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.





Aussie Wildlife and a Night in the Bush

30 11 2016

Wednesday morning we woke up not quite as early as the previous two days, but still earlier than most people when they’re on vacation. That gave us plenty of time to pack up our things because today we were headed out to the Blue Mountains!

As if Sydney couldn’t get any more awesome, there’s a mountain range about two hours outside of the city center with national parks, beautiful vistas, waterfalls, and of course, camping!

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Before skipping town, we grabbed breakfast at this Venezuelan place on the corner. The arepas and tequenos (fried cheese sticks)  were delish and the guys running the place were incredibly friendly. Highly recommend!

We were initially going to take the train out to the mountains, but I am so glad we decided to rent a car. The flexibility it afforded us was totally worth it. Especially because we were able to stop here on the way:

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It was totally worth the $30 entry fee (per person). There were so many animals and a number of opportunities to pet and feed them. For instance, just after paying, you walk through the gate of a chain link fence and immediately there are what looks like tiny kangaroos hopping towards you.

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No joke, this was 15 seconds after we had walked into the park. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of what these guys were (perhaps a wallaby?), but there were several out and about, and a few others were in their designated habitat, which was set up so that they could come and go freely.

We also got to see koalas and we even got to pet one named Victor. Unfortunately, they don’t let you hold them. Just pet his bum and pose for a photo while he sleeps. Quite glamorous I tell ya.

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Since I can’t remember all the names of the animals we saw, I’ll just post some of the pics.

We spent several hours at the park before our growling tummies told us we were well overdue for food. Park food was not appealing, so we hit the road in search of something tasty. Unfortunately for us Americans, Yelp does not seem to be their app of choice for rating and reviewing places to eat. They’re more Trip Advisor people it would appear. Anyhow, we found a small Thai place with decent Pad Thai and then we hit up a grocery store to get some supplies for our night/morning in the bush (oatmeal, some krumpets, and some water).

(Other fun things we found at the grocery store but didn’t buy)

I knew we were going to camp at/near the Three Sisters, but I hadn’t done much more research than that. Normally, I’m the planner and Bill’s the lax one when it comes to figuring out our itinerary,  but it always seems to work out when he wings it. So, this was my experimentation with “winging it” – I figured there’d be signs telling us where to go. Unfortunately, when Bill typed “Three Sisters” into the GPS 50 bajillion hits came up. Ok, not 50 bajillion, but definitely more than a handful. We picked one and off we went.

Soon, we arrived at what looked to be a restaurant in the forest. Someone who clearly worked there was just closing the door as though business was done for the day, so I ran out and asked where Three Sisters was. Surprisingly, she wasn’t quite sure, but directed us back towards the highway and Katoomba. We searched again in Google Maps, and found another “Three Sisters” in the general direction the woman had pointed us. Thankfully this time there were clear signs directing us to the Three Sisters at Echo Point Katoomba.

When we arrived, it was really windy and starting to get chilly. We ran out to the overlook to get a few photos before I went into the information center to ask where we could camp. It was late afternoon at this point and I knew we would run out of sunlight in the next few hours, so time was of the essence. I was thankful they were open- 45 minutes later and we would have been out of luck! I told the woman at the desk we wanted to camp and she asked if we were bush camping or in an RV. When I confirmed bush camping, she gave me a sheet of paper that listed a number of free (YES!!!!) campsites we could drive to. She told me two of her top picks and off we went (for another 20 minute drive!)

Finally, after a lot of twists and turns and downhill, we made it to the Old Ford Reserve.

We immediately got to unpacking and setting up our tent. Correction: we didn’t bring a tent; we brought a tarp, a ground cloth, and our trekking poles for our shelter. This would be my second time tarp camping, and to say I was a bit nervous to do this in the Australian bush was an understatement. We were in the land of crazy wild and dangerous creatures and I was not going to be surrounded on all sides by an enclosed tent?!

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NBD, just a little skink.

Why, you ask, did I agree to do this? Well, for one, this would be our only night out in Australia. In New Zealand, two of our nights would be in the Department of Conservation’s huts and there was one other night where I thought we’d be camping out, but we had the flexibility to get a hotel room if we wanted. So, for one real night outside, Bill and I agreed that the weight of the tent wasn’t worth bringing all this way. And, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you, right?

Novices in tarp tenting, we spent a bit of time setting up our A-frame abode. I’m sure an experienced boy scout would have had a good laugh at us, but hey, we got it set up. Unfortunately, our campsite of choice was covered in these prickly things that poked through our ground cloth. Worried about puncturing our inflatable sleeping pads, I went in search of a new campsite.

We found one on the other side of the paved road, along a dirt road that didn’t seem to get much use. We were now further away from all the other camper vans than we had been previously, but at least this one didn’t have the prickly things!

Attempt number 2 at setting up camp was more successful. We decided to go with the lean-to this time, since it would have been a tight squeeze under the A-frame because our tarp isn’t a full-size tarp.

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Winner winner, campfire dinner!

Before we actually made our dinner, we explored our surroundings a little more. There was a hill just across the dirt road, which led up to what I believe was a horse farm; but if there was a stable, it was nowhere in sight. There was also a creek down the paved road in the other direction, but there were signs warning that it was unsafe to drink. How unfortunate, because it sure was pretty!

Finally, we made our dinner as the sun set. As it got darker, it got cold! We went for another walk (with headlamps on) back up to the top of the hill where the sky was absolutely full of bright stars. It was stunning! I don’t think I have ever seen that many stars- it makes you realize how small we truly are in our great, grand universe. Our star gazing didn’t last too long because I was needed another layer! Jeans + short sleeve shirt + fleece was not enough for this Florida girl.

Back at the tent, we changed into warmer sleeping clothes and curled up to watch a movie on the iPad. Yes, I said we watched a movie. I needed the distraction so I didn’t think about what might have been lurking beyond the tree line. Eventually, I was tired enough that I could fall asleep. I closed my eyes and prayed nothing would come get us!