Posts in Outdoors

Baby It’s Cold Outside: Winter English Channel Training

Winter has arrived. This means our training for the English Channel has had to move inside until the spring. Or at least our swimming has moved inside:

Paul acclimatizes to the cold. Photo by Angelique Duffield

Even though we’re no longer swimming in the lake, we still have to try to stay acclimatized to colder temperatures so that we will be less likely to get hypothermia in the Channel. As can be seen above, Paul has cheekily taken to reading his paper out in the snow. I walk my dog without a jacket and keep my house at a balmy 15 degrees, which means that my dog is now modeling the latest in doggy sweaters on a daily basis. (That’s right, my dog is now wearing more winter clothing than I am. I do see the ridiculousness in this.)

Meanwhile, in the pool, we’re all working on bettering our technique to help prevent injuries and get us moving faster in that cold Channel water. We also just had our first swim meet of the year to test our speed. The Okanagan Masters Swim Club hosted Fright Fest over the Halloween weekend. Part of the tradition of the meet is that the last relay event is done with everyone in costume. This often leads to hilarious results with people’s costumes falling off and creating havoc as they try to swim. Anyone who thinks that swim meets are scary or intensely serious should come watch. It would completely change your perspective.

Look, I know this post seems rather silly. And training for the Channel is serious business. Unprepared swimmers have died attempting the channel. Come January we all have to pass a physical. To prepare, we’re all doing a lot of swimming, and most of us are doing dryland training in the gym as well. But as seriously as we take our training we have to enjoy our moments of silliness and fun along the way. It’s the fun that makes all the hard work worth it.

(Speaking of fun, Paul’s blog about training for the Channel has been nominated for the Best Canadian Sports Blog. It survived the first round of voting to make it to the final round. Please consider clicking on this link and voting for Nothing Great is Easy under the Best Sports Blog category. You don’t have to register or anything. A vote for his blog is a vote for a local guy who’s willing to sit outside in a speedo in winter. That’s worth your click right?)

Fashionate: Goes to New York… And Experiences a Natural Disaster

My vision of writing about NYC involved all of my amazing one of a kind purchases from cute old second hand and vintage stores, paired with a designer dress from a one-of-a-kind boutique found nestled in Greenwich Village or Soho. Unfortunately my experience in New York was far from my vision, although still an amazing experience.

NYC has this energizing pulse when you walk through the streets, even with a hurricane approaching I still felt more alive than I have in years. As I explored Central Park, Times Square, and 5th Avenue on Saturday I had no worries in the world, except what pair of shoes I should choose (I went for animal print ankle boots). As we sat on an outdoor patio in Soho enjoying the warm fall breeze and a glass of full bodied red, we had no idea our easy-going trip was about to take a turn for the worse. I woke up on Sunday morning and the air had changed, it was eerie out with a dark cloud looming over us. I arrived at my L’Oreal Professional course to do advanced cutting, expecting to join about 30 other peers. Only 3 people showed up, we were all from out of town! They announced shortly after the course would be cancelled due to the expected Hurricane to hit. At this point I was beginning to think we were in for the greatest adventure of our lives. They followed up with the announcement letting us know the subways were shutting down at 7:00pm that evening. I thought to myself, the whole city is shutting down because of Sandy. My dreams of skipping through the cobble stone streets of Soho were shattered.

We walked through the empty and eery dark streets to reach Little Italy to find a couple of restaurants still open, and enjoyed a very large and delicious Italian meal. After stocking up on wine, snacks, and water we headed back to the hotel. The buzz in the lobby was overwhelming. Everybody you met, or spoke to had a different story or theory of what we were to expect 24 hours from now.

As Monday came into full swing, it looked like a typical autumn day outside; rain and slight winds. Unless you looked at the sky you would never have noticed a looming darkness headed our way. A glance down a regularly busy street to only to find it completely empty, store fronts boarded up, sandbags hugging tight. We waited with the other hotel guests in the lobby, the energy was positive and there was anticipation and excitement in the air.

Then the power went out.

This was the moment I realized it was actually happening and we may in fact be in a slight amount of trouble. The winds picked up and we sat in darkness and waited. You could hear it howling and blowing anything in its way down. Water rushing into subway systems and flooding any building in its path. 4 million people lost power, thousands lost their homes, businesses were shut down indefinitely. The next morning with the power still out and no food left we were advised to find other accommodations where there was heat, power and water up town. ‘Anything above 34th street’. We were now in a race with 4 million other people to find a place to live. A task normally made easy with the aide of technology, but when all our amazing technology fails suddenly becomes a difficult and daunting task. We hailed a lone gypsy cab and overpaid by about $30 to head into the light. After a very, very long process a total stranger helped us get a hotel room and for a moment we were pleased. Our next task was getting a flight out.

Seeing the damage, having been in the middle of it, the surreal experience started to fade and I realized that at the very least I still had a home to fly to. A job to return to. I felt terrible for being so selfish, for not thinking of the millions still living in darkness (not enough hotels), the thousands homeless and jobless. Central Park had extensive damage, a crane that was hanging by a thread threatened hundreds of businesses. Even with all of this, the air and energy was still liberating. NYC can make it through anything.

It was a life experience and I came away feeling so inspired and I can’t wait to go back!

Hello Fall

Beautiful Fall Colors

Focus Friday: Monashees

If our summer hadn’t lingered so long, you’d have to think that this sub-alpine scene would look like mid-winter by now. We should still have a few weeks to explore the higher places above the valley. Ryan found this gem near Cherryville, called Monashee Lake. We’ve featured his high-country photos a few times, and it’s always inspiring to see these epic landscapes so close to home.

Monashee Lake by Ryan Van Veen

Checking in with the English Channel Lake Monsters

It’s been a busy fall for the English Channel team. In addition to our weekly lake training, in September, team member Paul Duffield challenged himself to swim in 10 local lakes in 1 day to raise money for the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. Not only did he complete his challenge (which took over 15 hours: from before sunrise to after sunset!), but he also swam over 11kms in the process! (Photo by Angelique Duffield)

You can read about his experience on his blog. Speaking of his blog, it was nominated for the Best Canadian Sports Blog and you can vote for his blog to win until Nov. 1 by going here and clicking “Best Sports Blog” and then clicking “Nothing Great is Easy!”

On Thanksgiving weekend, Mike, Denise, Phred, and myself were in Kalamalka lake. Back in June, everyone except Mike completed a 2 hr swim in 12 degree water to qualify to swim the English Channel. Mike couldn’t take part in that swim due to a shoulder injury so he still needed to qualify. On the Saturday of Thanksgiving the lake was finally cold enough (it had to be 15 degrees or colder), so Mike went in for his qualification and Phred, Denise, and I swam along with him for support. Check out our synchronized swimming:

Last time we had a windy, rainy, cold day but this time it was a nice sunny day and Mike had no trouble completing his two hour swim so the whole team has now officially qualified to swim the channel next summer!

Lake training will continue for the team until the water dips below 10 degrees (brrrr), meanwhile we’re all putting time in at the pool with the Okanagan Masters Swim Club to build up our endurance and speed over the winter to get in top shape for the Channel. And, like Paul, the whole team is raising money for the YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign. So far we’ve raised about 1/3 of our overall goal.

This summer has been a learning experience for the team. Six people, with six different personalities and ideas about how training, qualifying, and swimming the Georgia Strait should go has led to some disagreements along the way. We’re learning how to compromise and support each other while taking care of our own needs as well. It’s kind of like a perverted six-person marriage. But I trust these people with my life. In fact, in the Channel next summer we will literally be putting our lives in each other’s hands. What an adventure! (Below: Denise, Paul, Tracey, Mike, Leora, and Phred. Photo by Angelique Duffield)

Jeremy Jones’ Further – “The Journey is the Reward”

Award winning producers Teton Gravity Research are pleased to announce Further, the second installment in the Jeremy Jones snowboard movie trilogy, Deeper, Further, Higher, presented by O’Neill.

Further will explore some of the world’s most remote mountain terrain while continuing Jones’ mission to camp deep in the backcountry and on the summits of unridden lines to access nearly vertical spines and wide-open powder fields. Join Jeremy and his crew as they push their minds and bodies Further.

This film will be premiering at The Paramount Theatre in Kelowna on Wednesday, October 3rd with tons of great prizes like a Day of Heli-boarding from Eagle Pass Heliskiing, A Jones Hovercraft Splitboard, lift tickets to Whitewater Ski Resort and more! A portion of the proceeds donated to the Canadian Avalance Centre and the Alpine Club of Canada – Okanagan Section

Tickets available at

Where: The Paramount Theatre (261 Bernard Avenue, Kelowna)
When: Wednesday, October 3rd – 6:30 PM
How Much: $12 advance, $15 door
For: Everyone

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Focus Friday: Climbing Skaha

Few people outside of the Okanagan’s climbing community know how awesome Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park really is. John’s incredible photo gave me vertigo and sent me looking to find out more about it. It sounds like Nature Conservancy Canada and The Land Conservancy teamed up with BC Parks to purchase land around the bluffs and ensure safe public access. Just this year, that initiative added over 300 hectares to the park, providing protected habitat for up to 15 species-at-risk. Check out the incredible trail network (pdf) that gets climbers to the best rock faces — mountain bikers and hikers can also explore the rugged region with beautiful views of the lake. This is a real gem!

Climbing Skaha by John Shiers


Season Change

Beautiful vintage clothes at Georgie Girl, a vintage boutique in Kelowna. Model: Jessica Ritchie. Photographer: Lise Guyot.