Back In Time-Vietnam

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Daily life in Saigon

My husband and I have always been so interested in different cultures. When we travel, we make it a point to not always be the Americans staying with other Americans at the resorts. We love getting out, meeting people, seeing new sights, eating food that….we aren’t always sure what it is, but always enjoying every second of life and what it holds. We always figure…if we are going to another country, city or state…DO what they’re doing. I can eat tacos and drink a Mexican beer on my deck any old day, but not always have it fished for, home cooked from the new friends we met down in a fishing village while trying to perfect our Spanglish. We have gotten ourselves into the greatest of situations (dancing the Tango in Union Square with an all-Italian dance class, getting completely lost on a 4 hour dirt-road trip and having to drive an SUV through a river and pay off the policía to get to the airport on time in Costa Rica or being invited to a Vietnamese family dinner at a “new” friend’s house in Hoi An)) This planet is HUGE and we have a B I G list of places we are eager to see….this spin on the globe took us to Vietnam.

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Making some new friends

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Hubs may have found himself a new career

Boarding a plane for Asia you just know it’s going to be a long flight. In the weeks leading up to this trip I wondered how I would EVER keep myself busy for 20-hours. (Turns out a sleeping pill was all that it took to get me through Japan and onto Vietnam. Who knew?)  That one little pill also landed this 8-year Vegan into a situation of eating chicken without even knowing,  (and airline chicken to boot!!)  all while in a little state of what I like to call: Awake and Eating While Completely Asleep.  (That’s another story)

I am going to go back in time a little. When we returned from Vietnam I was in FULL-ON training mode for Ironman Boulder, so I never took the time to sit and write about our adventures. And there were plenty.

My husband and I had starting planning the trip about 2 months before we left. We had always wanted to visit South East Asia, and were torn on just which country to hit first. Now that we’ve been there (and plan on going back) we realize that once there, it is VERY easy to get from country to country via little airport hops. Had we known this going in, Vietnam wouldn’t have been our only stop. And because you need a Visa, along with a passport to enter VN, we would’ve bought a “multi-entry” visa instead of just single entry. *Note to self for the next trip.

Our flight took us from Spokane, WA to Seattle, to Tokyo, Japan and into Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We left here in the afternoon and arrived in HCM around midnight 2 days later from our time zone. We fell right into bed after checking into our hotel. We could not wait to wake up and start on this new adventure.

At the Bến Thành Market

At the Bến Thành Market

At the Bến Thành Market

At the Bến Thành Market

HCMC is a bustling mecca of business, shopping and tourism. It is a huge city with a population of 7.3 million people. First thing we noticed was the amount of scooters/Vespas on the roadways. Millions! And that is not an exaggeration. It is their main source of transportation and they are extremely skilled and proficient on these things. Lining the streets double, triple and quadruple in a lane. To us, it seemed that there was not much in the way of traffic laws….but somehow they seem to just go with the flow. We were only walking and we had a hard time. We loved seeing the women on the back riding “side saddle” to their drivers all while talking and texting on cell phones and the families carrying groceries with a dad, mom, toddler, baby and dog on one scooter. (this is a true story and we saw it often) Like I said; mad scooter-ing skills. We felt as if we were in a human game of Frogger. Best advice we got: “Once you step off the curb, keep walking”… The first time we did this, photo 5I was a ball of nervousness. I wanted to close my eyes as my husband held my hand and we crossed over many lanes of traffic in a bustling intersection in downtown HCMC. (Click here from some video I took) We did exactly what our friend told us however, and he was right….the scooters maneuver right around you. After a few hours of this it seemed second nature. We knew if we stopped suddenly that could cause an accident. They buzz right around you without any concern at all. Mad skills!! (Here’s the “Are we really crossing this street video?”)

Scooters and more scooters

Scooters and more scooters

Our first three days in Vietnam we spent in Ho Chi Minh, we shopped, we ate (A LOT) and we visited the Củ Chi Tunnels and a Cuo Dai temple (check out my video here from inside the Temple)

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Inside Củ Chi Tunnels

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Climbing down inside the Củ Chi Tunnels

The Củ Chi Tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnels are tiny and as we climbed through them I could only imagined what these soldiers endured. The have actually been made bigger for tourists but I was thankful to be a small woman while climbing through them underground. We loved hearing about the history that surrounded this area.

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Inside Cao Dai Temple

The Cao Dai Temple: Cao Dai (a.k.a. Dao Cao Dai or Caodaism) is a syncretist Vietnamese religious movement with a strongly nationalist political character. Cao Dai draws upon ethical precepts from Confucianism, occult practices from Taoism, theories of karma and rebirth from Buddhism, and a hierarchical organization (including a pope) from Roman Catholicism.

photo copy 2This was amazing to see. We visited during one of their prayer times and were able to go in to the balcony area to observe. We watched as they burned incense, chanted and spent time in worship. It was an incredible experience. We spent a lot of time here watching the rituals of this religion. Worshipers of Caodaiism come to the temple every 6-hours for this ceremony lasting 45-minutes around the clock.

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Cao Dai Temple

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War Museum

We also visited markets. The biggest one being Bến Thành Market. This place is ENORMOUS! We spent a lot of time walking through and seeing all of the interesting foods, candies, coffees, clothing, silks etc that people where selling and bartering with. I bought some delicious jasmine tea, lotus flower seeds, candy and some coffee. Even some Weasel Coffee.

  • The “Legend” has to do with stories about natives who drank a brew from washed coffee beans that had been partly digested (and pooped out) by small furry animals that don’t really have a counterpart in the Western world (a civet more than a “weasel”). The “real” civet coffee (called Kopi Luwak in Indonesia) is incredibly rich, mellow and chocolaty. This obviously low-volume, expensive coffee encouraged experiments by Trung Nguyen that were performed by a staff of European scientists who eventually found natural enzymes that duplicate this process and leaves the weasels (civets) to blissfully go their own way.
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War Museum

We met some of the friendliest people who were always so interested in having a conversation with us. They try to speak English and many are very good, thankfully, because my Vietnamese needs some work. They would try to teach me, and would laugh and laugh as the words just didn’t form in my mouth and come out correctly. I had fun trying however and they loved trying to teach me. A very universal language laughter is….

 photo 2 copyWe spent a lot of time wandering the city and also visited the War Museum.  We loved the three days we spent in Ho Chi Minh City and cannot wait to go back. It’s a place seeped in deep history and culture.

At the War Museum learning about "tiger cages" where they held prisoners

At the War Museum learning about “tiger cages” where they held prisoners

After three days we boarded a plane for our next destination….Nha Trang, Vietnam on the South China Sea..

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This was one of my favorite pictures. Look closely….

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Did you see her? Deep in prayer…

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Loved watching her pray and give an offering

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Ironman Boulder-Part Two

I always say; it’s magical crossing an Ironman finish line! Magical in a hundred different ways. When you hit that finisher’s chute, you become weightless. You float. Hands raised around you, cheering you on, high-fiving you like you are some sort of mega-star….and of course EVERYONE is a star that makes that midnight cutoff. Your pain goes away, or at least you’re able to push it so far back behind you, if only for the 90-seconds it takes you from chute to finish.

My Ironman Boulder day started typical. I woke up at 3:45am and promptly started on some coffee. I sat in the quiet of this early day thinking of the months of training that had passed. All of that training for this one day. I felt so ready. I knew I had put in some great training, no doubt about that! My mind fast-forwarded through my day as coffee entered my veins. I envisioned the swim. The calm of the reservoir. Wondering to myself where I would seed myself for my first “rolling start.” My other two IM’s have been mass start…which I’m kind of fond of. My mind rolled through onto the bike. A lot of the course I had never ridden or even seen, which was fine with me. I am a confident rider and know I had trained well for these 112 miles. My mind kept going…onto the run. This run course was pretty unique. Called the Flex-Capacitor for it’s shape; it is three out and backs with 2 loops. I already knew some of the trail. It was gorgeous. I also knew that with its shape, there would be ample opportunity to see my friends racing. My running has been stellar during training as well, and after all is my favorite of all the disciplines.

Hubster and little cub (OK teenage cub) got up as I was preparing my Elvis bagel. My nerves staying pretty well in check, I grabbed the last few things and out the door we went. We got to Boulder High school, dropped off Special Needs bags and boarded the bus to the Res. These busses ran smoothly and efficiently and there was no problem getting right on.

Special Needs (these are the bags that are given to you at or around 56 miles on the bike and 13 miles on the run) You can have anything in them you need.

Bike bag: 2 scoops of Infinit Nutrition in a baggy. (This was juuuuust in case my bike did not go as planned)

Run bag: 2 flasks of EFS Liquid Shot (one full, one half) to finish off the second half of my run. 4-Tylenol

I moved through body marking quickly, and loved that my marker said he would draw a smiley on my other calf. That’s how my day started after all…why not wear it! In transition I knew exactly where my bike was. I had walked it the day before, as I always do. They started announcing that we needed to drop off our morning bags! Morning bags are the bags that contain your wetsuit, cap, and goggles and once changed, you put your clothing that you are wearing into them, hand them off and they are waiting for you when you finish.

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But first….Let me take a selfie!!

I started down the row where my bike was and saw my training partner-in-crime. I gave her a hug and asked how she was feeling, and of course, took a selfie!  She looked great and ready to roll. I kept heading to my bike…. and to my dismay, could not find it!! Now they were announcing that we needed to get lined up for the swim. “WHERE THE HECK IS MY BIKE?” I run back to my friend and with what I’m sure was complete panic and terror on my face I say, “I cannot find my bike!” What was she going to do? HA! I turned back and head back down the row, heart racing, starting to have a little mini panic attack and there…I see her cute little red camo bars. Hallelujah!! I air my tires, add my nutrition bottles on back, put on my wetsuit, drop my bag and get in line for the swim. I felt really good. We make our way down the chute. I’m hugging my training partner. We are smiling, knowing we have trained well and it’s going to be a phenomenal day! Into the water we go.

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Race Morning Thank you God for this masterpiece you prepared for us this morning.

Piranha is what I imagine the water looks like from shore. Fighting one another for position. I am tucked right into the middle, which is fine. I get about 100 meters and finally settle into the chaos of swimming with 2500 other people. I am calm the entire swim, although cannot seem to sight worth anything. Normally this isn’t a problem, but today…. man, it took me some time to see those buoys. I start passing swimmers, and buoys but realize I am far from the buoy line…. I never did seem to get closer in and think that maybe that swim was about 2.8 miles! HAHA! I remained within a pack the entire time including though the swim exit…. we all came out and hit the grass where those amazing wetsuit peelers were. Swoosh…peeled like a banana, and happy my kit stayed in tact!

I moved through bag pickup, into the changing tent to get ready for my bike.

Let me break here. The volunteers in these changing tents are always top-notch. I was immediately greeted by a woman who asked if I needed help. Sure!! She grabbed my bag, dumped the stuff out and proceeded to hand me helmet, glasses, shoes, and gloves. She grabbed my wetsuit, stuffed it, cap and goggles into the bag and got me out of that tent in 5 minutes. Out of the tent I ran towards my bike, praying out loud that I would find it more easily than this morning.  I see my hubby…he’s yelling at me, but doesn’t give me my swim time, which means…. it wasn’t what I was expecting.  Didn’t matter…I couldn’t wait to get onto the bike. I found her easily and off I went out of T1.

I started on water right away and when my bike computer beeped at 10-minutes I started on my nutrition. Infinit has been my bike nutrition for a while and I love how customizable per person it is. Every 10-minutes that computer beeped….On the bike I had plain H2O in my aero drink and 2 3-hour bottles of Infinit.

The bike course is one loop, and consists of a few decent climbs, a lot of rollers, and some long, LONG flat/false flat sections. The wind was blowing, which is typical. Sometimes to our advantage and sometimes, not. I felt strong on the bike the whole time, taking in nutrition and water the whole 112. I had a few (3 or 4) times that I felt sick to my stomach. And at one point quickly ran through a scenario in my head as to what to do if vomiting was going to become an option. Should I stop? Keep going, stay aero and let it fly? What if I did that but got dizzy? Could I really vomit and maintain this bike speed? Thankfully it never happened.

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About 90-miles on the bike course

At 95 miles into this bike course you hit the hills. It’s a small section of 3-4 hills. Short, but one has a pretty good grade to it, and at mile 95…well you can guess how your legs may feel. It was also HOT!! There is a big downhill, and then a sharp left turn, slowing you down into the hills. The wind and air stood still in this section. I may have caught fire, it felt so hot…. I went up them smoothly. Thank you Coeur d’Alene for the hills you have provided me for training. Coming back into town you have great downhill and smooth road. The crowds were great and really pumped you up. I came into transition feeling good physically and feeling GREAT about my 6:14 bike time!

I ran through, handed off my bike to a bike handler and grabbed my T2 bag. Again, the volunteers here were amazing. I sat down and started taking off my helmet etc. She handed me visor, socks and shoes. I took a squeeze off of my EFS shot and a good pull off of a water bottle. I stood as she handed me my Spi belt with number on it. And I was ready to hit the run.

Running 26.2 miles is never easy, but followed by a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on a bike…. well that brings a whole new perspective. It’s never going to be easy, and as a triathlete, you just know this. This is the point in your race that you see what you’re made of. It’s that point where you need to dig the deepest into yourself as you possibly can. After all…this is your only way to the finish line. Your will needs to be in tact and has to conquer your pain. You will need to decide how much pain you find acceptable and live there for 26 miles. On this day for me, that pain would be like a punishment.

Starting onto the run, as usual, I felt good. Legs felt strong after a great bike. Soon however, stomach distress set in. Bloating, dry-heaving, walking, I continued on until I saw my hubs at about mile-6. He could tell I was struggling.

This is the 2nd time in an IM that I have had stomach distress on the run. Maybe…this is something that I just need to get used to, or maybe there is something wrong that I need to continue working on. Either way, quitting this race was not an option for me. Re-evaluating my race strategy was what happened. I took in nutrition where and when I could, ran when I could, but ultimately ended up walking quite a bit. Blisters appeared on my feet due to walking. But I knew every step I took brought me closer to that finish. I watched, as people all over that run course walked, sat down, laid in the grass, ran for porta-potties. The heat was intense. (I heard 105 on that bike course) Medical was everywhere to help those that could not go on. I felt very grateful that I was still standing, and still moving forward. I had little bursts of energy here and there. Volunteers, yelling out for us, the stranger that sprayed us with water, other athletes to talk to, drawing and giving energy. After all we were all in the same boat. I FINALLY saw my training partner through the crowd, both of us swerving back and forth through a sea of people to embrace. Tears flowed. It seemed only yesterday that this same type of embrace took place while we raced at Ironman Canada together. She was having a GREAT race, and I was so proud of her. She looked strong and was riding the wave of PR’ing on both her swim and bike that day. We left one another and continued on. Step by step I knew my chance of a PR was diminishing, which was hard to swallow after coming off such a great bike. I thought about quitting. My throat caught thinking about the long day my hubs and daughter had to put in for me while I was out there. I thought about my coach, my family, my friends all watching stats and waiting for me to cross that finish. I kept walking. And that is how it went, mile after mile. My stomach never got better, my resolve just got stronger. When I got to my final turn and knew I was about 1.5 miles from the finish, I thanked God. All day I meditated on Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I love how the Message says it; “I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” I thought and prayed that verse all day long and thought I can do ALL things…even this.

And then…. I came off the Boulder Creek Path. The volunteers were yelling that we had 2 blocks. TWO blocks and I would be an Ironman for the third time! I ran down the street, seeing my friend from CdA…he said, “enjoy that finish line!” Then, my daughter, from out of nowhere is running next to me. I loved that last burst of energy that she passed off to me…. she said “Hi Lady!! I’m going to run in with you!” Music to my ears coming from this teenager who had been on the course being a spectator for her Mom ALL DAY LONG. (It’s much harder I think to be a spectator during this length of a race than it is to DO the race) She ran me right up to the end of the chute and dropped back. That memory will forever be burned into my memory. And then…there it was…that weightless feeling. That magic carpet. That last 30 seconds.

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My dear friend, training partner-in-crime, and sister in pain, tears, laughter and endurance. You give me inspiration every single day!

You forget the day you had. You forget there are blisters and torn, chafed skin. You forget your muscles hurt and your stomach is sick. You forget all of it and know this is exactly why you did this. This is exactly why you’ve trained a year. This is exactly your reward for all of your hard work. Because in this 30 seconds you realize that everything that has tried to destroy you, hasn’t and that the unimaginable physical and mental strain that you have endured cannot and will not take you down when you are dedicated to something that you wish to conquer.

To me doing an Ironman shows you who you are. It shows you your tenacity and how determined you can be. It’s not about a medal, or bragging rights. It shows your strength and your resolve. It shows you that if you really want something, do the work needed to get it. It shows you that when you are at your end and ready to give up, you CAN keep going past that. There’s more rope when you feel like you’re at the end of it.

I did not have a PR for this IM. I could allow disappointment to pour from me but it just isn’t in me to do so. I am so grateful to have trained well and made it through that day, when so many others did not. I am thankful and so full of compete joy for my training partner that PR’d her race by almost an hour. She worked so hard this year and to see her succeed at reaching her goal is to be celebrated!! I am thankful to my hubs and family and friends that supported me throughout this whole year and whole day to the finish. And mostly I am grateful to God for giving me my health, my strength, my determined mind and a capable body to reach for these goals.photo copy 5

photoI will be back out training again soon….well, I am already back to small training days, but will be back for a PR on the Boulder IM course next year on Aug 2. From now until then I have some things to work through nutritionally but am excited to go back and take on that course again! Look out Boulder; I’m coming for you!!

Swim: 1:27  Bike: 6:14  Run: 7:02  Finish: 14:57

Love this quote from watching the Ironman World Championships:  Of all the parts of the body that are tested in an Ironman, the mind may have the most critical job of all.  Because it’s the mind that has to convince everything else to keep going.  To remind the body what’s at stake.

Ironman Boulder-Part One

On the road to Boulder in the middle of Wyoming with my training partner-in-crime

On the road to Boulder in the middle of Wyoming with my training partner-in-crime

Beautiful Boulder.

For years I have wanted to visit this triathlon mecca tucked away in the Flatiron Mountains at the base of the mighty Rockies.  Imagine my surprise when Ironman triathlon decided to chose this little gem of a city to host a full Ironman triathlon.  I had told my husband years ago….”If there is ever an IM in Boulder, WE’RE THERE!”  (I have a few cities that I think this about)  So when WTC announced a new IM race in Boulder, it took me all of three-seconds to decide my race venue.  The day it opened, I woke up with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning and the second I could register, I was on to secure my spot.

A night at the fabulous Avery Brewing Tap House (click pic for info)

A night at the fabulous Avery Brewing Tap House

After months of training for my third Ironman, we took the trip to Boulder.  Deciding to go early (2 weeks) because I had never raced at altitude before and was unsure how it would effect me.  We got there and training continued into my taper; the altitude never having any effect, thankfully.  We immediately loved the area.  My hubs LOVED the area.  Lot’s of sun, lot’s of great food options (what a foodie city) LOT’s of fit, health conscious people who were so friendly and eager to talk to out-of-towners, great outdoor activities and bikes EVERYWHERE!!  All things we adore!  We enjoyed every day of the 2 weeks leading up to race day.

WHAT THE KALE!!! During this whole trip I craved Kale!!  This made my night.  Roasted Kale and Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Soy at Foolish Craigs.  OH yes please!!

WHAT THE KALE!!!
During this whole trip I craved Kale!! This made my night. Roasted Kale and Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Soy at Foolish Craigs. OH yes please!! We tried this place because it had been on the TV show Diners, Drive-In and Dives (click pic for info)

When Ironman village opened we enjoyed hanging out there, being at the Athlete Welcome Party, listening to the Ironband (these guys ROCK!)and the great Mike Reilly pumping us up for race day!

The Saturday before race day is bike and gear bag check in.  I made sure my bike was all clean and ready to rock (Thanks to my bike handler hubs) packed my run and bike gear bags (your T1-T2 bags)

T1 Bike gear bag: Helmet, Rudy sunglasses, cycling gloves, cycling shoes (I do not wear socks)

Saturday getting ready to pack my bags

Saturday getting ready to pack my bags

T2 Run bag: EFS Liquid Shot flask; filled, visor, Garmin, socks (Nike dry fit) and my kicks (Hoka One One Bondi 3) Running in socks is all new to me, but with these shoes I feel like I need them.  Hoka I beg you for a seamless, sock-less friendly shoe.

After a quick little workout that morning; 10 min swim, 10 min bike, 10 min run, we headed down to Boulder Reservoir for the bike/bag drop.  It was a swirling beehive of activity as athletes and family members walked their bikes down for their security photos (I told them that my bike looooooves having her photo taken) and to rack them up for their overnight stay at the reservoir.  It was so fun for me having friends from CdA there at checkin that came down to volunteer.  To see a familiar face when nerves are starting to brim up inside is such a huge comfort.  I left the hubs and walked in with my bike giving JB a quick, nervous, hug that immediately brought the sting of tears that just wanted to fall from my eyes.  I went into bike transition and found my number on the rack and hung my bike.  I walked back to the start of transition and walked back to my bike ensuring I knew exactly where she was (this will be a funny story later). Then with a sigh and a little lip-quiver of knowing the next time I saw her I’d be past a 2.4 mile swim and ready to head out on a 112 miles, I walked out.  I saw JB again and grabbed a quick, reassuring hug, thanked her for being there to volunteer and went to meet the hubster to drop my gear bag.  I dropped that bag and came around to check out the swim buoys that were already placed.  The reservoir is beautiful. 186214154 1600 Looking at a one-loop swim course always seems to appear SO huge! (I mean it is…almost 2 1/2 miles)  Some of those buoys were almost out of eyeshot.  I giggled at thinking how nervous I was for my first IM swim and how far I’ve come.  I have learned to love that swim so much (it was actually the first workout I did post IM this week)  I also noticed that the transitions seemed long from water exit, to wetsuit peelers, through bag pick up, into the changing tents, but that ended up not being the case and didn’t effect my transition times at all.

Race ready and Dropping of the goodies!

Race ready and Dropping of the goodies!

IronBand rocking us with some sweet tunes at the Athlete Welcome

IronBand rocking us with some sweet tunes at the Athlete Welcome

Next was run bag drop.  That was at Boulder High School.  This was something new to me, having split transition areas.  But again, during the race, was of no effect.  I dropped my bag on the track, looked to see which tent I’d be entering (left or right) and left for the day.  Lunch, rest and packing Special Needs bags was all that was left on my schedule for the day.

I was set!!

Hiking in Chautauqua Park…Gorgeous Day!

Hiking in Chautauqua Park…Gorgeous Day!

 

Running in our Undies-Ironman Boulder Underpants Run.  Love this tradition!

Running in our Undies-Ironman Boulder Underpants Run. Love this tradition!

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Loved the "bike" lights

Loved the “bike” lights

Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats at Chautauqua Park