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thanksgiving in london

Back in Seattle. The bad news: I'm completely jet-lagged and it's still dark out and I'm wide awake. The good news: It's snowing. And since I'm the only person who isn't still sleeping, I feel like I have the entire world all to myself. What to do with this power? Let the cats play in the snow on the balcony. Eat chips in my bathrobe.

And write about my last full day in England, which was Thursday.

I said good-bye to Corfe Castle and the countryside, took the train to London and met up with Arvan. (Because we are soulmates who live eerily parallel lives, without even consulting each other ahead of time, both of us had planned post-Ironman trips to our favorite places in Europe as a way to reward ourselves for our hard work. Only he wasn't stupid and didn't have a passport snafu like me. But I guess my idiocy was a blessing in disguise: I cannot even tell you how lovely it was to see one of my very favorite people waiting for me at Waterloo Station.)

We spent the evening playing tourist. (And trying really, really hard not to get run over by a double-decker bus. Crossing the street in England is tough for Americans.)

This may be my new favorite photo of all time.

I spy the Eye. (Sorry. Couldn't resist the dumb pun.)

While these landmarks were all gorgeous, my favorite part was when we walked through the Leake Street graffiti tunnel. The entire thing was covered in street art, and people were out there with their spray paint, making more murals.

(Hope this doesn't mean something offensive, and I'm too dumb to know it.)

One brief aside from our beautiful wandering: I want to know what goes through British people's minds when they name things. (Cathryn, maybe you can help me out here.) Because Studland. And Cockfosters. And Tooting Broadway. And mushy peas. (How is that appetizing?) And fish pie. (Actually quite good.) But this is the one that really gets me:


The Slug and Lettuce. That's right: There is a restaurant called The Slug and Lettuce. You will recall how I feel about slugs and lettuce and the awful, nightmarish time when I literally found a slug in my salad while having dinner at a friend's house.

It's safe to assume we did not have our Thanksgiving dinner at The Slug and Lettuce.

Instead, we went to Sagar for vegetarian thali.

One of the best Thanksgiving meals I've ever had.

It was a wonderful holiday. 

studland and swanage

A place called Studland exists; I had to go. Because surely it could only be a village of shirtless English Premier League players, right?

I walked for a very, very long time. But all I found in Studland was a lot of fog.

And these cake-shaped formations known as Old Harry Rocks, which I really, really wanted to call "Old Harry's Rocks" and then laugh hysterically. (But this information probably doesn't surprise you since I'm the type of person who takes a bus all the way out to a remote village just because it's called Studland and then hikes around in mud and mist for hours, trying to figure out where all the studs went.)

Despite the false advertising, Studland was beautiful.

So I kept walking ... 

... uphill and downhill and through a bunch of sheep pastures ...

Clearly not studs.

... until the town of Swanage appeared.

And then I kept walking until I actually got to the town of Swanage.

See those cliffs? That's where I started.

And then I walked through Swanage ...

... and stopped at the cemetery, of course. (There are so many cemeteries in England. Squee!)

And when I got tired of walking, I took the bus back to Corfe Castle and finished the day with a meat tower bunless burger and a side of chips.

I may or may not has requested brown sauce.

It's my last night here in English countryside. Tomorrow I take the train back to London.

Unless another unplanned twist occurs and I end up on, I don't know, the Isle of Wight or something. Because with me, you never know.

corfe castle

You know how in "The Hobbit," Bilbo Baggins gets pulled into an unexpected adventure? That is pretty much what this trip is like, except I'm traveling by myself instead of with a bunch of dwarves. And I don't have to meet a dragon at the end. And I suck at riddles, so I won't be getting any special jewelry. And -- most important of all -- I don't have hairy feet.

I spent yesterday exploring Corfe Castle, the teeny-tiny village that is currently my home base. The day began with a proper English breakfast ...

Confession: I like brown sauce.

... and then I immediately went to the cemetery. Because that is what normal people do when they are on vacation, right?

Bonus find: There is more than one cemetery in Corfe Castle! And the second one -- called God's Acre -- has the most incredible view of the castle itself.

Here's a shot without the tombstones, in case they freak you out:

Next stop: The castle. The weather was terrible, so barely anyone was out (except for us crazy people who love cemeteries and rain), and I actually had the entire castle to myself for a little bit. Of course, I used this special time to take selfies.

Rocking the Elsa braid.

It was like all of my dorky childhood fantasies coming true up there. I was thisclose to galloping around on my imaginary white horse Magic and commanding my imaginary army to keep watch against the imaginary enemies and their imaginary banners with imaginary evil symbols.

Clearly, this is why I am single.

View of the town, as seen by the imaginary army.

Oh, and I was also simultaneously looking for that portal to a history that is populated only by really hot men who want to fall in love with a woman from the future. Sadly, no luck.

Where is my Diana Gabaldon moment?

Eventually, it got really cold in my make-believe world, so I hiked back down to reality, found a tearoom with a roaring fire and ordered the infamous Dorset cream tea.

And then I went back to my inn ...

... where I wrote this blog post and huddled in bed until it was time to eat dinner.

Pro tip: Fish pie tastes a lot better than it sounds, and since Corfe Castle is so close to the coast, the seafood here is pretty damn good.

IMAZ race report: the prep

Since it's raining here in the English countryside and I'm freezing my ass off because I spent half the day stomping around outdoors and I'm all tucked into bed and may or may not still be wearing a scarf because it's that cold but I don't want to take a nap because then I won't be able to sleep at all tonight, I'm going to finally tell you about IMAZ.

Warning: This will take several posts. And there are a lot of photos. (Which might be a good thing, if you hate reading and just want to scroll down and look at pictures.)

We'll start at the beginning, with all the pre-race logistics. The thing about Ironman: There are a shit-ton of logistics.

Saturday, Nov. 8: The bike drop-off

I share a bike box with my friend Jessica and have flown with Muppet before, but I didn't want to deal with finding a shop in Tempe to help me reassemble my bike. I also didn't want to have to pack Muppet after the race, especially since I didn't know if I'd even be able to walk, much less take a bike apart. So I went with TriBike Transport, which trucked Muppet -- fully assembled -- via eighteen-wheeler to Tempe. All I had to do was drop her off at the local tri shop, and off she went.

I kissed her good-bye, of course.

Thursday, Nov. 13, a.m.: The frantic, last-minute suitcase packing

Friends who have done Ironman cautioned me to pack for every possible weather condition. So I did. I also packed two helmets (because I wasn't sure which one I was going to wear -- to sperm or not to sperm), an entire kitchen drawer full of nutrition (because I wanted as many flavor options as possible), two tri kits (because I didn't know if I would feel more like turquoise or pink), two bikinis (because there was a pool at the condo we rented), two sets of goggles (because one clear and one tinted), two hats (because one for racing and one for the expo) and every article of clean lululemon clothing I own (because lululemon, duh).


And I brought the absolutely hideous warmup jacket I bought from Goodwill four years ago for CIM with the intention of abandoning it on the side of the road, but now can't bring myself to give it up since it's been with me for every important race I've ever done since.

Awful, isn't it?

Thursday, Nov. 13, p.m.: The reunion

I arrived in Tempe with a suitcase so heavy that when I met Arvan to pick up our rental car, he asked me if I was planning to open my own triathlon store.

By the way, I love Arvan. We've known each other for four years -- met through our old running group in Santa Rosa, did marathons together and then went on to triathlons. He's seen me struggle, both on and off the race course (helped me through my divorce and helped me out of a planter on the side of the road when I was learning to unclip on the bike), and has been an incredible friend. I really wish Seattle and Santa Rosa were closer so we could spend more time together and ride and sing showtunes and try on stupid hats at the drugstore while running pre-race errands like buying Immodium (just in case) and contact lens solution (because I packed an entire triathlon store yet forgot basic needs).

Friday, Nov. 14, a.m.: Check-in and packet pickup

So damn happy to be here.

We were so thrilled to be together that we kept calling IMAZ our wedding and the pre-race prep our wedding planning. And that giddiness was the absolute truth: We both agreed IMAZ felt more like a celebration of our hard work than an actual race.

Friday, Nov. 14, p.m.: So many freaking bags

Everything that would normally go in the transition area had to be separated and bagged for each leg, and the Bike and Run bags had to be dropped off the day before the race. So we spent Friday night laying out bags and gear and trying to figure out what went where. It was overwhelming.

However, my bags were by far the best-looking bags in the entire history of Ironman, thanks to the amazing tags Bri made for me.

This should've automatically qualified me for Kona.

Saturday, Nov. 15: Practice swim, gear drop, bike racking

Confession: I hadn't been in open water since Swim for (Dear) Life.

The part where we found Kimra and Layla (who took this photo).

I'm not really sure what's happening here, but it's kind of hot.

All in all, we were done with our pre-race prep around noon. Then our friends and family came over to the house (see, just like a wedding!), and we gave everyone presents, spent the rest of the day hanging out with them, eating, watching movies and resting up for the big event.

I think I also pooped like five times that day, but that probably doesn't surprise you.

off to the country

I know this is bad for the environment, but there is something strangely fascinating about a to-go sushi joint where all of the sushi is individually wrapped and displayed in a refrigerated case, and you go through and pluck out, piece by piece, everything you want and set it on a cardboard tray.

This actually tasted pretty good.

God, I'm so easily amused.

Anyway, that sushi was my first real meal here in England, eaten on the train from Waterloo to Wareham. (Also on the train, I got repeatedly poked on the head by a toddler who was fascinated by my hair. My hair did not reciprocate those feelings.) From Wareham, I caught a bus to Corfe Castle. And met a nice older lady who gave me sightseeing tips and told me which stop to get off at and also informed me that my hotel is haunted.

I haven't seen any ghosts yet. However, I have become painfully aware that I am by far the youngest guest here. And it's also extremely awkward and hilarious to have a romantic dinner in a historic inn in a beautiful Medieval village All By Yourself.

Here's to adventures!

I arrived just as the sun was setting.

british invasion

I'm in England and it's after 2 a.m. here and I just popped an Ambien, so if this post gets a little nutty, it's not my fault.

However, it may be my fault that I'm in England instead of Paris. Let's just say there was a small issue surrounding my passport's expiration date. (Haven't we already established how much I suck at dates? Oh wait. That sounds weird. But possibly also accurate. You don't win fans with stories about your cats' worms. Oh wait. That also sounds weird. Dear god.)

Anyway, so I am in England because I figured I have the days off and the suitcase and the miles. And the cat sitter is at home, earning money to put her future children through college.

So I asked the airline: "Where can you send me?" And this is where I ended up.

I haven't been here since 2005. Which also happens to be when my passport photo was taken. I told the customs officer it was my "fat picture." She laughed and called me "darling."

I like that I made the customs officer laugh. They are people too, you know.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That is all.

I'm on youtube!

I've spent the past few days wondering how to write about Ironman, how to capture the range of emotions that accompanied the event, how to express my overwhelming gratitude for my family and friends and Coach Mark and everyone who supported this ridiculous endeavor.

And I stared and stared at the computer screen and couldn't come up with words.

Thankfully, Bri used me as a guinea pig for an interview project, so instead of reading about Ironman, you now get to listen to me talk about it and watch me make stupid faces.

(And speaking of gratitude, I'm eternally in debt to Bri for not portraying me as a crazy cat lady who lives in filth.)

I will eventually write about the race and the days leading up to it and what has happened since. But right now I'm on a 24-hour layover in Chicago, where I've been stuffing my face ...

Ironman appetite!

... and admiring the view.

I'm about to head to back to the airport to catch a flight to Paris (can't stop won't stop don't wanna stop). More later, more soon.


So you're probably wondering where the hell I've been.

The answer:

Last Tuesday, exactly 12 days from race day, I came down with a horrible lung infection that knocked me out for four days. It was so bad that I got winded walking to the kitchen. And going from my car to the pharmacy made me so tired I was seeing spots. I ended up getting a chest X-ray because I was convinced I had pneumonia. (Side note: When you get a chest X-ray, don't wear a see-through shirt. Because even though you keep your shirt on for the X-ray, you have to take your bra off, so if you're in a see-through shirt, the whole point of the shirt is pretty much moot, and then the X-ray guy gets a free show. Not that this happened to me or anything.)

Thankfully, no pneumonia. Just a viral infection that was exacerbated by my asthma. (Yes, I have asthma. And it's allergy-induced, so it never rears its ugly head unless I eat gluten or pop an aspirin -- or apparently, come down with a horrible lung infection 12 days before Ironman.)

Now I'm trying to recover as much as I can for Sunday's big race. I had a successful trainer workout over the weekend -- easy, mellow Zone 2 stuff at a high cadence. This made me very happy.

(Just FYI, that white thing is my bike saddle, not a penis.)

Pervert kitten says, "Mom took off her shirt! Gasp!"

I also had a good swim yesterday -- coughed a little at first, but once I warmed up, breathing was fine.

Running, however, is another story. I managed 30 minutes of run-walk-cough-curse Saturday morning, covering a whopping distance of two miles.

But I'm hopeful. Each day seems better than the previous one, so maybe by this weekend, I'll be feeling like myself again.

Six days!