Sunday, June 29, 2008

Confirmed: I have completely lost my mind

So for some time now, it’s been the case that every time I see the word “tornado” in print, my mind substitutes the word “tomato,” as in “Entire town demolished by tomatoes!” or “Killer tomatoes headed our way!” This is an odd quirk, but since I have no other oddities or whims or flaws in my character to speak of, as any of my friends will attest to, I just deal with it. Tomato, tornado, whatever.

However, my “I have a brain tumor” theories sprung to mind just the other day when I was checking out the weather online, and the report kept warning about “11-23 mph winds”, mentioning this several times. And every time I saw this, my immediate thought was this: “hmm, they probably need a different cassette, at least a 12-25, depending on what rides or races they’re doing, since an 11-23 is really not enough.” Every time.

Then last night I went with my mom to see Cirque du Soleil’s latest (and as an aside I am happy to note that this time we were NOT sitting in the “raised by wolves” section, so I did not have to finally lean over and shush someone when he kept drunkenly going on and on - LOUDLY - during one act about how “the little people, the midgets, they have a low center of gravity and really short limbs so that’s why they can balance like that, yes, the little people and their low center of gravity” etc.), and there was an act with a guy on a unicycle doing all sorts of amazing things. Spinning around, taking his partner and twirling her around his head while he’s spinning around, and so on. And again, my first thought? “Hmm, really looks like he could use some air in that tire. I wonder if that uses a Schrader or Presta valve? Yep, tire looks really low.”

No further commentary necessary on that.

On another note, I had a sports-related dream last night whereby in the first part of it, I was running a marathon – whichever marathon has you looking for chalk markings to indicate the course, and going up and down subway stairs – and somehow, I was running it while wearing my Ugg clogs. Now, there was one odd thing about this dream: that I was running at a very fast clip, jauntily even, Uggs notwithstanding. And one not odd thing: that I had the thought of oh, these don’t feel bad, actually, so I’ll just keep going in them until I need to stop. Gee, where have we heard that before?

Then the second part of this dream was a bit horrifying – as Sálome was stolen right out from under my watchful eyes! Yes, I had stopped to help someone trying to move gates/fencing after some race, and we wound up right by Sálome, when gatemover/faux volunteer executed a blocking maneuver and some little punk kid absconded with my bike. Quélle horror! Luckily, in my dream as I was yelling “Stop him! He stole Sálome!”, someone did stop the little bastard and I think he was then stoned to death or something, as was his due. But the message here was as clear as a bell and I will duly take heed – in the future, should I ever come across someone who asks me for help in moving something after a race, I shall preemptively and without hesitation beat that person with a cudgel. Oh, I know that sounds a bit harsh, but seriously, what choice do I have?

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Modest Proposal

While I’ve volunteered for my share of events in the past, including at triathlons, I don’t think I’ve ever run the gamut of volunteer experiences as I did at Big Foot last weekend, from packet pickup to handing out Clif Bloks to directing athletes. So while I’m familiar with some of the quirks and foibles familiar to our sport, this was also a bit of an eye-opener. And as such, I have some observations and suggestions as to how we can make all of us happier in the long run, as far as triathloning is concerned.

1. The swim

Picture a boomerang. Picture a bunch of ants industriously working their way along the inside of the boomerang, going around the tip, then returning to home base along the outside of the boomerang. That’s what the Olympic swim at Big Foot should have looked like. Instead, what did we have? Yes, a whole slew of triathletes swimming from tip to tip, forgetting about that whole silly curved swim-along-the-buoys part.

Now, I am the first to be sympathetic to people who can’t swim straight. To people who, for example, are swimming a rectangular course and they somehow find that they’re angling in, realize this when they bonk up against a lifeboat, then start angling back out towards the turn buoy and find that they’re like a salmon swimming upstream, against a sea of swimmers. I mean, theoretically, I can see how that would happen. But when you’re a fast, FOP swimmer, you know how to sight, and pretty darn well at that. At least enough to know what you’re doing when you start swimming and start angling outward right away, towards the end turn buoy, instead of swimming along the buoys.

While it was entertaining to watch the police and fire boats go chugging along and try to rein these swimmers in, back towards BuoyLand, the damage was already done at that point, and these FOP swimmers had already given themselves an unfair advantage. Where I come from, we have a quaint little word for people like that: no-good cheaters, aka pondscum. And for these cheaters, I’ve come up with a revolutionary solution that I think will soon sweep the triathlon world as far as stopping this kind of egregious behavior: sniper fire.

Yes, sniper fire. Think about it – you already have police boats out there, surely equipped with the necessary weaponry. And their marksmanship is sure to be pretty good, so that out of a cluster of cheaters, they’re bound to hit at least a couple. And a couple is probably all it would take – to set an example and to let people know that such a thing won’t be tolerated. Pick off a few as a lesson to others, and I guarantee that everyone else will hew to those buoys so closely that it would probably be called illegal in states like Kentucky.

2. The bike out

Chance are unless you’re a really fast swimmer (or a cheater), you’re probably going to be heading out with your bike amidst a scrum of people, all also dashing out rather hurriedly. So let’s perhaps remember that none of us exist in a vacuum. That means that when you run out of transition and are headed to the bike mount line, and you stop abruptly to, say, tighten your shoes, or start your watch, or pull out a’ll be causing a mighty pile-up of people behind you. Yes, it’s true. We have not yet perfected the invisi-bubble that envelops each racer in a safe little cocoon whereby your actions do not affect the other people around you. Maybe someday. In the meantime, KEEP IT MOVING, PEOPLE! Or at least step off to the side while you see to your various ministrations and fussing so that you don’t become Herbie the bottleneck.

I will note that if I’m the one out there volunteering, I run a tight ship, and you might just get a good blow across the kneecaps if you engage in these types of actions. Have crowbar will travel, that’s what I always say. But whacked or not, you’ll certainly be yelled at. This is unlike one of the other volunteers who ignored all the mayhem so that she could wish everyone a “happy race, with sunshine and twinkly rainbows!!” Miss Karin too was more along the lines of telling people “say, pretty please, oh great and wonderful triathlete that you clearly are, could you possibly.....” blah blah, the rest of which was lost as I was yelling at people to MOVE IT NOW OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO MOVE ABOUT. She is nice; I am not nice; watch out for the crowbar-wielding chick at your future races.

Oh, and for those people who leave the bike out with their helmets on backwards........having to stop after you’re told that said helmet is on backwards and turn it around in front of a crowd of people is punishment enough in and of itself. Crowbar-whacking would be overkill.

There are also the people who get a bit turned around and have no clue where they’re going or what direction they should be headed in. At one point, a volunteer took some cones and placed them strategically on the pavement to indicate the bike course direction. “It’s idiot-proof!” he happily proclaimed. “I give it 2 minutes,” I said, cynically. I was wrong, of course – the very next racer circumvented the cones and started off in the wrong direction, or tried to. You folks don’t need to be eliminated – fate will probably take care of that at some point soon anyway, at the rate you’re going.

3. The run out

You’ve paid good money to do this race. I get that. Really, I do. And you shouldn’t have to worry about such mundane things as littering, tossing water cups in wastebaskets, etc. You’re correct in that before you get on the actual bike or run course, where littering IS prohibited and penalized, you can toss things and volunteers (i.e. me and my ilk) will pick that shit up. However. Is it REALLY that much more difficult to toss an empty cup a foot to the side rather than just tossing it directly at your feet? I don’t quite get this. Tossing it at your feet means that either you’re really concerned about the extra .000001 kilojoule of effort require to toss said cup slightly to the side – in which case you’re a freak – OR you’re tossing it there because you know it’ll impede the racers behind you, at least until one of us schleppy volunteers gets around to sweeping it off the course. Which is rude. Now, while I’m an advocate of sniper fire for many if not most offenses, that seems a little harsh here, and I have hopes that these people can be rehabilitated, so I’d just give them the kneecap whack.

(Note to the racer who winged her cup off to the side and hit me squarely in the chest with it, and then started apologizing profusely - it's okay. Really. At least you were trying to throw your cup off to the side.)

While I’m at it – how about the whole packet pickup thing. Just because we’re there the day before the race handing out all your official race stuff does NOT mean that we’re anything other than the usual schleppy volunteers. We’re sorry you had a hard time finding packet pickup and apparently wandered around the Gobi desert for hours before you found us. We’re sorry we gave you a pink bag when you are “all about the blue”. We’re sorry we don’t have maps of the run course so that your freakishly obsessed self can go out and GPS it so that you know exactly at what point you should turn it up a notch or two so that you can be 20th in your age group instead of 21st. Really, we’re sorry. But take it up with the actual Race Director, who will care about all this stuff more than we do. Or at least he’ll pretend.

Finally, I have to say that it IS heartening as to how many triathletes actually say thank you and other pleasantries to volunteers. This is totally not necessary – we get that you might be in the zone and don’t have time for that, which is fine. It is a race, after all. But many of you do this automatically, and for that, you’re very welcome....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Country roads, take me home....

Deciding it’s time to up the training hours even more, I figure I’ll head up to Delavan for some new and different country roads, because I’ll soon poke my eye out with a spoon if I keep riding the same roads in Huntley. Or at least new and different this year, since I rode them so much last year that I believe the good people of WI finally just went ahead and named a county after me.

I set out on my usual route – past Millie’s Pancake Haus, past Deanna’s favorite titty bar (as she likes to refer to it), etc. – but then I make the fatal error: I turn. Oh, I thought about it first, certainly, and even looked at my Garmin to see where that turn would take me – not understanding why said road wasn’t on said Garmin, until I remember that not having the special add-on “street level” map meant that it was just me riding around in a swath of cornfields as far as Garmin mapping is concerned. But Salt Box Road is a familiar one, so what can it hurt? And so.....I turn.

Naturally, 45 minutes later I find myself unexpectedly in the town of Sharon – which to me has a mythical, mystical quality to it because not only do all roads lead to it, but once you find your way there, you can apparently never leave. Somehow every single country road around here loops around in such a way that a cyclist will always unsuspectingly wind up...back in the town of Sharon. Trust me, I know of what I speak.

I’m going past Main St., when I peek down and see......a coffee shop? Hmm, it is pretty early, and a cup of coffee would be just the thing....

(45 minutes later)

With 2 cups of coffee under my belt, I leave this wonderful little emporium happily loaded down with pamphlets for the Roun’da Manure bike ride (8/16/08) that starts in Sharon, a sketched-out map on how to get back to Delavan from here drawn by a local farmer, leads on Victorian houses for sale in Sharon (which I bike past, and yes, they’re very cool), tips on growing eggplant and other veggies (lime is apparently a great soil additive – who knew?), and friendly but dire warnings about staying away from CR-K (the road I was looking for) because it’s “way way too busy”. Chucking it all and moving to Wisconsin is starting to look more than just vaguely appealing.

However, the one tiny thing that puts a slight damper on my newfound love for all things WI is that the map that Mr. Farmer drew for me, well, it’s not quite right. Because I do find Peters Rd., and it does take me to Darien, but as for meeting up with CR-X, it does not, and now I’m all turned around and unsure of which way to go. So I pick a road that seems plausible, decide if I’m going in the right general direction that’s good enough, and set off.

(1 hour later)

A sign that things are not going right would be when you’re on a road that you’ve never heard of, when you should at least recognize vaguely all of the roads because you’ve traveled them so often. Saltbox Rd., check. Brick Church Rd., sure. But Old 89? WTH? The Garmin keeps shifting perspective on me and is almost useless, though it does point out in a vague way that Delavan is somewhere up yonder, in the general direction in which I’m going. So this is the bad news, that yet again, I’m hopelessly lost.

The good news is that if I hadn’t decided to go on my little adventure, I would have missed the most excellent 12-foot fiberglass, painted ear of corn that’s occupying the space of honor in front of someone’s house (note to self: take camera next time!). Given that this is a cute departure from the usual Green Bay Packer-painted mailboxes and corn silos, I’m happy I wound up on this random road in the middle of nowhere. Even though I’ll probably die out here. A slow, painful death, empty GU wrappers tucked under my shorts leg.

A little bit later, I come across an elderly farmer who seems to be having more problems than me – he’s on a mini-tractor at the edge of his cornfield, which is basically half under water, just sitting there, tractor idle, with a hoe across his lap. I slow down – is he not feeling well? Is the tractor stuck? Perhaps I can be of assistance. So I stop and wave to get his which point he starts up the tractor and motors closer to me, and I simultaneously realize that with me in my cycling duds and clip-cloppy shoes, I’d probably be of limited help when it comes to pushing tractors out of fields. Oops.

So I rather sheepishly admit to him that I thought he might need some assistance, and he looks rather bemused as he tells me he’s just trying to figure out how to get the water draining from his cornfield. We chat about the weather, which has sucked, and he comments on how “the people in Iowa have it a lot worse, so I can’t really complain.” Buoyed by such Midwestern stalwartness, since he's saying this as his tractor is knee-deep in water and beavers seem to be industriously building a dam across his cornfield, having mistaken it for a river, I toodle off, with his wishes to have a good ride echoing in my ears.

Eventually, I wind up at Highway 11, which I wanted to avoid because it’s pretty busy, but at least it’s familiar. Apparently I’ve done a huge loop that has taken me into the town of Delavan as opposed to out by the lake – but at least I’m no longer lost, lo these many hours later. I head back out to the lake, on CR-K, which is indeed very busy – I have at least THREE cars pass me in a 30 minute time period, as opposed to none while I was on the Farmer’s route. Madness. At least the ostriches at the ostrich farm look happy to see me, though they don’t want to race today, as they usually do. Maybe next time. A girl can dream.

The next day, I do go riding out around Huntley, and nothing untoward happens: I don't get lost, I encounter no vicious snapping turtles that I attempt to move off the road, when I ignore the "road closed" signs and forge on ahead, I'm actually able to make it across the torn-up road without falling into a gulley or getting hit by a utility truck, etc. Hmm. Clearly I'm doing something wrong here......

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Horribly Hilly: Less Sucky than last year

Deanna and I start heading out towards Madison, Dodgeville, and the HHH on Friday afternoon, and as usual, when Deanna starts talking about TOMRV and the wind and how she spun up all the hills, zipping past these 2 guys who asked if she could tow them, I tune her out and go to my happy place of rainbows, Doberman puppies, and ice cream shoppes. Then, suddenly, a few words burst into my consciousness.

Deanna: “So anyway, after my 2 days of glorious victory conquering all those hills, I had my Ironman dream which just....”
Me: “Ironman dream? Was it like mine, where I went from swim to run and then realized I had forgotten to do the bike part?”
Deanna: “No, not like that. It was weird – I finished and somehow my medal was cutting into my neck and I couldn’t fix it so I went to the medical tent to have them take a look, and then I went and found my family so that we could celebrate, and then I went and got some pizza and stuffed myself, and then I went back out towards the course so that I could see you finis.....”
Me, interrupting: “HOLD it. Wait just a minute there. You’re telling me that you finish, wait in line to get medical assistance, search around and find your family in the melee, have a 3-course meal, and THEN go to find me still bumbling around out there on the course somewhere? So basically you’re saying that I finish what, 3 HOURS BEHIND YOU??”
Deanna: “Well, I am a super-fast swimmer...”
Me, kind of raising my voice at this point: “NOT 3 HOURS FASTER.”
Deanna: “.....and I’m so tiny and wee that I’ll just spin up all those hills...”
Me, gritting my teeth: “True that. And you’ll be even MORE tiny when I stuff your HEAD in your ASS! Besides, my own FAT ASS will be screaming past you on the DOWNHILLS, remember those??”
Deanna, undeterred: “...and I’ve improved my running so much that Nancy tells me I should just focus on maintaining...”
Me: “And did she suggest to you how you should run with both your KNEECAPS BROKEN??!”
Deanna: “Did it get dark all of a sudden here in the car?”
Me: “That’s just the mutinous dark stormcloud that suddenly formed over my head.”

Needless to say, this put a damper on conversation for a while. Yet soon there was a rally.

Deanna: “So how did Tri-Shark go? How did our CTC people do?”
Me: “Pretty good – let’s see, Bridget, Dan, and Carolyn placed in their age groups, Annette and this new girl Kathleen placed in Athena. That’s all I remember.”
Deanna: “That’s not bad.”
Me: “Yeah. I just wonder what it would take for me to win something in a race – somehow, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Deanna: “Well, you could race Athena.”

*BIG thanks to the people who picked Deanna up from the side of the road and gave her a ride the rest of the way to Dodgeville.

That night, after picking up our packets and my discovering that I was denied the gel flask that Deanna had in her goody bag (of course), we go to one of the 2 restaurants in Dodgeville that isn’t a chain. Actually, we went there by default, since we couldn’t find the other one. The fried walleye at Dan’s Bar and Grill was most excellent, and I can safely say that unlike last year, when myself and Larry/Curly went to the pasta restaurant in Mt. Horeb, here we were the only cyclists in the place. You could just tell.

The next morning after Deanna had eaten her bowl of twigs-and-berries and I had pancakes and got future ride info from the 2 women also partaking in the continental breakfast in the hotel, we head out to Blue Mounds....getting there just in time to have to wait for hundreds of cyclists to go by for the official start of the ride. Oops. Deanna bustles off, and I decide to wait for it to get a touch warmer, since it’s about 48 degrees still. After 20 minutes or so, however, I realize that I’ll be sitting in my car all day at this rate, so I too set off.

One of my “favorite” things about this ride is that the sadistic bastards who devised it did so in way so as to maximize torture and suffering. So, to get to the first aid station, there’s a long, steep PITA climb, which I distinctly remember walking last year. This year, I did not. Yay me. While grinding my way up, several of us get a chipper platitude from a guy going down the other way: “It’s a lot faster on the way down!” Now, normally I’d appreciate this kind of encouraging sentiment – heck, I say that kind of inane stuff to people all the time too – but today, I fixate on the fact that it’s kind of stating the obvious. Yeah, it’s called the laws of physics, bub, is what I’m really thinking. I am an evil person (hanging head in shame).

I see Deanna at the first aid station, but she soon darts off so that she can stay ahead of me. In the meantime, I decide that just for yucks, I’ll go to the tech guys and ask them to fill up my tires. I’m sure they’re fine, but it can’t hurt.

Tech Guy: “Okay, this should really help you go up and down those hills – you only had 55 pounds of pressure in your tires.”
Me: “Oh. Heh heh. I, umm, did that on purpose so that the second half of the ride seems all the easier.”

I’m not sure he bought that, but it sounded good. To me, at least. I press on, riding up hills I walked last year and feeling all smug and cocky - or at least a smidge better about myself than usual. But then I get to one particularly heinous one, where I discover that I can go 1.9 mph and still remain upright. I’m going at this poky pace past several cyclists who are screeching at a guy in the SAG wagon, something about how this is the 2nd time they’ve broken a chain and the last time it took an hour for a SAG wagon to show up – and soon after I pass them, I too get off and walk up the rest of the way, since indeed, a broken chain would suck and there’s a bit too much mashing going on here. Better safe than sorry. Though I have to shake my head at these people yelling at the poor SAG guy – this is what happens when you sign on to do rides in the middle of nowhere, folks. It takes a loooong time for the SAG folks to drive the course, so if something breaks down, walking will be involved. Suck it up.

Anyway. At the next rest stop, I see Deanna, who informs me that she’s been there a while, and takes off again. I take my time, finally meandering off, and in the final stretch, who should I see ahead of me, of all the bike rides in all the towns in all the world, but YCBG Matt, suffering along with the rest of us. We stop and chat, since we’re on that damn climb up to Blue Mounds that goes on for about 6 miles, and then I basically save YCBG Matt’s life by giving him one of my 2 water bottles, since his are both empty. Clearly, he is now indebted to me for life – who knows what could have happened in that final stretch if he had remained underhydrated? Though later when Deanna tells me that she gave Jason some electrolytes since he had none, I find it somewhat amusing that 2 guys who work in a bike shop and have every gel, pill, powder, etc. known to man literally at their fingertips would wind up a little, shall we say, under-supplied.

After I finish and have the mandatory Culver’s frozen custard cone, I go find my fellow CTCers, and wind up talking with Chad, who’s doing IMOO for the first time this year.

Chad: “I can’t believe you’re doing IMOO again! How do you manage? As it is, I have no social life – it’s one day after another of training, of riding the IMOO course, of riding it again, of doing loop after loop, it’s crazy!”
Me: “Well, I do have a flexible schedule – but isn’t it kind of early in the season to be doing that kind of volume? I try to not become a training recluse until at least mid-July.”
Chad: “And the costs! I go through about 5 cases of CarbBoom gels a week! Is there a secret someone hasn’t told me? How does anyone afford this?!”
Me, helpfully: “I do admit, I have somewhat of a radical approach. My secret is that I try to support the local economy by stopping at places such as convenience stores, gas stations, coffee shops, etc., for key fuel during my long rides. Oh sure, I sometimes take the Infinit and gels, but if there’s a stop handy, heck, I’d rather do that. After all, one of the fun things about doing those long rides is the opportunity to eat Cheez-its.”
Chad: “But how...”
Me, firmly: “It’s one of the keys to my obvious triathlon success – opportunistic eating. It’s called the Paleo diet – you should check it out. Great stuff.”

By the time he gets up to go, I think I have him sold on the logic of taking nothing with you on long rides except a fistful of singles. I’m sure victory awaits him too, as it has me. And I mull the idea of setting him up with Deanna, thinking of all the training they can do together. Hmm.

By now, Deanna has finished and she joins our merry little crew of exhausted people.

Deanna: “Hey guys, how’s it goin.....” (sees me) “Hey!! How’d you get here before me??” she shrieks.
Me: “I took one of my alternate routes, cut off a few miles before the last climbs. I’ve done the whole thing before – thus I didn’t feel compelled to hew to the standard, common route this year.”
Deanna: “How many miles did you do then?”
Me: “I have no idea, I kept forgetting to turn on my Garmin. Somewhat less than the course.”
Deanna: “I can’t believe you did fewer miles!! Did you walk up any hills? Did you walk up the last hill?”
Me: “Yes and yes – but I walked up fewer than last year, so that’s success in my book. How about you?”
Deanna: “I made it up EVERY hill, even the last one! I just spun up them all and....”

Doberman puppies......

Sunday, June 15, 2008

And the race is on.....

After standing around for hours, now all of a sudden it’s chop-chop, get moving, ándale. Since I’m not a duathlete myself, all of this has a rather Mickey-Mouse quality to it, whereby we line up rather haphazardly by our waves, and the time-person just tells us when to go. One good thing is that since there’s no swim, I now get to wear my glittery Birthday Girl sash for the whole race; one bad thing is that when our wave starts, I’m still fiddling with the sash, which starts to fall off after I start running so I have to slow to an even more glacial pace to tuck it into my tri-top. Note to self: next year, practice running with birthday sash.

I quickly start to feel even more lumpen and plodding than usual, since I had lined up at the very back of our pack, and did NOT, as a matter of fact, start passing people, picking them off one by one. Surprise that. I get quite a few “happy birthdays!”, which is always fun, and an offer of a shot of alcohol from 3 spectators, which I decline only because they look like errant fishermen who might have wandered over and might very well be offering a shot of cheap rotgut whiskey. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In any case, I soon have bigger fish to fry......or rather, bigger geese. Yes, as the race goes through the state park, out of the corner of my eye I see Goose Family, rather determinedly bulldozing their way right towards me. I do a quick calculation and predict that with the way I’m running and the way they’re waddling, their trajectory will put them smack my path. Somehow I don’t calculate quickly enough to avoid this, and lo and behold, suddenly I’m stopped in my tracks as Papa Goose is shepherding his band of merry adolescent goslings, and Mama Goose stops right in front of me in the middle of the path, ruffles her wings at me, and hisses. Yes, hisses. It’s like the Aflac duck come to life, if the Aflac duck were a goose. A big huge hissing goose.

I stop and look at this spectacle with something akin to astonishment, and when I dare to take a step forward, Killer Mama Goose also takes a step towards me, flaps those wings, and hisses again. Now, I’m certainly not scared of a goose, but the amusement factor is pretty high here, and far be it from me to traumatize the goslings for life by, say, encouraging them to hustle along. Still, this is a bit much.

“Oh come now,” I proclaim to MG. “This is a bit much, don’t you think?”


Unfortunately, as determined as MG is to keep me in check, that’s how determined her family is to lollygag. In fact, they’re kind of the avian version of, well, me on a long bike ride. Easily distracted: “oh look, a butterfly! Oh look, a dandelion puff on the wind!” You get the idea.

Finally the gosling parade has passed, and now that I’ve TOTALLY lost my rhythm, I finish the first run, which, quite frankly, sucks. How am I supposed to run quickly without the swim and bike as a warmup? I’m just sayin’.

On to the bike, which is uneventful except for the fact that I could have walked my bike around the corners more quickly, compared to how slowly I went around them because of the wet road and gravel. I finally started to pick up decent speed at about mile 11, but then slowed when I saw a CTCer by the side of the road with a technical problem. The motorcycle helper person was already there so I’m not sure why I practically came to a complete stop, but the duathlon thing was still fooling me into thinking this wasn’t a “real” race. Clearly, between the corners, the slowing down, and of course the wind drag from the sash, that right there added a good 20 minutes or so to what would have been my bike time, I’m sure.

Finally, the “real” run. I believe most of the club had already finished, changed, gone to Steak ‘N Shake and made it back to the course for the award ceremony by the time I started my run, but I’m used to this. While I greatly appreciated the people who spontaneously broke out into the Happy Birthday song, I was also rather appalled to see so many people drafting on the run. I tried yelling at them, to let them know that their grievous offense wasn’t going unnoticed, but they either ignored me or just looked puzzled at my call of “Hey, no drafting!” After stopping to pet a spectator’s cute little dog (note to self: FOCUS!), I then decided it was time to up my game, so to speak, and as part of that, if it meant joining the ranks of the cheaters, then so be it. So in the final stretch of the course right before the run to the finish line, I tucked in behind a group of 4 guys, Tri-Sharkers I believe, and told them about my newfound keen drafting abilities. When I mentioned that I had learned this technique from watching the “Race for the Rabid” episode of The Office, one of them got it and laughed uproariously, though of course he didn’t realize that I was using this technique in earnest. This advantage was soon snatched away from me, however, when at the final stretch they all stopped briefly and waved me on – “After you, Birthday Girl!” Curses! Foiled again! Nevertheless, I thanked them and finished strong as always, coming in last out of my age group but winning the moral victory.

Later during the award ceremony, Colleen and Bridget and I were standing by and chatting with a woman whose bike we held when she went up to pick up her award in the 45-49 age group, and when she got back, she asked us what we do “with all your trophies, where do you put them?” Colleen noted that this was generally not a problem for us, but for some reason, when I noted that this was a constant dilemma of mine, what to do with MY trophies, the woman started laughing. A bit too hard. And when I tell her that no, really, she doesn't have to laugh THAT hard, she almost falls over from the subsequent paroxysms of laughter, clutching her side helplessly. I hope she doesn’t mind that when she wasn’t looking, I snuck a dead minnow into her Bento box. Oops, hate it when that accidentally happens.

The aftermath – the next day

So after getting back to Chicago, I call Colleen to chat about something or other, important issues like the plight of the endangered snapping turtle and its shrinking habitat. Colleen clearly has other things on her mind.

Colleen: “So, how crappy do you feel about your race? Not that you should,” she adds. “Technically. We all have crappy race days. Some of us more than others. In fact, for some of us, meaning you, not “us” actually, life is made up of one crappy race day after another, so you reall....”
Me: “STOP!”
Colleen: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you had a crappy race or anything, just that, you know, how’s that training coming along, anyway? Hey, how ‘bout them Blackhawks? Kane, the Calder Cup and all tha.....”
Me: “My training is FINE, just fine, thankyouverymuch. And my race wasn’t crappy, I just don’t get warmed up on the bike until miles 10-12, so doing a sprint with a 13-mile bike ride probably isn’t the biggest confidence-booster for me. I’m thinking I need to just start doing more speedwork or somethi....”
Colleen, interrupting: “Oh nooo, you don’t want to do any speedwork. No no no. I think you should just concentrate on those base miles, the long rides, putting in lots and lots of more miles, LOTS of miles, miles upon miles, base stuff, you know, time in the saddle, TITS...”
Me, trying to get a word in edgewise: “Well, I don’t mean speedwork per se, but more like interval traini....”
Colleen, continuing unabated like a steam locomotive barreling through a small Wisconsin mining town: “....yep, that’s what I see for you, just getting out there for many hours at a time, get going on the training, putting in the long miles....”
Me: “But I think tha....”
Colleen, Rainman-like in her persistence: “...nope, no speedwork, not necessary at all, just the loooong....”
Me: “But I....”
Colleen: “...rides and many miles and I probably can’t emphasize this enough, that the really long rides, the base stuff is......”
Me: “But....”
Colleen: “.....what you need now, you’re not getting any younger and you really need to get used to those long rides and...”
Me: “Bu...”
Colleen: “....just keep riding and building that base, yep, that’s....”
Me: “B....”
Colleen: “ I see things unfolding. Oh, were you trying to say something?”
Me, sighing: “Nooo.....”

Then, to top things off, I get a call from Deanna.

Deanna: “Hey, how was your birthday? It wasn’t windy, was it? Windy like it was for me, biking as I did those grueling 108 miles yesterday and 99 miles today, all uphill, but of course I spun up the hills because I’m tiny in spite of the howling winds and torrential downpour and I think even locusts. But none of that stopped me, no way. Anyway, your birthday, did you have fun?”
Me: “Well, I’d say it.....”
Deanna: “I mean of course it couldn’t be as much fun as my weekend of hardcore biking, naturally, but fun in your “little people” kind of way. Didn’t you have a little sprint race or something? (giggling) Like 13 miles on the bike or something? Are you hurting today?”
Me: “I have to go – my bulk shipment of compression socks just came in. Make sure you stop by my place on your way back into the city, okay?”

Then that night, I go out with my mom and grandmother to dinner out in Huntley, and on the way back to her place, I’m idly looking out the car window when I start to see little signs on the road in rapid succession. As I start reading them, I presume that someone has put them up for a friend, for some kind of celebration.

Quite a gal
And very sporty

Today that ends

When she turns 40


Burma-shave? BURMA-SHAVE??! Now, YOU tell me that there isn’t some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy, with someone out there putting signs for a company that went out of business long ago on some wee dark country road that just happens to be my mom’s new shortcut route from Huntley to The Hell That is Randall Road and back. Little signs that mock my age and lack of sportiness in one fell swoop. And no, I am not MSUing.

And the final insult – I get home, and get the Facebook email from the “Compare People” application, which yet again, throws this in my face - that every single fricking time I get it it tells me the same thing – I’m consistently voted as “least tech-savvy” and “least athletic.” Will the humiliation ever end?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Who'll stop the rain?


I get to the lovely town of Bloomington after a 3-hour drive into a 35 mph headwind the whole way, and when I get to packet pick-up, the lake in which we’re supposed to swim has whitecaps, which doesn’t seem to be a very good sign. My bike rack is of course in the Purgatory section, so I resolve to get here plenty early tomorrow to get a good spot on a rack, in order to shave those all-important 3 seconds off my probable 1:30 sprint time.

That night, dinner at Biaggi’s, where I blithely ignore the chatter about what the best “pre-race meal” is. Every time some newbie asks if the steak-and-lobster special with a side of onion rings is a good pre-race choice that they should emulate, I firmly tell them “no, but it’s a great birthday meal, so if it’s your birthday too, especially one in which you’re now officially old and are supposed to lose all hope, have at it.” Finally they get the idea and meekly order their sauce-less pasta. I’m a little disappointed that everyone is ready to bolt out of there so quickly that I don’t have a chance to order a large slab of birthday cake........but my faith in humanity is restored later that evening when Bridget and Colleen stop by with brownies made by Bridget herself. With friends like this, who has time for whining?

That night, after my po’ pitifully old self uses my handy Exacto knife to whittle down my race number so that I can put it on the seatpost without having it touch any part of Sálome’s frame, and puts Dino’s race number on him, I miraculously fall asleep. Only to be awakened at 2AM by an idiot bimbo with the wrong number probably drunk-dialing her ex. Warning to idiot: I have your number, so you can expect the random 2AM calls when the mood strikes me – always during the week when you’re hopefully trying to sleep so that you can get up in the morning for your stimulating job at Bebe. I am of course unable to fall asleep again.


Since I’m already up at a ridiculously early hour, I go ahead and have my typical pre-race morning meal consisting of oatmeal, a Pepsi, coffee (this is new), and a cheese stick. I also tuck an orange away for later, just in case. I get to the race site ridiculously early, a little after it opens at 6, and rack Sálome as far away from the madding crowd as possible. This is when it starts raining for the first time, so I carefully cover her up with my Happy Birthday plastic sheet, so helpfully given to me as a decoration the night before. Who knew it would be so multi-purpose?

The rest of the morning unfolds thusly: it pours, then stops and hopes lift that a race will happen. More pouring rain. Thunder and lightning. Milling about, picture-taking. I eat my orange. Rain. Wind. Rain. At one point, I find myself talking to several new CTCers when I suddenly see Bridget, Colleen, and Annette hovering perilously close to Sálome.

CTCer Kathleen: “So this Peace Corps mission I was on was incredibly rewardi....”
Me: “Excuse me,” I bark, interrupting. “I have important issues here to deal with – there are people standing near Sálome with callous indifference. I must dash.”

I go over to this band of giggling hooligans, who claim they were only re-covering Sálome with her cloth and making sure no other bikes were crashing into her, including the idiot’s bike racked right next to mine facing the wrong direction. Hmm. I decide to accept this explanation since I don’t think they have the steel-trap minds that extreme deviousness requires – even though, naturally, it would make sense if they were trying to eliminate early on a fierce competitor such as myself. My theory is borne out when, a few seconds later, Colleen shows us the latest marvel of her cool transition bag:

Colleen: "Look! My bag has this plastic cloth you can pull out to cover the bag and protect its contents from rain!"
Bridget: "Umm, dear, that might have been a bit more useful 2 hours ago. Now it’ll just keep everything in there all steamy and damp."
Colleen: "Oh."

Finally, we get the announcement that the race will go on, but as a duathlon. Something about lightning, blah blah blah. By now we’ve all learned that the official rule is that every time lightning is spotted, there’s a 30-minute countdown period in which the skies must be lightning-free in order for the swim to happen. This leads to a lot of calls of “start over” and “no, never mind, that was Tasha’s camera flash!” going on. In any case, the du is about to commence – a 1.5 mile run instead of the swim. Meh, how hard can this duathlon stuff be anyway?

(to be cont.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

The placeholder post

While I'm working on my next epic post, a dramatic recounting of the weekend's events, complete with tornadic activity, hissing geese, birthday serenading, sex/lies/videotape - in other words, the usual - I bring you this bit of comic entertainment, just because it amuses me so:

The Triple C (cont.)

Yes, yes, I know everyone wants to hear about my birthday racing weekend, but first I need to finish up the telling of the Triple C biking/camping up in Cheeseland, because some very important lessons were learned at that time. To wit:


The rest of the clan planned to do a 99 mile ride on Sunday, following the general route for the Dairyland Dare. I’m not sure why (crazy) they decided on that distance (crazy), though it undoubtedly has to do (crazy) with their overall sporty mien (crazy) and dedication, which I apparently do not have (not crazy). But we started out on the same roads until I got the brilliant idea that I would “take a little road” that clearly just “jogs right on over to County Road Z”, thus putting me back on a path towards our meet-up point. Naturally, soon after I turned onto Far Away Lookout Point Road, I discovered that my clever little shortcut actually consisted of a steep hill that was 4 miles long or so. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t 100% sure that following this road would put me on County Z, as that part of the map was a little unclear – so I could wind up going up this f*)&ing hill, then have to go back down and go back up another equally heinous hill. Yes, yes, I know that was essentially the point of the weekend, but there’s no reason to torture oneself, right? Anyway, eventually I did get to County Road Z, where I discovered another key truth in life:

2) Any place that claims to be a “general store” is on a par with godliness and should be treated as such.

So I’m biking along, having discovered yet another new version of hell, because CR-Z is about a 20-mile shot south.....and there’s a 30 mph headwind the whole way. And as we all know, in Tasha’s Hierarchy of Suckiness, wind is public enemy #1, edging out false flats for the top spot. As we can imagine, I’m moving along at a snail’s pace, so much so that when I finally get to a 4-way stop and a black-and-white dog comes up to plod along next to me, a) we’re going at roughly the same speed, and b) I’m too slow for even him to bother “chasing,” as he looks at me and then ignores me. This could have something to do with the fact that I tell him “go ahead – I’m too tired to even try to sprint away, so pick an ankle” – and where’s the fun in that?

But right after the 4-way stop, on the right is a somewhat rustic-looking frame building that desperately needs a coat of paint, but that also has the magic words on a sign: “Bar and General Store.” Hmm. I’d like to pretend that I had to contemplate this for more than a few seconds, but no, I did not. Deciding that an icy cold Coke would be just the thing, I carefully prop Sálome on the stone wall out front and go up the ramshackle stairs to clop on in........where I’m greeted with a sight that’s like manna from heaven. A beautiful room with glossy wood floors, bleached cattle heads on the walls, all sorts of old memorabilia, and the requisite mahogany bar for me to walk up to (I never did find out if there was actually a general store there somewhere). But first, I just stand there in awe and wonder and profound appreciation.

Local sitting at bar: "You look like Dorothy after the tornado!"
Me: "With the winds out there, I certainly feel like it."

I clip-clop on up to the bar and ask for a coke, expecting to have a can shoved at me, but instead it’s poured into a tall frosty mug, basically forcing me to sit for a spell. Which I do. Though my presence seems to have rendered everyone silent, since no one’s speaking. In my usual subtle way, I try to make sure it’s not really because of me:

Me: "So, umm, I hope I didn’t suddenly put a damper on things, since it got so quiet – feel free, talk amongst yourselves."
Local woman: "Nah, we’re just relaxing anyway, it was already pretty quiet."

Whew! I find out that the bar is going to have its 100th-year anniversary party this summer, and then the older woman next to me mentions the crappy weather we’ve been having and how she’s trying to get her gardening done, so we start talking gardening....

(an hour later)

By the time I leave (which I figure I need to do since they keep telling me about the “really big hill that goes on forever” I’ll have to tackle given the direction I’m going in), I’m feeling like Norm from Cheers, having shared stories with my new best friends, having laughed, cried, rallied to laugh get the picture. I just hope I have the address right, and they all get the invitations to my next barbecue.....

Friday, June 6, 2008

Early Warning System

So a bit earlier today, I went to the mailbox to drop something off, and, feeling all sorry for myself, I just "accidentally" "happened" to stroll into the little liquor store on the corner there. How could I not? It was RIGHT THERE. And a short time later I walked out with 2 large bottles of hard cider........2 bottles with my name on them.

All of you racing at Tri-Shark tomorrow, consider yourselves warned. Given that I'll probably start hittin' the cider as soon as I get into town tonight, you might want to give me and Sálome a wide berth tomorrow during the race. I might not be at my best.....

We interrupt this program.....

I know many of you find this hard to believe, considering my youthful appearance, my can-do attitude, my joi de vivre, etc., is a monumentous occasion, i.e. my 29-for-the-11th-time birthday. Yes, it’s true. And to this end, in my honor I bring you scenes from the movie Adaptation, which features Nicholas Cage as Charlie Kaufmann, a just-turned-40, wanna-be writer who sits and stares morosely at his computer all day, attempting to write something, anything:

(the scene)
Beamed ceilings and ostentatious fireplace. A few birthday cards on the mantel, two of them identical: "To Our Dear Son on His Fortieth Birthday." Charlie Kaufman, a fat, balding man in a purple sweater with tags still attached, paces the room. His incantational voice-over carpets the scene.

KAUFMAN (voiceover)
I am old. I am fat. I am bald. My toenails have turned strange. I am repulsive. How repulsive? I don't know for I suffer from a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I am fat, but am I as fat as I think? My therapist says no, but people lie. I believe others call me Fatty behind my back. Or Fatso. Or, facetiously, Slim. But I also believe this is simply my own perverted form of self-aggrandizement, that no one really talks about me at all. What possible interest is an old, bald, fat man to anyone? I am repulsive. I have never lived. I blame myself. I........

To begin... To begin... How to start? I'm hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. So I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana nut. That's a good muffin. I don't want to cram in sex or guns or car chases or characters learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcome obstacles to succeed in the end. The book isn't like that, and life isn't like that, it just isn't.

Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliche. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat I would be happier. I wouldn't have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that's fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more. Improve myself. What if I learned Russian or something, or took up an instrument. I could speak Chinese. I'd be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that. Just be real. Confident. Isn't that what women are attracted to? Men don't have to be attractive. But that's not true. Especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it's my brain chemistry. Maybe that's what's wrong with me. Bad chemistry. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I'll still be ugly though. Nothing's going to change that.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Okay, well, if I wasn’t depressed before, I am now. Yeesh. Earlier I was prepared to be all positive about the fact that I’ll be spending my 40th birthday driving downstate to good ol’ Le Roy, IL, pop. 400, trying to get to the Tri-Shark site early so that I can get in a ride, and then going out for the usual pre-race pasta dinner with a bunch of people from the club. But then as “luck” would have it, last night, as I was going through stacks of mail I started reading my college alumni magazine, and just like a kick in the teeth, there were all the tales of my former classmates celebrating THEIR 40th birthdays in Bermuda, on yachts, in Paris, etc. (Clearly, I need to stop reading my mail, because I also opened a letter from my stupid health insurance company which informed me that because of my “new age group”, my insurance would be going up a whopping 15%. WTF??) While my other friends here have done the surprise parties, the trips to NYC, and so on. And I’ll be in Le Roy, IL. I don’t know – I feel like I should be more bummed out about that than I actually am. Oh sure, it would be nice to have someone in my life who cares enough to plan something big and fantastic and fun........but since that’s not happening, being in my own company, biking along my beloved country roads with their endless rows of corn, just me and Sálome and Dino and the great outdoors.......I think I’m okay with that. Though it doesn’t sound very good on paper.

Besides, I’m sure there’ll be cake involved at some point this weekend, probably when I order it at the restaurant to go with my frothy alcoholic beverage, and that right there trumps my 30th birthday, which I spent in a muddy pit of a border town between Tibet and Nepal, walking around with my traveling companion Milu as we looked for something round-ish and vaguely cake-ish in form to put a birthday candle into. We wound up raiding my Powerbar stash instead, and as we all know, a Powerbar does not a cake make. Hey, at least I’m not one to go with the typical celebrations......

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Triple C


Finally the time had come – 2 weeks before the dreaded Triple T, and it was time to put my master plan into action. You see, having diligently read and internalized The Art of War, I’ve subsequently integrated all of the principles of Sun Tzu into every aspect of my life, just as we were taught at Wharton. Now it was time to put those same principles into use, as I was about to call Deanna and tell her that I couldn’t do the TTT, all as part of my grand master plan to “lull (her) into a false sense of security, so as to fool the enemy.” Oh, I knew Deanna would cry and wail and gnash her teeth, as is her way, but I was ready for any and all of Deanna’s protestations, and had all the tactics I’d certainly need to wear her down.

Plus, there was a very good possibility I’d die out there, and I knew Deanna would be extremely devastated and heartbroken by my untimely demise.......especially when she realized that it would mean she no longer had a place to stay for the Dairyland Dare. So given these two elements, I placed my call:

Me: "Hey, Deanna, how goes it? Say, I have to talk to you about the Triple T."
Deanna: "Oh, okay, not a problem at all, that’s okay!"
Me, pausing: ".......I haven’t said anything yet."
Deanna: "Oh, right. So what’s up?"
Me: "Well, I thi......"
Deanna, interrupting: "Cool! Really, that’s totally fine!"
Deanna: "Geez, you don’t have to get so snippy."
Me: "Anyway." (blurting out) "Ican’tdotheTripleTI’mreallysorryIsuckbutIthinkitjustmightkillme...."
Deanna: "Okay, cool. That’s totally fine!"
Me: "But I feel really bad about it – I don’t want to leave you teamless. I already emailed the Triple T people to see if I could transfer my spot if I find another craz....I mean, another uber-athletic person like yourself. And I’m sure I can find someone for the cabi....."
Deanna: "Really, it’s totally fine, I’ll manage! I’m (sniffle) tough! Say, that’s my other line ringing, I’ll call you back."

(phone rings, 2 minutes later)

Deanna: "Wow, what an amazing coincidence! I just randomly happened to get a call from someone who wants your Triple T slot, so I’m all set! Funny how that all worked out, huh?"

Methinks......I was just out-Tsu’d.

So, with the Triple T plan set into place, and Deanna secure in her erroneous thinking that I had chickened out, I was now free to take on the Triple C: Colleen’s Climbing Craziness. Or 3 days of riding in the hills around Blue Mounds State Park, which have spawned rides such as the Horribly Hilly Hundreds and the aforementioned Dairyland Dare. In other words, “fun” galore. My plan: get up super early Saturday morning, plant stuff at home, drop off plants at my mom’s and 2 places in Wisconsin, then make it to Blue Mounds in time for our noon group ride. Not a problem.

Friday night

I’m up until 1AM finding camping stuff and packing. How the hell could I possibly need so much stuff for just a weekend? No matter. Who needs sleep?

Saturday morning, 5AM

After getting up at the crack of dark and slugging down some coffee, I’m outside to dig and plant, dig and dig and.....hmm, maybe a small break would be in order. (hour passes) Yawn – why the hell do I persist in growing so many heirloom tomato plant varieties year after year, when the damn squirrels just eat everything anyway? I’m either really optimistic or really stupid. No, don’t answer that.

I keep calculating the absolute last time I need to leave in order to make it up to Blue Mounds in time to ride at noon, and I can feel my blood pressure rising because I’m stressed out. Just before my heart jumps out of my chest and goes to hide under a bushel, I realize that this is ridiculous – it’s a holiday weekend, it’s supposed to be fun and relaxing, and I’m a stressbunny. This seems to be getting to be a common theme. I call Colleen and tell them that I won’t make it up there by noon, but I’ll meet up with them somewhere on the Madison loop, which is the ride on today’s agenda. Okay, onward!


Okay, so I can still drop off plants at my mom’s, drop off the other plants on my way to Blue Mounds, and still get in a good ride. I’ll be up there by 1 at the latest, in and out at my mom’s, no problem.


I’ve just left my mom’s, after getting a tour of her garden and being given stuff to drop off at my brother’s – the one who’s taken over the family summer home in Lake Delavan. Sigh. Still, I’m determined to get that ride in today, dammit. I stop by Ann and Bob’s to drop off their tomato plants and of course have to chat with Ann, since it would be rude to just dash off. I then go a few blocks to the other end of the channel to drop off my brother’s stuff.....and he’s fishing off the pier, and has just “a couple of things” he wants me to help him with. Sigh again. Plus, the fishing pole is beckoning, and there are fish clearly visible in the water, which means of course they won’t be biting, but still........


Okay, it certainly won’t take me very long to get to Monroe/Browntown to drop off the plants at my friend’s B&B in cow country, right?


Who the hell designed Wisconsin roads anyway? Oh, I know they’re completely nonsensical from my long rides last year, when I’d be biking in WI and suddenly wind up in Harvard, IL......but this is a bit ridiculous.


I drop off the plants, have homemade muffins foisted on me, get a quick tour of their garden, and now......I can still get up there for a ride.......except I think I’m still about 60 miles away from Blue Mounds, on these damn WI roads. I’s time to go Zen. Yes, just accept that the ride isn’t happening today, don’t stress out about it, and enjoy the scenery. Right after I decide this, I see a sign that proclaims this to be “Cheese Country!”, so of course, as required, I stop to buy cheese at the first opportunity. Then another sign informs me that I’m traveling on “The Wisconsin Cheese Trail,” and now I truly feel a kinship with the pioneers of the days of yore, as they went from burg to burg plying their cheese trade. This is like the Appalachian Trail, but better. I see a book in my future - A Drive Through Dairy: one woman’s quest to drive the entire Cheese Trail, and the adventures therein. A potential best-seller, to be sure.


Finally, I arrive. Could someone please tell me how the hell it took me 8 HOURS to go from Chicago to Blue Mounds?? I’m starting to see part of my problem here, that maybe I need to maintain a bit more focus at times. Nah.

Tomorrow though, the, umm, Double C! We’ll be doing part of the Dairyland Dare route, and if that doesn’t just scream “fun!”, then........

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fast Flakes: Denied

About two months ago, planning for the impending race days when I’d need every edge I could give myself, I ordered something that I was sure would be the key to my future success. Or at least ever-greater success, if such a thing is even possible. Yes, I ordered a couple of boxes of Fast Flakes, purportedly the cereal eaten by “The Fastest Woman in the World – Lauryn Williams” – according to her website. Though, hmm, now that I take a closer look at her website, nowhere does it actually say that she EATS these things. Odd.

Anyway, what caught my eye initially was this – “Eat it because you dream of running or biking faster everyday.” And heck, if there were ever a slogan that called out to me, that would be it, because if there’s one thing I do a LOT of, it’s dreaming. You know, “if you can dream it, you can achieve it, or a close approximation thereof (some restrictions apply),” or however it goes. So naturally, I sent my money right in, via PayPal, which the bean-counters at FastestWomanLaurynWilliams Inc. were very quick to glom onto.

So I waited. And waited. And waited. Dreaming all the while of my future glory and fame, all thanks to the power of the Fast Flakes. And lo, what did I get in my email just a week or so ago, these many months after first ordering the damn things? Notice that they’re “out of stock” and that my money had been refunded. Oh sure, thanks, AFTER you’ve been sucking the interest out of my $9.32 for 2 months now. And to add insult to injury, they’re STILL advertising the damn Flakes online! This calls for action. You see, I don’t want any of you out in ReaderLand to have your hopes and dreams so cruelly dashed as mine have been. Because now - dare I say it – I might have to actually go out there and, and......train once in a while. Shudder. What has this world come to, when you can’t get where you want to be by artificial or underhanded means? I don’t even know if I want to inhabit this kind of world......

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Feeling more and more like less and less

The Friday before Galena

As I’m driving out to Galena, I feel the first twinges of a headache. A migraine-esque one. I debate: should I stop somewhere and rummage around to find my migraine medicine, or should I just keep going so that I don’t get stuck in suckier and suckier traffic?

As is my way, I keep going. This could probably be termed “Mistake #1.”

I get to Galena relatively early, and think, perhaps I should go for a ride, see if I can figure out how to shift on them hills. Yeah, that might be a good idea. By now I’ve taken some Imitrex for the headache, but only half a pill because I don’t want it to make me nauseated. Yes, dear reader (s), Mistake #2.

We set off, Sálome and I, and go about a mile when my right aerobar pad goes kerpuppling to the ground, which tends to happen quite a bit. Great. I go back to get it, then set off again, zooming down hills and struggling up them, as usual. I turn off a road so that I can figure out where the heck I am exactly, and that’s when I notice........I'm not wearing my helmet. Sigh. I gingerly make my way back to the house and decide maybe I should just go rack my bike already, quit while I’m at least somewhat ahead.

Race check-in

I sportily wheel Sálome down to packet pickup, but when I get all my race stuff, this is when the real trouble starts. How, HOW could I have forgotten something so elemental, so basic, yet so potentially detrimental to one’s race?? Of course, I’m talking here about the race number for the bike. They actually expect me to put this thing on my bike somehow, and thus risk marring her shiny perfection. Quelle horror! I study the number, look at Sálome, number, bike, number, bike, until my head spins around wildly and goes flying off into the cosmos. Or close to it. At least as I gaze out upon the frigid Apple Canyon Lake, with its buoys carefully tucked around ice floes and the like, for the first time ever I think to myself - “Hey, that swim doesn’t look that long!” I know, alert the media.

After wrapping Sálome in plastic bags and carefully tucking her onto her rack, I take the number back to the house with me to study this problem, hoping I’ll come up with a solution before morning.


Many spreadsheets, vector analyses, broken pencils, and calls to NASA later, my headache is raging out of control and I’m almost ready to concede defeat. It’ll have to be a game day decision, what to do about all this.

Race day

I don’t know if it’s lack of sleep or the fact that I only had one migraine pill with me (Mistake #3), but the headache is still horrendous. I make the supremely lame decision to not race today, but I throw on some sunglasses and a hat to help constrict the blood vessels on my head and go out to cheer on all the people who are better than me, because they’re racing and I’m not. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this – I’m not relieved, per se, but I also can’t figure out why I’m so hesitant to do this damn race, why I think I’ll suck so badly. According to my training records, I’m training as much this year as I was last year at this time, and last year at Galena I was all gung-ho. Now I feel like I couldn’t get up a hill if I were hitching a ride off the back of a pick-up. Maybe it’s because I feel totally out-of-shape compared to how I was last year in, say, August. But it’s not August. People who’re training as if it’s August – I think they’re stressing me out.

But no matter how you look at it, I’m still pretty lame.

And to compensate for said lameness, I’ve decided that my new recipe for success is the run-every-day/Atkins-diet plan; yes, we’re moving further and further away from common sense here, which is something I should have done long ago, since common sense never seems to get me anywhere. But, “поезд ушёл”, as they say, so this is where it’s at, right now. Besides, the House of Stupid is a familiar, almost comforting place for me to be. Home at last.

Three days later

I seem to have gained 3 pounds on my 300-calories-a-day all-protein diet.......and I think I’m developing shin splints. Super. Insert disclaimer here: don't try this at home.