Wednesday, November 26, 2014

studland and swanage

A place called Studland exists; I had to go. Because surely it could only be a village of shirtless English Premier League players, right?

I walked for a very, very long time. But all I found in Studland was a lot of fog.

And these cake-shaped formations known as Old Harry Rocks, which I really, really wanted to call "Old Harry's Rocks" and then laugh hysterically. (But this information probably doesn't surprise you since I'm the type of person who takes a bus all the way out to a remote village just because it's called Studland and then hikes around in mud and mist for hours, trying to figure out where all the studs went.)

Despite the false advertising, Studland was beautiful.

So I kept walking ... 

... uphill and downhill and through a bunch of sheep pastures ...

Clearly not studs.

... until the town of Swanage appeared.

And then I kept walking until I actually got to the town of Swanage.

See those cliffs? That's where I started.

And then I walked through Swanage ...

... and stopped at the cemetery, of course. (There are so many cemeteries in England. Squee!)

And when I got tired of walking, I took the bus back to Corfe Castle and finished the day with a meat tower bunless burger and a side of chips.

I may or may not has requested brown sauce.

It's my last night here in English countryside. Tomorrow I take the train back to London.

Unless another unplanned twist occurs and I end up on, I don't know, the Isle of Wight or something. Because with me, you never know.

corfe castle

You know how in "The Hobbit," Bilbo Baggins gets pulled into an unexpected adventure? That is pretty much what this trip is like, except I'm traveling by myself instead of with a bunch of dwarves. And I don't have to meet a dragon at the end. And I suck at riddles, so I won't be getting any special jewelry. And -- most important of all -- I don't have hairy feet.

I spent yesterday exploring Corfe Castle, the teeny-tiny village that is currently my home base. The day began with a proper English breakfast ...

Confession: I like brown sauce.

... and then I immediately went to the cemetery. Because that is what normal people do when they are on vacation, right?

Bonus find: There is more than one cemetery in Corfe Castle! And the second one -- called God's Acre -- has the most incredible view of the castle itself.

Here's a shot without the tombstones, in case they freak you out:

Next stop: The castle. The weather was terrible, so barely anyone was out (except for us crazy people who love cemeteries and rain), and I actually had the entire castle to myself for a little bit. Of course, I used this special time to take selfies.

Rocking the Elsa braid.

It was like all of my dorky childhood fantasies coming true up there. I was thisclose to galloping around on my imaginary white horse Magic and commanding my imaginary army to keep watch against the imaginary enemies and their imaginary banners with imaginary evil symbols.

Clearly, this is why I am single.

View of the town, as seen by the imaginary army.

Oh, and I was also simultaneously looking for that portal to a history that is populated only by really hot men who want to fall in love with a woman from the future. Sadly, no luck.

Where is my Diana Gabaldon moment?

Eventually, it got really cold in my make-believe world, so I hiked back down to reality, found a tearoom with a roaring fire and ordered the infamous Dorset cream tea.

And then I went back to my inn ...

... where I wrote this blog post and huddled in bed until it was time to eat dinner.

Pro tip: Fish pie tastes a lot better than it sounds, and since Corfe Castle is so close to the coast, the seafood here is pretty damn good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

IMAZ race report: the prep

Since it's raining here in the English countryside and I'm freezing my ass off because I spent half the day stomping around outdoors and I'm all tucked into bed and may or may not still be wearing a scarf because it's that cold but I don't want to take a nap because then I won't be able to sleep at all tonight, I'm going to finally tell you about IMAZ.

Warning: This will take several posts. And there are a lot of photos. (Which might be a good thing, if you hate reading and just want to scroll down and look at pictures.)

We'll start at the beginning, with all the pre-race logistics. The thing about Ironman: There are a shit-ton of logistics.

Saturday, Nov. 8: The bike drop-off

I share a bike box with my friend Jessica and have flown with Muppet before, but I didn't want to deal with finding a shop in Tempe to help me reassemble my bike. I also didn't want to have to pack Muppet after the race, especially since I didn't know if I'd even be able to walk, much less take a bike apart. So I went with TriBike Transport, which trucked Muppet -- fully assembled -- via eighteen-wheeler to Tempe. All I had to do was drop her off at the local tri shop, and off she went.

I kissed her good-bye, of course.

Thursday, Nov. 13, a.m.: The frantic, last-minute suitcase packing

Friends who have done Ironman cautioned me to pack for every possible weather condition. So I did. I also packed two helmets (because I wasn't sure which one I was going to wear -- to sperm or not to sperm), an entire kitchen drawer full of nutrition (because I wanted as many flavor options as possible), two tri kits (because I didn't know if I would feel more like turquoise or pink), two bikinis (because there was a pool at the condo we rented), two sets of goggles (because one clear and one tinted), two hats (because one for racing and one for the expo) and every article of clean lululemon clothing I own (because lululemon, duh).


And I brought the absolutely hideous warmup jacket I bought from Goodwill four years ago for CIM with the intention of abandoning it on the side of the road, but now can't bring myself to give it up since it's been with me for every important race I've ever done since.

Awful, isn't it?

Thursday, Nov. 13, p.m.: The reunion

I arrived in Tempe with a suitcase so heavy that when I met Arvan to pick up our rental car, he asked me if I was planning to open my own triathlon store.

By the way, I love Arvan. We've known each other for four years -- met through our old running group in Santa Rosa, did marathons together and then went on to triathlons. He's seen me struggle, both on and off the race course (helped me through my divorce and helped me out of a planter on the side of the road when I was learning to unclip on the bike), and has been an incredible friend. I really wish Seattle and Santa Rosa were closer so we could spend more time together and ride and sing showtunes and try on stupid hats at the drugstore while running pre-race errands like buying Immodium (just in case) and contact lens solution (because I packed an entire triathlon store yet forgot basic needs).

Friday, Nov. 14, a.m.: Check-in and packet pickup

So damn happy to be here.

We were so thrilled to be together that we kept calling IMAZ our wedding and the pre-race prep our wedding planning. And that giddiness was the absolute truth: We both agreed IMAZ felt more like a celebration of our hard work than an actual race.

Friday, Nov. 14, p.m.: So many freaking bags

Everything that would normally go in the transition area had to be separated and bagged for each leg, and the Bike and Run bags had to be dropped off the day before the race. So we spent Friday night laying out bags and gear and trying to figure out what went where. It was overwhelming.

However, my bags were by far the best-looking bags in the entire history of Ironman, thanks to the amazing tags Bri made for me.

This should've automatically qualified me for Kona.

Saturday, Nov. 15: Practice swim, gear drop, bike racking

Confession: I hadn't been in open water since Swim for (Dear) Life.

The part where we found Kimra and Layla (who took this photo).

I'm not really sure what's happening here, but it's kind of hot.

All in all, we were done with our pre-race prep around noon. Then our friends and family came over to the house (see, just like a wedding!), and we gave everyone presents, spent the rest of the day hanging out with them, eating, watching movies and resting up for the big event.

I think I also pooped like five times that day, but that probably doesn't surprise you.