Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Rocks

Appendicitis. A 3rd degree sunburn from trying out my IM race kit. A monster cold 1.5 weeks out. A bug infestation that left me with itchy boob-like mounds all over my body. It seemed a higher power was trying to tell me something. But it must not have been that I shouldn't do Ironman Coeur d'Alene--the race was perfect.

Well, almost perfect.

It might thunderstorm! The water is frigid! The bike course is hilly! You might get attacked by a deer!

The strange things that people think about just before an Ironman are, in the words of Chaz Michael Michaels, bind-bottling. The day before the race, I heard it was supposed to rain right up until 5am on race day, so I outfitted Stealth Pinky (my bike) in a chic get-up of black trash bags (reminiscent of what Tilda Swinton wore to the Oscars...ok not so chic), rolled the top of my transition bags over so their contents wouldn't get soaked, then went on my merry way to stuff myself with whatever carbs I wanted.

I was excited. Nothing could deter me from having a killer day. After all I'd recently been through, a deer knocking me over on my bike and frozen solid phalanges could only add more comedy to the epic ride that was Ironman Coeur d’Alene training. And I didn’t have my “lady friend” like my best IM buddy (bless her evil uterus), which would’ve been cause for hysterics. And my husband was doing it with me as his first Ironman. That’s right, coachubby trained me and all of my friends for this race while still an Ironvirgin.

The Swim

Ironman Coeur D'Alene swim

The water temperature was a reported 59.5 degrees on race day--fudged a half-degree by the merciful race director so cold-wusses like me could still legally wear our swim booties.

The water felt good. The sun was shining. The beach was covered in bright pink and blue-capped competitors, which was a super-awesome cap color choice, indeed, after the brain fart at IMAZ last year in which the women had lake-colored caps, and the corner buoys were black.

The cannon went off and the race began! I swam with all my might to try to get out ahead of the crowd, but to no avail. Pretty shortly, I realized that the entire race had been staged to kill me. People had paid their entry fees to engage in some kind of sick Idaho-ian drowning ritual in which one unsuspecting young victim gets sent out into a cold lake, then the other participants try to swim on top of her, splash water down her throat, punch her in the face, kick her in the gut, grope her, and see how long it takes until she sinks to the bottom.

Little did they all know I have a great aversion to dying and will try not to at all costs. So I took a stroke, then doggie paddled to get air and to find holes in the enemy ranks. I did this over and over and over again until I reached the first turn-around where people started to spread out and I realized that most of them had given up on trying to knock me out. I’m a swimmer. I’m a swimmer. I’m a swimmer. My form came back to me and I cruised along. But the damage was already done. I noted the clock time coming out of the swim and was bummed. How had I gone so slowly? Ah yes, I didn’t swim the first quarter of the course; people were trying to kill me.

No matter. One of the coolest things about Ironman came just seconds later: wetsuit strippers. I ran over to one, leapt onto my butt, stuck my feet in the air and watched that sucker fly off. Then into the women’s change tent where I got 3 personal volunteers. I didn’t want to leave, it was so cool. Two of them held out my arm warmers, so I slid my arms right on in, while one of them put my race belt on me and off I ran in full Triathlete Diva glory—pink arm warmers, a Triathlete Diva jersey, and black socks that say “Foxy” on them in pink.

The Bike

Ironman Coeur D'Alene bike

I grabbed Pinky from her rack, and the bike began. I quickly came upon another girl in my age group. Heck no will she beat me! We traded positions for a while, then I let her go ahead, thinking I’d keep her in my sights, and she’d forget I was stalking her after a while. One problem: it’s hard to stalk people in a hot-pink flambĂ© jersey, and hot-pink arm warmers. She was a bit stealthier and I lost sight of her after a while. But she had made me push the first 20 miles of the bike more than I thought I would, and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Then I forgot all about it because I had to pee.

Where are the porta potties! Bahhh! I don’t see them anywhere. Just then, a woman in the 30-35 age group passes me, then slows way down and lets it flow.

“Darn it! I need to do that so bad!” I tell her.

“Just let it go, honey! I had to give it 2 solid efforts before I got it out.”

That’s it. I’m not stopping for no stinkin’ porta potty. If that woman can pee herself in front of me and hundreds of spectators, so can I. I pedal hard, coast, then let it flow, making sure my parents and my host family are not in view.

The hills come, and I dominate them. Take that hill #1! And that hill#s2,3,4,5,bazillion! A sign on hill number gagillion says, “#246, how’s your butt feelin’ now!” Mine feels like it is ready to model a bikini in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

After riding up enough short climbs to eliminate my butt altogether, a kind volunteer informs me that “it’s all downhill from here”. That is, until you come around for a second lap of bum and thigh sculpting. And while the ride back to Coeur d’Alene was pretty much all downhill, the wind picked up and made it quite a challenging little section of the course, where lesser human beings (probably the ones who signed up to kill me in the swim) succumbed to drafting.

The ride was so fun, everyone decided to do the bike course again. And while a few people ate pavement big time, I came off the bike relatively unscathed—I had an ultra-sore back and a mission to hunt down the two other girls in my age group who had passed me in the last 12 miles. I didn’t ride with them, because my race mantra was “just chill” as in “don’t go all out now then ruin your run” even though, in retrospect, staying with them at that point would’ve been a good idea.

A friendly volunteer took Pinky from me and I bolted through the women’s change tent, where I had something like 20 personal volunteers (there was nobody else racing in there), and sprang out onto the run course holding two “Just Plain” PowerGels and the fantasy of running a sub-4 hour marathon—with no watch or anything to pace myself other than intuition.

The Run

I had to run that fast if I was going to beat my time from IMAZ last year—my CDA swim was infinitely slower, and my bike was just fast enough to make up for my stupid swim, so now it was all up to my run to get me a PR. No pressure.

Now was not the time to dwell on my size 11, flat, overpronating feet and the 2 lbs of arch support in each of my shoes. I once read that Julie Ertel has the same kind of feet, and she’s lightening fast. So I will be too.

I chugged Gatorade at every station, made an attempt to down a gel every 3 miles, and took salt pills whenever the mood struck. For the first four miles, I thought my lower back was trying to secede from my body. That’s what I get for trying to swim heads up for half a mile. I ignored it.

The crowd was amazing. People everywhere, cheering for everyone. I got a lot of compliments on my jersey, which made me feel like a rock star. I was going to kick this marathon’s behind. Just then, a girl with a 23 on her leg and a pace like a gazelle leapt by me. There was no way I could stay on her. “Just chill, Erin” go your own pace. Keep running. Just chill.

At mile 13, I was feeling pretty good. Much better after a porta potty stop. I kept downing gels and was megahappy that I could, given that at IMAZ last year, I couldn’t eat a thing—my stomach was jacked up beyond belief. I passed the girl who I had tried to hang with early on the bike, upping my happiness by a factor of ginormosity.

Then the pain set in. Super pain. This is where it’s all mental. I had 8 miles to go. I tried some Coke and found it was most splendiferous. It was my new special treat. Instead of hunting down the at least 3 girls I knew were ahead of me in my age group, I had to change my game plan. The new mantra: DON’T WALK! I don’t care how slow you run, you are not allowed to walk. You didn’t walk last time. This is the RUN course, not the walk course. Triathlon is swim, bike, RUN. So, run, darn it! Don’t walk. Don’t walk. Jog it in, Erin. Jog it in.

I got to see all of my friends (I believe there were at least 15 of us in the race!) because the course was all out-and-back. That was super neat. I would not let them see me walk. If I walk, I loose. I want to win.

Finally, I turn the corner down the straight road to the finish. I see it. What does the time say? It’s too far away to tell. I think it says 11 something. Whoopee! I hear my parents and coachubby’s parents and our friends cheering. Holy goodness, the finish isn’t getting any closer. Bah! The black thing I thought was the finish wasn’t—I still have a few yards to go.

Wah hah! I did it! I finished! I didn’t walk! I beat my old time by a solid 24 minutes!

The Aftermath

Ironman Coeur D'Alene end

The race doctor looks at me and asks if I’m ok.

“That hurt,” says I gleefully.

My own personal finish line volunteer hands me a medal, cap, space blanket, t-shirt, water, then asks me what I want. I have no idea what I want. What I’ve wanted for the past 7 months (besides to have a kick-ass wedding in March) was to finish this race. I just did. I have no other goals at this very moment. I don’t know! What do I want!?

“A massage? Food?” she asks.


“Ok, massage it is.”

How beautiful! They have free massages! I make it a point to not mention how many times I peed myself during the race to the kind massage volunteers. I am in awe of their ability to withstand putrid smells and germ phobia.

Coachubby finds me and informs me that he finished super wicked fast. Like in the top 3 percent. Like his finishing time was on the first page of results fast. Geez. I am briefly jealous of our future children’s genes.

I get the freezies. I make a space blanket outfit complete with skirt and cape and march over to the results. I made it onto the podium! Whoopee! My run was close to four hours, and my swim did, indeed, stink just as much as I had suspected.

My amazingly supportive and totally rad parents hug me, tell me they’re proud, then suggest I shower so I don’t smell like a sweaty porta john.

I do so, and contemplate how totally amazing the entire day was. The weather was absolutely perfect. I actually enjoyed the water temperature. The bike and run were picturesque. And the communities of Coeur d’Alene and Hayden Lake are bodacious. Everyone was out cheering. Every billboard in town said “Welcome Ironmen!”, and the towns themselves are stunningly gorgeous—a welcome break from the urban sprawl and the egos that make up LA.

I would like to do Ironman Coeur d’Alene again, but perhaps next year, I’ll be seeing you in Lake Placid?



PS. More photos coming soon!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ironman Coeur D'Alene, Here I Come!

Ironman Coeur D'Alene

7 weeks ago, I got appendicitis

OK, I said, I am gonna fight this

Had the sucker out and then

Got faster than I'd ever been

1 week ago, got a real bad cold

went to the doc, and he wasn't sold

"You'll get over it soon," he said

Then Monday, I felt real dead

2 Days ago, started a Z-Pack

With a sore throat and my body feelin' wack

Still pretty tired with a swollen face

Nothing's gonna stop me from finishing this race

IM CDA here I come!

Throw your cold water at me and then some

I'm going to kick your ass

Because by Sunday, I'll feel FANTAS...TIC!

I'm off for IM #2. If you're in Idaho or racing, say "HI!" I'll be in the pink and black-flamed Triathlete Diva jersey. It's on.



Sunday, June 15, 2008

Beware Your Back Sweat!

Sweaty Cyclist

Back sweat is inevitable in triathlon training. It's gonna happen. It's gonna stink. It causes some dudes backne, and makes shirts stick to you like plastic wrap. None of these back sweat symptoms are anything to loose sleep over.

However, there are other unspoken problems directly caused by back sweat that will bring you grief. Did you know back sweat has been known to destroy precious electronics, like that kick ass Blackberry Pearl your brother handed down to you at Christmas to replace the embarrassing brick you had been carrying around since, gasp!, before Y2K!?

Picture this: you're far far away on a creepy mountain climb all by yourself because you're not just hill training, you're brain training. You have, however, intelligently placed your swanky new cell phone in your jersey pocket just in case Hannibal Lecter rides by on a speeding motorcycle and stops up the road. (Or, you know, you flat twice, but how often does that happen?)

You decide to call (insert someone who is aware of this psycho workout you have gone on here) just to let him know that you’ll be home early because you’re kicking so much ass (or, you know, because that massive unexpected Sunday canyon parade held you up).

You whip out your super-cool new phone that’s shiny and remembers your text messages like conversations and holds way more phone numbers than you’ll ever need (or will you? You social animal!). And then something happens that stops your heart. The screen looks normal…but the keys don’t function.

Pink blackberry pearl(<--sissy phone)

You get it to make a call, then your phone starts dialing every number you’ve ever dialed—and you can’t hang up! And you can’t get it to call the one number you wanted to dial! You remove the battery and SIM card, restart the mini computer, then try again. It’s even more schizo now than before! Oh no, could it have gotten a bug?

Oh no, my fellow triathlete, what happened to your new friend/status symbol is far more serious and cannot be cured by the common Geek Squad member. Your phone has become a victim of your own BACK SWEAT! Ahhhhhhhhh!

How to combat this terrible affliction? Certainly, you can’t rub antiperspirant all over your back. There must be several physicians who would advise against that…and you might OD on the Original Old Spice scent and pass out.

The solution, my friends, is simple: Ziploc snack bags. It’s a secret that’s been held by endurance cyclists since the beginning of time (or since the invention of the pocket-sized cell phone). Pop your precious lifeline in one, zip it up, then feel free to ride on whatever creepy route you wish. (Cell phone service not guaranteed.)

Original nokia cell phone(<-- indestructible brick)

I hope this reaches you before you unwittingly destroy something super expensive like an iPhone with your sweaty back. If you have been riding around with a Nokia from 10 years ago like I had, it is my sad duty to inform you that cell phones are not made like they used to be. You cannot drop them, sweat on them, or use them as a weapon as in old times. They are delicate microcomputers that are sensitive to even the slightest change in atmosphere.

So…zip ‘em up. And keep on sweating!



Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ironman Coeur D'Alene--Will it Make a Human Popsicle Out of You?

Lake Coeur D'Alene ironman start IMCDA start IMCDA logo

As of yesterday, the mean water temperature of Lake Coeur D'Alene is a frigid 53 degrees Fahrenheit. On this day last year, it was 60 degrees. The ocean in Redondo Beach was around 65 degrees a few days ago, and man was it chilly. So what's 12 degrees colder feel like?

Perhaps it won't feel like anything, if my body goes numb on contact with the water. That's what I'm hoping for. That, and that it won't be so cold that it'll freeze message delivery half way between my brain and limbs to make me stop kicking or taking strokes.

At Xterra USA Nationals last year, the water temperature was a reported 58 degrees, with the air warming up to 70. There was a blizzard the day before the race. It was awesomely hardcore. But with a .9 mile swim and a warm-up beach run in the middle, it was a different beast.

So, Lake Coeur D'Alene, all I'm asking is that you'll warm up to at least 58 degrees, because I feel that may be the coldest my desert-bred body can handle. Pretty please with a polyurethane cap on top? If so, I promise not to pee in you as often as might otherwise be necessary to warm myself up.


your super-excited future Ironman triathlete,


Monday, June 9, 2008

The Redondo Beach Triathlon--Glory Doesn't Come Easy

Redondo Beach

Maybe it's because I've been training so hard for IMCDA.

Maybe it's because I raced until I thought I was going to puke.

But when I mounted the podium in 2nd place at the Redondo Beach Triathlon yesterday morning, I was pissed.

Because I had won.

This is not the first time WB Productions screwed up the timing at this event. Two years ago, they tried to give the overall male titles to some adolescent boys who had done a shorter kid's course and therefore had faster times than the adults.

So when the rightful 2nd place winner and I stepped up on the podium in 2nd and 3rd, we were confused. We'd been checking times. I knew I had beat everyone 39 and under. I waited for the results from the next wave, and the fastest time was behind mine. So what happened?

The woman who mounted the podium in first, who "didn't know" she had won, wandered on up there, accepted her award, then went back to the grass to sit with her boyfriend. I was pissed. 2nd place was pissed. My friends were pissed.They approached the timing people first.

WB Productions said they'd been having problems with this woman (and their entire timing format) from the beginning. She had gotten body marked with the wrong number, didn't wear a race belt for the run, then told the officials when she crossed the finish line that her number was the one marked on her body.

So you're going to give this woman, whom you've been having trouble with all morning, the overall title? A woman, no less, who was in my wave--the wave in which nobody passed me during the entire race!? I think not.

But what's a girl to do? My moment of reigning glory had already been busted (coachubby and I won together last year). Do I walk over to this woman and tell her to fork over my medal so I could give the 2nd place medal to the rightful owner? This dodo is sitting pretty in the grass with my medal, my winner's schwag, and her boyfriend, whom I recognize from the LA Triathlon Club, is stroking her hair.

What a wanker. The boyfriend, that is.

There is no way this guy doesn't know she didn't win. If he was cheering at all, he'd know she didn't even come close to crossing the finish line first. He was probably behind this whole little scam.

My friends approached her and brought her over to the timing people. Coachubby asked her if she thought she went the time they had listed for her.

"What's the time they said I went?" she asked, completely unaware they had even announced it.

"46 minutes."

She holds up her watch--the one she used to time herself during the race. It says 57 minutes.

"No, I don't think so." She appeared genuinely dense. Like she just didn't get it. Like she would just go around stealing her overall age group medal and the overall medal and the stuff that comes with them and go sit back down with her boyfriend--who wouldn't tell her she didn't earn these things at all--and never know the difference.

The timing people took back the medals, and they were redistributed at the end when nobody was left--the most anticlimactic end to a successful day of defending the overall title.

And, of course, the dense woman did not return any of the stuff they gave her for "winning". Just the medal.

After working so hard to make my little moment of glory happen I couldn't believe that (a) someone could be so dense, and (b) that the LA Triathlon Club member stroking her hair could let that happen. He knew better. Perhaps it was his race number she told the timing people at the end. And (c) that the timing people could screw up the times that much. I was the first female to cross the finish line, and it was so freaking cool. It was even the first time my little brother had ever seen me race. That dope was 31, meaning she was in my wave, meaning she didn't win.

So maybe it's because I've been training so hard. Or because I was so excited to have defended my title as champ of a little local sprint race, which means more to me than it probably should. But yesterday when my moment was stolen, instead of being calm and rational as usual, I turned into a real Diva with a capital D. I was ticked. And though my title was restored, the whole situation demanded that I be somewhat of a diva, or else that dense lady and her complicit hair-stroking boyfriend would've walked off with my medal, and the women's 30-34 age group medal, which another woman surely ran her guts out to win.

Today, as a result of a threefold conspiracy between a ditz, an LA Tri jerk beefcake, and a terribly disorganized timing company, I feel happy that I won, but supremely rotten that I had to defend my title verbally. That's why I do triathlon. It's physical. It's simple. Winning should be as simple as stepping on the finish mat before everyone else. Maybe WB Productions should make a note of that.

P.S. The race itself was absolutely fabulous. It ran smoothly, and was super fun. More on the actual race later.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Beware the Smiley Burn!

Back burn smiley

Don't let this happen to you! I hope this gets to you before it's too late.


You know, that part of your back between the end of your jersey and the start of your pants that gets exposed when you're in aero position for a long time. Or if your jersey is just so teeny weeny it doesn't cover all of your back.

Don't just put sunscreen on, reapply every few hours. Get a tiny bottle of spray sunscreen and put it in your Bento Box, lest you get a burn that frightens other people away from you in your gym's pool because you look part crocodile, part human. Or part puff-pastry, part human, depending on the stage your burn is in when you decide to douse it in chlorine just for kicks.

Should you fry your smiley, which may seem inevitable if you're racing an Ironman, see a dermatologist. She can prescribe a topical cream that will make it heal faster than any combination of Neosporin/aloe vera you come up with. Plus, she can look you over to make sure the thousands of other times your white skin has turned rouge since you became a triathlete haven't given you any suspicious looking specs. (Plus, you'll be building a good relationship so when your skin becomes all prematurely wrinkly and saggy down the line from all those burns, she'll know how to liven you back up.)

You could also try wearing a jersey that doesn't expose your back, but if you're going for fashionable over smart on the day of your Ironman, stick some spray sunscreen in all of your transition and special needs bags. Then use it. It won't take much time, and your new friend the dermatologist, as well as the first several layers of your skin, will thank you for your effort.

Happy smiling with your face, not your back!

Monday, June 2, 2008

How to Look Like an Airhead on a Long Run

Funny female runner

Despite the fact that the long run is typically known as a transcendental personal journey, one that's often completed in contemplative solitude, it is still possible to appear like a ditz if you follow these steps:

  • run the same 14 mile loop you've done a million times, only to realize you've never made the final turn back to the car on the first try

  • identify neon-yellow clad bike cops ahead on trail

  • ask cops for directions to desired trailhead

  • follow cops there

  • find cops standing in a circle around a dirt inscription that reads "This way, cutie! -->"

  • acknowledge cops' firm admission that they did not write the direction

  • run right by trailhead anyway, despite neon cops, dirt marking, and trailhead sign

  • turn right around when cops call you back as you wonder aloud how you got there so fast

  • say "thank you" as the cops tell you "Only 6 more miles to go!" in a tone that suggests they fear you won't make it and they'll be called back later to find your rattlesnake bitten ditsy self somehow lost on a single-track downhill trail--the only trail in that area

  • it doesn't hurt to have blonde hair bleached from previous such noon-time excursions

These steps may have been taken from personal experience, that may have occurred while running up the Temescal Canyon Ridge trail to the Backbone Trail and back down to Will Rodgers' State Park where it all started. And this may be the only instance in which somebody's husband's directional savvy actually outdoes her own.

Happy trail running! And may mountain bike cops magically appear should you get lost!