February 27, 2007

There Are No Atheists in Triathlon

I am not a religious man. I don't go to temple or church. I don't own a star of David, a cross or any other similarly symbolic sacrosanct token. I've been to Jewish services, Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist and multi-denominational. I don't subscribe to any particular belief, but am accepting of all. I was raised a Jew, but no longer celebrate any of the holidays. I give gifts on Christmas, oftentimes even get a tree. I love the smell of pine, the expression of love through giving and the convivial feeling that immerses our culture throughout the month of December. I believe Jesus existed, but I'm not necessarily buying the rest of the story. I am not against religion in any way. It is just that I am not a religious man.

I own a Bible and have read through its many parts. It's a tough read. I've been Bar Mitzvah-ed and read from the Torah. It's a tougher read. I don't understand the least bit of Hebrew, I can barely even pronounce the words. I don't believe that there is an actual being overseeing; no mystical grand puppetteer playing with the marionette strings of our lives. We are what we are when we are where we are. If there is a God, it is us. I don't believe Heaven as an actual destination; heaven is right here, right now. I don't believe in Hell, it is just a state of mind.

I believe in the spirit and will of humanity. I believe in the goodness that lies within us. I believe in happiness and unity and love. I believe in the energy that surrounds us the energy that drives us the energy that connects us all. I believe we are all connected. I believe there is a reason, but we are looking outside when the answer lies within. I believe that when I die, there is a part of me that remains. I believe that what you do, affects what I do, affects what you do, affects the world. Whether I know you or not. I believe there is a magical mysterious part of each of us that creates each of us and molds each of us into each of us.

I am not against religion in any way. It's just that I'm not a religious man.

Yet whenever I get to the starting line, I pray. I pray for the energy to battle the unknown that lies before me and the power to survive. I pray for the strength to change the things I can change, the courage to deal with those things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. I pray for peace and patience and serenity. And then the starting gun goes off...

I struggle, I fight and battle my way through. I continually remind myself to stay calm and relaxed. Don't push it too hard, don't go over the edge. And the deeper I get into the race, the more difficult it becomes. My body begins to shut down. Every atom of every muscle screams at me to stop. To give up. But my mind pushes me forward. An epic battle plays over again between the phsyical and the spiritual. I have to dig deep and deeper to keep moving. To take another step. Yet I do. I always take another step. It is that magical mysterious part of me that drives me and keeps me moving towards the finish line. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For I am with me.

And miles upon miles later, the end is nigh. And as I make the final turn to the finish line, the skies open up. And if there is a God, if there is a being overseeing, He is always with me at the finish line. His hand is in mine driving me forward. His arms are around me, giving me strength. And if there is a God, we always finish together. If there is a God, I would bet all the money in all the world that he is an endurance athlete.

I am not a religious man.
But there are no atheists in long-distance triathlon.


[Note: I actually wrote this in January 2006, but I've been thinking a bit about it lately so figured I'd post it again... if for nothing else than it means I don't have to do a search everytime I want to read it.]

February 25, 2007

Suddenly It All Makes Sense...

Now I know why he doesn't respond to my letters anymore...

February 24, 2007

The Memory of Pizza

I didn't exercise today. Or yesterday. Or the day before that. I won't exercise tomorrow either.

You wanna know why I haven't exercised this week?
Bad genes.
Yep. It's my parents fault.

Let me tell you the story. But first, let me confess that I'm flying high on some generic version of Vicodin right now so I can't be held responsible for anything I say. According to this little yellow label, apparently I may suddenly fall asleep and start drooling on the computer keyboard. I can't be held responsible for that either. In fact, now seems just about as good a time as any to void myself of any and all responsibility whatsoever. I hereby declare myself irresponsible. Ah, the freedom. I feel like I'm becoming one with my inner-two-year old.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's get back to the story.

It's all kind of a blur, but the one thing I remember most is the fishing hook. It kept coming in and out of my mouth, attached to that long black string. Or at least I thought it was a fishing hook. Through the fuzzy filter of my hazy vision and blurred consciousness, it sure looked a lot like a fishing hook. I soon figured out that this hook was stitching the long black string into my mouth, but I couldn't feel anything. I'm not sure I could feel anything anywhere on my body, I was that far out of it. This, of course, was probably a result of the enormously long needle that had been poked around my mouth, injecting what seems to have been an elephant tranquilizer into my face.

I'm jumping all around, aren't I? OK, OK... let me go back to the beginning...

My parents gave me quite a few things. They gave me a runners body and an endurance racer's mindset. They gave me a love for reading, a sickening addiction to crossword puzzles and a drive to be the best that I can be. They gave me an Amazon gift certificate for my birthday. And they gave me a receding gum-line. Why don't you guess which one of those had me in surgery this week. I'll give you a hint, it has nothing to do with Jeff Bezos.

I've been postponing the surgery for the better part of a year but I figured now was as good a time as any to get it done. After all, I still have nearly two months before my first race of the season and well over 5 months before any race that I really care about.

Like other similar minor-but-not-that-minor surgeries, I'd have to take at least a week off from training. Once I actually start exercising again, I'd undoubtedly have to take it very slowly while getting back into the flow of it all. On top of that, the mouth surgery meant that I would be relegated to a diet of liquids for at least one week, maybe more. There goes any hope of maintaining strength.

Naturally, like any good triathlete, I really focused on some quality carbo-loading prior to the surgery. I guess you can say that I had a one week taper in preparation for going under the knife. Hell, if I was going to be relegated to sipping my meals out of a straw for the next forseeable future, I wanted to get as many scrump-dili-icious carbo-filled treats into my system as quickly as possible. If I couldn't get the taste, I at least wanted the memory of pizza to get me through these dark days.

The moment I showed up in El Doctore's office for the surgery, they had me down four white pills. What are these? I asked as they silently slipped down my esophagus. Halcion, Nurse Rosie told me without bothering to even look up and acknowledge my existence.

Halcyon? I replied with a smile and my best "pay attention to me" voice. You mean, like the halcyon days of youth? That sounds like fun.

Nurse Rosie looked up from the folders she was filing and stared at me. If looks could slap someone across the face, consider me slapped. Why don't you go sit down and relax, she said right before she turned her back on me.

OK, then. I see the way it is. A guy just tries to be a little nice every once in a while and this is what he gets? A visual slap in the face? Harrumph.

I turned around, sat down in one of the waiting room chairs and began to read my book.

Twenty minutes later I had just begun to relax when another nurse came by and called my name. Come with me, she said. How are you feeling? A little tired?

Is this supposed to make me tired? I questioned with all honesty while I put down my book and stood up from the chair. As I began to walk over to the Nurse who was graciously holding the door open for me, the halcyon days of youth kicked in and I wobbled my way across the waiting room, nearly slamming into the wall right next to the door. I quickly pulled myself together and tried to act normal. I looked at the carpet behind me as if it was the floors fault, and I mumbled some inaudible mumbo-jumbo about new shoes and sticky carpets.

As I mentioned before, the rest of the day was a bit of a blur. Apparently this halcion stuff has got a real kick to it. I remember very little from the actual surgery. About five minutes after I was placed in the fancy surgery chair, the doctor walked in and I vaguely remember having a conversation with him about Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. It seems a bit ridiculous now but it all made such perfect sense back then.

At some point I put on my iPod to relax me during the two hour procedure. I have no recollection of anything that I actually listened to on my iPod. Truth be told, I'm not even sure I remembered to turn the darn thing on. Fast forward what seemed like a couple of seconds and I start coming back to reality and noticing this fish hook coming in and out of my mouth.

Next thing I know I'm sitting in the waiting room reading my book and waiting for Catherine to pick me up. I don't remember reading my book. In fact, I don't remember how I got to the waiting room. I don't even remember Catherine driving me home. Yet somehow I got back here, where I am right now laying on the couch and typing this, three bottles of very colorful pills by my side.

The day after the surgery I woke up with that part of a hangover that has you trying to piece together the previous day's activities with a fair bit of fear and trepidation - knowing full well that you've embarrassed yourself but searching the corners of your mind to figure out how much and how badly. I remember speaking on the phone with a few people but have no recollection as to what I said. I vaguely recall a friend of mine stopping by for a couple of seconds and looking at me like I had fallen off the loony side of the sanity barrier, but I don't remember much beyond that.

For some reason that whole Ben Franklin conversation seems to be continually haunting me.

Meanwhile, here I am with my mouth pain. I'm relegated to sipping on yogurt, cold soup and smoothies for the next week or so. I suppose this is a pretty good diet, had I actually needed to lose weight. I weighed myself this morning and already lost 3 pounds. (In case you're wondering, yes, my ab still looks like jello.) My body is a bit tired as it strives to recover from the surgery with very little nutritional help. I haven't yet looked into my mouth because, frankly, I don't want to see what's going on in there. It hurts and I can feel the stitches, that's all I need to know.

I am counting the days until I can exercise again. I got a green light to do a light workout on Sunday. That said, I went for a walk up the street today and it damn near tuckered me out so I don't really have high expectations for Sunday's so-called "light workout".

On my little jaunt today, I walked by the Starbucks and the Wild Oats supermarket. My mouth started watering. But it wasn't until I stood outside the local restaurant and watched all the patrons eating their salads and sandwiches that life got a bit more difficult. I longed for a bite of bread, a breast of chicken. A measly little corn chip would do.

I suppose this is what it's like to get old. Remind me to call my parents and thank them for all this.

February 21, 2007

Body By Jell-o

Let's face the facts, I've been doing crunches non-stop for the better part of 10 years and I've never seen more than a one-pack, much less a 12-pack. I don't have abs - I have ab. Just one. One jiggly, squishy, Jello-like ab.

I wish I could have a flat, ripped stomach. I've been doing these damn crunches since Kurt Cobain was alive. Trust me, it ain't working. Catherine, on the other hand, has the good genes. She's got a naturally flat ripped stomach and I don't think she'd ever done a sit-up until last year when I showed her how.

I like patting and rubbing her flat stomach. It's neat.

So after a decade of these meaningless crunches, somewhere around last September I decided I had enough. I figured, if I don't have a washboard by now, it just ain't ever gonna happen.

Keep that little anecdote in the back of your mind, cause right now I'm going to completely change the subject on you.

Biking has never been my strong sport. Most of the time it's been my weak sport. As a matter of fact, it seems to be getting weaker. Now that I mention it, the word "weak" seems to be a great single word summary of my biking skills.

I fancy myself a runner - I've got strong calves and the thin runners body. On the other hand, I've got very weak, barely non-existent quads and a couple-a hamstrings that are tighter than Saddam's noose. Since quads and hamstrings are pretty crucial elements in cycling, it doesn't bode well for me at all.

But I'm thin and small. In fact, my physical stats are eerily similar to pro-cycling, blood-transfusing wunderkind, Tyler Hamilton (of course that includes his unborn twin). When cyclists see my physique they sometimes say things like "man, you've got a climbers body" and "wow, bro, you must fly up the hills."

I usually respond to these comments with some witty, highly intelligent retort such as, um.....uhhhh....... no.

Truth be told, I'm a much better cyclist on the flats (where I can use my lower legs) than on the hills (where I have to rely on my lack-of upper legs). So whenever I'm out for a long bike ride or climbing endless hills it places all sorts of strain on my quads and hamstrings. Inevitably I'm going to end up with loads of back pain. It's a given. Back pain and bike riding go together for me like ice cream and pretzels (which happen to be the perfect mixture of flavors).

It is expected that when I finish a ride, my back is going to hurt. If the back doesn't hurt, I really didn't go that far.

So if we're ever at a race together, you'll recognize me when I hit T2 - I'm the one that looks like a question mark.

Fortunately, the running part of the race usually helps to straighten me out and make the pain go away. After a few short minutes on the road, my back is back to normal.

That is, all would go back to normal until this past December. I went out on a short little three miler this past December. It was a nice run, as my recent runs go. My calf didn't hurt, achilles was fine... but when I finished, my back was in excruciating pain. I was confused. My back isn't supposed to hurt after a run. For a second I thought I had just gone for a bike ride and I wondered why I did that in running shoes and jogging shorts. Then I realized something had changed - and not for the better.

Since that time, my back has become increasingly pained after my runs - which sure sucks some of the joy out of the ole running straw, if you ask me.

So now I've got back pain when I bike AND when I run. Fortunately, swimming in the nice cool water is so soothing, it usually revives and refreshes my tired body. Until yesterday. (You can probably see where this one is going, can'tcha smarty-pants?)

I was doing a nice easy 2500 yard swim, really focusing on my stroke. Reach, extend, push. Reach, extend, push. When all of the sudden, somewhere in the middle of my second 600, smack dab in the midst of a mighty impressive extension, I felt a little tweak in my back. Uh-oh, I said, causing me to swallow quite a bit of water.

I continued on with my swimming a bit more cautiously. The back pain didn't go away. Did I pull something? Did I break something?

Finally, as I pried myself out of bed this morning, my hand on my back in my best geriatric pose, it all started making sense. Since I stopped doing my daily crunches, my core strength has plummeted six feet under. Not only do I have jelly belly, but all the support that was hidden down beyond the flab, is there no longer.

In a funny way it kinda made me proud to realize that my crunches actually did something good for me. Maybe the 1990s weren't so pointless after all. And I suppose this is as good enough reason as it gets to start crunching again.

Don't you love a happy ending?

February 14, 2007

The Mind Chill Factor

"Somewhere out there is a nice, sunny place
with warm breezes and shady palms
where all the second place guys train."

It was 48 degrees this morning with a Mind Chill Factor of 36 degrees. Needless to say, I bundled up in all my winter riding gear. Dry-fit shirt, armies, long-sleeve riding jersey, winter tights, wool socks... you know the drill.

Of course the one thing you probably don't know is what a Mind Chill Factor is. Let me explain... Basically, it's just like a Wind Chill Factor but without the wind. Oh, and the difference in temperature is all in your mind. That's why it's called a Mind Chill Factor.

You see, those of us who live out here in Paradise are used to warm sunny days. Take today, for instance. The forecast called for rain showers. In fact, the last four days were supposed to be filled with these so-called rain showers. As I look outside all I see is a clear blue sky - the same blue sky that I've seen for the last four days. There's not a single cloud in sight. And the temperature? Why its a sweltering 72 degrees. This is what we in Southern California like to call a "normal winter day."

However, this is the entertainment capital of the world so, like good entertainment capitalists, we watch a lot of TV. While watching the boob-tube we see many pictures of random places with all of the snow piled high and people bundled up in thick funny-looking coats. We listen to fat, jolly guys on morning talk shows tell us about six degree temperatures in this town and minus fourteen degree temperatures in that town.

And as we listen to it all, us Paradise-livers, we think its all made-up. As if its another reality show gone-bad. Because, after all, its seventy frickin degrees outside and I feel like turning on the damn air conditioning.

But then every once in awhile we get hit with a cold day. Right smack in the middle of our shorts-wearing winters, we'll get slammed with a thirty degree morning or popped with a random snowfall in Malibu. And the fact that we're so used to endlessly warm sunshiney days, the cold ones are even harder to deal with. It warps our minds.

So after all the TV watching and newspaper reading about schools being closed and cars sliding off the road and people freezing their petunias off, we half expect it to happen to us. In fact, we so much half-expect it that when the temperature drops even a degree below the mildness we consider "normal," our minds tell us that the Ice Age has cometh.

When you experience two months of seeing 55 degree mornings, the 48 degree awakening is a chill-fest. It actually makes you feel as if it is freezing. It's the Mind Chill Factor. And, you see, the longer the warm spell has been, the greater the Mind Chill Factor on those randomly cold days. Dare I say but a 48 degree day with a 36 degree Mind Chill is colder than a morning when you are actually used to it being 36 degrees.

I got an e-mail from my sister last night. She lives in upstate New York and had recently finished a bike ride in their 25 degree weather. She seemed happy in the e-mail, though she was talking about how she spent the rest of the evening defrosting her fingers. That e-mail was on my mind when I woke up this morning and Catherine told me it was 48 degrees.

48 degrees?! I exclaimed in horror all the while having visions of frostbite and desperately trying to remember some of those survival tips from Man vs Wild.

I took out every single piece of warm riding clothes that I owned and layered them on. Wool socks? Better put those on too...(not realizing until later that they were my hiking socks, not riding socks). As I started to roll my bike outside, somewhat resembling the sorry-looking child in A Christmas Story, I saw a lone toe warmer on the floor.

Catherine, the wonderful girlfriend she is, had bought me these toe warmers last Christmas to make sure my little feet were all warm and snuggly on these frigid morning rides. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way I lost one. But with a Mind Chill Factor of 36, one warm foot was better than no foots at all. So I strapped that darn thing onto my right cycling shoe and wobbled out the door.

You probably think I started sweating immediately. You'd be wrong. As it turns out, I wasn't overdressed in the slightest. I was comfortable my entire ride. You know why? Because it's all in the mind. Sure it was 48 degrees outside, but in my mind, it was freezing.

Now excuse me, I need to get a hot cup of nonfat, no sugar cocoa and cuddle up around the electric fireplace.

February 12, 2007

Just Say No

Thank you for being patient with me. Sometimes I think you have more patience with me than I have for myself. It's usually those times when I also think that I've had too much caffeine. From my severely limited research, I've discovered that patience and caffeine appear to be inversely related. The more caffeine, the less patience.

Take me, for instance (especially since I was the only person involved in my so-called research study). The effect of caffeine on my body is somewhat similar to the effect that funny mask had on Jim Carrey. My jaw drops, my tongue rolls out onto the ground and my mind starts bouncing around in all sorts of directions until I feel like the Tasmanian Devil.

If I have so much as a glass of iced tea after 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I'm destined for some serious sleeping problems that evening. Truth be told, there is enough caffeine in a decaf cuppa joe to get me three steps to loopy.

Today is a rest day. No exercise. Which means my morning is wide open to partake in one of my favorite activities: sitting outside the Coffee Bean and reading the morning paper. So I got myself a decaf cup of something-or-other, plopped my fanny on my favorite outdoor corner seat and began to peruse the latest news about Iraq-this and Afghanistan-that (I refused to read any articles about Iran today because, after all, it's a rest day. I didn't ran.) As I took slight yet savory sips of my sugar-laced, milk-drenched, vanilla powdered bean-juice (I like coffee just as long as it doesn't taste like coffee), I could feel the decaf caffeine seeping into my blood stream.

Somewhere around the end of the first section, I started losing track of the story lines. About the time that I hit the Business section I lost the ability to focus on an article past four paragraphs. And by the time I got to the Sports section, I just resorted to looking at photos. I really had no patience left for anything else.

Suddenly I looked up and saw the window washer guy in front of me. Excuse me sir, he said in what I must admit was a very friendly tone. I just need to get to that window behind you, it won't take more than a few seconds.

Everybody else in the row got up out of the way quickly and patiently, knowing that the washer-fellow would have to do the entire window behind us all. As for me, I was ready to rip his head off for no reason whatsoever.

I grabbed my paper and shoved it under my arm, hefted my cup of coffee off the table and stormed down the street. As if this person actually offended me. As if there was any need for me to be rude.

My mind was bouncing off the walls as I walked towards my home and I started thinking about why I got up in a huff and walked away. I had no answer. Except the caffeine. The evil evil caffeine. As I neared the corner, I walked up to the garbage can and threw away my half-filled cup of coffee.

This caffeine stuff. It's just not good for me.

Now here I am, just short of 5 o'clock in the evening and I still feel the final effects of my decaf caffeine trip. It's odd, really, the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Bounce Off The Walls response I get to caffeine.

But there's a bright side. Isn't there always?
And that's with triathlon. Ah, I love when life leads back to triathlon.

I, like many of my racing brethren, enjoy ingesting a gel or two when I race. I know there are some of you out there that marvel at this fact - where the mere thought of a gel may make you vomitous. You, my friends...you can drink down your Perpetuems and sip on your disgustingly colorful liquid meals. Give me a Sonic Strawberry Clif Shot and a handi-wipe anyday.

When my mind is going and my body is following, a gloriously apple Carboom or deliciously raspberry Hammer Gel is the magic elixir. Within ten minutes I am flying down the road again as if I never had a problem in the first place. And when I'm out there near the end of the race day, struggling to pick up my pace and chase that elusive PR; when everything in my body is screaming to stop, to sit on the curb and cry... it is then, my all-liquid diet compadres, it is at this time that I'll calmly ease out a Tangerine PowerBar Gel. Or better yet, let's try the double-caf Espresso Love Gu.

There's nothing like the silky smooth taste of a caffeinated gel to turn my world around. And there's something about movement that makes it all better. Sure, this morning as I sat still, calmly trying to read the paper, the caffeine in my body was pushing and pulling and forcing me to go. We have no patience, it told me. We don't like rest days. But I didn't listen. I tried to read the paper. I tried to relax.

It didn't work.

But with 7 miles to go in a half-Ironman, I say bring on the caffeine. Double-caf. Triple-caf me. Give me whatcha got. Cause every speck of every gel is pushing me faster and faster to the finish and....

We apologize for the sudden interruption. We've had to cease transmission of this blog post due to technical difficulties. The author was suddenly experiencing peculiarly maniacal behaviour, jumping up and down while screaming such seemingly random phrases as "Tri Berry" and "Lemon Sublime." And all with a peculiar British accent. We shall resume transmission shortly.

February 08, 2007

17 Things That Triathlon Has Taught Me About Life

1. There are good days and there are bad days and sometimes you can't tell the difference until you start.

2. Contrary to popular belief, sleep is not overrated. Not in the slightest.

3. Don't forget to breathe.

4. Just because it's raining doesn't mean you should cry.

5. Nobody ever said it was easy.

6. Pain is temporary. Pride lasts a lifetime. Sometimes even two.

7. Create a plan and stick to it. It may not always work, but if you stay focused and relaxed, it'll all end up just fine.

8. You've got to try. No matter what happens in the end, you'll have bigger regrets from not ever trying.

9. Strength and courage blossom from the sands of adversity.

10. Sometimes its the little things that make the big differences

11. Getting to the starting line is usually a lot harder than getting to the finish.

12. Listen to your body and listen to your mind. And make sure you know when they're lying to you.

13. You can't change the past and you won't alter the future. Enjoy right now, right now.

14. Smile - it does a body good.

15. Be supportive of others. We're all in this together.

16. It's OK to cry.

17. Don't forget to eat. Especially breakfast - that's a really important one.

February 06, 2007

I Am. I Was.

The short bus was waiting for me when I woke up this morning. I don't really know why the short bus was waiting there this morning. I had never seen it before. Maybe it was a sign.

It was 7am, I had kissed Catherine goodbye, walked out the door and turned down the walkway towards my car only to be confronted with the half-pint yellow bus waiting at the end of the path. Its doors were splayed open as if it were beckoning me in towards the oh so familiar graffitied vinyl seats and the unforgettable promise of a bumpy ride to some random institute of lower learning.

The short bus, as you probably know, is a special ride for slow people. Which is the perfect lead in to my workout this weekend.

I don't know if it's because of the demanding Ironman training from last year that tired out my legs or the fact that I'm just getting old, but the concept of "speed" is no longer in my exercise lexicon. What was once a fast and spritely runner, able to billy-goat up mountains in a single lung, has turned into a slow-poke wannabe, forever pushing forward into the past. (that last part was an ode to all you F. Scott Fitzgerald fans out there)

I remember the day before Ironman Lake Placid last year. Catherine and I were out on our one last taper ride, checking out a few miles of the course and sharing thoughts and fears about the next day's great adventure.

Don't forget, she said to me. While you are out on the course, remember what you are doing. You are living your dream. Don't forget to experience it. Enjoy it. And be proud of yourself.

I was too anxious to have those words mean much to me when she said it, though I knew she was right. And the next day while I was out there racing the hills of IM USA, those words echoed through my head. And somewhere in there, it happened. I was.

I wasn't thinking about where I had gone or what I still had to do. I was locked in the present. Just me and my body. I was.

For that entire day I lived in the now. I embraced every emotion, every feeling that coursed through my body. The joy, the pain, the pride and anger. I watched it all happen and accepted it all for what it was.

I was.

I wanted to imprint every one of those emotions onto my brain so that years down the road I could remember every single feeling of every single moment of that wonderful experience. I wanted to be able to relive at any time every stroke of the pedal and every step on the pavement. The pain was fine. It was my friend and I never wanted to forget it. I was calm. I was serene. I was.

If there is one miracle about my first Ironman experience, it was that. That I was. I was here. I was now. I was in my body, with myself for the entire day through the entire experience.

Which makes it even more amazing that I had such a crappy time on my wee bitty two hour bike ride this weekend.

I don't want to say it was extremely painful, but there was a definite piercing in my back about one hour into it that didn't seem to go away. More annoyingly, my heart rate was not cooperating. It doesn't really cooperate with me anymore at all. It just skyrockets.

Every little hill that I climbed, the heart rate would ring the proverbial bell. So I'd slow down in a desperate attempt to stay in the elusive "Zone" - those seemingly random numbers that are supposed to turn me into Flash TriGordon. But eventually the heart beats would increase again. So I'd slow down further. And I'd play this little game until I finally got to the point where if I went any slower I'd actually lose balance and fall off my bike, possibly getting run over by the three year old on the tricycle who was drafting me.

I got frustrated and angry and started screaming random things to nobody in particular.
This is bullshit!
Screw this!
Fuck you! (this one I'd scream directly to my heartrate monitor because, after all, it was the monitor's fault)

For two hours I frustrated myself to oblivion. And with that frustration came a blanket of complete annoyance. Every inch of that ride became a battle of wills. I willed it to get better. It didn't. I wanted it to end. It didn't.

As you can guess, eventually the ride ended. But somewhere in there it got me thinking about my Ironman experience. How for that one day I was content with everything. I was satisfied with my performance and accepted life as it came to me.

I tried to capture that feeling this weekend on the ride, but it didn't work. My mind didn't focus. Sure, I was. But that was way back then. Right now I'd like to say I am. But I'm not.

Perhaps I need to meditate a bit more. A few deep breaths may even help out. Either way, I found it a bit funny and a lot odd. For a full day in Lake Placid I was able to calm myself and ease through any obstacle that came in my way. Yet for two hours in Malibu, my mind was anywhere but with me. The difference between the two experiences was like night and day.... where day is very shiny and happy and bright, and night kinda resembles the more gruesome moments of Apocalypse Now.

I know I have to do something. I have to learn to enjoy the riding again and part of that is simply treasuring the experience. After all, this is supposed to be fun, right? And it's supposed to help me feel better about myself rather than worse, isn't it? When it comes right down to it, who cares if I'm going slow. It's all relative anyway.

So maybe next time when I'm out there having a bad ride, I won't look over my shoulder and fume about the past. I will try not to look back - even though I know the short bus is following me wherever I go.

February 02, 2007

Flu, Part Two (Oh look, I can rhyme!)

My father called me the other day. Or maybe it was the Grim Reaper. Whomever was on the other end of the line sure sounded like death.

Shortly thereafter I got a message from my sister - or, rather, a gravely-voiced, sickly-sounding representation of what could very possibly be my sister.

Most of my family lives on the east coast, smack dab in the middle of Mr Coldmiser's territory. I'm not sure what disease my family came down with, but from the sounds of things, I don't want it.

Apparently, the flu has taken the east coast by storm this January. If you believe what you hear on NPR, its also conquered the midwest and is sniffling its way over the Rockies on a direct path to my weak and feeble immune system.

First of all, us California-ites already got the flu in December. We've filled our quota, thank you very much. In fact, I was mighty proud that I tackled the flu during the off-season, leaving me with a healthy, un-infected training season to come up with other excuses for my poor race performances.

But apparently Sir Flu did not have enough. Apparently it was merely a holiday visit the last time around - grab a little glazed ham, sing a little Christmas carol, dole out a little fever and be on its way. I'm not ready for the flu to come back. Maybe we can take some of our fine Border Patrol officers from the southern end of this fine state and line them up on the eastern border. Won't Flu be surprised when it shows up in California, all ready and eager to lay out on the beach, only to be confronted by our fine defenders of freedom and slammed back to Tempe or Tulsa or one of those other places that Southern Californians rarely visit.

Doesn't it seem like the flu comes around more often these days than it had in the past? Is this an effect of global warming? Can somebody get Al Gore on the phone for me, please!? Seriously, though, until recently the so-called "flu season" was a two month period where everybody and their half-brother got sick. Once you got through that 60 day Sick Zone, you were pretty much scott free until the next year. These days, however, the flu doesn't seem to want to keep a regular schedule. I hate when that happens.

If you just look back a few years ago you may remember how the flu wasn't even anything dramatic or life threatening. It was just a fact of life - one of our natural seasons, if you will. Spring, Summer, Autum, Winter, Flu. The flu came and it went and nary a tear was shed. You sneezed, you moaned, you coughed, sniffled and complained...but one month later you were over it and practically forgot you were ever sick in the first place.

I don't know if it's the fault of those damn Avians or a representation of our crumbling society, but the flu has gotten a lot more serious these days. I was reading in the paper today that there are now five categories of flu. I guess the whole Terror Alert color scheme went so well they've decided to make one for the flu. Perhaps we can refer to this new incarnation as the Phlegm Alert. (For obvious reasons that would most likely lead to nausea, I won't give you the details of the Phlegm Alert color chart. Feel free to use your imagination for that one.)

As far as the severity of the Phlegm Alert, it's fairly interesting. If you haven't read about this yet, let me give you a brief summary....

Category 1 of the Flu Epidemic is what is considered the yearly strain. I like to call this one "Casual Annoyance". Apparently, though, up to 90,000 people die from our regular, "casually annoying" flu. Which I suppose makes it a little more annoying than I previously thought.

Category 2, 3 and 4 have a much greater impact though there doesn't really seem to be any differentiation between those Categories and the aforementioned Category 1, aside from lots of schools closing and a lot more people being infected. In our recorded history of mankind, there have never been any instances of Category 2, 3 or 4 Flu Epidemics (with two possible exceptions).

When the flu miraciously hits Category 5, that's when things get really bad. Basically, we all die. Or at least 2 million of us do. There has been one instance of what would be considered a Category 5 flu epidemic, and that was around 1918. I wasn't around back then so can't really give you any eye-witness accounts, but I hear a lot of people got really sick.

So basically we've got the regular flu (Category 1) and then blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, we all die (Category 5). Which really seems to me that somebody in a secret, hermetically-sealed room in the middle of Las Cruces or wherever the hell they do that crazy germ testing, has got some pretty vital information about this Avian Flu epidemic that I kinda want to know.

All of the sudden I'm a bit nervous about the upcoming flu season. It's not just a bad cold anymore like the previous flu has been, now the flu could possibly represent my ultimate demise. Which, on the bright side, would probably make a pretty good excuse for any upcoming poor race performances.