Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Walking Like a Viking

Before one can run, one must first learn to move along at an agonizingly slow pace that brings one to empty aid stations and the like. This is my polite way of telling you that before the Alcatraz race report, I need to get a bit caught up here. So, without further ado:

If there’s one single MOST important thing I learned from doing the Horribly Hilly Hundreds, aka Groundhog Day in Hell, it is this: never go camping with people you don’t know all that well. There’s a reason most slasher movies take place in or near a woods. It’s because most people who camp are clueless dolts, thus turning their companions into homicidal maniacs. Case in point: the HHH.

Having reserved the last camping spot available for that weekend at Blue Mounds State Park, I offered to let some CTC folks who I don’t know that well camp there too, since most of my friends had gotten shut out of this funfest, thanks to the Monkeys-R-Us organization that is active.com. Let’s call these folks Larry, Curly, and Moe. I head up with Larry, who’s brought one essential camping item: his sleeping bag. Meanwhile, I’ve packed enough camping gear to survive in the Amazon for 3 months. We get up there and start to set up camp with Curly, who we ran into on the drive-up, and who panicked when, as our separate cars were approaching the turnoff to the campsite, I went a slightly different route and we were out of his sight. The 6 follow-up calls asking us where we were do not bode well.

So, camp. Curly has brought a brand new humongous Taj Mahal-ian tent, which he just got on eBay. Perfect! Wonderful! Except! One needs a hammer to set these things up. He has no hammer. In fact, the only things Curly brought were said tent and 2 cots. Oh, and a boombox, from which he proceeded to blast loud hip-hoppy music into the previously tranquil woods.

After I rummaged through my Immense Pile of Crap and gave the two a hammer, I then proceeded to do the usual camping tasks: set up a lean-to, dig a well with spring water, make sure I had marked a trail from our campsite to 5 miles in any direction in case someone got lost, etc. Okay, I actually did none of that, but I could have. In the meantime, Larry and Curly had managed, after many wrong turns, to set up the tent, and were loudly proclaiming their superiority and brilliance. Unfortunately, this lost some of its impact with the following conversation:

Curly: Hey, there’s an extra piece of material left. I wonder what it’s for – maybe a room divider?
Me, after walking into tent and looking around: Go into the tent. Look up.
Curly: What? What am I looking at?
Me: THE SKY, you idiot! That “extra” piece needs to go on top of the tent – you know, in case it rains??

Finally, camp is set up and we head off to town to pick up our packets and have dinner. Since Larry and Curly are apparently “new-age” men, they have no opinion on where to go for dinner, so we find an Italian restaurant in Mt. Horeb. After Curly comes to the table after another endless cell phone conversation, I watch in horror as he picks up a piece of bread and...and.......scrapes the cheese off! He does this with piece after piece, even asking our server to bring more bread, which he proceeds to massacre, leaving about a half a pound of cheese on his plate. I think there are laws against that in Wisconsin. Finally I can take it no longer.

Me: What’s wrong – you don’t like cheese? It’s a perfect food, you know.
Curly: It’s too fattening. I’m cutting back.
Me: But 12 pieces of bread are okay? What kind of diet is that?
Curly: Gotta watch my girlish figure, you know.
Me, sighing: Okay, so you guys did bring SOME camping stuff, right? I mean, basics, like matches, flashlights, lantern, something?
(they look at each other, puzzled)
Larry: How dark does it get in the woods?
Me, after a moment of stunned silence: Umm, it’s the WOODS. In Wisconsin. It gets pitch black. What were you expecting, streetlamps?
Larry and Curly: Uhh......
Me: So, to recap. You guys decide to go camping, and between the two of you you have a tent but no way to put it up, 2 cots, and a sleeping bag?

We lapse into silence.

That evening, Moe shows up, having gotten a ride from Sandbagger. He at least has brought a tiny flashlight – hallelujah! Still, I gaze longingly at the campsite next to us, set up neatly and efficiently by someone who apparently understands the camping concept. This helpless guy thing, I just don’t get it.

That evening, after I gather kindling and start the campfire, we’re sitting around when I hear a rustling in the woods. Bigfoot? Of course, I go to check it out. As I’m trudging deeper into the woods, following this unusually loud rustling noise, it occurs to me that this is perhaps not the best idea. After all, if something were to happen, my camping companions would probably spend several hours trying to get a cell phone signal, walking 5 paces in each direction muttering “Can you hear me now? Now?”

Later that evening, I do see a fluffy raccoon start to emerge from the woods, so I leave him a brownie before going to bed. Or attempting to. Because, dear reader, this is where we all discover that Curly snores. Loudly. Buzzsaw loud, in fact. At one point I pick up a pillow to throw at him, hoping he’ll shift to his side and will cease snoring....but then notice he’s already on his side. Sigh. Some time in the night, Moe creeps outside, and I just KNOW he’s getting earplugs. I sense it. This does in fact turn out to be the case, damn him.

The next morning, Curly is chipper as can be, while the rest of us look a bit bleary eyed. As I’m preparing my eggs benedict and French press coffee on my camping stove, Curly is relying on the Heed we all got in our packets the day before for his day-of-ride nutrition. I shake my head. I also shake my head at the fact that he’s taken 45 minutes to get ready for the ride, and has used copious amounts of hair gel, on hair that’ll be stuck under a helmet all day. This, I’m a bit unclear on, but don’t bother asking about.

At this point, you’ll understand why I was eager to get going on the ride, and so I set off. A chronicle of the day’s events:

Hour 1: I get to the first massive hill, a climb that goes on for 3.6 miles. Are you people nuts? Here I meet Laurie, someone who trains with Renee from the CTC, who’s biking with another Renee athlete. They introduce themselves, as I’m wearing my CTC garb, and then Laurie starts chattering: “come on, think positive thoughts, your legs are strong girls, keep it going, chin up” blah blah blah, all cheery and encouraging, with a broad smile across her face. I immediately start plotting ways to kill her.

Hour 2: I get to the first aid station, where they’re already down to just water and some oranges. What happened to the cookies? Why do these damn rides keep promising me cookies, and I have yet to see one? And just water on a humid, 95 degree day – somehow this does not seem like a recipe for success.

Hour 3: I see the first sign for the Hooden-Svenlund wedding, and the mind start churning. A wedding? Surely they won’t mind if I crash the party, so to speak, for a little while? Some cold water would be good, or maybe some champagne. Hell, even some odd Swedish delicacies, like lutefisk – that would still be better than this hell. I’m going up a hill with the blazing sun directly ahead of me, when ahead of me I see a water spigot that someone has put in their front yard, with an accompanying “Free water!” sign. I see the house owner, and am pathetically grateful. Why again did I pay good money to do this thing?

Hour 4: I meet up with 2 guys from St. Louis and we bike along and chat on the lovely country roads. We pass another sign for the Hooden-Svenlund wedding, and I tell them I was thinking of going, perhaps meeting a nice Swedish farmer, following the path of true love and so on. Too bad the direction the wedding sign was pointing to led to a hill that went straight up. Damn. Then SL #2 takes a corner too wide, goes into the gravel, and falls right into my path – so to avoid biking over his hand, I also swerve and almost wipe out. Idiots. Now I’m in a big gear trying to get up a hill. ARGH!

Hour 4.5: This is the first time I get to a hill and think to myself, you have got to be fucking kidding me. A lady is getting her mail as I’m slogging up, and cheerily notes that “this hill is the reason I never do the Horribly Hilly ride!” Well, at least she has some brains, unlike the rest of us.

Hour 5: Aid station nirvana. Is there anything better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, after one has biked so many godforsaken miles, all uphill? I wish I could camp out here all day, but that’s the problem with riding a bike somewhere – you always need to get yourself back to where you started.

Finally: What the......you mean we need to go up this horrible hill AGAIN? The 3.6 or 4.8 or 10 mile one, again?? Shit. Not for the first time today, I walk. As I do so, I discuss with another woman whether or not Vikings actually rode bicycles –we decide probably not, they mostly boated, so wouldn’t walking be more historically accurate? This validates our decision to walk. Someone has written on the road – “Become the Road.” Yeah, I was there many hours ago, bub. At the end, I hop back on the bike, finish triumphantly, and make a beeline for the free Culver’s ice cream. If ever there was a time to not worry about calories, this would be it. I seriously think I’m never going to get on a bike again.

The next day: I have decided I’m going to spend the month of August biking across Wisconsin....

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ryan's Escape Recap

Last fall, for some reason, I said "yes" when I was asked by Chuck if I wanted to do the Escape from the Rock Tri in San Fran. I probably was regretting it about two weeks ago after I got pummeled at the Rockman half-ironman, but now, I'm so damn happy I decided to do it.

So, for those of you not in the know, the Escape from the Rock is the red-headed step-child to the blockbuster Escape from Alcatraz triathlon sponsored by Accenture. The courses are not the same, but they include some of the same elements, this one always starts from the island.

So, here’s my recap (and not in-depth novel) of what happened (as I saw it):

We take two ferries out around Alcatraz and stop on the other side of the island. People start jumping in the water, two and three at a time. When I jump in, it’s cold, around 57-58 degrees, my hand and face are stinging, I don’t notice it on my feet. I start swimming to the “start line” which is marked by a bunch of kayaks. I swim hard for a little bit to get the blood flowing and warm up the cold ass water that’s leaked into my wetsuit. I see the contingent from the CTC b/c of Carolyn’s lime green markings on her wetsuit. We take some pictures.

I start working up to the start line, notice some scurrying and realize they’re counting down, I’m 30 yards from the start line, shit! We start and it just seemed like the group in front of me disappeared. Note: this also included a swim only race, so there were some pure swimmers in the mix. I get in my groove and start to reel in some people after a while, at least 30 over the 1.5 miles. I stay to the left so the tide doesn’t sweep me off course. I’m swimming with Golden Gate Bridge off to my right, Alcatraz behind me, and the San Francisco skyline in front me, this is awesome!

Other notes from the swim:
- Salt water tastes like crap, it was driving me nuts about 2/3’s of the way through
- No one called me an asshole during the swim in this race
- Body glide should be applied to the neck when using a neoprene cap, I have a pretty wicked sports hickey right now

After trying successfully to get a cramp in my left quad while forcing on my running shoes in T1, I was off on the 2.5 mile run to my bike. As I’m maybe a quarter mile out of transition, this woman says to a guy who is passing me that he’s in 42nd place. I was totally elated hearing that, I didn’t think I’d be up that high in the field, California usually produces better swimmers. The run takes you west over toward Golden Gate Bridge, running along a pedestrian path that has cyclists and runners who are just out recreationally.

T2, I go from running shoes to cycling shoes and now it’s time to see the bike course (I didn’t tour it the day before). The website for the race claims to leave aerobars and race wheels at home, within 17 minutes, I would know exactly why.

Here is how the bike course unfolds:
- First quarter mile, flat
- Sharp left turn and climb
- Sharp right turn and climb
- Short section with mild incline, left turn, then more climbing
- Finally, crest the hill and it’s all downhill
- Stand up, scoot back, get ready to fly
- Unfortunately, there are lots of turns, some sharp, challenging to keep high speed and stay in lane
- Slight right turn, road flattens out, almost no decline
- Sharp left turn (now you’re headed back), now start a gradual climb
- Climb gets steeper
- Stay far right, crazy ass cyclists are bombing down the hill in other lane
- After standing in spots to climb, we reach the crest
- As soon as I crest, hammer hard to get up to speed
- Keeps getting steeper, going faster, sharp right turn, Brakes!! Lean, now keep flying
- Course doesn’t take last downhill, instead, it loops off to right, there’s a solid 100 yards where you can now use your aerobars
- Sharp left turn, short steep downhill, turn right, now make a sharp left, it starts going downhill, now hammer, get momentum, now you’re climbing to start the second loop.
- Repeat two more times, and that consists of 13 miles biking!
- The bike course is very hairy, some people are scared of speed, not me
- I was pushing hard, it felt good, I was racing today, I should have backed off based on my Heart Rate readings, but maybe that was the two caffeinated gels.

T3: I avoided falling on my face running up a concrete incline in my biking shoes, should have scouted bike course to get out of them in time

Run course: Nice and flat for about 1 mile or so, the leader passed me on his way in during this stretch. You’re barely above sea level. After that, it’s something like this:

- Nasty stairs, endless climbing, then switchbacks on trails
- Run underneath highway in 4 foot tunnel
- More climbing, look over to water, DAMN! That’s a long way down, wasn’t I by the water 5 minutes ago?
- An aid station after about 2 miles, no flat coke! I was hoping.
- Still more uphill running
- Now we’re running on a trail wide enough for one next to the guardrail of the bike course (there are two directions of traffic)
- Finally, a downhill
- Now we turn right and run down towards the beach, more downhill
- SAND, thick, hard to run in, sand, who the hell thought of this
- Run across thick sand, look uncoordinated in the process, get to water, sand is packed
- Run down Baker Beach, enjoy the view and nice breeze
- Run up the beach through the impossible sand to the aid station, I mean walk up the beach, running is almost impossible
- Running down the sand isn’t so bad now, keep going along the water.
- After seeing naked sunbathers in the distance, cross beach and head to sandladder
- First half of sandladder is easy, there’s logs to step on, it’s also easy if you immediately resign to walking
- Top half of sandladder, all sand, bitch to walk through, grab cables, pull self along
- 3:30 seconds later, the sandladder has been conquered, heart rate is still in check
- Rejoin trail, dodge racers coming out to see more misery
- Finally, we reach the downhill, grab water at aid station, douse face, continue running.
- Don’t hit head on tunnel, say hi to Annette, try not to trip in the dark tunnel, keep going.
- Let gravity pull you downhill
- Slow the fuck down at the stairs, don’t want to fall on face, take your time
- Get to bottom, someone says half-mile to finish, pick up pace and push hard
- See my friend and uncle only because they yell my name, I’m only eyeing the finish

2:50:40 earlier, I was starting to swim by Alcatraz, now I was in the finish chute, I Escaped from the Rock! I somehow finished in the top 50 or so, 10th in my age group. For some strange reason, I would have placed second in my age group for the swim-only race, but considerably worse for any other age group.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this race, it’s awesome, it also doesn’t fill up right away like the other one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

too bad we couldn't round one of these up to swim with us/Carolyn. nice squid ...

Alcatraz trip and race report

I'll put all of the trip and race info in one post, so you can skim through what you don't want to read if you're only interested in trip pictures or race info. You can also skip all of my babble and go right to the photo album, including one video taken during the swim. Yes, I took a camera into the water with me:

PHOTO ALBUM, 200 pictures and 1 video clip

Had a 10:00 am flight, so got to say goodbye to the family (except Ellie, she was still sleeping). The boys were excited that I wore my new Aquaman t-shirt (as was the Southwest pilot). Southwest temporarily lost my bag. The person at the counter seemed to feel I was a burden on her, even though THEY lost MY bag. I asked a reasonable question, "where is my bag?", figuring she'd say it ended up in Anchorage or something like that, but she said she simply didn't know. Further inquiry by me revealed that Southwest has NO SCANNING system on their bags. As a result, all she knew was that my bag wasn't in the Oakland terminal. All they could do was see if it turned up that night, somewhere, and then send it to Oakland. She called me 15 min later saying she had it, and I went back to get it. They insisted that it was on the carousel, which is odd since when I left there were no bags on the carousel and it was stopped. More likely that some baggage handler didn't put it on, then found it and threw it on. My uncle picked had me up at the airport, and then drove me back to get the bag, then drove me to the hotel. All of that chaos prevented us from having lunch since he had to go to work, but we had a nice chat in the car. View of the Bay Bridge from the car:
Some other Friday sightseeing:
A stormtrooper walking down the Wharf. This is not me ... really.
Saturday "Training" Ride, i.e. slow paced ride of 1 loop of the bike. My first of 3 near "incidents" on the trip occurred on the ride. We were coming down the path when some guy decides to cross the path without looking about 5 feet in front of my when I am going maybe (thank goodness, a slow) 14-15 mph. I am able to clear my tire past his leg with a little turn but then our torsos crashed into each other about as hard as I've ever hit anything. It 100% stopped my forward momentum (yes, it was THAT solid of a hit) and I am then falling over and at about a 45 degree angle to the ground, still clipped in, when some guy walking in the oncoming lane CAUGHT me (and my bike) with a bear hug around my torso. In true California-eze, he said in an unexcited manner, "dude, you alright?" I told him I was, thanked him, and we all parted. I never clipped out of my pedals. Weird. Picture from our ride:
The crew Saturday night at the Mona Lisa:
Sunday - Race Day:
The race is actually a QUADrathlon of sorts, with a 1.5m swim, followed by a 2.5m run, a 13m bike and a 6.2m run. Here is everyone setting up at the swim-to-run1 transition area in the bleachers of the Aquatic Park. Pretty nice setup, just pick a spot, any spot, and drop your gear. This was the site of my second near -incident. Carolyn wanders up to me and says "you goin' bareback, no wetsuit?" and then I realize I didn't have my wetsuit. Where the hell was it? I knew I brought it, or did I? Looked by our stuff, didn't see it. Our hotel was 200 yds away, so I jogged back, even though I KNEW I brought it (or did I?), bc I didn't want to miss the race and then find it on my bed. It wasn't there, but it seems I left it by Annette's transition area. Still today, I have no recollection of this. The rule, as always, is that I am a dipshit. For further proof ask my mother about stories of sending me into the pantry for a can of beans and then me coming back with peas 15 seconds later.
The swim:
Triathletes boarding one of the 2 boats that will take us to the island
boat #1 departing, loaded with neoprene wetsuits
On the boat, ready to go. Around this time, the issue of "how the hell am I going to carry the camera?" came up. The camera comes with a rubber strap that I was initially going to wrap around my neck and let it dangle behind me on my upper back as I swam, then would whip it around for a shot. That kinda concerned the rest of my team (strangulation was a discussed possibility), so I un-did the wetsuit and wrapped it around my upper arm at the armpit, put my arm back in the sleeve and zipped up, with the camera hanging out of the neck and dangling at my upper chest just under the opening. the rubber strap had some flex in it, so to take a picture I just pulled it up a little further to in front of my mouth/nose or so, and took most of the pix without looking at the viewfinder, using the Force, perhaps I was graced by the passing stormtrooper the day before (see pix). It worked very well, except for the half-dozen times the camera bashed me in the nose.

The fatal flaw - every time I yanked the camera it stretched the elastic strap around the back of my arm. Think - thick rubber band around your wrist and the "ouch" that results on one side of the wrist when pulling the band as hard as you can in the other direction, then the "oh, that kinda pinches" that side when the band comes back. So that only happened around my lat and rear delt maybe 20x during the swim. Chafing is not a good word for it, "4-inch cut" is a better word, mixed with saltwater. no fun. my son finally saw it 4 days later and said "wow daddy, where'd you get that owie!!" The sport camera's next mission will be 26+ pictures over the Chicago Marathon course.

First swimmer in the water, jumping from the other boat
the first swimmers jumping off my boat
VIDEO !!! Kevin and Max jump in the Bay in front of me, and then I take the plunge ... in the GREEN water, then get a decent view of the island. Turn up the volume, I had no idea the camera took audio until I played it back on the computer.



Pictures from the water waiting for the horn:

and we're off ...
a look back at the island through the splashes ...
the Golden Gate ...
one of the 50 kayakers who set up a lane of sorts so that we could stay somewhat on course. Some people were still taken by the current and had to be fished out ...
getting close. The swim wasn't bad at all. It was an easier day out there as far as currents and swells than the last time I did it. the swells and current picked up near the end of the swim, see below ...
entering the Aquatic Park ...
finally, the swim exit ...
The 2.5m run to the bikes, nice view. I cruised pretty well on this run, nice quick pace ...
The bike:
The bike course was very hard, at least for me. 3 loops, so it was mentally draining as well. It was all up and down. After surviving the first lap, all you can do is think "I need to do that TWO MORE TIMES". Essentially, here's the course ...

- flat start, maybe a 1/4-1/2 mile
- climb
- climb
- climb
- downhill
- turn around
- climb
- steep climb
- downhill
- repeat 2x

On that bike course was near incident #3 right around a sharp downhill turn, which consisted of my rear tire skidding out about a foot on a tarry patch. All I could do is turn the handlebars the opposite way (driver's ed, don't fail me now!!) and also, since I was still clipped in, kinda bunnyhopped the bike and hoped I'd land vertical, which I did. All was well but, needless to say, I was ridiculously gun shy on the downhills the rest of the race, probably going 25 mph instead the 35 I did the day before. A view from the bike course, taken the day before on our ride ...
The 2nd run:
The run was tough, almost all offroad. After a nice flat mile or so (see 3 pictures below) ...

- tough stairs
- climbing switchbacks
- look DOWN to the Golden Gate towers (we were just at the base of it 10 min before!!)
- climb
- climb
- downhill to the beach
- soft, soft sand, really hard to run in, many people walking, including me for a stretch. Drastic difference in my running before and after the bike route
- sandladder. tough. lots of steps, then soft sand, heart exploding (not really, but tough)
- run through a 4-foot high tunnel hunched over like Quasimodo
- steeep downhills, wondering how many people faceplanted (I didn't)
- lots of downhill stairs
- back at sea level !! The volunteer says 1/2 mile to go. Can I kick at all? Yes, a little. I feel like I am sprinting, but it's no more than a jog.

views from the 2nd run route, taken the day before ...

we ran out to Ft. Point (the base of the Golden Gate) and then went offroad (sorry, no race day pictures) ...
We all finished in one piece, and then went on the Alcatraz evening tour. A few pix below, see the album above for all ...
A bird that chased the boat all the way to the island, Bay Bridge in the background

Pictures from the tour ...
Frank Morris' cell (Clint Eastwood's character from the movie) and the fake head in the bed

Friday, June 29, 2007

Kevin's Race Report


[BTW, the above was not written by Kevin. Chuck is going to miss the "administrator's edit" function]

OK, I am going to be the first to write post race simply because I have no pictures. That's right. None. Why you ask? Well, as my teammates can now clearly attest, sometimes Kev's head is squarely up his ass. But I digress. Here's my story...

Packed up and shipped out Friday for a pleasant flight. Tasha, Annette, Max and myself were all on this flight together. Sitting still for 4 hours plus sucks, but in anticipation of what we were in for, it was worth it. Landed in Oakland and a short cab ride later, we arrived at the Argonaut Hotel near the Fisherman's Warf and just a stroll down from the start on race day. Nicely planned, Chuck. The rooms were nice and having brought my own air mattress since there were 3 of us, I hit the floor. Chuck, I did notice the look of disappointment on your face when I said I'd rather sleep on the floor than with you. I'm sorry if your feelings were hurt. I thought it would take away from the race weekend experience if we woke up all spooning and cuddled up together ala Steve Martin and John Candy in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles".

"Where's your other hand?"
"In between two pillows, why?"

Flat out, San Francisco is beautiful. The hills, the scenery, the colors, the water, beaches, bridges, Alcatraz... all really cool. I took it all in. So much so that at the end of the first day I was falling alsleep with my double Sambuka in front of me around 9:30. Glad I could provide you with the entertainment, team.

So exactly when did my head get lodged assward you ask? Well, #1, I forgot my camera at home. While I remember it every other moment, like taking the kids to the park, or family get togethers, do I remember to bring it on the once in a lifetime race/trip? of course not. Screw up #2... The Borat suit was to be shipped directly to the hotel, which it was, only to be sent back the same day by the hotel since my name was not on the guest registry. The room was in Chuck's name, and rather that hold onto a small package that would take up minimal space for a freakin day, they sent it back. So... no pictures of Kev in the promised Borat suit, though I will make up for it here in Chicago. Seeing as how the race coincided with San Francisco's Gay Pride weekend, I was not terribly diappointed that this mishap caused a rescheduling. Screw up #3... Tasha thoughtfully bought horns for everyone in the spirit of good fun. While i tended to everyone else's bike with the tools I brought from home, I totally forgot my Elmo horm and name plate to mount onto my bike. My appologies, Tasha. It was not intentional. Thus, on race day when Annette and Heather signaled to me on the bike course with thier hysterical sounding horns, and smiling at me much like the special ed kids do when being let outside to play on a warm, sunny day... I had nothing. Nothing but a smile and a wave and a breathy, "Woooho! Way to go!" Paultry, at best. Screw up #4. Kevin needs to look at the race course map before the race and know how many loops of whatever to ACTUALLY do. I missed a loop on the bike, resulting in a fantastic race to end with a DNF. Had I actually done that final loop I would have placed around 7th in my class. Not too shabby. Regardless of results, it was a great day with a spectacular view.

But back to the race start.

Hearded down the street in neoprene is always a good time. All 700 of us boarded the 2 ferry's that would take us to the start line after a good 1/2 mile walk, which got us nice and sweaty and provided a fantastic base for the chaffing that would come as a result. The racers on the ferry were a fun combination of seasoned vets and those who looked like they were about to hurl based on the looks on some faces. There was one guy near me who started to have a panick attack. I gently punched him in the gut, told him not to be such a big pussy, and to suck it up or I would call his mommy. No, not really... Actually everyone was really really cool and very encouraging of one another... so panick boy got back pats and shoulder rubs from racers around him, and he settled down quickly. I later saw him on the water and he was doing fine.

The swim was relaxed and I don't think we could have asked for a better day to do it. Ever mindful of sharks and other large things in the water, I was made a bit more nervous by the fact that you can really only see about 6 feet around you. That water is dirty. My heightened senses played a nice trick on me as at one point in the race I swam into a large clear pastic trash bag and just about crapped my wetsuit. "Holy... WTF is that!?" Phew... "just" a trash bag. In the the middle of the bay...

Transition 1 was smooth, and the 2.5 mile run to transition 2 seemed longer probably because it was straight and flat. The hills on the bike were killer, just killer. 3-5 mph going up. 40 mph coming down. It was in a fast decent on the backside downhill that I caught a large group and got flagged into transition with them. Its my fault for not knowing to do 3 loops, but a sign would have helped, too. Oh well.

The run was awesome. I would have liked to do that as a walk only becuase there were so many great sights. Golden Gate Bridge, the mountains, Alcatraz, Devils Island, The Bay, the trees, the homes in the hills, the beach, some naked guy on the beach (I did not see but seems most of the girls did), the cliffs we ran along. Awesome. Turned out to be a trail run, which made me miss Xterra this year, but overall an awesome experience. The sand ladder was tough, but not devastating. I finished the run strong, tapering up into a quick 6 miles and finishing strong. Wish I had just done that last loop on the bike.

Thanks to my team for making this a really fun and positive experience. We enjoyed many many laughs together, and I learned two very very important things. #1 - The proper term for that place in the male brain where lustful thoughts are kept for "later" is called the 'spank bank". Thank you MTV for that. Also a very big thanks to Dr. Chris - Heather's husband - who explained #2 - the orthopedic reasoning behind my love of women in high heels. Apparently, to adjust for positioning, the lower lumar region is jutted back thus forcing women to "throw thier ass out there". This was very helpful. Thank you again Dr. Chris. And thank you also to the many family and friends who thought of me and wished me well in the bay and barraged my cell phone with calls and text messages. It felt great to have your love and support.

This experience was a blast. I would do this again in a heartbeat. Most of all, I would encourage anyone reading this to get out to SF and try this. Maybe one day you'll be able to tell your kids and grandkids you "escpaed the Rock" too.

Friday, June 22, 2007

and we're off ...

2 days, 4 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds til the gun

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Here I Come to Save the Day!

Or at least to save you, gentle reader, eagerly and breathlessly anticipating these last days of worry and preparation in a fun-to-read blog format........from being subjected to an endless dialogue between Abbott and Costello here, debating time zones and seconds and minutes and so on. Who cares? Death by frigid Bay water will be here soon enough - no sense asking for whom the bell tolls, or whatever you two clowns are doing. I say that with affection, of course.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, the life and times of Schleprock.

June 2nd – Tri-Shark

Suffice it to say that I suck less. I think this is what people actually say to me – “Hey Tasha, you sure sucked less this time around, huh?” I’m okay with that. I do have to give full credit to Precious though – the difference between dealing with D-POD and a lighter bike that ACTUALLY SHIFTS (this still amazes me, as you can tell), is astonishing. Based on this, I’ve decided to incorporate similar principles into the rest of my training plan, so I’ve started swimming with a car tire around my neck, and running while dragging rebar behind me. On race days, I’ll fly like the wind. In the meantime, D-POD sits in my garage, untouched. Sulking. Brooding. Scheming. I can sense it.

Friday, June 8th

Today I head out to do Tomato SeedlingTransport to a friend who has a B&B with her husband in southern Wisconsin – I figure I’ll get a bike ride in at the same time. Of course, the wind picks up as soon as I set out – this seems to be a recurring theme. After many turns and going far more miles than I was instructed, I realized that I somehow must have missed the “Miracle Hot Springs” or whatever the heck they’re called. Maybe it was an artesian well. Maybe this is my problem – I forget what I’m looking for. At least on the way back to their place, I have a marker: a huge turbine windmill that can be seen for miles around. I’ve been warned about the hills going back since they’re all uphill, but I zip up them pretty easily. Hey, could I possibly be getting in shape? No. The answer to that would be no.

Tuesday, the 12th – Biking the Bavarian Route

Out in Huntley, I head to the one stretch of hilly road to do my usual hill repeats. Boring as it may seem, I don’t mind this particular stretch of road, because there’s always something new and fascinating to ponder. A patch of yellow buttercups, whether or not the psycho shortcutting commuters will actually pay attention to the “blind hills” signs, the different levels of suckage involved in biking, whereby I put headwinds in the middle and false flats at the top. And then shortly past the llama farm, there’s what I think of as the abandoned Bavarian ghost Village. It’s a huge stretch of land, clearly unused for years, that still has various little buildings on it, though fewer than last year when I was riding out here. In surveying the decay, I like to ponder what might have caused this stalwart Bavarian clan to pick up and leave behind the little community that they carved out of the harsh Illinois prairie – perhaps the cheese was not to their liking, when compared to that of their homeland?

On the other hand, the place does look like it might have once been a kiddie amusement park of sorts, and I suppose with a big stretch of the imagination, the Bavarian chalets and chateaus could have been structures for mini-golf. As perhaps could be the windmills. Shrug. I guess we’ll never know.

Codicil: After doing some research (naturally, my faithful readers think), I discovered that indeed, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Behold, the truth behind the Bavarian Village, aka “Shireland.” http://shireland.tripod.com/index.htm

Quoted from a website about the man himself, who made his fortune in spray-paint can technology:

“Shireland opened on May 28, 1988. The park was 111 acres, included a 68,000 square foot circus tent and four 10,000 square foot exhibit tents. Smrt maintained that Shireland was a "completely original family adventure that will include a zoo, a circus and a county fair all wrapped into one". Smrt said that Shireland never attempted to compete with Great America, with its "high speed, gravity-defying rides". Instead, it was supposed to deliver a message of good conquering evil. He is quoted as saying "Some children today aren't allowed to enjoy their childhood without violence, drugs and other 'dragons' infringing on their dreams". With its musical show "Of Dragons and Dreams", Shireland attempted to deliver a positive message to kids.”

Sometimes......even I can’t make this stuff up.

While this mecca of enjoyment was only open one full season, that halcyon year of 1988, what’s great is that instead of selling his parcel of land to greedy developers, Smrt just picked up and left town, and left it all there. For the last SIXTEEN YEARS. Thomas Smrt, wherever you are, and even though your last name could use a few more vowels – I salute you.

The other great things about the Bavarian Route is that there are built-in snacks. No, you cretins, not the Slurpees at the gas station/convenience mart somewhere past the last hill. I’m talking about berries from all the wonderful mulberry trees along the road. In my usual fashion, I tell myself I can stop to pick some berries after every out and back. Which I do. Best. Berries. Ever. Though I almost sense the jealousy emanating from the cars that come whizzing by on occasion, using this road as their shortcut, as they see me with my bike at my side as I take a leisurely berry break on a nice sunny day. Rough life, I know.

It occurs to me that I wish I could gather some extra berries for my mom, and I sadly think how nice it would be if my bike had a little basket, for just such occasions. What a waste......hmm......

15 minutes later I’m happily on my way, with my precious cargo of mulberries safely stowed away in my Bento box, full to the brim.

Next up: the write-up you’ve all been waiting for, i.e. the HHH, aka the “What kind of damn crazy fools are you people anyway?” ride.