Sunday, November 28, 2010

US Road Trip 2010: From West to East and Back Again

My camera is slowly dying, hence the pink shades. LOL.

This whole road trip thing was my idea...

Originally, I had planned to do the Silverman iron-distance triathlon in Vegas, but as time passed, the Beach 2 Battleship race in North Carolina caught my imagination. And as my friends and family can attest, when an idea takes root in my mind, nothing can prevent it from growing. And growing and growing.

Last November, my Dad almost died from a ruptured aorta. He collapsed whilst eating a bowl of chili one evening. Doctors told us later on, he shouldn't have survived the ambulance ride to the hospital.

But he did.

And he survived the hour and a half of poking and prodding at our local hospital. He even survived the renegade H1N1 patient who came stumbling into emergency coughing and hacking and putting her hands all over the desk, chairs, etc, before being escorted out. (It is in these rare moments, that I know I have it in me to kill.)

Then, he survived the hour and a half ambulance ride to the closest city, where upon arrival, the attending physician nearly pooped his pants and ordered a helicopter for my Dad to Calgary. My Dad remembers hearing the people in the helicopter talk about how he was not going to make it...

After all was said and done, the final doctor in Calgary said that my Dad's survival was a miracle. That even after landing in Calgary, most patients do not survive the surgery.

Thus, these were the thoughts that fertilized my mind and the idea of me and my Dad driving across the USA and me doing a race at a battleship. (My Dad is ex-military: air force to be precise, but he watches those war documentaries with as much gusto as the next!)

As usual with me, I didn't realize the enormity of what I was getting into. I mean how hard is it to drive 5000km one way? (We could have made it a shorter route according to google maps, but theory and reality are sometimes two very different things...)

As it turned out, I drove the entire way to Wilmington, North Carolina. My Dad drove the way back. We didn't plan it that way, that's just the way it happened.

There are things that I would never have seen nor done had we not gone on this trip. Geography (for me) is a sketchy subject at best, but actually being in a place, makes me remember it. Makes me realize how big the US is -- what state is beside the next -- in fact, even learning where in the world Wilmington was to begin with!

We only saw and experienced partial glimpses of certain states. Virtually all our driving was done on Interstates, so keep this in mind as you read my observations. Out of all our adventures, I am certain of two things:

1. I will NEVER drive that much again. (Hahahahaha!)

2. The 3 weeks I spent with my Dad was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

So....drum roll please! In no specific order, here is a collection of memories, observations of our 10 000km+ road trip. (Holy crap! We really drove that much?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!)

  • Montana is a big ass state. BIG ASS state. We drove south and then east in one day, and still never managed to get out of it!
  • Interstates ROCK! About every 20km (except in Montana because it is so big!) or so, you are guaranteed to find an off ramp with gas stations, fast food joints, etc. And further spaced along, are Interstate rest stops. These places are SWEET. Each state has a big, awesome, nice one when you first cross the state line. Decorated with sculptures, have big comfy couches, free wifi, coffee! Then, they have the *regular* ones spaced out an intervals -- think LARGE, heated, flush-able toilets. With maps, free wifi (!!), televised road conditions, etc. They put our piddly, miserable outhouses in Canada to shame.
  • 75 mph on the Utah, they had test sections of around 20km that were 80 mph! SWEET!!!
  • Kentucky drivers do not fool around. These people drive fast. FAST. I was cruising 80 mph in the right lane, and everyone was passing me.
  • Custer's last stand is very, very close to where I live. So is Yellowstone. Closer than driving to Penticton for IMC. This is a trip I will do next year!
  • I am related to Custer! (I knew this before, but had to throw it in for additional shock value and colour -- LOL!) Not by blood, but my cousin married his great-great-great (however many greats) grandson. No kidding.
  • When we crossed into Kentucky, it was in the middle of this bridge, and there was a big sign for THE Kentucky Fried Chicken convention centre. LOL. I bet most of you don't know this piece of Crowsnest Pass trivia --- In fact most people don't believe me when I tell them this: The gravy recipe for KFC was invented by a Crowsnest Pass woman -- Kay Kerr. See what you guys are missing by not visiting me in the Pass? We have a little bit of everything down here! Hahahahahahaha!
  • My antennae blew off in South Dakota.
  • Utah drivers are INSANE. My Dad and I kept joking about "those crazy Mormons." You thought Calgary drivers were crazy? Weaving in and out of traffic without signaling on the Deerfoot? NOTHING! Baby drivers! Picture this: 6 lanes of traffic all going 75 mph bumper to bumper. Bumper to bumper. And people darting in and out while texting. This is their NORMAL. I'm still recovering from this.
  • All along the interstates at intervals, are gas stations, fast food joints, and adult superstores. Big, big signs that tower over the gas station signs: ADULT SUPERSTORE. What?!?!?! Are truckers really horny or something? Favourite billboard I saw as we left Vegas: "Adult Superstore! Your last chance to get off!"
  • And about truckers....We saw THOUSANDS of trucks all along the interstates. I'm sure there is a show on the Discovery Channel about how products move from one place to another. I never fully grasped just how many trucks are on the roads. Unreal.
  • Us Canadians pay way too much for running shoes. I bought two brand new pairs (one Asics, the other Saucony) -- total was $120. And way too much for gels, cliff shot blocks, etc. I paid half of what I pay here. Granted our loonie is essentially at par, but still...
  • El Reno -- forget where this was...But the birds here LOVE these telephone poles/cables at the one section of town. I mean they really, really love it. They all sit there and chirp and sing and have phone pole quiver tail!!!!
  • Got a flat tire in Amarillo.
  • Arizona has my heart. I will buy property here. We drove through areas that looked like flat plains that were 5000 feet elevation. (That's higher than the Pass!) Drove through another part that was 7335 feet! This place has it all: mountains, desert, Grand Canyon, nice weather -- I LOVE ARIZONA! Visited a meteor crater - very odd experience. It feels as though all sound is sucked into this dense black hole. Even talking to someone right beside you -- it is very noticeable. So strange. Missed the Painted Desert -- we left before the park opened. Will return for this.
  • I DELIGHTED in investigating all the gas stations we stopped at: Food Porn! I felt such an evil thrill, hobbling up and down the aisles looking at the grossest, most sugary, fatty concoctions of junk food ever created. It was so gross, I was intrigued....could not look away. With guilty pleasure I would recite every new package and corresponding fat content I'd find to my Dad, once we got back in the car. Hahahaha! My favourite was: "Cracklins! WITH attached pig skin!" Awesome -- LMAO!!! Seriously, I think this junk food isn't legal in Canada, which is why you don't see it here. Hahahahahaha!
And here is my favourite road trip story:
  • Ogden, Utah. What can I say about this place....I can be very naive and blind sometimes. Yes, even now, though I am 35 years old, this girl was schooled in Ogden. The red flags I missed (in chronological order) when I rented our cheapest motel room yet:
1. The fact that the "Vac" was burnt out of the Vacancy sign. I joked, "let's go to "ancy" motel. It was right across from the Mariott (which wanted $99/night -- NO WAY!! I can get a better deal!) How bad could it be?

2. The finger-print smeared window the manager had to slide open to talk to me...

3. When I told the manager I wanted a room, he got out of his chair and came out of the office and stood very close (definitely invading my personal space) and asked "What do you want?" "Umm, I want a room?"

4. When he asked if we wanted 1 or 2 beds....(My Dad said very loudly, "TWO!")

5. When he said the credit card machine was broken and he could only take cash...

6. When he said they were just waiting for a room to open -- it was a late checkout and could we come back in 30-45 minutes and then the room would be ready? It was 6:00pm.

7. The kicker (but I STILL didn't get it!): I looked down at the table beside the front desk and saw a pile of newspapers and a plastic container that said the word FREE on it. A container filled with condoms...I was bedazzled by the word FREE! I was thinking FREE!! Yes! I should take one as a souvenir! One for my sister, one for my Mom, FREE!!! (I didn't take any.)

My Dad tried to prepare me: As we sat in Denny's waiting for 45 minutes, things slowly started to dawn on me.

We went back to the Ancy motel "just to see." As we pulled in, we watched through the lighted window as a woman sprayed aerosol throughout the room...Never seen that before. We waited until she had left, and then went in. Oh. My. God. There were stains on the carpet that you didn't need a black light to see.

The sink was 3/4 full of a light blue cleaning product and water - wouldn't drain. The smell of the aerosol fragrance. The ash tray beside the bed. The bedding.

My Dad walked over to the sink and said, "I wouldn't be able to shave in the morning." I stood beside him, both of us looking into the filled sink.

A fly landed on the mirror above the sink. My Dad instinctively took a towel, twisted it a little and flicked at the fly. "Let's see how you do in that chemical bath," he said. The fly landed on it's back in the blue water. We watched it twitch.

We left.

I didn't ask for my money back.

The resident prostitute/room cleaner was pretty high as we made our stealthy escape.


At the Grand Canyon. Before we did the Sky Walk. You have got to do this!
A plexi-glass horse-shoe shaped bridge that juts out over the canyon.
You see right underneath your feet -- so cool!!
(It took me a LONG time to hobble to each spot. Wish I had the
air cast here!!!)

Outdoor dining at the Grand Canyon. See that gravy? :)

Welcome to the off season! Hahahahahahaha!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mercury Rising Triathlon Camps

Mercury Rising is pleased to announce the following camps;

Camp 1 : January Jump Start, Calgary AB

Friday January 14 th - Sunday January 16 th 2011

This is an intensive swim technique camp including lots of swimming, talks and video analysis. We have booked an entire pool, so come prepared to work and learn! The swim portion will take place on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday, we will be holding our second event in The Inspiration Series which will include an epic indoor bike session and a talk on goal setting with cancer-survivor Alyson Woloshyn. $350

Camp 2 : Spring Ahead Camp, Victoria, BC

MondayMarch 7 th-Sunday March 13 th 2011

Our Victoria camp is the king of camps. It includes talks by Canada’s elite triathletes and a week of solid training on the same routes that have created world and Olympic champions. Last year we heard from Ironman Champion Jasper Blake and 3x Olympian Rick Say. This camp is full of surprises! 6-nights accommodation at the Howard Johnson Hotel is included. $1500

Camp 3: The one and only PHAT CAMP, Penticton, BC

Monday July 11 th-Monday July 18 th

Phat Camp is the ultimate Ironman and 70.3 preparation camp. Its our head down, work hard and get fit camp. This year, as well as doing some hardcore training on the Ironman Canada course, we will be racing at the Peach Classic Olympic Distance, entry is included. 7 nights beach-front accommodation. $1500

For more info and registration:

Monday, November 22, 2010

So, umm, that is why my foot hurts...

Just came back from my doc...

X-rays showed I broke my foot in two places: One big, bad-ass, nasty mofo of a break when I was in Australia (some healing has taken place there) and a stress fracture across one of those metatarsal thingies.

Bone breaks mean I will heal up good as new! So, I am in an "Air Walker" right now.

I know this sounds odd, but I was so relieved and laughing and giggly once I found out. I mean, you should see the size of the break that I did when I was in Australia, and I did two frigging Ironman races this year on it!

I can only imagine how great I'll feel after I actually let myself heal this time! LOL!!!!!

(And yes, I have learned a valuable lesson yet again -- when my coach tells me over and over again to go the doc to get my foot checked out, I WILL LISTEN. I was so stubborn in Australia -- I kept saying, "Nothing's wrong -- nothing's broken. It's just bruised -- I mean I fell on it really hard; of course it's swollen. If I broke it, I would know...." Umm, yeah. My face is red. Sorry, coach. Eeeeeeeeeep.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beach 2 Battleship 2010 Non-Race Report


The Race that Never Was.

OR...(and my choice)

Wilmington, NC: City of Angels


Now you might be asking yourself, why would I want to write a race report regarding a race that I didn't actually do? For that matter, what in the world would I possibly have to write about?

Well, let me tell my world, all things are possible. LMAO!

After something in my foot snapped, I felt like I was doing the Walk of Shame as I had to go past ALL the other athletes changing into their wetsuits. The trolley would drop people off at the furthest end of the road, so for me to get there, I had to limp by soooo many people while trying hard not to cry (the trying didn't work too well).

I didn't make eye contact with anyone as the least amount of kindness shown to me would have set me right off into major water works. (By the way, WHY does that happen???) I dug my pre-event swim bag out of the box and signaled to the trolley driver that I was going to board.

In my despair, (now remember, I had just passed the cusp of realization that I couldn't race, that I had made the decision to withdraw and turn in my chip, etc . So in other words, my emotions were still very RAW at this point) I didn't realize the trolley was full of athletes who were about to exit.

I stood as close as I could to the side of the trolley -- my face was just about touching it, so I wouldn't look at anyone. When people walked around me, I would look down or to the left or right, all the while trying to keep from bawling.

When everyone had finally exited the trolley I got back on and quickly told the trolley guy that I wouldn't be able to race. And then the full on blubbering started. Oh brother. Bless that trolley driver (Angel #1), he was like the Yoda of trolley drivers. He squeezed my hand and said a number of things, "Now don't cry, there will be other races," "Sometimes, life throws you a curve ball." That one was my favourite. :)

As we approached T1, he said that I could stay on the trolley to keep warm (it was effing cold out -- as in 3 degrees Celsius), but there was no way I'd be able to handle riding back and forth as athletes would still be boarding/disembarking. (There was a half iron event starting after the full, so it would have meant a LOT of athlete encounters. I just wasn't emotionally strong enough to bear that!!) Then, he offered to take me, my bags, and my bike to T2 (the battleship) at 10:00am.

He was such a nice guy -- he repeated things and said them slowly -- my head was spinning with emotions, and it was just so awesome that he cared enough to recognize that!

As soon as I exited the trolley, and started hobbling, this spectator (Kate, a Mom and wife, cheering on her hubby for the 1/2 race, and Angel #2) immediately insisted on carrying my swim bag and escorting me to the tent to turn in my chip. The woman manning the booth said, "I am so sorry to hear this." Again their genuine kindness and empathy sent me bawling -- I kept saying thank you and tried to make jokes. All the while blubbering a bit.

The volunteers told me to go see the doc -- so I started hobbling in that direction. Kate offered to drive me, my stuff, AND MY BIKE back to the condo where my Dad and I were staying. (My Dad had dropped me off, and then would be there for a while before he would go to T2. ) A complete stranger!! I said, "No! You need to cheer on your husband!" She replies, "Oh we have lots of time!" Can you believe it???

Anyways, we decided that I would go to the doc, and if I got released in time, she would drive me. She showed me where her and her family was standing and we parted ways.

Then, I hobbled and hobbled and hobbled to find the doc. (The T1 area is HUGE. Holy shite.) The doc and nurses had set up in this clubhouse where the swim exit was. She was amazing. As were the fellow nurses. She gave me her personal cell phone number with instructions to call her this evening (which I will), and then offered to see me on Monday. Who does things like that?

I had ice on my foot, a cup of chicken broth in my hand, and chatted it up with everyone until the athletes started exiting the water. Talk about a war zone. In an instant, the clubhouse filled with shivering, teeth-chattering, hypothermic athletes. The nurses and the doc made sure the athletes would be given warm 2 minute showers, fed warm broth, then made to jump around and keep moving. So many people came in escorted by volunteers, cold and wrapped in foil blankets.

In the melee: the volunteers below the clubhouse ran out of the warm chicken broth they were passing to shivering athletes. All the other nurses upstairs were busy with athletes. So, I hobbled to action. I started opening cans of broth -- of course the can opener was a piece of shit that only punctured in one place and refused to actually open anything. So, I had to puncture, puncture, puncture and then dump the broth into the warmer-thingy. The volunteers were saying, "We need more chicken broth!" I was going as fast as I could!

Finally, I opened all the cans.... Then, I started picking up a number of towels lying around -- I had overheard a nurse saying "We need more towels! We need to dry off the wet ones!"

After that, it was about 8:45am, and I decided to try and get my bike and bags out of T1 so I could catch the 10:00 ride. I wanted to give my foot enough time to gather all my stuff...

Hobbled down the stairs and waited for an opening between athletes, then hurriedly hobbled around this fenced corner and got out of the way. Phew! I didn't block anyone!

Next, I had to walk on the outside of the pylons that crossed the roadway -- parallel to the athletes. I felt like such a tool. All the spectators were lined on the sidewalk watching the athletes and here I come, hobbling the long, long walk all the way down the road trying not to get in anyone's way.

Finally, I made it to the T1 entrance. There was a volunteer standing there pointing the athletes in -- again, I had to hobble and talk fast because I didn't want to obstruct any athlete's view of the volunteer, and at the same time, I had to explain quickly that I was out of the race but needed to get in to get my bike and stuff.

PHEW. Got in and didn't block anyone again. Got my T1 bag, then bike. Stood around and tried to cheer for the other athletes, but had to fight tears as random things would start me crying again. Like when a song that I had trained to came blasting over the speakers....Like when Angel #3 (a fellow iron distance athlete that had to drop out at the last minute) gave me the most encouraging pep talk. She was consoling and pepping ME up when basically the same thing had happened to her. What an amazing woman -- I want to one day be able to have that kind of strength. To truly disengage from my ego and concentrate on someone else. WOW.

She hung around for a bit and gave a pep talk to an older gentleman she knew, as he fumbled into transition. She is my hero I tell you.

10:00am came and went. As did all the half-iron athletes. And then the volunteers. I was getting thirsty by this point and a little scared. I'd asked volunteer after volunteer about this 10:00am trolley and no one had a clue. As the yellow-shirted volunteers started clearing out, I was lucky enough to snag one that said she would try and track down one of the head volunteers. She said it was going to be hard, as the head volunteers weren't wearing the bright yellow volunteer shirts.

There were less and less people around, and I was getting more and more anxious as I awkwardly wheeled my bike and bulky transition bags around and around T1 trying to find a way to get home.

Finally the awesome volunteer (Angel #4) came running back and said that if I could wait another 45 minutes , the head dude would take me and my bike to T2 and the finish line. Just as she said that, two women who were standing near me, offered to take me and all my stuff to T2 right then and there!! (Angels #5 and #6) They were spectating - one had done the swim as part of a relay.

They were so awesome and so friendly. Again, I had to fight tears because they were just so damn KIND!!!!

We finally made it to downtown Wilmington. The only way I could get my bike to T2 was to take the water taxi across. As we approached the lineup....the long, long lineup, I told the ladies I was going to try and cut in line. That if it worked, "Thanks so much for everything!" (I think this was the millionth time I had thanked them -- LOL), and that if it didn't, I would join them at the back of the line.

I wheeled my bike to the front of the line (with my bags banging against the front wheel, and my body and mind getting progressively more discombobulated) and said, "Excuse me everyone -- Could I please cut in the line?" I then went on to explain what happened to me.

Now, I lost count of the number of Angels....OH MAN. EVERYONE was so kind. I had my sunglasses on and I started crying again. I was hoping the sunglasses would hide it....I also tried to not wrinkle my forehead (you know how you do when you cry?) to give it away, but I am not sure how successful I was. I don't know how many people offered to help me on and off the boat....MAN!

Then, the first volunteer table I came across at the finish line was staffed with even more awesome people. Geez -- I think the gentleman's name was Frank who had a great sense of humour. What is it with these people that know just the right thing to say?

When I found my Dad (miracle among miracles -- honestly, people! Have you ever BEEN at an iron distance finish line?) I broke down again. Sigh.

After a tub of Haagen Dazs, and some more tears, the world righted itself again. :) (Ok, ok, ok and a Snickers bar. LMAO!!!)

Now you can see why even though I didn't race, I did have a story to tell! I remain overwhelmed by the kindness of Wilmingtonians. Even before the race, when my Dad and I would drive out into the country side and park the car so I could bike, locals kept stopping and asking if my Dad was all right. If he needed help. One lady even offered him bottled water!

Now as to the North Carolina accent.....

That is a whole OTHER post. LOL. Honestly, there have been a number of times where I have had to say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand you!" I feel like such a dork, but there are only so many times I can say, "Pardon me?" before I have to confess. LOL!!

Until next time, battleship...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Made it about 6 steps on the beach when I heard a snap and almost passed out from the pain. I couldn't even walk.

Hobbling past all the other athletes was mental agony - I couldn't help but cry knowing I couldn't even start.

More later -- all I can say is that North Carolinian's are the friendliest, most truly caring people I have ever come across. Unbelievable.

I'm still crying off and on. It will pass -- saw the event doc, things look good (as in nothing broken), she gave me her personal cell phone number and I'll be seeing her Monday before we head home.

I can't lie -- I am so disappointed. But, on the same token, the genuine concern and kindness I experienced on the 5 hour odyssey to find my Dad (two strangers took my bike and me to the water taxi, all the people in the LONG line up let me cut in front of them, the boat guys, the volunteers on the other side, oh man -- I could go on and on) has taken the edge of the mental disappointment.

I can't help but smile. I'm still crying off and on, but I can't help but smile too.

More details later.

Love you all --

Julie :) :) :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Athlete Tracking Info for Friends and Family...

Here is the link for athlete tracking on Saturday:

My bib-ola number is 479.

Keep in mind, it isn't going to be in real time....they are going to update throughout the day.

Positive energy is welcome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:) :) :) :) :) :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thoughts on Driving 5000 km....

Wolfing down a sandwich at Mt. Rushmore -- just a
little deke off the interstate. :)
  • I will NEVER do a road trip of this magnitude again. Next time, I fly.
  • Kentuckians and Albertans would get along just fine...I had cruise control set at 80 MPH, and I was in the slow lane. LOVE IT!!
  • You can't cash traveler's cheques at banks in Wilmington, North Carolina...My Dad went to 4, including the RBC. He would have had to open a bank account. Very odd.
  • US Interstates ROCK!!! Everybody GETS that the right lane is for driving in, the left lane is for passing. There are virtually no knuckleheads that sit in the left lane going 10km/hr under the speed limit = BLISS!!
  • All along the Interstates, they have these awesome huge and clean restrooms. Soooo nice.
  • Caffeine and driving go together.
  • Driving 1000km a day does a real number on leg/foot swelling and pain. :(
  • It's good to go with a senior (my Dad) to take advantage of the senior's discount for motel rooms. (Plus, he's a vet, and I have a CAA card -- we have a 1 in 3 chance of getting some type of deal! LOL.
  • The wind blew so hard through South Dakota, it blew my antenna off. You should have seen the tumbleweed action: big tumbleweeds, little tumbleweeds, and the really cute tiny baby tumbleweeds.