Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back where we started

Last Saturday

I set off for the wilds of Wisconsin, for that elusive “Wisconsin fun” that they promise us on the billboards on the way up there. But before I relay my WI adventures, I must first address something that Alert Reader Todd wondered – about whether Pollyanna wound up paralyzed, bed-stricken, whored out to one and all, etc. Ha, no, of course not! That would be silly!

Pollyanna’s story was worse, actually. Yes, Pollyanna was none other than.......a....a spawn of Satan! Yes, it’s true – well, at least according to conspiracy theorists on the internet, who as we all know are the harbingers of rational thought. You see, while looking for a picture of Pollyanna, I found info on what started it all – not the cleaned-up Disney movie, where everyone lived happily ever after from the start - but rather the book, which came out in 1912 and was a veritable fount of charm and wisdom, using words like “ejaculate” in ways you’d never have thought possible. The following, for example, was a response to Pollyanna as she was trying to cheer up some old curmudgeon: ‘“Well, of all the—" ejaculated the man, with an oddly impotent gesture.’

You see the possibilities here.

But the Satanism – our faithful bloggers make a decent case for that. After all, how would Pollyanna have the power to be able to cheer EVERYONE up, to see the good in all, to enchant all those who meet her? Why, it must be a pact with the devil, clearly. And when she’s mysteriously hit by a car towards the end of the book, does she miraculously recover even though doctors say she’ll never walk again? Of course! You’re telling me Beelzebub didn’t orchestrate THAT one? Puh.

Oh, and Alert Reader Todd also notes the primary reason why it’s so critical that I do IronSpud, and that of course is for the potential goldmine of blog fodder. Duh! How could I overlook this? Not only do we have the race itself, but also the road trip out there, just me toodling across the Badlands and states that have more cattle than people – by far – and then, when I get to CDA, I’m going to have D! sharing my hotel room with me. Now if THAT isn’t a recipe for complete and total madness, I don’t know what is.

And finally, a note to all: when you’re having a shitty day, week, month, life, etc., I highly recommend trying a bit of “Fuck” Therapy before you try any pricy therapists or anti-depressants. Because you know, now that I’ve gotten all that stuff off my chest, I feel a whole hell of a lot better. Imagine that.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Wisconsin. Saturday I got up there just as everyone was leaving for the group ride, so I went off by myself. The best part of the ride was that the road from Blue Mounds to Mt. Horeb is newly paved with a beautiful bike lane, which, between that and cheese curds, made me decide to move to Wisconsin right away. After that, it was pretty much all downhill. The IMWI loop seemed much hillier than I remembered, riding it was tortuous, I wound up in tears at how much I sucked. Sunday I decided to do a 2-hr run instead, my legs were fatigued from Saturday, I was again in tears at my own suckiness. And after about an hour, even though I had brought with me a bottle of Infinit (okay, enough for a 1-hr run), I started exuding ammonia as if I had bathed in it, getting a headache to boot. I know this is a sign of insufficient carbs, but then Annette tells me that it also means you’re putting your body in a catabolic state, which isn’t good. Yay me.

Monday, did I go for the Trifecta of Suckdom? No, because I wake up with a wicked cold, it’s cold and insanely windy, and I decide to head home rather than sit in holiday traffic. just have to know when to cut your losses.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shouldn't be so complicated

Last Friday, May 22nd

I’m out for my daily run, and it’s a sucky run, and I know why that is – because the day before was a VLCD day. You know, of the standard 600 calories of fish and some fruit. And that morning, I had blueberries for breakfast. Before going out on my daily 5-mile run – except for long run days, which are, well, longer.

So I’m running on empty, so to speak, and I know I should be eating more, training-wise, but I just can’t make myself do it, because I have to lose some fucking weight, because not only are the extra pounds making running and riding harder, they’re also making me miserable. And yet, the VLCD isn’t working, since I’ve lost about one single fucking pound in 4 months of very stringent dieting. And I hate it, hate myself, hate how I look, hate how much this sucks, and as I think about this more, I get more and more upset and pissed off and frustrated. And since today is the 22nd, yesterday was the 21st, or, a month from IronSpud, when I said I’d decide if I was going to do the damn race or not. And if I do the race, I’ll be one of those “fatties doing Ironman” that idiot triathletes look down on, kind of like this guy posting on Slowtwitch, on yes, a thread on how fat people who do Ironman somehow cheapen it: “Considering you had an entire f*&ing year to prepare, showing up to an IM out of shape is downright disrespectful and there's really no excuse.......To me, showing up out of shape and overweight to an IM is no different than showing up to work unprepared or hungover......The message I hear is "I don't really care enough to try my very best.“

You get the idea. Well, you know what? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, pal. And while we’re at it, fuck cancer, fuck how it’s made me not like myself, fuck how it’s made me fat/surly/bitter/tired, fuck all that fundraising that goes on to the tune of billions of dollars for breast cancer research – yet they still don’t know jack shit about BC in young women and only very recently figured out that BC in younger women is different. Gee, you think? What was the tipoff, the MUCH HIGHER death rate??

And fuck that death rate, the 17% for my kind of cancer, or the 37% recurrence rate, both in the next 10 years. Fuck that I’d love to be all out and carpe-dieming every day, as most people probably think I should be, but I’m too damn tired all the time. Fuck that bad luck has followed me around most of my life like a lost puppy, and fuck that the best I seem to get is the perpetual “Well, I’m not dead yet.” I mean, what the hell is that?

And as for the fatness thing, well, all you people who have the elitist attitudes that we shouldn’t be cluttering up your IM courses, you can just bite me. And that especially goes for you, Swimfan, aka Ali Engin. You know, Ali, for all your trash-talking, and given your $9K fully tricked-out bike and your Zipp disc wheel, your 12:16 time at Ironman Arizona (the flattest IM course there is, mind you) didn’t exactly set the world on fire, now did it?

For the record, a 12:16 is a great time....for anyone else, but NOT for someone who spent months on end on a triathlon message board anonymously expounding on who he deemed unworthy to even think about doing an Ironman. And let’s note that there are a LOT of triathletes out there who are the nicest, most generous people who’d never think mean thoughts about anyone else. In fact, the majority are like that. It’s just that the bleating of the asshats like Ali – oops, “Swimfan” – come through the loudest.

Oh, and fuck you Roch Frey and NAS/WTC, for your fakeout “rollover,” where sure, you’d roll over my IMWI long as I ponied up another $550. Sure, I’ll get right on that, right after I finish paying for my radiation treatment.

And if any of you think those are a lot of “fucks” – you should see the 18-page “Fuck....(fill in the blanks)” thread we have going on at the Young Survival message board. We are an angry bunch of Cancerchicks; I couldn’t be prouder.

So those were my thoughts during my run, as I was getting more and more pissed off, with my final one being – fuck it, I’m doing IronSpud. No matter if I fail spectacularly, no matter if I need to take a nap during the run (always a possibility these days).....I’m in. And if I don’t finish, that’s fine. After all, it’s not a matter of life or death, now is it?

(That ends this particular rant - actually, this entire topic for the foreseeable future. I hate the phrase "it is what it is" (what, like you're going to tell me what it isn't?), but in this case......railing against a weight that won't budge no matter what I do, it's just kind of pointless. Anyway, not to worry, by the next posting I’ll be back to my usual chipper, Pollyannaish self...)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hasta la vista

So, the problem with my iPod, that it wouldn’t sync, was the impetus to get me into the Apple store with my computer - which turned out to be a good thing, since my hard drive was failing and could have died at any moment. Which would have been supremely bad. But really, the key thing was the IPOD – so when I picked up my repaired computer and brought it home, of course the first thing I checked was whether the iPod would sync. Wha..?? Nada?? NOT a good day in TashaWorld when I realized this.

Today I had an appointment with the Apple store people yet again, then, this time for them to check out the iPod. Because in the meantime, I had tried everything known to man to see if I could get it to be recognized by my computer, from resetting it, to this to that to talking to the Apple support person for about 2 hours the other day. And while she did get my camera to show up on my computer, no luck with the iPod. I thus concluded it was the iPod, not the computer.

I go in and have my appointment with “Paul,” as he claimed to be, who took my iPod and trotted off to test it out. And returned to tell me that it was working fine, popped up on his computer, no problem. But, but......

Me, wailing: “I’ve tried everything!”
“Paul”: You should try re-installing the operating syst....
Me: NO! I can’t reinstall everything! I won’t! It was just put on there, anyway, the operating system.
“Paul”: When was that?
Me: Just a WEEK ago.
“Paul”: Well, quite honestly then, I’m at a loss – not sure what else you can try. It’s a mystery to me – though it’s probably not the cord – 95% of the time that doesn’t have a problem.
Me: I don’t think you understand the gravity of this situation. Let me explain: if I have to listen to Dancing Queen one more time on shuffle, I will LOSE MY MIND.
“Paul”: Well, I don....
Me, firmly: Really.
“Paul”, helplessly: I’m sorry...
Me, dejected: Will you at least maybe try out my cord? I brought it with me.
“Paul”: Sure. Hmm, it’s a third party cord.
Me: Yeah, I know. I couldn’t find mine so I got this one.

He plugs it in, and we stare at his computer, which does....nothing. Absolutely nothing. No iPod finding. So after all that, all those hours, all that torturous’s the damn cord. I should be upset that the BRAND NEW CORD I bought was a complete POS, but I’m so happy that we’ve figured this out that I’m practically dancing with glee. New music on my 7-hour rides, whee!!

“Paul”: At least this is an easy problem to solve!
Me, grinning with delight, thinking happy thoughts toward Apple and maybe the world: Absolutely! You have no idea how happy I am. If I had to listen to the same damn songs one more time, I was going to shoot myself.

The guy standing next to us chuckles at that. Can probably relate. And to top off this cup brimming over with joy, they also have the doodads that cover the end of my earbuds (or as I put it when I asked “Paul”: “For my earphones, do you sell those fluffy things?” – luckily, this man of great wisdom knew exactly what I was talking about) so my delicate inner ears don’t get crushed. If this wasn’t the definition of a perfect day, I just don’t know what is.

I get home and trot over to my computer, new goodies in hand. Plug the iPod in, wait in anticipation......SCORE!! It works! Next item on the agenda: goodbye Dancing Queen, we hardly knew ye. No, actually, we knew you too damn much, so good riddance. I wonder how my iPod will try to torture me now? I guess I’ll find out this weekend. Camping and biking in the hills of southwestern Wisconsin. In the rain. Another recipe for success for Miss Tasha, yes indeed....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Closer to fine

Last Saturday

Okay, so you know how on SNL, back when it was funny, there was Gilda Radner (also afflicted with The Cancer) and her different characters, one of whom was Emily Litella? Who’d go off on some rant about, say, whirled peas, screeching about why the HELL would anyone want to whirl their peas, wouldn’t they then get all MUSHY and so on.....until someone would point out that no, the issue is actually WORLD PEACE. At which point Emily aka Gilda would ever-so-sweetly say – “never mind!”

So picture me kind of doing an Emily Litella. Because after all my ranting in my last post, the wailing and gnashing of teeth at my level of suckitude, I decided to forge on ahead and do my long-ish run. And you know what? It wasn’t half-bad. It’s kind of odd, but I’ve found that if I stick to a diet by which I might actually lose a pound or two over a month (aka the 600-calorie one), my workout the next day pretty much sucks. And if I foolishly throw caution to the wind and eat more (aka the 1000-calorie diet), my workout isn’t as torturous. Imagine. I know, I know, I don’t quite get it either, but it’s true, that’s what happens.

So our run. Yes, ours, because I go with Kona. Which means that a) I have to run faster, and b) I also have to take enforced breaks, since he has to stop and greet everyone, get petted and told how handsome he is, etc. I guess those two things even out somehow. I also take a water bottle for Kone, and once I realize that the water fountains aren’t turned on yet, I start scouting around for a convenience store. Which I eventually find, but will they let me go in there with a big dog? This is another bit of serendipity, as the owner not only lets us come in, but just chuckles when Kona closely investigates the loaves of bread and candy bars. (Note: to anyone who bought that bread and found dog drool on the plastic sleeve, so sorry. My bad.)

All in all, for a 2-hour run, it felt pretty good. And then I got home and did a lot of sleuthing, and found a video that someone had shot of the IronSpud bike course. Now granted, it’s on fast-forward, and I have crappy depth perception to begin with, but to my untrained eye, it didn’t look too heinous. At least I didn’t see any cobblestone streets going straight up into tiny Spanish villages – something that I hear is quite common in Idaho. So that’s something. In any case, I decide that the course is doable – as long as it’s a sunny, warm day, with zero wind. Hey, a girl can dream.

And then I got an email from my dear friend George from Canada, which reminded me of why I’m here, relaying my exploits and passing on fitness tips to my tens of readers. Yes, George the cyclist has decided to venture into triathloning. He’s taken the first step and purchased a swimsuit and googles – yet, heeding my advice, he’s put them aside for now, following my advice of (as he put it) “not going overboard with needless miles.” Ah, it’s enough to practically make me weep with pride – especially since I presume his next step will involve ramping up with abandon, in the remaining weeks (or days) before any race.

Finally, the comments or emails from my last post really honed in on why I have the friends I do, and why I love them dearly. George again had lots of sage advice and wisdom, recommending a protein formula I might want to try and other helpful hints. Deirdre was also true to form – I believe her comment was “yeah, cancer, blah blah, I WANT A DINO TOO! ME TOO!” Leave it to Deirdre to get to the heart of the matter. And while this recalls the epic quest that it was to find my little co-pilot, I will do my best, Deirdre, to get you his Canadian doppelganger. No promises though.

Tomorrow, my plan is to ride in solidarity with Stacey, who’s doing some System of a Downs ride in the U.K., which is apparently 100 miles of abject torture, as she’s been describing it. Accordingly, I too plan to ride 100, though in the bucolic countryside. I’ve been studying meteorological charts and phases of the moon, and have determined that tomorrow there should be no wind whatsoever. I’m going out to my mom’s tonight so that I can get up early and just hit the road right away. It’s going to be a perfect day for riding – I can feel it.

Sunday – 5AM

The alarm goes off at this godawful hour, and I go to the window to look outside at the temperature gauge. 33 degrees? Surely you must be joking? Kona, who’s all snuggled under the bedcovers, barely lifts his head. I hop back into bed to wait for it to warm up at least a few degrees.


Okay, it seems to have gotten up to a balmy 34. I get up, get dressed, have my coffee/oatmeal/banana. So now I have to go riding – not that I was thinking of skipping it – because I can only have carbs if I’m actually going to work out, so we’re at the point of no return. I take Kona out for a walk, and upon our return, he goes and jumps back into bed. Hmm. I think that says something, not sure what. Best to not contemplate it too much.


Still waiting.......


Dun da dum dum (drumming fingers on table).....guess I’ll check my email......


Okay, enough of this happy horseshit – this is defeating the purpose of staying out here so that I could head out early. I set off......and fuck, it’s cold. I briefly contemplate turning back and layering on more clothes....I slow down.....nah, I’ll warm up eventually, right?

45 minutes later

Cold cold cold coldcoldcold.....I think my hands and feet are frozen. At least I took care of the wind-generated headache, with my Craft thermal cap on underneath my helmet. One problem down. Damn, why don’t I have warmer gloves? I’ll make myself wait until the hour mark to stop and try to warm up.

5 minutes after that

Forget it, my hands are killing me. I stop, pull off the gloves, rub my hands and do what I can to dethaw them. Start up again.

5 minutes later

Note to readers: My frozen thumbs snapped off somewhere on Harmony Road near Huntley, IL. If you come across them, would you mind sending them to me? Thanks.

1 hour in

I have to say, even cold as it is, at this insane hour it’s a nice feeling to be one of the few people out on the road, zipping along in the country. Haven’t even seen any other cyclists yet. Gee, I wonder why – could it be because none of THEM signed up for an early season Ironman, so they all looked at the temps this morning and thought......ech, forget it. Maybe? Yeah, I think so.

The rest of the ride – idle musings

Note to self: Get new music for iPod – or at least figure out why iPod won’t sync with computer. Remove Dancing Queen permanently from iPod library.

I figured out one reason why it’s so damn cold out here compared to everywhere else – it’s because it’s the fucking PRAIRIE! Duh! And there’s no corn growing yet, not even sprouts, so I don’t even have the cornfields as a windbreak, not that they’d be that tall yet. Plus where am I supposed to pee? Farmers, could you please get on this? Thanks.

Hmm, as I’m biking north, i.e into Wisconsin, it’s getting noticeably colder. And windier. Note to self: Next time, bike south.

Ugh, this road really sucks. I really need to start writing on my maps which roads are unrideable. This one is just one big patchwork of seams and bumps. It’s even worse than the roads earlier, which had gravel and huge craters – at least those I could go around, albeit slowly, though that road really was just one step above a cowpath.

I stop to adjust my saddle, and lo, there’s a cyclist coming up behind me! A cute guy, who slows down to see if I need any assistance. Dumbass me, I tell the truth, that I don’t need help. Damn. Note to self: Next time, make up some faux-helpless thing, something completely asinine, like my tire is leaking air, complete with sad doe eyes. Oh, and try to go riding looking a touch less like Jabba the Hut. I mean really, could I possibly be any more bundled up? Sheesh.

Note to readers: My nose froze and fell off somewhere on State Line Rd. in WI – if you happen across it, could you please send it to me? Thanks.

Why the hell do I have to pee for about the 5th time? I never have to go during my bike rides, no matter how long they are. I’m always an efficient, finely-honed machine, using exactly what I take in. The only thing I’m doing differently is that I didn’t put Nuun into my water bottle, so I’m just drinking water with my GU. Hmm. And when I have the constantly-having-to-pee problem during the run portion of my triathlons.....I’m getting water from the aid stations. Hmm. I think I’m having an epiphany here. Note to self: do NOT drink water only during rides/runs/races!

I wonder how my mom is handling Kona – he can be quite a handful. I hope he hasn’t torn up the house yet...

I make my usual stop in the town of Capron, to refill my bottles, stopping at the usual pizza place. Rosa’s Pizza – I really need to get pizza there sometime, because it smells pretty damn good. The town consists of 3 bars, an antique/junk shop, and the pizza place. A veritable bustling metropolis. I start heading back, might add some roads to my route, but there’s no way I can get lost. I know this map practically by heart.

I’m hopelessly lost – going north when I need to be going south. Maybe if these roads didn’t wind around aimlessly, and maybe if they had, oh, shall we say, STREET SIGNS on them on occasion?? I know, crazy talk. As I’m riding about aimlessly, I sometimes glance down and see how battered and scratched up my bar-end shifters are....on TOP. What the hell did that crash look like, that the top of my shifters got so beaten up?

Barking, running dog starts chasing me down the road and startles me slightly, and I’m totally unprepared. Luckily, firmly saying “shoo! Shoo you!” seems to work. The dog stops, and looks confused.

I finally get around to trying the Black Currant Powergel that I got in Mallorca – figured I’d see if a new flavor was any better than the tripe they’re trying to push off on us now. I used to love Powergels – that is, until they turned it into a watery salt lick. Yuck. This one.....good GOD, how did they make it even more heinous? Did their product development really think to themselves, hey, let’s make this taste like salty rotten fruit bundled into an old undershirt! That’ll definitely be a winner!

One last stop to pee – right in some brambles, which cut up my legs. Figures. Hey, that reminds me, the blackberries should be in season soon. Sweet! And the lilacs are in full bloom – I can even smell them as I ride by. Beautiful.

I pass a turkey vulture hunched over road kill. I hope that’s not symbolic of my Ironman efforts....

Am I the only one who looks at the Harley riders as they go by and thinks: “Lazyass!!” Okay, I only think that of the surly Harley riders, which is most of them. The middle-aged or older couples on their motorbikes, they generally wave. As do the farmers on their tractors. Fat chain-wearing grizzled Harley riders do not, and neither do the yuppie wannabees on their McMansion property out on the prairie. I’m glad they’re stuck out on the windy plains - contemplating the futility of their fiefdom-building efforts now that housing prices have tanked and oh yeah, people have realized they don’t want to live out on the TUNDRA - since people who don’t wave annoy me. The wind has picked up even more now – I barely notice. Okay, I do, but also realize the pointlessness of noticing something that will ALWAYS be there.

I come around the corner onto my mom’s street....and there she is, talking to her neighbor, with Kona on a leash and just sitting there patiently. My mom then tells me how well-behaved Kona has been, calm, not jumping, and I dog is a master strategist. First he conned me into keeping him, and now he’s following yet another principle of Sun Tzu in the Art of War: “appear ill-behaved and wild, so as to make all later better behavior a cause for celebration and praise. You will be rewarded handsomely for your cunning.” Clearly, I need to be taking lessons from him.

I go inside and take stock. My face is sunburnt and yet at the same time frozen, as if it’s been Botoxed into submission. Legs, a bit stiff. Feet, can’t feel them. 100 miles, done. Other cyclists spotted, just one. WTH? Don’t they realize, it was a perfect day for riding?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Making friends with shadows

I finally got the chance last Sunday to go for my first bike ride since Mallorca – and of course I knew it would be a breeze, what with my newfound fitness and all. Flying along at top speeds, no problem. She’s back, kids!

Ha. As soon as I get out to Huntley and see the trees bending over, I know it’s going to be another day of shitty wind. But you know what? No whining. Time to suck it up. Deal with it. So I head out – that is, after having the valve somehow snap off as I’m pumping up one of my tires, so I get some practice in tire changing – and my legs feel....tired. Heavy. Like I ran 20 miles the day before, which I assure you I did not. Shit. I keep riding, still feeling like crap, into a crosswind so stiff that it’s blowing me into the road, which fortunately isn’t very well-traveled. Still. Headwind, crosswind. I’m determined to just suck it up, ignore it. And so I do, until the wind blowing in my ear gives me a massive headache. Which is morphing into a migraine. And it’s at this point that I start thinking, maybe I won’t be ready for IronSpud. And......I’m not sure how much I really care.

I mean, I DO care, especially since it would bug me to pay the NAS/WTC fucktards my $550 and then not race. (And for the record, what I find distasteful about them is not that they don’t do rollovers, though that does suck, but that they told me that they’d roll over my spot BUT that I had to pay their $550 AGAIN. Gee, thanks. Either roll it over or don’t – but don’t pretend you’re being all magnanimous when you’re just being a bunch of vultures.) But do I care enough to try to overcome how crappy I feel on a daily basis so that I can train enough? Because I do. Feel crappy, I mean. And I’m not looking for sympathy or anything, I’m just being matter-of-fact. I’m always tired – what saved me in Mallorca was that Stacey considers getting up at 8AM “really early” – so I could get some extra rest in. I go running almost every day, and every day my lungs feel like they’re on fire and I can’t get enough air. Lately I’ve been dizzy and off-balance; not sure what’s up with that. I get constant migraines. Not to mention that I seem to have no brain anymore. Seriously. I can’t remember things I did yesterday, or last weekend – it’s all just a big blank.

Anyway – whaa whaa whaa. Yeah, I know, I sound like a broken record. Did I mention that I’m also even MORE pissed off, now that I’ve read studies (including recent ones) that say that hey, guess what, all you parents smoking like chimneys your entire child’s life! You’ve increased by 68% the chances of your pre-menopausal daughter getting breast cancer! My dad, the 2-3 pack-a-day smoker, he died a few years ago, so I don’t get to tell him that I was kind of right when I kept telling him that he should quit because he was probably giving me lung cancer. I just had the type of cancer wrong.

So here I am, a fat, surly bundle of rage, attempting to train for an Ironman. Of course, in order to figure out what I should do and to find inspiration, I decide to turn to that most sage and wise of advice-givers: the internet. I first check out a book that I was made aware of through some newsletter email list that I’m on – a book written by a woman who proclaims it as the “triathlete’s guide to getting through your first year after breast cancer”, or something along those lines. I figure, aha, there must be inspiration there! If anyone would have attempted to do an Ironman, it’s someone who wrote a book about it, right?

After much research, I discern that a couple years after treatment, she ran (walked) the run leg of a sprint triathlon. And her “training” in that first year consisted of slow walks up and down her block. But her book was chock-full of pithy sayings, such as “Life is like constantly being in transition – just make sure you don’t forget your running shoes in T2!” And “When you get kicked in the head during the swim, just remember, the waves are there to build character!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, anyone who even bothers to get out of bed and leave the house in the months after cancer treatment deserves credit – I just didn’t find the inspiration I was looking for. So in continuing my quest, I googled “dumbass people attempting Ironman shortly after cancer”. Hmm, nada, though I did find some odd blog called the “Happy Hospitalist” – and after perusing it for a bit, I still have no clue what that’s all about. The other points of reference that I manage to collect are twofold: one, a correspondence with a pro triathlete who had treatment for testicular cancer, but he readily admitted that he had minor, outpatient surgery and just 3 days of radiation, so it basically didn’t affect him at all. I’m happy for him, truly, but again, not very helpful. Then there was the example of Mario Lemiuex, who also underwent 6 weeks of radiation treatment for cancer, and then went on to play in the Stanley Cup finals. And then had to take the entire next year off, in part due to fatigue. Okay, so at least that makes me feel like I’m not completely batshit crazy. At least not when it comes to feeling like crap.

After all this, I can only conclude that this whole Ironman thing is probably one of the stupider things I’ve done, or attempted to do. Again, not looking for any kudos or medals here – just stating the facts. Facts we already knew: I’m an idiot. A stubborn one at that, who won’t just say hey, you know what? Never mind. Bad idea. No, god forbid I should do anything that sensible.

So, back to the training I go – and if you happen to be driving around the Midwest and catch a glimpse off the side of the road of what appears to be a surly-looking, discontented lump, close to a black Felt bicycle and little Dino looking all ferocious.....yeah, that would be me and my compatriots. Nothing to see there, folks, just what’ll be my usual state of being for the next 5 weeks or so.

One last thing – we all know how fucking ANNOYING it is when people hear about your cancer diagnosis and respond with the “well, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, so you never know!” type of comment. Right. Because there are all these rogue, kamikaze, killer buses teeming around every city and burg, attempting to mow down innocent citizens. MY chances of a recurrence or death in the next 10 years, with my kind of cancer? 37% and 17% respectively. I don’t think there’s an equal chance that any of you will be hit by that rogue bus.

So last night on Grey’s Anatomy, they seemed to kill off Izzy, who had the metastatic brain tumors. And George? Yes, good old George, the original McShlumpy..........he got hit by a bus. A fricking bus. Now, are we supposed to view that as supreme irony, or are all the tv scripts in Hollywood written by 3rd graders or stoners, giggling madly now as we speak? "I know, we'll have him....hit by a bus! Yeah, that's it! Like, an inside joke, 'cause no one else will get it." Just wondering.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just a box of rain

Mallorca, the final days

Hills blah blah wind blah blah got lost blah blah, etc. Let’s just assume that those are a given, shall we? On Day 6, I decided to head out on my own again, since the previous day had been relatively successful. Plus the 2nd group of Germans were going to Petra, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there again.

So I wound up in Petra. This time at least I took an alternate route that wound up being pretty hilly – which was good – and busy with cars, which wasn’t. But the maps in Spain don’t make it clear which are highway-type roads and which are sheepherder-type, so it’s kind of a crapshoot. In Petra, after I eventually found the town square where the hundreds of other cyclists were hanging out, I discovered the secret to the Germans’ cycling success: beer and smoking. Pipes, to be exact. I’m not sure exactly where he put the pipe and tobacco while riding, but yes, some uber-German all decked out in full team kit and everything did pull out a pipe to have a little smoke before setting off again. At least it wasn’t a cigar.

Next, Sineu, not that that was my intent. But this turned out to be a nice sheepherder road, which made it worthwhile. And on the way back, I realized that a) my legs felt pretty good, b) most of the hills weren’t a big deal anymore, and c) my butt no longer hurt. AND, miracle of miracles, I was actually passing people. I know, shocking! Granted, we had a tailwind and they were putzing along on hybrids, but hell, on day one even the old ladies on bikes with baskets replete with crusty baguettes were passing me, so this was a step up.

Friday, the plan was to go riding with the Swiss, or at least attempt it. They were planning an easier ride, which I think meant 120km and only 2,000m of climbing, so hey, why not? Unfortunately, before this debacle could ensue, we woke up to rain. Which most of us decided to not deal with. I did go for a run along the beach though after it cleared up, then went to sit by the pool, hoping against hope to see my Speedo-clad, pushup-doing friend, but alas, it was not to be. Then I sadly turned in The Cube, without realizing quite how much I’d appreciate this bike in the days to come…

Back in London

Sunday morning we head out to the one shop in London that rents road bikes, the unfortunately named Tri and Run. We finally find the place – Stacey won’t look at the maps that are posted to see where we are relative to where we need to be, but instead stares down at her iPhone as it shows a confusing map with no relation to where we actually are at that moment – so finding places can take a while. Mr. Bike Shop Employee, a young guy, rolls out the bike, and I immediately notice 2 things – the shifters are weird, and the seat is crooked.

Me: The seat’s not level.

BSE: That’s just how it is, it can’t be adjusted.

Me: But it’s angling upward. How am I supposed to ride that?

Stacey: Just try it out!

So I take it around the corner to try out, and it feels like a clown bike. Saddle too low and too far back, and yes, tilted upward. I almost kill myself trying to clip in and test it out.

Me, back in the store: This saddle REALLY isn’t level.

BSE: Sorry, can’t adjust it.

By now it’s clear this guy knows nothing about bikes, so I pull out my handy-dandy multi-tool and attempt to adjust the saddle myself. And try to figure out the deal with the shifters. Sora? Hmm. I do believe that’s one step below the crappy Tiagra shifters that D-POD had. Again, not a good sign.

Since we have no other bike options, and Stacey’s determined that we’ll be getting more riding in, we head out. And she went to a LOT of effort to find a bike for me, so I’m determined to make the best of it. To recap: I’m on a rental bike with lousy shifters and a poorly positioned saddle, with god knows what else wrong with the bike, about to embark on a multi-mile trip through the heavily-trafficked streets of London…..

(5 hours later, at Stacey’s place)

Stacey: Tasha, are you okay? You look a little pale.

Me: Bhaskhfliuewyigagkajsfak.

Stacey: Huh?

Me: You don’t stop at red lights! You weave in and out of cars!

Stacey: What’s wrong with that? Oh, and can we step it up a bit tomorrow? Today we were only going at around 10 mph. Can you do at least 15? You know, really push it a bit?

I have an almost mystic vision of Stacey visiting me in Chicago, and borrowing a bike for her from, say, Joe, who’s about 6’6, and then taking a hammer to the shifters and the brakes, just for extra “fun.” Because yes, I’ve discovered that not only is the shifting weird, but the left shifter barely works, and never on the first try, so I get to worry about dropping a chain as I’m trying to make it up hills, with another minor detail: the brakes don’t work very well. Oh, and the saddle? Kept shifting up. Gee, I wonder why I’d be at all slow, riding on a very ill-fitting bike that doesn’t work properly.

Well, at least tomorrow’s ride should be fun – we’re heading out to Surrey, which I’ve been assured is chock-full of pastoral estates and farmland, bucolic and serene. I’m a little worried about the weather – it’s supposed to be cold and raining – but Stacey won’t take no for an answer as far as more cycling is concerned. Today we went riding through Richmond Park, which appears to be a mecca of sorts for cyclists around here, who just do endless loops around the park. It was scenic the first time around, and then way too damn cold. Surely it can’t be this cold tomorrow, can it?


The day dawns….grey, and 39 degrees. Shit.

One hour later

It’s early enough on a bank holiday day so there’s not that much traffic through town, thank god. But right now we’re still in a pretty busy area, no bucolic countryside in sight. What with the road we’re on being pretty busy and no shoulder, it kind of feels like it would if we were riding out to Huntley on I-90. So I ask Stacey the dumb question – “Hey, how long until we get to the bucolic countryside?” Her response: “It’s about a 2 ½ hour ride to get out there.” Sigh.


Finally, we’re in the country! And it really is beautiful out here, idiot bike notwithstanding. We’re surrounded by rolling farmland, quaint cottages with names like Rosehaven Manor or Brumbley Cottage, peaceful country roads, etc. So my feet are frozen already. Ech, I’ll live.

Even more later

Apparently on this particular route, there are 3 major nasty hills that we have to contend with, and we just went up the first one. Which sucked, but I comfort myself with the thought that if I were on Salome, or even The Cube, I would have flown right up it. It’s not me being slow, it’s POS (Piece of Shit) balking at the concept of shifting, and not having the right gearing in the first place. I so miss The Cube, where just one minor adjustment to the saddle and all was perfect. Sigh.

No concept of time anymore

We’ve gotten to hill #2, which Stacey explains is steep, then plateaus, then even more steep, and that if one is going to walk some of the hill, the place to get off is at the plateau, because after that you’ll just fall over, still clipped in. I think about this as I start up the hill, which is indeed steep and long, and on a narrow but busy road where there’s absolutely no shoulder. And realize that if I swerve even the tiniest bit as I’m trying to make it up this hill, I’ll get flattened by a car. At the plateau, I get off and walk.

Time marching on

I don’t have to think too hard to recollect when I was last this miserable on a bike ride. One would think it would be the time I got caught out in a tornado, with an accompanying monsoon and wind and hail, but no, it wasn’t that. It was warm then. Before this, my most miserable ride was last summer at the Heatstroke/Windburn 100, where it was so damn windy that it was like we were all standing still. I’ve never worked so hard to get absolutely nowhere. A headwind for miles and miles is soul-crushing.

But this? This would be lovely IF it weren’t raining and cold and I weren’t on a bike that rattled ominously as I go down steep hills. And now my hands have frozen up too. I seriously cannot ride in cold weather – no matter how bundled up I am, I don’t warm up, and my hands and feet lose all feeling, until they get really painful. I know, complain, complain. I just suck, let’s face it.

Box Hill

Finally, the third hill, and at the top we get to have tea and scones! Yay! This particular hill is a slow 3-mile climb up, with numerous very sharp switchbacks, so it’s a little nerve-wracking. We make it to the top, and instead of the quaint pub or café on a windswept moor that I expected, instead there’s a concession stand. And they’re out of scones. But the Queen Victoria cake and tea are delicious, as at this moment I kick my idiot diet to the curb. Life is good again, even though I’m shaking from the cold, Stacey is a bit chilled herself, and it’s a 40-mile ride back to London. At which point, before I can propose the idea myself, Stacey suggests we get the train back, once we’re back down the hill. Thank god!!

Going down

That is, if we make it down this damn hill. Or if I do. I’m braking as I go down, because there are not only those wicked switchbacks, but speed humps as well. The brakes hardly work though, so I continue to pick up speed. I am going to die on this fucking hill, giving new meaning to the Box in Box Hill. At one point I decide I need to stop altogether, because trying to keep things slow enough isn’t working, but…..I can’t stop. I debate doing a Fred Flinstone and using my shoes against the ground to slow me down, but instead give the brakes one last effort and ride into the grass by the side of the road. As I’m doing this, I’m composing a letter in my head to the owner of Tri and Run: “Dear Sir – Perhaps as you plastered the name of your store – Tri and Run and – all over this shiny silver rental bike, you envisioned that those actually renting it would be so in awe at its sartorial splendor that subsequently equipping said bike with low-grade Sora shifters and subpar brakes would be of no consequence. Sadly, I must inform you that that is not the case.”

I’ve also renamed the store in my head: Try and Bike, Try and Brake, Try and Stop, all of which seem more appropriate.

By some miracle, I make it to the bottom, and we head over to the train station to see when or even if a train will ever arrive. Apparently on bank holidays they like to go with a stance of equality, meaning, if it’s a holiday, why should the train operators have to work? And while this is a different system than the Tube, I have to say this about the Tube: it’s a beautiful system, extensive, numerous train lines that can take you anywhere you need to go, wonderfully clean, etc. That’s when it’s actually running, because it also seems to have zero reliability. My very first ride in, from the airport, stopped short of where I needed to go, at some random stop, because of “line improvement work” or something like that. And almost every ride we’ve been on since has had some similar issue – or entire lines have been shut down. It’s bizarre. Even when we went to pick up the bike, our line stopped one short so we had to exit the station and get on a bus to go the rest of the distance. I decide that to be on the safe side, in the morning I’ll take a cab to the airport.

So, the final tally for my time away: about 25 hours of riding in just over a week, 2 hours of running, and even some lap swimming. But the training aspect is pretty incidental in the overall scheme of things. More importantly, I got to hang out with one of my best friends who I don’t get to see nearly often enough, and I got to do so in a place of amazing beauty. In spite of those damn hills. And it also gave me the chance to NOT think about cancer for a while. Because I do, all the time – it’s kind of hard not to. You’re reminded daily that you look like crap, you feel like crap, and you feel like you’re living on borrowed time. But while cycling in Mallorca, those thoughts didn’t even enter my head. Of course, what I was thinking included “You fucker, will you please MOVE?!” and “Good god, why the hell are you braking???” and of course the classic “I…WILL…KILL…YOU!!” But hey, I’ll take it. Even raging at bad cyclists is a better alternative than thinking about the uninvited interloper that is The Cancer. So in the end, it’s good to recognize that life is all too short, or it can be, and that taking the opportunity when it presents itself to do something atypical or off the beaten path is, indeed…..priceless.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Going rogue

Day 5 in Mallorca

They don’t do group rides on Wednesdays or Saturdays here - some malarkey about “rest days” – so I decide I know my way around enough to venture out on my own. I figure I’ll head up the coast to Port Pallencia, for no other reason than that it looks relatively easy to find, it’s within a day’s riding distance, and I haven’t been there yet. The trifecta of riding. I think Stacey and crew have made up and are heading out to some mountain, to ride up and down it a few times. Decided to pass on that one, even though Stacey is trying to convince me – still - that nothing here is at more than a 5% grade. Right. Somehow I don’t think 5% grades have elevation profiles and cycling jerseys made up with said profiles and the word “Finisher” on them, as these “hills” do.

I head up north, and there are enough other cyclists going the same way so that I don’t have to worry too much about getting lost. This is my new rule of thumb – if I don’t see other cyclists within the equivalent of about a block (at least in the cities), then I’ve gone the wrong way. This works amazingly well.

Since I don’t have any Germans to contend with and this route doesn’t appear to be too hilly, the only issue today is the 45 mph headwind that’s almost blowing me off the road either into traffic or off the little precipice onto a rocky beach. Is it EVER not windy in Mallorca? I’m starting to wonder.

I’m not sure what I’ll find when I finally make it to Port Pallencia – it could be quaint, or it could be a schlockfest like Port D’Arcudia, with its Burger King and souvenir shops with blow-up porpoises and the like. But it turns out that Port Pallencia is more like a chi-chi resort town, with a bunch of sidewalk stores and cafes along the shoreline, all very charming. I find a stone ledge to hang out on, lie down, turn my face up to the sun. Ahhh. Life is good. And with the crashing waves, the craggy cliffs, the beautiful old Spanish architecture, Mallorca couldn’t be more perfect. After a café con leche, I head back, this time with the tailwind propelling me along. To every headwind, a tailwind. Would be a nice philosophy of life, if life actually worked that way.

When I’m putting my bike away at the hotel, the crazy wind is whipping at the tent, sounding like it’s going to blow it over, so the comment one burly German guy makes to me, with a somewhat shell-shocked look on his face – “schone wind, ja?” needs no translation. Nice wind indeed.

Later that day, I’m hanging out by the pool, enjoying the sun and fresh air, when the buff young Speedo-clad German guy nearby jumps up from his pool lounge chair, hits the deck, and starts doing pushups. Pushups?? I *almost* burst out laughing, but that would be rude, so instead I just poke Stacey a few times to make sure she sees. Sometimes even I can’t make this stuff up…..

Friday, May 1, 2009

Me and the Germans, round 2

Day Four in Mallorca

I find my new group at Platz Sechs (6), and proceed to size up the competition. Hmm. A few older men and women, some my age, a few younger – I think I can take ‘em. I give them my flintiest gaze, and I think they’re suitably intimidated. Or at least that’s what I intuit, since they’re speaking amongst themselves in German, laughing uproariously at something. Nervous laughter, I’m sure.

Today’s ride leader is a chatty one, and as she goes on and on, I catch a few words here and there: coffeebreak, 600m hills, even more hills. What a surprise. I get on my bike – butt still hurts – and we set off, me behind red-shorted pedal-pedal-coast woman this time. Oh, for the love of god - enough of that happy horseshit – I pass her. This group seems a little more free form than the other one, where I got the feeling that if I disturbed the cycling pecking order, severe reprimands and shunning would follow.

I have no problem keeping up with this group, and in fact our pace seems a little slow. A mere 10k in, we pull over to stop at the side of the road, for what seems to be a water/bathroom break. Ride leader starts talking…..and talking….and talking. I think she’s telling us the history of Spain, or perhaps the history of Spain from the perspective of the Germans. We finally hit the road again, and soon get back to the usual pastime here in Spain: scaling mountains. Also as usual, I putz my way up them. Oh well, at least this way I get to enjoy more of the view, in between gasping for air.

After many many miles of this, and one last long climb that’s about 4 miles long, we wind up at……..a planetarium? Huh? I didn’t realize there was a field trip involved in this. Apparently this is in fact our destination, as explained to us by a young guy speaking English, who I latch onto like a bee on a hibiscus, pathetically grateful that at last (!) there’s someone I can understand. And once some of the Germans hear me speaking English, they get the fact that no, I’m not German, have just a rudimentary understanding of German, and oh, I wasn’t being rude or ignoring them during the ride when they said stuff – I just didn’t understand them. I feel like we’ve made a great breakthrough for German-American relations here. This doesn’t mean we’re suddenly all chatty, but it’s something.

Anyway, after paying our fee, we get shepherded into the main room for the planetary show. Which is….interesting. I guess I always thought planetariums actually showed you the stars, planets, etc., with their mega-power telescopes, but instead, we’re being shown images of these things projected onto the ceiling, with a German voiceover. I find the constellations particularly interesting. Instead of the ones I’m used to, like the Big Dipper and Sirius, we appear to have Goose, Aztec Warrior, Dung Beetle, Daffy Duck Doing the Hora, Big Rodent, and of course, Little Rodent. Afterwards, I go check out their exhibit of meteorites, which is actually quite cool, and the guy who works there is really excited about pointing them all out to us – these from Mars, those from the moon, etc.

Afterwards, we set off again, with our newfound camaraderie, which means that whenever we stop (which is still way too often), they jokingly tell me exactly how many hills are left and how high they are. Ha ha. It actually is kind of funny – and at least I get complimented by them on my wicked downhill riding skills, where I pass them all like they’re standing still. All in all, it’s a fun group, nice people, and I can tell we’re all getting tired by the last 10k of our 80k, especially since the wind has really picked up and we’re going straight into a headwind the entire way back. Thoughts in my head include:

  • Fucking hills. Fucking wind.
  • Why the hell does every town in Spain have to be at the top of a mountain, for god’s sake?
  • Why is this all uphill?
  • Cycling is a stupid sport –who the hell ever thought of this anyway? Who’s the idiot who invented bicycles?
  • These hills are mocking me.
  • Maybe I can blame the swine flu for my cycling inadequacies?
  • Fucking wind.

At least now Red Shorts, who was so extremely annoying earlier with her cycle-cycle-coast routine, is only screwing herself, since she has no one to draft off of since she’s left so much space between her and the next person up. Me, on the other hand, I tuck in behind her and wheel suck for all I’m worth, and the two people behind me do likewise. No fools us.

That evening, I discover that in our group from Switzerland, there’s dissension and discontent among the ranks, since Andre, the 77-year-old ride leader, has been dropping everyone, not looking back or slowing down to see if everyone’s still there. So half the group got lost in small towns and had to make their way back on their own. Meanwhile, Nikolai somehow got his wheel caught in a grate, did a header over his handlebars, and smashed up his face and needed 3 stitches above his lip. Hmm, seems like I had a better day than they did.

They do keep asking me if I’m enjoying myself, if I’m glad I came, etc. And I tell them, of course I am. Let’s see – I’m in Spain with nothing more pressing to do than ride a bike, which I can do as soon as I walk out my door, amidst the beautiful countryside, with the smell of lavender in the air, roads as smooth as butter, adorable towns that welcome cyclists, and warm-ish weather. What’s not to like?