Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Girl IN Ipanema

Or Florianopolis, "Floripa" hence, to be exact.

The trip to Floripa is a long one, surprisingly long actually. While I have traveled to points south of North America before, one trip of which was almost actually via the slow boat to China when our sailboat broke down at sea, I kind of always got the sense, in a most American way, that Brazil was just….down there. But no. Brazil is down there, like WAY. And the over a little.  I flew hours longer from Texas to Sao Paulo than I did East Coast United States to Spain; southern North America and central Brazil are more than an Atlantic Ocean apart.

The trip was made longer when my wallet was rudely lightened - to the tune of a 400% increase in my bike fee - by Continental Airlines, in cahoots with its new evil twin, United Airlines, whose nefarious luggage dealings are long known to bike-carrying airline passengers.  I learned long ago to do my bike fee research and bring print-outs of websites to prove my case.   Normally I avoid United like the plague; $175 bike fee is absurd. But I learned that United to Brazil is a totally swallow-able $50.  Continental does the opposite: $100 domestic, $200 international. So I buy my ticket with United, and when I get to the airport…”well we can’t accommodate your itinerary, but our new partnership with Continental allows us to put you on their conveniently available flights.” They forgot to add "with exorbitant bike fees." And so, despite actually doing my research and selecting against the over-priced option, my bike was $200 instead of $50.

Well played, United-Continental-Airline-Capitalist Complex. Well played.

First impressions:

Sao Paulo is like a metropolitan carpet. The jetliner descends out of the clouds over mist-covered forests – I thought “It looks like West Virginia”….so sue me – and trees quickly turn to densely-packed buildings, spreading without interruption in every direction.  At 15 million people, making it one of the world's largest cities, I see the need to expand.  The only other city to which I can compare it, visually at least, is New Delhi, a city so dense and teeming that gives its visitors the impressions it is a living, breathing thing. Sadly I will never get the opportunity to stretch this comparison to its limits, at least not on this trip.

Brazilians, person to person, are friendly, helpful, and intrigued by the shorthaired, English-speaking gringa. Brazilians, en masse, convey a culture that does not seem to prize consideration of other people when not directly interacting with them. There are no lines; people assume that the space you have left behind the person in front of you so as not to be all in that person's business – passport stamping, ATM password entering, bill paying, and question asking - is ripe for the taking and filling with their own body. There is no moving when someone needs to get by or was already moving forward with some momentum; people just abruptly stop directly in front of you.

The Beautiful Game is alive and well. From the time I joined my first traveling soccer team to when I graduated from college, I played with skilled teammates and opponents.  After graduation I started playing rec soccer in DC and only then did I realize how dangerous it is to play with unskilled players.  Little injuries become commonplace – broken toes, lost toenails, sprained ankles – and freak accidents tend to be more brutal. As I drove from the airport to my guest house, I saw a pick-up game of young boys where not everyone was wearing shoes. I know this game continued for two reasons: 1) because the shoeless boys wanted to play, no matter how much they could not afford shoes, and 2) because the shoeless boys felt safe laying with shod opponents. Because everyone was skilled. Very skilled.

I was wrong about Floripa.  I was expecting something along the lines of a small-ish, beach-minded resort island covered in hotels, akin to Paradise Island, Clearwater, or even Cozumel.  But the island is much bigger than I anticipated, and while the edges are dotted with notable beaches, the interior is a lush and hilly-to-mountainous green.  And unlike I initially thought, the whole island is the city of Floripa.  The beaches, and what I thought were individual towns and villages centered on them, are simply neighborhoods of Floripa. And unlike Cozumel, where if locals live on the island they are in the business of catering to tourists, Floripa has university, cinemas, a thriving interior design industry (to go with the booming vacation home industry), malls, and just normal Brazilians.  However, I am told that Floripa, not without its slums, is the Beverly Hills of Brazil, and Jurere Beach, the beach where IM Brazil is located, is the Beverly Hills of Floripa.

The Slums of Beverly Hills

Stands to reason: a beach-front home on Jurere Beach runs around $3 million US.

Brazilian Beach Beverly Hills

The major highway which rings the island reminds me of driving on the Pan-American Highway fifteen years ago, before they "widened it": OUT.OF.FREAKING.CONTROL.  At least Floripa's has a median so drivers in the left-hand-most lane going one way can't overtake by moving over into the right-hand-most lane of on-coming traffic, while going 75 kph.  Instead they just drive up onto the bumper of the car in front of them and flash their lights.  So much more civil. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Monday Pre-Race Flitter

I am not on Twitter.  I read people's Twitter feeds - Jesus is a personal favorite: "Eating Bread.  A little too meta for me." - but I don't post every single action and reaction in a never-ending saga of nonsense for others to digest.

I do get pre-race flutters in my tummy.  If I didn't, if standing on the line with the intention of comparing myself, my wits, and my physical fitness against other insanely talented female athletes didn't quiver my insides a little bit - ok, a lot bit - I don't think I would qualify as human - or invested.

Yesterday (Monday) was my pre-race day of errands.  I leave tomorrow (Wednesday) and in hopes of not driving myself absolutely bonkers, I separated them by a day (Tuesday) of preparation-things-to-do-around-the-house.  Pre-race errands always get my stomach fluttering a little bit, and if I did tweet, my feed would have been full-to-overflowing with flutter + Twitter = my pre-race flitter.

Pre-when-they-start-to-collect-an-entrance-fee swim at Barton Springs Pool.

Post-pre-when-they-start-to-collect-an-entrance-fee-swim-at-Barton-Springs run from Barton Springs Pool.

Home to grab the rides.

Austin's Chamber of Triathlon Commerce to drop off the rides and wheels for pre-race TLC and Chex Mix and Puppy Chow for the TLC-ers.  Gotta keep the troops happy - which means well-fed!

Austin Java to get some internet.  No coffee; I'm off the sauce until the race.

Pre-race trim of the shag.  At this point not just a pre-race ritual, but a necessity to keep my bangs from scratching my corneas.

Apple store to inquire about why my MacBook was suddenly making it hard to deal with the pictures I take for my loyal readers.  Learn my hard drive is in the process of failing.

Thundercloud Subs.  First time at this local chain.  I find I still prefer Which 'Wich.

CVS for two items.  Only find one, but it's the time-sensitive one: camera batteries so I can keep taking pictures for my loyal readers, even if my laptop isn't really interested in helping.

McDonald's for...

Wait...did you actually think I was going to say I stopped here for a Big Mac, large fries, and a milkshake?  For shame.  I really stopped for the other legal, addictive stimulant that McDonald's sells within it's walls...movies.  Gotta stay entertained during taper.

Bank for money, money, money, mo-ney.   Mo.Ney.

Home to back-up my computer before Apple surgically replaces its guts.

Back to Apple to drop off my life line = no computer, no internet until surgery is complete.

Chamber of Triathlon Commerce to check up on the rides and the troops.  Chex Mix has been mauled.  Puppy Chow is holding its own because the powdered sugar it leaves on the hands makes it hard to work on bikes.  If your bike tastes like Worcestershire sauce or onion powder, don't blame me.

Grocery store.  My home away from home sometimes.

Home.  For taper entertainment.  I chose...poorly...good thing renting a movie only costs $1.

Third, and last, trip to the Chamber today.  Free week-night abs class going on in the parking lot.  Main ride is ready; the ex-commuter, which I have been riding hard and hanging up wet for too many years, is going to take some time.  And maybe some more Chex Mix.


Third, and last, trip to Apple's Genius Bar today.   The things I do to take pictures for you guys.

11 hours and 43 miles of driving later, HOME.  In my defense of why I "needlessly" spent a day on my feet and in my car, only about half of these things were on my to-do list when the day started.  The best laid schemes of mice and men, baby... 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hate To Admit This...

...but I am so much more productive and efficient and getting more sleep with no access to television/cable and very limited access to internet.  Right now I have to go to the coffee shop across the street to check my email.

Quick!  Someone remind me that I am a liberal-minded, 20-something who can barely remember life before computers, living in Metropolis America in the 21st Century and that is it practically my JOB to bathe in the fire-hose of insta-view, non-cookie-cuttered media, social networking, and entertainment.  Conglomerated network media is supposed to be the reason I get up in the morning, feed me my bread and butter of topical conversation, and keep me up way past my bedtime.  I mean...

LOL!  JK!  Having no internet or cable is 4n - but not 1drfl - 4me.  OMG NTW!  I'll BRB to being a drag on the GDP ASAP!

[Honestly I am feeling very disconnected from the world and what is happening in it.  I have not been this out-of-touch with daily events since I worked in Burma for three months.  This situation will be remedied upon my return from Brazil.]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Signs Today IS The Apocalypse

I started my long run before the sun came up.  Actually, that right there might be enough.

I went to a race.  People told me bikes would be raced there.   


I was confused about why the racers were dry when they got on their bikes and just stopped when the bike leg was over.  Was it a relay?

I learned that some bike riders have actual bike skills.

That's serious lean

Lacking that lean, I started to doubt if I am a bike rider.

I "watched" (via live on-line updates) an Ironman while sitting on a couch instead of training for one while sitting on my bike.

Which was Rapture.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Little Splash And A Little Dash

Upon moving to Austin, I made the goal to get involved in the community, triathlon and otherwise, and meet as many people as possible.  I would consider it a waste of moving and a great city to look around - or emerge from my bunker if my standard operating procedure from DC doesn't change - a year from now and realize I have no one with whom to train, let alone go to dinner.

I fell into the DC triathlon scene sideways and accidentally and although that scene helped propel me to and prepare me for bigger and faster things, I was never really a part of it.  I was more a sometimes member of a fundamentalist sect of the DC tri scene and unless I was willing to up the ante - go to happy hours, bend my training schedule, and frankly, buy a car - I was never going to get a taste of the super-concentrated Kool-Aid.

A comparison: I have completed more training sessions with someone/people since arriving in Austin than I did during my entire last six months in DC.  In DC, I was an island, partly of my own creation.  Solo training has its rightful place in making strong athletes; too much solo training gets strong athletes carted off to the loony bin.

No loony bin for me!  Yet!

Austin is a hot-bed for racing - big, small, single sport, multi-sport, set up a start and finish line, pass around a hat, and the event is likely to sell out.  So I figured the best way to get involved and meet people was to volunteer.  As a veteran of several Marine Corps Marathon water stops, I feel confident in my water-cup-filling-and-passing-out ability, and as a former professional Ironman sherpa, I bring many marketable skills to the table for cheering on race participants.

Austin's Chamber of Triathlon Commerce, Jack and Adam's, organizes a summer Splash (750 m swim) and Dash (3k run) series.  Lots of well-intentioned age-group athletes and one aid station: I have this stone cold.

Scene of the Splash: the quarry behind Pure Austin North

Pure Austin North...a gym with its own open-water swim venue...have I mentioned how awesome Austin is?

Not a bad turn-out for a Tuesday night event that the winners will complete in 20-23 min

A better view

Cindy watching the first racer, pro Richie Cunningham, come past her post

The Dash is held on the 1k crush stone trail that rings the quarry...notice how organized our aid station is!

The look on Pete's face says he is contemplating crushing some more stone for the trail surface

Jamie working hard to keep Pete honest

And George...well, George didn't really Splash and Dash so much as make grilled food for everyone, an equally admirable pursuit if I do say so myself (on my stomach's behalf)

Add in a complimentary ART/chiro tent, NUUN test drinks, K-Swiss merchandise/test equipment tent, and a keg of a beer, and I get the feeling this is pretty much a normal Tuesday night in the multi-sport world of South Central Texas.

Only 2,319 more people for me to meet!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Life You Save Could Be Your Own

There is only one of me: one Kelzie (that I know of, anyway), one last Elford, one last Beebe, and only one off-spring that belongs to Ma and Pa Support Staff.  So it would be a real shame if any of those ones was reduced to zero.

Thankfully there is RoadID to help keep that count a little farther away from nil.  RoadIDs are essentially a contact information identification bracelet, similar to those worn by people who have severe allergies or elaborate medical histories.  Alternatively, RoadIDs state name, city, contact numbers in case of emergency, and then, in the remaining space, either allergies, medical history, insurance details, or a rockin' quote.  I wanted to use "cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good," but the model I selected to not dwarf my dainty wrist does not have enough space.  Zeppelin will have to wait.

But I do not because my RoadID arrived today!

The idea behind RoadID is that the bracelets (and other devices like ankle bracelets, dog tags, or shoe tags) are unobtrusive and natty enough for the owner to wear them each and every time they exercise or, simply just in life as functional jewelry.  I would say they are succeeding.

The band of the model I chose is basically one of those ubiquitous silicone bracelets, a la Livestrong, although models are also available in webbing and reflective material.  The plate is small, clean, and laser-etched to the owner's specifications.  It's like a personalized license plate for your body - except made not by convicts, but nice people in Kentucky.

do you know how hard it is to photograph your dominant hand with your non-dominant one?  hard.

Oh wait, you want a close-up of the information?  Oh, you mean you want my number?  Well that you'll just have to be man enough to ask for.  Or look up in the phone directory.  I'm not hard to find: there is only one Kelzie.  And I want to keep it that way.

** Full disclosure: Not a spokesman, just a fan.  And maybe a life saved.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

It was me!  I confess!  I am the one who failed to sacrifice my live chicken in the appropriate time frame and manner and brought the Apocalypse to our door-step.  As soon as I posted this, Mother Nature decided the next day was the opportune moment to erase our near-drought in one fell drenching swoop.

Now here I sit with a considerably long ride to do and doing it outside today would be M.I.S.E.R.A.B.L.E., not to mention D.A.N.G.E.R.O.U.S., what with all the strikes God's bowling right now.  And unlike the yard, which can only be mowed when the lawn dries out, or having the pool party, which can be postponed until any other scorching Texas day, long rides generally need to be done when scheduled, Four Horsemen visiting or not, and there are alternatives, namely the trainer, that allow the schedule to be followed.

Sometimes I hate modern technology.

It is this moment, under these circumstances, that the life-style of a professional athlete takes a turn for the "desk job."  Once, when I worked for a Committee staff, I was tasked with photocopying 1500 pages of bound text.  Riding the trainer for a "long time" (definitions vary by person; my arbitrary limit falls somewhere around the length of my previous longest trainer ride, which I will break today) is the triathlon equivalent of photocopying 1500 pages of bound text.  

How do you get excited about photocopying 1500 pages of bound text?  Making yourself as comfortable as possible and breaking the project into small pieces: have a preferred beverage (Diet Coke) at the ready and allow yourself a drink every 100 pages.  Or a Starbucks at the end.  Or whatever works for you.

How do I get excited about riding the trainer for a long time?  The possibility of watching movies and riding at the same time, not a feat to be accomplished on the local country roads, and breaking the ride into three periods: before intervals, during intervals, after intervals.

But the logistics go beyond "have trainer, ride trainer."  Here's how to set-up, survive, and surmount a long trainer ride.

Calories: eating them helps break up an IM race and REALLY helps break up a long trainer ride

Break out the big guns, aka the biggest bottles ya got

Charge your computer - if there is no power file, did the ride really happen?

Book the live entertainment...nothing like a movie rental for a $1

Set up the Command Center and stock it with towels, lots of towels

Don the gear...tip: use the most comfortable chamois because on the trainer you spend a lot of time in one position, no hills or lights to make you move and ease uncomfortable pressure.  I use the opportunity to test out and break in BlueSeventy race shorts.

Check outside one more time...just in case...and see that the parking lot is still flooded

Get to photocopyin', pedallin'

Photocopying, photocopying, photocopying...filing, filing filing...pencil sharpening, pencil sharpening, pencil sharpening....

The view from my desk

Second towel being called up from the minors

Second towel now totally soaked with sweat

Every party has Dead Soldiers, even parties at work

I'll spare you the photos of cleaning up after, but I really do recommend mopping up the puddle of sweat before leaving for the day, especially if, like me, you are riding in your dining room.

After all that, I can assure you, Mr. Frost, there is a reason this road is less traveled.
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