Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Update: NEWSFLASH: Canada is the best.


We could barely keep calm through our blueberry pancake breakfast. Then it was off to the store to stock up on afternoon brew-ha-has and munchies to fuel stress eating.

Game time.

I am sure I don't need to tell you what happened, since everyone in this whole country was tuned in. Squamish was a ghost town. The streets were quiet in Vancouver, unless there was a screen close by.

Gerhard, John and I camped out on the couch at his place and hopped on the crazy ride with our compatriots.

That goal with 24 seconds to go left us gobsmacked, but we held onto our hope, shouting "I believe" at the TV and doing anxious laps between the kitchen and living room. We probably looked like a beer commercial, fist pumping, shouting and jumping out of our seats for both first period goals.

Then that blessed moment when Sidney Crosby made the dreams of a nation come true.

So today, we have the most gold medals ever won by a host nation.

We have the most gold medals ever won by any nation, ever, at any Olympics.

Canada's made history.

And today's game is the one we'll be asking "where were you when?" about for years to come.

Well, I was high-fiving in Squamish.

It's damn good to be Canadian.

Olympic Update: Home Away From Home!

Party at Ontario House!

Mid afternoon, I started making my way by car, by myself, driving to Vancouver. It was a nerve-wracking experience. Canada won two out of three golds that day just during the drive. My phone was blowing up with updates, the radio was screaming out our athletes' success and I was cheering at the top of my lungs while trying to negotiate the complicated lines of pylons and constantly changing speed limits.

Not to mention the Tsunami warning issued for coastal BC.

With Haiti ringing in these games -- held during the warmest February on record -- and Chile there to send them off, I hope people are taking notice of the changes climate change is bringing us. Especially while the whole world's been watching. I hear a lot about that "frog in the frying pan" but I'm still hoping we can hustle out in time.

Anyway, once I found a parking spot just off the sky train, I made my way downtown and into the Concord City Place Community Celebration zone. Good times. Everyone was in good spirits, despite the grey drizzly Vancouver day.

Ontario's Pavilion had the usual mile-long line up outside for the 4D adventure ride ... I have to say I think it was worth waiting for -- got in the back door again for the prime time seats. As David Morley said, I really think within ten years all of our living rooms will have a set up like that.

Some amazing meetings tonight, for sure. I'm glad that I was able to be there or else I wouldn't have met Jessica Dubé and her skating partner Bryce Davison. They're off to Torino in three weeks to compete in the World Championships, so we wished them big time luck.

Next, I found myself in a sandwich with a cycling legend (Curt Harnett! Competed in so many games, and has a fist full of medals to show for it) and a rowing legend (Adam Kreek! Part of the men's 8+ in Beijing who won gold) -- the two sports most dear to my heart.

David Calder came too, so it ended up being a rowing kinda night. Adam was telling me about his next project, which I encourage you to support. He and three others from Seattle are currently planning a cross-Atlantic row to break the world record (35 days!) and support Right to Play which is a really amazing organization using sport to affect social change. He'll be taking the same route as Columbus, and it took Columbus more than 70 days, so cheer these guys on!

I also met Andrew Byrnes who had his Beijing gold on hand, so on this golden day, I got to touch a little bit too. Then we took our turns using our brains to light up the CN Tower, and change the colours of the lights at Niagara Falls. Seriously.

Beijing 2008: Gold, M8+ Andrew Byrnes

Andrew, Premier, Adam and Adam's amazing birkenstock steeze

The Mental Game

I light up the CN Tower, just thinking about it

I tried a couple beers, one I hadn't heard of. I asked the bartender and he suggested I ask the brewers myself -- then called them over. So awesome to be at receptions like that. So I had my first Beau's All Natural with its makers, and it sure did pass my taste test. I also made friends with the Timothy's Coffee guys, who were just all around awesome, and so was their coffee.

And of course, it was great to see the colleagues I haven't seen in weeks.

The Premier delivered a great speech, and so did Mike Chambers, the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. Our government's support of sports, and our Ontario athletes' performance throughout these games and ones past has been amazing -- as you can see from the medal count! The Premier's family was there too, and after hanging out with us for a little while, they were all off the Bronze medal hockey game.

Dubé/Davison give Morley/Eigan their tickets to the Bronze medal game ... hugs ensue.

After the meat of the reception was over (and speaking of meat, wow, they had some tasty Ontario foods! mini burgers! Smoked-duck wrapped young pea shoots! goats' cheese balls!), the entertainment took over.

Ill Scarlett from Mississauga was there, and when they took a break in their acoustic set we were treated to this on the big screens:

Then my colleague Lisa comes up to us and says "do you know who that is?" I said "no, but I LOVE her!" and it turns out yet another cabinet minister has a talented daughter. My first favourite was Martina Sorbara (now Dragonette), and after checking out some of Julia Bentley's other stuff, I have no doubt she's on the rise. Awesome to meet her (and her sister, who's been known to don a moose costume and cut a rug at live shows). I think "Canadian Please" has been in my head ever since.

Me and Julia Bentley, youtube sensation!

The funnest part of the night though was watching this guy lose his shit when the Premier gave him tickets to today's Gold Medal Game between Canada and the US.

With a big smile on my face, I headed back to the sky train, hoping hard that I hadn't got G's car towed. All was well, and it was back into the night up to Squamish to obnoxiously show Gerhard and the Scarths the pics I snapped, the pins I collected and the stories I've just shared with you now.

All the best!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympic Update: Last Day in Blue!

snowy final shift

Today was my last day as a volunteer at the Whistler Sliding Centre! Went out with the four-man bobsled. We also had rain all day so I can't say I'm sad to be done. As a parting gift, they gave us a little Swatch watch and a medallion thingy that I'll probably bury in a box somewhere and then find ten years from now. I'll think back to the amazing exeperience this has all been.

The watch though I'll probably auction to raise money for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Now accepting interested offers!

I suppose now would be a good time to reflect on all the people I met, the spectators I helped, the racing I cheered, the medals Canada brought home (and hopefully will bring home tomorrow) ... but really I'm pretty exhausted so I think I'll keep this one short.

But I would be remiss if I didn't mention we're now number 1 for golds!!!!

While my volunteering is all but over, I'm still in the west for another couple days. Tomorrow the Premier is speaking to athletes at a reception in Vancouver, so I'll try to make it to that and hear what he has to say. Still haven't had a chance to meet up with some western friends so I'll also do some rounds I hope. Would be amazing to get out riding again (snow OR dirt), but I won't hold my breath.

Then Monday, I'll be fighting my way through YVR with the 39,000 other people (and 77,000 bags) expected to be leaving -- a record apparently. Fingers crossed, and thank god I'm not flying standby!

Team Canada closes their second run, putting them in 2nd going into the finals!

After the Americans went over (a TON of crashes today) their sled is trucked back to the operations buildings


Rocking out with Wintersleep in the Village Square: my swan song.

I meet some mounties on my way to the bus. Height requirement to get in you know.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Don't read this.

You don't want to hear about the absolutely amazing time Gerhard and I had at Whistler today.

You don't want to hear about how the powder was still great, even a few days after the last snowfall. Especially off the Peak chair, where the sun was shining in VD Trees and the snow was poofing around my knees.

You don't want to know it's because there is literally NO ONE on the runs at Whistler (later we checked Blackcomb and the same is true there as well). Runs that are usually tracked out within a few hours were still fresh at the end of the afternoon.

You definitely don't want to hear about the whoop-worthy good time we had shredding in the park. My box-riding skills continue to improve (ha!) And I even braved a starfish on one of the jumps.

You probably aren't interested in hearing about riding through "Burn Trees" on Blackcomb — spikey black skeletons left over from the fires this summer. In the deep pow, in the quiet off-piste, with a light fog rolling in, it was a little eerie. Eerily epic.

For lunch we took in the view at the roundhouse, and shared a pitcher or two with some Fortins. It's funny going to Whistler with G. To me, it's about most the foreign place on earth. To G, it's like Cheers: everybody knows his name. So we met a bunch of snowboarding celebrities, and some not so celebrated; at every turn there was someone new to shake hands with.

With the roads all closed for the Olympics, we are now taking good old number 98 back to Squamish in our gear.

If you are a skier/rider, you know the best feeling of the day is when you finally get your feet out of your boots. Other than this crucial point, the bus is okay. Meanwhile, my toes are on fire.

In an hour or so, I'll finally have my gear off, and be just about ready for bed. Back to work tomorrow!

PS: Congrats to Canada’s women’s hockey team for their gold medal today!!

Inukshuk at the top of Whistler

Afraid of heights on the Peak-to-Peak

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympic Update: Women's Wednesday!

What an amazing day for Canadian women!

Gold - Bobsleigh!
Silver - Bobsleigh!
Silver - Relay Speed Skating!
Bronze - 5000m Speed Skating!

AND, we whipped the Russians at the hockey rink.

Thanks to Dawn and John for not only being the only ones we know in Squamish with cable, but more importantly for having us over for an amazing dinner. Good company, and good food. Good night!

Olympic Update: Vancouver Day!

Yesterday, G and I had a reception to attend in Vancouver with David Suzuki and the Play it Cool Athletes, so we decided to make a day of it and headed down to see what was happening in the Host City.

The reception was one of the better ones I've ever been to (and I've been to a few). It was small, which meant we got to speak with pretty much everyone in the room, including David Suzuki and athletes such as Adam Van Koeverden (Kayak medal in Beijing), Warren Tanner (racing moguls in Vancouver) and Justin Lamoureux (best Canadian half-pipe finish ever!). The table was set with all kinds of gluten free treats, cheeses, veggies and fruits and trimmed with real plates and cloth napkins so we didn't make any waste. All the more delicious!

Justin and I enjoying the brownies on offer

Play it Cool Athletes: Warren Tanner (Freestyle Moguls), Adam Van Koeverden (Kayak), David Suzuki, Justin Lamoureux (Snowboard Half-Pipe), Zac Plavsic (Sailing), Nikola Girke (Windsurfing), Jake Cohn (Extreme Skier)

We were there because Gerhard has organized a partnership with Play it Cool, pairing with them to produce carbon-neutral trips for some of Snowboard Canada Magazine's feature articles. It's a really great way to spread the message about climate change. A fact echoed by David Suzuki in his remarks. He basically said that no matter how many slides and charts that are out there, our athletes remain the most powerful tool for spreading the message. Their stories about receding ice floes, cancelled races, and shortened seasons mean a lot more than "the science". It reaches more people, so more people might try to make the changes we need.

We also talked about the Games and their impact. The David Suzuki Foundation has awarded the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games a bronze medal for their green initiatives. From my own experience, I can tell you the "back-of-house" work areas include a zero-waste campaign. All of our plates, and cutlery are compostable. They gave us reusable travel mugs to fill with coffee/hot chocolate. However, they also give us a bottle of water every day, so I don't know. The bottles claim to be made from "plant" materials and they are all being recycled to make hats, scarves and mitts. So maybe it equals out. Anyway, they estimate that because of a letter signed by over 70 athletes and sent to John Furlong, VANOC took notice and offset over 118,000 tons of CO2. That's something for sure.

So, after an inpsiring afternoon of Suzuki and athletes, we headed down to the Ontario House Pavilion I've heard so much about at the Concord City Place. Our neighbours include Saskatchewan House, Maison du Quebec, and Hockey Canada House. Pretty sweet spot! Once inside, I got us a sneak peek at the Ontario 4D ride which takes you through some really amazing Ontario vistas across the province, including wind farms, solar farms, Niagara Falls, Thousand Islands and on and on. You get splashed by a canoeist, and ride down a roller coaster and a tobaggan hill. It was pretty awesome. The future of movies?

After that we met up with Ross, and colleauge Michele for the hockey game. So we drank Mill Street Organic, contemplated more brownies (from Dufflets) and snacked on the "Trillium Trio" -- a meat and bread platter for $5 dollars featuring some smoked duck. yum!

The energy at Ontario House was amazing for the game, so I'm glad we went there. Canada mopped the floor with Germany, I think the score was 7-2. Of course, most of Canada's goals happened while I was either taking a phone call, or in the ladies' room. Typical "Lake Effect" in effect. On one of the screens, I noticed Canada's ladies bobsleigh duo performing some amazing feats. They head into the finals tonight in first place, so I'll be biting my nails for them! And of course huge congrats to our ski cross and ice dance gold medalists!!!

After hockey, we decided to cruise around Vancouver and do the tourist thing. They've got it going on there, that's for sure. There were people everywhere and yet everyone said it was a "slow night". We walked through some cool art displays, watched some busking while people ziplined over our heads through Robson Square. Down below, you could rent some skates and do some laps. It was very cool.

No trip to Vancouver during the Olympics would be complete without a walk down to the Olympic Flame, so we checked out the cauldron, and the rings across the strait and then called it a day. I could barely stay awake on the drive, but we got here so Gerhard must have done a great job getting us home on his own. This morning when we got in the car to get pancake supplies, the air conditioner was on full blast, hmmmm.

Anyway, today we're just taking it easy. Finally got a nice sleep in, made afore-mentioned pancakes (with applesauce, flax seed, hemp seeds and bananas topped with pure Canadian Maple Syrup ... soooo good) and watched Clara Hughes make Canadian history in an edge-of-your-seat speed skating race. Now that blogging is done, perhaps I have time for a run before tuning in for bobsleigh.

Whistler tomorrow? Skiing at last? Powder in our future? Fingers crossed!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy February 22nd: Hike-the-Chief Day

I don't remember the last time a day-off felt so good. I've been working so long at the Sliding Centre, whenever it gets quiet, all I hear are radio call signs and when I try to sleep, I have night terrors about being locked behind the gates after hours.

Seriously, a couple times now, I "wake up", and think I'm stuck between the track and the cement barrier in the middle of the night. It takes me a good two or three minutes to convince myself I've actually made it home.

But I digress. Anyway, been training for more than a week now for an uphill hike and today was the day. I finally got a chance to hike The Chief!

I can't believe it was February 22 though, walking around up there with nothing but tshirts, the sun shining down in a clear blue sky and the forest still green. Even saw an ambitious mosquito out and about.

Other cool sightings:
  • A dog who could climb vertical rock faces as long as there was a stick to make it worth it.
  • Another dog small enough to be a one-bite cougar snack
  • Olympic delegation from China (Or maybe Tai Pei) admiring Shannon Falls
  • Climber who'd just completed the face. Carrying all his gear on his back. He told us he placed a 6x8 flag on the face, so we had to go find it. Easier said than ton ... on the Chief, 6x8 is TINY.

Priscilla, Gerhard and I started out with Axl and Mika but Priscilla and the doggies had to cut out early, so it was just G and I left to dangle our feet over the side of the 700m practically vertical drop.

Gerhard and I parked on the southbound side of the highway and took the new pedestrian bridge installed as part of the Olympic Sea-to-Sky improvements last spring. The three [five] of us made it up at a leisurely pace, with amazing conversation that was over too soon, once we got to the first ladder. So sad to see you go, Priscilla!

It was no "walk in the park", just as the warnings at the bottom advertised. It was great though to get to the top and not have the view ruined with "warning: cliff" signs or railings to hold you back. If you were stupid enough to walk up to the edge, that was your business. Of course, I happen to be just that dumb.

What a rush. Your knees get a little wibbly wobbly and the feeling is only intensified if you look up, let alone looking down into the valley below. Howe Sound in the distance makes you reach for your water bottle.

It was a busy thoroughfare up there today -- lots of people which brings me to another cool thing. We saw everyone from the elderly, single young people out for a workout, families with dogs and little ones, and friends taking candid shots of each other leaning over waterfalls, or sunning themselves at the peak.

I'm pretty much hooked on hiking and shockingly, I'd have to say that this is one of only a handful of "Walks" that would be classified as an actual "hike" I've completed in my whole life. I think this is the one that's got me hooked though. Lot's of scrambling over rocks and roots, sunny vistas, loose rocks, some ladders and chains to help over the steeper spots and of course great hiking company.

Now we've just got to figure out what to do for dinner and then maybe we'll check out the Squamish movie theatre.

Thanks for following!

Recorded from the top

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympic Update: Pin Trading!

My walk to work today

It's so sunny we had to change the time of the races today to 4pm from 1pm. Of course, not everyone got the memo so we had a long "ingress" today as people arrived for the races. Egress ended up being a lengthy affair too because everyone was trying to get a spot in the village for the ill-fated hockey game. Of which I will not say anything more about.

Another sunny day at WSC!

So while killing time, I got up to trading some pins with the kids. I don't know why but wherever I go, there's always a little girl who wants to trade pins with me. So here are some thoughts on pin trading.

At first, I was a bit stuck on some of the ones I picked out from the Olympic store. I soon grew out of that and realized it wasn't really what was on the pin that matters, but how it makes you feel to give it away to someone who thinks it's amazing. The more you like a pin, the cooler it feels to pass it on. So each one becomes not some metal representation of those goofy mascots, or someone's home town, but a tangible link to the memory of meeting someone new, sharing a story and a laugh and doing something nice for that person. It's all about the spirit of friendship that makes the Olympics so awesome.

Pin Traders!

That said, I recieved a pair of orange clogs today from the Dutch bobsledder's girlfriend that I think is pretty cool. I'll probably hold on to that one.

I was in the finish area again today, back to the same place I had my first shift: the big Thunderbird turn. No crashes today thank goodness, except for the forerunner, poor guy.

Fore runners are local athletes who go out and warm up the track for the Olympians. They have an important job: rip it up and then report back to athletes and coaches about any issues they'll need to know about. Before heat 1, we had 6 forerunner runs, and 2 before heat 2 (at least I think I counted 2).

Forerunner on Track

In briefing this morning we heard that since Rush/Brown had crashed yesterday they wouldn't be racing today in order to save themselves for the four-man event (since they were nearly guaranteed not to medal). But in the end both Canadian sleds raced. Lueders/Lumsden ended up 6th, but for a couple runs they were in 1st so we had a very exciting few moments. It's amazing to feel that energy boiling. Even if it was snuffed out. In the end it was the Germans dominating the podium. I think precision driving is kind of their thing.

Rush/Brown, run-out

Lueders/Lumsden, Thunderbird

Finally finished work at a reasonable time, I hightailed it out of there. Bus back to Squamish to a sushi dinner waiting for me. Going to watch a movie with G (imagine that! Actually spending time with him!) and then get some rest for our big Chief mission in the morning.

No Olympic updates for FOUR DAYS. At least not from the Sliding Centre. I'm excited for Tuesday too because we're heading into Vancouver for a reception and to visit the Ontario Pavillion.

More COWBELL! The Swiss and their "Samsonite sized Cowbells"

Live drumming entertainment

Quatchi helping me blog. Got him a couple shifts ago for coming to work five times.

Olympic Update: Bobsleighs!

Big day at the sliding centre, albeit a little disappointing for our Canadian teams. But with the sun out again, we managed to have a good time anyway. I was back at the the finish area which was amazing because I'd never seen a bobsled rip the course yet. A totally different story from the luge/skeleton sleds. As our supervisor put it, so far it's been like watching a bicycle race, but with bobsleighs you get the Harley Davidsons.

Today was two man, so with sliders included, they've got just under 400kg of mass coming down the track at speeds exceeding 150km/h. Compared to the luge which I think has a total weight allowance (including slider) of 150kg.

We've got two teams in two-man bobsleigh: Rush and Brown, and Lueders and Lumsden. Rush and Brown headed into the second heat in first, but became one of many sleds to flip tonight. I'm told they inched across the line, so they're still in contention, but it's a devastating blow to their overall time, for sure. The winner is decided by adding up the four times acquired over two days.

Rush and Brown slide into the top spot, heat 1

We had the most people in the sliding centre today of any other day so far: more than 7,000. And look who I found wandering in the crowds! Eleanor Scarth who I met when she was kind enough to host a pile of us at her cottage this past summer in Muskoka. As you can see, she's a fellow smurf, and one of the first smiles I see each morning at the sliding centre when she checks us all into work. Obviously she's playing hooky in this photo, but I won't tell.

Later that day, I met some other VIPs: Quatchi and Miga.
"Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from the mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends."

"Miga is a young sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod, beyond Vancouver Island, near Tofino, British Columbia. Sea bears are part killer whale and part bear. (Miga is part Kermode bear, a rare white bear that only lives in British Columbia.)"

I think the Vancouver Mascots are pretty cute, but maybe a little weird. And there's so many to keep track of! I traded a nice little girl my Mukmuk pin today ... bet you didn't even know there was a Mukmuk!

Since yesterday was such a long day (but awesome) I didn't have the energy to take part in the village celebrations for Jon Montgomery. But I heard this morning he ordered a pitcher at Crystal, walked with it to the Village Square about 100m away for his interview with the press, and auctioned what was left for $1000. Turns out that's his day job, for real: he auctions cars. I loved his podium style though. I think a gold medal deserves a good howl.

Speaking of medals (and pins too I guess), I had a lady from Teck on my team today and she gave me my new favourite pin. I should have taken a picture to show you, loyal reader, but it's too late now. Anyway, Teck is the company that made all the medals for the athletes. The designer made one big design and then each medal is cut from it, so everyone is different and in theory, would go back into one big picture again. Everyone who wins a medal also gets a silk scarf showing the entire design so the joke has been to try and figure out which part of the design your medal came from. She said VANOC brought in a few medals for the workers to see (but not touch). That would have been pretty cool. Btw, what's with Lago having to go home??

The only other funny thing that happened at work today was when Allison, fellow-team leader, denied access to the start athlete area to the Prince of Monaco. Whoops. But pretty cool that the Prince of Monaco paid us a visit today nonetheless. He was a slider himself I think I heard, and Monaco has got a sled in the race.

After work, especially since we only had to work nine hours today -- short! -- a few of us decided to hit up a place for a drink. Easier said than done in Whistler these days, but we found a table at the Elephant Castle. Even got a free margarita! And that's how you know it's been a good day ... when it ends with free drinks!

Village hijinks