Thursday, February 10, 2022

I Keep Checking My Watch

Well, 2 years into the pandemic and we continue to endure restrictions.  Don't get me wrong - we need the restrictions to slow the transmission rate and avoid inundating our medical system.  However, the more Canadians that are vaccinated, the sooner the restrictions can be lifted.  And it doesn't bode well for the unvaccinated when restrictions are finally lifted.  Covid is very successful in infecting humans.  To the few people out there who are not virologists, this means that the unvaccinated will eventually contract Covid.  The current metrics indicate that this will take upwards of another 3 years.  The way I see it, get vaccinated or at least write your will.

Although this will sound like a repeat of last year's predictions, I'm guessing/hoping that the current surge could be the last with restrictions.  We will continue to encounter surges, but these should not have a great impact on the vaccinated, as we will only experience Flu-like symptoms.  Which brings me to the important part of this post...  Racing.

In 2021, I attended only one race, and it was virtual.  I ran 28K by myself, in order to complete The Limberlost Challenge.  There were considerably more hills than I remember, likely because instead of running the course, I ran up and down the Niagara Escarpment near my house.  Coincidentally, it took me quite a bit longer to complete, than in previous years.

For 2022, the OUTRace series has again been cancelled.  This is not yet official, so only tell your mother.  Oh yes, of course you can tell your husband - that goes without saying.  Absolutely not, brother-in-laws are right out.  I have signed up for Pick Your Poison, although that is a lie.  I am on the waiting list.  Of course I had inside information - specifically the race director informed us (the OUTRace executive) of the date when registration would open.  I signed on the next day and was the last name on the waiting list!  I'll go out on a limb and predict that many of the races will sell out in 2022, directly after I have signed up.  Please note the last part.

Hopefully most restrictions will be lifted by the summer and we can sign up for a race or three.  I have not yet sent a mass email to OUTRacers, but will wait until closer to the first race (Pick Your Poison).  The reasoning is that by mid-April, we will have a better idea of how the race season will transpire.

There is a new race in the series called Forest Lea, near Pembroke on August 6.  Information about the race is currently going up on the website - it should be there soon!  I hope to attend a few of the races in the series that I have not yet experienced.

I have no away races planned, as travelling is still a questionable endeavor.  Just before the latest travel restrictions were issued, I booked a trip to a resort in Mexico.  I'm not a big fan of resorts and prefer travelling and hiking in more remote terrain, but the central concept was to vacation with two of my daughters, one son-in-law and 2 grandchildren.  It was fun, but travelling is not an enjoyable experience just now.  Flying is fine, but I dread spending time in airports.  It took about 14 hours from the time we left the resort until we got home.  The flight was 3 hours and a good chunk of the remaining 11 hours was spent in airports.

Stay safe and enjoy the snow!  If there is no snow where you are, please don't mention it to me :)


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Times They are a Changing

I have a soft spot in my heart for Bob Dylan.  I recall my brother purchasing his first 17 albums in the 1980's.  Bob spoke for a generation.  Definitely master class.

Well, Covid did not resolve itself in 8.23 months as I had fervently hoped.  It is taking longer, and I understand people are worried and frightened to commit to getting vaccinated, but come on people!  You are hampering my travel plans!  Please recall that the governments will not eliminate restrictions until fully 80% of Canadians are vaccinated.  Even if it takes 10 years!  The metrics involved in the seemingly arbitrary figure of 80% is rather fascinating.  There is a point at which the virus cannot continue to spread.  This involves removing 80% of the prospective pool from "readily available infection subjects".  Below 80% vaccination, people will continue to become infected and some will die.  Above 80%, there are not enough subjects for the virus to spread and it will die.  Period.  Enough on this.

In 18 days I will host Lee Anne Cohen's (my late wife) Celebration of Life.  I'm not looking forward to it.  I appreciate that it will provide some semblance of closure, but at this point, it feels a bit like overkill.  I will also host a Celebration of life Fun Run in 2022.  The delay in holding the fun run is due to the uncertainties that still prevail in hosting a large event and the timeline needed to bring it about.  Both events will be for "fully vaccinated" only.  I have no desire to endanger the lives of friends and family who are helping me to celebrate Lee Anne's life.

I have started dating.  This is not as easy as I recall it being the last time I dated, back in the late 90's...  It smacks of choreography and juggling.  I have little idea what I am doing (He's making it up as he goes along) and how to achieve an end result, which in itself is an unknown...  Oh to be 25 again!

Mind you, I have a near ideal life; no real financial worries, a supportive family and some fine wine.  The last is not as frivolous as one might expect!  But I would dearly love to share my life and travel with a companion.  I'm sure it will happen eventually, but I'm not happy with the timeline...


You knew that eventually, I would get to it.  Since the virtual Limberlost Challenge, I have run a bit (20K - 50K per week), at times with some friends.  Strangely, since much of the restrictions were lifted in July, people have become busy, including me.  On Saturday (2021-09-04) I ran for 3 hours on the Bruce Trail with some dear friends.  It was epic!  I am toying with signing up for a short race (25K?) if I can find one that has not already sold out.  Aside from the above wish, I continue to get out for runs and the occasional bike ride.

Well, dinner is ready, so I will release this post into the ether.


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Please Do Not Adjust Your Set

The title is likely not all that familiar to the younger generations.  Back in the sixties and a bit in the seventies, TV programs would occasionally crash.  Since reception was typically terrible (as the TV's themselves often had issues) the station was basically saying:  Hey!  The problem is on our side!  This was sometimes the result of someone at the station tripping over a wire that plugged into various machines needed to transmit the TV signal to the TV towers.  More often it was alien space ships landing on the transmission towers.  This happened with annoying regularity and although no one ever talked to the aliens. it was surmised that the TV towers somehow reminded the aliens of their landing stations back home.  Most TV stations had to resort to installing elaborate UFO blocking hardware, affectionately known as "UF Off" devices.

After experiencing such a messed up year as 2020, many of us are anxious to get back to normal, or near-new normal.  We are waiting for various entities (government, medical support, bars) to tell us that our TV sets should now be working properly.

I alluded to this challenge with respect to OUTRace, a series of ultra and trail races in Ontario.  These races are spread across the year, starting in April and finishing in November.  Timing of the lifting of pandemic restrictions will be pivotal in determining which races can proceed and which will once again be cancelled.  The race directors are struggling to answer questions such as "what is the latest date on which I can commit to holding my race?  When should I open registration?  Are my sponsors still in business?

This becomes tricky for the runners who wish to partake in the races.  We need to register before scheduling other aspects of the race weekends.  If I decide to run Ottawa, I need to book a hotel.  Many need to give advance notice at work, that they would like the weekend off.  None of this can be done until race registration is open, and that depends on the current flavour of Covid restrictions 1 - 4 months ahead of race date.  Tricky...

However these problems pale in comparison to what we experienced in 2020.  The uncertainty in 2020 rivalled or surpassed any other year in memory, including Y2K (remember 1999?).  I worked in IT at Honda back then, so I knew there would not be any catastrophes.  However, I also knew there would be some problems, however minor, which could culminate into some serious inconveniences.  Fortunately the calendar switched over without noticeable hitches.  For those who enjoy reminiscing, here is a rough overview of what transpired at Honda in Alliston:

  • 400+ computer systems, about half needed updates & verification they still worked
  • 850 mainframe computer programs that needed updates
  • 37 failures:  1 category B and 36 category C (Category A could impact or stop the assembly lines)

The above is from my very skewed memory, so please don't try to corroborate the numbers!

I doubt that everyone is looking forward to 2021...  I'm thinking some business owners and anyone who is not able to work due to restrictions.  This might be a very rough year for those stuck in an apartment during the winter.  I live out in the country, so isolation is not much different than any other winter.  However I am not visiting friends (Ontario is currently in lockdown for either 14 or 28 days), going out to eat and there is no plan to travel, as I normally do this time of year.

Aside from this, I am looking forward to 2021.  I think we will all savour the easing of restrictions and appreciate our "freedom" the more so, for having experienced the lockdowns.  It is now simply a matter of time before the vaccination is available to all Canadians.  Yes, it will be several months, but hopefully not years, as some other vaccinations have required.  I look forward to dropping into a store on a whim, as opposed to a rigidly mapped out operation, similar to mounting a coup.  Hmm...  Coup on a Whim.  Sounds like a boutique beer.

What will I do first?  Not sure, but I would love to overnight in a dwelling that is not my house!  Planning a trip would be great.  I am already arranging to travel to Scotland and hike with my sister, her husband and (if available) my daughter, but there is little point in planning anything at this point.

There were few good points resulting from the pandemic, but I should mention the benefit of shopping online.  I am not a natural born shopper.  I never enjoyed going into a store with the exception of Canadian Tire.  For me, shopping online is a quantum leap in preference over driving to an overcrowded parking lot and spending time in various line-ups.  And then there is wine online (  Insert a deep sigh of gratitude here.  I know this sounds like a promo, but imagine a store that not only delivers to your door, but also makes suggestions that appeal to you!  Okay, I doubt there are many people out there that enjoy wine as much as I do, but this beats a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake hands down.  Yes, I enjoy running and biking in NOTL and there is wine tasting, but unfortunately, I like red wine.  Aside from Marynissin, most of the good red wines cost between $25 and $50 per bottle.  I am talking good wine, not great.  I have trouble spending $30 for a journeyman wine.  No problem spending as much for a truly great Australian Shiraz, or a Cabernet Sauvignon from California.

Well, take care out there.  Let's err on the side of caution until the vaccinations have been deployed.  Not much fun in overloading our medical facilities now.  We are all itching to get out there, but let's do so when it is safe for all.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

May You Live in Interesting Times...

I fully intended to post to this blog on a more frequent basis this year, but a couple of factors have prevented me from doing so.  I am still at a loss as to what to write - as a warning, this post might become a bit morose.

The title is actually an ancient Chinese curse.  Interesting times include pandemics, after all.  Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones as Covid was a minor nuisance to me this year, compared to the loss of my wife Lee Anne Cohen, who succumbed to lung cancer in September.  As you can imagine, it will be a challenge to find humour in my current situation.

Let's start with a recap of all that has transpired since we returned from Portugal in February:  Nothing much at all, thank you very much.  As with most everyone, Covid drastically changed our lives and even Lee Anne's death.  Surprisingly, there was virtually no change in making maple syrup.  Most days I travelled to the sugar shack, started the evaporator and boiled down until it was time to go home.  In retrospect, I have been isolating every March and April for the last 15 years!

On the OUTRace front (Ontario Ultra and Trail Race series), it was a very interesting time, as races were cancelled and the race directors struggled to figure out what to do.  Seaton Soaker held a virtual race, as most of its registration fees had already been spent on race gear and expenses before Covid restrictions came into effect.  I was very glad not to be a race director in 2020!  Run Off the Grid was the only race physically staged this year.  It is north of Algonquin Park and all race distances were capped at 50.  The OUTRace series awards were cancelled and prizes were distributed to only one race.

In the fall of 2019, Lee Anne started complaining that she was having trouble breathing, while running up 4 kilometer hills...  We figured that this was normal, as she had dropped her running from 150K per week, to "only" 80K per week, due to a knee injury.  This, coupled with turning 66, explained (we thought) the difficulty in breathing.  However during our vacation in Portugal in January and February 2020, it became apparent that there might be a different reason for her difficulties.  Then Covid happened by...

Perhaps not a perfect storm, but after returning to Canada, it became difficult to see our doctor.  Lee Anne finally held a phone appointment with our doctor, who thought her condition might be asthma.  However puffers had little effect and in June, Lee Anne was finally able to get a lung x-ray.  The prognosis was not good.  She then underwent several tests and a lung biopsy before lung cancer was confirmed in August.  The Oncologist estimated that Lee Anne had between 6 months and 5 years to live.

We put the 93 acre property were I make maple syrup up for sale, in the hopes that we could travel more frequently after Covid was over.  Lee Anne underwent her first session of chemotherapy in September, but unfortunately, passed away 1 week later.

It is interesting that someone as fit as Lee Anne (she broke the Canadian 100 mile record for her age category in 2015), who doesn't smoke and eats much better than I (she was a vegetarian) would contract lung cancer.  But as one of her Oncologists stated, cancer is not overly discriminating.

So, as with most people in Ontario, I am in lockdown.  I am running a lot and chopping wood.  My daughter Celeste is currently living with me and will be renting her house in Wasaga Beach for the winter.  One interesting aspect of the pandemic is that there are almost no places for rent in the Collingwood / Wasaga Beach area.  People are staying in the area, rather than travelling to Florida or elsewhere for the winter.

After Lee Anne passed away, I had thoughts of taking the maple bush off the market, but decided to leave it on the market, as making maple syrup requires about 1,000 hours of effort and I am not getting any younger.  The 93 acres sold recently and the new owners are keen to continue with the maple syrup operation, which is great.  I hope to help a friend make syrup in 2021, Covid willing.  Otherwise I will have little to do this Spring, assuming that travel will not be possible or advisable until the vaccination is available worldwide.

Wishing everyone a happy and SAFE holiday season and new year.


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Flight from Portugal Home: Not Much Fun!

Hey!  Rather than adding pictures to the 2 previous Portugal posts, I'll simply add them to this post.  That way, no one has to re-read a post.

Recap:  We flew from Toronto to Lisbon, then to Funchal, the main city in Madeira.  Purpose:  Hike and run a half marathon.

Hiking along a "Lavada" - an irrigation channel built in the 1840's to transport water to drier spots of the island.  In places they would tunnel through the mountain, rather than build the channel on the side of a cliff.  Headlamps came in handy!

Very strange!  Between 2 tunnels was this waterfall.  The strange thing was that the irrigation channel bypassed the water from the fall (?).  Perhaps this stream dried up?

As stated before, Madeira is a young island (about 5,000,000 years old) so the mountains are incredibly steep.  This picture does not show the steel stairs/ladders in the steeper parts.  I was too chicken to take photos while trying to avoid plunging to my death...

Just outside our hotel in Tavira (in the Algarves) was the "Roman Bridge".  I figure it was built before the 1950's...

The bike routes went beside salt flats.  Tavira has hundreds of lagoons that are flooded from the Atlantic ocean and then dry up, leaving a salt residue that is harvested and sold.  You might be able to pick out the salt pile in front of some 5 story buildings...

After Tavira we stayed in Cascais, about 40 minutes west of Lisbon.  We decided not to run the Cascais half marathon as we only had 3 days and wanted to hike instead of rest, run a race, then recover.  We hiked in Sintra, just north of Cascais, which has more forts, castles and palaces than in all of Canada (okay, not so hard to do).

Below is a Moorish fort, which in circa 1200 the Moores lost to the European knights in a poker game.  Note that I am taking the picture inside the fort.  It is big!

This is just somebody's home.  Not really a palace by Sintra standards.  Sintra was where the Portuguese royal family stayed, so this was likely some hanger-on's house...

The king had 2 palaces in Sintra.  This was the summer palace.  The picture was taken from the Moorish fort, so they are quite close together.  It was painted red on the north side and yellow on the south side so that people would be able to orient themselves by the palace.  One part (not sure which) is much older than the other.  The new part was built in the 1600's.  There are many similarities between the summer palace and my house in Creemore!

Okay, 2 more pictures, then I'll describe the exciting flight home...  Lisbon has so many incredible buildings, it is difficult to pick just 2 for this post.  Below is the "square" where mariners would return from exotic parts of the world and sell their wares.  The vast square is surrounded on 3 sides by the yellow building.

Another building that we visited was ridiculously huge, which this "little" church tacked on one end.  I took another picture near the end of the building, but from there it is difficult to make out the church!

Homeward Bound!

If you are enjoying a meal, you might want to read this later...

Flying these days is a tenuous adventure, what with the pandemic making us question the prudence of rubbing elbows with people from all over the world.  Imagine my dismay when 3 days before we were to fly home, I came down with a cold.  With travel restrictions changing day-to-day, I wondered if I could travel without many noticing my sickness.

Wait!  Let's make this even more exciting!  Thursday night (our flight departed at noon Friday) my nose started to bleed.  This is actually a common occurrence when I catch a cold.  The problem was, I could not get my nose to stop bleeding.  And when I say bleeding, I'm not fooling around.  If I pinched my nose (what I usually do), my mouth would fill up with blood within 5 seconds.  Not a viable situation when you can't breath through your nose!  I would rush to the nearest sink and spit out the blood, release the hold on my nose and with a dry part of the towel, reapply pressure.

After 5 long minutes of this, I asked Lee Anne to call an ambulance.  I had lost about half a litre of blood so far and my concern was that I could lose consciousness.  I wanted to walk down 3 flights of stairs to the street before feeling any weaker.  Lee Anne phoned the hotel owner, who in turn phoned the ambulance.  While sitting in a chair on the sidewalk, waiting for an ambulance, my nose finally stopped bleeding.  The ambulance drove us to a hospital that, at 10:00 PM, had a nose doctor onsite.

After a 2 hour wait, I was seen by the doctor.  He realized I had burst a blood vessel and cauterized my nose.  It is interesting to see smoke coming out of your nostril.  His English was quite good and he explained that if I was a local, he would have sent me home.  However, having learned that I planned to fly in 12 hours, he then shoved a tampon (his word) up my nose.  It didn't hurt much, but wow, was it uncomfortable.  My left eye started tearing from the pressure.  We took a taxi back to the hotel, where the owners had already cleaned our room and the kitchen sink!

After very little sleep, we thanked the hotel owners profusely for their help, then headed to the airport.  How is flying after minor surgery with a tampon shoved up your nose?  I no longer enjoy flying.  Most people can do without the airport hassle, but try breathing through your mouth for an 8 hour flight, with a terrific sinus headache.  All flights out of Lisbon on Friday morning were delayed, due to fog, so we spent close to 10 hours on the plane.  We got up on Friday at 7:00 AM (2:00 AM Toronto time) and landed in Toronto at 6:00 PM.  The headache lasted until Monday.

I was late posting all this because I have started prepping maple syrup lines.  That's my excuse!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Cascais DNS, Lisbon and Homeward Bound

The end of our 30 day venture into Portugal looms nigh and with it comes a mixture of anticipation and regret.  One month is not a sufficient time to truly experience a new country, culture and language.  As I write this, outside the window is a church with a massive dome.  It holds some famous name, but as this is our first time visiting Lisbon, we have yet to view and learn about this European landmark.  The same can be said about our stays in Madeira (a small island off the African coast belonging to Portugal), Tavira (an small city in the Algarves) and Cascais (near Sintra, the home of Portugal´s royalty).  We have barely brushed the surface of Portugal, yet we are set to travel home.

Is Portugal worth a visit?  Most definitely.  The landscapes, architecture and mild weather make it an appealing option for snow smothered Canadians.  Flights, hotels and meals are reasonably priced, compared to the rest of Europe.

Still, we are ready to travel back to the ice and snow of Creemore.  In fact, we are both of the opinion that a month is a bit long to travel.  We have been away from family, friends and haircuts for too long.  Okay, the last is my fault, as I did not earmark adequate time to get mine cut, before we set out for Portugal...

Lee Anne is getting anxious to start building pottery inventory for the upcoming shows.  I have considerable work to do, before I can fire up the maple syrup evaporator.  And the latest technology (I think it is called Snap Crackle Pop Chatting) is a pale substitute for spending time with our children and grand children.

Cascais Half Marathon:  DNS

I must admit that we were both lukewarm about running the half.  Our DNS was due more to logistics than what I like to call Ultra snobbery.   Yes, we both consider running a half marathon more as an afterthought than a true race goal.  Lee Anne has cut down her running to the point where she is running a half marathon (or longer) only 4 times per week.  I consider 21K a long run these days, but I am more embarrassed by my lousy speed than the thrill of completing another half.  We only had 3 days in Cascais, which is close to Sintra.  What is so special about Sintra?  Nothing much, aside from being the residence of the Portuguese royal family.  The last king died in circa 1908.  As such, it has more palaces than in all of Canada.  Oh, it also has a Moorish fort, which is close to the size of Creemore.  I´ve never seen so many stairs!

So our option was to take 3 days to recover and run the half, or visit some of the most interesting structures built between 950 and 1850.  Hmm...  Pictures will be added next week.

Before experiencing a country with a language that is new to me, I like to make some effort to learn the basics.  It is polite to at least try to communicate in the host country´s language.  Problem:  I know English quite well, a solid base in French and a smattering of Spanish.  The latter is the problem.  Portuguese is quite close to, but not exactly, Spanish.  In Portugal, I found myself continuously mixing up Spanish and Portuguese.  And even the Portuguese admit that their language is not easy to learn.  How do you say "The" in Portuguese?  You have 4 choices:  A, O, As or Os.  Unfortunately, you can´t simply pick one and move on.  Too easy!  "A" is used for singular feminine, such as "A Mulhere" (sp?) - The woman.  Try translating this when listening to someone fluent in Portuguese and is speaking at 3,000 words per minute...

So, in 3 days we fly back to Canadaland.  Although hard to keep in mind, we are both retired.  Regardless, we both have impressive itineraries waiting for us in Creemore.  We will be visiting 312 family and friends.  We will miss my daughter Brittany´s birthday, who turns 30 tomorrow.  Happy birthday Brit!  I need to help Lee Anne reactivate the pottery studio.  She needs to start making pottery.  I removed several of the maple sap lines as there was a chance the maple bush would be logged while we were away.  It is marked and is now under the forest management program.  I need to rebuild the lines.

I need a haircut.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Racing in Portugal

This will be a short post as I am a little pressed for time and using a Portuguese keyboard.  The latter results in a squiggly red line below almost every word, indicating that my Portuguese's spelling is atrocious.  Fortunately, spellcheck checks for English spelling errors, so not all is lost...

Lee Anne and I are spending a month in Portugal, starting with 10 days on the island of Madeira, which although part of Portugal, is off the coast of Africa.  Madeira is a relatively new island, at about 5 million years old.  This may seem like a long time, but the mountains have had little time to wear away.  Most of the mountains have steep-to-vertical sides,  So when we were told the Madeira marathon was flat, it reminded me of when people used to say the earth was flat...

We opted for the half marathon, as we planned to hike the next day.  The first 3K was uphill.  Not 20% gradient steep, but enough slope to affect our breathing.  The course was a bizarre mix of out-and-backs and loops.  All this to avoid any serious hills.  There was one steep hill about midway through the half, but fortunately it was downhill.  Our times were slow.  Really slow.  I was barely under 3 hours.  This is due primarily to a lack of training, but the sad time was also influenced by my left ankle, which behaved quite badly for the last 8K.  At one point I realized it hurt just as much to walk as to run, so the last 3K was an impressively fast hobble.

Hiking in Madeira is another story.  We were lulled into a fantasy state on our first hike.  We walked beside a Levada - a small viaduct used to transfer water from one place to another, as water is scarce is some regions of Madeira.  We walked along steep hills, cliffs and through tunnels, but the gradient was unfailingly a gentle downhill slope.  We were not so lucky on our second hike!  Think metal ladder\stairs ascending 1,000 meters vertical.  The metal stairs were aesthetically arranged up near-vertical cliff faces.  I´ll post pictures when I get home (February 15).  When not ascending or descending metal stairs, we were on rock stairs, similar to those found on normal European hikes.  Flat sections?  Re-read the part about the half marathon above.

We are now in Tavira and have rented mountain bikes.  Tavira is on the Atlantic ocean and fortunately, quite flat.  We had rented road bikes but on our first day in Tavira, we did not see any smooth paved roads, aside from the highways.  Dirt roads in the country and the roads in town are either cobblestone or square stone.  Again, pictures are needed, but think of 5cm X 5cm stones set in concrete.   The patterns of white and black stones are beautiful, but I would hesitate to walk my road bike over the surface.  If you are ever in Tavira, I recommend Abilio Bike Rentals.  Great service and very accommodating.

That´s it for now - I hope to post again within a few days.

Bom dia!