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winter is here

We had our first real storm about two weeks ago. True, it wasn’t technically the first snow of the season (that happened in October, before Halloween), but it was the first snow that stuck.

Mouse is like, "WTF?"

And basically the ground has been covered in snow ever since.

Lake Harriet, frozen over.

I have mixed feelings. Snow is beautiful. I love the way it transforms the landscape. I love playing in it. I even love running in it.

Pro tip: I use trail shoes when it's snowy.

But I vehemently hate the ice that accompanies it -- the nasty stuff that forms when people don't clear their sidewalks and driveways, and then the snow melts a little during the day but then freezes again at night, resulting in a giant, slippery patch that will put you in concussion protocol.

And since I can never do anything in moderation, I am now obsessed with battling the evil that is head-cracking ice. I'm pretty much like Jon Snow. Except instead of the Wall, I'm in a quaint Minneapolis neighborhood. And instead of black furs and leather, I'm wearing a down coat over my bathrobe and pajamas. And instead of a fierce direwolf, I've got three orange cats who are really good at resting bitch face.

If these three don't melt the ice, I don't know what will.

opt outside

You know what feels really damn good?

Being able to swim, bike and run outside in November.

Big Ginger and I spent the past week in Sacramento with my family. While we were there, we ran on the American River Trail ...

... swam in an outdoor pool ...

Can you tell I'm excited?

... and did the local turkey trot. (For the record, I missed a 5K PR by 11 seconds, which is amazing, since this race was super crowded, I haven't been running much recently, and I'm recovering from a bad cold.)

Official finish time: 25:31. My 5K PR is 25:21. So close!

And then we came home and -- holy holiday miracle -- it was warm enough to ride outside.

why my children are furry or fermented

I just wrote this crazy run-on paragraph about the big exhibition at work that I'm prepping for and how we're hosting media event after media event (one of which involved a trip to New York) and how I'm also auditing a graduate seminar in "Visuality and Japanese Modernity" (which requires so much reading of literary theory, a thing I haven't thought about since 2003), doing house remodeling stuff (like painting the guestroom a shade that can only really be described as mauve-ish pink-ish purple-ish -- I suspect Big Ginger secretly questions my judgment), taking an improv class, going back to ballet (this time I really mean it), attempting to bake my own gluten-free sourdough bread with a gluten-free sourdough starter named Pat (who needs to be fed all the time because he's way more delicate than a non-gluten-free sourdough starter), and trying to get triathlon workouts in so I don't forget everything I learned about swimming last season.

And then I felt guilty because people do this stuff all the time and have kids and manage to keep their kids and themselves alive, so I really should just shut it since I only have three cats and Pat and Big Ginger (who is a grown-ass adult and doesn't need a litterbox or feedings of brown rice flour every four to eight hours -- which I can't really say for some previous dating choices, but that's another story altogether).

Pat: More reliable than most men I've dated.

And I guess all of this sort of brings up the question that my aunt asked me when I was in New York and we were having dinner, post-media event, just us: "Do you want kids?"

I never felt like I was in a place where kids were actually an option. I was single. I moved often, reveling in the idea of reinventing myself, over and over. I traveled constantly for work. I fell in love with triathlon, and it consumed my time (and let's be honest, my paycheck).  I was around other people with similar lifestyles -- spontaneous happy hours were a regular and important thing. I honestly never really thought about kids at all.

But now I'm married to a kind, funny, wonderful person (who has great cycling thighs, so if our kid got his thighs and my gigantic calves, they could really kill it out there on the course -- or become a wrestler), entering a new age group (yes, we must use triathlon metaphors at all times), living in a city where pretty much everyone I know has kids, and ironically, facing the reality that I may have missed my kid window.

Much like human teenagers, our fur child hates us for making her do embarrassing things.

I've never had that "maternal instinct" (unless you count kittens), and pregnancy and childbirth freak me out (although if I did get pregnant, I would use it as an excuse to eat the entire world, all at once, immediately, and I would only wear sweats and do really weird shit and blame it on "pregnancy brain"). And sometimes I wonder if I've lived my life selfishly, thinking only about myself and my goals. But now I'm just really set in my ways and like having the ability to take a last-minute trip or spend 16 hours a week training for Ironman or not worry about getting reported to child services because I've forgotten to buy cat food, so my cats are eating turkey deli slices for dinner.

But I do wonder if one day I'll regret my decision. (Like maybe when I am dying all alone, with 20 cats hovering over me, waiting to devour my body as soon as I take my last breath. Yes, this actually really happens.)

Big Ginger and I talk about this. (The kid part. Not the being eaten by cats part.) He feels similarly. We talk about how maybe if we had met each other when we were younger we'd want kids. (Although I'm pretty sure he doesn't want me to ever name a child, because I would totally name it Clark Lewis since everyone always says "Lewis and Clark" and it's not fair that Clark is always second.) We both say we'll just be the best aunt and uncle to our niece and nephews that we can possibly be.

Which is why we're flying home to California with a suitcase full of cat books for these guys.

I'm so proud of them. They're already making such great life choices.

IMWI race report, are pantsuits aero?

In order to experience the full effect of this race report -- which comes to you almost two months after said race -- you need to wear pajamas (preferably the same set you've worn every single night since the race), get really, really bloated (work stress and a gluttonous weekend always do the trick), stop running (not due to injury but simply because it gets dark early now and your brain has fooled your body into thinking it is physically impossible to leave your house without daylight), and announce (in a wheezy, asthmatic voice while shoving Reese's pumpkins in your mouth because Halloween): "When I was fit and motivated ... "

Yeah. It's amazing how the off season always gets me.

Anyway, I finished Ironman Wisconsin on Sept. 10. (Can we pause for just one second to reflect on the fact that this was Ironman No. 3? I mean, who would've ever thought I'd do one Ironman, much less three? I am legit crazy. Also, I still feel like I have to say "the race, not the person" every time I say "do an Ironman." Tell me I'm not the only one with a dirty mind.) The day was as hard as I thought it would be, but so much fun and so rewarding.

The Swim: 1:37:46

You guys, I swam under 1:40 in a race that wasn't downstream! And I would've been faster if I hadn't gotten completely beat up by the 40 to 44-year-old men in the wave behind me. (I'm not a fan of the wave start by age -- would've preferred a mass start or self-seeding by expected swim time.) Those bastards ran me over and punched me in the head, and at one point, I thought someone had unzipped my wetsuit because the neck started to come loose. I felt angry and afraid at the same time, so I did what any normal person would do and started pretending I was Hillary Clinton. (Isn't that where you'd go too?) And I told myself: "I am Hillary Rodham Clinton! I may not win today. I may get bullied by a bunch of asshole men who are rude and selfish. But I will not give up. And I will finish this race with grace!" (This also became a mantra on the bike, when I'm pretty sure some dude peed on me as he rode past.) 

This nice man wasn't shoving me back into the water, so clearly he wasn't to blame.

Later, I looked at my Garmin, and it said I swam more than 2.7 miles. (Yes, I know I was zigzagging, but I wanted to get away from those guys and find clean water, and holy shit, if you do the math that's a 2:00/100! All that time in the pool paid off! Do I get extra credit?)  

The Bike: 7:49:45

Nutrition and hydration were top priorities. I had temporary tattoos on both arms reminding me to eat and drink. (I also had a tattoo of three cats reading a book. Because you should never forget what's truly important in life.) I was carrying tons of food, I had packed my special needs bag like a freaking 7-Eleven (three different kinds of chips, Dr. Pepper, Sour Patch Kids, gluten-free pretzels, Immodium, electrolyte pills) and my mind was in a good place.

But then stomach cramps hit me at mile 25. I kept hydrating and switched from solid food to gels, but the cramps stayed. So I tried to focus on other things -- scenery, spectators (the crowd support in this race is amazing -- you can be in the middle of nowhere, riding past a freaking cornfield, and there are dudes in costumes drinking beer and cheering for you), saying encouraging things to other athletes (except for the guy who peed on me).

I went a little too hard on the first loop -- walked Barlow to save my legs as planned, but I was whooping and hollering and flying down hills and pushing watts everywhere else. Definitely felt more tired on the second loop, but I kept eating and drinking, the energy returned and I was able to pick up the pace at the end. (Also, hello, I am Hillary Clinton and I've got this, mofos.)

That's my thumb, not a hot dog. But yes, I had to look closely at the photo too.

The cramps, however, never left. I stopped at special needs for electrolyte pills and chips, and yes, I drank that can of Dr. Pepper. And I kept hydrating. But the cramps stayed.

The Run: 5:30:10

I came off of the bike in under eight hours -- faster than I expected. My run started off really strong, but the cramps got steadily worse. By Mile 5-ish, I was in the port-a-potty. I thought the cramps would stop after that, but they continued. I tried Base Salt, more hydration, cola, broth -- but nothing helped. (What does Hillary Clinton do for cramps? Someone please tell me.) I ended up in the port-a-potty three more times and also felt like I could barf.

Still, I kept smiling and tried my best to run as much as possible. 

This is me running as far away as I can from the thing I left in the port-a-potty.

I cheered for the people around me and high-fived spectators. (You know what the best part of the IM run is? All the great people you meet and the random conversations you have. God bless the wonderful woman who called all the volunteers "honey" and "baby" and told me that when I'm her age, I'll give zero fucks about anything.) But when I got to the dark part on the second loop (literally dark -- no lights), the walking (and possibly also the imagining that I might get kidnapped and murdered) started. 

I ended up walking most of the last five miles (would've totally been an easy murder target), although I was able to pick it up on State Street and finish with a smile. My final time was 15:16:06. And yes, I teared up in that finish chute. I don't think there will ever be a day when those words -- "You are an Ironman!" -- don't mean the world to me.

The "Yes! I did not shit my pants!" feeling. Also, this was gun time, not chip time.

I look back on this now (despite being bloated, lazy and in pajamas) the same way I looked back on it the next day: Wondering "what if?" (Like, what if James Comey hadn't said all that stuff about the e-mails? Oh wait -- wrong story.) What if I hadn't swam, oh, 700 extra yards? What if I hadn't gotten cramps on the bike? What if I had forced myself to keep running? Could I have set a PR on an exceptionally challenging course?

The thought almost -- almost -- makes me want to get off the couch right now. Except it's dark out.

public service announcement

Don’t eat this before running.

I'm actually not totally freaking out

So I've made it to race day eve. The past few weeks haven't been easy -- I had a meltdown on the trainer two weeks ago (everything hurt and suddenly I was crying uncontrollably -- the kind of crying where you know you really have nothing to cry about but you are just so damn tired you can't control your emotions anymore) and then took a day off of training to sit on the couch and do nothing. (Although I did leave the house to buy this amazing painting at a flea market and then I put it in Big Ginger's home office while he was out of town and then he came home and saw it and yelled: "What the fuck is that?!" and it was so funny and so worth it and this was basically the best $25 I've ever spent in my life.)

Anyway, after that hiccup, I went back to it. Had some nice wins, like my very first sub-2:00 100 without any pool toys. (And I didn't feel like I was going to have a heart attack afterward.)

And on my last big(-ish) training ride, I found a teddy bear on a picnic bench at Pine Point Park, and I felt bad for him, so I stuffed him in my jersey and decided to take him with me. (In case you're wondering, it's totally possible to ride in aero with a bear in your shirt.)

I named him Barlow Bear.

And now I'm here in Madison. The bike is checked in, the gear bags are dropped off, and Layla and I are currently sitting in lounge chairs on the back deck of our hotel, watching people kayak through a bunch of algae.

I feel pretty calm. I'm happy to be reunited with my friends (Arvan and Andrew are here too, along with a good group of Coeur teammates, and Big Ginger is on his way -- he's currently on the bus from Minneapolis and we're all hoping he doesn't sleep through his stop and end up in Chicago on accident).

So we'll see what tomorrow brings. The work is done now, and it's time to have some fun out there.

what I watch on the trainer

Today I woke up at 5 a.m. to get on the trainer (for the record, this "taper" doesn't feel very much like tapering). To keep me company on the bike, I watched "The Leftovers", a show about how 2 percent of the world's population just suddenly vanishes one day and then the people who are left are consumed by grief and angst and religious cults. Good times!

When I got off the trainer, I couldn't find Maček. I opened all the closets, checked under all the furniture, lifted up the all the blankets. Mari and Mouse were there, but no Maček. And all I could think was: Holy shit, Maček has departed! She's left us all behind! But then she jumped down off the bookshelf and everything was fine -- grief and angst and religious cults averted. And then I did my transition run.

"I am the chosen one!"

Anyway, here's a list of what I've been watching on the trainer recently:

"Girls": So awkward (especially every time Hannah gets naked), so annoying (Marnie and Desi), yet so entertaining, and when an episode is brilliant, it's really freaking brilliant (like the one where Hannah goes to surf school). Also the soundtrack is awesome. And Shosh makes me want to move to Japan.

"13 Reasons Why": Yeah, it's depressing as hell, and I feel like it glamorizes suicide, and if I had a teenage kid (Mouse doesn't count), I wouldn't want her to watch this show. But each episode left me wanting to know what happens next. (And now I'm reading the book, which I actually don't like as much as the show.)

"Anne with an E": If you're a kindred spirit, then you've read L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books, too. This Anne's past seems much darker than I remember. Also, she talks a lot. Did Anne really talk this much?

"Voltron: Legendary Defender": When I was a child growing up in the '80s, I had the biggest crush on Prince Lotor. I'm not kidding. Purple skin, white hair -- what a hot piece of evil alien ass. And he returns in the third season of this Netflix remake. Hell, yes.

"Outlander": And speaking of hot men. This one is a ginger and wears a kilt. Also: Time travel is cool. And I really liked these books.

"American Horror Story": I liked the first three seasons quite a bit (especially the coven one), but I'm having trouble making it through the freakshow season. There's just something about a man-child dressed as a creepy clown that doesn't quite do it for me.

blame the flying wieners

You guys, it's finally taper. Holy shit, I'm so grateful.

These two lovely ladies should be known as The Climber (Steena) and Speedy (Megan).

My last big push was this weekend. Megan and I drove to Madison and met up with Steena for the Prairie Athletic Club's "big brick": A swim in Lake Monona, the full Ironman bike course, and a transition run afterward. (So basically one long-ass training day.)

Look at all my new friends!

The swim was fine -- I went for an hour. My neck and left arm hurt, but I seem to always have this pain now, so I've embraced it as part of my identity. (This is likely not healthy, but whatever.)

The bike, however, was anything but fine. About 10 miles in, I dropped some of my nutrition (yes, wieners flew out of my jersey) and had to turn around. The group I was riding with kept going, and I ended up alone. And since I've never ridden this course before, I had no idea where I was, so I had to stop a few times to check the turn-by-turn directions.

Barlow was a beast as expected. I rode most of it, but walked the steepest part. I'm glad I did because I still had two-thirds of the course left to ride, with so many more hills to go, and my legs were already tired. If I had ridden Barlow, I think I would've blown up and possibly not finished the ride.

I got lost trying to start the second loop and ended up cutting some of the course short, only to make it into Verona and promptly get lost again. With the exception of riding a few miles with Megan (who had also gotten lost), eventually finding the rest of the group, and flying down some incredible descents (44 mph at one point -- amazing!), the rest of the ride was a slog. I dropped more nutrition going over a pothole, I wasn't taking in enough calories or hydration, and my legs were shot.

For all of two seconds, I kept up with Megan. This photo was the result.

Diane, one of the PAC athletes (and quite possibly the world's kindest person), stayed with me to make sure I finished. And somehow I got it done. I was beat up mentally and physically and felt like I had nothing in the tank, but I still managed to get off the bike and do a 40-minute transition run.

I spent much of my drive back from Madison this morning thinking about what went wrong and what I need to fix for race day.

This is what I need to do:

  • Above all, eat and drink. I wasn't eating or drinking enough in the days leading up to this brick, and I took in fewer calories on this ride than on my previous long training rides -- basically I set myself up for failure this weekend.
  • The bike is probably going to take me about eight hours to complete, which means that with my slow swimming, I won't have much wiggle room. (Yes, I still have PTSD from Arizona, when I almost didn't make the bike cutoff.) I have to be efficient with my transitions.
  • Better secure my nutrition so it doesn't go flying off of my bike.
  • Plan to walk Barlow again on race day.
  • Get a massage and possibly some acupuncture and try to get rid of as much of my neck and arm pain as possible.
  • Make sleep a priority.

And hopefully I won't get lost anymore because the course will be marked and there will be volunteers and support out there on race day and if I do still somehow manage to get lost, I have a serious problem.

Onward: Less than three weeks left!

aging up

I'm officially in the final weeks of training. Bib numbers were posted. Shit's getting real.

Also, I'm realizing this is my last race in the 35-39 age group. Which kind of makes me feel old, except that I don't actually "feel old" because I think "feeling old" should be accompanied by some sense of maturity, which I completely lack.

For example, recently the mister (by the way, I feel like maybe we should come up with a different nickname for him because "the mister" seems pretty generic and I would rather call him something like "Big Ginger" except he keeps insisting he is not a ginger and just has sandy brown hair, which I think is a total lie) instigated a conversation about saving for retirement, asked me to enroll in my 403(b) and said something about maxing out contributions.

At least, that's what I think he said. I'm not entirely sure because at that very moment Maček did something cute like walk into the room or lie down or lick her butt and I started pointing and yelling: "Look at Maček! Look at what she's doing! Oh Maček!"

I am a bad person

So I am in D.C. for work (which is so weird since my hotel is near Capitol Hill and last night was the night of the skinny repeal and I think if I see John McCain, I'd like to fist-bump him, which is something I never thought I'd want in my whole life), and I did a terrible thing this evening and forgot a paper bag of leftovers on the Metro.

And my heart broke when I realized it because the food was from my very favorite restaurant in the history of ever.

But perhaps more importantly in this day and age: God, I hope no one thinks it's a suspicious package and reports it and then the whole train system gets shut down and it will all be my fault because I dashed out the door and abandoned a carton of rice and stir-fried yellow beans.

Seriously, this dish is amazing, and I can't find it anywhere else.


just like goldilocks

When I left my apartment, I also left this behind.

No more taking an elevator downstairs to my very own lap pool that I hardly ever had to share with anyone. (Although when I did have to share, it was annoying because the pool was so narrow it would turn into a washing machine whenever you tried to split the lane. Also sometimes people would have parties and hang out on the deck and drink beer and look fabulous, and then I'd show up in a stupid swim cap and goggles and feel like the biggest dork in the world.)

Anyway, now I am on the hunt for a new pool. I'm trying to swim in as many different places as possible. Ideally, I want a pool that's close to either home or work, has convenient lap swim times and isn't crowded. (While I don't mind splitting a lane, circle-swimming stresses me out.)

I recently did a trial membership at the YMCA on Blaisdell.

The location is great -- close enough to work for me to squeeze in a swim on my lunch break. The pool usually has three or four lanes for lap swimming, and the second-floor women's locker room is adults-only, super quiet, clean and private. However, the water temperature is really warm. And while my lunchtime swims were nice and only required splitting a lane, I made the mistake of trying to swim on a Friday after work (because I thought everyone would be at happy hour), and the pool was so packed with screaming children who kept crossing into the lap swim lanes that the lifeguards had to interfere. And then on top of that, I had to circle swim. Ugh.

This week I'm checking out L.A. Fitness in Richfield.

I arrived at 6 a.m. today, and there was only one other person in the whole pool. I had my own lane for my entire workout. Good water temp, clean water and a well-maintained pool. I like the locker room too -- nothing fancy, but still comfortable, and the showers are a good size. And I was able to stop at home on the way to work, drop off my swim gear and grab something to eat. (Confession: I may or may not have had a frozen burrito for breakfast.)

I have to swim again tomorrow, and I'll probably try this pool.

Just kidding.

Although 4300 yards in that might be pretty entertaining.

congrats to me for not dying

Every Sunday night I think, Holy shit, I somehow survived another week of training.

Post-long run feels.

And this week was a big one -- 17 hours. And my race isn't until September. Which means this insanity is only going to get better. During previous Ironman training cycles, I never went over 16 hours. Coach Liz is pushing me into all new territory. It's scary, but it's pretty amazing because I'm doing things I never thought I'd do, and the more I do them, the more normal they seem.

Sort of like pooping in a port-a-potty -- at first you're freaked out, but then it becomes no big deal.

This is our driveway, btw. Outdoor pooping available any time.

home ownership and stuff

Because I want to see how many things I can possibly take on while training for Ironman, we bought a 92-year-old house, started remodeling it and moved in right when construction began.

I strategically placed this box so the mister would find it.

We're currently living in the basement with three cats, five bikes (and there are two more bikes in the garage, which also had a tree fall on it recently -- don't worry, the bikes are fine, but we did lose electricity for about 24 hours) and a shit-ton of boxes. It smells like a mix of cat poop and sweat, with a hint of dog from the pooch that lived here before us.

Thank god for homeowners' insurance.

There's a giant dumpster and a port-a-potty in the driveway. The upstairs has gaping holes in the floors where the radiators used to be, and there is a random toilet in what will one day, someday, be the guest room. People I've never seen before come in and out of the house, and one time I came home to a shirtless man with a shop vac.

I feel like everything is a massive cat death trap. Unfortunately, the cats feel like everything is a grand adventure and keep trying to sneak upstairs. The other day I nearly had a heart attack looking for Mouse. Turned out she had somehow gotten into the boiler room (that's right -- this house is so old we have a boiler room) and climbed up into a hole in the ceiling, next to a pipe that has been specially wrapped because it might have asbestos in it. (Yes -- asbestos!)

Dear god, I hope we all survive the next few months. (Also, I never should've read House of Leaves right before moving because now I suspect our house is trying to swallow us.)

and that was a long-ass day

Heat, wind, hills and rough pavement -- in sum, that was Wisconsin 70.3. It was one of the hardest races I've ever done.

And let's be honest: I was in a major mental funk going in, and much of that was due to factors that had nothing to do with triathlon but everything to do with living far away from my family and friends. Even though I have a history of uprooting myself and moving from city to city every few years, I still get lonely. And all of that somehow came to a head over race weekend. (Would it have been totally creepy to wallpaper my hotel room with pictures of Layla, Annie, Thai and Arvan?) It was all I could do to keep from getting in my car, leaving Madison and driving home.

Thankfully, my Coeur teammates didn't let that happen.

We met up for a practice swim the day before the race.

Thank you, Kendra, for all of the encouragement!

Also, the mister surprised me Saturday night after he originally told me he wasn't going to be able to make it to the race. And he brought chocolate. He's such a nice man.

So I got to the starting line. I knew conditions were going to be rough and that a PR was not going to happen. (Never a good sign when it's only 6:30 a.m. and temperatures are already in the 70s.) My only goal was to make smart choices (which is also what I tell my cats on a daily basis, but they still do things like get their heads stuck in Kleenex boxes, and I really wanted to use this race to set a good example for them because if you can't be on the podium, setting a good example for your cats is the next best thing).

The rolling start meant athletes self-seeded by anticipated swim time. Since I have a ton of self-confidence, I ended up in the very last group to get in the water, almost 40 minutes after the gun. (For the record, it is not fun to stand around in the sun in a wetsuit.) My goggles were leaking, so I kept stopping to adjust them. And when I finally started swimming, I realized I was in the "totally freaking out" group and had to dodge a lot of people who were backstroking or breast-stroking or clinging to buoys. And I felt bad if I accidentally touched someone, so I found myself popping out of the water and yelling "I'm sorry!" every time I bumped into another swimmer. That said, when I was actually able to get into a rhythm of swimming, I felt fine and perhaps even a little more efficient and streamlined than I have in previous races. But of course, I still ended up with my typically crappy swim time of 52:58. Hey, at least I'm consistent.

Guess which tooth is fake!

I also ended up with a fantastically long transition time of 8:15. (Do they give awards for this?) The path from the lake to T1 was long and uphill, and I didn't want to get all worked up running. Also, let's be real: When you swim as slowly as I do, is running to transition really going to make a difference? So I walked. And since it was hot and my whole goal was to make smart choices, I took my time to make sure I had all my hydration and nutrition, and I applied extra sunscreen.

I love it when people aggressively pass you on the bike like five miles in because clearly they need to beat your ass as soon as possible. And then you catch them on a hill at mile 40 because they blew up. Anyway, despite crosswinds and rough pavement and not being able to drop down into aero very often because I thought I was going to either get blown off the road or ride into a pothole and crack my head open, the bike was not bad. Those hills everyone was afraid of? No problem. (And seriously, nothing about this course was flat. And a lot of people were walking up those hills.) However, the birds were another story. Because I totally got attacked by one -- it came out of nowhere, cawed at me and then swooped down and pecked my helmet, all while I was riding by. (I guess I can now check "attacked by a bird mid-race" off of my bucket list.) Also, I drank more liquids than I ever have in any race and had to stop three times to refill bottles (and I peed once). Also, whoever made the sign that said nothing but "Motivational Sign" on it is a genius. My bike split was 3:59:02. Given the difficulty of this course, I'll take it.

False flat, not in aero.

At this point, the heat was kicking in, and mentally, I was pretty much over the whole race. I saw the mister at the start of the run and tried to convince him to just take me back to the hotel. But nothing was hurting, so I kept going. T2 took 4:21.

About six miles in, still feeling OK.

The heat was bad. God bless all the homeowners out there on the run course who turned their sprinklers on for the athletes or stood out there and sprayed people down. No one was running except me. I passed a ton of people -- just kept a slow, steady pace -- only walking through aid stations so I could dump ice down my bra, pour water on myself and refill my handheld bottle. I felt pretty great until Mile 9, and then I started to get fuzzy-headed. But I kept running and shoved ice everywhere I possibly could and downed more electrolyte pills and gels and cola. And I tried to keep a smile plastered to my face the whole time. But I'm not going to lie: I really wanted that race to end. Run split was 2:34:11.

At the finish, kind of maybe alive.

And when I finally finished (total time 7:38:47 -- my slowest 70.3 time ever), I felt like I was going to pass out. I wandered around in a daze, not sure what to do with myself. A woman wearing a sports bra with the Golden Gate Bridge on it asked me if I was OK, and I said that I was either going to faint or start crying. She told me she really just wanted to vomit but couldn't. I started walking toward medical but ended up sitting in a chair under a tree, crying by myself and suddenly feeling really cold. The mister found me later in transition and helped me gather my stuff.

I don't feel like a champion after this. I had a slow swim time, and as much as I joke about it, I'm endlessly frustrated by the fact that I try so hard with swimming and nothing seems to change. But I do feel like a survivor, and I know I can get through a race in tough conditions, even when my mind is screaming at me to just stop already. I can climb hills when everyone else is walking. I can keep running when everyone else has stopped. So at least there is that.

Also this medal is pretty cool.

hi, I'm alive

And now it's almost June. And I'm sitting here in my pajamas (the pink ones printed with cats going to the hairdresser and lounging at the pool), sipping recovery drink (out of a mug that says "Just Meowied") and wondering how the hell these weeks go by so quickly. (Meanwhile, Mouse stares at me, judging, most likely thinking: "I would never in my whole life wear pajamas with humans on them. WTF is wrong with you?")

She's also thinking: "Clean this mess up."

Anyway, clearly I survived the Hot Chocolate 15K. In fact, I actually nailed my race plan and ended up with a nice PR on a course that was much hillier than last year -- 1:27:41 vs. 1:35:28 a year ago. (Also a guy ran next to me and said: "Hey. I like your pace." Seriously. He really said that. Was this a line? Or was he just being nice? Either way, if I ever see Ryan Gosling running out there somewhere, I'm totally using it.)

I also did the Cinco Du Mayo duathlon earlier this month, largely because there was a taco party at the finish line. The weather was perfect, and the vibe at the race was great. It's a small event but well-organized, with a challenging course (rollers!). But the best part: Everyone I talked to was really friendly and down-to-earth. (I'm planning a swim-bike brick with one of the gals I met that day. I feel like a dork because I'm so excited -- I've really missed my TN Multisports teammates, and I can't wait to train with another human being.) Again, I stuck to my plan and had a good race -- 1:16:02.

Doesn't everyone enjoy eating tacos against a backdrop of port-a-potties?

So training is coming along. I feel like I'm much more committed to the process and am working harder than I ever have before. There are ups and downs (don't even get me started about my love-hate relationship with swimming), and I'm also trying to keep injuries at bay (currently having an issue with my neck and nerve impingement in my left arm, likely tracing back to the bike crash I had in 2015). But I'm "getting it done," as we triathletes are so fond of saying.

And now the countdown to Madison 70.3 is on, with June 11 rapidly approaching. I stared at elevation maps today and had to remind myself that I'm from California and nothing in California is flat and I can do this, but -- surprise -- I'm freaking out anyway.

And all these things are just steps toward the big dance in September. Disco in Wisco, here I come.

think positive thoughts

I'm running the Hot Chocolate 15K tomorrow, but the last thing I feel like doing right now is racing. (OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Of course I'd much rather run a race than, say, projectile vomit onto a wall with a velocity so forceful that the vomit immediately splashes back on my face. That would clearly be much worse.) I'm exhausted from training, I'm frustrated because my last two swims have been pretty craptacular, and "heavy thunderstorms" are predicted for tomorrow.

Accurate feelings.

Blah, blah, blah. Whine, whine, whine. You get the picture.

I need to fix this, so I'm creating a list of 10 times when I felt like a goddamn champion so I can call up these happy memories if I'm still feeling dumpy on the course tomorrow. So much of training and race prep focuses on the physical, but mental strength is just as important and often gets taken for granted.

So here goes. Let's flex those mental muscles, baby.

1. IMAZ 2014, the first Ironman. It was a culmination of hard work, a celebration of strong friendships, a turning point in an otherwise shitty year. Quite possibly the best day of my life.

2. The first time I completed an Olympic distance swim. After struggling with my fear of open water for so long, I wanted to cry with joy when I did that swim without freaking out even once.

3. Canyoneering in Costa Rica. Want to feel like a bad-ass? Jump off a cliff.

4. When I climbed Green Valley Road for the first time and didn't have to get off my bike and do the walk of shame.

5. The night I arrived in Seattle. After driving for 14 hours from Sonoma County with two very confused cats (Mouse did not yet exist at that time), it hit me I'd be starting a totally new life in a city where I knew no one. And I felt excited.

6. When someone asked me, in French, for directions in Paris. This is how you know your outfit looks good. (Also related: When I successfully bought tampons in French.)

7. When I broke the two-hour mark for a half marathon. (Side note: I'd really like a new 13.1 PR. It's been awhile. But that's another goal for another time.)

8. Cutting my CSS pace and realizing I don't have to be in the slow lane forever. God, I want a sub-2:00/100 swim time so badly.

9. When I was on a relay team for Iron Girl and it felt so good to pass a ton of people on the bike and our team kicked ass and we had a blast.

10. Vineman 70.3. My favorite race ever. I'll never forget the first time I crossed the finish line -- again, a feat I never in my life thought I'd be capable of. Or the year I set a PR there and it was cathartic and I ran straight to Layla and cried my little heart out.

You know what? I'm feeling better already.


Yesterday morning I heard a cat crying in the juniper bushes outside work, so naturally I dumped my bag and jacket in a pile, flagged down a facilities guy and made him listen for the cat (which he heard too, thereby proving I don't just make this shit up).

And since I didn't have any meetings for another hour and he was having a slow morning, we both dove into the bushes to rescue the cat, which sounded like it was in trouble or trapped.

Entering the abyss.

We spent 50 minutes crawling through the juniper, which was like a cave under all that green. (I won't lie: The entire time, I was picking out cat names.) We found two empty cigarette packs, a coffee cup lid and a spent bag of Ruffles, but sadly, no cat.

And now I have tiny, itchy red bumps on my wrists and hands because apparently I'm allergic to juniper sap. Also, let's not forget the stellar reputation I have no doubt earned with the coworkers who happened to walk by while I was in the bushes calling for kitty.

(I'm currently trying to convince myself there really was a cat and it wasn't some recording that an art student put out there to trap crazy cat ladies as part of some kind of social commentary on toxoplasmosis or something.)