Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Losing Sight of The Shore

Being a single parent is HARD. Single parents or stay at home moms, I now have deeper respect for you than I already had. I know my situation is easy (and very short term) by comparison, but juggling activities, entertaining the kids and finding time for yourself is not easy. It certainly takes a unique person to keep it all together and raise great kids and be happy. I do not classify myself as one of those unique people. I am doing alright now, but I know I would have a hard time if I had to maintain this.

But enough about me - this post is an update on my wife and her time in Haiti.


"You'll never reach new oceans if you're afraid to lose sight of the shore."

This is the quote my coach has at the bottom of her emails. It seems appropriate for this post about my wife.

Last night, as I was sitting and watching F at Kung Fu, my phone rang and my wife's number popped up. Her phone service has been spotty, so I was happy to see it was her. I stepped out in the lobby to take her call (totally abandoning F.) She was manic. In a wonderful way.

She told me she had just had the most amazing day and needed to share it with someone before she forgot all the details. I felt proud that she called me first. (I don't know who I expected her to call, apparently it wasn't me.) I grabbed a pen to take notes so I wouldn't forget the details (although I probably have or gotten them wrong.)

Let me back up a couple of days to our last phone conversation on Sunday. She was all settled in and had been sweating like a whore in church (thank you Grandma Olson) the entire time. She spent Saturday setting up a bunch of tents and working on reorganizing the pharmacy at the clinic. Sunday was their day off and after going to help check on a preemie born Saturday night, they basically walked the entire tent city. The kids they encountered were all super sweet and happy and everywhere they went they heard, "Hey you," "Hey you," the only English words the kids knew.

They hired a driver to take them into Port-au-Prince. It was such a strange dichotomy of utter devastation - collapsed buildings with bodies still trapped inside - and vibrant activity - the market filled with people selling fruit and other daily needs. It was interesting and the work was fine, but she was feeling a little under utilized.

Last night, she was so excited she couldn't get the words out fast enough. Tuesday morning they were in their clinic figuring out what everyone was going to do for the day and a couple of nurses said they were going to the general/public hospital in town. A (my wife) asked if she could come with and the nurses said "Sure, we leave in 5 minutes." And they meant it.

From what it sounds like capitalism and free enterprise isn't a victim of a disaster. People take the opportunity to provide services that normally would be taken for granted. So they have drivers for hire that take people around the city. There are a couple of guys that the medical folks use - "The Two Pauls." Big Paul and Little Paul. Apparently these two guys came down to help out after the earthquake. Their motto: "No morals, just get it done." They help cut through any red tape to get people around or get supplies or whatever needs to be done. Their mode of transportation is a pickup truck. You hop in back and they drive.

I feel I must tell you a little more about my wife. She is not known for her spontaneity. She's not really a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" kind of person. That's not to say she's uptight or rigid - she's a planner. She likes to have an idea of what to expect - she doesn't like surprises. (I made the mistake - a few times - of trying to surprise her and she was bugged more than anything.) That being said, the fact that she went on this trip at all seemed like a big step to me, but then to hear that she volunteered to go with a couple of people she just recently met to a completely unfamiliar location and situation told me she is certainly thriving down there.

So "Big Paul" takes A and her nurse friends to the hospital. When they get there they check in with a woman - A later finds out she's a doctor - who is organizing things. A tells her, "I'm not sure how I can help - I'm an Occupational Therapist so ..." The woman interrupts her, "AWESOME! A therapist!"

A spent the majority of the day in the ICU. She said it was just surreal. The facilities were third-world and damaged during the disaster. The patient boards - telling what the patients were being treated for - had some codes she wasn't familiar with. Most had "TB" on them. She knew that meant they had tuberculosis and many had "H+" as well. This, she learned, meant HIV positive. There were a couple of convicts from the prison who were shackled to their beds and were admitted for some "stupid thing". There was a patient with advanced tetanus - locked jaw and stiffening joints. There was a man who had a stroke and was refusing to eat. And many other people just wasting away. A says just describing it, it sounds like it should be totally disheartening, but she was just so energized.

As she went from bed to bed it became apparent that these patients had been in bed for WEEKS or MONTHS. They had NOT GOTTEN OUT OF BED for WEEKS or MONTHS. No wonder they were wasting away.

She approached one woman and was told, "she doesn't walk." A asked, "Did she have a stroke, is she paralyzed? What do you mean she doesn't walk?" The reply, "She's too weak." She had been in bed so long. A got her up and had her walking around in no time - this is what she does.

One of the prisoners was being watched by a sympathetic guard who allowed him to be unshackled from the bed for awhile. A approached him and found that he hadn't been out of bed since he arrived - months ago. She asked the guard if she could get him up and walking and the guard let her go to work. When A got the prisoner standing his legs could barely support him and were going into spasms from having not been used for so long. A kept working with him and by the end of their time together he was walking around the ward. Later that day he stole a walker and escaped. (I'm totally kidding. I don't think they have walkers and the guy wasn't walking that well.)

The son of the man with tetanus was sitting with him and imploring him to move. Apparently he had been having horrible back pain and he also hadn't been out of bed. A came over and spent some time teaching the man some simple stretches to relieve his back pain and spent time ranging his joints before they froze permanently. She had him up and walking before she left as well.

She went on to tell me about some people-watching she did and some other medical folks she met. She was sitting outside taking a breather and a truck with a patient came through the security gate and one of the doctors assisting with the transfer was our neighbor across the street. She said they looked at each other and both were so surprised to see the other that they kind of couldn't believe it.

About this time, F came out of Kung Fu all pissed off that I had "abandoned" him. He gave me this "look" with his arms outstretched and mouthed his disapproval. When I explained it was his mother on the phone from Haiti he looked a little sheepish. Damn demanding kid.

I was SO excited to hear how excited she was. She saw what a difference she made in these people's lives. She walked into an unknown and chaotic situation and took charge. She had lost sight of her safe, tidy little shore and was sailing solo in this wild new ocean. She was proud of herself and I am even more proud of her. She is learning so much about herself and I love her more for it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Opposites Attract (or My Wife the Saint)

Actually it should probably be more like "opposites attract and then get stuck together and then stay together even though they are opposites."

I am referring - very much tongue in cheek - to me and my wife. Just a few examples of how we are opposite:
  • wife - work, me - not working.
  • wife - spends money on others, me - spends money on me.
  • wife - puts clothes away after wearing them, me - puts clothes on floor after wearing them.
  • wife - knows what clothes can be dried in the dryer, me - no clue.
  • wife - drinks wine, me - can't handle my liquor.
  • wife - finds sophomoric humor tiresome, me - finds sophomoric humor every chance I get (and freely teaches it to our children which my wife then has to "unteach" so they don't offend the grandparents, neighbors or teachers.)
  • wife - petite, me - big.
  • wife - female, me - less female.
Another example of our "oppositeness" is what we perceive as "great opportunities" especially as they pertain to islands.

As you know, I recently spent time on the Pacific paradise of the Big Island of Hawaii. It was to pursue an "opportunity" I just couldn't pass up. That opportunity was, of course, to race a half Ironman distance triathlon on the Big Island and meet a bunch of people who I only knew through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. As you also know, I had a great time. Stayed in an awesome condo overlooking the ocean, ate awesome food and just really enjoyed myself and my new friends.

My wife was talking with our across-the-street neighbor a couple of months ago and she came home with an "opportunity" she felt she just couldn't pass up. It too was on an island, in the Caribbean. She'd be gone for a week without me or the kids (not unlike I was in Hawaii.) She would be meeting new "friends" as well, but she had no idea who they were. Not so "opposite-y," right?

Here is where things get "opposite-y." She would be living in a tent (I don't think we have ever stayed in a one star hotel,) eating one meal a day of rice and beans (not one of our staple meals) and her new "friends" would be sick and injured and living in a disaster area. My "opportunity" was about me and my personal interest. Her "opportunity" was to make a difference.

Tomorrow at 7:25 AM she flies off to Miami on her way to Port au Prince, Haiti. She will be living in the Jenkins - Penn tent city. Taking a shower. Eating beans and rice and anything else she brought with her. Her days will be long, hot, humid days helping the poor people still trying to recover from the January 12th earthquake. She's not really sure what she will be doing day-to-day. She may be birthing babies, suturing, assisting docs, helping organize, helping amputees or trauma victims with daily tasks by using adaptive equipment (she's an Occupational Therapist, so this is her field of expertise.)

To prepare for her trip she got her shots and has been taking her anti-malarial medicine.

She's been packing.

And packing.

She got a water filter bottle.

and just in case.

Her bedtime reading subject matter has changed somewhat from Jane Austen to this:

The cover just makes me queasy. Several times she would start laughing at something she was reading. I'd ask her what was so funny and she'd reply, "Oh, if I showed you, you'd get all squirmy and weird." Thank you for extending me that courtesy anyway.

I am excited and nervous for her and know she is excited and nervous about going - as evidenced by her inability to sleep and need to repack at 2 in the morning. I know she is going to do just fine and will gain a ton from the experience. I am just hoping that by being married to her I will get to ride her coattails into heaven.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2010 Honu 70.3 - Race Pictures

Here are some pictures on the course. Thanks MM for showing me how to steal these from the overpriced course photographers.

Lots of good ones from the swim. This is when I was still feeling good. I do hate looking at pictures of myself. Does my head look too small for my body? Maybe it's the swim cap, but I look like kind of a pinhead. And I have no idea what I'm smuggling in my trunks. (Sorry mom.) Let's explain it as the chamois in my bike shorts.

Couple of good shots on the bike course. The first one shows that it's so hot and sunny it over exposed the shot. Also, notice how I am riding at a slight angle. The crosswinds were killer. Other than that I look pretty good in both shots - no snot rockets or adjusting my junk or anything.

These two running shots are excellent because it makes it look like I am actually picking up my feet. The second is evidence that I actually finished (although not in a particularly stunning time.)

This concludes my 2010 Honu 70.3 adventure. Hope you enjoyed some of it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2010 Honu 70.3 - Fun Stuff (part 4 of 4)

This post is the bookends to the race reports. And it has pictures so D will actually scroll through it.

I got into Kona on Wednesday afternoon. Thankfully the flights were uneventful, because if they weren't I would have to spend a lot of words bitching about the airlines and what a total f***-show they all are. That fact remains, but it wasn't wagged in my face this time.

After getting the rental car, loading up my bike and finding my accommodations - which were stellar in every way, thank you very much Warren and Jonathon for helping me out, the place is unbelievable and the location is amazing, I'll be back - I sent out emails and text messages to all the peeps who were in town and made the foolish mistake to agree to meet me in person.

The incredibly fabulous Bree Wee was the first to respond. She invited me to swim with her and the Kona Aquatics team that night. After pestering her a few more times to get directions to the pool and to find some cheap, tasty place to eat - Taco Del Mar = SO GOOD I went twice - I drove around Kona and soaked in the Aloha spirit. I drove up and down Alii Drive about five times and just couldn't believe THE Ironman finishes on this little street, but it was so cool - it just gave me goosebumps.

I made it to the Kona pool and introduced myself to Bree - who is as nice in person as online - and met her little boy Kainoa who promptly whacked me with a towel by way of saying, "hello." Kids can see things in a person adults miss - he read me like a picture book and reacted accordingly. Well played, Kainoa. Well played.

I hopped in the pool and started warming up. I just paddled around in the middle lanes, figuring there is no way I would be able to keep up with the speedy lanes. Coach called everyone to the wall and announced the first set and the intervals. Easy 8 x 100 on 1:30 for lane 1 - the speedy lane. Shit, I do that no problem so I duck under a couple of lanes and there I am in the middle of the pack in the fast lane. My stroke felt like hell - no feel for the water, ass dragging, stroke all over the place - but I stuck with it and ended up clicking off sub-1:15s without breathing heavy, keeping pace with the rest of the lane, no problem. The rest of the workout was much the same and although everything still felt weird, I kept up without effort and was encouraged - my swim could really kick ass, I just need to get in the ocean to make sure.

Afterward, I changed and then grabbed some sushi for dinner and went to bed exhausted but happy to be in Hawaii. Then I woke up at 3 AM because I have been waking up at 3 AM for the past two weeks - why change now?

Thursday the Hawaii peeps stared arriving. MM caught an early flight with a friend of hers and I offered to them up at the airport. They got in a 6:30 AM, but I was going to be awake more than likely so why not pick them up. We crammed three bikes and assorted bags in the car and made MM's friend, Cody, sit in the back seat with his feet on his bag and his knees up under his chin and then headed north to where they were staying.
The highway north - the Queen K/
Queen Kaahumanu Highway - is long and for much of the way cuts through desolate lava fields. We would be racing on this highway for much of the bike course. It would not be an easy ride.

After dropping MM and Cody at their respective accommodations - actually I dropped Cody at Foodland because he didn't know what condo he was staying in or the gate code to get into the complex. It was kind of funny to leave him there on the sidewalk with his bike and bags - I got a hold of Kerrie Wlad and family. We had passed them on the highway going in the opposite direction and they were now swimming at the pier in Kona. I zipped back to my place to get swimming stuff, but by the time I got to the pier they were gone (probably out in the ocean swimming) so I changed in the car and hit Lava Java - they said they were getting brunch there after - and settled in for some stalking.

I also ate breakfast and drank coffee and messed around on my computer while I waited, so it wasn't completely weird sitting and staring at strangers - only partially weird sitting and staring at strangers. When they finally showed up they walked by me a few times without recognizing me (one of the advantages of having a hedgehog on a rooster for a profile picture is that no one recognizes you in real life) so I bought their drinks, introduced myself and promptly inserted myself into their family vacation. We hung out while they ate and chit-chatted. They are an incredibly cool family and I'm not just saying that because they might read this, they were very funny and the kids are super cute and very nice. GG isn't nearly as odd as he appears to be on Kerrie's blog, but he's close ; ) (oh and later on he is FAST and Kona bound in October.)

We parted ways and I went back to my place to grab a nap and put my bike back together. It went together no prob and I took it to Kona Bike Works to go for a spin down the Queen K and then have the guys there tweak any issues. It was 99% perfect but I took it in to have them look at my rear derailleur and brake. I walked up to the service department and who was sitting there having her bike worked on but Bree Wee. We chatted for about a half-hour or so while they were working on her bike and then they gave mine a quick once over - they were awesome.

The rest of Thursday I was on my own. I would be heading up north Friday morning to meet MM and the gang she was hanging with for an early ocean swim, race registration and run gear drop off. At the expo we got a picture with the blogger friends we ran into.

It was kind of weird because MM and FL kept having strangers walk up to them and say, "hi" - these strangers were all commented on their blogs and recognized them. No one recognized me because A) I have A follower and B) my profile picture is of a bespectacled, pipe smoking, sweater wearing cool guy. (Actually, it's kind of strange that no one recognized me because that is exactly what I was wearing at the expo. And a pair of bike shorts.)

Me + bike shorts = approachable (or not)

We went back to their condo and went for a quick bike, run and then a nap. After that we checked in our bikes and then made an awesome dinner. Grilled salmon and chicken with rice and green beans. One of the guys, Erik, and I manned the grill. We were the dream team and everything came out delicious and no one got sick - always my fear.

I headed home and was in bed by 10 PM.

Saturday we raced.

(Thanks Debra Perretta for the great pictures.)

Saturday evening we went to a post race party. It was fun, but everyone turned into a pumpkin at about 10 PM. It was funny to see. At almost the same time everyone when from wide eyed and energetic to eyes half-mast. Before the party Marcy and Bo were scrambling around looking for their car keys. I left early to get gas. (This all seems like tangential details, but it all comes together.) Then I met everyone at the party. I got back to my place about 11 PM and slept OK considering I had a terrible sun burn.

(My children, who I badger about using sunscreen, are never going to let me live this down.)

I woke up about 6:30 Sunday morning and dug in the pockets of the shorts I had on the night before looking for some lip balm to soothe my sunburned lips. I pulled out the lip balm and my car key. But wait, I was looking at my car key on the desk. I have two car keys. That look identical. I AM A TOTAL DIPSHIT! I HAVE MARCY AND BO'S CAR KEYS! And have had them all night.

I texted Marcy (luckily she had texted me earlier) and asked if they were driving a Ford Focus. Yes, indeed they were and I had their keys. I threw on clothes and headed north. I was going to just throw the keys over the railing of the lanai (porch) so no one would be able to punch my face for being a total dipshit. I was completely embarrassed. Leave it to me to do something completely alienating. Luckily, everyone had a very good sense of humor about the whole thing and Avis didn't have to come out and unlock the car ($55) and cut a new key ($200).

When I got inside I was greeted by the following scenes.

Triathletes eat a lot of food at a race and make a huge mess.

Bags of wet stinky clothes and bikes in various stages of being disassembled.

Why yes, I would love to have some fresh papaya from the tree outside. Wait what's this garnish? (That, my friends, is a good sized pot bud. Found in the middle of the parking lot. The Big Island is a very friendly island.)

Here is a picture of the gang that was nice enough to put up with my mainlander ignorance for several days. I very much appreciate you guys welcoming me in. You're all wonderful people.

Here is me with the gang looking kind of like a giant. Bo is happily holding up his keys and taunting me for basically being a complete moron.

I went back to my place to pack up while they all packed up as well. Then I met MM and FL for a loosen up swim at the pier.

Here we are playing around about a quarter mile off shore on the Ironman course. I could swim in the ocean all day. Every day.

Then we went back to Lava Java for brunch. This omelet has grilled pineapple chunks and roasted pork in it. It was absolute heaven on a plate.

From there we wandered around Kona for a while. I bought gifts for the family back home. We drove the Ironman run course and then they went to the airport and I went back to my place to pack up and check out.

The rest is boring because I had to hang around until 11 PM for my flight out of Kona. Then I got home.

My kids were so impressed/horrified by my sunburn that they asked me to show their class. (I was at school anyway helping the teachers with some end of year moving, so it's not like it was a special trip.)

"This, children, is why it's important to use sunscreen. And most importantly - to reapply."


Monday, June 7, 2010

Honu 70.3 - Let the race end, God, please let it end (unabridged) (part 3 of 4)

Ugh, finally on the flight home.

So, I successfully made it through the swim and bike and after almost taking out another racer and then embarrassing myself getting off my bike I am off to the run. I find the volunteer who is pointing out my bike slot and trot over to her. I throw my hat on and slip my right shoe on and then my left shoe. I was worried that when I pulled my shoe on my calf would cramp. It did but as soon as I trotted away it felt OK.

I made the turn onto the run course and knew I was going to have a tough run - at least to start with. I was sloshy and bloated and my legs would not turn over. I told myself it was the first mile, stick with it, stick with the nutrition plan and see if it comes back. Needless to say it didn’t come back. My running legs did not make it to the race.

I honestly do not think I overdid the bike. My legs didn’t feel sore or tired they just weren’t turning over. I resigned myself to the fact that the run would be a suffer-fest and I would do what I could/needed to do to finish.

The course is NOT easy. It’s on and off fairways and cart paths on a golf course. So there are just endless rolling hills, short but steep, up and down. There is little shade – certainly not enough to provide any relief. One “advantage” of the course is that there are a lot of out-and-backs so I could be a little distracted looking for people I knew.

I walked during the second mile. The uphills were just killing me. Not causing discomfort really, just taking way more energy than I figured I could sustain. I realized that I was totally cooking. During one of the Ironman videos I have watched like a hundred times, Torbjorn Sindballe talks about the Kona heat – “you’re running along and then ‘wham’ the heat just hits you like a hammer in the head” and that is exactly what it felt like. I resolved to walk up the hills as necessary and walk through the aid stations – you know, enjoy the scenery and free refreshments. This wasn’t the plan I had in mind, but what can you do? I made sure to stick with the nutrition plan so I didn’t have a complete melt down.

RR caught me a couple of miles into the run. She wasn’t blazing along either, so I was feeling OK that I was struggling. I kept seeing her on the switch-backs as she pulled away. Then I saw MM coming up behind me. I figured she would be running me down pretty quickly, but she wasn’t catching me nearly as quickly as I expected.

I kept looking for everyone else, but everyone looks like some stage of shit and I was merely concentrating on keeping the feet moving forward.

I was determined to run from aid station to aid station. At each stop it was water on my head, one cup of ice down the shirt, one cup of ice down the shorts (yes, it sounds horrible, but was actually incredibly refreshing) and Gatorade. I will say that fairly quickly the sloshy, bloaty feeling went away replaced by gassy but that went away as well (when I was in isolated areas – I’m a little modest about those things.)

I was taking GUs and salt tabs as planned and these certainly kept a tough run from becoming a miserable run. Don’t get me wrong it was a suffer-fest/death march but it was manageable – physically and, most importantly, mentally.

I made two minor mistakes/breaks in concentration. Some of the GUs I ate on the run contained caffeine. From past experience this is never a good thing for me. I had other options, but was too tired/lazy to find them. The aid stations were giving out Coke and it just got to the point where I could not say no. I had to have one. The caffeinated GUs and Coke quickly caught up with me. I recalled a conversation I had with my sister on the phone on the drive up that morning. “Todd, mom and I have one request. DO NOT embarrass the family by shitting yourself.” These words were screaming in my head as I was in the middle of mile 8. OH MY GOD! Am I going to make it to a port-a-potty or do I hit the woods?

Rounding a corner there was an aid station and – thank the Lord Almighty – a port-a-potty. Son of a bitch some guy just ran in there. FINE! Stand and clench. Stand and clench. Pray that no one recognizes me. Finally, dude comes out. It was all over in about 45 seconds. I felt so relaxed and hopped out with fresh legs. When I say fresh legs, I mean I could go back to the shuffle I was now calling "running."

I felt like the worst was behind me (literally and figuratively) and I could just concentrate on finishing, but in those last four miles or so I got double side stitches that forced me to walk. A lot. I tried to alter my breathing pattern and it worked for a while but they kept coming back. Again, it wasn’t cramping from dehydration or lack of salt (I've been there and recognize the signs,) I’m not sure what it was (in a restaurant the next day, I heard another racer talking about the same thing happening to them) I actually ran/shuffled more than I walked so I was OK with that, but it was maddening.

Back on the golf course I ran/shuffled to the finish for the last couple of miles. Suddenly there is a woman running beside me and she starts chatting with me. I mention how I am really enjoying my death march and she points out that we actually paid for this. At some point she got in front of me and I saw her number - #1060 – the woman I ran off the road at the bike-in. Holy shit, she didn’t remember me. I made a note to find her at the finish and apologize and buy her a beer. She finished like 15 seconds ahead of me and I never did find her.

So what was my take away from the run? That course is fucking hard and people who can train in that heat have a distinct advantage. I, however, never gave up, never really wanted to give up and actually felt good mentally and physically at the end. My mental attitude was still positive, was still encouraging, was still being nice. Even though the run took me over two hours, it seemed to go by pretty quickly - as I recall now and even when I was in the midst of it. After all, isn't that what it's really all about? Not quitting. Reevaluating and adjusting your definition of success based on conditions. Although I will admit to some disappointment that my time was not what I had expected and that my run was no where near what I was planning, I am more proud and encouraged by the way I worked the plan, adjusted where needed and never lost faith or the ability to really enjoy the race. Given the chance I will do the race again, without a doubt.

Next up: all the fun stuff that happened before and after the race with pictures. Stay tuned.

Honu 70.3 - Let the race continue (unabridged) (part 2 of 4)

I finally got my ass on my bike. (This will be a shorter post than the previous one because there is just a lot of pedaling and not much drama - which is a VERY good thing.)

Sitting here now (still at the Starbucks on Palani Drive in Kona, Hawaii) the bike seems to have flown by. I guess that is a testament to my uneventful ride. I remember feeling like the pokey puppy heading out of transition to get on the Queen K highway, but I was advised to take it very easy up this deceptively steep and long hill. It was valuable advice to heed. You don't want to turn yourself inside out getting up the first quarter mile hill in a 56 mile race. I did realize that I have for-shit bike handling skills. I was all over the fricking place. I was kind of embarrassed with my poor skills, but whatever, no one got hurt (at least not yet.)

Once I got on the highway I just settled into an easy rhythm. For some reason my cadence sensor wasn't working so I had no idea how fast I was pedaling, but I figured I could go by feel and if I was a little fast, it was better than grinding away on too high a gear. I just kept an eye on my heart rate and made sure I wasn't working too hard.

You always hear about the winds on the Queen K highway, but until you are out there you have no idea. The wind doesn't stop. In my opinion the worst wind isn't a head wind, it's the cross winds, which we had all day. I haven't had my bike for very long and so I decided to use my training wheels instead of getting race wheels and it was a great decision for me. My left wrist was so sore from fighting the cross winds blowing from the right. I would have been exhausted if I had to fight much more with deep rim race wheels. It was nothing scary, but you sure had to pay attention and make sure you didn't get blown into anyone.

The course is hilly and it doubles back a couple of times, so any hill you go down you have to go back up later. I was cruising up the hills with little effort. When I say cruising, I don't mean flying. I was getting passed on some of the uphills, but I kept repeating a mantra I read somewhere - "You will pass people and you will get passed." I just kept to my plan and made sure I stayed in the saddle and didn't redline my heartrate up the hills.

Now the downhills were another story. I fricking hammered them. (Now, when I say hammered, I mean I pedaled down them as fast as I could while not letting my heartrate or cadence get out of control and I coasted very little.) I was a little more conservative in the first half, but on the second half I absolutely could not go fast enough down the hills. I really wanted a higher gear. And there were some LONG downhills. I topped 40 mph a couple of times. It was fantastic!

About three-quarters of the way through the ride I caught RR. I slowed down and we were chatting. It was kind of funny to me. Here we are racing along talking about stupid stuff.
Then I realized she was talking to all the guys. She was looking for fricking dates. I was going to pass her, which was kind of surprising to me, but like I said I was hammering the downhills. We stayed close for awhile and then I started to pull away on an uphill. She said she was tired and let me go. The last thing I heard her say was "Throw me a tow rope!" I replied, "Give me a fricking push!" Really, I just didn't want to cramp her style and scare off any potential dates.

I was most proud of myself on the bike for the flawless execution of my nutrition plan. I had prepared my aero bottle up front and two water bottles in back with my drink of choice. I had an open cage on my seat tube for water and then when I had emptied the bottles in back I would chuck them and grab Gatorade. I had GUs taped to my top tube and a bunch of backups in my jersey and I had my salt tabs. Coach and I had developed a schedule for feeding and I followed it to a T. At some point I lost one of my back bottles, but I just kept downing the Gatorade. There were only two glitches in the plan. First, I can't do math. I was supposed to have a GU every 20 minutes and I figured I'd be on the bike between 2:30 and 2:45. That would be at least 8 GUs. I taped on 6. I am dumb. But I had my back ups. Second, at one of the water hand-offs I grabbed a Gatorade and they had forgotten to take the inner seal off. I was like "What the FUCK!?" I had to tear the top off with my teeth and then tear the seal off.

Overall the bike when well, but of course it can never go perfectly. I've been dealing with a minor saddle sore for a couple of weeks, but it is now a major saddle sore. (Anyone with any suggestions please forward.)

The bike leg is coming to an end. I am hydrated, still sweating (although my shorts are very salt stained) and my legs were feeling pretty fresh. Coming up to the bike-in I am getting out of my shoes and once again my fucked up bike handling skills rear their ugliness. As I am struggling to get one foot out I start to weave and all of the sudden there is a woman beside me and I have now forced her off the path into cinders along the side. She swears (rightfully) and I apologize (feebly) and she thankfully doesn't go down. Her number is #1060 so if any of you San Diego peeps know Kebby Holden please put her in contact with me so I can apologize profusely for being a total dumbass. (We actually saw each other later on the run course and talked, but I didn't realize it was her until later and I couldn't find her after the race and she finished immediately in front of me.) (As I reread this before posting I am realizing I may not be solely responsible for that mistake - what was she thinking trying to pass me coming into the bike dismount area? But whatever, I still have terrible bike skills.)

So now I have my feet out of my shoes and I have one foot down and am trying to throw the other over my seat and it gets hung up. So I am hopping on one foot with one leg up in the air as I am manhandling my bike and trying not to fall on my face. (Anyone who has video of this, I would love to see what an embarrassment I was.) I had forgotten that I still had a Gatorade bottle in back and my leg caught it.

I was again surprised to see how few bikes were in the racks. My bike is definitely not my strong suit. I came in at 2:42:00. So surprised. I ended up 121st overall and was 21st in my division.

Stay tuned for the run. This is where the real drama took place.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Honu 70.3 - Let the race begin (unabridged) (part 1 of 4)

I am sitting in Starbucks on Palani Drive in Kona, Hawaii at 5:15 PM on Sunday night. My flight doesn't leave for over 5 hours so I figured hey, I've played enough solitaire, maybe I should write a blog post, but what in the world would I write about? Oh, yeah - this thing I did yesterday.

Blatantly ripping off the "out of order" race report style from others. I'll talk about the race in this post and then other stuff that happened over the weekend in subsequent posts.

(I was trying to think of a nice segue, but I'll just launch into it.)

After setting up our transitions we headed down to warm up for the swim. MM was the only person in our group I could find so, as I had been doing all weekend (why change, right?) I latched on like a barnacle. The warm up was good. They started calling us to line up as MM and I were kind of floating around. Well, I was peeing, it's really the only reason I do a swim warm up.

MM suggested we swim to the start instead of trying to plow through the crowd on the beach. There is a large rock outcropping that we had to swim around (it's not in the course, don't worry) and as we rounded the corner directly below was a HUGE honu (that's a sea turtle for the mainlanders.) He was just floating there. Definitely a good luck omen.

Our group had all swam the day before and MM and I seemed to be pretty close, speed-wise, so I stuck close to her as we picked our spots - a little ways away from the pros, but definitely in the front row. I kept her in sight, but didn't want to be too close because I would have hated to tear her goggles off or have her punch me in the face when the gun went off because when the gun goes off there there are no friends. (And, frankly, MM is fricking mean.)

The wind and current kept blowing us in front of the start line and they kept telling us to move back, but it was getting close to the start and I couldn't imagine them holding up the race to get a fluid crowd of swimmers in a straight line. I kept moving back as instructed, but I had my body turned to go and it's a good thing, because they fired the gun without warning. I don't think I've reacted to anything as fast as I reacted to that gun. I had probably 100 people directly behind me who wanted to get to where I was as fast as possible. I wanted to stay in front or on top of all of them.

Immediately after my first stroke and kick my left calf cramped. It felt like a baseball on the back of my leg, but there was NOTHING I could do except keep going. I may have kicked with my toes flexed or just dragged my legs behind me - I can't remember - because all I could think of was I need to get the fuck out of there.

I swam with my head up for about 200 meters (which probably didn't help my calf) over everyone who got in my way. Miraculously I came out unscathed. Had my goggles, wasn't grabbed, punched or stabbed, wasn't swum over. I had taken the hole shot.

I busted ass to the first turn buoy. I was swimming fast but under control. It was hard at this point to find any feet to get on. I was bouncing between people trying to figure out the best line. I finally settled into a good strong rhythm, was able to work out my calf and was sighting to the first buoy with no trouble. I ended up taking it a little wide because I didn't want to get stuck in the scrum that would happen because the pack hadn't spread out. The problem with this strategy was that I took too obtuse of an angle (didn't cut back hard into the line) and found my self alone, WAY outside the pack (I have a tendency to do this.) Now I had to angle back into the pack, try to sight the buoys and battle directly into the chop that had now blown up. I was basically sighting on the spray from the main column trying to get back in the chase.

After what seemed like an eternity, I got back into the main group and I then, miracle of miracles I found someone's feet. Then someone found my feet. I was thinking - "Holy shit! I am fricking racing this." At this point I had no idea where I was - either on the course or in the pack. I just kept hammering.

(There was a lot of swimming at this point so I'll just jump to the end.)

As I was coming to the swim-out there were not a lot of people around me. I was worried that I ended up in no man's land and wasted a lot of energy on a slow-ass swim. I expected there to be a lot of people around figuring that people who live in Hawaii and California would have strong open ocean swimming skills. I had swam one open water swim this year prior to this. In a wet suit, in a lake, smooth as glass, consisting of two ten minute legs. I trotted up the beach and saw the clock flip to 30:01. I really wanted to go under 30 minutes, but with my scenic route and the windy conditions I was OK with it, but I still had no idea where I was in race.

I got up to the bike transition and then realized why there weren't many people around. There were a lot of bikes still in the racks. I had swam way faster than I realized. And it felt so fricking easy.

I was 56th overall in men for the swim and 6th (out of 206) in my age group. I know it's a triathlon and not a swim meet, but it was an unbelievable way to start the race.

(I'd like to tell you all about my fantastic transition, but it was a damn horror show. I was very deliberate getting all my crap on and then when I needed to mount my bike, it was like I had never been on clipless pedals. Sometimes my transitions are smooth and fast and other times, like this one, they are struggle fests.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Race Eve

I have to say, I don't think I ever anticipated sitting in a rented condo on the big island of Hawaii watching "Say Yes To The Dress" with a bunch of people I have never met in person (but knew through blogs) the afternoon before I race the biggest half Ironman I have ever done, but here I am.

Everything is checked in and set. I'll put together my race day stuff later on tonight and then try to get some sleep before a VERY early wake up.

My brain is just too busy right now to put together coherent thoughts so I'll make this short.

I do have to say thanks to everyone who has been sending me well wishes and especially A who is home with the kids so I can run off to pursue my little hobby. Thanks honey but, it's not nearly as fun without you.

Catch you all on the flip-flop.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Departure Eve

I have eaten my last dinner with the family for the week. Actually, I ate dinner with the kids because A was getting her hairs cut and then I sat and talked to A while she ate. On such a touching family occasion what wonderful food did we partake in? Hot dogs warmed in the microwave for the kids and brats steamed in beer for the ad-ults. (We also had salad.) What a wonderful meal to send me on my way to the south Pacific. (It was all we had in the house.)

I have opened and closed the bike box for the last time - #1,438. (I swear. I can't imagine putting anything else in or taking anything out.) I figure it's about 55 lbs or about 5 lbs overweight meaning I will incur some horrendous penalty at check-in.

I have obsessed and re-obsessed about what I am bringing. Packed lots of stuff in zip-lock bags. Changed from the small carry-on to the larger carry-on after trying unsuccessfully to cram all my shit in the smaller bag and then realizing I need to pack my helmet, running shoes and bike shoes. I am still worried about having my gels confiscated at security and equally concerned about having my chamois cream taken. All I have left to pack is my little toiletry bag after I put my toothbrush in it tonight.

The rest of the night is E's soccer game and then sitting around watching the numbers change on the clocks in the house. My flight leaves at 7:45 AM and I arrive in Hawaii at 1:54 PM. 24 hours from now I still will not have landed, but when I do and I after I check-in to my accommodations hopefully it's hit the ocean for a nice 20 or 30 minute swim. From there I am relying on others to entertain me, which means I will more than likely spend a quiet night alone polishing my axles and adjusting the pressure of my tubes (on my BIKE you sickos.) I will have a car so I can find some strip clubs, er
malls to shop for all the crap the TSA confiscated on the way over. I am sure my plane ride will provide endless amounts of blog fodder.

Here's hoping I, and all my junk, make it to Hawaii in one piece.