Sunday in the ‘hood with T

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There’s nothing quite like having an unexpected free morning. Especially on a beautiful sunny day. After a leisurely morning eating the breakfast I would have been eating while camping — bacon, pancakes and eggs. (Oh yeah!) After some quality gorging, followed by some quality laying on the couch, I decided we should go for a little walk down to the Farmer’s Market followed by a little more walking around the neighborhood.

The Farmer’s Market was a zoo (not surprising, given the weather) so we kept walking until we came to the Ballard Locks (officially called Hiram M. Chittenden Locks) I’ve managed to live in Seattle for a cumulative four years without ever seeing them, so today seemed like a good day to check them out. Tucked in the middle of a pretty botanical garden, the locks are pretty cool. There are two sections that boats go through on their way to/from the Puget Sound to Salmon Bay. Tons of tourist gather to watch the process:

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Here the doors are opening to let some boats out:

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Poor kayakers waiting for their turn:

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Looking down the canal toward Puget Sound. You can’t quite tell from this photo, but there were tons of boats lined up, waiting their turn to go through the locks:

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On both sides there are these terraced lawns where you can sit and watch the boats go by. (Or roll down them if you’re young and/or so inclined… )

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T and I sat in the sunshine for a while, watching the boats go by:

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After sitting around for a while, we wandered back. There were tons of salmon jumping in one of the channels, which was pretty amazing to see. It seems so counter-productive, but very entertaining to watch big silver fish fly through the air. Then we hit the farmer’s market again to get some crepes. (Oh yes, the post-race debauchery just goes on and on… ) All in all, a most enjoyable Sunday.

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Black Diamond Race Report

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After a not so restful night, courtesy of the a$$holes in the campsite across from us, one of whom insisted on screaming at the top of her lungs because “it’s a state park and people expect it to be loud, so f— them.” I mercifully managed to fall asleep eventually, but it was still very annoying. It was a chilly morning and all of us were a bit grumpy after the evening. On top of that, I was in a very strange head space for the race. After IMC, I didn’t do any real organized training. I got out and did a few swims, bikes and runs as I felt like it, but by and large it was unstructured “do what I felt like” type stuff. So, it just felt like I was getting ready to do a half-ironman on no training, even though intellectually I knew better.

So, despite wanting to bag the race, go back to bed and lounge around the campsite eating pancakes and bacon, we set off for the race. There was no parking at the park where the race was being held, so they had to drop me off and take a shuttle from some off-site parking. I hit the porta-potties since the line was never going to be that short again and then went to set up my transition area.

This race had a crazy number of first-timers. And I don’t mean first time half-ironman racers, I mean first triathlon people. The things I heard people say both yesterday and today was crazy. It was definitely going to be an interesting day. One of them was the guy who racked his bike next to mine, with all of his stuff in a plastic milk crate which he proceeded to put behind my bike tire, up against the fence. Ordinarily, this is a no-no and when he asked me if it was okay, I told him that it was fine today but that he shouldn’t do it in the future.

Soon, it was time to line up for the swim. I ran into my friend AndyPants in the transition area, who shared my sentiments on the folly of doing this race. We agreed that it was just for fun and that it was a good thing we weren’t eating pancakes and bacon (however sarcastically) and so forth. On a chilly morning, getting into a lake just seems stupid:

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As mentioned previously, with all of the newbies doing this race, there were some amusing sights – such as this woman with Ugg boots:

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I finally managed to get in the lake, filled my wetsuit with cold water and did a quick warm-up swim before returning to the beach to wait for the start. Don’t I look psyched?

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The nicest thing about the swim was that there were two waves – men in wave #1 and women in wave #2, five minutes later:

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The sucky thing about the swim was that it was two loops, which is not fun. The start was a total cluster, craziness everywhere:

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I had the fight my way through every kind of stroke imaginable and few that weren’t and I didn’t really find clear water until the first buoy. Eventually, I found some clear water which continued for the last half of the first lap and most of the second. There was the occasional crazy swimmer to deal with, but that wasn’t such a big deal. I knew it wasn’t going to be as fast as I’d wanted because of all the time I lost at the beginning, but it wasn’t too bad.

After the world’s slowest transition, (complete with M & T heckling me) I was out on the bike:

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The first few miles of the bike are never fun and this was no exception. It took about eight miles before I could get my head in the game and out of the “This sucks, I want to quit” mode. Finally, I started feeling better and really started enjoying the bike. I was passing people and generally just feeling great. The bike was also a looped course, but it was such an odd course that I didn’t get lapped by the fast people like Lake Stevens and you never really knew where you were in the loop, so it was easy to put your head down and ride.

I came in off the bike feeling great and my second transition was a bit better, still way too long, though. Then it was time for the run. This was definitely where I could feel my lack of training. I definitely pushed too hard on the bike, but the lack of long runs was killing me. The minute I started running, my legs felt awful and I knew it was not going to be a good run leg. I tried to run as much as I could and had some good sections where I could just find a zone and run but there were also a lot of sections where I had to walk. Luckily, I’d already planned to train for a winter marathon with M, so I knew next year’s run improvement plan was already underway.

In addition to the suckiness of my run, the run course was not my favorite. There were sporadic mile markers, aid stations placed at random intervals and all sorts of irritating hills. The worst part was the last mile or so, where you run around the lake on a dirt trail that includes a steep downhill followed by a steep uphill, which really suck after all of the miles that you’ve put in. I was running most of the time by this point, but I was afraid I’d fall if I tried to run those sections. Suffice it to say, I was not a fan. (Sorry about the lack of pictures, my race photographer had to take her sick husband home. But just imagine a tired and grumpy M running across the finish line… )

Before the race, I’d set a goal of 7 hours, which passed while I was somewhere in the last mile section around the lake. I was bummed that I’d missed it but pleased that I would be reasonably close and still faster than last year’s Lake Stevens. I crossed the line in 7:10 – a huge PR for me. Before writing this, I looked up last year’s times at Lake Stevens:

Overall: 7:49
Swim: 49:51
1st Transition: 4:44
Bike: 3:54
2nd Transition: 5:14
Run: 2:54

Compare with the splits from this race:

Overall: 7:10 (39 minutes faster)
Swim: 45:22 (4:30 faster)
1st Transition: 5:25 (a minute or so slower)
Bike: 3:25 (29 minutes faster)
2nd Transition: 4:08 (a minute or so faster)
Run: 2:49 (6 minutes faster)

Overall, I’m very pleased with my performance. Given how I prepared for this race, I know I can improve on it for next year and I know exactly how I’m going to do it. All in all, it was a very good racing season for me.

A taste of camping

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I wanted to do one last race with all of the Ironman training, so I signed up for the Black Diamond half-ironman near Enumclaw. Even though, it’s only about an hours drive from Seattle we decided to camp near the race site, since we haven’t had a chance to camp at all this year. We got to the park early, since we couldn’t make a reservation — this was nice because we got our choice of campsites and picked our favorite one:

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The boys as usual didn’t get to help with the setting up of tents or food unpacking and they were unamused:

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After setting up camp, I needed to check in for my race and drop off my bike to make life easier tomorrow morning. After all of the pomp and circumstance of Ironman Canada, it was nice to have a small, straightforward registration process. M made a new friend:

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We checked out the lake that I’d be swimming in tomorrow:

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Dropped off my bike in transition:

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And then I took an opportunity to take a racers-eye view of the finishing chute:

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Now just imagine it filled with screaming fans and what-not. 🙂

The weird thing about camping so close to a town, is that we could go to Safeway and Rite-aid to pick up some stuff before returning to camp. So, after setting up camp we went and ran a bunch of errands. Gotta love getting away from it all! After our errand-running, M made us a kick-ass campfire and we lounged around it for a while. Then we made some yummy packets of fish (T, J & I) and chicken (M) with some corn and veggies. T had made an awesome loaf of fresh bread to complete the meal, so it was a great dinner. Some s’mores for dessert and campfire time and it was perfect. Then it was early to bed for the race tomorrow.

Jump!

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This morning started very early as we were off to see M’s race. Unfortunately, as we were stumbling out of bed, we got a text from J saying that M was running a fever and wouldn’t be racing. I was very sad for M, as I know she was looking forward to the race but was proud of her for taking care of herself. So, we went back to bed for a few more hours of sleep only to wake up to blue skies. As I sleepily observed the gorgeous weather, I thought “It’s too bad T wasn’t skydiving today.” A few beats later, I woke T up to have him call the skydiving people and see if they could fit him in. As he was on the phone, someone canceled so we scrambled to get ready and get out to Snohomish in time for his appointment.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take, so I brought my bike along just in case. It turned out that I only had about an hour, so I killed some time in a local bakery before coming back to see the boy all decked out in his fancy flight suit:

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He was in the second jump-group, which was great because we got to watch the first jump group and see how it all worked. They had a nice area for spectators that looked out over the runway/landing area:

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Before long, it was time for T to get harnessed up with the help of one of the instructors:

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And then he got to add this adorable little helmet:

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(His instructor/tandem jump-partner is the laughing man over his left shoulder, making me wonder if the helmets are for actual safety or instructor’s amusement. You decide… )

Soon it was time for him to join his group and get on the plane:

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And off they go…

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The next time I see T, he’ll be a tiny dot coming out of a tiny plane high in the sky. I had about fifteen to twenty minutes before that happens, which I spent sitting in an Adirondack chair in the sun, reading Wired magazine. Before I knew it, the microscopic version of T’s plane was high overhead and little silver dots were coming out of it. (The silver dots are smaller parachutes that slow them down slightly while they are in freefall.) Then the regular chutes opened and I tried to guess which one was T.

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I took pictures of all of them coming in, just in case. But T turned out to be the first one who landed, (which happily enough is the one where I got the best pictures.) I’m pretty sure this one is T coming in for a landing:

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And here he is, safely on the ground:

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He had an awesome time and apparently wasn’t even nervous. His instructor said he could feel him giggling on the way down, (which sounds like T.) And here he is vogueing for the camera:

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He didn’t wipe the smile off of his face for most of the day, making it pretty much the best birthday present I’ve ever given. So now, T is no longer the 40-year-old barista/student but rather the super cool 40-year-old who jumps out of airplanes and has a fabulous wife. 🙂

Wanna make God laugh?

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Tell him your plans… My father-in-law said this (and if you know anything about my father-in-law, you know how ironic that is.) This weekend was an excellent example of this statement in action. We awoke to a blustery, rainy Saturday morning. We had to call the skydiving place to make sure they were jumping today, even though we were reasonably sure that they weren’t. Unfortunately, we were correct. It was a huge bummer, so we decided to brighten our days with a little trip to Besalu:

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Since I had some free time on my hands, I offered to accompany M to her packet pick-up and allow T to have some nag-free computer time. I’m no where near the photo-journalist that she is, but I tried to capture the awesome registration moments:

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M was coming down with cold and feeling a little anxious about her race tomorrow, but she still rocked the super-cute race shirt:

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(Side note – that is a size LARGE. I think Trek might want to rethink vendors for next year, as I’d need a XL and a lot of women there would need even larger sizes. Hardly an empowering way to go into your first triathlon. I’m just sayin… )

We also got to watch Sally Edwards hype the crowd:

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And of course when they brought up all of the Team Survivor folks, my eyes teared up. There’s nothing like a stage full of cancer survivors to put your petty complaints into perspective. After some “You go girlfriends” and high-fives, we hit the road.

The rest of the day was spent with a nice misty run out to the sculpture garden and back followed by the movie (500) Days of Summer, which if you haven’t seen, I highly recommend. It wasn’t the day I was planning, but still very enjoyable.

The forty-year old husband

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Today is T’s 40th birthday. He’s not super excited about it, mostly because he’s currently going to school and pouring coffee at the local Safeway Starbucks. So, my mission was to make him have a great birthday weekend and hopefully make him feel better about the big four-oh. I had an awesome present in store that, if the boy didn’t figure it out, would be pretty much the best birthday surprise ever. (Don’t worry, it will all be revealed soon… )

First on the agenda, we were going out for a delicious dinner with our closest friends. I picked a restaurant that was highly rated by Yelp and personally recommended by two coworkers: Restaurant Zoe. It was cool to get dressed up and go out for a fancy dinner, as we don’t do that very often any more. We met up at M’s house, so we could carpool and had a pre-dinner glass of beer. We also got to admire Fergus’ handiwork on T’s present:

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Isn’t he such a good kitty? Anyone can have a normal present, but a present personally chomped on by Fergus? Now, that’s special! And with that, we were off to dinner:

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Oh, Restaurant Zoe, I think I’m in love with you. For anyone who is in Seattle and wants a delicious meal, I heartily recommend them. The ambiance is lovely, the service was fantastic and the food… oh, the delightful food:

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I didn’t take pictures of all the food, but it was as lovely as it was delicious. (Pictured above: Fresh Ricotta Gnudi with a beet sauce. Mmmmm… ) M was nice enough to snap a picture of the birthday boy and yours truly:

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(We clean up pretty well, don’t we?) We ate a ridiculous amount of food and the waitress brought out a complementary cheese plate for T’s birthday (and to apologize for a mix-up with J’s order)

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They put the world’s best birthday candle on the plate. Seriously, it melted down to the plate with the tiniest amount of melted wax at the bottom. Here’s M admiring the amazing candle:

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It was a lovely evening, all thanks to T getting a year older…

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Afterward, we hauled our over-stuffed selves back to M & J’s house for some present opening.

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M & J got T a clay oven to bake bread in. (I love presents that mean I get more fresh baked bread, so thanks from both of us!) I didn’t get too many pictures, so hopefully M will share some of hers:

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Finally, it was time for T to open my present. In addition to a cute little notebook for him to use for school, I’d wrapped up a little box with a postcard informing him that he was going skydiving tomorrow morning. He was so excited, as he’s been wanting to go skydiving forever and he was totally surprised, which was pretty cool.

So far, his 40th year is off to a good start. Stay tuned to hear about T’s big skydiving adventure…

Concert going

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In an effort to expand our social calendar, we accompanied M & J out to Redmond to see Flogging Molly at Marymoor Park. I’d never seen a concert at Marymoor before and I must say, it’s a very nice place to see a show. There’s a big expanse of lawn in front of the stage, where those of us who are more mellow can set up our lawnchairs and picnic blankets and see a show.

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We got there pretty early and got great seats on the little hill toward the back. We enjoyed a nice little picnic dinner:

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There was a really eclectic crowd – everything from middle-aged white people to teenage punk rockers. There was also some fabulous fashion choices. My personal favorites:

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Oh, yeah! Before long, the opening acts took the stage. First a band called something like “Fits & Tantrums” and then a  self-proclaimed Reggae/Ska band called “The Hepcats” followed:

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The first band was fine. All of the Hepcats songs sounded the same to me but they did have some groovy dancing. J had joined the folks up in the front for some moshing action and had talked M into hanging out with him until the Flogging Mollys started. T & I wanted no part of that action, so we hung out in our picnic spot. Shortly after Flogging Molly started their set, M re-joined us.

The Flogging Mollys were great and put on a really enjoyable show. Our fellow concertgoers were equally amusing. There was a super drunk + stoned girl who kept us wildly entertained with her crazy dancing – sort of a hybrid of contemporary dance, two-step and drunken swaying. It was rad. An ugly couple took a self-portrait in front of the stage with way too much flash. All in all, a great evening out with friends.