Liebster Award!

The Liebster Award is a way for bloggers to throw a little recognition around, especially to blogs with smaller followings; a way to shed a little light into the dustier corners of the blog-o-sphere, so to speak.  I used to see posts where people got nominated and think “Why not me?”… and this weekend, Miranda of Cupcake Triathlete made my wish come true!

My mission, and I did choose to accept it is to answer Miranda’s 10 Questions, and nominate 10 other Bloggers to answer 10 of my own questions… she did mention that there are no “Liebster police” if you don’t get it all done, but here goes…

Miranda’s Liebster Questions:

1.  What’s your favourite workout and why?
This one’s pretty easy.  Burbathlon; I get to work on my running, which was pretty much my gateway into endurance and fitness overall, have fun, be outside and know I’m getting some strength and agility benefits too.

2.  What motivates you?
Shark Boy is very big on asking “Why?” for everything, and my favourite is when I can answer: “For Fun.”  I have noticed that exercise helps me manage stress, and I certainly need a counter-balance for when I indulge diet-wise, but I got hooked on triathlon because it was fun.  If I want to do triathlon races (which are the most fun, because it takes out the worst logistics of trying to fit in 3 sports in one shot), I have to train.

3.  Looking back over your last year of training, what would you change and why?
There’s so much I wish that could have been better, but if I don’t want to get depressed, I have to stick to what I can control… going forward, I want to supplement my nutrition for a better immune system.  If I could get back some of those sick days, that would have been something.

4.  Favourite thing to do as a training reward
A big meal, to be honest, though Epsom Salt baths are the better option.

5.  How do you get yourself going again after a training “funk”?
My blog helps with that, since I need material to write about.  A new frontier activity can be good (like mountain biking most recently).

6.  Hobbies outside of the athletic?
Uhh… blogging? I try to read a fair amount (and that includes, but is not limited to, comic books), though it’s more like a chapter a night before sleeping.  I could have a whole bunch more if you give me a big bag of money…

7.  Biggest challenge in training?
Anything that takes me too far from the family and/or for too long a period of time doesn’t work and doesn’t happen.  Long bike rides are the preeminent example.

8.  Moment you are most proud of (could be athletic or not).
I don’t know about a “Moment”.  I’m very proud to be a father, so the birth of each of my sons is right up there, so is getting married.  Finishing a marathon was big (back in 2006).  I turned 40 Last Year, and between that and a Bad Monday that made me check my accomplishments and how I stand up to adversity and sum it all up.  I guess that’s how I express my pride… more holistically, I guess.

9.  Embarrassing workout story (be brave…..)
Plyometrics are good for runners/triathletes.  Box jumps look like fun.  Using a step (with 4-5 risers) seemed like a good way to do them at the gym.  I set them up near a window, and after a few reps, toppled the step and splattered myself into the blinds of a window.  They are still bent to this day.

10.  What’s your “Mt. Everest” goal?  What’s keeping you from going after it?
Probably an Iron Man.  See number 7 for the reason why I haven’t gone after it.  I think the older (and hopefully somewhat more independent/better behaved) my kids get and with a more stable sleeping schedule it’ll happen.  I’d make it my own 42nd Birthday Present, but I believe it taking things one step at a time, so a half-Iron distance would have to come first.

My Liebster Nominees:

I joked with Miranda that writing this post would be a lot of work, but nothing would be as tough as coming up with 10 nominees (who hadn’t already been nominated by her); I have a lot of favourites, but I don’t know how many are all that ‘small’ anymore.  Luckily, I’ve been collecting a lot of new blogs lately, especially triathlon ones (though not limited to that), so the list filled out quicker than I thought it would.  

  1. Dan T Head – I’m a sucker for triathletes with families and this guy writes (and writes about) sci-fi, comics and other nerditry that makes me wonder if we’re related.
  2. Lauren Lives Healthy – A fairly new (yet shockingly competent) blogger who’s on her first tri journey.
  3. ElleSeeFit – A Toronto area blogger I had the pleasure of meeting once.  She makes Wellness a fun adventure.
  4. You Signed Up For What – Even if she wasn’t a triathlon blogger (and mom), she would have had me at the Name of her Blog!
  5. The Business of Losing Weight – Hank has lost over 100 lbs and is rocking his local Clydesdale division in tri, in addition to being a contributor to the Huffington Post.  He writes race recaps that will make you want to stand up and cheer.
  6. Cody Beals – I’ve only dipped my toe into the waters of his blog, but it looks like it’s more comprehensive and informative than most pro-triathlete blogs.  How can you go wrong with a hashtag like #AskTriNerd?
  7. Barefoot Angie Bee – Runner, Yogi, Sci-Fi Nerd, Special Needs Mom.  If you haven’t figured it out, the key to my blogger heart is multi-disciplinarian-ism (and nerdiness helps too).
  8. Family Sport Life – I’m not sure if this blog is small enough to be nominated, it looks so professional and sleek.  Still, this family is made of pure awesomeness.  Besides triathlon, there are some good life hacks for productivity and such.
  9. Wildly Fit – A tag team.  Katie and Morgan tackle health and fitness from many angles, but what I like best is how they prioritize nature and the outdoors.
  10. Mom Swim Bike Run – She’s a mom, but she Swims, Bikes and Runs! I would watch that movie.

My Liebster Questions For My Nominees (And You!)

  1. There are two kinds of people in the world: _______ and ________.  Fill in the blanks.
  2. If you could add an event onto a race (i.e. something besides swim, bike run for triathlon, something besides running for running) to make it More Multi-sport, what would that be?
  3. What’s your best quality/strong suit when it comes to getting the most out of your workouts? i.e. What’s your super-power?
  4. Why do you blog?
  5. What invention are you waiting for to make your life complete (or at least easier)?
  6. What’s your number 1 workout/running song? If not music, what do you use to pump yourself up?
  7. Besides health and fitness, what has your sport brought to your life?
  8. If you could debunk one (fitness) myth to the whole world, what would that be?
  9. For your favourite blogs/bloggers, do you have a “type”?

My First* Time Mountain Biking

That “First” has an asterisk beside it, because I can think of another occasion that was my “first time” mountain biking.  I had been on a bike tour of the “Romantic Road” in Germany and on our final day, we climbed up the Alps on the German side and rode down on the Austrian side.  My bike did not have suspension but would still have been considered a mountain bike by some reckoning.  The year was 1994 – I was 21 years old.

I don’t think there’s been much since then, really.  Getting a mountain bike has been an oft-procrastinated goal for me, since I don’t know a lot about them and wouldn’t be sure what would be practical for me.  The general idea would be to get into training for an off-road triathlon (like The Muskoka Grind, which sadly won’t be taking place this year).  Based on my informal research a hard-tail (no rear suspension) would be best for that since the trails aren’t too technical/challenging (compared to hard-core MTB) and it saves some weight.  A bike swap seemed like a good bet to get a bike on the cheap, and I lucked out in having a little bit of free time for the Hardwood Hills Bike Swap.  I picked up this little number.  It’s a Trek bike with Bontrager components… like my current road/tri bike, so I guess, I’m either loyal or superstitious.

I don’t want to keep it at home – the garage isn’t secure enough and I don’t want to clutter the basement any further, so the long-term plan would be to keep it at the cottage and use it on weekends.  I’ve seen a few triathlon training plans that will put mountain biking as a weekend cross-training opportunity.  I think it could work for my schedule as a substitute for long rides – I’m not training for any long distance (half-iron or iron) events and short and intense works better for my family schedule, even at the cottage.  As of Easter, though, the cottage still has snow, but it was beautiful in Toronto on Easter Sunday, so when the kids went down for their nap, I decided to sample the Etobicoke Creek Trail (my main running route) from a different perspective…
View from on top of the ridge

From my sitting position on the mountain bike (which I will call by its model name, Wahoo, until I think of a better name), the experience was more comparable to my hybrid/commuter bike, so I was a little surprised to find the handling so responsive (by comparison).  The Wahoo has disc brakes, which I expected to be super sensitive; this wasn’t the case, and I wonder if they don’t need adjusting.  Still, I figured they were functional enough for what I would be trying in my novice’s trepidation.

The first part of the trail is some light gravel which I manoeuvred around easily.  When I had to climb a little into the forest, I had to deal with some roots and rocks, which made me giggle and whoop as I fiddled around them.  Local construction on Eglinton has blocked off access and exits to the trail in a way I find really annoying – right here I was going to go up to the top of the ridge where I know some mountain bikers have put some ramps and bumps.  Instead I carried on North toward the airport.

Shortly before I reached the highway, I came across a hill I’m well acquainted with from running.  This hill had a lesson to teach me – climbing hills on a bike is not just fitness/performance.  This is where bike handling technique comes in.  I’ve climbed much, much tougher hills on my road/tri bike, but I get into the right gear at the right time, I build up some speed before-hand, and I don’t get off my seat until absolutely necessary.  On my new Wahoo… I did none of these things and had to walk it to the top, and I wish I could say that was the only time on the ride that happened.
View from the top

It was on the way back that I found a way to get up on top of the ridge, and while I didn’t try any of the bumps or jumps, I did find more mud than I would have expected on high ground after 2 days of great sunshine… so I got dirty, in true MTB tradition.

I came home with a big smile on my face… let’s correct that and say a Big Kid Smile on my face, since I felt reconnected to that primal sense of fun a kid has when tearing along in abandon on a bike.  I don’t know if an off-road triathlon can be fit into my schedule this year, but I really want to make mountain biking (if only, moderate risk mountain biking) part of my training regimen.

Are you a mountain biker (of any stripe)? What should I call the bike?

Toronto Yonge Street 10K Race Recap

With the summer being dominated by my triathlon season, in the past it’s been nice for us as a couple for me to support my wife in running races in the spring.  Two years ago, she ran the Yonge St 10K and the Sporting Life 10K which used to be the same event.  After mixing the two up last year, she found she preferred the Yonge St 10K and wanted to do it again this year.

April 2012 – Human Totem Pole waiting for Mama… the Lightning Kid is around 6 months old in this pic

When she found out that there was a stroller division this year, she asked me if we should do it as a family.  While Shark Boy hasn’t been too keen on sitting in the Chariot during runs anymore, we thought we could make it work, and got excited at the prospect of running a 10K as a family.  I started doing more runs on my lunch hour (perfect timing since the run club just started at work) and we got one ‘dry run’ as a family 2 weeks before race day – 8 km, with the Chariot and everything.  What we learned is that managing the boys would be as big a challenge as pushing the stroller, or dragging our butts across the finish line.

I also put out a few feelers prior to race day to see who was doing the Yonge Street 10k.  There were people I met through my outing with Tribe Fitness, as well as some of my favourite local fitness bloggers (who I’d met last year at the May Tweet-Up) like The Athletarian, Eat Spin Run Repeat, Work It Wear It Eat It, Robyn Baldwin, ElleSeeFit and Darwinian Fail… so many awesome people in one place.  Krysten (a.k.a Darwinian Fail) let me know that she was meeting people at a Starbucks at 8:30.

The problem?  Our corral (the stroller division) wouldn’t be starting till 9:20 and I knew trying to keep the boys still in a crowded area for a long time was a recipe for disaster.  We ended up at the starting area sometime after 9:00 and I’m sure everyone who wasn’t right at the back was in their corral chomping at the bit.  So…  a missed social opportunity, but at least there was no Amber Alert situation right?

Before the Start

My wife preferred the Yonge Street 10k to the Sporting Life 10k due to better organization, and boy does it show.  The stroller division/purple corral started at 9:20 on the dot.  And I mean, on the dot – (a nerd alert shouldn’t be necessary here,  but maybe it’s your first time on this blog, so… NERD ALERT!) My watch syncs nightly to an atomic clock with the exact official time, and it had just ticked over to 9:20:00 when they said go.  That’s how on the dot, I mean.

We really enjoyed the run.  We got a lot of positive attention for having two handsome little boys along for the ride and people got a real kick out of Shark Boy’s singing as we rolled along.  We also got a few laughs for having to do parenting/management mid run e.g. “No Fighting you two!”  The smart thing we had done was pack a ton of snacks, because it’s hard to whine or complain with a mouthful of goldfish crackers.

I skipped the port-a-potties at 4 km, but by 5 km, I was regretting that decision a little.  I told my wife I was going to use them at the 7 km water station and when it got within sight, I let her push the stroller and ran ahead so she wouldn’t have to wait as long.  Here’s where things went off the rails – I thought she’d wait by the port-a-potties or maybe the water station, she thought she’d give me a chance to run at my normal pace by going ahead and letting me catch up.

When I got out, I couldn’t see them anywhere; I back tracked till I could see Dundas St, where I’d left them – no sign of them.  I ran back (or more accurately, forward) to the water/aid station and couldn’t see them there either.  I hesitated, then ran forwards for a while, at a near sprint.  When the route turned West on Richmond, I described them to a volunteer who said they’d seen them, so I kept sprinting.  I sprinted for nearly a kilometre and I still hadn’t seen them anywhere.  My cell phone was in the back of the stroller, but a medical volunteer (from the Ski Patrol) offered me his.  They’d gotten just past the 9 km mark, but we still had a chance to finish the race together!  I’d been running around with the ‘Baby Stroller’ bib on my back, but no baby stroller, so I was relieved to ‘take the wheel’ again, so to speak.

We finished the race in a pitiful 1:31:22, and the MapMyFitness tracker shows the 10k route (with a bunch of waiting around near the end):

Yet with all the back tracking I did, as far as I can tell, I did about 14km.

We were still all smiles to be together as a family, and Shark Boy got his wish to run across the finish line (in fact he did the last 500 m or so); holding his mother’s hand.


We chowed down on all kinds of snacks and drink samples, and I think one of the highlights was meeting a group (including Mark Sawh and Steve Layton) who decided to run the race as superheroes while raising money for the Hospital For Sick Children.  Shark Boy was thrilled to meet his heroes, and the heroes seemed just as thrilled!

They were taking down the festivities as we left to catch the very last shuttle back to the starting area.  Once we were back on Yonge, we opened patio season (sort of – we were near an open window at least) with a pub lunch.  Fulfilling our promise of ice cream was surprisingly trickier, but that was also a treat.

When I got home, I found my toes felt bruised.  It took me a while to figure out, but with the race’s net downhill, I had spent a good deal of the course putting on the brakes trying to keep the stroller from running away on us, thus jamming my toes into the front of the shoe repeatedly!

All in all, a great day, and the Canada Running Series should be congratulated for running a great event.  It left us thirsty for more family 10k runs!

Our Family Trip To Grand Palladium Mayan Riviera

We’re big on travel in our family, and we want to give our kids great, diverse experiences, even from a young age, even though travelling with young ones can be very stressful.  So far, we’ve been going South in even-numbered years (it was Turks & Caicos for 2012) and ski vacations in odd years (Mt. Ste. Anne for 2011 and 2013).  I’m glad this year wasn’t a ski year, because after the Polar Vortex(es) of this winter, I couldn’t take more cold and really needed some sun and warmth.  We all did.

The Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos really spoiled us in terms of what was possible for an all inclusive with child care, but it was too expensive to repeat this year.  My wife did some great research and we booked a Sunwing holiday through Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel.  We were going to the Grand Palladium in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico.  I’d been looking forward to it for a while but as the days before the trip trickled down to single digits, I got worried.  I’d had bad experiences with charter airlines in the past, getting tripped up on baggage weight restrictions and being crammed (me=5’11.5”) into small seats.  I’ve got to say, though, combined with our using their online check-in, Sunwing made it really fast and efficient, which is very important, because I find it hardest to manage the kids when standing in line.  Having got through baggage drop-off and security quickly, we had time to kill before boarding but I find the gate area a lot better space for managing kids, the Lightning Kid’s disagreement with an escalator about direction of travel notwithstanding.

The flight went well too; the kids are too energetic to be easy on the plane, but they’re experienced enough flyers that they weather most of the challenges well.  We were warned of keeping track of our immigration papers on the flight, and briefed about the customs procedure (where you push a button to determine whether you’re going to have your luggage searched) by the flight crew.  Exiting the terminal, we bought snacks for the long bus ride to the resort – 15USD for a beer, a water and a can of Pringles.  Ouch.  The kids slept a little on the bus ride, which made things a little easier.

Grand Palladium in the Mayan Riviera is a resort with 4 different lobbies: Riviera, White Sands, Kantenah and Colonial.  We were booked in the latter, which I liked, because as far as I could tell from the map, it was closest to one of the biggest pools, the kids water park, the beach, and definitely closest to the “Mini-Club” (child care).  The Colonial lobby is next to a Flamingo lagoon, which made a strong first impression for our arrival.

 Our room was ready with a crib, and the couch had been pulled out and made with sheets, so both kids would have a place to sleep.  We’ve struggled with this in other hotels – we’ll request a crib, be assured that one will be there, and come up empty when we check in.

Once we were ready to explore, we found we had a neighbour: a rather large iguana; I asked Shark Boy to give him a name and he picked “Max”.  At first we were astounded not only by how tame he seemed, but how nobody else seemed to notice him (or us staring at him).  It turns out, these things are everywhere on the resort, and if you’re grossed out by lizards, I have to tell you that there was a startling absence of bugs, and maybe that’s a coincidence, and maybe it isn’t.  The entire resort is peppered with mangroves, which not only protect the landscape from erosion and give the local fauna a place to live (while making little visits to the inhabited sections of the resort) but also provide extra shade.  As a melanoma survivor, it’s not always easy to enjoy sunny destinations and the shade provided by the mangroves as well as some sheltered paths was really welcome.

Cooling off became our first priority.  We found the big pool (or one of them) and started in the shallow end.  Shark Boy has gotten the hang of swimming (thanks to his grandfather) and he splashed around in the water as comfortably as his namesake.  We didn’t really get to sample the rest of the pool much; in spite of an on-site daycare, we spent most of the time with the kids… more on this in a bit.  I would have liked to use it to swim a few lengths in the mornings before things got busy, or spend some time at the pool-side bar, but I was able to fetch drinks from it once or twice.

After the pool, we showed the kids the new water park.  I took the Lightning Kid with me on a water slide and was chided by the life-guard who directed me to the rules board… where we couldn’t find what rule I had broken.  Finally he pointed out “Always obey the life-guard” which would have to do.  No big slides for the Lightning Kid, and he was hesitant on the smaller ones, but fun in the water is still a favourite for both kids.

The other thing that had made me apprehensive before the trip besides the flights was that we’d all be in the same room.  The Lightning Kid was waking up 2-3 times a night still, I snore, and Shark Boy sometimes gets nightmares if he’d overtired or overstimulated (both of which were likely while on vacation), so I thought we’d all end up waking each other up and come back from vacation less rested than when we left.  That couldn’t have been further from what actually happened.  The kids were so tuckered out from walking and swimming in the sun that both nap-time and night-times were a breeze to get them down and keep them down.  It’s almost upsetting to me, because we strive to keep them active and outdoors every day, but the Canadian suburbs simply can’t compete with living by the beach in Mexico.  As for me, I think the sea air helped my sinuses or something, because snoring was lessened.

Speaking of the beach and sea, I think this was the best part of every day we spent there.  Shark Boy could really show his stuff (and make his parents’ teeth sweat) being thrown around in the surf, and the Lightning Kid loved running into the water repeatedly after a (mispronounced) “1-2-3-GO!”, not to mention running up to people on beach chairs and socializing. I’m really happy that the boys were able to get so much out of being on the ocean.

The resort had activities that I would have liked to try including kayaks, catamarans and stand-up paddle boarding at the beach, not to mention archery on their sports field. It was for this kind of thing and the potential for date dinners/lunches that the ‘Mini-Club’ (for Shark Boy, age 4) and ‘Baby-Club’ (for the Lightning Kid aged 2) were supposed to come in handy. I think the Mini-Club would have been fine (especially once Shark Boy’s initial resistance was overcome and we got into a routine) for longer stays since they would take them to the water park or beach. The Baby Club, however, gave us a walky-talky to reach us at a moment’s notice (which you want in a way, just in case), but apparently had very limited range, as they specified we couldn’t go further than the beach or pool area. This, combined with picking the kids up at lunch time made for limited opportunities. More than anything else, we used our kid free time to research what on-site restaurants to try and other logistical details. I did manage to fit in one scuba dive, though. The dive shop was right at the beach and the dive site was only 5 minutes by boat, so I managed a single tank dive in something under 90 minutes; perfect when you have kids to get back to. The weather had been kind of windy all week, so visibility was not so great and we didn’t manage to spot any big ticket items like sharks or turtles, but I did see some lionfish, pufferfish and a seahorse (not pictured).

The resort had both buffet-style and a la carte restaurants. I was surprised by how good the quality at the buffets (La Hacienda, Tikal and Grand Azul) were with plenty of healthy things like fruits and smoothies, local dishes like antojitos, international cuisine including paella and run of the mill stuff like chicken fingers for the kids. By contrast, the a la carte places didn’t seem as good, with the Italian place (Portofino) being the biggest disappointment (slow service, bland food), the Japanese being mediocre (interesting Mexican twists on the sushi, but not high quality fish, I think). The Mexican a la carte (Adelita), on the other hand, was mouth wateringly good, and we had a nice, if rushed due to Baby-Club hours, date night dinner.

While we did get around the resort mostly on foot, there was the opportunity to take little trains (on wheels, not tracks) from one lobby to another and the boys got a kick out of the ride. Shark Boy and I used this to attend a ‘Surf Party’ with animal mascots (known as Raggs and Friends – side note: Raggs has a friend who is differently abled – hooray for inclusion!) run by the Kids’ Club staff. There were plenty of evening entertainment options for the kids (if they weren’t too tired from the days activities) including a Pinata party one night too.

Surf Party

Pinata Party

I have to confess that there were times I wish we had taken a holiday without the kids; the funny thing is that now I have trouble remembering the specifics of what made it so difficult. I guess it just got frustrating trying to take the kids to places like the pool and the beach while they actively worked against making it easier to do so (e.g. resisting getting dressed), even though the destination was where they wanted to be. What I do remember, is all the smiles and fun we had. Grand Palladium not only gave us a taste of sun and sea (as a family), but a good sampling of both Mexican cuisine and the local ecology too.

An Agouti

The resort has a crocodile lagoon in addition to the flamingo lagoons

Coati and raccoons were occasionally visible around the resort.  We saw a monkey once too.

My Random Yet Awesome Playlist

On the last day of March, the sun came out, and it was time for an outdoor run.  I was so happy to get some sunlight on my face, and simply the ability to get out without a scarf or mask meant the run I was going to embark on could do no wrong.

I was using my phone for music, and the truth is, I’ve never quite mastered managing playlists or loading music on it, so what’s on there doesn’t represent anywhere near my whole music collection, but I put it on random and figured I could take it as it comes… here’s what came out of my earphones that day:

“Don’t Call it a comeback!” though it felt like one, running outside in pleasant weather. Great start to the run
A U2 Fave – awesome tempo.
I have tons of STP on my phone.  At least one of their songs was bound to come up.
80s! An urgent beat to keep me going.
A cover from their Renegades album.  More like old fashioned punk than most RATM (it’s originally by MC5)
One of their best tracks.  It’s baffling that this wasn’t one of their big radio singles.  Bonus: the quieter parts seemed to line up with when I had to negotiate ice/puddles and the chorus would come in just as I could go fast again.  Perfect.
Well, I don’t want to finish last… Bonus: The guitar solo came in right at the bottom of the biggest final hill, causing me to charge up at 100% effort.  I love it when that happens!
“Fight off the lethargy…” the hill is done, and the run is nearly over.  A good rhythm for plodding to the end.
Heh.  Well, I was heading straight back to the office a.k.a. ‘The Man’. Less on the tempo, good for cooling down.

Maybe it was just the positive attitude I had that day, but it really felt like serendipity to get such perfect tracks at random.  I made a point to keep track of what I’d heard (thanks to the scrobbling – tracking what tunes are played) so I could share it with you guys.

Would you ever trust the shuffle gods to do your running playlist?

Active Family Vacation: Skiing in Mont Sainte Anne

I’m really behind on blog post topics.  As the subject matter becomes less current (or even irrelevant), I’m left with either abandoning the topic, or going ahead with a ‘better late than never’ attitude.  This one falls into the latter camp; I know you don’t want to hear about winter, but we had a good time, and maybe the information will be useful for next season.

Winter is tough.  For everyone, but even worse for families with small children.  If you’re a family with small children and want to lead active lifestyles, EVEN TOUGHER.  We’ve done a good job of embracing the elements that a Canadian Winter gives us, but the snow in Southern Ontario is inconsistent at best, and really immersing yourself in the winter environment takes more time than than the average weekend allows (think packing, driving, herding the cats kids).  Enter the ski vacation.

Two years ago, we shopped around at the Ski and Snowboard Show for ski resorts that could accommodate a family with a child less than 18 months.  All the reps at the show acted like it would be no problem, since they simply wanted to make a sale, but the truth was, that the 18-month mark is a dividing line for daycare licensing and insurance and most resorts didn’t have that capability.  Shark Boy was going to be 17 months old (close but no cigar) for the dates we were looking at, but Mont Ste Anne takes kids into it’s daycare from 6 months on!  Staying inside Canada meant no customs/border hassles, avoiding invasive TSA screening procedures and dealing in Canadian currency.   Long story short, we loved it and booked another trip this year, which we did in the end of March.

We flew to Quebec City with Porter Airlines from the Toronto Island Airport. That made for some excitement as the kids got to enjoy a taxi ride, a ferry ride and a plane trip… I made the pre-boarding a little more exciting by forgetting one of our suitcases, necessitating a panicked taxi-ride home and back (an extra hundred bucks, ouch), but we made our flight just fine.  

The weather in Ontario had been iffy, sometimes cold, sometimes mild, but not very good with snow, but immediately before we left, Sainte Anne got a dump of fresh snow.

From what I could tell, this wasn’t powder of the very highest grade, but it was good enough for me. We were booked into the Chateau Mont Sainte Anne, and in one of their newer Studio (Nordik) rooms with a King bed. We had a crib for the Lightning Kid and Shark Boy slept on the pull-out couch.

The morning after arriving, we brought the boys to the daycare where they were welcomed with open arms. My theory on child-care givers is that experience brings an air of cool confidence that kids can read, and things tend to go smoother; the staff at Mont Sainte Anne has that air. We kept Shark Boy in for the whole day on Saturday which gave us the time to ski almost

all day.

Problem: I hadn’t downhill skied in two years at least. We took mostly Blue runs, but we found we had to take frequent breaks on the hills, and even on the Blue trails we found moguls we weren’t ready for. My theory is that downhill skiing is quite the opposite of most sports I do: rather than applying little to moderate force through a fairly large scale movement (like a running stride or cycling pedal stroke), you’re mostly pushing with a great deal of force through very little movement at all when you’re digging your edges in on turns. It’s dynamic versus static muscular strength and endurance.

We’d pick Shark Boy up after his second ski lesson, and had a few runs with us so we could see the progress he was making – it seems like he’s a natural. After that, we’d pick the Lighting Kid up (typically once he’d woken up from a nap) and take them for a ride up the gondola… and of course, back down.

He got frightened during a plane take-off but this didn’t bother him a bit.

Dead times before (and sometimes after) meals were spent in the kids room in the basement of the Chateau (there is also a video arcade, but our kids are too young for that kind of thing, and we weren’t going to encourage it – though later on, I got smoked at Dance Dance Revolution). The kids loved the toys in there and frequently played with other children – language barrier be darned.

I did have a little scare in the kids’ playroom. One morning, the Lightning Kid woke up around 5, and wouldn’t go back down. I had to dress quickly and hustle him out of the room before he could wake up his brother. I took him down to the playroom and let him go. I ended up finding a very large bug, which (to my surprise, since I was feeling sluggish as you can imagine) I was able to capture and bring to the front desk. Any parent wants their kids to be able to play in a fairly clean environment so my paranoia was going full tilt. When I followed up later, a member of the staff explained that they deemed it a grasshopper (rather than something more scary), and that these sorts of things could come in from all over the world in visitors suitcases. They take a lot of measure to prevent infestations like the kind my imagination was running wild with, and I had to admit, it didn’t really look like a cockroach or anything like that, so I was basically satisfied.

There are a good variety of restaurants within the resort grounds, so we tried a new place every night. We also ended up packing up our food before we could complete a proper meal, because the kids wouldn’t behave properly (I think they were a little overstimulated by the new environment and/or activities). Quebecers are really laid-back and don’t bat an eyelid at kids’ behaviour; unfortunately, I’m not a Quebecer, I’m an uptight Ontarian and meal-times ended up stressing me out.

The last gasp before bedtime was a swim in the pool (also in the basement of the pool). I was able to get Shark Boy to show me some of the skills he’s been learning in his swim lessons, and we’ve long since discovered that swimming is an excellent way to tucker them out so they’ll sleep.

Once they were out one of us had to stay in the room with them, so we weren’t able to enjoy our evenings as a couple. We’d do a little solo (drinks, the aforementioned arcade) but conk out early from exhaustion. There were many wake-ups to deal with, so it was good to get all the rest we could.

The next day, I felt so much stronger and more confident on my skis. We still stuck mostly to Blue hills, but it really felt like the best I’ve ever skied in terms of technique. We made sure this time to put in a stop at the Maple Syrup hut on the East side of the mountain. Here, they pour maple syrup into a trough of snow where it congeals, then you pick that up on a stick by rolling it all up (see below). Delicious!

In the trough
I got all the syrup… LIKE A BOSS!

The other thing we made time for is making sure we caught some of Shark Boy’s ski lesson. Then we took him for another run with his parents on “The Big Magic Carpet” as requested.

On our third day, I actually opted to head back to the room and sleep rather than ski. Normally there’s a voice inside that makes me seize the day, and says:”You can only ski like this so often, but you can sleep anytime!” but that isn’t actually true anymore. A chance to sleep without being woken up by the kids (or a phone call or whatever) is about as rare as good powder, which I missed out on that morning by all reports. I did manage a couple of Black Diamond runs in the afternoon, though the snow had gotten granular.

The vacation wound to an end… but they left me wanting more. There is an extensive network of cross-country skiing trails that we haven’t explored yet, and other winter activities like dog-sledding beckon too. My one gripe is that access to other services isn’t so great; two years ago I had to hail a taxi to get to a drug store for infant pain-killers because Shark Boy got an ear infection. There is also no shuttle to/from the Quebec City Airport making cab rides necessary.

Even as the kids get older and the daycare requirements get lighter, easier and more flexible I could see us returning to Mont Ste Anne. For another view on this trip, please visit the Lightning Kid blog.