I envy people who find time during the week to sit down and enjoy breakfast before starting the day. Me? I get up around 6 (which is the earliest I can convince myself to get out of bed), shower and get ready then grab something on my way out the door and eat it either in the car on my way to the train station or on the train once I'm settled in. It's hectic, and may not be the ideal start to the day, but I think it's better than skipping breakfast entirely. I usually like to grab fresh fruit and something starchy to go with it. A few weeks ago, I whipped these muffins up using some of the first fresh raspberries I purchased this summer. I halved the recipe to yield 6 muffins, as I really require a lot of variety for breakfast and knew I'd be ready to move on to something new after 6. They froze well, I just took one out of the freezer before I went to bed each night and it was completely defrosted by the morning. The muffins are very tender and sweet - absolutely delightful to me! Though the raspberries did offer a bit of tartness, if you prefer less sweet items for breakfast, you'll probably want to reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup. Also, if you don't have raspberries on hand, you could definitely make these with blueberries.
[I'll warn you now, the remainder of the post is picture heavy. Big thanks to Shane's dad for letting me include many of his photos. You can find the recipe at the very bottom of the post if you want to skip ahead.]
Though most of the muffins were gobbled up during the work week, I reserved one for last weekend. Sunday morning we had to be out the door by 4:15 am to head to Shane's race, and I knew there simply wasn't going to be any time to think about breakfast (for me anyway; Shane made sure to get plenty of fuel in his body for the day ahead). I can't recall the last time I've been up so early - it was pitch black outside, we had to turn our outside light on just to make our way to the car with all of the race gear. With the car loaded, we began the drive from our home in the northeast corner of Rhode Island down to the southern coast. It's a gorgeous part of the state (holding a special place in my heart as my college town) and I was excited to be back.
The first order of business when we got to the race site was to get the tires on the new bike to juuuuust the right pressure.
From there it was over to the transition area, with a brief stop for body marking. Race officials (volunteers, I think) write a competitor's race number and age on his arms and calf, respectively.
Spectators generally aren't allowed in the transition area (the area where the competitors switch from their swim gear into their cycling gear), and this race was no different. I think I actually prefer this view anyway. I love the controlled chaos of all of the competitors' bikes lined up on the racks. Shane donned his wetsuit and he was off to get ready for the first leg of the race.
A half Ironman is a 70.3 mile race which consists of a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike and finally a 13.1 mile run. The swimmers start in waves, and Shane's was scheduled to go off at 6:20 am. Now that I was a bit more awake, I was really enjoying this early morning on the beach. I took in a wonderful sunrise with the sand between my toes, waiting for Shane to get started.
I secured a great spot right outside of the start area so I was able to snag a few photos of Shane as his wave moved through the corral. The atmosphere was awesome - upbeat music, gorgeous weather, a lively announcer - it was definitely one of my favorite starts to any of the triathlons I've attended.
As the start drew close, the competitors looked more and more focused and intense. Shane was no exception. It was his first half Ironman and I can only imagine the thoughts that were running through his head as he faced this huge challenge.
The gun went off at exactly 6:20 (yes, right on time - the organization and planning at this race couldn't have been better, it was a great experience for spectators) and they were off! The swim is always a little nerve wracking for me. All of the swimmers look the same once they get in the water and it's virtually impossible to keep track of Shane. I took up residence by the swim exit and waited patiently. I knew approximately how long it'd take for his swim so I was ready when he emerged from the water!
At this point, the competitors are all trying to get their wetsuits off so they can make the transition to their cycling gear in the shortest time possible.
This race was interesting in that the bike leg didn't loop around and finish where it started. Rather, the competitors hopped on their bikes and began the 56-mile journey up the length of the state to our capital city - Providence. There are some definite perks to being the smallest state, and I would argue that biking across the state in just a few hours is pretty cool! For me, the task was a bit easier :) I hopped in the car and although I'd originally planned to head straight to Providence, I wound up meeting up with my mom in my hometown, around the 25-mile mark of the bike leg to provide a little encouragement for Shane. Things were going well; he felt good enough to strike a pose for me as he passed.
Eventually, I did head to Providence, where I met up with Shane's parents. His dad captured some great shots, including this one as Shane approached the end of the bike leg. You can see the capitol building in the background.
While the weather had been nice down at the beach, it was brutal in Providence - hot and humid with intense sun. I felt concern and sympathy for Shane as he left the second transition area to head off for his 13.1 mile run. To make matters worse, there wasn't a whole lot of shade along the course.
I love this picture from Shane's dad. I think it really captures just how difficult the race was at this point. The competitors coming up the hill look beat.
Fortunately, there were plenty of spots along the course for the racers to hydrate and even pick up wet sponges to cool themselves down. Shane told me he put the sponges in his hat in an attempt to keep cool.
The course consisted of two 6 mile loops and in this photo, Shane is heading out on his second loop. The capitol building is in the background, and the red building to the left is the Providence Place Mall.
After Shane had passed me on his second loop, I made my way to the finish line to wait for him and also to meet up with a few of our friends who were kind enough to come and lend their support. The finish was just as terrific as the start - the announcer was a lot of fun and the crowd was lively, cheering for everyone as they came down the finish chute. It was still brutally hot, but I think we felt bad complaining given that we were just standing there while the athletes ran a half marathon!
Luckily, Shane's dad is tall and was able to capture a shot of Shane crossing the finish line! He finished in just over six and a half hours (the clock at the finish began running at 6 am, 20 minutes before Shane's swim wave went off) - a fantastic time, especially given the weather and the fact that it was his first attempt at a half-Ironman!! Congratulations to Shane, what an amazing accomplishment! It was a really fun day and I'm already looking forward to this summer's next triathlon.
Cinnamon Raspberry Muffins
adapted from Gourmet, July 2006 (as seen on Annie's Eats)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups raspberries
coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F with a rack in the center. Place paper liners in a muffin pan with 12 wells.
In a medium bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, milk, and egg until well combined. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the raspberries with a rubber spatula.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle coarse sugar over the top of each, if using. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 12 muffins