October 29, 2005

Brrrr In My Mind

I've been living in Los Angeles for over 16 years, moved here from the east coast in 1989. I grew up with cold weather and snow. In fact, I went to school in upstate New York where the weather would drop down to 30 below. We'd go skiing in 3 degree temperatures. It was cold, but not unbearable. Ahh, but the times they sure have changed.

Cat and I woke up at 6:30 this morning to get ready for our 7:15 ride with Rich. We checked the temperature online to find it a brisk 53 degrees outside. 53 degrees?! Chills ran up and down my spine as I thought of the potential frostbite that was awaiting my fingers and toes. I quickly scampered into the bedroom and proceeded to dress in bike shorts, heavy riding tights, thick socks, three layers of shirts, arm warmers and full fingered gloves. I had so much clothing on, I felt like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man as I waddled out of the bedroom. Cat looked up at me, rolled her eyes and shook her head in the usual disbelief. No words need be exchanged - she's made fun of me enough for my over-dressing habits. I was determined to stay warm though. There's no way the Coldmeiser was going to recruit me into his icy 53 degree web today.

We finished our preparations and headed out on our bikes to meet Rich. As we rode slowly towards our meeting location at the beach, I see runners and walkers passing us by dolled out in nothing more than shorts and t-shirts. Are these people crazy, I think to myself. Here we are a mere 2 days from Halloween, and people have the gall to wear short sleeves in this unbearably cold weather. I suddenly realize that my body is damp. Being in the beginning stages of our warm-up, we had yet to really start the ride but sweat seemed to be draining from my pores. It's not possible that I've over-dressed... is it? It can't possibly be so. I refuse to accept it.

Weather has become a state of mind for me. I love the change of seasons. And I love October's Autumn the most. I adore the moment when the air becomes a bit crisp, the leaves change color and you need to reach for those sweaters that have been hibernating in the back of the closet over the summer months. Autumn is a warm cup of tea by the fireplace. It's staying in, huddled together on the couch, a blanket thrown over you to catch the fallen kernel's of popcorn, as you while away the day watching old movies you've longed to see again and again.

Every year come October, I instinctively reach for those sweaters and burrow my body into their warmth and comfort. I take out the autumn jackets and cuddle within them as I prepare to walk outside and feel alive in the crispness of the cool breeze. The fact is though, that every day in Santa Monica is sunny and 70s. It rarely varies. So as I head outside all snuggly and smiling in my sweaters and jackets, I work up a sweat before I even reach the front steps of my building. And by the moment my feet hit the sidewalk, I've already removed two to three layers and am left sadly standing in shorts and a t-shirt like the rest of the city.

But I refused to accept the realities of weather on the bike ride this morning. I didn't want to notice the 70 degree sunshine blanketing the coast. I wanted it to be cool and crisp... I wanted it to be October the way October should be. Maybe I did sweat a little too much and become overly fatigued on the ride. Perhaps I did over-dress just a wee bit. But it is two days before Halloween and there is no 70 degree sunshine that will make me let go of the happiness in my crisp Autumn memories.

October 28, 2005

It's Go Time

I hate redeyes. It's a masochists flight. It's not because I can't sleep on planes - which I can't, by the way - it's because it destroys your life. Am I being a bit melodramatic here, you ask? No, I'm not, so stop asking.

People say they don't want to fly across country during the day because they lose a day in travel, but I say better to lose a day in travel than lose your mind. And the redeye is a one-way ticket to mind mush. After getting the best-case-scenario of 4 hours of sleep on the flight (which, statistically, is the most you can possibly get on a cross country flight between the take off, the landing, the announcements, and the annoying old lady next to you with the bladder problem), you step off in a city where everybody else is bright and shiny and expects you to be bright and shiny when all you really want to do is shove in a set of ear plugs so you don't hear their bright and shiny jibber jabber all in your face, start swinging a billy club to beat the bright and shiny right out of them, and find the closest pillow to fall asleep on and promise yourself you'll never take a redeye again. As Denis Leary says, put all the shiny happy people on one side of the bus, and all the gun-toting, meat eating people on the other side. Guess who's the one that took the redeye.

So you can probably imagine how happy Catherine and I were at 5:10am Monday morning when we landed from our redeye flight out of Kona. If you're going to end a perfectly wonderful vacation, you might as well do it in the most annoying way possible. I like going out in style. I'm good like that.

It was a big week planned at work. A big busy week that included three very large, important presentations with three very large, important clients, which could bring millions of dollars of business into the Company. Naah, not too much pressure. As you can imagine, I hit the ground running. Or at least crawling quickly.

I stumble into the office as early as possible on Monday, with my mind-mush and all, assemble the team to see what they'd done while I'd been away and start changing everything they've been working on. I'm moving around frantically, telling this person to do that, and that person to do this, doing everything in my power to not fall flat on my face with exhaustion. Meanwhile, five hundred unanswered e-mails are downloading onto my computer and my tension keeps building everytime I glance over to watch them come in. Each e-mail that hits my inbox raises my levels of stress and anxiety. I'm close to red-lining at this point, but they keep storming in, one by one. It's a digital tsunami of information flooding my Outlook and I feel like all I have to bail me out is a plastic spork. The stress level continues to rise. I'm reviewing documents, moving, pacing, stressing and trying not to be overly annoying to all my co-workers, when suddenly I see it, out of the corner of my eye. One e-mail among hundreds.

"Congratulations, Jeff, you are confirmed as a participant in Ironman USA..."

I stop mid-breathe.
I sit down in my chair.

In the background, like Kenny G in the dentist's office, I hear the sounds of the others in the room. "Are you okay?" "What is it? What's wrong?!" "Oh my God, I think he's catatonic. Are you catatonic?". But they mean nothing to me. I am lost amidst the fury, lost in the realization that I am really going to race Ironman USA. There is no turning back now. A wave of excitement envelopes my body. Rapidly followed by a wave of nausea, which seems to be a bit stronger than the previous wave, and has a more lasting affect. The taste in my mouth quickly pops me out of the trance. I realize I need to focus, let it go. The Ironman dreams temporarily subside as I jump back into the flow of work.

A few hours later I have a few seconds to breathe and can feel the Ironman enthusiasm building in my body. I drop Cat a note to excitedly let her know that I'm confirmed. It's on. She sends a two word response. Two words that elevate the exhiliration and send a new wave of excitement rushing back into my life:

"Me too," she says

This time the excitement doesn't leave. It's still here. The nausea is here too, but I think I've already started getting used to that feeling. It's on. We're both committed. We're in.

It's Go time.

October 23, 2005

Hello, My Name Is...

We are back in Kona now. It seems so normal here. So everyday. As if the Ironman didn't happen 7 days ago. As if right here, in this spot, a mere one week prior, lives hadn't been changed. If I hold my breathe, and keep quiet, I think I can hear the cheering still linger. But nobody seems to notice. These silly, silly people. Here I am with a new perspective, new motivation, on the road to Ironman, and yet the fatties from Nowhereville, Idaho and all the families straight from the Redneck Riviera are waddling around in their nauseatingly ugly, matching Hawaiian outfits as if nothing has happened. As if they are ignoring the fact that lives have been changed.

Have any of these people heard of triathlon? Have they heard of Ironman?!

And, just as suddenly, I listen to myself and realize what I'm saying. And I'm scared. I'm scared of me. Honestly. I look in the mirror and actually yelp. Not quite a scream. Just a yelp. But a yelp, nonetheless.

I've become a triathlon junkie. I'm addicted. I'm over the edge. I can't stop. I train unceasingly. I always carry a triathlon magazine with me wherever I go. I write for all the major triathlon publications. I take pictures of triathletes and make conversations with random people when I hear they are triathletes. I check out every bike I pass. I assess random joggers based on their form and cadence. I have been known to casually, spontaneously practice my swim stroke while standing in a crowded room. I need help. I desperately need help.

All these fat tourists around me, suddenly they are the normal ones. And I am the freak.

Well that's not good. That's not good at all.

It must be that time. I need a 12 step.

...Hello, my name is J... and I am a triathlete.

October 22, 2005

...And It Was Good

I read the Bible again today, just to make sure. You know the part where God says "let there be light" and it was good. And where He says "Let there be water", and it was good. And where he creates "fowl and cattle and every thing that creepth upon the earth after his kind," and, of course, it was good too. And on the seventh day He looked at his work, gazed at his dirty fingernails, wiped a hand across his sweaty brow, heaved a slow, deep sigh, flashed a hint of a smile... and decided to kick His feet back and bask in His accomplishment. Well, I'm pretty convinced that all of this - the Garden of Eden, the resting and all the creation stuff - must've taken place in the exact same location where Catherine and I spent this past week. So I looked at the Bible again and for the life of me I can't find a single mention of Kaua'i. Hmmm.. must've been lost in translation.

Suffice to say, we had a tremendous week. Rented the most stunningly
beautiful, secluded house on the north shore of Kaua'i. I mean, this place couldn't be more perfect if it were in a Disney movie. Three thousand square foot estate on acres of private property. Private beach, private dock, private golf course, private lake, private boats, private guava trees. We even had our own private swan. Everytime you looked out on the lake, that swan would be majestically gliding across the center, as if it were on one of those mechanical target movers you see at the carnival BB Gun booth.

Then of course there were the chickens. If you haven't been to Kaua'i, you probably don't know about the chickens and roosters. There are hundreds of them. Scratch that, thousands. Probably millions. They're all over the place, cock-a-doodledy-dooing themselves silly at all hours of the day and night. There's nothing so relaxing as falling asleep in your private home, as the sun sets over your private lake, the wind rustling the leaves on your private trees, and the incessant cock-a-doodle-doo of a billion homeless chickens to lull you to sleep. And somehow, after a few days, it actually becomes romantic.

Needless to say, we had an incredible time. We laughed and played and
galavanted ourselves silly, without a care in the world. We swam around the pristine lake as the sun rose in the mornings, and snorkled through clear blue waters in the afternoon. We ran ourselves to oblivion. We kayaked so hard we couldn't lift the damn boat on top of the car when we were done. And conquered a 7 hour, 8 mile hike through the jungle, across the treacherous streams, over the ankle biting rocks, in the rain... uphill both ways. And we ate. Oh yes, we ate. And ate. And ate.

It was tiring. But it was pure heaven. And now I realize why God really needed that rest. I wonder if the chickens kept him up all night....

October 16, 2005

The Hawaii Ironman Experience

This is supposed to be one of the nicer hotels in Kona, but it’s tough to believe that as I see two cockroaches hurriedly scurry across the brown tile floor as if they knew they were in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. They quickly scamper under the door to the neighboring room as I lay on the bed disconnected from reality, and watch them scurry off. And yet. I don't care.

I am in shock. It is an
emotional shock. It is the kind of shock you experience when feelings escalate to an overly-excessive level and your body doesn’t know how to respond. When the intensity of your sadness - or elation - exceeds the conventional parameters of normality. The body inevitably becomes immobilized. And so I lay on the bed stunned, feeling myself mere inches away from complete paralysis. Emotional catatonia.

I can feel my heart beating through my chest as I lay here in the hotel bed. It is banging on my rib cage, feeling like the next burst may break it loose. My breathing is surprisingly steady in this state of shock. I know my world has changed, but I can’t quite fully sense it yet. The adrenaline is coursing through my veins. I’m tired, I’m drained – but I can’t fall sleep. My eyes are wide open.

The cheering is still ringing through
my ears. All I can hear is the cheering. That is perhaps the most staggering aspect of the Hawaii Ironman: the cheering. The cheering doesn’t stop, it seems to never stop. And over the 17 hours, the cheering just keeps getting louder and louder. The “woohoos” and “yeah’s”, the screams and applause, the names shouted and encouragement bestowed: it is a 17 hour stampede, a freight train powering towards the finish line. And as each competitor stumbles towards the finish, it feeds the monster. And the cheering continuously pulls you deeper into its chasm. The symphony of cacophony builds stronger, until it lulls you into its embrace, wrapping its arms around you, grasping firmly on your emotions. And suddenly you become energetically connected with each and every one of the Ironman finishers. The line between you and the competitors dissolves - and you strive to yell louder, to cheer harder, but with each passionate outburst you become even more emotionally connected with the finishers. And as the 75 year old grandmother crosses the finish line in front of you, your heart seems to grow more fragile. And then the 35 year old with Lou Gehrig’s Disease passes you by. The wheelchair athletes. The paraplegic who couldn’t finish last year. The 80 year old great-grandfather. One by one, your cheering lifts their feet off the ground and drives them to the finish. And one by one you can feel your emotions break down deeper. Further. Tears swell in your eyes and you can feel your heart firmly lodged in your throat. And yet.

You continue to cheer louder. They become enveloped by the cheering - engulfed, embraced and consumed by the crowd. They pass you by so slowly, starving to grasp the moment. To squeeze it tighter until
they can no longer contain the love. You can see it in their eyes as they approach the end. You can see it in their heart. The sound gets louder and louder with each step; the shrieking of the whistles, the banging on the billboards, the clapping of the hands. Until their feet practically leave the ground and they float, drained and exhilarated, across the finish line. And I am there with them. I am with every single one of them.

I can feel the beating of my heart as I lay here in the hotel bed.
The cheering is still ringing through my
ears. And I don’t know if it will ever go away...

October 14, 2005

Ironman Stalker

OK, OK, I said I wouldn’t bring this up again, but I lied. I mentioned before that completing an Ironman is my one, undying goal in life. I don’t think I really got the point across as much as I need to though. The whole point of my life right now is for me to finish Ironman USA. That’s what I’m writing about – the trials and tribulations, chuckles and tears, rashes and blisters of me getting to the starting line. You see, Ironman – both the race and the overarching concept of the race – is a controlling force in my life and has been for decades. Deep down inside, I have a greater drive to do Ironman than anything else.

Let me give you a bit of perspective. On my refrigerator I have a laminated picture of the Hawaii Ironman finish line. It’s been there on my fridge for 12 years. I look at it every single day. I have an Ironman credit card that I use to pay for just about everything. I wear my Ironman visor every time I run. I wear my Ironman socks every time I exercise. I wear Ironman superhero undies to sleep every night. Well, maybe not so much on the undies. But if they made them, I’d buy a pair. You starting to get the picture?

And now, I’m about to see the Hawaii Ironman World Championships for the first time. My dream was to compete in this race. In fact, it still is my dream. But I’m not yet fast enough to qualify and I haven’t weasled my way in through any other method, so I’ve decided to do Ironman USA instead – perhaps the toughest Ironman race in North America, the Hawaii World Championships aside.

Many people have told me how exhilarating it is to experience the Hawaii Ironman. How the experience alone – even as a spectator – will stick with you and inspire you.

But here we are in Hawaii on Friday night and it really doesn’t mean much to me. It’s been a long week at work, the plane ride was a disaster and I am so tired I think I can lay right down on the runway and go to sleep without really caring if the planes run over me. I mean, I’m happy to be in Hawaii and all, but I sure could use a good night sleep one of these years.

The Runs

It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m going to Hawaii. It probably won’t hit me until we actually land. I’m really tired and it’s been a very stressful week at work. My colleague, Myles (the other SVP/General Manager), just resigned this morning which means there will probably be additional pressure put on me and, most likely, a lot more traveling. I don’t think it is humanly possible for me to travel more. From the moment I land back home from this Hawaii vacation, I have to hit the ground running. Though I wish I meant that literally, I don’t. I won’t have time to run. Though with all this traveling I have a pretty good chance of getting sick and getting the runs. But that's an entirely different can of diseases. I have three major client presentations in the two days after we get back, then I’m off on planes to Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, Vermont and Boston. Four days later it’ll be Thanksgiving time and I’ll fly to Florida. Fortunately I’m not in the heat of my Ironman training yet – in fact I don’t even have the schedule. I really am starting to get scared and nervous about what will happen when I do start training heavily. But scared is ok, right? I mean, as long as you don't get the runs.

Flying the Friendly Skies To Kona

We’re crammed on to a United flight from LAX to Kona. The seats are so close together, the women in front of me is practically laying in my lap. I can barely flip through the pages of my magazine without slapping her across the face. In fact, I gouge paper cuts into her forehead when I read the latest issue of Triathlete Magazine. We’re flying through so much turbulence I feel like United is trying to shake the loose change out of my pockets – as if they didn’t gauge me enough for the plane tickets, the curbside check-in (which, by the by, they now charge for), the food on the plane and a five-dollar shot of vodka to help me forget about this experience.

Meanwhile, there is a 5 month old baby right in front of me who’s been crying from the moment we took off, and is apparently showing no signs of slowing down. Behind me is an unusually obnoxious four year old who seems to rotate every 10 minutes between kicking my chair and shaking my seat, for no apparent reason whatsoever aside from his apparent social ineptitude. I keep looking behind me and giving his mother the evil eye but she doesn’t really seem to care much about controlling her brat, which makes me suddenly realize why the child is so quickly on the road to an ADD diagnosis. What I really want to do is climb over the seat and strangle the little shit until there is no seat-kicking, chair-shaking ounce of desire left in his annoying little body. Meanwhile, it smells like the aforementioned 5 month old in front of me just took a crap in his pants. If that’s not enough, the waitress is passing around glasses of water which, if you ask me, may not be the most sensible thing to do when you’re in the middle of severe turbulence. Amidst it all, Cat is sitting next to me as calm as can be, writing in her journal, most likely about me looking as if I’m about to tear the limbs off a four year old and beat him with his own legs. Which, considering the state I’m in, doesn’t sound like that bad of an idea after all. On top of all of this, the pilot keeps getting on the intercom to apologize for the turbulence and let us know that it should only go on for another 30 minutes, a promise he’s been repeating for the three hours we’ve been on the damn plane. Whenever he signs off, he thanks us for “flying the friendly skies”. Well let me tell you, if these are the friendly skies, I hate to see them when they’re pissed off.

God's Comic Relief

Here's the irony of me: I'm accident prone, just not when I'm exercising. In fact, as long as I'm running, biking or swimming, I've got a much better chance of not getting injured. On the other hand, I'm really bad at walking. In fact, I don't much like walking - I'd much rather run. I usually fall down quite a bit when I'm walking. And I often mistakenly walk into objects, like walls or sides of buildings, for instance. And tripping? Oh, it's amazing I haven't fallen down stairs and broke my neck yet. I trip daily. Even if there is nothing to trip on. I'll trip on oxygen. Maybe some random molecules bounced in my way. Like it or not, at some point throughout the day, I'm face-planting.

The other day I was hiking in the mountains with Cat and a few other folks, and my shoe laces got caught on the opposite shoes. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Essentially all was going nice and fine then in a sudden surprising split second, my feet got tied together. It's like I am a play toy for God. I'm God's comic relief. I hopped up and down a couple of times to try and keep my balance but that only worked out for about the ten seconds preceding me falling face first into the dirt. Everybody else got a good laugh out of that one. And God? I'm sure She was rolling in the aisles Herself.

But that's not even as lame as I get. One of my favorite moments happened a few months ago as I was at the pool getting ready to go swimming. Before I even dipped but a toenail of a pinky toe into the pool, I pulled a muscle in my back while putting on my swim cap. I didn't even start stretching. I was in pre-stretch stage. That's the sad thing about me, just the act of stretching can injure me. I have to stretch before the stretching.

I've always been injury prone like that. I remember when I was ten years old I was at a neighbors house with a bunch of friends listening in on the neighbors phone conversation with his girlfriend. Well, he heard us listening and so ran after us with the intention of laying down a beating. I was the last one out the back door. As the door slammed shut, it took a bunch of my finger with it. A few minutes later, I noticed my white shirt had turned red. I ended up getting a few stitches. Fast forward a month and its time to remove the stitches. I get out of school early, and mom takes me to the doctor. Stitches get removed and mom drives me home. As we pull into the driveway, I see the school bus pulling up down the street. Wanting to run down and show all of my friends that my stitches were removed, I rushed out of the car.... and slammed the damn car door right on my other hand. Same finger, other hand.

If it's not one thing, its another. As I said, God's comic relief.

I haven't been running lately because my left achilles tendon has been in pain. I've rested it, I've iced it, I've stretched it. I've done everything you're supposed to do. After not running for weeks, today I decided was the day to go out for a short slow run. So I did. Just my luck, my left achilles is fine, but my right achilles is killing me.

Time to fly to Kona now. Maybe the excitement of Ironman will cleanse me from injury.
But I wouldn't put my money on it.

October 13, 2005

Warm and Fuzzy and All That Crap

I can speak my mind when I type. Or, rather, I can write my mind when I type. When my fingers are on the keyboard, the thoughts and feelings just flow and, without even thinking, I feel comfortable laying it all on the line; telling you all of my inner-most secrets and fears and longings and being all warm and fuzzy and open and all that crap. When I speak face-to-face, though.... well, that's another story. Like many other guys, I apparently have a toll booth lodged in my throat and, though the words might be deep down there somewhere, they clearly don't want to pay the toll that opens them to up to the spoken world. It's tough for me to speak, plain and simple. But the fingers...oh, the fingers seem to be the emotional epicenter of my life. They've got a mind of their own.

You can probably imagine how this could cause problems, say, in a new relationship. As a for instance, let's say hypothetically that I'm having a tough time expressing my thoughts to a new girlfriend. But then, continuing with this hypothetical situation, let's say that the next day said girlfriend logs on to a website and sees all of my thoughts plainly laid out there in black and white, as clear as the day is long, for everybody to see. What would such a girlfriend think (hypothetically, of course)? One would probably assume that she wouldn't be so happy. In fact, one would probably assume that it would make the relationship a bit more difficult. When two people are just getting to know each other, but one person has to learn about the other by reading a website, well, I suppose that could just cause a whole assortment of problems. A plethora, if you will. A perplexing plethora of problems. (Ooh, that's fun to say!)

So we've got this hypothetical situation, which we all agree is a one way ticket to Breakup Boulevard. Understanding that, we've also got the real situation, which is me in a new relationship, typing my life on a website for everybody to read. The fact is, in order for these bloggered meanderings to be interesting reading for anybody, including me, I've got to be as open and honest about my life as possible. I've got to lay it on the line. You know, tell it like it is. If I'm having problems, I need to talk about the problems and the people that are pissing me off. Which brings us right around to the conversation I had with the girlfriend the other night about me being open with her and letting her know my feelings before she reads them on a website. Truth be told, I'm kind of scared about that because oftentimes I'm not in touch with my feelings until I write them down. I promise to give it my best shot though. I'm trying to speak. I'm trying to get that toll booth removed. (How come I feel like a male version of Sarah Jessica Parker's character on Sex & The City? You know, where at the end of the episode she always types in her article and it's got some sort of deep, thought provoking, contemplation on morality. I feel kinda like that, without the morality part. Maybe not so much on the thought-provoking aspect either. In fact, never mind.)

Catherine convinced me to go swimming this morning. Though I love having swum, I really dislike the act of waking up early, having to drive somewhere, then jump in a cold pool to swim. It's not fun for me. I have to really force myself to go swimming in the mornings. So, needless to say, this morning I wasn't all eager to go to the pool. To the contrary, I was looking for any excuse not to swim. But I decided to go with Catherine and workout together. The whole drive to the pool was filled with dread in my mind. I was fairly quiet and borderline cranky. But then, as we were walking towards the pool, I got the whiff of chlorine in the air and the sight of all the swimmers gracefully careening in their lanes, and the light pitter-patter of splashing as hands glided into the water with each stroke, and I have to say, I became pretty darn excited. There is something majestic about an early morning swim. Swimming in a beautiful pool as the sun rises above you creates a sense of peace that almost overshadows the pain of the strenuous workout. It doesn't completely overshadow the pain, mind you. It's very tough to overshadow the pain. There's a lot of pain and it's got a really big shadow that's hard to get over, but it sure is nice nonetheless.

So we had a very exhilirating, but very hard workout together. Lots of 25m and 50m sprints. I lost count. I'm really not good with the counting when in a pool. My mind wanders. Tough to remember things like numbers. I'm a bit of a faster swimmer than Catherine but, pound for pound, she's probably a bit stronger than me. I reckon that she'll be kicking my ass in the water within the coming months. Good for her.

We head off to Kona tomorrow afternoon. The Hawaii Ironman is on Saturday. I so very much can't wait to see it (please see the previous ramblings for more info about that). I'll let you know how it goes.

OK, time to pack my bags. Oh, look, I didn't even tell you about the conversation I had with Cat last night about her questioning whether she should race Ironman USA. And I didn't get into the stress I'm feeling at work.

There's just so much to say....

October 11, 2005

The Dream

Here's the deal, and I'm only going to say this once, so pay attention... my one long-standing, undying, lifetime dream is to race in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships. This race, held in Kona, Hawaii every year, is the end-all, be-all for the sport - whatever end-all, be-all means. I never understood that saying, I mean "end-all" sounds like a bad thing; like everything in the world is coming to an end. Armegeddon and all that stuff, yo. (I like saying "yo" at the end of a sentence. Makes me sound cool.) On the other hand, "be-all" is quite uplifting in a "be all that you can be" type of way, minus the guns and drill sergeants and such and so forth. So apparently "end-all be-all" is a yin yang type of thing. You know, black and white. Good and evil. Cats and dogs sleeping together. Oh look, I've digressed again...

Back to the Ironman World Championships... The race is often considered the single most challenging one day athletic event in the world. And you know what I say to that? Bring it on, baby. In the checklist of "things to do in life," finishing the toughest race in the world is a pretty damn good notch in the proverbial belt. Considering that I'm the type of guy who likes a new challenge, I'd be hard pressed to find a challenge as challenging as that one. So bring it on, baby.

You may ask, what am I doing to fulfill this dream to race the Kona Ironman? I suppose if I said "nothing," that doesn't make me look as macho as the aforementioned usage of "yo" does. But the fact of the matter is, there isn't that much I can do at this point. When I first became infatuated with the race a couple of decades ago, I could've signed up, paid my 50 bucks or whatever the hell it costs back then, and competed along with all the other masochistic morons out there. Did I do this? Of course not, don't be silly. Why would I want to fulfill my one true dream so easily?! Nope, not me. Instead, I waited as long as possible until, finally, the race became limited to a select few and there was no way for me to get in. Now you have to qualify to get into the race. In order to qualify, you need to be one of the fastest people in your age group. Honestly, I have as much of a chance of qualifying for the World Championships as my grandfather does - and he's dead.

Now I'm not the slowest guy in the world. In fact, I fancy myself a pretty good athlete. I always come in the top 40% of people overall. Top 40%, though, doesn't get me to Hawaii. In fact, the other day I was thinking that I could win my age group if there were a separate racing group that consisted of 35-39 year olds, who weigh under 150 pounds, ride a Kestrel bike and have a last name that begins with the letter "M". Then, in a sudden depressing moment of clarity, I realized that I STILL wouldn't win: my friend Brian M., who is a couple of years younger, a couple of pounds heavier and rides the same bike as me, would kick my ass three ways to Hoboken. (I just made that saying up. Feel free to use it.)

I still believe, though. I believe that at some time, some how, some moment in my life will lead me to racing in Kona at the World Championships. In the meantime, I just sit here all alone in front of my computer, munching on some two day old, low fat cheese stick, typing up this nonsense to nobody. Pathetic, really. I'm getting depressed. Pass the corn nuts, please.

The 2005 Ironman World Championships is taking place this Saturday. Catherine and I are flying to Hawaii on Friday for a 10 day vacation, beginning with a day watching the Ironman race in Kona. In fact, Brian M. (mentioned above) will be out there too. I can't wait. I'm told that the race is one of the most motivating events to experience. Touching, heart-wrenching, inspiring and all that shit. I'm expecting to want to swim, bike and run myself silly after seeing this race. I'm expecting that I'll want to fulfill my dream even more after seeing this race. I'm expecting that I'll be so eager to race Ironman Lake Placid, nothing can stop me. I have very high expectations.

I thought maybe you'd get inspired from this photo. You're welcome.

October 09, 2005

Depends: The Noun

It's another beautiful day in Santa Monica, California so, of course, like the complete idiot I am, I decide to go into the windowless gym to work-out, instead of, say, staying outside and running, biking, hiking, shoplifting or any of the other miscellaneous outdoor activities one participates in while training for an Ironman.

Gyms in Los Angeles are, for all intents and purposes, meat markets. Granted, there are a lot of beautiful people in this city and I love looking at the bouncing buns of a sweat-drenched hottie on the stairmaster as much as the next guy (in fact, the next guy keeps obstructing my view) - but because there don't seem to be enough hours in a day, I want to actually work-out when I go to the gym. As a result, I joined the local YMCA.

Let me tell you about the Santa Monica Y. First of all, I'm the youngest one there...by about 150 years. The members are so old, they actually have a sign at the front desk that gives a photo and bio of the latest member to die. It's pathetic, really, but in a sadly comical way. So when I walk in this morning, I notice a photo of Anne Somelongjewishnamebergerstein who apparently passed away recently. It's a nice photo of Anne, she's smiling and looks fairly happy, as if she just realized she wasn't lactose intolerant after all and wanted to rush out to the local cheese store lickety-split. The photo looks like it was taken in her younger days, perhaps when she was somewhere around 102 years old. She's crammed into her 40 year old grey sweat suit, a bandana in her hair, grandmother bracelets around her wrists and leg warmers around her ankles like some Flashdance nightmare gone awry. I had a moment of silence for Anne, and then continued on into the gym, eager to get this workout over and done with so I can go outside and enjoy the day before anybody else dies in here.

The great thing about being a relative youngster in a gym of post-elderly is that I always feel like Superman. Practically nobody uses the free weight room because they don't have the strength to lift the bar, much less the weights. And the pool? You'd think I have a motor in my ass the way I zip by the feeble water-joggers. (Yes, that's a real photo.) Needless to say, the Santa Monica YMCA is great for my ego.

So I head to the locker room, change into my work-out clothes and proceed to do a little row machine, then lifting and stretching. The lifting feels great. Everytime I lift, I tell myself that I'm going to do it three days a week so I'm strong enough for racing season. Unfortunately, the only time that worked was the year I decided not to race. And the stretching? I'm about as flexible as a redwood tree. I can see my toes clearly. Some day I hope to actually touch them.

After an hour of said lifting and stretching my arms as close to my feet as I could, I finished the workout and went back to the locker room. This is where everything got a bit scary.

I was changing back into my regular clothes, minding my own beeswax, when I hear someone talking behind me. I turn around to see perhaps the most frightening image of my life. I don't know if I'll ever get this out of my mind...

The man was about 190 - and I'm being generous. He was standing there in the middle of the locker room as naked as the day he was born, except for the black dress socks, velcro shoe-sneakers and Depends. Yep, nothing but shoes, socks and a diaper on. Now I'm no heartless fella. I mean, I'm sorry he has to wear diapers. I understand that aging isn't always pretty...but c'mon people, this is just plain freaky, what with the shoes and socks. Are you with me?! Hell, how was he even going to be able to get his pants on?! If that's not enough, he was walking around the locker room mumbling all sorts of gibberish. The crazy thing is that it was all interspersed with random words. Things like "thrgyhst frnmy gggl abacus bluk bluk af raug." Abacus?! How high in the ranks of crazidom do you have to be to rant about an abacus while pacing through a locker room wearing Depends?

I got the hell out of there as quickly as possible - even forgot to zip up my fly.
No wonder I don't lift as much as I want to.

October 08, 2005

...And Then There Were Two

The good thing about traveling to the east coast is that when I come back, I'm wide awake by 5am everyday. I love that. So there was no need to set the alarm this morning for the 7am bike ride with Rich and Cat. The plan was to go on a nice 44 mile ride to Malibu and back, and then go out to breakfast and talk about the Ironman plans. You know, training, travel and all that stuff.

Cat comes over early and we ride down to the agreed upon Ocean Avenue starting point. Is Rich there waiting for us? Of course not. Heaven forbid. Fifteen minutes later he finally shows up ready to ride.

We just start off when he drops the bomb... he's decided not to race Ironman USA. WHAAAA?!!?! He and his wife have been talking about rebuilding their house for years. In fact, he's used it as an excuse for years. Now, apparently they are going to rebuild it this year and he can't take the time off of work. Can't take the time off of work?! He says this to a guy who works 70+ hour weeks, travels constantly (please refer to aforementioned American Airlines tattoo on my ass) and has to report directly to the CEO of a public company. Rich, on the other hand, works for himself. He's concerned that he won't be able to get out for bike rides at 4pm because he has to work. Bike rides at 4pm?!?! Hell, try bike rides at 4am! THAT's what we'll be doing in advance of the runs at 8pm!

On top of that, it adds a bit more stress to just Cat and I training together now. Rich was a good buffer. But we decided that, as punishment, he needs to be our support crew - our Training Bitch. Rich, the Training Bitch. It even flows.

October 07, 2005

The Set-up

I’m sitting on a plane as I write this crap. I'm finally heading back home to LA after three trips to the east coast in just as many weeks. Goddamn I'm tired. Seems I spend half my life on a plane. I’m thinking of having the American Airlines logo tattooed on my ass. One large red "A" on one cheek and a big bold blue "A" smack dab on the other. Seems my ass is firmly attached to an American Airlines seat most days anyway. Maybe they’ll pay me. I wonder if I can get an ass sponsorship from American Airlines. I’ll have to look into that one.

The problem is that all this travel has started to wear me down. I feel like I’m getting sick now, which really blows, if you want to know the truth. The last thing I need is sickness or injury. There are no worse ways to destroy my training and overall well-being. Unfortunately I’m prone to both. Lucky me. Of course the past three nights I spent drinking until the wee hours of the evening, with very little sleep to follow, probably didn’t help matters much. Oops.

So let me introduce myself. I’m J. This is my blog where, if you're lucky and I'm not, my life will be changing dramatically. You already know that I’m injury prone and sick prone. During the day, I’m a senior exec at one of the leading marketing/advertising/media agencies in the country. Pretty demanding job as jobs go, if you want to know the truth. I'm also the founder and President of a successful record company. If you're nice, I'll tell you some of my super-celebrity stories at some point in time. That's a photo of me there on the left.

I’m also a triathlete. Which, by the way, is the whole point of writing this damn thing. Triathlon is a pretty demanding hobby, as hobbies go.

Triathlon, for those not in the know, is 50% physical, 50% mental and 50% plain stupidity. It consists of three disciplines: swimming, biking and running. There are really four different racing distances in the sport of triathlon, but it all culminates in the nauseatingly long Ironman distance, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. That’s a total of 140.6 miles, which for some reason doesn’t sound as intimidating as when you spell it out by individual discipline. Maybe that’s just me.

Anywhoo, after over a decade of wanting to do an Ironman (IM) distance race, I finally decided to move forward with my life and actually do one. So here I am, flying back home from a business trip, ready to sign up tomorrow for Ironman USA 2006, which takes place in Lake Placid on July something-or-other. (I suppose I oughta figure out the exact date at some point.)

As you can imagine, Ironman training requires a lot of time, dedication and commitment. Dedication and commitment - that I can do… Time, on the other hand, presents a bit of a problem. I don’t have much of it to spare. Between the work, the record company, the traveling, the girlfriend, the writing and all of the other stuff I do, there's not a lot of time left. Throw Ironman training on top of it all and that, my friend, is a one-way ticket to trouble. Which is exactly why I am documenting all of this crap.

If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me.

So Ironman blah blah blah, destroying my life yadda yadda yadda….where was I? Oh yeah, on the plane feeling sick. My nose is dripping like a Harlem fire hydrant on a 105 degree day. I’m sniffling so much I think my brain is starting to leak out of my face. And, if that’s not enough, I haven’t exercised in five days. So I feel like shit on top of everything else. I’ve spent the past week stressing myself out with some potential new client opportunities, and then the nights drinking myself silly and gorging on such healthy tidbits as pizza, chicken fingers and jelly beans. Oh yeah, that Ironman will be fun.

I’m considering tomorrow Day 1 – today is kind of a prequel, if you will. And I know you will. Catherine (aka Cat, aka The Girlfriend), Rich (aka The Best Friend) and I are getting together for a bike ride at 7 in the morn. Both Cat and Rich have committed to doing IM USA as well. We’re all going to train together – or as much as possible without killing each other.

Which brings up the whole girlfriend thing, I mean really, how much stressful time can we truly spend together without one of us taking a knife to the other? I suppose this whole Ironman malarkey will answer that question.

So the whole point of this diatribe is really like an Ironman reality show. I will be getting engrossed in the time commitments, using up all my physical and emotional energy every day and tearing myself to pieces as I try to keep my life in balance, and try to maintain enough energy at night to have sex with the same woman I got frustrated with throughout a grueling 7 hour day of exercise. My life may really crumble to pieces. In fact, odds are pretty good that it will. But, goddamit, I'm going to cross the finish line at Ironman USA if it kills me.

Yeah, this is going to be fun alright…