Emerald Forest (Trinidad/Humboldt county)

Emerald Forest really had our hopes up for our first super scenic woodsy campground. What better launching point for exploring the Redwood Forest right? Well it was a nerve-wracking drive down highway 101 for starters, and these trips always take longer than Google Maps suggests, which is to be expected pulling a 27’ trailer, but then add in narrow windy “highways” and construction that takes away one of the two lanes, and well, you get the idea. a 93 mile trip ends up taking almost 4 hours. Cue crankiness and frustration. So then to arrive at this highly anticipated lush “resort” and discover your [thankfully pull-thru] end spot backs right up to that highway and you’re spitting distance to 2 gigantic fifth wheels, and your enthusiasm vanishes pretty quickly.

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the highway is just thru those trees…

We had massive amounts of laundry to do despite having done 4 loads in Bend (seriously, how does it pile up so quickly??) so Tom was quick to scout out the facilities and was pleased despite the exorbitant cost ($2/load). But first we needed to work out so we drove down the road to Arcata where I’d picked out a cool community forest for some fun trail running. Now, we had two options for the 15 mile drive to Arcata. And since Tom missed the on-ramp for highway 101, we ended up on the “scenic” drive along the coast. Holy Mother of God, I’ve never been so afraid of tumbling over a cliff in my life. This “road” (and I use that term loosely) was actually signed as a bike route and I’d almost suggested Tom just ride it into town since his workout was an easy ride. The “road” however quickly deteriorated into a one lane pot hole filled dirt/gravel highway to your death. Several times we had to stop and navigate the one lane-ness with oncoming traffic, when literally one foot in the wrong direction meant pure devastation from plummeting to our death a thousand feet below on the rocky shoreline. There are some times when a 3/4 ton diesel quad cab is NOT the vehicle you want to be in and this pretty much tops that list. img_2732 img_2731I was trying to take in the stunning views between flashes of our rocky watery death and marveled at the homes perched precariously on the rocks overlooking the magnificent coastline. About 15 minutes later we escaped back to highway 101 and carried on our merry way. Big exhale.

Arcata is the home to Humboldt State University and I can only imagine the major draw is for students of forestry and environmentalism. There isn’t a whole lot going on in the greater Humboldt County coastal region but the Redwoods sure are impressive. We parked at the community forest right next to campus and Tom took off via bicycle while I trekked into the woods for a stop and go breathtaking uphill battle with gobs of photo ops: img_0096 img_0095 img_0094 img_009350 minutes later we reunited at the car, both completely spent from our supposed to be easy workouts. Keeping with our current theme of post workout brewery visits, we drove straight to McKinleyville and stopped in Six Rivers Brewery for happy hours brews and bites. There was Monday Night Football Seahawks vs. Bills on the TV but we were more interested in getting back to the “resort” for a campfire and dinner. img_0097I’ve been begging for a campfire for over a month and finally I got it. Life is good.

Tuesday morning we headed back into Arcata (all highway all the way thank you very much) and hit up the community pool for a lovely swim workout followed by a creepy fitness center experience then sped down the highway to Pepperwood for our much anticipated Avenue of the Giants bike ride.img_0099 It was another Jay’s essential rides ride and it was nice, but we felt a bit let down. I’m not sure exactly what we were expecting, I mean the trees are huge and the forest is spectacular with the ferns and the pine needles and the towering giants, and the road is very low traffic since it parallels the highway, but I don’t know, it left me wanting. There were stretches of just regular forest and some river views and some creepy dumpy campgrounds and the cheesy tourist stops (pressed pennies anyone?). I almost got run off the road over a very steep cliff by a FedEx truck. So really how did this differ from any other bike ride?? Le Sigh.

The Immortal Tree - supposedly 1000 years old, currently 250ft tall after lightning took off the top 50 ft a few years ago
The Immortal Tree – supposedly 1000 years old, currently 250ft tall after lightning took off the top 50 ft a few years ago

We turned around a little early in part because of sunset, but also because we had arrived at the section of road that Jay warned was some of the worst he’d ever come across, and indeed it was pretty nasty. Plus, we never ate lunch. I assumed we’d come across some cute little places to stop either on the drive to the ride or on the actual ride but we never did. And I didn’t really want gels which was all I had with me. So I was cranky and frustrated. We did break down and buy some nuts and candy bars at a little tourist trap store because I was just about to pass out from hunger pains, but I wanted something funner. Boo.

At least I got to take these silly photos inside a gigantic burned out hollow tree at the finish.img_0101 To try and rectify the culinary disappointment we stopped at Lost Coast Brew pub back in Eureka and binged on fried food as we watched the election results rolling in on the bar TVs. It was past 5 on the west coast so all the east coast polls were closing and the ensuing Facebook panic posts and stunned speechless media were just getting going on their long baffled night of shock and excuse-making. We did have cable at the campground but spent most of the evening sitting by the campfire enjoying the stars and ignoring the reality of the culmination of the last 18 months of ground-breaking bad behavior and political rants. We did know the official results before tucking into bed and said a sleepy prayer for the 50% of the population that would wake up to their very worst nightmare.

That’s about it for the Northern California coast, we were happy to head south to our first Harvest Host in the morning and made sure to dump the black tank and fill up the potable water tank for some dry camping among the grapevines.

Ireland’s RV Park (Gold Beach, OR)

I had really wanted to spend some time on the Oregon coast, but the northern part – the beaches and rock formations you see in all the movies and pictures. I’d spent time researching RV parks and state campgrounds even back when I was still working. But it’s a rather long drive from Seattle for a weekend and plus the sites were still super booked up in October and a lot close by November. Then when we decided to do Hood River and Bend it was the completely wrong direction logistically and would have added a ton of driving and the weather was turning… so it got nixed. But I needed SOME Oregon coastline before we left the state for a while.

roadside scenic viewpoint
roadside scenic viewpoint

There was a century ride on Jay’s website that formed a figure 8 with Gold Beach as it’s center so that’s how we ended up at Ireland’s in Gold Beach on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

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The rain just kept getting worse and worse but we had to walk a few blocks to the Inn to check-in so I put on my thermal running tights, “waterproof” boots, and raincoat and trudged up the street. Then Tom figured we were already pretty wet so why not wander around and see if there was anything interesting nearby? There was not. We walked a big loop through a shabby mobile home park trying to find a cut through to the beach as puddles formed in our shoes. img_2480I did at least walk out to the beach and up the tiny lighthouse but it was a stay in kind of night.

Sunday was an improvement so we went for a long walk on the beach, getting chased down by the incoming tide and mounds of fluffy sea foam blowing in the wind. img_2495 img_2485Then we jumped on our bikes and headed north for the easier half of the century ride since the weather didn’t give us much hope that the sweeping views from the hard hilly half would even be possible. I can break it down into thirds – the chip seal section, the hillbilly img_2488section, and the windy section. The hillbilly section was actually quite beautiful and had nice road surfaces so it made for good riding. Back on the waterfront was fairly miserable though and the views were mostly of sheep. Crossing the bridge back into Gold Beach wasn’t as scary as I anticipated and we were done. The campground was still pretty quiet but a big fifth wheel had been replaced by a little pop-up and we eyed the couple curiously as they secured multiple tarps over the mesh sides and washed their dishes next to the spigot. That is pretty hardcore, by comparison we merely pretend to camp while we enjoy the luxuriousness of our modern Airstream.

I got in a “quick” challenging beach run Monday morning before we hit the road for a beautiful drive down Highway 101 where we averaged about 35mph for the rest of the day…

Bend/Sisters Garden RV Resort

Bend/Sisters Garden RV Resort was the perfect location for a week of adventuring in Central Oregon. I never made it to Bend this summer and Tom has been adamant that I will love it – and even sent me real estate listings in the area! I do hate to be a foregone conclusion but in this case he nailed it. The drive from Hood River was gorgeous and I was like a kid walking down Main Street, Disney World, just in awe of the scenery around every corner. The park is closer to Sisters than Bend but the 15 mile drive into Bend didn’t affect our plans – and I don’t think I could ever tire of the amazing mountain views along highway 20. Check-in was easy and we had an escort to our site. We had a nice end spot (ie. grass on both sides of the trailer), right next to the little lake and the nice, clean, hot showers. There was hardly anyone on our side of the park but the other half was pretty full – presumably long term residents. We did find it slightly annoying that despite all the vacant space, we had a different trailer right next door to us every night. No need to be on top of one another with hardly any reservations… le sigh. Oh, and the wifi was horrible – again, with no one there, what a shame, it must be completely worthless in the summer when they’re booked up.

Monday, our arrival day, was a schedule day off on our training plan, but since our Sunday ride got rained out we decided to go exploring on 2 wheels. So we drove into downtown Bend, parked, and hit the bike lanes. Even though Tom has been here several times, he didn’t really know where we were going so we just followed the scenic bikeway signs out to Sheridan Park, climbed the little hill, then turned around and headed back before sunset. img_2307We cruised around the Old Mill area, which is under a lot of construction and development, before chaining up at the Deschutes Brewery for some beers. Such tourists!

 

 

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building decorated in denim?

Tuesday we wandered into Sisters and explored the town, chatting up the fellas at a few different bike shops about where to ride on this glorious sunny day. img_2314It’s a quirky little town and we stumbled into a bodega for a pre-ride snack from a very pushy but sweet eastern European woman. One parking lot wardrobe change later and we were headed out towards Black Butte on a scenic bikeway. The views were nothing short of amazing even if the wind and chip seal was frustrating. img_2318We rode past horse pastures and out into National Forest land with next to no traffic. img_2334Back in town we wandered through some residential neighborhoods and daydreamed about taking up residency. After a quick load of laundry and hot showers we headed back in to Bend for beer, food, wifi, and baseball at 10 Barrell. We really needed to plan our next few destinations and I felt much less stressed out by the end of the evening.

Wednesday we met Tom’s friend Jamie at the Juniper Pool & Fitness Center for a great swim in their Olympic pool. She took us to her favorite lunch spot Chow where we enjoyed a delicious meal and caught up. Then Tom and I headed north to Smith Rock for a trail run (but not before picking up some apple cider donuts for a post-run treat!). img_2336This place was unbelievable. We had no idea what it was really and didn’t understand how we missed it on the drive in, but everyone raved about how cool it was so expectations were high. As we got closer we could see it kind of sprout up out of the landscape and driving in through farmland I was just giddy as this incredible rock formation beckoned us.

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Is this for real?

I had researched the trail run options and determined we must tackle the Summit Trail for the challenge and the views. img_2444Running along the river we encountered some hikers and saw a few rock climbers and I just felt like I was running in a photo shoot – the scenery was just too good to be true. The trail was open – unlike a lot of the heavily wooded trails I’m used to – so you could just see down the river and up the canyon and marvel at the rock faces and towered overhead. img_2389Once we got to the switchbacks the battle began. Between my hamstrings and lungs, I was struggling. But we pressed on – running the stretches between the rocky hairpin turns – and ogling the steep ridgeline trail looming above us.  img_2400A quick check of the map assured me that was not the way back to the parking lot but I thought we might have to go up there to get the best view. But we kept climbing higher and higher above the rocks and with a blast of wind to the face we were at the “summit” and had a panoramic view of the Cascades. img_2398 From Bachelor to the south all the way to Jefferson at the north end (we did actually see Hood even further north but not at this spot). The gloomy rain of Seattle was a distant memory as we stood on the dry rock with nothing but blue skies and sunshine and clear views for miles and miles. img_2397  I couldn’t take my eyes off the views as the setting sun was changing the landscape by the minute but the trail down was steep and rocky. img_2402Runner’s high was in full effect the rest of the run and I chased the sun around the park not wanting to get back in the truck and leave. The promise of those doughnuts and game 7 of the World Series motivated us though and we went directly to Hop & Brew in Sisters for beers and baseball. I do love me some people watching too 😉

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Thursday was the big ride day I’d been getting anxious about all week. I don’t know why but sometimes I get very nervous about cycling. Worried that I can’t do it mostly. That the route is too challenging and I’m not physically up to the task. But I’m learning that really it’s a mental problem and at least so far, I haven’t encountered any terrain I can’t handle. It might hurt, I might have to stop, and sometimes I might even have to walk, but I’ll get there. Training my attitude is more difficult than training my legs. I am so grateful for friends (and a coach) who tolerate my bitching. So I kind of gave myself an upset stomach before the ride. img_2418Meghan had told me to go to Back Porch Coffee so we got me a little jolt of courage then suited up in entirely too much clothing. The forecast said it was 38 at the summit station (6000′) and we were worried about freezing on the descent so I went with thermal tights. Dumb dumb dumb. The whole ride is in the brilliant sun and the 20 miles up are just that, up. If I’d had a pocket knife I probably would have cut them off at the knee half way up the mountain. The grade was super reasonable and we just kept spinning and spinning and spinning. img_2423About 90 minutes in the snow capped peak of Mt. Bachelor finally came into view – thank God! I was tiring of the quiet upward trudge with nothing but asphalt and trees. Lots of big construction trucks and passenger vehicles came by but the shoulder was wide (just often full of gravel and dirt). When I didn’t think I could take it anymore, there was a short but joyous descent. Then we passed the junction with the road to Sun River and were nearly to the ski lodges. Approaching the main lodge there is a gorgeous view of South Sister and Broken Top – so close I didn’t even realize that’s what they were at first. The area is still closed but we saw some kids sledding and there were definitely some folks skiing. Sweet Tom had ridden up with a small backpack so we stripped off our sweaty top layers and put on nice dry shirts and an extra layer of gloves for the windy descent. img_2434We didn’t do a very good job with summit photos but frankly we were kind of tired and there weren’t any obvious good spots for photo ops. I even made a point to pull over at a scenic viewpoint on the descent and it was nothing but a log in the woods, so bizarre. We made quick work of the return trip and it was the perfect grade for a not scary descent – no hand cramps from excessive braking (unlike Klickitat)! I was really pleased with the ride and hope that in the future I’ll be less intimidated when tackling challenging rides like this. img_2442We headed over to Crux for yet another local brew (and the most amazing pretzel I’ve ever had in my life!) and stupidly left 5 minutes before sunset because it looked too clouded over to be any good. Then as we rolled into the Fred Meyers parking lot I was taken aback by the most glorious pink and orange sky! img_2450wahhh. Don’t be like me – Crux has a perfect sunset over Sisters view – we are idiots.

Friday morning we had to get going early to meet Jamie for another swim before check-out at the campground. Coach put us to the test with some band work and we rewarded ourselves with a stint in the hot tub which felt like a scene from Cocoon. I keep wondering what Bend residents do and our mornings at the Juniper pool make me think a lot of them are retirees and don’t do much at all 🙂

So hard to leave… we will be back for sure!

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Bridge RV Park (Hood River)

Bridge RV Park is technically in Washington, which I didn’t realize until the GPS told us to cross the super scary Hood River toll bridge (the river is the state border). You can’t exactly do a quick pull off or u-turn when hauling a 27′ trailer so we were going over the bridge whether it was correct or not. As Tom pulled up to the toll booth I confirmed that we were actually going the right way, then we braced ourself for the crossing. The see-thru metal draw bridge was narrow, no shoulder or sidewalk (bikes and pedestrians are prohibited). I hung my head out the window to watch the guardrail as oncoming cars hugged theirs and slowed as we approached. One guy even flipped us the bird! What is wrong with people??

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Once across we could breathe again, and the park was right there next to the bridge, as the name would suggest. We were promised a waterfront back-in spot and the sweet host saw us struggling and came out to help us navigate the process. The sun was out, I was a happy girl.

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After a quick camp set up we hopped on our bikes and headed into the thriving metropolis of Bingen. When I asked the host how bad the climb up to White Salmon was he said “it requires some muscle” – so naturally, I headed right up the hill! Actually I pulled over, turned around and walked right into the little local bike shop because I was hearing some weird noises in my climbing gears. The “bike doctor” basically said I needed a new chain and cassette and maybe front ring too. I kindly thanked him and headed back up the hill. He told us it was 1000′ up in a mile but totally doable. He was wrong, it was about 600′ in 1.5 miles and we handled it just fine. And we were rewarded with these views of Mt. Hood back across the river.

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After a short sunset cruise we hit up the awesome little healthy market for dinner supplies and settled in for the night. It was so nice to have strong wifi that we even watched a movie on Hulu! The train tracks that run between the park and the river are super busy and the trains are loud and go all night but didn’t bother us too much.

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Saturday morning Tom went back to the bike shop for some fork mounts to finish building the cargo slide bike rack while I got massively caught up on these blog posts. By the time it was all done we were running out of time to get in our 3 hour scheduled ride so we hustled up the highway to the start location only to discover ONE of us had left our cycling shoes back in the trailer… then we definitely didn’t have enough daylight for a 3 hour ride so we drove to a different start location for a shorter ride… I was so freaked out by the noises my bike was making that I decided not to use my easiest gear (the noisiest gear) which made the 9 mile climb a bit of a quad burner when we hit the 8-10% graded sections. We used this site to scout out rides and there was conflicting information about the elevation/distance so we kept waiting for the rest of the climbing but once we turned right near Appleton we knew it was time to descend and my quads were relieved to be done climbing. The descent was scary because the roads were wet the road curvy but at the bottom we got to cruise along the river back to the car and take in some gorgeous views.

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Sunday was Tom’s birthday and we planned to run, ride, maybe drive out to The Dalles, hit up some breweries, and have a nice dinner out. Well, we did 2 of those things… We didn’t get out the door as early as planned, then spent way too long at yet another bike shop debating saddle styles and sit bone strategies. But we left the bikes for a deep clean (and new cassette/chain for me) and drove out to Rowena Crest to run some trails.

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Again, there was a lot of conflicting information re: elevation and distance but we tackled the McCall Point climb and were mildly disappointed that we ended up in a cloud with really no view – rather anti-climactic – but still a fun little adventure in a light rain. (Sidenote: the super narrow trail passes along a really steep cliff which made us both extremely nervous and now we have made sure to exchange our families’ contact info in case one of us plummets off the edge in the future. Safety first.)

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up up up
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and up and up

After a full roadside wardrobe change we went back to Hood River to pick up the bikes and warm up with hot beverages and warm croissants. But the rain was intensifying and as badly as I wanted to ride on the gorgeous historic highway, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend another 2 hours in the wet and cold. So we headed over to Full Sail Brew Pub instead and got right down to business with birthday beers and stories from Tom’s former life in law enforcement with a dash of people watching critique (the hipsters are such easy targets).

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A weekend in Hood River just isn’t enough and I was reluctant to pack up and pull out Monday morning but the sun was out again and Bend was beckoning. Just take a deep breath and ease gently onto that bridge…

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Iron Adventures in France Part Deux

as continued from Part Un

There was a noticeably lower level of race morning anxiety for this second go around. Kelly seemed more anxious but I was relatively calm. We did have to drive into town and park and transition opened later (5:30 for a 6:40 start) than most races which I think contributed to Kelly’s nervousness. But we were one of the first ones there so got good parking and found chairs right next to the transition entrance, also conveniently located by some of those fancy portable toilet trailers – which at least for the first visit were remarkably nicer than your standard port-o-pot. We were literally the first ones into transition when it opened and I beelined for my bike and the pumps before a queue formed only to confirm my fear that their pumps did not fit on my weird rear valve. So I went right to the mechanic tent and let a cute French fella pump my tires for me. After arranging bottles and setting up my garmin we went hunting for special needs bags drop location. Literally walking in circles around transition asking everyone to no avail. Finally we located Morning clothes bag drop so we went ahead and stripped down and I strongly regretted not having throw away flip flops for the rest of the pre-race walking around (and mainly the last port-o-pot stop – electing to block that from my memory). Apparently special needs drop site was right outside the door – we had honestly walked by it like 3 times but they must not have been set up yet. Maybe we were distracted by the naked man who decided to just change clothes right in front of God and everyone at the entrance to transition. It took a few frustrating laps to locate the entrance to the swim start where we did our good luck and goodbye hugs before Kelly jumped into the lake for the in water pro start and I weaved my way closer to the back of the self-seeded pack. I stood at the railing watching the pro packs swim their first loop as the sun rose over the rooftops of this cute little French town and all the Europeans chattered around me. I had a brief moment of overwhelming emotion and teared up and almost started freaking out but I stopped myself and said a prayer for a good calm confident swim for both of us and refocused on the day ahead. We kept inching forward to the dock and I was feeling good, ready, committed to a great race.

Then I’m diving in off the dock and all hell breaks loose. My brand new (open water and pool tested) goggles were fogging up within seconds. The time trial style start didn’t provide the thinned out field that I anticipated. The water was not clear, like couldn’t see my own arms in front of me. The sun was blindingly right in my eyes breathing left, which was the side the buoys were on. The water was reverberating off the seawall creating tons of chop. It just plain sucked. I couldn’t calm down or get into a rhythm. I actually hung onto a kayak for a bit to get my bearings. Every time I’d stop to sight or clear my goggles the guys in boats would ask if I was okay. It took me over 14 minutes to get to the 500m buoy and some quick math told me this could be a 2 hour swim. The outbound half of the first loop took FOREVER. I spent a lot of time debating with myself whether or not to quit on the dock at the end of that first loop. But by the 1000m buoy I was starting to feel better, manage the situation – it wasn’t pretty, but I was making progress. We had to exit the water and run a little ways then jump back in. Perfect opportunity to bail. Here was my chance! It had taken me 50 minutes to go 1900m. I was pissed. I am better than this! I’ve had some awesome open water swims this summer. Of course I’d never questioned whether or not it would be wetsuit legal so my 1:20 time goal was definitely under revision without it, but I just didn’t know how much it would wear me out to actually have to swim for 2 hours without one, and I had the whole rest of the day to consider. But I came all the way to France. I had prepared for this. I didn’t even have the car key so if I quit, I’d be sitting around for the next 9 hours waiting for Kelly to finish. So I jumped back in. And scraped the ever living $hit out of my right foot on the damn concrete boat ramp hiding in the murky water at the end of the dock. UGH. I couldn’t even figure out where to swim because the sun was so blinding. I was still pretty mad swimming the second loop but at least I wasn’t getting swum over constantly – now I was the one passing people. I had resigned to having a terrible swim split and I’d figured out I could go roughly 500m before the goggles got so clouded that I absolutely had to stop and clear them, so now it was just managing my attitude and getting to the next buoy, and the next, until finally I got to turn for the exit. The old man in front of me was struggling to stand up so I fell over running into him and scraped up my left knee. Perfect. Something over an hour and forty minutes, but it was over. Nothing like a terrible horrible frustrating slow swim to start what I had hoped would be a perfect day for a nice big PR.

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I never get excited for the bike leg for a triathlon. I mean it’s one step closer to running, but all the uncontrollables make me anxious for it. But today, I was sooo looking forward to getting on the bike. Anything but swimming, please God. I didn’t even sit in transition. Swim skin off, tri top on. Shoes, helmet, glasses, go. Worked on my cool wings as I hobbled to my bike and hustled the long way to the mount line. Next time I need to remember to have a nice big snot blowing session instead of doing it for the first 2 hours on the bike. The first few miles getting out of town was twisty and bumpy and I hit so many potholes that by the time I got to some decent asphalt I could tell my derailleur was all kinds of jacked up. Great. Always nice to look forward to 6 plus hours of riding with a noisy chain and sketchy shifting. It was overcast and cool (not the 97 degrees we were anticipating) but I was in a foul mood from the swim. Happy to be riding, but angry that the day had started off so badly. There are hardly any women on the course but the men keep zipping by me. This is not unusual, however, considering how bad my swim went, I was just a little confused why they were all starting the bike after me. It should have dawned on me that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with that swim and that might have helped my attitude, but I was in a yuck place and feeling sorry for myself so that didn’t occur to me at all. 112 miles is a long ways to go and it wasn’t thrilling but it really wasn’t bad at all. I ate, I drank, I dumped water on my wings, I enjoyed the beautiful countryside, the British fellas were friendly, my attitude improved. My favorite part of the course is the last 15 miles of the loop – ironically, the hilly section. I didn’t mind the false flats or the cute towns, but the hills were more interesting and very pretty. Made a quick stop at special needs for nice cold Rocketfuel refills and chamois cream and started the second loop with a little more push on the pedals. Instead of getting passed nonstop now I was doing the passing, and finally seeing some ladies. It drizzled a few times which was awesome – didn’t affect the roads, but kept things cool. The pro men started passing me around half way through and I kept wondering if Kelly would catch me and if she did, would I tell her what a terrible swim I had? I didn’t want to distract her from her race but wanted her to know how things had gone so she didn’t worry when I was taking so long to finish later. But it was a non-issue, I managed to not get lapped by the ladies. I made a point to work the hills and was bummed when I realized I wouldn’t make my 6:30 split goal (range had really been 6:15-30). Lucky me, my garmin was 3 miles short and all of a sudden I was rolling into transition for a 6:23 split which really lifted my spirits.

My hips did the thing where they don’t like to stand up straight coming off the bike, so the long walk to rack my bike was a good opportunity to stretch them out, even if it cost me time. I did sit down to put on my socks and shoes over my poor bloody (swim scraped) feet and was sad that somehow after all the bag packing and repacking I hadn’t put any lube in my t2 bag so there would probably be some blister action happening. Pulled all the extra crap out of my shirt pockets from the bike and threw in my planned run nutrition, took a second to fill up my handheld bottle with water from the table and almost ran into a fence turning the wrong way out of the tent. A volunteer yelled at me to put my bib on as I was trying to buckle my belt while running out the chute and I pulled up my arm sleeves as I turned onto the run path and through the shower station. Quads were feeling the push from the bike but of course I was jetting off at a 7:30 pace blazing by everyone and trying to catch my breath. The path was half runners, half spectators – picture scooters, bikes, strollers, dog leashes, and a stream of tired stinky racers gutting it out on uneven asphalt. It cleared up as we got away from the venue though and then the first aid station appeared. Coke in mouth, water on sleeves. I’d repeat that 5 times per lap but I wouldn’t remember to walk them until #3 on that first lap. I was just too excited to run and accidentally forgot that part of my race plan and ticked off some stupidly fast splits. Goal pace was 8:45, not 8:25 so I needed to walk and chill out. Then I started seeing more reasonable numbers. And I was feeling pretty great, considering. Taking salt licks every mile, staying cool, no desire to eat though, which might come back to haunt me later. At the end of each lap you ran through the finish line, like literally across the red carpet but right next to the actual arch, then back out of the little stadium to get a bracelet and start your next lap. Red, yellow, blue, finish. Oh how I coveted that blue bracelet. Second lap was much like the first, feeling strong, sticking to my plan, thinking I would probably have to stop and pee but the port-o-jons were sparse and I kept going even when I saw one. I had dreams of running a 3:40 which should have cued me to realize I was running too fast. I could tell my garmin mileage was getting off but I crossed the finish line the second time at 1:47. Uh yeah, a little fast. Hmm… okay third lap. The need to pee was getting strong, too strong, and there were no bathrooms for miles it seemed. So I did the unthinkable – I peed myself. I know people do it on the bike, but I don’t think people do it on the run. Dear God, I am disgusting! Was close to an aid station so dumped water down my shorts and hoped no one noticed (and that I didn’t smell! well, at least any worse than I already did). Alright that happened, time to get back to business. I had some enthusiastic French gentlemen fans under the first bridge who always brought a big smile to my face. And I was still running a great pace, so people cheered everywhere “bravo! allez Emily! on y va!” or something like that. All day long, on the bike and run, the French cheered like we were Olympians – they were fantastic. But it happened again! This time I grabbed a shower head from a volunteer at an aid station and doused my lower half. My soggy socks were the least of my problems now lol. Somewhere in the midst of my hydration problems I must have missed some salt doses because by the end of my third lap my stomach was growing uncooperative as well. I finally stopped in a potty just before running through the finish line area but after getting my blue bracelet I had to take up a run walk, and boy was I pissed mad. Upped my salt intake and after a mile or so I was back on track, not moving as quickly, but running between aid stations at least. It was a mental battle of managing my expectations, forcing myself to suffer, and trying to enjoy the final few miles in spite of it all. The tummy trouble had ruined my sub 12 goal but I could still PR, I was sure of it, if I just kept moving at a steady pace. Some of the more rowdy spectating groups were disbanding and it was getting a little quieter on course but the volunteers were still going strong and it felt awesome to be in the home stretch. Again, I was just awed by the competitors walking with only 1 or 2 bracelets, they would be out there for quite some time, what guts.

My final lap around the finish line stadium was such a relief. I didn’t see Kelly even though she was there, it was so crowded and loud, and there were a few people finishing just ahead of me but I think I heard my name. The emcees were insanely awesome – they were basically running a discotheque in the park for 12 hours.

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The finishers tent was nothing more than a bottle of water, a t-shirt, and a long line for a massage. Kelly came and found me in line and we lamented the swim and I told her my stomach kinda crapped out around mile 20 – I think she thought I was really unhappy and asked me if my run was like a 4:10 and was kind of shocked when I told her it was actually a 3:50 for a 5 minute PR overall. Of course it was like pulling teeth to get her to tell me she finished 3rd – for her first pro 140.6 podium! I made friends with a first timer also named Emily waiting next in line and we all chatted til it was our turn. The emcees asked Kelly to be at the finish for the last hour (10:30-11:30) so I got my morning clothes bag, cleaned up and changed and we sat on the patio having donuts and beer (okay, only I had beer) and discussing the day. We eventually checked out my gear and took it all to the car then headed back to the finish area for some soft serve and hung out watching the party. For the last hour we actually went down to the finish line and partied with the other winners and emcees. At 11:30 they set off fireworks then showed a really great video from the day and bid us all adieu. It had been a pretty epic day, no question. Thank you Ironman Vichy!

Takeaways:

things are different in France –

  1. volunteers are great but not as knowledgable as we needed them in several instances
  2. there was zero mechanical support on the bike course
  3. there were lots of officials on motorcycles and strict rules about drafting but I never saw a single black card given
  4. ice is not a thing
  5. there are no bike catchers or finish line catchers
  6. supposedly you aren’t allowed to run shirtless, so I didn’t, but I saw plenty of shirtless women running
  7. you have to wear your bib on the bike or you get DQ’d
  8. you can’t wear a tri kit under a swim skin if it isn’t wetsuit legal – they made a special exception for this day that you could wear ONE layer under a swim skin – and they DQ’d a bunch of people for wearing a sports bra, a tri top, and a swim skin, even Pros

things that affected my performance –

  1. not being able to practice swim at the actual venue is tough – I actually haven’t at any of my half or full venues, and I think it would really help in the future
  2. building my own bike and only getting a cursory check out by a mechanic might have left it in less than ideal shape for race day, that’s a tricky thing about flying to a race
  3. I wasted 2 hours on the bike being mad about the swim – that was just stupid
  4. I honestly just didn’t visualize or run through my race plan enough – and started off my run too fast and didn’t get in any nutrition, which may have contributed to my (honestly very mild) stomach issue. last year I at least got down like 1 gel and 1 pack of chews then some bananas towards the end – this time it was only coke and a few oranges

things I’m proud of –

  1. not quitting on the swim. it was a very real possibility
  2. pushing on the bike not knowing how it would affect my run
  3. much better transitions!
  4. overcoming a huge setback on the swim and not being defeated by a setback on the run

And I’m not feeling burned out or finished or anything – I have a fire in my belly for more – because I know I am capable of much better. I am more fit than the circumstances allowed me to perform. Yes I’m registered for Roth next July but I don’t think I can wait that long to go again. So we’ll see what I come up with in the meantime 😀

Again, it wouldn’t have been possible without the wisdom and support of my coach, my friends and training partners, and all my teammates spread across the country. I really wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun like 80% of the time. Running is my first love, it is in those moments that I feel confident, strong, smart, and talented. To misquote the movie line, it is there that I feel God’s pleasure. The sermon at church tonight was about the inseparable nature of grace and truth in Christ Jesus – and how through His Spirit, we receive grace and truth, are convicted of righteousness, and are made free. We are constantly becoming more of who we are – more you-ier. Sports have a beautiful way of refining us, tearing us down, exposing our weakness, and providing unlimited opportunities to learn and grow and be made strong under wise teaching. It’s a never-ending process and I look forward to becoming more of who I’m meant to be, as an athlete, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a child of God.