Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trail on the trail

Monday turned out to be a somewhat sunnier and, thus, slightly warmer day than originally forecast. However, at this time of year, the weather can and does change quickly and so it's a tough call for even the most experienced forecasters to stay on top of things. October in Ottawa is often a breezy affair as the predominant weather pattern changes from the sultry lassitude of summer to the chilled wet of autumn.

Consequently, we thought it would be a good idea to head out on a cycling venture. It actually hadn't rained a great deal recently and so Adam thought it would be a good opportunity to show to me some more of this city's trail network.

The city of Ottawa, in conjunction with the National Capital Commission (NCC) has a plan to create an intricate network of recreational trails from the Mer Bleue/Green's Creek area to the east of here and joining with the trail network around Shirley's Bay to the west of here. These recreational trails are multi-use which means anyone can hike, presumably ski in the winter and - on Monday - cycle through it.

While the colours of the foliage in autumn have already peaked here and the now everpresent winds are s-l-o-w-l-y stripping the branches of their leaves, we thought there was still enough colour and beauty to take a video of me on my Catrike Trail. Adam filmed me from his mountain bike as his Catrike Speed has too low a clearance to easily negotiate the thick clumps of soggy, drag-inducing leaves. In fact, for most of the journey on the trail itself, I had to gear down to the first sprocket. My Trail performed well anyway but it's really designed for road use, despite the name. In fact, at a couple of points, even the lowest gear still had me struggling a bit. Partly it's that I hadn't been out too much lately and so my fitness level had dropped a bit (it happens with startling ease) but it was also that it was late afternoon when my energy level can drop pretty precipitously. It didn't help that we were trying to negotiate trails that consisted mostly of 10+ centimetre thick leaves. Whenever we stopped, we would take a few seconds to pick leaves and twigs from places like the idler on my trike and even the brakes on Adam's mountain bike. It was slow going, mostly because of me. At one point, even in the lowest possible gear, I was still slipping a bit unless I crawled along at the amazing speed of a glacier. Yes, I was more than up to the task but it was still a struggle at some points.

Once we were back on the paved road and heading home, I was able to sail along at my usual speeds of anywhere between 12-23 km/hr. The total distance for this trip was 11.77 kilometres.

You take what you can get at this time of year.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Weather" or not...

I don't have plans to go out on my trike today. Shame, really, because it's sunny and not too frightfully cold - however, it is a bit too windy for me. I'm relying on the forecast for continued sunny skies and seasonably cool temperatures to reassure me that the triking season, though old and aging, is not over.

As I had written in my last post, the seasons here in Ottawa do tend to follow the calendar pretty closely so I am anticipating at least a few more weeks of triking weather before we get into that in-between-time when it's too cold, windy and wet to trike but not snowy enough to go skiing. With any luck that post-triking-pre-skiing "season" won't be too long. Sure, I can do lots of indoor activities, most notably crocheting, but I really can't exercise much more than the muscles in my wrist and if I can't get out for a good trike run or to hit the trails I can get pretty antsy.

Part of the problem for me there is that, with MS, I often feel as though I am on borrowed time. Sure, my neurologist recently declared my multiple sclerosis to be stable but that certainly doesn't mean relapses won't happen. The last thing I want is to miss out on a good chunk of outdoor activity because I can't walk or my fatigue levels make anything more demanding than reading a book nearly impossible. The fact is, that I like to stay physically active and, no, it isn't to do with "battling" or "defeating" MS. There's neither anything to battle nor to defeat. It has nothing to do with MS or any medical condition whatsoever - I have always been a physically active person long before I developed MS. However laudable that may be, though, anything I like to do depends a great deal on the weather. This is why I try to have a favourite activity for each season but seasons here don't just suddenly change - for that I would have to move back to Alberta (hee hee hee).

Catering to the weather is not some onerous task for which I must suffer. Suffering at all is an option, but I can feel disappointed when the hoped for sunshine or happily anticipated snowfall just doesn't materialize. To help there, I write some rambling dissertation on this blog about the weather, or maybe a neat recipe I discovered or even about some new crochet stitch I finally learned.

No matter, today is a great day and tomorrow's hike to take in the glorious colour of autumn will help to keep things in perspective for me.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Borrowed Time

Ottawa is one of those cities whose predominant weather pattern seems to follow the seasons quite tightly.

For instance, the first day of autumn is typically cool and crisp with trees displaying their mantle of fiery oranges, reds and yellows. While we often see snow before December 21st, we generally don't get our first 'permanent' snow cover before that. Yes, that's a huge generalization as anyone who recalls the winter of 2007-2008 will attest when it snowed from mid-December onward. The ground is often a sticky morass of muck, rocks and old crusty ice by March - though the first day of spring is generally a warm and pleasant venture and we will have had our first sweltering heat wave by June 21, when summer officially begins.

Again, these are generalizations but they do allow for at least some modicum of planning and this year is proving to be no exception.

By late August, the green of the trees is noticeably lighter as the little chlorophyll factories in the leaves start to shut down and allow the "true colour" of the leaves themselves to emerge. By September, the trees were really starting to change and now, in early October, we are in the thick of warm coloured vibrancy.

September was also one of the rainiest months we have had this year. See, that's the interesting thing about autumn here - it can be dry and cool-bordering-on-cold or it can be a wet undertaking. Not only was it a wet month but it was also, by my estimation and from this side of my morning coffee in early October, a windy one. Wind is a challenge on the trike but rain and wind together always equal staying inside.

In other words, we didn't do much triking in September.

To be sure, the catriking season here in Canada's capital is a pretty lengthy one compared to, say, the prairies or even northern Ontario. Nevertheless, at this time of year, we are on borrowed time. The weather patterns have been shifting for the past few weeks and it would not surprise me in the least if we see our first few tentative snowflakes by this month's end. That means we need to get out when we can. There are a few advantages to triking in autumn which I think bear mentioning.

1. There are, generally, no bugs. Yesterday, we did a quick 17 kilometre trip to Mooney's Bay and slightly beyond. When we stopped, Adam noticed an electron cloud of gnats buzzing and hovering just above his trike. It was sunny and not too chilly. However, at least there weren't attack squadrons of mosquitoes.

2. The temperature tends to be reasonable. 'Nuff said on that.

3. The bike paths are often not too crowded. A lot of people will only cycle on sunny, hot summer days and that's just fine. They put their bikes away after Labour Day or whenever their season is done. We will be triking until the first snow falls.

4. I don't have to put on quite as much sunscreen. While I don't often trike in shorts (that's a good thing - no, really, it's a good thing), I will trike in a T-shirt if it's really hot outside and that means wearing sunscreen on my arms. In the autumn, I wear a very light windbreaker so no sunscreen is required. Plus, I wear light gloves so my hands don't get chapped and over-dried in the colder air.

Otherwise, triking in autumn is at least as lovely as triking in the summer and I hope to do more over the next few that the cold rains of September have passed and we can get on with enjoying what is often the loveliest time of the year. Then, I can look forward to the winter (I'm one of those rare Canadians who actually enjoys the winter) and getting in some x-c skiing - perfect maintenance exercise for next year's catriking season.