Monticello and its Wines and Food

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Post Race Celebration Wine Tasting at Trump Vineyards

This past weekend my friend Alissa participated in the Monticelloman Triathlon which is a race that features both a half-ironman and olympic distance that takes place in and around Lake Monticello just a few miles southeast of Charlottesville, Virginia. Home to Thomas Jefferson and of course the birth of The Dave Matthews Band, Charlottesville has many cool attractions and activities to partake in if you are in the area. It makes for a great little getaway weekend from Washington, DC as well.

Filled with history and vineyards you can visit Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello and then go wine tasting at Jefferson Vineyards. Jefferson sits on the site of Thomas Jefferson’s original vineyard he built when he settled there. However during the Revolutionary War the vineyards were destroyed. The vineyard remained farmland until 1981 when grapes were replanted and the Vineyard reopened as Jefferson Vineyards. I highly recommend their Meritage wine there. Fantastic bold red with lots of flavors. Jefferson’s wines tend to be on the dryer side just FYI. A tasting is just $10 and you get to sample 11 wines and a crystal wine glass! Just not more than ten minutes down the road is Trump and Blenheim Vineyards (owned by Dave Matthews). We had managed to stop in at Jefferson and Trump for a tastings but didn’t make it to Blenheim Vineyards due to the late start time that we had following the triathlon. Trump is a fantastic winery that offers incredible views of the valley and has a lovely outdoor tasting area. It is a great spot to spend a nice sunny afternoon with a glass or bottle and relaxing. If you are into ports and whiskey I highly recommend the Cru. Its an after dinner white wine that is made similar to port and has a strong Jack Daniels flavor to it. Its great on the rocks, straight or even in a mimosa. The bottle is rather large and does only have a 10 day shelf life unlike port. The sauvignon blanc is lovely too. I had a glass of that following the tasting. We hung out at the Trump tasting room until they closed since the atmosphere was so great.

Following our wine tour we made our way into downtown Charlottesville in search of some good cuisine. There is a lovely pedestrian mall that stretches most of the historic downtown area called East Main Street. The closed off street features dozens of restaurants ranging from Chinese to American to Indian cuisine. Following the race we were craving carbs and something different with lots of flavor. We felt like we needed to indulge a little. In the end Alissa and I decided on Indian. We ate at Himalayan Fusion, which is located on the eastern end of the East Main Street has a nice menu of Indian and Tibetan cuisine (some Chinese too). The vindaloo and the garlic naan was great. Very flavorful and moderately priced! In all we wish that we had a little more time here but we definitely made the most of it with the time that we had. I am planning a return trip this fall during the foliage season to hit up more wineries and visit some sites that I missed along the way this time. Stay tuned for my full race report on Monticelloman!

A New Year with New Goals

After exceeding my expectations for last year by not only completing my first full Ironman but completing it in over an hour and a half faster than what my goal, I was eager to begin to plan the 2013 season. Last year was such an incredible year, very long season but incredibly rewarding by accomplishing things I never dreamed I would be able to do. I also got to check off a couple of races I had been dreaming of doing for some time now.

Coming into 2013 I decided I wanted to go for another full (I know crazy right?). I had been thinking about it for quite sometime. Even before racing  Cozumel. One thing I have realized about myself over the years is if you think about it constantly, go for it. It is what you want and your destiny. I did however, want to make the season much shorter than my 2012 season. I had a blast last year don’t get me wrong but racing and training from February to Thanksgiving was a looooong time. I would like some more downtime this year. Thus, I made my plan for my next full.

Last spring I came a cross the KMD Challenge Copenhagen in Denmark when some other fellow DC Triathlon Club members had told me they were competing in that race later that Summer. I immediately became intrigued. Having fallen in love with Ironman and my strong desire to travel I became really interested in this race. Not to mention I have been wanting to go to Denmark for the longest time. Scandinavia has always been a place I have had a strong desire to visit and spend some time. This was my chance! I then decided to cash my Star Alliance Miles for a round trip ticket to Copenhagen to begin my quest for Ironman number two and my ultimate “trication.” Doing to prelim planning I knew I wanted to spend a bit of time in Denmark traveling, however, I was also wanting to go to Sweden and get up to Stockholm. Norway was a must for me but that would have to be a completely separate trip since there are too many thing I want to see and do there. So I planned out 2 weeks (unfortunately thats all I have…sucks) in Denmark and Sweden, ending the trip in Stockholm. I like killing two birds with one stone. Traveling to a beautiful cool new place and getting a race in. It always makes me feel better on indulging after the race as well.

After cashing the miles (60,000 miles) and getting my vacation time cleared I registered. Gulp….Im in! Here we go…number two…. Now it was time to pick some other races. After looking at my finances from last year on how much I spent in triathlon (gear, races, travel) I went a little overboard. This year I decided to scale it back. Maybe this year I will do 3 races and not 6. I stated to look for a good half ironman I could do leading up to KMD Challenge Copenhagen. I chose Rev3 Williamsburg in the end because the timing was great where I was about 7 weeks out and Williamsburg I a great place to make a nice little weekend trip.  The countryside is beautiful down there with lots of historical sights to see and fun activities to take part in like mini golf and Bush Gardens. I also wanted to get an Oly race in early in my season plan as well. I came across ITU San Diego which I thought would be cool. Our tri club got an awesome deal with tri bike transport the previous year if we got a large group of members to compete. They came back at us this year with the same deal. I was intrigued. Then I noticed that ITU Stockholm (which was linked to the San Diego website) was happening the day I was planning to be in Stockholm. Hmmm…. I started to look into it. It was a week after Challenge Copenhagen. Would I be crazy for signing up for this? An Oly a week after an Ironman? I just wanted to do it for the heck of it since I would be there. I asked around to some of our tri club coaches and they said “well your 30….you should be fine”. Done. It was only $125 for ITU Stockholm as opposed to about 250 with all the fees for ITU San Diego. Call me crazy but its the plan. Two weeks, two countries, two races. BAM! Let the training begin!

Musselman

Its been a while since I posted about my races and now I finally have had time to sit down and write about Musselman with all of my training recently. The Musselman triathlon takes place in mid-July every year on the north shore of Lake Seneca in Geneva, NY. Situated on the largest Finger Lake in upstate New York, the triathlon is Half Iroman distance race as well as a sprint and a “super super sprint”, I guess you could call it.

Overall Musselman went well despite the stormy weather and my physical conditions. The course is very challenging, especially on the run. About 4 days before Musselman I crashed my bike at Hains Point as a driver ran me off the road. Miraculously, I was ok. I only walked away with a bruised elbow and knee. I was able to direct my fall into the grass which saved me. Over the next few days my knee had been bothering me so I had been taking it easy on my workouts.

The Friday before the race, my friend and fellow club mate Bryan and I drove up together from DC to Geneva. The drive was about 5 and a half hours from DC that actually didn’t feel that long. Driving up through Central Pennsylvania we came across some interesting places and people I will say.  Arriving in the Lake Seneca region we drove up Route 50 through Watkins Glen along the west side of the lake where we made a stop at the Fox Run Winery which had a fantastic selection of whites and a great Merlot. You can receive a free tasting if you check in on Facebook. Following the wine tasting and splitting a bottle of the Merlot we continued our way to Geneva to get prepped for the micro mussel race.

Micro Mussel

The micro mussel is a super sprint triathlon (if you can call it that) that takes place the Friday before Musselman on the edge of Lake Seneca near the Hilton. The race is composed of a 100 yardish swim, .2 milish bike and a 100 yardish run. There are two heats for the event. The first being a serious time trial race and the second, which everyone comes to watch, is the costume race. People come dressed in an amazing aray of costumes. Some of my favorites are shown here. The catch for the costume race is that the bike portion has to be completed on an unmodified tricycle. It was absoultely hilarious watching grown adults compete in costume on tiny tricycles. The race is $20 to compete in. I am totally doing this next year. My face hurt from laughing so hard watching these people. Absolute blast! If you are planning on racing Musselman it is worth getting up there the Friday night before to see this.

Pre Race Day: Mussel Mural and Packet Pick Up

Saturday I went to pick up my packet for the Half Iron on Sunday and to my pleasant surprise there was some pretty good swag. We got nice cotton Musselman Grocery Bags with shampoo, conditioner, a jar of peanut butter, a mussel baby (a little Musselman stuffed animal) and a car decal. I was really getting excited about this race hearing people in line talking about the course. That morning Bryan and I hit up 2 more wineries before the information session. Probably not the best thing to do right before the race but you know, “when in Rome” I guess. Following the information session we hopped across the street to the Mussel Mural. The Mussel Mural is a large 4 paneled concrete wall that had been taken over by Frazz creator and cartoon artist Jef Mallett. Jef, an avid triathlete, competed in Musselman in the past and was now back again for the race this year racing and painting a mural that we could all sign our names on. I of course went to leave my mark on the Wall of Mussel. What a fantastic lunch we grabbed a bite at the near by BLANK which offered a nice variety of cheap healthy eats. They also had a nice little welcoming to all Musselman competitors. The triathlon art and photographs in their shop were also fun to gander at. That evening we all gathered at my triathlon clubs presidents house in Geneva for a pre-race pasta dinner. Ryan’s parents cooked this fantastic meal where we all managed to stuff ourselves full of pasta, meat balls, fruit and of course some cookies.

Leaving my Mark on the Mussel Mural

The Race

Waking early Bryan and I loaded up the car and headed down to transition. The weather called for storms today which put us a bit on edge. The predicted timing of the storm was a toss-up of hitting us on the swim or the bike. I was hoping it would hold off for the bike as I did not want them to cancel the swim. It looked to be good. Off we went into Lake Seneca in a u shaped point to point swim course. The swim was rather unique as the start was very shallow were you became tempted to stand up and walk the first 200 meters or so. The swim then went out into the lake and took a left turn into a marina canal that lead all the way around to the opposite side of transition. It was a nice swim given the weather conditions. The first half of the swim was the hardest, we had quite a bit of wake and we were fighting the current. However, when you make the turn for the marina its smooth sailing as the strong current became in our favor. I came out of the water into T1 at 31. I was hoping to go under 30 but the currents would not let me do it that day.

My T1 was a little slow as I struggled to get my tri top on over my wet body. I was feeling good at this point, not too drained from the swim.

The bike course was a beautiful +56 ride through farmland and stunning views of the Lakes with well equipped aid stations along the route. There were also a lot of horse and buggies we passed along the bike route as well which was really neat. In terms of the terrain the bike course had a lot of false flats with one big hill at about mile 27 which was where the thunderstorm hit at full force. Dumping sheets of rain on us I had a hard time seeing the road with my shades on. I had to remove them which was a bit painful trying to bike as fast as I could with sheets of rain hitting your face that felt like pins and needles flying into my face. The rain let up in the last 15 miles of the ride where it became all down hill. At this point in the bike ride I was in a lot of pain, my stomach and bladder was not happy. I think it was from the Powerbar I ate it just did not sit well with me. I had never had this much stomach pain before in a race. I had to stop peddling at one point because it caused so much pain to my bladder and stomach. God it was painful. I was debating stopping at a port-o-john but I said screw it I made it this far, I can wait until transition. There was one part of the course in the last 10 miles that took you onto uneven pavement on military roads which made things a bit interesting to bike across at high speeds and my bladder.  Coming into T2 I was in a lot of pain and really needed a bathroom. I was afraid of what might happen when I got off the bike to run.

Coming into T-2 it was a full-out sprint to the port-o-john. I had been holding this for the last 20 miles there was no holding this back whatever was about to come out of my stomach. I will spare those details. After using the bathroom I felt like a new man and fresh for the run.

Heading out onto the run I felt good. I was a bit concerned about my knee from my crash the week before so I was being cautious. The first 3 miles of the run are flat along the shoreline of the lake to the Mussel Mural. You Rounding the mural there is a short but very steep hill, I walked it since I started to feel my knee speaking to me. At the top of the short climb the run becomes nice and flat through town along the lake passing some beautiful houses. The course then takes you into a park and onto some residential streets where everyone in the neighborhood was out cheering us on. What fantastic support by the support by the community I must say. I have never been to a race where so many people from the community were out cheering us on and showering us with sprinklers and handing us sponges. At 7 miles in is where the run started to get tough. My knee started to act up and my body was slowly draining on the hills. The largest hill was to come on the dirt path at this point. I struggled up it but the African drummers situated on top of the hill kept me going. Their beats definitely gave me that extra lift i needed to get over this hill. After rounding the top of the hill I started walking a bit due to my knee. It was giving me some sharp pains. I could continue to run but I knew if I did I was at a big risk of injuring myself for the rest of the season so I backed off and had some coke and some electrolytes at the aid station and continued on when I could. The plus side at this point in the course was it was pretty much all down hill now. I stopped and walked a couple more times as I made my way back to the lake. I became concerned about my knee again rounding the steep downhill (this time) by the mussel mural around mile 10. My knee held out though going down the hill. I walked a couple more times in the last 2 miles of the run because my knee was not having it. I was over 2 hrs on the run at this point. A bit disappointing but given the terrain and my physical conditions I would say I was ok. The finish line never felt so far as I wrapped around the lake looking at the distant white tents on the side of the lake that seemed to not get any closer. Coming into the finish was the greatest thing as all the club tents and people lined the finish shoot. I ran by a bunch of club members in my final steps of the race hearing them cheering me on. After crossing the finish line I proudly accepted my finishers medal which was quite cool (the medal was made of recycled bike parts) and took a swig out of my new finishers water bottle they handed out at the finish line, which stated “Paddled, Peddled and Prevailed” and thats what I did. What a great race and course.

Post Race

After finishing the race I recouped in the DC Triathlon Club tent where I just relaxed for about 15 minutes or so looking at everyone’s food that looked to be very appetizing but my body was just not feeling it. After a while I finally made myself go get food to put in my body. The post race food for athletes was quite good, some of the best I have seen where Wegmans (local grocery store) catered the event. They had delicious pulled pork sandwiches with sides of potatoes and fruit. Mr. Twisties, a local ice cream joint, was handing out free ice cream to athletes as well. I recommend the black raspberry flavor which was to die for. The flavor did not last long at the ice cream stand as athletes quickly snatched it up.

Later that afternoon a bunch of us from the club gathered at Murphy’s on Main Street in Geneva for a post race celebration. Murphy’s is a popular pub style restaurant that serves a wide range of food and offers a nice selection of local brews. If you are feeling famished, as some of us were after that race, you can order the “man vs. burger” which is a pound of meat with a huge side of fries. That evening we continued the celebration watching the sun set from one of my fellow club members houses porch with some beers and pizza.

The Wine Tour: What We Really Came For

The next day we played tourist in the finger lakes properly with a wine tour down Route 14 on our way back to DC. Most of the wineries in the area are along the Route 14 corridor heading south of Geneva and Route 414 on the east side of the lake. We started on the east side of town at Three Brothers Winery.  Three Brothers has three different wineries and brewery in one place each with a different theme. The deep south back country-style winery in the back is a must see for the experience. The wines I found to be very bit sweet and tasted like juice but the names are quite a hoot.  Continues the tour stopping at Prejean Winery (one of my favorites which had a fantastic Foch), Four Chimneys Organic Winery, Herman J. Wiemer Winery, Glenora Winery (more commercial winery), Pompous Ass Winery (great place to poke around and you can’t beat the name), Fulkerson Winery, and Lakewood Vineyards Winery (my personal favorite with an excellent selection of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Reds). As our wine tour ended we ended up in Watkins Glen where we stopped for some pub grub at the Cocked Rooster in the downtown area. Granted I was not at 100% for this and despite the weather this by far is one of my most favorite races and race weekends. The course was beautiful, the race director was probably one of the best race directors I have seen yet, the support from the community was fanatic and for the price point makes it an amazing event. Plus you can make a nice letter long weekend out of it by visiting some fantastic wineries. Though this race did kick my ass a bit, I am definitely coming back for this one again.

Philadelphia

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View of downtown Philadelphia from the bike course

This past weekend I competed in the Philadelphia Insurance Olympic Triathlon in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. The course hugs the Schuylkill River in and around Fairmont Park. Leading up to the race I was feeling great and hoping that all the crazy heat from the week before would disappear. Fortunately, the weather cooled off a little into the mid 80s with low humidity.

I arrived in Philly on Saturday afternoon around 1pm to pick up my packet from the expo at the Please Touch Museum. I was hoping to make it into town a little earlier to catch brunch with some fellow club members who had raced the sprint earlier in the day but I got stuck in a little bit of traffic. The expo was nice where they had lots of vendors and representatives from local food establishments handing out samples of their foods and products. After picking up my packet, which was so quick and easy I went to the hotel to check in. I stayed at the host hotel, Crown Plaza Philadelphia on City Ave which is a few minutes from the race site and just off I-76. The hotel was nice, very clean and had excellent service. However, the $50 late checkout option I was not a huge fan of.

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Arriving at the hotel to check in and found out that my room had not been ready yet so I decided to go into the city and check out the new Barns Foundation on Ben Franklin Parkway downtown near the Philadelphia Art Museum. The building itself is spectacular with its modern open design and is only a 20 minute drive from the Fairmont Park area. I highly recommend checking this place out if you ever get the opportunity. The museum is filled with beautiful collections of Monet’s, Cezanne’s, Renoir’s, Pennsylvania German, asian and african art artifacts. Word to the wise, you MUST buy tickets in advance and check the timing for non-members if you are not a member of the foundation. They limit the tickets and give you time blocks to get into the museum as a result of the confined spaces inside. The tickets for non-member are $18. This is a great way to spend an afternoon between packet pick up and dinner if you have a few hours to kill. I would recommend at least 2-3 hours in the museum.

Saturday evening I returned to the hotel briefly to drop off my bags in the hotel and meet some of the tri club members in Old City for dinner. We ate at La Locanda de Ghiottone which is this incredible little italian place right on the corner of Cheery and N 3rd. The menu has a nice variety of food options suitable for athletes ranging from pasta, salad and meat dishes. The dishes are easily modifiable too which is nice. In all the food was at a very reasonable price point, very fresh and the service was incredible.

Race morning came as I was a little nervous because I didn’t think I got the best sleep as I didn’t get to bed quite as early as I had hoped. I made it down to transition a little after 5am which was great as it gave me plenty of time to get set up. I drove my car to the Please Touch Museum and got into the lot just in time as it was becoming full.  The hotel is close enough that you could bike to transition if you wanted to. Once I had set up in transition I hopped on the bus to head over to the swim start. We had to do a u-turn at one point on our way to the swim start because our bus could not make a right hand turn due to the cones marking the course. Arriving at the swim start I had about an hour to chill before my wave started. The race allowed you to take a special needs bag with you to the swim start where you could drop it off when you were finished with it and pick it up at the expo after the race which was great. I met up with a couple other DC Tri members at the swim start and chatted for a bit. It was nice talking to them to be able to relax my mind a little about the race and help me relax before the swim.

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Fellow club member Theresa and I after racing Philadelphia

The swim begins at Joe’s boat house and is a point to point swim all downstream. I actually almost missed the swim start as I was in the bathroom. I didn’t realize that my wave was going so soon. When I walked out of the bathroom to head over to the water I heard them say M-30-34 are in the water. I then quickly sprinted through all the girls in the wave behind us to get into the water. I ran past the announcer as she said to me “where were you?” I replied, “in the bathroom”. She then helped me quickly to get into my suit with 30 seconds to spare on the clock before my wave. Despite being a little disheveled and tense from sprinting across the parking lot into the water to catch my wave, the swim went well. The course is fantastic and was one of my most favorite swims where its a straight shot downstream from Joe’s Boat house under the Columbia Railroad Bridge to transition in the Schuylkill. I felt great in the water, very powerful and fast and managed to to get kicked or kick anyone. I kept good pace with 2 other swimmers in my wave. The water temp was 81 so no wet suits were allowed. That didn’t bother me though. The swim out was nice on a little sandy beach. I felt good coming into T-1 where I began to pick up my running pace to my spot.

Heading out onto the bike I started to feel a little tight in my legs and upper body, probably b/c I didn’t stretch much before the start. I drank some electrolytes and took a salt pill and started to feel better. The olympic bike course was also one of my favorites as well. It is a two loop course that hugs the Schuylkill and is flat and fast with 4 fun hills evenly spaced throughout the course.  The hills are short and fast on the way down with some sharp turns. I had to watch my self a couple of times as I was worried about crashing into people as the roads are curvy, narrow and filled with a lot of people. The picturesque urban course begins on Martin Luther King and heads up to Falls Bridge then turns onto Kelly drive. The course takes you by a few Philadelphian icons such as boathouse row and the art museum. You can also catch a nice glimpse of the skyline on the bike course as well if you know where to look. During the second loop I saw a beautiful old school looking balloon floating over the river and the boathouses which was really cool. My goal was to do the course in 1:10:00 but I just missed it. Coming into T-2 I was feeling good and not too tired for the run. I was a little worried I was pushing too hard on the bike. The final turn down the hill into transition is a little tricky as you gain speed and then have to veer to the right to dismount.

20120702-142938.jpgGoing into the run I felt good. My legs did not feel like I hit the wall. The course is completely flat and does a 3 mile loop out from transition in the shade then a 3 mile loop past transition  in the sun with plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade. There is also a Cliff gel station at about mile 2 on the run which was nice. I ran the 10k in 46 which I was pleased with. I did feel like I could have gone a little harder in the run though.

In all this is a fantastic course and a great race. I placed better than I had ever placed before in a triathlon. People where incredibly nice as I found many people cheering me in transition and through out the course even though they didn’t know who I was. The race and it was very well run and well stocked with food and liquids. The finish line festival had decent food with grilled chicken a few different pastas, fruit and cookies. I can’t wait to sign up for it again next year. I raced the DC Tri last year around this time and enjoyed this race better (for a comparable urban race). I would definitely recommend this course to people. I had a blast racing it and a good time making some new friends. I can’t wait to sign up for this one again next year.

Chrissie Wellington Book Signing

On May 13th I got the chance to attend the Chrissie Wellington book signing at Feashbikes over in Arlington. There is something about just being around a group of triathletes that gets you motivated, excited and relaxed all at the same time about upcoming races and the season. I will also say there is something about just being in the presence of Chrissie that is quite motivating and captivating even if its just for a few minutes to get a book signed.

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Chrissie Wellington and I at her book signing for her new book “A Life Without Limits”