Thursday, May 31, 2007

23 Days and Change until Alcatraz - I'm Ready!!! Bring it on!!!

and I'd also like to take this opportunity to announce that I'm a BIG FAT LIAR!!

and for those of you trying to avoid the countdown, sorry, just accept that the clock is ticking and we're all doomed to one degree or another. (several hundred degrees if you are named Tasha and daring enough to bring D-POD to SF)

Going Short

aka Galena: "Suckfest" Defined

Friday, May 18

As I always say, my parents didn’t raise many foolish children. I for one swore I’d never do Galena, because of those damn hills. Hell, they’re painful to look at – as if I could actually bike up them? Please. And the sadistic bastard who designed the Galena course not only graced us with a very steep hill right out of T1, but another beauty directly out of T2. Sweet.

And yet…….once I signed up for IMOO, I realized that hills would have to become my friend. Or at least my frenemy. So there I was in Galena, FPOS ready to go having been fixed by my boys at GAG, something I had diligently tested out the day before with many hill repeats. Before racking my bike at Galena, I even became one of “those crazy people” who doesn’t conserve every ounce of fast-twitch muscle fiber the day before a race, and instead decided to test my hill climbing abilities out of T1. Not bad. Bike functional. I had FPOS in the right gears, so I didn’t even have to shift. We had even made a bright move by switching out my back wheel for a better extra one that Bridget had, so that I’d be even faster. Flying like the wind. No problem. (cue ominous music….)

Saturday – Race Day

Everything goes smoothly this morning, as the CTCers in our house manage to get ourselves to the race site in plenty of time. We hang out, relax. I even make the radical move of actually getting into the water pre-race start to actually warm up, something I’ve never done before. The water is pretty damn cold, and seaweedy, which doesn’t bother me, even though I get out of the water with a strand of seaweed draped over the top of my head, which a random guy kindly removes. And I manage to slightly cut my foot walking out of the water, when I step on the lone big sharp rock in the lake. But still. Now that I’ve been in the water, I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been before a race.

Our wave starts, and I start swimming. Breathing properly, long strokes, gliding, slippery, smooth, passing people, looking for spaces……..when poof, things suddenly take a turn for the worse. As in, I suddenly can’t breathe. WTH? I can only take these short little breaths, almost as if I’m hyperventilating, but without the wheezing drama that entails. I stop, tread water, figure I’ll rest for a second and catch my breath….nope, no dice. Maybe it’s this damn wetsuit? A possibility, even though this doesn’t feel at all like that typical “this wetsuit makes it harder to breathe than usual” feeling. I try to get it unzipped, but too much of my attention is on trying to get air – so when someone in my wave asks if I need help, I ask her to unzip the wetsuit, which she does. Many thanks, woman in my wave. But it doesn’t help. I yank the wetsuit down further so it’s not constricting my chest at all. Nope, still can’t breathe.

So, we have a conundrum here. I’m about a third of the way through the swim, and I’m starting to think my race might be over. Because I think the lack of oxygen is affecting my brain, and I’m feeling slightly panicky, like on the verge of hysteria, really. Which is a totally unfamiliar feeling, since I tend to be logical to a fault, and logically, there’s a guy in a boat about 20 feet away from me, so it’s not as if I could actually drown. I decide I’ll try doing the backfloating/backstroke thing, so at least I’ll be moving forward, albeit slowly. Maybe that’ll help me catch my breath. It doesn’t, but I’m going somewhere. Though of course now I’m one of those people who annoys everyone behind me, because they’re wondering why I’ve signed up for a race if I can’t swim. Sigh. But every time I try to swim normally, I suck down water because……you guessed it, I still can’t breath, and freestyle is nothing if not an exercise in breathing properly.

Eventually I reach shore, still gasping for air, and figure since my race is shot at this point, I’ll take my time through transition, so that maybe my breathing will calm down. And maybe my lungs won’t feel like they’re on fire.

However, as I’m setting out on the bike, I still can’t take a deep breath, but I decide breathing is overrated anyway, and press on. I start going up the first hill out of T1, the one I got up quickly the day before, but today I need to downshift…….and then I hear that dreaded sound. Click-clackety. Clack. Click-click-click. The sound of a bike that just...won’t...shift.

What Fresh Hell is This?

Yes, folks, here we are at the Galena tri, one of the hilliest courses known to man, and Little Miss Tasha is on a bike that won’t shift properly. Before it was the front chain rings that were giving me problems – now it’s the back. Every time I try to shift, I get the clackety-clack sound that I’ll hear in my dreams now until the end of time, as the chain just bounces back and forth from cog to cog, mocking me. I curse, and mutter, and curse some more. Several times, as this is happening, I yell “FUCK!” at the top of my lungs, then apologize to the cyclists around me, who are universally sympathetic. I debate just taking this bike and dramatically chucking it into a cornfield. This seems like a very attractive option, but somehow I refrain.

At some point, I decide I’m just not going to shift the back cogs. They don’t work anyway, so why make the attempt? Instead, I focus on strategery: going like a bat out of hell on the downhills, getting through the uphills as quickly as possible to get the agony over with. Now, while I’m not the best cyclist in the world, even my enfeebled mind sees the wisdom in maniacally speeding downhill, especially when there’s a godawful uphill immediately following. Apparently this isn’t a commonly held thought, however, as I wind up having to go to the outside of the cones to make sure I don’t crash at 43 mph into meandering mountain bikers, cycling all the way to the left of the lane. While wearing their iPods, so they don’t hear me screaming “on your LEFT!!!” My favorite is the guy who gets to the top of a hill, starts coasting downhill...while veering left and right because he’s putting his SUNTAN LOTION on.

And then there’s the huge JESUS SAVES sign, which one has to look at for an overly long time as it’s at the top of one hell of a steep hill. Bitterly, I mutter to myself “Saving WHOM, exactly? Cause Jesus sure ain’t saving my sorry ass on this ride.” Let this be a lesson to all of you – when they say, don’t change anything for a race, then DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING for a race! While changing the wheel to one with a different cassette wouldn’t have had an adverse impact on a normal bike, on FPOS it obviously turned everything majorly FUBAR, and this was where it got me. In some Groundhog-esqueian version of Hell, where I’m just having a bad race day over and over and over……

Just when I think I might make it through this ride, I get to the top of yet another hill, try to shift the front chainrings, which have been working somewhat – and yes, dear friends, now those won’t shift. At all. Stuck in the smallest chainring. And then, 3 miles from the end of the bike leg, FPOS drops a chain. I get off, and am seriously thisclose to throwing the bike off the hill, because, as god is my witness, I swear to never ride this bike again, as it is clearly evil. I kick him, having decided that the bike is a he, not a she. Because really, if you look at all the, umm, classic demon bikes throughout history, they’ve all been male. I get the chain back on, but something’s misaligned because the pedals won’t move. So, I now become Susie the Bike Mechanic, and flip the bike over to fiddle with the chain. As I’m doing so, I have the pleasure of seeing all the people I passed come toodling on by, including Mr. iPodwearingSuntanLotionGuy. Sigh. My hands are now covered in bike grease, and because I don’t want to beschmutzify my riding clothes, I just wipe it off on my leg. You know, to make it clear that I’m not JUST slow, but that I clearly also had a bike malfunction.

I get back on, and start composing haiku in my head, but somehow it all revolves around variations of “Bike, how I hate you so.” I then rename the bike Damien, as is befitting its evil, possessed nature, or perhaps Prince of Darkness. How about both? Thus, the bike is rechristened Damien, Prince of Darkness, or D-POD for short. As I close in on transition, I see a guy in front of me, who in my mind’s eye is wearing khaki shorts, Tevas, black socks, and a black t-shirt as he toodles along on his black mountain bike. In a fit of pettiness, I decide that he is NOT going to beat me into transition, so I zoom past him. Ha, that’ll show him!

As I go into transition, I see all the CTC people who’ve already finished. In fact, they probably finished so long ago that they’ve had time to eat, go back to the house, shower, knit a quilt, and then come back to the race to cheer us laggards on. Clearly, at this point my “race” is over, but I’ve accepted that as my fate. And while on the bike I had decided I wasn’t going to wear my creative headgear, because I wasn’t in a very fun mood, I now think – okay, so yet again I suck, I’m the slowest damn person to ever wear the Tri Club uniform, and yet again I look like I wouldn’t know a workout if it walked up and hit me in the face. This is a familiar feeling. It’s not pleasant. But, it’s also just a race, and if nothing else, doing these things can teach one a lot about perspective.

So, I put on my minty green lilypad swimcap and set off on the run – in the now blazing 88-degree sun. As I’m running, I see people coming back on the run course, and they look at the lilypad and smile, or chuckle. Which makes me happy. Because without the silly swimcap I would have been just another racer having a lousy day, with absolutely nothing to feel good about, but at least now I can comfort myself with the thought that I brought some entertainment to the rest of us BOPers. That was good enough for me.

I catch up with Marian, and we finish the run together, after stopping to get wee Dixie cups of ice water from the sweetest old man, wearing a John Deere hat and having a beer. To the good people of Galena: you put on one hell of a race, and I for one thank you all for your efforts. It’s a little concerning that after the race I keep hacking and coughing this deep raspy cough, while coughing up tiny amounts of blood, but I’m sure that’s nothing. Right?

The Aftermath

We all go to the Saturday night CTC party at one of the houses, where most people react appropriately to my tale of woe with a sympathetic “Man, that sucks.” Then I run into Tauryn, who has to try to get all Pollyanish and chipper with me – and those who know me know that I do not do “chipper” very well.

Me: Blah blah blah...sucky race.
Tauryn: That’s okay, everyone has a bad race day! Just think of your last race, I’m sure that was great!
Me: My last race sucked too. That was Pleasant Prairie.
Tauryn: So 2 bad race days – big deal!
Me: My life is all about bad race days.
Tauryn: Come on! You finished! You stuck it out!
Me: That’s because I’m an idiot.
Tauryn: Hey, now what would you say to ME if I had a bad race? Huh?
Me (frantically trying to think of a plausible lie): Umm……shit happens?
Tauryn: Right! It’s just one race! Things will get better! Yay, you finished!

As my head falls forward and hits the table repeatedly and I go to a happy place in my mind that involves lots of alcohol, I can still catch bits of words emanating forth from Tauryn: “..after all, tomorrow is another day…….rome wasn’t……what doesn’t kill you…makes stronger…..” I decide to go and actually find some alcohol before I take a butter knife to someone.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wetsuits R Fun

OK, so I bought the DeSoto T1 a while back. I'd never owned a wetsuit before, and had only swum in a rental once. The gleaming neoprene sat on my dresser; I eyed it up & down every now & again. I really did mean to get in the lake in the week before Galena, but alas, twas not to happen (not b/c I chickened out, b/c of thunderstorms...I swear!). Going against all advice, I wore a wetsuit in a race that I'd never actually swum in before. In fact, I'd had it on for all of 2 mins before then. It felt great at Galena. I began to contemplate the smartness of this wetsuit gig. Then, I really did go in the lake. On a day when the air and water temps were roughly the same, i.e. cold water, coolish air. That's when I truly grasped the genius behind the neoprene (after my brain thawed). And I can really feel the fact that the suit is thicker on the legs - it is so easy to kick in this thing! awesome! My memory of this morning's swim (warmer air, still cold water) is - That was fun! I can't wait to do it again! This allows me to believe that I can survive Alcatraz (although I have yet to swim for more than 30 mins in said cold water). But hey, it's a start. And although I am trying to maintain my denial of # of days left by visually blocking the clock on the blog, some people (ahem, Halfway Homie & Princess) keep mentioning the number aloud in my vicinity. Anyway, point is, although I haven't tried any other wetsuits, I'm already a big fan of the T1.

The Shoe Saga

ok, this is really boring, but what the hell.

Was in the market for new running shoes. This need was accelerated by the fact that while at the gym, I left shoes above my locker when I showered and I accidentally knocked one off the ledge toward the back. I pulled up there and saw nothing ... except a big black hole in the corner that looked like a vertical locker could fit into it. I was the last locker before the turn and it seems that this hole in the corner behind the lockers runs 8 feet from the locker tops down to the ground. Maintenance guy couldn't get it either. Gone.

Went to the Competitive Foot in Western Springs, great store, knowledgeable people. Lessons to be learned: (1) listen to what they say, (2) if the one they don't recommend in the store feels ok on the test spin, it's probably still not ok, (3) people change from motion control to stability, or stability to neutral, even when their flat feet don't change, (4) Chi running-like techniques work.

They almost demand you bring in the old shoes to check wear patterns. Amy, the nice sales clerk/manager/whatever (and an ironman and multiple marathon finisher), saw a wear pattern on the outside, which is pretty odd for flat feet. And it was a stability shoe, so it should have offset the low arch to end up with a neutral landing. Seemed over-supported. Used to wear motion control before I took up tris, then after a couple of years of that moved to stability when I got off my heels.

These Saucony Hurricanes felt really good on the test run.

I went with them even though Amy said they were probably too much support. They had that denser inner half of the sole to keep the foot level. Went out one time, felt ok running actually, but couldn't walk well during cool down. Normal walking heel to toe almost had me rolling an ankle with the rotation off the inside. that's bc I tested them running out the door of the store, then back in, and didn't really walk at all. dummy.

The store is cool, if undamaged they'll exchange. So I went with these, the Saucony Omni, recommended by the guy working that day.

Yes, another Saucony. The brand was recommended due to the large range of support for different people. used to go with Brooks Adrenalines (3 straight pairs), but they made them "better" (a/k/a different) and added a really high internal arch. Odd for a shoe marketed for stability, since low arches need stability but the the high shoe arch could dig in. Well, these Omnis felt good, kinda like the old Adrenalines. BUT, it seems arch was too high here and cutting in. It didn't have that hard anti-roll sole but the little it had was cutting into arch. Felt good on the test run, felt good for 4 miles next day, then ... blister. They were ok to bring back, so I did ... again. I don't fault the guy for the fit, they seemed fine and only started digging on climbs.

Finally, the Saucony Trigon

It's a neutral shoe recommended by Amy which, of course, was the level she suggested I may need a week ago when this whole thing started. She said my stride is completely off of my inner foot and is probably bc I've become a better and/or stronger runner over the years. I've been trying hard to stay off the heels and lean forward like the books nowadays teach, which interestingly enough I started NOT to ease pressure off the feet, but to alleviate knee pain from the old football knee ligament(s) injury. Knee used to be in pain for a day or more after anything over 5 miles, but the new stride has pretty much eliminated that. Went 6.5 today, shoes felt fine. We'll see how far I've come and how the shoes work when marathon training starts.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Soldier field race report (Halfway Homie)

The morning started slow with none of the normal pre-race stuff, ok, maybe everything except your smiling happy faces. I guess I was totally spoilt with so many tri-club people at Galena that soldier field was a bit of a let down. I didn’t see or recognize anyone before the race – if you were there count your lucky stars that you didn’t see me before the race, I was likely to give you a hug (which admittedly is better than a post-race hug), I felt a little sad an lonely.

The run itself 10 miles, the first 2 miles were barely bearable, not helped by the fact that I needed a P break from the moment I started, at mile 2 the opportunity presented itself, I figure 4 minutes or so of standing in line is worth it.

By mile 3 I was getting into the running, but by mile 6 I started feeling the pain so I slowed down a little. There is definitely no better way to make sure that you see someone you know than to start walking. So in order to see someone I did, a minute later Becky ran by. I speeded up to keep pace with her and we had a little chat which was fantastic.

The race was very well organized, there were no major path narrowing – I’d hear last year there was a point that everyone had to go through a narrow tunnel, looks like they figured it out. The run south was mostly on lake shore drive and side roads, coming back to Soldier Field was all on the lake front path – there was only one cyclist that decided to cycle through the crowd… I guess there will always be one :)

I was running behind one lady, clearly in pain, I couldn’t run behind her for too long as I could feel her pain, decided to publicly announce my fondness of bodyglide – please tell your newby friends for the greater good of humankind :) Bodyglide rocks.

At the end of the race, loads of stuff going on, for the first time I went to the message / stretching area, where a very nice guy – Rob – stretched me. Thanks Rob!

Saw a couple more people at the end – good show. Came home and decided to climb the stairs, just to see if I could actually make it, and yes I did… “Sand ladder here I come” was the thought that went through my head as I climbed the 5 steps.

Every time I saw the SF 10 t-shirts, I thought of San Francisco and the dreaded clock from hell, guess I have 28 days to recover.

See all y’all at tri-shark, I’m looking forward to hanging out with loads of tri-club people, now I’m of to find some chocolate milk, food and possibly see Shrek 3. (Hopefully I’ll stay awake.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Galena Race Report: Abridged Version

Last Saturday

Just another day in paradise

Last Thursday

4:45 AM (alarm goes off)

You’ve got to be kidding me.


Ack, what time is it?! Ugh, must get clock that has snooze button, rather than on-off switch. Okay, suck it up, time to start getting up early, dammit. Still feel like a fraud. Only athletes do this crack-of-dawn thing, and I’m clearly not an athlete. Who am I kidding?

5:35 (driving out to Huntley with bike)

Wow, I’m actually on the road within my time frame – will wonders never cease? Alert the media! What the heck’s with those black storm clouds though – shoot, should have checked the radar to see if rain was moving in. Well, no matter. Even if it’s pouring rain, I’m still riding – it’ll be good practice for IMMOO. Besides, I am NOT a wimp, I am an Ironchick. A wanna-be, at least. Rain, storms, bah, I scoff at your feeble attempts to throw me off track.

6:20 (arriving in Huntley at mom’s house)

Ay caramba, what’s with this WIND?? And it’s COLD, brr! It must be 40 degrees outside. Maybe I’ll wait just a tiny bit until it warms up, have a cup of hot tea.

6:35 (inside, looking at computer)

Crap, it really is only 40 degrees – with a “real feel” temperature of 36. Great. Just what I need – hypothermia. Maybe another cup of tea, just until I wake up a bit. Besides, if I look at the hourly forecast, it should be at least 5 degrees warmer by 7.


Mom wakes up, asks me if I could look up some forms for her online and print them out.


Okay, it’s not going to get any warmer; time to get this show on the road already. I put on another layer and head out.


Fingers are frozen. Note to self: always have full gloves with you, not just the fingerless ones. This wind is crazy – who the hell decided to build houses and roads out here on the frozen tundra, anyway??


I’m forced to take a different route, since the little road I usually take is closed because of more ugly house construction. Boy, drivers are a lot meaner during the week than on weekends! Hey bub, thanks for the whole 2 inches of space between me and your 2-ton Midlife Crisis! 99% of the people whiz by like that, so I’m shocked at the one car that creeps along behind me at a blind curve until it’s safe to pass. Thanks, whoever you are!


Whew, finally I can turn off onto a smaller country road. What the heck, could this be a bit more torn up and potholey? Talk about needing a repair job, now. I’m composing a letter in my head to the local Huntley municipal board (“To the good people of Huntley:”), when suddenly I hear a loud POP. Shit. Did I drop something? Blow a wheel? Just then, a car veers past me, and I see that HE has the flat tire. Ouch. See, told you about the roads.


I’m riding along this road that’s still surrounded by fields, thinking about what an old curmudgeon I’ll sound like in, say, a year or two when it’s all McMansions: “Sit around, children, and I’ll tell you when there used to be actual FARMLAND right here in Illinois. Yes, it’s true,” I’ll insist, as the kids snicker and shake their heads in disbelief. I then notice that most of the fields already have fire hydrants in them, all ready to stick those ugly houses in there. Sigh. So much for a couple of years.


Okay, time to do some hills. I’ve managed to find the one stretch of road around here that has real hills, a couple of miles of all kinds of painful and sucky hills. Yeehaw. I do an out-and-back, and contemplate the suckiness of that. I ride it again, so I don’t feel lame. The smart thing now would be to stop, so I’m not tired for Galena. I think about that, agree with it, and then do the hills again. No sense breaking with tradition.

At least my bike is working properly. Still hard to shift, but doable. Thanks, GAG. Smoochies!


Okay, made it back in one piece, now off for a run. Should I take some bread crumbs to mark my trail? These subdivisions and trails are a bit Soviet-esque, all looking the same. They’ll probably find Jimmy Hoffa wandering around the Sun City lake one of these days.


I’m doing a fine imitation of Adaptation, with the following running through my head: “Well, I’m trying to cut back on carbs, but all this working out should warrant at least some oatmeal. Okay, I have my recovery drink too, but that’s only about 145 calories. Oatmeal is 120. Yeah, I can have oatmeal – besides, they say that the carbs you have right before or immediately after working out don’t count, because……EEEEEEEH!”

At that point I tripped on some huge bump in the pathway and went tumbling to the ground, like a clown at the circus. At least now I can be happy it’s so damn cold, because the fuzzy gloves kept my hands from getting scraped up.


Okay, so what’s the deal with this trail?? Does it ever end? Have I actually discovered the 7th Circle of Hell?


Well, that wasn’t too bad. At least I feel like I can take on Galena now. Seriously, after all this madcap chaos, how bad can THAT be? I am so ready for that race.

Holy Crapola

31 days. Just 31 days to master that daunting swim. I have been consumed by work in the last few weeks and have no choice but to cancel my life to get ready for this race in the next few remaining. I survive the swim - the rest is cake. Now, Chuck will tell me, "not really cake Kevin, you see there's the sand ladder and the hills on the bike", to which I reply, "yes Chuck, but I can stop and rest. Not so much in the water". So it's really that part of this endeavor that has me... respectfully cautious.

My new bike is working like a charm and I've decided to leave it completely stock as I will have a rental in SF that is probably completely stock and with the hills and all, I won't have any use for aero bars. Thus, I'll bring my pedals and seat bottle rack.

I have yet to get my Borat suit, but have no doubt Tasha will be able to provide me with the names of 20 places I can find one. There is little chance she'll let me back out of this deal. And so I must warn everyone that on that fateful morning when Tasha and I decide to take pictures, as agreed, that the backside to this suit is a thong, and, well... let's just say I'm not known for sporting a hot ass. Fair warning.

And it may just be me, but the once playful banter that existed here just months ago is replaced by the quiet sounds of some sort of impending doom. Much like the pencil necked geek in class awiting his 3 o'clock daily beating, it's about 2:45 and we're starting to break out in a nervous sweat, with no place left to run.

This should be fun.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tasha: "It’s only a sprint distance race, you realize"

Not that I want to scare you or anything, I just want you to be prepared. While the bike is only 13 (felt harder than a flat 25), the swim (1.5) and run (10) are both 3x a sprint swim/run. Oh, I'm sorry, was your theory to be in denial? doh!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cursed Clock of Doom

OK, I loved the blog idea at first, but damnit Chuck, this fucking clock thing really has me dreading a post.
Yet here I am. Holy Mother of God, 37 days! That's just a few more than a month. Wait - we were just planning this in
DECEMBER, right? Can we go back just a bit... like to January?

OK, things are not sooo bad, and if I really hustle, eat perfectly, train 4-5 days a week, nail my swimming yardage, and perfect the stairs workouts, I should be fine.

I guess I'll panic come June 24th, if I need to. Don't have time right now.

Cheating never pays, and other Notes to Self

So I slunk back into Mecca (aka Get a Grip) yesterday to get some schwag for the Tri Club’s party at Galena this weekend, and to see if they could help me get my pedals off my bike, since this was beyond me. And yes, I was trying to turn them the correct way! My pal Jason is there, and after YoungCuteBikeGuy Matt loosens my pedals in about 3 seconds, Jason and I are chit-chatting, when I mention my Galena dilemma. To wit, do I a) ride my bike this weekend with shifters that don’t work, b) borrow Robyn’s bike, which has working shifters but is also Lilliputian in size, or c) try to not kill myself riding a friend’s tri bike, which she has generously offered to loan me. At this point, Jason looks at me as if I have two heads, and practically snatches FPOS out of my hands so that they can have a look-see.

Jason: And what are you doing standing there holding your bike instead of having us look at it??
Me (meekly): Umm, well, I hate to impose, you guys look busy.
Jason: We’re always busy! But we ALWAYS have time to look at Tri Club bikes!
Me (shuffling feet): Umm, okay then.

It took YCBG Matt about 5 seconds to find the problem.

Matt: Whoever worked on your bike last, they way overtightened the cassette, and that’s screwing up the cogs and chain and throwing everything out of alignment. (this is paraphrased, i.e. translated into Tashaspeak, so if it makes no sense, that’s my fault) You can probably hardly shift, right?

I looked at Matt, my new hero, with shining adoration in my eyes. Finally, someone understands!

Matt: Look here.

He shows me how misaligned the whole chain/cog thingie is, and even a bike neophyte like myself can see it. He doesn’t even tell me I need new shifters, as the other bike store that we’ll call “Johnny Sprockets” did – but now because of their incompetence, I will need a new chain and cassette and I think some other doohickey. But in the meantime, YCBG Matt says he can make it good enough for Galena, and then I can get it really fixed. Hallelujah!

As I’m ready to leave, Jason sense that I’m a bit...perturbed. Dumbfounded. Pissed off? Incredulous? He thinks I’m worried about my bike, and reassures me that they can fix it and it’ll be fine. Unable to take the pressure any longer, I blurt out:

“That’s not it! I...I...okay, I confess, I went to another bike shop! There, the horrible truth is out. I needed to get my bike looked at before my Missouri trip and they said they could do it right away and they did but then I got to Missouri and it was WORSE, it was horrible, just read the blog about my days of terror on those hills!” I babbled. “I should have known better than to stray,” I finish sadly.

Luckily, Jason understood the need for a quick turnaround, but when I mentioned that I had gone to “Johnny Sprockets”, he nodded knowingly, and pointed out that YCBG Matt used to work there. So obviously things have gone downhill since then, I’d say. Anyway, I think all is forgiven, though I should probably drop off some brownies at the shop sometime soon.

The point being, let this be an important lesson to you all – in fact, if you take no other nugget of wisdom from this blog, young grasshopper, just remember this: once you’ve found a great hairdresser and a great bike shop, never EVER give them up, or you too may find yourself careening down a hill in the Ozarks, cursing your fool head off.

Other stupid things I have done, so that you don’t have to, as well as other notes to self:

o The fact that there’s a strong ammonia smell oozing from my pores after I run is NOT a figment of my imagination. There’s a complicated scientific explanation for it, but bottom line it seems to be related to insufficient carb intake. Hmm. Who knew that while training for an IM is NOT the best time to start the Atkins diet?
o Going running in the afternoon when it’s 89 degrees is not a good idea.
o Not taking much water isn’t so brilliant either.
o Ditto on not taking a few bucks to buy water on the way.
o The next day, taking just a few dollars was a smart move. Because after about an hour, all those bakeries one passes start to look mighty tempting. Who needs this run bullshit? I’ll just go have an ├ęclair! Passing Lutz’s Bakery was almost my downfall, but I resisted. That time.
o Bikes seem to have some built-in distress signal capabilities, unheard by human ears. Because as Robyn and I were biking the Barrington loop last Saturday, there weren’t that many people around, but as soon as we stopped and turned FPOS over to see if there was anything obvious wrong with the chain/shifters, there were guys on bikes crawling out of the woodwork, stopping to see if we needed help. As if FPOS were calling out to her brethren, to come save her. Hmm. Must remember this.

And finally, more Conversations With my Brother

Me: Yeah, biking in Missouri was insane, but it was good practice. Those hills in SF look scary!
Him: Are you sure you can handle this race? Maybe a nice latte and some bonbons by the beach would be a better idea?
Me: Umm, I’ve been training, you know. Just need to work on hill running. And biking. And swimming in choppy, wavy, shark-infested waters. Piece of cake.
Him: Seriously though… don’t want to hurt yourself. It’s not worth it. You could die!
Me: It’s only a sprint distance race, you realize.
Him: But still – I mean, if you get tired or don’t feel well, you’ll stop, right? You won’t just keep going if you can’t handle it, yes? You really have to be in shape to do that kind of a race.
Me: A triangle is a shape!

So yet again, another vote of confidence from my adoring public. Sigh.

photos of the day

Jumping off the boat ...

In the drink, waiting for the start ...

and they're off ...

great photo, a copy of this one is on my office wall ...

swim in shadow of Golden Gate ...

bike under the Golden Gate ...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pyrasports Challenge

Our sponsor Pyrasports (see left) is starting up a new challenge where you can set goals for races, workouts, weight loss, etc. With our without the challenge, you can track workouts there and also check out the progress of your friends, assuming (a) you have some and (b) they are also on the site.

Challenge page is HERE.

Using this website, you can transform from this ...

to sexytime ...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dirty Sock and Zen

Monday -

In Tom Robbins' book Skinny Legs and All, Dirty Sock is making his way to Mecca with his traveling companions Spoon, Conch Shell, and Can of Beans. Along the way, Dirty Sock somehow falls into a stream, and despite struggling mightily, soon finds himself totally waterlogged and facing a certain watery death. Facing the inevitable, he gives up and resigns himself to his fate. Then, suddenly, he gets hooked by a log, winds up drying out in the sun and is thus saved, in the process learning that just when one really and truly gives up all hope, things sometimes take a turn for the better.

And so, today was the day I conceded defeat. The soul-crushing hills of Missouri and my FPOS bike have successfully conspired to wither my Ironchick spirit. I have blisters on my left hand from trying to shift – another day of that on these hills and they’ll find me trudging back into town babbling to myself and shaking my head in wide-eyed horror, leaving the bike for the vultures to pick at. (Though it was an amusing moment when I was in a shop yesterday and wound up chatting with a youngish guy who worked there, and when I mentioned where I had been biking, his response was “Oh yeah, the Cardiac Hills.”)

So instead I decided to go for my LAR (Long Ass Run), heading to the trails-that-do-not-loop, figuring I’d try out the ones TaiChiGuy was telling me about. Before I set out, I tuck a piece of taffy in the back pocket of my running tank, as a halfway-point treat. It’s not a bagel, but it’ll do.

At 6AM, there’s no one around and there’s still a mist hanging over the lakeriver. The only sounds are those of the birds – the cardinal, the woodpecker, and some extremely noisy little birds peeping away; who the hell knows what they are. I trudge up steps made out of railroad ties, contemplating the impossibility of it all. As I’m huffing along, I suddenly hear some gruff little barks, and look around for the rabid Chihuahua that I’m sure will come darting out. Instead, I see two tiny red foxes scampering towards me, just a foot or two away. And a bit further back, a bigger animal is loping along – a wolf? Bobcat? As I peer into the woods on this uphill slope, contemplating running after the creature to get a better view, a thought pops unbidden into my mind, and not for the first time: “I am an idiot.”

I decide it might be smart to keep moving along.

I then come across Where Christmas Trees Go To Die. Yes, there are bundles of brown Christmas tree husks, still tied up, all along the sides of this narrow path. At first there are piles, and I wonder if someone was dumping them here. Then as they get more evenly spaced, lining the path like sentinels of Christmases past, I realize that they’ve been left here as compost. Clever. It’s a little eerie, just me and the trees under a dark and cool green forest canopy, but pretty neat at the same time.

The Hiawathas of the state forest system have been goldbricking, apparently, because this path isn’t very well-marked either. My one excursion down a gulley and over to the other side only leads to some ugly houses (ptooey), but when I come across a path that veers off randomly, I decide to take it, adventure-seeker that I am. It’s only a national forest in Missouri, after all – how lost can I possibly get?

……much later

So as I’m wandering in the backyards of these McMansions that butt up against the forest, I wonder how many Missourians actually own guns, and how quick they are to shoot seeming trespassers. The reentry path is nowhere to be found. As I go along, I walk right past a condo where a woman is sitting and having her morning coffee, but when I ask her if she knows where the other path is, she has no idea. Well of course, you just live on the edge of the forest – why ever bother to actually go hiking in it? How silly of me. To be polite, I mumble an apology for tramping through her 4-inch backyard, but of course I’m not really sorry. You buy housing that sits on what used to be national land, you take what you get.

I get to a house that’s built a barrier around the wee backyard, meaning I have to walk in front of the houses now. As I do so, I dimly recall TaiChiGuy saying something about a cul-de-sac, and lo and behold, there’s one coming up! The thing is, I now have to traipse back into someone’s yard in order to get to a possible path. Hmm. I run around the cul-de-sac once, mulling, then go for it, running between two houses and quickly scanning the backyards. Aha! There’s my path, which I recognize from the other day – it’s the path-that-doesn’t-loop. Victory is mine!

After running the rest of the trail, I finally reemerge from the forest, and notice that I’ve only been gone about 80 minutes – not long enough for a LAR. So, I decide to start on the trail again, thinking of this as being like a training plan for a Frank Dobbs race. But this time I actually run up the steps made of railroad ties, thinking of Carolyn while doing so. If I collapse in a heap on our beloved SF sandladder, it won’t be for lack of trying. This was of course before I knew the damn thing was an incomprehensible 400 (!) steps, so I think collapse is a foregone conclusion. Ah well.

I go down another path, for a change of scenery, but am stopped by the sight of many dead herons, in various states of decomposition. What the heck? And nearby is a pool of slimy, bright green water/muck. Somehow I doubt that there’d be a toxic pond of waste in a national forest, but then, those in charge still think there’s a looping trail, so there might be quite a few things they don’t know about. Later I stop at the Conservation Station by the dam to mention this to them, and find out that that’s where they put dead birds and fish, as compost. Ah, it all makes sense now.

My total run clocks in at 1:50, which minus the lollygogging and trail searching and animal-seeking makes for perhaps a 1:30 run, which is okay. And while my bike still sucks and will continue to suck, the natural beauty and sights and sounds I've seen before most people have even gotten out of bed has made me smile, and uplifted my soul.

When I get back to the car and sit down to drive off, I’m startled by something digging into my back. Ah yes, my now misshapen lump of taffy. Which turns out to taste just fine.

today's swim

Chuck basically updated everyone on the swim this morning, but I am proud to say that I did not scream, swear, kick, or attempt to run the other direction upon entering the water! It also did not take me an unreasonable amount of time to get into the water. Swimming was definitely cold and a bit difficult considering I had no goggles (must remember those next time), but I'm happy to say that I'm no longer afraid of the cold water. I think that I may even be able to jump off the ferry at Alcatraz island and may not need someone to shove me off.

Progress people, progress!!!


Well, with the race 44 days away, it seemed to be a good time for my first open water training swim since 2005. In 2006, I swam in open water only 3 times, and they were all during races.

So, the alarm goes off at 4:00 am, it gets snoozed 3x (planned) and I get to the train at 5:05 am. The Carolyn Car Service picks me up at the train station. She was there bright and early, but perhaps she should have spent a few more minutes getting out of the house so that, you know, she'd remember her goggles!!

6:00 am, Carolyn, Max and I take the plunge into the cold, Carolyn sans goggles, all of us sans common sense.

It was awfully cold, felt maybe 55 degrees to me. I kinda remember how the temps feel based on how much it hurts. A guy I swam with last time I went to Alcatraz used to bring a thermometer to the beach, so after a few times we used to guess "feels like ...", then would look at the thermometer.

The worst part is the face. Hands and feet hurt pretty much but they're moving and you get used to it. Putting the face in makes me think of one word - as stated by Mr. T in Rocky III: "PAIN"

You kinda get used to it after maybe 200 or 300 yards. Suggestion for those who haven't gotten in: don't wait, get in now. Waiting til June and 60+ degree water temps will make the swimming easier to deal with, but you really need to feel this a few times and swim through it. It REALLY throws you off. Seriously, I thought of just stopping and getting out, so it's something that you may want to learn to deal with, though you never really get used to it.

The stats, if you care: 17:30 half mile going out for the warm-up, 15:00 half mile coming back in.

There was some discussion this morning about how Alcatraz looked REALLY far from the shore in the picture I posted. Sorry about that. Seriously, it's not that far, it just looks far. It's only a mile or so out there (the swim's 1.5 bc you go in an "L") which is not far, but a lot of the pix make it seem far.

Here's the classic shot from Columbus (I think it's Columbus) where it kinda looks 800 yds off shore at most, especially in the second one. So, when in doubt, these are your "happy place" shots you should think of.

Good flashback, in 2000 we stayed in a hotel on the top of Columbus, so it had the view in the first picture. Race morning I went out in the dark to ride to the start and saw that view, but picture a full moon above the island and a bunch of floodlights on the island lighting it up. Wish I had the camera.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

email from Argonaut Hotel

Well, I am going into OAK, so I'll need to figure this out. FYI ...

You may have heard about the tanker accident that caused the collapse of the I-580 Bay Bridge Connector. Although this is a major thoroughfare connecting San Francisco to the Oakland International Airport, alternative routes have been established. Until the damage can be repaired, traffic congestion is expected.

Bay Area Travel Tips:
  • If you haven't booked your airline ticket yet, consider flying in and out of the San Francisco International Airport instead of the Oakland International Airport.

  • If you are planning to fly in and out of Oakland International Airport, you can avoid traffic delays by taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Visit: for information on schedules, fees and pick-up/drop-off locations.

  • To learn more about transportation options, please visit
We want your travel experience to be as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
Please call us at 1-800-KIMPTON to contact a hotel concierge who can arrange transportation for you. As always, if there is anything we can do to assist you, please let us know.

The vultures and I: A Travelogue

Sunday -

Okay, so yesterday was perhaps not my finest moment. But that was then, and today is a bright, shiny new day, resplendent with promise. And I must say, even as I was facing death in the form of a steep Missouri roadway, it sure was pretty up in them thar hills.

Besides, those kinds of experiences give way to some truly brilliant haiku:

Oh I hate you now
Bike how you defeat my soul
Kick! Kick! Go away!

Bike how I hate you
Throw you down the riverbank
No more worries now

I don’t need you bike
I will use my Kick-N-Go
5-day IMMOO fun

Hmm, there seems to be a theme here.

Rather than tackling the Highroad again today, I’ve decided to try another route given to me by that somewhat nice Craig fellow. It’s called the Gobbler’s Knob – a meandering ride on country roads with no shoulder, but little traffic. How tough could that be?
. . . . . . .

Existential questions I ponder while riding: Are all children in Missouri BORN evil, under the “bad seed” theory, or is it an environmental thing, where (for example) the constant caterwauling from the 64 million radio stations that play only country music are what make them turn against their fellow man? Is there any stretch of road in MO that is actually flat? Where does the “turkey” in turkey vulture come from? Just a few idle thoughts as I grapple with today’s Suckfest-O-Rama.

Turkey vultures come to mind because as FPOS and I slog our way up and down more hills, I smell the roadkill before I see it. And I see the 5 turkey vultures fly up from the side of the road in the distance before I get to the deer carcass staring up at me with vacant eyes. Seeing the vultures circling up above is good motivation to keep moving, so that I don’t have to ponder this existential question: How long does one have to be down before the carrion birds swoop in?

While this road is certainly less onerous than yesterday’s, I again get to a point where I’m so slow that I might as well be standing still. And I decide, enough. I turn around, and as I’m zooming back at an average 28 mph, I realize that either I’ve actually died and am biking on celestial clouds, or, more likely, the other way was one big false flat, into a headwind. Oh. Didn’t realize that, thought it was just me. Well, that’s a little comforting. Then I approach the spot where my friends the vultures were feasting, and as I ride up, they look at me, I look at them, and at the last minute they decide to take flight. Right into my path.

Me: “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!”

I duck, they flap on by, disaster averted for another day. Of course, I still had my run to do. I decided that since I had only biked for a lame hour, that I needed to do a longish run (this is Tasha Workout Math), so off I went to the woods.

I go to Table Rock Dam/Park, where that Craig person told me there was a path going along the river. Oops, I mean “lake.” To most people, a stretch of water with a swift current that meanders along is called a river, but not here in MO. Anyway, I went where all the trout fishermen were, located the path……which was closed for “maintenance.” Of course. I contemplate climbing over the barriers, over the piles of dirt, then over the yellow tape to get to what looks like a functional path beyond this construction point, but decide against it. I then go deeper into the forest preserve and find another path, one that purports to go in a 2.6 mile loop. Ha.

Note to MO Dept. of Conservation: a “loop” is defined as a continuous oval or circle pattern. This is compared to, say, an “out and back,” where you go a distance, turn around, and come back along the same path. Just wanted to clarify that, because there seems to be some confusion about that on your trails.

I get to a point with divergent paths, but when I take one of them, I shortly arrive at...a road, and a golf course. Okay. I go back and try the other path, which leads to...a backyard in a crappy new subdivision. Hmm. A third path, which does not follow the map’s so-called loop, meets up with the original path and goes back to the starting point. Figuring I must have done something wrong, I decide to try the whole thing again, trying to pay attention to the little Hiawatha-like symbols tacked up on trees here and there. Nope, same thing. To avoid having a Groundhog Day-eque experience, I decide to find another trail. As I’m running, I come across the first person I’ve seen yet on these paths – a swarthy-looking man carrying a big stick. Figuring him to be an ax/stick-murderer, I give him a chipper yet firm hello, the one that says “I may be nice, but you don’t want to cross me, bub.”

After my run I head back to the parking lot, and as I’m standing by my car, along comes StickMurdererGuy, so I offer him a water. We start chatting, and he mentions that he was practicing Tai Chi, and then proceeds to tell me about the trail that goes through the woods for 7-8 miles, where to find it, and how at one point one has to go through the subdivision complex which now bisects the path. Aha, this explains the “loop” issue! One might think the Forest Department would want to update those signs a bit, no?

Anyway, this is excellent news, and tomorrow I’ll try out TaiChiGuy’s trail suggestion, after perhaps another biking attempt. It’s either that or run around a cul-de-sac 6 or 700 times so that I don’t get lost again; I’ll give the woods thing another shot first.

Lake swim tomorrow 6 am

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Have Bike, Will Travel

Friday -

With the Watch of Doom ticking away, I figure I should become one with my bike, and that being in Missouri for an Heirloom Tomato Festival would offer an excellent opportunity to get in some hill training. I find on the internets the website for a bike shop in Branson, exchange a few emails with the owner, Craig, and stop in to chat after we get to town, and after I discover that the Tasha jinx/curse is alive and well, as the restaurant that I was really looking forward to going to again, the one that had amazing bbq ribs – well, it burned down to the ground in the fall. Damn.

Anyway, Craig is indeed a wonderful guy, and he gives me several detailed routes to try out, on roads that aren’t too busily traveled and/or have reasonable shoulders. The first one he mentions, the Ozark Mountain Highroad, sounds appealing. 8 miles each way, so I figure I can bike it a few times to get in my 40-50 miles. I picture a quaint, tree-lined country road, just me and the birds, communing with nature.

“So how hilly is it?” I ask innocently, almost as an afterthought.
“Oh, not much, not much at all. A pleasant little ride,” he says, grinning reassuringly.

I grin back, basking in a warm and fuzzy glow from being part of this wonderful cycling brotherhood, so to speak, where no matter where you go, there’s someone willing to help you out. And boy, Craig sure is a nice guy – people from Missouri are the greatest.

Saturday -

Welcome to the Suckfest

(warning: “salty” language is used)

Damn you, EvilCyclistCraig, you bastard, I hate you and all your brethren from Missouri who I’m sure are all equally as evil and sadistic. Though I suppose this is a bit my fault – once again, I should have figured that something called the “Ozark Mountain Highroad” would probably not be flat as a pancake. But still….this? Sure, this could be considered “non-hilly” – if you’re a fricking MOUNTAIN GOAT. For the rest of us mere mortals, does the fact that there’s a cloudy mist up here signify anything? Holy mother of god.

I managed to get up at 5AM this morning to pack up and head out for a ride. Oddly, I felt like a fraud, going through the motions, putting my cycling gear on and getting my supplies ready, but somehow, feeling like a poseur. Weird. As I pass a Dunkin Donuts, I do my usual Pavlovian thing of thinking hmm, maybe I’ll get a bagel on the way back, if I have a good ride. Yum, bagels.

And then, I get to the road. And rather than a quaint country road, this is a massive highway carved into the hills. Yes, it’s not busy, and yes, there is a shoulder, so there are positives to this. However, the shoulder is mostly ridged, I’m guessing to jostle people awake before their car careens over a cliff – because there are also looming cement bridges that arc into the sky, several thousand feet above the rocky underbrush. So I’m allocated about 4 inches of shoulder, on which there are pebbles and rocks. But this is better than the road, down which the few cars and trucks zoom at about 85 mph. Okay, fine. I can handle all of that.

The real problem comes when I discover that, contrary to my belief, the bike shop did not in fact fix my bike. Yes, I know I need new shifters, but when they said my bike would be “functional,” me, I would define functional as at least being able to shift the big chainring, and that to do so wouldn’t require a Herculean effort that would literally leave blisters on my left hand – and wouldn’t work anyway. But clearly that’s just me.

I’d take this opportunity to apologize to the good people of Missouri for my non-ladylike language at that point, but no people actually live in those hills. It was just me, the trucks, the sheer dropoffs, and a bike which I suddenly in a fit of whimsy rechristened “You Fucking Piece of Shit!” instead of Ginger. My bike and I, we are no longer friends, not when I’m trying to go up a 12% or whatever grade on a bike that leaves me stuck in a big gear. Over and over.

So basically we had a lot of “Fuck!” and the aforementioned “You FPOS bike!” going on, though I did give my regards to the bike shop, with a “you did NOT fucking fix my fucking bike!”

At this point I was practically in tears, but lo, the fun was just beginning! Because that’s when I suddenly found myself in the dense fog, where I could literally not see anything a foot in front of me. So to recap: I’m careening down a mountain in the Ozarks, on a narrow shoulder that’s covered with pebbles (though dodging them did make me feel like I was in a video game, like Asteroids), the fog has rolled in, I'm going over cement bridges with a sheer dropoff, on an unpredictable bike that doesn’t shift properly or randomly shifts when it feels like it. Oh, and my sunglasses have fogged over. Sweet. While the term “FuckingA” is not one I use very often, that’s what I found myself repeating at this point. Over and over.

I was also ready to cry. If I couldn’t handle these hills, insane though they are, what makes me think I can do IMMOO? For the first time since signing up for Ironman, I felt….defeated. In fact, this was the most grim I’ve felt so far. Maybe….. I just don’t actually have “what it takes.”

I did, however, have the good sense after I got safely back to my car to think hey, let’s do a brick! Does it still count as a brick if one has a 10-minute transition? I run for an hour, up and down more hills, feeling shitty because my ride was only an hour and a half long, meaning I suck, and when I think about my overall suckiness, I get upset and start hyperventilating. In other words, it’s another banner day for Miss Tasha! Watch and learn, kids, watch and learn. Reaching ever-new levels of suckitude is a skill, and one that I seem to have mastered.

While I allow myself an icy cold coke after my run, because it’s about 100 degrees and rather humid and I’m a big lump of sweat, I bypass the donut emporium on my way back, as my soul neither wants nor deserves a bagel. How is it that I can keep training and still just...suck?

(to be continued….)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Your Swim Finish

This actually looks the Escape from Alcatraz, not the Rock, slightly different exit, but a cool shot with the island out there.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Cold shower

I recently heard that there was some research done on the power of cold showers in getting acclimatized to swimming in cold water, apparently even short cold showers can help… Hearing this has however not inspired me to try it . . . I’ve thought about it, contemplated it a couple of times, however as yet, I’ve not had the guts to do it . . . I'm clearly not looking forward to the cold water part of the race :)

BTW, I thought we were going to stay away from the shark footage!

52 days to go, why does that seem sooooo soon? Guess 'cause it is :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007