Race Recap: Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon – Part 2

When we last left off, my partner in crime D and I had called it quits at the very late hour of 10 PM the night before the race. Next thing we knew it was 7 AM and the alarm was doing it’s thing. Yes you heard me right. 7 AM. That is practically noon in race morning time. The Oly didn’t kick off until 9 AM which meant SERIOUS SLEEP TIME! Amazing.

Awake, dressed, checked out, and on our way to another Charlottesville standby, Bodo’s Bagels, by 7:30 for our pre-race fuel. Despite the giant pizza feast, I was pretty hungry and knew I needed something serious to make it through the morning with only drinks and gels. I went for an “Everything Wheat” bagel with an egg and tomato slice. RIGHT CHOICE. So yummy!


Look, I finally remembered to take a photo of my food!

Before we knew it we rolled up to the parking lot and wheeled our bikes into transition. Due to a somewhat late arrival, there weren’t many spots left on the racks so a friendly race volunteer had to clear out some space from some pushy big dudes with fancy bikes. Luckily I had just enough time to get all set up before transition closed. Quick trip to the posh restrooms (with real plumbing!). Then to the body marker who, when I lamented my age-up age, helpfully reminded me to “follow my heart” and life will be good. You got it, lady.

Next it was time to wetsuit up. Oh…it had been so long. Had almost forgotten about that totally gross claustrophobic feeling. At least it kept me warm while standing around on the beach, totally unable to hear the guy giving the pre-race announcements. Something about only two buoys, blah blah blah. After the first wave went off we ran into R2 and the three of us had a bit of a pre-race pow wow. D and I stashed our flip flops, sunscreen, and body glide in a hiding place since we’d be right back there to retrieve them later in the day. And before we knew it, it was time to swim!


The glamorous Lake Monticello beach.

The glamorous Lake Monticello beach.

Beach start. My first ever beach start, in fact. Kinda weird not getting to tread around in the water a bit. I let the fast folks scramble out in front. Even though our wave was all women under 39, it was still a pretty small group, so I wasn’t that far from the front when we started. The water was cold but not unbearable, and since only my arms were exposed it didn’t really bother me. I hadn’t done an open water swim since the Poconos 70.3 last September, so it did take me a bit of time to adjust to the wetsuit feeling, and zero visibility in the dark lake water, but after about 100 yards I was pretty much in a rhythm. I headed straight out toward the first buoy, which I could see very well. Feeling strong and fast. I passed a woman who was obviously strongly committed to back stroking the entire course. You go, girl.


Then I rounded the first buoy and looked up for the next big turnaround buoy…and I could barely see it. UGH. It was probably 800-900 yards away (we were on a triangle swim course) and there was only one teeny tiny sighting buoy between me and the next turn around. I pointed myself toward it and swam. At first I sighted only about every 6-8 strokes, which was a mistake. I kept drifting way off to the left. I dialed it in to sighting about every 3-4 strokes after that. But it was near impossible to determine how far off course I was. I started passing/trying not to run into some green caps from the men’s wave that went off before us. I was getting annoyed with my inability to figure out where I should be heading. At least I still felt like I was swimming strong and fast.

Finally, I made it to the second turnaround and started chugging along. I thought this should be the home stretch. I checked my watch a bit of the way through and it said around 24 minutes, so I thought no problem, I can still manage a 30 minute swim. Too bad I couldn’t see the finish. Like, at all. There was one tiny sighting buoy off in the distance but it was the exact same color as the men’s green caps from the prior wave that were bobbing up and down all around me, so I was constantly confused about what to look at. ARGH. Finally I was able to see the dock where we would finish, but it felt like I was just crawling along at a snail’s pace trying to get there! When I finally made it I swam up as much as I could until the sand was literally right under me. I crawled out and hit my Garmin as soon as I crossed the timing mat. I saw it said something around 34 minutes and I screamed “WTF” – possibly in my head, possibly out loud. Whatever. Swim was done, time to put it behind me and get on with the rest of the race!

Swim time – 34:10 (2:22/100m).

T1: Once I started pulling the wetsuit off I realized that the air outside was actually pretty darn chilly. And my hands and feet were pretty much numb. FUN! I ripped the wetsuit off without too much awkward-one-footed-squat-contortion-dancing and threw it on the ground. I was glad I had nabbed a towel so I could de-soak myself a bit to help with the warmth. Despite the numb hands, I only fumbled a little with my socks, shoes, HRM, gloves, etc. I decided to through my jacket on over my kit because I was literally shivering. Not the most aero-dynamic thing in the world (I should probably get myself a cool BRM long sleeved jersey for occasions like this!) but I was much more worried about my body temp than uber-speed, especially since I’m not that speedy on the bike to start with. The always fun run to the mount line in funny pedal shoes, and then bike time!

T1 time – 3:49.

BIKE: Now for the part of the race that I was most looking forward to! The bike is probably my weakest discipline, but I’ve been enjoying my time in the saddle IMMENSELY more since finally getting a proper bike fit, and I knew the course was going to be absolutely beautiful. So I was super excited.

Much of the bike is a blur to me, honestly, as it often is. I remember taking out that steep climb we had seen on our pre-race ride the afternoon before. After that, I was just having a great time in no small part because the course was, indeed, GORGEOUS. Small rolling hills all along, surrounded by blossoming forest and a mix of adorable country houses and some crazy big, new rich people summer home looking houses.

A couple points stand out to me, both of which are unfortunately bad ones. One drawback of this course is that it was pretty much open to traffic. Intersections were protected, but otherwise the roads were open. At one point I was stuck behind this one guy for a while in the most annoying of ways. He was super tall and on a super nice bike, so by all first impressions should have been absolutely schooling me. I think he was having some sort of issue because he was drinking an awful lot, and tooling along at slightly slower than the pace I wanted to go. But, there wasn’t a good opportunity to pass him between intermittent traffic and intermittent short steep climbs. Argh. Eventually he got his stuff together and took off like a boss. At one other point in the last 5 miles I got stuck behind a long line of cars, behind another long line of bikes. This definitely slowed me up a bit.


But overall, I had a great time on the bike. Ultimately I sailed into transition to some great crowd support from the neighborhood folks, and even got caught off guard with a “Yay Rachel!” for me from R2’s husband who was on the sidelines as well. Always good to be surprised with some good race support.

And now for the learning-from-our-mistakes installment of this post: I looked at my Garmin a bit into the bike and realized that, in race mode, my heart rate zone and pace were not showing up on the front screen. This was mildly annoying. For some reason it didn’t dawn on me to hit the down button…as I learned during the run, if I would have just scrolled two pages down then I would have seen what I normally see when I’m out on a training ride. I think this would have been a huge help. Looking back at the data afterwards, my average heart rate was solidly in zone 2…probably should have been at least a zone higher for an Oly, I think. So, lesson learned.


I definitely think I could have pushed it harder and probably had a decently faster bike overall. I’m not used to a racing-type feeling on the bike. I kept worrying about wearing out my legs on the hills, because I wanted to be able to kick it hard on the run. But in retrospect, especially after looking at my data, I could have pushed it harder and still probably have had a great run? So, lesson learned x 2! This is why we have B races, right?!

Bike time – 1:28:48 (15.9 mph).

T2: I always feel like I waste way too much time in T2, so I resolved to be speedy. I didn’t do too bad. Almost forgot to take my gloves off (which, no big), threw my race belt on, threw back a bit of gel, and took off. On my way out of transition, I saw R2 rolling in on her bike, looking strong. T2 time – 2:05.

RUN: Every time I get to the run, I think “this is the easy part, just keep running.” This time I was feeling so strong I was able to think “keep running Right out of transition, my feet felt a little numb and like my socks might not be fitting quite right on my feet. The feeling passed quickly though, and I got over my initial “ACK don’t forget you can run fast, too” shock I started cruising. The course was by no means flat, but most of the hills were short and not too steep. At about mile 1.5, we ran a long flat bridge section next to the lake. I felt like I could FLY down that flat stretch, it was so lovely.

I felt well hydrated and had a good amount of energy, so I bypassed the water/heed stations. At the last one, I took a bit of water, because why not. It wasn’t hot at all. I second guessed myself a few times on whether I should make a porta-potty stop. My stomach felt pretty good but I have been having intermittent stomach problems on the run I was a bit nervous about it. Ultimately I ran through to the end with no issues. (A sign that cheese-less pizza should become a new race ritual? Mayhaps).

By this time I had figured out how to show the screen I wanted to show on my Garmin, so I was able to keep an eye on my heart rate and my pace. Heart rate stayed in zones 3-4, and my pace was somewhere between 8:30-9:00 throughout. I walked up a couple steep inclines on the back half of the out and back, but otherwise cruised feeling good the whole time. The course stayed within the Lake Monticello gated community, and there was great crowd support from folks just hanging out in their front yards, cheering. I was feeling so happy that I started saying not only “Thanks!” (which I always try to do to supporters and especially race course volunteers), but also “Good morning!” At one point, a guy said “don’t be polite – save your breath silly!” Loved it.

images (2)After the loop around I passed D coming towards me, and she was looking strong and speedy as well!

And the most exciting thing about the run! At two different points during the race, I noticed that a woman running in front of me had an age on their calf showing they were in my age group. Each was running about the same pace as me, but I knew I had more in me at both times. I picked them both off by powering up hills and maintaining my lead with a strong downhill and flat cruise. I was a little worried the second woman would come back and pass me again (this was in the last half mile) but I maintained my lead.

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Pretty proud that I gained myself two age groups spots! I don’t think I’ve ever been so “strategic” before, but it felt awesome. Must be that lovely Virginia springtime air!

Run time – 53:51 (8:41/mile).

TOTAL TIME – 3:02:43. A PR by about 5 minutes, yo! In the first race of the season! I won’t pretend I wasn’t a little disappointed to not have broken the 3 hour mark, especially when I was so close and feel like I probably had more in me on the bike especially. But after a week of mellow ‘tude, it’s hard to be too disappointed about the little hiccups I had when I ended up with a 5 minute PR. So. Boom.

I circled back to cheer in R2, and then D just a few minutes later. Everyone was happy and had PR’d with a great race experience!

Me, new friend Megan, and R2 showing off our new Monticelloman bling.

Me, new friend Megan, and R2 showing off our new Monticelloman bling.

We chatted a bit and then D and decided to roll out so we could make it back to the Disco at a reasonable hour. First stop, though, was Chipotle. DUHZ.

Thanks to Charlottesville Multisports for putting on a great race! The one major thing I think the race could stand to work on is the lack of sighting buoys on the swim. That was a major problem and it sounds like a lot of folks had slower swims than they would have liked. Otherwise, fun times all around. I would definitely do this one again – it was such a low stress way to start the tri season, on a beautiful and just challenging enough course. Tri season has officially kicked off, folks! Woo hoo!

Three Things Thursday

1. Ironman’s new SwimStart Initiative, announced today.

Ever since I signed up for IMLP last July, one of my biggest fears has been the chaos of the mass swim start. I prefer to avoid being kicked in the face and/or lung, thankyouverymuch. Today’s VERY exciting news: IMLP will be testing a new rolling start system this year:

“Athletes will enter the water in a continuous stream through a controlled access point, similar to how running road races are started. An athlete’s times will start when they cross timing mats under the swim arch.

Athletes will be directed to self-seed on race morning based on their projected swim time. Volunteers and staff will be in the staging area with signs and will assist with this process. Self-seeding will not be mandatory, but will be encouraged. At both events, all athletes will have access to a dedicated warm-up area in the water located adjacent to the swim start.

Age-group athletes will begin entering the water at 6:35 a.m. for IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and 6:30 a.m. for IRONMAN Lake Placid, and will have the two hours and twenty minutes from the time the last athlete enters the water to complete the swim. An athlete’s time does not begin until he or she crosses the timing mat located below the swim arch. All athletes are expected to start by 7:00 a.m. at both venues, thus keeping all other timelines and cutoffs the same. This will ensure that all participants have at least the full 17 hours (subject to intermediate cutoffs) to complete the event.”

Since I’m neither a crazy strong fast swimmer nor a lunatic, my plan was always to hang back and let the super competitive folks go out first. Now, I get to do this officially, and my time won’t officially start until I cross the mat! Big fan of this move, WTC!

In addition to Lake Placid, Coeur d’Alene will also have a rolling start.  Mont Tremblant will be seeding by age group, and Tahoe and Florida will have self-seeding into corrals. Personally, I think the rolling start with time chip probably makes the most sense to avoid traffic jams and dangerous conditions, while still preserving somewhat of the traditional mass start feel of an IM. But what do I know, this is my first.

2. It’s storm season in D.C.

photo by Brett Thompson via www.tbd.com

photo by Brett Thompson via http://www.tbd.com

I’ll admit, all this rain lately is putting a bit of a damper on my outdoor riding. Knocking on wood that it won’t interfere with my long ride Saturday morning! But I also cannot deny that I absolutely LOVE a good thunderstorm. Something about growing up in Nebraska develops a deep love in a person for crazy loud, awesome, freaky storms. We’ve yet to have a big one here this spring, but the forecast has been teasing it for days now….

3. CICADA INVASION!!! Bring. It. On. So they’re gross and a little freaky looking. But how amazing are these little creatures? This brood has been laying dormant for 17 years and will soon begin emerging all throughout the Eastern U.S. as soon as the soil reaches the proper temperature. They burrow out of their underground hiding spaces, shed their shell, and become full fledged adults. When they are out and about, they feed on various plant life. AND they are little musicians as well…the male cicadas “sing” as part of their mating practice. In mass chorus, the sound can be almost deafening.

Oh and let me say that one part again…they have been laying dormant for 17 years. 17 FREAKING YEARS! You just gotta respect that. Seriously. 17 years ago I was cruising around my suburban neighborhood on rollerblades and making mix tapes of alternative rock songs recorded off the radio. I hadn’t even started high school yet. That’s when these little Cicada eggs were burrowed into the ground. It’s mindboggling.

This Magicicada website has an incredible amount of information about our little friends, including tracking maps of brood emergence patterns around the country. Worth a browse, as they are truly fascinating critters. Then you decide, Cicada: annoying pest, or TOTAL AND COMPLETE BADASS?! I’m going with badassery.

(Btw, I also love The Onion’s take on the Cicada re-emergence).

I’m sure I’ll encounter many on my long rides out into rural Maryland in the coming weeks.  What do you think, new bike helmet style to consider?


Race Recap: Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon – Part 1

First tri of the season! Boom. (Shakalaka).


After wrapping up my volunteer duties at the Fairfax CASA Run for the Children Saturday morning, Miss D was kind enough to pick me up in Fairfax and drive us out to Charlottesville and Lake Monticello.  Traffic was stupid crazy on I-66 but we persevered.  In fact, we persevered so intently that we kind of forgot to check what would be the quickest route.  D was pretty excited to be heading back to her adopted homeland of Central/Western VA and so we weren’t really paying the best attention, got a tiny bit lost, and went more than a tiny bit out of our way. lolcat57

No big, it was a beautiful day and there are worse ways to spend those than driving through beautiful mountain countryside in the springtime.

Once we made it to the general Charlottesville area we headed straight to Lake Monticello to pick up our packets and knock out some pre-race workouts. Since this was a small race (capped at 500 people total between the Half and Olympic), it was just a simple pickup with no expo. Good for avoiding pre-race stress, bad for my dumb self who still needed to buy a race belt. The whole race was held at Lake Monticello, which is a private community around…yeah, Lake Monticello. There was also a pool in the community and the whole pool clubhouse was open to racers for restrooms, changing rooms, showers, etc., which was super nice, especially for the next morning.

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Way better than a stinky line of porta potties!

Because we were running behind, we actually had to skip our pre-race swim. Turns out this may have come back to haunt us a bit…more on that in Part 2.  We hopped right on our bikes to check out the first few miles of the course with some nice quick pickups. And good thing we did, so we could be fully warned about a crazy steep descent into a sharp right turn, only about a mile into the course. Riding it in traffic was slightly terrifying. Luckily the intersections were protected during the actual race (although the course was otherwise open to traffic).

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Next up was our pre-race run. I would say we may have run our pickups at slightly faster than the prescribed Oly pace. Ok, actually a lot faster. D is speedier than I and I let her push us along, because why not. After a taper week, it actually felt really good to get a little speed in my legs on both the bike and the run. I had felt a little sluggish for the last couple days but I realized that my legs actually felt pretty well-rested so it put me in a very good head space to race in the AM.

We then packed up and headed back to Charlottesville with plans to make it to Cville Bike and Tri before closing to get me a race belt! I was not about to be messing with safety pins or some such nonsense in transition. Luckily, Cville is a great shop and so not only did I buy a belt (and we both resist the urge to buy 10 pounds of Stinger Waffles for immediate consumption), but we learned all about these crazy IZIP electric bikes that are apparently becoming all the rage…at least in one bike shop owner’s personal circle.

Oh, if only you were IMLP legal.

Oh, if only you were IMLP legal.

With belt acquired we checked into the glamorous Cavalier Inn which threw D way back to the days of her UVA hijinx. The hotel is right on the UVA campus so it was a prime location for relaxing an wandering about the BEAUTIFUL grounds on our way to a delicious dinner. Of course D could recommend all the best places to eat, so we walked to “The Corner” for some delicious Christian’s pizza.

Look at all that yum. Via tripadvisor.com because in typical blogger fail I forgot to take a photo of our food.

Look at all that yum. Via tripadvisor.com because in typical blogger fail I forgot to take a photo of our food.

I knew my stomach would not be happy if I dairy’d it up the night before a race, so we were very good and ordered a whole pie with NO cheese, with spinach, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. I got spicy chicken on my half. We were so freaking hungry by this time that we pretty much decimated the thing within 5 minutes. It was AH-MAHHHH-ZING. Crispy crust, perfect cooked veggies, and yummy spicy sauce. Perfection.

Our walk back to the hotel took us by Arch’s frozen yogurt, another Cville standby.

Just like this, but it was kinda dark. Again, blogger fail. Via archsfrozenyogurt.com

Just like this, but it was kinda dark. Again, blogger fail. Via archsfrozenyogurt.com

D needed her some gooey brownie so I went in for some dairy free sorbet. It’s now a weigh and pay, which is hands down the greatest invention to ever hit the dessert world amiright? We trekked back to the room and enjoyed our respective frozen delights while packing up our transition bags for the morning.


Ready to roll!


Bikes need hotel pampering too.

Before we knew it, Tony Bourdain (*sigh*) was lulling us to sleep with stories of delicious eats in Colombia.

To be continued…(with the good stuff!)

Weekly Plan: May 6-12, 2013 (12 weeks to IMLP!)

Stay tuned for a recap of my (PR-setting) Oly at Monticelloman on Sunday…

but I can’t waste too much time basking in post-race endorphins…with less than 3 months left ’til IMLP, I’m right back at it!

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My coach was super kind to me and built me a nice little taper last week into the race. It was pretty glorious. So it was a very low volume week in terms of totals:

Total: 7 hours 15 minutes (including Oly race)
Swim: 1 hour 34 minutes, 4355 yards
Bike: 2 hours 45 minutes, 42 miles
Run: 2 hours 24 minutes, 14.4 miles
Strength – 25 minutes
Volunteering at the Fairfax CASA Run for the Children 8K/3K – 3 hours! 🙂


Once again, the CASA race was fan-freaking-tastic! I honestly cannot say enough good things about this race. Although I didn’t run this year, I did man the bag check with this team of consummate professionals:


We heard so many positive comments about the professionalism with which the race was run, and especially the helpfulness of all the volunteers out on the course. Way to go, Becca and team CASA! Next year i hope to be running this one again for sure!

After the race we grabbed some brunch and then D picked me up in Fairfax for our journey out to Cville and Monticelloman…to be continued…

A little bit of recovery on the docket for this week, but still going to be logging lots of miles.

Monday: REST (YAY!)
Tuesday: AM – Z2 run; PM – interval swim
Wednesday: AM – interval bike; PM – yoga
Thursday: AM – Z2 bike; PM – endurance swim
Friday: AM – Z2 run; PM – long swim
Saturday: Long bike – 50-70 miles
Sunday: Long run – 2 hours

Unfortunately, the forecast is calling for rain upon rain upon rain, so it looks likely that I’ll be spending a lot of time back down in the trainer dungeon. No big…maybe a little streaming time means I’ll finally be able to finish this season of The Americans? SO. GOOD.


Three Things Thursday

1.  Lost and …. found? Yet again I find myself packing for a tri weekend and completely unable to find my race belt/bib thingy. I swear this happens EVERY time and then I end up buying a new one at every single race expo. I must have like 10 of them by now…but where are they hiding?!

LOLcat hide

2.  Snow way. My facebook feed is packed with photos of May snowfall from my friends and family throughout the midwest. Dudes, it’s May. Why you gotta play that way, climate change?

Snow falling on my sister's car in Kansas...on May 2nd.

Snow falling on my sister’s car in Kansas…on May 2nd.

3.  FRO YO. Tonight Hubz requested a ride home from the bar for himself and Big I. Seeing as I was just sitting on my rump watching the teevee, I figured I could be a nice person and chauffeur them home in the Soul (who, btw, still needs a proper name). My demand was a stop for fro yo on the way home, and thankfully Tangy Sweet delivered.

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Ok, so that’s not mine….it got a little melty on the way home and didn’t look nearly as pretty by the time I got to inhale it. Mine was also much, much chocolate-ier and m&m-ier, natch.

Also, due to Hubz poor post-beer fro yo choices, we learned that coconut fro yo + fruity pebbles = disgusting soapy taste. Just say no, kids.

Belated Weekly Plan: April 29-May 5, 2013 (13 weeks to IMLP)

This Sunday I have my first tri of the season at Monticelloman! I’m super excited.

First, last week’s recap:

Swim – 7350 yards, 2 hours 50 minutes
Bike – 119 miles, 9 hours 10 minutes
Run – 16.85 miles, 3 hours 4 minutes
Strength – 40 minutes
Yoga – 1 hour
TOTAL – 16 hours 43 minutes. Boom.  (Yes, that’s the sound of head to pillow.)


On Saturday morning I’ll actually be volunteering at an awesome race out in Fairfax – the Fairfax CASA Run for the Children 8K. This is a great race for a fantastic cause. I ran it last year, but this year am relegated to volunteering so I don’t overdo it the day before Monticelloman. A friend of mine is pretty much the lady in charge of this race and does a fantastic job every year! It’s a challenging course with lots of hills. They shortened the course to an 8K from a 10K in prior years, but I have no doubt it will continue to be a serious butt-kicker. I plan on living vicariously through the pained faces of those who return to collect their items from me at bag check. 🙂

D and I will then be loading up and heading out to Charlottesville on Saturday for a lovely pre-race workout on the course, packet pickup, and inevitable consumption of excessive amounts of carbs. I trust D to lead me to some good food-age, as she is a UVA peep. Wahoo? Woo-ha? What is it you people say?!

I’ll be enjoying a combo recovery week and mini-taper into my Oly this weekend. That means – wait for it – only ONE WORKOUT PER DAY! Crazytown. Loving it.


Monday: REST
Tuesday: 2500 yard swim
Wednesday: 45-55 minute run
Thursday: 45 minute bike with pickups -> 10 minute run
Friday: strength (core only)
Saturday: Pre-race short swim, bike, and run on race course
Sunday: Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon. To be followed by post-race margaritas, naturally. It’s Cinco de Mayo afterall.


Anyone have restaurant recommendations for Charlottesville? Veggie/vegan options welcome!

So, we bought a thing.


After 5 years of proud non-car ownership in the city, we finally broke down and bought one! As you know, we bought a house and moved to a new neighborhood back in December. I LOVE our new neighborhood (Brookland rocks!!!) but it simply does not have the same convenience factor as our old place on Cap Hill, where we could literally walk to anything we would possibly need in less than 10 minutes. Now we have a beautiful house and a (soon to be after some landscaping work) even more beautiful backyard, but we are a little farther removed from urban conveniences. So, the time has come.


We shopped around and finally decided on a 2013 Kia Soul. Not only was it a super good bargain, and a very reasonable car with lots of space for current bikes and future babies, but it’s also a little bit funky (just like moi). Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Plus, it comes with those adorable hamsters.  See?

IMAG0441They’ve already been teaching me a few tricks…


Yes, I’m a little sad to have finally given into the man (and unavoidable adulthood) by buying a car. But it will make our lives hugely more convenient. I’m already dreaming of being able to drive to the pool first thing in the morning and park rather than have to worry about finding a Car2Go to get back home in time to shower and get to work…and don’t even get me started on my grand plans to drive myself and Rio out to exotic locales like Skyline drive for some glorious hilly long rides!

And I’m not gonna pretend the fact that we recently discovered a Rita’s a couple miles down the road (fortuitously around the same time as the onset of Spring) had nothing to do with it…bring on the yum, please.