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Author Archives: Elizabeth Waterstraat

No Sugar, No Cry

People often ask me what I eat.

Really, it is more a question what don’t I eat because I enjoy eating so much.

There is no magical formula for good eating. In general, I try to stay OTS – ‘off the sugar’ especially the weeks leading up to a race. On a more consistent basis, it’s a philosophy of eating a rainbow and three food groups at every meal. For the past year, I have also worked with Heather(Hedrick) Fink, a dietician and triathlete from NIFS in Indianapolis. Heather’s advice has been key to improving my overall diet and health.

Of course, it’s all easier said than done. I’m no stranger to riding the sugar coaster from caramel to caramel or cookie to cookie or eating a ½ gallon of ice cream in one sitting (ask my husband, it’s not a pretty sight).

But alas in every athlete’s life there comes a point where you acknowledge and accept that garbage in will indeed equal garbage out.

That’s why for a few days after a half ironman I give myself permission to eat nothing but garbage, to literally sit and wallow in a dumpster full of sugary snacks and fats.

So I thought I’d share my food intake from the past few days, starting with after the race on Sunday:

Sunday:

1 pm

½ Bag (maybe even ¾ of the bag….who knows) Cheddar Cheese Goldfish Crackers (they were whole grain, that counts for something, right?)

2:30 pm

1 Grande Toffee Nut Americano (with 3 Splendas & enough ½ and ½ to choke a cow)

3 pm

1 6-inch Oven-Roasted Chicken Sandwich from Subway (no cheese, with extra spicy mustard)

6 pm

About 6 steak slices at the awards dinner – but then they ran out of food

8 pm

1 Large Dairy Queen Blizzard with cookie dough and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (plus the remainder of Chris’ Blizzard)

9:30 pm

Nearly passed out at Dairy Queen table, oversugared and exhausted

Monday:

7 am

Woke up and first words to Chris were “I’m hungry”

7:30 am

Scrambled Eggs
Banana
½ Apple Fritter
2 cups Skim Milk
½ Whole Grain Bagel With Honey
1 Peet’s Hazelnut Coffee (with cream)

1 pm

“Chris, I need to eat NOW”
1 Chicken Burrito (the size of my head & with enough salt to instantly kill a large man)

2:30 pm

“Chris, I’m still hungry”
1 row of Fig Newtons (still haven’t figured out exactly how many that is but it was enough to subsequently constipate me for the next 2 days)

4:30 pm

1 Power Bar (I was desperate, and hungry)

11:30 pm

1 bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal with skim milk

11:45 pm

1 spoonful of peanut butter (at the time it sounded like a good idea)

Tuesday:

7 am

¼ cup Oatmeal
¼ cup Golden Raisins
¼ cup Fat Free Plain Yogurt
1 cup coffee

8 am

1 almond baton (found this on my desk courtesy of a co-worker)

10 am

8 chocolate filled chocolates (also found these on my desk courtesy of another co-worker)

10:30 am

Stomachache

12 pm

2 cups Spinach Leaves (trying to make up for lost ground)
¼ cup Craisins
½ cup Garbanzo Beans

2 pm

4 more chocolates

2:30 pm

Stomachache

4:30 pm

A few handfuls of plain Goldfish crackers (Goldfish comprise about 20% of my diet)

6:30 pm

Sized up a package of peanut butter cup cookie dough at the grocery store but then decided that enough was enough

7 pm

½ of a milk chocolate bar (Chris’ grandma insisted “take some chocolate”, who was I to argue today?)

8 pm

½ Chicken Breast
1 cup of vegetables
3 pieces of Olive Bread with olive oil and romano cheese (in the process I accidentally dumped half the container of cheese all over the stove)

Wednesday:

6:30 am

¼ cup Fat Free Plain Yogurt
1 Banana
1/8 cup Almonds
2 cups chocolate-flavored coffee

11:45 am

2 cups Spinach Leaves
½ cup Garbanzo Beans
½ cup Strawberries
1 tomato
2 slices olive bread

4:30 pm

Handful of Goldfish crackers

6:30 pm

2 eggs
2 slices pumpernickel toast with honey
Handful of golden raisins
½ cup skim milk

By Wednesday, I was feeling back to normal and back on track. If I was training more, I would have eaten a more substantial dinner. But overall, that was a pretty typical day.

Sometimes you’ve got to let yourself get off track to remind yourself of why it’s good to stay on track in the first place. Trust me, after 2 days of sugar-loading you’ll be ready to climb back on board the wagon, raise a sugar-free flag, and make a healthy start the next day.

My next sugar meltdown is scheduled in 4 weeks after Duathlon Worlds in Canada. I plan to smother myself in sugar and pass out drooling at the Dairy Queen table (yes, there is a DQ in CornerBrook – I’ve already checked!).

Everything is Bigger In Texas

Buffalo Springs Lake Half Ironman – Texas. This was the big one. I had been anticipating and visualizing this race for the past year. I could see the canyons, feel the heat, feel the energy from the oil pumps in the fields. The race had played out many times in my head and all that was left was to arrive in Texas and get the job done.

The week leading up to the race, I was feeling great – almost too great. I was gunning to win my age group and willing to do whatever it would take to make that happen. There was fire inside of me.

I departed on Friday, traveling solo. My husband, Chris, shipped my bike on Monday, so I was traveling light with a wheel bag and wheeled suitcase. A delay in Chicago caused me to miss my connecting flight from Dallas to Lubbock, but luckily I was able to catch the next flight. Settling into my seat, a voice behind me said “Are you Liz, one of the nation’s top long course athletes for the past 3 years?” Nothing like throwing a little pressure into the pot. It was Jerry MacNeill – the race announcer. He had done his homework on me and everyone else in the race. For the rest of the flight, we passed the time talking about the successes, the potential, and the talent of the best amateur athletes in the nation.

Finally, I arrived in Lubbock. Just like in my mind, it was flat, hot, and windy. I checked into my hotel and called Chris to tell him I had finally arrived and he immediately said “I’m in the car, I’ve got your road bike packed up, and I’m on my way to the airport.” He then explained the situation, how he had spent the entire morning with my coach, Jennifer, trying to locate my bike and locate a new time trial bike to send to me. Apparently, the shipping company could not locate my bike.

I had no bike, no helmet, no water bottles, and only a rear wheel. I saw myself sitting on top of a Zipp 404 rear wheel, pushing across 56 miles and it did not look good. One thing was for sure – I wouldn’t have a very strong run after that.

For the next 6 hours, I was on the phone. First, I called the shipping company. Then, I called my coach. Then I cried. Then I paced. Then I called shipping company again. I spoke with every manager, consumer advocate, customer service rep, locally, nationally, in Fort Worth, in Lubbock, I tried being nice, I tried crying, I tried being angry. I cried some more. They just did not know where my bike was. The worst part was the waiting – waiting on hold, waiting to be connected, waiting to see if by some small chance a truck would pull up at the hotel and deliver my bike.

I went to the host hotel and approached the Race Director, Mike Greer. When I explained the situation, in tears, he said in his comforting Texas talk, “Here’s what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna ride my wife’s bike.” We found his wife and though she was about 5 inches taller than me, it was worth a shot. Almost instantly, several other people gathered around, including Jurgen (the head official and bike mechanic), Jerry, and several other local triathletes, trying to think of someone, anyone that would have a smaller bike for me to ride. Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, including their hearts, their helpfulness, and their hope.

Meanwhile, I was starting to lose it in my head. I didn’t come to this race to ride someone else’s bike. I didn’t come to this race to simply finish. I had a plan and it did not include this happening to me. Everything had been going so well – why this, why now? Part of me wanted to get back on a plane and go home. I didn’t know what to do or what I could do. I wanted to be on my bike – my bike fit so well, so comfortably. But part of me knew that just would not happen. I was not going to see my bike by Sunday.

I had no choice – I had to change my mindset. This was an obstacle but also an opportunity. This was a problem but also a possibility. If I couldn’t handle this situation, it would not have happened to me. I had to believe in my own versatility, flexibility, and just plain ability to succeed no matter what the circumstance.

At that point, I called my husband and said “You’re coming to Texas.” Without one word of regret, anger, or frustration, he booked his flight for the next morning.

We borrowed clip on aero bars from Jurgen. Chris set up my road bike in the most time trial position possible. I rode it around the parking lot and it felt great – just like my time trial bike. This would be as good as it would get and I just had to go with it.

Race morning, I woke up at 4:30 am and at 5:15 am we headed out to the canyon. And then we hit traffic, a long line of cars waiting to park. I was getting nervous. It was very dark, there was lightening off in the distance, and the wind was blowing with force.

We parked at 6:05 am, Chris changed my wheel, I picked up my bike and literally ran through the parking lot and down the steep hill into transition with 5 minutes to spare. I threw my stuff on to the ground and then transition closed.

The race started promptly with the professionals taking off at 6:30 am. Leslie Curley and I stood around watching the waves before us go off. The wind was blowing strong from the northeast. It was actually kind of chilly out. The water was choppy. The wave sizes were large. And I had a road bike waiting for me in transition. Clearly this was not the race I had pictured but I still had to believe in my training, follow my plan, and hope for the best.

The swim course was hard to see in it’s entirety so I figured I would start to the right, go around the cattails, and then just look for the buoys to find the course. We started at 7 am. My plan was to bolt out and establish my own position. With the wind blowing across the water, it was choppy going out but I found a good smooth place to swim on my own. I pictured myself swimming in the endless pool, with Karyn Austin telling me to bring my elbows up high, slice into the water, and relax. I was passing many people from the waves before me and feeling good. I knew I had to have a strong swim in order to make up for what might be a very tricky bike. I saw a few yellow caps ahead of me so I knew I was right on pace. We made a turn south and the wind was at our backs. The water was wide open and I picked up my pace, letting the current push me along. I was wearing my new Ironman/Blue Seventy wetsuit and it was making me smooth, slippery, and fast. I was pulling water, rolling my hips. Swimming has never felt that good.

I reached the mat at 27:07. I felt good, but that was a PR by over 4 minutes. Either the course was short or I was having the swim of my life. I was looking for some reference point about my position from Chris but all he said was “run, Liz, run!”. I struggled a little getting my wetsuit off but then grabbed my bike, hoped for the best, and rode off with Chris yelling at me “3 minutes, Liz, 3 minutes!” The lead woman was 3 minutes ahead.

I rode angry. I rode with fire. I had to – it wasn’t even a choice. I knew that I would have to completely reverse my usual half-Ironman pacing plan and ride like a rocket for the first half. I knew the bike would limit my performance and I couldn’t afford the mental cost of being passed too early. The first hill is immediately out of transition. After that, it’s a descent into the canyon followed soon by another hill climbing back out. The hills were long and gradual. I stayed under control, seated, and spinning. These were not stomp and mash hills. If I rode the hills hard, it would cost me and I didn’t have too much to spend today.

I was in a good rhythm and pushing along. The headwind was strong but the tailwinds were a welcome relief. The cloud cover kept the temperature cool and comfortable. The next 10 miles were flat. I was surprised that no one had passed me so I kept up my effort level. The aero bars were awkward but I tried to ignore it. We began the descent into the canyon. I was hitting 39 mph on the descents, but was passed by another woman. She would outdescend me and I would outclimb her. This was frustrating – I am a very fast descender for my size and each time she outdescended me I got more and more angry.

We hit the first out and back and I noticed Leslie and some other women over 4 minutes behind me. Just hold them off as long as you can, keep pushing those legs. At the next out and back, they had gained a minute on me. Keep pushing, keep doing what you can, you can do this, I thought. I pushed myself into holding them off for 1:15, then 1:30, then 1:45. I saw Natascha coming the other way with such ease, grace, and speed that it was very inspiring.

Certainly if I’ve held them off this long, I can do 2:00. But my legs were starting to scoff back at me. A road bike engages your quads more and with each pedal stroke my quads were growing heavier, sorer, and more fatigued.

At 2:00, Leslie passed me. We were heading out of the canyon, again, and the wind was in our face. I had to keep pushing. Between 2:00 and 2:15, I was passed by Jennifer, Autumn, and April. I wanted so badly to respond, to attack and surge, and take my place back. I was pushing but at a certain point my legs, or the bike, stopped responding. I could only push the bike so far. On a road bike, you can get more power but it costs you more and you can only hold it for so long.

At 2:15, my legs hurt so bad that I wanted to throw up. I hit a pothole and got worried about flatting.
The saddle was killing me. My sit bones were so angry and sore that I had to get up out of the saddle every 5 minutes. The wind was cutting across me. Discomfort in the aerobars was making me squirrely and shaky. I even started to cry. Here’s the honest truth – at least once in a half-Ironman bike I always cry. It’s the point at which you are so tired, so tired of being “on”, and pushing, and so scared of the possibility of your own success that you just break down. But, I thought, I am bigger than this. I can get through this.

At 2:30 I was still on the bike with several miles to go. I just wanted to be done and knowing that this would be one of my slowest half-IM bike times ever was making me mad.

My head was half in the race, half out. The thought of finishing in over 5 hours was so frustrating. So I thought about just stopping all together. But then the thought of seeing DNF next to my name was so ridiculous, so shameful that I quickly slapped it out of my head. I thought about all of the work that Chris put into coming here, all the sacrifice of time and money and I scolded myself for being so selfish as to think about quitting. At the very least, I could finish top 5 of my AG and get that 70.3 slot that I had been hoping for. It was time to take charge and let the race come back to me.

I descended the last hill into transition and I knew that getting off the bike would be ugly. And it was. I had some trouble racking my bike and left it dangling on the metal rack, sputtering, coughing, and completely spent. I put my shoes on and then took off running. Chris said something cheerful and I grimaced.

I set out on to the run course. The good news is that my quads were cooked but my hamstrings were feeling fresh. The first 3 miles of the run are rolling and shaded as the course twists around the lake. I could not tell my position and I just had to believe that the other women were right within my reach. The sun had broken through the clouds and the day was warming up. The first 2 miles felt like a slow, painful shuffle as my body transitioned to running.

My legs felt fine but as always my head has other plans. I always have to talk myself into the first few miles of the half-Ironman run. As long as you know that ahead of time, you’ll get through this distance. I always tell myself to give it 6 miles and then see how it feels. I know, 6 miles is a long way but you have to be willing to wait. You have to be patient, trust that your nutrition and pacing plan set you up for a strong run.

At mile 4, the cloud in my head cleared and I started feeling good. I began the slow and steep climb up a hill and passed Leslie. I had trained hills so much that this hill was nothing to me. After a quick plateau, the course descends steeply. I used the descent to gain some ground as I could see several women ahead. The course then began another brutal ascent and I passed a few more women – they were struggling, huffing, but I stayed light on my feet.

Coming over the hill, you take a right turn on to a long, hot, endless road. This was what I had been visualizing – this field, this heat, running below these power lines buzzing with energy. The wind was strong at my back and I took advantage of it. I picked up the pace. I was passing people and ahead I could see the heat rising from the fields. I knew the turnaround was off in the distance, I could see it and I had to keep pushing to it. As I approached the turnaround, I could see that the other women were close. I tried turning around to see if they were in my age group or wave but everyone looked young, fit, and fast. The women over 40 had started 25 minutes ahead of us, but many of them were now mixed in with us making it tough to tell my position. I hit the turnaround at 48 minutes and picked up the pace even more. I started doing the math in my head and realized that I could finish in under 4:55. Keep going, keep going! The race was coming back to me – I just had to give it permission to come back into my control.

I was focused and furious. The run was mine – road bike or no bike – I knew I could always run. I began the climbs and descents back into the canyon and kept pushing into the headwind. I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me but I had to keep pushing. At mile 9, the descent down the hill because unbearably painful as my wet shoes squished and pressed against a growing bunch of blisters on my toes. Push the pain out of your head, I told myself. Push it out. At mile 11 I almost knocked a guy down at an aid station. I apologized and kept going full speed ahead.

The last 2 miles were painful, in my gut, legs, and head. I twisted back along the lake. I would see a woman ahead and pick it up to pass her only to realize she was over 40. I was tired, sore, and feeling sick. As I approached the last ½ mile, I heard Jerry shout “Jennifer” and knew that Jennifer Johnson had finished and won. I didn’t know if I was first, second, third, or whatever but I knew I would finish pretty darn close.

Afterwards, Chris told me that I was right up there and congratulated me for a great run – 1:34. He didn’t think that anyone finished ahead of me in my AG but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I didn’t even want to think about Hawaii.

The pain in my legs was unbearable. I couldn’t even bend over to take off my shoes. I just walked around in circles, not sure if I should sit, cry in pain, or throw up – again in pain. I tried to drink some Gatorade but it made me feel sick. I wanted something salty. I wanted meat and I wanted coffee.

Then, I waited for the results. I waited and waited.

I didn’t set out to qualify for Hawaii. I didn’t even talk or think about it before the race. Just do the race and the rest would take care of itself. When I found the results and realized that I had won my AG and the slot to Hawaii, I realized that I had about 6 hours to make a decision that would change the rest of my life.

The awards ceremony was exciting. After the professionals, they started with the AG women’s awards. They honored the top 5 in my AG and called me to the front, reading off a few of my accomplishments from the past few years and then mentioning my bike troubles. I got up on the first place box. Jerry asked if I would accept the slot to Kona, and at that moment time stood still. I looked out in the crowd and saw my husband who had sacrificed an entire weekend of his own racing for me, I saw Natascha Badmann and Heather Fuhr looking at me with years of Kona in their eyes, I saw the faces of hundreds of other triathletes hungry for a slot to Hawaii, hungry for the opportunity of a lifetime that was now right in front of me and ready to be mine – and I knew this was it – this was the right thing to do. I nodded my head and said yes. And Jerry said “Congratulations Elizabeth Fedofsky, you are going to Kona.”

At that moment, I knew my life had changed forever. I knew that in less than 4 months I would take part in something magical and monumental – something that would forever change the way I think about life and the way I think about myself.

Later that night, I woke up and knew something was different. Then I thought to myself, “you idiot, you just signed up for an Ironman.” I laughed and fell back to sleep, picturing myself moving across the open ocean water, pushing into the turnaround at Hawi, and shuffling along the black lava fields of the Big Island.

There’s a lot of work ahead. But there’s also a lot of work behind me. It’s taken me years to believe in myself, my training, and my abilities. This weekend, I had proven to myself and every one else that if I give myself a chance, I’ll make big things happen. I didn’t have the bike split that I wanted, or the race that I envisioned, but in giving it a try I got something much better.

So, yes, everything is indeed bigger in Texas – and not just in terms of the problems, but the possibilities – the possibility that when you go big and believe in yourself, big things will happen.

Aloha, Hawaii. I’ll see you in October!

P.S. – My bike arrived in Lubbock on Monday @ 7 am.

Staying on the Sauce

It’s a little over a week into 2007 and many of you are probably struggling to stay on the path of your new year’s resolutions. The average person maintains their resolutions for about 3 weeks. However, it seems more likely that most of us don’t even last that long. In support, concrete proof was delivered into my inbox a few days ago from a dear, but desperate friend. I thought I’d share his struggle with you; he writes……

“I challenged myself to abstain from ice cream, coffee, and alcohol in 2007. How about that trifecta? Well, one week and I’m batting .666. Dang, am I weak or what. I lost number three when I caved in and began sipping Merlot to mask my early caffeine withdrawal symptoms, and no – not in the morning.”

Dear friend, I’m going to write about you today because I care about you. And I care that you have chosen to eliminate three of the most trifectfully wonderful things in our world – ice cream, coffee, and alcohol. The only thing you are perhaps missing from your list would be peanut butter. But that would make it a fourfecta which doesn’t sound nearly as cool as the three-fold trifection you described.

Let’s start with the coffee. The crux of the matter is why you would consider doing this to yourself. To go a day without coffee would be cruel punishment to every cell in your body. You will become snippy, short, and ornery – more so than usual. Or at least that’s what they told me. You will see a permanent white halo with your vision and feel a fog in your head. You will pass most of your day sleeping to shake off a headache worse than any hangover you’ve ever had. You might even start shaking, foaming, or speaking in strange tongues mumbling Sumatra, Guatemalan Antigua, Peaberry under your un-coffee tainted breath. You may even see things. For up to 5 days you will become intolerable to be around. You will accomplish nothing at work. Co-workers will leave notes on your desk pleading you to please, go back on the sauce. Socially, it will set a dividing line between you, now a non-drinker, and them, the coffee drinkers. You will walk into a coffee shop while the coffee drinkers silently berate you with OUTLANDER LEAVE when you order tea or – god forbid – decaf. You will not hear this out loud, but be sure it is happening in their heads.

Let’s move next to ice cream. Tyler Hamilton once said in a magazine that he gave up ice cream for a year in preparation for the Tour de France. You see where that got him. Lesson learned – you cannot replace ice cream with dope. Not that you would, but he and you would probably be better off if you just stayed on the ice cream. There are so many wonderful things about ice cream – where to begin. Moose Tracks, Turtle Soup, Caramel Caribou these create purely happy and joyous feelings in your mouth. And there is no substitute. Soy Dream does not count. Your body knows better. Your mind is just making you want real ice cream even more with every spoonful of Soy Dream. And we’ve already had the discussion where soybeans are eaten by cows so real-milk is really soy-milk. So you might as well cut out the middle man and eat the real ice cream.

Let’s now move to the alcohol. A few things here. First, if you are going to give in forget about Merlot. May I suggest some wines that you must not miss – Tempranillo, Argentinian Malbec, Columbia Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon from Indian Wells, or Australian Shiraz. These would be wines worthy of breakdown. These wines will leave you in the middle of the street shouting about Ironman. Not that I would know. Second, in the words of Ben Franklin, beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy. If it was good enough from the man that did something with a light bulb, then it should be good enough for you. If not, then you might want to think about why you are too good for Ben Franklin and his advice. Third, I’m glad to hear that you are not sipping wine in the morning. Even if you did, it wouldn’t be that unusual and I wouldn’t think any less of you. I’ve seen grown men drink beer for breakfast on Ragbrai or shots of pucker before 10 am. So, Merlot in the morning would actually make you quite classy in my book but it would leave you with purple teeth for most of the day.

Let’s talk about weakness. To give in to what you love in life is not weakness. Why do we feel we must give up the things we love in life to be “good people”. Who says we need resolutions? If you ask me, resolutions smell fainty of made-up media make believe. Kind of like sweetest day – the biggest bullshit holiday. Like you can only be sweet on that day. Like you can only be good if you resolve to eliminate everything you love for an entire year. Life is far too short to limit yourself from these things. You could be gone tomorrow and nowhere will they announce that here lays a man who gave up coffee for the past year and lived a better life because of it. I share this with you because these are the thought processes I have gone through in evaluating all of my own vices or things I should probably resolve to give up – coffee, spending too much time in my closet, drinking wine, spending hours each day exercising. And what I realized is that I should really just resolve to be true to myself, generous to others, and committed to pursuing my passions. These are things they will talk about when I am gone. These are things that will leave a legacy of who Iwe are with everyone we have known.

Good people do all sorts of bad things – drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, drive fast, have a beer for breakfast. These are all things that good people I know are doing. To stop doing these things would make them less who they have taken so long to grow into. Release yourself from resolutions. There’s no need to stop being who you are because other people make you feel like you should change. The new year has nothing to do with being a new or better person. You can be a better person every single day by staying true to yourself and what you love. And by drinking coffee each day – not negotiable. The wine and ice cream are optional on a daily basis. In fact, you might want to lay off of those until the weekend.

So, my friend, join my saucy and sassy legion of sinners and resolve to stay on the sauce – the coffee, the wine, the caramel sauce on top of your Moose Tracks, whatever sauce you please.

In The Name Of Speed

It was Friday night and what better to do than swim. This is what happens when you start to love the sport. So much you marry the sport by marrying someone also really into it. You find yourself at the gym, Friday night, technically the “off season” and you are thrilled.

All good swims – especially on a Friday night – begin in the hot tub. Physiologically there is good reason not to do this but who cares. Physiologically there is also good reason not to do Ironman, not to eat cookies for dinner, and not to drink coffee every day.

After warming up in the hot tub, and then the pool, after some drills, we start the mainset. Ok, it’s not really a mainset. A mainset is something your coach writes for you, something serious that follows the clock. But not today. I’m not even looking at the clock. I did the other day and realized it took me almost 45 seconds longer than usual to swim a 200. I chalked it up to clock malfunction. But something about two weeks completely off suggests otherwise.

No clock tonight but still for the sake of trying to look like/act like/be like a swimmer, let’s call it a mainset. 6 x 300 – all out. Just kidding on that part. These days “all out” means ok, that’s it, all out of the pool, everyone, out, let’s go wine tasting instead. So really it’s 6 x 300 mainset made up by me. The best kind. Because I can do whatever I want and boss Chris around (told you I was bossy) – as in, you will swim 6 x 50 fist, you will swim 4 x 100 all fly, you will swim with me on your back (good for building strength). Chris stands there attentive, captive, really an imprisoned victim of my swim set waiting for directions about the first one.

“Do you have your leash?” I ask. There is something priceless about asking your husband if he has his leash. You know, the leash I use to keep him from going to far astray, from making other lady friends. All right, you got me – it’s the leash we use in the pool. How boring is that. I like the adultery leash much better. Or the bedroom leash. But since my mom reads this I prefer not to talk about things like that.

He looks at me, a bit puzzled but then he says “Yes, it’s in my bag.” Like an obedient little puppy (BOSS!), he walks into the locker room and returns a few minutes later with….the leash. Before you wonder why we have a leash…in Chris’ defense he won it at a race. Yes, triathlon really goes all out when it comes to prizes for winning a race. Here you go – you just suffered 2+ hours after training all the fat off of your body for months. Here’s that ankle leash you were hoping for.

Gee thanks.

The ankle leash is technically called a pulling ankle lock. As your ankles are leashed together, they sink lower and lower in the pool. With your rear sagging and your feet scraping the black lane line, you are forced to think about and find what it takes to keep your legs afloat. Which you can usually do by way of two things, (1) pressing your chest, or (2) turning your arms over faster and faster to try to get down the last as fast as you can while the entire therapy pool whispers to each other “oh my gosh that poor guy his wife tied his ankles together and now he’s trying to get away.”

He’s not getting very far.

I got the idea to use the leash the other day when my coach explained that she had spent a winter working with the leash and felt it really helped. I’ll do anything to improve my swim stroke – heck if my coach told me that I could swim faster by giving up coffee I might give it a try.

Don’t get any ideas, Jen.

But that’s how serious I get about swimming. And how serious I am about getting faster. I mean, we all want to get fast. Think of all the stupid things you’ve tried- biopace, filling your water bottles with sand, 650 wheels on a 6 foot tall man, running with a weighted vest, attempting a flying mount on an uphill grade (not that I saw this at this year’s short course Nationals or anything). We toss all vanity and common sense aside for the sake of speed.

Enter the speedo pulling ankle lock.

Chris shackles himself first. Securing his ankles together with two Velcro straps is his first challenge. Doing the next 300 while wearing a ball gag and a metal choke collar was his next. Oops, sorry about that – took the leash fantazy a bit too far and got a bit too carried away.

So there I am, finger tip dragging my way across the 300, leading the lane (ever tried swimming behind a man with a leash?) when I notice something in the corner of my eye. Something large and looming coming my way. It’s Chris. Actually it’s his legs. They are literally dragging the bottom of the pool floor. Imagine legs pointing 90 degrees downward from his ass to make a perfect right angle with his body.

I turn to breathe but turn myself right into the perfect view of this. For some reason, this is the funniest thing I have ever seen. I start laughing. My poor husband. I can’t believe he let me talk him into this. All in the name of speed. But no matter how sorry I feel for him, I start to laugh again. Big belly laughs that you can only hold in for so long under the water before you start taking water in so I finally just pop up and laugh.

The therapy pool looks at me like I am crazy not just for leashing my husband but for erupting mid-lap in laughs.

Ok, focus, Liz, focus. Back to that 300 drill/swim. I continue with my swim, hit the wall and start back the other way. But as I come off the wall and again see Chris’ feet dragging the ground. I laugh. I have to pop up, laugh some more, then jump back in. I swim a little further and see him flip turn with the leash around his ankles and have to pop up again to laugh. Seriously – flip turning with the leash? It just didn’t look right.

Ok, last 100. I can do this. I can hold in laughter and finish this up. This is the longest 300 of my life and I’m sure Chris feels the same. Except he is leashed and I am just laughing. I start swimming along and as Chris approaches I tell himself “don’t look don’t look don’t look” just so I can finish without laughing again. I make it to the wall, hypoxic at this point because I haven’t breathed for the past 25 yards because I couldn’t turn his way. At the wall I start laughing so hard that when Chris finishes he can’t help but laugh too.

“But it makes you fast,”
I said in between laughs. He laughs some more. He tries to take off the leash – as challenging as swimming with it – while saying something about it being impossible to flip turn with the leash and I say to him that I can’t believe he even tried.

He takes off the leash and throws it my way. In a few short yards I am feeling myself with feet dragging on the ground while I flail down the lane trying to figure out how to keep my chest pressed, my ass afloat, and my toenails in tact. But it makes you fast but it makes you fast the coach says it makes you fast.

In the name of speed, I’m sold.

After the leash, some pulling, and other things you do in November to fill 300’s and pass the time, we decide to go into the sauna. As we walked towards it, someone in the hot tub signals our way. You know how when you do something that makes you feel really awkward and makes you look even dumber you hope that no one is watching? Well that’s never the case. Apparently this man was swimming next to us and wanted to know more about the leash.

He asks why we are doing it and we say that our coach suggested it to help our swim stroke. Then he looks at me and says “Will it makes me fast?”

Oh you bet. Or, that’s what we’ve been told. Our coach uses one and she’s really, really fast. So I’d say it works. He listens to all of this and pauses to think before he asks “where do you buy one of those?”

All in the name of speed. We will tie our ankles together, try anything just to get fast. Or will we. Is there something more that I am missing? Speed is my motivation, but with a man is it really the same?

To find out I ask Chris what he thought about swimming with the leash. “It sucked,” he said in between bites of pumpkin pie.

“So why did you do it then?” I asked.

“Because you told me to.” Ah, so now the truth comes out. The woman says get your leash, tether your ankles together and swim and the man says all right. In the name of obedience or the name of speed? It’s your call.

Happy New Year

New Years Eve was a little of the usual and the unusual this year.

The usual – a gathering of friends and family with food, beverages and fun conversation. The unusual – a covert operation to sniff out my wedding photos, a dog weigh–in, some of the best Chinese-Filipino food I have ever tasted and in bed by 10:30 pm.

The family gathered at the inlaws house. They have a spacious home with one of the most unique Asian flairs combined with American functionality. That just about describes the inlaws so when you see little red fringy things hanging in the doorways and small hand-crafted wooden roadblocks at the entrance to each room to keep the dogs out – well something about that just shouts “this is so mom and dad”.

There was a delicious assortment of Chinese-Filipino food. I’m not big into Asian food – which has been both a blessing and a curse being married to Chris. Lucky for me, Chris is not a big fan either (it doesn’t make sense but taste enough sticky rice and you can see where he’s coming from). Like most multi-generational homes, food at the inlaws home – Asian or not – is king (actually queen) and life. Popo is always cooking up ethnic food. It reminds me of growing up with my own grandmother, permanently planted in the kitchen with a pot of sauce simmering with Italian spices being stirred with a wooden spoon that served not only as a utensil but also an extension of her Italian hands when talking and a weapon for the sassy, the indolent or just when she wanted to make a really emphatic point.

Especially on holidays, Popo stands authoritative in the kitchen with her big metal pots slowly simmering. But not today. The food was actually catered from a family friend who provided a most interesting menu. Spicy squash fried into stringy cakes, chicken and noodles cooked with dangerously tasty amounts of turmeric, sticky rice with coconut rolled into corn husks, fried rice, grilled pork, cassava, flan. It was delicious enough to make me want to return the next day for leftovers for another belly full.

While all of that was enough to stuff me 10 times over, I believe it was Meredith’s homemade peanut butter cups that put me over the edge. She should probably share the recipe or at least stand on a street corner to sell these things because they are Good with a capital G.

Very Good.

After the feasting, conversation broke out while I broke away for a covert operation. You see, our wedding photos have gone missing. Last seen on the desk at the inlaws house about a year ago. If you do the math, you will realize that we were married over 3 years ago and still there are no photos aside from the ones in a big box (the box that went AWOL).

My mom – not pleased about this.

The operation was covert because it was assumed that because the pictures were now missing that I of course had them at my house. I hunted all over my house and could not find them. My assumption then was that they were at their house. Their house has about 100 closets that are cavernous and stacked high with boxes of Christmas decorations, shoes and other random things wrapped in plastic grocery bags.

I didn’t want anyone to catch on that perhaps I doubted. I had a feeling that given 10 minutes I could find them and prove myself as the not-as-crazy-as-you-think-even-though-she-is-33-and-still-no-babies daughter-in-law. I had a point to prove.

Mr. Tom tipped me off saying there was a good chance the photos could be hiding in the coat closet behind a stack of boxes wrapped in plastic bags. Going on this, I casually made my way towards the closet looking like I might be using the washroom. Darted right instead of left and found myself in a closet full of coats and shoes.

Help!

There we so many coats, furry things and boxes that it was scaring me. But I quickly got over myself to look for the box of photos. Finally when I realized they were not there, I gave everything one more look just to be sure when I realized I was sliding out on the floor.

Huh?

At that moment I smelled something really bad. Usually when you’re in a room by yourself and you smell something bad you at least have a warning. But this took me off guard. I picked up my foot, looked at the bottom of my sock and realized it was covered in crap.

My first reaction was that Popo booby trapped the closet because she knew I doubted and would hunt for the pictures. My second reaction was there is no way this was from my dog because I cleaned him out before we brought him over. My third reaction was somehow I have to get this cleaned up without setting off Popo – and a string of questions along the lines of what were you doing in the closet?

The mess got cleaned up and all of a sudden I am at the party without my socks. But still on a mission. Next stop was Chris’ old bedroom. Mr. Tom’s insider tip came up empty and I had this sneaky suspicion that the pictures were hiding Chris’ room. I snuck upstairs, opened the closed door to be greeted with even more shoes. Most have 6 inch heels and one pair was vinyl. Not kidding. I think I saw light blue 6 inch vinyl heels in there. Wondering how, why or…ok whatever, I see it there.

The box.

I have found the box of photos snug under two plastic boxes that store shoes.

Immediately I rescue it and tell Mr. Tom the mission is complete. He asks why I am not wearing socks. I explain that I stepped in a bit of poopy which was a small price to pay for finding the wedding photo box.

Next up – for even more fun – we did dog weigh in. You will learn now how Chris does not fall far from the parental tree. He with his electric level is no match for his dad’s workshop. He has a tool for everything including weighing dogs. We bring each dog downstairs to find their weight.

Boss – 9.3
Thor – 8.8
Chewie – 7.8
I-Chi – 7.6

Or something like that. We recorded all of the weights because we have big plans to put together a contest where you guess MegMeg’s baby in dog weight. MegMeg is Chris’ youngest sister who is ready to pop any day with baby Aubrey. Aubrey is already 6.5 pounds and my guess is she comes out around the size of Chewie.

But only time will tell.

Meanwhile everyone else is busy so I put myself on the dog scale. Now I’ve made a good effort at gaining a few pounds but imagine my surprise when the scale will not even register me. A shout of disbelief and perhaps I should start watching my weight prompts Chris’ youngest cousin to come up to me – very candidly – to say ”don’t feel bad, it couldn’t weigh me either.”

The good news is that I weigh more than a small dog and a 13 year old boy. The bad news is that later Mr. Tom tells me the scale can only weigh up to 25 pounds. So I do not weigh 25 pounds. DAMMIT!

I’m still not sure what all of this means.

I would say that my New Years Eve excitement stopped there but it didn’t. Next I dressed Boss in pink booties. Earlier in the day, I took Boss outside for morning crazy laps. He busted out two laps in the frost-covered field before he started limping with one paw up then finally sat in the grass alternating lifted paw.

He can’t take the cold.

Leave it to the mother-in-law to have a pair of pink velvet booties for small dogs. Mr. Tom suggested I try them on Boss. It started with one bootie and Boss walking around like he was part of a militant army hailing the new chief. Three paws down, one lifting high – HAIL the chief – three paws down, one lifting high – HAIL!

What’s more fun? Putting on two, then three then all four. As you can see, Boss is thrilled with his new boots. After a few minutes he did figure out how to manage walking in clown boots and put on a good show.

I think overindulgence in food hit me, too much excitement from watching Boss and Thor fight, a covert mission, a weigh in – all of this added up to shutting down at 10:30 pm. At which point I went home, fell asleep only to be waken by the idiot who decided to ring in the new year with 20 minutes of midnight fireworks.

Was that necessary?

Boss didn’t think so either as he barked back for 20 minutes straight.

So it is here, the New Year. I have been waiting for January 1st for quite some time. It signals a new start. In my mind I picture the year as a giant calendar. Every December 31st I find myself at the bottom of the year waiting to leap back up to the top again. Last night I was ready to leap and I’m happy to say that I made it to the top of this new year.

2009 will be a good year. There are many more adventures to be had in triathlon, family, travel and friends. Thank you for reading about my adventures all year. It is fun to share the pieces of my life with you and I promise to keep you entertained throughout the new year.

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