Thursday, April 30, 2009

Water Wings

The other day, Chris (aka "husband" for those of you new around here) and I walked out of the pool when he said:

You’ve got some water wings.

Remember water wings? It was pre-1985 growing up in Brooklyn, New York on East 52nd Street. Behind our small shared house, there was a fenced in yard with colorful flagstones that you could slide on in the rain, a rusty swingset and a plum tree that would drop ripe fruit late fall to squish on those flagstones. There was a red wooden fence that separated our house from our neighbor’s house and behind it stood a concrete fountain in the form of a young boy, naked, whose penis would shoot water into a concrete bowl below. I sit here now as a grown adult wondering who would purchase a fountain of a young boy urinating because for the first time it strikes me how truly bizarre it was (imagine a grown adult goes to a fountain store, looks at all of the choices and points to the naked boy and says that one, that is the one I need).


Aside from the pornographic fountain (I cannot tell you how much that distributed me as a child), there was also a shed. Inside that shed I don’t remember much of what was stored and that’s probably a good thing. Sheds are scary places. On Ragbrai, if you see a shed in a yard with a free beer stop you learn better than to stop lest you find yourself voted most likely to be violated behind Squeaky’s Porn Shed by a man who thinks you have a purty mouth.

Lessons you learn on Ragbrai are lessons you learn for life.

Inside that Brooklyn backyard shed I do remember I had a pair of water wings. Sometimes we called them “swimmies”. They were bright pink with little Snoopy’s on them. I’m not sure where I would wear them – it’s not like my mom sent me into the Atlantic with a set of water wings and wished me well. But I do remember our neighbor had a pool about 4 feet deep that probably required me in a set of water wings.

Flash forward here I am as an adult. Am I going to be 34 this year? Who can I talk to about that? I’d like to take a few years off from having a birthday. I’ve been trying to swim since I started this sport 10 – yes, 10 - years ago. I still remember the first time I swam 800 yards straight in preparation for my first triathlon. 16 laps that felt like forever – and a day. Nowadays 800 is a small fraction of the mainset. No swimmies necessary. I feel like I’ve come a long way.

Finally I am making progress on my swim. Monday night I was in the pool with husband which prompted the comment about water wings. Earlier in the day I had completed a long run with hard efforts – some that even were max. And that’s just great. Because my mantra lately has been learning to redefine my max. Did you know that you can teach your body what max is? What you think is max is not max. Trust me. Try it – give it a little more, push a little harder. There it is, new max. At some point it levels out but you can always give it a little more. Your body WILL slow you down (ever blown up?) before you truly reach your max as a survival mechanism. Until then, max away and redefine it.

Anyways, I was already maxed out from the run when I found myself facing a swim later in the day. A swim containing 10 x 100 with a few just below ALL OUT and finally MAX. But in the pool this year I’ve learned not to fear the capitals. Rather, embrace them, give it my BEST, go ALL OUT and finally redefine my MAX.

In theory the swim should not have gone well. You don’t run hard and long and swim MAX. But I had to try. I have a rule – I always give it 20 minutes. If it feels like crap, I bail. I have very, very rarely bailed. If I bailed every time I thought something would not go right, I would bail many days. But at least give yourself a chance. Let yourself surprise yourself.

I warmed up and somehow managed to keep my legs kicking and body position on top of the water. There was a good chance this could go well. I decided to take my chances and see more. I couldn’t believe it but my just below all out pace was a pace that used to be about 3 seconds faster than my max pace last year. Maybe the clock is fast, maybe the lane is short, maybe the water is facing downhill today. Whatever it was, I was running with it – rather, swimming with it and on to the next set.

I kept it up – and kept getting better. I almost peed myself (but didn’t) with excitement. This is it – a new max. The arms are turning, my legs are burning but the clock is my friend today. Holy crap!

Then, I came to the last 100. 100 – ALL OUT MAX. Is it possible to combine all out with max without implosion of arms, lungs and lefts?

Enter maniacal underwater laughter. Let’s find out.

In the lane next to me was husband standing at the wall. Quickly I devise a plan:

Do a 50 with me all out leaving on the top.

It was like speaking twinspeak. It made no sense but in a second he had put on his goggles and was turned to watch the clock ticking down to the top. And then, we took off. I figured if I could race him for 50 I would just hold on for dear life for the 50 left. It worked, we split the 50 at :35 and almost almost almost…


But not yet. This year I will break 1:10. For the swimmy swimmers out there, this is nothing. For me, this is everything. It’s like breaking a 6-minute mile on the track. Or pushing a power to weight ratio over 4 watts/kg. Breaking 1:10. Milestones you beg yourself to break and when you finally do…you can bronze your goggles and rest.

In some rare turn of events, I have managed to impress husband. We exit the pool and he notes my water wings with a you’ve gotten really fast.

I brush it off:

That’s how I roll these days.

He laughed. I laughed. How ridiculous, right? It just seemed like the right thing to say. Not because I have any right to roll that way but because I realized if you’re going to swim faster you’ve got to roll with or at least roll like the faster swimmers in the pool. Quit making excuses about how slow you are or putting yourself in the back of the lane because you aren’t a real swimmer. Or might not keep up. F*ck it! Let them swim over me. Every week I keep upping the challenge. Last week when the fast lane was doing all out 75 IMs I put myself in there and hurt to keep up. Nothing makes you work harder than doing all out 75s freestyle while trying to keep up with someone doing backstroke. Miss a breath, get kicked, lose a paddle – I love it. ALL OF IT. Make it rough and BRING IT ON. 3000 yard mainsets? Perfect. Sending off on the 1:20? Might as well try. 3 x 700 descend? Let’s do 4.

I set out this year to earn my water wings. I have realized 3 things: 1 – you can go so hard in the pool that you find yourself huffing and puffing for 30 seconds afterward at the wall; 2 – you can redefine your max over and over again, it’s not set and it’s waiting to be upped; 3 – if you want it, work for it, stop thinking and hoping and get ready to just do the work.

The work? Hurts like hell! Swimming hard really hurts.

Enough said.

In about an hour, I’m off to masters. It’s sprint free day. I am going to put myself into the lane with the guy who at this point probably thinks I’m stalking him. I’m really not. I don’t even know him. But I am stalking his speed. And the times he can hit. And each time I am in the pool I get one second closer to leading that lane.

And if I can’t keep up, I’m not too proud to pull out my water wings.


Monday, April 27, 2009


Friday night was Chicken and Waffles night.

Before you go writing me off as unhealthy with a buttered brain, hear me out. I eat good and green all week long. At some point when you’ve either reached the end of the week or you’ve swum/biked/ran enough, you need something more. You’re tired of brown rice and chicken. You’ve sworn off spinach for a day. You’re sick of pretending like things like salmon and vegetables fill you up. You need something hearty. You need fatty fat fat. You need sugar. You need butter. You need…

Chicken and Waffles

It starts with the usual “What do you want for dinner?” Chris and I can toss this question back and forth a dozen times and still get nowhere. But not on Friday night, I had an answer instantly:

Make me chicken and waffles, b*tch.

Right away, Chris is on it. This dish, after all, is his specialty. I once tried to make waffles but was afterward stricken from the waffle maker. Why? Simply put “Liz, you suck at making waffles.” Thank you. My goal is to suck at all sources of nutrition so I can get out of cooking. Of course, since then I have used "you suck" as an excuse to demand Chris make them for me.

Is there anything better than breakfast for dinner? A giant bowl of cereal that begs for more milk or more cereal until you realize you’ve eaten half the box. Omlettes with mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes. Blueberry pancakes. Sometimes breakfast for dinner is more fun than eating it at breakfast itself.

The secret to good chicken and waffles is in the batter. Chris uses Bisquick. And not the low fat kind. If you are going to do something wrong, you should at least do it right. Things like ice cream, chocolate, peanut butter, Bisquick – do not kid yourself with a lowfat version. You sacrifice 90% of the flavor for a few less fat grams. Not worth it.

You coat the chicken in the Bisquick and then fry it up. Meanwhile, you are making waffles with the Bisquick. The chicken should be crispy fried on the outside, tender on the inside. The waffles should be firm but fluffy.

The fun of breakfast for dinner increases exponentially when you make waffles (or even pancakes) in different shapes. Enter the Williams-Sonoma Waffle Maker. It makes waffles in the shape of barnyard things. There is a pig, a cow, a rooster and a barn. I like the barns. They are big and usually softer than the animals. Plus I can walk away from the table saying something like “I ate 3 barns.”

Chicken and waffles are best smothered with lots of syrup and butter. Sometimes the healthy vein that runs in me puts some greek yogurt and berries on top but then I cave and cover that with syrup.

I know what you’re thinking – that doesn’t sound like a healthy dinner. You are wrong. I believe it is the complete meal. There are carbs. There is protein. Served on a green plate, there is also…green.

Finally, done. A plate is piled high with waffles and the chicken is ready.

It takes about 10 minutes to plow through them and after all was buttered and done – there were two animals left.

Two cows.

It should have become a question of who would finish off the chicken and waffles and tip their stomach towards waffle overload. But I had other plans.

I posted a video of myself playing with my chicken and waffles on FB on Friday night and got some strange reactions to it. Some suggested I needed to hire co-workers because working all week with my dog is clearly turning me into that crazy lady who talks to her food. Kind of like The Log Lady, I am the Waffle Lady. Sshhh…listen….the waffle is saying something, the waffle knows who killed Laura Palmer. Others questioned if I had been drinking. Sadly, the answer is no. Others wondered if I had mad skills with knife carving because – look at that cow! Really, it’s just the waffle maker – I did not carve out the cows.

For those of you that missed the video, it had a riveting plot. Two cows talked across two plates until the one cow suggested the other take a butter bath. And then it rained syrup. At that point, the other cow’s leg came off and I called game over. It’s all fun and games until someone loses a hoof.

You should also know that shortly after the video, I tore the buttered cow’s head right off and realized I was one bite over what was an uncomfortably comfortable full tummy of waffles.

I was tipped off that this week’s Bobby Flay Throwdown was Chicken and Waffles. I like Bobby Flay and I like Chicken and Waffles. I also like when he throws down. In fact, he can show up at my house any time to throw down with me. No spatula necessary. Why Bobby Flay? He’s not that hard on the eyes and he can cook. Plus we have something in common: he is the IronChef, I am an IronChick.


We watched a recap of it on Sunday night. As usual, Bobby lost. It’s kind of hard to beat someone at their specialty. Plus his chicken and waffles looked like a giant plate of elephant dump. It was not pretty. But I did get some ideas about future chicken and waffles. You can add egg nog to the waffle batter. And paprika to the chicken. It also gave me the idea that in the near future Chris and I need to have our own chicken and waffles throwdown. I now have ideas on how to make my waffles not suck and I'm ready to throw it down.

Waterstraat, next weekend the chicken and waffles throwdown is on.

Friday I felt sick all night. I ate too many waffles and too much chicken. Plus I went through nearly a quarter of the bottle of maple syrup. Restless sleep, crazy sugar dreams (ever have those when you eat too much sugar before bed?) but I’ll tell you this. I got up the next morning and I rocked my workout. I saw watts that I haven’t seen before and the run off the bike was hard but my body settled quickly into a rhythm of hurt that I thoroughly enjoyed.

It might not be the healthiest meal but if you are looking for a way to supercharge yourself for the next day or just to have some fun with your food – cook up some chicken and waffles. When you have leftovers, throwdown and create your own home video of what happens when two cows meet across the table on two plates.

Let me know how that plot unfolds. Video helps.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not A Big Fan

I love Facebook.

It’s quick, dirty and helps me keep up with my 471 closest friends. Secretly my wish is to get over 500 friends. Actually, my wish is get to 1 friend above where Jennifer’s friend count is at so I can say “psst..I win” but she was in a sorority so there is no hope for that.

Recently, though, have you noticed a disturbing Facebook trend?

Groups. Groups of which you are supposed become a “Fan”. What is a fan? I suppose a supporter of the group itself. Baseball teams have fans, bands have fans, movie stars have fans. However, lately on Facebook people are getting all fanned up about…

Not so special things.

For example: sleeping. Wait – sleeping? Isn’t that a basic biological need? You can’t be a fan of something you need to survive – can you? What if you aren’t a fan of sleeping? What then? Where’s that group? Are they even alive? But if you do like sleeping, head over to Facebook, bring your pillow and carpet square to find a space on the Fans of Sleeping page. What’s going on there? All of the sleepy oversleepers and adult nappers join this group to talk about sleeping. Oops, they all fell asleep at the keyboard so not much got said.

God. You can join a group to be a fan of god. There’s a loaded gun. Where to begin. Is this THE god or god as represented by any name also meaning God. What if you’re a fan of Jesus but not God. Is Jesus God? Who is Jehovah then? Do you see the kinds of existential battles a group about God will have? This group will forever be at unrest. They will form separate sects for God, GAWD and OMG.

This battle will go on for centuries.

The other day I saw a group for Fans of Bonfires.
What about the fans of S’Mores? Can they join too?

Where is the group for Common Sense? I’d like to be a fan of that.

Fans of traffic? Fans of Losing Your Shoe On The Shoulders of Highways. How about Fans of Road Construction? I know they’re out there because I can’t think of any other reason why the bridge by my house has been under construction for 2 whole years.

Fans of Housework! Fans of Cleaning The Coffee Pot. Fans of Dryer Lint. Fans of Wives That Need Wives.

Fans of….Fans.

The ceiling kind. Not oscillating.

Fans of long lines. Fans of BACON! Fans of butter not margarine. Fans of breakfast for dinner. Fans of bedhead. Fans of showing up late for appointments. Fans of root canals.


Did you know you could be a Fan of Hugs (true). Let’s all hug each other through the…INTERNET!

Fan of Texting….that I can understand. But where are the Fans of Texting While Driving – those are the risky sons of bitches I want to know.

Fans of men that look hot in cowboy hats. (YEE HAW!)

Fans of Whining. Fans of Low Self Esteem. Fans of Anxiety. Fans of Harden The Fuck Up!

Fans of Plastic Sheets You Put Over Toilet Seats. Fans of Fans of Metallica (assuming the members of Metallica would join this). Fans of Fancy Lotion. Fans of McGuyver (very resourceful site). Fans of cleaning the litter box. Fans of Hangnails. Fans of BOSS! Fans of driving a mini van (HOLLA!). Fans of Nut-Free (not that nuts wouldn’t join it but at least they wouldn’t be allergic to it).

Fans of SEASONAL ALLERGIES (sponsored by Zyrtec).

Fans of CHAFING! Fans of Salt Tabs. Fans of THEY CANCELED THE SWIM (!) Fans of DRAFTING! (or pacing; different group, same purpose)

Fans of Find a Peanut M&M on the floor and eat it (I now know two women who could join this group).


Fans of sarcasm. Fans of mosquito bites. Fans of bunions. Fans of potholes. Fans of trash (any type; trailer, white, compactors…). Fans of my Chihuahua can kick your great danes ass (true). Fans of mail (postal, e and fan mail). Fans of Bad Haircuts. Fans of Bad Cell Phone Reception (let’s hear it – or not – for dropped calls!).

Fans of Functional Threshold Tests. Fans of Zone 5c. Fans of Not Leaving Zone 1. Fans of SRM against Fans of Power Tap. Fans of What the F Do You Do With All Of That Data Anyways. Fans of Peeing In Your Wetsuit. Fans of Transitions (take your time). Fans of BONKING! Fans of Not Wearing Your Heart Rate Monitor Even Though Your Coach Tells You To.

Just sayin.

Fans of Gelato. Fans of Paella. Fans of French Toast & Other Foreign Things.

Fans of The Vagina Doctor…..anyone?

Fans of Getting Audited By The IRS. Fans Of Not Needing Sex Anymore Because The Government Keeps Screwing Me! Fans of mortgage rates. Fans of late fees.

Fans of spending the night in the airport. Fans of speeding tickets. Fans of online driving school.

I'm a fan!

Here’s another that really exists: Fans of Flip Flops.

Is Bree Wee behind this?

Fans of Your Boss. Fans of The Copy Machine. Fans of Faxing. Fans of The Smell Of Office Supplies. Fans of 8 hour workdays! Fans of Commuting. Fans of Annual Performance Reviews.

Fans of JHC. Fans of THC. Fans of TLC. One letter off and you’re hanging with a whole different crowd.

Fans of Drivers License Pictures.


Fans of getting so drunk you wake up two towns over in the back of a stranger’s Jeep Comanche (Joe?).

Fans of not fans of pizza.

Fans of crazy laps. Fans of naked laps. Fans of getting lapped. Fans of sitting in someone else’s lap

And …this just in…logged into Facebook and saw:


Become a fan!

(5 of my friends are fans)

I rest my case.

(for now)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Confidence Is Not A Naughty Word

Warning: this blog contains naughty words.

One of the biggest obstacles facing athletes is confidence – especially with women.

I’m not sure what it is. I am a woman and you think I would know. Perhaps it’s this idea that there are things we just shouldn’t be able to do because we are too weak, small or frail. Or would be better off spending our time making babies.


The point is if you’re a living, breathing thing you have the capacity to be strong both physically and mentally. It’s a way of thinking, a mindset you have to practice over and over again.

You train your body, right? Take the time to also train your mind. If you find yourself giving up when the going gets tough or stopping because you’re afraid of facing the what if – take the time to work on your mental toughness and self-confidence. Often this is the bridge to gapping good performance and great performance. It’s what gives you the balls to break through – to trust your legs, your training and yourself.

According to the definition, confidence is “freedom from doubt”. In training, confidence is trusting yourself and your training. I guarantee if you doubt your training you will not reach your goals. There are very few things I will promise as a coach but that would be one of them. Henry Ford once said “whether you think you can or you can’t you’re right.” Why? That’s just the way the brain works. To some extent, you hard wire what happens to you – you create it in your head. The brain is not very good at separating images or thoughts from reality (this is why top athletes use imagery because it’s so damn effective).

Try it: next time you get in the pool tell yourself you will completely fuck up the next 50 yards. Go out really hard and the entire time say things to yourself like you’re slow, you suck, you can’t swim, you’re tired, your arms hurt, you hate swimming. And when the clock spits out a slow number, pat yourself on the back and say – see, you were right. You suck, guess what, even the clock agrees.

Now, try it the other way. Start your 50 with an open mind. Tell yourself you’ll be strong, powerful, pull water, you’ve got it, you can do this, you’re on top of your best time, you love the water, you're nailing it. What does the clock say? I’m going to guess it looks better than you thought it would. Congratulations, you confidently cheerleaded yourself to a faster pace.

For the most part, it’s as easy as that. Who knew? But you have to do it most of the time for it to work. You can’t suck Monday through Friday and expect yourself to have a personal best on Sunday. Why on Sunday? Didn’t you just suck and hate yourself every other day? Instead you’ve got to build yourself up – every single day.

Believe me, success isn’t some ancient secret that you find bottled up in some black market for a really high price. It’s out there. It’s formulaic. It’s a hefty dose of patience with a bucketload of just doing the work combined with self-confidence. You can do the work and wait – but if you step up to the line without thinking you can do it – you’ve just waited and wasted a lot of time. But if you step up to the line with a confident mind and trusting legs – chances are you’ll surprise yourself.

How do you let go of doubt, to become free of it in order to become more confident? Become fearless. Before a key workout, hard set or race I remind myself to be fearless. Not just fearless but fucking fearless. There is a difference. Squirrels in autumn are fucking fearless. They want the nut. THEY WANT IT. They will lay their furry little life on the edge for it. You can see it in their anxious eyes. Being fearless is not easy. It requires taking huge risks. Finding yourself at the edge, closing your eyes, jumping off and hoping there is water below. More than hoping – trusting it is there. That is fearless.

Of course this is not a limitless process. True confidence is grounded in realism. At my best I can swim a 50 in :32 right now. Stepping up to the 50 free at a swim meet and hoping for a :28? Doesn’t matter how hard I close my eyes, I am not there (yet). There is a natural progression to progress.

Setting realistic expectations for yourself is critical for achieving your goals – which then builds more confidence. Confidence is contagious. Success breeds more of it and all of a sudden you’re filled to your brim with feel good. Success, however, is not always winning. Sorry, last I checked in sport there is one winner and everyone else – is just in the game. Harsh, yes, but true. Especially in a sport like triathlon, we’re not all out there to win. You have a 2000+ person event and only one person will win.

So what’s everyone else out there doing? Hopefully chasing their own outcome that they set based in realism. Why realistic? If you set your bar too high too soon, you’ll get completely jaded by the process and eventually give up. You’ll stop believing in yourself and your training program. Start small, build success one day at a time. Maybe today’s success is saying only positive things when you go for a run. Maybe it’s breaking 1:00 in the :50. Sure, you might want to repeat your 50’s ON the 1:00 but you’ve got to start somewhere. Give yourself a chance to succeed. Set yourself up for success – small steps, leading to bigger "wows".

When I turned pro last year I realized my measures of success and building confidence completely had to change. That is how you race like crap for a year and still have the passion to keep racing. You find other ways to call yourself a winner. Sometimes winning for me was finishing the event. Sometimes it was staying within sight on the swim. Small steps. I set the bar so low I could walk over it. Heck, in some races I literally tripped over it. But each time I finished a race clearly where not much had gone right – I got hungry for it again because I nailed that one thing. And that one victory fed my confidence.

The easy thing about building confidence? YOU are completely in control of the process. No one else believes in you as much as you. You can have a coach cheerlead you through phone calls, emails, posters and pompons all day but if you don’t have the basic I BELIEVE IN MYSELF when you start your workout, you’re as good as….not. You won’t have a good workout. You will fail. How do I know?

Because I’ve failed some workouts like that.

I was at the track last week. I had a complete mental poop out. I have doubts just like you. I wonder – am I running enough and doing the right thing? So I stepped up to the track with that little seed of doubt in the back of my mind. When the times weren’t going my way guess what I did? Stopped. Got frustrated. Called it confirmation for how bad my running is. But it’s not. I can see that now. Yet it’s funny how we’ll look for any little freakin’ clue for why we suck so much.

Workouts like this once every few weeks – ok. Shit happens. Admit to yourself you had a mental poop out, consider the “why” and devise a way to work around it next time. Then, act on it. Action is all that matters. Anyone can whine and pity themselves all day long. Each day you do that you take away more confidence. Want to build confidence and avoid situations like that in the future? Take action on it – do something. It's in your control.

What if you have workouts like this every week, day to day? Every day, then probably a problem with your training. But when the workouts are hard, when the going gets tough, when the pressure builds, when the demands are high like in a test or race situation – then it’s problem with confidence. How to fix? Buck up. Buck up to doing what it takes to build yourself up confidently. It’s not a secret nor found in any book. It’s inside of you. It’s what you say to yourself when you first wake up, what you post as your status on Facebook, what you think about yourself when doing the work and after the work is done. If it’s all negative and pitiful – as my high school history teacher once said about another student’s paper:

Jessica, dear, if it smells like shit and looks like shit it is shit.

Poor Jessica, I can still remember the look on her face. Ouch. But he was right. You can’t expect success to grow from shitty thoughts. Shitty days we all have them. But the patterns over time – should smell more like roses. Or vanilla. Cinnamon. Clean laundry. Bacon. Coffee – whatever smell you like.

I've been blunt, I know. But I think sometimes women need to be a little more blunt with each other to get the point. Take a lesson from the guys – guys have balls. What I mean is that most guys do not have problems with confidence. Of course when you are born with balls it helps to be ballsy. But anyone can do it too. Get ballsy – gutsy, brave, confident and fearless. Step up to the workout each day and beat your chest a little. Make the pace clock your bitch. Put the puke bucket next to your bike. And when you’re right on that edge of breaking through or pushing through the pain – run like a mad squirrel into the street. Convince yourself you can do it – work at it, confident and fucking fearless. Prove it to yourself for yourself because that’s where confidence comes from.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pioneer Days

When you spend a year feeling out of sorts, you return to what you first loved about the sport; the thrill of the competition, the fire in your eyes and your legs, the simplicity of a small race.

There's something undeniably charming about a small race, isn’t there? The big races have gotten too big, too loud, too logoed. So when I thought about how to start out this season, I thought back to the old times, the smaller scale – in a sense, my tri-pioneer days.

When racing was about a road trip, an adventure, an exploration you could manage from your own car. Pile the van full of wheels, helmets, gels and water bottles – it’s time for a race! Aptly named, the Pioneer Sprint. Friday afternoon we headed south to cross that invisible line just past Kankakee that divides Chicagoland from everything else.

Or, “southern Illinois”.

Less than 3 hours later, we rolled into a small town tucked beyond the flat cornfield grids somewhere between Bloomington and Springfield: Petersburg. A large water tower behind the county hall in the middle of the town square, Chris and I agreed it would make a great Ragbrai town if only it had a beer garden.

Time for sleep, then up before 7 am. Know what that means? COFFEE TIME! Count me extra excited for coffee this morning. We spotted the cutest coffee shop in the town square – The Bean Counter. Best damn cup of coffee I’ve had in a long time. But I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – the Jamaican Me Nuts coffee blend or the eight men scattered at tables talking about farm equipment and wireless internet download speed.

The simple things in life.

A 1 pm race start throws you for a loop. After coffee and a peanut-buttered bagel I sat around in bed in the lodge with about 800 calories and caffeinated molecules free floating all jittery through my body while watching Extreme Bathrooms on the Travel Channel. This didn’t really calm me down it just made me want to visit the bathroom about 100 times to let all the coffee out.

Know what’s better than one breakfast? Two breakfasts in one day! Oatmeal and currants – the pre-race breakfast of champions. Shortly after breakfast number 2 at 10:30 am I told Chris I couldn’t sit still any more. My stomach was turning and I started to feel a little sick.

And then it hit me…

Nerves. You have pre-race jitters. Holy crap it’s been two years since I’ve felt that. I was more nervous today for some small town race with less than 100 people than I was on the start line of Clearwater at the pro 70.3 world championship standing next to M. Carfrae.

There was something very wrong about that.

But nothing wrong with today! ALL RIGHT it is time to race! And, I am ready to respond – how do I know? I am already responding! I have never been more thrilled to feel sick to my stomach. Nerves are a good thing! They mean you are ready, excited and plugged in for your race. This might have been a small race but I took it seriously – did all of my quirky pre-race things; wrote out a plan, thought it through, cleaned my bike, brought my fast toys. Practice makes perfect – and right now I need a lot of practice!

To the race! A small transition area, paper plates with numbers written on them to mark the racks. We’re kicking it old school at the local high school. The usual pre-race rituals, a quick jog on the track, some stretching, some waiting….

Sooner than I knew it, it was time to race. A quick warm up in the pool and I decided that a 300 yard swim in an 85 degree pool was about 300 yards too long. It was a self-seeding start and I lined myself up close to the front. I figured the only way to swim faster was to swim scared like heck that a faster guy was going to come up on my feet. A quick count down, a feet first jump and then I was off! And 50 yards later some guy was right on my feet. Fear not, it was Thomas from WF. He hung there and I said to myself unless he pulls at my feet I’m not going anywhere. He might have brushed them but I was looking for full on pull – never came so I just swam like heck!

Up the ladder, running to the mat, in transition and on the bike.

The BIKE! Wheels on pavement...wait...on pavement? Moving? Seriously? The plan was to bike as hard as I could for the 13 miles. Sounds easy but this was no flat cornfield course! There were some sneaky steep little hills along the way. After pre-race drive of the course (always drive the course!), I realized there were mile markers – and the plan was to ask myself at each mile marker can you give it a little more? That would be the only way I would stay on top of myself. Sometimes you need to find a visual cue to remind you of what to do out there. You can’t always rely on your head to do the right thing at the right time – there are so many distractions (pain, wind, steering, fueling) when you race – you have to keep bringing yourself back to the race and focus on the task at hand – RACING!

The first few miles were ugly! I’ll agree with Thomas – I was seeing stars. That feeling that you might hurl or your head might explode from going too hard too soon. This was my second ride outside in Illinois this year. I had a death grip on my bars and just hoped I could control the bike for 13 miles without sailing into a ditch. I had to remind myself to keep throwing gears down and pushing harder – but for once I felt like I could match the work I was doing indoors out on the roads – my legs were going and my head was staying in the game.

The last few miles of the bike I started catching the guy in front of me. I pushed a little more to pass him and in that moment said to myself this the pace you need to keep in a pro race for 56 miles – are you ready for that? I just laughed at myself. I’m not ready for that now but give me a few months or at least more than two rides outside and I’ll get there.

A quick transition and then on to the run course! The plan was to bike hard enough to see what it would do to my legs. OY! I cannot think of any other word to describe it. Bike = score 1. Legs = NOTHING! Ouch. The guy I passed quickly took his position back about ¼ mile into the run and I wanted to go and go but….legs not going! Every turn I took I used the cue of “turnover more” to remind myself to keep chugging away. There were several short uphills and some long downhills. I realized I was in 5th overall including the men – which was my goal – but then remembered it was a time trial start so I needed to keep giving it more and chugging away, away, away….ok where is that finish line?


Going into this race I had three goals; top female, top 5 overall, break 1:05. Check, check and I went 1:01 and some change – CHECK! I had “best case scenario” goals and then “super secret” splits I was hoping for. I achieved my super secret splits for the bike and the swim. The run – I was 16 seconds off. But I will get there and keep working at it. Every time we fall short of our goals, it makes us hungry to work harder, to chase after it even more. Failure is something you put upon yourself. Last year I fell short a dozen times – but I never once failed. I respect myself more than that and have faith that I can improve any result with a lot of hard work, patience and time.

Of course it feels good to win. I will never lie about that. But it felt even better to race. To truly RACE for all that word is worth. To get out there with a fresh body, a hungry mind and the ability to respond to the race. To have a plan and to be able to execute it. True, today was a small race but it meant something big to me – a return to racing a race, to getting in the game and getting after it. Smart training, a healthy body and good guidance are bigger and better than any win or any race result.

Trust me on that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Meet The Masters

Rerunning this for all of my Masters friends doing the state meet this weekend: GOOD LUCK! (originally posted 3/9/08)

It’s a mixed bag at masters, isn’t it? Different ages, sizes, body shapes, people in different places, points, speeds of their life. But no matter where you swim there are certain people that are just the same. Characters and personalities that always appear at the pool. I know all of us in blogger land are trying to be polite, complaint-free, dainty ladies so this isn’t so much a complaint as it is a public service announcement. A roll call of the riff raff you might find in your lane. Here goes:

The Phenom: Swimming since the womb. Came out with goggles and flippers on. Massive shoulders with a lean waist. Former national champion still capable of swimming a :57 at the end of a 90 minute practice with no dive.

The Slacker: Will never lead. Exits the pool at least twice during a lactate set of 10 x 50 on the :45 for a bathroom break. Always late and last in the pool if they get in at all.

The Sandbagger: Also will never lead. When they are finally coerced into leading the lane (as in, you will lead this lane or get out of this lane) they end up lapping the lane because they’ve been sitting in your draft for two years building up enough energy to blow past you on the first 100 of the set.

The Loudmouth: Big, loud, burly, typically female, always has something to say about the set or always badgering the person in the next lane. Keeps it real. If you’re slow they’ll tell you. If they’re slow, you better not say.

The Snob: I won’t swim in a lane with you because I think I’m faster than you even though I’m not really faster than you.

Lane Bait: The token hottie with pink flowery swimsuit and matching cap; nobody cares how slow or fast she is, she’s always welcome in the lane.

The Excuse Maker: I’m tired, I just ran, I swam yesterday, my arms hurt. Makes excuses more than they make the interval. If you find this person in your lane, switch now. Switch fast.

The Flipper: Puts on flippers for any set of IM but refuses to lead. Annoying. Leaves tremendous wake in path so those of us left behind sans flipper end up drinking half the pool.

The Pregnant Lady: Do not be fooled. Do not let this woman in your lane. She will swim faster than you. What she lacks in svelteness these days she has made up for with superhuman baby powered buoyancy. Put paddles and a pull buoy on her and she’s leading the lane with her heart rate never leaving Zone-negative-1.

The Guy That Really Needs New Shorts: Enough said.

The Triathlete: Seal mask, one speed and always swimming on trashed legs. Often congregates in lane with other triathletes talking about stroke count, slide and glide drills, and why they never get fast. Psst…..quick talking and start swimming! That’s how you get fast!

Tugboat Tom: World’s largest man that leaves world’s most massive turbulence and wake. Do not attempt to butterfly behind this man when he is also butterflying. DO NOT. Excellent lanemate for practicing open water skills.

Rico: His name might be Flavio or might be Luis but he’s the foreigner displaced in your town and proof that no matter what language you speak there is a shared language in “on the :50” or “5 x 50 descend”.

The Perennial Puller: Does everything with a pull buoy between their legs. Why? Just ‘cuz.

Big Bob: Every team has a Big Bob. The guy that stands over 6 feet tall that could be out of the pool for 6 months and still swim a 100 in :56. The guy that just glides down the lane. Wears the dorkiest goggles and baggiest shorts but still kicks everyone’s ass.

The Early Exit: Has never stayed for a full practice.

The Late Arrival: Has never showed up on time for practice. A 60 minute practice, they arrive 15 minutes late to warm up in the middle of your mainset. Brilliant.

The “I Don’t Do IM”: See The Triathlete.

The Editor: Always making changes to the workout. I don’t feel like swimming IM today or I’m going to go on the minute instead or I’m going to pull this one. If you want to write your own workouts swim in your own lane.

The Tub Toy: Person that refuses to swim entire practice without relying on some sort of toy at some point; pull buoy, fins, paddles, floaties for their arms.

The Wall Flower: For no reason just stops in the middle of set and stands at the wall in most inconvenient position while you continue with set. Has become known as the person that “always stops at the wall” and no one knows why.

The Has Been: Seriously dude I don’t care what you swam in high school you’re 45 years old let it go and show me what you can swim now (and I mean for more than 100 yards).

The Cramp: 50 minutes into the 60 minute practice they are on deck stretching their calf – always. Part of you feels sorry for them. The other part says – good, there’s only 10 minutes left.

The Chatterbox: Confuses swim hour with social hour. While they chit chat away the rest of the pool is half through the warm up. Shut your trap, swim your laps and stay on pace.

The Rabbit: Blows out the warm up then slowly starts to fizzle and fade. Good thing you left your best swim in the first 1000 yards!

The Dark Horse: Warms up slow, slowly ekes through the mainset then all of a sudden at 4000 yards they bolt and start lapping the lane.

The Whiner: I can’t do it, I’ll never make that interval, I’m too slow, this is too hard. HEY! HTFU. Quit your complaining. Now lead the lane.

Jugs Magoo: Kind of like The Pregnant Lady except not pregnant but displaying super human buoyancy powered by big boobs.

The Motorboat: It’s like a Bermuda Triangle of bubbles when you are in their draft. You are not sure you will ever see your way out. Or even see the wall.

Bass Ackwards: Freakish ability to match your freestyle speed with backstroke.

The Bad Mood: Always in a bad mood. ALWAYS. If in your lane will try to also put you in a bad mood. Says nothing good about swimming and always calls themselves slow. Agree with them, then switch lanes.

The Commander: You want this person in your lane. Will keep you honest, always knows when to leave on the next interval, cutting swim short is never an option, goes all the way. If the coach says “do it on the 3:00” they say “let’s try 2:55”.

Not Human: The guy that can do no breath fly.

The Ragdoll: No idea of where their body exists in space and time. Most likely to swim over the black line and depaddle you every 50 yards. Do not attempt to swim with this person during sets of IM.

The Kid: Anyone under 25 that swims with the team. Isn't there a kids team?

The Jackhole: The guy that dives in with a giant splash covering you in ass cold water while you sit at the edge of the pool slowly putting one inch of your body at a time into the ass cold water. The only word missing from jackhole is – ass.

The Overachiever: Anyone that swims at practice before 6 am, see also Not Human.

The Open Turner: See The Triathlete.

The Swirling Vortex: Not so much a person but a lane – any time you find yourself swimming against the wall with more than 3 other swimmers. Add extra swirl if you are doing a set of IM.

“You Don’t Want To Swim With Them”: Every team has one. The person that you approach to swim in a lane with while the coach secretly shakes their head and widens their eyes to warn you that under no circumstances do you want to swim with this person because of erratic behavior, ie., The WallFlower, The Tub Toy, The Editor.

The Snotter/Spitter/Pisser: You may have seen it or you just have a feeling that they are leaving something from their body in this pool.

The Tow Rope: Always right on your feet but will never take over the lead; similar to The Sandbagger.

The Newbie: New to masters, new to the pool, heck new to this world. No idea what it means to swim 100's on the 1:45 or to send off on the :30. "Descend" is what you do when you walk down stairs. "Making the interval" is something you do in math class. Help this person, will you? Because we have all been there.

Each person adds more to each swim practice. Without them, practice would be missing the fun and flavor of mixed personalities. With them, it becomes an entertaining experience reminding you that everyone brings something different to the pool though they all come for the same reason - to swim!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Nitty Gritty

….I told you I was in hiding.

But I have emerged.

…Unlike spring in Chicago.

(it was 40 with winds gusting to 30 mph and pouring rain today)

That is all I have to say about that.

In bewteen floor installations and bad weather I have been training. Indoors of course. In fact, I’m considering going for the record of most indoor rides in one year. In fact, I think I may attempt the entirely indoor season. I am only going to ride in my basement and see how it goes. I’ve seen nothing on my bike but Berber carpeting for about 5 months now. Please read that sentence again. It cracks me up to read about people that need motivation to get out and ride their bike…uh…..look around. If you are outside and see something blue or green you have no idea how motivating that is. Berber carpeting? Not so motivating. It’s not a matter of which course will I ride today, it’s a matter of which way will I point the fan. Do I want a headwind, tailwind or cross wind. The most exciting thing? We got a new fan this year so that means I can have both head AND tailwind on a ride.

Can you do that outside?

Don’t answer that.

Speaking of headwind, I was riding in the basement on Saturday on the Computrainer. About 2 hours into it, after asking Chris if it was calibrated right, was my rear brake on, is there something wrong with my bike (when a ride goes south it is first best to try to point the blame anywhere but your own legs) – Chris dutifully pulled out the Shepherd’s Hook he keeps in the closet for days when I stubbornly refuse to accept that I am done and said to me “Liz, you are done” and without any protest I dismounted the bike.

Turns out it wasn’t me. Chris later realized that he had the “headwind” turned on with the Computrainer. So, 2 hours into a headwind for real while staring at Berber carpeting. Like I said, looking at blue or green – ZIP IT. As for myself, I am going to hang a piece of carpet in front of my face while racing so I can feel properly motivated and in my zone.

In other weather-related news, on Monday I had a track workout on schedule. I LOVE THE TRACK! Especially when it’s 40 and pouring rain. Seriously this is not a joke. So I took my track workout indoors. It hurts my hamstrings just to say that. I’m motivated but not stupid. Track when it’s cold and raining = stupid. Track indoors = slightly stupid but at least you are warm which counts for heat acclimation useful for races later this year which cancels out stupidity of doing the indoor track. Holy turns! I never want to do that again. But since it didn’t kill me from boredom or turning, I can assume it made me stronger.

And if my calculations are correct, I have about 5 months of stronger in storage and ready to rage on race day.

This just in: I survived Easter without eating chocolate. We did the annual family trip to Easter brunch and I wasn’t feeling right. That is the best way to arrive at Easter brunch if you are hoping to cause the least damage. As Kevin pointed out, there was 500 square feet of dessert table.

I did not even set eyes on any of it.

My mom bought me Peeps, I did not eat them. There were even chocolate bunnies – they got nothing from me. Not even an ear bit off. I am convinced I was sick for 24 hours with a rumble in my tummy and a tired in my head. Then it passed. Then I wanted chocolate. But I gave it up 2 weeks ago because races are getting closer and it’s time to start eating clean again. I’ve spent 5 months eating dirty. Dirty like a sin and I’m trying to clean up my act.

So far, so good except I did eat the marshmellow out of a chocolate egg the other day.

But just one bite.

You may ask why I would do this? For me it’s about sacrifice and getting hungry for something else. When we fill ourselves up with everything we want we feel satiated. When we make a hole in one of our wants it opens us up for something else. I have other wants coming up. I am getting hungry for them. I need a place to put them and it can’t be clogged up with chocolate, know what I mean?

But don’t even think for one minute that after my first race I will not make a beeline to the nearest DQ for a large blizzard crammed with peanut butter cups and cookie dough.

Sacrifice is a good thing. You never get something for nothing. If you do, it’s probably not worth it. The things worth most in life cost the much. I should know we just installed wood floors. NOT CHEAP.

Did you want the coverage of Clearwater the other day? Aside from wanting to buy a pair of new glasses, it made me realize how many sacrifices are made in our sport. Closely I watched the faces and bodies of the top pros move across that course. One thing that stood out was how hungry they looked. Did you see it? I think no one did it better than MB-Ellis. You could see how bad she wanted where she was in that race and how hard she was willing to work to stay there. I have never seen such a death grip on aero bars. Or the look on her face when she crossed the line? It was the look of – all you have to do is go hard for 4 hours and hang on to it, how bad do you want it, are you willing to clench your fists and grit your teeth for it?

I’d say she was, she had her mouth open and eyebrows furrowed even after she crossed the line. I wanted someone to walk up to her and say: you can breathe now, it's ok.

You know what that was there? Grit. The best competitors have grit and know how to use it when the time counts. Grit is that raw animal hunger that makes us impervious to anything else on race day. A result of sacrifice and wanting something so bad. Grit keeps us going towards our goals no matter if it rains on course, we get a flat, or as in Miss Daisy’s case we crap ourselves. Grit is fierce and wanting, grit is tightening your body and narrowing your eyes to really get after it.

Grit is grrr.....

Winter has made us gritty. With spring being washed away and chilled – the grit only builds. The Midwest is not making nice right now. And when we are finally unleashed on a race course, we will take on your sunny days and sandy beaches and raise you a middle finger to what is becoming our life in winter all year 'round. Why? Because we are angry and pent up like caged animals right now. We’re feeling a little gritty here and ready to hang on. We know all it will take is hurting and holding it for 1, 2, 3, 4+ hours. But what’s any of those hours when you’ve spent months in your basement staring at berber carpeting?

Nothing compared to where we've been. And we've got the grit to show.

To get extra gritty I am refusing to shower until race day. That combined with no chocolate makes me an attractive to spend time with right now. Imagine if I also gave up coffee.


Why do I scare myself like that?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

In Hiding

Pounding, sanding, scraping, hammering, banging……it sounds like I’m hungover.

I wish.

The floor surgery has been going on now for 2 days. For 2 days I have sat trapped in my upstairs office surrounded by house plants, chairs, tables, lamps, pictures along with the other furniture from downstairs that we stored in the upstairs leaving me to have to scale a capsized ottoman to actually get through the door.

This is the room where I am hiding. What is missing is – the freakin’ kitchen sink! Could we cram anything more in this room? Correction: could I cram anything more into this room since I am the one who hauled everything in here (HUSBAND?). It feels like my college dorm!

It’s funny how quickly you can get used to existing in a 4 x 4 space or approximately how much space is available to me once you cram a room filled with an entire floor’s worth of furniture. That’s big enough for me, a chair, a desk and a computer. Need I anything else? If I could squeeze my treadmill in here I’d have everything I need right in this room. I know, I know – where would you go potty? Problem solved, the rubber tree is actually in this room with me. Hey, good enough for Boss, even better for me.

Only thing missing (important): food. Food is sort of a problem right now because the refrigerator is in the garage. Wondering how to stop eating? Put your refrigerator in the garage. Better yet, invite strangers over so you have to walk past them to get to that food and face the look of “eating again?” in their eyes.

Yesterday the wood installers arrived early at 7:30 am to start installing the wood boards with their brand new nail gun prototype – not yet released. This was very exciting stuff – I could sense it in their eyes that having a powerful yet efficient nail gun is like having a rear wheel light, fast, aerodynamic that powers you effortlessly down the road.

I get it guys, I get it.

Still you would think in all of the things that have been invented in the world they would have invented a silencer for the nail gun. Know what I mean?

A nonstop caravan of strange men paraded through my home all day – intsallers, managers, sanders carpenters, shoe layers? Shoe layers? I learned what a shoe is and where it goes.

Not on your foot actually.

In all of this deconstructing of my house, I am reconstructing it in a much cleaner, prettier way. Of course that means we need new everything. EVERY – THING must go. Except the couch. I like that. We actually got new televisions and already discarded the new ones. Here’s a good one: when the wood installers show up at your house tell them if they move the television they can keep it. And as an added bonus they can take the one downstairs. Problem solved = two televisions gone, 400 less pounds we need to haul ourselves. Husband – thrilled. Contractors – thinking if they stick around long enough I might just give the entire house away.

So, to list: we need rugs, painted walls and and and….a new refrigerator.

Have you been refrigerator shopping? Not easy. Many ways to arrange two doors and shelves. Next to each other, on top, ice maker, water fountain, child lock, door alarm.

Wait a minute – door alarm? Is this something your husband can set on to the freezer to keep your paws off his ice cream? Is there a programmable voice recorder where you can have it shout your 2009 season goals every time you reach for something bad or have it shout JUMBO in a husky voice when you reach inside after 9 pm?

After opening the doors of every refrigerator in Best Buy and finding one I liked best, I noticed the price tag of $2500 and realized a new refrigerator might be a few years away. The one refrigerator in our budget right now is big enough for a dorm room but hey – if I keep up my life in my office I bet it could fit nicely in there and solve the food problem.

Right now this is where my refrigerator resides – in the garage. If you look closely enough you’ll realize that not only can you eat in the garage, but you can also take a crap on the toilet which is also in the garage and then have yourself a nap on the living room couch or chair both of which are also in the garage. In fact, you could actually live in the garage because all of your needs would be met – unlike in my office on the second floor. I’ll even throw in the rubber tree.

Today the sanders arrived. Along with them they brought the one piece of machinery that is quite possibly even louder than the automatic nail gun:

The sander itself. It also does not have a silencer.

Holy crap I think I might have 50% of my hearing left when this is all gone. Imagine two of those things going at once. On top of that, imagine one of the sanders singing even louder in Spanish. Ay dios mio. Me duele en la cabeza.

Much louder than it looks – TRUST ME. In this picture you can also get a good look at the new floor – unfinished for now of course. I figure that you, the reader, will enjoy the before and after pictures much more than I, the homeowner/trapped resident, am enjoying the before and after process.

I may not have much of my sense of hearing left, but I still have my sense of humor. For proof: here’s a fun game you can play when you get a new floor. Allow contractor to remove drawer from under your stove that holds all of the big pans. You get to guess the contents of what was underneath that drawer in hiding for the past 14 years since your house was built.

Any guesses?

Careful archaeological survey of that pile reveals about 2/3 of the problem around my house: Boss and Chris. Little did I know that under the stove was Boss’ secret stash of rawhide bones and Chris’ secret stash of frozen blueberries that he eats for breakfast every morning. The other 1/3 is a bunch of fur and hair. I cannot claim responsibility for that because the hair is blonde. So either the previous owners had a large blonde dog or Chris secretly parties with a blonde that likes to cook.

Jen Harrison?

I am willing to send the pile to anyone that can correctly identify all of its contents. Heck, I’ll even throw in a free tv AND a dinner cooked by Jen Harrison.

I’ve been told this project will be complete by Monday. At that point I told my husband he is taking a day off from work to clean the entire house with me. Because it is a mess. There is a film of yellow sand all over everything. Including me. Tomorrow they do the staining and Saturday they do even more. I guess floor installation takes no weekends so I’ll be living in the office and eating out of the garage for a few more days.

Eating. I am hungry again. It’s after 9 pm so thank goodness I don’t have the self-scolding fridge. But I do still have to scale the ottoman to actually leave the room. It's settled then. I’m snacking on houseplants.


(all right, who said that?)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Try These On For Size

On Monday night, Chris and I went to the outlet mall.

What you don't know about me is that I was voted most likely to be found in an outlet mall with oversized sunglasses, wearing Uggs and toting an oversized purse shopping for nothing but designer gear.

I am so freakin’ fabulous. I call this my Katie Holmes with a touch of Nicole Ritchie and the pout of Victoria Beckham look. You can just call it SEXY.

And so full of shit. Those aren’t my sunglasses, that would be my washable Eddie Bauer purse and a fleece jacket from Target. I am so fashionable I almost cannot look at myself. Joke. So you are wondering then what am I doing at the outlet mall? Well, it has a Pearl Izumi and Nike store that always has good deals. Since I spend half of my life in workout clothes, I have started accumulating them like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, I have starting hanging up my workout clothes because throwing them in a big bin just wasn’t cutting it any more. I have workout outfits now. I have officially disqualified myself for being one of those women that walks around in black Capri tights, a hoodie and running shoes.

Turns out this is not always appropriate attire. You actually need to own some “real” clothes. Blahblahblah. Says who? And why? Fine. I'll play along. So I had another reason for going to the outlet mall. I need jeans. Sadly my jeans do not fit anymore – except for two pairs, the two pairs that fit on top (sort of) but I resorted to cutting off 4 inches of the bottom just so I wouldn’t trip over them. Oh no, this isn’t “my jeans don’t fit ‘cuz I lost weight” – quite the opposite. You put on weight – whether it’s fluff or muscle – and your jeans let you know.

Stupid jeans. I like my fluff.

Disdain would be one word to describe how I feel about shopping for jeans. Chris does not understand why it causes me so much frustration – he thinks you have a waist size and length size and you buy. Not so in the world of the woman. You have nothing consistent, a different size, heck a different measuring system in every store you walk into.

I started out at The Gap. Aren’t they known for jeans? Is that where they started? I bring in about a dozen different sizes and styles and quickly realize none of them fit.

Chris doesn’t believe me. He insists on coming into the dressing room just to be sure. He is probably looking for a peep show but I prove to him that none of them fit. The worst part – the “ankle” length which I assume means you have ankles where most other women have knees are about 4 inches too long.

Would someone please show me the 6 foot tall woman who is wearing a size 2 to 4 jean out there? Where is she? That’s right, she doesn’t exist. And that is why no one buys your stupid jeans!

Even if the length fits, it’s the waist that pops out. Who has stick legs and a waist 3 times bigger? Who is built like that? Then Chris explains it to me, that is where the muffin top goes.

The what?

The muffin top which describes what happens when you squeeze a flabby girl into a pair of tight jeans – they need a place for the flab to hang out – hence, the muffin top hanging over the tight waist.

Sounds sexy. Wait a minute - how does he know this?

I forget that Chris comes from a line of world champion shoppers. His mother is such a shopper that they have to split Sunday into two shifts, the morning shift and afternoon shift. Neither of his sisters has ever made it through a double shift. Mother wears them out after just a few hours of store to store, on their feet, checking tags and trying things on. In Chris’ blood, this hard core, shopper extreme exists. Sometimes I see it in the form of large boxes that arrive at our house filled with things but I know better than to get between a Waterstraat and their shopping. It is not advisable. You will not win.

We try a few more stores then I decide we shall try a store called Lucky. Perhaps I will get lucky in there. Immediately I am impressed because the jeans come in waist sizes. Wait, do you mean that what they are is really what they are? None of this deceptive let’s call it a size 4 when it’s really a size 8 or throwing the whole world off by making jeans in a size….5? Who does odd numbers?


I have no idea what my waist size is. I decide it might be safer just to guess and try one a few pairs. No problem, though, my husband is on it. He announces to the store: DO YOU HAVE A TAPE MEASURE?

This was like when we walked into the Calvin Klein store and the clerk asked if he could help us when Chris announced: SHE IS SHOPPING FOR BRAS.

Thank you.

Here comes the clerk with a tape measure and he actually goes about trying to measure my waist when I‘m like, give me that and get away from my waist. Turns out my waist is about 4 inches bigger than I would have thought. That is EXACTLY the truth I needed to hear today. Plus it's 2 inches smaller than my husband’s jeans? Someone just call me Jumbo at this point. None of this sizing makes any sense but I go with it and start selecting jeans that might fit when I hear Chris start talking to the clerk.

I have a little cold so I’m drinking tea.

That would be from the clerk. He’s a young kid sipping hot tea. So what does my husband say?

What kind of tea is it?

Now they are talking about tea. Now I am ready to run out of the store. So I go to the dressing room to try on the jeans. No sooner do I get my own jeans off when a hand with a pair of pants on a hanger shoots into the dressing room curtain and a voice says:


If you need a reason to never take your husband shopping with you, I have about 20 more where that came from.

Turns out I actually found one – ONE – pair that fits. Go me! Chris turns that into two pairs because if they fit you should buy a dozen, he says. This is true. Earlier this year he went on a clothing shopping spree which resulted in about two dozen of the same shirt in every color of the rainbow being delivered to our house.

I settle for two and let the clerk ring us out. While waiting I notice something that makes me realize how old I am and how out of place I am in a store like this. Really, I am a grown adult and I am shopping in a store where they sell hemp hats. That would be a black ball cap with a cannabis leaf.


Leave it to my husband to save the day.

“Did you hear about the story of my mom and the hemp leaves?”

My mother in law the world traveler was traveling abroad and purchased an umbrella that had what she thought was really pretty flowers on it. Really pretty flowers that were actually cannabis leaves. And since she uses an umbrella for sun protection, please picture her walking around in a foreign country with a cannabis-leaved umbrella on a sunny day.

This story makes me laugh. And makes me think we should buy her one of those hats for Easter because it has really pretty leaves. Better yet, as Patty suggested, buy a pair of these beautiful pants because they will surely go with her Easter blouse.

Imagine that experience was just for jeans. Which seemed like enough for today. Now get me to the Nike outlet because I need me a new pair of black running tight capris.

In size Jumbo please.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Knock On Wood

I wish I had exciting things to blog about right now. I wish I had pages of race reporting to give to you. I originally typed "reporting" as “repotting” but I don’t even have that. My house plants have been firmly potted for years and planting season around here doesn’t start until late May.

So with lack of anything better to blog about (true I have been training but ho hum haven’t we all), I turn to the installment of my……

(drumroll please)

New wood floors.

PEOPLE: Did you hear me? NEW WOOD FLOORS. It's safe to say that I'm a little on edge and it’s safe to assume that the answer to anything right now – ESPECIALLY after 9 pm – is “no”. Why? Enter installment of wood floor to span the living and dining room along with the refinishing of the bathroom, kitchen and foyer wood floor. This is major household surgery. This might require that for a few days I need to leave my house. The house I live in, eat in, work in, train in (that’s right, it’s still snowing here and my tally of outdoor rides this year is currently at ONE)…

How will I ever get anything done?

My husband’s suggestion? Go live with his parents for a week. Next. No really, may I have what is behind door number two? The door that does not lead directly into their home? Three adults – including one Popo – two small dogs added to my small dog and a cuckoo clock that goes off every-single-hour-of-the-day (and night)?

No thank you, I’ll pass.

As you can see, the logistics, the “what ifs” are starting to make me antsy. Of course husband is in charge of all things household repair and maintenance so he coordinated this. I have not yet gotten a straight story about when this is happening, how long it takes, who will be here, what I need to do and I do not like unknowns. Nor surprises. Nor anything else that involves disruption of my life in my home. Husband’s answer to this? 12 hours prior to the delivery of a massive forest of wood into my living room he sent me an email about wood arriving….


Still imagine my surprise when at 8 am a man with a mullet, a ball cap, stonewashed jeans and reeking of cigarettes rings my doorbell while I stand there with bedhead in pink pajamas bottoms only to hear him say:

“I’ve got some wood for you.”

Excuse me – is anyone else as freaked out by this as I was? This is like some bad fantasy come true that a man shows up at my door, while my husband is gone, ready to show me…(please cover your ears) wood yet the one small detail that my dreamweaver happened to overlook is the fact that my fantasy NEVER included Jethro the mullet-wearing Nascar loving bubba who drives a pick up truck and lives in PawPaw (true, it’s a suburb of Sandwich, I heard this on the radio the other day…and I’m a little scared because since when was Sandwich big enough to spawn a suburb?).

This pile of wood now rests in our living room measuring 6 x 2 x 3. I don’t remember much about geometry but I’m guessing that means length x width x height. In feet. That’s a lot of wood! And I heard it needs to sit in our house to get used to us. Just to be sure it is ready to lay on our floors and be walked all over for the rest of it’s life.

And how will I know if the wood is not ready? Hmmmph, Jethro?

Since then I have been slowly deconstructing our first floor. Turns out that my husband leaves at the most (in)convenient of times. He goes away on the weekend when things need to be moved. So I spent a good part of this weekend moving our entire first floor up to the second floor and left the big things behind (I cannot carry a couch on my back) and I am protesting the 200 pound television. And let me just add that once that television is moved out of our house, it is not coming back in.

If you are looking for a 200 pound television check my curb on Wednesday night.

Simply put this has been a lot of work. We don’t have many things but I kind of like the orderliness of my things – I don’t like them strewn all over my house and seeing my downstairs furniture upstairs is disrupting the feng shui. I have no idea what that really means but Chris in the spirit of feng shui once told me that we cannot have mirrors in the bedroom, doors facing east, staircases leading anywhere but west...whatever, my universe is totally out of whack right now including all 7 of my chakras. All I can think about is that everything will need to be moved back downstairs and on top of that – need to be cleaned.

Now, when you add work by having to move things around something else has to give, right? Or else the equation of work becomes too out of balance, too much work and not enough whatever else we do with our time. And so somewhere else I had to slack off. In cleaning of the carpet that remains for a few more days.

I see no point in vacuuming the carpet since it’s going away anyways. And when I drop food on it, I see no point in wiping it up. And no point in wiping crumbs off the counter when I can just fling them on to the carpet instead.

In a few days – it’s gone. Not my problem anymore.

I mentioned to Chris that I think we should give our carpet a going away party the night before the wood floor work begins. Spend a few hours just partying hard on it. Spilling coffee, dumping dinner plates, a little nail polish (do I own any?), a lot of red wine, let Boss go run in the field behind our house and pick up some the stale blue corn chips that a neighbor just had to throw back there to feed the POOR LITTLE WILD ANIMALS that have not existed for eons without us evolving with the food that is naturally available to them – yes, eat those chips, come back inside and barf them up in a mess of yellow slime and bile all over our carpet indoors.

Indeed Boss did this a few weeks ago which prompted the “maybe we should get wood floors?” discussion.

And I suspect that while I will enjoy the new wood floors (easier to clean, better for allergies) Boss is in for a shock. Oh, he’ll find somewhere else to throw up but will he find somewhere else to potty? He doesn’t potty inside often but when it gets too cold or snowy or his morning poo is mysteriously absent then we leave the house – well, sometimes he can’t hold it. That is life with a little dog. I am convinced it is a texture thing – the carpet feels like the grass so I am convinced this problem will disappear along with the carpeting. But just for fun I told Chris we would should celebrate by defecating – all humans and dogs – on the carpet one last time because we can. Maybe it really IS exciting to poo in the corner by the rubber tree. Maybe I just NEED to find out.

Not only that but the future of crazy laps is hanging perilously on whether or not Boss’ tiny paws have traction enough to make a 360 on a wooden floor without slamming himself face first into the wall. I told Chris we need to start looking for a carpet that will allow Boss a single track around our living room – so basically we need an oval with the inside cut out. And as a runner, I will insist every time he runs by us in lane 1 he will need to shout “TRACK” or “LANE 1” to make his presence known.

As if all of that wasn’t enough to throw me over the edge this week, I have to welcome in several strange men to work in my house. Maybe while I’m here, maybe not. I don’t like this. Neither does Boss (he doesn’t like strange men, only my father in law and Chris…I know, it’s a rule that doesn’t make much sense considering they are both sorta strange…I have proof…the other day my father in law worked both pole dancing AND Bernoulli’s Principle into a conversation and it was just…strange).

Tonight Chris did his part in preparing the house. He removed the downstairs toilet and moved two speakers. Well that was just great. I hauled a leather ottoman, 3 lamps, a dozen plants, 2 tables (one taller than me), 2 chairs and countless other household trinkets up two flights of stairs and homeslice….

….moved a toilet.

And then he announced he was leaving town for another work trip. Bad enough that he is going to Milwaukee – yet again – worse that I am going to have to wait in my house for a bunch of men to appear at my door peddling wood.

Who got luckier here?

At least when this is all said and done I will be able to cross one thing off of my weekly to-do list: vacuuming. Which should free up about 2 minutes in my life. 2 minutes I will probably have to spend hunting around my house to see where Boss made the potty now that the carpeting is gone.

It might just be easier for the men to roll me up in the carpet when they remove it and put me out at the curb, too.

(if you drive by on Wednesday night could you pick me up?)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Random Bits

Boss and I are exhausted!

We had a very busy day today. For some reason I never sleep well on Friday night. All that I can ‘fess up to (because sadly that is all there is to ‘fess up to) is watching VH1 Top 100 songs from the 80’s until 10 pm and then tossing and turning all night. I think I fear that I will not wake up for masters and then have to swim (gasp) alone.

There is nothing worse than that.

So I wake up at 6 am feeling like I have been rolled over. But this morning I knew better than to make last week’s mistake of not having coffee before the swim (eek!). I had Starbuck’s Via courtesy of Colleen from Seattle. May I just say that I think I am a fan? It is actually not that bad. In fact, I think I like it better than I like their brewed coffee.

Masters was so low key today. Gone are the mega mixed up sets that last the full 90 minutes. They have been replaced by taper workouts. Let me say in addition to the instant coffee I am also a big fan of state meet taper workouts. I’m not doing the state meet but I’ll take the opportunity to go short, fast with tons of rest. For example, today we did 40 x 25. The first 20 on the :25 and the last 20 on the :30. And only sprinting the odds. You know what I love about a 25? At most it hurts for 15 seconds. And even when it goes bad it only lasts 18 seconds. But that also means every second counts. There is a big level of pain difference between :15 and :16. I found that level today so I think that means I’m doing something right.

I have been solo this weekend. My husband shipped himself up to the Twin Cities along with his bicycle to send The Timmers off on his life sentence. Yes, he is getting married this summer and his bachelor party was today.

When I asked Chris if there would be strippers he said no, the to-be-married-man doesn’t like strippers. I almost dropped my fork at dinner when he said that. I asked him – why. He said the man does not believe you should pay a woman to take her clothes off. I almost dropped my knife. I’m just saying – you go to a bachelor party, there are strippers. This is not an optional addendum to the agenda. It’s on it. Non-negotiable.


What was on the agenda then? Riding their bicycles around the Twin Cities while wearing their Ragbrai jerseys. Imagine, then, 6 grown men riding bicycles when it’s 40 degrees outside each wearing a bright smurfy blue jersey with white hibiscus flowers sprinkled all over it. The point of the jersey was to be as ugly and obnoxious as possible. The point has been well taken for the past 6 years on Ragbrai. However, this is not appropriate bachelor party attire. How do I know? For my husband’s bachelor party they pulled the same trick up in Des Plaines (and really, where better to have your bachelor party than Des Plaines, Illinois). They rode their bikes around wearing their flowered jerseys with spandex shorts. When they arrived at the local strip club (which clearly has to parallel Big Earl’s in Ames, Iowa as far as strip club quality goes) – by bicycle – the bouncer said “no”. He would not let them in based on attire alone.

Know what? I don’t blame him.

I assume there will be some consumption of PBR and the Captain. I also assume that at some point someone will strip and it won’t be a girl. I’ve been on too many Ragbrais with those guys to expect they will make it through an entire evening drunk without running through a schoolyard naked.

I caught my husband almost shaving his legs last night before going to bed. He does this often – like most swimmers or cyclists – and it doesn’t bother me. But when I called him out on it – like, why? – he said “because this weekend there is cycling involved.” That kind of freaked me out a little. Ok, weekend away with the guys but no strippers AND you are shaving your legs? What kind of party is this?

When I reminded him that it would only be 40 in Minneapolis he put the clippers away and packed leg warmers instead.

In addition to swimming today I did a lot of spectating on the computer while everyone raced. Do you know how hard it is to track people online! My finger is strained from pressing REFRESH or FILTER over and over again. I’m going to need to work up to this because I have a feeling from here on out every weekend will be filled with racing. It was exciting to track everyone and made me itchy to race again. NOT itchy enough that I would ever race in 56 degree saltwater (ick) but itchy nonetheless. I was really happy to see that Marit not only had a killer return to racing but nabbed the Kona slot too. Good things come to those that wait. I know she waited a long time to recover and then race again. And knew when she finally raced again it would be like unleashing an animal.

I’m pretty sure RR qualified for Kona too and with Joy going….I’m starting to think I need to pull out my spectathlete hat and take me a Hawaiian vacation in October.

Hmmmm…..I wonder if I can talk Miss Daisy into going? Seriously someone should pay her and I to do commentary on the race out there. Forget Ironmnalive – ho hum. Blah blah bad music blah bad audio blah. After our Ironman Wisconsin adventure, we are like to pots of gold just waiting to be discovered. Give us a curb and bag of Bridge Mix and we'll show you how to entertain hundreds for hours along the marathon course.

What is it about when a friend qualifies for Kona or does an Ironman you start to think: I NEED TO DO IRONMAN! Really I don’t. No you don’t either. But it does kind of kick you a little. It makes you want to consider it. Then I start considering the fact that you actually have to train for it and….yeah about that Ironman? I’m good.

Imagine in all of this excitement today I also fit in a trip to the dog park. Was it bring your beagle to the park day? There were so many beagles. And I’m telling you – there is an obesity epidemic among the beagles there. A fat beagle is NOT a cute beagle. Can’t these people see that? They end up laying in the middle of the park like a sad oversized bag of white fur rather than running and hunting. I don’t like seeing that. Boss of course dominated every dog he could find – Boston Terrier, flufferdog, Beagle. You name it he had the dog on its back and succumbing. To what? I don’t know. The reign and terror of a 9 pound dog? Really, small dogs are soft. If my killer Chihuahua can scare them they need to harden the f up and grow some big dog balls. Oh, you're fixed? My bad.

Pretty soon I’m going to be on the prowl. For dessert. Is there an unwritten rule that if you have watched a race for more than 4 hours you get to eat cake like you have just raced for more than 4 hours? Can we talk about cake? Deirdre, back me up here. There is a real problem with the cake lately at Safeway. It is NOT good cake. What happened? It used to be fresh and sweet. Now it is crusty and dry. Not the same. I tried cupcakes last week but honestly wasn’t that impressed with a 3 dollar cupcake that I felt like I had to try them again. Ice cream always comes back the next day in a not so nice way so…I’m kind of feeling deserted by dessert. But I need some sugar and with husband away I can completely destroy the dessert in any way I like without hearing about it (you dug all of the peanut butter cups out of the ice cream!?! Why not just buy the peanut butter cups instead!! - because, it is NOT the same!!)

Tomorrow I need to be up early again. I’m heading down to the city to help out with Well-Fit’s March Madness cycling event. I’m also bringing my bike down there to do a long ride with the Moo group afterwards. I have not yet chosen a course to ride but I am thinking something terribly hilly just..because that is what we in Chicago do for fun when it is going to be 39 DEGREES AND SNOWING TOMORROW!

For real it is April 4th and you know what I did this morning? Put on my winter hat. IN MY HOUSE. Because it was 64 degrees inside when I woke up. I forget to turn the heat on. WHO has the heat on in APRIL!? I have ridden outside TWICE this year in Illinois and one of those times really didn’t count. I ran in shorts today even though it was 49 just because I have a rule that if you don’t need gloves you can probably wear shorts.

By the end of that run – I was cold.

It’s time to wrap this up. Tomorrow is a long day – city, cycling, and more spectating. Yes, a few more are racing NOLA tomorrow. Three things that made me NEVER want to do that race: high fecal count, alligators and point-to-point swim. That about does it for me. If I showed up to learn those things I would point-to-point myself in the direction of Bourbon Street and put a drink in my hand. If a gator wants to eat me, let him chase my drunk ass into some barely legal peep show. Not that I have any business being in there and furthermore if my husband is along it probably won’t even be ON the agenda.

I really don’t drink. And as a matter fact I don’t do anything illegal. I have the forms to prove that too. Did you know that an inhaler is a banned substance? I know that now and I am officially registered. You should also know that before I was registered I may have possessed the inhaler for a few days but...I did not inhale.


On that note, it’s time to inhale some cake. Or ice cream. Or whatever tonight’s flavor is. Cheers to all who raced today. I'm forking some cake for you. Know what would be a real nice way to thank me for shouthing at my computer screen all day to make you go faster?

(and clearly IT WORKED)

Join me.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wishful Thinking

Every Tuesday I show up at masters ready to go (hurt, cry, scream, ache....).

I get two swims a week to hurt myself. In a good way. I eat my oatmeal, drink my coffee, say a prayer and walk out on to the pool deck. This Tuesday was like every other except I added a little challenge.

I put myself in Timmyboy’s lane.

Timmyboy because that’s what the tattoo on his arm says. I assume his name is Tim but then again I would assume that Johnny’s name was Winona and it wasn’t and so…I have never understood people that tattooed names to themselves. Just seems like one of those decisions that will come back to bite you in the ass. Or the arm. Or wherever that name is.

Tim is fast. Not like Coach Dave fast (which is like lapping you in freestyle while he does backstroke fast) but fast nonetheless. Last week I had my first swim with Tim. That rhymes but not on purpose. Tom and I were in our usual lane along with Susan. In a bizarre pre-mainset turn of events, the next lane over said “We’ll trade you Tim for Susan.” Before Tom could speak I shouted “DEAL” and Tim moved into our lane. The look on Tom’s face was absolute disbelief but I knew better than to let this trade go by. Susan would be in our lane. Tim would lead our lane. As the one who would otherwise be leading the lane, I know a good draft when I see one. I welcomed Tim with opened and paddleless arms.

Last week we did 4 x 700 as our mainset. My goal was to not get lapped by Tim and I made it for all but one. It’s always humbling when your goal is to not get lapped. It keeps it real. In case I was starting to think I’m fast or something. Good thing my wickedly fast team reminds me every time I am there that I am most certainly…not.

This week I walked into practice and see Tim alone in a lane. That’s ashame. Someone should keep him real and keep him company. I ask if I can swim with him and he says ok. The mainset was 5 x 400. Numbers 1 through 3 were descending the pace, number 4 was easy and number 5 was balls out. The board didn’t say that but when you see 95% effort on the board you assume it is a pace just under ballistic which turns out to be balls out.

Tim on the other hand got a special state meet workout. Because he’s swimming the 200 free he got to do 2 x 200 with 20 seconds rest. So my goal was not to get lapped by Tim on his first 200. That sounds pretty weak but last week I was nearly lapped on a 150 when I got mistakenly put into the fast fast lane. That would be the faster than Coach Dave lane – the lane with the guys that do things like repeat their 100s on 1:00 or swim 500s in under 5 minutes. There is something quite wrong with those guys and also something very wrong when I was assigned to their lane because we were ‘all doing the same interval anyway’.

Something can be the same but different. Like me doing 150s on the 2:15 is nothing like those guys doing 150s on the 2:15. Same interval but they were coming in at 1:30 and I WAS NOT!

The 400s were all right. We were supposed to drop 5 – 10 seconds with each 400. The first one I cruised along at a comfortable pace. The next one I actually timed it perfectly so that when Tim pushed off for this second 200 I was right behind him. That pulled me to a new personal best in the 400. The third one I decided for fun to see what it would be like to sprint for all 400.

It was not fun.

All in all it was my usual Tuesday make it happen hard swim. I show up ready to go and looking for hurt. Before each practice I set a goal and focus until arms are ready to fall off. I don’t make excuses – I just try to make the interval. And when I can’t...I take one breath, push off and try it again. There’s nothing easy about it and I love every minute of it because of that. If it was easy every would win. If it was easy everyone would be fast. If it was easy it wouldn’t mean so much when we finally reach our goals.

I write a lot about swimming this year because there is a lot of swimming on my wish list. My wish list is a long list of “things” I would like to achieve this year. Not really race-specific goals but the little things that will help deliver me to my specific race goals. It’s nice to say “I want to be in the top 10” but really how are you going to get there. What will it take week to week to arrive at that goal? That’s where the wish list comes into play.

It started with me just scribbling down a few goals for January. When I finally looked back at the list a month later I realized I had accomplished everything on the list. And the list was not easy! I thought to myself that I might be on to something here. If I write down the little things maybe I am that much more likely to achieve them. Rather than just walking around with these “wishes” floating around in my head, make them concrete on a list.

I have always written down my goals for races but sometimes those goals seem so far away. There is nothing more fulfilling than a sense of accomplishment so by setting the smaller goals that you might achieve every week you get that gratification. And you feel like you are building towards your bigger goals. The little successes add up to bigger success.

So far I have crossed 8 things off of my list. I am 30 percent there! The problem is that every time I achieve a goal I have to redefine it and set a new one. I wanted to break :55 for a 75. I did that. Now it’s time to break :50. The list keeps building and the process of bettering myself never ends.

Race goals are great. But one (of the many) thing(s) I learned last year is that if for some reason you fall short of your race goal (and there are many reasons that can happen) you need to have a sense that all of your work wasn’t for waste. Many would argue at the end of the season your race results are all that matter. True – at a certain level and if everything with your health and training goes your way. But if it doesn’t, how do you reconcile with the fact that you did all of that work – all of that time and sacrifice – where did that go? At the very least I can look back now and say you did 24 strong things leading up to that race. That’s worth working for no matter how the race plays out.

When you finally get to the race you will either achieve or not achieve your goal. Part of it is setting appropriate goals, part of it is hard work, part of it is good health and the last part is a little luck. Week to week something else needs to keep us going. Big goals are great but it’s easy to get off track or lose sight. Break it down into smaller pieces. Set smaller steps that lead you to your big goal.

And then every week attack them with full force. Get hungry for your goals and do the work to make them happen. Little by little, cross off the smaller steps that will help you get there. And remember: anyone can write down a goal – but can you do the work, the tedious, hard and uncomfortable work it takes to get there? That is what separates the achievers from the completers.

Which will you be this year?