Posted in Los Angeles, Running

Legends Triathlon Race Recap

In October 2019, I did my first-ever, grown-up, in-the-traditional-order, open-water-swim, triathlon: the Legends Triathlon. Here is my recap.

On the morning of the race, I got up at 5:00am, had undercooked oats and a cup of tea for breakfast, then got ready and packed the car. I had pumped up my bike tires and put the bike in the car the night before.

We drove 25 minutes east and south to Bonelli Park in the dark and parked at the Park n Ride at the junction of the 57 and Via Verde. At 6:30am there were still plenty of spaces.

Sunrise at the park

We unloaded and walked down into Bonelli Park (no $10 park fee for us!). We headed over to the registration/packet pick-up tent by the swim beach just as the sun was coming up. The race packet consisted of a nice t-shirt, some Cliff bars, and a variety of sticky numbers.

Registration as seen from Transition

I stuck the first number to my helmet and the other to my bike then headed into transition. I found a good spot on a rack, remembering to find a landmark to line up with so I could find my bike after the swim. I laid out all my gear then went to get my number drawn on my arm. With that done, I turned around to find that the Pasadena Triathlon Club, of which I’m a member, had its own rack right by the entrance to the transition! So I picked up all my gear and moved it. While this was a closer spot, it was perhaps less ideal as it underfoot was gravel so everything got filthy pretty quickly.

Transition set up – pre-move

After setting up we wandered down to the beach and checked out the swim entrance/exit, the run exit, and the finish line. Then with 30 minutes to go, it was time to get the wetsuit on.

I don’t have a tri-suit, so I just wore my Target running shorts and a sports bra under my wetsuit. We lined up for a group photo then headed down to the beach. We noted immediately that the shoreline was lined with duck poo, but since there was nothing to be done about that we got in the water and splashed around to get wet. It was thankfully not too cold.

Swim beach – the sand was surprisingly cold

At 8:00am the people doing the Olympic distance headed off, and then at about 8:10am, once they had got sufficiently far away, those of us doing the Sprint (“Express”) were given the green light.

Getting ready to swim!
Swim start!

I stayed at the back of the crowd because I knew I would be slow. Despite having practiced in this lake in the summer, I was unprepared for the chop that the other swimmers stirred up. After getting a couple of lungfuls of water and making a few attempts to swim properly, I decided I was going to have to go to my backup plan of swimming with my head out of the water (like I was ‘sighting’). It was slow going, but I knew I would eventually get there.

On my way I heard people hacking and coughing, one guy asked to hang onto the board of one of the safety kayakers, several people were going breaststroke or swimming on their backs. As we made our way to the swim exit, the first swimmers of the Olympic distance came zooming by.

I was very glad to get out of the water but my plan of running up the beach and the hill into transition didn’t happen – my legs weren’t working! I fast-walked to the top of the hill and once I was on the level, I managed to run to my bike.

After the swim my legs were barely working

Getting the wetsuit off was yet another challenge but I didn’t fall over so I considered that a success. I got my shoes on, got my bike and ran out of transition. Thankfully, no sooner was I on my bike than I was overtaking people everywhere.

Swim (300m): 11m 72s

Transition: 3m 55s

I would consider the bike to be my next weakest section after the swim so I was surprised how well things were going. I’m sure I can thank my training with the Pasadena Triathlon Club and all those hills we had to do. I was also very pleased that I had previewed the course in summer so I knew about the big downhill with the sharp right into a steep uphill that caught out someone who was trying to overtake me.

Heading off on the bike
Returning from the bike leg

I only had time for a few sips of water on the bike, mostly to clear out the taste of duck doos from my mouth, then I was back into transition.

This is where I knew I’d gain time because I was riding in my running shoes. All I had to do was dump the bike and my helmet and get going.

Bike (12km): 30:11 (16.3 mph)

Transition: 1:43

Heading out on the run

Anyone who has run off the bike will tell you, it’s really hard. However, having practiced this as well, I knew that while it feels hard, you are usually running faster than you think. I wasn’t too worried about this feeling, I just kept going, despite the long slow uphill for the first mile and a half. That said, after about a mile I was feeling a bit spaced out so I choked down a GU chew with no water. It did the trick.

Though I am most experienced with running, this leg was hard work. The uphill for the first half was quite a challenge but during the downhill on the way back I was able to make up some time.

Finishing the run and the race

Run (5km): 29m 03s (9:21 /mile pace)

Overall: 1h 16m 39s

I came 10th out of 15 in my age group so I have something to improve on next time!


Posted in Life, Los Angeles, Running

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s our third Thanksgiving since moving to US and I think we hit the traditional high points this year: I ran a Turkey Trot in the morning, then we baked (made chestnut stuffing and made the Christmas Cake), and then we went round to a friend’s place for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast.

Turkey Trot

I was up at 6am to get the train to Downtown LA for the Turkey Trot 5k.  I met a colleague from work (who I’m sure wouldn’t want to be named) and we did the obligatory photos and had a walk about. It was cold COLD cold (for LA).

We set off at 8am from outside City Hall and were immediately faced with two significant hills. The second (which was actually part of the first hill, just further up) was almost one to walk, but since we’d only done about 0.5 miles I wasn’t going to give in.  Luckily after about a mile it was downhill for a good amount of time.  Then after the turnaround at 8th Street it was a long gentle (brutal) uphill to the finish line.  It was especially discouraging to note my Garmin registered 3 miles we were still about 5 minutes from the finish line. Sure enough, according to me the course was an extra 0.3 miles long – which doesn’t sound like a lot, but after 3.1 miles it made a difference!

The good news was I finished 17th in my division – my best result since I restarted running in 2012.




Having realized that it was the end of November and the Christmas Cake still hadn’t been made, I put it together when I got back from the run.  Happily my mother-in-law is in town and was able to give it a stir (as per tradition), but the bad news is that I only soaked the fruit in brandy for 12 hours, instead of the usual 24, so I think the cake has come out a bit dry.

We also made chestnut stuffing (as per my grandfather’s mother’s recipe) to take to dinner.  This dish calls for peeling a pound of hot chestnuts, but luckily my husband was on hand for this unpleasant task.  The stuffing came out great.

Christmas Cake on the left, chestnut stuffing on the right

Feast & Thanks

In the late afternoon we went to friend’s house for a Thanksgiving party/dinner.  We had the opportunity to meet lots of new people, and catch up with others we had met at Christmas at the same house.  We had an amazing meal, and the host gave an inspiring speech.  She noted that the group of guests was diverse in many ways, and especially in national origin, and gave thanks for that and said, “let diversity define us, but also let it unite us.”

It was a fantastic day, and when we are recovered from all the food we are seriously contemplating tackling Black Friday shopping!

Menu: all homemade dishes

So much amazing food

Yes, I did eat all that. And dessert.
Yes, I did eat all that. And dessert.


Posted in Los Angeles

2015 Rose Parade

This morning, New Year’s Day 2015, we got up bright and early and walked to Colorado Blvd to see the 2015 Rose Parade.  Thanks to an invitation from a friend (thanks Bob!) we had a prime spot – with luxuries such as coffee and chairs.

As the amazing floats and oh-so-coordinated marching bands rolled past I took approximately a million photos and many many minutes of video. I have attempted to distil these down to a more manageable amount, and since I’m trying to be timely, let’s begin!

[Please note: I own all the images and video in this post.]

As we walked to Colorado at 8am the 210 freeway was the emptiest we have ever seen it.


There were many places offering paid parking. Prices varied.

Lots people had camped out overnight and things had gotten a little messy.

The parade theme was ‘Inspiring stories’.


There were many excellent floats, all decorated in natural materials only.

There were also many excellent marching bands.

And quite a few groups on horseback (but I only have one photo somehow) … which meant plenty of work for the white-suited girls and boys with the shovels.



Once the parade was over, traffic in the surrounding streets was at a standstill.

And the 210 was jammed as everyone in the world headed to the Rose Bowl for The Game.


And here’s the video:


Question: Inspired?  Want to go with me next year? 🙂


Posted in Life, Los Angeles

Six Months in Pasadena: checklist check

It’s been just over six months since we landed in LA, bleary eyed, trying not to get annoyed at our immigration officer.  I’ve had an absolute ball over the last half a year.  I love the weather, I love Pasadena, I love our house, and I’ve even made a friend or two.

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall

We had a big ‘to do’ list when we arrived and now it’s time to see how we got on:

1. pack up our apartment & 2. say goodbye to everyone – done

Post: California Adventure Begins

In the cactus garden at the Huntington Gardens.
In the cactus garden at the Huntington Gardens.

3. apply for new visas & 4. fly to London to have an interview for said visas – done

Post: Getting an E-3 Visa

London: gotta go see where Sherlock’s filmed!

5. get at least one car – done

Post: Driving in LA


6. find somewhere to live (preferably to buy – so add to the list ‘buy a house’) – so done

Post: Buying a house in Pasadena

Post: Buying a house in Pasadena – part 2

Post: new house interesting mail


7. I have to get a job – not done

So far I’ve put in 14 applications, investigated 3 promising leads, and had one interview.


Aside from the above, in the past six months we’ve also done the following:


  • lived in a hotel for two months [Post: Living at the Residence Inn],
  • moved into our new house, and
  • taken delivery of our storage locker from Australia,
  • and had four separate sets of friends and family to stay at our house.
  • Plus our house was filmed for a TV program! (Battle Creek)
  • We’ve also installed an over-the-range microwave oven [Post: First DIY] and,
  • we (including Dad – thanks Dad!) have made some progress in the garden, [Post: Getting dirty in the garden].

Being tourists:

  • We’ve been to see Griffith Observatory [Post: Griffith Observatory],
  • the Space Shuttle Endeavour (me – four times!),
  • and Mt Wilson Observatory for a viewing night. [Post: Observing Night at Mt Wilson]
  • I also went on a tour of JPL.
  • We’ve been on a road trip to San Francisco [Posts: Pasadena-Berkeley Roadtrip, Sequoia National Park in a Day],
  • and I’ve been on a road trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas [Posts: Roadtrip Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]
  • We’ve been to Huntington Gardens (several times) and the LA Arboretum, and
  • to Beverley Hills and Santa Monica.
  • With Dad, I’ve been to the Hollywood walk of fame (yuck!),
  • to Santa Anita Races,
  • walked along Broadway in Downtown,
  • and taken city skyline photos (with my phone) from various places.

Becoming locals:

For the next six months my plan is:

1. Get a job, or,

2. have a brilliant idea to make a million bucks.

That is all.


Question: What else should we do in LA?


Posted in astronomy, Los Angeles

Observing night at Mt Wilson

Last week we were treated to a fabulous evening at Mt Wilson Observatory.  Michael Long invited us to join a group of JPL interns and LACC students on an observing session on the famous 60-inch telescope.


We left Pasadena at 5.35pm and we met Mike and the others at the gate in plenty of time before the 6.30pm kick-off.


Once everyone had arrived we drove in convoy through the gates.  It was only a short drive along narrow one-way roads before we arrived outside the domes.

The evening formally began with a tour of the ‘most famous telescope in history’ – the 100-inch.  This frankly massive telescope was used by Hubble to discover that the universe is expanding, and that there are many different types and shapes of galaxies outside of our own.  Let’s not forget these discoveries were made in an era where it was commonly believed the Milky Way was the entire universe.

We all spent far too long on the catwalk taking photos and admiring the sunset and soon it was time to head over to the 60-inch.


Mike warned us as we were walking not to wander off too far in the dark.  Hazards include mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and bears, as well as steep drop-offs.


The program observer for the night was Nick, a very knowledgeable man who told us he’d been doing these tours for over a decade.  When we arrived on the observing platform he already had Mars lined up.  We were given another safety briefing, warning us about the 150V DC lines running around the edge of the dome (protected of course) and the truck wheels that move the dome.  Interacting with either of these would not be a good plan.  We were advised to stay in front of the semicircle of chairs and all would be well.  Keeping out of the way of the telescope when it was being slewed was also a requirement, since ‘the telescope won’t even care as it knocks you over’.

Nick showed us how to look through the telescope. The eyepiece was on the Cassegrain focus, and we would often need to use a big stepladder to get to it.  We were free to step on any blue-colored part of the telescope, and to focus the eyepiece to suit ourselves.  We were asked not to press any of the inviting red backlit buttons near the eyepiece though.

So, to Mars! We lined up and took turns to climb the ladder to the eyepiece.  Mars was a smallish fuzzy red blob and I imagined I could see a faintly darker section of the disk.  I also imagined that it wasn’t a completely round.  Checking this website later and it looks like I was right – it did have a slight phase on it!


Then, as Mars began to set, Nick quickly shifted the telescope to Saturn. This was easily the most spectacular object of the whole night (when isn’t it?). Everyone uttered ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as they saw it.  It was yellow and featureless, and we could see the amazing rings.  Viewing with slightly averted vision revealed the Cassini division in the rings.   I could also clearly see four of the moons. I tried to take a photo with my phone but it was quite hard to line up the camera with the pupil!


At this point the temperature in the dome started to drop noticeably and complimentary hot chocolate was very tempting. The skies darkened as people went back for a second look at Saturn.  This was nearly the last picture of the night for me as my camera battery died and my phone wasn’t up to the job.

The next object we saw was M13, a globular cluster.  It seemed small compared to the more familiar-to-me southern hemisphere Omega Cen, but individual stars were clearly visible.  Then, the Cat’s Eye nebula was lined up by Nick.  This is a planetary nebula – a dying star surrounded by shells of it’s own blown-off gas.  Spectacular.

We saw Epsilon Lyrae next, known as the ‘double double’.  Four stars in total, two sets of two.  It seemed that the two stars that made up each binary were equally separated. Very nice indeed.

As Nick moved the telescope in an orderly way across the sky our next object was M57 – the Ring Nebula.  This is a similar object to the Cats Eye nebula but much fuzzier. There was no obvious central star.

Alberio, another double star swiftly followed. This pair of stars is a wider binary than each of those of the double-double.  One was clearly white, and the other clearly yellow.

The last object for us of the night was Campbell’s hydrogen star – a Wolf Rayet star.  This was another fuzzy one, but very small, even with the magnification boosted from 300x to 500x.  We could just make out a faint red tinge to the glow.

And then it was time for us to leave – it was only 11pm but one of us had work the next day!  The JPLers and LACCers had the telescope until 1am and I’m sure they saw many more fabulous objects.

I would highly recommend an observing night at Mt Wilson.  While the price may seem steep, once it’s divided by 10-15 people, it’s excellent value for money.  Not only do you get to look through a telescope that was once the largest in the world, and was used to make unprecedented discoveries about the universe, you get a spectacular view of Los Angeles on the drive back down the mountain!


For more information, here’s the Mt Wilson Observatory website: