Mid-February

Last Thursday Mike and I went to R.A. Steen to skate on the outdoor ice, and we were drawn into a pickup game of shinny which was a lot of fun, as Mike has written. Like Mike, I confess to being a lousy hockey player. The sudden turns, stops and accelerations challenge my skating skill. The sprints challenged my lungs and my aerobic recovery, and the whole thing challenged some muscles that don’t come into play during cylcing and skiing. On Saturday and Sunday I found that it was painful to cough because my abdominal muscles were sore. But, like Mike I would do it again.
The Thursday night shinny was the first of three or four workouts over the last 4 days. I have skied twice, and I had a workout with a snow-shovel this morning.


The weather has warmed to the freezing point every day since Thursday. The main roads are wet, and the traffic churns up a dirty, sandy salty spray that coats vehicles with a grey slimy crust. There isn’t enough snow to plow, and the traffic authorities resort to more sand and salt to prevent ice formation. The City has neglected the side streets since the last major snow and the warm weather is turning side streets into deep mires of slush. It isn’t conducive to cyling, although I have seen a few riders. I have seen runners – usually running down the middle of the road, to avoid the icy sidewalks and the puddles in the gutters. They seem to be enjoying the weather and enjoying running as much as anyone every enjoys running.
On Friday, I left work early and drove to Bird’s Hill. I skied the Lime Kiln trail, which is about 8 k. The temperature was at the freezing point. I used the Swix purple wax, which is almost the softest of the hard waxes. There had been a little fresh snow over the preceding days, and the snow was still fairly dry. I was a little worn and sore after Thursday, and it was good run to work out the kinks.
The forecast for Saturday and Sunday was for continuing warm temperatures, a couple of degrees above freezing. I was planning to ski on Sunday with my sister Joyce and her husband Joe at Rossendale, south and west of Portage la Prairie. I went to a store looking for some Swix red kick wax and some klister, and I started talking to the salesman about the frustrations of hot waxing with a hand iron (a block of aluminum that has to be heated with an external heat source like a propane torch) and he made the useful suggestion of going to a bargain store and buying a cheap clothes iron to use as a waxing iron. I stopped at Walmart on the way home and found a clearance product for $8.00. When I got home I cleaned my skis and tested the iron. It worked very well. I was able to hold the wax on the tip of the iron and drizzle hot wax onto the skis, and then iron the bead into a nice thin layer. I used some wax that I have had for years. Swix used to make glide waxes in foil-wrapped cylinders, which is the same way it still presents its kick waxes. I had a couple of cylinders of the red glide wax for “wet” snow.
The trip to Portage, and the trip home, reinforced some lessons about winter driving. It had been windy overnight and in the morning, and there were places where the blowing snow had drifted across the highway, a couple of centimeters deep. It was melting to slush. I saw several cars in the median ditch on the way out to Portage. I think the drivers were driving with their cruise control on and lost control when they hit the slush. On the way home, I began to wonder if my night vision had been impaired by old age until I realized that my headlights had been covered in gray road spray slime. A quick wipe with a wet towel restored my vision and confidence.
The skiing was great. The Bittersweet Club trails at Rossendale are laid out on sand hills. It isn’t quite as far west as Spruce Woods, but it’s the same kind of terrain. There’s a lot of climbing and some nice descents – a couple are quite terrifying when the track is wet and icy. The temperature got to about 4 C and the snow was wet. I started with Swix red but it wasn’t doing anything and I had to bring out the klister. Even with klister, I couldn’t get grip on some climbs and had to herringbone. I was finding that my poles would break through in some places and I became guarded about pole plants, for fear of losing my balance. It made for a more challenging technical day. We did about 12 k, combining several short loops. It was a good outing.
I kept an eye on the roads to see if a February cycling outing may work. There are dry roads for cycling. The road in Bird’s Hill Park was mainly clear on Friday, although the shoulders were still covered in a thin lawyer of snow. The service road beside the TransCanada Highway from Headingley to St. Francis was clear and dry on Sunday. It’s a little higher than the TransCanada and the wind seems to clean it rather than leaving drifts across it. I saw some cyclists on that stretch on Sunday. The temperatures over the last few days were warm enough. I think the main issue is transporting bikes to the right area without covering them in road spray. If the weather stays warm and the main roads in the city dry up a bit, I can see a ride before the end of the month.
This morning I saw that the City had plowed one side of the street in front of my house, leaving a ridge about 4 to 5 feet high, and about 7 or 8 feet across the base. It was made of packed snow and ice. I spent about half and hour cutting a path through it, before it melts and freezes into solid ice. I’ll have to take a picture and post it.

1 thought on “Mid-February”

  1. I don’t recall when I last had skates, probably the late 60s. I played hockey for five years as a kid. I could never skate backwards, could never deliver a slap shot. Wrist shot, yes. I still remember some of the very few goals I scored. It would be fun to try skating again. The stop-start effect on aerobics, I know the feeling. I played tennis a few years back, and recall being out of breath quickly. It was disconcerting. You and Mike and Steve have been cycling to beat all hell; I’ve been couch potato’ing the past three weeks. I need to get back on the workout horse, but haven’t been able to get into the mindset.

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