Friday, March 30, 2007

Texas History 101

Last night, I called my husband.

Since Monday, he’s been in Corpus Christi, Texas with a co-worker for business. On Friday, he is heading back to San Antonio for the flight home. His co-worker, Cesar, is absolutely thrilled about the trip back to San Antonio because they are going to see The Alamo.

“Cesar is beside himself right now because he’s so excited to see The Alamo,” Chris said. I pictured Cesar giddy with his own glee, running up and down the halls of the hotel banging two pots together shouting THE ALAMO THE ALAMO while Chris stands there in his business suit shaking his head.

“Ten bucks says he shows up tomorrow morning wearing a cowboy suit,” I said. Right after saying it, though, I realized I had gotten my Texas history a little crossed. This is not uncommon. Along with visual-spatial skills, science content, and most math, I am totally inept when it comes to remembering historical facts and events.

Not sure if The Alamo had anything to do with cowboys, I decided I should confirm or disconfirm this with Chris. Surely he would know. He’s one of those annoyingly accurate and knowledgeable people with a knack for knowing something about everything in way more detail than seems necessary. Yes, I love my husband.

“So what is The Alamo?” I asked. Really, I had no clue. Other than a reference to a car rental company, I wasn’t sure what happened in, at, or around The Alamo.

“The Alamo is a fortress,” he said. A fortress? That’s not what I expected. The Alamo sounds like a saloon in a dusty old town with those cool saloon doors that I always thought would be a fabulous idea to have in my home. How fun would it be to bust into a room through saloon doors shouting YEE HAW or who wants some PIE!? Saloon doors in my kitchen would be an immediate portal to fun – you’d walk through and enter yourself into a world of bar brawls, shots of whiskey, a shady card game in the corner – all in my kitchen.

In the midst of my cowboy-induced saloon door fantasy, Chris continues….

“It was the fortress where an important battle took place,” he went on to explain. Oh, do tell. Clearly this is going to be a most scintillating story about a slice of Texan history. And we all know I love Texas, and everything is bigger there, so perhaps their historical stories are bigger and better too. I was just hoping he would say ‘and then they busted through the saloon doors' at some point to feed my fantasy about those swinging doors.

He went on about this important battle: “Some civil soldiers headed down to Texas. At that time, Texas did not have the support of the United States. Part of Texas was owned by Mexico, which was Spanish, and so the Spaniards sent Carlos Santana to The Alamo to claim it and take it from the soldiers,” he explained.

“Wait a minute, Carlos Santana?” I asked. As in, master of guitar, Oye Como Va, that Santana? NOW we’re talking, now this story was getting good. But that can’t be right. I don’t know much about history, but I do know that the timeframe was a little off. The Civil War totally predated Santana.

“No, not Carlos Santana, Captain Santana,” he said. I could swear he said Carlos. NOTE: His name was actually Captain Santa Anna but you must agree Chris combining the two into Santana is too entertaining to correct at this point.

“Oh, but he was from Mexico, right?” I asked.

“No, Spain. Anyways, the civil soldiers fought against Santana at The Alamo.”

Details, details….see what I mean about the details? Just tell me the end of the story. And tell me who got thrown out through the saloon doors. And make sure he’s wearing a cowboy hat when you tell me that part.

“So who were these soldiers?” I questioned.

“They were civil soldiers, like David Crockett, David Bowie…..” he mentioned.

David Bowie?”
Was The Alamo some rustic Texan compound where all of history’s most influential musicians hiding? Santana, Bowie, just who else was in there? Hendrix? Joplin?

“No, Jim Bowie,” he said. I could swear he said David Bowie. But that’s what I get for marrying a fast-talker. We often have confusion like this.

“Ok, so Bowie fought against Santana and who won?” I asked.

“Santana won,” Chris noted.

“So what is the big deal about The Alamo then?” I wondered. If the soldiers lost, and the Spaniard won shouldn’t we be saying hola in Texas instead of hello?

“Well, the United States realized that if soldiers were willing to fight to their death for Texas than it might be worth standing behind and supporting.”

Oh. So there was a moral to this story. I get it. Something you believe in is worth fighting for. Got it. And this story would have gotten much better with saloon doors. That would have been something worth fighting for. In fact, let me rewrite this history in a much more interesting way; whatever you do please do not break my saloon doors, Bowie said and with that Santana slammed open one of the saloon doors sending it hurtling across the dusty old bar and immediately sending the entire saloon in a brawl.

I thought about this historical lesson for a moment, and then thought back to where it began. With Cesar dressed – inaccurately – like a cowboy.

“So then it would be safe to suppose that Cesar will show up tomorrow dressed like a Captain and not a cowboy,” I added.

“Yes, I suppose,” Chris said. He got the logic. If Cesar was so interested in The Alamo and its history, he’d be dressed either like a captain or even a solider. But still likely to run up and down the hotel hallways shouting something about The Alamo no matter what.

“What do you think a Captain would wear?” I asked. “Would they be dressed like a pirate?”

I could see it - Chris walks out to the lobby and Cesar jumps out from behind a plastic plant while shouting ARGGGH it’s time to go to The Alamo, matey! ARGH! And he’s wearing a black long coat with white frilly cuffs, a peg leg, and hook for his right hand.

Obviously Chris didn’t share my same entertaining vision. “A pirate?” he asked.

“Yes, like Captain Morgan on the bottle of rum. He’s a captain and he’s dressed like a pirate.” I proudly explain.

“No, Liz, that’s a sea captain. Captain Morgan was a sea captain. Santana was a military captain. Cesar will not be dressed like Captain Morgan,” Chris verified.

Sea captain, army captain, details, semantics. A captain is a captain is a captain. But if it must be a military captain, well then, suit yourself, I thought. Better yet, suit up like my newly invented Captain-Santana-of-the-Sea and I bet you’ll have a thousand times more fun at The Alamo. I can see it now – Cesar and Chris – dressed like pirates – ready to take on The Alamo with swashbuckling swords and a strange language where everything is preceeded by the letter "A" – Argh!, Ahoy!, Avast!; enter Captain Carlos Santana and his first mate David Bowie. History will be rewritten indeed.

But I didn’t say that. I decided to keep that entertaining vision to myself.

“Have fun at The Alamo," I said, "and say hi to Bowie and Santana for me, will ya?”

Chris laughed, I said good night, and with that I looked forward to his return tomorrow night to hear all about his trip to The Alamo and to learn a little more about Texas history.

And maybe if I’m lucky, he’ll keep his captain suit on for me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cielo de Los Cielos

Cielo is the Spanish word for heaven. Riding around San Diego is a cyclist’s cielo. It is a place where cyclists belong. Coastal flats, bike lanes, lines of cyclists pushing down the road. And how fitting that today we rode out towards an area known as Cielo, Rancho Sante Fe, and climbed towards the cielo on Mount Soledad.

Saturday morning and the Palomar Mountain climb was still fresh and heavy in our legs. But here we were, in sunny San Diego, another cloudless warm day before us. Heavy legs or not – it was time to ride.

Jennifer, Tim, Adam, Chris, myself, and Brad rode out around 10 am. The first part of our ride rolled along the flat coast. The ocean also rolled in waves to our left. We rode in a calm, quiet line – enjoying the scenery, enjoying the warm up ride. It would be best to take this beginning patiently. I knew what was ahead. I knew the hills – the mountains were waiting.

After 30 minutes we decide to head inwards towards the hills. The hills are subtle, but long and grinding. We get antsy and impatient waiting for each other. Brad is the only one that knows the way, Tim probably still has 20 Coors Lights flowing through is veins, Jennifer is ready to surge, I am smashing the hills, and Chris – well, as always, he’s just happy to be in the game, knowing full well he could easily drop all of us in an instant and ride off on his own.

Finally we reach an area far from traffic that snakes through the interior hills in an area called the Elfin Forest. I jump on Chris’ wheel and he leads the way, remembering the route from a group ride he joined back in January. Together, we ride through the Elfin Forest. The forest smells sweet and the trees cover the road in dappled light. We find a rhythm riding over the rolling hills in the winding road. It is the perfect place to ride on a perfect day – a blue sky, the cielo above.

Halfway through the forest, we hear someone baa-ing like a sheep behind us. Or maybe he was moo-ing. These farm sounds have become Tim’s weekend anthem. He baa’s and moo’s incessantly until he takes my wheel. And it may just have been Iowa in late July, a truly Ragbrai-esque moment with the three of us riding at a steady pace up and over the hills.

We regroup before taking a right up towards Ranch Santa Fe – home of the rich, the famous, the starlets that can afford living high in the San Diego hills surrounded by picturesque mountains and blue sky.

Rancho Santa Fe is a series of long descents and hills. All of a sudden my small frame which has been my strength in the hills becomes my weakness descending. I chase the others trying to catch their draft but they slowly, steadily slip away.

But this isn’t a bad place to be. I’m in San Diego, the sun is shining, I’m on my bike – cielo, you can say, heaven for me no matter how far behind I was.

Again we regroup, a common theme when you have six individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses, motivations and drives trying to ride together. The road climbs up, I take Chris wheels to climb yet another long hill out of Cielo before descending again towards the coast.

Back on the coast we are riding south on the 101. It is a welcome respite from the climbing and descending as again we roll comfortably along. At that point, someone suggests Torrey Pines and a descent into La Jolla.

The climb up Torrey Pines is nothing – it is yet another bump in the road after climbing Palomar the day before. Chris disappears, as he has been doing up and over every hill, I take second on the hill with the others a short distance behind. We regroup at the top and consider descending into La Jolla to then climb Mount Soledad – wondering if our legs could handle another epic climb after what has come to be over 7 hours thus far of continuous climbs.

And like any group of crazy Midwesterners shackled by cabin fever for the past 3 months, we decide to take on yet another climb, another epic ride up Mount Soledad in La Jolla.

Jennifer and I get antsy at the top of Torrey Pines and set out towards La Jolla leaving the boys behind. We regroup in La Jolla and Brad begins the lead the way towards Soleded. But Chris and I have been through this before and we realize that we are going the wrong way.

“Where are we going,” we ask, wondering why Brad was leading us towards the cove.

“Up the back way to Soledad,” Brad explains, “on the back way you’ll avoid the widow-maker,” he says.

Apparently, the sketchy right turn that ascends probably at a 20 percent grade and separates the lower half of the climb with the upper half is known as the widowmaker. But the widowmaker is what we want. There would be no back door today, no easy way to slip up this mountain.

Brad looks at us curiously, painfully, and leads us to the beginning of the front face. He immediately resigns from the ride up the mountain, admitting he is in no mood to take on the widowmaker. The rest of us, however, are ready to ride on. I give Jennifer a few warnings about the climb and then once again it is every man/woman for themselves up the mountain.

Immediately the climb turns uncomfortable with legs grinding up and out of the saddle at 48 rpm’s churning approximately 5.8 miles per hour. At a 15 percent average grade, Mount Soledad seems to send you straight towards cielo, or hell. Whichever way you see it.

Chris zips past me effortlessly, moving ahead at what seems like twice my speed and half my effort. My heart rate surges past my threshold and my legs are ready to burst with lactic acid. Along with my head. And my eyes, my back, and every other muscle that seems to be screaming in painful unison to please not throw yet another killer climb at us at 3 hours and 45 minutes into a ride of nothing but climbs.

I am nearly 2/3 finished with the climb when I see the place where I pulled over last time for some much needed rest back when we climbed this in January. Today stopping would not even be an option. Though I wanted, needed the rest it was once again Liz versus the mountain and just like yesterday Liz would again win. My back started to hurt from holding the bike, my feet stomped angrily on the pedals, my breathing was audible and annoying. But up ahead I knew the end was almost near.

Finally, I reach the top and Chris is waiting there.

“No stops?” he asked.

No, no stops. Not today, not ever again. Never again would I be beaten by a mountain, not here, not anywhere. He admits that he had to stop to regroup himself before finishing the final part of the climb. This reminds me that even the best can be beaten by mountains. Even Chris who never seems to waver or fatigue in the face of any challenge – rolling hills, gaps to bridge, gusts of wind. Proof that though the climb is over in less than 10 minutes, it is ten times more painful than Palomar’s 80 minute climb.

Standing on Mount Soledad, we look over San Diego and its surrounding area. The sky is cloudless and blue, the hills are verdant and green, the sun is warm. Yes, indeed this is cielo. To be here, atop this mountain surrounded not only by husband, and coach, but friends that all share this drive to climbs towards the same infinite sky, seeking the same level of pain, the same striving towards a similar heaven in our mind.

This weekend we lived in heaven, we lived a life of cycling luxury with nothing to fill our mind by swim, bike, and run. And some food, and friends. It was a little taste of heaven, a dreamy slice of what life would be life if we immersed ourselves in nothing but what we enjoyed. It was cielo de los cielos – a heaven of heavens for each of us to share.

Monday, March 26, 2007

San Diego Highlights

Got the most mileage: TIE

(1) Our legs
(2) The joke that Jennifer was our elderly companion for the weekend

Most spider-like move: Chris building a web of bungee in the back of the van

The sleeper: Adam climbing up Mount Soledad; we thought we lost you lil’ buddy

Most useful infomercial: The guy that gave us a box containing 12 bottles of fancy drinking water in the parking lot of Jilberto’s

Biggest bunch of crap: TIE

(1) The guy telling us that the water was ionized and magnetically centrifuged
(2) What Chris left in the kennel of stink on Saturday morning
(3) What Liz left in the canyon around mile 5

ber of hours before the boys’ room was lined with Coors Light cans: 12

Most evil trick: Not feeding Jennifer until 7:30 pm to keep her quiet

Best bird-like move: "The vulture", circling on your bike while waiting for someone to catch up

Most likely to be found in Tim’s farmyard: Chris, the Mother Hen

Admit it, you woke up in the morning with your hand between two pillows: Chris and Tim

Most likely to pull up behind you making farmyard noises: Tim

I fought the cake and the cake won: Jennifer making it only half way through the Chocolate Caramel Bottom Cake, going back 1 hour later to finish it, up all night with a stomach ache

Most desperate plea: TIE

(1) Tim, crying “this 12 – 23 just kicked my ass” on Palomar
(2) Jennifer walking into the shower in the YMCA while shouting “I’M STARTING TO HAVE GERM ISSUES HERE.”
(3) Tim moaning “please don’t say that to me again” after Liz says “that’s where we’re going” while pointing at the steep switchback ahead

Most entertaining mistake: Jennifer calling Brad "Bob" for the first 40 miles

Not someplace you should play the game of chance : TIE

(1) At 4000 feet on Palomar Mountain, Tim and Liz play the game of chance, “chances are the next motorcycle…..”
(2) If you’re a snail, in the middle of Route 76 crawling across the road out of the citrus groves

Most entertaining excuse: Brad admitting that if he climbed Mount Soledad he would be checking mailboxes the entire way

Best comeback: Liz saying “I saw the wizard three times today” after climbing Palomar Mountain and Tim saying “did you happen to see what was in his sleeve?”

Even better than Surprise Tattoo, the best new party game:
Do, Date or Dump

Three people Liz would do, date or dump: Ernie, Gordon, and Bert

One person Jennifer would do: George W, wearing a cowboy hat

Not good with directions, and he admits it:
Tim, after nearly ending up in the middle of the interstate after losing his way in the canyon

When a good idea goes bad: Jennifer stopping the van short in an attempt to send Tim and Adam to the back of the van and instead nearly hurling Liz across the back of the van into Adam’s arms

Not someplace you’d like your window to open: At mile 5 of the run in the canyon

Stolen straight from the A-Team: The armored cargo van with no seats or windows

Too tiny to drive the van: Team Tiny

And you thought Ironman made her tough: Liz; try wiping your ass with a flat rock

Now able to apply for her Class D bus driver’s license: Jennifer

Best mooing at midnight: Tim and Chris outside of our hotel room door, mooing loudly

Heed my warning: Jennifer says to Liz “your husband is mooing at the door” and Liz responds with “DO NOT OPEN THAT DOOR.”

The proof is in the pudding: The next morning Chris saying “good thing you didn’t open the door or you both would have been naked steamrolled.”

First to back the van into a pole: Jennifer

Something we didn't want to see: Another day of Jennifer without her morning oatmeal

Almost flatlined: Liz in the back of the van after masters practice, Jennifer saying to Chris "We better stop at Starbuck's because I think we're losing her."

Another name for the loo: The stinkbox of death, the kennel of stink

The perfect place for someone small and elf-like: Liz riding through the Elfin Forest

Number of hours before the boys’ room smelled like boy: Less than 2

Still nothing better: Cheez-It’s after a long ride

Most surprising performance by an elderly woman: Jennifer climbing Soledad non-stop

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Climb Your Mountain

Friday morning – it’s time to climb Palomar Mountain. The drive out is long, and shaky. Tim is driving the cargo van we have begun referring to as “Tantus Maximus”, a large white van resembling an armored car. Chris has created a web of wheels and frames as our five bikes are bungee-corded in the back of the van to the open holes where seats and windows should be. Tim is driving, Jennifer is co-piloting, and the rest of us are on the floor in the back hoping the bungee-cord system doesn’t fail and send 50 lbs of aluminum and carbon fiber rolling our way.

We arrived at Pala, an hour later and ready to ride. The first few miles are flat along roads line with citrus groves. We ride for about 15 minutes, slow and steady in a line. It is quiet. We all know what is ahead.

Palomar Mountain – over 12 ½ miles of climbing, gaining 4328 feet in elevation, with a peak elevation around 5200 feet. The average grade is 7.3 percent, with a peak grade of 12 percent. The road up the mountain has 21 switchbacks and has been likened to the notoriously epic Alp d’Huez.

Around 17 minutes into the ride, the riding gets harder and the pace slows. What once was a line of Tim, Chris, Adam, Jennifer, and myself becomes a long strung out line of five separate individuals. I realize the climb has begun. It would be every person for themselves and by themselves until the top.

What I enjoy most about an epic climb is the opportunity to find your own personal place of pain, and sit there for a long period of time. I knew it would take us at least 75 – 90 minutes to complete the climb. I look down and realized I had a long way to go, to simmer and suffer in my own personal place of pain. But this is where you need to go – you need to find a place like this and just immerse yourself in it getting finely attuned to the thoughts, the pains, the emotions you find in this place.

The first 30 minutes were awkward, hot, and hard. My body was fighting the climb with a high heart rate. The long sleeved shirt under my jersey was starting to feel like a wool blanket wrapped around my core. My breathing was loud and heavy. And the worst part was that I knew this would last for well over another hour.

But today I would last it out. The memory of quitting on the ascent of Mt. Lemmon was still fresh in my head. The memory of pulling over to the side of the road and collapsing into my aero bars was heavy on my mind. But today would be different. It was Liz versus the mountain and today the mountain would not win. No, no I would emerge victorious today at the top. It wasn’t even a choice.

Around 45 minutes into the climb, my body accepted the climb, and plateaued with pain. My breathing calmed down, my heart rate dropped, and my watts settled around a manageable average. There was nothing to do but grind the gears and climb.

I realized I had climbed through the first segment of the climb when I reached a flat section in the ascent. I knew it would last about one mile, so I cruised along comfortably. But one mile didn’t last nearly long enough and my legs were still screaming as the course veered left and the second stage began.

Up ahead, I noticed Tim. He was doing a move that has come to be known as the ‘vulture’, waiting for me and circling on his bike. He pulled up next to me and climbed.

“I’m bored,” he announced. Yes, I know you’re bored. Climbing like this is never exciting, nor interesting. You just climb and grind. The work is more in your head than your legs. You pass the time by talking to yourself, by pushing your mind along.

We ride together and he starts entertaining me with his quirky comments and jokes. I try talking with him but after awhile it seems best to conserve my air for the climb.

The switchbacks circle up and around the mountain. Motorcycles zip along the curves. Pine trees line the roads and every once in awhile a spectacular vista emerges from the valley.

Occasionally, we look up to see the road rising above us. We know we are headed there but it seems hard to imagine how. How we could ascend so far in such a short distance. The climbs get steeper as the distance drags on.

Around the mile 46 marker, the ascent steepens again. Tim starts to fall behind and shouts “the 12 – 23 has finally kicked my ass.” 12 – 23 is no gearing for this climb. I’m in 12 – 25 and still grinding out 70 rpm’s. But I knew this was my time. If ever I was to make a move, it had to be now. I stood out of the saddle, stomped up the climb, and surged ahead on a switchback.

4000 feet, with less than 1300 to go. I was on my own. The last 1000 feet were the steepest, were the hardest on my legs and my head. I was putting distance between Tim and I – but I wanted that distance to grow farther. Today, on this climb, I was competitive, fiercely so – this is the place to put that energy, this is the place to leave it. I let it all out, I stand and stomp, I push harder up the final miles.

With less than 100 feet to go, I see Chris – he has made it first to the top. He shouts at me “there’s my champ” and we climb the last 100 feet together. He smiles at me, and for a moment I feel like I have made him proud.

Chris and I stopped to wait for others when he said “this was harder than Mt. Lemmon.” Oddly enough, I didn’t agree. Mt. Lemmon was harder, much harder than this climb –it was a painful, wretched experience. It completely battered me, and left me bruised on the side of the road in my own pain and tears. But today – this climb here on Palomar was mine to own. It may have been steeper overall but Palomar wasn’t as hard as Mt. Lemmon because I decided ahead of time that the climb would be mine to own. I knew I would be in complete control. There would be no stopping on the side of the road.

And that’s when I realized that it’s not in the climb or the physical work ahead. It’s in your mind. It’s what you have in your mind when you arrive – how bad you want it and how much you’re willing to hurt to make it happen. I set out for Palomar Mountain with mountainous vengeance in my mind – to take on the climb and conquer it. It took 4328 feet, 12 ½ miles, 1 hour and 20 minutes, 70 rpm’s, and a hell of a lot of watts to make that happen. But t
hat’s what I set out to do. And my mind would let nothing less happen. Not today. Not on this mountain.

We all have mountains in our lives; difficult situations, steep goals, switchbacks, and other sharp curves. And though it may seem impossible to climb and conquer them, it's in all of us, in our minds - the decision to climb it, to overcome it, to keep pushing to the top. You just have to make up your mind to climb that mountain and stop at nothing until the top.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Crazy Eighties – Part Two

Back by popular demand, it's another installation of the Crazy Eighties.

You know you’re a child of the eighties if…..

You dreamt about going to a school as cool as the one in Fame.

You wish you went to Sweet Valley High.

Bosom Buddies – three words what the f*ck?

You wore at least 20 bracelets up your arm.

Elizabeth was someone that Redd Foxx cried out for while clutching his chest.

You remember what Heather Locklear looked like when she had her real face.

You were devastated when you found out Milli Vanilli was a sham.

Jo from the Facts of Life was cool, Blair was a bitch, and Tootie – you just felt plain bad for a girl called Tootie.

You owned a pair of black sunglasses with a neon frame or, better yet, reflective lenses.

You remember traveling on an airplane when the back half was the smoking section.

Skeletor was the name of HeMan’s rival, not a nickname for one the Olson twins.

You remember life before DVD - even life before VHS, we're talking Beta.

You remember when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were cool – the first time around.

You remember when Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire.

You sported a feathered haircut. You sometimes pulled back that feathered haircut with a clip that had a feather, a leather string, and beads hanging from it.

Iraq was some small country in the middle east – Russia was the real enemy.

Your mom was dying to know who shot J.R.

Fill in the blank: You take the good, you take the bad, you take them all and there you have, _______________.

Thundercats, HOH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You have gone through more than one can of Aqua Net.

Classic 80’s PSA – egg in a frying pan; this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs, any questions.

You still can’t tell – Ronald Regan, was he the president or just an old guy that smiled a lot?

Your only knowledge of Cinncinnati was that it was a town with a radio station called WKRP.

You owned a banana clip.

You have seen one of the following movies more than 10 times; The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Sixteen Candles.

Hairy men were hot, ie., Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds.

You curled your hair after gym class with a Clicker.

Your friends were so jealous of your brother’s GI Joe Hovercraft.

You have gotten at least one perm.

Classic 80's PSA –a bunch of blue pill puppets singing about the dangers of drugs; this is serious, we could make you delirious, you should ask your doctor or pharmacy, the types of pills that you will need.

You pondered the bigger questions in life, where's the beef; still to this day you have no idea where the beef really is or ever was.

You had a picture of Kirk Cameron on your bedroom wall.

Long before Ironman, there was Jane Fonda and her collection of leotards, headbands, and workout tapes.

You remember the first time Fraser was on Cheers.

Three words that make me cooler than you - purple velcro Roo's. I had them, you didn't.

Payphones were on every corner, you could make a call for 10 cents.

Your mom had a baby on board sign stuck in her rear window, but you were 8 years old.

You remember life before nutrition labels. You also remember eating your first candy bar after they put on nutrition labels and thinking some things were better left unsaid.

Band-Aids weren't for boo-boos, they were for world hunger instead.

You wore one half of a heart-shaped BFF necklace.

George Michael was someone in Wham, not someone most likely to be found touching himself in a public bathroom.

Watching Sean Astin sucking on his inhaler in The Goonies made you wish you had asthma.

You remember when computer screens were black with green lettering.

You always wanted to know what Willis was talking about.

You have read more than one book about Ramona.

You wore a polo shirt with the collar up.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Feel Good, Inc.

The other day, I was in the middle of a 400 warm up when someone started waving fins in front of me at the wall. I looked up to see the smallest person with the cutest pink bathing suit. And a damn nice rack, to boot. That’s right, I finally got to view (and approve) of Susan’s new boobs.

Now, I’m using her name because she said it’s ok. She has, in a sense, become the poster child for a new set of boobs. And I’ve got to tell you, they look pretty good.

A few weeks ago, I had talked to Susan over e-mail and asked how she was doing. She had just returned from Vegas with her husband and summed up the trip in a few words, “my husband kept walking up and down the street saying I can’t believe I finally have a wife with t*ts.”

I said it in my last post about her boob job – her husband’s generally a smiley guy and sure enough this was pushing him over the edge. I could imagine him skipping around the house day after day. Life would just be that good.

But back to the pool. Immediately, I popped up out of the water, recognized Susan, and then the thought was triggered from a file box in my mind, a question I’ve been meaning to ask for some time – ask Susan about new boobs.

“Let’s see!” I said. Really, what else do you say?

Proud and showy, Susan juts out her chest, giggles, and a smile spreads across her face. I believe a smile also spread across Dave, Fritz, and Chris’ faces because really who wouldn’t smile at a woman showcasing her boobs.

“They look great,” I said. They did. From what I could see she now had two perfectly round grapefruits attached to her chest, equidistant around, a circumference suggesting a perfect B.

Dave looked a little confused. Fritz looked a little scared. And Chris, well, some days he’s just happy to be in the game. As in, happy to be a part of a conversation that involves two women and boobs.

I felt like I had to say something – like I had to come back with an answer. It was like two men butting chests in manly recognition of something they just did. Susan stuck her chest out and I had to come back with something in return.

“I decided to go smaller,” I said, sticking out my chest. Yes, they were just getting too big to handle. Getting in the way. “What do you think?” I asked.

Dave smiled and jumped in his lane. Fritz stood there in disbelief. Chris was wondering how much this surgery cost and how soon he could get it for me.

Susan laughed. I asked her how she was doing and she said “feeling old and slow.” For the record, Susan is not old, nor is she slow. She’s one of those small people with the buoyancy and speed of a man twice her size.

“At least you’ve got the new boobs,” I said – not sure if she heard but I would imagine she’s been floating on cloud nine for some time and would stay there awhile. Imagine, your day is going bad – the boss is on your back, the kids are being brats, you’re feeling slow in the pool…..then you look right down on to your chest and you see two little circles of sunshine bouncing up and down. Now that’s got to make you smile. Instantly turns any bad day into good.

There’s very few things in life that can make you feel that good, few things you can call your ace in the hole that you can pull out if your feeling really bad. I imagine most women feel this way when they first get engaged. You have a bad day, your hair won’t cooperate, you notice a wrinkle but then you look down at your left hand and say “at least I’ve got this rock on my hand, it could be worse – I could be this ugly and single.”

You know how the conversation goes. You’ve had it with yourself a million times. You could fill it in with all sorts of things – at least I’m driving this car, or carrying this Coach purse, or riding this hot bike, or wearing this hat with Ironman on it. You’ve got all kinds of things you carry around that make you feel better. It has nothing to do with materialism or the possession of overprice goods. It is about feeling good.

Life is about feeling good. Whichever path you take to get there, it's your choice. Do what it takes, don’t worry about the cost, or what other people think. You’re worth it.

Now, if I could only get the name of Susan’s doctor, I might be forever feeling good......

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Small Wonder

Superheroes never know when they’re going to get the call, and so they are always waiting. But when the moment is right, when the call comes in, they are ready and able to strike.

That’s just what I did the other day.

I’m not saying that I’m a superhero, but sometimes I do feel half evil museum minion by day and half superhero by night, just like Tim said.

What, you ask, is my secret superhero identity? That’s easy – I’ve known it all along. No, not Ironman – that’s already taken. Not Ironwoman – that’s kind of lame. Not the Tiny Terror – that’s Alexander Vinokourov. Not even The Mosquito – that’s my secret identity reserved only for San Diego.

On a day to day basis, living in Illinois, I am the Small Wonder. But don’t say that too loud lest my manager finds out and starts expecting superhero things from me during the day, too, which would likely drain me of my superhero powers at night. And at night is when I need them – because at night is when I train.

The Small Wonder is just that - seemingly harmless, unthreatening, and small but ready to strike big when least expected. When she receives the call, when the challenge is set, Small Wonder puts forth a relentless force of stamina and endurance combined with a mind like steel.

Little did I know that Tuesday would be the perfect day to unleash my superhero powers. Before or after 8 hours of work, I would have to squeeze in a 75 minute swim and a 2 hour indoor trainer ride. Today would be a super long day that might even threaten the most super of heroes. But I was prepared, ready and waiting to unleash my power in a rage of superhero fury to make the most out of the day.

Surprisingly, something superheroish possessed me very early that morning. Maybe I fell asleep in my cape. The alarm clock went off at 4:40 am, and I responded by suddenly bolting out of bed and driving straight to 5:30 am masters practice. Maybe it was traveling at the speed of superhero sound, but I actually arrived early – 15 minutes early. So I did what any superhero would do, I started swimming – extra yardage for superhero extra credit. This is the kind of stuff that counts when they give out stripes for your cape.

After a lot of super hard yards, I went back home, got ready for work in record-breaking time, filled the car with gas, and even had time to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a medium coconut with cream – the perfect fuel for a superhero like me.

I arrived at work ready for an entire day of CPR and First Aid training. When the instructor told us that we would be finished by 3 pm – possibly before 3 pm, I knew I had gotten the call. The batphone, if you will, was ringing. It was the Commissioner with a super mission for me – and that mission was to get outside and ride.

At lunchtime, I scrambled home to throw all of my cycling gear in the car, bike, water bottles, shoes, helmets, gloves, gels, bars, pump, sunglasses, everything and anything that I could have needed for the ride was dumped in the trunk. At that moment, I realized if we got out right at 3 pm and the traffic was just right, I could be on my bike and riding before 3:30 pm.

But it would require speediness and efficiency. My cape would come in handy, as well as my ability to, when necessary, fly at a frenzied speed to the mission or task. There was no time to waste. Especially no time to change carefully into my cycling gear while in the car in the parking lot so as to not reveal and of my superhero secrets to the rest of the world.

But wait – an idea…..what if I put on my uniform a little early? I mean, what if I went to work wearing everything but my cape, keeping it all concealed under my ordinary work clothes?

That would be so superheroish – to conceal my secret powers, ready to rip open my shirt at a moment’s notice to reveal the Small Wonder inside.

The plan was put into place. Underneath my work clothes, I layered my cycling jersey, my jog bra, cycling socks, and shorts. I looked at myself in the mirror – would they know? Could my co-workers tell I was hiding something? Would they discover my other identity? I know they’re suspicious of me already. Someone that eats that many cookies at work-related parties must possess some type of superhero power.

I returned to work, gear in tow, uniform concealed cleverly underneath work clothes. And about 30 minutes later I was sweating in my superhero outfit. I was dying to rip off my outlayers to reveal the jersey underneath and shout behold the Small Wonder and pedal west. Instead, I sat there roasting in my super hot gear.

Good thing time was on my side. The course was finally over, and it was 2:48 pm. I bolted out of the building in a single bound, hopped into my car, and flew off towards Fermilab. Twenty minutes later, I arrived. Using the car as my phone booth, I made a quick change tearing off my work clothes to reveal my superhero uniform emblazoned with on the front for all of the world to see. Finally, I emerged from my car and in perfect harmonic symphony as voice from above announced my arrival…..BEHOLD THE SMALL WONDER BEFORE YOU.

I was so ready to ride.

I rode out towards Fermilab, ignoring the traffic, the potholes, the stoplights along the way. Nothing would get this superhero down. Small Wonder pedaled on, riding past the guard house and into the miles of open roads.

Fermilab is the perfect place for a superhero’s secret Tuesday afternoon bike training. Belonging to the Department of Energy, it is a particle accelerator laboratory where physicists and other wizards do all sorts of scientific trickery in the space-like buildings lining the roads.

According to the website, scientists at Fermilab carry out research in high-energy physics to answer these questions; what is the universe made of? how does it work? where did it come from? These are highly charged issues that surely any superhero could solve. I ride around wondering if Fermilab realized that I am the answer they are looking for. Bring your questions of the universe to the Small Wonder for she, like an oracle, will provide the answers you need. And today, the answer to the only question that matters - why are we here - is TO RIDE.

Caught up in thinking such highly ionic thoughts, I seem to have missed the Commissioner’s call. Literally, the Small Wonder phone was ringing. Commissioner Coach Jennifer left a message - ride as long as you’d like today, she says. Ride as long as I’d like? The wind catches in my cape, I start to feel boundless energy in my legs. The Small Wonder uses her powers to their full potential – she rides off towards a very long, long ride.

Tailwind pushes me along for the first 20 minutes. Super powers totally unnecessary at this point, I’m flying along effortlessly at 23 mph. But nothing lasts forever, not even in a superheroes seemingly perfect world. And tailwind becomes crosswind becomes headwind. The headwind is forceful, it is gusty. It is making me rethink my superhero weapon of choice – my time trial bike.

I put my head down, and good thing I’m wearing my helmet because I feel like I am riding right into a brick wall. The wind is whipping from the south at a steady 20 – 30 mph. The wind is like kryptonite draining me of my superpowers. Soon the Small Wonder will be reduced to a Tiny Wonder and then weakened to a Wee Wonder until there is no Wonder at all. But if I was a betting superhero, and it was me against the wind, I’d bet on me. Because superheroes don’t give up. They look at their cape – in my case aerodynamically designed for a day like this - they realize their potential and they push on. It takes more than wind to get a superhero down. It takes a lot more than that.

Small Wonder pushes on, throwing everything she has at her enemy – the wind. The wind pushes harder, I grip my bars. The bars move me sideways, I tighten my core. My core gets tired, I put weight into my seat. My rear starts to hurt, I sit up and grip the bars again. I repeat this cycle, cycling around the 15 mile loop of Fermilab, superhero powers fully engaged. Eventually the wind will let up. The Small Wonder, however, doesn't let up - she just pushes on. When things get harder, she works harder - like any superhero would.

It is Tuesday night, it is mid-March, it is 72 degrees in Chicago and the Small Wonder is pedaling her way to a 3 hour ride. For the Small Wonder, it doesn’t get any more superb than that. At 2:48 pm this afternoon, I had two choices – return to my office to squeeze out 1 hour and 12 minutes of lackluster waiting-for-the-clock-to-hit-4 work, or rip open my shirt to reveal the superhero inside. I chose myself and my personal power. I chose to ride.

We spend most of our days with our true identify hidden underneath suits, nice clothes, or other disguises we wear throughout our day. Underneath is a cape, an emblazoned uniform, a secret identity teeming with our personal power and waiting to bust out. It is the side of ourselves that means the most to us, yet stays hidden for most of the time.

For most of you reading this, that hidden side is probably the athlete inside of you. In Tim’s words, you likely live a life of suit monkey by day and superhero by night. You sit behind your desk waiting for the clock to roll around and free you from the shackles of seated servitude. You look out the window on days like this and in your head hear the sound of wheels on pavement and you long to ride. You see your cape in the corner, you notice your superhero outfit showing through your clothes, and the time can’t pass quickly enough.

On days like this, when the conditions are just right, when you get the call, rip open your shirt and reveal your superhero powers. Give yourself permission to get out and let it out. Escape your everyday identity, tap into your superhero power, and go for a run or a ride. The work of your ordinary life will be waiting there for you tomorrow. And with your super powers fully recharged, you’ll probably get it done twice as fast.

But just in case, don’t forget your cape.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Last night I had the strangest dream.

I woke up this morning with images vivid in my head. Sometimes I have weird dreams if I eat ice cream before bed. I think all of the sugar zips around my bloodstream all night long and though I’m asleep there’s a sugar overload buzzing through my brain pulling files from all of the yesteryears and never be’s in my head.

But I didn’t have ice cream last night. So I’m not sure where this came from.

For the first part of my dream, I was at my in-laws house. They weren’t home, but I was there with Chris and Meredith (Chris' sister). And, you wouldn’t believe this – also with Anna Nicole Smith. Proof that if you sensationalize something all over the newspaper, radio, and television it will seep into our subconscious.

So there we were, Chris, Meredith, myself and Anna Nicole Smith. Totally normal Friday night. But there was also some man dressed in a suit, with slick hair, that looked like one of Megan’s (Chris' other sister) former employers that I met only once. Memories run deep, don’t they?

Anyways, this man was really into Anna Nicole. But my husband wasn’t – proof that he behaves even in my dreams. Oddly enough, the other guy was smearing this strange tub of lotion all over Anna Nicole’s legs.

Anna Nicole and the guy took their heavy petting upstairs. Strange, loud noises continued. Now, if I was Chris, I would call his part of the dream totally unfair. To be dreaming about erotica, but not involved? I would demand a dream back in return.

But it was my dream and lewd behavior had no business there. The loudness, the noise continued. I started getting angry. Because Chris wasn’t really doing anything. Because there were candles burning all over the house. And because for some reason Chris’ parents had taken all of my houseplants which were now displayed all over their house.

It doesn’t take much to piss me off in my dreams. Hey, it’s my dream.

Meredith was in the bathroom, sitting on the countertop. Not really doing anything, but not really disturbed by any of the noise either.

But I still was, so I went upstairs determined to get them to stop this noise. Or at least close the door. And I walk right up to the door and realize they have left the blinds open. And I think to myself that Chris’ dad will be very angry when he pulls into the driveway and sees that.

In retrospect – I rescind that statement. Think about it – Anna Nicole is in your spare bedroom with the blinds open. And the man gets angry? Please.

I realize this is a hopeless situation so I start to walk away. And then I realize my Power Bar water bottle is sitting in the hallway. This dream powered by Power Bar, thank you for your sponsored support.

I come downstairs but the noise still didn’t stop. Meredith is still in the bathroom. And candles are burning everywhere. There are too many candles and they are making me uncomfortable. I start blowing them out. I even find one inside of Anna Nicole’s purse. I blow that out too but not before realizing that that strange lotion the guy was putting on her legs was actually “lose weight fast” lotion.

Now that’s hilarious.

I start yelling about the noise. Chris stands there quietly. Why isn’t he saying anything? Chris is not acting like himself. In real life, he would have done one of two things, (1) walked away to let me have my fit, or (2) told me to ZIP IT.

I get so mad that I finally tell Chris we are leaving. And we’re leaving with at least one of my plants. I take the giant potted pythos and the table that it is resting upon. Chris crams it in the back of our car. Such an obedient man in my dreams, not the sassy doppelganger of himself that I seem to live with in real life. Ha ha ha.

Holy crap, in my dreams he is literally the man of my dreams. How ironic.

We see Megan walking up the driveway with a bunch of McDonald’s bags and drinks. I wonder though what’s in the bags and decide it is those little bags of hash browns.

What the hell are hash browns doing in my dreams? I don't even like potatoes.

We pull out of the driveway and driving away Chris says that he can’t believe Keith drives such a big gas guzzler. I look in the rear view mirror and see someone driving a very large pick-up truck behind us. It’s Keith, our good friend, old massage therapist now turned naturopathic doctor in Seattle.

Looking back on this dream, trying to put together the images and what they represent, this dream makes complete sense to me. Of course, the whole thing could just be a bunch of random images and ideas from my day. But I’d like to think our brains are more sophisticated than that. Sometimes we search all day long, for weeks, months, for signs and answers when really the right answer was right within our own head.

But wait - that was just the first part of the dream. End part one of dream, enter part two.

I am pregnant – in my dream, silly! I am ready to give birth and I am so excited. I know, I’ve got a lot to learn. I am in the hospital room, pushing and pushing – it is so painless. Again, that comment will bite me in the belly one day. Finally I have given birth and I am tired. Chris is smiling. I ask the doctor to see the baby and they reveal something – I ask if it’s a boy or a girl and they say it’s a boy. I finally get to hold it, and for some reason, in my dream, I accept no-questions-asked the fact that I am holding something that is a hybrid between a baby boy and a small spotted pooch – just like my mother’s Dalmatian.

It gets better. I notice it has blue eyes– not only does the baby have blue eyes and looks like a small black and white-spotted dog but I think to myself “I think it has Asian eyes just like my husband.”

I have just given birth to a man-morphed-dog and I’m looking at the eyes?

I don’t know what all of this means, I won’t even try to guess. I'm just glad I didn't eat ice cream before bed because I would not want to see how much more wacked out this dream could have gotten.

One thing is certain - I better start getting more sleep.

Friday, March 09, 2007

No Excuses

A timed 1650 yard swim is not something you want to see on the board for 8 pm masters practice. Not after you were up at 5:30 am grinding out 50 – 70 rpm’s for over an hour. Not after a day of full-time work. Not after you did 5 x 500 in the pool the night before.

There’s all kinds of reasons why you don’t want to see or do the timed mile. I sat in the hot tub before practice talking to my husband and Fritz talking about some of those reasons. Chris started going on about how he lifted the day before and was riding before practice. Somewhere the world’s smallest violin was playing a sorry song for him.

Fritz looked at me waiting for some type of excuse to come spilling out of my mouth.

“I was up riding at 5:30 am,” I said. A good enough excuse rendering my legs completely useless and heavy for tonight’s aquatic adventure. Some days I wonder how well I could swim if only I was rested, if only I wasn’t on my second workout of the day, or – my favorite one – if only I wasn’t on my third workout in less than 24 hours. Some days the line between one day and the next blurs between 7 hours of sleep, a full-time job, and a training schedule. I have reason to believe I am the next Michael Phelps if only I didn’t have all these hours of running, biking, and lifting in my arms and legs.

I turned to Fritz, “what’s your excuse?” He paused for a moment and said, “I don’t have one. I guess if I’m slow tonight, I’m just slow.”

Good enough.

We got into our lanes and warmed up. No one could get anything right. 50’s on the 1:00 were on the :53 for some, :58 for others, and 1:05 for the rest. You could sense that everyone was antsy, waiting. We knew what was waiting ahead, we were all thinking about our times, the distance, the long effort ahead.

Finally, it was time to unleash 1650 yards of fury. Before we started, Fritz and I devised a safety plan. We decided that he would swim past me if he needed to pass – there would be no waiting at the wall. Not tonight, we couldn’t afford the time.

“You can’t afford the time?” Fritz asked, making fun of the fact that I – slower than him – was worrying about time. Watch it, Fritz, or else I’ll be the one passing you, I thought. He didn’t look frightened. Rightfully so. There was no way I would pass Fritz. The only time I pass him is during kick sets (he refuses fins, what can I do?). Tonight I would probably get passed by him at least twice.

“On the top,” the coach shouted before sending us off into underwater silence for the next 20 minutes. Fritz led my lane, 5 seconds later I followed. And so it began.

33 laps is a long way to swim in the pool. I break it up into 500’s and find counting to 10 is much easier than counting down from 33.

Fritz is working hard to keep up with Chris in the lane next to us. For a few laps I watch them entangled in a quiet battle of keep up which they both are winning, neck and neck.

Within the first 500 yards, I am lapped by Fritz. And I suppose also Chris since he is keeping pace in the lane next to us. In fact, the entire pool – except the guy to my right – has lapped me. This doesn’t bother me. Mark my words – it will take them at least another 15 to lap me again. Men are like this in the pool. They bolt out and then they swim slow like molasses pouring from a jar for the last 500 yards. Mark my words.

In my head I’m singing, while also counting. It’s not the distance that adds up – it’s the monotony, it’s following the black line. Music plays in my head. To my right, I watch Simon swimming along. He is over 6 feet tall – I shout unfair advantage as he pushes off the wall and ends up 12 yards later coming up for air. I don’t think he heard.

Around lap 22, Fritz starts approaching. He inches closer and closer to me but never close enough to pass. I pause at each push off looking for him and hoping not to collide head on.

Lap 25, Fritz finally makes his move to pass. But he comes off the wall on the wrong side and ends up shooting straight into me. In an effort to avoid him and cataclysmic aquatic injury, I leap frog Fritz, touch the wall, and push off – he turns around, takes the time to apologize, and then we continue on our way.

That counts for at least 5 seconds off my final clock time due to Fritz interference.

At this point, his pace has slowed while mine picks up. All of a sudden being lapped twice has become the best thing because now I am sitting comfortably in his draft.

A few laps later, he finishes and I still have two to go. I kicked my legs into gear and finished it up. As I touched the wall, the coach shouted out my time. I told her to take off 10 seconds.

“10 seconds?” she asked. Yes, 5 for starting 5 behind Fritz and another 5 for the acrobatical leap frog I had to do over him around lap 25. Hey, I just swam a mile, cut me some slack. She takes off the 10 seconds and gives me my time.

At the wall, I overhear Chris and Fritz debating whether or not they had stopped short by one lap. The coach insisted no, Fritz insisted yes, and Chris admitted he lost count after the 1000 mark. They stood like this for the remainder of the cool-down, entirely missing 400 yards, and never reaching any conclusion.

I wasn’t much help. When Fritz and Chris stopped, in my head I still had 3 to go. But they only lapped me twice. So that didn’t make sense. But maybe I lost count between 19 and 20. I don’t know. 33 laps leaves a lot of room for error.

Afterwards, in the hot tub, we still had our doubts. Numbers were discussed, paces were calculated. “I looked at the clock at the 200,” Fritz admitted. We looked at him for an indication of pace, confirmation that we swam the clocked mile time, affirmation that we were either faster or slower, and he replied, “and I thought to myself that I was going way too fast.”

Ok, that didn’t help.

Chris looked at the clock 1000 mark, Fritz never looked after 200, and I didn’t peek at all hoping it would be a big surprise at the end. Remind the three of us never to swim together again. Next time, we need someone that can count and watch the clock.

Talk of this continued in the car ride home – Chris perseverated about possibly missing a lap, possibly being faster than last time but also possibly missing a lap last time so who can be sure of anything.

There had to be an easier way.

“Were you faster than last time?” I asked. Yes, he said – about 15 seconds faster. “Then go with it,” I replied. Really, how much can you overthink your own success. If it’s faster, and it’s in the pool, you take it and swim away with it. No questions asked.

“But what if I missed a lap, and I was 25 seconds slower,” he asked.

Well, then perhaps it was just like Fritz said – perhaps you, perhaps all of us were just slow. Sometimes slow is just slow. We have a tendency to overthink our efforts and beat ourselves up for 15 or 25 seconds. Some nights you’re on, some nights you’re off. It’s best to just take it for what it is, and move on. It’s not an excuse – it’s just the way it is sometimes.

It’s funny how we swim a mile straight, in the pool, touching the wall 66 times which in itself is an incredible effort, and then we stand there afterwards not satisfied with ourselves. We find all sorts of reasons or excuses why we were slower than expected or why we couldn’t have been that fast. We doubt ourselves and our success, we even start to find reasons why maybe it wasn’t so – maybe we skipped a lap, maybe we didn’t do it right.

I don’t know what mile time we were all looking for that night. But I do know that we all put forth a very hard effort. After awhile, the time doesn’t matter. It’s always subject to error, there’s always some excuse why it might not be right. So maybe that night we were just fast, or slow – either way we worked hard. No excuses. It’s just as simple as that, no overthinking necessary.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Super Cut

Monday I went to get a haircut. My second haircut in two weeks. Actually, my third. All right, I have spent over $120 in haircuts in the past two weeks.

Things had been going quite well with my hair; it was finally growing back past my shoulders, the dry winter air meant many a good hair days.

But then I got restless. Girls know how this goes. You get an inkling of dissatisfaction with your hair, it starts to build. It might start on a Monday and by Saturday you are absolutely bursting with an urge that you must get your haircut NOW. Not tomorrow, not next week but now at this very moment walk into any place that wields scissors, sit down, and let someone cut.

And all of that is just fine, except when you get that urge in Phoenix, Arizona, about 2000 miles away from home. Away from your normal salon. Away from the one hairdresser that understands your thick, wiry hair with unruly wave.

That’s when you find yourself sitting in a rental car while previewing the race course asking your husband about his experience at Supercuts; the only out of town, quick haircut option. He assured me that it would be ok. He pointed to his own hair for proof. He goes there all the time. Don’t worry, Liz, you will get a super cut, he said.

There I was, standing in the doorway of Supercuts. Inside the store - a thousand screaming young children sat waiting for haircuts. Outside the store - my husband. I mean was my husband – I swear I heard a rumbling of sinister laughter as he and the car bolted away.

There was no turning back. I was at the Supercuts, I was going to get a super cut.

I put my name on the waiting list along with every other 10 year old in the Phoenix area. I asked how long such a long waiting list would take to get through. The girl at the counter replied “about 20 minutes”. About 10 buzzcuts and 20 seconds later, my name was called.

“So what are we doing today?” the hairdresser asked.

I was a little leary about this question. You see, everyone else in the place had asked for a buzz cut, a little off the edges, a little something short of putting a bowl over your head and cutting. My request would be a little more complicated than that.

”If you could just cut off ½ of an inch and then frame around my face with long layers that would be great,” I said, make it as clear, simple, concise as possible.

It sounded easy enough, and watching her cut hair she appeared to know what she was doing. And just when she got the ½ inch of hair off, she started with the long layers around my face – and finishing in two giant cuts leaving me with two chunks of longer hair about 2 inches shorter than the rest of my hair.

Like I didn’t see this one coming.

But it didn’t stop there. I asked her to dry my hair, apparently this is not standard business at Supercuts and something they were not prepared for. Little did I realize that drying my hair would turn into a 30 minute ordeal during which mutiny was rising behind me in the form of one thousand more angry 10 year olds and their parents wanting to get their haircuts and get their Saturday afternoon to-do list done and over with.

I paid for my haircut, and the dry, and got the hell out of there for fear of parental mutiny following me angry with their to-do lists and bed-headed children.

Chris picked me up and from his look I could tell something had gone very, very wrong in that hair cuttingchair. Not only that, but I swear I could hear ½ inch of my hair either laughing or dying on the Supercuts floor while shouting you couldn’t wait could you.

I looked in the car mirror. Oh my! Slightly frightened, slightly dissatisfied but still certain that I could fix this on my own, I did what any woman would do – I took matters, or scissors, into my own hands. IMMEDIATELY. No sooner did we return to the hotel room when I dug through my triathlon bag to find the only thing that could save me now – my own scissors.

Of course these were not scissors intended for cutting hair. In fact, they were children’s safety scissors but at this point they may as well have been kitchen shears or hedge clippers. It couldn’t get much worse.

I cut, I trimmed, I did my best to even out the most uneven chop job I had seen since I was about 7 years old. The year was 1982, there I was hiding behind the chair in our living room with my brother after we found the kitchen scissors and decided to give “Chet”, his Cabbage Patch Kid, a haircut. My mother was furious - clearly she did not share the same esthetic vision we had for Chet. After that episode, the scissors were hidden in a high, faraway place.

Perhaps I should have told my husband that story years ago and perhaps he would have then taken it as a hint to hide all scissors, shears, clippers, and knives. This girl has a history with bad cutting behavior. But he didn’t, and so there I was in the hotel room with scissors in hand.

Note to self for next time: I should not have taken matters of the hair into my own hands. Hair cutting is not as easy as it looks. It is not just opening and closing the scissors. Do not take hair cutting matters into your own hands!

So now, my super cut was now super f-ed up. Confirmation came from Chris. He was building up our bikes while watching snippets of Dumb and Dumber. And when the Mutt Cutts truck appeared on the screen, wouldn’t you know he turned to me with an I-told-you-so smirk directed straight towards what could only be described as my own mutt cut.
After a week of living with my super mutt cut, I decided something had to be done. I made an appointment with my hairdresser, Chrissy.

“What are we doing today,” Chrissy asked as I sat in her chair on Monday morning.

“I took the scissors into my own hand, and now I need it fixed,” I admitted with shame. Actually, I only half-admitted. There was no way I was muttering the word Supercuts in this salon. Not in the kind of salon where you might drop nearly $100 on a haircut, the kind of salon where the stylists only wear black and white, the kind of salon where someone different washes and cuts your hair, the kind of salon where the word supercut could get me blacklisted for life.

“I’ve done the same thing to myself,” she admitted as she quickly set about to fix what I had so badly tried to fix a week ago. And as always, it took her a good 30 minutes to cut my hair. There was nothing fast or super about it – it was just good haircutting at its best. And when she was done, all traces of mutt cut or super cut were completely gone.


“Now, it’s going to take another haircut in another few weeks to get this right,” she said, pointing out some remaining choppy, uneven pieces. I accepted that, and conceded in my mind to the fact that one supercheap supercut would eventually cost me over $200 in haircuts.

I walked out of that salon on Monday a little more patient, a little more learned than before. You see, the next time I get a haircut urge, I’m going to think back to this and then sit on that urge for a few days. And if that doesn’t work, I’m going to have my husband hide all of the scissors in the house and then sit on my hands. Because there is nothing worse than a woman cutting her own hair. Unless, of course, you go get yourself a super cut.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Secret Training

The plans for the secret training trip to San Diego later this month are falling together nicely. Insert maniacal laugh as I will once again master the escape from the Midwestern winter. Mind you March 22nd – the date we leave - is technically considered spring but I will only believe it when I see it. And if I know the Midwest, I won’t really see spring until mid-May and even then it will last about 2 weeks before it explodes in 90 degree heat with 95 percent humidity for the next 3 months.

Tim will also be escaping his frigid suit monkey life in Minnesota for some California sun. For the purposes of this trip, we will call him The Timmers. Rumor has it he has been spending most of his winter sniffing his bicycle seat rather than sitting on it and riding. Because of this, I am keeping an eye on Tim for the next few weeks. Mostly, I want to be sure he has some level of cycling fitness right now. The Trousermouse train is rolling out along the Pacific coast on March 22nd and Tim better be in good enough shape to put the power down on hills, flats, and epic climbs with the aerobic capacity to also shout ON YER LEFT.

If this is not the case, if he is – as I suspect – spending most of his time building a PBR tin can pyramid in his kitchen every night after work - we will drop him, we will leave him in the hills to be picked up to work on an artichoke farm for $2 an hour.

To keep an eye on The Timmers, I headed straight to the Team TM blog. Tim posts every now and then. I imagine this is hard because he lives up in Minnesota and winter is their busiest season. His days are probably very busy, sitting in an ice shanty on some frozen lake drinking PBR day after day – not because he likes ice fishing but because he really likes beer. And that’s what Minnesotans do in the winter. They sit in their ice shanties and drink beer. Sometimes they fish.

Tim writes……

“Yesterday was approximately 20 degrees and snowing. We went for a ride. Although nothing was said at first, Marsh had a couple of beers in his jersey and I had a flask of the good ole Kentucky sour mash in mine. After “break time” we rode over to the Minnesota Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nakomis. Mind you, hockey does not interest me. The beer garden in the circus sized warming tent did. We managed to down a couple more beers, met a crazy bike messenger chic, and then headed home. Trousermouse, fully loaded.”

My suspicions confirmed. Tim is not training with San Diego in mind – he is training only for Ragbrai – which requires a combination of cycling, beer, and circus-sized tents. Though I respect efforts to train both legs and liver at such an early date, I am wondering about his real fitness – the fitness that will count in San Diego, the base building, the long rides, the intervals overgeared at 60 rpm’s? I read on….

“I look like a hobo. I was running a late for work today and I forgot to shave. I was up until the wee hours of the night threading cable through the tri bike. Sometimes this can happen when you live the double life, suit-monkey by day and superhero by night.”

Proof that Tim has been building a bike rather than riding a bike. But this is not a good enough excuse. He has several bikes and the point is that he needs to start riding one. Now. San Diego does not recognize or accept the currency known as “superhero cape”. He writes again…….

“The weather in Minnesota sucks. Marsh did ride the bike in cold the other day. The dew point was negative 19. The gears froze up within the first 2 miles. I have been trying to find motivation to start training again. It has been several weeks since any real workouts have been done. Some of the team is flying out to San Diego in March. The hills should be a good workout and certainly a nice break from the weather here. I can’t wait to be the whitest person in California.”

He forgot to mention that not only will he be the whitest person in California – but the slowest. This calls for something drastic. Maybe if I talk enough trash, Tim will find the motivation to start training again. Here’s my attempt to taunt Tim with things that could probably pedal faster than him right now....

Max on his big wheel with Sammy and Hobbes in tow
Somebody pedaling with their schlong
Team Tiny with his 16 inch member
Bert hauling Meg Meg, a pillow, some butter, and two Amish kids

That should leave Tim either thoroughly insulted or highly motivated. Here is one last attempt - Timmers, you hairy hobo, get yourself riding again. It is 16 days until we touchdown in sunny San Diego, 16 days until we roll out and ride.

Earlier this weekend, we also received word that the Red Bear is coming out of hibernation. That’s right, the Red Bear is crawling out of his Colorado cave, pulling out his anal plug a little early this year to head to the hills of sunny San Diego to train with us. A word of warning – do not feed the Red Bear – DO NOT FEED THE RED BEAR! for he is small and mighty, he needs no more power in those legs. Red Bear is already powerful enough to drop us all at the bottom of a hill do not feed him to make him stronger!

We will also be coach-napping Jennifer. She and I will be sharing a room. She has already assured me that she does not talk in her sleep. Like the Midwestern spring, I will believe that when I see it (or don’t hear it). Her San Diego code name will be “the sleeper” because we don’t know what to expect from her. And people have been asking – who is this Jennifer? And can she ride? That is yet to be determined. She could be the sleeper. She could drop the Red Bear in the middle of the hill. We just don’t know. But if she talks in her sleep then she will be deemed “the talk in her sleeper”.

And I’ll be there too. The last time we were in San Diego, Chris deemed me The Mosquito – small, and always there no matter how hard you try to swat me away. We did some riding around Ranchos Penasquitos – a name which Chris found very intriguing. So the other day he came home and said:

“Did you know that Penasquito means little hill?” He went on, “did you also know that Mosquito means little Liz?”

Very funny.

Which brings me to Chris. He does not have a code name. Sometimes I call him Pooperstrudel but that’s a different story.

16 days and counting...........

Friday, March 02, 2007

Seriously, No Donuts

Last night, I was laying on the couch thinking about tomorrow’s coffee. Shamelessly addicted and hopelessy hooked coffee drinkers do things like this. They take daily coffee selection seriously and spend serious amounts of time planning for the next day. It’s never a question of “if I drink coffee”, oh no, that’s the given, it’s a question of where it will be made, what will be made, and from which mug will I drink. Should I make it at home? If so, which mug will I drink it from? The rooster mug? The stainless steel? Will I buy it at the store? Which store? Caribou for dark roast? Joyful’s for flavored? Or, Dunkin Donuts coconut with cream?

It went on like this for at least an hour. I was half watching some television show and half trying to make this critical coffee decision. It’s a complex decision-making process which will determine the direction, mood, and flavor for your entire day. Not too be side-stepped, not to be rushed. Take your time, carefully consider the options, choose wisely for fear that the wrong choice will prove to be a very costly mistake.

Rightfully so, I take my coffee selection seriously. That is why laying on the couch on Thursday night after carefully calculated, caffeinated thought processes, I had made what felt like the best decision for starting a Friday off the right way, the caffeinated way, the coconut with cream Dunkin’ Donuts coffee way.

Pleased with my decision, I slept soundly last night and awoke with much fervor about making the trip up to Dunkin Donuts to pick up my cup of nutty joy. I pulled into the parking lot this morning, walked up to the door, and was not expecting what came next.

The door was locked.

What’s this? Dunkin Donuts closed? Impossible! A store that was open on Christmas Day – CHRISTMAS DAY – does not close some random Friday in March. Not without warning. I looked around – there is no sign, no we will be closed. This is impossible. I tried again. Nothing, the door doesn’t give.

I looked inside the windows; the store is dark. Huh? Looking closer, I noticed all the donut racks are empty. The shelves once holding the bags of coffee beans – clean and gone. The cooler, devoid of cooled beverages. And, most importantly, a counter completely missing my two favorite donut holes - Rama and Gita.

Rama? Gita? Was it something I said?

I was confused. How could this happen? How could a major national franchise closedown without warning? More importantly, how could two women always there, always time to make the donuts, always behind the counter pushing donuts, how could they disappear without a trace?

I was nearly beside myself with shock, but also without coffee – the morning clock was ticking away and I was reaching that critical portal in time when I needed caffeine to enter the bloodstream NOW for fear or pounding headache, day-long moodiness, or other decaffeinated unpleasantries.

But before I rushed off to find my coffee fix, I noticed something. Something caught my eye. A sign on the side of the building, in the upper right hand corner of the window.

Store For Lease

You mean, they’re gone? For good? Whoa. The equilibrium of my entire universe was just thrown off. Wait a minute, let me regather myself. Ok, not there yet, trying to see the other options, trying to get through this. All right, give me a moment, and now I’m better. There is still hope. I consider the other options. Drive another 10 minutes to nearest area with another Dunkin’ Donuts, a Caribou, and a Starbuck’s, or go to work without it.

But this is Friday. It’s special coffee day. It’s suck it up and pay over $2 for something I could have easily made at home day. It’s a celebration of surviving nearly 5 days at work. IT IS MY GODDAMN SPECIAL COFFEE DAY. Going to work without coffee was not an option. Didn’t they know that?

Calm down, Liz, calm down. Consider the other options. I decide to drive 10 minutes west. Pulling into the parking lot, I realize I have a decision to make and make it quick. Three options; Caribou, Starbuck’s, DD. I weigh my options, I imagine the taste of each choice, I think about all of the possibilities. This is why I save my coffee deciding for Thursday nights. This could take minutes, an hour, much longer than I have and I have to make a decision right now and so I did what any desperate coffee drinker would do – I decided to stick with my gut and go with what I wanted all along…..

I decide on DD. But it doesn’t feel right. I walk into the alien store and it feels different, I feel out of place. Who are these faces behind the counter? What do they know about donuts and coffee? I am fearful – have I made the right choice? Will they get my coffee right?

“Next!” the unidentified woman behind the counter says.

I order my coffee, she repeats it, and delivers. I say thank you and try to catch the name on her name tag to put a name with the new face and hopefully establish a rapport but I can’t read it. Belindergata? Could that be right? I hope what is in this cup tastes better than the sound of that name.

I walk out of the store, coffee in hand but a little hazy in my head. The cure – a few sips of coffee. And my, I am surprised. It’s actually quite good. Belindergata got it right. Maybe there is hope – maybe life will be ok with this new store, this new coffee destination. Maybe in a few weeks Berlindergata and I will be new friends, sharing smiles and good wishes for a Friday morning.

But still I’m wondering what happened to the other store. I’m not suggesting conspiracy but it is a little strange. Where are all of the donuts? Did Rama and Gita take them with them wherever they may be? And who has the coffee? Did they walk out pleasantly or did they finally get fed up with all or the suburbanites and their dozen donut requests or mochachinolattes? Did they go out in a hail of donuts, frustrated by making donuts day after day, walking out of the store flinging donuts on to on to Route 56 all angry and displaced?

Whatever the case, I will get to the bottom of this. I will find out what happened. Because somewhere right now there is probably a lot of coffee beans going unused. And that, my friends, would be a tragedy. Somebody needs to save the beans. Screw the donuts, save the beans. I never wanted a donut anyways.