Thursday, August 31, 2006
But it didn’t stop there. “You could try not taking up the whole fu?#*n’ path” he said as continued to zip down the hill.
For a moment, I was dumbfounded. Did someone just yell, and curse, at me while running? In my 16 years of running, I can’t think of one time that I have ever been yelled at, up close, by someone on the path. In fact, I am the lollipop princess of this path, smiling and waving to anyone that passes me on horse, foot, or bike. I tried to get a closer look as he rode further away, and noticed nothing that significant other than the fact that he was wearing headphones, no helmet, and riding a clunker of a mountain bike. Enough said.
I kept running and noticed that though he was on the bike, my pace wasn’t that far off of his. Angry that this person intruded upon my time with their anger, their cursing, I felt compelled to chase this man down. I was about 1 hour and 40 minutes into the run and I was pushing into the wind mostly uphill. A woman on a mountain bike rode towards me and I almost felt like asking to borrow her bike for 5 minutes because that is all it would take to gap the distance between him and me. And once I caught up with him what would I say? This thought entertained me for the next 6 minutes as I ran towards a phantom menace riding his bike to the corner of the path. I came up with a hundred variations of snippy, rude, mean, biting, sarcastic comments to throw his way, in the middle of his ride, on this beautiful summer night.
I got over the hill and approached the corner and expected he would be there waiting at the light to cross the street and just as I got closer and ready to unleash a fury of words, thoughts, and remarks from my own angry mind, I realized that he was gone. There would be no justice, no confrontation. He rode away with this one.
Part of me was relieved. Really, if I had caught up to him what would I have said that would have made any difference to this man? I just wanted him to understand that no one has the right to force their frustration, bad mood, or poor manners on another person’s time. If I choose to be running for recreation on the path, and I happen to be hogging the left side and there is no one visibly around, take the right side. It happens all the time. It’s a multi-user path.
I was beginning to think that someone had placed a target on me that can only be seen by the mean, angry, vapid people of Illinois with nothing better to do than harass the fit and athletic people of Illinois (all 20 of us...). Two days earlier, I was riding on the edge of a far western suburb which was mostly bordered by cornfields and dotted by a randomly placed McMansion, when a pick-up truck driving in the opposite direction honked at me. This has happened before, but it surprised me that indeed there were two idiots living in two separate cities that apparently shared the same brain and the same disdain for a female cyclist riding up a hill in the other direction.
Lately, it seems that incidents like this happen at least once a day. I was starting to think that maybe I was getting careless or sloppy with my riding or running, that I was deserving of the horn-honking, finger-flicking, cussing that was coming my direction. And then I was out on a ride with my coach the other day, when a woman in a, yes you’ve got it, Lexus SUV not only honked at us, but slowed with her windows rolled down to yell something at us. On a Sunday morning. In the middle of central Illinois. At 8 am. Not wanting my coach to see the psycho-lunatic, will chase you to your driveway demon that sometimes exists inside of me, I stayed quiet. No sooner was I surprised to see her dart off and yell a little of this and that at the woman.
From there we started talking about one of the rarely mentioned side effects of Ironman training. We of Ironman are out there so much, so often, that we have significantly increased the likelihood of experiencing one of these nasty encounters of cursing and honking while on the path or the road. Whereas in the past I might be on my bike for 90 minutes and miss most of the idiots in between, when you’re out there for 6 hours and 45 minutes you’re more likely to run into them. In fact, you run into them so much that you begin to hate the roads, and hate to ride, and hate to run because you never know when you might fall victim to yet another senseless verbal attack from another senseless Illinois stranger.
Perhaps one of the most important things I’ve learned from Ironman training is that while I continue to pursue bigger and tougher challenges in both my professional and personal life, there are people out there so pent up, so poorly mannered, so ignorant that they are only capable of challenging others by shouting, cursing, or name-calling at them. What is saddening is that most of these incidents occur to me within the western suburbs of Chicago. I find myself thinking that even though I live in one of the most affluent and educated areas of the country, where the median income is probably twice as much as other areas, that no amount of money, or education, or affluence, or luxury vehicles, or large houses, or expendable income can purchase intelligence, or manners, or common sense.
Even further surprising to me is that I’ve ran all over and I’ve never encountered the type of rude, crass, and ignorant behavior that I’ve encountered around Illinois.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, running along the Kalamazoo River Path. An industrial town in a reawakening where most of the men seemed to pass their days with fishing along the river. As I ran up and down that path, lined with men, not one said a word to me. I ran 3 days in that town and heard nothing but the river rolling over the rocks.
Forks, Washington, running in the early morning while visiting Olympic National Park. A logging town so sleepy, so nestled, so Twin-Peakish that I was afraid the Log Lady would jump out and accost me. No such luck. I even ran by groups of children waiting for school buses – no one threw a log my way.
Montreal, Quebec – a city so French and shady in parts that you almost feel dirty just walking through it. So I ran. Past strip clubs with men lingering late from the night or early for the morning. No one flashed any ones at me.
New Orleans, Louisiana – Chris and I ran to prove that indeed you could get farther, faster on foot than by taking the trolley car. We ran along the trolley route until it hit something – it stopped and we kept going. In a city known for it’s loud debauchery and flagrant sin, we were not heckled, ogled, or harassed.
Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota – when god created a perfect place, he named it Minnesota. And to keep all of the idiots out, he also made it cold. Whether it’s cold or mild, Minneapolis is a city that moves. Run up and down the riverfront path and you’ll never be alone, you’ll never be bored by the wooded view along the river, and you’ll never be bothered.
Honolulu, Oahu – the last day of my honeymoon, I woke up early for a run in Honolulu. Running along Waikiki Beach, with views of Diamond Head along the way, I was greeted by each and every runner than passed by – and there were dozens.
Maybe running, cycling, and other fitness activities just haven’t caught on yet in Illinois. Maybe that’s why there are so many people that shout and cuss and chase us down. But I was thinking Illinoisians might want to rethink that one because I heard the other day that over 60 percent of people in Illinois qualify as overweight or obese. Maybe once Illinois does get outside and get going, they will find the joy in the quietude and peacefulness of the whole experience and hopefully they’ll find that fitness is an experience that speaks for itself and doesn’t need the help of passerby’s to speak for it.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I decided this would be the big run, the trip that would render my refrigerator impenetrable, with large packages and bottles blocking the light, bags of bread and containers of yogurt would rest stacked on top of each other, gallons of milk would stand in a soldier-like line, bags of spinach would fit snug in a drawer, condiments of butter, syrup, and salad dressing would be at risk of tumbling from the door, each item waiting with anxiety for what would likely be not too long before they were ravaged by my ravenous, Ironman hands.
Filling up my cart with the essentials, bread, bagels, milk, I was also finding it far too fun to fill my cart with the non-essentials. Essentially, the things that will give me hope everyday to last these long rides and long runs knowing that vanilla milk, or pudding, or salt and vinegar chips will be waiting at the end. So on my wild, wheeled mission to find the most desirable post-workout treats, I buzzed by a display towering with red boxes. And as I walked by, I thought to myself that I recognized that box and that it meant something special to me. Maybe it’s all of the water and wind in my ears, but I could swear that I heard something calling to me. A moment later, outloud to myself, I said CHEEZ-IT’S.
Immediately, the cart made a u-turn and we hauled back to the red boxes. I stood in a quiet but elated state, gazing fondly at the boxes before me. Why, it was my old friend Cheez-It’s. How long has it been? Nearly 10 years? Oh yes, I know Cheez-It’s quite well. These tiny little fake cheese-flavored crackers were possibly the only representative from the milk, dairy, cheese food group during my college years. My eating habits in college were proof that you could indeed survive on air-popped popcorn, Molly McButter, and frozen yogurt. And Cheez-It’s were literally my lifeline, my bread and butter. I remember many a Friday nights, sitting in a dorm room, listening to music, with my hand digging into a red box.
So as I stood in the store, in front of the Cheez-It boxes, I knew I had found, or relocated, something special for me. In fact, so special that I knew Cheez-It’s had instantly earned a spot in my special needs bag, a perfect occupant in the form on a small, square, orange cracker covered in salty goodness. Cheez-It’s, pack your bags because we’re Kona-bound.
Just a day before, I had been on a 122 mile ride. My nutrition plan had been going well as I happily snacked down my bars and gels and sports drink. And while I can trick my stomach and brain into thinking these bars and gels are the best thing we’ve had in a long time and we just can’t wait to have some more, at 90 miles into the ride my stomach/brain started to snicker, started to doubt, and started to have other thoughts. Something was missing - a flavor, a texture, a feeling. We pulled into a rest stop and I took a look around to find something to fill that void. As far as rest stops go, these were well-stocked. All of my favorites were there. Cups of salty nuts, bagels, peanut butter, brownies, banana bread, pasta salad, even turkey. I scanned all of these delicious product singing their siren song and tempting to succumb to their salty sweetness and blow even the best-planned nutrition plan. And then my eyes caught sight of something that trumped any other cup of nuts, spoonful of peanut butter or slice of home-baked pumpkin bread – Goldfish with nothing but salty, crunchy goodness trapped in a little fish-shaped cracker. I scooped up a handful. Wonderful glorious, rich, satisfying, salt, delicious, energizing, all of this and more flooded into my mouth. And I knew this would be the golden ticket - this was the flavor and feeling that was missing. If I could find these in my special needs bag halfway through my bike, I just might be able to roll effortlessly through the next 56 miles in a post-Goldfish glaze.
So imagine my delight when I rediscovered Cheez-It’s at the grocery store. Though I love Goldfish, the Cheez-It’s are sturdier and saltier which make them a sure shoe-in for the Kona trip. I looked at the calorie count – perfect, the carbohydrate count - good, and the sodium – 360 mg per serving even saltier than Goldfish. How could I have not have noticed these before? For weeks, I had been scouring the store looking for a salty treat with a solid texture to mix things up from the mushy and gelled texture of every other food item I’ll consume. Simply put, this was the best thing since sliced bread. I grabbed 2 boxes and knew I'd be back for more.
I suppose every person training for Ironman has an epiphany like this. The moment where it all comes together and all of a sudden a 112 mile ride in blistering heat seems within reach because you have found a 29 pieces of crunchy joy that will quell your brain’s pain, sending happy signals through the receptors and resetting all systems at go.
I suppose every person not training for Ironman would think an epiphany like this is completely lunatic. But it’s not. You need to find moments and feelings like this. You can gather all the nutrition advice in the world from past competitors, dieticians, coaches. They’ll tell you everything they’ve eaten, or what the books say but it’s nothing compared to the moment in the middle of a ride where you put something in your mouth and think this is it.
Driving home from the store, I had to fight myself from opening the box. If I did, I was sure I would consume the whole box in less than 5 miles. I got home, tore the top off, and, just like college, dug my hand inside the box. And the Cheez-It's were just as I remembered, salty, crunchy, tasty, and filling. I saw myself salivating upt to the halfway point thinking about this. I knew they would work.
Every person training for IM has a food item like this. The one thing they would work for, or look forward to during the ride or run. I read somewhere that some guy put jellybeans in his run bag. Mira was tempted by pumpkin bread. Susan has her teddy grahams. Jennifer swears by coke. Jerome did bananas. I’m sure along the course I’ll find some other golden ticket, like chicken soup broth, or flat coke, or candy. But for right now, I’m thinking as long as I have a baggie of Cheez-It’s in my back pocket, I might just keep running past the finish line far into Kona night.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Once a season, my mother accompanies me to a race. Regardless of the location, the type of event, the distances, or even my performance, she somehow finds me at exactly the right moment, positions herself in the most visible place, and shouts my name with an unmatched fervor, putting on her best teacher voice and drowning out the cheers of any spectator within a one mile radius.
As the years have passed, she’s become much more adept in the sport of spectating. She’ll casually throw out terms like transition area, packet pick-up, race wheels, body marking, run split. And with her limited background in sports, her understanding of the ebb and flow of the event continues to impress me. You see, growing up in Brooklyn, you do not involve yourself in sports. Instead, you visit with family, you sit on your stoop, you walk up to the avenue to shop, and if you live in a good neighborhood you might ride your bike up and down the block. And if you’re Italian growing up in Brooklyn, you pray, you watch your mother sweep the sidewalk as a sneaky cover for spying on the neighbors, and you eat.
With sports clearly not a part of my mother’s milieu, she offers a completely fresh, unadulterated look at triathlon and other sports events from the eyes of an outsider looking in at the idiosyncracies of athletes. This past Sunday, the Pigman triathlon became her forum for a weekend full of insightful and priceless gems. In fact, if race directors really wanted to rev things up, forget the results, achievements, and other mathematical observations about the athletes. Give my mom the microphone and let her roll off her candid observations as the race goes by.
It started early, as we crossed the border driving Route 20 into Iowa. “Are there hills in Iowa?” she asked as the car pointed upwards on one of the long, rolling hills typical of northeastern Iowa. Though she is a science teacher, I pointed out the fact that the car seemed to be traveling up a hill at the moment indicating that indeed it was a hill and indeed there were hills in Iowa. “Oh, I always thought Iowa was flat. Maybe it’s that next state over, what is it, Kansas? Nebraska?” After a quick lesson Midwestern geography, my mother admitted that being from New York, there really didn’t exist much of a world outside of the New York state line. So this was all very new to her.
We drove along towards Cedar Rapids and in her brutally, and at times, too much so, honest way, she inquired, “Did you fart?” Laughing, I replied with a “No, but I was going to ask you the same thing.” She quickly gave me a vehement “NO” and said, “Is it just me or does this whole state smell like farts?” She asked if perhaps it was the corn, or the soybeans, or if there were animals out there, maybe pigs or cows or something else really smelly.
Later that day, I introduce her to the person I often refer to as my separated sister, the sister my mother did not realize she gave birth to, Leslie Curley. We met briefly at the race site before Leslie headed out to do a brick. “Oh she’s just adorable. What a sweet young lady,” my mom said, “Where is she from again? Topica? Topika? Is that what people from Kansas are like?” Little did Leslie know that she was representing the entire state of Kansas in that brief interlude with my mother.
The next day, around 6 am, we headed into Pleasant Creek State Park. Her savvy commentary started almost immediately. “I can’t tell if half these people are men or women,” she said as we watched a parade of athletes walking their bikes and gear to the transition area. She made note of how the women with their short hair and square shoulders and the men with their long legs and slim hips took on almost a genderless appearance.
We parked and I made my first of many trips to the port-o-let while she waited by the car. When I returned, she was standing by the trunk with a sharp look in her eye. The only thing that was missing was a broom in her hand. “I watched some guy ride up and down the parking lots rows. He looked like he was practicing taking a drink from his handlebars,” she said. I explained the aero drink system that many athletes used in between their handlebars. She listened and understood, but still could not refuse to point out the obvious, “You would think he should have practiced that before today.” And there it was, the best advice any athlete could ever receive from the most non-athlete around, never try anything new on race day.
I began to set-up my bike, putting the wheels on, and she was eager to help. She unzipped the wheel bags and held my bike steady. As usual, I was unable to get air into my front wheel. She had seen this before at Half Max, along with my subsequent breakdown as I worried that I would be forced to ride a flat wheel for 56 miles. I started getting frustrated with the pump, the valve extender, the wheels, the race. And frustration turned into anxiousness turned into hot tears fighting to hide in my eyes. “Liz, I have yet to watch a race where you haven’t cried,” she remarked. Yes, mom, I know, true to myself I will cry at least once today. “Why don’t you bring it to a man who can do it for you.” Excellent, but surprising advice from a woman that once told me men were good for nothing except children, with an addendum to the rule for today – also good for putting air into tires.
After setting up my transition area, I walked back to the car to find my mom still standing by the trunk. A show was unraveling right before her and she was taking every entertaining minute of it, almost with a 'can’t help but look' curiosity about all of the athletes.
She was playing a game of ‘guess their age’ with herself. “Look at this, Liz,” she said with an unusual excitement, nodding towards an athlete approaching us. “They walk towards you and you think they look 35 and then they walk by and you see 47 written on their leg.” A few rounds of the game and she was hooked. Triathlon is the ultimate time machine and often an athlete’s appearance doesn't match their age. "Sure beats wrinkle cream," she said.
We waited for the race start, lingering in the parking lot like New Yorkers sitting on a stoop, watching athletes make last minute preparations and adjustments. “All the men are eating,” she said pointing to a few men walking by. “Look around, that guy’s eating a bagel,” she said gesturing to a man by a pick-up truck. “He’ll pay for that in the middle of the swim,” she added. “And that guy, he’s the second one I’ve seen with a can of coke. Who drinks a coke before a race?” she asked. She went on about how silly it seemed to start eating 30 minutes before a race that was going to last 5 or 6 hours. “You’d think they would have gotten up a little earlier to get their food down.” She then went on to question still how anyone could drink coke before a race, all that carbonation, all those bubbles. ”Who could swim on a stomach like that?” she asked.
There was still time to pass before the race and though I suggested we go set up her chair under a tree, she seemed quite content in the parking lot composing an editorial column out loud. “If I was a single woman, I’d come to one of these events just to meet a man. Forget doing the race.” She commented on how some of the men were young, fit, and good-looking. “How many men do you think are here today?” she questioned. Of the 650 participants, I thought there might be about 400 men since they typically outnumber the women. “Seems like pretty good odds if you ask me,” she added.
After the race, she found me right away and congratulated me on a solid effort. I had no idea how she occupied herself for nearly 5 hours in the middle of an Iowa state park, but she didn't miss a minute of the race. “You finished about 10 minutes behind that pro” she said, “But you better watch out because Leslie had a much better bike than you.” For someone that didn’t know much about sports, she sure figured out this game very well. So then we waited. We figured out the differential, knowing that at least 12 minutes had to go by before we heard Leslie’s name, before I could be the top amateur. “Did they call her name yet?” She must have asked me about a dozen times in the next 12 minutes.
While we were waiting, she started to pick apart my race in the most professional of ways. “You had a great swim, but a not so great bike, what happened?” I didn’t know what to say other than that it was Iowa and Iowa was like that with it’s deceptive wind and hills and difficulty. “But your run was right where you thought it would be,” she added with a smile.
We talked about Ironman, and we talked about racing. We talked about the other people that were still coming across the line. “I hope they aren’t hurting themselves out there,” she worried. We watched people in all shapes and sizes finish the last ¼ mile of the race. “Look,” she said, “they’re still smiling.” And she seemed to get it, why we do this, how we can still smile through the challenge and pain.
Soon after, Leslie and Jeff joined us in the grass. We enjoyed visiting with them and then went to get my award. My mom happily took a picture of me and Michael Boehmer, my brother’s long lost twin, with a mega check for $250. And then we headed home. But not without the signature stop at Starbucks. “Get me a Green Tea Frappucino,” she said, “I may not have raced but all of that walking has to be worth something.” We walked around the grocery store and she convinced me that I also needed some salt and vinegar chips because obviously I needed the salt and secretly she liked them.
And so we drove home, sharing a post-race Starbuck’s, and a salt meltdown after a very sassy but successful day.
Monday, August 21, 2006
I know Iowa intimately because of my experience with Ragbrai. And I feel that it is perhaps the best kept secret in the Midwest. Hidden in the rows of corn, beyond the undulating hills, and through the whipping winds, there is a state of pure green beauty, lakes, and landscapes like no other.
With 5 years of Ragbrai, I have ridden through the innermost bowels of Iowa, I have seen it’s small towns marked by nothing more than a grain elevator and a post office. I’ve eaten sweet corn outside of regal county courthouse buildings, enjoyed $1 drafts at the local American Legion, tasted sumptious fruit pies, and sampled pork on a stick. Spend enough time riding through these small towns, and you get the feel for Iowa, you get to know it both inside and out.
As we drove west on Route 20 towards Cedar Rapids, I recognized the names of dozens of towns our Rabgrai team had rolled through, passed through, even passed out in. The town names brought memories of baking in the Iowa summer sun, the whirring sound of wheels on pavement, and random senseless moments that make Ragbrai what it is, like passing out, or watching a friend climb a beer tent pole naked, or slip and slides coated in beer, or borrowing lawn jockeys, or paying $3 for a small Gatorade; Maquoketa, Coralville, Hiawatha, Anamosa, Mount Pleasant.
And since this year I traded in a week of riding across Iowa on Ragbrai (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) for a silver medal in Canada, I was eager to get back into Iowa and visit the hills, the heat, and the corn.
I was excited about the Pigman Triathlon because I thought it would be low key, regional, within driving distance. I signed up for the elite wave and to my delight I would be joined by Heather G. (pro) and Malaika H. (once pro, not sure if she's still pro).
The elite wave started first and for the first 10 minutes I dare to say I may have even been drafting. I swam long and smooth, focusing on rolling my hips as effortlessly as possible. I thought about Karyn telling me to swimming in a long hollow tube so I pictured myself as small as possible and snuck right into that tube. I thought about Mira singing Just Keep Swimming though I couldn’t remember the lyrics but I thought it was a good mantra to get through what can feel like forever in the water.
After 31 minutes, I find myself on my bike in Iowa. In my mind, I’m on Ragbrai, the guys have dropped me and I am doing a solo effort to ride to the end town. If I make it in before 4 pm I might just enjoy a refreshing hose shower. The day is beautiful, sunny and 75 degrees. The winds are from the east and are cool.
I ride comfortably. My legs are heavy but I tell myself to give it 20 – 30 minutes then reassess and pass judgment. Usually by then I’ve forgotten that my legs even felt heavy or bad in the first place. The first 10 miles my mind keeps busy watching out for the railroad tracks or cracks in the road or climbing the long rolling hills. But then the course takes you out onto a loop towards Vinton, with smooth roads and no distractions. And like Ragbrai, I ride looking ahead in the far off distance for a water tower signaling the next town.
Finally, the Vinton water tower and I roll into town, just like on Ragbrai. But where’s the pie, the band playing a polka, where’s Mr. Porkchop? I am entertaining myself a little too much and probably need to get serious. But in getting serious, I realize I am not enjoying my nutrition plan. So I crawl back into my imagination – I push into the wind towards the next water tower – Urbana. How does an east wind at 5 – 7 mph feel like 15 – 17 mph? I remind myself because you are in Iowa.
I think I am the only one doing this race. Perhaps everyone else is sitting in the American Legion enjoying $1 drafts? Other than being passed by a woman on a relay team, I have seen no one for the past 90 minutes. I think about our friend Marshall, who has been known to say 'if you find yourself alone, in the corn, in the middle of Iowa, fear not because you are on Ragbrai and you have been dropped.'
Finally I ride back into the park. I have no idea what my position is, where everyone is, I am expecting they have shut the race down and all gone home. But in the last mile riding towards transition, I see Malaika and Heather running and realize I am about 10 minutes behind them. A hefty distance, but this is 1/2 IM and anything can happen. Let the race come back to you, I think to myself. And to me, setting out on the run course, the race feels like it has just begun.
I take off on to the run course like a rocket. I am running, full speed ahead, chasing someone, anyone. Despite my disgust with my nutrition plan today, my legs feel the best they have ever felt in a ½ IM. I hit mile 2 at 13:00 and think to myself ‘this is a ridiculous pace.’ But then the course flattens out and I realize that it is only a little over 4 miles to the turnaround. So I bargain with myself. For sure we can hold this to mile 6, it’s just an out and back, you do this all of the time in training. My breathing has settled down and my legs are on fire. I think about Dave Walters telling me to use my arms so I am pulling an imaginary rope with each hand as it reaches forward. I hit the turnaround at 45 minutes thinking how silly it is to be on pace for a 1:30 ½ marathon. At mile 8 the pain from my blisters is building. Mile 9 takes forever. I realize I might break my best time of 4:47 today. Though I may not catch Heather, I can at least keep pushing to be better than myself. At mile 10 I think to myself that I have kept this ridiculous pace this long so why not finish it up. I push up the final hill to mile 11. My foot explodes in blistery pain and I want to be done NOW. The last 2 miles felt like 20. I reach the finish line in 4:47:24, 10 minutes behind Heather and 12 minutes ahead of the next amateur.
Indeed I did 'dig the pig' – because it was in Iowa, because it was well-organized, because it was in a beautiful park, because I got to see Leslie, Jeff, Kirsten, Michael, and Briana. And because I took my mom - who brought her special events chair, who found me at every single point in that race when I told her to look for me, who took pictures, and even carry my pee-soaked shoes back to the car.
So goodbye, Iowa. I will see you next summer because after riding your roads this weekend I told myself that I would not miss a year of Ragbrai again!
Friday, August 18, 2006
This weekend, I’m heading out to Iowa for the Pigman Triathlon.
I know – Iowa. But don’t be fooled. The hills, yes HILLS, and heat of Iowa can be deceptively hard. Plus, all of the corn can make your mind very confused. You’ve seen Children of the Corn, right?
The weather forecast looks great – a high of 77. How often do you get to do a ½ IM in those conditions?
Plus I will get to see my separated sister, Leslie Curley.
The women’s field is stacked. I am doing the elite wave and to my delight I will be joined by pro’s Malaika Homo and Heather Gollnick. But then again how often do you get to race against a pro?
The men’s field is just as stacked with Mark Carey, David Thompson, Michael Boehmer.
All proof that if you wave $1100 to the winner it will draw a crowd of talented triathletes.
The best part is that I’m bringing my mom which will surely result in several stories filled with chuckles. As a sneak preview, she’s bringing - as she puts it - her “special chair for events.” I’ll write more on that later.
We’re driving out to Galena tonight to stay at a wonderful bed and breakfast. I’ll tank up on breakfast in the morning before enjoying some shopping and then heading out to Cedar Rapids to preview the course.
In the meantime, Chris will be back at home on pooch patrol with Cookie. He can't wait!
So here’s to the pig. Be nice to me, Iowa. We’ve got history together. I know your hills, I know your corn. I’ve got 5 years of Ragbrai in my legs and that’s got to be good for something!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
You find yourself browsing the bar section in the grocery store to 'see what else is out there.'
You develop some type of a condition and think to yourself “I’ve never had that before” at least once per week.
You make plans with your friends that start at 5:30 am on a Saturday.
Mealtime becomes “ice your _______ “ time.
The only thing that has gotten between your legs in the past week has been your bike seat.
Advice from your coach includes telling you to stand in your bathroom while pointing the blowdryer directly at your face to simulate Hawaii conditions.
You finally have a reason to eat dessert every night without regrets.
You have a growing list of post-workout foods that you are willing to work for.
Each load of the dishwasher contains at least 10 water bottles.
Your friend tells you how to make fried chicken with egg beaters and you won't hear a word of it because it won't have enough calories, salt, or fat.
Cold water has never tasted so good.
Before you make plans, you say “I have to check my schedule”, not your work schedule or family schedule, but your workout schedule.
You’ve out-eaten your husband for the past 2 months.
Lunch hour has become recovery run hour.
You haven’t peed clear in weeks.
There is a certain part of your body that hurts, that doesn’t usually hurt, like your left index finger, and somehow you know it has something to do with Ironman training.
You have switched from Advil to Tylenol 8 Hour.
You feel prouder than ever, even though you haven’t really done anything yet.
No sooner do you get the food down before you need to take a crap. No sooner do you crap before you’re ready to eat more food again.
It's so much fun to tell people that you're doing Ironman that you almost feel like you'll ruin it if you actually have to go and do the race.
On demand, you can rattle off the calorie, carbohydrate, and sodium content of most bars and gels.
On any given day, at least one part of your body is chafed to the point of scabbing.
Your tan lines are starting to look like a bad road map.
It used to take one cup of coffee to start your day. Now it takes four, about three times a day.
At least 20 percent of your diet is consumed in bar form.
You keep hearing a voice in your head and it is saying “_______(your name), you are an Ironman”.
You also keep hearing another voice in your head and it is saying “what were you thinking, what were you thinking.”
You wander the grocery store aisles looking for something to satiate your appetite at least 3 times per week and you eat that item before you get home.
You have become a one-drink date. When you do drink, you are likely shout something about Ironman in the middle of the street.
For some reason, you sense the race experience will be the least epic thing compared to everything you’ll do in preparation for the race.
Your husband has threatened divorce if he hears one more word about Ironman. As a result, you have elected a certain friend that you can only talk about Ironman with because they too are training for Ironman and have also been threatened with divorce.
You shop only where Gatorade is on sale. You share this information with your Ironman-only friend who acts like you've thrown them a pot of gold for sharing this information.
You have dreams about getting the runs on the run course.
You picture your Ironman date like the end of a prison sentence. For example, you begin talking about how life will be “after October 21st …”
Your fear your teeth will have a permanent tint from consuming large and consistent quantities of green, blue, and orange sports drink.
You feel fitter, but also fatter, than you’ve ever felt in your life.
You can’t remember miles 60 – 90 of the bike ride but you know you did them.
You fear your eyebrows are becoming furrowed and find yourself talking about Botox with your Ironman-only friend.
You have no desire to chew after mile 75.
Anything shorter than a 500 in the pool makes you feel like 'why bother'.
Your metabolism is running so fast, that pooping 3 – 4 times a day or workout becomes a way of life.
You ride 1 hour, which feels like 3, and then realize that you still have 5 hours to go which will probably feel like 15.
You take off 1 minute per mile when you run without your Fuel Belt.
You’ve ridden more miles than you’ve driven in the past week.
You wake up 3 pounds heavier than you went to bed as because you took so many salt tabs the day before.
Your coach has put a 7 hour and 15 minute workout on your schedule and even though you know it is sick and wrong, you look forward to it.
You feel that next to your wedding day, the day of the race will be the longest day of your life.
You can’t sleep at night because you are so jacked up from caffeine and sugar from the workout you probably just finished an hour earlier.
You have peed and crapped more in the woods in the past few weeks than you have in your own home.
You find yourself looking at small baggies and containers wondering if you could carry crackers, salt tabs, or bars in it.
You eat most of your meals standing up because you’ve gotten so used to sitting in your saddle only.
You are in search of the largest Bento box possible.
You find yourself sitting at work and after 20 minutes have gone by, you think to yourself that it’s time to eat ½ of a bar. Another 40 minutes later, you think it’s time to take a gel and then you realize that you are not sitting on your bike, you do not need to be doing your nutrition plan, but you do need to get back to work.
Running a 7:15 pace feels like you’re flying.
For fun, you weigh yourself with your Fuel Belt on and off, shorts on and off, helmet on and off.
The term "special needs" no longer refers to a group of special individuals but a bag that you might find at mile 56 of the bike.
If you find yourself feeling slow and having a bad workout, you think to yourself that it’s ok because you’re training for Ironman where you will only go slow.
Your feet are starting to look like the feet of a Hobbit.
You’ve transformed your sleek 18 pound bike into a 23 pound clunker when you add up all of the liquids, food, and stuff you need to haul.
You have nearly veered into oncoming traffic while trying to pull a salt tab out of a button baggie.
You think about Ironman incessantly. You drive to work and think "I am doing Ironman." You go to bed and think "I am doing Ironman." You wonder what you will think about after Ironman. Probably doing Ironman again?
You finally get what all the fuss is about because you’re having more fun than ever.
How do you know you're training for IM? Let me know and I'll add it to my list!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
With my mother along, I started at Ann Taylor, because according to my mother-in-law, the record-holding National Champion of Retail Shopping, it would be a good place to find a nice, sexy petite-sized dress. I must have looked clueless, helpless, and hopeless because upon entering the store, a woman I assume was the retail fashion support specialist gave me a look once up and down before pressing the secret button alerting any available personnel to call FEMA as the store had just been hit with a 5 ‘ 2” fashion disaster. Before back-up arrived, she quickly offered her assistance. Soon after, she led me into the dressing room with an assortment of dresses I would never wear but would have to wear because this was one of those kitschy weddings in San Diego.
“How about this” she says while pointing to some cute, dainty little black lace top with a wispy black skirt. I immediately think it would be perfect if my name was Holly Go Lightly and I was having breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I realize it is probably better to at least pretend to be interested, cooperative, and excited in the most fashionably feminine of ways.
“It’s a bustier” she added, as if that terminology meant anything to me, as if someone without a bust would want to happily accentuate being bustless and bony. I quickly point out that I don’t have much to bust-ee-up in a bustier. “Oh, nonsense,” she says and convinces me to give it a try. And moments later, to her dismay, I confirmed that yes you do need a bust to wear a bustier.
On to a halter style dress. In a perfect world, where I have perfect 34 C’s and perfect tiny little shoulders, this dress would have looked good. But after 4500 yards in the pool earlier that morning, I look like Brett Favre in drag. The retail fashion support specialist looks at me and makes a giant leap of logic, “You must workout.” I wonder what gives her that idea. Perhaps the fact that a winter’s worth of swimming has left me with the super-sized shoulders and the veins of an addict after a long night of fixing. “Yeah, a little,” I lie and wonder if they have a special section for those of us that workout. It seems like they have a section or store for every other type of person out there but what I haven’t seen is the section for Ironman, for women who have eaten their body weight in food for the week and walk around in cycling shorts and jog bras because their shoulders are too big or waists are too small or thighs are too swollen to fit into any normal clothes.
Next up, a classic sexy little black dress with a slip-like halter top in size 0P. Not to be confused with the cool clothing line from the 80’s (OP), a size 0P stands for zero petite. In other words, you are so small that you almost mean nothing to us but we had to make a size for you anyways so we figured we’d call you a zero to rub in the fact that you are too small to shop in an adult store or wear big girl pants so you best take your business Baby Gap. Despite feeling like a zero, a nada, a nothing, I take a few spins around and I’m quite pleased – it doesn’t make me look like I have the shoulders of a linebacker, or inverted breasts, or the arms a gorilla. Curious, and considering a purchase, I look at the pricetag. $158. Wait a minute, does it do something else? Is there an added feature that I’m missing? Was it not costly enough for me to stand in this dressing room surrounded by what feels like carnival funhouse mirrors under excessive and unflattering lighting as I tried on five dresses that reminded of the fact that I am too small in some places, too big in others, and in general too short for everything. File this one under “N” for nada or NO.
Disgruntled, I try to abruptly take the dress off while cursing Ann Taylor, whoever she is, and her over-priced outfits and somehow in trying to get out of the dress, it spins an impenetrable web around me. This type of superpower must be why it costs $158, I thought. Trapped in its sticky hold, I make a forceful effort to wiggle my way out but the silky layers of the dress shuffle around me leaving my arms, head, and shoulders entwined with the tiny black straps for hanging, the halter straps, and the zipper.
“Liz? Where are you?” my mom calls out from the dressing room area.
“I’m in here,” I mumble in a voice muffled under layers of sheer black fabric.
Standing there, trapped and blinded with the dress half over my head, I think to myself someone PLEASE HELP because right now I am a fly trapped in a sticky, silky web scared by the thought that a spider might crawl out of these funhouse mirrors and eat me alive and even more scared that if I can’t get out of this dress I might just have to buy it at full retail price.
In effort to get my mom’s attention, I wave one foot out from under the dressing room to signal where I am trapped in this black hole of a dress. Reluctantly, she enters the dressing room probably with her eyes half covered because how forbidden if she saw me half dressed, it’s not like I passed through her vagina 31 years ago or anything, and she unzips, unravels, and dewebs me, as I stand flustered, red-faced, and hot from trying to detangle myself free.
She shakes her head and tells me to try on the next dress. I put it on and instantly I am transported back to my childhood, standing in my grandmother’s house, looking out the window. And that’s when I realize I am wearing grandma’s curtains or tablecloths or any other over-flowered, thick, tacky linen with sweeping, swirling shapes in some horribly rustic and outdated color.
“Hey mom,” I call from the dressing room.
“What,” she says with waning enthusiasm.
“When Donna Reed realized she wasn’t tall enough to hang her draperies, she decided to wear them instead,” I say modeling the latest in fine curtain-inspired apparel.
Indeed, this was going to be a very long day. And this was not nearly as fun as shopping for spatulas.
Next I find myself in Cache, one of those cool stores that you never have a reason to go into but now that I am on this mission to look sexy and oh so stunning I had a reason to go into this type of upscale, overpriced, looks are everything store. We search through the racks of strappy, sultry dresses only to find one that might possibly fit me, if the stars and heavens have aligned in the past hour. Never mind the $188 price tag, or the fact that the dress was way too long. The crux of the problem with this dress was that it was the color of soft poo. You know, the kind of poo you get after you’ve been running for 20 miles on nothing but gels and Gatorade on a hot day. But at least I liked the style.
My mom takes a look after I step out of the dressing room. “What is that for?” she says pointing to the oversized pockets of fabric centered near my chest.
“Well, I suppose that’s where breasts would go if you had them,” I explained.
She thinks out loud, “No, I think that’s the style of the dress. It’s one of those dresses where you wouldn’t need to wear a bra.”
No bra? No way. Years of running have left the twins running in completely different directions and at this point you could pave a four lane highway between my breasts and I wouldn’t know the difference because there is so much space between them. And at the very least, I would hope they put an I-Pass along that highway because it would be nice to make some extra pocket change to put into my coffee fund.
“Let’s keep looking,” I suggest.
My feet are growing weary and my head is starting to hurt, but I am determined to cross the finish line today with a dress in hand. We push on to the petite section of Nordstrom’s to find another a fine selection of dresses suitable for the small wonders like me. I grab a few dresses, not even regarding the style, color, or size, and bring them into the dressing room. I try the first one on.
“How does it look?” my mother asks with a growing and impatient curiosity.
I step out to reveal a dress that can only be described as It’s Not Easy Being Green in color and gypsy-like in style. It looks quite nice, except for the obvious color catastrophe.
“What do you even call this?” I wonder. I find the tag and notice the dress color is called ‘pesto’. “Mom, I am wearing pesto,” I say, and we both erupt in giggles. Being Italian, pesto is something you find on your dinner plate and not on your dress.
Wondering if the dress comes in another color, we approach the clerk at the counter. She informs us that it comes in a rainbow of colors, including peacock, eggplant, passionfruit, storm, and, how boring – black. I wonder if we are talking about fancy martini flavors, the latest line of Crayola crayons, or if she has confused my inquiry with a game of things you might find your pantry. Dressless and definitely not settling for wearing pesto to a wedding, we leave the store.
As a last resort, we head to Nieman Marcus – a store filled with nothing you need but everything that rich people must want. In other words, it’s mostly empty with a few exorbitantly priced items that are totally unnecessary, useless, and not even that nice. Perusing the dress section, my mom finds a black dress, “This one is nice,” she says. I agree, it is nice, it is black and small and it might be an option but right then and there I am tackled by the price tag which just jumped out and shouted $788. In my mind, I wonder why (or how) someone would pay that much for a dress when you could have 3 aero helmets, 4 new pairs of Rudy Projects, or a new front wheel from Zipp. In fact, you could race Kona and still have money left over for a new pair of Shimano carbon cycling shoes. Or you could wear this dress. I suppose it’s a choice that most women do not have to make. And with that, we made the choice to walk out.
Three hours have gone by and I feel like I’ve pushed out 300 watts uphill into the wind, with my mom on my back. I need a gel, I need a sports drink, I need a break. I am baffled how women can do this for hours each and every Saturday. Put me on a bike and point me west for 100 miles any day – as long as it’s no where near the mall. Humbled and defeated, I walk back to the car without a dress. I begin to wonder if shopping is like working out. Will my muscles have memory? Will it get easier next time? Have I built up the endurance to handle a few more hours next week? Let’s hope so, because there’s only so many more sun-dried tomato and kalamata olive colored dresses that I can try. And besides, with all of this Ironman training, I’m likely to eat a dress called pesto if you leave it in front of me for too long.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Right now I feel like the Operation gameboard – I’m naked, stripped of nothing but my pain, strapped to a cold metal table and if you happen to touch any part of my body, it would set off a cautionary buzzer and my nose would flash an alertful red warning to remind me that all of my muscles are on fire and buzzing with pain on a daily basis.
It started a few weeks ago with a red bump on my big toe. Insistent upon picking, squeezing, and touching every unusual bump that arises on my body, I of course pressed down on it to find it was infected. Shove that into a cycling shoe that should be outlawed because it is so old, foul, and ill-fitting and you get 100 rpm’s of pure, angry pain in your big toe. A visit to the podiatrist and a diagnosis ingrown toenail.
On top of that, last week my foot had intermittent flashes of hot pain. I was convinced that Ironman training had caused menopause to prematurely settle into my body, starting feet first, and I found evidence in these hot flashes and a growing paranoia. For days, I limped around convinced that I had fractured my foot. Chris suggested I either visit the doctor or stuff my foot in my mouth. Turns out that I am growing a neuroma. There’s a lot of things I can grow on my body – nails, hair, stink – but anything that starts with ‘neuro’ doesn’t sound like something I want to water and grow anytime soon - other than growing neurotic (which I was already doing quite well).
Back in July, on my way to a washboard stomach, I strained an abdominal muscle. Since then, I have learned that abs are a particularly stubborn, mean, and small area of the body that do not receive much oxygen and instead send out much pain to let me know every time I am aero on my bike or stretch out my swim stroke that even though they’re little they mean big business. My doctor poked and provoked some points of pain to which he said that it could be my abs or it could be my liver was swollen even though that was highly unlikely. But I thought, who knows – I mean, it’s Ironman training and anything can happen and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days I poop out my liver since I seem to be pooping out everything else at least 3 times a day/a workout/a night.
Right now my ribs have a death grip on my body. The muscles between each rib maybe sinewy and fine, but also finely attuned on how to create the most maximum pain in the most minimum area. When it started to hurt to breathe, I decided to visit my doctor for the 10th time that week. “Did you fall off your bike recently?” he asked. No, I didn’t think so. But I can’t be sure – maybe this is one of those Ironman enigmas like having a hot foot, noticing your armpit smells funny, or gaining weight while training up to 20 hours a week. Can you black out on the bike? Is it like drinking? Can you ride so hard and long that you wake up on your driveway with 93 miles logged into your cycling computer, a splitting headache, and no recollection that a few hours earlier you had fallen off your bike? If I didn’t remember that, then what else had I forgotten – had days gone by yet? months? Have I just been on my bike this whole time?
A few months ago I noticed that my right armpit was smelly – unusually smelly. Like I’ve been working out in a farm field for too long during the mid-day sun kind of smelly. Being curious, I looked up how someone so small could make such a big stink. Stress or hormones. It seems the Ironman training has elevated my already maddening blend of estrogen up-and-downs mixed with a steady dose of edginess. The result - one smelly armpit. Therefore, it seems logical to assume that Ironman training can indeed make you smelly.
I have strong suspicions that my body does not even recognize it’s own hormones and substances any more with so much sports drink, gels, ibuprofen, and caffeine pumping through me all day long. But if getting a period is any indication of hormonal health then I seem to be setting a PR in that area because last time I got mine for 10 days which was absolutely fabulous and which also makes me think that a Tampax sponsorship would come in very handy at this time.
Some days my intestines are happy, some days they are not talking to me, some weeks I get the silent treatment for up to 3 days because I haven’t eaten dinner earlier than 9 pm for what seems like weeks and when you go to bed at 10 pm that doesn’t leave much time for relaxing, drinking water, or anything else required for taking a normal, regular dump each day.
My back has been in spasm for 4 years from trying to combine cycling and swimming with computer work all day long. And now that I am not only combining, but overloading, my upper back is an impenetrable fortress of tight fibers. I got stretched out the other day by my doctor and if someone had walked in they would have seen me in a twisted contortion that looked like a cross between the Karma Sutra and Cirque de Soleil, like some sex-induced circus therapy that you have to pay good money for. But at least it works.
Move down to my lower back and I think you might find I’m growing humps or hooves because I feel like a freakin’ camel. To stay properly hydrated in the heat, I need 34 ounces of fluids per hour. It might be useful to have some humps to store this fluid in but right now my 32 AAA½’s are not much help. Instead, I pack my Fuel Belt full of fluids and food. Go on a 20 mile run with 34 ounces of Fuel Belt bottles on your back bouncing around for over 2 hours and you might end up with a bruise on each upper cheek right where the bottles spanked your behind over and over again.
These days I advise my husband not to even approach my crotch without clutching a 10-foot pole. Spend over 90 miles in a saddle and tell me how you feel, or what, if anything, you can feel. Enough said.
Take this entire body and step it on the scale and I find I am about 2 – 3 pounds heavier than last year. At this point, bananas, pretzels, bread, are just not cutting it. Give me only things that have at least 200 calories per serving and 20 grams of fat per scoop. The other day I was running long and hard and began bargaining with myself that I could have anything – meat, chocolate milk with more chocolate than milk, peanut butter from the jar, ice cream out of the carton, if I could just finish the last mile of the 20 mile run in under 6:45. I went 6:40, got home, and the hungry carnivore inside of me demanded steak.
I know what you’re thinking. Conceal all of the crazy pain with a tasty cocktail of coffee, Ibuprofren, and a dash of Vicodin that you’ve stashed since you last had teeth pulled. A deceptively attractive option but probably not effective because Ironman pain is not erasable, treatable, or cured by even the most potent of narcotics or most secret of stashes. In fact, part of the training is learning to endure and cope with the pain as it builds upon workout to workout, day to day until you are a ball of knots and spasms, writhing on your bathroom floor at which point you should probably learn to get yourself up and walk it off.
But in my mind, if I push the pain aside, what I find is that I feel better than ever. I’ve challenged myself with something entirely new and something so full of opportunity. And to me, that feels so good.
So, until October 21st, I may not be able to turn my head more than 2 inches or raise my arms above my shoulders or sit for an extended period of time, but I’ll be an Ironman, dammit – an IRONMAN!
Friday, August 11, 2006
I was at the Non-Waterstraat house for a party and one of their relatives is a cop and a marine. Or was a marine and now is a cop. I don’t know how that works. Or is it once a marine, always a marine. Anyways, when I wrote down the address for this site he said “You’re a Fed Of Sky”. Astonished, I looked at him and thought how could I have not picked up on something so square in front of my face for 30 years and this guy picked up on it in 30 seconds?
For years, I had toted this last name around like a piece of oversized baggage that always needs to be checked in at a special counter with a special tag and for a special fee. I’ve heard and seen so many mutations and mispronunciations of my last name that I’m not even sure how to pronounce it anymore myself. And what aggravates me further is the fact that it’s not even that hard to say but somehow people turn it into something pheonetically far more sophisticated than it really is – Fedovsky, Fedofesky, Fedahsky, Phaedoffski. It’s Fed – off – ski. It’s no Smith, but come on already.
Mispronunciations aside, all along my name had been crying out to me Fed-Of-Sky and it went unheard. Clearly I was born to be a federal air marshall, but somehow along the way I missed all of the signs pointing me in that direction and instead followed the signs straight to education programming which, for the record, does not include fancy travel trips, or federated authority, or carrying a gun. Lucky for me, it seems that right now would be the perfect time to make this kind of a career change considering that everyone seems interested in hopping on a plane and blowing things up with toothpaste and lotion.
I could see it now, I walk into the airline office all abuzz with anxiety and a flurry of fear and I say “Fear not, I have arrived. I am the Fed Of Sky. I am the one you have been waiting for.”
I would totally get hired on the spot.
And then I’d get to travel all over the world. I would probably get first class, with little cups of nuts and champagne. Empowered and elitist, I could use the lavatory in the front of the plane. I could probably even use my cell phone in flight. Of course, I would need to stay as covert as possible so at times I would take the seat far in the back, the one that gets a whiff of 5 hours of cross-country flight nerves en route to Seattle every time the lavatory door opens, so that no one would suspect my federality (not a word, but as a Fed, I would have the power to make it one).
Plus I could carry a gun. Which reminds me that on my bicycle ride today I saw two shotgun shells alongside the road. And I live in the suburbs. If I was the Fed Of Sky, I would have known what to do right away. I’d have connections with local police organizations and I would use my federal force to have them find out who has been littering the streets with shotgun shells.
I would have federal, not state, status. That means, if I ever went to prison let’s say for making a scene and demanding the flight attendant put my brother in the first class section of the plane because he is the only male Fed – Of – Sky still young enough to pass the name on, I would get to go to federal prison which we all know is better than a state prison.
And if I was a federal agent, I wouldn’t have to pay federal taxes. That’s something they don’t tell you but they would tell me because important Feds of the Sky must know things like that.
I could also sue anyone I wanted because my cases would go immediately to the federal court. I could sue you for honking at me while riding my bike and the federal judge would sentence you to about 40 years in prison for provoking a federal officer.
All of my packages would fly overnight Federal Express. Not only would I be Fed Of Sky but Fed of Freight and Ground, too.
In looking at the other names in my family, I see that nothing really lives up to Fed-Of-Sky. By second marriage, my mother acquired Mandell – kind of like being the farmer in the dell, but just a man. My mom's maiden name - Garbarino – to me that sounds like someone who Guards the Bar in Old New York (pronounced ‘yoke’). Or my grandmother's Repetti – as in you are repeatedly petting him over and over again – something that could get you in trouble (whereas being a Fed Of Sky, I would be looking for trouble, not making it).
And it’s a good thing that my great-grandfather didn’t keep the original version – Fedorcyzk. As in “What’s wrong with the dog? Why is it barking?” To which you would say, “I don’t know, I think it needs to be fed or sh*!.” It could be Hungarian or Russian, no one knows for sure but seems to me like Hungarian makes more sense. For example, you are hungry when you need to be fed or sh*!.
Now, Waterstraat – it’s no Fed-Of-Sky. You can’t make a career out of Waterstraat. I suppose you could water the street, or build a water street (if you were in Amsterdam), or water the tulips along the street in your wooden shoes - but certainly nothing that would gain you federal status, or permission to stay the higher class prison, or not pay taxes, or get your mail delivered on a plane.
I always knew that being a Fedofsky was a great thing - a last name with such character, such pizzazz, such potential. So Pete, Claire, Catherine, Suzanne, Stephen, Lorraine, Susan, and Uncle Michael, let us unite in our true identities as Fed – Of – Sky’s. Or at the very least, let’s get together and start the family busines that's been waiting for us.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
While I was riding eastbound on the road, enjoying a summer evening ride with my husband, you were driving westbound enjoying a ride in your pick-up truck. And though we were riding as close to the white line as possible, and though we were not disturbing you, and though we were riding in your opposite direction, you still felt compelled to honk your horn, stick your arm out the window, and flip us the bird.
I was wondering how that felt for you – did it make you feel bigger, stronger, better? Was it the most exciting highlight of your day? And, most importantly, was it necessary?
I was hoping that you would be able to help me understand why you did this – because you are not the only one who drives around flipping bicyclists the bird. You see, it happens a lot. And, more often than not, it happens while riding in a certain local town.
I was wondering if there was a club in this certain town united in their growing hatred of cyclists. This is one of several incidents in which I have been cussed at, shouted at, flipped off, or nearly ridden off the road by someone driving through this town. I was wondering why it seems that everyone in this particular town is too busy, too cool, or too mean to share the road with cyclists. What is the big rush in this town? Where is everyone going? And why is everyone so insistent upon acting like an ass towards cyclists on their way there?
Since you likely do not have the ability to assemble an intelligent or meaningful answer to my questions, I thought I would just come up with a few theories on my own. Here’s why I think you honked and flipped me off on the road:
Because you wanted to politely inform me that your 4,000 pound truck was indeed bigger than my 19 pound bicycle. You’re right – math never was my forte and maybe this is a mathematical lesson that I need to learn. But I think by age 3, I had developed the ability to understand that bigger things can hold big things. For example, a big jackhole can easily fit in a big truck.
Because you wanted to convey that your V-8 hemi full of horsepower was more powerful than my legs that at most can push out 490 watts for about 5 seconds. Again, you’re right, I am about as powerful as a light bulb when it comes to wattage. But I’d like to think that in terms of brainpower, my V-10 will outrun your V-8 anyday (that's right, they gave me 2 extra cylinders).
Because you were drunk, stoned, or seeing whether synergism really works – all excellent choices when driving. Seems like you might want to get a little friendlier with the cycling community since that may one day be your only transportation option after you receive your 3rd DUI. You might just need to buy a bicycle from me one day and we might just meet again since the best way to meet a drunk is to run an ad in the newspaper for a used bicycle.
Because you were in a big hurry and we, going the other way, were clearly in your way. Again, this may be a math problem too sophisticated for me, but how did my 62 inch body seated vertically on a 48 cm frame that occupied about 3 inches of the road mostly on the shoulder become the equivalent of a monster-sized obstacle that you had to maneuver around.
Because your brain is as big as your balls. That goes without saying because you drive a big truck.
Because you thought that my husband and I, sporting brightly colored jerseys, socks, glasses, and helmets looked ‘gay’. No gayer than you looked as a grown man behaving like a 13-year old.
Because you were very bored and had nothing else to do but drive around the suburbs and pump gas @ $3.19 per gallon into your guzzling truck. I don’t really care too much about this one because I’m sure that with your minimum wage job you cannot afford to do more than put gas into your truck and drive around at night.
I think I’m overthinking this. Because the longer I sit here, the harder it is for me to come up with a reason why you would feel it was necessary to impose your ignorant self on my recreational ride.
I may just have hit it there – the recreational part. Maybe you don’t approve of my idea of recreation. But that’s ok – because chances are that I don’t approve of yours either. I am guessing that your idea of recreation involves driving around in your big truck or parking your booty, again bigger than your brain, on your oversized couch with a 6-pack and bag of Cheetos. I have nothing against Cheetos but I am also guessing that you lick your fingers after each one which is disgusting. And I am guessing that you enjoy watching a television show each evening. I don’t watch too much t.v. so I can’t guess which one but it’s probably something ‘gay’. How about tomorrow night I visit you during your recreational time and park myself in your driveway and blow my horn until I get your attention and then when I do, I’ll flip you the bird. How does that sound?
If you don’t like bicycles then do cyclists a favor - don’t ever buy one. Or ride one. That is how you can proactively and provocatively communicate your feelings about bicycles. Avoid the whole industry, don’t spend your money on it, and don’t give it any attention. That’s meaningful. That’s controllable. That will work.
But flipping me the bird because you hate bicycles won’t do you much good. You see, I love bicycles and I’m going to keep spending my money on wheels, components, and brightly colored jerseys. And I will teach my children to love bicycles and ride them carefully down the road, too.
So your opinion doesn’t really mean that much to me and I would greatly appreciate if you would abstain from trying to force your opinion on me in the form a middle finger in the middle of my ride.
Monday, August 07, 2006
And we may or may not have accepted the offer to purchase a glass of the wine of the week for $4.
And then we may or may not have purchased a bottle of the wine of the week for $34.
After sampling 6 wines, we may or may not have been enjoying ourselves. The shop may not have realized that we were lightweight triathletes who had no business buying or drinking anything more than one glass of wine.
We may have started a heated discussion with the shop proprietor on why the shop should create a new wine sampling criteria, “Could I drink a whole bottle of this in one sitting or not?” Which may have led to a lecture from the store proprietor on why we should do everything in moderation, like not getting addicted to too many things like cheap cigarettes or expensive wine.
I may have then left Chris to fend for himself with this proprietor, who may or may not have himself sampled a few too many fine wines earlier in the evening, as the discussion dragged on about sophisticated wines meant for savoring and sipping and not meant for finishing in one sitting.
And then I may have walked into a glass table on the way out. Which I found funny though the person behind the cash register may not have found it as funny.
Once outside, Chris and I may or may not have broken down into a fit of giggles after he pulled something out of his pocket which turned out to be the personal phone number of the proprietor who was likely concerned that two young newlyweds were well on their way to finishing off one bottle in less than 30 minutes in one sitting. Or, he may have found Chris to be very cute and just wanted to give him his number.
We then decided to hang out in the town, walking up and down the streets looking at the old cars with crowds of other people who may or may not have been enjoying their own Friday night, complete with food, beer, and wine at their own pace of moderation.
As we walked, I may or may not have told Chris that my foot finally felt better after being tied in a fit of tight knots all week long, and I may have associated this feeling of foot relief with the sampling of fine wines, and I may have proven my pain-free nimbleness by skipping down the sidewalk.
We may or may not have decided to go to a tavern and order a sampler paddle of the in-house brewed beer. I may or may not have finished most of the beers on my own, while Chris finally just ordered his own pint of beer so I wouldn’t have to share which I really wasn’t doing in the first place. I may have then finished Chris’ beer, telling him ‘this is really good’ which he may have been looking to find out for himself before I finished the pint off.
Outside of the tavern, we may or may not have visited a fine, upscale cigar shop, perusing an assortment of scented, flavored, and expensive smokables. Chris may have purchased a Punch cigar which the person behind the counter informed us had a real bite and questioned if we were sure that was the bite we were looking for. We may have asked him to light it up at that remark.
We may or may not have then walked down the street while periodically puffing on a cigar.
I may have shouted something about Ironman in the middle of the street.
At that point, we walked by the local running store and I may or may not have stopped dead in my tracks when I realized that there was a photo of our coach tacked on a board that was visible through the store’s front window. Which I may have found very freaky, but oh so funny because she lives about 40 miles from this store and yet she was still so close to us. I may have shouted “I think she’s watching us” as we tested this by walking to and from the picture to prove that, yes indeed, her eyes were following us no matter which way we went. This may have led to a discussion that her eyes in the picture, though covered by sunglasses, were actually little cameras that were linked directly to her house like a portrait in a scary movie where the eyes were cut out and contained real eyes that watched you as you walked by.
I may or may not have sung out loud to the words of the songs played by two guys performing live music by the train station, including “Losing My Religion” (which I clearly was) and “Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard” while Chris stood by a lightpost, smoking the cigar and winking at me which may have reminded me of a dirty old man, which he is not.
And after a few songs, I looked around at all of the other people, walking, pushing strollers, eating ice cream cones, riding motorcycles. People were buzzing everywhere, almost as much as I may or may not have been buzzing, and they were clearly enjoying this sweet summer night. And I may have thought to myself – this is what real people do on a real Friday night and how is it that I have become just an infrequent visitor in this real world rather than a steady resident? At that point, I may have been a bit too fuzzy in the mind to come up with a deep or poignant explanation so I decided to count the cars on the train passing by instead, which may have gotten me dizzy or maybe it was the wine, or the beer, or the cigar all of which I may or may not have indulged in.
Back at home, I may have complained about still being hungry to which Chris responded “I didn’t think a salad would get you very far, Ironman.” So I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even though I may have said goodbye to peanut butter a few days ago, and then may have passed out in bed soon afterwards.
At 1:30 am, I may have woke up wondering who was hitting me on the head with the paddle that was holding the beers at the tavern while someone else was stuffing cottonballs in my mouth.
I then may have taken a few Advil.
In the morning, I set out for a 13 mile run, the perfect cure for post-Friday night festivities. At mile 11, I may or may not have run off the path to find a place to release my own version of the runs behind trees which may or may not have been related to the festivities that took place the night before.
Of course, I plead my innonence and admit to nothing. After all, these things may or may not have happened because we stopped by the local wine shop on Friday night.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
With my last sugar meltdown back in June, it’s been some time since I’ve fallen off the wagon. And let me tell you that these past 4 days, I’ve fallen so far that I think the wagon lost a wheel.
There’s nothing more entertaining than sharing a sugar meltdown with other athletes. With the company of my husband, Kirsten, and Anne the four of us set out to eat our own weight in snacks and treaties post-race this past weekend.
After the race, we hunted down some good old Newfoundland Fish n’ Chips. It was the tastiest beer battered cod I’ve ever had. I don’t normally eat French fries, but today I took the extra time to not only eat, but to salt, pepper, and bathe them in half a bottle of ketchup. We also had fried cheese sticks. Wait, let me say that again – I ate fried cheese. Somewhere a part of me just died.
After a short walk-it-off walk, we decided that ice cream would be in order. Super – throw more dairy into this mega monstrosity of fried madness settling into my stomach. The night before, we had stood in the grocery store frozen section studying the assorted ice cream flavors and narrowing it down to three; Udderly Divine, Hoof Prints, or Brownie Delight. During the second run of the race, I saw Kirsten coming the other way and I had the urge to shout something about our ice cream flavor selection but the only flavor’s name I could remember I thought had something to do with a cow and the only thing that came to my mind was Bovine Delight and I felt that shouting the word bovine during a race might start a strange rumor about an American shouting livestock terms at competitors. Post-race, we finally settled on Hoof Prints. Then Kirsten and I hiked our way through half the bucket while Chris ate half of a blueberry pie.
Giving in to those gigantic candy bars in the store, I also ate a Cadbury Peanut Butter bar, scraping the peanut butter out of each square, and Kirsten enjoyed a Cadbury caramel bar.
The next morning, I had some Special K with bananas. I was off to a great start. And when I ran out of Special K, about 3 bowls later, I found that floating chocolate Teddy Grahams in soy milk also makes a fabulous breakfast. Not such a great start. After that, I finished the rest of the Hoof Prints and watched Anne polish off the other half of the blueberry pie. Then I didn’t feel so good and passed out for a nap.
About three hours later, I ate some pasta with parmesan cheese. I don’t know if it was lunch, a snack, or yet another extension of a very bizarre and caloric breakfast.
At the awards dinner, I piled up over 3 plates of food that I had tried from the buffet line – chicken, rice, salmon, lasagna, salad. Across from me, Anne had lined up 3 plates of desserts. Chris sent me back for lasagna twice. And then came my turn for dessert and I indulged in everything chocolate, toffee, sugary and sweet.
Returning to Chicago, we stopped in Montreal for an early morning layover. A green and white sign with a woman beckoned to me in the airport. It was Starbucks and I finally returned to a land that takes their coffee seriously. I order a Toffee Nut Americano and to my dismay it is not sugary or sweet enough. They’ve gone easy on the Toffee Nut syrup and they have no Splenda in sight offering me no relief for my artificial super sweet fix.
In protest, I eat an entire bag of mixed nuts.
At home, I make wheat pasta with vegetables because I feel guilty that I have not eaten anything green or fibrous lately. Afterwards, I visit Chris’ grandma and she insists I take 5 toffee turtle brownies back home. I eat 3 in the car. I find out later that each one has 230 calories and 14 grams of fat. I’m way over my limit today and expect the siren to go off any second, shouting ‘warning, warning, warning, we have reached maximum sugar capacity for the summer, all systems will now shut down.’
Dinner is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which is mostly peanut butter and very little bread. And the jelly tastes just as good off the spoon as it did on the bread.
The next day I was determined to stay on track. But I got badly derailed when my co-worker gave me a bag of gummy frogs. That led to one bad case of gummy tummy by 11 am. After lunch, I returned to find another co-worker ready to celebrate my birthday with some coffee ice cream. Since it is against my religion to refuse coffee, in any form, I had to give in.
I sat at home later that evening and said enough was enough – it was time to recommit myself to a life of sugar celibacy. I baptized myself with a tall, cold glass of skim milk to wipe the sugary slate clean and stopped to say goodbye. Goodbye peanut butter, goodbye ice cream, goodbye chocolate and brownies and cheese, goodbye sugary desserts, beer-battered cuisine, and fried cheese. Goodbye cupcakes and lemonade.
Tomorrow, I vow to return to a normal diet and leave these days of debauchery and over-indulgence behind – for the sake of weight, training, and my colon. And I think it’s going to be awhile before I see my fatty friends again. After recovering, I’ll be building up towards Pigman, then Long Course Nationals, and finally Hawaii.
So it might be autumn before I roll out the old wagon again. But by that time, all of my favorite fall treats will be right on hand – candy corn, caramel, pumpkin pie, apple cider, chocolate filled Halloween goodies. I can hardly wait!
Let me tell you one thing about me – I am not a pet person. Now before all of you pet people write me off, understand this: I am down with O.P.P. (other people’s pets) but do not want one of my own.
Don’t get me wrong. Indeed pets can be adorable, loyal, warm, and fulfilling. But the way I see it, at this point in my life, if I going to put that much time, money, and care into something it might as well be another person. And besides, I’ve got a husband and that is enough for now.
My attitude towards pets does not go without years of experience. I’ve got a history with pets that started back in 1993. I was spending my first semester in college in Ohio. Sitting in my dorm room one night, I called home. Talking to my mom, I could hear a tiny yip and yap in the background.
“What is that?” I asked.
“Oh,” my mom said, “that’s our new dog.”
I couldn’t believe it. My parents house of orderly perfection with coordinating wallpaper, curtains, and plush carpeting now included a dog? Surely this cannot be my parent’s house that I have called.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said.
“No, really, it’s a dog. Your dad wanted to name it Elizabeth to replace you but instead we all settled on Cookie.” Not sure whether to be offended or highly complimented, I was at least pleased to hear that the dog’s moniker hailed from the name of my stuffed Pound Puppy – Cookie. Cookie who had traveled all over throughout my childhood – to California, Florida, Michigan, New York. Cookie who had once driven the car when my dad figured out a way to entwine her around the steering wheel that caused several hours of laughter to follow.
“Not only is it a dog, but it’s a Dalmatian,” she added.
I know what you’re thinking. How could a tiny, spotted cute pooch bring anything other than Disney-like happiness to any family that cares for it? Let Cruela tell you a story…
Cookie was cute. As a puppy, she was small, playful, perfectly spotted with two floppy black ears. Everyone wanted to hold her, play with her, everyone loved her. In her early years, my dad would take her to the fire department just to visit. She was so cute and cuddly that what normally would have seemed borderline abnormal and psychotic (which my dad was), seemed perfectly along normal lines because he had that puppy in hand.
The first year, Cookie’s most formative year, was doomed from the get-go. I was away at college, leaving Cookie prey to the oddities of my mother, brother, and dad. Now I love my family, but I wouldn’t leave a fish in their care for much longer than an hour. You see, my dad was too busy being psychotic and mowing the lawn (twice in two different directions, every Sunday), my brother was too busy hiding from my dad, and my mom was too busy scrubbing the floors. It’s no doubt that I was cut from the same cloth, but at least, at the very least, as a psychology major I could have offered the basics of behavior modification for training the dog.
Alas that would not be. And poor Cookie might as well have been raised in a barn by large wolves. At least she would have learned how to bale hay or something. At my parent’s house, there was no discipline, no system. Each time I came home from college, there was a new behavior that we were ignoring, tolerating, laughing, crying about, or cleaning up after.
Quite literally, Cookie was hell on wheels – the lightest, most aerodynamic wheels with no rolling resistance, deep rims, and 100 PSI’s pumping through each mighty paw. Fiercely loyal, high-strung, nippy, antsy, and with the speed of white lightening, she was bound to create some catastrophe on a daily basis. On her first birthday, Cookie celebrated by tearing the plastic layer off of the linoleum floor. Soon after, she ate an entire pair of sunglasses. She chewed, tore, and ripped through at least 5 stuffed Garfield’s (hey, he was big in the 80’s). One day, in a panic from a storm, she clawed her way through the wooden latticework on the windows. She got loose from the yard too many times to count. She created her own litter box in front of the basement door. She ate an entire box of tampons, turning the bathroom into a sea of cotton and strings, and leaving her with, pardon the pun, an inconsolable case of cottonmouth. She scratched the finish off of two doors. Mistaking a small red-headed child on a scooter for a large mobile carrot, she broke free from the tree, chased him down, and bit him in the hamstring (we later referred to the child as ‘Dog Chow’). She stole loaves of bread from the kitchen counter. She swallowed a sewing needle which got embedded in her trachea and required a trip to the emergency vet. I once watched her snag and scarf down an entire wheel of brie. This dog had the sheer determination, speed, and hunger to get anything at anytime from anyone.
My favorite – the ‘Cookie at the MS Walk’ story. My dad has MS so naturally he attended the MS walk. Well, my mom walked while he walked around, smoking cigarettes and parading Cookie around the Riverwalk. When my mom returned from the walk, Cookie was covered, head to tail, in coffee stains and pizza sauce. Seems that my dad, with his MS-induced shakiness, couldn’t balance Cookie on a leash in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other hand and when she slipped free, she jumped on to the pizza tables and helped herself. My dad found this hilarious. The walk organizers were not as amused.
My mom is convinced that Cookie is a perceptive genius. Gifted, if you will. You see, she can open drawers with her paws, knows my brother’s name, and can find a box of Mr. Barky’s buried in the laundry room. Oh sure, somebody call Mensa because they’ve missed one.
She’s so brilliant, or conniving (it’s your call), that my mom leaves her tethered to the pantry door while she’s not at home. But don’t call PETA yet – Cookie has her water, food, bone, a pillow, and mat all within reach. She just doesn’t have her freedom. We’ve tried giving her freedom, but read 2 paragraphs ago…..it didn’t go too well.
What surprises me the most, is that after 13 years, with 3 paws in the grave, she’s still kicking around. And it was last week that I had the pleasure of caring for her and her spotted poochiness while my mom was away.
We decided to bring Cookie to our house and hope for the best. After an exciting car ride, she walked into our house and spent the next hour walking laps around our first floor. After awhile, she just laid down and looked at us. We set up her mat by the front door, and just as security, hooked her leash up to the door knob. We left for awhile and came back. Nothing – no scratched doors, chewed up plants, water bowls flipped over, just a spotted dog sleeping on a mat. The most unusual thing she did was wake up once at 3:15 am, tap dance with her long toenails over to her food bowl, and eat her kibbles for a late night snack. Other than that, she was the perfect picture of a pet.
The week progressed and each day went by without drama. I don’t even think she barked. It may have taken 13 years, but she’s finally become the dog we’ve always dreamed of. Sure, she’s pretty much blind, deaf, and barely mobile but she is still as playful, cute, and driven by hunger as ever. She can still understand the shake of a box of Mr. Barky’s. She still loves to sniff every blade of grass in the backyard. And she still likes to be pet and scratched – just not on her ears.
When my mom took Cookie back, she called me the next day to report that Cookie had been on her worst behavior. She scratched her food bowl all day long, flipped her water bowl three times, stole some food from the table, and barked incessantly.
And as I listened, I thought up a question in the most psychology-majoresque style – is it nature or nurture? Is Cookie a victim of her biology or a victim of circumstance? If Cookie had been raised thousands of miles away by some rigid German family, would they have tolerated her incorrigibility and unruliness? It’s hard to say.
Rather than mentally wrestle with that and other existential questions, I choose not to have a pet. Instead, I will let myself be surrounded by other people’s pets and call that enough. When Chris’ parents travel, I take out I-Chi and Chewie. When Brenda works late, I play with Sugar and Hooch at lunchtime. I listen to Sarah’s stories about her cat, Dale. I love O.P.P., I just have no plans of turning OPP into MPP (my personal pet) any time soon.
And just to confirm this with Chris, we had a conversation back in February. Chris was talking about getting a dog. The camera was nearby and I asked him to take a picture of me. In that picture, my eyebrows are raised and my eyes look serious in their statement as I said to the camera “no dogs”. Afterwards, I told him that was my “no dogs” face and anytime he thought about getting a dog, he should take a look at that picture to get my answer.
So, I think we’ll be pet-free for awhile. And if you think my “no pets” face sounds scary, you should see “no kids*.”