Saturday, October 11, 2008

Butchart Gardens (now with pictures!)

Race day minus one. (I was supposed to be downplaying this run, wasn't I?) In a fit of questionable judgment, I took myself down to the Fitness Center for a little treadmill time this morning. I thought just a short stint would fire up my legs for tomorrow (hopefully not wear them out too much) and combat the good food a little bit as well.

I have not been on a treadmill for a very long time. The last I remember was some kind of really bad weather day in January or February, and I don't remember whether it was 2008 or 2007. It might have been 2008, probably was when I think about it. But it was an isolated visit.

The nice thing about the treadmill is that you can control your pace, and these particularly treadmills also had built-in TV screens (nice). The bad thing is... it's horrible!

Okay. maybe I'm exaggerating a little. But really, it did make me question my ability to run for long distances at a decent pace. I did five miles this morning, about a mile walking (a little warmup then about 2/3 mile cooldown), and the remaining four miles running at a pace which I constantly varied between 6 mph and 7.5 mph (mostly in the 6.5 to 7 mph range). I also elevated the incline to 2.5 except for the last bit of cooldown. When I was done I was red-faced and sweating like a racehorse (a very slow racehorse).*

I hope those fast-twitch muscles (whatever few I have) remember the faster bit and I hope the rest of my muscles don't punish me for working them the day before the half marathon!**

Enough about that.

After I was dressed and fed (oatmeal in the room, brought with me), we headed out for a jaunt to Butchart Gardens. First I made a quick stop at the expo and bought a copy of Dick Beardsley's book, Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race. I didn't want to wait around until he was going to be there signing (not for a couple hours), so I left the book to be signed and picked it up later. A little impersonal, but the gardens were calling! He wrote a nice inscription anyway.

On the way out of Victoria we made a very important stop at Starbucks. I'm just a little bit dependent on my mid-morning caffeine infusion! I made the mistake of paying with cash, American dollars. There was something screwy about the exchange rate at that particular store. The bill for two drinks originally came to $8-something Canadian. With the U.S. dollar being worth a little more than the Canadian right now, it should have converted to a little bit less in American dollars, right? Instead it went up to $9.74 and I got 26 cents change from my ten-dollar bill. I asked them about it and the first guy said, “I just pushed the foreign exchange button, I don't know how it works.” The woman I asked, who seemed to be more managerial, said that Seattle sends them the exchange rates weekly, and the Canadian dollar is worth a little more than the American. Well, I'm pretty sure that's exactly backwards! But whatever. Expensive lattes. I'm using a credit card from now on, and not leaving the exchange rate to the doofuses who work at Starbucks.

Well, at least the latte tasted good. I was a little worried about that too, as there seemed to be a problem with the pump on the sugar-free caramel, but it came out fine.

Half an hour or so later we were at Butchart Gardens. The last time I was there, just over three years ago, it was springtime. This time autumn. I can't seem to get there during the summer when the roses are in bloom (except when I was five or six years old, eons ago). But I suppose the crowds would be horrendous in the summer. I much prefer fewer crowds, fewer people, really. I would like my pictures to be completely free of human life, if possible (unless I choose to put someone in the picture, of course). (I know, they have those kind of pictures available in the gift shop, they're called post cards!)

Still, even with people in them, the gardens were beautiful. The rose gardens, though past their prime of course, still had a lot of roses hanging on, and a few varieties that were in full flush even now. Some of the sections seemed to feature roses from specific national origins—I spotted Canadian, of course, American, Australian, and my favorite (one guess), English. Most of the English roses seemed to be David Austin roses, which are of course the most well-known of the lot. They are modern roses, crossed with old roses to have the appearance and heady scents of antique roses, but with the disease resistance (generally) and repeat flowering habit (usually) of modern roses. My entire rose garden is David Austin English roses. I was able to pick out the classics (even with only a few blooms left on the bushes)—Gertrude Jekyll (deep pink) and my favorites, Graham Stuart Thomas (golden yellow) and Abraham Darby (pink with yellow), who are the best of friends and must always be planted side by side—from several feet away.

Entering the rose garden.

I can't resist a rose garden, even out of season! And, put me in an archway and I'm in heaven.

My mother amongst the still colorful roses.

"Honey Perfume" rose, still in vibrant coppery golden flush, even in mid-October, with not a hint of blackspot or mildew. Gardeners in similar climates (like the Pacific Northwest) should take note! (And it is gorgeous, not just apparently hardy and disease resistant.)

The Sunken Garden, undoubtedly the centerpiece of Butchart Gardens, was magnificent and breathtaking. I'll admit that we did our viewing from above, and forewent the opportunity to walk all the way down, this time around.

The amazing sunken garden (even better in real life.)

Most of the bedding plants were annuals, and I cannot imagine the time, effort, and expense of putting them in seasonally! Still, they created beguiling carpets of color and even the summer plants, like begonias, were still hanging on well. I particularly liked a combination of purple heliotrope and apple blossom pink geraniums (pelargonum). While I would not dream of planting vast flowerbeds of annuals, it is a mix that I might use in a container next year.

The Fish Fountain.
In the Japanese Garden.

The Harbor....

And the harbor view from the gardens.

The Italian Garden.

Hydrangeas and chrysanthemums, apparently planted to match my clothes!

One of many lavish window boxes, still blooming profusely though summer is long gone.

After wandering through the Japanese Garden and down to look at the water in Butchart Cove, we ended up in the gardens by the main house, including a star-shaped pool and the Italian Garden. Wanting a little something to hold us over until dinner, we went into the Dining Room restaurant to see if they had a light tea available. Although the menu showed only a full Afternoon Tea, at my inquiry the host pulled out a menu for the 1928 tea, a lighter version of the afternoon tea and almost half the price, but still featuring all the important components—sandwiches, a scone, and sweets.

This was actually an ideal afternoon tea menu. For the tea connoisseurs (and Anglophiles) out there, here is what we got. (It sounds like a lot, but everything is quite tiny.) Five tea sandwiches, including a curried chicken pinwheel, egg salad, cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon, and a warm cheese biscuit with a chopped ham filling. A warm ginger scone, with strawberry jam and whipped cream. A small slice of lemon poppyseed tea bread. Three sweets—a chocolate coconut cookie, a petit four-like pastry, which was thin layers of sponge cake filled with raspberry cream, and a tiny pastry boat filled with chocolate mouse and garnished with fruit. And, of course, a large pot of Earl Grey tea.

The Dining Room reminded me a bit of the Orangery at Kensington Gardens in London. Although of course, the Orangery is, well, an orangery, and this was more of a garden room, or conservatory off the main house. Still, they shared the characteristic of multi-paned windows and a garden atmosphere.
Mrs. Butchart's private garden, just outside the Dining Room

A charming autumn display.

At around 4:00 we headed back to Victoria for some rest prior to the pasta dinner. Unlike so many pre-race pasta feeds, this one was not being held in a school gymnasium, but instead, in a banquet room at the Empress. That is one reason I signed up for it. I've never done the group pasta dinner before, but I thought since it was right at the Empress I should do it... I would probably feel like I had missed out if I skipped it! Plus I wanted to hear Dick Beardsley speak.

When we went down to the dinner at about 6:15 the hall was already quite full. But we found a table that was still completely empty, so we could take the seats facing the speaker's podium. Shortly after we sat, two other women joined us, one running the half, and her friend who was just along for support. Then another pair of women sat down, both of them running their first half marathons. The rest of our table stayed unoccupied

Everyone was pretty hungry and anxious to eat (largely so they could go to bed early, given the early morning race start). Our table was #21 in the numbered order of joining the buffet line, but it went pretty fast considering, and by 7:15 or so I was back at the table with my plate. The buffet had a pretty large variety of cold and hot pastas, plus some potato dishes and salad. I tried to limit my selections to ones that really appealed to me, and that wouldn't make me feel I was loading myself down with heavy dishes that I would later regret. I also took a big pile of salad greens, which did make my plate look pretty full, like I was the only one at our table who wasn't afraid to eat. (I also took two of the desserts, a sliver of chocolate torte and a sliver of berry pie. No regrets. They were served in slivers so people could have more than one!)

But despite all the food and sweets, the highlight of the dinner was clearly Dick Beardsley's speech. His theme was "never give up"—a message for all the runners of the races the next day, of course. But he also told a little bit of his own story. When he was in his early 20's he decided to become a competitive runner. He was pretty fast, but not "winning fast" yet. While he was in his early training money was quite scarce, so he had the brilliant (though naive) idea of trying to get a shoe sponsor. He went to a shoe expo for vendors, and after some funny adventures trying to get in, was able to hand around his resumes. Most went directly to the trash, of course. But the New Balance rep was nice. He let Dick try on a pair of their best running shoes, and then gave him the shoes. Later he sent him a big box of gear. As time passed and Dick became more successful, they started paying him a stipend, and eventually he did get a contract with New Balance. Even later when he was not working with them, they continued to give him shoes and gear, and stood by him when he went through an addiction to painkillers. Now he's with them again, as a motivational speaker rather than a competitive runner (although he still does great in his age group!).

New Balance is also the corporate sponsor of this event, and I felt a little bit better about all the money I put down on clothes for the race yesterday!***

Anyhow, that was the end of the day. I didn't win one of the numerous door prizes they distributed throughout the dinner. There was one table near us where practically everyone—literally half the table—won something. That seemed a bit odd. Anyhow, I held my breath for the final drawing, two nights at the Empress!—but no luck there. Oh well. C'est la vie.

The alarm is set for 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Half marathon begins at 7:30 a.m.

*And I have to say, running while looking at myself in a mirror is not a pretty sight. There is a certain amount of...bouncing...that occurs, which I can't believe happens out on the road.

**In retrospect, as of Sunday, yeah, I probably shouldn't have done that.

**Another Sunday note—I went back to the expo after the race and threw down a little more green (in the form of a credit card) on additional New Balance stuff, now on sale and as such a "bargain"!

1 comment:

Laura said...

Cool story about Dick! Maybe I ought to try to find a sponsor :)

I hope the coffee worked out well for you - I typically avoid it pre-race, but I only drink decaf anyway because I'm afraid of getting addicted.