Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My post-Ironman vacation

Posted by Rachel

Life since the Ironman has been great! Right now, I'm drinking wine for the 3rd time in 4 days. But that's not all. We also used the opportunity to take an AMAZING vacation in Pacific Northwest. Let's face it... I'm not nearly qualified to be any sort of travel blogger. However, I'm going to post about my vacation with my recommendations, because it's 1/8 my blog and I can.

The day following the Ironman, we took a couple of days in Vancouver. What a cool city. The first day (we got there in the afternoon) was mostly spent staggering around, searching for booze and Ramen. We found both and it was great. The second day we took a touristy bike ride around Stanley Park. This is evidently one of the most obvious things to do on a beautiful day in Vancouver, since pretty much every tourist and their mother was also doing it. But it's an awesome way to see the park when you're pretty much otherwise immobile, and it may have actually helped our recovery along.


Everyone keeps asking what my favorite part of the trip was. I really don't like choosing because the whole thing was amazing, but if I have to pick it would probably be Vancouver Island/Victoria. When we first arrived (Wednesday after the Ironman), we drove out to Sooke (coastal place 40 min from Victoria) and went for a hike. It was beautiful minus many complaints (rock climbing in the blistering heat in tight, sweaty jeans, and the fact that I had only eaten a tiny salad for the day 3 days post-IM and we didn't finish the hike until 2:30). But assuming you are dressed and fueled appropriately, this hike is a winner.

Then we spent some time in Victoria, which is much older than Vancouver and a very European-style city. We walked all around the paths and took a boat tour of the area to learn more about it. Highly recommended. I would love to go back and explore more of the island. I noticed that there is a Victoria 70.3...someday maybe :)

Before leaving, we took an obligatory trip to the Butchart Gardens. It was pretty spectacular if you like flowers, but I doubt I'd visit again if I return.

San Juan Islands
Another winning decision. The Pacific Northwest islands were AMAZING. Even the ferry ride felt like a huge treat.

We stayed two nights (but really only one full day) in a tiny town called Friday Harbor. It was very small and super chill- the exact slow, beachy lifestyle you'd want on a post-IM vacation. Earlier our first day there we drove around the island which is only about 20-30 miles, getting an awesome mix of short easy hiking and other random stops (alpaca farm, for example).

That evening we went on a whale watch and saw SO MANY orcas! I also saw some bald eagles for the first time in real life. I didn't get any great photos because I spent most of my time watching rather than trying to get a picture, but here's a small taste:

After the island relaxation portion, it was onto Seattle. To me, Seattle was sort of a mixture of San Francisco and Oakland. We somehow fit a ton of activities into a very small amount of time, including the space needle, underground tour, and boat tour of Union Lake and Washington Lake (where we saw Bill Gates' house!). 

Olympic National Park
After our quick urban stop, it was onto the wilderness. We had two days in Olympic National Park. I've recently taken a liking to National Parks, and while Olympic had some pretty awesome things, I think from what I saw I'd rate Zion higher. One of the activities I highly recommend in Olympic Park is Hurricane Ridge.The only caveat is that it's up a decently big hill. Big enough that I had to question whether I had lost all my fitness, or if I was still recovering, or if my problem was just a general don't-operate-so-well-at-high-elevation issue. But I made it and it was really worth it.

Then we went on to Sol Duc falls. It was pretty nice, but I'm not sure it was worth the long drive to get there. The out-and-back hike was pretty easy at 1.6 miles or so total.

We stayed at Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent that evening and it was AWESOME! It was basically like your classic childhood lake vacation but with way nicer scenery. They served soft serve in the lodge lobby for $2/cone, and offered boat rentals and cornhole/various other games. It was a PERFECT way to spend an afternoon after hiking. After a short open water swim (like.... 300 yards short), Chen and I rented kayaks while Travers drank beer.

The next day we started at the Hoh rainforest. I'm not sure if this is a much cooler experience when it's not in a drought, and again I'm not entirely sure this was worth the long drive.

Finally, we ended up at Kalaloch Lodge and beach. While it was pretty nice, I would say that the California beaches are as good or better and there wasn't nearly as much to do here as at Log Cabin. We did get a beach run in though...my first exercise that resembled a triathlon activity!

We spent very little time here- just enough to eat ice cream + 3 meals, drink, go for a quick run, then bounce. It seemed to me like a place that might be a lot cooler to live than visit. The neighborhoods are quirky and neat but it's tough for a tourist to navigate in terms of knowing what to do. As a side note, Travers expected to see way more hipsters than we actually did.

The most important meal of the day

We initially added this stop partially because it sounded like a cool place between Portland and Crater Lake, but mostly because we have friends that live there. However, it turned out to be an awesome place to drink. Unfortunately I had developed a cold, and because I don't like beer much and wasn't feeling well anyway I ended up as the DD. But in terms of consumption, I did eat a full pretzel (all to myself) for both lunch and dinner, which was a huge win. It seemed like there were a lot of outdoor things we could've done here if we hadn't spent the day drinking. I'd visit again. 

Crater Lake
I thought I was only mildly interested in Crater Lake, but now it's on my 'highly recommended' list. We spent one full day there. Earlier in the day we hiked up Mt Scott, which was the tallest peak around (I think) topping out at 9000 ft. I was worried about this hike given my cold + weariness of high elevations + poor air quality (nearby fires and a lot of dust), but it was surprisingly enjoyable!

If you end up visiting Crater Lake I highly recommend taking a boat tour. You can see a lot of neat geological features from the lake that you'd miss from above.

And that, sadly, concludes the story of our vacation! I think this looks longer than my Ironman post, but it's really mostly pictures. I think. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

2015 Ironman Canada spectator report: guest post by Mary

Posted by Rachel, on behalf of Mary

Ironman Eve, equipment check, gather supplies (pack up the gel packs and remember butt jelly),
No time to sit and mess with the not working telly,
Spectator planning gets under way, where to be and when,
Review course maps and then review them again.
Practicing cowbells and whooping cheers, planning and plotting those spectator beers.

Athletes up early,
Spectators follow, still so sleepy,
Hope those athletes left us some Tim Horton coffee!
Weather looking iffy, rainy and cold,
BUT, we are Ironman spectators; the brave and the bold!

The lake is a swarm of swimmers ready to start this event,
The spectators are wondering where is the spectator tent?
No cover for us so to the transition area we go,
Here comes Rachel, then Matt, Chen and Katie....but where is Travers?
He snuck by us..OH NO!

Soaked to the bones we head for our Canadian home, for dry clothes and perhaps a little rest,
Hey! This spectating is seriously putting us to the test.

Planning to catch our athletes as they ride through town,
We set out again to the bike to run transition, or somewhere there around.
Up the hill before it is too late, over the bridge, but whoa wait,
Looks like on the bridge we will remain,
An opportunity to see our athletes ride by and then go under again,
See, spectators need more than just heart,...we also have to be pretty smart
(at least one of us should be, no names mentioned here....Becky)

We see Rach and then Chen...who is next, who will be?
There she is! The always smiling and cheerful Katie!
No Travers again, where does he go?
It's now a new game, a step up from Where's Waldo!

Head to the run trail, juxtapositioning to get the best view,
Determined this once to see the whole crew!
First Matt, running true, a smile and he's off with a bound,
And then.....Eureka!!! Gold! Travers, high  fivin' has been found!
Chen and then Katie, with waves and smiles,
It's Rachel we miss -we'll catch her again around the last mile.

The finish is next, but first time for some beers,
We need sustenance as we prepare our finish line cheers.
Satiated we head to the last stretch of the run,
To cheer them to the finish...Oh no, rain again, gone is the sun!

In they come with so many, many others,
elated, triumphant, immediately joining us to cheer in each other.
You have all inspired and amazed; spirits upbeat all the way,
As your official spectators we trained and we hope we did okay!

Alas, the end, a final note to our crew; Mark, Matt, Travers, Katie, Rachel and Chen,
Now & Forever ->  IRONMEN!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

2015 Ironman Canada spectator report: guest post by Kristen

Posted by Rachel, on behalf of Kristen

Let me start off this post by saying: I am not an Ironman. I did run 2.2 miles yesterday morning, but I probably walked 1.8 miles of it, and an elderly couple out for a morning stroll passed me at one point.

Cheering for an Ironman is tough work. There were many workouts leading up - lots of loud talking to build my vocal chords, and (of course) the wine consumption. 

Leading up to the race: 
Two days prior I decided to go on a hunt for the perfect rain coat due to the passing showers that were forecasted all weekend. After checking out 7-9 stores, I decide on a sea-foam green Columbia coat, mostly because it's Rachel's favorite and I knew there was a good chance the coat would be passed onto her at the end of the weekend. Due to a parade of small children dressed as animals playing kazoos the cashier, Rachel and myself were distracted and there was a credit card mishap which caused my card to be ran twice. 45 minutes later I was the proud owner of a new rain coat. I'm still not sure how many times I paid for it, I will update when the pending charges on my card clear. I then went on the hunt for a scarf because it was in the low 50's (and 40's on race day), and coming from 110 degree heat I was not prepared. Every store I went into looked at me like I was crazy and they kept saying 'it's summer, we don't keep scarves in stock.' Freeking Canada. (J/K I got some Tim Horton's before we left and I love Canada again.)

The next day I saw 2 baby black bears, so it was an awesome day. 


Alarm goes off around 5:30am. I insist that we snooze. After the second alarm we wake up and make coffee. We then take off on the approximately 2 mile walk to the lake for the swim. It is cloudy and humid but overall was a nice walk. We arrive at the lake and it begins to rain, hard. Petey declares that his $10 coat from the mission is not waterproof. I turn out to have it best thanks to my sea-foam green jacket (aka 'Team Chen' jacket since she evidently has a lot of sea-foam green sports gear). 

Solid start. I took a video of everyone starting (literally, everyone). I knew the water was supposed to be 20+ degrees warmer than the air so wasn't too worried about everyone though saw people stop at the first batch of surf boards to get help, and many people pulling out. I had a lot of faith in our crew though so watched intently as everyone swam two laps around the course, but decided to save my vocal chords since I knew they couldn't hear me anyways. We decided to walk over to the transition point to try and spot our group, and waited there until we heard the announcer say 'Rachel heading over to the changing station!' and all began yelling. We watched people running out of the changing tents to their bikes and kept wondering 'what is taking so long?' Eventually, Rachel emerged and went into the port a potties, at which point I yelled 'YOURE SUPPOSED TO PEE IN THE WATER'. But I guess I support being clean, so we continued to cheer as she went on. We spent the next 10 minutes or so trying to decide if every tall skinny guy was Matt or not, and eventually found the real Matt  and cheered loudly for him. Then we got angry about the rain and missed Travers somehow :-( Then Paige noticed Chen coming out of the tent so we started to cheer loudly for her trot over to the port-a-potties. Afterwards she came over to say hi and chat, and eventually decided she should go find her bike. We then started to look for Katie and I spotted the strawberry lemonade gatorade she was getting ready the night before (by far the best sporting beverage option) and we moved towards her bike to cheer her on. She came out of the changing tent with a huge smile and took off. 

T1: We went back to the house and immediately cranked the heat up and changed into dry clothes. We had some coffee, took some naps and also had hot chocolate. Overall it took a little longer than we anticipated, but I don't have any regrets on this one. 

We found a really great spot where the bikers would pass us on the road and then loop under a bridge so we could cheer twice for everyone. Due to how long we took on the transition we missed Matt and Travers, but were able to spot and cheer for everyone else. The family next to us would search the racers' numbers after the first pass and cheer by name as the bikers passed under the bridge, which I thought was really nice of them. Everyone got a personal cheering squad. 
There was a very scary moment in this leg for me. A bee flew into my shirt, and being allergic to bee stings I was a little freaked out. But luckily it was swatted out and killed without any major incident (for me, sucks for the bee). 
My hands began to get cut up from ringing the cowbell, but I decided to be strong and power through it, and continue my cheer-cowbell-clap combo. 

T2: We went to a nearby pub and grabbed some burgers and drinks for dinner. I urged most of the others to order a second round as my first order was a glass and a half of wine (they have larges in Canada!). They complied. 

We found a spot a little before the finish line where there weren't too many people. I walked further up the street to make sure that there were good groups cheering further up - there was - so I returned to our team for some finish-line cheering. We gave out high fives to anyone who would take them (sorry Chen, Rachel, Travers... we were high five-ing everyone, not just you guys) and trying to read names and cheer as loudly as we could for everyone. 
The best sign of the day was spotted right across from us near the finish line and read "JUST REMEMBER YOU PAID FOR THIS." I had decided earlier in the day it would be inappropriate to yell 'You're all crazy!' so appreciated the sign speaking my mind for me, while I continued to yell motivational cliches such as 'almost there!' and 'good job!' to everyone coming in.  

Post Race:
Petey developed a pretty bad cough, and I got stuck in the back of the car with him when en route to Seattle. I nicknamed him 'Snotty Mc. Snot Snot' which he found amusing, even though I was not happy that I was not allowed to open a window for the bulk of the trip. Two days later he texted asking if I turned into Miss. Snotty Mc. Snot Snot, which I did not. Thankfully I am back in the warm dry desert air and feeling fine. 

Overall - I can poke fun at the whole experience, and we kept up a great sense of humor about the whole thing, however every time we got caught in the rain or started to complain about turning blue in the cold we immediately stopped and remembered we did not have it that bad. There were so many people - men and women of different age groups, physical build and background who finished this absolutely insane adventure and the best we could do is try to read their names correctly (super sorry to the Anthony that I yelled 'GO ANDREW' to. There was no one else around so I couldn't even play it off like I was cheering for some other guy nearby). I am not and will never be an Ironman, but I do respect everyone who signed up for it!