Monday, July 30, 2007

Law of Diminishing Repairs

Last week, I got into a little tussle with my shower door. Let me start by saying the whole idea of the shower door is wrong. Very wrong. Showers should have curtains. Not doors, not glass. But alas our house had two showers and I got the one with the door.

Perhaps I am the victim of poor bathroom selection. Upon moving into our house, there were two choices - the bathroom in our bedroom (with shower door) or the bathroom down the hall (with shower curtain). Naturally I took the larger bathroom and sequestered my husband's bathroom business down the hall.

Smart woman? You could say. But I think husband would have been better off without the curtain. And I'll give you a few reasons why. For one thing, he never remembers to close the curtain. For another, any time he touches the curtain he seems to have greasy black hands. And lastly, in pulling over the curtain he somehow always manages to unhook the hooks and leave half the curtain hanging. Day after day after day.....three years of hook-free curtain for me to find.

Anyways, there I was the other morning in my shower. Chris comes up to the door. No matter how many times he approaches the door I am always freaked out. The beveled glass makes him look larger than life and the last thing you expect to see when standing in the shower is a large, looming shadow approaching the door. Insert psycho music now.

He tries to open the door but I tell him it is broken. I don't know. This happens from time to time. The door gets crooked, the wheel gets off the track, months of water and shower slime build up leave the entire mechanism unfunctional.

He tried opening the door. Broken.

"See, I told you," I said through soapy bubbles.

He tries again to open and close the door but it still seems to get stuck after a certain point. He tries again, this time taking the door completely off the track to confirm that yes, indeed, it is broken.

"Why did you break it?" he asked.

Why did I break it. Why did I break it. Oh, let me count the ways - maybe, just maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have been taking about 3 showers a day?

Maybe it was because it was too early in the morning, maybe I was still exhausted from the workout the night before, maybe I was too unapproachable because I didn't have my coffee yet, but for some reason - some little reason - this question annoyed the very soapy, soaking wet core of myself.

I looked at him, I turned on my bitchy do not approach me in the morning before coffee voice. I explained to him that I didn't stand there every morning, opening and closing the door over and over again just to kill time or better yet just to see if I could break the door ecause really that's what I want to do in the morning, before work, before COFFEE, to stand there unclothed wasting my time to see if I could break this stupid, poorly designed damn plastic door and see how much water I could splash all over the floor.

"Well you shouldn't have broken it then," he added.

This was not an argument that was going to go anywhere so I told him to close the door and leave me alone. The door looked sad and longing to be on its track again as it hung there wet and dangling from one end.

Of course, as I exited the shower I had to have the door closed. I'm one of those people. If it is open, it should be closed, if it is turned on it should eventually be turned off. Same with lights, cabinet doors, shower curtains, and windows. Open, closed, shut, and off.

Chris was standing there.

"Liz, DO NOT close that door."

I closed it.

"LEAVE IT OPEN."

I left it closed.

But that passive aggressive protest didn't get me very far. You see, husband never fixed the door. His only form of protest was to refuse to fix the door. And since he knows I would never fix the door, this form of passive protest worked. He made his point.

So the next morning, I stepped back into the shower again to find the door was still broken. The first few minutes of my shower I stood there trying to get it back on the track. No matter what it wouldn't roll smooth and it wouldn't fully close. So I did what any woman would do - kind of like jumping up and down pushing your seatpost on the side of the road - I opened the door over and over again.




The next thing I knew, the shower door spit out a screw.

Before it went circling down the drain, I picked it up. It was a black screw, a small screw, that looked important since it came from the door. I tried opening the door and it was still broken but still functional so I put the screw down and left it ignored.

A few days later, it spit out a wheel. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. I get the point already. You are broken. You beg to be fixed. And just as I said that to myself, the door collapsed off the track. Not only is the door broken now for real but it also cannot close.

THAT is what really bothered me.

I was between a rock and a broken shower door. There I was, hopeless with tools and no idea what to do with a screw other than to pick it up off the shower floor. This job screamed husband, oozed husband but I had to approach it carefully.

NEW LAW: Calling all wives - this is a law you need to know. The law of diminishing repairs. A law to be enacted when you have to approach the husband for repair. What you don't know is that you get about two times per week you can approach the husband about something to repair. Note that if you exceed this number you will nullify the likelihood that anything will get repaired for the next month.

Sounds easy, but this is a tricky law. Because the word "repair" is strictly defined by the husband and changes from week to week. For example, some weeks you may use up all of your points asking him to inflate your tires (not that you can't, but he just does it better). That counts as repair. Other weeks - you could ask for the tires, the garage door opener, the screen door, the backyard hose, the drawers, and he even throws in restaining the deck. It is an unpredictable law, and you're never sure when or where he's keeping count.

So, for this week, I believe I had already used up my repair points in aerobar replacement, seat heights, chains, tires, wheels and cleats. And when I asked for the shower door - that was the one. The one that pushed him over the edge. Hence I stood in my bathroom with a broken and open shower door.

The good thing about the law is that all you have to do is wait it out for a week. And try again. And the good news for me was that this new week was marked by the installation of a new ceiling fan. Miraculous. I go away for a weekend, come back and find a box with a new fan. Nevermind I had been moaning about the noisy fan for about a month.

The box sat there for a week. I said nothing. I knew better. Wait it out, wait it out. Sure enough, a week later, there I was with a new ceiling fan. You know how the saying goes.....strike when the iron is hot. Or when the husband is holding wrench.

So how about you fix my shower door? I say.

His eyes light up, "Oh! Yes, the shower door!" Who is this man? Who just a week ago scolded me for closing the door? He runs down the basement, grabs a few tools, and just like that the wheel, the screw are securely placed back into the shower door.

At which point I made it a point to shut the shower door closed.

Case closed, too - law of diminishing repairs, know how to use it or for that week you will definitely lose it. Or lose a screw.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Quiet The Mind

Last weekend, Chris and I headed up to Michigan for some time away.

Time away, you ask? Isn’t that every weekend around our house? Not really – sometimes it’s time to race, or time to train, but never really time away from it all – the noise of northern Illinois, the traffic, the barricades, the stoplights, and bad roads, bad attitudes, and……see what I mean? We needed some time away.

And where better to go than Michigan? If Wisconsin is Illinois’ drunken older sister than Michigan is the quiet younger one that hides under the table when friends come by. And that’s ok. Because even us Midwesterners need a quiet Midwestern place to go.

We headed up to Fennville where Chris’ grandmother has her summer house. It’s a quaint house on a tranquil street, 5 acres of tall trees, hummingbirds, and quiet nights. The minute we got there I could sense that not only in crossing the state line had we crossed into the Eastern Time Zone but we had crossed into another type of time – Michigan time.

Michigan time means things move slower. Not a painful slowness, but a quiet mind your own business take your time kind of slow. Grandma Joan, however, has no plan to slow down. She’s somewhere over 80 but just as spry as ever. Walks 2 miles a day, climbs stairs, gardens, feeds the birds, goes to the beach, drives around town.

Of course, she was full of grandma news. You know how this goes:

“I saw Debbie the other day. The next day I saw Grace and she said did you know that Debbie passed away. I said Debbie didn’t pass away I just saw her the other day, Grace said Debbie died just late yesterday so I said how could someone die in less than a day?”

Grandma news.

After grandma spilled her news, she asked about ours. We explained that we had come up not only for a visit with her but to head north tomorrow to Kalamazoo for a ride. Then we spent the next 20 minutes explaining the difference between a race and a ride and why on earth you would drive 150 miles from home, and then another 50 miles more from her home to ride our bike 100 miles. She had a point. The math just didn’t add up. But then again, we were on Michigan time - we had time to do the mathematically impossible.

The next day, we awoke early for the drive up to Kalamazoo. We were going to do a 100 mile ride. It was my first 100 mile ride of the season, the first in preparation for Ironman with many more come.


I was excited about this ride. Because I was planning to do it completely alone. Of course I did Ironman completely alone with a little help from my friends race wheels and aero helmet, but today – really, really alone.

We set off on to the Michigan roads and within 5 minutes Chris, Meredith, and myself were completely separated and would spend the rest of the ride all alone. The sun was shining, the morning was quiet, 100 miles of roads were waiting ahead.

Now for the most part this was a smooth, comfortable ride. Except for the occasional 3 miles of loose stone on the road. I’m not sure why Michigan does this but it seems to be their version of a clever speed trap. Throw about 2 – 3 inches of loose stone on the road and see who slows down. Case and point – a time trial bike will slow down. It will also come to a squiggly, shaky halt almost toppling over into a pile of loose stone.

But other than that, it was a steady, smooth ride. I decided to play my usual century game. The game of how long can we go before stopping. And I made it 45 miles. I pulled into a reststop , did my business, filled my bottles, and got ready to go.

And then I saw what looked like Tom Demerly sitting on the grass eating a banana talking to another rider. I thought to myself this is what happens when one spends too much time riding steady in the Michigan sun. It’s the perfect Michigan mirage – Demerly at a bike rest stop, and man literally wrapped around Michigan cycling. Maybe it was him, maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe it was too much sports drink in my mind.

The next 40 miles were completely alone. The course twisted and turned out through vineyards and cornfields in the dry, hot sun. The day was heating up, and my stomach was turning up. Maybe I was drinking too fast, or not taking in enough salt, or maybe it was my body’s silent protest against long rides and Power fuel but something wasn’t going right. I
spent every one of those miles with the “mukes” and feeling off.

But I had to press on – because I was alone, and because I could. I had to. This wasn’t a choice. I was keeping a fast pace, I was riding hard. I spent an hour attacking hills, an hour overgearing hills, and an hour just in a steady state with some climbs. By the fourth hour, my legs were trashed, my stomach was inside out, and my head……

My head was actually on firm. And it was strong. Because it kept telling me something I had read earlier in the weekend said by a world class rock climber – it’s what's in your mind that gets you where you want to go. Not your legs, not your bike, not your strength or speed but your mind. It's the power of attitude in achievement. Your mind can talk you into anything, through anything, and today it will get you through.

84 miles and still nearly 20 to go. Sunday morning in Michigan was so quiet all that I could hear was my mind. The little chatter going on between mind and body about how much more to go, shut up, can we please stop, buck up, must we go, push on. Michigan was the perfect place to focus entirely on this conversation with so few distractions in the way.

And when I focused, I found as the ride rode on my mind bemoaned about the mileage ahead, until, until we reached back into the Ironman files and found a trick from long ago – the old it’s not 16 more miles to go, it’s 84 miles you never have to see again. And that's how it happens - the mind getting you where you want to go. At just the right moment it reaches back into the file box and pulls something out. It's when you find the word possible in impossible. Something that pulls you through.

From there on out, it was 15 miles to go, 14, 13, until finally 3. 97 miles in my legs and 3 more to go. My legs just didn’t want to go. They were ready to dismount and crawl all the way back to the car. Today, Michigan wins and Liz sits on the side of the road. And that’s when it hit me again – idiot, 97 miles under your legs and you sit there complaining about 3 more to go? Buck up camper, you’re in Michigan, there’s no place for crybabies here. Michigan doesn't have time and Michigan doesn't really care. Get your feet on the pedal, push, and go.

I go. I watch my computer roll over to the 100 mile mark. And with that I shout WOO HOO. Because it was the first time ever I had gone 100 alone. Not counting the race. Counting all the training, all the centuries on Ragbrai, all the times Chris pulled me along. This was a different day. This day, this century, these 100 miles were entirel y my own. And as you get older, there’s not too many “first times” where you can shout WOO HOO. So today, I shouted loud.

2 more miles for extra credit and because at 100 I was nowhere near the car. I pull in to find Chris and Meredith already in. Chris said I wasn’t too far behind and Dit decided that 65 was quite enough for the day.

Back at grandma’s house, we ate chicken and roasted marshmellows. Then had cereal and bananas. Soy milk and watermelon too. It wasn't a perfect meal, but one of those post-century anything will do meals. 2,752 calories burned, 102 miles covered, and the end of one very long day.

So Michigan, thanks for letting me into your time zone, into your quiet cradle of empty roads, and even the loose stone. You reminded me that my mind can take me many places and connected me to that solo place of quiet mind where if I listen I will hear it talking, a place where you can push past 84 miles, pull through stomach upset, and shout woo hoo in victory at the accomplishment only your mind and yourself will know.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Happy Feet

For the past few weeks, my left foot has really hurt.

You know how this goes. You feel a twinge, you stretch it, you ice it, you roll it, you rub it. You do everything but leave it alone because that would make too much sense, that might actually work. But somehow you feel that poking it, prodding it, pulling at it would help even more.

But it doesn't.

This past week, my left foot has really been fired up. I spent the first few days pitying myself. Dreams of Ironman squashed by a bum foot leaving me on the sidelines cheering my husband all the way across the line. There I stood, on the side Alii Drive wearing a grass skirt, holding a fruity drink, and limping my way up and down the street with a supportive boot and an unsupportive that should have been me scowl.

After a few days of pity, I settled into defeat. Season-ending injury, a slow fizzle to a fast start. Might as well just board the baby wagon because this body was going nowhere fast very soon.

Then, in a desperate attempt to make peace with myself, I tried optimism on for size. We'll do intervals on the elliptical, long runs in the deep well. We'll visualize running and it will count as the real thing.

But optimism really didn't fit. It's all a bunch of horsepucky anyways because all you really want to do is run, and bike, and push off the wall without pain, without the fear of pain, suffering, and injury in the back of your mind each mile you push further, each lap you swim farther. And after awhile it's not the physical pain that wears you down, it's the mental anguish, the agony of the unknown, not sure, is it or isn't it, the waiting until it either goes away or goes all wrong.

Oddly enough, it actually didn't hurt to run. Imagine that. A most ironic injury - an injury that begs for you to run, and the faster I ran, the less it hurt. This is some evil twisted Ironman training trick for sure.

Regardless, last week the pain peaked. I was convinced it was the end before my foot just finally fell off. But first, a ten mile trail running race on Saturday. Yes, yes, that's exactly what the foot would need.

Surprinsgly, there was no pain. The foot felt great. I was fast, and strong, and knocked off 10 hilly miles like the foot had never gone wrong. And the next day during a 100 mile ride, no pain again.

But Monday - different story. The pain was back, and it was pissed. And it didn't go away.

Laying there, Wednesday night, with a bag of frozen mango chunks on my foot, I decided it was finally time to see the foot doctor. And Chris agreed. After all, he was tired of hearing my worry and woes about my foot, my broken foot, my fractured foot, my plantar fascitis foot, my heel spurred foot, my foot this, my foot that, my husband was about to plant his left foot square in my ass.

Thursday, I sat in the podiatrist's office waiting with one sock off.

"What's going on, Elizabeth?" he asked, walking in and looking at my forlorn little foot.

"I think I fractured my left foot," I said, woeful and worried.

There it hung off the table, a fraction of the foot it used to be. I was convinced - it was the injury that would seal this runner's fate - the stress fracture in the foot. I kept poking, pushing on the tendons around the bone. I was sure it was right there, right at that very point, just like in all the diagrams, articles, horror stories, painful cries that I had read online or heard about before.

The podiatrist poked around my foot, pulling, pushing while I lamented on about the symptoms that had me convinced I was losing my foot one bone at a time.

He then began asking me questions about my current training and racing. I told him I was training for Ironman which immediaetly delighted him and convinced him that not swimming, biking, or running was not a choice.

Wait, what? Are you a doctor? Or are you god? Has my husband paid you to tell me things - nice things, untrue things to get me to just shut up about the foot already? Because there is no way possible that I should keep swimming, biking, running on this foot. What if I do permament damage? What if it just falls off? Just gives up, quits, walks right out the door.

After a few minutes, the doctor sat there holding my foot in his hand.

"Elizabeth, can you still train?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Did you run yesterday?"

"Yes."

"Did you run hard?"

"Yes."

"Are your times getting any slower?"

"No."

"Then you didn't fracture your foot."

"But don't you think I might have?" I asked, pointing to the pain again.

"No."

"Not even the start of one?"

"No."

"Not even a little bit of one?"

"NO."

He put my foot down.

"You need to go run." (which is actually doctor code for: I will say anything to get crazy triathlon obsessed girl out of this office NOW screw the fee, burn her file).

But wait. I need to go run? Who are you and what have you done with the real doctor? You mean, my foot is not falling off, not breaking into pieces? You mean I can run? I should run? I have to run? This is the best news I've heard all week. Heck I want to skip right out of this office and do a 2 hour run right now.

He explained that I just had a contusion in my arch, probably from riding my cyclocross bike downtown in nothing but flip flops with speedplay pedals. Not the best thing for the flimsy foot. It was bruised, a little angry, but not the season-ended injury I was looking for. But what he was saying - well that was exactly what I was looking to hear.

"And I don't want to see you again until after Ironman," he said as I walked towards the door.

With that, I handed over the fee which even if it had been a hundred dollars it priceless to me and worth every cent to get doctor's orders to regain my set of two fully functional happy feet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Passing The Bar

With so many new visitors to my site, I wanted to say welcome - enjoy your look around. But be advised – if you spend too much time you just might find you like it. And you might just keep coming back. Ask my husband. At first he didn’t like me much. Thought I was a pest. 7 years later, he can’t shake me off.

Anyways, I’m flattered that so many of you are letting me share pieces of my life and mind every day. But be warned – this is not a site for everyone. It’s mostly a site for athletes. And people I consider my friends. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, you might just be wasting your time.

Let’s say you found a book. And it’s written in Greek. But you don’t understand Greek. To pick up that book everyday would be a waste of your time. Now consider this site. You could come here every day but unless you’re involved in athletics, or my life, most of what I say won’t make much sense.

So I thought I would help you. Give you a screening tool, if you will. Kind of like passing the bar. If you pass my test, then you can stay. If not, you best spend your time elsewhere.

Listed below, you’ll find a test covering common tri-related experiences and terms. Choose the best answer. And no looking at your neighbor's paper. Test books open, timer on, let's begin....

The word bonk refers to:

a) Something you might get upside your head.
b) Another word for nook-nook.
c) The point of physical and mental breakdown in which you might find yourself laying on the side of the road telling your wife you need to take a short nap.

"ATP" is:

a) The major source of energy currency in a cell.
b) A place where you’ll find Pocahantas.
c) Something you might hear from under a stall in a moment of GI distress, as in “ay, tp needed in here.”

How does one get to the Hurt Shoppe:


a) By pushing the last minute of a set of 3 x 5 minute time trial intervals above threshold.
b) Attacking up a hill on the fifth day of Ragbrai.
c) By sliding out on a corner during rush hour traffic.

What is a Power Tap:

a) Something in a bar that pours out beer really, really fast.
b) The little yellow bitch computer in front of your face during a ride telling you to go harder, faster, stronger.
c) A swift kick in the ass.

A significant source of fuel during Ironman is:

a) Cheez-It’s.
b) Being called a midget at mile 22 of the run.
c) Seeing your husband at mile 105 of the bike.

A bar is:

a) Something you might hop on a Friday night.
b) Something you need to pass on way to becoming a lawyer.
c) Something you might buy by the caseload during an Ironman Friday night.

When faced with a cup of coffee or a cute guy, Liz would:

a) Ogle the guy for a few minutes in line.
b) Ask for decaf instead.
c) Take the coffee and run.

When Driving Miss Daisy, it is best to:

a) Avoid grocery stores.
b) Avoid driving down what appears to be one-way streets.
c) Bring ear plugs.

If someone pulls upside you while riding and informs you that bikes belong on sidewalks and not the road, the correct response would be:

a) Thank them kindly for the useful information.
b) Flip them the bird.
c) Inform them that there are fat farms where they belong.

A chammy is:

a) Something you use to wash your car.
b) Something you smear in butter.
c) The only thing that will get close to your treasures if training for IM.

Lactate threshold is:

a) The point at which KE can no longer feed baby Sydney.
b) The feeling in your stomach when you’ve eaten too much ice cream.
c) Something to flirt with if you want to get fast.

Chicken legs refers to:

a) Something you might eat for dinner.
b) Something my husband's grandma orders from the Dim Sum menu.
c) A nickname for the rider most recently kicked out of the tour.

When someone is “smockin” they are:

a) Sporting a red plastic smock and eating paste in the back of the kindergarten classroom.
b) Hot, tall, dark, and handsome.
c) Really bad at spelling.

Blood doping is:

a) When you replace your blood with the blood of someone really stupid just to see what it’s like to dumb yourself down for a day.
b) Something you might try on a Saturday night.
c) Apparently a good way to win a stage.

When do you "see the wizard":

a) At the end of the yellow brick road.
b) After a set of 12 x 25 no breath, no touch the wall.
c) Right before you pass out or pee your pants.

Butterfly is:

a) A type of insect.
b) A tattoo you might find on girls too scared to get real tattoos.
c) Something you swim for 400 yards at which point the bear jumps on your back.

Which set is worse:

a) 16 x 200 on 3:00
b) 6 x 500 RI:30
c) 60 x 50 on a descending interval

12 – 25 is:

a) Christmas Day.
b) Something you might be looking for on Mt. Palomar.
c) Only half of what you’ll need for Alp d’Huez.

PBR is:

a) Something that feeds my love for cowboys and chaps.
b) Something Tim uses to build tin can pyramids in his kitchen when he should be training instead.
c) Something you might ask for if Schlitz isn’t on tap.

Pencils down. Books closed. Red pens out.

How did you do?

Pass yourself or fail yoursef, we work on the honor system here. If you passed, then bring out the shot glasses because tonight the sports drink is on me.

If you failed, well, I'm sorry but perhaps try another blog. Of course, you could just keep coming back. You might learn a thing or two. Heck, you might even find yourself wanting to go run a mile.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Focus

A few days ago, a friend asked me something about focus. He was struggling with something in his life and asked if, as an athlete, I could offer any advice on how to focus - a book to read, an exercise to do, something to think about when his mind started to get off track.

I thought about it, and what it means as an athlete to focus and how I could relate this to his daily life.

As an athlete, I lose focus because I am not concentrating. I am not concentrating because I am distracted. I am distracted because I have started to pursue a goal I am either not passionate about or I am not confident about.

Now, relate this to you and your life. What are you distracted by? Are you doing something right now in life that you are not passionate about? Are you unsure of your ability to reach your goals?

Here is my case and point - I talked myself into a race at the end of June. It was not my favorite race distance and the last time I attempted the distance I completely choked (about 4 years ago). I didn't really want to do the distance, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Well, that was pretty dumb because that's not passion. You can't prove your passion. You just have it. Anyways, though I had worked very hard this year, come race day I didn't do as well as I could have. I wasn't confident, I didn't truly believe, I didn't have passion for it. And honestly, I should have just stayed home. My head was all over the place, I couldn't focus. And though I finished 6th, it wasn't the top 3 I was really hoping for.

Extract this to your life. Are you really where you want to be? Are things going the way you'd like? Are you pursuing yourself as the person you want to be, the best version of yourself?

I wish I had an answer - as in, do these exercises or read this and you'll find your focus again. But it's deeper than that. At the end of the day it has to come from within, and listening to yourself, what's within you, and figuring out what goals/tasks you are passionate about. Once you find that, the focus will follow.

The funny thing is that after I wrote it, I reread it and reassured for myself that the answer I was looking for in my life was to simply follow my own advice for life.

Sometimes we find ourselves so lost in the questions that we fail to recognize that the answer has been in us all along.

I guess I just needed to focus.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Letting Go

There comes a point in every triathlete’s life when you have to let go.

Case and point – you have an entire cabinet in your kitchen dedicated to water bottles. Even though there are at least fifty in there, it seems like you are always using the same one. And every time you open the cabinet looking for one at least fifty come tumbling out.

And you wonder to yourself how you ended up with fifty bottles when regularly at most you might only use four. You think back to the races – all of the races – where you had gotten the dreaded green bottle with a white cap or a cheapo bottle that you would never use to pee in because you are so particular about bottle type, squeeze, and size.

It’s not just the water bottles that you are ready to let go. It’s the t-shirts as well. It was just a few months ago when I purged myself of over eight year’s worth of t-shirts. I had drawers full of these things, multiplied by two for husband, that I kept moving from place to place. Until finally one day I had enough. I wasn’t sure why I was hanging on to them or what I even planned to do.


For years, I tricked myself into thinking I would save them and one day make a quilt. Sure, in my freetime. Freetime? Hello, freetime? Even if I had freetime did I really think I would spend it making a quilt?

Scratch that plan. Maybe I should start wearing them instead. But it was long ago that I realized a cotton t-shirt is about as comfortable as a wool blanket on any bike or run.

On top of that, none really fit me too well. I had been miffed more than once, in fact just recently at nationals, when I showed up to be given a medium when I had ordered a small. It’s bad enough that today’s small is really medium and that I eventually ended up with drawers full of jumbo-sized shirts that are mislabeled medium/small.

Then there is the shirt slogan and design. While most t-shirt designs are just fine, some come in colors I would rather not wear – like dark green, or bright red. Or contain things that I don’t really care to say, like “get wet or stay dry”. And there's the reaction from shirt slogan that you are faced with when you actually do wear it. For example, the Hustle Up The Hancock shirt which every time I wear leads Chris to say “why don’t you hustle up my cock.” Ok, shirt, goodbye.

Not to be outdone by the fact that race organizers have found the one way to make us already dorky enough triathletes look even worse – the sleeveless shirt. The wife beater/tank top that most of us would never wear even to dig in the garden, even to paint the bedroom, even to clean to shower. These I don't even bring home. Please, please please already no more sleeveless shirts.

Sometimes you’ll get a visor or a hat. Here’s the deal – men will wear hats, women will wear visors. In the words of my darling coach about the hat they gave out at nationals ­a woman would never wear that hat. It was a dreary gray hat. Why would you wear that when you could wear a bright pink or aqua visor? That's when the guy behind us said a man would never wear a visor. Fair enough.


And then there are the things you have earned at a race. In our basement, we have a bookcase filled with these awards. A buffalo from Buffalo Springs, a wooden shark from Tri-Shark, an eagle from Eagleman. Those are the awards that actually make sense. Then, there are the not so sensible awards. The plastic picture frame with a printed piece of paper that says 3rd place. The Mardi Gras beads from short course nationals 4 years ago. And, most bizarre, the ceramic mug from this year's nationals.

A mug? What does one put in the mug? After the awards, I brought the mug into the bathroom and told Jennifer she had to pee in it just to be sure.

There are things I would like to see more of in my race goodie bag. If I'm going to sign away the better part of my paycheck to sign up for the race, I would hope to take away at least one thing that I might actually use. But that would first require definition of what I find 'useful'. With all of the random things I use in training, racing, and everyday, I thought I'd make a list of 'useful' things that could be stuffed in a goodie bag:

-Save my feet from misery - Socks

-Keep my hands from getting too sticky during ironman- Gloves

-Get this wetsuit off of me NOW - Body Glide

-Help my swollen clown feet to fit into a shoe during the race - Aquaphor

-Keep my bike shoes from smelling like I have swampfoot - Baby powder

-One can NEVER have enough - Tampons

-To jimmy rig gels to bike aerobars - Hair rubberbands

-The nectar of my life - Coffee

-To keep me regular - Oatmeal

-So many uses I cannot begin to list them here - Black electrical tape

-Makes a great post-race bedtime medication dispenser - Shot glass

-These days more useful than gas in my car - Laundry detergent

-Just in case the porta potties run out race morning - Baby wipes

-To keep from scraping me off the side of a hot road - Salt tabs

-You never know what will bring you good luck - Natascha's underwear

-Because sometimes I am a smelly girl - Waterproof deodorant

-Autographed picture from Robbie Ventura/Robbie McEwen/Tom Boonen - because who wouldn't want a free picture of a really hot guy

And if you can't find any of that stuff or can't fit it in, well, I guess I'm ok with another medium t-shirt. But don't be surprised if in another eight years I find the need to let that shirt go.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

She's Crafty, She's Just My Type

Last week, I went out for a 2 hour ride. Unfortunately, all signs seemed to be pointing towards a very difficult ride. For one thing, my new bike was on its way to Missouri in Leah’s car which left me with my old bike. Add on top of that my uncomfortable bike shoes, my old clunky helmet, no heart rate monitor, no computer, and no Power Tap wheel. No numbers, no heart rate monitor, no power, no cadence. Just ride – go by feel and see where that goes.

It didn’t go very far. Because after 10 minutes the seat just didn’t feel right. Damn the different shoes and the old bike. But good thing I carry 20 lbs of tools that I never use on the back of the bike. I open the bag. An array of metal tools look up at me, all shouting use me! use me! use me! I know some of them had to be wrong.

So, which one?

A wrench – yes! A wrench! I can do this. I stand alongside the road with my shiny silver tool of confidence in my hand. I know exactly what to do. I know what the wrench is for and how it should be used. I know this can fit nicely into a seatpost bolt.

But if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that’s not true. You know what happens next. Liz has a bike tool in her hand. A bolt will be stripped, a cable will break, a chain will fall off, soon we will find the bike in pieces on the side of the road.

Picture this. Me, side of the road, cars zipping by because by now it’s 5 pm and everyone is in a hurry to get home, trying to hold the back of the bike while trying to unscrew the bolt, fearing that I’ll strip it and unscrew it too far (not that I’ve ever stripped a bolt but for some reason Chris has put the fear of god into me just in case I ever do), while the front end of the bike keeps getting blown by the wind until the entire bike topples to the ground while I stand there cussing with a wrench in my hand.

Of course, the seatpost bolt doesn’t want to move. Then I realized I had the wrong bolt. Apparently seat bolt and seatpost bolt are not the same thing. Again, the seatpost (this time for real) bolt doesn’t want to move. And once it does, the seatpost doesn’t want to go any lower. So I do what any frustrated woman with a tool in her hand would do – I press all of my body weight on to the seat, jumping up and down, pushing to get it lower – on the side of the road.

Needless to say, it didn’t get me or the seatpost very far.

A guy going the other way rides by and either he felt sorry for me or thought the site of a young girl in an oversized helmet was too cute so he stopped. NOTE: there is nothing cute about my old helmet.

“Need some help?” he asked. Seriously. How much time do you have? Help – yes, lots, first of all, lower my seat, second, tighten this bolt, third, explain to my husband why I might have stripped the bolt, fourth, explain to me what would happen if I stripped the bolt and why the hell my husband makes it sound so bad, and lastly, would you mind doing the rest of my ride?

I explain to him that I am just trying to lower my seat. You could see the word bullshit in his eyes. To himself, he was probably thinking here is this girl that took wrench to hand, what the hell was she thinking, what the hell was she trying to do. It was like man taking mascara wand in his hand, expecting something good to happen, and using it on his lips instead.

But I wanted to tell him that really I could use this wrench, I could reassemble my bike, I could turn the little dial on a torque wrench to just the right degree. I had been trained, I had skills, mad skills in the department of bike. Ok, they are very specialized skills, and skills to be called upon only in situations of solo travel or duress. But still they were useful from time to time.


Flashback to two years ago when I traveled to long course nationals in Arkansas by myself. It was the first time I was traveling solo with a completely disassembled bike. A few days before I left, Chris set about to teach me how to reassemble and then disassemble my bike. I imagine there are more difficult things Chris has attempted in his life – like scaling a wall with his tongue – but still he gave teaching me a try.

I showed up in the basement with a notepad and a pen in hand. He showed up with a baggie full of tools and a mouth full of terms and verbs I really didn’t understand.

You could see where this was going.


The first lesson was how to use the torque wrench. More than just putting it in and turning it around. No, there were numbers and settings. Not only that, but two separate dials that had to be dialed in two different ways while turning them in opposite directions. Can you tell a man invented this tool?

Anyways, Chris explained how to use the wrench while I busily scribbled notes. When I couldn’t demonstrate how to use it at first, he became impatient. And then I had to refer back to my notes, but first I had to find the right step in my notes. That led to more frustration from him. And attempts to re-explain. Further unsuccessful attempts to dial the wrench correctly. Another scolding. Which then led me to tears. And finally ended in a lecture from myself – education manager extraordinaire – that different people had different learning styles so would he please bear with me and my semi-kinesthetic-verbal learning style.

Ok, he did. Well, he had to. Because if I called him from Arkansas the night before the race with no idea how to put together my bike he would have to listen to me cry, and bitch, and moan, and cry. For a really long time.

Ten pages of notes later, I had learned how to reassemble my bike. There had to be 100 steps of things to do, check, and tighten – but not too tight.


After he shipped out my bike, he gave me a baggie of tools. One was the torque wrench. His torque wrench. Like being entrusted with someone’s first born child. The other was a pedal wrench. A tool I would later come to hate. Baggie of bike tools in my suitcase, I headed south.

When I arrived in Arkansas, I pulled out my manifesto of notes and set to work. Busily studying diagrams with arrows and accompanying written steps. And would you believe I got everything right on the first try? Fortunately, all the horror stories of what would happen if I under or over tightened everything never came true. My seatpost did not spontaneously lower itself. My headset didn’t unravel in a mess of spacers and stem. My aerobars didn’t fall off. And the wheels stayed in place – and even held air.

After the race, I felt proud of myself. There I was, world-traveler (it was Arkansas after all), triathlete, and bike mechanic above all. I was confident, I was sure. Confirmed further by the fact that disassembling it proved to be no problem. I had the bike packed, wrapped, Velcro-strapped, and in pieces in no time.

What Chris didn’t tell me, though, was that closing the box back up would be the most difficult task at hand. And that is how I found myself throwing my entire body on the box, still sweaty and spent from the half-Ironman, and eventually laying crumpled in tears on top of the box. But eventually I must have thrown myself hard enough or pulled myself together because I got the box closed, strapped, and shipped back home.

Flashforward to last week. Imagine when this guy approached me on the side of the road, I was a bit embarrassed because here I was, trained in basic bike mechanics by the biggest bike toolbox around – my husband. In short, I should know what I’m doing. Osmosis has got to count for something – I mean, spend enough time in a house surrounded by tools and something has to rub off. So that is why I felt like saying to this guy, really, I know what I’m doing and I’m not just some useless girl on an overpriced bike that has her husband to take care of everything involving chains, wheels, and grease.

Ok, that’s a lie.

I looked at the guy – do you think he could hear all of this in my head? Because he asked me again what are you trying to do?

Lower my seat?

He paused, looked at my seat, and without even taking wrench to hand he said “well, that’s as low as your seat is going to go.”

Just when you think you are getting a handle on bike maintenance. Just when you think you know your bike. Just when you think you’re getting it right you learn that you were wrong all along. That you might as well have not even tried. Because your seatpost was as low as it would go.

How the heck did he know that? Is there some indicator I was missing, a red light that went on that said low as you can go near the seatpost? I looked, saw nothing, and was refusing to take his word.

“How did you know that?” I asked.

He replied, “By the amount of seatpost sticking up – that’s as far as it will go.”

I looked. I had no idea what he was talking about. As far as I could see there was another 6 inches to go. No room to go? What unit of measurement are we talking about here? It was kind of like the other day when Leslie let me use her pump and it registered in bars. Not PSI, but bars. Who the hell reads something in bars? Is that like fortnights? Or stones?


Regardless of how this guy measured ‘no more room to go’ on my seatpost, I nodded my head like I completely understood. Because damn if I was going to admit ignorance at this juncture in the road.

And all of you cyclo-feminists out there, get ready, get your chamois-lined panties in a bunch because I did what any wise, crafty woman would do – I played dumb.


“Oh yes, you're right, I think I remember my husband saying something about that.”

Not really, but it sure seemed like a better excuse than just admitting I didn't know my bike well enough. And then I realized playing dumb could really go my way because I asked him for some help in resecuring the bolt without stripping it. That way if Chris later found it was screwed too tight I could just blame the random guy. And the guy complied. Then he set off to ride home to tell story of girl in distress on side of road in desparate need of hand to turn wrench. Whatever. Just tighten my bolt and leave me alone.


I set off to ride on a seat that was still too high and a small silver wrench in my backpocket (have you ever tried to repack 20 lbs of tools into that small bag?). And though it was uncomfortable, I continued my ride. Somewhere there is a slowtwitch cliché hidden in all of this but I swear to god I could hear squirrely mobs of triathletes riding behind me shouting your seat is too high, your seat is too high.

SHUT UP.

Regardless, I continued my ride and made it 2 hours. As I rode back to the car, wouldn’t you know I saw Chris coming the other way?

“HUSBAND?” I shouted as he stopped on the side of the road. We talked for a short while, and he started playing with his seat, saying he needed a wrench but didn't have his tools. And then it hit me - the craftiest of all crafty plans. In an effort to scrape some semblance of pride in my limited bike skills from offside the road, from out my backpocket I pulled just the right wrench.

“Wow, where did you get that?” he asked. I could tell for a moment – just a slight moment – he may have been mildly impressed that I was able to pull out just the right tool at just the right time. Like he had this little woman that had been using this tool the whole time. Making small adjustments on her bike with appropriate tool on the side of the road.
Obviously he was not there when I was jumping up and down on the side of the road. But that was neither here nor there. For this moment, pulling out this wrench, I was just his type.

I may not know it all, and my bike mechanic skills may leave much to be desired but when the moment is right I can pull out just the right wrench in front of just the right guy. And that's what really matters, isn't it? To strike at just the right moment, to impress just the right guy?

Wise, crafty woman? Well, it’s your call.





Monday, July 16, 2007

A Weekend Away

Spend 21 hours in what felt like a plastic child-sized chair in a 55 degree cold box with 30 other triathlete-soon-to-coaches and try to mix with about 8 hours of Ironman training in 3 days = one very exciting weekend away.

Next to my wedding day – and any day of the week at work – Friday was possibly the longest day of my life. It started with a wake up call around 4 am, a trip to Memphis, a trip to Springfield, sitting at the clinic for 6 ½ hours, then setting off to find a pool, then swimming 4500 yards in a pool that made the workout feel like the longest warm bath of my life. But it was all made better because I had Leslie in tow. When we started the mainset I said, “Leslie, I’m not going to go fast” and Leslie said “that’s ok, because I don’t go fast.” I would have believed that except for the fact that she was right on my feet the whole time. She tried to bail after the 800 but I told her no way, we were going all the way back down bribing her with a ride down the kiddie slide afterwards. The kiddie slide was one of the most frightening things I have ever done. Fearful, Leslie made me go first and once in the slide it got completely dark and I was flying down a giant plastic tube at mach speed until I was spewed out at like 108 mph into the water below.

The next day was long. 10 hours at the clinic, with a 45 minute run in what felt like a hot box at high noon. Poor Leslie. I told her it wouldn’t be a hard run but really when you run at 1 pm, on long hills, when it’s 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity anything becomes hard. After the clinic we still had to do a 2 ½ hour ride. We asked a local for some directions to a bike route but when she gave us a hand written page long of directions that included an intersection that might kill you, a hill where you’ll probably drop your chain, a bridge you have to walk over, and a pit bull we decided to ride indoors instead. Great choice – especially in a hotel room – especially without a fan – especially when you’re doing muscle tension intervals. I completely sweat through two towels and have never wanted to get off my bike so much in my life. But if I say anything about Kona being hot, you all have the right to slap me.

Sunday. Yes, all of that and it was still only Sunday. Again, clinic for about 4 hours then off to find a trail for a 1 hour run. Per the suggestion of a local, we head to an old landfill. He tells us there are great trails. Sure, if you’re a mountain bike. But we were on foot, again in the blazing sun and stifling humidity of 1 pm. Imagine single track, imagine rocks, roots, grass, a trail about 6 inches wide. I have no idea how we found our way in or out of this trail. We just kept running and leaping and crossing river beds and jumping logs. After nearly sending myself head first down the trail, we headed back to where we thought we came from, found some mountain bikers who assured us we were going the right way and miraculously ended up by the car. With some more time to add, we found another perimeter trail that was the hottest part of a run I have ever done, up a long hill, again on a trail 6 inches wide.

Needless to say, if you are training for Kona, you should probably take a trip to Springfield, Missouri because it was hotter than holy hell.

Anyways, back at the airport, I make my way to Detroit. Little did I know everyone in the world would be in the Detroit airport on Sunday night. And little did I know my flight home would be 2 hours delayed. Back home at midnight. Ouch.

Back at work. And back to wondering what I am doing at work. Because what I realized this weekend is that if you surround yourself by people with a passion for what you do and with people that are teaching you to become more passionate about it – you really enjoy yourself. I mean, the weekend was busy, it was hard, it was hot but I had a great time. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to sit at a desk. I wanted to learn. And I learned so much.

Not only that, but being with Leah, Leslie, and Nancy was such a good time. They get it. They were ok with eating dinner at 10:15 pm. They were ok with trips to the store for “good food”. Instead of going drinking on a Saturday night, they were interested in going back to the hotel to get in a good ride. They were willing to do what it takes to get in a workout. They were fit, fun, healthy, happy. I thought to myself – this is what it is like to be around people with the same passion as you, with the same fire.

Pending the passing of my certification exam, I will be a certified coach by the end of August. And that is where I need your help. Nothing is more powerful than word of mouth. Since late May over 5,500 of you have visited my website, and I know that you know someone that might be looking for a multisport coach or training help. So if you do, send them my way! (my e-mail is on this page)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Don't Decaffeinate Me

You never know what you’ll see in the airport. And this morning didn’t disappoint.

I was headed south to Springfield, Missouri for some secret training with Leslie Curley and some not-so-secret certification through USAT. Arriving at the airport, I was early, already checked in, with over an hour to pass.

Coffee anyone? O’Hare is chock full of coffee choices about every 3 gates. I passed up the first Starbuck’s sure there would be another closer to my gate. The line snaked by several gates but I had time to wait.

Of course, waiting in line in front of me was an outlander. A decaffeinated misfit that had no business in our line. You know these people. You can spot them from far away. Imagine this – an older woman, manly short hair, pants hiked up over her hips, fanny pack slung over her shoulder. Who are these people and how do they find their way out of the house? And when she dropped the word daughter I thought how did she find the way into someone else’s house (and pants for that matter, seriously).

I know that sounds not so nice – but bear with me – especially after what she did next. After waiting in line for 15 minutes, after she spent 5 of those minutes woman-trapping the person that was in front of her in a conversation about Baghdad (if it’s not coffee in the coffee line than it shouldn’t be said – quiet please – because if you listen hard enough you will hear the best sound of the day – the pouring of the coffee into the cup – QUIET), anyways, after all of that she got up to the front of the line and….would you believe it……she didn’t know what she wanted.

I’ll repeat – waited in line 15 minutes and didn’t give a second’s worth a thought about the coffee she was waiting in line to order.

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN MY COFFEE LINE.

The entire line gave a collective sigh. If not out loud then in their heads. Then, in further violation of coffee line etiquette, she started asking the poor barista that got cashier duty this early Friday morning at one of the busiest airports in the world questions about the drinks. Painstakingly, the barista listened and tried to help her sort cappuccino from macchiato, coffee from tea.

My foot is tapping. And if not my foot then a little imaginary foot in my head. Listen, if you can’t figure out the coffee drinks on your own you probably shouldn’t be drinking coffee in the first place. Trust me when I say that coffee does not want to be your friend. I’ve spent the past 12 years talking to coffee and this is what I know. Coffee is for the cool, overcharged, AAAA personality, can’t wait any longer people of the world. Not the wishy washy, passive, can’t make up their minds masses of decaffeinated. Coffee is far too potent and complicated of a drug for these people to handle in a small cup in one sitting. Dangerous for them to operate machinery under its influence, dangerous for them to even order in this line.

So please, get out of our line. And stay out of our crackhouses, I mean coffeehouses. And let us be. Let us step up to the line ready to roll off some musical mixture of Italian, French, and English all at once when combined produces a cup of 16 ounces of instant wake up while you waffle your morning away trying to decide if you want your flufferfluffcaramelskimsoydoppiodecafdepthchargedmacchiato in the small or medium size only to be told them don’t sell small or medium here.

Get out.

I know what you’re thinking. For coffeeless Liz at 6 in the morning, it couldn’t get any worse. Waiting this long, with certifiable coffee-outlander-kook. Could it get any worse? It did. The word soy came out of her mouth.

Let’s stop this coffee catastrophe now.

Because soy and coffee do not mix. You know that soy milk is not real milk and even real milk does not really belong in coffee. There is nothing wrong with drinking soy milk – but in your coffee? Come on. Coffee is a man’s drink and no man drinks soy milk. And if you are a man that puts soy milk in your coffee shame on you. Do you also put flowers in your hair?

She orders her whatever laced with soy blah blah shouldn’t be in coffee anyways and then drops all of her money on the floor. At that point I started to feel sorry for her but then she started into something that assured me she was certifiably crazy – the outpouring of random details to random person that could really care less. Like telling the barista you have been up since 3 am and you are very tired and your dexterity isn’t quite with you yet and you slept at your daughter’s house last night right next to her cuckoo clock – and she put you there because yes you are CUCKOO. Pointless. Details the barista really doesn’t care about. Just give them your money and get out of the line.

Finally, she steps to the side. Perfect, because that is where I am waiting for my Americano. That’s right – a drink you can order with one word. Americano. Three shots of espresso, hot water, cup, done and done.

Standing there, she woman-traps a person that really at this point just wanted coffee and not conversation. She starts going on, perseverating over the same details she tried to spill to the barista. The coffee couldn’t get to me soon enough – and the barista was certainly taking her time. I mean, how hard is Americano? You press a button, you pour espresso in, you fill the rest with hot water. Easy.

Easy enough to also screw up. Because what I had in my hand was not the Americano I was looking for. No, this was the watered down version from some rookie barista working in an airport coffee place that couldn’t care less. And now I’ve paid way too much money for something I don’t want to drink now. This is the worst place for a coffee lover to be. What to do? I love coffee so much I could never pour this out, but I could never drink it either. I won’t settle for anything less than my coffee best.

What do I do? What any coffee-obsessed willing to walk for miles for coffee would do - I walked to the other Starbuck’s about 20 gates back and pleaded me case. Please, help me. This is not Americano. This is not what I ordered. I do not know what is going on at that other Starbuck’s or what they are trying to sell. They don’t know what they’re doing. And you’ve got to understand if I drink this it will not be a good start to my very long day. I will be a watered down version of myself. I need this cup of coffee. And I need it the right way. Please please help me.

Know what the barista does? She smiled, and told me that Americanos require 3 shots of espresso – stopped what she was doing and made me a new cup right away. A moment later, I had the real Americano in my hand.

After that, the day was well on it's way to a very good start. And made it to Springfield to meet up with Leslie, Nancy, and Leah. We have already gone grocery shopping (note: never allow 4 triathelte women in a grocery store at the same time), scoped out the nearest Starbuck's (even though she drinks green tea lattes thank goodness for Leah for loving caffeine), bought loads of snackies for tomorrow's clinic (and ear muffs, mittens, and leg warmers - seriously put 30 of the leanest people in the midwest in one room and don't put the air at 55 degrees), we went for a swim, went down the water slide (much scarier than it looked), and now.....we are off to bed. NO, not in the same bed (much to the dismay of my husband's pillow fight with 4 women dream).

I've had way too little sleep and far too many peanuts. And tomorrow after a 9 hour clinic I have to fit in a 2 1/2 hour ride and 6 mile run. Ah, the life of a traveling triathlete. But honestly, as long as I can find coffee in the morning, I'll be ok.

But if you're waiting in line in front of me, beware.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mixed Up

Something happened in my kitchen yesterday morning after I was already gone to work.

I returned home for a very brief stop during a very busy lunch hour and found my sink covered in peanut butter. Like someone had taken a jar of peanut butter and thrown it all around, left the knife behind, and a wire whisk.

This was a mess that had my husband written all over it.

It’s not often that I tell my husband he has a dumb idea – but this one, this one took the cake. Or the peanut butter jar. And all of its contents. For some reason, rather than mixing the natural peanut butter with a knife or a spoon – like the rest of the normal world – he insisted on using the electric mixer.

Why?


I’ll tell you why. Because he is an engineer that also happens to love and sleep with his bike tools. So handy tool-like things are his thing. If there is a tool that could be used, he will use it. That is how you end up with an electric mixer in a jar.

Usually, this works just fine. But you know – somewhere inside you just feel and know – that this is a system that could go terribly awry.


And Tuesday morning it did.

I walked into the kitchen and shouted to myself what the hell happened here. Because the last thing you want to find when you are in a hurry is a mess of peanut butter all over the place.

Part of me said leave it there, leave it there, but I can’t leave it there. It just hurts me too much. Messes make me hurt, and this peanut butter is like a blade in my back. Must not, must not clean up the mess but…….can’t……have to……must CLEAN UP THE MESS.

I grab a sponge in hand and clean it up, cursing the husband, the mixer, and – for the love of all things sacred and tasty in the world – the peanut butter itself.

After what I think is the final wipe, my eyes catch something tan and ribbon-like on the floor. On my white carpeted living room floor. Note that any time it involves a mess and something I have to clean up it becomes mine. It’s actually Chris’ house, but she who cares for the carpets can claim ownership of them. And can also bitch about the fact that most of the carpet near the kitchen to living room threshold was smeared with peanut butter.

It required much more than a sponge. It was much more of a mess. And it hurt. My eyes! My eyes! Blade in the back – has turned. Do I wipe it, let it dry, smear it, dab it, spray or scrub? Even for myself master of stains this one threw me for an oily loop. I sprayed it down and then scrubbed.

Messes cleaned, time spent that I didn’t really have, I returned to work, fired off a warning e-mail to my husband that if I ever see him with a peanut butter jar and electric mixer in his hand I will beat him silly with the wire whisk.

Of course, he has a defense.

“I was bonking in the kitchen and already running late,” he confessed.

At first it was a story I bought with a generous amount of pity and acceptance. You see, he had woken early to get in a 2 ½ hour brick. I commended him on the effort and his early morning drive. But after thinking about it – thinking about the violation (mixer in jar), thinking about the mess (peanut butter all over), I took my sympathy back.

Work with me here – think about it - who bonks in a kitchen? On the road – sure, along the trail – acceptable. But the kitchen? Pantry chock full of calories, energy, and food supplies? Especially since the night before I had been to the grocery store. There was no excuse – bags of corn chips, crackers, bread, nuts, fruit – there was more than one item available right in front of him for immediate anti-bonk.

Furthermore, who, when bonking, has the wherewithall to pinpoint desire for peanut butter, find the mixer, plug it in, open the jar, and try to mix? Who can manage that in their mind or their hands?

I’ll tell you who. A crazy man who loves his tools. And his peanut butter. And can’t help but complicate the world’s easiest task (mixing) into something monumentally complex and messy. And learned that when you try to electrically mix peanut butter on top of the counter rather than over the sink if you – in your shaky bonky state – set the mixer too fast or quiver at just the wrong time, very bad things will occur. VERY BAD THINGS. And that is how we ended up with peanut butter all over the sink, the cabinets, and the floor.

Later that night, I returned home to find that peanut butter when scrubbed into the carpet will turn the carpet and awful yellow tan brown. Reluctantly, I accepted the fact that my carpet was now a mess of stains. And so I went upstairs to get the laundry to at least get control over one of the messes in our house.

But something, a scent, lingers in the closet. I rummage through the clothes to look and smell around and realize Chris’ entire laundry basket smells like…….peanut butter. His clothes left to marinate in peanut butter. Not a nice smell. Into the washer they go. Even after a wash, all of the workout clothes still smell like peanut butter. In fact our whole house smells like peanut butter. The laundry basket. The dishwasher. The sink. And my hands.

That’s it – our house is off the peanut butter. No more.

Poor peanut butter – something so creamy and tasty to get mixed up in a messy situation like this. It’s not you, peanut butter, it’s me, and I honestly think we shouldn’t see each other any more. Because if I bring you home, I risk my husband abusing you at electrically charged speeds and throwing you all over my kitchen. So we shall part ways and you will not have a place in my pantry anymore.


Now that peanut butter is gone, the next step - hide all electric kitchen tools.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Key To Marriage Laws

Monday night, there I was, the start of a new week and the supply of fresh food is running dangerously low. Two triathletes in one house training for Ironman this could be a critical situation. The day before I had completely ignored my coach’s warning to go grocery shopping now. I kept hearing it throughout the day but still I put it off. And on Monday I sat there torn between watching the Tour de France or for the rest of the week watching my husband make a meal out of corn chips and salsa while I opened the pantry door over and over again as if that would make food magically appear.

Fine, I decide to go. But not without visually-polluting protest. Hey, when you’re small like me that’s all you have. Yes, I am the woman in the grocery store at 8 pm on a Monday night wearing flip-flops, running shorts, a muddy buddy t-shirt, and hair piled high on head. If you’re lucky I’ll cover that mess of wet hair with a hat. I have goggle marks under my eyes, the smell of chlorine on my skin, scrapes on my legs from running off trail in desperate moments of need-bathroom-NOW.

Chris offered to go with me but then declined, offered again, then refused, then couldn’t make up his mind. At this point, he is cautious of me traveling to coffee shops or grocery stores on my own since I always seem to return with some story of some man’s siren song in the form of casual flirting or small talk. But really he has nothing to worry about. After all any man drawn to red running shorts and the scent of chlorine is also probably still living at home with his mom and camping out in an early line for an i-phone.

But there I was, making a quick solo stop at Trader Joe’s. Hello Trader Joe’s. It’s been some time. About a week. You and I are going to get very friendly this summer. We’re going to be best friends. But mind you I will not be the best of friends. I will just use you for your stocked up shelves and your sensibly cheap dried goods. I will curse you for marking up the milk but then make peace with you when you offer me eggs for 99 cents. I will eat you alive at times, and leave you bare but then come back next week for more. And you will let me in because you, like any store, are a greedy money whore.


I get through the store in record time, a whirl of a wheeled cart flying through the aisles selecting impeccably good sources of proteins, carbs, and freshness for the week ahead. I ignore the clerk that shouted barracuda at me and started danced as the song came on the radio. Not sure if he was looking for a dancing partner or a laugh but either way I didn’t have time. There was work to do, raisins, arugala, tempeh, yogurt, bread, and beans to buy. I bag my own groceries and go back to the car. Twenty minutes later – record time.

It is pouring rain, and I put the key in the back hatch door of the car. Nothing. Strange, I look at the key, try again. Nothing. I try the driver’s door and the same thing. The key won’t
turn.

I take a look at the key and at that moment realize I have taken an imposter key. How did I get to the store in the first place with an imposter key? Because I used the correct key which is now inside of the car. Since we spend so much time running or biking from our car we cannot carry a big set of jingly keys. So we leave a spare single key in the car. When I went into the store, I took the (imposter) spare since I was not carrying a purse. And a single spare key fits much better inside the jog bra than a jingly set (in my case, sadly the jingly set refers just to keys). Usually a foolproof plan. Unless of course someone replaces the spare with an imposter key.

Of all nights. I was spending time I really didn’t have, I really needed to be in bed in less than an hour, and it was pouring rain. Add on top of that the fact that I am about 5 miles from home, with no cell phone, and $97 worth of groceries to my name. I was screwed – actually sqrwd with a q and no vowels because when you are really up shit creek you don’t have time to fully spell.

I wheel my cart back into the store and beg them to let me use the phone. I call Chris but there is no answer. This does not surprise me because when I left he was in the garage working on the bikes. Which meant his phone was probably inside. I think about where I last saw his pants since his phone is usually in his pants. The pants were on the living room floor. Which meant his pants were probably ringing and vibrating over and over again with him outside. And then I thought about it - if his pants were inside and he was outside that meant I had no idea if he was even wearing pants.

I call my mom. My always there, always waiting by the phone, checking her caller ID, listening to her messages, forever available and looking for me mom. Reliable, dependable, waiting, and tonight…..not there.

I try Chris again, and again. 10 minutes have gone by and the clerk behind the counter is looking at me like get off the phone. I became slightly frustrated because imposter key has husband written all over it. He who is manager in department of mishandled, misdirected, misplaced keys. He who leaves keys in pockets, cars, houses, washing machines, laundry baskets, and bags. He who has know something about this but can't tell me because he is not answering his phone.


The clerk behind the counter was getting restless about her phone. The store was getting ready to close. I had visions of myself pushing the shopping cart down Ogden Avenue but realized that wouldn’t be safe and not a good training choice. After all, I was wearing flip flops – the kiss of death for Ironman-in-training feet where every mile beyond the training mile feels like hell.


Then I remembered something. The phone number of a very good friend. She doesn’t live nearby but she is certain to answer to her phone. And when she did I begged her to pick me and my groceries up to take us home.

I waited outside by the carts. I watched the time pass, as well as many shoppers pass in and out of the doors.
Standing there, I noticed a sign that said “Trader Joe’s – A Real Shopping Adventure” and I couldn’t agree more. Except this wasn’t exactly the shopping adventure I was looking for.

Twenty-five minutes later, my friend arrived and we were on my way home. When I got there, Chris was thoroughly confused and said “why didn’t you call”. Hey, champ, check your pants. Moreover, why aren’t you wearing them and what do you have on?

Chris and I drove back to the store to get my car. On the way there I asked how long would have passed before Chris started to get concerned. I had a time in my mind, but wanted to hear what he said.

“11 pm,” he said, explaining that disappearing for long periods of time wouldn’t be unlike me and even if I didn’t come home he might just chalk it up to a sudden need to be alone. “11 pm,” he added, “if at all, maybe the next morning or at work the next day.”

So at that moment I created new marriage law:


If wife should leave the house later than 7 pm claiming to go to the grocery store and does not return by 10:15 pm, husband should then visit all Trader Joe’s in the 5 mile radius in order to determine if wife is standing by the shopping carts, waiting out the rain, with groceries slowly melting by way of imposter key held in her hand.


If married, it pays to become versed in the writing of marriage law, because you just might find that one day one law will save your day. Or your rainy night. But it won't solve the problem completely - still no one has admitted to how the imposter key got into the car in the first place. But law is at least a start.

And as long as we're talking about laws, after going home at lunch I enacted another law today:

If wife ever finds husband with an electric mixer inside of a peanut butter jar and peanut butter electrically mixed outside of the jar all over the sink, the cabinets, and the white carpet then wife has permission to beat husband silly with the mixer whisk.

I love my Chris.

Monday, July 09, 2007

25 Steps to a Saturday Night

(1) When you make the mistake of moving files to a mass storage device, you will find that even though it appears they are there they are not really there. And even though you want them to be there you cannot wish the files to appear back on your computer because they are gone - long gone - for good.

(2) After you realize this, you will get upset because your files are not there. Rather than listening to you whine, cry, and moan all Saturday night your husband will make a very smart move on his part and will call his computer-gifted friend for help.

(3) When your allegedly computer-gifted friend shows up, he will arrive at your door with several pounds of pork, seasoning, barbeque sauce, and a very hungry look in his eyes.

(4) When your husband offers the friend a beer, you will discover that in addition to being hungry your friend is also very, very thirsty.

(5) That friend will then call twice as many friends to also come over and help.

(6) When the other friends come over, they will drive over to your house on their new scooter belonging to the wife and even though the husband is driving you will not question his manhood because after all they arrived with copious amounts of liquor in hand.

(7) If Brenda is included, she will bring her own kitchen towel either suggesting that your kitchen is very dirty or she is very picky about where she wipes her hands.

(8) At this point, you will all of a sudden find yourself hosting a party. Since you are scheduled to start Ironman training are Monday, you think to yourself this is the perfect swan song to your social life for the next 3 months.

(9) At some point, you will hear Bob saying he had no plans of getting this drunk but he also had no plans of fighting it if it did happen. Which means that Bob will be walking home by the end of the night.

(10) When you get too many men together drinking too many beers, they will start talking about horsepower and then they will tell Brenda that her new scooter has as much power as two ovaries.

(11) When too many pear martinis are mixed for Brenda, she can be talked into doing her imitation of the turtle – though she says it’s better when wearing a turtleneck.

(12) When Bob begs long enough “come on, Brenda, do Beaker, show them your Beaker”, Brenda will then do her best imitation of Beaker from the muppets.

(13) This will inspire someone to search for videos of “Beaker” on You Tube and no sooner will your find yourself watching something entitled “Beaker’s MiMi” that will leave you in tears of laughter.

(14) This will then lead to discussion about whether or not the muppet Animal could actually speak. The verdict - he could speak in animal grunts and moans. The "quiet" he screamed at Beaker on the video was just a fluke.

(15) All of this web-surfing will remind you that you need your wireless connection security enabled. So you ask your allegedly computer gifted friend for help.

(16) If you let two very inebriated men enable your wireless security, in the process they will render it completely useless for a questionably long time.

(17) Brenda will then warn you that one half of the geek squad currently working on your new computer has been unable to enable their own wireless connection at their own home.

(18) After a long time the geek squad will realize they just had the wire in the wrong hole.

(19)When you shout “Bob had it in the wrong hole” he will respond with “story of my life”.

(20) Once they get the connection working again, someone will name the connection Ron Jeremy Uses This!

(21)This will then lead to a discussion about Ron Jeremy.

(22)Which will inspire someone to search a site called “Hot or Not”. While searching the site, one friend will realize they posted a picture of themselves on it years ago.

(23)If you post a picture of yourself on this site with a bright blue tutu on your head, you might be surprised to find that 22 women find the picture “hot”.

(24) You will then spend the next 10 minutes as a group rating if people are hot or not.

(25) Around midnight your friends will go home and you will find yourself thinking that was the perfect end to what little social life you did have because come Monday morning at 4:48 am you will be pushing out muscle tension intervals on your bike with nothing but Ironman in your head leaving no memory of the reason why your friends came over in the first place - you're just glad they were there.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Coffee Wins - Again

The other morning, I went for coffee.

It was around 9 am and I was approaching the point where waiting any longer could result in massive headache, coffeeless coma, and doomed unproductivity for the rest of the day. Perfect condition when you’re headed to work.

I have no idea why I left the house in such an unperkified (new word, entirely mine) state. Coupled with the fact that I still have no drivers license (seriously at this point I am convinced Cook County has sold my identity on ebay for a very good price), leaving the house like this is a very risky endeavor. Like leaving the house without my head on straight or without clothes. Each could lead to nothing good.

Dangerously decaffeinated, it was a miracle that I even arrived at work. And I only live 1½ miles away. But I think it was just laziness (after all the coffee pot was in the dishwasher even though the Cadillac of coffeemakers CuisinArt Automatic Grind & Brew Thermal has no business being in there) or just forgetfulness (post race week is never pretty) so I took an early morning break and went to Caribou.

There was a line. And I was ok with that because behind the counter was the cute guy. Ah, the cute guy. Very few of them around here. Especially in Caribou. Scores of cute girls. But alas I am married. And not into girls (somewhere my husband is crying). Only other guy behind the counter is smelly guy. So smelly that one day my friends and I had to move tables to avoid his funk. Seriously that smelly.

Back to the cute guy. I will describe him as a cleaner version of my husband. Just as cute. Ok, Chris is cuter. By the way, I am not suggesting my husband is dirty. I’m just saying that my husband is a little more rugged, scruffy, and dark-skinned. This coffee guy has creamy colored skin and a smooth face. Perfectly gelled hair with every strand in place. A clean white shirt, dark blue jeans, and a silver ring on his hand. There is a very good chance this guy has no interest in women and that’s ok.

Either way, I have no business looking at this guy. Because I am married. And because I am looking at him with the eyes of a woman that refuses to accept the fact that she is nearly 32 years old but feels about 10 years younger. And I’m convinced that this guy is about 10 years younger. So even if I was not married I’d still be way too old to look or even care.

But then I started thinking (yes, this was a really long line and I really wanted to coffee). What if I wasn’t married? Would I come in here for a cup of coffee every single day? Would I pay $1.88 for 16 ounces and a 16 second sneak peek at him? Would I wait and hang on his “what can I get for you” or “have a nice day”? Would I ask him out? Would I try something new – can’t believe I’m saying this - like a mocha – just to get his attention, to mix things up, show him I’m risky and change my ways? Would I sashay in there wearing long flowing skirts and my hair curled up just to turn his head? These were all interesting plans, very good plans, attention-getters, and possible ways to steal his heart away.

But then it hit me.

That would be the dumbest, most decaffeinated plan ever. Risking a year’s worth of perky pep for some guy? No man supercedes need for coffee. Just ask my husband. If torn between husband or coffee at 8 am, I’m going to take the cup and run. Maybe walk fast. One should never run with a hot cup of coffee. Worse than scissors. Trust me, I’d know. Besides, husband wouldn’t want me decaffeinated anyways. Or covered with coffee (I’m a freak about clean, dry clothes).

Think of how this situation could play out if I were to date the cute guy behind the counter (all theoretical here, I am still married). Think of the dark-roasted risk involved. Let’s say I did get his attention, and we did go out, and did date for a few months. And then in a terrible, improbable twist of events, things did not work out (his fault, not mine). Where would I go for my coffee then? I’d have to scratch this Caribou off my list for a very long time. I’m not sure of the career life of a barista but it has to be at least 12 – 18 months. And a year without Caribou would be a very dark, dry year.

And if not Caribou then where? Starbuck’s? Absolutely not. Too many Toffee Nut Americanos would leave me running jittery laps around my desk. Local shops? Getting just as expensive as the national chains. Plus surly customer service, suspicious flavors, coffee that sits in airpots way too long. Dunkin’ Donuts? My ass would be as big as my house because one cannot have coconut coffee without tons of cream. So where?

At home?

Are you kidding? I can’t wash my coffee pot everyday. If you have a CuisinArt Automatic Grind & Thermal Brew you know what I mean. I spend more time cleaning that machine than I spend showering myself. There’s at least 20 different detachable parts. And no matter what the next pot still tastes like the pot before.

I need – absolutely NEED - my little cup of overpriced perky happiness from Caribou. At least once a week. I need to stand in this line, I need to ask for a medium (thank you for describing sizes with the English language) light roast or dark roast or whatever fits my mood for that day.

So, scratch the plan. Scratch the fact that I said he was cute or that I even looked his way. My caffeination is much more important than a man. With that, I stepped up to the counter, brusquely requested a cup of light roast La Minita Peaberry today. I looked directly at him. He of the creamy skin, hazel eyes, and dark hair. He that looks like my husband’s evil twin with lighter skin.
Perhaps husband planted him there. To keep track of me and keep me on track knowing that if it comes to male temptation or coffee I’d choose coffee and run/fast walk the other way. Evil husband trickery intertwined with coffee. Most evil of all evil plans.

Disgruntled, still decaffeinated, I handed him over my $1.88, took the cup of light roast, said thanks, and walked away. And walking back to the car I thought to myself that is the last time I look at another man, then took a sip of my coffee, and started the day.

So I guess you could say coffee wins – again. But really, was there any doubt?