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swim for dear life

What I love about triathlon: How you're constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing things you never thought possible -- things that in a former life, you would've found ridiculous and even downright terrifying.

Case in point: Yesterday's Swim for Life event, a 2.25-mile swim across Lake Washington, from Medina Beach to Madison Park.

Water conditions at the start; the other side was even worse.

I took one look at that water and wanted to get back in the car and go home. I was so nervous that I started referring to the event as "Swim for Dear Life." And sending farewell text messages: Hello, I might drown this morning. Just want you to know I love you. Play good music at my funeral! 

I'm peeing myself.

But I forced myself to stay. And I got in that churning mess. And the chop was so bad that I kept getting pushed toward the 520 Bridge and couldn't swim straight. But oddly, I didn't panic. I just kept swimming. I rolled with the waves instead of trying to fight them. And it was fine. In fact, it even bordered on fun. 

Not that long ago, I was scared shitless of open water. I remember wanting to drop out of my first triathlon the second I got in the lake, and the only way I survived that swim was by backstroking. It took me 32:28 to swim half a mile.

Yesterday, while I was out there being thrown around by a force so much larger than me (we're talking wind, waves and whitecaps -- conditions so rough that one of my friends actually got seasick and puked mid-swim), I couldn't help thinking about how far I've come. I'm not a strong athlete -- on my best days, I'm a solid midpacker -- but there I was, doing something I never thought possible and actually enjoying it. I also thought about this year (seriously, you have a lot of time to ponder your life when you're swimming across Lake Washington) -- all the loss and sadness -- and honestly, no amount of rough water could ever compare to what I've already lived through.

I finished that swim. It ended up being 2.6 miles (I blame the waves for the extra distance). And it took me 1:48:03. That's .2 miles farther than the Ironman swim in much more difficult conditions and well within the Ironman cutoff time.

Don't ever tell yourself you can't do something. 

team sports

Things that are dumb: 

Squirting shampoo directly into your eyeball and not being able to see clearly for several days. (This happened Thursday morning. I'm still dealing with it.)

Agreeing to do the Iron Girl sprint as part of a relay team with some other wine folks right in the middle of an extraordinarily busy weekend of work

Picture me sneaking away from a media lunch to go rack my bike. (Of course I chose the bike leg. Muppet is my one true love.) 

God, she's so hot.

And then having barely any time to get ready for the semi-formal auction event afterward, then getting bridged not just once but twice on the drive over, and then finally showing up stressed out and really, really sweaty.

And it gets even dumber. My plan was to leave the auction festivities early so I could be in bed by midnight at the very latest. And we did leave early. We just decided that since we were dressed up -- such a rare thing -- we should make one more stop before calling it a night. Four stops after that, it was 2 a.m.

Which meant I got exactly 1.5 hours of sleep before this race. See? Epitome of dumb.

Yet I dragged myself out of bed to meet my relay team at 5:30 a.m. and carpool to the race. Our ride was a molester van, no joke.

Don't worry. There were no human bones back there.

The whole time I was thinking: Please don't get carsick. And dear god, who smells like whiskey? Oh wait -- that's me. 

I still rallied, though.

A little (OK, maybe a lot) groggy, but ready to roll.

All discomfort was forgotten when I saw this:

Gah. All of the beauty.

Confession: I've never done a triathlon as a relay before. The way this one worked involved standing in a holding corral and waiting for your teammate to finish and bring you the timing chip.

Of course, we had to turn standing and waiting into ridiculousness.

We weren't goofing off for long, though, because Sara, the swimmer on my team, kicked ass.

Running in a bike helmet is weird.

Anyway, I killed that ride. I don't know how I managed to do it, but I rode 12 miles in 39:17, an 18.3 mph average. I was the first bike back in the relay transition area, and I ended up with the second-fastest bike split in my division. (Granted, this race was mostly first-timers or one-timers, and we were in the team division, but I am still really excited about my results. Hell, I may never sleep before a race again! OK, just kidding.)

This is some kind of happy dance.

Our team -- the Shirazers -- finished seventh overall, with a final time of 1:28:42. And our sister team -- Sweet Vino-dication (yes, we are dorks and named everything after wine) -- came in ninth. Not shabby at all!

The Shirazers and Sweet Vino-dication  

I also ran into some ladies from TN there too. Unlike me, they did all three legs. Also unlike me, they slept the night before. Damn overachievers.

This was my reward for the strong bike leg.

And then I went over to a friend's house to hang out but ended up falling asleep on her couch instead. They don't call me the queen of awkward for nothing.

in the homestretch

I know you've all been holding your breath, wondering how I'm surviving the 24 Days of Non-stop Work.

This past Saturday, as I was loading/cleaning out the giant SUV I rented to drive journalists around all weekend, I locked myself out of my apartment with nothing but a bag of cat food. My neighbor -- god bless him -- helped me prop a ladder against the side of the building so I could climb two stories in a sundress (thank god I wore granny undies that day) and break into my bathroom.

And that pretty much sums things up.

But at least I'm not boob-sweating in Texas anymore. TexSom was a great experience -- in fact, I can't stop telling everyone about the incredible South African wine seminar I attended there (get your paws on the De Wetshof 2011 Bateleur Chardonnay if you are ever lucky enough to come across it) -- but man, it's good to be back in the Pacific Northwest.

Some parting shots from my time in the Lone Star State: 

Pink pants, no socks, loafers.

Cowboy + business casual + bike messenger + 90s baggies = You're on my blog

Yes, folks, those are green legwarmers with heels.

And you remember my embarrassing cockroach incident, right? This is what my boss found in the urinal at the hotel: 

You know it's a great working relationship when he takes photos of monstrous, pee-covered bugs and texts them to you. (Dear Washington: Best career choice ever! Hugs!)

Anyway, I spent the past five days hosting visiting writers for an annual auction event in Woodinville. There were no cockroaches, but there was this:

Perhaps he is returning from the Crisis in Candyland.

Also, I would like to commend my group of visiting journalists for allowing me to drag them on a rainy bike ride Friday morning. (This is why you shouldn't let me plan the itinerary -- I will make you part of my Ironman training, and we will do it in Pacific Northwest weather.)

At least the scenery was pretty. The Sammamish River Trail is one of my favorite spots.

And exercise was a good thing because the rest of the media tour was full of this:

One of the best meals I've ever had, no joke.

The crudo from Cafe Juanita. I died.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I could barely zip up my dress when it was time for the main event.

Rented the date dress, btw.

Also, please note my accessory in the above photo. (No, not referring to the boy, although he is pretty, yes?) That is a wristband. For the transition area at Iron Girl. Because only normal people think it's a good idea to work a triathlon into an already-insane schedule. (More on that later. Seriously, so much to write, so little time!)

Anyway, I dropped off my last media guest at the airport at exactly 8:35 last night. So I am done hosting. And I will finally have a weekend off starting this Friday (although the travel won't stop -- headed to Vancouver for SeaWheeze). I see the light at the end of the tunnel (and it's shining brightly on $100 yoga pants that hopefully aren't see-through).

where the hell am I?

So I am 13 days into a 24-day-straight work run. Which means two things: It's event season in the wine world, and I'm borderline certifiable right now. (About that last part -- what else is new, right?)

Last weekend I was in San Francisco for the Eat Drink SF, which I personally think should be rebranded as the Wine Country Casual Super Fashion Spectacular. For example:

Hey, it's Austin Powers!

"I'm a 'dancer.'" Wink wink.

Someone please tell me this is a joke.

Yes, folks, I am a terribly judgmental person. But come on. Look at that last photo. What the hell was that dude thinking?! Did he really look in a mirror and think: "So I have these fish-print shorts, and they maybe sort of look like I'm in my boxers, but no one will think they're underwear if I wear this amazing floral shirt with them. Hey, girl, hey."

Anyway. I'm in Texas right now. Irving, to be exact. TexSom, if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty. And in typical fashion, I've already had some dumb adventures.

First, I had a 6:45 a.m. flight yesterday. And still went out the night before. I met some winery friends for what was supposed to be a mellow dinner with a margarita (singular), but then three margaritas and three glasses of wine later, I was at their house holding a meat cone (yes, you read that correctly) and it was after midnight.

See? I don't lie about meat cones.

I showed up at the airport still in -- how shall we word this? -- "fun mode" and wearing the same clothes from the night before. And then got on the plane, landed in This Place That Feels Like Standing Under a Heater Every Time You Go Outside and went into a 3.5-hour planning meeting with our two PR agencies. And the whole time I was thinking: I have no idea what I put in my suitcase.

How to know you're a professional: When you open said suitcase and find three dresses, a romper, three nice blouses to wear with jeans, running clothes, swim gear (including a kickboard and pull buoy), three pairs of shoes and enough underwear. Man, sometimes I impress even myself. (Sorry, no fish shorts, though.)

But wait, it gets better: Then we all hopped in an Uber to go to dinner. The driver was very thoughtful and had a plastic box of candy in the backseat for his passengers. I was holding it open in my lap so my coworker could snap a photo and pick out a lollipop. And that's when I noticed the absolutely gigantic cockroach hiding in the Dum Dums. I shrieked bloody murder and threw that shit on the floor so fast that I'm really surprised we didn't get into a car accident.

Roach, upper right corner

I don't think I will ever live this incident down.

Anyway, after the cockroach-induced near-heart attack experience, we went to a steakhouse and proceeded to clog our arteries.

Oh, look: A bacon tasting!

Because we are awesome (and it was my boss's birthday), the chef sent out two extra steaks. And the largest one somehow ended up in front of me.

Size matters

Can't wait to see what adventures are in store for me today. One thing is guaranteed, though: They will surely involve the meat sweats.