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the imaz in-crowd

As I'm sure you've figured out -- since it's all I talk about all the time (besides cats and poo, of course) -- I got into Ironman Arizona and will hopefully be completing my very first 140.6 next year.

Getting into this race was a feat in itself. Since I'm not a pro triathlete (ha!) and IMAZ sells out in mere minutes online, I bought a plane ticket, got my ass down to Tempe and volunteered so I could secure a spot. And even this was no guarantee -- there were rumors that the volunteers far outnumbered available race spots, and people were freaking out, myself included. (Dear Coach Mark: Sorry for the 5 million losing-my-shit e-mails asking about potential back-up plans.)

The worry escalated to the point where people tried to camp out at registration, but the city ordinance does not allow camping at Tempe Beach Park, so the police made everyone leave.

Of course, we all returned at 4 a.m. to form a huge line outside the park. And registration didn't start until 8 a.m.

(Side note: Can you believe there were this many people who were absolutely, single-mindedly determined to pay half a month's rent to sign away all of their free time for the next year preparing for an event that could involve up to 16:59 hours of non-stop exercise, with possible self-shitting and puking? Dear people in line: Same kind of crazy. Hugs!)

Thankfully, persistence paid off, and as far as I could tell, no one was turned away from on-site registration -- not even the folks who didn't volunteer.

Even though we were all lucky, I definitely learned some things that made the process easier. Here are some tips:

1. First and foremost, volunteer. I cannot stress this enough. If you're serious about IMAZ and this is the race for you, you have to go down there. Unless you have money to burn and can afford the $1,400 Ironman Foundation entry slots (which don't go as quickly, for obvious reasons), online registration is pretty much impossible. Also, being there in person has its perks: You can familiarize yourself with the course and the transition area, watch the chaos that is the swim start (!!) and meet some of the athletes who will be at the starting line with you the following year. (Contrary to popular belief, not all triathletes are stuck-up, self-absorbed snobs. And this race has a lot of first-timers, so it's fun to swap stories of how you got into triathlon and what made you crazy enough to want to do an Ironman.)

2. Choose your volunteer spot carefully. There are pros and cons to every shift -- you just need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish over the weekend. If you want to see the final hours of the race (always the most inspirational, in my opinion -- I cry every time), you'll want an earlier volunteer shift. If the finish line doesn't matter so much to you, consider taking one of the last shifts (i.e., closing down the run aid stations), which also often have the added perk of the "speed pass," a special wristband that gives you priority registration over the other volunteers, so you don't have to go straight from your volunteer shift to standing in line and can maybe -- just maybe -- get some sleep. Other inside tips: Security staff gets a special T-shirt that allows them access to the finish line, which is pretty cool. However, security staff also has to keep rowdy bystanders off of the course and will often get cursed at by random strangers. Again, pros and cons. (Personally, I was very curious about the volunteer spots in the men's changing tent. But then again, I'm a dirty pervert.)

3. Work your entire shift. Because you won't get your volunteer wristband if you leave early. And you won't be able to register before the general public without that wristband. Bonus points: Work your entire shift in costume. Even better if you are cross-dressing. Because there's nothing like making people laugh hysterically while they are in aero position.

4. Bring a camping chair. This was the best advice I received. When you're in that registration line for hours, you'll want to sit down. And the cold, hard asphalt is not exactly the most ideal spot. Also a good idea: Wear layers and a hat, bring a blanket and fill a backpack with snacks and water. A thermos full of hot coffee isn't a bad idea either. Even more awesome: Have nice friends who don't care about sleep and will bring you coffee in line.

5. Don't forget your credit card and ID. This is what you'll need to register. They don't take cash. (What's cash anyway?) Basically, they charge your card $700 and then send you an e-mail about a week later with a link to more detailed registration information. (And I don't joke when I say "more detailed" -- Ironman is serious about your medical history, and they also want your "story" -- any extra info they can announce when you're crossing the finish line. Dear Ironman: I really, really want you to call me "Seattle's most famous cat lady." Hint, hint.)

6. Finally, have fun. Because you're about to surrender your entire social life and all of your money for the next year, so you might as well make IMAZ registration your one final hurrah before you become a poor hermit who passes out from exhaustion every night by 8 p.m. We made it a reunion weekend -- I rented a house with Arvan (who has been my tri buddy since my very first triathlon ever and now we are both IMAZ-bound -- yay!), Layla (best moral support ever and an ├╝ber volunteer who worked not just one but two shifts, even though she wasn't registering) and Adam (local tour guide and resident cross-dresser cheerleader). We drank every night, wore stupid outfits, sang Christmas carols (note: this was pre-Thanksgiving), ate a lot of omelettes, killed a very large cockroach (don't ask) and barely slept all weekend. (You can read more about the amazing-ness on Adam's blog here.) Other hijinks included:

(Thank you, Layla, for capturing my truly stellar aero form. Dear Coach Mark: Look, I'm a real triathlete!)

It was awesome. And I can't wait for next year, though I can skip the cockroach part.

how I celebrate

Dear friends and family: Unless you are my brother, his wife, their kid who has been born and their kid who is not yet born (because Christmas is for kids, so that's why these are the only people who are getting presents from me -- shh, don't tell the cats they didn't actually come from my womb as this will surely break their little hearts), your holiday gift this year will be watching me pour all of my money into Ironman Arizona. You're welcome! And hopefully you will be as excited as I am about ripped abs and the Garmin 910XT, both of which I fully expect to attain at some point over the next 11 months. (Hey, Santa: I swear I'm not a selfish bitch!)

That said, I am partaking in festive activities. Case in point: Casually mocking the Hipster Lumberjacks in Holiday Gear at the bus stop. (Side note: Santarchy isn't until Saturday, so I have no idea what these folks were doing.)

I also decorated my apartment this weekend.

And I'm pleased to report that so far, the cats have not destroyed my miniature fake Christmas tree hung with oversized phallic vegetables. But honestly, I'm not holding my breath. Who knows what sort of mayhem they've been up to today while I'm at work.

Speaking of the cats, I've addressed my four Christmas presents (Seattle insider tip: Wait until the Seahawks game starts and then go shopping -- you'll have every single store to yourself!) as coming from the cats.

(And in case the photo above makes your brain hurt, my family calls me "Kelly." It's an old nickname. And unless I knew you in high school or earlier, you are not allowed to call me that. Don't even think about it.)

And finally, no real celebration is complete without drag queens.

You know those times when a dude in drag is more woman than you are? Yeah. Those times. I really need to do some sit-ups and figure out what mascara is. 

wheatless in seattle, part 2

Since my last two posts were all about death, let's focus now on food. Because cannibalism comfort eating.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Seattle is an incredible food town. I'm constantly making a mental list of places to eat -- there's an endless parade of restaurant openings (I really want to go to Loulay, hint hint), pop-ups, food trucks and hole-in-the-wall ethnic spots. Not to mention the tried-and-true, late-night, drinky dives with all of the fried goodness. (I know everyone loves a hot bag of Dick's, but give me Taco Time. And yes, I had to phrase that sentence exactly that way because I'm really mature.)

So without further delay (and terrible jokes), here are my latest gluten-free favorites:

Capitol Cider: Since I can't drink beer anymore, I've started drinking cider as an alternative -- the drier, the better. And Washington, with its plethora of apple varieties, is cider heaven. The list of options at Capitol Cider is endless -- both on tap and by the bottle. And you can buy bottles at retail to take home. And everything -- yes, every single dish -- on the menu is gluten-free. I highly recommend the fish and chips. (Dear gluten-free people: Did you ever think you'd ever have fish and chips again? No? This will change your life.)

Ma'Ono Fried Chicken & Whisky: Ate here last night for Belle's birthday. I kind of want to go again tonight. And tomorrow night. And the night after that. Because the food is ridiculously good, and they're awesome about accommodating gluten-free requests. The best part is the gluten-free fried chicken -- thick, crispy skin that isn't greasy or heavy. I kind of want to marry it. (Just make sure you order your bird ahead of time -- they require 24 hours advance notice for the gluten-free version. Half chickens and full chickens are available, and they come with rice, dipping sauce and kimchee veggies.) 

Coffee & A Specialty Bakery: Located on the back side of Pike Place Market and super close to my office, this teeny-tiny bakery is a favorite lunch option of mine. Everything in their bakery case is gluten-free, from quiche and egg-and-bacon tarts (seriously) to madeleines and breads. They also feature a different sandwich special every day. Last time I was there, I got a fried shrimp po' boy with a side of fries. (The fries were a little soggy, but the sandwich was all kinds of drool-worthy, especially the shrimp.)

Pho Big Bowl: So far, my absolute favorite pho place in Seattle. It's dirt cheap (two people can eat for about $12), they don't use MSG, service is fast and friendly, and since it's in Ballard, I can go vintage shopping or eat molten chocolate cake afterward. Bonus points: Free soda or a mango pudding dessert with each order (just make sure you ask for it -- they don't ask you if you want it otherwise), and there are vegan options too.

Samurai Noodle: I HAVE FOUND GLUTEN-FREE RAMEN; GOD EXISTS. The broth is the same, but the noodles are lighter -- a little more on the pho-like side -- which also makes it easier to slurp up the entire bowl without feeling too full. Pretty much a win in my book.

And there you have it. The real reason I do triathlon: Permission for shameless gluttony.

(If you're curious, my first "wheatless in Seattle" post can be found here.)

on grieving

Here is something I don't talk about: Cancer. And how too many people I know have it. And how my uncle succumbed to it last Thursday morning. And how I found out as I was walking to the bus stop.

I liked my uncle. He played guitar and let his dog eat cake off the table in the middle of parties and told inappropriate jokes. He loved my aunt fiercely (which was slightly awkward for everyone around them), only drank Napa Cab and listened to pre-creepy era Michael Jackson. When I introduced him to guys I was dating, he tried to trick them into announcing they were gay in Tagalog. He was sarcastic and a little vain, and he wore turtlenecks and gold. He also had a karaoke machine -- the old-school kind with the laser disc. (Your mind was just blown, wasn't it?)

My uncle outlived the doctor's prediction, but the cancer still won. And when he knew he was dying, he refused to wear Depends because he wanted to die in actual pants.

I'm in L.A. now, and the funeral is tomorrow. I dread it. I don't grieve in public, and funerals -- especially the extremely Catholic Filipino ones that involve more hours of praying on your knees than I ever thought possible -- scare me because they never seem to celebrate a person's life and instead are so focused on the incredible loss everyone else is experiencing. (Shouldn't we be drinking Napa Cab and singing the karaoke version of "Billy Jean" and wearing turtlenecks?)

I worry this makes me a heartless asshole, like I'm losing some kind of grief contest because I hate crying in public and don't take comfort in saying the rosary over and over again. But my emotions happen in their own way: Underwater during a swim workout. In the car while commuting. On the couch with a cat in my lap. And I think a lot about death and what it means and how really everything is so finite. And I find myself calling people I love and saying, literally: "Please don't die. Just please don't die." As if my begging has any sort of power.

I don't believe in an afterlife. Or reincarnation (although if reincarnation did exist, I was definitely a cat at some point). I think we get one shot, and what we do with what we have is a very, very important thing.

And you have to salute a man who really wanted to wear his pants.

my creepy new hobby

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow I went from being a strict vegetarian (not even fish) to an all-of-the-meat-parts omnivore who ate her own chicken's brain, is obsessed with blood sausage and has skinned a baby rabbit.

That last part? Yes. And if you do not like seeing dead animals or have a weak stomach, you should probably stop reading this. Because I took a taxidermy class last Friday, and small, furry bunnies were involved. (And this is the part where I lose all five readers who actually follow this blog. I also feel bad because I know people who have pet rabbits, and this makes me feel like an asshole. That said, I would probably taxidermy a cat if I found fresh roadkill. Although when I told Alberto Salad Bar that I wanted to start picking up roadkill, he said: "Absolutely not. I don't care if you taxidermy things and put them up all over the house and I would even be OK with you having a taxidermy studio, but you are not bringing roadkill home." Perhaps I should rethink our relationship.)

Why taxidermy? Because lately I've been drawn to animal heads. I'm not really sure why. I think I just like creepy things. (Have I mentioned my doll obsession? And the collection of baby heads I have at home? I'm also partial to skulls, prosthetic limbs and Victorian death photos. Party at my place, anyone?) And since I'm one of those people who believes in taking full responsibility for things (i.e., if I'm going to eat meat, eat the entire animal), I felt like I should know how taxidermy works and if I could stomach the process behind it.

Therefore, taxidermy class. The project: Rabbits. And oddly enough, every single student in the class was a woman. (So not only is Seattle the Land of Hipster Lumberjacks, it's also the Home of Creepy-Ass Ladies. I guess I fit right in.)

Not going to lie -- this made me feel sad. And there were a few times I wanted to cry. The rabbits were so small and so cute. But apparently, they were also destined to be snake food. So if we weren't going to taxidermy them, they would've been eaten alive by a reptile. (Side note: No meat went to waste. The leftover carcass was used for dog food -- I guess there are dog owners who want fresh rabbit meat for their pets and sign up for this sort of thing.)

Also, no formaldehyde was involved in the process. The rabbits were killed (with gas) and then immediately frozen. They were thawed specifically for the class. So in other words, since they were not preserved, they could still rot, which was kind of what happened with my first rabbit (again, these photos are super-graphic and disgusting, so stop reading if you hate this stuff):

The poor little guy kept bleeding, and he smelled pretty bad, and his fur was falling out, so my teacher took him away from me and gave me a different one.

Step one involved cleaning the excess blood off of the rabbit's fur with peroxide. Step two involved skinning the rabbit with a scalpel and then carefully pulling the outer layer off. The trick here was to make a shallow incision -- almost a scratch vs. an actual cut -- or you would puncture the gut and -- boom! -- poo everywhere! Thankfully, that didn't happen to me. (And the next photo is really, really disgusting, even for me.)

(Side note: Yes, looking at an animal carcass is gross and terrible. But if you think about it, this is what we eat all the time, every day. And yet it's really difficult to face what meat really is: An animal, a living thing that was most likely really cute at one point. It's much easier to eat when all you see is the packaged product or the perfect hamburger. I'm the same way -- I still struggle with meat on the bone because it makes me think: If I was cooked, would I look like that? And the answer is most likely yes.)

After you skinned the rabbit (carefully -- the ears, front legs and eyes were all very tricky and required a special technique), you turned it inside out and then rubbed it with a ridiculous amount of Borax to dry it out. During this process, you also pulled off any excess fat from the pelt.

From there, you turned it rightside out and cleaned it again with the peroxide.

And this was when I started to question my taxidermy skills. Case in point: Let's take a look at Naomi's rabbit ...

... vs. mine:

The teacher actually looked at my rabbit and said: "There is always one awkward student in the class."


Thankfully, with a lot of peroxide and cotton balls, I was able to redeem myself.

(If you're wondering why he has pins sticking out of his nose, it's because it takes about a month for taxidermy to dry, and in order to keep the rabbit's lips from drying in a horrible, horrible way, you have to hold them in place with pins.)

So that is story behind the latest creepy addition to my household. 

And in case you're wondering, yes, the cats immediately went after the rabbit when I brought him home -- I rescued him just in time.

And I smelled like blood for about 24 hours after the class.

kicking my california ass

It is so incredibly cold here. If I'm barefoot in my apartment, my feet go numb. On the days I drive to work (a rare occasion, since I have insane California road rage and start yelling and honking at people prefer public transit), I have to plan ahead so I can factor in the time it will take to scrape the ice off my windshield and possibly drive to the gas station to refill the air in my tires. I've started signing my work e-mails "Take care and stay warm." 

Last night I wore leg warmers on the trainer.


And then I went to bed in two layers of pajamas, plus a bathrobe with a hood. And I left the heater on, which I really hate to do because I'm cheap and all extra money needs to be allocated to Ironman (coaching fees! gym membership! aerobars! wheel rental! phallic helmet! travel!). And I had a down comforter. And two really furry cats. And I still froze.

And then woke up to this:   

(Yes, my weather app has cats doing yoga on it. Clearly, it's far superior to your weather app.)

I have officially forgotten what summer is. Instead, this is my reality:

That's right, folks -- the Land of Hipster Lumberjacks. (P.S. That's a guy.)

one grateful bitch

I feel like the Internet has turned into one gigantic forum of lists: Thirteen Most Hipster Things to Have Happen Ever! The Forty-five Hottest Jewish Women in Hollywood (for real)! Five Signs Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You! (I try to avoid dwelling on that last list. Perhaps it's a little too close to home for my taste.)

And because I got up really early this morning to cheer at the Seattle Half (my friend Melissa's first 13.1!) ...

... and then finished the day with a 1,500-yard swim (hey, Ryan Gosling, I look extra-sexy when I get out of the pool and have a big red swim cap line indented in my forehead) and am so tired I can't come up with anything original to post, I give you this:

Ten Things for Which I Am Grateful Because It Is Thanksgiving Weekend, Duh

1. This glowing, glorious, brutally cold, brutally beautiful, vibrant mofo of a city and the crazy decision to move here without knowing a single soul. Anonymity is necessary sometimes. And things that seem scary and intimidating are often also the most rewarding. 

2. My family. And how my mom looks perpetually 40 and also never takes a photo with her eyes open. (She'd kill me if she knew I posted this on the Interwebs. Dear world: This will be our little secret.)

3. My friends. The old ones, who are strangely OK with going along with some silly scheme I've made up (costumes! theme parties! elaborate back stories that really don't need to be that elaborate but it's more fun when they are!) yet always tell the truth, even when it's not entirely what I want to hear because that's how much we love and trust each other:

The new ones, who are game for helping me explore this mofo of an Emerald City, from Middle Eastern food to Flywheel to Homo for the Holidays (yes, that's really a thing and I can't wait until we go).   

And the really old school ones whom I haven't seen in 18 years, yet we still manage to pick up where we left off. (And still kind of look like we did in high school. Dear Asian genes: Thank you.) 

4. Cats. And a dog. And how everyone miraculously gets along, no big deal. (Seriously, the following photo may blow your mind.)

5. My job. Yes, folks, it's really rather sinful that "wine professional" is a thing.

6. Triathlon. Because when you can't do one sport because of a broken cuboid, there are still two other options.

(Side note: The whole trainer setup fascinates the cats. They stare at me like I'm some kind of freak. But then again, I'm wearing padded shorts and riding a road bike indoors and not going anywhere and sweating profusely. The cats are likely onto something. Either that, or they're trying to figure out how to rig the trainer so they can kill me and eat my dead body. I really should stop reading so many lists.)

7. Speaking of triathlon, have I mentioned I'm doing my first Ironman in 2014? IMAZ or bust!

8. My "emergency contact" (by the way, completing IMAZ registration was no joke -- I felt like I was handing over my entire medical history), who wouldn't let me miss tonight's swim (even though all I really wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch terrible movies and eat Doritos) and who made the most incredible, fancy-pants Thanksgiving dinner yet still tolerated my Spam and eggs obsession anyway and who is from Eugene so he once dressed up as "Alberto Salad Bar" for a 5K (pretty much the most genius thing I have ever heard) and who told me that I can taxidermy him as long as I make sure his hair looks pretty and who has serious conversations with my cats on a regular basis.

(Smitten kitten, in so many ways.)

9. Food. Because it's really the reason for being. Recent examples include the potato-themed dinner at The Herbfarm:

Dumplings at Din Tai Fung (so worth the gluten overload):

The aforementioned awesomeness that is Spam:

(Go ahead and judge. This is the ultimate comfort food.)

10. And finally: Maturity, good etiquette and piety.

(Oh come on. You were totally thinking the same thing. No way you knew these were geoducks.)

run-on sentence

I'm starting to think registering for an Ironman is an endurance event in itself.

This is the conclusion I'm arriving at as I sit here in the Tri-Cities Airport, waiting for a much-delayed flight (two hours) to bring me back to Seattle, where I will hopefully make my connection and catch yet another flight to Phoenix and then go to Tempe to volunteer at Ironman Arizona on Sunday, during which I must wear a slutty football player costume because the theme of the aid station at which I am volunteering is "sports," and Adam (who is also volunteering, along with Layla and Arvan) and I have decided this is a boring theme and needs to be spiced up (so he will be dressing as a slutty cheerleader because we must match) and then immediately after the race ends at midnight, we are going to camp out in the registration line because rumor has it there are more volunteers than available spots, so I'm kind of in crazy-stress-fight mode because I want that goddamn spot and have decided IMAZ will be The Race in 2014 because it is flat and fast and on the West Coast, and for good luck, yesterday I went to Northstar and blended my very own IMAZ-themed wine to toast the start of a year of insanity, and most likely this wine will be imbibed at 2 a.m. in the registration line, and I told my coach this, and I think he may think I drink too much to be a really serious triathlete.

Where the hell is this plane?!

winter is coming

Or maybe it's already here? I'm back in Seattle, which is grey and windy and wet. And I totally ate shit this morning when I slipped on one of those metal sidewalk cover-things on my way to the bus. So not only do I have a broken cuboid, I now have a big, fat, bruised right knee.

Is there some kind of award for this? Because if so, please nominate me. I need a trophy for my bookcase.


"How do you like Seattle?"

I get this question at least three times a week.

My go-to answer: "So far, I love it. But ask me again in April, after I haven't seen sun for six months."


Advice I've received: Start taking Vitamin D. In fact, start taking it yesterday. Plan a trip to Mexico or Hawaii for February or March. Buy a good raincoat; only tourists carry umbrellas.

Don't step on the metal.


I've begun making a list of things to keep me occupied when there is no daylight and my pant hems are permanently soggy and all I want to do is ingest entire vats of stew and chili and soup in one sitting.

So far, this includes: Finding a gym that has a normal-sized pool because my current gym's pool is five yards short, which drives me absolutely insane. Setting up my bike trainer without having some sort of freak accident in my living room. Relearning to knit for the express purpose of making ridiculous cat-sized garments. Watching all of Buffy, all over again, perhaps more than once. Reading all of the books I own but have never read (there is a surprisingly large number).

And perhaps -- just perhaps: Writing again.


As the plane landed last night, I thought about that first time, when I arrived with a car full of all of my most important things (cats, bike, cooking utensils). It's a weird feeling, when you move to a new city and you don't know what the months ahead will hold and you wonder if the landscape around you will ever feel familiar.

But now, when those wheels touch the ground, it's different. It's relief. It's gratitude. It's home.