Triathlon transitions

I had a very good weekend, training-wise and social-wise. We took our time, sleeping in a little bit and taking our time getting ready in the mornings, since our workouts were shorter now that we’re closer to D-Day, and that made all the difference, since I’m largely a morning person.
At any rate, part of the terrific weekend was getting to know a bloke (Hi, Steve!) who’s doing some important work getting ShelterBox up and running in Denmark. He’s a British ex-pat and heard of my efforts on behalf of ShelterBox in the Ironman, and took the time on Sunday to engage in some chitchat over the Facebook transom. Talking to him made me think that there are perhaps a number of readers who don’t know exactly what I’m doing in this-here Ironman, so I’ll take some space in the days leading up to race day to describe some things like training and structure of races.
Today I’ll go over transition times. You’ve already seen some of the neuroses that happens (how many laps do I have to swim before I hit a mile, again? How many MPH do I have to hit before I can say that I’ll make the cut-off on time?) but one of the things that goes oft-overlooked is transition times. In adventure racing, the transition–the time between disciplines allotted for changing your kit around and prepping for the next leg of the race–can be incredibly slow. There’s re-fueling to be done, re-packing, map-reading, and sometimes, in the very long races, tooth-brushing.
But in a triathlon, the transition times can be remarkably fast, about two, three minutes between each discipline. This makes a relatively disorganized person like me break out in cold sweat. My friend Pamela, who is incredibly organized, is good at these things. Me, not so much. I have to practically write everything down, practice it over and over again.
So here’s what happens in a TA (“transition area”): You stage your bike, your shoes, any odds and ends you might need on the course, all the night before the race. (The Ironman organization practices a “clean transition area” policy, but we’ll talk more about that tomorrow, when I go over race structure.)
A typical transition area looks like this:
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(Assume that my bicycle is on the left side of things.)
Every last minute counts in a triathlon. In the case of next weekend’s Ironman, it’ll count doubly for me, since I missed an entire cycle of training this year, all told, and I will need every minute I can get in order to make it in under the 16-hour cutoff for the race. Transitions are “free time”: you don’t have to get stronger or fitter to execute a good triathlon, and it can save you a lot of time if you do it right.
Things get set up very specifically. Ordinarily, I’d have my helmet, jersey, sunglasses, and bike gloves sitting on top of my bike handlebars, so I don’t have to waste time bending over one more time to pick something up. You can see that my socks are already sitting in my bike shoes, ready for me to pull them on and slip into my shoes. My shoes are entirely undone. I will put these on first.
Next I will pull on my jersey, which will have my number already pinned to the front of it. You can see it’s lying front down, since that’s the way I’ll pull it on. (One time, I put the pins all the way through my jersey. I had a bear of a time putting my jersey on, let me tell you. Lessons learned.)
My sunglasses are open and my gloves are as open as they can possibly be. My feet will be wet and likely covered in grass, sand, and dirt from the jog from the lake to the transition area, so the towel underneath all my stuff will serve dual purpose.
When I come in from the swim, I’ll pull off my wetsuit and set it out of the way. I’ll be wearing a sportsbra and my triathlon shorts underneath already. Then I’ll wipe my feet and pull on my socks and shoes. Sunscreen and lip balm goes on my face and neck only, since I’ll have pre-applied over my body before the swim and it won’t have washed or rubbed off in the water; then my helmet and my glasses and gloves. I’ll probably take a slug of liquid and some salt tablets (we’ll talk about nutrition at a later date) and scarf a bite of real food, like one of the granola bars you see on the towel.
Then it’s off to the bike leg.
Many, many hours later, it’s time to run. I’ll come in, undo my bike shoes, remove my glasses, helmet, bike gloves, slip into my running shoes, slap on my visor, and go after grabbing my water bottle.
A good transition will take somewhere between 3 and 8 minutes. Well, a girl can hope, anyway, can’t she?
Tomorrow, race structure.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Manatees are far more interesting than green beans

Certain things make a girl happy. To wit:
1. The children’s section at The White Plains Public Library is the best I’ve ever seen. I loves it! Witness “The Trove”:
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And here’s what you see when you walk into it:
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2. A few days ago there were perfect clouds outside my window. I love the views from my apartment. I wonder how it’ll be in the wintertime, when there isn’t very much foliage and you can just see the highway and the Nordstrom’s.
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3. About a week ago I made a shrimp-and-green beans dish that called for the beans to be sliced on an “extreme diagonal.” Do you know how annoying it is to be told to be extreme in your cooking? At some point I got so extremely diagonal I went vertical.
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4. It’s the last day of school here in New York. The high school across the street is lovely to look at on any day, but the noise of happy kids is hard to beat.
5. My friend Erica is a remarkably talented illustrator. I had her do this piece, of manatees shopping for lettuce, for me. I just got it back from framing. I loves it.
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6. My friend from junior high school, Jo Smith, came to visit with her Grammie Lucy. Lucy is 88 years old and sharp as a tack, nay, sharp as a sharpened tack. She is wonderful. I hope I’m as engaging and as confident as Grammie when I am 88.
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7. My morning glory plant is an idiot. I keep on threading it around my balcony railing, but it insists on making knots around itself. Time for a trellis.
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8. Today the skies are more threatening. I like this weather, but I’m sure the kids would rather a nice sunny day to play in.
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9. Today: reading, writing, a short swim at the end of the day. Nice, nice day. GoooooOOOoood day. Stay. Sit.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Looking backwards

Yesterday, needing to get out of the house despite my poor diet of ice chips and freezie pops, I marshalled my energy and walked down to the library. It’s only about a half-mile, maybe less, but I felt drained and tired by the end of the trip, if only because I stopped by the Holocaust Gates and was encountered by an ugly act of vandalism.
The gates look like this: p6230068
On the back of the low wall bracketing the gates, someone had scrawled something ugly in some sort of grease-paint–it looked like lipstick, frankly. There was a bizarre, educated slant to the writing, as if the person had thought very carefully about what he or she wanted to write, as if the thing was pre-meditated, not scrawled in a random act of violence. (The walls, by the way, are inscribed with the names of some of the concentration camps.) Two women sat just near the wall, having lunch. It was a very odd tableau, if not only because, when someone commits an act of vandalism like this, it’s typically because they want people to see it. This exhortation, written in a place where someone looking for a moment of peace, wandering around the back of the memorial, would find it, was particularly offensive because of its placement.
I don’t know if they’ll ever get it off. The stuff seems to have seeped into the stonework. I won’t post it here. If you really want to see it, e-mail me.
Anyway, this isn’t what I wanted to write about, really. I’m not entirely sure now what I set out to say–it was something about my Holocaust professor in college, who encouraged my writing and helped me to find bravery in it, but I think that will have to wait for another day.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

It’s a fine day to indulge in some ice chips

I only say this because it’s gloriously sunny out, and I’m recovering from a nasty bout of food poisoning. People, let me just dispense one fine piece of advice: when you are three weeks out from a major race and just barely beginning to taper, it is a really, really bad idea for you to eat food from the hot/cold buffet at any eating establishment. The risk just isn’t worth it. Since I didn’t pay attention to this advice, I had to skip yesterday’s jog, which would have been an awesome walk in the woods with Jim and the hound. There is nothing in my belly except for ice chips and my eyelids feel as if they have been coated with sandpaper (this is no doubt a result of dehydration).
Jim and I had been looking forward to Saturday’s ride, which would have been our longest to-date and the first that we’ve had specific instructions to stay together. Jim is a much faster cyclist than I am under ordinary circumstances. Just to give you some sort of measurement, he does our usual loop, the 14-mile race loop we did for the first time this year four weeks ago, in about 45 minutes. I do it in about an hour and ten minutes. But our coach specifically has asked that I work on my cadence, and she thinks that following Jim around will both give me more confidence and a better feel for faster riding.
She’s right on both counts; it’s just a little disheartening to realize how little I retain of my desire for competition of this sort. Imagine, being told that you need to follow someone around in order to get some sort of feel for speed!
Well. I wasn’t any faster than I usually am, but my legs felt so much better, and I did get a feel for the speed I’d want to be traveling at. Plus, Jim bought me a neat little computer that tracks my cadence, and while I wasn’t as bad as I thought I’d be on the flats and the very slight uphills, my cadence on the uphill-uphills was absolutely dreadful. Oh well.
Anyway, here’s the loop we rode.
We did our prescribed 15-minute run at the end, and piled into the car for home and dinner, only to get stuck in traffic and not be able to go anywhere for a good long while. I slept. When I woke up again Jim was wearing the heavy-lidded look that says he’s not long for the conscious world, and we were still so far away from home.
A normal thirty-minute ride turned into a marathon hour and a half.
Anyway, home, dinner, and sleep, with the knowledge that the next day would be better, but not without the geeking-out that I seem to do every night now before I go to sleep. It looks like this:
723×8=5784
5784/3.3=1752
1752>1260
70/6.25=11.2
112/11.2=10
5280/3=1750
1750/50=35
35×2=70
1750x.2=….
and so on. All of that, of course, is the amount of time it’s going to take me to do the Ironman, based on the distances I’ve traveled and the training I’ve done. By my current calculations I shall barely eke in under the 16-hour cutoff point, and I’m OK with that, just so long as I finish.
We ran a few errands Sunday and had the aforementioned buffet lunch, and then I crashed hard on the couch for several hours. I thought I was just tired, but my beleagured little body was waging a war against either the corn-and-edamame succotash or the roasted cauliflower. I woke up, piled leftover fish and chips and grape juice on top of the mess in my belly, and promptly paid the price.
Mmhmmm. Lovely.
So after a sleepless night, I’m staring at a day of incapability to do work and possibly being late returning my library books. I’d like to actually pick up some new ones and write a book review and some more articles for The Examiner, but…I’m so tired. And hungry. Maybe I can stomach some chicken broth.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

The Weekend that Started Early and Would Not End

Egads. It feels like I’ve been running on weekend time forever. It sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? Except, see, for us, in these peak weeks of Ironman training, well, the weekends are when we do our long workouts: five-hour bike rides on Saturday; three-hour runs on Sunday. After that, there’s not much to do but sleep and eat. There’s not much we’re capable of, really.
This weekend, we had a wedding to go to, so our long run was moved to Friday, leaving our Saturday free to travel. We also had a friend in town, apartment-hunting, although she wasn’t staying with us. And there were a few occurrences that made things feel as happy as weekends used to feel, before the days of long workouts that leave no time for regular life.
My sense of time is all screwed up. I know we only have a few weeks left until the Ironman, but it still feels a long way away. I guess we do have to get there, after all. At any rate, all of this is a round-about way of saying that I have a ton of impressions that are weighing with various pressures on my mind. In order of “weight,” then:
First, the wedding: My first-ever New York roommate got married. She also graduated as a Doctor of Osteopathy. Very, very cool. It was really nice to see her and participate in the wedding. (She had me do a reading. Yes, I got all weepy.)
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Second, the awesome guys at Braithwaite Wallets donated a fairly large amount of money to ShelterBox by way of supporting me, one of their first clients, and my Ironman effort. I’d say something about how great their wallets are, and, in particular, how the one I bought from them has made my life easier, but all of that pales next to the the donation they made, and the level of gratitude I feel at their generosity.
Third, an old friend from junior high school has found an apartment in Brooklyn and will be moving here mid-summer. It will be nice to have her in the same state–we haven’t lived in the same state since college, really, and we weren’t really in touch then–and interesting to discover Brooklyn with someone who’s interested in some of the same things.
Third, I took this picture of Sprocket recently. I think he looks very thoughtful: “What am I going to make for dinner tonight?”
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Fourth: I had a workdate yesterday with a new friend. I don’t think it was as successful for him as it was for me, but I’m grateful that he let me hang out with him. It’s always nice to get out of the house.
Fifth: I went to my friend John’s cafe to meet Tim for lunch. It was a really nice experience. Zanny’s Cafe is the result of a lot of hard work and I’m really proud of John for making it happen. I think it’s so awesome to have tangible proof of something you built and worked on.
Sixth: We saw another old friend on our way up to the wedding. Matt and Karla and their little boy Korbin are fascinating people. I love seeing them and I’m happy we’re on the same coast again, even if we’re not likely to see them more than a couple of times a year. The northeast is so much smaller than the midwest, and there is such a concentration of reasonably large cities (New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, for instance), that the act of going to visit a friend in another state does not immediately pack an entire weekend. I mean, obviously, it’s nicer if one can spend an entire weekend with friends, but it’s not as prohibitive as, say, driving to Indianapolis was. Here are Matt, Karla, and Korbin in front of their awesome little condo. p6130082
And here is the awesome radiator re-seller that we saw on the way to Matt and Karla’s (we passed it twice, looping around and around the Somerville streets). p6130078
What else? Oh, yes. We had a massive surf-and-turf dinner at Sarah’s wedding. She is not one to skimp on food, and she is also one to ensure that her guests are very, very happy. This combination leads to fat, happy guests. p6130087
Okay, fine, one more. Here is Sprocket’s poor hedgehog toy. I stitched up one of his eyes after Sprocket ripped it out, but I think it is finally beyond repair. Sigh. p6090075

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

“Is this thing on?”

My pal Mike Smith turned me onto a guy named David Allen, who does podcasts about Macs, and now, writers. He interviewed me about my work, the writing and the editing and all of the stuff that goes on around it.
It’s my first podcast. It’s very exciting. Thinking–and speaking–on the fly is very hard. Feedback, of course, is always welcome. Here’s the link. Big, big thanks to David, who was a lovely, kind interviewer–and an even kinder editor!

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

It’s no good, Capt’n, she’s fogged in!

Today is one of those brilliant writing days. It’s raining like gangbusters, and I can hear the sound of the traffic on 287 because of the shusshing of the tires on the tarmac. When I finally took the time to look up from my work this morning I was shocked to see how foggy it was out, and how little I could see of the opposing hillside. I immediately opened my balcony door too see if it was just the rain on the window hindering my eyesight, and the briskness of the air outside had me pulling on a pair of fuzzy slippers right away. Fuzzy slippers! In summer!
It was not the rain on the window; I really was socked in all around.
As I type, a big boom of thunder has rattled my windows, and I’m happy I’m inside, pecking away on my computer. I’m also happy about the fact that I’ve decided to shelve my swim for today and double up on workouts tomorrow. It’s far too good of a writing day to waste on getting to the pool and back by bus and over an hour on swim.
What I’m not happy about, however, is the lack of overhead lighting in our little apartment. The grey day outside has made it obvious that I won’t be able to put off my big lighting purchase until after July, as I had planned.
I am in the market for an Arco lamp by Castiglioni. I have the name of a fairly reliable reproducer in Brooklyn, so I believe I will make that purchase sooner rather than later. I have wanted one of these lamps forever, so I think I will take advantage of the fact that we are going to be in Brooklyn this week, and pick it up. Boy, oh boy. Lighting.
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Anyhow. It’s already 9:25. On to breakfast with the newspaper and then forward to more writing and reading. Forthcoming: a review of Elijah of Buxton, and some reading of the first book in the Faeries of Dreamdark series. And, of course, pecking pecking at the keyboard, trying to make my most recent story arc work.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

It’s a fine evening to stay in

Mike says that Twiglets are good with beer. So I am indulging in that, as a late afternoon snack, and I think it well deserved: today’s triathlon workout was 5 hours and twenty minutes of cycling followed by 15 minutes of jog, and it’s done now.
I give myself about two hours before I fall asleep on the couch with my Twiglets resting on my belly and an empty beer bottle clutched in my pruny paws. (This is what happens when you don’t hydrate well and then almost fall asleep in the shower.)
Anyway, we’d ridden about an hour and a half north and had come back most of the way to refuel when we saw the above photo. That tree wasn’t there when we rode up, so I’m glad we were not there when it fell right across the path, as I might have actually pee’ed in my pants if I had been anywhere near it. This is nowhere near as exciting as what Jeff Kerkove sawon his training ride today. We only have in common the fact that I bet Jeff would have also pee’ed his bike shorts if he’d witnessed either the tree falling OR that truck veering off the road, right into the bike lane.
We did the ride on the North County Trail, which is all gorgeous and mostly shaded, and a really lovely respite from the hilly course we’ve been riding at Harriman State Park. Here’s Jim on the path:
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Also, the trail is on a rail line that used to run from Westchester County, where we live, straight up through Putnam County the next county up, and there are remnants of the old railroad still around. Here’s the Millwood train station.
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I wish they’d do something with this station. Like, I don’t know, open an ice-cream shop. For bicyclists.
Now I want to do nothing but lie about on the sofa and read YA fiction. I could go do it outside, by our building’s pool, but I am *way* too tired to go downstairs.

Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

They’re here…

Some people have talismans. I have memories of food, and I carry them everywhere. They do me just as well, providing me with comfort and more often than not some fodder for thought.
I know, that sounds bizarre. But it’s true. I love food. I love the preparation of it, the serving of it, the stuff that goes on around it.
Perhaps it’s this last that makes the most sense. For me, the memory of food often brings into sharp focus what I was doing when I consumed it. For instance, one of our last meals before leaving Chicago was a meal at Moto with Jim’s parents. His father is a chef, and his mother a generally adventuresome sort, in many ways, so that was a good memory.
Or, since Moto is one of those weird molecular gastronomy restaurants and likely to be an event in and of itself, perhaps a better example is the way that my friends gather around the bar as I’m doing food prep, or mixing drinks; or the way they will try anything that comes out of my kitchen, even if it’s horrible.
At any rate, witness the Twiglets. I order them in bulk. They’re a British snack food item and I can’t seem to find them on grocery store shelves here. They are whole-wheat thingys, and, therefore, somewhat good for me, and they are curiously addictive.
This may be because they bring back sharp memories of my last trip to England, where I stayed with my good friend Lara and took advantage of her hospitality and her considerable culinary skills. Among the events that peppered my last stay were some light triathlon training (Lara, Jim, and I will do the Switzerland Ironman in less than two months), some good evenings out, ShelterBox training, and some good chat about writing and even a few tea dates.
Anyway. I first ordered them almost immediately upon my return from England in early March, and almost promptly either ate them all or shared them with friends.
Now I’ve got a whole new batch. Wonder how long these will last.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

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