Saturday, May 31, 2008

Prepare Yourself

The other night Chris and I drove to the pool. It was time for my swim test.

“Are you prepared to be slow tonight?” Chris asked.

I’m not kidding, he really said that. So much for spousal support. Realize as an athlete and a wife this is quite possibly the most insulting thing. To be told to prepare for slowness was like telling me I looked fat. Somebody get me a box of donuts I need to eat away my emotional pain. But I knew where he was going with a comment like that. He was saying you’ve swam as much in the past two weeks as you used to swim in one day – are you ready for what the clock might have to say because of that?

Am I ready to be slow? Am I ready? Little does he know that when I write my memoirs about the 2008 season I will plan to entitle it “Prepare to Be Slow” or “Slow and Pro” or “My Year Bringing Up The Rear”. I have not only prepared for slow, I have embraced it. Rolled in it along with the letters D, N and F. I am sponsored by slow this year. All right I got a little carried away there. Because the season isn’t over yet. Memoirs aren’t written in stone. And of course I’m not ready to settle for slow. That’s when I heard myself say something:

I am not afraid of swimming fast.

Whoa. W-H-O-A. Who the hell just said that? Is there someone sitting with me in the passenger seat? Because that’s not me. Not afraid of swimming fast? Who knew that over a week off would give me mouthy confidence to prevent what could be very slow speed.

After a warm up, Chris agrees to help me with the test. I need someone to take my splits and count my strokes. Taking splits would be easy. Counting strokes could be hard. Since I take let’s just say MANY strokes to get to the end of the lane. Weeks ago Ness scolded me about my stroke rate which prompted me to start working on it; the other day I got it down to 11 and when she asked how I did that I said you spend a lot of time on your side and take very few breaths. You should also know that it takes 1 minute to travel 25 yards when swimming like that.

The test begins. Put your head down and swim! Pull water, kick, streamline off the walls. I am 100 yards into it and this feels great! I am either going very slow or feeling very good. Either way I am thinking OH POOL WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN! Flags, black line, strange man with noodle between legs in the deep well, ladies jumping up and down in the far line to bad 60’s beats – I MISSED YOU ALL! The last 100 yards I pushed hard, kicked hard and then STOP.

Chris tells me my time. No, no? It can’t be. I’m ready to be slow and that time is not slow. In fact, I am thinking I just need to swim once a week. Because I haven’t swam this fast in a long time. My first 100 split was faster than the 100’s I was swimming a few weeks ago. I shout a big and loud YAY! FINALLY I had a success.

A little bit of rest and then time for another test. I know – this new system is great. You get to test everything twice. Except the run – how fair is that? Anyways, this one is just a 100 all out. How fun – 100 ALL OUT! It’s like I’m on top of the water. Why can’t swimming always feel this good? If it felt better more often I might not say so many mean things about it. Touch the wall, see my time and holy crap! I didn’t swim this fast off the blocks at my last swim meet. Again more reason why I need to swim once a week. Not sure coach will go for that.

My work is finally done. Chris however is still stuck somewhere in the middle of some descending ladder/broken 100 set. He looks frustrated – I can tell by the way he takes his goggles off forcefully. I expect them next to be thrown. Instead he joins me in the hot tub looking a little miffed.

“That clock is fast.”

You’re kidding right? The pace clock? The clock plugged into the wall? It’s fast? How can a pace clock be fast? Isn’t its job to keep a 60 second pace? But all right, I’ll agree that sometimes technology fails and sometimes I think the clock at the other end of the pool is slow. So I’ll give you that maybe this one is fast.

Maybe?

“Give me your watch, I’ll prove it.”

Go ahead Sherlock, take the watch. Seems like SOMEBODY had a bad swim. SOMEBODY perhaps should have just prepared to go slow. Because when you set the bar low you can’t help but surprise yourself if you even go sorta fast. Snarky ass. So there Chris is timing the clock on the wall. TIMING the CLOCK on the wall. This is the difference between women and men. The woman would just sit there and say “I’m slow, get me a donut so I can eat away my slow pain.” She bears it on herself and then buries the pain somewhere else. The man says “There’s no way I’m that slow, it’s the clock’s fault.” He skips the first step and just goes right to displacing it on to something else.

But it’s not a foolproof plan. As soon as the clock tops 60, the watch reads 1:00.

“Looks to be dead on to me,” I say.

You know how as a wife sometimes you know that what you are going to say is not the right thing to say but you can’t help yourself anyways? Well in case you were wondering, suggesting that the clock was mechanically sound was not the correct response. So incorrect that it almost got me a foam noodle to the head but not before I told Chris to open his mouth wide so I could see if the circumference of the noodle would go down his throat.


But all is fair in love. And after all he started it. Plus he had to know a comment like that was going to come back and bite his in the ass. And you can’t blame the pace clock on that. There’s no teeth on that clock. But if he wants he can go ahead and check.

All I know is that in the category of Chris vs. Liz at the pool tonight I FINALLY WIN. And it's about damn time. New title to my memoirs "Slow No Mo'." Now I better prepare myself...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Breathe

It's breakfast time and I’m sitting here reading my morning news. Honestly, most of the time I breeze through other blogs and then head over to Perez Hilton. I’m a glutton for celebrity smut. I have no shame. But in more exciting news in BlogLand this morning I see that Wee has pulled herself away from death’s door. Ness is learning to distinguish between pain. Candace fears her legs are falling off. Rachel is walking around her house in a HazMat suit. And Marit is throwing things across her living room.

And now, everyone…..BREATHE!

I know that’s easier said than done and what the hell do I know anyways. I, after all, was also knocking on death’s door a week ago, I was the one that gave Ness the workouts that caused pain and Marit crashed into none other than….me. I’m no better off than anyone else but I have learned in these past few weeks that you are nothing if don’t remember to breathe.


Breathe comes to me from one of my athletes. He is a complete spaz and he knows it. He told me so. Each of his e-mails is closed with “breathe”. I seriously think he needs to remind himself to breathe throughout the day. He called me the other day, totally random, just to tell me he was fitted on the brand new Cervelo Soloist and said “Liz, it’s a reaaaaaaaly nice bike.” That’s all he wanted to tell me and then a few seconds later he ended the call.

Rob, breathe.

So it has become a mantra for me recently. I sat around last week wondering if I would ever feel good again. I was sick in many ways! I was overtrained and had done nothing but read the worst about overtraining. Damn the internet; its tales, reports, stories and information overload. I talked with my doctor who was convinced my body’s defenses in the form of fatigue, illness, night sweats and other fun things was its way of protecting itself before I killed it. Gee thanks. And I had .5 percent desire to actually do anything swim, bike or run again. The .5 only because I realized at some point I would have to burn off all the peanut butter cups.

To say the least, I was pissed! It really hit me on Saturday. By 10 am I had made a list of 5 people I wanted to slap. Myself included. I had done all of this great training and where did it get me? In a hole. Would I be able to train again? Who knows! Overtraining could take weeks to dissolve – if ever. I thought about athletes I knew who ended up washed up and 15 pounds heavier after bouts with overtraining and fatigue. I didn’t want that to be me! Plus I love to race. Would I be able to race again? And if so, when? Who knows! I had plane tickets, visions in my head – all on hold. In fact, I have a race next week and still don’t know if I’ll be there. When was the last time a week out you weren’t sure you would show up at a half Ironman?

PISSED!


So Saturday I spent the morning talking with my mom which is not really good if you are angry because women have a way of commiserating, plotting and stirring things up even worse together. And a way of bringing out tears. After those dried up, it was back to rage. I was ready to throw something but seeing that we were in a public place and I was holding a coffee cup, I just ended up shopping and spending money instead. It’s not as effective but it felt nearly as good.

Here I was with all of these physical not so good feelings which I had to accept but it was the turbulent emotions were tearing me up with nowhere to displace. Normally I would just swim, bike or run myself out of emotion. Feeling angry? Beat myself up on the bike. Need to relax? Swim it out in the pool. Escape for awhile from the annoyance of myself? Run on the path. But I couldn’t swim, bike or run. There was nowhere to hide. I had to face myself.

It got me to thinking to why we all do this in the first place. And what would happen if we had to stop. I realized that I would have to actually learn to accept things, deal with my emotions and make peace with myself. I couldn’t pretend I was better just because I was feeling an endorphin rush or act like the problems were solved because I sorted them out in my head on a run. I couldn’t distract from the issues by counting my strokes on the swim. I had to just sit there, deal with it idle and by myself.

And I had to find other ways. Other ways to fill my time and fill myself up. Other ways to feel good about myself. That’s probably a good thing because we can’t all do this forever. And we can’t keep doing it if it means risking our health. I realized I was at my body’s whim – it would be ready to train again when it was ready. And I really had nothing to do with that. All I could do for it was to step back, relax and breathe.

And…..wait.

A few days later, I felt closer to normal again. But still not 100 percent. Maybe this breathing thing works, sort of. And rather than jump back on my bike and pedal into the wind I said – maybe I should wait. So I did. And yesterday after a great but short swim rather than joining Chris on the bike I said – maybe I should just count my blessings with the swim and leave it at that. So I did. Slow it down, take it day by day and….breathe.

I know this is our little world that we all play in together. We love our sport and have fun talking about it in BlogLand. But there is always the chance that something will happen that separates you from sport. Or anything that you enjoy. It’s easy to spiral yourself into worrying about when you will return or how long until you feel better. Yet in the past few weeks I found that when you feel yourself fighting against the current of what is happening in sport or life, it’s really best just to turn around. To quit fighting so hard against it, instead to simply relax and go with the flow. And you might just find you get where you want to go faster. Because no matter how fast you swim your 100’s, I've learned it’s really hard to outswim the current of things you cannot control.

Breathe.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Baby Steps

On Monday, I got back to training again.

I took most of last week completely off. When I started having night sweats even after doing nothing during the day I knew it was time to step back even further to doing nothing at all - and trust me, stepping back further was almost impossible since I was doing next to nothing already.

After a few days of doing “nothing” (which is really quite more fun than it sounds) I really got used to it. Change is never easy but once you accept it holy crap does it settle in easily. I ate whatever I wanted (ie., pb cups, ice cream, sometimes nothing at all). Did whatever I wanted (ie., dog park, shopping, sometimes nothing at all). And heckled my husband about his training (honestly the best part). But I knew my day would come. And as the days went on I actually couldn’t wait.

Monday was like Christmas. I woke up knowing today was the day – the day I would do something in the category of “train”. I couldn’t wait to get on my bike. I dug out my heart rate monitor strap and welcomed it back close to my heart. Made up a bottle of sports drink. Got two towels, a gel and the little yellow power tap computer.

Lucky for me, it was time for my bike test. Exciting thing about working with a new coach – you start anew. You have no data, no heart rate, no power. Your mind and body becomes a clean slate. I was excited to test; some place to start fresh with a baseline to grow upon.

Two hours after breakfast was a long time to wait. Finally it came and I headed downstairs to start the test. Small problem. My Power Tap wheel was on a different bike. Being she-who-has-been-forbidden-to-touch-rear-wheels, I had to ask my husband for help. He with his bed-head snapped back at me with you’re just going to have to wait.

But I’ve already waited today. So I threatened him with don’t make me wait too long or I’ll take the wheel into my own hands. He, sharp and evil, knew better than that. He came back with go ahead and break your derailleur for all I care. Check mate. I realized he was right. I had to wait or else completely derail my plans with a broken derailleur and useless bike.

He finally headed to the basement to swap out wheels. Another small problem: he says to me you don’t want to test with 12 – 25, the gearing on my Power Tap wheel.

*This is where something as simple as riding a bike becomes very complicated. With my husband this is often the case. Please just let me sit on the seat (any seat), push the pedals (any pedals) and ride the bike (any bike)*

He suggested I use a wheel with gearing 12 – 23. Meanwhile he is picking up wheels, eyeballing cassettes and I assume counting teeth – though while most of us actually have to count the teeth out, he just looks at it and shouts a number “23”. It’s like a savant skill that sometimes is very useful and sometimes (in the case of today) kinda sorta gets in the way.

He searched the other wheels around the basement and could only find 11 – 23. After involving at least two bikes, two wheels, one wheel bag and what I would call a shitload of cassettes, finally I think I have a fully functioning bike. Then he realizes the wheel already on my bike had 12 – 23.

*This is where something overcomplicated gets even worse.*

There are now three wheels, an even bigger shitload of cassettes and spacer on the floor being disassembled, swapped or assembled. Plus there is this funny looking wrench with a piece of chain on the end that looks like more of a hazard than a help.

After some swapping, twisting, tightening and waiting (me), finally I have a bike with two wheels, all the right gears and enough pent up I WANT TO RIDE NOW energy that I am ready to pedal while standing in place. He goes to put the bike on the trainer and then decides it needs a different bolt. Or something like that. This involves another type of wrench, a bolt, a skewer and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD JUST LET ME RIDE THE BIKE!

I didn’t say any of this for fear that I would find that funny looking wrench with chain in my mouth. So I waited, impatiently, tapping my cleats on the floor until finally FINALLY I was riding my bike.

I’M BACK! Hello bike! Hello heart rate, Power Tap, sports drink and seat. Hello ipod, towels on the aerobars and track light that will cook me by ride’s end. My heart rate is totally normal and I take that as a good sign. I do believe I am getting back to feeling like me.

Lucky for me today this test contains two tests. I hit the jackpot there, eh? Somewhere in a week off I completely forget how to pace myself and so I started the first test out way too hard. I am ready to vomit at 10 minutes into it as power goes down, down, down. The test finally stops and I say to myself let’s not do it like that again. The second test was better and was closer to the numbers that I know from me.

And speaking of numbers – who knew that a bit of overtraining, fatigue, and week off could eat up watts that easily? Where did they go? There is a giant hole where watts and heart beats seem to have leaked right out of me. Either that or they are at the bottom of a giant tub of peanut butter cups. Come back! Chris says to me “you have a place to start now.” While part of me was sad to have taken steps back, the bigger part knew it would be the only way to get better from here. I’ve come to accept that change often means you take 3 steps back to get 1 step ahead. I’ve come to accept that from here on out I will be taking different steps.

In fact, they’re like baby steps. Remember that movie What About Bob where Bill Murray is overcoming his fears and taking baby steps? It kind of feels like that. Except I’m not an obsessive-compulsive-over-medicated-man. But if you hear me mumbling “baby stepping to the pool five times a week, baby stepping to the group ride, baby stepping with new heart rates” then you know where I’m coming from. I’ll be taking these new steps for awhile until I figure out the new system, get comfortable and grow with it.

Change is never easy and sometimes change feels like we have taken steps back. But we make changes and take risks because we are that vested in ourselves. We believe we can be somewhere better and accomplish bigger things. Whether it’s starting with a coach, signing up for Ironman, or going on a new group ride – we baby step with these changes and trust that one day they will translate into leaps and bounds. That’s where I’m at, small baby steps which will soon integrate into my stride until I’m moving along again effortlessly.


Until then, baby stepping to the bath tub to soak these now very sore legs (was there really a time when hard efforts like this didn't hurt?).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tick Tock

The other night I was chatting with ABK. This is one of my favorite things to do. ABK is like the snarky, cool sister that I never had. Anyways, we got to talking about our exciting Friday night plans. She was in a self-induced over carbo-loaded state because of an indoor bike ride that never happened – something about her trainer being someplace else other than her house where it needed to be. So I suggested she run laps around her condo to which she responded with “oh I never disobey my coach” when I really meant seriously ABK run laps around your condo inside with your dog to burn off the carbs and release some of that energy.

Seeing as it might be impossible to top those exciting Friday night plans and being the competitive little world champion she is, ABK asked what my plans were for the night.


My reply:

We are making waffles for dinner and arguing how Chris' biological clock is ticking and he needs a baby now.

I wish that was just a joke but those were his words exactly. Since Chris is turning 35, I guess his ovaries are shriveling up and all of his eggs are cracking. But really I think this discussion came after a discussion a certain someone had with a certain someone in which they decided I was behind in the baby making schedule.

Thank you to those keeping that schedule for me.

Of course ABK, honest as always, had a suggestion for me:

WTF? How exactly is a baby gonna fit into your ATP. Don't think so.

I fully concurred. You can’t train to be a champ AND a baby machine. It’s actually a law of physics – she can only train to be one type of machine at a time. Can’t everyone see that? No? Well I’ve got to tell you then that I am really enjoying this stage in my life – early thirties – where people feel obligated to tell me what to do with my ovaries. I’d like to tell those same people what to do with their own feet:

Pssst…..stick one in your mouth and the other in your….shoe.

*I’m trying to cut down on cussing here*

Naturally then the conversation turned to ovaries. And I started to think maybe I had used the term incorrectly. I can’t really remember anatomy and so I had to ask:

We do have two ovaries, right?


Work with me here. How can you know if you’ve never seen? I know I have two feet, two arms because they are right in front of me. Ovaries – we learned about that stuff in the 5th grade. Been many years since then and things have gotten a little hazy. I could have one uterus and two ovaries or is it two uterus (and if so are they uteri?) and one ovary. Surely ABK would know. I felt like an idiot for asking but then I got this reply:

I have no idea. I know there are 2 testicles, though.

I guess you know what you need to know.

The confessions continued to roll out from the both of us:

I don't know where the ovaries are, the falopean (sp) tubes, or my uterus. What's the difference?

You see, this is why both ABK and I should put off kids for many, many years. We can’t spell it, we can’t locate it so right now it’s obviously not something we need. And for that matter I have no idea what the difference is in any of those parts but as we both suspected there is probably a 5th grader somewhere that could draw us a very detailed map.

The conversation then turned to ovulation. Sorry guys, you might want to tune out now. My vote was that it felt like a small man punching you in the left side and then trying to pull that ovary (maybe?) out through your rear end. It lasts roughly 3 hours until you either pass out in self-medicated coma or ride your bike really hard to deflect away from the pain while also putting pressure on pooper to keep ovary from falling out. Somehow I’m sure the joy of having a child will rid me of 20 years x 12 months of memories like that. But somehow I also think I’m willing to wait.

It’s a funny thing to get into your 30’s and not have a child. People feel compelled to tell you that you shouldn’t really wait. That you don’t know what you’re missing. That you’re never ready so you might as well start now. Here’s the thing – years of caring for and teaching other people’s children have helped me sort of know what I’m missing so that is why I’m ok with waiting and holding off for now. But too bad for us that our town is literally exploding in small children. Plus our friends are literally exploding in children. Everyday there is a reminder that in this race I am falling far behind. Add to that recent husband fear of moldy eggs and you get a FlavaFlav-sized clock hanging in front of my face every day.

If it were up to Chris he would rent ovaries (I’d get two just to be safe) and start hatching kids on his own. This recent itch for children is endearing at times while at other times I just want to tell him to…pipe down. His reasoning is that he is getting old and he wants more than one. I wish the math were as simple as that. I tell him that even if we try it doesn’t mean we will and if I have one there is a very good chance I won’t want any more. But then again I did Ironman twice. I have a history of repeating painfully stupid things.


The more I think about it the more….I just would rather not think. And until I am ready for it to happen I would like to just “be”. I am finally at the point in my life where I enjoy who I am and what I do. More than ever I just like being me. I’d like to revel in that for a few years before I add someone else to the equation of myself that I just balanced perfectly.

Until then I don’t care if I have three ovaries and a testicle. I don’t care what functions they perform or how old they are getting inside of me. When the time comes I assure you they will function just fine. One day I will have children. My husband may be elderly but the timing will be just right - plus if I change one diaper I might as well change two. And if for some reason I’m broken or missing a testicle or whatever it takes…I’m ok with that as well. Because I already told Chris if and when the time comes we are naming our second dog “Champ”.

Isn’t that a great name?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stepping Back

This week I have been on significantly reduced training detox break.

When I asked the new coach what to do with myself this week, they came back with:

Recovery oriented stuff

(pause)

Recovery. Oriented. Stuff?

Please clarify…

You know, active recovery type things.

Things. Stuff. Wait, what?

After a few more vague exchanges I was able to establish the boundary that sitting on the couch eating peanut butter cups is not considered active recovery but going for a swim, bike or run would be ok.

Super.


Realizing my schedule would be quite open this week and realizing I would need to take my recovery very seriously, I made a list (goals, if you will) of things I needed to do:

1 – Eat peanut butter cups (while doing leg lifts on couch to constitute as “active” and appease new coach)

2 – Talk to my dog (the real reason I got a dog in the first place to avoid being she who works from home and talks to herself)

3 – Plant flowers in backyard (a hosta has gone missing….Boss?)

4 – TBD (leaving things wide open on recovery week just in case)

By Tuesday I had accomplished goal #1. Being an athlete, however, I realized the importance of pacing myself at this task. So in the morning I ate the tops off of half of the tub of peanut butter cups. In the evening I ate the bottoms off the other half.

Talking to my dog is something I do every day. On Wednesday I decided to make this a public affair and even include my mom. The three of us went to the dog park. Boss did fly bys and crazy laps for 90 minutes straight. Meanwhile, mom and I confirmed the apocalypse really is coming because of these 3 things:

1 – The crazy man telling us that dogs like to roll in dead worms – he knows this because one day when his dog was rolling in different places on the ground he found dead worms in each one (nevermind why a grown man was digging for DEAD WORMS) FREAK FREAK FREAK!

2 – A woman walked into the dog park carrying a Juicy Couture dog bag. I repeat: JUICY COUTURE.

3 – There was a dog in the park named Tiffany. I almost wrote that one of the dogs was named Chuffington but I realized Chuffington has some character whereas naming your dog Tiffany is in so many ways wrong. Really wrong. Like totally seriously completely wrong. Better yet somebody told me my dog was named Morris. Really? Well, call him what you’d like but he goes by Boss with me (though there was a week where Chris and I called him Shlomo just for kicks).

Anyways, that was the dog park so scratch off goal #2.

Planting flowers is a bit of a tricky thing. I would at least like to wait until it is above 39 degrees at night and the heat is off in my house before I tackle that. Seeing as that may not happen until next July this might be a goal I have to include in next year’s annual training plan.

#4 includes anything I’d like. That’s the pleasure of committing to something like TBD. To be determined by none other than me. Might be something. Might be nothing. Because the coach has told me that I need to start taking recovery very, very seriously. So seriously that they have prohibited all trips to the grocery store. Too strenuous. Not really but now that I have a different coach than my husband I can pull tricks like that more easily.

It’s nice to step back and take a break. To do whatever I feel like day to day. The other day felt like swimming. Mostly it turned out to be sitting at the end of the lane while talking with Applesauce. We got in and swam 1500 yards and called it enough for the day. For some reason that 1500 yards took us 1 hour in between stops at the wall and the giggle breakdown when I pulled out my favorite movie line in the world (“Son, you got a panty on your head”) because the woman in the lane next to us pretty much had a panty on her head. Except she thought it was a swim cap.

How often do you just step back and let things slow down? I started working with a new athlete this week that hasn’t take a day off in years. First thing I put on their schedule was a day off. I’m sure they'll be doing his own version of crazy laps by the end of that day but trust me rest always does a body good. So often we fear losing our fitness in less than 3 days. Give your body more credit – it’s not like it will forget a winter’s worth of work in a few days. Sometimes it needs a break. Sometimes you need a break. Sometimes your pace in life just needs to slow down.

I realize for all of my anticipation to get started with the new coach they were doing exactly what I needed. Leaving me alone. Pushing me off on myself. When I told them I had been so used to doing a schedule that I didn’t have much practice in organizing things for myself, they said – then this will be good for you. They were right. It’s good to step back and figure out how to light my own fire again. To realize how much I love the sport. It takes a few days but once the leg and head pain clears, you realize how much you really do love to swim, bike and run.

So until I get started again I’m going to keep working at my list. To choose my own sporting adventure each day and enjoy this open-ended opportunity. But wait - I was just sent some tests I need to complete somewhere in the next few days. Actually that’s good because I need more on my list. So I’ve added #5 – purchase plastic pants because from the looks of these tests I might just soil myself next week on the track.

Super.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Transition Time

It has been brought to my attention in many ways that I was not myself at Memphis.

Sadly, I know and I apologize for not being me.

Now it is confession time. This year has been a huge leap for me. I was so excited to take on the challenge of being a professional and even though my mom keeps asking me did you make the right decision (ah, mom), I keep thinking to myself YES! I am learning more about racing and myself than ever before. I learn something new every day. I wouldn’t trade this experience for all of the medals and titles in the world.

But at the same time I have been feeling lately like my mind and body need a change. This year is different – the challenges, goals and demands are very different than before. The racing itself is much different. The way I view training day to day has changed. It’s a different mindset with new emotions. There is a lot to balance and put together. I realized that I am a different athlete now – or that I need to be. And with that needs to come a completely different approach to accommodate those new needs. So I made the very difficult decision that I needed to change the coaching approach.

This was a very hard decision to make. Jennifer is more than a coach I employed – she is one of my best friends. We talk every day, many times a day. I love her like a sister and her support, guidance and friendship mean the world to me. How do you tell a friend good bye? The thought of leaving her instantly brought a warm rush of tears to my eyes and a million emotions seated heavy in my throat. It was like a divorce – a painful realization that a relationship so strong that I cared so much about was not meeting my needs anymore simply because my needs had changed.

Last week I realized it was time to make the change. But first – a race. I went into Memphis with all of these thoughts and emotions sitting in my head. For as much as my legs didn’t respond in the race it was because my head was heavy with pain. And it trickled into my legs and left me with a feeling of I cannot do this anymore. I couldn’t ignore what really felt like the pain in my heart of knowing I was going to hurt a friend.

Out on the run course I completely broke down. I thought of nothing but the fact that I was going to leave my best friend and how hurt she would be and how hurt I would feel because of that. I was distracted. My legs stopped. My head hurt. I just wanted to transport myself to the finish line and be done with this weekend and race.

I did a bad job of hiding that. At the end of the day I am only human and it showed. When I saw Lauren I cried. When I saw Leslie I cried. When I saw Ryan I just piled my plate high with junk food and ate 4 cupcakes. Balancing the stress of racing, managing my emotions, and being there for my own athletes was something I failed miserably at. Even worse than DNF, I failed at being myself.

Monday was not easy. Not only was I sad about leaving her but also scared about taking a risk. But like everything else this year, I will never know if I don’t risk everything and try. In the past year I have made decisions – huge decisions – for myself. And I will tell you that each time it gets a little easier. The more risks you take the more you learn to trust yourself, to listen to yourself. But that doesn’t make the pain of change any easier to get past.

Jennifer and I talked. It was hard but in the end I know we both understood a change would meet my needs. Athletes change, in body and mind, and the best athletes are those that are so inseparably connected to themselves that they sense when a change is due and trust this enough to make the change. Will this be the right change for me? I don’t know but the unknown and the possibility is very exciting for me to embrace. And I know Jennifer is excited for me too.

Four years with a great coach – honestly, I have been the luckiest athlete in the world. Ok, maybe just the nation but our relationship together truly made me world class. And that’s something I will always respect and appreciate. Four years ago if you would have asked if I would be in this position I would have laughed. But Jennifer saw a potential in me, knew how to bring it out and together we worked to create a combination of strong body and mind. And when you have that plus an excellent coach in your corner, well, you become a force to be reckoned with on race day.

A new coach will bring me new adventures, new lessons. I am excited about this opportunity and hope that four years from now I will look back and think I cannot believe what I have accomplished yet again. It will be an awkward transition time but one I know will be the best for me and my goals.

So – to Jennifer – thank you for amazing accomplishments under your guidance and with your support. I will miss you as a coach but will keep you close as one of my best friends. And in case you were wondering I will keep sending you e-mails 100 times a day :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Growing Pains

This weekend was Memphis in May.

The day before the race was busy! I met many of my athletes and friends that I haven't seen in awhile. Before I knew it the day was over. But I felt ok. Workouts went fine, legs felt fine. Went to my second pro meeting. Who walks in - Sherpa Thomas! Ironically, I was #32 and he was #33. For the time trial start that meant he was starting 10 seconds behind me.

At the meeting, I learned about the stagger rule. As a pro you can never ride behind someone - even if that someone is up the road but within sight a half mile away. If you can see them, you cannot ride "behind" them. You have to be staggered to the right or left. I was so scared of biking in the wrong place. I also looked at the visual they had set up to show up was 7 bike lengths looked like (the draft zone for pro's is 7 meters) - that's a really long way! If I could make it through the bike on the right side of the road at the right distance - I'd call it a success.

Race morning - felt good! Not that nervous. It was a time trial start so that takes away some of the pressure of a mass start. I was #32 of 35 pro's - not exactly an ideal position considering my swimming is slower but I thought I could hang on to Thomas for awhile. I get in the water - I had a great start and felt ok. My arms have been really sore lately but I just ignored it and swam. I love this swim - there is a rope that you can follow the entire time which makes sighting and staying on course easier. In the first 300 yards I see Thomas right behind me and I think FEET! Too bad the feet hauled ass right past me. Come on! I tried to grab another set of feet but then it was just me. They put quite a bit of time between pro's and age groupers so I ended up swimming alone. But like I said it's an easier swim - the sun was nasty to sight into but once I turned the buoy and felt fine.

I ran to my transition spot and Chris was there telling me that another woman just left. Of course my bike was the last one the racks - makes it very easy to find - I got stuck in the left leg of my wetsuit but then I was off!

My legs felt not so good. I knew this would happen for a 40K and told myelf to give it 20 minutes and the pain would go away. I was working hard. There were 3 women ahead of me and I was going to catch them. I was staggering myself all of the road - it was quite windy so the other women were shifting positions a lot which meant I was shifting positions a lot.

I caught all 3 women within a few minutes. One was in a relay so that makes for 2 pro's - yes! That was a great feeling to just get ahead and "race". When you are alone in a race it's not even like a race at times - you feel kind of lost and thoughts of "what the hell am I doing here" inevitably start. It was good to see other people and catch them.

But then, I was alone. Hey, what the hell am I doing here?! No really it was fine. I just pedaled away. This was one of the windiest years at this race that I've ever done. My legs kept hurting. I know 40K is hard but at some point I thought - come on, legs - I get it, you're sore. Quit telling me!

I was excited to get on the run because it's a good course for me with the heat and hills. The first mile and my breathing was loud. I can ignore that. Then I got hot. I can ignore that too. Then I made the turn on to the hills and start running up them and then the legs hurt. They felt flat. I never have flat legs. Like I was pushing and pushing....and nothing in return. Got to the top of the hill and the outside of my left shin started cramping. I was pushing and trying to stay positive but it kept hurting me and I actually thought to myself I just want to stop. I never want to stop! That was a very hard thing to have pop into my head. I almost broke out in tears. My legs were just done and I just wanted to be done with the day.

I saw Lauren at the finish line and she asked what was wrong. After competing as a pro for over 15 years, she put it all in perspective for me - we've all been there, some days you have it, some days you don't, you have to have really low lows to appreciate the highs when they happen. And they will.

As I gathered my stuff after the race, one of the top women asked me how it went. It just wasn't my day, I said. She didn't have to say anything - and as I've learned already there is a quiet intensity to most pro's that keeps them, well, pretty quiet - but then she said to me "We've all been there in our first year, it's just growing pains."

I liked that - growing pains. Right now, I'm like an awkward 14 year old tripping all over themselves that just needs to get it all figured out. I will. It will take time and who knows what will happen along the way but I'll get there. I'll grow into this new body and head and together we will go some place.

BIG CONGRATULATIONS to my athletes and friends at this race and other races this weekend! I am so proud of all of you!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Crazy Laps

As the management, proprietor and CEO of my business, I have made an executive decision to formally write my one and only employee up. It’s a tough decision and one I know will have implications as far as his future productivity goes. But it’s gone too far.

You see, lately there has been nuisance behavior that I can no longer tolerate. Goes against company policy and throws a wrench into our daily work flow. Such violations have been occurring for the past few months but like any manager that relies on their staff – I’ve let some slide. But not any more. I’m getting out the triplicate form and copying human resources on this one. It’s disciplinary action and I’m thinking of sending my co-worker directly to his crate.

(my co-worker is my dog)

The other day I was doing my morning work. It involved a tricky balance of multitask; Skype-ing with one of my clients, foam rolling my legs and drinking coffee.

My co-worker got in the way.

First he started by licking my laptop. Totally inappropriate. Then he pressed his paws on my keyboard. Made for some interesting Skype dialogue. Next he started to walk all over me – literally. I am sitting there trying to have a professional conversation about race tactics and pacing with an 8 pound Chihuahua perched on my back. Thank goodness for online – no pictures – chat.

Once I shook him off, he sat by my laptop and stared at me. When that didn’t unnerve me, he sat there and raised his paws in an effort to engage me in his game. His game which is mostly to avoid helping me with any work and to instead just get in the way. He tossed squeaky carrot at my head. Last, he pulled out what I would call his ace in the hole – he made a beeline towards my coffee cup and licked it.

NOT THE COFFEE CUP!

He crossed the line when he followed me into the bathroom, sat on the mat on stared at me. Sexual harassment? That’s your call but it sure was creepy. As if that wasn’t enough, I finish Skype-ing and realize the co-worker has disappeared. Off on an usually long break on company time. This can mean only one thing – my co-worker has made his final point by crapping on the office floor. Speculation that I quickly confirm by looking near the fireplace.


I consider calling in the Building Services Technician (code for janitor) but then realize that really that is just….me. The pleasure of working from home.

After extracting and flushing the said violation, I sit the co-worker down on his red blanket that he has skillfully dragged from his crate to the floor.

“Boss, we need to have a talk.”

I start talking to him about company policy and referring to the employee manual that said thou shalt not shat on the office floor, thou shalt not lick office equipment, thou shalt under no circumstances approach management’s coffee cup but I realize it is falling upon deaf doggie ears.

My co-worker has fallen asleep on his red blanket. Another infraction – sleeping on company time.

I went upstairs to do a few tasks. Meanwhile my co-worker woke up (good timing) and set about to complete his own agenda. Back downstairs I realize something green is all over the floor. Shredded into tiny bits my co-worker has been eating the office plants. I’m not sure we have something in the employee manual that covers this but I think we should.

We should also have a talk about personal belongings. As the day wears on, my co-worker's belongings become scattered all over the office floor. Red blanket, squeaky carrot, monkey, blue dog, yellow giraffe, rawhide bone. OSHA would call it a hazard. I call it a lot of squeaky steps.

The day is nearly done and my co-worker sits in my lap. Don’t worry, it was a consensual move. I look at him and think for all of the trouble that my co-worker causes he keeps me good company. He listens to my small talk. He keeps me accountable. And all of his office shenanigans make for a good laugh.

Another story about Boss – I guess that’s two in one week for those keeping count. In my defense I am tapering. Not much else is going on in the area of training and the restless energy, well, it’s
going around the office and soon enough I’m thinking of joining Boss in the living room for a round of his “crazy laps”.

Boss does his crazy laps every night. Usually about 11 pm when I have stayed up too late and really want to get to bed. I go to grab him and he bolts. Starts running giant circles - around the table, around the couch and squeezing in betwen the coffee table to start the lap again. While doing this he makes a little noise that is a cross between panting-barking-grunting. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen and sometimes so fun that we run with him and shout CRAZY LAPS (this is what happens when you are in your early 30's and don't have kids yet but really should have kids you replace it with a dog and treat it like a kid and do all sorts of stupid things that you could justify if it was a kid but just make you look crazy because it's just a dog). Crazy laps are Boss' way to releasing a few hours worth of restless puppy energy in about 20 laps. That's how my legs are feeling after a taper. I'm ready to run my crazy laps. (I'll do without the pant-bark-grunt though).

For those of you stuck in an office today - don't be afraid to rip out a round of crazy laps or other squeaky behavior around your cubicle. After all, it's Friday. It's time for release. And it's worth the write-up. Trust me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not That Into It

My husband is begging me to be a better wife. And by better wife he means keeping the house stocked with food. This is his only criteria I think. I could sit ragged all day long in the house in pajamas pants (ok, I do) and it wouldn’t matter as long as there is food in the house.

In his defense he’s not saying it’s my job to stock the house with food because I am a wife. It’s my job because he doesn’t have time. He commutes, works, and trains. I work from home and have the time. But when I look at all of the things I need and want to do during the day – going to the grocery store is not how I like spending my time.

I hate to grocery shop!

For that matter, I don’t like to shop at all. Plus I’m at the point where I also just don’t like to eat food. Athletes eat a lot of food. Trust me, it’s not the dream come true you think it is to have to eat a higher volume of food. Because it’s not like that volume includes sweets or junk. No that would be easy. You could eat a giant slice of cake, wash it down with a beer and call your calories done. But no. Instead it is the relentless search for good for you food. Which is not nearly as fun to shop for as cookies and cake.

But as quickly as food comes into the house, it goes right out via…well….via me. I am at home all day so I eat most of the food. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m sitting with a bag of chips attached to my face all day. But I do eat breakfast. And lunch. And a late afternoon snack. And I eat peanut butter too. More than I should. All right I’m officially on peanut butter break until I can figure out how to eat it in quantities of less than half or full jar.

The other night Chris got really mad. When Chris gets mad he gets quiet and then he does something forcefully. He got mad that there was no food. Then he got quiet. His next move - he pulls out a pen and a pad of paper from the drawer with much force. Take that pen! And he starts writing a list – quietly. Opens the refrigerator, the pantry over and over again while forcefully scribbling things down in his handwriting that I can call a step above chicken scratch (which also makes me take the list not so seriously - this does not help in the category of points earned towards being a better wife).

I could only imagine what he was writing on the list; corn chips, lemonade, clean wife that puts on real clothes everyday. These are some of Chris’ favorite things. I believe the man could sustain himself for 30 days on corn chips and lemonade. I now feel the need to barf. But back to Chris – he finishes writing then deposits the list on the counter. And there is sat for a day. No one came by to pick it up. No magical food shopping fairy nor housekeeping staff.

I guess the list was intended for me. So on Wednesday I finally looked at the list:

Red sauce
Parmesan cheese
Chicken
Avocadoes
Salad
Lettuce
Bananas
Mushrooms
Biryani
Bacon
Pork chops
Ham steak
Sweet potatoes

I’m dumbfounded. I must be missing something. THIS is IT? THESE are the things he needs to survive? He kept opening the refrigerator door desperately seeking chicken, avocadoes and….ham steak? Of all the things you want to see in your house – why? Who craves bananas? That’s like saying you have a taste for oatmeal. BLECH! For goodness sake at least put something on there worth fighting for. Like ice cream or cookies or vanilla frosting or cake. Don’t fight me for a sweet potato and a pork chop. And biryani? Is there another wife that cooks around here because I have never made biryani in this house. And not to state the obvious but, I won’t even ask the difference between lettuce and salad – yet.

This is the difference between woman and man. A man generates a list of practicality. He has basic needs for survival that include bananas, bacon, ham steak and some leaves (lettuce or salad - your choice). A woman would generate a completely different list. For what is survival if you cannot enjoy yourself? And no one ever enjoyed themselves with parmesan cheese. So I pretend it was me scribbling a list with fury of the food I’d like to see in the house:

Chocolate Caramel Brownie flavored coffee – many bags
Very Vanilla Soy Milk – lots
Moose Tracks – at least two gallons so when I go through one I can replace it with super secret back-up gallon so nobody knows
Chunky peanut butter – several jars
Nutella
Vanilla frosting – Pillsbury brand, the one with little sprinkles on top
Skim milk – so I can wash down spoonfuls of chunky peanut butter, nutella and frosting
Peanut butter cups – large tub from Trader Joe’s
Red wine – the good stuff, lots

I think that about covers it. And for nutrition, throw in a bottle of multivitamins.

On Wednesday I fail miserably again. I don’t go grocery shopping. I pull the “we are leaving in two days” card and just pick up a jar of sauce instead. He tries to tell me we will go out for dinner that night but I say oh no, I got your sauce. We are putting it on something. And we do. It wasn’t bacon or lettuce but it was flax pasta and that’s got to count for something good.

When I call out a request for the maid service to come into the kitchen and clean up the pots and pans that night (I keep calling, she never arrives), I think to myself that really I should try to be a better wife. Cook a meal. Do my hair. Keep my man well-fed. Better yet, use that 400 watt crock pot that I won at Steelhead. But, it’s no use. I'm just not that into it.


But then again, that crock pot was damn big. I bet I could get into it if I really had to.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dog Park Days

Today was a dog park day.

For those of you that do not find stories about Boss as entertaining and adorable as he is (and he is, ask Ironmin, she met him on Friday and she saw him first-paw) this is your warning to tune out now. But I will have you know that I received a request from a certain non-Waterstraat member of the family to include more stories of Boss. I am also convinced that if Boss goes missing I will first look to this particular family as they have been making eyes on my adorable dog.

Don’t think I haven’t noticed.

Boss and I high-tailed it to the dog park meaning all 8 pounds of Boss went tearing down the path while nearly yanking my arm – my good arm, my breathing side in swimming arm nearly out of the socket and down the path. As we walked up we noticed Foxy on the other side of the fence.

If you frequent the dog park, this happens. You start to know the names of other people’s dogs. The people themselves – who knows. Plus most of the people at the dog park during the day are cagey or weird. Not quite right. Myself maybe included. However, knowing the name of their dogs? Totally normal – and important. You should know your who’s who around the dog park.

Because then you can say there sits Foxy on the other side of the fence. Foxy is also a Chihuahua. However, unlike Boss, she happens to be one of the world’s ugliest Chihuahuas. I’m so sorry, Foxy, but foxy you is not. Of course I am not about to tell the owner this. That would be like telling a friend that their baby is ugly. And yes, there are ugly babies out there. Just as there are ugly dogs. Small and practically hairless with beaty albino like eyes just like Foxy has. On top of that she has a bad attitude, pure chihuahua with no time nor interest for anything else but her own agenda and herself.

Regardless, she and Boss do the ceremonial dog park entry stand off. If you have ever seen two dogs meet you know what I’m talking about. They both sit tentative, sniffing each other while looking the other way. It’s a strange interaction ritual that all dogs engage in no matter their size. I think it’s their way of saying listen, I’m going to pretend like I’m not about to tear into you with my teeth so I’m just going to sit here for a moment, well-mannered but suspicious, sniffing you to confirm that you do eat your own poo then I’m going to chase the hell out of you and take a chunk of your left paw.

Boss sniffs in this first encounter and then decides Foxy is “ok”. Foxy has a standoffish look about her but Boss tries to engage her in play anyway. So he bolts. Fakes left, heads right and looks behind to see that she follows.

She doesn’t. Little bitch. She is too busy digging a hole. Boss gives up and decides to claim ownership of one tree, a patch of weeds, the picnic table, some green fence and – just to show her who’s in charge – Foxy’s hole.

Meanwhile, Foxy’s owner is asking me about GPS. On the picnic table at the shelter he has the entire contents of a brand new GPS system for this car scattered on the table. See what I mean about the people? Who does this at the dog park? His first question – do you know how much I paid for this thing? (no) Second question – do you know how to use this thing? (no) Third question – do you know what the Illinois Tollway Authority will do when the need more money for my I-Pass? Ok, someone press the freak button. NOW.

Meanwhile another dog has entered the under-25 park. Boss is thrilled. He begins chasing the new dog around the park – a dog that really should have been weighed at the gate because he appears to be over 25 lbs. Regardless Boss is right there. The owner is trying to teach the dog to fetch a ball but Boss will have none of this. As the ball gets launched, the dog starts chasing and Boss intercepts. He tactfully runs in front of the dog as it approaches the ball, the dog gets thrown off and chases Boss instead. After all, a ball doesn’t move but Boss won’t stop.

This happens a few times. Each time I find it funnier. The other owner – didn’t find it so funny. But what am I to care. That’s what he gets for bringing his dog into the gate that is not weight appropriate. And the fact that Boss kept drinking out of this doggie bowl – better yet. I try to distract Boss away from the bowl but then another dog enters the park as distraction enough. Boss bolts to its side. I look closer. And notice that Freckles has entered the park.

I hate Freckles.

Freckles is everything dog haters hate about dogs in about 12 pounds of overweight Jack Russell Terrier. First of all, Freckles is also an ugly dog. Perhaps it was cute about 4 pounds ago. Secondly, Freckles is a spaz. There is no place for a spaz even at a dog park – they rile up the other dogs and then jump on the people. Last – and most important – I do not like the owner of Freckles. She is negative, overpossessive and always has something whiny to say about herself or her stupid little dog.

The last time I had an encounter with Freckles was a few weeks ago. He had recently undergone doggie surgery. The owner was having a fit every time a dog got near Freckles because she was afraid another dog would rip his stitches out. Hey. Genius. Don’t bring your little dog to the dog park if you don’t want it around other DOGS. Or better yet put a cone on your dog’s head because we here at the dog park would like to be entertained.

Boss didn’t hear the owner’s warning. Or maybe he did and he’s the smart one here. He kept antagonizing Freckles. That’s because Freckles kept getting in between Boss and the man with the bacon. Who also happens to be Foxy’s owner. Got it? Dog park who’s who.

So Freckles entered the park today and immediately goes into spaz mode. Starts to chase Boss who pounces on Freckles with two front paws just in case he didn’t get the memo that Boss was in charge. The owner watches this and is not pleased that Freckles is getting bumrushed by Boss’ two front paws. She tells Freckles to get away from Boss and then begins complaining. Today she whines about being tired. Foxy’s owner makes the mistake of asking her why to which she replies how should I know?

O - k. I take that as my cue to leave the dog park before I have to listen to her anymore. It was a beautiful day at the park filled with bird tweets and random GPS questions from the other man. But whining – come on, keep your pessimism at home. This is a park where we laugh and play. Get your leash, Boss. We’re done.

And right as I releash Boss, Freckles’ owner is shouting “FRECKLES!” in her whiny voice and then says “Already?” Seems that Freckles faked left, headed right and was in the corner taking a dump.

As Boss and I walked away, I thought to myself that I don’t know why but I found that to be the perfect move on Freckles' part.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Point Of View

This morning I woke up at 5 am to the sound of pouring rain. Not a bad sound unless you have a 40K time trial planned. This is the second time trial in less than 3 weeks where I have woken up to either near freezing temperatures, gale force winds or pouring rain. Yes, I do consider gusts of 40 mph gusts as gale force winds when you weigh less than 110 lbs sitting on 19 lb bicycle.

So I went back to bed until 5:50 am and then woke up. Sat at the kitchen table eating my oatmeal while telling myself you can do this, you have to do this, Jennifer (coach) is doing this, if you don’t do this she will call you screaming right after she is done. And she can scream really loud.

A few minutes later, Chris comes downstairs, opens the back door to what I would now call pelting rain and chilly temperatures, closes the door and announces:

I am not riding in this shit.

Which means we are both not riding in this shit. Though I considered driving the hour south and still toughing it out. But then we sorted it out to a huge risk for a low return. A liability. To risk injury or crash to just prove we ‘could’ do it. Not worth it, not now.

That’s not something I would normally say but I’m getting either too old or too jaded for days like this. If I was a few years younger maybe I’d be out there with my goggles on and pull buoy between my legs to make myself at least buoyant while rolling through the rain. But not today.

We went for coffee instead. Wondered if Jennifer was doing the race – decided she probably was and if we listened closely enough we could probably hear her scream at the finish line from 43 miles away.

When we got back from coffee there was a message from Jen telling us not to bother going to the TT – they had cancelled it because of the conditions and the warning of flash floods. I will let her fill in the rest of the blanks on her blog as well as tell you about her encounter with God. But until then I will just sit in my warm snuggly home and get ready for a 2 hour trainer ride – yet again.

I am convinced one day summer will arrive. Probably on June 1st at which point it will probably be 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity at 5 am. It will be that way for 3 months straight and then it will once again be cold. I keep asking myself husband why we keep torturing ourselves this way. It doesn't have to be like this. There are places we could wake up nearly everyday and have the opportunity to go outside and ride. No place is perfect but there has to be a place better than this.

We both didn’t have an answer. But I think we both could sense our impatience with the situation in Illinois.

Sigh

I’m trying to think of all the good things you can gain from riding on a trainer for 7 months out of the year (give or take). Trying because my midwest athletes also keep asking me the same thing. I figure I should at least have a semi-intelligent answer other than BUCK UP. Because I know that buck up wears thin after awhile. And if I'm not careful one of those athletes will come back at my buck up with a f*ck off. I wouldn't blame them. Trainers are not that much fun.


Here goes: file under 'things you can gain from trainer rides': an incredibly smooth pedal stroke, the ability to hold a certain wattage steady for long periods of time, muscular endurance from nonstop pedaling, the ability to withstand going nowhere for hours on end while watching Hannah Montana, a very hardened ass from sitting in one position nonstop for hours, high quality for low risk (unless you count the one time I did crash on my trainer indoors), bathroom nearby that does not include squatting on side of road behind large tree wondering if you will be bit by snake or poison ivy, endless water supply, staring at wall you make lots to busy your mind.

There are a lot of positives but I am really itching to get outside! I want to ride my bike in a jersey and shorts without leg warmers and gloves. I want to just ride! The other night I actually did ride outside at Fermilab. There was very little wind (amazing!) and the temperature was just right. My favorite sound – wheels on pavement – filled my ears. The sky was beautiful. Everything was coming to life in green. And a coyote even ran right across the road. It reminded me of why I enjoy riding outside – just to get out and experience the world.


But alas that will not happen today. And it is almost time to ride. Maybe I just need to remind myself of all the good that comes from this. The things mentioned above. The toughness training that around here just doesn't seem to quit.

Or maybe I just need to change my point of view. Bring my trainer upstairs and stare at a different wall.

Who's in?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stuffy

I am sick. Correction, I was sick. Ok I have been sick since last Friday. The tickle in my throat last Friday that I thought was just my body putting up allergy to island funk? Not so. Turns out it was a cold. And the next day when it was worse – more cold. And race morning when I felt “weird” and lost my voice after the race – not due to extreme effort – no, more likely due to extremely angry cold. That turned into full blown parade of snot by Tuesday and pounding headache by Thursday and now one big sinus infection.

Fun, eh?

I realized this when I went to bed with a headache, woke up with a headache and no amount of coffee would make it go away. And today I finally admitted I was infected and called Dr. Nuts. Who prescribed me a year’s worth of Amoxicillin to make it go away.

I think I have taken the first dose. Maybe. After we both marveled at the size of the pill as it sat on the counter, Chris and I were completely thrown off when the pill disappeared. I couldn’t remember if I took it, he thought maybe he even took it, or it just fell onto the floor and we looked to Boss. In any case, she he it who has diarrhea tonight is sure to have eaten the pill because that’s the first lovely side effect of the meds.

Crazy thing is – my legs feel great. I'm not sure what I did or did not do at the race last weekend but if you asked my legs they’d say we didn’t race. Not even sore. I have woken up more sore from a day of planting flowers in the backyard than I did on Monday. It was strange. Really strange. Maybe it was Dairy Queen for dinner. Maybe that should be part of every week’s routine.

Anyways, that’s where I’m at right now. Between death’s door and feeling like a million bucks. It’s not a bad place to be and all things considered I'd say I'm doing well.

I’ve got some pictures from St. Croix.

"Ain't nobody here but us chickens...." Which they kindly let me know at 2:53 am race morning.

The famous Buccaneer resort; 4 miles of the run course wind through this resort. There's also a nasty bugger of a hill in there.

Farmyard Animal Noises 101: Goats "bleat", sheep "baa". Llamas - I still don't know.

This is what the island looks like every morning before the clouds roll in during the afternoon.

The awards ceremony where they called the top 10 pro women up. So I'm standing up there and then they called up 9th place - Fernanda K. Ravishingly beautiful and dressed to disco all night long. Also up there, Amanda L., Tara N., Cynthia W., Felicity H., Tyler S., Bree W., and Nina K. In the background, the chatty patty behind the mic at most IM events - Tom Ziebart.

Friday, May 09, 2008

My Number One

If you read my husband’s blog (I can’t believe I just said that), you know that he purchased a new coffee maker for me.

At first, I was skeptical. It’s like a man buying you a pair of shoes. What does a man know about women’s shoes? How does he know what makes a good shoe or what looks good? Chris is a coffee neophyte without the slow-roasted years of acquiring a coffee taste. So many of my years rejecting gas station coffee (this is swill), to office place Mr. Coffee (this is burnt), to Starbuck’s coffee (money can buy you flavor), and finally finding what I like leading me to very finicky coffee taste.

(perhaps the only person more finicky is Jerome Harrison who has an entire coffeehouse sitting on his kitchen counter and special coffee delivered to his house)

Chris brings home this giant box containing the coffee machine that is said to solve all of my coffee woes. The ones that I have when I have to clean our current coffee pot or when I forget to press a button or put on a lid or add the filter because it has so many parts there is bound to be one I forget which often results in a river of coffee flowing down my countertops and making one very messy mistake.

I look at the new coffeemaker. It rests in a giant box with a picture of a woman on it. A very large picture. She is blond and holding a coffee cup. She is smiling. This is the best cup of coffee she’s ever had. Take her word. Judging from her very white teeth, she’d know.

My husband - getting a little more than appropriately excited by the fact that we now have something in our house powerful enough to heat a rocket engine - actually wakes up early on Thursday. Actually takes the dog out. And then by some divine miracle that has never – NEVER – in years of dating and nearly 3 years of marriage – makes me a pot of coffee.

Once it's done brewing he is ready to shove the mug in my hand and force the coffee down my throat. HERE, drink this, is it good, what do you think, do you like the new coffee maker, is it hot, how is it – it all streams out of his mouth as one giant mass words but all I can respond to the visual monstrosity that now rests on my counter….

WHAT. IS. THAT.

The new coffee maker.

That is the UGLIEST thing I have ever seen. Seriously. But, shhhhh, don’t say that too loud or you’ll hurt its feelings. At the very least someone please tell the kitchen counter to cover its eyes.

Well, It’s not the prettiest machine I’ve ever seen but let’s see if it passes the test – can it make coffee. I drink a cup and I am pleased to report it was good. Good as in it was hot, it was good but I wasn’t about to become the spokesperson for the world’s ugliest coffee machine. I just can't. You see, I’m a little biased. I’m one of those people that thinks you just cannot make the best cup of coffee in your own house. I believe that is what coffeehouses are for and yes, Rachel, I do believe everything tastes better in a cardboard cup.

I’m just kidding on that.

So this morning I wake up and I’m left alone with this new coffee machine. It looks simple enough – you pour water in, you add grounds and then you turn the switch on. That is what I do. I expect a sound like a rocket launching when I press the button, get ready to cover my ears, but instead there is…nothing at all.

Silence.

Hmm. Turn the switch off then on again – this time putting my ear up next to it just in case.

Nothing.

Not surprising. It’s probably already broken. What do the Dutch know about coffee anyways. The Italians invented espresso so if we really wanted the best coffee maker in the world we’d have something made by Jimmy Barbarinorelli on my counter. Oh please, I’m Italian, I can say that. For that matter I can also say we have the stronghold on raviolis and meatballs and hair gel.

I unplug it. Turn it back on. Nothing. Move the filter around. Close the lids again. Nothing again. There appears to be one switch so what am I doing wrong? Then I see it – a tiny white button that the coffee pot has to rest against. Seems that this is what triggers the rocket launching warming of water to begin.

Rocket engine power triggered by a button the size of a chocolate chip.

A vroom, a bubbling of water and a dripping of coffee into a carafe. I’m sitting at the table and then a few minutes later I hear silence again. Is it done? Where are my fancy beeps and whistles? The whir of the grinder. The drip drip drip. The beep beep beep come and get it alarm.

For as simple as this machine is, for a moment I missed my complicated messy Cadillac. Sure, there were 20 minutes less of mess to clean up but I guess it had become a routine. But then I tasted the coffee. It was good. It was hot. And there was no mess.

So I guess the new coffee maker wins. And that’s good because when I have coffee it signifies the start to my day. So today can begin. Sometimes I think about why I started drinking coffee – I can trace it back to a desk job – but also because it never lets me down. It’s always been there. No matter where I am, there is always coffee. It is familiar, welcoming and warm. It always makes me feel good. It puts a smile on my face. Not many things in life can do that – a dog, a child, a husband. I have 2 of 3 of those so I guess coffee is and always will be my number 3.

Who am I kidding – it will always be my number one. Here's to new coffeemakers. And the Dutch. (waterstraat!)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Dark Side

Today a most interesting e-mail came my way. It was from husband:

I’m trying to start a blog.

Oh dear god.

Train wreck or touchy feel journaling? Your call. But of course being role model nice wife I offer to help. Meaning, I created it for him. But in doing so I realized I probably just walked myself into the written equivalent of a bear trap.

I’m screwed.

Because up until this point you’ve heard only my side. My story, my point of view. Little did you know there is another 50%. We shall call this “the dark side” that I try not to write about too much. Because if you did you would lose all faith that I could pull it together at any point after so many tantrums, tears and other quirky out of control things I do at home. Like demand the power tap wheel on my bike. Or chase Boss around while calling him Noodlebutt in a high pitched voice. Or leave a mountain of clean laundry next to the bed for days on end. Or hide Chris’ personal belongings (his accusation, not mine).

I’m guessing that Chris got so fed up that he realized he too needed a voice. A little “Are you there god it’s me Margaret.” Chris is now Margaret. Actually I think he’s more of a Madge. And if he starts writing about the first day he got his period I’m cutting him from the blog roll immediately.

Honestly I think it's a very clever defense. A way to get back at me for writing so many stories about his basement. His bedhead. The hole in his mouth that can somehow hold lots of beer but lose lots of pieces of potato chips. Here come the stories about Liz eating a jar of peanut butter in less than 3 days. Or Liz quarantining Chris to the guest bedroom for breathing too loud. Or Liz insisting Chris not the use the towels that are the good towels. Stuff like that.

You can see I am wondering what he will write about. My husband doesn’t say much but I know there are many words in his head. At times they come rushing out all at once in a stream of sentence that I have to ask him to repeat. Several times. He’s a fast talker but I’m convinced only because he’s a fast thinker that is one step ahead of everyone else.

And now he has a forum for all of those words. And I’m curious to see what will be in his man blog. Probably his favorite things:

Bikes
Tools
His friends
Talking on the phone
His family
Pumpkin Pie
Reading magazines in the bathroom
Bikes
Proving me wrong
His parents dog Chewie
Buckethead
Wearing lots of socks each week
Mispronunciation of common words
(gigilo pronounced as giggle-o)

And I am sure he will also talk about his least favorite things:

Fixing my broken bikes
Boss
Convincing me that I am not ____________(fat, slow, crazy)
Coming home to find chowbox wife has eaten all food in house

But for as much fun as blogging is there are some things husband should probably be told about. Since 2006 when I started my blog, I’ve learned a lot of things about keeping a blog. So, to husband, I share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in hopes that your blogging goes smoothly and stays fun:

1 – Don’t blog on company time. Chances are someone in the company will find your blog while wasting company time surfing the net and will tattle that you are blogging on company time. Keep your office misbehavior to calling the boss a chucklebucket behind their back, sleeping, making personal photocopies and stealing pens. And only do that on company time.

2 – Don’t say anything on your blog that you wouldn’t write on a postcard and mail to the entire world. Because that’s basically what you’re doing on the blog.

3 – Two words: COMMENT MODERATION.

4 – Someone somewhere will not like something you say on your blog. It’s ok to remind them (a) it’s your blog, (b) they don’t have to read it, and (c) you really don’t care because it’s your blog and they don’t have to read it.

5 – Expect to receive at least one e-mail about how your blog is a shameless form of self-promotion. Uh, yeah, it’s my blog.

6 – It is a scary thing when your parents find your blog. It is even scarier when you start getting comments on your blog from your mom. Worse yet when your mom calls to ask if you’re still alive because you haven’t updated your blog in the past two days.

7 – You probably shouldn’t say mean things about your wife on the blog. Just sayin’.

8 - If during a race you catch someone cheating or drafting - though it’s tempting - think twice before posting it on your blog. First of all, it’s not your responsibility to teach someone a lesson. Second of all, if they were cheating they probably wouldn’t get the lesson anyways. Third, it has a way of blowing up into a full on blog war. If you do choose to do so don't forget your most powerful weapon - COMMENT MODERATION.

9 – Be yourself on your blog. If you cuss, then cuss. If you get poison oak in your ass crack, don’t be afraid to tell the world. Real bloggers can smell bullshit through the screen. There’s a lot of it out there. Don’t be one of the big loads.

10 – Know that once you start blogging the world of blogs becomes something you cannot
resist. Instead of reading the news in the morning you are reading blogs because what Rachel is doing in Hawaii is much more interesting (and important) than world news. It's ok to do this, it's even better to admit it. And in a few months if you know more about Rachel than the presidential election, well, around these blog parts - it's ok to admit that too.

In other words, welcome to the dark side – both to husband and other bloggers as he learns his way about blogging and you bloggers learn more about the other half of my world....

I better start behaving myself.

A work in progress......

http://christianwaterstraat.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Back At Home

I’m back at home today. It’s good to be back.

Last night I ate Dairy Queen for dinner. The usual post race Blizzard with cookie dough and peanut butter cups. I think Bree Wee probably just barfed. Sorry girl but if I were king it would be DQ for dinner every night.

While I was away my darling husband farmed out dog sitting responsibilities to his sister Meg Meg. This gives me a great deal of hope for when we have children. I am not sure what happened but I suspect Boss spent the weekend in the city raving all night long because today he has gone from crate to dining room floor to deck to take a nap. He also has not barked in over 12 hours.

I slept in this morning. It was nice to wake up to the sound of the highway rather than chickens. And for the record, if you thought roosters just clucked at dawn think again. Race morning they were clucking at 2:53 am.

I have spent the morning cleaning the house. Kudos to my husband for keeping things under control here this weekend. No beer and potato chips to be found anywhere. There was a strange smell in the kitchen but it seems to have gone away.

Speaking of husband congratulations to him for doing a duathlon last Saturday in the pouring rain and 40 degrees. There’s another reason to stay in Illinois. The good news though is that it was called the peanut butter duathlon. The bad news is that he didn’t bring home a jar of peanut butter. What kind of nonsense is that? You can’t name something after peanut butter and then not give a jar away.

Speaking of race giveaways; I was looking at my finisher medal from St. Croix and noticed it said SPRINT FINISHER. I am not sure if I should find that highly insulting or hilarious.

I caught up some blogs but got abruptly halted when I read that Rachel Ross gave up coffee. It killed my drive to catch up on everyone else so if you did some amazing this past weekend I apologize for not chiming in about it. I blame Rachel for throwing out these disturbing words, no coffee.

You know it’s time to get new bike shoes when you have to say to the woman that is searching your suitcase at customs “my suitcase stinks because of my shoes.” It was wretched. Stinky shoes times two – cycling shoes and race flats. I tried soaking my shoes but then the house started to smell like dirty shoe and soap. Does anyone have a remedy for stinky shoes?

In other post-race news, I never did tell about the awards banquet. The awards banquet was really nice. They called up to the top 10 pro’s and I believe one of the most exciting moments of my life happened that night. Being called up first, I then got to shake hands with each woman as she took her place on the stage. World champions, ITU medalists. WOW. And then when Mirinda Carfrae came up, she shook my hand and said well done. I’m sure to her it was just another hand and something else to say….but I’ll always remember that. Looking at a world champion and hearing her say well done, well, that meant a lot to me.


I received a lot of nice e-mails about my race. Stories about other crazy races where people crashed or got off course. My favorite was from Janelle – about the woman that ran into a bear at a course in Colorado. All things considered I realize my race or any of our races could always be much worse. I want to thank everyone for writing such nice notes to me. I read all of the comments and hope that as I honestly share what happens or how I feel in training and racing that you will realize that when things don’t go well or do go well for you on training or race days…that you are not alone! We all go through things – good or bad.

It’s 1:08 pm and Boss just barked. I guess the day has begun!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Baptism By Beast

I am sitting here with an empty bottle of vanilla milk and my homestay mom has put a bowl of chocolate next to me. After 8 nutter butters the chocolate tastes....great.

You might say but Liz you didn't earn this! You finished 10th out of 10 at the race.

To you I politely say "pipe down."

The race was hard. Harder than Kona I would say. I knew this race would be epic - I could feel the energy in the island these past few days. But I was calm and knew it was a bit outside my league to stand at that start line this morning for my first pro race but...you will never know until you risk everything and try. And, why not?

The water was choppy. But it's the ocean. I expected that too. The gun went off and BOOM! The group bolted and for about 30 seconds I can proudly say I was right there with them....and then....I'm alone. Like all alone. Like have you ever been in the ocean swimming by yourself...kind of freaky stuff. In an age group race you are surrounded by people. I look left, right, even a bit behind me - NO ONE. Just me! Every time I look up - a swell. Then sometimes there they are distant - the buoys. I think about freaking out as an option but then I say to myself - you're doing it Liz. You're out here DOING IT. Just swim. So I did.

Finally I make the turn and the current is with me! But unfortunately I swam myself to the wrong buoy. I kept wondering why I saw so many people.....they were coming towards me! Got back on track to the right buoy and I notice a yellow cap. Another pro woman! So I try to keep her in sight.

Getting close to the exit I know this will be a slow swim. But that's ok. I got through it now it's time for the fun part of the race.....

I was in transition with two other pro's. GOOD! I'm not the last one! I hear someone tell us that the lead women are 7 minutes ahead. Yikes! But that's what you get for racing world champions, right?

I keep the other women in my sight for a bit on the bike but then..I am alone. AGAIN! Welcome to racing pro. It's definitely lonely. The age group men start passing fast and hard to get to that beast. At 50 minutes into the ride I don't know what happened but I went off the side of the road and crashed! It was kind of a twilight zone moment - the bike is in the grass and I'm trying to slow it down but eventually the hill (I think it was a hill) and a fall slow me completely.

OW! Knee and quad are hurting but the bike seems to be ok. That's all that counts! The chain was dropped but I got it back on and pedaled away. I am approaching the beast - still mostly alone. So alone no one even noticed me crash! But I get to the beast, make the left turn and....there are all the guys.

I am going to stay seated, I am going to stay seated.....that lasts about .1 miles and then I have to stand. I am spinning at 41 rpms. I am breathing heavy but this is only .7 miles it's not that bad. Then the guy next to me has a bit of a squirrely moment which means I am about to go off the road and almost lose it on the beast. If I fall off I am going to have to walk at this point so I have give the pedals a nervous push and get away from him. At .4 miles it starts pouring rain. You have got to be kidding me. My hands are slipping on the bars and I just want to be over this hill. But then the guy next to me says "going down will be fun."

Scratch that "I'd like to go down the hill" request.

Down the hill - not so fun. Fear of death and injury as I pump the brakes thinking this might help slow me down and prevent rear wheel lockout. Rain continues for a bit then we are on the sunny side of the island. And into the wind. Now here is where I start passing all those guys that hauled ass to the beast. Good plan guys. And going into the wind - I'm actually doing well! It feels like riding at home. The wind continues, long hills, squirrely turns. Finally at mile 45 there is tailwind. Finally I am about off my bike.

That took long enough! I knew it would - I knew it would be silly to go into this race shooting for a time. Rather I just wanted to hang on and last it out today.

The run - the best part! The other women are quite a bit in front of me but anything can happen. So I just chug away at it. The run up to the Bucaneer is not bad with headwind but it's a hill so it's slow. Into the golf course it is hot but fun to run on the path. And it's on grass and up two big hills too. Coming back from the Bucaneer should have felt easy going downhill. But the tailwind made it very hot. And I swear the town never got closer!

So let's do it again! Another loop, I pass a pro but she is walking and eventually DNF's. I finally get to the finish line - seriously, it has not taken me that long to do a half IM since I did my first in 2001 but I did it - my first pro race and now it's done! I'm safe, I'm filled with chocolate, my feet are bloody with blisters and the chickens are going crazy outside.

This morning, I got an e-mail from one of my athletes that said "Liz, I hope you learn something new about yourself today." I thought about that all day and I'm proud to report about learning something new - I did. I learned that when I'm out there alone in last place on a tough course that there has to be something bigger to the race. You can't be out there to win money, to finish in a certain time, to beat so and so - you have to be out there for something bigger than that. Because when you crash or it starts pouring rain or you find yourself by yourself - it takes something more to keep pushing through. I realized I do it to see what I'm made of. To find my character in those moments where all signs point to - quit and just give up. No way! I worked really hard to get here and I'm going to embrace every minute of it and learn everything I can. I may not come out on top - like I said last week, I might be in the top 10 or cross the finish line in last place (both of which I did today!) but I learned something bigger than that. I can do this. I will get better. Each time will feel easier from here. I don't give up. I won't give up. I will keep plugging away. Every world champion, national champion, pro, amateur starts somewhere.

This was my somewhere today.

Wee looked great out there. TOO GREAT! She was waving at me and I kept telling her - she is right there GO AFTER IT! My new friend Christy had a great race. Laura Sopheia is always a pleasure to see. Tom Demerly looked tough. Trisports.com teammate Craig Howie - too darn fast. And, Stacey Richardson killed it out there today to get her slot to Kona - YEAH!

I didn't update last night but I wanted to share what a fabulous day and night it was. I went to a dinner at this very nice home. It was beyond nice. It was like something out of a magazine. And I got to sit at the same table as the top male and female at the race today....THAT was exciting I'd say. And for the record - they both ate dessert.

I also went to my very first pro meeting yesterday. For a split second I wondered if I would be out of place. Then looking around I realized - no way! These are all athletes just like me. They all started at the bottom just like me. We all earned our way here. We all had success along the way. We all took a risk at some point and it has paid off in different ways but we all said "why not try."

Sometimes I think to myself WHAT am I doing this year? What was wrong with racing age group, finishing really well, getting recognition, feeling good in that way....but then I have experiences like last night and today and think that no medal, title or award right now will replace that. It's very exciting in a whole different way.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

New Day

I understand there is no open container law on St. Croix and while that may work for the humans I think someone should revoke the privilege from the rooster who was cockadoodledooing at 3:40 am and obviously drunk off his feathered a**.

I have accepted that until I leave this island I will be licked by at least 2 non human species each day. This morning - two dogs. I was running around 6:30 am. By the way, no sun at 6 am. To my sleeping delight it was overcast. Got out early and went for a short run. Coming back I was taken over by two dogs - a big one that licked me and a little one that ran behind me. Then I realized I was running down the street with a little parade of dogs behind me. Then there were the horses on the road. And the goats came out around 7 am and started bleating.

The day is windy and overcast. But still warm. My bike will be fixed by 11 am. The man I am staying with knows a man that knows a man that owns the local bike shop who knows the exact tool required to repair my bike.

I'm eating bananas from the banana tree. And bringing the french press mug - best decision ever. Haven't seen a drop of coffee yet. It's a dry island I tell you. Unless you count the slobber from a dog.