Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Moment of Silence

It isn’t hot or cold. It isn’t black or white. What you notice first is that it’s nothing. Impersonal. Silent. A space without personality or history. Without memory. You’ve been in this exact same room before. White walls. Yellow walls. Pale blue. With posters or unadorned. You’ve been here before.

You lean on the bare wall and watch the closed door as though something momentous lies just on the other side. Ball handle or lever, you wait for the turn, for the grinding/sliding sound as a pocket door disappears into a wall.

When the door opens, there’s nothing you can do. A machine is at work that requires no intervention. No gears to oil or bells to ring. No problems to solve. You watch it work; pay attention as the cycle continues and the motions are stepped through. There’s a procedure for a reason and your part is small. You’re a witness.

So you lean on the wall and you fold your arms across your chest. As the process moves forward you find yourself squeezing your own chest tighter. You can taste blood because you’ve bitten through the inside of your lip. You don’t make a sound. You watch and breathe, trying not to disturb anything. There, in that second, mired in the absolute stillness of the space, you want to disappear into the walls.

You don’t make a sound. You keep your mouth shut, with the sound of your heartbeat in your ears and the taste of your blood on your tongue, because you don’t know what will happen if you try to speak. In the end, your mind can’t supply the words. You don’t trust yourself, but also, in those seconds, there’s really nothing that needs to be said.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I haven’t had a lot to do lately. That’s due largely to the hole in my leg with the surgical tube stuck in it. In the last week and a half or so, I’ve watched a lot of TV, mostly Smallville and CSI reruns. I’ve avoided the news, since all they talk about is politics and frankly, that makes me want to projectile vomit. That’s another rant, or maybe this one. I’ll figure it out as I go.

Most of what I’ve done this past week is read. The list:

The Pure In Heart, by Susan Hill: 370 pages
The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane: 702 pages
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson: 890 pages

All very good books, though if you haven’t read Stephenson, don’t start with Anathem. You may go crazy.

If I haven’t been reading, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. About work, next year’s race season, politics (much to my nauseated dismay), the economy, you name it. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.

I’m not entirely sure what this post is supposed to be about. I certainly didn’t start it with any objective in mind. Do I want to talk about something serious? Do I want to rant about politics and the upcoming election? Do I want to air some personal baggage?

Not really.

Is this what happens when nothing is happening?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Uselessness and Crippledom

For the last 6 days I have been to five places: the hospital, my parents' house, the doctor's office, In-n-Out and Baja Fresh. Most of this time has been spent lying down or pacing aimlessly. Only the Vicodin keeps it interesting, and even that's only because for the first hour or so after I take it, it makes me loopy.

Honestly, this is making me nuts. I can't go anywhere on my own, and I only have enough energy to move around for half an hour here and there. And this is from minor surgery. God, I don't remember it being this irritating when they rebuilt my hand. Of course, then, I had to take finals on painkillers. I got good grades that time, but it was all sympathy. After the fact, most of my professors told me I needn't really have shown up for the tests. Cool huh? Not to be ungrateful, but a little advanced warning would have been nice.

This time around, it's simpler. I scheduled this one. I planned my absence from work, did the pre-op visits and read up on the procedure and recovery. The doctor braced me to be mostly immobile and in agony for two weeks. Fine, I'm a highly trained athlete, I can take it.

Thing is, it didn't start to hurt until yesterday, day-friggin'-five. And even now, it's only a dull roar. So yeah, I'm climbing the walls, or I would be if my leg worked. Oh well, at least I paid for the privilege, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Longhorn...heh...That's What She Said...

Oh, where to even start with this? This past weekend was the culmination of a journey that started a couple of months back with an e-mail from Gunn. That e-mail was a copy of his race registration, topped with an all caps message: "SO THERE!" or some such nonsense. So there it is, BG, as I sit here with my foot wrapped in ice, this is all your fault.

It was a great weekend, all in all, good friends, good food, good beer and even a race.

That's right, October 5, 2008 was race day. Ironman Longhorn 70.3 in Austin, TX. I, along with the rest of Team Barney Butter, am now a half-Ironman. I don't know which half, though, probably the gimpy one.

Here are the stats:

Chip Time 7:07:50
Overall Place 1614 / 1929
Gender Place 1180 / 1313
Division Place 197 / 219
Swim 1 2Mi Rank 1212
Swim 1 2Mi Time 33:21
Swim 1 2Mi Pace 1:44/M
T1 Time 03:49
Bike 56Mi Rank 1036
Bike 56Mi Time 3:03:29
Bike 56Mi Pace 18.3mph
T2 Time 02:56
Run 13 1Mi Rank 1802
Run 13 1Mi Time 3:24:12
Run 13 1Mi Pace 15:35/M

Blow up much? Guess I need to learn how to run. Know how I know that? Apart from the pathetic run split, I mean. Check this out...

Yes, that's a cramp.

So anyway, back to the story...

We flew into Austin Thursday night and we got in kinda late, around 9 or so local and by the time we had gear off the carousels and were underway, it was working on 10. None of us had eaten, so we talked Katie B. and her mom into stopping for food. Of course, they had Clara with them and when we pulled into the Taco Bell ('cuz we don't have those in California) they lagged behind at the car while we went inside. We had ordered and were waiting for the food when we realized that they hadn't come inside.

Apparently, it wasn't the kind of neighborhood where you left luggage unattended. And we didn't. We left Katie (all 9 pounds of her), her mom and a 2 year old to stand guard. We rule! And we got Volcano Tacos, well Brian and Paul did.

mmmm...Triathlon food....

With bellies full of cheez and other preservatives, we regrouped and headed to Belton, and the Brunners' place. We were all pretty wiped, so a quick beer and it was off to unconsciousness, well, almost. Walking back from the house to the camper, where BG, Paul and I were crashing, I started getting chills. My allergies were up and I couldn't breathe. I went to bed feeling like I had ebola or something. I was freaked out, thinking that I had caught something at one of our football parties the week before.

I passed out easily enough but woke up at about 2AM. Here's the triathlete part of the conversation. I couldn't figure out how to get into the bathroom without turning on the lights and waking up the other guys, so I had to go outside and use the neighbor's lawn. So sorry, neighbors. If it's any consolation, I was out there in the middle of the night, in a vulnerable position, wondering if the Brunners had been kidding about there being a cougar in the neighborhood. If the weren't kidding, then somehow, I don't think they meant the Del Mar kind of cougar, if you know where I'm heading with this.

Anyway, Friday was all about meat and Wal Mart. In that order, with a brief stop in creepy Willy Wonka-ville. Lots of good Texas bar-b-cue and the first of many Shiner Bocks. Tim caught up with us that afternoon for a fish fry at the Brunner house and we had fun communing with nature.

Here, bambi, bambi...

Then we had more Shiner Bock.


Saturday was down to Austin to get bikes from Tim's new pad and head back to the race, by way of the LBJ library and the Adult Video Megaplexxx. I also broke my camera, so no more pics in this post. Maybe more later, once I see the rest.

We got to the race site and ran the budget truck into a tree, which was awesome.

Then we headed over to check in. I now have lots of cool Longhorn schwag. At check in we learned that the race director's previous e-mail about the lake being 90 degrees was a bit exaggerated and that the race would be wetsuit legal for age groupers. Of course, only BG brought his suit. What a princess. The expo was kind of lame, but I did some grill rub and a beer coozie from the Texas Beef Council and traded some Barney Butter for a Livestrong bracelet. So that was cool.

From the expo we had lunch at Chuy's, and honestly, how could you possibly go wrong ordering the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom the day before a race. Boom Boom sauce has to be good for you right? Right. I'm going with that.

The last thing to mention from Saturday was our bike preview. We racked the bikes as instructed and piled into the jeep for a cruise through some lovely Texas back roads, complete with sharp turns onto steep hills, crevasses that could swallow mountaineering parties and potholes that were, frankly, Texas-sized. We also learned that we had no idea where we were going and that the comprehensive directions provided by the race directors were useless because there were no actual street signs at the intersections.

Finally we flagged down a lady who was out jogging and asked her how to get to Blake-manor Road, which would lead us to civilization, and most importantly, to dinner.

US: Excuse us, how do we get to Blake-manor Road?
Lady: Blake Manor road?
Us: Yes, please.
Lady: Well, you're on Ann Showers. Just keep going a couple miles and turn left on Damita Jo (ed. note: I am not making these street names up. the directions really did sound like a bad porn script.) So you turn left on Damita Jo, keep your doors locked, and (ed. note: the transcript ends here, because the SoCal city kids all pooped themselves.)

A long and banjo filled ride later, we got to the hotel and then headed to dinner and finally to bed, where I utterly failed to sleep.

RACE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ugh. 4AM and my wave didn't go until 8:02. And Katie was hepped up like a howler monkey on cracky-o's. Sorry KB, we love ya, but yikes, way too early to have that much energy. Thankfully, I had an ipod full of Rise Against and 36 Crazyfists to preserve my mood.

The race ended up getting backed up and I didn't hit the water until about 8:30. the swim felt really good. I found clear water pretty early, and the course was shaped so we only swam into the sun for the first leg. Since I breathe to the left, I didn't get blinded every time I took oxygen. Even in fresh water without a wetsuit, I felt strong and controlled. The swim was really a no brainer. If I hadn't stopped to pee after the second turn, I think I would have been in the 32 minute range instead of the 33s.

By the time I got to my bike in transition, I didn't need to worry about putting socks on for the ride, since I had boots made of mud by then. I lost a good minute or so trying to scrape enough sludge off to get into my bike shoes and out onto the course.

And oh, what a course it was. From the first couple of miles I knew this was going to be a trick. People were all over the damn road. riding on the center line. Riding with no hands. Riding horses. Okay, not that last one, but seriously, it was like no one had any idea what the bike rules were. I swear I saw a couple of pelotons form.

The ride was actually, apart from big groups of other riders, well handled. the roads were in rough shape, but the worst spots were marked with paint and/or cones, so the were pretty easy to avoid. The scariest moment was when we were coming up to the right hand turn that slammed immediately into a full bore, out of the saddle climb. It was only a hundred yards or so, but ouch.

There were volunteers at the turn saying slow down, sharp turn. Shift up, there's a climb. Watch out, bikes down. Wait, what was that last one? Yes, you heard right. Watch out, bikes down. The guy in front of me pretty much stopped, so I was shifting and trying to decelerate at the same time (not a good idea) as I swung wide around him and into a minefield of people clipped to bikes that were lying flat in the road. these people, most of whom were flanked by one or more riders who had simply stopped to offer encouragement and were still standing, were making no effort to get up at all. They were just laying there in the road, begging to get run over and take someone else down. I got out of there as fast as I could.

The other thing that amazed me on the ride was the number of people with flats who decided to wait for the Mavic people to come by rather than just fix them. I can think of at least 8 or so that I saw who seemed to have the full kit on them but were standing next to bikes, not lifting a finger to put in a tube. Silly bastards. Don't they know there's a clock?

Oh yeah, and people were dropping their crap all over the course. Water bottles, power bars, Gu wrappers, tubes, you name it. I saw several people eat gus and throw the wrappers on the road. Punk asses.

Oh well. What can you do? You can shut up and ride your own dang race and that's what I did. Thanks Denner for the advice in your IMLP post about shifting whenever you feel like you're working too hard. And thanks Dana for reminding me of it. It serve me well. I came off the bike way faster than I thought I would and jammed out of T2 into well, hell. Yeah, that's about right. Hell.

The run was hell. My foot felt like a cement block and my left leg got thrashed pretty early trying to compensate for it. I finally settled into a 5 minute run/5 minute walk rhythm that worked for about three and a half miles, but I had to walk up Quadzilla, the big dirt hill that pretty much closes out the last mile of each loop. The first 10K took an hour and a half. The second was worse, pain wise. My foot was so sore that I couldn't keep up the 5/5s anymore. I caught up to Dana into the second mile of the loop and she and I walk/shuffle/limp/jogged the rest of the way together. Pretty much the worst 3.5 hours of my recent existence right there, but I knew it might go down that way, so I don't mind.

Crossed the finish line and headed to the Team Barney Butter tailgate area for beer and fajitas (thanks again, Brunners) and a champagne shower, courtesy of Paul.

Finally back to the hotel for showers and more beer (theme?) along with pizza and football.

So how was the half? Incredibly painful. Will I do it again? Duh. Yeah. In the words of my dad, now all I need to do is learn how to run.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Final Countdown (cue synthesizer bridge)

Longhorn is imminent. We leave today to fly to hot and muggy Austin, Texas. Everything is packed, the bikes are on the road, and we are all peanut-free.

That's right, Team Barney Butter is in effect, yo!

Visit the site for the full blurb.

I'm going to take a crack at mobile blogging from Austin and watch for pics after the fun is done.