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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St. Anthony’s Triathlon- Race Report

29 04 2016

Tap, tap, tap…Is this thing on?

Oh, hey, it’s Steph. Remember me? Sorry for the radio silence folks. Life/work just got busy, and when you sit all day staring at a computer, it’s difficult to want to spend even more time in front of the screen to write up a post. But alas, things seem to be a bit less hectic now and I miss blogging. So, I’m going to try to pop into this space a bit more frequently, especially now that it is race season!

I’ll start with what is most fresh in my mind- St. Anthony’s!- but I hope to write another post soon about some exciting swim/bike/run related things that I’ve done over the past few months. Stay tuned…

And with that, I’ll rewind to Sunday morning, bright and really, really early.

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My alarm went off about half past four and I slowly got out of bed. I didn’t get the best night’s sleep- it took me some time to fall asleep because I was a little stressed: I had forgotten to pick up my timing chip! As I was going through all my gear before bed, I read the instructions in the envelope with my numbers and it talked about the timing chip. I texted Beth to ask if she had gotten one, and she told me that we were supposed to have picked them up at the timing chip table. Whoops, I hadn’t seen that table. She assured me not to worry, they’d have them at the swim start in the morning. Phew.

Despite knowing I’d be able to get the chip in the morning, I didn’t like not having everything in order the night before. Lesson learned!

My friend Chris and I were carpooling over, so we met up just after 5 to head over to St. Pete. I wasn’t sure how the parking situation would be, but we were early enough that it wasn’t really a problem.  I had plenty of time to set up my gear in transition and get over to the starting area to pick up my chip. There was really no need to stress- picking up my chip was a breeze. (Interesting to note: the chips weren’t really chips- it was a foam ankle bracelet that had adhesive on it- no need for a velcro strap and no need to turn it in at the end!)

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Transition closed at 6:45, the pros went off at 6:50, and then my wave didn’t start until 8:06.  My goodness was this a lot of waiting around! As the sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature kept rising. I was getting a little nervous about how hot the run would be, but tried not to let it get to me- the weather is outside of my control, so there’s no need to stress about it; just do the best I can with the conditions I’ve got. And let’s be honest- today’s conditions were darn near perfect. It was wetsuit legal and the water was as flat as a pancake. There was minimal wind, and the sun was shining. It was a great day for a race- in fact, numerous people said these were the best conditions they’d ever had for this race!

Finally, it was go time!

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Swim: 1.5km, 23:35

The cannon fired and off we went! Off to my far right I saw one girl shoot out in front of the pack. She was moving! (Turns out she went a 21:53!) There was another girl immediately to my right who was in the perfect spot for me to catch a little bit of a draft, so I did until just after the first buoy, when I overtook her.

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The course is an “L” shape- you swim parallel to the shoreline then make a 90 degree left hand turn, then a 90 degree right hand turn, and then one last 90 degree turn before swimming in to the ladder where you’ll get out. As I reached the second buoy, I started to catch the wave in front of me. And then I caught more swimmers- by the time I reached the first turn buoy, I was swimming through a rainbow of swim caps from all the different waves in front of me. Surprisingly, I didn’t actually feel like I was getting caught up in congestion; I was just swimming through a sea of minnows. Thanks to the wetsuit and salt water, I think I kicked maybe 10 times the entire 1.5K;  I just kept pulling my way past more and more swimmers. As I neared the exit, I started mentally preparing myself for the bike.

T1: 1:19

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I was racked on the outside lane almost at the very end of the rack, which was a primo location for a transition area as large as St. A’s. I arrived at my bike, and seconds later a girl on my rack (and therefore in my AG) also arrived. HURRY! I thought, and I threw on my sunglasses and helmet and was out in front of her.

Bike: 40km, 1:10.09 (21.2 mph)

(Side note: Isn’t it funny that the race distance is in km but my speed is reported in mph?)

When you leave transition at St. A’s you ride for about a block on a brick road (off to see the Wizard?). It makes for some teeth chattering good times to start the ride:-) Anyhow, I got past the cobbles and to the straightaway that runs along the water, which is where I planned to coast and get into my shoes (my shoes are on the bike when I leave transition, and after I hit a nice flat shortly after starting, that’s when I velcro in). For some reason, I had a terrible time getting into my shoes- I lost all my momentum and at one point, one shoe was dragging on the pavement as I struggled. It was awful! I almost opted to stop entirely to get into the shoes, but eventually I got in. I got back up to speed and found myself passing people from waves ahead. A few miles in, the girl from transition passed me. We’ve got a race! I thought to myself. I kept her in sight, maybe 25 yards or so ahead of me, and after one of the turnarounds, on a slight downhill, I made up ground and passed her. It didn’t take too long for her to pass me again, but I kept her in my sight, for probably the first 15 miles or so. I wavered back and forth between wanting to give it my all to try and stick with her/catch her, or holding back some for a smart ride, since I knew I had a hot 10K ahead of me. I opted to try to be smart about my race, and let her go.

The bike is a fun ride, with some straight sections where you can get up and go, but there are lots of other sections with turns and speed bumps (yes, speed bumps). I was really glad I had done the bike last year as part of a relay, so I had a much better sense of what to expect and where I was on the course.

Soon, I was back on those cobbles and headed into transition. It was time to get my run on!

T2: 1:36

I knew I wasn’t too far behind the girl from the bike, so I wanted to be quick. Because it was going to be so hot, I planned to wear my fuel belt, which unfortunately doesn’t have a place for my race number, which meant I had to put on a second belt with my number.  I also had my visor and watch for the run. I somehow managed to put on the fuel belt, grab the rest of what I needed, and started to run out of transition. I wish I could say that I easily clipped on my number, velcroed on my watch and popped on my visor, but that would be far from the truth. I dropped my watch just before exiting transition and for some reason was fiddling with my sunglasses, which got caught in my hair – to the extent I need to stop for a second and get myself together. Sheesh. Finally, I got onto the run course.

Run: 10K, 49:26

In the back of my head I had been thinking, Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could break 50:00 on this run? My best 10k (off the bike) is actually 47:39 <- I didn’t actually realize that until I was writing this post; prior to now I thought I had never broken 50:00- whoops! So, I was gunning for what I thought (at the time) was a 10K PR (whoops).

Right after we left transition, a girl I presumed was in my age group passed me (they didn’t actually make us write our age on our calves, so it was hard to tell who was in what age group!). I tried to stay with her, but she was running really strong, and I knew I just needed to focus on my race.

The run was flat with the exception of a tiny bridge that you go over twice. It winds through the neighborhood, where the locals come out and cheer, spray you with their hoses, and offer fruit, water, and beer. It’s a fun atmosphere, and makes the miles go by pretty quickly. There’s a bit of shade once you’re in the neighborhood, but for the most part you’re totally exposed and it was hot! At each aid station, I tried to grab ice or ice water to pour down my top and in my shorts. I had my own fuel (osmo and Clif margarita shot block) so I was only using the aid stations to help me stay cool.

I was running pretty solidly for the first two miles, watching my pace hover just under or around 8:00/mile. As I approached the halfway, I noticed my pace had slowed and my heart rate was climbing, so I opted to take a walking break- 30 seconds only. Perhaps I’ll talk more about this on another post, but since working with Marni, I’ve learned that there is NO SHAME in taking short walk breaks- in fact, sometimes they help you run faster, as it allows your heart rate to drop down so you can get back to where you need to be. Anyhow, throughout the course of the run I took two more 30 second walk breaks. After the last one, two women passed me, but again I wasn’t sure what age group they were in. One of them I was pretty sure was older than me, but the other I wasn’t so sure.

In all honesty, I think I gave up a little at this point the run. It wasn’t like a “Screw it, I’m done.” it was more like, “I’m not going to try to kill myself to get to that finish; I’ll run strong, but no need to push to my limit.”  It was hot and I was tired, my right foot was tingly/numb from my elastic laces being too tight, and I was pretty sure I had slipped out of the top 5 by this point. Looking back, it was ridiculous to let my mind think that- I had a MILE or less left! And looking at the results, I probably could have eked out at 4th place if I had been a little mentally stronger. But, at the end of the day, I had a solid finish, and overall a really great day.

Overall time was 2:26.04, which was definitely an Olympic distance PR. I was hoping to come in under 2:30, and I crushed that by coming in nearly four minutes under that. (For an unfair comparison, in March I did the hilly Clermont Olympic triathlon at the end of a training camp, and went 2:43).

I actually ended up with a 5th place AG award, which was icing on the cake!

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I would certainly recommend this race to others- great venue, super organized, and overall fun race. It brings a great pro field (hello Rinny!) and it’s super cool to share the course with those tremendous athletes. Sure, it’s a huge race with lots of waiting around if you’re in a later wave, but it’s nice to mix in some large races every now and again. I’m a little curious about what it would be like to do this race in not so ideal conditions to see if I’d still feel the same way. Perhaps next year I’ll give it another go? Only time will tell!





What’s In Store in 2016?

20 01 2016

Howdy friends! Why yes, I do still exist…I just haven’t felt a ton of motivation to sit in front of the computer and write, when I spend all day sitting in front of a glowing screen. But, thanks to a long weekend and some down time, I figured I’d give you a peek into what’s in store for my 2016!

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  1. I’m a SOAS brand ambassador for the third year in a row! I’m so excited to represent this brand for yet another season. I have gushed over and over again about how much I love the gear from SOAS, so you can expect more of that 🙂 This year’s team kit is going to be pretty sweet too!12341468_1064108116960646_8217018892436058395_n
  2. I’m going to follow a training plan! Yes, really. Historically, I haven’t been one to follow a plan, but I recently purchased a plan from TriMarni. I’ve been following her blog for the past few years and I really respect her as an athlete/coach. I love her training/coaching philosophy, so I figured I’d see what happens when I actually have structured, focused training. I’ve also added on the option to be part of the “Performance Plan Team” so I get access to a private Facebook page where I can interact with the other TriMarni athletes (and Marni and Karel!). I also will get weekly check-in emails with loads of information to help me train and fuel smart this season. I’ve already received my plan and a number of other handouts- I can’t wait to get started!

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Now, in terms of race schedule…I only realized the other day that I went a bit trigger happy in terms of signing up for races. I guess I’m making up for 2015? Here’s what I’ve got on tap:

February:

6th: Best Damn Race half marathon. I’ve wanted to do this race for the past few years not just because I know the race creator/owner, but because I’ve heard such amazing things about it. They really do pull out all the stops to make it the best damn race, so I’m looking forward to experiencing it. I’m hoping I’ll get to ring that PR bell at the end, but I’ve only really been running consistently since early December, after taking several weeks off after Challenge Florida. It’s not an ideal amount of time to train, but we’ll see. I’ve only run this distance (in a standalone running race) 3 times (Nashville, DC, Gasparilla) and my PR technically is from a run I did while training for IM (1:49.40). I’m going to keep working hard for the next three weeks, and see what I can do!

22-23rd: Gasparilla. I haven’t actually registered for this race just yet. I was considering doing the half, especially if I don’t PR at BDR, but the more I think about it, the more I think I’ll likely stick to a shorter distance for funsies. No need to beat up my body early in the season- I’ve got big plans for triathlon this season!

March:

17-20th: TriMarni Camp, Clermont, FL: This will be my first ever triathlon camp, and I am pretty darn excited to spend 4 days doing a bunch of swimming, biking, running, eating, and recovering!

20th: Great Clermont Triathlon, International Distance. We’re topping off the training camp with an International distance tri.

April:

24th: St. Anthony’s Triathlon, Olympic Distance: I’ve spectated this race, volunteered at this race, done it as a relay, but never done the whole thing myself until this year. It’s such an institution around here, I feel like I had to do it at least once!

May:

Possible: 7th Hurricane Man OWS: Open water swimming is my favorite (said like Buddy the Elf) so I am seriously considering this one.

Possible: 22nd: Rev3 Knoxville: I’m not registered for this race, but I do think I’d like to do two halves this season. This race would be great because a lot of my TriMarni teammates are also doing it, and I really want to support Rev3. It’s also drivable (sorta).

28th: Crystal River Sprint #1: I really enjoy this race series, and this year I decided to register for all three of the races in the series! They were having a killer deal in the fall so I decided to go for it. It may not have been the best idea because of all the other races that I’m doing, but I think I’ll go into these as fun, training races.

June:

11th: Crystal River Sprint #2: See above.

Possibly: 19th Milkman Triathlon: If I don’t do the Rev3 race, this one is a possibility. It’s in Madison, WI, and it just so happens to be the weekend between two work trips up there. My SOAS teammate Kathy is also doing it, and it may just be the thing to convince me that I should sign up for IMWI 2017…

July & August: Time to put my head down and get to work! There is a possibility of another TriMarni camp in July!

September:

3rd: Crystal River Sprint #3

18th: Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City: This is my A race of the season. I cannot wait to get home and race!

Phew, that’s a lot of triathlon in 2016!

Some time in between all of this fun triathlon stuff, Bill and I are going to get ourselves out on another fantastic hike and/or on another fantastic vacation! I need to go diving again! We don’t have anything on the books yet, but we do have ideas:)

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Oh, I’ll definitely be helping Bill with the RV conversion. <— Follow along that adventure on the Facebook page.

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So, what do you have in store for 2016?