Friday, February 29, 2008

Greetings from Camp HTFU!

We have connected to a random interent connection from Ashley's house. The only thing you have to be sitting on the floor with the laptop pointed at just the right angle. For now it will do.

We have survived the first day. I am not so sure I want to sign up for this camp next year.

Yesterday Jen and I arrived in Charlotte to find Miss Mary and Leslie on loop #206 at the airport. They picked us up in something that looked like an armored vehicle but at least it had seats. The rest of the evening was spent assembling bikes. I might know how to use a torque wrench but that skill isn't much use if you don't know where to put it and how much to turn.

This morning we were at the pool at 8:30 am. Thanks to Pedergraham we were fully caffeinated and oatmealed up. Jen almost raged when she found the pool was short course yards and not the long course meters she was driving about. The pool workout was painful. Jen, Marit and Mary took one lane, Ashley, Leslie and I took another.

The workout was a mixed bag of free, IM, and pulling. There were 10 x 75 in there that almost made me throw up in my mouth but we made it through. Off to the bike shop to have nearly all of our bikes reassembled. Thanks to Carolina Triathlon for taking care of us and making us feel safe. I am still convinced however that my aerobars aren't straight. More coffee, a faked out George H. sighting (I think they just wanted to pre-fatigue me and see me spill my second cup of coffee). In the end, Jen and I decided it wasn't George because he would never be seen in pants like that.

On to the bike finally at 1 pm. Seriously! The weather didn't cooperate but at least it was not my basement. It was about 50 degrees and overcast. And who ordered the wind? Thirty minutes into the ride Mary had her 20th flat or something so she had to go back to the bike store and then ride alone. Mary was a trooper! The rest of us rode. HARD. For 2 hours. I don't know about anyone else but I was working my ass off while Marit was practically singing, hooting and shouting car back all in Zone 1. She is an ANIMAL. We all took turns pulling and basically soiling ourselves in the front, up hills, into the wind. Or at least that is how it was for me. Good times.

The one thing I didn't know about South Carolina is that it is mandatory to own a junkyard dog. Which has made me realize the BEST four words in the English language are "it's on a chain." If you want to reach a new peak power CP.2 you should ride in South Carolina by some junkyards.

I also found the four corners of hell today. You will find them when you are (1) ascending a hill into the wind, (2) a junkyward dog charging from the right, (3) with a school bus coming at you, and (4) a car back. And if you are lucky you also realize hell has five corners because you are also off the back playing your favorite game bridge the gap which is not such a good game to play while you are riding through the four corners of hell.

Three hours, 10 minutes and my toes were very very very cold. It was time to run. Except for Marit and Leslie who are training for IM Arizona and had another 10000 miles to go. The run hurt! How can it be 5 days later and I'm still feeling the duathlon? Finally made it back and then it began - the Jen Harrison meltdown in which she needed food NOW, took command of the van, went out to find Mary on her 45 minute run (talk about hard core), took Mary into the van and drove to the grocery store.

Once fed she settled down (sort of) then we waited for Marit and Leslie to finish their run in the dark and cold. They get the gold star for today! Leslie gets two for dancing in the parking lot when she finished her run.

We had some food and now we are finally done at.....9:18 pm. It was a long day and a hard day. But that's what camp is all about. I called Ness and she said there is some bad mouthing from those left behind....trust me, you don't want to be here! There is not your safe place! There are dogs and hills and......crazy women that are willing to ride fast, hard and long and if you drop your gel you will then get dropped with a band of angry foaming dogs at your back.

Honestly though it is all good times and tomorrow there will be many more. Everyone here says hi - Marit, Jen, Ashley, Mary, Leslie and if we can get on a connection tomorrow we'll update more.......

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Notes From The Staff Meeting

Once upon a time, in an office far far away I participated in the weekly staff meeting. Each week we would converge in the manager’s office to talk about everything and anything and get mostly nothing done.

Since I now work from home for myself with myself and by myself, I haven't been to a staff meeting in quite some time. So this morning, in the spirit of office jobs, I decided a staff meeting was in order.

In other words, I was in the mood to sit around a table and get nothing done.

All active employees were invited to the kitchen table at 8 am. These days it is only myself and my dog on the payroll. But this morning we had a guest employee. My husband. He spent the morning working from home. Lucky for him he gets to attend our first ever staff meeting.

First on the agenda, roll call. Me – president of company – raise your hand - here. Boss – token mascot of company – raise your paw – here. Guest employee – husband working from home ---- husband? HUSBAND?.....he agrees to also be here.

After roll call, we reviewed the agenda. First on the agenda…..

I’m sorry, we interrupt this meeting for a very important announcement – the coffee is ready. I go over to the French press and pour myself a cup. Which brings me to the first item on the agenda:

The company coffee pot

Possibly the most important office equipment we own and deserving of high priority on our list. Remember a few weeks ago when the coffee pot decided to lay down and die on my counter not before pissing itself of hot coffee all over my counter and floor? After cutting costs (lay off all staff but myself - oh wait, that works nicely, eh?) and reducing overhead (achieved by feeding company mascot only once a day) we have found room in the budget for a new coffee maker.


All in favor? Two hands and one paw. Good. Next up –

BM’s

It has been brought to management’s attention that someone has been pooping by the garage door.

Management frowns upon this.

We will excuse the guest employee because it is not his brand. Therefore, we look to the other active employees to take the blame – Boss or myself. No need for confessions right now but someone is either going to curb this habit and take it outdoors or find a log in their breakfast bowl in the morning. Ain’t that right Boss?

Boss looks the other way.

Actually Boss is busy taking notes. He sits in my lap and taps on the keys. This is one of his favorite things to do while I say funny sounding versions of his name and other nicknames – Doodlebug, Noodlebutt, Doglet, Mr. Nibs all of which have been ruled as not harassment although I could see where you might think they are.

Chris looks over at me, “Is this what you do all day?”

No. Not at all. This is just what we do on Wednesday – staff meeting day. Duh.

Next on the agenda: use of company e-mail for personal use.

Motion to not only continue to permit this but highly encourage it too.

Next item: Dress code.

There seems to be some confusion from our guest employee that one should actually arrive at work each day (code for walk downstairs and sit at the kitchen table) fully showered and dressed. Around here we have a dress code. You can either wear your pajamas with crazy bedhead OR you can wear a collar around your neck. So next time you show up to our meeting please do not offend us by showing up clean, dressed and collarless, ‘k?

Moving on.

Ruling that every Friday be deemed Coffee Friday and recognized as paid holiday in the workplace.

Passed.

Motion that bacon bones be distributed on a daily basis.

Overruled. Even guest employee voted against this.


And now a short pause in our meeting for the ceremonial humping of the red blanket (note that only canine members of the meeting should partake in this no matter how appealing the red blanket looks).

Now that we have that out of our system, back to our agenda. But wait, Chris comes up to me and shows me his sock.

“Look at this,” he says.

Here it is. (Half) Chinese (husband) sock torture – not only do you have to wash all of the socks but I will force you to look directly into them too. I am confused. What am I looking for in the sock?

“Look closer,” he says.

Ah, now I see. There it is, Boss has marked Chris’ sock, covered it in all sorts of yellow stuff. This is totally normal office behavior; just management’s way of showing you that even as they piss all over you, they still own you. In case you were wondering, Boss – small canine though he is - is still in charge.

We have a good laugh. Which is actually the telltale sign of any good office meeting. With that, we closed the agenda for the day. But not before we made the guest employee get up to pour the president another cup of coffee. Notes were submitted for approval, minutes were approved and business went on as usual.


Meeting adjourned!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Random Thoughts

To all of you that have sent pictures of my boy, GH, after he won a stage in Tour de California – I say thank you. But please stop teasing me. If he is not on my door step wrapped in a red bow I would rather not imagine what could be and just wait for what one day will be.

But alas I looked on my doorstep this morning and he was not there. All that I saw was snow. It was quite beautiful but still it was snow. Which is cold, wet, and generally makes outdoor activities near impossible.

Yes, I spent the better part of Monday night mouthing off about the snow. But I am not to blame. You see, post-race I always have a bit of a poor attitude. I believe it is just post-race fatigue and pain leaving my body through my mouth. Sorry to those within earshot of me right now. All of the pain – especially duathlon pain (there is no pain more evil) - leaves me a little disgruntled and jaded, mouthy and on edge.

On Monday morning I thought I had escaped the post-race-day-pain malaise and mouth off. I woke up feeling mostly ok and did a glorious 45 mile ride in the Phoenix sun. I would tell you that I rode with Thomas but I disqualified him shortly after leaving for wearing toe covers. For crying out loud it was 60 degrees with full sun and the man put on toe covers.


The three of us – Thomas, Chris, myself – rode along some Sonoran bikeway which was really just code for wide shoulder with painted white line separating us from the oodles of cars that apparently had to be out doing things in Phoenix on Monday at 9 am (these same people are all over the suburbs of Chicago – I don’t get where everyone is going all the time or why the heck they are in such a hurry to get there).

Lucky for us, one of them politely stopped at a red light alongside us while they were in the car lane and we were in the bike lane and they said to us “you know that’s why they made bike lanes."

Ok?

Nevermind the people driving in Phoenix, the bike course itself was quite beautiful. I like the desert landscape. I’m sure after awhile a cactus is a cactus is a cactus – with a mountain in the background – but against the blue sky, wispy clouds and red rocks it looked beautiful to me.

About 75 minutes into the ride, Chris left us to chase after his dream life of bike cowboy riding off into the southwest equipped with the only things a true bike cowboy would need – his favorite bike, fast wheels, leg & arm warmers and a pair of shorts. Honestly I wasn’t sure if we would ever see him again. He’s not the best with directions unless they are being shouted at him from tiny box atop the dashboard of the car.

Thomas and I continued our ride back to his house. It was nice to be outside. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like having the luxury of riding outside November through March. I might actually get good on the bike. We were averaging over 19 mph. On an easy ride. I thought that was pretty fast considering a good day on my trainer is usually an average of 14.9 mph.

Thomas says that for 3 months out of the year, though, they can’t really train outside. Too hot. Too hot? Ovens are too hot. Hot coals are too hot. Fire is too hot. Of course I believe you that Phoenix in summer is 110 degrees too hot. But then again you are talking to a person that lives in sub zero windchill too cold. Which by the way is always too cold for riding outside. So I would be willing to take my chances with too hot. Even if it meant riding naked at 4 am with a headlamp. I would take the too hot over too cold.

By some navigational miracle and a little bit of luck, Chris arrived back at Thomas’ house about 40 minutes later. I suppose the excitement of life with small wife and smaller dog lured him back from cowboy dreams. If I were him I would have ridden west, far west then south, crossed the border and lived a life riding my bike and selling Mexican pottery and pharmaceuticals to unassuming tourists on the street.


Next Chris had to pack our bikes up quickly before heading to the airport. I usually don’t offer to help and didn’t this time. I’m not much good at putting things together or taking things apart. Chris is good at both so lucky him he gets to do all things bike.

Honestly I could have cared less about the bikes or making the flight. I was more concerned about food. Me and no food are not a good pair. Especially post long ride and NO food. But no worries, right? We are heading to the airport where we will have nothing to do but kill time and eat food. It seriously took almost an hour to get through the ticketing line (are those bikes, are those wheels, is that equipment, how many, are those bikes, how many bikes) then the security line then to the gate. Of course outside of the gates there is a smorgasboard of reasonably healthy food that you might actually want to put in your body. However once inside you are literally trapped in a prison cell of bad food choices.

For some reason Chris was totally cooperative and walked around all of the gates with me to find something that I would not feel ashamed of putting in my body. I didn’t really need the 10 mile walk through the terminal. I just really needed some semblance of healthy food. I refuse to settle for crap. I will starve with raging headache before I will put fast food into my body. No way.


Finally I settle on a blueberry bagel at Starbucks. Things you need to know – I hate Starbucks and I hate bagels. Unless the bagels are on Saturday morning after masters swim with my husband from Einstein’s. Trust me, I want a bagel like I want another 10,000 yard swim. I know they’re not bad for me but they certainly aren’t good. And no matter what they all taste the same. BARF!

The only thing that could have fixed this situation was coffee. So I order an Americano. The barista (I hate that word) gives it to me with literally two inches of empty space in the cup. For what? FOR WHAT? My thoughts and good wishes? The sweet nothings I will whisper to coffee into that little hole in the lid? Fill it up. NOW. She says “I thought you wanted room for cream.” No. Never never NO. Even if I did, there is a huge difference between “room for cream” and “room for the living room couch” in that cup.

She adds seriously ¼ of an inch more hot water (I give up) and then I sit at the gate. I am disgusted. I hate people. I hate food. I hate post-race soreness in my legs. Not really but I do hate airports and the fact that we as a culture have accepted Cinnabon, Burger King and Pizza Hut as food. We accept that, we buy it, we eat it. And we wonder – gee – why are we fat? Why do we get sick? Why can’t we get our penises up? That last one is because if I get one more e-mail or see one more commercial about a penile dysfunction I will run through the airport shouting IT IS CINNABON’S FAULT!

And then after that tirade in my mind I just got jaded. Sat on the floor of the gate eating my barfberry bagel and drinking my half air/half caf Americano spewing silent nasty thoughts at the world. Why is it so hard to eat right? Why have we sold our souls for convenience? Is it really worth our health? I quickly realize that these are much bigger issues than I will be able to solve in one day. Or one flight. So I start to talk to Chris. Who by the way is eating some burrito thing that if I ate I would seriously put on 20 lbs and spend the 3 hour flight in utter colon distress. He ate two. And probably will wake up thinner tomorrow to boot.

I forgot where I was going with all of this. But it doesn’t matter. These are just my random thoughts. And interrupting anyways was an e-mail from my coach reminding me that in two more days we leave for Camp HTFU. Which means I will once again be in the airport going somewhere south. So today I went to the store and bought green things. And red things. And nothing that comes in a package, bar or bag. I will put these green and red and healthy things into a quart-sized baggie and carry them on. In fact, I will carry a potted plant into the airport with me on Thursday if it means I will be able to eat healthy and feel good.

So tomorrow I gear up for an all girls weekend away. Please note this is the first time I have ever done such a thing. Usually I’m the token semi-fast girl in a group of guys. Not this time. All girls, an army of estrogen rolling down the roads of South Carolina. I am not sure I – nor South Carolina – is ready for this. But one thing is certain, by weekend’s end someone will be in tears. We may be tough girls but even big girls cry at some point. For many different reasons. Because their legs hurt. Because the pool doesn’t open until 1 pm. Because someone switched the regular with the decaf. Because – BECAUSE – there is no internet connection at Ashley’s house. And as Ness politely pointed out to me last night, that girl in tears will probably be me.


I totally agree.

So if you see a piled heap of a small person on the side of a South Carolina road crying, mumbling mean things about Cinnabon and ready to impale the world with an aero bar, kindly bring me an Americano, leave no room for cream and then get the heck out of my way. Because it will be at least another two days before the post race pain leaves my legs. Until then, there is a 100 percent chance that from my mouth it will snow bitter complaints. And the only thing that will cure it is a lot of sun and something I can eat that is healthy and green. Ok and maybe a little bit of chocolate cake.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Unclipping

Before a race, I always ask my coach the same question: What are 3 things I can do to achieve my goal? She always provides me with three solid and honest guidelines for what it will take. I read those, combined them with my own thoughts and came up with a plan for this past weekend's race.

Race it: Race it like you’ve been racing all year. Forget winter, forget that it's February, forget the trainer, the treadmill and snow. Accept that you are as fit as you are going to be for February and take a risk. Test your limits and push through. Race it, chase it and see what you have.

Hurt it: Push it to redline and make it hurt. Hurt it like you can handle it because you can – even if you think you can’t. Your legs will not explode. You will not blow up.

Let it go: Let go of who is there and what you think they will do. Race your own race. Let go of what you think you will do and just let your head lead the way. Push with your head and your legs will follow. Let it go and take that leap.

And so, my race report is simple: check, check and check. There was racing - and hurting - and letting it go. And I think that is what every race is about. Not your splits or who you beat or how you placed in your AG. It's about you. It's a race within yourself. The victory you are looking for is within yourself of just taking the risk, pushing yourself to hurt and letting it go.

This was by far one of the most exciting races I have ever done. It meant something more than just 'how did I do' or 'what did I bring home'. In fact, this might be the first year since my first year that I don't bring a darn thing home. And that's ok! Because in each race I'll learn something new or get just a little closer to my end goal.

The most exciting part was after the race (and not just because of coffee and cake!). They asked the pro’s to assist with the kids race. Chris, myself and two other pros escorted the children on the bike portion of the race. Imagine this – a young girl comes into transition and runs to the mount line. I’m thinking – no problem, this is about 7 miles of me in my small ring just cheering for her to push. All of a sudden she bolts and I’m going 19 mph to catch up to her, big ring, aero helmet, disc wheel trying to catch her wheel. She was chasing her brother in front of her plus being chased from behind by her sister! Together, we all climbed a long climb for over 2 miles. I rode back and forth cheering them on as they pushed up the hill. No one gave up. No one cried or backed off or DNF’ed. These kids were determined and driven to finish this race. They pushed the pedals, breathed hard and made their way up the hill.

Going down the hill, I wanted to catch up with Austin. Nine years old and there he was hauling big gears down the hill! He was squiggling all over the place and I thought to myself oh dear god I better go stay with him to keep him from oncoming traffic. At one point his feet were off the pedals sticking straight out – careless fun only a nine year old couldn’t resist. As I chased after him silently pleading for him to put his feet on the pedals and hands on the hoods, I watched.

And I thought to myself – this kid is a lot like me this year. Just riding down a big hill into the unknown, squiggling all over the place, maybe a little out of control, a little out of his league on a hill too steep, a bike too big, going a bit too fast. He seemed completely fearless, lost in the moment, the joy of doing something fun and all of the excitement along the way; no fear of crashing, no fear of the hills being too hard or his legs blowing up. He just kept at it, full speed ahead.

I realized I could learn a lot from watching this kid. To be fearless. To hang on for dear life and to know no matter how much I squiggle and squirm, I’ll be ok. I’ll make it to the end. I’ll arrive at my goal. It will be a little shaky at times but I’ll get there. I will. Until then, I will continue to race, hurt and let it go.

And every once in awhile, I will unclip from the pedals, stick my legs out and revel in the fun of knowing that getting to the finish is nothing compared to the exciting journey of experience and learning more about myself along the way.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sunny & 60 Degrees

That's right - right now it's sunny and 60 degrees.

Did I mention I was in Phoenix?

We have made our annual trip to Phoenix to accomplish 3 things; (1) escape the imprisonment of Chicago in winter; (2) find proof that the sun still exists; (3) compete in the Desert Classic Duathlon.

Trisports.com sponsors the race so it is a great opportunity to see represent our sponsor and participate in what is probably one of the best early season events out there. The race itself is at a beautiful venue on a challenging course and always attracts some of the best competition - both age group and pro.

This is my first race as a pro. I'm very excited because the race represents for me the unknown. These past few weeks I have been carrying around a phrase that I saw on a wall in a store in Seattle:

When nothing is certain, anything is possible.

Nothing is ever certain when you show up at a race - especially as a pro. Pro's are at all different levels of fitness and phases in their training. So I am excited to see the possibilities of what happens when I compete with them. I am excited to be one of them. In other words, I am excited to HURT!

One of the other great things about coming out to Phoenix is the opportunity to see a good friend. Upon touching down last night I had a voicemail from one most valuable sherpa:

This is Sherpa Thomas at your service waiting at the airport ready to sherpa and shuttle you around.

Yes, Sherpa Thomas is here! After a delicious dinner, we headed out to Thomas' house. I wasn't sure if a sherpa lived in a hut or a house so I was relieved to see it was a real house.

Anyways, someone asked a few weeks ago if Sherpa Thomas was a real sherpa. Well, he is a real person and he has sherpa'ed us at Kona so is he a real sherpa? That's your call. But if you are wondering if we hired him from the Himalayas, the answer is no. I believe he was born in Georgia. And though he is strong but probably couldn't carry an ox on his back (though he did carry me after Kona). He also doesn't drink yak urine and doesn't have a superhuman ability to utilize small amounts of oxygen. I am not sure if real sherpas do these things but these were things we confirmed he could not do at dinner last night.

We woke up this morning to get in our usual pre-race run. It sure was nice to run in sunny and 50 degrees. Thomas tried to convince me that I needed to wear long sleeves and shorts...but after about 5 minutes of running those long sleeves came right off. I mean, sunny and above 30 degrees? It's practically summer here.

Thomas and Chris are playing bikes in the garage. I am drinking coffee. I am going to get outside soon just to sit in the sun. Not sure I need to do much more than that. Because it's going to be a long time until I see the sun again. A long time for sure.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Camp HTFU

One week until it begins.

HTFU Camp

An idea came to us a few months ago. What if we – women of the winter – were to head to somewhere sunny and warm to train?

First matter - where would we go? Who do we know? Ashley lives in South Carolina. Like it or not Ashley, we are crashing your place. And we’re bringing our bikes and more friends.

The plan was quickly set in motion. Jennifer, myself, soon we had talked Mary Eggers, Leslie Curley into it. Ashley Long had no choice but to agree. A few weeks later we wondered – what is Marit up to? She was in. Then just recently Bri Gaal confirmed that she too will be there.

First things first – we need a swimsuit. Why? Why not. If we are going to go full tilt on the all female weekend we might as well get semi-matching swimsuits. And matching pillowcases for our naked pillow fights, right? Each of us designed what I would call perhaps the most flamboyant swimsuits EVER in nauseous colors of pinks, purples and light blue covered in flowers, the letters HTFU written across the chest, our names on our ass and on the upper back the words I LOVE TO SWIM.

Because we all do. Sort of.

Next up – code names. No camp is complete without code names. Jennifer – easy – Miss Daisy. Myself – I am Smallie Biggs (thank you to one of my athletes for revealing this identity to me) or ELF, Marit – I deem her The Kid because she is like 12 years old, Leslie – Curly. Come on, it's her hair. Ashley – The Sleeper. Because I have a feeling she will surprise all of us. Mary is Miss Mary Sunshine. I have never met someone more positive than her. And after much resistance Bri accepted the title Shorty. Not because she is, but because she was never ridden longer than 75 miles.

Apparently, those people really do still exist.

Ok, next on the agenda is the agenda. We have left this in the hands of Miss Daisy and Sunshine. Better to go in blindly than the fret about it for weeks on end. They have some rigorous plan of 400’s, hill climbs, and trail runs planned out. I think. All I know is that I will show up at the airport next Thursday with trashy magazines in hand and a bike box ready to go.

(and ear plugs, mustn’t forget the ear plugs for sitting next to Missy Daisy on the plane)

Aside from that we are also hoping to accomplish three very serious things:

1 – Drink coffee – mandatory! Invitation to camp came with disclaimer that you must be capable of consuming large quantities of coffee without peeing yourself (though this last part has come into question recently)

2 – Locate one large handsome pro cyclist with the initials GH, wrestle him to the ground & shove him into my bike box so I can bring him home (my sources tell me he lives in Greenville).

3 – Have fun – fun? Yes, fun! Training and fun can co-exist. We think. In the spirit of fun I have put together a list of possible extracurricular activities for the camp:

Sitting around with our heart rate monitors on while telling stories about our husbands/dogs/children/significant others and then downloading heart rate data to see whose story got us closest to our LT. Figuring out how you could use an SRM in the bedroom to download power data – and more importantly, determine who would wear the crank. And where? Hypothesizing what would happen if we sealed Jennifer Harrison’s mouth shut for one day straight. Or, better yet, secretly feed Jennifer caffeine all weekend long as an experiment in how many words can one person say. Maybe just freeze Mary’s skort. Oh like who didn’t freeze their friend’s clothes during a slumber party in junior high? Make Marit confess that she was born after 1990. Play truth or dare where the person that doesn’t tell the truth has to take a gel for every year since they were born. Throw a banana in Ashley’s spokes while she rides. Pour Parmesan Cheese in Jen’s bike shoes overnight. Better yet throw it in mine to see if they can possibly smell any worse. Play guess whose orthotics these are. Make prank Skype calls to all of our favorite pro male triathletes. Talk about boys. Tell stories about being stuck being smelly boys in triathlon. Eat chocolate power bars dipped in chocolate power gel. Decide which male age group has the best looking legs. Body mark the first person that falls asleep with numbers representing their CP6, CP30 and CP60 power output.


Seriously, though, I am really looking forward to this. I have already warned camp participants that I am generally a great person except that when training a lot the first thing I lose are my social skills. It’s a combination of lack of food, coffee, and fatigue. The social skills just walk right away and I’m left with moody and aloof. If you can get past that and quickly revive me with food/coffee, I am otherwise a fabulous person.

I swear.

Now, a lot of people have asked what do the letters H – T – F – U stand for. Well I guess Mary has been telling everyone it stands for Hot Fun. Which isn’t so bad. Although it makes our tri camp sounds like porn star camp. So it really stands for harden the f – up. That’s right. This isn’t a girlie girlie namby pamby camp. It’s for the hard core . We’ve come from the lands of cold and snow (Kansas, Illinois, New York) and we require at least 10 gallons of coffee to thaw out. We’ve been strapped to our trainers all winter so when we finally have pavement under our wheels and permission to roll….well, there is no telling how fast we will go. So if you see us out there feel free to hop on. But you better put your aero helmet on cause we’re not waiting at the corners for anyone.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ENOUGH

Let me just say that I have had enough.

ENOUGH.


It has been winter for at least a year and a day. Maybe a day more. I wouldn’t know because all I know is dark, cold, wind, snow, dark, cold, snow, ice. There has been about a billion feet of snow in my front yard for two months. The pile has melted, froze, melted, been snowed upon so many times that right now it is a treacherous mix of dog shit, ice and yellow snow. My dog won’t even go on it anymore. He has resorted to sidewalk near the shrubs.

Usually I am hard core. All about running outside in winter. This year – not so much. And that is SO hard for me to swallow because I have taken a big step this year. When I have to “give up” because of weather or extenuating circumstances or reasons beyond my control I feel like I’m making excuses. Because if I really wanted it BAD I’d be out there. But come on. Out where? It’s just not safe. There is nowhere to run. Where do you run when the sidewalks are covered in snow, the streets are covered in ice? And have you seen the potholes! Where do you run? WHERE!

There are times when I have wondered if running circles in my basement or just running in place would count. Because I can no longer tolerate running outdoors. It was 5 degrees today. FIVE. You don’t run when it’s 5. You can barely even start your car when it’s 5. You don’t go outside to get your mail. You don’t even mind if your dog poops in the house because 5 is SO DAMN COLD!

The other day I just had to laugh. It was the only appropriate response I could think of. Some of my pals were emailing from MUCH WARMER (and even if it’s 40 that is MUCH WARMER) climates to tell me they didn’t want to run outside because it was raining. Or because it was too cold (apparently there are places in this world where 40 is considered cold, I would consider that an unseasonably warm day right now). Or - just because.

*Right now, I would trade my dog for a day of 40 and rain. My husband for partly cloudy and 50. And coffee – I’d give it up for sunny and 70 degrees*

That is how desperate this situation has gotten. But still, I am tough. *right?* I had to prove it. I was going to run outdoors. It was Sunday after the monster swim. I had a 70 minute run. I was tired but I could handle that. I thought it was ok to run outside. Earlier in the day it had been 45 degrees but raining. But when you’ve been underwater already for 2 hours and 45 minutes that day, what’s another hour – ten? Somewhere between getting dressed and getting outside the temperature dropped about 30 degrees. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I made the turn on my out-and-back course. The wind whipped from the west at 30 mph sending piercing daggers of icy snow sleet rain into my face. My face and hands were so cold that at 50 minutes I said to myself…

ENOUGH.

I have had enough. This is not worth it. My heart rate is going nowhere. I am running slower than Ironman pace. I am running into a wind so tough that it is literally pushing me into the gutter. And not only that but when you are forced to run in the middle of the street because it is the safest place to run – well you realize that a heck of a lot of people are out driving on a Sunday at 3 pm.

When I got back inside I felt defeated and disappointed in myself. I had given up! I never give up in a workout. Better to slog it out slowly than to surrender in defeat. I wrote to my coach looking for a kick in the ass that said GET BACK OUTSIDE. While waiting for the kick to arrive I sat at the kitchen table with my head in my arms. Chris asked what was wrong. I told him I was cold. He kind of gave me that look like put your balaclava on and get your ass back outside. Finish the 20 minutes left in the run. I sat there sad with myself because I had lost my edge for the day.

But then Chris took the dog outside.

A few minutes later, he came up to me. “There is no way you can run in that Liz. I can’t even stand outside.”

THANK YOU.

And you know what? My coach never did send that kick. She said to put on pajamas and call it a day. Which made me think – ah, she must have run outside today too. …..she knows (because normally she would e-mail that kick right away).

Sometimes though I think she forgets. On my schedule for tomorrow is a brick. I see my coach has written that I should wear my race outfit. I believe she has lost her mind. Because if I run outside in my shorts and jog bra for sure I will be arrested for public intoxication. But dammit if my coach says to stand on my head I’ll do it so if you see a crazy woman running down the street very inappropriately dressed…that would be me.

But all joking aside, it is really cold. This winter has been hard. I think to myself – of all the winters to choose to turn pro – surprise! Look what I get. But I do believe in life things happen for a reason. I do believe if someone or something didn’t think I was tough enough to handle something this tough and cold they wouldn’t throw it at me. This winter is a character builder for sure. And if I can emerge after 3 hour basement rides, sweaty hot indoor to freezing cold outdoor bike to run bricks, treadmill runs, windy icy rain slog fests on top of snow…..well, if I can train through all of that then I do believe I can race through anything.

One of my athletes who actually lives in a state that right now is colder than Illinois (it does exist) was telling me that she did not want to run the other day. Or maybe it was swim. Whatever it was – she was tired of the weather, tired of being cold. She has big goals. And so I told her this: Anyone can train when they want to, champions train when they don’t want to. That quote is nothing new, it is not my own. But it says a lot about why we do this. And why we need to keep at it.

When I wrote that to her I felt like I was also writing it to myself. And I realized we are all in this together. And need to keep each other motivated. Those of us in cold weather states are getting hit hard this winter and we have questioned our decisions to set big goals or train for triathlons or try to keep up with warm weather competitors. We have no reason to doubt ourselves or worry that when we run on snow we are running too slow. Hard work is hard work. No matter where you are. Anyone can push themselves. But push yourself while running into a 30 mph icy headwind – now that takes something else. Keep it up, cold weather friends. Keep at it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

100 x 100 on the 100

Know what time of year it is? Monster swim time. Monster as in 100 x 100 on the 100. For those of you not familiar with swimspeak, that’s 100 yards, 100 times, pushing off every 100 seconds. For those of you that are familiar with swimspeak, that’s a really long way to swim.

Every year, our masters swim team does a monster swim. You swim the distance you choose up to 100 times on the 100 interval. Two years ago, I did 75 x 75. 5600+ yards almost killed my arms. Last year I stepped It up to 70 x 100. Which also stepped up the level of pain. This year I thought I would challenge myself. At first I said I would do 80 x 100. But as the event got closer I thought to myself – why not do all 10,000 yards?

(there are a 10,000 good reasons why no one should swim 10,000 yards....)

The night before, I could barely sleep. I was giddy about this swim. I couldn’t wait to swim 100 x 100. For the first time in my life. Uncharted territory. Unknown yards. I had no idea what would happen there because I’ve never been.

And that’s really why I did it. Not because I really needed to swim that far. But because I wanted to find out what would happen if I did. What would be the conversations in my head? At what point would I start bargaining with myself? Would I unravel along the way? And if I did unravel – at that point what would I say?

Let’s go. I can’t wait. I can’t to learn more about myself and see what I’m made of. Because sometimes I don’t know. Sometimes we do the same thing in training with the same people in the same places and get...the same thing. But every once in awhile we have these opportunities to do something completely different – even a little crazy – and here it is so I think to myself – I can’t wait to see what happens to and within myself.

Sunday morning I arrive at the pool. Goggles – check. Cap – check. Fins, pull buoy, paddles – check 3 times. Gels, bars, water – check and check again. Uncontained enthusiasm – check. Perhaps a slight bit of fear – present. The anticipation of literally diving into the unknown – here. Totally here.

I find myself assigned to a lane with two familiar lanemates – A and GK. A is fast. So fast I am never sure how he and I end up in the same lane. A can also swim 25 yards of butterfly with no breath. He does it routinely, throws it in just for fun.

GK is hilarious. He trained for IM Wisconsin last year by doing a 1 hour continuous swim and then going to masters. He is discretely hard core. He’s never afraid to lead the lane and never ashamed when he explodes a few hundred yards later. The other day I caught him walking in the middle of a set of 100’s. When I asked what happened he just simply said “ran out of breath.” I want to be more like this guy.

J was also in our lane. She is a sprinter. She suggests I go third but I say to her please I beg of you let me just bring up the rear today. She says no way. “I’ve heard you can hold a steady pace so I want to be behind you.”


Yes, the slow but steady pace - that would be me.

The clock counts down and it’s time to send off. The first 10 x 100 buzz by. We are just warming up. In fact, the next 10 also go by fast. Still warming up. Before I know it, 3000 yards have passed by relatively fast.

3500 yards and I give myself permission to breathe to the right side only. This feels smooth and fast. I am in a swimming groove. At 42 I think to myself – we are approaching Ironman! At 43, GK tells me that we have just swum Ironman distance in 1:10. "A" wishes you could swim Ironman on the 100 interval including rest during the event. I believe J – the sprinter – was just shaking her head. Today this was her Ironman.

At the 4400 yard mark I try to eat half of a Power Bar. It takes me the rest interval after 2 – 100’s to get the wrapper open, the next 3 – 100’s to eat an good bite and the next 100 to think to myself pushing off the wall with Power Bar in my mouth probably wasn’t my best idea. It’s one thing to do that on the bike. But another to do it in the pool.

I may have lost a few pieces in there.

At 5000 yards we are given a 4 minute break to eat – pee – breathe. I drink coffee instead. And stand looking at the walls. You see, this swim takes place at the high school I attended 15 years ago. I look at once familiar walls decorated with each swimmer’s goal sheets. A very smart coach had them write out 3 personal goals and 3 team goals. Then they had to write 2 reasons why they wanted to accomplish these goals. I had to chuckle when some of the goals were “swim 200 free in 1:45” or “break 48 for the 50 at state.” Though I couldn’t relate much to the time goals, I could relate to the reasons why – to prove that I can, to show my team I know how to work hard, to complete something, to motivate others to try to do the same.

Time to get back in the pool. After reaching the 5000 yard mark, I grant myself permission for pool toys. I choose pull buoy and paddles. And I offer to lead. As the clock counts down I literally say out loud that I cannot believe I am leading the lane. At 5000 yards. I AM LEADING THE LANE!

Over the next 1500 yards I realize that pull buoy and paddles are my new best friends. They easily chop off 6 seconds from my 100 time. Even after all of the yardage they make me feel powerful and smooth. I tell myself that I could swim 20 x 100 like this. But then I realize how silly it would be to pull 2000 yards with paddles. And how sore I would be tomorrow. This is the trick of the monster swim. 20 x 100 feels like nothing when you are doing 100 x 100. But 2000 yards is still 2000 yards so I take the paddles and buoy off.

A takes the lead again. I am swimming free and we are approaching the 7000 yard mark. Once there, I have officially reached a new “first” in my life. This is the first time I have ever swum past 7000 yards. Ever. What happens from here on out is unknown. There is much excitement in these next 3000 yards.

At 7200 yards GK starts making jokes which make me laugh and lose my breath for half of the lane. At 7300 yards I wonder how many people have peed in the pool. At 7400 yards I think to myself that I never did take the break to pee. At 7500 yards I take another gel. At 7600 yards I decide the pool tastes like wet dog. At 7700 yards I here someone in the lane next to me shout that they are going all way. At 7800 yards someone else borrows my paddles. At 7900 yards I see stuff floating in the pool that might be part of my last Power Bar.

At 8000 yards, it’s safe to say my arms started to come off. So I put on fins and offer to take the lead. When in pain it is best to suffer full speed. I last for 500 yards before I realize my full speed has fully left the pool. About 3000 yards ago.


At 8500 yards A takes the lead again. I go behind J and float on my back. In the middle of 100 backstroke, I start to bargain with myself. Here we are approaching 8600 yards. What if we just go to 90. Let’s just be satisfied with 9000 yards today. What if we just stop then. That will be far enough. We don’t have to go all the way.

Good thing I am on my back because I laugh. So here we are. We have reached the point in the workout where fear is ready to conquer the will. Not because fear is stronger but because fear suspects the will may have weakened defenses because of physical fatigue. It is what you do at these points in the workout that determine who will win today – will it be fear or will it be your will, your drive. At this point, you decide.

I will finish this today - I will.

But not without much pain – both in my arms and head. I put on fins, take off fins, put on paddles, take off paddles. I consider scooting myself on a kickboard. And then there is my back – I believe GK is swimming on top of me for a free ride but at this point I can’t turn my neck far enough to tell. The coach is shouting something about the last 11 being finished purely on will and not body. And he is right. I will will myself all the way. So, arms, back and neck – quiet down. We are not yet done today.

Number 93 is kind of like mile 93 in a century. The point at which you are so close but still so far from being done. At that point I realize it is best now not to count. Just turn the numbers off. Coast on automatic mode. Arms turning, elbows bending, legs kicking. Swim.


95, 96, 97, 98, 99. I can’t believe there is one more left! Finally, 100! I have gone all the way!

I want to put my arms up in victory but alas that will not be possible for at least a few days. The team takes a picture and then I exit the pool. A quick drive home before some coffee. And time to think about what I did today. Swimming 10,000 yards – farther than ever before. Realizing that I can do more than I think I can. Knowing that when the pain settles in and the end is getting close I can override fear and use my will to get past myself. And that is why I did it in the first place - to learn who I am, to find out more about myself.

Looking ahead to next year I wonder what I will do to challenge myself. And what I will learn along the way. I could do the whole thing without pool toys. Or even do some of them IM. In fact there are probably 100 more varations of what I can do to challenge myself. Throw in a few 100 fly with no breath.

Once you breakthrough a major milestone, the possibilities open themselves up in front of you. And you find yourself in a very exciting place. Of what lies ahead. And what you will learn. And what you will do the next time fear meets will in your head.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dog Days

Life with a little dog is always more than little entertaining.

Trust me.


First, an update. Boot camp was a huge success. Boss is (generally) reliable and has earned his stripes – in other words, he can have free range of lower level without supervision and can also be trusted to sneak upstairs without dropping steaming log in the hallway.

This is a big step.

This being the first Saturday Boss has been permitted to run free around the house, he went at it full tilt. Around the house I think I even heard the lyrics of Born Free playing in the air. For such a little dog, this freedom was BIG. So big, there was fear he might just pee himself.

Or get into trouble with something other than himself. You see, Chris decided to paint the dining room wall today. Just one wall to test the color out. He was busy taping and washing the walls while Boss ran around the living room with his new toys – fuzzy lamb, stringy thing, big bone, and floppy octopus.

Soon Chris begins painting the walls. Boss is playing in the secret Narnia behind the curtains which these days means he is getting twisted in the curtain and sits there like he can’t find a way out. They are sheer curtains. He can totally see his way out. But to feign helplessness is so Boss’ style. This from the dog that lays in his crate each morning waiting to be extracted. I would like such service from my own bed.

Anyways, I am sitting at the dining room table working when I hear Chris yell……..

YOU STUPID FURRY ANIMAL!

There goes Chris running after Boss, literally runs under the table while Boss…..well…..Boss – has decided to paint his paws. Literally ran right through the tray of paint and is now tracking beige (actually Lennox Tan) paw prints all over the white carpet. I am laughing. HARD. As I watch Chris try to catch Boss I laugh harder. Grown man with paint all over his hands trying to catch small painted dog.

Finally, he catches Boss and takes him to the kitchen sink. There are Lennox Tan footprints all over the white carpet. Part of me is horrified but the other part of me – it’s like a slippery slope. I’m ready to throw peanut butter, jelly, ketchup all over the floor because at this point – why not? And wouldn’t that be fun anyways?

I look up from the floor wondering which condiment I will throw first and I see Chris washing Boss’ paws giving him his second bath for the week. Boss has that look on his face like oh crap I know I did something wrong really wrong but I have no idea what. Chris is talking to Boss, apologizing for yelling because after all – he is just a little dog.

Of course you think we would have learned. Crated him for the day. But we did not. He still had free range. So he went downstairs. Downstairs is like Boss’ best dream ever. There are so many random plastic things on the floor, pencils and socks. He always runs upstairs toting some new treasure from below. I was getting ready for my ride when I noticed Boss running upstairs. But then I realized something on his fur – something black.

Boss has grease from someone’s big chain ring all over his head. But it gets worse. Not just his head his entire right side. Chain rings like tattoos on his fur. Chris grabs hold of him and tells me he did the same thing last weekend while I was away. Chris said it would be easy to wipe off. But it was not. It required another bath. Bath #3 in a week.

It’s time to contain Boss. So Chris plays video games while Boss sits in his lap. Meanwhile, I go downstairs to do my bike ride. About an hour later, Chris comes downstairs with a pile of green squiggly strings and a bunch of white stuffing. He dumps it on the floor.

“Look at what Boss did.”

Floppy octopus was gone. Ravaged into a hundred little squiggles of green fabric and tufts of stuffing. And that is why we only paid $1.29 for floppy octopus. Because we knew it wouldn’t be long before his innards were pulled out and his squeaker was extracted. Kind of like Boss from the crate in the morning. Plucked right out.

A little while later, I was in the middle of a serious place of pain on the bike when I looked down at the piece of paper that I had written my workout on – it was sitting on the floor. On top of it was this strange little white ball that looked like an eye.
For a moment I wondered if this was my coach’s idea of spyware planted there by my husband linked directly to her to keep an eye on me to make sure I was working STUPID HARD (her words).

But wait a minute, it actually was one of floppy octopus’ eyes. Looking right up at me.

It made me laugh. Floppy octopus still sat in a mangled pile on the floor nearby and there watching me was his eye. And I was not only going stupid hard but laughing stupid hard (and doing both at once are very hard things to do).


Life is always entertaining with a little dog. We tried to tell Eric that when he came over tonight to play video games with Chris and Boss peed all over him. It’s just his thing. It’s what he does. And if you are a little dog – puddle jumping in paint, running under big rings, finding the squeaker in floppy octopus PLUS meeting a new friend…..well, that’s a pretty damn good day for a little dog. So good you might just pee yourself.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

True Confessions

Let me start by saying…..

I know what you’ve been up to.

I’m calling you out. I know what you’ve been up to during the indoor long rides. And not only because I am your coach or your friend. But because I know and feel your pain. I am sitting there doing the same. For that, I feel it is confession time.


I am shamelessly addicted to trashy television shows during indoor trainer rides.

(there, I said it. I have come clean. I can sleep again)

Honestly I never turn on the tv. Can’t stand it. EXCEPT, however, EXCEPT when I am on the bike. It is my weakness. I would say Achilles heel but then I would have to knock on everything wooden in my house to prevent injury to that tendon. I’m kind of a superstitious gal.

But I can’t help it. You see, in the past week I have done 3 rides upwards of 3 hours. There are only so many times you can sit and listen to your I-Tunes. After awhile they become the same tunes over and over again. And sitting on my bike in a dark room with no fan – now that’s just plain dumb. And if it means I will never win Kona well then so be it at least I will still have my mind.

When music or monotony of the pattern in the carpet isn’t enough for the long ride, I turn to television. But not just any television. No. You see, I have a taste for the trashiest shows around. Completely mindless, useless, utterly wasteful television that does nothing but eat away at my brain cells and steal one good vocabulary word for each hour that goes by.

Lately, I’ve lost a lot of good words.

But I know I’m not alone. Because I read and I hear about how you are doing the same. So I beg you to join me in the confessional. Don’t worry there is a screen between you and the rest of the world (literally, right?) that will keep your identity anonymous and relieve you of your shame.

So, raise your hand if you have watched the following shows:

America’s Next Top Model
Flavor of Love
Rock of Love

And, I cannot believe I am saying this publicly in an open forum…….

Keeping up with the Kardashians

I have just lost major vocabulary words. And points.

Yes, I admit it. I have a problem. And that problem is watching problematically inane t.v. These shows do nothing but prove that somewhere somehow two people are finding each other, figuring out how to use their private parts to make something that is collectively more stupid than the sum of their private parts.

I watch these shows and think to myself – I may be _______ but at least I am not THAT (that being whatever I am seeing unfold before me on the screen that makes me think oh no she didn’t). And I think that is why I watch. Because no matter how bad things will ever get for me, they will never look as bad as that.


Which is probably why I really don't understand the HOW. How do you get to the point where you think appearing on one of these shows would be a good thing. A resume builder. Something that builds character for sure. I mean, Chris could leave me destitute in the middle of I-88 with a hobo stick and my dog and still -STILL- I would not think gee you know what comes next, you know what I should do? Try to win Bret Michael’s heart.

Perfect.

Or how about - I have so much money that I think I will invite a camera crew into my house for proof that money can buy clothes, lips, hair, purses, and boobs but cannot – CANNOT – buy non-whiny voices and brains. Yes, at that point I would be keeping up with that one particular family for sure. Let's see - the whole idea of a television show about......really.....what is it about? Good looking girls and.....what? The stupid things they do! They did it to themselves! There is nothing to be learned from this show other than what we suspected all along - you can have millions of dollars without being worth much. Still I would totally trade my small dog and small chest for one of their purses.

Rock of Love. Bandanna. The man wears a bandanna. There are also women competing for this love that still hairspray their bangs. Enough said.

Flavor Flav. WHAT TIME IS IT? Maybe it’s because I grew up in Brooklyn but when I see Flavor Flav I just want to fight the power. Funny thing is that Boss has one of those retractable leashes that sometimes I drop when he’s waiting to go outside and it makes him look like Flavor Flav with the big clock around his neck. So we call him Tick Tock sometimes. What I don’t get though is how Flavor Flav went from fighting the power to fighting for cheap love from flaky women.

For as much as I find these shows senseless and stupid, I am grateful for the entertainment value they provide. Because without them I might find myself staring at a wall for 3 hours with no fan. Or watching Rachel Ray make something that I swear to god will take me 3 hours but her only 30 minutes...


Please don't leave me alone in my basement. I encourage you to admit your weaknesses too. Come out of your basements and confess your crimes. Find comfort in knowing that I too am a junk tv addict and I thank the Bret Michaels, top models and Kardashians of the world for helping me pass my time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday in Seattle


Sunday in Seattle is sort of like Saturday. But even with cloud cover it's sunny when you see a face like that.

Started the day off with coffee - of course - and then a swim with Colleen. Met at a local YMCA and was politely reprimanded by a passive aggressive lifeguard who wanted to tell me how to circle swim because this was my first time - obviously - in a pool.

Aftewards a little more coffee and then back to Pete, Melissa and baby Annabel. We decided to head to Pioneer Square to walk to the little shops and bookstore. Down there, Melissa made probably the best $20 purchase -ever - a monkey puppet for Annabel. Talk about toy jackpot - the kid loved the monkey. And so did the baby. I watched Melissa get in touch with her inner puppet on the streets of Seattle. Then I watched Annabel try to eat the monkey. Being quite skilled at puppetry and naming monkeys - I christened Sir Zippy Jumbles Bojangles III.

Before heading back we stopped by a comic book shop. I needed a pit stop and was warned by both Pete and Melissa that the comic book store had a bathroom but "it's a comic book store bathroom."

Ok?

So we walk into the comic book store - proof that there are grown men that have never made it past second base - and asked the clerk to use the bathroom and he says "Sure, but it's a comic store bathroom."

All right, now you've got me. Just what is in a comic book store bathroom? Do you open the door and enter a portal where you click your wrists together and take form of bucket filled with invisible water and kryponite? Well, I entered the bathroom and it looked just like...every other bathroom.

I survived. Back out in the store and took special note of the clerk - who by the way was sitting there playing video games. My brother picked out some comic books (ok, so he has a child proof that he made it past second base so he is like legend to these comic book guys - seriously there was a grown man in there buying figurines). Before we left two young boys walked in to start some type of tournament that involved figurines and dice and I wanted to tell them RUN, RUN the other way and turnaround if you ever want chance of being with a real live woman RUN THE OTHER WAY.

Back to West Seattle and it was time for Annabel to nap and for me to run. Holy sore hamstrings and shins Batman (sorry, that's what happens when you use a comic store bathroom)! Ran on the only flat street I could find (still slightly uphill) and ran the slowest of slowest paces. EVER.

Monday I go home. It's always fun the spend the weekend somewhere else and it was great fun to meet Miss Annabel. And the parents have granted me permission to post a picture of her. So here she is..........Annabel & Zippy Bojangles Monkey the III. Or whatever his name is.



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I know that it's cold.

I know the weather in the midwest right now is bad. And it has been really bad for over a month. I know we've gotten over 40 inches of snow and this is one of the snowiest winters in history.

I know.

But I also know we all make choices in life. And our choice was to live in the midwest. We also chose to be athletes with BIG goals. So because of our choices we need to train through the winter. Yes, that is hard. Yes, there are days when it is negative 100000 outside and all signs will be pointing towards throwing the workout away for the day.

But while you do that, someone in sunny somewhere is training in shorts. They are doing quailty work in sunshine and 70 degrees. Think of it this way - who digs deeper for their workout? You or them? That's your call but working out in sunny and 70 degrees isn't work. That's just plain fun and play.

Times like this are when you really need to stick to your training and stay committed to your plan. If you can, you will emerge stronger in both body and mind. You will arrive at a race with any conditions and think to yourself - as long as it's not negative 100000 degrees I'm ready to win today.

You are not crazy for training through conditions like this. Crazy is the person that shows up at a race to compete with you who has long run in 5 degrees, ran pick ups on a snow covered road, did 3 hours in your basement on the trainer, ran on the treadmill for 6 weeks straight. Crazy is anyone that thinks they can compete with that. Because you chose to keep going when it got tough. To dig deep and just get 'er done. You chose with tenacity and grit to keep working - no matter what - because you want so badly to reach your goals.

And if that doesn't motivate you enough, I got this from a friend in Minnesota today:

Today, Sunday, February 10, 2008, at 10:00 AM CST, MG set the team record for coldest bike ride; riding in -10 F weather; -33 F wind chill. Independent verification was provided by me (TL) at my home's front door. "I'm anticipating my water bottle to be frozen when I return home", stated MG.

Set your own record today. Be safe and smart - but despite all conditions and odds go set a personal record of being out there and being your best. Expect it from yourself and see what happens.

It's also like JV said to me the other day, just keep thinking "these conditions are perfect for me." Not many people are brave enough to say that. Say it to yourself and for yourself. Make the right choice for yourself.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday in Seattle

Saturday in Seattle. Woke up in CST (early) and decided to eat some breakfast before my long run. Of course no breakfast is complete without coffee. Luckily there is a Starbuck's literally right across the street from my brother's place. Not joking. Not my favorite place but will do.

At first I think it is so close I can get away with wearing my pink pajamas but then I realize that real pants would be a more socially appropriate choice. Not sure if the west coast is ready for my usual uniform. I have my americano in hand and walking back realize that I need a key to get back into the apartment building.

DOH!

Ok, what to do, what to do. Stand here and wait for someone to come out. Not likely. This is Seattle, it's a city that seems to sleep late. I don't blame them. They never see the sun. Plan B is walking across the other street to kill time in the grocery store while I come up with Plan C. Plus the store will be warm.

In there I realize I have no Plan C, or D or even E at this point. I have no cell phone with me. I don't know my brother's telephone number. And I couldn't tell you his apartment number to save my life. Come on, it's not like we're pen pals. I don't mail things to him.

So I decide I will just go to the bathroom and think some more where I look less likely the creepy woman eyeing the overpriced organic cheese, bakery pastries and wines. On my way there, a young man approaches me.

"Are you going to the caucus today?"

The what? J.H.C. how about you start with a good morning before you throw out a word like that. I realize he is talking about the caucus caucus - the big one Melissa is all excited about going to (and planning to take Anabel).

"No." I say.

"You're not going to the caucus at 1 pm?"

Listen, I may be declared a missing person by 1 pm if I don't figure out a way to communicate to my brother that I am not inside but I am outside in this speciality grocery store being accosted by cagey zealots like you. The answer is still NO.

He seems miffed by my lack of political passion. But right now I've got a passion to go long running and that will never happen if I don't get back inside. So I stand outside the apartment building for what feels like a day. Waiting. 15 apartments. That means there is a 6.33 repeating percent chance I will get back inside. But what if each apartment has 2 people. My odds go up. I have double the chance. I think. I can't do math right now. Not without more coffee.

Finally I devise a brilliant plan. I will throw rocks at the bedroom window. I determine which one is most likely his and then set out to find a rock. Seattle doesn't have rocks. It just has moss. But then - wait - there it is. ONE rock. I have one chance. And even this one chance is not good when you give a triathlete a task that involves aim. I figure that underhand is the best way to go. And, wouldn't you know - the rock hits. LOUD!

Ok, but no response. Damn it where is that rock!? Again, another throw. POW! And that's it! A very disturbed Melissa looks out from the blinds and I wave. HELP! This is my Seattle SOS call.

LET ME IN!

I am back inside. Melissa is scared because she just read something in the police blotter about a man going around throwing rocks at people's windows. I am that man. No I'm not. I'm just the sister that wants in. Back inside, look at the baby, talk to the baby, hold the baby, look at the baby.

Time to run.

A long run. 90 minutes! And permission to work some BIG hills. Good - around here there are many! Not a flat stretch to be found. I start running down a hill then proceed the next 90 minutes running up and down 7 major hills. Major as in 5 - 10 minutes to descend and 5 - 10 minutes to climb. That is a long hill! My heart rate is either 122 or 172. My pace is either sub 7:00 or over 11:00. And then there was this one hill - Walnut Street? - so steep I actually descended slower than I climbed. How do you descend a 100 percent grade! I swear!

I have no idea how many feet I climbed but I would guess 3000. That is what it felt like! I was so tired - and it was so windy out there too. But I will say this - the view was amazing. In one direction I would look across the sound to see the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline snug under the blanket of clouds. In the other direction, the lower elevations of Mount Rainier.

Back inside and I stretch. I play with Annabel telling her one day she will run fast. It's in her genes. I tell Melissa that I have reason to believe if we could get Pete to put the guitar and piano down we might find a Cat 1 cyclist living inside Pete's legs. It has to be in our genes, no?

I also tell them I have reason to believe Annabel has a freakishly high V02max. She should be tested immediately. Melissa has no idea what V02max is. I try to explain but really let's just cut to the chase - how soon until this kid walks.

10 months?


Fine, she get's tested at 11. Get her some shoes and get her ready. If she has an aversion to wearing a plastic mask get her over that now. I'll call the Olympic Training Center in the Springs and tell them she's on her way. We'll just mail her in a box. Put her baby leggings in a bag, they'll make great compression socks for after the test.

You see when I look at this baby I see blue eyes and blond hair and not much of me. But there's got to be a piece of me in there somewhere - something that predisposes her to wanting to at least try to swim, bike or run. It's got to be in her genes. I'm not sure Pete and Melissa were convinced but maybe it's food for thought.

Speaking of food - there goes that baby eating again. I've never seen something so little eat so much. But then I realize - that is it. That is the part of me. She and I share the same genes. The chowbox gene.

Now Melissa, Pete and Anabel are at the caucus. Annabel is dressed in her President Poopyhead one-sy. I won't tell you whose picture it had on it. I admire her willingess to speak what is on her mind. And her chowbox ways. Plus she's not a very cuddly clingy baby. Nor does she require much to be entertained.

Come to think of it - she's a lot more like me than I first realize. Now if she can play the piano like Pete, take pictures like Melissa and run hills - I'd say we better call more than the OTC. We better call the world. Tell them she's here - the next big thing. She has arrived.

Seattle

Who would have thought I'd roll off a plane this afternoon right into the giant coffee cup of a city known as Seattle?

No, I'm not just here for the coffee. I'm here to visit the smallest Fedofsky out there (yes there is such a thing) - Anabel.

Anabel has big blue eyes, crazy hair and the biggest cheeks. Not to mention some giant legs. The world's best aunt (me) got right to work moving those legs in bicycle motion. And I found out that daddy has already been doing running legs with her. That's right. Get that turnover up when she's young.

She likes to eat and likes to drool. Her favorite book is something about a Fuzzy Bee. She thinks her fingers are tasty but her whole fist tastes even better. She wears baby leggings and has very stylish baby clothes.

She likes spending time in one of those spinning chair things that Pete calls the Command Center. You know, one where she can stand in it and look at or tug at lots of colorful hanging things that make sounds. About the only thing she can't do in it is get channel 7 in clear view. She also likes to play the piano. Pete has a little toy piano for her and puts her in a chair (she's 4 months old, imagine this) and then she very intently bangs out some chords. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

It's 1:30 am and sadly a bit too late for coffee. But fear not in 8 hours I will be properly caffeinated. Tommorrow I also plan to run up and down on a big hill. There is one of the biggest hills I have ever seen about 5 minutes from here. If only they had a baby jogger I could have push Anabel up and down the hill for added weight. But even by myself, hills, rain long run......I can't wait.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Roll Out

Last night I hopped on the rollers.

It’s been awhile since all of my bikes other than my tri bike are either missing pedals or saddles or brake cables. But when I realized there was a road bike in tact with pedals and cables and a seat (how did I get this lucky) - I decided it was time to get back on the rollers to spin.


Chris was there to watch the event. Because it’s quite an event to watch someone reboard the rollers when it’s been awhile. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But when you’ve been off the rollers for a while - if you traced the route taken once on the rollers, you’d see a lot of squiggly lines.

Each time I get back on the rollers, it feels like the first time. I can still remember the first time I rode the rollers. It was probably 7 years ago. If you want to teach someone to ride on rollers quick then you put them next to a sliding glass door. With a small handle to hang on to for dear life when you are about to fall off. That’s how I learned because that’s what Chris did.

And when you fall on the rollers it is never a good thing. You can feel it coming, see it coming and then you are a like a car in a skid. You’re not sure if you should steer left, steer right, oversteer or just take your hands off all together and let yourself fall. Moments later, you find yourself with your bike on top of you and half your body jammed in the rollers and the other half on the floor.

Which is why wherever you choose to put the rollers – there should be a clear floor. Lots of open, soft space so you can just freefall. In fact, best to put some pillows there too. Because when you fall from that height you fall hard. Trust me, I’ve fallen my fair share of times.

I watched my husband readapt to the rollers a few weeks ago. He’s a darn good cyclist so it gives me great pleasure to watch him struggle at something cycling-related. Reminds me that even the best have a weakness. Weakness only for a short time. It took him just a few wiggles and one major fall before he stayed on for good.

And now it’s my turn. The first minute or so, Chris held my handlebars. Just in case. Then he stood next to me. Just in case. Then he just stared. Which was almost as nerve wracking as being on top of the rollers themselves. It’s been awhile so I was squiggling all over the place. I wanted to shoot him a dirty look for staring at me but that would require taking my eyes off the front wheel which right then was the only thing keeping me on.

After a few minutes, he left me on my own. But I still had the half wall. When we were looking for a new house, I knew our current one would be ours because in the basement there is a half wall that is in just the perfect place and height for riding with the rollers. You want something half way that you can hang on to when you start to wiggle and squirm. By the way – wiggle and squirm are usually precursors to….fall.

Soon enough the body remembers and I’m riding a fairly straight line. What I like about the rollers is that they force you to relax. To release the death grip on the handlebars and ride from your core. If you’re stable and balanced, you’ll stay on. If you are sketchy and twitchy, you’ll fall off.

Chris decides to take some pictures of me on my bike to check the position. I’m focusing on the front wheel because that’s really all you can do. A few years ago I got to the point where I could watch television and ride the rollers. I’m not back there yet. Maybe soon I’ll try. But tonight I just stared at the floor. The pattern in the carpet. Sometimes I’ll put pictures of my big races or pieces of paper with quotes on them on the floor just so I have something to focus on other than the floor.

And when you sit and watch the wheel turn over and over again it makes you dizzy. Add to that the fact that even though you are moving – the air doesn’t move. So it grows hotter and hotter until you are sweating. Then your hands start to hurt. And sweat. Then you lose your grip. And squiggle and at some point you just…fall.

Chris is flashing pictures of me nonstop. Seriously this went on for at least 10 minutes. To the point where I said would you please stop before the flashing lights give me a seizure which would definitely make me fall. He laughed and then soon went away. And wouldn’t you know the moment he walked upstairs I felt myself wiggle, squiggle, steer left, steer right and then

WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

There, it happened. A fall.

Somehow in the three seconds it took to fall I clipped out of my left pedal, put my left foot out but the shoe slipped on the carpet so in the end I just found myself on the floor covered with my bike anyways. And still clipped in. Of course I made some dramatic noise as I fell which brought Chris running back down the stairs. Took one look at me in a crumpled heap and asked, “did you fall?”

No. I’m just taking a rest.

Of course I fell! Look at me. This is not part of the training plan – lay on ground and do single-legged pedaling drill upside down for 10 seconds. I’m literally trapped by my bike. And I’m still holding on to the handlebars. Like that makes a difference. Now help me up, would you.

I’m back on my bike and reestablish my rhythm and balance. There are a few more wiggles and squiggles and then a squirm but no more falls. After 45 minutes I decide I will retreat to the trainer for something less mentally intense plus I’m tired of staring at the carpet and wall. Besides, America’s Next Top Model is on which I admit has been my show of choice for many an easy ride.

I’m sure I’ll get back on the rollers one day soon. Right now it’s the closest thing I have to actually going somewhere on my bike. I’m still convinced that if I get spinning too fast I will literally launch myself off the rollers and through the wall. And then Chris would come running downstairs to ask if I just rode through the wall. Of course I did! This is not part of the training plan – put out enough power to break through wall and roll right through. Now help me out of here. And turn America's Next Top Model on.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Swimmy Stories

I never realized how hard it is for triathletes to swim until I started coaching - and what I mean is it's not their fault. No, they want to swim. Usually, it's the fault of the pool. Seems like swimming pools are designed these days for anything but swimming. Which often results in a few scuffles with the people that want to walk/float on a foam noodle/jump in the swimming pool rather than swim. Just ask IMAble who has probably beaten up her fair share of aquacisers for a lane. For some it's just a struggle to get to the pool early enough to get a lane. Which resulted in one guy getting off on a warning as he sped a little too quickly to the YMCA at 4:52 am. He then proudly reported even after getting pulled over he was still in the pool by 5:04 am. Better yet, last week one of my STL athletes wrote that he couldn't get his swim test done because the roof of the pool caved in. Right above his lane.

Tonight, however, this swimming pool story tops the rest. B was scheduled to do his swim test. When he arrived at the pool, the pool had other plans:

Somebody pooped in my pool!
Should i get it done tomorrow?

I have never laughed so hard. And I wasn't even sure what to say. Should you get it done tomorrow? Well, as long as you don't poop in the pool I'd say go for it then. But keep in mind, this is a swim test so I'd bring your plastic pants. Just in case.

Tough Love

My husband and Boss have become best friends.

BFF. Together forever. Boss and Chris sitting in a tree, P - E - T - T - I - N - G.

Each night they sit together and watch tv. I am not much of a tv fan nor can I sit still. So I lose out on this one. But there they sit – together by the couch, Boss chewing on a stick, Chris petting Boss’ fur.

I thought maybe this was just a phase. That Boss would eventually come crawling, yipping, crying back to me.

Not the case.

Every time Chris walks away Boss cries. The other night he was in the basement and Boss sat by the gate, forlorn and crying for Chris. It made me sad.

No it didn’t. It made me sick. Because come on, that is my dog. The dog I take outside in snow, cold, wind, rain about 100000 times a day. The dog that I bought. The dog that I named. The dog that I worry about when I am not home.

Chris just comes home. He sees nothing but the good side of Boss. The lovable, playful side. I see mostly the crap. And then have to pick it up with a bag. I have to chase him in circles around the house every time he wants to go out. Or watch that he doesn’t poo by the fireplace. Or keep him from sneaking upstairs.

I get no love.

The other night Boss was barking at the tv. He sat there with his B.I.G. P.O.P.P.A. I asked why is Boss barking. Chris said “I think because he thinks I am on the tv. He thinks I am Bruce Lee.”

Huh?


Sure enough Chris was watching some Bruce Lee program. And Boss was watching too. I’m not kidding. Sitting in Chris’ lap, upright, staring at the tv intently. Bruce Lee. You know, a muscular Asian man that does fancy kicks and things. Chris is also a muscular Asian man. But he is not Bruce Lee. Seriously I have seen him trip in the shower. THE SHOWER. Literally self-ejected himself stomach first on to the floor. How do you trip and eject yourself from a space that has an area of 10 square feet? You do if you are Chris. And for the record – not if you are Bruce Lee (he is much more nimble than that).

So I’m not buying that. All that I know is now that Chris and Boss are best friends and I'm just the fifth paw. Which is kind of like the third wheel. As far as Boss is concerned, I am the pooper scooper. It’s not my fault that he’s not more playful during the day. He just wants to nap on the heat vents. And chew on his toys. But when Chris comes on……it’s game on.

But I also suspect this sudden canine cold shoulder has something to do with …

TOUGH LOVE.

You see, Puppy Boot Camp started last Monday. Colonel Sargent Major General ELF decided the sneaky poo by the fireplace, grazing on kibble all day long, bolting upstairs and refusing to go outdoors would no longer be options. It was time to crack down. It was time for:

TOUGH LOVE.

Boot Camp was all about tough love. Which meant much crate time. And a routine. 7 am, we wake up. 7:15 am we place kibble on floor. 7:30 am kibble goes away. 7:45 am we go out to poop. And if we poop we play. If not, back in the crate.

It went further. The Corporal Lieutenant ELF wrote out instructions for trips outdoors. Key words that would be said. OUTSIDE, GO POTTY, SIT would be commonplace around the home. To be sure all staff were in line, I reviewed the script with Chris.

Chris, however, has a way with words. So a script really didn’t do us much good. You see, this is the man who once pronounced the word gigolo as “giggle – o”. So the script with cue words – got a little confused. Go potty became make potty. And trust me there is nothing more entertaining than hearing a grown man walking a 6 lb dog while shouting make potty. Except suggesting to him that instead of make potty he shout FIRE IN THE HOLE.

(I believe you have to have a dog with whom you have stood in your pajamas and bedhead on your front lawn when it's 5 degrees with the neighbor across the street shoveling his driveway while you say go potty over and over again to understand the humor in that)

Since Chris isn’t home all day, it was mostly the Admiral Chief Commander Elf that implemented the potty plan. And other behavior modification things. And I suspect Boss protests this new plan by giving me the shaft. The cold paw. By sitting all night in Chris’ lap.

For now that is fine with me. I don’t need Boss’ love if that means he is a more well-behaved dog. I guess you could say that Boss is giving me tough love. But if he doesn’t stop crying or barking for Chris, there will need to be a new behavior modification plan. Bruce Lee Boot Camp if you will. Every time he cries for Chris I will flash a picture of Bruce Lee while shouting GIGGLE-O and then poke him with his squeaky carrot. That might be harsh punishment but then again this is tough love.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Decongesting Myself

There are not many things that will wake me before 4 am. An early plane flight, a strange phone call, the urge to pee, Ironman.

But here’s a new one – not being able to breathe. No air passing through the nose at all. None. Not a good thing.

I have narrowed it down to a few things. Ruled out a cold (no fever). Not an infection (not yellow snot – not yet). More like an allergy.

For my entire life I have suffered from allergies. Simply put, I am allergic to everything. Lately my allergies have been bad. This frustrates me because winter is the one season where I am usually free of allergies.

Not this year.

In an effort to breathe free again, I have started making a list. Things I might be allergic to. Things that are ever present in my life:

1 – Boss
2 – Coffee
3 – My training schedule
4 – My coach
5 – Husband
6 – Swimming individual medley
7 – Dust
8 – Myself

Now, I will scratch off number one because even though I have been allergic to cats and dogs for my entire life I refuse to accept that something as small, furry and cute as my dog would make me this miserable. Plus I survived years with my mother’s dog which is ten times the size of Boss. So Boss, I christen you allergy-free. You are ok with me.

Coffee – I will never say bad things about my friend coffee and will not start now.

My training schedule. It is ambitious, rigorous and sometimes just plain nuts. I have a new rule – I will no longer look ahead. Chris asked me yesterday “what is your workout tomorrow.” I said I don’t know. I won’t know. I refuse to know. I take it day to day and wake up to look at it and think to myself - super - I get to run bike and run again today. I can’t wait.

My coach. I talk to her a lot so naturally I had to put her on the list. But she is probably at this point more allergic to me because I have been an itchy pain in the ass. I’ll admit it. But it’s not her. Besides I’ve known her for years and haven’t had any adverse reactions. Yet.

Husband. I may be on to something here. Not so much allergic to the physical presence of him but what he does. For example, I noticed yesterday while doing my 100th load of laundry in 3 days that the clothes I had just washed were back in the laundry basket. Impossible. Unless he wears three shirts at once. A pleasant confrontation (not really) and then an admission that someone may have put the clean clothes back into the laundry basket because…..they were on the floor? They were unsure? They didn’t want to put them away? Your call.

Dust. I am no longer a big fan of cleaning my house because I have a million other things to do (code for run – bike – run) but it is still within the limits of livable and I do use my husband’s clean socks to wipe dust away from time to time. So I strike this as not possible – or at least not my fault if it is possible.

Swimming individual medley. Call me the luckiest person in the world – but how do you arrive at a DISTANCE FREE workout to see this:

100 IM 400 negative split 100 IM 300 negative split 100 IM 200 negative split 100 IM 100 negative split

Let me do the math for you – that would be 400 yards of IM. Quite a distance and not exactly the freestyle workout I was looking for. And it’s enough to bring the water into any triathlete’s eyes. But still I’m not entirely sure it’s just the IM. You see, I have reason to believe I am highly allergic to the rubber glue on my goggles. You think I’m crazy for saying that. But for the past 4 months on and off I have gotten puffy, itchy, scaly red rings under my eyes. About a dozen trips to the dermatologist later, a prescription topical steroid cream (please –even if I rubbed it all over my legs it would make not make me any faster so all you naysayers that think the elf is on ‘roids just pipe down), changing everything I put near or on my face I finally realized yesterday after using my old goggles that it is the goggles just like the dermatologist said. Which means now I need another trip to the dermatologist and new goggles.

But even all of these things added up make me things it’s something more. Because all of that other stuff is easily cleared up with Claritin or topical creams. And so, since there really is no answer, I am left with…..

myself.

I think I am allergic to myself.

The incessant thinking, fretting, wondering, thinking thinking thinking….. about myself. When you take a big step to do something new (ie., train & race as pro) you start to think a lot about yourself. Because you realize your “self” is what you have. Your body is your temple. What you do with your body is your work. Training becomes…..your job.

And like any job you think a lot of what you are doing and what you have to do. And it seems like I have become allergic to myself and all of those thoughts in my head. I think all of this congestion is really just an overstuffing of my head ready to explode with thoughts, questions, stuff, and things. Things that I can’t put into words. Stuff that I shouldn’t be worried about anyways. Because I have a coach. And it is her job to think for me. And my job to do the work.

This is the hardest part, isn’t it. If you have a coach sometimes the hardest part is just letting go. Giving the control to someone else and just doing what they say. Not that you shouldn’t think through your workouts but there is a fine line between thinking through and overthinking.

And that is where I am at. I am overthinking myself. My head is so filled with over-thought-thoughts that it is going to take more than a box of tissues to blow them all out.

So I realize that lately I have been thinking too far ahead of myself. My anticipation is the allergen and it’s congesting my progress to just get past myself. I realize that it’s me. It’s time to stop thinking and just engage in the process. Let go of the outcome, don’t pour over the details and take it day to day. This is where the new rule comes into place – not looking far ahead. I have no idea what tomorrow brings workout-wise. I will find out when I wake up. Until then I know that today I am in for a very long run – bike – run. That’s all I need to think about for now.

Day to day things will one day connect. It’s easy to get caught up when you look too far ahead. You think to yourself there is now way I can possibly run 5 times this week. The other night I couldn’t fathom that idea. I had a million thoughts of why I could never do that. And they didn’t go anywhere except further up into my head.

So I’ve decided to let go. And take deep breaths. One day at a time, one workout at a time. I trust that when I string everything together it will lead me to my outcome. That I have the strength to get through each day and in doing so it will make me even stronger.

And now that I have reconciled that I suppose my day can begin. It is shortly after 6 am and already I have been up for 2 hours. And you know what that means – it’s going to take a lot of coffee to get through this day. Especially when I am going to run bike run swim lift swim run stretch. So it’s a good thing I scratched coffee off that possible allergen list. Because this morning I am drinking in full force, to gear up for the workout, to let go of too many thoughts and get over myself.