Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Diverting the diversion

Today I expected to write a brilliant blog entry about my return to the ice.

Today I'm writing a brilliant blog entry about being too injured to get on the ice because I'm too injured to do triathlon.

My doctor put me on muscle relaxants. They make me feel calm and squishy, like low tide and wet sand. Point being that I won't roll over on my arm and wake up like thirty times a night, for which they work. Unfortunately, I hover around a planet so distant from my body while I'm asleep that I actually roll all over it so my shoulder wakes up with a hangover.

All the subconscious injuries aside, I've got a diversion from the diversion. I'm redoing my office. The walls are already bright green. I'm going willy nilly with the artwork. I've been keeping to my goal of local artists only but the colors are very bright.

Some might think I don't have the slightest idea how to match colors. And I don't but I'm totally fine with this. This is what makes this room my own.

There is nothing from Ikea or fullprice from anywhere. Aside from the local artists, I'm searching second hand stores, even the creepy ones. This Saturday I'm driving to Yeehaw, Texas to see some uber-phat 60s tables. Unless they have forty years worth of boogers stuck underneath them, I will buy them.

The benefit to second hand stores (I guess I should say "vintage" so I don't sound like white trash) is there's always something new for my closet. This weekend I found a long tan leather 70s vest (wacka wacka wah wah) and another vest with Chinese brocade like I'm a blackjack dealer in Casino Royale. Oh, and a polyester shirt with little daisies all over it. I consider it acceptable to wear at least two of these items at the same time.

Anyway, blah blah blah. You can see the writing offers are pouring in. I like to think of myself as "choosy" and "discerning" but really I'm just groveling and bored.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New ways to injure myself

I tried to get this "can't train because of back injury" out of my system so I'm trying something else - Diversion.

I'm lacing up my ice skates and heading back to the rink. No jarring of my arm and a good way to keep fit. Also, it keeps me from trying on every last pair of pants daily in my closet to make sure I can still get into them.

For those who don't know (and who would, really) I used to skate competitively for my entire life. Yes, I was one of those weird kids that didn't go to movies or date. Instead, I spent every waking moment (hello, 4:00 am) on the ice.

So here we go again. I'm even taking lessons. They do actually have lessons for adults who skate or want to skate. And there is a rink in Austin.

The skates I have are brand new. And unless you've had the pleasure of wearing in a pair of top-notch 2-inch thick pair of leather skates, you don't know what you're missing. Let's put it this way: I bought a set of blister pads that stick to my ankles like SuperGlue made the construction guy's helmet stick to the piece of wood.

Therefore, instead of bunny slippers or a comfy pair of socks, I'm wearing my skates around the house and doing squats to wear in the ankles. (A good sign that skates are finally wearing in is a telltale crease right around the ankle area. In my case, not even a hint yet.)

Fortunately, wearing skates, although painful for now, is like wearing running shoes for me. I can walk up and down stairs in them and could probably do some laps in them.

Important clarification - I have "guards" protecting the blades of my skates as I wander. These are plastic things that I put on the blades to protect them. Skates are freakin' expensive. In high end skates, blades and boots are purchased separately. Boots cost around $800 and blades $500. I also own the BMWs of the skate world. There are some that can purchased for less so I wrote my own ticket for the half dollar sized blisters.

Also important is the higher quality the boot, the thicker the leather. The thicker the leather, the nastier the blister. And so forth.

One more note. The blades are sharper than any of my chef knives (which isn't saying much, they're pretty dull - what I mean is how sharp chef knives are supposed to be.) So trying to initiate a stop while you're wearing a cement shoe is nearly impossible. You either flip forward or wait to blast into the wall (not a good option because you don't want to dirty the perfect white leather.)

Naturally, I enjoy speed. Clearly, the only option is just decelerate until I come to a stop.

Despite all this, I'm really looking forward to a reason to get off my ever expanding butt everyday. More on this as I go along.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Here's where it gets weird

Yesterday I had the weirdest medical test. That makes it sound like I signed up for one of those medical tests they advertise in alternative publications. It wasn't. It was for my ever-present and life-interrupting back problem.

Thank god for my neurologist. Let me just say that she's a former competitive cyclist, which means she doesn't suffer fools. So at my usual check up, how's your head appointment, I told her about my frikkin' back.

Then, like a doctor on a mission, she managed to push down on every little painful spot and declared that she thinks I have a muscle that, for god knows how long, has been spasming and not a pinched nerve.

So that brings me to the weird test. I forget the exact name. It's something like, "Nervo-muscle thing-electroshock with needle-test."

The first thing they do is put these electrode things on your hands. Then the nurse tells you, "You're going to feel an electric shock." Having a tattoo in progress on my back immediately makes me think, "It's really going to hurt."

Well, it didn't hurt. It was just weird. It made my hand jump around. How to describe the shock. It was, well, shocky. They did this on various places on my hands. Then he took out a measuring tape and measured the distance between, er, shock spots? Obviously, this test was beyond what my fertile imagination can dream up.

Part II: My neurologist came in, and with an acupuncturey needle, stuck in places and listened as my nerves made noise. No kidding. And they do. They make noise. I The noise goes from "hey, there's needle in me" to the release from the depths of hell. I make it sound really nasty but, honestly, pain was (relatively, depending on which muscle you talk to) minimal.

With one exception. The area of my injury. She kind of moved it around and you wouldn't believe what that area said. Not sure how it translates into English but I'm pretty sure it would have received an R rating. It gives me the creepies to remember how it felt. Do not try this at home.

Anyway, now that I've been diagnosed, we move on to physical therapy. Oh, and Botox. Not in my forehead where it needs it most but in my back to stop the muscle from spasming. I cracked up. I know these people are professionals and have done this procedure many many times. I think it's funny.

Sooo, my exercise consists of working my core muscles out by learning to ride Western. (I'm doing pretty well.) And lifting the saddle. Those cowboys do not mess around when it comes to heaviness. I guess if you can pick up a cow with your bare hands, a saddle is no big deal.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

You CAN lease happiness

In an effort not to let myself dwell on *ahem* my back situation, I've brought in another member of the Horsie family.

This started as a diversion tactic but has turned into something better. My horse, whom I own, is the victim of a horrible, did-you-go-to-the-online-farrier-school, shoer. Lightly put, the front part of his hooves are curling around and back into in the sensitive white part of his hoof. This is not something that happened overnight but over the span of about seven months. Coincidentally, how long I've been using this person.

Anyway, think of walking around with ingrown toenails on all ten of your piggies and running a marathon in ill-fitting shoes. What's the first thing to come into mind? Pain. . .hm, what else? So this is what my poor defenseless animal, who had no other way to tell me other than, starting last week, walking with his head so low and barely moving his front feet.

There could be a happy ending - I've got the Manolo Blahnik of the horseshoe world coming on Monday with the vet by his side. (For those few unenlightened, search Manolo's on Google - note the price. It will not be much different for this farrier.)

Sooo, at the advice of my good friend and guardian angel, Christi Bacot, who owns the beautiful farm where Cowboy lives, I started to ride Cecil.

What a beautiful horse. I'd like to think we had a connection the first time I rode him. Smooth changes and he's practically telepathic, my cues using my legs were so subtle. I knew right away I wanted this McPonypants in my life.

So I leased him. Now my English-riding ass gets to learn Western. I even bought a sweet pair of boots.

As when I first met Cowboy, he's kind of wondering who this person with the baby-talky voice who's getting on his back on a daily basis. (She does bring cookies, though.) It will take time for him to either get sick of me or become my friend. With horses, usually the friend wins out. I'm not above bribery by cookies.

My pony is, of course, insanely jealous. He's stuck in a stall with funny boots on his feet. He used to be a wild horse in South Dakota, so you can imagine how well this is going over. He gooses me every time I get near him and demands nose kisses and ear scratches.

We're in the same boat, Cowboy and I. Due to injuries, we're stuck in a stall unable to do what we really want to do. We both know it will eventually heal but in the meantime we pace, we wonder why we're caged up and we're not doing what we were born to do - rely on our high spirits to drive our lives.

More pictures of Cecil the Sea Monster to follow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The see-through triathlete

It isn't about life. It isn't about death. It is something for which I'm trying hard to bypass melodrama and it's definitely not bad enough to seek out book rights.

It's this simple: An entrapped nerve in my back = no Longhorn 1/2 Ironman.

Coach asked me why I do triathlon. And not in a rhetorical sense. He means, "What do I get out of it? What are my reasons?"

My first thoughts are what they always are: Triathlon is the polar opposite of where I was in 1991. And this is true.

Why else?

Here's where the possibility of melodrama presents itself but disregard that sentence and give me this.

Unless I'm in the middle of a workout it's impossible to put this reason into words.

I disappear. But not in a bad, psychologist's dream-client kind of way.

My whole life disappearing has been my superhero talent. I don't literally disappear (that would be a psychologist's dream client) but I can be silent beyond silent and be so still that it's a long time before anybody sees me and then they jump. "Oh! You scared me! I didn't see you there!"

I used to escape parental punishment this way. Not forever. I knew it would come but it would come on my terms, when I was ready. Sometimes they were so surprised to see me standing right behind them that the punishment was forgetten. And yet, they looked under the bed, in the closet against a wall but they didn't see me. I was an Olympic champ at hide and seek.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that this is a major reason I race. I like that I can wrap myself around where I am inside and I race on my terms. Whether anyone can physcially see me isn't the point. I can see them. I look into their eyes as I pass them on my bike, even though they didn't realize I was there.

That's the obvious part. The part that's not so obvious is that whatever I'm doing, in the water or on land, my thoughts and actions are not visible but so apparent to me. It's a private place. The same place I went to under my bed or curled up behind the tree. And I like it there.

"Oh, it must be a 'runner's high'." No. How to categorize a feeling this personal without falling into the trap of that overused phrase? I could have all the journalism degrees that I want but still not be able to spell it out.

My goal while I'm racing is to stay there. When I hurt and I'm aware of it, when I'm breathing hard and feeling sorry for myself, I'm not invisible anymore. My goal is to get back to where I'm comfortable and stay there until about 50 feet from the finish line when that glorious, deafening cheering and hand slapping show me that I can pass the torch to my everyday, visible side.

And the rush. Oh, the rush.

Nothing does this to me beside triathlon. It's why I won't give up.

I cried like a little girl yesterday when I found out. I cried for a long time. But now it's over. It's a fact now. When the cannon goes off for Longhorn in two weeks, I will not be in the water.

My mom is taking me to New York the week after the race. I thought about going to her house early but I won't. That would be defeat. I want to be here. This is acceptance.

As for the future, well, I will still be the polar opposite of where I was in 1991. This is not the last race of my life. My back will be better, even if I have to have surgery. I learned to walk. I learned to talk. I did not accept defeat even though I was told I was going to have to. I will not accept it now.

There's more reasons but I've used enough space for now. Bring me Kona.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's come down to this

As much as I complain about the lack of originality on the part of the people who are *ahem* sensitive about bikes on their precious roadways?

Today I flipped off a redneck.

He was totally asking for it and I'm afraid I went primal. He was behind me (and I'm talking he could've taken a sip from my water bottle) in his Ford F2000432 Hemi Elephantine Gas Waster and he honked for, I'm not kidding, 90 seconds.

As he wooshed around me - there it went. A mind of its own, my middle finger had. How base. How unoriginal.

It reminds of something a police officer told me when I was 16 and sitting in my friend's backseat after getting pulled over - "And YOU. . .Keep your little fingers to yourself."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where were you?

I wouldn't normally write about this. It's too sensitive, too real.

Except as I woke up and walked out into the living room, I had this eerie, scared, feral feeling/memory of the Twin Towers coming down.

I felt my face go pale and my hands shake. A sudden fear that this could happen again and a burst of anger that we cannot predict the future.

I didn't realize it is September 11 until I logged on to the computer.

So where were you? Where was I?

Everyone who remembers this was somewhere. At work, in the grocery, walking somewhere, stuck in traffic, out for their swim, bike or run. I was getting my masters in journalism in Chicago at the time. The photo teacher often hired me to help a visiting artist or photographer set up their work in the art gallery on the first floor of the campus building.

The photographer I assisted that day was an older Jewish man. He did a series about concentration camps and how it seems that a modern society has settled in around them - the camps simply a place for tourists to visit. For example, one photo was of teenagers laughing and waiting for a train. The station name above them read "Auschwitz".

As expected of someone with an old soul, he was quiet and contemplative. We weren't overly chatty but neither were we silent. Sometimes we talked about his photo essay sometimes we simply discussed camera equipment and sometimes we talked about journalism.

As we were carefully placing the photos where he wanted them (and giving me the honor of helping him to decide), the receptionist located in the lobby outside the gallery leaned around the corner and said, "A plane just collided into a building in New York."

I could feel the fear pass between me and this man who had seen so much. Somehow we knew this was not the error of air traffic gone awry. After exchanging a look that said so many words, we continued to lay the photos out with shaking hands.

Concentration camp after concentration camp. Although the photos featured none of the horrible, heart shattering images of what humans can do to other humans, the ghosts screamed in terror from the dilapidated buildings.

The receptionist came out again and said, "It's terrorists."

The photographer's eyes, the ones who looked through a viewfinder and saw a melange of daisies growing from former terror factories, met mine. He whispered, "It's happening again."

So now along with memories of finishing Ironman, struggling against epilepsy and winning, hugging, loving, lives a polar opposite - a chunk of an atrophied heart.

Let's do ourselves a favor and never forget where we were.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cockroaches and roller coasters

Things I'm deathly afraid of (no particular order - they're just popping into my head this way):

1. Cockroaches/scorpions
I really can't separate these two in terms of ooky-ness. Granted, the scorpions in Texas do not look like pictures of them in the Middle East or a rainforest somewhere. The Austin ones are only about two inches long. But they freak the crap out of me. I check my shoes all the time by turning them upside down and yelling into them to scare the scorpion. This is because I remember those cowboy stories of putting their feet in their boots prior to wrastlin' dogies and getting painfully killed by a scorpion because of lack of diligance.

2. Roller coasters
I know. I know. But I do not like being spun around nor upside down unless it's from my own doing. How can people like this? I'm high strung enough - why would I wait in line for like two hours so I can be forced to scream or barf from fear. I know physics dictates that being spun and dropped will not always result in certain death but I don't want to push the envelope. I like my role as "purse watcher" as long as people leave me alone about not wanting to die and provided I bring a book to read.

3. Walking in a room without first turning on the lights
No, I don't think there's a boogie man in there. This reasoning is as undefinable and mysterious as whether there's life on other planets. You might be confused as to my method. I see a dark room, reach my arm around and send my hand on a exploratory mission, then flip swtich. This is a challenge when I'm at someone's house I don't know or a public restroom built for one. When the light is located at points unknown, I have to hold the door open with my foot, sight the lightswitch and leap for it before the door closes. God bless the bathrooms where the light automatically flips on when I walk in the door. My closet is like this but as soon as it detects a lack of movement for about five seconds, such as bending down and tying my shoe, it shuts off. Then I grab the nearest piece of clothing or available body part and wave it like Old Glory.

4. Lightning
When I'm outside working out and I hear the slightest crash of thunder I scream like a little girl. And I have a deep voice so it comes out weird and un-squealish. Like a failed gargling of mouthwash. Anyway, it does wonders for my mile pace and bike cadence. But if I'm inside and it's outside, no WAY am I even going to set foot on the porch. I know all the hardcore pros and non-pros race no matter what. And I guess after paying $550 for Ironman and whatever other godawful hotel/travel price, I'd still race. But not without making a lot of gargling noises.

5. Goats' eyes
They simply go the wrong way. It's not that I'm afraid of the goat itself. If it had a blindfold on, I would definitely pet it. And certainly from a distance, the babies are cute. But if I look them in the eyes, I feel my irises trying to turn themselves horizontally because they are confused.

Ok, enough.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

For some reason

This picture? Reminds me of my mile repeats this morning:

Monday, September 1, 2008

You've been warned. . .

To whatever gnarly, creepy, fast-moving bug-creepy thing that just skittered across the bedroom carpet:


Tomorrow death arrives for you in the form of a man bearing a tank filled with stinky stuff, which will cost you your life.

You will pay for keeping me awake all night, psychotically scratching myself because I think your ooky legs are crawling on me. You will pay for me having to spray my horse's anti-insect spray all over me.

You may have eluded my detective work, which consisted of squealing and kicking every piece of furniture to see if you'll run out with your 500 legs BUT you will. not. escape. the. Orkin man.

So party it up tonight (just not anywhere on my body or within 20 feet of me) because tomorrow? YOU WILL DIE.