Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring Warm-up - - - If Spring Ever Arrives!

Okay, it has been a while since my last entry.  No good reason, just life getting in the way of living.  We arrived back from Ecuador on Valentine's day.  My first task was to determine a realistic timeline for tapping.  The forecast (on February 14) called for cool-ish weather for the next 2 weeks.  Excellent!  I would be able to catch up with chores and take my time while preparing for the maple syrup season.

Wrong.  On February 15, the very next day, I again checked the forecast.  I have found the forecast can change precipitously during late winter.  In the summer (or winter), a change in forecast of 3 - 4 degrees means nothing.  No big deal if the high changes from 22 to 26...  However, a change from a high of +1 to +5 during sap season is a big change!  The forecast now called for syrup weather for the next 2 weeks.  Damn the torpedoes, we've got some drilling to do!

Tapping went well and in a total of about 8 hours over 2 days, all 325 taps were in place.  Well, actually, while removing a large branch from a mainline recently, I noticed that I had failed to tap 4 trees.  It is on the todo list.  For 2 weeks it ran well and I made 52 liters of maple syrup.  Then someone turned off the heat...  As most know, it has been too cold for much of anything lately.  It was -12C in Creemore this morning.  Some Spring!

But never fear, I found something both entertaining and enlightening to do during these last 4 weeks of cold weather.  Yes, I embraced a lovely case of the flu.  Running has been severely sidelined for more than 6 weeks, if hiking in Ecuador is included.  At one point, I was starting to doubt that I could run 1 loop (13K) of the Spring Warm-up course.  It was a nasty flu!

Yes, the infamous OUTRace (Ontario Ultra and Trail Race) Spring Warm-up is nearly upon us.  Sign-up for the April 7th event has been steady and we are expecting a good crowd.  Perhaps rumours of the treacherous weather and trail conditions in past years is helping to bolster registration.  Last year we enjoyed drifting snow and warm sunny weather...  No, I'm not making this up.  Come join us for some hills, trails and pizza.

As I alluded to earlier, running has not gone well.  The flu included a bonus feature, similar to a low grade vertigo.  This dizziness has lasted more than 4 weeks.  Running on a trail inches from a freezing white water river is normally a lot of fun, unless staggering into the river is a tangible possibility.  My race plans this year are not nearly as audacious as last year.  I hope to run 25K at Pick Your Poison and 50K at Niagara Ultra.  I am being forced (sigh!  bad behavior) into running a half marathon in Sudbury, although it should be a hoot as I am running with my daughters Celeste and Brittany, and Lee Anne (yes, she is running the marathon).  I hope to make an appearance at some of the OUTRace events that I have yet to attend, and I am likely to be at Fat Ass, so might ass well (sorry) run 25K there.  Not much of a schedule, compared to last year, but coming off the flu just now, it seems like a full slate.


Ecuador was fantastic.  It is such a relaxing place to spend time hiking and absorbing the 2 main cultures.  There is a vibrant and artistic native culture in Ecuador.  Their lifestyle appears to be much simpler than ours, yet they seem to enjoy life.  Perhaps all the trappings and gadgets of North American culture is not the answer?  There is also the culture that originated from Spain.  These people are perhaps similar to North Americans in that they are hard working and don't seem to have much time off.  They have one advantage, in that they live in a beautiful, diverse country with arguably close to perfect weather.  The high sierras boast a daytime high of between 20 and 28 year round!

The Quilotoa Loop was as impressive and challenging as it was 2 years ago.  It was fun to experience the hike with friends Dawn and Ron, and my daughter Celeste, pictured above.  No, we did not don our Quebec marathon shirts for the photo op - these embarrassing mistakes happen.

For those who can't be bothered to read the 2016 blog about the Quilotoa Loop, it is a 3 or 4 day hike through rural Ecuador, terminating at a massive volcanic Crater.  It is difficult to imagine the force needed to eject the volcano innards, when gazing down upon the lake.

When I say rural Ecuador, there are 2 important differences from rural Ontario.  1.  The terrain is steep.  The trails and roads along the course are not dangerously steep, but involve considerable effort hiking uphill and some caution hiking downhill.  2.  There is no oxygen.  I think the Spanish conquistadors stole this along with the gold and silver.  Going uphill is usually a tough slog followed by passing out.  We were thoroughly pissed when 2 girls from France passed us during the hike.  They would pass us, then stop for a Gitane... Yes, they kept ahead of us, even with their smoke breaks!

Well, that's about it for now.  I am fervently hoping that the maple syrup season extends a bit into April.  I am only at 25% of what would be a lean year.  I tapped over a month ago and the due date for tap holes is usually only 6 weeks, after which they heal.  I am hoping that there was little healing during the freezing cold temperatures.  In 2 weeks is the Spring Warm-up and the long range forecast is calling for a high of 3 degrees and partially sunny.