Putting the puzzle together

I’ve had plenty of time to think here in Lanzarote about not only the race, but what exactly it is that draws me out to a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. I can assure you that while it could be a great perk, the prospect of winning (at most!) $5,000 is not the main driver. Why do I love it so much? Well, the conclusion that I’ve come to, is that I’m a little bit crazy. Maybe a lot of bit. Because the truth of the matter is, I LOVE being out of my comfort zone and I’m willing and able to continually go off in search of that in these crazy places.

This island doesn’t have quite the same Ohana feeling that you get in Kona, but there is definitely something special that demands respect from the landscape and the elements. The wind today was described as “hurricane” by my massage therapist. Something *might* have been lost in translation, but still, it’s pretty crazy. And, it can be hot. And the course is technical. All of these things I’m prepared for as best I can be, but the truth is: It still scares the crap out of me. Seriously. But what I get a kick out of is taking those “ohmygodohmygodohmygod” thoughts and replacing them with “you can do this. Just relax.” And then figuring out how to get myself freaking through it….quickly!

The training – getting up day after day and doing my best at the workouts – is the part I relish in because that’s the part that comes naturally to me. The structure and the discipline, the “just do it” attitude every day. I’ve got that down. But I can never quite recreate the nerves of race day until it’s time to race. I can never quite recreate what it’s like when things start happening in a race and you need to think on your feet. To move from plan A to plan B to ….plan E, F or G! I love this constant puzzle that a races creates and I love the sense of putting pieces in on the fly until I secure the last one running into the finishing chute. And I love seeing if my body can continue to answer these crazy demands I put on it.

And what is amazing about this sport is that ultimately I know that no matter what Saturday brings, my heart will be full after being on a course with 2,000 other people all in search of the same thing. With 2,000 other people gathering their puzzle pieces along the way and putting them into place. Some will find that they brought all the pieces along with them, and surely there will be those who borrow some from others. You don’t have to be on the Big Island to get that sense of Ohana. I haven’t learned everything in 20 iron distance races, but I have learned that!

One of my puzzle pieces arrives TOMORROW and I’m so thankful for the lovely Julie Shelley to keep me occupied these next few days! More later this week!

In Da Club

Whew! It’s crazy how geographically, Lanzarote is technically one of the closer destinations I’m racing in this year (as the crow flies). Unfortunately, I can’t catch crows to races though, and so 23 hours of travel later I landed in Lanzarote! A little sweaty and tired but my sanity was (mostly) in tact. And, I was given the gift of arriving at sunset – perhaps the most beautiful first glimpse of the island possible!

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I arrived at Club la Santa and immediately was impressed. Hillary had suggested coming out here early to get acclimated both to environment and the time change, and it was easy to do when this resort exists. So far, I have zero complaints about being here. From my perfectly clean, energy efficient room (requires my key in this holder thingy so the electric in the apartment works! Hence, you never are accidentally leaving lights on, etc. Also, super energy efficient in that there’s no TV……:) I’ve been getting by just fine!!) And the apartment also has the skinniest mirror of all skinny mirrors. If you know what I’m talking about with this, you know to fully appreciate this!

Outdoors, it’s an active person’s paradise. There’s always a class or activity going if you’d prefer something with a group. If not, do your own thing in the gym (with Woodway treadmills!), on the track, or in one of the THREE 50m pools. And if you don’t feel like being active? Yep, there’s a beautiful “leisure” pool for relaxing and just enjoying the breeze. I’m sure the weather isn’t *always* like this, but so far it’s been groundhog day everyday here with each day in the 70s, sunny, and a cool breeze blowing through. I could get used to this.

It’s also enjoyable in that they have clearly figured out athletes. I can relax with the best of them, but I’m sure that my relaxing is still in the “Type A” category. Everything here just runs so smoothly. Schedules and policies are around AND enforced to keep things running well. The staff is so great and haven’t made fun of any of my questions yet 🙂 Oh, and the best part, this place is actually affordable.  I swear. They offer a great race discount and it makes it all much more affordable than any 2 weeks I’ve ever spent in an North American Ironman town.

So, now that I’ve sold you on Club La Santa, I’ll tell you more about the island: It’s SO COOL. I rode through Timanfaya National Park yesterday. This is where there’s volcanoes and it literally looks like you’re riding on Mars. There are also camel tours that appear to take you up into the volcano. I tried to take pictures but nothing came out properly like how it looked in person.  But then I took this picture of a postcard I bought and THIS shows it perfectly. So, just look at this instead:

A picture of a postcard. You're welcome.
A picture of a postcard. You’re welcome.

Tomorrow I ride up the infamous Mirador del Rio (Lookout of the River: BOOM Spanish translation for you) and I can not wait. One of the best parts of this job is getting to push me past my comfort zones, one of these things being riding and navigating in foreign places! The last time I had to do this alone was in Cabo, and really, that barely counts since it was just a couple highways. If you ever find yourself previewing a course in a new land, my tips are as follows:

-Bring cash in the local currency. Odds are you’ll ride into some small villages and cash on hand for water and snacks is handy!

-Bring your phone and don’t be stingy on the data if you need to use it. We live in a time where GPS exists on a handheld device. Use it if you need to, you’ll pay the $5 gladly afterwards I’m sure.

-Odds are that help won’t just be a call away – bring two spares, and multiple cartridges or a handpump!

-Go slow. Don’t make your first ride a hard one. Not only will you want to take in the views, but newsflash: you don’t know what lies ahead! Don’t go too fast and regret it.

So yeah, life is good. I am looking forward to tracking all my TeamHPB, TeamSFQ, and other friends at IM Texas tomorrow. Inspiration on point for sure!

PS – Yes I have also been smashing some brief time in the Sun (wearing plenty of sunscreen I PROMISE!). And yes, this picture is totally filtered and adjusted. I am *not* that tan……yet!
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Wildflower Adventure Report

(Note: huge thank you to Kaori Photography for the pics used in this blog!)

Known as one of the most iconic races on the circuit (I love saying that term – “circuit.” Makes professional triathlon-ing sound so legit, right?!), Wildflower was an instant favorite of mine after racing in 2014. With the lake levels still low, it would be a swim-run-bike-run again this year, and I knew I wanted in on that action. I’ve learned a ton in 2 years and gained fitness that I really wanted to use this as a good measuring stick. Of course, when I crashed in Wanaka it became more of a question mark. However, we just continued to take recovery day by day and it was evident fairly early that things were moving in the right direction. By early April it was clear to me that I was getting excited to race again. This didn’t mean I wasn’t apprehensive about racing again, though. Interestingly, as I got back into riding outdoors in training, I wasn’t phased too much by wind or traffic on the bike. But as soon as my head would begin to think about racing, I got nervous. Really nervous. And when the weather forecast for Wildflower showed a wind advisory that was kicked up a notch. But, there was only one way to find out exactly how I’d handle it: just do it.

2016 was also adding another adventurous element in that we’d be staying in an RV!! Ed was coming to race, and Leslie and Kelly would be joining us. 4 adults in a 25′ vehicle for 4 days — what could go wrong with that?

The race directors at Wildflower firmly believe that pros should be able to just show up and race, and they truly treat us well there. From having all meals available, to making sure we are set up with a campsite and hookups, the tricky part of the trip always just comes from getting ourselves to Lake San Antonio. Complete with a cancelled flight this time around, we eventually rolled up into the campground in the dark on Thursday night.

This meant Friday was busy: check-in, pro meeting, set our gear, etc etc. Luckily things went smoothly!

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They asked us who was going to win on Saturday..

WF1I was pleased to find out the wind advisory for the day had been called off. We started the swim with calm waters and blue skies overhead. I’ve been doing a lot of swimming in general these days, and have also been able to get in a lot of time swimming long course, so I was hopeful to see some positive effects of that in the swim. As we sprinted out, I managed to get onto some feet. But, they were the last available feet in a group. And, I was in serious yo-yo status as I attempted to stay on those feet during the first half of the swim. As we hit the far turns, I just couldn’t keep up and the group put a gap on me. I shifted my focus into that good strong long-course-meters type of stroke I can find when I swim at home, and as I came out of the water I caught sight of women I’m usually minutes behind who were just then stripping off their wetsuits. Boom!

I pulled off my wetsuit and started the first run. Along with making me swim faster, my swimming volume has clearly boosted my fitness in general as I was able to run fast here as if I hadn’t just swum hard at all. By the top of the long climb out of transition, I had caught up to a pack, and was able to set the pace as we went 2 miles over to our bikes. We basically all started riding together which was a huge relief. Stagger rule in full effect, having company out there through the first half of the bike (with a pretty big headwind!) was great. Around halfway I made a move to the front — I expected at least one of the others to come with me, but I would set the pace for a bit. Much to my surprise, after a few miles I looked back and no one was there. The back half of this course is quite hilly, so I just kept the pressure on during the climbs as best I could to stay ahead. I came into, and left, T2 on my own.

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This was great – I had a cushion. But this also meant I was about to run a very challenging 11 mile run in the unknown. Not my favorite way to race. I also had very little idea where I was in the overall field, so I figured I needed to just run hard and hold my ground. As I caught some of the age group men, I figured I was running well. But, I was passed in the last 1/2 mile at this race in 2014 — I was *not* going to have that happen again!

As I ran into the finishing chute I heard them announce I was the 6th place female! I came to find out that I had also been within arms reach (maybe a long arm, but still, arm’s reach!) of that top 5 as well. Over a 70.3 distance, for me, this was a great day. It was certainly a good confidence boost as I head across the pond to Lanzarote to race in a couple weeks. To top it off, our entire group had great races across the board. And more importantly, we proved that it’s possible to race well living in what is basically a U-HAUL with some mattresses thrown into it for a few days before the race. Always good to know.

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Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who has supported me the past couple months as I recovered and got back to training and racing. From a tweet of encouragement to my sponsors who have helped me (quite literally) get back on the bike – it is all so very much appreciated. I could not have done it without you, and I hope to make everyone proud in Lanzarote! Please take a moment to check out the amazing companies that offer me such loyal support!

The Beat Goes On…

Evidenced from my featured pic being a picture of my cat: I have nothing to write about. No, really. I’m pretty sure it’s not even a writer’s block thing….but rather, more of a “all I think about is training and plans for my athletes” these days, so my brain isn’t too busy with other stuff to entertain people with on the blog! Really though, that’s a good thing – for me, not for you. For me it means I’m in a good groove. I firmly believe routine and “boring” stuff is where the work gets done in training. Rather than feeling like I’m in a rut I really feel like I’m more in the zone during these times, getting fitter and more hungry to race. For you it’s a little sad because basically now you’re stuck reading my ramblings about….nothing.

So, let’s see. There must be something worthwhile…..

I’m being super hip and using Spotify. I even made a playlist you can follow here. It promises to have tunes to jam to that are always one-step behind what is currently out there 🙂

I watched two great ultrarunning documentaries that have me officially dreaming of my next ultra! The Barkley Marathons (Netflix) and Finding Traction (Amazon Prime). And one other one that just has me pumped up to do crazy things outside but also confirmed that I will never ever try to climb any scary dangerous mountains – Meru (Amazon Prime).

I’m listening to a few good podcasts as well to help pass the training hours: Stuff you should know, and Call your girlfriend. Love them both!

Oh, and I’m living in my Smash Fog Capris. Have you ever looked at butter and been like man I wish I could cover my legs in butter and wear it around, but also wish that said butter would have pink accents and be super cute? Yep, that’s these capris. I’m not sure why they didn’t pull that description for the website 🙂 Some sizes did go fast but don’t worry there will be more. And, rumor has it Smash has plenty more good things up their sleeves this year. Can’t wait!

Wildflower in T-minus 8 days!

If I could tell the world just one thing….

It would be:

Take the wrist straps off your paddles!

But, luckily, I can tell the world more than just one thing. Because the world is a place where I can have a blog and on my blog I can write as much as I want! Booyah.

Between heading to Tucson to help coach camps, training with my own peers, and just a general increase in time of coach-athlete communication with the season starting up, I’ve been around -or speaking with – athletes a lot lately. As much as everyone likes to think we’re all unique…..we actually aren’t all that different a lot of the time. Turns out, most people have the same fears, insecurities, rationalizations….the list goes on. I sat down to think of a few, and offer my advice. Beginning with the wrist straps. When you remove them, you might slow down at first as you have to correct your stroke and actually learn to swim properly without them. But then, you get used to it, and you get better. It might slow you down temporarily, but it’s a good way to get faster long-term.

Some insight on sleep….. As training ramps up for everyone, we also become quite conscious of how tired we are. And, we’re bombarded by those pesky reminders everywhere telling us that sleep and rest is the key to getting faster, right?! So when my alarm goes off for my early training session, but I feel tired, I should just sleep in, right? Um yeah, no. First off – everyone is tired! That’s part of the deal. In fact, that’s an important part of the process, feeling tired. You shouldn’t feel fresh every day that you train for an triathlon. But more importantly, if you physically can’t bear to get out of bed on time in the morning, it’s not the wake time up that’s the issue – more likely it’s the bedtime. Or the diet. Or something else going on. Skipping sessions (especially with training partners) for just 30 more minutes of sleep, 99% of the time, isn’t going to fix anything. As with anything, there are exceptions. But, odds are, you’re not an exception.

I’ve never had to scold an athlete for over-eating during workouts. About once a day though, I remind athletes to eat more during training. Eat more if you want to do endurance sports for many years. That is all.

I started doing some strength training when I was in Tucson. On Day 1, I literally couldn’t do a side plank. I realize this makes no sense, but it’s true. I could do back-to-back, sub-10 hour Ironmans. But not a side plank. A month later I’m happy to report I’m a side planking machine. Remember that the next time you can’t do something. Everyone can’t do it all. But you can work hard, and you can learn. And the body adapts. Trust the process. Luckily, side planks were a shorter process….most times we’re not that lucky.

Balance? What balance? Yeah…Kelly touched on this the other day and it really got me thinking. As training picks up I inevitably also see a lot of people struggling to “find the balance.” Struggling, desperately at times, to which is (I believe) intensified because social media makes it look like somehow every other triathlete has found it, except you.

I’m here to tell you today: they are full of shit. Or, maybe they aren’t full of shit. Maybe they are full of really, really good genetics that don’t require that much training, which in turn allows them to have some sort of free time and therein, balance can be achieved. But, this is not the norm. For many people, triathlon is more than a hobby. And we love it that way. Whether it’s a job or a passion, if you have big goals, it might require that you treat it as a ginormous project. And you know what happens when ginormous projects are taken on? Imbalance.

Since I left my corporate job, I’ve become more relaxed, I do get *some* more sleep, I’m eating healthier. But, I’m not balanced. I want to be great at this sport. And to do that, I need to spend a lot of freaking time training, and resting, and not taxing my body doing other activities that push me into physical (and mental! And emotional!) fatigue. Luckily for me, the imbalance isn’t usually all too apparent. My closest friends are triathletes and I surround myself with people who don’t give me a hard time for pursuing what I love so much that the balance is never there. But, let’s make one thing clear: we all know my life is imbalanced for this sport. It’s just part of the deal with what I want to achieve. And if you need to be imbalanced while you pursue your goals too, I support that. That imbalanced life has made me the happiest I’ve ever been.

Training won’t be perfect.  It’s just not going to be. No one nails every workout and no one feels great training all the time. If you don’t enjoy the hard part of it all, this sport is going to be even more tough for you. End of story.

But seriously, if nothing else, you should probably take the wrist straps off your paddles.

Spring Training: Tucson Style!

While “opening day” for my season has already passed, for most triathletes it’s still coming up and that means this is one of my favorite times of the year: Spring Training!! Tucson camps are a light at the end of the tunnel for many of my athletes, especially those in places where the winter weather is no joke. But, these camps aren’t just available for TeamHPB athletes – the fact that this is where they get to meet and train with others too is what can really make the weekend special. Without fail people are going harder than they ever thought they could. They swim farther than ever before. The climb higher than ever. And it is SO COOL to see all this happen in person.

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During the camp Q&A this week we were asked what success will look like in 2016, both in terms of racing professionally and outside of that. For me, in terms of racing I am going to be chasing that podium (top 3!) spot in an ironman. And outside of my own racing career, being at the camp so soon after my bike accident made me realize what that answer was: getting to experience as many moments of success with my athletes as I possibly can.

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Injuries are most definitely a part of being an athlete. When you train as much as we train, things are just going to happen. I have been quite lucky to this point that nothing ever got so bad it took me out of the game altogether – I was always able to move and do *something*. This time was different though, and, in a way, it’s been good for me to go through. The fear of “what if it happens to me” can be paralyzing at times. Well, paralyzing may be a bit dramatic, but it can be quite all-encompassing.

Being at camp was super cool because I was able to put my own fitness and racing concerns aside and just be there for the athletes here – helping them get to the next level. No matter what is going on with my body (or the scabs on my face) I will always be able to do that– and that, for me, will mean success this year. And that’s pretty cool.

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Now it’s T-minus 5 hours until Camp #2 comes! So much smashfest fun ahead!!!

I’m okay.

(Photo credit: WITSUP.com for my one gorgeous race photo 🙂 )

Well, Challenge Wanaka did not quite go how I was hoping. But, I’m okay.

The winds in the morning were gnarly. Our swim start was delayed by 10 minutes as they kept sending boats out to pull the buoys back into proper locations; they ended up just parking the boats and putting the buoy on top of the boat. This made one particular section of the rectangle we swam very slow. But, the other parts were pretty fast, and whether it was that or the course ended up a little short, I swam a decent enough swim for me and was onto the bike within an arms length of plenty of other women. I began the ride and legs felt good; I was riding strong.

But again, the wind. Having been here for 2 weeks and riding just about every day, it was the first time I felt like I was struggling to keep control of the bike at some points. The back of the bike was great — with the beam setup I actually find myself to be less of a “sail” in the wind on the back. But, controlling the front wheel was an issue for sure in some spots. I have never, ever been riding in wind like that, I would have told you before I had ridden in some gnarly winds.

I was doing good and sitting around 7th (I think) around 70k on the bike. At a turnaround I felt like 5/6 were in striking distance so I kept the pressure on. I remember this road having some crazy cross winds and being scared out of my wits at one point when large tour buses flew past almost knocking me off the road. I continued on, and that’s about the last I remember. I have a flash of memory seeing my front wheel go out from under me and saying “No, No!”. Then I remember sitting in the road and being very confused. No idea where I was or what I had been doing. I looked around and saw people on bikes. I must have been biking. Okay, which direction was I going? If I can figure that out I can just start going. I heard the word “Ambulance”. I could see blood. The confusion in my brain was the most intense confusion I have experienced, I can’t quite put into words how hard I was trying to put together the puzzle of what I was doing, but couldn’t. A woman then put me in her car. I have a brief memory of seeing Stef (WITSUP.com Stef) at the car window. A brief memory of walking through a waiting room. Then the next thing I know a nurse was asking if it’s okay if my friend comes in. Then Stef walks in.

TGFS. Thank god for Stef. She saw me and immediately said “I see you have pads all over your face!!” Sure enough, I did.

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She sat with me through the course of several hours as we waited for stitching, cleanup, etc. Stef had to help out at one point and literally was washing the blood off of me with a washcloth. She’s a saint, people! And all the while was keeping me in good spirits and making it seem like I wasn’t actually going to look like Frankenstein when this was all over.

I still think this stuff looks worse than it was!
I still think this stuff looks worse than it was!

It turns out NZ also has public health insurance for visitors. While money was the least of my concerns at the moment, it is good to know. I know athletes often turn away care out of fear of expense in foreign places, so that was a relief to learn here!

Since then, I have been getting better slowly. The concussion was no joke. It felt like I was drunk whenever I would lay down and close my eyes – the world would spin around in that terrible feeling you have when you want to sleep and drank a bit too much!

Day 2!
Day 2!

But after a lot of rest, I can see things getting way better, so the rest will continue for sure. My wounds are healing slowly too. Hopefully I don’t gross out the people on the plane next to me too much!

In addition to Stef, I can’t thank the others who have pitched in to help me enough. Hillary and Maik, I would have been a disaster here without you.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but unfortunately is a reality of the sport. I am focusing on the fact that while my face is knocked up, the overall injuries could have been much worse. I will rest and heal up (seriously, I promise to rest plenty!!!) and will keep moving forward. The fitness is there just need to keep rubber side down to show it next time.

 

Almost go time!

Well after last week was basically the best week ever, reality hit here in Wanaka this week and things felt a little more true to form 🙂 The winds have picked up, storms blowing through, a bee sting, flat tire……you know. The usual.

BUT. Forecasts are looking good for Saturday! And honestly a little rain to keep me indoors and off my feet these days is probably a good thing. I’m also completely caught up on anything entertainment related with the E! channel being on 24/7 here in the house. Other good thing? There’s JET PLANES at run aid stations. That’s right people. Little gummies shaped like Jet Planes. I don’t know why, but I know not to question it (if it really is something else just don’t ruin it for me!).

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Legs are coming around but for sure I’m still mentally wrapping my head around the 2016 season starting in 1 day. Pretty unreal, but this time in Wanaka has been a great way to kick off the season. Already planning for next year too. But, one step at a time….!

I am bib #54 and you can follow the race in a couple ways:

Download the “Challenge Wanaka App”

Live twitter @ChallengeWanaka

Live TV coverage here. The commentary is done by Belinda Granger, so, at the very least you will be VERY entertained for a few hours 🙂

In case I make it into the coverage, you can spot me in the NEW Smashfest Queen TriEqual kit! Proceeds from this go to TriEqual, and it’s available for preorders for another couple days, so get it while you can.

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Also, as always, a huge thank you to all my sponsors. Will dig deep with your support – thank you!!

Cheers! I’m in NZ!

In case you haven’t noticed from my social media …. I’m in New Zealand (sorry not sorry about the constant pics: this place is gorgeous!!).

I used to race the same course at least a few times in a row because I definitely like the feeling of being a part of the town before a race. I like to know my way around (especially when traveling on the opposite side of the road!). I like to know the course, sure, but it’s also nice to feel like you know where to get a good coffee. Where there’s wifi. Where the burrito truck is. All crucial elements of a successful pre-race week.

So, that’s what we’ve done. I rode the course. I ran the course. I’m swimming the course momentarily (sorry no GPS for this as I don’t have a watch to take GPS in the water!). The best flat white is at Ritual. I actually haven’t been able to get on wifi outside the house yet, but I think that’s because apparently when you turn 30 you have trouble using technology – no fault of the town. The burrito truck is here, next to the pizza truck, which is actually much better than the burrito truck IMO.

So yeah, I guess you could say I am settling in just fine! It was also nice to finish the last of my big workout sessions in town here, with coach by my side to push me.

Also: Next week as the rest begins, Maik and I plan to sit down for a “fireside chat” on Periscope on to tell you about our gear for the race. You can also ask us any questions you may have about what it’s like to race an iron distance event in February! Be sure to follow @Smashfestqueen on twitter and Periscope for more info when that will be.

California Calling: Coast Ride Recap!

Given that I have been focusing on my bike this winter, it seemed like a very obvious choice to make this the year that I would head out west for the infamous California coast ride! In keeping with tradition, Hillary, Leslie and I made plans to do this with the minimal gear and help required. Also in keeping with tradition, our logistical planning was minimal – at best. This trip, we actually took that to a new level by relying on Hillary’s 11-year old memories of the last time she did this ride for our planning. The last time Hillary did the ride, she carried a backpack with all her things. She also didn’t know what chamois cream was yet. If that’s not an indicator for things, I’m not sure what is 🙂

I realized as I was boarding my flight to San Francisco, that I really had no clue what I was getting into. But, I was really excited for the change of scenery and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! Riding out of San Francisco (thanks Jordan for leading the way!!!) was super cool. It’s such an iconic city with the skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, glimpsing it in the distance as you ride out on day 1 just instills a feeling of adventure. It’s super, super cool. We realized quickly though that our stopping points each night were actually, about 10 miles too far each day. That meant not a lot of faffing around for us! Luckily the terrain rolls smoothly and with new sights and sounds to see each day, there weren’t too many low points. We also got particularly lucky with the weather and didn’t hit any crazy rain until the last day. Of course, that was also the day with 3 flats, but, we survived!!

It was an absolute blast to travel down the coast on 2 wheels and get to cross paths with many friends along the way. I’d also like to give a special shoutout to Kellogg’s Poptarts, 5 hour energy, and that $15 mango ginger smoothie I drank in Santa Monica that helped get me all the way to the end 🙂 Here’s some more pictures that help tell the story of the journey: