Thursday, August 30, 2007

Well I Never

I PR'd - according to LK, which does not mean Puked whilst Running, it means Personal Record, which is the kind of thing an American would know and a Brit would not.

58mins 2 sec no less. Apparently dropping a sprog has made me faster - who knew? Maybe it's because my post-nursing boobs have caused my centre of gravity to shift 2 feet lower?

It's amazing how beating your previous best time by over a minute makes you consider the possibility of doing the race again next year, except faster.

Not bloody likely!!

Still, thanks to Chilly for these photos - I truly can't believe I'm smiling in all of them.....

Sunday, August 26, 2007

If At First You Don't Succeed, Tri, Tri Again

Oh, how I slay myself.

The Santa Barbara Triathlon kicked my arse, as it does every year. I am thoroughly knackered and only writing this out of a perverse sense of duty to my three, maybe four readers.

I did run the entire run, although 'run' may be generous. So much for those eight minute miles I'd been practicing at the gym, geriatrics may have been able to shuffle at a faster clip. My cold was definitely a factor, but bizarrely the blisters? Never felt a thing. Either that's adrenalin for you, or my feet were still numb from the swim. Because DAMN that water was cold. Two days of slightly overcast weather and the ocean dropped 5º. It made the swim seem endless. I could only see out of the lower quarter of my right goggle, and the only time people weren't bumping in to me was when I peered out of my tiny plastic porthole to realize I was seriously off course. I was so knackered by the swim that I gave up on that leg way before I was technically out of the water. You're supposed to stop when your hand touches sand, I stopped way before that and waded in, as if my mind was saying 'bugger this for a game of soldiers, I don't care if I'm in chest-deep water I'm a better wader than swimmer'. Not true.

The bike went brilliantly, I flew. LK had tweaked my gears and brakes, and it was that or maybe the sheer joy of being out of the water that gave me wings. I passed about twenty people, all of whom promptly tore right past me on the run.

Bastards (you included Mooks).

The run was hard, but I carried Anna over the finish line as was my plan, and then promptly dry-heaved on the people handing out sponges.

Good times.

I can say with all honesty that I'll be more than happy to be a 5-time triathlete and leave it at that. Although, if Anna ever wants to do the mother-daughter race I'd be thrilled. Knowing her gene pool, she might just want to consider the father-daughter race though. LK placed 5th in his age group, coming 18th overall, in an open course (open to professional triathletes). My good friend Sooz sent me an e-mail recently regarding 'assortive mating', the idea being that organisms tend to mate with like organisms, ergo, said Sooz, LK and I must be equally fit. Which was a lovely thought, but fails to explain the FIFTEEN MINUTE discrepancy in our race times, a race where LK missed the trophies by one place and 18 seconds and I dry-heaved on my daughter.

I'll update with photos and times when I get them - and if I feel like being honest!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

For The Record

Less than 24 hours to go, and I'd like to put a few things on the record before my own personal Charge of The Light Brigade begins - in case it just sounds like sour grapes tomorrow afternoon you understand..........

1. My poor ravaged feet.......

I realise there are people right now hiking the Hinda Kush, or even the Pennine Way crying 'PANSY!' but are they about to douse their feet in festering salt water, grind it in the soft sand and then run sockless? I thought not. Both feet are already ripped to shreds, but somehow I think that'll be the least of my worries.

2. I have a cold, courtesy of our little toddler Typhoid Mary. Boo hoo poor me. Is being able to breathe really all that important whilst swimming/biking/running? I didn't think so.

3. I am on the rag, again. This will be my fifth tri, and I have yet to do one bloodless. WTF body? I know these things are cyclical, but I had a chuffing baby in the interim - why the slavish devotion to the old lunar calendar? The good news is, I think the shark attack risk will be lessened by the fifty billion other people all swimming and clawing their way round me.

Otherwise, I'm in good shape. LK and I are off to 'carb0-load' right now with a healthy serving of pasta. I'll leave you with this, I have two goals for tomorrow morning:

  • Finish in under an hour - I have acheived this in 3 out of 4 triathlons, but to put this goal in perspective, I have never broken 59 minutes. See? Not smiling now are you.

  • To run the entire run - I have acheived this in 1 (ONE!) out of 4 triathlons.

Why am I doing this?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Isn't Live Music Marvellous or No Shit Sherlock

Last night LK and I, and half a dozen assorted friends went to see The Beastie Boys at the Santa Barbara Bowl. That's one of the things to love about this tiny town, it's touristy prettiness can lure some pretty big names to come and play. We've even seen Oasis play our little beach-burg, but that was honestly a little peculiar. They opened for The Black Crows, or The Counting Crows, I can't remember (one of those fucking Crow Bands as LK would say). I'm sure Santa Barbara didn't quite know what'd hit it when Noel Gallagher stood up in front of a crowd of about 30o people who were drifting in with their Chardonnays waiting for the main act. I remembering him yelling about Manchester City and saying 'Fook, I'm standing 'ere grinnin' like fookin' Des Lynam up 'ere'.

Sound of crickets chirping.

Still, they were big for me. But that's my point, I'm a bit crap when it comes to music. NME means Nothing to ME. I was excited when A-ha came to the Harrogate Conference Centre. Well, who wouldn't be? Nothing that big had ever graced our provincial little town since the Liberal Democrat Party Conference. No major act has ever yelled "We love you Pannal!!" at a rock concert.

Interesting side note, the only time the Beastie Boys had invaded my consciousness growing up was when someone stole the VW sign from my Dad's Jetta circa 1987. *I'm that crap*.

If I disappeared whilst running and all they found of me was my Nano they would send out an all-points bulletin for a middle-aged hausfrau from Coventry. "Hmm, Travis, Wayne Newton and the Lightning Seeds - we're looking for a schizophrenic elderly white woman, dressed in head to toe hand-knit, Marks and Spencers knickers, possibly resides in a small village; harmless, definitely harmless".

So there I was, at the Beastie Boys, my enjoyment level somewhere between yelling "Beastie Boys in the Hizzouz" and "so this is what our tenants are listening to on their ghetto-blasters, and good grief is that actually a 'mosh pit', how novel".

Actually it was brilliant, and I'm bloody glad we decided not to take Anna (thanks Mooks!) because we were in the nosebleeds with 500 sweaty West Coast Chopper looky-likeys all smoking pot and generally having a jolly good time.

I turned to LK and said "Fuck, we're getting high just standing here" and he said "-er, high-er".

Mrs. Skeletor got a lot of ASS (Almost Star Sightings); she is convinced she sat next to Michael J. Fox, and tried to persuade us she saw Lance Armstrong, but quite frankly, what guy in Santa Barbara does not look like Lance Armstrong? Every bloke in this town is clean-cut, white and looks like they could do a triathlon at the drop of a hat. Plus you were wasted Mrs. S. But, if anyone wants to leap to her rescue, I am open to comments about the validity of her sightings.


Generally though a very good crowd. Still lots of fake boobs and pretentious people waving around their i-phones, but unlike Pearl Jam, these fake tits were definitely made in Camarillo not Beverly Hills. That's as down-to-earth as Santa Barbara gets.

Next concert is this Tuesday, Stevie Wonder. Now he's already on my Nano, and not for 'I just called' either, thankyou very much.

Friday, August 17, 2007

She's A Bad'un That Lass

Here are some good reasons for using a live-body transcriptionist instead of phoning it in to a company in India:

"The patient has a significant history with Crystal Matthews".

"Patient used bee venom injections and broke out in hives"

"Patient needs to follow-up whenever you see feet"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Big Lump of Lard

One week to go 'til the triathlon and these are all recent excuses I've given for not exercising:

  • I would lose a good street-parking spot.
  • I've just eaten a bag of pretzels and half a pint of ice-cream.
  • Anna might have a cold and they might not take her at the gym daycare.
  • It's smoky and ashy outside and my health could be affected.
  • Can't be arsed.
  • I don't have $3 to park down at the beach, and I'm too knackered to walk.
  • My wetsuit is wet.
  • I have a wetsuit rash that looks like a giant hickey/love-bite and I don't want to make it worse.
  • I have to watch six episodes of Weeds back-to-back.
  • My cell-phone isn't charged and LK wouldn't know where I was.
  • Anna OD'd on ibuprofen.
  • Periods could attract sharks.


Anna's fine. No reports of stomach ache nothing; although as my Dad said, she would hardly be reporting 'pain' would she, after eating fee ibuprofen?

So, yes, a close call, and with the Zaca fire too which is continuing to burn furiously, but in a different direction. We're out of harms way for the moment, but it's still snowing ash and casting a surreal pink-orange glow over Santa Barbara that's making it feel like a perpetual Hawaiian sunset. Mai Tai anyone?

After all that drama coupled with the continued volatility in the US sub-prime housing market, I'm sure you're as ready as I am for a bit of light relief........

Here we go, where're my Massholes at?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Zaca Wildfire - Or What It Feels Like When The Unimaginable Happens

I suppose I should add wildfires to the list of the wild, woolly and hairy things to be afraid of in this country. As it happens, the Zaca Fire was started by construction workers, but wildfires are a natural phenomenon in this part of the world and we have an 80,000 acre one right on our doorstep that is only 68% contained.

Last weekend it was snowing in Santa Barbara. Heavy flakes of ash were pouring out of the sky, swirling and dancing in a perfect imitation of a winter wonderland, except it's chuffing August and 80º. The fire is in the Los Padres National Forest, directly behind the ridge of mountains that frames Santa Barbara. The same ridge of mountains that effectively cut us off from the outside world. There's one road in to this town and one road out. Not very reassuring to think about when earlier this week there were mass e-mails and media bulletins about evacuations and packing your 'grab-and-go' box.

Fortunately the fire seems to have changed directions in the last couple of days and isn't posing a direct threat to SB right at this moment, although it's growth potential is listed as 'extreme'. Things change fast though. You don't have to live here long to hear stories of the 'Painted Cave Fire' that blazed a trail down from the mountains and even jumped the freeway into La Cumbre the flames were so intense. The Zaca Fire has yet to jump the Santa Ynez river, but then that's not as reassuring as it sounds considering the river is currently just a dried up bed of rocks and crispy dessicated scrub. Excellent.

As I'm writing this a fire engine is screaming past our window - don't they realise that Anna is napping?

I was finding it hard to write about this fire, about the idea of evacuating. Even with fire planes and helicopters buzzing overhead every few minutes, and losing our cell phone reception a few days ago, it wasn't sinking in. Honestly, it was still a little unreal to think of putting together passports and birth certificates, insurance policies and title deeds, just in case. Besides, if we were evacuated where would we go? Would we join the 200,000 people trying to go south on 2 lanes of the 101?

So there I was, basically thinking that these things only ever happen to other people, right? We have been told that the fire could feasibly pose a very real threat to Santa Barbara; to be ready, yet even as I started writing this yesterday, with the fire looming over my right shoulder I was still thinking it can't really happen, right?

But it can and it does.

As I walked out of the shower this morning I looked down to see Anna happily playing with an open bottle of ibuprofen. A Costco-sized bottle of pills and they were everywhere.

This is the sort of thing that never happens, except it does, all the time, and it happened to us this morning. The first thing that popped in to my head was our pediatrician saying 'age 2 is the age of accidental death by drowning and poisoning', but even as I was thinking that I also kept repeating, 'this isn't happening, this can't be happening'.

Anna said 'sowie Mummy'

I was trying so hard to keep calm. I got down on the floor and asked her if she'd eaten any and she said 'yes', I asked how many and she said 'fee'. In my mind I was still thinking this is not happening, she couldn't really have eaten any, how is this happening.

Then I freaked out.

I tried sticking my fingers down her throat to get her to throw up. It did not go well, she didn't throw up, I got bitten and she's looking at me with tears welling up in her eyes wondering why the hell I'm torturing her like this.

I have the number for poison control in my cell phone. I didn't call them. I thought they'd whisk her away in an ambulance, pump her stomach, put me in jail, plus I wasn't even sure she'd eaten any. If you ask her how many biscuits she wants she says 'fee', how many swings on the towel, 'fee'. Even if it was just 'fee' though, I kept envisioning her poor little liver and all those hospital facesheets I see at work after ibuprofen OD cases with 'multiple organ failure' and encephalopathy as the diagnosis.

In the end I called my friend who's a doctor, and without doubt the most level-headed person I know. I was crying so hard I could barely get the words out, I said 'emergency, ibuprofen' and 'Anna'.

She called poison control and conferenced us in, and Anna's fine. Of course she's fine, because these things never happen, right? She would have had to have eaten 12 to be in any serious danger. If I'd taken her to the ER they would have just monitored her, not pumped her stomach. I was told to make her eat and drink a lot and keep an eye on her.

So, yes, I've packed my fire 'grab and go' box, because lightning does strike twice.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fit To Be Tired

I used to be fit.

Many, many years ago I was superbly, effortlessly fit. The type of fit you take for granted as a pre-pubescent girl.

It was that long ago.

We were an active family; I did swimming, ballet, judo (all of them reluctantly and without talent), and we would do marathon 'walks' in the Yorkshire Dales every Sunday fortified only by cheese and pickle sandwiches and the occasional lump of Kendal mint cake. It's good stuff, pure sugar, but still provided barely enough calories to help us face the drizzle and drag our muck-clad wellies round that final escarpment.

My Dad had a way of guiding a car key around an Ordinance Survey map that instilled fear and awe in my brother and I. He would prop the map up on the bonnet of our car, the drizzle-laden North-Easterly winds whipping it out from under him until he had it pinned with rocks. He would point at the 'suggested route' and instead would drag 'the magic key' towards a cluster of such tightly-packed contours that it looked like the skin of a chain-smoking 75-year-old Floridian. All I could usually see of my brother's face under his yashmak-like Peter Storm was the glint of panic in his eyes.

We both knew what was coming next.

'Now the map seems to suggest we go along this meadow here' he would say, passing the key tantalizingly close to a flat riverbed area, 'but I'm inclined to think that if we just cut up this road, and go along here', jabbing at the angry-looking contours while my brother and I look at him in growing alarm, 'here's where we might be able to cut across and make these two suggested five-mile walks in to something a little more interesting'. We knew that to mean a marathon 10 mile Man vs Wild survival challenge with the outside chance of a Cadbury's creme egg at a village shop or a shandy and lemonade at the Miner's Arms if we made it back to the car park. Both of us wondering why we weren't at home watching the Waltons along with the rest of humanity.

My Mum would be sitting in the car, shielded from the weather, listening to the Archers on the radio until the last possible moment.

We certainly ended up fit though.

I remember our first ever 'Double Games' at secondary school. We went for a cross-country run, up past the hockey pitch, further even than the athletics track, a piece of school turf so remote we called it the 'North Pole'. Past the 'bog fields' and then for good measure up a delightfully steep and deliberate hill. It was probably about 3 miles all told. I remember coming in in 2nd place and being genuinely puzzled at the tattered wrecks of humanity who collapsed into the changing rooms later that day. Ex-friends looking at me with pure hatred 'you could've waited with us ya cow.'

That was when I was fit.

Now I get it. Now when I run it feels like my lungs are going to burst through my nose in pursuit of oxygen. My legs feel like they weigh 100lbs each. Training has made it easier, but it's only 3 weeks to the race and I know that I will be no way near fit enough to do it without pain, let alone effortlessly. I would love to be able to do the race and enjoy it. I would love to have trained enough so that doing the race and having fun with it would be my reward. To be able to do the race like LK, and breeze through the disciplines.

My husband, the pre-pubescent teenage girl.