Saturday, September 29, 2007

Autumn Warnings

It is autumn in Illinois. One of my favorite times of the year. The leaves are changing color, the humidity has finally gone away, skies are blue with cirrus clouds.

Weather has been perfect this week for peak week. Warm, sunny, light winds. My legs have felt great. Put out is the tunnel of fire, lit back up is the fire in my legs. For someone training for a late season race in Illinois, it doesn’t get any better than this. Out there riding today and thought to myself these are the workouts and days you want to bottle up forever to bring back any time.

But for as much as I love being able to train in autumn, there are some warnings that need to be made.

Warning #1: The squirrels

WATCH THE SQUIRRELS. Right now that are freakin’ fearless. Not only that but squirrely. Can’t make up their minds. Will dart into the middle of the street in one direction only to do a 180 and dart back the other day as you approach. This might make you swerve into oncoming traffic, nearly roll over the walnut they were carrying across the road, or find yourself riding through gravel in the shoulder after responding to one said squirrely squirrel who changed their mind in the middle of the road and came towards you instead.

Warning #2: The chipmunks

Not to be confused with the squirrels. Also busying stashing nuts. But much more consistent than squirrels. Do not generally dart across the road – seem to know better. Need to pass this sense along to their brethren, the squirrel. Not as fast as squirrel either, so more likely to be dead in middle of road per chance they did run into it. Generally harmless, will not run you off the road. Also cannot carry large nuts so smaller acorns and seeds not much of a hazard.

Warning #3: Cobs of corn

Fields have been plowed, corn has been cut. Cobs are finding their way into the middle of the road. Might have something to do with squirrel. Kind of like rolling over a stick but thicker, more damaging. Can cause the most inflated tire to blow upon impact. Also tend to richochet from cars that roll over them as they ride by. Watch out for the cob.

Warning #4: Acorns

Oaks drop acorns every other year, this is their year around here. Not really a problem when riding but turns the running path into a marble maze. Kind of like running on hot coals. Just not hot. Still hurt though.

Warning #5: Walnuts

Black walnuts – actually in little green fleshy packages when they drop. ALL OVER THE ROADS right now. Very mobile, agile, dangerous. Will roll right in front of your front wheel with NO FEAR. Possibly looking for you to help free them from their green fleshy prison to set free the nut inside (the walnut, not you). When running will get under your foot like a skateboard and cause your ankle to roll.

Warning #6: Dead frogs

Not sure what happened here. Perhaps another sign the apocalypse is coming. Dead frogs all over the path lately – black, leathery, kind of weird. Counted four on the path today – perhaps the squirrels know?

Warning #7: Falling leaves

Will scare the sh*t out of you when cycling. Nothing like something coming flying at your face – if you weren’t so in the zone while riding you might notice it was just a leaf and not a four-winged freaky thing ready to take a bite of your ear. Leaves also camouflage potholes, acorns, walnuts, and squirrels ready to play chicken with you in the street.

Warning #8: No more corn

Not to be confused with cobs of corn. No more corn – problem here is that all summer corn was your friend. Corn offered a little break from the gusty winds. Corn broke things up. Corn is down and nothing but barren fields. As bad as riding by soybeans. Both make for lots of wind, nowhere to hide. Also, no corn means nowhere to take a quick pee on a ride.

Warning #9: Disappearing sunlight

Evil trick of autumn. You go out for your after ride work and forget the sun is going down like 30 minutes earlier everyday (feels like it, doesn’t it?). So you’re out there in the dark, temperature has dropped about 20 degrees.

So heed my warnings. Lots of autumn riff-raff out there to mess with your rides and runs but I still can't get away from the fact that this is the best time of year to train. Just beautiful out there. Hickories, sumacs, maples - they are all starting to show their colors. Get out there and enjoy this weather while you can.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You've Been Referred

One of the more interesting pieces of information that Site Meter provides is how people arrive at my website; “referrals” if you will.

Let’s say someone types my name into Google – that’s a referral. Or, someone types in “Ironman” and one of my posts contains the word “Ironman” (imagine that) and my site comes up. They click on my site and they have been referred.

At least 10 times a day, someone is referred to my site this way. By some random mixing of their request and words in my archives. What surprises me is that 10 people actually click on my site and spend time here.

Just for fun, I started keeping track of some of the more entertaining ways people were referred to me. Understand that these are phrases that people actually typed into Google and then clicked their way to me.

“Captain Morgan is sitting in a bar and I asked him how he got the peg leg”
So it is common knowledge that Captain Morgan is a fictitious character that lives on the label of a bottle of rum, right?

“Names of people who do not like pizza”
Oh no. They’re looking for us? Does someone keep track of this? Will they gather us all in a giant room and force feed us super cheesy pizza?

“Who said a death sentence on 12 systems in star wars”
The guy in the bar talking to Luke. Next!

"Desiree ficker" topless”

“Paula Newby poop”
And It just got sicker.

“Leashed wives”
Obviously a typo. Should have read “leashed husbands”. And a short leash at that.

“Best place to put body glide triathlon”
That depends. How long is the race? The longer the race the more interesting the places you can put it.

“Red sores on crotch”
Crabs? Herpes? Certainly has nothing to do with your bike if that’s the answer you’re looking for on my blog.

“Small boob blog iowa”
I’m sorry – living in iowa AND small boobs. Could it get worse? Wait, yes, how about small boobs, living in Iowa and having red sores on your crotch.

“Sore feet on bike”
You’re training for Ironman too, eh?

“Something desire clown close like body”
There are very few times I am speechless in life. This would be one of them.

“Hanging banana display”
So many ways this is wrong, so little time to tell you about them.

“Piriformis pain crotch”
Too bad your piriformis is in your ass.

“Grandma naked in the shower”
I need a pervert filter on this blog.

“What to do swimming in tangled milfoil”
If you are smart enough to know what milfoil is you are smart enough to find your way out.

“Saddle sores and bactroban”
Best way to cure saddle sores is with Bactroban, I agree.

“She is told she snores”
He who told you this lies.

“How many water bottles for Ironman”
How many can you carry?

“Tampax pearl prices”
I’ve always thought Tampax would be a great sponsor for me to plug (insert bass drum, snare, cymbal crash please)

“How to see numbers in a dream”
More importantly, how to determine what they mean if they are in your dream.

“Man on short leash”
NOW we’re talking. Man on short leash is long way from trouble.

“Divorce and Ironman”
Love and marriage, divorce and Ironman.

“When a bicycle stands it will fall but during riding it will not, why?”

“Hawi lap dance pic”
I’m impressed. How the heck did you find room to fit a stripper in your special needs bag? I could barely fit 3 water bottles.

Language that husband speaks.

“Sissy husband blog”
That’s just hilarious. Oddly enough, I get this referral at least 3 times a week. Men out there, I’d be worried. There’s an underground cult of wives calling you sissies.

“I smell like peanut butter”
I would probably stay away from me and a spoon then, especially after Ironman.

“Conversations with myself in my head”

That’s when you know you need to start a blog.

“What happens when engineers disappear”
Well, when you broadcast it on a blog you incriminate yourself.

“Smelly armpit forum”
I swear to god – one season with a smelly armpit and you’re marked forever.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tunnel of Fire

Training for Ironman has become the tunnel of fire. You are swimming, biking, or running in the tunnel. You can see the end. But the walls are lined with fire. You are hot, you are uncomfortable, you are hurting, you want out. But you have not yet reached the end. It’s up there, but still miles away.

The tunnel of fire.

We are at the peak of the final push, the last straw before the back breaks, and feel the heat of the Ironman fire every step of the way. We are tired. We are hungry. We are hurting. We are restless, antsy, waiting. Our thoughts are filled with Ironman, our conversations are filled with where to positions ourselves on the swim, our days are numbered until towards Hawaii we are on our way.

And we are getting to the point where the tunnel of fire seems to never end. We’ve been running through this tunnel since June 10th, when we qualified, signed the check. Since then we’ve trained for something far, many months away. The date gets closer but the tunnel doesn’t seem shorter and it’s these final miles that will take the longest until we arrive on the other side.

I was running the other day at 5:45 am, looked down and realized my heart rate monitor was stuck on stop watch countdown mode.

It was a sign, you could say.

And so every minute for the next 50 minutes, it beeped. Not that running at 5:45 am in the dark wasn’t annoying enough. Or getting my morning poop at 30 minutes into the run in the middle of the woods.

After that, the heart rate monitor completely died. Symbolic? You could say. A representation of how my body feels right now, a countdown that we are really ready to be done, the body is tired, the buttons are stuck, we are very close to break.

But first a peak week, a taper, and then an Ironman. See? Now that’s not so bad. Right?

The other day my coach asked how I was doing. On schedule that night was a 20 mile run. She said I could do it as long as nothing was niggling. Niggling? I told her it was pretty safe to say these days my entire body is one big niggle. Especially my left side – that would be left knee, left quad, left hamstring, ITB, foot, and heel. I told her I’ve put in a replacement order for all of these parts, hell how about a whole new left leg, but haven’t heard back from the manufacturer.


Top it all off with the fact that my stomach today has been tied in knots. Those knots. I know what you’re thinking – you do all that training and you still get it? I have come to realize that even if I was chasing it with a flaming stick I would still see it every 28 days. To chase it away with hours in the saddle, yards in the pool, and miles on the run? I wouldn’t be so lucky.

Chris is starting to feel it too. No, not the cramps but just about everything else. Yesterday I received a text message that simply said “worst workout ever”. Enough said. I replied with something along the lines of welcome to Ironman, the best of the worst training you’ve ever done. He came back home with stories of missing a morning poop (the kiss of death for a long ride), stomach dropping at mile 30, organized bike ride on a trail, excessive heat, high heart rate, yes, yes, yes all signs pointing towards Ironman training almost ready to be done.

He woke up the next morning convinced he had an Achilles strain. This began the usual I’m-training-for-Ironman-tirade of help convince me I am injured. You know, where you test, fret, and search for reasons why you are 100 percent injured, hurt, put me in a boot, on crutches, tell me I’m injured and sentence me to the couch for the next 30 days. Because when your body feels pain I am convinced we are not happy until someone says you are hurt. Otherwise why would you feel pain?

“Where is my Achilles?”, “do you think I strained my Achilles”, “what would it feel like if I hurt my Achilles?” all which left him hopping, bending, and pushing off in the living room while I convinced him that unless a bone was sticking through his skin, it hurt to hop, or experiencing non-stop stomach churning pain, he was not hurt.

Then what, what is it? What could it be?

YOU ARE TRAINING FOR IRONMAN. You are just in pain. Simple as that. You rode 100 miles yesterday. You went for a run. You will hurt. Maybe every day for the next few days. And if you wake up and something does not hurt – ask yourself how much you drank the night before or how much advil you had to take. Because the ways of Ironman are filled with pain.

Especially these final days.

But here’s the best part – the end of the tunnel is less than 3 weeks away. I know that rationally - even though irrationally it still seems weeks, maybe months away. I know that in another week I’ll begin to taper and the miles will decrease until race day.

Until then, our bodies will ache and burn and niggle in the tunnel of fire. Literally. It was 90 degrees here on Monday. It was mother nature’s way of telling us she’s still out there. Her fire still burns, and if not here in Illinois for much longer than thousands of miles away, on an island of Hawaii, October 13th, the real tunnel of fire we will run through on race day.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Notes From An Italian Wedding

I spent my weekend in Connecticut at my cousin's wedding. I haven't been around that many Italians in probably 25 years. Here's a few notes from an Italian wedding:

You will eat fresh tomatoes with basil and mozzarella and you will like it.

If a short older woman wearing big glasses asks you "What are you doing?" - don't answer, it's a rhetorical Italian question.

We'll let the Irish in but only if they're married to an Italian.

After raising your glass you always say "salud".

At some point in the night you will find yourself talked into doing a shot and toasting to being Italian and being from Brooklyn. You look behind you to see your mom doing the same.

You find yourself eating to Frank Sinatra.

In an Italian wedding you dance a little, eat a little ravioli, dance a little, eat some more.

All of us thick-haired Italian women that showed up with blown dry hair ended up leaving the outdoor portion of the wedding with a hairstyle twice as large.

At some point some relative will ask you to take the wine glass away from another relative that probably enjoys the vino a little too much.

One of your cousins admits to stealing a piece of the table decor and then asks you to help in her plan of stealing the entire centerpiece.

The table of all-Brooklyn-but-one quickly let the Bronx know he was an outlander.

Understand that you will eat pignoli nuts at some point during the night.

At least once every 5 minutes you hear someone reply with 'fuhgeddaboutit'.

Somewhere in the room you know there is a man named Vinnie.

You catch half the table singing along to Autumn in New York.

Something on the hors d'ouvres table WILL be wrapped in proscuitto.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Karma Police

The other night, on my husband’s behalf, I had to call the Karma Police.

It started with Chris complaining about his feet. Last weekend, in the half-Ironman, he forgot to wear socks. And since then he has been starting and ending each day with “my feet hurt”. So much that at the start of last night’s run when he said “my feet hurt” I said, yeah, got it, got it good, got it yesterday, last night, the night before that, after the race, post-race morning, got the point that your feet hurt. So there we were in the kitchen and again he was saying his feet hurt.

Pssssst.......GOT IT.

But part of me inside was thinking oh you just wait. You think your feet hurt after running sockless for 13.1 miles? Imagine twice the pain. For twice as long. Let me tell you running 26.2 miles after 112 miles even with socks on, feet lubed, shoes powdered and greased, even with all of that you still are not prepared for foot pain.

So as I was telling Chris to ZIP IT about the feet because if he cries sore feet now he’ll use up all of his sore cry points for after Kona. And he just might need them. Heck, we all will. And as I was about to say that, he beat me to the next word and pulled out his ace in the hole.

The Kona card.

“Oh yeah, well you…..,” he began leading to a crescendo of complaints in which he told me I was going to be no fun in Kona before or after the race. Because I’d be too nervous before and after because I’d be too sore. Because this, because that, blah blah blah blah.

True, true, all true. Even the blah blah's. Last year I was sore, I was nervous, I was blah blah blah. But still, I felt for someone that had never done the race before it was probably bad mojo for him to call me the one that was going to be nervous and sore.

When two athletes train for Ironman together, conversations happen like this. You know the race is heavy on the other person’s mind. You know it’s a card, an ace in the hole you can pull from under the table and use for nasty play when one said spouse is annoying the crap out of you because she won’t – for the 100th time – listen to you lament about your SORE SORE OH SO SORE feet. So you pull the Kona card to make your point.

Being woman and sensing this evil card trick, I said stop right there. And then I called in the Karma Police.

Arrest this man and his accusations right now. Because as far as nervousness and soreness go, oh first time Ironman, you never know. And you know what goes around will come around and hell if I’m going carry you, husband, on my back after the race because Karma took a bite out your big toe. And little toe. And all ten toes, two legs, lower back, arms, abs, and ass, and….you get the sore point.

So you better knock on our wooden cabients and hope the race doesn't do nervous or sore things to you. In fact, how ‘bout we pick up this conversation in 3 weeks at the pier and as you look out at 1800 other athletes funneling into the water tell me if you don’t get a little…..well, nervous?


And then somewhere I think I heard a knock.

But part of me had to laugh. I’m going to be too sore? You'll see. YOU'LL SEE. I’d like to think that muscles have memory. That my body sort of “knows” or at the very least vaguely remembers the level of pain that I will find in a few weeks. Not that any of that will help, but at least I sort of know how bad it will get. I know the Palani Hill feels bad going up but even worse coming down. I know the imaginary hill out of the Energy Lab that makes you feel like you're carrying a gorilla on your back really doesn’t exist. I know the walk from the finish line to the massage tables will feel longer than any distance covered the entire day.

Husband, on the other hand, his body doesn't know. And so that is why it is best for him, an all of us, to keep karma a close friend. Especially before Kona. Admit your weakness, revel in any strength you find on the day, and pray that the winds, heat, and water just graciously let you through.

And if you can emerge from all of that not nervous or sore, well then you can stop knocking on wood. But until then, those of us Kona-should request a Karma Police Escort for the next 3 weeks and carry around a wooden box just in case.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bringing Healthy Back

After four days spent in post-race-sugar-meltdown, I am so ready to bring healthy back.

It started with a cookie after the race, then a bagel with peanut butter, about a quart of coffee, a piece of chicken, some rice, half a piece of cheesecake, the chocolate frosting off of Chris’ cake (poor guy – the price of being a slow eater), then scoops full of chocolate frosting. And then, to top that all off after the awards I demanded a trip to Dairy Queen. Hey, when I fall off the wagon I fall hard and with no shame.

Sunday was no better. The day started with a little coffee in my cream, a bagel, more peanut butter, a cinnamon crunch something so sticky is hurts my teeth to talk about it, all of the little yellow corns from a bag of Mellocremes, a chocolate sports nutrition bar (please don’t ask – we were driving, I was hungry, it was the only thing edible in the car), lots of dark chocolate, a piece of pumpkin bread, and then a healthy turn at dinner that seemed so useless at that point. And then for desert I had the great idea to break pieces of dark chocolate and dip them in the peanut butter jar (the best idea I’ve had in weeks).

The next day I woke up. I had a headache.

Imagine that?

My legs were feeling better but my head was still spinning from a post-race weekend of sugar overload. Sadly, I realized it was time to go off the sugar again. Goodbye peanut butter, goodbye chocolate, goodbye sticky cinnamon crunchy things, goodbye coffee cream.


I spent the rest of the day eating like my healthy normal self. Oatmeal, raisins, yogurt, noodles, tofu, tomatoes – gulp - black coffee. But no cream? No cream.

After swimming, I realized our house was out of most healthy normal things. So I went to the grocery store. Though I am filling my cart with a rainbow of healthy foods, I want to tear down the candy aisle tossing buckets of chocolate covered things into my cart. And ice cream. Cake. Milk to wash it all down.

Turning my head, trying to resist, steering the cart away….but…..not….working…..wheels…are…turning….

Dammit, I give in. I decide I need another day of sugar meltdown to release this all the way. Because you know if you don’t fully purge yourself of the sugar monster it will sneak in with all sorts of weird ways. Case "in" point (got it now, thanks!) – Phillipe after the race tells me he “tried” to give up sugar, tried to keep it out of his house then found himself at midnight eating entire bags of raisins or making a meal out of sports bars to get his sugar fix.

Uh, Phillipe, if you’re going to crash at least do it the right way – bury your face in a bag of M&M’s or something. Screw the raisins. Those still count as fruit.

So, breaking down in the grocery store, I wheeled into the candy aisle. Oh candy aisle of all candy aisles. Trader Joe’s has the most delectable candy aisle. Chocolate covered raspberry swizzle sticks. Chocolate covered nuts. Chocolate bricks. Mini peanut butter cups. I select dark chocolate covered caramel chunks and big peanut butter cups (who eats mini peanut butter cups? WHO?).

Driving home I knew it would be a long ride. It was rush hour, around the suburbs, so 5 miles could very well take 5 days. You know what this means – better bring those chocolate covered caramel squares into the passenger seat lest they don’t get lonely in the trunk.

I am driving and eating my caramel squares. In moments, my hands are covered in melted dark chocolate and I have a chocolate clown mouth. Chocolate has melted on to the seatbelt and on to my shorts. Chris keeps telling me he wants to buy me a new car, but I simply cannot understand where I will wipe my chocolately hands in a new car (unless it also has cloth seats).

Waiting at a stoplight, I jokingly look at the nutritional content. 160 calories in 2 pieces “small”. But what if you have eaten the entire bucket with pieces both big and small. How many smalls make a big? And if I eat too many fat calories from small plus big will I just explode?

For now it doesn’t matter. Because midnight is many hours away. And until then I will recklessly eat peanut butter cups and lick fingers of melted chocolate. But tomorrow I will bring healthy back. If not for my blood sugar, then for sacrifice in hopes of success at my next race.

And to show you how serious I am, I will put it to song. Because everything is much more serious when put to song. Soon to be a hit for me and JT:

I’m bringing healthy back,
Unhealthy foods you better watch your act
You know your full of saturated fats,
Because they’re listed on your nutrition facts.
(Take it to the ‘fridge)
Healthy, babe, you see this ‘fridge here it’s so healthy babe,
Tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, I’m your slave,
I’ll chop and cook you each and every day.
(Take it to the pantry)
Come here oil
(go ahead, it’s olive)
Eggs to boil
(go ahead they’re cage free)
Plain yogurt you see
(go ahead, it’s low fat )
And a bag of flax seeds.
(keeps you regular)
Loaves of wheat bread,
(with whole wheat flour)
Hummus as a spread,
(go ahead, it’s garlic)
Fresh peppers in a box,
(red, orange, yellow)
Tomato sauce.
(of course organic)
Get your healthy on, get your healthy on.
Get your healthy onnnnn, get your healthy on.

Yeah, I’m getting my healthy on. I’m eating my tofu on wheat bread and loving it bite by bite. But let me tell you, right now that chocolate power gel in the pantry is looking mighty good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Happens In Your Head

The night before the race I told myself this race would be won in my head not my legs.

My head would be ready as much as my legs. Because the night before a race, I had a conversation with myself that I wrote on paper as I the race played out in my head. Before eery race, I write a story of the outcome I want for my race. As I write, I reflect on and reconnect myself to all of the hard work and pains that I went through leading up to race day by piecing together the quotes, phrases, or thoughts that pulled me through different training sessions week to week.

You can call this mumbo jumbo, hocus pocus, or bs. But as I sat on Monday night, thinking about the race, I realized that everything I wrote the night before the race actually happened and came alive. There's nothing magical, genetic, or secret about a win - you get there by what happens in your head.

So here are my thoughts, here was my plan. This is what moved from the page of my notes to the course on race day.

When I showed up on race morning, and it was 38 degrees, I knew the cold wouldn’t matter to me. Because in my head I had chosen three things to focus on, one for each part of the race. The race wasn’t about the cold – it was about my plan for the race. And doing what it would take to make it my race – my outcome.

Possession – I possess my goals and make them come alive. I embrace them with everything I have. With that, I will possess this course. This course I know so well, this course I have mastered before. But each time is different. I must race my race as it unfolds. Respond to the race as it happens. Keeping in mind that I will do what it takes to possess this course. I possess myself and everything I have done working up to this goal. Possess my memories, my pain. I take them all and make them come alive. I use this possessive force to connect to the course knowing that I must seize it right here, right now to make it mine. I possess the opportunity. I know that opportunity never arrives, it is here and here is now. I possess the now and make it mine.

Standing at the start line the word ‘possession’ kept repeating in my head. When the women were crowding around me, when I was shivering from the cold, when the Race Director said 1 minute to go, I said to myself you are here to posses this race, possess this course and make your goals come alive. About twenty minutes into the swim as I got closer to the red arch, I picked up the pace and thought of the word possession over and over again.

Confidence – the confidence and maturity to know that this race will be won in my head. And to know for that I am prepared. This is not about strength, or endurance or speed. It is not about who will power through any one part of this course. It is about who is willing to suffer the most for the longest. And I have suffered more than anyone else in these past few weeks. I have hit a bottom so low that I was not sure I would ever bounce back. But in bouncing back I have become stronger than before. For that I am prepared. And now I will let the preparation meet the opportunity and confidence to carry me through.

When my entire body was cold on the bike, when I didn’t want to eat because it was so cold, when I was pushing my frozen knees up hills, and fighting the headwind, wondering if I was giving enough, I found myself saying you must have the confidence to execute your plan. To trust myself and everything I had learned from racing and training up to this point. This takes patience, maturity, and belief yourself – to race your own race, and race your plan.

Drive – is what keeps me going, what keeps my goals alive. I want to nail all three of my late season goals. Not for the glory, or the title, but for myself. I am driven to prove myself by improving myself on this course. To pursue my best performance on this day, these hills, no matter what this course throws my way. Drive is what burns inside of us and what I must use to light fuse that has been simmering for quite some time. Light it up. Light the legs on fire and burn from inside. See it in your mind, have the drive, the dare to make it happen.

When I dismounted the bike with over a three minute gap between myself and the next woman, I said the word drive to myself and set out on the course. At every turnaround, I noted the time between myself and first place knowing I would slowly chip away the time. I kept telling myself to have the drive to just chip it away, stay focused, stay strong. I would run into first place - any other option was not an option. Not the way it played out in my head, not the way it would play ount on this course. Soon after mile 9, I was running in first and held it to the end.

I wish I had an epic story to tell with drama and details of everything I did, what I ate, the pace I went, transition times, cadence, mile splits along the way. But none of that makes a win. Those are just the things you practice in training to set yourself up for a win. What makes a win is what happens in your head, what you do to make your outcome come alive. By taking full possesion of your goals, by having the confidence to race your plan, by being driven to succeed no matter how the race unfolds.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ok, ok......

The good news - I won the national championship for the second year in a row.
The bad news - It was about 38 degrees race morning.
The good news - When you are focused on going hard you don't feel the cold.
The bad news - But when you are that cold you pee yourself about 20 times on the bike.
The good news - The race was very spreadout so I didn't pee on anyone.
The bad news - I ended up in the ER @ 11 pm on Saturday night.
The good news - I am not dying. Nor do I have kennel cough.
The bad news - I did have to get nebulized.
The good news - Once I was nebulized I could breathe without sounding like a harmonica.
The bad news - Apparently once I fell asleep I was breathing as loud as a 300 lb man.
The good news - DayQuil is the best medicine you can take post-race.
The bad news - I fear I will exceed the recommended daily dose.
The good news - I am now comfortably back at home doing laundry.
The bad news - There are piles of laundry everywhere.
The good news - Only one more race to go.
The bad news - It's an Ironman.
The good news - There is no way that race will be 38 degrees cold.
The bad news - I careful what I wish for.....heat can be just as bad.

Anyways, a weekend of high times, high drama. A race report will soon follow.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Ruckus

Right now there are very strange noises coming from the garage.

I am sitting in the kitchen but Chris is out in the garage. I thought he was getting the bikes ready for the race. But then I heard a noise that I can only describe as a “ruckus” followed by Chris yelling very loud.

I believe what happened was he was power washing the garbage can and went a little too far. You see, something happened in our garbage can. After about 3 years of standing in our garage I think it just gave up and died. Because it smells like death. Possibly due to some toxic mixing of household garbage, foul smells and too many days over 95 degrees in our garage.

I told Chris just to toss the can. It’s not worth it. We can buy another one. But you know men – they have to do it the hard way just to prove they can.

So he got out the power washer. Yes, we own a power washer. It’s ridiculous. Chris has a tool for everything. Anyways, he’s power washing the can and I suspect he either washed it with so much power that it blew it across the garage or the water hit the side of the can and sprayed all over himself.

Knowing that either scenario could be very funny, I had to take a look.

I opened the garage door to find the garage empty – except for Chris’ ghetto table. This is a table he puts up in the garage when he works on bikes transforming our garage into a makeshift version of Sanford & Son. I like this table as much as I like living on the lot of Sanford & Son. Every time Chris puts up the table I shout out “Elizabeth, Elizabeth, I’m coming for ya” while clutching my heart which Chris does not find funny. But I find it hilarious.

Ghetto table aside, the garage is empty. But outside on the driveway I see Chris with the hose spraying the driveway.

He was literally watering the driveway.

Other than an upset bucket next to him, nothing said “big ruckus happened here.” So I decided to probe.

“Hey Chris, what’s going on out here?”

“Nothing,” he said, he didn’t even turn around, still watering the driveway. Clearly guilty of something or really intent on watering the driveway until it grows.

“There was quite a ruckus out here,” I said.

He turned around, “Yeah, I know,” and then went back to watering the driveway.

I looked at the garbage can. Actually I smelled it first. It stood there with no suggestion that it had been sent tumbling down the driveway by my husband and his powerful hose.

Wow that sounded wrong.

Then Chris told me he washed out the can and that he hoped it helped.

Politely, I said thanks and closed the door. Because for crying out loud it smelled like something had died twice in that can. For the love of clean air to breathe, Chris, I respect your initiative and your go get ‘em attitude with the garbage. But that can has been dead for quite some time. Can we PLEASE just buy a new garbage can? I’ll pay. Forget the joint credit card, this one’s on ME.

No sooner did those thoughts cross my mind than Chris came back inside. “I think we should buy a new garbage can,” he confessed.

Well it’s about time. Let’s say you and me do a little Home Depot tonight and go crazy spending 30 bucks on a new garbage can. If you really want to get even crazier we can fill it with garbage for the rest of the night while we breathe in our clean garage air. Crazier yet – put me inside of the clean garbage can while wheeling me up and down the street shouting “Elizabeth, Elizabeth, she’s comin’ for ya” to any neighbors we might pass by.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We Don't Fight Fair

On my way to the pool Monday night, I ran into Applesauce.

She was fresh off a prolonged fitness break and ready to start back in the pool. Together, we walked towards the pool to find it completely stacked. Every lane overfull, water aerobics at the wall, second lane backstroke guy with no goggles plus weird hamstring stretchy guy, third lane middle-aged man obsessed with pull buoy plus woman floating with noodle, last lane man swimming with big kick and fins.

Applesauce takes a seat by the hot tub and we wait. We talk, we catch up. Periodically, we scan the lanes to sense any swimmer fatigue or impending exit from the lane. But then looking at the last lane, I recognize a familiar face. Wait a minute…..

“Isn’t that your husband?” I ask Applesauce who seems content to wait for an indefinite amount of time for an open lane in the pool.

“Yeah,” she says.

I’m confused. I mean, why wait at the hot tub for an open lane to possibly never open up because I swear people doing the things the farthest from swimming in the pool seem to have freakish endurance to outlast those of us that actually do swim in the pool. Why not just jump in with husband instead?

“Don’t you want to swim with your husband?” I ask, still wondering why she hadn’t jumped in the lane.

“We’re not talking.” Applesauce went on to explain how she was not talking to him because he was late in going to the gym and to prove her point in an attempt at being passive aggressive she didn’t speak to him on the way to the gym (note: they live 5 minutes away).

We sat a few minutes longer before she conceded to joining him in the lane as the future of lane openings looked pretty dim. Freakish endurance was well underway in every other lane and not noodles, or pull buoys, or strange variation of backstroke were showing any signs of weakness.

“He’ll probably jump out as soon as I jump in,” she said gathering her fins and goggles to make her way to the lane.

“Just kick really hard when you go by him,” I said. Hey, all is fair when fighting in love. Even in the pool.

“Maybe I’ll cross the center line,” she added. You see, that’s the spirit. That’s how you get back at a husband in a fitness sort of way.

I bring up Applesauce as a point but really it could be Chris and I just the same. We’ve had our share of fights, fits, and miscommunications in the pool, on the bike or while running on the trail. In fact, the first few years we dated I credit a major increase in bike speed to fighting. If you happened to ride through Fermilab in 2002 you might have noticed a man on a bike with a small crazy Italian woman chasing him all out while shouting not so nice things his way. And the harder I chased him, the better I got. It wasn’t the best strategy for our relationship but for getting fast – well, it really worked.

And it’s all about getting fast, anyways, isn’t it?

It didn’t just stop there – retaliation has spanned all across the three sports. Letting air out of Chris’ tires – guilty. Not sharing gels when he's made me mad (those are my gels from my sponsor) – guilty. Picking up the pace, throwing pull buoys, leaving water bottles behind, not washing his workout clothes – guilty, guilty, and GUILTY as charged.

“Hey Chris,” I said tonight as he walked by me with a few wheels in his hand. No, there is a never a moment where my husband does not have either bike grease on his hands or something bike-related in his hands.

“WHAT.” He’s in a good mood tonight. I just sent him to Target to buy paper towels. The worst part is that he agreed. Even went alone.

“What’s your favorite thing you’ve done to me in protest or spite during a workout?” I asked.

He put the wheels down (on the white carpet next to the white wall….the hazard of talking to him when he has bike parts in hand). Paused for a moment. Thought really hard. And then he said, “I don’t do things like that.”

Likely story. Guilty as charged but won’t incriminate himself. Because in the back of my mind, I have instances of this stuff saved up; the silent treatment on the way to masters and then the I won’t share a lane with you look once at the pool; the I’m going to pretend I don’t see you riding the other way on the street; protest in the form of leaving me behind in the forest preserve after a run; hiding (or disabling) my Power Tap/computers/cables or any bike part that he knows better about (that would be any bike part).

AND – my all time favorite – putting my bike out on the curb for garbage pick-up, on garbage night, in the dark, leaving me to pick up pieces of my bicycle from the curb, wheels on the lawn, rear bottle cage in the garbage can. Did I mention the seatpost he threw inches away from the neighborhood pond?

I brought these up but I see selective retrograde relationship amnesia got the best of him. Then Chris continued, “You’re the one always chasing me down on the run or trying to catch my wheel.” He had a point. But while one might see this as combative, I like to see it as (poorly timed) tactics. As in, I chase you to yell at you, and I get faster. Tell me how this doesn’t work out in my favor or why I should stop?

But for all the warfare we’ve waged in water, on pavement, or trail, somehow we meet cooperatively in the middle and support each other through many miles. Together we have gone home sweaty, cried, cheered, iced, and celebrated.

But don’t think for one minute that if he ticks me off at Kona I won’t tell him to give me my gel back at mile 18. Or that I won’t have to collect pieces of my bike from the curb along Alii Drive.

Unsportsmanlike? That’s your call but all is fair in love.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rescue Me

Saturday morning, 5:30 am, I wake up. Time to swim! But today is not just any swim – it’s a 5K race swim with 700 other swimmers in Lake Michigan.

We have entered the nonwetsuit division along with a crowd of other swimmers. Though the announcer says the water is 72 degrees, as we enter the screams and yaps from other swimmers suggest the temperature registered nowhere near that warm.

Try 66 degrees?

The horn goes off and we start swimming to the first buoy. And about 5 minutes into the swim, what looked like a calm glassy lake from the shore feels like a wave machine. Ah, welcome to the lake. You stand at the shore, look at it and think, no problem. Smooth as can be. And then you get in and think who the hell turned me on tumble?

Finally I see the first buoy and make a left turn. Whoa. WHOA. I’m swimming back to towards the seawall – about a thousand miles away – but every time I take a breath I’m swallowing water. Not only that but I’m cold. Really cold. As in, wish I had my long-sleeved wetsuit cold.

A few more strokes and I freeze. Oh crap. SHARK. Not really, but that’s the kind of thought I got in my head. Except it wasn’t shark – it was more like topsy turvy, swimmy wavy, coughy choky, COLD COLD tingly feet are frozen teeth hurt COLD gonna die out here in this lake.

In other words, GET ME OUT NOW.

So I swim to a life boat to gather myself. No, I'm not kidding - lifeboat and I'm hanging off the side. Have you also had this moment? The moment where you're so cold or tired or freaked out that you just freeze? It's like your brain goes into all common sense shutdown mode and you start doubting your own survival. Hence the hanging off the lifeboat bit.

The very young and polite lifeguards as if I’m ok. Yes, ok, just cold, and coughing from water, wavy, not having fun, a little tired but I can do this. I decide I will do this, jump back in and start to swim. Few more strokes, turn to breath and GULP.

Back to the lifeboat I swam.

Ok – time out. TIME OUT. Hello, my name is Liz and I’ve qualified not once but twice for Ironman in Hawaii to swim with the best in the world IN THE OCEAN and here I am in this lake hanging on to a lifeboat? Did I mention my last name was cry-me-a-river-oops-I-mean-cry-me-a-blue-green-lake and call it a day?

“Do you want us to get a rescue boat?” the lifeguard says. Rescue boat? As in Rescue 911 save me now kind of boat? Is it like that tv show where the speedboat zips around the Florida Keys trying to find people fishing illegally in protected waters? Is there a siren? Can I write tickets? Do I get to wear a hat?

Uh, Liz, this is a race. Time is ticking.

After seriously considering it for a moment, and looking out at the lake, I thought I’ll take the boat with a side of humble pie.

Hanging there, waiting there in a moment of high drama, I felt a bit ashamed. I’m not in any danger, I’m just shivering cold. I should just suffer it out. But then the boat pulls up. I climb aboard and the captain oh captain says “Your body is trying to tell you something, today is just not your day.” And for the first time in my athletic life, rather than beating myself up or crying myself into a pool of tears, I thought......he's right.

So I sat there on the boat.

Ok, now where's my captain's hat? Ticket book? SIREN? None of that, and instead they gave me a towel, a fleece jacket and we went for a ride.

I thought they would just scold me and send me on my shivering way. Write me a ticket for being an idiot in open water and dump me aside. But no – I went for a ride. As in, an hour long ride. They didn't seem in any hurry to get rid of me and I didn't seem in any hurry to get back to shore.

So there I was Saturday morning going much faster than I thought I would in the lake. By boat. And honestly, it was a blast. First, we helped the lifeboats keep the swimmers on course. Then, we patrolled the water for rogue boats. We chased after some speedboats that were entering the gap and told them to stay out of the swimmers’ way. We zipped across the lake, eating up the waves while I thought what the heck have I been doing swimming in the lake I need to do more speedboating because this is the most fun I’ve had in a LONG time.

After awhile, I told them to drop me off, they pulled up to a buoy, let me jump over board (seriously, when was the last time you jumped overboard!?), and swam. Secretly I wished there was a plank I could have walked while they shouted ARGH or other pirate-like things at me before I plunged overboard.

But you can only ask for so much drama in one day.

I climbed up the seawall ladder and walked shivering back to the shore. Disqualified myself, grabbed a towel, then walked around.

As I watched the swimmers running up the beach to finish, I had a feeling of regret – Chris was out there and soon he would finish the 3.1 miles. It was more a feeling of disappointment in myself for not being able to accomplish and claim the same thing. Accomplishment is always such a good feeling, and seeing the swimmers finish made me want it for myself. I stood looking into the lake and the sun feeling a little….well, forlorn.

But then I saw the swim coach. I told her I stopped, too cold, not my day try again some other time. She looked at me, laughed, and told me she had just seen my husband and he had done the same.

Wait, what?

My husband? You mean my husband that was supposed to be running up the beach beaming with the glory of swimming all 3.1 miles? He stopped? NO WAY.


Yes, she confirmed, and when he came up to her he actually said “Liz is so tough being out there.”

Liz as in me?

The swim coach then suggested I go find him and tell him I had swam all the way. A sneaky look, a sinister laugh, and I had to find my husband RIGHT NOW.

I look around the beach. There, there he is. I spot him by the shore. He is waiting for me. Plan of attack – from behind. I walk up to him, tap him on the shoulder and tell him ‘that was the toughest thing I have ever done in my life.’ A look of surprise on his face. He says he didn’t see me come out of the water, or run up the beach, but hey good job anyways, how did it go?

I explode in laughter. I tell him I really enjoyed the rescue boat ride. He explodes in laughter too. We are both laughing – and both shivering. He picks me up off the ground and together we laugh hysterically on the beach.

And at that moment, the announcer in the tent behind us, says on the speaker to the crowd “You see that folks? That’s what swimming does, it brings people together.”

So there we were together, spinning in a big hug of who cares about this swim in circles on beach. A hilarious moment in which we both conceded that indeed our bodies were trying to tell us something - today just wasn't our day.

Luckily I know the cure. Know what clears that right up? Coffee. And so twenty minutes later, I was drinking coffee with any memory of swim sipped away.

Sometimes that's what it takes - to commiserate about something shared - in this case opting out of one cold swim along with husband- to warm up and feel better about one's self. So, as usual, you could say my husband rescued me, or the rescue boat, or maybe even the cup of coffee.

But I'd like to think that it was really just the cup of coffee.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Intergalatic Love

Saturday afternoon, we were walking to Starbucks with M.

“There’s no guys in this city,” she said. True, single women be warned, Chicago is a dry town. Now I might be a little off but I’ll just say that most of men in Chicago can be summed up with these three things – baseball, bars, and bratwurst. If you don’t like any one of those, you won’t like the men in Chicago.

As she lamented about the current (lack of) dating state, part of me thought it was a damn shame - because she is beautiful, gorgeous, dare I say smokin’ hot. And if she’s having trouble, there’s trouble all around. Sensing this, I thought I’d give her some help.

“Just talk to them,” I said. Easy, right? Worked for me. Talked to Chris so much that I talked him right into liking me, dating me, marrying me, spending the rest of his waking days with me by his side.

She didn’t seem so sure. “What do you talk about?” she asked.

I gave her a few suggestions and the conversation went on. And a few moments later, Chris – who had been silent up to this point - chimed in, “Star Wars,” he said.

Star Wars?

Oh how I wished I loved bratwurst, or baseball, or beer…

“Star Wars,” he confirmed, “all guys like Star Wars, you talk to them about Star Wars and you’ll have something to talk about.”

The oracle has spoken.

M didn’t buy it at first, and honestly neither did I. But seeing that M had just bought Chris one of those stylishly overpriced t-shirts at Saks that had a picture of Darth Vader on it and the caption “Tell Me I’m Your Daddy” and upon receiving it he held up the shirt, got a giddy look on his face and said “Liz when I wear this you’re going to have to call me your daddy”……..well, maybe he had a point.

But still, telling someone to talk about Star Wars is like telling a triathlete to talk about triathlon. Where to begin? Sprint or Ironman? Run or bike? With Star Wars, it’s sort of the same - Episode 1 or 2? Luke or Han? And do you even mention the Ewoks at all?

We walked further down the street, I believe all contemplating the possibility of picking someone up in a bar with a little Stars Wars talk.

We were picturing it in our heads – standing at a bar with your friends, trying to talk some guy’s ear off about Storm Troopers and droids, carbonite prisons, lightsabers, and galatic civil wars. All to this helpless guy you’ve wo-man-trapped at the bar while he’s just trying to get a drink. Then the guy’s friend comes up to you, gives you a rough shove and says “He doesn’t like you” to which you say “I’m sorry” to which he says “I don’t like you either. Just watch yourself. We’re wanted men. I have the death sentence on twelve systems” which honestly frightens you a bit and you think maybe he took the Star Wars a little too seriously, a bit too far. But then one your friends jumps in to the rescue and says “This little one’s not worth the effort”, you thank her for the rescue, and you both walk away.

Knowing that just sending a woman into a bar to talk Star Wars could spell big trouble, I thought then that it might help to give M a starting point for this Stars Wars intergalatic dating plan.

"Boba Fett,” I said, “You start with Boba Fett….just let the name Boba Fett roll right off your tongue and you’ll have him hooked.”

“Boba Fett?” she asked. “Who the heck was Boba Fett?”

Oh dear god. Was she born before 1980? Wait, I had to think about that for a moment. Ok, 1978. No excuse. Seriously – NO EXCUSE for who was Boba Fett.

“Bounty Hunter,” I said. Not just Bounty Hunter but the best Bounty Hunter in the galaxy, faceless enforcer, son of famed Bounty Hunter Jango Fett.

“So what did he wear?” she asked. Let me just say that this question was 100 percent classic M – what did he wear – boots from Saks, helmet from Nieman’s, Dolce and Gabbana x-ray glasses, and toting a Louis Vitton rocketpack on his back.

So what did he wear? Well, grey helmet, rocket pack, flamethrower, armor, kneepads with ROCKET DART LAUNCHERS (could you imagine?). That’s what a Bounty Hunter wears – find that stuff on the Nieman clearance rack.

“What did he do?” she asked. Ok, you’re not trying to date Boba Fett. You’re trying to drop his name so you can get a date.

From there, we talked about other Star Wars characters that you might discuss on way to date. Lando Calrissean? Luke? Yoda? Han Solo?

“Who was Han Solo?”

The hottest fictional character of all time. ALL TIME. He drove the ship. He piloted the Millenium Falcon. He was friends with the Wookie. He saved the Wookie’s life. I think he even spoke Wookie. He survived being frozen to death. He married Leia. The snarky, technologically savvy smuggler in fiction’s biggest intergalactic war!

A few more questions later, it became apparent that maybe the Star Wars pick-up conversation was not for everyone. Maybe it’s only for guys that find wearing Vader t-shirts funny and girls who cried when they realized they lost their little plastic Salacious Crumb figurine at grandma’s house never to be found again (I know it's somewhere under her bed).

And so, we stopped the dating advice for the day.

But I’ve got to admit, I almost wish I was single so I could take my husband’s advice. Throw a little Max Rebo, Obi-Wan, and Skywalker around the bar on a Saturday night. Could you imagine?

On second thought, I think I’ll stick with my Chris and just settle for calling him daddy when he wears that Star Wars shirt. At least he’s not wanted in 12 different galaxies.

And now, one of the funniest things I have EVER seen:

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dr. Nuts

Friday night, standing in my garage wearing shorts, a bra, and flip flops with Chris’ head stuck between my legs.

Explanation, please?

He’s on the phone with our friend, Dr. Nuts (our friend, he’s a urologist), describing my latest ache and pain – inner thigh on burning fire.

This happened after cycling about 400 miles in 8 days, after running 20 miles the night before, after trying to ride my bike indoors for a quick flush of the legs post run. About 15 minutes into the ride, my inner thigh lit up on fire nearly sending my stomach hurling and my body hurtling off of the bike on to the floor.

This might have something to do with Ironman training.

Now, I’m okay with getting off the bike after 15 minutes after a 20 mile run. Fine. Chalk it up to one of those can’t be explained but will probably go away pains. But I’m not okay with waking up the next day to sit on the toilet at 4:30 am and still feeling the same pain.

Time to call Dr. Nuts.

So I did, early in the day, a desperate call of give me something, anything to get rid of this pain.

8:30 pm, Dr. Nuts has finally called. Really, did he not hear my cries of agony and pain all day? He asks me a quick series of questions about the location of the pain, origin of the pain, and my life as of late.

“I’ve been riding a lot,” I said, shamefully admitting that I have the time to ride that far while he barely has time to ride his bike to and from the hospital every day.

“Liz,” he said….I could hear it now. Doctor-laced lecture about the hazards of riding that far in that few of days. He explained that one should not be riding 400 miles and any time one does ride 400 miles it is very hard on one’s body and sure to send one’s immune system into a weakened state.

All medical code for you idiot of course your inner thigh is on fire.

But I’m not satisfied. There has to be a reason beyond it. Pain doesn’t just pop it. It follows a course over time. So he probes me some more. What can you feel? Is it swollen? Is it red?

No, no, no. It just hurts. To ride my bike. And sit in the car. It’s not a muscle pull or tear, it’s just pain, Ironman-induced-not-otherwise-specified-pain.

Then he asks me where I’ve been. Why, the Rocky Mountains of course. Have I been hiking? Did I pick up a tick? Feverish? Swollen? Something stuck in my hair? After ruling out Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Kennel Cough, we were back to the inner thigh.

He started asking me questions about the leg and how it looked but honestly in my oh so inflexible of an Ironman stance I could barely see between my legs.

But right then my husband pulled up. Perfect. Earlier, I had demanded he ride up to the grocery store to buy me a slice of heavily frosted white cake. When in pain and cannot get hold of doctor, eat cake. Trust me, it works.

(Note: Best to wash cake down with a glass of red wine - also works)

But now that husband was back (FINALLY) - perfect timing – I handed him the phone, threw my leg up on the car door, and said LOOK. At first I’m sure he thought it can't be this easy not even for a married man but then he realized Dr. Nuts was on the other end of the phone. Not exactly the Friday night fun he might have been looking for.

The conversation turned to my inner thigh – how did it feel, swollen glands, pustules (none, thank you), red bumps, hair follicles, saddle sores, creases, crotch, and the ever fun to talk about – taint.

“It’s not in the leg crease or the crotch, the pain is radiating more to the left of her taint.”

You can only say things like this to Dr. Nuts.

After a few more palpations and questions, Dr. Nuts decides to prescribe antibiotics. A good old course of meds to clear things up. Whatever the things may be. It could be a hair follicle gone amok, it could be a virus, it very well could be Rocky Mountain kennel cough.

A trip to the pharmacy, a bottle of Amoxicillin, and I am well on my way to hopefully curing yet another mysterious Ironman-induced pain. A night of sleep a
nd wouldn’t you know I woke up the next morning with pain magically gone?

But if I know one thing about training for Ironman, it is that the pain most certainly will reappear. If not in my inner thigh than somewhere, anywhere before October 13. But with Dr. Nuts in my corner, I'm sure we'll be able to sort it out with a phone call and help from husband.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Surf's Up

A small miracle has occurred.

………We have cable.

We’re talking the real deal, all channels, all systems go at all times cable.

Understand that we have had the most limited cable for the past 3 years. The basic package required in our neighborhood just to be able to turn on the t.v. and see something on the screen.

Sure, basic cable included a few worthy channels – TBS, great for Friends and Sex in the City reruns, The Travel Channel – I absolutely love No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain while Chris absolutely loves traveling across Europe with his television honey Samantha Brown, and – of course – our favorite television channel of all is Versus; home of Cyclism Sundays, Tred Barta hunting specials, and – drumroll please – PBR, baby, PBR.

On top of that – as if it wasn’t enough – we get two channels in Spanish, three religious channels, the Golf channel, CSPAN, and some family channel.

Yes, we actually had to pay good money for these basic cable channels.

So tonight, when we turned on the television, we realized a small miracle had occurred – somehow, by some divine action, we were gifted with cable.


Yes, cable. FULL cable. Food channel, MTV, VH1, TLC, ESPN, Comedy Channel, Nickelodeon something on for somebody at all times, never a dull moment, channel surfing all night long let’s load our brains with visual pollution in the form of talk shows, reality shows, contest shows, sports shows, shows, shows, shows, cable.


Ssh! I fear if we say it too loud it will disappear. That we’ll be back to 3 channels again.

This miracle couldn’t have happened at a better time. We don’t really watch much television (estimating viewing time per week right now = none) but come October 14th, we will have time to do nothing BUT watch television. And can you imagine how much television we’ll have to watch to fill in our Ironman training hours? I sadly admit that in 8 days we rode over 400 miles. Yes, I am feeling all 400 miles in a million different ways mostly in my left leg. But the point is that 400 miles takes time. And after October 14th, all that time will be empty.

What to fill it with? CABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Right now I am typing this and watching cable. Chris is channel surfing and we have stopped – momentarily – at something on the Cartoon Network. Before that I watched some weird people making wedding cakes on the Food Channel. I don’t really know what any of this is all about, I don’t care. I just want my smorgasboard of entertainment and I want it now. Change the channel. CHANGE THE CHANNEL. Don’t stop too long because that’s the fun of cable isn’t it – that we don’t have to decide up on something or anything for more than – say – 3 seconds before we can flip and change our minds.

AMC. Some movie. FLIP. HGTV – didn’t even stop long enough to see what’s on. TLC someone’s building something. Who cares. CLICK! History Channel – Star Wars. Star Wars? Oh, use the force, Chris, USE THE FORCE and stop the channel surfing NOW.

Chris switches to the Spike channel. I’m half paying attention, half not, but the half that is in realizes that the show makes absolutely no sense at al. But then again, it’s a station for men and I am woman so maybe it shouldn’t make sense to me. Either way, I’m growing impatient. With the plethora of whatever is out there on the other channels we don’t have time to settle on this.

“What the heck is this?” I ask, pointing to television now showing a bunch of men in a boxing ring. Dumb. Seriously. Do we as husband and wife training together for Ironman not fight enough that we have to watch people fight on tv? Turn it off. OFF!

“I don’t know,” Chris says, fixated on whatever it is on the screen, like it’s the best story he’s ever heard.

“You’ve got a million channels to choose from with anything you’d want to watch and you settle on this?” I say.

You see, this is the curse of cable. There are so many choices that you don’t know what to choose so you settle on something just to make a choice. And we have chosen this stupid show about fighting.


No sooner does he switch to USA. Law & Order. An old favorite. Then the channel switches again. Again. Back to TBS, a few more switches, click again, and….

I’m dizzy.

After watching Chris flip through all of the channels and trying to follow his path, I realize that perhaps this flip and trip through the cable should be saved for a later time, when I have the energy to follow the non-stop channel flip, when I put aside my swim bike run for a little surfing in the winter time.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Be Nice To Your Barista

I want to talk about a very serious thing. If you are standing, you should probably sit. If there are children in the room, please shoo them away. If you are multitasking, put your cell phone down, turn the t.v. off and listen to what I have to say.


What I’m going to talk about today is a condition I have entitled FBA. Flagrant Barista Abuse. You see, there’s a lot of flagrant barista abuse out there by some not so nice people. There are a lot of people out there walking all over the baristas behind the counters of our local coffee shops.

That is why I am putting out this very important PSA called Be Nice To Your Barista.

Because they are good people and deserve not to be treated that way. They have good things for you. They would never do anything wrong like switch decaf for regular or use whole milk instead of skim. Maybe they would, but I would like to think we all go to the coffee shop thinking good things, trusting things about our baristas and the things they do. Which is why we need to treat them right.

What I’m talking about is R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for C.O.F.F.E.E.

Can there be any other way?

There can. Unfortunately I witnessed it twice just last week.

Early morning, I made a trip to the D & D. Long line, out the door. A dozen antsy people waiting for their tasty morning pick-me-up in 16 ounce cup. Maybe a bagel. Maybe even a donut. Or two.

Standing, waiting oh so long to get to the front of the line, I notice two young women to the right of me. One has just dropper her giant grande big gulp of iced latte all over the counter. The counter is covered in tan liquid running every which way. The other is demanding her bagel – for the tenth time – while her flip-flopped foot taps impatiently in the growing puddle on the floor.

The store is packed. The clerks behind the counter are more than busy. Bagel orders and “I’ll take a big one” fly out of every other mouth. But these women don’t seem to see that. Or just seem to think they are the only people waiting, they only people that have an extreme caffeine and bagel need.

One starts shouting at the clerk about her bagel order. Two bagels, one toasted, one untoasted, one with extra cream cheese on the side, the other with cream cheese. It was an order so confusing even I couldn’t tell what should be toasted or smeared. And the poor clerk was even more confused as the other clerks shouted wheat plain, blueberry toasted, etcetera at him over and over again.

The iced latte catastrophe was no better. Though the woman dropped her own cup, it was the clerk’s problem. You know how this goes. The clerk tries to clean it up, the woman demands a new supersized iced latte with cream and sugar and extra Hazelnut.

I watch all of this unfold. I witness the abuse. I want to politely tell them to go away. I’m sorry, you are too picky, careless , bitchy, rude to be standing in this line. You had your chance, you screwed up. You dropped your coffee and your overly complicated a circular piece of bread. Please go. And, by the way, that’s what you get for asking for coffee ICED.

I thought it would stop there. The maltreatment of those stuck behind the counter fortunate to have so much coffee passing through their hands.

No such luck.

Next day – I’m at Caribou. What can I say – everyday was coffee Friday last week.

The man in front of me asks for a medium light roast. The barista quickly pours the cup, hands it over.

“You want to pour me a new cup that you don’t empty the last part of the pot into?” he says.

Whoa. WHOA. W-H-O-A. He did not. He did NOT just say that.

He did.

“But the pot was brewed 10 minutes ago,” the barista said, voice a little shaky, a little confused. Really, for $7.50 an hour, he doesn’t get paid enough for crap like this. Especially this early in the morning.

“I don’t want the bottom of the pot,” the man snaps. Come on. COME ON. At least try it first. There’s no way on this busy of a morning at this time of the morning that any ounce of coffee has been sitting in a pot for more than 10 minutes. Get over it. Try it. Drink it. Like it. Move on.

“WE BREWED THIS POT 10 MINUTES AGO,” the barista said, again, not loudly, I just added the caps because it was that evident that he was telling the truth since an electronic timer was sticking on the side of the pot that read 10:37. As in 10 minutes plus the 37 seconds wasted in explaining it to this man…again.

The man walked away.

There you have it – two unrelated cases of FBA. And what is the cure? Well, you can step up next to the line, give a big smile of sunshine, ask for your simple cup of coffee, thank them for allowing the world’s best beverage to pass through their hands into yours, and go about your day.

Be nice to your barista. It is because of them we wake up each day, we are productive, and pleasant, and headache free. Imagine a day without them, a world without them.

On second thought, go grab a cup of coffee and drink that thought away.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Boulder Update - Monday

Monday morning I woke up feeling like I had not slept in days, someone was sitting on my sinuses, and my husband was nowhere to be found.

Apparently, in my fit of restless legs sleep, I told him to stop breathing (loud), took the only pillow he had, and then kicked him out of bed. Apparently the Red Bear offered to cuddle in his rollaway sofa cave with Chris but Chris declined and settled for the chair instead.

Ah, welcome to life at altitude with Liz. In fact, attitude/altitude. You could say as one increases, the other increases by 1000 feet/percent with Liz.

So I woke up not feeling so great. Especially my left leg which was inflamed. But some coffee, some ibuprofren and an attempt to at least ride easy, ride flat made me feel much better.

While Red Bear and Chris decided to ascend Left Hand Canyon, I was sent off on the Boulder Peak long course, a nice 28 mile loop that was mostly flat.

The day was beautiful. Does everyday in Boulder begin this way? Is there not fog, or thunderclouds, or 30 mph sustained winds ever around this place? The sky was clear, cyclists were out in large numbers along the highways, and I was ready to ride.

Luckily, both legs cooperated. I was given strict orders by husband not to attack, pull, or charge anyone. I was clearly on a short leash - to save my legs, to save my husband's sanity because if I was in pain for more than a few days he would hear about it again and again.

As the ride rolled along, I couldn't keep my eyes off the mountains. Wow. Could you imagine looking at this every day on every ride? My landscape is corn and traffic lights. Sure, there are beautiful parts of Illinois - but this, this is something spectacular.

I descended into St. Vrain and looked at the ranches along the way. I saw some corn and I felt at home. Except for the giant mountains peering over my shoulder. I took a right turn and all of a sudden I had company. There was a young man that had come up to me in a bike store yesterday and recognized me from some midwest races. Well he found me again. We chatted for awhile before he took off on his way.

I entered the Boulder Reservoir, turned a few miles later and decided to do the course in reverse. My leg felt good and though I was low on water, it was mild enough outside. So I found my way back to the Diagonal Highway and up St. Vrain.

The wind must have shifted. I was sandwiched in this valley between two impending storms. The storms were magnificant to watch - large blankets of bluish gray clouds covering the mountains with lightning scattered throughout. And that was just to the right.

I reached the top and decided to descend back down and do the course the right way. Part of me wanted to go back to the Left Hand Canyon to find Chris and the Red Bear and climb. But part of me also wanted to retain what was left of my left leg.

I decided to mix it up and turned rigtht on Niwot Road. It was nearly 2:45 into the ride and I entered what I would call the Valley of Fire. Though the road looked flat and easy, I was immediately going 15 mph, the wind was in my face, and the temperature had to be over 90 degrees. Maybe it was lack of fluids or just fatigue, but this was like the Tunnel of Fire that Red Bear talked about. I could see Highway 36 - the end - off in the distance but it was a hot, long grind up what really didn't look like a hill until I would get there.

Once I climbed out of the Valley of Fire, I was tired. It was just steady and false flattish and I believe the ibuprofren was wearing off because I was ready to be done. I rode back into Boulder and soon after Chris and Red Bear returned.

In the amount of time I rode 62 miles, they rode 43, averaged 9.8 mph in the first hour on their way up to Ward. On their way down from Brainard Lake, they nearly froze while I rode through the Valley of Fire. That is how diverse the riding around Boulder can get. A little bit of everything, something for everyone.

It was a great weekend. A very painful weekend but that is what brought us to Boulder in the first place. Neurons respond to change. They don't respond to the same thing over and over again. It was time to mix it up, change it up, and force the body to adapt to something new. And I would say we had a success.

Now I will rest for a few days and hopefully my body will settle down once I am down at sea level again. I have to admit I would like to come back to Boulder one day, perhaps for a few weeks next year, to train, adapt, drink good coffee, and look at the mountains every morning.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Boulder Update - Sunday

After yesterday’s ride, I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I woke up. And I wasn’t too excited about waking up. That’s because the group planned to meet at 8:20 am for a long run.

A piece of toast, a cup of coffee, gear up, and we’re off to run. Seton, Jenni, Chris and I headed east on the Coal Creek Trail for a long run. Surprisingly, I felt ok. Well, other than the fact that my quad had completely locked up at some point towards the end of yesterday’s ride and still was on lockdown.

Boulder in the morning is beautiful. The creek ran alongside the trail, wildflowers were in bloom, the sky was so blue. Chris and I kept the pace easy for the first 20 minutes, the settled into a quicker pace, building steadily along the way.

I felt great. Again the quad wasn’t happy but other than that (and when you’re training for Ironman – there is always some “other than that” going on) my breathing felt great. It was like I was in a completely different body, state, world than yesterday. I kept my feet quick and my pace under control.

Turning around at 45 minutes, I picked up the pace. It feel good and when it feels good - you go with it. The scenery heading westward was amazing. The mountains were gorgeous, clouds, sky, grasses, sunflowers, it was some of the most beautiful and invigorating scenery.

Afterwards, we ate what I would call a big ass breakfast then Jenni took me for some delicious coffee and walked around. I bought a new bag – like I needed a new bag – and a shirt – like I needed another Element shirt – and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking feebly around the square because at this point my quad had decided to lay down and die for the day.

Late afternoon I was grumpy, tired, and hungry. I alternated rubbing out my leg with laying in bed with ice bags attached to my quad. Training hard is never pretty and my legs were gently reminding me that I had reached my training limit. And Chris and Red Bear were probably about ready to remind me they had reached their whiny Liz limit.

After loafing for a few hours in bed, we decided to swim easy in the pool. I helped Red Bear with his technique then swam a nice and easy 2500 yards before calling myself done.

Almost done – it’s time to eat and then head off to bed. And inthe morning I'll wake up to the mountains, good coffee, and be grateful for a safe weekend with perfect weather and good friends.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Boulder Update - Saturday

Saturday afternon, we sat around trying to decide if we were in the kennel of death, the hurt locker, the prison cage. These are all terms to describe the level of pain we were in on the bike except we can't decide exactly which one fits best.

One thing is sure – we were not in the tunnel of fire because you can see your way out of the tunnel of fire. We could not see the way out because when your Boulder friends pick the route and tell you “we’re going to climb”, you’re not sure how high, how long, how far, or when it will end. No visible end in sight, not the tunnel of fire.

Seton, Sarah, Jeff, Chris and I started from Louisville, met up with Red Bear, Jenni, and assorted other riders in Boulder then rode Peak to Peak. I speak of this route like I know it. I don’t. I didn’t. I still don’t know what was going on. All I know is that we made a left turn and the climb began.

I tried to stay with the group for all of about 5 minutes. The entire group passed me and not even a super extendable bendy straw could have helped me suck wheel as they went by. As they passed I asked if they noticed a bear that might have jumped on my back. Then Red Bear took my wheel and said “there is now.” From there, Red Bear and I rode together the rest of the way.

Almost immediately into the ride, the lactic acid started to settle into my legs and wouldn’t get out. I’ve realized that at altitude, lactic acid becomes a leash you are tethered to and you cannot get away. One of those retractable leashes. Every time you think you are about to break free from the lactic acid, someone at the other end of the leash presses the button and pulls the leash, and your legs, back towards lactic acid burn yet again.

Little did I know that the leash was being held by The Wizard. You see The Wizard when you do climbs like this. You find yourself in his dungeon filled with lactic acid and stinking of your own pain. The Wizard looks much different at this altitude. I almost saw him in the pool yesterday. And I think he was with me on this ride, hiding behind the tree, just around the bend, just when you think the climb plateaued or was about to end.

Actually, Red Bear said that when climbing a route like this you see what happens when you go one step beyond the wizard. He said you find yourself visiting your spirit cave. The spirit cave is a place you find at the peak of despair (the peak of despair is another place you would find yourself on this type of a climb). If you’re lucky you may just find your power animal in your spirit cave. If you’re not lucky, you’ll find that your power animal is a Red Bear whose wheel you have been sucking for the past 5 miles on the climb until he falls back and says “my pilot light just went out” leaving you to climb the rest of the way at 8 mph - when you're going fast - alone.

After 75 minutes of climbing, we reached Peaceful Valley. Red Bear said it was a moderate descent – which it was, for about 5 minutes - before we started climbing again. Red Bear mentioned there might be another climb. What he didn’t mention was that this climb would last another 60 minutes.

Red Bear and I made it to the peak of the second climb, descended into Ward to find the group waiting there and considering a climb up to a point at 10,000 feet. Apparently we had been at 9,500 feet which may have explained the feeling of someone squeezing my head, lungs, and legs for the past 8 miles. So climbing even higher? Sounded like something that would send me straight to my spirit cave. Excellent. Let’s go.

And what do you find on the way to 10,000 feet? There was no spirit cave. Instead it was hell. A burning hell of lactic acid and head throbbing pain. Jeff said it would just be 20 minutes, I don’t know I lost track at 20 minutes and almost lost myself. Right before the top I just stopped. My head hurt, I couldn’t breathe, and my legs just wanted to be done. I stopped for a moment, gathered myself, then continued to the top. From there we descended, rode back towards Boulder, and then on towards Louisville. I fell behind for the 100th time before Red Bear finally picked me up in his truck and took me back.

After the ride, we went for a 40 minute run. As Chris ran faster and farther away from me, I thought to myself I have to find the secret altitude tent he has been spending time in at our house. I was slow, my head hurt, and I was huffing - again.

I’m tired now. I told my coach this town is kicking my sea level ass. And that's a good thing. Let it get ugly, let the ride get really low. I don’t want brilliant superstar rides, runs or swims here. It’s training, I need to unravel really, really low. For now, let me get dropped or lapped. Let me gasp for air on the side of the road. I want to find myself scraping the gears hitting the bottom of my workout soul.

And I’m still waiting to pee myself or have the desire to hurl my bike over a cliff but with two days left, there's still time.

Here we are at 10,000 feet: