Saturday, July 31, 2010

No, I'm Pretty Sure That's A Dolphin (Please God, Let It Be A Dolphin)

Taken With MJ's iPhone

Shark Week starts tomorrow on the Discovery Channel. We got a jumpstart here in Shangri-La. We went to the beach Wednesday afternoon and we saw something that we had never seen in our combined 100+ years of beach going. There had been a thunderstorm at the beach, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as it does just a few miles inland, and it did something to the tidal pattern – or something. I noticed something was off as soon as LMJ and I cleared the big sea oats covered sand dune and stepped onto the actual beach. There was a group of six or seven people standing just out of the water and staring out into the ocean. What made it weird was that two of the people were teenage surfers. Surfers don’t stand at the edge of the shore and look out into the ocean and they don’t talk to middle aged beach combers, especially teenaged surfers. I knew what was up right away but my brain refused to believe it. The dolphins I saw playing in the surf reinforced my denial. There were schools of little fish flailing around, which I’ve seen before, but I’d never seen a fucken shark (g. fucken s. shark) jump out of a wave and grab a mouthful of them. A minute earlier MJ had commented that the little fishies scattering like somebody had farted indicated that sharks were in there. Silly girl, ‘twas only the dolphins enjoying a playful snack. I already watch too much Discovery Channel, and one of the things I’ve learned is that dolphins “bark” at their prey like a death metal singer to stun them. The little high pitched squeaks that sound like a parakeet who got into Lindsay Lohan’s stash is them saying hello. I decided that the dolphins were “barking” the fish out of the water. I caught the surface breaching shark attack out of the corner of my eye, which allowed my denial to hang on, since I hadn’t seen it directly. It wasn’t a satanic demon beast from the briny depths; it was just a skinny dolphin whose tail had been twisted 90 degrees, and was filled with murderous rage. A few seconds later his buddy did the same thing tap dead center in my field of view. Some of my personal beliefs were destroyed in this instant. First and foremost: dolphins and sharks don’t hang out in the same place at the same time. In the history of stuff that’s wrong, that might be the wrongest. They seemed to be getting along just fine. One of the sharks asked one of the dolphins if he had any crab boil. Second: I thought only small sharks – 3 feet max – came in this far in this part of the Atlantic. The sharks I saw were a minimum of 5 feet, that’s with me factoring in my terror exaggerating the sharks’ perceived size. I had to go through a process of remembering that megalodon is extinct, great whites and tigers max out at about 20 feet, and the sharks I was seeing probably weren’t them. Still, 5 feet of evolutionary killing perfection is enough to give me pause. The worst part was that the water was really calm – Lake Atlantic – and if I had brought my goggles I would have ignored all the clarion warning signs and gone swimming (read: been bait). I would have followed the basic human logic of “It’s Never Happened To Me Before So It’s Not Going To Happen Now”. I’m glad that I saw the whole thing. It was awesome. I don’t know if I’m ever getting in the water again, but it was still awesome.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Runner Is Born (maybe) or Who The Hell Is Cory Doctorow?

I’m feeling frisky today and thinking about blogging again. Hopefully, this feeling will go away, but I’ve got something interesting to write about. MJ ran with me today. I enjoyed it a lot more than she did. She doesn’t really do “hot” or “hard” so I’m not sure what we expected from the run, but she’s also got some pitbull in her so quitting wasn’t an option either. We did my regular 5k: down to Memorial Park and back. I don’t know if starting a running career in the middle of July in Florida is the best way to start or the worst; I guess it depends on how one looks at it. The upside is that it will never ever be as hard as this again. The downside is that it’s insanely hot and humid and heat stroke is more a probability than a possibility. The run started with us each calling divorce lawyers because the black and bitter hatred was palpable, but then we started moving and my mood picked up. The run went about as I expected. MJ was hot and wanted to get the whole thing over with so she complained expressed her true suffering that I was going too slowly. She decided to set a pace that would get her home and out of the heat a little quicker – we ran about a ¼ mile at a 7:20 mile pace. Then her lungs said, “Wait, what?!?” I’m only joking about it because I did the exact same thing the first time I tried to run. I think everyone does. It takes a while to allow yourself to fall into a comfortable pace. Exercise is supposed to be hard. Anyway, I was just happy to have a running partner. I don’t think it’s going to be long before she can keep up with me, and not much longer after that before she’s dusting me. She’s a lot smaller than me, and she’s able to follow instructions much better than I do. I hope she’s caught the bug.

I was going to write about our run anyway, and then MJ found a website called “I write like…” where you can post writing samples and have them analyzed to find out who you write like. I write like some guy named Cory Doctorow. It’s funny how quickly my ego got involved. My gut reaction – never having read a word Mr. Doctorow has written – was who the hell is Cory Doctorow? I don’t write in iambic pentameter so I didn’t expect William Shakespeare to come up, but I was hoping for Mark Twain. I write about dark stuff in a funny way. At least give me Carl Hiaasen. I read Doctorow’s Wikipedia entry, and I just felt worse. He’s a tree hugging Canadian communist sci-fi writer, which is kinda who I am but not who I want be. Aside from comparing myself to the most celebrated American humorist ever, I’d like to think I’m a little bit more gangsta than a sci-fi geek from Toronto. Maybe I should go rob a liquor store. Where’s my copy of Blade Runner: The Final Cut?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Didn't Drown

I’m alive. I finished. I didn’t finish last. In the infamous words of our 43rd president, “Mission accomplished”. Sweet wounded Jesus that was no joke. My first impression of race day was that the bike makes everything a giant pain in the ass. It’s a pain to load. It’s a pain to unload. Next, is that there’s so much gear I had to bring along: the bike, the helmet, the shoes, the sock (I forgot one), the drinks, the gels, the sun block, the sunglasses, and the change of clothes. I showed up at 6am and because of having to get my chip, get marked in magic marker with my race number and age on various parts of my body, and having to stow my bike and all the crap I had to bring I barely had time to pee and get down on the beach.

Time is 100% perception. When MJ and I scouted the last race a month ago it seemed that they were starting the waves of swimmers rather slowly. This morning, as I was waiting to get in, it seemed that there was no time at all between waves. I can’t remember the last time I was this scared/excited about anything. They told us to go and I jumped into the water. I panicked about 25 meters in. I was so amped up that my heart was beating a mile a minute and I didn’t think I was going to make it. The thought that was in my mind was, “You can’t do this.” Fortunately, I kept swimming during my panic and when I reached the buoy to turn north I realized it wasn’t that far of a swim so I settled down. I also, and I think this was a HUGE key to me not freezing up completely, resisted the urge to find out if I could still touch the bottom. After that the swim was fun. The only awkward moment was deciding when to stop swimming and walk out of the water.

Soft sand is not fun to move through after a swim. I got to the transition area, which was a lot farther away than I think it needed to be, and tried to make the transition to the bike. I took my time putting on my shoes (without socks) and shirt and drinking some water and eating a gel. I reminded myself to keep my heart rate under 150 and set my watch. The bike ride was boring. The course didn’t go through a neighborhood it just went through a section of road that seemed to connect a bunch of neighborhoods. I was really surprised that I was passing people, but I was. The bridge was tough going up but a blast coming down. I got passed by a hot chick at the U-turn point and followed her for most of the rest of the ride. She was Ponte Vedra “put together”. Other than that what I noticed was how much more efficiently her bike was working than mine. She shouldn’t have been going as fast as I was in the gear she was in. I need a new bike, but I don’t have the $850 to spend on the “entry level” road bike I test rode last week. I honestly think I would have dropped 20 minutes off my ride if I had a good road bike instead of the dump truck mountain bike I’m riding. It’s no big deal, just a note. I passed her going down the bridge, only because she was afraid of the speed. I wasn’t. I was tucked over and trying to be as aerodynamic as possible going down the bridge. I got up over 30mph and tried to glide as far as I could. The transition area was only a couple of miles away.

I got off my bike, caught my breath, drank some more water, and headed out on the run. It was a tale of 3 different miles. The first mile was hell. I was trying to keep a steady pace and a steady heart rate. I knew if I could maintain long enough I would get used to it. I got comfortable about a mile in and cruised. I was very happy to be passing people, and that kept me going. The running course was just out a mile and a half and back. The “out” was under a tree canopy on the east side of the road in front of the 8 figure mansions. There was no tree canopy on the ghetto ass west side of the road in front of the not quite as high 8 figure mansions for the “in”. I felt bad for the people that owned houses on the west side of the street. It must be pretty embarrassing when people can see your whole house from the street  - all 8 thousand square feet of it. I almost walked the last mile. The only reason I didn’t is because I wanted this sumbitch to be over, and I was still passing people. The finish line was around a corner so I was able to pick up the pace and look like I still wanted to be out there. I finished my first triathlon strong and that’s all I wanted to do.

The best thing about the triathlon was the support. It’s even better than the support at running races and I didn’t think that was possible. That’s before we get to JG, EG, and IG standing in the sun to cheer me on as I try not to die. There’s also no better sight than seeing and hearing CG, LMJ, and MJ cheer me on. MJ personally took 90 seconds off my time making the transition from the water to the bike with her encouragement and mere presence as I trudged through the soft sand. I know it was a Herculean effort to get LMJ up and out of the house in the wee hours to see me finish just before the awards ceremony started and I truly appreciate it. This was a lot of fun and my body isn’t torn up. I’m looking forward to doing another one, and I need to finish an Olympic distance before the end of 2011. No rest for the stupid.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I picked up my triathlon packet earlier today and immediately crapped my pants. I don’t think I’m as worried about the race itself as much as the setup. The biggest problem is that they, the organizers, seem to be taking this thing kind of seriously. When I pick up my packet for a running race – even one as big as the Gate River Run, which is a huge national race – I tell them who I am and they ask what size shirt I want. When I picked up my packet today I had to show a picture ID and my USA Triathlon card. They put a hospital style wristband on my wrist that will get me into the transition area. The race starts in about 17 hours. I have to wear this thing overnight. I have to have my bike number on my bike before I’m allowed into the transition area. I want to know who’s trying that hard to cheat for the BFAST Sprint Triathlon. I think the winning prize is $500. The guy that wins this thing tomorrow will have ridden a $3,000 bike, so it’s not for the money. I think if I polled 1,000 random people fewer than 20 of those people would know what this event was – even after I told them exactly what it was – so it’s not for the noteriety. The only people that do this are in it for the love of the game. No one is trying to cheat. But I am nervous about getting my bike, and all the stuff that comes along with it, into the right spot without getting disqualified before the race starts. Where do I put my keys? I can’t carry them with me into the ocean, but I don’t want to get shot if I try to hand them to MJ at the wrong time or at the wrong place. If I can get situated and down to the water then I’ll be happy.

The lady that handed me my packet was also different from the packet handlers that I’ve dealt with at other races. If I go to 1st Place Sports it’s either a skinny teenager who’s a bit clueless or a skinny twentysomething who’s not quite as clueless. The River Run is a mishmash of regular people volunteering. They’re efficient but not necessarily racing the next day. The chick that handed me my packet and put my wristband on was in her early 50’s at the youngest, and had a face, hairstyle, and manner of a schoolmarm. Everything below the neck was Jillian Michaels. She was straight up yoked. I felt a little guilty because I could tell that she’d rather be doing some pushups than explaining stuff to some fatass n00b.

My goal is to finish, and I don’t care if it’s DAL. I plan on surviving the swim, resting during the bike ride, and jogging during the run. I want to keep my heart rate under 150. The race starts at 7am and if I had a time goal it would be to finish before 9am. It’s not that I want to go fast; I don’t want to give the sun a chance to get too high. It’s been really hot this week and I don’t want to get stuck running in 90 degree weather.

If I post tomorrow it means I survived, and we’ll be calling that a win.