geocaching our way around the harbour & on our honeymoon in Quebec City, we discovered a cache that was a cannon ball, fired into a tree hundreds of years ago! Geocaching gets you outside, walking, & exploring your surroundings, which is exactly why I enjoy it so much.img_0806

It makes the perfect micro-adventure too. Last winter, we spent our Valentines Day searching for geocaches & had the best time. It’s definitely not about the plastic toys & trinkets you are likely to find inside, althougimg_0873h when I taught a day camp one summer, the kids loved the temporary tattoos they discovered. Instead, it’s about the thrill of the search, & the patience & teamwork that are required for that search to be successful. There’s also something really magical about knowing that just outside your door there are hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of these little treasures hidden just out of sight, & that you are one of the few people that even knows they exist. It’s strangely satisfying to find a cache that other people unknowingly drive or walk by everyday, missing out on this little treasure because of the busyness of everyday life.

 

 

 

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Race #6: Brian Harms Memorial

This is the second year that I’ve ran in the Brian Harms, a memorial event that takes place every Mothers Day in Grande Prairie.

Last year I did the 8 k & had a miserable time. I’d ran my first half marathon in early April, & felt like I was becoming a runner (yay!) . . . except then I stopped running. Why do I do that to myself? I ran once between the half & the 8 k & on race day, a giant hill in Muskosippi Park almost did me in. I finished, but it wasn’t an event I felt very good about.

This year, I had a better plan. I signed up for the 5 k & was in much better running shape. Unfortunately, the starting location of the race was moved from the South Bear Creek Pavilion to behind the Eastlink Centre, which is basically a sad grassy area off a parking lot with a view of backyard fences. South Bear Creek, on the other hand, had beautiful trees & trails & bathrooms! I can’t be the only runner who gets the nervous pees. While we ended up on a similar route to last year, I really hope it gets changed back. It was also so cold & windy that the DJ that was supposed to play music never showed up! The whole thing was pretty disorganized due to the weather . . . the speeches & instructions were given inside the Eastlink (which we had no way of knowing) & then we all headed outside.

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I stalled until the very last minute with taking off my sweater, & tossed it to my Mom as the race began. Just like last year, my Mom got up early on Mothers Day to come & cheer me on at the Brian Harms. She must have been freezing standing around for over half an hour, but stuck it out like a champ. After years of watching my hockey, volleyball, & basketball games, it’s nice to know that I haven’t lost my biggest fan.

I ran pretty well, & even enjoyed myself once we turned into the park where the trees provided some protection from the wind. I stopped to walk once, up a large hill near the end, then tried to finish as strong as possible. The wind was blowing completely against me the last kilometre or so, & it even started to rain. There were a couple of little girls who were struggling to make any headway against the wind, & I was honestly scared it might blow them away. I tried to give them some encouragement, but the poor kids looked so dejected. Considering the circumstances, I was happy with my time & very happy to be heading into a warm vehicle.

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Unfortunately, I just missed placing #3 in my age category & receiving a medal. It was some consolation that the fastest time in the whole event was recorded by a girl in the 20-29 year old female group. For the past several years she has ran for the college, & was placed in a special elite category. Last year she graduated, so is no longer sponsored, & can run with the rest of us. Darn! I’m so close to receiving a placement medal for top three. For now, I’m trusting the process & my progress. One of these times I’m going to get it.

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There’s two really great parts about running the Brian Harms: I get to spend time with my Mom on Mothers Day & I know there’s a brunch reservation with hot coffee & waffles waiting for us afterwards!

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Race #5: Suck it up Buttercup 10 k

This race came on the last weekend of Spring Break, after my return from Vancouver Island. I stuck to my training schedule for a sub-60 minute 10 k pretty consistently, & even got up early one morning on vacation to run in the hotel’s gym.

On race day, we arrived at Rundle Park in Edmonton, & I faced the conundrum that most runners do on a windy day: do I run in shorts & a T-shirt a freeze at the start line, or run in pants & a windbreaker & be uncomfortably sweaty a few kilometres in? About 5 minutes in, I know that I’d  made the right decision to ditch my heavier clothes, but that was the least of my problems . . .
startinglineThe Suck it Up Buttercup 10 k presented  a huge mental challenge for me. My training had went well, but almost as soon as I started running I was absolutely miserable. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was completely out of shape. I felt that I should just give up & walk since my watch wasn’t working & I couldn’t possibly pace myself to complete the race in under my goal time of 60 minutes without the data from my watch. My self talk was so negative I honestly wanted to cry. The trails at Rundle Park were hilly & the cement was uneven. On that day, running felt like complete torture.

Running is such a weird sport. Some days it sucks, & it hurts, & you hate it with every fibre of your being. On other days, it energizes you, makes you feel alive, & lets you feel like you could conquer the world.

Deep, deep down, in my heart & in my head, I think I knew that quitting wasn’t really an option.

You can keep going & your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit & your mind will hurt for a lifetime.

-Mark Allen

I am not a quitter. I have never been someone to bow out when things get tough, & I never will be. I didn’t let the negative self-talk win. I kept going. I ran 5 k, then stopped for a short walking break. By this point, I’d realized that my watch wasn’t really broken at all, & that I’d finished the first half in about 30 minutes. I was on pace to meet my goal!

The second half I was in a much better place mentally. Physically, I was really pushing myself, & was really hurting. I used to run a 5 k in about 33 minutes. Could I really do a 10 k in under 60? A few years ago, I thought that I was shooting really high when I wrote down my goal of completing an entire 10 k without stopping, but a few months ago I ran an entire half marathon without stopping. I can do hard things. I have completed challenges that seem really difficult. I could do this too . . .

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& I did! I crossed the finish line at 58: 40 & placed #3 in my age category (although this changed later, on the results site, I still take that placement as a major win! It shows  my huge progress).

Every race is an adventure, & every race has a lesson. I think Oprah sums this one up nicely:

Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.

-Oprah Winfrey

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SCUBA Training: Part 2

I liked Part A of my Open Water Diver course.  Breathing under water in the pool was new & fun because it was contained in an environment I’m super comfortable in from my years of lifeguarding & teaching swimming lessons. The SDI Open Water course requires participants to take Part B, the actual open water portion, within six months of completing Part A. I knew this upon registering, so despite our summer being super busy (which is what happens when you decide to make a wedding happen in just four months!), I registered for a weekend of diving at Lac Beauvert in Jasper National Park. Here’s the part where I have to admit something that I’m not proud of; at one point, it occurred to me to just not go. I was scared. The thought of diving in a lake, instead of in the safety of the pool where I’m confident, made me nervous. Really nervous. But, I’d come this far, & couldn’t stomach the thought of seeing my investment of time, money, & effort be for naught either. So, I went.

If you go to Jasper & don't post a cliche wildlife picture were you even there?
If you’re in Jasper & don’t post a cliche wildlife picture, were you even really there?

By the time we picked up my gear in Edmonton, reached Jasper, set up camp at Whistlers, & got a good night’s rest, I’d convinced myself things would be okay. “I can do this” &  “I can do hard things” became my mantras. We left the campsite in plenty of time to get to the lake & I was feeling pretty good about the power of my positive thinking . . . until we got lost on the way  because I used Google Maps for directions, which took us to the completely wrong side of the lake, & showed up 20 minutes late for the first dive. Even worse was having to admit that I’d used the map provided when I picked up my gear to start our campfire the night before. Things were not off to a great start.

This negativity continued when I struggled to put together my BCD, tank, & regulator & no instructor showed up to introduce themselves or to help. I’d been hoping they’d go over set-up as a refresher, but everyone else in the class had taken their pool portion the weekend before & knew exactly what they were doing. I took mine back in March, so my memory was a bit foggy! Luckily, a really nice girl the next truck over helped my out (& ended up being my dive buddy), & soon a woman showed up to introduce herself as Angie, the instructor.

We met in a circle, introduced ourselves, & did a briefing. Our little group was made up of two couples, myself & my dive-buddy, our instructor Angie, who is one of the owners of The Dive Outfitters, & ~six other guys who were training to be dive masters.

Out first entry into the lake would be a quick snorkel dive, wearing both layers of the 7 mm wetsuits, our hoods, gloves, & boots, masks & snorkels, just to get accustomed to the buoyancy provided by the thick suits & to acclimatize ourselves to the chilly mountain water. One of the most stressful parts of the dives was getting on the ridiculously thick wetsuits (they did keep us toasty warm though). To give some context, a regular wetsuit you might wear wake boarding is 3 mm thick, & these are so large that my elbows hurt from trying to bend in them. The neoprene hood also made me want to gag & forced my vision forward, like a horse with blinders on. “If you can do this, you can dive anywhere,” one of the dive-masters-in-training commented. For a moment, I imagined a tropical beach, wearing my swimsuit, watching sea turtles, & admiring the coral. One can dream. The snorkel dive was easy though, & over in a

Tip from a fellow diver: "Like with most things, if you can keep breathing, you'll be okay." 
Tip from a fellow diver: “Like with most things, if you can keep breathing, you’ll be okay.”

flash. We returned to shore to put on our heavy BCDs & weights & to have another briefing.

Each dive during the course had a certain number of skills that had to be performed. Dive #1 was to start with regulator removals, clears, & exchanges, & mask removals & clears. As we each followed the buoy rope, descended & settled onto the bottom to wait for further instructions, we kicked up the sand all around us. My mask was already fogged up, & the combination seriously reduced my visibility & sent me into near panic mode. It took every single  fibre of being in my body & the greatest display of will-power I have ever made to make myself stay on the bottom, breathing in-and-out, in-and-out, instead of swimming back up to the top, declaring, “I don’t like this!” & going home. That experience, of conquering my fear, of controlling my body by controlling my breathing, & controlling my mind by choosing courage over fear, is something I will never forget because it’s something I wouldn’t have been capable of doing several years ago.

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“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.”
― Richie Norton

Dive #2 included several more skills like partner tows, emergency ascents, alternate air-sharing ascents, & a fun swim focusing on improving our buoyancy skills. I was proud of myself for completing all of the skills successfully (we’d already had one member out of our little group of six decide to quit after the first dive), but wasn’t necessarily having much fun. The equipment was so awkward, my mask kept fogging up, & I was having a tough time staying near the bottom during our fun swim.

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I was mostly looking forward to hitting up Jasper Pizza Place, having a nap, & enjoying a toasty warm fire back at the campground. The pizza did not disappoint, I got my nap, & then something incredible happened.

The best pizza in the Rockies.
The best pizza in the Rockies.

Brian said to me, “This isn’t easy for you is it? I’m proud of you.” & he was right. Here I was, doing something really hard, that most people don’t even attempt, & was beating myself up about it. My perspective changed dramatically thanks to that comment, & Brian deserves a giant shout-out for being my shore support & sticking around all weekend, helping me get the heavy gear on-&-off, & generally being his friendly, positive self. He even made us some new friends & possible future dive buddies! I couldn’t do these kind of things without his support.

The next day I returned to Lac Beauvert with a very different frame of mind than on day 1. We were early & had time to marvel at the stillness & beauty of the lake & the mountains. I set up my gear with confidence. I’d done this before & knew what to expect.

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Then, the instructors pulled out a compass. Now, I’m an educated, middle-class women, so I know how a compass is supposed to work theoretically, but I’d never actually used one. With some coaching & practice on land, I got the hang of it, & overcome my hangup on anything that has to do with numbers.  Dive #3’s first skill was underwater navigation. I definitely didn’t love this portion, & wouldn’t pursue it in a more advanced course, but it was interesting. After this, I’m also pretty certain I’d never go out with just a buddy, something I’d soon be certified to do, in large lake or an area we didn’t know well. My navigation skills aren’t the best & I would’t be comfortable relying on them without instructors nearby. During this fun swim I shot up from near the bottom to the surface unintentionally, & at a fast clip. I tried to go back down but by ears hurt, so I came back to the top in pain. With a lot of equalizing, I was able to go back down & finish the last couple minutes of the dive, but I was very careful to equalize often on the final dive, & ended up at the hospital a few days later just to make sure everything was okay.

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The final dive was where the weekend really came together for me. No more practicing skills, just a fun dive like I’d imagined. I had my buoyancy figured out much, much better than on previous dives, I kept track of my dive buddy makingprogressmuch, much better than on previous dives, & I was loving every minute! Because Lac Beauvert backs onto the golf course at Jasper Park Lodge, I found three golf balls, tucked them up between the layers of my wetsuits, & was able to bring them back to shore for Brian. Because we weren’t stirring up sand from the bottom, the visibility was great, & I enjoyed the cool feeling of the water as we swam along. I marvelled at the spring-fed water vents on the bottom of the lake, where the sand would rise, then be suspended, in small puffs as new water entered the lake from the earth below. I even felt the thermocline as we descended down to ~40 feet, the deepest I had ventured in my life. I returned to shore grinning from ear-to-ear. I’d done it! I was now a certified Open Water Diver!

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One thing that stood out to me over the course of the weekend was how friendly, helpful, & passionate the diving community is around Edmonton. It was cold, it was raining, & it was a rare summer weekend in Canada, yet all these people chose to be at Lac Beauvert. Between dives they don’t hide in there vehicles with the heaters on (which I may have done once or twice). Instead, they eat their snacks standing up, in a circle, chatting about their love of diving their equipment, & the sport in general. It was easy to see they really love SCUBA diving, & that it would be a great community to be a part of. I think Brian picked up on this vibe too because by the end of the weekend, despite his ear issues, he was asking me if I thought he’d like it, & was making plans to take the hour-long Discover SCUBA course at the NAIT pool this winter to see if he’d like to take his certification course. For someone who generally chooses to sit on the shore while I swim, that’s powerful stuff!

My biggest takeaway from this experience is the realization that sometimes the challenges that I choose to take on are going to be really hard. It is in the challenge, & in the courage & perseverance that it takes to push myself out of my comfort zone, that I grow into a better, more capable, more confident, person. & that’s a win I’ll take any day!

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing . . . ”

-Dawna Markova

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Passport to the Peaks Progress: Bronze Level

In the fall of 2013 I completed my first hike in Grande Cache with my friend Darla, several of her amazingly energetic aunties, & their furry friends. Standing at the top of Flood Mountain, knowing I had made it all the way up there under my own power, was an extremely empowering feeling. It gave me confidence & a sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t felt in a long time outside of university coursework. The vibrant fall colours were breathtaking, & made every step up the path worth while. It was also a huge check off my bucket list, as climbing a mountain was on my original list of things to accomplish by the time I turn 30.

But . . . the goal setting for hiking & peak bagging did not end there. Grande Cache is home to a program called Passport to the Peaks, which is split into three levels.

Friends who hike together, stay together.
Friends who hike together, stay together.

The Bronze level features novice to intermediate half & full day hikes &, of course, I want to be able to say I’ve done them all! Many people carry a passport from the visitor information centre, & stamp their passports from the cairn boxes on the top of each summit, but I’ve decided to track my progress with pictures instead. I am considering picking up a passport in the future though, especially if I take on a higher level.

The Bronze level consists of six mountains:

  • B1: Grande Mountain: 6520′ Completed June 25, 2016. 
  • B2: Flood Mountain: 6000′ Completed fall 2013.
  • B3: Mount Louie: 6075′
  • B4: Mount Stearn: 6625′
  • B5: Ambler Mountain: 6275′
  • B6: Mount Hamell: 6986′

Currently, I have completed two of the six hikes. One of my goals for 2016 is to complete two more of the Bronze level peaks, so I need to get down to Grande Cache one more time before the snow flies. I think a scenic fall hike may need to be planned!

Last updated: July 30, 2016

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Experiencing the Sublime at Whitney Lakes

On July 2nd, just a little stiff & sore from our 16 km hike at Elk Island the previous day, we headed out to visit Brian’s Mom & Dad who were camping at Ross Lake, part of Whitney Lakes Provincial Park. This was my first visit to the park so, of course, I had to conduct a little bit of research. Whitney Lakes includes Ross, Borden, Laurier, & Whitney lakes & some beautiful back country trails wind around each of them. Once I found there was a glacial esker to go explore, we planned an ~11 km route, parked the truck at the start, & headed out into a beautiful afternoon.

"Eskers are long narrow ridges of sand & gravel left behind my melting glacial ice." -Alberta Parks
“Eskers are long narrow ridges of sand & gravel left behind my melting glacial ice.”
-Alberta Parks

The esker snakes out into the water & is an elevated ridge above the surrounding landscape. We debated whether or not to walk its full length, & I’m so glad that we did. The sun was shining, the wildflowers were blooming, & we were walking on a landform created nearly 100 000 years ago.

Warning: I’m going to slip into my high school English teacher persona for a moment, bear with me.

In my second year of university, I took a class on romanticism where we endlessly studied Blake, Keats, Wordsworth & the gang. There, I was introduced to an idea the romantics were obsessively interested in: the sublime. When something is sublime, it impresses you because of its sense of power & immensity &, as a result, it inspires a feeling of awe. The romantics rejected the rational, scientific lens Enlightenment thinkers used to view nature, & concentrated on experiencing awe in nature by intuition rather than deduction instead. While much of what I studied in that class on romanticism has been forgthesublimewhitneylakesotten, this concept has always stuck with me because it named & explained, much more eloquently than I could ever hope to, my long-standing belief that a connection to God can be found in nature.

Thank you for your patience. We now return to the regularly scheduled post. 

Walking on an esker that is 100 000 years old, watching a meteor shower, paddling across a lake where the water is as smooth as glass, and being in the mountains are all experiences that are, for me, sublime. They inspire a sense of awe that can be challenging to put into words. They make me marvel at the beauty that exists all around us, beauty that we should slow down to appreciate more often.

beartrackAfter exploring the esker, we continued with our hike, passing through wetlands & forests. There were signs posted at the campsite warning about active bears in the area, so when we found this fresh track in the mud, we high-tailed it out of there. After that, I was nervous about encountering one of the animals, & we hadn’t brought the bear bell, so I decided it was a good time to teach Brian every campfire sing-along song I could remember from attending camp as an eight-year-old. I think I scared any nearby bears far away with my voice, so it was an effective tactic.

We found a cute backcountry campsite, complete with its own dock. It’d be neat to access it by canoe, & I almost suggested to Brian that we try it out later this summer, but I quickly changed my mind upon realizing how many mosquitos were near the water!

Couples who hike together, stay together.
Still smiling, 11 km later.

We picked up the pace & continued along, moving out of the backcountry and along the shore of one of the larger lakes where people were waterskiing & tubing. We passed several children’s camps that were quiet & even a little spooky, & headed for the home stretch. This final push was thwarted when we realized that trail had been flooded by the unusually high water levels, so we found ourselves buskwacking to the highway where we called Brian’s Dad to come pick us up & drive us back to the truck.

We finished my first visit to Whitney Lakes off perfectly with BBQ steaks & well-earned Nestle drumsticks. It was one of those days where I returned home with sore feet, mosquito bitten legs, & a burnt nose, utterly exhausted & completely happy.

 

 

 

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Canada Day at Elk Island National Park

Part of being a Canadian, at least according to the likes of Mowat & Atwood, is connecting with the great outdoors; the wilderness that often lies just outside our front doors, but continues to remain elusive. Sometimes, as Canadians, we are awfully quick to be self-congratulatory (mountains! multiculturalism! moose!) but I think it is for good reason. For me, that’s what this Canada Day weekend was all about; experiencing the pieces of our beautiful country that are easy to pass by, but are worthy of appreciation, & celebration.

laurenwithmaptourguideOn Friday, Brian & I visited Elk Island National Park. We started with a Bison Backstage Tour, where our guide, Lauren, took us behind the scenes to learn about the management side of bison conservation in the park. For those of you not familiar with central Alberta, one of the great ironies of Elk Island is that it is not famous for elk at all, but rather for being a leader in bison conservation efforts! It is also the only completely fenced national park in Canada. On the south side of Highway 16, approximately 200 Woods Bison make their home, while the larger, north side of the park boasts over 800 Plains Bison!

Lauren filled us in on some of the historical forces that caused bison to reach the brink of extinction just over 100 years ago.

Then, we were able to explore the handling facility where the bison are captured, carefully managed & tested, then sent to auction or to other conservation sites around the world. Because the Plains Bison herd grows by 40% each year, & has no natural predators in the park, this is a necessary practice. I found it especially cool that last year the park donated two bison to the Enoch Elder’s Food Bank.

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I drive through Elk Island quite frequently, & even stopped twice last fall to hike, but it had never occurred to be that there must be a handling facility on site, & I hadn’t given much thought to the care & effort that goes into managing animals as enormous & important as bison. If you are at all interested in the history & management of bison, I highly recommend this tour. They run all summer on Saturdays & Sundays.

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This is what happens when you try to transport bison in a stock trailer!


After the tour, we headed across Highway 16 to the south side of the park, where there is one of the park’s 11 hiking trials; the Wood Bison Trail. One of my goals is to hike or snowshoe every trail at Elk Island, so I was pleased that Brian had agreed to come along on one of these adventures. The Wood Bison Trail is ~16 kilometres long & loops along Flying Shot Lake.

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We set out around 2 o’clock & it took us just over three hours of hiking, plus a few breaks for geocachinggeocachewoodbisontrail to complete the trail. It was a beautiful day, & we combated the mosquitos with a few healthy doses of bug spray. tigerlilyyesTiger lilies, my favourite wild flower, were blooming all along the trail, & I couldn’t stop exclaiming over their beauty. The orange was incredible!
About 4 km in, we stopped so I could snap a few photos of them, grab some water, & take a bathroom break . . . just as a trail runner rounded the corner. I’ve never got my shorts up so quickly! It suffices to say he had a story to tell that night when he got home!

After some serious stretching, we drove back through the north side of the park hoping to spot a bison (we did!) & to kick back for a few minutes at the iconic Park’s Canada red chairs.

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Happy 149th birthday you beautiful country!

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Ocean Kayaking

We spent Spring Break 2016 on Vancouver Island. It was an awesome 5 days, & one of my favourite parts was kayaking the harbour with Victoria Waterfront Tours. We picked the two hour twestbaymaringvillageour, since neither Brian or I had ever been in an ocean kayak. (We are Albertans after all!)

We arrived a bit early & wandered around the Marine Village with floating houses. How amazing would it be to wake up & automatically be on the water?! It reminded me of house-boating in Shuswap, but much more permanent. The residents are obviously used to the curiosity of outsiders, as this little sign was posted to answer some of people’s most common questions.

We started our adventure at 9:30 by signing waiver forms, moving the rental car into the free parking area,  & getting outfitted in the proper gear. We each received a paddle, spray skirt, emergency throw bag, & a bailing pump. Nici, our fantastic guide, went through the emergency/safety procedures with us.

Then, she took us down to the upper dock to give us a short lesson on ocean kayaking. Nici explained the three most common paddle strokes (forward, backward, & stop) & had us practice each one. Then, we learned about how to use a rudder on an ocean kayak. I’ve only ever kayaked down the river & watched people practice kayaking in the pool, & never realized that ocean kayaks have a rudder to help stabilize them against waves & currents. The rudder is controlled by foot pedals inside the kayak, and by pushing the right pedal and paddling on the left, you can turn right, and vice versa. Finally, we practiced using our “holy crap straps” to escape from our spray skirts if we were to capsize, & carried the kayaks down to the water.

Because Victoria Waterfront Tours has a nice low dock, we were able to enter the kayaks easily, & were soon off & geocache kayakingpaddling into the beautiful morning.  Brian really wanted to check out a geocache on one of the islands in the harbour that Nici jokingly referred to as Bird Poop Island (it’s actually called Beren’s Island), so we paddled out that way. We could see an Inukshuk wearing a backpack that contained the geocache, but the tide wasn’t at a good level for us to get out, so we settled with a picture & saved ourselves the wet feet.

After visiting the geocache site, we paddled towards a lighthouse and headed for the outer harbour. Brian loved watching the Victoria Clipper Passenger Ferry that runs to the San Juan Islands. Nici told us that it takes about 1.5 hours to get to San Juan, & we looked up the costs after our tour. For $18 per person you can go across to Washington; heading across for a night is now on our list for our next visit to Vancouver Island. We also enjoyed watching the float planes take off & land practically over our heads. The harbour is definitely a busy place, & I was thankful we didn’t just rent kayaks. Nici knew where the float plane runways were, for example, and kept us out of trouble.

We paddled past several smaller islands, & learned that they all belong to the Department of National Defence, and disembarking on them is illegal. This dates back to the fear of a Japanese attack in World War II. Being a Social Studies teacher, I was fascinated by this information. We also paddled past some Navy housing, then turned the corner to Seal Island, with a breathtaking view of the Olympic Mountains.

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We took a break near Seal Island to eat our granola bars & watch the sea birds. Of course, we spotted a couple seals as well. Nici pulled a piece of Bull Kelp from the kelp forrest below, & we each sampled a leaf. It was actually pretty good, like a garden pea pod! She showed us how to make a Bull Kelp horn, & we had some fun practicing our warning calls.

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We headed back towards the inner harbour, happy & the tiniest bit sore. Coming along the rocks close to the Marine Village, we spotted a beautiful reddish coloured mink scampering along the boulders near the water! By the time we arrived back at the lower dock, carried the kayaks back up to the upper dock, & returned our gear, it was 12:30. Our two hours on the water went by in a flash!

We had a fun morning with lots of laughter. One of the best parts of the tour was that Nici took a camera with her, & took photos of us throughout the morning; this was much preferable to taking our phones out in the water with us.

I loved ocean kayaking & we will definitely be back for a longer paddle with Victoria Waterfront Tours on our next visit.

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Race #2: Hypothermic Half Marathon

I was happy (& surprised!) when I managed to talk my new teacher-friend Kaitlyn into signing up for the Hypothermic Half Marathon in Edmonton on February 7th. I needed a training plan (& accountability buddy) to get my butt in gear, & it definitely worked! Besides a few weeks over Christmas, I stuck to my 12 week plan pretty consistently. I followed the same plan for my first half marathon last year, and have found that it works well for me. It calls for a 3:1, walk:run ratio, but I followed a 2:2 ratio for most training sessions. Combined with teaching aquafit twice a week, & experimenting with kettle bells & free weights, I was in great shape by the time February rolled around.

A few days before the race, I received the best surprise in the mail from Darla; a running necklace with my birthstone! I wore it for good luck on race day.

runningnecklace

Kaitlyn & I headed to Edmonton on February 6th and picked up our race kits & some last minute purchases at the Running Room. Next, we made a stop at Chapters, then had a delicious dinner at Chianti’s on Whyte Ave. (One of the best parts about running a half marathon is the excuse to carb load the night before!) We called it an early night & tried to get some sleep, since we’d signed up for the Early Bird Run at 8:00 a.m..

We both slept pretty fitfully, but woke up in good spirits. After a quick hotel breakfast we headed to Highlands Golf Club where the announcer let everyone know that this race would be the warmest Hypothermic Half on record. (Woohoo!)  Kaitlyn intended to run the entire race at a faster pace then my 2:2 plan, so I started just behind her. While the weather was beautiful as the sun came out, the roads were pretty icy in spots. I managed to keep pace with Kaitlyn for the first 3 miles, then intended to take a quick walk break . . . but I just kept running. The route required two laps of the course, and by the second lap I could still see her ahead of me, but was falling a bit behind. I concentrated on enjoying the moment, and willing my legs to get me up the big hill one more time. The last three miles were (and always are) a test of will. At that point, I refused to stop for a walk break and relied on some gummies to keep me going. Some spectators with funny signs were a welcome distraction when my legs went numb with about 1.5 miles to go. I was watching my Timex running watch and could tell I wasn’t going to beat my time of 2:18:38 from last April, but willed myself to keep moving and to stay positive. I could still meet a different goal; I could actually run the entire 13.1 miles! I figured that I could run for just 5 more minutes. Just. Five. More. Minutes. Then it would all be over.

I dug down deep and sprinted the last couple hundred metres, leaving everything I had left in the tank out on the course. I came across the finish line & finally received by Yeti Medal before collapsing (literally) onto Brian, who had made the two hour drive to surprise me at the finish (He really is the best). Kaitlyn came across a few seconds later, & we high-fived, tried to shake out our legs, & took some celebratory pictures. It was a perfect finish to 3 months of hard work.

posthypohalf

It was a terrible cruelty that the clubhouse was at the bottom of a set of steep stairs; thank goodness for handrails! We made it down to enjoy our post-race brunch & soak up the endorphins.

My official finish time was 2:20:51 & I was finisher 72/125 participants in our heat. But most importantly, I RAN AN ENTIRE HALF MARATHON! My bucket list goal of running an entire 10 k race is now checked off. I did over double that! Far too often, we underestimate ourselves.

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”                                     -Thomas Alva Edison

Race #2 of #16racesin2016 was a success.

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