Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Transition Bag!!

Ooo, it's so very exciting!

At the triathlons, I had noticed other competitors with fancy backpacks called transition bags.  Some had a special wetsuit pocket.  Others had stools.  Everyone had a space for their helmet.  Most people had various straps, and toggle cords.

I went to my first tri with a couple of canvas grocery sacks.  Seriously.  They were old MOM's sacks from my favorite organic store in Arlington.  (My Organic Market.  AWESOME.  Must go.)  One sack for my bike stuff.  One sack for my running stuff.  The wetsuit went into its own mesh bag.   I laid an old purple and white striped towel on the ground to change.

That's right, readers.  Frugal, and completely dorky.  I bet if Ben had seen the grocery sack set up, he'd have laughed his newly-regrown hair right off.  He's a good Christian man, but he'd have laughed at me.

No longer.  For Christmas, M. gave me my very own transition bag, and because we don't do anything mainstream or standard here, somehow he researched and found out about this company called Gyst out in CA.  I've never even heard of them, but he found the coolest transition bag ever.

That's right- it comes with a changing mat, and is designed to zip apart in such a way that you always have a dry surface to stand on and change in, and when it zips back together, the outside is clean so you don't get yourself and others all dirty all over again.  Genius, guys!  The bag itself is even waterproof. Considering that the Nation's Tri was SOAKING WET this year, this is huge.  I was really lucky that my duffle that I was using was able to stay reasonably dry, but I had a lot of wet stuff after the race.  I still have stuff that smells like the Potomac.  Not to mention that the duffle, while it is great luggage, is rather large and floppy to serve as a transition bag.  Here's as good a place as any to apologize to all the other athletes on the bus who I smushed in the head with my duffle as I passed by.  It's good I had written "First Big Girl Tri!" on my stuff, so at least everyone knew I was a newbie.  Hopefully, after a face full of smushy duffle, they just thought, "New girl.  She'll learn."  Either that, or they thought "New girl.  I will CRUSH YOU on the course!"  Which many of them did.

As far as the duffel goes, though, I'm sure Rick Steves and the One Bag guy would approve of my traveling with just the duffel on my other trips, (thanks, Rick Steves and One Bag Guy!).  It's really awesome luggage and really so-so for triathlons.

Besides, the REI bag is not totally waterproof, and the Potomac is very silty.  (It's not my fault.)  I rinsed my wetsuit the day of the race, but it was about two days before I could get everything home and cleaned.  Then I brought the jersey to Christmas dinner.  Sorry, family.  I didn't mean to inflict that on y'all, but I thought you'd want to see Grandpa's name on the jersey.  Synthetic fabrics never really de-stink.  That's a really stinky river, right?  I don't know if the GYST bag will solve the stinky, silty Potomac problem...  Maybe I just shouldn't bring my tri gear to Christmas dinner again?

Anyway, right now, I've packed all my bike gear- both pairs of shoes, helmet, and all my gloves, into the Gyst bag, and have reclaimed two entire grocery bags.

Can't wait for next season, when I can go to trainings and events, and look COOL like all the other triathletes!  And as a bonus, I can return my duffle to being luggage again.  I bet it's glad to retire.  I'm sure it was even less fun to be the carry-er of the Potomac-soaked items than it was to be the wearer of those items.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas is only a week away!

As I have been reminded, I have indeed neglected this little blog.  I'm crazy busy, but I can't really talk about it in public just yet (or in some cases, ever).  It's been a bit heartsick, though there have been some good outcomes, and there's some waiting on other good outcomes in the future.  I hope.

Sometimes humanity makes me cringe and want to crawl into my closet.

Other times, I just want my Bishop to call me up and take me out for tea, because an hour with her always makes me feel energized for a month or so.  And after this month, I feel demoralized and de-energized.

But something cool has happened:  my niece has asked Santa for an American Girl doll and a wheelchair for the doll!  I have it on good authority from an "elf" who looks suspiciously like my sister-in-law that the doll will indeed make an appearance, but the wheelchair was a no-go.  It is much harder to find a doll wheelchair than you'd think.

Honestly, most of us were baffled: why would she want a wheelchair?  She has an auntie and a granddad who are both deaf, so disabilities are not news to her.  She remembers when I had my arm in a cast, so surgery is not new.  I imagine she watches Glee, so she might know of Artie.  But none of her family or friends use a wheelchair in every day life.

The psychological side of me thinks back to child development and thinks she is at the age where she can begin to develop empathy, and I wonder if she asked for a wheelchair because she is seeking a concrete, visible way to create a definite "otherness" for her doll.  I could get her a toy cochlear, but cochlears and deafness are easy to hide.  You can't hide wheels.  So by imagining a doll who may sometimes be in a wheelchair, I wonder if she is creating a (an imaginary) friend who needs her help and care.

After over-thinking it like that, I made a few phone calls and did what everyone does these days: posted a plea for help on Facebook.  20 minutes later, I was en route to Build a Bear where they had reserved this for me.  All I have to do now is wrap it, and write a letter from Santa or an elf in which he congratulates my niece for being so caring about others, and explains that he asked Auntie Bee to help him get her one last, special present.  Because curly-lettered, fun letters from Santa amuse me to write.

Here's the wheelchair.  Cute, no?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Off Season

So what does the Vagabond do during the Off Season?  I hope to get one more ride in on Saturday, if it's not too cold. It's been awesome to bounce around the trails at the MDC reservoir.  Of course I'll give my brother his MTB back... honest.  And eventually, maybe I'll learn actual techniques beyond the simple slide-and-pray that I use right now as I hit bumps and realize there's an awful lot of pointy rocks on the ground.

I also spend a lot of time wondering how fast I can clip out if I need to.

Tonight, M and I are going to go see Race Across the Sky.  Yes, I'm such a geek I will go see bike documentaries.  And I will say things like, "No way will I ever be hardcore enough to do that race."  But then I will remember the Fat Cyclist's training commentaries, and the lure of french fries might do me in...  he has this neat theory that the more you ride, the more you get to eat.  Maybe I can talk my brother-in-law into riding, and I'll just crew for him, and steal his french fries later on.  Crewing in cold climates is hard work, and I bet he doesn't like french fries... right?

Yesterday, I went to Fleet Feet in West Hartford.  I promised my coach I'd get a real pair of actual running shoes after the tri, and it was finally time.  There's a Turkey Trot I want to do later this month, and my trail runners are over a year old.  They fit you for shoes at this store, so you get the perfect shoes for your feet and running style.  As it turns out, I overpronate.  That's a super-fancy word to explain that I roll my feet in at the ankles.  I also have high arches, narrow heels, and wide metatarsals.  Picture frog feet- like big flippers.  Sigh.  Apparently, this may be the cause of my outer ankle pain that kicks in around mile 3.  My new shoes have so much arch support, I feel slanted, but I also admit my feet feel spectacular and after a hard workout, I have absolutely zero ankle pain.


There's more.

The shoes I got were Nikes, and there was a little slot in there for a little Nike disc which can wirelessly connect with your iPod.  It'll give you distance, pace, and play you songs and have a nice male voice saying things in your ear.  I find that, in the gym, it's a little bland as it only gives me pace information.  But once outside, it'll somehow figure out how much distance I will cover.  For example, it's 1/10 of a mile from my apartment door to the gym door.  Finally, at last, I will know how far I'm actually running. All summer long, I used  a fancy technique called "wild guesses" to calculate distance.

Finally, honesty.

And this will make my coach happy.  Since (did I mention it yet?) I'm thinking strongly of signing up for another event in 2011.  We haven't beat cancer just yet.  My partner is getting a stem cell transplant.  His wife is finally off crutches, but their race isn't over.  I bet Team Ben could be even more awesome next time...

Sunday, October 10, 2010


The Hartford ING Marathon was held yesterday, and I knew I really wanted to go.  Now that we are living IN HARTFORD, it was about two blocks from our house.  Among other things, I insist that part of city living is attending city events.  So even if Hartford as a city has a massive inferiority complex, I will treat it right as a city and attend events.  Heck, I attended the farmer's market near Charter Oak Landing, which was both sketchy and lame, so an actual event had to rock.

When I did my tri, I loved the volunteers.  They were so happy and enthusiastic, and having people scream "GO TEAM BEN" really made the tough parts easier.  When Team in Training asked for volunteers for a water stop, I was really torn.  On one hand, I wanted to see the finish line, and I could have biked there.  No obligations, just all fun, watching hot, tired people come in from the course.  The TNT stop was at Mile 12, so there would be no view of the finish line for me.  I debated and considered and finally decided that, since I want to keep racing, I had to get some payment into my Karma Bank.  Water stop it was.

I arrived a little after 7, and was assigned the job of handing Gatorade to passing runners.  My other important duties involved helping set up (I put cups on the table), trying to locate the nearest portapotty (my advice: the woods behind us are really thick and the nearest portalet is far, far away despite what the lying sign said), chatting up the nice cops and bike volunteers ("OOOO, are those tubeless tires? On these roads? Wow!"), and eating snacks off the Volunteer Happiness Cart.  As you can see, I was a very busy and important person.

Excitement mounted as the racers approached.  Never having done a water stop, I was a nervous wreck. What if I did it wrong and ruined someone's race?  I have stage fright issues.  So I drew deep on my acting-class techniques and decided I'd pretend that I had a life-and-death reason for giving away that cup of Gatorade.  (It's a great thing, acting class.  Helps me out in all sorts of situations, and I even got a spouse out of class. Best class bonus ever!  Good study buddy too...)

The first runner blew by so fast the air cracked in his wake like sonic booms.  He was seriously speedy.  He was made entirely of muscle and sinew.  A few minutes later the next guy came.  Most of the really fast people ignored the Gatorade, but as the main crush approached, I found I was actually exceptionally good at water stops.

Having been a cheerleader, let's just say I know how to use my voice at high volume for a long time.  So I used my cheerleader voice to shout, "GATORADE! GATORADE!" Soon, I decided to start varying it up a little for the main body of runners.  That explains why I was yelling things like, "Awesome Gatorade for awesome people!  Nice lemony-limey Gatorade!  Gatorade Rocks!  You rock!  Y'all come on down now, here, and I give you the Gatorade!"  Behind me, I heard the other two Gatorade people shouting, "We give you the Gatorade!  Getcher Gatorade!  Gatorade, Gatorade!"

Do you think any carnivals are hiring shouters?  They totally want to hire us.

I got a few cups of Gatorade splashed on me by runners who just missed their grab.  (It's okay.  It washes out.)  We were a fast, well-oiled machine.  I saw a few familiar faces, including the Awesome Running Priest who looked incredibly strong and happy as she sauntered on by.  She didn't even look like it was work.  She made it look like so much fun, I almost thought about doing a marathon so I could be happy like that too.

Thank goodness, that didn't last very long.

All in all, I feel my Happy Karma Bank is well-filled.  And more water stops are definitely in my future! (More races, too...!)

Oh, and the bike?  Actually, I have only had my road bike out once since the tri.  After moving, I've been spending my fall bombing the trails at the MDC resevoir.  Did you know there's a whole unpaved trail system out there?  I sure didn't!  What the heck have I been missing?  It's AWESOME out there!  And somewhere along the lines, I became possessed of some strong legs, so I can climb reasonably well, though I still have a lot of hike-a-bike sections.  But it's really awesome to leave the weekend warrior twentysomething big mouth boys eating my dust as I catch and drop them.  Hee hee hee...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whither the Vagabond?

We've been moving.  Our old apartment complex changed owners, and the new owners don't seem as dedicated to maintenance of older buildings.  The buildings had always had a few quirks, but we faced a few recent problems.  Like mice.  And sewage coming up through the bathtub.

Four or five months of scrubbing sewage out of my bathtub so I could use it in the morning was way too much.  When the rent increased, and the manager refused to offer any sort of compromise, we decided to move.  We netted an awesome place in a highrise, with TWO bathrooms (ooooo, what an upgrade!) and a gym on site.  Just one problem...

We decided to move without movers.

Never, never again.  We both look like we have been cage-fighting.

After all this is over, I plan to take my bike to a new bike shop and get myself a nice fitting.  The Gearhead (my brother-in-law, who is a pretty neat person and a bike mechanic for fun and profit) is having fits that my stem may be too short.  So it's time for a third opinion.  But in the meantime... I am looking forward to spending three or four days at home, organizing a new house, taking long showers in the sewage-free tub, locking myself into the bathroom where no boys or kitties can walk in on me, and basking in the 10th floor breeze.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Race Report: Part 4- The Run- "Go, Team Ben!"

Those of you who have been reading the blog might have picked up that I am a reluctant runner.  As a kid, I played soccer.  I played defense.  I sprinted, or I stood still.  I was not and have never been a run-without-stopping sort.

It was only in August that I really worked up to being able to move for 6.2  miles without stopping in a motion that could be considered a run (if you are loose with the definition).  But I'd only done that a few times.

My coaches were very strict about the taper.  I was terrified.

I started off slow with a Clif Shot (I love you, Clif Bar company) and Clif Shot Bloks.  I never actually ate the Shot, and only worked through 4 of the Shot Bloks.  (That is how I know that I ate well on the bike.)   I started slow and easy like I'd been coached.  And this is where I must send a huge shout-out to Wendy, my new friend from TNT.  She kept telling me to plan the run and run my plan.  People were taking off all around me.  I was getting left in the dust, losing all the places I had gained on the bike.  But my plan was to start off very slow.  I had found that I didn't really get my run legs until about a mile in.

So I jogged very slow.  I mean, vvveerryy sslloowwllyy.  At the first aid station, I grabbed my water, and now I must praise race volunteers.  They are awesome people.  They offer you what they have as if they are inviting you to experience salvation.  "Water! Water!"  "Powerade!  You want Powerade!"  "Gu Chomps!  Getcher Gu Chomps!"  In other words, "Salvation, honey!  Come and worship!  I give you the waters of life!  Amen!"  You may laugh at me, but this is how you know that I have truly adopted Virginia as my home state.  The volunteers shouted, "Water! Powerade! Y'all want water!"  and I replied, "Thank you, baby!"  Once, I yelled, "Thank you, honey babe!" to the volunteer who said, "Here's some water, sugar!"  If I'd had a hand fan, I'd have fluttered it.  I love Southerners.

If you are doing a first time Olympic distance Tri, or if you are doing a tri for someone else, advertise the fact.

I wrote Ben's name on my jersey, and people all over the route were screaming, "GO TEAM BEN!" I wish Ben could have heard all these people screaming his name like he were some sort of rock star.

I also wrote "1st Tri" on my jersey.  That is a genius idea.  People would run up behind me and say, "Good job, first timer!"  One guy yelled, "Awesome pace!  You're great!"  Another ran with me for a few minutes and we chatted about doing our first tri and how we felt.

In some places, TNT people were running in two directions at once as we looped an out-and-back section of the run.  People held their hands up for high-fives.  They'd yell, "GO TEAM!" and more often, "GO TEAM BEN!" "GO, BEN!"

But the best moment?  After the last aid station... I'd been holding my slow pace all along, and some people were blowing up on the course- just losing the strength.  I found I had a bit more in me.  I increased speed a bit.  I gained a few places.  And soon, there was this awesome cheering section yelling, "ALMOST THERE!  ALL DOWNHILL!"

And I rounded a corner, and there it was.  "YAY! FINISH LINE!" I yelled.  The spectators heard me, and a few people took up a cheer of "FINISH LINE! FINISH LINE!"

And then I was over, and someone was giving me a medal and M was taking pictures.

We called Ben and Sarah, who had braved the rain and the cold and come out, with a fuzzy head (Ben) and on crutches (Sarah).

Runners need to have mantras.  I totally borrowed one that my Running Priest friend lent me- "Relax. Power. Glide." as my main mantra.  That really works, you should try it.  But under my cap's brim was my second mantra for the toughest sections.

"Suck it up for Sarah."

Throughout all of this, Sarah has been an incredible teammate for me, and (duh, of course!) for Ben.  I know she was my cheerleader in some tough moments, like the day I achieved my fundraising minimum and she called me screaming with excitement.  When I was emotionally drained and physically beaten, she's got the real humanity that keeps the world turning.  By that, I don't mean that she's a saint who is cheerfully bearing all the burdens of being the wife of a cancer patient.  She is not taking this cancer cheerfully, and she is not letting it get away with anything! She gets mad, frustrated, angry, upset.  She's so incredibly REAL with all of this, and the sheer REAL-ness makes her all that much more beloved, to me.  So, Sarah... this tri was done in honor of Ben, my honored teammate.  But at the end of the day, you were also my teammate- part 2 of Team Ben, in the 2010 Nation's Tri.  Without your relentless support, I know I would never have gotten this far... yes, even when you didn't know you were being supportive!

1..2..3.. GO TEAM BEN!

Finisher's Medal!  And my first Team in Training pin.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Race Report: Part 3- The Bike

As I ran toward the transition area, I felt about as calm as I'd felt in the whole race preparation.  I guess I'm a fairly strong climber- I regularly pass people on the climbs when I ride.  Don't ask me how I achieved that.  DC is a very flat course.  It would be wet, which made me nervous.  Remember the Crash?  I crashed on a day very like Sunday- rain off and on, standing water, wet roads.  But still... BIKE RIDE!

I met Coach Rick, and he handed off my cochlear.  He hovered wanting to be helpful, but knowing that the rule of tri forbid too much help.  I stripped my wetsuit, and pulled on my helmet, my arm warmers, my socks and shoes, and this time, I remembered my gloves.  I was all suited up.  I pulled my bike free.  Coach Rick was done for the day, and I was off to the bike course.  In just a few minutes, I was on the bike, and cruising.

They say to start slow, so I did.  I guess I have a lot of leg strength, because very soon, I was passing people.  It's such a flat course that I could easily take my hands off the bike to start eating and drinking.  I had my clif bar and my shot bloks and my gatorade... full-on bike picnic.

It was one of the most enjoyable rides in the rain I've ever had.  I paced strong and fast (my splits showed I held a pace of 17.5 for this part of the course, and moved up about 300 places in the field- in other words, I passed a lot of people.)  The TT machines would blow by me like I was standing still- I'd hear their distinctive chatter well before I'd hear the rider's shout of "ON YOUR LEFT".

Soon, I discovered one of the fun things with the non-competitive section.  Where I was in the race, none of us were going to be age group podium contenders.  We were first timers, regular gals, or just people seeking a personal best.  I passed and was passed by a certain group of people.  Finally, one other girl and I started yelling, "Hi!  Passing you again!" at each other.  Once I yelled, "Let's trade places again!"

I was SO glad to have ZERO flats after this Summer Of Flats.  Whew!

We rode up the Rock Creek Parkway, into Maryland.  We did a hairpin turn and rocketed back to DC.  In a few places, the race volunteers slowed us down like we were NASCAR drivers (usually, for a road hazard or especially sharp turn).

And the cool thing about going with Team in Training?  There were over 750 of us, so that's a LOT of people in purple tri suits.  It's incredibly awesome to be rocketing along and to see some guy rocketing back on the return leg, also decked out in TNT purple.  (I think we look hot in purple spandex.  Call me vain, but there's a lot of easy-on-the-eyes triathletes.  I might keep racing just for the eye candy.)  And again and again, I'd hear a call...


And all too soon, it was over.  I was back into the crowd, clipping out of my pedals, and getting ready for my nemesis...

The Run.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Race Report: Part 2- The Swim

The Nation's Tri has so many athletes that we start in waves.  I.e., the super-fast people (the "elites") go first, followed by the military cadets, followed by the various age groups and gender.  I am a female 30-34 age group competitor.  We were given very hot and sexy dark green swim caps.  I am well aware that my (slightly panicked) mother would have far preferred I'd been given a glow-in-the-dark, flashing cap.  She had some fears of my drowning and dying a wet and silty death in the Potomac.
I stood at the exit chute just long enough to watch the really fast guys come out of the water.  The first few men flew by, having swum for just over 17 minutes.  (That's super fast.)  They ran by at top speed, and I saw the first problem of a triathlon:  I'd never practiced running in bare feet.  
And then I realized: I'd be running in bare feet THROUGH WASHINGTON DC.  
I wear flip flops in hotel showers, I'm so germ-o-phobic and worried about slipping.  To be barefoot... in a city... all together now:  EWWWWW!  
Please tell me how brave I was to take off my flip flops and give them to my coach.  Along with my cochlear.  
I got in line with the other F 30-34s.  Then I kicked my mother out of line.  And then I turned the other way and kicked my husband out of line.  "M, I love you, but you're in my zone!"  Then I talked to the other athletes and wondered what the h-e-hockey-sticks I'd gotten into. 
Soon, we were leaping in the Potomac.  Yes, the swim takes place in the Potomac.  It's not as filthy as I would have guessed, but it does leave one with a fine, silty brown dirt all over you.  (Sorry about your washcloths, Hilton hotel.  You were great!)  
The swim went well- I know I'm a slow swimmer, so I positioned myself at the back of my age group and let the fast people take off.  I started into my stroke.  I've begun to realize that, in open water, it takes me about 200 meters to settle in and get my breathing going, so I just took the time relax and not freak out.  Now that I've cut the neck of my wetsuit, I can breathe SO much easier, and I don't freak out nearly as much.  Whew.  Wish I'd know about that earlier in the summer, when I'd panic because I couldn't breathe.  I should write to that teammate who gave me the wetsuit tip.  
My biggest mistake:  I got lost.  As I rounded the 600 meter buoy, I kept up my stroke and breathing and pacing and suddenly I swam into a herd of people all swimming directly at me.  I stopped dead in the water.  I looked up.  I looked around.  I was totally, completely disoriented.  I saw buoys.  I saw 500 meters.  I saw 400 meters.  I was supposed to be at 700 meters.  Finally, I realized I'd gotten turned completely around.  Disheartened, I swam back to 500 and started that section over.  I kicked myself for about 100 meters, then decided I'd blown that part and I could let it ruin the race or I could make the best of it.  I had pushed myself pretty far back in my age group... but I could only move up, right? 
I figure, with that error, I actually swam about 1700 meters instead of 1500.  Meaning I was the first person in the whole race to get that far. I WIN! 
Winning rocks. 
I concentrated on keeping my body positioned well in the water, and worked on my kick.  Considering I started the summer not even knowing how to do a proper stroke, I think I've come a long way.  Around 900 meters, everything clicked.  (Well, maybe my arm stroke wasn't quite bent right...) I got the full-leg kick going.  I felt my arms pulling down on the water.  And suddenly, I was passing people.  I hit a buoy full on, I was sighting so well.  I swam past about a bunch of people and suddenly, I saw myself matching some guy on my right.  He and I swam stroke for stroke the last hundred meters or so, and then I was clambering up the ramp.  I walked a few steps to reorient myself, and suddenly, I broke into a jog.  
I was running barefoot through a misting tent and over the asphalt of Washington, DC.  
People were cheering on either side of the chute.  
The bike ride was coming up- the part of the event I was made for.  Bring it on, baby.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How did you set up your Transition, O Master Triathlete?

Well, O Loyal Reader... since you asked-

While I like the suggestion of standing stock still and crying "Oh, my God, Oh, my God", instead, I huddled on the bus for a while, and then decided to pull up my big-girl wetsuit and saunter outside.

Thankfully, the worst of the rain had passed, and the sky was starting to lighten.

I had two towels: the first was a gaudy, purple-and-white beach towel which I chose for the garish colors.  I figured it'd be easy to spot in a HUGE, crowded transition area.  I lay this down, and arranged my gear for the bike on the top left half, and my gear for the run on the top right half.

A TNT friend suggested we bring several plastic garbage bags: this suggestion saved me, this day.  I had draped my bike with the plastic the night before, so my bike was mostly dry.  I decided to sacrifice my handlebars to the rain and keep my seat and seatbag dry with a gallon size freezer bag, and I draped my towel and gear with the plastic garbage bag.

When I got back from the swim, the rain was over, and I pulled the garbage bag off to have a perfectly dry transition area.

This means I started the ride with dry socks and shoes.

However, because it was soaking, my socks quickly became soaked.  And when I changed to the run, I was feeling hyper, and I did not change into my dry socks.  Even though I had a dry towel.  So I ran with dry running shoes and soaking wet socks.

When I took my shoes off later, I had blisters between several toes, and two huge blisters forming underneath my big toes, right near the foot.  The between-toe blisters had already popped and run raw.

This is why it was good that I had spare, plain water in a jug to wash my feet.  I washed and dried them before putting on the socks, and this STILL happened.  Can you imagine what would have happened if I'd just stuck them in shoes, straight out of the Potomac?


Aren't you glad you asked?  Oh, wait, is that too much oversharing?  Dang, my bike-crazy brother-in-law never has this much trouble with the oversharing.  But he did laugh at my toe socks, which I was wearing out to dinner, because it was easier than individually bandaging every toe.

Toe socks might be the most awesome invention ever.  I might go buy 6 more pairs and wear them every day of the week.  Even if people laugh at me.

Race Report: Part One- Setting up in the Rain

So, I am now home and ready to present to you a Race Report.

Want pictures?  I don't have any just yet- but if you go to The Nation's Tri, my bib number is 4525.  You can look up my splits, and I think you can also look up pictures.

Anyway:  let's start with Setting Up Transition.

I set my iPhone's alarm... a wake-up call... and the alarm clock.  I get a little nervous about missing early deadlines.  I was already awake when I was startled by M's Kill-Bill style maneuvar on the alarm clock.  See, since I'm deaf, I don't hear the alarm clock.  I rely on M for that sort of thing.  And I sort of didn't tell him I'd set the clocks for 4:15AM.  Let's just say the man was somewhat startled.  Hi, sweetie.  Sorry, sweetie...

Shortly after 5, I was at the transition area.  It was many thousands of square feet- an area for over 7,000 athletes.  I had racked my bike the day before and now headed towards it to take off the plastic bag cover and set up my transition area.  The announcer, however, had other plans.  No sooner than I had plopped my bag down on the muddy wet grass, he started in with his forecasts of a band of rain moving through.  My coach guided me through the tradition of getting a timing chip.  By the time I'd gotten back, my warm up pants were getting wet and I was getting cold, and the steady drizzle was getting heavier.  Soon, I'd be wet through and very, very cold.

It is now time for my Brilliant Genius Idea.

Being that I was cold, I needed to warm up.  All my warm clothes (arm warmers, tights) were designed to keep you warm while being wet.  However, the announcer also mentioned it was a wetsuit legal race.

I had a full wetsuit in my bag.

Wetsuits are designed to get wet, and to keep one warm.

Wetsuits are also a b*tch to put on when you are already wet.  They are easiest to put on when you, and they, are dry.

See where I'm going here?  While I was still dry-ish, and while it was dry, and before the heavy rain came in, I pulled on that wetsuit.  In less than a minute, I was still wet, but warm.  People all around me also started putting on their suits.

Meanwhile, the announcer mentioned a band of electrical activity coming in.  As the thunder started to roll, the organizers moved the buses over to the transition, and my coach grabbed me and all but marched me on to the bus.  He promised I'd have time to set up my area, but he had an aversion to me dying in a lightning storm.

He's all heart, Coach Rick.  Coach Rick rocks, actually.  Coach Rick had a special band to hold my cochlear for me, and gave me tips like "put a thing of water next to the bike so you can wash your feet off."

With many others, we huddled on the bus and watched the rain pour.  Finally, at 6:50, I insisted on going out to set up my area.  The race organizers pushed the race start back 20 minutes to give us all some extra time to set up.  You see, transition closes before the race starts, so everyone has to be DONE and OUT.  But I got it done- the bike was set up.  I had my towel laid down with my bike shoes, run shoes, and the associated gear.  The right food was in the various pouches.  I had extra socks.

Don't we all love extra socks?

Before I knew it, I was waiting in a line for the porta-pottie that was about a mile long.

A distant drum beat rolled in from the river.  The National Anthem played.  And suddenly, a shot rang out.

Game on.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Good bye, Bike!

My bike, it is gone.  It is not here with me.  I said good bye to it this morning, stripped it of its bento box, seat bag, and computer, and gave it up.

Let's not freak out right now.

One of the bonuses is that TNT will ship our bikes for us so that we don't need to worry about them.  I planned to drive my bike on my racks, being a control freak.  But then I started thinking about parking garages.

I have roof racks.  Parking garages and roof racks don't work.

I decided to send my bike with all my teammates, the "easy" way, on the truck.

Here it goes!

As I got home, I found myself repacking my bags and I found a little valve cover, and thought, "Oh, I should see if my bike needs one."  I came down and had palpitations because my bike wasn't there.

It is on a truck, going down South.  I hope it is making friends, getting to know the other bikes, sharing, and getting its tight spots massaged.

This also means that it's all really happening.

Good Lord.  Time to go repack my transition bag again.  The nerves started already.  At least I get to make a check list.

In other news, my family did a big, cool thing.  My paternal grandfather and maternal great-grandmother both died of lymphoma.  My family decided to sponsor me to the tune of a "corporate donation" which is $1,000 which goes to fight blood cancers.  Lymphoma, meet the Bagioni family, and then some.  You had no idea what you got yourself into when you decided to take us on.  (Imagine more than 20 Italians and Portuguese people cracking their knuckles.  Yeah, we're like that.)

PS- yes, we did just publish the family name (hey, family, let me know if it freaks you out,                   and I'll do some photoshop blurring for you).  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Three Weekends of Fun

Has posting seemed a little sparse?  Well, we *are* in taper right now, meaning we aren't supposed to do big workouts.  I'm freaking out a little.  I'm actually freaking out a lot.  Despite my coach's and teammates reassurance that I'm ready, I feel totally un-ready.

I feel puny.

I feel squashy.

I feel like anti-triathlete.

This past weekend, however, included some of the most awesome camping I've gotten to do.  I've been backpacking in some gorgeous locations, and I've returned to some favorite car camping campgrounds a few times, and I've gone beach-cabin-dwelling with both family and friends, and I think that every once in a while everyone needs the Perfect Vacation:

No cell signal.  No email.  Forgot our books.  (Also forgot my knitting).  No bikes.  Nothing to do but play games like dominoes and Flat Busted and cards, hang out with friends, and relax.  I wish I could have camped a few extra days.

Best part: (other than seeing my best friends)- we called the Park Service on a really obnoxious RV that had set up a TV outdoors with a satellite.  Fine if that's your thing, but my problem was their really loud, obnoxious generator.  The campground had generator quiet hours, and this thing had been rip roaring far past quiet hours.

E picks up her phone and reports them.  Five minutes later, the park police show up and the generator was off.

They knew it was us, though.  We were sitting around, each with a beer bottle, knitting and playing games.  Next thing we know, WE had the Park Police at OUR site, making sure we were all legal.  (It was a wet campground.)

Oh, the passive aggression.  I love humanity.

OK- one more day of work tomorrow, and then it's tri time.  I'm starting to pack my transition bag.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beating the Demons

So, after the Big Crash in which I wiped out on wet railroad tracks and broke my dominant hand so severely that I wasn't out of the splint until Thanksgiving (and still have nerve damage today), I was feeling a bit beat by the road.

This weekend, it has been one year since the Big Crash.  So I returned to Vermont (this time, with M) to ride the ride again.

It was about as different as it could be.  I ran into Brian, the really nice guy who was tailing me on a mountain bike and who helped called SAG.  I think he also pulled my bike off the road.  His wife is also an M, and she's also doing TNT- she's a marathoner!

The weather was GORGEOUS- clean, clear, a little breezy, cool.  Basically, the sort of riding weather cyclists sell souls for.

The HydeAway Inn and the owner Margaret were the same as ever- perfect, gracious, cheerful Vermont hospitality.  I don't know how many years I will be able to make the Mad River Ride, but she operates in ski season too, and Margaret and her Inn will always have my business.  They ROCK! (And make a good breakfast).

My only goal: ride past the crash point and to the next rest stop afterwards.

I rode the first 40 pretty strong.  Then psyched myself out for the next ten.  Then I saw them:

As I approached, I got off and walked across.  (Karmic balance, you know.)  And got back on and road to 60 miles where I stopped and ate a few peanut butter sandwiches.  The picture above was taken by M.  He really wanted a picture with me in it, but I didn't realize I was over 45 minutes ahead of my estimated time.  He arrived at the tracks just after 11.  I thought I'd be there between 11:15 and 11:30.  I breezed by just after 10:30, by our estimates.

At 60 miles, I rested well, but was beginning to worry- I'd been plagued by some slow shifting, and it was getting worse.  I knew I had at least 20 miles left in me, but if the shifting didn't ease up, I might have trouble. At 70 miles, my gears locked up completely, stranding me in a high gear- i.e., totally improper for climbing hills!  Riding should be fun, and climbing on the big ring in a high gear is not fun. It's painful, and this isn't the event that I need to put my energy into.

At 80-something I saw M's car.  I searched him out knowing he had to be in a nearby espresso-serving joint.  He got me ice cream.  The man knows me.  And nothing beats the SAG wagon when it's your own Beetle.

Update: the culprit was a stretched cable.  The bike is in for its pre-tri tuneup now!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Road ID Winner!

The Winner has accepted her prize!

Granted, it took a while.  I wonder why- right after she was selected, I sent her the following text: "CONGRATULATIONS!! guess what?  You are the winner of the giveaway and you have won a $25 gift card from road ID.  Do you want to accept the prize??  yay Emera!"

Yes, the grammar really was that bad.  Can't imagine why she thought I'd been hacked and she'd been spammed.

Anyway, Emera is an old friend from college who is also a walking, running, danger girl, so she's an excellent winner for the contest.  I'm fairly certain she's done more dangerous things than me so far, so I have some catching up to do.  Congrats, Emera!  I'll have the card in the mail most likely tomorrow, as today is a long, long shift.

The winner was selected using the button on www.random.org.  I had been keeping a chart of all my donors, and I assigned you each numbers based on the amounts of your donations.   You each had a certain number of chances based on amount and time you had donated, so you each had a series of numbers assigned to you.

I plugged in the number range and hit GENERATE, and BINGO:


#26 was the first number of Emera's range!

I also did all this after swimming a 50 second lap (wowsers!  My coach reminded me this morning that my first laps had been 60 seconds!) in the last leg of my mini-gym tri (I biked, I ran, I swam, and I totally medaled in my age group in hot-tub stretching.)

Next thing- I may or may not make the open water workout tonight due to work, but tomorrow I'm OFF, OFF, OFF, and we are driving to VT for the Mad River Century!  Beautiful drive!  I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Give Away.... goes on!

The Winner of the Give Away has been contacted.  If the Winner accepts the prize, you will be informed shortly as to who the winner is.

Of course, the cliche is "we are ALL winners when we fight cancer together!"  but really, folks:  after a tough week for Sarah and Ben, all of you who helped me make my fundraising goal really helped lift their spirits.  And you gave me extra motivation, too.  I haven't missed a workout since making the goal!

In fact, today, it was already getting dark when I got home from work, so I dragged M out to the gym.  And I designed my own Mini-Tri.  That is, I biked on a video game exercise bike for 15 minutes, then I ran for 15 minutes on a treadmill with a 3.5% incline, and then I swam.

The swimming was a little tough- there were two guys who were working hard in two lanes, and then two girls who were chatting and chatting in the middle lane, and strolling back and forth.  (Uh, water walking?)  They were very nice, but they didn't get- AT ALL- the whole concept of "Hey, do you mind if I work in on your lane?"  So I swam most of my work out in the short and shallow lane.  But they finally got out and I decided to swim a few hard laps to see how I was doing.

Fastest lap ever!  I swam a lap at 50 seconds flat!  My before-training time was around 58 seconds, and super-fast was 55 seconds.  So 50 seconds is a huge improvement!  WHOO HOO!

Results pending for giveaway... stay tuned!  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Run and Swim and Baking Bread

Today is the start of our last week of intense training before our two week taper starts.  It's a little odd, because I have the Mad River Century coming up at the end of the week.  I have decided I will certainly go.  I intend to ride at least the first fifty miles, or past the point where this happened.  If the weather is cool and the Clif Bars are yummy, I might do the full hundred and finally get a century under the belt of my poor road bike.  It's not fair that its hybrid brethren has thus far had all the century fun in this house.

So I'm training hard while wondering if I should be taking it sort of easy for the weekend?

So I went out for a 25 minute run, in which I have no idea how far I went but I ran the whole time.  I've really worked hard on my running, and I think I came a long way.

I put these reflective speed laces on my shoes, called Yaks!.  The other triathletes weren't tying their shoes, so I figured it couldn't hurt.  In fact, it DOESN'T hurt- my left foot feels awesomely normal!  The shoe store guys say that people with a compressible foot like mine, we often find elastic laces more comfortable.  WOWSERS!

Then I did my swim workout.  I'm really getting used to the water position thing, so I can sense where I am in the water- like, all the way below, or floating on top.  I realize that I've been swimming in a slanted position.  I'm learning to correct my position to be lying flat in the water.  And guess what?  I go at exactly the same speed.  But it feels different-easier, somehow.

And then I came home to where my nice bread was baking.  I bake 99% of my bread, and I usually make a quick loaf.  But today I decided to make M something special and I made him EGG BREAD.

Oh.  My.   Entire.   Holy.   Family.    It is A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!! Warm and chewy with a nice crisp crust and a soft substantial inside.  It's exactly like a loaf at the bakery- only a little better- a little fresher, a little more tender, a little bit more amazing.

I ate three slices already.  I was making sure they weren't poisoned!

And then I came here to blog for you, my faithful readers.  So I can't eat the whole thing before M comes home.  Oh, wow.  Oh, holy wow.  Mmmmmm-mm!

Next time, I should raffle off a loaf of bread for donors!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

MADE GOAL!!!!!!!!!!


I don't know if I can even express in words how I feel at the moment (except a little nervous for the upcoming tri?) since all day long I was on tenterhooks watching the push of donations come in, from people I know and from people I don't even know at all!  I am so humbled that so many people are so touched by this cause that they will support this crazy priest and her friends.

Sarah is beyond thrilled- she called me and was laughing like crazy, and I suspect she was crying a little too.  She's calling everyone now, and when Ben gets home from church in a few minutes, will she ever have news for him!  (She is going to be my personal inspirational speaker the night before the race, meaning that as we eat dinner with our group, she will say something inspiring.)

I can't believe we did it!  THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!!!!

And the cool thing?  you can still donate!  There are still paper checks waiting to be tallied, so we have already exceeded our goal, and the giveaway goes through this week!

Human people rock!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Teammate, Ben (and the Giveaway continues!)

Just 7 more days to donate to my account at Team in Training and get in on the Road ID give away!   Meanwhile...

Why am I doing this?  There's lots of reasons:  last August, I had a bad bike crash and I needed to work up my courage and fitness again; my grandpop and great-grandmother both died of blood cancers; I work in a hospital where we treat blood cancers; the PA did it and she's cool so I thought it'd be fun; a tri would stretch me in ways that a regular century would not...

And then there's Ben.  Each Team member gets to select an Honored Teammate.  This person serves as our inspiration when the training gets tough.  On the days we want to quit, our Honored Teammate is supposed to help inspire us to keep on trucking and working hard so we can benefit cancer research and patient support.  After all, our Teammates don't get a choice: they CAN'T quit.  SO...

Readers: meet Ben.
Ben, last year

Ben is a United Methodist minister who serves as the Associate Pastor at Beulah church, where he's continued working the entire time he's been undergoing chemo.  The youth in the parish think he's so much fun they did Relay for Life for him.

Ben and I got to know each other when I was down in Richmond, VA.  We were both doing our CPE residency at MCV-VCU.  I'm a hot-tempered spitfire who spits out words without thinking (often).  Ben is a thoughtful person who always has the right thing to say at the right time.  He's happy and laughs a lot, and seems to be friends with everyone.  He and I shared the surgery-trauma ICUs (we called them STICUs) and the trauma units our last semester.  He was a good resident who pulled his weight in the program.  He, David, Jonna, and I have all stayed at least loosely in touch.  (Thanks to Facebook and email!) Ben was the old married dude in the group.  Jonna and I were both engaged at the time, and David was stubbornly single.  Everyone has since gotten married... which I'm not saying is Ben's fault, but if domestic happiness and healthy relationships is not your thing, then Ben is not your role model!

Every now and then, I still share about difficult pastoral situations and Ben usually says the right thing or at least a good thing.  I usually manage to mangle things or to say the smart-aleck thing...

Ben is married to Sarah, who is my dream chick.  She's funny and also a spitfire, full of life and spirit.  When M and I were engaged, Ben and Sarah were our role models- also a couple without kids, who both had careers but were doing lots of grad school.  Somehow, they were making life work.  When M and I got the pre-wedding stress going on, Ben and Sarah were one of those couples we said we wanted to be like one day.  They had a house and dogs and happiness- win-win, right? (We also want to be like Brad and Angelina but we're only emulating them for the money.)
Ben and Sarah.  On her left wrist, you can see her green SUPPORT BEN  bracelet!

Any reader of this blog might have picked up that I am very, very fond of M.  I love him dearly and my greatest fear is that something will happen to my sweet M.  It was a true gift from God to meet someone like M, and I couldn't imagine who else I'd want to put up with.  I can't bear the thought of risking losing him.

It kills me that this is exactly the fear that Sarah has faced every day since Ben was diagnosed.  You see, Ben cannot be cured.  There is no drug or technology at this time.  The best they will be able to do is to get him into remission... and wait, and wait, and wait.  And when remission fails, they'll beat the cancer back again into remission... and again, and again.

Ultimately, I'm doing this because I want Ben and Sarah to grow old together.  I want them to be the toothless old couple at the old folks' home holding hands in their rocking chairs.  I'm doing this because Sarah is facing her worst nightmare... and I can't even bear to imagine going through the same.  Every now and then, I see a chink in her upbeat armor and that's what gets me out on the road again.  Running?  Hot spots?  Eating GU?  Easy peasy compared to what she's going through.

Sarah and Ben, recently

Ben and Sarah- I love you guys!

Our team link:  http://pages.teamintraining.org/ct/nattri10/etesiy

Monday, August 16, 2010

6.86 Mile Giveaway!

I'm lucky to have pretty neat brothers-in-law- one's idea of a Thanksgiving tradition is to stick a crate full of raw oysters on his back deck with a crate of beer and let us just have at it, and another who's even MORE bike-crazy than I am.
It's so nice to be the moderate one in the family.  (Meaning I only sucked down, like 12 oysters and a long ride for me is 62 miles instead of 70.)  So I informed the biker brother-in-law that it was threatening to rain and that my intention for today was to sit at home and play with bike parts.  
Instead, I decided to do the long run that I skipped yesterday.  6.86 miles.  Longest. Run. Ever.  
D*mn Puritan work ethic. M even came running himself- meeting me near the end.  Oddly, while the first few miles are agony, and while I have some nagging left big toe issues, by the end of the run, the pain sort of wore off.  I think that means I ran through the pain and my body is going into shock.  
Which is a great segue into the AWESOME GIVE-AWAY I'm doing!!  I'm a whiny runner.  I was not literally at the point of collapse.  I've been hypothermic and injured and bonked and near-collapse and in heat sickness before, so I know how real trouble honestly feels.  I was nowhere near being in trouble today.  But what if I had been?  
Enter Road ID.  
On the left, you can see our Road IDs.  Yes, of course, they are blurry enough so you can't read my info off the internet!  And on the right, you see the AWESOME GIFT CARD that ROAD ID is GIVING AWAY!  (And in the background, that's my favorite honeymoon picture, from Tenaya Lake in Yosemite.
Because what's an adventure without an awesome ending?) 

The FABULOUS folks at Road ID are helping out in the fight against cancer.  They are regular sponsors of TNT, and to help me out, have offered a $25 gift card, which I am going to make available to my sponsors.

Mine's an interactive (because of the cochlear, I can't have MRI, and I figured it's a good idea to be able to explain all the cochlear things in detail).  It means that I have an online profile that gives my medical information, including the cochlear contraindictions, and extra contact info.  Less complicated people can get a regular ID.  Mine is TNT purple!  M's is manly black.

All individuals who have sponsored me already will get one chance for every $10.  Everyone who sponsors me from here on out- for every $5, I will give you another chance!

The drawing will take place on August 25, on which date I will place everyone's name in a big bowl and draw out one lucky winner for the Road ID gift card!

Not only is it awesome, but you won't even have to endure the foot pain.  And you may win a really cool item by a really sweet small company, help save the economy with small business, and potentially save your life while helping me fund research to save other people's lives.  The karma is through the roof on this one!   

Friday, August 13, 2010

First Tri! PR!

The nice thing about doing your first endurance event of anything is that no matter what you do, you get a new personal record.  Some people call them "personal bests" and abbreviate it "PB" but that just makes me want a sandwich.

I have a LOT of vacation and holiday time at work, so I took the afternoon off to go do the Lake Terramuggus Tri.  It's a sprint tri- a short training event.  It's about half the length of the one I'll be doing in DC.  My idea for yesterday was to DO the event to get used to the feeling of transitioning, and to get used to the idea of stripping off all my gear and putting on more gear.  My coach came and gave me and my teammate advice and feedback.  Here's how I fared.

The Set-up:

I was a bucket of nerves.  What if the other triathletes were mean to me?  What if I put my stuff next to some hard-core athlete and pissed them off?  I'd been obsessively reading triathlon rules online, but I still had a killer case of heartburn.  And I lose my appetite when I'm upset.  I'd barely eaten all day.  

Finally we got to the race and I registered and got my number inked on my arm and leg, and I got my timing chip. And then I came back and stuck my bike on the rack.  This would become a problem.  See, I love my bike with deep warm squashy love, and I baby that thing.  Before most rides, I check its tires, check for loose spots, massage its tight areas, pet it and whisper sweet nothings to it.  Last night, I just pumped the tires next to my car, and didn't do anything else.  I'm sorry, Bike, I really do love you more than that.

The Swim:

My coach advised we go warm up.  Since I have wetsuit freakout issues, I thought that was wise, and got water flowing into my suit.  I took a few strokes around to try and loosen up, and saw the bottom of the lake with lots of fish darting around.  "Cool!" I thought, "Fish! Maybe they'll make me hungry by the end of the swim!"  And I looked up to see my coach pointing to the start, saying "GO THERE! SWIM!  NOW!"  And M was pointing, "SWIM THERE!! NOW!"  So I freaked out and frantically dog paddled over to the actual starting line.

Heart racing, adrenaline shakes, the whole nine yards.  Nervous, much?  Along came the countdown and off we went. A swift kick in the head and a chop to the ear and the pack was past me.  (Caveat: everyone who hit me turned around and said "sorry".)  Pretty soon, it was me with the breast-stroking tired people.  I guess I"m a realllllly slow swimmer.

I'd now like to thank my brother for instilling in me Little Sister Syndrome.  Basically, it's a learned behavior- anytime a strong boy comes along, this latent killer instinct kicks in.  So I started matching the guys around me stroke for stroke.  Ultimately, I was in the top of the last third or the bottom of the second third out of the water.  This just means you should pray for my swim coaches.

Oh, and seeing the fishes did not make me hungry.  In fact, seeing the little suckers darting about just made me feel slow.  Curse you, fishes!  You shall never motivate me again!

The Bike:

As you emerge from the water, all the water runs out of your wetsuit, which makes you feel like you are peeing.  I have modesty issues.  Besides, I get queasy from the change in body orientation.  Luckily, I had racked near a few strong guys, so they were long gone and I had plenty of space.  On went my bike gear, and then it was off to the ramp.  Of course I was panicking about the time, so instead of putting on my gloves as I had planned, I screeched as if they were bugs and threw them away.   Whoops.  And running bike shoes is fun:  Clopclopclopshuffleshuffleshuffle.  And onto the bike route.

I'm happy on a bike.  Pretty soon, the cool breeze on my wet trisuit had me feeling much better.  It took my legs about a mile to start feeling normal.  I started forcing fluids, but was so revved up from the nerves that I was pretty shaky about taking my hands off my handlebars.  This meant I didn't eat or drink nearly as much as I should have.  At least, Clif Bars Shot Blox are my friend.  Chewy gummy squares- num num num.  Clif Bars, sponsor me.

There were a few uphills, but plenty of nice curving downhill- all in all, it's a really delightful bike route. Just one problem:

I felt an ominous chatter in my back wheel.  You see, my rear brake is a little sensitive.  Sometimes, it makes a chatter sound and feels like I'm riding in sand.  That's why I coddle it BEFORE a ride.  I felt that feeling, but freaked out about stopping.  Would the other triathletes try to help me, and thus I'd ruin someone's race?  Would they be angry at me for not having my bike up to snuff?  Could I lose the time? Would I get a penalty?  I was hurting- badly- on the uphills, but if I spun like crazy, I could hold a steady 17mph on the flats and get upwards of 25 on the downhills.  I elected to stand and mash pedal on the hills to survive.  At the end of this post, I will include the DOH! moment.

The Run:

Back in transition, I sat to tie my shoes.  Most of the others have speed laces.  That's smart, eh?

The run scares me the most.  I'm a horrible, horrible, slow runner.  I waddle.  I whine.  I feel like a set of good lungs atop a pair of leaden-hosen, the type made of real lead.  The run crosses a basketball court and a tennis court, but the second I hit pavement, I was totaled by killer cramps in my calves.  I hobbled up a hill, and had to stop to stretch them out.  (My coach says I probably didn't eat or drink enough.)

I started shuffling again.  I felt like a brick.  A leaden brick.  It was probably a good mile, mile and a half, before I started feeling like I could do real running motions.  And then came another hill.

This is where I realized that I had been wrong to be scared of the other triathletes.  Yes, there's a few hard core weenies who don't want to be friends, but for the most part, they are a really nice, laid-back group of people.  I mean, they love at least one of the three sports, and here they are, actually doing them.  So they are happy.  "You'll feel so much better soon- it feels so good to get to the top of this hill!" said a voice.  I looked over my shoulder to see a guy in a yellow shirt.  "You're doing really good," he said.  "It's my first one!" I wailed.  "Great job! You're past the worst of it!"

Then I passed a cop stopping traffic.  "Good job!  Looking strong!"

Then a family had set up a water stop.  "Water?  You need water!  You're almost there!  Good job!"

Then a state trooper.  "You're making it look easy!"

I don't care if every single person was lying to me last night.  I needed to hear that and those people are all sweeties and I have great love for them all.

Finally, the finish.  As I approached the line, I heard the "clopclopclop" of two people behind me and I decided I was going to WIN THAT LITTLE SPRINT.

I have the white hat. 

And that blurry shot M took is the only time in my life I will ever look like a real runner.

The DOH! moment:

As we packed up, and prepared to rack my bike back on my Beetle, I decided now was the time to fret over my wheel.  I spun it.  It turned a quarter turn.  I spun it, harder.  It turned less than halfway.

Yes, my brake was cheated to the right.  I had ridden the whole race with my brake rubbing against my wheel.

And that is why my quads and hamstrings burned like fire all night and into this morning.

But I think back to the time that I passed a Shirtless Dude Who Was Very Proud of His New Aerobars and His Abs, and I totally wasted him on an uphill... I came up from behind, leaned around, and rocketed away from Shirtless Dude... WITH A BRAKE PROBLEM.  That kinda rocks, right?

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Today, I was supplying at a church which was exactly 6 miles from my home.  Score!  The race distance is exactly 6 miles.  Besides, I was scheduled for a long run today, and my body needed something to get some of the mental poison out of my system.   Essentially, being a hospital chaplain means that you sometimes have weeks of complete sh*t.  The past ten days have been like that.  It seems like the local paper is living outside my ED doors this week, and while it appeals to my control freak side to be "in the know", it gets tiresome to be dealing with every freakin' major headline.  I spent the week stepping over gang members to get to my office door and making clay handprints that were too tiny.  I had to run away from that... literally.

You'd run too, if you had this sort of a week.

What with one "shortcut" and another, I accidentally tacked on an extra .7 miles to my six mile run, but I left the church at 10:30 and arrived home at 11:42.  And I had the unique experience of picking up some rations at 7-11.  I can't remember the last time I was in a 7-11, though it used to be a regular treat for Slurpees after soccer practice when I was little.

There, I met my enemy.  Not my nemesis, because that would be like Gu which makes me want to yak.  No, this stuff is just disgusting and gross and makes me queasy and angry.  It's G3- which came in the small jar.  G2 came in a big jar which was too big to carry.  G3 came in the small jar.  It's horrible!  Sweet, thick, syrupy, coats my tummy like cough syrup and sits there with the delicate weight of lead in my gut.

I do drink regular Gatorade, and love the lemon-lime and the red flavors.  But I also drink them at half-strength.

I brushed my teeth three times after getting home, and my tummy has been easily upset all afternoon- whole foods and veggies seem ok, but any amount of sugar is pushing me way over the edge.  I had supper with my parents and sister- the special recipe zucchini parm dish was great, as was the nice bread.  But right after I ate my ice cream:  the Gatorade feeling returning.  I virtually ran out of my parents' house, moaned all the way home, and only stayed up to share with you, my dear readers, my agony.

G3, I hate you deeply, with a deep loathing that goes far beyond my ambivalence about Gu.  G3, you are an evil, evil drink.  I hope you can learn to live with yourself.


PS- in exciting news, my fundraising (which is not reflected in my online total just yet) is now up to $2,075!!! Just $775 to go!!  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In Praise of Shot Bloks

Oh, Shot Bloks, you 33 calories of caffeine and sugar.
Oh, you Shot Bloks, who do not upset my tummy and make me want to yak.
For yakking at 530AM on a ride is somewhat anti-social.
You make my tummy happy, and my burden light.

Shot Bloks, you are the first energy food that I love, after Clif Bars and maybe some types of Luna Bars.
But definitely not Gu.
Gu makes me especially yak prone, especially on the swim leg.
And I'm pretty sure that's a biohazard.

Shot Bloks, you come in tasty flavors, like a Gummy Bear.
And you fit so nicely in my bike's bento box,
Where I stash my snacks so I can eat and ride.
O, why have I not become uber-skinny this summer?  (It can't have been the cake...)

Shot Bloks, you and I shall live in joy and unity
All the days that my bike has functional gears on it.
And we shall dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
For if heaven lacks Shot Bloks, then God doesn't ride bikes.

And I'm moving to the heaven with bike paths.


My nifty bento box (not the brand name one).  In it I have a Clif Bar, my previous food of choice and still my go-to option for endurance events.  The plastic tubes are the Ode'ed Shot Bloks, which might just be a miracle.  And the small silver thing in front is a Clif Shot.  Sorry Clif, but I just can't do gels.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Wetsuit

My coach has the picture trapped on his camera, until his nephew can teach him how it works.  So I had a teammate take a cellphone picture this morning.

We swam in the ocean (well, the Sound) in Fairfield.  It's a really lovely beach.  The only drawback is it's over an hour from home... meaning a 430AM wake up call for me!  YOWCH!  At least... as we waded in to the water just after 6, the sun dawned a brilliant red, rising out of the cloud bank.  It was rather... majestic.  Maybe those crazy dawn people had something right... Oooo, next time we go camping... I'll leave the rainfly off!  THAT sounds like a good way to welcome a nice clear dawn.  (Warm, dry, and comfy, from one's own sleeping bag!)

The sky starts to lighten as I get around the Waterbury area, and the iPod sings me songs.  I'm still working on the morning eating thing.  I've never been a good morning eater- partly because I tend to feel queasy in the morning.  It's just how I've always been.  So I had the bright idea to try some Alka-Selzter today.  It seemed to help on the morning upset stomach, and I was able to eat my half-PB sandwich.  Unfortunately, the good vibes didn't last.  The morning queasiness returned with a vegeance halfway through the swim.

One teammate suggested that I might be mildly claustrophobic.  Odd, since I always associated claustrophobia with enclosed spaces like elevators, but apparently, she was listening to the way I describe the wetsuit and how hard it is to breathe in it for a few minutes and how I needed to stop to pull at the neck and fill it up a little with extra water... apparently, wetsuit claustrophobia is a known triathlete issue, and why some people freak out in the water.  Hence, it is very important to practice in your suit well before the event.  Today, we had a current, an incoming tide, and waves.  We swam against the current on the way back, and there was certainly a few times I considered swimming for shore half-way through.  At one buoy I treaded water and promised my worldly goods, my non-existent firstborn, and a pony to anyone who would let me have a bike ride instead.

But my teammate egged me on with her infectious energy and I made it all the way to the end.

Getting out of the water is tough when you are feeling queasy, short of breath, and mildly heart-burny (apparently, all symptoms of not eating enough for a hard workout OR of claustrophia.  I would also suggest tri-phobia).  The wetsuit is VERY heavy, and the water inside it is warmer than the water outside it and the air.  As the water runs out of the suit, it makes you feel like you are peeing your pants.  Very uncomfortable for this modest girl!  (The Vagabond assures her followers that she will NOT be peeing in her wetsuit.)

Here's the long awaited picture, come to set my donors free.  You have given my cause money, here's the picture for all to see!  (OK, sorry, I had a church geek moment there.  Bonus points for anyone who can identify the earworm I have right now!)
Post-swim.  I'm not sure if I really look all that thrilled, but that's the most I can muster after today's grueling water workout!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Flat Tire

Yesterday, I had the interesting experience of my SIXTH flat tire of the summer.  I'm getting a little tired of flats.  I've had more flats this summer than I have in all my years of biking so far.  I've flatted my hybrid once and my roadie five times, including the initial flat where I had to replace the entire tire.

Yesterday, I went out at about 630AM, intending to do an 11 mile ride and a 1.5 mile run.  Just like the training paper says.  I'm so good.

As I worked my way through West Hartford, I came to the part where West Hartford becomes Simsbury, and turned right onto Simsbury road.  Simsbury Road is gross- covered with debris and sand and gravel and broken glass.

A few hundred yards past the intersection, I felt that familiar-by-now feeling of riding on sand, and decided to pull up.  I unclipped, then remembered I am riding on new shoes.  Yes, I finally upgraded to real road pedals after 7 years of riding hybrid pedals.  This is significant, because road bike shoes are intended to be clipped in to pedals.  Period.

I took my front wheel off, patched the slit, and put in my new tube.  I was just starting to pump when the valve snapped in half and fell deep into my pump.  There I was:  5 miles from home, wearing road bike shoes with hard plastic bottoms and a big cleat, my only pump now jammed with my spare tube's broken valve.  I pulled out my cell phone... which promptly died.

It was now that I unleashed my finely honed vocabulary of swear words.

A homeowner backed out of his driveway in a big truck, pointed, and laughed, and drove away.

A biker on the other side of the road rolled by without a wave.

A biker commuting to work actually crossed the road and continued on her way.

A Police Officer checked to make sure I was not hurt, but he was running traffic and had left his phone in his cruiser.

At Bishop's Corner, I asked a group of parents sending their kids to camp if anyone could lend me a phone.  A man with a Blackberry clipped to his belt said, "No, I don't have a phone".  Two mothers gripped their children close, and said, "Sorry.  We don't have phones."  Yeah, I believe that, in affluent West Hartford, especially when you are sending your child to Rennbrook Day Camp.

I think it must be my very sketchy Italian looks- the dark hair, the big schnoz, the imposing quads, the facial scars masquerading as dimples.  If you saw me coming down the street, I'm sure you'd run screaming.  I guess I'm that terrifying.  I should work that, really, and take up a life of lucrative crime...

The only bright side:  early on in the fun, I walked by a synagogue, and one of the rabbis was walking to work.  He said the only practical things anyone said all day:  "Are you hurt?"  (I wasn't.) "Oh, then that is a blessing... Do you need to use a phone?  Here, use mine, don't worry about the minutes!"

I checked with a Rabbi friend.  It seems this would be considered a mitzvah.  Rock on, Rabbi!

All in all, I walked 4 miles in bike shoes from Simsbury to West Hartford before M (who had gotten the message the Rabbi left) found me, as he drove around my usual routes looking for me.

M saved me.  Here's my cleats, after four miles of walking, and the valve that broke and caused all this trouble!

Naughty valve.  There's supposed to be a piece on the top that keeps the air in.  Useful, really. 

Cleats, after Four Miles of walking.  Hopefully, now you get why people don't hike in road shoes.  My gearhead brother in law actually identified the type of pedals I ride in just by looking at the cleat.  Neat trick, indeed.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Brick Soup

It's official: enough of you have donated so I have to post wetsuit pictures.  My coach has them, so give me a day to get them from him.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

The ominous weather report of high humidity and high temperatures started mid-week.  We knew it would be muggy.  As I drove out to our starting point today, I realized I hadn't truly considered how muggy it would really be.  It was downright foggy.  By 7AM (our start), the fog had lifted.  Barely.  You could still see the sun slanting down through the trees.

The Timberman crowd and my group started out at the same time.  The Timberman is a half-Ironman.  Craaaazzzzzy people!  (Except they get to do longer bike rides...)

By mile 5, I could see that the fog was staying stubbornly stuck over the water.  I am not a sweaty type of person, and even I was starting to droop a bit.  The first part of the ride was pretty much constantly uphill.

But you don't ride bikes for uphills.  You ride bikes for what happened next: my group turned around, and started back.  And then it was mostly downhill.  And that's why you ride bikes.

My fastest speed was 36.5, in a tuck, on a downhill.  At that speed, you just give up your control, and let yourself fly.  Gravity isn't that important.

36.5 mph makes it worth it to do the run.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Today, after I did the morning workout, I walked into the bedroom and whispered into my sleepy husband's ear: "I did an aqua bike today.  The gym worker got really mad when I rolled into the deep end."  He muttered, "mmgorf?" from the depths of his pillow, and squinted into the morning light.  "You did what?"

I love whispering crazy things to M in the morning.

An aqua bike is like a brick, except that instead of biking and running, you swim and bike.  The point is to get yourself used to transitioning between the two sports, and to learn to change your gear in a decently swift manner.

For example, today, I rode to the gym, and decided to wear my swimsuit under my bike stuff.  Since the gym rules require swim suits, I can't exactly try out my tri suit in the pool.  I did the swim workout, hauled myself out of the water, and jogged to the locker room.

Where I became very glad that I will be wearing a tri suit.  Let's just say that pulling spandex shorts on over a wet body doesn't work well, at all.  The spandex gets stuck, and you drip chlorinated water into your eyes as you attempt to massage the gripper part of the leg onto the right part of your developing quads.  And have I mentioned it's 7AM as you are doing all this?  All the other women were primping for work, blow drying their hair and doing their makeup, and I was hopping around like a possessed frog, dripping everywhere.

I realized I will not be able to wear my swim cap under my helmet.  I thought it would help corral my hair, but I can't get my cochlear to seat with the swim cap on.  So I'll have to bring a baseball cap for the run, because my hair will be terrifying by then.

It's all vanity.

I also realized, as I put on my bike shoes, that the time had finally come for me to upgrade my shoes.  You see, as much as I love my bike, I love my frugality as well.  I've never- NEVER- bought anything full price for my bike.  I've been watching for a good shoe sale for a long time, thinking that maybe someday- when the price was right- I'd upgrade my shoes.

Sadly, every time a shoe went on sale, it didn't fit.  I have great swimming feet- they are shaped like flippers with a narrow heel and a big floppy spread of toes.  I also have an extra bone on top.  I have a very, very difficult foot to fit.

So I took a few hours' personal time, and went to the bike shop.  I had to get my rear brake looked at, and I took the opportunity to talk shoes.

And I bought the first ever thing I have ever bought for my bike... that was not on sale.  (It was still a good price, just not on sale.)

Somewhere in there, I might have crossed the line from "fun hobby" into "obsession".

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martha and Mary

So on Sundays, I go off to do some supply preaching.  As a chaplain, I spend my regular life in the hospital, but because I'm married to a grad student who needs to be kept in the style in which he's accustomed, I do supply.   Besides, it's an occupational hazard that I define my life by the rhythms of church liturgy.

Today is Martha and Mary day- it's a great story.  On the surface, it seems that we have busy Martha doing her housework.  Her lazy sister is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Jesus, being a typical man, is doing nothing to lend a hand, but he chastises Martha for working and tells us that housework sucks and that Mary has chosen the better life.  As a kid, I was right there.  Absolutely, the person who chose NOT to do the housework has absolutely chosen the better life.

Believe me, when my arm was in the cast and I had a maid service coming for a few months, I loved not doing my housework.

But that's not what the story is really about.  Friends who studied Greek (I took Hebrew) figured out that the word for the sort of work that Martha is doing is a word that does not typically refer to housework.  Martha might not be cooking in the kitchen for Jesus.  She might be serving a deacon in her community- one of the elders who had responsibility for making sure widows, children, and the poor were cared for.

And Mary wasn't simply being a lazy contemplative.  Sitting at the feet of Jesus, she has boldly taken the place of a disciple- taking a place typically reserved for a man.

In other words, both Martha and Mary have boldly seized roles that have previously been reserved for men in their society.  Because of their friend Jesus, they were empowered to step outside the traditional constraints and become new people.

Meaning that, if they had been being typical women, we wouldn't even have a story.  They are essential to the telling of the Good News.

And, personally, being a radical myself, I believe that the emerging church has nothing to do with using techniques to get people to return to the pews.  People didn't leave because they weren't hungry: they left because church wasn't feeding them.  In many ways, the church is a traditional 4 star French restaurant, losing diners because we are operating in an era when people want to eat local, seasonal, simple food. We can't just re-draw the menu and keep serving the same food.  We need to radically re-vision the menu we are serving.  We need to be willing to change the food.  The palate of our culture has changed.

 What Jesus tells Martha is that Mary has chosen the essential thing: Mary has chosen to take some time to be filled, and he wants Martha to be filled to.  Mary and Martha are both radical women who have taken on a new role in society, a demanding role.  They are treading a new path and in order to walk this way, they must be fed in their souls.  Jesus isn't chastising his underlings.  He's asking his friends to rest with him, and be filled.

It's a radical thing.

Happy Sunday!  For the Record, it's incredibly humid out there.  I went to bed with a stuffy nose, woke up at 3AM to find my insomniac husband puttering around the house, and went back to sleep in the A/C because the humidity is just disgusting! I've likened it to a walk-in neti pot.  It also means that there may be no outside training today.  I tried on Friday, and almost got sick with heat exhaustion- I overheated and couldn't get a break.  So it may well be a pool day today.

Keep the donations coming!  Just a few more, and I'll have to post wetsuit pictures!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Wetsuit!

I now own a wetsuit.  Included in the fundraising (and part of the reason why tris have such a high minimum) is the wetsuit.  They give us a wetsuit because they are training many tri newbies, most of whom know nothing about how to buy or try on or use wetsuits.  Nor do we know anything about water temperature.  In my mind, (with one exception), all water is cold, cold, cold.  I've always walked to the gym, even now, in the heatwave; and even now, I lower myself into the 84 degree water one frigid inch at a time, squeaking "OO-ee, OO-ee, OO-ee!"  I don't do cold well.

The thought of the Potomac- miles and miles of frigid water that has direct commerce with the ocean- filled me with dread.  Yes, I was thrilled with the wetsuit.

And I now know why the swim comes first in a triathlon.  It has nothing to do with the swim being hard or anything like that.  It has everything to do with the fact that it will take me an hour to get INTO my wetsuit, and if we did the swim second, you'd have all these athletes flopping around trying desperately to smoosh themselves into an insulated sausage casing.

As I pulled it out of its wrapping, I was convinced they'd sent me the wrong one.  Unstretched, it's about the size of a 5-year-old child.  But I'm a woman, people.  I can cover a 12 hour day in a trauma 1 hospital in heels and a skirt.  I can handle a tight suit.

Ten minutes later, I was still hopping around, massaging body parts and doing deep squats while groaning and saying things like, "Oh, this is harder than it looks" in a language pronounced like this:  "AAAAAAooooooooggggguuuuhhhhhheeeeeeeeee!"

Finally, I had it all on and pulled up the zipper. I took an experimental walk.  It practically straightens your legs for you.  I feel buoyant already!  Of course, that could be beginning heatstroke because that thing is HOT!  I started sweating in seconds.  

Ill let you know how it goes when I finally get out in open water.

PS- the only water I consider NOT cold:  hot tubs, for one, like the nice waterfall whirlpool at the gym.  And my shower, which I usually have turned up to a nice balmy temperature I like to call "Lobster Pot". I'm sure my soul is doomed, right?