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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What A Triathlete Does In Vegas

21 10 2015

Last week, I spent 4 days in Las Vegas for a conference. I’m three weeks out from Challenge Florida, and though my training generally hasn’t been as stellar as I would have liked, I didn’t want to totally throw the race away by not doing anything while out in Sin City. So, I did what any normal triathlete would do, and rented a bike (**sarcasm**). Yes, you heard that right, I rented a BMC road bike with 105 components and walked my fully-geared up self out of the casino I was staying at at 6:30 in the morning to go for a bike ride. Totally. Normal.

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(In case you were wondering, yes, there were people gambling at 6:30 in the morning.)

Let me back up a second. One of my colleagues who was also going to be at the conference is a bad a$$ and is a semi-professional cyclocross racer. She races in Belgium representing the US. Yeah, she’s legit. Anyhow, Corey had a race coming up and was planning to rent a bike to get some saddle time in while in Vegas. Though quite scared about being royally dropped in the desert, I asked if I could tag along. Thankfully, she had an easy ride scheduled for Friday so I was confident I could hang. I called up Bike Blast Las Vegas, where she was renting from, and reserved my bike.

Quick review of Bike Blast: When I tried calling from home on Tuesday and Wednesday, I had a bit of difficulty getting a hold of someone there. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to get a bike and would be stuck at the hotel gym. Thankfully, I was able to talk to Matt on Wednesday afternoon when I arrived in Vegas to secure my bike. The great thing about this company is that they have an option to deliver the bike to the hotel where you’re staying. And, it’s $69/day, which is, in my opinion, a great deal. Sign me up! They dropped our bikes off the afternoon before we planned to use them, and they helped me put on my pedals because I didn’t have the right sized allen wrench. Whoops. You don’t need to bring your own though- they have clipless and regular pedal options that come as part of the standard rental! The rental also included a helmet if you needed it, water bottles, and a local bike map. And, when you’re all done, they come pick up the bike! How awesome is that!? I would totally rent from these guys again- just make sure you call often and early to make sure you get your bike!

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On Friday morning, we met up at 6:30 to attempt a ride Corey found online from someone who at attended InterBike. We got a little lost at first, but then rode down the strip for a bit before turning off and then heading towards the mountains. Of course I had to grab a selfie while we were stopped at a traffic light:

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Once we were out of the craziness of the strip, we found a nice bike lane and made our way to a quieter part of town. We rode out about 45-50 minutes before turning around. Unfortunately, it started raining on the ride home. The way home was all downhill, so there were a few times where I was a little nervous about stopping. Thankfully, we weren’t going to fast, and we made it safely back to the hotel.

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I didn’t realize how dirty I had gotten from riding in the rain- I got in the shower with all my gear on in order to wash my kit!

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I debated whether or not I was going to keep the bike another day because Corey was planning a more intense ride on Saturday. I was definitely scared. But, I absolutely loved riding in a new place and I really wanted to make it out to the mountains to do a little climbing. So, I called up Bike Blast and thankfully I was able to keep the bike another day. Ready or not, my legs would be up for a beating tomorrow!

On Saturday, we met up at the same time and now that we knew exactly where we were going, we got to the bike lane about 15 minutes sooner than we had the day before. Corey asked if I would rather ride out to the mountains at tempo/endurance pace, or if I would rather do some intervals when we got to the quite streets. Uh, mountains please! So, I got on her wheel and we headed out. Thankfully, our pace wasn’t anything too crazy. I was riding hard, but I wasn’t struggling to hang on. Phew.

We ended up riding out to the Red Rock Canyon Visitor’s center, which happened to be an entirely uphill ride. I kept looking down at my watch and wondering why the pace we were riding felt so hard. Oh, it was because we were slowly climbing the entire way.

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 (elevation listed in meters)

It was cool to be out there in the valley, with mountains rising up all around. It was pretty out there; a welcomed change from the trail along the highway where I normally ride.

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About a mile and a half from the visitor’s center, the sky opened up and it started raining pretty hard. We booked it to the shelter of the entrance to the canyon, where we waited a few minutes for a break in the rain. The staff checking in cars warned us that we shouldn’t go up the mountain, since it was pretty muddy/flooded thanks to the rain. You don’t have to tell me twice!

When the rain slowed we decided to head back to the hotel. The way back was great! I was a bit cautious because of the wet roads, but we could pretty much soft pedal the entire way home (see elevation chart above). I would love to do this ride again when it’s dry out and see how fast we could actually make it back.

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#teamSOAS in the house!

When it was all said and done, we had ridden 60.6 km in 2:20. Not super speedy, but I’ll take it!

Later in the afternoon, the nice folks from Bike Blast came to pick up the bike as scheduled. I’m so glad I opted to rent a bike- I had a blast checking out new scenery and riding in a state I’ll likely not ride in again (however, there’s always Silverman…). It was fun to ride with a colleague and talk about things other than work. I definitely want to ride with her again- I’m sure I’ll get my legs torn off- but I would love the challenge! I didn’t let the time away from home put a damper on my training, so let’s do this Challenge Florida! I’ll see you soon!





Ironman Cozumel – The Bike

17 12 2014

As I ran out of T1 I spotted my SOAS teammate Amanda cheering for me. It was so awesome to have some SOAS support out there! I mounted my bike and headed out of Chakanaab Park.

Heading out of T1 I spotted Felipe, and the first thing I yelled was, “How far ahead is she?” Yes, my competitive nature was talking for me.

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Felipe was standing just before our first right turn, and Chris, Charity and Bill were are stationed at the turn. They were screaming and yelling for me (apparently), but I was completely oblivious.

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The bike course is three loops around the island. Laps 1 and 2 are 63km and then the last lap is 54km. You turn right out of the park, heading south for about 19km. At Punta Sur (the south point), you head back up the east side of the island for about 15km. Then, you make a left at Mezcalitos, and that road takes you all the way back in to town, where you’ll make a few turns before getting back on the road heading south.

ciclismoAs I headed south out of Chakanaab, I kept reminding myself of Maria’s advice: Just stay in the present. Soak it all in- you only get your first once. This part of my day was about the bike. Sure, I need to make sure I don’t kill myself on the bike so I have legs to run, but I need to enjoy this ride.

And so I did. I looked down at my computer and saw speeds I was happy with for the most part, but they were dipping a little lower than I would have liked this early in the race. (Reason number 1 I wish I had a power meter.) I chalked it up to just getting my legs warmed up. And then I got to Punta Sur.

Wind. Wind. Wind. Directly in my face. And, a slight incline that I wasn’t expecting. (For those folks who have done this race, don’t laugh. This was a small hill for this Florida girl!) The combination of the wind and the incline made me stand up to get to the top. Sheesh. How pathetic is this?

I stayed positive as I kept moving back up the island. Ok, I can do this. The wind was a cross head (more head than cross though) and I tried to keep implementing Jess/Felipe’s advice for riding in cross winds- keep the gear heavy, relax, and don’t forget to eat. (Btw, that was probably the best and most useful advice I received all training cycle!). I was a little disappointed because all the men from the wave behind me were already passing me. I didn’t seem to be gaining on anyone! At least I was surrounded by such beauty?

I passed the time by trying to remember which bar/landmark would be next, and I was certainly relieved when I made that left turn at Mezcalitos.

It was great to finally get out of the wind, but as I looked down at my speed, I was still not super happy with my numbers. (Reason number 2 I want a power meter. Oh wait, this is the same as reason 1.) And then I realized that yes, I was out of the head wind, but now I was back in a cross wind, this time a cross-tail. Well, let’s try to make the best of this! This road actually was where we started to see locals out in the street cheering for us. There was one part of the road where there were streetlights in the median- that was my signal that we were getting closer to town and the crowds would get even better.

The first time I rode through town I got a little teary eyed again. The crowds were amazing! Locals were blaring music. Kids were yelling “Si se puede” and shaking water bottles full of rocks. This was incredible!

Right as I got downtown, I spotted Courtney! I had finally caught up! I said hi, and I think I congratulated her on her swim, and then kept going. In retrospect, I wish I had chatted a little more, but I was feeling so energized by the crowds, I kept going.

Turn, turn, turn, right past T2 (gah!) and back on to the road heading south. At this turn, there was a band playing and SO MANY people. I had a huge smile on my face. I spotted Felipe (not sure if I yelled anything to him) and waved to the crowd. This is what it’s all about!

However, things get lonely on this ride pretty quickly. On the ride south, you have pockets of fans as you pass the different resorts, but they’re nothing compared to the vibe you get downtown. As I headed south, I realized that I had a bit more of a tailwind than I did on the first loop. This meant that the wind was going to be worse on the other side of the island too. Great.

At this point, I was just about out of Osmo. I had gone through my 16 oz bladder and almost all of my two 24 oz bottles. AND I had been grabbing water at each of the aid stations to stay hydrated- as it was getting warm. I just needed to make it to special needs, which was at 97km, where I had two frozen bottles of Osmo.

I kept eating and drinking, but I started to get a headache, so I downed an electrolyte tab. I took 2 or 3 more over the course of the ride. Nutrition is SO important in Ironman, and I repeated to myself “Sip, sip. Nibble, nibble,” something I took away from a talk with Stacy Sims. Don’t stop eating and drinking!

When I made that dreaded turn at Punta Sur, BAM. WIND. It was worse. I watched my speed drop drastically, (Powermeter, anyone?) and tried so hard not to get discouraged. I did some mental math in my head to figure out if I would still make my goal of 6:00, and I thought it might still be possible, but I wasn’t entirely sure if my computer was reading properly- by the time I got to special needs, I think my computer read 100km. Hmmm…

I arrived in special needs, and was SO happy to have Osmo again (am I addicted??). As I unwrapped it from the bag and paper towels, I head on the radio “197”. Courtney was right behind me! She asked how I was doing, and I remember telling her that this was a hard bike ride. I’m a terrible friend, because I don’t think that I asked her about how she was feeling!

Apparently I’m a slow poke because we pulled out of there together. I wish I had ridden with her for a little- I think we both could have used the mental boost, but I just wanted to be done with the bike, so the faster I went, the faster I would be done.

Mezcalitos couldn’t come soon enough. I made that left turn and breathed a sigh of relief yet again. However, the relief was minimal, and as I looked at my computer again, I let my 6:00 goal go. At this point, it was probably not going to happen, and you know what, that was OK. Again, be in the moment. Enjoy the ride. This is my first, and my only first, Ironman.

I got another boost from the crowd downtown, and enjoyed the only slight tail of the day as I passed the folks lining the water’s edge, before hunkering down for my final lap. Just. Get. Through. This.

I saw Bill for the first time all day on my third lap (even though he had been there on the other two), and I yelled “I’m so glad I’m on my last lap!”  I SO did not want to ride on that side of the island again.

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The last lap was rough. My rice cakes were not appealing at all, though I forced most of them down. I thought I was on my last salty ball (I actually wasn’t- the other bag was deep in my pocket, not easy to reach, and I didn’t realize it was there until after the race!) so I stuffed it in my cleavage to save for when I really needed it. Unfortunately, sweat makes you slippery, and it slipped out on the road. NOOOOOO! Then, one of my water bottles popped out. Both of my bottles were still frozen when I picked them up, so I was slowly making my way through them as they melted. When it popped out, there was definitely still some frozen Osmo in there. Dah!! Ok, let’s just hunker down and get through this thing.

Another racer made this nifty visual of how the winds were blowing in on race day. By the third lap, winds were quite strong- I don’t know if they were 25mph, but they were probably at least 20mph sustained.

strava_cozumel_bikeThanks Carolyn!

The east side of the third lap was pretty miserable. Both of my feet were hurting, which was weird- that hadn’t ever happened before on my long rides. I stood up a few times, just because I wanted a change of position. The wind was brutal, and though I did pass one or two people, everyone was looking pretty beat down by the wind. I tried to stay positive by thinking at least the pavement was better on this side of the island. (The pavement all around the island was great. The “worst” side was the west side in front of all the hotels, but it was by no means “bad”).

Mezcalitos, again, was the site I looked forward to on every lap. I almost let out a yelp when I made that turn. Yes! The worst part of the ride is done. Now, let’s make it to those street lamps, and then the last blocks into T2!

The cheers of the crowd carried me for those last few kms. Everyone always says they’re so happy to be off the bike. I assumed that it was because of crotch pain, but for me, I just wanted to be out of the wind!! It’s hard to explain, but I was a teensy tiny bit sad that – just like that- the ride was over. It’s not that the ride went by quickly- no, it was definitely long- but that all of the sudden, it was time to switch gears and go run a marathon. I don’t know why it felt “all of the sudden”- perhaps because I was actually trying to take it all in as much as possible? But for a split second I mourned the end of the ride and the fantastic cheering locals- the ones living outside of town- who came out to support these crazy athletes from all over the world, on their island!

Bike: 6:26.40, 15th AG

I gave my bike to a volunteer, grabbed my run bag and ran in to the changing tent.

Throughout the ride I kept wondering “Where is Jess?” She’s a super strong cyclist, so I was expecting her to pass me at any moment. I tried to remember when/where in our 70.3 she passed me to try to figure out where she might pass me on this ride, and it just never happened. I really hoped that she was okay…

I had just sat down and was tying my shoes when Jess entered the tent. She ran over and gave me a huge hug. It’s hard to put in to words the emotions in that moment, but thrilled, relieved, and grateful all come to mind. We both commiserated about how hard that ride was and wrapped up in the changing tent. I told Jess I needed to pee (I had tried so hard to go on the bike, but just couldn’t do it!) before starting the run, so we stopped at the port of potties before setting off. We started our watches, and started the marathon. Together.

T2: 4:43