Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Seattle Finds Part 2

I'm going to try to keep this to two posts because I don't want to drag on forever.  But I don't want to make these posts too long and I still want to talk about everything we saw/did/ate/drank. If you are interested you can read my reviews of several of the places we visited on my Yelp page (and add me as a friend while you are there).

Saturday morning we headed out for doughnuts at Top Pot Doughnuts.  Kelly had told me about a website where they listed many of the places various TV shows had visited and I found this one.  Top Pot had good ratings and I won't turn down a doughnut.





We shared three doughnuts (hey, when in Seattle right?) chocolate sand castle-chocolate cake dusted with cinnamon sugar, valley girl lemon-a powdered doughnut filled with lemon cream, and I think Matt also order a raspberry glazed.  I'm sad that we didn't go back another day! The inside was cool to with shelves of books and plenty of seating. 

Since we had some time to waste before our next outing, we took a detour to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Pioneer Square.  Yes a national park that is really a museum in a building.  The best part is that it's free so we walked around and read the different stories of people looking for gold in Alaska.  

A pristine Geo Tracker was spotted on our walk.  Matt and I are both kind of obsessed with Tracker's since he owns one now.  So we both took a picture.

Which one do you think looks better?

Next touristy thing on the docket, was the harbor cruise. Our tour guide told a few corny jokes but overall had great info about the different piers and history about the city.



We did see a huge cruise ship that was refueling for its cruise to Alaska.


Views of the city skyline and Bainbridge Island were good and I could see the mountains a little bit through the fog.



From the boat we made a beeline towards our lunch spot-The Crab Pot. Again with the seafood.  We ordered one of the sea feasts to share and they basically just dumped a pile of food on the table for us. 



The bibs were very necessary.  Crabs, mussels, clams, corn, potatoes, shrimp and andouille sausage. My little mallet came in handy.  The 3 wet wipes I used after the meal were also necessary.

No meal is complete without a little dessert though and so we ended up back at the market and getting cheesecake from the Confectional.


Mexican Hot Chocolate was delicious but the spiciness level built up on me and Matt had to help me finish it. I need more cheesecake in my life. 

Since we were all loaded up on food we decided to grab a bus over to Discovery Park to do a little hiking.  We couldn't figure out a way to get out to the big hiking spots but this park within the city was a good substitute.  It was beautiful! We walked along the beach and through the trees. 

That night I ended up taking a nap before we went out for dinner and more drinks.  This is the bar where I found the famed African Amber! I'm still thinking about that beer. Do you think I can get it shipped here? 

Sunday was like the tourism day on drugs. First stop was the aquarium.  I got to see plenty of seals! 



That was the only thing I was excited about. 

In the afternoon, we grabbed another bus to go out to the Museum of Flight.  


This was what Matt was really excited about on the trip.  


I sat down a few times to wait for him to read approximately every exhibit sign.  


I will admit it was cool to see all the different types of planes. And I had fun in the kid's part where I got to try to land a hang glider on a video game. 

For our last dinner in Seattle, we went out to Zig Zag Cafe.  And on the way, I saw the hugest rat I've ever seen in my life! Or maybe I've just been really fortunate in my life and have not seen many rats.  I'm pretty sure the restaurant was rat-free so that was reassuring.  This restaurant had a whole menu of signature cocktails that I had never heard of so I made an exception to my beer drinking and ordered one.  

After dinner, we went on a mission to find some ice cream, but every place we tried was already closed.  Womp, womp. 

Monday morning we spent some time leisurely getting coffee and breakfast while relaxing before we needed to be at the airport.  


One last stop at the market to pick up more peaches and mangoes to take back home with us. Goodbye wonderful market.


We did get a bonus stop on our flight home when we landed in Great Falls, Montana, for an ill passenger.  Does it count that I visited a state when I didn't even get off the airplane?  

We spent almost an hour in Montana and since Matt only had about an hour layover in Chicago he was really worried that he wouldn't make his flight back to Cedar Rapids.  Unfortunately we were stuck all the way in the back on the plane.  His second flight was scheduled to leave at 9:20 pm and at 9:10 he was still standing on our plane.  And of course our plane was arriving at gate H16 and his plane was taking off from gate L2.  So he had to run across the airport like a crazy person and when he got to the gate, the door to the jetbridge was already closed but when he asked if they were still boarding to Cedar Rapids, the attendant opened the door back up and told him to run! But he made it and was sitting on the next plane at 9:17! Impressive, right? Sadly, his luggage didn't make it, but if he had to carry his luggage he would have never made it! Since he doesn't live far from the airport he was able to pick it up the next day.

It was a great trip, but it's always hard to say goodbye. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seattle Finds Part 1

Matt and I like to travel.  Neither of us got to travel extensively growing up so we like to take advantage of the opportunities to do so now. Plus it gives us some good quality time together which can definitely be a challenge in a long distance relationship.  He vetoed my original idea of going to Wisconsin Dells--something about we've already been there a million time--and after throwing out a few other ideas we settled on the city of Seattle.  Mostly due to the food!

I skipped out of work early on Thursday and headed to O'hare to catch my flight.  Matt had already caught his flight out of Cedar Rapids and I was meeting him at the airport so we could fly to Seattle together.  Of course no trip to the airport is complete without a traffic delay, but thankfully I left with plenty of spare time and the line through security was short.  Plus our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes so I had time to grab a DD iced coffee before taking off!

Our seatmate on the flight was a sort-of Seattle local and gave us a few suggestions on things to do.  He also suggested beers we should check out (which I've deemed just as important as the food) one of which he said was not bottled and only available in kegs.  Later on I couldn't remember the name but did recall something "exotic" about the name. I did end up finding it at a bar later and asked the bartender all about it--Mac & Jack's African Amber.  It is my new favorite.  Now I just need to figure out how to get it in Chicago.

Once we landed in Seattle we found our way to the Link Light Rail station and made our way to downtown Seattle.  We opted not to rent a car for this trip because we wanted to save on costs and I was impressed with the public transportation system in Seattle.

After the short walk from the station to our hotel and check in, we pretty much collapsed straight away on the bed.  It was already past midnight central time and it had been a long day for both of us.

Friday started off with one of the things I was most excited to see in Seattle-Pike Place Market.


Complete with fresh fish tossing, tons of produce, crafts, and lots of flowers.



It was as awesome as I had imagined. 


The market is almost like a maze and goes on and on.  Even on the last day we visited I think we walked by new stores. 


We grabbed dinner at the Sound View Cafe in the market and I had my first dose of many of seafood with a salmon hash.  

The views weren't half bad either. 



Of course I didn't leave empty handed.


They really brightened up the hotel room

 We had a full day of sight-seeing ahead.  First stop the EMP Museum to check out Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and other music memorabilia.


Our favorite part was the lab where you could play guitar, drums, keyboard, or sing.  


Extremely interactive and fun! I need to work on my keyboard skills though.

Next up the Seattle classic-the Space Needle.


I think I've been up into too many tall buildings because I didn't find this very exciting.  Oddly enough, I heard the top of the Space Needle isn't even the highest point in Seattle and that is actually on top of Queen Anne hill (I couldn't prove or disprove this, so take it with a grain of salt).  



I still enjoyed the views.  We contemplated grabbing food at the rotating restaurant below the observation deck, but skipped out. 



Each day in Seattle, we woke up to gray skies.  The forecast always called for the fog to burn off in the afternoon but after 3 days of hearing this, I thought they were just lying to me.  It was so often overcast and we didn't see much of the sun.  The forecast before I left called for temperatures in the mid 80s and  high 70s and so I brought dresses, shorts, and short sleeves and only one cardigan.  The cardigan got a lot of use.  Matt was smart and brought a jacket.  


Instead we drank beer and ate clam chowder at a nearby sports bar before walking back to the hotel to rest our feet for a bit.  Then we headed down to Pioneer Square to check out the Underground Tour.  


This tour is fascinating and had a lot of "lost" history and speculation.  The tour takes you on the pathways underneath the sidewalks, on the paths that the original Seattle was built on until a fire took out the area.  When they rebuilt they raised up the entire area.



 Thankfully no rats were seen.

That night we continued on with the theme of our trip --more beer and food.  We visited Pike Brewing Company.  I got to try another Kilt Lifter.  I've had the Arizona Four Peak's Brewing Co.'s version before because my friend Laura, an Arizona native, brought some back in her suitcase.  I enjoyed the brew but Matt and I could have probably skipped the pitcher we ordered. I was quite tipsy on the way home!

More about our other adventures tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A little bit of sunshine

Because Bethany loves me so or maybe just because I commented on her blog recently, she nominated for this little beaut.


About the award:The award is circulated to those bloggers to let them know that their posts brighten your day.

The Rules:1.  Include award logo in a post or on your blog.
2.  Link to the person who nominated you – Bethany @ Accidental Intentions
3.  Answer 10 questions about yourself.
4.  Nominate 10 bloggers to receive the award. Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs letting them know they’ve been nominated.


Questions:



1. What did you want to be when you grew up when you were little? 

I can't very well recall. Probably a teacher because that's what all the other little girls wanted to be, but I do kind of recall saying I wanted to be a doctor. The idea of being an engineer didn't occur to me until I was a sophomore in high school.  And even then I wasn't really sure what it all entailed.

2. What’s your writing utensil of choice?

A black pen that doesn't ink too much or is "wet" when it writes because my hand smears it. #lefthandedproblems

3. If you need to ask someone a question and that person is not within earshot (i.e.: talking isn’t an option), are you most likely to text them, call them, instant message them (either through gchat or otherwise), or e-mail them?

It mostly depends on the person, but my favorite way is instant message via g-chat or Google Talk as it is now called on my phone.  I facebook instant message with Kelly often, but I think she is the only one.

4. What was your preferred study location in college? (Or now, if you’re currently in school)

The commons of the engineering building-the actual name of the building is the Seamans Center.  It did make me angry when finals week would roll around and a bunch of non-engineers would show up and steal all the tables.  On the bright side, if you showed up at 7 am, you could get a table.

And I brought all this stuff with me
5. What’s your stupid human trick? (i.e.: ear wiggling, tongue rolling, etc.)

Hmmmm, I can touch my tongue to my nose. 

6. How many e-mail accounts do you have active right now?

Three: gmail, hotmail, and my work email. 

7. What did you have for lunch yesterday?

Yesterday we went out to for lunch to celebrate my coworker's retirement to Julio's Latin Cafe.  I had some Blackened Basa Fish Tacos with rice and beans.  It was delicious and I have leftovers so I can eat the same meal over again on Monday.  *I wrote this on Saturday and now it's Wednesday, but I'm not changing my answer*

8. What’s your favorite type of weather?

Slight breeze and slightly cloudy in the mid-70s. 

9. Have you ever met anyone famous? And if so, who?

One time I met Craig Alexander who is a famous triathlete and Ironman World Champion.  And Dave Scott who has some ridiculous number of Ironman Championship titles.


10. What’s your ideal mode of transportation?

I wish I could ride my bike everywhere but sadly, where I live is not all that bike friendly.  

So now I'm supposed to nominate 10 other people, but since Bethany nominated like most of the people that read here regularly, I only nominate a few.

5. If you are reading this, consider yourself tagged.

10 questions...let's see.

1. What is a signature dish that you make?
2. What was your favorite college class?
3. What is the best ice cream flavor?
4. What is your favorite race distance (5k, half-marathon, etc.)?
5. Favorite football team? If you hate football, just say the Iowa Hawkeyes and I'll be happy.
6. Cookies or brownies?
7. Have you ever watched the show Dance Moms? Don't lie! I just watched the whole season on OnDemand.
8. Where and when was your last vacation?
9. Favorite breakfast food?
10. What is your favorite gum brand and flavor?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Great Illini Challenge: 1, Alyssa: 0

Alternative title: Oops, I did it again.

I guess all these N*sync reappearances are making me think back to my horrific  middle school days and that makes me think of Britney Spears.  Oh Britney and you're school girl outfit...

Wow, got a little off track.  That's how my mind works I guess.

I went and did another half Ironman. Why? Well I really, really want that sub-6:00 time.  And I thought to myself, "I trained for 18 or so weeks for one race and now I want to do another. I feel good so why not?"  Was it a good idea? Well, you can be the judge yourself.

August 31, 2013, 6:45 am
Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

When I was looking for additional HIMs I found two options, this one or the Rev3 in Branson, MO.  The Great Illini Challenge was a lot closer and much cheaper.  Granted it was only two weeks after my last big race, but I signed up anyway.  

Mattoon is only an hour drive from Champaign so I headed down after work on Friday to spend some time with my friend Laura.  Traffic had other plans and the drive took over an hour than it normally takes me so I rolled in pretty late.  We made the best of our limited time and talked while I enjoyed dinner and a beer.  The talking could probably have continued well into the night but I called it quits at about 10:30 pm so I could get some sleep before the race.

Since I needed to pick up my packet yet and make the hour drive I got up at 4:15 am.  After the coffee, bagel, peanut butter, and banana breakfast and packed up the car at 4:45.  The drive as pretty lonely at that hour so I made good time getting to the race.  Registering so late, meant my name wasn't in their system yet so one of the race guys helped me fill out the paperwork so I could get a race number.  

This was a very small race--I heard only 200 participants in the half Ironman and another handful for the Olympic distance--and I had no problem getting plenty of space in transition.  The air was already heating up even before the sun was up and I knew it was going to be a hot day.  The water was just cool enough to be wetsuit legal so I hurried up and got mine from the car.  I did get a chance to talk to Amanda before the race too! 

After the pre-race meeting, time moved really quickly and I barely had my wetsuit on when the race started.  No swim warm-up for me!  Again, it was a small race field and the men took off first followed 3 minutes later by the women.  Once, we were told to go I went.  The swim was easy, but I could definitely tell I had only been in the pool twice since the last race.  The swim was a two-loop course and I was getting a little tired of swimming by the end.  When I came out of the water I could not believe the clock said 45 minutes already which meant the swim took me 42 minutes! Later the race director (possibly the race director, not sure?) told me the swim course was short but I'm calling bull and saying it was long.  One of the spectators told me I was fourth woman and that was exciting but I don't think my position lasted long!

The bike course was very flat and was also a two-loop course (notice a theme here? It continues) including two out and back sections in each loop.  That meant I had to make five 180 degree turn-arounds and I freaking hate those.  I'm not sure why but they are difficult for me and I lose almost all my momentum going around them.  Part of the course was on seal coat roads which was also a pain because the vibrations were making my hands and feet go numb and become very uncomfortable.  Thankfully that wasn't a huge section of the course, but it still wasn't fun.  

By the second loop the heat was already getting to me.  Feeling sluggish and warm already were scaring me for what was to come.  I hit three aid stations during the bike and I drank 5 bottles of fluid on the bike including 2 with Nuun.  I still felt dehydrated.  Eating sounded really unappetizing as well and I struggled to get down fuel.  It was lonely out there at times on the bike course.  Sometime during the second loop, I realized that sub-6 was just not going to happen today.  

Once I was off the bike, I was not looking forward to the run at all.  I questioned whether I should even start the run because I was already so hot.  Then I forgot my hat in transition and that just made me sad. 

Even though an aid station was located each mile, it just wasn't enough for me. The course was surrounded by field of corn was had like 30 feet of shade total .  It sucked hard core.  I walked so much of the run course.  So so much. At the end of the first loop, I highly consider taking a DNF.  I've wanted to quit before in races, but never have I actually consider walking off the course.  I was miserable to say the least.  Was it stupid to continue to run? 

But I went back out for the second loop.  And guess what? I walked most of that one too.  It was so hot that the tar on the road was bubbling and melting.  My shoes sometimes stuck to the pavement.  Or the asphalt would shift beneath my feet.  

I was taking cups of ice, ice water, and coke at the aid stations.  I really don't even like coke and this was the first pop I've drank since 2012! But the aid stations didn't have oranges and I couldn't stomach the idea of taking in calories any other way so coke it was.  Just convincing myself to run was taking so much energy.  Finally seeing the finish line was a huge relief because I knew I wouldn't need to stand out in the sun any longer. 

Results:
7:00:01
Swim: 42:38
T1: 1:45
Bike: 3:17:08, 17.0 mph
T2: 3:32
Run: 2:54:56, 13:21 min/mile

A personal worst by other 30 minutes.  It's also hilariously cruel that in a race where I was trying to go sub-6:00, I couldn't even go sub-7:00. 

The funniest thing about this whole ordeal was that I got second place in my age group and I got a huge trophy to go along with it. 

Did I mention there were only two of us that finished?
I think the other smarter members of our age group decided a finisher's medal just wasn't worth it.  

In hindsight, I am a little glad I finished but I really think it was just stupid.  Had it been my very first HIM, I would definitely have finished.  But with this being my third, I should have just cried uncle.  It took me the entire rest of the day to rehydrate just so I could go to the bathroom.  And my body is exhausted! So yeah, I finished, but at what cost?

I grabbed a bottle of water that wasn't even cold (sob!) and stood in the shade for a while before eating a piece of crappy pizza.  I was hungry though so I had to eat.  I waited for Amanda to finish to make sure she didn't lay down in a corn field before heading back to Champaign.  

Part of me thinks the race director should have cancelled the half Ironman distance and forced everyone to complete the Olympic.  According to the results, only 60 people finished.  Out of a supposed 200 participant race field, that is just sad.  Several people are listed as DNFs but I wonder how many people just didn't even show up to race that day.  After the race, someone mentioned the temperature was 95 degrees and 105 degrees with the heat index, but that was around 1 pm and it could definitely have gone up by 3 pm.  Last year, Muncie 70.3 was shortened to around an Olympic distance when the heat index was similar.  I do think it was unsafe for participants to be out there in those conditions.  

This will be my last HIM distance for this year and with my big goal race for next year being Ironman Wisconsin, I don't know if I will get a chance to go sub-6 next year.  I still think it is achievable for me and I will get it someday.  I probably won't try doing long race two weeks apart again either.  Even though, I felt okay, I doubt that I gave my body enough time to fully recover.  I also realized that I've competed in 3 triathlons in 6 weeks! While that's awesome, I can't expect to be in tip-top race shape when I do so.  


Cost: $165
Pros: great medals and trophies, good volunteers
Cons: sad pizza as post race food, two-loop course is boring and the roads were not in great condition
Horribles: the weather (I realize this is not in the race's control but I still hate the weather
Would I do it again?  Possibly. 
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