2016 Highlights

31 12 2016

So, I know I haven’t finished my Australia/New Zealand recap, but I’m getting caught up in  all the end of the year hubbub and thought it might be fun to look back on some highlights from my year- some things that I have blogged about and others that I haven’t.

Here we go, starting with January:

 

Perhaps this isn’t quite a “highlight,” but it was definitely something significant for Steph the triathlete. While out on a long run in preparation for the Best Damn Race half marathon only a few weeks away, I sprained my ankle. Oof. 2016 was off to a great start…

A few days after the sprain, it was my birthday, and it was quite possibly one of my favorite birthdays ever. 33 is nothing special in itself, but Bill and our friend Domenique made sure I would never forget this one. We got dressed up and went to Ciro’s speakeasy for some fun drinks before hitting up Edison for a delicious meal. The best part of the evening was my gift, which was so incredibly thoughtful. Bill had collected notes from my friends, which highlighted what they appreciated about me, and put them in a jar for me to read. We read each and every one of them, and my heart overflowed with joy. I still read them every so often- its a great way to cheer up when you’re feeling a little down!

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February:

Bill and I got to spend Valentine’s Day together. Sure, he was performing, but it was a fun excuse to get dressed up:-)

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I took the plunge and got myself a power meter. I’m still learning more about how I should best use it, but it has definitely given me some interesting data to look at and analyze so I can keep improving!

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And finally, I started classes for my Certificate in Project Management at the UW. It was fun to be a student again and to learn something that was totally applicable to the work I do!

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March:

In March I had the pleasure of attending my first ever triathlon training camp with TriMarni. I had an absolute blast spending three days doing some of my favorite things: swimming, biking, running, EATING, and learning about how to be a better triathlete. On top of all that, I got to meet my amazing coaches and teammates in person for the first time. It was awesome. img_2889lgls1679

I also did my first tri of the season, on the last day of camp. I went out with ZERO expectations because hello tired, and I had a blast! It’s amazing how different a race can be if you just let go of all expectations and your only goal is to enjoy your day.

 

April:

 

Since I didn’t get a chance to run the Best Damn Race, I was looking for a redemption race, and I found it in the IronGirl Clearwater half marathon. I was still getting my fitness back from the sprain but was definitely well enough to race. So glad I did because I PRed! (caveat: I haven’t done that distance stand alone in a very long time!)

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I also did the St. Anthony’s Triathlon for the first time as an individual athlete. In 2015, I did it as a relay, but this year, it was all me. It was a hot day, but I PRed the Olympic distance and ended up with a 5th place AG award. Oh, and I met Rinny!

 

May:

The highlight of May would most certainly be our hiking trip! We spent several days on the AT, saw some beautiful scenery, and met some pretty fantastic people. We spent our last night at the Top of Georgia Hostel, hanging with our new friends, learning from Sir Packs a Lot about the top tips for a successful through hike, and relaxing after some long days of walking. It was awesome. Unfortunately, the fall of 2016 wouldn’t be so good to TOG- the surrounding area was overtaken by fire, causing parts of the trail to be shut down, and thus, the steady stream of hikers that TOG relies on to survive all but came to a halt. They’re currently doing some fundraising to help get back on track, so if you feel so inclined, please donate here.

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June:

June was pretty busy for me, work-wise. I had two trips to Madison, and one of them was a longer-than usual trip so I could finish up my last course for my Project Management certificate. I “graduated” from the program this month, and can now put MCPM behind my name if I so choose!

One of the reasons the Madison trip was so long was because the two weeks I needed to be there were back to back, so I stayed for the weekend. It just so happened that there was a 70.3 that weekend, so of course I raced! Oh, and the Madison farmers market which is Ah-Mazing. It was really fun to race with my SOAS teammate Kathy! (I’m coming back for this race in 2017, and it will be an IM branded race then!)

I had one other race in June, a sprint tri, the 2nd in the Crystal River Sprint series. I won my age group!img_4715

July:

In July, we celebrated the 4th with our friend Domenique, who recently bought a home in Tampa. We helped remove tile from the inlay suite and then stuffed our bellies with delicious food.

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August:

In August, my friend Domenique got some chickens, and I learned that I think chickens are pretty cool. I’m adopted mama #2 for these babes, and I had so much fun watching them grow in 2016!

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I also hunkered down and got in my last push of training before my A race in September. Hard training meant I needed some good recovery, and I tried a float tank for the first time. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I also wouldn’t say I hated it. It was a different experience, and I think it’s one of those things where you need to do it a few times before fully “getting it”.

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September:

The triathlon I had been working towards all year was in September: Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City. It was a great excuse to get home to Jersey at one of the best times of year there. I didn’t have the race I wanted, but I still had fun!

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October/November:

Australia and New Zealand. ‘Nuf said.

New Zealand pics: (hopefully I’ll find some time to write up these posts!!)

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I spent Thanksgiving with some friends and then had a 2nd thanksgiving with another friend on Black Friday, and then had a 3rd Thanksgiving when Bill got home in early December. I love thanksgiving!

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I also started training with TriMarni as a one on one coached athletes. I felt the excitement of seeing my workouts loaded into Training Peaks for the first time (#triathletenerd).

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December:

In December, we celebrated Bill’s birthday with a surprise party. I’m so glad I was actually able to pull it off!

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I also was able to spend Christmas with my cousin and her family. It was so fun to experience a Christmas with children (6, 2.5, and 4 months old); seeing Christmas through their eyes really helps bring back the magic and joy that we can sometimes lose sight of as adults.

 

Thanks for the memories 2016. I wonder what 2017 will bring!

 





Three Sisters and Back to Bondi

2 12 2016

I awoke to the sound of the car starting. It was still pitch black out, but I knew immediately that Bill had gone to the car to warm up. His sleeping bag is actually a camping quilt, overstuffed so that it is 40 degree bag. Despite all his layers, he was definitely not comfortable in this temperature.

I most certainly was not going to get out of my warm sleeping bag, so I closed my eyes and kinda fell back asleep. Soon, the sun arose and I joined Bill in the car.

“So, what’s the plan?”

I could tell Bill hadn’t gotten much sleep (I mean, look at how small the car is! He’s 6’4″!) so we opted to start heading back to Sydney. But first, we needed to stop at the Three Sisters again, and actually hike over to get up close and personal with the girls:-0

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On the way back to Three Sisters, we were able to check off another thing from our “must do/see” in Australia list: we saw wild kangaroos! Just like deer in the states, a few shot out in front of the car, and we had to quickly break. I was only able to get a shot of this guy, who was still hanging out in someone’s farm, separated from his friends.

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We got back up to the visitors center and boy, was it windy! We followed the trail, went down some steep steps and crossed wooden walkway that was just a bit sketchy. Don’t. Look. Down. I told myself!

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We grabbed some photos, watched the crazy cockatoos (which are wild there, and are obnoxiously loud!) before heading back up. Some other walkers stopped to chat with us and told us we should check out the falls that was just up the road a bit. It was still pretty early, so I convinced Bill to stop. Well, not after stopping at this super cute coffee shop where I had the most amazing fruit cake ever.

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Absolutely NOTHING like the boxed sticky stuff you get. This was clearly homemade and outstanding!

We didn’t spend a ton of time at the falls; we actually saw them from a distance but didn’t want to walk all the way over and down to the bottom. It was chilly and we were both ready for a nap.

On the way home, we found a safe spot to stop and pulled over to take a 30 minute nap. Much needed!

We still had plenty of time before we needed to return the car, so I asked Bill if we could go back to Bondi and do the Coogee walk to see the sculptures. He agreed and navigated us back to that special place:-)

Today however, was a completely different day than Tuesday. It was much, much cooler, cloudy, and rainy. The surf was much calmer and the beach was empty.

We waited out the rain at a noodle shop and though it was quite good, it wasn’t quite as tasty as roach soup place. With full bellies and drier weather, we headed to Sculptures by the Sea. On the way, we passed the Iceberg club, which to my dismay was closed. Apparently every Thursday the pool is closed for cleaning. Argh! I guess that just means I need to go back!

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The art walk was really rad- so many beautiful and interesting sculptures. Here’s a few of my favorites!

 

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After we had seen all the sculptures, we headed back to the main drag to a brewery that had caught our eye on Tuesday. We grabbed a beer sampler at the Bavarian Bier Garden and played some foozeball. I am absolutely terrible and Bill whooped my butt every game. Tired and over foozeball, we headed back to Sydney since it was certainly not a beach day.

We returned the car and walked in the rain to our AirBnB, a loft studio in King’s Cross. King’s Cross is definitely more of an interesting neighborhood than Circular Quay: eclectic, artsy, and just the right amount of seedy.

The rainy weather did not make it an appealing night to be out and about, so we grabbed some take out Mexican, bought a bottle of wine, and had a relaxing night in.





Playing Tourist in Sydney

28 11 2016

(plus a little surprise at the end)

At 3:30am, Bill and I woke up. Hello jet lag! Thankfully, we were still exhausted from the past two days, and falling back asleep for a few hours wasn’t terribly difficult. Around 6, I woke up again, and decided to go for a run around the harbor. It was a beautiful, brisk spring morning- perfect runner’s weather.

I ran around the Opera House, stopping to take the obligatory selfie in front of the impressive structure. img_6456Then, I made my way into the Royal Botanical Gardens where I spotted a kookaburra and stopped again to take a photo.

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I made my way to Mrs. Macquarie’s point, took even more photos, before heading back to wake Bill and get our day started. #tourist

 

We decided that today we’d take it a bit easier than yesterday, and instead of doing a crazy amount of walking, we’d play tourist on the Sydney and Bondi Hop On Hop Off tour bus. The other priority we had for today: heal our still-feeling-cramped-from-a-14hour-flight bodies with a massage!

Apparently the bus was the thing to do, because we had to wait for the 3rd bus before we made it to the front of the line. However, this gave Bill time to find us a reputable spa and book a massage!

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It was turning out to be a stunning day- bright blue skies with not a cloud in sight. And, it was actually getting pretty warm out! We sat on the open top of the bus and started to get a feel for the layout of the city, the places we wanted to check out, and planned where we needed to get off to make our spa appointment.

img_6478The famous Coke sign at King’s Cross

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Beautiful public library!

Soon, my tummy was growling. I was dead set on grabbing lunch in Chinatown, so we hopped off at the Powerhouse museum stop, headed over a few blocks, and walked into the first noodle shop we saw. It was TINY, there were hardly any English signs, and a woman was hand-making noodles only several feet away. Perfect! We skooted our way into the last two seats, and soon a woman delivered our menus and some fresh hot tea. Bill and I didn’t have a ton of time to dawdle, since our spa appointment was rapidly approaching, so we spotted some vegetarian stir-fried noodles on the menu and ordered 2 of them.

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The steaming bowl of noodles arrived and I knew we had made a very, very good decision.

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OMG these were by far the most delicious noodles I had EVER eaten. No joke, I am still dreaming about them. I really, really wish I lived in a city with something remotely close to these. The slightly chewy texture, the sweet sauce, the crunchy vegetables. Ah-mazing.

We paid our bill and then hit it- we had about a mile or so to walk and 20 minutes until our  appointment.

As we walked through the city Bill asked me nonchalantly, “So, did you see the family of roaches living above the kitchen?”

Disgusted, I said “WHAT?  Gross. They were dead, right?”

“Nope.”

Now I was even more disgusted, but thankful that Bill didn’t tell me while were were there! We then proceeded to joke about our “roach soup” for the rest of the day and the remainder of the trip. And despite being really grossed out, we seriously considered going back at least once more before we left Sydney because the noodles were just that good!

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We made our way to the Ayurve spa for our massage and it was OH SO NICE. The spa was actually in the Westfield Sydney. Yes, that same Westfield brand that I’m sure many of you recognize from suburbia. It was a little weird to go to a spa in a department store at a mall, but hey, the massage was awesome!

Fully relaxed, we walked to the closest stop for our tour bus that would take us to Bondi Beach. I was so looking forward to this beach because I really, really wanted to go swim at the Icebergs Club.

As our bus made the final turn to head down the hill to the drop off stop, we caught our first glimpse of the beach. Not gonna lie, but I got a little giddy when I saw the beautiful beach below and the surf rolling in. img_6485Something about the ocean just makes my heart flutter! When the bus stopped, I’m pretty sure Bill and I were the first ones off. We high tailed it over to the beach and stood on the grassy area for a few minutes just watching the waves roll in, mesmerized. The surf was up and there were loads of surfers in the water. I could tell that Bill was excited too- he used to surf a lot when he lived in California and he’s a water person just like me. It made me happy to see him happy.

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We walked closer and made our way onto the beach. Of course I put my feet in the water, and man was it chilly! We walked to the north end of the beach, and along our walk we saw a group of kids learning about water safety, and then a little further up there was a group of high-school aged girls with paddle boards, ready to tackle the open water. I’m pretty sure both of these groups were organized by one of the lifesaving clubs that calls this beach home. If I lived here, I can guarantee I would be part of one of those clubs.

 

We probably could have spent hours just staring at the ocean, but we didn’t have a ton of time before the last bus picked up and I really wanted to check out the Icebergs.

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We walked to the south end of the beach, and to my dismay, the lap pool was closed. It was too rough:(

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I was a little bummed (but maybe a little relieved too, because man, it would have been one cold swim!!), but hopeful I might get another chance later in the week if time allowed.

The other thing I had wanted to do while at Bondi was the Bondi to Coogee walk, which is this beautiful 4k walk along the shore/cliffs from Bondi down to the “suburb” of Coogee. This week there was an added bonus: Sculptures by the Sea, where artists installed their works right along the path. What better background could you ask for?

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I checked my watch and knew we didn’t have a time to do the entire walk, so Bill and I found a big rock that overlooked the ocean and some of the path to sit and relax for a bit.

Shortly after we sat down, Bill gave me a present. It was a small rectangular box, wrapped in some polka dot tissue paper. I tore open a little piece of it and saw a familiar red box. Um, this is the box for my pearl necklace. A little confused as to why I was being gifted something I already owned, Bill told me to put them on. Then he gave me a smaller, square box, also wrapped in the same polka dot tissue paper. Is this what I think it is?

Inside, there was a beautiful silver ring with a single pearl in the center of 6 sparkly white sapphires. He looked me in the eyes and expressed his love for me, and told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. ❤ Yes, me too!

As I put the ring on, Bill asked me if I knew how pearls were formed, and explained that when an irritant gets into a clam, it creates this protective coating, which eventually becomes the beautiful pearl. “So, if you put up with an irritant long enough…” he trailed off and we both started laughing.

After some kisses and some cuddling, we realized it was time to head back to the bus and back to Sydney.

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Back in town, we switched to the city hopper bus and snuggled up close to each other as we enjoyed the cooler evening air and some more of Sydney’s sights. I was still on cloud nine, and couldn’t stop looking at/touching my ring. It’s beautiful. Bill’s not the most traditional guy, so I was over the moon that he had gotten me a ring. (Yes, that’s very superficial of me, but I don’t care). We ended our night with a beautiful sunset at Darling Harbor where I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. What an absolutely perfect day.

(Side note: I didn’t actually take a ton of pictures of my ring; I wanted this to be our little secret, at least for a little while! And now, well, I guess the secret is officially out!)

Bondi will always have a special place in my heart!

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