September 29, 2006

I'm THAT Guy

I was riding my bike up a hill last Wednesday when a guy passed me like I was going backwards. I didn't get a good look at him but I'm pretty sure I'd never seen him before and haven't seen him since. All I know is that he was tall and went by in a blur. That's what I'd tell the cops if they asked me to ID him. He was tall, I'd say, and kinda blurry.

When I got to the top, huffing and puffing and a few heartbeats short of cardiac arrest, I turned around and coasted back down. Though he was standing there waiting for his friends, not a word was said, nary a glance. It's that type of hill.

Fast forward to this morning and picture me running. I really wanted to have a great run and I'd say it started off pretty good for about the first twenty steps or so. Maybe even thirty steps. It was definitely no more than forty steps cause it was about that time my right calf started feeling really tight. So I stopped and stretched. Soon thereafter, my left knee started hurting, so I slowed down. About three miles into the run, I was creeping along at a pace one would associate with a four-wheeled walker when a guy ran by me like I was standing still. Which, for the record, I wasn't, thank you very much.

I nearly caught up to him at the red light, but it turned green and he was off again. About a hundred meters later, he looked back at me and started slowing down in that way that made it very clear he was waiting for me. Why is this guy waiting for me? I thought to myself as I picked up the pace to catch him. Finally I reached his side as I tried desperately to conceal my wheezing and panting.

You were biking up Mandeville last Wednesday, weren't you? he asked. I looked over at him with a surprised gaze... he was a very tall guy, definitely looked kinda blurry when he passed me by a few minutes ago. Hmmm... How the hell did he recognize me?!

Yes I was, I replied. That was you that blew by me like I was standing still, wasn't it? I said fairly incredulously.

Clearly not wanting to humiliate me, he ignored the question. I remembered it was you, he continued, because you look just like this other guy I know.

And therein lies the story of my life. Apparently I have the most generic face in the world. There might as well be a barcode on my forehead, right under a tattoo that says "Generic Face". Seriously, you wouldn't believe how many people regularly ask me, haven't we met somewhere before?

I hate to break the news to you, but the answer is No, we haven't. So you can stop trying to rack your brain 'cause, honestly, your just starting to look a bit foolish.

I've been mistaken for Joe Nobody from East Bumblefuck and Joe Superstar from the pages of the National Enquirer. I've been mistaken for Brad Pitt, Beck and that guy from ThirtySomething. I'd have to say the worst is David Spade, which I get far too much. He's just flat out ugly. The best is probably Mikhail Baryshnikov, which I get far too little. He's manly and sensual and chicks dig him.

One time I was out at a club and a couple of tourists were convinced that I was some guy from the TV show Wings. I'm definitely not that guy. In fact, I've never even seen the show though I've been told that I look a lot like him.

I'm not that guy, I told them. But they didn't believe me. They insisted I was that guy as they handed me a pen and paper to sign. Really, I said with all the seriousness I could muster, I'm definitely not that guy! But they refused to give up and thrust their pens with greater fury. What's a guy to do? So I gave them an autograph in a scratchy, illegible manner. After all, I didn't want to give the real guy a bad name and, at the very least, these little tourist ladies could go home to Bumfuck, Idaho and brag to their friends that they met That Guy from Wings, even if he's got crappy handwriting.

So if you've ever wondered whether you've seen me or if we know each other, the answer is yes. Of course we do. I'm that guy. You know, the one that looks like everybody.

September 28, 2006

Triathawhat? - Or - Taking The Blue Pill

Curling is a silly sport. When given the opportunity, I will make fun of it without a single moments hesitation. It's just too easy.

I've always figured curling must've been invented by Canadian housewives whose kids had finally gone off to college and whose husbands, the drunken useless bums, spend their weekends brushing the Dorito crumbs off their fat stomachs into the pile of empty Labatts cans at their feet as they watch hockey or lacrosse or whatever those Canadian fat guys watch on cold winter weekends.

The wives, not knowing what to do with their lives and not wanting to have to be disgusted by their husbands, decide to make a sport of their own. So they walk outside into the freezing cold, onto the icy sidewalk, carrying with them the only household implements they know their husbands won't miss: a broom and a cooking pot. They start throwing the pots down the icy sidewalks and sweeping the grime off the walkway to help the pots go further.

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom... the sport of curling is invented.

How curling became an Olympic sport is beyond me. The thing is, most people don't even know what curling is. They're pretty sure it involves a broom and some ice - as for the rest of the details, nobody really seems to give a flying watuzzi. It got me to thinking -- how can a sport make it to the Olympics year after year and still be such a mystery to the majority of humans?

Which leads us directly into triathlon.

The other day I was watching a video of NBC's 1989 Ironman World Championships. If you haven't yet seen it, I highly recommend you spend the time to watch this amazing race - which, incidentally, is more amazing than anything you could ever hope to see on "The Amazing Race." It'll blow you away. (In fact, here's a link.) Between the infamous Ironwar where Dave Scott and Mark Allen silently battled it out like two ferocious pitbulls, and the inspirational accomplishments of Dick and Rick Hoyt, your mouth is guaranteed to be quite agape.

I've watched this video a few times. It never ceases to amaze me. But when I watched it the other day, something new did, in fact, amaze me. Specifically, I noticed that near the end of the coverage, NBC spelled the word "triathlon" incorrectly. I'm not sure how I missed this all those other times. In my disbelief I rewound the tape again and again to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me. Lo and behold, they weren't. NBC did, in fact, spell the word with an extra letter. "Triathalon," they called it. The Ironman Triathalon World Championships.

I hope somebody got fired for that.

Granted, the sport really only gained international recognition in 1982 when Julie Moss famously - and literally - ran herself into the ground and crawled to infamy. But still, this was seven years later and NBC had been airing the damn thing every year. You'd think they'd actually be able to spell the sport correctly. Can anybody believe that they would've showed highlights from the Bassebal World Series? Or the Footbowl Superball? Of course not. But they clearly didn't have time for spellcheck when it came to Triathalon/Triathlon.

I'm hoping they got it correct in 1990. I just watched the 2005 Ironman coverage and they definitely had it fixed by last year. But the fact that they even screwed it up once kinda hurts. It makes me feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield: no respect. And don't even get me started on Microsoft.

How many years do you think it'll take before Microsoft adds the word "triathlon" to their dictionary? Everytime I type it into a Word document, I get that damn red squiggly line that says the word doesn't exist. But I know the word triathlon exists. I'm sure of it. In fact, I raced in one not too long ago. And I've got it printed on far too many t-shirts that I'll never wear. And I watch the damn thing on NBC!! Hell, it's even an Olympic sport! But apparently that's not enough for Mr. Gates and his minions. For Microsoft, triathlon is dead to them.

Which I suppose leads us right back to the Olympics.

Triathlon has been an Olympic sport since the Sydney Games in 2000. In fact, there've been some pretty dramatic races, not the least of which was that 14 bike pile-up that engulfed Simon Whitfield, only for him to make up 25 places in the run and win the darn thing. But still, tell a person that you race triathlon and, nine times out of ten, they won't know what the hell you're talking about.

That's like swimming and biking and something, right? they'll ask you with the blank why-do-I-care-about-this look on their face. Yeah, you'll say somewhat offended. It's swimming and biking and something... you know what...forget I even brought it up.

Even worse, there are the ignorant masses who think that the only triathlon in the world is the Ironman World Championships. You race triathlon?! they'll say increduously, their eyes nearly bulging from the sockets. You race that really long event in Hawaii that ends with a marathon? Don't you have to bike, like, 200 miles or something in the same day?

As their excitement builds, you can feel your tail squeeze up between your legs. They've blown you up to be a hero and you're about to stick a pin in that concept. No, that is the Ironman World Championships, you say somewhat apologetically. The races I do a bit shorter... like... uh... a quarter mile swim, a twelve mile bike and a three mile run.

As they hear the distances, their once bulging eyes turn into blank stares of disbelief. And you kinda wanna smack them across the head even before they say anything else. That doesn't sound hard, they'll blurt out in a way that makes you want to smack them even harder. I think I can do that, they'll continue pompously as you angrily cock your arm back.

Yet still we sit here in our own little world, our Triathlon Matrix, if you will. Maybe every now and then, in the midst of one of these senseless conversations, we'll turn down the red pill and take the blue pill only to remember that the sport is still in it's infancy. Although triathlon is in the Olympics and although it is growing at a phenomenal rate, there is so much more room for expansion. The fact is that, although NBC can finally spell the name correctly, we are no more than a passing 90 minute segment in a year's worth of activity.

We can make fun of those ice sweeping curlers all we want. But we are, in a sense, kind of like them: a misunderstood sport. Hopefully as more and more people start participating in triathlons, that we will be seen as pioneers, boldly promoting a multi-sport lifestyle where health and happiness co-mingle with tenacity and masochism.

Sure everybody may not always understand why we do what we do. In fact, let those non-believers make fun of us all they want. But at least let them know what the sport is about. And, of course, make sure they know that we don't use brooms in our sport. We're much more manly. I mean, really... what kind of sport requires the use of a broom?!

September 27, 2006

Suicide Is Painless. And Press-Worthy.

Somewhere in my previous posts I had stated that, although I do not wish bodily harm on anybody, it would be in the best interest of football and, arguably, humanity, if Terrell Owens got injured early in the season and wasn't able to play ever again.

Now look what I've gone and done.
I didn't mean for it to go this far. Honest Injun.

Seriously, it was just an off-the-cuff comment, a random blog post. I mean, I'm not the one who broke his finger and forced him out of a few games. And then for him to start popping pills and trying to commit suicide? C'mon now, Terrell. You HAD to realize that I was just playin' when I commented on me hoping you were forced out of football. You gotta learn to not take it all so seriously, y'big baby.

Speaking of seriously, although I do not wish suicide attempts on anybody, Terrell Owens' recent attempt just further proves he is a buffoon. Every moment of the guys pro-football career has been focused on generating publicity for himself. He's a showman; an egomaniac of the highest degree. As talked about in my previous The "I" in "Team" post, Terrell Owens acts more like a three year old than my three year old neice. Dare I say that this recent suicide attempt is another fine example of it all.

Terrell does not breathe oxygen - he breathes attention. And when he is sitting at home with a broken finger, unable to play, the attention turns away from T.O. and on to the game of football, where it should be in the first place. By attempting suicide, T.O. wins again. As I'm sure he expected, the guy has once again become the headline on every news channel and soon to be every newspaper in the country. And that's not even to mention the wasted space on blogs like mine with postings like this. Once again, it is no longer about football, it is about T.O.

Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against a big ego. For better or worse, big egos are part of sports and oftentimes a part of success. But I'll take Lance Armstrong's ego over Terrell Owens any day. At least Lance Armstrong doesn't spend his life screaming and crying for attention. At least Lance Armstrong doesn't laugh and spit in the face of his opponents upon winning a race. There's ego and there's class. Lance has got both. Terrell Owens is seriously, dramatically class deficient.

The best thing that could happen to us all is if T.O. tried to commit suicide and nobody paid attention. Let's all turn our collective backs on his non-stop tantrums.

As I said before, I don't wish suicide on anybody - and if the guy is really depressed, he needs to see a psychiatrist and take care of his damn self - but maybe this will be a kick in our mutual pants to remove the T.O. parasite from football altogether. Sports will be better off without him.

September 25, 2006

My Block Of Ice Story (With A Moral)

Once when I was mountain biking out in Moab I met this guy who used to be a free ice climber. That means he would climb up large mountains of ice without any rope.

That's fucked up.

One day he climbed up this very tall very steep face of ice and as he neared the top he suddenly realized he was climbing a block of ice without any rope. He freaked out. He stayed there, hundreds if not thousands of feet above the ground, hugging that big block of ice as if it were his only hope for survival. The irony is, it was.

His friends tried to get him to stop freaking out, but it wasn't working. So he stayed there on that mountain of ice for a couple hours. Sweating. Crying. Screaming.

His friends stayed with him. They patiently waited - cause that's what friends do.

They were finally able to help get him down off the ice. And shortly after he got to the ground, he packed up his bags and moved to Moab where he now spends his life taking people on mountain bike tours. Firmly and solidly rooted to the earth.

So if you're climbing a block of ice and you're scared you might fall, bring some rope and some really good friends. You're gonna need the security of them on both your way up and your way down. And if you do it right, you won't freak out too much and maybe you'll survive to climb another day.

September 21, 2006

A Brief Brush With The Law

I started Jury Duty today. Well, I suppose that’s not really the complete truth – it’s more like I started the laborious process of waiting to actually being selected for a jury. The day one starts Jury Duty isn’t necessarily the day one starts Jury Duty, if you know what I mean. Starting Jury Duty really means sitting around and doing a whole lot of waiting. Ah, the joys and efficiencies of the American Judicial system.

Until recently, the system in the California courts was that you would show up to Jury Duty and be corralled into a fairly large, aesthetically mind-numbing room with all the rest of the potential jurors. There were lines of incredibly uncomfortable plastic chairs that seemed to be rejects from some high school special education class. For entertainment, there were usually a series of jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and rows of Fabio-laden, dramatically tattered novellas by such literary giants as Danielle Steel and LaVyrle Spencer. Mostly, though, you found your self staring mindlessly into space as you played tiddlee-winks from 8am to 5pm and waited to see if, miraculously, your name was called for potential jury duty.

It was required that one spent 10 days in this societal stinkpit of a judicial holding cell if you never got to see actual jury time. Day after day, for two full weeks, you’d be forced to numb your mind to the inefficient insanity as you constantly shifted your ass cheeks on the plastic buckets and silently cursed yourself for once again forgetting to lube up with Chamois But’r before you left home. I suppose they wanted to let potential jurors know what it was like to be imprisoned, without the shivs, white supremacists and orange jumpsuits, of course. The lucky ones got selected for trial.

I suppose I could be considered a lucky one. You see, I was on Jury duty once before – back in 2001 – and, truth be told, I loved it.

I hadn’t sat down in the butt-breaking plastic chair for nary ten minutes when the lady on the intercom starting calling out random names for a spot as potential jurors. Lo and behold, I heard my name called. I quickly slammed shut my copy of Sports Illustrated and, with my fellow potential jurors in tow, shuffled off to our assigned courtroom, all bright-eyed and judiciously na├»ve. I knew not where I was going nor what lied before me, but I was damn glad to be out of that room and wasn’t eager to go back if this jury selection process didn’t work out in my favor.

After we got to the courtroom and heard our directions, the clerk began by selecting twelve of us at a time for questioning – or voir dire, as I believe they called it in My Cousin Vinny. As the magnificent twelve were put in the jury box, the lawyers proceeded to try and weed us out through their highly insightful line of questioning with such mind twisters as “what do you do for a living?” and “do you hate cops?”

As it turns out, I was in the first group of twelve and found myself sitting in the seat for Juror #7 as the voir dire process began. I don’t remember the questions they asked me, but I know it was not much beyond something like “Does your grandmother make good chicken soup?” Lo and behold, in what I can only deduce was a case of racial profiling, both attorneys apparently thought that I might be a good juror for this case and so for the next two weeks I affectionately became known as Juror Number Seven, a name I tried unsuccessfully to keep far beyond my esteemed judicial career.

The chairs in the jury box were quite comfortable. So much so that here I am, five years later, and I still remember the feeling of sinking my wiry ass into the cushy comfort of the Juror Number Seven chair every morning. Needless to say, my buttock and I were damn happy to have been selected for jury. Better to waste the ten days in a courtroom than sitting around the Jury waiting pen with a bunch of other misfits, trying our best to stave off boredom like we were all spending our first time in after-school detention.

The trial started and it couldn’t really have gotten any better had Scott Turow scripted the damn thing. I found myself smack dab in the middle of a gang-related love triangle homicide, complete with crooked cops, convicted felons skipping the country and really mean very dangerous people with tattoos I couldn’t quite make out from my Juror Number Seven vantage point, who were threatening to kill witnesses if they testified against the homicidal gang lover. I can’t help but smile just thinking about it.

Throughout the process, I was constantly in awe. I was amazed at the insensitivity and complete disregard some people feel for humanity and I was appalled with our judicial system. I was in shock with the ineptitude of the public defender and in greater shock with the stupidity of a few fellow jurors, who shall remain numberless. It was wonderful. I felt like I was an extra on Law & Order: Special Moron Unit. Had there been such thing as a blog back then, I would’ve typed an epic novel. I couldn’t wait to get downtown everyday and soak myself into this lovelorn drama gone gangsta.

So you can imagine my current excitement, what with the opportunity to do my civic duty once again. This time, however, they’ve changed the rules. No longer do we have to spend a minimum of ten days doing our civil service. Now all potential jurors have to do is to show up for just one day at the criminal courts building. If you get selected for a jury on that one day, you’re in for the long haul. If you don’t get selected, you’re scott free, never to have to show your face in the criminal courts building until you’re again called for jury duty.

Or unless you kill someone.
Whichever comes first.

I didn’t get called for a jury this time around. I’m kind of sad about that in a funny way. I guess I really miss those juror’s chairs more than I thought.

September 19, 2006

An Inspirational Rebuttal

I wrote this random piece a few days ago called "History and The Loss of Tri-Innocence." In case you haven't perused through my thoughts (a much better version of which is on TriFuel), let me give you the basic rundown. It is about inspiration in triathlon and how our source of inspiration has morphed over the years.

I've received some very nice comments about my thoughts. Thank you very much to all you nice comment people. Then, of course, I got this one:

Are you kidding me? There is inspiration at every triathlon event. Look around. Talk to the other competitors. Besides the pros everyone else at a trialthon is fitting in training with life, kids, work, etc. There are thousands of incredible people. Look at Frank Farrah! OMG I look up to him so much more than any pro.

All of the sudden I'm wondering if I made my point clear enough. Apparently I didn't. I usually don't directly respond to negative comments in a public forum but this one came from an anonymous user and, more importantly, it sounds like it's coming from a place of confusion. So let me clarify.

First of all, I did a Google search for Frank Farrah and all I came up with was a whole bunch of gobbledy-gook, including some links to something about Farrah Fawcett and Frank Caliendo (though I'm not sure who he is and what he's doing with Charlie's Angel.) Call me ignorant, but clearly I have no clue who Frank Farrah is. However, I have no doubts that he's a very inspiring gentleman and I hope someday that I'll get to meet him and be inspired, mano a mano.

More importantly, the fact that you find Frank Farrah so inspiring is proof positive of the purpose of my little ditty (which, for the record, is a little ditty that has absolutely nothing to do with Jack and Diane, two American kids growing up in the Heartland.)

My point is that in the early days of triathlon, most of the inspiration came from the professional racers. At that time the sport was so young and, hence, the accomplishments so unbelievable, the inspiration shocked the world. Take Julie Moss, for instance. Her crawl across the finish line in 1982 is, arguably, the single biggest reason why people have gotten into the sport of triathlon. Similarly, the IronWar between Mark Allen and Dave Scott in 1989 had an impact far beyond the world of triathlon. The inspiration of their vicious battle suddenly made Ironman a household name.

However, as triathlon (and Ironman, in particular) continues to grow at an unbelievable rate, we are no longer seeing the same type of inspiration. No longer are the pro racers accomplishing feats that make the whole world hold it's breath, like Julie Moss did oh so long ago. In fact, barring the highly improbably chance of Lance Armstrong winning the Ironman World Championships, I don't think we'll ever again see a professional triathlete inspire the world with their actions. Those days are long gone. For them, triathlon is a business - the faster you go, the more money you make.

Inspiration now lies within the hearts of the age groupers like you and me. Mind-numbing inspiration is no longer something we are watching on television, it is something that we are living. As triathletes, we are displaying and witnessing inspiration every day with our every actions.

Have you ever been to the finish line of an Ironman? Call me crazy, but watching the pro-racers finish is probably the most boring part of the whole damn whizbanggery. At this point the professionals are all in such phenomenal shape and the stakes are getting so high, that racing Ironman is almost just like another day at work for them.

But if you stay and watch those age groupers, whooo-eeee, you're in for a big bite of inspirational pie. The ones coming in at 13 hours and 14 hours... you can start to feel that inspiration as their excitement echoes off the stands. And as the clock tips over to 15 hours and 16 hours, shivers start slipping down your spine like a full body blast from a Peppermint Patty. When the clock starts ticking down the seconds to the 17 hour cut-off, it's like the entire world is once again holding its breath.

So am I saying that there is no inspiration left in the sport? Hell no. To the contrary, my friend, there is so much inspiration out there in every single person, it'd probably be a good idea for Kleenex to start sponsoring some of these events.

Inspiration is in all of us. Even Frank Farrah.
Whoever the hell he is.

September 16, 2006

Seven To Ten Feet Of Reasons To Respect The LA Triathlon

Excuse me.... I think I may have just crapped my wetsuit.

September 14, 2006

The Road To Recovery, That A-Way -->

Good news my friends. This week's workouts have made it clear - I am definitely on the Post-Ironman road to recovery. Woohooo! I'm so goddam ecstatic I could practically pee in my pants which, ironically, is what I was doing during my Ironman training.

I knew it'd take me a bit of time to recover, and I'm really happy that I'm finally feeling better, but this is flat out ridiculous. I mean, let's get real people. I did Ironman Lake Placid on July 23rd. It is September 14th now. After some swift calculations I've realized it has, without question, been more than 21 days (which is the most I can count up to on my ten fingers, ten toes and one....ummm.... schwinkle.)

I can't help but think that maybe I didn't follow the right path to recovery. Here's what happened...

After I left Lake Placid I hopped on the Highway to Happiness. I must've gotten off at the wrong exit because all of the sudden I found myself limping down Painful Place. Little did I know, but Painful Place dead ends at BenGay Boulevard, though I didn't see that anywhere on Google Maps. So I took a U-turn, hoping to find the Highway to Happiness again. I didn't. But somehow I wound up on Waddle Way so I just took that all the way into Frustrationville and locked myself in a hotel for the week. I really wanted to get home - and the people in Frustrationville are kinda dicks - so I jumped back in the car, took a right hand turn out of the parking lot and pounded the accelerator to go as fast as I could down Push Too Hard Pike, (which, for the record, is a toll road so be prepared to stop and start a whole bunch more than you want.) Again, bad idea cause Push Too Hard Pike just led me straight to BurnOut Boulevard. As we all know, that winds up in a perpetual traffic circle. Well, I was pretty tired at that point and apparently I fell asleep or passed out at the wheel or something, cause when I finally came to, I was driving under an arch that said "Thanks For Visiting Slow And Agonizing, Come Back Again." The thing is, I don't even remember going through Slow and Agonizing, which is scary. Lo and behold, only a few miles later I saw an arrow pointing to Recovery. I looked at the map and had no clue how the hell I got there, but no matter. I was glad to see the sign anyway. So I took a right hand turn and went down that road.

And that's where I am right now. On the road to Recovery.
I can't see Recovery yet, but it can't be too far away. I really hope I get there soon - I think I'm starting to enjoy my workouts again.

Catherine and I are running the New York Marathon on November 5th. Lord knows I'll probably get lost after that one, once again desperately trying to find my way back home.

I sure could use a better map.

September 13, 2006

I Hope Grandma Doesn't Read This One

Old people amuse me. Just watching them is like a sport. There's something about their mannerisms that gets me all giddy. Sometimes I just sit outside at the local Starbucks for hours on end and watch the old people interacting with each other. It's kinda like going to the zoo and watching the camels, they really don't do much, but there's something about whatever they're doing that is just plain funny.

Before I go on, let me first disclaim that I don't mean to lump all old people into one category. In fact, I'll admit that most old people are fairly normal and, consequently, about as much fun to watch as Gigli - which, for the record, is not fun to watch. So if I've already offended any normal old people, let me apologize from the bottom of my rubber-tipped cane. I'm really only trying to offend the other old people.

And while I'm at it, let me clarify that I have no precise definition of when a person officially becomes an old person. Actually, I take that back. I've developed a fairly complex algorithm that takes into account ones age, family size, IQ, socio-economic status, frequency of dental visits per year and amount of hair on their head, ears, nostrils and upper-lip (women only for that last one), among other crucial factors. It takes about 20 minutes to fill out the questionnaire at which point all the data is promptly stuffed into the Old Personameter and in a few short minutes out spits a fairly accurate estimate of if and when the candidate will officially become an "old person." It's amazing. You've really got to see it.

Like Alzheimers, the Old Person affliction happens quite randomly - another one of God's little jokes, I suppose. I've witnessed the tragic, early onset in some people as young as their mid-60s, while others don't really become an old person until their 80's or beyond. You never really know when it's going to hit. The irony of it all is that you're usually the last one to know that you've become an abnormally comical elderly specimen. Ignorance, I suppose, is bliss. It also apparently is fodder for other peoples blog.

There are quite a few aspects of old people that get me smiling and telling stories like this. Of course, there's the random chewing. I'm truly fascinated by the old people who are constantly flapping their chops as if they were in the midst of a Thanksgiving feast. I've often wondered why they chew so much and I can't keep my eyes off their blathering jaws as I wonder about it. You know how amputees still feel their missing limb long after its gone? I've been thinking that maybe Old People still sense the turkey leg in their mouth, long after the thanks have been given. Perhaps it's a case of the phantom food mocking their mouths. Then again, maybe they just like chewing.

Perhaps the best Old People viewing, though, is at the early bird special. It's like the San Diego Zoo of viewing areas. There's nothing more awe-inspiring than watching the Old People eat, so you can probably imagine how the early bird special is a virtual invitation to good times.

Ah, I remember the days when I was but a wee lad and used to visit my grandparents in Ft. Lauderdale. Most kids would get all giddy about their Florida trip with innocent anticipation of a visit to Sea World, Epcot Center or Disneyworld. Not me. The hell with Mickey Mouse and I'm still not sure what type of rodent Goofy really is. Truth be told, I'd rather be at the 4:30 seating at Applebees. THAT was exciting. Who needs to see a bunch of caged dolphins jumping through SeaWorld hoops when I could experience the joys of pre-senility. Everywhere I looked, nothing but Old People acting like Old People. It was like a cross between a comedy club and a petting zoo. Ah, the joy.

So when Catherine and I went out to dinner the other night at A Votre Sante, it brought back such wonderful childhood memories for me. A Votre Sante, so you know, is no Applebees. To the contrary, it is a nice, casual restaurant in upper-class Brentwood serving food that caters to the tofu loving, Birkenstock-wearing crowd. The restaurant is widely known as a hangout for both the blonde and beautiful as well as the granola and famous. I't's quite the spot.

So you can imagine my surprise when Catherine and I entered the restaurant only to find many of the tables filled by older people. At first glance, they looked so uninterestingly normal - they often hide themselves well - so we walked in and got a nice quiet table on the side of the restaurant, perfect positioning to view the rest of the clientele. We're people watchers, Catherine and I. We're quite good at it too, if I may say so myself. And we take our people watching very seriously. Yet when we sat down next to a table of four old people, casually laughing, bantering and eating their dinner like regular people would, we assumed there would be no great people watching that evening.

About five minutes into our visit, Cat leaned over to me. Oh my God, she whispered in astonishment as her eyes began to bulge out of her face. Look at those people! I glanced behind me to see the old woman we'd seen when we'd entered. She was sitting with her friends, chatting them up as they ate their meal. And just as I began to wonder what was wrong with this picture, I saw the big bag of potato chips standing up on the floor next to her. That seems odd, I thought. Definitely a bit out of place. So I watched a little longer. And that was when I noticed how she'd take a few bites of her food then cautiously, casually reach down to her side and grab a handful of potato chips. Now I've heard of people bringing wine to a restaurant. Even a favorite salad dressing isn't unheard of. But a bag of chips? C'mon people, have we really come down to this?

Before I could even comment, Cat leaned over to me again and, in astonishment, whisperingly screamed, Oh my God! Look look! They're playing cards!

I followed her eyes beyond the potato-chip smuggling foursome to a three-top of old folks. I, too, at first didn't believe my eyes. The woman was holding a full deck of cards and just as I anticipated her next movement, she began dealing them out to her friends as if this were a Canasta Showdown. An unquenchable potato chip fix is one thing, but when did this restaurant become the game room of the Serenity Retirement Home? Will we be making paper machet Christmas ornaments next?

As our eyes went back and forth from the Terra Chip table to the Poker Chip challenge, we couldn't help but laugh. And that's when I noticed the old man sitting at the table next to Catherine. As his food arrived, he reached into his pocket and pulled out an oversized pill container. With nary a thought for others, he plunked it smack dab in the middle of the table. He didn't actually take the pills out of the container and ingest them - that would make too much sense. In fact, he didn't even mention that he was going to take the pills at all. He just put them on the table as if he were luring others into his Old People Pill trap. As if he were saying, I own this place and these are my pills and I can do with them whatever the hell I please. And so I'm going to put the dang things right here under your nose while you eat and there's nothing you can do to stop me. If you want some of my pills, go ahead, try to take them. I dare you. I'll whip out my dentures and clomp my teeth onto your hand so quickly, you won't have time to put on your Depends.

The irony of it all is that I hope I don't get old like them.
Then again, if I've been reading this blog correctly, I may be swimming in a sea of ignorance already.

September 12, 2006

Things That Hurt Me During This Week's Runs For No Apparent Reason

My left hamstring
The lower part of my right shin
The outside of my right knee
The top of my left foot
My left achilles
My lower back
My left calf
Now my right calf
Now my left calf again
The bottom of my feet
My right ankle
My heart for wanting so badly to enjoy my runs and once again feel the life-affirming freedom and peaceful serenity of movement.


Star Spotting Of The Day: George Carlin, Mr Seven Dirty Words himself.

Location: a votre sante (a casual restaurant in Brentwood for the tofu loving, Birkenstock-wearing wealthy and beautiful types.)

What He Was Doing: Having dinner with his daughter.. or date... or publicist. It's so difficult to tell the difference between them all in this hedonistically nauseating, morally corrupt town. Either way, George didn't look funny. Not that I expected him too. I just thought you might want to know.

September 08, 2006

An Overwhelming Feeling Of Inadequacy

I feel like a fraud. Sometimes it's just plain uncomfortable this overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. But no matter how hard I try, I'm just not going to change. So I guess I've got to start accepting that fact.

I've been running for about 27 years (not in a Forrest Gump way, of course). I've been cycling for the better part of 15 years and swimming (as opposed to flailing-for-survival) for about 5 years. I've had a few different bicycles over the years and most recently bought a new, highly fancy-shmancy ride that cost a pretty penny (actually, quite a few thousand of those pennies). It's the type of bike that cyclists look at and say things like "wow, nice ride." I've been racing triathlons since 1992 and been writing periodically for sports magazines like Triathlete and Inside Triathlon since 2001.

One would think, at least from my sports resume, that I know what I'm talking about.
One would be wrong.

The thing is, I am so technically deficient, you'd have to imagine that I've actually gone out of my way to remain so ignorant. It's really a talent. I couldn't tell you the size of my gear cassette or how many damn cogs its got if you held a feather to my neck (and I HATE being tickled). I have no clue if I need running shoes with cushion or shoes with support. I don't know if I pronate or supanate or whether those are even the right terms - at least one of them sounds like something I might order for lunch.

Yet so many people assume that I'm a technical guru. I'm not. But still they talk to me as if I knew what the hell they were talking about. I don't.

I've tried so hard to read all the articles in all the magazines and force myself through the random techno- blog posts to understand what it all means. But apparently my mind just doesn't absorb that type of information. The thing is, it seems that almost everybody else out there is able to speak all the technological gobbledy-gook as if it naturally rolled off their tongue. Am I really that much of an imbecile? Or is it that I just don't care.

I did a search on iTunes the other day for triathlon related podcasts only to find that the most popular one (by far) is primarily about the technological aspect of the sport. How can so many people be so interested in that crap? I asked Catherine with amazement when I was sure nobody else could hear me.

It must be that all the technologically minded people are using technology to look for their information, she replied. It sounded so logical... until I realized that I'm looking for podcasts too.

So I downloaded one of these techie-type podcasts so I can learn about assembling a derailleur blindfolded in the dark with one hand tied behind my back and nothing to work with but a toothpick and a half-bottle of Astroglide. The podcast has been sitting on my iPod for the past week. I just can't seem to find the energy - or interest - to listen to the darn thing.

I think I've just lived by my gut instincts for so long, I've come to rely on them. My brain is too full to squeeze any techie jargon into it.. and even if it squeezed in there somehow, there's not enough brain velcro for it to stick.

It reminds me of the time years ago when I would sit in recording studios producing bands. There are so many gadgets that make so many different noises I just couldn't keep up with it all. Frankly, I didn't even understand it. What I did know, however, was whether something sounded good or bad. Turn the thingamajig up a smidgen, I'd say to the engineer as I pointed at the row of big black boxes with the pretty flashing lights. No, not the whatchamacallit! I'd scream as he reached for the wrong knob on the wrong box. The thingamajig! Can't you hear me?! The thingamajig needs smidgening!

I've since learned that, despite not knowing all the technical jargon, I don't necessarily have to sound like an idiot when I talk about it. So I just remain silent. I relish in the fact that, like those times in the recording studio, I instinctively know when something feels good or not. When riding on a new bike, I know if it feels uncomfortable. And when putting on a new pair of running shoes, I immediately know whether they'll cause me pain.

You know what, maybe I don't need to listen to that Podcast afterall. I have better things to do with my toothpicks and Astroglide anyway.

September 07, 2006

History And The Loss Of Tri-Innocence

I'm going to talk to you right now about inspiration. So get ready. In fact, you might want to get your sorry butt up off the couch before you read this. There is something about that piece of furniture that magically and mysteriously sucks the inspiration right out of you. Sit in a chair and you'll be nice and fine, a normal productive member of society - but drop your ass on the couch and you can pretty much kiss your ambitions goodbye.

So, as I was saying, get up off the damn couch cause we're gonna talk for a little bit about inspiration and once the information goes into your brain, I don't want it to immediately leak out through your tush. OK, here goes..

The first triathlon took place in 1974, if my memory serves me, and happened somewhere in San Diego. I don't remember where and, to be honest, I'm too lazy to look it up right now cause it has very little to do with my story.

In a seemingly unrelated incident, the first Ironman race launched in Hawaii in 1978. (I'm not going to go through the details of how Ironman was started cause if you've enrolled in this class, you should've already learned the story by now.) Triathlon, however, was not necessarily a sport at that time; more like a hobby for a very small cross-section of the physically fit/mentally deranged type. Triathlon did not become a sport until 1982.

As we sat on the couch glued to our televisions, the furniture slowly seeping out our ambition, we watched in awe as a little freckled red-head, out doing an endurance experiment for college, collapsed from dehydration during the Hawaii Ironman. Our jaws dropped in horror as her legs gave out from under her. We cringed in disbelief as she lost control of her bodily functions. We screamed at the TV for the volunteers to carry her away. Somebody help her! we cried. For Godsakes, give her a goddam IV drip or something! we yelled from the depths of our heart. And we barely felt the tears drop down our cheeks as we watched how, like the mangled remains of a fatal highway pile-up, she miraculously found that single ounce of strength to drag her body across the finish line.

We didn't know how she did it, we didn't realize human will ran so deep, but as Julie Moss' hand desperately reached out to cross the finish line of the Hawaii Ironman in 1982, a world of newly discovered triathletes cried in unison.

That event quickly became the single most inspirational moment in triathlon history and, arguably, one of the most inspirational moments in the history of any sport. On that day, at that moment, from that Ironwill, the sport of triathlon was born.

A few years later, in 1989, we were again taken by inspiration as the IronWar was waged between Mark Allen and Dave Scott. For 140 miles they went stroke for stroke, stride for stride. Though there were hundreds of people competing in Kona that year, it was all about the two out front; two people in a long-standing heated battle to be the best. We didn't know what would happen, though we assumed Dave Scott would reign yet again. But when Mark pulled ahead on the last hill, we couldn't believe it. And when he cruised alone down Ali'i Drive to the finish, we sat stunned. Silently, tragically inspired.

There are many other grandiose inspirational moments in triathlon history. Jim MacLaren. Dick & Rick Hoyt. Names that inspire awe. Yet almost all of the most inspirational moments come from those early days of the sport as the Ironman pioneers bravely broke down barriers nobody else dared to defy. Since then, the sport has grown miraculously. There are a multitude of triathlons throughout the world and hundreds of thousands of participants. There is more prize money than has ever been available and Olympic dreams can finally become reality for the sport's elite.

People have said we are in a drought of truly awe-inspiring moments in the sport. That the days of Julie Moss and the IronWar are far behind us and never again shall the world be moved by the heart of that type of competition. And you know what? I agree.

We are in a different stage with triathlon right now. We have grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Those early inspirations helped drive us; they got us to where we are right now. And with the changes we've experienced, the source of inspiration has morphed into a new beast. No matter how hard NBC tries, no longer is it about one person who will change the sport. We've witnessed Julie Moss' struggle, we've seen Dick & Rick Hoyt sprint down Ali'i Drive, we've watched Mark and Dave silently tear at each others throats like virtual pitbulls in the heat of battle... we have already lived our world altering events.

Inspiration has changed. We should no longer search within triathlon's elite to find our own hearts. Our heart is now within us. You and me - we are now the inspiring ones. We are the ones who inspire others and we must never forget to inspire ourselves. We must be proud of what we've done and where we've gone. We need to smile with pride after a good day, and laugh with inspiration after a bad one.

We are the people that others dream about. Let's not forget that.

So, as I said, get up off the couch. Lace up your shoes, run out the door.

September 06, 2006

Post-partIM Depression

In the sad case that you haven't been fully consumed with my life for the past year that I've been airing it out for all the world to see, shame on you. You probably think the world revolves around you, don't you? Well you're wrong. Wrong, I say!! It's about me! ME ME ME ME!!

[cue stomping feet]
[cue puffed-out lower lip like my 3 year old niece does when she's angry]

So why don't we take a second here and review the past year's events for the people who haven't been paying attention. First, let me thwack this yardstick onto your knuckles so we make sure you're awake. [THWACK!!!!]

OK... this year-in-review shant take very long. In fact, it can probably be summed up in two bullet points:

* I trained incessantly for 8 months
* I completed my first Ironman in July

Yep, that's about the all of it. For eight months I was solely focused on finishing an Ironman. Every exercising moment was about going those 140.6 miles. And I did it. Yay me.

So.... now what?

Suddenly I have an extra 20 hours in my week and I'm not sure I know what to do with them. Truth be told, I miss Ironman training. In retrospect, it was a major driving force in my life for 8 months. Sure I was driven by work (as always) and my relationship with Catherine, but there was always an undercurrent of Ironman.

Ironman training is all consuming. Between the time commitment, the energy drain and the physical pain, it ain't easy. Truth be told, it requires a lot of focus. What with all the other things in life that us normal people need to focus on, it can easily suck the vigor out of you before you even knew you were vigorous. But you plug through it all, day after day. There is no question about whether you continue forward or not - you just do it. Training becomes ingrained into your daily life, like brushing your teeth, but it lasts much longer than that damn Oral B timer (which, I swear, drags on for a helluva lot longer than 2 minutes.)

Ironman training tells you when to wake up, when to eat and when to go to sleep. At times it'll exhilirate you beyond belief and other times it'll strip you of your self-pride until you feel as if you're standing buck-naked in a crowded mall. It lets you know if you can go out at night and pretty much determines how often you do laundry. Ironman training is controlling. I guess in a way it is like your mother when you were a kid, complete with the Jewish guilt and the "you'll do it because I said so" attitude.

To follow this painfully horrific analogy through, post-Ironman would be like finally living on your own. You've graduated Ironman, now get the hell out of the house and do something with your life before your father comes home and beats the crap out of you.

And though I remember repeatedly uttering such phrases as "I can't wait to get my life back" and "make the bad man stop," I secretly enjoyed the training. I miss it.

I guess there's a part of me that just wants to move back home and have mom take care of me again. But alas, as my good buddy Corinthian once said, When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child; Now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.

I suppose that means I need to find a new hobby.
Maybe I'll start a blog.

September 01, 2006

It's Never Too Late To Smile

I gotta give a big hearty shout-out to the TriGirl triathlon crew. Every single one of the members that I've heard from seems to ooze happiness like it's going out of style. It's infectious. If the people I've talked are representative of the entire group, I'd have to believe it's one heck of an enthusiastic community of women. They seem to embrace the triathlon lifestyle with all sorts of the vigor and flapdoodlery that got us into the sport in the first place. (well, maybe not so much on the flapdoodlery, but I couldn't resist using that word.)(Yeah, flapdoodle is a word.)

I'm not sure if there are any professional triathletes or Kona qualifiers in the bunch, but in a way, I hope not. There's a feeling with the middle-of-the-pack crowd that you just don't get with the fasties. It's an overwhelming glow and a kind of innocent perspective on the sport. You know what it is? It's moxie. Yeah, that's it. The TriGirls are bursting with moxie. And there's something about moxie in this sport that just gives you a quiveringly good feeling of the stomach flutters.

One of the TriGirl's dropped a comment to me earlier this week about how she is 42 and doing her first sprint distance triathlon. I could sense the enthusiasm in the spaces between her words. It got me thinking about my first sprint distance race, how I was beaming with anxious enthusiasm. Scared of stepping into the unknown, but eager to conquer this new challenge. I vividly remember crossing that finish line as I beamed with excitement, a smile stretching from ear to ear and back again. That was in 1992. The more I thought about that feeling, the more I realized that felt the same emotion when I finished my first half-ironman in 2001. I finished my first Ironman this year, and let me tell you, the feeling not only came back, but it lit a fire within me that had long since been fading.

Most of us will never be winning any races. The truth is, that we're not out there to win, we are out there to have fun. I hope we never forget that.
Thank you, TriGirls, for the smiling reminder.

Range Rover Drivers Can Kiss My Tuchus

I've had it up to here with Range Rover drivers. [You can use your imagination to figure out what where "here" is. ] Seriously, what's their problem? Are they all retarded? For years I thought that the odds of every Range Rover driver being such a reckless imbecile is so infinitesimally small, it couldn't possibly be true. I have spent the past few years giving them all the benefit of the doubt when I see them on the road. But I've stopped; now instead of giving any benefit, I just doubt. I also don my armor, throw on my pith helmet and run for cover. Apparently the moment you get behind the wheel of a Range Rover, you are no longer a part of our functioning, safe society.

Maybe there's less oxygen in Range Rovers. That might explain it. I mean, it's no Everest, but the cars are definitely high off the ground. Perhaps when people vault themselves into the seat and close those oversized Range Rover doors, there is not enough oxygen in there to maintain human existence. Maybe the lack of oxygen sucks the normal right out of their brains and impairs their already sorely malfunctioned judgement. Let me suggest that they install those little airplane oxygen masks that can pop down from the sun-blocker thingy for the drivers to wear. Or better yet, require Range Rover drivers to wear full scuba gear, oxygen tank and all. The driving couldn't get any worse so I'm not really concerned about the flippers getting in the way.

I'd like to say it all started with the Range Rover that nearly ran me down the other day while I was crossing the street, but it started long before then. And it started long before the Range Rovers that cut me off on the highway a few months ago as they merged into my lane without looking. And it surely started long before last year when the Range Rover made that U-Turn in rush hour traffic and slammed into me while I was riding my bicycle. I'll carry the scar of that one for the rest of my life.

I beg of you Range Rover drivers... please, in the name of all things sacred and traffic enforced, try to keep your eyes open when you drive. At the very least, buy a new car - maybe then you won't be such a menace to society.

By the way, I talked to Catherine about this - she said they can kiss her ass too. So you're in big trouble now.
Start puckering.