Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Illinois

The other day, I was talking to some guy about sports. He had spent some time living in San Diego before heading east to Illinois.

I will say that again – he moved from San Diego to Illinois. Let me sit here for a minute while I hit my head against a wall for him.

We were talking about triathlon – imagine that – and how he had made the switch from triathlons to longer distance running when he moved to Illinois. Because, in his words, he didn’t like the idea of driving somewhere to ride his bike.

I’ll agree with that one. But I’m not about to take up long distance running any time soon. There is nothing even remotely pleasurable about the idea of running more than 50 miles in one day. Nothing.

Plus, he said, “there are no fast triathletes in this area.”

Wait, what? I’m sorry, say that again?

“There are no fast triathletes in this area.” He didn’t say it again, but I did, in my mind, to make sure I heard it right.

Now, I wasn’t about to get up on my soap box and say anything but for the sake of this blog, I will proudly scale my soap box so you can see and hear me, loud and clear.


Let me tell you one thing, if Illinois has one thing, and one thing only as far as triathlon goes, then it has fast triathletes.

I will now dismount my soapbox.

In my mind, I was creating a laundry list of all of the who’s who in triathlon from Illinois. Kona qualifiers, Kona world record holders, world champions, national champions from………drumroll, er, I mean roll the sound of construction trucks and backhoes please…….the land of Lincoln…….the land of 10,000 stoplights………the land of barricades and orange cones…………the land known as Illinois.

You see, you do not spend 7 months out of the year riding in your basement sweating salty bullets without getting fast. You do not jump into a cold pool in the dead of winter (which though indoors still feels damn cold) at 5:30 in the morning without getting fast. You do not spend 10 minutes dressing up in 10 lbs of clothing for a 30 minute run in – 30 degree windchill without getting fast. You do not drive over 40 minutes each way to find a road you can ride along without imminent death by traffic jam during the 3 months of the year when you can finally ride outside without getting fast. You do not find yourself running into a 38 mph wind when it’s 89 degrees as your eyes fill with bugs and your heart rate rockets up to zone 3 during warm up without getting fast. You....get the point?

We may not have mountains, or ocean swims, 1 hour and 15 minute climbs available at a steady 7 percent grade, weekly group rides, or bike lanes but what we do have are all of these other factors that make training such a mental and physical sufferfest that if you suffer through it, and recover, well, you emerge kind of…..fast.

I’m not saying that the rest of you in mostly tri-friendly cities are not suffering, too. But come on here, throw me a bone. Suburban Chicago Illinois? Are you kidding? Nothing, absolutely nothing about northeastern Illinois shouts triathlon lives and is loved here.

We are surrounded by suburban gridlock, it is completely flat, 40 miles west, south, or north is nothing but corn. 40 miles east is…yikes…Indiana. And all the people, well, where do I begin? If you are not an overweight, smoking, fast food eating, big gas guzzler driving, baseball fan then you have no business around here.

When people ask me where I ride, I have to explain that first I load up the car, then I drive the car about 40 minutes on a good day, then I ride on my bike about 20 minutes until I get to the middle of nowhere where the only life around you is a llama farm and a toothless man named Cooter driving a pick-up truck where stopping at stop signs is obviously “optional” and seeing signs that say “alpaca shearing at 3 pm Thursday” are common place. When was the last time you were dying to see a shaved llama on your ride? I’d take an ocean view any day.

Open water swims? Again, is this a joke? Does the deep well in the pool count? Let’s see, I can drive 30 miles, or 2 hours, downtown to a lake that still – in late May – has not yet warmed up above 58 degrees. Or I can drive 45 miles, this time only 1 ½ hours, north to a private lake that I can illegally climb a fence to swim in but might possibly contract e coli because its so filled with ducks and geese.

Hills? I have yet to find them.

So, instead, I ride into the wind. Speaking of wind. SPEAKING OF WIND. Funny that some of you feel the need to pay good money to test your bike in a wind tunnel to see how aerodynamic and fast you are. My suggestion – take your bike to road surrounded by corn fields, point it in the direction of the wind, and ride. If you are fast, you will hit 12 mph. If you are slow, you will go the other way. The other day I hit 11.2 going into the wind. All out. Easiest gear. That’s what 40 mph gusts of wind will do to you.

So I guess being a triathlete in Illinois may not be the most glorious thing, or the most easy. But I think that’s what makes us pretty darn good. It’s not hard to get up in the morning when it’s sunny and 70 degrees and go for a ride. No, that’s called a no brainer. As in, you have no brain if you choose not to ride. But when it’s 29 degrees and you have a 3 ½ hour ride and you think to yourself I can sit in my basement while my eyeballs bleed from boredom or I can go for an outdoor ride – well, you ride outside. And when your fingers are ready to fall off after about 10 minutes, you suffer through it. And you think to yourself no matter how hot, hilly, hard, windy, or horrible a race gets in the summer season it could never, ever, ever get as bad as THIS.

But it’s not all bad in Illinois. There are good things…….waiting……..waiting……..stretching my brain to find the good things……

Yeah, still not coming to me.

Anyways, I couldn’t help but want to shake this guy silly and say RETURN FROM WHENCE YOU CAME. TURN AROUND. DO NOT STAY.

But still, he sat there. And started to tell me why he was enjoying Illinois. And how there were some really fast runners here.

But not such fast triathletes.

I just smiled.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Girl Gone Crazy

This week I went a little crazy.

Maybe last weekend someone had a PR their body couldn’t handle. Or maybe it was the 1200 miles of driving in 3 days. Or maybe I was just tired but I think I had about 30 seconds to recover from Memphis before we began pushing to the next big thing.

I joke. I actually had about 1 day with an easy ride. And then it began.

On Tuesday I did one of those swim workouts that I just wasn’t in the mood to do. You know the kind? The kind that on any other day you would be just fine with but add a little fatigue, grumpiness to the mix and all of a sudden a few sets of 175’s becomes the magic number that leaves you walking to the hot tub afterwards while mumbling if I ever see that workout on my schedule again I will fire my coach. Now, of course, I won’t fire my coach and it was just a swim workout but something about the 175’s irritated me to no end. Why not 150’s? Why not 200’s? Why the extra 75?

Wednesday I found myself west riding 2 hours into a 25 – 35 mph headwind that started with some guy giving me the middle finger on Dean Street. That was after he shouted something at me and I gave him the middle finger. I don’t ride around flipping the finger often but if you yell at me I feel the finger is fair game. Chris was obviously feeling a million times better than me and kept turning around to look for me and each turn back multiplied my bad mood a million times further and then I started feeling bad for not keeping up and guilty that he kept turning around until finally I shouted I DO NOT WANT TO KEEP UP WITH YOU NOT TONIGHT NOT NOW PLEASE GO AWAY AND LET ME RIDE. I would have ridden away from me, too.

Thursday was a fartlek run. Actually, it was one of my favorite runs. One of those runs I put on the list of where have these workouts gone. I was excited to see it back. I was not, however, excited to get into it and the 42 mph gusts of wind with 89 degrees. I also was not excited that Chris forgot his watch, so on the minute for every 30 minutes I had to shout GO and the shout STOP 20 seconds later. I do not ever want to see that workout again.

On Friday the wind finally died down. But sub-50 degree early morning temperatures meant my hilly ride would be through the hills of my mind in the basement at 5:30 am. That actually went well. After work, we did a long swim that included my least favorite sets. 5 x 300, 5 x 150, 5 x 100, 5 x 50. This is the workout that never ends. This workout on a Friday night is like a neverending ending to the week that never comes.

Saturday had to be better. Besides, my legs were finally feeling better. On tap for Saturday was a long brick. It’s not the time or the distance that bothered me. No, I was actually looking forward to this one. It’s not that we drove 90 miles north to go on an organized ride route that bothered me. No, around here that’s commonplace. It was the fact that it was the end of May and it was 47 degrees.

And 2 ½ hours into the ride it started pouring rain.

At 3 hours and 20 minutes into it, we had enough. It just seemed kind of stupid to ride in cold pouring rain risking illness, injury, or accident. Wait, let me paint a picture of how stupid it was. Put your bike on your trainer, put the trainer in your shower, and turn on the water on as cold as possible at full blast. Then, have your husband ride by the shower approximately every 5 – 10 minutes when you reach a corner or other obstacle while shouting “NO BRAKES! NO BRAKES!!” as he sails dangerously past whatever it was he was trying to either manuever (a corner) or avoid (someone on a hybrid bike).


We rode back to the van (Chris actually rode past it a few times before coming to a complete stop), put on dry clothes, and sat there. Chris went to get some food and he brought our coach back – who was also on the ride. When she opened the door and shouted Fedofsky get out there and do your run, the person she found was not me. It was a frozen, quiet version of myself sitting there with legs quivering and run socks covering my hands. The better half of myself was left wet somewhere on the side of the road about 10 miles ago.

I did the run. Of course. Imagine your mom yelling at you to pick up your socks….like you’re going to say no? When I finally emerged from the van my legs felt like noodles. And so I ran as fast as possible to warm up. So fast that Chris said “you are running too fast”. Is there such a thing? He was behind me and had – again – forgotten his watch which almost put me over the edge because there we were running along some rural highway in southern Wisconsin with traffic zipping by and bikes coming at us and the last thing I wanted to do was shout GO and STOP over a dozen times.

But I got through it. The run was over. The ride was over. But the day wasn’t over. Actually, it was almost literally over. Though we left the house at 7 am, it was already after 3 pm. The rain started pouring again and I really wanted coffee. We made a quick stop for it and afterwards I offered to drive. I don’t know why. I hate to drive. But Chris had driven in the morning so I figured I would take my turn. It was pouring rain, we were about 30 minutes from home, and I had a merge coming up. For some reason I was paying attention to the merge on the right, and not the cars on the left and didn’t notice the cop car in the median. But he noticed I was going 75 mph. In my defense, so was everyone else. But whatever, I got caught. At least I had my coffee and I didn’t have to stand in the pouring rain wearing a stupid brown uniform.

No, I had to ride in the pouring rain for over 60 miles wearing a multi-colored jersey. That clearly makes me the better person.

One speeding ticket, a night at traffic school, and $115 later, I was on the way home again. This time going 55 mph in the left lane as protest.

When I finally got home, I knew what I had to do. I had to finish the ride. I thought about just “finishing” the ride easy. But then I remembered I had one more interval to do at the 3:30 mark of my ride. So after warming up 10 minutes, I tried to shift into my big ring but alas my derailleur had other plans. Screw it, I’m going hard anyways. I was stuck in the little ring, going 108 rpms, hard, for the last interval.

I pushed it. I pushed it hard. I put it all out there to get out everything I was feeling that week, everything that was making me crazy…….from utter disdain of my job, aggravation from the mountain of laundry I still hadn’t put away, the rain, the corn chips I keep finding on the kitchen floor, the wind, 47 degrees, the road blocks that have encircled every road around our home, the 175’s, the speeding ticket, everything and anything that had flipped me off or frustrated me for that entire week from start to finish, from beginning to end.

And when I cooled down, and was done, I got off the bike and kicked the front wheel. “TAKE THAT,” I shouted while kicking the front wheel again.

Chris was spinning along happily on the bike next to me when he looked up and said “you’re a crazy woman.”

Yes, yes I am. But sometimes you have to get a little crazy, get a little mad to get something more out of yourself. On Wednesday, despite high winds I averaged a surprisingly fast speed for my ride. On Thursday, I worked so hard in the heat and the wind that I could barely shuffle at the end. On Friday, I swam my 300’s faster than I’ve ever held for that set. And the same for the 150’s, and 100’s. On Saturday, as I rode in the pouring rain I had one of the best rides I’ve had ever. I rode harder, faster, stronger than any training ride – ever.

There is a place for crazy. There is a good, strong, productive place to put your crazy, your disgruntled, angry frustrations in the world – in the pool, on the bike, on the run. When you dig deep into this sport, you will find your crazy. You will reach your point. You will unravel, you will become intolerable from time to time. You’ll bitch, you’ll moan. You’ll flip someone the finger. You’ll ache. Your legs will burn. Your head will hurt. You’ll push your pedals so hard you think they’ll fall off. You’ll run so hard you think you’ll explode. You’ll kick your bike. And then get on for more.

And if you don’t, you haven't found your crazy yet. Go harder.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Baby Talk

Yesterday afternoon, I found The Land of Nod catalog in our mailbox.

The Land of Nod is Crate & Barrel’s answer to Pottery Barn Kids. It sells cutesy things like curtains with animals, personalized anything, clothes, blankets, rugs, furniture, anything and everything you that babies really don’t need but it’s fun to buy for them anyways.

Have no fear, the baby shopping and the catalog were not for me. Instead, they were the result of recent purchases for the gaggle of women exploding in babies around me. In the past few weeks, I have bought more clothing for a baby than for myself. And none of these clothing items were bigger than a sock. And for the cost of purchasing, gift wrapping, and mailing these small things you start to wonder, can I just send a sock?

But that’s the fun of friends and family having babies. And it seems like right now, babies are the in thing. Babies or babies on board are literally everywhere in my life. My cousins, Catherine and Claire, just gave birth to Rebecca and Cassidy. Kim gave birth to Kaden. Kathy is set to pop with baby with name to-be-announced. Melissa is halfway there with possibly to be named Mabel.

Mabel?

But before I share 10,000 reasons why Mabel Fedofsky will not get picked first in gym class, I want to tell you that this baby explosion thing – this is what happens when you’re in your 30’s.

Let me explain.

In your 20’s, everyone around you is either getting married or getting drunk. In your 30’s, the one’s that are married are having babies and the one’s getting drunk are lamenting about finding someone to marry so they can have a baby, and they’re probably still getting drunk.

But when you reach your 30’s, as a woman, baby talk becomes a daily way of life. You are either asked if you have kids, or if you’re having kids, or when you’re having kids, or don’t you know that if you don’t start having kids you’ll have nothing but bad eggs left.

And for some reason, if you’re in your 30’s and not having kids, you start to feel bad. Like a failure. Like you aren’t doing your part in multiplying the world. So you start to wonder if you are the one that’s wrong. If you didn’t get the I-want-baby gene. You wonder what went wrong in your upbringing or more recently in your adult life.

Couple that with that fact that everyday you hear the incessant tick tock of a clock you can never find. But can always hear. If and when you do find it, you have visions of chucking it on to a very busy highway while shouting I GET IT, I GET IT ALREADY, STOP THE TICKING, STOP WITH THE TICKITY TICK TICKING ALL FREAKIN’ DAY LONG. I. GET. IT.

And if you’re like me, in your 30’s and not having a baby – you have a lot of talking to do. A lot of explaining. And a lot of thinking. Because it gets into your brain, and under your skin. Should I? Will I? When? Now? Then? Why? Why not? What if?


WTF?

For awhile, I was faced with this baby stuff everyday via very pregnant co-worker/friend. A daily vision of her would trigger thoughts of baby, baby, if not now, when, baby, now, baby, baby in my head. A living reminder that my time was ticking because she and I are the same age. But at some point in September, she obviously found, and stopped the clock, while I am here still searching.

When she left her position a few weeks ago, I was no longer surrounded by baby-on-board and thoughts of baby seemed to go mostly away. But yesterday morning, as she sat across from me while having coffee, the baby talk and thoughts came right on back. She is 2 weeks from due date and I swear she couldn’t be any happier. She is the happiest pregnant woman I have ever met. She was normally a smiley, happy person. But this pregnancy thing pushed her way over the edge. Her belly is twice the size of the rest of her body, her bladder is half the size, and she seems ten times as delighted. She’s watching Dr. Phil everyday, she’s got the boobs she has always dreamed of. And in exactly two weeks she will be laying in a hospital room pushing out a baby while simultaneously shitting herself. And she can’t wait.

For a moment that morning, I started thinking that maybe right now is the time for my life to get that good. Maybe I should be stocking up on diapers, reading about placentas, and eagerly awaiting my first adult foray into shitting myself. Maybe I just needed more coffee, but I walked away from that coffee thinking I should, would, could, need to have a baby. NOW. Giddy up husband because I’m ready to go. Because if we don’t, more importantly if I don’t, I will be 80 when our child is 20. And any chance of being hot mom at the track meet will surely fade away.

But I didn’t go looking for my husband, don’t worry. Instead, I just went to work. And sat there all day thinking about WHEN. You do this a lot as a childless woman in your 30’s. You think a lot about when. You do the math to see just how long you could wait until it would possibly be too long, or too risky, or just plain dumb. And then you start thinking if you did start trying how long would it take. You hope that it would take 3, 6, maybe 9 months, but what if it took 3 years? You start to realize that you only have so much time before you run out of time.

And this if-and-when is on your mind every single day. So chances are when someone asks you about babies, you are already brimming to the rim with if, when, how, what about now, and their question just pushes you over the edge. And results in a crazy fit of STOP BUGGING ME ABOUT BABIES ALREADY. I may have had one of these fits, or two.

You get to a certain point where people stop asking if-and-when. You assume they have just started to chalk you up as too crazy for kids, too skinny, too obsessed with tri’s, too much time on a bike, too many dips in the hot tub, too much chlorine in the chromosomes, too much sun, too much high fructose corn syrup by way of power -products, too many salt tabs, supplements, lactic acid, time in the saddle, miles on the feet too much and too many reasons why you have nothing left but...bad eggs.

But that’s not to say that some short time ago they were all about asking the if-and-when. It’s about a 3 month grace period after you get married where no one says a word, and then for the next 6 months they look at you like where’s baby, when’s the baby. And then at the one year mark, it picks up again to where they start thinking ok you had your one year to enjoy yourselves as a couple together, and now, BABY. Another 3 months goes by and they start asking, where’s baby? when baby? And then after another 3 months, a total of 18 months since the wedding, they just stop asking. Because in that time either another relative has announced their baby or they have just written you off as eggless, clueless, or self-consumed. You might as well move into a house down the street with your 1000 cats, write spinster on your mailbox, and eat bags of chips.

The problem is, though, I hate cats.

Put your mind at ease. One day, my time will come on my clock. And the clock will sound like music to my ears. At that point, I will know I am ready. To give up competition, to give up small clothing, to give up…..gulp.....coffee. But until then, I will just keep shopping at The Land of Nod for overpriced sock-sized baby gear for friends and relatives that have jumped on the baby wagon, and fussing over other people’s children like Kaden, and Mabel, and TBA.


And until then, this womb is closed. And there's no need to ask - because I’m ok with that for now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No Jewels For Me

I have found the one place worse than the grocery store at 1 pm on a weekday afternoon. The ghetto Jewel grocery store at 7 pm on a Monday night.

I don’t know what possessed me. I hate Jewel. I hate the very thought of Jewel. All of their parking lots are poorly engineered and their aisles are too small. But alas, Jewel is on the way home from the gym and a weekend away meant no food in the house come Monday.


I had two choices – quick stop at the ghetto Jewel or starve.

But there is no such thing as a quick stop at the ghetto Jewel. Experience should have taught me. The store is incredibly small, overstuffed, and always crowded. Not only that, but it was perhaps the worst entrance and exit of any grocery parking lot. You risk life and grocery when you exit northbound on 53.

But what can you do. You have to eat, and you have to shop to get the food to eat. And that’s how I found myself in the ghetto Jewel on Monday night.

A word on the word ghetto. I say ghetto to represent a general feeling in the store. The store is just ghetto. It never has a fresh vegetable. It never has less than 10 people waiting in line. It has aisles the width of a pipe cleaner. The eggs are always broken. The customers are sketchy. Everyone appears to be 20 or 30 something, single, and filling their cart with Doritos, white bread, and Lean Cuisine. And the parking lot is filled with Chevy Cavaliers missing hubcaps and windows. And that is what makes it the ghetto Jewel.

I was pushing my cart around, wearing my clothes from a run. I looked like the world’s biggest tri dork, totally out of place in this place, but I really didn’t care. They could even throw loaves of white bread at me and I wouldn’t care. Just get me out of this place.

Of course, anything fresh was overpriced and anything processed was dirt cheap. Which meant I had about 20 bags of frozen fruit and vegetables in my cart. And lots of other things. In fact, why does it seem like most people are always in the store buying 3 things and I am always buying about 300? Don’t you people eat?

I approached the checkout lanes to find, of course, that they were stacked. Completely filled with long lines waiting. So I went over to the self check out. Not that I would be any quicker in checking out my 300 items, but I would at least not be bored.

I got in line behind your typical Chicagoland fiftysomething woman. You know the type. Short hair, glasses, big butt, and shorts that go down to her knees. Spend enough time here and you soon realize that Illinois is the land of ugly women like this, a representation of what happens when you spend fifty some odd years smoking, drinking beer, eating a steady diet of stuffed pizza and brats, and spending your days sitting on a couch watching baseball.

Anyways, I got off track there. So I’m behind this beauty queen, and I am standing there holding two jars of spaghetti sauce (Paul Newman, yum). I don’t know why I was holding them. I suppose I had selected them as the first two items I would ring up and just felt compelled to stand there and hold them.

I wasn’t looking at her, or what she was buying, or staring, or tapping my foot. Actually, I was noticing the girl behind me who seriously had the world’s biggest boobs on the world’s smallest body. I notice things like that.

So this woman is completing her own self checkout, and I’m just standing there. As she grabs her receipt, she turns to me and says don’t rush me or anything.

Still holding my jars of sauce, I stand there, my mouth drops open, and I say – to the girl with the world’s biggest boobs – did she just say that?

You have to understand that this – this blatant and random form of rudeness for no reason at all is so totally Illinois. It happens all the time. And what strikes me is that I have never gotten it anywhere else. I have grocery shopped all over this country – Alabama, California, Arkansas, Texas – even Canada - and never once been verbally assaulted outside of Illinois state lines.

It caught me so off guard, I didn’t even know what to say. When I realized what she had said, I wanted to go running – how appropriate, I was dressed for it – after her and tell her that I wasn’t trying to rush her. In fact, I didn’t care about her at all. And furthermore, why is it that everyone in the world thinks you are so tuned into them and what they are doing when you were really just standing there ogling a set of big boobs. WHY. What does that have to do with HER?

But I didn’t run. After all, I had just run 45 minutes at a speedy post-race pace – in other words, I shuffled for a few miles. I finished checking out my groceries, and I will admit I had no business being in the self-checkout line. But that had nothing to do with that woman and her comment. After all, I was behind her. Still, it took me nearly ten minutes, required two assists from the clerk, and credit card approval because apparently when you spend over $50 in the self checkout lane they assume you have stolen someone’s credit card and are making outrageous purchases like a dozen eggs, plain yogurt, bananas, you know all of the things you would rush right out to buy if you illegally came upon someone else’s credit card.

I avoided death by Cavalier in the parking lot, safely made the left turn on to 53, and drove home. As I hauled my purchases into the house, Chris appeared in the hall. “Please give me a swift kick in the ass,” I said.

He looked at me a little concerned but at the same time a little delighted by the thought of planting his foot in my ass; something I am sure he has wickedly dreamed of from to time when my mood has raged, or I’ve called him a smelly ape after running, or I’ve yelled at him for dropping yet another pair of socks on the floor.

“Why?” he asked.

“I am hoping if you do something that feels really bad it will remind me never to go to the ghetto Jewel again,” I explained.

Say no more, he said. He had stopped there too many times on his own to know exactly what I was talking about. In fact, it had become kind of a who pulls the shortest straw to decide which of us would have to suffer through a stop at that store.

But from here on out, I will never draw that straw again, because I will never go there again. And as for all you fiftysomething bow-wow women in Illinois, you can take your rudeness and shove it up your wideload white bread processed butt. I should have thrown my jars of spaghetti sauce right at you and never looked back. Because I’ve learned my lesson. They say diamonds are a girls best friend, but this girl wants nothing to do with Jewels. No more.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Math Let Me Down

This past weekend, Chris and I tri-napped Christy, my new Ironman friend. Since Applesauce got her new boobs she has completely disappeared so I’ve been without anyone to share my Ironman sagas, stories, and pains.

And that’s where Christy comes in. I found her on swim team, we started talking triathlons one night, and from there it led to Ironman. I’m not doing Ironman, but still I’ve enjoyed talking about Ironman. And it's been fun talking to Christy about Ironman because she is signed up for Wisconsin in September.

It was one night in the hot tub when we were probably talking Ironman, and triathlon, when I suggested she think about joining us for a trip to Memphis in May, a good early race to get the tri-season started. And so she agreed.

The way down to Memphis was a straight shot heading south on 57. I had taken the wheel first which is very rare so when I get the itch to drive I tend to take full advantage of it. In other words, this car will not stop for 300 miles at 80 miles per hour. Four hours, some 300 miles later, I thought Christy was going to call her husband for help as she pled for me to stop the car so she could take a pee.

Afterwards, Christy took the wheel and we got to talking. We discovered that Christy is a math teacher. And let me tell you – there is nothing more fun or handy than bringing along a math teacher for a weekend. How long will the trip take, how many miles are we averaging, how long will it take me to average 24 miles per hour on the bike, how many noodles are in this bowl. She answers each question quickly, even showing her work out loud to prove her mathematical point.

For all the frustration I felt during high school math, being with Christy made me want to like math all over again. It made me want to start again, to renew my relationship with logarithms, factors, to find out why a plus b equals c-squared. I wanted to hold hands with algebra, trigonometry, even geometry to become one with all things numeric all over again.

And so for a brief moment this weekend, math became fun again. Imagine that. I even thought we could do math to pass the time while waiting for dinner to arrive Saturday night. Then Christy wrote an algebraic equation on the white paper tablecloth in crayon. At that point, I almost threw all estimated 67 noodles at her. It had been years since I had seen x and y situated in parenthesis and been told to solve. Memories of advanced algebra that I’d like to never to relive again.

Christy quickly solved the equation with some cryptic code of FOIL and her answer was right. In fact, her math answers were always right; what pace is that, when will we arrive, how many seconds until my swim start. While I was usually foiled, her answers were always right.

Except one time.

We were heading back home late Sunday night. I was in the backseat, in my own world, when I looked up to realize that the gas needle was pretty low. I mentioned something about gas – as in, looks like the needle is about to dip below the last resort line please pull over for gas like 10 miles ago PLEASE NOW.

“No, we’ve got another 30 miles to go – Chris looked it up in the book. When the light goes on, there’s another 3 gallons and we’re getting 10 miles per gallon,” Christy said with mathematical certainty. I had no idea how they had really figured it out. But that's what happens when you put an engineer and a math teacher in the front seat together. Leave it to math and formulas to save the day. But still, I was a little leary. Even though math never lets you down, it still seemed like a bad idea to push the gas gauge to its lower limit. Especially in the middle of nowhere southern Illinois.

The next thing I know we are getting off at an exit. As Christy turns the van into the station, she says that the engine has stopped. We have run out of gas. In a van that holds 19 gallons of gas, our tank has run dry. Somewhere in calculating miles per gallon, gallons, and miles to go, math had let us down.

We are coasting towards a pump when the van keeps slowing, and slowing. I suggest everyone starting blowing to move the van forward. It must have worked because we rolled up to a pump just in time.

And then we realize it was a diesel pump.

The gasoline pumps are on the other side, and this will take a little more than a few blows. Yeah, where's math now, huh? Show me the formula to get us out of this one.

“Let Liz steer while we push”, Chris said. Darn engineer. Always has a plan.

There was some brief talk about whether or not I would be strong enough to turn the wheel of the van. But better me turning a wheel than trying to push an entire van. Chris and Christy got out to push and the van was soon rolling on its way towards the other pumps – slowly, but surely.

As we rolled, I thought about how bad this could have been. Here we were near Neoga, near ne-nothing in Illinois, smelly from the pond, sweaty from the race, black Sharpie scribbled numbers all over our bodies. What if we weren't near this gas station? What if we hadn't stopped?

We rolled closer to the pump, when I couldn’t resist myself. It was time to unleash the math fury. What if math had left us in the middle of the highway with no gas. That's it, math, you're mine. It was time to get revenge on all of the bad marks, x’s, incorrects, see me’s, show work, and other reprimands by way of red pen in years of math class.

I opened the door, looked back and shouted,

“THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MATH TEACHERS MAKE MISTAKES.

I shut the door.

Now of course, I was just teasing. And this had nothing to do with Christy. She was just the math teacher that happened to hear my angry cry against math and all of its abuse over the years. This shout was my anthem for all those years I spent trapped behind a desk in math class calculating angles, solving equations, showing my work and feeling sorry for letting myself down because I just couldn’t get it right. And here I was, 31 years old, and math was still not on my side.

From the back of the van I heard Christy simultaneously laughing and shouting, "but we checked the book!" Never separate a teacher from a book. Never expect a teacher to mistrust a book. But pull out your red pen because the book was wrong. When the light went on, it didn't mean 30 miles to go. It meant 30 miles ago you had 30 miles to go. Or something like that.

Christy laughed, and Chris laughed too. The van kept rolling towards the pump and 19 gallons, $62 later, we were on our way. And I wasn't about to ask how much that was per gallon because honestly by that time late Sunday night I had enough with numbers for one day.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Makes Me Wonder

Questions.

My mind fills with questions. For months, weeks, days before Memphis - or any short course race this season - my mind fills with questions about myself. Wondering if I could successfully make the switch from long course to short course. Can I go twice as hard for half the time? And if so, would it be good enough, would I be fast enough to call it a success?

The questions multiply along with mystery until today, the race day arrives to see if all of the work - the hard work, the overdressing, stomach churning, pedals turning, pushing, pulling, power, pain that makes me want to stop 10 minutes ago - repeat - if all of that would prepare me for any short course that lies ahead this season.


It makes me wonder if all of that - every painful minute and mile of training - would be enough. Would it?

Sooner than later, I found myself in line waiting for the time trial start on Sunday in Memphis to find out. How fast would I race today? Would it be fast enough? Was my training hard enough? When push comes to shove in short course could I pull it off?

In line, a little tap on the shoulder, a run into the water and the swim begins. Would I freak out, would I feel like the wetsuit was strangling my neck to squeeze the calm out of me making a panicky mess of the first few minutes of my swim?

No, because I went through that yesterday, in the lake, with Chris asking me if I was ok as I first entered the water and stopped frozen mid-stroke not knowing what to do. What was going on? What are you doing? You idiot. You did Ironman. You swam in the ocean. Put your head down and go. Swim. So I did. I found the pace at which I could push just below blowing up and remembered it for race day.

Easing into the first few hundred yards in the race, I found the swim smooth and effortless. I swam to the far right, along the buoy line and it was almost like an express lane was cleared for me. Could I hold this pace? Was it too fast, too slow? At some point, you stop listening to the questions and you swim. You focus on the here, the now, you make it happen. You take a risk. You swim hard, harder than you think you can hold, you trust your training and hope for the best.

I cross the swim mat at 21:22. The questions stop, for a short time, as I make my way into transition. Time to bike, a new bike, a new fit, a new position, a new feel. Would it work? Would it feel good? Would I chafe my inner thigh bloody again like I did two weeks ago? If I did, could I put it out of my mind again?

Stop thinking and ride. Make your move, push, pull, power over these pedals. The bike is flat, the bike is fast. The bike hurts. The time trial start means I have no idea how I’m doing, who’s ahead, who’s coming from behind. Does it matter? Shut up and ride. Go hard. So I push. I push hard. I have no idea how hard or how fast because today I’ve taken my computer off. The only way to connect to your pain is to totally focus on your pain. No numbers, no speed, no rpm’s. Push those pedals, heavy gear, big ring, whatever it takes to get ahead at full speed.

I’m weaving in and out of people to pass, and occasionally a man passes. But where are the women? This is either a good sign or things are going very very bad. Either I’m far ahead or far behind. Does it make a difference? Either way you better pick it up and pedal faster, push harder, put out more watts because one thing is sure – they are coming from somewhere, at some point.

And it must have worked because I hit the mat after 1 hour, 2 minutes, hard. Hard as in would I be able to run off the bike at a pace like this? Does it matter? It’s what you have to do. Ride like you’re not going to run. What if I took it to that level of hurt and pain? Tell me. Tell me legs. Would you still work?

They did. There was no pain, no heaviness. Just legs ready to go. I start out with small, speedy steps, going at what feels like a comfortably hard pace. The first two miles contain a few short hills, and then the course turns out on to a long flat stretch. I pass a few women and I feel fast, light, and fluid.

Before the turnaround point, Sam comes flying from behind me and says “put your head down and run”. What does that mean? Am I looking up? Do I need to watch the road? Sam is a runner, a fast runner, I know he says that for a reason. Right?

Descending from the turnaround, I noticed a wall of women charging fast about 30 seconds behind me. Holy crap, he was right. Time to put my head down and run. Thanks, Sam.

I pick up the pace. A lot. I don’t know what I was doing on the first half – waiting for the 6.55 mile half-marathon turnaround? Snap out of it. Put the pop back into those legs and get your ass moving. Now it’s time to hurt. Can I hold it? Who cares. Just run. Run like you’ve got nothing to lose in your legs but everything to lose in this race.


I’m thinking about the track, short speedy steps pushing off to get farther ahead and farther from the other women with each step. I don’t even look behind me. Are they there? Are they gaining? Does it matter? Go as hard as you can, time trial start, every second counts, there is no question, there is no doubt, there is one speed, one thought and that is full speed ahead.

I hold it. I hold the pace to the finishing stretch then I pick it up a little more. And more. It’s like a 400 on the track that doesn’t end. Finally, I hit the line at 2:07:39. Did I win? Place second? Third? Crack the top 10 overall? I wait for results and confirm that I have finished 3rd overall. And finally, my mind is quiet for some time.


And then the wondering begins again. Will I be faster next time? Run faster? Swim the same? Who knows, but for now the questions must stop. All of these things that make me wonder must go away. Because at some point you have to stop wondering and start expecting. Knowing that you must expect the best from yourself, work hard to achieve it, and accept nothing less.

Next up is in short course is nationals. I found myself going to look at the participant list the other day, and then I stopped. Would it make a difference if I looked? It will be stacked, it will be competitive, everyone who is someone who is fast will be there. Will I be ready? And how will I stack up?

For now, stop asking. Do your training and time will tell. And remember to maintain an unwavering belief in your ability to succeed. Do the training. Hurt when it’s time to hurt. And the rest will take care of itself.


Thanks to Chris, Christy, Sam, my darling coach, Trisports.com, The Bike Shop, my St. Louis pals, and gracious sponsors for helping me to have a great day. Even though it was a little short for my taste.......

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I've Got Ice Cream In Here

Today I had the most traumatic experience. I went to the store in the middle of the workday.

You may think this sounds like a dream come true - to escape from work in the middle of the day, to get paid to go to the store. But this is not the case. You see, I wasn't getting paid to shop for shoes or purses or cute athletic wear. No, I had to shop for groceries.


Show of hands for all of you that enjoy grocery shopping? Exactly.

If you’re like me, you do your grocery shopping around 8:30 pm on a Sunday night when no one else will be in the store. You get in, you get out, you go so late that no one gets spooked by the woman in her pajamas still sweaty from the day’s workout pushing the cart at a speed faster than should probably be legal without regard to any small child, accidentally dropped loaf of bread, or anything else that may have unfortunately fallen to the ground and about to meet 4-wheeled cart demise.

But when you go grocery shopping for work – you have to go at prime time.

Two choices here. Choice number one: You can go around 9:30 am when the store is crawling with moms and tots. You will get through the store but not without a pounding headache from the squeals, cries – and if you’re lucky the opportunity to witness a spectacular tantrum – from scores of cranky, small children.


Alas my schedule did not permit a delightful early morning shopping trip today.

The other choice - you can go at 1 pm. But here’s the tradeoff – sure, at 1 pm the store is less, much less crowded. But think about it. Who is grocery shopping at 1 pm? Not the moms – it’s nap time or kindergarten pick up, late lunch time. No. Instead, you have the people that can afford to go shopping at 1 pm because they have nothing else to do. In fact, this very well might be the highlight of their day. I’m talking about ex-cons, the unemployed, grumpy old men, creepy old men (much different than grumpy old men), and the crazy old woman living down the street with 400 cats who smells like mothballs and has a color of hair better suited for a crayon than her head.

Traumatic, I’m telling you.

There I was, pushing my shopping cart through the store around 1 pm. It was empty, deserted, I was probably 1 of the 8 people in the store. Of course, my cart was announcing my presence every inch it rolled on. Yes, I had grabbed the gimpy cart with the wobbly wheel that wanted to go it’s own way while the other 3 conformist wheels rolled straight ahead.

It was not my usual grocery store, and I didn’t really know my way around. Which meant I made about 1000 wrong turns down the wrong aisle and took twice as long to find any one thing. A day later, when I finally made it to the checkout lane, I could sense something would go wrong.

Very wrong.

Someone started talking to me. No, not the bagels, nor the peanut butter. It was someone mumbling something about Angelina Jolie. Angelina Jolie? Here? In this grocery store?

Actually, she was in my hand because I had taken up a copy of the latest celebrity trash talk magazine to pass the time. And I had to pass time because the person two people ahead of me had picked up the 1 item in a store of about 1 million items that wasn’t scanning with a price.

Tick tock.

Catching up on my celebrity dish, I hear a voice and I look up. It’s a woman, an older woman with crazy hair, glasses, Capri pants that really should have just been long shorts. She was emptying the contents of her cart on to the belt while simultaneously spreading the latest dish about Angelina Jolie, and her threat of impending divorce, and the fact that she got pregnant while Brad was still married.

At first I had no idea what this woman was talking about because I really don’t have Brad and Angelina first thing on my mind in the middle of the day. No sooner did I figure out this story than she switched to another. This time, about the president and the Queen. Then she switched topics again. And again. And then I realized I have met a woman that knows more about celebrities than she probably knows about herself.

But that didn’t stop her from telling me all about herself. And her cart. She quickly pointed out the contents of her cart now displayed along the belt. Three bags of corn chips, salsa, carrots, mushrooms, a pound of potatoes, a bottle of wine, and – my favorite – a box of Weight Watchers ice cream because clearly counting calories with the ice cream after 3 bags of corn chips was really going to count.

She proceeded to point out the corn chips – all 3 bags – picking them up and showing them to me.

“I’m on a chip diet,” she said.

I didn’t know what to say. I’m one of those people that doesn’t find other people’s bad eating habits all that entertaining. I’m not saying my diet is better, or that I’m better but what I’m saying is that I don’t find it particularly funny that at some point in my life I will probably have to pay for your inability to feed yourself the right way – either through taxes, or increasing health care costs, increasing cost of food because people like you are literally eating the world away.

“And after my chips, I’m going to be real thirsty.” Or bloated. It's your call.

I still wasn’t sure what to say. Was she trying to be funny? Or, was this just an example of crazy woman making conversation in the store because I was the first real, live, not televised person she had talked with that day.

“I guess that’s what the wine is for,” I said, playing along with her about the whole ha ha your bad diet is oh so funny to me.

“Oh no,” she said, “this is not washing down wine." She was dead serious now. "This is sipping wine. It’s Beringer, $20 a bottle”

Ok, crazy lady - time out. First of all, if you are buying it in a grocery store, I’m sorry but it IS washing down wine. Secondly, it’s white wine. Why bother. Third, it’s Beringer and if you’re paying $20 a bottle for it you’re paying too much. And, to make another point, who washes down their corn chips with wine? Save yourself the 20 bucks, and go buy yourself a 6 pack of beer instead.

I didn’t say that. Some days, I wish I could.

She started talking some more about her chips, and her wine, and about how she shouldn’t open the wine in the store because she had to get behind the wheel, and drinking wine would make her wreck her car, and she drives a 20 year old car, and if you wreck a car like that do you know what it’s called? Irreplaceable.

The things you learn in a grocery store.

Finally, the cashier starts scanning her groceries. But the conversation doesn’t stop. She starts to tell the cashier about her car, and the irreplaceable value of it. The cashier seems mildly entertained but I sensed that she herself had some issues. Something not quite right. The two of them seemed strangely aligned in conversation that was bizarre, but quite fitting, and a day later they started bagging groceries – together – when the cashier was finally done and asked the woman would you like help out and the woman said ok.

The cashier disappears to find help while the crazy lady stands next to her cart.

A minute goes by. “I’ve got ice cream in here,” she announced. A minute later, she said it again. And again.


Oh my god crazy woman, then wheel the cart out yourself. Save yourself, and your ice cream.

The man behind me in line is staring at me with a very strange look. Grumpy old man or creepy old man. It’s hard to tell but he doesn’t look amused. And he doesn’t look patient.

“I guess patience is a virtue,” crazy woman said.

I couldn’t help it, “yes, apparently in this store, ” I said. It wasn’t just a virtue, it was a prerequisite you had to sign a waiver for before you entered the door. In fact, you had to be willing to sign away the better part of your day just to get through this damn line.

The cashier finally returns, and as she reaches for my groceries I look down at my tax exempt card and back at her, and back at the card and I think to myself if I tell her this is tax exempt it could add another hour to this already neverending trip. It couldn’t get much worse, could it?

“I’ve got ice cream in here.”

Seriously, would somebody please help the crazy lady outside and then get her some clinical help? At the very least shove an ice cream sandwich in her mouth to shut her up.

I give the cashier the card. I might as well go for broke. This trip had hit bottom already. And the guy behind me was still staring.

As soon as I hand her the card, I know I’ve made a mistake.

“I drive by this place every week,” she said recognizing the name of my workplace on the card.

Super. How about you drop off these groceries the next time you drive by because by then you might be done checking me out of this line I have been standing in for the PAST ½ HOUR.

I started bagging my groceries to expedite the process, and she is in no hurry because she has to tell me about the fact that she drives by my workplace. I felt like saying great! guess what! I get to not only drive by it, but drive into it! every single day! and do my job! that I would actually like to get back to at this point! because I hate this store! and the fact that I have wasted over 30 minutes waiting in line in here! and while we’re at it, did you happen to hear that the crazy woman with the cart has ice cream in there!

The man behind me gets escorted away by another cashier. Apparently, he started waving a white flag and someone noticed. He quickly informs the other cashier that he had been standing in line for well over 15 minutes and he was not pleased.

Grumpy man after all. With a creepy staring problem.

“Yes, I drive by this place every Thursday on the way to my fiancée’s house,” the cashier says again.

This is where if I was a single woman, I would have just fled the store and buried myself in the ground. Because if this super freak can find a fiancée then it makes no sense why nice, normal women cannot find a man in the world. I would have just thrown in the dating towel, bought myself 400 cats, slept in a bed made of mothballs eating corn chips and washing them down my grocery store wine. Sipping my days away.

“Yes, it’s a very nice place. To drive by,” I said. Maybe if I finally respond, she’ll stop talking. Like it would be that easy.....

“Every Thursday, I drive right by there. On the way to someone’s house.”

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I get it. I. GET. IT. Do you think if I shout I HAVE ICE CREAM IN HERE someone will come wheel me and my cart away?

She finishes checking my groceries, and by then thank goodness I have them all bagged, I grab my receipt, and I am quickly on my way.

90 minutes later, I have returned to work. I walk in and see my co-worker at the table and she asks how I’ve been.

“I just went to the store and I do not want to talk about it.” She laughs, and so do I, because of all the things I could be asked to do at a job, going to the grocery store for an hour and half on a Thursday doesn’t seem so bad after all.

But that doesn’t mean I want to return to the store around 1 pm any time soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Domestic Flight

Saturday afternoon, I arrived home to the sound of someone rummaging through my bakeware cabinet. I look on the kitchen floor and see the still-pajama’ed-rear-end of my husband sticking out from the cabinet. The rest of his body was buried in the cabinet, scurrying through the pans looking for……the needle in the pie pan stack?

Whatever it was, he didn’t find it and the next thing I know I find my husband throwing our bakeware across the house. Cookie sheets and pie pans were flying across the living room making an awful clanging noise as they hit the ground. At one point, I think I heard a bread pan cry.

At the same time, husband was making an animal sound – not quite a grunt and somewhat of a roar – which added to the symphony of irrationality that was coming from the kitchen and flying into the living room at what seemed like 765 miles per hour.

Once he threw what looked like all 5 dozen pans, sheets, and cutting boards out of the cabinet, he sat defeated on the floor.

“We have too many pans,” he announced.

He was obviously frustrated about something, but I wasn’t about to ask what. Oh no. I mean, this show could get a lot better. We have at least a dozen more cabinets filled with cookware and I would love to see if indeed the frying pan could outfly the skillet. Or if the holes in the big colander made it more aerodynamic than the small one. Or how far a dutch man could toss a dutch oven.

Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, Waterstraat.

I decided to make myself a peanut butter sandwich before the rest of the show. It was a new jar of one of those chunky, unsalted natural peanut butters fresh with a one inch layer of oil on top. I feel like I’m being watched, stalked, when Chris appears next to me demanding the jar. Oh I am not falling for that. This peanut butter, oily and opened, will not join the pans on a nonstop flight across the house.

Flight attendant, a little help here….crazy man on board.

All of a sudden he is rummaging through the cabinets again. I use the word 'rummage' because to me it sounds like a noisy word; and all of this sifting through kitchen things was making a lot of noise. This time, he was in the cabinets that hold our dishes. Please do not throw the dishes, they tend to break enough on their own which either means we eat way too often or our plates are way too cheap. He obviously doesn’t find what he’s looking for and starts rummaging above the stove. A few minutes later, he stands in the middle of the kitchen with the electric mixer in his hand.

Grown man, bed head, wearing pajamas, middle of the kitchen, electric mixer in hand. See what I mean – this is getting better. Fasten your safety belts.

He stands before me, looking at me, looking for something. Ok, looking for the peanut butter. Which I was really hungry for and had no intentions of giving up. And I especially was not trusting him right now with anything that had potential to fly across the room.


He continued standing there with the electric mixer but wouldn’t get far with whatever he intended to do. You see, it was just the mixer without the whisks. Unless he was going to scare the peanut butter out of the jar by threat of mixer alone, the peanut butter would not move.

He must have realized he had a half built mixer, because the next thing I know the drawers are opening, and utensils are trembling against each other in fear. The can opener, the measuring spoons. He mumbles something about whisks, he is obviously looking for the little wire whisks that attach to the hand mixer. I give him a little help, because again, this is about to get good and I'm really wondering where this is going. I tell him to look in the other drawer and he finds them.

Standing there, hand mixer fully assembled, he asks for the peanut butter jar again, I hold it skeptically, and he explains that he needs to mix something up.

“I need to get something out,” he states with a touch of maniac in his voice. The maniac is about to take over in force as he plugs the mixer in and presses the button to rev the whisk up to full speed.

Some men put their fists through walls, some men drink a lot of beer and get into brawls. My man – well, he prefers to take the mixer into his own hands and mix things up, Martha-Stewart-gone-mad-style.

Again, this was getting good. I handed over the jar.

The next thing I know he is ramming the hand mixer into the jar shouting TAKE THAT…….PEANUT BUTTER…….ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t know if I should cry or pee myself, cry because I believe I have married Martha Stewart’s passive aggressive doppelganger or pee myself because this is the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.

After battering the peanut butter for a few minutes, he tossed the whisks in the sink and then he demanded a box. The bizarre turns even more bizarre and just for the sake of pure entertainment value I want to play along. The conversation went something like this:

HIM: I need a box.

ME: I don’t have a box.

HIM: I need a box.

ME: What do you need a box for? This was kind of like when a child approaches you and asks for the scissors. You sense nothing good could come from this.

HIM: To clean up the mess in the basement.

ME: What happened in the basement?

HIM: I threw things all over the floor.

Ah, I see the crazy plane took departed from the basement as well. Domestic flight bound to land of angry pajama-clad basement dwellers in mutiny as they scatter Park Tools across the floor. I knew better to go down the basement to check the situation out. It was the basement, after all. And you know how that goes
.

I give up a laundry basket as a peace offering, and soon later he disappears into the darkness of the basement with the basket in hand. A few minutes later, I hear the sound of a thousand bike parts taking flight towards the laundry basket.

I'm not sure what happened in the basement, or the kitchen while I was at work on Saturday but I hope all of his throwing and mixing helped husband to get something out. And the whole incident is proof that you never know what you’ll find in the land of love and marriage as you share your life with another person day to day. You see their best, and their worst, and you agree to witness whatever manifestation the "worst" happens to take day to day.

And trust me, some days this manifestation is more entertaining than others and Saturday literally took the cake. Not to mention the cake pan.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Curtains For You

Thursday morning, I woke up with the feeling of a 400 lb man laying on top of me. Motionless, I laid there for a moment, looking for a large man but finding none and instead searching my mind for what might have made me feel this way.

And then I remembered a sweaty, heavy memory from the day before – a long run.

It was some time after work on Wednesday that Chris and I were getting ready for a long run. Probably one of our last long runs before some upcoming races which made me think it would be a good idea to overdress.

This is why I try not to think too much after work.

Overdress? Chris questioned me rightfully so because overdressing on a day like this – 86 degrees outside, high humidity, no wind – was probably not one of my finer ideas.

Overdress?


Yes, overdress, as in long-sleeved shirt that after 2 miles you will be ready to tear off in the late day sun.

Talking him into closing the cabinet doors – impossible. Wiping toothpaste out of the sink – improbable. Not wearing shoes in the house – infrequently. But overdressing? No problem. There he stood, two minutes later, in a long-sleeved shirt and shorts. He was ready to go.

Before the run, there we were, two athletes, or idiots – it’s your call – standing on the path, 86 degrees, high humidity, no wind, a world of buzzy annoying bugs, 10 lbs of water, gels in our fuel belts, and….long-sleeves.

Perfect.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Chris asked, his last hope at trying to force some sense into me before we set out for 15 miles.

In one of my preachy, teachy moments (one of many), I reminded him that the more adversity you face in training, the easier it will be on race day.

“Yeah, but isn’t this just stupid?” he asked.

He was right. Adversity was one thing. Stupidity was another. I had no come back. It was stupid, it would be uncomfortable, it was going to turn a long run into a neverending march of misery. And that’s what made me want to do it even more.

Once the run started, my back started dripping with sweat, long-sleeves like plastic wrap around my body. As the miles went on I knew this was perfect preparation for next weekend’s race in Memphis. I have never raced in Memphis when the temperature has been below inferno-oven hot. It’s a heat like none other. And I’ve raced in a 107 degree Arkansas heat index before. But Memphis, Memphis is completely different. So as we ran along, hot growing hotter, I mentioned that when we dismount the bikes in Memphis, and feel that curtain of heat, it would feel like nothing if we could get through this.

Curtain of heat? Yes, the curtain of heat…..

Imagine, if you will, a stage curtain; one of those long, tall, burgundy drawstring curtains hanging from an auditorium stage. Imagine yourself standing back stage. Now, imagine trying to get on stage through the stage curtain but instead of finding the way out you find yourself get more and more entangled in the curtain. You get more and more wrapped into the curtain as you struggle to get out. Now imagine the curtain is heat. A thick, velvety curtain of heat that you find yourself snarled in with no way out. For 6.2 miles. That’s the feeling of running in the heat of Memphis.

And out there in Memphis, that curtain is hanging, waiting and whispering to the weary hot runners as they try to run by…..it’s curtains for you my friend, curtains for you. As in – exit, stage left, show’s over, no encore, that’s all she wrote, send in the shepherd’s hook you’re getting booted off the stage.

Oh really? Curtains for me? Heat, you have no idea who you are dealing with. I don’t melt easily. No, I was the idiot wearing leg warmers and long sleeves on 75 degrees days for IM training rides, I was the idiot wearing a black-long sleeved shirt for my 22 mile runs in the high heat of the day. In my long sleeves today, it’s no doubt that as far as idiots go….I still am.

The first hour of the run is a warm-up at a comfortable pace. How ironic – a warm-up. Even more ironic – a comfortable pace. There is no such thing as comfortable when you are overdressed in this heat. The humidity is stifling, and the air doesn’t move.

Of course, being this uncomfortable lends itself to also being uncomfortable to be around – being around me, that is. I get short, I get easily annoyed, irritated. All of a sudden the sound of my feet and Chris’ feet on the gravelly path is grating on my nerves and I want out. I accuse him of being a trail hog, stop, and let him go ahead. It was better this way. For him, that is.

I was enjoying the run – alone at this point for Chris’ own good – when I reached 1 hour and 10 minutes into the run where my warm up was about to turn into a 30 minute pick up with coach’s orders to push the envelope. I don’t get that command often, and so when I do I take it quite seriously and I set out to push the envelope.

It didn’t take much. In this heat, with these long sleeves, pushing the envelope became pushing what felt like V02 Max. I pushed, and pushed, and after what felt like forever, I realized that only 7 minutes had gone by.

The long-sleeves were now starting to feel terribly uncomfortable. I pushed up the sleeves for some minor relief but it didn’t help much since the bulk of the discomfort was the fact that my stomach felt like it was wrapped in a mylar blanket and my head was on fire.

10 minutes to go – I cannot possibly hold this pace much longer – 5 minutes to go – I am still holding it, heat you will not beat me not now not ever - 3 minutes to go – but not without the cost of sickness in my stomach - the final minute – this is where it counts so push to the end. I am so tired, sick, and hot that I want to melt on the path. My stomach spins, and my core is starting to cramp. I hear the word Memphis in my head and imagine the last stretch, the last mile, the last whatever I have left to give and push hard through to the end of 30 minutes, pushing the heart rate higher, and finally, finally, finding my way out of the stage curtain of heat.

I stop on the path. I put my hands on my knees. And I want to heave. The work is done, and finally – the long sleeves come off. I was free.

We finish up the run, and finally when I stop, my whole body aches. Throbs. Buzzes with heat. It is good to know what my body is still alive because I feel like somewhere on that path I melted into hell.


But I was still there, and so was Chris. Also shirtless at this point. And we both agreed - reluctantly - that yes, the overdressing though uncomfortable probably did us some good. Because if we can tolerate (barely) 15 miles like that, then 6.2 should be no problem at all.

And so next weekend as I’m running towards a finish line in Memphis two things will be certain –it will be hot, and I will not forget the memory of this run in those long sleeves as I near that finish line, and the curtain of heat falls around me it will be good to know that it will be curtains for you, heat, this time it will be curtains for you.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Dictionary of Common Tri Terms

After spending a weekend with all men, mostly 10 years younger than me (what lottery did I win, eh?), I laughed so hard I think it caused my stomach to cramp during the race. Here are a few of the terms that floated around all weekend.

Streaky Racer:

You know this person – sometimes they’re on, sometimes they’re off. A streaky racer, you never know if they’ll show up and win or not even show.


The Best Thing Money Can Buy:

Sam said the 60 bucks on the counter was for his cleaning lady but we suspect it was code for an escort service. When Sam asked if I wanted a slice of the Bosnian Cake she left behind, I wasn’t sure whether to accept it or run the other way.

Self-Deflate:

Something Sam's air mattress might do in the middle of the night.

Shaky Shake:

A technical term describing the jiggle of your junk in your tri suit. For example, “I like this swimsuit but I’m not sure if it’s got too much shaky shake.” Not that I have a lot to shaky shake but still it’s something us women (and men – you’re not immune to this) out there should be concerned about.


Hottie Grotto:

A great place to hang out the day before the race or another name for the outdoor hot tub area at Mizzou. Bursting with busty co-eds.

The Hurt Shop:

Some place you don’t want to go shopping unless you are peaked for an A race.

The Well:

Deeper, darker, uglier than the hurt shop but you pay the same price for a much higher product of hurt.

Shake n’ Bake:

A look on someone’s eyes as they glaze over after watching your go by with too much shaky shake.

Forgot to Fill My Water Bottle:

An excuse, albeit a really bad one, for performing below par at a race. For example, Peter forgot to fill his water bottle on the bike and ended up trying to swallow down his own spit and lick his own sweaty arm on the run (hey, we’ve all been there Pete, we’ve all been there).

The Poopadilly Circus:

Tends to come through town on race morning, sometimes several times before the race.


Clown Shoe:

Not something you want to be called. Kind of an oversized a**hole that we don’t find very funny. For example, you go for a warm-up run and return to transition to find that some clown shoe has touched your stuff or some clown shoe’s bike is in your spot.


Do, Date, or Dump – World Politics:

A great game to play on the way home from a race. Margaret Thatcher, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton; I discover my husband would dump Thatcher, do Hillary, and date Janet Reno because he’s always been fascinated by what she has to say. You can never take this game too seriously.

Chowbox:

Insatiable post-race hunger. For example, after the race Liz announces she is so hungry she might just start snacking on Sam’s arm – that Liz is a real chowbox.

Speed Goggles:

You see at a girl at a race, you think she’s hot because she’s fast. She might not even be that hot but because she’s fast you confuse smokin’ fast with smokin’ hot. Kind of like beer goggles, but legal.

Lunchbox:


See "Chowbox".

Multipurpose Tool:

Something you might find in your bike kit or someone you might find at the start line of a race.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Meltdown

Yesterday, I had a meltdown.

It may have been the fact that the temperature was 86 degrees with 1000 percent humidity and I spent all day at work stewing in my own sweaty clothes. Or, it may have had something to do with Sunday’s race.

As Chris and I have always said to each other – sounds like somebody had a PR their body couldn’t handle.

Yes, yes, and YES.

It started with a run. About two steps into it, my legs were running the other way and someone was kicking me in the hamstring. Chris?

No, not Chris, because you see within two steps of the start of the run he was already about a mile ahead. He ran back and tried stretching me out, and that didn’t work.

A few more steps – a lot more pain. And then I just stopped. Actually, Chris made me stop. Gave me a hug and told me it would get better. I tried to cry, because it seemed like the right thing to do, squeezed out one tear but then realized I was either too tired or too who cares to cry. Really, it’s 2 days post race. I’ll get over it.

Then I tried running a little more. It was so slow that within 2 minutes Chris had gotten so far ahead that all I could do was wave him on while shouting – from a mile away – go on without me. Leave me here. There must have been buzzards circling overhead. Ok, we don’t have buzzards here, so maybe it was blackbirds or misdirected gulls. Whatever I felt like I was about two steps away from being pecked, eaten, and sh*t upon.

But then, 10 minutes later, things looked up. I was moving along at a pace 30 seconds faster per mile and it felt much better than slogging along.


The run was over – finally – and it was home to rest up for 2 hours before swimming. Note that usually after a race I find myself laying on the couch twice a day, and not working out twice a day. But on Sunday, after the race, I was talking to my coach and she said “I’m not going to let you recover from this.”

Maybe it was too much race, or too much coffee, or too much sugar from a toffee nut bar flowing through my veins, but I was rendered too weak to either realize what she said or offer a rebuttal.

And so, here I am, two days later, most definitely not recovering easily through forced, intense rest. This is more active recovery. I think I prefer the reduced fat version of recovery a little better; as in recovery that reduces you to a fat blob that lays on the couch every night after work.

Then it was time to swim. But first, time to sit in the hot tub and talk to Christy. 8 pm rolls by, 8:05…..it’s time to swim, Elizabeth, for real, NOW. I get in the pool but not before announcing to the coach that I do not want to be in the pool tonight. She comes back with announcing that she does not want to be coaching tonight. I guess it’s going around.

I took my own lane, on the wall, and warmed up slowly, painfully. Then the main set. 4 x 100 on 1:25, 400 pull, 3 times through. Are you kidding? When I announced to Chris, in the next lane, that I would not make that interval – nothing like killing your workout before you even give it a chance – the coach said “use fins.”

It’s pretty bad when the coach recommends you put on fins to make the interval. It’s even worse when you find out that even with fins you cannot make the interval. It’s far worse when you look at the clock when you reach the wall and realize that not only did you not make the interval but you added 5 seconds overall.

After two times of faking the workout on my newly created interval (1:25 and then some), I looked at the coach and she said “just do whatever.” And whatever was what I did.

I got out of the pool early, and sat in the hot tub. Chris finished his workout, actually nailing everything, actually swimming so well the coach even said to me “he is kicking ass tonight, seriously, kicking ass tonight”, and actually making me feel like what the heck is wrong with me because he did the same race I did and he was kicking ass and I was kicking it in the hot tub,

Chris drove us home, and even offered to make me eggs. I refused eggs, plus any other food. He said I needed to eat. I shouted that I did not want to eat. I was giving him my best version of a 2-year old tantrum I could find and he left me alone.

I got home and of course I ate. Like I would ever go without food. Which then made me feel fat. This often happens post race. I feel 10 lbs heavier though I’m probably just the same. I don’t know because the batteries on my scale have been dead for about a month now and I’m just going by feel. And right now I felt fat. So I decided to roll my sluggy puffy ass to bed.

When you race well you have to be willing to hit the bottom, maybe even dig yourself a new hole and redefine how far down the bottom really is. And accept the fact that recovery – no matter how “short” the race (anything under 3 hours is short to me) - recovery is a long, slow painful process. The harder you race, the longer it takes, the older you get, the longer it takes, the….you get the point. It takes time.

This isn’t my first post-race meltdown. It’s just the first one this month. If I only told you about my successes and feeling good you’d maybe start to think that good times come without bad times. That’s a bunch of bullsh*t. Good times come with hard work, ugliness, pain, and tears. Good times come from working through the bad times and waiting it out – going through the meltdowns, not making the interval – yes, there are many more of these to come. Many more meltdowns to come.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Pay Off

On Sunday, I did a race. This was a big thing for me – because this race was not on my schedule, but one of those things where Chris was going so I might as well go too. If you know me, you know this it totally not me. But sometimes it is good to shake things up.

Shaking it up is one thing. Shaking a hot bottle of pop with the lid closed tight is another. That’s sort of how this race decision felt. You see, I decided to do the pro race. First of all, I’m not a pro. Second of all, 440 yard pool swim in a long course pool – are you kidding? I don’t even flip turn in the pool. Third – the race was formula style, three times through. And did I mention I’m not a pro?

But there I was, Sunday morning, warming up in the Mizzou pool. Me and, oh, like 15 other pros. I warmed up about 800 yards or meters. Whatever the measure this pool felt long - very long. But I was ready. My race plan was simple – go hard on the swim, put it all out there on the bike, and run until you throw up. Repeat three times. 440 yards, 8.3 miles, 1.7 miles, repeat, repeat.

The race director counts us down, and it’s time to go. Within 200 yards I am almost lapped by the guy in my lane. But if I knew anything it is that races are never won in the swim, or the bike, or the run. It’s how you put it all together, how you think through it, and stay on top of yourself. Three times.

Getting myself out of the pool proved harder than swimming the 440 yards. There I am at the end of the lane trying to do a pull up with the diving block. I exit, and someone says the field is about 40 seconds ahead of me.

The run to transition is long, up some stairs, down a hill, and across the Astroturf on a field. Of course, mine is the last bike dangling on the rack. I nearly split my lip as I smack myself with my helmet but other than that I make a speedy trip in transition and begin the long run to the bike out.

The bike course is not easy. The first part of the course snakes through a parking lot with several turns. I think back to racing criteriums and think this is my advantage – cornering, accelerating, staying in control. The wind is raging, but not as bad as Texas two weeks ago. I am using my disc wheel which was absolutely eating the wind up. Into the wind I am riding above threshold, and it’s hard. It doesn’t feel good, my stomach feels queasy, my legs are burning.

Out on the bike course, I am alone. The last pro, the last lone racer trying hard to stay in the game. I laugh thinking about that. This is what it feels like to be last! I start to think to myself how silly it was to be there, age grouper doing a pro race. Seriously, what was I thinking? Is there someone I can blame for this pain?


It takes about 2 minutes to get over myself, and to stop those thoughts. Years of long course racing have taught me one thing – the race is never over, until it’s truly over; you never know what’s going to happen and you never give anything up. I may be behind now but wait it out, give it time. Just keep working hard, pushing hard and see what happens. Above all, I tell myself over and over again DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING UP.

I’m heading up a long hill. So long, so much headwind that I am in my small ring. But it’s over before I know it and then I take a turn into tailwind and the course feels mostly downhill. A few more twists and turns, and I still see no one ahead. But I’m going hard. And it still hurts, in case you were wondering. I kept drinking, and took a gel right when I got on the bike but my stomach was not pleased with these decisions. Shut up stomach, shut up!

I take a turn and reach “the wall”. It’s a short STEEP climb. It reminded me of parts of Soleded but super short. After the wall, the course turns again to snake through the parking lot. And then I see something ahead – I see Lauren, a pro, riding with one leg. I think to myself that it’s a heck of a time to work on a technique, she seems to be doing the one-legged pedaling drill. I pass her and she shouts something about losing a crank arm. And I thought being assigned number 13 was a bad sign – losing a crank? It doesn’t get much worse than that – maybe losing a wheel?

I roll into transition before her with Amanda in sight. My transitions are not fast, I need to work on the whole shoe on and off thing but that will come in time. I run hard out of transition. A little too hard I think. There’s a short steep hill before the run rolls out on the path and through the campus.

I’m running, hard and my breathing is out of sync, loud, labored. I see Amanda ahead and I want to push to her and by her but my breathing has other ideas. And then my stomach cramps. I have never cramped before, and I don’t recommend it. I actually had to stop and catch my breath. I do, barely, keep pushing, and then I cramp again. There I am, on the side of the road dry heaving, cramping, almost crying. Hey stomach – I was just kidding about the run until you puke part! My face is twisted, ugly with pain. I see Jennifer Meyer cheering me on, I grip my stomach and she shouts EXHALE EXHALE! I do, and it helps. Thank you Jennifer!! I back off my pace – so frustrating because when would I ever back off on a pace with someone right there ahead of me – but I tell myself to be patient and finish it up 3rd woman.

I’m a little miffed. Really, who cramps? Not me. Oh no, no no no no. This will not happen again. Part of me wants to not do the second race because I might cramp again, the bigger part of me says screw it, just take a risk. I want to get back into that pool and kill that course and slap those cramps.

And that is how I found myself back in the pool about 5 minutes later. Not much time to reset my transition area, but it was time to go. The second swim felt nice. I was finally warmed up, and in a much better place. I thought if I just stayed consistent I had a good shot of moving up to 2nd. Just take my time, trust myself, and never give anything up.

Out of the water- and someone shouts that there is less time between the women ahead. I see them in the transition area when I arrive so I quickly set out for the bike. I keep Lauren within my sight, surprisingly, for most of the ride. I keep telling myself just to keep her there, not to let her go. I am pushing hard up the hills, into the wind. This is where the work needs to be – into the wind. We will all go fast in the tailwind, that’s a given, but the headwind – this is my work, this is where it counts.

The run course arrives. Lauren is right ahead and I know I will need to push a little to catch her. I’m not even thinking about cramps. I am ready to force them out. I am ready to take control of those damn cramps and control of this race. Plus, I’m feeling good. Second time through and this little long course girl is just warming up.

I am running neck and neck with Lauren. Let me repeat that – I am running neck and neck with Lauren. And she is so smart. I get so close to passing her and she picks it up. I pass, she passes, we trade places. I love this. This is what I miss about short course, the chase, the speed, the pure physical power. The last few yards, I surge – now or never – and finish ahead of her. Ok, we are now in 2nd place.

7 minutes later, back in the pool, round three, let’s go.

Third time through, third time is a charm, and when you’re wearing number 13 you look for all the lucky charms you can get. The pool feels good – and the swim, well let me say there is something to be said for consistency. Surprisingly, there are a few other swimmers that are swimming right with me at my pace. The only difference is, I’ve been holding this pace each race.

When I exit the pool, the race director is giggling at me and telling me I am much closer now. I shout the word IRONMAN – hee hee! - and keep running strong. I am running next to Chris – who is struggling a little today because he’s spent the past 2 weeks sick. But I admire his willingness to stay in the game, to go all the way.

As I run out of transition, Chris shouts GO LIZ in a way that makes me feel proud, like I’m doing something I should be very proud about. I see Lauren right ahead of me, and I have made it out of transition ahead of Amanda.

We approach the snaky parking lot. It is so windy, the signs are literally flying at 90 degrees. Lauren dangles out there in front of me – and I make my move, tell her good job, and do what it takes to hold her off. Not only that, but I think to myself the more time I can put on the bike, the less I will have to work on the run. The less I have to do on the run, the quicker I can recover from this race and work harder for the next big thing.

So I lay it all out there. I am pushing the hill hard, and the tailwind – I’m geared out going a pace that simply felt fast. I have no idea how long, how fast, my cadence – nothing. I am using my new bike and it has no computer. But today, I only speak in terms of ahead or behind. I’m either chasing or being chased. Right now, I’m being chased.

Know what that means? Go harder.

I arrive at the wall, I push up it, and enter the snaky loop. I realize that there is now a lot of time between myself and the other women, and I am comfortably in 2nd place and I hold on to it until the finish line.

I find the results, and realize that was my race was just as fast as my second race was just as fast as my third race. 2 hours, 15 minutes of racing. I think about 20 of those spent either running to, out of, or in transition. But in the end an overall good time, and terribly consistent. This is what Ironman does to you – you know your pace, and you just go and hold it.

But back to this race. It’s over, I’m thirsty, and I’m thrilled. A short while later, I call my coach and tell her I want to shit myself but I don’t say that because I know it’s her home voicemail so I just politely say “soil myself”. 2nd place is 2nd place no matter what. And what matters to me is my day, my race – what I learned, what I did well, what I need to work on. I knew there were a lot of lessons I would take away from this race. And I learned that out there it’s anyone’s game. Don’t sell yourself short, don’t give anything up – ever.

And I also knew I would take away a lot of money. Did I mention the unbelievable cash prize?

And so it was a surprisingly good day for something I was so surprisingly unprepared to do. It was just Wednesday when my legs started feeling normal again from Texas (early season long course duathlon is pure evil like that) and I wasn’t hungry for a race. But something told me I needed to do this to learn how to hurt again, to learn how to go short and fast. To find myself on the side of the road dry heaving so it didn’t happen at a bigger race down the road. But I’ve got to be honest, I hope I don’t find myself there again anytime soon – on the side of the road, that is.

All week I had been telling myself that if I kept giving what I had always given, I would get what I have always gotten. So today I gave it more – I went harder, faster but without forgetting all of the lessons I had learned from my other distances and racing. And here’s the deal – my long course racing has made me stronger, and smarter. It taught me to stay on top of my nutrition, and hydration. To pace myself, to believe in myself, and to be patient. A race is anyone’s race – no matter what their strength or weakness is - and it always pays to wait it out. In fact, it pays big.

Trust me on that one.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Don't Go In The Barn

Do not go to Pottery Barn Kids on a Thursday at 1 pm.

I thought it would be a quick 30 minute trip to pick up a gift.

I have never been more wrong.

The place was crawling with kids. And moms. And strollers. And people buying things for kids and moms. And strollers. Cribs, chairs, clothing, bedding, bags, books.

What else do you find in a Pottery Barn you might ask…..well, it’s a place filled with overpriced, expensive frilly things that you probably don’t need to be buying for your….one year old? This is a kid’s store, right? These people do know that children, especially young children, tend to be the most destructive species on the planet? And all of the nicey nice bed sheets, crib bumpers, and curtains in the world won’t make them any less likely to try to pull those $400 curtains down to make a cape.

I watched a man drop over $350 on some bedding for a boy’s room. Seriously, dude, your kid will barf on that, pee on that, take the scissors to that, and then in about a month he’ll outgrow that. What’s the point?

But I wasn’t here to question why most people in the store were buying things for kids that kids would never use – no I wasn’t here for that. I was here for a reason.

To buy a friend a gift. She’s about ready to pop out a baby girl. We used to work together – up until last Friday – and I used to like her – up until this Monday when she sent me an e-mail that said “I’m at home, watching Oprah, in my pajamas!”

Delete.

The clerk printed out her registry and handed me a two page list. What they didn’t list on this list was the fact that this list was printed in Sanskrit. Seriously. Nothing made sense. Exactly what are hanging butterflies and exactly how are they different than a butterfly mobile? And how, or why, would a newborn know the difference?

I gave it my best, to locate the items on my own. I started by looking for the spring meadow crib sheet. At first I did the obvious – look for anything with the word ‘spring’ on it. But the sheets were much smarter than me. There were more than a few versions of spring-something sheets.

So then I looked for something that looked like a spring meadow. But even that was tricky because the whole store had literally barfed up spring – pink, blue, green, yellow – and it was a baby store after all so everything looked like a buggy, flowery meadow.

I admitted defeat, and found a clerk. Who was helpful, but not really, because it came across as fluffy and pandering which are two of my least favorite characteristics in people. I prefer short and to the point. Find me the sheet, and get me out of here.

She found some portal in the store that I completely missed and wouldn’t you know that was exactly where the spring meadow sheet was found.

Or was supposed to be found. Apparently they had the boy’s version but not the girl’s. Which got me to thinking. Who would buy a crib sheet for a boy called spring meadow?

I’ll tell you who – the same people that brought their screaming toddlers to the store to just play in the first place.

Yes, there had to be about 20 of them. Not really. Maybe 3, but they made as much noise as a gaggle of geese so it might as well have been 20.

The moms were those super skinny stylish suburban moms that screamed I have too much time! money! so I am forced to be at this outdoor shopping mall in overpriced stores on beautiful days with my best friend who looks just like me – oh, and my kids.

The kids were playing, the moms were looking at things while trying to control their children in the most unsuccessful way. As in, the child throws a play spatula and the parent says “we don’t throw things”. Well, we just did throw something so what do you think about that?
Back to the sheet. So I’m standing there with the clerk trying to locate the spring meadow girl’s crib sheet. When she couldn’t find it, I saw myself tying her up with the butterfly mobile. Then dangling the hanging butterflies from her head.

I looked down at the registry but everything that looked like a good option was already purchased and the remaining items were online only. I was not walking out of this store with something – a gift, a gift card, a misbehaved child – something that I could box up and throw a bow on.

At that moment, it sounded like the (pottery) barn walls just caved in. It was actually the misbehaved children that had knocked over the play kitchen. So finally I get it – about the barn – it’s filled with overpriced toys that promise to deliver a bigger bang when they fall. Let’s all get in line for those now.

So then the mom yells at the kid (we do not tip things over), she picks up the kitchen and puts the kid in his stroller and wheels him out. Don’t they know those toys – at that price – are not for playing with, are just for show?

At this point, I am thinking this is the most effective birth control method out there. Spend 20 minutes in the Pottery Barn on Thursday at 1 pm and you will have no desire to use your reproductive organs for the next 20 years.

The clerk then said something about calling on a radio to another secret portal hidden within the store where they not only stash the spring meadow crib sheet but also half the staff that will locate the hidden spring meadow crib sheet. It’s a very cryptic, secretive barn.

The other half of the staff was trying to help the line of about 100 women that had formed at the register in the time I had been there. Great, it took me forever to get here and now it is going to take forever to get out of here.

It must have been my lucky day. Not really but let’s pretend like this was the best thing that happened to me today when another clerk showed up with the girl’s crib sheet. Oh sure, it was cute – bugs, butterflies, the whole meadow theme. But it didn’t seem like enough.

So I tried to find something else. Of course, the overzealous, overhelpful, spent a little too much time in the barn clerk suggested a wash mitt. Yes, yes, a butterfly to go along with the spring meadow theme and all. She said she had just the thing. A moment later she arrives with a pink thing on her hand that she pops in front of me face.

DEAR GOD someone keep that away from the children. Especially the small ones. Smack in front of my face was the most bizarre bath time butterfly puppet I had ever seen. Bright pink terry cloth with squirrely eyes and sappy wings. It had a touch of psychosis and a look of manic frenzy in it’s bug eyed face.

Perfect, yes, yes, I’ll take that.

Throw that in the box, too. Wait, maybe just the bag. The fun factor for bath time would multiply exponentially with that thing on my hand so I might just want to keep that one for myself.

I stand in line to purchase my psychotic puppet and crib sheet, and a day later the clerk is neatly tucking them in the box. And a day later I am still waiting. Oh please, just put the puppet in the box. Put the sheet in the box. Today. Please. Put the puppet in the box NOW.

So, consider yourself warned, do not go to the Pottery Barn Kids on a Thursday at 1 pm. And if you find me later tonight, standing in the shower, talking to myself with a schizzed out puppet on my hand - please don’t ask (we do not ask the crazy woman why she is playing with a pink bath puppet), it’s just been one of those days.