Friday, July 4, 2014

Our 2-year Vizsla-versary!

July 4th marks the day when Miss Meli came to live with us. For us this date seems way more significant that her actual birthday and since she's a dog I'm hedging my bets that she probably won't care all that much either way!!

The last 2 years have flown by!

She's a well behaved girl - provided there aren't too many distractions!! Which means she's angelic in the house - using a bell to let us know she needs to pee, knowing her boundaries around the house (she's only allowed on certain furniture - and over the course of time that list is rapidly shrinking - we're such suckers!!), and waiting patiently for the command before she'll eat. Out of the house she's a bit more of a runaway! She still thinks everyone wants to be her best friend so she'll dash up to anyone nearby! She loves hanging out with other dogs, but does seem to tire of them quickly - after the obligatory butt-sniffing she does tend to come back to us (unless it's Brix the Weimaraner from down the road!).

These days she runs with me on most of my training runs - usually 2-3 times a week - our long runs are up to around 10-12 miles with a couple of shorter ones mid-week. The distance and time out running is great for her but she seems to come home ready for more. Unless she's had some serious off-leash play and running at her own pace (I'm just too slow!) she is difficult to tire! We're so lucky that we have access to around 20km of trails right from our front door so we trail run some of the shorter distances so we both get a great workout! And then she's a happy, happy pup! More recently Chris has also started taking her out mountain biking on the trails and she's loving that!

She is OBSESSED with her ball-on-a-rope. It's ideal for us since we can really throw it some distance (even me who can't throw to save my life!) The best game ever?! - Us standing on the front lawn and throwing it up the bank opposite into the shrubs and waste-ground. She'll dash up the bank, leaping like a deer at the crest, and then moments later come bounding back down the hill with it, do a lap around the lawn and come back for more, more, more!! It's a great way to get the wriggles out (I nearly said 'to tire her out', but really, that never happens!)

We did take her on an excellent camping adventure last fall - 2 nights in Glacier National Park, with a couple of days of serious mountain hiking. And actually that was the closest we may ever have come to the elusive 'tired vizsla'....6 hours hiking 16km up a mountain and back does that to a pup....She couldn't even keep her eyes open for the campfire...

Despite the lack of hair and undercoat our girl loves winter. Yep!! Crazy! Snow must be her favoutire thing and she was a great companion to our frequent snow-shoe trips this past winter. We got her geared up in a cozy fleece lined waterproof jacket and she'll go on forever! She also loves the lakes (even in the winter - sliding across a frozen lake was funny for all of us!!) - now summer is here she'll be back out on the SUP with Chris - she's rather protective of Chris and doesn't like to watch him disappear off too far from shore so will generally jump on in and make a swim for him! The 2 of them even went SUP in February when the lake was still partially frozen!

However, this girl does NOT like her photo being taken. It's usually the Miss-grumpy-pants face as soon as she sees us getting out the camera or our phones...
Possibly my favourite photo of the year - Daddy's Little Girl....!

We love you Miss Meli-mou!! xxx

Friday, June 13, 2014

Race Recap: Whistler Half Marathon 2014

Last weekend was my second year running the Whistler Half Marathon and once again proved to be an excellent weekend away.

In fact my over-riding impression of  the weekend is that it really was so much more than just a 21.1km race. it started the moment we drove into town on Friday afternoon. Whistler is such a great vacation-atmosphere resort town so I really enjoy the vibe and kickin' back. After our 7 hour drive I really do feel like I'm in vacation mode!! We wasted no time checking in to the host hotel, visiting package pick-up downstairs and then heading out for a late lunch. The village stroll is full of options; we took advantge of the gorgeous weather and ended up on the patio at La Bocca - a place right opposite our hotel! Later that evening we also attended the presentation and pasta party at the local Brewhouse. It was difficult not to sample too many of their craft beers, but race day in Whistler is Saturday!!

We stayed at the Crystal Lodge - the same hotel as last year and I really can't recommend it enough. It is so nice to be walking distance to the start line. With my usual race morning jitters and angst about last minute pit stops I can skip the porta potty lines and with minutes to spare leave my cosy hotel room and jog down to the start line and hop stright into the corral as the national anthem is playing! Sa-weet!

My race wasn't my best result. Last year I broke a huge barrier for me and clocked my first sub-2 hour Half Marathon - I then managed to finish all 4 of my 2013 halfs in under 2 hours. My race on Saturday I came in a little over 2 hours - of course I'm over 40 now! - yes, indeed, that must be it!! When trying to look for silver linings I can say that I conquered Blueberry Hill. A rather infamous hill near the start of the race - it stretches a little over 1km and I remember last year walking a good portion of it. This year I reached the top without stopping and felt pretty darn pleased with myself. But there was a lot of unexpected hills - a lot more than I'd remembered and Blueberry Hill I think had so physched me out I gave everything I had to that and left nothing for later! I was dragging from around the 12km point - yikes - it was a still a long way to go. Anyway, I finished. 2:01:51.

Surprisngly one of the highlights of my weekend was a late addition to the Race weekend schedule - a 'RecoverRun' on the Sunday morning. Given that it was an 8am start and I was giving up any chance of a weekend lie-in I signed us up for this free bonus event. It was a coach-led 5km trail run around some of the fabulous Lost Lake cross country trails right by the village. Aside from the fact I was taken somewhere I'd never been before it was a comfortable paced 35 minute run with a stretch routine after in The North Face store. There were just 50 spots available so it was a great sized group and perfect opportunity to loosen off those weary legs! We all received a North Face visor for showing up and had coffee, fruit and chocolates to welcome us back after we were done! And we were up, worked out and back in our room with plenty of time to shower, chill out a little and grab breakfast all before our check-out time!

The Whistler Half marathon sells out quickly and it's really no surprise why! It's a great deal - I think the early bird rate was just $78 (with no annoying fees and taxes) and our race packages were full of goodies - it's heavily sponsored by The North Face and they look after us well - a cute women's cut tshirt, arm warmers (whcih I saw in the store later retailing at $28!), a water bottle and the visor which I got at the Recover run. Plus awesome food and special 'North Face' toasted cheese as post-race food!! (yes the logo is imprinted onto the toast!), Refresher drinks from Starbucks and Oikos Greek yogurts from Danone.

Another fabulous weekend in the books!

I'm linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Race Recap: Mudd, Sweat & Tears, Kelowna

A couple of weeks ago I was part of a 7 person team taking part in the second Kelowna 'Mudd, Sweat & Tears' event. It's very similar in style to the Tough Mudder & Spartan races out there - basically mud, obstacles, running and some major kick-ass team building/bonding!!

I recruited Chris and I both for my workplace team 'The Bridge Trolls' (we work at The Bridge Services!). I'm not really sure if you need to train for these kind of events - I figured that since the distance was only 12km my regular road running had me comfortably able to manage the distance. And cross training at home doing P90X and Insanity workouts should have me covered in most other aspects, really I think the most important aspect in pre-race readiness is the right mental attitude!

Our team had an assigned start time of 10am - which was quite the treat - being so close to home the alarm was actually set later than it is on an average week-day! Due to the logistics all participants had to be bussed up to the ski resort where the event was taking place. The day got off to a bad start when they were in short supply of buses and it took 80 minutes to stand in line waiting for a shuttle ride...

But we got there....and with a quick dash around to get us registered, changed, bag dropped, potty break etc we were ready to go. Having such congestion at the buses and start line worked in our favour - they introduced an 'extra' start time of 10:15 and since most people had rushed to set off at 10 we had a very small start corral! Perfect once you encountered the obstacles with no line-ups!

The organizers wasted no time in living up to the first part of the event name - MUD. After scrambling over a 9ft wall we were getting down and dirty in a shallow mud pit, bear-crawling along staying low enough to ensure we avoided the barbed wire hanging just inches above the mud. From there we had rope climbs, more mud pits, more walls, tire pulls, and a couple of demoralizing hill climbs with heavy sand bags (up AND back down again).

Surprisingly in the end one of the more challenging aspects of this race was the running in between obstacles. We'd signed up for a 12km race, but at the end my garmin had only logged around 7km (and was consistent with several other teams). Frankly I didn't mind! We'd run from the bottom of the mountain to the top - around 1200ft elevation gain in just over a mile! and then all the way back down again. (You know, there was a perfectly decent chair-lift right there we all could've used!!)

The kicker was the final obstacle. It was an 'Over & Under' type thing. A giant shallow pool of very liquid, slooshy and cold mud. With logs across it - some were 4-5ft high - those were to go over (more difficult than it sounds since they were slick with mud) and then some logs were just inches above the mud pool - and those of course you needed to go under - I mean, of course!. The first 'under' wasn't too bad - we were down and crawling and it was bad. But then there was the second 'under'. And that was the mother of all muddy, dirty obstacles. This log was no more than 2-3 inches above the level of the mud. I stood there contemplating my fate for a few moments. I considered just hopping over the thing and calling it good. And then I decided that 2-3 inches may be just the air gap I needed. I got down flat on my back perpendicular to the log and ducked under hoping and praying and squeezing my eyes as tight as they'd go that I wouldn't end up fully sub-merged. I was one of the lucky ones. I surfaced with a small patch of pinky flesh still visible! Yay for small mercies. The rest of my team did not fare so well and every. single. patch. of. human. body was slick and covered in mud. And I mean EVERYWHERE!

The TEARS part of the even name came right after we crossed the finish line. There was a fire hose hooked up to icy mountain water to wash off a little - and you did have to wash off, or at least try! It really was pretty hard to bear without getting instant brain freeze and it most certainly brought tears to your eyes!

In all, it was a super fun event!

Linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday

Friday, May 9, 2014

Race Recap: Vancouver Sun Run

Time has been whizzing by and already 2 weeks have passed since the Vancouver Sun Run. I LOVE this race! This was our third time taking part, the first back in 2006 and we were tourists still road tripping around North America in our RV! Wow, I'm sure we never dreamt back then that we'd be running 8 years later as Canadian residents!

I love that it's such a BIG race - this was it's 30th year and there were over 50,000 people registered! The crowds aren't for everyone but I love the atmosphere and vibe of it all. I love that tight jostling in the corrals at the start and the sight of so many people doing what I love doing - running!

We had a fantastic hotel really close to the start line - just one block away from the back of the corrals. We were actually placed much further forward so we walked about 3 blocks parallel to the start line street until we could enter our corral a little nearer the front.

What I found marvellously liberating and refreshing is the knowledge, having done this race a few times that there was NO time pressure to get to the start line. There are 50,000 people all lined on Georgia Street in 6 or 7 very large corrals and it takes over an hour to get everyone through the start line. And with the race being chip timed your race doesn't start till you cross the start line! There's a countdown and release for each of the corrals so you don't even miss out on the pizzazz of the start wherever you are! Knowing this we opted to loiter in our hotel till the very last minute. I'm a nervous runner pre-race - and I need the bathrooms. Usually multiple times. And really it takes longer to queue at the start line than it did to just hang in our room till I was sure I was good to go!! Plus we didn't want to check bags for clothes, so we made got ourselves completely ready and probably didn't head out till just before 9 (official start time). It really was just a few minutes walk and as we approached our cross street we heard the gun go off for the first corral. We had time to squeeze into our corral as they removed the barricades and edged us forward to the start line. We got going at around 9:16 I think!

I love that the first 1km is down Georgia Street, towards Stanley Park and is a steady and gradual downhill. It's perfect for me to work up to a good pace and breathing pattern with just a smidge of gravity assistance. Unfortunately I spent that first 1km wrangling with my Garmin to pick up a satellite signal on the fly after it failed to start. Frustrating but at the 1 mile mark I got it going (what is it with me and my technology at the start of races - it's not the first time this has happened!!)

I had no great expectations for this race - I never do! The previous 2 times we've run it we've both been hungover and have gone into it with a worst case scenario of 'it's just a nice stroll out on a Sunday morning'! Of course we've always managed to pull out the stops and do a little better than that, even with a fuzzy head! This year we'd had our big night out on Friday but I still didn't feel on top form and liked that it was no pressure - kept me way more relaxed.

The thing is, the only real 10km races I've done were back when I ran in Cyprus - before chip timing and so far back that when I contacted the organizers to try and get the results out of the archives they were too far gone! They were always around the 60 minute mark though. I do have a couple of 10km split times from some of my half marathons - my best being 51 something, but really not an 'official' 10km time. So the only other 10km races I actually have times for are my previous Sun Runs - and they were both just over an hour. So I was feeling pretty confident that no matter what happened I was going to get a new 'official' PR!!

I'm always slower for the first mile or two of a race - since most of my races are Half Marathons it evens out OK, but for a 10km I guess I should work on that!! Chris ran with me and kept me at a good pace - really pushing me on the couple of bridges when I may have slowed. It's a nice, flat course apart from those 2 bridges! As you run the decline on the second bridge you can see BC Place and you know the finish line is close, and as you turn onto the exit ramp there it is! With a final push we made it across the line with the clock showing 1:08!

Now as you'll remember my garmin wasn't working so really I didn't know what our time was. I only thought I'd remembered seeing 9:16am on the clock as we set off, but I'm not totally sure. With some rough calculations I hoped that meant we should have finished in around 52-53 minutes, but we'd have to wait till the results were posted online - either way I was happy - it was a good race and  PR no matter what that I was pretty pleased with - considering that I'd not specifically trained for a 10km and wasn't feeling on perfect form.
After the race we dashed back to our hotel to grab a quick shower and check out and then headed for lunch at Steamworks Brewpub. I loved that everywhere you looked in Vancouver that afternoon all you could see were runners and happy faces - many people were still wearing their race t-shirts and bibs and you had the feeling that you were all in one giant club. This is the atmosphere that I was talking about!

And my new 'official' PR time - 51:47! I'm happy with that!

Linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday

Monday, May 5, 2014

Eating in the dark at The Dark Table, Vancouver

Last weekend we enjoyed a city break in Vancouver - once again killing 2 birds with one stone we were celebrating Chris's birthday and running the Vancouver Sun Run.

We headed off early on Friday morning and went via the Aggasiz Tulip Festival. The fields were in full bloom and after a short walk from the parking lot we were in the middle of it. Rows and rows of the beautiful blooms in lots of different colours! - just gorgeous and very spring like! We lucked out with some great weather too - although there had been a lot of rain the fields were pretty dry - in fact strangely spongey and rather fun to walk on!

We checked into the St.Regis Hotel for our weekend - it was a fabulous small boutique hotel and the location was second to none right on Dunsmuir and just one block from the start line for our race on Sunday! From the moment we checked in the doorman remembered us and greeted us by name throughout our stay - talk about great customer service. There was free wifi and free bottled water in the rooms. The rooms were small, but very nicely decorated and modern. There were cosy bathrobes and an amazing bathroom - it was nearly as big as the room itself. The breakfast was also an awesome perk - included as part of the room rate it was an a la carte menu served meal cooked to order and was delicious, plus an on-site pub/bar which was perfect for drinks before we headed out to dinner in the evenings.

Anyway, possibly the most exciting part of our weekend was Friday night when we had reservations at The Dark Table. This is a blind dining restaurant - meaning that you're eating in the dark. Pitch. Black. Darkness. I first came across the concept back in January when we watched the movie About Time and there are 2 characters who meet at a dark restaurant.  I loved the idea but lamented that it was a bit hip to have such a thing here. Literally the next day a work colleague of mine was at a conference in Vancouver and posted on her Facebook that she was 'dining in the dark' that evening. With a quick google search I discovered that indeed there was such a restaurant as per the movie in Vancouver, and we were visiting in April for the Sun Run! I made the reservations there and then!!

There are 2 'sittings' and we were booked for 8:45pm as a table for 4 - we were dining with our friends Les and Deanie. I think we were all super excited about what was to come. On arrival you sit out on the verandah and check out the menu - it was pretty simple - maybe a half dozen choices for entrée and then a 'surprise' starter and dessert. They take your food and drinks order and then you get called by name to meet your server at the main door. You line up one behind each other, putting both hands on the shoulders of the person in front and with the first of your group with their hands on the servers shoulders and you're off...after passing through 2 doors you enter complete darkness! The servers are all visually impaired themselves - our server had been completely blind since age 7. But these guys know how to move!! We were whisked along at quite the pace and led to our table.

We could see NOTHING. Nada. You could put your hand in front of your face and you couldn't see it. Chris had to take off his watch since the glow-dial was blindingly bright and in danger of ruining the atmosphere!

You were left at the table for a few minutes to orientate yourselves (before they let us loose with alcoholic beverages in open glassware containers!). The table was large. You could barely reach the person opposite you even when you were both stretched out - on reflection I suppose that was quite key in not knocking things over and fumbling around for your drinks glass - there were no 'extras' on the table - a simple textured place-mat and your cutlery, so after some feeling around you got quite comfortable.

The food was OK. Perfectly nice, but not wow. We had warm bread rolls and the starter was a simple salad, which I felt that I rocked! I even managed to use cutlery and pick it all up with a fork - which frankly I find challenging at the best of times! (at least I think I got it all!). For my main course I'd picked a stuffed chicken breast which was tasty. I didn't find my vegetables till later on so most of it I was just eating great hunks of meat rather than a mixed forkful of food. Well, most of it I ate with the fork!! Eating with your fingers soon became the easier and more instantly satisfying option! Dessert was a very ordinary chocolate mousse-y-cake thing - which should definitely have been a cutlery kind of affair, but by this time most definitely wasn't. But no-one can see you!!

But the food was not why I was here. Seriously I was competing with the Cheshire cat for the size of my grin that night! I just couldn't stop smiling and laughing. It was SO. FRIGGIN'. FUN!! When you needed to use the wash-room you had to call out for your server and he would come, you'd place your hands on his shoulders and he would whisk you off 'doing the conga' style. And you had to hold on tight because he was a busy man and was moving some and you were terrified of loosing your grip and being stranded mid-restaurant not knowing your nose from your ass, and never finding your way out!! I just found it all completely hysterical!! When you were done you had to stand at the bathroom door and call out again so he could lead you back.
Photo source
We were there a good couple of hours and had an absolute BLAST. Possibly the best dining experience I've ever had. And when your face hurts from smiling so much you know it's been a great, great night! It was fascinating to be dining in the dark - an insight into what blind people experience every day and you rely so much more on your other senses - despite our table mates being 'so far away' opposite us we never had trouble communicating - I guess because your hearing kicks up a notch to compensate. And texture and feel became so important for eating in particular.

If you ever get the opportunity to dine in the dark I'd totally recommend it - but go with friends - we were chatting to some couples who'd been and it didn't seem that they had quite as much fun - I think it's not the place for a romantic dinner for 2 (especially when you're sat next to a table of 4 drunken idiots cackling with laughter and giggling all night long!). I wouldn't necessarily go back - not because I didn't absolutely love it but I think it's a bit of a 'one-off' experience not to be missed!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Race Recap: Ragnar SoCal

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I returned from the sunny climes of Southern California and honestly I'm still suffering from major #ragover...

194 miles, 37 hours, 12 runners, 2 vans, 1 Tough Chik team.....countless epic memories.

I've been putting off writing my race recap for fear of not being able to do it justice, but given that time is ticking by we need to be talking progress not I'll jump right in...

Ragnar had been on my bucket list for some time. They organize a number of relay running events across the country and really I wasn't too picky about where, but more concerned with the how since there's some logistical magic needing to happen to pull together a team of 12 and organise them to travel with 2 mini vans over the course of 36 hours...When Shannon from Team Tough Chik put a call out for interested people to be part of the Ragnar SoCal team I was immediately on board. I bought my ticket to Orange County way back in the fall of last year and over the course of the last few months the rest of the team slowly came on board and we all got to know each other via a private facebook group.

Finally on the night before the race we all met at Shannon's house for the first time. Five of us had flown into California for the event - I think the rest were all SoCal ladies. We spent the evening getting to know each other, decorating our 2 mini-vans and enjoying some homemade lasagna. It was fairly early to bed since we'd be up at 4am to head to the start line.

Come Friday morning we piled into our van bleary eyed for the drive to start line on Huntington Beach. It was still dark as we checked in, listened to our safety brief, collected our team swag, our race bibs and our t-shirts, then took the obligatory team photo as Lisa - our runner one stepped up to the start line. Due to the craziness she got going just 15 minutes late of our original designated start time at 6:15!

It was so exciting to see her off and knowing that we had a long crazy adventure ahead of us. But really there was no time to waste as we needed to head to our first exchange.

At Ragnar most teams consist of 12 runners (some run it as an Ultra with only 6 runners!) - which are then split into 2 vans. I was in Van 1 along with Lisa, Krystal, Virginia, Valerie and Shannon and was runner #6 - so the last person to run in our van before handing off to runner #7 from Van 2. You get to know your van members very well over the course of the 36 hours as there is no break from it! We were also incredibly lucky to be chauffeured by the incredible Lauren who owned that 15-seater van! Every person from van 1 runs a leg, handing over the 'relay wristband' to the next runner in order. When everyone in one Van has run they hand over to the first runner from Van 2 - they each run a leg and then hand off back to Van 1 - and you do that 3 times through so everyone runs 3 legs and in this particular case you arrive in San Diego!!

I guess everyone gets comfortable and happy with the legs they get assigned. I was super happy to be in Van 1 as runner #6. It was difficult at times being the last person to get going, but when I was done the van was done so I never had to sit around sweaty and smelly! When the van is done you have some down-time whilst the other van is doing it's stuff - we found that this was usually a 5-6 hour break.

Having started at 6:15am from Huntington Beach we'd worked our way down to Tustin. For my Ragnar debut I had my longest leg to run (nothing like getting the hardest over and done with!). It was just short of 9 miles and I started running at around 11:15am so it was warming up nicely - maybe a little too nicely for this Canadian girl who hadn't worn shorts since last September! It was a pretty straight route along a busy urban road and there were a LOT of stop lights. The rest of my team mates had already complained of similar problems on their legs so I wasn't surprised but all the stopping and starting does tend to suck it out of you - just as you get into a comfortable pace you're stopping for sometimes several minutes at a time (and all those people you'd busted a gut to pass are now waiting at the light with you, damn it!) I finished my leg at a huge old air-field and as I ran down through the exchange chute all I could see was Amy waiting for me - dressed in our wonderfully bright purple and teal Team Tough Chik gear she was just stood there front and centre and it made for an easy exchange! After slapping the wristband onto her arm she was off and I was greeted by ALL of my team-mates! (See another lovely bonus to being runner #6 - I got double the cheer squad as I finished my legs since it was a major exchange where van 1 & 2 are both present!!) This was a big exchange point and there were refreshments, live music and sponsor and vendor booths. After I cooled down a little and some shopped the Ragnar merchandise we headed out. Since we'd finished our legs very close to Shannon's house we were heading back there for the afternoon, so after grabbing a bite to eat from Chipotle we could start looking forward to showers and a siesta and even the opportunity to do a quick load of laundry!!

Ragnar is often talked about as a rough and ready race - it's 36 hours with no major downtime. There's normally a lot of sleep deprivation, not a lot of showering and lots of smelling. It's quite normal to just sleep in the van or just out on the ground in a sleeping bag at one of the exchange points, and often no showering opportunities, so having someone live nearby and being able to head back to Shannon's house was quite the luxury and it was most definitely appreciated! After a couple of hours of quiet, cool snoozing (I'm not sure I could really call it sleep - adrenalin wasn't letting me sleep for real!) we hung out, chatting and waiting for the text from van 2 letting us know that Casey -  runner #11 had set off. We gauged that allowed us enough time to jump in the van and drive to the next major exchange to meet them. The exchange was at the beautiful Doheney State Beach (a place very dear to my heart - somewhere Chris and I spent some time at when we were travelling and where we had a wonderful photo-shoot by Tara Whitney for our fifth wedding anniversary - which was poetic in itself since here I was 7 years later ON my actual anniversary running Ragnar and 'celebrating' our first anniversary apart).

Left - the view at Torrey Pines and the end of my final leg. Top R - the views we had to deal with whilst tracking our runner! Bottom R - watching the sunset at Doheney State Beach

Night had fallen by now and finally at around 8pm runner #12 - Tina ran into the exchange, handed back off to runner #1 - our Lisa and she was off into the night. During official night-time hours everyone needs to be wearing a head-lamp, red blinky lights on your back and a reflective vest - so it was a crazy dark mess at the exchange! After a few minutes of hanging out with Van 2 we needed to head off to our next exchange. Lisa was running the mother of all legs - the longest of the entire relay at nearly 12 miles, at night and it was officially un-supported which meant that the vans were unable to drive the same route the runners were running - which meant we couldn't stop to support; be that collect unwanted clothing, hand over refreshment, and just generally be an on-the-go pep squad. We did sneak in an impromptu cheer station in San Clemente where we stood on a street corner for 1/2 hour screaming and cheering and forming a celebration arch for everyone who ran through! - Since it was getting late it seemed to be well received, and finally Lisa came through and we could top up her water and send her on her way again.

The rest of our night time legs were a bit of a blur - obviously it was dark so I have no real distinction of where we were and what it looked like! We had a couple of crazy messed up exchanges where things were disorganized and no-one knew what was going on, and we even missed the finish of Lisa's epic leg since we were snarled up in traffic. my night-time leg was just a shorty - 2.7 miles through Oceanside. It started through the town itself - so even at 1:30am I was still getting caught by stop lights!! My final mile was along a cycle trail and then along the beach path and before I knew it Amy was there waiting for me! Since it had been such a short leg my van hadn't made it from the last exchange in time so I hung out with Van #1 until my crew could find me!

It was shortly after this exchange that Van #1 could officially crown ourselves the Team Tough Chik 'Princess Van' - yes, we had decided back at Shannon's that we liked our luxury and had reserved a hotel room for our second 'downtime'. Hilton here we come!! We took the drive down to Carlsbad (near to where the next major exchange was) and within a matter of minutes we were in our room and fast asleep (it did not go un-noticed that the room we were assigned was #148 which was our Ragnar team number - seriously it was a sign that this was meant to be!!). It was sadly way too short lived - less than 3 hours later we were up again and getting ready to head to the exchange for what would be our final legs. It was 6am and we were (surprisingly!) raring to go!

All too soon I was getting ready to run my final leg through the gorgeous Torrey Pines State Park. It was a (nice?!) solid uphill for just short of 2 miles which was fairly brutal (but satisfying when I was passing guys that were walking!). Then when I finally reached top it was a nice flat and then a small downhill to the cliffs where my exchange was. It was a little emotional running into that final exchange - it was over for me! The scenery was stunning - it was a gorgeous day and by Noon it was a wrap for Van 1.

We said our goodbyes to Van 2 as they headed off to track their runner. And we headed to a local day spa for a sauna and showers.  We kicked back and took our time, headed out for lunch at Dirty Dog with a couple of cocktails to wash it down. Slow time we headed to the San Diego waterfront where the race finish was, got out some blankets and got comfy lounging on the grass for the finish. Due to some injuries in Van 2 they were going a little slower than planned and Tina - runner #12 picked up some extra miles making her final leg to the finish line around 10 miles - it was a toughie for her for sure.

The sun set over the ocean and finally in the twilight we caught sight of Tina heading around the final corner and towards the finish line. We all crossed the finish line together as a team (most of us hobbling by now since the adrenalin that had kept us going was slowly fading and the aches and pains were settling in with a vengeance!). We celebrated with cupcakes and hugs and all too soon we were saying our goodbyes.

It was the most incredible and fun experience. I think I came home and bored the socks off Chris since everything out of my mouth was Ragnar memories - so much to remember and so few words that can do it justice.

Check out this awesome video that Jessy - runner #9 put together of our experience - it gives me goosebumps just watching it and re-living our Ragnar moments!

And within the week the #ragover was hurting us so bad that we've agreed to meet back in California in September for Ragnar Napa Valley!! Yes - my flight is already booked!!

Linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Turning 40

It wasn't exactly billed as my birthday weekend trip - it was actually a trip over to Vancouver Island to buy our new car. But as Chris's luck would have it he was able to kill 2 birds with one stone, get the new car AND treat me to a weekend away - he's smooth like that ;-)

He wasn't quite so smooth when it was decided that the best way to get there was via Greyhound. A 10 hour journey that started in Kelowna at 11pm on a Friday night. Trust me, the greyhound depot in Kelowna on Friday night is NOT classy. At all. I'm getting too old for this shit! 2 people were refused boarding by the driver for being too drunk and another was arrested. And then the on-board toilet was out of order. For a 6 hour journey. Okaaaay then!

After a couple of hours stop-over in Vancouver at dawn and then a couple more hours on the ferry we finally arrived in Nanaimo. A long story short, the car was everything advertised and we bought it (because by that point it was going to have to have something majorly wrong with it to convince me not to buy it and have to get the Greyhound home again!!) So by mid-afternoon the weekend was ours and we had a new set of wheels to cruise in - yeah baby!

We drove down to Victoria and arrived at The Empress Hotel right on the harbourside. Our only other visit to Victoria was back in our second year of travelling - 2006 and we were still in the early years of our RV'ing adventures and long before we even considered emigrating to Canada. And I remember thinking how wonderful, grand and majestic the Empress Hotel was. And it was now our home for the next 2 nights! 

At check-in time our room wasn't quite ready. They'd upgraded us to a Harbour View so to appease us they took out luggage and sent us to The Bengal Lounge for complimentary cocktails. Darn it, don't you just hate it when someone plies you with free drinks?! 3 hours later and long after the room was ready we headed upstairs. A shower was long over-due after the journey and we had brewpubs to visit!

Our first night we headed for The Swans brewpub. We scored a table in the conservatory area which was perfect for people watching and kept a slight barrier between us and the live music - it was good but, hey I was nearly 40 and that music was loud!! And O.M.G the burgers.....I ordered the Swan Song burger but switched out the plain beef patty with a cajun-style charred beef patty and then it was loaded with bacon, mushrooms, cheese, crispy fried banana peppers and beer braised onions. I was drinking their delicious Raspberry Ale - it was so full of berry flavour and in an medium coloured ale - not some dark stout as is so often the case. The berry was so intense it was almost like it was a regular pale ale that they'd then added a couple of shots of rich raspberry liquor in it! Intense, high in alcohol and one was enough to sip on all evening!

The next morning was grey and drizzling but I headed out for a run regardless. A gorgeous, invigorating 4 miles along the harbour on a Sunday morning. The spring flowers were out - I saw daffodils, crocus and snowdrops, a man walking his parrot and some funky driftwood art 'Fan-ta-sea-Isle' (which I vaguely recalled from 2006 but it's much larger and rather more established these days - the same sailor is there!)

For a late brunch we took a water taxi across the harbour from our hotel to Spinnakers Brewpub. More great local craft beers and a fantastic menu to choose from. We settled in and received fabulous service from our host (who was a fellow Brit!). And when I say we settled in, we sure did. We said goodbye to our friendly server at the end of his shift paid our 'lunchtime' cheque and then welcomed in the new shift for the evening and opened another tab. 8 hours later we took a slow, ever-so-slightly tipsy stumble back to our hotel!! I barely remember what we ate (for either of our meals) but it was good!

I woke on Monday morning with a 4 in front of my age. 40 does seem old. I was so excited to reach my 30's, but 40, nah.....not so much. After a quick bite to eat in a local tea room we hopped in our new car for the journey home. Our final gastro treat for the weekend was Moby Dick's Fish n' Chips in White Rock - I'm telling you ma' man is classy and smooth when it comes to 40th birthday dining!! (But it was a particular delicious choice which I could highly recommend!)

An awesome weekend to remember in a beautiful hotel in a beautiful city. So maybe turning 40 isn't so bad after all. (But how did Chris manage to end up with the new car for MY birthday?!)
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