Gulp…

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After a rainy night in the tents, we woke to (surprise!) a rainy morning. We had some breakfast packed up my part of camp and headed into town to sign up and drop me off at Jenhs’ motel for the drive home. Volunteers got first-dibs on signing up, which was awesome. It was amazing to see how long the line was when we showed up, there were literally hundreds of athletes waiting, some of whom had camped out the night before. The volunteer line was much shorter and moved pretty quickly. To amuse myself, I took some pictures of the craziness.

Then, it was my turn – I filled out my little form and got my code to sign up online for the race. We ran into one of the volunteers we’d chatted with yesterday, which was awesome. Then we headed over to Jenhs for the transfer of me and all of my soggy camping crap. I bid farewell to Erin and David and we hit the road. We made a brief stop at Safeway for some road food and I just had to pick up this little item, the Aero bar:

It turned out to be this weird candy bar that had air pockets in it. Very odd… Our trip home was much more straightforward than the trip out and it was fun to regale each other with our various race adventures. I had a great time and learned so much to help me get ready for next year. Many thanks to Erin & David for letting me tag along with them all weekend and Jenhs for bringing me and all of my stuff up in her fabulous Element. I’m still waiting for the big freakout, I think that will come next week when I actually sign up…

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Oh, Canada

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This weekend I headed up to Penticton, B.C. in our lovely sister nation (a.k.a. “America’s Hat” ;-P) to scope out and sign-up for Ironman Canada. (For those non-triathlete readers of this blog, in order to sign up for some of the more popular Ironman races you have to go to the race site and sign up in person. Crazy, I know… ) I had the good fortune of having a fellow Seattle-area tri-friend of mine going up to the race who was willing to let me tag along, so I could leave T the car and not have to make the long drive alone. So, we hit the road on Saturday morning for the big adventure.

We had some “technical difficulties” leaving Washington and ended up taking a little scenic detour through Cle Elum (stupid Google maps… ) After a brief coffee stop, we were back on the road. Here’s Jenhs with some of that magic elixir:

We made it up to Canada in time to meet up with some other ladies from our tri-forum and it was great to put faces to some of the ladies I’d chatted with online, especially the ones that would be racing the next day. I’d planned to camp with Erin (you may remember her from training camp and this thread) and her beau David. They’d scored us a campsite near the run course, a few miles from downtown, so after the gathering (and a little ice cream at Tickleberries) we headed back to camp.

Race morning dawned bright and early and we hit the road at 6 so that we could watch the race start. Erin & I were volunteering in the women’s changing tent and David was helping out with transition bags, so we tried to navigate through the maze of fences to find where we were supposed to report for duty. David climbed up a tree to watch the swim start, while Erin and I headed over toward the transition area, through the huge crowd of spectators. We were getting frustrated trying to find our way into the transition area, but had some luck when we found a secret entrance through the back door of the ladies room. We got to watch the pro athletes start and I snapped a few pictures of the many, many age groupers heading to the swim start.

It was nerve-wracking just watching. I couldn’t imagine how I was possibly going to do this next year. What was I thinking? We watched the swim start and then headed over to our assignment in the change tent. For the uninitiated, Ironman races are a little different, in that you put your gear into bags and then take them into the tent to change for the next leg of the race. So you end up with something that looks a lot like this:

Yep, that’s 2,500 bags with the change tent in the background. We reported for duty and met the head volunteer Leona and the rest of our awesome crew. Our job was basically to help ladies change for the next leg and then put their swim items into their bags and back out into the pile for later pick-up. Initially, as the pros and faster age groupers came in, we didn’t have to do too much for them, they had things under control but as the middle and back of the pack women came in, it got pretty hectic in that tent. It was amazing the amount of stuff people had in those bags – keep it simple! The lake was really cold, so there were some shivering women, some nearly hypothermic. We only had to have the medic talk to one lady who was shaking really hard and was fairly disoriented. (Luckily, she ended up being able to continue and by all accounts had a great race… )

Then we took a break after the swim cutoff (athletes have a little over 2 hours to complete the 2.4 mile swim) and went into town to get some real food. We ended up eating some yummy wraps at a little place on Main Street, across the street from the place where I’m totally going to get my hair cut next time I’m in town…

Awesome, eh? As we headed back, there were all sorts of people writing messages in chalk on the street for the athletes that would be running a marathon there later in the day. It was neat to see all of the creativity.

This one was my favorite:

When we got back to the transition area, David went off to bang on Erin’s uber-cowbell. (What can I say, he’s got the fever… )

While we were waiting, I decided to take a few pics of the poor lonely bikes that were still in the transition area:

And here are the next round of bags to deal with:

The next round of athletes came in more gradually, so it was easier to give people more individual attention. Everyone was in remarkably good spirits, considering they’d just ridden over a hundred miles and were about to run a marathon. I got to see some of the athletes I helped in the first transition, which was cool. The wind had really kicked up and it was starting to rain. As we got closer to the bike cut-off, both Erin and I were exhausted. The rain was coming down in earnest, which was going to make for a very tough day for the racers.

We finished up volunteering and headed out to the finish line to cheer for folks and then on into town for a well-deserved dinner/beer. We were going to go back to the finish line, but instead to head back to the campground, figuring we’d cheer the runners passing by the campground. There was a second announcer booth set up right outside our campground, which was really cool. It was great because we got to hear about the folks going by and there was a little crowd to cheer with, which really lifted the spirits of the runners. Finally, I was just too tired and headed off to bed.

Good job, Ironmen & women!

Summertime

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Pacific Northwesterners are obsessed with weather. They all seem to know the forecast and discuss it endlessly. The funny thing about this is that, with rare exception, the weather here is pretty mild. I would expect this level of obsession from the folks in Tornado Alley or in the Midwest where you have extremely hot or extremely cold weather, but here? Not so much. So, we had a 90 degree day in the forecast (in August, if you can imagine… ) and as expected there was much concern from the locals about it.

I had a two-hour ride on my schedule that I planned to do while T was at kickball practice, late morning-noonish. I wasn’t worried about the heat, so much as a crowded bike path so late in the day. But as I set out on the Burke Gilman, I was amazed at how empty it was. There were sections where folks were out there, but by and large I had large sections of it to myself. It reminded me a lot of the last time I’d ridden this section of the trail, except for today was nice and sunny, with a nice breeze to keep things from getting too warm.

I set myself a goal of doing 30 miles in the 2 hours, just to keep from getting too leisurely. This is a tough goal on a multi-use path, because there are places where you have to stop for traffic or slow down for slower riders. So on the sections where I could go faster, I had to push the pace. This is good for me because I have a tendency to get lazy with my pacing. It felt good to go fast and it was fun to pass people (and not have them re-pass me a minute later… ) I made my goal, doing my 30 miles in 1:50:something, so I was very pleased about that.

T and I spent the afternoon puttering around the apartment. (We’ve reached the annoying stage of unpacking where you have to finally deal with all of the stuff you’ve shoved to the side to get to all of the stuff you actually need.) Then we had to drive my friend M to the airport, as she’s headed home to deal with some family stuff (Good luck, M – my thoughts are with you!) and when we got back neither one of us felt like dealing with the apartment anymore, so we decided to take the dogs over to Golden Gardens.

Golden Gardens is a public beach here in Ballard, maybe a mile from our house. It was still pretty warm out, and the beach was packed. We were nervous that it would be too crowded for the dogs, (Wally gets very over-excited when he sees other dogs and sometimes will bark uncontrollably and make an ass of himself) but as we walked down the beach the crowd thinned out as it went from sandy beach to pebble beach. We kept the dogs on leash, but let Wally swim for a bit. (I was very bummed I didn’t have my camera – despite the high probability that it would have gotten soaked!) After a little walk to let the dogs dry off, followed by some vigorous toweling off we headed back home.

All in all, a nice leisurely summertime Saturday…

Adventures in bike commuting…

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So, as a part of my mission to get back on track with my training, I decided to ride my bike to/from work yesterday. Now, the commute from Seattle to Bellevue isn’t far in miles so much as it is “inconvenient.” There’s only one bridge that goes across Lake Washington that has a bike path and it’s about five miles south of the bridge I usually drive to work on – make that 8 miles when you add in all of the twists and turns of the road that connects those two places. Not to mention the hills that will inevitably be involved, because no part of Seattle seems to be flat for more than a mile.

This made my plan a seemingly simple one. Ride my bike to the closer bridge crossing and take a bus across the bridge and to work, then ride the longer route home when I didn’t have to worry about being late for work or get up at the crack of dawn. So, I dutifully looked up the best buses to take and found two that would basically drop me off in front of my building. All was in readiness, I got up early and left with plenty of time so I didn’t have to stress about missing the bus.

It was a really pretty morning and such a nice way to start the day. I felt positively chipper as I arrived at the bus stop. Not even going down an unnecessary flight of stairs in my bike shoes could dampen my spirits (turns out the bus stop I needed was on the street level – doh!) I see my bus coming up the street and… wtf… there are already two bikes on the rack. The other girl with her bike and I look at each other – what are we supposed to do now? So, we ask the driver who offers us the delightful choice of either wait for another bus to my destination or take any bus downstairs across the bridge and ride from there. This would be a fine option if I knew Bellevue at all, so I have to wait for the next bus and pray that it doesn’t have it’s bike rack full. Luckily, there’s one spot left on the bike rack (sorry other cyclist) and because I was at the bus stop first, I grab it and am on my way to work, only the tiniest bit late.

It does bug me that there are only spots for two bikes on a bus. In this day and age of crazy gas prices and doing our part to reduce greenhouse gases, I would think that there would be more demand for bike space on buses. Especially since buses around here usually don’t take you exactly where you need to go, so it’s nice to have a bike to avoid transferring or getting from the bus stop to your actual destination. It’s a bit aggravating to say the least!

I had my usual crazy day at work and then it was time to hit the road for home. I was pretty excited about it because the weather was sunny and gorgeous and I was excited to explore a new route. It was a little sketchy getting out of downtown Bellevue, but I made it on to the I-90 bike path with little drama. There was a pretty nice wind coming off the lake, which made things a little more exciting than I usually prefer, but it wasn’t too bad. There were a couple of places where I’d lose the path once we made it onto Mercer Island (an island in the middle of Lake Washington that has a little community living on it, connected to Seattle/the Eastside by the I-90 Floating Bridge, so not an island in the usual sense) and played leapfrog with a couple of ladies.

Once I was back in Seattle, I rode along this ridiculously beautiful road that winds it’s way through forest and along the water. There were times that I couldn’t believe I was in a city – it looked like I was in the middle of a National Park or something. For the most part, there wasn’t any traffic but occasionally it was clear that I was on someone’s secret back way and the fact that there was no shoulder or bike lane would make me nervous. I started playing a mental game of “What kind of car is going to lose it’s patience and try to kill me?” as the cars behind me would try to pass on the two lane road with tons of cars coming in the other direction. Thankfully, this was only a small section and no one actually did anything stupid.

Before I knew it, I was back to the place where I caught the bus in the morning with only a flat 4 miles on a bike path to get home. The bike path was fairly crowded, so I passed where I could and took it easy where I couldn’t. For the most part, people were pretty good about not doing anything too stupid (except for you sidewinder-runner guy with i-pod, you I should have run over… ) and it was awesome to see so many people out exercising on a nice sunny evening.

On the whole, it was an enjoyable experience and I plan to try to do at least two of these commutes a week. I will invest in a little map of Bellevue and it will be all good! Now, if I could just get back in the pool…

Back in the saddle again…

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The weather was nice and sunny when I got off work, so T and I went for an impromptu bike ride. I wanted to ride the first section of my potential commute to work so that I could get an idea of how long it would take me. The path was a little crowded, but really pretty as it wound under the Fremont bridge and along the water. It will definitely be a nice commute in the morning without all the crowds. It was also nice to be back on the bike for the first time in over a month.

When we got back, I couldn’t resist tormenting Wally by dressing him up in T’s jersey. Isn’t he a sweet pea?

Then George came out to bust Wally’s chops:

Poor Wally, so abused. Luckily, some chicken jerky goes along way to soothe a canine’s soul. A few seconds later, all is forgiven.

I heart IKEA

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Last night I went to IKEA with M & T. It was fun to wander through and look at all of the stuff, but got a little tiring toward the end. It’s a bit cliche to make fun of the goofy names, but I think this one should be acknowledged:

Pure gold!

Kickin’ it old skool…

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T has joined a kickball team here in Seattle and last night was his first game. A little back story: when we were still in Portland T was lamenting how we didn’t do anything social and how he wanted to join some teams, etc. So, when I was out with Ms. Cyclone and some of her cohorts for dinner, one of them had just come from a kickball game and when I mentioned that my husband would love doing something like that he said they were just about to start a new round and were looking for folks. Perfect.

And that’s how T found himself playing kickball on his first week in Seattle. Their game was over by Green Lake, so I planned to do a little run beforehand and then watch the game. The loop around Green Lake is apparently crazy-crowded all of the time, so it took me longer than I expected to bob and weave through everyone, so by the time I made it back the game was well under way. I decided to take a couple of photos to commemorate the occasion. Here’s T in the dugout, looking so pleased to have his picture taken:

Here’s the huddle (plotting some mad kickball strategy, no doubt!):

And the awesome skills of the Grasskickers at work:

They ended up winning the game by 8-6 – not bad for their first game. Then the umpire came up and asked if they wanted to play again because another team hadn’t shown up. So T and some other members of the team opted to stay for round 2. I went and grabbed some food and then returned to watch. They got throroughly trounced by the second team, but it didn’t go on their record so all was well. All in all, a pretty enjoyable evening. So far our Seattle life is much more social than our Portland one, which I am quite happy about. Hopefully, we can continue the trend…