Friday, August 31, 2007

Boulder Update

I get it now.

What all the fuss is about.

I want to move to Boulder. I want to pack up my Illinois life, throw my bike in the back seat of the car, maybe bring a few pairs of shorts, move to the mountains to live with a scruffy mountain man. Cowboy hat not optional.

But wait. I’m married. And sadly Chris does not look so good in a cowboy hat.

But a helmet? That’s just his style.

And right now we are in the perfect place for helmets and bikes. We are in Boulder. It is beautiful, it is dry, it is surrounded by mountains standing tall under a big blue sky.

And up this way, we found the Red Bear. That’s right - we’ve bear-napped Red Bear from his Fort Collins cave. He is staying with us and he is trying hard to Ragbrai our hotel room. But I won’t let him. We do not turn the hotel room into a Ragbrai van. I repeat - WE DO NOT.

This morning, we met up with Seton and Sarah for a swim. 4 x 300, 4 x 200…it was about the third 200 when either the bear jumped on my back. The Red Bear warned me that the altitude would do this – you’ll find yourself in the hurt locker but unlike the flatlands it will take longer to get back out. You’ll redline and stay there stewing in a big pot of your own lactic acid.

So by the last set of 4 x 100 when Chris said, red-faced, this really hurts, I agreed and felt like I was holding my breath for the entire 50 sprint in the middle of each 100. The burn would build and build until finally I reached the wall.

The last 350 we took turns thinking up 25’s – from Seton’s human doggie paddle, Sarah’s “I’ll pass”, my polo swim, and then Chris – underwater no breath. I reached the wall with one breath and nearly saw the wizard. And let me tell you he looks different at this elevation.

Later in the afternoon, Red Bear took us to Carter Lake. The ride was mostly flat with some small hills and then a climb to the lake. I enjoyed every opportunity to cruise by Chris on all of the hills while singing my new “Compact Crank” song. At one point, RB was leading and I was right behind. We climbed a small hill and looked behind to see we had dropped Chris. RB and I rejoiced and shouted that we had been waiting YEARS to say “we dropped Chris” (but this is the first, last, and only time we will get to say that).

The climb to the lake was short but steep and even the compact crank didn’t help. After 1 minute I was truly in the hurt locker, maybe even the hurt shop, and when we got to the top Adam and I sorted out the difference between the hurt shop, the hurt locker, the kennel of death, and one he just invented – the tunnel of fire.

Tomorrow we are doing Peak To Peak. Someone tried to point out which peaks we were riding to but it doesn't matter. They're all really high and all look really far away. And getting there will undoubtedly require a trip to the hurt shop. I better bring cash. Because this trip to the hurt shop - after "dropping" Chris today - is going to cost me (and the Red Bear).

A Slice Of Life

Standing in the airport, Thursday afternoon, we were waiting to pass through security, long lines of people waiting to board their planes. And we did what anyone waiting would do – we people watched.

People watching in the airport is top notch – the best people watching has to offer with the widest diversity of people all in one location passing through. And I am a notorious people watcher. I imagine one day when I am old, someone could just drop me off at the mall all day, park me at a bench, and I would keep myself well-entertained. Just leave me there for about 12 hours, bring me coffee from time to time and let me watch the show.

So there I was at the airport, a place where people watching can send a people watcher in sensory overload, system shutdown, so much to look at, so many sights to see. I can’t turn my head fast enough, so my husband does it for me instead.

“Never trust a man carrying a colorful bag,” Chris said, nudging me towards a man a few lines over carrying what could only be described as a colorful mess of a bag. Clearly, he was carrying it for his wife. And what’s worse is what kind of wife would make her husband carry that kind of bag? The kind that would belted denim wear shorts too short, hair styled with a million different layers sprayed in place wearing white Keds that I swear I hadn’t seen on sale since 1985. Big gold hoop earrings, blue eyeliner. Yikes.

I’m sorry if I’ve just described you. But I have a feeling I didn’t. And I have a feeling I didn’t even describe anyone you’ve hung out with in the past 20 years. But that’s my point here – you see, I/we don’t see people like that often.

And that’s why I have to look. Because it makes my mind wonder in its love-to-weave-an-imaginary-story-in-my-head-kind-of-way; makes me wonder where do these people come from? How did they get here? And where will they go?

But looking around I realized that it’s not people like that who are out of place. No, it’s me. Actually, it’s us. Because if you’re reading this you’re probably a person similar to me.

Which makes me wonder where the heck are we hiding ourselves to the point that we don’t even recognize the people that really are common place? That we don’t even recognize that we are really the type of people that are out of place.

So where have we been hiding? I suppose in masters swim practices, and on our bikes riding westward towards fields of corn, or running on trails. And it’s not until we board a plane to go hide ourselves a thousand miles further in the mountains of Colorado that we find people like this.

People like this. It’s not an insult, or an “I’m better than you” statement. It’s just an observation that people like that are all over the place and people like us aren’t. You know what I mean. Take a look at yourself, take a look at your friends. Chances are you are all a bunch of Keen-wearing, Athleta online shopping, Timbuktu bag carrying sporty fitness freaks that argue things like tubular vs. clincher, where have all the 650’s gone, what do you think of those new Newton shoes, and can you believe Tollakson biked a 2:02?


So it’s understandable that when you put yourself into an airport with a large sample of people that are representative of the more American whole – you get a real tasty slice of American life. You see things – a lot of scary things that you haven’t seen since, oh, circa 1980, things that you thought were long gone, things you only read about in magazines, things that make you look twice.

But for everything you notice, you realize that you have violated just as bad. In fact, for every violation you see, you can think of a violation that you just committed in your own terms. Hear me out:

A man carrying a purse. I don’t care if it’s cool in Europe, a man carrying a purse is not a cool thing. But a man carrying a Timbuktu bag – very cool. Especially if he’s riding single speed.

A man wearing a lilac purple business shirt with a dark purple tie. Ok, you will never get the deal wearing that. But a man with muscular legs wearing a multi-colored jersey and tight lycra shorts? Now we got a deal.

Another woman with bangs hairsprayed into place. Please set your hair free. Or better yet, trap it under a helmet for over 8 hours a week bound up by rubberbands.

A woman with hair so bleached blond that it looked white. Better yet, how about cramming your hair dry under a rubber swim cap while submerging your head in chlorinated water for a few nights a week and see what color your hair turns out?

A lot of women carrying those giant bags with straps held by hoops big enough to jump through. What is she carrying in that bag? A small child? Kind of a like a woman carrying a Zipp transition bag stuffed with two pairs of shoes, a wetsuit, towel, helmet, and enough food to feed 10 children.

Flip flops. Lots and lots of cheap plastic flip flops. Do the words plantar fasciitis mean anything to these people? And if they did would they instead be wearing a pair of sandals that are so darn functional that your fashionista friends are dreading that yet again you will show up for dinner wearing a skirt and Keens?

And so, fair is fair. For as much people watching that I do in the airport and in life, I am sure it is coming right back at me. I am sure someone is saying, who’s the mini chick with thick thighs, a sporty orange shirt, ugly sandals, and veins popping out of her arms. And if I’ve just described you or your girlfriend, fear not, you are not alone. Let’s share a slice of life – or lifestyle – and keep each other company while we people watch the day away.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Boulder Bound

It’s been a busy week around here. First of all, I started a new job – and it's great! Second, I’m training for Ironman. Third, we’re getting ready for a trip.

A trip, you say? That’s right, this afternoon we’re heading to Boulder, Colorado to find out what all the fuss is about. Seems like every magazine out there says Boulder this and Boulder that. And I’ll tell you something – they better open a lane up for me at the pool because when I show them my 20 second 25’s….you know they’ll be watching the best thing that hit Boulder since…...they opened up a kiddie pool?

Anyways, I’m not yet packed for the trip but that’s what this morning is for. Pack, run, and drink lots of coffee. So far, I’ve accomplished coffee on my list.

My bike has already been shipped. And will soon safely be in the care of the Keil’s. I brought my road bike with a compact crank. I have no idea what the riding is like out there but I assume what starts at 5000 feet either goes up or down. And climbing and descending are not really things you want to do all weekend on a tri bike. Plus I’m sort of raging against my machine right now. After last week’s mega mileage I got on my bike last night and realized I was tired, my seat hurts, and my aero bars are not on straight. I think the bike itself is starting to protest against me getting on it as much as I protest riding it right now.

Chris is already packed. He packed light this time. Traveling with Chris is often like traveling with a woman. Man’s got a bag for everything. (So far) in the foyer I see one bag. And a wheel box.

I will start packing right after I have another…cup….of….COFFEE!

We’re going to Boulder to meet up with Jenni and Jeff Keil. Jeff is training for Kona. Jenni for long course duathlon worlds. She tried to talk me into a 1 mile race, I told her I would cheer, she then tried to talk me into a 5K race, I told my legs were going nowhere near 5K speed these days.

We’re also meeting up with Seton and Sarah from Trisports. Seton owns the place so I best wear my logo gear all weekend and behave myself. Sarah coordinates sponsorships. Chris is thrilled to be meeting her. He is obsessed with her. He sees her as some sort of Santa Claus that sends us packages of bike parts and aero bars every other week (seriously, every time I check the mail we have a new set of aerobars on our porch).

On tap for this weekend is 12 hours of riding, 2.5 hours of running, and some swimming. So I guess you could say it’s a bike focus weekend. Running is one of those necessary evils in Ironman training. You want to do more, you know you should do more but the minute you start doing more your body breaks down. So around here, less is more.

I suppose I should start packing. Or just show up in Boulder with a hobo stick and a wheel box. Because really all I’m going to need this weekend are some wheels to put on my bike, the clothes on my back for a ride, and probably some cycling shoes. But if worse comes to worse, flip flops would do.

I’ll send a few updates along the way. And, if you live in Colorado and see someone on a smurfy blue bike going backwards from a long group of very fast riders – that’s me. Please pick me up and push me back to the group.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You Know You're Training For IM If...

Here's a few more "You know you're training for Ironman if..."

Wearing your mega Fuel Belt, you run by a family and overhear their child saying "Mommy, why does that lady have so many water bottles?"

Your husband walks up to you in mid-August and says "I've finally reached the point where I'm pooping 3 times a day." You pat him on the back and say "welcome to IM."

You have perfected the ability to bite off exactly one half of a bar while riding.

You find yourself walking around your kitchen naked wearing nothing but a heart rate monitor strap in between workouts.

3000 yards into the workout, you are finally warmed up.

You've gotten so tired that getting dressed has become one of the most physically challenging tasks you do each day. You find yourself laying on the floor, one leg in, one leg out thinking to yourself “I just got my ass handed to me by a pair of running shorts.”

You see more of your husband’s rear wheel than you do his face.

You keep track of how much of a workout is complete in terms of water bottles consumed rather than time.

In the past week, you may have spent more time in cycling shoes than your regular shoes. Actually, you might just own more cycling shoes than regular shoes at this point.

Someone suggests you do 7 loops of a course for a workout and you think to yourself "that sounds all right."

You go to a restaurant and after finishing your food the waiter says “wow, you were really hungry weren’t you” which you realize is polite code for “that chick is a real chowhound”.

When it starts raining during a ride you think to yourself, well, at least I won’t have to stop to pee now.

Your husband speaks about post-Ironman life in terms of how many beers he will drink.

You find yourself saying things like “aside from the fact that my foot feels like it’s falling off, I feel pretty good.”

Rather than sharing good movies or recipes with your friends, you share your Ironman packing list.

“Let’s have oatmeal for breakfast” is becoming profanity in your house.

Your arms are so tight from swimming that you need to give your elbow an assist when applying sunscreen to your own back. In doing so, you have elbowed yourself in the face more than once.

Most people would get put on meds for the amount of salt you consume.

You see another guy riding the other direction in the pouring rain and you think "he's one of us."

Your doctor says "you need surgery" and you say "it can wait until after Ironman.

You have become so desperate for cold water on a long ride that you have found yourself outside of a church because it should be the one good place in this world that has a hose you can use no questions asked. You swear to god when you discover that the hose doesn't work.

You have heard yourself saying this statement: "Now that my ____ hurts, at least my ____ doesn't hurt anymore."

You have become so desperate for more calories that you have found yourself drinking straight out of the chocolate syrup bottle at night.

You have argued with your friends about the difference between The Hurt Shop and The Kennel of Death and how to get there.

You realize you were in The Kennel of Death when you learned at 107 miles of the ride you have 35 more to go.

You used to find just empty gel packets in your washing machine. Now you find chunks of half-eaten bars.

For some reason, your husband's small toe has exploded in a black and blue bruise. Two x-rays later, the doctor is unsure what to chalk it up to. You know better. You know it's the Ironman. It has consumed the little toe.

8 Random Things About Me

Reading Andra’s post the other day, I realized I got tagged. So here goes – only because I think Andra is funny and because she lives in Texas will I share 8 random things about me….

#1: I owned Wonder Woman Underoo’s as a child. I wore them proud.

#2: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Flatbush area. Thing I miss the most about that place – Italian cookies wrapped in white paper boxes tied up with red and white string. Thing I miss the least – all the sirens at night.

#3: I DO NOT LIKE CLOWNS. As a child, I had a yellow clown that someone made for me sitting on a rocking chair in my bedroom. Since my bedroom was on the third floor in our house, a floor I had all to myself (attic floor with creepy attic closet that I SWEAR opened on its own in the middle of the night, explains a lot about me, eh?), I would make my mom put the clown on the stairs at night because I would not sleep with the clown in my room.

#4: I have one brother who lives in Seattle. He is in the band Curtains For You – they play often in the Seattle area and have a CD out – it’s actually listed on ITunes. So consider this a shameless plug for Pete’s band. By the way, he will be a daddy to a baby girl in October. Oddly enough, Pete can’t read music but I can. But he’s the successful musician so go figure.

#5: I was a vegetarian for 12 years. When I was 27, I unleashed the hungry carnivore that was hiding inside of me for all of those years. Actually, Chris told me at that point I could start eating meat or stop dating him.

#6: I have played the piano since I was 5 years old. I actually entered college as a piano performance major. There is a piano at our house. I play it often. One of my favorite things to do is to put my ITunes library on through my computer and play along.

#7: My middle name is Louise because my mom’s middle name is Louise and her mother’s name was Louise whose mother’s name was Louise. My father’s mother’s name was also Louise. So, yes, my initials really were ELF (but now they are ELW – not nearly as cool that’s why I stick with the ELF).

#8: My heritage is so Italian that the 25 percent of me that is Russian is even too scared to come out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pack It Up

A few weeks ago, Bree asked me to share my Ironman packing list.

Packing for Ironman is like packing for a month long trip. There are so many things you could, would, might need that you may as well just dump everything you own in a bag and go. The only good part about packing for the Ironman in Hawaii is that chances are you won’t need your arm warmers, leg warmers, tights, balaclava, or fleece mittens. But don’t you even think for one moment that I didn’t throw such items into my suitcase last year just in case.

So here it is, my Ironman packing list. Take from it what you need!


Pre-race clothes

They will have a bag for you to check your gear into before the race.

Racing suit(s)

*Race suit options, race belt, watch, heart rate monitor & strap, pins.

Pack several options. For one thing, you never know what the weather will be. For another, you met get out there and change your mind. Last year I traveled to Hawaii with three race suits. Each day before the race, I practiced in a different suit to see which felt the best in the ocean. None of them did so I spent the next 3 days running around our hotel room to imagine what would feel the best over 140.6 miles. Finally, I settled on the two piece suit.

Most importantly, decide if you are going to race in the same suit you swim in or change for the bike. Changing is not a problem and it won’t take long. Don’t worry yourself with nightmares about getting tangled in your own web of a wet bra top with no way out forced to run the rest of Ironman with your boobs hanging out and your arms knotted about your head. As soon as you walk into the changing tent there will be 20 of your new best friends waiting to rip your clothes off of you and help you redress.

Along with racing suit, you’ll need your race number and belt. Put it on in the beginning and keep it there. Pin it to a belt, wrap the number around the belt, and wear it for the swim. No, you will not chafe. If it is not a wetsuit swim, tuck the race belt into your shorts/bottoms. Unroll it slightly for the bike (don’t let it flap) and fully for the run. You have to remember a lot of things during Ironman. The less you have to remember to put on, take off, bring along – the better off you’ll be so it’s nice to know your number is on.

Some people need/want to race with a heart rate monitor. I did this once during a half IM and almost tossed the thing when I couldn’t get it to stop beeping. A watch will help you stay on track for your nutrition/hydration schedule. Other than that, don’t get too caught up in time. The time will pass, it always does. Quickly or slowly depends on how successfully you implement and stick to your race plan.

Swim items

*Two pairs of goggles, Body Glide.

If possible, swim as many days as possible before the race. It will put your mind at rest and it will feel good. Once you are done with your swim, get the hell out of that water. Don’t sit there and commiserate about the course/distance with others. By all means resist the urge to people watch. Everyone will look fitter and faster than you. They probably are.

If you think you'll chafe, wipe yourself down with Body Glide.

Always bring two pairs of goggles. You can always give the extra pair to a spectator before the race but it’s nice to know that if your other pairs breaks you are prepared. My sports doctor told me a story about pro at Kona. One year she got swatted at during the swim and her goggles broke. To keep her mind at ease, the next year she carried an extra pair of goggles through the swim. Not sure what this does for drag but if it works for peace of mind it might be worth it.

Bike items

*Helmet, cycling shoes, two pairs of socks, baby powder, Bento Box, bike nutrition/hydration, water bottles, sunglasses, little bag or cloth to wipe your sunglasses, Aquaphor or Body Glide, chammy butter, 2 spare tires, 2 inner tubes, levers, way to inflate your tubes, salt tabs/electrolyte tubes, black electrical tape, gloves.

If you wear socks when you race, bring two pairs for the bike. Throw baby powder in your shoes and socks before you put them on to keep them from sliding. Put an extra pair of socks in your special needs bag just in case. You dump a lot of crap on your head in Ironman as you ride – and there is no guarantee that maybe once in a moment of Ironman-induced dumb-ass-attack you dump Gatorade on your head instead of water. Wet, sticky feet might not be fun for 56 miles.

After you accidentally dump Gatorade on your head, it will also help to have something to wipe your sunglasses off with – resist the urge to use your race suit or jersey. At the halfway point, you can ask a kind volunteer to use their shirt or bring a little cloth bag in your special needs bag.

If you’re worried about chafing on your seat, use chammy butter or Body Glide. You can also cover the sides of your seat up with Aquaphor. Keeps the seat slippery and keeps the chafe away. Put a small tube of it in your special needs bag in case you are having chafe issues.

Use your Bento Box to its fullest capacity. Plan out how you will pack every inch of that box with something you might need. If possible, carry all of your nutrition on your bike. There’s always the chance that you may not get your special needs bag. The less you rely on others, the more success is within yourself and your own reach. You can cram a lot of bars and gels into one Bento Box, in pockets, taping them to your top tube. Unless you plan on eating a veggie sub at the halfway point, most of what you eat should be easy to carry on your bike.

Resist the urge to put salt tabs in a baggie. Here’s why – baggies take flight faster than a 747. You will lose this baggie along the way. As an alternative, you can tape salt tabs to your aero bars with black electrical tape (but could get wet), or get a little zippered pouch from Fuel Belt. This pouch fits nicely into a large Bento Box and you can secure it in place with a large safety pin. It has a zipper that can be zipped up easily to keep everything dry. Or, you can keep it slightly unzipped to pull out tabs or pills easily as you ride.

How to carry spare tires, inner tubes, tools – the easiest way obviously is a little bag under your seat. Or, I saw this at a race and thought it was a good idea: store them in an empty water bottle on your rear bottle cage. Just be sure you don’t toss that bottle at the bottle drop.

By all means practice changing a flat before the race. You have trained for months, you have paid all the money, traveled all the way – don’t let your race end with a flat tire. Practice both front and rear tire. Again. Practice AGAIN.

Trust me you will want cycling gloves. You will spend 112 miles wiping your nose, blowing your nose, dribbling sports drink all over yourself, accidentally exploding gels on to your hands, touching sticky bars. Your hands will be a gooey mess. You will try to wipe off your messy hands on to a wet and sweaty race suit. And if you’ve tried this you know it doesn’t work. The gloves are great. They are like a towel wrapped around your hand plus keep your hands firmly on the bars (which will get slippery as you go).

Even if it’s hot, if you have an aero helmet, wear it. You will not get hot. Your head will not explode. You will save time. It will be worth it.

Run items

*Shoes, lace lock system, two pairs of socks, sunglasses, Aquaphor, Body Glide, salt tabs, baby powder, button baggie, visor/hat, pins, run nutrition.

Last year I wore midweight racing flats. But any light shoe will do. Be sure to put baby powder into your shoes and socks. Also, smear Aquaphor all over the heel, tongue, and insides of the shoe. Your foot will slide nicely. Obviously don’t try this on race day. Practice a few times.

Lace locks/elastic laces are a must. Don’t fiddle with laces!

Salt tabs/electrolyte pills are best stored in button baggies or small snack baggies for the run (those little baggies that extra buttons come in on new clothes). Baggies can be pinned to your race belt (if you use a different one separately for the run) or your visor/hat. Aside from the flop, flop of the bag, you can be sure that you don’t forget them because they are securely on your hat/visor. You can always unpin them as you are running and then carry them or stuff them in your top.

If you carry your own gels, a handy trick I use it to take 3 – 4 gels and bound them together with a hair rubberband. This makes carrying them much easier. Some people pin them on to their race belt – but I found that they flop around too much like this. I like carrying things when I run so the bunch in my hand works well.

With that said, if possible don’t carry your own gels because of the extra weight and hassle. If you’ve trained with what’s on the course, then use what’s on the course. I had no problem getting gels on the course. Of course, they were all of my least favorite flavors but at least I didn’t have to carry them. Same goes for using a Fuel Belt. If at all possible, don’t carry extra weight. If you can survive on the water or Gatorade on the course, then use that.

You might want to consider bringing a different pair of sunglasses for the run (if you have them). Again, you will muck up your glasses with sweat, gel, water, Gatorade, etc. It’s nice to have clear vision on the run – or, at least start with it.

Also, throw extra socks in your special needs bag, baby powder, Aquaphor or Body Glide for chafing, extra salt tabs (in case you drop them). I once read that Heather Gollnick puts an extra pair of shoes in her special needs bag. Not a bad idea considering you’ll be dumping water all over your head and your shoes will get wet.


Sunscreen. Dear god I have never seen so much sunscreen in my life. Maybe it’s just because I did the IM in Hawaii but you could have walked out of the changing tents looking like the marshmallow puff man. They have giant vats of that stuff that you will get sprayed down with if you so desire.

Towels. The first thing they handed me in the changing tent was a cup of water and a towel. No need to cram your bag with one if it will already be there.


You will actually need half of what you pack and use even less. I was surprised at how little I used from my special needs bag. I didn’t even open my run special needs bag. Most of what you need is on the course. If you’re not sure if it will be there, then ask.

A successful IM athlete once said expect anything, prepare for everything. True, but don’t feel like you need to bring the whole kit and caboodle to be prepared. Keep it simple so you can stay on task. Think through what you’ll need and when you’ll need it. Don’t bog down your bags with a bunch of stuff you might need that end up getting mixed up with the things you absolutely must have.

Let the packing begin!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Number 142

Number of miles ridden while on course: 124

Number of mile ridden while off course: 18

Total miles ridden: 142

First time Liz almost cried: Mile 1 upon realizing battery in Power Tap hub had died.

Second time Liz almost cried: Mile 107 upon hearing that we still had 35 miles to go.

First time Chris asked if Liz cried yet: Mile 130

Something you don’t want to hear when you have just heard at mile 107 that you still have 35 miles to go: “I guess they lose their sense of humor at this point” from the guy filling the Gatorade jugs.

Pieces of pack meat we picked up: 3

Most animal-like effort at pulling the line: Chris holding us at 25 – 26 mph

Optimal number of men to draft off of at one time: 4

Combined body weight of those men: About 1000 lbs

Number of miles of loose gravel: 5

Best pick up line from one man to another: “Who is that guy in the blue jersey pulling us, he’s a real animal” to which Liz says “He’s my husband.”

Best comeback: From Dan – “you guys are fast, I’m just fat.”

"I know you are but what am I": Man pulls up to Liz and says "Cervelo....fancy bike", Liz looks at him and says "Colnago...fancy bike with fancy Zipp wheels."

Someone call CSI: Going up big hill, dead cat lays in middle of road with dead squirrel about 10 feet away

Most expensive get-up: Man riding Cheetah with disc wheel wearing aero helmet.

Most embarrassing greeting: Roger saying “hello there fellas” as Chris rode by with me in tow

Best analogy from random rider when they learn we are doing Kona: “That’s like the Superbowl, isn’t it?”

Number of bottles of sports drink consumed: 6

Number of bottles of water consumed: 2

Best pick up line from one man to multiple women: “You ladies going to church? Coming from church? You ladies religious at all?” says Dan while asking a Buick full of elderly ladies for directions to Oglesby.

Number of directions from which we were surrounded by corn at any given time: 3 of 4

Most fitting movie reference: Children of the Corn

Number of salt tabs taken by Liz during ride: Over a dozen

Point in ride in which Liz had her morning poop: Mile 84

Better than gold: Cheddar Cheese Goldfish crackers at 4:00, 5:15, and 6:20 into ride

Mile at which Liz’s left knee left her body: 113

So that's what they mean by 'referred pain': Liz feels pain in her knee and Chris feels a pain in his ass for the next 10 days

You think this is bad?: It could be worse, you could be doing Ironman Kentucky right now.

Not to be topped by: It could be worse, you could be doing the Dairyland Dare course again.

Most tempting snack at rest stops Liz did not give in to: Peanut M&M’s

Best excuse for deviating from Ironman nutrition plan: Chris says “I just want a treat right now” before giving in to the pecan roll at mile 35.

We’ll let it slide once, but twice?: Chris again giving into the pecan roll at mile 84.

Something Chris will probably ask for at the bike turnaround in Kona: A pecan roll and a cold beer.

When accounting consultants make math mistakes: Liz throwing goldfish crackers at Chris at mile 107 when he admits his “bad math” leaves us with 35 miles left to go.

Another name for mud at mile 35 rest stop: Speedplay poison.

Number of lunchmeat sandwiches Dan consumed at last rest stop: 2

Likelihood that he yakked them up about 5 miles later: 99 percent

Longest ride of my life prior to Sunday: 126

Number of times I hope to ride 142 miles ever again: Zero

Friday, August 24, 2007

On The Radio

A friend walked with me while I was carrying some items to my car the other day. We opened the rear door of my car and dumped my items inside. She reached inside and pulled out a pamphlet.

“What do you have this for?” she asked while waving a Motorola Two Way Talkabout pamphlet at me.

“We used to use those for mountain biking," I said. She looked at me puzzled.

Let me explain...

Flashback about 6 years ago when I was still trying to convince Chris I was the girl of his dreams (note: still trying). And of course the girl of his dreams would be fearless about riding a mountain bike.

Convincing, eh? Except if that girl is me.

I'm not a big fan of the mountain bike. I'll do it, but not without a lot of sweat, tears, and fear. I don't like descending big rocky hills. I don't like climbing up tree roots. More importantly, I can't stand going that slow.

But Chris tried to convert me. He started by getting me a mountain bike. In Chris-speak, this is "love".

We started easy around town. Some little park where there are some trails and logs to jump. He taught me to jump logs, to bunny hop, to do all the things cool mountain bikers do. Even so, I was still totally uncool. I still unclipped to hop logs. I still took turns really slow. There was more than a strong chance I would somehow pick up a large stick and get it jammed in my derailleur.

Then he took me up to Kettle Moraine in southern Wisconsin. It's one of the better places around here to mountain bike on quality single track covering more than 10 miles. I was set. I was so hard core and ready. This was like the Kona of mountain biking and I was really excited to go (ok, really I was scared sh*tless).

Kettle and Moraine are two fancy words that have something to do with glaciers. And if you know anything about glaciers, you know that they usually leave something behind – in the way of hills, dips, valleys, peaks, and loads and loads of rock. The scientific term for this rock is glacial outwash. The new mountain biker term for this rock would be “stuff that I will undoubtedly fall on and jam into my knees and hands over and over again.”

The trail begins easy enough, a few slight descents and some climbs on packed dirt. But then it begins, a series of undulating hills in the forest with branches, roots, rocks, leaves, twists, and turns. I did my best to maneuver around everything and found that what in doubt it helps to clip out. I did this a lot. Needless to say the first loop probably took me well over an hour with all of the stops, drops, unclippings, and all together dismount and give ups.

Chris on the other hand, loves this stuff. He’s doing loop de loops while I’m walking up hills. I’m fishtailing in sand and he’s jumping it all together. I’m dropping my chain while he hasn’t even shifted gears.

We set off for a second loop when Chris equipped me with a two-way radio in my back pocket just in case. He slipped it in my back pocket and told me to use it if I needed help. We parted ways and said we would meet in the parking lot afterwards.

There I was, riding alone in the Wisconsin woods. I’m riding through the leaves and sand and walking my bike while sweating that nervous mountain bike holding on for dear life on descents kind of sweat. I was uncomfortable, I was scared. I wanted to stop and be done, but I also wanted to be the cool chick that rides a mountain bike. So I tried, I tried hard, white knuckling the bars, riding the brakes, concentrating really hard.

Maybe I was concentrating a little too hard because that’s when I heard a voice.

Huh? I looked around. It was just me. Me and the trees. And trees don’t talk.

But a moment later, there it was again. The voice.

I listen more closely and realized I could make out the words the voice was trying to say.

“Hey, hey you. Hey…………..(long silence)………PICK IT UP.”

Pick it up? What? Pick what up? Am I dropping gel wrappers? Huh? Who? And what do I need to pick up?

I shake it off and keep riding. It could be some creepy stalker trail jailbait hiding behind the trees yelling at me. What do I know. It's Wisconsin after all.

I’m riding about 8 mph through some sand before making the last of several steep descents and climbs. One descent is blind at the bottom. I stop at the top, look down, take a deep breath, and let it ride. Climbing back up again, I hear the voice.

“Hey, HEY….”

The voice stops. I look around. There is NO way anyone followed me down and back up that hill. I see no one on the trail. Maybe it was lack of water or concentrating too hard. Maybe this is what happens when you mountain bike too long. I knew there were more reasons I wanted nothing to do with this sport. Still I continued. I’m pedaling along slowly but surely.

Out from nowhere, the voice calls again, “Hey you.........Popo rides faster than you.”

I stopped.

Oh, THAT WAS IT. I knew that voice. I knew that tone. And, more importantly, I knew Popo. Popo is Chris’ grandmother. Imagine a surly, sharp Chinese woman with a penchant for gossip and People magazines. A woman who makes a mean egg roll, who will hang up with you on the phone, who won’t leave the house but the minute you come over demands that you check the mail. Introducting......Popo.

But Popo riding faster than me? Now that's a low blow. But the more I thought about it the more I thought chances are Popo probably would ride faster than me because that’s just how Popo rolls. You could say up, she says down. You could say hot, she’d say cold. Put me on there with Popo clipped into pedals and I bet she takes off like she’s straight out of hell.

But back to the voice – which, I realized, was streaming from the two-way talkabout in my backpocket.

It was the voice of Chris.

Two can play at this game. And my radio also had a talk button. So I pressed it and politely shouted “Popo’s already lapped you”. From there, the shouting, the exchange of insults continued for a few more miles.

So that is why we have a two way talkabout radio pamphlet in the back of our car. You see, they are not just a communication device but also a great way to scare the heck out your future spouse in the middle of a Wisconsin forest or shout insults at them to get them to ride faster. And when they do pick up the pace, and meet you in a parking lot, they are likely to beat you silly with the radio or throw glacial outwash at you for suggesting that you’d get dropped by grandma Popo on a really big hill.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Ironman Load

In the category of Things I Found Last Night In My Washing Machine (in other words Things Chris Forgot To Take Out Of His Back Pocket):

That's right, we have 2 empty Power Gels, 1 unused Power Gel, 3 Power Gel tear-off tabs, and in the far right corner we have a chunk of a Cookies & Cream Power Bar (fullly in tact may I add after a wash cycle on "heavy" load in warm water).

Amazing, eh?

When I asked Chris why he felt the chunk of bar needed to be cleaned, he said 'oh, you washed that thing?' Surprise or disappointment? It's your call.

The next morning, I found the Power Bar wrapper in the dryer. So the question really is - was he planning on using it again?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Do not, I repeat do not go to Trader Joe’s at 11:45 am.

I was on my lunch hour – which was quickly turning into a lunch half-hour – when I headed over to Trader Joe’s to pick up some things. "Things" as in bars for Ironman training. Again. Again with the bars. With Ironman training, the need for bars never comes to an end.

As long as I was there – you know how this goes – I decided to get a few other things. This is what I would call mistake #1. Never go into the store looking for more than you really need. You end up taking out twice as much than you want and half as much as you really needed in the first place. If that makes any mathematical sense. Grocery shopping is like racing – focus, focus, do not get off track or you could really get off course.

So I headed into the store, grabbed a basket, and set off down the first aisle to find a loaf of bread. Easy enough. Loaf of bread, wheat, in a bag. Check, done.

Next, on to bananas. Not so easy. Something was going on around the banana display. Let me explain.

Apparently I missed the sign that read that at 11:45 am on a weekday there is a mandatory four child minimum when you shop at this store. It’s important to note that these don’t have to be your four kids. No, they just have to be four kids circling around you at any given time.

Which was a good thing. Because there I was at the banana display swarmed by kids. Note to self and others: next time you buy bananas you may want to reconsider your plan. There’s a very good chance that your banana has passed through a child’s hands. Little did you know that a banana is not only a tasty good source of a potassium, but also something you can easily throw at your sibling, something you can talk into, or something you can wave wildly at your mother while yelling (at the top of your child-like lungs if I may add) look mommy, ‘nana! ‘Nanas are here! There are so many ‘nanas! while also jumping up and down with said 'nanas which your little hands then proceed to drop all over the floor.

Amusing, of course, unless you have now less than a lunch hour to choose a few bananas for your own. And I might add that you should not enlist the help of a child in picking just the right and ripe banana because when you do you risk having to tell the child “that’s not a ripe one”, oh, like 100 times. Not that I overheard this or anything.

Forget the bananas. They were too green anyways. Move on to the next tasty fruit – strawberries. Things are looking a little better over there. But holy crap what just whizzed by? A kid with a small cart and a smaller brother in tow. What’s more fun than relay races up and down the aisles?

I’ll tell you – screaming at the top of your lungs. Really REALLY LOUD. Because mom was in no mood to buy you….organic apples? I’m not sure what a child would scream about in this store (we were nowhere near the candy aisle) but there it was, child meltdown right in front of me melting into the floor in the organic produce section. Life for semi-vegan children is so unfair.

On to the rice where there can’t possibly be more kids. Wrong. Each woman in that aisle had at least four kids maybe more - they were all mixed up and running circles anyways. Four kids – some sitting in the cart, some with their own carts, some hanging from the cart, some riding the cart, some trying to get underneath the cart. And somehow each mother watches all of her kids all on her own. While trying to grocery shop.

For a moment, I am amazed. Our neighbors have one child – a four year old – and they don’t even attempt the grocery store. They get Peapod (which I’ve never understood – I mean, can you think of anything more wrong than someone else touching your groceries?) and call it a day. But here these women are – all of their children around them – not only getting through the store but grocery shopping along the way.

Admiring the amazing multitasking ability of women with four children hanging off of cart, I realize my time is ticking away – no, silly, not my biological time per se (sorry, mom) but time on my lunch hour. So I head up to the register to pay.

The front of the store is crowded, it’s a mess. Long lines, big orders, children yelling, bells ringing as the clerks call for help.

Is there not a bell I can ring too? H.E.L.P.

I choose the shortest of very long lines, and finally get to the front. And then I realize I have made critical grocery store mistake #2 – I forgot the bars. Great. The one thing I came here for and I forgot. And I am not coming back here today, or any other day at 11:45 am, so I regretfully exited the line to go select my bars.

Back to the lines. Is it possible that they could have grown exponentially longer since I last was there? Possible. Very possible indeed. So I wait in line. A very long line. And as children jumped at the counter and swung on the carts, it came to me. The answer to why children seem to love this very organic place...

Mini-me carts and free balloons.

Say no more. Trader Joe’s has cornered the market on this one and captured the attention of every kid. Balloons were like cocaine – serious, the kids couldn’t get them fast enough and once they had a purple one they wanted a green one instead. And the mini-me carts? Pure marketing genius. Show me one kid that didn’t have that cart stacked with unnecessary empires of highly unprocessed foods. I saw one kid with a mini cart filled with 8 loaves of bread. EIGHT LOAVES OF BREAD (yes, I counted, again, LONG LINE). And you know what mom did – bought them, bought them all.

At that moment, the noise level reached a crescendo and the whole scene took on more of a carnival feel than a store. Balloons floating to the ceiling. Kids running with balloons. Kids running with bananas. Kids waving last minute buy-me-now items at mom. Kids filling up carts just as quickly clerks emptied them and mom paid.

So there I was, with my small basket, and all of a sudden feeling like I needed a small cart and a balloon realizing if you can’t beat them you might as well join them, grab a banana, scream at the top of your lungs, accept the fact that the whole store is going bananas anyways so you might as well just enjoy the show and stay.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Husband Blog

Last night, Chris asked what it would take to start a blog. “Does it cost anything?” he asked. No, I told him, it’s free. Anyone can start a blog.

So I told Chris to give it a try - post on mine and see how it feels. I let him busily type away. Here it is, Husband Blog:

First I would start with the Liz Forecast: Liz was bitchy today. Tomorrow - 70% chance of rain which means 70% chance that Liz will bitch.

Last night I was poked all night long because allegedly I snore. Even though when Elizabeth sleeps her snoring is louder than mine. When I brought that I up – that she snored – she said “did it keep you up all night” and I made the mistake of saying “no” to which she said “exactly – yours keeps me up, so therefore you have to make yours stop” I told her I had a deviated septum. She told me to “fix it”.

Liz goes through her closet with 400000 shirts and pants and tells me she has nothing to wear. It is not uncommon for me to leave Liz in her closet wearing one outfit to come back minutes later and find she is wearing something completely different.

I have done several performance improvements to her ride, also known as her machine. Sometimes she can ride with a month without realizing the change or "improvement". Invariably she tells me to put it back the way it was. Then when her friend Greg tells her to change the exact same part I just un-changed, she says to me “change it right away”.

I changed the cables on Liz’s bike yesterday. She wouldn’t ride it. I bought the most expensive cables out there to make her bike more aerodynamic. She rode her road bike instead. And then demanded a wheel change.

Speaking of road bikes, Liz has had me sell at least two of her bikes when they got upgraded to newer models only to desperately try and buy the old again because she really felt more at "one" with the one I just sold.

Liz says she is hungry all day long. When I ask her what she wants to eat she doesn’t know. This happens over and over again.

Liz is a repeat offender. Case and point – she likes to eat peanut butter half a jar at a time. Then she will swear off peanut butter. Then she’ll say “I feel fat”. The next month it happens again. This has been going on for the past seven years.

All I want sometimes is a scoop of ice cream. Little did I know I married someone that believes the suggested serving size on the label is "Entire Box".

In general, I will fill all the water bottles, get Liz’s bike out, pump up the tires, rack it in the van, making it so all she has to do is get her shoes and helmet to be ready to go. Then she’ll sit there and yell at me to get my ass moving because I’m moving too slow.

Liz and I like to cook together. She will make a mess and help me clean it up. But if there is a pan that I used more than her, she will put away everything else but that pan. That pan will sit there for days untouched. I still don’t understand that.

Liz insists on driving my old car with 130000 miles. It has a shaky transmission, horrible blindspot and it is covered in scratches from bike brake levers. The interior is basically a giant coffee cup. You could lick the seat and get a buzz. I keep asking to buy her a new model of the car and she says “no, the new model looks like too much of a sissy”.

Don’t get me started on the coffee thing. We have a cupboard full of coffee mugs and about six different ways to make coffee at our house. Plus a cabinet full of coffee beans. And then Liz says “I’m bored with the coffee here.” I don’t understand. My co-workers have been drinking Folgers for the past 15 year and Liz gets tired of a bag of beans in less than 3 days.

Sometimes Liz tells me that a bag of coffee beans is disgusting and then says “here, you can have this” and I’m like “gee thanks”.

I would like to do Liz’s laundry but she won’t let me. She tries to act all sophisticated about laundry loads but I know she just dumps the basket, calls it a load, and puts the machine on wash.

The bed making thing. If you are going to get back in it why does it have to be made?

One time I was sleeping in the other bedroom and Liz started yelling at me because she didn’t want to make two beds. So I went back into our bedroom the the next night she kicked me out because she didn’t want to hear me snore.

Here’s how a century ride goes with Liz – she gets antsy in the beginning, then she gets whiny, then she cries. Then she settles into it and is a pleasure to ride with, for the last 10 miles. Then immediately afterwards, she wants coffee - back to whiny.

I pulled Liz on one century last year. I told her I wanted to go on my own and pick it up for the last 20 miles. She said no way – you pulled me 80 miles you’re going to finish it by pulling me all the way.

The first open water swim of each season I know that Liz will take about two strokes before she has
the look of seeing a SHARK in the water on her face. (psst – we swim in the lake)

As I read this, I realized this was more Husband Rant than Husband Blog. But that's ok - even husband needs an outlet sometimes.
Afterwards, I asked if he wanted to close with a comment that he still loves his loving wife. He said he’ll pass.then he patted me on the head and said he had nothing but love for me. You think?

Monday, August 20, 2007


Last Monday morning, I met a friend for coffee. We talked about desire.

Not the spicy, saucy kind of desire that I shouldn’t talk about here – no, this is quite appropriate instead. It’s the fire inside, the passion within, the desire that burns in our hearts and guides our body and minds.

Each of us has desire. Something bigger we want to achieve – a life we really want, dreams for which we aspire. The desire is always there.

But day after day, it sits in the back of our mind. Because most of us do not live desire-filled lives. We ignore our desire and let our lives be led by distractions instead. Things we think need to be done, to do lists, this is what I should be doing at this time…..just….because.

But desire still burns.

Sometimes you just need to stop, step back to realize your desire. Find out what you’re really all about. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy–ness of everyday, to let your desire flicker out, and time tick away. We think to ourselves, I’ll have more time to meet my real desire next month, next year, when I’m done with this and that.

Meanwhile, time is never given. There could be a timeline we are not aware of. Tomorrow may never come. And with its disappearance may also disappear your desire. Your burning dreams snuffed out, the lost version of your true self.

If your time ended today, would you look back and say you have lived a desire filled life? Are you doing what your heart desires? Are you living in line with the best version of yourself?

A few weeks ago, I asked myself this question. And realized I was leading a distracted life. I became so entrenched by what I thought I should be doing that I stopped listening to myself. I had ignored my desire.

I found myself in a room, with the door nearly closed. One foot was inside while the other was half way out. I wanted to walk through the doorway and explore what was outside. But I could not fully commit to that until one door was fully closed.

About two weeks ago, I closed that door. And wouldn’t you know that once I closed that door, another door opened, and another, and all of a sudden it felt as if every door that had always been there was opening just for me. I simply had to walk out of the door and into the hallway to take the first step to leaving the old version of myself behind.

To close a door is to be unafraid. To admit that you have not found your full desire. What might have felt like the doorway to a home at one time, can become cold and empty over time. It is ok to leave and close that door. It is ok to put yourself out in the hallway again. You will find another open door leading towards the path of your desire.

Still, closing that first door was not easy. I sought a lot of solace in my friends. I asked a lot of questions. And that is how I found my friend MT again. A short while ago, MT had also closed a door, in the room we shared. She moved on and opened a new door in her life. Since then, I have watched her life change not once but twice. She has completely reinvented herself. She is becoming more of the desired version of herself.

I watched her journey and became jealous over time. How can she do that? Why her, not me? What do I have to do to be that happy? When will my time come? My time did not come, I just simply made the time for myself. I took the risk, I closed the door. I desired my happiness more than anything else, and I let myself once again be led by that drive.

Our desire is what we are meant to do, what we are destined to do. Anything else you attempt, your mind will not be fooled – for long. After awhile, you find yourself burdened by the dissonance in your mind. Your actions say one thing, your values another. The space between the two is chaotic, noisy. You are at unrest. Your mind can only shut this out before the noise becomes too loud for too long.

You seek consonance, the harmony of your body and mind. To do what you truly desire to do. To live in accordance with your dreams. And as you get older, these dreams and desires speak louder, become more vivid in time. You realize you are losing time to make these dreams happen. You seek them now.

In the past few weeks, I have been free. I have been moving towards my dreams, my desire. There is no guarantee that my choices are right but following the path of desire is so important to me that I am willing to take this risk. And with that, I know that truly I am right.

I am once again challenged and excited about what lies ahead. And one thing is sure – like most big decisions you make in life – if you make them with timeliness and thought – you never look back. There will be no regret.

All along, my friend MT has been my spiritual guide. We don’t talk about god – we talk about spirit and desire. The two are very much connected. And when you quiet your mind and listen to your desire you will find a very spiritual place. She is like a grandmother, a mentor, a mother, a sister, and a friend. She espouses all the best features of each, and brings even more. Meeting with her makes me feel intellectually alive and spiritually renewed, more connected to myself.

Monday morning she told me my life was meaningless unless I was led by my desire. She made me realize that this new path I am taking may not be my last but it is a step in the right direction for living a life more aligned. She reminded me that my evolution would take work, constant vigilance and re-working over time. A continuous process of reinventing and rediscovering myself.

Good friends like this usually come with a cup of coffee. I left the coffee shop that morning uplifted, I left it renewed. Not only that, but had a heck of a caffeine buzz (3 shot Americano). Every Monday morning should start like this. Every week should kick off with the commitment to find and reconnect to your desire. Every day should start out with 16 ounces of hope and good friends.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Conversations With Myself

Last night, I had some conversations with myself.

Two hours on the bike, tempo intervals, cool temperatures, moderate humidity, light breeze. Coach’s orders were to keep your butt moving for the entire ride and I complied. And the best way to get yourself moving is to put yourself behind someone faster that will push you the whole ride.

So, I choose Chris.

Being in Chris’ draft isn’t as easy as it sounds. I slip in behind him and he’s blocking the wind but still it’s a fight to stay on his wheel. My heart rate drifts towards moderately high, the speed increases to around 21 mph. What’s work for me is just a warm up for him. And 21 mph during warm up? The rest of this ride could get fast. Really fast.

About an hour goes by and I’m still on his wheel. And on his wheel I will stay. For if ever I will take anything to the next level or achieve my next set of goals, I’m going to have to put together a killer bike. And you put together a killer bike by killing your legs. Simple as that. So tonight I am talking myself into killing my legs to stay on his wheel.

He tells me he is going to start his intervals soon. I suppose that is my cue – to drop back, to back off. He doesn’t know my plan. The conversation I just had with myself that said listen Liz, you have one chance, one shot to make this ride count, right here, tonight. If you hang on his wheel for the first interval, you’ll do it all the way through. Get dropped in the first minute and you’re on your own instead. So I put it in my big ring and put my head down. Oh, I’m staying on this wheel. This rear wheel I will not let go.

Chris flashes his five fingers twice, which I realize is husband cyclo-speak for ten seconds to go. Ten seconds later, he shifts into his big ring and we are off. I work hard to hold his wheel. Keeping the bike straight, my own wheel steady. He surges and it takes monstrous power from my legs to hold behind his line.

The legs are doing the work, but the head is fighting hard against it. A fight or flight, if you will. Part of you is thrilled that you’re in the draft, the other part is scared to death. This takes more than physical power to get yourself through. This takes convincing conversations in your head, to talk yourself into every pedal stroke of hanging on.

Interval 1: I can’t believe I’m hanging on this wheel. This is hard. Legs hurt. Maybe I’ll back off. NO. Hold it, hold it, let the legs go. DO NOT LET HIS WHEEL GO. I’m spinning 109 rpm’s just to keep up with him. Does he know I’m there? What if I crash? What if he crashes and I go tumbling over him? Shut up. Shut up and ride. Push harder. Sing a song. Ok, got it. Put it into a harder gear and hold it there. Right behind the wheel. Don’t look down, don’t look down. But just a quick look. YOU ARE SWERVING. Oh my god. We are going 26.6 mph. Oh for crying out loud DO NOT look down again. 26? Who holds 26? Chris does. This is what it’s like to be Chris. This is what it feels like to be fast. Quit daydreaming. FOCUS. Ok, push. Push more. Shift down. 88 rpm’s. Heart rate on verge of….don’t look down at it… looked down……….heart rate on the verge of explode. How many minutes have gone by? Five more minutes to go. You can hold this. Left turn, up the hill. Take a drink now or never. He’s dropping back a little. This is not good. Soon he will surge. There, there, SURGE. Legs. Wake up. LEGS. Push up the hill, still in his draft. 21 mph up the hill. Seriously who holds 21 up a hill? Don’t think about it. Time to descend. He’s pulling away. BRIDGE BRIDGE BRIDGE. Do not look down! Holy crap. 438 watts. I am bridging at over 400 watts. I am going to explode. What did I tell you about looking down? Numbers you don’t need to know. Back on the wheel. Left turn to bumpy road. Is that a tractor ahead? What the hell is a tractor doing in the middle of the road? I do not believe this. We are passing the tractor. We have passed the tractor. We have dropped the tractor. I will not get dropped behind this wheel. I will not get dropped and then passed by the tractor. Bumpy road. Chris is pulling away. 30 seconds to go. Push, bridge, PUSH! DONE.

One down, two to go. Chris finishes his interval which is a bit longer, then turns back to catch up with me. I ask if I can start the second interval with him. “Fast night tonight,” he says. Yes, I suppose. I don’t know. I could be fast tonight or it could be a fluke. My head says yes we’re fast but my legs say no. I think I’ll need to sort this out a little more in my head before we really know.

Second interval: The fingers flash at five. Countdown. Big ring, big ring NOW. Go. Oh no. Cross tailwind. Not the tailwind. Exponential. His lead in tailwind can grow exponentially. Do not let him go. You will never get him back. Bridge back into the draft. Don’t look down. WHAT DID I SAY. We are going 27.9 mph, 28. Must stay focused. 28? Sick. Stay in the draft. NOW! Get small, very very small. But I am already small. SMALLER. Streamline yourself, head down, in the draft. Pedal, pedal. At 105 rpm’s. Shift down. Push 88 rpm’s. Settled at 26.4 mph. Stop sign. Stop. Stomp out big watts just to catch the wheel again. Do not give up. Heart rate – check – very high. Up the hill, push, push. Make a right turn, on the buffalo road. The buffalo are out tonight. Big hairy herd animals. Must be hot. Don’t look at the buffalo. EYES OFF THE BUFFALO. Eyes on the road. Look ahead on the road. Rear wheel. Get in the draft. Hold it, holding over 24 mph INTO THE WIND. Sick. This is sick. How are my legs doing this. Do they remember the Dairyland Dare. Do not think about the Dairyland Dare. Get small. SMALL! In the draft. Stay there! Hold it. No squiggles. What did I say about squiggling. Straight line. Hold your line. He’s taking a drink. Please don’t drop your water bottle. Please don’t drop your water bottle. If it drops, if I hit it, I will be launched into the prairie at 28 mph. This is what it feels like to be fast. I want off. Maybe. Pedals, push, feet flat, my stomach hurts, 30 seconds, no more to go. DONE.

Again, Chris turns back after his interval and finds me on the ride. “Feeling fast tonight?” he asks as he pulls alongside me. I don’t know. Please don’t ask me questions when I go hard on the bike because I really don’t know. The oxygen is still seeping back into my brain and the question is just starting to make sense. I don’t know what I am feeling and all that I do know is that a short while ago I was going so hard I was feeling like maybe I would piss myself.

Interval three: Last one, legs are on the edge of explode. At the stop sign. Big ring, aero position, and GO. Here we are again. One last interval to go. Shift back further in the seat. More power, more power. Fast. Again with the buffalo. This time going the other way. Eyes on the road. Push pedals. Stay in draft. Small, SMALLER. Going fast. How fast? Don’t look down. Just a peek. Going 27.9 mph. Again? Disgusting. Right turn. Bumpy road. Do what it takes. Over the bumps, losing power. DO WHAT IT TAKES. Keep the rear wheel. That wheel is mine. Bring it back to me. Willing to chase it as it goes. Chase, hard, breathing, hard, effort, hard. Holding over 26 again. Can I hold it? You can hold it. HOLD IT! Here. He always drops me here on this slight incline. NOT TONIGHT. I will not be dropped. I will NOT be dropped. I have not been dropped. Holy crap I held it. I’m on the wheel. Is that a horse up on the road? What’s with the freakin’ farm theme tonight? Pass the horse, pass the people. Stay straight. Stay in the bars. Squirrely. Feeling squirrely. Steady. STEADY. Bump in the road. Bump in the road. You will NOT fly off your bike. You will not let his wheel go. Harder. HARDER STILL. Ok, barf. BARF. That was the gel or maybe a piece of bar. Sports drink? Who knows. Take the wheel. DO NOT LET IT GO. You can do this. A minute more. Push, hurt, push, hurt, turnaround, time’s up. He’s gone.

The conversation came to a close. Chris finished up his own intervals and then we rode back to the car. "Good ride tonight?" he asks. I - now - safely looked down at my computer so I would know. Good ride? Yes, I had averaged the highest speed and wattage ever on a training ride. But it wasn’t easy, and with all of the hills I’ve been running and riding lately I wasn’t sure how I pulled off this ride with any legs at all.

But maybe it had nothing to do with my legs at all. Maybe it was just pure push and persuasion from the conversation in my head telling me to keep his wheel and not let it go. Maybe sometimes a little talk is all it takes. Maybe it's not the training at all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Moments of Dark Roasted Desperation

CC arrives at work. After waking up late, she had no time to make coffee and a dishwasher running full speed filled with dirty travel mugs didn’t help. Nor did the sign on the work coffee machine that read “Coffee maker broken. Maintenance will be here by 4:30pm.”

JH makes himself a cup of coffee before work. He opens the refrigerator door to find the unthinkable has happened – his non-coffee-drinking wife has thrown away his one week old but still better late than never coffee creamer.

JK starts a month long stay in New Hampshire with very limited coffee choice. “Is it really good?” she asks looking for some hope or hint that the east coast dominant Dunkin Donuts knows their coffee in a way that will meet her mountain girl coffee needs.

MT stops at a Starbucks driving back from South Carolina to ask for a vanilla latte. A few miles later she realizes they have given her some never-mix-your-coffee-with-fruit citrus flavored latte instead. Forty miles down the road, she pulls into the next Starbucks and demands a new cup.

These, my friends, are moments of dark roasted desperation. True caffeinated cries for help that you have sent to me. And in exchange I have offered a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, a suggestion for how to make the best out what could be a very dry, caffeinated day.

Two weeks ago, Friday, I had my own moment of dark roasted desperation. I could have used your help.

It was Friday morning, I stood waiting in my house. 7:30 am, I was approaching almost too late to leave to be on time for work. And my car was gone. Apparently, Chris had taken it that morning to go for a run with Thomas.

Normally, taking the car is not a big deal. But not today. Any day but today. Because today was Coffee Friday.

Coffee Friday is my only hope. My only salvation in a week filled with barely excusable excuses for coffee to kick start my day. Every other day of the week I settle for a less than perfect form of perk in my travel mug just because - because I can't afford to buy coffee every day, because going to the coffee shop before work would be out of my way, because if you treat yourself to something so good every single day you feel it's not right.

So there I was, waiting on Coffee Friday with no car. First I started to worry. Then I started to pace. Next I began to consider that Coffee Friday may just run out of time. Then I considered going to work without coffee. Which made me almost cry. Then I paced some more. Then I stood in the foyer, opening and closing the garage door a hundred times. As if that would make the car magically appear. Next I got angry. Then I started to think of all the rage-filled things I would say when the car did return.

Tick tock.

After about 2 minutes of this (without coffee patience is pretty slim), I decided I might have to think of a Plan B. But it was Friday, and I was before coffee. Any plan that required thinking at this point might be filled with very costly and risky mistakes.

But as time ticked on, I realized Plan B, on Coffee Friday, was my only hope.

Plan B1 - take the van, Chris’ dream car, a car he waited years to purchase and then possess, filled with assorted bikes and bikes parts and other Chris things like sunglasses and bags. Too much responsibility. Too much risk. Chances are I would drive off with something critical to his day.

Plan B2 - take the sports car, Chris’ other dream car, a car he waited years to drive, a car you do not drive when the temperature falls below a certain point, a car you do not lean bikes up against. You know this car. The car you absolutely do not want the responsibility to drive unless you have no other choice by way of wheels. But the risk of no coffee on Coffee Friday weighed against the risk of driving (and possibly scratching, crashing, or breathing in) this car almost made it worth it.

Except for one thing - the sports car is just a shake machine in disguise. This sports car is simply a chassis (somewhere my father-in-law has just peed himself because I used the word chassis) covered in white paint with no meat on its bones so low to the ground that every pebble in the road feels like you are scaling a boulder. This makes every trip down every street feel like a shaky, scary experience akin to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

And as if the shake machine feature is not enough, I am still not sure how the car made it off the lot missing this critical feature. You see, it has no coffee cup holders.

A moment of silence please.

*No coffee cup holders*

For coffee fans everywhere, a small part of them has just died. The small part that says have hope for there is love for coffee to be found everywhere.

Except in my husband’s sports car.

One particular Coffee Friday, when the shake machine was first acquired, I didn’t know any better and fell for its decaffeinated trap. In a moment of desperation, I took the car, went to buy coffee, got back into the car and found no cup holder to hold the cup of the piping hot 16 ounces of very stainable fluid in my hand.

Now, if I was smart, I would have just left the coffee cup behind. But come on - an abandoned coffee cup on the curb. Is that any way to treat my friend coffee? Is there anything more lonely and hopeless than that?

So I did what any coffee lover would do, not wanting to hurt coffee’s feelings, I took the risk of holding the cup. Imagine having to hold the piping hot cup of possible dark roasted stain in the shake machine while also shifting stick. This is manual transmission acrobatics at their best, multitasking at its worst. The only way it could have gotten any worse is if I had started smoking a cigarette while also talking on my cell phone.

But I don’t smoke.

So back to this particular Coffee Friday. As I stood there scheming and dreaming of what possibly I would do to get to the coffee shop without a car – I started to realize that the fate of Coffee Friday was looking pretty dark……..dark roasted, 16 ounces with a touch of cinnamon and a hint of cream.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist that thought.

And so I was faced with the reality of just riding my bike, walking, or driving the shake machine, and - consequently - skipping coffee all together.

Not really a choice.

At that moment, though, hope arrived in the form of my car pulling into the driveway. Thomas and Chris got out of the car and just as they did a need-coffee-NOW rage-filled string of words got out of my mouth.

"I thought you had to get to work by 8 am?" Chris asked, in his defense.

Yes, I do, but I also have to get coffee before work by 8 am. Don’t you know? It’s Coffee Friday. And on this very important day – the only day of the week we look forward to, the only day of the week we want to get out of bed - we drive 20 minutes round trip out of our way to buy the smallest thing that brings me the largest amount of joy. Coffee.

With that, I snappily took the keys, peeled out of the driveway, and headed to the coffee shop. And wouldn’t you know they must have known I was coming, or knew about about Coffee Friday because they were prepared with Obsidian dark roast on the menu and noone waiting in line

16 ounces later, Coffee Friday was a success. Of course it got off to a bit of a shaky start, but not nearly as shaky if I had driven to the coffee shop in the shake machine.

In the life of a coffee lover, these moments of dark roasted desperation are never too few and always less than far between. But fear not, my highly caffeinated friends, trust that as you find yourself cussing at your wife about the creamer, writing to friends hundreds of miles away with you coffee-flavored cry for help, or sitting behind your desk each day baffled by those around you that just drink tea, you are not alone.

There are others just like you that have felt the impending headache, the caged frustration, the unbridled craving for your daily morning grind. And since tomorrow is Friday, let us drive out of our way, raise our overpriced cups to Coffee Friday, enjoy a moment of united caffeination, and a perky, proper start to the day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do You Dare?

A few weeks ago, I asked my coach if I could go to Wisconsin this weekend to do the Dairyland Dare – 126 miles, over 14,000 feet of climbing, more horrible than the Horribly Hilly Hundred, in the middle of summer in Wisconsin, do you dare?

We did.


We left the house at 5:40 am. Let me start by saying, who put Dodgeville, Wisconsin 3 hours north of our house? Finally we arrive at 8:40 am, last two people to start and the minute we pull out our bikes to get started – torrential downpour and nasty storm.

Back in the van. Chris falls asleep. Is there any place where he does not snore? In misty rain, we are finally rolling at 9:45 am.

By 5 minutes into the ride my shorts were soaked. I stop on the side of the road and confess to Chris that I have a bad feeling about this ride. Maybe it just wasn’t worth it today. Maybe the storm, the rain, the pending heat that you could feel cooking in the air – maybe this was a sign.

He wants to hear nothing of us. He wants to ride, with or without me, he tells me to wait in the van if I don’t want to ride. I scowl and continue to pedal. Today I will not be a good riding companion. I think to myself that today I just might want to drop myself on this ride.

30 minutes later the sun is out. We start to ponder the more important questions in life – do llamas baaaa? How full is a Bento Box when it is really full? And can you add more? How many salt tabs will we need to take? How many is too many? How far until the next town? And will someone have a white van, a tent, and a cold beer waiting?

Wait, this isn’t Ragbrai in Iowa in late July. No, it’s Wisconsin. And I’m not sure where. Maybe west, maybe north. At some point we may have crossed the Minnesota state line. Long rides get like this – you have no idea where you are other than an arrow on a map or painted on the road. You know no name of town, no direction, just which way the wind is blowing and which way you need to go.

The first hour we averaged 15.8 mph. The roads were wet, our legs were not ready to ride. The hills were constant, steep, and long. It had to get better, right?

It didn’t.

The second hour we averaged 15.8 mph. I repeat - we maintained 15.8. The temperature also spiked to about 95 degrees, full sun. But we finally got some tailwind. Which brought our average up to 17.1 mph.

At mile 30 I showed Chris a move I entitled the downhill slingshot. Get into his draft on the downhill then as I approach his wheel dart to the left side and soar past him on the descent while shouting YEE HAW.

The third hour I thought to myself there is no way we are doing 126 miles. Not with 14,000 feet of these hills. Imagine this: climb at 6.8 mph, 58 rpms, heart rate at 179 bpm and nearly maximum wattage for 8 minutes while some guy in front of you checks mailboxes (zig zags back and forth up the hill) every inch of the way thus blocking your most direct path up the hill. When you get around him, and up the hill, you then descend at 37 mph, imagine wet roads, blind curves, scattered acorns, signs that say "loose gravel" everywhere. It also doesn’t help that at the bottom of every major descent there seems to be a stop sign and a right turn.

At one point I descend at 41 mph and nearly soil myself. But I probably would not have noticed because my shorts are still wet.

And what goes down at 41 mph also must go up – at about 6 mph. I admit that more than once I was tempted to dismount and walk my bike up a hill. I wondered if there was some siren on the bike that would go off for going too slow on too fast of a bike. System shutdown below 50 rpms or when speed drops below 5 mph. I think to myself that time trial bike is perhaps the dumbest bike choice ever for a course like this.

At mile 42 I am looking for coffee. Who cares that it's hot oustide. I need caffeine and I need it now. I am complaining to Chris that these rest stops never have coffee – why not? Who needs nuts, or bananas, or bagels. I have never craved any of that on a long ride. I crave coffee. Every rest stop should have coffee and salt. Those are the only food groups you need to care about on a long ride.

At 3 hours 30 minutes we make a decision – go for the full 126 miles or settle for 100. Since we started so late, we decide to ride 100 instead. Chris is disappointed. He wants to go the full 126. I tell him this ride is not imperative to Ironman success. He doesn’t believe me. I tell him Jennifer did not want us to ride 126. And then he is ok. He will do whatever she says this year. I make a mental note that I need to talk to Jennifer about assigning Chris household chores on his weekly workout schedule.

Around mile 53, Chris asks if I'm ok to ride on my own. I say yes, and just like that I am abandoned. I see a dead kitty on the side of the road and think that could be me. Chris says someone should tell that kitty the road is no place to take a nap.

At mile 55, I found myself riding alone, in the middle of Wisconsin? Illinois? Maybe Minnesota? Who knows. I told Chris to go on without me but really I wish he had stayed behind. The pain in my legs was approaching unbearable, the heat was smothering me, I had enough of the hills, the bike seat chafing me, the Bento Box scraping my knees, the squeak in my crank, the stickiness of my aerobars. I start to annoy myself so much that I want to drop myself. I knew this would happen.

A few miles later, I am still trying to drop myself but having no luck.

At 4 hours, I pull into a rest stop desperate for cold water and shade. A volunteer asks if I need anything and I am not even sure where to begin. How about a sticker and a Sharpie – address me to Jennifer Harrison, drop me off on her doorstep with a note that says HELP - FILL WITH COFFEE NOW.

At mile 77 I deviate from my nutrition plan and eat salty peanuts. I decide that salty peanuts are the new Cheez-It.

At 4 hours 23 minutes, climbing a hill at 5.8 mph with my heart rate nearly at max and my breathing so loud I want to turn myself down, I cry. Giant sobbing salty tears type of cry as I slowly grinded away at 50 rpms up this neverending hill. I think to myself I cannot afford further salt loss but the tears I cannot help. My legs had nothing left. I had been completely out of gears since mile one. And I still had nearly 2 hours to go.

At 80 miles, I think I have a lost a toe. I am sure it has detached from my foot after too much climbing out of the saddle and now sits painfully jammed in the top of my left shoe.

Around 5 hours, I regrouped myself. But I was still beyond hot, thirsty, and every time I looked down I was going 10 mph. This is where I completely unraveled on the ride. More so than the tears a few miles before. I was completely alone. I was in the middle of nowhere. I was almost out of water. I was hot. I was going so slow I couldn’t determine if it was headwind, or heat, or humidity, or if I had been ascending a giant hill for the past 10 miles. I knew I had 12 more miles to go and realized it could take me well over an hour.

At 5 hours 30 minutes, I see what looks like my husband coming from up over a hill. I believe I am hallucinating. It has gotten so hot and the road is so barren – I think it is a mirage. I expect to see a giant coffee cup following behind him or other things in the category of things I would really like to see right now but then realize indeed that is the real version of Chris. He is coming back for me. I shouted for him to just leave me there to die. Just scrape me off the pavement in the morning and feed me to the crows.

I confess that for the past hour I have maxed out at 10 mph. Chris looks at me and admits he has been going 11. I ask what is going on, he confirms we have been going uphill for the last 10 miles.

15 minutes later, we are at the final rest stop. I have broken out in hives. Someone asks me what I am allergic to and Chris says “her bike”.

At mile 93, I am finally in Chris’ draft. It doesn’t help much. I pass some people while going 7 mph up a hill. Then my speed drops to 6.8 mph. I stand out of the saddle just to break 7 mph again and because Chris is pulling away.

At 6 hours 12 minutes, the route is finished and I have ridden 98 miles. But I’ll be damned if I get off my bike without going the full 100 so I ride circles around the parking lot while Chris shouts at me about having a can-do attitude.

At 99.97 miles I almost get hit by a pick-up truck while riding circles in the parking lot.

At 100 miles I am finally done.

These rides, these awful, horrible, hot, hilly rides are what I am looking for. I am not interested in going out for a 100 mile ride and breaking 5 hours on a cool and comfortable day. No, I want it to get bad, get ugly, leave me completely battered and baked on the side of the road. I want to go 100 miles at 15.8 mph (seriously, 6 hours, 19 minutes, 15.8 mph, 100 miles). I want to climb 10,000 feet. Sweat it out. Check mailboxes up a hill. Nearly lose a toe. Just like I did today. I want to hit rock bottom. Make me find a new low, and a new way of working through that low – whether it’s through tears, or going 10 mph, eating salty peanuts, or telling myself to just shut up and ride. These are the lessons that make long, painful rides oh so worth the dare.

The question is, then, do you dare? Do you dare let yourself unravel this far and hit this deep at the bottom of your workout soul? Do you dare to see what you find when you reach these new lows? When you open yourself up to these lows and just let them happen you find new strategies for coping, you discover new strength in your what feels like weakness, you realize the time always passes and that no matter what you will get through.

Go ahead - I dare you....give it a try.

originally posted 8/12/07

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The other day Chris asked me when our prison sentence would begin – the prison sentence of Ironman. 8 weeks in the sentence, in an iron-clad jail, no bond.

It has begun.

And so have the questions. He is filled with the incessant what is happening to my body and why? Why am I so tired? Why did I just dump all of my stomach after that ride? Why do I want to take a nap? Why am I so hungry? Why does it feel like I’m swimming into a headwind?

Why? The answer is simple. I give him the only truth I know. Because you’re training for Ironman.

There we were, in the pool last night, in the middle of what I would call an Ironman-esque set. We had started already tired. A weekend of long ride, big swim, hot run left us thirsty, tired, hungry, and ready for nap from the start of our day.

Chris started at the wall with an early warning that tonight he would be slow. This is not his usual self. Usually it is me that forewarns – I will be slow. And then I take my place in his draft. Tonight I led the warm up and then he took the lead. I could sense there might be rough waters ahead – a little turbulence in this lane. When Chris has a bad swim, it is never pretty. He is prone to cussing, grunting, throwing pool toys, or just abandoning the lane.

Looking forward to this one.

It started easy enough, 200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull. The classic warm up. Then into 4 x 50 build. 50 easy. And then 12 x 50 odds are free, evens are stroke. On the minute. I know what you’re saying. That’s nothing. You’re right. It’s not. Unless you really don’t do any other stroke but free. Or a bad version of back. Imagine this – 62 inches of little peashooter arms flailing legs kicking with knees out of water barely making the way down the lane. Like a fly trapped in a bowl of thick soup – that’s me on my back. It takes me about 1 minute to get down the lane and back. Going on the minute would be a miracle at best.

12 x 50 of that and I’m exhausted. Already I’ve had enough. But it doesn’t end there. 100 easy and then 10 x 100 descend 1 – 5, and again 6 – 10. At number 6, Chris turns to me and says this one will be slow, VERY SLOW. Hey, you don't have to convince me to take it slow. I'm already there. Number 10 and I am barely holding up the wall. How about just a cool down and then we’ll call that the end?

Try throwing 3 x 400 on top of that, first one sight every 25 yards, next one pull with paddles hard, last one sprint every 4th length. And all with very little rest.

This doesn’t sound like a lot but when you swam the day before – long – and rode your bike the day before that – very very long – it adds up. And that is how you find your husband asking why it feels like you are swimming into a headwind.

Why? Because that’s just the way that Ironman training goes.

But this is a hard sell for Chris. I don’t think he wants to believe. Last year I remember feeling nothing but tired all the time. You’re going slower, but longer, so harder overall. This year, the transition hasn’t been so bad. My body seems to remember. But Chris – well, he’s breaking new ground. He’s never pushed his muscles this long before. He is just learning how slow is Ironman slow.

And that is how I found myself flipping under the lane line to pull ahead. We were on the second 400, pull hard with paddles and I had to make my move. Nevermind that Chris can literally swim circles around me in short course, that he can lap me in a 500. Tonight I was moving and I don’t know why. Somewhere from the depths of soreness and fatigue, deep within my very sore ass I pulled this pull set out and I don’t know how or why. But what I’ve learned in Ironman training is that sometimes you just go with it because these moments don’t often come by.

Afterwards, I’m feeling good about myself. Maybe my body has finally learned. Maybe it is true that muscles have memory and that I will come through this year faster and stronger overall. Maybe I won’t walk around for the next 8 weeks in a weary haze waiting for October 13th like my final sentence down a proverbial death by Ironman row.

And as I stood there getting ready to go do some lifting, feeling strong, and confident, fast and sure, ready to go knock out 20 reps barely bench pressing itself...I pulled my shoes out of my bag, put them on, looked down and said out loud:

“I am wearing two completely different shoes.” Both racing flats, true, but two completely different shape, size, color shoes.

Why? Well, I’m training for Ironman. And moments like this – little dumb ass attacks where you are too tired to put together the skills to match a pair of shoes – are par for the Ironman in training course and will likely reoccur within the next few weeks.

So much for the good swim.