Canadian in Candia

July 31, 2009

Grandma Frankie

Filed under: Family — Tags: , , , — Miriam @ 11:06 pm

As some of you may know my paternal grandmother died a week ago today. A lot has happened in the last week so I’m finally getting around to making this post. I think it is important that the posts that memorialize these kinds of events properly capture the person I loved, and one can never find the right words in these situations.

FrankieMy Grandma was known to us a Frankie.  She was not a Francoise but a Frances. She had a French last name but grew up bilingual in Quebec. Most of what I know from her childhood, I know from my dad and from my genealogical investigations. I know that her family owned and ran a hotel with the money my great-father had leftover after the depression. So she was raised to be a lady in an elegant environment and she was a very classy woman.

As a young woman she met the love of her life, Hector, married him and had a lovely family of 3 boys and 3 girls. My father tells me that she was raised in wealth, but her adult life was one of modest means. She raised her family in a home that most people would consider small for a couple now. When my father told me this, he said with great admiration “She never complained once”.

Her children grew up and started families of their own. She took up painting in her free time (more about this in a little bit). She became a grandmother twelve times over. And in all this joy she lost the love of her life. My grandfather died 22 years ago.  She never remarried.

As a child Frankie was a yearly visitor to our home. She would come spend a week or two with us in the summer spending her days reading and hanging out with us. One of the last years she came to visit she reported that she had spent the day reading with our husky Keanu lying at her feet.

My grandmother was an artist, and I believe it is important that I capture this part of who she was. I grew up in a household filled with her paintings. I could always proudly say that most of the paintings that adorned our house were by my grandmother. She did it as a hobby and she did it because she enjoyed it. I would like to think I get some of my artistic side from her, but I’m not even close to as talented (although my aunt seems to have inherited some creative genes).

I’m so proud of the paintings she has made, paintings that will hopefully be passed down from generation to generation, that I asked my dad to help me bring them to this blog. He took pictures of the paintings by Frankie that he has at his house. Please pardon the reflection on some of them and be aware that these paintings span almost three decades worth of work.  I find some of her water scenes to be magnificent.

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

This was from a picture of me when I was 4 or 5 years old.

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie
This is one of my favorites.

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

Paintings by my Grandma Frankie

In the last few years her arthritis crippled her hands and prevented her from painting. Cataracts reduced her vision so she had difficulty reading. She had several broken bones due to falls. But her mind was sharp. So many people watch their family degenerate mentally year by year. We were so fortunate to have had her for 91 years and to have her so present when we saw her. We could truly say she died of old age.

We had a gathering in April where she was able to see her two great grand-children who live out West. I hope they will have a memory of her.

I’m glad I spent some time with her last time I was in Quebec. She seemed well. We talked a long time about life, and my photography. She was content with her life and grateful for her children. It’s a wonderful last memory of my Grandma Frankie.

She will be remembered as a woman with an appreciation for beautiful things, and a wonderful sense of humour. Her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and art live on and are wonderful testament to who she was.

Adam’s Race Report

Filed under: Races — Tags: , , , — Miriam @ 2:44 pm

IMGP1609Adam wrote up a report on the Vermont 100 race.  I asked him if he could post it to my blog. But he’s a pretty modest fellow.  So he started his own blog instead. Fine by me.

He wrote the report with intention that it could be useful to both newbies to the sport of Ultrarunning and to people who already ultrarun but wanted a better idea of the course.

Find Adam’s Race Report Here.

July 30, 2009

My Giant Feet

Filed under: Clothes, Vibram FiveFingers — Tags: , , , — Miriam @ 9:08 pm

I had very little clothes with me when I went to Canada from New York. So my mom bought me this lovely dress that would be highly appropriate for the event I was attending and for work. I was very excited. We went out for some lunch (and the food court at the mall had such marvelous options), but quickly realized that I had no shoes.

Now I don’t know if it’s apparent in my posts about the Vibram FiveFingers or the pictures of my puppy by my feet, but I wear a women’s size twelve shoe. I can sometimes squeeze into a size 11, but more often than not a few minutes of walking in those shoes leaves me near tears in pain.

Vibram FiveFingers in action

Size 12 shoes are not easy to find. Most stores barely carry size 11. If they have the shoe in size 10 it’s the only pair they have received. I end up having to do most of my shoe shopping on the internet (eg. Zappos) or I spend a great deal of time in my men’s sized running shoes. It’s actually a very good thing I like colours like blue.

I have the biggest shoes in my immediate family. This includes my in-laws, people of tiny feet. My father in-law wears a men’s 7 I think. That’s almost men’s kid sizes. Friends used to laugh that they could use my flip flops as snowshoes. I outgrew my dad’s hockey skates as a kid. When we rowed they sometimes had to replace the shoes in my seat with larger ones because I was uncomfortable. My shoe size has inconvenienced many people other than me.

Beavis and Cooper

And I’m only 5’7″ (and a quarter), so people sometimes don’t believe me when I tell them my giant feet dilemmas.

We did visit a store that advertised they carried shoes up to a women’s size 14, but the only pair that suited my needs was $500. My mom offered to buy them (I think she feels bad that somewhere along the way a faulty foot gene was passed my way), but I couldn’t justify spending that much money on a single pair. I always try to spend money carefully, even if it’s not my own.

So I ended up with a pair of flip-flops from Payless. Luckily my Grandmother’s funeral was only her children, their spouses, her grandchildren and some of her grandchildren’s significant others so everyone there was family and no one was looking at my shoes. But the mad dash around a dozen different shoe stores was beyond frustrating and without a really satisfying result.

Mind you, I may have giant feet, but no one has ever met me and immediately commented on how frighteningly huge my feet are.

Mystery Weed Revealed

Filed under: Garden — Tags: , , , — Miriam @ 8:36 am

Burdock
Remember my mystery weed next to the driveway? It’s been identified as a Burdock. The plant that inspired the innovation of Velcro with it’s hooked tendrils that attach seeds to animal coats and human vestments.

Burdock
Burdock

Wikipedia tells me that some varieties are actually cultivated for dishes from other cultures. I’m still considering it a weed and plan on eliminating the early growth next year (it has simply gotten too big to do it this year).

Burdock

The bees are currently enjoying the flowers on the plant though. But I’ll plant equally yummy flowers in place of the giant weed.
Burdock
Burdock
Burdock

July 28, 2009

Predatory

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: , , — Miriam @ 4:43 pm

I figured I would make a quick post while my parents get ready for dinner. So this is one I had started writing up while I was in Saratoga.

The biggest difference between Huskies and Poodles which I have noticed has been the predatory instinct. Huskies are a fantastic breed, smart, beautiful, athletic, but small non-dog animals that run away are generally considered food.

Enter Cooper. As I write this i’m in upstate New York visiting a friend who has two bunnies. In preparation for our arrival she has caged her bunnies in the pantry of the house. The metal “playpen” extends a little bit into the hall. Cooper can’t seem to differentiate the bunnies from the cats. He wants to visit them, but also seems a little scared of them. I think if it were up to him he would just snuggle.

The bunnies for their part are constantly thumping to warn the humans that a dangerous animal is in their midst. They can’t seem to tell that Cooper is a gentle dog that would only try to play with them. Mind you if there was a husky in the room they might have been right. My last husky was the world’s most gentle and sweet animal. But he would go to great lengths to catch wild bunnies to “feed” his pack.

As much as my huskies were marvelous dogs and I would still get another someday, it is much more relaxing to know that my dog isn’t going to make a meal out of my friends’ pets while I’m asleep in the next room.

July 27, 2009

Adventures

Filed under: Life — Miriam @ 11:59 pm

As those who follow my twitter already know, my paternal grandmother passed away on Friday. I want to take the time to write up a good post about it but I wanted to make a little post about my travels this weekend.

When my dad told me about my grandmother, Thursday was mentioned as a date.  So I decided to go have a little bit of joyous time at my friend’s beer olympics in Saratoga Springs, New York.  So intending to go home on Sunday afternoon I brought the puppy along with me.

We had a great time, I played kickball, the “french” poodle played with french bulldogs. I talked to my dad and the date being discussed was Tuesday. So I did some travel math. Going back home would have taken 4 hours to get back to Candia then another 5 hours to Montreal. Going to Montreal from Saratoga would have taken 3 hours.  The logical answer was to go directly.

As much as my poodle is a marvelous creature, he would not be welcome at a funeral. Luckily, my friend’s husband is temporarily still living in New Hampshire. So Cooper hitched a ride home and I headed to Quebec.

So I’m a little behind on my blogging but this is why.  I’ve been travelling lots and visiting with my family.

A view of my travels taken from Google Maps.

A view of my travels taken from Google Maps.

July 26, 2009

Vermont 100 – Pretty Details

Filed under: Photography — Tags: , , — Miriam @ 12:00 pm

Central Vermont in July is truely a beautiful place. The Vermont 100 course goes through hilly grassy horse country. Some of the barns are more beautiful than most homes. The hills and mountains make for amazing views. Even something as simple as a wooden fence can draw your eyes.

Most beautiful is how green everything is. This is similar to New Hampshire. When Adam and I took our post graduation vacation to Nevada-Utah-Arizona at one point we agreed that the sights we were looking at were simply some of the most beautiful we had ever seen, but that we missed Northern New England’s sea of green.
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I was happy to catch this fence as sun was setting on a horse farm on the course.

IMGP1729I loved this whirligig detail at the end of the chute at Westwind Aid Station.

IMGP1630Mount Ascutney in the distance.

IMGP1443This handler crew was having a great time with costumes at different stations. I loved this series of hats.

The rest of the Vermont 100 posts:

  1. Race report/results
  2. The horses in the race
  3. The people behind the racer
  4. The importance of a pacer

I took over 700 pictures during the race. Some were dark, some just turned out blurry. So I think my flickr set only has about 433.  I uploaded plenty of pictures of people I do not know. So if you find a picture of yourself and like it, feel free to download it in original size and keep it for yourself.

July 25, 2009

Vermont 100 – Importance of the Pacer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Miriam @ 12:00 pm

When Adam paced for Nate last year I didn’t fully understand the importance of pacers. I understood that they kept the runner company during the dark hours of the night but they are so much more than that. I saw some of the roles of the pacer while driving around, and even more when I did the last half mile of the race with Adam and Keith.

So here’s an explanation of the roles of the pacer as I see them:

  1. Companion: The night can be very long and dark when the runner is alone. Having a pacer gives the runner someone to talk to hang out with.
  2. Safety: A lot of the course goes on dirt roads, these roads are still used for cars. The runners are so tired at this point that the pacer helps make sure that the runner gets out of the road when cars are coming down the road. They also keep runners safe from other obstacles.
  3. Encouragement: The pacer is the runner’s own personal cheerleader. Keith used simple encouragements like “just keep your feet moving” and “doing great”. Small reminders that the keep the runner moving and keep their spirit up.
  4. Lookout: The pacer is useful in noticing obstacles in the trail. Rocks, mud patches and logs are all obstacles that could injure a heavily fatigued  runner. Pointing them out help the runner anticipate the problem.
  5. Trail Leader: The trail is marked with glow sticks and yellow plates at night. They are pretty noticeable but to tired eyes they may be hard to see. The pacer helps keep the runner on trail.

I present to you three of the pacers in the race.
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Larisa was pacing in the 100K event.  An avid hiker, who’s never really run 30 miles, she ran from dusk to dawn with her runner. She’s planning on running her first 50K soon.  I had a nice time hanging out with her.

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Keith is my husband’s friend from the ice climbing world. He’s ex-military and a professional photographer who runs triathlons when he’s not climbing.  He’s no stranger to ultramarathons and I think we’ll see him again at races, running. He also has the cutest child ever and if I believed in posting pictures of children that I’m not related to I would have a post full of just pictures of his kid pouting.

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Steve was John’s pacer. He participated as part of the crew for a while but most of the time we hung out taking pictures.  He’s run a few ultramarathons in the past. The funny thing is, I’ve met him before. He’s run with my husband before. But with the glasses on he does a complete Clark Kent versus Superman. I had no idea who he was.

IMGP1595Note: this is probably my favorite portrait from the whole weekend.

July 24, 2009

Vermont 100 – The People Behind the Racers

Filed under: Races — Tags: , , — Miriam @ 12:00 pm

As a handler for a 100 mile race we must drive 120 miles.
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As a pacer you must run/walk 30 miles overnight and be cheerful about it. We’ll talk more about pacers in a later post.

IMGP1405The handlers at least only have to be cheerful for the few minutes the runner comes through the aid station. The rest of the time we can be insane, cranky, bored and anything else we feel like being. We waste time getting lost, we doodle because we are bored, we take pictures of the horsies. Mostly we spend way too much time repeatedly going over what the runner has requested for their next stop off.
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The handlers or crew usually consists of family and friends willing to watch the sunrise if necessary to help the runner reach their goal. They forgoe sleep, food, cleanliness (we do use porta-potties) and their favorite hobbies for the love of their runner. And yet they seem to love it.

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There is no way to truly describe the transformation that occurs when the crew member spots their runner. They go from “wow this is boring” to “how quickly can I perform these actions”. No matter how carefully you plan your runner’s items, they will want something else. They will want a pair of socks they don’t own, or wonder why you didn’t bring them ice cream at 2 am. The best thing to do is to deal with these requests in a cheerful manner. A gentleman told me at one point that crew stands for Cranky Runner Excessive Wants.
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We are the calculators that tell the runners how they are doing pace wise. We are the check points that verify salt, food and liquids intake. We take off smelly socks and help dress blisters. We function as cheerleaders, encouraging runners to keep going when they think they should quit.
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Sometimes the runner really does need to quit, but it’s our job to keep them positive. We encourage them to take a rest if they need to. We give them time to think about it. But we don’t make the decision for them.

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One more reason why handlers are important, we are the keepers of the cameras and layers of clothes. We take those pictures at the end of a race. We encourage our runners to get into something dry and cosy right after the race. I noticed this last point especially when I waiting for Adam in the medical tent. A runner and his pacer showed up at the tent because they were freezing cold. Their handler had their layers and their handler was no where to be seen.

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A good crew can make a huge difference to the runner.

And then you have spectators like Drew. Drew goes driving around cheering for all the young guys he used to hike with who turned into ultrarunners.
IMGP1682(I’ve actually known Drew as long as I’ve known Adam, the three of us were part of the same Presidential Range Traverse almost 4 years ago.)

July 23, 2009

Vermont 100 – The Horses of the Race

Filed under: Horses, Races — Tags: , , , — Miriam @ 12:00 pm

The horses run their own event during the run: The Vermont 100 and Moonlight 50/75 endurace ride. I guess the original 100 mile runner started on horseback. For the second year in a row his horse had come up lame the day of the one day event. Rather than miss the race he decided to run it. The horse event had a 24 hour time limit, a requirement to earn the silver belt buckle. The runner Gordon Ainsleigh, ran the rugged Sierra Nevada course and earned that buckle. A tradition was born. There are now 25 ultramathons of 100 miles or more, but I think the Vermont 100 is the only one that continues to combine horses and runners.

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Most of the horses were Arabians or Arabian mixes. This lead to amazing horses with beautifully refined heads. I mean arabians are known for having large intelligent eyes and some of the most chisled heads in horsedom.

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And they are fast, and they have endurance. This is the first horse to make it through the Pretty House handler aid station. The winning horses finish in just over 12 hours. That includes several mandatory holds. Fast, with stamina, smart, loyal, as well as gorgeous I can see why Arabians were so cherished.

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As a kid I usually got stuck with the Arabians in riding class. I was a giant as a kid, I wanted to ride the biggest horse. Instead I got put on the beautiful but moody Arabian that needed a strong rider. I think they were usually just so smart that they were fed up of dealing with kids that didn’t know what they were doing.

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Looking back I wish I had taken advantage of riding a horse that needed a good rider. I just wanted to be on a 16 hander instead of the barely 14.2 arabian.

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I did however love a gray horse when I was a kid. I didn’t care that every bit of mud showed.

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So many of the horses were grays. I guess grays are common in long distance arabians or something but we did occasionally see stunning bays, chestnuts and blacks.

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Of course the riders look like they are having a blast too. Although all the jarring must become very tiring after a while. Did I mention that the riders can change out but the horse must remain the same.  This drew some comparisons in our conversations to the riders being more like the pacer, with the main athlete being the horse. But the riders are quite the athletes too.

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My husband tells me that the combined event is enjoyed by both the horsepeople and the runners. Well a lot of the horsepeople didn’t seem to be bothered by our constant photography of them (aka their horses, I doubt they realize how many of their heads I chopped off trying to get the perfect shot of an amazing arabian facial structure.)

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See you would think I could care less about the rider. But with a horse that pretty how could I notice there was someone on the back.

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I think all the spectators stood in awe every time a horse would come through.

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Some of the horses almost seem to find the event relaxing… or I just caught him as he was blinking. Someone asked a horse trainer if the horses enjoy doing this.  The trainer responded that if the horses didn’t enjoy it the event would kill them. They need to enjoy it to have the heart to keep going.

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Some of the riders were obviously out there for the ride and not the race, so they took their time to cool off their horses in a brook.

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As a spectator (who loves photography), I have to say that the horses definately add an enjoyable aspect to the race. As for the runners, I wonder if the horse errosion of the trail and occasional poop causes additional challenges. But Adam didn’t seem to mind.

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