Sunday, April 27, 2008

Week in Review, or, Tommy Shaw is an A-hole...

I'll explain my Styx reference in a bit, but I wanted to address a couple of things first. This was a pretty eventful week. Work is nuts, as always, so I won't bother chatting about that.

I guess the big thing to mention here, pretty much because I've had a few too many conversations about it in the last 48 hours, is the shark attack. While I'm tempted to assume my usual tone and make snarky comments, it's really nothing to joke about. I was in a breakfast meeting on Friday when my phone started lighting up. I was as shocked as anyone to read what happened. It's a fairly intense gut-check moment, when you stop and approach the fact that the night before you were swimming in the Pacific, not all that far from where it happened. And you have to admit to yourself that despite the new specter lurking in the shadowy part of your mind, you'll be back at it before too much longer. Sure, you might take an extra beat when you zip up your suit, but you'll get in and go.

I don't know, I've been puzzling over what to say about this for a while, and there's nothing overly eloquent that comes to mind. So I guess the main thing is that we keep the man in our thoughts as we pursue the sport. And that we be careful, on the bike, in the water, that we keep an eye on each other and help out as best we can.

Okay, that's it with the serious stuff. I'm going to gloss over the details of most of the weekend since they aren't really pertinent. Except to say that after you have a night of insomnia and are running on, say, 2 hours' sleep, you should think twice about going out until 3AM. A good night, in the final analysis, despite a few rough patches, but I learned a lot of useful lessons like the one I just pointed out. For the rest, well, maybe another time. I am bummed that I missed the two gay guys and their butter knife fight in the Denny's. How often do you get a chance to witness something like that? But thanks for letting me know it happened.

Saturday was the main event. REO Speedwagon, Styx, Def Leppard. One night only. Oh, yes. While Speedwagon was surprisingly good (I had to go buy their greatest hits CD today, since I couldn't get that damn "Take It On The Run" out of my head.), Styx made me mad. I mean, I sat through their set, they were even pretty good. They played songs I didn't know were theirs. I made it through "Come Sail Away." I sat through a Styx show and they didn't even have the common decency to play "Mr. Roboto." Sure, they held out and mercifully failed to play "Lady," a fact for which I remain grateful, but no Roboto just makes me mad. That's like Leppard not playing "Pour Some Sugar On Me." What the hell? Seriously....Tommy Shaw, I want my money back.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ben the Bible Thumper

Had to point this out. In the other triathelete links on the right, there's a link labeled "Ben." This is my buddy Ben's blog about his first triathlon experience. Yes, that's right, he's fresh meat. But that's not why I'm pointing this out. I discovered last night that I had a typo in the link to his blog:

I had it down as, which goes to the Mega Bible and Information Site. So, sorry Ben, for outing your repressed Christian zealotry and first grade web-design skills. (kidding...)

What does it say that the bible site is on Just curious?

Lessons Learned (Again)

I'll start with an obvious one: MARGARITAS ARE NOT CARBO-LOADING!!!! And damn you Tim for making me think they were. Seriously, if I had just gone home after the first bar, I would have been fine on Saturday morning for Iron Mountain. That said, I had a nifty new adventure trying to clip into a moving road bike with tequila shakes and trucks roaring by on highway 67.I was seriously debating canning the bottom half of the ride until...whoops...I was halfway down the hill into Lakeside. God, I'm an idiot. Of course, by the top of the climb back, all I wanted was another beer, so I had gone full circle. Which brings me to lesson number two.

Even if you can't run because your physical therapist has explained to you that running is, for you, something akin to Eve's Apple, or a new Ferrari behind a showroom window. That is to say pretty and shiny and you want it but you know that if you grab it there will alarms and sirens and suffering, possibly at the hands of uniformed men with nightsticks and aviator sunglasses. But I digress. The reason I learned this lesson is that I was silly enough to volunteer to walk up the hill (rather than run of course, that would have been stupid) in my flip-flops. Yes, you read that right, but I'll repeat it anyway, in my flip-flops. Plantar fasciitis, I spit on you, right up until the moment you cripple me.

Which brings me to the TNT finale party. Hours and hours of silliness in the sun with food and loads of perfectly street-legal "juice." How could you go wrong? Oh, did I mention plantar fasciitis, and walking in the sand for 6 hours? At least I bought those high end flip-flops. And by the way, Allison, the picture is already framed. You'll have to take my word for that of course, but it is. Now to begin counting the days until Lavaman '09 when I'll get to see all these people again...oh, wait, I don't think it'll take that long because now I'm at lesson number 3.

HERE WE GO SPINNING ROUND AND ROUND AND ROUND. Yes, my bizarre quest to play outside that began a couple of years ago with Vavi volleyball and veered (perfectly rationally) into triathlon, has returned to Vavi volleyball. I'll have more to say about that after Wildflower is over and we start playing, but it'll be fun to add another even to the four we all already practice. That's right. Four. Swim. Bike. Run. Drink, er, recover. And now Volleyball. Fifth event. Fantastic.

Jane, get me off this crazy thing. What? Where's my popsicle stick? I have to go around again? Damn it all! (A little Lavaman humor. If you're confused, do the race.)

Hasta luego, kiddies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

All Hail Tri-Dork-dom!

I joined San Diego Tri Club and USAT today. I think I'm hopeless now. There's no coming back.
On the other hand, after PT this morning, I went all day without my foot hurting. It didn't get tough until after I worked out tonight. I'm on 3 days a week fr the next two weeks, which is going to cost a pretty penny, but it seems like it might actually help. Hmmm...we'll see.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Two books you must read.

This isn't tri related in any way, but I wanted to put this up there. Check these out. You'll be glad you did.

Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales.

It's an examination of survival in wilderness situations and why some people live and others die. He goes into the difference between emotion as a primal, physical force and our intellectual understanding of it. "You don't run because you are afraid of the bear, you are afraid of the bear because you run," and how our consciousness and ability to create and live by mental maps of the world govern our reactions when the world differs from those mental maps, sometimes with disastrous consequences. For those of you in training, he also covers stories about striving through pain, despair and hopelessness to survive. Really worth the read. If you don't believe me, check out the "Words To Live By" at the right.

The Raw Shark Texts, by Stephen Hall

The cover lists a review calling it "Herman Melville meets Michael Crichton, or Thomas Pynchon meets Douglas Adams." I've never read Pynchon, but it's certainly better than anything Melville or Crichton has turned out. I think I'd go with "Chuck Palahniuk meets William Gibson, or maybe William S. Burroughs." There's definitely something Naked Lunch meets Neuromancer about it. I can't think of a good way to describe the plot, but it involves an amnesiac, past lives, quasi-imaginary fish and a red cat named Ian. If that doesn't get your attention, I can't help ya.

That's it for now. If you've got some time, check out the other tri kids I've linked to off to the right. Some good reading out there.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lavaman Recap. It's Done, Now What?

Okay, so Lavaman has come and gone. What an awesome experience. I’ll get to the details in a sec, but for you short attention span folks, here are the numbers:

Overall: 2:58:38
Swim: 0:28:52
T1: 0:02:40
Bike: 1:17:28
T2: 0:1:17
Run: 1:08:23

I went into the Lavaman season with one main goal, break 3 hours. I friggin’ did it, even with the bum foot. Of course, whack job that I am, I find myself dampening my excitement with the thought that, had I been healthy, I would have gone faster. How sick is that?

So there it is, under 3 hours and I’m barely sore today, except to say that my foot feels like it’s made of concrete and two of my toes have been numb since I crossed the finish line. The physical therapist I saw this morning says that’s normal, that my altered gait inflamed the tissue around the nerve bundle under my middle toe. Fixing this right leg of mine is going to be all kinds of fun, but that’s for another post.

Now to talk about race weekend. Settle into a comfortable chair, grab some hydration, maybe a gu…this could take a while.

On the flight to Maui, Laurie (our coordinator) gave the flight attendants the script to read about how TNT was on the plane and what we were doing and how much money we’d raised. It was really cool to hear, as it was on the flight to Pac Grove, except that by the time the crew got around to reading it, every purple jacket I could see was wrapped around a sleeping teammate.

The practicing triathlete's carry-on.

Four hours later I got my first taste of Hawaii, stepping off the plane into sunny rain and humidity. We flew to Kona and there was no rain, only a 60 mile per hour wind along the Queen K highway, also known as our bike course. A little unnerving, to say the least. Following hot on the heels of this beginning was our first run/swim preview. We did the last mile and a half or so of the run, which is the off-road, lava rock, coral and deep sand portion. I could barely walk it, my foot hurt so bad, let alone imagine running it.

The mythical A-bay was no better. The wind had the water stirred up into a chop that just slapped you in the face every time you breathed and the visibility was about four feet. Not exactly what we’d been sold all season. I got nervous.

On Friday, I got an early start, thanks to the three hours we gained. I couldn’t run, so I skipped the mile 4 preview and rode with Laurie to unload tri bags. We were scheduled to pick up our bikes at 10:30 and they were waiting for us in the parking lot, but coach made everyone run and swim first. The wind was still up and the water was still seriously choppy, but the visibility was way better. An encouraging sign.

Coach finally let us get our bikes and there was much rejoicing. I did get a flat right after I reinflated my tires, but it turned out to be a blown valve on the tube. We took some time to get the team’s bikes situated and headed out on our bike course preview, which was interesting, because we didn’t have our CO2 cartridges yet and just had to hope no one blew a tire.

The Queen K. From a sensible vehicle.

We only rode about half the course, since the turnaround tunnel was closed to us until race morning. We got back to transition, packed up our bags and headed out to ride the run course, at least the part on the road. This doesn’t sound like much, but then you probably haven’t been through a Gurujan course preview. We previewed just under a third of the course but it took about an hour longer than the slowest competitor ran the race.

Friday night was a trip to the infamous LuLu’s. I won’t record anything that happened there here, but if you ever stop by, look for our dollars stapled to the ceiling.

Saturday, another time zone induced early start, but this time with a hangover. We did mentor-led previews since the coaches and coordinators had meetings. I went on the bike ride, which was sparsely attended. This turned out to be for the best, I think, since the wind was actually moving our bikes laterally across the bike lane while we were riding. The headwind on the way back scared the crap out of me.

A couple of hours in line and I got my race number, goodie bag, lunch ticket and souvenirs.

The pasta party that night kind of tripped me out. It was the first time on the trip that I think being a mentor hit me. It was also where I destroyed my pants. I’ll get to that in a minute.

We started at the mandatory pre-race meeting where they were going to explain all the new course changes. Of course, we had to do red carpet and so we only got to watch the first 30 minutes of the meeting. This means we got to watch the race directors thank each other. Then we left to form up and do the red carpet for the participants.

For those of you who don’t know, the pasta party is for all the TNT chapters in the race. All the mentors for all the chapters form a corridor and whoop and holler and make noise as the participants go into the party. After about thirty minutes of banging bam bam sticks and shouting, I started to realize I was burning valuable calories that I would need for the swim. I had to slow down or risk a 35 minute mile. The last people finally piled in and it was time to go eat, except that it turned out we were missing a couple. Which brings me to destroying my pants.

Team San Diego’s mentors reformed in the hallway to ring in the stragglers and in the process, I crouched down. I don’t know why, but when I did, the leg of my shorts just split. Our stragglers got there, after walking through a different door, so they missed us and my shorts gave their lives in vain. I had to hand out my mentee gifts with a gaping hole in the ass of my shorts and then I took the car and went to change. By the time I got back, I had missed the food and the speeches had started so I had a powerbar and watched from the back. It was at this point that I realized, watching the coach from the Silicon Valley team talk about riding his bike home from his mom’s funeral in Colorado, that I was torn between wanting my race to go well and seeing all my mentees finish. I was more interested in how they were going to do and whether they’d enjoy it than I was with my race.

Sunday, 4/6 – RACE DAY!!!!!!

5:00AM, meet at hotel, get mentee bikes set up. Take pictures. Ride to transition.
6:00AM, get into transition, rack bikes, get body marked and pick up timing chip. Get team photo, last team meeting. Get psyched.
7:30AM, men’s wave start. Take off on extremely confusing swim. The course was M-shaped, with three 180 degree turns and serious crowd issues.

Seriously, who switches to breast stroke on the inside lane of a course and starts frog-kicking? After one or two of those in the face, I wound up grabbing some guy’s foot and yanking him out of my way. I still got stuck behind a lot of tangled up bodies, which slowed me down. I was encouraged, however, by the fact that I started passing women after the second 180. It took me a minute to realize the import of this, since I at first thought I was being passed the women’s wave that started five minutes after me. And I had been passed by some, but most of them were relay swimmers from the wave that was five minutes ahead of me. Very cool. Also cool was the fact that, in the middle of the race, I was watching sea turtles mack on coral heads. Trippy. I don’t know if I saw three turtles, or one turtle three times, but who cares?

Out of the water and into T1. The longest barefoot jog of my life. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get into transition and I was limping pretty badly by the time I got there. Good thing the bike is before the run.

I thought I was out of T1 pretty fast, but then, I screwed up my splits since I had no idea where the timing mats were. I just slapped the button on my watch arbitrarily and hoped I was close.

The bike, even though it’s a PR, started pretty shakily. The road from T1 to the Queen K was designated no passing. I got stuck behind a girl on a bike that looked familiar, but who was going slower than I wanted to. Some guy behind me kept pulling up next to me (illegal) and then deciding not to break the rule, grumbling in frustration, and dropping back (also illegal). Finally, we got to the highway entrance and I was able to pass. It turned out that the biker in front was a teammate, who is way faster than she was riding. Anyway, I hit the gas at that point and took off. There was no wind that I could feel and I spent most of the ride in my aero bars, chasing this 28-year old girl. Actually, we kept leapfrogging, until we got to the one long, gradual climb and I started to get tired, so I throttled back and she passed me, for the last time.

It was then that some guy from another chapter rode up next to me and taunted me for letting a hot 28 year old spandex-clad tri chick get away. For lack of a witty response, I let him pass. I had some electrolytes and a gu, and put the hammer back down. I passed the guy and never saw him again.

At the turnaround, I got screwed on the bottle exchange because the last guy in line, who I was going to take a second bottle from, was about 8 feet tall and was holding the bottle above his head. Lacking a vert ramp, there was no way for me to grab it, so I did the last half with one water bottle.

The second half of the ride actually went better than the first. I was stronger and more consistent with my cadence and speed. The highlight of the ride was toward the end when I slowed down a bit to take my last gu. As I did that, some guy rode by me and said “I’ve been trying to catch you for the last few miles. You’re really strong.” Then he took off while I was putting away the wrapper. I didn’t catch him again, but I was definitely charged up going into T2.

It didn’t take more than 300 yards or so on the run to realize I was going to have a tough time. Running out of the transition area, we immediately went off road and my foot immediately started to throb and stiffen. I decided to walk to the road and start running there. That was when the first teammate passed me. Once I got to the street, I was able to run, albeit slowly, until the end of mile 2, when I had to start the second hill repeat. I got my popsicle stick (don’t ask), ran down, put ice my hat (sweet, heavenly ice in the hat) and started back up the hill, which was when my foot went completely numb. I walked halfway up the hill and then ran past the volunteer collecting popsicle sticks.

I ran again until the course went off-road during mile 5. I had to walk-limp-run-hop-walk-limp until I hit sand. On the sand, with the finish in sight, adrenaline took over. I ran into the line, only to be passed in the chute by another teammate. He beat me by 3 seconds. He apologized, but I don’t know why. The whole point of a race is to finish ahead of as many people as possible.

And that was that. For the rest of the afternoon, it was free food, free beer and hanging with wiped out, grinning teammates, hearing stories and discussing results. Overall, just enjoying the day. The capper was that Captain Emily placed. She took fourth in her age group and got the biggest cheer of everyone who got called. I have pictures.

Eventually, we had to pack our bikes (and take a moment of silence) and go home to clean up for the victory party. For some stupid reason, I didn’t nap. So team, this is why most of you didn’t see me at the party. I bonked. I’ll do better at the finale, I promise.

I think that’s it for now. I’ll probably talk more about the PT process as it continues, and I’ll definitely report on Wildflower. Until then, alo…no, I can’t do it.