Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting Lost In Boston

Boston is a really cool city, but it is the bad driving capital of the United States at least. There is probably some third world cities that are much more terrible to drive in. At least there aren't cattle and goats to dodge while driving and I can read the few street signs that there are. I had the good fortune to visit Boston on vacation on a trip up to Vermont. If I hadn't been driving further on, I probably would not have even rented a car.

Bostonians give the excuse that the roads were originally cow paths. This excuse doesn't cut it. They could straighten the damn streets out if they wanted to. And why do lanes suddenly disappear on the freeway without any warning? Why does a street name change three times in the space of a mile? And why do they not label their streets. You can go down a street for a mile through numerous intersections and not know what street you on because there are no signs.

The worst thing is the rotaries. You have a split second to pick which street to go down, and if you aren't sure, most likely you pick the wrong one and wander for hours trying to get back to where you were supposed to go. I attempted to go from my hotel to my cousins house, which was a ten minute drive of five miles and it took me half an hour, with a lot of directing from my cousin because I couldn't figure out where I was or what direction I needed to go.

This is like my life right now. I am not sure where I am going and I keep wandering down dead end streets and going the wrong way. I may have a map, but it doesn't help, because I don't know where I am. I have choices about what street to take, but I am not sure which one I should choose to get where I want to go. I rely on people to help me go down the right path, but I still have to do the work and it's hard and stressful.

Psychologists call this the "process". When your life falls apart like with a divorce or a death of a family member, you have to regroup emotionally and get through the pain to a new life. You have a bewildering amount of decisions to make and it's terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. You struggle through the deepest despair and occasionally experience great joy. Pain forces you wade through the quagmire of anger, self-loathing and indecision to get to a new place. Sometimes you drive badly and in the wrong direction in a really difficult city to travel in.

Even though I in blundered through Boston, I somehow got to where I was supposed to be, with the right directions. I made it to my cousin's house and I made it home. I am hoping that I will find the right direction in my life eventually and not get lost in the cowpaths.

And may I never drive in Boston ever again.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mountain Man Race Report

I have done this race before, so I knew it would hurt. There's an Olympic distance and a half iron for the truly insane. The swim is a 1.5k in Lake Mary, which looks kind of like a mud hole, but the water is fairly warm(70's) for the 7,000 foot altitude. The 24.6 mile bike is an out and back and has a nasty hill before the turn around. The run has an even nastier hill that climbs for 1.5 miles on the 10k run. It makes you hate your very existence.

It had rained heavily the night before, so I had to drive through fog. This is not something I do very often in the desert and it was un-nerving. You have to get to the race site early because the only parking is on the side of the road and it has to be off the pavement. The side of the road being soft and muddy makes you wonder if you are going to need a tow truck to get your sedan out of the mud. I actually got a spot near transition, which I blundered into trying to see in the heavy fog.

There was fog on the lake, which made me wonder if I would have to swim through the stuff. Swimming at altitude is hard enough without dealing with that. Luckily it burned off, though it was still misty. The water was mercifully warm and smooth.

I jumped into the lake and when the wave started, I immediately went into oxygen deprivation. I have swum in high altitude races before and it isn't easy. You can breath at a certain rate in swimming and it isn't enough oxygen. If you settle in to a relaxed pace, you can get enough air to ease the crushing weight on your chest, but it isn't easy and it involves being uncomfortable. If you are not relaxed, it is a nightmare of hyperventilating, thrashing around and feeling panicky. I wasn't moving that much, but I couldn't get enough air. I had to resort to hanging off the kayaks of the people who are supposed to keep you from drowning. Usually if you have to resort to this, you know your swim is going to really suck. I would swim a little, then get tired and start panting. It was ugly. As the second wave of men came through, I caught a draft off of them and it was a little easier. I started swimming towards the distant buoy, which I couldn't see. It was frustrating because I didn't really know where the hell I was supposed to go. It would have been nice to have more than three buoys for a 15k swim. Without the buoys, you feel like you aren't making any progress. At least when you are swimming by them, you know that you are actually going in the right direction.

After an eternity, I finally reached to second buoy. I knew that that was most of the swim distance. I started swimming faster and felt O.K., because I really wanted to be done with the swim. Staggering out of the water, I realized I really need to pee.

I blundered through transition. After being horizontal for so long, my brain was foggy and it was hard to get my bike gear on. Of course, hardly any bike were left. I wanted to pee, but the porta-potties were outside of transition, inconveniently located behind the exit. I hoped for maybe something on the bike course.

The bike course starts out slightly downhill, then starts climbing, then REALLY climbs. You get to the Morman Lake turnoff and think you are almost done, but you have three more miles. The big hill I usually do at eight miles an hour going up and thirty seven miles an hour going down. I see all the people going the other direction that swam faster than I, but I do manage to pass a few people on mountain bikes. The scenery is wooded lakes and mountains with wild flowers on the side of the road. It takes my mind off my painful bladder. There is no where to pee unless I go off into the woods. I try not to think about it.

I reach the turn around in 53 minutes, which is slower than last year. This leg of the race is probably going to suck as well. There seemed to be a head wind, which didn't help. There are actually people behind me, but not many. At least I made up a little time from the swim.

Coming back is much easier and takes about 40 minutes. I could have used a few more of those 37 mile per hour hills. I actually manage a flying dismount, which involves taking off your shoes while you are riding and swinging your leg over the bike. I run into transition wondering where the hell I am going to pee.

I run out and the run is slightly downhill. I slog through a mile and finally see a porta-potty before the big hill. THANK GOD! It's hard running with a full bladder. I waste two minutes(yes, I timed it) and finally I feel lighter. I start the painful process of running up the hill.

As I go up the hill, I see a guy bent over. It turns out that he is urinating without bothering to hide it. I was envious. If this was one of those fancy ironman races, he would be penalized, but nobody seems to care because they are in their own world of pain. I thought it was funny. It was probably the highlight of the run.

I finally make it to the top and start running down the hill. It is good at first because it's not running UP the hill, but by the bottom of the hill it has become downright annoying. The last few miles are fairly flat, but my legs hurt and I had a bad side stitch by this time. I was really irritable and depressed. If anybody had gotten in my way, I would have probably yelled at them. I tried to speed up the last mile, but my legs were toast. I could speed up my cadence, but I had no power. I was used up. I was relieved to hit the finish line that seemed to never come.

This race put me in a cranky mood. It was twenty three minutes slower than last year. I was hoping to do as well or better than last year and it didn't work out. It was painful and hard. The suckage factor was pretty high. You always hope that you will do well, but reality doesn't always work that way. Things go wrong. Your energy fails. Your training isn't enough to overcome the obstacles. Next time I do a really hard race I am going to try to stay positive. I am also going to figure out where the hell I can pee.