Friday, June 19, 2015

Racing into summer

A lot has happened since we last checked in. Perhaps most importantly, we moved from this...

 To this...

It always feels good to shake that winter off. Always.  

Edie has 2 weeks left of grade 1, Celia has finished up her first year of pre-school for the year and things are pretty smooth in the Jardine household which is the way we like it. Both of the girls are happy and healthy, Charlie too, and I think that means that by default Tim and I are too. The bikes are out, swim trunks handy, the garden is in and we're up for a great summer of hanging out together.
End of school-year celebration with stuffy

Still fast friends

Friends of ours who are travelling this year decided to leave their canoe with us while they are away. So, we've started to explore the lakes around the area in a canoe, no small feat as it turns out. How my parents managed 4 kids and a pile of the neighborhood kids in our old canoe I'll never know. But we're slowly getting the kids into it, and when I say that, you probably read between the lines. Little Celia is a reluctant convert to travelling by water, i.e. she screams the whole time we're in the water that we have to get back to shore. While entertaining for strangers watching, it makes for a tough family day on the lake. But I've got to give it to her, she's got tenacity. She will stick to her guns no matter what. And it brings to mind the handful of determination that I was at her age, so the apple has not fallen far from this tree. We'll keep working at it.

Edie and Tim at Blackstrap Lake
I turned 35 on June 2nd. Last October I found out that I had been selected from a lottery to participate in the 35th annual Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. What a coincidence, hey? How did this happen? Long story short, for my 34th birthday my friend Lori gave me the gift of entering my name into the lottery for the race, and in October, against many odds, I found myself selected. Thus began 9 months of intensity to make sure I could drag my butt over the finish line on June 7th, 2015. It was so well worth it. The race was an unforgettable experience- dirty, terribly frightening at times and just...hard. Words don't really do it justice. Everything other than the race however was as easy as pie. I really had forgotten what it's like to just have to take care of yourself on a daily basis. Escape from Alcatraz/Escape from Reality? Both equally fulfilling and much appreciated. Lori, as it turns out, did not get drawn for the race, and she and her husband Graham (along with their 2 kids) took care of Edie and Celia while Tim and I were in San Francisco. I would suggest that their experience was also unforgettable, for the same reasons (dirty, terribly frightening at times and just...hard). They did a wonderful job, and we are forever grateful.

The race begins on a ferry which moors off of Alcatraz Island, and 2000+ participants jump off of the boat to swim for the shoreline across the bay. It's 2.4 Km, and it was as scary as it sounds. I got pushed off/jumped in, and had to figure out how to navigate bodies, waves and foggy air and goggles. For what felt like 10 minutes, but probably wasn't that long, I had no idea how I was going to make it to the opposite shore. I was going through the motions of swimming, but nothing was really working. I couldn't breathe properly and definitely was struggling with orientation. I was warned of this, but had no idea how real the panic would be, or how difficult it would be to overcome. Once I decided to give my goggles a rinse and could see clearly, things settled down. I got into my stroke, and then my training kicked in. The current was in our favor, and every stroke meant so much. I expected to be pulled out of the water after an hour (which is the longest they will let anyone stay in the water for this race), but instead found myself on the other shore in about 45 minutes. It was tough, but quick. I remember thinking "did I just do that? Really?" as I ran up the shoreline.

This was the boat as we "offloaded", none too soon it would appear.

Just having exited the water. So excited, and so dirty from the bay. I totally ran the mile to the bike transition in my bare feet, nothing to it.
 Next came the bike portion, which I can only describe as...weird. It was a technical, fast course, but you had to be nutso to ride it all out unless you've done it many times before (which isn't the case for most of the participants). 90 degree turns at the bottom of steep hills, in a pack, there was no way I was going to be taking it aggressively. So in the end, I appreciated the climbing (I do love climbing even though there is not much of it in Saskatoon) but I took the downhills more cautiously. I was about middle of the pack by the time I got on my bike, and I wouldn't say that things changed much throughout. It was the least enjoyable part of the race for me, and I wish I could do it again to get more of a feel for it. I saw a guy fly off of his bike while trying to pass someone late in the course...he was fine in the end, but whoof. There was a lot of potential danger out there, and with such a diverse pack of riders, I was not comfortable. I was happy with my time, and was glad to be done with the ride.

Bike assembly outside of the hotel. Our very small room couldn't afford the space.
Then came a quick fuel up in transition and I was on my way to the infamous sand-ladder located in the middle of the 13K run near the Golden Gate Bridge. I love the run portion of triathlon racing, I usually find my stride and gain time. This race was pretty typical. I was tired out though, and the hills were rough. About 2.5K into the run we faced a large, sandy staircase that took us up a steep cliff face. Not having a watch on to gauge my distance, I said out loud "this must be the sand ladder", "not even close honey" was what I heard back from someone coming down the steps. Which begged the question- how did this monster staircase not get mentioned in the pre-race details?  So, there was really no choice but to walk up it quickly. I am not a walk-runner, I want to be going faster than a walk always, but there really was no alternative, lest my legs quit on me. And you're stuck behind people walking. Kind of frustrating. But I got up the stairs and kept on going. There were a lot of hills, and it was slow going, but the feeling of having accomplished a swim across the bay and a crazy bike ride propelled me forward. And just before the run down to the beach to access the sand ladder, I just became really aware of where I was and what I was doing- I was in San Francisco doing one of my favorite things. It was a great feeling. I also got into conversation with a girl who lived in San Francisco, but grew up in Sackville, New Brunswick. Crazy, hey? Small world.  I noticed that she looked like she fell in the dirt on her face, but didn't mention it to her so as not to be rude. Turns out that we all looked like that. Swim dirt apparently. Tim said we all looked like we had 5 o'clock shadows when we got out. Yuucchh.

Then came the sand ladder. It's a 400 step sandy staircase that again, you have to walk. The pros speed-walk it, the rest of us pulled ourselves up with the wire handrail. My 15 seconds of fame occured on the ladder as I heard a man say "smile everyone, you're on TV". And it was shown in the live coverage (my little sister, and Lori & Co. can attest). So dirty faced and walking, I made it on TV. Not the coverage I would have approved if I had a say, but you know- it was representative of the race. I did a big smile, which my sister, and the folks at home appreciated. I made it up the ladder and slogged my way back to the finish line. The last 2K felt like they went on forever, especially in the chute to the finish line, but I made it, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Tim was waiting for me after every portion of the race, which was really nice. Hearing his little voice saying "go Laura" gave me so much joy. In a race that big, it's so easy to feel lost in the crowd, and it was nice to know that Tim was trying to find me. No small feat in that crowd. He got to explore the area while I was racing, saw the neck-and-neck finish of the male winners, and spotted Barry Bonds in the finish area. He wiped my face when he found me in the finish area and we leisurely walked back to the hotel thinking loving thoughts.

If you watch closely at the beginning of the video, you can see my near-miss high five to a guy waving the American flag. The girl from Sackville I mentioned, she's 1 person behind me.

Tim and I really enjoyed our time away, we stayed at a small hotel built in 1906 in the North Beach area. We had walking access to so much, and made a point of getting everywhere we went by foot, bike or boat which was super easy. We relaxed, explored, and ate, ate, ate. Here are a few pictures.

tandem bike fun, a.k.a. the marriage tester

Lombard street, the "crookedest" street

Walking down Lombard St. It is one steep hill.

One of our favorite vegan eating establishments in Brisbane, the Loving Hut has found its was to San Francisco. Lindsay, this picture was taken in your honor.

Post-race, Alcatraz far off in the distance. So amazing.

Tim's baseball fascination continues.

China town. Very much like what we've experienced in Asia, except less smog and more structurally sound buildings.

San Francisco in the background, on our way across the bay to Sausalito.

The two low towers side by side in the middle of the picture were what I was aiming for during most of my swim.

A very patriotic shot of Alcatraz.

You can see where the huge hills of San Francisco are, incredible, hey?

Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog, as usual.

Tim is hiking up the hill to see how much farther we need to ride uphill (I refused to go any further). In typical wife fashion, I asked the guy in the house next to us for directions. And we eventually found our way to the Redwood forest.

Our fancy ride.

The beautiful forest walk made up for our frustrations in collaboration.

There are houses built within the forest. High risk in forest fires, but beautiful in an audacious sort of way.

Bay Bridge is in the background, looking down from Coit Tower.

Another view of the Bay Bridge.

Our shameless selfie!

View from Coit tower all the way across town to Lombard Street.

Our very amazing little hotel. Highly recommended.
Finally, there are way too few pictures of the best little members of our family. Here are some candid shots. The girls just completed the annual Kids of Steel race, Edie completing her first swim, bike, run at 6 years old! She is such a champ! Celia knocked 'em dead too, all while maintaining a steady scream-cry throughout. Determination is her game.

Truth time: Race results Laura Jardine 
Finished: 1375 overall, 38/66 in my division
Swim Time: 48:28 mins
Transition 1: 10:07- this included the mile run from the beach to the transition area, a banana and a wet-suit strip...I wasn't just lounging.
Bike Time: 1:24:01
Transition 2: 3:09
Sand Ladder: 4:22- no kidding. felt like about 10 minutes.
Run: 1:12:28

Total time: 3:38:12, I had estimated it would take 4 hours and 20 minutes, so it was a fun surprise at the finish line.