California!

This past week I've been lucky enough to stay with Wattie Ink team members Dusty Nabor and Karin Langer in Thousand Oaks, California. To say its been a fun week would be a big understatement! They've been fantastic hosts and have made me feel really welcome, as well as taking time to show me the local area and taste some awesome food... seriously, I had no idea Mexican could be that good! What many people don't know is that Dusty played a major role in my win at Las Vegas. The day before the race we had lunch at Dusty's... well, I had what I considered a “light lunch” whilst everyone else looked on in amazement at how much I ate. Had Dusty not had enough food that day, things could have turned out very differently!  

On the first afternoon we headed out for a drive to the beach and I found it so hard to wrap my head around the fact that it was January! As it was the first time I've visited this area, we drove through Malibu and the surrounding areas which was fun to see. On the way home Karin trusted me to drive back, so I had my first chance to drive on the wrong side of the road! We took the longest and most winding road we could find, but made it back safely.

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Most of this week's runs have been done along a local trail, which is a novelty for me as I'm used to running almost exclusively on road. Dusty sent me on a cool route for my 14 mile run on Tuesday, but he didn't warn me just how much climbing there would be! Thankfully Karin came along and met me at different points en route; firstly to be my rolling aid station, but also to make sure I wasn't going to get lost - thanks Karin!

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The Conejo Valley Multisport Masters (CVMM) were kind enough to let me join their sessions this week, which has been a lot of fun. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I've swum with a group, so it was a great opportunity to swim with others. I was pretty boxed towards the end of some of the sets, but when you're following feet there's a lot more incentive not to slow down. On Thursday Dusty took the morning off work and we headed out on the bikes. The first couple of rides we did were great, but the scenery for this ride was even better! It was a perfect morning to be out, rolling past strawberry fields with the mountains in full view. We headed south along Pacific Coast Highway and turned on Mulholland, with Karin was following in the team car for the climb. This was really good fun – the incline wasn't too steep and you could settle into a nice rhythm. I felt a little ignorant for thinking that SoCal was flat!  

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The weather has been amazing, although I've been surprised by how cool the temperatures are in the morning. There were times where you'd feel appropriately dressed, then suddenly you'd go through a cold spot and have numb fingers and toes. One chilly morning we headed down to the trail together for a pre-breakfast run, but some people looked like they wished they were still tucked up in bed!

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We (well, Dusty and I - where were you Karin!?) did another Masters swim on Friday evening before bringing in the weekend with another delicious Mexican feast - table side guacamole... yes please! Saturday morning came around and I woke up early to get in a run with some short and (not so) sweet 3 minute intervals. A quick breakfast followed and we all headed to the pool, ready to take on the dreaded 1 hour swim with the CVMM. It was just that – 1 hour of swimming, non-stop. Obviously it's physically challenging, but it's a serious mental challenge, too. Taking part was somewhat of an impromptu decision, but I had to swim that day anyway. How bad could it be?  

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Very bad! Although luckily I was placed in a lane with Dusty, who was alongside Karin. The three of us hoped to swim at a similar pace, aiming to average under 1:20/100 yds (1:27/100m). After about 20 minutes I wanted to stop – this was worse than I anticipated and definitely not my idea of fun! With that being said, I knew it be a good benchmark to get it done and see where my swimming was at. We paced the first 30 minutes really well, the three of us within a few feet of each other the whole way. Soon after that I started to slow down slightly, while Dusty and Karin picked up the pace. It wasn't much, but a few feet turned into a few metres, which by the end of the race turned into over a length. 60 minutes went by slower than I have ever remembered and I had 4525 yds to show for it. Dusty and Karin tied.

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Reward for putting ourselves through 1 hour of mental torture was lunch at Chipotle with Jordan Rapp, who'd also done the swim. It was fun to chat about a few random things – mostly training and racing orientated. As someone starting out as a pro, it's awesome to have the opportunity to chat with experienced professionals, as you can pick up on some of things that make them the great athletes they are.   

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Not done for the day, we still had a 3 hour ride to squeeze in. This is where the California weather came into it's own. It was the most amazing afternoon and it would have been a shame not to be out on the bikes. Time flew by and we were soon homeward bound trying to beat the sunset.

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Suddenly it was Sunday – where had the week gone!? It seemed like I'd just arrived, but the familiar process of packing the bags began again, but not before we got in one last ride. Something funny happened though... we were climbing a nasty hill, when suddenly I felt something wet on my arm – it was raining! We'd had a week of perfect weather (and apparently it hadn't rained for more than a month!), but we were actually getting rained on, in California. I asked Dusty for a refund and told him I was leaving! In all seriousness it was very benign and I know there'll be no sympathy from anyone braving some of the cold weather that's going around! Before my afternoon flight to Phoenix on Monday we all got in one last trail run and I went to the pool one last time.

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The week went by way too fast. Such fun. Dusty and Karin knew how much I ate and they still invited me to stay, and they invited me back – that's true friendship right there!