Endless summer


Seattle continues to have the most awesome summer weather ever. We’ve broken records for most days over 80 degrees in the history of ever. I’m definitely in the minority of people who are happy about that, but given what the rest of the year’s weather is likely to be, I’m enjoying every second of it. Unfortunately, this leads to blog neglect, so I’ll share some snapshots of our summer adventures.

T did an open-water swim race at Lake Meridian. I’ve done this race twice as part of my Ironman training, so it was weird to watch it from the comfort of a camp chair. Here he is suiting up and getting ready to go:

PreLakeMeridianTOff into the wild blue yonder:

LakeMeridianTAnd they’re off!

LakeMeridianTstartHe did very well, beating my previous best time by ten¬†minutes (bastard!) Plus, he got some valuable race experience and I got a lot of time to read my book in the sunshine. ūüôā

We continue to be entertained by these two bozos:

SummerSleepyPups AustinBoneSleepAustin got a new toy eggplant and he’s obsessed with it. Such a silly puppy…

SummerPupsAustinvEggplantWe’ve been enjoying our summer cocktail of bourbon lemonade. I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly we went through this Costco-sized bottle of Maker’s Mark:

SummerCocktailWe balanced it out with our veggie box bounty and, of course, the occasional treat:

IceCreamWe also got to attend a fun Pink Martini concert at the zoo:

PinkMartiniCourtesy of our friends’ adopting this little nugget:

NewBirdT’s training has reached the point where you’re on the cusp of various injuries and battling all sorts of aches and pains. We did a century (100 mile) bike ride down in Portland where he had such severe lower back pain beforehand, I wasn’t sure he was going to make it four blocks. But he rallied and did the whole route and was looking pretty spry at the end. Then threw his back out adjusting the bike in the back of the Element. So, it’s been lots of physical therapy with Dr. Austin (in addition to his real PT, of course.)

PTAustinOver Labor Day weekend, I¬†had him do another long swim to make sure his lower back wouldn’t seize up. We headed over to Seward Park, so he could do a long swim but still be close to shore in case something happened.¬†Plus, there was a path along the shore, so I¬†could keep an eye on him. Here he is¬†heading out, so hardcore!

TswimSewardParkI think we’re both looking forward to¬†the race getting here already.

Adventures at sea


We’d made arrangements to accompany Erin & David on their dive boat excursion and do some more snorkeling. The downside was that it meant getting up early (well, and to be honest, I was a little nervous about the snorkeling after yesterday’s outing… ) But we set an alarm and got to the dock with plenty of time to spare. It reminded me a little bit of pre-race, with the nerves and the check-in process et al. But before we knew it, we were heading out to sea:

LeavingHarborOur first destination was Molokini, but we saw a bunch of humpback whales, who come to Hawaii to give birth and then recuperate for their migration back to Alaska. We came very close to a mama with a tiny baby, which was INSANE. Some of the divers were grumbling about our stopping to look at whales, but the general consensus with the boat captain and a lot of us was: TFB (Too F***-ing Bad.) It was incredible. Meanwhile, the Molokini crater went from this:


To this:Molokini1To docking in the crater:

Molokini2We let all of the divers go out first and then it was T, myself and another guy snorkeling. I was nervous, but the captain was basically like “Look down” and I put my face in the water and it was like a beautiful aquarium. I immediately relaxed and enjoyed the view. I’d bought a waterproof case for my old iPhone, but I couldn’t really see the photos while I was taking them, so most of my photos looked like this:

MolokiniExample2 MolokiniExample1 MolokiniExample3Although that last was a pretty accurate photo of what the water looked like when you looked away from the crater ‚Äď crazy beautiful wall of blue.

T took our old waterproof digital camera and got some great pictures:


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(The picture that I’m taking here did not come out at all, unfortunately.)

It was so beautiful to just float there looking at the fish and coral. There was so much to see, it was crazy. We could even see Erin & David down below, diving. Far more enjoyable than my last experience. But eventually, it was time to come in and head out to the next spot. Ironically, it was pretty close to where we’d snorkeled the day before, just further out. As we were pulling into our spot, there were a few honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) bobbing on the surface.

Right out of the gate, T pointed one out to me, nestled in the coral on the bottom. He eventually decided to leave his little hiding spot and T got some great pictures of him:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere weren’t as many fish at this spot, but the coral was beautiful. I saw another turtle a little while later and followed him around for a bit. It was just fun to feel so comfortable bobbing around in the ocean, looking at fish. It was a totally different perspective than my usual open water swimming. (And if I had all of this stuff to look at, I’d do a lot more open-water practice.)

Afterward, we got back into the boat and headed back to shore. We had the captain take a group picture of us before taking off:¬†BoatPhoto(I particularly like how T looks like he’s naked in this picture. He’s not, btw… )

We saw a few more whales on the way back, but not nearly as many. It had also clouded up quite a bit, so we decided that it was probably also harder to see them. We got back to harbor safe and sound and while I  was in the restroom, T made a new friend:

TandFriendT really wanted to keep him, but he seemed pretty happy with his Hawaiian lifestyle.

We headed back to the condo for a simple dinner from stuff we had in the condo and some poke that Erin & David had picked up when they were returning their tanks. All of us were happy, but definitely a little tired from the day’s activities.


A swimming start to the day


A few months ago, I agreed to be part of a team that some folks at my company put together for Swim For Life, an event that raises money for the Puget Sound Blood Center. Basically, each team consists of swimmers and a kayaker swim across Lake Washington, approximately 2.5 miles. I wasn’t really worried about the distance, I knew I could swim it, but I was worried about the directive that we were supposed to stay together. I didn’t know anything about my teammates and I didn’t want to be the slow-poke holding my team back.

We were to meet up on the east side of the lake at 6:30 in the morning. I can’t say I was psyched to get up that early, but we were rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise and a big beautiful moon over the Seattle skyline:

MoonOverSeattleNot to mention a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier:

MtRainierMy other team mates started to trickle in and we chatted and goofed around while we waited for the start:


Kathy was our kayaker and group photographer:

KathyWe talked a random person into taking a group shot:

GroupShotKathy got this great shot of the swim start (that’s me starting my Garmin) Those two buildings directly above my head are what we’re swimming to:

SwimStartFor those who aren’t familiar with Lake Washington, it’s a BIG lake. We were basically swimming a diagonal line from Medina beach to Madison Park. Here’s the shot from my Garmin:

GarminMap(I was pretty jazzed about how straight I swam. Having those two buildings to sight on really helped.)

Here’s where it is in the grand scheme of Lake Washington:

GarminMapWideKathy had said she was sticking with Lindsey, our least-experienced swimmer, so I just took off and started swimming. I tried to stay with our team captain Brig, but I lost track of him. He’s faster than me and a very experienced Ironman triathlete, so I wasn’t expecting to hang with him. I swam by myself for the most part, occasionally passing other teams taking a break and hanging on their kayaks. It was such a different vibe than a triathlon or open water swim race. Everyone was pretty casual and just doing their thing.

I haven’t swum AT ALL since Vineman, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt. I kept a steady pace, just cruising along, but my arms and back muscles felt good. The water was perfect ‚Äď warm enough for my short-sleeve wetsuit and only a little bit of chop in the middle. As I got closer to the shore, my cap started to come off, but this time I just stuffed it in my wetsuit and kept swimming. (I really need to figure out why this keeps happening!) It was a little hard to see with my hair in my face, but I could see well enough to know I wasn’t going to hit anything or anybody and just headed on in to the beach.

Brig was waiting on the beach when I got in and I was pleased to be the second one in. We waited on the beach for the rest of the group, who all came in together. Kathy got these great shots of the finish:

SwimFinish SwimFinish2It was such a fun event and a bit surreal to go from swimming all morning to hopping on a bus to work. Luckily, my co-workers were cool about my cruising in at 11:00 smelling of Lake Washington. I imagine they’ve gotten used to my insanity at this point.



First of all, I have to thank my fabulous friends for not only putting up with so much whining on this blog. Your comments on Facebook were so great and made me feel so much better.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that this last week was a huge improvement and I was definitely fighting off some sort of bug. I hit all of my planned workouts, including a Friday night 2.4 mile swim race at Lake Meridian. I last did this event four years ago and I’m pleased to say I dropped five minutes off of my time. I even passed someone right before the finish line (he was swimming in a zig-zag pattern that was driving me nuts.) I was especially pleased because I’d spent the day riding my bike with my co-workers after a full week of training, so I wasn’t exactly fresh.

On Saturday, T was going to try out a Crossfit class with Bryan and Jenn. I went for a nice easy run and then met up with them for breakfast:

MorselJenn & Bryan had been to this place before and recommended it. They were right, this place was delicious. They turn out some seriously awesome biscuits:

MorselInteriorAfterward, we hit up the University District farmers market and picked up some nice produce. On the way home we also picked up a little present for Wally:

WallyPoolHe isn’t really sure what to do with it, but I’m pretty sure when we get another really hot weekend he’ll be on board. In the meantime, George really enjoys it as a water dish.¬†Speaking of Wally, he took his ridiculousness to a new level by taking a nap with his head in his toy box. Poor dog has been seriously neglected in the play time department today:

SillyDogOn Sunday, I had my final long ride with a short run afterward. Originally, I was planning to do the full race distance with a planned two loop route. Unfortunately, the loop in question had a road under construction on one side and a scary two lane highway with no shoulder on the other, so it got shortened down to 80 miles. It was really gorgeous though:

RideMontageI did pretty well otherwise, practicing my nutrition strategy until I ran out of water and had to detour up to a gas station. I chugged a coke, which would have been fine if I’d had the 40-something miles I’d originally planned on instead of ten. Running with that coke sloshing around in my stomach was NOT fun. Plus, I’d chosen a less than optimal spot to run so it was pretty ugly. But I put on my big girl panties and got it done.

After the drive home and a nice shower I was FAMISHED. Since I’d left the boy home by himself all day, I thought we needed a nice dinner out ‚Äď preferably on a sunny patio. I gave him a choice and he opted for burgers. I went all out:


It was delicious and a nice way to kick off taper. I can’t believe the race is in less than two weeks!

Lost weekend


It all started out with such promise. Long holiday weekend. All of our friends out of town. Massive training on the books. Gorgeous weather in the forecast. This was going to be awesome.

On Wednesday, T finally got the official details of his promotion to Project Manager that we’ve been waiting on forever. I really wanted to go out to celebrate, but I had a pilates class that I couldn’t reschedule, so I talked the boy into having a beer at the pub across the street during my class. (There was quite a lot of arm twisting involved, let me tell you!) Afterward, we went to a great little place for cocktails and small plates. Cheers to the man of the hour:

TdrinkThe next morning, I celebrated the birth of our nation by getting up early to swim 2 miles. (Ugh.) I’d signed up for an open water race at Martha Lake to get some practice in the new wetsuit. I’d never been to Martha Lake, it looked nice (for a city lake):

MarthaLakeSince these races tend to be popular with “real” swimmers, I was definitely worried about coming in last. But I tried to shake off the nerves and just do my thing. The start was pretty good for me. I kept pretty calm and only had one panicky moment when the one milers caught us. It was a two loop course, so I focused on a nice easy pace for the first lap so that I could pick up the pace for the second. I was feeling pretty solid but about a quarter of the way through the second lap I noticed that I could feel more water on my scalp than I should and realized my swim cap was creeping backward. I stopped briefly to pull it forward, but a few minutes later it was back again. I swam on, debating if I could just let it go (and then remembered the disastrous swim I’d attempted at the pool when my cap tore in half) or if I should stop. I stopped just in time for it to come off completely. There were two kayaks nearby, so I hung on to one of them while the guy in it tried to put my cap back on for me. It felt like it took forever and the handful of people I’d managed to stay ahead of passed me.

I had to take my goggles off for the cap to go back on, and of course they decided that now was the time for them to leak, despite the fact that they very rarely leak at the pool and had been perfect for the entire swim thus far. I had a few false starts and some help from the other kayaker, then finally got it to wear just one side was leaking. So, I closed that eye and swam as best I could. It super sucked. At this point, I could only see one swimmer (who had missed a buoy and was swimming back toward me to go around it.) Sigh. I shook all of that off and focused on getting this damn swim over with. Oh well, I got a good workout in and confirmed the awesomeness of my new wetsuit.

The rest of the day was nice and laid back. We didn’t have our awesome fireworks hook-up¬†this year, so I did a little research to find a good spot to watch them. I found a little park on top of Queen Anne that was supposed to be a good spot. (Fun fact: it’s the same park where T’s dad got re-married and was one of our early dates.) We left early so that we could get a good spot or find a different place if it didn’t look like it was going to work. But we got there and it was perfect. There were couples and families hanging out and we heard mentions of “Last year, they were right there, etc.” so we figured it was going to be awesome. We set up our camping chairs and enjoyed the view:

CityViewBut when the fireworks finally started, they’d changed the firing location from last year because it was about 45 degrees from our viewpoint. Directly behind the houses surrounding the park. It was the saddest moment as everyone in the crowded park had to vacate and find someplace else or go home. We had no idea where we’d be able to walk and see them so we just headed home. It was such a bummer. Especially since we got to drive right by them on the Aurora bridge. Super lame.

On Friday, both T and I had to work, but at least I got to work at home. I was feeling really tired and run down and was worried that it was from yesterday’s swim. (Which is a bad sign, considering that in three weeks, I’d need to swim another .4 miles and then do a lot more exercise… ) I missed my long run because I just couldn’t get my butt out the door. Saturday, I woke up feeling like a bus had run over me. This sucked because I had a big ride on my plan, one that was going to let me practice nutrition and generally feel better about my rapidly approaching race. Instead, I spent most of the day in bed except for the trip out to the store to get some cold medicine. Wally was kind enough to keep me company:

WallyCarAfter the cold medicine and caffeine, I was feeling better so I was hoping that I could rally for Sunday. But Sunday morning was even worse and I spent another day on the couch trying really hard not to freak out about the training that I’d missed. (This is one of those fun-filled thing where the logical part of your brain argues with the emotional side. It’s crazy making.) So, I’m just going to soldier on and do the best I can to not panic train next week and injure myself or something.





Special bonus day


Today was supposed to be my long ride day. I am trying to hold onto to some of my riding fitness, since it’s about the only¬†activity¬†I’ve done with any consistency this summer. So T & I dutifully suited up and hit the road to ride a loop of the Ironman course. As we rode through downtown, I was extremely bitter about the beautiful calm lake with no wind. Why couldn’t that have been yesterday? Grr… The more I rode, the sadder I got about not getting a good long swim in while we were here. I could do one before we left in the morning, but then I’d have a gross wetsuit moldering in my trunk and it wouldn’t be relaxing. Finally, I made T pull over to look at our route and discuss the situation.

He reasonably pointed out that I was far more concerned with my swim than I was with my bike and that it would be fine to do a shorter ride and a swim instead. I felt guilty about calling the long ride, but agreed that the swim needed more work. Plus, I’d feel a lot better about Leadman if I could do an hour of¬†uninterrupted¬†open water swimming, rather than the laps of Green Lake that I usually do. To make life easier on T, I just walked across the street to the dock that the folks renting us the house owned. It was sort of weird to stare at a view like this with the idea of just swimming along the shore for half an hour and then turning around:

I’ve swum across lakes a number of times, but never just an out and back with no destination in mind. (That was not an option here with all of the boats, even if I went to a part of the lake where the distance was reasonable.) It was odd. It’s also a bit unnerving to be swimming along in a giant lake with motorized boats and jet-skis and whatnot. I was staying fairly close to shore, but I still kept stopping to make sure I wasn’t about to be run over by a jet-ski or something. Thankfully, nothing even came close to me and it was a nice peaceful swim.

Afterward, I walked back across the street to the house, grabbed the boy and we got on our bikes for a little bike ride. We just stayed on the Centennial Trail heading west and had a gorgeous ride. They do something cool on the trail and label most of the hills with the percentage of grade (i.e. 8%, etc.) It was very validating to know exactly how big the hill you just climbed was and helpful to know exactly what you were facing heading back. I (sort of) wish that they’d do that around here with all of our hills. Plus, because the trail was pretty uncrowded, I could stay in my aerobars and hammer along. Combined with the fact of it being after a long open water swim, it was great race practice and a chance to test out a new gel that I’d picked up in Spokane.

We got cleaned up and hung out back at the house for a few hours, catching up with M & J on their adventures. Then headed to a local brew-pub that we think is connected to one that we go to here in Seattle. They had an unusual condiment on the table:

I ordered the world’s largest turkey burger:

And we stepped out of the restaurant to see a lovely sunset:

We then went to Safeway and bought way too many dessert items (a frozen pie and three pints of ice cream!), some of which we ate while playing a DIY version of Mexican Dominos with the regular box of dominos we’d bought in town. It was a fun way to end a very enjoyable weekend. Tomorrow, we head back to real life. Hopefully, the effects of a fun, relaxing weekend will carry me through the rest of the week.




Time to hit the beach


T had a 12 mile run to do, so he got up crazy early and got it done. I kicked the morning off keeping M company on her run. (She’s been very impressively keeping up with her running, even while pregnant, which I find very impressive.) And as an extra bonus, we got to run on an empty trail next to the lake:

One of the big things on my agenda for the weekend was to log some quality time swimming in the lake. Despite moving three blocks away from the lake I usually train in, I haven’t made it into the water once this summer. It’s pathetic. But right in line with the lack of motivation to train this year. Luckily, I had a long weekend next to a gorgeous big lake to make up some ground. (Hopefully, I can still squeeze into my wetsuit!) Not helping with that goal was the giant breakfast we started with:

I mean they had chicken fried steak as a meat side, what was I supposed to do? ūüėČ

After a trip to the store for dinner supplies and a little digesting time back at the house, it was time to hit the beach. T had seen a few likely access points out on his run, so we scoped them out. There was a little bit of rocky trail to scramble around, but we found this beautiful little beach.

As you can see, it’s very crowded:

And look at this crazy lake!

There was some wind and a number of boats out, so the water wasn’t the smoothest. But I squeezed into my wetsuit and got out there. I’d forgotten how nice open water swimming could be, even with the chop. The water was so clear and blue, I was sad that I hadn’t brought my waterproof camera. But it was a lovely swim and I was very happy I got it done.

Afterward, we went back to the house and relaxed. Later on, I had to do a five mile run in the afternoon heat, just in case Bend is warm. One never knows with September around here. I was surprised at how good I felt, even with reasonably warm weather. And then it was time for some serious relaxing and wine:

While M & T threw down in an epic cribbage game:



Beastly Saturday


More training was on the menu this morning with a swim in Hagg Lake followed by a short bike ride. Naturally, because we had our ration of sunshine yesterday, we woke up to rain. (Thankfully, swimming in the rain is much more acceptable than doing a long ride in it.) We got up and out early, so that we could be home at a reasonable hour. We met up with Luke, (who has recently joined the open-water swimming set) and his recently purchased wetsuit. It was cold and windy. The lake looked like this:

(I’d planned to take more pictures out in it, but that didn’t happen.) It wasn’t the best swim. There was a lot of chop and wind, plus T was not having a good swim. Luke ditched us both and swam out into the middle, so I swam with Todd a while and then sought a more sheltered section of the lake. It was helpful to get some wetsuit practice and I’ll definitely need to get a couple more before the race as my stroke has changed a lot since last year and felt really weird in the wetsuit.

Afterward, T took his wetsuit off to find that his swim shorts had apparently reached some sort of final crisis point and lost all their shape. They were really baggy and see-through in places. Unfortunately, he hadn’t brought any other bike shorts so he was out for the ride. I made the executive decision to call the ride, since I didn’t feel right leaving T in a soggy car for an hour or so. (Not to mention, I wasn’t exactly enthused about a cold, wet, rainy bike ride.) We headed back home, after a quick stop for lunch.

We were totally shelled when we got home, so we both ended up taking a short nap. Afterward, we took a short field trip into SE Portland for T to get a haircut and my mom & I to do some book shopping. Then we returned home for my mom and T to have a little Scrabble face-off on my mom’s new iPad. (If you knew my mother, you would be astonished that she owns an iPad. Technology is not her friend.) I amused myself by taking pictures of the action (and capturing some “classic mom” faces in the process… ) This one is my favorite:

I call this one “Are you taking a picture of me?”

And the classic “reaction shot.”

My poor mother…

Our big item on the evening’s agenda was a reservation at Beast, a renowned Portland restaurant who’s chef was recently featured on Top Chef Masters. I’d been hearing great things about it over the years and when Naomi Pomeroy was kicking ass on reality tv, we figured we’d better get our reservations while we still could. (Plus, I was pretty sure we’d be celebrating a new job for the boy from that interview. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Yet.) Our seating was at 8:45, so we had plenty of time to loaf around the house, get ready and drive over to NE Portland.

Beast is in a really cute little neighborhood:

With the usual Portland touches:

The outside looks promising:

The restaurant is tiny (24 seats) and has a set menu that they serve in two seatings at communal tables. We got there as the first one was clearing out and got to watch them set up service for ours. It’s an interesting way to dine, almost like waiting for a performance to start. Naomi was there, which caused a lot of excitement (including squealing and jumping up and down) among some of our fellow diners. (Portlanders are very different with celebrities than Southern California or New York, where ignoring them is an art form.)

Once inside, I didn’t feel comfortable taking a lot of pictures because it was such a tiny space. (Which is a shame because there were a million that I would have liked to take.) The food was beyond amazing and we ended up being seated across the table from another Seattle couple, who turned out to be chefs. It was fun to talk to them and hear their stories about the restaurant scene in Seattle. (Nothing Anthony Bourdain worthy, but still fun to hear.) The vibe of the restaurant was like a really wonderful dinner party. Intimate, but refined. Should you find yourself in Portland, I highly recommend it.


Swim totals


I’d hoped to do a final test to see the difference in my speed from the start of the challenge to the finish, but holiday pool hours and our travel plans got in the way. (I know my speed has improved, but I’m curious about by how much.) In any case, my form is better and my swimming feels a lot stronger. I managed to swim 5 times a week from November 1 through December 26. In November, I swam a total of 23.4 MILES and then in December 26.3 (that’s a little longer than a marathon!) That’s a total of 49.7 miles for the whole challenge. I don’t think my swim totals for the rest of the year were that much.

Now the challenge of integrating the rest of my training back into the schedule starts, but I’m hoping to build on the gains of this focus and get even stronger. I’m even more hopeful that all of this work will translate into faster swim times this summer.

Progress report


(It’s been a while since I’ve bored you with a training post, so here goes… ) I’ve just finished week four of my swim focus and it’s been a very interesting project. I’ve managed to swim five times a week and I had a very helpful session with my friend (and swimmer extraordinaire) Jen, who gave me some very solid advice of where I could improve my stroke. Since then I’ve been immersed in trying to make those adjustments and strengthen all of the new arm muscles into some kind of endurance.

Swimming is a funny sport. It reminds me of ballet, since it’s so technique-driven. It’s a combination of all of these various muscle movements that all have to coordinate for it to work. And you can spend years and years drilling all of these movements and still not master them all. It’s daunting and fascinating at the same time. The nice thing about always having something to fix/focus on is that it keeps the swimming from getting boring.

Because I’ve just been focused on swimming with better technique, I have no real idea of if I’ve gotten faster or not. I’m trusting that speed will come in time. For now, I’m enjoying the journey.