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!





FonDONE Take 2!

13 04 2015

At the end of March, I was lucky enough to get an invitation back to The Melting Pot for another round of FonDONE! The kind folks at Front Burner Brands saw my first post about FonDONE and reached out to see if I could come back for a media event they were having. More cheese and chocolate? Yes, Please!

Bill and I headed over to St. Pete to the only Melting Pot that is serving FonDONE right now. I had no idea that this particular restaurant was so special- they often will pilot new concepts here and oh, and it’s also supposedly haunted:-) We didn’t see any ghosts while we were there, but we did get to meet up with some other bloggers/media who I had only ever interacted with via social media. I shared a table with Carlos Eats, his friend from the USF Foodies club, and Crystal from Thrifty and Frugal Living. There were two other tables of bloggers/writers, but unfortunately I was too busy eating to really get to talk to anyone else. We had one more special guest at our table: Mike Lester, THE president of the Melting Pot. NBD.IMG_8803

(not the most flattering picture, I apologize)

He was really cool; very passionate about what they’re doing at the Melting Pot, and clearly a leader who is respected by his staff. It was easy to see that the Melting Pot really fosters a sense of inclusion and “we’re family” among the staff, and he’s a key player in bringing those values to life.

We also got to meet the head chef, who has a very impressive resume, but of course the one thing he always gets asked about is that time he was the personal chef for Ludacris!

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I hadn’t really thought of it before, but Melting Pot restaurants who wish to bring FonDONE to their restaurant need to undergo a kitchen makeover. There’s no need for a cook top or oven right now (since you do it at your table)- but with FonDONE you need a chef and a kitchen in which he can work! That’s quite the investment, but I’m pretty sure it will pay off for sites that choose to add it to the menu!

For our event, they were highlighting a few speciality cocktails, so of course I had to try one (or two). I started with the Love Martini: malibu, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and fresh strawberries. It was a little sweet, but if you like Malibu, you’ll LOVE this martini. IMG_8788

I sipped my martini while we got started on our appetizers. We began with the Wisconsin Trio and the Classic Alpine. I had never actually had the Classic Alpine before, which is a Gruyere, Raclette, and Fontina blend with some wine wine, garlic and nutmeg, but I definitely found my new favorite! The nutmeg just brings it all together (who knew? I guess the Swiss!) and it is dynamite on apples, carrots, bread, or some of their premium rosemary fries (new!!). Oh- and did you know that they have a charcuterie plate with accoutrements? Put together a dipper with salami, cornichon, sweet pepper, and bread- you won’t regret it!

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After we got our fill of cheese, it was FonDONE time! The FonDONE menu offers small plates from a variety of categories: Beef & Pork, Poultry, Seafood, Pasta, and Vegetarian. We were offered 5 of the different dishes- and man, were we spoiled! We got to try:

The Filet Mignon, served on a small pile of wasabi mashed potatoes

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Lemon pepper chicken (served with a side of tri-color quinoa salad),

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Jumbo grilled shrimp (on a corn salad),

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Lobster tail (YES!!)

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and (my favorite) the Wild Mushroom Sacchetti in a marsala sauce.

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Now THAT’s a MEAL!

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As if that wasn’t enough, we obviously needed to have some side dishes: quattro macaroni and cheese (how can you go wrong with mac n cheese??) and the fresh asparagus risotto.

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Of course, the FonDONE is served with the trio of dipping sauces: Goat Cheese fondue, Marsala, and savory Cabernet. Yup, the Goat cheese was still my favorite!

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As I was filling myself to the gills with delicious food, it was time for another beverage. I had planned to wait until dessert to get my drink, but I just couldn’t wait. Enter: the Yin & Yang Martini:

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Godiva white chocolate Liquer and Stoli vanilla vodka blended with ice cream then topped with chocolate shavings. Oh, and served in a beautiful yin yang shape! This is probably the prettiest drink I’ve ever been served, and though I didn’t want to destroy the beautiful artwork, I just couldn’t wait to dive in.

O.M.G. Absolutely delicious. Dessert in a martini glass. It reminded me of the black and white milkshakes my mom used to make when I was younger (no, hers were not spiked). I would absolutely come back for that drink again. And again. And again.

When I didn’t think I could eat (or drink) anymore, I had to find a little more room for dessert! It was chocolate fondue time! We got two of the Melting Pot’s most popular chocolates: the Flaming Turtle (chocolate, caramel, and candied pecans, a la flambe, obviously!) and the Creme Brûlée (white chocolate and caramelized sugar).

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If you know me, I’m a dark chocolate fan. The darker, the better. I’m honestly not really a white chocolate person, and would probably never have ordered the Creme Brûlée fondue, but man, was it amazing! It definitely won a place in my heart (not overtaking dark chocolate, but a close second). I kept coming back to it, dipping all of the different dessert dippers (including one of the premium dippers: the raspberry cheesecake).

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Yes, please!

And if the evening wasn’t special enough already, the servers brought out plates that had been decorated with our blog names!
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How awesome is that??

I was absolutely overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness of the folks at the Melting Pot. They’re really excited about this concept- and it shows. They’re also SUPER open to feedback- they just want customers to have the BEST dining experience possible. I definitely think they’re doing something right, and I really hope that FonDONE takes off. It’s a great idea, and I can’t wait to go back for more! Thank you Front Burner Brands for the invite!


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(FULL DISCLOSURE: My meal was comped, but all opinions are my own!)





Above the Barre Fitness

6 02 2013

 

I’ve been on this “try new kinds of workouts” kick. I’ve been Krankcycling. I went Flyboarding. And a few weeks ago, I had the chance to try barre fitness.

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I didn’t know too much about barre workouts, except that they typically take place in what looks like a ballet studio, you use the bar for some moves, and you do a LOT of micro movements. When an opportunity arose for the Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers to take a class at Above the Barre Fitness in St. Pete, I jumped at the chance. I’m always game for trying out a new kind of workout!

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Raffi had coordinated with Maria, the studio owner, to have a special class just for TBLB so that we could try out barre and have the opportunity to take pictures and ask questions without interrupting a normal class. Raffi was in the middle of her 24 day barre challenge-complete 24 barre classes in the month of January- and was already seeing changes in her body. She was hooked, and her testimonial definitely got me interested!

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(Photo borrowed from Caroline)

As the bloggers arrived, I saw some old faces and some new. We had some introductions and then posed for an obligatory photo. Hanging out with bloggers means you’ll always have some photo memory of an event:-)

Maria greeted us all and gave a brief introduction to barre and some of the things we’d be doing. Then we got right into it and started warming up.

Barre draws its roots from dance, but it is most certainly NOT a dance class. There’s a bar and music, and those are about the only similarities. The class is typically an hour long, and you do many repetitions of very small, focused movements.

Once we were warmed up, we started with arms, doing a variety of arm lifts, twists, holds, etc.

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Ooh man did we burn out those arm muscles! You’d think that using a 2 lb weight would be no problem; well, 2 lbs feels like 20 after doing the moves Maria made us do!

After arms, we switched to legs. We again did a variety of tiny movements, squatting and pulsing, squeezing a ball between our thighs, standing on our tippy toes and working our calves, and everything in between. Maria was constantly reminding us to “Zip it up” which meant to keep those abs tucked in tight! Though it wasn’t a cardio class, I was definitely sweaty by the end, and my muscles had gotten a great workout.

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(CarolineMindy, Me, MargaritaKatieLoraRaffi, and Tess)

Maria was an excellent instructor, and really gave us a great first experience. She explained all of the moves and was very encouraging. My biggest complaint is that her studio is in St. Pete, and I live in Tampa! But, if I lived in St. Pete, I would definitely check that class out more often!

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Thanks Maria for opening your studio to us! And thanks Raffi for organizing!

Be sure to check out Above the Barre’s Facebook page to learn more! Oh, and your first class is free, so you have no excuse not to check it out!!