Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Descending into farce

So the cancer thing - that wasn't good news of course, and much support and caring followed that pronouncement. And then the broken collarbone - also not a picnic. Both engendered lots of sympathy, appropriate expressions of commiseration and misery, etc. All to be expected.

Now, we all know that I got the broken collarbone thing while out doing the Dairyland Dare, an epic bike ride in southwestern WI, about a week and a half ago now. And in addition to the concussion, the bleeding on the brain, the broken clavicle, the bruises/cuts/etc., I've had the standard road rash to deal with. Which I've generally just ignored due to the overwhelmingness of everything else, what with putting bandages on this and that, dealing with the sling, and so on. Road rash, ech. Whatever.

Then last Thursday I'm toodling about with Annette, my designated tri clubber for the morning, and I mention this road rash patch that's started to ooze and how that's kind of weird. So she in all her wisdom suggests we stop by Walgreen's and ask the pharmacist what he thinks of it. Great. No problem. Except the pharmacist takes one look and suggests I see a doctor as the rash seems to portend an infection, which immediately makes me think of flesh-eating bacteria and the like. Not good.

Anyway, to make a long story short for the sole reason that I still can't type worth a damn, we go to an emergency clinic, where the verdict is this:

Poison ivy/sumac.

No, seriously.

It's okay to laugh - as I did at the clinic. I'm quite sure I'm the only person who's ever laughed when given a similar diagnosis - and then I went out to tell Annette, who snickered, as did Deanna, Bridget, etc. when I told them. All this and ALSO poison ivy???? Who makes this shit up?? I feel like I've officially "jumped the shark", so to speak, where I've lost my audience because this is just too ludicrous. Don't blame me though - blame the cosmos. Or "blame" the Good Samaritan who pulled me off the road at the DD as I lay there unconscious, because that's the only way I can think that the poison ivy could have been transferred to my skin. Not that I blame him, certainly not. Thanks for the efforts, guy. Truly.

But really - poison ivy???!! Have we or have we not entered the realm of the absurd here??

On another note, before the crash, I did have a brief conversation with Deanna about my issues with Felt, comparing my plight to her dealings with Cervelo, since she got her new bike at the same time I got Sálome. To sum:

Me, glumly: So, I suppose you haven’t any problems at all with your new Cervelo?
Deanna: Well, now that you mention it, I couldn’t quite figure out how to get my behind-the-seat bottle holder onto the seatpost, which is kind of oddly shaped because it’s maximizing the bike’s aerodynamics.
Me: Aha! So now you’re dehydrated all the time because you couldn’t make it fit.
Deanna: Well, no. Since about 90% of the guys on Slowtwitch have Cervelos, one of them figured out how to make it work using cable ties and a Dremel, and I got someone to attach it for me.
Me: Oh. Anything else?
Deanna: I did hear a rumor that I shouldn’t put my Cervelo on a trainer, that it would compromise the integrity of the carbon fiber, unless I had some special impossible-to-find skewer, or something like that.
Me: Aha! I assume you spent many hours researching this on the internet, perhaps going to the Library of Congress as well? And then gave up in inglorious yet resigned defeat, realizing that this was an insurmountable problem and that your bike would just have to collect dust over the long cold winter?
Deanna: Kind of. I googled a couple of things, but mostly I just emailed Cervelo directly.

Deanna can be so adorable in her naiveté, the poor dear.

Me: I’m guessing you got the typical automated response telling you they had gotten your email?
Deanna: Well, they did get back to me within 2 hours.
Me, nodding knowingly: With a form letter saying that your question would be taken under advisement, forwarded to the appropriate department, and replied to if deemed worthy though highly unlikely?
Deanna: I suppose. They explained in detail why having the Cervelo on a trainer wasn’t a problem and the physics behind it, and sent along some blueprints to show me exactly how the bike has been wind-tunnel tested so that there’s no drag even on a trainer.
Me: Oh.
Deanna: Oh, and they also emailed me a 3-D schematic with accompanying formulas and graphs to show me optimal skewer placement to maximize my aerodynamicness, focusing particularly on the different vectors and degrees of yaw.
Me: I see.
Deanna: I almost forgot – then today I got in the mail the diorama they sent me that has a holographic image of me as set up on a trainer in my living room, so that I can replicate it to the tiniest detail.
Me: You don’t say.
Deanna: Yeah, kinda cool, huh? And then they were insisting on setting up an appointment to have Hector the Cervelo Guy come out to set things up for me just in case, but I told them they could hold off, that I’d see if I could figure it out first.
Me: Grgl......
Deanna: Say, do you want some bonbons? My newfound Cervelo buds sent them to me as an apology for making me worry about something like this, but I’m trying to stay away from chocolate so that I get even more tiny and wee before IMMOO. But I can tell that’s not a concern for you. Hey, are you okay? You sound like you’re choking or something.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

A lull in programming

We interrupt our normal tales of triathlon greatness so that Miss Tasha (me) can recover from the latest indignity to her future fame and fortune: upon doing the epic Dairyland Dare in southwestern WI last weekend, I somehow managed to go ass-over-teakettle over my handlebars while going down a hill that (who knew?) had hidden bumps of asphalt and whatnot. And in the process sustained a severe concussion and a broken collarbone. After several days in the hospital, I am now home, but my typing skills leave much on the table, so to speak. Plus I have little short-term memory and get fuzzy about things very quickly. Insert standard joke here about "who are all you people again?"

The hilarity will begin again - with the usual tales of Deanna trying to dart off with my IV in the hospital ("but I'm recovering for IMMOO!") and so on, when I'm able to type without the agonizing shoulder pain. Until then, there's always.....umm........

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Doctors who don't suck


Today I head downtown to see 2 new and different doctors for a 2nd opinion, since the last one was crap. I’m going to my appointments with my appropriately dour and cynical friend Motria, who will step in if needed to deliver a stern invective along the lines of “where did you get your training, the Soviet Union? Pashli!” Motria and I are both of Ukrainian descent, and our people are a sturdy, stubborn lot – that whole hearty peasant stock that got our people through arctic winters. These doctors, we will break them.

My morning appointment is with the surgeon, and I’m hanging out waiting to see her when lo, who should come walking into the room but her assistant, aka a McHotty. Hello! Finally, some eye candy! Right then and there I decide, I’m in with these people. While some may make their decisions on doctors and such based on external factors like experience, etc., I’m just going with looks. Seems as good as anything.

After I chat with him, he leaves and in comes the doctor, a spritely, smiley woman who immediately wins me over when she proclaims that she can see from my address that we live close to each other, and thus she doesn’t want to get on my bad side. This speaks of brilliance on her part. Then she goes through the list of diseases I don’t have (lupus, plague, typhoid) and notes my disgustingly good health and healthy lifestyle, and proclaims how “that’s great, that’ll really help you out.”

Me: Well, it hasn’t done much for me so far.
Her: Oh, but it will, trust me – it really helps!
Me, firmly: I’ve already decided - I’m embracing a carcinogenic lifestyle: maraschino cherries. Tab. Charred meats.
Her, laughing: Oh noooooo. But please, no hot dogs!
Me, even more firmly: Charred hot dogs.

She covers her face with her hands. But best of all, she then says she sees no reason why I would need a mastectomy, that she can operate to remove the lump and then have the plastic surgeon do whatever fixing and reconstruction is necessary. Hallelujah! At least I no longer feel like I’m in a Monty Python skit: “Oh, we’ll lop off some body parts, you won’t mind. It’ll just be a flesh wound. Your feet hurt? We’ll just take those off too! No sense waiting for bigger problems to develop, might as well be proactive. What was that you were saying about headaches?”

After deciding that I’ll see the plastic surgeon on Tuesday – and she warns me that plastic surgeons are “a different breed” and that I should take what he says with a grain of salt – we agree to meet again next Monday to figure out a plan, after I’ve seen the other doctors. I find Motria hanging out in the waiting room, being held hostage to a man and his mother as he reads aloud to her the extremely long questionnaire: “Mom, have you ever had shingles? No? How about VD?” Oy.

We then go downstairs for lunch and coffee. Here I will note that at the Bangs Lake triathlon on Sunday, I was toodling along on my bike and lo, what should come darting out from the bushes on the far end of the street and go running across RIGHT in front of my bike? Yes, a long-haired pure black cat. At that point, I raised my hand in the classic WTF gesture and said “A black cat?? Oh, come ON!” If this were an After School Special on tv, with me being played by a plucky yet cynical Ellen Page, the writers would be jeered out of the room. “Nice job, Mr. Oh-So-Creative Screenwriter,” the producers would sneer. “What’s your next grim portending of doom, 666 written in steam in the bathroom mirror? A lurking raven? An eerie red glow emanating from the basement?” And the writer would flee in shame, deservedly so.

So with that hovering in the background, Motria and I head to the Argo tea counter in the lobby so that I can get a latte and she a chocolate croissant. And when the tea-ista rings up the purchases, the total comes to......$6.66 Really. “No, that just won’t do,” I proclaim firmly. “Motria!” I bark. “I’m getting you a drink – what kind of tea do you want?” I’m certainly not taking any chances these days. Would you?

My afternoon doctor, the oncologist, is also a pixie-sized female, and she too agrees with the surgeon, and is shocked and rather flabbergasted that the first doctors said that chemo wouldn’t work on my kind of tumor to shrink it. Apparently that’s just not true. I leave there feeling much more optimistic about the whole thing, if one can say such a thing about a future operation that will still leave me disfigured. I guess it’s all relative.

And doctors who do....


I head downtown again, alone this time, figuring, how bad can this be? I merely need to remain ever vigilant against an over-zealous doctor who’ll probably want to give me the Pamela Anderson-esque rack and other upgrades while he’s at it. I can handle this. No more surgery than necessary, no new chest. Period.

After waiting an hour, I finally see the doctor, who proceeds to tell me that my tumor is rather small and so he thinks I might be happy with how I look after it’s removed, without major reconstruction. Huh? I’m rather indignant, that somehow he seems to think I don’t deserve a great chest. And while I do have the perfect bosom, it’s not exactly huge in its perfection, and I can’t really see how removing a big chunk of it will leave me delighted with a lumpy/misshapen breast. I tell him this.

Me: I really can’t see that being the case.
Him: Well, it’s a small tumor so you might not even notice!
Me: 2.9 cm is considered big in the world of breast cancer – that’s why it’s stage 2. I really can’t see being happy with it as is.
Him: Well, if we do wind up doing reconstruction our options are implants or more likely taking part of a muscle from your back, the latissimus.
Me: But that won’t work – that’ll affect my swimming ability, won’t it? I do triathlons.
Him: Oh, for the kind of splashing around most people do, that won’t matter. Only people who are competitive need to be concerned.

“Splashing around”??? I look at him and think, “Deanna? Is that you?” And contemplate reaching over to see if I can peel off a mask, like in every Scooby Doo show since the beginning of time. Hmph. It’s one thing for Deanna to mock my swimming, another for this clown to do it.

Me: I aspire to greatness in my LONG-COURSE triathlons. That’s a lot of swimming.
Him: Well, you doing a lap or two, playing around in the pool, it really won’t matter.
Me, gritting my teeth: We’re not talking a LAP OR TWO. I do Ironman distance – that’s a 2.4 mile swim.
Him: Oh, we all have to make decisions that we might not be entirely happy with. There are trade-offs. But then again, you might just be happy with how things look anyway!

AARGHHHH!!! Since Deanna has decided that the whole cancer thing is a lie and is instead just a front for my impending full-scale plastic surgery, I certainly didn’t do a very good job of finding a plastic surgeon, now did I? I mean, if there’s no upgrade, what’s the damn point??

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ramping up

In my never-ending quest to provide useful, fact-based information and essential training tips to my faithful reader(s), I would like to note the following, based on my motto of "doing the stupid things" etc.:

Doing a 100-mile ride the day before a race is perhaps NOT such a good idea. I know, who knew? Well, everyone but me, apparently. This is the complete transcript of many such conversations I had during today's Bangs Lake triathlon:

Me, sadly: So I've discovered that my theory on ramping up is being disproved.
Colleen, Bridget, et al: Shocking!

The next time I decide to ride that slowly, I'll just put a basket on Sálome, toss in a crusty baguette and a jug of wine, and not pretend that I'm actually "racing." Though at least my Catwoman costume was a big hit with one and all - which brings to mind another important axiom: vinyl headgear is truly not breathable. I know, I know........who knew?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sálome weeps

My faithful reader(s) will remember back to that dark, dark day back somewhere around March, whereby yours truly, shiny new bike in hand, proceeded to make the colossal mistake of peeling off those seemingly useless plastic stickers on Sálome’s fork that did nothing but mar her shiny perfection. Or so I thought. Apparently, according to Felt, they’re on there to “protect the fork module jib-jab from the chain capacitator” or something along those lines. Whatever. Point being, I peeled, and off came shiny gloss with it. AAAAAAGGGHHH! That Day of Anguish will live on in infamy.

(I will note that SuperDave himself, the Felt guy who posts on Slowtwitch, suggests that "Those yellow warning stickers should peel right off w/o much fuss or damage to the bike's finish." And I say, what are yellow stickers but clear stickers with a splash of kicky color? DON'T DO IT, people, JUST SAY NO!)

I mentioned my foible to dear Kevin at Get a Grip, noting that Sálome now had a Ghastly Unsightly Blemish (GUB) and I felt duty-bound to try to fix her, and could he recommend anything along the lines of, say, a blowtorch and airplane glue? Kevin, being the forward-thinking guy that he is, decided instead that he’d call Felt to sort this out, whereupon he discovered that while I may be a dumbass, a) I am far from the only dumbass out there, and b) this is a common problem among us dumbasses and our Felts, as the Oompa Loompa Sticker-Placing Factory seems to have glued those damn stickers on at some point. Or something like that. So Felt agreed that this was a defect on their part, and that they would replace the fork. Someday. They didn’t consider this a “priority,” and would get to it when they could.

In an amazing show of restraint that is totally unlike me, I did NOT call GAG every week to ask them if they had gotten my fork in. No, I decided I’d wait patiently, with the result being that it’s now August and no fork has shown itself. So when I was at GAG last week for a fit tweak, I brought it up with Kevin, who was suitably appalled and said he’d get in touch with the Felt guys.

Lo and behold, 2 days ago I got a message from Kevin, which went something like this (with the appropriate subtext):

“Tasha, good news, I talked to the guys at Felt.” (We adore you, you know that.)
“Reminded them of the fork issue that they said they’d fix.” (No really, we do.)
“Told them I wanted this resolved.” (In part that’s because you didn’t bug us constantly about the fork thing. Which surprised us, quite frankly. We had a pool going and everything. Matt gave you 3 hours before you started calling us.)
“I had to escalate this to their Regional Sales Manager, who kept giving me the runaround.” (I gave you a week. The quiet guy who works here, the guy whose name even we can’t remember, he thought you’d surprise us. He won. So you cost the rest of us some money - but, I assure you, we still adore you.)
“I’ve even considered dropping Felt as a dealer because of this stuff.” (We’re now the exclusive dealer for Cervelo in Chicago, so who cares about Felt? Felt who?)
“But the good news is that they finally agreed to ship a new fork, and it should be here in 2-3 days.” (Hallelujah, angel chorus!)

So I was happy that soon Sálome would be restored to her original perfection, and we could continue to ride along for hours without worrying that someone would notice the GUB and wonder at the content of our character. But then, today, this:

(phone rings)

Me: Hello?
Eric: Tasha, it’s Eric, from Get a Grip. (I got the short straw and had to call you.)
Me: What’s up?
Eric: Well, it’s about the fork. We heard from another guy today at Felt who told us that the Regional guy lied, basically. No fork is on the way. (Please please please let the other phone ring. Let someone pull the fire alarm. Let Ed McMahon walk in the front door with one of those big checks so that I can get out of this phone call.)
Me, frostily: I’m sorry, there must be a bad connection. I thought you said something about Sálome not being restored to her shiny perfection, but I’m sure that can’t be the case.
Eric, practically weeping as he blurts out: They said that you can have any fork you want and they’ll get it for you right away and they want you to call them. (Please say you’ll call them, anyone but me having to have this conversation. It’s bad enough in general having to give bad news to the Shining Star of our clientele, i.e. you, but please don't unleash the temper, oh god, your temper. Shudder.)

Now, at this point, any guy would probably jump at the chance to pick out some fancy high-tech fork, the latest in all that is carbon fiber, etc. But I’m a girl, and we want things that are pretty and that match.

Me: But if I get a different fork, it won’t match, right?
Eric: Right. (Sigh. I knew it wouldn’t work.)
Me: Then I don’t really have anything to talk to them about. I just want the same fork that’ll match Sálome. I don’t get why this is so hard for them. Slight bottleneck at the fork-making emporium? The young Taiwanese factory children are enamored of using Felt B12 forks as slingshots or water dousers? What is it?
Eric: We don’t get it either. They can find a fork somewhere, I’m sure. We’re thinking about dropping them as a dealer because of all this. (Pleasepleaseplease just don’t be mad at me, or us, be mad at them. Cervelo doesn’t do this to us, ever. Oh, why didn’t I take that job on the cod fishing boat in the Netherlands while I had the chance?)

So Eric got stuck with the task of telling the Felt people that I don’t want another fork, I want the one that matches. If they have fork problems, just get a fork from a bike in a showroom somewhere, take this one back to the factory and repaint it with more shiny gloss, then get the Oompa Loompas to glue on those plastic stickers again so that you can start this fiasco again with some other person, NOT ME. Honestly. You’d think Felt would figure out the benefits to having someone of my stature in the triathlon world (ahem, 4th place in my AG at Evergreen Lake) riding around on one of their bikes, looking sporty and athletic and promoting their brand. Not to mention the tens of readers I attract here on a monthly basis, reading about the adventures of Sálome and I in the hinterlands. But I guess they’re too busy designing the Felt B2R 2009 or whatever the hell it is, and this year’s customers are next year’s chopped liver. Hmph.

Hey, I know! Maybe, since Felt has twiddled their thumbs on this and they now seem to be having a tough time tracking down a fork that they could have sent me 5 MONTHS AGO, they can take this fork and fix it.......perhaps while the girl with cancer who enjoys nothing more than riding her bike for hours on end is recovering from future surgery and thus unable to ride? Yeah, that’s it. Brilliant. Idiots. Why don't they try to kick my little dog too now, while they're at it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Steelhead glory

Because I know that Deanna is obsessed with tracking my training plan so that she can attempt to incorporate elements of it into her own IM training, I called her up as soon as possible after Steelhead, to regale her with my usual tales of victory and greatness in the wonderful sport of triathlon.

Deanna: Hello?
Me: Hey, I’m calling you to tell you my tales of triathlon victory and greatness.
Deanna: Of course. How did your race go?
Me: As well as one would think. A blazing 5:30 time. Could’ve been a bit faster, but I didn’t want to push myself too much for what was really just a “B” race.
Deanna: A 5:30? Seriously?
Me: Yep. Started things off with a 20 minute swim time.
Deanna: wait a minute. MY half-IM swim is at best about 30 minutes. Did you hitch a ride on a boat or something?
Me: Don’t be silly. I’m just that good. Okay, so technically the swim was a 2.1 mile run since they cancelled the swim, but clearly they felt the 2.1 mile run was the equivalent of a 1.2 mile swim. So I just call it my 20-minute swim time.
Deanna: So you didn’t do a swim.
Me: Didn’t you hear what I just said? Yes, I did the swim, but as a run.
Deanna: But that.....well, fine. Whatever. How was the bike?
Me: Ah, I shined on the bike, as always. My only problem was that you know how I have those foot problems where about 30 miles in my feet go numb, and about 70-80 miles in I get burning agonizing foot pain and then I can’t walk? Well, that all happened immediately when I started to ride. I’m not sure, but I think maybe the fact that I had my breakfast of a cheese stick and Pepsi at 4AM and then didn’t start the race until 8:30AM might have had something to do with it. Low on electrolytes or something. It was weird though – I was fine when I rode the course on Thursday and Friday other than the usual foot numbness.
Deanna: You rode the whole course on both Thursday and Friday? Have you ever heard of, say, tapering?
Me: I’m anti-taper. I believe in ramping up. Obviously it worked, kind of.
Deanna: So how did you manage the ride?
Me: By gritting my teeth and sucking it up and not letting any fireant-esque excruciating foot pain stop me, no sirree! It was 3 hours of hell. No, make that 2:58 of hell. At least I beat my bike time from last year – basically because I wanted to be done with the bike. So I essentially averaged 19 mph on the bike. Supposedly the bike course was 1.5 miles short, but even so, if you tacked that on my bike time still would have been a 2:59. I even got a compliment by some cute guy on his Cervelo on the final stretch, who complimented my “great bike split” as he went zooming past me. Ah, I continue to bask in the glory of it all.
Deanna, mumbling: I’d think you’d be used to it by now.
Me: Whazzah?
Deanna: Never mind. Okay, so.....what then?
Me: What do you mean, what then? I finished in a blaze of glory!
Deanna: What about the second run?
Me: Second run??
Deanna: The 13.1 mile run, you moron!
Me: Oh, that. I decided that I had already proved my point, and I didn’t want to compromise the integrity of my athletic endeavors by bastardizing the concept of the duathlon, like everyone else seemed to be doing, tacking on another run. After all, we all know that du = two. In this case, run-bike. Anything else would have been redundant.
Deanna: duathlon is a run-bike-run!
Me: Puh-leeze, how does that even make sense? Is a pentathlon a horseback ride-archery-skeetshooting-skiing-archery-horseback ride-snowshoeing? No, of course not, it’s ride-archery-shoot-ski-snowshoe. Penta = 5, just like du = 2. I don’t know what the hell everyone else was doing, but I did a duathlon.
Deanna: how’d you get a time of 5:30 if you didn’t do the second run?
Me: Oh, I just extrapolated using my time on the first run. With my blazing speed of 10 minute miles, I calculated that out to a 2:10 half-marathon split, and voila! Simple, really. I knew from the moment I woke up that I was on track for a 5:30 or less, and that certainly turned out to be the case.
Deanna, breathing heavily.
Me: Say, did I catch you in the middle of a run or something? You sound a bit peaked – you don’t want to overdo it. Please, don’t keep trying to imitate me – I tell everyone that my training regimen is NOT for amateurs!
Me: Oh, how did your little ride go? Didn’t you go toodle around on the Madison course or something?
Deanna: Tood....I RODE the entire Madison course in the 89 degree heat, that’s what I did.
Me: You’re so cute. Did you also average 19 mph, like me?
Deanna: On those hills?? Are you completely insan....
Me, interrupting: Oh, it’s okay, forget I asked. I always forget how tough it can be for people without my own innate athletic abilities. Just because I can easily conquer the hills and mountains of Benton Harbor, MI, doesn’t mean that can be replicated by others. Say.... my offer to help you out with your training still stands. If we start working together now, we might be able to get you up to half-IM readiness by, say, next summer. And then an IM in 2010. We all know how tough the long course stuff is. What do you thi....hello? Helloooo?