Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Crashy Christmas Century

What better day than Christmas to ride 100 miles on Pacific Coast Highway? Everyone would be at home, leaving the often creepy road all to me and coachubby and our friend Aaron. I somehow talked them into riding with me.

Little did we know that this Christmas, the battle wouldn't be against cars, but against each other.

Coachubby and I rolled out from our tiny apartment (whose 1920s wiring got so upset the day before when coachubby put oatmeal in the microwave while I blow-dried my hair that it cut the power altogether) at 6:20am to meet up with Aaron at 6:30 by the Hermosa Beach pier.
The only other people awake were the under-10 crowd, who couldn't wait to rip open wrapping paper, and cops. Lots of cops.

To avoid going straight down Pier Avenue as usual, where the cops are most likely to be hiding, I suggested we take 8th street. We didn't want to ride with lights since the sun would be up in 20 minutes anyway, and twilight had already begun.

Coachubby and I turned left onto 8th street. Then, at the next stop sign, with no warning, coachubby turned straight into me and went down. We had been riding for all of 30 seconds.

The next 5 hours of the ride were a battle royale between me and my brain. I didn't sleep the night before because I was congested, but there was no way I was missing my own Christmas Century. I hadn't ridden 100 miles since RAO (Race Across Oregon--in early July) and I would never see such beautiful riding conditions for months to come--50s and perfectly sunny. Add that to the likeliness that very few people would be driving down PCH and I had to make it to Big Rock. (A big rock on PCH just past Point Mugu, exactly 50 miles from Hermosa Beach. See below.)

But my body was pissed. A return to Beefcake spinning on the 24th at Hermosa's 24 Hour Fitness left my legs feeling like jelly, and my sinuses infected. Gyms are gross like that.

It was all I could do to hold on to Aaron's or coachubby's wheel. Yes, I was that guy--I couldn't take a pull if I wanted to, unless the dudes felt like riding 12 mph. But Aaron had a family to get to in Orange County, and my parents were driving to Hermosa from Phoenix and would be at my place in the afternoon. Slow was not an option.

I was elated when we made it back to the strand in Santa Monica. This is where you know you've made it. You're off PCH, you haven't been squished, and most of the ride home is on a designated bike path where the only obstacles are rollerbladers and oblivious powerwalkers--not to be discounted, but still not as scary as 4,000 lbs of rolling metal.

Then it happened.

Coachubby and Aaron stopped at a stop sign in Venice Beach while I was daydreaming in my stuffy head.

I ran smack into coachubby.

It was my first crash ever. (If you don't count when I fell over going uphill.) And a lame one at that. And of course, I had an audience--a young couple on the corner stared in confusion. And yes, I was wearing a Stanford jersey. Way to represent.

I popped my right foot out of the pedal and stepped it down before rolling onto my right side. The Silver Bullet and I were unscathed. The F-Bomb (Coachubby's tri bike) was not. I bent his rear wheel, and his fancy-schmancy aero-positioned brakes wouldn't open up enough so he could ride home without major rubbage. But he still pulled me back to Hermosa. What a perfect husband!

We made it back in 5 hours and 45 minutes. Not too shabby. Aaron made it back without getting run into by coachubby or me. And I made it back just in time to eat all of the appetizers I had set out for my parents' arrival. D'oh!

But there were consequences to be paid for riding sick--even it it was Christmas. Even if it was the most beautiful day ever. Even if I had a fabulous little squad to ride with.

Come time for Christmas dinner, I felt like my brain was trying to pop my eyes out of my head. And so, I write this now from the slopes of Heavenly, while the rest of my family--and coachubby's--tears it up.

Of course, I'll be out there tomorrow. No matter what.

Coming up: The Origins of the Phrase "Pain in the Butt"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas! Holiday Speedo Run

Twas the Saturday before Christmas, when all through the mall
Hundreds of people were shopping, and taking phone calls
Gift receipts were printed with care
And that's when people started to stare.

'Cuz out on the Promenade there rose such a clatter
People sprung from J. Crew to see what was the matter
The children hid all snug behind moms
While Speedo-clad runners ran along

30 triathletes so lively and quick
Ran singing carols with bodies so sick
People whistled and shouted and whipped out their iPhones
To send pictures to friends and family at home

The triathletes jumped and they sang with glee
Shaking their booties and posing merrily
Their abs- how they twinkled! Their cheeks-how Merry!
(Maybe because they drank all that Sherry.)

Then away they all flew down Santa Monica Boulevard
To Ye Ol' King's Head Bar where this all start (ed)
But as they ran past, shoppers heard them all shout,
"Merry Christmas to all, now let's pour some more Stout!"

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Peril of Having Bangs

Total Injustice: Tiger Woods and Cops who Kill Christmas

Only in America could a man drive an SUV into a tree while being attacked by a golf-club wielding wife and get fined a measly $14 more than a cyclist who rolled through a stop sign alongside a car on a country road.
Tiger Woods was fined $164 for careless driving. Coachubby and I were charged $150--each--for rolling the stop sign at a T intersection (going from the left of the T top to the right) along with a car. Apparently we cyclists were more of a threat to the public than Tiger Woods was behind the wheel of a massive SUV. (In his case, he got 4 points vs. his driver's license, we got none.)

There are several conclusions we can draw from this:
1. I need to be a celebrity to keep my momentum without paying for it.
2. Cops in Orlando are nicer than cops in Woodside.
3. My Silver Bullet frankenbike is more intimidating than an Escalade.
4. Woodside cops discriminate against pink spandex.
5. Santa decided coachubby and I deserve coal for Xmas and has appeared in the uniform of a Woodside cop to tell us so because his suit was getting dry cleaned.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 4, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different- Day Laborers

I've been in school for a few months now, learning how to become a kick-ass journalist. In my (and my 15 classmates) quest to do so, I had to cover a "beat," old school.

What is a beat (n.) when it's not violence (v.) or a vegetable (beet)?

When reporters are assigned a beat, they cover a certain issue or organization over time. That way, they get to know a lot about it and write more in-depth about that thing. (They also get stuck never writing anything too negative about anything on the beat so they don't burn their sources. The beat-o-sphere is small.) Triathlon could be a beat, but not for school. (Darn.)

So, I was on the immigration beat in Mountain View this quarter. I spent a lot of time at the Day Worker Center getting to know people as best I could with a mashup of Fritalian (I learned French and Italian, but not Spanish. Not good for covering CA's immigration.) and English.

On Monday, I spent time with Isaias, one of a million immigrants trying to find work in CA.

Here is his story:

And for extra credit, here's a story on the Day Worker Center's Director, Maria Marroquin.

I haven't just been riding my bike in the Santa Cruz mountains, although I can see how a girl could make a quarter of doing only that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Anatomy of a Triathlete's Dorm Room

A short video because my computer can do that now.
And yes, Blogger chose an embarrassing thumbnail.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stanford Cycling Makes the Big Time

No, not the team. The random cyclists on campus.

The NY Times has decided that perhaps your everyday campus cyclist was meant to walk. At least that's what I got out of it.

Check it out here.

As someone with 4 bikes and ambitions of owning an entire 3-car garage-sized fleet of bicycles, I wholeheartedly disagree. Seeing people who are not "cyclists" and who will never wear spandex in any color let alone black riding bikes makes me happy. Even if they wobble and I have to do ninja tricks to get to class without being taken out by an iPhone-wielding, cruiser-riding, 18-year old hipster.

At least his tight pants won't get caught in the chain.

The Cure for Iron(man) Deficiency: Covering Ironman

Last Saturday, I put my multimedia skills to the test.

Armed with my dad's Canon EOS Digital Rebel, my Canon ZR10 (yes it's old...and awesome), my dad's tripod, and one spare Lithium Ion battery (yes, all of my equipment magically took the same exact type of battery), I entered Tempe Beach Park around 6am and got crackin' on what would become the greatest of all Ironman tales.

I flashed my media wristband (see below), and entered transition, voyeuristically filming people bodygliding it up, yanking on wetsuits, and doing other strange things that aspiring Ironmen do just before they are herded in to dark, cold water at 6:45am on a Sunday.

I had one goal in mind: to tell a story about normal people doing Ironman. If that sounds ridiculously boring, let me explain. Typical Ironman media involves pro coverage, and coverage of the most inspiring story of overcoming all odds to complete an Ironman. Not to disregard the importance of these stories, because they must be told and deserve to be told, but there are over 2,000 other people competing who aren't pro and have never lost a limb. Or had a sex change and done Ironman both as Sam and as Samantha. (Although if that were to occur, and I don't think it has, I would gladly tell that story.)

Perhaps the predictable coverage has something to do with the fact that although our sport is a huge part of our (triathletes) lives, it isn't a huge part of the general population's life. Therefore, there aren't enough media people to tell the bazillion rad stories that come packaged with an event of this magnitude. So they stick to the pros and the stories of inspiration that always make me cry.

Enter the unpaid grad student.

I don't know if my story of fat boy becomes triathlete, meets girl, trains with girl, marries girl, then does IMAZ with girl will make anyone cry. But who said the amount of tears shed is directly proportional to the informational or entertainment value of a story?

So while the other media people were scrambling to catch the pros coming out of the water, I flashed my wristband and strolled on into the wetsuit stripping area to film my couple getting stripped. Unfortunately, I missed the middle-aged guy who sat down with a poo-eating grin on his face then had his wetsuit torn off to reveal, to the horror of his strippers and glee of the spectators, his shiny tiny thong.

Eventually, my assistant, coachubby, and I worked out a system where he would stand on the lookout for my couple, call me when they were approaching, and then I'd turn on my video camera and chase them around in transition.

Being in the action did something to me. It reignited the Ironman flame. I strayed with ultracycling this year after becoming a little triathletically disillusioned (sports psychology term), but the excitement of the racers, the enthusiasm of the volunteers, and the fun of being at home did something to my brain. I want to go back. And I want to kick ass.

Coachubby and I signed up for 2010 the next day.

See you out there!

And my Ironlove story will come just in time for xmas. I'm taking my computer's death while working on that project as a sign that I should be studying for finals right now instead.

Plus my video camera hooked up to my computer via firewire. My new computer does not have a firewire port. Thank you, Mac. Suggestions on how to resolve this issue are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rotten Apple

Of all the things that can't handle Ironman, I did not think my computer would be one of them.

I spent 3 days reporting from IMAZ, working on a kick ass multimedia project that I would then use to wow the editors of Outside Magazine who would then pick me as their kick ass online intern, only to have my computer decide it was too much to handle and blow up.

When I woke up this morning, all it would give me was the spool of death. No Final Cut awesomeness. No dragging in of rad photos from Ironman. No copying of rad video clips. Just a rainbow-colored spool of death. It should be a spinning skull and crossbones, not a rainbow. That's just rubbing it in, Mac people.

The Mac geniuses erased my entire hard drive. It was the only way, they said.

The cold I got from staying up for several days straight to report IMAZ came in handy--when my eyes welled up with tears, I had an excuse other than being really, really attached to the virtual world of me that I'd built up on my hard drive over the past 4.5 years.

So now my computer works, but it's like it has Alzheimer's. It looks the same, but it's completely lost its personality. It's like looking at a cold, hard piece of silver metal instead of a reflection of the last 4 years of my life.

It looks like it did in 2005.

Photos- gone. Music-gone. Every file from this quarter of school- gone. Most of the programs I use- gone. Some of it is backed up, but not all.

I have finals in a week.

If I didn't have to complete this quarter with this computer, I would bunny hop on it with all 4 of my bikes until it became a pile of computer mush that I would then feed to a metal grinder. Then I would scatter its computer ashes somewhere computers hate to be. Like in water. Deep, cold water.

But for now, my rotten Apple is letting me write this blog. So for that, I must be thankful.

It is Thanksgiving, after all.

I am also thankful that all of the photos and video from IMAZ still live on a backup hard drive and tapes, respectively.

It's strange to become so attached to a machine. I saw my computer as something with a unique personality--as a reflection of me. I suppose this is a weird thing only the generations that grew up with computers experience.

So thank you, rotten Apple, for dying today so I'd realize that I am not the sum of my virtual components.

But I'd still like them back. Just 'cuz.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Xterra Budget Bonks--Regional Champs Must Pay for Prizes

In all the news about triathlon's growth--even during the recession!--it's hard to believe that maybe, just maybe, some of the race production companies, even the big ones, are actually hurting.

Earlier this year, Xterra announced it was moving the USA Championship, which was held in Incline Village, NV the past 8 years, to Ogden, UT. It was a slap in the face to SoCal Xterra lovers who also lost every race within a 5 hour radius of Los Angeles, including Xterra Temecula, a Worlds and Nationals qualifier.

The reason for the move: The Nevada Commission on Tourism cut their budget, and couldn't help out with Xterra. They previously helped fund the event, the marketing, and the 1-hour tv show of the event.

Recently, Regional Champions have become aware of Xterra's financial woes. If you were a regional champ this year, you might have gotten an email that looks like this:

Aloha Regional Champ! Congratulations on spending all of your money on racing the Xterra circuit this year, pouring your all into training, and kicking ass. (I'm paraphrasing...or something like that...) You've joined an exclusive club, and earned the right to wear an Xterra Regional Champ jersey. You want it? 60 bucks and its yours.

OK, so it wasn't written exactly like that, but that's the gist of it. Xterra couldn't secure sponsorship for the prize this year.

Before getting ticked at Xterra for doing this, we must remember that many other races do the same thing. You must earn the jersey, of course, but if you want it, you must pay. A lot of ultracycling events are like this (like Planet Ultra's Triple Crown jersey).

Xterra, however, raised the bar on itself, providing world-class events all over the place over the past several years, with excellent (free!) prizes. So we expect more from them.

What do you think. Should Xterra have found a way to give Region Champs their jersey's free of charge, or is charging totally OK?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All Systems Pissed

Perhaps it was my decision to do an Ironman-style workout weekend last Saturday and Sunday--without any buildup--that led to my demise.

3 people joined me on a grand cycling loop from Stanford to the ocean and back last Saturday, totaling 70ish miles. I sent out an email to the Stanford Tri Team, and got lucky--the people who came were all excellent cyclists who proceeded to kick my bum.

In my mind, of course, I had excuses for my sluggishness: I just ran my first track workout of the last half a year on Friday, after doing a 1000 meter time trial in the pool, my first swim in a month.

Sufficiently fried Saturday night, I did not sleep. I'm not sure why. You'd think a few days like that would knock a girl out. I then woke up Sunday morning to go with two highly esteemed tri-team members to Castro Valley to run a 17-mile trail run.

Yes, I was prepared to do that--I'm training for the California International Marathon on Dec. 6. No, I wasn't prepared to do that within several hours of leg bashing in the pool, on the track, and all over the South Bay.

I'm in debt to the creators of Red Bull.

Here's the kicker: My legs are still pissed. In normal Ironman-training mode, this would not happen. I would recover. But in sleep-must-go-because-I'm-doing-super-cool-stuff-for-school-that-is-more-important-than-anything-else-but-I-will-not-cut-out-training-anyway mode, my body has imposed a 10-minute mile minimum on my legs.

This speed will not get me to Boston.

I now, however, have a much greater respect for the corporate bigwigs who do Ironman--fast. They are far more important and busy than I ever was while I was training for an Ironman, yet somehow manage to get their training in, then run a Boston-worthy marathon time to cap of their IM.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Javelina Jundred

What better way to celebrate Jalloween than by running 100 miles...straight.
In circles.
In the desert.

Check it:

P.S. It's supposed to be black to start. It's art.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reporting, Plastic Fish, and Neglecting Workouts

I had a midterm today. I'm 26. Something about that is wrong.
I also have roommates. I'm married. My husband is not one of them. Something about that is so wrong.
I didn't exercise for 3 days this week. I'm a triathlete. Something about that is so so wrong.

Welcome to the suck. The Stanford suck, that is.
(I watched Jarhead for the first time on FX last weekend, when coachubby and I escaped to a Best Western so he wouldn't have to sleep on the floor of my tiny campus housing room, or try to fit in my single bed, or wait in line while one of my roommates took a 30 minute shower. It happens every day. Sometimes twice a day. Disgusting.)

The reason I've been absent: I've been reporting!
Reporting is fun.
Without the excuse that I'm reporting, I would not have met Sue, an 81-year old Japanese American who lives in Mountain View.

I knocked on her door to get her reaction to having the Day Worker Center of MV move in across the street. She told me it might cause parking problems, then invited me to see her garden. Her ginormous, hidden garden. She made me eat her persimmons. I've never had a persimmon before. They were delicious. Then she made me eat a chocolate persimmon. I could not believe that a naturally occuring chocolate fruit exists. That made me very happy.

Then she told me that I was going to laugh at her because of how she's been keeping the animals from eating the food in her garden. She led me over to where some snow peas were growing and when we walked by, familiarly annoying music started to play.

Rock the boat, don't rock the boat, baby!

Billy the Big Mouthed Bass guards Sue's vegetables. He's set off by motion. He'd scare the crap out of any person creeping around in Sue's yard, too. Billy is a creepy fish.

Then she brought me inside to show me the pumpkin she'd been decorating. It had Chiquita Banana sticker eyes, a hat, and drawn on red lips. "Do you think it needs earrings?" she asked, before taking my armload of persimmons and peppers, putting them in a plastic bag for me and sending me on my way.

It had nothing to do with my story.

But I'm happy to have met Sue. And to have been introduced to persimmons.

Now to figure out how to squeeze in a 4 hour ride in addition to sleeping...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Collegiate Cycling Guilt

One hour ago, I was presented with boxes full of Stanford cycling gear to rummage through.

I was in spandexified heaven.

Now I'm mired in guilt. Money was not required to partake in the spandex binge--immediately. When I am slammed with the request to pay for the fun things I took with the school's name splashed all over it, as well as with cycling team dues, the party's over. (And then add, in a few weeks, triathlon spandex temptations, and triathlon team dues...oy ve.)

And thus I am faced with a paradox: I miss making money, but I wouldn't be in spandex-induced guilt if I weren't here, not making money.

But no self-respecting triathlete would miss the chance to fly her respective school's colors whenever mounting her noble, two-wheeled steeds, would she? WOULD SHE?

I didn't think so.

Comments that justify outrageous purchases for which I don't have the funds are warmly welcomed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Being the White, Blonde Minority

I moved onto Stanford University's campus two weeks before classes started (today), and over a week before the undergrads overran the place.

In the spirit of "back to school", I went to "speed friending", an activity set up by grad student activity coordinators. Hundreds of new grad students met in a room filled with chairs in rows facing each other. Every three minutes, a whistle was blown, the person in front of me moved over, and was replaced with the person to his left.

I met about 10 people before the session came to a close, then we all met in a less formal social environment in the quad outside, where alcohol was being served to lessen the pain of smiling for hours on end, and repeating "core facts" about ourselves over and over again: Where do you live on campus? What are you studying? How long is your program?

I made two very important social observations early on: I was in probably a 3% white minority, a 1% female minority, and I was the only blonde.

What conclusions can I draw from these observations? Almost everyone I met was an engineer. That was to be expected as it's the largest graduate division on campus. But only one of them was a female, only a handful were white, and none of them were blonde.

The only other white females I met, actually (save for one), were in my communications program.

Does this mean that white people suck at engineering? Or that they all simply weren't brilliant enough to get into a top engineering grad school? Or does it simply mean that of all of the new engineers, a group of people stereotyped as socially awkward, the Indian and Asians and dudes are the most social? Is it true that bleach kills brain cells, and therefore a statistically insignificant number of blondes have been admitted to any Stanford graduate program this year?

It was an interesting phenomenon to be the minority for once. I didn't mind, but I did feel like I stuck out, particularly having just moved from Southern California, where 99% of the beachfront population is blond and white. (All percentages in this observational post have been entirely made up by the author.)

Having just read Schrag's Paradise Lost, about how California's social infrastructure had gotten so immensely clusterf***ed by the time he published the book in 1998, I was accutely aware that at some point, whites are going to be the minority, not just in California, but in the entire United States. I didn't think the change would manifest itself while I was still in my twenties. Is Stanford a forward-thinking microcosm of what California is to become?

By the time the undergrads arrived on campus, my status as an endangered species as a white blonde chick were annhilated. And what does that imply? That the majority of smart kids worthy of full-scholarship PhD study are not white, but the majority of paying students at this private university are?

Oh, what a social experiment University is!

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Make Athletes Dislike Your Race Before Even Participating: The Santa Cruz Triathlon

I am a fan of race-morning packet pick-up. In fact, I believe it should be an immutable truth of racing for all races that don't involve ridiculous planning logistics (like an Ironman). No Olympic distance race should be without this option.

What if your car breaks down? What if you get there late the night before, because you're coming from some other family/work obligation? What if you simply can't afford to spend the night in your race's location, but are willing to get up at the butt crack of dawn to enthusiastically participate?

Santa Cruz Triathlon, I hope you're listening. This race ironically opened itself up as a collegiate race, offering a student discount, hoping to draw competition, while at the same time making packet pick-up available only until 3pm the day BEFORE the race. I say ironically, because a student discount will not cover the price of a hotel in Santa Cruz, where the cheapest, crappiest motels start at $130/night in September. To cover that, you'd have to offer entirely free entries.

That is how to make athletes dislike your organization before they have even participated in your race.

It is clear that you've made a promise to bring revenue into the city of Santa Cruz, as giving back to the community is your non-profit race's primary goal, but by making packet pick-up available only until 3pm the day before the race, and making it mandatory, you are grossly alienating the one faction of athletes you were so enthusiastically courting: college students. And, for that matter, you're ticking off anyone else who loves triathlon, and lives close enough to make the trek to participate in your race--but not twice in two days. The cost in gas alone to make the double trek is ridiculous.

We will still spend money in Santa Cruz. We will eat at Saturn Café. And we will be glad to pay the entry fee, knowing that it will help the local community. And we might have even gladly shelled out the cash to spend the night, but being forced to do so only embitters what would have been an otherwise enjoyable decision. Let us decide if we'd like to stay or not.

So, Santa Cruz Triathlon, your race looks fabulous. It is sure to be a ton of fun, and to do a lot of good for Santa Cruz, as was originally intended. But do not force your athletes into difficult financial decisions beyond deciding whether or not to pay your entry fee. The only difficult thing you should be forcing us to do is jump into the freezing ocean at 8am on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Xterra Lake Tahoe- The Report

I had one goal going into Big Blue Adventure's Xterra Lake Tahoe: to beat my friend Aaron. He's a fabulous mountain biker and runner. I'm a faster swimmer, and have a little more endurance for climbing.

The plan: beat him out of the water, hold him off on the bike, then run scared.

Part one went off OK. Aaron's bike was still hanging out when I got into T1. However, my brand spanking new Adidas Spezials had given me horrendous heel blisters a few days earlier, so I spent what felt like an eternity trying to put mole skin on my raw bits. Then I spent another small eternity trying to pull the middle finger of my left glove right-side out. How did that happen?

Still ahead of Aaron by some minuscule margin, I jumped on Qeee (my mtn bike) and headed out and up Tunnel Creek. And here is where the beauty of racing Tahoe as a points race instead of Nationals came into play.

Hundreds of people did not pass me on the climb, since hundreds of people weren't competing. And the people who did were very nice about it, since they weren't competing for a national title. This was the first year in three where I haven't had to yell, "Swim faster!" when some jerk came up on me and told me to get out of his way. It just didn't happen. Much more civilized calls of, "On your left, when you have a chance!" were the norm.

Two girls in my age group passed me toward the end of Tunnel Creek. It was game time. I tried to stay on girl #2's wheel through the Flume Trail, and when she stopped after the mandatory dismount, I took off ahead of her. Girl #1 had disappeared. Bah!

Riding around Marlette Lake, a Team Type 1 triathlete passed me, and that was about all. It was the most peaceful climb out of Martlette Lake I have ever done, which is a strange revelation to have during a race.

Then came my favorite part: the gnarly switchback descent. I saw girl #1 ahead of me, and noticed she was a very strong climber, but a cautious technical rider. I would use the switchbacks as my chance to get ahead. I bounced down them as best I could, but when I stuck my foot out to corner one switchback, I felt my left arch rip. Ohhh crap. But I was too elated that Aaron had not yet blasted by me that I flew back down Tunnel Creek and into T2 without giving my evil arch a second thought.

I shoved my new racing flats on and ran for it. Toward the end of the first loop, a ridiculously tall man and I were running together at exactly the same pace. I forged ahead so I wouldn't step on his heels, and he stayed on mine throughout the entire run. I passed Mr. Team Type 1, and one other woman, and ran into the finish line feeling rad--I beat my time from 2007 by about 10 whole seconds. Ha! But most importantly, I beat Aaron. I hadn't had more than a sip of water before he came through the chute 3 minutes behind me. It was a tight race, but we hadn't seen each other the entire time!

My time, which placed me 3rd in 2007's 20-24 age group, placed me first in this race's 25-29 age group. Coachubby had finished before I started my second run loop, and was out cheering for me. He had won the male 25-29 age group, making him the 2009 West Region Champion! Woo hoo!

While the fierce competition of Xterra USA (now at Ogden) is fabulous as it pushes an athlete to her max potential--to race harder than she ever thought she could--I had no qualms with Xterra Lake Tahoe and its totally "Xterra" laid-back atmosphere. I don't need the big flashy expo, or the fancy banquet. I do need the Lake Tahoe course, and so to Big Blue Adventure, I am grateful.

They kept my favorite race course of all time alive--it's the only race I've done 4 years in a row and there's a reason. (And that reason is certainly not the people of Incline Village.) It's the camaraderie of Xterra triathletes, which is sometimes forgotten in the heat of nationals competition, and the beauty of the Xterra course.

Oh yes, and having the race at the end of August instead of the beginning of October, when it has been known to snow--yes, snow!--before and/or during the race: PRICELESS.

(The only downside is the evil foot. I have not been able to run since, keeping my streak of destroying some body part at every single Xterra event I've ever done alive...but it was worth it! Photos courtesy of Rosalie, Aaron's girl.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Have Found Cycling Mecca

If you told me there was a place where bike lanes were abundant, cyclists were out at all hours of the day, in all shapes and sizes, and on all kinds of bikes, cars were scarce, and roads were closed to cars on Sundays for my cycling pleasure, I would have laughed and asked what kind of happy medicine the doctor put you on.

But this place exists!

It is Stanford and the surrounding hills.

I might say I miss the 30 miles I had to ride in LA to get to some monster climbs, as it allowed for an enforced warm-up/ cool down period, but I might be lying. Big time. I kind of liked the sadistic 7.5 mile Page Mill Rd. climb that began a measly 10 minutes into my ride on Saturday.

To add to the weekend heart-rate spike, I met up with some of Stanford's rad triathlon team on Sunday for a swim around the wharf in Santa Cruz. WHAT!? You're thinking. You, Erin, who stopped swimming in the ocean very much at all after that dude got eaten by a shark near San Diego, are now swimming in the ocean where Great White sharks are known to be lurking?

Yes, I did. And I ripped a ginormous hole in my 3.5 year old wetsuit in the process. I figured having my torso slightly sticking out helped distinguish my rubbery body from that of the hundreds of blubbery sea lions playing around the wharf and drafting off of us.

I also sprinted the entire way.

Last one out is a rotten carcass.


Xterra Lake Tahoe coming up! There are a lot of differences to be noted now that the race is no longer the USA Championships, but most of them are good.

Also coming up: Collegiate triathlon. Did you know there's an age limit on Grad student triathletes? USAT has capped the age of competition in collegiate nationals at 28. What do you think about this? (And praise the Lord I'm not there yet for a while!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Moving Today!

I'm moving up to school this afternoon. Not sure when I'll have internet access next.

Wish me cool roommates and easy bike storage solutions!

Being a Girl Sucks Big Time Sometimes: Xterra Lake Tahoe, From the Beginning

A while back, I had thought of writing an article on athletes who, for some reason, were either forced into early retirement, forced to significantly reduce their training, or forced to cease training completely for a long period of time. What does it mean to pros and to amateurs, exactly, to be an athlete? How much do we let the fact that we are athletes (or specifically triathletes) define ourselves, and what do we do and feel when it's taken away from us? 

I thought of Greg Welch, Chris O'Riordan, a Stanford walk-on baseball player who was drafted into the Major League, and was quickly forced to retire due to (I believe) a shoulder injury. I thought of the week when my doctor called me and told me not to move when he realized my heart skipped a beat. That news didn't help the situation. 

A few weeks ago, my beachy best friend, and ultracycling/endurance sports buddy in crime started having trouble breathing. I thought maybe she'd developed sports-induced asthma. On August 22nd, she had planned on running a torturous 50K in the Santa Monica Mountains. 

She began having trouble breathing on a steep, 4-mile climb named Bulldog in Malibu Creek State Park. She ran/walked the entire first loop. Race officials at the aid stations made her drink salt water, claiming it would relieve her symptoms. I can only guess they thought she was dehydrated...or that somehow, salt water would coat her lungs and calm them down...

When she came walking toward coachubby and me at the end of the 25K loop, she was upset and frustrated. She considered running again, but bowed out.

She went to see a doctor a few days later, who quickly diagnosed her with pleuritis, told her to take anti-inflammatory drugs and she'd be fine. 

So last Thursday (a week ago) she came spinning with me, believing it would all clear up eventually. She stayed through the entire class, even though she was struggling. At the end of class, after several minutes off of the bike, she was still having trouble catching her breath, and had a sharp pain in her left side. A school nurse in class told her she should get it checked out at an ER. I told her I'd pick her up in half an hour.

Off we went to Kaiser Permanente, where she was admitted immediately. They took a chest xray and blood. Both were completely normal--except for her d-dimer, an indicator of possible blood clots. Just to be safe, the doctor said, perhaps they should take a CT scan.

You might as well do it while we're here, I said. So we sat, watching her heart beat in a beautiful, uninterrupted (and slightly boring, I must say, particularly compared to mine) rhythm, for 2 hours. When they took her back for the scan, I went outside to continue hacking away at a ginormous history book.

An hour later, I got a text: "I have blood clots, will you come inside?"

Robyn was devastated. She had pulmonary embolisms on both sides. She would have to be started on blood thinners immediately, and most likely would be on them for an entire year, during which time riding a bike outside, and trail running are out of the question. All exercise, at least for the first 1-2 months is not allowed, except for a nice walk here and there. 

Just like that, she had gone from kicking my ass at everything I ever set out to do (double centuries, distance running) to being placed on a year long round of rat poison and enough pain killers to sedate a small army. 

Just like that, she had gone from being in shape enough to run a very difficult 50K in under 6 hours to having to rethink what role exercise is going to take in her life for a year.

Around 7:30pm, her boyfriend JZ arrived, and I left to shovel food down my face, and get ready to go to Tahoe the next morning with coachubby. I felt terrible leaving her like that. I could never understand how she felt upon hearing that news, but I like to think I can sympathize just a little from my week of sincerely believing my days as an endurance athlete were over. 

31 and totally healthy, Robyn had no reason to believe this could happen to her. And neither did anybody else--until they found out she'd started a birth control regimen in May. YAZ should officially change its name to NOZ and be taken off of the market. The mix of that drug and Robyn's chemistry proved almost fatal. And I had encouraged the use of birth control as a way to avoid unwanted visitors during race days and long training weekends.

Coachubby and I left on Friday to drive to Tahoe with heavy hearts, but excited to race for Robyn. After all, she had raced without full use of her lungs--it was the least we could do to push it at altitude!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Xterra Lake Tahoe, Pulmonary Embolisms, And People with Sticks Up Their Butts: A Race Report, Backwards

My mom taught me to take the "high road" whenever other people stoop low, insinuating that they are somehow better than I am for whatever incomprehensible reason. And I always do.

Not because I think about "being the better person", but because my brain has a 2-10 minute witty comeback delay. The incident is always over before the comeback is fully formed.

So, to the man lying on a beach chair on the beach in Incline Village next to his fat, bejeweled wife, and bratty kids, who was appalled that coachubby and I should rinse off in his lake post-race, telling us to get a room and oh, by the way, you put your stuff on my beach chair, that was rude, I have something to say other than, "OK, maybe we'll do that next year" or, "It's all yours!" after removing our bags from the chair-in-question:

Maybe if you did an Xterra, it would help loosen up that stick in your ass.
And maybe if your wife did an Xterra, you'd see that you have an extra beach chair; she's currently using one for each cheek.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Your College Douche-y?

Mine made it onto GQ's "America's 25 Douchiest Colleges" list. Did yours?

It should no longer perplex anyone why no straight girl attending Vassar College ever had a boyfriend during her undergrad years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You Run Like a Man

Perhaps you've been reading about the case of South African runner, Caster Semenya, who won the 800 meters at the track & field World Championships on August 21st in Berlin. She crushed the women's field by over 2 seconds.

Basically, due to Semenya's masculine appearance, and ridiculous speed (she won in 1:55.45. I was psyched to run an 800 today in almost twice that!) the IAAF (International Assoc. of Athletics Federation) is conducting an investigation into whether or not Semenya is, indeed, female.

Aparently, a trip to the loo doesn't cut it anymore. They're getting all fancy and scientific, looking beyond the obvious junk-or-no-junk evaluation into blood tests, and tests conducted by an gynecologist, an endocrineologist, and even a psychologist. What's the psychologist going to ask, "Do you think you're a girl?"

(For a full evaluation of this incident, including it's implications in the World's apparent prejudice against South Africa, check out this NYT article.)

I realize this is a sensitive matter, not only for Semenya, but for her family and for her country, but I have one thing to say:

If someone thought I was so ridiculously fast as to accuse me of being a man, I'd gladly take the compliment while grabbing my air balls and flipping my accuser the bird.

What do You Suffer From? Need a Cure for Cankles?

A friend recently sent me this WSJ video. Unlike yesterday's WSJ article, this "health" video serves no purpose to help further your well being whatsoever. Kudos to WSJ for trying to serve up lighter fare, but when you start insinuating that people "suffer" from things that might just be annoying, your video may be ridiculed.

Perhaps if you have "cankles", you might have felt compelled to watch this video. Far from being an ailment, however, it's simply a body feature that is most likely 85% inherited, and 15% fixable with a good calf-strengthening / body-fat reducing routine. (Numbers based on no scientific data whatsoever.)

What bugs me is the suggestion that there's something wrong with a woman in the first place if she doesn't have well-defined, skinny ankles.

Fitness guru, C.J. Ong, Jr., worries that the fitness industry's exploitation of the "the desperate, overweight American public" is only perpetuating the American health issue of being overweight, by constantly "feeding upon the lost consumer as the proverbial cash cow." Probably by making them think they "suffer" from issues that do not actually cause suffering.

A person can suffer from arthritis, for example. She cannot "suffer" from being tired when she gets up in the morning. Although I'm sure something will be marketed for that "ailment" before too long.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Society's Silence

I read this WSJ article on our society's lost art of communication this morning and it got me thinking about how much I let modern technology influence my emotions.

The answer: Way to freaking much.

I realize what has got my underwear all in a bundle lately is, at once, a need for quick communication and a depressing disgust with it.

Let me explain. As a journalist, I propose articles. Articles are either favorably received, and I get a job, or they're not, and I either reformulate, send to a different publication, or scrap the idea and start anew.

This all requires 2-way communication.

I never get upset when an idea is rejected. In fact, if it's rejected with any inkling of a reason why, I'm quite grateful for the info--it could help me write a better proposal the next time around.

I get really upset when I receive NOTHING.

And here's the double-edged sword: I rely on quick communication to keep my work flowing. But this type of communication has made it easy--and even acceptable--for people to completely ignore each other.

I hate that. When my proposals are rejected, somebody has acknowledged my existence. I am thankful at least for that. When absolutely nothing comes for weeks on end, I cry for humanity. And for myself.

If society still favored "slow" methods of communication--a phone call, for instance--I doubt many editors, who I am sure are usually totally decent people, would give a caller the silent treatment. Rejection? Sure. But not a total lack of acknowledgment of the caller's efforts at communication.

Should I ever be in a position where people are proposing ideas to me, I vow to send a response to every one of them. Even if it only says: Thanks, but no.

Should someone put effort into a proposal, and put themselves out there for an editor's scrutiny, the least the writer deserves is some acknowledgment of their existence. Not only does it make the writer happy, it gives a more favorable impression of the publication's ethical standards, and reputation as a publication worth pursuing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yoga for Dummies- The 3 Commandments of Yoga

I am getting older.

I can tell because the days when I thought people were crazy for expending any extra energy before workouts and races "warming up" are over.

I had convinced myself while on the high school swim team that every extra 100 yards of race day warm up was sapping me of potential forward thrust in sprint freestyle events.

That belief has been crushed by injury and age. The ominous hambutt injury from last year has left my right hamstring quite tight. Still unmotivated to stretch alone, I decided it was time to try yoga. Thus, over the course of an hour, I loosened up my hammie and discovered some very important truths about the ancient activity.

The Yoga Commandments

1. Thou shalt not wear short shorts or loose t-shirts. Unless you want to lay out your nether parts for all to see, wear something capri-length on bottom and form-fitting on top. That way, you won't offend, or eat your shirt.

2. Thou shalt not eat too much fiber before class. Should you disobey this commandment, downward dog will haunt you forever.

3. If seeking tranquility, or your own personal zen, thou shalt not practice yoga in a free class at 24-hour Fitness, where you will be separated from the meatheads by a paper-thin wall, and subjected to hearing their evenly-spaced grunts and the subsequent slam of heavy weights on the ground while you are in the (somewhat morbidly named) final resting pose meditating on the hour you have just spent with your bum in the air. (See commandment #1.)

Happy trying-to-achieve-your-teenage-flexibility!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Burned Out? Shorten Things Up!

In the weeks following Race Across Oregon, I experienced a burnout worse than anything I could've imagined. I thought I'd never move again. I hated everything about sports. My body was beyond sore, but my brain was fried. I never thought it could get so bad, or last so long. A nice wallop of depression, surely mostly from endorphin withdrawal, sealed my fate as a zoned out, down-on-myself, anti-social couch hugger.

But I am moving again!

And what got me going? The thought of racing again. Really racing--not just outlasting--my competitors.

I want to be fast.

It's a goal of which I will never tire. Probably because I am not innately so.

Just like that, short triathlon is back in my life, because it's possible to see measurable improvements week after week without expending too much time working at it. Which means a lot less time forcing my brain to focus, which means hopefully, it'll come back around soon. Switching it up between sports helps, too.

Ironically (or probably it was planned this way), Triathlete's "mental issue" (aka sports psychology edition) came out right when I was in the throes of mental attrition. I'm taking this as a sign that I'm not the only athlete who has burned out mid-July-August. I'm just surprised at how long the burnout has lasted.

We triathletes are strange and amazing. Most articles on athlete burnout pertain to young athletes (10-20 years old) who are on teams with crazy coaches and who have no control over their schedules. Amateur adult triathletes, like myself, compete only at their own will and have only themselves to answer to at the end of the day. There is nobody else to dissapoint, and participating at all is our own decision.

It is incredible that we can push ourselves so far as to become burned out on a sport, that for many of us, we got into to stay in shape, meet new people, have fun, see new places, and set athletic goals.

If you've committed to racing longer than 24 hours recently, it may seem like training as little as 7 hours/week is failing.

What helped me destroy that thought is realizing that I can still reach a goal (in my current case, an olympic distance tri) training just as little as my brain will currently allow, even if that means it wants to take off 2+ days in a row.

So if you're racing sprints and Olympic distance races this year, please look for me and give me a cheer--my brain could use the boost!

Perhaps this burnout was a blessing in disquise so I'd be psyched for collegiate racing this year and not attempt anything crazy for the duration of my masters' program.

Bring it, collegiate triathlon!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

California Triple Crown Results Are Up!

If you somehow ended up riding 3+ Planet Ultra double centuries this year, you have become a Cal Triple Crown Winner! Woo hoo!

Check out your stats here.

Then figure out how many more doubles you have to do before you've done them all.

There's always another mountain to climb.

A big congratulations to Robyn Dunn, who did three doubles with me to help me train for RAO, and although she kicked my butt in every one of them, crewed for me at RAO instead of kicking my butt there as well. Thank you, Robyn!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Things You Don't Want to Know About Your New Apartment

Besides the obvious:
"it's noisy",
"it's on a main street",
"your neighbor's welcome rug smells like pee",
"oh, there is no mailbox",
"no parking either",
"no dishwasher!",
"oh yea, and no washer/dryer",
(but it still costs more than the average American's mortgage!)
"your bathroom looks like the one in SAW",
and "you're within a 2 minute walk of a huge porn store",

it struck me as odd that two people, who do not know each other in any way that I know of, told us,
"Hey! I did mushrooms in that living room a bunch of times!"
and "Hey, that's where my brother hung out during his 'drug phase'."

So said an old neighbor when we told him where we were moving.
And a girl I had never met in my life before Friday night, who is dating a friend of mine.

I suppose in a city that is only one square mile in size, all residents are only a few degrees separated. But with almost 20,000 people smushed into that space, there's still room for a bit of anonymity.

Not so for our little apartment. Apparently, he gets around.

When I came back from a run to find a cop parked out front, chillin' in his cop car, I began to wonder how hard it would be to obtain pot from my neighbors.

I'll be bolting the door at night. And stacking bikes in front of it.

Because there's no where else to put them.

Performance: The Cycling Video of the Summer!

To see the original on YouTube, go here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things Not To Tell Your Athlete While Crewing at an Ultra Race

Mike Deitchman, who crewed for fiancée, Joan Grant, at Race Across Oregon, compiled an excellent list with recommendations from otherworldly ultracyclists.

Check it out here!

Why Hello Officer! Admiring My '96 Raleigh M7000?

Why, hello, ociffer!

Don't ask me why, but that's what I had imagined I'd say if I ever got pulled over.

Instead, it went something like this:

EXT. Day. A deserted beach street.
Erin rides her 13-year old mtn. bike into the left turn lane of an intersection. She is wearing sneakers, a t-shirt, and a black back pack. The light turns red. She patiently track stands for as long as possible. There is nobody anywhere. (I know, hard to believe in LA.) She looks left and sees the light in the other direction turn yellow. Rather than destroy a fab track stand by letting a foot touch the ground, she proceeds before her light turns green.

She makes her way down a side street. A cop silently rolls up next to her, and hand motions for her to pull over.

COP: Do you know why I'm pulling you over?
Erin: Because I turned left from the left lane.
COP: On a red light.
Erin doesn't say anything. She's watched enough COPS shows to know that cops basically want you to call yourself an idiot in front of them, then appologize.
COP: You just want to be a pedestrian and get to use the road, don't you.
Erin: That was a dumbass move. I'm very sorry.
COP: Where do you live?
Erin: 21st St.
Gut-wrenching pause.
COP: Watch out for traffic.
Cop drives away.

Erin almost pukes.

Aparently, the streets weren't entirely deserted after all. And it was a dumbass move worthy of getting pulled over. But I figured it was like farting when nobody else is around; nobody's going to call you on it. Plus, I had just read about Idaho's cycling laws, where stop signs mean "yield" for cyclists, and red lights are like stop signs. I want a piece of that heavenly cycling pie.

Thank goodness I looked like a ditzy beach bum instead of a cyclist. The Raleigh's state of rustiness, my sneakers, and shabby t-shirt saved my financial life. Either that, or the cop didn't want to follow me all the way to 21st street to see my license.

To conclude, I am an idiot, and I appologize for making bikeists look bad.

Now let's pass some Idaho-inspired cycling laws!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pulling a Double Move

Coachubby and I live together.
We won't when I go to school.
Therefore, he must move into a smaller apartment while my rent goes to school housing.
Therefore, we're moving him in this weekend--with all of my stuff!
Therefore, I will have to move twice within a month.
Therefore, I am currently trying to purge our current place of as much stuff as possible in order to fit el remaining stuff-o into the tiny place.
I've thrown out a lot.
Now I'm staring at a box full of race t-shirts.
I am now stumped.
Please, Lord, give me strength!

And now some pics from our Race Down Oregon aka drive down Highway 1 back to Lalaland. (And one more RAO pic.)



Riding the Oregon dunes.

In compression tights. Stylin'.

Grin and bear it.

Lombard St., San Francisco


Ghirardelli Chocolate!

Grandpa's 86th Birthday! birthday!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Race Across Oregon--A Bonk For A Better Brain

The good far outweighed the ugly in RAO, a fact that does not probably seem apparent from my first two race posts.

Shortly after the first checkpoint, when I felt like a roasting slug, I came upon Mr. Bonk, the guy with the "best name in cycling!" as race director George Thomas said at the pre-race meeting.

A skinny guy whose face I never really saw, Mr. Bonk decided at the last minute to do RAO, as evidenced by the handwritten name on his crew's van. (The rest of us got sleek, printed numbers with our names on them. I felt like a pro.) He was wearing what looked like either a homemade aero helmet, or the very first one ever created.

I rode up along side him for a few seconds--very important, sacred seconds--during which he said something to the effect of, "Those guys went out way too fast. I'll bet they all drop out. We'll see who's still around at 3pm tomorrow!"

"YEAH! YEAH!" I said. They went out way too fast. I'm pacing myself just perfectly. As long as I stick to my race strategy to not really stop ever, I'll be toasting my own victory by sundown tomorrow.

I was renewed.

I rode on for 200 glorious, happy, thrilling miles, through the 98-degree heat. Up countless climbs. Into headwinds. I was slightly irked to see a windfarm--obviously, this route was always windy. And somehow, it managed to always be windy in my face, with one notable exception: a 4-ish mile steeper climb. The wind was at my back, but I wished it was in my face, because it was hot!

I began to see other competitors. I rode up along side a very young man and we chatted for a minute.

"Is this your first time?" I asked.
"Yeah. My dad's doing it, too."
"Who's your dad?"
"He's riding a recumbent."
"Bananaman is your dad!" I blurted out.
Youngin' seemed confused.
But he won style points for having a Prius as a SAG vehicle.

I rode almost the entire day hopping around Mr. Bonk, and Doc Martin, known to my crew as "Beefcake". I choose "Doc Martin" because his van said "Martin" on it. They choose "beefcake" because his son, who was crewing for him, was huge, in an I-can-bench-press-half-of-these-skinny-cyclists kind of way.

The race was practically on the longest day of the year, and after 15 hours of riding, I was excited for nighttime. It would be cooler, and there would be less to focus on. Not that there was much in eastern Oregon to look at anyway.

We pulled into the check point around mile 206, which also happened to be one of the few places with a gas station along the route. It seemed like everyone in the entire race was there, filling up their cars and stomachs. I changed shorts, shoved enough potato chips into my mouth that my crew decided they should buy more, believing I'd finish off a bag right then. My "salty" stash of food had been raided. The "sweet" box had not even been looked at.

I was trying to stay on a mostly liquid diet, particularly because it was hot. And to my astonishment, I never once cramped, and I had to pee regularly--and at this point, I was in front of Mr. Pee-Bag! Every time I had to pee, someone had to hold up a towel so I wouldn't moon my competitors. All that time I spent squatting hadn't taken away from my race.

I felt rad. No pee-tube needed.

I hopped right back onto the Bullet, smoking competitors out of the gas station, and rode into the night.

There were several climbs, but they were peaceful, and the sight of the flickering orange lights of other peoples' support vehicles in the distance was encouraging; I was not alone.

A few teams passed me at some point.

My crew had to stare at my ass for 11 hours straight. (Mandatory riding within headlights from 7pm-6am.)

I was rocking it.

At some point, the scenery must've changed, because we were back into wooded mountains. It cooled off to a pleasant temperature, and we started to see deer everywhere! I was paranoid that I'd whack one on the very long descent before the next checkpoint.

Coming into Dale at mile 286, I was starting to get tired. My shoulders hurt like a biotch, which confused and surprised me. Shouldn't my legs hurt more than my shoulders? I had blisters on my palms.

I took a 15 minute pee/stuff-my-face break, and while I was stopped, Doc Martin blew through. That was it. I was going with him. I hadn't seen anyone for hours, and I enjoyed simply being within eyesight of anyone.

We zigzagged up mountains and into the morning.

I had planned on having a 300-mile party. It would be my first big stop. However, I'd already used my big stop in Dale, and 100 meters out of the 300-mile mark, a ridiculous storm blew--IN MY FACE! It started to rain, and the wind made it take an eternity to get to the 300 mark, where my crew threw a rain jacket on me, and took off--mandatory ass-staring was no longer enforced at that time.

I was ready to cry. The morning was beautiful--wherever I had ridden to was far more scenic than almost all of the first day's ride, but I was ready to fall asleep, the wind was trying to knock me over, and I had what the crew called "rollers" but were really mini-mountains for several more miles before I got the mental break of a right turn.

Just before the turn, I took my first nap by the river.

And that leaves us where I started the last post.

RAO was an epic adventure. I got to meet most of the people with whom I had been riding at the banquet on the 13th, and find out that Mr. Bonk made it 20 minutes before the cut-off. So did Sandy Earl. Doc Martin decided he'd finish no matter how long it took. It took him 54 hours.

And that's when I realized this: You're out there. Your crew is out there. You might as well finish, even if it's not official. Over 2 straight days of crispy-fry temperatures, cruel headwinds, and zero flat-recovery miles. Doc Martin turned out to be the most inspirational character of the whole pack. He credited his son, Beefcake, for getting him to the finish.

I told him I'd have to get one, then maybe I'd finish next time. ;)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Post Race (Across Oregon) Depression

I read about people getting down on themselves after competing in an Ironman. The newly depressed competitors had put all of their time and effort for months into achieving this goal, and once it's gone, they feel empty.

I had never experienced this.

Until now.

After my first Ironman, I had my wedding to look forward to. Then after the wedding, another Ironman. Then after that, RAO.

I have an exciting year at my dream grad school ahead of me now--one that will include competing in collegiate triathlon. This is my next big thing to look forward to.

But lately, I have been bummed. Super bummed.

I have never, ever quit a race before once I started (save for 1 xterra that I started with a broken foot. I didn't run). I have raced injured and sick, and I always made it to the finish line, often in good time.

Perhaps I had been setting my athletic goals too low, if they were always so easily achievable. But it has been haunting me that I dropped out of RAO with 141 miles to go and 14 hours in which to do it. Totally doable.

However my brain had never been asked to exercise for 48 hours straight, and at about 29 hours into RAO, it started to crack. I finally understood that it is entirely possible to fall asleep while riding my bike.

After a 30-minute "nap" that constituted laying down in the minivan around mile 310 while my crew sat by a creek and was subsequently eaten alive by mosquitoes (even while peeing...butt bites!), I decided I'd make it to the next aid station, then take a real nap.

I took a 5-hour energy, which did nada. "Oh shit!" I thought. (Only later did I realize there's no caffeine in normal 5-hour energys. D'oh.)

Close to 11am, I pulled into the Spray check point. It took me what seemed like (and was) an eternity to cover the downhill-sloped rollers to Spray. When I arrived, we checked in, parked the minivan under a tree, changed my clothes (yes, "we" changed my clothes. I couldn't do it alone.), and I lay back down in the minivan. For almost 2 hours.

I wish I could say I slept, but I'm not good at sleeping. And I had never considered that strategic napping was something a 48-hour racer should seriously consider.

My competitors started to trickle in.

My crew didn't know what to say to me at this point. I verbally bashed my Silver Bullet, who had been nothing but nice to me throughout the entire ride--I had no saddle sores whatsoever. I said he had a fat ass.

Finally, after my crew shoved ice down my pants and strung some more ice in a t-shirt around my neck, I climbed back on. My shoulders hurt more than any other body part.

My stiff knees took a few miles to warm up again, but they got into a nice rhythm. Other crews had weed-sprayers filled with water and doused me. I'd have rather jumped into the beautiful river to my left.

Then the sustained climbing began again.

I went one mile up the mountain. My legs stopped.

"I'm done." I told my crew.

"What!? You're hauling! Keep it up. Come on, let's make it to the next check point." I glared at them, then went another mile. My legs stopped.

"I don't want to climb another inch."

"What!? You're hauling! Keep it up. Come on, let's make it to mile 400!" I glared at them, then went another mile. My legs stopped.

""Why did you stop? You're hauling! Keep it up. Come on, let's make it to the top of this climb!"

"I don't give a shiz about this climb any more. Or mile 400. I'm gonna pass out."

Coachubby and my crew didn't know what to do. We stood there. My competitors slugged by. I was baking. My brain needed sleep and was trying to shut all systems down against my will. My legs were trying to keep going, but the Big Kahuna was continually trying to off them, cutting their power supply.

I had terrible asthma--excercise asthma that is induced only, it seems, after over 28 straight hours of exercise. I wonder how many people have this kind of exercise asthma and will never know it. I took several puffs of the emergency inhaler I picked up after experiencing the "tube breathing" phenomenon during the Eastern Sierra double.

I was coughing meaty, gross coughs. Like coughing up a lung. Who knows, maybe I was.

Finally, I came to a stop next to a mile marker.

"This is 376 miles into the ride, right?"
"Yes," said my crew.
"What about 400?"
"I couldn't care less."
"I just don't want you to hate yourself later. I want you to know that even coming this far is an amazing accomplishment, you know that, right? We're behind you and proud of you whatever you want to do," said coachubby.

I handed him the Bullet.

And now, almost 3 weeks later, I hate myself for having done that.

Coachubby knows me too well.

This, too, shall pass. Soon, I hope. Being depressed is a motivational death sentence.This is why I haven't been blogging much recently. (Well, that, and coachubby and I had an awesome vacation driving down Highway 1 from Oregon back to LA the week after the race!)

So there you have it--the RAO race report sans the middle, which will come soon. The middle 240 miles were the absolute best ever. Heavenly cycling.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Great White Shark Spotted off of Malibu

A friend just sent me this.

Great White Spotted at Malibu!

The caption opines that the shark sightings increase during grunion spawning, but I'm opining that after several years of hearing about the Hermosa-Manhattan Pier to Pier swim and Surf Festival, the sharks are getting smarter about finding feasts.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Race Across Oregon-- Mind vs. Body

Brain failure came approximately 376 miles and 34 hours into the race--I will not count my longest ride by 131 miles and 11.5 hours as an actual failure failure.

But let's back it up.

Date: July 11th, 2009. 0500 hours.
The plan was to wake up at 0400 hours, eat a Skinny Elvis, and roll to the race start in front of the beautiful Best Western in Hood River, OR.

That all went as planned, except I hadn't been asleep, a requirement for waking up. I was up all night with my stomach twisted in knots--a feeling I haven't had since racing on the swim team my freshman year of high school.

Hours earlier, Race Director and multiple RAAM finisher, George Thomas, asked me if I was nervous.

"I only get nervous when I have to go fast," I said. Don't ask me where I pulled that out from. What an asinine thing to say.

At that point, let's say 6pm on the 10th, I wasn't nervous. Nervous hasn't been a part of my race vocabulary for years. Excited to kick ass, yes. Nervous? No.

I got nervous the instant I lay down to sleep. Even Stacy and Clinton from TLC's "What Not to Wear" couldn't calm me through makeover magic.

And so I rolled up to the start in my pink arm warmers, bright blue hand-me-down jersey, and Frankenbike aka Silver Bullet ready for a nap.

Let's back that up even more.

I'm addicted to endorphins. And while my muscles and right knee very much appreciated and very much needed the three week taper I took after the Boggs 24-hour mtn bike race, my brain reeled from endorphin withdrawal.

Mr. Thomas led the pack of solo riders out the first 9 miles of the course in a neutral start. Evil, self-defeating thoughts that have never, ever entered my brain during a race were at the forefront of my mind the instant my right knee started to hurt like a biotch whenever we went uphill.

I was almost dropped on the little HC climb in the first mile.

However, the neutral start offered some happy-inducing perks, like picking handles for my fellow cyclists that these riders would unknowingly carry throughout the entire race: Mr. Pee-Bag, a young guy with a suspicious tube coming out of his pants, taped to his leg with an opening by his foot, and Bananaman, an older man on a recumbent with a huge yellow fairing.

A self-proclaimed Doctor riding to my right told me he did not find Mr. Pee-Bag's decision medically favorable. I agreed.

The peloton's camaraderie and the gorgeous, forest scenery began to pick up my spirits.

Then Mr. Thomas stopped, and the race started. Straight up a mountain. For over 20 miles.

When I spotted my crew for the first time, around 7am, I was ready to ask for a prescription-only dose of Advil. Not the best way to start any race. I took my mind off of the evil knee by studying other people's crews, their vans, their setups, and their peeps. The riders were still close together at this point, so there were crews cheering everywhere.

(My van & Crewmember Tom)

I pretended to be Lance on Mt. Ventoux, cutting through the crowds. Except this climb was probably hors catégorie négative--like so gradual it wasn't a graded climb. No matter, the endorphins were kicking in for the first time in 3 weeks, and I was rocking out.

(My crew on 1st climb: Coachubby, Robyn, Tom)

Then came an almost 40-mile descent during which I was crushed by everyone who lagged behind me on the climb. I pointed out one, VW Bug-sized pothole in the beginning, only to be skunked seconds later by at least 4 people. And I thought I had made my Bullet so stinkin' heavy with its aerobars and a honkin' 11-28 cassette.

I was sad, which was a huge surprise; why did I suddenly care where I was 4 hours into a 48 hour race? I'll be the underdog who comes from behind to take the win! No, you won't, you're descending like a slug! Stupid brain! Stop it!

I had told my mom, who drove to Oregon with me, that the race was going to be all mental--that it could only hurt so much, and we were all physically capable of finishing, but the mentally toughest would persevere.

She kindly listened to my pre-race babble, thinking I was a nut job mentally and physically for entering.

But I sincerely believed I was as mentally tough as they come...until this moment; my brain was being a twit and it was only 75 miles into RAO.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Race Across Oregon Didn't Kill Me--I'm Back!

And older.

As of yesterday.

But only in numbers.

OK, and maybe in joint mobility after attempting RAO.

Should you have been checking the time stations on the RAO website, you might have noticed that after Spray, OR (yes, some place along the route was called Spray. And yes, jokes were made. Hydration jokes.), I disappeared.

(Me and my superhot crew minutes before the race start.)

Well, I didn't actually disappear. I did keep going.

Just not all the way to the next time station.

Full report coming soon, including head winds in all directions, 98-degree heat, freak storms, and special nicknames for all riders within my vicinity. Like Mr. Pee-Bag, Bananaman, and Mr. Bonk. OK, that last one was actually someone's name.

Thank you for all of your support!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Race Across Oregon- All Systems Go!...

...except for one very stubborn, cruel knee who will be beat into submission with Advil and Bengay. The quads are coming around. My lungs are ready.

It's time to see Oregon. A lot of it.

We've picked up the minivan, organized a ton of stuff all over the living room, and given the Silver Bullet a final tune up and some color (blue bar tape and tires!).

Now all that's left is to load up the minivan, pick up my mom from LAX, and get going to Oregon early tomorrow morning.

Coachubby will be flying into Portland Thursday afternoon where my mom will be traded for him, then it's off to Hood River, to be joined by my crew, Robyn and Tom, Friday night.

It's showtime!

Tune in to the RAO blog for updates on rider position and fun race updates next weekend!

I'll be back on the 20th.

P.S. Getting ready for this adventure has made Ironman look like a bargain basement endurance event. Yikes!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

24 Hours to Destroy a 25 Year Old Knee

Smart athletes can tell the difference between pain-pain and injury-pain.

Apparently, I'm smart on the inside, but have a tremendous ability to override reason with narrow, misguided focus.

The pain started somewhere around midnight during the Boggs 24-hour mountain bike race.

It was a 24-hour race, it was supposed to hurt, right?

Deep down, I knew it wasn't good pain. But I wasn't going to not ride for 24 hours. That was the point of the race.

I kept riding. My knee got worse.

I rode hills for the first time since Boggs today in an effort to gauge just how evil my knee is actually being.

I passed an older man on a fancy LeMonde in a fancy Ironfly kit while pedaling up a steep incline. I thought I was really chugging along, passing Mr. Fancy.

"Hi!" I said.
"You're doing great!" he said as he pulled up beside me, matching my effort.
"So are you!" said I.
"I'm 86!" says he.

Thus, I realized my 25-year old knee had gained approximately 60 years of wear and tear in 24-hours. (Either that, or my mtb saddle was too low...and the knee will heal.)

Now, 10 days after Boggs, I'm praying the lasting, point-specific pain in my inner right knee will somehow heal itself in the next 9 days, even though it hasn't in the past 10. 9 days are all it's got.

To prove my dedication to healing the rogue knee, I have iced it with peas, and done things against the very grain of my being, like taking Advil more than once a month, and sitting in icy-water. I hate cold. But I love my knee more. It should know that.

When the 9 days are up, it's showtime at Race Across Oregon. I'm asking my kneeright to at least hold off of the injured-pain until mile 526. Please, oh please.

And for fun, check out the only photos taken at Boggs. Coachubby spent the rest of the time making me pb&potato chip sandwiches.


Can you find me?

Just before the start.

Thank you, sir, may I have another loop?

Pre-race meeting. Spot the Erin?

Qeee chilling before getting dirty.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix 2009--Rock Racing Wins Again

Residents of Manhattan Beach and the surrounding areas are blessed. Where else in America can a person be treated to a spectacle of world-class cyclists racing by her door?

Coachubby and I walked over to watch pro men, including the controversial Floyd Landis, and women race in the 48th Annual Manhattan Beach Grand Prix yesterday.
(Landis is in the Ouch kit.)

The fast course features only two turns--tight, fast right turns I have dubbed "evil turns of death" that always delight twisted spectators with wicked crashes every year.

This year was no different, although I didn't actually witness the crashes. The women had a crash on their last lap, destroying the cohesive peloton that left the start/finish, leaving racers limping in in mini pelotons--all behind 16-year old Proman Hit Squad rider Coryn Rivera, a cycling prodigy if there ever were one, who took the women's field. Click below for a little screechy action from the far corner.

Rahsaan Bahati won the men's race for the 3rd year in a row! Luckily for MB cycling fans, Rock Racing wasn't out in all of its "in your face" glory this year, keeping it's team RV and blaring music out of sight. Although the efforts to blend in a bit made for more pleasant race viewing, a few calls of "Rock Racing Sucks!" still bellowed out of the crowds. One thing's for sure, however: Rahsaan Bahati doesn't suck. He rocks it.

And so did Team Type 1, who royally kicked my butt in February, and who got team member Kenneth Hansen the 3rd place podium spot. For full pro results, click here.

Just another awesome day at the beach! Yea for tapering!