Friday, May 29, 2009

Simplify

Yesterday I had to do one of my least favorite chores:

Grocery shopping

Those of you that know me, know I despise the grocery store. It’s not that I don’t like food. I actually do like to eat. Sometimes. You ever have those weeks where you just don’t want to eat and hate that you have to eat? Chris and I call these Kibble Weeks. We only wish there was such a thing as human kibble we could throw in a bowl and scarf down in less than 30 seconds.

A la Boss.

But there is no human kibble, no chow, nothing easy. And so I go to the grocery store with 29340912840928934 choices in front of me for what to eat. I sometimes wish we didn’t have so many choices. Give me A or B. I choose A. That was easy, right? I don’t want A through Z. Too many choices, not enough time.

I saved the store until 3 pm. I had gone through every other chore until it was the only one left. I worked, I did laundry, I finished planting herbs. 3 o’clock rolled around and I knew I had a 1 hour window to get this trip done before the suburbs exploded in rush hour traffic.


It was now or never.

Finally I am in the car driving to Trader Joe’s. I arrive at Ogden to see a slow parade of cars inching along.

DAMMIT!

I forget that Ogden is under construction. ALONG WITH EVERY OTHER MAJOR INTERSECTION AROUND MY HOME! There are three months you can be outside in Illinois and in those three months they decide to repave, widen, reroute and close every road you need to actually go somewhere.

I really should just stay inside.

Quick correction and now I'm on the highway. This is ridiculous. I am on the highway, paying a toll to go to the grocery store. I am spending money to spend more money. Not only that but I am stuck in that traffic.

Let me explain:

You think working from home is a dream come true because you can do things at ANY time of the day. This is not the case. In my experience, the worst time to do things is during the day.

Why?

Let’s review who is home and drives around during the day:

1 – The unemployed. Not the laid off, those are quite worthy people that met bad circumstances. The unemployed are different. I am not sure the unemployed should drive.

2 – Exconvicts, addicts & felons. These are the guys you see riding their bike around the grocery store parking lot with a 24 pack of Miller Lite strapped on the back. Or the guy I saw in the White Hen parking lot the other day that committed the worst party foul – dropped his 40 while attempting a flying mount. I wanted to tell him I practice that sober and still can’t get it. Why are they riding bikes? Because their license was revoked. Until then, they are on the road with you.

3 – The elderly. I realize one day I will be in this category. But I will damn well make it a point to find something else to do with my time than to drive all over the suburbs to pick up Jell-o for 25 cents on sale at Walgreen’s, white bread on sale at the Jewel for $1.99 and then my prescriptions at CVS because I have a coupon.

In other words, you are dealing mostly with people who have no place to go. And because of that, they take their time. Because they have lots of it.

What does this mean? You spend a lot of time behind them going 50 mph on the tollway. This should be punishable by law. Or at least cost them an extra toll.

I am finally at the Trader Joe’s after taking my chances on the highway and driving behind every Crown Victoria made in the year 1981. And wouldn’t you know that today is the day they were repaving the Trader Joe parking lot?

I make my way through the thick of moms with carts filled with kids – and some food – past the massive banana display, avoiding (sadly) the wine, grabbing the chicken, cruising through frozen foods and finally arriving at the checkout line.

Things are moving along quickly. This, however, stopped me dead in my credit card swiping tracks:

Are any of these bars for immediate consumption?

I think the look on my face was dumbfounded. I purchased some bars for next weekend’s training. And what am I missing here….WHO goes to a grocery store chock full of 29340912840928934 choices and of all the things purchased walks out of the store staying, you know what I could go for right now?

A bar.

I tell him no. A vehemently opposed NO to anything bar-style or packaged. Give me my canvas bags you crazy man. You go eat one of those bars and tell me how immediately you are consumed with pleasure in your mouth. Have you ever been at mile 90 on the Queen K shouting to yourself I LOVE BARS as they crumble in warm mushy pieces out of your mouth?

Wheeling my cart out of the store, I realize I have forgotten the ONE thing I eat every day. Yogurt. Choices. What to do. I consider turning around and going back into the store but I am wheeling the cart down a ramp into the parking lot and my quads hurt so bad from yesterday’s hill repeats that the thought of stopping and having to climb that ramp (all 1% grade of it), stops me.

The yogurt can wait.

Driving back home I am stuck behind #1, 2 and 3 of above. Add to that school buses. Plus at this point it is nearing 4 pm so you can add “those that leave work early while no one is looking” to the list. I realize I am slowly getting nowhere. And then I see it. A sign:

Have you seen our bobcat?

I think to myself…you know what? No. No, I have not seen the fucking bobcat and of all the things I have to do today seeing the bobcat is not one of them but it is something I would really like to do.

I turnaround and pull into the wildlife center. The wildlife center rehabilitates injured and rescued animals that are native to DuPage County. Yes, bobcat are native and yes, they roam around. It is thought that they come up along the Des Plaines River Valley and end up in our county. A few years ago, one was thought to be roaming in Waterfall Glen by urine marking scent and tracks it left behind.

The good news is that they are not a big threat to your children or dogs.

The bad news: But I might be.

Anyways, I’m a bit of a bobcat fan. First of all, I have always dreamed of driving a bobcat. There is a picture of me at the New Orleans Zoo actually touching a bobcat. The machinery, not the animal. I like the animal too. A little history: at the plant museum I created and led science programs for children and adults. The joke was really on everyone else because the one subject that I pretty much DNFed at in school was science. It is my belief, though, that most people only need a 3rd grade level of knowledge of something to know what they need to know. All that shit you learned in high school chemistry about dynamic equilibrium, isotopes and half lives? When was the last time you pulled out isotope in a sentence?

Exactly.

Anyhow, I had to learn about bobcats at about a 3rd grade level because I had to teach about them. That is when I became a fan. Elusive predatorial cat that prefers solitude amonst wide roaming territories. I learned this and more about all the native animals of DuPage. And to my surprise, while my perishables died a slow muggy death in the van, I viewed all of these animals at the center; fox, raccoon, owls, opossum, hawks and…there it was….beyond the Turkey Vulture, past vulpes vulpes….there sat…

BOBCAT lynx rufus

Whoa.

It sat in a small trunk-like tube suspended from the animal cage. It looked at me with wide cat-like eyes and tufted ears. As I moved, it followed me and winced to narrow its vision like any predator would.

I am in quiet awe as I look into the cage. The day just got exponentially better by nothing more than watching this cat. It reminded me of one of my favorite places to run, Los Penasquitos Canyon, a richly peaceful place, the one time I saw a bobcat off to the left in the hills, real time, looking at me. It reminded me of the quiet of life, how we are so small in the grandiosity of a natural scheme of plants and animals that exists with us, without us, time ticks on…we are small in our place. The quiet in a day of work, traffic, the busy disgruntled noise that sometimes fills our lives.

I watch the bobcat for awhile and realize it might be rude, for he did not come to my home to look at me. So I walk on, checking out the barn owls, the woodchuck and the bald eagle. They are all quiet with the only sound the nervous pacing and low bark of the fox from a few cages away.

These noises, this place, these animals remind me of why I love sport and most importantly – summer and the outdoor world. To get outside, to experience the world, to see a snake slithering out from the Fermilab prairie, a coyote skitters across the road, a heron at the edge of a lake.

I’m just riding through their world. It’s best to keep as quiet as possible and not make too much noise. There’s enough noise and busyness in the world as it is with tollways, traffic, too much clutter and choices.

Simplify.

I don’t know about you but I’m going for a ride.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Over The Hill

Yesterday I ate hills for lunch.

I love hills. Forget track and long running – throw me some hills. I think each of us as runners knows what works for us and what really destroys us in a meaningful way. For me – it is hills. 400s around the track. Bleh. Forget it. Long run – I’m bored after 10 miles. Yet give me a good set of hill repeats and I’m ready to go.

It has to be the right hill. Living in the land of the flats, we don’t have too many hills around here. But when I have hill repeats, I go to the hill at Blackwell Forest Preserve. I’ve heard it called a lot of things; Mount Trashmore, Mount Hoy, Bitch but to me it is just big hill. It stands at 836 feet above sea level which around here…is a mountain.

From bottom to top you cover 150 feet at a 15 – 20% grade in roughly 90 seconds. On mountain bike, it requires the granny gear. On legs, it requires the zone 5c gear. Making it more challenging is climbing on uneven packed dirt and grassy terrain. And when you get about 45 seconds from the top of it, the grade gets higher and the hurt multiplies. This point is signaled by a single brick set into the ground. I’m not sure why it’s there but to me that brick is the cue to pick it up and charge.

At the top of the hill, a spectacular view of DuPage County unfolds before you. In the fall it explodes in color that makes the climb worthwhile. Right now it is a warm blanket of green set underneath the blue sky. After the last hill repeat I always take a moment to stop, possibly barf and look around. No matter the season, it is always beautiful.

Today I set out to do 8 hill repeats. I parked at Herrick Lake which is about a 20 minute run to the hill. I arrive at Blackwell feeling warmed up and ready to go. Surprisingly, today I am not the only one at the hill. In winter it is used as a sled hill, yet right now it is a walk up it with your dog, run around with your Cub Scots, go birding at the top, run up it hill. A multi-purpose hill.


The first 4 climbs are under control and mostly for strength. They hurt but they do not burn. I take short steps and pump my arms. The top half pushes me to the edge but not over it. The last 4 hill repeats are made to be hard. I plan to attack the last half of the hill, pushing over the edge and letting my legs drown in the burn until I’m half way done. This is the good stuff. This is the work. I love it here. Make it hurt. Make it hard. Let’s eat some big hills.

Coming down the 5th hill repeat I notice a fine looking older gentleman to my left. I realize it is Ironman legend and local phenom, Bob Scott. Bob is nearing 80 years old. He is the current Ironman World Champion for his age group, M75 – 79. In 2005, he set the world record in that age group finishing Kona in 13:27. A few years earlier, at the young age of 71, he completed Kona in 12:59.

Another world record.

Bob is Ironman. He’s been to Kona likely 8 times and each year takes qualification at Eagleman as seriously as any competitor half his age. Doesn’t matter if one person shows up in his M75 – 79 age group or ten. He knows them, knows their strength and is ready to give them the race of his life.

Today Bob is walking up the hill with a friend. He says hello to me. Every time I see him I smile. He is incredibly fit and reminds me that life is not about lasting it’s about living. Any time someone gives me an excuse for why they aren’t fit, I think about Bob and think there really is no excuse.

I climb up the hill for number 6 and Bob is at the top cheering for me. He claps, shouts me name and says ALL RIGHT as I come around the fence. I tell him this is so hard and his answer?

OF COURSE IT’S HARD! But it makes you strong, Elizabeth.

The way he says it is both reprimanding but reassuring. Direct but understanding. He's been there. He has tasted this hill. He knows at the top you are thinking how can I possibly do this again but then you find the strength to do it a few more times. I run down and get ready to run back up again. The last 2 repeats. For sure these will be so hard I will think I cannot do it again, I will pee myself, pull something or explode. I am glad someone who knows me is here to witness it. At least they will know which way to point me in the direction of home. In case I forget.

Number 7 hurts like a bitch. Now I see why they call the hill Bitch. It is. At the brick in the ground I make a serious effort to pick it up and run on top of the pain. That is how it felt. Bob is cheering for me and telling me my heart rate is going higher and higher and that means I’m getting stronger. I reach the top and he tells me I look great, strong, I’m an animal.

With a cheering section like that, I’m thinking I want to bring Bob to my next race.


On to the last hill repeat. Bob is off to the left of me now near the top of the hill. I am pushing the last half and the whole way he is shouting “You are 99% done, you have less than 1% left!” I put my head down and don’t look ahead. Focus on the steps in front of me. I reach the top before I know it and walk around the fence.

Sigh. Exhale. Wheeze. Moan. Announce that I think I need to throw up. Two birders are looking at me like there are much easier ways to get up this hill.

Bob is right there and begins walking down the hill with me. I tell him there is nothing harder than hill repeats and he agrees. He asks if I am still competing as a pro and I tell him yes – and that it is also very hard. His reply?

OF COURSE IT’S HARD! It’s always been hard, Elizabeth. Even before you were pro it was always hard.

Bob is right. His wisdom goes with his age, or simply from years as a competitive runner and finally a competitive Ironman. Competition is hard. Thinking it will ever get any easier is wishful at best. It will not get easier. Instead, you will get better at overcoming the hard. Hill repeats help you prepare for that. As do time trial intervals, all out 25s and open water swims. You work to become better than the rest.

As we walk, Bob says he is preparing for Eagleman in a few weeks and somehow I know he will turn out a time faster than most people half his age. He’s just that kind of athlete – tough to the core, true and hard working. Last year at the age of 77 he won his age group at Kona in 14:49. He doesn't need to qualify for Kona at Eagleman, yet still he'll still show up ready to bring it, to race, to compete as if he needed to. Bob is an athlete.

If I am lucky, I will make it to age 78 with all of my original body parts and a fiery passion for sport. At that point I might be over the hill but I will walk, run, skip my way up the hill at that age just because I can. Because I know that every day is an opportunity to do what I can. And if I’m lucky, I’ll see a thirty-something version of myself running up the hill. I’ll tell her what it takes to get to the top of the hill. And when she tells me it’s hard I’ll tell her of course it’s hard. Most things in life are. The older you get, the more you accept that. The more you go seeking for it to know that the work you are doing is the work that counts. The hard work. It doesn’t get any easier – whether you’re trying to get to Kona at 78 or just trying to set a new personal best at age 33 - don’t think there is any where there other there than to climb at a steep grade.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up

Saturday morning I found myself a top my bike in St. Charles. Ready to ride 4 hours or 75 miles. Whichever comes first. As if you’re going to get off your bike earlier. I once circled a parking lot to reach 100 miles. You know that even if you hit 75 in 3:49 you’re riding the full 4 hours.

St. Charles is about a 40 minute drive west from our house. We drive west because that is where you can ride. Without traffic lights, stop signs and oodles of useless suburban traffic all
pent up from the work week driving squirrely to the shopping malls on a Saturday. From Leroy Oakes we ride even further west to towns with populations of less than a thousand, with names like Plato, Virgil and Wasco.

We ride across the rolling hills until the road plateaus to the flat expanse of farmland. To the right we see quintessential farm scenery; an open field ready for corn, a red barn, a silver silo rising up from the field, the familiar green and yellow of a John Deere tractor all set against the blue sky.



It was so hot that you could actually see the heat radiating in squiggly lines off the silo in the distance this photo.

This is home. And to me, this is, in a word – beautiful. In a Midwestern way. No bottomless blue ocean and white sand beaches here. The only ocean you’ll see will spread across the fields in a late summer, an ocean of green waving grass. This open field will be knee high by July and by late August so tall you could walk in and never find your way out of the corn-lined rows.



Of course we rode all 4 hours then ran 30 off the bike like someone opened the oven door and let me run towards the back. I got back to the car and Chris said to me this is the workout that counts. He was right. It’s been awhile since I felt like I’ve accomplished something that counts. It was one of those workouts where your body throbbed from the effort level of seeing your HR pegged around 170 for what felt like 5 hours.

What qualifies a workout for “counting” is to have most of the “H’s” present. The 4 H’s started out on Ragbrai. That would be hills, headwind, humidity or heat. Mathematically speaking:

Hills + Heat + Humidity + Headwind = HARD

Hard is hard. Added up those conditions make for a long day where paying two bucks for 10 ounces of cold Gatorade alongside the road feels like heaven.

A few years ago on a 100 mile ride in the dead heat of the summer, I added a fifth “H” for hives.

Hills + Heat + Humidity + Headwind + Hives = HELL
*Jen just informed me that the 5th H on Ragbrai is hangover.

You cannot scratch yourself out of hell no matter how bad you get the itch. Just like that one day I broke out in hives on my bike, today I broke out in hives too. Today we faced heat, hills and hives. 3 of 5 isn’t bad. Headwind would have completely put me from cooked to overdone. And the hives? Could be heat related. Could be allergy related. Could be my body’s way of saying enough biking for one day, its’ time for coffee.

Somehow I convinced Chris after all of this we needed coffee. He settles for a froofroo iced coffee drink complete with whipped cream and chocolate chunks while I go for the hot stuff. About two sips into it I ask for a cup with ice, prefacing it with a warning to Chris: tell no one about this, this will ruin the ELF’s reputation if anyone knows I poured my coffee over ice.

I did and it was good. And cold. Reputation wrecked but let me tell you: so worth it.

Back at home we convinced Chris’ parents we needed to go out for dinner. We went to Weber Grill which doesn’t sound like a great place but don’t be fooled. They know meat and know it well. Plus they have Malbec on the menu which goes so well with grilled meat. The conversation filled with bounty hunters, shooting clay targets and machinery. As you can tell, no one other than Mr. Tom partook in most of the conversation. Still, you interject what you can, eat good food and learn a lot about machinery.

Afterwards in the car, the conversation turned to bistro tables for the backyard. Chris’ mom is obsessed with creating the perfect backyard party place – recent acquisitions include an entire stone patio, a trellis, an open fire pit, a fence, new landscaping….shall I go on? I made mention to my mother in law that Kohl’s actually has some nice bistro tables for a cheap price.

My mother in law is a world champion shopper, F60-64. She has special shoes for it. Like we have racing flats, she has her shopping shoes. When she confirmed that they were in the car, it was off to Kohl’s we would go.

Shopping with my mother in law is something not to be taken lightly. Again, she’s world class. She is so hard core that neither of his sisters have lasted an entire day shopping with her. They have to split it up into shifts of morning and afternoon. Imagine a small Chinese woman barely cracking 4 feet, 10 inches tall carting a Prada bag she very well could fit into – and all of this done in a terribly comfortable pair of “shopping shoes”. She locates the bistro table while I locate my new ride.


I love my iPhone because it captures random moments of ridiculousness like this.

When mominlaw decides she needs 4 bistro tables, I realize we might be in the store for awhile so I test the aero position of my new ride.


Somewhere on a forum they are discussing how my seat is too high.

After we learn that the Woodridge location has 4 tables – not just 1 – mominlaw asks how late they are open and imagine her delight when we learn tonight they are open until 11 pm. Know what that means? Late night shopping trip to Kohl’s. It’s like going 124 miles on your bike, thinking you are done and then finding out you have 18 more to go. You know you can do it but you just want to be done already.

Plus I had to get out of that damn skirt.

The next day I woke up feeling like a million bucks. Or about 240 bucks worth of bistro tables and 2 glasses of wine. In other words, I FELT GREAT. Good thing I had a run on schedule. 4 x 1 mile repeats which I didn’t just nail, I actually pulled out the nail gun and fired away. I haven’t felt that good running in months. My biggest worry during the run was not hitting the pace – that I was sure of - but being sure that my Fuel Belt didn’t get stolen. I even told the Trail Patrol to please not touch my Fuel Belt that I had hidden behind the tree. All 3 of the Trail Patrollers look at me like uh, crazy lady no one wants your stupid velcro toolbelt filled with plastic bottles. After the last mile repeat when I saw a woman and her dog suspiciously sniffing my Fuel Belt I almost went into zone 5c shouting THAT IS MINE!

I got back home and realized that yet again I had broken out in hives over every part of my body that was exposed while running. Enter Exhibit H:

"Hives"

I decided the cure for hives and sore legs would be an ice bath. Boss decided he might want to get into the bath with me.


But I guess he can smell icy cold. So instead he sulked, stared at me and when he got bored with that...he caught up on Running Times...


Disgruntled that he could not be in the tub with me, he ran away to play with his stuffed hedgehog (who shortly thereafter suffered a terrible death by stuffing extraction).


The highlight of Sunday was not nailing my mile repeats. It was having my mom over for dinner. The one thing you’ll learn quickly about my mom is she never arrives at your home empty-handed. She always comes bearing gifts of mail, newspaper clippings or home trinkets. Today she brought this over and before I could open it she said, “in light of your most recent race”.

(it was a magnet that said:) I’d stop drinking coffee, but I’m no quitter.

Between my mom and Paulo there is just no escaping myself or my race results. Thanks, guys, for keeping me real.

I’ll tell you what – I might be DFL at times but I’ll argue that right now those 3 letters stand for:

Damn Fine Landscaping

That’s right, I have possibly the most exquisite landscaping around. I waited all weekend for my favorite day of the year:

PLANTING DAY!

I am a plant freak (I did work at a plant museum for 7 years….) and look forward each year to watching my hostas break the ground. I told Chris we can leave everything else behind when we move (furniture, dog, bikes) but we must take the hostas.

There is nothing more enjoyable and relaxing than getting your hands dirty and digging in the ground. I quickly turned our yard from shade to part shade and some areas to full sun. Despite what might be consequences from the homeowners association I removed some hideous shrubs, gave the Arbor Vitae a much needed haircut and planted beautiful perennials instead.

In between planting we headed over to the beach for an “open water swim”. Thank goodness it was wetsuit legal because the air temperature was 60 degrees and it was raining. Would you believe we were not the only fools there? Amanda H. of “I’m going to swim 28 miles around Manhatten Island in ass cold water with NO wetsuit” fame was there doing laps. She even brought her own thermometer to verify the water was 65 degrees. Chris regretted grabbing his sleeveless wetsuit and during the body count break he started shivering. I went back for a few more laps of the perimeter and enjoyed having the beach mostly to myself and swimming in the rain.

Back at home I got back to planting, mulching in the rain. I figured I would get dirty so what’s a little rain too. After all was planted I realized we needed a border. When I was planting I noticed a bunch of rocks in the ground. More than just a swim cap rack, I put my head to use and realized rocks = landscape edging. So I set out on a mission to dig up any rock in a 3 yard radius to haul back to my yard. When my neighbor came out to start her grill, I said “you don’t care that I’m taking your rocks do you?” I asked in a such a way that she’d be crazy to answer anything but no or else have to get between a woman covered in mulch, her small shovel and her growing pile of rocks.

The neighbor then came over to look at the yard and said:

Oh, more hostas.

She said it in a way that made me think I have a reputation for being the crazy woman with too many hostas. But then again I’d rather be that than the crazy neighbor that throws their dog crap in the field behind our house.

Just sayin’.

This would be only some of the hostas. There are more to the left and a bunch behind me too. It’s safe to say I have a hosta problem. And I’m not about to detox myself any time soon.


When I was all done planting, rocking and dirty enough, I stepped back to see what a day’s worth of digging and such can produce.



That's just some if it and yes, folks, that is what I consider: Damn Fine Landscaping.

And as soon as I (steal) get a bistro table from my mother in law, our backyard will be complete.

And now the weekend is complete too. I'd say it has all the components of a success. The 4 "H's" if you will...I'm trying to come up with 4 new H's but all I've got for you is..

Holy Hostas. I'm going back to the store tomorrow to fill the other spaces in...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Behind The 8 Ball

This is my own variation of 8 things.

8 Places I Have Raced:

1 – Arkansas (twice)
2 – Canada
3 – Texas (twice)
4 – Rhode Island
5 – Minnesota
6 – Oregon
7 – Connecticut
8 – Florida

8 Bloggers That I Coach:

1 – Muppetdog
2 – GreytTimes
3 – Cat’s Calls
4 – IronmanLife
5 – Tri Rob
6 – The Comeback Kid
7 – This Runner’s World
8 – WES!

8 Things In My Closet:

1 – Two pairs of Crocs
2 – Toilet Paper
3 – A picture of Natasha Badmann
4 – More workouts clothes than real clothes
5 – A bunch of stuffed monkeys
6 – The knives used to cut our wedding cake
7 – About 20 visors
8 – NO skeletons

8 Dates I Remember:

1 – July 28 (my birthday & my uncle’s birthday)
2 – December 28 (my brother’s birthday)
3 – April 25 (mom’s birthday)
4 – October 8 (anniversary)
5 – October 24 (Chris’ birthday)
6 – October 18 (day of my first Ironman)
7 – August 23 (Boss’ birthday)
8 – Last full week of July (Ragbrai)

8 PRs I Have Set:

1 – 5:32 (mile)
2 – 1:09 (100 in a swim meet)
3 – 37:46 (10K)

4 – 4:32 (half Ironman)
5 – 142 (longest I’ve ever ridden, took 7:42)
6 – 3 (full days without coffee)
7 – 500 miles in a week (farthest I’ve ridden)
8 – 3 (marathons I’ve done)

8 People I’ve Talked to This Week:

1 – Mom
2 – Erich (nearly every day)
3 - Kloner
4 – Jen Garrison
5 – Jen Harrison
6 – The woman at allergists office who couldn't spell my last name
7 - My dog
8 - Starky

8 Life Changing Events:

1 – Meeting Chris (obviously).
2 – Graduating from college early to help mom take care of dad.
3 – Hiking through the Bitterroot Wilderness in Montana when I was in my early 20s.
4 – Moving to the Midwest when I was 10 years old.
5 – My real father died when I was 2 – things changed!
6 – Leaving my career to start my own business. BEST DECISION EVER MADE.
7 – When we got a dog….still not sure about this one...
8 – When we have our first child…THINGS WILL CHANGE!


8 Words To Describe Me:

1 – Curious
2 – Quirky
3 – Aloof
4 – Searching
5 – Creative
6 – Difficult (I’ve been told)
7 – Intuitive
8 – Multitasking

8 Songs That Are Currently The Soundtrack of My Life:

1 – Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine
2 - In The Waiting Line by Zero 7
3 - She Moves In Her Own Way by The Kooks
4 – Breathe Me by Sia
5 – Curbside Prophet by Jason Mraz
6 – The Fear by Lily Allen
7 – Preparedness by The Bird and The Bee
8 – To Ulrike M. by Doris Days & Zero 7

8 Things We Will Do This Weekend:

1 - Ride 75 miles on Saturday
2 - Open water swim
3 - WINE WITH MOM
4 - Plant in the backyard - finally!
5 - Go to the dog park
6 - COFFEE
7 - Work...just a little though
8 - Probably eat once at Noodles (again)

8 Things You Should Do Today:

1 – Coffee
2 – Go for a walk
3 – Pet your dog
4 – Hug your spouse
5 – Say something good about yourself
6 – Close your eyes for 5 minutes during the day
7 – Eat something green
8 – Get back to work!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recovery Days

Thank you for all the cards, flowers, candygrams, well wishes, notes, gifts, praises, fruit baskets, mixed nuts, donations and to the person that also sent the stripper…..spot on.

Have a bad race, kind words and actions will follow. Somewhere in mid America there is a water tower with SAVE ELF painted on it. Even better if that water tower is filled with peanut butter cups.

*hint hint*

After a race, you think about what worked, what didn’t work and then you have recovery. One of the most frustrating things about have a frustrating race performance is that for the few days after the race there’s not much you can do. It’s not like you can channel your frustrations into a recovery ride. You can’t beat yourself up during a day off.

Alas all you can do is…recover. And recovery takes time. In the meantime, how do you fill all of that time? I’ve got some ideas.

1) Let husband go grocery shopping. Chances are that he will return with a tub of peanut butter cups.

2) Wake up and eat coffee for breakfast. That’s right, drive 10 minutes away from your house to pay money for coffee that you very well could have made yourself. Buy the biggest cup they have and fill it with at least two inches of cream.

3) When you finally feel like eating breakfast – skip it and go straight to lunch instead. Lunch requires a spoon, a jar of peanut butter, a glass of milk. That goes well with peanut butter cups, may I add.

4) Distract yourself with family drama, even better if it involves a pet psychic.

5) Go for an easy run and blame your 12:49 pace on weak satellites.

6) Find yourself on an easy ride feeling like the hills have gotten harder. Accuse husband of replacing your gears with 12 – 21. When he tells you’ve got 12 – 27, make a mental note to go home and count it – just to be sure.

7) When you drop your chain for the second time going up a hill, just push yourself the rest of the way with one foot. Slow is as slow does.

8) Dog park because you have not met your “I need to talk to one crazy person a week” quota.

10) I just realized I forgot #9.

11) Get on your stomach, look under the couch and decide you don’t need to clean what you can’t see.

12) Eat dinner at Noodles for the 10932840298th time this month.

13) Go for a recovery walk with your mom. Understand that the answer to any of your problems can be solved with one thing = baby.

14) Take dog in field behind house. Rather than play fetch with a ball like a NORMAL FREAKIN’ DOG, chase him away from massive pile of dog poo that he really wants to eat. Like – REALLY wants to eat it.

15) When your husband says something like “All that’s left to do is fluff the couscous with a fork” see where this reply goes: “you want to fluff me with your fork?”

16) Email ABK. A lot.

17) Bake a loaf of banana bread. Consider yourself in 1st place when you consume ¾ of it all by yourself.

18) DO NOT LOOK AT RACE PHOTOS OF YOURSELF.

19) If you should do #18, quickly insert #17 out of pity.

20) Find the most ridiculous thing you can become a fan of on Facebook (found it – “not being bitten by squirrels”).

21) Stay up until 2am – just ‘cuz.

22) Avoid the pool as long as possible.

23) Take one shower and ONE SHOWER ONLY for at least one day.

24) Consider a new sport – when marathoning pops into your head, hit yourself.

25) Do not do any housework or any work. Recovery is synonymous with holiday meaning you have permission to sit on your ass and get nothing done. Note that this will actually work against you if you run your own business. You will find yourself mid-week cursing your co-workers for getting nothing done.

26) Pick up sticks in the backyard. Consider it a workout. Log it into Training Peaks as “cross training.”

27) Drive around blasting “Blame It On The Alcohol” like it’s your anthem for…anything.

28) Go through an entire day wearing underwear. When was the last time you did that?

29) Make handcrafted invitations to your pity party.

30) Color yourself unimpressed with eating vegetables for dinner.

31) DO NOT LOOK AT RACE RESULTS.

32) If you should do #31 then insert #27 again.

Hmm…that’s all I’ve got so far. As you can see, it’s been a pretty exciting recovery week. Tomorrow
I’m going for a ride with JG and have a feeling my recovery ends there. I’m a little scared but then again I know I can pull out #29 if things really go bad.

And I swear if I ride by a water tower with my name on it, I’m turning around.

Happy recovery!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Little Things

First I found out that Kim Kardashian really does have *gasp* cellulite.

Then Bea Arthur died.

Next were the rumors that both Jon and Kate of Jon and Kate Plus 8 are having affairs.

And then – even worse – Miss California lied. Or something like that.

After I dug myself out of that hole of celebrity despair and got over the drama and the agony, I mustered up the energy to leave my house. To pack my bike. Put myself into the van.

And…of course…get back to blogging (!)

Just in time, because it’s race time! Every year we pile the van high with wheels, helmets, race flats to make the pilgrimage to Memphis. For the past few years we’ve been joined by Lizzie and Eric, good athletes, better friends, all around two kids crazy about triathlon.

We make the perfect pair. Of pairs.

This year we pulled up to their house with Eric coughing out that he was sick.

Press the panic button it’s time to go into high alert Haz Mat mode. I asked Eric if he had a snorkel and would agree to being wrapped in plastic and strapped to the top of the van because there is no way in hell I’m getting sick on this trip! Unfortunately it was pouring rain. And being a skinny little bean Eric would have slid right off the roof. So we put him in the backseat. An hour into the trip he looked feverish with a bad case of bedhead and a hacking cough. He spent the rest of the weekend coughing. How do I know? Starky hit me every time Eric coughed.

Thanks Starky.

Also on board with us was…Starky. That’s right, we van-napped one of the fastest triathletes on two wheels. For reference, he warms up at a wattage above my threshold. If you watched the Clearwater coverage, this was the pro guy that led the bike. According to him, that was his goal. And he spent the first 5K of the run celebrating his goal.

Then he realized he still had 10 miles to go.

The weekend was a trip – in so many ways. 48 hours, 1200 miles and a race somewhere in between. By late Sunday night we were already heading home. The race – and weekend – stirring in my head as we drove north on 57 somewhere just across the border into Illinois. Starky starts talking in a southern accent and insists we start listening to country (the worst part – he knows the words). Chris is nestled in the backseat. Eric announces there’s a Dairy Queen in another 40 miles. Lizzie is driving after being voted “most fresh” after her hypothermic DNF. Someone turns up Ice Cube and declares it a hit from their high school days.

I’m old enough to be that someone’s mom.

As soon as it started, the weekend to Memphis is complete. Let me briefly recap my race by saying: I am allergic to Memphis. Or that is how it is starting to feel. After last year’s implosion I told myself I simply had to cross the line to win today.

I’m a winner, oh yes.

Unfortunately I crossed that winning line in last place.


The race started a little differently for pros this year – at 10:30 am. How many races start with husband saying “Want me to go get Starbuck’s for you?”

YES.

The best part about starting late – other than sleeping in, coffee service, having a morning poo at a totally normal time – hell, having one at all – was being able to watch the age groupers and my athletes. I had 10 athletes racing at Memphis, managed to see all but one of them. Smiled with them, shouted at them and got a good feeling inside. Nothing is better than watching your athletes race – nothing!

While I wanted to stand around all day, cheer and watch athletes fly over the dismount line, it was time to warm up. Put on my speedsuit and got in for a swim. Choppy would be one way to describe the water. However, I told myself after you do St. Croix nothing is choppy. This is glass.

A quick warm up and then time to wait. I was freezing. The wind was whipping off the lake and the air was chilled. I have never been cold at Memphis! Leave it to Michellie Jones (shameless namedropping) to devise a plan. She “borrowed” a random towel and then by some divine and cosmic interaction of luck, planetary alignment and just being in the right place at the right time – she grabbed Chris and I to huddle with her.

REPEAT: Olympic silver medalist and Ironman world champion makes herself a Waterstraat sandwich.

Is there a reason to even go on with the race?

After that I pulled myself together and stopped shivering. Got in line for the start. New this year: Chris turned pro. He had the results and did everything he wanted to as an amateur. Time to toe the pro line. GO CHRIS!

The swim starts and I ease into it. No big crowd, no arms flailing. The water is choppy but I quickly get over it. Find the rhythm, roll, breathe…I think to myself it could be worse. It could be St. Croix.

It could even be worse than that. It could be Ironman.

The next turn I settle into a good pace and recognize the arms ahead of me. The color of the skin tone. I know those arms. I know that skin tone. I get closer. I know those feet. THAT IS HUSBAND! I pull alongside of him on the way into the finish. I realize at one point he is now behind me. I AM PULLING HUSBAND! We end up emerging from the water together.

However: he started 20 seconds behind me so who has the faster swim split?

Not me.

A long run to the transition racks and I realize I am not the last bike. It’s the little things sometimes that make your day in a race. Cuddling with Michellie. Exiting the swim with Chris. Starting out not last on the bike. I see Chris going towards the mount line and grab my bike, it goes airborne and I shout at him I WILL BEAT YOU TO THE LINE!

I did.

The bike. Now, I live in Chicago. I know wind. I knew I had to just put my head down and ride. Into very gusty wind. From the northeast at 18 mph gusting to 25. In other words, ELF vs the wind today – ELF DID NOT WIN. I rode alone. Three others pulled away – farther, farther until there was no one left to stagger with. Just me and myself riding down the road. I had to be one of the last riders out there and I was making up time on no one. Regardless I kept telling myself to stay strong, be confident, focus on the task at hand. I focused enough to distract myself from the fact that I was really going nowhere very fast. Rightfully so, I was passed by a guy about 45 minutes into the ride and then noticed something big behind me. Following me. Lurking. Drafting you could say. Don’t they know about the stagger rule?

Problem was it was a vehicle.

Yes, folks, I had the “last racer on the course” vehicle right behind me.

Oh for the love of racing. For the love of my pride. For the love of “I train to do this?” A million feelings and insecurities float through your head. Key word: float. Mostly it was laughter – is this really happening? It is. So now what?

That was frustrating but at the same time a bit…hilarious? Do I really need a reminder that I’m the last one out here? Do they not think I have already gotten that point? It was hard not be become distracted by the pressure of knowing you’re the last one. This vehicle is waiting for you. Inside it they are probably saying “that poor girl”. I suppose it’s called “perspective” or “character building”.

I’m about full of character now thank you.

But at the same time, I’m here. I’m doing this. Someone has to bring up the rear and what an honor, it's me! I think. Hey, wait, I’m still in it. I’m racing and I’m actually thinking good thoughts. After all, I chose to do this. I paid to do this. I’m doing this.

Finally I arrived in transition. Time to run. I was excited to run. You see, last year I DNFed at Memphis in an implosion of self-pity, weakness and fatigue around mile 4 of the run. Funny thing is that my legs hurt today. Just like they did last year but….I was smarter than myself. Time trial start, I kept telling myself. It’s not over until it’s over. Don’t determine the outcome of your race until you cross that line.

I ran looking for someone. Anyone. Most of the other women started coming back towards me around mile 2.5 so there was at least a mile between me and them. Sure, the race was over at that point but I noticed one woman ahead of me at the turnaround. I kept plugging away to catch her but was making no ground.

Meanwhile, the race course is being cleaned up behind me. I reach every aid station to find it deconstructing with a few kids holding water cups for me. It was disheartening but at the same time the price of just staying in the game because I simply cannot give up out of fear, embarrassment or self-pity.

Besides, at least I was not being followed by a vehicle.

Then I saw a Sheriff’s car coming up from the other way.

I swear to god.

May I just add that I’ve always wanted a celebrity escort (and a theme song) but this is not what I had in mind.

I crossed the line smiling. I owe that to myself. My athletes. Anyone who has faith in me. Ironically – yet again – people came up to me afterward offering their condolences. Listen, people, I am not dead, I am just last – and just today. I’ll get over it.

(now, move away before the sheriff drives by just to be sure I finally made it across the line)


All joking aside, l I would be remiss to say that I am not disappointed in my race. I’ve got a great sense of humor and keep perspective about everything. But I still have emotions. So I visited the port o potty for some time with myself. It smelled bad, I was surrounded by toilet paper and may I just ask HOW you miss that bad? Anyways, I had a moment with myself. I kept it together for over 2 hours and resisted feeling anything but YOU CAN DO THIS, STAY STRONG. I owed it to myself to give myself permission to just…break down.

Know why? You don’t need to train to come in last. You can walk to come in last. You can ride a mountain bike and come in last. You don’t need an aero helmet, a coach or a speedsuit to come in last place. You don’t need anything, I suppose. Except …

Except __________(I have yet to fill in that blank but in time I know it will come to me….).

I don’t know. Two years ago I did this course 7 minutes faster. Today I ran one of the slowest 10Ks I have ever run. How do you go backwards while time moves forward? Am I still the same me? Is it worth even trying? I have not answered this yet. All I could answer today was yes I gave it my best. What more can I do? The course was basically disappearing behind me and…in my mind I was in the race. Still doing it. What else can you do? If you don’t keep pushing and believing in yourself, who will?


Moving on: Chris had an awesome pro debut race. He was not last – which is always a plus in your first pro race – and he was less than 1 minute from being in 9th place (he finished in 14th; that was a close race!). I am proud of him for taking it to the next level and know he will continue to grow as a new pro.

As for my athletes, they make me happy. I like them. Swimming with them, talking with them, seeing them smile. 3 of them set PRs on the course today!

Know what else makes me happy? Pancakes for dinner. Good friends to share the car ride home. BISCUITS! Dairy Queen for dessert. Laughing at Starky’s infectious energy and conversation. My iPhone. Hearing Eric try to pronounce the ingredients of NyQuil. Not having to drive one mile of the 1200 mile trip.

The little things. I suppose that is it. You need the little things to keep you going. The thrill of a race. Seeing your athletes race. Spending time with friends. Sunshine. Blue skies. A road trip. All of the little things that make it worth it. And make you want to do it again.

Here’s to the little things!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On Holiday

I'm on blog holiday this week! Go back through the archives and enjoy. Blogging adventures will return next week.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Unpredictably a foul disturbance of a mood blew in earlier this week and it’s been swirling around in a storm above my head. I couldn’t have forecasted it and according to radar there is no end in sight.

It’s been one of those weeks.

Of course, last night on a long run I lost it. Looking back now I see that I was operating on nothing but fear. Fear or failure, fear of what if I can’t do this, fear of what if I really am slow. Before I even took the first step I had already filled my head with fears. I might as well have not even started the run. It wasn’t going anywhere that I didn’t already know.

The run started around 5:30 pm. Sure, I can do my workouts at any time of the day. That is the benefit of working at home. But, after awhile it gets kind of lonely. It’s not that I need someone to hold my hand during a workout, I would just like someone else to be out there with me. To notice if I don’t make it back to the car. To share the sweaty ride home. To be quite honest, I'v had enough of training alone. I have done 6 months of workouts in my basement or by myself. I need people.

All day it was beautiful and sunny. But I was waiting for Chris to run. He is and will always be my training partner. I miss blowing my heart rate zones to hang on his rear wheel, hoping he doesn’t gap me by 25 yards in the pool or watching him disappear on the run. For tonight I had a great plan: let’s do the long run at Waterfall Glen and the hop on our cross bikes for an easy spin. An adventure! I couldn’t wait. But the moment we got in the car, we noticed two things: impending storms and a mess of traffic on the highway.

Over 35 minutes later we arrived at Waterfall Glen. We live about 15 minutes away. We sat on 3 different highways trying to go about 5 miles….88, 294, 55. I completely forget how fun it is to commute to workouts after normal working hours. It’s not fun at all! But immediately I fell back into the mindset of I just worked all day, drove 30 minutes to get to the workout and come hell or high water I will do this run.

Timely thought – because as we pulled into the parking lot it starting pouring rain.

A storm brewed outside, but inside the car was quiet. Without words, we were saying to each other that in between storms, traffic and tolls we were nearing what you might call “wit’s end” or the point at which you are ready to microburst yourself to say “FUCK IT LET’S GO DRINKING INSTEAD!” Secretly I had thoughts of myself in full running gear at a bar toasting to the storm with a glass of wine. Alas I convinced myself I needed this run. In this storm. On this course.

Twenty minutes later the rain subsided. Now or never, strap on the Fuel Belt and let’s go.

Waterfall Glen is a local gem. A crushed limestone path of 9.5 miles, marked out, winding through a forested area with rolling hills. I chose this course because it was marked. I don’t run with a Garmin and have no clue how fast (or slow) I go. Usually pace is irrelevant – it’s about the run, how it feels. But today I wanted to be sure I dropped the pace accordingly.


Foreshadowing: sometimes you should just stick with what you know – or what you don’t know.

We started the course the wrong way – that would be the uphill way and within the first 2 miles I was already feel like death sat it’s big ass on me. It was so humid I could barely breathe. The rain had started again. And the path itself was mushy. The first 2 miles were slow – for me – and confirmed not only by pace marker but by the fact that already Chris was pulling away.

The next 4 mile were cruising. Not hard but not easy. This felt great. One entire mile in fact was downhill. That would also be the only mile that I cracked an x:xx pace. Normally I can hit that x:xx pace no problem. Today it was like someone was poking me in the ass with a hot stick and still I was getting nowhere.

More rain. And then, a deep puddle. About 20 feet long. Chris takes off his shoes and walks through it. That, my friends, is how you catch path disease. I found a way to climb to the dryer, higher ground and ran the path parallel to the train tracks. Didn’t do much for the pace but at least I didn’t have wet feet.

Waited for Chris to redress his feet and then we were cruising along together. He complained about last running an x:xx mile. I told him that mile included his 100 meter walk barefoot walk through a puddle. But I also felt his pain. I could tell that we were both being mentally beat down by this run today. It doesn’t happen often and what you do during runs like this are choices and thoughts you’ll never forget….at best I would keep going. At worst I would break down.

This was not my best day.

Chris begins pulling away from me. I’m trying to keep my HR in a happy place without pushing too hard too soon so I let him go. He leads up on a wrong turn that added up to more than an extra mile. Or maybe not…according to my watch the 5th mile took me 16:53. With the way the run had gone so far – that very well could have been my pace.

Back on right course and it was time to start pushing the last 2 miles hard. Hard on a day like this is relative. The entire run had been hard. The pouring rain which now had my shorts sticking to my legs like cellophane was hard. The gravely limestone kicking up into my shoes was hard. The humidity was hard. The puddles making my shoes over-wet was hard. The Fuel Belt which right now felt like a bucketful of rocks attached to my waist was fucking hard. Can you actually “go” hard when all of the conditions facing you are hard? And if so, does that make the effort even harder?

Holy hell pushing to hard hurts. The rain was pouring and the only thing I could hear over the fat drops slapping the path were my feet stomping into the thick ground. Fast and fluid? Perhaps that was the rain running down the hills but not me. Slog, slog, slog…..and it hurt. I was cramping. I could feel the lactic acid just pooling inside of me begging me to stop. According to the mile marker I was giving it my all and still coming in at what I would call a too slow pace. What does it take to break x-f-ing-minutes-per-mile today? The thoughts started storming – if I can’t do it here, how can I do it in a race? Since when can’t I do something? What is wrong with me? All of a sudden the work seemed worthless, the thick air, the thoughts and…choke….I stopped.

I blew up in tears.

I had my moment and knew it was coming – the radar had said so. I tried hard to fight it off but at some point your guard is let down. I always tell my athletes to allow themselves to hit rock bottom. It’s ok, you’re human, you can hurt and get a little beaten. But always go back. That way you teach yourself that you can have your moment, recover and move forward again.

And so I must continue – one more wet mile to go. I start pushing hard again and see two geese in the path. They look pissed. But then again if I had to live in the pissing rain all day I’d be pissed too. I get a little too close and apparently did not run fast enough for even them so one of them flies towards me, into me and hits my leg with it’s wing.


That's it, I have screamed the “crazy woman in the forest preserve” scream. I fucking hate geese. I hate Canada for sending us their geese. I hate the rain. I start crying again. But I keep running. This is madness. I’ve been bushwhacked by a goose, I’m running as hard as I can and then…I see Chris running back towards me. He says, come on we are almost done. I want to tell him to go away. You know when you are in your place of hurt and you just cannot be consoled? That is where I was. And, he was keeping up with me going his easy pace while I was audibly breathing, huffing, and hurting out there. I was infuriated and just wanted to see the damn mile marker that said “9” or was it 10.5 or 11. It felt like 20.

Get me out of this run.

Finally I was done. I wanted to explode in tears again but instead told Chris I just wanted to finish the last 10 minutes of my run. By myself. In those last 10 minutes I shuffled so slow and just wanted to be out of the rain. I made myself finish more for mental toughness than anything else. I also just wanted a few more moments to cry. At this point I was so wet it didn’t matter if I added more to my face. Why more tears? At this point, why not. Something had to release the pain because shuffling after increasingly hard miles was not the pain reliever I was looking for.

We sat soaked and gritty from the path for the drive home. I let out my frustrations. Chris told me it was a tough day, the mile markers could be wrong, the path was too soft - he had some really good reasons for why it felt like a self-destruct. Of course I wanted to hear none of them.


This morning I looked back to the piece of paper where I wrote down my splits and HR – and I realized I didn’t self-destruct. I actually held a decent pace. And the HR shows. But what about the storm in my head? Yikes. That needs to be managed. Maybe that’s just the consequence of working hard – it hurts and sometimes you’re not sure if you can handle it. You become gripped by fear. It’s like the last few miles of Ironman where you feel like you are literally running for your life just to get out of the damn thing. All that in 12 miles of tempo descend.

Fear, failure – all of this stuff clouds our head into a storm of what ifs. The way out? Letting go, quieting the mind, exhibiting patience. It only took 12 miles to realize that. The good news is there are many miles to go. I will attempt this run again. I will not cry. I will break x:xx pace. And if I see that goose standing on the path? I will ship it right back to Canada where it came from. Take your stupid bird back and get out of my way. I've got a pace to hit.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dogscopes

Monday was a beautiful day for the dog park, sunny, 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky.

(for those of you that did not join Fans of Boss, you should probably stop reading now because this is a post about Boss)

Boss and I arrive at the park – he can barely contain himself. First thing I notice would be two women sitting at the table in the small dog park. Small problem – there is no dog in the park. Pardon me but I find it a wee bit strange to be sitting in the dog park without a dog. Speaking in a different language. And there is one crutch propped against the table. It’s like some crazy foreign riddle that I can’t solve.

What were they doing there?

Meanwhile, Boss busies himself with his dog park work. Sniff, mark, poo, sniff, run, rest. Repeat that cycle for the better part of one hour.

Soon enough the woman with 4 poodles shows up. Have you ever met a woman with 4 poodles? Oddly enough she looks like a poodle herself. Crazy hair atop her head that hangs down like two shaggy ears. Last week she showed up with her posse of poodles and they bumrushed Boss until he laid down and succumbed to their force in numbers. From there, he played with Ruby, the smallest poodle, chasing her in mad circles around the park. Trying to steal her ball. Growling at her just because he can.

Then, a man arrives. He informs the entire small dog park that it is a beautiful day. The two Polish women look up at him like he is crazy. Hey, girls, at least he brought a dog.

His dog is named Bruiser. Bruiser busies himself with dog park work (see above). The man walks towards me.

Days like this are good for your bones.

He is right. We need the sun for a little vitamin D. Plus we need the sun for our sanity. Up until last week it still felt like winter to me. Seven long months of cold. I am getting too old, too ornery, too smart for life in Illinois for too many more years.

Why can't it be like this every day? he asks. It can. It's called SAN DIEGO.

Together we watch the dogs play. This is what dog park owners do at the dog park. We don’t say much, we just laugh occasionally at the antics of our dogs.

The poodles depart and it’s just me and Bruiser’s owner. Boss begins to do his fly bys on Bruiser. This is his way of trying to engage the dog in play. First he circles them in a few rapid fly bys. Then he pounces as if to say come get me. When there is no response, he just goes back to running crazy laps like he wasn’t interested in the other dog in the first place.

Is that a Chihuahua?

Yes, here we go this conversation about he doesn't look, act, run or sound like a chihuahua. I know. I got the world's only non-chihuahua chihuahua not otherwise specified.

Bruiser is a Silky Terrier.

Wait, there’s more….in true dog park strange man fashion, he begins to talk more….

Every 3 weeks he gets a haircut and every 2 he gets a bath….

He goes on...

I like a clean dog.

Let me just say if you are into strange man and you are single, you need to get yourself to the dog park. Now.

Bruiser is 22 months old, in a few months he’ll have his second birthday.

I tell him that Boss is also almost two, his birthday is in August.

Know what that means?

That he is not just two but 24 months old ?

He’s a Leo.

I just laugh.

I can tell you don’t believe in those kinds of things.

No, no…..it’s not that. I’ll play along with astrology as much as I’d let you read my dogs paw like a tea leaf or ask him to draw the next tarot card. It’s just that….

I’m also a Leo.

Now I’ve got his attention. He gets closer to me, his face lights up, he immediately has something to say:

That means what you like about him is what you like about yourself. And what you don’t like about him is what you don’t like about yourself.

I think about it for a moment. This is both good and bad.

In a second, I had assembled a list of everything I liked about Boss and everything he likes.

What I like about Boss is that he is small, feisty and adorable. He eats the same damn bowl of kibble every morning and acts like it’s the first time he’s ever seen it. He likes squeaky monkeys. He sits on the deck and watches the world go by. He loves to run. He doesn’t care what the other dogs are doing. He loves Chris.

What I don’t like about Boss is that at times he needs extra attention. His temperament can be off the leash. He is persistent with what he wants. He goes his own way. He sometimes cannot hold his poo. He will ignore you when it’s in his best interest.

I take a moment to think this through. And I decide that Boss and I are astrologically connected. You might think canine astrology is a bunch of horsepucky but you’re wrong. It’s real. How do I know? There are websites about it. And if it’s on the internet, you know it’s fact.

I pulled this off of Astrology Weekly:

Leo: The Boss-Dog

Holy heaven there may be some truth to canine astrology after all! THE BOSS DOG!

The Leo Dog is the monarch dog. In short, a domineering canine...if given half the chance. This dog sees himself or herself as a cut above all lesser species and will expect to be treated accordingly.

Of course Boss is a cut above the rest. He comes from royalty. I know so – his papers say it. His father’s name was Count Chocula Chihuahua.

Most Leo Dogs make for affectionate and cheerful companions, although they can at times be pompous and dogmatic.

Isn't it sort of assumed that a dog would be dogmatic?

This canine rarely knows what it means to be afraid and makes for an excellent police dog, relentlessly pursuing criminals, entering blazing buildings without a second thought and tenaciously sniffing-out bombs.

This is where you lost me. That’s complete dogshit. Boss would make the world’s worst police dog. All it takes is a dropped spinach leaf on the floor and he’d be on to a different task.

The Leo Dog makes for an exceptional guard dog but has one strange eccentricity...he or she is often deathly afraid of cats.

This is also not true. Boss is not afraid of Neighbor Cat nor squirrels, birds, or dogs 10x his size.

It appears that astrology – for canines or humans – is not grounded in – gasp – fact. That’s ok. Boss is still a king to me and together the world can hear us roar like the Leos we (sort of) are.

I spent a few more moments look up Dogscopes for Boss and found this:

What a Leo dog daydreams about: Starring in their own movie; becoming a rock star; being chased by the Paparazzi; starting their own doggie clothing line; performing in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.

And that is when canine astrology really lost me. Because I know (for fact) that Boss dreams about the dog park, bowls of chicken/pumpkin and broccoli, running in circles, car rides, the UPS man and bacon bones. NOT about his own line of doggie couture.

You might be wondering what happened to Bruiser and his owner. The conversation took a strange (even stranger) turn when he started talking about the type of clippers he uses to trim his dog every 3 weeks. I took that as my cue to scoop up Boss, say goodbye and walk away. In true Leo fashion, Boss and I decided we were too good for talking to strangers and went back to our royal carriage, the mini van, for a dreamy ride home.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Paying The Price

I like shopping. Do you like shopping? The other day I went bra shopping (don’t worry this isn’t about bras) and that didn’t go so well. Found out that I am not built like the average woman. Needed a sales clerk and a measuring tape to tell me that.

But shopping for hurt? Count me in. I’m waiting in line and not waiting for it to go on sale.

I’ll pay full price.

I visited the hurt shop this weekend. I paid full price. It hurt. I hurt. We headed down to Missouri for a great race – Tri Mizzou part of Ultramax Events. Long ago in another century, I did a lot of racing with Ultramax Events. Excellent venues, superb race organization and tough competition – always. Going back to Missouri to race felt like going home again.

Tri Mizzou is a sprint distance race. Why do I do this to myself? The plan is to use shorter races to push at my threshold. In theory, a very simple plan. In practice, a very painful plan.


Race morning started at 4 am. That is when I woke up. Of course I was in bed by 7:40 pm. Fell asleep by 9:40 pm and woke up when I couldn’t see the point of laying there anymore. I wasn’t nervous so much as I was just so darn excited that I got to race today.

Let me just thank the makers of Starbucks Via. Instant coffee sounds like a bad idea but when you are in a hotel room it is brilliant. The cup of coffee was so good I held it under Chris’ nose and insisted he take a sip. All of this at 4:20 am. His response:

Liz, you said 4:40, it’s only 4:20.

When I wouldn’t relent his next reply was:

ELIZABETH

(I’m in trouble now)

GET THAT CUP AWAY FROM ME.

Sounds like somebody needs…COFFEE!


At some point he agreed, awoke and we got to the race site. We arrived at transition and I was excited to get things set up. You see, in long course you get kind of lazy with transitions. In sprints, every second counts. Plus you don’t have time to think. Actions need to be automatic and you need a plan. I had a plan today and that was to transition fast. I even considered trying a flying mount. And then remembered trying flying mounts the other day in my basement and…

That didn’t go so well on carpet. I could only imagine the consequences on pavement.

Before I knew it, the race was about to begin. The elite men went off, next up the women. A quick count down and then it was time to swim! I just went as hard as I could go which turned out to be not all that fast but I’ll just blame it on the fact that the course was long.

Get it, long course.....in a measured long course pool.

Come on, it’s been a LONG day (4 am?).

Now, let me just say I nailed the exit out of the pool. I must have practiced it 10 times the day before. You had to pull yourself up and out of the lane (no ladder). I will not reveal the secret to my exit but let me just say if there were points awarded for most creative use of a diving block, I’d win.

Next up was the world’s fastest run through the world’s longest transition. From the pool, across the football field. Barefoot. This was painful and I was making noises from my mouth that shouted REDLINEREDLINEDANGERDANGER! But I had ground to make up and was determined to chase down the lead girl who was about a minute up on me.

Out of transition, another girl was pushing past me and we were back and forth until a big hill when I said to myself it’s now or never MAKE A MOVE. It was a long climb, I was out of the saddle pushing yet again at redline and when I got to the top and sat back down my vision got fuzzy. And then I laughed. Because for the third time ever in racing, I was seeing stars. Clouds, stars, slap my head and pray that I soon see clear.

And soon I could clearly see up ahead was the lead girl, actually 16 years old and so talented from a local kids tri team. Slowly I was reeling her in and figured I would catch her by the second lap then gain some ground. At the start of the second lap I pulled ahead of her and pushed hard up the big hill hoping I would put some time between me and her. Yet, every time I looked back there she was. Again I would attack, looked over my shoulder and – right there.

We ended up riding together to transition. I saw her taking off and barely had my right shoe on before I set out to at least try to chase. And you know a runner is in a hurry when they sacrifice correct placement of their shoe tongue for getting on the course faster.

She took off. I’m chugging along. All right – do I have any speed faster than CHUG this year? I’d like to hope it comes around soon but until then I chug, chug and try to catch her. She is bounding, I am chugging. I then look over my shoulder and see a gaggle of 3, maybe 4 girls breathing down my neck.

And then it hit me – I’m in a race. A real race. Not in noman’s land caught between pros and age groupers, I’m not off the back or having another flat racing day. I am in the thick of the race, in the mix and sound the sirens I am being RUN DOWN!

One mile to go and someone passes me. This is the longest sprint race of my life. Would someone please get me out of this hell box of hurt already? I don’t think Ironman hurt this bad. And then - passed. What will I do? I remember thinking back to my long run on Monday – 6 rounds of some progressive intervals with the last one max and realized I could attack, push it and then be ok. So I attacked. And then she responded. Ok, folks, we have a runner here. So I tried it again – she responded again. Ok, folks, we have a real runner here. And then she pulled away in the last 800 meters and crossed the line 6 seconds ahead of me (I later learned she went to the Olympic trials for the 800 meter track event which humbled and inspired me to learn to kick like her at the end).

I finished 3rd. The next girl was right behind me with another right behind her – it was a really close race. And it has been a long time since I have raced a close race. It felt good to really race in the mix, to push hard and hurt again.

After the race someone came up to me and said what happened?

I actually didn’t answer that. Not because I didn’t have an answer – trust me, after every race I sit down and make a list of what worked and what needs work – I will answer to myself later – but to answer that to anyone else?


What do you say?

When you are pro and show up to a race, you have to deal with the expectations of everyone else – like it or not. It’s part of the game. And honestly it’s one of the hardest parts of the game. As if it wasn’t hard enough to just do the race itself. There is an expectation that pro = win. Is anything as easy as that? When I turned pro, the license did not come with a guarantee that I would win every race I show up at – big or small. I didn’t get some secret manual on how to beat every racer – pro or age group. A pro license is just that – a license to compete against other pros. Nothing more is guaranteed than that.

(other than starting first in a wave with 10 of your not so closest world champion, Olympian, can run a 10K faster than you can bike it friends)

I applied to be a pro because I had the results for it and I was either brave enough or dumb enough (haven’t decided yet) to go for it. I don’t expect to win every race – nor any race. I just love to race. I’m happy to be in the game and always try to give it my best. And any time I do win, it is a feeling I never forget. Winning is a special thing that requires the right smarts, the right fitness, the right tactics and mindset to come together on race day. When you look at everything it takes to put together a win you realize how rare and special it is – whether the race is big or small – no matter who shows up.

I read something this weekend about being a champion.

If you’re going to be a champion, you must be willing to pay a greater price than your opponent. You must pay the price with sacrifice.

What did I sacrifice for this race? Nothing – and that is why I didn’t win. So what happened? Well, clearly I did not sacrifice enough. Whether it was the week of training I did leading up to the race, the next level that I wasn’t willing to push to on the run or the lack of flying mount. I wasn’t willing to pay the price in risks and sacrifices to win this race. I was outsmarted, outraced and outsacrificed.

And I’m ok with that. This is learning. This is racing. It is real. It is always changing and a process. There are no guarantees. That is what makes it good. That is why we sign up again and again – pro or amateur – if not to better ourselves then to better our way of doing the process and bettering our chances of winning – whatever winning means to us on race day.

So what happened? Well, I’d say a race. A tight race, a good race, a race that makes me hungry to go out and do it again. To find out – will the sacrifices be enough this time?

To find out...that is why we keep going back.