Thursday, November 30, 2006

Joy & Pain

Yowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! What the &#$&*#, I thought to myself as I sat on my chair at work this afternoon in entirely the wrong way producing a sharp zinger of a pain.

Something painful, soft, inflammed, sore, ouch, ouch, OUCH. I dart into the bathroom and do my best imitation of a pornographic pretzel to find a saddle sore the size of the Chicagoland area between my legs.

Dear god. It’s huge. How does one get something like this? I’ve been riding lately, but not spending nearly that much time in the saddle. A few 2 hour rides a few times a week. But certainly no mega-miles that would create conditions ripe for one of these.

How is it I trained for Ironman all summer without so much as a scratch and just today I unearthed this saddle sore AND slammed my finger in a door proving that at age 31 you can still feel a physical pain that will produce instant tears (note: I have not experienced the pain of childbirth and I assume that pain will produce a steady stream of tears and punches towards my husband).

And now this. This hideous, bulbous saddle sore that I swear just mumbled something to me along the lines of you thought you’d sneak through a whole year without me, eh?

Must be Canadian. Perhaps I picked it at short course du worlds in CornerBrook this summer? I knew those Canucks were up to something – first you pay for cream in your coffee, then they’ve stricken you with saddle sores...

How does one treat a saddle sore? Warm compress? Medicated cream? Do I name it? How about Sam, as in how in the sam-hell did I get this thing? And how long until it goes away?

Who can I even ask? I consider turning to the most knowledgeable, experienced source in all things cycling.

My husband.

I’ll confess for him (he loves when I do this) - Chris gets saddle sores from time to time. I know this because he enjoys showing them to me from time to time. He comes ambling into my bathroom in the morning, muttering something about lotion popo-tion, stealing any medicated cream he can find in my drawer and threatens to show me a less than pretty part sore on his legs. I usually roll my eyes or depending on the level of threat that he will actually follow through and show me – I bolt past him and run away.

I always assumed saddle sores were the result of less than perfect hygiene. Not that my husband has hygiene issues, but boys in general are smelly and get things like saddle sores. Girls don’t. So what gives? My hygiene is nothing short of impeccable. Heck, some days go by and I’ve taken not one, not two, but three showers.

Seeking a solution, I approached Chris after dinner. I told him I had something disgusting to show him. Oh, I’ve been waiting years to say something like that to him. It was finally my turn to turn the tables, to show him something that would make him cringe with fear while shouting what the hell is that like the time he showed me the oozing, red sores on his stomach when he caught a case of impetigo (from swimming in a pond in Ohio that could only be described as a litter box for a thousand geese) or the time he demanded sponge baths after a crash in a criterium left him with weeping, bleeding, scabs from road rash.

And so, after dinner, I suggested we move from the kitchen into better light so I could reveal my saddle sore. In other words, I wanted to be sure he no way, no how missed any disgusting detail of this thing. The better lighting must have worked because upon seeing it he shouted “AH! What the hell is THAT!?”

Victory is mine! Inside I am laughing a million priceless laughs pent up from years of not acquiring anything on my body that would elicit that type of reaction – though I tried – the stitches in my finger after a work-related incident with a pair of scissors and a coyote pelt, the time I got trenchmouth, when I had the stomach flu and shit myself silly for three days straight. All good tries, but not good enough. But this…..

“I don’t know. I think it’s a saddle sore,” I said timidly.

He’s seen enough of his own saddle sores and the sores of countless other friends that I thought he would have seen it all by now. But apparently this even took him for surprise.

That’s no saddle sore,” he quickly replied wagging his finger in the direction of what now felt more like a Mauna Kea-sized volcano ready to erupt between my legs.

He was still marveling at the size of it when he finally spoke, “How long has it been there?”

When I told him just a day, he looked doubtful. Something that size could take years to come to the surface, years.

“Does it hurt?” he asked, inching closer to it.

This is why men don’t make good mothers. Does it hurt. Does that bump between your legs that registers in at 300 feet above sea level- and rising - hurt. Does a monkey like bananas? Of course it hurts. From the minute I noticed it ‘til the minute I showed it to him, it had been throbbing in angry pain. Add to that the fact that I rode on my trainer tonight (brilliant move, I know) and it was like someone had put a pummelo (unusually large grapefruit hybrid weighing it at over 5 pounds with a circumference of 8 inches) on the right side of my saddle and said ‘and now enjoy your ride’. Every pedal stroke, all 100 revolutions-per-minute for 45 minutes reminded me that it was there and it wasn’t going away.

“What do I do for it?” I asked.

Oddly enough, I had witnessed the care of many a man’s saddle sores on Ragbrai. I remember the time Andy aired himself dry while lounging in a lawn chair after applying new skin to his sore. The time Joe painted his sore with new skin and then used the air mattress pump to blow the area dry. And since you only get saddles sores in bodily areas where the sun don’t shine, seeing grown men do this, in the middle of someone’s backyard in small town Iowa is quite the sight.

Chris rattled off a few remedies, tea tree oil, Bactroban, assuring me that it would recede quickly. And I thought to myself – great – yet one more ritual to add to my routine of daily maintenance as a result of my triathloning. The ingrown toenail from a cycling shoe that fit too tight, the dry skin from the pool, the bunions from miles of running. Add to it one angry saddle sore, 12 inches in diameter.

At times like this, you wonder why you do it. Why you willingly engage in these activities that create conditions for so many aches, pains, sores and such. Why you insist on hopping on a bike 3 – 4 times each week, jumping in the pool at 5:30 in the morning, running in the darkness being beaten with cold rain. Why? Do we like the difficulty of it all, do we crave the pain? Or do we experience it so often that it just turns off in our head until we don’t feel it anymore?

It reminds me of that cheesy song from the 90’s, something along the lines of ‘joy….and pain….sunshine…and rain.' All of a sudden I feel the need to pump it up. Anyways, it is a fine line of joy and pain, pleasure and hurt. For example, I was in the weight room the other day, doing a circuit of about 10 exercises, 30 reps of each 3 times through. In my mind, I could see the tiny muscle fibers stretching, tearing, breaking down as I pushed it a little farther. And I thought to myself, I love this. The feeling of getting weaker to get stronger, hurting to feel good. Riding the line of pleasure and pain.

Perhaps that is why this morning I headed to the pool with one sore bicep, one toenail still ingrown, eyes weary from sleep, and a band-aid between my legs to conceal the saddle sore - still there and it hadn’t gone down. But the swimming felt darn good.

One thing is for sure in all of this pleasure and pain – I will be feeling the pain of this saddle sore for a little while longer before it completely turns off. Because it is angry and it is ready to roar. Until then, I think I will revel and gloat in the pure joy of my ability to get saddle-sore-status updates from my husband whom I will force to look at it daily until it goes down.


Last week, I was notified that I won the Best Triathlon Blog 2006. And now I get to display this cool logo on my site for all the world to see. All right, for all 10 of you to see.

Thank you to all that voted for me! In other words, thanks to my coach who voted for me about 200 times, and my brother for pulling in the Seattle contingent, and for Mira for getting all of Arkansas to lend her their laptops, and for my co-workers for discovering yet another reason to call me crazy. Seriously, though, for those that did vote - thank you!!

What a great honor and surprise. It's a big responsbility to bear and hopefully I won't disappoint. But there are no guarantees.

For those of you that are new - this is a blog about triathlon, duathlon, and daily life. In no particular order. Sometimes I deviate and sometimes I'm right on track. In any case, this is my blog with my opinion, my thoughts, and what's on my mind. If I offend you, I apologize in advance. If I make you laugh, it makes me happy. If I bore you, go back through my archives and read another blog. If I still bore you, get the hell out of my blog!

I try to post every week day but sometimes nothing strikes interest in my mind. So if you have a topic on your mind send it my way and I'll see what I can do.

I'm excited that I've picked up a lot of new readers. You have been busy posting and e-mailing me. I enjoy getting to know you. So keep talking!

Until then, keep reading and I'll keep writing.

Thanks again - Elizabeth

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Is There Not A Choice?

Tis the time of year when the Christmas season is upon us. Actually, it’s all around us here in our neighborhood. Christmas lights are hanging everywhere; over garage doors, on trees, in windows. And the other day our neighbor’s house literally exploded in Christmas. We’re talking a Santa dangling from their second story and a candy cane lane leading up to their front door.

For all of the bright lights and merry décor around us, sometimes I wish the cheer and brightness would spread to people as well. There are some people out there whose bulbs could burn a bit brighter or whose attitude could use a bit of sprucing up. But that’s not always the case. In fact, why is it that Christmas seems to bring out the worse of us in the least amount of time.

And so it was Sunday, the Christmas season just having barely begun, when I found myself in Walgreen’s. Initially, I went there to pick up a prescription but found the pharmacy to be closed. So I decided to pick up a few other things.

It was one of those nights where there seemed to be no one in the store and every time you walked by the register it was empty. But then I was ready to checkout, went up to the register, and a line of 6 antsy, angry, I-shopped-way-too-much-this-weekend-and-I'm-not- willing-to-wait-in-this-line-patiently people formed right away.

I was quick but not quick enough and a woman snuck her way in front of me with her basket of good cheer. She started emptying her basket on to the counter – a can of mixed nuts, two bags of bridge mix, two sketch pads, two boxes of markers. Totally random items that seemed only to say I’m the kind of nut that likes to sit around and doodle and eat snacks. Lost in my own entertaining assessment of her items, I became startled when she slammed a box of Christmas lights on the counter while sharply saying, “Don’t you have the Christmas lights with the green wire? These have the white wire and I don’t want white wire.”

When God made Christmas surely this was not what he had in mind. The line just got infinitely longer. And I didn’t even move yet.

“Your ad shows the lights with the green wire,” she informed the clerk, pointing to the ad on the counter.

I rolled my eyes. Someone needs to tell this woman that Santa will visit you no matter what color wire is holding your lights. And tell her fast.

Looking at the woman with a polite you-have-got-to-be-shitting-me look, the clerk said, “If we have them, they’d be on the shelf.”

“Well, they’re not,” she replied tersely. “Why would you put them in an ad this morning if you weren’t going to have them?” she asked in a rude, rhetorical manner, her voice growing louder as her discontent grew larger.

If this clerk had any sense, he’d say something along the lines of sorry sister, it’s your bad timing. Or at least that’s what I’d say. If she wanted those lights so bad, why wasn’t she here at 8 am as opposed to 6 pm? Why wasn’t she waiting in line before the store opened? Anything can happen in 10 hours. Including sell out of green-wired Christmas lights.

“I came all the way down here because the ad says you have the green-wire lights,” she added.

Just when you think you’ve seen the last of something stupid, it goes out and proves that it can be stupider. She came all the way down here? From where – the North Pole? Or wait a minute, where does the Grinch live again? Has anyone else noticed that there is a Walgreen’s approximately every 3 – 5 miles around here? If this one doesn’t have it, chances are the next one, 3 miles down the road, is fully stocked. Take a risk, take a drive, take a hike and get the hell out of my Walgreen’s, I thought.

“Would you like me to ask the manager?” the clerk said. Oh thank you, clerk. You are officially a clerk in my book and not just a ‘kid’. You have the sense to communicate to the customer – politely if I may add – that listen, I don’t make enough money to take this kind of crap about Christmas lights from an ornery sag bag like you.

Behind me, a woman taps her foot and the man behind her looks restless. I think to myself that I shouldn’t even be in this situation, in this line. The pharmacy was closed for crying out loud. Way to justify the trip with toothpaste, body soap, and Claritin, Liz, way to justify.

“Yes, call the manager up here. This is ridiculous. It shouldn’t be in your ad if you don't have it,” she retorted. She was still pissed. You could see it. She was raising her arms and pointing to the box of lights. This was the worst part of her day. Her perfect day was going along perfectly and then Walgreen’s dropped this bomb on her. No lights with green wires. It just wouldn’t be Christmas around her house without the freakin' green wires.

At that moment, another clerk appeared and called the rest of us in our right mind over to the cosmetic counter. She rung me up quickly and as I walked towards the door I could still hear the woman raging about the lights, and the ad, and the discrepancies between what Walgreen’s actually had on the shelf and what was in the ad.

I walked out of the door and shook my head. What did I just witness here? Is this yet another sign that indeed the apocalypse is coming? Or is this just another sign that all of the wonderful choices we have in life can and will backfire when we simply do not get our particular choice?

Getting into the car, I questioned myself even further. Is our Christmas season not complete unless we have dozens of light colors, styles, and shapes to choose from? Are all of these choices really necessary? And will they really make our life much easier?

Ironically, in our modern world our lives have not become enriched or easier with more choices. Instead, they have become emptier and more complicated than before. Before we had all of these choices. Before the days of Christmas lights that came in blue, red, white, mulit-color, icicle, blinking, snowflake shape. In fact, we have so many choices now that most of us find it difficult to make a choice at all.

And that is the paradox of choice.

Before, there may have been two choices – white or blue Christmas lights – but now there’s over a dozen. And imagine the time and mental cost of weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each and every one of those choices. Indeed life has not become easier, it has become exponentially more difficult as our choices keep multiplying, diversifying in so many different directions.

Have we become so accustomed to so many choices that our lives have been increasingly more complicated and our most mundane tasks become more time-consuming than ever? If you want Christmas lights, you should be able to take a box of a shelf, put your money down, and walk out of the store with Christmas lights. Not so easy, though. Have you tried shopping for lights lately? I thought about picking up a box at Walgreen’s to complete the shrub in front of our house. Within one minute I was completely confused – the number of lights, the price, the color, whether they moved or stood still, outdoor or indoor. There were so many choices, so many details to decipher that I abandoned the idea all together and walked away without any lights at all.

And it’s not just the Christmas lights. Choices are exploding and expanding everywhere. Been to the grocery store lately? Tried picking out a bag of cheese? I don’t eat or buy cheese often, so buying a bag of cheese for me often involves sorting through two dozen different bags filled with orange cheese, white cheese, seasoned cheese, plain cheese, low fat, part skim, fat free, full fat, the list goes on and on with so many choices that after reading through them all my head hurts. Where do you even begin making a choice like this? Do you look to price? Package design? Fat grams? Brand name? Or simply the size? Making a simple choice – a bag of cheese – turns into a 10 minute ordeal and makes me not want to buy the cheese at all. And that’s just one of about 50 items I might buy in that trip to the store.

And therein lies the problem. Our lives have become fully stocked and overloaded grocery stores offering a smorgasboard of choices. To many, this might sound like a most attractive and heavenly place to shop and live. A land of unabridged choice. Indeed we want more choices because choices imply our freedom, choices empower our self, choices give us the independence to decide.

But like most sinfully good things, balance begs for moderation. Ironically, too many choices are just as confining and empty as too few at all. “The ordinary man believes he is free when he is permitted to act arbitrarily, but in this very arbitrariness lies the fact that he is unfree.” The words of Hegel - suggesting that our limitless choices do not release us or fill us with freedoms, they simply trap us in the decision-making process, waffling with lack of direction with so many different directions to go towards. Cheddar? Mexican-flavored? Italian mix? Colby-Jack blend? Screw it, there will be no cheese tonight at dinner at all!

It even feels like many of us are living our lives in search of the best option. Never satisfied with what we have, seeing our satisfaction as simply 'settling' and instead giving it up to search for something better. But is better really out there? And if so, how long will it take for us to find it? And will it be worth the cost? Will it be the cost of our happiness, our fulfillment with our own lives and the choices we’ve made? Are we actually setting ourselves up for dissatisfaction and depression because we simply have lost the ability to be happy with the choices that have left us what we have and where we are?

At times, I even find myself restricting my choices to simplify my life. Coffee is a perfect example. There are so many different coffee drinks out there that it’s best to just stick with one. If I tried all of my choices, I might be in line drinking coffee for days, weeks, months. There’s just too many choices. Foam, no foam, hot, extra hot, skim, two percent. Listening to people order their coffee choices sometimes leaves my head spinning as they talk another language of I-want-it-the-way-I-choose or no-way-at-all. And so I just ask for coffee. In a cup. Hot.

And sometimes, as I stand in a line at a store while someone rants and raves about not having exactly what they wanted, what they chose, I long for a life in a simpler time. When there were just two sizes of coffee – small or large. When there were just two types of coffee – decaf or regular. When in came in one temperature - hot.

And so here stands this woman, in Walgreen’s, possibly a victim of one too many choices. So many Christmas lights to choose from that she became hell-bent on finding exactly the right one that she wanted. And if she didn’t get what she wanted – well, there it was right in front of me - case and point. She’d complain and scream at the counter until someone heard her plight – that they didn’t have the exact choice of Christmas lights that she wanted, her day was ruined, call Christmas off and get on to New Years.

Or maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe back in her time there were only two choices and she just wanted what she knew was right. Maybe she was saying it loud and clear all along – if Walgreen’s didn’t carry so many damn choices of lights that did everything short of singing Christmas songs (though I think I’ve seen those somewhere….) they might be able to carry a larger quantity of fewer choices of lights and please more of the customers.

Either way, I can’t help but feel that the Christmas season was not meant to enrage us to tantrum in the Walgreen’s about a set of lights. And if that’s what all of our choices have done to us, made us prone to tantrums when we don’t get what we want or what we expect, then maybe it’s time to put ourselves on a choice diet and accept what we have been given or what we’ve found. It’s not food that will fatten the average American up to 7 lbs heavier this Christmas season, it’s the choices, the options, the advertisements tempting us with better prices, better selections, sucking our time as we search from store to store for exactly what we want. And when we don’t get it, those 7 lbs are ready and loaded to explode all over some clerk in some store.

So be satisfied with whatever you’ve found on the shelf, throw up some blue lights with white wires, and call it Christmas. And that's not a choice.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Not In My Kitchen

Busy as a bee this week, so here's one from the archives, see you next week:

Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang.

I was home alone and a little leary. Twenty minutes earlier, I had pulled the car into the driveway to notice my neighbor – the one with the my-dog-has-been-poisoned-complex - hanging Christmas lights above his garage. So when I heard the doorbell ring, I thought to myself, this is it – he knows I’m in here and he’s come to make yet another accusation about my involvement in the health of his dog.

Suspiciously, I tiptoed up to the tall window next to our door and pulled the curtain over ever so slightly. Looking out, I hoped whomever was out there did not notice me so sneaky and covert concealed behind the curtain.

What I noticed on my porch was indeed a man – but definitely not the neighbor man. Instead, it was a young man, a fit man in a ballcap, sunglasses, and in his hand he was holding…..a bicycle wheel.

This is not an unusual occurrence – for a stranger to show up at our door toting a bicycle wheel in their hand – and so this stranger did not surprise me. More than once I have opened the door to accept an offering of someone’s bike parts or come home to find a new bike in our garage or bike parts on our doorstep or a box of bike stuff on our porch. One night after coming home from the gym, I even found someone’s bike in my kitchen leaning up against the pantry door. I quickly rolled the bike into the foyer and thought to myself - oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no - not in my kitchen. Therefore, whether or not I liked it, it was not unusual to see a stranger holding bike parts on my doorstep.

Relieved, but still perplexed, I opened the door, curiously looking at the wheeled man. Typically, I get some type of warning from Chris that someone will show up at some time with something for a bike. But this one was unexpected.

“I’m here to drop this wheel off for Chris,” he said handing the wheel to me. He introduced himself and explained that Chris was fixing his other wheel and needed to fix this one to make the set completely fixed.

“He’ll know what to do with it,” he said. And with that, I accepted the wheel, shook his hand and sent him on his way with acknowledgment that my husband would get the job done.

Propping the wheel against the basement door, I silently shook my head. Here I am, again, accepting yet another piece of someone else’s cycling equipment as part of an endless influx and output of bicycle-related items that circulates through our home. On any given day, there is at least one bike waiting in the foyer to go out and another waiting in Chris’ car to come back in – all bikes that are in need of or completed with maintenance or mechanical work.

And this maintenance includes anything and everything. Probably includes more mechanical possibilities than you could find at your local bike shop. Wheels trued, bike packed, bike reassembled, new cables, brake pads replaced, spokes fixed, cleats adjusted, cassettes swapped, shifters installed. If it involves two wheels and a chain Chris will fix it, clean it, adjust it, replace it, heck even sleep with it if that’s what it needs. Remember, we are talking about the man I once found in bed napping while clutching a torque wrench. He takes his tools and bike maintenance very seriously.

And maybe it’s the end of the season bike maintenance malaise, but lately this bike comes in and bike goes out system seems to have exploded exponentially in and around our house. I realized the exponential extent of this when just the day before, as Chris and I were cleaning the garage out. I noticed my mountain bike propped against the wall and wondered why it wasn’t hanging on one of the four bike racks resting against the garage wall. And that’s when I realized the racks were overflowing with wheels, frames, and built-up bikes spilling on to the floor, against the walls, and hanging from each and every rack.

I looked around trying to make sense of all the parts. Perhaps it was like a puzzle of assorted bike pieces that merely needed the time to be put together completely and then stored whole. After a few minutes, I realized this effort was futile, that some frames were too big for some wheels and that most wheels did not even match in a set.

“Whose frame is that?” I asked, pointing to a black frame with a brown leather seat and no wheels.

“That’s Bob’s frame,” Chris replied, “I’m bringing it back to him today.”

Super. That would easily free up one space on our bike racks. But still I realized that the other bike racks were an impenetrable web of wheels. Wheels were literally hanging on every rack, propped against the bikes on the racks, and resting against the wall. There had to be at least ten wheels, not attached to bikes, some attached to pumps, loitering in our garage.

“Whose wheels are these?” I asked growing frustrated by the wheel fortress that had engulfed an entire wall in our garage.

“Those are Chris’ wheels,” he said busily sweeping the leaves out of the garage. This mess obviously made complete sense to him but left me senseless, dazed, and confused. Bikes with wheels, bikes with no wheels, bikes with one wheel. Bikes against the wall, against the garbage can, the recycling bin. Everything and anything was holding up a bike in one way or another. There had to be an end to this wheeled madness. It had to stop spinning some time soon.

“Which bike do those wheels belong to?” I asked, pleading in my mind for someone to please help me make sense of what in the wheeled hell was going on in this garage.

“The one that we have in the basement,” he added, matter-of-factly. The basement, I cringed, of course – the basement. At times, the basement resembles a halfway house for bicycle belongings that belong to other people. About a year ago, it got to the point where we had two roof racks set-up on the basement floor holding at least ten bikes that belonged to other people.

Still trying to find some semblance of sense and order in the garage, I snappily asked “And whose wheels are those?” pointing to yet another set of wheels, with one wheel actually still attached to a bike pump – one of three bike pumps in the garage.

“They also belong to Chris.” Now, note that this Chris, the same as the Chris above, is actually one of nearly half of our friends that are named either Chris or Christie. Quite confusing, especially considering that we are now harboring nearly half of their cycling equipment not labeled in any particular way so I have no idea which Chris owns which wheel that belongs to Chris. See what I mean?

“What are we doing with two sets of Chris’ wheels?” I asked in disbelief of how our friend Chris could have only one bike at our house yet two sets of wheels.

“I’m borrowing them for my cross bike,” Chris explained pointing to his cross bike which was actually hanging in the garage on a rack. Lucky bastard of a bike.

“And what are those wheels?” I asked pointing to – can you believe it - another set of wheels.

“The wheels for my cross bike that I took off so I could use Chris’ cross wheels,” he said. At this point, my mind was totally and completely criss-crossed from making any sense of this circular, spoked maze. I was ready to give up. But something told me to roll on.

“And that rim over there?” I asked looking at a lonesome rim hanging in front of Bob’s wheel-less frame.

“Belongs to Kevin,” he noted. And at that point, I realized that of the four racks in our garage only one was actually occupied with something that belonged to someone that actually lived in our house.

I looked at my mountain bike. With all of these other things hanging around, there was no way there would ever be room for it in this garage. I considered the other options. I could always just leave it in my car, or put it in my bedroom closet, or, I could store it in the basement.

The basement.

Determined to find some free storage space, I headed to the basement – literally the bottom of our home and the bottom of the black hole of bike stuff. I looked around at the growing mess of boxes, wheels, cables, and tools. I shook my head. Simply put, it was a mess. No, it was beyond a mess. It was like a small child tore apart a giant box filled with bike parts and threw them randomly on the floor. And that was just in one corner. Another corner was filled with wheels. A table was completely walled in and suppressed by 5 large toolboxes. Racks occupied at least half of the basement’s square footage. In another corner, I noticed a Corima frame wrapped tightly in plastic bubbles. To the left – a Fuji frame dangling from a rack. Behind it, a Trek road frame. A Schwinn frame. A Nuke Proof mountain bike. A Litespeed. A Javelin cyclocross bike. Two Surly’s. One Trek road bike. One Cannondale. Three Cervelos. Four Trek mountain bikes. And right over there in the last remaining corner was the partridge in a pear tree.

I went back upstairs.

“There’s too many bikes,” I said to Chris, defeated and knowing that I was as much of the problem as anyone else, owning at least 5 of the bikes in the house and countless other cycling parts and pieces. Add to it the fact that we currently had 3 more bikes on order and things began to look quite bleak as far as space was concerned.

“I know, I’ve got to get rid of some of this stuff,” he said pointing to the assorted bike parts that belong to assorted other people.

But I knew better. Inside, I knew that tomorrow he’d take in some other non-functional bike part to restore it to fully functioning and operational status. I knew we’d keep finding wheels perched against the door, bikes in the garage, and frames in a box. I knew I had no choice but to quietly accept this and more in life with a man that owns 5 toolboxes (not counting the 2 in the garage) and is known to sleep with his bike maintenance tools.

And so I resigned to the fact that my mountain bike would not be hanging on a rack in my garage any time soon. Or not as long as Chris’ wheels, Bob’s frame, Bert’s mountain bike, and Kevin’s rim were hanging there. And so I left it propped up against one of the few remaining open garage walls.

If we must be an orphanage for adoptable accesories, components, and repaired parts, then so be it. That's just the way the wheel turns with my husband. And that's ok.

But if I come home and find any of it in my kitchen again or find bike part spillover in the pantry, at that point we might just have a problem on our hands.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It Puts The Lotion On Its Skin

It was after work on Monday and I had a few hours of freetime before swim practice so I did what any triathlete would do in November with freetime – I went shopping.

This was not just any shopping. This was lotion shopping, one of the best kinds of shopping. And where better to take my lotion shopping business than to Bath & Body Works.

On the outside, the store seems harmless enough. A simple exterior with big red letters on top. Inside, it’s a rather small store filled with rather small bottles of fragrant lotion all lined up in pretty order on neat little shelves. A scent for every single person with every single taste. The fruity, the flowery, the seasonal, the nutty. In other words, if you’ve smelled it and you like it they’ve probably got it bottled up and for sale.

Again, it all seems harmless enough until you pick up a bottle and read that it costs anywhere from 8 to 22 dollars – for lotion with no magical or mystical properties about it. Just a tub of cream. But still something beckons me to spend the money to buy a tub. About 5 times a month.

Though I’ve been trying to cut down on shopping since my recent bout with balaclavas and then the Pearl Izumi cycling tights plus the polar fleece running tights I had to have last week, I went to the lotion store thinking how much trouble could you get yourself into with lotion?

Plenty, I tell you. Plenty. Give me enough time and I’ll buy a basket full of lotions worth as much as the most complete of Pearl Izumi get-ups, including the fleece-lined jacket, vest, and tights.

And therein lies the problem. You see, I do not need any more lotion. I have a whole army of bottles in my bathroom in all different sizes and scents. Most were from their stock-up sale earlier this summer where I stocked up on anything nutty, spicy, creamy, and sweet. And the result was a giant, Santa-sized shopping bag of shampoo, lotion, and body butter. I’m still working through the bottles. It might take years to get through them. No one needs that much lotion. Not even a reptile. Not even my husband who has skin so scaly in the winter time that he spends all night long involuntarily scratching his legs up and down. Not that it keeps me awake at night or anything. Not that I’m bitter.

Looking back, I see that this sick addiction to lotion started last winter. Spend enough time in the pool and you find yourself slowly evolving in a reptile, desperate for something that will keep your skin smooth regardless of price or availability. So I headed into Bath & Body Works pleased to find the common cure for itchy, chlorinated skin – Brazil Nut Butter at a mere $12 a tub. That’s a lot of money for lotion, but damn it smelled great and it was thick like smooth, creamy butter. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quite partial to anything Brazilian – whether it’s Brazilian meat, Brazilian triathletes, or Brazilian cowboys, so the addiction to Brazil Nut lotion wasn’t really a stretch. And then earlier this fall, I discovered that they had discontinued this lotion. Which left me forlorn, lost, and in absolute disbelief so much that I visited three different Bath & Body Works within one day, including a “flagship store”. I have no idea what that means but it seems important for redeeming certain coupons so I thought they would for sure have a flagship tub of body butter like Brazil Nut but to my dismay that ship did not set sail. I scratched and scaled myself for about a week until I found something else that took it’s place. That was not a good week for my skin nor my reputation at the flagship store.

It goes beyond Brazil Nuts and sneaks dangerously into the flavors of cinnamon, pumpkin, coconuts and cream. My weakness was revealed this fall when Bath & Body Works introduced the Pumpkin Pie Paradise scent. I bought a sample ($3, worth the risk) and I was hooked. Yes, it did what it promised. It sent me straight to pumpkin pie paradise and I wanted to stay. Could something really smell that good? Could something make shower time feel so sinful and filling? Yes. And if the world runs short on water after this fall, it’s not my fault. Blame Bath & Body Works for leaving me standing in the shower sniffing my arm and looking for Cool Whip. It smelled so good I thought it could also work as a snack (a dangerous thing during Ironman training because every time I got clean, which might have been 2 – 3 times a day, it reminded me of how hungry I was for things BAD like pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cake, and pumpkin pudding cake, and pumpkin bread).

But with all of my lotion-induced obsessions, I have to plead helplessness and victimization. About every other week, Bath & Body Works sends me a coupon. I am victim of the coupon. And I have come to realize that the coupon is just a trick. You’re not saving money. You’re spending money, money that you probably otherwise would have saved if you hadn’t have gotten the damn coupon in the first place. I wonder how they got my address and how they knew the coupon would work with me (it might have something to do with my Express credit card – another story all together).

So there it was, evil lotion trickery, in the form of coupons promising a free item with any purchase over $12.50 or saving $10 for every $30 spent. $10 off? Why that’s a free bottle of lotion, a bottle of shower gel, lip gloss, a candle, foot cream, a tiny tube of shea butter, a face mask, body spray, anti-bacterial hand gel. If it’s free, I’ll take it and if it smells good that makes it even better. After a few weeks of these coupons and trips to the store, I realize that the only thing possibly better than free coffee was free lotion. And the only thing better than free lotion was probably lotion that could double, in case of emergency, as a cup of coffee that you could lick right off your arm (which would be very handy in those DBM’s* that I seem to attend every other week at work).

Of course tonight’s trip was preceded by a coupon I had found earlier in the day in my mailbox. It would be shameful to turn down a coupon, like throwing away free coffee, so I made the trip to the store to see what I could find. And this time it was different. Still riding on the bottles that I had from the annual mega big clearance stock-up sale, I didn’t really have any needs. So I was looking for something new. A very difficult thing to do in the lotion store because I have found that while something might smell good in the store, you take it home and it smells like grandma’s closet, or strip club stripper (not quite the same as dime store whore), or rotten bananas that have been sitting under a monkey for way too long.

In fact, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way when I’ve had to part with more than one completely full bottle of lotion because I brought it home and it made me want to do everything short of barfing all over my bathroom floor. You might call these my scents that never were, or made a quick trip to the fragrance graveyard including Sun-Ripened Raspberry (code for sour berries), Warm Vanilla Sugar (code for warm sugared vomit), or PearBerry (code for stale kitchen sponge combined with wet towels).

In recent trips to the store, I found that just when you thought you had found the last of the worst scents they go and create a scent like Crazy Caramel Popcorn. I don’t know about you, but I value my hygiene enough to know better than to smear something that smells like sticky carnival all over my body. Think about it, the smell of a street carnival on a humid summer night. You expect a trailer full of toothless felons and strung out addicts to roll up and help you shower. And then along comes a woman with a beard. Not something I want to try anytime soon.

On my list of scent survivors is a commonality of nuts, spice, and cream, including Lavendar Vanilla, Coconut Lime Verbena, Creamy Coconut, and Pumpkin. Occasionally, I’ll go out on a lotion-lined limb (very slippery, use much caution when trying this) and try a new scent. During the stock-up sale, I took a chance and tried Green Clover and Aloe. I remember standing in the store, sniffing the bottle of shower gel repeatedly when a woman walked up next to me and said that she couldn’t figure out if it smelled good or made her want to gag. And together we decided that it smelled like sweet and fresh cut lawn. That doesn’t sound too enticing but trust me, when you put it on you got visions of running through a lush green meadow on a mountaintop in Austria, a la Julie Andrews style, singing of how the hills were alive and how you smelled so good.

And so last night, I decided to take a chance again and try something new. Hence I discovered what might now be my latest favorite – Exotic Coconut. Which brings me back to my coupon. I used it to purchase a new tub of Exotic Coconut body butter. I was leary at first; tentative, could it really smell that good? But I took a risk, used the coupon, and walked out of the store with it smeared on my hand. And as I walked in and out of other stores I kept sniffing my hand and my fingers and my coat and then my hand again. After a few minutes of this, I wanted to chew my hand off because it smelled so good. And I’m sure I freaked out more than one shopper as they ogled me and thought what’s with the girl making out with her own hand?

I brought home my tub of Exotic Coconut and put it in the drawer by the basket filled with too many other bottles of lotion. And I sat there before swim practice, I was torn about which to bring with me for after swim practice. What do I want to walk out of the pool smelling like tonight? Will it be pumpkins or coconuts or vanilla or Brazilian beach? And is there some way to include a Brazilian cowboy on that beach who could rub the exotic coconut lotion on my scaly back? These are the things you think about when you have all the time in the world to not think triathlon and focus on more important things, like lotion, and coupons, and body butter.

And so I brought a long a tub of Pumpkin body butter for after the pool. Actually, it’s not body butter. It is labeled a unitanical. Which isn’t even a real word. And even if it’s a made up word, it’s not a good one. If they had performed a little target market research with me, I honestly would have told them that unitanical sounds like eunuch. And imagine what a tub of eunuch would smell like; rustic and musky with subtle hints of a twig with no berries.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I walked into the shower after swim practice and noticed a small bottle laying on the floor. What is this? I pick it up to see that it is a Bath & Body Works bottle of Cool Citrus Basil shower gel. I look around suspiciously. Had they been listening in on my thoughts? Was this planted there? Is there a camera of hungry marketers waiting intently to see the demographic profile of who picks it up? Is this what happens when you redeem too many coupons in too short of a time? Do they come looking for you to figure out who exactly is willing to spend about $100 a month on lotion and how do we find more just like you? I took another sneaky look around. When I realized the coast was completely clear, I snuck off into the shower with my new bottle and closed the curtain quick. I opened the bottle, took a sniff, and immediately the smell of cool citrus and fresh herbs filled my nose. Fragrant, fresh, subtle. I decided to give it a whirl. And you know what – if the cameras were watching (let’s hope not) I think it was safe to say that I liked it. After the shower, I tossed it in my bag and decided I might consider buying another bottle. Or two.

When I got home, I went to recycle the shopping bag that the evening’s lotion purchase came in and I noticed something in the bottom. There it was looking right up at me - another coupon promising $15 off a purchase of $50 or more. The plot thickens. Was it not bad enough that they followed me to the gym and forced their new scent upon me? Did they have to take it one step further by tempting me to action with a coupon? But it worked. I stood there thinking that certainly I could use some Exotic Coconut spray or Cool Citrus Basil shower gel which would definitely necessitate another trip to Bath & Body Works tomorrow night.

*DBM = death by meeting

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Conversation Cards

Friday night was my turn to host the women’s monthly wine club meeting. Started a year ago, about 12 of us have been meeting every month at someone’s house to sample wines, enjoy some snacks, and, well, just take a few hours for girl talk. For me, it’s a nice diversion from the typical tri-talk that takes place in my other circles of friends.

My apologies, I digress from true triathlon talk yet again. If you keep coming here looking for training secrets, gear reviews, and workout ideas, you won’t find it. Not today. In fact, not for the rest of this month. Besides, it’s November and your mind shouldn’t be filled with triathlon clutter. Go Christmas shopping, eat some turkey, sleep in late. It’s time to take a break from swim, bike, run blah blah blah and just be a normal person that thinks about normal things. And to enforce this with myself, I’ve put a ban on all tri-related thoughts until December 1st. So until then, I’m just going to enjoy life and enjoy conversation topics other than triathlon.

Wait………..what are “the other topics to talk about” again?

In a flurry, my mind is reaching and searching the annals of conversation from parties and phone calls, trying to pull useful bits and pieces from talk I had in yesteryears, a time when I wasn’t so tri-obsessed and my thoughts weren’t so tri-induced. At times like this, I think to myself that it would be helpful to have a box filled with conversation cards to prime your mind about past experiences or events that make worthy conversation.

Conversation cards – I think it's a clever idea and sometimes I wish I had a pack or two. It’s an idea that I saw in practice at my dad’s nursing home and they seemed to work quite well. To engage the older people in conversation, they had a metal canister filled with cards. Each card had a question. Some of them were poignant, making you think fondly back to a memory sweet in your mind. Others were more probing, revealing a potentially less than sweet memory. Like the one that had me asking dad if he had ever gotten a speeding ticket which was quite funny because he was pulled over for speeding so many times that he had his own lawyer mediating his vehicular violations that he called more than once a month.

It starts me thinking about my own set of conversation cards, to pull out in case of emergency; in case I find myself in the middle of conversation with a non-triathlete unfamiliar with the terms intervals, transitions, Power Tap, shifters, brick, and other random tri tidbits. So I set about to make a few in my head. I think about things that people talk about when their thoughts aren’t consumed by intervals, transitions, Power Taps, shifters, and bricks. Topics start filing into my set of cards under the categories of pets, traveling, shopping, work, shoes, restaurants, cramps. Yes, yes, I can talk about these things. I’ve been shopping! I’ve traveled! I get cramps!

I start pulling out cards in my head, rehearsing answers. After awhile they become like flashcards and in a teacher’s voice I hear myself asking “Where did you find that shirt?” and responding in militant style “Old Navy, maa’m! It was on the sale rack at Old Navy! $5.99, a steal of a deal!” Pause. Repeat for next question.

Part of me is being facetious. Of course I’m not that disconnected from a real, normal daily life that I can no longer relate to or maintain normal conversations. But there’s another part of me that has become so comfortable, so familiar with the content and syntax of tri-talk that brief forays into the other world always demand some degree of work, focus, and forethought. In my mind, I press the clutch in shifting from 1st gear to 2nd, hoping to make a smooth and flawless transition without killing the engine along the way.

In some ways, being fluent in tri-talk is like speaking a different language, bilingual and fluent in tri fitness facts while also fluent in the dialect daily life. Shifting gears between the two is not as easy as it looks and takes a certain amount of vigilance and conscientious attention. It’s like reminding yourself not to cuss at work. Sometimes you have to turn the censorship switch on and repeat to yourself “don’t say f*ck, don’t say f*ck, don’t say f*ck” and catch yourself slipping with a “freakin’” instead of “f*ckin” and thinking that was damn, I mean darn, close.

When I find myself in a room with those not entwined in the triathlon world, it’s the same sense of censorship as I tell myself “don’t say tempo run, don’t say tempo run, don’t say…...” Like a cuss word at work, it would be inappropriate, improper to pull out terminology from the tri-language and sneak it into casual conversation in the other normal non-tri person’s world.

And I’ve got to admit that it’s strange and foreign to sit in a room in that world where I could shout out DuraAce and not even get a second look. Or how about 100’s on the 1:30. Or muscle tension intervals. Or anatomical adaptation sets in the weight room. Plyometrics. Aero drinking system. Or any other phrase from a lingo that can roll of my tongue easily and mean so much in the company of some people and roll awkwardly without meaning in the company of others.

And like I said, switching gears like this, flipping the censorship switch is never easy. It’s always hard to get into gear and have a regular non-tri-related conversation. You have to remind yourself not to talk about any of the above mentioned tri topics for fear of being stared at blankly or being labeled an obsessive freak man trapping unsuspecting stander-bys with talk of something that has filled their passion to the point that they can no longer relate.

And I wonder if I seem the same way when other people talk to me. If they find themselves standing there, muttering in their mind “what the hell is an aero helmet and if I put one on right now would it make it seem like she stopped talking?” I wondered if my passion for tri talk had more than once alienated the innocent person I trapped in my conversation unaware of the blank look that settled onto their face after I began rambling about races or training, nutrition, or recovery. I wonder if they have conversation cards with the number 3 in the corner for use in conversations with tri-friends only.

But it’s all talk and topic for good conversation. And talk should be just that – talk, about whatever you are most comfortable or familiar with – and whether it’s shoe shopping, or pets, or your kids, it’s all fair game. And all worthy of talk. And that’s the great thing about friends – you really don’t need those conversation cards. You can get away with talking about it whether or not someone else relates or has no idea what a chassis or aero helmet is at all.

Yet I’ve got to admit that it always feels comfortable to be back around those that are tri-inclined and just as submersed in the tri world as you are. Saturday morning after the wine party, I woke up to go to master’s swim practice. I shared a lane with Susan, my IM friend, and it felt good to be around someone familiar in the tri language that I now speak so well. There were no answers to rehearse, no words to censor, and nothing but the easy exchange of terms and phrases that we would both understand. And when we got to a set of 4 x 50 back, I paused at the wall and said, “Want to go on the 1:00 or 1:05?” She responded quickly with “the minute” and I thought to myself – that’s what I’m talking about, that’s the start of a conversation with no card necessary. That’s how it feels when you do something so much, or spend so much time at it, you start to speak it to the extent that it becomes part of your language and tongue. And when I can ask if someone wants to go on the minute and they get what I mean, why that feels as comfortable as being at home.

That’s when it occurred to me that I better keep some conversation cards on file, in a box, in the back of my mind. Because although it’s still November, it won’t be long before I’m so far back into the thick of tri things that I won’t be able to remember how to talk about anything other than heart rate, chammy butter, fuel belts or other tri-things that don’t make good conversation cards for those filed under “n” for normal, regular people not currently involved in the triathlon world.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fill 'Er Up

This morning I stopped at Caribou and experienced what is becoming an unfortunate pattern of less than perfect coffee experiences with them in the past week.

It hurts me to feel this way, not just about coffee but about Caribou in general because it's one of my happy places - along with Trader Joe's, REI, and Borders - all places where I can easily drop $176.16 without thinking twice just like I did at REI a few weeks ago when I bought a scarf, a fleece jacket, a hat, two new balaclavas, and gloves (I will write a blog on balaclavas as the winter progresses). Target used to be on my happy place list but it behaved pretty poorly for a few months and it got the boot (lesson learned: always check your receipt there because they have a nasty habit of overcharging). And I don't want to have to exile Caribou in the same way.

Everything with Caribou was going very well. We were really hitting it off. They scored major points with me when they installed Wi-Fi a few weeks ago. Then they sent a free coffee coupon via e-mail. I would love anything that sent me free coffee. Then I got happily hooked on their new dark roast, Obisidian Blend, so flavorful and sexy in it's black bag that I want to buy 10 bags and drink 10 cups every time I'm in there. Boosting their ratings with me even higher, they reintroduced the Reindeer Blend on November 9th.

But on November 9th, when I went to the store knowing they would have Reindeer Blend and ready to enjoy a cup, so started a slippery slope of bad experiences that have led me to put Caribou on happy place probationary status. And if they don't watch their step, I just might banish them to my Island Of Misfit Stores (along with Target, Jewel and Wal-Mart).

It started with the kid behind the register (note: anyone that cannot accurately perform their job in my books is a kid). It was a day where you could reload your Caribou card (and I am a card-carrying member) with $20 and get a free drink. Again, I will never turn down free coffee. To do so would throw the entire universe off it's axis; birds would stop singing, the sun would stop shining, you get the point.

I gave the kid my credit card to pay the $20 but it came to $21.62. Huh? Enter the incompetent kid behind counter. He accidentally charged me for Chris' coffee. Not a big deal, but Chris was planning on his reloading his card too (yes, he's a big boy now and not only wears big boy pants but also carries his own coffee card). So, no free coffee for Chris and an extra $1.62 charge for me. Ok, I can get over that. But then he swipes my card and said it didn't go through. Now I'll admit with the decrease in training time I have conversely increased my shopping time. But still. I'm not that far in the hole. He runs my card again and it goes through. And I stopped sweating buckets and holding my breath. I declined a receipt because after all who the heck takes a receipt for something that will be downed in less than 30 minutes? Not me.

I went off to work and decided to check the status of my credit account. Just to be safe. Just to make sure that the trips to REI, Borders, Old Navy (not a happy place because of a little issue I have with their size 0, 1, or 2 pants being about 2 feet too long for any one that could physically fit into a size 0, 1, or 2) didn't add up too much. And that's when I noticed that I was charged $21.62 not once, but twice that morning. So the first time my card "didn't go through" it actually did. Twice.

The next morning, I went to Caribou armed with my bank statement. I explained the situation and the logical thing was to assume the kid put $40 on my Caribou card and that's why he charegd me twice. But he didn't. There was only $20. They asked to keep my bank statement which I was a little leary about because I didn't want too many people to know how I spent my money (holy crap, this girl spent $60 on balaclavas). So I left some other info and they said they would check on it. A few hours later, they followed through, called, and said it was voided.


But then I checked my credit account the next day and it still wasn't resolved. Not so great. We're still working on a resolution. Because again, I have no receipt to prove my point just a bank statement that shows I spend about 1/2 of my income on fuel for me (coffee) and the other 1/2 on fuel for my car.

I was willing to give Caribou another try, though, because I'm not ready to jump on the Starbuck's wagon. Though I like their espresso, their brewed coffee - other than Pike's Place Blend - is nothing to blog about. So I went to Caribou this morning for some Reindeer Blend. And the girl behind the register- the girl with the great hair (really, she has great hair, the type of straight hair that holds a style, the type of straight hair you can wake up and walk out of the house with) - said 'do you want room for cream?' And that's where I get a little sneaky and say 'no' because if you say yes they leave about 1 inch for cream. And no one needs 1 inch worth of cream. I ordered coffee. Not coffee with my cream.

I got my cup and went to put in the cream. And upon removing the lid, I realized they left about 1/2 inch of the cup empty. 1/2 inch. EMPTY OF COFFEE. Empty of life. But this is not the first time this has happened here. It's becoming a regular pattern and it's regularly starting to bother me.

And so I decided to reach into the annals of my brain and pull out my gifted skills in mathematical computation (note: these skills do not transfer to other forms of mathematics, including geometry which I almost failed, calculus which never made a cosine worth of sense to me, and trigonometry which was like the worst of geometry combined with the best of calculus but still meant nothing but a near failure for me):

Total cost of coffee/Ounces in cup = Cost/ounce

$1.88/16 ounces = 12 cents per ounce

There are 28.88 cubic inches in 16 ounces.

28.88 cubic inches/16 ounces = 1.81 cubic inches per ounce

If 1/2 of 1.81 cubic inches was missing from my cup this morning, that means I paid 6 cents for nothing at all. Now I realize this is just speculation about the 1/2 inch empty thing. So, to provide some proof, I pulled out my ruler and measured the cup standing at 5 inches and confirmed that 1/2 inch was left empty. I think. (Disclaimer: I realize the inches outside the cup are not the same as the inches inside the cup and realize I probably need to understand geometry to understand why or how but as I said my brain does not speak the language of geometry so please do no write to me explaining it in geometrical terms. PLEASE.).

What do all of these calculations mean? (if they can mean anything; I realize my logic may not be correct but I am just trying to make a non-mathematical point using some semblance of math) Every time they leave that 1/2 inch empty, it costs me 6 cents. 6 cents may not sound like much but after approximately 10 cups of coffee per month it becomes 60 cents that I am giving them in exchange for nothing at all. And after 3 months, that adds up to me giving them a free cup of coffee.

So, I went back up to the counter, assumed the role of overly difficult and needy customer and demanded they fill my cup with .9 cubic inches more coffee. I didn't actually say cubic inches and it was more a polite question than a demand because while I am difficult I am not going to get all I-know-more-math-than-you-do about it (because I don't know math that well). And they happily filled the rest of my cup and I happily went on my way.

Of course I realize the risks of filling my 16 ounce cup up with 16 ounces of coffee. Those risks are the same if you think of it in terms of cubic inches too. Clearly there are safety hazards involved and you never know who will sue because they left their common sense at home one day and forget that coffee is a hot beverage and hot things are hot. But I'm willing to take that risk. Furthermore, if coffee spews all over my car on the way to work because I demanded you fill it to the brim, then it's my mess to clean up. Not yours. And I promise I won't sue you for cleaning fees.

At the same time, if you're going to leave that much space empty for safety reasons then perhaps cups should be designed for 17 ounces to leave a little wiggle room for the dare I say less intelligent people of the world that haven't made the connection between hot coffee and hot liquid which equals hot feeling if you spill it on your leg (and I dare to say less intelligent because my equations above might just qualify me as one of those can't-do-math-to-save-her-life kind of less intelligent people).

Anyways, that is why I am a little miffed with Caribou. But I'll go back again. Until they do something else. And then maybe I'll take my business to Dunkin' Donuts. But they (the clerks) put the cream into your coffee (behind the counter) which opens up another whole world of problems. So I say fill 'er up and give me the 16 ounces of liquid joy and life that I paid for or it's off the the misfit island with other places that have scorned me and my money!

(PS - I realize that the amount of cream I use probably costs as much as .9 cubic inches of coffee but let's just keep quiet about that one)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Have Doggie Will Do

It was late Saturday afternoon as Chris and I walked back home from the wine shop. Since Ironman, this has become a routine to sample wines at this local store once a weekend. And as we walked home, reviewing our likes and dislikes from the tasting (in other words, I’d be willing to buy a bottle of the Tempranillo but they couldn’t put the spit bucket close enough for the Merlot), we ran into the neighbor man with the dog.

Of course, this neighbor man deserves a little introduction. Though I have not collected any empirical evidence, there are days when it seems like neighbor man is outside with his dog every 20 minutes. He walks the dog up and down the street, stopping to chat with neighbors and strangers along the way. And while he stands talking, the dog proceeds to jump and frolic in utter bliss that it has found someone new to tackle in 60 pounds of fur. It’s one of those large, fluffy dogs that doesn’t realize it’s own size which isn’t so cute when you have a 60 pound dog jumping front paws first at you to say hello.

Now, someone walking their dog every 20 minutes may not sound like much a problem but hear me out on this one - after awhile, it does become your problem. Let’s say you go outside to check the mail, or you back the car out of the garage, or you roll into the driveway from a ride, or you head out to the store. On a weekend day, it’s quite possible you might come and go from your house every 20 – 30 minutes. And now let’s say you see someone outside each time. Not a problem, you give them a polite wave or say hello. But what if the person you saw was the same person every single time. Every time you left your house, returned to your house, went outside of your house, sat in the backyard of your house that same person was there. What would you do? Do you give the polite wave? Or, do you just smile? Do you make small talk? Pet the dog? And, after how many times does the polite wave become too much or not enough?

After awhile, it became so confusing that I just stopping doing anything altogether. Either this guy had an obsessive-compulsive drive to walk something on a leash or his dog had the world’s busiest poop chute. And though I desperately wanted to ask what the freakin’ deal with the dog/leash/poop chute was, why it had to be outside so much – these were still questions I wasn’t really comfortable asking. So I just stopped acknowledging that I saw him and his dog for the 15th time that day and kept to my own.

Over time, I sensed that caused some friction. Subtly, I began to notice that he stopped waving at me, walked the dog on the other side of the street, and didn’t come up to our garage anymore. At first it was a relief, but then it started to irritate me. Was it me not acknowledging him or he not acknowledging me? And if it was him, what was his problem? True, I stopped waving but it was becoming too much with the dog, and the walking, and the licking, and the petting, and the talking. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to break it off. I needed my space. And if this price of space was a cold shoulder, then so be it.

But this wasn’t helping with my popularity with the neighbors, which had been in steady decline since the day we moved in. A few months after moving in, our neighbors welcomed us to the neighborhood with a bottle of wine. I thanked them by accidentally backing up into their car – with them inside. And the kid next door? For over a year, I smiled at her when I one day realized that she had not once smiled back confirming that she had to be the product of sending two monkeys into space, letting them reproduce, and then delivering their product to the most unsuspecting couple on earth. And the other day, when she was sitting in the backseat of her father’s car at 7 am, with the car running, and she then locked all of the doors and father stood there shouting at her, I chuckled and thought to myself that they should ban monkey space travel from here on out. Then there was the time I complained directly to the landscaping company because their workers tossed dirt all over my hostas so I wrote a tactful e-mail asserting that the workers of a landscaping crew should at the very least recognize what a hosta is and understand that it does not need to be showered with dirt to survive - and the director of the board was not pleased. It seems that all complaints need to go through the association and not taken into your own hands. So, in terms of popularity polls in the neighborhood, I wasn’t going to be voted neighbor of the year anytime soon.

So when we saw the neighbor man and his dog on Saturday, it had been awhile since I had stopped to stay hi and get my dose of tail wagging, sniffing, licking, and other doggy delights. As we stood there petting the dog and I thought to myself, this is it, this is the ticket, this is the perfect opportunity to reestablish myself as a concerned, affable, and charming neighbor that cares about the well-being of neighbor man and his dog. Seeing my opportunity, I politely asked how he and the dog had been and he replied “not well.”

Chris and I looked at each other suspecting that nothing good could come from this conversation and my hopes of being reinstated as kind and caring neighbor were quickly receding.

Neighbor man told us how his dog had been under the weather, not feeling well with a stomach thing for the past few days. And from tail wagging and face grinning, it was obvious the dog had just dragged itself from the depths of despair to accompany him on probably their 12th walk of the day.

“It looks like she’s feeling better,” I commented trying to seem optimistic about the dog’s dire condition.

The neighbor man petted the dog’s head and the patted it on the back. “Yes, she’s doing better now, but it was rough there for awhile” he said with relief. He turned, eyes set straight on me and said, “you know that Dylan was also sick.”

Was that a question or a statement? And who is Dylan?

“Who’s Dylan?” Chris asked, as naïve as I was to the identity of Dylan which neighborhood man rolled off his tongue assuming we would automatically recognize the name and respond with concern.

“The dog next door,” he stated, like we should have known better, like we should have at least known the name of the dog that shared not only a front walk but a common wall with our house.

“Oh,” I said, “we didn’t realize his name was Dylan.” Of all the names I had assumed our neighbor had named the dog, Dylan was not top of my list. I mean, really - who names their dog Dylan? Not to mention the fact that it’s a Saint Bernard. St. Bernard’s deserve names like Moe or Chops or Big Boy or Chowbox. But Dylan? Come on, can you see it – here comes Dylan fancy paws prancing down the street all 80 lbs of meaty manly dog with a head as big as Kansas and paws the size of Rhode Island, yes here comes dainty Dylan.

Chris laughed and jokingly said, “Maybe they caught a little doggie illness from each other.” It was a plausible idea. Perhaps they were walking or playing, exchanged a few licks, and the next thing you know one of them has a doggie stomach virus.

But the plausible, or even logical wasn’t good enough. In fact, almost immediately, the neighbor added, “Or maybe (insert a sneaky pause that delivered a foreboding sense of doom, suspicion, and accusation in the air) they were poisoned,”

Puzzled, Chris and I looked at each other. Save me here, Chris, I thought to myself, save me from this man’s oh so nonchalant and roundabout way of saying hey woman it was you, you who never waves, you who rides right buy us in your cycling outfit you stole straight from Roy G. Biv’s closet, you who has no time to say hello but all the time to leave and return to your house every 20 minutes throughout the weekend day - it was you that tried to poison our pooches. He didn’t really say this, but I got the sense that given the opportunity it would have been said.

Trying to make the save, Chris attempted to put together the most rational proposition that perhaps the dogs licked radiator fluid off a driveway or antifreeze out of the street – something that very well might happen to an animal that goes out every 30 minutes, adding up to an opportunity 48 times a day as it scours the streets, up and down with it’s nose dragging the gutter along the way.

But that didn’t seem to satisfy the neighbor man. No, this wasn’t just an accident, this was a calculated act of forethought and malice against him and his dog. And Dylan too. And all of the other canines in the neighborhood. In my neighbor man’s eyes, I could see his head spinning theories of how I secretly hated him and his dog and would stop at nothing to have a neighborhood free of him and his pooch on parade.

Eyeing me cautiously, suspiciously, he gave me the sense that he knew that I knew that he knew I knew he thought I had something to with it. Even though I didn’t. I sensed that I should say something to rectify the situation, to abdicate myself of any guilt or involvement in this heinous canine crime and I sensed that every moment I kept up the incriminating silence I was only giving him that much more time to convince himself that it was me. Knowing that no matter what I said or did I would not erase away neighbor man’s presumptions about my involvement in the doggie illness incident, I decided it would be best to just let a sleeping dog lay. So I gently pet the dog on it’s head, said “glad you’re feeling better,” kindly said “good to see you” to the neighbor man and then Chris and I walked away.

We waited until we turned the corner before anything was said. “Did you get the sense that he thought I poisoned his dog?” I asked Chris hoping he would disaffirm my feeling that I was somehow being implicated into this crime in a mess of growing neighbor mutiny against me and my anti-wave attitude.

Chris looked at me honestly and matter-of-factly, like he had given me the save in front of the neighbor man but his loyalty stopped there before the cold, hard truth came back to my face.

“I should start saying hi to them again, right?” I said, confirming that his look was one of simple suggestion to be friendly, pet the dog, and make nice to avoid criminal implication in future cases of dog at death’s door with stomach thing.

And so a lesson learned. Perhaps that friendly little wave that takes about 3 seconds is worth the raised arm and the effort that ensues. Perhaps it pays off to take the time to acknowledge your neighbors and to get to know them. Because if you don’t, you might just find yourself the number one suspect in the latest case of sudden dog illness, missing yard gnomes, tampered mail, strewn recyclables, or other crimes of suburban neighborhoods all of which I deny any involvement in and plead the fifth.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Crazy Eight-ies

You know you're a child of the 80's if........

You can name more than one item that you owned in neon.

Cultural diversity meant listening to Paul McCartney and Michael Jackon sing Ebony & Ivory.

You can French roll your pants.

You wore gloves with the fingertips cut off because Madonna did.

Two words – Velcro KangaROOS.

You felt dirty for watching Madonna sing Like A Virgin on the MTV music awards.

You played M.A.S.H. and almost cried when it turned out that you ended up with the nerdy boy, and you lived in a box and your transportation was a shopping cart.

At some point, you tucked your stonewashed jeans into your thick cotton socks – because it was cool.

You still feel ashamed that you know the lyrics to, “Boom, boom, boom let’s go back to my room so we can do it all night and you can make me feel right.”

You have seen more than one episode of Gimme A Break, Silver Spoons, Webster, Who’s the Boss, Soap, DeGrassi Junior High, Diff’rent Strokes, Three’s Company, Three’s A Crowd, One Day At a Time, The Jefferson’s, WKRP in Cinncinnati, Mama’s Family, Small Wonder, or Square Pegs.

My name (Elizabeth) reminds you of Redd Foxx.

Two more words – Wonderwoman UnderROOS.

You played the original Atari version of Frogger.

You sported a feathered haircut.

You felt bad for John Cusack because he only got a pen.

You learned the alphabet using the Letter People even though Mr. H and his Horrible Hair scared you.

More than once you found yourself attracted to Alex P. Keaton.

You signed a note with B.F.F.

You first lesson on reptiles was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

You had a friend that had a haircut that was at one length on one side and longer on the other.

Your dad wore really short shorts with a polo shirt that had an alligator logo.

There was no shame; you got down to Ice Ice Baby.

You owned a shirt that said Au Coton.

Not before you owned a buttoned shirt from Forenza.

You’ve seen The Goonies more than ten times.

Your bangs stood higher than 3 inches.

You absolutely had to know who killed Laura Palmer.

Once a week, you watched a kid on television get slimed by green goop.

Admit it, you wanted parachute pants.

867-5309 was Jenny’s number.

You could identify Remington Steele, Magnum P.I. and Quincy, M.D.

Your first cassette tape was Guns n’ Roses Appetite for Destruction which you listened to until the tape broke.

You know the smell of Aqua Net, the feel of DEP.

You can name all 5 of the New Kids On The Block.

You fell in love with cowboys after watching Dallas.

You remember what Flavor Flav wore around his neck.

When you walk through a row of lockers, you expect a locker door to fling open and a kid pop out who says, “Hey Allister?”

You remember when they introduced nutrition labels – and the first time you realized holy sh*%! candy bars really are bad for you.

You expected B.A. Baracus to jump out of every black van that drove by.

The artist formerly known as actually had a name.

You’ve seen Eddie Murphy stick a banana in a tailgate.

You could name all of the Corey’s.

You could save your own life with a paperclip, pocketknife, and a woodchip just like McGuyver.

You thought people that listened to Depeche Mode were the freaks.

You owned one of the following: a My Little Pony, Glowworm, a Pound Puppy, Optimus Prime from the Transformers, HeMan/SheRah or Skeletor, the Ewok Village, or the G.I.Joe Hovercraft.

You had pictures from Teen Beat taped on the back of your door.

Something in your closet said OP.

You’ve seen the Tom & Jerry where they flood the kitchen and use the jello mold for colored lighting while skating.

You’ve also seen the one where Tom plays the bass while serenading the girl cat with “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?”

You’ve gotten a perm – more than once.

You can describe a color as smurfy-blue.

You felt that for sure you and your brother could kick ass on Double Dare.

You’ve read more than one Sweet Valley High book.

You remember watching Thirty Something and thinking those people are really old.

You remember when Gumby came back into style.

You thought the CHiPs guys were smokin' hot. And still do.

You wouldn't be surprised if you found Pee Wee Herman on the neighborhood registered sex offender list.

The first girl bands were Jem & The Holograms and Josie & The Pussycats.

You couldn’t wear Guess Jeans because you were totally not cool enough.

Watching Kevin and Winnie have their first kiss on Wonder Years almost made you cry.

Against your better judement, you put Shrinky Dinks in the oven.

You remember Soleil Moon Frye before the big boobs.

Little did you know that Strawberry Shortcake would be your first experience with inhalants.

You threw a Rubik's Cube across the room in disgust.

A Gopher was something you'd find on a cruise ship and not in the ground.

You had to take square dancing in gym class.

You envied me because I owned the Barbie Dream House.

You stopped liking the Smurfs when the Snorks came along.

You pull out a "Kiss My Grits!" from time to time.

You remember when Thriller swept the nation.

Your mom threw a punch, dodged a falling shelf, and ripped a box out of a child’s hand to buy you a Cabbage Patch Kid.

You curled your hair in the morning with a clicker.

You're still trying to figure out how to include "Hey, hey, hey" into daily conversation.

You spent more than one afternoon shouting “Punch It Chewy” while playing with your Millenium Falcon.

You still sing along to Wham when you hear them on the radio.

You watched Hot Fudge on Saturday mornings and got down with Seymour the puppet.

On more than one occasion, you have shouted Thundercats, HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO at the top of your lungs.

You had a sneaky feeling that the Care Bears could only be understood under the influence of powerful drugs.

You own at least 3 years of school pictures that you have shredded or completely hidden from public view.

Jelly was not a spread, it was something you wore on your wrist or feet.

The guy that wore the U2 pin on his jean jacket was way too cool for you.

You wore braces for more than 4 years.

You remember when Harrison Ford was still hot.

You looked into a hole in your wall expecting to see Fraggles.

You can still name at least one kid that had to wear headgear to school.

You had nightmares about the Muppet that threw the fish.

You turned up the collar on your shirt, because it was cool.

You found Rainbow Brite friendly but freaky.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Back On The Wagon

It’s that time of the year again – the holidays are approaching and soon we will hibernate like bears in our homes through the coldest days of winter. And one of our biggest challenges will not be the biting wind or the freezing cold. Instead, it will be the threat of three icy, chilly, dirty words – winter weight gain.

Rather than give in to all of the temptations (and trust me – they are out there and out there in force already), it pays to take this time of year to focus in on proper nutrition and even drop a few pounds. Admittedly, this is always easier said than done. By now, I’ve enjoyed a little off season, enjoyed a plentitude of post-Ironman delights, and given in to more than a few pumpkin this or that’s. But it’s time to get back on track, to get back on the wagon, to get off the sugar and recommit to healthy ways.

Back in 2005, I made the commitment to pay closer attention to proper daily nutrition. I had gotten into some bad habits; skipping meals, eating too many snacks, riding the sugar wave throughout the day. Naturally, I was starting to sense that I was not properly fueled for my workouts and probably not recovering as well as I could have been. Plus, I felt like I passing the day with a thousand mini-meals of corn chips and fruit.

I decided to contact a dietician at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Indianapolis. Not only did she come highly recommended, but she was also a very successful athlete in everything from sprint distance to Ironman that I had raced against in previous years.

The initial meeting was simple – we talked a little on the phone and she asked me to keep a food log for a few days. In all honesty, that was all it really took to admit and acknowledge that changes needed to be made. So, I challenge you to do that for a few days. Write down everything – and I mean everything – that enters your mouth for three days. Most likely, it won’t take too long to see some patterns, good or bad, emerging in your daily diet. In my case, when I realized I was recording cookies on my log more than anything green or wholesome, it was proof that there was reason for concern and a need for change.

I submitted my logs to the dietician along with a record of my daily workouts. From there, she calculated how many calories I needed each day as well as the composition of those calories (fats, carbohydrates, and protein). And to my surprise, or even disappointment, what I needed really wasn’t that much. Though I was exercising sometimes over 12 hours a week at that time, I still only needed about 2200 calories a day. Think about it – that is not that much. Heck, give me enough time at a holiday meal or restaurant and I’ll show you how to put down 2200 calories in one meal.

The key, though, wasn’t to worry about calories or even count them at every meal. Instead, the key was to develop a better plan for eating right throughout the day and to revise those bad habits, turning them into healthy habits and a way of eating for life.

The dietician created a few sample meal plans, including what to eat, how much to eat, and when. For each day, she suggested a breakfast, lunch, a pre-workout snack (I workout after work), and dinner. That was it. No snacks, no mini-meals. Just three wholesome square meals a day, plus pre-workout snack and, of course, the food I ate during workouts.

You’ll hear about a lot of athlete that graze throughout the day or eat 5 – 6 mini-meals. And if you can eat 5 – 6 mini-meals without overeating, or overstepping the total number of calories you need each day then by all means eat the mini-meals. But if you’re getting stuck or finding that you overeat or snack too often, then perhaps it’s time to reign in mini-meals and focus more on three solid meals that satisfy you longer.

The dietician gave me guidelines for how to eat these meals, too. At each meal, I had to aim for 3 food groups with 1 being protein. Protein need not be meat; it might include beans (there so many delicious beans out there!), tempeh, lentils, seeds, nuts, tofu, chicken, fish, turkey, and egg. When you put together meals, knowing that you only need to represent 3 food groups is a good way to keep your intake under control and prevent overeating. 3 food groups might look something like this; spinach salad with tuna and strawberries; chicken with couscous and vegables; pasta with beans and vegetables.

Selecting 3 food groups was much easier than I thought it would be as long as I kept the house stocked with a variety of foods. Honestly, I found it was much easier to rely on canned and frozen foods because they are readily available, cheaper, and last longer. Of course I am not speaking of canned vegetables – yuck – and you do have to be careful that what’s in the can is just what you want and not extra sodium, syrups, or preservatives. But canned beans, canned oranges, frozen vegetables – these are all things that make healthy food choices much easier and convenient. No need to worry about the nutritional value of these items as I was reading that frozen vegetables may be considered more nutritious than fresh vegetables because they are frozen at their peak and all of the good nutrients are preserved (as opposed to fresh where nutrient value decreases as it loses freshness).

The dietician also reintroduced me to the Food Guide Pyramid. Ironically, I have a Masters degree in Public Health and took many nutrition classes at the graduate level. But textbook information is much easier read than done and sometimes it just takes hearing it from another adult and being accountable to that adult to make a difference. What I learned was that for my size and activity level, I needed to eat a lot more diversely, and just a lot more than I was already eating. I needed 7 – 9 servings of grains, 4 – 5 vegetables, 3 – 4 fruits, 2 – 3 nuts, beans, or meats, and 3 – 4 milk. This varied depending on my activity level for the day.

There is also a group on the Food Guide Pyramid called oils, solids, added fats, and discretionary calories, or simply ‘extras’. The dietician reminded me that I needed to be cognizant about the number of extras I consumed each day. Remember, they are extras and even if you workout they are calories that still count and will add up. The dietician suggested I moderate my extra intake based on my activity level for the day. As a general rule, my diet permitted 3 – 6 extras per day. But here’s the catch – extras are not just candy; they also include salad dressings, syrups, cakes, muffins, scones, sugar, ice cream, candies, margarine, cream in your coffee, all of those little pleasures that we so enjoy or decorate our food with throughout the day. If you are already getting enough of your other requirements, then food items like olives, peanut butter, and even avocadoes become extras as they have higher fat contents that other foods. Of course they are good fats, but still it pays to consider them as extras and to moderate your intake in other areas if you consume them during the day.

No matter what you are eating, when you take a closer look at your diet you start to see how it all adds up and where it all fits in. An easy way to see these it to take your food log and for each day plug in what you actually eat in terms of food groups. A good website to visit is At this website, you can plug in your age, gender, and daily activity level and it will generate an estimate of how many servings you should be eating in eat group. It also gives suggestions on how to meet those serving needs, a meal tracking worksheet, and a colorful printout of your daily requirements as they fit into the pyramid.

As important as knowing what you need is knowing how much you need by developing a realistic and visual understanding of serving sizes. When I was scrutinizing my own diet, I actually sat at home and measured out the appropriate serving size for my favorite foods. Not surprisingly, I found that I was eating twice the recommended serving size of most foods – and this is very easy to do. Listed below, you’ll find some serving size basics for foods that equal one serving in their respective group:

1 slice bread
½ bagel
1 cup yogurt
½ cup dry, uncooked cereal
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetables
½ cup fruit
½ cup rice
2 cups cottage cheese
5 – 7 crackers
1 egg
1 tbsp butter/margarine
3 ounces or ½ cup chicken
½ apple
½ mango
½ banana
1 cup juice
½ cup beans
¼ cup dried fruit
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 ounce of nuts (3 teaspoons or 12 almonds; 7 walnuts)

Taking a look at this, it is easy to see why most Americans are overfed. When was the last time you ate ½ bagel for breakfast? Typically, you eat the whole bagel. Not only that, but the bagel is probably twice as big as it needs to be and there is where is adds up – you have now consumed 4 servings of bread at breakfast alone.

Aside from toting around measuring cups and teaspoons, there are a few simple tricks for remembering serving sizes:

Size of your hand fanned out is the amount of vegetables you can eat at a meal
Size of your palm is the amount of grains you can eat at a meal
Size of your first is the amount of protein to eat at a meal

What I like about this, is that it is based on you – your size, your body. There are other good tricks, too. One serving of cheese is similar to the size of 3 dice or 3 dominoes. Two servings of pasta/rice/couscous is the size of a tennis ball. One serving of bread is the size of an audio cassette tape. A serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. One cup of salad is baseball-sized. A standard piece of fruit is the size of a tennis ball. One serving of butter is the size of a stamp. Take the time to focus on food serving sizes and know what you nee.

And now a word about eating out. You may have noticed that serving sizes in restaurants, and even in the store, are growing bigger and bigger. It is no surprise that we are, too. Recently, my co-worker (who loves to eat out, does it 3 times a weekend) and I were talking about eating out. She loves to eat out whereas I’m not such a big fan. Her argument – you’ve got to eat anyways and it doesn’t matter where it’s prepared. My argument – yes it does. Here’s why – when you prepare your own foods at home, you control what goes in them and how much is put on your plate. Clearly, eating out is easier, convenient, and an enjoyable indulgence. For your own diet, be sure to stay mindful of serving sizes and always ask how food is prepared.

There’s a lot of talk about pre-race meals, race day nutrition, and post-workout recovery wonder foods. But often times it’s what we eat throughout the week, throughout each day that will influence the quality of our workouts, races, and recovery. This winter, as you feast your eyes on the cornucopia of holiday delights, take the time to think through your diet and where you’d like to be in a few months and how you’d like to feel. It’s easy to get caught up in the smorgasboard of holiday treaties and easy to find yourself a few pounds heavier at winter’s end. Now is the time to take control of your diet again and make a commitment to a healthier way of eating and living. So what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Early Morning Coffee

Early Friday morning, I found myself sitting across from a friend that had also completed an IM on October 21st and was ready to spill the details of her success over a cup of coffee.

It was a few months ago when we ran into each other at the pool and realized that we were both training for an Ironman. From there, we began a summer-long Ironman-induced adventure that covered many, many miles. She was the first person, other than my husband, that I had trained with in years and reminded me of the fun of sharing recovery rides, killer swims, and long runs.

Like me, she seemed more aggravated than anything else by the last 2 weeks of training leading up to the race. You feel fat, you feel fit, you feel moody, you feel anxious. The weather turns cold and it gets dark far too early and still you have to swim, bike, run. It had been a long summer of training, sacrifices, eating. We both conceded that it was just time to get the thing done.

But despite all of our anxieties and annoyances with the training and preparations and doubts about our abilities to do the distance without pain, injury, or mental defeat, the race arrived, the distance went by, and we both crossed a finish line to become an Ironman, after 140.6 miles, on the same day.

A few days later, she sent me an e-mail reporting her race success and asking “is it wrong to consider doing this again?” I had to laugh because it took me a few days to feel the same way. So she suggested we meet over coffee to share our experiences in the safety of someone that understands it fully because they’ve been through it just like you.

She admitted that she hadn’t done anything since the race and actually liked that. I concurred that sitting on the couch or falling in love with your job again is attractive and satisfying when it’s been so long and so far in the other direction. And we might as well have been on our bikes, passing the miles as we recounted our race experiences together. But somehow on that chilly morning I was grateful that we settled for Starbuck’s instead.

Though we were thousands of miles apart with 6 time zones between us, our Ironman experiences mirrored each other almost every step of the way. We both found the swim to be much easier than we thought it would be. The bike was not nearly as boring or long as we thought it would be. We both had anticipated miles 60 – 90 would be hard on our head and body. We were both surprised when they weren't. We both agreed that everything we loved to eat in training tasted terrible on race day. And the run, we both were surprised how great our legs felt, how you can bike that far and still feel fresh and ready to run.

What surprised us even more was crossing the finish line. Not that it was anti-climatic, but it gets built up in your mind as something so huge that you almost expect bells, whistles, confetti, and fireworks to go off simultaneously in your head as it nearly bursts with the excitement of your own accomplishment. But that wasn’t the case for the both of us.

Of course she, like myself, took that as a cue that we did not race it hard enough. Which then plants the seeds of sick curiosity and compulsion of what if next time I raced it, how fast could I go? Which naturally leads to the question of which course would be the best course to make that happen? And what do you think my time would be? Could I take 10 minutes off the run? 20 off the bike? The questions multiplied the mysteries of Ironmans that one day might be and the excitement of our own abilities, what if’s, could be’s was like a natural stimulant more powerful than the coffee.

And after awhile we asked what if we should just be happy with what we’ve done and settle with that for awhile. That seemed to quiet us down and return us to happiness with the life we were now leading, post-Ironman, in which we have reconnected with our families, and jobs, and former versions of our selves. That would be good enough for now.

And so we decided that next year would not be the year to go out and race another Ironman. A decision that surprisingly got us excited all over again, because imagine the possibilities now that we have this aerobic base and enormous engine to start from so early in the year. Just imagine.

It was an exciting place to be, to look at the year ahead and imagine with someone equally as excited as you are. It reminded me of how grateful I was that we had run into each other in the pool that one day and connected for so many workouts. And with that I knew I’d pass many more miles with her – Ironman or not – in the next year.