Sunday, October 25, 2009

Swim. Bike. Run.

I finished my first (possibly not last) sprint triathlon!! It was EGGSELENT!!!! I loved it and I am so happy I did it...and that it's done! The last couple of days were "rest" days, storing up on glycogen and preparing my muscles for the big day. I was so nervous the day before, it wasn't even funny. We got up at 6:30am and left at 7:30 to get there at 8:30 for my race at 9:30 (fun sentence). It was so chaotic -- there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. There were about 450 men that raced and 160 women (also, Veterans, Juniors, and Teams).

On to the race. I set up all my stuff in the transition area and headed to the water. We had heard that this was one of the worst dams to swim in because it was so filthy and they weren't lying!

In the pictures it looks kind of pretty with all the plants floating on the water...but up close, it was so gross. It was like seaweed. It tasted like fish and mold. EW! I hope I don't get a disease....oh well. If I die, at least I'll have done a triathlon:)

Anyway, women went first and then men started 15 minutes after us. The gun went off and we started the scramble! I made sure to stay on the outside far away from the big crowd, but it was still quite crazy in the beginning. Lots of splashing and kicking and chaos, but after about 5 minutes, it started to taper out and I found a good pocket to swim in and wasn't kicked the rest of the time (except for around the buoys).

I knew that swimming in open water would be different than in the lap pool, but I still had no idea that it would be that different! It was so weird. You could only swim about 5 strokes before you had to switch to breaststroke just to straighten out and see where you were going.
(arrows for your convenience)

On the way back:

I felt awesome until I got to the shore and stood up, then I suddenly feel my fatigue. I got really dizzy and felt exhausted. But push on I did as we all ran to the transition area to get ready for the bike!

The bike was surprisingly the best and funnest part of the whole race! (Thanks to the awesome road bike I had). I took off and went at a really good and fast pace the whole 20km (12.6 miles). It was an awesome route. It did have a lot of small ups and downs, but it was nice because I could coast and drink water on the downs and push it on the hills. The road bike rocked because I would SMOKE anyone who was on a mountain bike on the hills, even though we were pushing the same. It was amazing! I felt SO incredibly good the whole time.

Off with the helmet and gloves and on with the run. I knew it would be the worst part for me and it really was. The only thing I was hoping and praying for was that I didn't get my stitch and IT CAME! It was really bad the ENTIRE run. I was focusing hard on breathing deep and with my diaphragm....but to no avail. The run was kind of hilly and all in the sun which was tough because it was SO hot.

(P.S. A side stitch is an intense stabbing pain, usually on the right side, under the ribcage. It is said to be a "muscle spasm" of the diaphragm. It can occur because of the movement of the internal organs as they jounce up and down while running, thus pulling down and straining the diaphragm as it moves up while exhaling. But who knows. I've tried everything).

I'm glad Ben took a picture of this guy because when I passed him, I thought, "What is he thinking!??"

Almost done!!! Fighting the evil evil stitch:

My goal was just to finish under 1h 45m and I finished in 1:42:33!!

Anyway--I'm done! And it felt so good. Wow. I loved it. Ben was a great cheerleader and took some AWESOME pictures. His ankle is feeling a little better and we'll see how he feels this week for his olympic tri this next weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poor Benji

So Ben had 2 soccer games on Monday night but unfortunately, the first 60 seconds of play he SPRAINED HIS ANKLE! The field was really bad, uneven, and hard as a rock so he just rolled it while he was running. Poor dude. His race is in 10 days, already booked and paid for, plus accommodation for the night before up in Sun City, and this was supposed to be his really hard training week. I've been babying him all week and he loves it. We taped up his ankle this morning and I made sure and sign it with love before I sent him off to work (and yes...he shaved his leg so the tape wouldn't rip it off. It looks pretty hott).

Let's keep our fingers crossed that it heals fast and he can perform well on his olympic triathlon!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scary Stuff

I've had a lot of people ask "How safe is South Africa?" As some of you (from Facebook) have already heard, this week I had a freaky experience so I'm just going to share a few experiences/stories and enlighten the audience :)

We live about 5 minutes north of downtown Johannesburg and are in what is considered one of the safest areas in all of Johannesburg. We are in an affluent, predominately white Jewish area where security is very high and the Tactical Units I have talked about are always patrolling the streets. Zuma, the President of South Africa, lives literally 3 or 4 houses away (we can see it from our window) and Nelson Mandela lives only a few blocks away. So it is very safe, especially during the day. However, it becomes a little sketchy at night, but that's true almost everywhere. So while we live in a very safe area, downtown Johannesburg and some of the immediately surrounding suburbs are the poorer, black areas where the bad crime gets its reputation.

There are many wards around our area (northern Jo’burg) that are mostly white South Africans, but we wanted to go to the Johannesburg 1st ward. We are the only whites! We know it was the right thing for us and couldn't be more happy and grateful for our experiences and friendships in the ward. We've learned and grown more in different ways; ways we'd never have grown in the typical ward. To get to our chapel, we do have to drive through some of the dangerous parts of town, but it's typically fine during the day. All of our ward members live in those areas and have some of the craziest, saddest stories.

In our ward, the Young Women President's husband was murdered last year. His younger brother was involved in a confrontation and one night, called her husband to see if he could pick him up because some guys wanted to fight. When he drove up, the guys thought her husband was there to fight and ended up stabbing him 3 times in the chest. He was able to drive his brother to safety before he died in the car. Extremely sad. Another great friend (one of our YSAs) went on a mission, then got married and had a kid. They were both strong in the church. Then just last year, he walked in on his wife cheating on him with another man. He got angry of course (but he is the most kind and sweet man we know) and the other guy got up and stabbed him in the chest several times and in the leg. He was in the hospital for weeks with a collapsed lung and other serious problems, but ended up recovering and is fine now. His wife left him and doesn't want anything to do with him or their son. Breaks your heart. And that’s just 2 people from our ward. Our friend said that murders and bad things happen almost every single day on the streets we pass.

A Police Report was spread around a couple weeks ago that there is this new gang activity going on in Johannesburg (I've heard about gangs doing the same thing in the States too), where to become a new member of the gang, or "new blood" as they call it, you drive around at night without your lights on and when someone flashes you to tell you to turn your lights on, they become your target and you have to kill everyone in the car to become a member. So they've warned everyone to not drive late and to not flash anyone if their lights are off. Also, to be careful around the speed bump streets because it looks like you are flashing your lights. Pretty freaky.

So Tuesday's story: I've been teaching piano to a friend from the ward every Tuesday night at 6:30pm (past dark in the winter, but still a safe time), and last night when I showed up, there were tons of police cars and lights in front of our church and the parking lot was blocked off. I parked a little ways down the street wondering if I should get out and what was going on. I saw the 1st councilor come out of the gates from the church and motion to me to come so I did. When I passed all of the chaos, I could see an empty car and the cops were cleaning and clearing stuff around it. Olivier said that just 30 minutes ago, a guy knew his girlfriend was cheating on him so he followed her and when she met up with her other guy (in front of our church), he shot them both and ran off. The guy was just shot in the arm, but the shooter's girlfriend was shot through the stomach. Olivier had seen her throwing up and didn't think she was going to make it. They were both taken to the hospital minutes before I arrived. It was so crazy!! I've never been near anything like that and it was so eerie and freaky to be right there. Anyway, it was good that it wasn't some random shooting...but I'm so glad I wasn't there earlier. Glad to be safe and sound.

We love Africa and have never had any problems with safety here. We are always on guard and careful in everything we do. The problem is that there isn't much justice or punishment for the crime. Everyone has guns and knives on them and can just kill, steal, or rape and many get away with it. All those people I talked about earlier are still walking the streets. Nothing has or will happen to them. I've heard people say Johannesburg's crime is so bad and then heard people rebuttal and argue that "it's not that bad," that "the media just makes it sound bad" or "it's just not true," or "it's just as bad anywhere else in the world." But we've decided that the danger and crime (murders, rape, and burglary) really is as bad as the media portrays it. It's just that most of us whites are out of those areas and don't hear much that goes on. As long as you're in a good area and stay careful and cautious, you're fine, but it doesn't mean that this horrible stuff isn't happening every single day. (Note
to our moms--DON'T freak out!!!!! We're fine:))

Well there you go! We had a fun bike ride outside for the first time, until it started pouring rain on us and got super windy. We're using a friend's SUPER nice road bike (worth like $5500), he is the best!! I feel like I'm flying!

We saw "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" in 3D last night and loved it. It was really cute and tonight we're going to see Earth. Anyone seen it? I'm not sure what Ben was doing with his face in this picture...I think he was just too focused on getting us on in the picture :)

Tomorrow I give a talk in Sacrament and we're taking a couple from Mozambique to church that aren't members. And that's the weekend! Oh and these Jacaranda trees are in full bloom right now in Johannesburg. They line the streets and are so gorgeous!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend Wedding

This was another fun, busy weekend. Ben had a soccer game at 8am on Saturday...well, as we've learned many times being in 11am the game still hadn't started. And we had to be at the temple for a wedding so he never got to play, after being there for 3 hours! So frustrating. But it's Africa-time.

Another YSA in our ward, Felly, was getting married at 11am at the temple. When we got there at noon, thinking they'd be coming out soon, they still hadn't started the ceremony...again, Africa-time. So we waited an hour and then they came out. They are SO CUTE! I love how relaxed and happy they were (the last couple was a bit...nervous maybe?).

Us with the cute couple:

The reception went from 5-9pm. And again, it's always so much fun! Here are some of our favorite little people:



This little dude was PETRIFIED of my camera. I'd walk near him and he'd scream and cry and run away. This was caught seconds before he exploded:

Of course, Ben bustin' a move! With the bishop too! They do this Congolese dance that lasts 10 minutes! It's intense, but they all LOVE it!

It was such a fun day. We love our ward and are so grateful for their friendship and examples. They have the hardest lives and they are still so happy and grateful.

Anyway, that was the weekend. We have lots happening in the next 3 months and we're so excited. Ben has changed his mind and is now doing an OLYMPIC triathlon, instead of the sprint triathlon, which is DOUBLE the distance! Go baby! He can do it. We're just upping our workouts. It's on November 1st, so here comes a fun 3 weeks!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Birthday Babe

I can't believe you're 12 years old!! Wait, hold the're STARTING YOUNG WOMENS!?! Wow. Time flies. Ok snookie monster, here are 12 out of millions of reasons we love you:

1. You are the sweetest one out of all 5 of us kids. Seriously.
2. You're the only one that can do well on the drums on Rockband.
3. You're the youngest, hence, the cutest, most loved, spoiled, perfect child!
4. You always get so excited to talk to us or see us.
5. You have two different colored eyes! (see above picture)
6. We love how much you love SKYPE and seeing yourself on the computer. You should start doing music videos girl.
7. We love when you show us the latest tooth you've lost.
8. ~Benjamin Drake Alton~
9. SMARTY PANTS! You are SO smart in school, games, books, anything. You catch on faster than anyone I know and then DOMINATE the rest of us.
10. You're a soccer superstar! And you actually give Ben a challenge!
11. You have the most beautiful, long, blonde hair. The prettiest smile. The cutest laugh.
12. You are so talented. I love that you're learning the piano.
13. Bonus! You'll always be my wittle sister!

Have an awesome day Brookie! You are one special young woman. WE LOVE YOU!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Our Kind of Threesome

Hip hip hooray! We did it! The once virgin-triathletes have completed their first one!

4km run . 10km bike . 250meter swim
(2.5 mile run, 6.2 mile bike, 10 lap swim)

The popular gym here called Virgin Active, held their annual Triathlon series all over the country this weekend. It's broadcast on TV from some of the big gyms, it's free, you don't have to be a member to register, and it was perfect timing for us to do as a good, smaller 'practice under pressure' one before our big tri's coming up. I was SO nervous. It was like Christmas Eve for me, and if you know me, you know that my stomach and bowels do not do well with excitement and nervousness. And I was praying my guts out about my side stitch.

Before the races. Mine was at 1pm and Ben's was at 2pm (so we could cheer each other on and take pictures--which are really grainy because we didn't use my nice camera):

Doing some stretching:

In my heat, there were only 3 other people, 2 guys and one girl. And one of the guys took 1st place last year. I was not in the beginner group. Oh well. I was super proud of myself because I went faster, longer, and farther than I've ever done without stopping. I was focusing SO hard the entire time on my breathing though because I could feel the stitch starting at about 10 minutes, just wanting to come. But it didn't! I did the 4k in 22 minutes, which was awesome.

Next up, the bike. My legs were so jello but the bike was nice. My arms got so tired! They never have before in any of the training and spinning classes it was weird. I finished the 10k in 18 minutes.

And then, the swim. IT WAS SO HARD!!! It's usually my strong point but man, having it at the end after you're already winded and tired and out of it was so hard in terms of breathing. My first lap was AWESOME. I felt like I was flying but then the other 9 were tough. I had to breath every other stroke (instead of every 3) and had to do breaststroke a couple of times once I got to lap 6:

I finished it in 6 minutes SO exhausted. I actually lost count and thought I had 2 more laps when I was really done, so I was kind of disappointed because I hadn't pushed and sprinted the last 2 like I had wanted. But it felt SO GOOD to be done!

You just have to flex when that number is on your arm, it's impossible not too. Too bad it's my weak left arm:

Then right to Ben! His was a bigger heat, there were 7 of them: 6 boys and 1 girl. The guy in the orange was intense! He was running at 18.5 k/h and Ben was running FAST at 15k/hr. The dude was a die hard, that's for sure.

Ben did awesome, he finished his 4k in about 16 minutes, in 2nd place, and then on to the bike:

He did the 10k in about 14 minutes--still in 2nd place (right behind orangy). But Ben pretty much died on the swimming. I told him all that hair would slow him down...but he didn't care:)

I was just laughing because he did 1 lap of freestyle and then did this weird scissor/side stroke the rest of the time. He said he sucked in air weird in the beginning and it ruined the rest of it for him. He still finished in 7 minutes, in 3rd place overall!

The results:

We both got 3rd! Too bad I got 3rd out of....3 girls, but whatever. I had a blast. And Ben did awesome and got 3rd out of 8 so he's a rock star! (Oh and he beat the guy in my heat that got 1st place last year--sucka!)

It was so fun. We both LOVED it. All the staff was right by our side the whole time cheering and dancing us on. We got free t-shirts (that say "I was game for a Threesome!") and backpacks and water bottles and juice! And man, we finished a triathlon! We just got back from Cafe Europe, this DELISH place we love and I usually can't ever finish my meal, but I downed it. And now I'm ready for a GIANT bowl of ice cream.

Only 3 weeks till my sprint triathlon (600 meter swim, 20km bike, 5km run)! AH! Can't wait!