Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Strange encounters of the Ironman kind: IMAZ 2011

It’s somewhere around 5 p.m. on Nov. 20. The sun is low and it’s getting chilly in the shadow of a tall condo complex where coachubby and I stand. We’re next to the elevated dirt road that serves as miles four-ish, 13-ish, and 22-ish on the Ironman Arizona course, and we’re on the lookout for green calf sleeves, a blue tank top, a pink shirt, and a hot couple.

The blue tank top, covering a buff 27-year old blonde, should be approaching. Instead, a dude in his 50s wearing a baggy grey shirt runs straight at me. His face is contorted in either pain or anger or both, and although he’s surely tired, he looks like he still has enough energy to rip my face off.

He stops an inch from my nose, raises his left eyebrow, and stares into my brain with his big, sweaty, creepy left eye.

“Is there a bug in my eye?” he says. I can’t tell if there’s a right answer—he might punch me either way.

“No? I don’t see one?”

He blinks and rolls his eye around.

“There’s nothing there?”

A tiny black dot reveals itself when he looks up. “Oh yeah, there’s a speck. I see it.” 

“Get it out!” he demands.

Get it out? I’m supposed to shove my finger into this angry stranger's eye? No way. “You get it, Jimmy!” I pass him on.

The guy blinks a few times in the trade to coachubby.

“Look up,” coachubby says.

The guy rolls his eyes up as the vein in his forehead bulges.

“Mmm nope, don’t see it anymore,” coachubby says. I can’t tell if it’s true or if coachubby is saving his finger a trip into the guy’s eyeball.

The guy grunts then runs away.

Cue Twilight Zone music. 
This has been a presentation of strange encounters of the Ironman kind.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Triathlon Swim Safety Reviewed and a Killer 10K Training Plan

My latest for Outside Magazine online:
IMAZ '09
Last August, two athletes died during the swim leg of the New York City 
Triathlon. Since then, articles on event safety have piled up—and two 
more athletes have lost their lives. Is it time for USA Triathlon to 
rethink its rules?


Want to make next year memorable? Start training now and destroy 

your office mates in a New Year’s Day 10K.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Totally Tri Reading List

Hi Trilovers! Because you like things in threes, here's a trio of new triathlon stories to read, written by yours truly:

1. Pro Dede Griesbauer gave up a lucrative career on Wall Street to race the Ironman circuit. Could you do that?
2. I raced Ultraman Canada at the end of July. WTF is UMC? Here's what you need to know.
Photo by Rachel Eads. I = Purple hat on left.

3. Pick up the latest issue of Triathlete Magazine (October) for a fun story on Kona hopeful and Biggest Loser graduate, Tara Costa, whose first Ironman was foiled by a fat suit.

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Chip Clif Bars-Come and Get 'Em

If you like sweet and coconutty things, this is the Clif Bar for you. Finally, after months of impatiently waiting, I've been alerted that the Coconut Chocolate Clif bar is available in stores. Note: May also be used as dessert. Double note: Clif Bar says they've changed their Apricot and Peanut Toffee Buzz recipes to include more of the namesake ingredients. If you're into fruity or toffee bars and were previously disappointed by a lack of frutiness or toffeeness, try them out to see how they stack up against the older versions.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Living Apart Together: My 5 City, 8 Home Journey Back to My Husband (And Some Triathlon Stuff)

Dearest Readers and TriGeeks,

My professional journalistic training, which began almost two years ago, has made me hesitant to discuss myself (unless, apparently, I’m discussing myself lying naked under plastic wrap on an ER gurney). Therefore, I apologize for the gaps in posting, but promise there are good reasons why I disappeared. One of them being that I did disappear. In the past two years, I have lived in eight different places in five different cities (including two adjacent cities that should really count as one). During that time, Coachubby, my uber-rad triathlete coach/husband, has lived in 3.5 of those places in three of those cities. Which, if you're doing the math, means I have lived in 4.5 different places in five cities without my husband in search of knowledge and a career. Both of which I attained, one of which I had to reinvent in order to finally, once again, live with Coachubby. Allow me to show my work:

In the fall of 2009, I enrolled at Stanford University, excited to be the dumbest person on a campus stuffed with the world’s geniuses. I filled my role perfectly. In nine months, I wrote stories for Pulitzer prize winners who were somewhat encouraging of my writing skills (perhaps because they were paid to be); took classes about sports branding and marketing at the business school with tomorrow’s leaders; stood up and made an ass of myself in front of those leaders and the CEO of the Atlanta Falcons…and the CEO of Mountain Hardwear; moved out of one house with two roommates and into a studio where I entertained a weekend lover (Coachubby); raced collegiate nationals on broken hamstrings with the triathlon team; and in general, became a respectable reporter. (If you’re counting, that makes three places I lived in so far: the one in Los Angeles before I moved and two at Stanford.)

But I did not graduate.

At least, not in the traditional sense. I did get a diploma, sent to my parents in the mail. I did not get a cap and robe. I did not walk or hear my name called out by someone s’habillé-ed in an even more ridiculous cap and robe. Instead, I headed for Oceanside to live in a minivan with strange men for two weeks. Oh, we had a reason to be driving the Dodge Caravan across the country: we were chasing cyclists. Not just any cyclists. Hallucinating, sunburned ultracyclists who were hell-bent on cycling across the United States in nine days or less. When you look at it that way, driving across our ginourmous country with strangers who were vetted for their photographic, videographic and beer-drinking capabilities is not an odd decision for a 26-year old woman to make. (No, I did not count the minivan as a place of residence; we’re still at three.)

During this scholastic and ultra nonsense, Coachubby moved into a tiny apartment across from a hardware store and above a small vacated space that was once, according to a decaying sign, called “The Gym.” You could call it “The Gym” or “That Place I Did Shrooms Once” as a friend of a friend referred to the rotting structure. I lived there whenever I wasn’t sleeping in minivans or in transition to city number three: Santa Fe, New Mexico. (That makes The Gym residence number 4.)

Après chasing the late Slovenian Jure Robic and his hounds for two weeks, I returned to The Gym where I met a Mexican named Vin who dragged my craigslist finds and fleet of bicycles down the stairs and into a nondescript white van that was supposed to—I hoped and prayed—end up in Santa Fe when Coachubby and I sent for it. Coachubby would move into a big house on a hill with our friends and we would live in a house the only place we could afford to live in a house of our own: New Mexico. I say we, because Coachubby would live there every other Wednesday through Wednesday. His boss was nice like that. So even though I was a lowly intern at the nation’s most magnificent adventure magazine, Outside, I had a house-husband to grill and sweep. Life was awesome. Except for the weeks Coachubby wasn’t there. And the week when Coachubby wasn’t there and a real-life murderer broke out of prison and headed through New Mexico where he burned a couple in their RV. Every scratch and creek was someone coming to get me. It’s quiet in New Mexico. Piercingly, hauntingly quiet.
At home in Santa Fe.

Come December 2010, I believed my dream job was an internship at Outside (or, you know, a job at Outside). But as Coachubby could not fly to New Mexico every other week for eternity and all internships must come to an end so editors don’t have to continuously take gabby, question-slinging interns to coffee at expensive railway cafés, I applied to the next best job I could find: Senior Editor at Competitor (an endurance sports!) magazine in San Diego. It was as close as Coachubby and I had lived in 1.5 years.

And it was a dream. We explored the hotbed of triathlon and decided San Diego would be a most wonderful place to live. If we raised kids here, we said to each other, they would have better values than if we raised them in LA. They would have nice friends because my cousin’s nice and he’s from San Diego. They might have a yard or even a house. Oh, to live together in San Diego! I had a small one-bedroom in Del Mar that I rented in my name alone. I had money! I had a job! I was going to have my dream career as an editor at a magazine whose subject matter I encapsulated to my very core! I flew to Tokyo to write a story about running with a funny British guy. I called coaches and race directors and athletes every day. I tightened up stories and flipped them around and when I wasn’t writing or editing or reporting I was training for Ultraman Canada and riding up Mount Palomar and swimming in the Solana Beach pool.

But Coachubby wasn’t there. Oh, he was there on the weekends. Or I was at the house in LA. (Residence number 6. The Del Mar apartment makes 7.) He rode from dawn to dusk with me, swam with me, test rode Cervélos and Pinarellos and downed Rubio’s burritos with me. It was like a whirlwind date every weekend. (Which, by the way, might be a great way to invigorate a sagging marriage. But I wouldn’t know. I went to Stanford approximately 1.5 years into our marriage, having just turned 26; nothing was sagging.) But the drive, though beautiful, became a chore. Life, with no one to go home to—but knowing I did, actually, have someone to go home to—became redundant. Sad. From the outside, I knew, our relationship was strange. Enviable to some, but strange. But for us, it was fun. Stressful, but fun. We got to check out Palo Alto, San Francisco, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. We got to explore Santa Fe and Taos. We got to meet and befriend all sorts of interesting characters. We trained for Ironman Arizona and the Tahoe-Sierra 100-mile mountain bike race on Santa Fe’s legendary Dale Ball trails, and did the bulk of my Ultraman training on the peaceful, rolling hills north of San Diego and the trails in Del Mar and Torrey Pines. 

And now, we get to decorate a home together. And by home, I mean apartment—I did have to quit my job to move back to Los Angeles to live with Coachubby. Incidentally, writing and editing under a title like Senior Editor must be done from a cubicle facing a void in a repurposed warehouse. Not an antique desk in an apartment building built by the beach in 1937. (The building, not the desk. This, my friends, makes residence number 8.)

We have, after almost two years, been reunited. As several people, including people I’ve written about, have asked me (very seriously): How do you even know you like him?

What’s not to love about a guy who sacrificed everything so you could go back to school, then work for your favorite magazine, then try to make a name for yourself all while carrying extra Gu and cash for unexpected bonks on 14-hour weekend training rides--for your race, not his--up and down mountains named Palomar and Sangre de Cristo that are located in the middle of nowhere?

I was going to end this by saying it was my turn to make a sacrifice for Coachubby. And it was. And I did. However he will be my crew leader aka Erin’s Commander of Awesome, as he prefers to be called, at Ultraman. And for one more week, it will be all about me again. But when I’m done swimming, cycling and running 320 miles around British Columbia, we will return to Los Angeles together to one home. Our home.

So that’s enough about me for now. What have you been up to?



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How I Got Hypothermia on a 50 Degree Day in Los Angeles or My First Road Marathon

Ethiopian runner, Markos Geneti, shattered the Los Angeles Marathon course record by two minutes on Sunday. Joeseph D’Amico ate only McDonalds for 30 days before the race and set a personal record of 2:36:14. Heck, a 400-pound Sumo wrestler set the record for being the heaviest person to complete the LA Marathon—ever. It’s like no one cared it was the stormiest day in the city’s history with 2.54 inches of rain pummeling downtown L.A.—an inch more than the previous record set in 1943—and wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour. Except the reported thousands of runners evaluated for hypothermia and the 26 runners taken to the hospital.
I was one of those 26 runners.

Oh my God. I’m going to pass out. I can’t feel my arms!

I’m walking down San Vicente Boulevard in the pouring rain, drenched and holding my arms up to my chest.

“Don’t slow down or you’ll freeze!” a runner yells to me as he passes by, chugging through the last two-and-a-half miles of the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday.

Too late.

Another runner stops to walk with me. “You can do this!”

“I’m pretty frozen. Don’t walk because of me!” I say. He jogs off.

There’s no way in hell I’ll be able to walk two more miles. I’m going to pass out.

Just then a lady in scrubs signals for me to come over to her. I hobble across the newly formed river that was once the eastbound lane of San Vicente.

The lady takes one look at me, then opens up the back doors to an ambulance to reveal a teenage boy covered in blankets on a gurney and two pretty EMTs. One of them strips off my shirt, socks and shoes, puts a blanket around me then tries to take my temperature with a disposable thermometer. It doesn’t register.

“Can you get in the front seat? It’s a lot warmer up there,” she says.

I try to stand up but my legs don’t work. My quads have gone rogue. I drag myself into the driver’s seat with my arms, then rest my head on the steering wheel directly in front of the heater vent. I have company; a man who looks about my age sits in the passenger seat, contemplating running the final 2.2 miles. He looks at me, then jumps out of the ambulance. We’re at mile 24.

The EMTs hand me heat packs and more blankets. I’m not shivering. I’m trying to control my heart rate by breathing against pursed lips.

I’m going to pass out.

Another plastic thermometer gets shoved into my mouth. Again, nothing registers.

“We’re going to take you to the hospital to get you warmed up, OK?” someone says. I start to cry.

“It’s OK. You’ll run another marathon.”

I don’t care about the marathon—I’ve run four before. I can’t feel my arms.

A gorgeous man opens the ambulance door and puts me on a gurney. I wish I had put cover up on the giant forehead zit that my visor is no longer hiding.

I’m lifted into the back of another ambulance. Hottie EMT and his buddies say how crazy it is—how so many people are “dropping” at mile 24. The EMTs can’t keep up. They’ve already taken half a dozen people to the hospital and more are pouring in. Hottie EMT and the ambulance driver try to get my vitals. They can’t get my pulse. They ask for my social security number and I spit out nine numbers—I’m clearly coherent. Oh well, they’ll get my pulse at the hospital.

I begin to shake like a spaz.

The doors slam shut, the siren starts, and Hottie EMT stares at me, failed marathoner number seven. So embarrassing.


I wanted to run a 3:30. The only other marathons I had ever run were at the end of Ironmans or on Catalina Island and my only strategy was to not walk. That worked well. But for a stand-alone marathon, I wanted to run. I put my 10K time from February’s Redondo Beach 10K into an online calculator that told me I could run a 3:23 marathon. I decided 3:30 would be a good goal. I didn’t wear a Garmin and decided I’d rely on a pace group to get me to the finish. I was in the back of the chute with the masses at the start, not seeded, so when I finally crossed the start line, I was over two minutes behind the pace group. I ran to catch up.

I zig zagged around walkers and joggers, passing the 3:50 pace group early on. I ran a few more miles and saw a little flag up ahead. That had to be the 3:30 group. I got closer and read the sign: 3:40. It began to rain. I pressed on, concentrating on a man in a tutu up ahead. When I got closer, I realized it was my friend, Guillaume.

“Where the hell is the 3:30 pace group?” I said.

“They’re going way too fast,” said Guillaume.

I kept going. The wind blew. It rained harder. Then I saw Jason. Just the weekend before, Jason and I had decided we’d run together since we both had the same goal. I blew by him looking for the pacer.

I finally caught up around 10K. I thought I’d settle in with the 3:30 group, and I did for about another 10K. Then they started to slip away. I couldn’t let that happen. I wanted to run this race for my Grandpa—I spoke at his funeral six days ago. I wanted to qualify for Boston for him. For me. I kept the 3:30 group in my sights until about mile 18, then I started to slow down. The rain poured relentlessly. The wind picked up. My muscles screamed. I never paid any attention to the scenery, noting for a split second when we ran by Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I noticed when we crossed under the 10. We were so close to Santa Monica. So close to the finish. Jason ran by me.

I slogged through Veteran’s Park, soaking my shoes in a stream I didn’t have the springiness to jump across. My orthotics absorbed the water like diapers. I got colder. The rain picked up. The wind blew. My muscles throbbed. I slowed down. I got colder.

As I passed under the 23 mile banner, I stopped running. My legs stopped running. I couldn’t move my legs to run. Guillaume ran by me. I began to walk along the grassy median. I got colder.


My watch is still running when I arrive at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. If I were crossing the finish line right now, instead of  moving into a hospital bed, I’d clock a 4:15. Instead, I’m learning that Hottie EMT’s name is Robbie—right after the ER nurse takes off all of my clothes in front of him and asks when my last menstrual period was in front of him. Robbie leaves to rescue more waterlogged damsels in distress while the ER nurse covers me in human bubble wrap—a plastic, air-filled blanket that blows up full of hot air. I shiver. My heart rate shows on a screen, hovering around 100. My normal resting heart rate is around 40.

The ER nurse turns on March Madness and lets me hang in my cocoon. She comes back to take my temperature. It’s now an unshocking 96.9 degrees.

“Who’s going to pick you up?” she says.

“I only know two phone numbers by heart,” I say. Coachubby’s and my mom’s. My mom lives in Arizona and Coachubby is most likely waiting for me by the meet up letter Z, like we had planned, because how many people’s names start with Z? His phone is at home. I call mom.

“Hi mom. I got hypothermia.”
“I’m fine. I need you to go on Facebook and look up our housemate. Go to his Facebook page. In the upper right hand side it says ‘send message’. Tell him I’m at the hospital. He has a smartphone. He’ll get the message.”

Duke sinks several more baskets while Michigan tries to catch up. I call my mom back.

“I think I poked your friend Mo,” she says. “What’s a poke?”
“Oh my God.”
“Let me know when you get home.”

I try to sleep. Then the nurse comes in.

“Your husband is here to see you. Do you want to see him?”
Do I want to see him? Nah, I’ll just stay here naked in my bubble wrap all afternoon.

Coachubby walks in. Our housemate got the message and dropped him off. Coachubby died late in the race too, he says. He wanted to run 2:50. He ran 3:05. He qualified for Boston. Jason ran a 3:30.

I am an idiot.
“Not fair,” I say. “Now I have to run another one so we can run Boston together.”

The nurse drops off a pair of hideous gray sweat pants for me to change into. My other clothes are wet and my favorite blue shirt with my race number didn’t make it into my “patient belongings” bag. I look like a homeless crackhead. Coachubby gives me a piggyback ride through the rain and puts me in the back seat of our housemate’s Prius.

Back at home, the rain still pours. The trees shake like the wind will uproot them. I imagine we’re in a hurricane. I lie on the couch and decide to check the race results for my splits. The Los Angeles Marathon website says I ran a 3:36.

Now I wonder who has my shirt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Video: Fast Twitch/Slow Twitch Muscle People

Endurance sports performance art.

This is what happens when I've been staring at my computer too long. Twitching. And videos about twitching.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to Legally Roll Through a Stop Sign

photo courtesy of thecrazyfilmgirl on Flickr
The answer: You must live in Idaho. Or possibly New Mexico.

On Tuesday, New Mexico's House passed a bill that would allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, almost 30 years after cyclists in Idaho won the privilege. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Miguel Garcia, said once Idaho passed their bike law, the bicycle injury rate fell 15 percent. He also argued that passing such a law would help to prevent cyclists from getting rear-ended at stop signs. (A problem I have never heard much about.)

Cyclists argue in favor of the law for several reasons, including that we have better awareness of our surroundings and can stop faster than vehicles. Other cyclists argue that the law establishes cyclists as something "other" than drivers and might set a precedent to limit cyclists' road use privileges.  And that it's good for everyone on the road to be predictable.

In the meantime, New Mexican cyclists shouldn't party yet; Oregon's House passed a similar bill in 2003 that their Senate killed. Oregon's Bicycle Transportation Alliance tried again in 2009, to no avail. According to the now defunct cycling advocacy nonprofit, the Bicycle Civil Liberties Union, cyclists in California, Oregon, Arizona and Virginia have all tried to pass a similar law.

As someone who has received a $150ish ticket for rolling a T-stop on a rural road with nobody around except a cop who apparently liked to spend his Saturday mornings hiding in a bush, I'm all for the stop-as-yield law. And if you have the tenacity and connections to get it passed in CA, I'll buy you a beer. Or 20.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Enduro Word of the Week (WOW): Neapolitan

Hi Tri peeps! I have so much to tell you! I've been AWOL because I finished up an internship with Outside Magazine in Santa Fe then moved to San Diego to work for Competitor Magazine. I'll be posting frequently on Competitor.com. More about me to come (I signed up for Ultraman Canada, so I'm sure most of it will be about that.) Party on.
neapolitan (neapoli-tan) n. : the color an endurance athlete’s legs turn after riding a bike and running in shorts of different lengths. Like the italian ice cream, the quads become a delicious mix of never-exposed lightness, peek-a-boo shaded and sun-loving dark. Most often observed when triathletes run in tiny shorts.
My goodness, check out that guy’s neapolitan!
Can also be used as a verb, as in: I’m switching up my tri shorts today because I’m neapolitanning.
Sometimes seen as sexy, the neapolitan identifies the multisport athlete when he/she hits the pool. Men must wear speedos to observe this benefit.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Phoenix Fails

Do you ever go home for the holidays and marvel at how your neighborhood has changed?  Most of my neighbor's homes are gone (razed), my favorite backyard bike trail is fenced off (maximize that property line!), and the tree in front of my house is cut... strangely. Which brings us to our first Phoenix Fail:

Neighbor Fail          
Yes, the branches overhanging the property on the left are chopped off at the property line.

And the lady in that house on the left wonders why nobody welcomed her to the neighborhood.

Cactus Fail
I knew something was off with the cactus down the street so I went to inspect and found a little door on its trunk. Turns out Phoenix was not overcome by saguaro-dwelling leprechauns (my first guess), but sneaky cell-phone tower builders. Maybe now I won't have to walk out of the house to answer the phone.

<-- This is not a cactus!

Christmas Light Fail

You know something is wrong when even your super-Christian relatives comment on the, um, interesting lighting situation down the street. (Palm trees by day...)

Happy New Year!