Category Archives: family

Layer by layer

It’s been awhile. It’s been quiet here.

I’ve been quiet. My mind has been quiet. My body has been still. Finally. Still, in the sense of not moving. No vibrations, no fluttering. No undulations or perturbations. Just still.

A layer of me, my peace and calm sensibilities, peeled off a few weekends ago when I was waiting in the airport in St Louis, trying to get out of dodge to visit my boyfriend. Trying; I say that, as if I were going to be the one flying the plane.  One thing I’ve learned is that nothing is in my control when it comes to traveling by air, especially when living in the land of tornados and flash floods. I was scared as I hid in the bathroom at the airport, not knowing that indeed, the tornado had just wrecked havoc on the main terminal. Needless to say, the 2011 Tornado of St Louis ruined my weekend plans, but I am thankful that it was only marginal damage and that no one was seriously hurt. Walking outside that night, taking a taxi home instead of the airplane to Houghton, just felt odd. There were trees uprooted and thrown across the highways, there were vehicles dangling off parking structure roofs. Windows were blown out of cars and bus stops, and it was strangely, eerily, calm.

Yet, even after experiencing that, I still can’t imagine what it must have been like for those who experienced the tornado that just ripped through Joplin, Missouri, yesterday afternoon.

Things like that, things like freak storms and mile-wide tornados; stuff like that is hard to grasp. Those who see the damage in real life say that it’s not something you can ever imagine. It’s not real, until you see it. And it’s not real, at least not for me or for you, really- because our lives go on without more than a flinch or a twinge of sadness after looking at the photos and videos online. Our houses are still standing and our lights are still working. Our beds are comfortable and dry and covered by a ceiling, surrounded by four walls. Our neighbor is still sheltered with a roof over his head and the trees are still planted firmly in our yards. But for the people of Joplin, their families and their loved ones, it’s all very real. The giant that came out of the sky, that stomped their neighborhood down to a sheet of paper, they saw it. It arrived at their doorstep and they didn’t have a choice, they couldn’t turn it away or pretend like they weren’t home. It came through their neighborhoods, without invitation and without warning, and it ruined their weekend plans. For many, it ruined their lives. For many, it took their lives.

Courtesy of CBSnews.com

It’s difficult to imagine what something like this – something so natural yet so devastating, something that causes an entire city to be torn apart, layer by layer – is. Something that leaves you raw, exposed, completely vulnerable. Yet at the same time, knowing that it is over – watching as the sun comes out, yet again – brings a sense of calm and quiet. It’s an unwelcome quiet for some.

At first, it looks like something from Resident Evil, or some other apocalyptic zombie-type movie.  But it’s not the movies, not for the people of Joplin. It’s real, raw, all the layers are gone and the emotions are just primal. Instinctual.

Below is one of my favorite photos from today’s images online. A couple’s joy as they find their beloved pet, amidst the rubble and debris. The smiles, the tears, and hugs. The relief. The layers are off and it’s like they are drunk with happiness.

Courtesy of CBSnews.com

I know not everyone in Joplin could experience this same sense of peace at finding the ones they love. Over 100 people are dead, and many of those who survived do not have homes to call their own any longer. It’s hard enough being alone, but being homeless too? All of a sudden, literally, in as much time as it takes to snap your fingers, your life can be changed forever.

Please check out the Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery Facebook page for information on ways to help those in Joplin.  Askinosie Chocolate is donating 15% from its retail sales to the Joplin rescue and recovery needs, and the United Way of Missouri is taking donations and registering volunteers.

I guess it was time to take a break

February started with a bang. Actually, it started with rain, winds, ice, and snow. The snow wasn’t fun snow. It was the snow that has the texture of sugar, abrasive and hellacious. It’s the snow that you loathe if you’re a Nordic skier looking for the perfect wax. In Missouri, I have learned, the winters can be cruel. Not that I don’t know what winters are like. I have lived in the mountains, I’ve lived in the Yoop, I’ve seen- I’ve experienced- winters. But I’ve never experienced a real Missouri winter before. At first, I thought everyone was so full of sh*t. Really? A “midwest” winter? I mean, I grew up on Lake Erie, I went swimming in Lake Superior in December… and you’re telling me its cold and nasty in MO? Pshahhh….

But I bit my tongue. I nodded and grinned when people would say such things. And then, hell froze over. Literally…

Winters in Missouri are like a bipolar boyfriend who has never sought treatment. One day, it’s 60F and sunny. The next? It’s 30 and raining. Then the rain is freezing to the ground, the temperature keeps dropping, the winds keep picking up… and your car ends up with an inch-thick sheet of ice on it. Forget driving. Unless your car is equipped with ice skates, you ain’t going anywhere.  And on the first of February, this is exactly what happened. It started with some rain, some wind, and the temperatures dropped. The next day, the entire town was covered in ice, schools were canceled, the city of St Louis shut down, and everyone was in panic mode. Granted, I didn’t think we needed to buy out the toilet paper and bottled water at Schnucks (that might have been going a little far), but closing schools seemed entirely reasonable.

Luckily, I got to experience the entire week of lackluster road clearing and icy sidewalks before heading south. By the time the weekend came around, the temperatures were already rising and the roads were clear. I didn’t care, I was excited to leave if just for a week.

So. Where did I go? Here’s a hint:

What do tropical rainforests, deep-fried everything, and really awesome people have in common? …

Give up?

Each can be found in Puerto Rico.

I have never been to the Caribbean before this past week, and luckily the weather was tame and… gorgeous. I usually hate hot, humid places. But it wasn’t too hot. There was always a nice breeze from the Trade Winds, and the scenery was phenomenal.

The people were incredibly friendly, especially our driver George. But that’s the Puerto Rican way, I think. How can you not be happy if all you do is stuff outside?

Luckily, I wasn’t completely engulfed by the Puerto Rican lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I ate fried food (fried plantains came with everything…) and I laid in the sun a little too long, leaving my skin the color of lobster. But I did get in a few decent runs. I did some “swimming”- that included diving under and over waves, and body surfed. I hiked in El Yunque National Forest, and I even did some kayaking (granted, it was an eco-tour to see the bioluminescent bay… but I count it nonetheless).


I made it back to Missouri this morning, and I think I brought the nice weather back with me. I really can’t complain – as soon as I got back to my apartment, I grabbed my bike and headed out for a few hours in 60 degree and sunny weather. I feel refreshed, I feel ready to tackle work again, and I am feeling more motivated to train and get back into a schedule. I am also motivated to eat well again, get back into the routine of preparing healthy meals that don’t involve greasy plantains… although I have to admit- the Mofongo was quite delicious.

 

My favorite comfort food

I think everyone has “that food”- the one that brings about incredible memories and overwhelms the senses, not just the scent and taste of the food, but the emotional sense as well. Just the smell reminds one of a special day, a special place, or being surrounded by special company.

My favorite comfort food is chruscikis. As a child, they were a treat only to be savored on Christmas Eve. And rightfully so. They weren’t easy to make; in fact, I never knew how to make them exactly, and I’d wait patiently outside the kitchen of my best friend’s grandmother’s house for them to be shared. Granted, I was six or seven, and deep frying dough was a little advanced for me. But nonetheless, it felt like midnight by the time the chruscikis made their way to the table. The treat was always the most memorable part of the evening for me. Their shape alone was fascinating; somehow, someone (my best friend’s grandma, of course) weaved the thin dough in and out of itself to create this wing-shaped treat (not surprisingly, chrusciki means “angel wings” in Polish). The crisp dough, fried to a golden brown, had bubbles that would cave in on themselves if I took a bite on top of one. The treat was covered in white, fluffy powdered sugar, and the dough would break off by just pressing my lips ever-so-slightly together. It was so fragile; so delicate. The sugar and the bread would fill my mouth with sweet and salty flavors, and I’d sneak a few angel wings before my mom would bat my hand away, worried I’d go into a sugar craze like seven-year-olds do.

I haven’t had chruscikis in years, mostly because Christmas Eve has not been celebrated in the same way as it was when I was pre-high school. And now that I follow a gluten-free diet, it was one of those treats that I buried and tried to forget about (like packzis and pierogies). But my boyfriend’s mom found a gluten free bakery that makes angel wings, and all the emotion I have tied to this magical food came flooding back. I knew that I needed to find a way to make these myself, so that once again, they could become a part of my new holiday traditions.

I took a basic, not-gluten free recipe from online and modified it as best I could with what I had available.

Gluten-Free Chruscikis

  • 5 egg yolks (at room temp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons cream
  • powdered sugar
  • Canola oil

Mix together the flours and baking powder to make the flour blend.  Make extra mixture for flouring surfaces.

Beat the egg yolks in a stand mixer on medium speed until thick and then add the salt. Continue beating and add sugar and vanilla. Once mixed well, reduce speed of mixer to low and add in alternating ~1/2 c flour mix and 1tbsp cream until both are used up. Ball dough onto floured counter and let stand, covered with a towel, for 10min. Roll out with a rolling pin to very thin dough. Cut 1 to 2in wide strips about six inches long and then make a slit length-wise. Carefully weave one end of the strip through the slit to make the twist. Fry in canola oil (deeper than the thickness of the dough) until brown on both sides. Let cool on cooling rack for about 3 min, and then cover in powdered sugar.

I think in my next rendition, I will add Expandex to help with the working of the dough. I could roll it out once, but after that the dough would get very crumbly and not workable. Drats, gluten free dough. But otherwise, these angel wings are tasty and delicious, and fill my soul with wonderful memories…

The Endurance Meg Holiday Wish-List

The holidays are coming! Eek! My list hasn’t even been tackled yet. Double eek!

If you are like me, you already know what to get your significant other who 1) likes to ride his bike, 2) is in grad school and 3) lives in a snowy, cold place. Ok, so I have this one a little easy. But other than buying him a case or two of Pamela’s lemon shortbread cookies and a 5lb bag of Snowshoe Brew, I might be at a little bit of a loss. Endurance athletes aren’t really all that hard to shop for, if you have a billion dollars to spend on them. I thought I’d make it a little easy for those quirky endurance athletes on Santa’s list this year, no matter what your budget.

$5-35

  • Energy-o-rama: A nice variety of energy treats will bring a smile to their face. It will also give them an opportunity to restock their supply for the upcoming season or give them something new to try. I bought Baberaham a grab-bag of energy foods a few years back that had all sorts of awesome stuff, and it gave him an opportunity to try new things that he otherwise may never have tried before. My pics: Kona Kola Nuun, a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot, a Larabar or two (coconut cream pie and pb&j, perhaps?), and some Honey Stinger chews.

  • Gift cards! Good places include:
    • All3Sports so they can put it towards some new tri gear
    • iTunes so they can jazz up their music collection
    • or Road Runner Sports so they can get a fresh pair of kicks or a new outfit.

Now if only Active.com had gift cards, too…

  • Chamois cream – whether they use it already and have a favorite, or they haven’t yet dabbled in the down-under cream, a new tube or tub might get them rolling. If you don’t know where to start, check out my chamois cream review from a few months ago to narrow down some options. Want to give them comfort without getting too personal with their privates? You could get them a can of TriSlide or a few bottles of the TriSwim shampoo and body wash.
  • Snapfish their season! My mom makes me really awesome collages every year. This year, after Rev3 Cedar Point, she made me the collest race recap ever. It had photos from their day as spectators, the course, and me on the run and at the finish.  You can make all sorts of cool things with Snapfish, like calendars and stationary. Think about a two-in-one type of present: make them a calendar that they can use to log their training!

$35-50

  • New headphones– If they are like me, they go through headphones faster than they go through swim suits. OK, maybe that is because I don’t swim as much as I should… but I digress. H2O Audio has a pair of waterproof headphones for $45, and there’s these new tri-geek-gadget headphone covers called Yurbuds that lots of people talk about. The warranty of the Yurbuds is 90days which is longer than some headphones last…
  • Underwear– No, not underwear like your mom gets you at Christmas. How about: a new sports bra? or windproof briefs? or a pair of compression shorts? Seriously, serious underwear. And if you think its weird to give your Secret Santa who also does marathons a pair of windproof briefs, then you obviously don’t know him that well… unless you live in Florida.
  • Cross training gear– Get a medicine ball, Bosu ball, or a yoga mat. I’ve always wanted one of those at-home pull-up bars because I never can predict when the mood will strike and I’ll want to do Feats of Strength. It could be in the middle of eating pasta (but it’s usually NEVER in the middle of eating ice cream).
  • A nice bottle of whiskey– I know I’m not the only endurance athlete that likes whiskey. Right? Right?!? Phew, at least I know Maggs does. My recommendation? Well, I have a lot of recommendations in this price range. But, particularly, I *love* Eagle Rare for a bourbon, Macallan 10yr Fine Oak if you like single-malt, and I’d personally love to try Hirsch 10yr in honor of my new coach, even though he’s not from Canada.

$50-100

  • New bike shorts– Who doesn’t need new bike shorts, anyway? Or tri shorts? or running shorts? Heck, it’s cold now; get ’em a pair of tights, like these ones from Louis Garneau.
  • Miscellaneous gear– Do they have a nice bike pump? How about an at-home fix-it kit? Baberaham helped me put one together before I moved since we’d no longer be sharing gear. It included: a multitool, several new tubes, Bontrager tire levers, CO2 containers, a 3-4-5mm Y-type allen wrench, and all sorts of other useful stuff. Trigger Point is a sure-win for endurance athletes, since they are tools to aid recovery. Go to their Individual TP Products tab on the left to see the Quadballer (if you are gonna get one thing from Trigger Point, it should probably be this). If they are more run focused, get them gear to keep them running safe after dark, like a nice headlamp, a decent runnable reflective vest, and a hat/gloves designed for running.
  • Sweet clothes– Whether its running clothes or every-day normal clothes, which for some reason endurance athletes don’t usually have a lot of, it’s safe to say that most everyone will appreciate the finer stuff. Take merino wool, for example. It’s warm, but very fashionable. Check out Icebreaker for some extraordinary active wear (that will seriously keep you warm with less layers and weight than polyester) and also for some stylish stuff, too.
  • A few good cookbooks and some cooking tools– Get them started off on the right foot for 2011 with a few healthy-eating cookbooks and some new utensils they probably don’t have. There’s plenty of cookbooks to choose from, but make sure your choice is personal. If they are new to following a gluten free diet, get them something like Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks … series by Bette Hagman might be nice. I personally love the Comfort Foods book, but Baberaham isn’t such a soulful food person. And, if they don’t already have one, get them something nice for their kitchen to cook food in. I love my new Calphalon stainless steel multi-purpose saute pan. It has a lid, which is one giant step up from what my last saute pan had. Also check out their knife collection; everyone should hvae three good knives in their kitchen: a santoku or chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.

  • A different bottle of whiskey? This is probably the best bourbon I’ve ever had:

$100 or more

  • While this is more the special person(s) [eg significant other, son/daughter, or kiss up to your boss because you majorly screwed off this year] gift, it’s still one that is difficult to tackle for most people. In fact, I can think of a million things to get my running buddies, but we can’t spend this much moolah on each other (if we spend anything at all, because- alas – we are either all or recently recoverying grad students). So, if your special person(s)’s an endurance junkie like me, here’s a few gifts they might just eek about in glee.
  • New kicks ($100-150)- This is something that I know I can always get great use and appreciation out of. If you go this route, get ’em a new pair of their ol’ standbys. Don’t change it up, and if they aren’t happy with their current shoe, don’t make the decision for them. Instead, offer to take them to their favorite running shop and buy their new pair of shoes after trying them on.
  • A new bike trainer ($150-1200)– Even for people who can train outside year-round, having a bike trainer gives an athlete the freedom to train when they want to, whether its 5 in the morning or 9 at night. I have become very fond of using the trainer, because I don’t have to worry about bundling up, being seen by cars, or even wearing a shirt (yes, I wear a sports bra… sheeeesh). CycleOps is *the* name when it comes to quality bike trainers, and they make such a wide range that it can fit almost any budget. Now if only I could get my hands on a Powerbeam Pro…

  • GPS watch ($150-300)- If they don’t already have one (which I’m 99.8% certain most dedicated endurance athletes do at this point), upgrade their Ironman Timex watch to a shiny new Garmin 305.
  • TYR Torque swimskin ($250)- For those tri-geeks out there- Got a significant other that aspires to qualify for Kona, or is doing any southern, warm season triathlons in 2011? This swimskin is WTC and USAT legal, and it has a wee-bit of compression to help keep things tucked in and streamlined. I had a few close-calls in triathlon over the last two seasons, where I wasn’t sure if the water would be cool enough for my wetsuit. It wouldn’t otherwise be a big deal, but my two-piece tri kit can act like a chute in the water. Plus, I hope to do some warmer-weather races in 2011, and having a swimskin would help me in my weakest of the three sports.
  • Cover (some or all of) a race entry fee ($80-600)- Nothing says “I love you” than encouragement, and what better way to encourage your special person than by being an enabler?! I love enablers. They make me happy because they are just listening to the person they care about and helping them get to where they need to go a little easier.
    • Want something a little better than just covering their race entry fee? Register for two people; make it a special day! Of course, that other person is you. Not only will you be showing your support of your favorite endurance athlete, but you’ll also be saying “I’m with you on this one!” And, if you reallllly care about that person… make it a Rev3 race. 😉

Of course, there’s lots of things you can get for an endurance geek. I’d like to think we’re the easiest people to shop for. But if you’re stuck, hopefully this list of ideas will help. You could also try to win a box of LARABARS for whoever is on your list, and I won’t tell… Hurry tho, the contest ends on Monday.

Starting the newest chapter

In the last year, I have come to appreciate so many things that I might otherwise take for granted. Sometimes I am embarrassed about the little brat I have been in the past- when I’ve been too demanding of others. Sitting here, alone in my apartment, I am now- for the first time in my life- living completely on my own. I don’t have roommates, and it’s not just a short-lived thing, where my roommates are gone for a few weeks. I’m really, seriously living by myself. Now. At the age of 27.

It’s not that I really want to live by myself. It’s not that I crave that independence, or that I hate living with people, or that I am grumpy and antisocial. No, I have a feeling I will be reaching out to others as soon as the dust settles. But it’s going to be weird to not have someone there to talk to on my way home from work, to cook dinner with, to push me out the door for fun adventure. Oh, woe is me, right? Here I am, sitting by myself in my huge, new kitchen without anything simmering on the stove, in a new city with no friends, and I’m complaining. And that’s not what I want to do. I’m doing this all wrong.

I am happy. I am grateful. I am so ever thankful. I really, truly am.

I’m thankful for the safe drive, albeit stressful, that Baberaham and I had on our way to St Louis from the Upper Peninsula.  And I’m especially thankful for Baberaham for taking the reigns of the UHaul truck and navigating it through white-out conditions, rain, and winds for 800 miles.

The first 100 miles of our drive

I’m especially thankful for Baberaham- his time, his patience, and his help has been amazing in so many more ways than I can describe here. I can honestly say that without him, I wouldn’t be here, starting this new chapter of my life. He has done a phenomenal job of getting me unpacked, helping me settle into my new place, and most importantly, making me laugh.

Kid tested, but moms would not approve

I’m thankful for my new home, for arriving to this new and unknown city and having a roof over my head. I’m thankful that my new apartment is on the second floor, so that the first night I was in this new city, I wasn’t panicked about the flash flood warnings that were going off. I’m thankful for my landlord who is trusting and my neighborhood which seems safe.

Flash flood warnings the first night

I’m thankful for my parents who are worried about me even though I’m 27 years old; parents that would do anything they could to make sure their daughter is safe and happy. I’m thankful for their enthusiasm, their excitement, their concern. I’m thankful for their care packages that had just about anything I would really, truly need to get by, including instant mashed potatoes and soap. It’s the little things, really.

I think the only thing that wasn't in this box was a gallon of milk

I’m thankful for having friends and family that are truly the best this world can offer, who will stand beside me and help me through any hurdle I might have. Generic? Probably. But I am truly blessed. I am absolutely, positively, 100% grateful for the wonderful, thoughtful, and truly selfless people that are in my life.  I have friends that will go for a run with me as my “farewell party”- friends that will house me and feed me and not care that I’m just passing through. This move has been one of the most forthright in underlining the relationships I’ve established and the importance of the people in my life.

Being so far away now doesn’t mean that I don’t have those people in my life anymore. It’s like a rainbow where I can’t see the other side- just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it won’t be there. And the amazing thing about rainbows is that they often show up before the rain has stopped, to bring a smile and a sense of peace. I hear too often that it’s hard to find genuine people, which surprises me because I feel like I’ve been surrounded by truly genuine, honest, caring people for the last three and a half years. I have friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and loyalties that I will hold for years to come. I have no doubt that the relationships I’ve made in the most recent chapter of my life will continue, and get stronger, throughout the rest of my book.

And I have no doubt that I’ll see a rainbow in the sky every day that I am here in this new place. Does that seem overly optimistic? I don’t think so. I have so much to look forward to, to be thankful for. I am experiencing something in my life that most people don’t have the opportunity to have. I am pursuing my dreams, I’m nervous and scared and afraid but most importantly, I’m excited. And I think I am ready. What will this next chapter bring? I can only imagine, but I know it will be more and more and more of the wonderful and exciting. More of the love and the thanks and the challenges and the triumphs. I am ready.

I know where the other side of this rainbow is...

Gluten-free Thanksgiving Feast

I’m moving to St Louis the day before Thanksgiving.

But I’m still going to do-it-up-right. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Plus, Baberaham will be there to help me cook for the first time in my new place. What better way to break in the kitchen than having a holiday meal?

I promised him a pumpkin pie anyway.

Here’s the menu:

  • Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin (turkey? Pshh. I’m thinking the pilgrims and Native Americans shot wild boars for their Thanksgiving feast)
  • Goat-cheese steak fries from glutenfreegirl’s blog
  • Broccoli slaw (also from GFG’s blog)
  • Gluten-free pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream topping
  • a bottle of vino! Missouri has some vineyards, and I might try to find “Adam’s Choice” from the Adam Puchta Winery

It gets quiet

There are times when things get quiet. It’s a time to reflect… on things that are important, on those that help shape who we are.

I could be writing about my Michigan marathon, the Detroit Free Press Marathon, that I raced on Sunday. This is a running blog, after all. I could tell you all about the course, the aid stations, the people, how I felt from start to finish. I could give you mile by mile breakdowns of the race as it unfolded. I think in time that report will come, but right now, its not what’s important.

My grandfather had a stroke on Friday. I had just arrived to town the night before, to prepare for Sunday’s race. I spent Friday afternoon in the hospital in Monroe, holding his hand, talking to him and feeding him butterscotch pudding. His right hand was so strong, remarkably strong, and he clenched mine like he didn’t ever want to let go. It was as if he thought that if he let go, he’d fall- to where, I didn’t know. He told me stories in a slurred voice, yet the stories were clear and precise. They were stories of the Golden Gate Bridge, of watching me race in track meets, of visiting all sorts of different places. I told him I’d be running to Canada on Sunday, and he told me about the people he heard of that jumped off the Ambassador Bridge. He asked how my running friends were doing, and he was excited to hear they’d be running with me on Sunday. I left Monroe knowing, but not knowing, what was going to come next.

I raced on Sunday but something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t that I didn’t sleep well, or eat well. I didn’t feel sick or sore. My legs just didn’t want to move the way I thought they would. I considered stopping and cheering on the other athletes but I kept on. I walked a bit, I turned around to see if Adam was catching up, and I struggled through a few miles where all I wanted to do was sit on the grass and watch the other athletes go by. Adam passed me and I couldn’t go with him. I’ve never felt so tired in a race. I finished, though…

But I didn’t care about my race. I didn’t care what my time was, where I finished. The first thing I thought of when they put the medal around my neck was my grandpa. The ribbon was red-white-and-blue, something he’d have got a kick out of. I was excited to tell him about it, to put the medal in his right hand so he could feel its weight.

My grandpa didn’t get to hear about my race, though. He passed away before I started. He lived an amazing life, eighty-five years of adventures and stories. I know that no one can live forever, but I know that he’ll continue to live on in the hearts of his family and friends. I know that I am going to keep asking questions, just like he always did; I’m going to keep learning and helping and sharing, just like he always would. And sometimes, it will get quiet, and that’s ok. That’s when it is time to sit, think, and formulate new questions. Remember good stories. And reflect on the lives that have gripped our hearts.

Rest in peace, Robert Lee Rauch. 1925-2010

Wanna be a part of Team Trakkers in 2011? #fb

Want to be a part of something incredible?

In 2010, I was lucky enough to be a member of Team Trakkers. At first, I was hesitant to apply. To be honest, I felt like a faker. I had only raced three triathlons in my life! I was a newbie, an amateur. I mean, what does a rookie triathlete like me think she’s doing? Why would they want someone like me?! I thought it was just a bunch of crazy awesome triathletes in-it-to-win-it. I mean, I talked with some of the members of the Trakkers team; they were legit! But I noticed something; they were all real people. They had families, jobs, lives outside of the sport. And they weren’t always on the podium; but that wasn’t the point. They were moms, dads, daughters, and sons; they wanted to be good role models for their kids and make their parents proud. They were always sportsmanlike, always encouraging others to make healthy decisions, both for the mind and the body. They were a part of a sport that added something more to their life, but it didn’t make their life.  It added character and discipline, but they would have had that anyway. In truth, they were all-around badasses.

I applied last year with an itch to be a part of something bigger. Words cannot describe how Team Trakkers has helped me grow. Being a part of Team Trakkers has been one of the highlights of my triathlon career. I’ve made incredible friends, explored new places, and have learned so much about myself as an athlete. I pushed past the limits of what I thought I could do, and have taken my athleticism to a new height. No matter how far I traveled for a race this season, I always had a family on the other side.  I’ve been able to share these experiences with my family and my friends.  I’m growing up, and Trakkers has been lent a huge hand in helping me develop and mature.

So now, I offer this same experience to you. You, too, can be a part of this amazing crew!

The application window for Team Trakkers 2011 is now open. Click here to apply. If you have any questions about the team, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Click on the icon to apply

Photo credit: Eric Willis

Cedar Point FullRev Race Report

I was thinking about this post when I was finishing up the bike leg of the FullRev. I was thinking, around mile 95, of excuses I could make to tell you about why I got off the bike in T2 and never left with my running shoes on. I was construing various stories that left you with the feeling of “Oh, I get it” and “If that were me, I’d do the same damned thing.”

But before I tell you these stories, I should tell you the first one.

I considered not traveling to Cedar Point at all.

I got it in my head that leaving work for five days (weekend included), in the thicket of dissertation writing, and with two campus visits coming up (one in New York City, and the other in St Louis), I just couldn’t go. I needed to work on my slides for a lecture at Hospital for Special Surgery. I needed to go through Chapter One with a fine toothed comb so I could send it to my advisor for editing. I needed to write a manuscript on stuff I did this spring, finish a manuscript for stuff I’ve been working on for nearly two years, and work on the transitions between chapters 3-8 of my dissertation. It just didn’t make sense to leave right now. Not like this.

But Baberaham wondered why I would do that. My friend AJ was going down with me, and if I didn’t go, what would he do? It would be a long drive by himself, not to mention that we were planning on staying at my parents for two nights. And my Trakkers teammates would be there, my parents could watch me race not-so-far-away, and I’d get a break for my brain.

So I went. AJ and I drove down on Thursday afternoon, headed to Cedar Point on Friday, and dinked around Sandusky for less than 48 hours before our race. We did the practice swim, we road our bikes on a crappy road with a strong headwind, and we took naps. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the race, but I was as ready as I was going to be. Nothing I could do now, just race and see.

Race morning was pretty low key. I set the alarm for 4:15, got out of bed at 4:30, had a cup of coffee and a cup of Panda Puffs and packed up the car. Our bikes were already checked in, thanks to Rev3’s awesome pre-race bike check-in (so convenient!) and I just needed to fill bottles and my nutrition pouch. My stay-with-me bottle had four scoops of Orange EFS and 4oz of Liquid Shot mixed with water, and I affixed a Nathan Sports Propeller carry between my aero bars for a Liquid Shot flask (fits perfect, by the way). I was a little slower than anticipated, mostly because I hadn’t planned on needing to be weighed pre-race (not sure why I didn’t think about that…), but I got it all set up to go and headed to the swim start. I sipped on PreRace and Nuun on the walk over.

Lake Erie looks eerily calm

Swim: I sprayed my ankles and wrists with TriSlide and slipped into my wetsuit. The water was cold, which was amazing. I expected the water temperatures to be high and wetsuits to be illegal because the summer temps had been so high. Before the race, I was getting nervous and excited. The pros were delayed 10 minutes, which only extended the nervousness a little more. I was looking forward to the swim, though, because I’ve been working on it lately. And to be honest, I’ve never felt better, more in control, than I felt on today’s swim. I was smooth and fluid, I found feet, and I felt fast. Granted, my time wasn’t fast, but I think that had a little to do with the chop (especially on the second loop). I am not sure if the in-and-out-and-back-in swim course made times slower, either, but I definitely felt faster than I did last year at IMWI, even though my time was the same. However, Madison was a clusterf* of people, and there were times where I didn’t have to actually swim and I was moving as fast as everyone else. The thinner crowd at the Rev3 race might have made things a little slower in that reason alone. Not that I’m complaining though, I’d rather not get punched in the head or stomach…

2.4 mile swim: 1:14
T1: 1:31

T1 was fast for me, since I didn’t grab my gear bag and just headed straight for my bike. I actually thought it would be faster, but I think the chip mat to T1 exit was a little of a long run.  I ripped off my suit, and it came off like butter thanks to TriSlide. I threw it in the box next to my bike, slipped on my shoes and helmet and Trakker device, and off I went. No armwarmers for me today, because even though the water was cold, the air really was not.

Bike: The bike is what I like to call the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The first ten miles or so were rough, which I expected and didn’t really care about because we had a slight tailwind and, well, I rode it the day before. And, it was the beginning of the ride. Once I got out onto the open roads, I could go a bit faster, and averaged anywhere from 15-26mph.

The good: We cruised through the town of Edison, which was cool and somewhat Tour-de-France-esque, and popped out onto one road that was absolutely amazing. Smooth as glass and a tailwind to boot, and cruising at 26mph was easy with a 54 chainring. But, turn the corner fifteen miles later and the road turns to chipseal. Aid stations were plentiful, miles were marked every 10, which was awesome, and draft marshals were out in full effect. Traffic on the course was minimal as well! My nutrition was spot on, and not having an aero drink bottle was worthwhile. I missed a few bottles of water at the aid stations but they weren’t essential. I always had a bottle of water in one cage and a bottle to sip from that had EFS and Liquid Shot in it. The Nathan Propeller carrier was perfect, too, and the flask and EFS bottle stayed with me the whole way.

I yo-yo’d with a woman on the bike for both laps. She caught me on the rough stuff and barreled ahead of me until she was out of sight. Then, I would I blow by her thanks to my extra toothed chainring on the flat, tail-wind-assisted roads, and not see her in my wake. I have no idea how she could catch me, and she probably had no idea how I could find her again. The last time she passed me, on the chipseal of the second lap, I stopped to turn my wheel around (I got paranoid that running it the other way would propagate the small gash in my tire I got a few weeks before), and I never saw her again in the saddle.

The bad: The chipseal wasn’t so bad, in reality, but the wind was. It was demoralizing. You wanted to go 22mph, you knew you could (the road looked flat, right?), but you couldn’t. Or at least I couldn’t. I sat at 15-17mph and just grumbled my way through it. And to be honest, I don’t know what is worse: hills or headwinds. Obviously, both are awful, and having them together is a death wish, but hills are at least gaugeable. They end when you get to the top and you get a break on the way down. A headwind is just a battle the whole way, until you turn off the road or throw your bike into a cornfield. Which I considered doing.

My left leg started getting sore about twenty miles into the bike, and it stayed sore until about mile fifty. I had a hard time shaking it, and the only thing that would relieve it was adjusting my position in the saddle to stretch out my IT band. However, by doing so hurt my crotch even more.

My stomach hurt, too, and at first it was because I was so hungry when I started riding. I ate a Snickers bar about twenty minutes in and that held off the hunger pangs, but my intestines did not want to move anything through for another hour or so. I should have sat up to let things settle, but I didn’t want to sit up going into the headwinds. Eventually, it settled.

Oh, and from the time I got onto the bike to the time I got off, I had to pee.

The ugly: One sweet part of the race was the choice of doing the FullRev or the HalfRev. I liked having the halfers out there on the course, because it split things up, took my mind off what I was doing, and put more people on the course. Not that I like more people, but there were plenty of times where I was completely by myself. One example of this was not intentional though. I was passing a halfer up a hill around mile 95, so I took to the left of the lane and passed. Only, I passed him at an intersection where people were standing. I was looking for cops, but I didn’t see any, so I continued through. I heard someone yell something about bikers, but just continued on. There was a guy ahead of me before the intersection that I’d keep my sights on, but with the rolling hills I couldn’t see farther than 200yards ahead. Eventually, I could see farther out, but I couldn’t see him. Could he have got so far ahead of me in that short of time? Hmm. Kept going, until I got to an intersection with lots of cars, no police, and no signs. What? The? Heck! I took a wrong turn somewhere. No later did I say this to myself than do I see a minivan pull up behind me to yell “You gotta come back! You’re off course!” I shook my head, tears welled in my eyes, and I wanted to be done. I missed the paint markings on the road, since the halfer I was passing at the time was riding over them. And I didn’t see the turn sign because it was probably in line with the halfer as well. Or it got knocked down from of the wind. Whatever the excuse is that I come up with, I ended up adding 2.5 miles (and 8 minutes) unnecessarily to my bike. And I was soooo over being on the bike.

I wanted to ask the minivan guy if I could put my bike in his car and get a ride back to transition. I wanted to be done. I was done with chip seal, I was done with wind. And when I eventually got to Huron and had to ride through the town, I was done with that, too. A little, fuzzy, football-sized brown and black lump of fur scurried out from a bush and nearly ran between my spokes, and I was thinking that would really make me done for the day. What the eff was that? I said to myself. Out loud. I might have even yelled it. It looked like a porcupine cat. Or a porcupine Pomeranian. For whatever reason, the fuzzy unknown being stopped before running into me, and scurried back into the bush. Eff.

The bumps, the wind, the bumps, ugggh. I told myself on the way back to the park, on the eight miles of road that was bumpy, jarring, and painful in the crotchal region, that if I wasn’t having fun, I shouldn’t be doing it. And I was NOT having fun. I started making excuses to give you, my dear readers, about why I didn’t leave T2 with my chip and running shoes on. I wanted to just rack my bike and stand next to my mom and cheer for the other, more tough, more deserving athletes. The last six miles were knocking me around, the crosswinds made me want to cry some more. Eventually, I saw the turn into the park and knew there was not much left. I could not wait to be done.

I dismounted and ran into T2, handing my bike over to an amazing volunteer.

112 mile bike: 5:49
T2: 2:11

“Want me to rack it?” I asked.
“Uh, no! Go run!” He said.
And I wanted to run.

I didn’t even notice it. It was almost as if the last twenty miles hadn’t happened. I ran along the black runway without even thinking. Grabbed my transition bag without even thinking. Ran into the changing tent and dumped my bag upside down.

Two women in transition asked me if I needed any help. I told them that I did.

“What shoes should I wear?” I asked. They looked at me puzzled. “Seriously. This is an important decision.”

My Saucony Guide 3s sat next to my Fastwitch 4s. The green of the Fastwitches looked so good with my kit. The Guides felt heavy in my hands. The women wouldn’t answer me.

“It’s up to you!” They’d say.

I put the green shoes on without thinking any more about it, and one of the women asked why I wasn’t wearing socks. “You crazy athletes, not wearing socks. I can’t believe you can run a marathon without socks.” I shrugged. I should have worn socks.

I ran out of transition quickly. My feet were turning over faster than I thought they could. I felt how I feel after riding 56 miles, not 114. I tried to slow them, but they just didn’t want to. They were having a mind of their own, those legs. I swear it had everything to do with my fast shoes. They had been racing fast all season, why would they ever stop now?

I hit mile 1 a little sooner than I expected. 8:02. No way. That seems too fast. I shouldn’t feel so good after biking so long, right? I hit mile 2 soon after. 7:25. Seriously? Slow down. The Go Fast shoes wanted to go, though.

I sipped on EFS and liquid shot from my Nathan handheld flask and moved through aid stations with ease. No stopping, no walking, just moving. I didn’t take any aid, I just moved through. I felt strong, holding steady at sub 8min/mile pace. I saw AJ’s bright kit and his wicked hair as I passed mile 5, taking a mental note of where he was on the course. I held strong, focused on my form, and ticked off the miles. I passed the point where I remembered seeing AJ and realized he was two miles ahead. The math in my brain was still working, maybe I wasn’t running hard enough. If I could run 1min/mile faster than him, I could catch him. That would be hard to do, he looked strong. But there was nothing I could do about his race, I could only focus on mine. So I did.

I came through the first loop on pace for a 3:30 marathon. That just seemed too fast, but I wasn’t worried about it. My legs would take me where they wanted to take me. I shouldn’t even be running, I should be standing by the side, cheering for others, done with my day. But my legs had other plans. They were showing me they weren’t ready to quit just yet. I held steady. Strong.

I couldn’t see any other amateur women ahead of me. I saw the pros, both Kathleen and Jacqui rocking the vibrant green Trakkers kits like me. I saw some of my Trakkers teammates and gave them high fives. I should have been in the pain cave, but I felt like giving high fives.

Around mile 14 I started drinking cola at the aid stations, mixing it half and half with water in my flask so it would go flat. My quads wanted to seize up around mile 15, and I drank a cup of Cerasport. Amazingly, that kept the cramps at bay. I kept drinking it at every aid station. Ice went down my top on purpose. Cola and water filled my flask and was emptied before the next aid station.

The liners on my shoes started to fold under my toes, and I couldn’t tell if it was just that or if my feet were cramping. My toes weren’t cramping. I started a mantra in my head. No cramping, no cramping. Stretch it out. As if I could will myself away from cramping.

The run course had a lot of turns, and it was hard to see who was in front of you more than a half mile ahead. But the amazing thing about a race this long is that you can pass (or get passed) by people you were separated with by miles off the bike. And that’s exactly what happened. I passed people I remembered on the bike. People who blew by me and must have started the run a half hour before me. An hour before me.  At mile 20, I told myself that a 60min 10K would get me under 11 hours. And then I was counting down the miles.

It started to hurt, whatever “it” was. I got tired, my legs got tired. My legs lost their pep. My feet hurt, my hips sank, my shoulders scrunched up around my ears. I felt sloppy and slow. But I kept moving. Two miles to go. One mile to go. My smile turned to a grimace and I ached to be done. And then I thought about the finish. My mom. My dad. Amy. Owie. They’re all there. They’re all watching. Owie was getting ready to run with me. I turned the corner and there he stood.

I grabbed his hand and we ran down the chute together. Sure, some dude passed me in the chute, but I didn’t care. I was running holding hands with a 3-yr-old across the finish line of my second ultra-distance triathlon. The volunteers at the finish lowered the tape, I felt everything from the day just float off my shoulders. I looked down at Owen’s smiling face and couldn’t help but feel like we just spent a day playing in the park. As I crossed the line, I didn’t have the emotional crash that I had at my first ultra distance triathlon (last year at IMoo). I didn’t feel like I just did what I actually just did. If that makes any sense. I did have tunnel vision, and I saw the volunteer inching toward me with the medal and I asked them to put it around Owen’s neck instead. They draped him with a foil blanket and he danced around. It was euphoric, watching him. It was almost an out of body experience. 26.2 mile Run: 3:39:20

Soon after, AJ crossed the line, and I convinced one of the volunteers to help me take off my shoes. My shoes were bloody, and I didn’t think I would be capable of taking them off myself. It was like a band-aid, and I encouraged the volunteer to treat it as such. Sure enough, my foot was anhiliated from a popped blister. I realized about three miles into the run that I had forgotten to spray the inside of my shoes with TriSlide. I have no idea how I forgot to do that, but I think my entire pre-race prep that included not thinking about the race influenced that incredibly poor foresight. I’ve raced all season with amazing results, and atmy “A” race I forget one of the most important things related to damage control. That was dumb!

Regardless, I cannot put into words how grateful I am to have continued through T2 with my running shoes on. To see my mom and dad, Owen and Amy, standing there, cheering, taking photos… it made all of the anxiety of the bike disappear. To feel the way I felt on the run is indescribable. My legs just wanted to go. To be honest, I don’t know what happened. I was convinced that, on the bike, I was done with the day. But my legs had other plans, and they ran me to a 2nd place overall finish for amateur women, with a time of 10:46.

I learned a lot about long course racing at Cedar Point that I didn’t learn before. My independent training really paid off, because I rode a lot of the bike without anyone else in sight. My carefree attitude going into (and throughout) the race paid off, too.  Perhaps there is something about the long course race that makes it easier for someone a little more easy-going. One bad thing can ruin your day, and in a shorter race, like an Olympic or a half, it does. But in the long, ultradistance races, you can shrug it off and continue, perhaps even pretend like it didn’t happen. There’s not always time to fix things when bad things happen, but the day is usually long enough to work through a problem, or at least stick it out.

And I am so glad that I did stick it out. Seeing the smiling faces of my favorite support crew was the best feeling this girl could have.

I love you, Mom and Dad! I love you Owie and Amy, too. Thank you for sharing this special day with me, and for helping me after the race. Your support means so much to me!

And thank you to my sponsors, especially Team Trakkers and Rev3. Being a part of this team has really opened my horizons in the sport of triathlon and has encouraged me to try new things, push new limits, and reach new heights. Being a part of Team Trakkers has brought so much to my life in the last year! Rev3 puts on the best races, awesome for athletes as well as their families. I have never had a better race experience than what I’ve had with all three Rev3 races I’ve done this season.

And as usual, my nutrition was spot on with First Endurance, Nuun, and Honey Stinger, and awesomely accessible with cool gear from Nathan Performance Sports. My feet were fast in their FastShoes, the Saucony Fastwitch 4s. My bike was a rocketship thanks to the awesome guys at The Bike Shop.

Evolution

Sorry, Absaroka. You do not yet have opposable thumbs.