Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Santa Barbara Tri (aka "I am SUCH a rookie!")

Summer is officially over for me with the Santa Barbara Triathlon over and done with and an almost full day at the "office" today.  Side note:  I can't believe that Mondays now have relevance in my life.  That's both a good thing and a bit of a downer.
Back to the race recap, however!
Like most things in life, there were positive and negative aspects to the Santa Barbara Tri, some of which had to do with the tri itself (the course, organization, etcetera) and others that had to do with me. From my end, it was a bit of an organizational disaster.  This is where my rookie status totally comes into play!
First of all, I packed up all of my gear on Friday night, but Saturday morning I went through all of the equipment and had a minor panic attack because I couldn't find the timing chip.  That was my first "Oh shit" moment.   Fortunately, I located it - mixed in with my goggles and swim cap.
The other major mishap on my part was that I forgot my bike wedge (the little bag with important items such as spare tubes...).  It was NOT with all of my other gear, and when we arrived in Santa Barbara, Michael dropped me off and I rode my bike down to the transition area, gear in tow, trying to arrive ASAP.  As I was riding down the bike path, I realized that I'd left the wedge in the trunk of the car.  If I'd had my phone, I could have called Michael and asked him to bring it to me, but I didn't have my phone and we hadn't planned to meet up until before the swim.  By that point, there would be no way that he could get the wedge to me.  Not having the wedge basically meant that if I had a flat tire, I would be screwed.  Well, who was I kidding?  Even if I had all the gear, if I had a flat, I'd still probably end up walking my bike back!
All of these details put me on edge, and then when I arrived at the transition zone at 6:20, they announced that we had 20 minutes - not 40 (!!) to be out of the area.  Fortunately, despite my less-than-early arrival, there was plenty of room for me to rack my bike.  As I looked at the other bikes on the rack, I felt like a kid with a tricycle who was going to try to ride with the big kids on their 10-speeds.  Definitely a more competitive group than I experienced at Wildflower!  Once I racked my bike and geared up in my wetsuit, I headed out of the transition area to the beach.  At that point, it struck me that it WOULD be a beautiful day for the event, so I should try to not focus on the fact that I suddenly felt very unprepared to be racing for several hours without a break.
I also started to freak out because I couldn't find Michael.  It was a fairly small race, but I just couldn't see him.  I realize that I am an a adult and all that, but I do depend on seeing my one and only fan before a big race!  Fortunately, he found me - he'd been on the other side of the start line looking for me there, while I'd been hanging out on the other.
After words of encouragement from Michael and a quick dip into the ocean before my wave started, I was as ready as I was ever going to be to go and I even managed a smile:

My wave, Women 35-44 started around 7:41.  It wasn't a brutal start, thank goodness, and I managed the swim quite well.  Here is my POWER start into the water:

The swim was, surprisingly to me, my best leg.  Not in terms of time or anything like that, but I was super relaxed and enjoyed the experience!  I ended up swimming the mile in 39 minutes which was about 2-3 minutes slower than I ideally wanted, but I wasn't the last woman out of the water into my transition zone.  And that was pretty much my main goal!

Here is a smile for Michael who managed to position himself as I was coming out of the water and on my way to the transition zone:

As per usual (meaning, same as the last tri), my transition time sucked big time but overall the times were better than my t-times at Wildflower.  To be honest, I don't practice transitioning, and I know the old adage "Practice makes perfect".  Also, I definitely lather up with sunscreen, and to me, it's worth it to lose a few seconds or an entire minute to protect my skin.  One major mishap in THIS transition - I put on my cheaper pair of sunglasses, proceeded to frantically get into my biking gear, and then stepped on my nice pair of sunglasses.  After some muttering of curses to myself, I was out of the t-zone and on my bike:

There were things to LOVE about the bike leg - it was beautiful and the scenery was nice and varied with some rolling hills, some climbs, views of the coast and of inland chaparral, and it was fairly well-marked.  It was, however, an open course, which meant that there were cars and other cyclists sharing the road, which wasn't a huge issue, but I did feel that I had to be on guard, especially with the cars.  It ended up that I needed to be more on guard with the cyclists.  As I was coming to the end and taking a left-hand turn with some speed, an idiot decided to ignore the volunteer who was telling her to stop, so she went straight and almost caused me to crash into her!  
Small issues like that aside, I did enjoy the bicycle leg, and I did not have any bicycle malfunctions.  For that, I have to thank the Tri Gods!  Also, I tried to push myself throughout the 34 miles, and I even passed a few people!  I ended with a time of 2:13 which, for me, isn't bad, especially considering that we had 3 good climbs, the last of which was significantly longer (over a mile) and hit a pretty steep incline.  
Once I transitioned to the run (only 3:00 minutes for that transition - record time for me!!!), I started with a good pace but the main thought was "This is not fun."  Despite the total negative mental sound track playing, I knew that I could pass quite a few people if I focused.  I also managed a smile for Michael:
The run was along the Santa Barbara boardwalk and it was a straight out-and-back with just a few small hills along the way.  It was also open to other 'traffic', same as the bike course, which was kind of annoying at times because a lot of other people were clueless or just inconsiderate (I'm so negative, I know!).  I was pretty pleased with my pace, especially when I hit the mile 5 turn-around and it looked as though I would finish the 10 miles under 1:30.  I also left just a enough in the tank so that I could pick up the pace for the last mile, although I definitely look a lot less perky than when I started out but I finished in 1:28:37 - definitely under 1:30!

I crossed the finish line at 4 hours, 29 minutes and 55 seconds.  Pretty much what I had aimed for - 4:30!  It was great to be greeted by my one and only fan and give him a big sweaty hug and kiss.  Then, we loaded up and headed home!  I was ready for my ideal post-race celebration:  a cold beer, a huge sandwich from one of our favorite sandwich places (Dave's Chillin' and Grillin' in Eagle Rock) and some down time with our favorite old men:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Final "Hurrah" for the Summer!

Like most of this summer, our (or my) final, epic "Summer 2011 experience" did NOT include too much sitting around and relaxing.  Back in May, when I signed up for the Santa Barbara Triathlon, I, in all of my foolishness, thought that we could go up to Santa Barbara and enjoy a lovely weekend before the summer officially ended.  The triathlon experience would give me an exclamation point with which to dramatically close the summer, but then we could hang out, chill, stay in a swank hotel and have some romantic time together.
As we blew our summer "fun" budget on unexpected expenses such as a new computer for me and major surgery for our dog AND as we found ourselves craving time at home to hunker down and get back to a normal routine, the idea of a long weekend in Santa Barbara held less and less appeal.  So, when I started to make plans for the triathlon, we decided to go up on Friday and return Saturday after the race.  The 3-day weekend extravaganza turned into a very brief getaway.
Even though my grand ideas were quashed, it WAS nice to get out of town.  The heat is well in the triple digits here.  While I don't want to complain about the weather since we've had a mild summer so far, escaping to the coast, even for a day and a half, felt like a reprieve.  Also, Santa Barbara is a pretty ideal place to go for a day or so.  It is close enough to LA that it isn't difficult to get there, but it also has a very different feel (mid-sized town rather than urban sprawl).  Oh, and one more minor detail - the scenery is gorgeous with long stretches of coastline, great beaches, dramatic cliffs, surfers that you can see from the road.
We ended up leaving mid-morning which gave me the chance to get in the saddle for a nice and easy ride before the race.  We both had our bikes tuned up, and I wanted to get a feel for the improved ride before the race.  We coordinated our departure time so that we would arrive in Santa Barbara just in time for lunch at Taquería la Super Rica.  Despite knowing deep in my heart that Mexican food on the day before a race probably wasn't the best idea, I couldn't pass it up.  The food was damn good, and we left totally stuffed.  I picked up my race info, attended a pre-race clinic that reviewed the course and the transition zone (good stuff for me to hear), and then we headed back south to our luxurious accommodations in Camarillo, a town known mainly for its outlet mall, about 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara.  Friday night, we met up with a friend at an Irish Pub where I proceeded to stuff my face with fish and chips.  Again, probably not the ideal meal pre-race, but I figured "Oh, what the hell".
While not, perhaps, the most relaxing way to spend the day before a rather intense race, hanging out and being social definitely focused my energy on something other than worrying about the race on Saturday morning.   Looking back, it might have been better to worry a bit more about the race throughout the summer.  Or, if not worry about it actively, then to be more focused about my training.
Hindsight, at this point, is 20/20, and while there are some aspects of the event that, if I could, I would hit the 're-set' button and try to improve upon the experience, but on the whole, it WAS a pretty awesome way to end the summer.  I am now totally exhausted and my body HATES me, especially my thighs, but there is a great sense of accomplishment that comes after swimming, biking and running for a combined (and slow and painful) 4.5 hours!  This was definitely one of those "learning experiences" that provided plenty of positives and negatives from which to glean.
I kind of hate to say this, but I'm glad that the tri is over, and I feel quite ready to leave summer behind and begin the 2011-2012 academic year!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Distance Swim Challenge!

Before the summer comes to its end and I return to meetings (next week!), I have one final, totally selfish, "It's-all-about-me"moment.  No, no, no, I'm already married, and we aren't renewing our vows anytime soon, so no Bridezilla moments.
I have something much more fun planned:  The Santa Barbara Triathlon Long Course!  I decided that competing in/participating in a tri would be a great way to end the summer and kick off the new year.  I made that decision back in May, before the 2010-2011 academic year had even ended and the summer begun.  At the time, it seemed like a brilliant decision, but as the summer months have rolled along and I've experienced some lackluster training mixed in with some pretty great rides and runs, I was inches from panicking.  Especially after my really crappy performance swimming only 750 meters!  A day or so after the deplorable swim/run in Boulder, I signed up for a 1.2 mile open water ocean swim.  I know, kind of crazy deciding to swim over mile when I could barely survive the 750 meters.  But, I thought that I would have time to train and motivate and it would be 6 days before the tri.  I thought that if I could manage to finish the swim, it would give me the confidence boost that I severely needed going into the Santa Barbara Tri.
First of all, a little about this crazy swim...  
The OptimisSport Distance Swim Challenge offers a nice array of distances that vary from 12.6 miles (seriously?!) to the much shorter 1.2 mile swim.  I, obviously, had set the bar quite low at the 1.2 mile swim, but I was just fine with that.  
I was somewhat nervous last night, but I kept telling myself 2 things:  a. I didn't care about my time at all, I just wanted to feel strong in the water and swim.  b. Even if I get exhausted like I did in Boulder, I can't drown because I'll be wearing a wetsuit and I can just stop and rest, bobbing up and down.  
This morning was fairly low-key, despite the earlier than usual wake-up call at 5:40 am.  Michael and I enjoyed coffee and breakfast and then we headed west to Venice Beach!  Before we found parking and I picked up my packet, we had to make an emergency stop - I needed to find a bathroom ASAP.  That has never happened before an event - not like that at least!  The Venice Beach public bathrooms were definitely not the nicest, but I felt extremely relieved afterwards.  I was also happy that I hadn't had that incident while swimming.  I don't even want to think about it - gross!
As far as events go, this one was low-key.  It doesn't seem that as many people get out for a swim as they do for run/walks!  I picked up my packet which included a brand-spanking-new swim cap and the usual odds and ends (an energy bar, a drink, lots of pamphlets that promoted other events...), and around 8:20 or so I put on my wetsuit and then took a quick dip in the ocean.  The water felt GREAT!
Here I am getting ready:

This is my "I'm-intense" look, otherwise known as my game face:

Anyway, our swim started at 8:45 - it was pretty casual and much less intense than the start that I experienced in Boulder.  It took me a while to actually start to swim - I didn't go and ATTACK the waves ferociously!  But once I started to swim, the water felt pretty great, no one kicked me in the face or grabbed me, and my strokes and breathing seemed well paced and normal.   Mentally and physically I settled in to swim for about 40-45 minutes which is what happened.  I don't have my official time at this point, nor do I care.  All I can say t is that I felt good throughout the swim and even tried to kick it in at the end a bit.  I probably did swim longer than the 1.2 miles because it is hard for me to stay on course when it is an open water swim that has bouys that are so far apart, but I'm fine with that!
Overall, it was an awesome experience, and I definitely feel prepared for the Santa Barbara Tri next weekend.  Obviously there are certain issues that might affect the experience, but at the very least I feel confident about the swim.
So, swim, bike, run - here I come!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Colorado adventures - Summer 2011

So, we've now been back two weeks, and I finally feel organized enough to review and reflect upon our annual pilgrimage to Colorado. We often find ourselves following the same routine when we visit Boulder, and although we hit up some of our favorite spots (Snarfs for sandwiches and Spruce Confections for coffee), we also tried to spend less time and money eating out on this visit, so we did not go to all of our favorite places. It also seemed to me that we didn't hike as much as we often do when we are in Colorado, but we did manage one epic climb at the end of our stay!
The focus of the trip was to visit family and friends, and we did spend lots AND LOTS of time with family and friends and varied up our visit a bit by spending two nights in Allens Park, CO, a tiny stop on the way up to the tourist hell that is Estes Park (we drove through Estes Park and then left immediately!). We took Gus and Milo and stayed in a fairly rustic cabin!

I also spent some time hanging around on the climbing wall! Michael's nephews were like spider monkeys as they scampered up multiple routes. I was a little less youthful, but I had a great time climbing! It was the first time in a few years that I'd climbed, so I didn't mind too much that my muscles tired easily. One thing that I love about climbing - you don't have to be an expert to enjoy the activity.

Another trip highlight - the "booze bus tour" that a group of us took. Here is our group, hanging out in the back of the bus!

This was after our Avery Brewery 'tour' - not that it was much of a tour of the brewery, but we did drink some mighty fine beers. I hadn't finished one of my tastings, so they let me take it on the bus where I finished it en route to our next brewery. I was obviously having fun and had started to feel the effects of the beer!

Michael and I are enjoying some liquid refreshment at the last brewery, Upslope.

And then there was the Boulder Stroke and Stride. Not one of my better moments, at least in terms of the swim, but the scenery was pretty beautiful. Here we are before the race - it's pretty casual.

I had a fairly strong start - I'm wearing the gray swim cap. I tried to ignore all of the people who were sporting Ironman gear (like the guy with the purple 70.3 cap right beside me), but that should have been a clue that it was going to be a competitive field.

Exiting the water after a slooooooow swim!

The transition! I would probably have a better time if I invested in a 'race belt', but I like being old school with the pins that hold up the bib.

The sky was pretty phenomenal - maybe that helped motivate me through the run?

Ah, almost at the finish line - with a nice downhill slope to push us along. That DEFINITELY helped!

Anyway, after lots of good times in Boulder, we went up to Breckenridge which is a mere 5,000 feet or so higher than Boulder! I thought that I had acclimated to the altitude, but the change in altitude pretty much destroyed that silly belief. The weather was fantastic in the mountains - chilly at night, and up to 70 or 75 max during the day. Perfect! We spent a few days in Breckenridge with my side of the family - aunt and uncle, cousins, and my parents.
On the penultimate day of our trip, we 'bagged' a 14-er thanks to my parents' request and/or insistence. A few years ago, they climbed up Mt. Democrat which stands at 14,148. Mt. Lincoln, another 14-er (or a mountain that is 14,000 feet or higher) is along the same trail, and they tried to summit BOTH in one day, which would have been an admirable feat. Unfortunately, the high winds served as a major deterrent, so they turned back. This year, however, they were determined to summit Mt. Lincoln, and Michael and I accompanied them, sometimes cheerfully, sometimes a bit more begrudgingly!
It was a beautiful day for a long hike, and we enjoyed some spectacular scenery along the way. Here we are approaching the trailhead:

This was early enough in the hike that I'm actually smiling, although I do think that the smile is a bit forced. The altitude was pretty tough - starting at around 12,00 and hiking a mere 2,000 feet UP.

At this point, we were on the ridge, approaching Mt. Lincoln, and it was COLD and WINDY! The views definitely helped, but I also focused on moving along so that I didn't get too cold!

But, we all eventually made it to the summit at 14,286! This is my third 14-er, and not that I'm a total peakbagger, but there is something rather thrilling about summiting a mountain. I believe that we felt more relief than any kind of triumph once re reached the summit. The descent was almost more difficult than the ascent (we were tired, it was rockier than I remembered and that was hard on the feet and joints!), but a hot bowl of soup and a cold beer followed by a nap helped me recover rather quickly!

Finally, on Friday, our very last day in Colorado, Michael and I managed to motivate ourselves to get on our bikes. This was the first trip that we had taken our bikes, and we both really enjoyed all of the miles that we covered in the saddle. We rode from Frisco to Vail Pass, a 22-mile round trip experience with a 1,600 foot climb. THAT was tough, but it was a great bike path and we felt pretty happy once we arrived at the pass:

The best thing about this bike ride? Once we started back from the pass, it was all downhill, obviously, so we cruised down and fully enjoyed the ride!
It seems that we just returned from Colorado yesterday, and in other ways, I feel that we've been settled into our typical routine at home for a while now. Either way, these photos do remind me of the good times and the mini-adventures that we had on this particular Colorado trip!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New shoes!

Ah, it's either the end of the summer season or the new fall season, but no matter how you look at it, people are snapping up sale items or gearing up for the change in weather. My new shoes, however, do not fall into the school/work category. Oh, no, of course not! Why be pragmatic and actually think about returning to work and professional attire while I still have a few more days of flip-flops and t-shirts?
That said, I *did* go out and purchase a new pair of shoes last week. They were on sale, fortunately, but still cost a pretty penny. However, I am going to view them as a good investment, shoes that I will wear pretty much every week, at least once or twice. And so, TA-DA:

I bring you the Louis Garneau Women's Multi LG MTB Shoes!
While I already owned a pair of cycling shoes that I've been using for spinning classes, the studio only has two bikes that work with my shoes and the cleats that they have (LOOK cleats, which are specifically for road bikes). So, for the past few months, I've dragged myself and sometimes Michael to the studio at least 15 minutes before class started so that I could ensure that I would be on one of the two bikes that worked with my shoes. Let me tell you, what should have been a stress-releasing experience was more often than not terribly stress-inducing because I would feel so pressured to arrive early and to GET THE BIKE!!!
Last week, finally, I broke down and bought these shoes with SPD cleats so that we can approach spinning classes with a slightly more relaxed attitude, at least in terms of our arrival. Michael and I both decided that this purchase probably lowered my blood pressure by a good 50%. I'd call that a healthy investment!
While I'm excited to not have to kill myself or fight with another person just to get the right bike, it seems absurd to me that I now possess TWO pairs of cycling shoes. Hmmmm... I consider myself someone who sort of "dabbles" in cycling, but as I amass more and more gear, I will eventually try to see myself biker chick, just like this (for inspiration):

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Errands, errands and more errands

So, it's hump day! I believe that I now have 2 more remaining until summer ends. I know, I know, I can't complain, so I'm trying to blithely enjoy the waning days of August. Apparently, the newsfolk are calling it "FAugust" here because of the lower-than-usual temperatures. I almost didn't even write that because that might tempt FATE in a big way. You know, the Santa Ana winds will bite us in the ass in a big way come September and October.
Despite not being at work, I am actually trying to stay productive in one way or another. This week, since Michael has returned to work, I am attending to different errands. It's great to take care of some of this stuff now when I have more free time, and it almost makes me feel like a model wife. You know, running errands and tending to household matters.
On Monday, I braved the traffic to the West Side, made it to Venice and then waited while the RackSolid guys performed their magic and fixed our rack. Yesterday, then, I spent hours in the dentist's chair, as they cleaned my teeth and dealt with two small fillings. Half of my face was numb for an hour or so afterwards, but it definitely wasn't a deep filling so I didn't drool all over myself too much. I did make Michael take me out for a Happy Hour beer - we were at our 'favorite' local well with all the over-sixty-year-olds. Welcome to my life.
Today was MUCH more eventful however! First of all, I went to an 8:30 spin class that is taught by this really awesome instructor, Rod. He has to be in his 40's or 50's, and it's obvious (to me, at least) that he actually BIKES. Like rides outside. Because of that, he makes the spin class feel like a real bike ride which I love, love, love. He even uses visualization to motivate people: "You're going through a light and it's changing so you have to sprint through it!" or "There's a big dog chasing you up the hill!". Talk about motivation! The only down side to Rod's class is that I usually want to puke at a certain point in the class, especially when he makes us do lots of wicked intervals. Like today, of course. It was brutal, and then we ended the class with a sprint interval, high cadence but with resistance, and from there we went right into a climb - no recovery from the sprint! It was a brutal class, but I survived. I am definitely going to miss Rod's classes when school resumes.
The 'to-do' item up for today: Get the car detailed!
I swear, we've been talking about it for months, and once we returned from Colorado with our dog-hair infested interior and dead-insect covered exterior, we decided that it was time. Again, since Michael is actually working these days, the onus fell on my shoulders to take it to the car detail place in Pasadena and sit around for a few hours. Rather than sit on my butt the entire four hours, I meandered down to Colorado, where there were a few business establishments. I ended up at Starbucks (or Starfucks, as I sometimes like to call it) and ordered some frothy thing.
The best part about the Starbucks experience? I was wearing a t-shirt from Intelligentsia Coffee, a much less ubiquitous coffee purveyor that prides itself on the high quality of its coffee and on the experience that it gives its employees and customers. So, I ordered my frothy drink thing, and the barista took my order and then asked me "Do you work at Intelligentsia?!" I'm sure she was surprised that an Intelligentsia employee would slum it at Starbucks - it's probably forbidden in their contract. I must have ruined her day when I said "No." For me, it was a funny episode, and I thought about the headline "Intelligentsia employee secretly loves Starbucks".
But, if she had really LOOKED at me, she would have immediately known - I'm way too old and I have zero tats.
Still, it was nice to think that someone might think that I'm cool enough to work there!
As much as I'm not a Starbucks fan, I did enjoy hanging out there instead of the auto-detailing place. They did, however, clean and polish our car, so we have an almost-new looking, super snazzy Toyota Camry. Oh yeah!
On tap for tomorrow: A Costco run. I hope that I survive the experience and that I don't cave and buy 10 packages of potstickers!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A safe trip home!

So, I can't believe that it's August 8! I know that this statement is a total cliché, but it does seem to me that the summer months have 'flown by'. I can't decide if that is positive or negative. I suppose it indicates that I haven't been bored too often, but I doubt that I win points for "mindfulness"!
Before the full Colorado update, I will say that we survived the 14 or so hour drive from Breckenridge, CO to the greater Los Angeles, CA area on Saturday. We know the drive well and can predict some of the dips and turns in the road. Overall, it's a beautiful drive, except when we hit Vegas. At that point, we are so close but still a few hours out, so the final push feels particularly painful.
Last year, we hit Sunday night Vegas-to-LA traffic which was HELL. The only thing that lifted my spirits was when we passed BMWs that had overheated and the bachelorette and her friends were sitting on the side of the road, looking grumpy and disheveled, not a tiara in sight. I know, I know, I'm a terrible person, but I really hate the whole "I-must-celebrate-MYSELF-for-twelve-months-straight-because-I'm-getting-married" thing.

No doubt these mean-spirited thoughts do come back to bite me in the ass. Karma is a bitch, especially when you are on the road.
Karma, on this occasion, came in the form of a Yakima bike rack that fell apart on us while we were cruising down I-15. We heard some strange and inauspicious sound, and it seemed as though my door or window had popped open. I asked Michael to exit ASAP, which he did - fortunately we were close to an exit and could pull into a service station. There, we inspected the bike rack and realized that the driver's side of the rack had become completely loose. This wouldn't have been such an issue, except that we had our bikes strapped to the rack and the car was packed as it was. Fortunately, we squeezed the bikes into the backseat, once we removed the front and back tires. Our dogs weren't very happy to share their space with some bikes, but they only had to travel an hour with such limited space.
On our part, we were relieved that we hadn't lost the entire roof rack. Whenever I imagine that possibility, I have a mental image of our rack and bikes all over I-15. There would have probably been a huge accident to boot. I seriously cringe when I think about it!
Knowing how terrible the situation could have been, we were quite grateful to arrive home all in one piece.
We also learned an important lesson - bike racks are not infallible, and we need to check ours out at least once a year. The good news is that I went back to the rack store today (Rack Solid in Santa Monica - I totally recommend this place!), and they did not chide me nor tell me that I was going to need a new rack. They did have to replace a part and reinstall the system, but now it is as good as new. So, we are back in business, ready to road trip, bikes and all!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Goodbye Boulder!

We aren't leaving JUST yet, but soon, very soon. We might have time to fit in one more ride tomorrow morning (fingers crossed). And if I'm really a bad-ass, I might go to the climbing gym at 6:00 am. Yes, it's crazy, but the climbing gym opens at 6:00 Wednesday-Friday or something like that. Only in Boulder, CO! I swear, if I lived here, I would bike in the morning and climb in the afternoon every day that I could.

We've spent tons of time hanging out with the family which has been pretty awesome. Thanks to going to the climbing gym with some of Michael's nephews and his niece, I even managed to build up a small iota of "coolness". They even said that they couldn't believe that I was a mean teacher. HA! If only they could see me in action. I have totally tamped down on my teacher voice and attitude over the summer, but I have few doubts that it will return as soon as I need it!
In addition to some nice rides on the bikes and hanging around looking like this (Source):

(Okay, that isn't really a picture of me, but I really did love playing around at the climbing gym. It was so much fun!)

... I also participated in the Boulder Stroke and Stride, a swim-run race, last Thursday!

I originally signed up for the 1500 meter swim/5k run option and was brimming with confidence until I arrived at the Boulder Reservoir, the race site. Suddenly, the 750 meter lap looked about twice as long as I thought that it was. Also, I had opted to not wear a wetsuit because the water temperature was quite warm, and that turned out to be a huge mistake. I learned a very important lesson: Wetsuits are not just to keep you warm! I swear, I've been swimming this summer, but just the 750 meter lap exhausted me, and my time sucked in a major way. Note to self - Wear a wetsuit when it's an option! I'm not sure if it was the swimming or the constant jockeying for position and having people kick me and elbow me, but I swam one lap and was out of the water. I couldn't believe how slow my time was - 20.45! Whatever, I was happy to be out of the water and transition to my running shoes. I had obviously changed my race from 1500 swim to 750 swim (which was totally legal - I just had to let them know at the end of the race).
Although I was glad to be out of the water and happy to actually pass people rather than fight in the water, the run still felt rather painful. I'd like to blame everything (especially the swim) on the altitude, but I ended up crushing my goal time of 24:00 minutes, putting me at a fairly respectable 8:00 minute mile pace. Instead, I pounded out a very surprising 23:20 5K and placed 2nd out of 14 women in my age group!
I did not know this until the following day, however, so I spent most of the evening obsessing about my crappy swim time and sulking. I love focusing on the negative!

All that healthy and active fun aside, one of the highlights of the visit was a "Booze-Cruise on a Bus" thanks to Banjo Billy's Beer Bus Tour. We went to 3 local breweries in this lovely chariot:

It was definitely a fun experience! My favorite brewery was our first stop, Avery. I liked everything there that I tried, especially some of their Belgian-style brews, and it's now on my list of top 5, maybe top 3, breweries. Sadly enough, Avery beer is not cheap, but I suppose that is to be expected.
We will be moving on tomorrow as we head to Breckenridge, CO to enjoy time with my side of the family and to cool off! We are looking forward to MUCH cooler temperatures (the high is supposed to be in the upper 60's!) and to a nice long and high hike on Thursday, if the weather cooperates.
Pictures will follow too!