Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Out and back to the 'Keag

My favorite morning ride is a fast cruise down Route 1, around the Rockland "rotary", over the hellaciously corrupted pavement of South Main Street and across the smooth wide stretch of  Rt. 73 past the airport to the sharp corner in South Thomaston, where old men in pickups talk baseball and lawn mowers over breakfast sandwiches at the 'Keag store.

The store is named for the Weskeag River, on whose shores it sits, and the owners and employees got so tired of all the various mispronunciations of its name (logical though they were) that they appended their sign to read "'KEAG STORE (Pronounced 'Gig')"

It's a perfect turnaround point, because there's a port-a-potty on the wharf if I need it, and I can race myself back home to try for a negative split.

Warm sun, donuts, cigarettes, landscaper trucks with trailers, birdsong, mulch, 43 minutes going, 40 minutes back, 17.0 m.p.h.

On the bike I feel like I could do anything in the whole fucking universe.

I will do everything I can to ward it off, but if I do somehow die on the bike, know that I was as happy as happy gets.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The run that did not suck

I barely knew it was possible, but I hit the foggy roads for my one-hour run tonight and I loved it. Not the first 20 minutes, which felt awkward and painful and heavy and hard. But the rest of it? Oh so lovely. And so I made a big discovery about my training runs so far. I've been heading out too hard, trying to go too fast. Trying to make up for what I think is a massive training deficit.

Truth is, I'm smack in the middle of another crisis of confidence. I'm way behind where I was last year. I know how hard last year's race was, and I went into it with more training than I have now. I basically have three weeks of building fitness before the race. I can't even think about it.

"You're going to go into it so FRESH!" says Coach Scott, ever the voice of good cheer. And he might be onto something: everyone else I know is completely burned out on their training. I'm just getting going. Maybe, just maybe, I'll hit it just right, with just a high enough level of fitness to have a good time. Yikes, though, man. I'm SCARED.

So anyway, I'm trying to build my run volume without getting hurt. And since I pulled a muscle today trying to beat four tourist ladies to Zoot Coffee so I wouldn't get stick behind their 15-minute order of every variation of skinny latte known to womankind, I started my run cautiously. Without caring about the big horrible number on my watch. Just determined not to be truly injured by my earlier impatience. Imagine being denied an Ironman finish because you couldn't stand to stand in line.

The super slow pace changed everything. It was a revelation to actually enjoy the run. After my warmup, I enjoyed some ridiculously scenic sprints through Aldermere Farm.

Trotted on a little ways, then it was wheezing hill repeats up Beacon Street. So. Freaking. Hard. So completely rewarding.

Then a delightful cruise home down Chestnut Street, home to cauliflower curry surprise baking in the oven and one Allagash White.

One incredibly slow hour on the books, some confidence restored. Some understanding maybe of why people actually like to run. Profound gratitude for the whole damn thing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Can't Touch This

Been noticing in the last 10 days how my body is showing the effects of training. I'm not talking muscle definition and buttock toning, I'm talking skin abrasions, hematomas, and, well, I'll spare you the most tender details, but let's just say I'm not making any waxing appointments anytime soon.

I'm sure some of my friends are cringing to read this--those of you who think of me when you meet a single guy who seems straight, smart, sane, and solvent. This is dangerous territory for a single woman, a frank discussion of the gross imperfections of the body under stress. But I figure I've got nothing to lose, banking on the thin hope that any eligible bachelors out there find my wit and candor appealing enough to overlook the ingrown -- oh, never mind. Plus, I'm too tired to give a shit, I have to get up at 4:00 am to do hill repeats before swimming tomorrow, and anyway, when the hell would a single man ever even see my ingrown -- right, never mind.

I have a bruise the size and shape of a chain ring stain on my right calf, a cut where the big gear gouged me, where I've been tattooed permanently with bicycle grease. I swear I only shave my legs these days to get all the grease off. There are shocking moments when my slovenly athleticism is thrown into sharp focus: I had a meeting with fancy ladies yesterday, and I truly felt like the Fonz. 

A toenail is on its way out. Chafing smudges in awkward places look like the burns I got from wrestling on the mustard shag carpet in the basement rec room with my little brother. Sad little sweat pimples where that tech fabric doesn't breathe as advertised. Random bruises, cuts galore, frightening rashes. Strange aches and spasms in the most...specific places.

Oh yeah, it's sexy, this sport. Then there's the lifestyle. It's 8:10 right now and I'm worried about wrapping up this post because I'm already late for bed. And I am well aware of how boring it is, how one-dimensional. I dated a man right after the race last year, and in the initial getting-to-know-yous, he was all like, Okay, so you do triathlons, and you sell real, what else? And I was like, Um, yeah, sorry, but that's all I can offer you right now. There's actually nothing else. I know. I know. I wouldn't date me either. He's getting married in September.

But hell. I am an Ironman. My other faces will be back in August, I swear. Most of my skin should be back by then too.

Safety Girl Rides Again

My favorite Halloween was the year I dressed up as Safety Girl. I wore safety boots, safety glasses, some kind of helmet, protective gloves. I had a lot of safety pins. Some condoms. I forget what else. The costume was a hit. No pun intended.

I take this shit seriously, man.

So when I'm riding my bike on these narrow Maine roads, I try to stack the deck in my favor against the texting, smoking, arguing, late-for-work, rooting-around-on-the-floor drivers who are hell bent on dispatching me to my next life. 

In addition to activating my psychic Total Safety and Protection force field, I wear my high-vis gear and I make sure this powerhouse of a light from Origin8 is sending its "don't hit me" signal to all the drunken pickup trucks coming my way.

I love this little thing. It's cute, streamlined, and small, but man, it's bright, with 35 lumens of LED visibility, for whatever that's worth. It has six modes--4 steady, 2 blinking. Charge it up with a standard USB cable. 

I feel naked without it. I think it helps keep me from getting hit. And if it doesn't, at least it leaves 'em without any excuses.

Of course I got mine from Sidecountry Sports. They have a whole bunch.

It's dangerous out there. Go get one! 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

Full disclosure: these are not chocolate chip cookie dough bars. If you're craving chocolate chip cookie dough, for God's sake, go get yourself some real chocolate chip cookie dough and bliss out on it. But if you're looking for a nutritious little energy bite that's high in protein and healthy fats, and that kind of reminds you of how awesome chocolate chip cookie dough is, maybe try these. They really are delicious. Recipe follows.

Blend in food processor till smooth:

2c raw cashew pieces
1# Medjool dates, pitted
1c walnuts

Pulse in:
3T hemp seed
2T chia seed
2T ground flaxseed
1c oats
1T vanilla extract
2T coconut butter (may be omitted, but YUM)
salt to taste

Transfer to big bowls and stir in:
1c chocolate chips

Line a baking pan with parchment paper, press mixture evenly into pan
Cut into 1.5" squares
Throw the whole pan in the freezer
Remove squares, store in Ziploc in freezer

These can be eaten right out of the freezer (my preference) or refrigerated.

Yields about 32 one and a half inch squares, depending on how big your pan was. Each one has about 200 calories, 23g carbs, 4.3g protein.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Too Legit to Quit

I always bury the lede, but today's news is so exciting that for once I'm just going to come right out with it. 

I have a sponsor. A real, live, actual, legitimate, sponsor. They give me money. And gear. And good vibes galore. I can hardly say it with a straight face. I am a sponsored athlete. 

"You realize you can't go to the Olympics now, right?" Sidecountry Sports co-owner Brian Kelly said with a grin, handing me my check as I jumped up and out down, clapping and squealing like I'd just won the Showcase Showdown. 

Andrew Dailey and Brian Kelly, co-owners of Sidecountry Sports bike, ski, and snowboard shop in Rockland, Maine

I've been a big fan of Sidecountry Sports in Rockland since I bought my first bike there seven years ago. If you're ever wondering why bumper stickers exhort you to shop locally, go see these guys. Co-owners Brian Kelly and Andrew Dailey exemplify small business leadership. They're knowledgeable, they're smart, and they care deeply about this community. They work really damn hard, and they are 100% focused on customer service. They hire good people. 

You can walk in their store without knowing a thing about what you're in there for, and they will take all the time in the world to help you learn. Without making you ever feel stupid. They'll meet you right where you are, so if you're some uber-biker (or skier) looking for high-level techie info, you can find enlightening conversation here. Alternatively, if you don't know an inner tube from outer space, you just walk in with a world of questions and they'll make you feel like you totally belong.


They're also invested in good things like getting beginners out on the road. They organize a family fun ride on Sunday mornings (all are welcome!) There's a no-drop group ride on Wednesday nights. They've hosted basic repair workshops for women (with wine! And snacks!). And so on. 

And finally, they support countless numbers of community groups, nonprofit organizations, and random individuals fulfilling a dream. During last year's Ironman training, these guys stepped up time and again to help me out with gear discounts, advise me, and cheer me on like I'd known them my whole life. I considered them my unofficial sponsor throughout.

The midcoast Maine contingent in Lake Placid, 2014

It's said that if you need to get something done, ask the busiest person you know. Similarly, if you need a donation, ask someone generous.

So when I realized that I needed a little financial boost for this year's race, I mustered up my gumption and wrote to Brian and Andrew. "I know sponsorship is usually reserved for athletes who actually win races, but if you have any interest in sponsoring a big, goofy, middle-aged woman who only wants to finish before the midnight cutoff, I would be honored to be your ambassador," I said.

I sent it off and then started to worry. All kinds of insecurities arose. Would they even WANT their logo on my big fat slow body? What if they're only nice to me because they think I'm crazy? Plus there's the whole issue where I don't even feel like a real athlete. I'm so far behind on my training that I don't even feel like a legitimate Ironman. How presumptuous this is. They're a small local business, working their asses off just to get by, too. That night I dreamed that they gave me $20 to politely make me go away. The next morning I wished I could withdraw the email. 

Andrew called me up that very day. "We'd be happy to help," he said. Just like that. 

Please, if you have bike- (or ski-) related needs, support these guys. They'll do well by you, and you'll be part of a really good thing. And if you're not shopping with them, please consider another local option. Most of these shops will custom order something you could get from the Amazon machine, but they'll put your dollars toward something good.

Like me!!! Hahahahaha. Can you even? I can't even.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is That a Potato in Your Pocket?

My 97-year-old Grampy still laughs his ass off when he tells his favorite joke. Two Frenchmen, Francois and Pierre, are at a beach on the Riveria. 

"Francois," Pierre said, "Look! I take your advice and put zee potato in my swim suit, but zee women, zey still do not talk to me."

"Pierre!" replied Francois. "Quel idiot! You must put zee potato in zee FRONT!"

(Cue old man's uncontrollable giggling.)

Grampy first told me this on a beach on the Riviera, when I was 15 years old, as if I weren't horrified enough being on a topless beach with my grandfather and also needed a penis joke to ensure the emotional scarring.

This was what came to mind today, and stayed through my 3-hour bike ride, as I experimented with a new nutrition option for the race—the mighty spud. I'm sick of sugary, engineered foods made for this sort of thing, the Clif bars and the gels and the chews and the bars. I have high-quality products and even my own delicious homemade balls, but they're all sweet, and I'm left craving something savory, something with some tooth. 

Last year's Ironman was fueled in large part by these high quality gels by EFS. They offer a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, ideal for extended endurance, plus electrolytes and I don't know what other goodness. Problem is, I associate these gels with the powerful nausea I experienced during the last 5 or 6 hours of my race. I don't think they caused it, but in my mind and body, they are inextricably linked. My tummy is doing a little dance just talking about it now.

So I'm leaving the giant leftover bottles alone and playing with new options. Today I pulled out the delicious Yukon Gold potatoes from Freedom Village Farm that I've overwintered in paper bags in the back of the fridge. I'm partial to this particular variety, with its firm flesh and buttery flavor. I boiled them up with a generous measure of salt, let them cool, and tucked them into a Ziploc in my bike jersey.

Such a treat! The pleasant texture gave me a little bit to chew on but went down effortlessly. Best of all was the salty, savory flavor, a tasty counterpoint to my sweet electrolyte drink. And the nutritional value is right on point, with loads of healthy carbs, a little bit of protein, some vitamin C, and key minerals like potassium and magnesium. 

Frankly, I don't really care where Pierre's got his potato, mine's in my bike back pocket, and baby, I'm loving it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Heavy medal

When I was a child, we went to a super fancy church. Mom wouldn't drive the clunker there, we had to take the good car. The parking attendants wore gloves. There were parking attendants. It sat on the shores of Long Lake and the grounds had old stone fountains and Canada geese. There were grounds. It was called The Kirk in the Hills.

In my mind's eye, the minister was Robert Mitchum's kindly older brother who went to seminary. We called him Doctor something. Tall, avuncular, kind, dignified. Even at this young age, I sensed the reverence that adults felt for this man. One Sunday after church, we were enjoying coffee cake in the refectory, and my parents were talking to Rachel's parents. Rachel was three years old, a delicate girl with porcelain skin and a head of ginger curls. She wore a frilly little dress that stopped above the knee.

Dr.___I forget his name____ chatted briefly with the parents, then leaned from his tremendous height to rest a gentle hand on the little girl's head.

"Well, hello there, Rachel!"he said.

She gazed up at him and blinked her green eyes.

"I HAVE NEW PANTIES!" she yelled, pulling her dress up over her head.

This is exactly how I feel when I win a medal at a race. I will put that baby around my neck and wear it for the rest of the day just waiting for someone to ask me about it. If they don't ask, I'm not above bringing it up myself. I'm not comfortable going more than a day, but I'll get as much mileage as I can for that one.

Last Saturday, I won the most ridiculous, fabulous medal of all. It's the heaviest and largest in my collection, a slice of birch mounted on a metal gear ring. It weighed heavy on my neck as we made our way through the White Mountains and the hills of western Maine, and I felt like the damn Pimp of the Forest. I wore it into the convenience stores and the ice cream shop, just waiting for someone to ask me about it. This being New England, of course, no one did.

Dammit, I thought, we have to keep going to stores until someone asks me about my medal. I kept telling Jayme I had to stop for the bathroom. I think she knew I was just looking for more exposure for my Fairy Gangster medallion. Eventually, we got back home, and since NO ONE had asked, I had to go to Fresh off the Farm, where I knew everyone and I could count on them to make a fuss. Sheesh.

There's a part of this that's ego, of course. A part that's showing off.. A part that I'm self conscious about. But the part I like is the part that's rooted in that three-year-old girl. There's that thing we have as kids that's pure and exuberant and gleeful, that's not braggy. That thing where we get something new that we think is so cool, and we want to wear it every second, we want people to ask us about it, we want everyone to know, to feel the unbearable joy of possession. We want to walk into the convenience store and yell, I GOT A MEDAL!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Amazeballs Yumtastic Wow

A delicious little snackeroo that happens to be loaded with protein and all kinds of valuable nutrients, including omega-3 fats, fiber, calcium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and more. Plus it looks like a donut hole. I love to pop a couple of these before a workout or bring them on a bike ride.

1# medjool dates, pitted
1 c raw almonds, ground fine
1/2 c raw walnuts, chopped fine (make it as crunchy or smooth as you want)
2T coconut butter
1T chia seeds
1T flax seeds, ground
splish of vanilla
smidge of salt
some amount of unsweetened, shredded coconut

I do it all in the food processor. Chop up the walnuts first and set aside in a small bowl. Grind up the almonds until fine, then add the pitted dates and spin it till the texture is smooth. Whir in the coconut butter, then pulse in the chopped walnuts. Add the chia and flax seeds (I grind them myself in an old coffee grinder that I got at Goodwill and use only for this. You can buy ground flax seed and leave the chia whole.) Add the vanilla and salt to taste. If you find this whole mixture is too runny to form into balls, add more nuts.

Form into small (1/2-inch) balls and roll in coconut. Throw them into a Ziploc and keep in the freezer.


Are you interested in this kind of food but intimidated by it? Or do you find yourself secretly intrigued even though you think it's completely freaking hippieville? Here are some tips:

1. Dude. A lot of this stuff is actually mainstream now. You can get most of these things at Renys, by gorry. Or ovah to the Hannafids. You can also hit up your local natural food shop or co-op or Trader Joe's.

2. Buy the medjool dates, not the cheaper, pitted ones. They really are easy to pit, and the taste is far superior. Squeeze them if you can to see if they're nice and soft...if fresh they will be easier to deal with and yummier. These are sold in packages or in bulk. At a supermarket they can be tough to find--ask in the produce department.

3. Coconut butter is different from coconut oil (which you could also use). Your natural foods store may have it, and whooaaaa baby, it it ever delicious. I buy the Artisana brand.

4. Flax and chia are also readily available. Check the Bob's Red Mill section at Reny's, or the bulk section of your natural foods store. They'll probably also have them in packages. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Meanest Race, I Love You

Last week I had a huge crisis of confidence. It's been building for 6 months. A winter of sloth and depression, an extra ten to fifteen pounds, and a spring riddled with bronchial and sinus infections, a pneumonia diagnosis, the flu, and a grand mal seizure has left my training by the roadside and my self-esteem in the gutter. I registered for three races this spring and ended up too sick to participate in any of them.

This last week I realized that I have only about a month of intense training before tapering for the Ironman, and I'm miles away from ready. I mean miles and miles and miles, hours and hours. My friends and training pals are far ahead of me. I'm way behind where I was last year. For the first time, I seriously considered the idea that I'm just not going to make it to Lake Placid.

I kind of lost it. I texted my coach. I've had countless minor freakouts during this year and a half that we've been working together, and Scott always responds immediately to my texts with some encouraging words that settle me right down and boost my confidence and let us both get back to work. Not this time.

All I'm going to say is that "Duck duck duck" is most definitely not what I typed. #thanksautocorrect

So I had a lot invested in the race I'd signed up for on Saturday, the White Mountains Triathlon. I figured it would either be a real confidence booster or a catastrophic humiliation. I had no idea which way it would go, and I was worried. Physically I'm not feeling 100% yet. Mentally I'm all over the place.

But as soon as I started packing up my gear, planning my nutrition, finding my race belt and electrolyte mix and that one towel I like to use in the transition area, I felt a familiar little tingle of excitement that I hadn't felt for a long while. This is good, I thought. Steady as she goes.

My friend Jayme had offered to drive, and we loaded up her minivan and hit the road. We arrived at Cannon Mountain to find cold temps and thick cloud cover. Echo Lake was not exactly welcoming.

Jayme discovers that our swim is going to be really cold

Cannon Mountain ski area hosts the event
But it was great to be at a race venue again--my first one since the Ironman, I realized--and I was quickly reminded of how much I love this whole scene. As an event organizer myself, I geek out on a well-run affair, which this most certainly was. The good cheer of the staff and volunteers, the collegiality of the athletes, the beauty and excitement of a new place. The cute guys. The cutest guys. And so much spandex. I always forget. I'm always delighted. Pre-race jitters gave way to flirtation and new friendships as we helped each other out, asking questions and sharing our terrors and our hopes.

The race is held at the site of the Old Man in the Mountain--the iconic geologic formation featured on everything issued by the state of New Hampshire. Years and years ago, they created a park to attract tourists to view the old man's profile up on the cliff face. Unfortunately for those who loved him, the old man's face fell off in 2003, leaving only a plain old rock face and rendering the park--not to mention a stamp, a license plate, a state highway system, and God only know what else--pretty much irrelevant, a testament to the impermanence of everything and the perils of anthropomorphizing natural phenomena.

At any rate, it was beautiful, and interesting, and so New Hampshirey. 

Jayme found the perfect motel

On race morning, it was cold and foggy as hell. So foggy that the race director and local law enforcement decided to delay the start. Naturally I saw this as an opportunity to hit on the police chief.

Oh Lordy. That helped settle my nerves for sure. 

We all fluttered around, cold and complaining and nervous, our internal race clocks thrown into a spin by the delay. 

Watch out for her, turns out she's fast

But we'll never finish if we don't get started.

Finally, it was time. Athletes racing the half ironman distance took off first. We Olympic-distance racers got into the water to "warm up" and OH. OH. It was freezing. Like can't breathe, ice cream headache, frozen face and hands and toes freezing. I knew it would be OK once I was racing. But I went in too soon, we all did, because we all thought they were going to let us start soon, and we spent half an hour on the beach, socked in and shivering, doing jumping jacks and walking lunges with blue lips and numb extremities, waiting for the half distance athletes to start their second loop so we could go, too.

Finally, finally, it really was time. And right away, as I settled into a stroke in that frigid water, I knew I had my groove back. I felt strong and confident, and I felt all the love I ever felt for this sport once again. I finished my first lap with a time that surprised and delighted me, and I stayed strong through the second. On our last leg, the fog descended and completely obscured the finish banners. Lacking a point on shore to guide us, we veered off course as a unit, then corrected course as the fog lifted momentarily to reveal the yellow flags. Then we got lost again as the fog thickened. Our little school of humans zig-zagged toward home until we made it.

As I struggled to pull my wetsuit off in the mini-transition area, a man who could well have been 70 came in and asked a race volunteer for help getting his suit off. "Sorry," she said. "Only another athlete can help you."

"I'm on it!" I shouted. "Unzip your suit to your waist and sit down!" Clearly startled, but not so frightened that he didn't obey immediately, the bewildered gentleman sat dripping on the astroturf as I whipped that suit off right off his skinny legs and over his bony old feet. He thanked me as I got my sneakers on and ran the grueling 1/3 mile uphill run to the real transition area.

The bike course started with a long, steep descent on the worst pavement I've ever seen on a race course. It was hands on the brakes all the way to the end, a bone-rattling, nerve-wracking, eyeball-searing, disappointing waste of a great hill.

The descent lasted a couple of miles, and as far as I can tell, we climbed uphill the entire 23 miles back to the start. These mountains are hilly, people! But I'm no slouch, even out of shape. I passed a lot of guys, and a small number passed me, but it was a full hour before another woman passed me. A handful more did, but I was fine with it because none of them were in my age group. All but one were younger. 

This is probably the right place to mention that even though my stated goal for this race was only to finish without injury, to test my fitness, and to reclaim my love of the sport, I totally still wanted to make the podium. It was a completely unrealistic goal, given my relative lack of fitness and the fact that every woman there appeared to be my age, but it stayed with me, a little wish in my pocket. So every time a woman passed me, you'd better believe I checked her left calf for her age. OK, 40...phew. problem. 19...ha! and wow! 44...close one. And 54...whoa, mama. 

I'm usually in the top quarter of the swimmers, then hold my own on the bike, where I pass more than get passed, and try to gain enough of a lead that I can hold off at least some of the competition for the run, where I'm usually in the bottom quarter. I realized on the bike that finishing in 3 hours was a reasonable goal--one I might have to work hard for, a time I'd feel good about, maybe a stretch but I had a chance of achieving it.

And this bike ride was a blast. I felt the pure unmitigated joy of racing and riding and pushing myself and ripping through new territory. The mountains around us were gorgeous, and even though the hill climbs were killer,  and the road conditions deplorable, and even though I got anger-swerved-at by an ugly motorcycle, I felt strong and capable and exuberant. 

And then. The run hauled my butt right into the pain cave. The run never comes easily, and I'm especially behind on my run training. It was awful. So so hilly. This race is really just evil, I thought, my dark thoughts creeping in right on schedule, at mile 2. Reflecting back on the day so far--the delayed start, the freezing temps, the shivering wait, the disappearing finish line, the appalling run up to transition, the terrifying descent, the interminable hill climb back...and now all these goddamn hills: this is the worst race ever. Fortunately by now I know that Evil Shan always shows up at the beginning of the run, has her say, and beats it once I give her a stern talking-to. She's not allowed to stick around.

Here's the part where I thank my goal time and my ongoing mental discipline practice, because I came so close to walking a couple of those hills--the relief called to me like a siren song--but I knew in my heart that I would be so very much happier if I pushed through and actually made the time. I could delay the relief 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, only 7 minutes left... I could perhaps give myself the far greater gift of achieving my time. I jogged up all those hills--little tippy-toe, wheezing, 14 min/mile jogs--but I did it. This is one mean race, I thought. I had a couple of friends racing Escape from Alcatraz this weekend, a famously tough race, and I thought of them a lot. This event is Alcatraz's little sister who moved to New England.

The run ended with a long, steep climb back up to transition--the same one we did after the swim, only twice as long, and now lined with spectators, so all the gasping and swearing and retching was fully public. Oh, this is truly barbaric, I thought. The meanest race ever. I made the top, started to round the corner, went twenty feet out of my way to high-five my favorite police chief, then entered the finish chute. But where the hell was the actual finish?

"Straight ahead and up the stairs!" someone shouted.

UP THE STAIRS? UP THE FUCKING STAIRS? Who puts stairs at the end of a race? I got to the stairs and dear Jayme was there--she had finished about ten minutes earlier. "You're almost there!" she said. "Just up these stairs and you'll see the finish." Why don't you just shove your finger down my throat right here? I said.

But I made it. It wasn't pretty, but I made it, in 2:55:25.

The results board said Jayme had 3rd in her age group, and we celebrated--this was her first Olympic distance race, and I was thrilled that she cruised through the swim, caught me on the bike, and held a great pace on the run. So happy for her that I didn't mind at all that she beat me. We made plans for getting her photo when she got her medal. 

The board said I was 4th in my own age group. DAMMIT! I thought. Dammit. I never should have helped that old man out of his wetsuit. I should have pushed harder on the bike. I shouldn't have stopped to swear and slap the water when I got kicked in the swim. I should have hustled harder out of transition. Now that I was so close to placing, I really really wanted it. Dammit. 

I held out the tiniest bit of hope that one of the women from my age group would place in the top three overall, freeing up an age group slot and maybe bumping me up to third. We hung around the awards for the food and beer and raffle and sun, ready to get a shot of Jayme on the podium. 

Some of the safety guys took a little break in the sun at this point, too.

Unfortunately, they never called Jayme up, and a later check of the board showed she was somehow moved down to 5th. I stuck around for the 45-49 year olds' awards just on the off-off chance that third place had opened up and I was in it. But no: the third place winnder was from Lowell, Mass. Boohoo hoo, I thought. Oh well, I made my goal time and I did a pretty good job. Then they announced that second place was from Camden, and I hit that circle like I'd just been called on The Price Is Right.

They gave me the hugest, heaviest, sharpest medal in the history of triathlon. This diabolical race, I thought. Even the medal hurts.

But this race! This horrible, awful race. I fell in love with this race. This race just brought me back from the brink. I fell back in love with triathlon this weekend. I saved my self-esteem and reclaimed my inner badass. And I realized that I may not get to Lake Placid, but it won't be for lack of trying. I do believe I'm going to make it.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Let There Be Light

Put in an order for Pad See Ew at Long Grain to pick up in an hour and hit the road for Rockland. Fortunately it was my fastest ride yet at 18.5 MPH, because once I got to the waterfront I started freaking out about this amazing light and couldn't stop stopping.

High-tailed it home and devoured those noodles.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Playing the Game

I'm rusty as hell. After a grumpy, unhealthy winter and a challenging spring, I'm late getting back into training. It's not just my heart and lungs and muscles that are out of practice--the mental discipline I developed last year has all but melted away with the snow.

So on Saturday--sunny, warm, lilac-scented Saturday--when I couldn't get out of my own way and was late getting my bike ride started, when I stopped to visit friends in Tenants Harbor and it was too fun to leave, when I ended up too tired and distracted to follow through with the whole 2.5 hour ride--I told myself I would make up for it on Monday.

Which gave me that same queasy feeling I'd get back when I was trying to quit smoking, when I'd resolved not to smoke at all and that little voice would pipe up with a counter-proposal: Just one. You can have one now and skip the one you were going to have in an hour. That sneakyass internal negotiator that acts like she's looking out for you, but you know in your heart she's playing her own game and she's out to win.

Same thing on this bike: I knew I would regret it. I knew I'd be happier if I just pushed through and hammered out one more hour. Bu there she was, that sneaky inner saboteur, dealing me a slick deck. It's a slippery slope once you let that dealmaker have a voice and I knew that as soon as I considered it, I was going to cut the ride short. I'll just call yesterday a rest day, and I'll do my long ride on Monday morning! I will do it, I'll start the week off with a bang. I'll be rested and enthusiastic. I'm committing now. It's perfect. Nothing wrong with this. It will be fine. I even made a plan to meet a friend at 5 am Monday morning for a two-hour ride. YES! I thought. I AM BACK!

But I forgot about weather. It never even occurred to me.The rain sounded light when I got up at 4:00 on Monday morning. No problem, I thought. I am an Ironman. I'll feel even better about myself if I train in a drizzle. My riding buddy texted me: Are we on??? Hell yes, we're on, I thought. It's barely raining. I am an Ironman. Then I checked the radar.

It started pouring buckets. And it was 47 degrees. I made my friend decide. Man, was I ever glad that he canceled.

I practiced changing my rear tire and put the bike on the trainer. I got on that thing and endured two mind-numbing hours of spinning in my living room while the rain hammered and the wind lashed the building. I think it goes without saying that I was glad we weren't out in it, but I was acutely aware that I traded a sunny spring afternoon for this. I will not skip a long workout without a real reason ever again.

Because I don't care what kind of game you're playing: a beautiful Saturday afternoon on the St. George peninsula will always beat two episodes of House of Cards at 5 am on a Monday morning.