Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Just A Moment

There is nothing worse than being sick. Except maybe having to make a phone call to see the doctor about being sick.

You see, I’ve had sinus congestion for the past two weeks. At first I wrote it off as natural consequence of doing something as idiotic as Ironman. But then I decided that even something idiotic doesn’t stick around this long. Nor does it include headaches, yellow snot, and congestion so bad you are mouth breathing all night long.

And honestly, it was the mouth breathing scared me the most. Because who knows what the hell could crawl into your mouth while sleeping like spiders, or mealy bugs, or bed bugs, or…..worse….a transplanted Hawaiian roach.

I hurried right up to make that call.

But no sooner did I make the call than they took my call and promptly put my call on hold. So I sat there listening to sleepy music interrupted occasionally by a woman’s voice convincing me how important my call was before sedating me with bad music again. My call important? Really? Well…then…take my call.

Ten minutes later, someone, a human, a real living voice answers my call. It’s the nurse. Or maybe the receptionist. You can never tell. Even when you go to the office they’re all dressed the same. And no matter what, when you talk with them they seem to be bothered by taking your call. So let me get this straight – you don’t want me to call but if I didn’t call you wouldn’t have any reason to answer calls and they’d have no reason to pay you to sit there to answer calls so again why don’t you like me to call?

The receptionnurse talks to me for a few minutes, agrees that I should see the doctor, and then transfers me to the nurse’s station. I thought I was just talking to the nurse. Didn’t matter because now I’m talking to no one because again I am on hold.

Tick tock tock tock……over 10 minutes have gone by and I haven’t gotten very far with this call other than permission to talk to someone about seeing the doctor.

The nurse answers and then asks me about my symptoms. Just like I said in the last part of the call – headache, congestion, yellow snot. Those three things in any order. “Yes you should probably see the doctor today.”

I thought we already had that covered.

She then transfers me to the booking line. This is the secret behind door number three place you must call to actually book an appointment by using the secret code. Saying the phrase “headache, congestion, yellow snot” three times gets you in, saying it four times gets you put back on hold.

Dammit. I wait for over 5 minutes when someone else answers the line. Just when I think I am this close to booking an appointment she says “I’m sorry for the wait, it will be just another moment.”

A moment? A…moment? If my head wasn’t pounding from sinus congestion I would have pounded it against the table a dozen times to get the frustration of this phone call out of my head.

At this point the call has taken over 15 minutes and I need to wait another moment? What is a moment? Just a moment, let me do the math. I’m sure a moment is not much longer than a second and certainly shorter than a minute so the length of time I’ve been waiting is much longer than a moment more for sure. If you mean ‘a minute’ then say a minute and if you mean 5 minutes and 45 seconds please let me know.

Back to the bad muzak and the timeless unknown. I wait.

The line finally picks up and another – dare I say – nurse says “we need to register you.” Ok, that sounds easy enough. Nurse then proceeds to ask me questions, lots of questions about who I am, what I do, my numbers, my gender, my astrological sign. Now you would think the person they put at this end of the line would have savant skills in phonetics and spelling. Not the case. I think I spelled my last name a dozen times and then my street name. And let me just say in what language is the word middle spelled with two “t’s”?

Then she confirms my symptoms – you’re seeing us for a sinus headache, right? Well, it was a sinus headache but since I’ve waited so long and had to spell my last name along with words that most second graders can spell I now have another headache and I really need to pee. Can you see me for that too?

The appointment is finally set and she concludes by reminding me to arrive a few minutes early so I can fill out the paperwork.

The paperwork? What more could you possibly need to know? You know my mom’s first name and my husband’s social security number which means you have access to my entire life history of embarrassing moments and you can steal my husband’s identity at any time. And unless you can swim/bike/run like him I suggest you think twice. And only believe half of what my mom says about my haircut in the seventh grade. It was her idea.

I arrive 20 minutes early to complete paperwork, sign my life away in privacy acts, disclosure, statements of my health history, assuring them I am not pregnant or on drugs or allergic to latex gloves. And then….I wait. I wait another 40 minutes. 15 minutes until my appointment time then 25 minutes past my appointment in a room so hot and full of people that I am convinced I not only have a sinus headache but monkey pox too. Because the room smelled like monkey and you know – oh you just know – some small child in that office had a pox of some kind.

Finally they call. I sit there and explain to the nurse (haven’t we gone through this already) that I have a congestion, headache, yellow snot…you get the point. The doctor comes in, asks the same questions, I give the same answers. I hesitate at first but tell him this started after Ironman. Ironman can be a blackhole of very confusing conversation – even with a doctor – so use caution where you toss the term around. Of course he asks me more about Ironman – the distances, the time. But rather than linking my infection to that race, he was most interested in the order of events.

“So you bike, run, and swim?”


“You bike, swim, run?”


“You swing, bike, run.”

Let me make this clear - at no point did I swing during Ironman. I can’t speak on behalf of my husband but I’m pretty sure there was no swinging during Ironman.

“You swim, run, then bike?”

Yes. For the purposes of concluding this conversation yes that is the order it was done. He marveled at it for a moment (still not sure how to quantify that), then looked in my nose, said “things look yucky up there” (medical terms) and then confirms – after 25 minutes on the phone, 60 minutes in this office, and another 10 sorting out the order of Ironman – that yes I have a sinus infection indeed.

(there really should be an express lane where you self diagnose and someone just dispenses your meds)

He sends me on my way with a powerful antibiotic and a warning to eat it with food in the stomach – which is not a problem during my third week of rest – because it might cause diarrhea – normally a problem but at this point I don’t care if it caused hair on my chest. I just want to be done with all things doctor even if it means sh*tting myself. Besides, I have a great deal of practice in that already this month so I feel confident should it happen that I could just find the nearest shrub.

After all of that, plus waiting another 30 minutes at the foot doctor and another 25 minutes at the pharmacy, I feel like I need a very powerful beverage on top of my very powerful antibiotic but unsure of the interactions so I settle on sports drink and wait for the stomach rumbles instead.

Cheers to health...

Monday, October 29, 2007

(Hot) Coffee Please

It’s Saturday, 12 pm. 12 pm. No coffee. What obstacle by way of temporary insanity has kept me from coffee this long?

A resting metabolic rate test. Three rules – no eating within 4 hours, no exercise, no coffee.


No coffee.

Results in hand, proof and permission that I need to be a chow box in order to survive, I hop back in the car to head on my way to coffee. Forget the results, forget that fact that I haven’t eaten in hours. It’s almost afternoon and I haven’t even started my day with coffee yet. But fear not coffee I am ON THE WAY.

I’m driving to the coffee shop when I realize Chris had played the most evil of all evil tricks on me. He made me drive his car. Actually, there was a choice – would you like to drive the sports car….or the mini-van. Hmmm, let’s see. Since my car’s engine walked out of the hood last week, I have been driving around the mini-van. Quickest way to feel 10 years older and drive 10 mph slower no matter where you are going? Drive a mini van. So, today, Saturday, I will choose not the mini van, I choose the sports car.

Recall, if you will, the sports car, aka the shake machine, that is cool in every other way except for the fact that it is missing one key thing – COFFEE CUP HOLDERS. And with manual transmission holding a piping hot cup of coffee is not a choice.

Realizing this as I drive, I realize also that coffee on the way home is not a choice. Sure, I could stop in a shop and sit there and drink my coffee alone but come on – nothing says psychocreepystalker like someone drinking in a coffee shop alone. With a magazine or a book is one thing. But by yourself, cup in hand – that’s just wrong. And that is why friends don’t let friends drink coffee alone. So I’m not about to start.

I drive home. I pull up and tell Chris he is evil and wrong for giving me a car without coffee cup holders when he knows I have gone without coffee to this point of the day. He laughs then says something about running an errand and needing a ride and then the word coffee comes out. I tell him I have understood nothing in the conversation except for the word coffee so can we please take the mini van, drive to a coffee shop, sit there and drink our coffee….like 6 hours ago NOW.

At this point you are wondering why didn’t she just make coffee at home? Especially when she has 100 percent Kona coffee sitting in her cupboards? When she has a French press and a coffeemaker at hand? These are very good questions but you have no right to ask them because this is not a test. It’s just my story. So listen and don’t ask. But since you asked, I confess that I am on strike against the Cadillac. I am done cleaning that bitch of a machine. Besides no matter how much I scrub it never looks clean. And it has too many parts. Plus I am on break and that means on break for doing anything that requires more than minimum effort. You could say I am on coffee holiday, too, so bear with me here.

A short while later, Chris drives me to the coffee shop. Best he drive because I am approaching condition under which I should not operate a heavy-large-makes-you-drive-10mph-slower-than-you-should-machine. In fact, I cannot believe my body has been awake and coherent while uncaffeinated for over 6 hours. A medical miracle for sure.

Once at the coffee shop, I walk in the door and Chris says “give me a minute while I use the restroom.” Oh no, all of the minutes are gone. I am not waiting one minute longer for coffee so either get in line with me or I’m ordering for you and you’ll take what I get. He doesn’t hear me say any of that because it was all in my head plus he walked off to the bathroom minutes ago.

My non-stop no more waiting plan is foiled. I’m stopped in a line about 20 feet from the register. Ahead of me are many moms and dads and around me is teeming with kids. Literally a coffee shop filled to the brim with kids. As if that wasn’t enough the kids are screaming. They are also running. But I like running so I’ll let that one slide.

Of course I’m not sure any of this is real because I haven’t had coffee yet. And the world without coffee is like you’re there but not really there. You’re not saying anything but everything is too loud. You awake but asleep and you're not sure where you really are.

But I am awake enough to know that I am in a coffee shop and I am hearing violation of implicit coffee shop rules. You see, the massive mom and dad group in front of me has just ordered five hot chocolates.

Wait...I’m sorry...I haven’t had coffee yet, so I’m not sure if I really heard what I just heard….did someone just say hot chocolate in a coffee shop?

Yes, five of them, essentially they said it five times.

Get out. Get out now. Leave your children behind. Wait, no, take them if they are the ones making all that noise. But before you go, have a seat, please. We need to talk. You do not order hot chocolate in a coffee shop. I’m telling you this for your own good. There are coffee lovers that are ready to rise up in revolt against people like you, coffee lovers that would be willing to pay a one dollar entry fee at the door to keep people like you out. Understand this is not a chocolate shop. This is a coffee shop. Let me take you by the hand lead you outside to where the sign above the door says COFFEE SHOP. Not chocolate. Just coffee. And notice around here we don’t say “hot” coffee because in our language the “hot” is not only silent by implied.

Now before we re-enter the coffee shop, please give me a dollar to cover the newly implemented keep-people-like-you-out entry fee.

None of this worked. In fact, none of it was even heard. Even if they could hear in my head they wouldn't pay attention because they were too wrapped up in discussion about their hot chocolates. Actually about the size. I am in the only coffee shop around here that actually speaks their sizes in the English language and these people are debating about size. Let me introduce you to small (which is small), medium (which is medium), and large (which is large). Since you have small children, order the small (hot) chocolates and get out of this line.


I guess they again didn’t hear me (no one seems to hear me today) because then they asked if the small is a kids small or a small small.

You see, this is what is wrong with our world. Small is small is small. What is a kids small? And does it really exist? How can something be smaller than small? How small would that be? And how small do I have to be to order a kids small? Would the smallest of smalls be worth paying for and would I even be able to see it all? And if was that small wouldn’t it just be tiny?

Since when did beverages get so complicated? And do you see my point about why you shouldn’t order hot chocolate in a coffee shop? Because it paves the way for problems like this. If you said we only serve coffee than no of this would even come up (unless you consider all those people that order their lattes with vanilla soy and three splendas and no foam…).

At this point, my brain cells are starting to shrivel and die from lack of caffeine. I am going to cry, or scream, or lay down and take a nap. I just want coffee. At the very least please just let me hold the cup. I am so close to the head of the line. But so damn complicated and far away. Is there an express line for those of us that just want coffee in a cup?

Finally the hot chocolate hubbub gets sorted out and I believe they decided upon five kid-sized smalls. Which are as small as small but smaller. In case you were wondering. And also in case you were wondering they were so hot the kids didn’t really drink them but instead just ran around screaming so more.

Meanwhile, I had (finally) ordered my coffee in cup. The cup was medium (which is perfect for small adults – solve that one Sherlock), the coffee was hot. And the feeling was great. In between screams and stampedes of small hot chocolatey children, Chris and I chatted about the symbolic meaning of the coffee cup and how what it represents really isn’t real at all. It only exists because we gave it meaning. Kind of like a kids small cup.

Twenty minutes later, I was caffeinated, I was ready to start my day. I can’t speak for what happened during the previous 6 hours when I was not caffeinated but I seem to have hazy memories of feeling really small and hearing the world hot chocolate resonate in my ears.

But then again, without coffee, one can never be sure.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Winter Hats

It was Wednesday night, on our way home, Chris asks if I would mind if we stopped by REI.

Mind? I thought you would never ask.

Asking me permission to go to REI is like asking me if I’ll take regular or decaf. Let’s go, REI, right now, I’ll show you how to drop several hundred dollars in less than 10 minutes on bags, clothes, and shoes, and hats.

I walk into the store and directly inside the doors stands before me a smorgasboard of winter hats. Smorgasboard – how often do you hear that word but how often are you faced with rows upon rows of nothing but hats?

I have finally figured it out. The reason I cannot leave Illinois. Why I will stay in a place that has winter. It is because of hats. Winter hats, I love winter hats. I will forever stay in Illinois because I get to wear a winter hat. Hawaii, Florida, forget your sunshine and tropic breezes I’ve got you beat because I get to own and wear winter hats.

If you live in cold weather climates, if you are fashionable sporty girl, you have about a dozen winter hats. So
I need a winter hat as much as I need another bag or another coffee mug. And that’s why when we walked in the store I went straight to the hats. Fleece hats, wool hats, knit hats. Hats with pom-poms, braids, flaps. One thing was certain with all of these choices – I needed a new hat.

I was like the little kid I heard screaming in the store the other day. “I need it! But I need it! I need it now!” Great effort kid except we were in Michael’s, the craft store, seriously kid what do you really need in there? Save it for the toy store. Or the coffee shop. But it was an act I could easily pull in this REI store and it would be right.

Immediately I had tried every hat on my head. There was a trail of hats on the floor and hanging sloppily from the racks. Overpriced hats, itchy hats, I had hats everywhere. I spent a good deal of time in the hat with the fuzzy flaps. Almost considered it mine. But then, then I saw the mothership of winter hats.

There it was, green with earthy tones, pom-pom on the top, ear flaps, inside fleece-lined and…..the selling point……long braids.

It had to be mine. I need this winter hat. I need it now.

I put it on my head, walked to the mirror, turned one way turned the other and realized this was the hat I had been looking for, this hat would be mine. I couldn’t take it off, didn’t want to take it off. In fact, Chris found me wearing the hat and said “that’s a cute hat.”

That was it. Confirmation from opposite gender that this hat and I, a cute couple, belonged together for winter time.

But what is a hat without a scarf? Incomplete. So of course I also bought a new scarf. Put it on along with my winter hat and headed home.

The next morning it was 64 degrees in our house. Sounds comfortable but for some reason when a house falls below 70 it is cold (have you noticed?). It was perfect, though, for the christening of a new winter hat. I put it on, it was warm. But the 59 degree outside forecast said to me the hat was a bit much. So I settled on the scarf, wore it half the day, even had someone come up to me at my desk and said “you look cold.”

I was. No I wasn’t. Not really. In fact I was really hot. But I was wearing my new scarf. Which would have looked much better with my new hat. But winter is near and there will be many hat wearing days ahead.

I've got to admit I am ready for the season of winter hats. There is nothing better than winter clothes, winter colors, running in the winter, going for a walk in the winter. There is something about winter that I cannot explain. As much as I dislike its heavy inconvenience, I enjoy it in so many other ways. There is a quiet to the world in winter. The world just seems to slow and shutdown. It is like an off season in mother nature’s legs. She makes it dark to signal the time for rest and recovery – go home early, stay indoors, get cozy, reconnect. If you listen you’ll emerge in the spring with the energy to go again but until then – relax.

It has felt like summer for quite some time now. It’s still in 60’s and honestly it's been a little too warm for too long. It's November. I’m ready for colder days. I’m ready for cold. This might make me crazy but when I walked into REI the other night and saw all of the winter gear I wanted winter to be there right now. I’m ready for thin air and north winds. I’m ready to put on my tights and mittens and run over fresh snow. And I’ve got my winter hat ready to go.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Itch

I’m starting to get the itch.

You know, the off season itch, the itch you can't scratch, the itch you've been given coach's orders to completely ignore?

Itch, itch, itch......try ignoring that.

It may have something to do with the fact that the skin has peeled off of my back and arms from toxic Ironman Hawaii sunburn. Or it more likely may have something to do with the fact that I haven’t worked out in eleven days.


No swimming, no biking, no running, no sports drink, no padded shorts, no jog bras, no visors, no hair in pony tails – nothing, nada, ZIP. No zip. Because if there was zip I’d be moving somewhere.

What do normal people do? WHAT in the name of the good earth do people do with their time? Hmmph? In the past eleven days Chris has painted the basement, I cleaned out the basement, bought a printer, bought a desk, assembled said desk, cleaned the house, did about 30 loads of laundry, framed pictures, etcetera etcetera and I still have about 2 hours every night to read other people’s blogs.

*people you need to start writing more* - please

People are always complaining that they never have time. Now, I don’t have children so I can’t speak on that but people, really, what are you doing with your time? I’ve got time coming out of the wazoo and I don’t know what to do. When I can sleep I’m sleeping over 8 hours a night, working 8 hours a day and still that leaves 8 hours for…..what? Books? Can’t sit still that long. Hobbies? Yes, hopping on to my bike. Errands, chores, shopping, walking in circles in the kitchen? I don’t know.

What do you do with all this time? (itch, itch, itch)

I tried getting into tv. Any of it, all of it. Trashy tv, educational tv, news tv. Couldn’t do it. Every show Chris put on I would ask “what’s this?”, he wouldn’t know, I’d watch a minute of it and be like this is too weird, too boring to just sit and watch (can we not just do?)

I tried to get into food giving myself permission to eat whatever I wanted. I spent about 5 days eating peanut butter cups after work, ice cream for dinner, pie after that. I didn’t last. I was beat by the food.

Then I tried drinking – ok really I mean just a glass of wine here or there, going out on the weekend to drink with friends. Literally did the Ironman of bar hopping on Saturday night. Now to Chris and I that means going to two bars which really isn’t a lot but when you haven’t been a bar in months – that’s double Ironman distance or more. It took about three hours before we completely bonked.

I’ve tried so many other things but what I keep coming back to is that I don’t like any of them and I just want to swim, bike, run. Or lift, or stretch, or stairmaster, or even, gulp, I'd even give yoga a try.

But I can’t.

I’m off, I’m recovering, and I’m trying to relax……

But what do you do when you relax? I need an agenda. A schedule. Can you write it out in Training Peaks because as far as relaxation, boredom, and extra time goes – I haven’t got a clue. You see, I’m antsy, I’m bored, and I’m starting to get the itch.

I know, I know – it’s like my coach said “If you start to get an itch, take a bath.”

Guess what, I took a bath and…..I still had time. All that time in the water reminded me of the pool which made the itch...worse.

The lack of exercise has completely thrown my body for a loop. Some nights I can’t stay awake. Other nights I can’t get to sleep. I’m up until 1 am thinking about sleep. The next day I’m ready to sleep at 4 pm. I’ve had a headache for about 3 days. I don’t know what it is. Today it came, then went, then came back again. Chris suggested it might be sports drink withdrawal. He could be right.

So here I sit, itching like I’m wrapped in a wool sweater and needing to relax for another 5 days. Or more. I was given the date of November 5th. At that time, I will restart with schedule, structure, plans. Until then, I’m thinking of getting the biggest bottle of calamine I can find and sitting down with some cotton balls. Because until then my new hobby will be dealing with this itch.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Eating Pain

You know you’re recovering from Ironman if you go to the podiatrist’s office with a handwritten list of things you need to ask him about.

Monday evening, after work, I sit in the office. Socks are off. I pity the next person that walks into this room as I have the world’s smallest and smelliest feet. (I have said it before – if you find yourself face to face with my bike shoes it is best to lay down and play dead – do not attempt to fight the stink – DO NOT)

Anyway, the nurse comes in and asks why I’m there. Number one on my list – please kill this ingrown toenail that has been ingrowing itself on my right big toe for the past year. It is sneaky and infects itself at all the wrong times – like the week before Hawaii where it was red, inflamed, filled with goop and left me wondering if 112 miles crammed into a bike shoe would make it just plain fall off.

“So you’re finally ready to get it done?” the nurses asks.

We are talking about an ingrown toenail, right? The tone in her voice suggests I’ve taken on something much bigger than a big toe.

“It’s just a week off my foot, right?” Even though I hadn’t done anything for a week and didn’t plan on doing anything for another week, I had to know how long my sentence of inactivity would be. It’s one thing to choose inactivity. It’s another thing to have it sentenced to you.

She replies - “A week!? Ha! Try three to six weeks!” With that, she walks out of the room.

Help? There I was, alone in the room. Sockless and confused. Three to six weeks? Want to know the fastest way to make a runner sh*t their pants? Tell them they can’t run for 3 – 6 weeks. Nurse? Receptionist? I need out. OUT OF THIS ROOM. I started to panic. I started to cage pace in the room. I start scheming on excuses to get me out of there, ingrown toenail and all, just run myself out of here fast and NOW (and I really probably shouldn’t be running right now).

The doctor comes in and must have sensed my fear. Tried to distract me by asking about Ironman. Fine, fine, it went fine…I see through your distraction trickery now tell me how do I get out, get me out of this chair, get away from my in your green scrub garb, just take my checkbook, take your copay, let me keep my toenail, and set me free. NOW!

He looks at my toe. Asks if it’s been giving me trouble. Are you not a doctor? Come on, just look at the thing. Two black toenails, one red toe origin unknown, calluses, bunion, and remnants of angry ingrown toenail from two weeks before.

“Ok, we’ll cut it right out.” Cut it right out? Sure, make it sound quick and easy but the nurse said three to six weeks.

“Liz, you’ll be back to running in 3 days.”

Three DAYS?

Oh. So what’s with Nurse Ratched, her sinister laugh and her three to six weeks? Was that really necessary? My heart rate hasn’t been that high since the climb up to Hawi. I was ready to run out of here sockless and shoeless and never return. And the coach said no running for at least another week.

“Liz, with your pain threshold it will take three to six days.”

Well it’s about time. Finally my freakish endurance for pain has paid off. Ok, you can have my toenail. Take anything else on my feet too because I trust you again. How about taking a few black toenails?

“Those will just fall off.”

What about the plantar wart on the bottom of my left foot from too many toxic puddles on the deck of the pool?

“You’re so rough on your feet it will probably just die on its own.”

How about the pain in my heel that was there but is not there anymore.

“Tight plantar fascia. Just stretch it several times a day.”

You mean that’s it? My feet aren’t slowly dying a post-Ironman death? They survived all those miles? They are ok?

“Let’s move to a different room and get working on that toenail.”

Again, the distraction technique. I find myself in a new room with a tray above my lap. A tray filled with tools. Sharp tools, needles, little swabs of acid, gloves. All tools pointing in the direction of potential for MAJOR PAIN. All of a sudden I’m scared. I run 26.2 miles on piping hot pavement and a few swabs, gauze pads, and sharp tools are scaring me.

The doctor leaves. Doctor? Sneaky from behind the door, Nurse Ratched reappears.

“Ever had an injection in your foot before?” she asks. Caring question in disguise, I sense there is some underlying evil to it.

I confess, no. Just injections in my arms or mouth. Nothing could be worse than the shot in the mouth, I say to her.

“Well just so you know, it hurts like hell,” she said looking at me with needle in her hand. Semi-crazy look in her eyes. Muhhhwwwwaaaaa….muhhwwaaaaaaaaa. She didn’t really say that but I think I saw those letters flash across her eyes.

And oh god, there’s more…….she says “And whatever you do – don’t jerk your foot.”

Could you imagine this nurse in a dentist’s office? She would make a grown man cry. I was ready to cry. Or pee my pants. I was scared. What if I jerked my foot. WHAT IF I JERKED MY FOOT! What would happen? Would it fall off? Would the entire toenail come out?

The doctor comes back and the nurse leaves. He then prepares me for the shot.


The nurse was right.

It hurt like hell.

Not the needle – no – but the medicine that felt like someone was burning a hole in my toe. Make it stop make it stop make it stop. I’m gripping the arm rests and wish there was a way to eat the pain. Know what I mean? You want to bite down to make the gut turning pain go away. But all of a sudden I feel silly because at that moment I remembered how my legs felt at mile 22 of the marathon and thought compared to that this is nothing.

The doctor distracts me further with stories of some of his patients that are ultramarathoners (“even you would think those guys are crazy,” he says). While doing this he is also working on my foot but at this point I can’t feel a thing. Ten minutes later, my toe is wrapped like a large cartoon thumb and I’m on my way home.

Later that night, I lay on the couch with a numb foot in a world of pain. Chris revels in the opportunity to call me Frankenfoot and refuses to assist me in getting faraway things (may I have a glass of water – to which he says “it’s right over there” about half a house away).

The next morning I wake up with a pounding in my toe wondering what I walked into during the night but then memories of needle and Nurse Ratched come back.

I spent the day at work walking around with one shoe and one flip flop. No one noticed which must mean they have gotten used to the crazy girl that shows up with numbers burned into her arm, goggle marks under her eyes, and now a sockless flip-flopped Frankenfoot. The pain subsided throughout the day and by evening it felt almost normal again.

But fear not in a few hours I will replace it with a new pain – I’m getting a little surgery on a scar. You would think after 10+ hours of racing pain I would just give it a rest for awhile. And I guess I have filled the training pain hole with a whole lot of new pain. But really, did you think after eating long distance training pain for over 4 months that I would be able to give it up that easily?

Come on, that’s as ridiculous as giving up coffee.

I can’t believe I even said that. I hope coffee didn’t hear.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are You Feeling It?

Thursday night, after work, no workouts, what to do?

“How about Home Depot?” Chris says.

A big hearty WOO HOO from this corner. Off to Home Depot we go to buy paint because the other day I had yet another brilliant idea – let’s paint the basement.

The basement? Yes, that subterranean land where my husband hides from time to time. I promised myself after Ironman I would attack the basement with full force. To my husband’s dismay, I started this project right away. I want that basement clean. I want it organized. I want clean walls and bare floor. Since I will be spending hours down there this winter on my trainer, I want to be able to ride in a perfectly harmonious basement filled with feng shui.

Feng shui? Yes, feng shui. A phrase I can pull out for my husband because he is half Chinese so he grew up knowing about Feng Shui. In his family’s house, doors can’t face east, stairways point to the west, bedrooms can’t contain mirrors, and elephants face out towards the door. I’ve always thought it was rude of the elephant to face me with its ass but I’m Italian so what the hell do I know about elephants in the first place.

Little do they know, though, that even Italians like harmony. We also like meatballs. But that’s another story. And in my house, the Italian version of Feng Shui states that basement cannot be in disarray.

I asked Chris what Feng Shui meant figuring he would be at least 50 percent right. And what he told me was “Uh, I don’t know, something about, well, divine placement or something like that but don’t take it from me, look it up.”

No, no, I like divine placement good enough and when he asks why I want that bike over there and that wheel hanging on the wall I will cry “divine placement in the name of feng shui.”

So in an effort to give the basement as much shui as possible, I want it painted. Right now, those walls are a mess. Imagine you hit your rear wheel against the wall every single time. That’s our basement. Or you made fingerprints with greasy hands. Our basement. Nicked the chain against the wall. Basement. Or put your hand out to stop yourself from ejecting off the rollers – again, all over our basement walls.

Home Depot, Thursday night. Choose a color, any color from oh about 100000 choices. First we take a psychological approach – what color would motivate us to go fast? They say red plates make you eat more. Our kitchen is painted red, we eat a lot. Maybe there’s something to it. We decide you cannot ride fast with Colorado Springs or Garden Wall or Lavender Fields on the wall. Honeysuckle would make us throw up and Mint Frappe is just all wrong. Pesto, Barnyard Grass, Shangri La…..what in the name…..just how do you put a color on ShangriLa? Isn’t it an imaginary place? And my favorite – Innuendo – a color where we wouldn’t ride in the basement, we’d just make lewd suggestions about riding for up to 4 hours.

Let’s just stick with the tans. A safe bet. I reach for a color. Peanut Butter. Oh could you imagine? We definitely should not paint the basement this one. I’d go down for a ride and instead of doing intervals Chris would find me hours later licking the wall. Paint it Moose Tracks and I’d never see the light of day. Plus my tongue would really hurt.

Scratch food names off the list.

And then I find one that was perfectly fitting – Chamois. A basement for bicycling painted in Chamois. Paint your walls with chamois. Heck, literally paint the walls using your chamois. See how that smells.

hee hee

Anyways, we settle on Broome. How perfectly boring. Broome. Not sure why the extra ‘e’ but that’s what you get for letting Ralph Lauren name your paint. By the way, we did not buy Ralph Lauren paint because he makes crappy paint. We just scanned his color and bought Behr instead.

Back to the painting. A chore I love to hate. A few years ago, we were painting fiends. I had a painting outfit. Which by the way was an old race t-shirt. Finally found a use. Anyways, painted the kitchen Maple Leaf, the laundry room Pumpkin Butter, the foyer Caraway, the bedroom Winter Lake, the other bedroom Sage Mint, the bathroom Turtle Dove and everything else Swiss Coffee. I had to have coffee somewhere on my walls. My least favorite – the master bedroom was painted something like deep crimson burgundy wine which requires 8 coats to achieve the color you want that looks like deep wine.

After that, we swore off painting for awhile. Chris keeps saying he’s going to paint the living room but something about scaffolding and 30 foot ceilings makes me think maybe not. Also borrowing the ladder from his dad. Which we have found is like borrowing underwear from your mother. Something you should probably never do because it really belongs to him/her in the first place. Every time we even think about borrowing that ladder his dad is there asking “did you bring the ladder back.” We didn’t even take it out yet. I know, he thinks out loud, BRING IT BACK!

So we stopped the painting and now that we’re through with training we’re ready to start again. I’ll put on my painting outfit and tape the walls. Chris will wash the walls. Then we paint. He the edges, me the baseboards. He even bought me a special brush.

I remember one year when we painted the kitchen Maple Leaf. I have always wanted a red kitchen with white trim. I have it now along with speckles of paint all over my red kitchen walls and flicks of pink base all over my wooden floor. We were in the middle of coat number 3 when Chris left for Memphis in May. I was not racing down there that year so I finished the job on my own.

Not the best idea. Because if there’s a way to cut a corner with a household chore, I will. That includes cleaning the paint brushes and rollers. Chris has a method – he would painstakingly take the time to wash every item then freeze it for some reason. Retains its shape? Who knows. Seems like an awful lot of work for a roller that costs 99 cents. But I gave it a good try. Tried rinsing all the red paint out of the roller again and again and again when finally I said screw it. I’m throwing these out. Bought all new rollers and saved a lot of time and mess.

So that’s the way I roll when I paint. Get it? I roll. And that’s also why I don’t get to use the rollers anymore. Deemed not fit to use the rollers. Instead I get the 2 inch brush and get sentenced to the floor. Paint the baseboards woman and don’t get up until you’re done.

I’ll tell you what though. I’m really excited about this painting the basement Broome. We’re going to paint it then hang all of our pictures. Laminate a giant picture of our coach to throw things at all winter and maybe even some pictures of our competition too. Paint giant hands on the wall by the rollers with the warning if you are about to fall press here. And in less than a week the basement and myself - will be feeling it- the power of perfect Feng Shui.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Doctor’s Orders

The other night I made a call to Dr. Nuts. I wasn’t feeling well.

Imagine that?

I could deal with congestion from a cold I had developed, I could deal with the blisters, I could deal with the pain from the blister I popped under my toenail (seriously how do you get a blister UNDER the nail?) but the swelling in my legs that had Chris calling me “cankles” for the past few days – now that signaled something was wrong.

Time to call Dr. Nuts.

I remind him I’ve done Ironman. He himself is an endurance athlete though he finds Ironman to be a bit extreme (I am not listening, I am looking the other way). I tell him my legs and feet are swollen. How unfair. I spend months training, 10+ hours racing and I am left with fatty legs.

Anyways, a few hours later Dr. Nuts returns the call. Asks a few questions to find out more. Almost instantly he has an answer.

“Your kidneys are tired.”

My kidneys are tired? Come on, kidneys. It’s not like you had to work hard during the race or anything. You have no excuse. Now feet, feet have the right to shut down and die. But kidneys? You’re vital organs. You are supposed to deal with extreme levels of pain.

So I asked Dr. Nuts to explain.

Apparently when you are very hot your body gets dehydrated (yes, I have Dr. Nuts explain everything to me like I am a 1st grader). As your body gets dehydrated, it becomes focused on cooling the body down. In doing so, it starts to divert blood from lesser important organs to cool the more important organs. In other words, kidney and colon are not as important as oh say….heart.

But wait, there’s more. Dr. Nuts goes on to tell me that in endurance events blood is being diverted to other muscles that are being pushed (like for example, legs). With the lack of blood going to organs, the organs become a little hypoxic and start to shut down. This is what causes diarrhea during the run – your colon was not getting enough oxygen. This is also why you are swelling – your kidneys were shutting down too and now are having a harder time moving water through your body. Without moving water the salts are not getting moved so you are having water retention.

First this strikes me as interesting. To know that when all logic leaves your body (I’ve been training for Ironman, it left months ago), your body automatically kicks in a contingency plan. Has a hierarchy all laid out and selectively chooses which organs will stay and which will go (could it not have sacrificed an ovary first?). Second this strikes me as scary. It makes me realize the risk of doing endurance events and makes me wonder if I have slowly been killing my colon for the past 8 years.

So now that I have nearly killed two very important organs (imagine life without pee or poo) what can I do?

“Don’t take Advil, don’t eat salty foods, and, Liz, don’t add insult to injury – elevate your legs and don’t do a thing,” he prescribed.

Clearly Dr. Nuts didn’t know the plan for the rest of the month was nothing other than eat, drink, and eat and drink again. In fact, I was well on my way with a delectable dinner that night featuring pesto chicken, bread with loads of olive oil, and peanut butter cups. And for my good girl points – some salad. What to wash it down with – wine. Red wine.

Uh-oh. What about wine?

“But what about wine?” I asked – yes, most importantly what about wine? Would it be safe? Would it kill my organs further? If so, would I be willing to pay the price? Maybe. Because you cannot have recovery without wine. You cannot celebrate the end of the season without wine. You cannot wash out 140.6 miles of pain and delayed onset muscle soreness without WINE. WHAT ABOUT WINE?

(I didn’t even dare ask about coffee)

“Liz, I want you to drink wine.”


I have HIT the doctor jackpot. Did you hear that? DID.YOU.HEAR.THAT? I have been prescribed wine. Prescription – wine. Trade name booze, liquor, the sauce. I have been ORDERED by the DOCTOR to drink more wine. Write that on your little piece of white paper and tear it off.

Life is fair after all.

Wait a minute.....This can’t be right. Is Dr. Nuts for real? Should I call the board?

Why wine?

“Wine will stimulate your kidneys because of the alcohol’s diuretic effect.”

Oh. Huh. In other words……”just ‘cuz.” I mean, did you have to get and get all fancy with terminology on me? Let’s just keep it at “I want you to drink wine” and who cares the reason why. But just as I started the happy dance in my kitchen, Dr. Nuts broke through with more technological stuff.

“And Liz, I want you to urinate 2 – 3 liters per day.”

WHOA. Cease happy dance. We might have to do some math. Hmmm….2 – 3 liters per day. I have no idea how many cups that is or how many trips to the toilet. But I do know what a liter of pop is and…….dear god has Dr. Nuts literally gone nuts? 2 – 3 bottles of pop per day? I see no way that is humanly possible unless you put a pull-up on me and let me go about my day. I’d never leave the can. I’d run out of paper. I’d call that a workout for my quads because I would have to squat at least two dozen times.

And I’m not working out until November.

What to do?


**I just had a brilliant idea (now that I am not training 20+ hours a week there is plenty of time and space for brilliant ideas)**

Meet me in the bathroom and I’ll bring the wine. We’re having a party in the potty and you’re all invited. Bring your bathing suits because I’ve got one of those fancy tubs with the little jets that make bubbles in the water. If things get crazy we’ll cover ourselves in overpriced lotion and turn the bathroom floor into a slip and slide. Because if I’m going to be peeing 2 – 3 liters per day, I’m going to need lots of wine, lots of friends, and a toilet very close nearby.

And so once I got off the phone with Dr. Nuts I commenced the treatment plan. Poured a glass of wine, put my feet up, and indulged in peanut butter cups. Treatment plan worked so well I found myself asleep later that night on the floor in front of the computer. And that was only after one glass.

Yeah, it’s going to take a few more treatments.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Crossing the Line

Saturday morning, 4 am. It is time to wake up for Ironman.

Chris prepares his flavor rainbow bottles in the kitchen while I also get ready for the day. Shortly after, Thomas drops us off by the banyan tree. Dark outside, the tree is blazing with lights. Behind the hotel we walk to drop off our special needs bags before getting our bodies marked. Today I am #1609. The volunteers paint the numbers on, numbers that will be sunburned into my skin by the end of the day. Afterwards, we walk to transition to set up our bikes for a very long ride.

The time passes quickly and soon it is time to walk towards the swim start. It is 6:30 am, Chris wonders if it is too early to enter the water. But moving 1800 athletes down a small set of stairs into the bay is no quick task. We wait in the water in the small piece of beach that remains. The water rolls in and it is chilly today.

Anticipation builds along with noise from the crowd. The announcer signals for the pros to form a long line. The cannon sounds for the pro field and they swim off towards the blue of the ocean. To watch Ironman begin is like watching a sunrise. It is the start of what will surely be a spectacular and long day in which athletes will burn and some will shine.

We decide to position ourselves to the far left and make our way up to the Ford inflatable sign and tread water. 7 minutes to go, the water is starting to churn with nervous legs. What seemed like our isolated parcel of ocean quickly becomes filled. At times it seems like athletes are swarming towards us and treading into us. I keep moving us left signaling for Chris to join me. It becomes nervewracking and people start to close in around us. I move again, and again trying to maintain a small piece of open water. Five minutes, please get away from me, two minutes, I NEED MY SPACE, one minute, get away from me NOW, 30 seconds...it is time to go.

The cannon goes off. No matter how long we were waiting, the cannon seems unexpected. A rush of arms and legs flail and power through the water. I stay on Chris’ feet for a split second and then he is gone. Surprisingly I find my own space to swim clear and smooth aside the pack. Ocean swimming is all about finding the rhythm of the water in sync with your body. I have found the rhythm of the ocean and move with its tempo through the time. For the first time ever, I find fast feet to sit on and they pull me effortlessly through the crowd.

I hit the turnaround boat at 30:44 which elates me right away. Last year, I hit this boat at 35:39. Turning back towards the shore I know it is more important to find my rhythm again. Most people fall apart when they hit the boat – they are tired, they begin to lose their form, and flailing arms are all around. I reverse the rhythm and let my body reach and roll. I fight with some man for awhile then tell myself to just take his feet and enjoy the ride.

With each stroke I get closer to the swim finish but the last few minutes are the longest and hardest. Everyone funnels from the wide ocean to the narrow bay – all aiming for the same small set of stairs. I emerge from the water and realize the clock says 1:08:34, over 6 minutes faster than last year.

A quick rinse under the hoses then a short run to grab my bag. This year I have to locate my own bag and run to the changing tent. Once inside, no one is there to help. I dump my bag and get ready to ride – gloves, shoes, go. I look for sunscreen but instead find only two women with small squirt bottles. But where are the giant vats? I know I will be in sun trouble but don’t take the time to get thoroughly squirted down. It’s time to go, I need to start my ride.

The run out to transition is long – I finally hit the mat and hop on my bike. The ride down Kuakini is always a fast blur. Everyone is pumped and ready to ride. Since Kona is such a men-heavy event, the machismo is rolling down the road along with thousands of dollars in wheels. I take it easy and just settle into my ride. 112 miles is a long way to ride when you’ve blown yourself on the first 12.

Out on to the Queen K. This is where the ride begins. The sky is cloudless and the sun is already hot. But my mind was ready for the ride. My plan was simple – take it by 10 miles. Ride 10 miles, then reassess. The first 10 miles have gone by. The next 10, 20, even 30 fly by with tailwind at my back. Today I take in the scenery and enjoy it mile after mile. The bike is all about perspective. If you don’t like how it looks or how things are going, change your perspective and mix it up. I mix it up many, many times.

What mostly helps the pass the time is your nutrition and hydration plan. You have your routine – every 40 minutes I do this, every 60 minutes I do this, every 30 minutes I do this. It’s a cycle you keep rotating through over and over again. It helps to pass the time and you are always doing the math. Sports drink, water, gels, bars, salt tab. Every time I eat a half of a bar I say outloud “I like bars.” Not really, but there are many miles and bars to go so I try to talk myself into it. Throughout the bike, the food, drink, all of it goes down well. My stomach feels solid, my legs feel strong.

Down the Queen K riders roll by in large packs. I settle into my own space and even pass a few men. I hear myself shouting on your left and laugh. I’m in Kona and shouting on your left. Something about that doesn’t seem right. The officials are on motorcycles all around us. Many athletes are getting flashed yellow cards for blocking, red cards for drafting. I keep my legal distance and just watch the ride go by.

The packs thin out by Kawaihae. We make the left turn on to the most difficult part of the course. The hills begin. The wind picks up. The sun is on fire. Crosswinds begin about 10 miles out from Hawi. I knew this would be the hardest part of the ride. I sat up, pushing slowly up the hill. I wasn’t going fast but I wasn’t getting passed either. The crosswinds blew so hard it was difficult to take my hands off the bars.

Finally I hit the turnaround in Hawi in 2:53. I stop to call out my for my special needs bag and the volunteer helps with my bottles. In less than a minute I am on my way again. The ride down is powered by cross tailwind which sends me sailing down the hill over 30 mph. My knees hug the frame to prevent it from squirreling all over the road and I have completely abandoned my aero bars for fear of losing control or getting blown. I tell myself to relax, to melt into the bike.

At mile 70, the winds relax. The course flattens. It is time to begin the steady grind. The pressure on my pedals is steady. I am in a big gear. I eat, drink, eat, drink, repeat. I tell myself I love bars, I love gels, I love Ironman.

Mile 85 and the winds have changed. This time – headwind. Not a lot but enough to keep the pace slowed down. My legs feel fine but sitting in the saddle has become a painful chore. The sun is roasting the skin on my right side. And my shoes – I broke up with them around mile 100 and we haven’t spoken since.

Before I know it, I am passing the airport, the boats, and make the right turn on to Makala back to Alii Drive. The ride down to the drive is filled with invigorating crowds. They shout as loud for first place as they do for everyone else. This is a magical race and the spectators make it magical for everyone. The bike ride took me 5:43:58. 10 minutes faster than last year. I cross the line, hand my bike off to a volunteer, then find my feet on the ground. The lower back has come out of a 112 mile hibernation and not quite ready to run but I pull my butt under, pick my feet up, and run towards my bag.

Into the changing tent, I have a small crisis to sort out. My watch has broken and I desperately need it to keep track of my time. Not for pace necessarily but for salt tabs and gels. Two volunteers assist me with my bag and I notice one has a Timex watch just like mine. I frantically ask if she’ll let me borrow her watch, telling her I promise to give it back, just leave your name in my bag, you will get the watch back by Tuesday. I am busy smearing my feet and shoes with Vaseline as Petra – my volunteer - takes off her watch and resets the Chrono function. She didn’t even think twice – she just offered her watch and I am ready to run.

I hit the mat out of transition at 6:59:11. I think to myself all it will take is a three and a half hour run to break 10:30 overall. I know I can do this. It’s not even a doubt. But it will be hot, hard work. I know my skin is in trouble as I can already feel the burn of nearly 6 hours in the sun with limited sunscreen. But this is Ironman. You push on, you keep going, you pay for it later and forget about it now.

Alii Drive is the most beautiful place to start your run – lined with crowds, trees for shade, views of the ocean. You cannot help but run fast. My legs feel fine. I knew they would, this is the best part of being a runner in a triathlon. I tell myself this run is a matter of just getting it done. Completion – and I am on my way. I focus on fast feet and relaxed arms. I am picking off people as I run and telling them to keep going, way to go, good job. Most don’t speak English but understand a raised thumb, a smile. The crowd rewards me for my positive attitude and tells me I have a great smile. The more I boost people up, the better I feel. I know I have to do this while I can because when I get out on the Queen K things will definitely change.

Other than smiling, my task was simple along Alii Drive – keep the body cool. I hold large chunks of ice as they melt in my hand, wiping them across my face and putting them into my mouth. I pour water on my head. I dump large cups of ice in my top.

Around mile 4, I see Chris coming the other way. I haven’t seen him much today but there here is nearly jumping out in front of me while shouting “stomach cramps!” Salt, I tell him, take more salt as I run away. I pass a few women in my age group and also get passed. I’m typically a tough runner, one of the top but this is Kona and you’re never the best.

Mile 5, I have grabbed my least favorite gel. Actually, I forget to grab a gel, run a few steps back and grab the only gel they have. Double Latte. Stomach barks back. I hope the double caffeine will settle soon in my stomach but somehow I know that’s wishful thinking after this many miles.

A right turn up Hualalei towards Kuakini and up Palani. The hill at Palani is longer than I remember but the crowd is going wild. Many spectators have made the most of the race booklet that contains our numbers and names. Large groups of strangers shout “Go Elizabeth!” as I make my way up the hill.

As I reach the top, I make a left on to the Queen K. The real run begins. It will be about 5 miles. The hardest 5 miles of the race. Lonesome, black pavement, stark heat along the highway. I need to focus, get ready and just run these 5 miles. Less than 40 minutes, I can do this, I can hold this pace. I was holding about a 7:45 pace and knew I could keep it up. Mile to mile, aid station to aid station, cup of ice to cup of ice.

The heat begins to radiate from the ground. The black pavement of the Queen K soaks it up and sends it up through our feet and into our legs. The runners are quiet. The crowd has disappeared. It is each runner for themselves on the unrelenting Queen K. All you can hear is the rhythm of your own feet, your own breath as you slowly make your way along. There is something about this part of the race that you never forget. You never forget the hue of the sun, the black of the pavement, and the sounds of your feet on pavement. It is burned in your mind.

At the next aid station, it is not time to grab gels but I grab my two favorite flavors because they are there and as I’ve learned – I might not see them again. This makes me hopeful that any stomach distress will not recur. Soon though my stomach begins to talk. And I know it is time. I see a small shrub on the shoulder, run off the highway, and duck behind. It takes about a minute and I feel much better. I hope that is the last time.

Still with my stop, I hit the halfway mark around 1:45. I knew I would have to keep it steady to run 3:30 or better which was my goal. Last year I ran 3:30 and knew I could do it again. I keep the pace moving along – knowing that was more important now that I had taken a stop. Running the other way I see Bree Wee. Her face looks tired and she is grabbing for water at the stop. A short while later, I see Rachel Ross who says “Go Fedofsky!” Other than that, it is a very quiet, lonely stretch of miles.

The miles click off and I am focused on the Kona Mountain Coffee shop which would signal 10 more minutes to run to the Energy Lab. Ahead I see the solar panels of the lab and tell the man next to me we are almost there. 10 minutes quickly go by and I am turning into the lab. I am hot, uncomfortable, stomach upset but I am eager to get into the lab. Actually I am thrilled. Mentally, getting to this lab signified the beginning of the end of the race. It was just a matter of 9 more miles.

1 mile into the lab and I believe I’m having some potty trouble in my pants. It’s Hawaii, it’s about 88 degrees, I’ve been racing for over 8 hours, and I’ve eaten nothing but bars and gels. Shit happens in Ironman. It happens at all the wrong times. But you learn to deal with it and then move on. I stop in my tracks to check, long ago leaving vanity and pride. At that moment I realize Seton, the owner of Trisports.com is right behind me and I apologize – he says no problem, at least I did it in front of him. I realize there is more coming and duck behind a smaller shrub in the Energy Lab.

I run some more and then I see Chris. His face is bright red, his eyes are narrowed, and his arms are raised up like he is ready to either hug me or throw himself at me. He shouts “wife…..” and looks like he is running through a desert and I am his mirage. I shout at him to keep going, keeping pushing, just finish it up. He looks completely spent and utterly trashed. He is seeing the Kona wizard for sure. I do not worry much about him because I know he will finish. Slowly, but surely he will make his way.

I keep pushing the pace and hit the turnaround. I notice I am making up time on a few women in my age group and set out to pass them by. In this time, I am also passed by a younger woman. She is running on fire. Speaking of fire – the heat has started to abate. The Queen K was the worst of it, burning into my skin and igniting my body on fire. I did what I could to keep the heat down – ice, water, but at some point you realize hot is hot and there’s no hiding.

I start the run out of the Energy Lab – again like last year passing on my special needs bag. I focus on the green road sign at the top of the hill out of the lab. That is my target which I push on towards. I cross the mat at the motivational mile and someone has typed in “E. Fedofsky Have a Blast!” It makes me laugh. Seriously, a blast – I’ve had several thank you at all the wrong times.

Running out of the lab I know it’s a little more than a 10K. It is long but it is so short compared to where I have already been. I see a woman in my age group ahead of me and focus on passing her next. It takes me at least a mile but finally I do it. Now, a new goal. The next mile marker sign. My legs are tired and a blister has burst. I want to be done. I am so hot and salty and tired. And then my stomach drops again. This time I simply stop on the side of the road. I find a small tuft of grass and just go. I realize another girl is doing the same, except she has not even taken shelter behind a tuft of grass. I pull my pants up again and think I am so close to being done. I can do this. I don’t care if I have to stop another 10 times, yes I can, yes I can, yes I can.

I run to the next mile. Ruben, a Chicagoland friend, who is running the other way, stops and points ahead, “Do I sense drama in the household? Chris is right up there!” I cannot see him but think I will set him as my next target. But then I realize it is more tangible just to run to the next mile. At each mile marker I tell myself “you can do this.” Just to remind myself that I have made it this far. My mind has completely emptied of thoughts, my body is completely full of pain. In those last few miles I realize I have been completely stripped down. And in these moments of hard work, shame, and pain, my character spoke to me and said “you can do this” over and over again. You learn to listen to yourself in Ironman. You have no other choice. You realize you are your own best friend, your only friend. It is you and your head along the Queen K. No one else will get you to that line except the thoughts running through your mind. You learn to listen. And you make your way.

The last few miles and people are finally opening up again – the silence is broken as there is talk and buzz about the finish line. A guy runs past me and I tell him he is running strong. He tells me the same. He runs with me for awhile. He says of all the Ironmans he has done, none have ever been this hard and he has never had such potty troubles. He is crapping mile to mile. A lot of us are. Welcome to Ironman. The nearest stranger has just become your new best friend, a kindred spirit in stomach distress out on the Queen K. You’ve never met but you look to your right and there they are right next to you, bare assed and baking in the sun.

Another mile, and then another stop. I run across the Queen K to a small shrub. I pass a spectator and apologize – she says, no worries girl, it’s your race. True, and right now it’s a race to that shrub. Bottom end relieved I tell myself it’s time to get this done. 3 miles to go. I just want to see that mile 24 sign. There are the boats. There is the green roofing of the stores on Palani Road. Mile 24. Mile 25. Down the hill, on to Kuakini, the crowd is cheering, shouting, turn on to Hualalei, and finally on Alii Drive.

I am smiling, it is a wide smile. I have been waiting for this moment for the past 10 hours. The run down Alii Drive. The finish chute is long and lined with crowds. The noise is deafening. The finish line gets closer. I focus in on what I am feeling and how it all looks when I finally cross the line. I hear my name called and for the second time in my life I am announced an Ironman. I finish in 10:32:10. I put up my arms. I start to cry. My handlers are holding me. We walk from the finish line. I cry. My body is throbbing. The heat is still coming off my skin. I am red, I am cooked, I am an Ironman.

In crossing the line the second time I wasn’t sure what I would find. When I crossed the finish line, I cried. I cried because it hurt, because I worked hard, because I did it faster on a much harder day. I cried because I was hot, and tired, and because I kept pushing and pushing to the end. Because in hot, dark moments along the Queen K when my stomach rumbled, my feet ached, and my skin burned my mind could think of nothing else to say but you can do this. That was the only thing that came into my mind. For that, I cried.

And so that is what I found. The first time I finished I just wanted to get to that finish line. The second time I wanted to listen and see what I found. I found I can persevere. I can push. I can keep going. That is my character. That is what I said to myself. In Ironman you find out who you really are, you learn what your character is made of, what you say to yourself to get through. I spoke to myself only in terms of you can do this all the way until the finish line.

When you listen, you learn and what I learned is yes I can. This is what Ironman taught me about myself. I can do this, yes I can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Traces of Ironman

Traces of Ironman are disappearing around Kona along with the triathletes. Most of what is left are inspirational chalk scribbles in the street of Alii Drive urging racers to push it or leave nothing behind and a few Ironman banners.

Tomorrow we also leave. We have spent the past two days indulging in a steady overfed diet of food, drink, and indolence. As for exercise, it is completely off the menu for quite some time. Unless you count floating in the ocean with goggles to look for colorful fish.

Other triathletes seem to have a harder time letting go of the exercise. We have counted numerous triathletes biking or running along Alii Drive still wearing their yellow wristbands. First of all - you have been wearing the band for nearly a week. Cut it off already. Second of all - as for the exercising thing - give it a rest. Go eat a cinnamon bun for crying out loud. Eat two. I did. Even Sam McGlone was at Lava Java the day after the race eating a giant cinnamon bun. If it works for her best you believe it will work for you too. Third - running - are you for real? Anyways, I couldn't imagine running right now. Unless it didn't involve my feet. Speaking of feet, I haven't even really looked at them. I can barely shove them in my shoes. And my legs - they are so swollen right now it is funny to think one week ago I felt fitter than ever now I feel like a swollen Italian sausage. Thank you Ironman.

Celebrity spottings have gone way down. I suspect most pro's leave the island soon after the race to get on with their rest, recovery, and life. At the beach bar last night, Desiree F. enjoyed some live music. This afternoon, Joanna Lawn ate lunch at Lava Java with her husband at the table next to us. And Andrea Fisher was checking out the on sale merchandise in the tri store. Tim Hola was wheeling his twins along Alii Drive with his wife. And two new adorable celebrities that I got to meet this week - Bree Wee at the race start and Rachel Ross after the race.

Ironman Hawaii has come to a close and life back in Chicago is waiting. I will post a race report by Thursday with all of the details of my day long race adventure in Kona. I also have many photos. They are in an online album that I would be happy to share. So, if you'd like to see my photos just send your email address and I'll invite you to the album.

I Call This My...

"Sherpa Thomas?"

"Yes, Liz?"

"I need to sit down." I slowly lower my body to the ground. I am exhausted. I am spent.

"Sherpa Thomas?

"Yes, Liz?"

"Do you have your camera?" I ask.

"Yes, Liz."

"Then I need you to take a picture of this face. I call this my 'No more Ironman' face. If you ever hear me say the phrase "I think I want to do another Ironman", I want you to send me a picture of this face."

"Yes, Liz."

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Bucket of Fire

Warning: Do not - I repeat - do NOT order a drink called the Bucket of Fire the day after an Ironman unless you want to find yourself literally in a bucket of fire in the form of your own body heat.

Especially do not order this drink after a famous Hawaiian Mai Tai. Extra especially do not order this drink after you completed Ironman less than 24 hours earlier and if you are convinced you left about 5 lbs of your body weight in crap, fluids, and sweat along the Queen K because your stomach was on fire for the last 18 miles of the run. And note it does not mix well with day-long chocolate/peanut butter overload, mocchi balls, and your favorite Filipino desert halo-halo mix-mix washed down with Power Bar Recovery Drink. And you probably should not consume the Bucket of Fire after taking two Tylenol Cold & Flu because you are either getting sick or allergic to the island. And after you took 1000 mg of acetominophen earlier in the day just to get your legs through the day. And an Ambien to fall asleep the night before (which by the way still does not really drown out the sound of your post-IM-snore machine husband or your growing fear of the giant cockroaches that seem to have a little roach motel behind the toilet in your condo's bathroom). And you probably shouldn't be drinking Buckets of Fire in the first place because you have not held anything in your stomach for more than 4 miles or 32 minutes for the past 24 hours.

Note that at times like this your friends and family will sense your weakness and will try to get you to order a drink like the Bucket of Fire. Yes, they will ask the waitress for 6 straws and even your mother-in-law will play along in the charade when really all they wanted to see was you consume the entire Bucket of Fire on your own. Because there is talk that you have not had a drink since early September when you decided to go wine tasting by yourself (note: an excellent choice unless you are by yourself). And when you say no my stomach cannot handle anymore they say, come on, you can do it. You think to yourself they are right - I swam/biked/ran yesterday for over 10 hours so I'll be damned if this Bucket of Fire beats me now.

But be warned - the Bucket of Fire will beat you.

When this happens, you may find that you leave the restaurant to lay beaten along the seawall on Alii Drive to cool off (note: it is impossible to cool off on an island that has at least two giant volcanoes rising from it) while sketchy islanders say aloha to you as they drive by thinking perhaps you are for sale. You may just find yourself thinking if their car has air conditioning you might be willing to negotiate a price. When you finally walk back inside the restaurant someone will point out that there is still more in the glass of Bucket of Fire. And you think to yourself oh no this is one finish line I cannot cross. Not yet. I need to ease into this post-Ironman life. Too much too soon is a sure way to get yourself injured quick.

Or sold on Alii Drive.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Post Ironman Notes

If I say the phrase "I want to do another Ironman" please drop something heavy on my foot.

Finding your own real estate in an ocean swim - awesome.

Number of times I swallowed ocean water - once - yuck.

All the guys pulling and swatting at me during the swim - give it a rest boys. Seriously.

Cross - tailwind along the Queen K - excellent.

Seeing Natascha in the med van early on the Queen K - poor thing.

The massive wall of wind up to Hawi, going about 10 mph - not so much.

Drafting - explain to me why. Why and how you can draft at Kona. I don't get it. What is the point?

Realizing my watch broke on the bike - oh boy. Kind of makes me wish I bought that new Timex I had been spying all week.

The volunteer who gave me her Timex watch in the changing tent - what a woman.

Where oh where were the giant vats of sunscreen this year? I'm sorry - two people spraying 8 oz bottles of Kinesysis....didn't really cut it. This is the skin cancer burn my friends.

My bike shoes - I broke up with them at about mile 100.

The run - the first 8 miles were so fun.

The next 18 miles - not so fun.

Crapping 4 times over those 18 miles - again, not so fun.

Crapping in front of Seton the owner of Trisports.com - priceless.

We need to redefine your meaning of "fun" - when Seton said at mile 17 "I'm just out here now for fun."

Best sign observed - at Hawi turnoff "I get my wife back in 7 hours."

The last 4 miles of the run - longest miles of my life.

Best reply - guy at mile 5 that I said "come on, you can do it" - he said "I'm working on it."

Mile at which the giant blister on my right foot burst - 22.

Percent cloud cover - zero.

Most bizarre trend - compression socks on the bike and run - seriously?

Crossing the finish line - always emotional.

Eating pizza afterwards - good, for about 30 minutes before it left the body.

Number of toenails I will lose -probably 3.

On the menu for tomorrow - pancakes, crumb cake, ice cream, and coffee. for sure.

Point at which I had already eaten a bag of Reeses Pieces, a Fast Break and a Big Cup - 12 pm Sunday.

Number of people observed with yellow wristbands running on Sunday - two.

Kona my friends is in the bag! Yee haw! Thanks for all the notes, messages, and good lucks!!!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Let The Chase Begin

The smurfy blue suit is on, my tummy is full of oatmeal, there is a cup of coffee in my hand....you know what that means......it's time for Ironman!

Today we get to do Ironman. We get to spend the entire day chasing our dreams! I cannot wait to begin the chase. I told Chris there is no hoping for anything out there - you do what it takes to make it happen.

Enjoy watching it as much as we'll enjoy racing it!

Friday, October 12, 2007


A relaxing day. Walked around town a little bit, visited my doctor at the ART tent, ate a lot of saltines, bananas, pretzels, wrote things all over my water bottles to stay focused on the plan. Checked my bags, once, twice, checked Chris' bags, talked to coach, read e-mails, watched the ocean, drank water. These are things you do before race day.

We racked our bikes in mid-afternoon. Most of Alii Drive has been shutdown to traffic making it a freeway for bikes and pedestrians. People everywhere. More spectators than athletes just watching us athletes wait in line with our bags, bikes, helmets.

As I waited in line, three men spoke spanish while looking at my bike. I looked at them, smiled, and they asked "habla espanol?" Si, un poquito. And then one of them smiled, looked at me and said "suerte". The spanish word for good luck. A word I will carry in both languages tomorrow throughout my day. Suerte. It seems like everything everyone says at you at this point is quoteworthy, epic, and blessed. You pick up little things in the bigger things that people say.

You wait in line and then a volunteer escorts you through transition. I racked my bike surprisingly in the same area as last year - at the end of the pier but also by the portapotties. Checked my bags again, hung them on the hooks. Walked by the changing tent, the hoses.

I waited for Chris - noticing his bike is racked right by mine. Afterwards we watched the other athletes checking in while waiting for Thomas to do a swim. Jessi Stensland was hanging around with some camera crew. Every time I see her she looks smaller and more ripped.

Around 5 pm it was dinner time. Chris' parents came over bearing gifts of fruit - mangoes and rambuktan. I had to decline - fruit is not a friend on pre-race night - but tomorrow I promised my mother in law I would indulge in 20 mangoes with her in a fresh fruit feast.

And now it is just a short while before bed. My body and mind are ready to rest for a big day ahead. Tomorrow is race day. Tomorrow I will do everything in my abilities to have my best race. I hope everyone out there has their best race as well.


The Quiet Countdown

This morning I woke early from dreams of Ironman - 30 foot waves in the ocean, running shoes that I put too much vaseline in and melted all over my race bags.

Oh yeah....I'm ready to go. In body and mind.

Went for a quick run along Alii Drive. It's relatively quiet this morning. A few people out cycling. Saw Nicole DeBoom out there smiling on her run.

Today is the pensive, quiet countdown before the race. I've been thinking a lot. I was at the athlete meeting last night when a PC athlete was on the screen talking about his perspective on race day. Why he does it; he says it's the ultimate test in truth and character. You're out there for up to 17 hours with no one but yourself. It is in those hours that you find your true character and who you are.

A few years ago, someone asked me why I do it. I didn't have an eloquent answer at the time and I still don't. I don't think any of us walk around with 10 well-written reasons about why we do this to ourselves. I think the answers come to us in furtive pieces along the way. You might find the answer during a hard set in the pool, a tempo run, or a 100 mile ride. You piece it all together and over time try to make sense of it for yourself.

And that's how you feel waiting at the edge of Ironman. You know at some point during the day you will find the most eloquent answer yet. And that answer will be good enough for awhile. Until you start your search again.

I believe those of us that do this are also always searching. We are always in search of something bigger than ourselves. We are smart, talented, we look for more out of everyday life. We balance families, jobs, interests, spouses, and still we want more. I believe we do endurance events because they are one of the few challenges we can find for ourselves.

I know that one of the only challenges left is to get out there for 140.6 miles and battle with myself. Because you know out there it's just you and your mind. It's a constant dialogue, at times an argument between you and your head. It strips everything down to the raw and real - the only thing that is going to get in the way of you and your success out there is you. The only thing that will get you across that line is you. It doesn't matter what happens out there or what the conditions are - in the end it is you - your arms pulling water, your legs pushing pedals, your feet hitting pavement on a very hot road and the conversations in your head that make this happen the whole way.

You get philosophical before a big race like this. You have to. Because you know on some level a race of this magnitude and distance just isn't quite right. You have to find reasons why. I have found my reasons why and hope to find more tomorrow.

For now I am going to take my cup of coffee and watch the waves. The ocean is quiet today, it is calm. I will find my quiet there too.

The Truth

This evening our sherpa arrived. That's right, we picked up Mr. Thomas T. from the airport. He is fully prepared to be on full sherpa duty starting Saturday at 4:30 am. Just don't tell him it's at 4:30 am. He thinks his sherpa duty begins from the balcony of a local bar along Alii Drive as he yells our names.

It is 9:50 pm, Thursday night, and the race is a little more than a day away. All of a sudden too much time has turned into very little time. I have shared with you the romantic details of the Hawaii Ironman - the beaches, the hot bodies, the sun, the fresh fruit. But those of you that have been to Ironman and back know that beneath the beauty there lies much, much more.

These are the things you think about. When your body is at rest your mind is at work. Thinking, planning, rehearsing - about the important things. The things that truly will make or break your Ironman day.

I have spent 50 percent of the day thinking about socks - do I wear them or do I not wear them? If I wear them, which kind? Thick or thin? Greased up or dry? Will it matter? After mile 4 they will be so soaked in water and my own pee that there's no hope they'll be dry.

Once I got past the socks I thought about the shits. You bet I've scoped that Queen K for places to go. Don't count on the bottom dropping out at the ideal spot. It will drop when it drops and you must be ready to go. Good thing the Queen K is under construction right now which has left giant piles of rock and barricades to go behind.

Gels. Imagine this - your race nutrition plan is set. You are thrilled they will have your favorite gels on the course. Then at 9 pm you think you hear the guy say "no salted gels" on the course.


NO salted GELS? Are you kidding me? How on earth am I going to carry what can only be described as a shitload of salted gels across 26.2 miles? This threw me into such a tizzy that I made Thomas-the-sherpa go ask just to be sure. Then we discussed the back up plan. Calculations, calories, salt milligrams.......I have calmed down now and realized the gels are actually the same gels I used just with a different name.

That was close.

We've spent a lot of time thinking about tires, preparing for what-ifs. Right now there are things velcroed to my bike that I am not even sure I know how to use. Pit Stop, tubes, cartridges along with the Bento Box which will soon be filled with mylar-packaged foods du jour. I don't even recognize my bike. What was once a speedy fast machine is now a cargo vehicle that will ultimately travel 112 miles. Right now it is clean but on Saturday night it will be coated in gels (salted, yes), bars, sports drink, pee, sweat, pieces of me.

It is building. In fact, they have built the finish line and spectator area along Alii Drive. Along with the scaffolding and bleachers, the island is building in excitement, the energy, the nerves, all of it building to a crescendo that will release Saturday at 7 am in one cannon shot. This is like Christmas except there is no tree. And no snow. And the only present I get is completion in crossing a line.

What the line means......well, that's a truth that those of us that have been to Ironman and back only know. And honestly I can't wait to see what the line means this time.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Waiting Game - Tick Tock

A relaxing afternoon here in Kona. Enjoying some pineapple now before Chris' parents arrive.

We went to see our doctor at the A.R.T. tent. If you are having any aches and pains, I suggest finding a doctor qualified to do active release therapy. It's good stuff. Luckily, our provider is out here every year. It was great to get treated on a table by the beach rather than a table in an office.

While he treated Chris, I noticed a familiar face next to us. A younger woman, curly hair, and a very Australian accent. Looked at her bike to notice a curly-haired sticker on it. Kate Major. I said "Kate Major" to the guy treating her and he said "no, it's her twin sister." Seriously I gave him the look like ZIP IT lunchbox. Anyways, I looked at her and said "Kate Major, good luck." She smiled and said thanks. Even if it was her twin sister, her smile was radiant and it was nice to see even the pro's get treated for little aches and pains.

Afterwards drove to the beach to see some fish. Saw Faris Al-Sultan running down Alii Drive - by himself. Saw lots of fish too. My favorite were the fish eating stuff off the rocks. That would be me. Sea turtles were floating by the shore. Always fun to watch.

On the way out, I noticed a sea turtle stuck in the rocks. Poor thing literally wedged itself upright into some rocks - no way out. Leave it to Chris to save the sea turtle and help it back into the water. To some degree probably not right but his good deed for the day.

Well, there are about 30 plastic bags staring at me for one last look before we turn them in tomorrow. Grease the shoes, cut the bars in half, there's a lot of work still to be done. We'll do a quick workout in the morning and then spend the rest of the day listening to Chris' dad talk about trains and watching him mom - Shopatron - devour Alii Drive. I'm really excited they will be here with us on race day. I know it means a lot to Chris. And to me too.

The Waiting Game - Still Waiting

He's touching his bike number again. I'm not kidding.

What a fun morning. Headed over to Lava Java to watch the waves roll into the shore. Ocean looked calmer today. Still lots of swimmers, bikers, runners. The hardest part about today is resisting the urge to get out there and join them. But everyone has their own plan, and we have ours.

Joined Jeff Keil - fellow Trisports.com teammate - outside Lava Java. He is ready. Talked about the silly swimmers out there and whether or not to wear socks on the run. The important things. He will run well on Saturday, I told him it wasn't a choice. He will do it.

Walked over to the ABC store to buy a towel and ran into Ohio power couple Scott and Andrea Myers both fresh off of top performances at Best of the US. Poor Andrea - she has a cold. Scott looks ready to go and fresh as ever.

Next to the expo to buy cycling gloves. I forgot my gloves at home and after a few sweaty slips on the bars holding on in crosswind I decided I needed gloves. Walking behind us was the legenadry Queen of Kona - Paula Newby-Fraser.

Also ran into Missouri athlete Andy Pele. What a nice guy. I didn't know he was a mailman which raised all sorts of questions about who was delivering the mail while he was gone. He's ready to go too. Heck, we all are.

Then we went to the Power Bar breakfast. On the way there, a very speedy Natascha Badmann was riding with her one-man-posse down Kuakini Highway. Does she ever slow down?

The breakfast was great. Power Bar is one of the best sponsors around. I've been with them since 2003 and their geneoristy always amazes me. The food was delicious, a variety of fresh fruit and yummy mac nut banana bread.

Sitting there we were surrounded by celebrity in the sport. Belinda Granger - very chatty, very small. What you notice about the pro's is they are all super small. Not much taller than me and lean lean lean. Luke Bell was there doing an interview. I believe Carole Sharpless was there telling Belinda about her recent bike crash as she was now sporting two broken wrists. Joanna Zeiger, Ben-Jamin Widoff. On our way out, we noticed Sam McGlone.

We are tanked up on good food and now off to visit our sports chiropractor. He works at the A.R.T. tent every year and we are fortunate he is here to stretch us out. Then, we've decided to do some snorkeling in the bay. The winds are light, the sky is clear.

Last night a funny thing happened. Chris was grilling at the cabana and shouted "Liz, this lady reads your blog!" Met a fan of the blog out there, Jo Adamson, from Atlanta. What a smile, and lots of Ironman spirit.

We'll need all that spirit on race day. Wherever you are, cheer early, cheer often, and cheer LOUD!

The Waiting Game

Today we play the waiting game. No workouts, no walking around, nothing really to do but relax and.....wait.

This morning, the Power Bar breakfast. This afternoon, the Trisports.com meet and greet. Chris' parents are set to arrive around 4 pm.

We opted for air conditioning last night as the waves crashing are feet away from our condo and incredibly loud. Today I can hear them but at a much slower, calmer rate. We woke up early to stay in our routine. That's been key all week - stay in the routine. No eating out. No booze. We've enjoyed fresh fruit from the open market (the best papayas ever and (Bob) we've got a pineapple waiting for today) and grilling fish.

Last night we went to Wal-Mart. An interesting mix of people. Not nearly as interesting at the Wal-Mart in Hot Springs, Arkansas but island Wal-Mart is interesting nonetheless. Hell of a lot of Spam. I took the time to put together all of my race thoughts while Chris changed the position of his number on his bike about a thousand times. Funny as I write this, he is changing it again (at 6:29 am).

Chris just walked back in with a cup of coffee too. Wow, I could really get use to this Hawaiian version of husband. He is terribly easy to convince of things out here and listens to every word I say (about the race only, though!). There is a calm in Chris that I know signifies the coming of a very big storm in his legs and arms - I've never seen him so ready to have his best day.

He just said the words Lava Java which sounded like sweet caffeinated music to my ears. Off for a cup of coffee overlooking the ocean.