Sunday, January 10, 2016

running to Mordor: Crickhollow

Today I passed the first milestone to Mordor. The hobbit party traveled 18 miles on their first day:

23 September T.A. 3018 -- Frodo sets out for Crickhollow along with Sam and Pippin. One of the Black Riders comes to Hobbiton at nightfall. [LotR Project]

We had a pretty awful long run this morning -- it rained the entire time, and there was a nasty headwind every time we were facing east. 28 people braved the weather and earned complaining rights. I brought a batch of Muddy Buddies for the crowd at Starbucks afterwards.

I had two swims this week, the second with a fresh pair of goggles that I am hiding from my cat. When I bought the second pair at RR on Wednesday, the assistant manager commented that his dog eats his goggles as well. Crazy.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

restoring currency with some hood time

Due to a combination of holidays and crappy weather, my student solo currency expired last weekend. Agony! I sent S a desperate email requesting a lesson, hopefully with some instrument time, to restore my currency. I got the text Wednesday morning...instrument flight at noon? Yes please!!

I demonstrated a short-field takeoff, turned north toward the practice area, and S took control so I could get my hood in place. After I demonstrated that I wasn't going to crash us during the easy stuff (maintain altitude/heading, ascend, descend, change heading) I got some unusual attitudes to recover from (spiral dive, imminent stall), and some partial panel. S covered up the attitude indicator and heading indicator to simulate a vacuum failure, and had me fly around a bit, practicing timed rate-one turns for heading changes. My currency is once again restored, and I get to resume the weather-watching game for my long solo cross country.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

swimming (not to Mordor)

During my December spa day with Local Flight East, I finally taught myself how to do a flip-turn in the pool. I decided after the holidays to add at least one swim day per week, for cross-training. After some false starts this morning, I finally got myself to the pool. Observations:

  1. Arm and shoulder muscles disappear when you don't swim for 20 years or so. I should have been doing my damn push-ups.
  2. Swimming still feels great.
  3. Vaughan has nine indoor pools, two of which are very close to me. I can get a reasonably-priced membership that lets me access all of them, which ends up being cheaper than taking transit downtown to use the (free, to me) university pool.
  4. The one I visited today has a "warm tub" (not going to call it a hot tub) which was nice, except that the locker room afterwards felt 10x colder.
  5. There were signs designating a slow lane, a medium lane, and a fast lane. I was worried about my speed and endurance so I picked the medium lane. In general the pace was very leisurely and I should have just picked the fast lane.
  6. Swim goggles are delicious. After the spa day, DK noticed that our cat was nibbling at my goggles (in my bag, on the floor), so he put them up on a shelf out of reach. I grabbed them on the way to the pool without inspecting them first. If I had, I'd have noticed that he bit all the way through one of the straps. I used them with one strap today, but they no longer stay on properly and I'm going to have to find another pair (and hide them). When I got back from the pool today and set my bag down, kitty immediately went for the goggles again. Weirdo.

Friday, January 1, 2016

new running goal: Mordor

Just for fun, and because I'm stealing this idea from somebody else, I have a new running goal: running from the Shire to Mordor. Yes! The LotR Project has a great page -- Time and Distance to Mordor -- charting Frodo's progress in LotR (and Bilbo's in The Hobbit, if you're in to that sort of thing). Frodo covered 1800 miles (2897 km) in 185 days. Realistically, this will probably take me around two years, and I don't have any giant eagles to come and fetch me at the end.

2015 year-in-review


In 2015 I ran 1176 km.
In 2014 I ran 1396 km.
In 2013 I ran 495 km.

In 2015 I ran 11 races, including a 30km, three 25km trail runs, and two half marathons. I wussed out of doing a full marathon this year, because my training just wasn't that great (as you can see, from my total distance compared with 2014).

date distance race
2015-02-07 21.1 km Hypothermic Half Marathon
2015-03-29 30 km Around the Bay
2015-05-25 25 km Pick Your Poison (trail run)
2015-05-09 25 km Seaton Soaker (trail run)
2015-05-30 5 km Color Me Rad
2015-06-14 15 km Toronto Nike Women's 15k
2015-06-27 5 km Pride and Remembrance Run
2015-09-26 5 km Toronto Pearson Runway Run
2015-10-03 25 km Run for the Toad (trail run)
2015-10-18 21.1 km San Francisco Nike Women's Half Marathon
2015-11-15 5 km Downsview Airport 5k


I made huge progress toward my PPL this year! On July 2 I had my first solo. In August DS and I flew to Utah and back -- the outbound leg is documented here and the return trip will be posted soon. I completed my dual and solo short cross country flight, and my dual long cross country flight. And, rounding out the year perfectly, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm December weather to fit in a short hop to Greenbank for my first grass strip landing!

Friday, December 18, 2015

the grass is indeed greener...

...than the paved runway.

I've been practicing a lot of "soft field" takeoffs and landings recently...using the quotes there because the runways at my airport are paved, which feels like cheating.

Enter Greenbank. It has the distinguishing feature of being a nearby airport with an actual grass strip! I asked S if we could fly there before the weather made landing difficult, and she booked me a slot for this morning. When I checked the Pearson TAF last night it was predicting some light snow, but hooray, the predicted snow did not materialize! I got to the airport a little earlier than normal this morning to do my flight planning, briefly reviewed the uncontrolled airport procedure with S, and then headed out to preflight the plane.

"Hello, plane, you get to feel the grass underneath your tires today!" As I was doing my walk-around, the plane reached out and punched me in the leg, just to remind me who is boss. By which I mean, I walked directly into the metal step on the landing gear, and I can see a massive bruise forming already. Fun times.

We cleared the zone and I set my heading toward Greenbank. This particular plane has a very helpful bug that I can set on the heading indicator -- going to request it again when I finally get good weather for my long solo cross country. The winds aloft were a little lighter than in the weather report, I think, so my flight path has a gentle squiggle where I decided my planned heading wasn't going to work so I was going to navigate using landmarks instead.

We passed over the airfield (which is devilishly hard to spot) and I looped around and descended to join the midfield left downwind. Nobody was on the Unicom to tell us about the field condition, but it looked fine when we passed overhead. My first base leg and turn to final was wide (strong winds from the west that I didn't adequately compensate for) so rather than try to fix the approach I did a "low pass" just parallel to the runway at roughly 600' AGL, as if I were doing a precautionary landing. After getting a good look at the runway I climbed back to circuit altitude and came back for another try -- better this time. The approach started a little high but I fixed it, and was coming in with full flaps for a nice soft field landing, almost at the threshold, when a flock of little white birds took off, climbing directly into my approach path. For an instant I contemplated overshooting, but their trajectory was vertical so I didn't know if that would actually help, and I continued the approach. They avoided me, but that was very close. The touchdown was almost anticlimactic, quite smooth, and I continued with a brisk taxi down the runway. S told me to make a 180 at the end of the runway and take off in the opposite direction, since the wind was pretty much entirely crosswind. I had to keep quite a bit of power in for the 180, but this was expected, and my takeoff was fine -- nice and smooth, and I held the ground effect well.

As we returned, we observed some low cloud coming in from the northwest. I'm glad I didn't have an afternoon booking! Also got to chat with some guys from the flying club as I left.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

depart YTZ, enter cloud, emerge YFD! magic.

Today DS and I popped over to Brantford so he could pick up various items at Aircraft Spruce, and I could get further than gliding distance from an airport. Yes, I've been in the circuit a lot recently, why do you ask?

The weather was great for DS to do some IMC flying. Once we were cleared to climb to our cruising altitude, we were in soupy cloudy stuff (technical term that will be on my PPL written exam) until midway through the approach into Brantford. In the soup, I was paying attention to the plane's attitude indicator vs. my body's perception of our attitude. We bank, my body tells me we've banked, and then something equalizes and tells me we're no longer banked, contrary to the attitude indicator. Fun times.

Keep an eye on that horizon.


After Aircraft Spruce we caught up over a nice lunch at the airport cafe. I love how pilots seem quite happy to eat breakfast food for every meal. I know I have found my people.

The most adorable plane at Brantford. Boop!


I also took the opportunity to compare the tracking features in Foreflight (on the YTZ-YFD leg) and CloudAhoy (YFD-YTZ). The two apps have very different purposes but I was curious anyway, and always thinking about whether I want to renew various subscriptions. Foreflight has two slightly annoying features. Normally Foreflight is in "always on" mode -- once I've opened the app, it keeps my iPad from turning off and locking the screen. This is of course convenient if you're using Foreflight for actual navigation. I wasn't though, and when DS was on the NDB approach into Brantford, I closed the cover on the iPad and stowed it so that I was focused on handling plates, charts, etc. This killed the tracking, because evidently the app isn't expecting to be "closed" mid-flight. Dislike!! The other annoying feature is that when I look at the track log online, I can't select a Canadian chart for my map layer, even though I've paid for a Canadian subscription. Dislike again!!

The CloudAhoy app doesn't have the recording problem, but then again CloudAhoy isn't a navigation app so it's expecting you to turn on the tracking and let the screen lock itself. In debrief mode, CloudAhoy attempts to categorize stages of flight and various maneuvers, so you (or your instructor) can evaluate your performance. When I look at the CloudAhoy debriefs of my solo practice for example, CloudAhoy will pick out how many circuits I've done, identify my steep turns and let me see how much my altitude varied, etc. The one thing CloudAhoy has NOT successfully identified was stalling, which made me slightly sad. I did some very nice stalls, steady loud stall horn, nice nose drop, etc, and they got no love. Well. Today CloudAhoy categorized our "short final" approach into YTZ as a stall. Which of course it was not. (Yes, I will probably email them and ask what the app is doing to detect stalls because I'm really curious now).

I can't resist a dam. Pretty sure this is Wilkes Dam on the Grand River.


On the return trip we were once again mostly in cloud, but popped above briefly to see an actual sun! Fantastic! The tops of sunlit clouds are always glorious.

Hello YTZ!