Monday, December 13, 2010

Baby Got (Bad) Back

Hey Kids,

A couple people have asked me about the ongoing bloggish silence - sorry about it all. There have been a number of seriously horrid grant deadlines, a fundraiser for Capital Stage, a bunch of rain and cold weather, and then this whole back thing. This is just not like any back thing I've had before - and I've had a number of back things. It's not the insane spasming of muscles and the inability to turn over in bed. It's just this kind of constant thing with occasional hot poker pain, sitting right in the spot where the sacrum meets the iliacus on the right side. (Not with my wife you don't!). I've managed some very short bike rides, some walks, but nothing that I would really term exercise, let alone training.

Anyhoo, I have a comp day tomorrow. I'm going to seek out massage and the advice of a dude reputed to be a very fine chiropractor here in Sacramento.

Sometime later this week, now that the five 264-page grant packages are safely submitted, I promise another chapter of the German adventures of Slow Fat Triathlete. There is a final title, and while I'm not out of my mind with delight about it, it's something I can live with.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"At Long Last Fit and Lean" - Part 2

We're continuing to examine the possibilities for better translations of the title Slow Fat Triathlete into German than "Endlich Fit und Schlank" or "At Long Last Fit and Lean." I checked in with Germanist buddy Will and Comp Lit guru Anne, and after initial shock, they got down to thinking of possible candidates and analyzing the ins and outs of each. I found this to be endlessly informative and amusing, so here are some more gems from the email thread.

I offered, "Another phrase that was considered as an original title was The Imperfect Triathlete – maybe that would be easier for them to digest, as it were?"

Will: Sure, "imperfect" has potential. It does have a variety of possible German equivalents, and I'm guessing of the two plausible ones for this context, "imperfekt" would be preferred to "unvollkommen." The latter term is much more transparent to the average German and does seem to get used in some contexts implying acceptance (see or , my new favorite German reference site), but I would worry that "unvollkommen" can also go in the direction of "faulty" or "inadequate," a bit more connotation of "coming up short" than you want. It's just a question of whether the Latinate "imperfekt" sounds intimidatingly learned or is sufficiently naturalized now not to. Obviously you aren't the one who needs to decide this; I'm just wondering what they'd pick. "Triathlete" will presumably have to be gendered in German -- not "der Triathlet" but "die Triathletin" -- which is not ideal, but that's translation for you. Maybe you can tinker with alternatives using "triathlon" instead if you want to avoid this. It seems conceivable to me that some "headline-style" title could use "Triathlet" as a common-gender noun, like if your book were instead a different book that could be called "Triathlet wider Willen" (Triathlete malgre soi, willy-nilly triathlete), but actually I can't be sure whether they might want "Triathletin" even there. Hm. "Triathlet im Stubenhockerkoerper" : Triathlete in a Couch-Potato Body. Mit (some kind of ) Koerper zum Triathlon! We'll keep at it and see if we can find something.

Me: Oh, I love Triathlet im Stubenhockerkoerper! Can we do that? Or how about “Triathlon for Couch Potatoes”? Then they could even use the subtitle verbatim and it would work.

Will: Triathlon fuer Stubenhocker!

Anne: wild applause!

But now Anne's brilliance takes center stage:
Anne: Maybe Jayne should have a few great options, just to make sure "endlich fit und schlank" is buried buried buried? I really, *really* like Triathlon fuer Stubenhocker. But if they say, refusing to see the humor: "but Frau Williams is inviting people OUTSIDE! They aren't really Stubenhockers anymore if they're triathletes!" Then . . . maybe something like "Triathlon: Komm, wie Du bist!" -- or something along those lines, getting the "in the body you have now" side of the equation across??

Sofa spuds are apparently a little different in Germany? But "Triathlon: Come As You Are!" is awesome.

Will: Yes, I do see Anne's points, absolutely, and had myself been worrying about Stubenhocker: Stube is "room," and on the small, stuffy side of "room" even. Hocken is to crouch or squat, with some of the same connotations of immobility and possessiveness as "squat." So it really does convey a hard-to-dislodge indoorness. I suppose at worst it cd suggest your book is a guide to watching triathlon on TV. Now, "Couch potato" does show up in German too. "Die Couch" is an old German word and needs no glossing for anyone, so the question is just how familiar this idiom is, and how the plural is formed -- very likely it'd be "fuer Couch Potatos," Dan Quayle notwithstanding. Komm wie du bist neatly sidesteps all of this, though!

So "Triathlon for Those Who Squat Immobile in Smallish, Stuffy Rooms" might actually not be the best title. Dang. Cause that was sounding pretty cool to me. But wait, there's more! (It's so awesome that Will is on leave this semester.)

Will: Okay, it turns out that "die Couchpotato" and "die Couch-potato" (Duden prescribes hyphenation, but the outcome of Swiss Orthographic Conference deliberations on this point was that the spelling should be changed to a single word without a hyphen -- yes, really!) are very common in the Internet and seem likely to be recognized by nearly all readers. Very strong association to TV watching, which I guess the English word has too? There also exists "die Sofakartoffel" (no one suggests that one should have a hyphen), which is attested all the way from bodybuilding bulletin boards on up to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Munich's main newspaper) and indeed Deutschlandradio (the most intellectual radio station in Germany, which makes the snootiest public radio in the US sound like pabulum) -- but despite this range, the number of hits for "Sofakartoffel" is much smaller, probably because Germans are powerless to stop their instinctive need to become cooler by using English words. The plural is definitely Couch(-)potatoes, sorry to have misled -- see Duden . The verb for triathlon in German? "Triathlon machen" does seem to be in use, which has to be the best for you. (Beyond that it seems like "durchfuehren" comes up -- to "carry out" or "perform"; "versuchen" (to try) is not quite the same thing; "erleben" (to experience) is common but again not quite the same meaning.) I'm actually feeling a bit like I like "Komm, wie du bist" even better than all of these. Not you? The command-style version in German would probably be something like "Couch-potatoes: Auf zum Triathlon!" What this doesn't capture, what none of these capture, is the sense that Step 1 isn't going to be "spend two years dieting and going to the gym before undertaking step 2." The "body you have now" is missing...

Wow. This is serious business, yes? We haven't even gotten to the subtitle yet. Once again, Anne chimes in with a spate of creative oomph.

Anne: I notice they weren't even too excited about "triathlon" in the title. How about something like Wettlauf für Couchpotatos: Komm, wie du bist!
Couchpotatos in Bewegung: Komm, wie du bist!

Die unwahrscheinlichste Sportlerin: lache dich fit!

(Just trying to think slightly out of the box here.)

I had to use Google translate to figure these out, since my German is less than rudimentary. I would perhaps render them as:
Racing for Couch Potatoes: Come As You Are!
Couch Potatoes in Motion: Come As You Are!
The Unlikeliest Sportswoman: Laugh Yourself Fit!

Will: Ooh, I really like #2 and #3 here! "Unwahrscheinlich" is excellent.

I liked them too. And there will be more, but not today. Do I have awesome friends, or what?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

At Long Last Fit and Lean! Or, Lost in Translation in Germany

About two years ago, I had some correspondence with a woman in Germany who expressed interest in publishing Slow Fat Triathlete in German. She had been having some trouble getting in touch with the right people at Da Capo, so I put her in touch with someone and thought no more of it. So I was startled to receive the following email from my editor a couple of weeks:

"Jayne, please see below - ok by you? Thanks and hope all's well-- R

-----Original Message-----
From: TJ
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 8:02 AM
To: RS
Subject: RE: SLOW FAT TRIATHLETE by Jayne Williams

Hi Renee,
Could you check with the author to see if this title is alright? I think it makes sense and we usually encourage authors to trust the publisher that they have the best interest of the book in mind.

From: AF
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 6:38 AM
To: JS
Cc: IA
Subject: SLOW FAT TRIATHLETE by Jayne Williams

Dear Jennifer,
Further to my last email correspondence concerning this agreement of 05/08/2008 I am pleased to announce that the publisher finally confirmed publication of the German edition for January/February 2011. They would like to change the German title to:
ENDLICH FIT UND SCHLANK - SO ERREICHEN SIE IHR ZIEL which translates back into English as:
At Long Last Fit and Lean - This Is How You Reach Your Goal

A literal translation of the original could be misunderstood and could deter potential buyers. I agree. Please let me know whether I may give them the thumbs up for this title.

All best

Hmmm.... Really? At Long Last Fit and Lean???? This Is How You Reach Your Goal???
I think NOT. I mean, c'mon, man! Does the world need another diet and fitness book? Do the Germans? My instinct in all things writerly is to turn to my friends Will and Anne. Conveniently, Will is Chair of Modern Languages at Boston University and teaches courses on translation from German to English. Anne is the best writer I know and also speaks excellent German.

Here's some of what I got back from Will:
Holy Crap! What idiocy.(...)

Back to why this is a hard query to answer: it does seem possible that the effectiveness of "slow fat triathlete" as a title really does depend on all sorts of cultural particulars that won't transfer to Germany. Some forms of Anglophone irony, and self-ironizing stances, are not so readily perceived by Germans, in my experience; and while "slow fat triathlete" isn't exactly irony, the Germans' failure to understand this title seems to me a related point somehow. There's also a cultural earnestness to the whole topic of "Wellness" (yes, that's a German word) in Germany that may be working against you here (since doubtless the German publisher means to have you shelved in the "Wellness" section) and a slightly different relation to fat and fatness -- German cheeses are still promoted in supermarket PA announcements by how very high their fat content is, for example, and obesity is thought of there as a typically American problem. At the same time there is a giant industry of healthy foods and health regimes, and doubtless dozens of prior books titled "'Endlich fit und schlank" have sold very well. I'd expect that the culture of races and tri clubs is noticeably different in Germany too; don't Germans have a much sharper sense of whether or not they belong to an organization than Americans do? I always feel like there's much less room there to drop in and out or just show up at events without further commitment, though maybe it's changed in the world of sport. Anyway it's all very complicated and I am certainly not one who understands it all."

One solution for the title might be for you to find or adapt a phrase from your book or marketing blurbs that is straightforward, that really means what you believe -- the subtitle, e.g., would be great except that it's too long and translated imperatives can stumble over the du/Sie problem -- and we or they could try to translate that, whatever it is. (Incidentally, it seems awkward that you are 4-5 e-mails removed from the people who are trying to decide on the German title -- no chance you could get into some more direct discussion with them or their representative?) Or if straightforwardness is disappointing, find something snappy/funny but whose snappiness seems likelier to be exportable than "SFT" is. Letting go completely of the English title is a good first step -- Germanizations of English film and book titles very frequently lack any connection at all to the original titles, and you have to start from zero. It's an interesting challenge. But it's extremely hard for us to solve without knowing a lot more than we do about German body culture, self-improvement culture, humor, images of athletes, book sales in this sector, etc. etc. The fact that we can't know even a fraction of what we need to know makes me think the best way might be something that is a little more straightforward and less witty than you would usually like to be but at least represents your book accurately.

Or Anne can just come up with a zingy German title that slices clean through these Gordian deliberations!


PS The "Ihr Ziel" in the Awful Title's subtitle is, as you remember, the formal "Sie" form for "your goal." The tone of your book is so much about friendly informality that on me the "Sie" grates almost as much as the main title. There are many books addressing readers as "du," humor books especially, and I'd hope yours will be one of them. But this really is so contextual that we may not have much sway (if, e.g., Wellness or Fitness books are 100% "Sie" by convention).

PPS I'll be teaching my German translation workshop again next year and I'll have to use this as an example for discussion. Too rich.

I am starting to realize that this post is going to have to be continued, as it was quite a long dialogue. However, I found it so amusing and interesting that I really want to share the whole flow of it with y'all. So stay tuned for Anne's zingy suggestions and further discussions of what a couch potato is in German.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Express Lane to Happiness: Disc Golf and Disney

Things have been nutty on the day job front for the last few weeks, made nuttier by my previously scheduled weekends at Sea Ranch for Tim's birthday trip and then to beautiful La Habra, Orange County, CA. The reasons for this latter trip were (1) to hang out with my wonderful friends Indigo and Mike and (2) to participate in the Lady LaMa (La Mirada) Pro-Am disc golf tournament, which would represent my fourth and fifth rounds of disc golf ever as well as my first ever disc golf tournament and first ever scored rounds. These two reasons were inextricably linked since Indigo is the founder and director of the two-year-old Lady LaMa and Michael is its most loyal volunteer. Indigo got tired of playing in tournaments with only one or two other women and playing rounds with guys whose girlfriends walked the course with them but didn't play. So she founded the Lady LaMa, and I was a tee sponsor in its inaugural year.

This year, since I had played three rounds of disc golf, I considered myself qualified to fly down and participate, so I did. Indigo picked me up at the airport with adrenaline oozing from every pore as Manoush the printer had failed to print this year's tee signs or player handbooks at tee-time minus 18 hours, and Manoush-closing-time minus 3 hours. Stress was in the air. But fortunately, Manoush pulled it together and we were able to spend the evening folding handbooks, stuffing prize packs, and packing the cars, rather than printing signs.

The one downside of staying with the tournament director was that we were off to La Mirada park at 6:45 or so for a 9 am tee-off. It was overcast and drizzling, and I had not really prepared for moisture in the air. But when I got a look at my player pack, sunshine lit up my world. Wow - a handmade shot counter made of pretty beads; two golf towels, a custom-embroidered visor, mini discs (shot markers), mini carabiners, little LED lights for your zipper pull - it was SwagTastic! I grabbed my entire cache of discs (2) and went to practice my putting into the 18th hole basket.

In the first round, pros played together, but players from Rec, Intermediate, and Advanced levels were mixed up on the cards so the more experienced golfers could introduce the novices to tournament rules. Kari was the Yoda on our card; Stephanie and I were both in our first tournaments, though Stephanie clearly had a lot more rounds under her belt than I. And she had a caddy and a moving gallery (her dude and her dad).

It was a shotgun start, and we were teeing off on the 18th hole, so we made our way down there in plenty of time. Fortunately it was really close to the tournament tent since that was where I had placed my discs and forgotten them. D'oh. As the whistle sounded for the start, I was running up the hill to look for my discs. Mike said I got the Bonehead of the Day award. He meant it in a good way, I'm sure.

I played a surprisingly decent first round. Some early drives were kind of feeble, and I wasn't putting quite as well as I had in my purely recreational rounds, but I thought that was to be expected. My feet got soaked early on from the wet grass, but high tech socks minimized the discomfort. Indigo had set up snack stations at two spots on the course, staffed by Mike's entire extended family, who were everywhere, all day. Indi's sister Chris took hundreds of photos. I fell down on one muddy hillside, and stepped into a hidden pothole at one point, tweaking my knee, but at least I managed not to fall off the tee at any of the holes, despite the wet conditions

On the plus side, I made one glorious shot which was seen by about three groups and even applauded! So goes disc golf. Fall in the mud, make a killer shot, doink a putt off the basket.

Lunch (fetched and served by the ubiquitous Hole family) was tasty, and I needed some time to rest up and dry my feet off. A dry pair of SmartWool socks and a bunch of paper towels improved the foot situation considerably. I was super thirsty and downed several sodas, including a couple of cokes. This did not help my second round. Nor did anything else.

I had never played two rounds in a day before and was totally unprepared for how physically and mentally demanding it was. Plus the back course was a lot, a lot harder than the lake course. All kinds of crazy out of bounds, like baseball fields, parking lots, the street, and areas "beyond" an undulating gutter.

The 6th hole was particularly demanding, surrounded by imaginary water and the aforementioned undulating out of bounds area. Our entire group misunderstood it and then misplayed it, meanwhile backing up like four groups behind us. It was the least fun part of my embryonic disc golf career.

It got a little better after that, especially with the afternoon snack stations, Gatorade, candy, granola bars, and cookies. But along the road from holes about 10 to 13, we had to avoid the road, parking lots, trees, and all kinds of hazards. So I shot like an 88 for the second 18. And I was exhausted. My tweaked knee hurt, my feet and back hurt, my toenails hurt, my arm hurt. I just wanted to lie down. While Indigo and Mike and other people who knew what they were doing tabulated the scores and figured out the prizes (8 deep!), we had a Ring of Fire. The idea was that everyone got in a circle about 30 feet away from a basket and all threw for it at once when the signal was given. Get in in the basket, win a prize. Very fun, but I didn't win.

That evening, the Giants beat the Phillies to earn a trip to the World Series, which was VERY COOL!!!!, and I took a bunch of Advil. But I still had to use the bunk bed slat above me to turn over all night. (Indi got the bunk beds for her nephews; she is not *yet* running a hostel for itinerant disc golfers.)

I almost bailed on the planned trip to Disneyland the next day, seeing as how I could hardly walk, but skip Disneyland? I couldn't see it. We took the Express Lane to the giant parking garage that guards the Magic Kingdom and then the weird tram over to the main gate. It was Halloween in Mouseland, so there were fake pumpkins and Nightmare Before Christmas stuff everywhere. And there were ecstatic Giants fans everywhere too - more than I could imagined would show their colors in SoCal, even if it was Halloween.

I looked enviously at the elderly and disabled in their motorized scooter thingies, and at the little kids in strollers. It hurt to walk, it hurt to move, and my knee was killing me. But I stuck it out and had an awesome time despite the pain.

It's three weeks on and my knee is still messed up a little, but as soon as it gets good again, I'll go play a little winter golf. Need to do better than 11th at Lady LaMa III.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Train Easy, Race Hard

Golden State Triathlon
.5 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run

"Train hard, race easy," is a maxim I've heard many times relative to triathlon and endurance sports, though I never agreed with it. Even when I was training intensively, doing intervals and other workouts scientifically designed to make an athletic silk purse out of my lumpy-sow's-ear self, I always put myself out on the ragged edge of what I was willing to endure in a race and suffered accordingly. Race reports from 2002-2004 at, will bear out this assertion. Now that I'm training in a much more relaxed and less structured way, essentially avoiding running at all costs, the suffering quotient involved in a race does change qualitatively, but quantitatively I think it's about the same.

I was marginally more prepared to do the Golden State Tri than I had been for Luna Bar, if only because I had already done Luna Bar and Golden State would be mercifully shorter and flatter. I had even ventured out the weekend before Golden State and done my first 3-way training brick in probably six years. A brisk couple hundred yards in the river, a 3.5 mile spin along the path, and probably .8 miles of jog/walking. Not dramatic, but pleasant training.

The location of Golden State was a huge plus for me, as for the first time I could easily bike to the start of a race. An easy 2.25 miles put me right in transition and served as a good little limbering up session. I went to pick up my packet, griped at the staff on learning that they had already run out of XL and XXL race shirts, set up my transition area, got body marked by a young woman with very neat body-marking writing (we both agreed that in general, dudes are way sloppier at the body-marking), and went to look at the swim exit. I had been curious about this as all I could ever remember seeing on the right bank of the river were steep sandy bluffs. Sure enough, the swim exit was essentially a crawl up the bluff, "aided" by some temporary wooden steps that looked like they would be slick little death slabs when wet. Hmmm...

I grabbed a gel for before the swim and walked up and over the Jibboom Bridge, which I normally cross on my bike on my Mon-Wed-Fri commute to the train station. The super sprint was starting, and I joined the crowds watching the swimmers and checking out the buoys for our race. Over at the beach, tri-ers were staring to warm up in the chilly water, which had actually taken my breath away during my little brick the other day. I was enthusiastically greeted by Julie, a reader and SVTC member whom I knew only from Facebook, so that was fun. This time I eased into the water more gradually than is my wont. Someone swam out toward the flock of 30 or 40 Canada geese which were swimming around right by the start buoy, thoughtfully pre-fouling the water for us, and frightened them off. I struck out for a warmup swim, which, truth be told, is probably one of my favorite parts of a race. Just hanging out in the water, swimming easily, dolphin kicking to stretch the back, joking with my fellow racers, looking around at the trees and the sun and the water - what could be finer?

But eventually the horn sounded and we thrashed off upstream. The current, which seemed gentle, almost imperceptible, during warmup, felt a lot stronger when I was trying to swim upstream for a long time. The race organizers had set it up so that 2/3 of the swim was upstream and only 1/3 downstream, which was less than ideal, but there we were. At least navigation was easy. Pretty much upstream, between the center sets of bridge pillars, turn around the buoy, head downstream, and look for the orange buoy by the "stairs." I stood up, looked at the stairs, which I now perceived were severely slanted toward the water and covered with mud, and decided discretion would be by far the better part of valor here. I used my hands and my feet to crawl to the top of the stairs, and promptly slipped in the mud where the stairs ended. I didn't fall though, and managed to remain upright all the way to the top of the little gully in the bluff. One down, two to go.

I decided to take my time in transition and found a curb to sit on. I had found my perfect race socks: kind of broken in, the elastic not too grippy, and I had remembered to fold them down for easy slipping onto the foot. I had even remembered an extra water bottle to rinse the mud off and a pack towel to dry off. Like I said, taking my time.

This tri was unusual in my experience in that (a) bike riding was legal in transition and (b) drafting was legal throughout the bike leg. I was excited about this as I've always been a fairly adept bike handler for an amateur and I was looking forward to catching an easy ride. However, I knew that I'd have to catch someone first. This proved to be easier said than done, as the road quickly slanted up and over the drainage canal. I ride over this bridge 3x/week on my way home from the train. It seemed both easier and harder - I was propelled upwards by adrenaline and yet I was still pretty pooped from the hard swim. The drag along Garden Highway to Northgate was ever so slightly uphill, so I puttered along for quite a while, being passed by packs of sleek carbon-fibered greyhounds, not-so-sleek packs, and individuals on beach cruisers. Well, maybe not quite. But definitely folks on mountain bikes. Then it was down Northgate (off the levee, downhill), a quick U-turn and back up Northgate and onto the levee, and back toward the park. This went much faster. A couple of quick turns, down the levee, around a block, and back up the levee, and back over the canal bridge and into the park. Phew. Lap 1 of 3. My breathing felt good but my quads felt pretty tired for a flat course. Those levees are more troublesome than you think.

On the second lap I managed to catch up with a gal with an older bike and toe clips - she was buzzin' along though at about 17.5 mph. I held her wheel for a while, then offered to take the lead, but with the speed it took me to overhaul her, I lost her. Then we swooped down around the office buildings, back up the levee, and so forth. On lap three, the two of us picked up a third woman. I drafted off her for a while, then she pulled in behind the two of us and it started to feel like a bike race. Or it would have if my companions had any experience in a paceline. Still fun though. It felt good to be going fast-ish on a bike again.

What with all that fun and the up and down onto the levee and off again, my legs were pretty blown when I hit T2. Still, only 3 miles on a path I knew well and knew to be actually flat, not just "flat." I stumbled out of transition and onto the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, AKA the American River Bike Trail. A bunch of runners were already coming in, a familiar experience to me as I listened to the cheers for the happy finishers. I tried to settle into a rhythm of 50 steps jog, 50 steps walk and get my breathing into a regular, sustainable rate. The weather was warm but not hot, and I took Gatorade at the first aid station just for the heck of it. I had managed my nutrition pretty well this time. I had yogurt before leaving the house, some Accelerade and water on the bike, and a gel during the bike as well. Even though this was a "sprint," I was still figuring it would take me around 2.5 hours to complete so nutrition was definitely a consideration.

A slow run is not much to write about. I cheered on some of my fellow slow runners, upped my rhythm to 100 steps jog, 60 walk, then back down to 60-60. I stretched my back a few times, but it was basically fine, nowhere near the cramping and pain I had at Luna Bar. Julie passed me about a mile from the finish; we hooted. The aid station appeared again, which I figured was just under a mile to go. As usual, that last mile seemed pretty long, and I couldn't hear the sounds of the finish until I rounded the last bend of the path and the finish arch was almost right in front of me. It was beautiful. I ran as best I could, gave a little fist pump as I crossed the line, and settled in to look for fluids and then the Elk Grove Tri Club, who had invited me to their post-race do. Kathy Lewis and her gang proved to be a very friendly bunch with some of the most amazing snacks I have ever eaten. (Can I get the recipe for those pumpkin-cheesecake-bar things? Wow.)

So that was the last tri of my rather short multi-sport season. San Ramon Aquathlon, Luna Bar, and now Golden State. I really feel a lot more like a triathlete now than I did after Luna Bar. I found myself checking the calendar to see if there were any other local races I could do and looking up bike rides and other events. I'm scheduled to go down to Monterey in November and do a 5k with the Chico gals. But my next sporting event is the Lady LaMa Pro-Am disc golf tourney in La Mirada on October 23. Tournament Director Indigo Brude is still accepting registrations.

Other off-season plans - work on the running, I think, without straining the joints too much. Do some strength and flexibility training at the gym. Get in the pool just to remember how it works, and keep bike commuting into the winter this year, even if it takes spending the money on waterproof clothing and a bag for my laptop.

Another cool thing - almost no soreness or fatigue either the next day or the day after. That, my friends, is huge.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Behind - Early October Update

Fortunately, the virus alluded to in the last post didn't develop into anything really lingering. I was dizzy and loopy for several days longer than I thought was meet, right, and salutary, but eventually my ears cleared up and I started to feel like a real person again. My bike commutes on Monday and Wednesday felt good, even though it was scary hot. I managed an easy swim in the middle of the week. On Thursday afternoon I was all psyched up for an open water swim at Nimbus Flat, a nice little beachy area behind Nimbus Dam on the American River, after a meeting in nearby Fair Oaks. I looked up how to get there, packed my swim cap, goggles, flip flops, extra towel - but no swimsuit. So that was a "D'oh!" By the time I had fought my way back through traffic to where my suit resides (in the laundry room at home), I was completely exhausted and unmotivated to venture back to the pool.

Friday I managed a nice 12 mile bike ride, mostly for the purpose of getting my butt reacquainted with the saddle and my arms and shoulders accustomed to the handlebars. My legs felt quite strong, at least strong enough to be getting on with. So things were looking up for me. I planned a harder swim for yesterday, and then a bike-run brick workout for this morning.

But yesterday morning I was sitting in the Big Poofy Chair updating my Facebook and my Twitter feed and all those things that social networking junkies do, when suddenly I got dizzy for no apparent reason. Moving around made it worse, bending over made it significantly worse. I was flummoxed. What was going on? This went on for a couple of hours. Finally I asked Dr. Google what might be the matter, and Dr. G. informed me that I was probably having a migraine aura. Yay! As a recent inductee to the Association of Unhappy Migraineurs, I am not yet totally up to speed on all the ways that my migraines can manifest themselves. I've only had four or five, and each one has been different. The only reason I thought to ask Dr. Google about migraines at all is that after my last one, I felt dizzy for about three days.

Eventually the headache hit, but it wasn't bad at all - one advantage of my particular brand of migraine - and then the involuntary two-hour nap. So that was that day.

Now it's Sunday. I've woken up with a nasty headache, worse than the one that was part of the migraine, and my attitude is pretty nasty as a result. However. I have some optimism that I'll feel better later. And when I do, I'll go over to Discovery Park, swim in the river where next week's tri will take place, do a short bike ride, and follow it up with a little run/walk. I'm determined to do next week's race, even if it's just the super sprint, since I pushed back Tim's birthday weekend at Sea Ranch to accommodate my "racing" schedule.

This week I'll get my back stretched out and rolled out on the foam roller, maybe even roll my ITB and glutes while I'm at it. I'll work on getting a little speed into my swim. Then I'll go out next Sunday and have some fun. Fun, dammit! I'm gonna have some fun, hear me?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sore Feet, Tasty Frites

WARNING: This post is not about training or triathlon. But it's all I have to write about at the moment.

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend I flew to London, where I met my aunt, Cynthia, and embarked on a brief but satisfying adventure in Belgium. We took the 7:
30 a.m. Eurostar train through the Chunnel, which was a little anticlimactic since it's just like, well, a tunnel, except long. It'd be more fun if they put up little graphics for you in the tunnel showing you where you are. Still, it was super fast (2 hours from St. Pancras to Brussels) and comfortable.

In Brussels, we parked our bags and took a couple of hours to cruise around before continuing to Bruges. We navigated the grotty Metro station adjacent to the Brussels-Zuid train station and hopped off at the Bourse, around the corner from the Grand Place/Grote Markt. Coming into this square off a narrow side street is like running into the living room on Christmas morning to see that Santa has been exceedingly generous. One of the loveliest things I've seen in any city anywhere. We ambled through town in the general direction of the canal district, and found a tasty lunch at La Villette, where I had creamy waterzooi stew and a crazy sour gueuze lambic beer.

The Hotel Jan Brito in Bruges was insanely charming - a renovated 16th century house with classic steep gables and a profusion of exposed oak beams. Our strange little suite under the steep roof delighted us the whole time we were there. And the breakfasts. Oh. My.

Bruges is Disneyland for grownups. Every street is gorgeous; every building is historic, every third shop is a chocolatier, and everyone seems really quite happy to be interacting with the mobs of tourists from all over the world. Generally I shun tourist traps, but Bruges is so amiable and beautiful that I just didn't care. We wandered over the cobbles until our feet throbbed with pain. We took a boat tour of the canals and shuffled through the churches and museums. We ate pastries and/or frites for lunch. The two carts in the Markt that sell fries in the shadow of the belfry do a roaring trade, and with good reason. Belgians invented fries, and they have perfected them. And they eat them with mayonnaise and a variety of other sauces. They serve them with almost everything. Mussels, particularly. After four days in Belgium, I fear for the mussel population of the North Sea.

On our last full day, I worked up my courage to climb the belfry, or Belfort. I'm not afraid of heights much, or even narrow spiral staircases. I just knew the 366 steps were going to hurt and that I was going to sweat buckets in the clammy Flemish air. They did, and I did. And when I got to the top, the tower chamber was being renovated so you could only get views in two directions. It was still incredibly cool though. Cynthia waited below, watching the people and the horse-drawn carriages and the pigeons. She really detests heights and narrow staircases.

The trip from Bruges to Wales was a pretty long haul. Eleven hours that went like this: taxi, train, train, long walk, Tube, long walk, bus, car. Somewhere in the long walks through London with the bags, I felt my knee twinge, which it continued to do for the rest of the trip. I blame the Belfort.

The Welsh part of the trip was designed to be extremely low key, and it was even lower-key than I had planned. Lots of lounging about and watching sports on Sky with my uncle, and drinking tea with Cynthia, my Uncle Brian, my cousin Emma, other more distant cousins, neighbors, etc. There were a few errands and a couple of touristy things like traveling to Cardiff Bay and having ice cream sundae's at Verdi's Cafe near Swansea. Even so, I was quite exhausted by the end of my 8 days there.

Got sick immediately after getting off the plane, which raised the specter of Boo-Boo Kitty. My last
trip to the UK in 2007 was followed immediately by a flu-y feeling that sparked the whole round of fatigue, pain and weirdness. However, five days after my return, I am feeling only mildly dizzy, tired, and queasy, so I'm less freaked out than I was a couple of days ago.

Two weeks from tomorrow I'm scheduled to do the Golden State Triathlon, down the street from my house. I'll have to work up to an actual workout before I get a sense of whether I can do it or not. Most of my walking was the slow touristy kind, except for the Belfort and one ramble through the hills. No swimming, no cycling. And now another virus on top of August's virus. Hmmm...

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rancho Sucko: Somewhat the Course's Fault. Race Report

Luna Bar Women's Triathlon
.5 mile swim, 20-mile bike, 4-mile run
Rancho Seco County Park, Herald, CA

Tri-soul-sista Leslie refers to Rancho Seco County Park as "Rancho Sucko" because of the blazing heat that typically shimmers over the park from July through September and the lack of shade on the run course. Still, for some reason, I signed up for Luna Bar there in late August. I was just excited about being back in the sport, I guess. After three years away, I wanted to do a couple of late season races, shorter than Olympic distance, within a reasonable drive. And so I found myself tooling south on Hwy 99 and then east on 104 to the park in the shadow of the defunct nuclear reactor. As I mentioned yesterday, I'd been sick for a week and wasn't sure if I was going to do the full longer course. The Super Sprint was too short, so I thought, well, I'll do the swim and the bike and see how I feel. Amazingly, the weather was way cooler than normal. High temp was forecast for 80-ish when normally it'd be at least 95.

A few rolling hills on the drive into the reservoir area gave me pause: my lazy-ass course scouting on Google Street View had implied that these roads were a bit flatter. But registration was smooth and easy, there was plenty of room on the bike racks, and I had not forgotten how to pack for a tri or set up my transition area. I had even found my Junonia tri top, which I had not been able to locate for the Aquathlon. I chatted to a few people, scouted the bike out, in, run out, in, etc. I stood in line for the portajohns. It felt awesome to be back. I was only slightly miffed by, and was only slightly snarky about, the fact that sizes for the race's tech tees only went up to women's XXL. "There are 3X size triathletes, you know," I commented, but without malice.

I got into the very pleasant water to warm up a little. I was in the last wave (typical), but I had a nice pink swim cap that matched my new pink race belt and white running shoes with pink trim. It makes me nuts how sporting goods people think all women want to wear pink while working out. There was friendly banter and encouragement, a few jokes about glowing fish, and some people with severe jitters while the early waves went off. I was not one of them. I felt totally at ease, with nothing at stake, not even a commitment to finish.

Finally the pink caps lined up and were sent off. We swam out toward the giant cooling towers in the distance. I felt pretty relaxed in the water but was having a hard time keeping my rear end up. Not sure why. I tried to go hard but not blow myself up; I had felt at the Aquathlon that I didn't swim as hard as I could have. Around the first buoy I was still well in the pack, but between the first and second buoys I started to drop back at bit. By the third and basically final buoy, there were only some 20 caps behind me. I was pleased with my open water sighting, though - apparently that skill doesn't atrophy easily. I worked to sprint in the last couple hundred yards, and then regretted it as soon as I got out of the water. Errgh.

My transition was slow, and I had a hard time getting my bike shoes on, but I got out on the bike ok and felt strong at first. There were way too many speed bumps on the road out, and by the time I hit the fifth one, I was already not feeling as strong. Grabbed a GU and sucked it down as I wound out onto the main road, with some other slowpokes around me. The road was, much to my dismay, rolling. Rolling for as far as I could see. It was a pretty morning, and the fields were a lovely gold, but they were all on hills. And the surface of the road was that evil chip seal. Even with the chip seal, though, which is a horrible surface to ride on, I was feeling way more sluggish than I should. Even going downhill, I was struggling to hit 14 mph, when normally on a slight downhill I should easily be going 19-20. I put it down to having been sick and to riding on chip seal, as well as to the rolling hills.

After about 7 miles of chip seal, we got onto smooth asphalt, but I was still suffering like a pug in a greyhound race. I started to think maybe I had a brake pad rubbing, but the front wheel was fine. I inexplicably waited for another two and a half miles before checking the rear wheel. In my defense, it's usually the front brake because that's the wheel you are taking off and putting on. However, when I loosened the rear brake, things got a lot easier.

I was bummed there was no water at the turnaround; somehow I had the idea there'd be water and gel. Having been overly bloated at the Aquathlon, I had underfueled myself slightly and was feeling in need of some calories. But I was completely stoked at how much stronger I felt, even though there were still a lot of hills and I was heading into a breeze. Damn that rear brake anyway. It must have gotten shifted when I threw it in the back of the car.

Even though there was almost nobody left on the road, I was starting to enjoy the ride, finally. The breeze was cool and I was relieved that I could pick up enough speed on the downhills to make the uphills less onerous. Miles 10-17 or so felt pretty good. But with 2.5 miles to go, we turned back off the main road and it all seemed really onerous again. I determined that I was going to go all out on this last stretch and then bail on the run. Be sensible. I had been sick. I hadn't really been training for the run. It would be four miles.

I cranked my pedals around and finally made it into transition, panting. I racked my bike and told a race staffer that I was withdrawing. She seemed a little sad. "Are you sure you don't want to just try and walk the run?" "Yeah," I said. "I was sick last week and I'm just not up to it." She took my number (#106) and walked toward the timing tent. And then, suddenly, I took complete leave of my senses. "Wait!" I called after her. "I think I'll give it a shot." She was encouraging. "Just get some water and a gel, and start slow. You'll be fine!"

I did get some water and I had another GU. I started walking fast, then trotting a bit. Perhaps this would work out after all. I got out onto the dusty fire road that makes up the bulk of the run course. My back felt a little tight, but it often does at the start of a run leg, as I recalled. It would loosen up. I tried to settle into a rhythm of jogging 70 steps, then walking 30. I readjusted to 60 and 30. Then 50 and 30. My back just did not want to loosen up, and it felt awkward to walk, let alone run. Then the hills started. Just little rollers, but as soon as I hit the first uphill, my back got extremely cranky. Ugh. As I crested the second or third little rise, though, I could see a tent in the distance. The turnaround! Well, I could make it that far. It wasn't so bad. I walked and jogged a bit, and reached the tent with relief. I saw some cones and a little turnaround U-turn arrow. I felt OK.

Until I saw that there was a line of women running and walking toward me from way, way beyond the tent. "This isn't the turnaround?" I asked plaintively. The volunteers laughed. I did not. "No, this is the one mile mark." I almost cried. Turned out the turnaround arrow was for some other race from the previous day. Suck.

"Suck, suck, suck." I chanted as I trundled down the next hill. "Suck suck, sucky suck suck." Some women laughed. I thought was too far into it now to turn around. I walked with a chatty gal who helped me get through a half mile or so. After the actual turnaround, though, which took forever to get to, she got a little burst and I was on my own. The trail looped around by the lake, interminably. Finally it rejoined the fire road, which I didn't enjoy either, since the fire road was dustier and hillier. But I was making progress. From time to time I was stopping to try and stretch the back, but it would not be stretched. It was really killing me, and I worried that I was setting myself up for a week of spasms. I kept trying to jog a bit, to walk with bigger steps, with littler steps. Nothing helped. Uphills were the worst.

Finally I made it back to the 1-mile/3-mile tent. More gel (nasty!), fluids. Encouraging Lady was there. "Hey!" she said. "Aren't you glad you didn't quit?" "No." I said. She laughed. I said, "It really would have been a lot smarter to finish the bike and then just hang." "Take a rest in the shade," she encouraged me. "I'm not hot," I explained. "I'm not really even working that hard. My back won't let me move fast enough to get tired."

One more mile and it would all be over. I felt a little better after the brief rest and the drink. About 2/3 of a mile from the finish, though, my right foot started hurting like crazy. I started limping. I started swearing. I heard the clank of the race staff dismantling transition area. "NO!" I yelled, to no one. "Leave the course up! I'm still here!" I limped. I massaged my back. I tried jogging.

Finally, after a month's worth of suffering, I turned onto the grass that lead toward the finish chute. The finish arch was still up. A few picnickers cheered me, which alerted the race PA guy. I reached the chute. "We have a TRIATHLETE!" the announcer boomed. "Let's give it up for number... number 106... Jayne WILLIAMS!" There was a surprisingly loud cheer. I squinted and grimaced and "ran" to the line. God. It was over. "That was awful!" I told the volunteer. She got me some Gatorade and water.

I was drinking greedily when a woman approached me. "Are you Jayne Williams the AUTHOR?" she asked breathlessly. "Yes!" I responded. "Oh my God!" she cried, "You are my hero! I love you!" She stretched out her arms and gave me a huge hug. "You're the one who inspired me to do triathlon!" she continued. "I'm sorry," I replied, but I was feeling pretty chuffed. It's nice to meet a big fan right after you stumble through a hideously difficult race. Angela led me toward the free massage tent and got my name on the list. I kept moving as we talked, getting some Luna Bar (of course), some more fluids, etc. I wandered back to my bike and packed up my stuff. My back was already feeling massively improved. My foot didn't hurt anymore. And because I hadn't been able to go that hard, I didn't have Post-Race Stupidity Syndrome. I was able to pack my stuff, get to the car, find my key, all that. To my amazement, there was someone out on the course behind me, so I didn't even finish last. Wow!

When I got back to the massage tent, Angela was gone. Most people were gone. I stole a sleeve of Oreos out of a van, rinsed the dust off my legs and feet at a faucet, and waited my turn. The massage was a little too intense to be pure bliss, but it was very helpful, and Dave Benevento, the chiropractor dude, was funny and nice. A dose of ibuprofen, and I was ready to drive home.

As I write this, I'm tired, and my stomach hurts from the ibuprofen. For some reason the combo of intense exercise and ibuprofen, even with food, really makes things go haywire in there. But I think this will help me feel a lot better tomorrow.

And my tech t-shirt kind of almost fits.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lunacy Bar? On the Eve of the Tri Comeback

The virus that laid me low last week turned out to be surprisingly evil and persistent, more than just a head cold. It made me weak and dizzy, and it was a full week before I had my zip back. Our friends Mike and Will and Jesse came to stay, and we had a low-key couple of days doing summer Sacramento things. Then I went back to work on Tuesday and sometime around Wednesday I realized that I was scheduled to do the Luna Bar Women's Triathlon this weekend. Finally on Friday I did my first exercise in over a week, a bit of a swim. When I got home, I looked at the website and noted that this race was not the sprint course I was expecting.

One of the idiosyncratic things about triathlon is that there isn't much standardization in the shorter distances. I started out doing sprint races with 400 meter swims, 12-mile bike rides, and 3.1-mile runs. Except when the runs were 2 miles, or 5 miles, or the bike was 16 miles, or the swim was 800 meters. I had gotten it into my head that the Luna Bar was a 800 meter swim, a 12 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. But no. 800 meter swim, a TWENTY-mile bike and a FOUR mile run. What was I thinking? I really have to research these things better before plunking down the credit card. Certainly I planned to be in better shape at this point in the summer.

The Luna Bar Triathlon Festival festively includes a "super sprint" race also, but that hardly seems worth getting out of bed for, let alone driving 40 miles for: a 200 yard swim, a 4-mile bike, and a 1 mile run. Even I could whip that out in just over half an hour. If I was more motivated overall, I'd go scope the course and see whether the 20 miles looked hilly, pleasant, flat, or lumpy. But we've got a house guest coming this afternoon and I have no urge whatsoever to drive down to Rancho Seco County Park.

I'm thinking I'll see how things go tomorrow. If at packet pickup time it seems like switching to the super sprint will be easy, maybe I'll do that. Otherwise, I'll go out and swim, bike, and run as far as I can. Try not to overdo it, but finish if I can.
I did a quick bike ride this morning, followed by my first brick run in well over three years. I only ran a third of a mile or so, but it felt better than I expected. Not sure how the legs will feel after 20 miles instead of 5.25 though.

I was pleased to learn that the nuclear reactor in the background is not active, and that the lake in which we will be swimming was (supposedly) not part of the plant's water supply but merely an emergency backup. Too, too Simpsonsesque otherwise. Go, Isotopes, go!

I hope to have a report of a complete race tomorrow, or at least sometime next week. But I'll have a report of something. And I'll get a lot of activity in.

Friday, August 20, 2010

But Then Again, No...

I'm thinking that most of you don't like to read about dithering and whining, so this may be a post with small readership. Tough cheese, readers. I have a horrible, eye-watering, throat-clogging, snot-pouring, beat-me-with-a-baseball-bat cold. It's the kind of cold where you think, "Really? A cold? Cause I feel so freakin' awful it must be the flu." It started couple nights ago, and I tried to kid myself that it was just dust from my pathetic attempts at house cleaning. By the next morning, though, I knew. "Ha!" said the cold. "You are my bitch now." I feel like this awesome drawing by Allie Brosh from the even awesomer Hyperbole And A Half Blog, from the story of her pathetic physical meltdown in Texas.

One of the most pissy-offy things about it is that Tim and I were supposed to be camping up at Tuolumne Meadows tonight. I had the day off, and we were going to meet a gaggle of people up there, some of whom number among my favorite people on the entire planet, people who have adorable kids but live on other coasts and are rarely found in California, even seasonally. But Yosemite became a no-go pretty early on in this cold. Couldn't face 8000 feet of altitude, dry air, dust, sleeping on the ground and no nose-hose to fight the sleep apnea. Couldn't even face going into the garage to find the tent or sleeping bag.

But another pissy-offy thing about this cold is that it's a big garish neon sign, saying "See What Happens?" After the Summer Grants Death March, I was running around, going to meetings for Capital Stage driving down to see my folks, doing the San Ramon Aquathlon, and so forth. With madcap frivolity, I turned an afternoon meeting in Pleasant Hill into 30 miles of bike riding interlarded with public transportation.

And then I got sick, which might seem reasonable, given that I had gone through a stressful six weeks and then celebrated its end with a gumbo of socializing, travel, and exercise. But dammit, I want to be able to play hard! Not like thirteen-beers-and-a-curry-and0-chips-afterwards hard, but I want to be able to go see the people I want to see, spend a couple nights here and a night there, go out for walks and shopping and aquathlons, and even play a raucous game of Chickenfoot.

Meanwhile, I spent the middle part of this week dithering about Budapest and the Aquathlon Worlds. I had been planning three days in Bruges with my aunt, but, good sport that she is, she said she'd go to Budapest instead. The USAT promised me that I could buy my Team USA uniform online and that a lovely travel person was helping out with the travel, including a transfer package and custom city tour. So that seemed cool. But the travel lady didn't seem to want to help with my flight, and the Team USA hotel was sold out. There were a zillion hotels nearby, mostly pretty reasonable, but I started searching flights from London to Budapest. They seem to be either (a) expensive –at least $450 per person round trip – or b) leaving from Luton or Stansted, when I'm arriving in Heathrow (c) at the wrong time, e.g. arriving in Budapest at midnight or (d) some combination of the above.

Furthermore - and this should come as no surprise to anyone - Team USA triathlon uniforms do not come in extended sizes. Not even a men's XXL. I'm sure USAT imagined that the only people who would qualify for Worlds would be "normal sized" triathletes. I emailed USAT and they said, oh, no, we don't think we have any other sizes, call the "USAT Store" directly. I did. The woman there suggested I try a men's XL. I said, um, that really won't work. Normally I would take this as a call to arms and a challenge, but right now I feel too sick and tired to fight about that.

And if I could get a reasonable flight leaving Heathrow at a reasonable hour that didn't stop for 10 hours in Milan or Zurich or whatever, I would say, ok, cool. I'd wear my black Junonia swimsuit and tri shorts and if anyone asked, I'd just say loud and clear, "USAT did not have uniforms in my size." And I would have a good time.

But getting to Budapest will be way more expensive than Belgium and there will be a lot of running around (packet pickup Tuesday, aquathlon Wednesday, parade Thursday, in my ill--fitting parade shirt). It might not be as much fun for my aunt as I might hope. She is kind of shy and not someone who will strike off on her own in a big city. And she is my favorite aunt, so I want her to have an awesome time. Also, I now have a stinking rotten cold, which kind of acted as a reminder to me of what happens when I run all over the place like a crazy person. Or like a sane person who just wants to have a lot of fun in a short time frame. And I can’t even get a uniform.

I dunno. This cold is messing with my positive outlook, but maybe the sane thing to do is just to go to Bruges with my lovely aunt on the lovely Eurostar, have a nice little vacation with no schedule at all in a beautiful small city, and then go on over to Wales for some quality time with the extended family, some walks in the hills, and some curry and chips. Maybe then I could come back and go to work without being exhausted and getting sick as a dog after the travel. Maybe.

In my dithering, I asked the Magic 8-Ball online: "Should I go to Budapest?" "Not in a million years," it said. "Should I go to Bruges?" "Outlook is good."

So I think it's Bruges. I'll let you know.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Am Aquathalete (sic)! Race Report

San Ramon Aquathlon: August 15, 2010. 1.5 mile run, 1000m swim, 1.5 mile run

UDATE: 8/20/2010: That is NOT ME in the pic! I WISH. It's Leslie. And yes, she looks great.

As noted in my last entry, I was facing the San Ramon Aquathlon with a little trepidation. I know I say this about every event, but I was dubious about being able to finish even though the event was quite short (see above). My left foot was hurting; I hadn't run in weeks; and I had read on the website that the course was hilly, which wasn't my fave even when I was fit and lived in an area with hills.

I had three major motivations for signing up. First, most importantly, I wanted to hang with my tri-soul-sista Leslie from Chico (pictured above), who I never see enough of. Second, I wanted to get reintroduced to the multisport world in a relatively non-threatening way. Third, I wanted a t-shirt that said "US Aquathlon National Championships" on it because this little obscure race was in fact the USA Triathlon national championships for this obscure sport and the qualifier for Worlds. One of Leslie's tri-gal friends, Darlene, had already qualified for Worlds in duathlon and sprint triathlon (she's damn fast in the 55-59 age group!), and she was pretty determined to qualify for aquathlon too. I was impressed.

Packet pickup was at the Sports Basement in Walnut Creek, always a bonus for the massive shopping opportunity. While we were there, we learned that there were only some 60 people registered. That seemed cozy. We listened to the tiny race production company (they have 2 events, total) give a little pre-race talk. Apparently there had been some difficulty figuring out how many laps around the 50 meter pool we would be doing, since the swim had to be "open water" style. You'd think that wouldn't be too hard, but you have to figure in the lap distance once you place buoys in the pool... anyway. I bought new running shoes, hoping that the trusty Gel Nimbus model would cushion the ailing foot. Thumbs down on the Gel Kayanos. For me.

Four of us packed into a double room in the Courtyard San Ramon. I tried not to move all night, and woke up in the morning feeling a little stiff, but my bed buddy, Nikki, survived. I didn't roll over and squish her. It was great to be doing pre-race routines again - checking for swim cap, goggles, race number, water bottle, etc. I had been a little troubled about what to wear, since I no longer have a form-fitting tri top that fits my form. I opted for the Enell bra (of course) under the tank-style swimsuit, with a pair of mesh shorts that I would slide off and on as needed. I knew this would cost me a few seconds in transition, but I was not too concerned. In fact, I didn't care at all.

Pre-race breakfast of Smart Start cereal seemed like a mistake right away. I never eat breakfast that early, but I was afraid of skipping it entirely. As we rolled up to Dougherty Valley High School's ridiculously plush pool complex, my stomach felt absurdly full. It wasn't helped by the sight of all the elite age-groupers in their 2008, 2009, and 2010 Team USA gear. Almost everyone was already going to Worlds, it seemed like, or had been. Or both. Darlene knew them all. Leslie and Darlene said that pretty much everyone who finished this event would qualify for Worlds too. The Chico tri-girls keep up on this kind of stuff.

The transition area was tiny, since we didn't need room for bikes, and we each had little designated areas with our names on them. It didn't take long to get set up, so I checked out the pool, the ins and outs of swim and run transitions, and the restrooms. Nothing much happened in the latter. Alas. I jogged around in the unseasonable but welcome fog, trying to force my stomach to feel less bloated and my legs less leaden. It didn't work too well.

The wave start was unusual in that they sent off men and women together, oldsters first. Leslie's and my wave, slightly less old, was second. And of course we missed it cause we were yakking up by transition. We ran down the stairs and started out some five seconds late. Oops.

We had scouted the course the day before and everyone but me was shocked by the length and steepness of the hill that made up the first half-mile or so of the run course. Having read the website, I was merely appalled. I was no less appalled as I turned the corner past the football field and saw the trail looming up into the fog. I started walking almost right away. No point dying on the first half of the first run. My foot felt like I had a big marble stuck in it, right at the front of the ball. Gah. I plodded up, and up, and up. My wave was way in front of me and the wave behind hadn't started yet. I saw a field mouse scurry across the path. I wasn't moving fast enough to scare him.

Finally the hill seemed to level out, and then, oh, bliss, it went down and there was an aid station at the turnaround with two volunteers. I felt a little silly getting Gatorade after less than .75 miles (there was a 2nd turnaround near the end - odd course), but the volunteers were eager so I took a couple sips. In reverse, logically, the uphill was short and the downhill was long. I jogged down the hill, but I didn't feel like I was moving much faster than when I walked up. There was a tiny little out-and-back to the end of the run, where I goofed with the volunteers, pretending I was running in super slow motion. Then a couple turns and a STEEP driveway up to the football field, and another STEEP ramp up to the pool.

My first ever swim-to-run transition. Huh. I hadn't really thought this through, other than planning to shuck the shorts and tee I ended up wearing cause it was cold, and the shoes. Did those things, grabbed the goggles and cap and waddled to the pool deck, favoring the sore foot. Realized I had forgotten a hair elastic and tried to stuff my unruly curls into the cap while walking. This took way longer than it should. Goggles on, into the pool, merging with the swimmers with caution yet decisiveness, like an LA freeway at rush hour.

Ahhhh. Water. Lovely, lovely water. It felt so good to be in there, even with all the thrashing, kicking bodies around me, that I didn't really put a lot of effort into the swim for a while. Maybe a long while. It was hard to get a rhythm, swimming in laps around a rectangular pool with highly competitive age groupers around me. On the other hand, it was fun to be in water so clear I could see who was passing me. And pretty much everyone did, except for the people who were out of the water already. After a lap or two, I sort of found my arms and made them work, but I was still trying to stay so far out of everyone's way that I kept bumping into the side of the pool. Eventually the pool cleared out as all the other swimmers finished their laps, and that was nice. It was just me and Stuart, whose wife Megan had talked him into the event, and Pamela, who was recovering from a serious neurological disorder. Like no kidding. They told her she had ALS and she was going to die, but fortunately they were wrong on both counts.

After my 7.5 laps, I could hardly climb up the pool ladder, but the promised volunteer assistance was not forthcoming, so I scrambled out and duckwalked back to transition, where I spent a ridiculous amount of time getting my shoes on. I eschewed the technical tee for this leg, feeling like I'd enjoy the cool air, but I did slide the mesh shorts on. The running seemed a lot easier this time around, at least until I hit the big hill again. I concentrated on walking a little faster than last time - nothing to save my energy for on this last go-round. I looked down to the little arroyo on the left, where there was a perfectly lovely dirt trail that hardly went uphill at all. I wondered why the race organizers hadn't used that for the run course. I also wondered why I had chosen mesh shorts, which seemed to have absorbed a ridiculous amount of water considering they were, you know, mesh.

Strangely, I had gone directly from feeling bloated and uncomfortable to feeling like my blood sugar was a little low, with no middle ground. I sucked down a gel at the first turnaround, a gulp of water, and then headed back up the little hill before the long downhill. Stuart was coming up the hill towards me. His wave had started long after mine, so he was not going as slow as me, but we high fived and celebrated being the only two people left out on the course.

I really tried to run down the hill this time, and I succeeded to the extent that I wasn't actually walking, but I didn't want to overstride and pound on my feet and knees too much. I checked in with my left foot and found that it was actually hurting a lot less on this lap. Maybe it was some sort of cyst that just needed to be beaten into submission?

The volunteers were cheering as I rounded the second turnaround, which was nice of them. "Good job!" they cried. "Lie to me!" I responded. I really wanted to walk up the steep ramp to the football field, but a volunteer yelled "C'mon!" behind me, so I reluctantly picked my feet up a little. I was actually able to muster a bit of a sprint toward the finish and got a pretty good cheer as the final finisher. I was a little winded, but otherwise unscathed.

All my buds placed in their age groups - Nikki and Darlene third in theirs, Leslie second in ours, though initially the organizers thought that she was third place in the men's 45-49. "Excuse me, I'm a girl!" Leslie called out as her name was announced. Tri DNA sheepishly acknowledged that she was and recalculated the results. Pamela, who had told me earlier that she would be walking the run because she had sprained her foot as a consequence of the still-healing neurological issue, came second. I called her a sandbagger as she went to get her award.

The post race food was darn good, the atmosphere was congenial, but we left right after the awards because most of us had forgotten to bring dry clothes for the post race hanging out portion, and it was still foggy and cool.

Leslie assured me that I had arned a place on the Worlds team in Budapest, but I thought that couldn't possibly be right. Surely there was a minimum standard qualifying time that any Team USA member would have to hit? Leslie said no, and I would get an email from USAT confirming this. Sure enough, on Monday afternoon I received a congratulatory email encouraging me to follow the enclosed link to register for Worlds on September 8. So now I'm in a quandary. Should I go? I'm already booked to be in the UK in September; I'd just have to change my plans from a 3-day trip to Bruges with my aunt to a 3-day trip to Budapest with my aunt. Always wanted to see Budapest, and it would serve USAT right to have me there, with such lax qualifying standards.

What do you think?

Overall I was completely delighted with the experience, my first multisport event since the onset of the mysterious chronic fatigue-y syndrome in 2007. I felt sore the next day, but not very, and I felt pumped up to keep training and do some more racing.

Darlene told me that in Australia (Worlds 2009), they pronounced the sport "aQUAthlon" instead of "AQuathlon," so I decided to call myself an aQUAthlete, or aQUAthalete, as we Amurrikins like to say. I AM aquathalete.

Decision on Budapest to come

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Not Really Training, but I Napped Afterwards Anyway

I've been proud of how I've maintained my modest level of fitness during what I've come to call the Summer Grants Death March. I managed to keep my routine of exercising just about two out of every three days throughout a stretch where most of my colleagues in grant writing went on vacation for most of the time, and we had a major federal grant due every week for six weeks. I'm all in favor of my colleagues taking vacation, but seriously, someone in "management" should do some "managing" when it comes to everyone who can fulfill a certain task being gone at the same freakin' time.

But I didn't open this window to bitch about my day job. Especially since, this being the Internet, someone might conceivably read what I write.

I managed to keep riding to the train, most of the time, and sneaking in bike rides and swims on a regular basis. Last weekend much of my exercising involved walking around San Francisco, and not the seriously hilly bits either. It was going from the BART station to the bar at 15 Romolo, in North Beach, and from there to Giordano Brothers' awesome Pittsburgh-style all-in-one sandwich shop and then, much later, back to BART. Then on Sunday we went to a Giants' game, which always involves a lot of walking if you do it right. In this instance, we walked from the Gordon Biersch
brewpub/restaurant on the Embarcadero to the ballyard, and then afterwards back to the car... Hey, it was my birthday. And at least we did some walking. And the Giants swept the hated Dodgers, which always makes me happy. I actually did feel some soreness in my shoulders and arms the next day from all the clapping I had done.

But my next swim, I swam the fastest 200 of the BFFC to date. Which is good, considering I'm signed up for an Aquathlon next weekend. Eeek!

I say eek because I have not been able to run for several weeks. Not that I've been trying that hard, but every time I have tried, it's felt like I had a marble in the ball of my foot, right between the ball of the big toe and the ball of the other toes, if that makes sense. I think it's the transverse arch of the foot. I've been trying to baby the foot, but even walking barefoot or wearing the wrong flip-flops is a little painful. So I'm not sure how the run part of the run-swim-run Aquathlon is gonna go. It'll be fun anyhow. Going down there with the always amusing Leslie C. and some of her tri-gals. If I DNF, c'est la vie. I ain't goin' down to San Ramon to win a prize.

Today, the day after the official end of the Death March, I did a very brief stint of paddling on a Class 2 section of the South Fork of the American River, in a raft that was a little, um, unstructured feeling. I think the whole escapade took about 40 minutes, but when I got home, I took a nap anyway.

Stay tuned for an Aquathlon report!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jayne and the Cannibal

Not much time right now for fiction or blogging - all my brain is taken up with a series of large, high-stakes, complex grant applications for various important clients. Long days, some weekends, and needing to conserve my wrists for the job that pays my mortgage. And throughout this stressful period I've had some truly icky dreams (dismembered bodies in a parking garage), and some simply bizarre ones (magically proliferating smartphones, none of them my own).

But last night, I had I dream I wish I could preserve on video. I was at the Tour de France, watching a big mountain stage, just on the downhill side of the summit of a huge climb. The Tour is something that I can always have on in the background as I work, so soothing are the voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. And of course I am completely obsessed with cycling. So it's not surprising I dreamed I was at the Tour.

Anyhow, some rider in my dream had a mechanical problem with his bike, and he tossed it aside like a used water bottle. I ran to snag it as a souvenir. Whoo hoo! It was an old Bianchi, vintage 1982 or so, steel frame, leather saddle, and classic celeste paint job. But, this being a dream, it was light as a feather and fit me perfectly. So far, so good.

I was walking the bike down the hill when I found I was walking next to the greatest cyclist ever to turn a pedal in anger - Eddy Merckx. Eddy appeared to be in his early 50s in this dream, though now he's 65. "You like my bike?" I asked. "It's pretty nice," Eddy answered, "But you should have an Eddy Merckx."

"Those bikes you supplied for Team Quick Step look super cool!" I told him. "If you have a spare one, I'll take it."

"I'll see what I can do," said the Cannibal.

The dream changed scenes. Eddy and I were lounging on couches in an apartment in a French town, watching Tour coverage on TV, chatting about cycling, completely relaxed, as though we had been friends for years.

Sometimes you have a dream so great you hate to wake up, but this dream was so unbelievably cool, so perfect, so delightful, that I woke up excited just to have had it.

Oh, and Eddy, if you're reading this, I'd gladly ride an Eddy Merckx, if you have one to spare.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Data Quest

I have a fairly well-developed geeky side; my close friends and relatives will attest to this. I enjoy a well-designed gadget, handy piece of software, or random piece of knowledge. I enjoy clever maps using Geographic Information Systems, baseball statistics, and good grammar. And my passion for my Droid has been documented. I once worked for a, and I have been to multiple Renaissance Faires. In costume. As a member of a guild.

So when I decided I needed a new heart-rate monitor, I did a little research. I was pleased to find that the Garmin wrist-mounted GPS units, the ones that also happen to tell you how fast your heart is beating, have really come down in price over the last few years. Score! A few clicks later, and my new Garmin Forerunner 305 was on its way. Whoo hoo!

However, when the thing arrived, I was in the middle of something or other with work, and it took me quite a few days to open the box. When I finally did, I was chagrined to learn that I would need to update either my Mac or my Windows operating systems in order to run the Garmin software. And in order to upgrade, I need more disk space. I may be a little geeky, but it doesn't mean I always have the latest hardware.

Still, I could use the heart rate monitor and watch, I just couldn't upload the data and make maps and graphs and charts out of it. So I strapped on the rather bulky wrist unit and the chest strap, went outside and powered on. I watched the satellites load and my heart rate show up on the little screen and then, as I started my warm-up walk, my pace. It was really quite cool, all that information. Unfortunately, it was kind of hard to tell what the data was without my reading glasses.

I had hoped that having the Garmin would inspire me to run, or at least jog-walk, more often, but so far not too much. Two nights ago I went out for 2 miles, though. As I had suspected, I was still slow. But at least now I know how slow I am, exactly, and what kind of heart rates I'm generating.

This morning I decided to get heart-rate savvy on the bike, and got all geared up. Went outside, turned on the wrist unit... damn, battery low. I waited for a while, but apparently "battery low" is a synonym for "not gonna work, sucka." Yeah, bitch, my battery is low too.

At least the Garmin doesn't tell me I'm obese every time I finish a workout, like my old Polar used to do when I would scroll through the workout data: HR average, calories burned, time, Body Mass Index (OBESE! OBESE! OBESE!), etc. So that's a plus.

One of these days my brother and I are going to clone both partitions of my hard drive onto an external drive, install a nice big 500GB drive into my MacBook, and update both my Mac and Windows OS. Then I really will be the Data Queen.

Stay tuned for charts and graphs.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Random Musings: Bike Bits, Swimmy Swimmy, Pain

The world is waiting, I know, for every shimmering pearl of wisdom that may form in the clamshell of my MacBook. Ooh, labored metaphor alert. Ouch. But hey, I'm out of practice. Been working a little bit on the fiction, but not too much. The old day job has reared its ugly head with a vengeance and is failing to allow me much free thinking and musing time. Even more annoyingly, my old nemesis, the extensor tendons of the right wrist, were flaring up big time, even before my workload got heavy. So in the interests of continuing to receive a regular paycheck, I cut back drastically on all non-work keyboarding. Facebook, blog, novel, Twitter, email, the lot.

Even now I feel the soreness coming on so I'm going to be succinct.
  1. Bought some new aerobars for the LeMond, but installed them wrong, so I'll need to take the armrests off and put the spacers in and put 'em back on again.
  2. Need to buy another little saddle bag, as I keep forgetting to switch my one bag with my tire levers and spare tubes between bikes. This bit me in the ass yesterday on the way to the train
  3. Swimming is lovely. My 100s are getting a little faster, my 400s a little less labored. I even managed a full 25 yards of rather languid butterfly the other day. As the Sacramento summer really kicks in, though, I realize I need a non-black swim cap and some anti-glare goggles.
  4. Running - eh. Not so much. Not feelin' the love right now. Gonna try a quick waddle tomorrow. Even the acquisition of a Garmin Forerunner 305, with all the lovely geeky data it provides, has not inspired me to get out on my two stumpy legs. Tomorrow it's supposed to be cooler, and I will get up early and trot about.
  5. Played another two rounds of disc golf, getting kind of ok at it. If only I had space in the schedule for another time-intensive hobby!
  6. Wrist pain curtails not only writing but also longer bike rides. This officially sucks.
  7. Additional pain is found down in the area of the sacrum, which is sort of familiar, but it seems to be abating. I really need some body work though.
  8. Better get on the stick - registered for the Luna Bar Women's Tri in August and the Golden State Tri in October.
More pearls before too long. We hope. Meanwhile, have fun out there. Go swim.