Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fulltime triathlete

How do I love being a full time triathlete? Let me count the ways:

1. I don't have to deal with jackasses anymore. There are many sub-headings under this heading but if you want the whole scoop, look back at my blog at the beginning of this month. (God, has it only been a month?) What a difference June makes. Anyhow, the main point is no more verbal abuse/making me doubt myself. I am strong now and getting stronger.

2. I am not being drowned in the sea of corporate "culture." I don't have to wear a hat with a name tag. The only thing close to that is when the number gets painted on my arm, pasted on my bike and my helmet and put around my waist. I don't have to fill out forms to request time off for my life. Now I am with my peers. There's a song called Galvanize by the Chemical Brothers. That is my theme song. "There's a party over here - so you might as well be here - where the people care." That's the swim start. "Push that button." There's my fingers on my bar end shifters on my bike about to turbo it into the big ring.

3. I chose with whom I surround myself. It's not that I'm being careful. It's a really easy decision, actually. If you make me cry, you're outta here because Ironmen don't cry. We exhaust ourselves and hurt to the point we're wincing and sometimes wonder why we do this to ourselves. But when I'm on the podium next year at IM Louisville in front of my entire family, there is nothing, nobody who can convince me that it's not worth it.

4. I am physically/mentally stronger everyday. Epilepsy who? Coma what? There was a time in my life when I was strong enough to remove myself from unconsciousness. Call it what you will but I had a choice as to where I went. When it was dark, I had a decision to make. No bright light in a tunnel. It was simple. I could live or I could die. Dying would be comfortable and cozy in its simplicity. Living, on the other hand, would mean seizures to fight, walking/eating/reading/speaking to learn again. Previous years that are no longer in my memory. These are things I fight to this very day and I'm not going to say I don't feel sorry for myself sometimes. But with every stroke of my arms in the water, every hill I pedal up and every mile I run, I'm confident in my decision to remain here to hear, "YOU are an Ironman!"

So, how do I like being a full time triathlete? I couldn't ask for anything better.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Born to be wild-ly guilty

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Ok, it's like this. When Catholics are baptized, the so-called holy water they pour on their heads? Is actually Guilt Water that is Guaranteed for life. There is no money back because they have yet to find a Catholic on whom it didn't work.

When they pour it on the baby's head, it soaks into the brain where it resides until they die (maybe afterwards but, really, there's no way of knowing) just like the polio shot scar that we old folks have.

There's no proof of this part but I believe we come out of the womb guilty. That's why we cry. That's a newborn's way of saying "I'm sorry." The louder they scream, the more guilty they are.

Like most people who have looked death in the eye, I like to think of myself as a strong person. I do Ironman. I have two black belts, one of which is a second degree black belt. I was a kickboxer who never lost.


I feel guilty when I can't get a workout in. Or when I feel like I'm letting someone else down. Or when I can't get a workout in and I feel like I'm letting someone else down (Hi, Coach Bob). Which, when you think about it, is really selfish - not a strong factor in someone who feels like they shoulder the weight of the world on behalf of others. (The world should be significantly lighter with all the Catholics holding it up but that's just not true.)

My long bike ride has a reputation of being my Achille's Heel. Prior to today, it eluded me because of my stupid job. Now, I'm doing a favor for my mom. I know, I know, I know this will get better after I get home (refer to stupid job that I no longer must endure). But right now, right this second - AGGGHHHHHH. Guilt. More guilt. Headache guilt. Guilt on a bun. Dirty socks guilt (which reminds me, I left clothes in the dryer.) Stick my head in the toilet guilt.

Currently, there are people walking on the roof dropping branches on my head. It's probably just God or whomever is the current Chancellor of Guilt. I shouldn't feel guilty about this, right?

I've decided on my next tattoo. I'm going to get it on my chest (possibly even more painful than my back - dunno if this is possible but if it is, then I deserve it, right? And it's going to say "Guilty" written in that Olde English lettering usually reserved for family names.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My thug lifestyle, yo

I'm not much in the way of "girlie" things. I don't like chick movies. I'm ambivalent about makeup and I think most magazines should be named A How-to Guide for Blossoming Bulimics.

But I have my weakness. Actually two of them: Shoes and bags. (Not purses but bags. If you need an explanation, ask someone.)

Therefore, DSW is my mecca. My oasis. And my mom always has coupons. How could I not go there?

For those of you who reside under rocks, DSW is an enormous, Costco-sized warehouse full of shoes. Mostly women's, but there is a weeny little section for men. It's the home of "I really don't need another pair of black stilettos (mostly because I'm really gonna hurt myself because I've spent the last two years wearing chef clogs) but I'm going to buy them anyway."

Anyhoo, there we were in DSW. I'm relaxed. I'm looking at black (also red) shoes with heels higher that they're almost guaranteed to sit in my closet.

That's why I selected a pair of Converse with "peace and love" written on the back. What can I say? Too long in chef clogs and comfort wins over fashion. Plus, it's my mom's money and I feel too guilty for her to buy something I'm not going to wear immediately.

Suddenly, I noticed I had a stalker. A fan. Otherwise known as, Mr. Manager Polo Shirt Guy. How did I know this? Because the polo shirt (burgundy, no less) in combination with khaki pants, oh, and the nametag screamed "RETAIL MANAGER."

The way he was following me around he had a mad crush or. . . .he thought I was going to stick the box of Converse down my shorts.

Seeing as he had the Suspicious Wanna Be FBI look, I assumed it was the latter.

My mom was walking around by herself as was I. Therefore, I had no obvious adult supervision. I've got a rather large tattoo on my leg. I look vastly different from the normal clientele. Read I'm not wearing white capris two sizes too small, enormous fake jewelry on my sandals and speaking loud enough for people in Nevada to hear.

He was like my managerial shadow. I'd go into the sock area, he'd go into the sock area. I'd pick up the red pumps (they were cute), he'd arrange the thongs (shoes, not underwear.) I'd walk to the back and guess who was there?

I almost started to try on all the stripper shoes and parade around in them but my coach would knock my teeth out if I cracked my ankle.

When my mom showed up again, he breathed a sigh of relief. I heard it because he was so close.

In the end, I walked out with my Converse. Not on my feet with my sandals in my pockets. They were still in the box and I had a reciept.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The land of self-absorption

I've been in L.A. for four days and there's a little something I forgot about in the almost year and a half since I've been here - that Los Angeles residents contain a huge personal space bubble.

Let's start with the obvious one - driving. Now, it's my observation that there is a common thread amongst drivers of Lexus(es), Lexus(i)(?) at any location in the United States. They are the most likely to cut in front of my lower class form of transportation sans signal and they do it at close range. Also at close range is the view of their grill. Note that I only say "grill" because the headlights are nonexistent as they are too close for me to see them.

This rule doubles in Los Angeles. Not only are they flippant, rude and shamelessly smug they are also clearly above any mode of transportation I happened to be sitting in at the time.

For example, today I was on my way to the beach to do my run in my little red rental car (high class all the way - I have to manually roll the windows up/down and push the lock down one door at a time). I've been looking forward to the beach probably since the last time I was here. As I was about to turn right onto Pacific Coast Highway (PCH for those "in the know") when a Lexus driver zooms up behind me and as the light turns green HONKS at me.

This is the part of driving during which my mother swears I'm going to get shot. With a cheerful wave and a smile, I make my right turn at about 1/2 mile per hour. ZOOOOOOMMMMM after the red light. Well, that will teach me.

Backing out of a parking space is worthy of a PlayStation game. Cars whiz around the corners (everybody, not just Lexi) and nearly pile on top of one another rather than let me out of a parking space that, hey, maybe they'd want to use. But that would require MANNERS and THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX and letting me out.

People walk behind me as I'm trying to back out as if they are wearing neon pink and flashing lights. They just wander across, oblivious to the fact that those white reverse lights? They mean I'm moving backwards.

Oh, wait. They're on the phone.

I just don't have that many people to call. When I go to masters swimming in the mornings, which is located on a junior college campus, the entire student body (minus two people - me and a six-year-old being dropped off at the day care) are on the phone: the guy in the parking booth, the sheriff, the teachers, the guy (whoever he is) tooling around in the golf cart. "He's like, yeah, and she's like, yeah, okay and it was, like, so awesome." These people are obviously taking seats in the AP classes and are going to be our President and or heart surgeons ten years down the line.

That's enough extrapolation. More workout news tomorrow.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What's the catch?

You catch a ball, catch a cold or catch a cab. (Hopefully, the Cash Cab. Yes, I am quite the dork.)

Those are easy.

What I'm having trouble with is catching the water. Specifically, (not sure if that's spelled right) my swim stroke has my head spinning.

When I was about five years old, my mom thought tap dancing would be an excellent idea. I don't remember much except the most exciting part was buying the tap shoes. I thought I would dance like Fred Astaire. Well, a female Fred Astaire, anyway.

In reality, I was the youngest in the entire class by about 25 years. I don't remember what the teacher looked like nor could I even fake that I knew what I was doing. I would just move my feet to make the tappity-tap sound, stare out the window and just hope my pathetic tap dancing would be filtered out by all the other people who actually knew what they were doing.

In short, I was lost.

Fast forward to now, me in the pool. "Tamirra, you're not catching. Think of putting your arms in like you're going over a barrel." I wish that was the first time I'd ever heard the barrel euphamism and, even better, it solves my problematic stroke in a flash of realization like a bolt of lightening. (In this case, lightening is a good thing.)

Not true. My arm enters the water as if going over flat origami, I think. Anyway, I've got so many things to think about during one little innocent stroke that my thoughts go something like this: "Arm over a barrel. Crap. Well, that's not right. Hand push - hmm, Jamba Juice is niceI'msunburnednapsarenice. Oh, my hand's out of the water. OK, I'll pay attention with the other arm."

There's an attention span war going on in my brain but I'm so confused that, like a surge of electricity, my thoughts focus on swimming then the mental train derails. Overload.

I have to think one day in the next year or so I'll get the hang of this.

By the way, my mom ended up taking notes during tap dance class, buying a big wooden board and forcing me to learn the dance routine that she was paying good money for in the kitchen. I can still do a mean Shuffle to Buffalo.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wheat Thins as workout fuel

Today, with a subtle hint from Coach Bob, I hopped on the Ironman horse.

Really, the masters swim is what I'm going to elaborate on here. The Coach seems nice (first warning sign = Friendly Coach: Causes relaxation in opinion of content of workout and ease of anticipation of degree of difficulty said workout harbors).

The pool is outdoors and swimming in warm sunshine and dry heat wakes up my California-raised self. Actually, I see anything resembling water and I just want to get in.

Here come these two guys - swimming muscles rippling ("rippling muscles" is truly a phrase I avoid but there's no other way to say this), tan and looking like they are no strangers to this workout. They hop into my lane - rumored to be the "slow lane."

Now, I was warming up happily on my own (600 yards with a kick set every 4th length) when I feel a touch on my foot - swimming language for "get the hell out of my way."
No prob.

VROOMMMMM!! Speedmaster 1 goes by. VROOMMMM!!! There goes Speedmaster 2. Slow lane? Not so much.

BUT here's the lesson I always forget - Outlast, baby. Guess who's not coughing up a watery lung by the end of the workout? Tattooed little me. Endurance, says Coach Bob. We got endurance.

Speedmaster 1: "You're going to be smoking me after a week."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

War of the Wheat Thins

Computer scientist, I am not.

Plus this computer hates me. It's my mom's computer and it rides the short bus. We have a love/hate/really want to write in my blog but it won't let me relationship.

It also really doesn't want me to chat with my Really Smart but Still Working for Hell Foods cutie-pie friend (you know who you are.)

Had a great time in Chicago. I met with my rockin' coach (see links on side), Coach Bob, who proceeded to humble my ass on a bike ride. So maybe I'm not all that on the hills. But at least he thinks I can be.

California is loaded with hills (the one my mom lives on rivals the ones I tried my darndest to climb in Chicago).

I've been simply hanging out with my mom. Today they installed her new Freakin' Huge TV. I have to take my contacts out to watch it and I'm pretty sure I'd launch into a seizure if something starts flashing on it. (A little epilepsy humor there. It's okay to laugh.) In case you were wondering, the QVC chicks look uber-scary when they're under that kind of big-TV scrutiny.

Other than that, I ate a 1/2 box of Wheat Thins. I slipped off the wagon. I've been eating nothing but yogurt/granola/fruit sort of things. Then I saw the Wheat Thins and I went postal. A piece of my pre-Coach Bob life, they, along with French fries and intense suger consumption of any kind, are but a hyperactive memory.

Now I'm on the road to losing the little jiggly areas above my hips. I believe the medical term is Muffinitis Topiotapuss. Side effects include increased Wheat Thin consumption. Also noted are intense Frappacino cravings, automatic hand-reaching into the box of Hot Tamales and spreading of real butter onto toast. Consult your doctor.

I'm actually suing the Wheat Thins company. Rachel Ray is on the back of the box. How bad could it be if Rachel Ray has her good-possibility-of-plastic-surgery smile pasted on it, right? I mean, they're wholesome, right? Wheat, good for you, grainy, right? False representation or something.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Innocent business people as writer's bait

I'm staying in a hotel in a suburb of Chicago that caters mainly to business people, also known as innocent fodder for my blog.

These are not the Donald Trump level of business people. They are the worker bees who have a lot of meetings, play tennis and network, during which they speak loudly and frequently on their cell phones and shake each others hands with lots of "I want to grow up and be a manager" gusto.

First, spot the error in this picture at the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Table 1: Button down cotton shirt/Khaki pants (aka BDKP), BDKP, BDKP; Table 2: BDKP, BDKP; Table 3: Large red Inspi(red) t-shirt, two-day-old black gym shorts, workout shoes from the clearance rack; Table 4: BDKP, BDKP, boring black unaltered for immediate wear skirt suit and sensible pumps.

Table 1 also features a person with manlights, probably administered at home with or without spousal assistance. He wants to be a D.J. but ended up as Assistant Marketing Vice Consultant. Still considering it as a weekend job and tells his buddies this endlessly. They guffaw and tell him that he can see lots of "bee-you-tiful women" then they talk behind his back about how he's lucky to get outside to mow the lawn with that troll of a wife.

This table also features the greatest assortment of business cliches. "It's really a tail wagging the dog situation." "The grass is not always greener. (Nyuk HA HA)." "Top notch. (Tahhhp Nahhhtch)" And the ever-popular, "I need a bigger cubicle."

I read this fabulous book called Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster. Fantastic book - a must read. Parts of it are like Office Space but in real life. In one part, all of the Ivy League looking guys she works with are all named "Josh." Josh is everywhere in this hotel.

The best cases of Josh on caffeine were four guys in black track suits with red and white X-TREME FITNESS stitched on the upper left side. They pounded down the tiled lobby (where this computer is located - I've got the best seat in the house) like steroid-filled, caffeinated Jolly Green Giants wearing track suits. They obviously just came out of one of those pep-filled, peppy pep talk meetings they used to subject us to at my old job.

Except there weren't 900 people, ten percent of which actually got filled with light like a sinner in a revival tent. There were only four of them. Maybe more - the rest could still be in the meeting room basking in their pep. Anyway, they stopped at the front desk (also located near this computer). One of them said, "I'm READY. I'm PUMPED." Then they all started talking like people who have just been filled with the Lord. When there was finally silence, one of them shouted, "I'M EXTREEEEME!!!!"

That, of course, became my mantra of this whole trip. I've shared this with anyone who will listen to it. Often without background information so it just looks like I've got Extreme Tourette's.

OK. No more typing for now. This keyboard is not unlike the tiny keyboards that used to accompany computers in the early 80s. The keys are not necessarily in the right place nor actually push down and result in a letter when pushed. Excuse the typos.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You say Chicahhgo I say Chicagoh

I forgot how I used to talk. It didn't seem like an accent then but it kind of cracks me up now.

Even though the states are connected, Wisconsin accents differ greatly from Chicago, or Illinois for that matter. The cheesehead (local talk for "you come from Wisconsin and I don't." But strictly in the non-offensive sense. Although I don't think there's an interchangeable term for Illinoisans. It's probably because the Wisconsin-ites are too nice.)

Anyone who's seen Fargo is familiar with the Wisconsin accent. I hate to say it, but that movie exaggerated not at all. Wisconsinites make full use of their vowels: ayyyye (like Fonzie) = a; eeee = e; aye (like a Scottish person) = i; ohhhh (this one's the biggie and probably the winner for most likely to crack me up) = o; yoooo= u (my second favorite).

Chicago. To start with, move the exit of words from your mouth to your nose. Chi-caaahhhh-goh. That's right. Hold that "ahhhh."

Without reason, the pronounciation changes of some words. Bad = Bayd. That's not quite it. Remember how you learned there was the long version of "a" and there was a short version of "a". The one with the mouth of the smiley face over it (does this make sense?)

If you can, you've got the word "bad."

Oh, one other thing. You must talk with other people as if they are a slow child. "HAHH. HAHHHH. I LOVE DA CUBS!!! I'M FROM DA NORT-SIDE AFTER ALL." (Heavy short use of "a" on "after.")

The person you are speaking with will respond in kind. "NAHHH. S-AHHH-X ALL DA WAY. I'M FROM DA SOUT-SIDE!!!"

In a bar situation (most of which are sports bars with a TV featuring one of the 22 Chicago sports teams turned up to a ear-shattering volume), you and your friends will have an unwritten pissing match of who can talk louder. Your throat will be raw, although a true Chicagoan will be unable to place the source of their laryngitis the next morning. Double this if a Chicago team is in playoffs. This can be any sort of playoff. (Official NBA playoff or Denny's playoffs, Fred's playoffs, the hot dog stand down the street's playoffs etc.)

Although sort of unrelated I have to add that there is no sports town like the Windy City. They are crazy. For example, I am sorely underpacked for this trip. Honestly, I didn't bring any t-shirts to go to the gym, sleep in, whatever. (Not sure what I was thinking really.) So I went to various sports stores looking for t-shirts. A quarter of the store was taken up by local sports team stuff. From t-shirts to pencils to lipstick (just kidding), it was there.

There was a stretched out, perhaps previously worn Nike shirt with some sort of stain on it on the clearance rack. I bought it.

One note of a weird sort of slight - they've got every shirt from every imaginable college. Except mine. Yeah, Northern Illinois may never have won a game. In any sport. Ever. But they at least deserve a t-shirt. Even on the clearance.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Going. To. Die.

Today I meet my coach but that's not what's making me nervous.

Because although drama may be fun for some people, it makes me lethargic. This in turn makes me not work out. This in turn makes me non-muscular (I'm not admitting to fatness.)

My coach will not only see right past that but will make me workout as though I've been training like an Olympic triathlete for the past month.

Let's see. There's been a couple of instances of swimming, some of it difficult, some of it less so. A little running. And I do mean "a little."

And NO cycling. So here comes the Thursday night interval pukefest. He told me to eat peanuts so at least I can make it interesting.

Here I was picturing Chicago as a time where I can go downtown, revisit with nostalgia the lakefront. Maybe go to the Lincoln Park zoo and perhaps go visit my professors at grad school.

Now Chicago has become an object of terror. Of fear for my heart rate and ability to walk normally.

I'd better go put my bike together and ride to Iowa just for good measure.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

There are ass hats among you

Well, this blog should be lightening up quite a bit since I quit my job yesterday.

I struggled with the idea of winners and losers. For awhile, I thought I would be a "winner" because I kept my job. Then I revised. Although I kept my job, I would still remain amongst those who resented my being there. It would still be a hostile environment.

All told, I 'd end up losing. I'd be stressed out, the seizures would still be there and let's not even get into unhappiness.

Almost the instant I quit, there was this immense wave of relief. And I do mean "wave." Here's some of the advantages (more to follow, I'm pretty sure):

1. Sleeping like a normal person. I no longer have to go to bed at 2 or 4 in the afternoon listening to the five-year-old outside playing. The shutters no longer have to remain closed, feigning total darkness in order to trick myself into believeing I was in some semblance of nighttime.

2. I can go to movies. No more matinees. Even though they were cheaper, I'm sick of getting stuck with the rowdy teenagers and toddlers. I'm willing to pay the three extra dollars in order to see and interact with other adults.

3. I can see my friends. Not that I have too many but when there's bridal showers and the like (I never would believe that I would enjoy going to those things.) I can avoid the familiar yet still embarrassing speech about going to bed egregiously early and working overnight. This was usually met with one of two responses: "How can you do that?? I could never do that." or "I've always wondered about doing that." The latter statement usually produced a violent shake of my head and crazy eyes, which was my way of warning them to take a job in fast food prior to giving an overnight shift more than a thought in passing.

4. I can watch Jeopardy without feeling like I'm cutting into Sleepytime. 'Nuff said about this one. Alex rocks.

5. I have weekends. And not just two days off in the middle of the week. Yeah, I tried to tell myself that everyone else is at work and I've got everything to myself. But I was kind of getting sick of that. I never realized before what a social creasture I am. Even if I don't interact with people, it's reassuring to know that a bomb did not go off in Austin and I am the only survivor.

6. I can train/I can write. I put these two together because they are going to be the main focus of my new life. They are things that are more important than breathing at times and where my energies are now going. I've finally come to realize that writing is what I've done since I could hold a pen in my hand and, if I hang in there and eat my animals in a casserole, I will finally make enough money to survive. It would be super-duper to finally reach my goals.

One thing I feel terrible about is that there are peckerheads floating among people that I truly care about. The majority of people I worked with fall into the second category. They were supportive and affectionate and some of them were the ones who got the ball rolling for me.

A lifetime of healthy living versus a week of misery is a price I'll pay everytime.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On being the antichrist

I will never jump into the same basket as the prophets and whomever else is in the Bible but I think I know what it's like to encounter opposition and a feeling like everyone would just prefer it if you jumped off a building.

When I can wear an iPod for eight hours straight and no one makes eye contact with me for the same amount of time, it's not like anyone needs to spell it out verbally to me. I turn the volume up to ear-blasting levels just so I don't have to hear anything that might be spoken against me. It helps me avoid the dirtiest look of all - avoidance.

It helps me keep my eyes focused downward on what I'm doing, pretending to be so absorbed. I try to play games with myself. I try to shape the dough faster, slower, with my right hand only.

If I try to make eye contact, I am met by a brief moment of a sightless gaze. Then they quickly look away as if viewing something unpleasant and ugly.

Most of all, I imagine what it's going to be like when I escape all this. When my plane leaves the ground on Friday, I will not put my iPod on like I usually do. I want to hear conversations that are not about what a horrible person I am and see people smile at me when I meet their gazes. Even if it's just the small, polite social smile strangers give each other when they know that one instance will probably be the last time they ever meet.

What I've learned from this experience is that I know now how easy it is for someone to lie. I wouldn't have believed it if I heard this prior to this incident. These are people that I hope, really hope, there is such a thing as karma or hell or somplace eternal where deserving liars go and bask in the falsity of each other - doomed to forever feel alienation from each other's company.

I'm not an angel. But I do believe that I am honest and kind. And a hard worker. I know the others are hearing things that are false told to them by a charismatic and talented storyteller. Lying is easy, apparently, for some though only they and I know what really happened.

That is, if they aren't lying to themselves. I'm certain, though, that even an expert liar would know that what passed between us was turned from fact to fiction by omission of facts resulting in alienation.

But I have a feeling they don't care. In fact, the knowledge that I am somewhere that was once enjoyable is now, by their own lying mouth, turned into a place where, if I were to simply vanish, the better I would feel.

I know I was in denial as these lies were crafted and laid against me with what joyfully turned into a masterful chess game that I refused to believe I was playing. I thought that reporting this situation would stop the falsity doubling itself in size by the day.

But now I'm certain it will only change when the wheels are safely tucked inside the body of the plane that will be carrying me across the United States and into the arms of those who are with me in truth and kindness.

I will never stop believing that honesty and merit are the paths of personal success. Hope, unlike lies, will never rise against the soul - damned forever to pay for its sins.