Friday, September 18, 2009

Losing Nemo

Fresh from my victory at the Wisconsin State Fair, it became obvious that I needed to raise the stakes. Up my game, so to speak. Go for the PR. Clearly, state fair-hopping is an integral part of any serious triathlete’s training regimen, what with how it so eloquently mimics any long-course event: being on your feet all day, eating whatever strange food people thrust at you, dealing with the whims of the elements, potentially winning valuable prizes, etc.

So my friend Keith, aka “Stan”, and I decide to head to the Indiana State Fair, which coincidentally has the Year of the Tomato as its theme (more about this aspect in a later post). Of course, I bring Salome along with me, so that when Stan is doing actual work in Indy, I can get some of my usual hardcore training in. We get there, and the next morning after a restful night’s sleep fueled by a hearty meal from Culver’s, I head out to the Monon Trail, which is Indy’s answer to Chicago’s lakefront bike path. For those of you who haven’t been to Indy, that answer is “Screw you, Chicago, ‘cause how much better are we??” Yes, whereas Chicago’s bumpy path has everything from bikers to people on Segways to rickshaw-like contraptions (seriously), leading any traversing of the path to become a near-death experience, the Monon is uncrowded and smooth, pure cycling joy.

Once on the path, I decide it’s a good time to get in some interval training. For those who don’t know, interval training essentially consists of going fast, then slow, then fast again. Some people like to do this by using speed or power readings to measure exertion and effort; me, I prefer a less technical approach, in which I use natural obstacles as my cues. And sure enough, there I am speeding along when obstacle #1 comes along: a serious need for coffee. Therefore, I slow down so I can scout around for a place to stop, and lo and behold, find a cute little bakery, of all things.

A little later, glycogen stores replenished via a chocolate croissant and 2 cups of coffee, I set off again. Blazingly fast, as usual. Then, what’s this? A fruit and veggie stand? See, another interval opportunity. Luckily I had the foresight to bring along a little drawstring backpack, so I buy some tomatoes and peaches and set out again. After passing the State Fairgrounds, I cruise past the murals painted on the nearby buildings, and marvel over the raccoon getting amorous with a watermelon.

Creative people, those Indy-ites. And so it goes, as I take advantage of these built-in features (bakeries, fruit stands, scenic views, pretty rocks, sparkly things, etc.) to get my interval training in, which proves a key point: you don’t need fancy equipment and the like to become a triathlon goddess such as myself.

Later, I meet up with Stan at the hotel, and finally, we head to the fair, which is a marvel of Yankee ingenuity in so many ways, not least of which is its approach to fried food. Deep fried cookie dough? Check. Deep-fried brownies? Yep. Deep-fried-everything-else-you-can-imagine? Absolutely.

As always, I am cognizant of the need to follow a strict athlete’s diet, so after a corndog, the aforementioned cookie dough, some ice cream, flavored milk, and a fried tomato-and-pork sandwich, I was ready for a break. Naturally, we headed to the poultry barn to see the pretty chickens, and then off to the carnival game section, where my athletic abilities come into play. Alas, with the water-gun game, the Carnie (though I have to say, at the IN fair even the carnies look clean-cut) gives Stan the win, since we had him double-fisted with 2 waterguns so that there were enough people to play. It was tough picking out a toy, but then I saw him: NEMO!! Oh boy! Such excitement and rapture! I’ve never been SO HAPPY to win something! Nemo Nemo Nemo! Ah, life is complete when you have a stuffed Nemo. Joy!!

Within about 5 minutes one thing became clear: the fish had to go. I had tucked Nemo under my arm, and every time I turned around to gape at yet another fried-food wonder, his tail would whack someone, causing me to have to use my winsome charm to get myself out of one sticky situation after another. Plus, toting him around was putting a serious cramp in my ability to carry a shakee lemonade (no alcohol at the IN State Fair!) and the bounty of fried food that I felt it was my duty to continue to sample.

So we start looking for a likely urchin to give Nemo to –I decide it has to be an only child, as we don’t want to start Nemo Wars, and there should be unmistakable enthusiasm and adoration of Nemo. How hard could that be, right?

Apparently, very hard. I thought I had a contender early on, as a little girl was walking towards me with her own little Nemo, and I pointed out that I had BIG Nemo, but before I could pawn him off on her, she was walking past, eyes on a corndog or something. Damn. I keep looking. Nada.

Finally, it’s getting late, and we’re headed for the exit to make it out before the rains hit. I’m desperately looking around for a child, any child.

Keith, I mean Stan: “Hey, how about that little girl up ahead of us? She looks like a likely prospect.”

Sweet! There IS a little girl, just her and her parents, and she looks like a potential Nemo-worshipper. I use my considerable core strength and cardio abilities to run up to them, and then come to a screeching halt so that I can walk alongside, swinging Nemo back and forth, dryland training essentially, hopefully in the little girl’s line of vision.

Me, a study in nonchalance: “Yep, just me and Nemo, walking along here, strolling on by.....”

Swing swing swing. I peek over – the parents are looking at me as if I’ve lost my mind, but the little girl is gazing at a firefly or something. Damn. I step it up, swing Nemo more such that his orange-and-white splendor catches the light from the carnival rides. This has to work....

Suddenly, I hear it: that unmistakable squeal a little girl makes when she sees something she wants.

Adorable little girl: “NEMO!!!!”

I pounce.

Me, to ALG: “Nemo? Did you say NEMO? You’re a fan, huh, you like Nemo? How would you like this big Nemo ALL to yourself? How awesome would THAT be?”

Me, to parents, babbling: “My friend won the Nemo playing a game and then we realized we had no idea what to do with him so we’ve been trying to find a small child to give him to but haven’t had any luck so please, take the Nemo, PLEASE, for the love of GOD, TAKE THE DAMN FISH!”

Or something like that. Though believe it or not, in spite of my occasional use of “salty” language, I do try to refrain from swearing in front of the wee ones, so I probably went into Amish mode and used the word “durn” instead: “TAKE THE DURN FISH!”

The handoff worked, and after many thank yous and waves, we went on our merry way, with my last sight of them being the little girl with her chubby little arms wrapped as far around Nemo as she could get them. A beautiful thing.

Of course, shortly thereafter the skies opened up and the monsoons came again, so the parents probably got stuck with lugging a big sodden fish around. But hey, that’s not my problem....

1 comment:

Tamu said...

I can't believe you were here for the state fair and I didn't know. I would have met you out there just to say hi. That's what I get for not reading your blog. I should have known you'd be there for the year of the tomato! We went twice and stayed for HOURS! I hope you enjoyed it. That place with the tomato sandwich you have a picture of had the BEST pulled pork sandwich!
I was awakened the other day by Luke and Ava furiously shaking their Red Gold banks. (Why would Red Gold torture parents with a metal bank?) I keep forgetting to put those banks in the garage.