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did not finish

Potential captions for this photo:

"That's not a bandage -- he's actually giving me a manicure."

"Yes! An excuse to upgrade to Ultegras!"

"I swear, the sag wagon is a really great place to meet people!"

As you can see, Sunday's Metro Triathlon did not turn out as planned. First of all, it wasn't a triathlon at all. At about 7:30 on Saturday morning, I got an e-mail from the race director saying they were canceling the swim because "water conditions do not meet the requirements needed to allow swimming by the State of California's Department of Health standards." (Later discussion with Katie, who grew up in San Jose, revealed this is code for "too much goose poo.")

So all of my hard work and swim training pretty much amounted to nothing. My Olympic distance triathlon morphed into a duathlon -- 1 mile run, 40K ride, 10K run. I've been doing brick workouts that are tougher than this. Without the swim, this event was kind of a letdown.

Yet I still made the trek down to San Jose, largely because I'm a cheap-ass who hates wasting money on an entry fee.

(Thank you to Layla for this photo of Thai and me and for being our head cheerleader! Thank you also to Katie, Alisyn and Matt for being there! And for the wonderfully gross post-race conversations about bodily functions. You know I have the maturity level of a 10-year-old boy.)

A few things we noticed at the starting line: A guy wearing his bike helmet for the run. (Does this actually save time? Or did he just forget? We couldn't stop wondering.) The announcer trying to get the female competitors to dance. (Kind of creepy and sexist.) A lot of people with really good abs. (I wanted to drop and start doing hundreds immediately.)

Run 1: A flat loop around the lake, which by the way, did happen to have quite a few geese in it. I wasn't wearing my Garmin, so I had no idea how fast I was going, but apparently I finished in 7:45. (I suspect the course was short -- I can believe a time in the 8-minute range, but this was a little too fast.)

T1: No issues. I ran in, changed shoes, put my helmet on and wheeled the bike out in 1:23.

Bike: Where do I begin? Everything felt off! My knees hurt, I couldn't get my hands positioned right, my shoulders ached -- I just kept fidgeting and playing with my form. And let's not forget about the headwind for the first 11 miles. I think I got passed by a million people. (Is there nothing more annoying then getting passed by someone who yells "Good job!" and then jets off?) I also almost got hit by a water bottle that another cyclist accidentally dropped. And I saw a woman completely down on the ground. (According to this blogger, she went up over her handlebars.) It freaked me out and I slowed, but there was already a crowd around her, so I kept going.

Once I hit the first turnaround point and got out of the headwind, I started to feel more hopeful. I picked up the pace and managed to pass a few people. Then I started the climb (the only significant hill) on Bailey Road, about 15 miles in, and felt even better -- I have a sick love of hills. I passed a few more people and made it to the top.

And then I saw an aid station and a volunteer handing out water bottles. I hesitated to grab one (since I already had my own water), but went for it anyway, which turned out to be a huge mistake. I got the bottle, but when I tried to switch it to my left hand to drink out of it (I am lame and have difficulty doing anything with my right hand on my bike), I lost control and crashed. Who crashes while trying to use a water bottle?! So incredibly stupid. (Why am I the clumsiest cyclist ever? Did you know that once, in the middle of a 25-mile fundraising ride, I fell at a stop sign and I wasn't even clipped in? I swear, I should ride in a sumo suit.)

I got up and tried to put my chain back on, but it was stuck. And then I noticed there was blood everywhere. And then I noticed my right shifter was crooked. And then I walked up to the aid station and asked them to call a sag wagon. And that was it for me -- my first-ever DNF.

My poor bike, all covered in blood. (If you look closely, you can see the bloody pedal too.)

Thankfully, it doesn't seem like the damage is too bad. The bike shop called today, and it looks like they can save the shifter (though I'll need a new hood), and the parts of the pedal that are broken should be replaceable. As long as nothing is wrong with the fork, Bibi the Bianchi should be just fine. (That's right -- her name is Bibi. I don't know why. I just like it.)

As for me, my right hand has the worst damage.

I can't grip anything very tightly (for example, I have to use my left hand to shift my car into reverse) and the fatty part under my thumb is really swollen, but I can type and write and this morning I pushed a dresser across the room (that was interesting, but I managed to do it). I also have bruising and road rash on my right lower hip and a bruise on my calf that sort of resembles a golf ball. And my right deltoid is incredibly sore. But nothing is broken.

I won't lie, though: The mental part of a DNF is not fun. I know it happens to everyone (even the hot guy in the sag wagon -- his DNF was because he couldn't change his tire), but I still can't help feeling like a bit of a loser. (Yes, I did call my parents crying and asked them if they still loved me even though I couldn't finish the race. Shh. Don't tell anyone.)

Thankfully, Layla strongly urged me to join everyone for mimosas and pancakes afterward. And we sat in the sun and talked about one of my favorite subjects: Poo. (Yay!)

And then I went to Maru Ichi Noodle House in Mountain View and had a bowl of kuro ramen (therefore adding a check mark to my list).

It was impossible to feel sad after this!

heating up

Two days until my first Olympic distance tri, and summer has decided to appear.

I guess this means I'll be carrying water on the run. And I might have to break out the Camelbak on the ride (what was that about trying new gear during a race?) since I am slightly "challenged" when it comes to water bottles.

It's all good practice for Vineman, though. Who knows what the temperatures will be in mid-July? (Dear self: Do not freak out -- it is still too early for a Vineman panic attack.)

In other news, this is second most used search term by people who find my blog: "picture of a bird shitting on my arm."


caught on film

And now I will torture you with a [sideways] video of me swimming.

Yes, I hate watching it as much as you do.

But here's the thing: When I'm swimming, I have no idea what I look like. I can't really tell what I'm doing wrong. So the video -- as painful as it is -- is extremely helpful. And even though I'm no expert, I can already see the following:

  • I roll too much to the side to breathe. This is inefficient.
  • When my head is in the water, it's pretty much totally submerged. I have a strong feeling this is not ideal.
  • If you watch the other swimmers behind me, their stroke turnover is much faster.
  • What the hell is my left arm doing?

Despite my flawed technique, I'm easily swimming a mile in the pool, and it takes me about 45 minutes. This, coupled with my recent redemption at Napa HITS, makes me feel slightly more comfortable about attempting an Olympic distance tri in, oh, three days.

Key word: Slightly.

où est le chat?

Our morning ritual: I carry a mug of tea and lean on the railing. She walks along the railing. And then jumps into the bushes. And then crunches through the leaves. And then squeezes under the fence into the neighbor's yard. And then climbs a tree. And then jumps down. And then crawls through the blackberry bush. And then creeps through the garden.

And when she's done, we both head inside for breakfast.

a good day

Dear Lake Berryessa:

I should've known when I saw the rainbow at packet pick-up Friday that you'd be kind of a softie.

Sixty-degree water? Pshaw. Felt like a hot tub after training in the SF Bay. And you had better visibility than any other body of open water I've ever swum in (well, except for snorkeling in Hawaii, but that doesn't count). And your water actually tasted good, so swallowing a mouthful or two may have even been slightly refreshing.

So I swam you in 25:11, thus meeting my race goal. (Bonus bragging point: I consequently outswam my friend -- who is a guy and five years younger than I am -- by 35 seconds. Somewhere, someone is opening a really expensive bottle of bubbly and toasting me. That's right.) And I stayed with the pack -- granted, toward the back -- but still with the pack and not the kayakers. And I used my newly developed sighting skills to pass and weave around other swimmers and head in the right direction. And I backstroked only three very brief times, just to catch my breath, not because I was freaking out. And then I got my wetsuit off without falling over.

Take that, open water.

As for the rest of the tri ...

Bike: I did not get shit on by a bird, nor did I crash and get stuck in my pedals. However, I couldn't get warm. My fingers and toes were completely numb. Also, I made the mistake of wearing a new helmet for the first time, and it wasn't adjusted properly, so it kept slipping down my forehead at a bizarre angle and pretty much drove me apeshit (though I still managed to pass a lot of people on the hills, including someone in an aero helmet -- granted, it was a kid whose lip was bleeding and he was crying, but whatever -- I'm a horrible person and I'll take what I can get). My cycling time was 55:44 -- about a minute slower than MTS. Blah.

T2: Still wasn't warm. Couldn't get my helmet off because my fingers lacked any sort of feeling and I had no idea where the strap release button was. (Note to self: Race day really isn't the place to test new gear. All of those "experts" actually know what they're talking about.) I also had difficulty getting out of my bike shoes.

Run: So numb that all I could manage were stunted little steps. And even though I passed quite a few people (only two people passed me while I was out there), my run time suffered -- 29:40 compared to 27:34 at MTS.

But I finished in 1:56, which is a 12-minute PR.

And then I went to Sol Bar and ate this:

And then I spent the afternoon lying on the deck in the sunshine and reading library books. And then I got a pedicure. And then I got a massage. And then I made grilled cheese sandwiches with truffle butter.

Because that's how hedonistic newbie triathletes roll, right?


Bad pun, I know. But I had to. Because I got a glimpse of my new neighbors this morning.

Adorable, aren't they? I likely feel very positive about them because I haven't yet worked on the garden.

Also, I haven't yet stepped in a pile of their poo. (Do deer make piles of poo? What is deer poo called? Doe doo-doo?)


It is Friday. And because I like lists, here are three goals for the weekend:

  • Kill the swim tomorrow. Ideally, completing it in the 20-25 minute range and with zero backstroking.
  • Convince my landlord to let me have chickens. Ideally, two or three of them, good layers that are also nice pets and look like they are wearing pants. (This last stipulation is very important because I have always favored chickens with pants.)
  • Catch up on my reading. Ideally, the pile of overdue library books, followed closely by the mountain of magazines and then all of the books I borrowed from friends months and months ago and eventually need to return someday.

on swimming

Perhaps you're already aware of the fact that I pretty much suck at open water swimming.

It took me -- I kid you not -- 40:44 to swim a half-mile at my last tri. (Honestly, I didn't think it was possible to do worse than my first tri, in which I managed a craptacular 32:28 swim. But apparently I'm really good at achieving the impossible.)

Forty freaking minutes to swim a half-mile. Dear god. No matter how you look at it, that is an absolutely atrocious time, and I should probably be whipped and dismissed from the USAT. (Just for the record, in a pool, it takes me about 20 minutes to swim that distance. I'm no Michael Phelps, but at least that is not as awful.) Open water destroys me. And it ruins the rest of my event -- I should be more of a midpacker, but instead, I keep coming in second-to-last in my age group, all because of my lack of open water swimming skills.

So imagine the level of freaking out that took place in my brain as I looked at the calendar and realized I have an Olympic distance tri just around the corner -- literally 11 days from today.

How the hell am I supposed to swim 1.5K (which is just a hair under a mile) in open water by April 22?

As I mentioned above, I like to think I have a knack for making the impossible happen.

So like any student who really wants to pass the test, I've been cramming as much as possible. I've been swimming at the pool every chance I can get. (It takes me about 40 minutes to swim 1.4K -- I'm getting there.) I signed up for Saturday's HITS Napa Valley Sprint at Lake Berryessa to get more open water experience.

And I've started swimming in the San Francisco Bay.

Yup, that's right. My desperation has officially driven me to insanity. I figure if I can swim in 50-degree water with extremely limited visibility and the possibility of large marine life with teeth, I can swim anywhere.

I took an open water clinic at Aquatic Park this past weekend, and then I went back to the city Monday night to brave the waters again during a coached workout.

Things I've learned:

When I wear my wetsuit, I do not sink. In fact, I can do absolutely nothing in the water, and my butt will just start floating upward, all because of the wetsuit. Also, if I really concentrate on my arms and on gliding, my wetsuit helps me go farther per stroke. Dear wetsuit: I love you.

Sighting. I can now swim toward the orange buoy and actually get to the orange buoy instead of swimming past it and into the vortex in the middle of the course.

To control my mind and not freak out, counting strokes helps. One. Two. Breathe. Three. Four. Sight. Breathe. Repeat – and coincidentally forget to think about marine life with teeth.

Ear plugs keep you from getting dizzy and walking like you’re drunk and/or almost falling over when you get out of the water.

Ridiculously cold water is really not that bad. Yes, it does feel like miniature knives are pricking your skin over and over, and if you stay in too long you start wheezing like you’re getting an asthma attack, but being in the water is not nearly as awful as the cold when you get out of the water and strip out of your wetsuit.

Tourists really enjoy taking pictures of the freaks who are swimming in the SF Bay.

I no longer backstroke all the time. In fact, I actually swim like a somewhat normal person – facedown in 50-degree water. (This is what normal people do, right?)

It's not that bad when people swim next to me or accidentally kick me. It’s also not that bad when I accidentally kick them.

And perhaps the most important lesson of all: I am still alive and did not die in open water.

Olympic distance tri, here I come.


I ate so much at lunch today that I had to lie down in my car and nap for 10 minutes before going back to work.

Even scarier: I'm hungry again.

It's definitely training time.

hail mary

In case you didn't already know, Bloody Marys ease the pain and make completely insane, perhaps even stupid, endeavors seem "worth it."

For example: Yesterday's Carneros Vineyard Run. I was registered for the 10K, but when I got out of the car and the rain was coming down sideways and the wind threatened to blow the hat off of my head, it was all I could do to keep from driving home and crawling back into bed. I sacked it up as much as I could and did the 5K instead. And yes, it sucked. Royally. (And was actually much, much worse than my Portland Marathon experience.) And I felt like I was going to freeze to death in my wet clothes afterward.

But after one sip of that Bloody Mary, all pain was temporarily forgotten. (And yes, in case you are wondering, that really is bacon. You can thank Boon Fly Cafe for this genius idea.)

And then there was today's brick workout: A 33-mile ride on a route that included Chalk Hill, followed by a 6.5-mile run (during which I was so thirsty that I thought my throat was going to crack open and bleed -- yes, folks, these are the dramatic images that go through my mind while running).

I deserved every drop of this: