Braithwaite wallets

Iron Girl, Iron Guy, and the Iron Maiden, Part I (pre-race days)

…Me, Jim, and Lara, respectively, that is.

It’s over. Almost exactly 24 hours ago to the minute, I crossed the finish line at Ironman Switzerland 2009, and I must confess to harboring all sorts of unresolved emotions about the thing. I am proud of my friends and eternally grateful to Jim’s parents for coming all the way out to see us, and very happy that I was able to raise enough money for ShelterBox to house thirty more people after disaster–but I’m no closer to understanding why we pursue such sport, which I think is the reason I keep on seeking out more and more of these different challenges.

But you didn’t come here to read about that, just yet: You came to get a race report.

We deliberately booked our flights to Switzerland to arrive well ahead of race day. We had a sleepless night on an airplane, punctuated very frequently by the drunk yellings of the under-age tippler sititng just in front of us (that’s another story), and landed in beautiful Zurich on a cloudy day punctuated also very frequently by rain showers. Jim and I looked thoughtfully at the thunderous sky and wondered if race day would look like that. We hoped not.

My bike, Grub, and The Other One get loaded into the belly of our plane.

My bike, Grub, and The Other One get loaded into the belly of our plane.

ominous pre-race clouds & thunderstorms

ominous pre-race clouds & thunderstorms

We spent that morning wandering around town with Jim’s parents after we’d checked into the wonderful, very accomodating Comfort Inn Royal, which would be our home for the next week, and had breakfast. Zurich is a beautiful town. Have you ever been there? Still, the race course hadn’t been set up yet, and the streets seemed very empty for a Thursday morning–we wondered where everyone was.

Marilyn and Jim, Jim’s parents, had done a fair amount of research already, so we’d left much of the tourist planning to them, and I’m fairly certain that, without me knowing it, set the tone for the trip. We were there to race, and that was the bottom line. I suppose it’s always been that way, but being in one of my favorite places and not mucking around, looking at art stuff, was a distinct change of pace.

Okay, I wasn't entirely blind to Zurich's gorgeous landscape. This is the Limmat River, which runs into the lake.

Okay, I wasn't entirely blind to Zurich's gorgeous landscape. This is the Limmat River, which runs into the lake.

We came back to the hotel, crashed hard, had dinner out at a great place that Grant and Jill recommended, and then went back for a good night’s sleep.

Yeah. It worked for Jim. Not so much for me. We went to bed at about 10, and I woke up around midnight, stark raving awake and unable to go back to sleep until four. I woke up again around seven. All in all, not terrible odds, really.

We went down on our bikes for our first look at Ironman Village, and noticed that Zurich is extremely bike-and-pedestrain friendly.

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You can't see it against the white, but the bottom of the sign has a bicycle icon on it. Parking, reserved just for bikes. Who'd'a thunkit?

We went and looked at all of the Ironman-branded kit, but I refused to buy (it seemed pre-mature to me, really, to get the stuff before I even attempted a full Ironman), but something unpleasant was around the corner was awaiting me, and I ought to have bought something just to assuage the agony I felt on registering and signing all the proper documents, only to get this in my official race documentation:

harumph!

harumph!

Yeah, what the hell?! Not that I haven’t sent roughly, oh, I dunno, three e-mails telling them to FIX THE PROBLEM. I’m still “Shun.” I fixed it myself with a big black marker and walked away with Jim, registration done with.

Lara arrived later that day, and she and I scooted along to the pre-race meeting, taking the tram down and enjoying the nice ride along Zurich’s high-end brand-name boutique road. We caught up along the way and went into the big tent and listened somewhat half-heartedly to some information that we already knew and some very little we didn’t, while I scanned the crowd, looking for Jim. We finally found him, and looked around the Expo for some last-minute stuff. From there, Jim and Lara went to go listen to some alpenhorn schlock and I went off to meet some awesome ShelterBox peeps who run our Switzerland affiliate. The group here in Zurich is run by some very cool, very enthusiastic 30-something Rotaractors, and I was happy to spend the evening talking to them about ShelterBox and the SRT program, and getting to know them all. Highly enjoyable way to pass time.

Saturday morning dawned way too early. I once again went to sleep at 11:30, only to pop awake at midnight. I stared at the ceiling until 4:30 and slept until 8, when it was time to go to breakfast. I promptly threw a tantrum of a most unsatisfying sort, moaning that I desperately needed more sleep, and that this was no way to run a race. Breakfast with friends, however, fixed it, especially after Lara tried to eat an egg, entertaining me with her ill-fated attempts to peel it properly.

Lara resorts to spoon for her egg. Jim thinks this is so funny that he's squinting.

Lara resorts to spoon for her egg. Jim thinks this is so funny that he's squinting.

We had a really nice day at the Ironman grounds again, racking our bikes and chatting with other racers, and I began to realize that this was actually happening. After a too-long walk home, we caught a tram to meet Roj, Lara’s husband, who was in town to watch the race, for dinner, and it was shortly afterwards that I discovered I’d misplaced my wallet. Yes, that lovely Braithwaite dealio I bought awhile ago. I can’t for the life of me figure how it happened. I can only think that the lack of sleep combined with juggling a number of things in my hands resulted in the loss. I’m quite bereft. But that’s another entry.

Anyway, it was already 8PM. We needed to sleep. Ironman was the next day, and I’ll fill you in on that tomorrow.

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.