Monday, March 30, 2009

Scratchies

Per the allergists request (demand), I was off the anti-histamines for 3 days.

Three long, interminable days that I spent itching, scratching, nose running, eyes watering and sneezing. Even my lips were itchy. I was tired and crabby. If you ask Chris there was a fine line between itchy and bitchy – which this weekend was very blurred. In other words: this was not fun. I had a big weekend of workouts and knew that each would be about 100 times tougher than they should have been because I was operating at full-on allergy capacity. But what can you do. If I skipped a workout for every time any little thing was bothering me I would never get a workout done. So I kept reminding myself that tough stuff only makes you tougher. Running descending 10K intervals while it feels like you are breathing through a straw – oh yes, I am tough. Try me.

Monday at 10 am rolled around and I could barely contain myself. This was better than the morning I decided to go back on the coffee. I was going to the allergist.

Finally.

Today would be the day I could take an anti-histamine. Sweet Jesus save me from the itchies and give me a pill. As I signed in to the office I just wanted to blurt out: WHEN DO I GET THE DRUGS. Instead they ask me for my insurance card and a copay. Ok, I give you my money, you give me the drugs. This is a cut and dry transaction. Drugs, now. Please.

The nurse seats me in the office and has a good look at me. I look great, I wanted to say. Look at me. I haven’t spent the past 3 days losing my will to survive or convincing myself that we need to cover the entire house in plastic and laminate Boss so I can breathe again.

I notice on her sheet there is a place to circle how the patient looks:

Well or Ill

Let me just put my vote in for “ill”. I am sure I look ill. My nose is raw and I have giant black circles under my eyes. My stomach is covered in red scratches from Friday night when I had an itchy fit on the way to dinner. And I smell like dirty clothes because in an effort to rid the house of anything that I could be allergic to I threw away the dryer sheets and swore off laundry for a week.

Help me.

She takes my blood pressure then my pulse. I wait. And wait….about two minutes later she writes down 48 and then looks at me:

Are you an athlete?

I am trying to be. But I sort of need to BREATHE. With both lungs at full capacity.

Next up the doctor enters the room. Hello pill dispenser. Pills now. Again, please. Instead she asks me a round of questions about our home, my life and all possible sources of allergens. In short, we have carpet, a basement, a dog and I do not have covers on my pillows. The only way it could be worse is if I smoked.

She then prepares me for a few tests.

The first one is a lung capacity test. This should be good. I have been operating on what feels like one lung for about 4 months now. I am instructed how to take a cleansing breath, different than the next deep breath, then blow into a tube. And keep blowing…

KEEP GOING KEEP GOING KEEP GOING KEEP GOING

Is it just me or is having a grown adult standing next to you and shouting KEEP GOING something that makes you want to choke on the tube in a fit of giggles? Curb your enthusiasm, Liz. Each giggle costs you another percentage of lung capacity. FOCUS.

After two more rounds of that test, the nurse returns with a giant bucket with a biohazard sticker on it. If that wasn’t scary enough, next to it she rests a tray filled with needles. 40 of them. Yes, my friends, this was the scratch test. She draws a diagram on both of my arms and puts needle number one in to her hand.

Oh dear god.

Flashback to my last experience with needles. It was at the gynecologist’s office. I forgot to update all of you to say that I had to go back for some bloodwork just to be sure I really wasn’t a man. When I sat in the little chair with the school desk arm, the bloodletter looked at me and said “you’ve got great veins”. What do you say to this? I’ve also got a purty mouth but I prefer for people to not tell me these kinds of things before they are ready to stick me with a giant needle and extract 4 vials of blood – 3 to be sure and 1 probably just to drink. Sister you are freaking me out! Before I could say anything she came back at me with “this is a junkie’s heaven, I used to work with junkies and they would die for your veins.” What!? They would die without my veins. The hazards of sticking yourself with heroin 10 times a day. But thank you for the compliment. Clearly if my multisport business ever falls through I will fall into derelict street life very well.

Back to the scratch test: I couldn’t imagine if my job was to scratch people with needles 40 times about 10 times a day. Sometimes I answer really difficult emails but I never have to break skin. Before she even gets to the second arm, the first arm is burning. Exploding in red and starting to intensely itch. I want to scratch but she tells me I cannot move my arms. And I have to sit there for 20 minutes. To be sure she sets a timer and then leaves the room.

When you have nothing else to distract your mind, your focus is razor sharp. And right now it was focusing on the fact that I wanted to scratch my right arm right off my body. There is no relief and as the time ticks on slowly I watch my arms erupt in bumps.

A few minutes later, the nurse returns to tell me we need to do the lung capacity test again.

That bad, eh? I’m telling you I have not had an unwheezy breath for nearly 4 months. But I do the test again.

A few minutes later, the nurse returns to tell me we need to do the lung capacity test again.

Perhaps you should check to see I really do have two lungs?

Finally the 20 minutes is up and the doctor returns. She takes a look at my arms and says:

"THIS IS BAD."

Of course it is bad! You just injected me with 40 vials of venom. It’s like the equivalent of rolling in a field naked on a hot windy day with my dog licking my face. You have poisoned me what did you think would happen. And of all things you hope to hear when the doctor walks into the room, “this is bad” would not be one. But doctor I’ve got you on this one. I know it’s bad already. I don't need an MD to diagnose that. I’ve been staring at that arm for 20 minutes. It feels as bad as it looks. And if that wasn’t bad enough imagine that you can’t scratch it either. Look at this!


And that's just one arm. She starts to record what I am allergic to on her list. The first few are all trees. Of which I am highly allergic to. The next few are the grasses. She then reaches Bermuda. Who knew I was allergic to Bermuda? I guess it’s a type of grass. Add to that the weeds. Allergic. Molds? Allergic too. Household dust? Yes. Mites? Also. Cat dander? That’s one. But what about Boss? Would I have to sell him off to Mexican gypsies so he could return to his true chihuahuan homeland?


The good news is…no. I’m about as allergic to Boss as I am to feathers. Of the 23 things I reacted to, Boss and feathers were worth only one check mark (compared to four check marks for Bermuda).


Vacation getaway on small island apparently covered in highly itchy grass= zero. Boss = wins.


I breathe (at half capacity) a sigh of relief. I can keep the dog (unless I decide to cover him in feathers – at that point his allergen potential might add up and I’m back to laminating him).


The doctor teaches me how to properly use an inhaler next. This will help open up your lungs. Ok, I’ll give it a go. As I am sucking away at the inhaler, she is shouting:


HOLD IT HOLD IT HOLD IT HOLD IT


I almost bust out in giggles. Let me tell you this is the most fun I’ve had on a Monday in a long time. I’ve been in here for at least 90 minutes and nearly broke out into giggles twice. Can I come back again? Just to hear people shout things at me for encouragement. In fact, for my next workout may I borrow the nurse to shout KEEP GOING and you to tell me to HOLD IT?


The doctor then pulls out a pill package.


There it is. The coveted anti-histamine.


“May I give this to you?”


May you? It’s about damn time! It’s been 3 days since my last pill and I am getting ITCHY here. Give it to me now and forget the water, I will swallow it dry. I take the pill like candy. Meanwhile she tells me about the test results. In short, I am allergic to…just about everything. Except cockroaches (I’m not kidding, they scratched me with cockroach because they give off some type of allergen).


Phew.


And it will only get worse. I don’t know exactly why but as it builds up and you become more exposed to it your body fights more and more and more until you eventually give yourself lung disease. Which is code for asthma. I don’t have asthma which she confirmed by having me do yet another lung capacity test after taking in the inhaler. My results? Actually got worse. I guess asthmatics get better with inhalers. But my body was trying to fight off 40 allergens that had just been scratched into my arm along with the cockroach.

Anyways, the treatment on my end was simple: no open windows, no plants in the bedroom, no dog in bed, no cats, no humidity, no mold, vacuum daily, no sitting in the room after its vacuumed, no…..


Basically I need to live in a sealed room at 35% humidity with nothing green, living or furry.


I think to all of the places I have visited. And decide I shall move to the Badlands. Spend my life amongst the rocks. And sleep in a bed of Saran Wrap at night. With my dog and husband in an adjacent rock cave.


The only way to make this better? You got it – allergy shots. Why do I feel like I am part of an allergist Ponzi scheme? They dangle the contract in front of me at least three times. Asking if I will sign it. Like, you need these shots for the next 4 years to have any improved quality of life. I’m so uncomfortable though I’m about to consider throwing her whatever sum of money it would take to get started. Of course she just wants me to sign on a dotted line – but common sense hits me, I should see if it’s covered first and think about it…..


Sigh. Or exhale. Hey, look at that – I can exhale again without sounding like a harmonica. Yeah, about those shots – uh, I know I have great veins and all but I’m just not sure. That’s a lot of time and money for a big…what if. So I ask you the fearless reader – what do you think? Worth the shots?


Two hours later I finally leave the office with 4 days worth of pills. Why no prescription? I need to call her to tell her how it went. Concerned doctor or evil trick to get me back in the office for more shots and scratches? I am not sure. But at least I can think about it. And I am thinking that Dr. Nuts is just a phone call away.


I think he’s back in the country after a trip to India and soon will be relocating to San Diego. If you've been around this blog long enough you've heard me talk about Dr. Nuts. YES he is a real person! And it just might be time to call him again.


Good thing I’m not allergic to (dr.) nuts.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

All In A Day's Work



This is how I spend my day. In front of a laptop with my dog nearby. Sometimes on the floor, sometimes on a chair. But this week was different - note the roll of toilet paper nearby.

Yes, have spent the past week sneezing and blowing my nose while trying to get work done.

At first I pointed to the swimmers that keep coming to masters, stopping at the wall and unloading 400 yards of pent up coughs, snots and hacks all over me. Not only that but I know they are drooling their germs into the pool and I’m sucking them up when the guy in the lane next to me is doing an overzealous 25 fly. This happened to me twice in the past week where someone has been coughing profusely only to tell me they just got over a week of having the worst cold/ear infection/bronchitis they’ve ever had.

Thank you for visiting the pool today.

I thought it was a cold but then realized it’s not. It’s allergies. I am seasonally allergic to just about everything in nature. Which is ashame because I love nature and being outside. On the third day of my nose itching and snotting all over I was determined to figure out what I was allergic to. I stopped using froo froo soap, walked around my house naked for a day and drugged myself with Allegra. I figured the combination of all 3 would make me invincible to any allergen.

Unfortunately, none of that worked and I was still sneezing. So I have narrowed it down to three things that I might be allergic to:

My dog: which I quickly ruled out as impossible because you cannot be allergic to something so utterly adorable.

Coffee: because in a rebound effect after giving up coffee I have consumed more coffee this week than in probably the past 3 weeks but since I am not willing to give it up again I will quickly outrule this too.

Triathlon: nothing else seems to fill my days as much as triathlon so I deduce that I might be allergic to it but how fair is it to be allergic to something you really enjoy?

I sat at my kitchen table Friday night at 7:30 pm. I was still working on schedules. This week has been busy. It seems like I go from one meeting, one email , one phone call, one text message, one appointment to the next and at the end of the day still get very little done. I need more hours in the day to do it all. That is why I find myself on Friday night still with 20 percent of my schedules to be done, sneezing a storm up and itching my nose (quite different than picking it).

Chris walked in from the pool and looked at me. He then looked at the living room floor and asked what happened.

Oh that.

That would be the confetti mess of toilet paper that Boss made by the fireplace. You see, when you work from home your dog becomes like a child that wants your attention and like with a child you find anything and everything that might distract it away from bothering you. Enter the roll of toilet paper that I put on the table to blow my nose. Did you know that if you rip of a few sheets it instantly turns into a party for your dog?

To demonstrate, I tear off a few sheets in front of Chris and toss it in the air. Almost on cue Boss catches it on the fly and runs off to make confetti of it again.

Is this what you do with the dog all day long?

No. Yes. Pretty much. Sometimes I toss spinach leaves at him so he won’t bother me while I’m eating or throw his squeaky monkey across the room so he stops barking while I’m on the phone. I realize all of these things probably have the equal and opposite effect on his behavior but at least it quiets him down while I get work done.

It helps to have a really good vacuum. Better yet, it helps to convince your husband that you need all wood floors (which we are getting in April – FINALLY!).

In the middle of blowing my nose and working on Friday, I made an appointment to visit an allergist on Monday. There has to be something I can take to be less itchy, sneezy and stuffy all year round. Or someone that will tell me what I am allergic to so I can avoid it. I call an allergist and receive the worst news possible:

No anti-histamines for 3 days before your appointment.

I may not breathe for 3 days.

On Saturday after masters I tell Chris that worse than giving up coffee is giving up anti-histamines. I spent 4850 yards wheezing, burning and going nowhere not very fast.

But I think I learned one thing: I am highly allergic to the pool.

Dammit! I suspected this all along but things have been going so well in the pool I didn’t want to admit my body thinks chlorine is the enemy. Intuitively I know this. There is nothing friendly about the pool when you learn to swim as an adult but I have finally made friends with the pool, made it into the faster lanes and made peace with the swimmers.

Of all days I pick for my anti-anti-histamine swim, the coach moves us into specific lanes today. I am put into a lane with 2 guys that make me look like I just learned to swim yesterday. Have you ever been lapped in a 150? I nearly was. I would just push off for the 3rd 50 when the first guy would be just coming back in to the wall.

I was completely defeated and in the end not even paddles would save me.

Not only that but I made a nearly fatal error of going to masters without having coffee first. I know, I know. No anti-histamines and no coffee = swim disaster. Worse than crapping myself.

After swimming the first thing I demanded was coffee (and a Zyrtec). I couldn’t have the Zyrtec but could have coffee. And a bagel. I should also mention on Friday I had my first experience eating at a raw vegan restaurant. A friend was visiting from out of town, a raw friend. Raw is raw. Uncooked virgin food. It was very tasty going down. I had no complaints. However, about an hour later my stomach had some complaints.

So on Saturday I demanded coffee and food that was highly processed and cooked. Nothing green. Bagels and peanut butter it was. And, cupcakes. We finally made it to the cupcake shop across the street. We bought 6 cupcakes. Look at them. How cute are they?

Better yet how expensive are they? You are looking at 20 dollars worth of cupcakes. That will soon be in my belly.

(still I have to admit 20 bucks for organizing my own cupcake booty call is pretty cheap)

Chris took a nap while I tried to get some work done. As soon as I sat on the floor (best part about working from home is that any place is your work place – the living room, the bed, the bathroom), Boss tossed his squeaky chicken on to my laptop.

I might have tossed it back and forth a few more times while working on schedules, pacing strategies and interpreting test results. My head buzzes with numbers, workouts and my fingers are busy on a calculator (yes, Cat!).

About an hour later, Chris came downstairs, looked at me, looked at the floor and said “what happened?

Oh that.

Turns out that while I was working, Boss was busy killing the squeaky chicken. This happens often. We’ve gone through 2 squeaky chickens, 4 squeaky monkeys, 3 squeaky carrots (1 large, 2 small) and assorted other animals that beg Boss to extract their squeakers with very careful surgery.

By way of tearing their stuffing out.

Now, go back up to the top of the page. If you look closely enough at that picture you will not only see the look in Boss’ eyes convincing me he can help me get work done (which is why he is sitting right next to the laptop) but you will notice a tiny piece of squeaky chicken innards hanging from his mouth.

Ah, yes. All in a day’s work. A day? How about all in a week's work. Which will all get done today. I promise myself. Until then I will need a few cupcakes, a squeaky toy and a bit of toilet paper. And an anti-histamine. Wait, scratch that. Seriously, scratch that and my nose.

*breathe*

How soon until Monday?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Economics 101

News about the economy swirls all around us. You cannot turn on the radio or the television these days without hearing about turbulence in the economy. It is everywhere and becoming an excuse and a reason for anything and everything.

Case in point: the hotel we stayed at in Tucson posted a letter in the room informing us they had cut back on small things because of the economy. In my opinion – that was unnecessary. If your business is helping people get away for a weekend by all means do not remind them of the economy. Did mentioning the economy help them do business any better? And did it make me want to say oh, poor hotel. Oh they are suffering from the economy. Maybe I should donate $20 to them per day so they can put coffee filters back in the room.

(insert answer “uh…….no”)

Come on! We don’t need reminders. We get them every month by way of mail or paperless statement. Our portfolios are growing smaller every month, our 401Ks are shrinking into 201Ks. We’re losing money, worried about money and more than ever consumed by money. We get it.

So what is happening in triathlon?

In my view, nothing. Nada, zip, in fact throw in some Zipp 404 wheels because your 401triathlons are growing and growing strong.

Why?

I’ve thought about it – why in a struggling economy can a leisure sport continue to flourish. How can something that is an accessory in someone’s life can continue to grow strong? Losing jobs, cutting back – how is it that someone can make sacrifices everywhere else yet continue to funnel funds into their hobby?

Simply put: triathlon makes us feel good. Sport is something that keeps us grounded, healthy and gives us hope. It also gives us a sense of control. Everything else is storming around us, unpredictability in our future, ambiguity in our jobs yet at the end of the day the one thing we can control is our participation in sport. We cannot outwardly rage about our frustrations at work because we cannot afford to lose our job. We are stuck and pent up. So, we beat ourselves up and release with triathlon. We take it out in the swim, bike and run – we get it out and it feels good. Not only that but we can still achieve in sport. Ever feel like no matter how hard you work at work you will never get ahead? Nor get to that next level? Not in sport. Sport is one of the few places you can work hard and still improve. It’s a fairly safe and reliable return for your investment. 100 percent of the time if you do the work, you will get at least 1 percent better. Can you match those rates?


Seems that if you don’t know if you’ll have a job tomorrow, knowing that you can still participate in something productive and meaningful to you is worth the cost.

Don’t believe me that triathlon continues to grow while other markets fizzle? Here we go: I need to point no further than the Ironman announcement last week. How many immediately dropped over 500 bucks for an event taking place next May? I just saw an announcement that Ironman Utah is nearly full. It takes place over a year away!

Now think: how is the economy is hurting our sport?

From what I’ve seen, it’s not. There is a continued growth and participation – especially in Ironman. Why? How? And especially why Ironman which costs how many hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time it’s all said and done?

Ironman seems to be the ultimate example of what the sport does for people. Let’s recap: my job sucks, my manager is a chucklebucket, home life is stressful, the economy has tanked yet…I can still accomplish something. I crossed the line after 140.6 miles – it is a tangible accomplishment that tells me I am a good and worthy person. My life has meaning – again.

Know what I mean?


Simply put, we want what it means. I don’t think so much that people want to swim, bike, run 140.6 miles (really, ick) – they want what it means. What it means is so much more than what it actually is. What it is: expensive and painful. What it means: something more than just being out there for up to 17 hours and traveling 140.6 miles. It is like the little green mermaid on the Starbucks cup. She is more than just a mermaid on a coffee cup, she means more than a brand – she means opportunity, affluence, relaxation, an experience.

Bingo: Ironman has nailed the experience economy.

And that is why the sport will not die. Or at least Ironman will not die. The little races will suffer a bit yet the Ironman brand will continue to grow strong even as the economy fades. Ironman promises to deliver the ultimate in experience – you give us...what is it now, 550 bucks (?) and we give you the time of your life. We pit you against what feels like death at times. We have not only nailed the experience but brought in the physical. And that is what makes it powerful – it’s a physical draw. I mean, a Borders book store is also an experience (I don’t go there just for books, I go there for quiet, coffee, relaxation, to feel smart) – but Ironman? You will physically get tugged in a way that no book store will tug you. No cup of coffee in a sophisticated setting will make you feel this good. In Ironman you will find yourself faced with something epic and you have to respond. And if you get through it you will feel like your own hero. You overcame yourself. And that, in life, as far as an experience goes…is huge and cannot be replicated anywhere else – except perhaps sky diving (but trust me Ironman is much more bang for your buck, you are guaranteed up to 17 hours so in terms of miles per dollars I think it’s a better value).


Seems that with the state of the economy today, Ironman has it made. They have nailed the experience. People want an experience and if you can give it to them they will pay for it (look at Starbucks…). No one needs a 4 dollar cup of coffee but in our chaotic world they do need to feel like they are relaxing and treating themselves. People need Ironman. They need to feel like they have reached something big. The more tumultuous the world and the economy gets, the more they seek out experiences like this to find a purpose, validate their efforts, gain some control and accomplish something.

But that is just my two cents on my dime store blog. And according to today's market, my two cents is currently worth about one-half of one cent. Remember when my views were worth a full penny?


Damn economy!

Know what I'm going to do because of that? I’m going to post a letter.

Here goes:

I’m cutting back on blogs because I cannot afford to think and communicate any more. I hope you’ll understand. I’ve had to make some cutbacks on the number of words that leave me each day because I suspect in an effort to make up for a $294092829 deficit the state of Illinois will start taxing my words with an added tax on the sassy ones.

Oh my good word help me. I better watch my mouth.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Is In The Air

...Finally! And just in time for a busy weekend.

What fun - Meredith and Dave visited with us for the weekend! I coach them both – Dave for his first Ironman and Meredith for Boston. Since they live within a day’s drive, I figured we could beat them both up pretty good in a span of 2 days to help them get closer to their goals. Nice, eh? They drove in from Columbus on Friday night.

Saturday started with the usual masters swim. I’ll spare you the details but it didn’t disappoint. I found myself in a lane thinking what am I doing in this lane. Then Drew jumped into our lane and I thought seriously what am I doing in this lane. Lucky for me the entire practice was IM! That meant I could survive in the lane by doing free while they were doing IM. A bunch of 150s and 75s. Like 4000+ yards worth! I set a new personal best in the 75 while chasing down Coach Dave. Too bad Dave was doing backstroke while I was doing free but then again it wouldn’t be a Saturday practice without feeling totally demoralized at some point (and this pretty much happened when I got lapped by Laura within the first 900).

We got home to find Dave and Meredith ready to GO! Dave was about to embark on a 5 hour adventure atop the Computrainer to ride the Ironman Coeur d’Alene real course video! If you haven’t seen this, it’s really one of the amazing features of Computrainer (no they do not sponsor nor pay me to say that –I really do think it’s that good!). I rode part of the CDA course a few weeks ago and even as a coach it helped me to better help my athletes doing that race. They actually tape the race while it is taking place so as you ride you feel like you are right in the middle of it and get a feel for the rhythm of the course.


It is important to report that we also found this:



They put Squeaky Carrot on lockdown while we were gone! I guess Boss was trying to shave the carrot. He does this a lot with his furry toys. He plucks the fur out of them and runs around with the fur hanging from his mouth. It's also a mess to clean up on the carpet. They spared me that by putting Carrot in the holding pen.

Before Dave got on his bike I gave him some heart rate caps by time, pacing strategies and weighed him to figure out his sweat rate. According to my scale Dave started at a hydration level that was borderline crusty and dried out so I’m still not sure of the accuracy of those scales.


While Dave was riding, I put Meredith through a workout I will simply call my idea of FUN. It’s a challenging combination of strength and treadmill pace work. This is a workout that make s you STRONG. And when you are training for marathons STRENGTH is everything! I quickly realized Meredith had some weaknesses in her hips so we worked that (to her dismay) and introduced her to the TRX. This is one of my favorite strength contraptions that really engages your core and forces you to hold your form.



Meredith had nothing but GREAT things (extra emphasis on GREAT) to say during the workout (in her words, what's the policy about cussing around here?) and she enjoyed being licked by Boss while doing core. You can see he really had a keen interest in her throughout the workout (actually, he's thinking PAYBACK for locking up my squeaky carrot!).


With all of this fun in the basement even Boss couldn’t help himself. He had to be a part of it! Periodically Boss would go downstairs to check on Dave. Otherwise, Dave pedaled away with his nutrition plan, salt tabs and fluids. Meanwhile, Chris and I went for a short run – by the time we came back Dave was past the 3 hour mark and announced his wheels had come off. We tried to tell him though that this is totally normal. I think everyone in Ironman reaches that point at 3 hours of – oh shit, you mean there’s more? You mean I’m not even half way there and STILL have to run a marathon? There are so many highs and lows in Ironman – you just work through them. If you are training for an Ironman it’s important to just stick your workouts out even if they aren’t going “your” way (and seriously, who has 100% of their workouts go THEIR way?) so you teach your body that it can come back around and work through things.

Dave rode a full 5 hours on the Computrainer and I’m telling you – he is TOUGH. My personal record for indoor trainer time is 4:15 and Dave crushed that. Our basement saw a “first” yesterday. Afterwards, I threw out the suggestion he should run up to 20 minutes and he took me up on that. TOUGH – squared! The proof of his pacing and nutrition – he felt great on the run (or at least that’s what he said!). I’m really proud of Dave and now he knows that no matter what happens on race day if he can survive 5 hours on the trainer version of the course, he can survive outside on the real thing!

We spent some time that evening with Chris’ family and Dave and Meredith got to see what happens when you mix 3 small dogs together – they breach the security of the backyard and go on their own little mission. Yes, one of their neighbors rang the doorbell with all 3 dogs – Boss, Chewie and IChi – in their hands while asking “are these yours?” Why, yes!

Sunday arrived and it was my turn to do something really hard. A local 5K. I needed to retest my heart rate zones so I chose format 5K. Anyways, it was a cold morning – 34 degrees! Still, pull out the shorts, the jog bra and the racing flats – it’s a 5k! The first mile I thought I was holding back. I could see Angela ahead of me and thought steady steady steady. The good news is that I can pull out a mile in 5:56 right now. The bad news is that I can only hold it for one mile! The next two miles were in the 6:20s (and that is how not to pace a race). So you add up one fast mile and two ok miles and you get a 6:17 average. 6:17s are nothing to scream about but I had to remind myself it’s March. Still I was a little scared going into this 5K. It was just a test but I was really scared that my time would be worse because I have not done speedwork, no track and the first thing I always doubt in my fitness is running. Yes, I have doubts just like everyone else! I talk to my athletes all the time about trusting the plan, doing the work, not looking too far ahead….I need to talk myself down from the same tree too! I ended up finishing 2nd overall and Angela won. I’ll kick myself a bit for not bridging the 24 seconds between us….but those are the little things that push you harder the next time and make you hungry for more.

It’s good to be hungry again.

Jennifer (M. Daisy) was there and she had her game face on for the 10K. She had a very solid run and was still able to talk after crossing the line – ha! It is always good to see her. No, she is not my coach (got lots of questions about that lately) but she is still a good friend. Plus we look so cute together!


After coffee we found Meredith and Dave returning from their run. I sent them on a long run mission at the Arboretum. The hills were a perfect preparation for Boston and I just wanted Dave to run long to get rhythm in his legs after the long ride yesterday. They seemed to enjoy the run and no one lost their legs.

What visit isn’t complete without a trip to the pool? We watched Dave and Meredith swim. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as efficient as Dave. Once we got him kicking he actually started moving quick too! Then Meredith – I was watching her thinking – why isn’t she a triathlete? Right, she hates to bike. That’s a ashame because she has a really snappy swim and a strong run!

What a great weekend to kick off spring. I really liked having my athletes visit – as a coach one of the most effective uses of time is to get real time with your athletes. It is challenging to coach long distance but you can make it work; video, Skype, etc. Still nothing replaces face to face contact. To actually see athletes swim, bike and run makes the picture complete. You can assess their strengths, weaknesses – and when you can address those too you can make them stronger and more efficient (which leads to speed).

The other good thing about spring is that athletes start racing. The winter is such a grey area of – am I or am I not getting fit? You spend a lot of time telling people to wait, trust, work. When they finally get out there racing it gives them the answers and reassures them. This afternoon my inbox started stacking with the race reports and I thought to myself this is a really good time to be a coach. Summer is better and fall is even better yet but the first races of spring where athletes see their hard work come to life and feel good – that is more powerful than any motivational email or phone call. Robyn rocked her first triathlon even in 52 degree water. Colleen ran a personal best half marathon time on a hilly course while training for Ironman. Molly set a new personal best of 6 minutes in a 10K that she did as a training day (like I said to her – really Molly, WHO does that?).

The weekend concluded with saying goodbye to Meredith and Dave. As we walked away and put Boss down on the ground, he saw his chance for a freedom and a new life in Ohio so he ran towards their car shouting “TAKE ME!”. Boss wants to be a buckeye! He came back in the house reluctantly and has settled for life in the land of Lincoln.


We finished off the day with an easy spin. Chris hooked the Burley up to his mountain bike (yes, we put Boss in the Burley!) and we went to Herrick Lake to ride on the path. I now know what it feels like to average 10 mph. Actually, I’m surprised we held that kind of speed.

(speaking of speed Chris was 3rd overall today in a time of 17:42, nice to see his legs come back to life after a rough recovery from Ironman)

There were a few comments and looks about having a dog in a Burley: “Do you guys have a dog in there?” and “There’s one spoiled dog.” HEY! That’s not nice! As Amy says, my dog is perfect. That’s right – PERFECT! And way cuter than your kid (!). So that is what thirtysomethings without kids do for fun. Ride their 9 lb Chihuahua around in a Burley. Boss seemed to enjoy it. After 15 minute he sat down and just put his nose against the screen to sniff the smelly spring smells. He also barked at some Boy Scouts. Truth is, I never liked Scouts either.


You can tell – spring is in the air. It’s good. I’m excited about the spring. I’m excited about racing. I’m excited just about what lies ahead. You see, I got this medal today. This is a good thing. Yes, I know it’s a ridiculous piece of crap. But listen to me: last year I learned what it’s like to go to a race and bring home nothing. I know, cry me a river Liz but when you are used to bringing home SOMEthing you finish a race kind of like – was that it? Do I at least get character points or something?

(the answer is yes to that)

Was I spoiled before? No – just really lucky and in a different league. Now I don’t bring home as many things. So when you finally get something for placing in a race, well, let’s just say that it means something again. You stick around to pick it up. You take a picture with it just because…you can. You learn what not to take for granted; health, good feelings, heck even 6:17s.

To spring!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

IronMoo'ers & Shakers

One of the best choices I made this year was to get involved with the Well Fit Training Center in Chicago. If you haven’t heard, it’s a great facility filled with everything you could and would need to become the best athlete you can be this year. Sure, that’s a shameless plug but folks it’s just a really cool place.

Treadmills, strength equipment, balls, bands, weights, endless pool, computrainers, New Leaf testing equipment (and coaches that know how to interpret your results), showers, bike storage. For an athlete living in the city, it doesn’t get much better than that.

On Tuesday nights, I do my little “commute” to the city around 3 pm to teach a weekly Iron Moo class. That would be a class for those working towards Ironman Wisconsin 2009. At first I wasn’t sure what I would think of the drive. I pride myself in the fact that my commute takes about 20 steps from my bedroom to the kitchen table each morning. But each week I can’t help but get excited when the entire skyline of the city comes into view somewhere along 290 as I drive.

My class doesn’t start until 7 pm so it gives me plenty of time to do whatever I want until then. Sometimes I meet with athletes, sometimes I do my own workout, other times – like yesterday – I talk Jen into riding with me along the lakefront for an easy spin. Lucky for us Sharone invited himself (really, it was lucky because he knew the way to the lakefront) and I felt like a little kid on an urban bike adventure. If you want to improve your bike handling skills, ride through the city. Armed with Sharone’s advice “act like you are a car” we weaved our way around potholes big enough they could swallow a baby, bridges, curbs, cars, 3 lanes of traffic and when we thought we had done and seen it all – Sharone cuts off a bus filled with school children.

Ah, the city.

Anyways, last night was a fun night in class. There are 16 all star athletes in the program. They range from never ridden a bike outside beginner to having done a few Ironmans under their race belts. After just 7 weeks there is great mojo in the class. Like any group of city folk, they go out for recovery food and drink afterwards (note to athletes: best not to text coach photos of your recovery drinks...hahaha), set up a game night and seem to otherwise be forming the connections that we hoped would happen along their iron journey.

They have gotten so connected that some nights I can barely talk over the chatter. I also feel this is what happens when you get a bunch of people training together for Ironman mostly in the aerobic heart rate zones. They have the air to talk! And talk they do. I will probably lose my voice after September but that is ok. I just really enjoy seeing athletes together on the bikes, united with the same mission: IRONMAN and working not harder but smarter to achieve their goal.

Last night we did a strength and bike combo. In the second set of strength when there were a few moans and groans I reminded the IronMoo’ers that they did ask for it. Even as I left, Patrick said “I kind of felt sorry for them.” THEY DID ASK FOR IT! And it’s a good thing they asked – because Ironman is all about strength and muscular endurance.

Not only did we do a special workout last night but we also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. The athlete dressed most Irishly received a fabulous prize. I served green sports food (you’d be surprised how many brands make a green something) and green sports drink (lemon-lime, close enough). Yes I check IDs! Many came dressed in an Irish disguise. Karin’s beer gloves were great and Donna’s green shoes almost sealed the win. But it was Lore who actually wore her outfit during the entire workout that really pulled ahead for the win.

Here’s Lore, the winner, in a full on Irish cycling kit.



She’s one of 14 children. Yeah, she’s got a little Irish in her blood.

We went through the strength routine 4 times alternating with the bike where we did 4 segments of what I call “fun” on the Ironman Germany course. I am not sure the athletes called it fun but it was all for their good. Still they had energy to go back out and work hard at strength.



Look at them! Hard at work. That is Steve on the Bosu Ball and Mike doing one-legged squats. Dan is perfectly positioned in the middle of a medicine ball crunch up. I’m not sure who the guy on the back extension machine is because that move wasn’t even a part of our class. And then there is Shawn standing in the back. I am not sure what he's doing but that's just...Shawn.



Here is Karin doing a reverse sit-up. She had some sweaty ball issues, as you can see. Honestly I don't blame her. That ball was digusting by the end of the class!

All in all it was a great night of hard work and good times. I’ve got to admit that Tuesday is becoming one of my favorite nights. It reminds me of teaching – whether it was teaching kids about the environment, teaching parents how to help their special needs child, I’ve always been a teacher and can’t think of any better job. It’s the moment when you finally see it clicking and realize you had a part in that. To step back and watch them show up with their sports food, follow their heart rate zones and talk about the upcoming weekend ride. There is no feeling more rewarding than empowering others to knowledge, information and experience.

What a great opportunity and great group of athletes. To all of our IronMoo All Stars: keep working, connecting and enjoying it. That’s part of the fun of Ironman. It’s a journey like no other and when you are surrounded with others that support and share the journey it makes it only better.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Strong Like Bull

Hey...what are you doing next February? That's right, I said next February when you are sitting in the doldurms of winter, trapped in your basement and clipped in to your trainer.

Yet again.

Sound like fun? Of course not! That's why you need a Plan B. An escape. A cycling-focused training camp that includes challenging climbs, beautiful landscapes, delicious food and camaraderie. A camp that is for athletes and hosted by athletes. A camp that will absolutely launch your 2010 cycling into high gear.

Yes, the big gear.

What am I getting at? YOU need to join us next year at STRONG LIKE BULL. No bull this camp is for athletes serious about escaping winter and kick starting their 2010 season. The camp places you in the heart of the Andalusian peninsula in Spain during February where mountains will challenge and strengthen you, the Spanish sun will warm you, the gourmet food will nourish you and the friendships you make will last a lifetime.

Not only that but it's one of the best deals around with a cost that includes lodging (shared room), 3 meals a day, fully supported rides, access to a 25-meter pool, HOT TUB and a day trip to signature climb (Pico de Veleta) the longest climb in southern Europe. Escape to this to this camp for 9 days at the cost of $1125. Sign up with a $300 deposit by April 1st and get $200 off that fee.

Repeat: 9 days, lodging, meals, rides, hot tub.......in Spain for $925. Can you beat that?

Strong Like Bull has been going strong for the past 5 years under the direction of fellow pro and coach, John Hirsch. In 2010, Chris and I will join John and his co-director Sean for this camp. And honestly, we cannot wait!

It's not too early to start planning next winter's escape. Make a plan that you'll never forget: STRONG LIKE BULL. For more information visit www.stronglikebulltraining.com or email me at multisportmastery at comcast dot net.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday Is Swim Day

Saturday morning 6:30 am rolled around and it was time to start the day. Masters today. And I could feel it – this one would be rough. I ate an extra good breakfast, had extra strong coffee (AMEN) and put my swim face on (similar to the face of fear and sits right next to my angry eyes that I keep stored away in my closet).

As I got on deck I heard the coach asking the speedy swimmers (of which I am not) which interval they did their 200 IM on. When they said 2:30 I almost walked right back through the lockerroom, into the car and home. 200 IM on the 2:30. Not in 2:30. Sending off – 2:30.

Is there a point for me to even be here today?

I asked my lane permission to swim with them hoping they would say NO and send me back home. No such luck. I only got a “silly of course you can swim with us”. Hey, what happened to the surly you don’t belong here eyes I used to get? Would someone please reject me? Announce to the pool that they cannot swim in my lane? (yes, someone once did that to me in front of the entire team)

400 easy warm up. Is never easy in our lane. I am the first one in the water and after the first 75 stop to let The Doctor go by. She tells me there was no need for that but I know better than to believe it and tell her please just go ahead. Is she not aware by now that I have a rule that I cannot be lapped within the first 500 yards? Seems like everyone else but me warms up at top speed. Often I think about going with them but the endurance athlete in my tells me that in a 90 minute swim blowing all you have in the first 5 minutes is not a good pacing plan. Perhaps I need more risk, less fear, less logic, blow it all out early and simply hang on for the remaining….4600 YARDS!?!!??

300 pull is always my favorite. I can keep up and I absolutely love paddles. If my hands were paddles I would rival Phelps in the pool. Maybe. At least would lead this lane today.

300 dolphin kick. I think I’ll pass. I’m the classic Editor at masters. If I don’t like it (and I have created a long list of things I don’t like including kick, IM, hand entry paddles and anything hypoxic), I change it and do what I want. Swimming happy is where it's at.


6 x 75 drill 50, swim 25; free for the first 3, IM order the next 3. I play along. I love to drill. Honestly I do. First of all – you can never drill too slow. It’s not like you’re going to get lapped while drilling. Second of all – I spent all of December drilling and of all the things I have done to get better in the pool none were as effective as that.

The mainset. I could sense something epic coming as the coach was hiding the dry erase board of pure evil. I saw her writing furiously on it and could only imagine what it said. Earlier this week I heard they swam the timed mile. Last week I heard they did race pace 100s on the 3:00 meaning you go so hard it takes you over 90 seconds to catch your breath again. So how do you top workouts like that?

In a moment of reveal, there it was:

4x (4 x 100 on the 1:30, 1;25, 1:20, 1:15)
IM for one of them, pull one of them


And those intervals were the cushy ones. The fast lanes were going down to the 1:10. The worst part is that while 1:15 might mean 2 seconds of rest for me, for the other lanes the 1:10 would mean more than 10 seconds rest.

THAT is not fair.

My lane gripes and groans. First things first, we nix the IM. There is no way we will make the 1:30 so it gets scratched. I am in a lane of editors and I love it. Next: there is talk of ditching the 1:15. As Editor-In-Chief I say: No! No way. We are doing it. We are going all the way. It is my goal to at some point in life send off on the 1:15. I know, to all you "real" swimmers the 1:15 is NOT that fast….tell me something I don’t know. But it’s an improvement for me as nonrealfakeswimmer. I also know I will have to pull it to even have a chance at it but the rules said to pull one of them so I’m safe.

On the 1:30 is nice. There is a lot of air and it’s relaxing. On the 1:25 is picking it up a bit. On the 1:20 is generally uncomfortable and now my legs burn. On the 1:15 and for the first time EVER I have made the interval with 3 seconds to spare. The next one I come in at 1:15 then send off. The third one we miss by 1 second. The last one we just did. When you miss the interval you kind of get screwed and just swim.

A set like that and you think – great, I’m done. I’m a winner today. We can just coast the rest of the practice, do some kicking and drill to finish it up. Right?

Right……………?

Unfortunately there were 40 minutes remaining. And this on the board:

4 x (200 IM on the 2:45/3:00, 1 x 100 on the 1:30/1:40)

My only question is: what happened to the 2:30?

WHAT!? Of course that was not my question. The real question was: WTF!?

Adding insult to injury, that is what I call that set. The Doctor simply says “no”. Sara says she is getting out early. Jack – I’m just surprised he was still in the lane. Right about now would have been the perfect time for a potty break.

Come on team, we can do this. I know we can. I talk the doctor in trying the IM. Put on fins? Just survive? Agreed. We are finning our way through 200 IM. Unfortunately for me I spent the whole time with 1 fin hanging off because I am convinced people with medium-sized feet keeping wearing the small fins. Hey, if the small fins are not made for small people like me then who are they made for? It’s not like a pair of jeans. You don’t get a feel good prize for putting on a smaller pair people!


On the second 200 I realize I have reached the margin of diminishing returns. More effort = more slow. The Doctor finds her 3rd wind and pulls away. Poor Jack is stuck in my draft. I am going backwards. And Sara has left for the day.

We make it through that set and still 15 minutes remain. For the love of god please someone shoot this swim and put us out of our misery. But 2 x 200 pull is next. At this point my arms hurt so bad. I hurt. At some point I swam past Ironman. Every time I look at the clock it gets no closer to 9 am and all I can think about is coffee.

Giving up coffee? What was I thinking?

I hit 5000 and I am done. I am trying to do the math about how far that is but I lost my math skills after the first set. Something about trying to figure out when you came in and when you have to send off – and you all wonder why I have bad math.

I was tired afterwards but nothing a little coffee couldn’t cure (thank you coffee). It was a great feeling to walk away from this workout knowing I did one thing today I had never done before. It’s not huge progress but it’s something. And each week it builds. You find your little success each week and in time it builds up to something big.


Race season is almost here. I have no idea if all of this will pay off but that’s the exciting part – isn’t it? I have no idea what awaits me in the water this year but I can help but feel a little closer to ready. Ready is a good place to be.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pour Some Coffee...

…On me.

Really, I’ve had enough of this and I’m not that impressed.

Hear me out: you know how you have a bad habit that you think it bad because everyone says it bad and so you spend your days wondering would I be a better person without my bad habit, would I look better, feel better or have a better quality of life if I just could break my habit once and for all…

The answer is no. It’s all a lie. In fact, I’m starting to doubt research supporting that caffeine is a stimulant. Because if you asked my body, there is no proof.

Nothing.

For the past 3 days I have sacrificed my sanity. Forgive me oh strong perky legion of coffee drinkers for I have sinned. It has been 3 days since my last caffeinated cup of coffee. And let me say that nothing significant has changed.

Nothing. Again.

Many doubted me. Many asked why. Is she pregnant? No. Is she on some strict diet? Oh please, no. Is she out of her mind? Maybe. Are there some very cold residents in hell right now? Of course.

Because I gave up coffee. For THREE WHOLE DAYS. Cut it out completely.

Well, sort of.

Tuesday started the experiment. I woke up around 7:30 am which was really 5:30 am Phoenix time but really 6:30 am our time before Daylight Savings Time. It was complicated and I knew that my body would know that. So I figured I had a shot at tricking it with no caffeine. Everything was going ok. I was busy and distracted and happily buzzing along without my morning buzz. But then….it happened. I got on to the Eisenhower to drive down to the city. Everything was going ok – until that. Caught up by the hypnosis of the highway I realized I was not nearly as alert. I was foggy, hazy and couldn’t drink straight. I was thinking about coffee and where would I get coffee and how would I teach my class without coffee. After 35 minutes of incessant coffee chatter in my head, the only thing that could cut through a decaffeinated fog so thick, I arrived at Well Fit and blurted out to Karin:

I HAVEN’T HAD COFFEE TODAY.

She looked at me. Puzzled. And came back with the only thing that made any sense:

WHY!?

I don’t know. I just thought it would be the right thing. Everyone has me thinking that coffee is so bad and I’ll feel so much better off of it. Come on, it’s a drug! I am addicted to drugs. Might as well be crack! Right? Wrong. I don’t know. I think coffee is cheaper. Then again, I paid $4.85 for a latte a few weeks ago.

Quickly I looked for something to save me. There just had to be coffee there. Then I saw it – a mini coffee maker with little packages of decaf. I need something. I need that. I don’t need the caffeine I just need to pretend I am drinking it. The time between Karin and I figuring it out how it worked and waiting for the sweet sound of it finally drip into the cup was like waiting for...the coffee tree itself to grow. Or something like that. And then it was done. I drank the decaf. FOR THE RECORD: I drank the decaf. I didn’t feel perked up but I finally felt “at ease”. I could now function as a grown adult and feel safe operating heavy machinery. Or at least operating the Computrainer computer system and communicating logically with 15 athletes.

The next day I wanted to stay off the coffee just to prove to myself that yes I can. I was determined to not be beat and didn’t consider my fall from decaffeinated grace a mistake. Just a way to slowly peel myself away from the only friend I have had next to me FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS.

How sad – coffee could be my oldest friend.

Anyways, my day started ok with some breakfast and then a run. Wait – would I be able to run? Can I run without coffee? The answer is yes. I ran just fine. I felt fine. No headache. Hold on, where is this headache everyone talks about? LIES LIES LIES. There were no headaches. No feeling tired or grumpy. In fact, other than THINKING about coffee, I felt totally normal. I have no idea what this all means other than somehow coffee has infiltrated itself into my head to send messages as DRINK ME DRINK ME DRINK ME with no other withdrawal symptoms.


On Wednesday I found myself at Starbucks. I have walked into temptation and the grinder sings its siren song. I can beat this. So I order a decaf. I had to order something! And I will not order tea.

Not yet!

Is this fair? Two days off the coffee but twice with the decaf. Does that count? Does it matter? I’ve given up caffeine, folks. Please don’t scold me for drinking the noncaffeinecaffeine. Because the taste of decaf (a splash of dirty water with a hint of ass) is punishment enough.

Trust me.


Day 3 – I am alive. I wake up unaided by alarm or coffee. This would be the real test. Could I make it through masters swim as my new decaffeinated self. I show up at the pool to find Jack and Tugboat Tom. Perfect. I will lead the lane. Half way through Tom ousts me as the leader and I start to think – maybe I should blame coffee? Hmmm. The mainset was 40 x 25. That is my least favorite workout because 25s are just too short to do anything. Each time we had to wait until the clock ticked to :30 to send off and it felt like eternity. I find myself thinking – you know what would speed that right up?

Coffee.

Is it wrong to think about coffee – like, a lot? I think about all of my favorite coffee places and see it piping hot in a cup. I miss the taste. I miss the smell. I miss watching the cream swirl into dark forming swirled, liquid clouds.

This afternoon – it is temptation once again. I have another meeting. At Caribou. If only these coffee shops knew how much I use them as an office they would ask for rent. Especially in this economy. I have been waiting all day to go and have my…decaf.

Ick.

Really, I want caffeine. And tomorrow is Friday. Which traditionally has been coffee Friday as in go out and buy coffee Friday. I think I am going to celebrate and treat myself to a 20 ounce cup of something. Pour about 3 inches of cream into it and take advantage of free refills because I’ve got 3 days of missed coffee to make up for.

So, until further notice, let’s just refer to these days as “those 3 days that Liz tried to give up coffee” or “those 3 days that we do not talk about” because as I have learned it is not that I myself become unbearable without coffee, it is that the world becomes a little less bearable, a little more cold and a lot more empty.

Perk you later! TO COFFEE!