So we’re going to Barcelona… for four days.

Ever have an overwhelming feeling that you need to jump on a plane and go somewhere?  Well that happens to us pretty regularly and more often than not we end up spending hours online looking up an amazing trip only to realize that there is something preventing us from going.  Well that cycle repeats and repeats until finally – like magic — we actually book something and find a way to make it work.

Yup, San Fermin, or the running of the bulls. This was the last time we were in Spain. Incidentally we also went through Barcelona that weekend.
Yup, San Fermin, or the running of the bulls. This was the last time we were in Spain. Incidentally we also went through Barcelona that weekend.

This time the constraints were our children.  Well, not in the way that you think.  We’re happy traveling with our twins – in fact they are super baby travelers (14 flights and counting!), so that doesn’t scare us at all.  What we wanted out of this trip though was a trip without kids.  There I said it.  An adults only vacation without the twins where we pretend at least for a few minutes that we can be wildly impulsive and go to Barcelona… for a long weekend.

And so we booked.  We just did it, recklessly without looking back.  Ok, so we did confirm the availability of some pretty amazing babysitters (err… Grandparents) for the weekend, but then we quickly pressed purchase. We looked at the incredible amount of frequent flier miles we’ve amassed in the last two years and decided that there is no time like the present.

But then there are those constraints to consider – the fact that my heart basically stopped when I realized we would be without our little munchkins for four days.  Yikes.  Four glorious and terrifying days. Flooded with excitement and yet already, months away from the flight, trepidation at being away from our girls for SO LONG.  I tried to wrap my head around it.  Because as a parent, a weekend can feel like an eternity.  That’s the paradox of parenthood.

So yea, we’re going to Barcelona for four days.

We’re crazy. 

We’re insane. 

We’re just in love with our constraints.

Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity

I think I should start by saying ‘Wow’!

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Just a week prior to the race I announced on this blog that I was doing the Miami 70.3 Ironman and that I wanted to raise $3,000 to honor what would have been my sister’s 30th birthday.  I didn’t really expect to hit that goal and I certainly didn’t expect to blow past it with over $3800 raised.  So, first and foremost, thank you to everyone who supported this effort, it really is still unbelievable!

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So, about that race.  Every triathlon starts with swimming, followed by biking, followed by running.  The Ironman Triathlon comes to 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running.  Yes, miles.  Thankfully the Miami Ironman Triathlon was a 70.3 race, or exactly half a traditional Ironman.  My race was 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running.  Because I did the half Ironman, I like to call the race the Aluminum Man, as aluminum is one half the atomic weight of iron.

I woke up Sunday morning and, as one does before a big race, set to coloring my hair pink and purple.  As a result I forgot a few things: breakfast, the beet juice I planned to drink with breakfast, and my glittery bike helmet.  Yeah.  That was a problem.  Especially because I took an Uber ride to Miami so Jill could get back to sleep after dying my hair. Upon arrival in Miami I had to call my wonderful wife to wake up my two sleeping daughters to drive down to Miami and deliver my multi-colored helmet to me before 7 a.m.  Great start.

Somehow it all worked out.
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We met, I finished my setup before being moved to the start line and had some time to relax and take in the atmosphere with my lovely ladies and my friend Greg who showed up for sunrise.  Before I knew it, my wave was called into the water and I was off.  My training did me well here and I finished the swim in 51 minutes, not bad considering how much extra distance I swam on account of the current pushing me out to sea.  (Also pretty good considering how awful my first long distance swim was!)

Next up, the bike.  We started from Bayfront Park, right by the Triathlon5American Airlines arena and cycled up US-27 all the way to Stirling Road (practically home) and then back again.  The wind was strong as I headed out but on the way back to transition, with the wind at my back I practically flew.  I averaged 17.2 mph which was excellent for me and the fastest I’ve ever averaged at that distance.  A better bike might have increased my speed a few more mph but I was happy.

Finally the run.  I’ve been told for a triathlon you need to pace the swim, enjoy the ride and survive the run.  I think I might have taken that advice a bit too literally.  I survived the run but not much more.  As I pulled in from the bike ride I relaxed, I was way ahead of schedule and had PLENTY of time to make my 7 hour goal.  I found Jill on the edge of the transition area and she helped me re-color my hair, which was looking rough after hours of swimming and biking and set off on my run.  For the first time all day I was aware of the heat and the sun and before I knew it, it was taking a toll.

As I ran I got more and more tired.  The sun wore down on me.  I took some walking breaks, then I was walking more and more.  I think of running a mile in 10 minutes as my over/under.  I can sustain 7 minute miles over shorter distances and earlier this year managed to run 13.1 miles with a 9 minute per mile average.  My first few miles were around 10 minutes.  After the swim and bike though, I would have been thrilled to have kept to a 10 minute pace but I figured I’d be closer to 11 or even 12 minutes per mile.  I was over 12.  Then there was the I-395 bridge and I had to cross it 4 times, walking more of the uphill each time.  The amount of time it took me to complete a mile kept ticking up; 14 minutes, then 16 minutes. My stomach was cramping, I needed energy but anything other than water hurt more than helped.  I walked more and more  I couldn’t see the finish line but knew it was just around the corner, or the next corner, or the next corner, ack!  I eventually found the finished line and managed to run through it and nearly collapsed on the other side.

My goal was to finish in 7 hours.  My time was 7:09:47.  Just 10 minutes shy of my goal.

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Did I forget to mention that I missed my goal time at my first marathon by a mere 14 seconds?  This seems to be a trend.

Oh well, I don’t care, I still finished and I survived!

Thank you again to everyone who supported me – your donations, texts and messages of support were appreciated more than you’ll ever know!

Turn my hair PINK and PURPLE for my 70.3 Triathlon

Working towards taking items off a bucket list is a pretty awesome feeling.  Being able to cross item #1 off that list is even better.

On October 26th, that’s this coming Sunday, I am going to compete in the Miami Half Ironman 70.3 race.  This is 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and then a half marathon.  In total 70.3 miles.  I’ve been training hard for about four months now.  Getting up when it is still dark in the morning to swim, bike and run my to work each day to hopefully make it to the office by 9am.  My weeks have consisted of anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of exercise.  I’ve lost weight, purchased a fancy bike, eaten gobs of food and [luckily] managed to avoid major injury.  The worst part, Florida’s summer sun and time away from my family.

With the race so close though, some friends have asked me if I’m racing to support any charities.  Until yesterday, I had not set anything up but…..that was yesterday.

In the past, I have done an occasional race in support of the RSDSA in memory of my sister, Rachel.  The problem with this is that this charity is more a memory of Rachel’s death rather than her life.  In life my sister was interested in three things: helping people, helping animals and doing things with glitter glue.  (I’m sure there was something else but those three are pretty encapsulating.)

Specifically, I remember my sister in her younger years collecting wildlife card files, books she would fill with information about wild and endangered animals.  In her ‘later’ years she and I spent a lot of time working with what was then called the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). The mission was to stop racism and hatred of all types.  Unfortunately, NCCJ has not survived the test of time but the Miami Chapter lives on as the MCCJ.  Most important to the sparkling memory of Rachel’s life was her constant obsession of decorating everything with glitter glue.

For each of the first two items, I’ve decided to create fund-raising pages with The MCCJ and The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN). Their connection to my sister should be obvious to all who knew her.  To memorialize the glitter glue is a bit more difficult so instead of donating do the American Association of Glitter Glue Enthusiasts (gosh, I hope that’s not a real organization) I will instead place one centimeter of glitter glue on my helmet for each $50 donated to the above charities.  And to make sure it is clear I’m memorializing my sister, I’ll use purple glitter glue for donations to MCCJ and pink for donations to WCN.  (If you’re curious, the helmet is black.)

There is one other item about my sister that is relevant.  This Friday, October 24th, would have been her 30th birthday.  So, with only a few days to go we’ll set the fund-raising target at $3,000.  It’s a stretch, I know, but as an incentive if $1,500 or more is raised for MCCJ, I’ll dye my hair purple.  If $1,500 or more is raised for WCN, I’ll die my  hair pink.  If we meet both goals, I’ll be running the triathlon as the Miami Beach version of the villain Two-Face from the Batman comics.

The race is THIS Sunday, October 26th.  I’m not going to do this again.  Click the fund-raising links (MCCJ | WCN), share this post on facebook, and help give my race outfit some serious style points!

Rachel as a bunny!
Rachel as a bunny!

That time I finished a race in first place…and didn’t realize it!

Checking items off a bucket list is always a lot of fun.  Checking an item off and not even realizing can be even more rewarding.

In early 2013 I challenged a couple of friends to walk with me from Washington, DC all the way to Harper’s Ferry, WV.  We did it, unfortunately that item wasn’t on our bucket list.  Several months later, one of those friends challenged the group to another silly idea, competing in a really long triathlon.

We all took the bait.

This past August, six friends and a pair of one year old twins descended on Penn Yan, New York for the Peasantman Triathlon.  The friend who challenged the group to the event was planning on competing in the Steel Distance Triathlon, effectively a half iron man.  His girlfriend and I signed up for the Olympic Steel Triathlon, while Jillian and the other pair of athletes took care of the Half Steel Relay.  We focused on keeping the race low-key and fun.

We all finished our triathlons, some of us in first place.
We all finished our triathlons, some of us in first place.

Fast forward to the end of the race… when the two of us who ran the Olympic distance triathlon got the surprise of our athletic careers…we were first place in our respective divisions.  Despite coming in the bottom half of the overall race field, we cleared the first place position in our divisions and, that means item #46 on the bucket list has been achieved.  I came in first place in a race, it doesn’t matter that I was the only one in my division, my certificate says 1st and so… item #46 has been officially checked off the list!

Just don't ask how many people I had to leave in my dust....
Just don’t ask how many people I had to leave in my dust….

The only problem is that in training for that Olympic distance triathlon (which I WON!), I somehow managed to sign up for a half Ironman race, something I like to call the “Aluminium Man”.  The reason I signed up is that completing the aluminium man (70.3 miles total) happens to have been the first item on the bucket list.  Wonder if I’ll come in first again….

Tempting Tenerife – What’s Not to Like?

Over the years, Tenerife has developed a reputation as a place for holidaymakers seeking blazing sunshine and a party atmosphere. While much of Tenerife’s pull on tourists has been the beautiful climate and fantastic nightspots, it has so much more to offer if you take the time to explore the island. Take a look at the following ways you can get the most out of a trip to Tenerife.

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Visit the Ancient Dragon Tree
No trip to Tenerife would be complete without experiencing the Ancient Dragon Tree. It is often referred to as the oldest tree in the world, with many locals believing it to be 1000 years old, but more accurately thought to be around 650 years old. Hire a car for the day and visit Icod de los Vinos to see the tree, and while you are there take in the Church of San Marcos and the Artlandya Doll Museum.

See the Highest Peak in Spain
Mount Teide is the highest peak in Spain, 3718 metres above sea level. An active volcano, Mount Teide is an impressive sight when viewed against the bright blue skies of the island. If you don’t fancy climbing in the mountains, you can still appreciate the beauty of the Teide National Park, a World Heritage Site filled with some incredible animals and plants. The stunning volcanic rock patterns and formations are worth the trip alone.

Experience the Local Cuisinefood-406473_640
You may be familiar with traditional Spanish food, but Tenerife has its own unique twist with some African influences. There are plenty of general restaurants catering to tourists, but try to seek out the more traditional restaurants with a local flavour if you really want to experience the regional cuisine . Many dishes will include local fruit, vegetables and fish, grilled to create a lighter meal which suits the warm weather. Make sure to try plenty of Tapas and the Papas Arrugadas potato dish, famous within the region.

Have Fun at the Carnival
If you can make it to Tenerife in February, make sure to take part in the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The people of the island are known for their warm, friendly nature, so be sure to mingle and make plenty of new friends. The carnival is known around the world and features lots of musical entertainment, dancing and a big parade. Prepare a fancy dress costume in advance if you really want to fit in.

Get Out on the Water
Surrounded by water, it is natural that tourists to Tenerife have plenty of options when it comes to water-based fun. You can charter a boat for a day out at sea, take a Submarine Safari and go diving in the Atlantic Ocean, swim in the rock pools at Garachico or look for whales in the surrounding waters. If you prefer to stay inland, there are plenty of water parks for some family entertainment in the sun, with Siam Park being the best known.