Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Next Big Thing

When you get back into training you start thinking about all the races your training for which naturally gets you to thinking about the next big thing – next year.

As I started planning for next year looking over choices of races, I wondered what I really want to achieve. It’s at this time of year you need to quiet yourself for awhile and just listen. Because as you start looking over races and considering options you will hear something that keeps echoing in your mind. There will be a voice. There will be something you keep going back to. And you know this voice, this drive – it is desire.

When I quieted my mind towards the end of the season, I found the voice. There it was, desire. And it said - coming as quiet mumbles throughout the but finally speaking up to say -next year turn pro.


The other day I sent in my application to make this happen.

A lot of people have asked why I want to turn pro. It’s a great question and one I often think about. It’s not because I think I’m the best out there. Nor do I think I’m going to make a living in sport. But at some point you just have to ask yourself what if. What if I spent a year just following my dreams. What if I spent a year pursuing myself to become one of the best.

But still there is always a voice in the back of your head that questions the decisions you’ve made. The small voice that creeps in from time to time – are you ready? is this what you really want to do? what’s wrong with where you are right now? do you have to make a change? do you want to be uncomfortable? This voice, small as it is, can sometimes resonate in your head with loudness you cannot bear.

I was reading Gordo’s blog a few weeks ago. I was not necessarily looking for answers but as always when you least expect them you find them right there:

At some stage of our lives, I think that everyone should spend a couple of years trying to be their absolute best at something. The lessons are independent of the outcome.

And that is when I listened to the other voice. The voice that was saying what if. What if I spend a year trying to be my best because if not now then when and there is no better time than now. It’s something I have to do for myself and until I do it I will always wonder what if. And I cannot live the rest of my life with what if repeating in my head.

Next year will not be easy. I keep looking at races thinking as a pro how will I do. Shooting for the top 10 – 20 rather than the top overall will not be an easy thing. At some level, performance is so closely linked to how we see and value ourselves. Winning feels good. There is psychology to winning whatever your version of winning may be.


But of all the years I have competed, the year ahead – with all of its uncertainties and challenges - is the most exciting to me. Because I am taking a risk. Because I am committing 100 percent to what if. And, honestly, why not.

A few months ago, I was talking to someone about professionals in a different field. It had nothing to do with sport but everything to do with being a pro.

A professional is someone that is so passionate about their field that they see nothing but opportunity in the challenges ahead.

And that is why I want to take this next step. I know I will pushed at a much different level and I cannot wait – because in this challenge is the opportunity to better myself.

There are so many reasons behind the choices we make. And I thought I would share with you the reasons behind mine. There are many paths you can take. There is risk and discomfort in giving up what you know for the unknown. But there is excitement in the unknown and hope in the challenge of the path of new possibility.

So I encourage you to take the path for next year that you feel the most challenged by and the one that will mean the most to you. What will be your next big thing? What if you chased after something big, what if you expected more out of yourself? What is the risk of taking on a challenge bigger than yourself?


Remember that sport (and a meaningful life) are challenging – that’s the point. (gordo)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mr. Nibs

I thought you might be wondering about my dog.

Probably not but seeing this is the week of me talking about the best of the dumbest decisions I have ever made, here goes.

Boss. Oh Boss. For something so small he is full of life. And love. And kibble, steaming piles of log, mischief, energy, and what am I missing………NRB’s. That’s for the Ragbrai crew to laugh about. The rest of you just take my word.

Boss loves to eat kibble. He didn’t like his first bag of kibble. I suppose lamb and rice isn’t good enough for him. We switched and he seems to like the new brand better but still eats on the fly.

Boss has a new trick. It’s called hide under the couch and growl. This is especially fun when we are (a) in a hurry, (b) trying to leash him to go outside, or (c) sure he is ready to drop a steaming pile of log.

Other odd things that Boss likes to do – go behind the curtains on the patio door. We are not sure why. It’s a sheer curtain and he sits behind it and looks out at us. It might be his way of thinking nasty things about us without looking us directly in the eye. But I’m convinced Boss has discovered some kind of Narnia behind that curtain that only he can visit.

Boss has taken on several code names. You can’t look like Boss or behave like Boss without getting a code name. He responds to none of them, even Boss, which makes it all the more fun. We call him Little Man, Puppy, Mr. Nibs, or Nibs for short.

If Boss could talk I’m not sure what he would say. You know how sometimes you put yourself in your dog’s paws and think of what they would say? And then you hear your dog’s “voice” in your head? Has anyone else done this? Or just proof of girl gone crazy? Anyways, I have not yet heard Boss’ voice. I have tried and tried but nothing comes yet. But I want to know what he says. I want to share his thoughts with the world. I want to be his Dog Whisperer.

Boss is obsessed with pulling tufts of carpet out of the living room floor. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted all wood floors. But this is not what I had in mind.

When I dump out Boss’ bed, I find a stash of things he has found. Most frequent finding other than tufts of carpet – zip ties. The other day he was in the basement and sure enough found a zip tie. When I brought him upstairs, Chris said “don’t forget his zip tie.” We’ve got fifty dollars worth of squeaky pigs, strings, and dog toys. But do not forget his 10 cent zip tie.

Boss does not like taking a bath. Apparently he and Chris have a deal that when he gets a bath he gets dried with a towel that was pre-warmed in the dryer. If there is a sign-up sheet for this service would someone please add my name.

The green rug by the patio door – Boss thinks we have laid that out just for him to take an indoor dump. In case he doesn’t feel like getting his paws wet or cold. And if we aren’t quick enough to clean it up – he takes that as his cue to snack on it.

But the lamb and rice kibbles? Oh no.

I believe Boss, working under the alias Mr. Nibs, is part of some covert operation that involves shoelaces. He carries them all over the house and hides with them in the most secret of places. Right now he is in his Sherpa Bag with a shoelace. Before that he was in his crate. This is very serious puppy work.

Boss is capable of the 1 - 2 punch. He leaves a little log outside just to come into the house minutes later to go again. We are not sure why this happens or how so much can fit into one little dog. We believe it is a control issue where Boss reminds us, so smellily, that he maybe be little and maybe be wearing the leash but he is still large in charge of our house.

Yesterday Chris came home and said “all Boss does is sleep all day.” News flash – he’s a dog. What did you expect? That Boss would write a novel? This is what I love best about Boss – he is all about the basics in life – eat, sleep, poo, play, and occasionally humping a white t-shirt. The good things.

Boss reminds me to stay focused on the simple things. He reminds me there are other things in life than me. There are other needs more important than mine. There are things – though small – that need my time and love. Boss
is probably the best dumbest decision I ever made.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Downward Trend

You will notice I removed the “People & Places” link on the right side of my page. It’s not because I have sworn off blogs. Instead I just wanted to mix things up and maximize space (and eventually I will bring it back).

But on the subject of other blogs, I will admit that I do read other blogs from time to time. I am also guilty of spending an entire Saturday night laying on my living room clicking from one link to the next to find new blogs. Call me crazy, lame, boring, or any other name. But I know – I KNOW - you’ve done the same.

Of all the books, magazines, websites, information out there – why blogs? Admit it, you have found yourself blog reading rather than reading the daily news. Who cares what’s going on in the world, I need to know what _________(insert favorite blog name) is thinking and I need to know NOW. You have found yourself keeping up with the pro’s and amateur’s of the world by way of blog. They are in your kitchen every morning perhaps even at your desk. You feel like they are one of your best friends but you’ve never even met them. So what gives?

I’m not sure I have the answer. But I did spend some time the other day thinking about why we do this, why we read blogs. So I reached far back into the annals of my days as a psychology major (occasionally it comes in handy) and I found this…

Downward Social Comparison

Definition, please?

Downward social comparison is a defensive tendency to compare oneself with someone whose troubles are more serious than one's own.

In other words, I might be bad, crazy, nuts, obsessed, addicted, overspending, hurting, bonkers, gone hog wild but at least at least I’m not as bad as…..

THAT.

(where “that” would be the person who writes the said blog)

Case in point – the other night. I was surfing from one blog to the next when I found….a new blog. Ooohhh, new blog, new opportunity to see what someone else is doing, new opportunity to say to myself I may be crazy but at least I did not do an 80 mile ride on nothing but a saltine.

(not exactly what I read but darn close)

And so, I felt better about myself. Like the definition says, this is a defense. Not that any of us are defensive, but admit that the decisions you have made in the past year have raised an eye from someone else requiring a bit of defense on your part. Signed up for Ironman? Woke up at 4:55 am to make it to masters swim? Left the bar early because you had to ride 100 miles the next day?


Guilty, guilty, guilty.

And it’s not that we feel bad about our decisions or that we are unsure of ourselves – it’s just that other people get in the way. They make us feel like we have made a bad decision for our self. Naturally, we look for a defense. A reason why we are right for making that decision. And that defense is often downward social comparison.

I may have signed up for an Ironman (again) against my warning last year that I would never do another one (but here I go again) but at least I didn’t sign up for the 10 ironmans in 10 days event. (speaking of which, did you read about that?)

OR


I may be leaving this bar early but at least by the time you wake up from your hangover I will be through with my 100 miles.

When you start to think about it – the fact that we’ve been reading blogs all year long, the more you realize that blogs are the best medicine around. Because there is always someone out there worse off than we are. There is always somebody out there doing something 10 times dumber or harder on 10 times less or in 10 times more pain.

So I started to think to myself that holy crap what if I am someone else’s downward social comparison. What if you are all reading this to compare yourself to a level of crazy that you could never touch. I search back through the past year for the certifiably crazy decisions I have made. For example (listed in order of potential craziness):

1 – Kona
2 – Quit my job
3 – Bought a dog

Oh no. That’s it. That explains the loyalty and readership of this site. You have downwardly compared your decisions to my dog, my career, and my Ironman. You find yourself purchasing a new $2000 set of wheels and think to yourself yes that’s bad but I bet Fedofsky is up to something much worse. And then you visit my site, see that I have purchased a small fortune of a dog and think to yourself – there it is, I’m off the hook.

After feeling bad about myself for a short while, I realized the panacea was to just read someone else’s blog. So I found a new one and read it. Sure enough I immediately found proof that I wasn’t so crazy anymore because I was reading about someone that competed in a very important race with a very bad injury. I sat back and said to myself I may have just purchased a dog but I did not do anything as dumb as that.

So why do we do this? Because it makes us feel good. It alleviates our doubt. Justifies our actions and keeps us sane. There is considerable evidence to support that we use downward social comparison as a mechanism to cope with stress, feel better about ourselves, and protect our self-esteem. And, simply put, it works.

So, I know what you’re up to. Not only by reading your blog but also by using my super social psychological powers to understand why you come here and read. And I promise to keep providing much craziness for you to compare your decisions against. Chances are I will do something crazy in the next few weeks. So stay tuned. Because if you’re feeling unsure of yourself, you have come to the right place.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Newly Caffeinated Queen

The other day, my coach invited me to a little Black Friday fun.

Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim?

No, no dice.

Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim and a cyclocross ride?

Even worse. No, definitely no dice, not when it’s this cold.

Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim and a cyclocross ride get a bagel afterwards?

No, but…you’re getting hotter.

Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim and a cyclocross ride and get a bagel and coffee afterwards?

DING DING DING DING DING. I’m in.

Friday morning, 5 am. Dark of night, 20 degrees outside, I’m piling my swim gear, bike gear, and cyclocross bike in the car and driving 30 miles north for a swim and a ride. Willing to pay good money in tolls and gas. Why? I was in it for the coffee.

I walk into the recreation center and there she is. All 5 foot 7 inches standing in pink bathing suit glory on the swim deck – my coach. The only person I know that skips into the pool before 6 in the morning when it’s 20 degrees outside.

I walk onto the deck and realize I am not the only one she has persuaded, I mean coerced, into joining her for a swim. Four men fell for the bait and hang in the lane next to us waiting on her every word. I wonder if this is what Jerome meant when he said “no boys.” Because there they were, waiting for her workout like it was the best thing they’ve ever heard.

Ok, it wasn’t. I mean, seriously – who wants to be doing 8 x 75 IM at 6:15 am? Who? My coach. And she wants me to want this too. Little does she know I just did the marathon of IM workouts the other night. But no rest for me. In fact, she says she wrote the workout for me and Steve, her two runners turned triathletes turned will be doing IM friends.

A little IM, a little kicking, a little work with the band. She calls it a band. But really it’s the leash and finally I see what it’s like to have someone tell me to put the leash on now. We do very little that is hard effort but it all feels hard when you’re trying to keep up with Jen. Nearly every 250 yards she has me lapped. We go through a few different types of 300’s and even some breath control. And just when I think we have to be done she throws out 8 x 100 alternating IM (no fins she says no fins) and the band with paddles.

But again, I’m in it for the coffee and that’s all that is on my mind. And I’m extra excited about this cup of coffee because this is something new. You see, Jennifer is a recent coffee convert. She has now joined us on the other side. So, it was new and fun to sit across from Jennifer while we enjoyed coffee and chatted away.

Afterwards, we decide to go for a ride. Sure, it’s below 30 degrees outside but it’s only November and damn if the Illinois girls are going to be beaten into their basements this early in the winter. So we put on the two pairs of tights, wool socks, base layer, fleece vest, fleece coat, balaclava, gloves, fleece mittens, slip feet into plastic baggies, into shoes, with toe covers, sunglasses, helmet, somewhere we have both stashed a partridge in a pear tree, and we are….ready to ride.

Let me just start by saying caffeine should be a banned substance in Jennifer Harrison’s body. There is probably a committee we should call about that. Before I even have my bike down the stairs she is circling in the street. Now, if you know Jen, you know the words zippy, pippy, sparky, spunky, chatty, happy go with her hand and hand. But add caffeine to a string of words like that and you truly get…..something else.

Immediately we head over the bridge and she looks down at my bike. Just checking to see that you are in the big ring, she says. Not a good sign. No sooner do we get on the path going into the wind then she takes it up to a pace I would call just slightly below hauling ass. Now, maybe it was the Thanksgiving 5K I turkey trotted the day before or maybe the fact that in the past three days I have done roughly 3000 yards of IM or maybe just the fact that people that move/talk/think as fast as her should not be permitted to have caffeine EVER in the first place, especially before a ride.

I’m wondering if we are going into the wind or going up a hill, if my tires are flat or my brake pads are rubbing. Because I’m barely catching my breath while she keeps chatting away. I tell her I have reached my ventillatory threshold and might need to slow down. Meanwhile, she is verbally reciting all of the reasons why she is going so fast – bigger bike, no heart rate monitor, extra special Pearl Izumi tights that I MUST also have, there had to be a dozen reasons none of which contained the most obvious, the word CAFFEINE. Nothing seems to slow her down, snow covered bridges, unleashed dogs, patches of ice. The less I talk the more she talked and by now I know the caffeine is pumping through her full force and I’m just hanging on for the ride.

Up ahead she says we will turn around. Like 10 minutes later. I am thinking there will finally be some rest with the tailwind but no such luck. Instead, we are cruising at over 19 mph on the path and when you factor in the cyclocross bike it feels like we are going 25. Over the snow covered bridges, the icy patches, the unleashed dogs, and walkers on the path. In this entire time she has not stopped not even to turnaround while I unclipped in the turn just to have one freakin’ moment to stop pedaling and, finally, catch my breath.

At last, we are on the street heading back to her house and she puts it in the small ring. I take this as my cue that we can finally allow the speed to fall below 15. Though I am riding behind
her, she is still talking away. And I hear her say “I wonder what it was today? I wonder if it was the caffeine?”

You think?


We go back to her house and she asks her husband to make me some coffee. Dear god whatever you do Jerome keep her away from the caffeine. She makes herself tea and announces that she has switched to decaf. And that's a good thing - if not for me, than for Jerome because they were going shopping later that day. And since he just did IM Florida a few weeks ago, there's now way he could keep her pace. No way.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

IM Going To Do This

No, no, it's not a post about Ironman, it’s about IM. As in individual medley, IM.

I’m going to do this. This year I am going to do IM. And it’s perfect timing to commit because masters swim team just started up again. Last year, I stepped up the swimming but this year I’m taking the next step. And this year I’m expecting more from myself. I’m going bigger, I will get better and I will – I repeat – I will by year’s end be doing IM.

I walked into the pool tonight absolutely thrilled. I had been waiting to swim ALL DAY. I was determined to redeem myself from the swim the night before. The swim in which I swam with someone that said “I haven’t swam in a year” and then ended up leaving me lapped. Thanks. But I’m not giving up. Oh no. Instead I’m expecting more out of myself. And that’s why I’m going to do IM.

“It’s stroke night, woo hoo!” I shouted at pool’s edge tonight even adding a little clap.

The coach looked at me in surprise. “You’re clapping for stroke night, Liz?”

Yes, yes, I am. Why ? Just 'cuz, 'cuz I really want to do IM and ‘cuz I really want to get stronger and faster in the pool and my coach says the more I lovelovelovelove swimming the better I will get. So, I LOVE SWIMMING! Did you hear that pool? I....LOVE....TO....SWIM.


After a warm-up, the IM began. You might be thinking what’s the big deal. Any idiot can swim all four strokes. But not me. You see, I just learned how to swim for real when I was 24. Sure, I had taken swim lessons as a kid but none ever included dolphin kicks, breast stroke pulls, or how to generate power on your back. And being an adult onset swimmer, I took the fast track – the accelerated course if you will to figure out how to swim freestyle in as little time as possible. Since that took about 6 years I really didn’t have much time to develop the other three strokes for IM.

But now that I’m a bit stronger and slightly faster it’s time to take it up a notch. Time to try the IM. In fact when I met with my coach a few weeks ago she suggested I really go for broke and commit to swimming 100 IM at a swim meet. I’m not so sure about that one. But one can dream and let’s just say for the sake of my dream I’m dreaming in February of doing 100 IM.

Now, you can’t show up at masters practice for the past 7 years without doing some semblance of IM. And that is why I’ve spent the past 7 years faking it with fins. It’s easy to dolphin kick with 10 feet of flippers pushing you through the water. I consider it a masters swimming surival skill, the fins, and taking them off is no way to get by. Since the rest of the team is swimming 50 back on the one minute I’m still swimming back after one minute, I prefer to keep my 10 feet of flippers snugly attached to my feet.

But not tonight. No, tonight I got one step closer to February's 100 IM. First up, 4 x 25 fly - no fins
. I’m going to do it. I don’t care how ridiculous I look I am going to swim 25 fly. I have no idea how. I have no idea how to sync my legs with my arms but I don’t care. I’m going to try. I watch Chris take off, make some mental notes of what it’s supposed to look like and give it a try.

Oh dear god. Water up my nose. My feet are going one way, my arms another, and my hips – Shakira was right, hips don’t lie they just flop up and down at all the wrong times. Somehow I make it to the other end. The coach quickly approaches me. My biggest fear has come true – someone was actually watching.

He explains that there are two kicks in fly and demonstrates on deck how your hips go one way, legs another while your head does something else. Huh. I don’t get it. Probably because I am highly entertained by watching a grown man flop around on the pool deck in an effort to teach me something. Or maybe because it’s so late at night. Regardless, I nod and say “ok” and give it (what, I don’t know) a try.

I make it through the fly, the back no problem just freestyle and flip it, breaststroke….oh yeah, about that breaststroke. The last time I made a serious effort at breaststroke was when I was “courting” Chris. We courted in the swimming pool, it was love at first goggle-eyed sight. Not really. But we did meet on masters swim team and swam in the same lane. He was really slow back then, I was even slower but one thing he could do really fast was breaststroke. In an effort to keep up (code for impress him), I remember breaststroking my little knees out one night up and down the lane. That next morning I woke up with the worst pain EVER in my right inner thigh, a trip to the doctor, a prescription for Lodine and one diagnosis of pulled right abductor that made me never want to give breastroke another try.

Since then I have learned you can dolphin kick with breaststroke arms or freestyle kick with breaststroke arms. Neither is very efficient nor fast and both send your heart rate right through the roof. But because I want to do IM and want to do it right, I decide tonight I will give it a real try. I watch Chris’ feet from under water and try to make my feet do the same thing. They don’t and my arms don’t help and all of a sudden I’m scared I’m going to pull an inner thigh. I’m telling myself to let go of fear! let go of fear! But even in letting go I’m not going any faster down the lane.

The rest of practice goes by and finishes with 6 x 125 IM with an extra 25 of each of the first 3 strokes. That would be 50 fly, 25 back, 25 breast, 25 free. Twice. 50 fly. Well, I do it. And then I also do 50 back and 50 breast. I do it all. My heart it is in my mouth and by the end I want to throw up.

Perfect.

Practice is over and I tell Chris I can’t wait to come back and do this again. My arms are sore and I’m really tired. But I will keep trying no matter ridiculous I look or how hard it feels. I am going to do this. 100 IM, heck maybe 400 IM. Oh yes IM.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We Interrupt This Program

Don’t leave a man and a puppy alone in your home for up to 4 days. Nothing good will happen.

Nothing.


Before you say oh no she’s writing about that damn dog again – hear me out. First of all, it’s November. Must we talk triathlon? All year it’s tri this tri that. Let’s give it a rest. For at least a few more day I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled tri-blog-broadcast to give you very important puppy news. Secondly, you must understand my house right now is exploding in puppy so it’s taken over my thoughts.

On Monday, Chris picked me up at the airport and there was Boss popping out of his Sherpa bag. Oh he was just as cute as I last remembered (Chris, not Boss). As we drove back home, Chris thought I might want to leave the dog with him for awhile and go to the house alone.

Why?

Well, because there might be a bit of a miss that might be a bit easier to clean up if there was no dog. Hmmm. Mess? Come on. I’ve left Chris alone for a few days and it hasn’t been that bad. If I get worried, I just call my mom in for back up. Mom, go over to the house and make sure the doors are closed, the lights are off, and above all the house is still there. She usually sends a report back that nothing out of the ordinary except Chris had every drawer, closet, and cabinet door open. And clothes everywhere.

My favorite report:

“Elizabeth, I found an entire outfit on the floor. It was like he just stepped right out of his socks, pants, shorts, shirt and it fell to the floor in one big pile.”

Yes, yes. That is my Chris.

But back to Boss. And Chris. How bad could this be? How much worse than one 160 lb man plus one 3.3 lb dog?

I opened the door. I walked in. It was bad. 163.3 lbs of bad. And mostly on the floor.

Locust leaflets all over the foyer floor. Empty dog bowls. Dog blankets. Tufts of carpet that have been pulled up. Towels to clean up one said dog mess (or two or more). A crate. A giant blue bed that I assume belongs to Boss either that or Boss is now sleeping upstairs and Chris has taken the kitchen floor. And the most dog toys I have ever seen. EVER. All over the floor.

Later in the day, Chris and I tried to ride our bikes. While last week Boss handled the whir of one set of bike wheels, two sets plus the rollers were overstimulating to say the least. From atop the rollers Chris was screaming something about one puppy head in rear spokes would not be a good thing so we leashed him to a piece of furniture. It didn’t feel right but a puppy and a rear wheel are a deadly combination for sure.

Afterward biking, we entered the hours of 8 and 10 pm which Chris has warned me are Boss’ witching hours. During this time he usually drops anchor about three times, runs laps around the kitchen, and hides under the couch. In no particular order.

And speaking of the couch – SPEAKING of the COUCH, Boss seems to have outsmarted us. From a series of complex calculations he has determined that he fits under the couch and we…do not. And so, when he is naughty he runs under the couch. When he wants to chew on lamp cords, he runs under the couch. When he wants to steal and hide Chris’ socks, he runs under the couch. And then he taunts us by sticking his paws and head out before slinking back under the couch in his own version of the commando crawl.

There is also the subject of squeaky toys. Chris says it’s the cheapest form of GPS we can put on Boss. We have noticed when he goes missing or quiet he is either in his Sherpa bag or somewhere taking a dump. I don’t mind the bag, but I’ll pass on the random piles of dump expertly hidden around the house. Enter the squeaky toy. When the toy stops squeaking we start searching.

Last night, Boss was wired. He refused to sit and eat. Grabbed a kibble and ate it on the fly. As in 30 mph flying around the kitchen, hallway, living room. He’s doing a 100 meter sprint around this imaginary track. Occasionally he grabs a toy or a shoelace. But other than that he’s full speed ahead.

Somebody last night also had a poopy paw. No one has fessed up yet, but someone apparently went outside and stepped in a pile of poo and tracked it in the house. I’m not sure who isn’t bagging the poo or who forgot to wipe the puppy paw when they came back in the house but one puppy paw was enough for me to remind all parties involved that we must wipe paws. All six of them – four for Boss, two for Chris.

Other highlights of the night included when Boss’ teeth were attached to my pajama bottoms. He had that maniac look in his eyes and he was hungry for blood. Or tattered pajama bottom. A short while later the squeaky pig stopped squeaking and I traced Boss’ location under the chair. When I peeked under it he came leaping out at me, paws ready to pounce right at my hair. And then he humped my arm.


The world of a puppy is very exciting. There is much to chew and much to explore, arms to hump, places to hide. And I think I’ve got all of the puppy reports out of my system now so tomorrow this station will return to its regular programming.

Monday, November 19, 2007

That's My Boy

Wednesday night, it was time for Boss’ first visit to the vet.

Like any new parents, Chris and I decided it would be best to go together. We both had other things to do but neither wanted to miss this first trip to the vet. What would the vet say? Would he confirm our suspicions that Boss is gifted, the next canine member of the Mensa Society having already met the major milestones of puppies in less than 5 days?

We take Boss for a very exciting car ride in his Sherpa bag. He loves this bag. The other night he was running around the house. He had free range of the entire lower level. When he went missing, I tracked a rustling noise and found Boss popping up like a prairie dog out of his Sherpa bag.

Boss is in the waiting room and it’s time to put him on the scale. He weighs in at 3.3 lbs. Not only smart but slim. If he can keep the pounds off (in other words stay away from the people food) all the bitches will go gaga over him for sure.

We check in with the receptionist and hand her a bag of crap. Nice greeting, eh? But it was her request. Do you have the stool sample. Why yes, we saved it all day just for you. Let it fester in our garage. Here you go. Wow, that’s a lot of poop for a little dog, she says. Did you expect any less? I think the same about myself and I’m little. What we lack in size make up for in output.

We are called into the room and wait for the vet. Boss runs around sniffing the floor for remnants of other dogs. We put him on the metal table and wait for the vet to visit. A short while later, the vet enters the room.

“So, we have Bobo here?”

Whoa. W-h-o-a. Bobo? Bobo? My ears perk up. Boss on the other hand is still running around. He doesn’t respond to Bobo and I don’t blame him. My dog may be tiny and a toy breed but this is not a Bobo. You see, bobo is the Spanish word for someone stupid, someone you might call a clown. I don’t like clowns and there is nothing clown-like about my dog. Not Bobo. Boss. Say it like you mean it – BOSS.

I correct the vet and he mentions something about an old label on Boss’ folder. He quickly befriends Boss with treats. This is the easy way to Boss’ heart. You feed him. But it doesn’t last. Boss will use you like a cheap towel if you have food. Wipe his feet all over you. But it doesn’t last. It’s love that endures. And a very warm lap.

The vet asks us about Boss’ first few days. They have gone well, quite well. Boss has adjusted to our household, adjusted to frequent trips outside, and his worst infractions thus far have been stealing a sock and crapping on Chris’ laptop screen (how could you not laugh?). So, with all considering, his past few days have been ok.

The vet takes a look at Boss, sizes him up. Says that at most he’ll be 5 lbs. Healthy eyes, ears, paws. But the legs. Not the legs of a Chihuahua he says. You see, Boss doesn’t prance. Actually I think he knows better. I’m not raising a dandy prancer so there is no need to prance. But I guess Chihuahuas like the prance. Boss on the other hand – he hauls ass. I’ve never seen any dog run like this. He gets a running start and revs his engine with his two front legs. The back legs simply go along for the ride and this explains why more often than not his back legs skid sending him sailing across the wooden floors (still slippery after Chris’ Pledge cleaning incident, by the way).

But it wasn’t just the imposter legs. There are other parts of Boss that make him seem not so pure (bred). Boss is too long. The vet looks at him more closely and concludes that what we have here is a Corg- chi. Part Chihuahua, part Corgi which makes for one very intelligent dog (the vet didn’t say that but I just had a hunch).

So what does this mean for Boss? Does he need to eat different food? Will he have a different life? Should we tell him or does he already know? So many questions. One thing is sure. Boss is not pure bred. I wonder if we were misled or if this works to our advantage. I think about calling Boss’ breeder and saying you better keep your Chihuahuas in check because they are getting around. And I wonder if it was Boss’ mom (easy) or Boss’ dad (go dog) – who got a little kennel fever and decided to try another breed.

Either way the result was one very cute Corg – chi although I’m not about to call Boss that any time soon. Because naming Boss was something that was so sure. Boss came from a breeder that goes by the name of Count Chocula’s Chihuahuas. This had all sorts of implications for naming the dog (not only that but the thought of Boss being bred by someone in a cape is both scary and cool) - BooBerry, Frankenboo, Cocoa Puff or other cereal names. None seemed to fit quite as well as Boss.

After a few more questions we confirm that Boss has kennel cough. And Giardia. Poor little guy. But I guess these are the hazards of being in a kennel. You catch coughs from other dogs and there are consequences to eating your own shit.

The cure – meds. Boss needs meds. I’m thinking Boss should be on a health care plan because dog antibiotics are not cheap and when he puked up the first dose (It’s peanut butter flavored, he’ll love it….barf…..all over the leather couch) I thought we cannot afford to keep medicating this dog.

Last thing the vet does is check that Boss is really a boy. After a hesitation that there was only one there, he confirms that Boss is a fully loaded male dog.....not for long.


This past weekend was my first weekend away from Boss. It was hard. Chris sent me a picture of him via phone and I looked at it off and on all day. I missed my Boss. When I called Chris on Sunday night the first thing I asked about was the dog.

“How is Boss?” I asked.

“He is just like you,” Chris says. Of course. Chris explains that he keeps throwing Boss’ toys all around the house and Boss keeps putting them all in one place. A tidy dog. Cleaning up after himself.


That's my boy.

I told Chris before I left Boss and I had a talk. You see, Boss, I can only handle one messy man in this house and Chris takes that spot. So if you’re going to stick around you’ve got to learn to clean up after yourself, love coffee, and poo in the right spot. Clearly he’s got the cleaning down. And the poo – that will come in time. But the coffee thing - that will take some work for sure.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Case For A Coach

It's shameless plug day...

I know you’ve been thinking about it – maybe I need a coach. Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. But maybe this will help. Here are some comments I hear when people ask about coaching, and here’s what I have to say:

I’m not fast enough or good enough to have a coach.
Coaches work with athletes of all abilities and speeds. Beginners to advanced, sprint to Ironman. Anyone can benefit from a skilled coach.

I don’t know if I need a coach.
If you want to breakthrough a plateau, if planning your workouts is not appealing, if you start your season with a bang and fizzle out, if you’ve got a big goal (IM), if you want to try to take your performance to the next level - a coach can work with you for these or any goals you may have.

Only people that want to win races work with coaches.
Not true. There are many reasons why athletes seek coaches. Some want to win, some want to lose weight, some want to finish an Ironman, some just want to train smart and safe. Anyone can work with a coach.

I don’t know what coaching entails.
A coach will help you plan your season and then organize meaningful workouts to help you reach your goals. In addition to planning your workouts they are a resource, a mentor, and a friend.

I don’t know how to tell if a coach is the right coach.
Find the coach that fits right for you, your personality, and goals. There are many different coaches with different philosophies, fees, and training plans. Interview them as you would someone for any job. Ask for references and ask lots of questions.

A coach is going to make me train like they do with lots of hours each week.
Not unless they are a bad coach. Each athlete is an individual. The best coaches are those that respond to your individual needs and design a training plan specifically for you. They will work with you to plan a schedule that fits your training and lifestyle needs.

I don’t know about working with a female coach.
I’ve worked with a female coach for the past 5 years and I have had my rear kicked to the curb and back many times. Same with my husband. Don’t underestimate the power of a female coach. There will be nothing froo-froo or “lite” about your experience. Go with who you are most comfortable with but don’t let gender get in your way.

I can’t afford a coach.
Add up all of the money you’ll spend on equipment, race fees, travel, lodging, sports food, gear, gym memberships, etcetera. Now throw in the added risk of not reaching your goals because you did too much too soon, got injured, or overtrained. You can’t afford not to have a coach. A coach will help you effectively work towards your goal. They make no promises or guarantees but they will guide you as best they can to achieve your goals.

December or January is a perfect time to start working with a coach to set you up for a successful season ahead. For more coaching information, please contact me at ef1278 at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Show 'Em Who's Boss...


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Next Up...

Has anyone else noticed the influx of new 70.3 events? The planning committee has clearly been busy, very busy in locating new venues and scheduling new events. Recently added - Rhode Island, Boise, New Orleans.

Wait, New Orleans? Something about this just doesn’t feel right. Like Ironman 70.3 Vegas. You cannot mix serious racing with cities of sin. Cannot, should not. Something needs to be sacred. I’m all for a party bus that heads from a 70.3 to a city of sin. But to stage the race smack in the middle of sin? Not right. Let sin be!

Imagine the logistics of racing in New Orleans. The swim starts in a giant pool filled with booze. If you can emerge from it with two legs to stand and pass the breathalyzer test before entering transition, you can bike. Bike your way scared silly through the local cemetery making your way around looters and vagrants. Then, finish up the run topless down Bourbon Street. Person that crosses the line with the most plastic beads wins. As for hydration on the course, those little walk-up booze bars will be serving virgin daquiris (alcohol is too dehydrating for a hydration stop). Nutrition – muffalettas, gumbo, dirty rice.

As if that wasn’t enough, I just received word this morning about Ironman 70.3 Kansas. I knew it was early and I was still drinking coffee so just to be sure I clicked my heels twice, read it again and for sure it said….Kansas. The Wizard of Oz connections are impossible to resist. The race director would do himself a favor if he just embraced the munchkins, tinman, and Auntie Em right now. Envision this: staff the bike aid stations with the Lollipop Gang; spray paint the run course to make a yellow brick road; a witch jumps up and down at the top of a hill. Best Dorothy costume gets a prize. And fastest person to bike with their dog in a little basket wins. Their prize - they get to meet the Wizard. And in his curtained booth he will reward them with a speedo ankle pulling lock.

I am sorry - there is nothing inherently funny about Rhode Island so about that race I have nothing to say.

I’m wondering who selects new race locations. And if I could give them a hand. I have some ideas and I’m starting to think Illinois is getting the shaft. For Illlinois I am ready to represent. And I ask you this – where is Ironman 70.3 Kankakee. WHERE? But first - where is Kankakee? Oh, about 90 minutes south of Chicago. It’s the invisible line we draw from Chicagoland to everything south in the state. We’re not sure what happens south of Kankakee but we’re sure we’d like to stay down there.

If the thought of going that far south of civilization scares someone, then Ironman 70.3 Chicagoland could be planned. The swim obviously would take place in our gem of a lake. Hop on the lakefront path and squirrel your way through walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, guys riding $6,000 bikes with $3,000 wheels and head south. You bike through the south side but please don’t wear the colors blue, red, black or yellow, and be careful how you tip your helmet. If you survive, you get to run back along the lakefront weaving your way through dogwalkers, rollerbladers, stroller joggers, did I forget anyone? Oh, the guy on the rusty 30 year old clunker bike with the skater helmet wearing blue jeans that is determined to can your ass.

I’d like to see Ironman 70.3 Iowa. Psst….don’t tell anyone that Iowa has hills so all the drafters will show up to get their 2:10-something bike split and then run a 1:40 half marathon to get the win. But first on the bike they would find the Decorah Alps. Huzzah! After about 28 miles of the Alps they will find themselves alongside the road praying to the corn. At that moment a giant Corn Bear will emerge from the rows of stalks and eat them. Drafters always get their due.

Or why not Ironman 70.3 Twin Cities? The Twin Cities has a huge multisport community and quality race venues. Regardless, my vote would be to stage the race in the Mall of America. Can you see it? You swim through the Underwater Adventures tanks. Instead of biking it’s 56 consecutive rides on Thor’s Hammer. If you can get off of the ride with enough electrolytes after repeated vomiting while hanging upside down, you run around the MOA carrying two handfuls of shopping bags over all 5 levels including the parking garage.

I believe my mother-in-law could win that one.

Ironman 70.3 Suburbs Style. This is a race I could win. Swim in a pool with filled with people walking backwards up and down the lanes with foam noodles, aquacisers, a man who can’t possibly breaststroke for 2000 yards…but he will. On to the bike course which is a series of stoplights down a busy suburban road built for farm equipment but hey let’s put about 100 housing developments in a 1-mile radius and expect two lanes will be just fine. Run your way through dark suburban neighborhoods being chased by unruly dogs. Then the first person to cook dinner, do two loads of laundry, read the mail, and walk the dog by 9 pm wins.

What about Ironman 70.3 From Behind A Desk? Drink 1.2 liters of coffee. Type 56 pages of data into your computer or reply to 56 e-mails or answer 56 complaint phone calls. Your choice. Run 13 copies, doublesided, stapled, collated in color booklet style without jamming the copier. Good luck.

I say let's take it up a notch. Let's create triathlons with a twist. Tough courses and wins that reward the tough - so tough that the drafters, course cutters and other rogues would get filtered out, so tough those at the top would be willing to run with sale-filled shopping bags or tackle someone to collect plastic beads. And really, aren’t those the people you want to see race? Wouldn’t that make an exciting race to watch?

I believe I have not only solved the problem of drafting but also the problem of how to turn triathlon into more of a spectator sport. What I can't believe is why they haven't put me on the race planning committee. But I'll be checking their website daily and figured my invitation is next up, just another announcement away.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Puppy Love

I did a very bad thing.

I bought the Boss dog.

It was Saturday night and really all I went out for was a pair of pants. Walking through Old Navy, disgusted that everything in my size was built for someone 5 inches taller until finally I reailzed there would be no pants.

Fine.

If I can't have pants, then I'm going to buy a dog. A bit of a discrepancy in price, but at this point if it fits - Boss is small, I am small - I'll take it.

I walk down to the pet store which at this point is watching out for me because it is clear that I am stalking the Boss dog. I ask to see Boss and he is still there. For awhile we play together and I give Chris a call. I tell him that I am buying the Boss dog.

The clerk asks if I am sure and I say maybe. Apparently they need you to be sure - really sure. Ok, I am sure. And with that Boss is whisked away from a nail clipping and to get his walking papers. He returns a short while later with a little yellow bandana that says woof woof and he smells good.

At first Chris seems like a nervous wreck. It comes out in all the wrong ways. I made the wrong leash choice (too small!) and then chose the wrong toys (too big!) but finally when we get home he seems happy to have Boss in his lap.

The first night went well....for Boss. Not so much for me. I laid wide awake in bed until 2 am. I kept waiting to hear Boss. But he didn't say boo. To fill the time I just kept thinking about what I had done. What have you done, you have traded your come as you please lifestyle for a little dog......

At some point I worried myself to sleep but woke up the next morning and looked at the Boss dog. He was so cute. And happy. And two days later I wouldn't trade him for all the days away in the world.

He is terribly interested in what we are doing. He enjoys the sound of me typing but doesn't like the vacuum cleaner. He likes to watch Chris and together they watch tv. He eats on the fly - one kibble at a time. When he is tired he wants to be held and whimpers if take too long. He likes to run but is so small he doesn't get very far. Things he enjoys chasing include leaves, carpet, and his leash. And don't forget his tail. Hours of entertainment right on his rear end. He has already taken a bath. He may have even sat in his own poo.

On Sunday Chris' mom called. She wanted to take Boss on a shopping spree. Boss came back with a new leash, a sweater, treats, toys, and a pink Ralph Lauren mock polo shirt. Please no one tell her that Boss is a boy. And don't tell him either or else he'll never wear the pink shirt.

We took Boss to play with his brother and sister - Chewie and I Chi. Boss mounted Chewie and attacked his hair while I Chi just snarled. She's put on the pounds lately and I think she yearns for her younger, svelte glory days. She is just jealous of Boss.

All three little dogs followed Chris' mom around like she was the Pied Piper of small dogs. Like she sang only a song they could understand. Small dogs just crumble at her feet. But I think it has something to do with daily cleanings, post-bath towels warmed up in the shower, and cucumbers to fight constipation.

I have one rule about Boss - no people food. Because he is not a people! He is a dog. And kibble he will eat. He will also sleep in his crate. So far he likes it. He climbs in even when we are home. It is his safe place.

On Wednesday he goes to the vet. I've never had to call a doctor to make an appointment for my dog. Breed? Chihuahua. Sex? Male. Size? Uh, 3 lbs? On a fat day? Name? Boss Dog Waterstraat but you can call him Boss for short.

After the novelty of licking my laptop and trying to step on the keys wore off, Boss fell asleep. He sleeps next to me on the couch. It has been a long day and tomorrow there is much carpet to chase, more kibble to eat, and hours to be held.

You can call it puppy love but if you saw my dog, you'd love him too!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In The Name Of Speed

It was Friday night and what better to do than swim. This is what happens when you start to love the sport. So much you marry the sport by marrying someone also really into it. You find yourself at the gym, Friday night, technically the “off season” and you are thrilled.

All good swims – especially on a Friday night – begin in the hot tub. Physiologically there is good reason not to do this but who cares. Physiologically there is also good reason not to do Ironman, not to eat cookies for dinner, and not to drink coffee every day.


After warming up in the hot tub, and then the pool, after some drills, we start the mainset. Ok, it’s not really a mainset. A mainset is something your coach writes for you, something serious that follows the clock. But not today. I’m not even looking at the clock. I did the other day and realized it took me almost 45 seconds longer than usual to swim a 200. I chalked it up to clock malfunction. But something about two weeks completely off suggests otherwise.

No clock tonight but still for the sake of trying to look like/act like/be like a swimmer, let’s call it a mainset. 6 x 300 – all out. Just kidding on that part. These days “all out” means ok, that’s it, all out of the pool, everyone, out, let’s go wine tasting instead. So really it’s 6 x 300 mainset made up by me. The best kind. Because I can do whatever I want and boss Chris around (told you I was bossy) – as in, you will swim 6 x 50 fist, you will swim 4 x 100 all fly, you will swim with me on your back (good for building strength). Chris stands there attentive, captive, really an imprisoned victim of my swim set waiting for directions about the first one.

“Do you have your leash?” I ask. There is something priceless about asking your husband if he has his leash. You know, the leash I use to keep him from going to far astray, from making other lady friends. All right, you got me – it’s the leash we use in the pool. How boring is that. I like the adultery leash much better. Or the bedroom leash. But since my mom reads this I prefer not to talk about things like that.

He looks at me, a bit puzzled but then he says “Yes, it’s in my bag.” Like an obedient little puppy (BOSS!), he walks into the locker room and returns a few minutes later with….the leash. Before you wonder why we have a leash...in Chris’ defense he won it at a race. Yes, triathlon really goes all out when it comes to prizes for winning a race. Here you go – you just suffered 2+ hours after training all the fat off of your body for months. Here’s that ankle leash you were hoping for.

Gee thanks.

The ankle leash is technically called a pulling ankle lock. As your ankles are leashed together, they sink lower and lower in the pool. With your rear sagging and your feet scraping the black lane line, you are forced to think about and find what it takes to keep your legs afloat. Which you can usually do by way of two things, (1) pressing your chest, or (2) turning your arms over faster and faster to try to get down the last as fast as you can while the entire therapy pool whispers to each other “oh my gosh that poor guy his wife tied his ankles together and now he’s trying to get away.”

He’s not getting very far.

I got the idea to use the leash the other day when my coach explained that she had spent a winter working with the leash and felt it really helped. I’ll do anything to improve my swim stroke - heck if my coach told me that I could swim faster by giving up coffee I might give it a try.

Don’t get any ideas, Jen.

But that’s how serious I get about swimming. And how serious I am about getting faster. I mean, we all want to get fast. Think of all the stupid things you’ve tried- biopace, filling your water bottles with sand, 650 wheels on a 6 foot tall man, running with a weighted vest, attempting a flying mount on an uphill grade (not that I saw this at this year’s short course Nationals or anything). We toss all vanity and common sense aside for the sake of speed.

Enter the speedo pulling ankle lock.

Chris shackles himself first. Securing his ankles together with two Velcro straps is his first challenge. Doing the next 300 while wearing a ball gag and a metal choke collar was his next. Oops, sorry about that - took the leash fantazy a bit too far and got a bit too carried away.

So there I am, finger tip dragging my way across the 300, leading the lane (ever tried swimming behind a man with a leash?) when I notice something in the corner of my eye. Something large and looming coming my way. It’s Chris. Actually it’s his legs. They are literally dragging the bottom of the pool floor. Imagine legs pointing 90 degrees downward from his ass to make a perfect right angle with his body.


I turn to breathe but turn myself right into the perfect view of this. For some reason, this is the funniest thing I have ever seen. I start laughing. My poor husband. I can’t believe he let me talk him into this. All in the name of speed. But no matter how sorry I feel for him, I start to laugh again. Big belly laughs that you can only hold in for so long under the water before you start taking water in so I finally just pop up and laugh.

The therapy pool looks at me like I am crazy not just for leashing my husband but for erupting mid-lap in laughs.

Ok, focus, Liz, focus. Back to that 300 drill/swim. I continue with my swim, hit the wall and start back the other way. But as I come off the wall and again see Chris’ feet dragging the ground. I laugh. I have to pop up, laugh some more, then jump back in. I swim a little further and see him flip turn with the leash around his ankles and have to pop up again to laugh. Seriously – flip turning with the leash? It just didn’t look right.

Ok, last 100. I can do this. I can hold in laughter and finish this up. This is the longest 300 of my life and I’m sure Chris feels the same. Except he is leashed and I am just laughing. I start swimming along and as Chris approaches I tell himself “don’t look don’t look don’t look” just so I can finish without laughing again. I make it to the wall, hypoxic at this point because I haven’t breathed for the past 25 yards because I couldn’t turn his way. At the wall I start laughing so hard that when Chris finishes he can’t help but laugh too.

“But it makes you fast,”
I said in between laughs. He laughs some more. He tries to take off the leash – as challenging as swimming with it – while saying something about it being impossible to flip turn with the leash and I say to him that I can’t believe he even tried.

He takes off the leash and throws it my way. In a few short yards I am feeling myself with feet dragging on the ground while I flail down the lane trying to figure out how to keep my chest pressed, my ass afloat, and my toenails in tact. But it makes you fast but it makes you fast the coach says it makes you fast.

In the name of speed, I’m sold.

After the leash, some pulling, and other things you do in November to fill 300’s and pass the time, we decide to go into the sauna. As we walked towards it, someone in the hot tub signals our way. You know how when you do something that makes you feel really awkward and makes you look even dumber you hope that no one is watching? Well that’s never the case. Apparently this man was swimming next to us and wanted to know more about the leash.


He asks why we are doing it and we say that our coach suggested it to help our swim stroke. Then he looks at me and says “Will it makes me fast?”

Oh you bet. Or, that’s what we’ve been told. Our coach uses one and she’s really, really fast. So I’d say it works. He listens to all of this and pauses to think before he asks “where do you buy one of those?”

All in the name of speed. We will tie our ankles together, try anything just to get fast. Or will we. Is there something more that I am missing? Speed is my motivation, but with a man is it really the same?

To find out I ask Chris what he thought about swimming with the leash. “It sucked,” he said in between bites of pumpkin pie.

“So why did you do it then?” I asked.

“Because you told me to.” Ah, so now the truth comes out. The woman says get your leash, tether your ankles together and swim and the man says all right. In the name of obedience or the name of speed? It’s your call.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Boss Has Spoken

I have a confession to make.

Last night, we went to see Boss. As in the Boss Dog that I have now visited a total of 3 times.


It was actually Chris who confessed first. He said he had given the pet shop a call. And Boss was still there. My eyes lit up. My tail may have wagged. Or maybe it was my tush. But something got me going because he had mentioned the Boss Dog.

Let me just say that I need a dog like I need to do another Ironman. I need a dog like I need another bike or another watch or another pair of cycling socks - you get the point.


We ate dinner. We talked it over. What if we had a dog? It’s a little dog – how big and bad could this be? Sure it’s a huge cost. And a commitment of time. But still we agree after dinner we will go visit Boss Dog. If it is right, we will know. I’ll know when I see him if he needs to be mine.

Into the pet shop. There he is! The clerk asks which one we’d like to see. Why, that one. Sleeping in the Yorkie’s lap. The one with little ears and paws. The one that answers to Boss.


The clerk brings Boss out. There he is! He needs to be mine. We need this dog.

We sit with Boss in this small room. He goes from sleeping to sixty wide awake miles per hour in a split second as soon as the clerk closes the door. At first he licks us, then he sniffs. Then he wants down. He’s a lap dog but he’s been laying in some Yorkie’s lap all day and now he’s ready to run.

Holy shit. Boss has some speed. Boss runs around the little pen like his rear paws are on fire. He is running maniac circles like I’ve never seen. He is so small and the floor is so slippery that he ends up launching his entire body across the floor in a frantic skid. He climbs over us like we are monkey bars. He tugs at Chris’ shoelaces and likes the van keys. He pees about a dozen times. He can’t hold back. Running and playing – these are very exciting things.

And then – he takes a poo.

The clerk is busy so I go to clean it up. In the split second it takes for me to grab paper towels, Boss is already sniffing, licking, and stepping in his own poo. Boss makes no pretenses about who he is - an animal, a puppy, likely to sniff - possibly eat - his own poo.


I love dogs.

You would think a good poo would settle Boss down. Works for me. But not Boss’ case. He is doing lactate threshold intervals and he can’t stop. He might be hypoxic but he doesn’t care. He’s free. He’s got a ball to chase and a bone to chew. This is the good life of a little dog.

I think about why we need this dog. I think you reach a point in your life where you do nest and need something more to care for and love. It's our instinct and when we don't meet it we just don't feel right. Insert "you should have a baby" here. I think Chris wanted a dog because he liked the idea of just having another boy in the house to balance out my sometimes out of balance woman crazy. There is power in numbers (but I'm not sure he realized Boss only weighed about 3 lbs - that's not much power).


We were so close. Just say the word Chris says. He almost has his hand on a credit card, ready to go. And for the record did you know you could get a pet shop credit card? No money down no payments and little Boss could come home. And you thought putting vanilla lattes on credit card was bad.

At the tip of my tongue are the words let’s go. Let’s give it a try. Take him home and see how it goes. This would be much easier if someone would start that Rent-A-Puppy business we’ve been talking about.


But even after an hour of bonding with Boss I decide he shouldn’t come home. Sadly, there will be no Boss Dog.

You see, a good healthy dose of catholic guilt would sit in my stomach every time I leave Boss at home. What about when we're at work? And all the trips away. But it's not just that. Taking him out when it’s negative 30 degrees windchill outside at 5 am? I’m not ready to be that cold. Or clean up poo with paper towels. Or find my compression socks chewed to bits. Or……I can talk myself out of it as much as I can talk myself into it so I decide to drop the subject of the Boss Dog.

Decision made.

Now, the other decision. After talking it through with coach, there will be no IM for me next year. Unless I get a major IM itch in August, I will stick to my shorter course plans.

So those were the decisions made – no ironman, no dog. Plus I can a pretty bossy person to begin with so one boss in the house is quite enough. But if I get that itch in August, I’m going to show the coach and the credit card who’s boss and say I’m going to Ironman and I’m bringing my new dog.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wired To Win

This just in.

Apparently there is now hard core research (ok probably just a phone survey) which revealed that the windy city is the most wired. Not – twitch – that I – twitch twitch – had anything to do – twitch from too much caffeine – with that.

A friend sent me a link to a Reuter’s report that found Chicagoans are among the top consumers of coffee. Not only coffee but caffeinated pills, colas, chocolate, and tea. If we can’t get it one way, we’ll get it another just as long as it perks us up.

Not only that, but we are also likely to say caffeine is good for you. Which means someone – someone – has been teaching the city well. Hmmm…perhaps a little elf told them?

And naysayers, beware because it’s true. It is good for you. In moderate doses each day. It sharpens your cognitive skills, increases your dexterity, improves your use of fatty acids, puts hair on your chest. All the good things.

This is good news for the city. Because Chicago was struggling in many other areas. Traffic – we’ve got lots. Diet – probably among the worst (I know there are people in this city that live on deep dish pizza), and physical activity – well, considering there are 4 good months each year where you can actively go outside without 20 lbs of moisture wicking, fleece-lined, wind-protecting gear, it's tough to get active year round.

But when it comes to important things – things like coffee – yeah, we’ve got that down. We’re the best and living here makes me proud.

WOO HOO!! …..I love to win.

But wait. There is other good news. Chicago is not alone. There are other cities out there also perked and fully loaded. Cities with crowds aboard the same caffeinated wagon. Behind Chicago, Tampa, Miami, Phoenix and Atlanta were among the top five most caffeinated cities in the country.

Great news but I’m a little alarmed. Did anyone else notice that those cities also happen to be among some of the hottest in the country? Chicago + coffee + wind chill – that I get. But Phoenix? When was the last time you stepped out into 102 degrees of dry heat and thought to yourself that a cup of coffee would really hit the spot?

And Miami? I suspect they enjoy their caffeine in the form of stimulants to stay awake clubbing all night. But what about Atlanta? What’s going on in Atlanta? Wait. I am going to find out. Next weekend I am headed down to Atlanta. I will get to the bottom of this. Or the bottom of their coffee pots.

I hope those pots are clean.

Cities you should avoid at all costs, cities that need a wake me up call, cities that need a Starbucks on every corner because something’s got to help: San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Detroit and Baltimore consumed the least caffeine.

New Yorkers and San Franciscans were also among people most likely to say caffeine is bad for you. Oh please. Get over yourselves. It’s bad for you? So is living in a big city. Or driving over a very tall bridge.

Seattle took the top spot in just caffeinated coffee consumption. Psst…..what they left out is that they also drink their coffee from straws. STRAWS!

Another friend just sent a message. She suspected the results were skewed. Not possible. We have a friend living in northern Wisconsin who used to drink a lot, a lot of coffee. What about him? He probably could have carried the whole state alone.

So, perhaps the research was tainted. Which means it’s time for a rematch. A Buzz Off, if you will. Representatives from major cities all over the country will set down with bottomless coffee cups in front of them and just drink. For as long as you can last. Or as long as you can tolerate the side effects. First one left drinking without succumbing to the shakes, vomit, delusions, or urinating themselves wins.

I will proudly represent Chicago. So, line up your best defenses, cities, because what I lack in size I make up for in freakish ability to consume coffee and hold my pee. I’m bringing my rooster mug and you better fill ‘er up because living in Chicago there is proof - I am wired to win.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Saturday night, I had a dream. It was about Ironman.

I was in the race in some small town. As I got on to my bike I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses. I propped my bike against a store front, went back to the bags and asked the volunteer to find my glasses. I remember waiting. He came running towards me with my bag and started digging for my sunglasses and finally found them. As I ran back to my bike I realized it was gone. I looked around and saw some man riding away with my bike. I noticed it because it looked ridiculously small on him. At this point I realized I was in a foreign country with small shop fronts along a cobblestone street and this man had taken my bike thinking it would be a fine way to get around town. There were other people on bikes just moving around the town. I called after him and said that’s my bike!

Then I woke up.

That was bizarre. But perhaps just another reason why I should not spend an entire day watching Ironmanlive. And certainly not a sign.
Anyways, I got up after that dream and thought perfect morning for a swim. WOW I missed my swimming. Did you hear that Jen, I missed the pool. I missed the smell of the pool, all of my pool toys. I missed the feel of the water and the quiet when you are underneath. I missed the black line. I got to the pool just as the gym opened. Got my own lane, swam, and it felt about 1 percent less awkward than the day before. Which means I’m still slow but I’ll get there. The best thing about time off is that it leaves you more driven than ever to start pursuing your goals.

After the swim I rewarded myself with hot tub time. The day before the hot tub smelled like a mixture of baked socks and dirty sponge. Today it had a peculiar film across the top of it but once the bubbles got stirring I decided to take the risk. Immersed myself in the hot water and did a little stretching.

Few minutes later, I just sat and enjoyed my peaceful time. Actually I was thinking about Ironman. You see, earlier that morning I checked my e-mail and found a very early morning comment on my blog from Miss Mary I just went 10-something at Ironman Florida Eggers. She had planted the seed in my head of doing Ironman Florida next year – in her words, do all the 70.3’s you want and then do late season IMF. I was barely awake, decaffeinated and therefore thinking that might be a good plan.

So I sat there in the hot tub stewing in bubbly water and stewing about IMF. How it would work out. When I would need to start the real IM training. What I enjoyed about IM training, what I did not enjoy. Did I want to do it again.

Lost in my thoughts, I almost did not notice the man. The man that just walked into the hot tub area wearing a very familiar shirt. Hmmm…..I’ve seen that shirt before. And then all of a sudden a song started playing in my head. That’s funny. That’s my Ironman song. A song I listened to about a million times in the weeks and days leading up to the race. A song I haven’t heard since.

Then it hit me. This man, he was wearing an Ironman Hawaii jersey. The one with the palm trees from last year.

Oh no.

If I wasn’t so superstitious I’d say that wasn’t a sign but I know better than that. Someone sent this man here. Perhaps it was Mary Eggers and Jennifer Harrison working in tandem, still in Florida, locating this man and sending him in. A tremendous effort, girls, from so faraway.

I would be remiss if I said that it didn’t get me to think about it some more. In fact, that’s what I thought about as I got ready for coffee with my mom. Another highlight of my day – not just the morning swim – but coffee with my mom in which she sat across from me and said:

“I read your blog from yesterday. And I thought to myself oh no. I thought you were done with Ironman.”

True, mom, that may have been what I said. But, Ironman Florida is different. It’s not as bad as Kona. I hear myself saying this and I think to myself you are nuts. Elizabeth you are nuts. You have completely left your marbles on some side of the road in Kona and now are officially nuts. Call in Dr. Nuts because you are going to need help.

I told my mom I would consider it for awhile. And I was meeting with my coach on Tuesday so at that point she would help me make some sense. Mom did not seem reassured because she has seen this side of me before. The side that says when Elizabeth gets an idea in her head…..well, look out.

Anyways, I know I’m not supposed to make any major decisions right now about anything that could bring upon a major life change – like pets, or Ironman, or babies, or hair. Which brings me to my next point. My mom and I went to look at puppies the other day. I know I don’t need a pet but something about this little Chihuahua said “you want me to be your pet.” I just liked the way he rolled. He had a lot of personality for such a little dog. And that is why I named him Boss. Right after I named him, I found out he was on sale. From $1199 to $1099. And then I named him Not Mine.

Besides, Ironman is a much cheaper major life choice.

But still puppies are so cute. So I took a picture of Boss with my phone and sent it to Chris. A few hours later, I got a text reply that said DO NOT BUY. Chris was driving home from mountain biking with the EvilScottTwin who said there is no other explanation for this other than Liz is nesting.

Nesting or not, at least take a look? Chris did. Later that evening, we returned to the pet store. Chris is also convinced – there is something about this dog. There we sat in the kennel of buy-me-now with Boss running around. He is playful and takes a pee. He runs back and forth and then takes a poo. He steals my heart. He is small and soft and has fur the color of wheat. Which is perfect for me because I like my whole grains.

We sit watching Boss and think about perhaps the biggest decision we have ever made. So we call in back-up – Chris’ younger sister MegMeg. When it comes to impulse shopping MegMeg is our big gun. She is the impetus in impulse. She is the now in now or never. I am the never. Anyways, we send MegMeg a picture of Boss and 10 minutes later she joins us in the store. She says we have to buy. And she has support from Chris’ parents – they also said we should buy. In fact, she should buy two because dogs are better in packs.

Three of us, in this little puppy holding kennel for people and their possibly new pets while we stir and stir about buying the Boss dog. And then I think about all the trips away. And the long bike rides. The late night masters swims. And poor little Boss in his crate for hours on end.

Decisions, decisions. We walk out of the store empty-handed. A very fitting end to a very thought-filled day. I am still not sure in my heart that I need puppy nor another Ironman. So many decisions to be made.

But about both I guess I’ll just wait for another sign. Or until a man walks by me wearing a Chihuahua shirt mumbling something about an ironman.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Siren Song

I am not allowed to watch Ironman anymore.

I am not allowed to follow it on Ironmanlive or have wireless updates sent to my phone. I am not allowed to call anyone spectating at Ironman or in the days leading up to the race follow their blogs. I am not allowed to send e-mails to anyone asking for Ironman results or predict the winner with friends. I am not allowed to track athletes, calculate splits, or cheer for someone doing Ironman over 1500 miles away. I am not allowed to refresh a website a thousand times for the latest race coverage. I am not allowed to search the age group results or wonder how I would have done if I was there.

Because all of this – all of this Ironman blah blah blah in the form of websites, text messages, phone calls, and talk got me thinking the one question I thought I would never think again….

……what if I did Ironman again?

(oh no she didn’t)

Yes she did. I did.

Recall three weeks ago a certain photo in which a certain someone showed Sherpa Thomas their “no more Ironman” face, asking him to capture it on film, make it public on the blog as proof I was 100 percent confident, sure, never would I do an Ironman again.

Well, more like 99.9999repeating percent sure. Give or take.

As I sat there today watching Ironman Florida unfold on the website site and periodically on my phone, I realized that inside, deep inside my gut somewhere in the remnants of my battered toenails and sunburned skin was an itch – yes, another itch – that one day, again, I would like to do Ironman just to see (code for "try to go faster next time").

Because you never know. You could go 30 minutes faster, slower, you could never make it to the starting line at all but there is something – dammit something – about Ironman that says I am willing to take that risk.

Mind you I have already put together my race schedule for next year. And it most certainly does not include an Ironman. Oh no. No room. Coach and I have been talking, er plotting, about a full schedule of 70.3’s and I am excited to take them on with force.

But even with all that planning and plotting and dreaming and talking I found myself sitting at my computer today thinking what if? What if I did an Ironman? Maybe two? What if I did one in the early season and again late? Would I get better? Would I recover faster? Would I make it to the second one at all?

This is the siren song of Ironman. It is a deceptive lure that you follow, arrive on the shore and then find nothing beautiful at all. Because there is no beauty in pain. And sadly your ears do not empty of from siren song until about 3 hours into the marathon when your ears become filled with a new song with one word - ouch.


Despite this, as I sat there watching today I got an itch. Ironman gets under your skin. It makes you itchy. And then I finally realize – this has been the itch. Remember the itch I was talking about a week ago? The one I confused with itch to get back to training again? Turns out it was post-Ironman itch. The itch that won’t be scratched until you do it again.

Looks like I’m going to need more Calamine. And about ten bags of cotton balls.

Of course, I talk like it’s an easy thing to do. Like the only thing you have to do for another Ironman is show up on the line. I start recalling the days, weeks, heck months of long training, endless hunger, and fatigue. The gels, the bars, the salt tabs, the drink. The long runs. The repeat 400’s with paddles in the pool. The 142 mile ride. The…..gasp…..Dairyland Dare.

Despite the memories of torture in the form of training for most of the summer, I still think to myself, sure, I could use more. I could do it again. It is like a siren song. There is a man, maybe a woman, singing the song of Ironman to me somewhere on an Ironman Florida shore.

And then it hits me. Maybe it’s my coach. She’s down there watching her husband finish the race. Maybe she is thinking or singing to herself that Elizabeth should do an Ironman next year.....why? The best reason of all - just 'cuz.

Or maybe it’s just my own head. Or the idea of Ironman. It’s romantic side. The side that makes you feel like when you are there, you belong. You are part of something real. It makes you feel real. It makes you feel alive.

After you do an Ironman, watching another Ironman is never the same. Because you know. You know what it feels like – how exciting it is at the start, how gratifying it is to finish. You know the stages of Ironman in your mind throughout the day. The highs and lows. And the fact that no matter how low you go all you seem to remember is the highs. And you almost recapture that when you watch the race. You want to be there. You want to feel that high. When you see people cross the line, either online or at the line, you get chills. You get tears. You know where they are at. And you think to yourself one day I have to get back there again.

But, in writing my thoughts, I realize this need-to-do-more-Ironman might just be a side effect of the post-Ironman high. When I finished the race, someone warned me that I should not make any major decisions for quite some time. A list including, but not limited to, having a child, acquiring a pet, buying a car, or….signing up for another Ironman. And I will take that advice for now. Give it time. Another month. See how a six hour ride on the trainer sounds. Or a two hour run in the snow. Or a monster swim for time.

On second thought, scratch those thoughts. In fact, scratch that itch because I’m not ready to think about Ironman, no, no more.

And to whom ever is singing that siren song….zip it. Because I’m not going to listen for awhile.


(or least another few weeks)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Disconnect

I went for a run yesterday. This is the second time I have run since Sunday and when you don’t run for two weeks wow it feels good to get back into it. Of course, the last time I ran it was 26.2 miles of sustained pain. This was only 45 minutes but it might as well have been 26.2 miles because it felt really, really long.

It was a beautiful Midwest autumn day. The leaves have turned colors very late this year so the path was exploding in crimsons, golden yellows, and crispy browns. The contrast of the blue gray sky was spectacular and the wind, as always, was blowing.

I was heading back – after 45 minutes feelings tired but at the same time absolutely energized. And a man came running in my direction. He was a middle-aged man, fit, incredibly muscular thighs and as he got closer I realized he was talking.

Strange, because other than me, no one else was on the path. And he wasn’t close enough to talk to me. But as he got closer yet I realized he was talking on his cell phone.

Now, this man had to be running at least a 7:30 pace. I was slugging out something much slower (thank you Ironman recovery) but he was comfortably cruising along at a steady clip. I looked closely as we came towards me and realized he wasn’t out of breath. He was talking, and running, smooth as could be. Effortless.

I wasn’t sure what to think. Or if I had the right to judge him. Probably not. But you’re talking to someone that never runs with other people, or music – to me the run is the only way to really disconnect. More so than the bike because you have to pay attention for safety there, and with the swim you have to follow that black line. With the run, you just run and unwind your mind.

I took this as a sign that the apocalypse really is coming. Because it seems even during our times to unwind and disconnect we can’t help but stay connected. Like a leash we are tethered to. And what if we are taken off our leash – what would we do with the free range? Where would we go? More importantly, where would our minds go? I think sometimes that is why people fear being alone or by themselves. Why they are always on the cell phone. What if you just sat quietly in your own thoughts? What do you think you would find? And why does this make you so scared?

I’m not judging this man. He may have had important work to do. But I’m just saying, if you’re out there on the path take the opportunity to give yourself 30 minutes of free mind, let your thoughts wander, let your words ramble inside your head. We're so concerned with getting and staying connected that we forget about the importance of just getting away. At least once a day you must quiet the mind. You have to disconnect.


So turn off the phone, step away from the computer, sit quietly or swim or bike or run by yourself. Disconnect. This is what I missed most about running, this is what I can’t wait to get back into in the days ahead.