Friday, November 30, 2012

The Tramp Trip, or My Apology Tour

A few of you have quietly wondered why I am in Wisconsin, where it is 30 degrees, instead of in Texas, where it is 70 degrees.  I mean, warmer weather is why I agreed to live amongst the Republicans, isn't it?

Also, I did disappear in April, and resurface in November, in Madison.  What's up with that?  Am I covering up a move back home to my parents' basement?

It's all part of what I'm calling The Tramp Trip, or My Apology Tour, depending on how you feel about presidential election debates.  I took a series of disconnected events and connected them into what was to be a 6-week, but has become a 3-month, trip.  Just me, a suitcase, my bike, not really warm-enough clothes, and a rotating cast of supporting characters. 

Climate Change Calls For More Donut Consumption

Back in early October I left Austin on a sunny, 90-degree day,  for Baltimore, MD, and Rev3's Hall-Full Triathlon.  I stayed with a lovely little family in North Laurel, and raced on a course I had only ever trained on during my time in DC.  As always Rev3 took excellent care of all its racers, including the pros, although we had some trouble agreeing on my first name.

My name has a lot of pronunciations, but not Hallie

Race day was easily the coldest and most temperature-related miserable I have been on a bike in years.  If we had been smart, we would have done this:

More of us might have started, and for sure a few more would have finished.  I did, but ended up in the med tent, huddling around a space heater and drinking hot chicken broth.  It was a wish-I-could-forget-that kind of day, except for the fact that the longer I stayed around waiting for my rockstar home-stay dad to finish (2nd overall!), the more I ran into people I knew from DC.  It like a totally unplanned mini-reunion.

Stomp Your Old Yard 

The rest of the reunion was planned.  Following the race I relocated to DC proper and my former 'hood for the week.  I know that having the opportunity to be in DC and dedicate so much time and attention to catching up with my friends there, is absolutely a perk of my "job," and not one I take lightly, so I threw myself into taking full advantage.  I stayed with Emily; wandered north-west DC and visited my old bike shop; and had dinner with The (Original) Support Staffer.  I met a local athlete I coach whom I had never met in person; had lunch with a training partner of old; and surprised my old masters group in McLean, where I was welcomed like I had never left.

Shenanigans with Flanigan

More often than not I ate at Julia's Empanadas and dreamed about how I could get them in Austin.  And when I wasn't at Julia's, I was eating at Luna Grill in Dupont.

A friend described the experience of being back on those streets very aptly - "I liken DC visits to seeing an old boyfriend: you can remember why you liked it, and the place is comfortable and friendly, but it's been totally neutralized because the spark is gone."  I would have said "it feels weirdly small."

Back To The Great White North

From Baltimore I flew to Milwaukee, where my uncle picked me up and drove me to Madison.  The following morning I drove to the northern reaches of Chicago to attend the wedding of a friend who has shared nearly every life transition with me: from high school in Wisconsin to Harvard to the physics department at Harvard to DC after graduation.  I go to Texas and he snags a girl!  

Continuing my trend, weddings are the only place I don't take pictures.  But from the minute I stepped into the hotel lobby to check in, I was catching up with people from high school/college who I had not seen in 8-10 years, and whom I would otherwise not have seen in the near-to-long-term future.  I went to Sunday brunch early so I could get on the road and beat the rain.  Five hours later we were all still there, sitting around tables shoved together in the middle of the room and eating the same brunch food again for a late lunch.

Back in Madison, I was alone at home for a week until my parents flew back from Europe.  Seeing the opening, I threw the kegger I never was able to in high school.  The Porsche managed to stay out of the neighbor's pool.

My parents returned and we slowly settled into co-habitation.  I was preparing for Rev3's next race, a 70.3 in Florida.  However, after a gut-check conversation with the Zebra Poacher, I pulled the plug on my season.  Recalibration of my thyroid throughout the fall (because of stuff that happened in July and August) had kept my training volume and intensity too non-specific for racing a 70.3.  The focus switched to laying the ground-work for 2013.

Flatlanders, Indeed

The first full week in November I grabbed my bike, packed a car, and headed to south-central Illinois.  Relatives on my mother's side had not seen me in 16-18(!) years and I needed to rectify that situation.  Now those cousins are married with walking, talking kids of their own, including an 18-year-old I last saw as a newborn.  Election night was spent with what can only be described as The Brood, eating, talking, and generally hollering at the TV.

That side of the family are farmers or farmer's kids almost to a man, and live in a part of the country that is big squares.  I went out for a run with directions from my uncle: go to the next stop sign, turn left, go to the "T," turn left, when you pass the cemetery wave to your Grandma and Uncle, go to the "T," turn left, go to the "T," turn left.  Just over 7 miles later, I had run the second smallest square possible from their house.  My run route map was so absurdly perfect.

From there, I ventured north to Chicagoland to finally meet the Zebra Poacher.  He's American, but has been on sabbatical in England for two years.  Up until that point I had only ever "met" him on Skype without the video chat.  Chalk one up for "on-line dating"; we got along thick-as-thieves and I can confirm that he is as-advertized.  He, Atomic Jane, and His Majesty put me up for the night on a very psychically-positive couch (it has previously hosted Cat Morrison, Bjorn Andersson, and Jonas Colting) and fed me Lou Malnati's pizza.  It's a wonder I ever left.

His Majesty, King George of Illinois

I ran in whatever 'burb I stayed in (Chicago is a nebulous place for me) and managed five (5)(!) whole feet of elevation change in 6.5 miles.  Flatlanders, indeed.  From there I wandered down to Joilet to spend a day and a half with a family friend I hadn't seen in three years.  All of that and I still made it home for the Badger game on Saturday. 

"Sunny" Doesn't Mean Warm

Back home the weather continued to hold against all odds as I explored all sorts of riding and running routes nearby.  No snow yet!  To me, winter sunlight in Wisconsin looks thin and obviously lacking true warmth, giving the landscape a smoggy filter of sorts.

June 2012

November 2012, same time of day

To me the dairy farm looks to be floating in a blue-gray sea

I thought I would be back in actually-warm Austin by now, so my packing list is squiggy around the edges for late fall Midwest riding.  Basically, I put on every piece of cycling clothing I brought - and some I have fashioned since arriving - and ride as long as I can manage in "the heat of the day."  I've only had to call for a ride once, and that was because the sun set far faster than I anticipated.

Shoe covers fashioned from dad's old Gold Toe socks

Bird's The Word

Now that my parents are back living among long-time friends in Wisconsin we planned our traditional Thanksgiving with gusto.  Grilled turkey plus a day full of food, football, and friends, including one of my best friends from middle/high school who non-nonchalantly walked into the room after telling everyone (even his parents) that he wasn't coming home until Christmas.  The weekend that followed was decidedly not the one I had planned.

And that leads me here, to writing on my parents couch while it is 19 degrees outside, and 63 degrees in Austin.  And yes, I sleep in the basement.

How To Thwart Murphy's Law

Way back in October my plan was to stay in Madison through Thanksgiving, then return to Austin until a Christmas trip back north, but I didn't actually have any of those plane tickets.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to take action through in-action: I didn't buy a ticket anywhere.

Now I am staying in Madison until early January, leaving right before my parents leave town again too.  If there is anyone else I need to apologize to, just let me know! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's A Small World At The Top

In Austin, I swim with a very accomplished and focused masters group.  Whitney coaches with an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove, and the facility makes every practice feel like the regular-guy Olympics. 

Since I took up triathlon, I have struggled to find a similar masters group in Madison with which I can swim while home visiting.  The groups I have tried are unfocused or inefficient, swimming in laughable facilities (20 yard hotel pool, anyone?), or simply not interested in allowing drop-ins, even those who pay.

In October, I saw a flyer at my Gold's Gym advertising free drop-in swimming with the gym's masters group.  It was worth a try; I could always leave mid-swim.

The coach's name was Beth, and despite being completed in a new, but four-lane, high-lipped, shadowy gym pool, the workout was meant for serious swimmers.  She walked the deck with a stop-watch, calling out splits and encouragement.  On the way out, I saw another advertisement for kids' swim lessons, also with Beth "a double gold medal winner."  Hmmm.

So I Googled and I found this.

Whitney (left), Beth (middle), Kriel (RSA, right)
Beth beat Whitney in the 100m back at the 1996 Olympics in Athens.  Beth was 15 at the time.  That same Olympics they both swam on the 4 x 100m medley relay and won gold.

At the next practice I told Beth that Whitney was my coach in Austin, and we laughed at the random ways of the world.  She said "wow, it's a small world."  I said "yeah, at the top."

Not to mention the group's other coach is Cindy Bannick, who coached Gwen Jorgensen to this year's Olympics.  Between them there are no easy practices.

If anyone is looking for a masters group in Madison or the surrounding area, I really recommend Beth's at the Gold's Gym in Fitchburg.  I've experimented with any number of groups, especially in Madison, and I hope these swimmers realize just how lucky they are to receive such high-quality coaching in a gym pool in a suburb of a medium-ish-sized Midwestern city.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lactose Tolerance

On this feels-like-17-degrees day I decided to blog about something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy:

I've had friends come visit me in Madison and make only one request: "take me to the cheese store." (I'm looking at you, Amitai.)  While there are novelty cheese outlets around, the nearest Woodman's grocery store is the only place anyone needs to shop.  Let me show you why.

This is one half of the main section of the cheese "aisle" at Woodman's.  I say main section because that's where you can find locally-produced blocks of the kinds of cheese made in Wisconsin.  Those thigh-high bins along the bottom are filled with cheddars, colby, muenster, string, curds, multiple types of jacks, three types of swiss, and farmers cheese.  The shelves are a random assortment of locally-made specialty types (blues, havartis) and a few foreign-made varieties (boursin, chevre, gorgonzola, stilton).

May I present the entire spectrum of yellow cheddar:

Super Sharp
Super Super Sharp

And for the not faint of heart, 4-year cheddar (it's normally aged 3-18 months):

Pre-school aged cheese

Pepper jack, anyone?

And two types of Diamond Marbles, one with peppers and one without.  I will spare you pictures of all the different varieties of Havarti.

And then my personal favorite sub-section of the first half of the main section: string cheese and cheese curds.  String cheese is mozzarella and cheese curds are a fresh (meaning not aged) mild cheddar, both are tasty and fun to eat.

You may be noticing the packaging or lack thereof, on this local Wisconsin cheese.  This ain't no Kraft cheese, which is frequently made from blends of several types of rubber...oops, I mean, cheese.  These cheese blocks, each cut to a random weight and sold by price/lb, are cut from even bigger blocks made from milk probably milked no farther than 100 miles away.  There is a basic website and a basic label and outstanding basic cheese.

Moving on to the second half of the main section of the cheese "aisle" at Woodman's, which immediately faces the first half.

This half features Wisconsin cheeses made by producers that actually have company names: Bucky Badger, Crystal Lake, the occasional block of the more real "cheese" made by Kraft.

One case over from the main section is the shredded cheese section, which is as big as the entire dairy display at many grocery stores.  It ends right about where that yellow-ish sign hangs from the ceiling (which incidentally marks the beginning of the cream cheese section).

Facing the shredded cheese is the sliced cheese, mostly Sargento and Kraft, companies that are willing to spend their time cutting cheese instead of making better cheese.

On the back of the sliced cheese is the orange juice, not an altogether Wisconsin product, but the sheer size of selection always amuses me.

Facing the orange juice is the yogurt section, the end of which can be seen in the distance down by the red-white sign hanging from the ceiling.  So, a solid selection of yogurt I'd say.

On the back of the first half of the main section is "dippable cheeses": dairy-based dips, ricotta, and cottage cheese.

And facing the dippable cheeses, we finally arrive at the main ingredient: milk.  The case extends to the wall at the very end....

And - this is the best perspective I could provide - the milk racks are three-deep, ready to be pulled forward when the one in front empties.  Hundreds of gallon at the ready.

Hidden on the shelves are some sharp-tasting delicacies if (mostly) mild cheeses don't get you excited.  For example, blue cheeses - Danish Blue, Maytag Blue, Domestic Blue, Amish Blue - and other stinky/moldy types like Gorgonzola and Stilton.

Or Port Wine Spread, which is a biting combination of cheddar cheese and port wine.

And Beer Cheese.  If it included ground-up bratwurst, this spread would embody 75% of what people recognize Wisconsin for.

This is the other 25% of what people recognize Wisconsin for, if cheese in general isn't your bailiwick: the Badgers and the Packers.

Don't worry, we'll still let you into Wisconsin even if you don't like cheese.  Maybe.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

That I survived deer season in Wisconsin. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you are feasting on turkey and not the other way around. - KEB

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Lost Year, or How To: Train At An Elite Level With Hypothyroidism

WARNING: Another largely non-funny post.  Unless you find imagining people 20+ lbs over their usual weight and wearing sweatpants, funny.

One year ago today I completed my first workout back after a full 40 days of no training.  I know that sounds like a firstworldpain, especially since all of my moving parts were capable of physical activity, but the 40-day interruption was rah-ude.  As in rude awakening - to thyroid problems.

There were plenty more such awakenings waiting for me.  For instance, that first workout back - a mere 25 min run - had me walking down stairs like the day after Ironman.  In retrospect, the initial on-set and diagnosis turned out to be the straight-forward, even if frustrating, part.  I knew what was wrong with me.  Now I had to learn to live - and train - with a whacked out gland.

Was I training it, or was it training me?  Anecdotal evidence supports the latter.  

** Get ready to re-write your owners manual.  The thyroid controls the body's energy production and use, and determines how the body responds to other (non-thyroidal) hormones.  The way your body has been doing these things might not be how your body will be doing these things once you start adding the right amount of thyroid hormone T4.  For example, I PMS completely differently: before I didn't, now I do.  [slow clap]

Over last winter as my condition was improving, more often than not, I was spending long hours (like, 4) each night staring at my ceiling for no good reason.  A friend suggested my once-daily-and-only-in-the-morning cup of coffee might be the culprit.  The next morning I switched to decaf and never went back to full octane.  I stopped having random, but major, episodes of insomnia, and more tellingly I didn't even notice, not even that first morning, not having a caffeine bump.  I've had maybe 3 on-purpose caffeine doses since April, and I choose every caffeinated gel or cup of real coffee weighing the short-term benefits against the consequences of not being able to sleep.  For a while I kept drinking a morning decaf because coffee was part of my routine, but over time, I have stopped drinking coffee all together.

I know, I'm ashamed of me too.

I suspect that as my thyroid function improved, the way my body metabolizes caffeine changed - for the worse.  Although I haven't experienced anything else quite as noticeable, I don't see why other thyroid patients couldn't see changes in how their bodies react to common allergy-inducing foods such as lactose, soy, nuts, or wheat/gluten.    

And in another chalk-one-up-for-opponents outcome, I have experienced acne this past year worse than any other period in my life.  Including when I was a teenager and was supposed to have acne (but had none).  I can only assume that it has to do with how my skin is expressing the internal re-balancing of androgen hormones.  I can only hope it goes away soon.

** Weather is no longer just a situational descriptor; weather is now a tangible training in-put.  If you can see the heat in the air or cut the humidity with a knife, your thyroid feels it.  When the Texas heat hit its stride in July I was extremely heat-acclimated and enjoyed some of my best sessions all year even in the mid-day sun, but my TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone; the main oil-stick to determine thyroid function; the closer to 1, the better) doubled in less than 3 months. 

** Regulating a thyroid is like steering an air-craft carrier.   You start to turn the ship five miles early and only see the results five miles later; what you did three months ago shows up in today's test results, what you do today shows up in test results three months from now.  And never take your hand off the tiller.

By changing nothing but the weather, by the end of July, my TSH had doubled since the end of March.  I felt fine, but if the current trend continued, I soon wouldn't.  But since any blood test is just a split-second status update, was I in the middle of a continuing trend up or a stabilizing swing down?  Knowing how to change my medication means finding out which.  Finding out which means waiting a month and retesting at the end of August.  At the end of August my TSH is lower, but not near what it was in March and not enough lower compared to July to suspect that without changing my medication I will get back to where I was in March.  So we change my medication, and wait 4-6 weeks (until mid-October) to test and see how I have responded to the change in dose.  Fortunately, my mid-October test showed I was now in a medically-induced down swing.

It had taken 2.5 months to undo what it took 3 months to do, and before that it took 4 months to undo what may have been slowly simmering for a lifetime before boiling over in a chaotic two weeks.

I once told my PCP that I would prefer to have diabetes.  No offense to diabetes sufferers, but some aspects of that disease make it less stressful, in comparison.  Blood sugar can be tested as many times a day as you want to prick your fingers, and the results are available in seconds.  TSH changes so slowly that testing more often than once a month is a waste, and then the results take 2-7 days to receive; every other second of every other day is free to be spent wondering what your TSH is and worrying that it is going in the right direction.  Both diabetics and thyroid patients can choose to make positive changes for their health on a daily basis, but diabetics get to know almost immediately what good, if any, those changes are actually doing.

** Getting back on track has nothing to do with luck.  Occasionally (at least externally, the internal dialogue tears out a lot more psychic hair), I get a little "I want it all, right now" to my coach.  I'm not even talking about doing races, racing races, or winning races, I'm talking about simple things like being able to train for more than 3 months with the expectation of my TSH remaining stable.  He does a good job of not getting too exasperated (at least externally), but on one occasion he slipped and offered a bit of realism: "The fact that you are even back training at this level - EVER - is amazing.  Give me some credit."

And he's right, I should.  I do the physical work, and probably worry enough for both of us, but without some semblance of medically-logical guidance, all the work in the world only gets me back to where I was in November, 2011.  Literally.

His Hippocratic Oath has saved me on at least one occasion.  When I receive test results which are equal parts promising and distressing, of course I see the promising and think "pedal to the metal time."  He sees the distressing and says "I can't in good conscience build your training right now."  At least for dedicated athletes, thyroid patients need someone to say "no" more than they need someone to say "yes."

Diagnosed or not, ill-managed thyroid problems combined with more work only continue to dig the hole; I could easily be in a worse place in November, 2012, than I was a year ago.  I could weigh even more than the 175 lbs I did and could be wearing even larger sweatpants than I was.  I really couldn't be training even less than I was, though.

Instead, I need to be ecstatic that training-wise and pants-wise I am back where I was in August, 2011, which was before I even knew the storm was brewing.

** The worst small talk in the world is "so when is your next race?"  The "easy" part of a bike crash or running injury is that they present a visible evidence.  Crutches are a convenient way to tell everyone just how soon you will be racing.  For an athlete, physical accidents provide a distinct reason why "I trained yesterday, but I am not training tomorrow." 

Internal problems don't come with a brace, and leave no one, athlete or observer, with a good explanation of why or how or when or "please coddle my broken [insert body part here]."  In fact, when I was at most darkest, I cynically imagined that when I answered "so when is your next race?" people were hearing "blah-blah-bla-blahdy-blah" come out of my mouth.  They wanted a date and a name and nothing more.

Physical or external problems are just part of the sporting culture, and for better or worse, come with the expectation that the injured party will recover in an acceptably short amount of time (say six months on the outside) and get on about their business.

Of course we have the stupidity... nay, naivete...nay, audacity to believe that because we are young and resilient and have bounced back quickly before - and because we have found a way to be able to train, no matter what, every single day before, up to and including, this one.  And because by the time six months comes around the injured party is so bored and frustrated they get back to it on a partially healed body part (repeat several times until they are irrevocably broken and simply give up the sport.)

[buzzer] Times up.  Recover and get back to racing, or heed your expiration date and be gone.

Well, ask Joanna Zeiger or Julie Dibens (November 2011 Update) how that has worked out for them.

In retrospect, I too shared this mildly hysterically short-sighted view of my own situation.  I thought my thyroid would get back on track after a short interval, and things would move on down the river.  I mean, coming off 40 days of no training, I knew I wouldn't be race-fit by March, but I thought "late summer, for sure."  I had the audacity to actually expect and believe that simply because nothing else had ever side-lined me for that long before.

Then again, I had never before dealt with an ephemeral internal problem that came with a comical thought bubble containing "blah-blah-bla-blahdy-blah." 

** Plan to not have a plan.  Last fall I certainly did not plan that it would take an entire year to get my own body back under some semblance of control.  However, Karen Smyers not withstanding, I probably should have expected such a period of time as others' anecdotal evidence suggests 12-18 months is a healthy minimum of time.  Several friends have spent years re-balancing their thyroids and associated endocrine system, interspersed with various bouts of elite-level training, no training, and functional inability to train (aka "injury"), as caused or allowed by internal hormone shifts.

My totally non-medical opinion about why it takes 12-18 months is that a person can't get their thyroid back under control without knowing the new rules, and they only know the new rules by writing them from scratch.  A complete year takes an athlete through every cycle of their training season, and every cycle of the weather season, allowing them to figure out how their thyroid deals with each combination of training load and seasonal weather.  It takes getting each combination right or wrong once, in order to get it right the next time around.

** All stress is relevant.  I mentioned this in my previous post and heard it from several doctors, but it bears repeating (if only so I can discount its relevance in the next sentence): the end-game for thyroid treatment is hormone stability, under normal stress conditions, where stability is defined as a TSH close to that specific person's TSH pre-on-set, which is maintained between tests spaced up to a year apart.

 I think, again in my non-medical opinion, that specific end-game is a craps shoot for (elite) athletes.  Our daily currency is physical stress; our bread and butter is the constant and consistent application and unloading of a varying training load.  What are my "normal stress conditions"?  I have no idea!  Today it's a massage, tomorrow it's a six hour bike ride, and the day after that it could be a track workout.  Sprinkle in a month of Texas heat, and my only guaranteed outcome is that I will have a great tan.

However, I do believe there is an appropriate end-game for (elite) athletes.  It involves hormone stability through vigilance - with an eagle-eye kept on your "tells" such as acne, hair lose, weight gain, sleep irregularity - and more-frequent-than-usually-recommended tests timed to precede big changes in training and during long blocks of training to see how the thyroid is coping - with an understanding that every single bit of stress now "counts".  Your thyroid can't anticipate and respond to those every-single-bits, so you have to learn how to do anticipation and response for it.

Know how I know that?  I just spent a year learning it.

Just like those friends of yours who have had a bum Achilles for years, know on which day of the full moon they can do their long run if they wear two different shoes, use ivory orthotics, and take two steps with their left foot for every step by the right.

Time for my do over of 2012.  It's called 2013.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Baby Turns 200,000

I drive a '94 Toyota Land Cruiser, an urban tank from the 20th century.  After burning fossil fuels with abandon for nearly twenty years, the odometer recently rolled over to 200,000 miles.

My parents and I are responsible for every single one of those miles.  I basically grew up in this car; it's been a member of the family since I was in the seventh grade.  

I remember being laid out in the back seat, staring up through drugged-out eyes at a single patch of blue sky visible through a rear window, while my parents drove me back to Madison from what turned out to be my last high-school soccer game.  A kick had shattered my pinkie and I was headed home across the state to have reconstructive surgery - if only I could stop drooling on the upholstery.

Make-shift ambulance.

In the six years before that it had carried me to more soccer games and tournaments around the Midwest than any of us want to remember.  It carried me to race one Ironman, marry two cousins, and bury three grand-parents.

A few months after high-school graduation it carried me and three friends on my first road trip sans parents.  We drove across three states for a Dave Matthews Band concert, back when DMB cool, which should give you an idea just how old this car is, and slept laid out like cordwood in the back end at a rest-stop.  No wonder it's ideal to carry a bike box.

Or two full size couches.

It carried my parents from Wisconsin to South America and back.  Without being stolen, I might add, despite their best efforts to have to fly home and buy a new car.

It carried me on my East Coast college tour.  I had just received my learner's permit and drove nearly 2,500 miles during the trip.  After I had chosen a college, it (and my parents) moved me there and back again after what now seems like one long sleep-deprived night.

And it moved me to Texas, where, so sayeth the plan, it is supposed to die.  The problem is that it just won't die.  The local Toyota dealership says one Land Cruiser in town has an estimated 3,000,000 (that's million) miles on its chassis.

Give me another twenty years.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scene On The Trail: You Know You've Made It Big When

You're wearing an old pair of your dad's Gold Toe socks as shoe covers.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Not Simply Emptying Out

Somewhere in the gulf of time strung between my last post in April and now, I turned 30.  And didn't die.  Imagine that.

I initially planned a post about how I saw my 30th birthday as the signal that my life could now begin.  For some reason (and I know it is not because I still look 17) I spent my 20s being referred to as "just a child" quite frequently.  In every masters swimming group I have belonged to: "my goodness, you are just a child."    Yes, being closer to the beginning than to the (projected) end is a lovely parting gift, but I guess I wanted people with whom I am friends and spend time to see me as an age-appropriate peer rather than a gawky younger sister, even if I lead the lane because I can actually see far enough to read the pace clock.  I thought 30 would be the age at which I finally became the anti-thesis of a child (although adult might be too strong a word).

However I was told this very thing a week after turning 30 so clearly, despite having reached a major round number, my life is still in its infancy. 

Then I was going to post a 40 Things To Do Before I Turn 40 list, or something similar.  The last thirty years have passed with me doing some pretty extraordinary things; I figured by building on that with a new list I could help keep the momentum.  Of course I soon left on a six-week (err, could now be 3 month) tramp trip, and I doubt that momentum will ever be in too short a supply. 

That idea gave way to the potential wistful post of "how life was so much better when I was 25."  Umm, not going to happen, because it wasn't.   

My last resort would be to pay penance: "These are the mistakes I have made and the lessons I have learned making them. I am going to be better, be different."  On the actual day I looked in the mirror and didn't see anything different.  However my mother was visiting, and during some fall cleaning, we located some yearbook pictures, and well, there was a bit of stark relief in that comparison.  I am now a person my 18 (or even 25) year old self would never recognize; I don't necessarily have to be different because I already am.


That left me to my manifesto on why I value being unrecognizable, but it seems Charles Bukowski already has.

I'm glad I'm 30.  My life doesn't have to begin now, it just has to keep going.  The majority of it fits, in ways my 30-year-old self wants and my 18-year-old self would not have understood.  And it does because I have spent every day of the last twelve years fighting to not simply empty out.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A PLaylist To Play To

I listen to music a lot of the day.  But I don't listen to a lot of music.  My main-stays of any moment float to the top of the playlist several times a day - or several times a session - and I eventually have to shuffle them off to a higher shelf to preserve my sanity.  I'm always on the hunt for good new music that won't get repeated ad nauseam on the radio and gems I missed due to a rather underwhelming grasp of popular culture when I was a kid.

Right now, I have a mixed playlist which has escaped whole-sale banishment since July.  Considering I'll listen to it two or three times entirely through during a single long ride, that's endurance.  Here are my ear-worms of the moment:

** Too Close, Alex Clare.   Got to be true to myself.  A strictly-observant Jew from NYC dub-stepping while kendo fighters beat on each other.  His entire "new" (released in Europe in June, 2011; finally crossed the Pond in July, 2012, as part of a Microsoft commercial) album is pretty good, and the video to Treading Water is equally as genius.

** The Gambler, Kenny Rogers.   'Cuz every hand's a winner, and every hand's a loser.  The modern The Art of War.

** Copperhead Road, Steve Earle.   He never came back from Copperhead Road.  Steve Earle in the mid-to-late 80s: what would happen if a country band, a hair band, and a Scottish bagpiper had a kid.  Extra points if anyone can tell me what television role Earle played in the early 2000s.  Hint: He acted on the best show ever, and the character's name was a tribute to two other country stars who share the same first and last name.

** Fast Lane, Bad Meets Evil.  [NSFW; Explicit Language.  Although at least they're anatomically correct, which is something I guess.]   Movin' at the speed of life and I can't slow down.  This beat can get me moving on a bike like nothing else.  Too bad Eminem/D12 and Royce da 5'9" had a 6-8-year-long falling out back in 2003 or else we might have more tracks like this.

** Next To Me, Emeli Sande.   When the end has come and buildings falling down fast.  Meet Adele 2.0.  Seriously, Emeli's first name is Adele, which she dropped in light of the massive success of Emeli's country-woman, Adele.  Adele 2.0 is going to be very big - just as soon as the radio stations "discover" her.  For less athletic pursuits, try "My Kind Of Love" or "Where I Sleep."

** Thift Shop feat. Wanz, Ryan Lewis x Macklemore. [NSFW; Explicit Language] I'm gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket...probably shoulda washed this, smells like R.Kelly's sheets....I'ma take your grandpa's style, I'ma take your grandpa's style, no for real, ask your grandpa, can I have his hand-me-downs?  The un-official theme song of the neighborhood in Austin where I live.  My trivia actually named ourselves "Smells Like R.Kelly's Sheets" one night.

** Seven Devils, Florence And The Machine.   See I was dead when I woke up this morning, and I'll be dead before the day is out.  Only Florence could make the plot of the Game Of Thrones even more dramatic.

** Sail, AWOLNation.  Forget SBR-ing, I have AWOLNation to thank for discovering what I want to do when I grow up.

** Danza Kuduro, Don Omar and Lucenzo.  Don't lose your breath now.  Danza Kuduro is basically the R-rated, Reggaeton version of the Hokey Pokey.  Don't believe me?  It's also a great song to run to.

** Titanium, David Guetta feat. Sia.  You shoot me down but I won't fall. American radio finally caught on to this song.  Titanium came out in August 2011, immediately topping the charts around the world - except in the US.  The music video (kid from Super 8!) was released December 2011.  I bought it in January 2012, and have listened to it so much, if it was a record, the vinyl would worn through with holes.  I didn't hear it on US radio until June 2012.  At least now everyone can enjoy it as much as I do.

** Even If It Breaks Your Heart, The Eli Young Band.   Keep on dreamin', even if it breaks your heart.  I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience their own "bright-eyed child" moment.

** In For The Kill, La Roux (Skream Remix).   I'm going in for the kill, I'm doing it for a thrill, I'm hoping you'll understand, and not let go my hand.  I hang my hopes out on a line.  I will admit I found this song by watching the trailer for the remake of Judge Dredd.  I will not admit how many times I rewatched the trailer for a now-confirmed-to-be-horrible movie just to hear the song.

** Hard Way Home, Brandi Carlile.   See all the times I should have turned back.  Another great song for running.

** Radioactive, Imagine Dragons.   I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust.  Man, that drop gets me every time; Skrillex ain't the only one who can do it.  Extra points if anyone can tell me what commercial featured this song during the Olympics.

** Stubborn Love, The Lumineers.   It's better to feel pain than nothing at all.  This song was preceded on my play list by Hey Ho, by the same band.  A snippet of Hey Ho was used in a TV show, which led to a petition to sell The Lumineers' music on iTunes, and away they go.

** Breathe Of Life, Florence And The Machine.   From my heart down to my legs.  The absolute best thing to come out of the implosion of "Robsten."  You can take the bad acting, leave me the good music.

** Lights, Ellie Goulding (Dubstep Remix).  I've owned this song since it first came out back in 2010.  Now that the radio stations finally got their hands on it in 2012, I'm kind of done with the original version, so I've taken to listening to the dubstep remix.  Plus it helps longer intervals go by faster.

** Trouble Weighs A Ton, Dan Auerbach.   What's wrong, dear sister, did your world fall down?  Smack in the middle of The Black Keys' band-dom, Dan Auerbach stepped out to do a solo album, and recorded this.  Sometimes you just need a plaintive tune - and it doesn't hurt if it's used in commercials for Sons of Anarchy.

And although it is currently not on my active playlist, this track always gets shuffled back down off the upper shelves.

** Zigeunerweisen, Pablo Sarasate, performed by Itzhak Perlman.  Yes, classical music.  Please try to get past minute 7, when the driving beat rivals those of classic rock bass lines.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Butt Meet Saddle, Rubber Meet Road

Where have I been you ask?  Right here.  Why?  Where have you been?  Ok, yes, I have not posted recently, ok, yes, for 6+ months, which always spurs my parents to call and make sure I am still alive (does anyone else blog for its built-in Alive-O-Meter utility?) and a few sweet friends to email to see what exactly is up.  Wonder of wonders, I have more human interactions when I don't blog...But really, life has been flowing along, just pretty mundanely.  

Chop wood, carry water, eat, obsessively watch Olympics coverage, chop water, eat wood, obsessively avoid any coverage of the Presidential race.  Pa Support Staff blew through the joint in May, I relocated to Wisconsin for several weeks in July, Ma Support Staff came to Austin in September, and now I'm 4 weeks into an extended Tramp Trip north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Plus my Command Module (laptop) had to visit the Mother Ship (Apple) for multiple stay-cations.  I have not yet discovered the secret to blogging via smoke signal, which is unfortunate because I was in the middle of writing this now-very-out-of-date post when my laptop first went tits up. 

Late rather than never, here ya' go...

This past Monday (edit: April 23) I had my follow-up meeting-of-the-minds with John Cobb in Tyler, Texas.  Previously I have called this trip to East Texas a pilgrimage, and that's not hyperbole.  I look forward to all that he will make better, all that I will learn in the process, and all the in-progress creations I will beg him to hurry to market.  [NOTE: At the time I was referring to the Gen2 saddle and Cobb-designed tri-shorts, both of which are now available, thankee.]

Entering the back of that used car dealership is like walking backstage on a T.V. show entitled The Hobbyist Meets The Mad Genius Meets The Irreverent Pragmatist.  Nothing is off-limits to reinterpretation or sacrosanct against obsolescence.

Alas, John is but one man, and there are just so many fun problems to solve, so we all must wait patiently, and often in pain.

The shot across the bow, so to speak, indicating the Cobb-Cycling-to-come is this, the coolest t-shirt design I have seen in quite some time.  Wit without saying a word:

The Cobb Cycling team has some pretty potentially jaw-dropping advertising in the works.  The campaign visually represents how I have described riding his creations and I am totally jazzed to see it - and the reaction - but also far too self-conscious to wish to be a part.  You'll see, I hope...well, you will if John gets his way, which he usually does as long as Ginger's not involved.

In the meantime, several of my friends met John at IM Texas.  He was in The Woodlands to introduce himself to, and thank, anyone riding a Cobb saddle   My friends were very impressed - which is what I've been saying they should be all along.

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