Sunday, March 28, 2010

On the Topic of White

This morning I realized I have not addressed my hair for months.
I am sporting a mop.
I like it.
It falls here and there and takes on a different look daily.
But today I realized I might be looking a bit too moppy.

"Is it professional?" I thought.

Umm, no.

When I talk to people, I notice their eyes drift upwards.
when I talk to women, I notice they are talking to the white strands in my hair. Taken individually, these white strands are rather pretty. They are pure in color and glisten when the light hits.

In 1995, I remember stopping at a store in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, and the proprietress was a petite, beautiful woman with enormous green eyes, fair unlined skin, and a mane of snow white hair. She stood out in that simple setting. In my mind the whiteness of her hair echoes the snow of the landscape, but it was summer, and the roads were lined with the pink blooms of the ubiquitous fireweed and the landscape was green.

Having white hair marks you.
It labels you as someone who you are and at the same time, as someone who you are not.
There is no white hair among the women I work with. Not a strand.
And yet, I am one of the youngest.
And when the eyes drift upward, it labels me.

I work with an elderly gentleman, a nonagenarian.
He thought I was 28.
I'll add 10 years for kindness. Another 5 for eyesight. A few more lighting. But then, I guess I'll have to subtract a few, because we work up close and personal, face to face--so I can give him the support and facilitation he needs to reach his goals.
When I told him my age, he smiled with delight and said, "Why you're middle aged!"
Which made me wonder if my age put me in the category of available women.
Especially when I asked him what he was going to do for his upcoming birthday and he said, "Start chasing women!"
He is very polite, doesn't have a mean bone in him, a great conversationalist, open-minded, makes me laugh, and always tells a good joke.
Not a bad catch when you think about it.

When I went to my high school reunion, the men looked twice as old as the women. They had gray hair and weathered skin. I came home and told T to start using face creme. Hah. He doesn't see the point. But, then what would you expect from a man who spends 10 hours riding over 100 miles "just for fun" on a mountain bike.

I haven't figured out the point of my white hair to me. Whether I should pay attention to the occasional white strand, knowing that proliferation is in my future. Or forget about it, as I usually do.

It's just when the eyes drift upward, and the subtle subtext of the interaction turns to what's on my head, that I remember I look a little different.

There's not a whole lot of white out there anymore.

(Note: This post is dedicated to Misty, who on her most recent birthday, reconfirmed herself as a brave and embracing woman.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lesson From A Car Break-In

My car just got broken into, but it could have been worse.

I parked my car in the "secure" fenced and locked lot at work and was in the building from 4:30 to 5:20 pm and ‘they’ got my car. Smash and grab. Window gone. Left all my working files, fortunately.
This is what they got:
Very old cell phone that was a cast off from T and needed to be replaced--now canceled so you can't call me there.
My very new work phone--so, not my worry. I told work and they told me they would take care of it in the morning. T just told me he called my work number and someone answered so he said (in a deep voice), "This is __ (insert work name), we have cameras and we know who you are." Silly guy, but it made me laugh.
My credit card. I only carry one at a time, just in case. By the time I called the credit card company at 5:30 pm--there was a charge on it from KFC. Seriously, KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN??!! $20. At first I thought, “What a bunch of Brats!" Then, I thought, "Maybe it was some homeless, hungry person," and felt a little sympathy. I can be such an idiot sometimes.
My driver’s license. How is some Brat going to pass for someone of my age? But, who's to say.
My debit card. Cancelled.
A very old and fraying purse that needed to be replaced--I just hadn't gotten around to it.
Miscellaneous this and that: A hair clip, mirror, comb, lotion, Burt's Bees lip balm; water bottle; a compact and really cute pill dispenser for vitamins that I got at Run4The Zoo a few years back. A water bottle that I liked. All replaceable.
Keys, keys, and more keys. Lots of keys. Fortunately, I use a P.O. Box, so not traceable to my home. Fortunately, I have a partner who has duplicates.

I felt pretty naked without a mobile phone.
I had to wait by the car in this deserted parking area without a phone. Felt funny. Realized how connected we all have become. Everyone I called (to cancel cards, etc.) wanted a phone number.
Well, too bad.
I'm off the grid for now.

The police officer that came to take report got all of my info then walked me around the car. The first thing he said, after getting my info, was, "You can't be __ (insert age)." I was so startled I forgot how old I was, got confused, and almost said, "I'm __ (insert age 10 years older)." Don't ask me why. Why are we talking about my age anyway?

I keep trying to think if I've missed something. Something of inordinate value must be gone. I can't have been the victim of this somewhat violent event, with glass shattered everywhere, and gotten off this easily. My cycling shoes and favorite non-leaking goggles are still in my workout bag, along with one of my favorite workout outfits--replaceable, but still I'm hard to fit. My library card was on the dash and left behind. My car was covered in glass, but I actually use disposable liners for part of the car, to keep it clean for work related items, so rolling up the disposable liners and tossing out the glass was easy.

In the past, I would have felt devastated and violated. Of course, there was the initial shock. But, after I took stock, it really felt more like a dip in the fabric of life. T is more upset about it than I am. Wanted to cancel our upcoming trip (3 days, camping out, sleeping in, rock climbing by day, open air sunsets and a fire by night). Said, "We have things to take care of." For my part, I'm happy to duct tape a piece of plastic over the window and move on. My windshield needs replacing, so I guess now's the time.
Yes, it will cost me money.
But no harm done is priceless.
Of course it may be that I’ve just become inured from too many personal experiences, but what I really think it is, is that time and personal experience truly teaches us what is important in life.

I know I will go out tomorrow, and I will help a 92-year old man learn to walk again, and a 40-year old woman regain her strength after a month on life support. I will work with a man who is pretty far out on the fringe of acceptance, who will make me laugh, but then grab onto me for support when he loses his balance. I will rub the pain out of a foot that has multiple bone breaks after a motor vehicle accident. I will teach and encourage and give people hope and skills for a better future, even as they face loss of ability and a different future.

That’s what I do.

I only wish that the person who stole from me might know that the person he stole from could be the very person he might need, without bias or judgment, in the future.

But, then again, the person who stole from me is probably a Brat.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Long, Slow Training Day: The Duke City Marathon

Today I did my first marathon.

T told me to go slow.
He signed us up by telling me that this was to be a training day. No racing, just training pace.
That was easy to do.

I was so tired when I woke up this morning, that I was almost unable to get out of bed. As I reluctantly fought my way to wakefulness, I had this feeling of deja vu--then realized this was the same feeling I used to have when I was young and would stay up too late. As I gained consciousness, I realized I felt young again. How funny is that?

For a number of reasons, I haven't slept well in days.
Combine this with being ill last week, not giving myself enough recovery time so that I became ill again this week, 3 days of total rest this week (Mon,Tu, Wed), then working out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday--and, yes, I was tired.

Not only was I tired, but I woke up sore.
I had gone for an easy ride on the flats the day before, but the wind made it difficult. Plus, I had ridden low and aero for practice, and my hips were letting me know they could feel the difference.

So I groaned my way out of bed, telling myself that Time marches on and soon the day would be over.

I found it funny that at 6:00 am, as one of the first people to arrive, some yAhoo had to use his horn in the parking garage. How fast do you have to go to get to nowhere?

The race started at 7 am, so it was nice to be out of the cold in the "warm up" area in the large banquet hall in the convention center.

We picked up bags for the clothing drop off early, which allowed us to drop off our warm clothes fast 5 minutes before the start.

It was nice not to care where we seeded ourselves. Time didn't matter today--except in my case, I just wanted it to pass.

We started out slow and easy. T took off after a few blocks. I felt pretty poor for the first mile, then settled in. Sort of. I was far more hydrated than I realized, since usually I'm coming off a swim and a bike beforehand. I used every portopot available, and had some uncomfortable miles in between, eyeing every bush and wondering if I should use one. My hands were so frozen by mile 5, that "clothing management" was difficult and I couldn't get my shorts to "unroll" after clumsily trying to pull them up. I always think of Misty and her inhaler vs. the portopot incident, so I was slow and careful--even though I didn't have any pockets--so probably my brain was frozen, too.

The nutrition went easy. Water initially, with a little Gatorade for the first hour, a gel at the first and second hours, a 2X caffeinated gel at mile 16, and an extra sodium with no caffeine gel with 5 miles to go. I kept the fluids to primarily water, with some Gatorade as I neared the top of each hour. It worked well. What didn't work well was the banana that they had at the turnaround. Clunk. Like lead in my stomach. Brown and icky. Probably chopped the night before and left out on a counter somewhere. Really bad. So, now I know at least one of the reasons why people develop tummy troubles during big/long events. That one took several miles to get over.

I spent an inordinate amount of brain power trying to figure out what "training pace" was. All the way out to the turn around--when I finally got tired of the whole "slow and easy, I'm going to be out here for days" pace, and decided to pick it up a bit. The problem was I knew my training pace for an easy 9-12 miler, but had no idea what my training pace was for a marathon--since I'd never run the distance before--and especially not when my body was that tired.

So I booked it back in a negative split, passing all those poor people who'd gone out harder than me and were now walking, and trying not to be competitive, because 1) T told me not to, and 2) at this point, what would be the point? I knew I might pay for it later, but it felt good to stop worrying about my pace. My miles were completely consistent--same time for each mile (slow) all the way out, and same time for each mile (slightly faster) all the way back. Add in innumerable potty stops, and walking each aid station, and I had a finish time of 5 hours and change. The best part was finishing with a strong pace and finding out that running a marathon is doable. One day, I think I might actually want to run one for real and find out what my marathon time would be. But, for now, with no taper, sore, recently ill, and tired--it's 5 hours and change--and that's good enough for me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Just a Thought

Some years back I owned a tiny Toyota Corolla station wagon. Cute as a button. The engine came from a Corolla sedan that had been rear ended by a truck--engine good, rear trunk bad--and I found the body from the comment of a passing stranger who said his neighbor had a shell of the same kind of car sitting in storage in his garage --body only, no engine, perfect.

As an aside, and just in case your wondering, the sedan was $35, and the station wagon body cost $90.

I owned that car for several years. One time, I went out to the car and it had two flat tires, front and rear on the same side. Another time the engine died and I and a friend had to push it up a hill (it was a tiny car). By the time I was done with it, it had an over-heating problem, and I had to drive with the heater on (use the defroster if you have to do this, to keep the hot air out of your face), in the dead of summer, and keep the speed under 55 mph, just to cool the engine enough for a one hour drive.

The engine was simple. No computers, electronic ignition, or fuel injection.
I used to do my own basic work. Oil, filter, pan, wrench. Feeler gauge, distributor cap, rotor, etc, spark plugs, wires sometimes, wrench, and rag. Blow the air filter out with the compressed air at the gas station.

I remember one day doing a tune up.
Finding TDC and setting the timing.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine.
A day later he showed up at my house with some electronic gizmo that I had never seen, heard of, needed, or wanted, to check my timing.
Me, being who I am, I let him do it. I remember thinking why does this guy have to rely on a machine to figure out if the timing is right?
He told me he was checking the dwell. Huh?
Then I remember him looking either surprised or sheepish, probably from relying on that unnecessary gizmo to tell me what I already knew, that my timing was fine--just a whisper from where that machine said it should be.

I was young and I thought my friend was kind of an a**, but not enough to do anything more than let his actions pass.

* * * * *

A few weeks ago, I started work with a new client. To get to his house you drive up a long, narrow easement, bordered closely by fencing on either side, past two houses, and park in a small space that doesn't allow for a turn around. The first time I got ready to leave, the men of the house came out with me and made several comments about people having difficulty backing up and running into the fence. Since I work from appointment to appointment, I was in a bit of a hurry to get to my next house. But the men kept hovering, commenting about the difficulty of backing down the long driveway. I tried to make placating, polite "I'm going now" noises, but then, as I felt pressed for time, and in an effort to move things along, I finally said, "Well, let's just see how I do" (an unexpected phrase for me), got in the car, and took off. At a fairly good rate of speed. Dead center. Nary a scratch. Backing up just a bit faster than expected, partially to allay their doubts but probably more just to show them.

* * * * *

Yesterday, T and I went for a bike ride. Somehow I dropped my chain going flat and slow over the Alameda bridge. So, I got off the bike, replaced the chain, and just as I was spinning the crank to make sure the chain was set, T pulled up and said, "Hey, that was fast." To which I replied, without thinking or hesitation, "You know, sometimes you guys treat us women like we're imbeciles." Really. I said that. And T laughed. Which is a good thing, because those words even surprised me.

But they got me thinking.
And I remembered years back to the car tune up.

And, after all these years, I finally wondered, do you think if I had been a guy doing the tune up, would this other guy have brought over his gadget, unasked, to check my work?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Elephant Butte

Pack fill.
That's what T calls it.
I'd never heard the term before, but it's when you don't bring up the rear--and you're certainly not up at the front.
It sounds anonymous and generic. No recognition of the effort it takes to finish and no indication of place--just a space occupying reference, which is how I felt after finishing the race today. Pack fill.

Of course, I should know better by now. I'm not, and never have been, an athlete on the sharp end.
Meaning, I don't lead.
I plod, and work, and eke out every minute of gain that I make.
I am a model of economy of success.

Where I live, I sometimes have the opportunity to be a big fish in a little pond--but only because the pond is so small. The big fish don't show up to the little races, because they have bigger ponds to contend with--which makes it easy to forget who and where I am.

But not today.

Today was actually impressive because more big fish showed up to race at one time than I have ever seen in a local race.
What a reality check.
I had actually given up an earlier, smaller race to opt in on this event--the Elephant Butte Triathlon--in order to get more race time in the water, and because I wanted a free weekend for longer mileage just before our foray to Colorado for the Harvest Moon Half.

The Elephant Butte Triathlon is a sort of Olympic distance event with a swim that's longish at 1700 yards (almost Half IM distance), a bike that's 26.5 miles, and a 10k that's short 2/10's for a 6 mile run. Odd. I didn't know it was one of our premier local events. Nor did I know it was that hilly. Or that there was approximately a mile of sandy trail running involved. I was just focused on more swim practice and getting through the swim.

Which I did.
And with NO panic.
The first time this year that I felt OK in the water.

I did start off very slow, in anticipation of the onset of panic. And then every time I started to pull harder and settle into a rhythm, I would bring myself up short and worry that I might get carried away and tip myself into a panic, but in the end, it was just a decent, calm, but longish swim, with a bit of chop from passing swimmers, and some difficulty sighting due to the rising sun, and the lack of a buoy to mark the finishing chute.

I attribute the success of this swim to a number of factors--
-that I had just experienced a nightmare of a swim two weeks prior, and lived through it,
-that the water was exceptionally flat and warm at 74 degrees, which allowed for wetsuits without the corresponding coldness to take my breath away,
-that I took the advice of Shirley to heart about my sighting difficulties and did some preparatory scouting to help me find my way,
-that with T coming home at the end of summer, I've finally been able to get in some open water swim time on the weekends.
But most of all, I think my lack of panic had a lot to do with feeling surrounded by a group of understanding people--people who come in from all parts of the state who I've seen at these races for years; team members and training partners for those longer mileage rides we've been doing; friends who would come to my rescue in any way, shape, or form, if I really needed it. It was like I finally realized that if I didn't make the d*rn swim, it wouldn't matter and my friends (and fellow triathlon and exercise groupies) would be there to pick me up anyway.

It was a nice feeling, and I finished the 1700 yards successfully in a predictably slow time of 46:49, the 7th slowest out of a field of 80 women.

The outcome of the race was another story.

Because I have been doing longer distance training, I forgot that the Olympic distance is still one to be respected. I actually thought of it more as a "sprint" type race, because the distances were so much less than what I have been doing for training. Which meant that I went too hard on the bike and didn't eat or drink enough.

My time for 26.5 miles of some fairly decent hills was 1:23:58 or 18.6 mph, for the 9th fastest female bike. A good showing for the terrain, and I passed a number of people--many of whom passed me back on the run.

My run time for 6 miles of more hills was 1:00:14 hours, not bad for me, but oh so frustrating because I just don't see how people can run so smoothly and fast, passing me with ease, while I plod and fatigue. It was here that my "sprint" perspective came back to bite me--as I realized I had left my legs out on the bike course and I just couldn't pick up the pace the way I wanted to, which told me how tired I was. Several of my AG competitors passed me with ease. Somewhere between mile 4 and 5 I realized I was hungry and subsequently realized I might bonk before I got to the next aid station. It's bad when you're asking for gels to finish the last mile.

In the end I placed 9th in my Age Group. In any other Age Group, I would have placed 1st through 6th. But not my Age Group. Ahead of me were women whom I totally respect and admire and who compete on the sharp end at a level I can only dream of, and they are my age. That speaks volumes to me and on so many levels.

Still, I had a successful swim, which really was the whole point of the race, and most of all, I enjoyed seeing everyone and all the hugs. I can't say that I don't wish I was faster, and leaner, and taller--because I do--but in the end, it's really all about myself and what triathlon training and competition means to me--not how I compare to every other human out there. On another note, I can't believe I only earned 2 points towards the SW Challenge series, when Mark B so kindly pointed out before the race that I "only" needed 3 points to make the podium!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Harvest Moon Triathlon

This year, driving up to Colorado, getting ready for our general annual long race, I felt like I didn't know what I was doing.

Like I hadn't done a long race in so long, I couldn't remember how to prepare or what to expect.

I couldn't remember what clothes I usually wear, or what nutrition to use, or how to pace myself.

My last long race was the Longhorn 70.3, a year ago in Austin. A long, hot, miserable affair with a mis-marked swim, a pretty but draft happy bike, and an unappealing run. I know others liked it, but it just wasn't the race for me.

This year, I haven't been racing much. Nothing longer than a sprint (except the F1 which was twice the distance of a sprint)--6 races spread out over 8 months.

We signed up for the Harvest Moon Half as a training race--just a day in between our other training days, to give us a benchmark in terms of our training for a race later in the year. We didn't taper or rest much--a day off for the drive, a light "lets check out the swim and pick up our packet" day, then the race:

Part 1: In which I can't swim.

You would think that I could by now, since I started swimming after a gymnastics injury in college, lived in Hawaii and swam almost daily before going to work, and have been doing triathlons fairly consistently since 2001.

You would think.

But, I can't.

During a triathlon event, the combination of a timed course, my own expectations and apprehensions, and what I tend to think of as a primitive psychological revolt against swimming out into the middle of a large body of water, all come together to make what is quite possibly the worst experience of my life--what I tend to think of as my own personal hell on earth--which I seem to do repeatedly, and by choice, year after year.

This year, in an effort to improve and mitigate the panic, I have spent more time in the water--ramping up the yardage since March, but being somewhat stymied lately by time constraints.

While my sprint race swims have definitely improved, and on these familiar courses, the panic has decreased, large bodies of water and open water swimming continue to throw me into fight or flight overdrive.

It is a truly grim experience.

For the Harvest Moon, I was in the first wave, with the pros, Athena's, and masters women. I felt fine during the warm up. Even the line of buoys looked doable--I could count 4 large orange buoys straight out into the lake to the turn around and figured I could just swim buoy to buoy and count them down without too much difficulty.
But then the gun went off.
I always wait a minute to let the roiling of the water from the other swimmers quiet down before I start. Then I start a little ways back and out to the side, so I am in the quiet water and the next wave doesn't mow me down. But those pros disappeared quick. And in a few strokes I was by myself, and suddenly those buoys looked really far away, and somehow I swam too far to the right, and I felt pretty isolated and tiny.

So I looked up, in my isolated, tiny state of mind, sighted, and tried not to panic.

I put my head down, and swam as slow as I could and took gentle, quiet breaths, to try and prevent the hyperventilation that comes with the panic. I started aiming at a leftward angle to get to the first buoy. I didn't want to take my head out of the water to sight, because once I do, there is this overwhelming urge to keep my head above water, and it is very difficult to start swimming again. Getting my head out of the water and into unlimited air feels good, but of course, it doesn't get me out of the middle of the lake. So, I swam and tried to control myself.

I continued angling slightly leftward--or so I thought. Instead, I made a 90 degree turn and swam parallel to the shore. I was still not lifting my head and trying to get my breathing under control. When I did lift my head, the Police boat was idling nearby, and I could see I was directly in line with the first buoy--I just hadn't made any headway out towards it. T tells me that initially, as soon as I swam off course to the right, the Police boat started following me. I was still feeling pretty tiny and isolated and a bit disoriented, but I was thankful the buoy was a straight shot in front of me, so I put my head down and started swimming directly out toward that large orange marker.

By this time, I'd spent the first 5 minutes of the race not going anywhere, and I was so close to shore that I could hear the verbal "go" for the next wave. Of course, all the good swimmers wanted the same line I was taking, and shortly thereafter, I was engulfed by large people, focused swimmers determined to give it their best, and the water got choppy and I got hit--all while still trying to get my breathing and panic under control. All I wanted to do was stop. I was still close enough to shore I could have sat up and breast-stroked back. I wanted to call it. Wave my arms in the air. Take my head out of the water. Stop the fright, turn off the alarm in my body, get a normal breath of air and stop the shallow panicked breaths which made me feel like I suffocating.
But I didn't.
And I still don't know why.
Some bull-headed part of me continued to lift one arm out of the water and then the other, while mentally, I fought a battle that felt like it's going to tear my head in two. Somehow, I didn't let myself stop.
And some how, I continued against every instinct and physiological signal from my body--waiting for that time when I would finally settle in and smooth out, and begin to swim in comfort.
But for this race, that never came.

I swam, using short breaths, short strokes, barely moving, just surviving. I watched the yellow swim caps go by, then the light blue, red, and bright orange. Every now and then I'd start feeling better, and then someone would nail me with a stray stroke, and I'd start all over again. At one point, after the turn-around buoy, I did another strange 90 degree left hand turn (which is strange since I always pull to the right), and I looked up to wonder why everyone was swimming in such an odd direction. I started to turn left to join them, then realized I had crossed mid line and was about to join the crowd still making their way out to the turn-around buoy. I had this image of being caught in this endless maelstrom of swimmers going round and round the course and never reaching the end. I almost smiled, but I was also getting tired, and the water was getting more choppy and I still had a long ways to go.

Two buoys out from shore, over 40 minutes into the swim, I just wanted out of the water. I was tired. The adrenaline has kicked my butt. I felt like I couldn't move well. I was swimming like a snail. Somehow, people kept passing me--although I was sure that by now I was the last swimmer--and the water never quieted down.

When I did exit, there was almost no one around. My fingers were so cold I couldn't get my wetsuit off. Literally, I couldn't get my fingers to close or grip. I asked a nearby person to give me a hand, not knowing if they had strippers at this race, but knowing that I was stuck. He pulled the suit over my shoulders and up around my head and left me to try to get if off. Now I was even more stuck than before, since my hands weren't working. He watched me for a moment, while I was stuck with this rubber strait jacket around my head, and then (finally) asked if I needed more help (you can laugh if you want, my sister and I were rolling when I told her). I walked up the longish hill to transition, exhausted. I have never walked a transition before. My swim was 53 minutes for 1.2 miles. 338 of 339.

Part 2: In which I pass 5 women minutes into the bike.

Which is a good thing, since it boosted my morale and brought my head squarely forward into the bike portion of the race.

The bike started out nice. An out and back spur which flew by despite rolling hills. I kept waiting for a headwind but it never came. After the spur the course had a 40 mile loop, so that I turned several corners, and still no headwind. I was wet and freezing when I first got on the bike and kept waiting to warm up, but even after I warmed up, I was only marginally comfortable. The cycling felt smooth and strong, and then I started to fatigue. I hit mile 39 in two hours and remember thinking, "I just have to do 17 miles an hour to make a 3 hour bike, so maybe I'll go sub-3..." and then I turned a corner and went headfirst into the wind--at 12 m.p.h. Along with the rolling hills. Some of which were real hills. It was brutal, and I started getting colder, and felt like I just wasn't going to make it to the end. My right adductor started complaining--which says something about my bike style--and I started surviving rather than pushing. In the end, I didn't drink enough, more than likely because I was so cold, and my stomach felt completely empty 4 miles out from the finish, so I ate half a protein bar, which probably wasn't enough. Despite the demoralizing wind, I still finished in 3:01:55 for 56 miles, which, despite hoping for a sub-3, still put me in the ball-park of a good finish.

Part 3: In which I replay Idaho over and over in my head, and wonder if I can still manage a 10 min/mile average pace even after that exhausting swim...

In Idaho, 2008, I ran a 2:12 half marathon, after a 3:04 bike. It was my best half Ironman half marathon time ever. At that time, the weather had been cool, and I was fairly fresh, because I hadn't done the swim. It was my first inkling that my half marathon distance running was starting to get better--and I'd upped my mileage this year so maybe, just maybe, I could pull off another good run.

But, I was tired and cold getting off the bike.

I picked up a caffeinated gel and headed out of transition wearing one bike glove. Luckily, I wasn't wearing my helmet--although I did feel on my head, just to make sure.
So the glove went into my back pocket, where it bounced around for the entire run, and I proceeded to try to get my legs under me. A real sweetheart of a runner, in my age group, tried to encourage me to get on her heels, but I couldn't do it. It took a couple of miles before I felt like I was moving well--and when I checked the watch I had 21 minutes including a quick bathroom break--so 10 min/mile it was. And that's the way it stayed. I had a few 9:40 miles, but those were followed by 10 plus miles, so it all evened out. The weather just got colder and colder, which made for good running weather, but then it got almost too cold. 9 miles in, I started to get tired. 2 miles out I just wanted the whole thing to be over. The last mile.1 seemed endless and I wanted to walk. Later when I looked at that endless time, it was 11:57, which wasn't nearly as slow as I felt. It felt especially cruel when the run went onto trail and uphill, but the finish was 100 yards of concrete, and it felt so good to be on solid ground, running slightly downhill to the finish, that I stretched out my legs and had a big smile on my face, and was just happy, happy, happy to be done.

In the end, the race was a PR at 6:16:28, by 17 minutes.
Which, is the same amount of time T took off his time to PR also at 4:55.
From last female out of the water and my worst swim time ever, to 8th in my age group, to a PR.
Not bad.
But it would feel a whole lot better if I didn't have to go through that terrifying swim.

Before the race, T checked the Duathlon participant list and there was only one woman in my Age Group--so I could have switched over, placed, gotten an award and a gift certificate AND missed the swim--but it wouldn't have been the same story, and I wouldn't have gotten my PR.

After the race, the rain started, and the temperature dropped, and even though we put on warm clothes, and were wrapped around each other, we couldn't stop shivering. So we bagged the raffle, went home, took a warm shower, and went to a family get together for dinner with T's grandmother, auntie and uncle, and cousins.
We had to--T's auntie makes the BEST home made pastries.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Warm, Fuzzy Car Breakdown

My car stopped working today, and because of it, I ended up with a warm, fuzzy feeling. How often does that happen?

My car had been working fine, all day, all week, all month--zipping around Albuquerque neighborhoods to the tune of mucho miles each week.

Tonight, just after I thought, "What a nice evening with no overhanging commitments and I can do whatever I want," I turned the ignition in my car, felt the briefest of jolts, and then everything went dead.
No sickly err-err as the car tried to turn over. Or lights dimly turning on.
I couldn't even get the car to shift out of gear--it's an automatic, and it was stuck firmly in Park.

So I called my car insurance in confidence, because I always carry Road Service--and was told that my other car was covered--but not this one. I am generally not a pushy consumer--and am, in fact, a pushover consumer--but the light was going fast, and I was stuck in the remote corner of a large parking lot, and my car was supposed to have Road Service. Why would I cover the car I am not driving, and not cover the car that I am driving? Which is what I patiently told the rep, as well as bringing up the fact that I had been a forever customer, and that I had been carrying Road Service for years--or so I thought.
After hemming, and hawing, and talking to supervisors, I got my Road Service--effective immediately. How cool is that?

Initially the wait for the tow was 45 minutes, putting my arrival at an auto shop at past 9:00 pm, but when I explained to the dispatcher that most auto shops were closed, and that I really did not want my car sitting on the street overnight, she empathised, and got the tow immediately.

When the tow truck driver arrived, he figured out that the terminal connector on my battery had cracked, so that I wasn't getting power, wiggled it, turned my car on, shook my hand and wished me a good night. Just a very pleasant, smiling man doing his job, and making my day.

Then, at the cusp of 9:00 pm, I drove over to Pep Boys to drop off the car for the night, so they could fix it in the morning (already planning on what car I was going to drive tomorrow)--but they said, "Pull it in, we'll fix it right now."

So after removing the offending part, stripping the wires with a razor, making my car good as new again, they comped the job and told me to have a good night.

Which I did. Compliments of all the people I interacted with tonight. Simple, I know, but what I great, big, wonderful world we have.

So, if you're going to have your car breakdown, then this is how to do it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Magicians, Movies, and Mangoes

Hurricane Felicia was on it's way, downgrading all the time, and scheduled to hit O'ahu as a tropical depression on Tuesday--so on Monday night when Mark and I went out for a movie, we had the entire theatre to ourselves.

Limited seating.

20 Barca-loungers.

When the lights go down, the usher tells everyone to please recline their seats--it's mandatory.

You can bring in food and drink.

And there's a different movie five nights a week: Old, new, foreign, indie, classic, any genre you can think of.

The woman at the entry took our money, and gave us two ripe Hayden mangoes, picked from the proprietor's tree, who's great, great, great grandfather just happened to be the one to introduce Hayden mangoes to the islands.

Here's Mark, getting comfortable--with his mangoes...
Those mangoes were 'ono!

(Good movie, too. Magicians, 2007, UK: A black (and entertaining) comedy.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bike Adventures

Mark is having bike adventures in Washington.

On June 1st, one week after touchdown for a summer job in the capitol, he competed in the Clarendon Cup criterium in downtown Clarendon, a trendy suburb of DC.
Well, sort of.
I'm not sure he would call it “competed.”
I think for him it was more like “survived” 10 minutes on the course before being nearly lapped and pulled by the ref as the field containing the current national elite time trial champion and a former Iranian Olympian along with a coterie of 1-2 masters men who were added to Mark's wave at the last minute.
He went into the race knowing he would be lapped, but thinking he would be able to hang on for 45 minutes, get in a good high end work out, and eventually be lapped after about 25 miles.
This was before the 1-2 masters were added to his wave of Cat 3,4,5, Master's Men. On the day of the race. And, a criterium at that.
In the end, he was one of about 40 people lapped and pulled--2/3rd's of the initial field of 60—which, judging from the remainder of the summer, only served to whet his appetite.

The next day was a chipped and timed “non-competitive” ride with awards that was part of the Air Force Classic in Crystal City just before the UCI rated Pro race. 72 miles in three hours on a rainy morning. It hurt, but out of 2000 entrants, he was only one of two riders to do the highest number of laps—9--on the course. About 100 people made 8 laps. And the rest did what they could—or got smart and quit early because of the rain.

He's taken really well to Washington. Within the first week of being there, he’s already seen several familiar faces from last year's summer sojourn. Last year, Peter was kind enough to direct Mark to some of the local clubs, and this year he's already reconnected and riding and drinking beer with the boys (Peter is a dedicated DC runner—and enjoys 3k sprints on a regular basis).

Church Creek Individual Time Trial the next week, pretty much the same course and the day before the Eagleman 70.3. Hot, muggy, windy. 40K in 1:01, 7th out of 52 in category.

A few weeks after Mark's 10 minute foray into riding with the East Coast boyz, he went for a solo ride on a popular route along the WOD recreation trail—and broke a shifter cable 0 miles out, but too early for any bike shops to be open. Stuck in his 39-11, he prepared to ride his newly minted single speed, over hill and dale, 40 miles to Purcellville town, but (and this is the power of advertising on a mobile, human billboard), he spotted a rider in a “Bike Shop” jersey, flagged him down, and found a bike shop only 8 single speed miles away. Whew.

That same week he went for a ride around Haines Point, was 6 miles into it, did a nothing in particular pedal stroke—and pulled his shoe away from his cleat.
Since they were Mark's favorite cycling shoes, and a giveaway several years back from fellow Outlaw Bones—he mourned them.
But not for long.
There's nothing like a good excuse for new cycling equipment.

Next week was a DC Triclub training triathlon followed by a barbecue. 400m/26k/5k. Sold out at $5.00 and 200 entrants. Fully supported and marshaled. Definitely the right price and fun. Mark went home with a 7th overall.

After 4 weeks in DC, learning a new job, and getting into the swing of a new training routine, Mark participated in the Dextro ITU World Cup Triathlon. 100% closed course through Potomac Park, Downtown, the Mall, Capitol Hill and Penn Quarter. A great way to tour the city without the worry of traffic. Prior to the race, enough rain fell to warrant the title of DC as “the new Calcutta” (Washington Post). Rumors of strong currents, sewage run-offs, and cancellation of the practice swim lent an air of pre-race apprehension, but the swim itself turned out to be odorless and the water “tasted fine.” Mark characterized the swim as a constant stream of debris hitting him in the forehead, and the 1500 meter choppy and misty swim was impossible to sight, marked as it was by 5 buoys, with two of these obscured by a large stone bridge, and 1 buoy flagging the finish dock. It was this swim that likely cost Mark his goal of going under 2:20, but he did PR and rode his fastest 40k in a triathlon and ran his fastest 10K ever.

In July, he did the “Total 200” Double Century ride and felt good except for a lull at miles 125 to 150 and two flats during the final 8 miles.

The following weekend, was the Giro di Copi Road Race in Barnesville, MD. In his words:
Three beautiful laps, 39 miles. Caught in a crash in the first mile, stayed upright, but then chased hard for the next five miles to catch the field. Made the selection of about 20 riders, but got dropped in a 150 degree corner, chased till eyeballs bled for about eight miles but caught the break. Cooked. Dropped on last hill, last rider shed from the finishing field. Fun.

That same evening, he did the Rockville Twilighter 8K run in 35:07, followed by listening to a band, drinking too much beer, and getting home way too late. Recognized the name of former Texas/New Mexico runner and triathlete, “DeHeer,” as the 4th place finisher with a time of 24+, but did not locate him. After a late night, rallied the next morning to get up at 5 a.m. for an 83-mile ride.

The last weekend of his DC stay was a ride up Mt. Weather with members of the record setting RAAM mixed team. A punishing 55 miles. Followed by a very rainy Crystal City twilighter that evening. Heavy legs, but 20:52 for a 5k. Found DeHeer. Not as much free beer this time, and got back home a little earlier. 91 rolling and rainy cycling miles DC to Sugarloaf the next morning.

1500 cycling miles.
5 cycling events
2 triathlons
2 running races

That's Mark's adventures in DC.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So, I finish my run tonight, and I am hot and sticky and grumpy.
The cloud cover that had deceptively intimated a coolish run had, instead, supported a scirocco-like wind.
I am tired of the heat.
And I am irritated.

There's a knock on the door.
This has been happening with increasing frequency in the evening.
The front lawn, which has been growing unfettered (sorry Muffin), is attracting all manner of itinerants wanting to make a few dollars.
Generally, I ignore the knocks.
But this time, I am on the phone with T, which somehow makes me a little braver, so I pull the curtain aside to look out the window.
There's a man standing there, white T-shirt, long, brown hair in a pony tail to his mid-back, sunglasses. He has a bag over his shoulder.
I say (grumpish) "Can I help you?"
He just stands there and looks at me.
I repeat myself.
He says he can't hear me.
I raise my voice and say, I don't want want anything, please go away.
He raises his arm and points above my front door and says he wants to know if I want (something unintelligible) stripped.
I say "What?" Because whatever he is saying makes no sense. And, besides, most people want to mow the lawn, and I wasn't expecting him to point above my front door. Then, I immediately say (remember I was grumpish), "Go away, I don't want anything."
He says, "Huh? I can't hear you." Just standing there and not moving. So, I repeat myself and he says he can't hear me again. And, again, not moving.
Since I am on the phone with T, I am only partially analyzing this conversation but somewhere in the back of my head I'm sure I've had conversations through this front window--and the recipient has been able to hear me.
A bit confused but tiring of this, I drop the curtain and turn away, feeling rude, to resume my conversation with T.

When I get off the phone, it dawns on me, that perhaps the man was trying to get me to open the front door.
Do you think?