wattie ink

What happens between November and March…

I’ve done and accomplished many things since I last wrote a blog update. I guess I’ll blame Chicago’s winter for my lack of writing… Although it hasn’t stopped me from riding my bike to work every day and walking everywhere (both of which I love!) So I’m going to go through a quick highlight of coolest, most fun, and most impactful things that have occurred up until now.

In November, my parents came to visit for the first time here in Chicago, which was a blast. They were able to stay with me at my apartment and then tour the city and do everything they wanted whilst I was at work, and then I was able to meet then for dinner and do some other fun things. They then drove the 3 of us to Pittsburgh where we spent Thanksgiving with the family at my cousin’s new house. She and her husband moved there from Tulsa, so we collectively got to do some exploring.

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In December, I took the most epic trip I’ve ever been on. My cousin Stephen and I took a 10-day trip to Costa Rica. We started in San Jose, the capital, and rented a car and drove to Arenal, the country’s biggest volcano. It also happens to be a rain forest… and it rained for the entire day we were there. Thus, instead of waiting around to see if it would stop, we hopped in the car a day earlier than planned and headed to the beach!

Sloth again

Sloth!!

Mt. Arenal

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Sloth!

Tamarindo picture

After 4 hours on the treacherous Costa Rican roads, we arrived in beautiful Tamarindo, a beach town on the Western Coast. Leaving a day early was a great decision and we toured the city and body-surfed in the Pacific all day. From there, we moved to a nearby hotel for a couple more days, then drove south to Samara (spending the majority of our time in Nosara, a surf-town in between Samara and Tamarindo) before spending a fun night in San Jose before flying home.

Resort pictures

I can’t remember which activities we did in which city, but here are the activities we got to do and some pictures!

  • Mountain biking
  • Left cell phone in mountain biking guides truck…
  • Surfing
  • Went to a Costa Rican “Discotecha”
  • ATV riding
  • Hiking and driving through a crazy forest on barely-existent roads
  • Body-surfed some epic waves at different beaches
  • Saw a sloth
  • Saw howler monkeys
  • Got our car stuck in a river… and consequently made friends with locals who help us lift it out…
  • Ate Brahman (grass-fed Costa Rican cattle)
  • Got stung by jellyfish (in the worst possible places)
  • Went zip-lining
  • Worked out at a tiny, sweltering gym in Samara
  • Walked around San Jose central marker

Tamarindo

Samara hotel

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Off-roading

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Crossing Costa Rican "river road"

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IN the river...

Coming back to Chicago in the middle of winter from Costa Rica is a pretty hard transition.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but I started taking Improv classes at Second City back in April. This has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I plan to write a lot more about it in the future. In short, I just graduated from their Improv program last week after completing Level A through E! Friends and I have done some shows around the city and I was also part of a Coached Ensemble recently, doing a 4 week run of shows on the Second City stage.

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I also took a hip-hop improv class, called Yes Yes Y’all, late last year which was a blast! YouTube videos to come...

I’m now taking an Auditioning For The Screen workshop and plan to take an acting class beginning in April.  I don’t have an end goal, but I’m excited to see where this all goes.

Lastly, I’m stoked to announce that I’ll be racing for the Wattie Ink Elite Triathlon Team again this year! This team is comprised of such an amazing group of people and I’m so proud to be a part of it. Check out my sponsors page as well for more on some of the amazing sponsors our team has. I’m also excited to announce a few new partners in a couple weeks as well!

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I’ve been doing an indoor triathlon series put on by my local gym. I’ll write about the whole series after the championships in April, but it has been a lot of fun doing smaller distance-for-time style races to even a full indoor Olympic distance race this past weekend! Last week I got to again with one of my AWESOME teammates, Cate!

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That’s it. I’ve got some cool stuffed planned over the next month that I am really excited to bring to fruition and highlight here! Here’s a hint—if you are doing something that’s cool (anything!) and want to talk about it, let me know!

Be easy--

Adventure Racing!

With my triathlon season coming to a close at the end of August (thanks to not having a car and living in the middle of Chicago), my focus switched to obstacle racing! As soon as I made the decision to move to Chicago, I immediately signed up for my 4th Men's Health Urbanathlon. I had done this race 3 times previously, here in Chicago, and it's by far one of my favorite races. Plus, it's in downtown Chicago, so I can get there. I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was doing this race and he told me he was doing a Spartan Race two weeks before the Urbanathlon. I desperately wanted to do this Spartan Race, but even though it was in "Chicago", it was over an hour away and I didn't have a way to get there. Luckily, my awesome friend wasn't doing the race with anyone, so we were able to carpool and get a hotel.

The race was a Spartan Super: 8+ miles of trail running and obstacles! Our wave got pushed back to 1:45 pm, which actually turned out perfect for me because I hate morning races. My body doesn't really wake up till 1 pm or so, and therefore I was able to really feel awake and ready to rock.

Within half a mile of starting the race, we were submerged in chest deep mud and water. There was no avoiding it. The keys to this race were being a strong runner, being agile and swift, being strong, and being alright with getting hurt. Also, being able to run in soaked and muddy shoes.

For every obstacle you weren't able to complete, the punishment was 30 burpees.  I ended up doing somewhere between 90-150 burpees, but mostly for avoidable reasons (messed up the spear throw by having the cord wrapped around my leg, falling off a 6-inch high balance beam, and slipping off the monkey bars, to name a few). I was really pleased with ability on a number of the obstacles though, mainly the rope climb. For this obstacle, you started in chest-deep water, then had to grab a rope above you, climb 20 feet into the air and ring a bell at the top, then climb down.  I'm very grateful now that I taught myself to climb a rope back at my old gym in Tampa.

I finished the race in just over 2 hours. I was really happy with this time, but was frustrated because I would have at least 20 minutes faster were it not for a huge jam up where at least 100 people were all trying to get up an impossible mudbank. It's all good, but I'll remember that for next time!

Rock the W!

A while later, I saw my friend making his way toward the finish line, but he was struggling by this point after a long day. I knew how hard the last obstacle were and that he wouldn't be able to (as I wasn't) get over the last couple without someone to help.  So I asked the staff if I could go back in, which they let me do! Together, we pulled him over the last hurdle (which was a slippery, sloped wall, covered in water and mud) and crossed the finish line together! It was such a great finish and amazing race!

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I can't wait for my next race and am already planning a lot of obstacle racing for next year. With my strength being running, plus my willingness to suffer and my love of lifting, this type of race caters much more to me. Here are some tips that I will remember for my next race and hopefully will help you in you in your next race:

  1. Know your strengths! I knew that some of the strength obstacles would take me longer, but that I could make up ground with my running. Therefore, every time I got the chance, I would run hard.
  2. Learn how to run downhill. I've been lucky enough to do a fair amount of trail running and have had some good friends who've taught me to run downhill well.  You basically swing your arms out wide and take big steps and just barrel down the hill. It looks super dangerous, but its safe if you know how to do it right.
  3. Lift! You have to be strong to be competitive in these races. Lifting strengthens your both physically and mentally and those are key factors in this race.
  4. Help other racers and allow yourself to receive help. The only reason I made it up that mudbank I mentioned above was due to working with a few other guys and basically making a ladder out of ourselves to take turns climbing up. When we reached the top, we each instinctively turned around and started pulling other people up who were struggling. While I wanted to do well, the camaraderie is more rewarding than the podium in a race like this.
  5. However, if you do want the podium, like I would like to see in the future, chose the right wave. I'd like to go elite at obstacle racing next year and will be signing up for races to be in the first pack of elite racers who are the first on the course.

Fire Jump

Two weeks after the Spartan was the Men's Health Urbanathlon, which takes place right in downtown Chicago. I had absolutely no expectation going into this race since i had no idea where my fitness level would be. I always train hard, but had been doing less running mileage.

The race, as always, was fantastic. The obstacles weren't nearly as hard as the Spartan, but this race was 10.6 miles, colder, and had the added "fun" of Chicago winds. In fact, I don't know if I've ever felt like I was going "with" the wind since I've moved to this city... The obstacles in this race were more of crawling under obstacles, jumping over obstacles, and some more challenging tasks like 5 foot military hurdles, which aren't difficult if you approach them correctly.

The killer in this race, though, is the 1-mile worth of stairs you climb inside Soldier Field! (The Bears stadium). The portion consisted of running up, over, and down, the top tier of the stadium over and over. Talk about a quad burner.

The race ran North up Lake Shore, around Navy Pier, and back down Lake Shore past the Museum Campus, through Soldier Field, then around the Convention Center, before finishing in the parking lot of Soldier Field (If you've read Divergent, I know you're picturing this...)

The last obstacle of the race is what has killed me each previous year--the 9 foot wall. In past years, I've been so close to getting over, but having someone grab a leg and help me at the end. Feeling much stronger this year, I took a much more aggressive approach and flung myself up the wall! One of the race staff started to reach for my leg to help me out and I just remember screaming "NOOOOO! Don't touch me!" to make sure I got over all on my own : )

As for results, I finished 37th of 1,500, 8th in my age group of 227, and had the 13th fastest split overall on the Stairs! I was really happy with this!

I'm looking forward to writing again soon about a ton of other fun stuff that's been going on mixed with plenty of personal things I've been working on. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Lake Zurich Triathlon Race Report

A few weeks ago I finally got to race my first triathlon of this year! After seeing a bunch of my teammates at the Chicago ITU race a few weeks before, I was itching to race. That night, I signed up for the Lake Zurich Triathlon, a nearby triathlon. I didn't know how I was going to get there, just simply that I was going to race. Getting to the race was no easy task. My plan was to take the train to my aunt's house, sleep over there, borrow her car the next morning and drive to the race, then drive back to her house, and take the train back home. Turns out I chose the ONE weekend of the year that you can't take bikes on the train (due to the Taste of Chicago)... After lugging all my tri gear to the train station with me (and managing to not crash on my bike there) I was crushed when the conductor told me I couldn't board. After pleading my case for the next 15 minutes, he decided to break the rules and be a decent guy and let me on. Thanks conductor--you're awesome.

The rest was pretty simple--except that they didn't have my registration when I got to the race site that morning. Turns out I had just signed up late but there were no issues with me racing.

The water temperature was awesome; wetsuit legal but not too cold. I wore my Wattie Ink exclusive BlueSeventy wetsuit and got off well with the age group pack I was in. My swim was feeling strong but, as has happened in many races before (only is open-water, wetsuit races), my left shoulder started aching. I don't know how to describe the feeling except that it felt like there were only so many strokes I could take in a row, or only so much power I could put behind the stroke before I had to give that arm a second of rest. I gave my shoulders a ton of warming up before the race in fear of this, but it still happened. If anyone has any insight, I'd love to hear it!

I came out of the water in a time I was pleased with given the circumstance. My bike was ready to go, but after scratching the visor on my helmet, I had opted to remove it and race with sun glasses instead. My Rudy Project glasses look sick anyway, so it was a good move.

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H/T teammate Cate Demet for this image (these are her glasses and picture but I have the same pair)! Image source: Rudy Project

The bike was a 2 loop rolling course so you had the benefit of learning the course during the first lap and attacking more aggressively on the second lap. The course had enough hills that it was fun but not so many that you couldn't still go consistently fast. I was caught by a few of the strong older guys, but spent of the time passing earlier waves.

I much preferred riding without the visor on my helmet as I could see a lot clearer and didn't have to worry about to the visor fogging up, especially early on during the bike. Nor did I have to worry when trying to wipe away any sweat or water that would collect on the visor.

I decided to really push hard on the bike and had one of my fastest bike splits to date on an olympic course. This left me more tired for the run, respectively, but I still felt good. It was my first run of that distance in a while--my training as of late has been much more focused on short intervals and tempo work, so I was happy to be able to keep the pace I did.

The run was 2 laps as well. On the first lap I felt strong, but knew I would be hurting by the end (but that's supposed to be the case!) I started running alongside a guy in an older age group and paced with him for most of the race. He actually was passing me and I wasn't going to let that happen, so I filed in immediately behind him and basically drafted off him. Whether drafting during a run is mental or there really is some benefit, it seemed to work! At one point I ran up next to him said "Just to let you know, I'm not trying to be a dick, just trying to keep up!" His response was something like "Fuck you kid, you're 20 years younger than me!"  To which I just gave a grin... While there was nothing memorable about the run course, I would rate it as "difficult". It was all pavement and only partially shaded with small rolling hills.

I finished with a time I was happy with! I placed 3rd in my age group and in the top 10% overall. It felt really, really good to medal in my first race in 7 months. I'd really like to figure out this shoulder issue and see how well I could do in the swim if I could really give it my all.

 

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A fun start to the season and I'm looking forward to a few more races I have planed for this year! Let me know if anyone has insight on my shoulder issue!

- Rock the W -

 

From San Diego to Chicago (and into the Polar Vortex....)

My time in San Diego was not only amazing, but exactly what I needed to do for myself. I have no regrets about leaving my job in Tampa and spending 6 months in San Diego working as a personal trainer, helping launch a business, and making some amazing friends. What I did realize, however, was that a part of me felt like I was treading water--not making progress down my life path. Granted, while every single thing that I  did was, in fact, making progress with my self, internally and externally, I knew that it couldn't last forever. After getting confirmation on Christmas eve, I have taken a new job and moved back across the country, this time to Chicago!

This called for another epic road trip, only this time my dad flew out, helped me pack, and made the trip with me. Literally, everything I own fit in (and on top) of my car. My first reaction to this was "wow, everything I own can fit in my car!" Followed closely by my second reaction "why do I have so much shit??"

Loaded up

After an awesome surprise going-away-get-together with some friends and saying goodbye to my awesome roommate, my dad got everything packed in one day and shoved off: First stop, Vegas!

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We spent the next 3 days basically just hanging out in Henderson, NV, right outside Las Vegas, with my dad's best friend and my Godfather, Scott, whom I've gone and hung out with man times over the past year. It was really nice to just relax, ride some bikes, and enjoy my last moments of warm weather. Scott and I got an epic ride in, riding 43 miles all the way to Boulder City, with 2,300 feet of climbing and getting to see some gorgeous desert scenery.

Rockin the W

It seems that, indeed, my Dad and Scott are actually old dudes. The highlight of the weekend for me was watching them just glued to the TV screen for 3 hours watching Downton Abbey. It was hysterical. I, instead, went down to the strip and tried my luck and some roulette.

After Vegas, we got back on the road and headed for our next stop, which was Grand Junction, Colorado. One of my goals on the trip was to stop at as many random places as possible to commemorate the journey.  The first of those: The giant soda cans in Utah!

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I don't know why they exist, but they're awesome

At the same stop as the cans, we figured it was a good place to get some lunch. Little did we know what some good Utahan cooking consisted of! We checked out a place called "Mom's Diner", a sure classic, right? We lasted about 5 minutes in there... My dad, a guy who just can't be rude, decided to order a scone so that we didn't have to order a meal. It turns out a "scone" means something else in Utah...

It was so. bad.

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He tried to eat it but couldn't stomach it. I hid it some napkins and we snuck out of the restaurant.

Besides it's scones, Utah is absolutely gorgeous!! You almost feel like you're on another planet.  Here are some gratuitous landscape shots:

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That night we arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado. We had left warm weather sometime long ago in Nevada... but we managed to find a great local brewery and get a great dinner. The Ale House had some really nice local brews and great collection of old cans.

Pictures of taking pictures... super meta

Great collection on vintage cans

After our quick sojourn in Grand Junction, we grabbed a great workout and headed on to Denver. This drive was, again, gorgeous. But also incredibly frightening. We hit some bad snow going over Vail Pass, at about 10,000 feet elevation, and were driving on, or in, snow for most of the time.

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My dad, being from upstate New York, did a lot of the snow driving (and also so I could read out loud to him from different training websites about dead-lifting, glute activation, and shoulder rehab...) My favorite moment though was when we hit some bad snow and ice coming down the mountain. Traffic stopped pretty quick and my dad started pumping the brakes but it looked like we might hit the car in front of us. He yells at me "Chuck, I can't stop!" I guess I just don't get that excited, but my, very calm, response was "what the hell do you want me to do about it? Here, turn left." Luckily we got out unscathed.

We finally got into Denver where we spent 2 nights so that I could see a ton of friends I have there. You might recall, but I spent most of summer there a year and half ago and that city and the people had an incredible, life-changing, impact on my life.

The first thing I got to in Denver was meet up with an awesome girl whom I met last year and who still lives in Denver where she is going to school. We met up for dinner... and not only was it amazing to see her  maintaining the personality and liveliness that she had when I saw her last, but at our meal there was no guilt, no shame, no anxiety, nor any destructive thinking. I loved it.

The next day was literally one of the best days I've had in a long time. The first thing I did was head over to the Eating Recovery Center, where I spent the better part of 4 months, and got to sit down with my entire treatment team that I worked with during my time there. They were all doing great and it was fantastic to be able to speak with them all like friends and to let them know that, yes, I of course still have some struggles, but that everything they did for me was amazing and that I am doing great.

After that meeting, I headed up a bit north of Denver and met another, more recent friend of mine, Jeremey, for lunch. Jeremey is a trainer as well, but has recently made the switch to a more digital-publishing based role, although he still writes for sites like Menshealth.com and Greatist.com. We caught up and talked about life, fitness, writing, life goals... all that good stuff.

After that, I headed back to the other site for the ERC and met with a another member of my treatment team. This guy is someone that I can always count on to be there for when I need an ear and also knows how to help. And, usually, that "help" is just being able to say to me, "hey, I don't know what you're going through, I've never been through it myself, but know that I am here for you and I know that you're struggling." I'm hoping to collaborate a bit with in the future on some resources for males dealing with eating disorders.

Finally, I spent some time just walking around Denver before meeting a last set of friends for dinner. This couple recently just had an amazing little boy, and, no joke, he's a cutie.

Baby!

The next morning, after grabbing a workout, we shoved of across the great plains to make our way to Lincoln, Nebraska, where we planned to stay the night. This was the most difficult driving I've ever done! I've never been in wind that strong, and was petrified that the rooftop carrier was going to be blown off the car and that my bikes were going to go flying off the back! Luckily, this didn't happen, but we literally saw 18-wheeler trucks that had been blown over onto their sides from the force of the wind.

Basically a hurricane

This day was full of goofy stops. While I wanted to stop at "Pawnee Park and Recreation Center" and pay homage to one of my favorite shows, it was too dark and out of the way when we got there. However, we did stop and see the biggest ball of stamps in the world!!

Stamps!

After a thrilling morning of stamps, we decided to stop at the one and only Volkswagen Beetle Spider! When we stopped to ask for directions, the guy we talked to asked if I'd seen Cadillac Ranch, to which I was able to say "why yes I have!" (Thank you road trip to San Diego!)

It's poisonous

Once we finally got to Lincoln, we met up with a family friend whom we hadn't seen since we moved from Texas about 14 years ago

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Finally, it was a straight shot into Chicago and another full day of driving. Nothing super exciting happened that day, that I remember, except finding random British and Irish candy in a gas station in Iowa and then driving under this bridge:

Some Bridge

That night we stayed with my... Great aunt(?), my dad's aunt, I believe, who lives a bit outside Chicago and sort of gave us a home-base as we prepared to move me in, plus gave my dad a place to stay. The next morning, of course, it started to snow, to make my move-in experience perfectly "wonderful". As you may not know, I hate being cold and get cold incredibly quickly, so I'm learning the art of "bundling up"! Thank God my mom found my old snow boots from high school and sent them with my dad so that I would have them.

My new place is in a cool neighborhood right outside downtown. The move-in wasn't too hard... just cold

Brr....

But you know cures coldness? Deep Dish pizza!

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We went to Lou Malnati's and it was awesome--although, according to my roommate, and which I whole heartedly agree and wish he'd told us before we ate, the best way to order it is with the sausage crumbled and fully cooked.  Point noted for next time.

And that was it! My walk to work is less than a mile which is great, but bundling up takes me a lot longer in the morning... but it's worth it to be here!

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Making this trip with dad was amazing and makes realize that I need to spend more time with him and my whole family. It will be great to just a quick, direct flight back to DC to hang out with them.

Thanks for reading!

Updates as a Preface

It's been 4 months since I last blogged, and that's not for a lack of things to blog about, as I've certainly been busy.  I actually just got back from a 10-day trip to Ireland where my parents and I went over for a huge Feerick family reunion in our families hometown of Ballinrobe, in county Mayo, on Ireland's western coast. I saw, learned, and did so much when I was over there that I really want to share the experience and am going to break it up into 3 posts--one for each leg of the trip. But before I get into those posts (and because I'm waiting for everyone from our party to send me their pictures...), I wanted to give a quick update on everything that's been going on since I arrived here in San Diego!

I've just passed four months here and am keeping busy with my new jobs. In addition to the job which I moved out here for, I've also gotten back into Personal Training and am working for 24-Hour Fitness at one of the companies biggest and busiest gyms in the country. I am loving being back in the training game and as well as helping others, I'm learning a ton about my own training and have made a lot of adjustments to my programming and goals. With most of my racing done for the year, I'm trying to really put on some muscle and size because... well, why not?

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In the last week of July, my dad, brother, and Godfather (Dad's best friend) took a trip to the Grand Canyon! It was a crazy trip--I thought it was going to be hot desert the whole time, but I was sorely mistaken.  We went to the North rim, which is the north side of the Canyon and sits at about 8,700 feet high. It was cold and we got a daily monsoon, along with a pop-up camper that didn't have any power or water working... but it was a blast hanging out with the guys. My brother wasn't going to come but was able to at the last minute, and that reallllly saved me!  Here are some pictures from the trip:

More of the Canyon

The canyon

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Keeping fit with my little bro

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Camp

Point sublime

Red Rock Canyon

Chillin at camp

Billy-goating (scrambling up rocks)

The camping squad

The last night, we came back early (not at all because I was frozen...) and Stewart (my brother) and I had an awesome time out in Las Vegas

A few weeks later, I did a local olympic distance triathlon with one of my Wattie Ink teammates, James Adams. The race was fun and was all through the grounds of the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center which actually made it a lot more entertaining.  I have a solid race--decent swim, solid bike, and fastest run in my age group, which I'll take being that I hadn't been running much.  After this race, I cut my cardio down just a little bit and have really amped up the strength training.

I also finally got the new tattoo I've been planning for over a year now. This will be my last! A quote my dad has always told me when I am having a hard time is "Anxiety is merely another form of atheism."  I had this translated into Latin and behind the lettering I drew a rose with 5 thorns.  The rose is a family name, Rosemary for my grandma who passed last year, and Rose after my younger sister's middle name. The 5 thorns represent the 5 members of my family.

Down my left ribcage and side

This was right after the tattoo was finished so the skin was still inflamed... but now I'm thinking about shading some red on the rose just like it looks here...

Later in August, I was back in Vegas for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships with over 40 of my Wattie Ink Teammates!  I wasn't racing, just hanging out and cheering for everyone. Our pro athletes in the race did really well! Heather Jackson took second overall and Joe Gambles took third.  It was an amazing weekend hanging out with everyone. The best part was going on a ride with my godfather (who I stayed with) the day before the race. We had been planning to ride together for a while, but this trip we finally got the chance to bike through the hills of Las Vegas together!

Me and teammate Jake Steen

Heather Jackson taking second place

 

Lastly, I went to a Lil Wayne concert, featuring 2 Chainz, and T.I! T.I. has been my favorite rapper since way back in the day before he was mainstream and this was my first time to get to see him. It was a really fun concert and Lil Wayne puts on a wild performance!

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And that brings us to now--or right before the Ireland trip.  I'll post about it as soon as I have all the pictures I want!

Anyone else been to Ireland? If so, what part?

--Chuck