Pre-Race Panic Dreams

Lately I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with sleep in general and dreams in particular. If blame must be assigned for my latest obsession, we must assign it to my training partner George, who often attempts to take our minds off the pain of intervals by giving us his nightly sleep/dream reports…though truth be told we really can’t dole out too much blame to him, since duh, I am a triathlete, which is to say if you’ve got a health-related topic, I’ve got obsessionality to spare.

George’s dream reports got me wanting to know more about this strange state of sometimes suspended animation. (I say “sometimes” since for me sleep can be quite animated, like the night circa 1988  when I allegedly sat up in my college dorm bed and allegedly announced to my roommate “YOU LOOK AWFUL SILLY WITH THAT TERRIER ON YOUR HEAD!” Fortunately YouTube did not yet exist, so I get to say “allegedly” here. I fear for the next generation.)

My curiousty led me to do did what any tech savvy obsessive person would do…




search: dreams

search: dreams


none had five

none had five


Duh--you buy a book, silly. My copy doesn't look like this since it is on my Kindle, which is another thing I am obsessed with.

My copy doesn’t look quite as cuddly since, duh, it is electronic and on my Kindle, which happens to be another object of my obsession.

Turns out the edification I was in for wasn’t exactly of the pure-science variety; apparently we know very little about this state of being that consumes a third of our lives and is capable of sending our college roommates fleeing to the housing office in search of a room re-assignment. Some 300 pages later, I have lots of fodder in the unlikely event that the next happy-hour discussion turns to the topic of shuteye; did you know, for instance, that lions and gerbils alike sleep away 13 hours of each day, while giraffes somehow survive on 90 minutes a night? Or that 19th-century types thought sleep came when the brain ceased to be filled with stimulating thoughts or ambitions? Or that the Ancient Greeks believed that you fall sleep when your brain becomes flooded with blood, and won’t awake until it drains?  Or that those same Ancient Greeks apparently considered sleep extremely close to death, and by that I mean the Greek god of sleep (Hypnos) was the twin brother of the god of death (Thanatos) and their mum was the goddess of night? Well, now you know. And now I have completely ruined the suspense of our would-be happy-hour discussion. I hate it when I do that.

An aside: the book failed to supply the twins’ Mum’s name so I looked it up myself (hey, this is a chick-powered blog; we are all about equal air time here). She is Nyx and here is her pyx:

Since author David K. Randall nixed Nyx from his book, I thought I should give her a little extra love in this post. Here's a bronze statue of her, from the Roman era.

Since author David K. Randall nixed Nyx from his book, I thought I should give her a little extra love in this post. Here is a bronze statue of her, from the Roman era.

While I may not know much scientifically-speaking about sleep and dreams, I do know one thing for certain: if a race is approaching, I will have The Pre-Race Panic Dream. Friday night I was treated to a double dose of tri-related nighttime terror, and by that I mean I not only had one dream of the pre-race variety (this one courtesy of today’s Bare Hill Sprint–yeah! Race day!) but I also had my very first World Championships-related reverie (Worlds isn’t until August 29th, so I have many moons to obsess about that one…61 moons, if you want to be precise. But, you know, like who’s counting???)

many miles and 62 moons to go...

many miles and 61 moons to go…

As for my “usual”: we triathletes all seem to have a version of this; many tell me that in their dreams they show up late to the venue and the race has already begun. My brain can’t even wrap itself around that idea in sleep; it is just totally unbelievable and were I to dream it I would wake up laughing; while I am notoriously late to Cisco meetings and daughter pick-ups (sorry, colleagues and girls) I am never late to a race venue and am happiest when I am first to rack. So my dream always starts with me arriving in ample time but it is then that things start to go horribly pear-shaped.

In Friday night’s version, I for some strange reason decided to change my tire pre-race. Even though the tire was perfectly fine. And I have sew-ups so that’s, like, not something you should be futzing with pre-race. At least not me, since I am pretty terrible in the tire-changing department and have never changed a sew-up. So when Bill Fiske blew the whistle for us to get to the water’s edge (again, we are in the dream here), Viper was down one wheel and I was freaking out. I decided finding a pump was the only option, and I couldn’t even do that right. I woke up in a puddle of sweat.

As for the Worlds dream, it focused on my missing kit, which is truly missing in real life not just in my dreams. You see, the top age-group triathletes from over 50 (FIFTY!!!) countries will descend on Edmonton Canada’s Hawrelak Park in late August, and for some reason “they” (the organizers) want us all patriotically identifiable. So each of us gets a national uniform; Team USA’s look like this:

Accck! I am so excited! It will look like this, only it will say JOHANSEN too :)

🙂 How fun is this?!?

When we ordered, you could do one of two things: A). pick a size and tell them your last name so they can emblazon it, and be done with it or B).  obsess about whether you should get a medium or a large in this ITU-super-snug-fitting kit, order both, try each on obsessively at different times of day, finally select one, and send both back–one to return, one to personalize.

Guess which option I picked (in real-life)? Yup. And so net-net I have yet to get my kit back while others I know not only have their in their possession but are racing in it to break it in. (You know–find the seams where extra Body Glide is required.) In the dream, my kit never comes. TriSports (who is in charge of the orders, not just in my dream but in real life too) says they will ship it directly to my hotel in Edmonton but they never do. Come race days the Worlds officials invoke this rule that is actually on the books (again, in real life, not just my dream) that says you can’t race if you don’t have your country’s kit. So I have to go all bandit, Boston Marathon-style (hey, why travel all the way to freaking Edmonton Canada if you aren’t going to race?!?!) Since this is a dream, the run leg of the race actually is the Boston Marathon, and by that I mean they not only tried to yank me off the course Jock Semple style but I also hooked a right on Hereford, left on Boylston. Naturally, I would have won had I not been DQ’d by my missing kit.

That’s all for now. As usual thanks for stopping by. Follow your dreams, just not the ones that torture you. If you’re racing Bare Hill, I hope you got a great night’s sleep and I will see you soon…and if you happen to work for TriSports, please please please send me my kit soon! My dream life depends upon it! 🙂

– cj

Posted in Life and Training, Uncategorized, World Championships | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Pan Mass Challenge Riders Who Were Traveling South on 126 and Hooked a Right on Sherman’s Bridge Road in Wayland Circa 11:30 am last Sunday

Pull up a chair, folks; we totally need to talk.

You probably don’t remember me, but oh, I remember you. I was the chick “driving” behind your 20-plus peloton last Sunday in my blue-ribbon metallic Prius. (In case you are wondering, I did not make up that color name; it is the actual official 2011 Toyota color name and, yes, that sealed the deal when I was car shopping. Duh.)

I put “driving” in quotes because my blue-ribbon boy and I were stuck at a near standstill behind you for a solid 1.5 miles last Sunday, as you rode two and even three (THREE!) PMC-jerseyed riders abreast and violated all sorts of rules of the road let alone common human courtesy.

I suspect you will not be very open to what I have to say. In fact, I suspect you are already rolling your eyes and writing me off as some angry, ranting, anti-cyclist redneck bitch who never got the “Share the Road” memo.

Memo. Got it.

Memo. Got it.

You are right on two counts: I am angry and I am about to rant (and there’s nothing you can do to stop me since this blog is mine not yours). OK, maybe you’re right on two-point-five, since while I totally refute your “redneck” claim, a training partner did indeed take great pleasure in calling me a bee-atch twice today. So I’ll let that .5 stand, though I am fairly certain he was joking. (You WERE joking, weren’t you, Jim???)

Two-point-five assertions notwithstanding, I am truly not anti-cyclist and I am truly all sorts of about sharing the road as you would have seen had you actually allowed me (not to mention the gazillion cars backed up behind me) to pass.

Ceci n'est pas une bumper of an anti-cyclist redneck

Go ahead: profile me based on my bumper stickers. Unless someone carjacked it, chances are the person controlling this car is reasonably pro-cyclist. And not to obsess, but how many rednecks drive Prii? (Yes, Prii is the official Toyota-sanctioned plural of Prius. Google it if you don’t believe me.) I mean seriously, people; your position is fatally flawed.

To further diminish the likelihood of being summarily dismissed, let me stress that I truly think all you PMC–ers totally-completely-wholly rock. Word on the street is that by the time you make your Sturbridge-to-Provincetown pilgrimage August 2-3, you will have collectively and cumulatively raised something north of $440 million dollars for cancer research and treatment at Dana Farber/The Jimmy Fund Clinic. Anyone with a pulse would find that fact pretty darned cool; it’s perhaps a skosh cooler to me in particular, since I happen to be among the moms who “get” to hang out in the hallowed halls all your sweat supports, and by that I mean I’ve whittled away the better part of many a day at The Jimmy Fund Clinic–as recently, even, as Wednesday, when I happily received the news that my daughter’s MRI showed nothing terribly abnormal in her “resection cavity”, which is a fancy medical way of referring to the hole the surgeon left in her brain when he removed a dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumorthat was about the size and consistency of a raw scallop. (“Scallop” was his word choice, not mine; it was a choice that would forever change the way I view the seafood section of any given menu. And now I guess I have forever changed your fine dining experiences, too; sorry ‘bout that.)

So net-net: I all sorts of support cycling and I all sorts of support you supporting your charity of choice via cycling. But my problem is this:  you were exhibiting the type of cycling behavior that gives all cyclists a bad rap and encourages the bonafide redneck drivers amongst us to view cyclists as Sunday morning target practice.

I am going to cut to the chase and give you four things to think about before your next ride:

Ride Single File. Yes, it is legal to ride two abreast. But only when doubling up doesn’t prevent cars from passing. If you don’t believe me, read the law here. You were totally-completely-wholly breaking this law and that is totally not cool as well as totally dangerous. As for three abreast, that is triply not cool and triply dangerous.

Save the Social Hour for the Pub. I am all about having fun, but you guys were having way too much of it out there as the traffic mounted behind you. Save the chit-chat for the post-ride espresso or beer; when on the road and in traffic, pay attention to the road and the traffic.

Be Predictable. There was a whole lot of weaving going on as you turned your heads to rubberneck over how many cars were behind you. If you can’t hold a line when you turn your head, don’t turn your head.  Find a parking lot and practice, but don’t do this in traffic, people.

Communicate with your fellow riders—not the drivers. A few of you in the back of the pack actually attempted to direct traffic when you had decided you had heard the hum of my blue-ribbon boy for a little too long; please be aware that I am NOT going to attempt to pass 20-plus cyclists, many of whom are riding two or three abreast, no matter how much you gesticulate for me to do so. (Especially when you are completely incapable of holding a line whilst conducting the gesticulating–see point above.) Instead of communicating with me, please communicate with your fellow riders. A simple “CAR BACK” would be greatly appreciated.

If you don’t want to listen to me, perhaps you’ll listen to PMC founder Billy Starr. He happened to make a bike safety video and I happened to find it for you. I think this video is pretty great from start to finish and I encourage you all to view it in its entirety before your next group ride; if you can’t spare seven minutes forty-two seconds please at least fast-forward through and watch the eight-second snippet from 4:25 to 4:32:

Bottom line is you’ve got miles to go before your August date with the Cape; let’s make them safe ones.

Thanks for stopping by, happy riding, and let’s not have to have this chat ever again.


Posted in cycling, Racing for Charities | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Apologies to Pascal (or Locke or Franklin or Thoreau or Cicero or Wilson)

Since I, along with the rest of cyberspace, am not entirely sure which of you actually first uttered my all-time favorite quote (“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”), I apologize to you all en masse.

Why? It has been brought to my attention that I have been taking your  “shorter = better” implication to an extreme the utterer (whoever you may be…perhaps you could raise your hand?) would likely loathe, and by that I mean I simply don’t write anything anymore–nothing long, nothing short, nothing of any length in between. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zippo.

I also apologize to you, dear reader, for leaving you in a lurch, for having gone radio silent on you. (Even though truth be told I don’t entirely think this apology necessary, since I distinctly remember closing out my last post by wishing you a good off-season and saying I’d see you again in the spring. But let’s just assume you’re right and I’m wrong since that is usually the path of least resistance and at some point between my 38th and 43rd spin around the sun I decided that I do like that path quite a bit, thankyouveddymuch).

Apologies over. I am back. And in deference to Pascal-Locke-Franklin-Thoreau-Cicero-Wilson, I promise to keep this first missive pretty short. (I’ll save the long ones for other topics, like, for instance, the names of my blisters).

On “normal years” many of you wouldn’t even know that Monday is Marathon Monday here in Boston. But this is no ordinary year; the media is all abuzz since the Marathon took on that outrageously unexpected extra layer last year and over the course of the last week crazy people have tried to further freak us out by bringing confetti-filled rice cookers to the finish line.

I know this is gonna sound really bad, but I want my old marathon back. I am bone-tired of the tv guides to Boston Marathon Bombing specials.  While it is super-sweet, I don’t want churches knitting scarves for the runners. I want to go back to the time that those knitters didn’t know when the marathon was, let alone how long it was. I want the usual progression of the day: super-speedy elites followed by those damned fast “this is not my job and I won’t get a paycheck for it but I will still rock it in under three hours” peeps. And then I want the legions of charity runners–those who earned their bibs by raising money for one of a myriad charities, like I did when I ran in 2011.

On a certain level, I know this marathon simply can’t be normal. But on another level, I crave it to be.

Thousands of the runners who didn’t get to finish last year will have a go at it again this year. Many of them are charity runners; one of them is my friend Christy. I was on my way with her then-fiance to the finish line last year when the bombs went off. This year, I’ll be there too (with her husband this time 🙂 ). And this year, Daughter #2 is her Boston Children’s Hospital patient-partner, for reasons regular readers of this blog will already know but others can read about here.   

If you are still looking for a way to contribute to Marathon Monday, visit Christy’s fundraising page here.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Apologies for the radio silence and I pormise not to take Pascal-Locke-Franklin-Thoreau-Cicero-Wilson to the extreme. Get in your intervals and cheer on your athletes and I’ll see you at the finish line!

Take care,

– cj

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Champagne Nights

This fall, my friends and family have populated the calendar with a slew of brand new, joyful, champagne-sipping sorts of anniversaries: First came Tricia and Chris (Sept. 29) , then Marilla and Dave (Oct. 12), and last but certainly not least Christy and Greg (Nov. 3).

Anniversaries come in different flavors. Last fall, it was my little three-girl clan that was racking up anniversaries…ones that were way more Jack Daniels than Veuve Clicquot. There was August 24th (the day of the seizure). Then September 14 (the day I got “the call”). Then October 9 (the day I swerved into the parking lot of a Comfort Inn and finally told her the impossible news that control-freak me had been keeping from her for weeks, ridiculously hoping I could somehow solve it without her ever knowing: “baby, we have a brain tumor.”)

And then there was today. The day the surgeon took it out. Took it all out.

As a dear friend said to me last night, what a difference a year makes. Tonight will be a champagne night. (Yes, she’s only 13. I dare you to have a problem with that.)

While I want to celebrate the goodness of the day and all that has come after it (four completely “clean” MRIs during four separate visits with the amazing people at the Jimmy Fund Brain Tumor Clinic at Dana Farber), I don’t want to forget or minimize what brought us to where we are today. Remembering the tough stuff makes the sweet stuff sweeter.

So here is the story of what led us to tonight’s champagne. You take care, and go cherish your day. We sure will.

– cj
The Last Friday of Summer

Friday morning. 6:45. I’m halfway down the stairs and halfway done my coffee. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe—yum. I plan the day as the brew lifts my fog. Sneak in my run before she wakes? I should; it’s the last Friday of summer, and the weekend ahead will be a dizzying seventh-grade shopping spree. Pens, paper, not-too-high-high-heels—we need to negotiate and procure so much.

The rattling refocuses me. No, “rattling” isn’t right. Well, maybe it is at first, but it quickly revs into the “washing-machine-furiously-spinning-out-of-control-gaining-speed-every-second” zone. Urgent. Dangerous. Not at all OK. To a mechanically inept single mom who assumes all malfunctioning appliances will spontaneously combust, this noise screams “EVACUATE NOW.”

Evacuation is not an option for two impossible reasons: first, the heinous noise emanates not from the laundry room but from my daughter’s bedroom. Second, my intuition says the sound’s source isn’t an out-of-whack appliance; it is her body.

I drop the cup, sprint up-the-stairs-down-the-hall, shove open the door and lose what little shield that flimsy faux-wood provided from the sight, the sound, that horrible sound.

My girl is gone—just gone. There’s a body on the bed I bought as a surprise seven years ago when we bought this house, but my girl is gone. The body shakes violently-mechanically-increasingly, causing the bedframe’s metal, which twists into hearts at the headboard, to shriek so loudly that it conceals my cry. How? Why? What? STOP!!! Her long blonde hair cascades over her face. I brush it back, hoping my touch will snap her out of this—this whatever-it-is. The acceleration rages on. My girl’s big blue eyes—the ones friends covet and strangers compliment—are glazed, transfixed, oh my God dead.

Choking? Heart attack? Stroke?  My synapses hurl commands.

As I desperately attempt to clear a passageway that is clearly not blocked, her teeth clamp down, sheer off three fingertips. My blood trickles down her cheek.

I cradle her head as her face turns ashen blue and her eyes roll back. I force myself to hold it together long enough to whisper: “you listen to Momma—do you hear me, baby? You listen to me: I love you, baby. I love you. Okay? Okay?”

Nothing’s okay. Nothing will ever be okay again. The shaking stops. Her body goes limp.

Friday morning. 6:52. Feet—heavy, male, multiple—clomp up-the-stairs-down-the-hall. EMTs encircle us. I am fairly certain that I’ve gone insane.

“Oh No No”
Ten days ago my biggest worry in the world was the color of my hair. “Go lighter,” I told my hairdresser, but two hours later I was darker than ever. Mousy brown. She said the platinum was “there” and would “pop” with time and sunshine. But I didn’t have time; a triathlete, I’d soon compete against the top ten percent in the country at the Age Group National Championships.

Big stuff. I’d be slow as a brunette. I went back twice so she could get it right.

That seems so foreign now; somewhere between the blood work, CT scans, sleep-deprived EEG and MRI, I’ve lost track of when I last showered.

Today we meet Dr. A, the neurologist that should know what went wrong with my otherwise healthy kid, a kid who until now has been sick a grand total of three times in her life. (For the record, two of those don’t count, since they were Mom’s-on-a-business trip-induced vomiting spells; she’s never liked being away from me.)

Dr. A says the “event” was a “tonic-clonic seizure.” The diagnosis is “epilepsy,” which simply means “predisposed to seize.” Beyond that, she says, we may never know more: three out of four people who seize never learn why. The brain is still mostly a mystery, she says. There’s so much we don’t know.

Never know? So not okay. Even worse: Dr. A says there’s a 90 percent chance it’ll happen again.

Dr. A says we are “lucky” my girl seized while in bed and not while in a pool or in school or while riding a horse. Lucky? No. The bottle of anti-convulsants on our kitchen table, the syringes of Diazepam in my drawer, the brand-new baby monitor that connects my pre-teen’s room with mine…I hate everything this tonic-clonic nightmare has wrought upon us.

Dr. A asks if my daughter has any questions. Her eyes well up with tears that she refuses to let spill over as she asks, “Do I have a brain tumor?”

“Oh no, no,” Dr. A replies, maternally. “That’s not at all what I’ve been thinking—the MRI will show for sure, but I’ve never once thought you have a tumor. Please—don’t worry.” Relief washes over us.

The Call
I am sitting amongst strangers in a courtesy shuttle van, enroute to pick up my freshly detailed car. Make that our car; my daughter hates when I call it “mine.” It’s our first new car ever—the new car loan was a hard trigger to pull for this single mom. This hybrid’s existence in our garage is a triumph of spirit over circumstance; its playful license plate— KYXGAS —refers as much to the chutzpah of its endurance-athlete driver as to the efficiency of the engine under its Blue Ribbon Metallic hood.

My ringing phone breaks the shuttle-van silence. It is Dr. A.

“I have some disturbing news,” she says in dulcet, measured tones. “The MRI results show a ‘finding’ in your daughter’s right temporal lobe.”

The connection is crystal-clear yet I process only fragments…mass of cells…extremely rare… needs to come out …meet our neurosurgeon… get her braces removed so we can get a ‘cleaner’ MRI…

What happened to the words that took terror off the table? Where did “oh no, no” go? Dr. A continues. I was not expecting this big surprise… a lot to take in. Of all the 12-year-olds who come through my door every year, only one or two end up having “this.”

Finding. This. Screw the code; I need clarity: “Does my daughter have brain cancer?”

Her words crash into and over me, threaten to drown. Part of me hopes they succeed.

The van stops; we’ve arrived. At drop-off I obsessed over how they’d fix the itsy-bitsy nick in the trunk, from the day I opened the hatchback in the garage and it smacked the ceiling; now I don’t even look. Pay. Leave. The new-car smell they installed as proof of their all-day cleaning efforts makes me gag.

At night in bed I curl myself into a tight, motionless ball, listen to her chest rise and fall via the godforsaken baby monitor. I have never felt so alone.

Mental Strength
“You are such a ‘coach’s girl,’ ” my male training partners tease. It is true. “The boys” tinker with Coach Tim’s workouts, but I do as told. Hey, Coach trains Olympians; who am I to second-guess?

My loyalty pays off: in three years, I’ve gone from Queen of the Elliptical Machine to an athlete who can own the podium’s top step. The workouts help, but sometimes I win simply because Coach says I can. His faith in me helps me believe in myself, if that makes any sense.

It wouldn’t be odd if one of “the boys” went dark, but the “coach’s girl” is quiet and Coach takes note. He emails, asking how “things” are; I know he’s not after paces or power readings.

I tell him I’ve seen the tumor—it shows up on the MRI as a bright-white, marble-sized oval near her right temple. I tell him they say it is “not too deep” and should be “fairly easy to remove.” I tell him Dr. A says it is “very highly unlikely to be malignant.”

I leave out a lot. I leave out that it’s hard to glom onto “very highly unlikely” since Dr. “Oh, No, No” lacks street cred. I leave out that “fairly easy to remove” is fairly hard to swallow since they’ll also scoop out a “margin” of the good stuff—brain tissue responsible for my girl’s memory, behavior, emotions—“just in case.” I leave out that I can’t sleep, my sweat reeks and a sob has taken up permanent residence in my sinuses, escaping not just during sleepless nights or when I research survival and recurrence rates, but also at random times like when I walk the dog or write a check for her school photo—the last one without a C-shaped scar on her right temple.

“Your mental strength will get you through this,” Coach emails back.

Oh, I wish I believed him now.

Double-Triple Check
The term “double-triple check” was born into our familial lexicon when my girl was two and I improperly fastened her Trail-a-Bike to my own bike’s seat post, with both catastrophic and comic results.  To this day if it’s important (homework? door locked? stove off?) it gets double-triple-checked, and you can bet taking a drill to my daughter’s skull qualifies. That’s why today we’re at the top children’s hospital in the country, the very one for which I fundraised just shy of $7K in return for 2011 Boston Marathon bib number 24777.

I set the pace as we head down the hall and it is more sprint than marathon; I don’t want either of us fixating on the frail-looking-shaved-head girl pushing an IV drip down the hall.

Dr. M’s office seems benign at first glance—fish tank in one corner, well-worn blocks and books in another. But there’s a three-millimeter “slice” of my girl’s brain on his computer screen, with the angry white orb at center stage; it is my usually snarky pre-teen’s first look at the enemy within. She snuggles into my shoulder, sneaks a peek as Dr. M speaks.

“Clearly not normal, healthy tissue,” he says matter-of-factly, pointing to the object I hate. “But,” he says, scrolling through slices with practiced ease, “I’m more concerned about the second finding.”

Second finding?
I freeze.

My girl burrows further into my armpit. She’ll take cues from my body so I force every muscle to stay loose and relaxed—all but one, that is: I raise my eyebrow to quietly convey I haven’t a clue about Thing #2.

Dr. M gets it, treads ahead lightly. The MRI report from the other hospital “seemed to dismiss it” but he isn’t. He reads it to me:

A focal T2 hyperintense focus in the right basal ganglionic region, inferiorly, most likely prominent perivascular space. No restricted diffusion, hemorrhage, mass or midline shift is seen.

I lose him at “T2”. I might as well be back in that courtesy shuttle van, because once again I hear only fragments: weird…deep…complicated structure…surgery not an option…see that? Carotid artery…

I stare into the abyss of this so-called “space,” trace the life-giving artery that snakes through “Thing 2.”

Racing has taught me to expect and accept that at some point my body will enter meltdown mode—I just can’t let it show. If I let my opponents know my heart rate is pegged and my lactate threshold exceeded, well, then I’m toast.

I can’t let Thing 1 and Thing 2 know they’ve got me pegged. But there’s something more. I am my girl’s coach now—she needs me to have faith, to exude enough confidence for two because there’s a whole lot more than some silly age-group medal at stake here. I suck it up, suppress that damned sob. Thing 1 and Thing 2 picked on the wrong Ironmom.

The sob sends a shiver in its stead; it uncontrollably wracks my body, nearly ruins my ruse.

This fall has been the coldest of all. Winter lies ahead. Oh, how I hate that last Friday of summer. Oh, how I wish it had never come.

Posted in Life and Training | 1 Comment

Wedding Toast for C4, Boston Marathon-Style

Greg & Christy

Greg & Christy; isn’t she stunning?!?!

What’s one to do when a dear, Boston Marathon-running friend ties the knot? Send her off on her merry, matrimonial way with some Bah-stun-based advice, that’s what I say.

So that’s precisely what I did this weekend, when a certain dear friend named Christy laced up not her running shoes but her great-big-whole-freaking-entire life with that of one supremely lucky six-foot-five-inch guy named Greg (aka The Cowboy).

Should you need reminding, Christy’s aka is “C4” and by that I mean she constitutes a very important 25 percent of The Infamous Clam-Shell-Winning “Four C’s” Hyannis Marathon Relay Team, shown here mere hours before their Cape Cod debut…

the 4 Cs (L to R C3 C1 C4 and C2)

The Four Cs on Hyannis race morning 2012, wearing our matching 2011 Boston Marathon shirts 🙂

at our goodbye lunch for Christy, when she moved to AZ to be closer to The Man

Thanks, Colorado, for designing a state flag that begs to be repurposed as a 4Cs team logo 🙂 Here we are at our goodbye lunch for Christy, just before she moved to AZ to be closer to The Man. Yes, we are dorky enough to proudly wear matching shirts in public. You gotta problem with that?

C4 (I mean Christy) and The Cowboy (I mean Greg) said their vows some 2,646 miles away from Hyannis (I mean glorious Tucson, Arizona). They got hitched under the watchful gaze of dozens of cowboys (real ones, complete with hats and boots), saguaro cactuses (also real ones, impossibly goofy and jaw-dropping at the same time), and me (every wedding needs a token Bostonian). It. Was. Awesome! (An aside: The mountain biking I did in Sedona the day before the wedding was awesome too, although I clearly misunderstood the local bike shop’s slogan; I did not “Shred the Red” but definitely “Got Shredded by the Red”. More on that some other day…suffice it to say I proudly wore what the locals call “Sedona Pinstripes” to the wedding!)

Here is the toast I gave at the C4/Cowboy wedding reception…enjoy!

Christy and Greg, one thing connects the three of us more than anything else: the Boston Marathon. Christy, you and I trained for our first “Boston” together in the winter of 2010, and ran it in 2011. I (clearly the wiser of the Cs) decided one Boston was one too many…but Christy kept going. And so it was that I met you, Greg, in April of 2013 when you somehow folded all six feet five inches of yourself (not including hat and boots) into my not-so-spacious Prius so we could cheer for our favorite crazy-runner-chick at the finish line.

It seemed fitting on this, your wedding day, to give you some Boston Marathon-themed advice. Here it is:

Enjoy the early miles.
You will feel strong, fit, fantastic, happy. You totally deserve it. Bask in it.

That said, don’t go out too hard.
Between the downhill slope and the start-line adrenaline it will be tempting. Pace yourself.

Do nice stuff.
Pack each other’s snickers and pretzels. Pour each other’s ice baths.

Say nice stuff.
Greg, this one’s for you: be sure to say YOU LOOK GREAT! at Mile 18…it’s okay if it is a little white lie.

Don’t compare.
Others may have a quicker pace, fancier running shoes, or the latest and greatest Garmin. Stay focused on what you have. Because it is good.

Don’t be like Rosie Ruiz.
There are no shortcuts. (Well, there are. But they aren’t worth taking.)

Be each other’s biggest fans.
Cheer each other on with reckless abandon like the Wellesley College girls.

Don’t wear your earphones.

Listen to each other and to the happy crowd of supporters around you.

Remember: Heartbreak will come.
It always has been and always will be part of the course. Together you will get up and over it and be stronger for it.

Comfort each other.

Somewhere along the way, an unexpected, scary thing may happen, perhaps something as horrible as what happened on Marathon Monday 2013. Sometimes it will mean one or both of you need to run several miles more than 26.2 to reconnect. Be there for each other; run those extra miles.

My last piece of advice is where the Marathon metaphor breaks down. Because unlike Boston, this isn’t a race. There is no finish line. No one should be timing the miles or declaring winners. You have the rest of your lives together. It is an honor to toe this start line with you; I wish you both the very best today and all of your days together.


Posted in Life and Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Title 9 Takeaway: Single Legged Drills are Great…

…just not in the middle of a race.

That’s the key takeaway from yesterday’s Title 9 Women’s Only Sprint Triathlon, where for the first time in my so-called triathlon career I lost a race not on the swim, not on the run, but ON THE BIKE.

I know. This is totally-completely-wholly unexpected. Like as unexpected as finding great Belgian beer in Milwaukee of all places. Only not at all like that since finding Rochefort in Milwaukee was exhilarating and this is mortifying. I appreciate that you are likely having trouble processing this news so I’ll repeat it slowly, one word at a time, to allow this ridiculous revelation to sink in:


Hang on, it gets worse: Not only did I lose on the bike leg, but it was due to something that was completely under my control and should never have happened in the first place. This was 100 percent pure operator error, or, to put it in my coach’s words, “what a dumbass!”

No I didn't make him wear this; duh, it's not aero. For photo op purposes only.

Viper didn’t wear this during the race as it’s not aerodynamic. He’s showing some all-girl spirit for his photo op.

Let’s back up a bit: as you may know, I’ve reserved a place in my heart as well as my race calendar for this annual all-girl sprint in Hopkinton State Park hosted by the good peeps at Max Performance. I just love it, and in my four seasons of racing I’ve only missed it once (that was in 2011, when Title 9 and Lobsterman collided and I for some strange reason chose the Oly over the sprint…bad idea since 10K runs, like, totally suck.). This was my third time doing Title 9 and I was giddy that I had been assigned bib #3 for it (since I placed 3rd overall here last year). I had big goals: I’m in pretty decent shape for a chick with a desk job and am currently obsessed with the national rankings, so I was aiming to score my first non-gender-adjusted “80” (a topic for another blog, some other day). I also thought I might place a couple notches higher than my bib number, if you know what I’m sayin’.

I felt pretty darned confident at the start, mostly because I had given myself space and time to do everything “right”: a light run with pick ups, 500 or so yards of breast and back (my fave) before encasing myself in neoprene, and a 20-minute easy spin at high cadence on Maverick the Third (my road bike) mounted to the Kinetic trainer whilst listening to AC DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” on repeat. (What can I say…the opening stanza, she was a fast machine/she kept her motor clean/she was the best damned woman that I’ve ever seen just speaks to me on race day.)

Of course, since I got the nifty-new Garmin Vector power pedals in Milwaukee, using Maverick the Third for my warm up meant some race-day-bike-wizardry. I brought my nifty-new 15 mm pedal wrench and felt all proficient swapping pedals off Maverick and onto Viper. I left the power pod off, since I planned a data-free “just race” kind of day. I double-triple-checked my pedal wrench work and was rather pleased with all my newly acquired gear and skills. (For a mechanically inept chick who has historically enlisted male help for any fix involving more than duct tape, this whole pedal-wrench-ownership thang is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.)

That “rather pleased” feeling lasted throughout a great-for me-swim (where I managed to keep up with a great swimmer/competitor for a full quarter of the swim) and a rather speedy T1. As I mounted my ready-to-rock steed, George assured me the fastest Wave 1 swimmers were easily within range. “You’ll get them all by Mile 4!” were the last words I heard as I pedaled away.

Of course, George was assuming I’d reach Mile 4 with both pedals in place. I did not.  In fact, I hadn’t even made it to Mile 2 when my right foot felt wobbly. It was kinda like that weird feeling I get when I am not fully clipped in…only a little wobblier and a little weirder. So I stomped down and did the clip-in-side-to-side shimmy…but instead of hearing a solid “click,” my effort completely separated my foot from the crank, with my right pedal firmly fastened to the bottom of my right shoe.

Now, this was interesting.

My left foot kept going round and round, firmly affixed to its pedal, but my right leg hung straight down, throwing me off balance at, like, 23 mph. The right crank arm, with nothing to crank it, flew hopelessly round and round and round. OK!!!! PLAN B!!! Let’s just not crash!

I ever-so-carefully got out of my aero bars and used my core to keep myself upright. Should I unclip the left and land with that foot?  Will the athlete behind me actually process the fact that I am trying to communicate with my left hand “HEY! HEAD’S UP I AM GOING TO COME TO AN ABRUPT AND COMPLETE STOP HOPEFULLY SOMETIME IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE!!!”? Will I figure out how to get off my freaking bike before I reach the freaking big downhill in front of Carbone’s Restaurant?

This was all pretty new territory.

As I mulled my options, I toggled over to single-leg drill mentality; for the non-cyclists amongst you, this is something one does to smooth one’s pedal stroke…but only on a stationary trainer. You can see it in action (not my video) here. I single-leggedly pedalled as I single-mindedly attempted to come up with a dismount plan. I kept this up for a good half mile or more.

I don’t exactly know how I dismounted, but dismount I did and I am pleased to report I left no skin on the pavement. I spent the next five-plus minutes not cheerfully barking “ON YOUR LEFT” at other athletes per usual, but instead grumpily growling “YES!” as athletes passed and nicely asked “ARE YOU OK???”

First, I tried in vain to get the shoe off the pedal…or should I say the pedal off the shoe. When that failed, I tried to thread the bolt into the hole in the crank arm with the shoe still affixed. When that failed, I thought of walking back to transition, getting my first DNF. (Non-athlete translation: Did Not Finish.) No way! The DNF thought helped me summon the super-human strength required to pull the damned shoe off the pedal (or pedal off the shoe). I got the damned bolt to thread a turn or two, no more.

Not wanting to have to figure out how to do that odd dismount again, I rode the rest of the race course rather gingerly. (An aside while we’re on the topic of ginger: Ginger Howell, who came in first overall last year and was therefore assigned bib #1 this year ended up being a DNS. Non-athlete translation: Did Not Start.) My goal was to put out as little power as possible on the right side, and use downhills as effectively as possible.

I eventually mercifully reached transition and racked a very confused Viper. Is that all we get to do today? The poor boy was crestfallen.

A silver lining type of girl, I sought out the optimistic viewpoint: At least I didn’t have the Vector power pod onboard, as it would likely have broken! Bonus ball: I’d get to run this hilly course with pretty fresh legs!

I had the day’s second fastest T2 and a good-for-me run and in the end placed 9th overall, out of 685 competitors.

For the visual thinkers amongst you, here is a properly threaded pedal:

Pedal and crank arm are well connected...

Pedal and crank arm are well connected…

…and here is what my right side looked like post-race:

...a downstroke away from coming undone again!

…a downstroke away from coming undone again!

Full results in all their awfulness are here.

That’s all for now. As usual, thanks for stopping by. Don’t be a dumbass and by that I mean don’t swap your pedals pre-race. Double-triple check all of your bolts the night before, and if for some reason one of your screws still comes unthreaded as you race, don’t you come unglued. After all, it’s only a race and there will be others… (Silver lining for me and Viper: there’s even one more race of the season so we can redeem ourselves. Yep, Buzzard’s Bay is in two weeks. and we are already ready already!)

For the triathletes: what’s the weirdest-most-heartbreaking-most-infuriating mechanical issue you’ve had on race day? Do share in the comments section below so we can commiserate!

– cj

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

First Du for Daughter #2

signAugust 24th 2012 was the last Friday of summer vacation, a day the J-girls were slated to do some epic (and, per usual, insanely last-minute) back-to-school shopping. As some of you know, the universe had other plans for us that day, and by 6:52 am there were feet—heavy, male, multiple—clomping up-our-stairs-down-our-hall. EMTs encircled my girl as I shrieked insanely.

A watershed event for sure…and the damned water would keep rising higher and higher for three solid months, apparently hellbent on drowning us.

What a difference a year can make: fast-forward to August 24th 2013 and the only shrieking I did was to yell GOOOOOO LIIIIIIIIDA!!!!! as that very same daughter competed in her very first duathlon during the Cranberry Tri Fest in Lakeville Massachusetts 🙂

How cool is this kid, I ask?

Number 729, aka Daughter #2, aka Lida :)

Just after the start, totally rocking her mother’s Oakleys: Number 729, aka Daughter #2, aka Lida 🙂

Like mother like daughter…here’s a video of #729 rocking bike leg 🙂 Fortunately, USAT rules didn’t apply to the under 14 set so this right-sided pass was totally legal and didn’t earn her a DQ 🙂 Must teach her to yell “on your LEFT!!” though…

As for the run, she and I can work on our finishing kick together during the off-season:

In the event it is not imminently clear, I am insanely proud of this kid–not “just” for having the guts to take part in her mother’s sport, but for the grace with which she handled the truly insane events of the past year. We are all stronger for it.

Love. Her.

Love. Her.

That’s all for now. As usual, thanks for stopping by. If you’re going through a watershed event of the insanely tough variety, keep your head up and know that tides subside but it’s okay to shriek loudly until they do. Cranberry organizers, you can sign us both up for next year–we’ll most certainly be back!!! 🙂

PS: Next up: tomorrow is my third year doing Title 9 and I have been assigned bib #3…I am kinda-sorta looking forward to this race!!! 🙂

PPS: A big thanks to Cranberry organizer Sun Multisports; at first, they weren’t giving Kid’s Duathlon participants race shirts—only those registered for the weekend’s Sprint or Oly were getting them. I got that, but since it was kind of a special day for us, I asked if they could bend that rule and give Lida a shirt. At first they said no to both that and my follow-on request to switch my shirt to one that’d fit Daughter #2… the conversation went something like this:
Me: “Are you sure? It’s my kid’s first race ever…”
Her: “Sorry…I can’t…at least not until everyone has picked up their packets…if any are left over….”
Me: “Are you really sure? It is not only her first du but also the one-year anniversary of the grand mal seizure that led to her neurosurgery….”
Her: [insert incredulous stare here.]

Suddenly, athletes who were in line and overheard our chat were grabbing my shoulder and asking, “WHAT SIZE DOES SHE NEED????” and the RD was handing me a fistful of shirts…so net-net, people are good and now we have, like, an entire wardrobe of Cranberry Trifest shirts 🙂

Posted in Life and Training, My Race Reports | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

AGNC 2013: Think Local to Race Global

Team USA logoMost athletes will freak themselves out thinking about this as a big, national event.

So don’t do that.

Pretend it’s just another local race. Execute what you are capable of on your best day locally and you’ll have a great race at Nationals.

My coach doled out this advice to a small clutch of his disciples I mean athletes during a breezy lakeside lunch at Alterra Coffee in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the Friday before The Big Day, or should I say The Big Days since there were two: on Saturday the country’s top age groupers at the long-course distance would compete for coveted slots on Team USA 2014. Come Sunday we sprinters would get our chance to make the team and race on the global level—against athletes from every continent even—in Edmonton, Canada in August 2014.

The table where we sat dissecting our sandwiches wasn’t “local” to any of us; Coach Tim came from Clermont, Florida; Evan from Portland, Oregon; Mike, George and I call Central Massachusetts home. Indeed, the vast majority of the 5,000 Rudy-helmeted athletes in town for either of the weekend’s races (or, for a subset of those Rudys housing truly certifiable brains, both races) had to pass through TSA screenings to get here…

...and stow our gear in overhead compartments :)

…and stow our gear in overhead compartments 🙂

fashion faux pas spotted at packet pickup. No backwards helmets, people. Just not OK.

This dude must have raced both distances, since he is clearly in the “truly certifiable” camp. People, please! No backwards helmets! Triathlon has enough of a sideshow-freak-PR problem without you adding to it!

If you’ve followed this blog even casually, you should know I am pretty darned accomplished at this whole “willing suspension of disbelief” thang (aka “lying to oneself”), so it should come as no surprise that I sunk my teeth into Tim’s advice. Which was nice, since I hadn’t sunk my teeth into anything for five straight days prior to boarding Southwest Flight 431 BOS to MKE, and by that I mean from Friday to Tuesday I was on a strict Pedialyte-only diet thanks to a seriously nasty stomach bug.


silver lining: it comes in both powder *and* ice pops…

Bill and Wendy in front of the FIRM mobile

Bill, Wendy, and the FIRM Race Series mobile

Scarlett Johannson and I share a Nordic heritage and most of a last name...but clearly we couldn't share a tri suit for, um, a couple of significant reasons.

Scarlett Johannson and I share a Nordic heritage and most of a last name…but clearly we couldn’t share a tri suit for, um, a couple of significant reasons.

NBD as the kids would say…just another local race. To complete the ruse, I even picked a local race company;  the number on my seat post would be “3517” so clearly this was a FIRM race since all season long they’ve issued me numbers heavy on threes and ones—I was 31 at Ludlow, 13 at Wayside, and 331 at Lowell.  Any minute now I’d see Bill and Wendy Fiske pull up in the great big old FIRM mobile they drive from one race to the next. Elaine Vescio would be milling about under the Vmps tent and Mike the DJ’s voice would soon boom over the loudspeaker, teasingly calling me “Scarlett”. Heck, since I’d placed 2nd overall at all three of those “3” “1” FIRM races, this’d likely be a good weekend for me. (While I was lying to myself I mean suspending my disbelief, I also decided that my stomach-bug days were actually the world’s-greatest-taper days. All those Pedialyte pops and naps and skipped workouts were actually good for my race. That was my story and I was sticking to it.)

Bill and Wendy had clearly stepped up their marketing efforts to attract such a crowd and invested some serious cash in venue upgrades:

Gorgeous, huh? The Milwaukee Art Museum in the background isn't too shabby either ;)

Gorgeous, huh? The Milwaukee Art Museum in the background isn’t too shabby either 😉

“They” say to never do anything different on race day, and my coach is totally one of “them”. So while he has been riding me to get a power meter for, like, years, he banned me from installing and using my brand-new-super-nifty Garmin Vector, which, btw, qualifies as a PR for me—a new personal record for Most Expensive Race Expo Purchase.

The long-awaited Garmin Vector finally went on sale Wednesday, and every bike shop in the country that carries Garmin got only three of these beautiful boxes; I got the third and final one available at the Expo. Feeling all super-exclusive and early adopter-ish, oh yes I am.

My stunning new pedal-based power meter. Every Garmin-selling shop in the country was alloted three Vectors; I scored Milwaukee bike shop Emery’s last one at the pre-race Expo. Feeling all super-exclusive and early adopter-ish, oh yes I am. As for you, it’s OK to covet; seriously, how could you not.

(Post-race update: Viper is all Vectored up now…check this out! The Vector gives left-right balance data; it should come as no surprise that I lilt ever-so-slightly to the left.)

Viper, Vectored. Oh, yes. As if the boy wasn't already unstoppable. Thanks to Mark and Jeff at FitWerx in Peabody for the install assist and ensuring the Vector will also work with Maverick the IIIs Campy crank arm--you guys rock!

Viper, Vectored. Oh, yes. As if the boy wasn’t already unstoppable. Thanks to Mark and Jeff at FitWerx in Peabody for the install assist and ensuring the Vector will also work with Maverick the IIIs Campy crank arm–you guys rock!

Coach Tim did approve one significant exception to the “nothing new on race day” rule: at Nationals I would for the first time ever ride with a disc. Coach would have nixed the switch-out had it been a ploy to gain a few seconds, but this wasn’t about speed: during a routine Viper inspection I spotted a small nick in his rear tire. NBD if he had clinchers but Viper runs sew ups (nothing but the best for the boy), so properly fixing that possible race-ending gash would take three days…not gonna happen. Saving grace: my friend Jim had shipped his bike to Milwaukee but pulled out of the race due to a hamstring injury…all parties agreed I should steal I mean borrow the gash-free wheel off Jim’s sidelined steed and that wheel was a disc.

Something borrowed *and* something blue...neither Viper nor I cared for the color clash, but we got over it since it came with the promise of both a flat-free ride and some free speed on the long stretches of flat Milwaukeee pavement. Mark at Race Day Transport called Jim back in Boston to make sure I wasn't "some crazy-woman trying to steal your wheel"...Jim assured Mark that while I am a crazy-woman, I am not a thief :) For the record, the disc in question doesn't actually belong to Jim--he was borrowing it from George, who would in turn race on a bike borrowed from Tim. Did you follow all of that TC2 equipment swappage? Net-net thanks to all involved for making this happen so this crazy woman could race without fear of flatting :)

Something borrowed *and* something blue…neither Viper nor I cared for the color clash, but we got over it since it came with the promise of both a flat-free ride and some free speed on the long stretches of flat Milwaukeee pavement. Mark at Race Day Transport called Jim back in Boston to make sure I wasn’t “some crazy-woman trying to steal your wheel”…Jim assured Mark that while I *am* a crazy-woman, I am not a thief 🙂 For the record, the disc in question doesn’t actually belong to Jim–he was borrowing it from George, who would in turn race on a bike borrowed from Tim. Did you follow all of that TC2 equipment swappage? Net-net thanks to all involved for making this happen so this crazy woman could race without fear of flatting 🙂

Nasty stomach bug notwithstanding, I felt like I was ready to race hard. The course appeared to be tailor-made for cj and heck the stars just might align perfectly for PRs on all three legs. I have recently been experimenting with racing without my watch, but since this might be one for the record books I decided the Garmin Forerunner 910XT would record it for posterity. If star-alignment occurred I thought I could swim in the 1:30s, ride above 23 mph and cap it off with a 5K close to—heck, maybe even a smidge under—seven-minute mile pace. That’s not quite as fast as the other Elites at Cohasset but again—this is not Cohasset it’s a FIRM race. Work with me here, would you?!? We’ve totally got this.


swim course map

swim course map

Unbeknownst to me, this silly local-race ruse allowed me to avoid fixating on something very serious; I didn’t mentally link it to last year’s Nationals in Burlington, Vermont, August 18th 2012, the day fellow TC2 triathlete Rich Angelo died in the waters of Lake Champlain while trying to qualify to race in London for Team USA 2013.

While I was sculling at the start and awaiting my airhorn, I did not go back to the panic that spread through last year’s awiating-the-airhorn F45-49 wave as they watched EMTs on the dock adjacent to them clearly failing to breathe life back in to Rich’s wet, limp body. I did not go back to how I Mother Henned “my” athletes when I got word of some water-based crisis—I had one, two, three, four water-bound teammates…located one, two, three…thought “there are 5,000 freaking athletes here, what are the freaking chances?”

Rich Angelo shortly before he died at Nationals in Burlington.

Rich Angelo the morning of August 18, 2012.

I did not go back to scrubbing my skin raw so Rich’s much-too-young-for-this widow wouldn’t have to see my race tattoos. I didn’t go back to the transition mat re-created at the foot of his coffin—race belt, running shoes, number “494” meticulously affixed to the seatpost of his Cervelo. I didn’t go back to the words my coach said over post-wake beers: I can’t believe this happened…Rich was one of the stronger TC2 swimmers up there.

I know for a fact that many who were in Burlington last year did go back “there”, swam alongside Rich in Lake Michigan.

Not me. Mercifully, thanks to my ruse, when the Wave 2 airhorn bleeted I simply pushed START on my 910 XT and set my sights on the yellow buoy, then the footbridge beyond it.

My wave prepares for the start as spectators watch from above.

My white-capped wave prepares for the start as spectators watch from above.

Spectators line the footbridge.

Spectators line the footbridge.

First the yellow buoys then under that distant footbridge. Above it and to the left you can see the Hoan Bridge, of bike course and Blues Brothers car chase scene fame.

First the yellow buoys then under that distant footbridge. Above it and to the left you can see the Hoan Bridge, of bike course and Blues Brothers car chase scene fame.

The blue caps of Wave 3--George's wave--wait their turn on the dock.

The blue caps of Wave 3–George’s wave–wait their turn on the dock.

What I did go back to was a saying George and I saw on a T-shirt earlier that morning:

                                                            SWIM SMART
                                                            BIKE STRONG
                                                            RUN TOUGH

We liked that a lot and our goal was to Swim Smart and get to our bikes (in George’s case, Tim’s bike) as quickly and calmly as possible. (For the record, we also really enjoyed the “Tri Yuppie Scum” shirt, but that didn’t really, like, meet our swim-leg mantra needs.)

The most significant barrier to my calmness would come at the very end of the swim; it took the form of an impossible-seeming swim exit:

I kid you not the ramp leading from the water to solid ground was at a 45 degree angle. Was there no better way to get us out of the water? The orange-shirted volunteers were there to literally pull us up the ramp. I wanted the undivided attention of those orange shirts, so I actually aimed to exit the water solo; being part of a pack would mean fewer helping hands and a potential swim exit fall.

Yikes! Volunteers push/pull athletes up the 45-degree angle (!!!) ramp. I’ve endured jagged rocks, clam-shell shards and insanely slippery pool decks, but this totally wins for Most Impossible Swim Exit Ever.  I watched athletes handle it both well and poorly during Saturday’s race and tried to learn from them. Clearly having the undivided attention of the orange-shirted volunteers was best…so emerging alone became my goal,  even if it meant trailing the pack.

Super-fast, yet slightly unbalanced. I'll take it.

Super-fast, yet slightly unbalanced. I’ll take it.

I had a great-for-me swim, which is to say I actually used my newly emerging lats more than the itsy-bitsy arm muscles I have historically relied upon. I entered at an angle, reached out as far as I could and grabbed as much water as possible, which appears to be The Goal. I imagined myself as a Catamaran, which probably sounds really weird but hey, it worked for me so don’t judge.

It is exhausting being a Catamaran, and by the time this multi-hulled vessel was heading back under the footbridge she was seriously wishing she came equipped with an outboard motor. As I took the final turn I sighted and saw what appeared to be the lead pack emerging en masse onto that heinous ramp. Got what I wanted: all those orange shirts would be free to focus on me and me alone.

The results show the cold hard truth: that wasn’t the lead pack I was trailing. It wasn’t even the chase pack…when I hit the ramp (figuratively not literally, thank goodness) at 15:01 I was in fact packs of packs behind the leaders. A dozen chicks swam 14:00 – 14:33; another eight were “in the 13s” and yet another eight emerged between 12 and 12:30. Three F 40-44 rockstars went sub 12 (!)…net-net count ’em all up and you’ll see I emerged from the swim behind 31 F 40-44 chicks. (Another 3! Another 1! This is getting weird!)

Viper and I had our work cut out for us. But that’s OK; we like the work oh yes we do.

My swim time / place : 15:01 (1:49 per 100 yards) / 32nd of 64
Fastest F 40-44 swim: the incredible Sara Cannon of Portland Oregon, in an awesome (and, it should be noted, a rather rank-reflective) 11:11.1, which also gave her the 15th best female swim of the day. (For those of you who speak TC2-ese, I will put Sara’s effort into TC2 context: the incredible Mike McCombs swam this course in 11:01…so Sara is like, nearly Mike’s kind of fast.)
Fastest swims overall: The fastest boy swimmer was the amazing Scott Gentles of Atlanta, Georgia (9:26, which is to say 1:08 pace). The best girl dolphin du jour was 23-year-old phenom Erin Dolan, who swam 10:05 / 1:13 per 100 yards. I am triply impressed with Erin’s performance since she hails from Nebraska, which (geography lesson forthcoming) is a triply landlocked state; it does not border the ocean…nor do any of the states it borders…nor do any that they border. Probably her parents had a pool???


transition map

transition map

I might have been an unspectacular (and not-Team-USA-worthy) 32nd out of the 64 F 40-44ers, but per usual as soon as I hit the timing mat I made it clear I wouldn’t settle for middle of the pack. By that I mean that by BIKE OUT I had blasted past a competitor who had clawed her way up that impossible ramp more than 30 full seconds before me.

We can forget about all 31 F 40-44ers who both swam and T1’d slower than me (sorry ladies) with one exception: Alison Gittelman of South Riding, Virginia. At this point in our little story Alison is nearly a minute behind me—she lost 43 seconds to me in the swim and another 15 in T1—and the gap will widen by another 90 seconds once Viper unfurls his fangs. But mark my words, remember her name—you will quite literally hear it again by the end of this story. (I know…the suspense is killing you!)

My T1 time and place : 1:55. That’s  3rd of the 64 in my age group,  33rd of 418 females
Fastest F 40-44 T1: The incredible Chris Wickard of Crown Point, Indiana with a mat-to-mat time of 1:46.
Fastest T1s overall: The best boy T1-ing du jour was done by 29-year-old Eric Burnett of Pasadena, Calif, who rocked it in 1:26 (!) while 17-year-old Megan Dustin from Feeding Hills, Mass (where the hell is that?!? I had to Google it; turns out it is a subsection of Agawam) reigned Chick Supreme with a 1:37.


bike course map

bike course map

Oh, this is fun. It was just like a FIRM race because I passed and passed and was never passed. I passed 17 women from my wave who had swum far better than me and too many Wave 1 boys to count. I passed athletes from Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, Hawaii, Utah, and the lone lady in my race who actually may have done a FIRM race before: Boston Triathlon Team’s Margaret O’Toole, from Cambridge, Mass. I even smiled when I reached down to grab a quick swig of my water and nicked my Garmin against my knee, causing it to dislodge. (Missed that story? Catch up here.)

Climbing towards the Hoan Bridge, on the northbound side. It has a maximum grade of four percent but felt like more than that.

Climbing on the Hoan Bridge, in the northbound lane of I-794 but heading south. According to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, the bridge has a maximum grade of four percent but felt totally more like ten. Seriously! That’s all sorts of OK; hills separate the wheat from the chaff.

Another view, with Milwaukee Art Museum in background. Towards the left of the frame you can see one of the speedier boys from Wave 1 returning from his out-and-back ride. I say one of the speedier ones, since I passed a lot of Wave 1 guys ;)

Milwaukee Art Museum in background. Towards the left of the frame you can see one of the speedier Wave 1 boys descending towards transition on his return from the Russell Avenue turnaround. I say one of the speedier boys, since Viper passed a lot of Wave 1 guys even though they started seven minutes before us Wave 2 chicks 😉

My bike time / speed: 34:43 / 21.5 mph
My place:
9th of 64 in my wave/ 34th of all 418 females / 359th of all 1,099 sprint athletes
Fastest F 40-44 cyclist: The incredible Chris Wickard of Crown Point, Indiana, who must have been a sight to see on what was certainly a solo time trial; she rode the course in 33:24.3 aka 22.3 mph. Since she was such a speedy swimmer we never saw each other on the course.
Fastest rides overall: An absolutely HUGE shout-out to the powerhouse 57-year-old Barbara Sullivan of Carlsbad California who was the ONLY chick to break the 23 mph barrier. In doing so she captured the national title in her age group and easily qualified for Worlds in Edmonton. As for the boys, 33-year-old Matt Migonis of Hamilton New York somehow rode an average 25.8 mph. (His time: 28:52. Five of the 681 male athletes rode 25 mph or better.)

Parting is always such sweet sorrow but the boy had done his job well and deserved the rest, although I sure could use his help on my weakest leg but I think that might, like, get me disqualifed.
My T2 time and place : 1:02. That’s 2nd of 64 in my 64-chick wave, and 11th of all 418 females. We said our bye-for-nows quickly.
Fastest F 40-44 T2: Top kudos goes to Julianna Batizy-Morley of Centennial CO, who stabled her steed and jammed into her running shoes a second faster than I did (1:01).
Fastest T1s overall: Eric Burnett of Pasadena California and 43-year-old John Reback of Jupiter, Florida both aced T2 in 49 seconds flat. Erin Dolan rocked it for the girls, in 56 seconds.


run course map

run course map

Just outside RUN OUT I fly by my coach and fellow TC2-er Evan Pardi. (An aside: 19-year-old Evan is one of the certifiable; he not only raced both days but qualified at the sprint distance and earned the first roll-down slot in the Oly!) As I pass they excitedly yell, “YOU’RE 14th!!!!”

OK, cj, it’s time to get real with yourself, I thought. Even at a FIRM race when it comes to the run I am apt to be the pass-ee not the pass-er, so I expected a bullet-train phenom or two would plow past me. I just couldn’t let four bullet trains plow past or I’d miss that Magic #18 and the automatic qualifier slot Viper had slithered us into.

For the bullet trains, the run is the fun bit. For me, its a war of attrition and the longer we fight the less likely I am to win. Since this was an itsy-bitsy 5K and a flat one at that I knew I had a really good shot; how much of a shot I wasn’t sure, since I had no way of knowing how large a chunk of time Viper and I had put between Us and Them.

Approaching the one-mile mark, which I totally missed during the run

Pretend this is easy pretend this is easy screw the pretending, this is *not* easy….Approaching the one-mile mark, which I totally somehow missed seeing.

I really did feel good and strong and was running well-for-me. My Garmin, had it not spontaneously ejected on Lincoln Memorial Drive, would surely show a nice 92-ish cadence and a pace somewhere in the “lower sevens”. It felt right and I thought, keep doing this or even a little better and you’ll be totally fine.  At that moment, somewhere just before the turnaround after Lagoon Drive, the first bullet train approached, with a warp-speed cadence.

Julianna Batizy-Morley of Centennial, Colorado, sped past, running an impressive 6:45 pace.

OK. 15th. That works.

I am alone again for awhile and then I hear another one–it’s runner extraordinaire Murphee Hayes who, appropriately enough, comes from Marathon, New York. I tried but there was no way I could keep up with her 6:27 pace.

Now 16th. Still works.

Ack there’s that familiar bullet train sound again…this time generated by Heather Butcher of North Point, Florida. Six freaking nineteen pace.

Crap. 17th. This is totally no longer OK.

I have quickened my pace as much as I can and I can barely see let alone think straight so when I hear my coach’s voice with a quarter mile to go I at first assume I am delirious. But I am not–he is actually there, and he is talking to me in those dulcet tones I’ve heard a few times before–the ones you’d use to gently coax a friend into action when a mountain lion is looming large.

Now’s the time to kick, he tells me. Lean in and crank it up.

Crank what up??? How??? My crank must be broken, my engine overheated, the wheels are soon to come off. The finish line is ahead but I refuse to look at it because it is, like so freaking far away.

And then suddenly it is not so far away and I am crossing it but not before Alison Gittelman appears out of thin air to make her cameo appearance in my race. And in my finish line video, which, firm believer in public shaming I apparently am, I provide here for your entertainment:

As you can see, I was a wee bit happy…I am not so sure how much of the happiness was a result of qualifying and how much was a result of the fact that the freaking run was finally freaking over.

My run time / pace / place: 23:15.1 (7:29). That makes me 29th of 64 on this hardest-for-me leg. I refuse to calculate my gender place since it is just too darned depressing 😉 If you must, then you must do the counting yourself; full searchable results are here.
Fastest F 40-44 run: 41-year-old Heather Butcher from North Point, Florida. She’ll be taking that super-awesome 6:19 pace 5K (19:40.1) to Edmonton, Canada as part of Team USA.
Fastest runs overall: I don’t know how either of them run this way, especially after a swim and a bike: well done to the jaw-droppingly fast (and, you may recall, triply landlocked) Erin Dolan  for her 5:58 pace 5K (18:35) and to 23-year-old Dustin Thomas of Broadview Heights, Ohio for his (insert dramatic pause here) five freaking minutes eleven freaking seconds pace run which came after a 1:27 pace swim and a 22.5 mph spin through scenic downtown Milwaukee. (Believe it or not, that amazing effort didn’t earn him the first slot in his division at Worlds. Or the second, third or even fourth. Nope, it was “only” good enough to earn him the 5th slotthose young thangs sure can fly!)

When in Milwaukee be sure to visit our new friends at Lake Park Bistro. Ask for Paul and Carlos--they rock!

When in Milwaukee get thee to Lake Park Bistro. Ask for Paul and Carlos–they rock!

Post-race we did a little celebratory Tour de Milwaukee: attempted to have a Rochefort at the Palm but its Sunday hours aren’t conducive to post-race celebrating. So we headed down the street to the St Francis Brewery, where the beers are named after the Seven Deadly Sins (Wrath was my favorite beer but it’s not my favorite sin; talk amongst yourselves to guess which one is.)  Then we ended up at our new favorite restaurant, the rather fancy Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, where they overlooked the compression tights that conformed perfectly to our legs but not-so-perfectly to their dress code. They even gave us the best seat in the house and treated me like a total rock star for qualifying. As if I didn’t already have enough to smile about!

Actually, later I’d find I had even more to smile about: two women in my age group got 2:00 penalties on the bike leg, so even though they crossed the line before me their official finish time once the penalty was added ranks them lower than me. (I don’t know what they did but all ya’ll triathletes should really make sure you know the rules; there’s a list of common penalty-worthy practices you should avoid here.) So instead of being 18th and getting the last Worlds-qualifying slot, I was 16th. Which is kinda even more cool, even though it is lousy for them since one now has to cross her fingers for a roll down slot.

So, I have a new goal and a lot of work ahead of me!

That’s all for now. As usual, thanks for stopping by.  Remember Rich Angelo, kick like Alison Gittleman, and be willing to suspend your disbelief like me; sometimes triply land-locked Nebraskans rock open-water swims, kind strangers return ejected Garmins* and 42-year-old single mothers who were too slow to make their college track teams freaking qualify for freaking Worlds.

If you’re truly local to me, see you at tomorrow’s Cranberry Sprint. If I merely imagined you were, I’ll see you in Edmonton! 🙂

Take care,

– cj
* breaking news! The Garmin arrived from Colorado the day before yesterday! And it actually still works! I immediately removed it from the quick release mount and put it back on the standard wristband it came on–anybody want the quick release kit? FREE! 🙂

Hurrah! It has some serious road rash, which I am all sorts of pleased about. Gotta have battle scars.

Hurrah! It came home with some serious road rash, which I am all sorts of pleased about. Battle scars rock.

Retails for $19.99. Your price: FREE! Ping me if you're insane enough to want it! :)

My quick release kit has been released of its dutis and put back in its original packaging, which I for some unknown reason actually kept. Retail: $19.99. Your price: FREE! Anyone insane enough to want it?

Posted in My Race Reports, Nationals, World Championships | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nationals 2013: Sometimes You Gotta Lose to Win

I just qualified for Team USA at the Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee, but lost my $400 Garmin in the process. I guess “they” are right when they say winning comes at a cost, but I am so giddy about representing the United States at the World Championships in August 2014 that I don’t even care 🙂 The top 18 in each division qualify for Worlds automatically; if any of the top 18 don’t want to go, the slots “roll down” as far as #25. Check out who got the last of those automatic slots 🙂


Short version of the race since I am doing this post on my iPhone: the swim was great-for me, which is to say as I exited T1 with my handsome steed someone screamed “you’re 30th!” That’s out of something around 70 chicks, so Viper and I had our work cut out for us but as the kids would say, NBD.

By the three-mile mark we had made short work of 12 of them, by six miles the body count was up to a lucky-for-me 13, and I reached down to get my water bottle at precisely the wrong moment and my knee hit my wrist and my Garmin popped off the bike mount.

My quick-release wristband, forever released of holding my long-lost 910XT.

My quick-release wristband, forever released of holding my long-lost 910XT.

Naturally, it occurred to me that the ejected item was worth a wee bit more than, say, a spent Gu tube…so much so that some riders would even pull over and fetch it. It made me smile to realize that I am so not in that camp. So I mentally let go of what my wrist mount had already expelled and pointed at a pack of spectators and yelled, “Garmin! Get it! 3517!!!”

Who knows if they understood this shorthand for “Hey! You guys! Help! I just lost my Garmin! That’s it bouncing around wildly on the pavement! Would you please risk life and limb to run out into the middle of the road, dodge in between all those cyclists speeding past at 25 mph, and get that Garmin which is probably broken anyways due to the force of the impact? And once you’ve done that can you schlep all the way to transition, locate the lost and found and tell the nice people there it belongs to athlete # 3517? Thanks so much; you totally rock! Beers on me after the race!”

Yeah, so, right. I guess time will tell if they got that message, and then acted upon it.

I continued passing cyclists, both males from Wave 1 as well as a few more Wave 2 chicks (it was great being Wave 2, as I knew that every girl out there was my competitor–this is a luxury I rarely have.) I transitioned well and noted that the majority of bikes in my rack area (ie, my competitors) were still out on the course (as they should be).

My coach and fellow TC2 athlete Evan Pardi were at Run Out waiting for me, and they yelled, “YOU’RE 14th!!!!” Which was both exciting and terrifying.

I will save the blow-blow-blow for another post; short story is that I have a lot of work to do on my run–clearly, as I dropped four places to #18 over the 5k course–but game on and I will be ready for Worlds next summer! Canada, you have been forewarned!!!! 🙂 -cj

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Two Thumbs Up For Milwaukee

Milwaukee loves us :)

Milwaukee loves us 🙂

Truth be told I wasn’t sure how this whole Nationals-in-Milwaukee thang was going to work out. I was more than a little spoiled by the whole Nationals-in-Burlington-Vermont thang for two years, and Viper and I were pretty sure we wouldn’t fit in, assumed we’d stick out like a Rochefort (yum) in a cooler-full of Miller (yikes). Word on the street was that San Diego was the also-ran host location for the 2013 and 2104 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, and I was really mourning San Diego’s loss.

Update: well done, USA Triathlon…this city totally-completely-wholly gets two thumbs up from cj. (Site Selection Committee, you are free to breathe a collective sigh of relief.)  So far Viper and I both love it! Well, I should say so far one of us loves it; Viper has yet to get his sea legs in this city by Lake Michigan, since he spent the better part of yesterday stuck on this truck, poor boy:

When I told the nice guy at Race Day Transport I was eager to be reunited with my trusty stead, he smiled and said "you and about 200 others whose bikes we shipped." I assured him that while they might want their bikes, their want pales in comparison to mine :)

When I told the nice guy at Race Day Transport I was eager to be reunited with my trusty stead, he smiled and said “you and about 200 others whose bikes we shipped.” I assured him that while they might *want* their bikes, I was the only one who truly *neeed* hers. Guess who got her bike first? 🙂

With Viper out of commission for a few hours I was left to my own devices which in this instance means I had ample time to not only be issued my timing chip, but also ample time to lose it and find it again. (File under: Things That Only Happen To Me. What can I say? I don’t function well when Viper’s under duress.) Once I was done with that nonsense (I had left it at the Race Day Transport booth, whilst attempting to cajole the boys to pick up the unloading pace), I then had plenty of time to scope out the course…and check this out Viper and I get to ride not only on the highway but ON AN OVERPASS AND ON THIS BRIDGE!!!

Hoan Bridge, northbound side of I-794...the same side that will be closed for the race :)

Hoan Bridge, northbound side of I-794…the same side that will be closed for the race 🙂 Don’t tell my father: this bridge is named for a Socialist. Yep, it’s true: it is named after Daniel Hoan, one of the longest-serving mayors of Milwaukee. If this bridge looks familiar to you and you’ve never been to Milwaukee, it is probably because it was used to film the car chase scene in The Blues Brothers. Oh, HOW COOL IS THIS I ASK YOU?!?!?

….and here is the overpass…isn’t it great???

weeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! :)

weeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! 🙂 Yep, right up that overpass on the way out…then right back down it on the way into transition. With that super-sweet decline, Viper is hoping to break the speed limit on the way back in, oh yes he is.

The non-highway half of the course is gorgeous, too…

Bike course, Part 1: hugs Lake Michigan. Flat and oh-so-fast, as this triathlete illustrates. Yum.

Bike course, Part 1: hugs Lake Michigan. Flat and oh-so-fast, as this triathlete illustrates. Yum.

Since this is a triathlon, there are legs other than the bike and believe it or not I did a little recon on those too. The swim start is rather awesome, though I am a little concerned about that bridge…it is an out-and-back course, so swimmers will be going in both directions under that rather narrow span. Hmmmm….

the good news is I am in Wave the course won't be terribly busy. I'll also get to watch the Oly athletes duke it out on Saturday. My coach is racing then and he says he is looking forward to the "combat" of it. I am pretty sure he's not joking.

the good news is I am in Wave 2…so the course won’t be terribly busy. I’ll also get to watch the Oly athletes duke it out on Saturday so going into my Sunday race I’ll better know what I’m in for. My coach is racing the Oly and he says he is looking forward to the “combat” of it. I am pretty sure he’s not joking.

The run course is totally tailor-made for cj, and by that I mean it would take a very active imagination to think there is anything remotely like a hill here:

Flat as a slice of Wisconsin cheese. All 3.1 miles of it. I know because I ran it yesterday. I am insanely excited.

Flat as a slice of Wisconsin cheese. All 3.1 miles of it. I know because I ran it yesterday. I am insanely excited.

I won’t have time to enjoy the scenery on race day, so I was glad to see it yesterday since the course is rather beautiful and not just on the lake side…

random scene of beauty on the bike course. Can't really tell from the pic but that's a waterfall cascading down. Really cool.

random scene of beauty on the bike course. Can’t really tell from the pic but that’s a waterfall cascading down. Really cool.

We both bike and run right past the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is a piece of art in an of itself.

We both bike and run right past the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is a piece of art in an of itself.

This shot is for Daughter #2, who would LOVE this store!

This shot is for Daughter #2, who would LOVE this store!

As a devoted ocean snob I have always thought lakes should not be able to call their shorelines "beaches." Lake Michigan is an exception to the rule.

As a devoted ocean snob I have always thought lakes should not be able to call their shorelines “beaches.” Lake Michigan is an exception to the rule.

apparently beach volleyball is a huge hit at Bradford Beach--there are nets as far as the eye can see!

apparently beach volleyball is a huge hit at Bradford Beach–there are nets as far as the eye can see!

Net-net, Milwaukee is turning out to be just as cool as San Diego–perhaps even moreso since I never in a million years expected it to be cool. I found awesome coffee here…

Awesome coffee here

OK, I was *told* to find it…my dermatologist is from Milwaukee and she suggested I seek this place out. Her coffee knowledge is clearly more than skin deep since this place rocks

identity crisis

Alterra is actually undergoing a name change…it is now Colectivo, but is in that awkward brand transition phase where all the logos don’t quite coordinate yet.

…a great place for a pre-race dinner Saturday night…

Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro. The Barlotta family owns a restaurant in the Wynn in Vegas, too, or so I am told.

Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. The Barlotta family owns a restaurant in the Wynn in Vegas, too, or so I am told.

…and, mercifully, a bar that serves Belgian beer (hurrah!)

The Palm is on Kinnickinnic Street, which locals just call "KK". The name comes from the English phoneticization of an Ojibwe word meaning "tobacco."

The Palm has a gazillion Belgian and is very, very dark and is in a very very unassuming building  on Kinnickinnic Street, which locals just call “KK”. The name comes from the English phoneticization of an Ojibwe word meaning “tobacco.”

One more lake shot…sorry, I am a little smitten with it…

Pretty huge for a lake! I inda covet that lifeguard's job.

Pretty huge for a lake! I kinda covet that lifeguard’s job.

And now I am ready to race 🙂

Transition mat message from Daughter #1.

Transition mat message from Daughter #1…

...and from Daughter #2... :)

…and from Daughter #2… 🙂

super exciting


That’s all for now! Don’t doubt the Site Selection Committee, don’t judge a city by its bad beer and I’ll update you after I cross the finish line! – cj

me at Lake Michigan

me at Lake Michigan, trying to look like this is not a self portrait 🙂

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