Thursday, April 30, 2009

Endless days in hell

Day Three in Mallorca

This morning I go off to meet my new riding group, secure in the knowledge that I’ll be my usual rockstar self. The rides all have different mileage and speeds, so I’ve picked one from the “fun” category, average speed of around 18-19 mph, about 75km, all of which seems eminently doable. More than doable in fact – I’m sure I’ll be shown as the triathlon goddess I’m known to be far and wide.

I get to the meeting spot, “platz 4”, and find both a ride leader and a bunch of people who only speak German. Which is fine, except I have no idea what the hell anyone is saying. I know just enough German and Spanish to be dangerous – meaning, I can ask directions (“wo ist den platz vier?”), but won’t really understand the response. And if someone asks me if I understand German, I can confidently say “ein wenig” (“a little”), which for some reason compels people to start speaking to me in rapid-fire German.

So I’ve given the ride leader my usual “ein wenig,” and now he’s babbling about….something or other, in German. One woman in the group explains to me that he’s telling us about the hand signals we’ll be using on the ride. The ones that I’ll be sure to use in the U.S. (“oh, these are just the hand signals we used when I was training in Mallorca this spring”) are the twirly hand in the air to signify a roundabout or rotary, and the hand-over-head to denote a speed bump. Okay then, off we go.

We start off – and boy, my butt hurts from yesterday’s ride! - at hmm, a slightly faster speed than what was promised. That must just be part of the warm-up. Then as we get out into the countryside, I notice that the guy in front of me is doing this pedal-pedal-coast thing, where he lags behind such that a gap opens up between him and the person in front of him, so he then speeds to catch up, so I have to speed to catch up. What the hell – where’s the German efficiency??

THEN things get interesting. Because these folks, in brilliant German automaton fashion, book their way UP hills, but slow down on the downhills. It takes me a while to figure this out, but then I realize – unlike the rest of us normal people who slow down or speed up as road conditions warrant, they’re just chugging along at one damn speed, hills be damned. So I’m dying on the uphills, and hitting the brakes on the downhills. Great, just great. This is about the most inane and inefficient cycling I’ve ever seen in my life.

The bitterness I’m starting to feel is interrupted only by the pace lines of German uber-athletes zipping by us – I think they’re in the “Hobby” group category – barking out things like “hup hup” or “heraus” or “anschluss” or something along those lines. In the meantime, with our own happy little group, I’m the last one up the fricking hills/mountains after they’ve all hup-hupped their way efficiently up there, and they’ve had their fill of water, eaten their ham sandwiches, and played a few hands of cards by the time I join them, at which point we zoom off again and I get more and more dehydrated.

We finally stop in the town of Petra for a coffee break, and I dejectedly gnaw on the cheese sandwich they give all the cyclists in the morning to tuck into a pocket for lunch. As they all chatter away in German, I go to a happier place in my mind, one that doesn’t involve madcap mountain cycling with legs still fried from the day before.

However, finally we’re on our way back, and I’m counting down the kms to go, when I somehow wind up not behind pedal-pedal-coast guy, but someone else. Who is not just somewhat slowing down on the downhills…..he’s basically coming to almost a complete stop, so that not only do I have to frantically brake behind him, but also START FROM A DEAD STOP to go up hills. Which soon has me muttering curses at him, very uncharitable ones, ranging from “come on you asshole!” to “what the hell are you doing” to what I finally wind up with, thinking of him as Dumpy Little German Troll Boy. We go on like this, me getting more and more irate, and unable to pass him because we’re on a busy road, until finally I just snap, as we get to a curving downhill that is immediately followed by a very long uphill. And as he does his usual idiotic braking, I say out loud several times: “what the HELL are you doing?!” – not that it does any good, since he’s oblivious. But I am quite sure I have never hated anything or anyone as much as I hate Dumpy Little German Troll Boy right at this moment.

We get back, and somehow I have NOT strangled him and left him in a ditch somewhere, probably because I’m too tired to bother. I glare at the Germans – which is to say, everyone around – and go to sign up with a different group for tomorrow. Please god, let them know how to ride like normal people, please?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Musings from Mallorca

Day one in Mallorca, cont.

That evening, we meet up with Stacey’s friends, the group that she met last year and convinced her to come here at this time so they could all go riding together. Their average age is 70 – though they still look like they could kick my ass. Plus they all live in Switzerland, and do quick jaunts up the Alps before breakfast. Fun. We’re discussing the ride for the next day, and Andre determines that it’ll be an easy 80k, not hilly.

Stacey: Wait! What?! No hills? I want hills, all uphills! I hate flats – but I can get up the hills so quickly and easily. I just spin right up them. Let’s do all hills!

Me, poking at Stacey’s arm suspiciously: Deanna??

I should mention that Stacey rides a size 44 bike and is about 95 pounds max. No wonder she likes hills. Me….no. That would be a no.

Day Two, the riding begins! Fun!

I’ve picked up my bike the day before, the rental bike, and it seems decent enough though I’ve never head of a bike brand called “Cube.” But how could hundreds of Germans be wrong? Because that’s who else is here, hundreds upon hundreds of Germans – so far I’ve yet to hear a word spoken in English. And we’re all on identical bikes, in some otherworldly form of German conformity.

As we set off on our ride, I notice 2 things: 1) that I should have insisted they change to my pedals, instead of buying the whole “oh, these’ll work” argument, because these are really hard to clip in and out of (and we all know about my history of issues with clipping in and out), and 2) there’s something wrong with my brakes. The left brake, to be exact. It works, kind of – but how big of a problem could this be? After all, today is a non-hilly ride.

So off we go at a casual 20 mph pace for a warm-up. Right into headwinds. I’m trying to keep up, but as soon as I lose the wheel of the person in front of me, forget it, there’s no way I’m catching up unless they all get stopped by a flock of sheep. And so far the sheep aren’t cooperating. Then we start hitting the hills, and I would like to say this: never go on vacation with friends who do drugs, like Stacey apparently does, because she’s still insisting that these are just 5% grades, max, which is about the equivalent of a Chicago overpass. These. Are. Not. 5%. Grades. Cobblestone streets straight up into these villages nestled in the mountains? Not 5% grades. Oh, and those brakes? Yeah, not working so well. I lose track of how many trucks I almost hit or get flattened by. At the top of the next hill, I pick up my gasping heart from the cobblestones and stuff it back in my chest, and soldier on, having pleasant conversations with Stacey.

Stacey: Hey, look at the sheep with their little bells! Aren’t they adorable?

Me: Grunt.

Stacey: And the poppies! I love poppies! It’s so beautiful here!

Me: Hnuh.

Finally, after about 2 hours of this, after yet another hill, I see our little group stopped up ahead, perusing a map. It turns out that they’re looking at said map to figure out an alternate route for me. Yes, I’m being dropped like a hot potato. Which is fine with me – I’m used to riding alone – hell, I’m pretty much riding alone NOW – so what does it matter? First they want to send someone along with me, but I firmly insist that that’s not going to happen. The roads are great here, we’re on an island, for god’s sake – how hard could this be?

We toodle off our separate ways, and within 10 seconds I have to stop to peruse the signs – because the town where I’m supposed to be heading to isn’t on the signs. Well, off to the next town then. Over the next several hours I stop to ask an Italian, a German, and several families of Spanish people for directions. Because the Spanish road signs, unlike the roads themselves, suck. I later find out that all their maps are old and outdated, and they have many roads that don’t exist or aren’t marked or the signage is wrong. That at least I had figured out.

Finally, however, I’m nearing the end, I think – back on the road towards the hotel, which is in the town of Station de Arcudia. Which isn’t on a sign, but Port de Arcudia must be the same thing, right? Wrong. As the young man waiting with his horse and buggy points out, I’ve gone far far north of where I need to be. Of course.

Eventually I do make it back, and go to the ride boards to sign up for one of the group rides the next day, at a slightly less blistering pace. Supposedly. When I meet up with our own group later on, I learn that the only thing that Andre considers “hills” are the actual mountain passes themselves, not these piddly 15-25% grades into the villages. Well, at least tomorrow should be slightly less crazy. And in the meantime, Note to Self: do not spend your winter doing a lousy job of training and then decide hey, I know, I’ll go cycling in Mallorca for a week! You know, where’s it’s extremely windy and there are mountains and we’re riding with a group of people from Switzerland, who spend their days casually cycling the Alps and who consider Mallorca “flat.” In the pantheon of stupid things I’ve done, this could perhaps rank right up there. That is – coming to Mallorca seriously undertrained for hills was a Bad Idea – going to another country – or anywhere for that matter – to go bike riding is never a bad thing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dispatches from abroad

Since all professional and aspiring triathletes and cyclists go to Mallorca to train, I of course have planned a trip there as well, with a stopoff in London first, to pick up my friend Stacey from Wharton, who doesn’t aspire to triathlon greatness as I do but is willing to go along for the ride. Plus, she’s the one who planned this trip in the first place, so I guess she can tag along, learn a few lessons from me, that sort of thing. I just hope she can keep up.

Of course, this assumes that I actually GET to London in the first place. After hurriedly getting everything done that I needed to, I dash to the airport, given a ride by my dear friend “Frank” (who’s actually Keith, but he prefers to remain anonymous). I’ll note that yet again, I slip through security in spite of my titanium shoulder. This irks me, quite frankly, since I want the fact that I gave up a perfectly good collarbone to my sport to be recognized. So as I’m about to go through the gate I loudly proclaim “Boy, I wonder if there’s anyone about to go through security who has a SHINY METAL titanium plate holding their collarbone together? Anyone? Bueller?” – and while I get a few puzzled looks, no alarm goes off, no extra wanding, nothing. What the hell does it TAKE around here, people??

So they load up the plane, and we push back from the gate. And sit. And finally the captain makes a pronouncement to the effect that “we have a problem with the door seal, so we’re going to tinker around with it, should only take a minute or two, folks.” Now, clearly there are a number of things wrong with this statement, but I’ll just focus on the “minute or two” comment. Because about half an hour later, the captain comes back and says “Okay, folks, the seal on the door is in fact not working, but we’ve got mechanics working on it, it’ll just be a minute or two.”

The captain has obviously never heard the axiom that it is always better to underpromise and overdeliver because now that the captain has set expectations that this’ll be resolved within minutes, you then have a very pissed off group of people thinking that the captain is a lying piece of crap when a full HOUR later he comes back and tells us they’re still working on it and we all have to deplane. Damn, where’s the titanium-shoulder-doubling-as-a-weapon when you need it??

We do finally leave, 3 hours late, though I’m sure United put this flight in the “on time” column, since we did push back from the gate technically on time. Who cares about minor details such as actually taking off? Piffle. But at last, London.

Day One in London

Stacey and I spend the day training – in other words, walking briskly about London, taking in the sights as we simultaneously breath deeply. Stacey is a neophyte to this kind of intense workout, but she seems to be doing okay, hanging in there. All the while she’s pointing out where she goes cycling in London, how she rides her bike to work, how slow she is, how she’s passed by everyone, how thank god the highest grades in Mallorca are 5-6%, blah blah blah. Hmm, I’m sensing a bit of sandbaggery here, but am withholding judgment. In the meantime, as a lark we decide to walk to the top of a ridiculously tall tower, that commemorates the Great Fire of London of 1666. I’m huffing and puffing my way to the top, realizing that I’m setting an example for the little people with such feats of strength, though I’m also realizing that they probably built this damn tower to kill off all the descendents of people who weren’t killed by the damn fire. As I’m deep in such profound thoughts, I hear some obviously uber-athletic people coming back down the stairs – it’s amazing, really, that anyone else would have braved such a climb, and I’m about to hail my fellow athletes and congratulate them on their fitness, when I realize that my kudos might be lost on the young girl skipping down the stairs towards me. Who’s all of about 2. Who’s trailed by her sister, of the mighty age of about 4. Oh. Umm, or maybe they’re just….midgets. Endurance athlete midgets. Yeah, that’s it.

Day Two in London

We schlep our way to the airport for our flight on Ryanair, aka the “Cheap Airline that Frowns on Customer Service.” This is the same airline that caused a fuss a month or so ago in the news when it said that it was thinking about charging people to use the bathroom. On an airplane. Up in the air, with no other options. Great idea, that.

But first, before we get stuffed into our sardine can, we have to go through security. And I’m glad to report that the sharp-as-nails security people HERE do in fact stop me as I’m going through. Do they finally realize that a titanium collarbone can be a dangerous weapon? No. That would be a no. They do, however, find and confiscate my chamois cream, thus saving an entire planeload of people from being goo-ed up needlessly. Whew! Rest easy, my fellow airline passengers.

My preconceived notion of Ryanair is that it’ll be Soviet in nature – grey, utilitarian, surly flight attendants barking orders, that sort of thing. Instead, it has a carnival hucksterish air to it – bright yellow and blue colors, and the flight attendants keep walking down the aisle pushing drinks, snacks, duty-free goods, lottery tickets, etc. All for a fee, of course. When we near Mallorca, I look out the window and see……flat land? Where are the gentle 5% hills I’m expecting? Then Stacey points to the mountains in the distance.

Stacey: That’s what we’re riding! Last year it was too flat, we rode those smaller hills, so this year we’re on the other side of the island where it’s hillier.
Me: Umm, Stacey, I hate to point this out but….those aren’t HILLS, they’re MOUNTAINS.
Stacey: Yes, but they’re only 5-6%.
Me: In what alternative universe?? Those are mountains, pretty much going straight up.
Stacey: Well, whatever, close enough. Whee!

Before I can reach over and strangle Stacey, we land. And on the drive to the hotel, it’s clear how beautiful everything is. I picture some scenic rides, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, perhaps stopping for lattes in small villages. Yes, this’ll be perfect. I love this country already....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Me and my BFF

I’m talking about Brent Seabrook, of course. I was at Starbucks this morning, attempting to yell at Ellen because my coffee was not hot enough by 2 degrees and failing miserably (because really, people, it takes a certain kind of psychoticness to yell at someone as sweet as Ellen about your fricking COFFEE, but apparently there are some of you who’ve managed to rise to the occasion – be proud!) and Diane mentions that he had come in – this was after my casually bringing up last week that the gods had smiled upon me and I was actually going to the first Blackhawks playoff game.

Me: Yeah, the Blackhawks and me, we’re like that (I hold up crossed fingers). Couldn’t be any tighter. Like multiple twins from that crazy octomom, separated at birth. Like….

Diane, interrupting: Hey, that Hawks guy Brent….something, it’ll come to me, comes in here all the time for coffee, lives in the neighborhood…

Me: WHAT??? He lives HERE and no one ever told me?? How could I not know this?

Jesus: What are you guys talking about? Oh, that Hawks guy? Yeah, he’s in here all the time.

Jesse, nodding: Oh yeah, all the time.

Me, mouth agape: Wait. So you have an actual player from the BLACKHAWKS frequenting this little Roscoe Village store…..and I knew nothing about this? I thought we were all friends!

Diane: Seabrook, that’s it! Yep, all the time.

So this morning I was talking to Brent - okay, not actually talking to HIM, but talking to Diane ABOUT him, which is basically the same thing, about how he and I hang out all the time - though technically I've never met him in person, but hell, why quibble over minor details? We are, as you can see, like I said, tight. And why not? Look at all the things Brent and I have in common, for example. He plays hockey, I play hockey. He lives in Roscoe Village, I live in Roscoe Village. He’s an uber-fit, in shape, 24-year-old professional sports star with a vast following, and I’m a……umm………

Hey, so, how ‘bout them Blackhawks, eh? 4th playoff game tonight – GO HAWKS!!

Just another day

It’ll come as no surprise that I boycott companies that piss me off for one reason or another. Walgreen’s bought up the land that Tonelli’s was on and put up YET ANOTHER store less than a mile from an older one? See ya Walgreen’s. BP reneged on its promise to keep the Amoco logo and name? Screw you BP. And Dell, ah, Dell. Where to begin? The conversation I had with “Joe” after my computer completely crashed, wouldn’t boot up, nada, I think kind of says it all (and as an aside, is anyone fooled by Sameer in Mumbai using an “Americanized” name as he tries to imitate the concept of customer service?):

Me: My computer crashed, I need to know if it can be fixed.
“Joe” from Mumbai: Did it fall down?
Me, after a moment of silence: Excuse me??
“Joe”: You said it crashed. Did it fall down? Did you knock it over?
Me, incredulous: “......….”

After being told I’d have to pay some exorbitant fee for them to even talk to me to tell me IF the computer could be fixed, I vowed to never buy a computer again from such idiots. Enter the Mac. You know, the Mac – the computer that no one ever has any problems with. Plug and Play all the way. Nirvana. Blah blah blah.

Except for me, of course. Yes, I’m the lone person who can buy a Mac and have problems from the beginning. Minor stuff to be sure, but no paved road to bliss for Miss Tasha. What a surprise.

Anyway, I’ve had more serious problems for many months now, the chief one being that the computer would get SO slow that eventually I’d have to just restart the damn thing to get anywhere. Didn’t matter if I was online or using Office – same insane slowness. Then programs started shutting down abruptly, for no apparent reason. Then I discovered that my camera wouldn’t download its pictures via the USB port. Then the printer wouldn’t work. Month after month of this, one annoyance after another, but I didn’t want to bring it in because I couldn’t be computer-less. So I dealt with it. But then…..THEN came the day….my iPod wouldn’t sync up. I had been buying songs in an attempt to foil my evil iPod, which hates me and insists on playing Dancing Queen all too frequently, particularly when I'm in serious training mode, but now I couldn’t download them?? What ho??

(I picture long ride after long ride, with nothing but the tinny voices of ABBA playing over......and over......and over....)

The next day I was at the Genius Bar at the Mac store, talking to “Paul” – though maybe that really was his name, who can say – explaining the problems. He looks skeptical.

Mac guy Paul, condescendingly: It could just be slow because you have too many programs open.
Me: No, you don’t understand – I can have ONE program open and it gets ridiculously slow.
MgP: I’m sure it’s fine, but let’s run this diagnostic test anyway….oh.

You see, our little diagnostic test told us in BIG BOLD RED LETTERS that there was a hard drive failure. In a 2-year old Mac. Which would need repair. I tried to impress upon Paul the gravity of the situation:

Me: You have to understand, I’m a triathlete. A triathlon goddess. I need my iTunes.
MgP: We can back everything up for a fee. That way you’ll have all your important document….
Me, impatiently: Yes, yes. But the music, will you save my music?
MgP: Yes, but don’t you care abou…
Me, firmly: That’s all that matters. Oh, and my pictures too of course. The Kone is equally important.
MgP: Bu….fine. Yes, that’ll all be saved. You got it.

I wonder why it is that so many people these days seem to be getting those nervous tics in their eyes. How odd. Must be stress over the economy or something – I can’t imagine what else it would be.

So the Mac is in the shop, and if I owe anyone an email, that’s why. And on a totally separate note, a message to the asshats who stole my credit card number, slapped it on another card, and were charging up a storm in California: I hope you all suffer a slow, painful death that involves fire ants and honey and many torturous hours of Yanni. Yes, Yanni. It’s what you losers deserve.

And finally, the other day a friend asked me a question: “Are you really following a diet or is that just for the blog?”

Now, I take this kind of question in stride, though I confess to being a bit surprised that anyone would think that I ever, ever MSU with anything I write. I note once again that I am merely a scribe, writing things down exactly as they occur. But I do understand the impetus for these types of questions, as people marvel at the superhuman feats and trials I subject myself to, all in the name of triathlon glory and prowess. It stands to reason that people would wonder if anyone would actually suffer through these rigors.

The answer, of course, is yes. In fact, Tasha’s House of Stupid has been open for some time now, so come on by. As for the diet, things have been going just splendidly. Let’s see – I’ve averaged about 600 calories a day for some weeks now, and in that time I’ve managed to gain and lose the SAME TWO FUCKING POUNDS over and over again. Yes, I write down what I’m eating – actually, I enter it into Fitday so I know the exact number of calories. For a while there I was on a chicken-snap pea-broccoli kick, even weighing out the peas on a little kitchen scale to make sure I didn’t go over my daily allotment. These days I stick to yogurt and salmon, keeping things simple. And my reward for my efforts was to gain half a pound this week. Note to self: cut back on the extra tbs. of cottage cheese every few days.

So yes, I’m truly on this crazy diet, and as you’d imagine, I pretty much feel like crap all the time, and my training is subpar, so I don’t really recommend this methodology to anyone out there in ReaderLand. And I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – anyone who EVER says anything to me about how “it’s all about calories in, calories out” – you will face Instant. Death. You have all been warned.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Salome and me, together again

When I signed up for IronSpud last June, I had a vision of me as the very picture of jaunty fortitude, scoffing at bad weather to go riding in the rain, snow, hail, whatever. Of course this little fantasy completely ignored the (as yet unknown) fact of my extreme fatigue from stupid cancer shit, the ridiculous 500-calorie diet I’d be on, and oh yeah, my known inability to ride when it’s even just a bit too cold, due to poor circulation in my hands and feet. Oops.

And of course, this has been the winter to end all winters – with one month after another “one of the coldest in history!”, and with snow, driving rain, etc. The gamut of crappy weather.

So this is why it’s April 16, and before today I had yet to actually ride my bike outside since the crash. Post-crash I was a little busy with surgery and all, and now I’ve been waiting for spring, being foiled at every turn. But today, today was the day that it all looked possible: a high of 62 and sun! Good enough. Off Salome and I went, out to my usual stomping grounds in the countryside so that I could avoid not only assclown drivers, but also our pothole-strewn streets.

Since this was my first post-crash ride outside, I had hopes that perhaps riding downhill would jog some memory of the crash; every time I went down a hill I encouragingly said “Flashback time!” – hoping that that would do the trick. Alas, to no avail. I guess that only happens in the movies, where suddenly everything is revealed in one convenient vignette. It figures.

So the ride – I was super-sucky slow, got stuck in a horribly wicked headwind the entire way back, was buzzed by the usual pick-up trucks and minivans, got dehydrated because my previously excellent bike handling skills have gone to shit and I was scared to reach for my water bottle, and did I mention that I was super-sucky slow? But, even given all that, I also got to ride on my beloved country roads, hear the chirruping of the bullfrogs, marvel at the cement trucks that were considerate enough to give me a wide berth, chortle at the ugly McMansion developments that are no longer churning up farmland, note the state of the cornfields (Corn Watch: nada, nothing planted yet), and overall feel like I had some small part of my old “normal” life within my grasp – fleeting as this was. So I’d say, Tasha = 1, Cancer = 0. For today, at least.

I will also say that if I somehow manage to toe the line at IronSpud, it will be a miracle the likes of which we have never seen before. Holy crap. Note to self: more Thighmastering, less striding briskly and breathing deeply. 66 days and counting…..

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The eternal sunshine of the Hallmark mind

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that shortly after I rail against those people who disappear into the ether with nary a peep once I catch them up on the whole cancer thing, I find out that Hallmark has come out with a line of, yes, cancer cards.

You might think I’d be against this, but frankly, I think it’s brilliant. For those who can’t think of a few words to write in a blank card, this is a godsend. After all, why fret over that all-important sentence or two – “Thinking about you, and I hope you keep kicking cancer’s ass!” - when you can have Hallmark do that heavy lifting for you? My favorite is the one for those who have lost their hair:

“No one said it would be easy to lose your hair....but you’ll find a way to turn this situation around and use it as a badge of honor, a sign to the world that your treatments are working.”

Because really, when you’ve gone totally bald, nothing is going to cheer you right up like a platitude pointing out the obvious, that the chemo is indeed working, poisoning your body such that your hair falls out. Beautiful. I mean seriously, how could any of us mere mortals come up with anything that meaningful and profound?

Well, it’s hard, but I tried mightily to reach that level of meaning. Behold, my cancer haiku:

Sorry that you lost your breast
Will it not come back?
I guess that’s just for lizards

Pretty impressive, huh? Not like, say, Hallmark impressive, but who am I to aspire to the kind of wisdom that can be bought for $3.25? The ladies over at the YSC message board also unleashed their collective creativity on this, with the most stellar of results:

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
Cancer really sucks,
And my friends do too!

Needless to say, that one was suggested by someone whose friends bailed while she was in treatment. Another popular suggestion was just a card that says “Fuck Cancer!” – and clearly, I’m behind that as well. Hallmark, are you listening?

Hallmark also has helpful suggestions as to what one can do for one’s sick friends. These include sending Mylar balloons (ahem), or my personal favorite, “borrow a child’s stuffed animal....send snapshots with funny notes about its adventures from the road.” Now, how excellent would it be, as you’re laying in the hospital, to get a photo of a stuffed manatee off on some madcap journey, with a note: “Paris is lovely this time of year – sorry that I’m here and you’re not - since you’re too sick! Being cooped up in a hospital is no fun. Oh well. I’m going to take my stuffed animal self and go have some chocolate croissants. Au revoir!”

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A primer on Facebook etiquette

(Warning - ranting ahead)

By now it should be clear that I’m here not just to dispense triathloning advice, but to also offer helpful hints and stratagems for, well, just about anything. That’s just how I am. No need to thank me, glad to do it.

So let’s talk about Facebook etiquette, shall we? No, I’m not going to rant about those people who take endless quizzes, with the results now showing up on one’s “feed” in the new and highly unimproved FB, or about those who post updates every 15 minutes. Let others rail against those particular annoyances. No, I’m talking about a different scenario. You see, to my mind the point of FB is to be able to stay in touch with friends easily, especially those old friends you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, but who you’d really like to reconnect with and keep in your circle of friends. And some of us don’t feel the need to “friend” everyone in existence, so if we’re friended, then it means we really give a shit about each other. Or are supposed to, at least.

I add that last part, the “supposed to,” because of what has happened to me several times now. Where I reconnect with someone, we shoot each other an email, they tell me what’s going on in their lives, ask me what’s going on in mine.....and I tell them. Not with a lot of melodrama or anything, but matter-of-fact: oh, diagnosed with cancer last year, then had the bike crash, did treatment, but am now trying to get things back on track, and here’s my blog if for some reason you want more details. That’s it. No dwelling, no po’ po’ pitiful me stuff, none of that crap. Because it seems like it would be kind of weird to NOT mention it. And then what, they find out and I tell them “oops! Sorry, it just totally slipped my mind!” That would be even weirder. And call me crazy, if some illness or misfortune were to befall someone I consider a friend, I’d certainly want to know about it. Isn’t that what Candy/Stripper-Grams are for, anyway?

Anyway, you know what the chipper response has been in return?

Nothing. Crickets.

Oh, I know all the excuses – some people “don’t do illness well” or they “can’t deal with it” or they “don’t know what to say” blah blah blah. So I have this to say to you who are like this: get the fuck over yourself. Seriously. And for those who claim they are suddenly stricken mute, with just NO IDEA of what to respond with, here’s a handy few phrases that would work in most cases – feel free to cut and paste: “Oh no, that sucks, I’m so sorry to hear that! How are you feeling now?”

That’s it. That’s all you need, to be able to pretend that you do indeed give a shit. Because the rest of you, who don’t respond at all? It’s pretty clear that you don’t. And that’s pathetic, considering that I spent many a time hanging out with some of you, others I spent years living overseas with, helping out your sorry asses when you were attempting (unsuccessfully) to converse in something resembling Ukrainian to the babushki who worked at the nearby market. So you suck, really. You make the people who respond with an indifferent “Yeah, cancer, whatever, you’ll be fine, so let me tell you about my latest promotion.....” look like Mother Theresa.

And on that same note – though this hasn’t happened to me, since so far I’ve only spent one night in the hospital (and if I were there longer, I’m quite sure that other than those loser FB “friends”, MY friends would be right there, striding briskly down the hospital hallways with me, telling me to suck it up, Deanna going for the PR, etc.) – for those who just can’t go visit their sick friends because of the same aforementioned lame-ass excuses, you suck too. Especially when you drag out the “I just hate hospitals” phrase or the “I just want to remember how she was when she was healthy” bullshit. Gee, sorry your friend has the effrontery to get sick and all. How rude. But you know, as much as you hate hospitals, she certainly hates them more, and really hates the fact that she’s sick. So get your sorry ass over there and quit making excuses for being a coward.

And when you do, I highly recommend that you show up with a shiny Mylar balloon in hand, because she’s undoubtedly read this article......and you’ll be successful in making the illness a distant memory, because she’ll be laughing so damn hard. Which is a good thing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Death by a thousand cuts

So I had somewhat comforted myself with the notion that of course the IM poobahs couldn’t give lil’ ol’ me a rollover, since they NEVER do that, EVER in the history of Ironman, no matter WHAT. You could be Jesus himself, complete with stigmata, coming down from the heavens to preach to his flock and show up on a few grilled cheeses and underpasses and oh yeah, do an IM – and they’d just say “Sorry Jesus, no can do, you still need to pay the $525. Our hands are tied. Not like yours wer....oh, never mind. Pony up.” I was positive they really really wanted to give me that rollover but just couldn’t. Okay. Sucks, but okay.

But then, THEN.....I get this missive from a faithful and alert reader, who tells me that “A friend of mine wrote a letter to IMNA about a friend of hers who also had cancer and couldn't do IMC in 2003. She did get him a roll-over and at no extra cost..."

So, NOW I’m pissed. What, my cancer wasn’t good enough? The brain injury didn’t add sufficient drama? My collarbone wasn’t splintered enough? Because that’s what I’m hearing from you guys, and it’s not pretty. Or maybe you’re so worried that once you opened those floodgates, every person with cancer was going to want to rollover their IM spots, just because they could. Those damn cancer victims, always looking for a freebie. Or maybe I’m not worthy of a rollover because I’m not a GUY? Perhaps you're too busy coming up with yet more pricey Ironman schlock you can market, because the bronze/marble trophy for $695 isn't enough? Which is it, IM poobahs, huh?

Well, I just have to say: IMNA, I’m even less impressed than before. Thanks for nothing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A dream shattered

As we all know, my sole goal with this blog is to prove that one can qualify for the Ironman in Kona while using only the Thighmaster or other “As Seen on TV!” gadgets.

Okay, maybe not only, but primarily.

Okay, maybe not primarily, but as a significant part of one’s training regimen. And this is what I’ve been doing, with rides like the Dairyland Dare thrown in just to keep my friends’ company as they pursue some sort of fitness with their less bold training plans. I always like to encourage them as they struggle mightily to achieve the kind of greatness I’m known for.

So that trip to Kona was my goal last year, and I feel certain I was headed down that path at IMWI when my dreams were crushed along with my collarbone in the bike crash. All that hard work and Thighmastering, gone in an instant. Along with the $525 I had paid to do IMMOO, since the Ironman people don’t do rollovers.

However, that didn’t deter Bridget, who (bless her soul) contacted the IM people to see if a rollover would be possible. Her emails mentioned the cancer, the bike crash, the fact that for IMWI even though I couldn’t race I was volunteering all day with my arm in a sling, etc. In other words, she made me sound like some namby-pamby do-gooder instead of me as I am with my single-minded pursuit of triathlon glory. But that’s okay, the thought was there. As expected, the IM folks said as a general rule they didn’t do rollovers, but seemed to leave the door open by suggesting Bridget contact them later after I was done with treatment.

So flash forward to a few weeks ago, when Bridget excitedly told me that the IM people had in fact decided that I’d get a rollover. Yay! Victory! Hmm, except they said they’d register me again, no mention of the fee. Being naturally suspicious, I asked Bridget to follow up on this to clarify, and lo and behold, yes they’d let me do this year’s IMMOO.....but I had to pay the $525 again. Or maybe $550, which was this year’s fee. Gee, thanks. The race is fun, but it’s not $1050 fun. And not that I could afford the additional $525 anyway.

Just like that, my dreams of qualifying and proving the supremacy once and for all of my stringent training plan turned into so much dust. I guess they’re worried about a sudden influx of people in similar situations, i.e. with cancer and who break their collarbones 3 weeks before the race, suddenly pestering them for rollovers. And god knows if you give a rollover to ONE collarbone-crushed cancerchick, you have to do it for ALL of them. And that’s a risky proposition – just imagine the swarm of people that might ensue!

So I’m a bit disappointed, as I was clearly looking at a sub 10:00 time, based on my training to date. You’d be amazed at how effective a training technique is the whole breathing deeply and striding briskly thing. Now this means I’ll have to move to Plan B. You see, I’ve already convinced our Tri Club that our aid station theme should be none other than....Las Vegas. And so, it’s time to make my dream happen. Yes – to dress up in Liberace's aptly named Red-White-Blue "Hotpants" outfit:

If you racers fall off your bikes as you’re approaching Cross Plains because you’re so awed and/or incredulous, don’t say you weren’t warned....

Friday, April 3, 2009

My latest secret weapon

I ventured into Costco the other day, and as usual was thinking about my triathlon goddessness, what tips I could give the little people to improve their race times, etc. I was walking along briskly, breathing deeply – in other words, training – when lo and behold, what did I see? This technological marvel:

Yes, the skirtini – yet such a simple term doesn’t do justice to the wonder that this article of clothing is. Not only does it have a pneumatic shelf bra built in, but the ruffly skirt the Costco one had is too short to actually hide one’s flaws (if you’re so unfortunate as to have any, that is) so it hits you at just the right unflattering place on the thighs. Plus, I have to note that as ugly as the colors on this one are, the one’s at Costco were exponentially uglier, with color combinations like green/brown/white and white/brown/pink.

While I did not immediately leap upon the skirtini – I was trying to appear subtle, so as to avoid the usual stampede that commences when I buy something and everyone else tries to follow suit – I later got to thinking how useful it would be in my upcoming races. For a mere $22, I could buy something that would basically guarantee me swimming space at Ironspud. How? Well, I figure that people will wonder why the hell I’m wearing something so ugly and impractical, will decide I’m off my rocker, and will thus give me a wide berth. Score!

Yes, I know what you’re all thinking, and it is true: when it comes to strategic thinking, I truly have a gift. Sometimes, it even scares ME.