how to ugly cry in public

Monday, June 30, 2014

Red Butte Cemetery, Aspen

I've always loved cemeteries. They say a lot about the city or town they're in, the culture of the people who live there, the history of a region. I love wandering through them, looking for the oldest headstones or the most ornate or the humblest ones, eroded and covered in lichen. I try to imagine the lives of the people who came before me: What did their laughs sound like? What food did they like best? Were they in love when they died? And I wonder if they still have family who visit them and remember their stories, so many generations later.

Lately, I've found myself seeking solace in cemeteries more and more often. After the past six months, I've become an expert in public crying, and cemeteries are by far, hands down, the absolute best places for a no-holds-barred waterworks display. (I also enjoy my car, airports, public transit and halfway houses -- people are really nice to you if you cry on the doorstep of a halfway house. I've been offered food.) If you are planning to have a mental breakdown any time in the near future, I highly recommend a cemetery.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

First of all, hardly anyone hangs out in a cemetery (with the exception of morbid little me, who can't seem to get enough), so there's a strong chance you'll have privacy. And if anyone is actually there and they see you lose your shit, no one questions it because you're in a cemetery and crying is what you are supposed to do there. (Who cares if you're crying in front of the grave of someone who died a century ago? It's still perfectly socially acceptable.)

I always seem to end up in front of the girl who died too young -- 3 years, 6 years, 10 years. I don't do this on purpose; for some reason, the stones I find prettiest always end up being these. And then I sit on the grass and cry -- terrible, ugly, blubbery, body-shaking weeping -- for a good while.

I think about everyone in that cemetery -- all those people and their lives that I can't even fathom. I know we are human and have all felt pain -- the pain of watching loved ones die, the pain of actually dying -- and it makes me feel less alone, like I'm simply part of the fabric of this world, and what I'm undergoing isn't any more or less extraordinary than what anyone else has already experienced or will experience in the future.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Seattle

It's this bizarre feeling of release and solidarity. And then when I'm done, I like to lie down in the grass and stare at the sky.

normal is overrated

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I've been tracking my teammates at Ironman Coeur d'Alene all day today, especially Elizabeth and Lyset, who just completed their first Ironman ever. In 139 days, I'll be there too.

That's crazy.

You know what else is insane? This training. I rode for 4.75 hours today (almost 66 miles) and then got off the bike for a 20-minute transition run. Which means I worked out for more than five hours. In one day. And yet that is less than a third of the time it will likely take me to complete Ironman. Dear god, what the hell have I gotten myself into?

Random thoughts from today's "experience" (which started with hills in Discovery Park, then an out and back to Redmond and then the usual giant climb home):

What was up with the smiling strangers? Either I looked awesome (and yes, Muppet is pretty damn sexy), or there was Hammer Gel all over my face. I think it was the latter.

Can I put hot dogs in my bike special needs bag at IMAZ? Because about three hours into this ride, I couldn't stop thinking about sausage. (OK, I know what that sounds like. But I'm being serious here.) My stomach started growling, and no matter how much Hammer Gel I smeared all over my face ingested, all I wanted was a goddamn wiener. (Sorry. Had to.) The craving got so intense that I actually stopped at a pub and stuffed my face with a brat and some chips. The speed at which I inhaled this really could've rivaled Kobayashi.

Can I record this on Training Peaks?

All joking aside, I probably should figure out what to do about the insane mid-ride hunger. My pre-ride breakfast clearly wasn't enough, and gels don't replace real food.

I like my bike so much better than any boy I have ever met in my whole entire life. I just wish I could win the lottery so I could get Muppet a new saddle (my butt constantly hurts) and a fancy wheelset. Because as a wonderful, solid, loyal life partner, she deserves everything.  

Look at that hot piece of ass.

Riding in aero is much more comfortable than not riding in aero. And I can't believe I'm actually at a place where I can say that.

My neighbors must think I'm crazy. They see me take my bike out early in the morning, come back some time in the afternoon and then immediately leave the house again to go for a run. I'm also pretty sure they hate the sound of the bike trainer and curse me for riding it at 6 a.m.

I love my tri kit and think it's the most adorable thing ever, but I feel like a total douchebag when I'm running around the neighborhood in a full kit with a matching logo hat and There Is No Race. It's just me all by myself, running around like an idiot in an obnoxious spandex outfit while people are walking their dogs and weeding their gardens and releasing their children. (That's what parenting is, right? You release your children in a public space and let them run around until they pass out? Oh wait. Clearly this is why I have cats.)

I tried to take a picture of my kit so you could see just how adorable it is and also just how ridiculous it is to be wearing this around the neighborhood. And then a fat, lazy cat photobombed me. Which brings me to my final random thought for the day: Cats hate triathlon.

back at the start

Friday, June 27, 2014

Vineman is two weeks from Sunday. Funny how something that was such a big deal two years ago -- something that gave me nightmares and made me anxious and turned me into a raging bitch during taper -- just kind of snuck up on me this time around.

I feel like a completely different person as I approach the starting line. Obviously, physically, this is indeed the case: I've been training since December and have a solid base, vastly improved bike skills and a stronger swim. (And with the recent bout of explosive diarrhea, I'm easily at race weight, if not lighter. Ha.)

But what really startles me is where I am mentally and emotionally. The last six months, with their layer upon layer of loss, have changed me in such an extreme way that I barely recognize myself. So much of what I thought I could rely on has disappeared and been replaced with questions that have no answers. Priorities have shifted; things that once meant the world to me no longer exist, and things I never thought possible have suddenly come blazing into the world at full force. I feel small and inconsequential, like I'm simply trying to hold on -- fingers twisted in fur -- to the beast that is this life, this strange dark animal that I will never be able to control, no matter how much I try.

I find myself craving hard workouts and physical exhaustion because this is so much easier to understand than cancer or death or heartbreak. I like that first plunge in the lake, when the water swallows me and I can't see anything or hear anything but what's inside my head -- and very often, that sound is just numbers, counting the strokes -- one, two, three, four. I like the track, the repetition, knowing each lap will always be 400 meters and all I have to do is run and I will make it around. I like the way it feels when I'm on the trainer doing Zone 4 intervals, and I push so hard I get to a place where I can't stop crying. It is the most honest expression of who I've become.

I don't know if personal pain makes you a better athlete -- if loss and sadness somehow make you tougher on the race course. I don't know if you can draw a metaphor here -- make it through the rough patches, the times when you want to sit on the side of the road and heave, and find a greater reward at the end. All I know is I feel like I've been laid bare, stripped of everything I had previously believed in, and I'm still standing here.

in pictures

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A few more images from Aspen that were too beautiful/good/ridiculous not to share:

Leadville, almost 10,500 feet above sea level

Red Butte Cemetery, my favorite spot in all of Aspen

Dear mountains: We salute you.

Nothing like a crotch shot.

The post-festival yell-at-the-TV spread

Uni at Matsuhisa

Scenes from a six-miler at 8,000 feet

I want to get lost here.

Independence Pass -- and it's June.

Grateful every day for the opportunity to visit so many beautiful places and experience so many different things. Although just for the record, I don't count the vagina belt as one of those.

that classic time of year

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I know I've written mostly about training lately, but besides the ass explosions and long hours spent on the bike (thankfully these are separate incidents), I've been dealing with a lot of craziness at work.

In other words, the annual Food & Wine Classic, held this past weekend in Aspen. But this year wasn't like the previous ones -- we pumped up our presence in a big way with a huge hospitality party on opening night, a fleet of Washington wineries at numerous events all weekend and tons of branding and logos wherever we could manage it. (That govino in your gift bag? You're welcome.) And I was the lucky one running point on the entire activation. (Perhaps this explains why my bowels have been so irritable.)

This is what the office looked like in the weeks leading up to Food & Wine.

The cats would've loved it.

Yes, folks, contrary to popular belief, the wine industry isn't all outdoor patios and glowing sunsets and filet mignon. There's a whole lot of schlepping and sleeplessness and wearing sweats to work so you can move boxes and sit on the floor and pack things and count things and curse with full body motion when things are missing. Last Thursday, the day of the party, I worked from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. And my dinner was a $4 frozen entree because I didn't have time to eat real food -- even though I was at a restaurant moving furniture around for most of the day.

So hectic that I had to do my strength-training with a 6L!

Still, it's pretty amazing to work so hard and watch an unforgettable night come together.

We were targeting 150 to 200 guests, and we ended up with 455.

I have no idea who this guy is.

Winemaker vs. sommelier dance-off

All in all, it was a great night. And the rest of the weekend went well too. A few highlights:

Blue sky, green hills, white tents

I know, right?

I got back last night. Unfortunately, my roommates were less than pleased by my absence and decided to share their wrath.

Nothing like a feline welcome home.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

So I think that pretty much sums things up.

poop again?!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

This is probably a really dumb question, but is it possible to have a friend who gives you some kind of food poisoning every time you eat a meal with her and her boyfriend, even if they weren't the ones who cooked it? Like maybe they transmit airborne diarrhea or are secret wizards of the order of poop flood? And when they say "let's hang out," what they really mean is "hope there's a toilet nearby"?

I mean, the first time this happened, I thought it was unfortunate, a one-time twist of fate. But then it happened again. I'm wondering if there is some kind of poop conspiracy here.

I've been sick all day. I can't keep any food in my system. And my ass is incredibly unhappy.

And to make things even more unpleasant, I have this tomorrow:

Yup. My first triathlon in 11 months. Dear god, please don't let me shit myself.

because you care

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Team ride this morning -- we met on Mercer Island and then did the south end of the Lake Washington Loop.

This photo makes me want new wheels and a TT bike. Gah.

Throughout the ride, my right cleat was loose, and I felt like I was wearing a tap shoe, not a bike shoe. I stopped to tighten it, and all seemed to be going well until just before Mile 25. I heard something metallic bounce off the road, so I pulled over and checked my shoe.


Sure enough, one of the screws had fallen out. My right foot isn't the one I use to clip in and out at stops, so I decided to keep riding -- finished a total of 35 miles without further incident.

Anyway, I spent tonight putting new cleats on my shoes in preparation for tomorrow's ride. (That's right -- this stuff is now back-to-back. I'm pretty much in a perpetual state of low-level soreness and muscle fatigue. My quads scream bloody murder when I walk downstairs. I've also developed a shorts tan to end all shorts tans.)  

Obviously, it was time for a change.

My left cleat was so worn down.

Crazy when compared to the new cleat ...

... and I just realized I was holding those cleats in two different ways so the comparison doesn't make perfect sense. Whatever. Pretend you understand.

Oh and in case you're wondering: Yeah, I'm having a wild Saturday night, guys. Woo! Cleats!

the swim saga continues

Thursday, June 05, 2014

So swimming has become something of a traumatic experience for me.

Part of this is because every time I go to the community pool, there is an older Asian woman who decides to shower right next to me, even if all of the other showers are free. And then I feel really weird because it's like I'm naked with my grandmother.

I also seem to have developed a horrible chlorine allergy, and as soon as I am done swimming, I start sneezing violently and am congested for at least 24 hours afterward. It's disgusting.

But mostly I'm traumatized because I don't have a home pool anymore. Shortly after the "chemical issues" incident at the gym, the pool there was permanently closed. (To this day, I have no idea why. But I still stand by the fact that it was not my pee.) I ended up cancelling my membership since the only reason I joined that gym in the first place was the pool. (And coincidentally, cancelling was a good call; today I got an e-mail telling me the gym will permanently close at the end of the month. Seriously, I have no idea what is going on. Just glad I'm not part of the madness anymore.)

So now I am pool-homeless. I've been using the community pool in my neighborhood, but this has been stressful because the lap swim is only 1.5 hours, which is fine for now, but once my workouts get longer, there is no way I can physically complete them before it's time to get out of the pool.

And then there's lane sharing. The community pool has two slow lanes, two medium lanes, a fast lane and a very fast lane. And quite a few swimmers. My speed is somewhere between slow and medium. I usually warm up in the slow lane and then move into the medium lane for the main set, but this doesn't always work out. Sometimes I end up being the aggressive person in the slow lane who rides everyone's toes. Other times, I'm the traffic jam in the medium lane, and people have to swim around me. Either way, it's stressful, and I have to stand my ground and not let anyone get to me if I want to stay on my intervals. I guess it's good practice for the mass start at IMAZ.

At 6 a.m., this turns into a war zone.

I know I'm going to have to find a new pool soon. Not the easiest thing in Seattle.

(Side note: When I was in Hamilton, Ohio, last month -- long story, but it's a good one -- I swam at the YMCA there and had the entire pool all to myself, plus my very own lifeguard. It was amazing. Apparently, you have to go to the middle of nowhere to find the perfect swim situation.)

in town

Sunday, June 01, 2014

I am presently one-third of the way into three weeks of not traveling -- no airports, no road trips to Eastern Washington or Canada, no anxiously texting the cat sitter. In the past 12 months, I don't think I've ever spent this long of a stretch at home. And to add to that excitement: Sun.

I know, right? Mind-blowing.

So what did I do with my free time?

Totally normal.

What? You don't spend your Saturday afternoons posing for matching portraits with your dead animal friends? Man, your life is incomplete. As you can see, Frank, my not-yet-named taxidermied squirrel and I were models for Bri's photography project. She did a fantastic job with the photos, and the shoot was so much fun. I secretly hope her next project involves cats.

I also spent my free time cooking.

Mmm. Slutty egg and grits.

There was also a lot of reading (currently blasting through Cheryl Strayed's Wild and feeling wholly entertained and shocked by her complete lack of trail preparedness), cleaning (this afternoon I found what can only be described as a cat vomitorium under my bed, and it was terrible) and purging (not in the cat vomitorium way, but in the massive Goodwill dump way).

And of course, there was cycling. Because how can I spend a glorious weekend at home without my favorite fiesty girl?

We met up with Julie today with big plans of riding Mercer Island and the north part of the Lake Washington loop. All went well -- I love Mercer and its rollers and green, ferny scenery -- until we got to Bellevue, missed a turn and ended up climbing unexpected hills in Costcoland Kirkland. The confusion continued as we became more and more lost.

Why are we suddenly on gravel?!

There was also the part when I found myself at the top of these stairs and had a horrific fleeting vision of what it would be like if I hadn't seen them.

We eventually figured things out and made our way back to Seattle. The ride just took an hour and 11 miles longer than originally planned. But it was still fun. And we did end up at a bar for burgers and cider afterward.

Hey, girl, hey.

Then I rode the giant hill back to my apartment (I always try to come up with ways to avoid riding this hill, but the truth is: I live on top of the freaking thing, and there is absolutely no way to get home but to ride up it) and lay on the floor (which was very clean, since I have been cleaning a lot this weekend) for a long time.

My view from the floor

And since I was lying on the floor, Maček just had to say hello.

I swear. As if the vomitorium weren't enough.
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