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on boston

Before April 15, I had planned to write a post about how I no longer expect to qualify for Boston, about what it feels like to let go of a goal, about how maybe trying to qualify wasn't very realistic to begin with, especially since it would mean taking an hour and two minutes off of my best marathon time. I can see 10 minutes maybe, perhaps even 15. But more than an hour? You've got to be kidding me.

But then the bombing happened. And it made me sick to my stomach. I still cannot fathom how someone can hurt innocent people -- look them in the eye, even -- in the middle of what can only be described as a celebration. How dare someone punish another person for not only dreaming big, but working hard to make that dream a reality. How dare someone destroy others for being proud of their loves ones, for supporting and encouraging and wanting the best. 

It is disgusting.

And it makes me want to cross that finish line. Because we deserve that dream. No matter how fast we run or how our bodies are shaped or how old we are or where our lives have taken us. If we want to cross that finish line, we deserve the chance to try.

Boston, I'm coming for you. I don't know when it will be or how long it will take me. My hair may be grey and I may be pushing a walker (if I run using a walker, does that make the walker technically a runner?), but I'm coming.

packing for a triathlon

... should really be considered the first event. I remember when I did my first triathlon, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of gear that I had to have a friend walk through a packing list with me.

Since then, I'd like to think I've gotten a little more independent. In fact, I can now complete the triathlon packing process in under 30 minutes. I may be a mediocre athlete on raceday, but I pack like an effing rock star. (And now that I've put this in print, I'll probably show up at the race tomorrow and realize I've forgotten something really important, like my tri shorts. Short pause while I double-check to make sure these are, indeed, in my bag. Phew. OK.)

One thing that has helped immensely in my race prep is a packing list. I like the TriEssential app for iPhone.

It's free, and it has a great packing checklist you can customize to include any special items you need for your race. (Mine would have kittens, except kittens don't travel well.)

I've honestly never used the other tools, largely because they both would make me feel really embarrassed about my slow-ass raceday performance. The checklist, however, is an absolute go-to. I basically scroll through as I pack, checking off items as I go. The "Edit" button allows me to delete items on the list that I don't need, and the "+" button allows me to add additional items, like Body Glide (to keep the wetsuit neck-chafe away) and Tri Slide (which makes it easier to get my wetsuit on and off).

Another packing tip: Get a tri bag. You can buy an "official" one if you want, like the Zoot backpack I got from Sports Basement for about $65, or you can just  find a backpack or duffle bag with enough compartments for your gear. (Finding a large-enough bag can sometimes be a challenge if you are a bigger person -- I'm only 5'0" and I wear a size 7 shoe, so it's really easy for me to fit all of my crap into one bag. Also, the smaller tri bags are less expensive.)

Having everything in one bag makes a huge difference, especially at races where you have to park far away and ride your bike in. So much easier to ride with one bag than with multiple reusable grocery bags slung across your back and hanging from your handlebars!

This is what the inside of my bag looks like. It has a ton of pockets, and I pretty much keep all of my tri-specific items in there at all times -- makes the packing process so much easier.

Things that live in the bag: Tri Slide, Body Glide, sunscreen, chamois cream, ear plugs, lip balm (I'm a lip balm addict), antibacterial gel (in case the pre-race port-a-potty is really bad), Nuun, an extra pair of goggles (you never know when yours will crap out or when a friend may need help), my race belt, an extra swim cap (just in case it's so cold I need to double-cap it), anti-fog drops and a bright orange boa to make finding my transition area easier.

And then I add all the other items that need to go in, using the TriEssential checklist.

Like I said, being relatively small is a good thing when it comes to packing. All of that crap fits in one bag!

Finally, a few other dorky things I like to do, just in case.

I always cut my gel packets halfway open, to make them easier to tear. (So frustrating when you need to open something quickly mid-race, and it won't open.)

I also pack extra safety pins (in sets of four) and a bike tool. (These pins saved a friend who forgot a race belt recently.)

And though I didn't take photos of this (you know, since it's just that interesting -- ha), my standing bike pump is in the car (actually, it pretty much lives there). I like to fill my tires at the car, before riding to the transition area.

And I'm all set to go! (It probably took longer to put this post together than it did to pack.)

And like I said, I may completely suck tomorrow, but at least I pack like a champ.


I have an Olympic distance triathlon in less than 72 hours.

And this is my WTF face.

Because I don't feel ready. My only open-water experience so far this season was MTS, and the water was so frigid I felt like I was hyperventilating. (And Lake Berryessa only promises to be colder.) And I really haven't been running -- maybe once a week max.

My goal for this race: Push aside the nerves and think of this as one mega-sized brick workout -- in other words, the perfect opportunity to practice transitions, work on nutrition (both pre-race and during) and gauge my fitness level.

I'd like to get to the race site Saturday afternoon before packet pickup and go for a quick swim. I know I have the endurance for race day (I swam 2,900 yards yesterday at masters), but I need a sense of what the water temperature will be like. And I need to get my mind in the right place when it comes to the lake. (Dear overactive imagination: There are no sea monsters, dead bodies or sharks down there.)

I also want to drive the bike course (which apparently has two Cat 5 hills, the first of which is right out of transition -- fun!) and the run course.

And then I'll see what happens Sunday.

a big, fancy-pants wine festival

Back from four days at Pebble Beach Food & Wine, where my pouring station at the Grand Tasting was directly beneath the speakers, which were blasting some kind of weird, rich-adults-will-like-this techno, so any time someone came up for a taste, I felt like I was shouting at them. (Also, you know how sometimes when you yell hard enough, spit comes out? This was a very real fear.)

Other wine festival-related observations: Apparently, you must be in costume to taste wine. This is the only logical explanation I have for the extraordinary outfits people wore to this event. Examples included: A tuxedo jacket with studded lapels; numerous men in pink or red pants with sockless, laceless loafers (bonus points if they are blue, orange, yellow or any color but brown); stripper shoes, the higher, the better; plaid pants with white sport coats (sort of like the "I'm golfing, but I'm formal-golfing" look); bow ties as all-over accessory (yes, even on a pair of laceless blue loafers); see-through dresses; leather pants; giant, feather-duster-esque plumage in hats, hairpieces, necklaces, etc.; and head-to-toe white, because obviously this is the best color to wear around red wine and people who have been drinking all day.

I also encountered, for the very first time, the creature known as The Husband Who is Such a Wine Snob that He Just Cannot Speak to Pourers. In order for this being to get a taste of wine, his wife must sidle up to the table, quietly offer two glasses, and say, in a very apologetic voice: "My husband loves Cabernet, but he is very particular about wine, so can you please educate us?" (Imagine the difficulty of this conversation with adult techno tearing through your soul.) Meanwhile, the husband stands a few feet away, staring at something very important located several feet above your head.

And let's not forget the amorous couple who made out for a good five minutes right in front of my pouring station. Nothing like seeing people your parents' age shove tongues down each other's throats.

Other images from the festival:

Am I the only person who thinks she stole Guy's hair?

Pecan brittle made with Pappy Van Winkle. Pappy Van-freaking-Winkle! Hedy Goldsmith is a genius. And also incredibly sweet in person. (She sent me home with a to-go pack of this stuff. It lasted less than eight hours. Nothing like eating fancy brittle by yourself in your hotel room.)

Just for the record, this happened at 10 a.m.

I think Tyler saw that older couple making out, too.

I love Carla Hall. She is an absolute sweetheart -- spent time with all of her fans, asking questions, taking photos and getting to know them. And her food is awesome.

Duck hot dogs on glazed doughnut buns, topped with truffle mayonnaise. Surprisingly, I just couldn't do it -- the portion size and the over-the-topness of it all discouraged me. I may regret Not Knowing for the rest of my life.

However, I did eat a popsicle with chunks of bacon in it:

seen on my ride

Today: Twenty-two solo miles, Chileno Valley Road. A spot I know all too well. Felt better on a bike -- even with an ugly headwind and no one to draft -- than it did on foot. And the water -- I can't remember if it always looked like this or if we have the recent rains to thank.

March 23: An easy, pre-race 12-miler on the Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Trail. This is what pristine, pothole-free, traffic-free, I-can-see-the-ocean asphalt looks like.

And this is what love looks like:

Let me rephrase that: Love, plus a stupid pose.

March 2: Fifty-seven miles, the first half-ish of the Wine Country Century, for which Karen is training (her first century). And since friends don't let friends train alone, I tagged along. Which meant that in typical Karen-and-Michaela-are-serious-cyclists fashion, there was a poached egg stop in Monte Rio.

There was also a shit-you-skipped-the-turn-onto-Green-Valley-Road-and-now-we're-standing-in-front-of-this-scary-gate moment.

Who decorates with a chainsaw?

And just for the record: Green Valley Road is a bitch. I almost made it to the top, but by then I was breathing so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack, so I did the walk of shame.

Ugh. Determined to go back and conquer that stupid hill. I'm just biding my time (and strengthening my quads and glutes and lungs).

Feb. 3: Thirty-one miles, the cheese-tasting route from downtown Fairfax to the West Marin creameries to Samuel P. Taylor State Park and back to Fairfax. Apparently, I will climb seven (seven!) Category Five hills for cheese -- that's how much of a glutton I am.

I really wish I had a photo of Karen riding in front of me, a wedge of cheese shoved into her jersey pocket.

for I have sinned

I view my Monday morning green smoothies the way Catholics view confession: If I drink one of these, all the sins of the past weekend will be absolved. Half a cup of almond milk, an apple, whatever random greens are in the refrigerator, a teaspoon of spirulina, two ice cubes, three Hail Marys and boom -- gone are the extra calories from yesterday's basket of fish and chips!

(Clearly my nutritional insights are also very much like religion in that they are based entirely on hard scientific facts.)

(Yes, folks, I'll see you in hell.)