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Dec. 20th, 2009

Brazil Chronicles

So here we are in Brazil...day 4. After many trials and tribulations at the Houston airport involving a now undoubtedly deceased bird and a dented airplane wing, we arrived, about 12 hours later than scheduled. A good 2/3 of our Continental flight was comprised of Brazilian nationals who seemed neither fazed nor surprised by the mishap, and we developed quite a comaraderie with our motley little crew. I am trying to imagine a couple hundred Americans trying to get home for Christmas in the same situation and the image is not a pretty one.

We arrived around 11pm, local time, went straight to our rented apartment, and went to bed...we had been in Rio a good 10 hours before we saw any of the actual city. In the morning we met up with my little sister, who has been here for the last three months, to explore our neighborhood (the fairly ritzy Leblon neighborhood), exchange some money, and do some bathing suit shopping. After a bit of strolling we end up in...a MALL (complete with Christmas decorations and Starbucks). Now those of you who have read some of my previous entries, or who have ever met my sister, may not be surprised. Somehow, anytime I am in a foreign country with her, we end up in a mall. It's some kind of magnetic attraction that isn't entirely conscious.

On this day, however, it wasn't the worst thing in the world as there were several bikini stores, one very appropriately named "Bum-Bum" which is pronounced "boom-boom" in Portuguese but means just what you would think it does. I proceeded to try on a variety of bikinis, all of which were much skimpier than your typical American bikini, some of which were downright scandalous. I did find out that not all the bottoms are thongs, though the fullest coverage they have still covers a lot less butt cheek than I am used to. More about what the Brazilians wear on the beach in a moment. There were also racks of men's bathing suits in every store...brightly colored things, skin tight, spandex, that cover just a tad more than a swim team speedo. I considered buying one for my current beau, but decided against it. He would certainly appreciate the humor, but would never wear it.

Yesterday morning, my sister's tall, dark, handsome Brazilian boyfriend (who also happens to be a Rio cop) took us to his family's beach house in Buzios for the weekend. This is where I had my first experience with Brazilian beaches. My sister had insisted that she felt self conscious in American bathing suits because they were too conservative. I have to admit, I didn't completely believe her, and was taken a bit aback when she showed me her bathing suit bottom, which was smaller than mine, though still not quite a thong. Then we got to the beach.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed true: ALL Brazilian women wear the tiniest bikinis possible. Now, there are plenty of gorgeous, toned Brazilian women with asses you could bounce a quarter off of. But there are an equal number of overweight, flabby, old, and/or saggy Brazilian women and they wear tiny bikinis too. And all the men wear speedos, every last one of them. It makes for a lot of exposed flesh on the beach. The lack of body self consciousness was actually quite refreshing...I suddenly felt completely comfortable in my skimpy bikini. The women usually put on some kind of coverup once they are off the beach, but the men wear their little speedo bathing suits everywhere in the beach town of Buzios.

Today we spent most of the day on a boat. Yes, I had Andy Samberg in my head the whole time. It went around to some islands and gorgeous beaches, stopping several times for us to jump off the side into the most pristine, clear blue water that I have seen outside of the Caribbean. I know, it's a rough life. I will post pictures to facebook as soon as I can upload them, which probably won't be until I get back to the states.

Ciao!

Apr. 29th, 2009

flexible

New Old Travel Tales: Thailand Part 1

April 9, 2006: I went to Thailand to visit my somewhat estranged, ex-pat father.

Thanks to my friends Pete, Tim, Sarah, and the sangria at Picaro, I arrived at SFO for my flight to Thailand a little on the drunk side. Given this, the fact that it was 1:00am, and a dose of tylenol pm as I boarded the plane, I was able to sleep through a full 10 hours of my 13 hour flight to Taipei. I woke up at 5 am Taiwan time all refreshed and sobered up. Jet lag? What jet lag?

I have long been enamored of airports, especially layover airports. You've already left the place you came from but you haven't yet reached your destination and no one really knows where you are. Let me tell you though, the Tai Pei airport at 6am takes it to a whole new level. It is enormous...like it's own city, but nearly empty and silent. The only sounds were the hum of electricity and the swish of the moving sidewalks. What little conversation there was, certainly wasn't in English. I felt totally invisible as I wandered giddily around for the next 2 hours through the shopping mall, hotel, business center complete with nap rooms and showers, and beauty salon specializing in 20 minute treatments. Not to mention stores with a vast array of Asian products whose logos have been partially and badly translated into English such as: "naughty family spicy dried bean curd" and some liquor called : "may I have your attention please!?"

After a 3 hour flight, I arrive in Bankok...apparantly on the same flight as a Korean pop star on a concert tour. There are hordes of screaming Thai girls with signs as we exit the airport. When we get to the hotel, my father books us both to Thai massages. Mine is not strictly a massage, it's more like a massage/bodywork/chiropractic treatment. This woman spends an hour pulling, prodding, and cracking me every which way and it completely gets rid of my 16 hours-in-an-airplane-seat stiffness. I consider naming my firstborn child after her but her name is Phat and that would just be mean. This treatment costs about $5.
contemplative

New Old Travel Tales: Guatemala, Lago de Atitlan

July 15, 2005: After my language intensive I spent some time traveling other parts of Guatemala.

I spent the majority of my last 4 days in Guatemala at a hostel on the Lago de Atitlan, with no electricity and no hot water. The lake is in a volcanic crater and has some incredible scenery. The hostel was called "La Iguana Perdida" which means "the lost iguana" and every night we had dinner together by candle light.

It never ceases to amaze me how, when travelling, you sometimes meet a whole group of people who just seem to click. In a very short space of time we developed a little tribe. This is what happens when you have nothing to do, no entertainment, and are forced to sit around and actually talk to one another.

I was also surprised by the amount of people I met who were from San Francisco or various places in the Bay Area. I guess it's a small world after all (cheesy pun intentional). By the way, I am writing this from my parents house in San Diego. I will be back in SF on Monday so everyone feel free to call and tell me how much you missed me and I hope to see most of you (aside from those that live on the opposite coast) soon.
attitude

New Old Travel Tales: Antigua, Guatemala

July 5, 2005: After Cancun, I went to Guatemala for a Spanish language intensive where I stayed with a host family.

I am now in beautiful Guatemala. Thanks to a 4th of July party hosted by my LA friends I had a slight buzz when I left... okay, okay, I'll admit it, I was drunk when I got on the plane. This made falling asleep really easy, but made for a not so pleasant awakening. Especially after an overnight flight which got in to Guatemala City at
5am, knowing I had Spanish lessons at 8.

Let me tell you, 7 hours of Spanish instruction in one day is a LOT for your brain to try and wrap itself around. But I made it through my first day. The school seems great, Antigua is really cute... Spanish colonial style with cobblestone streets and little parks everywhere. Also, there are internet cafes every 5 feet in the downtown area. And it is MUCH cheaper than Cancun, which is certainly a relief to my wallet.

Speaking of Cancun... on our last full day there, my sister and I did a swim with dolphins thing. I know it's overpriced and touristy and kind of cheesy but let me tell you it was awesome! It was just so amazing to get up close and personal with those beautiful animals.

I have a feeling that Guatemala is going to be much more low key than Cancun, which is what I need at this point but will probably make for less entertaining stories.

July 9, 2005: Also I was still training for the triathlon, which is interesting in foreign countries, to say the least.

I have so much more sympathy for my students who are second language learners! I can´t help but think of all the times they made the same grammatical errors over and over and I got frustrated and wondered why they couldn´t just remember it. My teacher is equally frustrated with me. I keep getting "ser" and "estar" mixed up, not to mention all of the connecting words. Hopefully, this will help me have more patience with my students.

Yesterday I decided to attempt some excercise. When I asked my teacher where was a good place to go running she said "in the street." Antigua's streets are all cobblestone so it is kind of tricky but I decided to brave it. After I got used to the confused stares of the locals (apparently running for excercise is not very common here) it was quite an adventure. I had to go pretty slow to avoid twisting my ankle (which was just as well because the altitude kicked my ass) but I got to explore some interesting parts of the city. While I was running it got more and more overcast and I started to hear thunder. When I got close to home the sky opened up and it started pouring. It was warm rain though, and it was actually kind of nice. People looked at me even more strangely when I continued to jog along instead of ducking for cover.

It is sometimes difficult to practice my Spanish here as there are so many tourists who speak English but I am trying. My host mother is an excellent cook and my host father today told me that my Spanish deserves a "10." I was flattered but I´m sure it is in comparison to the other students in the house who have been here 2 weeks but continually butcher the language. I can see my host parents cringe whenever they talk.

I hope this message finds everyone happy and well. To all my teacher friends- I hope the summer is finally sinking in and allowing you to relax from the stress of the school year. To all of my non-teacher friends- ha, ha, we don´t have to go back to work for two more months.

New Old Travel Tales: Cancun

I was going through old emails and found some travelogues that I sent out back before I started blogging. I thought they were still interesting so I'm posting them here for posterity. The first trip was Mexico and Guatemala in the summer of 2005 and the second was Thailand in the spring of 2006. Enjoy!

June 27, 2005: I was in Cancun on a family trip with my immediate family, aunt, uncle, cousin and grandma. I was also training for my first triathlon.

So here I am in lovely Cancun, Mexico. The weather is beautiful and the ocean is unbelieveably blue and clear and warm. Other than that it is just like the US, only more expensive. I'm here with my family who want to go on pre-reserved excursions and eat at restaurants like The Hard Rock Cafe. We actually went to a mall today, yes a MALL...because we can't do that back home.

There are many, many teenagers who have just graduated from high school and are here to get wasted and hook up with strangers. The last time I was here was when I was one of those drunk teenagers. My little sister graduated from high school this year and as I am the only one with enough stamina to keep up with her, I have been out "clubbing" every night. I was worried that things would have changed since I was last in the scene but, luckily they are exactly the same. It's nice to know that "do you want to dance?" still translates as "I am now going to press my crotch into you and grope you as much as possible, preferably from behind so that I can avoid eye contact" in any language. I have seen a new side to my little sister here. I always thought she was kind of a
prude but so far I have seen her dance in a cage (yes, I was in there too), dance on top of a table, take her first tequila shot, and make out with a stranger. I guess they all have to grow up sometime.

I have been hit on by several 19 year olds who don't believe me when I tell them how old I am. Apparently, once you drink enough to have double vision, I look about 21... I should hang out with ridiculously drunk people more often. These are the sacrifices I have to make to give my beloved sister this once in a lifetime experience. I have also rescued her countless times from the embraces of some drunk idiot only to have her say, "but I liked him!" Apparently my taste in men has matured a bit over the years.

My family thinks we're crazy as we stumble home at 6am. They are all about the pre-booked excursions and hotel activities such as "aquarobics" and "pinata making." There idea of a wild time is Karaoke night at the lobby bar (yes, I will be participating in that as well). They also think I'm crazy because we're on vacation but I spend two hours every day in the gym. They don't quite understand the concept of training.

It's nice to spend time with my family but I wouldn't recommend Cancun as a travel destination...unless you really want to hook up with drunk high school graduates, in which case, it's the only place to be.

Jul. 25th, 2008

serene

Omens of ill portent

This morning I awoke to the sound of squeaking and a scrabbling of the blinds. My first thought was that the cat had finally been stupid enough to fall out of the window, but I was mistaken. What had actually happened was that the cat had reached out of the open window and hooked a little bird flying by with her claw. The bird flapped and fluttered a bit, spattering little birdy blood on my couch and floor, and promptly expired...right at the foot of my bed. Knowing that birds have long been used as omens and oracles in the Greek and Roman lore, I was curious as to what it signifies when one lands dead right in front of you...at seven o'clock in the morning. I did a little internet research, because, really, what else have I got to do with myself these days. Everything I could find had to do with seeing a bird flying over head...different types mean different things, weather you see it on your left or right, which direction it is flying, etc. Nowhere could I find reference to death by cat claw of little grey bird from a windowsill. I did find a place where you could ask an "expert" in Pagan, Greek, Roman, Celtic and other mythologies. there were some other questions about bird omens so I thought I'd give it a shot. My answer? "But this is outside of my expertise." Great. And I spent the morning cleaning bird blood off of my couch. Whatever it means it can't be good. So I consoled myself the only way I could: with chocolate and booze.

Jul. 11th, 2008

contemplative

more procrastination fun

I tried, I really tried to do laundry today. But apparently everyone else in my building had the same idea because there were 4 loads waiting in line before me. What is everyone else doing home at 2 in the afternoon on a Friday? Oh well. I did make it to the pool today, that's something. And my swimming has gotten marginally faster. If my calculations are correct, I should have a 5 minute improvement in my swim time at Big Kahuna half-ironman this year. So, having already gone through my old photographs, I started going through some of my old journals. Funny how a lot of the things I was struggling with when I was 23 are the same things I struggle with now. I think I'm a little less angsty about it all now...hopefully. I'm certainly still having the same basic existential crisis: "What does it all mean? What have I accomplished? What has changed and what has not?" That was written in 1999. Funny old life. I used to mostly write these rants in coffee shops, a few of which I found entertaining in retrospect so I thought I'd share.

May 16, 1999 (a cafe in New York. I had just read "Sexing the Cherry" by Jeanette Winterson)
The sequential nature of events is an illusion constructed by the human need to feel as though we have some control over the world around us. Only we don't. Events occur all at the same time in different variations and pile up on top of one another like atmosphere and stratosphere. Linear time does not exist. Could I sound anymore fucking pretentious? Probably, just give me a minute.

June 14, 1999 (a cafe in Providence, RI)
Who would have thought that this would be my life? Sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on gay men discussing prisons, rest stops and stainless steel toilets. Maybe I'm never gonna be famous, maybe I'll never write a novel, maybe all I'll ever get is occasional flashes of insight involving caffeine and too many cigarettes. Trying to believe in God and the healing powers of nicotine. Maybe there really isn't more to life. Maybe hell is a fluorescent light drenched airport in the middle of New Jersey and I've already been there. Waiting four hours for a flight to California because two planes ran into each other ON THE RUNWAY and all I wanted to do was go home...for a wedding. So I get drunk at the airport bar in Newark at midnight and I realize that my initial feeling was correct. Hell IS a fluorescent light drenched airport in the middle of New Jersey: a place that you don't want to be but you can't leave and the clincher is that despite the sweltering heat, hell is a place where you're not allowed to smoke.

Feb 14, 2001 (My personal favorite)
How can I figure out what I really want out of life when I still haven't figured out how to keep my room clean?
How can my soul spill over onto the page when my pen keeps running out of ink?
How can I commit to a relationship when none of my socks match?
How can I get ahead in the world when I have no poker face?
How can I trust you when I don't really trust myself?
How do you know which pieces of the past to hold onto and which ones to let go of?
And how do you let go of the past when you keep running into it at the bar and it wants to buy you a beer?

Jul. 8th, 2008

blah

Bored on summer break...

One week into summer break and I already have too much time on my hands...not that there aren't plenty of things I ought to be doing like, say, laundry, or cleaning my apartment, or, you know, working out. But spending all day every day with no one to talk to but the cat makes me a little crazy. I don't know how people who work from home every day do it. Maybe I just get spoiled by having a captive audience (my students) every day that has to listen to me and thinks I know everything because I'm the teacher. Lack of human contact for extended hours each day makes my brain do strange things. So I thought I'd write them down instead of boring my friends with them...because most of them have been at work all day and just want some peace and quiet. Of course there is that other writing project that I'm supposed to be working on...and I have, really, I have. But there's only so much Shel Silverstein that one person can handle in a day. I've already done a google image search for my own name (with some interesting results) and made a huge clothing pile out of my closet due to trying on all the clothes I haven't worn all year. Mostly this reminded me of why I haven't worn them in so long, but did I put them away or bring them to Good Will to get rid of? Of course not, I just piled them up in the back of the closet. Then I looked through some old photos and found the black and whites of me dressed as a 40's pinup girl that I gave to my boyfriend for Valentine's Day when I was 25...the thoughts that crossed my mind were "God, I was young!" and "Wow! I was kind of fat back then." Now I really feel like I should work out. But instead I looked up my favorite Shakespeare monologue ("Put out the light and then put out the light" from Othello) and read a short story that I started and never finished. Out loud. To myself. I wish there were a job market for the professional procrastinator because I would be awesome at it. At least I haven't succumbed to computer solitaire...yet. And the reason I'm still using the ironsavage blog? Because I'm too lazy to set up a new one. Also maybe looking at my past entries will make me go "Oh yeah. I used to do really hard stuff. Maybe I should get off my ass and do something productive." Maybe.

Oct. 10th, 2007

powerful

The Long Awaited Race Report

The last few days before leaving for Canada, I was really freaking out. I had lots of last minute stuff to take care of: packing, shopping, figuring out what was going to go in my special needs bags,etc, but was not working so I had all day every day that last week to obsess and worry. I have to admit, I got a little neurotic, had a couple of mini-breakdowns, and was probably not the nicest person to be around (sorry Ian!) I was nervous about the race but also, no matter how many times you do it, it is just really hard to believe that doing almost no working out for an entire week before a big race is not going to cause one to lose muscle mass, strength, and stamina. I've read plenty of articles, I know that the body needs this time to rest and recover, that recovery is actually what makes you stronger, but still, taper had me a little on edge. The highlight of my week was my hair appointment...I had decided to put some green and purple stripes in my hair to match our green and purple race jerseys (Go Team!). My hairdresser and friend, Laura, has been a supporter since my very first olympic distance triathlon with TNT two years ago so it was nice to spend the day with her in the middle of such a hectic week. When I saw my brightly colored (Laura said it looks like peacock feathers) hair, I got kind of pumped. My goal, aside from finishing the race, was to get on the official DVD, and I figured the hair would help. Yes, it's permanent.

When I finally got to the airport on Thursday morning (4am baby!) and saw all of my teammates in their ironteam jackets, looking just as nervous/excited as I was feeling, I was finally able to relax and get more excited than nervous. After all, we were on our way, whatever was done, was DONE. It was the first of many times I thanked the powers that be for the fact that I was doing this with a team. The flight was uneventful, the bus ride to Penticton from Vancouver was long, I got a lot of knitting done, we finally got into Penticton on Thursday, around 5pm.

Friday was a whirlwind of logistics and standing in various lines. My roomate Allison and I picked up our bikes (yay! I had really missed my bike) and proceeded back to the hotel to try and sort out what to put in all those bags they gave us. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, in most triathlons, you carry everything in one bag, then lay it all out on a towel next to your bike for the race so it's all right there for you to see during transitions. Because Ironman is such a long race, and has so many athletes all starting at once, everything goes in a separate bag with the race number on it, which is either picked up by you, or handed to you by a volunteer who you've called out your number to.

So Allison and I are back at our room at the lovely Ramada Penticton, with 5 bags and lots of stuff spread out on each of our beds looking at each other like: "Uh, what goes in all these bags again?" There is T1(swim to bike), bike special needs(for anything you would want to eat or change into halfway through the bike), T2(bike to run), run special needs(food and warm clothes for when it starts to get dark), and a bag for dry clothes when it's all finished. It was a little overwhelming but eventually we sorted through and got them all filled. For the rest of Friday and all of Saturday, I just tried to relax and stay off my feet, which wasn't easy. Penticton is small, but not that small, and we didn't have a car. I hung out with my parents a little (mom, stepdad, and little sister had all come out to watch) and tried not to let my nerves rub off on them, or theirs on me...my mom was pretty nervous herself, I think she thought, despite my assurances to the contrary, that I could actually die from doing an Ironman.

Our wake up call came at 3:45am on Sunday...which is usually a time when it would be physically impossible for me to wake up, but thinking about the race had me wide awake pretty quickly. Allison and I each had a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, half a bagel with peanut butter, and coffee for breakfast. We were both a little worried that this wasn't enough calories but couldn't really stomach anything else. We gathered our stuff and got onto the 4:45 shuttle down to the transition area. It was still dark when we got there, stood in line to get body marked, and dropped off our special needs bags. The transition area was a zoo...2500 athletes, all getting ready to start at the same time. I got myself situated, then went over to the grass to do some yoga. This helped to calm me down and wake up my muscles a little. A lot of people were wandering around looking nervous and lost, once again I was so thankful to have my teammates with me because I kept running into friendly faces and getting/giving reassuring hugs.

Finally it was time to make our way down to the beach for the swim start. We had so many spectators, as a team, that it felt a little like being famous. I found Allison's friend Annie first, and she wished me luck, then I ran into Maria and co., who were near my family and Ian, then I saw Allison's boyfriend Terry, who was with Megan, Victoria, and Pete. After all the hugs and good luck wishes, I went down to the beach and found a group of my teammates. We decided to start in the middle/left of the pack. Strangely, I wasn't nervous...maybe it was all the love and support surrounding me. Before I knew it the cannon went off and I dove in and started swimming.

I had been apprehensive about 2500 people all swimming together. Mass swim starts don't usually freak me out, but this was a lot more people than I was used to. I must have placed myself just right because I didn't get elbowed or trampled on at all. There were always people around but I felt like I had plenty of space. The swim was actually quite nice. The lake was clear, not too cold, there were people out on houseboats cheering, they even had divers sitting at the bottom of the lake who were waving and giving thumbs up to the swimmers. Before I knew it, I was out of the water. I finished the swim in 1:39:43, a little slower than I had hoped, but still within my goal. I headed onto the grass, where I had my first experience with wetsuit strippers (minds out of the gutter people, they strip the athletes wetsuits off of them and we all had bathing suits underneath). This was a real treat as anyone who has tried to pull a wetsuit off knows, it can be a workout all by itself. Quick change into my bike shorts, some chamois butter, and I was onto the second leg of the race.

Coming out of the transition area on my bike I saw my family, Ian, and Mimi,the woman who owns the bed and breakfast my family was staying at. Turns out she got so excited from talking to my parents about the race, she wanted to come out and cheer too. It was great to see them and I was feeling pretty pumped as I headed out of town. The first 50 miles of the race were probably the most fun I've ever had on a bicycle. I was feeling strong, going fast, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. My family drove passed me on their way to the top of Richter Pass, where they were going to wait and watch. Luckily they had rented a minivan, because, in addition to my mom, stepdad, sister, and Ian, there were, Terry, Annie, Mimi, and Mimi's little dog, Bijou. They honked and waved as they went past and I smiled and blew kisses...I was feeling really great. Even as I went up Richter Pass, the steepest climb of the course, I felt so strong and happy. All of the hilly training rides we had gone on throughout the season had more than prepared me for this. I even passed another biker as I was going up the hill, waving and blowing kisses to my cheering section.

Then the wind picked up, and for the rest of the bike course (aside from a 5ish mile out and back), it was head wind the whole way. Head wind means the wind is blowing at you head on, so you have to work twice as hard, while going much, much slower. It means you have to pedal hard even while going downhill. I have never been very good at fighting through wind and my mph average went way down. Also, it put me in a bad mood. My goal for finishing the bike was 8hours or less, and I felt like I should be able to do it, but there was always a part of me that was afraid I wouldn't be able to make the cutoff at all, so when I rolled in to the transition area with a bike time of 8:14:51, I wasn't too upset about it. I had a pretty quick transition and managed a smile and a wave at my cheering section, who were waiting for me as I ran out onto Main Street to start my marathon.

The bad mood from the wind was hard to shake though, as was the fatigue in my legs from fighting so hard for those last 60 miles. Also, nothing on earth can prepare you for how hard it is to run a marathon after you have just biked 112 miles. It is really, really hard. We had done a lot of workouts where we went from biking to running, so I was familiar with the feeling in my legs. But most of those runs were 5 miles or less, which is all well and good but after 5 miles, my legs definitely wanted to stop. Now, I am a pretty strong runner, and the run is usually my favorite part of any triathlon. The run was not my favorite part, it was an exercise in mental discipline, a tug of war between my mind and my body, which ultimately I won, but it wasn't exactly what I would call "fun."

Once again, I was profusely thankful for my teammates. The Canada run course is an out-and-back, which means you get a chance to see everyone who is ahead of you. Every time I saw a green and purple jersey on the other side of the road it was like a little light of hope in the darkness. When I told people that I had a really difficult run, they all said, "Really? When I saw you, you looked so happy and strong." and I was like, "I was just so happy to see YOU." Some of my teammates do not enjoy running at the best of times, so the run was even harder for them, these are the ones that I passed in the first 10 miles or so of the run. As I passed my teammate Ferdinand, who was having some stomach issues, he told me that Sister Madonna was right in front of us. Sister Madonna is somewhat of a celebrity in the triathlon world. She is a 77 year-old Catholic Nun, who started doing triathlons at the age of 58 or so. She has done multiple ironman races, including the world championship in Kona. I knew I was going to pass her shortly, but the fact that she was in front of me in the first place meant that she finished the bike before me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am a slower cyclist than a 77 year old woman...maybe it's because she has God on her side. Still, it was pretty exciting to meet her and it made me momentarily forget the pain and my gloomy mood. Ferdinand thought that if he got a blessing from her, maybe it would help his stomach settle. As we "ran" (and I use the term very loosely) by her, I blurted out "Sister Madonna, you are amazing!" and Ferdinand held out his hand to shake hers. She did indeed offer him a, "May God bless you," and a luminous smile for us both...she really is one heck of a woman.

Well the blessing must have helped because I was able to pick up the pace a little, passing Ferdinand and catching up with Coach Alex, who was also having stomach issues...there were a lot of those on the run...I guess I was lucky, I was just having, um...attitude issues. Right around this time, Coach Joe passed me on the other side of the road, which meant he was about 5-6 miles ahead of me. I adore him, and everyone on the team secretly (or not so secretly) wants to be adopted by Joe and his lovely wife Maria. Coach Joe is, I believe, in his late fifties (though you would never know it to look at him), and has a fake hip. This was his 4th ironman. He isn't the fastest athlete, but he knows exactly what it takes to finish, every time. His one piece of advice for us before the race was "If you see me in front of you, you might be in trouble." Joe, like everyone else, is a faster cyclist than I am, but usually not by much. I am a faster runner and can usually catch him in the first few miles of the run, so the fact that he was so far ahead of me at mile 10 was a little alarming. I told Alex that I was determined to catch him...Alex said "good luck."

I had spent a lot of time with my family and the course map, figuring out where they would be and when, to get the most out of their spectating. We had talked briefly about them being at the run turnaround, where Maria always sits. Unbeknownst to me, they had been told that they couldn't drive there, and that they probably wouldn't make it back to the finish in time if they did. But the thought that kept me going between miles 5 and 13 was that I was going to see them, get some hugs, and gather some strength for the last 13 miles which would be run in the dark. Well, Alex and I hit the turnaround, got our special needs bags, saw Maria, but my family was not there. I was crushed. I asked Maria if she'd seen them and she didn't have the heart to tell me that they weren't coming, that I wouldn't see them until the finish. She could tell that I was near tears and wanted to hug me and tell me that she was here for me, but was afraid that would put me over the edge. I tell you, that woman is a saint. After putting on my long sleeved shirt and taking nothing else from my special needs bag, I reluctantly started on the second half of the run. I was pretty much in the depths of despair, I felt lonely, betrayed by my family, like they didn't love me...it all seems pretty silly now, especially as they had come all the way to Canada just to watch me race, but it's amazing what exhaustion can do to your emotions...especially when it's cold and dark out. The only thing that kept me from giving up altogether was the thought that I HAD to catch up with Coach Joe... everything would be okay if I could just get to him. Along the way I was very moved by the residents of the area, who stayed out in their driveways in the dark, cheering us on, playing music to help energize us, giving high fives, some even offering us a beer...it really helped.

Finally, around mile 15, I caught up to Joe. I was so happy to see him that I almost started crying, again. He had been having a good day on the swim and bike, but was having a tough run at this point. I suppose running is not the ideal activity for a man with a fake hip to be doing, which is just one of the reasons he is my hero. Joe was hurting pretty bad but he still managed a big smile and some last minute coaching..."keep that pace up, try not to walk too much, you'll finish strong." With a little over 10 miles to go, and Coach Joe safely behind me, I knew now I could finish. Still, it wasn't easy. A race official rode by on a motorcycle and handed my a glow stick...it was really dark out there. The aid stations were like beacons of hope with smiling faces offering me fruit and chicken broth. I ran between them (well, jogged, anyway) and walked through them. As I passed them and out into the dark night, I had to trick my legs into running again by leaning my upper body forward until they had to either run or fall over. They ran, but they were not happy about it. Even this late, in the dark, there were spectators every few feet cheering and high fiving people they didn't know. All I could do was grunt and wave, hoping they knew how glad I was to have them there. After what seemed like an eternity, I ran back down Main Street and into the cheering throngs of people who were, amazingly, still there.

One of the funny quirks about the Canada course is that there is a little 1.2 mile out-and-back right next to the finish line. This means that you run towards the finish, see the cheering crowds, then turn left and run away from the finish for about 3/4 of a mile, turn around, and THEN run to the finish line. I was warned about this so it didn't bother me that much but as I made my left turn, I saw my family shouting and cheering and realized that I was still mad at them for not being on the run course. Ian came up to run me through the out-and-back and I immediately snapped, "why weren't you at the turnaround?" Of course, I regretted saying it right after because he dropped back, thinking I didn't want him there, which, of course, I did. Luckily, he realized this as well and caught up to me again. I apologized for snapping at him and he talked me through the last mile. Just as he drops back to let me finish on my own, my mom and my sister appear to run my down the chute. "Is this okay?" asks my mom, "All the families are doing this." I don't have any energy left for words so I just nod and take their hands. Suddenly we are at the finish line. There are bright lights and hundreds of cheering people. I feel my arms raised into the air (my mom swears it was me, not her who did this, but I don't remember) and somehow I manage what looks like a strong, triumphant finish.

As I cross the line a volunteer takes my arm and wraps me in a space blanket. She asks me a few questions to make sure I am coherent and is ready to whisk me away to the massage tent when suddenly I am pounced on by a camera man. By this point I have forgotten all about my plan to get on the DVD and am not really in the mood to be interviewed. There is a bright light shining in my face and he makes my volunteer take off the blanket so he can see my jersey better. I am not happy about this but somehow manage to muster a smile (though my mom says from her angle it looked more like I was baring my teeth) and answer a few questions. The next day, when we saw the video, there I was, miraculously looking happy and accomplished, rather than grumpy and exhausted, which is how I felt.

For those of you tri geeks who actually wanted to know what I ate and how I felt physically, rather than a play-by-play of my emotional state... I stuck to my nutrition plan pretty exactly: 250 calories an hour of liquid during the bike (a mix of Cytomax and Carbo-Pro) and 4 thermalytes an hour, about 200 calories an hour during the run... I stopped timing my calorie intake, I made sure to eat some fruit and chicken broth at every aid station. I started drinking the pepsi a little sooner than I had planned, with about 8 miles to go but I kept drinking it so I didn't crash, my stomach felt fine, my energy level was good, and none of my injuries acted up. The next day I was walking a little funny (as was half the town...you could really tell who the athletes were) and all I did was eat and sleep. All in all a pretty amazing experience. I will definitely do another one...just not next year.

Aug. 16th, 2007

triumphant

The race approaches

Well friends, we are getting down to it. The workouts got very intense and very long...which caused me to skimp in most other areas of my life...including blogging. Here is a re-cap of what I have been up to in the last month:

1. An 18.4 mile run, the longest before the race. All I can say is, "wow that was hard!" and I love to run. Distance running is the most mentally challenging sport, because it would be so easy to just...you know...stop. You can even keep walking, which seems like kind of the same thing but really isn't. I know a runner who regularly does ultramarathons (50+ miles). He told me once that he thinks doing an Ironman is harder. I disagree.

2. The infamous and much dreaded "triple brick." This 9+ hour workout consisted of a 33 mile bike loop, and a 50 minute run which was repeated three times. Altogether, 99ish miles on the bike and close to 15 miles of running...in the east bay where it was about 90 degrees. It was hard, and hot, but I got through it just fine. This was a mental challenge much more than physical...which is how the race should be if I've trained correctly. My body was more than capable, but after two rounds of biking and running in the heat, I really did not want to get back on my bike again...but I did anyway...that's what ironteam is all about!

3. A 2-mile swim in the Lake Del Valle Aqua Challenge. This actually came the day before the triple brick. I was very nervous because I haven't been swimming the kind of distance that I should. Also, the race directors said everyone had to be out of the water in an hour and a half...which is about what I thought it would take me. I was sure I was going to be the last one. The water was beautiful, and I just tried to keep swimming, focus on form, and not take any breaks. For part of the loop, we were swimming into the sun and it was hard to see the buoys but the nice people on the surfboards kept pointing me in the right direction. In the end I finished it in 1hr 15min! That was 5 minutes faster than my swim at Lake Del Valle, which was supposedly only 1.8 miles, and I didn't feel totally exhausted coming out of the water. This was a great day for me and I would definitely recommend this race for people who want to get some open water experience.

4. The Marin Century ride. This was my last long ride before taper and it was not a good day for me. Ian and I were supposed to do it together but he ended up having to work. I got a late start and the place was a zoo by the time I got there...no parking...long lines to get numbers and maps...by the time I got it all together, most of my teammates had already started the ride. I ran into my former neighbor, who also is a former TNT teammate and we rode together for the first 25 miles or so, which was nice, except that he is much faster than I am, so even at his easy conversational pace, I was pushing myself pretty hard, which is exactly what you are NOT supposed to do at the beginning of a race. After the first fuel stop he went on ahead and I was riding alone, cranky, on a course that was full of hills and pretty hot. At the mile 77 rest stop, I ran into Coach Alex, who was having some pretty bad stomach issues, so bad,in fact, that he was waiting there for another of our teammates to finish the ride and then come back to pick him up. Oh, yes, I definitely had that thought, "hey, I can just wait here with Alex in the shade, and get a ride back too!" But even I am not such a baby as to think that being tired and in a bad mood is an excuse to not finish a ride. I actually felt fine and was starting to recover from that early push. So I drank a coke, which perked me right up, and finished to ride. I hadn't been paying a lot of attention to my pace or time because of my bad mood, but when I got to the end of the 106 mile ride (yup, just 6 miles less than the ironman!) I realized that I had actually done it 45 minutes faster than my last 102 miler, though that one had more climbing. This, to me, is what training is all about...when your body knows what to do and keeps doing it even while the mental battle is going on. So in the end it was a successful day, even if 8 hours is a long time to be grumpy.

So now we are in what is called the "Taper Phase" where the workouts get lighter...although sometimes they still seem kind of long. Now I am freaking out about my packing list and just trying to get everything together for the big day. I have a bib number, 2166. I have a wedding to go to on Sunday. On Monday afternoon, I will unveil my new Ironman look...stay tuned for pictures. And on Thursday it's off to Canada. Crazy!

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