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.

img_6459

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!

img_6473

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

img_6479

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.

img_6483

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

img_6547

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!

img_6482

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.

img_6491

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.

img_6500

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

img_6510

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?

img_6514

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.

img_6535

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!

img_6541

 





The Trip Of A Lifetime (Part 1 of ?)

10 11 2016

Howdy my long lost readers! If you’re still with me, thanks! I had a race report from the Crystal River Sprint #3 half written before I went away on a 2 week vacation. Because vacation is much more exciting than a sprint triathlon, I’m going to tell you about my trip to Australia and New Zealand!

14881373_10208573497787323_1780724320_o

I’m blogging about the trip mostly because I want to remember as much as possible; it’s not every day one gets to hop on a plane, fly for 15 hours and spend two weeks literally on the other side of the world. So, grab your coffee, this is gonna be a long series of posts!

 

***

Bill and I left Tampa bright and early on Saturday October 24th (like 7am early) to fly to LA. When we arrived, we had about 13 hours until our flight to Sydney; because we had > 12 hours until the next flight, we weren’t able to re-check our bags. So, rather than finding storage for the day, we opted to rent a car and explore!

First stop, In N Out Burgers, obv.

img_6386

Normally, I eat vegetarian as some of you may know. But, when it comes to these burgers, I make an exception! Animal style all the way!

After our heavy “brunch” we headed to the Santa Monica Pier. Oh LA traffic, you certainly are a pain!

img_6394We wandered around what I think was the downtown Santa Monica area on our way to the pier and walked through a lovely Saturday Farmer’s market. Gosh, I really miss the farmer’s markets from when I lived in DC! I sampled some yummy tomatoes and pears before we finally headed to the beach.

img_6389

Santa Monica is beautiful if you haven’t been there- the ocean and the mountains, all in one place. Gosh, if it weren’t so stinking expensive, I would love to live there!

img_6392

We walked some more and then decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.

img_6403If you’re unfamiliar, the La Brea Tar Pits are an incredible archaeological site that is currently active! Thousands upon thousands of bones from the ice age have been dug up already, and they’re still discovering more. Back in the day (WAAAAAAY back in the day) animals would come to drink/eat at the tar pit. Well, the obviously didn’t realize it was tar, because when they stepped in it, they got stuck! The poor animals couldn’t move and eventually died. And dead animals = easy dinner for predators, so they came and explored. They too got stuck! That’s they theory of how SO MANY bones were found in such a small area. We wandered around the museum for a bit (it’s not that big, so easy to do in a few hours) and gawked at the all the fossils.

img_6404

We worked up an appetite, so we needed some food, stat!

I was craving something a bit healthier than this morning’s meal, and thankfully we found Mendocino Farms. This place was great! Order at the counter, sample the beers and side salads (like potato salad, or the yummy shells with almond romesco sauce I had), and then sit down and enjoy your meal when your number is called. Bill got a BLT with tempeh bacon and I had a delicious salad. I wish I had written down what was in the salad because it was amazing!

 

After dinner (or was it lunch #2?) we still had time to kill, so since it was nearing sunset and we were on the west coast, back to the beach we went (duh). It was a stunner of a night, and a great way to wrap up our day in LA!

img_6430

 

img_6436

And now, back to the airport, return the car, check in to the flight and we’re headed to Australia Baby!!!

 





Ironman Cozumel – The Swim

16 12 2014

So without further ado…

 

Race day was finally here! My alarm was set for 4:35, but I woke a few minutes before the alarm sounded. I walked out into the living room and saw Jess making coffee in the kitchen and started to get teary. I told myself I couldn’t cry yet, so I pulled myself together and started to make myself breakfast.

I made my standard breakfast- oatmeal with banana and peanut butter, and I sipped on some coffee to get things moving (TMI note: I did not need any help in that department. Nerves took care of that for me!) Bill came out of the room few minutes later and gave me a hug, and the tears just started rolling. I was scared. What was I about to do?  (As I look back, I’m surprised that fear was something I was feeling. I was very well prepared, I had nothing to be afraid of!)

1960023_10203556899063223_5883571802735414896_n

I pulled myself together, laughing as my friends made jokes to help shake the nerves. Jess was super positive, and her confidence and excitement for the day was contagious. We were doing this thing, ladies!

10513243_10203556899423232_4844509993290691359_n

We got the last of our special needs bags together and walked to T1 as dawn was breaking. We didn’t have a TON of time, as transition was only open for an hour before we all needed to catch a bus to the swim start. Bike shoes on bike, nutrition on bike, bladder and bottles filled, tires pumped (thanks Tommy!). Check, check, check check. I added the last bit of nutrition to my bike bag and then hit the port-o-potty. Courtney, Jess, and I did one final check of our bikes before dropping off our special needs bags and making our way to the buses.

10174992_1026031647412157_7785138572660512841_n

We made friends with a woman while waiting and met a Canadian guy on the bus that made us think of our friend Heather. (By the way, Heather is amazing and got us these spectacular margarita glasses! Thank you Heather!) On the drive over I finished up my Osmo preload and took the Immodium I had placed in my morning bag (so glad I had it!). We had decided to give our morning clothes bags to Felipe rather than drop them with everyone else’s things, so while we waited, we put on our swim skins (I had borrowed one from my SOAS teammate- THANK YOU Milette!!) and vaselined up.  Time was ticking, and it was getting closer and closer to our start time. I was starting to think of a back up plan for my bag, when there was the Brazilian in his red shirt and fedora. I think we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and then walked towards the start.

10811_10106082069395991_5532982306136817619_n So this picture wasn’t from race morning, but you get the picture

This was the first year Cozumel was a point to point race, and we started at the Intercontinental hotel. It was also a wave start, and my wave was scheduled to go off at 6:58am. I think one of the reasons it was a wave start was because the starting area was pretty narrow. We all filed down a ramp and then into the water for an in-water start. It would not have been possible to get all 2800 people down that ramp to start at the same time. Sure, it would have been an exhilarating experience to be a part of the “traditional” ironman mass start, but I actually didn’t mind starting with a smaller group. The only problem I had with this way of starting was that we were so spread out, so I couldn’t find any feet!

10690252_1026033430745312_5049473637903175874_nCan you find me?

Anyhow, we watched the pros take off and then Felipe took a few photos of us. Again, the waterworks started. Pull yourself together Steph!

1533949_10106089059807151_285835746361563206_n

Finally, it was our turn to get into the water. I wished Jess and Courtney luck, and then got in. I didn’t want to be close to Courtney because I knew my competitive nature would probably make me race her and exert too much energy (spoiler alert, Courtney had a killer swim, 2 minutes faster than me, with a time faster than the male pro who won the whole thing!) so I swam off by myself behind some girls I didn’t know.

Soon it was go time! The horn sounded and we were off! You’re probably tired of hearing this, but my goodness this was the most beautiful swim I’ve ever done. The water was crystal clear and there were fish everywhere. It was hard not to get distracted!

1498881_886137334744065_3171728088069797597_o

10620460_886136701410795_7169393283992480178_oI really wish I had an underwater photo of me!

Some girls took off and I reminded myself that I have a long day ahead of me. Smooth stroke, just keep it steady. Right before we started some of the guards on paddle boards told us to swim closer to shore, not out by the buoys. So, I stayed pretty far to the left of all the buoys for most of the swim. I really wanted to find someone’s feet and just sit on them, but with the wave start, this just wasn’t happening for me. Soon, I caught up to the wave in front of me. As I was swimming, I was a little too close to the inside, and there were some smaller buoys that I think marked a hotel’s designated swimming area. I swam directly into them, and a few other swimmers from the wave in front of me. I don’t think they liked getting trampled, because one of them grabbed my ankle! I kicked hard and got out of there as quick as I could.

The swim was pretty peaceful actually, not the hectic swim I was expecting, but I was okay with that. I don’t have a watch for the swim, so I had no idea how long I had been swimming, but I remember looking up at one point thinking, man, this is a long swim. Where are those final buoys? Rumor has it that we were actually swimming against the current for the first part of the swim. I don’t really know, for sure, but it wasn’t strong enough to make a ton of difference for me, I don’t think.

I got stung a few times by tiny jelly fish, but the pain was fleeting. I passed more and more people from the waves in front of me, but saw few of my fellow purple caps. At one point, I saw a guy from a wave behind me, and my silly self thought, Ooh feet! These will be speedy! But they were definitely too speedy for me, and I got no help there. Finally, with about 300 meters to go, I caught site of a girl in a purple cap. Let’s get on her feet! I swam over to her and there was actually another girl on her feet. So, I swam up next to them both, and was stroke for stroke for the entire way home. That is, until the last 5 meters when I got stuck behind two people from the wave in front of me. Doh!

I got out of the water with a huge smile on my face! I was doing an Ironman! in Cozumel! How amazing is this??

I ran across the dock, rinsed with a hose briefly, grabbed my bag (after noticing that Courtney’s bag was already gone!) and ran in to the changing tent. I quickly looked for Courtney (didn’t see her-as I said before she had a killer swim!) and then focused on getting myself ready for the bike.

The changing tent was a little chaotic, but thankfully there weren’t a ton of people in there. I think I was a little overwhelmed by all the crap I had to shove in my pockets (a tube, 3 rice cakes, 2 bags of salty balls, and 1 Power bar gel bursts, extra Osmo powder, salt tabs, chapstick), put on (helmet, sunglasses, race number, sunscreen), and then put my swim stuff back into the bag. The volunteers were great (most of them were kids and teenagers!) but it took us both a second to coordinate the dance that is the athlete-volunteer changing room tango. A volunteer slathered on sunscreen while I put the last of my nutrition into my pockets and into my cleavage, and put on my helmet. I distinctly remember looking down at my feet and seeing several ants crawling on top of my feet and saying “OW!” when I felt their sting. Clearly I was not moving fast enough if ants were biting me! Finally, I stood up, a volunteer clipped my race belt and I was headed towards my bike. Let’s go!

Swim: 52:51, 5th AG

T1: 5:43 (This is why I got bit by ants)

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 8.20.46 PMCheck out this nifty visual of the swim/transition. I’m the green dot. The pink ones are the other females, while the orange dots are the other women in my age group. The orange dot in front of me was the girl who finished 5th in my AG. I heard her fans yelling “GO STEPH!” and was wondering how the heck people knew my name. Duh. The girl right  behind me actually finished 3rd in our age group! Speedsters!