Monday, June 14, 2010

Go West Young Man!

Wow...   I've been slacking and I'm way behind on updating my blog, as the last few days have been a blur of awesomeness.  Theres just been no time or internet access to get this blog updated...    so this post is going to be rather large.  On the plus side however there will be lots of photos involved along the way.  So it should be easy to follow!

So...   a couple of months ago I was talking to a friend of mine that lives on San Juan Island (an island off the coast of Washington state) about swimming for triathlons.  Penelope has completed a few tris, teaches swimming at the local pool here, and also just got her lifeguard certification.  Which she then joked about the fact that I should come out and train with her and when I'm drowning from my lousy swimming skills she can then save me.  Well a joke quickly turned into a plan and once again I'm headed out to the West coast for a two week vacation.  The last time I came out to SJI is when I fell in love with distance running.  Its also the first place I ever ran double digit mileage.  The scenery of this place is so insanely beautifull that it just inspires you to run for forever.  Anyway...   I'm digresssing, and before I've even got started.  I'll ramble on and on about my love affair with SJI in another post later this week when I have more time....  and when I have lots of lovely photos to back it up.  Anyway...  point is...   know two things...  One-I have a friend Scott in Seattle.  Two- My friend Penlope, husband Nick and their two great kids live on SJI.  I planned to visit all of them and train train train while I'm out here.

But before I can train out here first I have to get here with everything I need.  You should probably know that I tend to overpack for things.  A lot.  This is despite the fact that I travel constantly for work which should make me want to pack less.  Nope.  So packing to train in three disciplines (swim, bike, run) as well as for brick workouts, and visiting friends, and going out etc means I have to pack a lot of stuff!  Oh and lets not forget I have to somehow pack a bicycle for the first time too.  So I spent a day laying out all the stuff I needed just to train while I'm out here...   it was quite the pile.  Its amazing how much crap you have to pack to train for three sports in a variety of weather conditions.  And I had to pack the bike up too.  So it was a lot to get done and in a very short amount of time.  With any luck I'll go into more detail about how I packed the bike up in another entry, but heres a shot of the bike about to get sealed up in its case.

So with the bike packed up and all my training gear I packed up I figured I should probably throw some street clothes in too.  So that and a few other things thrown in a suitcase and a backpack full of digital cameras, laptop, and about ten pounds of tri-related books and magazines and I was off to bed on thursday night around 11pm....

....and then right back up again 4 hours later at 3am and headed to the airport by 3:45.  Getting through the airport with a 30lb backpack full of books, a giant suitcase full of gak and a HUGE bike case was an interesting experience.  People look at you funny when your dragging a giant bike case around.  I'm really happy to say however that my experience with Southwest and checking the bike as luggage was SUPER easy.  It went like this....

Hello...   is that a bike your checking?


Ok...   that will be 50 bucks.

and then they rolled the case away from me and that was it.  A quick flight to Chicago, and then another to Seattle and I was on my way to baggage claim nervously awaiting what I hoped would be an undamaged bike case.  The hardest part of that process was figuring out where to find my bike.  But eventually it showed up in an obscure "oversized luggage area" tucked away out of view and labelled with a teeny tiny sign.  And hooray! the case was unharmed!  So...   grab all my gak and roll it about a 1/2 mile to the rental car shuttle, and then I'm on my way to pickup my rental rather truck.  Turns out renting a mini van or an SUV is silly expensive.  But renting a pickup truck is not much more than renting a car.  So it was the most economical way to transport my giant bike box that probably wouldn't fit in many 4 door sedans.  Some maybe...  but it would be dicey.  When enterprise says TRUCK by the way they aint kidding!  I have a giant Silverado extended cab beast.  Its actually rather nice.  Whats especially nice about it is that my bike box fits INSIDE the truck in the extended cab bit so it stays out of the elements.  So I get all that nonsense done and then its off to find coffee!  Fortunately its Seattle.  You can't swing an innertube without hitting a Starbucks.  With coffee in hand I was then off to downtown Seattle to meet my friend Scott.

Met up with Scott, unloaded the car into his appartment , cracked the bike case open to make sure everything inside was ok (hooray it was!), noticed that the TSA had opened it and inspected it, and then we were off to go get some errands out of the way.  We headed to Target so I could load up on gatorade and energy bars.  This particular target has three floors.  And this crazy escalator that you put your shopping cart on and it rides up next to you without dumping its contents.  Its quite clever.  Here it is shuttling my traiing fuel down to the cashier level.
after Target we headed off to a bike shop to get some CO2.  I had done a little research before hand and discovered that Seattle has a store that caters just to triathletes!  So we went to Speedy Reedy.  Wow!  What a great store!  Nothing but tri bikes (boatloads of Cervello and Felt bikes), wetsuits of all varieties, compression gear, tri clothes, piles of goggles, shoes, any and all varieties of things you might consider eating during a race and loads of cool stuff.  I bought a timing chip strap, some CO2, some souvenir water bottles, some more calf compression gear and then got out of there before I spent hundreds of dollars in the first two hours of my vacation.

Then after that we headed back to Scott's appartment and I put my bike back together.  I learned two things at that point.  One...  that my bike made the trip with zero damage!  Great!  Two...  the the TSA broke one and possibly two of the latches on my brand new bike case.  Grrrr.....     the latches are a bit finnicky and I suspect they lost patience and just forced them.  Ugh..  but at least the bike is ok!  After that Scott's girl returned from work and we went out for a lovely thai meal at this vegetarian noodle place, a then ended the night with a lovely walk through downtown Seattle and a glass of red wine.  At that point it was 9pm west coast time and I'd been up since 3am east coast time.  So I was pretty much done.  So I went off to bed and slept like a rock! 

The next morning I was wide awake at 430am mostly because I'm on east coast time still, but also because at this time of year sunrise is about at 3am and sunset is around 10pm or so.  Theres not a lot of darkness to be had up here this time of year.  So I got up and got dressed to go for a run while my friends slept.  I was out the door by 5am and headed down the hill towards downtown Seattle's lovely waterfront area.  I passed the famous market on Pike at 5:15 as you can see by the clock....

I went past the market and proceeded down to the waterfront.  It was a gorgeous morning for a run.  The city was so quiet and I had the place practically to myself.  It was sunny and about 55 degrees with no wind.  Perfect running weather!  It was so clear out you could see the mountains in the distance as well.  Seattle is such a beautifull city, and every city is even more beautifull at sunrise.  These next two pictures show the view to my left and my right as I was running.

The picture of the mountains doesn't do them justice at all.  You can see the snow covered caps really well.  They are so majestic and beautifull.  Its hard to explain... but its really stunning to look at as you run along.  This was my long run day and I decided that today was the day my long run reaches its temporary new home.  Which is thirteen miles.  I want to keep it at the half mary distance for a while.  I want that distance to feel like its nothing, that its comfy and easily managed for when I do my first HIM.  Its also a convenient spot to resume marathon training from when I pick that up again in the fall.  I've been working on building my long run back up after my running break after the marathon.  I'm happy to say that I had no trouble managing the 13 miles.  My hammy was a little tight but not too bad and everything else felt good.  I didn't look at my pace at all during the run as I was curious where it would fall if I wasn't paying attention.  I averaged 8'57s for the 13.  Not as fast as I'd like, but for a relaxed long run its just fine.  I'll be able to get that down to 8's when I'm ready without too much trouble I'm sure.

After I returned from my run and got cleaned up,  Scott, his gf and I headed out to breakfast at a local diner type place.  We decided that Scott and I would go for a relaxed bike ride around Seattle to check out the sights.  I have to say I was a bit wary of this.  Scott's bike hadn't been ridden in years.  He cleaned the cobwebs off it and mucked about with it for a few minutes, inflated the tires and pronounced it ok.  It was some sort of hybrid mountain bike.  Scott is not an avid rider, but I figured since I had already gotten my long run in today we were just going for a fun ride to check out the sights.  And it was fun...    but before I get into the pictures let me just say this....

I now very much appreciate all of the etiquette that goes into proper group rides.  Even when that group is only two people.  I don't know if I really ever stopped to think about it.  But when suddenly your riding behind someone who doesn't know any of it, it gets pretty frustrating in a hurry.  When this person for example turns without warning or hand signal, stops without warning, and constantly coasts at a speed so slow I could barely keep my bike upright the ride got pretty frustrating.  At around the 15th time I almost crashed into the back of his bike I snapped at him and told him he's got to tell me when he's stopping!  At least three of those 15 times I was milliseconds away from tipping over because I couldn't get my foot out of the pedal in time.  He was also kind of all over the road on a very very busy bike path.  He also like to change paces constantly and with no warning.  I tried to keep him about 15' in front of me so I had reaction time built in.  But that just made him ride slower thinking that I needed to catch up.  I just couldn't win.  Anyway... its not his fault.  He's not a cyclist.  Hec...   six months ago I would have done some of the same stuff.  But now I know better, and it was really frustrating....and SLOW!  I think our average speed was something like 8 or 9mph.  No...   I'm not kidding.  He liked to coast a lot.  So much so I was always at risk of tipping over we were going so slow.  Still, we got to see some nice things.....


Mt. Rainear (sp?) as seen from the UW campus.

and before I show the next photo let me add a little story.  So remember how I said our average pace was in the single digits?  Well the only cycling gear I had with me was real cycling jerseys or tri style gear.  Well here in Seattle the roadies are pretty hard core.  In fact cycling is HUGE here.  So the bike paths are like a parade of cycling wear.  There are giant clubs in huge group rides in matching outfits, teams, and solo riders in the ensemble of their favorite riders or teams.  And they ride as you would expect roadies to ride.  Quickly.  Well here I am in my fancy schmancy LG jersey riding at 8mph behind a dude in a beat up old neglected looking mountain bike.  Needless to say I got some strange looks!  I was pretty embarrassed at times.  More so when Scott would swerve left as they passed us.  Oy!  Anyway...  here's me in front of a mountain!

So we pedalled on from there and got to a lake whose name I've forgotten.  But there were some triathletes there headed in for a swim while we were there which was good to see.  From the looks on their faces the water was pretty cold!  Even in wetsuits.  And before I show a picture of me in front of that lake I'll add that the bike paths in Seattle are amazing.  They go EVERYWHERE.  It really is a city full of cyclists.  You can pretty much say I'm going to hold my breath until I see a cyclist.  And never every be at any risk of running out of air.  Seems like there are more bikes than cars.  Which is great to see!  And the drivers there are really quite used to cyclists being everywhere so they are looking for you which is a pleasant change from RI.  Seattle, and Washington state in fact is a bit like a cycling Nirvana.  Its really a great place to ride.  The variety and sheer volume of marked bike paths and trails is amazing.  There are bike lanes on practically every street too which is awesome.  Anyway...    before I ramble on even more...  here's me at the lake!

So from the lake we pedalled back to the start position where we had cleverly parked my truck at a restaurant/bar with outdoor seating where we proceeded to eat giant yummy salads in the lovely sun.  All in all we rode about 16 miles that day.  As much as parts of the ride were a bit frustrating, it was actually a great ride and I really enjoyed seeing the city that way.  I just would have prefferred to go a wee bit faster.

After lunch and the ride we went back to get cleaned up and then walked back into downtown to go to the GIANT REI flagship store thats there.  Its a pretty amazing place.  Its like an REI on steroids.  Its got everything and anything you can think of.  I bought some cliff bars, some chamois butter, and a riding map of the San Juan Islands and really enjoyed poking about the store in general.  While wandering the store I came across this and couldn't resist a photo.  Its an IRONMAN branded jogging stroller.  Really?  Too funny!

After that we wallked down to the market to get some fresh seafood and made an amazing dinner of crab, tuna steaks, and clams.  It was really good! 

So now you're all caught up to the end of Saturday.  Lots more to tell!  Sunday (today) was an amazing day that started with a spectacular long ride and then the long trip up to San Juan Island where I'm writing this from.  But I'm exhausted now...  so its time for me to head to bed.  More to come soon!

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