Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tryin' Times

I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about my training plan.

And if it includes making the baby.

I hesitate to say anything about this for two reasons. One, I don’t want to jinx myself. It’s basically a damn miracle that pregnancy happens in the first place and I fear if I talk about it too loudly I will scare the eggs right back into my ovaries and I’ll never get anywhere. Two, I feel like once you tell people you are trying to get pregnant you become dead. Know what I mean? It’s like they swear you off from being able to do anything fun, active, productive, risky or caffeinated because you’re trying to make the baby.

Listen people, I am very much still alive. And always will be! Here’s the deal – I’m not not trying to make the baby. Does that make sense? And understand there is a huge difference between trying to make the baby and actually being pregnant with the baby. Huge. Like – an entire embryo, zygote...fetus? Wait, what is the difference? And while you're answering that, tell me do I have two ovaries or one? Where is my uterus and is it the same thing as a cervix? The more I think about it, the less I know but I do know this: it could be 2 months of trying. It could be 2 years. It could be never.

And if it is never, I’m ok with that. It just means there’s a different plan for me.

I decided that I cannot change who I am and what I’m doing for a bunch of what-ifs. I told myself I would keep living life as normal and keeping doing what I love to do – because it makes no sense to do anything else. It’s not like you can put extra effort into getting pregnant to make it more likely to happen. There is pretty much one day a month where you can get pregnant and a small window of 12 to 24 hours within that day. If I shut myself down so I can get pregnant what the hell am I supposed to do with the other 29 days in the month? Sit in a menstruation hut with an Ouija board and a rosary hoping for the best?


(depends on how nice of a hut we're talking about)

I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Chances are if you are a woman in your 30s you’ve thought about this too. I’ve spent 34 years of my life doing as I please when I please. I like that. Not only that but I have survived the scorn of a thousand angry people who already have kids or want me to have kids at times on a daily basis. Being alive in your 30s without a child truly puzzles some people. What is the point of your life – you can see the look across their face. I don’t know. What is the point of anyone’s life? I just like to be alive and live. I actually quite enjoy myself and what I do with my time. Up until this point I haven’t really felt like kids would make it any better.

When I told a friend I was not-not trying she had a full blown tantrum in my kitchen which included an exchange like this:

“What? No. LIZ? NO!!! You can’t. But……you can’t give in. LIZ! NO!”

It’s safe to say I don’t need to invite her to the baby shower.

But I get it. She and I are part of that underground “30something and Childless Club”. Collectively we’ve endured thousands questions of why, when and what is wrong with you. But it seems that the longer I put it off and keep waiting the older I get. Crap. Can’t we just stop time when we’re finally having a good time? I could have accelerated my way through high school and even post-college to bank up a little more time in the 30s. Finally I’m in my 30s, doing things I like and liking myself. I’d like to ride this out a little longer. But alas I can’t. Or I shouldn’t. Because if you get pregnant after age 35 did you know that you’ll have a geriatric pregnancy?


And how awful is that? Would it kill them to come up with a gentler term like ..mature, advanced, could possibly qualify for the AARP discount pregnancy?

When I decided I might not not try I started reading. How do you make the baby. Listen, they put directions on the box for how to toast a pop tart. I’m not leaving anything to chance. And there’s nothing wrong with being overprepared. You may think you know how to make the baby and then you pick up that book What To Expect When You’re Expecting even though you’re not expecting and let me tell you something – there are things you don’t know! We spend our entire lives as teenagers, young women and finally adults fearing pregnancy. The truth is….come a little closer….put ear muffs on your teenaged daughter…IT’S NOT THAT EASY. All that stuff about you could get pregnant just by looking at a penis? BULLSHIT. Not in a hot tub either. It’s like some divine meeting of the right sperm and the right egg in the right place at the right time. There are so many things that could go wrong along the way that it’s a miracle any one is born at all. I found myself thinking: how do people get this to happen unexpectedly?

Furthermore, as a woman who (and I’ve said this before) cannot scare away her friend if I started chasing it with a flaming stick – I feel entitled to speak my mind on this: are there really women out there that don’t know when they are ovulating? …When did you draw the lucky card? And…where was I? May I also have your name so the next time I see you I beat your ovaries silly with a hammer so you get what I’ve been so blessed to be feeling once a month for the past 22 years?

Blessing or curse, I probably should have constructed myself a menstruation hut years ago. And according to my husband, lived in it permanently.

If you’re also not-not trying to make a baby, let me give you a few words of advice. Don’t tell anyone. Because nothing good will come of it. You realize that people have all sorts of advice that they are willing to throw your way like it or not. Have fun! Relax! Don’t think about it! Let it happen naturally! And, my favorite so far, courtesy of my mom:


GET DRUNK.

Thanks.

I can see how people go crazy trying to do this. It’s like your life suddenly hangs in limbo. Someone asked me if I had race plans for 2010. I do. I don’t. I don’t know. Should I? You know how it is. Sign up for races is now! But what if I can't? What if I can? When will I know!?!? So I started going crazy trying to figure out who I was and what I was trying to do when I finally just realized – I am still who I am. That may or may not change in the next few years but I’ve got to keep on being me. Me is a busy, active, fit, overcaffeinated person. And that shouldn’t change.

Yet.

So, I’m not going to go all psycho about it and start visiting a bunch of hocus pocus doctors. No. I am not going to pray nightly on a carpet square to a carton of (jumbo organic) eggs. No. I’m not going to cut out all physical activity to sit on my couch waiting to be impregnated. No. I will let things be. Because if they’re meant to be, they shall be.

And now I will return to my hut with my books trying to just locate my ovaries. Or ovary. Hey, I do know I have two boobs. Give me some credit here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Other Side

This past weekend we packed up and headed west to glorious…Iowa.

You know how I feel about Iowa. Literally the heart of the country has a very special place in my heart. Especially in the summer. But Iowa in fall is even prettier. The trees sit on the edge of a spectacular change that they hint at in fresh yellows and warm reds. The corn still waves with crisp edges. The fields still roll with green. It’s fall in the Midwest and there’s nothing like it.

It was race time. Not for me – but for Chris. Yet again I am playing the role of triathlon Sherpa extraordinaire, on the sidelines with not exactly a better view, a different view with a stirring hunger for being on the other side but knowing that sometimes it’s better to wait.


The race was situated at a state park and it was beautiful. We arrived in the evening to pick up Chris’ packet. I had to laugh when I was getting out of the car and a guy said my name. I looked at him, he looked at me and said my name again. It finally registered with me who they were – Ben and Patrick – two local athletes who had just done Ironman Wisconsin. I asked if they were racing and I believe in a post-car-trip-nap haze I said something to this effect:

That's the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time!

I realize now that may have sounded a bit crass. But I’ve never been one to hold back on my words. They both chuckled at me while I told them both to go home, eat some donuts and take naps. I swear, after I did Ironman all I wanted to do was wash my body of triathlon for 3 weeks, eat chocolate and glue my eyes to trashy television. I think I would have thrown up if I tried to race two weeks later – not from the effort but from the very idea of sitting in a saddle or wearing a race belt.

Not only did those two guys race, but they did quite well!


We went into Cedar Falls for dinner to a swanky little Italian restaurant that didn’t know it was sitting on main street in Cedar Falls. I felt like we were in Soho. Except it was Iowa. And someone walked in wearing a Hawkeyes sweatshirt. Set against the white tablecloths and the push to buy a bottle of sparkling mineral water I had to laugh. Oh stop taking yourselves so seriously….it’s Iowa! I want my buttered corn!

The next morning we were up at 4 am. Or, I was. I was up at 12 am, 3:30 am and finally when I couldn’t sleep anymore (sleep, where art thou lately?) I just woke up. Chris ate a delectable breakfast of instant oatmeal made with water warmed through the hotel coffee pot and hotel coffee which he admitted tasted like brown ass (ah, pre-race hotel room coffee).

We parked at the race site at 5 am. For the first time I was happy that I wasn’t racing. It was 50 degrees! Even though I know in just a few weeks it will be 5 degrees, 50 felt much colder than it sounded. I wrapped myself in a towel in the front seat and went back to sleep while Chris went to set up transition. I was so cold!


Around 6:50 when the sun was coming up, I woke up and made a quick trip to Panera for some bagel and amen some warm coffee! By the time I got back, it was go time. I headed up to the swim start just in time to see Chris emerge 4th from the water. It was actually a competitive race with another pro – Daniel Bretscher – in the game as well. I knew Chris would make up some ground on the bike even with a deficit in the swim. I also made a few notes about how he could gain some time in transition. There’s a lot of little things that eat up time and add up.

There’s something about watching a triathlon that just makes me smile. There’s always action and always something that you wish you had caught on video. Like the person who went the wrong way out of transition while trying to put their feet into their shoes already clipped to the pedals and when called back the right way they turned too tight, toppled over and lost their damn shoe anyway. So much for having those shoes clipped in – yikes! I am still not convinced that anyone can put their feet in their shoes quickly enough to make it matter. I’ve seen enough people lose shoes, crash into another rider and my favorite from one of my athletes two weeks ago – put the wrong shoe on the wrong pedal

Ah, Paul :)

After watching, I sat in the car and it was about 40 minutes later when the guys came back from the bike and started running.

I was tipped off by the sound of a stereo that a man was hauling behind his bike. This – my friends – is classic Ragbrai. I didn’t even need to ask him if he had gone on Ragbrai, I just knew. This guy was riding up and down the bike course with loud music blaring and ringing a cowbell. Hilarious - and only in Iowa.

Daniel was first back from the bike and a few minutes later Chris came bolting down the road. It was good to see him finding his form in the run again. A bit too much running for Kona last year left with a bum knee and injured for the better part of this year too. He just got back into running about 8 weeks ago and with a slow build up has remained – knock on a carbon frame – pain free and making progress.

I love watching the fast runners run. There is a clear distinction between the form of the fast runners and everyone else. It’s called biomechanical efficiency. Faster turnover with purpose; not just turning the feet over but pushing off strong. A high knee lift that propels the runner forward combined with a strong push off midfoot. That’s fast run form. The more the race goes on, the more run form deteriorates. It’s worth having your coach observe your run form or spending one day a week this fall on run drills to make small differences in your efficiency. It’s those differences – and not any amount of interval work – that will lead to speed.

Chris maintained his second place position through mile 5 when he passed me and I started cheering. It was at that moment that a man in a golf cart pulled up and said “want to take some pictures of him?” Thus began my short-lived career in photo journalism as I was in a cart in front of Chris snapping pictures nonstop. Also shouting at him to keep it up. To which he replied:

This really hurts!


OF COURSE IT HURTS! That’s what happens when you push your limits. And, for the record, I would give my left ovary to be out there hurting right now. So buck up camper and keep hurting. THIS IS THE GOOD STUFF!

Chris neared the finish line when my golf cart escort asked if I wanted to get a picture of him at the finish line. I mistakenly – or unknowingly – said sure and the driver floored it, sent the golf cart up to what I would call a very unsafe speed and took a turn so tight that I shouted PLEASE DO NOT TIP US as we came to an abrupt halt by the finish line.

Chris finished 2nd in the elite division and brought home $500! And, putting him contention for husband of the year, he promptly handed the cash over to me as a thank you for taking the weekend to support him. I like to think of it as back payment for all the toilets I’ve cleaned and laundry I’ve done over the years.

But who’s keeping track.

We walked back to the car and right by the guy carting around the stereo on his bike. “Ragbrai?” I asked, I couldn’t help myself. Of course he said yes. When we asked what team he rode with, he said Team WASP. When he asked me if I knew what that stood for I said – it doesn’t matter, it’s Ragbrai. He told me it stood for We’re All Sexual Perverts. Exactly, I said, it’s Ragbrai!

On the way home, we drove along Route 20 passing through towns of Ragbrais past.

Do you remember Maquoketa? I asked Chris as we passed by its highway sign. It was the town where we borrowed the lawn jockey and The Timmers placed it in a body bag by the van. Operation Echo November. The town where we danced in the beer garden. The town where the entire team was a bit tipsy and singing to Piano Man for whatever reason you sing to Piano Man – the same reason we played it as the last song at my wedding and sang to it in the same way.

We continued along 20 toward Galena. The roads start to roll in the familiar hills of eastern Iowa. I thought about Ragbrai. I thought about watching the race today. I thought about Daniel asking me if it was hard not to race. And I finally admitted to myself….yes. Yes, it’s hard to be on the other side. If you've ever been out, injured or otherwise on break from the sport you know what I mean.


But at the same time, it’s enlightening. I see it from a different side and appreciate it a lot more. I see my own athletes enjoying the race and reaching their goals. I see my husband doing what he loves to do and getting good at it again. I see how hard the volunteers work to pull the race together. I see them directing traffic to keep everyone safe. I see the race director posting the results every 10 minutes to keep the athletes happy and wonder how long she’s been up today. I see a different side, the side that I took for granted maybe and the side that maybe every needs to spend watching for a year.

When I get back to the other side, it will be good. I’ll enjoy every damn minute of it – no matter how bad it hurts. Promise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Wiggles

Right now I’m sitting in Panera getting work done.

Except for this little break to blog.

The earlier you go, the better the coffee is. The later you stay, the more likely you need an AARP card to get in the door. Before 8 am and you have an 80 percent chance of being hit on by a guy twice your age. After 11 am, and you have an 80 percent change of being hit on by a guy three times your age.

I’m 34. It could happen. Really.

Have you noticed that there are A LOT of people “working” in Panera lately? I don’t come here often and really don’t like when my office is filled with a lot of chatter that I can’t turn down and classical music (which unless I’m playing it on the piano, bores me to tears). I tend to think that some men get dressed like they are going to work when they just drive over to the Panera with their laptop and search for work or don’t work at all.

I see a lot of Facebook and Yahoo News on the screens. And I know that guy over there is reading OMG!

Single women of the world where are you? You need to come to Panera with me. There I was writing up some schedules when the guy next to me starts looking at me.

With crazy googly eyes.

How do you do that?

Excuse me, what? How do I sit here looking absolutely ravishing in workout shorts and a Zipp Speed Weaponry visor over my bedhead. That? Are you asking how I did that? Because my husband wonders the same thing.

How do you type that fast?

Oh – that. Well, you know how you might be good at doing something inane like knowing baseball stats or better yet being able to sit through a baseball game without running on to the field, grabbing a bat and beating yourself silly on the head out of sheer boredom….well, while you can probably do that, my savant skill is typing.

No joke – I can type freakishly fast.

Where did you learn to do that?

Flashback to high school. You know how everyone else was taking all those important classes like Advancement Placement Chemistry and American Government? I took typing. Why? Because riddle me this: how often do you use AP Chemistry in your daily life? Hmmph? And do you really need to understand American Government when hundreds of years have proven that it makes no sense? And how often do you use typing? Right. I didn’t need a perfect SAT score to figure out which would be the more useful skill. So I signed myself up for typing with all the stoners, burnouts, the pregnant chick, the guy who wore the plaid flannel shirt every day, saddled myself up next to an old school TYPEWRITER (we are talking about 1990 here….) and typed away. And when I threw down 110 words per minute with only 3 errors, well it’s safe to say that I had graduated on to advanced placement typing.

I’m taking a class and I could only do 30 words a minute with 3 errors.

You, sir, would never qualify for Advanced Placement Typing.

I’m supposed to be able to type an entire page by the end of the semester.

Mind you this was total stranger, adult man talking to me about typing. Something that feels so second nature to me, something I learned when I was young and at this time I could literally do with my eyes closed. It reminded me of teaching an adult to swim – it’s a completely kinesthetic task. You just have to feel it. Sure, an adult can learn it but adults often muddle it up by putting so much overthinking, chatter and overanalyzing between themselves and their stroke that they can’t feel.

Just keep at it, you’ll get it soon enough.

And that’s all I could think to say to him. Like any other skill in life, it takes time to learn. And the longer you wait to learn something in life, the longer it will take. Especially if there is a physical component involved. I tell this to athletes all the time – patience, keep at it, stick with it and lastly…

Tick Tock.

Meaning…wait.

I returned to my work which meant that I returned to typing away like a bumblebee on crack. Very fast, that is. I tried to be quieter about it, taking it out on the keys less aggressively because all of a sudden I felt really self-conscious about…being good at something. And it didn’t help that the guy was watching me.

I’m sorry for interrupting you.

Oh, you didn't interrupt me. Not a problem. But now if you don’t stop looking at me I am going to unplug your laptop and choke you with the cord.

Go like this for me – and then, he wiggles his fingers.

I am not kidding.

(enter awkward pause)


I’ll do a lot of things for strangers, but I will not wiggle my fingers for you, thank you. I probably wouldn’t even wiggle my fingers for my husband. I don’t even like saying the word wiggle. It makes me feel dirty. Or it makes me want to break out into song...

HOT POTATO HOT POTATO HOT POTATO HOT POTATO POTATO POTATO POTATO POTATO POTATO. COLD SPAGHETTI COLD SPAGHETTI...

Sorry, wrong wiggles.

So I just laughed and went back to my typing.

I’m sorry, I’ll let you get back to your typing now.

Yeah, you do that. I’ll go back to my typing and you go back to your hen pecking. See, I’ll be nice to you until you get all freaky on me. Wait, were you in Mr. Harding’s 7th period typing class back in 1990, the creepy quiet kid with wild hair and thick glasses in the back of the room probably wiggling his fingers and picking his nose?

He was still looking at me.

I have GOT to find a new office.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Overcoming Doubt

Last week one of my athletes asked me about self-doubt.

What is doubt? Doubt is uncertainty of the truth of something, being unsure. In terms of our self, it is lack of confidence or security in ourselves and our judgments. This doubt is often based in our low self-confidence, fear, cautiousness and mistrust. Because of that, doubt can hold us back from making choices or taking risks that will propel us to that next level. Beyond questioning our self, doubt comes in the form of incessant chatter that distracts us from following our instincts or taking a leap of faith. At its best, doubt makes us cautious and careful in our decision-making. At its worst, it keeps us from making a decision at all and instead has us spinning in a circle of uncertainty, waffling and inaction.

The more you find yourself in challenging situations, the more possibility there is to doubt yourself. It’s what you do in those moments of what iffing yourself that separates those that overcome and those to succumb to doubt. If you answer the what if with “why bother”, you have succumbed. If you answer the what if with “why not” or “let’s see”, you prevail.

Anyone who has taken great risk has had a doubt about themselves or their abilities. But at a certain point, the attractiveness of the “what if”, the possibility of bettering myself has overridden those doubts and led them to act. Through belief comes action, through doubt comes stagnation. Our role in life is to learn and grow. You must free yourself from doubt in order to make that happen. But how?

The first step in letting doubt go is to let go of fear. Fear comes in many forms; it could be fear of failure, fear of change, fear of discomfort, fear of what others think. Fear prevents us from going where we want to go. When we become fearless we allow ourselves to take on opportunities or put ourselves into situations that involve risk. When there is risk, we open ourselves up to making mistakes. When you give yourself permission to make a mistake, you allow yourself to learn and grow.

The great basketball legend Michael Jordan admits to missing 9,000 shots, losing over 300 games and 26 times being trusted to take the game winning shot only to fail. He never doubted his ability to take those shots and that is why he is an overall success. He also likely learned how to better himself from each failure. Through failure you find a valuable lesson – what worked, what didn’t work and if you integrate those lessons into your next experience you have learned. The opposite of fear is freedom. When you let go of fear, you do not allow doubt to enter and you become free to live, make mistakes and learn.

Doubts are negatives thoughts or counterpoints that clutter up our head with chatter throughout the day. The average person thinks 12,000 thoughts per day. What is the theme of your thoughts? Listen for a day. Are you positive or negative? Do you see problems or possibilities? When your head is filled with doubts, your thoughts become crowded with darkness, fear and insecurity. You think only in terms of “I can’t” and never see how you can. You begin to wonder if anything is worth trying at all. You back yourself into a corner and there is no way out. When you learn to speak only in positives you not only erase doubt but you change the color of your world. You open yourself up to taking on a new situation and then have the confidence to take a chance. From confidence comes action. When doubts clutter your thoughts, you are backed into a corner of inaction.

Practice positive thoughts throughout the day. This will take vigilance and constantly rephrasing the negative. If you find yourself thinking or saying something negative, have a process in place to redirect this thought or reframe it. Consider starting each week with a positive quote or phrase you post on your mirror, read it often. Spend a few weeks doing this and you will find you have more positivity at your reach.

To overcome doubt it also helps to build a history of success. Take small risks, set small goals to create a success. To do this you must set the bar so low at first that you can’t help but get over it. Be realistic in your expectations. In sport it’s easy to think that applying more work or smarts to something will lead to success. Often this is not the case. Success in sport is a complex interaction of skill, genetics, coaching, training and recovery. Setting unrealistic expectations leads to failure which then feeds the doubt. Start with small tasks or steps that might seem easy at first. Succeed there then take a bigger step. If your goal is to one day win your age group at a large-scale event, start small and give yourself a chance to succeed. Learn to master the process in a less competitive venue. Every lesson you learn will then build bigger confidence and skill which will help you to one day progress to the large scale victory.

Another way to overcome doubt is to surround yourself with a support system that builds up your confidence. Your friends, your training partners, your relatives – everyone you interact with throughout the week will either add to your confidence or add to your doubt. Be careful with whom you choose to train with or how often. Train only with those who understand how to balance competition with friendship – and know that not many friendships are solid or mature enough to handle this. If a partner/friend feeds off of your failure or make excuses about why you had a better day than them, they become an energy drain and create doubt. A little friendly competition is good but the overall feeling should be positive and understanding.

Have faith in yourself. Faith is a confident belief or trust in yourself. When you have faith, you cannot have doubt. The confident person does not have doubts because they see themselves as capable of handling whatever is thrown their way. How do you build confidence? Follow the suggestions above and give yourself time. As you learn to phase out doubts and replace them with powerful, positive and confident thoughts you need to allow yourself to fall back every once in awhile. But when you do, assess why and then find a way to get around it. Changing a habit takes time and patience. Trust that it will be worth the time and do the work to make the change. Put yourself into smaller situations that test your doubts and soon you will start chaining together success stories that will be stronger than your doubts. That builds confidence. And with confidence is the opposite of doubt.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Looking Ahead

Chances are you’ve started thinking about next year.

I have.

New races are popping up, races are already closed to entry, new series, far away destinations. It’s a lot to sort out.

And that’s just the planning end of things.

Maybe you’ve been at the sport for a few years. Maybe you’ve made some progress or you’ve seen yourself plateau. Maybe you’re brand new to it all. Whatever the case, you are ready to take it to the next level.

What is the next level? Whatever you think it is – it could be finishing an Ironman, placing in your age group or qualifying for Boston. It’s filled with a lot of excitement and opportunity but also a lot of questions.

This is where a coach can help. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about working with a coach or thinking about switching coaches. How do you know if either case is right for you?

There are a lot of coaches out there. Most are good, some are not so good. What defines good is really what you are looking for. Perhaps you want a coach that will communicate with you every day. Others want a coach that delivers a plan once a month. Coaching comes in all different shapes, sizes, packages and costs. Considering the cost and energy you must put into being a coached athlete, it pays to find the right coach for you.

How do you find the right coach? Here’s a few hints on the questions to ask:

1 – Who

Choosing the “who” is often the hardest part of coaching. Like hiring someone for an employment position, you should feel comfortable interviewing your coach and asking for references. Your interview can be done over the phone or email. Have a list of questions that go beyond the basics of cost, types of plans. How often does your coach communicate? What is their experience? Where do they draw inspiration? How active are they in the multisport community? Is coaching something they do on the side or is it a full-time career? What about their continuing education? Each coach has also has a style and personality. The best way to determine a coach’s style is to ask for references their athletes. A coach should have a few athletes that are willing to answer questions about their services and style. Explore a few options in the “who” of your coaching search to find the best fit for you.

2 – What

What does your coach do? Specifically, how do they help their athletes reach a desired outcome? Inquire about how they create a training plan, do they deliver workouts on a weekly or monthly basis, do they include other things beyond the swim, bike, run workouts? A good coach should aim to coach the whole athlete. Their services should include more than just “writing workouts” – and often this is what separates good from not so good coaches. A computer can pop workouts into a schedule. A book can give you generic workouts. A coach thinks about who you are, where you are and what you are trying to do. Does your coach meet athletes in person? If they coach online, how do they bridge the distance between you? Most importantly, do they charge “extra” for the “extra” things that often make for good coaching (in person meetings, phone calls, unlimited communication). Ask about what they do, ask for a sample schedule or workouts to learn more about them.

3 – Where

Where does your coach plan their workouts and how do they get delivered to you? Where do they expect to get your feedback? Where do they see themselves as a coach in 5 or 10 years? Along different lines, where has this coach been with athletes? What types of athletes have they coached – and what type of success have they had at helping those athletes achieve their goals? What are some of the events this coach has coached athletes to finish? Where has their experience taken them? Explore their background as well as their future to determine if you fit into their plan.

4 – Why

It’s always interesting to ask your coach why they got into coaching – and to ask a little bit about their educational and athletic background. There are many reasons why someone might get into coaching – be sure your coach is doing it for the right reasons, taking it seriously enough to honor your commitment to your goals with professionalism and care. Moreover, be prepared for them to ask you why you want to work with a coach. Often I find that athletes who want help in getting organized, in achieving a specific outcome, in making the most out of their time, in being held accountable – these are the athletes that are best coached. If you are switching coaches, be prepared to answer the “why” question and have a list of the qualities you are seeking in a coach or what you expect.

5 – When

Timeliness is a very important factor in coaching. A coach deals with people in real time – illnesses, injury, changes to schedule. These are issues that must be addressed within a reasonable time frame. Consider how much the communication and accessibility is worth to you. While you cannot expect your coach to be available 24-hours a day, they should be able to respond to your questions or needs in a timely – and useful manner. Furthermore, when can you expect feedback? How do they manage the feedback loop? To get the most out of coaching, the athlete should provide frequent feedback and the coach should provide frequent response. Make sure your coach is accessible enough and you are willing enough to make this happen.

6 – How

The big factor is cost. How much does it cost – and what does this include? In my experience as a coached athlete, the cost of a coach has very little to do with the quality of their coaching. Coaching fees are highly individual and can vary depending on region, experience of coach or type of athlete they are trying to attract. A $100 per month coach is trying to attract a much different athlete than a $600 per month coach (yes, they exist). An easy way to determine your comfort level with a fee is to take that monthly fee and divide by 30 days. If your coach charges $100 per month, you are paying $3.33 per day. Are you comfortable with that – and what do you expect for that fee? The more you pay per day, the more you should get with accessibility, support, information and feedback. Moreover, ask the coach’s athletes if they feel like they get their money’s worth. Also inquire about any relief they have for the fee; many coaches have discounts for committing to an entire year, referral bonuses or other incentives to help lessen the cost.

Planning for the 2010 season has begun – and maybe you’re thinking about hiring a coach to help you get where you want to go. Use the questions above to give you some direction in the process. When you find a coach that suits you, your goals and your style, you will find a positive and productive relationship that makes your time and efforts in the sport that much more rewarding.

Good luck!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Made Of Iron




I am pleased to report that I completed the Ironman Wisconsin Spectathlon in 18 hours and 4 minutes. I am also once again certain that spectating an Ironman is 100 times harder than doing the event. When you do an Ironman you have a steady stream of calories, fluids, crowds of people cheering for you and permission to pee on yourself. When you spectate you stand on the side of the road holding in your pee because you are afraid you are going to miss the one chance you have to see someone for the next 3 hours.

It’s safe to say I didn’t drink much yesterday because I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities.

I’m not even sure where to begin. But let’s start at the beginning which was roughly 4:50 am when I woke up saying to myself “I get to do an Ironman today.” Of course I didn’t but I woke up with the same giddy anticipation and nervousness that I woke up with on the day of my first Ironman, Kona 2006, when I said to my husband at 4:30 am: I get to do an Ironman today.

Today was different – I get to watch 22 of my athletes do Ironman Wisconsin. I was just as giddy and even more nervous. It’s one thing to be responsible for yourself but when you take on the responsibility for that many adults – when you take their money, their trust and their time and in exchange help to deliver them to a finish line…well, it’s nervewracking!


We headed over to the swim start around 6:20 am. Little by little I found my athletes and then a few others. Some looked nervous, others were teary-eyed, many were smiling, all looked ready. We watched the swim start from The Helix. Before we knew it, the gun went off and 2400 swimmers starting eating up the water. It was an impressive sight.


Within an hour, athletes were running up The Helix to transition. Thus began the screaming, jumping, high fiving, cowbelling that would last the rest of the day. It was not even 8:30 am and my voice already hurt. But it was worth it. 2.4 miles of swimming is a huge accomplishment and all looked thrilled to be done!

Next up we decided to grab some food before heading out to the bike course. It was already 9 am and I was well undercaffeinated. Got a big coffee and headed out to Midtown. Midtown is the last long hill on the course. True, Ironman Wisconsin is very hilly but did you know that Louisville actually has more feet of elevation gained? Wisconsin has a few “series” of hills but also some long stretches where you can put your head down and ride.



The athletes were trickling by right on time. When I saw them coming up the hill I would start running with them shouting whatever I could think of to motivate them, troubleshoot or encourage them for the next 40 miles until they looped around again. I told Chris the hardest part is having something meaningful to say to them otherwise you fall into the trap of LOOK YOU GREAT or YOU'RE ALMOST THERE which doesn’t really help much when they hear it from…oh….thousands of their not so close friends.



Seth came by with his usual coolness and smile. That would be the smile of man who took my husband's suggestion when he said two numbers that would make him happy on the bike: 12 - 27. He took that bike straight to the shop, got a 12-27 and found those hills much more enjoyable than his practice rides.

Midtown Hill was classic specating. The street was lined with spectators at times so thick that the cyclists had one lane to make their way cautiously up a hill. Some did it with ease. Others with a nervous OH CRAP and a flop. Chris and I were playing a game of “Guess Who Has a Compact Crank” as we watched the athletes climb – or grind – the hills. The worst part – they had two loops of this. The ones who spun their way up the hill made it look too easy and fluid. Others were walking up the hill. Still others were either so wrongly geared or underprepared that they just fell over. And then there were the few who cramped so badly – for whatever reason you cramp – that they just stopped in the middle of the hill moaning. Ouch.


This guy was right next to us chasing riders with a giant cornstalk and saying things so witty yet bizarre that I swear he was having the comments fed into his ear by someone else. From out of the corn, Ironfans for Ironman! Or something like that. When we asked him what he was doing he said:

Stalking people.



It's hard to stalk The Bus because he moves so damn fast. I gave it a good try and I'm impressed by the knee lift I was able to achieve in those capri pants. I was reminding The Bus to pace himself out there.


On the second time through Midtown, I started to remind all of them to run smart races, to pace themselves, to resist the urge to blow out the first 6 miles. After about 4 hours of shouting, jumping and convincing people they loved every minute of riding their bike up the hills I was trashed. Take each athlete I coached out there and then all who I just knew out there. Multiply that by a 10 second uphill sprint while shouting at them. And do it two times. It’s safe to say that I spent the better part of 4 hours in zone 5c.

Around 2 pm we decided to head to the run course. Grabbed another quick meal and sat on the curb of State Street. This is possibly the best place to spectate. There’s endless food, bathroom and coffee nearby as well as the fact that you can see your Ironathlete four times!


As each athlete approached, I got ready with something to say. Quick, think! How do they look? What do they need to hear? What is their personality!?! Their goal? Karin approached first. She had a best case scenario time and she was on pace for it. All she had to do was hang on for…26.2 miles. I could tell she would do it. She was all smiles and I just wanted to cram about a thousand feelings and YOU CAN DO THIS into the 10 seconds I had with her and I just said “run it mile to mile, you can hold this pace all day you know you can!”


This is Erik. I'm calling him The Sleeper. He's really The Smiler but today he was The Sleeper out there because he pulled out a performance I couldn't believe. Not only that but he smiled every mile of the way. It was at mile 19 that he came running by me and shouting I FEEL INCREDIBLE! Can I bottle that up and just throw it at people!?


Others kept streaming toward us. I realized how good it was to have a coach out there because I could help them troubleshoot whatever was happening. Whether it was a sloshy stomach, a sore calf, am I going to make it, my knee hurts, I’m peeing too much, I haven’t peed all day, I can’t eat, I don’t know what to eat, I could shout something that they could do or just refocus them to keep them on track.

We were at mile 6.5 of the run which was also about mile 19.5 of the run. So we either saw athletes totally fresh, totally cooked from an overzealous bike or totally done as they hit the wall. It was an interesting place to be filled with lots of interesting comments and spectators. I loved the group in purple shirts walking around with (are they still called) boom box blasting Ludacris and following some guy on course. My favorite comment was from one of mine, Dave, a short courser who decided to do Ironman. As he ran away, he turned around and said: “Liz….this is a really long day.” YES, it is! (Bruce also informed me it was a long day)


But you could see that most people had made peace with the longness of the day or whatever was or was not going their way. For most of my athletes out there, it was their first Ironman and I told them that was the beauty of it – they had all day. It doesn’t matter if you finish in 11 hours or 17 hours, you are still an Ironman. A few got stuck in places, whether it was a low mental or physical place I could see it – they would run by saying something about a cramp, a this, a that….you realize you have two choices out there. 1 – Stand in one place spinning in a circle with your misery/pain or 2 – keep moving forward. That’s what we were there to tell them; just keep moving forward, one mile at a time, one foot in front of the other.



And when they passed us on the second loop, around mile 19, all you could say at that point is no matter what you’re feeling, a bum knee, a calf cramp, a blister – you could do anything for another 7 miles. I remember chasing Mike down, his knee was hurting and all that I could think to say was you’ve gone 134 miles, what’s another 6? He started running again – with a little bit of a kink in his step but he started running again. By the way, that
is Donna and her 4 sponges. She was so excited to finally be running!


I saw Ryan at about mile 19 where he muttered something about peeing every mile. He tried to wait in line for the porta potty and I think he could sense the get your ass moving in my eyes, looked across the street and said I'll go use those. I told him it was less than a 10K to go! Keep moving and get to that finish line!


Seth out on the run course with only 7 miles to go. In Ironspeak, that's not very far.

Around 12 hours into the race I was starting to lose my steam. I had been looking for faces for so long in the crowds of athletes running and walking and biking towards me that my vision was going fuzzy. I started feeling seasick. Chris told me to focus off in the distance and not to follow the faces at they go by. He was right. It helped but still, I’m not sure what was more tired; my feet from walking/running, my voice from shouting or my eyes from searching. People had been throwing empty cups at me, I was covered in sweaty highfives or hugs, I was hoarse and my feet ached. I feel like I did the Ironman and I bonked about 4 hours ago with no end in sight. But I had to go all the way. This could be a 17 hour race!

Around the 13 hour mark, we headed to the finish line. Some had already crossed the line, others were nearing. It's always invigorating to watch the finish line. Mike Reilly has a way of making everyone feel like they are a winner out there. I handed out a few well earned beers and then we helped Dave back to his hotel. By 16:04 into the race, everyone had crossed the line, I exhaled and then called it a (very very very long work) day.

Finally in bed at midnight, I was replaying the day. Bits and pieces from all three segments of the race, the faces, the exchanges we had, the smiles, the memories. I felt like I had done the race myself and I was reliving the highlights. Except they were highlights of other people in the race and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t fall asleep, I was overtired, wired. I tossed and turned and at 8 am on Monday I said the word: coffee. AMEN!

I am smilingwith the memories and honestly I cannot think of anything else to say but congratulations to all of the athletes and that it was so exciting to share their special day. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Crazytown

It’s the week before Ironman Wisconsin and things are starting to get a little crazy.

I have 22 athletes doing the race. 16 of them are in the Well Fit IronMoo training group. 6 of them are from my Multisport Mastery roster. Any way you shake it, that’s a lot of athletes to watch out on the course.

They are all busy buckling away their last minute details for race day. Some have made lists of lists of lists on laminated notecards that they are checking off with a precision Sharpie marker and having their spouse double check. Others have boiled it down to an Excel spreadsheet with numbers and times. Some have retreated quietly in prayer into their Ironcave. And still others – the procrastinators – haven’t thought about it at all.


But you know what – they are all prepared. They are all ready. How they choose to organize their day in their mind or on paper is up to them. And it works for them.

When preparing for Ironman it’s common to have the feeling of not even knowing where to begin. You stand there with a blank look on your face not sure if you’re undertrained, overfueled, underhydrated, overstimulated. You feel fit but fat, calm but edgy, unsure but ready. All that I can say is this: when all else fails - go home, make lists and put things in baggies.

I’ve seen so many packing lists, race plans and spreadsheets that I’m not even sure what I should do on race day. I spent a few hours walking in a circle, biting my nails, obsessing when finally I said to myself – make a list. So, here is a Coach ELF cue sheet (soon to be plugged into an Excel spreadsheet):


6:00 am: Stand at the Helix looking for Ironmoo group, give them a proper send off. Remind Ryan to focus, Melissa to keep an eye on Bruce, Bus to f*ckin crush it, Keach to pace himself, Jen to stick with her fuel plan, remind Karin to breathe, so on and so forth.

7:00 am: Watch swim start and tell myself for the 100th time this year thank god I am not doing Ironman. In case I have doubts about this, instruct Chris to kick me in the shin – hard – when the gun goes off.

7:15 am: Sprint at vV02max speed to Starbucks to avoid monster line (pack race flats).

7:45 am: Stand on the Helix trying to recognize the wet faces of said 22 athletes, when I do recognize a face jump up and down and scream like an animal

8:30 am: Go watch the (wetsuit) strippers. Tell husband to put away dollar bills.

9:00 am: If they’re not all out of the water by now, I’m going in to get them (pack wetsuit).

9:15 am: First feeding, according to my fuel plan this feeding should contain approximately 500 calories, 60g of carbs and 250 mg of NaCl.

9:30 am: Head out to Verona to stand at Old Sauk Road. Turn this into Heckle Hill. In true Ragbrai style I’d like to bring some beer cans and caution tape but I have a feeling that triathletes will not have the same sense of humor as Ragbrai and no one will be interested in playing Poo Dollar or Caution Tape Limbo on the longest hill of the course. Regardless, try anyways.

11:30 am: Continue heckling. Disqualify anyone wearing compression socks or arm warmers. Chase after them with a red Sharpie threatening to slash their number if they don’t get their ass up the hill faster.

12:30 pm: Head back to State Street for second feeding, second caffeination, a little shopping (find Jen Harrison).

2:30 pm: I realize that 2 hours has all of a sudden disappeared but I do plan on taking a nap in one of the bus stops along State Street just like the competitor I saw doing that last year (and about 30 minutes later she emerged back on the run course fresh as a daisy).

3:00 pm: Speaking of daisies, buy Bridge Mix to throw into the street with Miss Daisy (JH). Listen to her overcautious old lady talk about someone twisting their ankle if a malted milk ball rolls into the street. Throw malted milk balls at her instead.

3:30 pm: Tell….squinting, can’t really read name, oh yes it says Jane, tell Jane “YOU LOOK GREAT!”

4:00 pm: Bring out the bullhorn because at this point I will have lost my voice. If Sharone really didn’t buy me a bullhorn, “borrow” traffic cone from Madison Public Works Department.


4:30 pm: It is time for another feeding. Sub beer for caffeine.

5:00 pm: Chase Jen with a red Sharpie, make a slash across her shirt, tell her she’s been disqualified.

5:15 pm: Cut husband off so he stops making comments such as “I’d like to be her compression sock”.

5:30 pm: Avoid all course porta potties after this point.

6:00 pm: Everyone is starting to look really fast. But that might be the beer goggles talking.

6:30 pm: Head toward the finish line.


7:00 pm: Find way to run across finish line to declare myself first in the Spectathlete division. Find way to carry husband across the line with me.

7:30 pm: Remind Patty that if she's given birth to 3 kids, she can definitely give birth to Ironman.

8:00 pm: Tackle anyone with a cowbell.

8:30 pm: See if someone will trade me their glow necklace for a Red Bull.

9:00 pm: At this point I expect to bonk and demand a caffeine IV to get me through to midnight.

9:30 pm: Make compression sock puppets. Talk to people only through the puppet.

9:45 pm: Declare myself “gone mad in Madtown”.

10:00 pm: Realize that I haven’t seen Chris in hours. Realize he passed out in the bus stop after 1 beer.

11:30 pm: Declare this as the longest day of my life next to getting married.

12:00 am: It’s over? So soon? Oh come. Let’s just sit on the curb and shout a little longer.

12:15 am: Look for me in a bus stop.

On Saturday we’ll be heading up to Madtown (in same county as Crazytown) to get some rest before the big day. The IronMoo group has been meeting since February. We’ve nearly seen four seasons change and I’ve seen some amazing physical transformations since then. I’ve watched them evolve from a group of people who signed up for this thing called Ironman to a group of athletes. They are fit, educated and ready. I can’t think of any better combination on race day.

See you all Sunday!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Play Date

This weekend I had a play date with The Boys.

But first, a small race. On Saturday I did a small – so small we’re talking 75 people and transition racks marked by paper plates small – train through it race in southern Illinois. Small races remind me of why I love to race. And I do. I had a few come to Jesus (or should I say come to Moses) moments with ABK where I realized that my athletic goals are still worth pursuing I just need to change how I pursue them. I reflected a lot and realized that I spent the last 18 months spinning in a circle. And I’m not the same athlete I was 2 years ago. Since then in an effort to “fix” me I’ve worked with 3 different coaches. That is not a good thing. Add to that a whole lot of overtraining, underrecoving, overracing and you get an entire season where I spent more time getting unfit than I did gaining fitness.

I read an article recently about a runner who had a breakthrough year then the next year overtrained. He said it took an entire year to get back to where he was that previous year. That is when I realized that it is going to take me a long time to get back to where I was. There is nothing that needs to be fixed, I just need to be patient. When I finally admitted that I felt more at peace with training again. I know I am nowhere near where I was but in the past few weeks I have started putting out power and paces that are improving and more importantly I feel the itch again. It was last week in the middle of a 60 minute bike ride at hard watts when I felt, I can be good at this again. There’s a big difference between wanting it and feeling it. When you feel it you become more confident. When you become more confident you get the desire to do the work.

I don’t know why I’m saying any of this but I feel like I’ve been too quiet about training and racing – not because I don't like to train or race but because I was feeling a little lost about all of it – and that made me sad because it’s something I really like to do. I like being fit, I like achieving goals, I like seeing progress. Don’t we all?


After the race, which went ok, I was 2nd overall, I drove on toward St. Louis. I absolutely love solo road trips. I used to drive back and forth once a month when in college and learned to enjoy the 300 mile drive by myself. There is something about getting out on the road, on your own schedule, listening to your music as loud as you want, singing off key as much as you want, talking out loud to yourself and either driving 200 miles straight or stopping every 50 miles just because you can. To me, solitude is empowering.

I was heading to St. Louis for a play date with The Boys. The Boys are Mike, Tommy and Seiichi and I’ve been coaching them for two seasons now. They were introduced to me as The Boys and it’s a term so appropriate that I have a hard time now not calling them The Boys. I’ve met up with them in Kona, at Ironman Arizona but this weekend I wanted to watch them train so I could offer some feedback as they get into their meaty training for Ironman Arizona in November.

Sunday morning, Mike and Tommy picked me up at the very early hour of 6 am and we drove out to Ghisallo. Seiichi and Bill met us there and we all suited up for the ride. The morning was overcast and the air was thick with humidity. The ride took us out toward the airport on a flat course but we quickly met up with long hills. It was a beautiful ride with maple-lined roads and horse farms. About 30 minutes into it, it started pouring rain. Descending was a slow, cautious task but it also allowed me to take in all of the scenery. In another few weeks that route is going to explode in the bright yellow of maples in fall.

The Boys follow the same training plan. At first I hesitated at the idea of providing the same plan for 3 different people but understand that it works for them because they want it to work. They are inseparable like brothers, competitive like opposing teammates and enthusiastic like it’s still their first year in the sport. The interesting thing about having 3 athletes training together is that I was able to ask one questions about the other and get great insight. When I asked why so and so struggled with biking the other two were able to provide some ideas on not just the physical reasons but the psychological reasons that only close friends would be perceptive enough to gather.

I observed a lot of surging and coasting on the ride. It’s worth bringing up because I find this is an area where many athletes struggle. In riding you want the most consistent or smooth power output possible. This means pacing yourself up the hills, into the wind and on the flats so there are no major surges in power or effort. This is especially important in Ironman. The more surging you do close to or above your threshold can lead to significant GI problems. It’s hard for your body to digest food when all of your blood is going to the legs for surges. There is a consistent pace you can ride where you can both digest calories and power yourself on a ride. It’s important to find that pace in training and I told The Boys it would be important for their upcoming Ironman.


Seiichi is of course a really strong rider. He knows it and so do the other Boys. They tell me it’s because he just loves to ride. It’s no surprise. You will excel at what you love to do. I was waiting for someone to tell me they loved swimming but it never happened. Mike is a zippy little rider who can climb hills like crazy and just needed a little fire under his booty to get going out there. Tommy covers about twice as many miles on the same ride from all of his squiggles and bouncing but there’s nothing wrong with a little overachievement. Especially when you can run like him off the bike. And Bill, who was along for the ride, is just The Natural.

After riding I demanded coffee. I was surviving on half a cup of hotel coffee which had run out my veins about 40 miles ago. A quick stop at Starbucks then we went to the track to observe run form. The Boys are good runners. And it became even more apparent when I watched them run. I was starting to think that everyone was a heel striker. But when I taped these guys I didn’t see but a little bit of heel striking from one of them. And I noticed a whole lot of ZIP! I have to say that Mike’s form was so snappy yet controlled (which is exactly what you want!) that I thought to myself – I need to run more like him!

The pool was next. We descended the dark stairs to the dungeon they swim in and when I walked in I could only say to Mike “seriously?” Could they make swimming any more unattractive in this gym? Like at the track, each one wanted to watch the other one and hear me critique them. Of course it was probably to gather more fuel for teasing each other but I also think it’s valuable to watch others and hear feedback so you can learn what to do and what not to do. It was helpful for me to watch them in person, give them immediate feedback then correct something with them. The comments in between were hilarious and it was finally when I asked them each to dolphin kick that I may have actually peed in the pool. Let’s just say that there will be no dolphin kicking for one of them.

OH – MY – GOD.

They dropped me off at the hotel so I could have a real person shower and check out. When they picked me up again, Tommy and Mike quickly moved themselves into first place for Athletes of the Year when they handed me a pumpkin spice latte. We headed out for breakfast and I got to watch them interact yet again. I felt like I was hanging out with my older brothers and like when I spend time with most of my athletes, there was an eerie sense of comfort and understanding that I felt. Not only that but I believe I found two people who are even more picky than me at a restaurant. When someone ordered their turkey sausage butterflied and lightly grilled, I knew that my “hold the onions” was not going to get any eye rolling from the waiter.


And I’m pretty sure Mike and Tommy have eaten their fair share of bad fish because of their requests.

After breakfast, Bill kindly offered to tape my leg with some Kinesio tape. May I interject? My single friends are all the time telling me how hard it is to meet someone. Two words: Kinesio tape. I can’t tell you how many questions I got about the tape on the way back to Chicago. Sure, we’re talking about a guy at the gas station or the old guy at Panera but the point is it’s a conversation starter. And any conversation is good practice! (even if the guy is in his 70s and asking you if you can plug a printer into your iPhone…is it just me or was it really cute that he even knew it was an iPhone?).

The drive back home was long. It rained. The car smelled like wet bike shoes. And I went through all 339 of my purchased ITunes songs. Like 20 times. But it was worth it because I had a great time with The Boys. Their energy was contagious, their generosity so kind and their desire to be better at sport is what any coach wants to see. I drove home with many good memories and a two foot trophy that says I might have a fighting chance at one day at being good at this sport again.

Until then, I’m content with helping others get good. Actually, I’m inspired by it. I was telling Mike that I’ve done a lot of great things in sport but sometimes helping others do great things, watching them grow and learn is much more rewarding and makes me hungry to keep working towards my own goals.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Cool It

I went to the dentist last week.

I’ve been going to the dentist twice a year every year for the past – what – 30 years of my life? My mom was on the ball when it came to dental health. And good thing because by the time I was 12 years old I think all of my molars were filled with cavities.

I swear I was not raised on pixie sticks.

Luckily, since then I’ve had a pretty clean bill of dental health. I’ve also been visiting the same dentist for the past 24 years. The dentist, I will call him Dr. P, was a jovial older man who worked in a small office with his wife. At first glance it seemed like the perfect arrangement – a dependable assistant and a boss you could sleep with - legally. However I can remember more than one occasion where the hints of their marital discord would come across in a terse direction to clean so-and-so’s teeth or a snippy exchange that was probably more about who forgot to take out the trash than who forgot so-and-so had an appointment at 6 pm.

When Dr. P announced his retirement last year, I got sad. Despite the awkward marital tension, the tacky late 70s dentist décor, his office desk that was always so messily piled up with papers that I wondered how he would even find my teeth with organizational skills like that – despite all that I thought he was a good dentist. He always gave me a free toothbrush. He scored extra points the time he told me I had a high pain threshold. And he always entered the room with the greeting “hello my friend” even though I knew he wasn’t my friend and I knew that he was really thinking “hello my enemy whom I will torture by scraping enamel off your teeth like nails down a chalkboard so painfully loud that you will run out of this office screaming MOMMY with that little paper bib around your neck.”

Hello my friend.

When he retired, he left the name of another dentist office for all his patients to use. I took his suggestion and made an appointment last year.

Little did I know that things have changed since 1985. That would be the last time my old dentist brushed up his dental care skills. Nowadays you don’t even really see the dentist. He’s just an accessory. Or a name on the door. That’s how it seemed. I think I met the new dentist for 3 minutes, at the end of a 30 minute appointment, where my teeth were cleaned entirely by the dental hygienist. Was this normal? I thought. Is she skilled to be touching my teeth like that? Regardless, it was a good experience. I didn’t enjoy the 30 minute drive but I also didn’t feel like researching a new dentist. Plus I liked their office décor and it smelled really good.

The important things.

I must have forgotten to make another appointment because last week I got a letter in the mail. It was a nice letter but basically imploring me to go back. I had missed a 6-month check up which meant the future of my dental health was hanging perilously by a piece of floss. I figure I only have a few good decades left with my teeth – shortened by every bottle of Accelerade I take down – so I might as well take care of them.

Plus I was really touched that they would send me a letter.

I loaded up on Bunny Grahams before I went for fear that they would do something to me that would require no eating for 30 minutes post visit. This meant I spent about 10 minutes brushing my teeth to get half a box of Bunny Grahams out of my teeth.

I arrived at the office, took a seat in the reclining chair only to lean back to see a giant television staring at me. Where are the tools, I wondered. The old dentist had a tray of tools that he would leave sitting in front of you - no tv - as if the day’s torture by tool was a selection process depending on your demeanor and his mood. Or latest argument with his wife who was sitting all surly at the front desk probably intentionally misfiling insurance claims. But here - no tools. Everything seemed to be hidden behind walnut colored cabinets or I just was too placated by the serene green color of the walls.

I pretend to be interested in watching whatever it is that we are watching as the hygienist cleans my teeth. She tells me I have really clean teeth. I’m pretty relieved to hear that. What is it about the dentist – I go in fear that one day he’s going to tell me I have 1 month left before they have to pull out of my teeth or get the dreaded root canal.

The hygienist asks me about my gums and then suggests some fluoride. Flouride? ..Flouride..Wait just one minute there. I remember this evil dentist trick. File under code name Flouride. Sit with two plastic trays in your mouth so uncomfortable you want to gag but even worse because they are filled with a bitter gel. Sit like that for 30 minutes. Then you can’t eat. For another 30 minutes. Add to that the 30 minutes you can’t eat after getting your teeth clean and the 30 minute drive and all of a sudden I’m starving here with no food for 90 minutes! NO! NO FLOURIDE!

It will make your gums feel better and it’s covered by insurance.

FINE! FEED ME THE FLOURIDE!

The last time I had fluoride was in my teens. I guess they don’t normally do it on adults unless they have receding gum lines. I do! That plus my teeth make me an easy shoo-in for Mr. Ed. I’m all gums! Back to the little plastic tray which was now in the mouth for….3 minutes. I did the (difficult) math and realized that is 180 seconds. When I got uncomfortable after 60 seconds I started counting to 120 and finally the trays are out of my mouth.

Be gone!

It gets better. I am due for 5-year films. The hygienist tosses a weighted vest over me and brings in a tray full of 20 things that need to go in my mouth while she takes pictures. I did not enjoy this photo shoot! Each one hurt or made me want to gag.

I’ve been sitting in the chair now for 45 minutes and I’m ready to leave. Please stop touching my mouth! And, give me my free toothbrush! Just when I thought we had wrapped things up the hygienist says something to me:

Have you met the dentist?

Well you’d think coming to a dentist office for a dental appointment that YES I have met the dentist. For crying out loud what kind of question is that!?!?

Have you met both dentists?

Hmm…no, I met one dentist last time.

Do you want to meet the other dentist?

Uh…no? Not really. Do I need to? Does it matter? I tell her listen I’ve only been here once and I doesn’t matter to me which dentist I use. I don’t need to meet both dentists.

Oh, you want to meet Dr. BlahBlah.

AH! Back off woman. She says it to me with an urgency in her eyes and voice while coming in closer to me. She is not letting this go. Cool it with the other dentist! What’s your deal with him? It reminds me of that one time Chris got obsessed with the Umbrella song and for a week straight kept asking me who sings it. Who sings it! Tell me who sings it! Who sings it again?

OH MY GOD FOR THE 100TH TIME…RIHANNA. NOW DROP IT!


I’m scared. I’m confused. Meanwhile I’m thinking to myself…

W – T – F

I’ll go get Dr. Blah Blah.

(give me my f*ckin' free toothbrush - NOW!)

No sooner does Dr. BlahBlah enter the room then I get it. Oh, I really, really get it. Dr. BlahBlah is hot. I mean freakin’smokin’ hot Asian with perfect skin and carefully sculpted dark hair kind of hot oh and did anyone also pick up on the fact that he is a DOCTOR?

HOT-T

He reaches out his gloved hand and introduces himself to me. He tells me I have great teeth (LIES!). He asks about my gums. He checks out my photos and tells me to keep up the good dental work.

I feel violated. This doesn’t feel right. I think the hygienist thinks she’s doing me a favor by introducing me to the hot dentist but it does nothing but scare me. He’s too young to know what he’s doing. And furthermore someone that hot should not be making a living out of touching other people’s mouths. A dentist should have whitish hair and wear a little plastic mask and thick glasses with those little binocular things extending from each lens, a white coat and walk in smelling like antiseptic while saying to me:

Hello my friend.

I want my old dentist back.

But looks like I will have to settle for the other guy. The other dentist that is. Because I don’t want his hot partner touching my teeth. You see, there is a list of occupations in which I can handle hotness: fireman, cowboy, cabana boy, personal trainer, man with toolbelt (but must have good hygiene and not be wearing stonewashed jeans) and cyclist.

Dentist is not one of them and I’d like to keep it that way.

free toothbrush please?