Author Archives: coolings

Niagara Falls, Canada Trip

On June 8, 2015, we drove from Toronto to Niagara Falls. After hearing from several people that visited the area, we decided to stay on the Canadian side of the falls. We rented a condo about IMG_2461a mile and a half from the Falls. On Monday we checked into our condo, went grocery shopping and relaxed.

Tuesday was overcast and rainy. What better day to see the Falls, right? We headed to the Falls and took the Hornblower Cruise, Voyage into the Falls. The boat ride was amazing. It started along the American Falls and then journeyed to the Canada Horseshoe Falls. The force of the falls was very impressive. I brought my GoPro and was able to take some photographs and video while on the boat. WeDCIM100GOPRO all got soaked! After the boat ride, we decided go behind the falls. The Canadians dug a very long tunnel that goes behind the horseshoe falls. The tour, Journey Behind the Falls, started with a walk to the side of the Falls. Below is a picture of us on a platform beside the falls. After we went beside the falls, we walked through the tunnel behind the falls. They had two areas cutout where you could see the falls. The tunnel went about a third of the way behind the falls.

After walking around the Falls, we walked to Clifton Hill and played a round of miniature golf. Aaron and I get pretty competitive. I was loosing by eight strokes after hole nine. I was able to come back and beat Aaron by one stroke! The little guy scared me pretty bad for a moment.

On June 10th, we rented bicycles for the day. Aaron had a cruiser and Susan IMG_5336and I shared a tandem bike. We rode from Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake. The views were amazing. We went by the Whirlpool, which is an area in Niagara River where a sort of “whirlpool” occurs. We passed about five wineries along the route. The bike trip was about 15 miles one way. It took us a little over an hour to make it to Niagara on the Lake.

Niagara on the Lake is a small town, which reminded us of Fairhope, AL. It started to rain as we arrived. We stopped and had lunch and then started the return trip to Niagara Falls. The way home was a lot of uphill pedaling. Aaron and I got some triathlon training in after all! Susan wasn’t too pleased with the length of the ride though.IMG_5373

Fort George was along our way. We stopped at the Fort to check it out. The Fort kind of reminded us of the Pilgrim Plantation in Boston. There were several actors in the Fort that portrayed the roles of various people. They also did a firearms demonstration as we were leaving.

After our ride home, all of us were pretty tired. We stopped by the Taps on Queen Brewhouse to eat. The brewery was having a wing special. I think the wings were 22 cents each. After we ate, we headed back to the condo to relax. We wanted to see the falls at nighttime. Strangely, it doesn’t get dark IMG_5392until almost 10 o’clock.

At night, they light the falls up with high beam lights on both sides. It is almost surreal. After taking a few photographs, we went back to Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill was lit up pretty well to. It looked like a mini Las Vegas with all of the neon lights.

On Thursday, we visited Marineland Canada. Marineland was kind of a zoo and part of a theme park. We got there shortly after the park opened. We expected a large crowd like most theme parks. Hardly anyone was there this time of year. We had a blast. We were able to ride all of the rides with little to no waiting.

The park had Beluga Whales. I think this was our first time seeing Beluga Whales. They had quite the DSCN3014personality. They would stick there heads up to watch what you were doing.

There were several feeding areas in the park. We bought some food to feed the bears. The bears were funny. They would sit and wait patiently for someone to drop them a kernel. The deer, on the other hand, were quite aggressive. There was a fenced in area where you could buy some food to feed the deer. The deer would surround you once they knew you had food. Some would even nip at your clothes or a bag you were carrying. One bumped DSCN3062my arm to try and get me to drop the food. I didn’t like the deer feeding experience at all. Susan loved it and wanted to go back.

On Thursday night, we went back to Clifton Hill and played another round of miniature golf. I won again. This time I made sure that I did not let Aaron get so close to beating me!

On Friday, it was time to leave. We checked out of our condo and departed for Buffalo, NY. We spent half a day in Buffalo, which you can read about here.

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Toronto, Canada Trip

For our 2015 trip, we decided to go to Canada. None of us have ever been to Canada before. We first stopped in New Orleans, where we would fly out of, to visit my mom. Here is mom hard at DSCN2829work cooking Susan and Aaron’s favorite dish, BBQ shrimp. On June 5, 2015, we flew to Buffalo, NY, and then drove to Toronto. We rented a condo in downtown Toronto, which was across the street from the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre.

On our first night, we just went grocery shopping and called it an early night. Saturday we started with a tour of the Ripley’s IMG_5174Aquarium. Probably the coolest part of the aquarium was a long glass tunnel that had a moving sidewalk to take you through it.

After the aquarium, we took a trip up into the CN Tower. The CN Tower is the second largest building in the world. We started going up to about 1100′. Then we went up another 400′ into the sky pod. The views were spectacular. DSCN2903Here is a photograph of Susan and Aaron looking out of the skypod windows. There was a Blue Jays game going on at the DSCN2913time. We were actually able to look down and watch the game. There was also a helicopter flying around that was lower than us.

After the tour of the CN Tower, Susan saw a small train that was going around a brewery that we wanted to tour. Susan made everyone ride it. I think we were the only ones on the train that didn’t have a small child in our group…lol. After the train ride, we tried to tour the brewery, but the tours were sold out DSCN2922for the day.

In the evening, we ate dinner at Wahlburgers. We watched the show about the restaraunt and looked forward to trying their food. Everyone ordered a burger and loved it. After dinner, we went to the Mirvish Theater to watch Titanic the Musical. The musical was very well done. It was our first musical, other than the Broadway plays we have been to. The photograph is the stage during intermission.DSCN2933

On Sunday, we went to a Blue Jays game. The Blue Jays were playing the Houston Astros. The game was very good. The Blue Jays came back in the last inning to win the game. The stadium was electric. This was probably my favorite major league baseball game that we have been to.

After the game, Susan and Aaron wanted to go back to Wahlburgers to eat one more time. After dinner we went to the Amsterdam Brewhouse for a drink. I ended up buying a growler because they were so well made. I was surprised by the number of breweries and wineries in Canada. They were everywhere.

Monday morning we woke up and left for Niagara Falls, which you can read about here.

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New Orleans Triathlon

On March 29, 2015, Aaron and I did the New Orleans Triathlon. Aaron did the sprint distance and I did the Olympic distance. I wanted to do this triathlon as a build up to Ironman 70.3 DSCN0536New Orleans, which was three weeks later. There were several people from Pensacola doing the triathlon. The photograph on the right is several people in our triathlon club.

SWIM: The swim began in a marina off of Lake Pontchartrain. The water temp was 64 degree. I swam the 1500 meters in 27:21. My goal was 30 minutes. I was really surprised on how fast I got out of the water. This was the first time I swam in my full sleeve wetsuit, a Roka Elite. I did get a little warm toward the end of the swim. Aaron swam the 400 meters in 8:50. This was also Aaron’s first time racing in his new wetsuit.

BIKE: The bike ride was difficult. The route was an out and back with the Olympic distance doing DSCN0569two laps. The route passed over two or three bridges, which added some elevation to the course. I did the two laps (24.8 miles) in 1:15:31. I was hoping to average between 20 and 21 mph. I was just shy of my goal at 19.7 mph. Aaron did his bike ride, which was 12.4 miles, in 46:37. Aaron averaged 16 mph.

RUN: The run was similar to the bike ride. The run was an out and back, with the Olympic distance doing two laps. I ran the 10k in 50:47, averaging 8:11 per mile. I actually felt a lot better than I thought I would considering how hot it was. Aaron ran the 5k in 30:21, averaging 9:47 per mile.

Aaron started the race about 30 minutes after I did. I actually finished about two minutes after Aaron did with the time delay and extra distance.

Aaron was the youngest athlete (16 years old) to complete the New Orleans Triathlon this year! He won third place in his age division.

After the triathlon, we stayed in New Orleans for a few days. The week after the triathlon was Spring Break for Susan and Aaron. Our visit helped out my mom and stepdad as they were in the midst of moving into a house they were purchasing.

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Miami Marathon

On January 25, 2015, I ran the Miami Marathon. I signed up for this event because of a discount that was offered a year ahead of time. After doing Ironman Florida and then pacing for the Pensacola ExpoMarathon in November 2014, I took about a week break from hard training. I then ramped up my training with a goal pace of 3:45 for the Miami Marathon.

Near my peak week of training, I had pain in my shins. At first, I feared I had a stress fracture. I took a week off with no running and did a lot of message therapy. I started training again and my shin felt fine. However, I felt l lost a lot of fitness. I had trouble maintaining my goal paces.

Race morning was shaping out to be nice. I felt strong. The weather cooperated and was somewhat cold (for Miami at least). I went out with the 3:45 pace group. I dropped out of the pace group after mile 17. I just could not keep IMG_2302up. I ended up finishing at 4:17. Nowhere near my goal. It was very discouraging. Looking back, I am able to see how I tried to do too much, too fast. I didn’t give my body time to recover after several hard efforts. Also, training for the ironman seemed to take a toll on my body like nothing before. Lesson learned the hard way.

I did enjoy the race. Susan and I made a mini vacation out of the marathon. We stayed at my mom’s timeshare in Surfside. We explored some more of the city and went back to one of our favorite places to relax: Bayside Marketplace.

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Christmas 2014

The best part about Christmas 2014 was that we were able to spend it with most of our family. I was actually off this year! I guess that made up for working on Thanksgiving. On Christmas Eve, Brian came over to our house to spend the night. I think he was worried DSCN0463about if Santa would find him after he has moved around so much during the previous year. Aaron lucked out and received a MacBook Pro. Susan was quite happy that she would be able to use her laptop at the house now. We gave Brian a new Motorola Andriod phone. He was pretty excited since he broke his last phone. Forrest is always confused with all of the excitement on Christmas mornings. He usually gets lost in his stocking. My mom and stepdad came in Christmas afternoon. It was nice to be able to see them for the holiday. It was a quick visit. They had to DSCN0496leave the next day, and so did we.

On the day after Christmas, we drove to Montgomery to visit Susan’s family. We stayed at her brother’s house for the weekend. We did a lot of catching up. All of the cousins were able to get together. While in Montgomery we went to a Dillard’s discount store. It was our first time in that type of Dillard’s. We also went to the Mexican restaurant that Susan’s mom loved.

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Ironman Florida 2014

Last year, Aaron and I volunteered at Ironman Florida so that I could register for Ironman Florida 2014. I spent a year training and the day was finally upon us. I started the day with a Before the racegoal of crossing the finish line in under 13 hours. I also expected this to be my first, and only, full distance triathlon. The training became very trying. There were days that I trained for seven hours. Going into this race, I had no interest in repeating the long training days required to complete an Ironman.

Since the race was the day after Halloween, Aaron decided to go all out to make sure I could see him along the course. The Ran into mom before the racephotograph on the right is Aaron and I just before the swim was cancelled.

The race forecast was not too favorable. Winds were forecasted to be 22mph sustained out of the north. It was also chilly. The temperature at the start of the race was about 48 degrees. I knew the bike portion would have difficult segments. Fifteen minutes before the start of the race, I was informed the swim was cancelled. The swim safety On the bikepersonnel were unable to get/stay into the proper positions. I was bummed. This meant my first Ironman would not be a complete Ironman.

Race officials decided to do a time trial bike start. This meant I would not begin the bike until after 9:30 (the swim was scheduled to begin at 7). I changed clothes and got ready for the bike. In the mix, I lost my family and had to turn in my morning clothes bag. This was my warm clothes. I spent two hours shivering waiting for my turn to start the bike. I would have much rather swam and started my bike ride Lisa on the bike coursearound 8:30. People were released in order, by their bib numbers. This meant a lot of the older people would start near the end. I felt bad for them. For two reasons. It meant they would spend more time waiting in the cold and also meant they would have less time to complete the bike ride. I was told that all of the cutoff times remained.

The bike ride was not as bad as I anticipated. The first 24 miles or so were brutal. It felt like I was pedaling uphill the entire way. In fact, I only averaged about 16.2 mph for the first 15 miles. Once I turned off the headwind, everything seemed so much better. There were other times I was going into a strong headwind. Around mile 75, there was a bad crash. There was a female laid out on the road waiting for an ambulance. She looked pretty bad. She was face down in the ground, not moving.

On the run courseI completed the bike in 6:06:10 and averaged 18.35 mph. My goal was sub six hours. After the wind forecast, I threw my goal out of the window and just told myself to stay within my comfort zone. At the Gulf Coast Triathlon (half iron distance), I pushed myself to make my goal of averaging 20mph or better on the bike. I paid for it dearly on the run. I wasn’t too far off of my goal. I was pleased heading into the run, I felt comfortable and knew I didn’t burn too many matches on the bike.

The run: Holy cow. I never ran more than a half marathon off of a bike. That was after only 56About mile 17 miles on the bike. I had no idea what to expect. Except the suck factor. During the start of the run, I had to work hard to keep my pace above 10 minutes per mile. I wanted to run faster. I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain a faster pace. My goal was a 4:30 marathon. I was on track to reach my goal until mile 20. I stopped to use the bathroom. After that I could not get back into my rhythm. I ended up running a 4:39:20 marathon. I averaged a 10:39 mile. The last 10k was the toughest running I have ever done. My thighs were on fire.

After the raceI read a lot of recommendations to make sure you separated yourself near the finishing chute. As I neared the last 1/4 of mile I slowed a little to get some distance from a guy in front of me and I could not see anyone behind me. I am glad. I enjoyed the finishing chute. I saw my family near the end. My coach from my first triathlon was volunteering as a catcher. It was a nice surprise to see him. He grabbed me and got me through the finishing area.

I was so thankful to have so many friends and family out there cheering me on. Of course SusanNicole and MLA and Aaron were there to chase me around Panama City Beach. My mom and stepdad came over from New Orleans to see me. They chased me around the run course on their bikes. Lisa, Nicole, and her friend MLA drove down from Montgomery to see me. My friend Brandon also followed me around after he was done volunteering at the race. I got to see them several times during the run. They kept me motivated when times got tough.

Will I do another Ironman? I have to. I have to do a complete one! Probably sometime in 2016 though. I need some time off.

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Grandman Triathlon 2014

On May 31, 2014, Aaron completed his first triathlon. Aaron trained for about three months to get ready for this day! Aaron had no trouble picking up swimming and biking. In fact, Aaron became really good in swimming laps. I also IMG_3463did the 2014 Grandman with Aaron.

The swim start took awhile as each person had to jump off of a pier. I was racer 245 and Aaron was 665. Therefore, I was out on the bike course before Aaron even started the swim.

Aaron did very well on the swim. He actually completed the swim faster than I did! He averaged over 18 mph on the bike course. Aaron ranked 17th out of the 54 first timers. Aaron’s overall time was 1:48. Aaron loved doing the triathlon. He is already registered for the Santa Rosa Triathlon, which is October 4th.

The Grandman was my first triathlon in June 2013. Two of the guys that went through the My DSCN0309First Tri class with me returned to do the Grandman in 2014 with me. Below is a photograph of us after we finished the race. We were waiting to cheer on Aaron as he approached the finish line.

I completed the triathlon in 1:32. I had a goal of 1:30. I struggled during the swim. I wasn’t prepared when it was my turn to jump off. I actually treaded water to start my watch. I then started my swim in a sprint and paid for it. I ended up on my back so I could catch my breathe. I felt good during the bike. I averaged 20.8 mph. My bike split ended up being two seconds faster than last year. I was hoping to average 22 mph. Looking back, I think I held back because of my experience at the Gulf Coast Triathlon (where I went too hard on the bike and suffered for it during the run). The run was quite a bit faster than any of my previous triathlon runs. I averaged 8:07 per mile. This wasn’t too bad considering the brutal hills during the first half of the run. I feel like each triathlon has been a learning experience. Hopefully, I will be well prepared before Ironman Florida in November.IMG_2067

My mom came over and watched the triathlon with Susan. They spent the day chasing Aaron and I from spot to spot. They were both pretty exhausted from all of the running back and forth as well. After the race, we meet my uncles and aunt for a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel. It was nice to see John, Paula and Roy again. We haven’t seen them since the New Orleans Marathon.

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Gulf Coast Triathlon

On May 10, 2014, I participated in the Gulf Coast Triathlon. The triathlon was a half-iron distance (70.3 miles). We rented a condo at the Shores of Panama, which was about a 1/2 mileIMG_3307 from the start and finish line. The day before, Susan and Aaron made several signs to hold during the race. Here is the sign that Aaron made for the swim portion. How funny is that considering Aaron is getting into triathlons?

On the morning of the triathlon, the winds were strong out of the south. Rescue crews were having problems getting into position. Several kayaks flipped at the wave breaks. The swim was cancelled for the first time in 32 years. I was bummed. I trained hard for the swim and was ready to tackle it.  We had to do about  a 1/2 mile beach run before starting the bike leg.

The 56 mile bike leg started out very fast. The wind was at my back. I was averaging about 24mph. I knew that would change once I hit the turn around. I wanted to average 20-21 mph. On the way back, my averaged dropped below 21 mph. I picked up the pace a bit and ended IMG_3336with a 20.3 mph average. At the dismount line some clydesdale almost ran into me. I was pretty upset. I couldn’t believe how careless someone could be.

I imploded on the run. By mile four I was experiencing severe cramps. Apparently, I did not drink enough on the bike. The run turned into a run/walk race for me. The half marathon run took me about two and a half hours. I finished the entire race in 5:36.

I signed up for this race as part of my training toward Ironman Florida. The bike and run course are similar to Ironman Florida. Although the race did not go well for me, it was a great learning experience. I feel better prepared for my first Ironman.

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Jazz Fest 2014

On May 3, 2014, Susan and I attended the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for the firstDSCN0204 time. We went with three friends: Maria, Julie and Jon. Maria asked us to go because she wanted to see Bruce Springsteen. Although we are not Springsteen fans, we knew the festival would be fun.

We arrived in New Orleans on the Friday before. We just hung around the French Quarter for the first night. Maria and Julie had a tarot card reading.

The next morning, we got an early start and headed to the festival. To the right, is Susan and I as we entered the festival. The festival opened at 11. We got there about 12:30, just in time to sample some of the traditional New Orleans food.

The festival is the largest one we have ever attended. We might have seen half of it in the one DSCN0222day we were there. Susan was excited to see a pow wow that was hosted by several different Indian nations. The photograph to the left is Susan with the Indians after the pow wow.

We were not able to see Springsteen. We got to the stage too late. It was packed. We did get to see Better than Ezra and Foster the People. We enjoyed both concerts.

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Mardi Gras Marathon 2014

On February 2, 2014, I returned to New Orleans to run the Mardi Gras Marathon. This race was the first marathon I ran in 2011. Several of my family members (two uncles, an IMG_0072aunt, mom and Aaron) ran the half marathon. To the right is a picture of everyone at the expo the day before the race.

I had a goal to of 3:40. The weather was quite a bit hotter than he was hoping for. It was also very foggy. When running through the French Quarter, there were areas where there was about 50′ of visibility. It was almost surreal. Phil and Susan cheered for everyone doing the race. This was mom’s fourth year doing the half marathon!

I finished the race in 3:47. I shaved off two minutes from my previous personal best. I have shaved off 45 minutes since his first marathon in 2011! Shortly after the race, I signed up to run the Miami Marathon in January 2015. Maybe a 3:40 will be doable. Then again, it will probably be quite hot at that race too.

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