Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tougher than Ironman

Sure, training for and doing an Ironman is a mighty endeavor, one that really calls forth a lot of effort, fortitude, will, etc. And yet, it pales in comparison to a battle I recently faced, one that called for Herculean efforts that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle. Of course, I’m talking about my attempts to plan a surprise 70th birthday party for my mom, where the average age of the guests was about 75. You see, I was counting on the fact that since her birthday is actually in January, keeping this under wraps would be a piece of cake, especially since I don’t think my mom has ever had a birthday party of any kind at all, much less a surprise one. My first inkling that trouble could be at hand was when I started getting people RSVPing and saying “oh, thanks, we’ll see you on Friday!” They were going to show up at the restaurant on JUNE 27th instead of JULY 27th. Hmm.

Of course, gathering all the names was a feat of strength in and of itself – between sneaking off with my mom’s Bunco lists, tracking down the Red Hat ladies, scouring her address book, and every time she’d mention an unfamiliar name, I’d bark “Who’s that? What’s their last name? Do they live near you, perchance?” Very subtle.

What I didn’t realize, however, and didn’t find out until after the party, was that the 47-some guests found a unique way to avoid spilling the beans to my mom: they went Amish, shunning her. Yes, apparently ostracizing my mom entirely was the way to go for the good folks of Sun City in Huntley. My mom said she couldn’t figure out why no one was calling her, why they hardly spoke to her, why when she saw sweet Irene and Eric walking by and said hi, they completely ignored her. I guess they were worried that somehow after the word “hi,” a phrase much like “see you on Sunday at your surprise birthday party!” would just come blurting out. When she did see her friend Lynn last Friday, Lynn was so nervous that she apparently almost burned her own house down, forgetting that she had snacks in the oven. I picture my mom going outside to get the paper, and everyone on her block ducking back inside, slamming their doors shut. It’s a wonder my mom even made it to the party, without cracking under that kind of stress. All I can say is this: if this is truly our “greatest generation,” then I fear for the future of our country.

In other news...

In today’s “fear my wrath” category, I’ve called the developers next door AGAIN about their fucking sand, and pretty soon I’m going to go over there and start shoveling the stuff myself, and they might not like where it ends up. I’ve also realized that I will never buy a house near a hospital, lest I want to be mowed down in the street by bundles of rage such as myself, today, who after spending the entire morning on the phone trying to track down all my records/films/slides, went to the doctor’s office to pick up said records, got there at 11:55, and found that they had all left for their hour lunch. Would have been nice if they had mentioned during one of the three times I called today that they CLOSE FOR LUNCH. Idiots.

I’m also pretty happy that somehow, I’ve managed to pull a calf muscle a week before Steelhead. How, you ask? Was it the usual, i.e. saving a group of children from wild boars, or perhaps fjording an icy stream on one of my epic treks in pristine forests? Nothing like that, I’m afraid. No, I somehow managed to pull a muscle..........watering a hanging plant. Yes, it’s true. I have a hanging basket of petunias in front of the house to make it look like I care (I really only care about the backyard), and to water it I need to clamber up on a ledge, and then reverse the process. Well, when I reversed, I landed wrong on my leg and screwed up my calf. And while I can ride, that only makes it worse when I have to push off with that leg after I stop. Unfortunately, I have no one that I can yell at about this, since it’s my own clumsy oafish fault. Damn.

And, today’s question of the day:

Q. Okay, so life sucks for you right now. What can we do to help?

A. Well, first off, let’s start with what would NOT be a good idea. A few weeks ago they had one of those feel-good segments at the end of the national evening news, a little vignette meant to be inspiring or show us a bit of Americana, blah blah blah. This time, they featured a woman who goes around to hospitals visiting cancer patients, toting her little keyboard and a guitar, singing uplifting songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings” and so on. It was beautiful, touching, really warmed my heart to see that kind of selflessness..........and let me say this right here and now, that if there are ever any Kumbaya-singing wandering minstrels near me at any time, ever, you are very likely to see me arrested and cuffed to a hospital bed for assault with a deadly ham.

I will also note some key phrases that people might not want to utter around me, lest they feel comfortable taking their lives into their own hands:

“Personally, I find mastectomies kind of freaky.”

Okay, now seriously. How the hell could you think this is okay to say to someone who has just said that their doctor has RECOMMENDED A MASTECTOMY??? Quite frankly, this one leaves me a bit stunned. Bad BAD idea.

“Well, of course even with reconstruction, your breast won’t look anything at all like a normal breast.”

I know you doctors don’t necessarily ALL have a great bedside manner, Grey’s Anatomy notwithstanding, but when you’re an older doctor who’s been around for a while, I’d think that by now you’d have realized that this is a BAD thing to say. After delivering grim news, you’ve just compounded things by basically telling me that I’ll be disfigured. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Bitch.

Any phrase beginning with the words “look on the bright side.....”

I think that’s self-explanatory, as is the fact that that is punishable by an immediate beating. Go ahead, try me. I’ll just blame “chemo rage” for everything, even if I haven’t started chemo yet. It’ll be my own version of the Twinkie Defense. Who’s going to dare argue with a bald, angry woman walking around with a frozen ham??

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Where have all the bonbons gone?

I’m sure that one of the first, if not THE first thing that people think of when they find out they have cancer is this: What’s in it for me? For example, at Superdawg you get a free hot dog on your birthday if your last name ends in “ski”. They realize that as with everything, there's no point to it if you can’t parlay it into some kind of benefit. To this end, the good folks at Slowtwitch have already informed me that apparently there are some races where we get preferential bike racks, which almost makes it all worth it because really, what’s worse than having to get to transition at 5AM just to get a good spot on a rack? I know you similarly competitive folks out there are with me on this. As an aside, is it then wrong of me to employ my standard “elbows akimbo” racing posture, “gently” moving people aside if necessary? It is still a race, after all. In any case – I’m thinking with the whole Breast Cancer Month (February?), those of us afflicted with same should at least be able to get a special deal on, say, a blender, right? I will look into it, and report back promptly.

Another question that comes to mind right away is: What the hell do I say to people? And when? Now, I kind of took care of this by putting everything out on the blog – and as I tell my friends, my rationale is that I’d rather have people know that I’m undertrained AND have cancer, rather than just think I’m undertrained. The problem is that I sort of assume that most people already know what the deal is, by osmosis. So Friday I go traipsing into GAG, since I figure I haven’t graced them with my august presence in a while, and I like to pop in when I can to brighten up their days. And/or make them weep. Of course, perhaps sensing that I’d be showing up, YCBG Matt is there and immediately drops everything to see if I need help. At which point our conversation starts to sound like some weird Short Bus version of “Who’s on First?”

YCBG Matt, with obvious adoration in his voice: "Tasha, how are you? What’s new?"
Me, with a bit of nervous laughter: "Umm, what’s new?"
YCBG Matt: "Yeah, what’s new?"
Me: "Oh, the usual I guess."
YCBG Matt: "What have you been up to?"
Me: "Same old stuff in some ways. Training, cancer, all that....."
YCBG Matt, with a deer-caught-in-headlights look on his face: "Wha....what? Cancer?"
Me: "Well, yeah. I just found out I have cancer. I thought you read my blog?!" I wail.

Now, I felt kind of bad springing this on him, but in my defense I was caught a bit off guard. The truthful answer in this situation to having someone you know ask “what’s new?” is clearly not “oh, nothing, saw the Sox play the other day, and how ‘bout them Blackhawks.” That’s a little incomplete. But perhaps blurting out the truth wasn’t the best either. Though I’m not sure what would have been.

In any case, we soon move on to a more important topic – cycling – and all is right with the world, as we get Sálome set up in record time and am soon traipsing out the door. It truly speaks to my “specialness” as a customer that whenever I go in there, they all drop what they’re doing in order to fix my bike first. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were trying to get rid of me, though of course that couldn’t be. I think I just inspire them to greatness. Yeah, that’s it.

Another question that I’m sure is among the top 5 on the list: “Will I have any friends left after all this?” Because you understand, we are a bitter and surly lot – I am speaking of myself here, of course, as I channel my inner Nancy Kerrigan with the “why? WHY? WHY ME?”, though without the sequiny spangly white skating tutu. Though, so far I’ve managed to direct my anger at strangers rather than friends – for the most part. My brother did have the misfortune of uttering the forbidden phrase “it could be worse” on Wednesday after I got home from the doctor’s appointment from hell and was in a “mood”, shall we say. My response to him was couched in my usual subtlety, something along the lines of “SURE, it could be worse, if you’re a starving Biafran refugee with AIDS, but I guess that means if you’re not then no one has any right to complain or be unhappy or pissed off about ANYTHING because it could ALWAYS be fucking WORSE, and furthermore you people with perfect happy lives do NOT get to tell ME that it COULD BE WORSE!!”

So that went well, I think.

Otherwise, I’m thinking I could embrace a new motto, moving from “doing the stupid things” to “fear my wrath,” or if I’m in a charitable mood, “just don’t fuck with me.” Whereas before I might have been inclined to let things slide, to hope that people would do the right thing on their own, to bite my tongue, no more. For months now I’ve had the gut rehab from hell going on next door to me, and have put up with the incessant noise at all hours, the dust, the dirt, the trampling on my lawn, etc., without complaint. This week, I went outside and saw my beloved garden doing its best imitation of a post-Mt. St. Helen’s casualty, since the jackasses next door were on the roof tossing tons of roof debris into a dumpster 3 stories below, with all the accompanying dust and debris, and I looked at the layers of dirt/dust coating everything, stopped, walked, stopped, walked......and then yelled up to the workers for their supervisor’s number and promptly called him to express my displeasure. And the next day, they were using a crane to carry the debris down from the roof, as they should have done in the first place. Of course, I discovered this morning that other workers had dumped so much sand against the back fence that it’s pushing everything in and I can no longer open or close my back gate – so that was another terse phone call, this time with a promise to call the police if they don’t take care of the situation pronto. And I have to say, it’s kind of gratifying being bitchy rather than overly nice.

I also feel that signage and such no longer apply to me, so yesterday on my long ride I ignored the “road closed” signs and forged on ahead, carving out my own path with aplomb. Of course, I wound up trudging with Sálome over half a mile of torn up, gravel road, tacking an extra unwanted half hour onto my already six hour ride, but I believe I proved my point. Or something – I’m sure I proved something.

But back to my original question. As I was telling a friend tonight, here it’s been nigh upon 2 weeks since I’ve been diagnosed, and I have yet to have bonbons heaped on me as a sign of support. At least, that’s what we do in Ukraine, though in that case said bonbons are actually more like dusty fudge, enrobed around a wizened hazelnut. But that’s a small distinction. Now, I’m sure there are those of you who are thinking “But Miss Tasha, you really don’t need bonbons, since you’re already shaped like a triangle.” To which I respond.....I say......well.....okay, maybe you have a point. Never mind.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Runs with Kona, or, I Have Been Deceived

So we all know that when people start dating, they’re on their best behavior, so to speak. They want to impress the other person – or at least not have them go running away, shrieking in horror – so they hide the fact that they collect Hummels or have 10 cats or don’t eat any vegetables, ever, except canned corn made into the shape of a smiley face. You laugh at the cat thing, but my friend Lisa has 3 cats and was once dating a guy who didn’t like cats at ALL, so she told him she only had one. I wondered, what do you do when he comes over? Hide 2 in closets? Switch them around each time and hope he doesn’t notice that they look COMPLETELY different? And at what point do you come clean?

Anyway. I knew this was a pretty common occurrence – heck, one idiot I dated, who we’ll call “David Julian” – did a pretty good job of hiding the fact that he was a) still married, b) a convicted felon (embezzlement), and c) a gold member of the “Adult Friend Finders” website, with pictures to boot. (Note to would-be AFF joiners: if you DO decide to join such a site, where people post pictures of their nether regions, I’d suggest you might not want to have a handle that includes the name “littleman.” People might get the wrong idea. Unless you’re going for truth-in-advertising.) So it can happen. And you usually don’t find out these things until you’re about 6 months in, when you have to start thinking about sunk costs and whether or not any of these things are deal-breakers. But little did I know that this is a trait not unique to humans, but rather cuts across all species.

Because we know that earlier this month I agreed to foster another Dobe, an approximately 6-month old pup who had been picked up as a stray, had gone to Chicago Animal Control, was being picked up by our Doberman Rescue and probably had kennel cough so needed to go to a home with no other pets. That would be me. Named the little guy Kona, because I figured that everyone who adopts our dogs renames them so his name didn’t matter too much.

Kona and I, we start going for runs every morning – or rather, I run and he casually lopes along, not paying attention to anyone or anything. The perfect running companion. And at home he’s very mellow, just chills out with his chewies or toys, no bad habits whatsoever. He adores me, clearly, and smushes himself into my lap at every opportunity. I start to waver from my stance of “I’m never getting another dog.” And this is the time at which the shit is starting to hit the fan as far as the cancer thing, so it’s kind of nice to have Mr. Goofy to come home to after another shitty day of bad news. He’s so insanely silly that you just can’t help but laugh at him.

Finally, I cave, and tell the IDR people that I’m going to adopt him. (Note: they’re not overly surprised.) And seemingly overnight, my sweet little docile puppems has turned into ADD ManiacPuppy. Oh, he’s no worse than any other young dog, but he’s far from the Mr. Calm he was the first couple of weeks. It’s as if once he realized that he was “in,” that he could just “be himself,” i.e. manic. The pooch who ignored squirrels and bunnies now chases not only said furry creatures, but also birds, bugs, and the other day went bounding around after a MOTH, for chrissake. Our runs are often derailed as he has this need to pick up absolutely everything – twigs, rocks, paper cups, empty cans, crumpled cigarette packages, leaves, you name it. I’m not sure if he’s being eco-friendly or he’s just hungry. And if you live in my neighborhood and find that you’re missing any tennis/baseballs, Tonka trucks, or small children, they’re probably in my backyard.

Not to mention that he’s all about him and thinks he’s on this earth to be petted and adored (and rightly so), so every time we see people, he has to stop, sniff at them, lean against them, hear how pretty and handsome he is and what a good boy he is, and so on. So our hour runs get an extra half hour tacked onto them just for that. And forget the casual loping – he’s pretty much in an all-out run even when he’s not chasing something, so there’s a lot of what I call interval training on our runs. A LOT.

And even though I consistently tell him that he’s going to the glue factory if he keeps up with this stuff, I don’t think he believes me. The bad thing is that the little bastard knows he’s not going anywhere, that I adore his silly smushy self, so he acts with impunity, and sleeps the sleep of the innocent. Usually on my head.

So I guess the lesson here is this: Deception – It Works. Kona can vouch for that.

Today’s dispatch from the Bitterness Train

(Since my faithful readers have long been coming here looking for sage training advice and nutritional wisdom, I’ve decided to separate out my bitter rants so that they can be skipped over if anyone so chooses.)

In other news, I have declared this blog to be a platitude-free zone. So there will be no “win one for the Gipper,” no “you’ll be a better person for having gone through this.” No – no I won’t. I’ll just be disfigured, bitter, and very very angry. Besides, I don’t need to be “better” – I was okay with how I was before. And what ever happened to just going to, say, a day spa for self-improvement??

Though I did get a comment to the effect that “fake boobs help you swim faster!” Now folks, this is the kind of comment that I’d like to hold up as a shining example of what is helpful and relevant – in other words, everything my little blog is traditionally known for.

And I’ve found yet another happy statistic which notes that a whopping 11,000 women who are 40 and under get breast cancer each year. 11-fricking-thousand. If that were good luck, it would be the equivalent of winning the $342 million lottery. So for the rest of today, I’m going to sit around and wait for the Oompa Loompas to come by to take me to swirly-twirly Candy Cane Land –the odds of that happening are roughly the same, so it could certainly happen. Especially if I drink enough. Which is my plan. Anyone know where I can get a case or two of tequila at a discount??

Finally, I will occasionally tackle a question that I’ve received from a faithful reader. Today’s question is:

Question: “I was reading my new Runner’s World today and I come across an article about a guy who has battled cancer and his family who are all doing a tri sometime this year. The parents are both TNT members. My first thought in seeing the picture/article was, “Oh god… I hope Tasha doesn’t go and become part of the purple mob now. Please, tell us this isn’t the case?”

Answer: Now, my first instinct in responding to this was to say, that’ll be a cold day in hell when I become one of the TiT Purple Menace, as I tend to think of them. Oh sure, it’s for a good cause and all that, cancer blah blah blah, but seriously people, can’t you all be positive and chipper without GETTING IN MY WAY?? The people 10 abreast, the synchronized watches all beeping at the same time because it’s JUST TOO HARD to remember to run 8, walk 2, the stopping dead in your tracks because god forbid you should run a single second longer than necessary. All that. Plus I’m just not that earnest – I’d get so annoyed with myself and all the good cheer and encouragement that I’d probably shoot myself, and you’d have all that fine surgery and chemo going to waste.

But then – I had a vision, of using this as an opportunity to infiltrate the ranks of the organization to try to change things from within. This is what I imagine:

Me: “MOVE IT people, I said MOVE IT, don’t run 10 across, single file NOW, SNAP TO IT! OR there’ll be a death soon and it WON’T BE FROM CANCER!!!”

This is something I have to seriously consider, since being the first person ever booted from TiT has a certain charm to it.....

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


(Warning: Non-funny rant ahead)

So I’m spending yet more time researching the dire effects of chemotherapy and other fun stuff like that, when I come across a handy-dandy little “risk calculator,” that asks some basic questions and then assesses your chances of getting breast cancer within the next 5 years. I put in my info, and out it spits.......0.6%. Now, I’m not the most mathy person out there, but even I know that that’s about a 3 in a billion chance. I have a greater chance of getting killed by terrorists while buying the winning multi-million lottery ticket at a convenience store that’s being struck by lightning. And even that calculation only looks at family history and a few other things, and not stuff like whether one smokes and drinks (bad) or exercises (good). Take those into account and my chances should be about -241%. So my comment on all this is: What. The. Fuck. Yes, folks, Miss Tasha has suddenly hitched a ride on the Bitterness Train.

Because I was thinking about how last year at exactly this time, we had the Assclown Situation, where my car was totaled on I-55 by felonious jackass Eric Strickland, he of no license and no insurance. And how my friends told me that I should be thankful I wasn’t killed, since it was a horrendous crash that closed all lanes of the highway for some time, totaled several cars, had hunky firefighters dashing about in a dither, etc. And I am. I was. But these comments were coming from friends who are happily married, two-income households with great jobs, have just had kids, and in general have had all the bounty of life heaped in their laps. While me, I’m scratching out a meager existence in the land of Could Be Worse, like some Dickensian street urchin, hands outstretched to fate saying “Please, sir, could I perhaps not have my house burn down today? Thank you kind sir.” In other words, what I have going for me is that I’m “not dead yet.” And that struck me as a little unfair, that that’s what I have to be grateful for.

And now, now I can’t even go with the “well at least I have my health” schtick. Instead I have “at least it’s ONLY Stage 2 cancer,” though instead of having a teensy bit of good luck – or rather, just being “normal” like in 99% of these cases - and having an easily-removed lump that would let me do hormone therapy instead of chemo, my current choices seem to be a) remove lump right away and be disfigured because of where it’s located, or b) do chemo before removing lump, said chemo might not even work to shrink it enough so I’ll still be disfigured, but as a bonus, like a really bad version of a Ginsu knife commercial (“but wait, there’s more!”), I’ll also be bald, infertile, and in early menopause. Those are some great fucking options. I’ll be quite a catch, me and my bad self.

So yes, I’m a little bitter. It’s not like I’m asking for a lot here, but maybe a LITTLE bit of good fortune in, say, ONE of the key aspects of life that people care about would be nice – job, relationships, health. That kind of sums it up, and right now, I’ve got a whole lot of nothing going on in all of the above. So again, I just have to say: What. The. Fuck.

Update: The above was written this morning, after a night of stewing in bitterness. And this afternoon I had an appointment with a new doctor, the oncologist, and so I got to leave the sunny confines of Comiskey and a great ball game to go hear the doctor tell me that oh, guess what – I only actually have ONE option! Because I have the kind of tumor that in all likelihood won’t respond to chemo to shrink it, and to remove the lump they’d need to take out a lot of the breast anyway, so I get what’s behind Door Number 3: a mastectomy. That’s just fantastic. I get to pay a ton of money and wind up in debt so that I can be disfigured. How the hell did I go in two weeks from my Schleprockian but relatively normal life to this shit?? Why do I even bother with anything if it all just boils down to this kind of garbage?

And as if I needed even more of a “fuck you” from the cosmos, I get home, rummage through my purse, to discover keys are gone. Lost to the streets, or the ballpark, or wherever. Of course. Because sometimes, apparently, just having cancer isn’t enough.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mondays with Deanna

*By the way, it has come to my attention that some people think I’m being “mean to Deanna” in my blog, and all I can say in response is this: my role here is merely that of a scribe, relaying situations exactly as they occur. Or how I remember them. One of those.

So, I decide to give Deanna a call to see how her race yesterday went. The kid’s been training her heart out, and I’m hoping she did well at the Racine ½.

Me: "Hey, how’d it go? Did you do well?"
Deanna: "Yeah, I suppose. My time was 6:05."
Me: "That’s awesome – good job! That was my prediction for you – and that’s faster than your goal time, right?"
Deanna: "Yes, though I hated the bike. My run rocked though."
Me: "Way cool. I’m glad you did well. Umm......did you get an award?"
Deanna: "What? No, I didn’t get an award. What are you talking about?"
Me: "Well, I won 4th in my age group at Evergreen Lake on Saturday, so I was hoping you were perhaps also in the upper echelon like myself."
Deanna: "I did a half-ironman, you did the sprint!"
Me: "I know, I didn’t want to bring it up but........I mean, everyone knows that the shorter distances are a LOT harder than long course, where you can lollygag along for hours and hours.
Deanna: "Wha..."
Me: "That’s why I chose to do the sprint on Saturday – so that I could really push myself. But, it’s great that you chose to take it easy on yourself with a half. Really!"
Deanna, sounding like she’s speaking through clenched teeth for some reason: "You did the sprint because you’ve forgotten how to SWIM, you jacka......"
Me: "It’s a beautiful thing, winning awards for your athletic achievements. Yep, I’m sure those age group awards will just be piling up now."
Deanna: "There were FIVE people in your age group!"
Me: "I believe it was 8, but who’s counting? What relevance are numbers, anyway? Unless it’s the number 4, or 4th. That’s a beautiful number. Say, I’d be happy to help you tweak your plan," I say, magnanimously.
Deanna: "Twea......YOUR plan consists of breathing deeply and striding briskly around your HOUSE!"
Me: "I know, isn’t it great? It’s all about efficiency," I add.
Deanna: ""
(Deanna seems overcome by emotion, probably choked up at my generous offer to help her out – but I don’t even think about such things, it’s just how I am.)
Me: "So what do you think? If you train hard enough, and I help you out, then maybe, just maybe you too can work your way up to a sprint. How abou......hello? Hello?"

Hmm. I’ve heard of such things – people losing their friends as they climb the pinnacle to success, but I never thought it would be a problem with Deanna. I’m determined, however, to not let jealousy get in the way of our friendship. Courage.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


While I may not always be the sharpest tool in the deck, on occasion I do have flashes of brilliance, and when we got to the Evergreen Lake site for the triathlon and it started raining, said brilliance kicked in: I looked at the churning waters, the interminable distance between buoys, the dark clouds, felt the wind and rain, and thought, “hmm, mayhap I’ll just do the sprint distance instead.” This was possibly the best decision I’ve made in quite a while (other than my newfound embracing of a carcinogen-laden lifestyle).

Because, dear reader (s), rain was definitely the order of the day. And not just any rain, but howling monsoons, curiously without lightning, which is the one thing that would have shortened or eliminated the swim. Given the fact that I’ve been “unfortunately” unable to swim for those critical 10 days pre-race (Note: this is a good example as to why one should NOT put things off with the thought of “oh, I can ramp up my swim training in the couple of weeks before my next race”), I would have been okay with this, but alas, it was not to be. I’m happy to note, however, that I did NOT swim into any boats this year, and veering off course added only about 10 minutes to my swim time, so progress has been made.

After the swim is of course when my personal little comedy of errors starts. I have the longest transitions in all of creation, because I put all my stuff in plastic bags so it wouldn’t get soaked. Then, in the first 2 minutes of the bike, I’m going over the speedbumps out of the park and of course, at bump 2, my aerodrink with Infinnit goes flying out of its bracket and crashes to the ground. For a split second I debate whether I should stop, but the fact that we’re not supposed to litter the course AND the fact that I don’t want to have to come back here later searching for my new aerodrink bottle compels me to stop, trot back, put the damn thing back on and re-velcro it on. What annoys me most is that I had been zip-tying it to my bike without a problem, but the night before when I was packing, I found the Velcro tie and used that. Again, I repeat the adage: NEVER USE ANYTHING NEW OR DIFFERENT IN A RACE! No matter HOW small. Recipe for disaster.

As I’m riding, the rain picks up, and since I forgot to put on my sunglasses, it’s pelting me in the eyes, so I’m squinting as I ride along. And I quickly realize that my devotion to the Atkins plan is probably not the best - even though that morning I diligently “carbo-loaded” in the form of a packet of oatmeal, a cheese stick, and half a Pepsi as opposed to my new favorite drink Tab. Surely sufficient for a triathlon, no? No. The answer to that would be no. Because that was my breakfast and I can feel any power I might have had in my legs fading away as I try to bike through the rain.

Then, salvation comes along in the form of Bridget, who’s passing me and sees co-pilot Dino, and asks me how my ride is going. I glumly note that I lost my Infinit 2 minutes in, and she offers up her spare bottle of Infinit and we do a most excellent Tour de France-like handoff of her bottle to me. Sweet! I’m saved! Though even with the nutrition, I note with some wry amusement that my legs feel heavy and stiff until.......yep, mile 10. Thank god that the sprint distance has the same 40K bike course as the Olympic. But then I also belatedly realize that it’s a 40K bike ride – duh! – so one bottle of nutrition wouldn’t have been enough anyway. If someone has seen my brain walking around in a cornfield somewhere, could you please contact me? Thanks.

At one point, I start to internally snicker at the person ahead of me wearing a camelbak, which seems silly in a race.....but then stop myself as I think about the fact that I’m the one who had only one aerodrink of fluid that I promptly lost before mile 1, with no backup in the form of gels or anything else. So who’s the dumbass here?

The entire way we go from monsoon rain, to rain and wind, to pelting/stinging rain, to monsoon rain, and I develop a hierarchy in my mind whereby wind and rain sucks, stinging rain is most sucky of all, but just monsoon rain is kind of entertaining. The roads are flat and fast and straight, and people are spread out enough that for some stretches, it’s just me and the sound of my wheels whooshing along in the rain. Which I actually kind of like, because it’s just crazy enough to be fun. And I’m flying along at this point, so I don’t even feel as poky as usual. Life is good. When a woman passes me later and says “it could be worse,” I think to myself, you don’t know the half of it. Rain, piece of cake.

The run, well, suffice it to say that my attempts to suck every last bit of Infinit from my drink bottle has left me with a side stitch the size of Omaha, while the rain has scrunched my socks into my shoes to such an extent that I finally stop, take off my shoes, and fix the damn things. My chest hurts also as I run, and I'm annoyed because the doctor didn't mention this possibility, and I wonder if it's because of The Lump or from the huge-ass bruise from the biopsy. I start to understand why women take the attitude of "get this thing out of me now!" - since you start to feel that something that came along so suddenly and unexpectedly must be growing exponentially every second, refusing to hew to any sort of reason.

After the race, as the sun comes out and beats down on us, we stick around through the Oly awards and then leave so that we can take showers and check out of the hotel in time. Bridget asks me if I think I won an award that we should stick around for, and I just laugh. Scoff, really. Guffaw.

Later, as we start driving back to Chicago, I sternly warn Bridget and Colleen that in order to avoid the Path of Doom that last year put me on the same trajectory as the Assclown, we needed to diligently avoid stopping at any estate sales or Dairy Queens. Somehow, despite their love of all that is tchotchke-esque or frozen dairy treat, they agree. I then check my voicemail, and find that I have a call from Angela, something about how I won an age group award and she has my cowbell. Huh? My first and only thought is that she accidentally dialed the wrong number and left a message meant for someone else. So I call her back.

Me: "Hey, got your message."
Angela: Yeah, it’s so cool, you won an award for 4th place in your age group! I got your cowbell trophy for you!"
Me: "That’s impossible."
Angela: "No, it’s true! When they called your name, Tasha Huebner, we were all like, huh? But then I went up and got your award."
Me: "That doesn’t make any sense. I lost my aerodrink and had a lousy run. Did everyone else in my AG spontaneously combust?"
Angela: "I don’t think so."
Me: "Were they all DQ’d for some arcane but enforceable rule?"
Angela: "Nope."
Me: "Were there only 4 people in my AG?"
Angela: "Doubt it. But even if there were, who cares? You won a cowbell trophy!"
Me: "Oh, don’t worry, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m just skeptical. Are you sure they didn’t screw up the scoring somehow?"

Given my issues during the race, one can understand why I would be skeptical. After all, while I’ve had what I felt were good races, this wasn’t one of them. Still, I would like to note for all you naysayers and skeptics out there that clearly, this is proof that my dryland training and finely honed visualization techniques have come to fruition. I’m surprised that it’s happened so soon, but there you have it: greatness and inherent athletic ability cannot be contained. Sometimes, I surprise even me.

My other lesson learned here is – no matter how slow you think you are, you may always be in contention for an award, so you should NEVER dawdle. Perhaps had I not chosen to read a chapter or two of War and Peace in transition, I might have even propelled myself to 3rd place? I can only shake my head at the missed opportunity.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read up on what a “raw food diet” consists of. It has been suggested to me that I forego the chemo/surgery standard protocol and try this instead, and far be it from me to discount any cutting edge advice given to me by nameless/faceless people on the internet. I don’t mind being a guinea pig to see if it actually works or has the same success rate as, say, the proven techniques. Really, what do I have to lose?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The kindness of "strangers"

They say that in times of stress, you learn who your true friends are, and I have to say that in the past couple of weeks, my friends have shown themselves to be the gems that I knew they were, wonderful and supportive. But what I didn’t expect or realize is that even though there are a lot of assholes out there in the world, there are also a lot of truly amazing people who cancel them out – and a lot of these people I haven’t even ever met in person.

Case in point – I post on Slowtwitch, a triathlon message board, on occasion and read it on a regular basis. A couple of weeks ago when all this first started I posted a message about my freaking outedness on the Womens Forum, and got an amazing amount of support and reassurance and good thoughts sent my way. Then there was Joanne, aka kittycat, who posts regularly so I feel like I “know” her in a way, but who of course I don’t really know. She makes beautiful knit items like scarves, hats, shawls.........and she took it upon herself to send me, a total stranger, a stunning shawl to “wrap me in hugs” when I’m hanging out in some freezing hospital corridor (as an aside, why the hell do they keep hospitals so cold? Are they trying to kill us?). I got the shawl yesterday, and am amazed at how gorgeous it is – and soft as a kitten’s paw. And every time I wear it, which will be often, I’ll think about the inherent goodness in so many people out there, who’d reach out to someone they technically don’t know, just to brighten their day. Who knew? Maybe it’ll help me think zen thoughts so I’m less tempted to beat so many people with a frozen ham. But if not, at least I’ll be warm while doing so.

So, if you’re ever looking for a beautiful handknit item, check out Joanne’s website. The woman is an artist, her stuff is beyond gorgeous – and it would be nice to support the good people out there, who deserve to have good things come their way.

Okay, enough of that touchy-feely stuff. This weekend I have a big race coming up, Evergreen Lake, and because I don’t believe in tapering, I’ve spent today warming up for tomorrow by visualizing a strong swim, fast bike, speedy run. After a couple of hours of this, I’m pretty much ready to go, but I’m not done, oh no – I finish up with a quick series of jumping jacks that call to mind the butterfly technique of Mark Spitz. This strategy is what propelled me to a 1:30 swim time at IMMOO last year, averaging just 15 minutes of actual swim time per week, so I’m sure it’ll work just as well for me this year.

I then spend a good amount of time fielding well wishes from my fan(s):

Keith: "Good luck with the swimming, or whatever it is that you call it when you are bobbing in the water."
Deanna: "You don’t need a neoprene cap – your head is full of enough hot air."
Tad: "Say, since it looks like you might not be using it, can I borrow Sálome for IMMOO?"
Swimmie: "Tasha, oh great and all-knowing goddess of triathlondom, I am stuck on level 3,131 of my TdFbox......."(delete)

In other words, the usual. Since this is the race after which last year my car got slammed into and destroyed by Assclown, I’m catching a ride with Bridget and Colleen – because really, I’m just not going to press my luck (what there is of it) at this point.....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Joy in Mudville

So I go to the hospital this morning for an MRI, and as always, aware of my status as a role model for the ROW (that’s “Rest of World” for you non-Whartonites), I walk briskly and firmly, breathing deeply, to demonstrate how easy it is to incorporate exercise into every aspect of one’s life. My lungs are burning by the time I get to the lab, but I’m never one to shirk from my duties. As I’m walking, I’m on the lookout for the hot interns, the cute doctors, the steamy liaisons that cause disheveled people to tumble out of supply closets. I peek into a supply closet. No one. Hmm. But then, I see a short pudgy guy in scrubs walking down the hall, and I think, aha, it’s George! McSchlumpy himself! McDreamy, McSteamy, McTallDarkHandsomey can’t be far behind, right? After all, Grey’s Anatomy and other shows of its ilk are a perfect representation of life as we know it, correct? That’s always been MY assumption.

Unfortunately, I continue to see one average person after another, as I get more and more puzzled by this odd development. I start writing the usual letter in my head, with my usual subtlety: “To the good writers of Grey’s Anatomy – Forgive me for asking this, but are you all on crack?” But then it’s time for me to be radiated in a tube, so the letter will have to wait. Later, I do find out the relative good news – that even though I have a 2.9cm, Stage 2, Grade 2 badly-located lump, at least it seems to be a party of one, so far, i.e. the rest of my chest isn’t riddled with cancer. Cause for celebration around these parts.

As I’m waiting to pick up my MRI pictures, I keenly eye everyone walking by, but the only person resembling McSteamy in the slightest is a construction worker. A sign of how upsetting I find this is the fact that I completely disregard my usual ironclad rule about “no iPod unless working out” and listen to some hard-core Neil Diamond – though habits are hard to break, and I jiggle my foot continuously, thus burning off an immense number of calories, more than enough to justify the 24-oz nicely charred steak and double-baked potato I’ll have for dinner - we’re talking at least 400 calories right there. Again, I do this to demonstrate the ease with which you too can rack up those requisite 6-8 hours of training a day, while hewing to a disciplined diet. Simple, really. Swimfan, are you listening? Put DOWN the megabag of Cheez Puffs, babe, and open the curtains. Sitting in a dark living room playing Tour de France Nintendo is no way to go through life. I know you’re at level 2,024, but trust me, it’s for your own good.

Finally, after getting my pictures, I realize with some disgust that I’m getting nowhere with the cute guy thing. Really, is it too much to ask that having cancer MIGHT mean landing a hot date with a cute doctor? Or even being able to ogle cute doctors? Hmph. Who do I see about getting a refund?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Heatstroke/Windburn 100

After having a slab of bacon and a wheel of cheese for breakfast, washed down with a couple of icy cold Tabs, I set off with Deanna at the ungodly hour of 5AM so that we can drop Kona off at my mom’s and get up to WI in time to get an early start on the Heatstroke 100 ride. I tell Deanna about my new laissez faire attitude and my determination to stick to toxic and/or carcinogenic foods and behaviors, and she is in full agreement. She even offers helpful suggestions, that I should start swimming at Illinois Beach State Park, with its asbestos-laden beaches, and that since “mold is the new asbestos”, she’ll keep an eye out for moldy sub-basements that I can do speed workouts in. I am touched by her largesse – and feel truly blessed to have friends like this.

This is unlike my friend Motria, who, when I tell her I’m waiting for my shipping container of DDT to come in so that I can take care of those damn earwigs once and for all, has to inform me that DDT is for mosquitos, nothing else. Well. Thanks for bursting my bubble there. No matter though – I figure if I spray enough of the stuff it’ll kill everything, leaving my precious eggplants and peppers in a beautiful, lush, albeit chemically-laden state. And sure, it’ll probably kill all the bees and butterflies and everything else I try to attract to my garden, and the DDT will work its way through the ecosystem like it did in the 70s and eventually wind up thinning the eggs of bald eagles and other birds such that they don’t hatch – but why should that be MY problem? I have to think about me now, after all.

Speaking of gardens, I’ve been attempting to grow garlic in my garden, as a legacy to my dad who I believe smuggled the little bulbs over from Ukraine and who had them in the garden in the old house. So when the house was sold, I dug a bunch up, planted them in my garden here, and hoped they’d sprout. Well, I can now say that garlic gives truth to that saying that “a weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place.” The damn stuff comes up everywhere – it’s like the Borg, there’s no stopping it. But I could never figure out where the actual cloves come from. There are green sprouts that form these little bulbs at the top – what the heck are those? So my gardening tomato friends have just informed that me that I should snip those off so that the cloves can grow underground. Which I did – but now that I have these top bulbs, which smell nice and garlicky and can be used in salads, I’m not sure what to do with them. Garlic has all sorts of wonderful healthy properties, dammit, and that just goes against everything I now stand for. Maybe I’ll dip them in batter and deep fry them. Yeah, that’s it.

It also just occurs to me that maybe Deanna is to blame for my woes – after all, she’s the one who introduced me to the wonders of EZ cheese last year when she bought it as a post-race snack at Pleasant Prairie. (Where, I note, in a miracle that stunned the world, the most unlikely team of all - Team STD - won third place in the relay. I will cherish that medal forever. Btw, Team STD = Susan, Tasha, Deanna.) Anyway – if a brightly fluorescent, highly processed “cheese food” sprayed out of an aerosol can isn’t simply Cancer-in-a-Can, then I don’t know what is.

Where was I? Oh yes, the ride. To sum it up in a single word: the most miserable ride I’ve ever been on. Or definitely Top 5. The hills would have been okay, and I could deal with the crazy pelotons of too-cool people who continued passing others on a very busy street, almost causing car collisions – but what I couldn’t handle were the sustained 35 mph winds the ENTIRE DAMN WAY! Seriously. It kept getting windier as the day went on, with the wind shifting such that other than about a 4 minute stretch of tailwinds, it was all headwind and crosswind, so strong they almost blew us off the road. It’s not often – and thank god for that – that one will be going downhill and hitting a “speedy” 6 mph. All while out in the middle of nowhere, i.e. no shortcuts back to our starting point. The entire time I’m riding, I have a song from Wicked going through my head and directed at the ride: “loathing.....unadulterated loathing...”

Afterwards, all the other riders we saw had expressions of horror on their faces similar to ours, muttering “the wind.......that damn wind.....” I’ve never been so happy to finish a ride in my life – even the Dairyland Dare looks good in comparison, and that’s 10 and a half hours of climbing. And while the ride organizers did a good job overall, even with the tiny hieroglyphic markings that signified turns that got me lost just once, I remain bitter over the fact that the purported 74 mile route turned out to be closer to 78. Considering the speed at which I was going at that point, each mile was an eternity. In retrospect, I should have followed Deanna’s original advice, that I might want to just ride to the Dairy Queen 2 blocks from the start and “see how that goes” before venturing any further. Had I done that, I might have come to my senses and avoided the whole hellish day. Lesson learned.

On the bright side, I was so exhausted after this ride that when I called a friend last night to tell her about the Big C, I could relay the info without tearing up, which was a first. So I’m thinking the whole “ride-5:30-every-day” concept might become a strategy for me in the near future. Deanna is now dedicatedly emailing me info for rides like the “Windy 60” and “Crazy Gusty 95”, so I should have noooo problem whatsoever finding rides to keep me occupied. Lucky me. Deanna also asked me what I’m doing about my swim training now (she’s always working such things sneakily into conversation, hoping I’ll drop a nugget or two of training wisdom that she can glom onto and use to improve upon her own piddly 20 hrs/week plan) – and I was feeling charitable so I told her that I’ve upped my dryland training significantly. I’ve doubled it, essentially, so I’m confident that those 10 minutes a day will have me in peak form for my upcoming races. I know, the dedication is mind-boggling. I repeat – do NOT try this at home. I will not be responsible for your injuries.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's Always Something

(or, Whereupon Things Take a Sudden Turn for the Worse)

So I’m up in WI last Friday getting ready to go to the pig roast, taking a shower, when suddenly........I discover a lump in my breast. That’s weird. I’m a little freaked out, but coincidentally, I have the annual appointment on Monday and once you’re old as dirt, they automatically schedule a mammogram. I tell the girls, they reassure me that it’s almost certainly nothing, and off we go to ooh and ahh at the Delavan fireworks, which we assume consumed a huge chunk of Delavan’s municipal budget since very few streetlights around the channel seem to be working anymore. I guess there are priorities.

The weekend passes. The girls leave Saturday, I stay until Sunday to get more riding in, and wind up in the usual 30 mph winds. WTH, has all of the Midwest suddenly turned into Kansas? I don’t get it. As an aside, have we noticed that guy cyclists are much more friendly than female ones? This seems to be the rule – people on an organized ride are generally very friendly and wave and say hi. Men alone or in pairs – sometimes yes, sometimes no. Women in groups will wave – women alone never wave. I am of course the exception to this rule, since I wave at fellow cyclists, farmers, horses, ostriches, etc. And I get very annoyed when people don’t wave, especially since with most of the riding I do, we’re the only people out there for miles around. So if you’re not a wavy type and while we’re out there the world suddenly tilts off its axis and we’re the only people left on this continent, you and me and my Bento box full of’re not getting any. Snacks that is. So there.

Monday I have my doctor’s appointment, and I don’t necessarily take it as a good sign that they all seem rather alarmed, add an ultrasound to my appointments, and the guy who looks at that rather unceremoniously tells me that there’s a “suspicious mass” with “ragged edges,” which is clearly not good. And then while they schedule me for a biopsy for July 24th – “just to have something on the books” – the next morning they call to tell me they squeezed me in for Thursday, since I’m an “emergency case.” Trust me, these are not things one wants to hear.

Of course, as most people would do, when I’m home I obsessively search for info on breast cancer, and am somewhat comforted by the fact that I have no risk factors, no family history. Hell, with the no-drinking, no-smoking, exercise-a-lot existence I have, I’m approaching nun-like. And everyone reassures me that it’s probably nothing – that 85% of these things are benign. Plus I’m young. Or old. I’m still not sure if it’s better to be young or old, since you’re more likely to get BC when you’re old, but it’s generally more aggressive and malignant if you’re young and harder to treat. I decide I’m old.

Thursday, I go in for the biopsy. While this isn’t a particularly pleasant procedure, the bright side to it is that I’m told I’m not allowed to swim for 7-10 days. Now, at this point Deanna is thinking – “How is that any different? You don’t swim anyway.” BUT, the key difference here is that now I don’t need to feel GUILTY about my lack of swimming. And while normally they wait for the lab results to make any weighty pronouncements, this doctor, who I like, tells me rather gravely that he’s basically sure it’s cancer, and that I need to start thinking about how to handle this.

A measure of my shock at this is the fact that I somehow did NOT ask him the most important question, namely: “How will this affect my triathlon career? I’m known far and wide as Tasha the Triathlon Goddess, the little people expect a lot from me. They expect greatness.” No, I think my mouth gaped open like a beached carp initially, and then I don’t really recall what I said. But then I got to sit, crying, in the little waiting room for them to do another mammogram because apparently they put some kind of marker in the lump so that they knew where it was (umm, hello, kind of obvious?), and they had to make sure said marker was in the right place. Then I was free to go off and contemplate my mortality. Which I did. In spades.

Now, normally this is the point in the narrative at which one would say ha, but then I got the lab results, and lookie, it was all just nothing! A cyst! A fibrous mass of nothingness! False alarm! But no, dear reader, this is not what happened. In fact, my life has now suddenly become a bad cliché of sorts – because here I am with my whole schtick of wearing my bad luck around me like a veil, whaa, whaa, I’m Schleprock with the perpetual stormcloud, one bout of garden-variety bad luck after another...... and now I come along and say oh yeah, and I have cancer too.

Yes, it was confirmed by the doctor this morning, with all the talk of chemo, surgery, etc. In a bit of typical Tasha "luck," he actually called Friday night, and the girls had convinced me to go out so I wasn't home until somewhat late. And I get home and there's a message from him, but since I'm a dumbass and don't delete my phone messages as quickly as I should, what I get from him is "I have your test results, Tasha, so please call me this evening at 847.." - and it cuts off. SHIT!!!! I find his office number to call, leave a message with a nice sympathetic lady, twiddle my thumbs for a while, figure he's probably not going to call at 11:20PM, take a sleeping pill and go to bed. And this morning while I'm waiting for the call, I realize that he sounded rather somber, no jocularity in his tone that might indicate good news, so I kind of know what's coming. So really, cancer, WTF? Since when does that actually happen?? It’s hardly even believable, for god’s sake - I’m still a little shell-shocked myself. And pissed off. I mean, what’s the point of living a healthy life, all this clean living bullshit, if then this comes along?

So just out of spite, I now vow to make every effort to suck in as many fluorocarbons as possible, to have that big porterhouse at every meal, to start making cocktails that consist of nothing but maraschino cherries, vodka from Chernobyl, and Tab. I’ll do my stair-climbing in asbestos-laden abandoned factories, swim near Gary, IN. Red dye #15? Hell, I’ll be pouring that shit in my morning coffee, thank you very much. Along with heavy doses of saccharine. And though I’m loath to give up any training, if I’m in a parking lot looking for a spot and I have to wait 10 minutes for some little old lady to give up a spot that’s incrementally closer than another one, even though I’ll be blocking everyone and causing a big traffic jam, I’ll do it, dammit. As for the earwigs in my garden, look out, because the DDT is on its way. Or Agent Orange. Why not? What difference can it make?

At least in the midst of all this, some people remain true to themselves. Deanna and I are planning on doing the Heatstroke 100 ride in WI tomorrow, and she felt compelled to tell me that she had read the website, and they note that the 74/100 mile routes are for “assertive, well conditioned riders.” Her comment: “Are you sure you will be ok?” I coolly inform her that I am “all about the journey” and all that crap, so if I have to stick to the shorter routes, that’s fine. They DO have a 12-mile route or something too, right? According to Deanna, the shortest is an 18-miler, which she thinks I can handle “if you pace yourself and stop a lot.”

I relay this here because if any of you are driving along in the counties of Racine or Walworth in WI tomorrow and happen to see a big blue barrel tumbling along the side of the road, and little Deanna-esque squeaks coming from within, just keep driving. Really. Nothing to see there, nothing at all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wisconsin Fun

So last weekend the girls and I headed up to WI to do some intense bike riding – the kind of thing I do all the time, and for which I serve as a model to others. Oh sure, Annette, Bridget, and Colleen, did some little Ride the Rockies thing a few weeks back, but does that compare with my long-course, hours of riding in the flat and dusty Midwest heartland? I think not.

Anyway – on the way out to Madison, one passes all these signs that say “Wisconsin Fun – next exit!” – and I always wonder what such fun consists of. And is that fun to be had in all of WI, or just that particular part, off that particular interstate? I assume that pretty much all of WI is just one big cheese curd ball of fun, so off we go.

With Friday being the 4th of July, our plan is to ride for a while and then wind up in town to catch part of the parade. While I’ve developed the ass of steel due to riding on less-than-smooth roads, there are some complaints about “seams” in the road (okay, I hate those too – good people of Wisconsin, learn to put down new roads!), so we adjust our route, but still manage to wind up in Delavan, relatively near the parade route. This is when we run into the CHiPs contingent.

As we bike up, there’s a road that’s blocked off because 2 blocks away the parade route curves around, so the road is closed to cars. Now, most people wouldn’t have a problem letting us bike on through, but Mr. ‘Stache isn’t most people. He’s the Delavan Cop with an Attitude, oh yes, and he’s got the scraggly moustache and bad sideburns to prove it. Which means that I’m the first one to get to him, and as I’m biking up to the empty space next to him, he deliberately steps right in front of me so that I have to make a screeching halt so as to not hit him. I smile, but I already have a feeling this isn’t going to go well.

Me: “So, could we just ride up to where the parade turns up there?
Mr. ‘Stache, smirking: “This road is closed. According to statute 43 codicil 6, bicycles are to be treated as vee-hick-ular traffic and must abide by the rules and regulations thereof.”
Me: thought bubble – how long did it take you to memorize that, Mr. Smalltown cop on a power trip? Asshole.
Bridget: “I guess we’ll go around then.”
Mr. ‘Stache: “You can walk your bikes on the sidewalk, but try not to hit anyone.”
Me, voice dripping with sarcasm, which he probably doesn’t get: “Oh, gee, we’ll do our best. Mr. Officer.”

Colleen starts riding on the sidewalk, and ‘Stache yells something about walking, so I rather loudly point out to her that “Mr. Delavan Cop insists we walk,” which has Bridget thinking I’ll be hauled off in a paddy wagon. Just as I’m cursing and muttering the loser attitudes of cops from podunk towns who think they’re SO important, we get to the next corner. Where we suddenly find Officer Friendly. Who’s smiling at everyone and having a grand old time.

Me: “Hey, we’re late for our part in the parade! We need to bike on through!”
Officer Friendly, who looks at us, chuckling: “In the parade, huh? You almost look like you could be.”

He then turns around for a second to talk to people in cars who want to go through the closed intersection, turning to the left and away from the parade. And amazingly, Officer Friendly actually looks at the situation logically, unlike his cohort, and decides there’s no harm in letting the cars go ahead since they’re going left and the parade is going the other way. Who told him logic had a place in society? Who??

After chit-chatting for a while, watching the rest of the parade, and getting riding fuel in the form of Andes mints that I stash into my Bento box, we feel better about humanity and finally make our way to our actual destination in Delavan – the Mexican candy store down the street that has yummy ice cream. I suggest to Bridget that she might want to have the spicy tamarind candy instead, to perhaps give her a bit more energy for the ride (she was, after all, a mere 2 miles ahead of me earlier), but she goes for the ice cream instead. Fine, it’s not as if I don’t try to impart my triathlon wisdom – but with some people, they just don’t get it.

Anyway, afterwards we’re standing on the cobblestone street getting ready to go – out of the way of cars driving past, but right behind a parked car. A guy has just walked past us, seen us, acknowledge us, gotten into the car and sat there for a few minutes. And then he starts up the car. And as I’m standing there clipping in......he starts to back up. Into me.

Naturally, I do what anyone else would do – I try to pull the bike forward while simultaneously getting Sálome closer to the ground to lessen the chance that the bumper will hit her. And, I scream at the same time – which luckily stops him just as his car hits my leg but before he runs over said leg. Luckily, I’ve shielded Sálome such that she remains unblemished. With heart rate now through the roof, and the guy in the car grinning like he’s a few cans short of a picnic, we set off again. Disaster averted.

After the pig roast and fireworks that night, we get up the next morning and have the required breakfast at Millie’s Pancake House. I’ve informed the girls that just as with the Wisconsin Cheese Rule, no one leaves Delavan without going to Millie’s. I’m not sure, but I think the round of apple pancakes might have had something to do with the sluggishness of our post-breakfast ride. I speak of the girls here, who haven’t conditioned themselves as I have with the opportunistic eating of the Paleo diet. I could pretty much have a breakfast of nails and be fine, but them, without their oatmeal and berries, they’re a bit lost. What can you do when people don’t want to follow the same strict training/diet regimen as me? I shake my head, helplessly.

(to be continued)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Crazy people, everywhere

So this morning I go with little Kona (aka Killer Doberman Pup) for our morning run. He’s a quiet little guy, shy at first but likes snuffing at people as we go by, snuffing at dogs, but he’s calm and doesn’t pull even when he sees the ever-popular squirrels or bunnies. In other words, he’s perfect.

So we’re running along, and up ahead I see what I now realize is not that uncommon: a woman with a stroller and not one but TWO dogs on leashes. And even though we’re behind them, the dogs sense that someone is coming, and they’re already getting excited. One of them (who for some reason has a small cast on one leg) is looking back and stumbling over his own feet. Paws. And we’re more than half a block away. As we get closer, the dogs, in a word, go nuts. They’re only medium-sized dogs, but they’re barking, growling, pulling, just going crazy. We haven’t even had a chance to try to go around them yet.

And, it’s a good thing, because this woman lets go of her stroller to pull the dogs a few feet away to try to calm them down (unsuccessfully). And said stroller starts rolling towards the curb and street. Now, it’s not a busy street, but given the trajectory, there’s a good chance the stroller could have tipped over entirely - and it was headed that way before I ran to it and stopped it.

Now, this whole time Kona is being perfectly calm. Not a peep out of him, he’s pretty much ignoring the other dogs. There’s a little girl in the stroller who wants to pet him, and she does.....and then I see that not only is this small child in the stroller, but there’s a BABY behind her. I don’t even know if this is actually a double-child stroller, or if they’ve just rigged it that way. Then the woman is telling me to put the brake on the stroller – as if I know where the hell that is – and in the end I just wheel the stroller back up to the sidewalk and leave it positioned such that it’s not going anywhere. And we move on, Kona and I, pondering how stupid a person has to be to put themselves in that kind of situation. Well, I was pondering that – I think Kona was thinking “biscuits? I wonder if I get biscuits after our walk?”

It’s a good thing that tomorrow some of the girls and I are going up to Delavan to do some riding and to check out the 4th of July parade. There’s nothing like a bunch of Shriners in their fezes riding around on tiny cars to restore one’s faith in humanity. I need that. Truly.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A mole in the organization

Imagine my surprise and dismay when I sit at my computer the other day, delete the usual 128 emails from Swimfan, and then go to peruse a couple of my favorite tri sites, to see if any of the “little people” need my expertise. In other words, the usual. But lo, what’s this? J’accuse!

“Someone” has clearly been spilling my secrets to triathlon greatness to the rest of the world! I was shocked, truly shocked to see another bike set up exactly as mine is for all my triathlons, down to the GUs cleverly stacked beneath the Bento box. I’m not sure what this person’s goal is other than to imitate me – the beauty behind my set up is that by toting around 40 extra pounds of weight in the form of hydration/nutrition, I’m making every race more of a challenge, as opposed to the cakewalk that it would be otherwise. But I comfort myself in the knowledge that not ALL my secrets are out in the open, since my bike has the double-chambered aerodrink, big enough for a Big Gulp x2. So there!

As for who the mole is, naturally I suspect Deanna. She’s apparently been spending so much time cozying up to nefarious and shady characters so that she can sell my secrets that all this talk of her “training” is just a sham. I present to you Exhibit A, Deanna the morning before the Big Foot triathlon:

Now I ask you, does that look like someone who just went on a 5-hour ride, like I did, or someone who just spent the whole night doing tequila shots at the Lazy Minnow Bar? I think we all know the answer to that. And this weekend, while I’ll be riding across the state of Wisconsin and back, Deanna will be doing her own version of HellCheeseWeek. Apparently her and a couple of other sucke....umm........forward-thinking and astute tri club folks paid some random people big bucks for maps. Of roads in WI.

Me: "So what’s the deal with this HellCheeseWeek? Is it like some sort of boot camp?"
Deanna: "Kind of. We ride every day on some crazy hills."
Me: "Who organizes it?"
Deanna: "I don’t know, some people on the internet."
Me: "Wait, so what exactly do you get from them? You had to register for it, right?"
Deanna: "Yes, we paid them. They give us maps. I think we pick those up at a secret location along the way, an unused mailbox or something."
Me: "That’s it? No rest stops, no course support? Nothing? You paid them for some MAPS???"
Deanna: "What’s wrong with that?"

I looked up the website, and I love how they position their miserliness as something bold and spirited and grass-roots: “In the spirit of TX Hell Week, rides are unsupported.” Spirit, my ass. Even the Udder Century gives you lots of snacks along the way and has SAG support. But hey, they let you know that “numerous C-stores along the way give you the opportunity to replenish your fuels.” Gee, thanks. And for the privilege of doing this “hell week,” one pays the lofty price of $89, $99 after June 20th. Not a bad gig if you can get it. Hmm.......clearly I'm the one doing something wrong here.

In other news – I’ve brought another killer dog into my house, since he was stuck at Animal Control and would have continued to be stuck there over the holiday weekend. He’s already tried to jump in my lap and clearly intended to go for my jugular – I just hope the frightened screams of passersby when I take him for a run/walk in the morning don’t bring out Chicago’s finest. We’ve seen what they do to animals roaming around this neighborhood (see: cougar, shot).