Thursday, February 28, 2008

Behold, Sálome

Last Friday

Ah, a glorious day! The day I get to head to GAG to pick up my pretty shiny new bike. I arrange to meet Bridget and Colleen there, so that they can act as my “muscle”. Well, and so that we can have a Bike-Pickup Festivus. This of course is something that Colleen takes literally, and so as we walk in the door, she starts bellowing “I got a lot of problems with you people!” Luckily, I was able to distract her with a quick “look, a shiny new mountain bike!”, and as her head whipped around in that direction, I set about changing the topic to a more worthy one, i.e. me and my bike.

As one of the GAG guys carefully wheels out my new Baby, under my watchful eyes, I inquire as to whether YCBG Matt was the one who worked on my bike – indeed he was, with a bit of help from his minions. Probably holding the socket wrench for him and things like that, like technicians helping a finely skilled surgeon in the operating room.

I then ask the all-important question: “Will this help me drop Deanna like a bag of rocks?”

You see, much as I love Deanna, after that little Disney escapade where she was crushed under the heel of the elderly Disney worker at the airport (she’s continuing to ask me if I’m still paying him off, but I’m no fool – one lump sum payment, cash, unmarked envelope), she’s now determined that she’s going to leave just a vapor trail on any rides or in any races that I do with her, so that I know what humiliation is like. Ha, little does she know that I’m already quite familiar with the concept.

So Deanna very quickly went from “oh, I don’t need a new bike, my old-new last year’s custom model road bike is fine” to in the blink of an eye having a brand new Cervelo P2C, Zipp race wheels, carbon shoes and pedals, and I think she even hired someone to drive alongside her at all times handing her water bottles and snacks so that she doesn’t have to weigh herself down with such silly things, like the rest of us lowly paeans do. Huh?

I do like Deanna’s explanation as to why she picked the P2C – it’s because it’s a carbon bike that feels like a steel one, which is what her road bike is, which she likes. Thus inspired, I am on the lookout for a really expensive bike that rides like tin. Beryllium perhaps?

Anyway, luckily I don’t hear the answer to my question (I think there was a hushed silence, crickets, perhaps some tuneless whistling as no one wanted to be the one to point out my roly-poly babylunged inadequacy), as I’m distracted by my shiny new bike, much like a crow would be.

Bridget then asks if I’m going to drive home with the bike “inside or outside of the car”, and I am shocked into silence. I look at her and think, “who IS this person? Do I even know you?”

Then, we need to run the gauntlet that is the mean city streets of Chicago, or at least the sidewalks. I send Colleen ahead to clear the way, and Bridget is the detail at my back, making sure no clumsy oafs try to push past me on the sidewalk, thereby jostling Salome. But in spite of our precautions, as I’m crossing the side street to get to my car, disaster almost strikes in the form of a car willy-nilly TURNING onto this street. Quelle horror! I freeze, squealing, like a deer caught in headlights, but Colleen uses that professorial quick thinking and throws herself in front of the interloper while I scurry to my car, heart pounding. I think she got sideswiped a bit, but the important thing is that Bike was fine. Whew, close call!

After a celebratory hot chocolate (and WHEN is Starbucks going to start selling alcohol? Hello?!), I drive home rather gingerly, managing to make it home safely and only having to stop 7 times to check on Bike. I walk in totally exhausted, but at least Salome is safely nestled in her bubblewrap and cashmere throws. Getting to VQ tomorrow will be a chore of nightmarish proportions, to say the least.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Alert! Danger!

I know most of you come here for accurate, up-to-date information as it pertains to all things fitness, and that you can trust me to be totally upfront and honest with you regarding the critical tools necessary to achieve the type of athleticism that I myself am known for.

However. It pains me to have to inform you that this trademark honesty is apparently in short supply on the Internets. I present to you Exhibit A, which I stumbled across while researching the Next Big Thing in “As Seen On TV!” exercise equipment. Yes, a site dedicated to such marvels: Fitness Infomercial Review. Oh sure, on the surface this seems like a great idea – after all, I can’t be the ONLY one reviewing such devices as I hone my training regimen. What concerns me is that unlike my own devotion to accuracy – some would call it an almost fanatical devotion - this person allows just anyone to post whatever they want as a review. Imagine the potential for any corporate shill to come along and sing the praises of the Abtronic, the Velform Sauna Belt, or even the Dr. Ho’s Muscle Massage System. I can see it now in boardrooms across America:

Corporate Suit, barking at underling: “Jane! Get one of those mewling interns in here!”
Mewling intern: “Y..y......yeeeesss sir?” (cowering)
Suit: “Look kid, I know you only have one year at HBS under your belt, but I’m hoping they managed to teach you Gekko wanna-bes something useful in that time. Do you POSSIBLY think that MIGHT be the case??”
Intern, trembling: “I....I don’t know, sir. It’s just Harvard.......perennially only about 6th or 7th on the Business Week annual list of Top Business Schools. I weep in shame, sir.”
Suit, mumbling: “One of these days, dammit, one of these days we’ll get a Wharton kid in here, I swear, as god is my witness....always #1 on the Business Week list....”
Intern, starting to weep: “Bbbbuuuttt....”
Suit, yelling: “Enough! Not another word! Just take that stupid half-MBA of yours and get over to this site,, and start writing up some shill reviews for our Ab shaping products. And make them GOOD, do you hear me??!”
Intern: “........I....”
Suit: “What did I just say? Don’t TALK! No more whiteboards!! No “big picture” bullshit! JUST WRITE! And if you dare put anything in there about Porter’s Five Forces or that other mumbo-jumbo you Harvard kids like so much, I will have Jane bring me your head on a PIKE, is that understood?”
Intern, quickly putting whiteboard behind back: “..I..”
Suit: “GO!! And MAKE SURE you write something about Dr. Ho’s!!" (muttering) "Holy St. Joseph, when do I get to retire.........”

Consider yourself warned, gentle reader. I’m trotting off now to pen a letter to the FTC, in hopes that they’ll recognize this site as the danger that it is. I mean, my god, if you can’t trust random advice given to you on the internet, who CAN you trust?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Feats of Strength


Trying to bring it down a few notches today – when I added the powernap and lengthy conversations about my workouts yesterday to my tally, I was over the required 6 hours. Clearly, it wouldn’t do to overtrain this early in the season.

So, after my healthy breakfast of oatmeal (well, and pancakes/bacon, but that hardly counts), I figured I’d sit at the computer for a while and respond to all the fan mail that comes in here on a daily basis. Or will. One of these days (fingers tapping). In the meantime, I have an email from Deanna: “I haven’t checked the blog yet, but I don’t think eating cliff shots for 6 hours a day counts as training.” Hmph. As I coolly inform her, clearly she is just jealous because her plan isn’t as ambitious, bold and cutting-edge as mine. I’ll leave the LSB (long, slow, boring) workouts to the “little people,” while I alone blaze a path to true triathlon greatness. I’m sure Ron Popeil had his naysers too, and look at him now: king of his infomercial fiefdom. Need I say more?


Took my mom to see Wicked tonight. Good lord, all that singing and dancing! Internalizing the intricacies of the footwork while sitting up perfectly straight and thus getting my core training in.......well, it’s the type of thing suitable only for a trained professional such as myself, so I don’t suggest you try this at home. I go to bed totally exhausted.

Total workout time: 4:10


Today, I tackle a difficult question from my fan:

Gregory: Do you think at some point you’ll do a series highlighting your prep for IM Wisconsin?

Now, at first I was a bit puzzled. After all, if all of this isn’t IMOO prep, well then, I’m in serious trouble. But then I realized that what Gregory really wants to know is if/when I’ll start writing about my usual epic tales of adventure: biking across WI with just Slim Jims and Infinit; tossing my bike into a cornfield in IL, dodging turkey vultures in MO, trying to avoid death at my brother’s hands in CA. And so on. Never a dull moment.......well, except for now. Because you see, Gregory and other(s), training in Chicago in the dead of winter tends to be a bit.........boring, shall we say. Rides on the trainer, laps in the pool, running on the treadmill. Though I am diligent about reporting on any interesting incidents that come to light, these pale in comparison to the fun that is spring/summer training for Miss Tasha. So I ask of you, patience, young grasshopper. Patience.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

And so it begins


Shit, I forgot today was a holiday! Obviously, since training is now my job, I’m not supposed to do anything today. Wouldn’t want to get injured or strain myself “off the clock,” so to speak. I’ll just go twiddle my thumbs and wait patiently for tomorrow to roll around. Stupid Presidents Day.


It’s too cold outside to go swimming, yet being a dedicated athlete, I head to the gym anyway, where I see Colleen getting ready to get in the pool.

Colleen: Aren’t you swimming?
Me: Oh, it’s too damn cold out – the very thought of getting into a pool, brr.
Colleen: But it’s about 82 degrees inside the gym.
Me, writing: I don’t understand what you mean – what does that have to do with anything?
Colleen: What are you writing down?
Me: I’m logging all of my training hours so that future Tasha wanna-be triathletes can follow my path to greatness.
Colleen: But you haven’t done anything yet.
Me, rolling eyes: Excuse me, but you’re forgetting the all-important travel time to the gym. Hello?!

Hmm, Colleen seems to be developing some sort of facial tic. Perhaps stress-related – getting a workout in once in a while will do her good. I’ll have to suggest that to her.

I head upstairs to do a bit of running and some weights. But first, some stretching and core work, something that I’m known to excel at among my peers. I’m not sure any of them will ever match my record of 14 seconds of balancing on the BOSU.

I watch my fellow gymrats use some of the weight equipment, and then hop on to do my own quick sets. This week I’m trying the “low weights lifted many times” approach; next week I’ll try the “superslow” methodology, where you rack up the weights to heart attack level and then lift them once, very slowly. I’m all about using these scientific methods to discern the best path towards stellar results, dear reader. Besides, I think the last time I was here I used some of the equipment backwards – trying to avoid that this time.

After doing 600 reps or so (quickly, on one machine), I decide to head down to the little lobby café for a cookie – all the treats they sell there are healthy, because otherwise they wouldn’t sell them, right? This is a gym, after all. Yum, chocolate-chip-butterscotch fudge cookies, very tasty. I mustn’t forget to log these all-important hours, as I sit around at the gym, absorbing the essence of fitness.

I then head home to have a well-deserved snack. Thanks to my uber-efficient 20-minute weight workout, my raging metabolism has kicked in, and my body is starving. Quickly, before my muscles can start cannibalizing themselves due to lack of fuel, I eat the perfect post-workout meal of pizza rolls and donuts. Hopefully that’ll get some much-needed carbs into my system quickly enough. I’m now going to go read my book “The Paleo Diet for Athletes” while tightening my abs – if that’s not a hardcore workout, then I just don’t know what is.

Total workout time for the day: 5:20

(Damn, almost there! Must try harder tomorrow.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

The brilliance of the eccentric mind

I’ve been pondering my latest existential dilemma, which revolves around the minor fact that I’m broke and business is slow/nonexistent, coupled with my being a lumpen ball of fat who’ll (sigh) be bringing up the rear again at all my races this summer. While it’s somewhat comforting to cling to the fact of my babylungs as an explanation for my suckiness, that’s kind of depressing, too. Does that mean this is the best I can hope for? God, I hope not. If that’s the case, I might as well start trying to put my freakishly gargantuan head in the oven right now.

But then, as always, a brilliant idea came to me. Hmm - I have no money, but lots of time on my hands. Aha! It all becomes clear. I quickly sketched out the following equation:

where we want to solve for P (P being the Answer to All of Miss Tasha’s Problems). If g is my free time, lambda is the suckitude of the job market, r is the probability that I’ll find a sugar daddy anytime soon, sigma is, well, sigma, and f is the number of resumes I can send out on any given day, then

P = training 6 hours a day to win prize money at triathlons

I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this before, because it solves all my problems in one fell swoop. I won’t be spending money because I’ll be training all day – which also means I won’t be eating so I’ll be thin, lean, svelte, dechunkified. And just think of all the prize money that’ll come rolling in, once I really start putting that Thighmaster to use to get into the optimal triathloning shape. Wait - IS there any prize money given out at triathlons? Much as I love the cowbells some races give out as AG awards, I’m not sure they have such a high resale value on eBay.

In any case – this is the time for action, not mere words, or cheaptalk as my one professor would say. Tomorrow, day one of the plan. Onward.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Reality Bites

I’ve long attributed my slow swim times to my poor lung capacity, which makes it necessary for me to gasp and flail like a beached carp every time I do a couple of laps, infrequent though that may be. And my plumpy physique, well, that’s clearly a by-product of a sluggish metabolism which dictates that I could literally eat nothing all day, and still weigh more or the same the next day. I have done this. I know.

Since these were just grand assumptions I’ve made based on my on my manatee-like swimming and my remarkable ability to turn any food ingested into insta-fat, imagine my surprise when I actually went to get these things tested a couple of weeks ago. Annette from the Tri Club has started up her own company, doing fitness testing and the like, and several of us went through training so that we could administer the testing as well. Naturally, we started out by doing these tests on each other. First up, RMR, or Resting Metabolic Rate.

Karin P. goes first, and even though she’s as skinny as a string bean, the girl needs something like 2100 calories to maintain basic body functions if she just lays about all day eating bonbons. You know, the usual.

Annette, something similarly extravagant.

Jody and Patty, not quite as high but still “normal.”

Then along comes Miss Tasha. Finely honed athlete, queen of the Thighmaster, blah blah blah. Okay, so I’ve been a bit of a slug lately, but all those hours and days of Ironman training must have done me SOME good, yes?

Or rather, no. A big fat no. My a whopping 1213. Or, to put it in layman’s terms, 2 jars of Schnuck’s peanuts a day. Colleen and Karin L. tried to make the point that they have similarly low RMRs........but they’re about half my size, so at least they still fit into the vague “10 calories per pound" formula that one reads everywhere, whereas I’m more like 5. So cry me a river, girls. Yippity doo dah.

I decide that I can no longer ever go on long bike rides with Karin P., Annette, and those with a similar “African Nation” profile, with the raging metabolisms of Amazons that will require that they stop every half hour for sustenance. I can see it now.

Annette: “Well, we’ve been biking for at least 20 minutes – I really have to stop for a big sundae or mayhap some fried dough – I can feel the weight just dropping off me. Must keep my strength up, you know.”
Tasha: “Oh, well, you just go right ahead on to the ice cream shoppe – I’ll meet up with you, after I go into this farmer’s field and dig up a CARROT to gnaw on.”

You see why this might be a problem for those of us permanently sequestered on Rabbit Island......unless, hmm, unless I put into action my plan to get us all lost somewhere out on the steppes, where I could survive for decades on a small pile of twigs, while they.....oh, but, well, never mind that for now.

The other test we did was a VO2Max test. This too was not pretty.

Colleen, cutting right to the chase the night of the Superbowl: “So what was your VO2Max?”
Me: “Something like 34.”
Colleen: “No, I’m serious.”
Me: “Really. Me too. That’s what it was.”
Colleen: “Mine was 58.4. Bridget’s was 59.6. Should we call around to see if we can get you an iron lung somewhere on the cheap?”

The rest of the evening I was referred to as “Babylungs”, and songs were sung in my honor: “Runnin’ down a dream, her and her baby lungs, working on a mystery, how does she ever run? Runnin’ down a dream.....”

AAARRRRGH! Now, If you'll excuse me, I hear people at the door - I think those are the scientists coming to study how a lumpen ball of fat such as myself with the breathing capabilities of a sea sponge even manages to get out of bed in the morning. Apparently I'm something of a scientific anomaly. Tell me about it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What kind of Mickey Mouse operation is this?

It’s not often that one seeks redemption at DisneyWorld, but then, it's not often someone decides to do something called the Goofy Challenge, which consists of doing a half-marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday, both of which snake through all the various Disney parks. On 2 consecutive days. After the debacle of the Goofy 2 years ago (aka “the Bataan Death March), I decided it was time to revisit this race, with the goal of finishing and being able to walk afterwards. I know, crazy talk.


We arrive in wonderfully steamy Florida, and after attempting to check in at the hotel and being told by Griselda the scary check-in lady that the mouseketeers are still readying our room, we decide to head to the Expo. After meeting up with Max and Kostya, we get our numbers only to discover that we’ve all been put in the distant P corral, also known as the TIT (Team in Training) Corral, with all the Purple Menace People Walking in Packs and Oblivious to Everyone Else. I think that’s the official name. The only one overly concerned about this is Deanna, who’s been training like a fiend and hopes to actually rack up a decent time in this thing. She goes off to speak to The Man, while Max, Kostya and I wander around the expo trying out the free samples. Hey, is that a funnel cake stand I spy over there?


Having checked in, there’s not much to do other than laze about. Max and Kostya have for some inexplicable reason come down to FL with their mother. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, of course, except for the fact that she wants to sightsee. Check out the parks. Do a lot of walking around. Ouch. I decide to ask the concierge if there's something like a "business center" nearby where I can check email, but our exchange does not bode well:

Me, after hearing about the $25/10 minute charge to use computers at one of the Disney resorts that have them tucked away somewhere: "Is there, say, a Kinko's or something around here?"
Her, with a very alarmed look on her face: "Kink....kink-what? I don't know what that is."

Sigh. I decide to go relax by the pool, while Deanna hangs out in the hotel room, laying out her race nutrition, calculating her pace, calling her coach for last-minute advice, even though her race isn’t until Sunday. Say, are they selling margaritas by the pool? Sweet!

Friday night

After setting the alarm for 2:30AM, since I have to catch the shuttle bus to the race start by the ungodly hour of 4AM, we go to bed. This, after an entire day of seeing other racers everywhere and being asked “Are you doing the Goofy?” – and this being the only place where one is saddened in having to answer “No, just the marathon.” Poor Deanna.


Can’t sleep. Sigh.


What fool thought coming here to do this race in this stupid state where a person can’t get a decent night’s sleep was a good idea anyway?


Still haven’t slept, why even bother trying anymore? (doze off finally...)


AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! There’s nothing quite like being awoken by the not-so-gentle sounds of tinny voices blaring “be our GUEST, be our GUEST...” as your wake-up call. Great, now I have a pounding headache – just what I need as I embark on a day starting so early that the main part of it will be over before most people are even awake.


Hanging out at the race start, waiting. Max and Kostya are bickering like two little old ladies. Max spies one of the Purple Menace people and mutters something in Russian, and I catch the words “gulag” and “cockroaches”. I’m not quite sure what he has against them – after all, how bad can they be?


And, we’re off! What the........5 minutes into the race, and I’ve already got Purple People walking in front of me. At least move to the side a bit, okay?


It’s insanely muggy this morning, so my plan is to just get this done and go back to the hotel for a powernap, some pool lounging, some carb-loading. It’s amazing how quickly my Ironman focus comes into play – nothing can distract me, slow me down, keep me from......hey, Winnie the Pooh! Oh, okay, I’ll stop for just this one picture.

Several hours later

I wander over to find Deanna, Max and Kostya who’re hanging out at the tents in the post-race area.

Me, happily: “Hey, I got all these neat pictures with different characters! The best was Mary Poppins – she was practically perfect in every way, just like me. How about you guys, how many times did you stop?”
Max: “Umm....”
Kostya: “We took pictures as we were running. Does that count?”
Me, aghast: “You didn’t stop, not even once? Not even for one of the Mickey Mouses?”
Kostya: “We didn’t want to wait in line!”
Me: “AARGH!”

Thus thoroughly disgusted with my compatriots, I head back to the hotel with them, clutching my disposable camera like the prize that it is. The three of us have our Donald medals already for doing the half, while Deanna looks on longingly, medal-less. Max and Kostya go off on an interactive walking tour of the Everglades with their mother, Deanna begins the arduous task of programming her Garmin to beep at every Clif-blok-ingesting interval, while I set out in a search for healthy food in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Ah, here we go: Mickey waffles! Food of the gods. Lounging by the pool, I notice that the callous on the bottom of my left little toe seems to have a splinter in it. Hmm. I attempt to get it out. 10 minutes later, I have a very painful toe, bleeding, and belatedly realize that wasn’t a splinter, just part of the callous. Oops.

Later that afternoon

I return to the hotel room, limping, sucking on a Mickey lollipop, to find Deanna working out muscle tension using some kind of roller thingie. Tired of telling people that she’s only doing the lowly marathon, she’s apparently hunkered down for the duration.

Me: “Well, I think Max and Kostya and I are going to go get some mega-double-cheeseburgers or something. Wanna come with?”
Deanna, as she adds heaping spoonfuls of oat bran to her oatmeal: “No thanks, I don’t want to throw off the delicate balance of my carb-loading schedule. I need to eat exactly 57 carbs within the next 2 hours, then 34 for the next 3 hours after that.”
Me, sucking on lollipop: “Owbjkasd. Shee yoihu lahtaahhh.”
Deanna: “Could you please not jostle my Oxygenating Mechanism when you leave the room? Thanks!”


I return to hotel; Deanna is already asleep.


So am I.

Sunday morning, or rather, middle of the night

Deanna leaps out of bed at 2:30AM and starts her multifarious pre-race rituals. I hear the sound of water being heated, oatmeal being made, berries being eaten. Yawn. Didn’t I leave a Twinkie around here somewhere?


It’s like déjà vu all over again. Except I think it’s even more hot and muggy this morning, and there are more of the Teeming Masses in Purple. Lots more. Deanna takes off to Corral C, while us hoi polloi take our place somewhere in Outer Mongolia. Eventually, the gun goes off, fireworks, and we’re off. Kind of. Walking along. It takes 15 minutes to cross the start line, and it’s already a sauna. I’m having bad flashbacks to the Chicago marathon. And lo, what’s this? Mile 2.5, our first aid station....and they’re out of Powerade, low on water. Hmm. Maybe I can strip one of the sixteen flasks of liquid off a TIT person – they all seem to be well-stocked. I’m sure I can outrun them?

I'm also a little bummed that they're not offering slices of wedding cake at the aid station, like they did at the Vegas 1/2 in December. What, like that's too much to ask for? Better than GU any day, that's for sure.

Mile 3.2

We’re running through Epcot in total darkness, I’m enjoying how pretty it all is with everything lit up, when Things Start To Go Wrong. Yes, kids, at mile 3.5. So much for redemption! Note to self: the day before a race is not the best time to start messing with one’s feet. So I’m running along, fine and dandy, when without warning, a blister I didn’t even know I had on my left little toe suddenly erupts in an exquisite little sunburst of pain, the kind that stops you in your tracks. Stopped me, at least. I gingerly step down – okay, I can still run on it, though hell, 23.whatever miles sure seems like a lot. I hope I’m not about to enter the Land of Stupid again......

Mile 5

Here we go again – the have-to-pee-constantly problem. At least this time I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m only drinking water, not the Gatorade I’m used to at races. That’s probably not good, given how damn hot it is. Isn’t there a water ride or something at one of these parks?

Mile 8

WTF is with these damn TIT people? Not only are they everywhere, but they glom together in packs, making it impossible to get past them. They’re kind of running, then they’re all walking, or they’re beeping constantly, or something. And somehow they’ve all found out about my own secret weapon, that I had planned to pull out much later in the race: my iPod. Ssshhhhh.

Mile 11

If a TIT person is “accidentally” knocked into the swamp and there’s no one around to hear them scream, do I still get applauded for it? I’m just wondering.

Mile 16

So far I’ve been pretty good about not stopping to have my picture taken every 10 minutes......well, kind of. As if I could resist Piglet! But, no more, I’m all business now. Yes sirree.

And I will say one thing about Disney - they go all out to make sure what seems like every single employee ("cast member") is out on the course somewhere, cheering on runners. At one point, they even have the maintenance men out there, who've put together a makeshift band using various tools and 5-gallon buckets. They sound pretty damn good, actually.

Mile 19

As we’re going towards Animal Kingdom or Safari Kingdom or something like that, there are suddenly a lot of turkey vultures circling overhead. This prompts some of us to start moving along a bit faster.......umm, after I stop to take pictures, of course.

A little later, I’m running down an overpass, dodging TIT people and other walkers as I do so, when suddenly an old man who decides it’s a good time to stretch his pterodactyl-esque arms flings one out, effectively clotheslining me. Ack! Okay, I’m ready for this to be over now.

Mile 21

These sick, sadistic Disney bastards toy with us by having signs proclaiming “candy ahead!” – when we all know that there’s only ever enough for the 3hr marathon people, who won’t even appreciate it. Grr. Why do we always get cheated? Robbed, verily. I’m going to write a scath........lo, what’s this? Candy?? Have I mentioned lately how much I looove the Disney people?

Mile 23

We’re going through the Disney MGM Park, and while I’m amused by all the characters and music and so on, I’m booking along at this point, and I’m not stopping for anything. Laser focus, that’s what’s gotten me to where I am today. That Ironman will, what it takes, the ability to not be distrac...........hey, it’s the MONSTERS INC. guys!!! Obviously I have to wait in line to get my picture taken with them – who can resist the big fuzzy blue guy Mike and ol’ one-eyed Sully? What, am I made of stone?

About 15 feet before the Mile 24 marker

You know how sometimes it seems as if things are going along just swimmingly, that there are no more obstacles in your path, that life is okay.....and then it all goes to hell in a handbasket in one crystalline moment? Well, mile 24 was that moment. As I’m running up a slight hill, I get that excruciating sunburst of pain again as another blister I didn’t know I had went out on me. I stop. Shit, that hurts. Great, so now I’m 2 miles from the end, and I can’t run. Houston, we have a problem here. Okay, so I have plenty of time – which is good, because it’s going to take me 45 minutes to hobble these last couple of miles. Sigh.

Hobble hobble hobble.

Hobble hobble hobble.

I discover that it actually hurts less to run for some reason, since I can put my foot more flatly on the ground, so off I go again.

Mile 26

The best thing on this course is the amazing gospel choir singing their hearts out right before the final turn into the home stretch. Hallelujah, sisters, amen!

I finish, collect my medals, and, clanking along, go to find Deanna, Max, and Kostya. I don’t even ask if they bothered to take pictures. Sigh, what to do with them? Deanna finished in 5:15 and is pleased, but is now looking longingly at our collection of bling; in a fit of dehydration, I give her my Goofy medal to wear so that she too can clink for a while. Now I feel like a loser for having done “just” a marathon.

That evening and the next morning

We can easily recognize our fellow crazy people as they’re all shuffling along in one fashion or another. The Goofy people are wearing their Goofy race shirts, and we smile and congratulate each other. The marathon people look a little disgruntled for some reason. As we’re leaving the hotel, I hobble back into the lobby (damn blisters!) and see a cute guy sitting on a couch, with crutches at his side. We grin knowingly at each other, acknowledging without saying a word that we’re both complete idiots. It’s a wonderful world.

The airport

We’ve made our way to the airport, have had our final Chick-Fil-A meal, and are killing time before going to the gate. I decide to go to the Disney store to see if I can add more Disney wear to my collection, and Deanna joins me there. Of course, by now the people working at the store have gotten into the spirit of asking all of us crippled folks about the race, so Deanna and I wind up chatting with a kindly older gentleman who sees our race shirts.

KOG: “Ah, so you girls did the race this weekend. Did you do the Goofy?”
Tasha: “I did.”
Deanna: “I did the marathon.”

The kindly older gentleman gets a sympathetic, understanding look on his face as he looks at Deanna. The Deanna who spent many many hours training for the marathon, in all kinds of weather, putting Max and Kostya and I to shame. The Deanna who’s faithfully used her Garmin to optimize all her workouts, while the rest of us just slogged our way through whatever miles struck our fancy on any particular day. The Deanna who.....oh, you get the picture.

KOG, patting Deanna on the shoulder: “That’s okay dear. Maybe if you train a bit harder next year, then you too can do the Goofy.”

To my credit, I did not immediately burst into paroxysms of laughter. No, I managed to sputter out something like “oh, Deanna’s just not as crazy as the rest of us,” and THEN bent over laughing, as poor Deanna just stood there with an incredulous look on her face. I hustled her out of there quick before she picked up a Mickey Mouse umbrella and started beating the poor man with it. I’d like to say that I was not laughing hysterically for the next 10 minutes or so......but then I’d be lying, and who needs that?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Runnin' Down a Dream


The Run

As I’m hoping that putting my feet up will reduce blood flow or increase blood flow or just do something, a face floats into my range of vision. A medical person, concerned.

Her: “Are you okay? Are you dizzy? What’s the square root of Pi out to 20 decimal places?”
Me, cheerfully: “Oh, I’m fine, I just can’t walk. Yet. My feet hurt – I’ll be okay. 1.7728105.....”

As I'm reciting numbers, another woman comes along, a volunteer, who also asks me if I’m okay, as I’m simultaneously rummaging through my bag and getting what I need: run visor, race number, chapstick, etc. She asks me if I think it might help if she massaged my feet; I ponder that for a second, figure it can’t hurt. So she massages, we chat, and I tell her about my temporary delusions of grandeur, where I envisioned a better finishing time, and she tells me my feet feel cold and asks me if I’ve done any centuries before. Sigh. A few, I say. Is there anything you’d like to know about Wisconsin’s corn crop this year? It’s odd that my feet are cold, since it’s just windy outside, but not really cold. Maybe it’s the poor circulation thing? Who knows. All I know is that my feet are feeling less numb and painful, and finally, I think I’m ready to go, or as ready as I’ll be anytime soon. I change, get my stuff, look for a name badge or something on this wonderful woman, don’t see it, thank her profusely while forgetting the quaint custom of asking a person what their name is, and off I go. Nothing like a marathon to cap off the day.

It’s now not quite 4:30, and even my non-mathy self can see that I have 7:30 in which to finish. I run, slowly at first, and then picking up the pace when my feet start to feel better. Almost immediately, I see Robyn – I’m not sure how I picked her out of the crowd, but I think the big pink bunny head she was toting had something to do with it. She’s going to call Deanna to alert her and my mom that I’m out and about, and to meet up with them. Meanwhile, the streets are packed with people: runners, their fans, Madisonites, as if the whole town has turned out to cheer people on. My plan is to run, but to walk the aid stations and any big hills. Since the aid stations are about a mile apart, it’s not like this is a big hardship, but I know from experience that I can’t run and drink at the same time. My main goal for today was, simply and purely, to have fun, to make it be a good day, and not an endless and painful death march. And, I am. My cowbell shirt is a hit with the crowd and the volunteers, and if there are cowbells out there, they’re ringing as I go by.

At mile 7, I see Robyn, Deanna, and my mom. Deanna runs next to me and asks how I’m doing.

Me: “I feel like shit!” I say happily, smiling. “Though at least my feet are no longer killing me.”
Deanna: “Well, you look great!”
Me: “Hey, and that’s all that counts! Cool!”

After I run through the stadium, I make one huge error: I try to stretch. As I’m pulling my leg back to do a quad stretch, my entire hamstring cramps up in a hugely sharp pain, and I vow to not try anything that silly again. This does make me wonder if I’m low on electrolytes, and I start worrying about random muscles cramping up unexpectedly, especially since I’m starting to exude ammonia, which happens when I run and am low on carbs, etc. I get to Observatory Hill and run partway up, then say “fuck it” and walk, as I do, chatting with the guy next to me.

Me: “I’m trying to remember why I thought doing this was a good idea.”
Him: “Me too.”
Me: “Are you signing up for next year?”
Him: “Of course. You?”
Me: “Oh, definitely.”

We’re all insane. But I must look sporty and athletic in my insanity, because as I’m running, a few of my fellow triathletes say things like “man, only 4 more miles to go, thank god, huh?” and “Hey, good job, we’re almost there!” This amuses me, as I have to tell them that while they might be almost done, I’m just on my first loop. One girl seems to think she’s committed some mortal error, because she apologizes many times over and then tries to put some distance between us. “Hey, it’s okay,” I yell after her. “Really! No biggie – I’m just slow! Uhh....rock on?” Ah well.

I see some of my fellow CTCers out on the course, giving Angela a shout-out as she zooms by in the other direction, then saying hi to Quinn as he too goes by the other way. I kept missing Randy, JP is too busy chopping 2 whole hours off his last IM time, and as for Bryan, well, by the time I was out on the run course, I believe Bryan had already gone back to his hotel, showered, changed, eaten, helped out at a local soup kitchen for a while, reconstructed the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks, and reenacted the IMOO swim course using interpretive dance, to the delight of small children everywhere. Ah, Bryan, if you weren’t such a nice, funny, genuine guy, we’d all have to hate you.

When I get back to the start of the loop, where the turnaround is, I realize the true sadistic nature of whoever thought up the IMOO course. I had heard that the turnaround is fiendishly close to the end – I hadn’t realized that after you turn the LAST CORNER and are running down a straightaway, you either go left to the turnaround, or right and straight to the finish, which is about 20 feet away. This amuses me to no end, and as I go past the volunteer standing by the sign that says “2nd loop turnaround here”, I tell him, “this is cruel!”, but am laughing as I say it. I stop by Special Needs, change to the long-sleeved cowbell shirt, and pick up my drugs. After popping some endurolytes, I make it my mission to offer said drugs to anyone else who looks like they need them. The guy with back cramps doesn’t think anything will help, the guy limping along who had crashed on the bike, ditto. I didn’t have an ace bandage for the guy with the hurting knee, but told him he should stop at the fire department we were going past, which he did. Finally, success, a guy with back pain who I gave some Tylenol to. I don’t know if it helped, but I hope so.

As I’m running back through the square, I see Dan Lee, who at just that moment is getting OFF out of his bag to fend off the killer mosquitoes. I see two tots up ahead who, in their zeal to highfive runners, have wandered onto the cobblestone street and are being shepherded back to the curb by their dad, who’s explaining the need to stay out of the way. Sa-wheet, I’m just in time to highfive their tiny little hands as I go by. Then my little fan base of Robyn, Deanna, and my mom appears, always easy to spot because of Happy Bunny Head. This time Robyn runs with me.

Robyn: “How are you doing?”
Me, still smiling: “Well, I guess I could be better, but I could also be worse. My knees hurt, feet hurt, overall I can’t complain though.”
Robyn: “You look great though!”
Me: Hey, that’s all that matters!”

Later, the girls tell me that they had to explain to my mom that a) I really was fine, that’s just how I run, since apparently my mom didn’t think I looked very good; and b) No, they’re not punishing the Ukrainians by making us run more, since my mom was wondering why everyone else “got to finish, and my daughter has to turn around and keep going.” I think the whole loop thing was a bit confusing for her. Hmm, maybe that’s it – I wasn’t slow, there was a whole extra run section, just for me. Maybe?

By now it’s about to get dark, so I get a glowstick to wear. Since these things don’t actually emanate any light, I think they’re just to make it easier to find our bodies if we take a wrong turn and wind up in the lake. Which is a possibility, since the stretch along the lake is on a gravel trail, and is pitch black. Someone else referred to being out there alone at night as being dark and lonely, but I think it’s kind of tranquil, just the sound of my footsteps and the waves lapping at the shore. I think of a line from one of my favorite poems: “I want to know if you can be alone 
with yourself,
 and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.” And I’m okay with this.

Just when I’m thinking I’ll negative split the run, because I’m booking along, I get the dreaded have-to-pee-constantly syndrome. Yep, same thing that happened at Steelhead, where as soon as I went to the bathroom, I had to go again. My inner Charlie Brown thinks, AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHH! Not again!! But much like good ol’ Chuck, resigned to his fate, so am I, so I stop at every aid station, very thankful that at least I’m not having any stomach or GI issues. I don’t know where this “look on the bright side of life” attitude is coming from, but it’s a good day for it, maybe the best.

When I get to the stadium again, I run down the ramp with my arms overhead, yelling “Go Wisconsin! Go Badgers!” This amuses the volunteer standing there, who, after I run around the stadium and am headed back out, says “Way to go, almost done!”

Me, with a laugh: “Uh, sure! Just 10 more miles!”
Him, having the grace to look sheepish: “Well, what’s that when you’ve already gone over 100?”

Hmm, he does have a point. By now the streets are much quieter, but everyone who goes by, even students on their way to the library, everyone, has a word of encouragement. And the volunteers are still faithfully manning the aid stations. It’s funny, but as a volunteer, even in miserable weather like last year, I think how great it is to be out there, that it almost feels like a privilege to be able to help in some small way those who are doing the hard stuff, gutting it out hour after hour. Yet as the person in the race, I’m always amazed at the tenacity of these folks, staying out there with the same level of enthusiasm, even for the last people on the course.

By now, I’m the only one running, as literally everyone else is walking, often in groups of 2 or 3. Again, a Rich Straussism is in my head: walking as a strategy is okay; otherwise, are you here to race, or are you here to socialize? I’m here to race. As I pass people and tell them “good job” or “keep it up,” they tell me the same, or “nice run!” or “I only wish I could still run.” This makes me wonder if I’ve done something wrong, not left it all out on the course, and for some reason I feel compelled to say things like “walking is just as painful so I figured I might as well run” or “I’m sure this won’t last” or “I’m just running to get to the bathroom!” Okay, that part is kind of true, but I don’t know if I’m trying to make them feel better, or me. I’ve assessed walk vs. run, and yes, walking is easier, but while my feet hurt, my knees hurt, my legs feel stiff and heavy.......the bottom line is, there’s no reason NOT to run. I actually feel pretty damn good. For me, level of pain is measured against the Goofy Challenge, when I trudged on for mile after agonizing mile, on feet with blisters and calves that afterwards would look like someone had been beating me with a crowbar, with one thought in my head: “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.” This is no Goofy, and it’s not because of the toughness of the endeavor – it’s because this time I was ready.

Finally just over 2 miles to go. I make one last bathroom stop, then decide to keep running the rest of the way in. There’s one other guy running a little ahead of me, and we dodge the walkers. Then, as I’m about to turn the final corner, 2 big guys come thundering up on either side of me, and this peeves me to no end. What, you’ve been walking the whole way and NOW you’re deciding to muscle me aside? Putting my hockey training to good use, I check first one and then the other into the crowd, to loud cheering. Okay, maybe I don’t, but I did contemplate it for a second. As I’m running up, I try to remember to enjoy the moment, so I slap hands with all the people lined up on the right, and then run across the finish line, with the bright lights, the noise, the cheering ringing in my head.....and it’s all so chaotic that, to tell you the truth, I don’t even really recall hearing Mike Reilly say my name. This then turns into a Ginsu knife commercial, as they start heaping things on me – here, a finisher’s shirt! Your medal! But wait, there’s more – a cap! I then hear Kevin say “I know her” and I get hustled aside by Ruth and Kevin, familiar faces that are great to see, especially since Ruth has been a great source of encouragement and a voice of sanity all along. Thanks Ruth!

After some pizza, we stick around to watch the rest of the finishers, and I feel truly fortunate to be there. I wonder, who are all these people out here until midnight, so loud and enthusiastic? But I’m here too, and I guess there’s something about the Ironman spirit that compels people to want to be a witness to it. At 11:31, they announce that Frank Farrar is 2.2 miles from the finish line, and has been averaging 15 minute miles. It doesn’t look good. We cheer others who come across, and then I see people on the other side running along the sidewalk, as if they’re tracking someone who’s coming in. Sure enough, with 4 minutes to spare, Frank comes down the finish chute, looking like hell, but strong at the same time. After he finishes, he’s even able to banter with Reilly, making jokes, for god’s sake. Now THIS is a man with a heart of iron.

In this past week, when friends have asked about the race, the thing I’m most proud of telling them is not my time, but rather, the fact that I don’t have any blisters, no black toenails. My feet are just fine, thank you very much. It seems a silly thing to anyone else, but to me, this symbolizes all my hard work, that I did put in the time, in spades. Am I happy with my race? Unequivocally, yes. People will often say “if such-and-such hadn’t happened, I’d have finished 2 hours sooner” – but with an Ironman, that such-and-such IS the race. You’re out there for such a long time, anything can happen, so your race is about taking what this particular day hands you and making the best of it. So my back and feet and everything else, that was what this day handed me, and I did the best I could with that. While I know I can bike faster, I couldn’t have gone any faster on this particular day, that’s how it is, and that’s okay.

And while some say that triathlon is a solitary sport, in some ways it is, but I know that on all my long rides I carried with me my friends and their support, be it while riding Bridget’s bike, that she loaned to me without a second’s thought, or riding in a small circle before going up a hill, and hearing Colleen’s voice telling me “so, to pick up speed, you do a few of these Shriners’ circles.” Yes, Shriners, as in the old guys with the fez hats. As an added bonus, while out there on those solo rides and runs, hours before the rest of the world was even thinking of awaking from their slumber, I came across some amazing things that still put a smile on my face when I think about them. Okay, so the turkey vultures that swooped over my head so close that they fanned my hair might not evoke a smile, exactly, but the baby foxes barking their gruff little Chihuahua barks as they chased each other right past me certainly do.

So while some of us may not have any natural talent at some of these things and have to work really hard just to tread water, so to speak, we just bumble on ahead through all the frustration and disappointment, naysayers be damned, even if something seems impossible, because in the end, it’s the heart that really matters. A lot of people talk about how the “journey” to Ironman teaches them more about themselves than anything else, but I don’t think I learned anything new about who I am or became a different person – I just happened to find myself somewhere along the way – the me I once was and still see myself as, even if few others do. It’s not even leaving your heart and guts and every last shred of pride out on some rural countryside road that makes you see who you are – it’s the act of choosing to do so, day in and day out, when doing nothing would be so much easier – that, to me, reflects that part of your soul that says I do have what it takes, dammit, yes I do, and screw anyone who believes otherwise.

And if any of you have for years thought “I can’t, that’s impossible” about something that deep down in your heart, you really wanted to can. Really, you can. Not because I did, but because I’m no different than anyone else who sees who and what they would be and does what they have to do to make it happen.

So if you see me and Dino and Precious toodling along somewhere on one of our beloved country roads, looking like we’re having a blast, we probably are. Feel free to join us. It’s a fun ride, you never know where the road may take you.....and getting to Ironman is a pretty great place to stop along the way.

Call Me Ishmael....

IMOO 2007, Part III –

“It’s a great day to be an Ironman.”

That was my sole thought when I got up at 3AM and peeked out the window, ignoring the fact that it was still pitch black, and just looked at the hotel flagpole. Whereas yesterday the flags had been whipping wildly in the wind, today they were totally still. Thank you Stan.

I drink my Ensure, get ready, and go downstairs for coffee, since the hotel has graciously agreed to start breakfast at 4AM for us. Kyle is staying here too, so a little later Deanna drops us both off at Special Needs, where we somehow manage to meet up with the other CTCers. Game time. The Terrace is buzzing with nervous energy as everyone is getting body marked, checking their bikes, filling tires, etc. I take care of the most important thing first: putting Dino’s race bib on him, making sure it’s straight. I find Kyle to borrow his pump, and he’s tinkering with his cowbell. Clearly, us CTCers have our priorities in order.

Back in the building, I go to the bathroom about six thousand times, resist the urge to check my bike one more time, and hang out with Hayes and Melanie, though Hayes takes off early on to get down to the water. Melanie and I aren’t too much later – my tactic, such as it is, is to be in the water when the cannon goes off. I know, I shouldn’t reveal this closely-held secret strategy, but that’s just the kind of person I am. People are everywhere – family, friends, all up and down the Helix – and Melanie takes off to find Aaron. This sometimes makes me sad during races, this reminder that even though I have great friends who I love, I’m really kind of all alone in the world, without that one person ready to slay dragons for me and open pickle jars and whatnot. I don’t even have my chatty, needy, attached-to-my-hip Hudson anymore, and I still miss him every day. But I’m distracted from my melancholy by the fact that King Lear, with his very long non-aero white beard, is walking very slowly in front of me, and we need to get down to the water pretty fast at this point.

I work my way around him, and once in the water (after I slip and slide my way down and almost tumble into a pile of rocks), I decide I’m going far right, somewhat towards the front. As I’m waiting, I hear someone from shore yelling to me and others, and when I turn around, I see that I’m right in front of the cannon.I want to be out of the way, but not so far back that I have farther to swim; hey, I’m no dummy. Or rather, the lillupution, Shrinky-Dink version of a cannon: this thing is about 2 inches of the ground, about 1 foot long, if that. THIS is the much vaunted Ironman cannon?? I laugh, still, just thinking about it. Maybe the cannon is a symbol for all those Ironman fears, all.......nah, not really. It’s just small, and funny, and as I shake my head in laughing disbelief as I get ready, the cannon goes off (quite loudly, I might add), and we start to swim.

Now, I’m not sure if the hunting knife that I have strapped to my leg has anything to do with it, but for some reason everyone is giving me a wide berth. Every time I look up, there’s a veritable ocean of space in front of me. I’m not sure what to do with this, if I should concern myself with finding feet to draft off of, or if I should just be happy with the space. And while I do follow bubbles once in a while when it’s convenient, I decide to be happy with my space. Recalling more gems from Rich Strauss, who claims the swim should be the easiest part of your race, I don’t try to swim particularly hard. People who are behind me stay behind me, people to the side don’t affect me, I swim around people in front of me when this happens, and always, that space. Even going around the buoys is a breeze. Well, except for the time that I thought I was at a turn buoy but wasn’t, not quite yet. Oops. And there was that one short stretch where I forgot how to breathe out through my nose, and wound up sucking in some water. Oops again. Otherwise, I finish the first lap in 49:00, and as I’m getting out of the water at the end, someone nearby yells joyously “An hour 30, baby! Yeah!” I hear ya brother, amen and hallelujah.

With my own joyous smile etched on my face, I decide to forego my little ritual from the Alcatraz race, where I came out of the water and did my finest Nixon imitation, walking slowly, both hands overhead and giving the V for Victory sign. My brother and his now-wife were there to spectate, so I’m shaking hands, giving hugs, chatting with them....I think I might have even signed some autographs and kissed some babies. Until, that is, I realized I was still doing a race and had many miles yet to go. No dawdling this time, as I go through the wetsuit stripping in a haze, discovering that yes, it’s fast, but later finding out that my slightly overzealous guys also tore my T1 wetsuit across the back. Ouch. Clutching my stuff, I run up the helix, smiling, floating, and really really having to go to the bathroom.

The Bike

I change into my bike shorts, put on my cow jersey, selected because I thought it would be a nice tribute to the fine people of Wisconsin, go to the bathroom, and head out. The volunteers in the changing room are offering to do everything for us except peel grapes – though they’d probably do that as well. As I’m running towards my bike, they’re calling out my number, so that by the time I get to my rack, Precious is ready to go. Of course, the first thing I see are the 2 Slim Jims sticking out of my Bento Box – thanks Angela! Ah, a girl after my own heart. Still happy after the swim, I start doing numbers in my head, because of course this is what one does all day, calculate and re-calculate, and I figure if I nail the bike, it’s Kona time, wheeee!! Okay, not really, but sub-14 seems doable. It’s been a great day so far (all of 2 hours into it, I might add), and nothing can go wrong, I can feel it. Whee!

Except that at about mile 5, after navigating the busy narrow bumpy paths to the country roads that take us out to the loop, I realize that my back is killing me. The kind of killing me that only ever happens after about 110 miles, not 5. Shit. This, my friends, was not in the game plan for today. I had had some back pain over the past months, but I pushed it aside due to more immediate worries like my shoulder, and oh, I almost forgot, the piriformis pain that cropped up about a month ago and still comes back regularly.

But, if I learned nothing else from the 20 races I did this summer and god knows how many organized rides and who knows how many of my own rides that took me to the middle of nowhere (aka southern Wisconsin, and here I mean “nowhere” in the good sense), I did learn this: drugs are good. Taking this to heart means that I’ve stashed baggies of pills everywhere – in my bento box, in bike special needs, in my T2 run bag. Now, we’re talking the grand trifecta of Tylenol, Immodium, and Pepto Bismol tablets here, not exactly hardcore, with some Tums and Endurolytes thrown in. Still, better than nothing. I can’t stop yet though – it’s bad enough that I’m already sitting up, trying to stretch my back, only about 15 miles in; this should still be a cakewalk at this point, and I’m already hurting. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I fretted a bit about what other cyclists must be thinking, i.e. “geez, 15 miles in and she’s having a hard time, good luck with that! Ride much?” Why should it even matter? But it’s soooo tiring sometimes to always be the slow sucky one. This was, as they say, like déjà vu all over again.

But, onward. At Mt. Horeb, I finally stopped to take a few Tylenol. Just that one brief stop, and I watch as all the people I had passed earlier go zooming by. My plan had been to stop on the bike only once, to remix some Infinit. So much for that. Since I know the course, I know exactly when I’ll be approaching Cross Plains, which I’m looking forward to. Then, off in the distance, I see something big With wings? Is that a flying pig? As in, pigs must be flying, since Tasha is doing an Ironman? I look around, expecting to see a freezedried snowball carefully ensconced in a diorama depicting a fiery hell. But no – Annette is standing beside this large pink apparition, and as she sees me, she yells “It’s Happy Bunny!”, and I start laughing. Then I see Karin, who is the only person I know who can wear a short black leather miniskirt, a leather vest, cowboy hat and boots, and not only look great, but also look more like a cowgirl than a hooker. A brief stop for water, and I’m off again, to the 3 hills. Somehow I didn’t think they were so bad when I first rode this course, but clearly I was on some heavy psychotropic medication at the time.

Hill 2, where my water hose friends live, is the “fun” one – using the definition of fun that means poking one’s eye with a dull spoon. Some people talk about this hill as having a true TdF feeling to it, and you know what? They’re right, assuming that the spectators at the TdF have been partying all day, are drunk as loons, and are wearing strange getups galore – all of which is exactly as it should be, here on this rather steep hill, on this gloriously sunny day. I see and hear Dan Lee at the top, I blow past another girl who’s slower than I am, and I zoom on by, ready to conquer the third hill. In the meantime, though, recall that I picked out my special cow jersey as my tribute to WI. A jersey that just happens to say “Pink Floyd” on the sides. So what do I hear as I’m going up hills and past spectators? Yes, you guessed it: ”Pink Floyd, rock on!” “Yeah, Floyd!” “All right, rock and roll!” Sigh. The cow? Hello?

We swoop down roads that have just been paved in the last day or two, and they’re like butter. Perfectly smooth, as fast as can be. I top out at 45 mph, then spin up the last crappy hill and head into Verona. Which is so nutty and surreal and there are so many people.........that I totally miss seeing the water stop there, until I’m already past it. Damn, that wasn’t good, as I can tell I’m getting behind nutrition-wise and I need water to go with my GU. Luckily though, my packrat tendencies will now come in handy, because I stashed a bottle of water in my bike special needs bag, which is coming up. Whew! But here I make Big Mistake #gazillion: I see the flask of Infinit gel that I carefully prepared last night, with what was supposed to be my supply of Infinit for the 2nd half of the bike.......and as my brain jumps out of my head and walks off into the cornfield, I actually leave the flask in the bag. Somehow thinking it’s “optional”, and that oh, I’m practically done with the bike anyway. Huh? So, note to self: in the future, leave brightly colored notes on anything I need to do or take with me, so that my brainless self doesn’t have to actually think about anything during the race. Kind of like Alice in Wonderland: “Eat Me!” “Take Me With!” “Drink This Now You Dumbass!” Yeah, that’ll work.

My back is still killing me, and now the wind has picked up, so my 7 hour bike time is looking iffy, though I was happy to see that I was on target for the first half, hitting mile 56 after about 3:25. I’m constantly reworking numbers, making sure I’m not getting complacent and thus risking running out of time. I think that’s one trap that people get into – they get lax, thinking that everything has gone well so far, assuming that’ll continue to be the case, not banking away every precious minute in case it might be needed later. That’s one mistake I refuse to make.

Wind is number one on my Hierarchy of Suckiness While Riding, with rain, steep hills, and false flats not nearly as bad, but I’m not going to complain, because it’s a beautiful day by IMOO standards; we’ve all seen it a hell of a lot worse. As I head into Cross Plains again, I still see Happy Bunny, but his sign has changed, from “Hi Tasha!” to “Tasha, will you be my BFF?,” which....oh, it’s a long story, but suffice to say that this keeps me giggling for many hours to come.

I stop at CP to pee, and to deal with my latest problem: my feet. The fire ants have finally attacked, because they’re now hot and numb and excruciatingly painful, all at the same time. Kind of like what happened at Steelhead on the run, and what sometimes happens on my very long bike rides. I take my shoes off, massage my feet, but it’s not helping. As I bid my CTC pals adieu and ride on, I’m now muttering “ow ow ow” under my breath, as pedaling becomes difficult. With VQ Dave Noda’s voice in my head (“BIG circles people, BIG circles!”), I try relieving pressure off my feet through pedaling, by scrunching up my toes, by pulling up and not putting any pressure on them, standing up on the pedals, even unclipping and shaking my feet out. Nothing. Shit. Still, the public awaits, and to get my mind off my damn feet, I continue chatting with spectators as we all go past – thanking them, appreciating the cowbell, and finally, after about the 30th “woah, Pink Floyd, rock on girl!”, yelling “The COW, people, what about the COW??” Which only gets me a “cow, Pink Floyd, sure....ROCK ON!” I gave up at that point, and just smiled and thanked the cute guy who I saw about 4 times on the bike course, as each time he greeted me as the “Pink Floyd Chick.” Sometimes, it’s easier to just....rock on.

The final 15 miles back into Madison are the slowest of my whole bike split, as I want to get back as fast as possible but can’t pedal, and the headwind is now brutal. I contemplate stopping to rub my feet again, but with no assurance that’ll work, I don’t want to do that and stiffen up. There’s a brief period where the feet don’t hurt and there’s a tailwind, so I put on some speed and as I fly past a couple of guys, one of them actually says “wow, nice job!”, which I guess cancels out some earlier suckiness – though I tell him “it’s a tailwind finally, let’s go!”, and he laughs. A lot of camaraderie amongst the slow, and that’s kind of cool. Not for the first time, I think: this is a lot harder than I thought it would be, and I knew it would be no walk in the park. And I see my little aerobar notes, meant to be encouraging, and I think, oh sure, YOU try some f*cking breathing when your feet are being held to burning coals, bub. Great, now I’m talking to strips of paper. Fantastic.

The Helix that we go up is clearly built on some Chernobyl-sized anti-magnets or the remnants of a black hole or both, because it takes no effort whatsoever to spin up it, and there are volunteers galore to take our bikes when we dismount. At which point, I realize....I can’t walk. To sympathetic looks, I hobble to T2, immediately take my shoes off, get my bag handed to me, and as I’m trying to walk to the changing room, I can’t do it. I sit down. A young boy working in T2 immediately tells me, with a look of concern, “no, you can’t change in here, you have to go to the other room!”, and I inform him I will, as soon as I can walk. The poor kid keeps darting glances at me, undoubtedly thinking that they didn’t tell him what to do about the crazy people, who just sit down willy-nilly, and how hard should he try to get me out of there? After a couple of minutes, taking pity on him, I hobble to the changing room, where I find a spot by a chair, lay down on the floor on my back, prop my feet up on the chair, and just look up at the ceiling. Having calculated that I’d give myself until 4:30 to try to do something about my feet and get going on the run, and it’s now about 4:15, I just relax. Zen. Breathe.
- - - - - -

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times


Saturday, August 29th

The last week before IMOO. I take Precious out to the country, to our familiar route, with spanking cool Zipp 303s on her, generously loaned by Bridget. We start off – shoot, forgot to change the magnet to these wheels. Again – shoot, computer still isn’t working. I futz, and then decide, forget it. No time for that. We set off, and pretty soon we’re just flying along – I don’t need a bike computer to tell me that. And, it’s fun. A gorgeous day, and I’m grinning from ear to ear. A dog comes running out of nowhere, barking and chasing, and I think, “sprint time!” and smoke him, laughing. I’m only supposed to do a relatively short ride, so I turn around reluctantly, thinking how far I’ve come that a 50-mile ride barely feels like a warmup. I think, no matter what happens at IMOO, I’m okay with it. Just getting to this point has been worth it.


Are you f&(*^ing kidding me with this “no matter what happens” crap? I’ll be getting across that finish line if it kills me, dammit.

Monday, Labor Day

Panic sets in. I’ve forgotten how to swim, and there’s no way I’m making the swim cutoff. What idiot decided we should only get 2:20 for a swim like that anyway? Despite my fear and loathing of the lakefront path, I decide to head down to OSB for a swim. Good god, do people actually try to bike this path on a regular basis, especially on weekends? It’s like a real-life video game, dodging everything and everyone coming at you from all directions. It seems most of the people swimming at OSB are prepping for IMOO, so we talk about the weather, and when one girl says that she checked the weather last night for Madison and it said rain for Sunday, I respond with the fact that I checked 3 sites that morning and all said partly cloudy and 72. They all nod sagely. No one seems to think it the least bit odd that we’ve all become weather vigilantes. Not that the weather really matters though. My motto has been “train like you race”, and so I’ve been out in every kind of weather possible. In fact, the only thing that might actually throw me off is perfect weather. Go figure.

My swim sucks and I heap curses on the idiot jetskier and boaters who take delight in zooming right by the buoys, stirring up waves. I’m doomed. All this work on my biking and running, and I won’t even get past the swim. Why did I not realize this sooner?


I may just take to drink. I have 5 days; I can still cram some training in, can’t I? I spend hours trying to find info on the kind of people who don’t make the swim cutoff. I want someone to tell me that these are people who really can’t swim and try to do the backstroke the whole way, or something like that. That they’re not just slow, like me. A friend points out that if I swim at the same pace I did at Evergreen Lake, I’ll finish in under 2 hours, and that helps a bit. Before panic sets in anew. I’ve done the training, more than any of my plans called for, so why the panic? It doesn’t even make sense.

Looking back now, I think it was borne of fear, fear of failing, fear of “what if” – what if I don’t make it? What if something goes wrong? And always thereafter thinking that even if people were understanding and sympathetic, quietly they’d be whispering about how they knew I couldn’t do it, that obviously I hadn’t trained enough, that what else could you expect? And that would be totally, completely unacceptable.


Panic has been replaced by zen calm. I’ve been reading Rich Strauss’s tips which remind one to be calm, cool, focused. Besides, there’s nothing I can do now about my total and complete lack of preparedness for this, so I’ll just have to suck it up and accept my fate: a watery grave. Sigh. I head down to OSB for another swim, and there are only 3 of us crazy fools out there. An older guy looks at me and says “Ironman Wisconsin, huh?” I guess it’s obvious. Again, my swim sucks, but at least I’ve found out that my backup goggles won’t work (I forgot my regular ones, of course). They fog up right away and leak, as do most all other goggles when pressed against my oddly-shaped, freakishly gargantuan head, so big it probably has its own planetary system. If anyone wants a pair of TYR Socket Rockets, email me, they’re all yours.

That night I go to the CTC meeting, and somehow most of us IMOOers in attendance wind up sitting at the same table. We all look slightly....haunted. Joe surprises me with a batch of his special wonderful chocolate chip cookies. Thanks Joe!! Life always looks brighter with a chocolate chip cookie in hand. Knowing how much stuff I usually pack for a typical tri, Bridget asks me if I need extra space in their car, and I tell her that the Allied Vanlines people are showing up bright and early, but thanks anyway. Someone else asks me if I’ve made out a will – I’m not sure if this is a reflection of how tough they see an IM as being, or on the likelihood of my expiring in the process of trying to finish, but either way, I just shake my head and walk on.


Since I managed to gain weight during IM training, I still get on the scale this morning as usual, and am happy to see that it’s down. Sweet! I then realize that I’m a complete and total moron. Sticking to the whole fish-chicken-vegetables thing the week before an IM is probably not a recipe for success, as I’ll wind up ruining a year of prep to see a few pounds gone on the scale. Stupid. Gee, why don’t I just start a juice fast now too? I decide I need to put aside the whole dechunkification plan for a few days and (gasp) start sucking down some carbs. And.....I need to get my ass up to Madison.

Thursday afternoon

Monona Terrace is pretty empty as I go to pick up my stuff (schwag! score!), and I zip through. I check out the Expo, and decide it wouldn’t be bad karma or jinxing myself to buy some things that just say Ironman Madison on them, no year or anything. Wandering over to the clearance section, I pick up a shirt, and when I realize that it’s a 2006 Finisher shirt, I drop it like it’s a chunk of plutonium and frantically wipe my hand off on my jeans, walking away quickly. I then go to the top of the terrace and look out over the lake, remembering how a year ago when I was here as a volunteer, I stood in the biting wind and looked at the cold, foreboding water and said that I’d be in tears at the thought of having to swim in that. It’s windy and choppy today too, but I’m thinking, that doesn’t look too bad. Bring it.

We then go to drop off brownies, chocolate, and beer to the “water hose people” on Timber Lane. The older man who answers the door is clearly not the cyclist-aficionado in the family, as he comments “Yeah, that race is sometime this weekend, isn’t it?” He seems happy about the beer though, so that was a good call.


Morning swim in the lake. How the hell can a small LAKE get so choppy? There’s a strong current, progress is slow, and I keep getting huge waves of water in my face. On the way back, the current is flowing from behind but at an angle, so it’s pushing swimmers away from the shore. Swimming to Cuba, as usual. This isn’t exactly a huge confidence-builder, but if this is as bad as it gets, it’s doable.

We then hit the House of Cheese on State St. – the owner is a big supporter of IMWI, and the shop stays open until the last finisher goes by. And who doesn’t love cheese?

That night I meet up with the other CTC folks for the Friday night dinner. By this time, some serious GI issues have kicked in, so I keep running to the bathroom. Great, just great. Note to self: going from practically zero carbs to hundreds over the course of a couple of days is probably not a great plan. I have a potato for dinner. But my inner Pollyanna has decided to make an appearance, so I’m optimistic, thinking, better today than tomorrow or Sunday. I keep popping pepto-bismol tablets, hoping that’ll help. Please, let it help.


Today I’m supposed to do a brick as my last workout, with some intervals thrown in to stimulate those “fast twitch” fibers, which assumes I have some in the first place. I set out on Precious, not quite sure where the bike path goes but deciding I’ll figure it out as I go. I stop at a map to check it out, and immediately get swarmed by mosquitoes, big enough to cart off small children and VW bugs. Ayee! Off we go again. I get lost, of course, but eventually decide screw it, as long as there’s a path that I can keep going on, it doesn’t matter where I’m going exactly. I practice going up and down some hills, then almost get killed by two kamikaze suicidal squirrels that run in front of me as I’m doing my intervals. Then, hearing the dreaded shucka-shucka sound, I pull over, fix the computer sensor that got out of place, and realize that my wheel is rubbing against the brakes. Shit. You have got to be kidding me. Obviously the wheel got misaligned in the car, because no matter how I move the brake mechanism, it still rubs on one side or the other. Shit. I hope they have tech support at Monona Terrace. Suffice it to say, this is not my best ride. I continue on, when a THIRD F*CKING SQUIRREL goes running right in front of me, so close that I’m pretty sure I actually ran over its tail.

Me: “SHIT!!!!!!!”
(cell phone rings)
Bridget: “Is everything okay? Colleen and I thought we heard you scream.”
Me: “Oh, just a typical day for the Schleprocks of the world. Do you have a gun? I could really use a gun right about now.”
Bridget: “You’re not going after the rollerbladers again, are you?”
Me: “No no, not this time. It’s those damn squirrels. They need to be eradicated from the earth.”
Bridget: “Roger. I’ll get back to you on that. In the meantime, maybe you should just go back to the hotel and wrap yourself in bubble wrap, as we discussed. You can’t be too careful.”

Good point. I decide that yet again I’m being given an indiscernible sign of some sort, and it’s time to call it a day. No brick, no run. Too dangerous. Disaster lurks everywhere.

Back to the Terrace, and I’m now wearing my t-shirt that says “Easy to annoy. You were warned.” Seems most appropriate for today. After the techies fix up Precious, I try to take her for a spin around the parking lot, and realize the shifting is now.....difficult. Maybe it’ll loosen up if I keep riding in random circles......damn, dropped a chain. I stop, and just bow my head in defeat. I’m not dressed to ride, my bike shoes are already at gear check.....I’ll just have to wing it and assume the bike tech guys knew what they were doing. It’s Ironman, they had better know what they’re doing.

Bridget and Colleen stop by the hotel to say hi, with my “I coulda used a little more cowbell” shirts that I’ll be using for the run in tow. Speaking of, if anyone’s ever looking for a place that does custom shirts, check out Propaganda on Lincoln, right next to Dinkel’s. When they didn’t get my shirts in on time for Bridget and Colleen to pick them up on Friday, they actually personally delivered the shirts to their house later that night. Talk about customer service. Bridget also tells me that on their bike ride today, they went past the water-hose people......who now have a huge sign in front of their house to welcome the Ironman! Not just a handmade sign either, but one of those Elks-type signs that advertise the next fish fry. I think it was the brownies that prompted this outpouring of affection for us, but I could be wrong on that.

After making little sayings to stick on my aerobars (I go with “breathe!” and “make it fun!”) and a little bib for Dino with his name and our number, I practice changing a tire in case I get a flat, and then I’m so exhausted that night from weeks and months of panic and worry and stress and training that contrary to my usual MO of being up all night the night before a race, unable to sleep, I sleep like a baby. Dino and I are ready to take on the world.

It was a dark and stormy night

Okay, so - in case there are people who want to get caught up on my illustrious triathlon career without wading through all the old posts (vastly entertaining though they are), I'm posting my IMOO report here in all its glory. Since it's a bit, umm, long, I'm breaking it down into 4 parts. This was what I posted on the CTC message board, and it pretty well sums things up for last year.


“You do have to train for that you know.”

People have a lot of different reasons for signing up to do an Ironman: to set a challenge for themselves, to prove something, to attempt to achieve what seems impossible, and so on. In my case, I also wanted to not suck at something. While I love playing hockey, taking classes and clinics and playing rat hockey and not improving was getting a bit frustrating; triathlon training seemed like the kind of thing that if I put in the time, I’d see a linear progression. Ha, little did I know.

I didn’t even tell anyone that I had signed up for IMOO last year until a tri friend asked me straight out, after which I got the remark of “oh, I thought you were joking” plus the above comment. It’s not easy being the Lowest Common Denominator of your tri club, but clearly that’s where I was at.

“I’m waiting to see how you do, because I figure if you can do an Ironman, anyone can.” Umm, okay I guess. Thanks?

“Hey, I met someone who might actually be slower than you at IMOO!”

“IF you finish Ironman....”

The best was when I went out to dinner with close friends, a couple who used to do tris but haven’t had time lately, and when I mentioned that I had signed up to do IMOO the next year, the response was an incredulous “you’re not serious, are you?” Ouch. That hurt. I even got a baffled/alarmed look from Robbie at VQ when I went in for their fitness assessment, and said that my goals for the next year involved an IM. In fact, the only people who had a positive response were Bridget and Colleen, who emailed me to say hey, that’s great, how can we help you? For that one small vote of confidence, I will be eternally grateful. Though, it was also illuminating to see that the view that others had of me was so very different from how I thought of myself. I thought, these people don’t know me at all, don’t know that when I put my mind to something, I’ll do it.

So Bridget came up with a plan for me, helped me figure out heart rate zones and so on, Colleen recommended her gym at DePaul so that we could start swimming together, which we did, I started VQ cycling classes last October, bought stock in GU, and things got going.

Then my typical Schleprockian life asserted itself, bit by bit. The worst was when my dog Hudson, my best friend and companion, my heart and soul, died in January. I think training saved my sanity, because I could run, and cry, and run from my sadness and anger, at least for a little while. In fact, I think I’ve cried more in the last eight months than I have, well, in the 8 months before that. At least. I was definitely in tears when I found myself on the Ozark Mountain High Road in Missouri in April, on an evil and possessed bike (D-POD, aka Damien, Prince of Darkness) that wouldn’t shift, defeated by 8 miles of extreme hills, feeling like a complete and total fraud.

I also recall being in tears during Galena, when yet again in spite of many hours and weeks of training, I was going to be one of the last to finish in part thanks to a horrendous swim that had me gasping for air and coughing up blood right then and for days afterward, looking to all the world like yet again, I hadn’t done jack shit in the previous months. And again, D-POD decided since it wasn’t an alternate Tuesday, it wasn’t a shifting kind of day, so I found myself very close to pitching him into a cornfield – yes, during the race. So much for my triumphant racing season, where I’d be the antithesis of my usual slow, lumpen, plodding self. During my miserable bike, I had decided I wasn’t going to wear my camouflage swimcap for the run, the one I had stashed in my T2 bag, because I didn’t want to make any more of an ass out of myself. Of course, that thought has never stopped me, so I did decide to wear it, and seeing the smile it put on people’s faces I discovered that sometimes all you’re left with is the chance to lift the spirits of the rest of the BOPers.....and that’s a heck of a lot better than having nothing more to show for your efforts than a crappy race time.

This was the time when I suddenly became unable to breathe while swimming, and while a doctor recommended by Ruth (thanks Ruth!) eventually figured out that I had acute/chronic bronchitis and asthma, it left me with zero confidence in my swimming abilities, positive that these breathing problems could and would crop up at any moment.

Tri-shark. Horribly Hilly. Alcatraz. None of these went particularly well in my mind, since I didn’t do much better than people who hadn’t been training for hours on end. At least by now I was borrowing Bridget’s Orbea, so I didn’t have to deal with D-POD issues anymore. I went to dinner with that same couple, who asked me “how’s the training coming along?”, and I could see in their eyes they didn’t think I was seriously training. Maybe I wasn’t. I had added hours to my training plan, but maybe it still wasn’t enough, even though I look back at my summer and recall it in terms of long rides and long runs, in an endless procession of weekends at a race or ride of some sort, and a constant state of feeling like Forrest Gump, just running and running and running.

There was still fun to be had, however, and it was found in spades at the inaugural Beater Bike Classic, held at the Firecracker Triathlon in St. Joe, MI. I was slow on the bike then, but at least I could use as an excuse the fact that I was riding my 30-year old, 150-lb. Schwinn 10-speed. Oh, and wearing a Catwoman costume. I say, if you can’t have fun while carrying a whip, then when can you?

Then, Evergreen Lake, an Olympic distance. Where I finally felt that I had a good race. The swim seemed effortless, even without a wetsuit, and this was huge for me. The bike and run were fine as well, and I was happy with my race. Life was good. I made the critical mistake of saying what a perfect day it had been, so of course, while driving back to Chicago, some assclown on I-55 slammed into my poor car with only 25K miles on it, and totaled it. Lesson learned: don’t tempt fate by having too good of a day, because fate just might be compelled to restore balance to the world by saying “fuck you” and raining pestilence on your weary head.

With Steelhead came a new problem – burning/painful/numb feet on the run. What fresh hell is this, I thought? Another sucky time, and I had truly thought that this was going to be my summer of sucking LESS, at least marginally. It gets tiresome after a while, though one does get used to it. This is why when friends tell me they had a bad race, or got dropped on a ride, I’m sympathetic, but I also think hey, welcome to my world. Where I can’t even pick out a key limiter to focus on, because I don’t seem to be good at any of the 3 sports. Oops. How did this happen, when I’ve always thought of myself as being at least somewhat athletic?

I know, I know, po’ po’ pitiful me. Actually, a lot of the training was fun, especially the long rides where I’d wind up riding from IL to WI, across much of southern WI and its cornfields, back to IL, finding an ice cream shoppe along the way, stopping to chat with locals about the robustness of this year’s corn crop, agreeing
to do some heirloom tomato seed swapping later in the year, repeat. If anyone wants to know anything about the growth cycle of corn, talk to me. But it’s just a wee bit frustrating, to spend all this time training, and still....just......suck.

Then, the Dairyland Dare, or biking until the cows come home. This was where I finally felt the training was starting to pay off, because when I got to about mile 55 of this insanely hilly ride, and people were talking about doing just the 100K instead of the 200, I didn’t even consider it; 55 hardly seemed sufficient. So I finished the 200K as the sun was setting, keeping an eye on the cows grazing and noting that no sir, they had not yet gone home so clearly I still had some time left.

I then had Pleasant Prairie as a relay, doing the run part, and managing to pull a groin muscle in the process. Great. Next up, biking in IN, where I got stung by a wasp, caught in the rain, and lost in the ghetto. I had planned to go up to Verona the next Monday to ride the IMOO course, and decided to go in spite of the still-pulled muscle, since the forecast called for no rain. Some hours later, I had had breakfast, toured the Mustard Museum in Mt. Horeb, researched and wrote a lengthy dissertation on the architectural styles prevalent in small Wisconsin towns, learned how to make cheese at a local dairy farm, and it was still pouring buckets. Sigh. This was getting ridiculous. Do you ever feel like you’re jinxed, or that someone is trying to tell you something? In my case, I can never figure out what the message is – maybe I need to start eating alphabet soup. The pinnacle of it all was when I brought my bike to GAG for a pre-IMOO find out that the fork was cracked and the bike was unrideable. I mean really, what the hell? What next? Since the chances were high that if I had gone riding in Verona the fork would have snapped out from under me, I couldn’t figure out if I had very bad luck, or very good luck, or bad luck with a balding, pudgy guardian angel named Stan who was running around conjuring up thunderstorms out of thin air, so that I didn’t wind up killing myself. I think I’ll go with Stan.

By two weeks out, the sudden random pain in my shoulder that made it hard to move, well, that was almost to be expected. Big thanks to Laura Lane, the massage therapist who some of you remember from our CTC post-race tent at Accenture, who worked out the kinks as much as possible. I had also taken a hiatus from hockey at this point, figuring that with my luck (or lack thereof), I couldn’t be too careful. The Watch of Doom was ticking away, and I had one week left in which to panic. My goal at this point was to just finish – though again, that was kind of a depressing thought, that I had given up my whole summer to training, just to finish. I refused to give anyone a time goal, because my view was and still is that anything can happen in an IM, and you never know what’ll crop up. Sure, in my mind I thought I could do the swim in 1:40 (at best), the bike in 7:00 at most, and the run in 5:00, for a time of about 14 hrs or less. But I also knew it could be just as easy to not finish at all, and how much would that just.....suck?