A Weekend in the Mountains

15 03 2013

I’m going to attribute my lack of blog posts over the past week and a half to my spring break. That’s right, I get a spring break! It’s one of the perks of working for the school district; however, it is technically unpaid (my salary is prorated throughout the course of the year to make up for it) so that is definitely a drawback. But, having a week off of work is pretty darn nice. Especially when you can spend some time here:



photos courtesy of Meghann

Last week, I tacked on two extra days to my spring break to head up to northern Georgia for a long weekend with my friends. It was a needed break and a nice change of scenery from Tampa.

Me, Bill and 8 of our friends rented a log cabin in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Man oh man was it gorgeous up there! The mornings were chilly, but when the sun came out it warmed up enough for us to head outdoors and explore.  On Friday, we drove about 30 minutes or so to a trail suggested by the guidebook in our cabin. It just so happened to take us to a section of the Appalachian Trail!


We hiked for a short distance, maybe only 10 minutes or so, before arriving at pretty waterfall. Stopped at the waterfall were two women, one who was treating her blistered feet. I asked her how far she was planning on going and her response was “Hopefully, all 2000 miles of it!” Wow, what an undertaking! Since reading Wild, a book about a woman’s solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve had a heightened  interest in hiking, so my thoughts immediately started wondering about the trek that lies ahead. I can only imagine the things she’ll see, the people she’ll meet, the stories she’ll tell. How cool to have that experience! 


After pausing by the waterfall for a few minutes, we continued to hike for about another half an hour. We paused for the obligatory group photo (sans Marcus, who took the picture for us), since we hadn’t really seen any other hikers since leaving the waterfall.


Photo courtesy of Meghann

It was close to lunchtime (or past?) so we turned around and headed back to the cars. On the way back down, we spotted some more hikers making their trek north. Some were clearly day hikers like us, but some appeared to be in it for the long haul. What a journey! I wonder how many of them will make it the whole way?

We paused for some more photos to commemorate the day.



Can I just say that I was so, so, so happy that Bill was able to come on vacation with me? With his busy schedule, it’s hard to plan a trip together. I was planning on going with my friends when we started talking about the trip months ago, but Bill was always a big question mark. As the trip got closer, Bill’s schedule was clear, but I tried not to get my hopes up. Thankfully, his schedule remained clear, and he was able to come too!

Being on the Appalachian was a pretty cool way to kick off the weekend in the mountains. It was actually one of the highlights of the trip for me! I’m a big fan of getting in some exercise in ways that are fun and different, aka not running, biking, or swimming. 🙂

On our second day, our group headed out to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.


There’s a 2.5 mile windy, steep road up to a ridge where there’s a large parking lot before you can make the last .6 mile trek up to the very top. I was feeling a little car sick from the 45 minute drive to get to the base of the mountain, so when it was suggested that we hop out and run/walk up to the top, I agreed. I figured it was better to tough it out by walking up the 2.5 miles at an 11% grade than to feel miserable while driving up the mountain and trying not to puke.

Felipe and Bill decided they were going to run the whole thing, while Courtney, Jess and I decided to play it by ear. We’d start by walking and then run if we felt up to it. The other half of the group opted to drive up to the parking lot.

Holy hill! I felt like I was walking on a treadmill at the highest incline…and then some! We definitely got our hearts pumping and started to sweat.

It was still pretty chilly in the shade, and we spotted some remnants from the snow they received a few days prior.

How odd to be warm enough to be in a sports bra while holding snow!


We celebrated when we spotted the 1 mile marker…but the celebration didn’t last long, since we knew we were only a third of the way to the top. We started to challenge ourselves along the way, saying Ok, we’ll run to that next big tree. Or, when there was a relatively flat section, we’d try to run for 100 yards or so.


After about 5 intervals or so, we made it to the parking lot, where we caught up with Felipe and Bill. Only .6 to go! Finally, we made it to top where we spotted some friendly faces 🙂


It was beautiful up there! IMG_6376

We took a few group shots before heading down to the cars and back to the cabin for our last night. This was again an awesome way to get in some exercise, and I used some muscles I don’t get to use while running in flat as a pancake Tampa.

We wrapped up our last night with some fun games of charades and catch phrase, s’mores around the fireplace, and playing a few rounds of pool. So. Relaxing.

I’m going to be super cheesy here because honestly this was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. I absolutely enjoyed the scenery and the activities, but I really enjoyed just spending time with my friends. We had meals together, played games together and just enjoyed our mountain experience together. I would happily vacation with these guys again…we’ve already begun chattering about the next trip 🙂

For more details about the trip, check out Meghann’s posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Mary’s post!

Question of the Day: Have you ever been on a group vacation? How was it? 

Has Your Trajectory Bent in Any Way?

6 03 2013

Tragedy hit the sport of triathlon again over the weekend. One of the most well-known and challenging tris, the Escape from Alcatraz claimed the life of a 46 year old man from Texas during the swim leg of the race. According to the race director, this was the first death in the race’s 33 year history. 

Yet again, everyone is asking why? Why has there been such a rise in deaths in our sport?

Triathlon veteran Dan Emphield posted an article on slowtwitch.com, which shares its title with the popular Switchfoot song, Dare You To Move. In the article, Emphield yet again challenges Race Directors, USAT and triathletes to take action, to DO something so that the statistics of deaths in triathlons do not keep rising.  Emphield says, “There are things we can do. I wrote about some of these things. Many of you commented, “Yes, yes, good stuff all.” But did any of it change your behavior? Did it Dare You to Move? Has your trajectory been bent in any way?” (You can read one of Dan Emphield’s previous article here) I would highly recommend checking out both articles.

I’ve participated in races where individuals who start the race never have the chance to finish. And believe me, it shakes you up. I hate to admit this, but after a few weeks, I’ve forgotten about it and registered for my next triathlon. On top of that, my pride kicks in. “I’m a swimmer. I grew up doing ocean swims. I got this.”   This is such inaccurate thinking, and Emphield’s “Dare You to Move,” really hit home.

One of the things he talks about is the importance of a warm up. I am ever so guilty of thinking “the swim is my warm up…” WRONG. Warming up is essential, and my heart needs this time to adjust for what is coming next. And how often do I wear my wetsuit? Um, it’s Florida! Again, wrong thinking! 

I played the French Horn in high school. I would never, ever think of just showing up for the concert with a new horn and mouth piece, and just start playing with the band. So why would I skip trying out the wetsuit before the race, and practicing with it in race-like conditions?

Emphield asks,  “Are you warming up before your races? Are you getting to the race in time for your warm up? Do you have your wetsuit? Have you put it on this year? Is it overtight? Have you been swimming in open water, in the wetsuit? If the answer is “no” to the above, what are your concrete plans for this? I’m not asking for anything out of the ordinary. This is how you professionally approach your sport. ” (emphasis is my own)

I love triathlons and I want to do what I can to raise the status of the sport. So why am I not doing these SIMPLE things that he suggests? Why not advocate for warm ups before races? Why not suck it up and take my wetsuit to the beach and do a few short swims with it prior to a race where I plan on wearing it? Before today, I was stuck in the same old mindset. However, this season, I’m going to take strides to better my sport and improve not only my safety, but the safety of my fellow athletes. Who’s with me?

Two Bike Lessons

4 03 2013

This weekend, it was quite chilly here in Florida. For real, it got into the 40s!

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 10.58.53 PM

Yeah, see the note: “Most recent high temperature much below average”?  Brr!

Despite the below normal temperatures, Jess and I decided to tough it out and go for a ride on Saturday over at our usual spot near Alafia. The high was only 60 for the day, so we bundled up and left around 10:30 to head out for our ride. When we got out of the car, the first thing we noticed was the wind. This was not going to be a fun ride. We tried to get pumped up by thinking about how our competition for Ocala was probably not out on the roads today. This was going to make us stronger!

Once we got moving, it actually wasn’t so bad. Our plan was to ride easy for the first hour and then ride steady for the second. Our normal route takes us down Carlton Lake Road and then we make a right onto 674. When we made that right turn- holy head wind!  There were a few gusts coupled with big trucks flying by which caused me to hold on for dear life, for fear I’d get blown over! We pushed hard and finally got to our left turn onto 579. I think we both breathed a sigh of relief when we got there.

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 10.16.21 PM

Shortly after our turn Jess looked down at her tire. Uh oh, she was starting to go flat. No big deal, I’ve got a flat kit! I hopped off my bike and dug into the empty water bottle that holds my kit. Tube, check. Levers, check. CO2 cartridge, check…uh, where’s the nozzle for the CO2? Crap. It must have fallen out somewhere! I guess we won’t be changing the flat…Since there was really nothing else for us to do, we decided to head back towards the car, hoping that the leak was slow enough that Jess could make it.

We weren’t quite halfway back when we looked at Jess’s tire and it was nearly down the the wheel. We decided that I’d ride back to my car and she’d find a safe place to sit and wait for me to pick her up. I took off, since I didn’t want to leave her too long and the wind was picking up. I made a left to head back to the car and BAM, another head wind. I looked down at my watch and saw how slow I was going and willed myself to push harder. I didn’t like leaving Jess alone, especially not in this cold weather! After what seemed like forever, I saw my car. I hopped out, threw my bike in the trunk and headed back to where I’d left her. I found her safely off the road with a smile on her face. I think the flat was a blessing in disguise- it was getting windier (the Weather Channel said up to 20mph winds!) and it was still pretty cloudy. We drove back in the warmth of the car and decided we both need to make sure that one of us has a complete flat kit when we go on these long rides out in the “country.”

Sunday was still pretty chilly, and I wasn’t really in the running mood. I’m getting over a cold, and my head and lungs just weren’t ready for a run outside. So I decided it was as good a time as any to hop on my trainer. I really don’t like riding on my trainer, mostly because it’s boring and every time I had tried to ride it last year, my back tire melted and stuck to the resistance wheel…which made for a really jerky and unpleasant ride.

Outspokin Bicycles just opened a new shop in South Tampa, so I went in the other day to check it out. I purchased a special trainer tire and “chopping block” (a riser for the front tire to keep it in place and bring it up to the same height as the back tire) in hopes that this would motivate me to get on the trainer. 


I forgot how hard it is to change a tire. Oh. my. goodness. I sat on the floor for a good half hour pushing and pulling and trying to get that darn thing onto the wheel. I worked up a sweat trying to get it on!


The last part is the hardest!

Finally, I got the whole thing on, only to realize that I forgot to put the tube in first. Doh! I’m out of practice, okay? So I took the tire off, put the tube in, and tried once again. This time, it wasn’t quite as hard. It was still pretty difficult, and  I’m sure my hands are going to be sore tomorrow. I guess it was a good lesson in tire changing.


I set up my computer in front of my bike, turned on a surfing video on Netflix and pedaled away. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Maybe I was excited because the new tire wasn’t melting and I could finally get a trainer ride in, after owning the thing for over a year and hardly using it. And watching Kelly Slater surf down the face of an enormous wave in Tahiti didn’t hurt either 😉 Regardless, I’m happy that I got it all set up and working well. Now I have no excuses for not biking more!


Despite a few bumps in the road, the weekend actually turned out to be quite productive in terms of biking. I learned the importance of having a flat kit, I changed a tire, and I got in an hour of biking on both Saturday and Sunday. Now it’s time to get my butt in gear! After all, I’ve got a race in less than three weeks!