A week in Kelowna

In 2015, we took the family to Kelowna for the first time and the kids had a blast. We have returned pretty much annually ever since. The kids love picking fruits, going to the beach, and visiting various farms. This year Josh and I also biked the Myra Canyon portion of the Kettle Valley Rail.

We’ve been back in town for a week now, and we’re still enjoying the fruits we picked from Kelowna. We eat them fresh, make smoothies, make popsicles, and make kombucha with them.

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Penticton 2018

I started to write this blog post as a ride report. As a rookie cyclist, a lot of the stuff I write about seem fresh and interesting to me, so I go on and on and on about them. You might read this and think, “Wow, she’s an idiot.” Just keep your thoughts to yourself, and remember that I’m still new at all this.

Back in the fall last year, “Coach Jill” told me about the Penticton fondo. Jill is probably 103 lbs soaking wet, but can power up a hill like a boss. Penticton is easy enough to drive to with the whole family without too much fuss. Naturally, I signed up with little prompting.

Since March this year, I’ve been faithfully following a schedule to train for the fondo. After much anticipation, the day finally arrived and I was pumped.

Before this, I have only ever done one fondo (the 2017 Whistler fondo). Whistler was rainy and cold, and I was miserable, but I finished. Whistler has more net elevation gain than Penticton, and I handled it just fine. I figured I’ll be ok with Penticton. Right?

Not so much.

Whatever mistakes I made, I chalk it up to stupid rookie mistakes. The fact that I actually finished the ride was a huge win in my mind.

The route starts in Penticton, goes up to Summerland, back to Penticton, then down to OK Falls on the east side of Skaha, back up the west side of the lake, back to Penticton. It is absolutely gorgeous. Breathtaking. Beautiful.

I started the ride waaaaay at the back of the chute, and I couldn’t find anyone I knew. Mistake number one was trying to chase down other people I might recognize. Right out the gate was a hill, and I tried to pass everyone in my way. Eventually I found another familiar jersey (Emily), and hopped on her group. I already knew I blew more energy than necessary to try and catch someone. But I was so happy to find a friendly face. Emily was full of energy and it was infectious.

Things were great in the flats and turns, until we hit the KOM hill in Summerland. Mistake number two, I tried to keep up with the girl pulling, and it was a long hill. By the time I crested the hill, my legs and lungs were burning and I was on my own. After only 35km, I was *this* close to pulling over to throw up, and I still had 90km to go! Somewhere around 40km, Emily found me and we rode together back to town again with a big group.

After 50km and back through town, I lost Emily. That sucked. I found a big guy with giant calves and stayed behind him for a good while. It was like having a windshield, so I can take a breather. I tried eating, but my stomach was very unhappy with me. I have already drained two full bottles of electrolyte, and about half way through my 3rd bottle. Mistake number three–likely the biggest mistake I made–I didn’t want to stop at a busy aid station to get more water, so I went further down the East side of Skaha Lake with only half a bottle of water left.

Between 60-80km, things were pretty decent. I was very thirsty, obviously. Half a bottle of water for 20 km was not smart. I will pay for this very dearly later. I found two guys with Spandex Panda jerseys riding just above my speed. I asked if I can join them, and they kindly accepted. We all took turns pulling, but I knew for certain they were just being patient with me when I pulled. At 5’3″, I’m not giving them much draft. That was probably the most blissful part of my entire ride. They were going at a great speed I can manage, and rode smoothly and predictably.

Sadly, the Spandex Panda guys were doing the 160km ride, and I am doing 126km, so I had to wave them goodbye at the bottom of Secrest. By the time I took that turn, there was barely anyone on the 126km route. Was the rest of the world doing 160km? I looked up that hill, and looked down on my empty water bottles, and just thought to myself, you’re an absolute idiot.

I like hills. But Secrest is not like many other hills I have climbed. It was steep. It was relentless. I stood up on my pedals to try and use my body weight to push my way up this hill, and that’s when the cramps hit me. At the same moment, both my quads and both my calves cramped. I nearly fell over as my legs just gave way. I quickly sat back in my saddle as a “fuck!” involuntarily escaped my lips. What the hell was that? I have never cramped before.

My little brain was still trying to work out what was wrong with my legs, and how I was supposed to do this climb sitting on my butt the whole way. I pedaled slowly like a drunk person, zig zagging all over the pavement trying to not fall over. I ran through my options in my head. I can pull over and call it quits. Or I can try to ride through the cramps. I also really wanted to call the super athlete Tennessee and ask her what I’m supposed to do with the cramps, but the hill was too steep and I couldn’t take one hand off the bar to use my phone. So I kept riding.

My legs were in excruciating pain with each pedal stroke. I rode up the entire hill doing the drunken zig zag. The worst part was, at this point, I felt like my crotch was on fire. Maybe not enough Butt’r (a chamois cream I applied quite liberally before the ride)? Too much sweat? Too warm of a day? I don’t know, but I swear I was sitting on burning coal.

Imagine the Okanagan paper headline, “Fondo participant from Vancouver started a forest fire with her crotch“.

Some guy was being friendly and was chatting me up, and I was just so not in the mood. I really wanted to say, dude, my crotch is on fire, how is yours? (Don’t worry, I didn’t say that out loud. I just smiled and nodded, and pretended not to speak English.)

I crested the hill, and rode the next 7 or 8km all by myself. It was a remote piece of road, with no traffic, no signs, and no other cyclists. It was a little creepy. I went from, “This hill is finally over” to “Am I even on the right course?”

Eventually I see a few people ahead of me, and it gave me motivation to try to catch up. I rode a bit on and off with a few guys who look like they didn’t even sweat. They were chit-chatting and joking around. I’m pretty sure their crotches weren’t on fire.

At the next aid station, I was so happy to see the volunteer with two jugs of liquids. When she filled my bottles, I almost wanted to kiss her feet. Then a cute young man even peeled a banana for me. He could probably tell I was in shitty shape. The volunteers at this fondo are freaking awesome.

Eventually I caught up to someone riding somewhat at my speed. I found out later his name is Rob. Since I wasn’t going anywhere fast with my useless legs on the climbs, I chatted him up. He looked like he was suffering too. On the downhill, I ducked behind him for a quick descend. On the uphills, I would ride in front to give him a little break.

During the last 20km, it was so warm and the wind picked up. Back on the last stretch of the highway, all I can think of is how much pain I was in, and hashing over all the mistakes I have made to be where I was at that moment. My Garmin wasn’t giving me an accurate read of the distance, and I don’t know Penticton at all, so I really couldn’t gauge how much farther I had to go. I was nearly in tears. Even my inner thigh was cramping. Like really, I didn’t even know there was a muscle there!

When we started the steady 1% climb up Main Street, Rob said that was the last climb. I figured the fact that I saw a Starbucks, we must be near the edge of downtown. It couldn’t be much further now. I had nothing left in me to go any faster than I was going. I keep waiting for Rob to lose his patience and ride past me, but I guess he likely had nothing left either. Main Street eventually flattens out, and the last 500-600m everyone starts to sprint. That was probably the clue that the end is near. Rob pulled out in front of me with a couple of other guys, and I gave it all I had to hang on. We rode as fast as we could to the last corner, and sprinted down the chute to the finish line.

The poor volunteer who cut my timing chip off had to catch me as I almost fell over. I limped my way up the curb, shook Rob’s hand, met his wife, and went to look for my family.

I finished. I couldn’t believe I finished. As much as I was cursing my legs for not working right, I knew it was my mistake. I started out too hard, tried too hard to keep up, and I was dehydrated. Even though I took enough electrolyte, there wasn’t enough water to deliver it to my muscles. And when you over-stress your body, the digestive system shuts down to allow all the blood supply to support the “flight” mode. That’s why I could barely eat and was at the edge of throwing up for more than half the ride.

I have learned so much on this ride. I’m still trying to digest all the valuable lessons. More importantly, as shitty as I felt physically, I looked back on the day and thought to myself, I will be back.

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Sedona

Sedona is breathtaking. My words fail to describe the beauty of the place. Here are some photos from the 3-day hiking trip with Maggie.

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First day’s hike–Devil’s Bridge. We started hiking before 6 am in pitch darkness, using our headlamps to find our way. We were rewarded with having no one else on the trail, and got to Devil’s Bridge before anyone else that day.

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At Devil’s Bridge

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Cacti everywhere

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Pick your poison. Neither sounded really appealing to me. Good thing that was for mountain bikers, and I don’t mountain bike.

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The signs for mountain bikers are plenty

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I named this the “chocolate cake rock”. Maggie was not impressed with my creativity.

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We were getting pelted by hail here, but who’s complaining when you get this kind of view?

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Plenty of interesting plants

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This just takes my breath away.

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Day two started with a scramble up Cathedral Rock. Best part of the trip!

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The view from the top of Cathedral Rock trail.

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What the walls of Cathedral Rock looks like.

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Half this branch is smooth and brown, and the other half is bark-y and dried. So weird!

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Funky bark.

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Seriously twisted tree branch

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Day three, we hiked to Devil’s Kitchen. It’s a giant sink hole with huge slabs of rocks fallen into the sink hole. Pretty awesome. Also pretty hard to demonstrate in a photo.

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Last interesting plant

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Since everyone talks about the vortex, Maggie and I decided to give it a try on the top of Ant Hill. We sat, breathed deeply, and hummed. Ok, maybe it was just making fun of the vortex seekers, but we got a photo to prove that we tried it and did not find the vortex.

Costa Rica with Savanna

Savanna and I came back from Costa Rica late on Tuesday night last week. We came back with some coffee and chocolate in our suitcase. But I also came back with a load of great memories of hanging out with this little human.

We stayed at a B&B owned by an older couple. The house was designed by the husband, the garden designed by the wife, situated on their family’s coffee plantation. We were surrounded by greenery. They  had two dogs and two cats, which is the equivalent of heaven for Savanna.

We were fed amazing fresh mangoes, juice from their own orange trees, and locally made cheese every morning. We went to the local farmers market to get fresh produce, drank coconut juice, and ate watermelon. When the monsoon rain started in the afternoon, we would stay in and do puzzles, coloring books, play with the host’s grandson’s toys. We took one cocoa farm tour where we gorged on chocolates made from the farm’s own cocoa fruit, and drank hot chocolate from freshly ground cocoa nibs.

In general, we spent a ton of time together enjoying each other’s company. I tried hard to savour every minute of time spent with Savanna, and memorize her still-baby’ish cheeks. I know how fast this time goes by, and I am in such denial that she’s going to kindergarten in September.Angela Chang Photography Costa Rica San Jose trip

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The house we stayed at

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Farmers market

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A fresh bean. My first time seeing one.

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Giant papaya

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Freshly made tortilla

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Savanna spent lots of time playing in the yard with branches and twigs.

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We did hours of coloring and puzzles.

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Churro filled with caramel. I ate most of it.

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Oranges that are great for juicing after they ripen. The smell of the orange flowers is a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

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Savanna collected walnuts in the yard

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On the cocoa farm tour, Savanna got to crack open a cocoa fruit.

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This is what the inside of the cocoa fruit looks like.

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Dried cocoa beans.

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Once dried, the cocoa beans are roasted to intensify the flavour.

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Then you crack the shells open.

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Grind up the cocoa nibs, make hot chocolate, and give it all to Angela.

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This is a story for another day. It’s a story about how I turned a 2-hour drive into a 5-hour drive on the twisty-est and rainy-est mountain roads in Costa Rica.

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And this is how patient this kid is about her mother’s ability to mess up the Google map directions.

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I am totally crazy about this little human being, and absolutely in love with her.

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Every morning, the sweetest and juiciest mango greets us.

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A stroll on the coffee planation with the B&B host.

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Savanna said, “Look Mommy, I found a heart!”