We made it to Sydney!

11 11 2016

One of the main reasons we were able to make this trip happen was that we used Delta miles to buy flights. Virgin Australia is their partner airline and what we’d take to get from LA to AUS. It was my first time on any Virgin branded plane, and I was quite pleased with the plane and the service.

img_6438Our plane left LA on Saturday night (October 22nd) at 10:35, which to my east coast body felt like 3:30am. We had been awake since 5:30am EST, so to say we were exhausted was an understatement.

 

One of my well traveled friends recently told me that the key to surviving the flight and not having terrible jet lag was to stay awake for the meal plus 1 movie and then sleep. I barely made it through dinner (I selected the vegetarian option, which was a nice mushroom stuffed ravioli, by the way) before I could barely keep my eyes open. I was in the middle seat (in coach) between Bill and a very nice woman who I’d chatted with briefly at the start of the flight, so I wasn’t expecting the best sleep, but I popped on the complementary eye mask, my ear plugs (they provided some too), adjusted the seat and headrest, and surprisingly, I was able to sleep! It wasn’t the best sleep of my life, but it was definitely a longer sleep than I was expecting!

I woke up a little before they served breakfast (which I believe was 2-3 hours before we landed), read for a bit (Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country) and before I knew it we were landing. OMG OMG OMG we are in Australia!!

We arrived around 7:30am on MONDAY, October 24th. Thank you international date line. I never experienced October 23, 2016. Hope nothing important happened!

We cleared customs and immigration with no hiccups (but we made sure to declare our camping knife and food!) and headed to the CBD (central business district) to drop off Bill’s cases at a storage facility (he was heading directly to a gig from this vacation and needed to bring all that stuff with him). Obviously I needed to get a doughnut when I passed this window:

 

It’s Doughnut Time!

Raspberry with a coconut sugar on top-it was super sweet but also super tasty!

Sugar rush complete, we scurried off to drop our backpacks at our AirBnB, in the Circular Quay/Rocks part of town. Our place was like 4 blocks from the Harbor- perfect location for tourists like us!

Today’s goal was to fight the tired and enjoy as much of the day as possible (since it wasn’t even noon yet!), so we started by walking to the harbor and wandering around.

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When I first saw the harbor up close, with the opera house to my right and the bridge to my left, I thought to myself, OMG I can’t believe I’m actually in Australia! We strolled around for only a short bit before realizing our stomachs were telling us it was about time for a proper meal. So we hit up a little cafe just outside the harbor where we shared some eggs and a slice of lemon merengue pie, after seeing the foot tall pie in the window. So much for a “proper” meal I guess!

The rest of the day consisted of:

  • Visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, and experiencing virtual reality. img_6449
  • Wandering around the Harbor Bridge. That thing is massive!

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  • Learning about astronomy at the Sydney Observatory and lounging for a bit on Observatory Hill

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  • Walking around some more, including a stop at the local Lululemon to find out where we could do some yoga.
  • Stopping for a mid-afternoon margarita and table side guac at a hip place called Mejico. YUM!
  • Getting our OHM on at a yoga studio called YogaBar. The studio was in the mall, which was interesting, but it definitely felt good to move! I wish we had taken the later class, which was a more traditional yoga class; the one we took was part yoga/part weights, but we took it because we weren’t sure we’d be able to fight the jet lag long enough to make it to the later class.
  • Enjoying some dumplings from a dumpling bar close to the AirBnB.
  • Crashing HARD at 8:30pm.

PHEW. That was a LONG day! We packed a bunch of stuff into our first day, thanks to such an early arrival. I was so excited to see more!

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Next Up…

28 10 2015

So, I have a half ironman in less than two weeks. To be completely honest, I don’t feel very prepared. I feel like this season has kind of been a non-season: completely unfocused with a few random races here and there. I’ve been running, biking, and swimming pretty regularly, but I’m not sure that I would call it “training.” Maybe if I had kept a training journal or tracked all my miles on Daily Mile like I did last year I may have been able to look back and feel a bit more satisfied with what I’ve done this year. Or, if my my idea of “normal” training wasn’t so skewed now that I know what IM training looks like.

IMG_74482 hours on the dread mill. Yay.

I’ve known for quite some time that I have a 70.3 in early November, but the race didn’t spark the sense of urgency that signing up and training for an Ironman does. I guess that’s what happens after you spend an entire year pouring all of your focus and energy into a single, albeit incredibly challenging, race. It’s difficult to find something that’s equally as exciting and motivating.

Ironman finish

(and will make you ugly cry at the end)

In fact, I’ve already started thinking about next season. I’ve actually been thinking about it since early September. It feels a little weird to try and plan out what races I wanted to do next year, when my 2015 season never really felt like it got under way. After watching IMWI and hanging out with several of my SOAS teammates up there, I was SO tempted to sign up. You don’t even know how many times I visited the IM site, looking at course descriptions and elevations, reading others’ race reports, etc. I waffled back and forth more times than I like to admit.

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Then, earlier this week it was announced that there was going to be an Ironman brand 70.3 in Atlantic City. What?! Clearly I do not follow the forums closely enough because I would have seen this coming and not spent so much time thinking about IMWI (however, 2017 may have my name on it…). Decision made! IMAC 70.3 here I come!

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With that announcement, I feel like my 2016 season now has a purpose, a focus. This race is a commitment because I need to actually plan to travel to it (unlike the race down in Venice where it’s drivable). It will be my first Ironman branded 70.3. And, I have a big goal for this race: I want to podium. This race isn’t small potatoes, so it’s going to take a lot of work to get there. But, I’m excited about that goal…so much so that I’m even considering hiring a coach. Sure, it’s a ways off, and anything can happen between now and then, but I think this is a sign that I’m finally coming out from the post-Ironman slump (yeah, I know, it took me awhile, and I didn’t even realize I was in it…).

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So with 2016 settled, I can maybe draw from a bit of the excitement of having a plan (I’m so type A) and get motivated for my “A” race of this season, Challenge Florida.

Several of my SOAS teammates will be joining me, and we’re making it a girls’ weekend down in Venice.

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Cynthia will be in town for the race!

My friend Chris let me borrow his race wheels, which is super exciting. Yay free speed!

Pink Shiv

And, I got my hair did…and it just so happens to go with the pink theme. Sure I’ll be that crazy age grouper with pink hair, but I don’t care:-)

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The plan: go out there and have fun. Next up, Challenge Florida!





Crossing Off One of My 2015 Goals!

24 08 2015

I’m not sure I ever put this in writing for the world to read, but one of my goals for 2015 was to get scuba certified.

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When the words first fell out of my mouth earlier this year, I was like, “Whoa, that came out of nowhere.” But then I realized that it actually didn’t. In Cozumel, my friend Courtney who is an avid diver, went scuba diving with Bill, as he was the only other person in our group who was certified. When they got back, we looked at the pictures together and I was just in awe. It was just so beautiful down there. I mean, here I was swimming at the surface, diving down every five seconds to get a closer look at all the amazing sea life below me. I must have said (in my head) “OOOHHHH FISHIES!” a gazillion times over the few days we were in Cozumel. I love the water, and I grew up by the beach. So why the heck wasn’t I certified to dive?

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Since moving to Tampa, I’ve noticed a plethora of dive shops- heck, I live less than a mile from 3!! I don’t recall ever seeing one when I lived in Jersey or DC (though I guess I wasn’t exactly looking for one either), but here they are hard to miss! I did a little bit of research and learned I could do the coursework online and then make arrangements with the shop to do my pool and open water dives. That sounds easy enough…but it would sure be more fun if I had friends doing it too. A few weeks after I had made my purchase, I got a text from my friend George, who told me that he and a few of his friends were working with an independent instructor to get certified. He extended the offer to me, and I was happy to join their group for pool work and dives!

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Fast forward to the first weekend of August. My classmates and I drove up to Blue Grotto dive resort to get in our first open water dive in the fresh water. We drove through some miserable rain (as had been the standard weather for the last several days) but finally the sky cleared up, making for a beautiful afternoon. We signed our waivers, watched the safety video and then headed over to get our gear prepped.

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When you look at Blue Grotto from the deck, it just looks like a big, natural swimming pool. The opening is not that big. Thankfully, since the weather hadn’t been that great and it was getting late on a Sunday afternoon, there weren’t many others there diving. I can’t imagine enjoying the dive there with many more people then just a few small groups.

Blue Grotto

We got in, did some prep on the surface before submerging. There is nothing like the first time you’re under water in open water. What a surreal feeling- there you are, 30 feet under water, breathing, and off in the distance there are little fishes just swimming around. You’re weightless, neutrally buoyant, just taking in the underwater world around you. Words can’t describe how cool this is.

We did some skills on the platform, came up for a surface interval before going back down again for our second, deeper dive. I have to give a huge shout out to Blue Grotto because we were there later than closing time (we got a late start), and they let us stay to get in our dives, no questions asked. It was MUCH appreciated, so that we didn’t feel rushed or require yet another trip up there to finish up our skills.

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We came up from our second dive close to 6pm, and we were one step closer to being certified! Next up: Open Water in the Gulf!

I was away in Madison the weekend the rest of my classmates went diving, so it was just me and my instructor John this past weekend for my final check out dive. I met up with him at Blue Water Explorers in Bradenton. We boarded a boat with another group of students, their instructor who was also the dive master, and the captain of the ship (who was the owner of the company that runs these dives every day of the year – with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas). Everyone was very friendly and the dive master and captain were super knowledgable.

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It was a perfect day- the sun was shining, the water was 89, the seas were <1 foot (in other words, flat as a pancake!), and visibility was about 20 feet. We anchored at a man-made reef, and John and I went down for our first dive. We did a skill and then spent the rest of the 40 minutes underwater exploring. Man, it was SO AMAZING down there! I really wish I had an underwater camera (the above underwater shots were from one of my classmates. doh)- but we saw snapper, spades, angel fish, hog fish, lizard fish, sea biscuit, sea urchin, sea cucumber, star fish, and a decent sized sting ray. The most interesting creature to me was this spidery looking crab that John placed in my hand. It looked like a daddy long legs with two teeny tiny claws on its front two legs. I’d never seen anything like it before.

On our first dive, I was definitely a little nervous. Turns out, 20 feet visibility wasn’t as great as I expected. There was lots of “Sarasota snow” as they like to call it- particulate- floating in the water, which made things  a bit challenging to see. It didn’t help that I have a really bad habit of exhaling through my nose and fogging up my lens. I stayed close to John and we went around the “reef” several times. It was getting close to time for us to surface, and I could tell that John was looking for the anchor. Unfortunately, neither of us could find it, so we free ascended. Thankfully, we weren’t that far from the boat when we surfaced.

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We took a 30 minute surface interval before heading back down again. This time, we used our compasses to navigate from the anchor point to a spot we marked with some shells. I was also way more comfortable on this dive, now that I knew what to expect. As we were down there I was just struck by how vast the ocean is and how tiny we are in this one little spot exploring. It’s an entirely different world down there- so many different species carrying on with their “normal.” How incredible is it that I can be down there to catch a glimpse?

After about 30 minutes under, we found our way back to our marker, and then back to the anchor line. (Phew.) We ascended and when we popped up, John said, “Hey, Guess What? You’re a diver!” Hooray!

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I got off the boat with a huge smile on my face; I am officially PADI Certified! Thank you so much to John for being such a fantastic instructor!

Now, time to figure out when my next dive will be!