Monday, September 28, 2009

I AM Ironman

Per tradition, here is Matt's race report on Beginner Triathlete.

Pre-race routine:
I arrived in Cambridge Friday afternoon for packet pickup and bike racking. I was really happy I had already thought through what to put in my T1, T2, and special needs bags, so that made getting organized a lot easier. I went to dinner with some folks from my tri club, headed back to the hotel, and actually got a pretty good (Ambien assisted) night of sleep. Woke up around 4, got all my bags to the right locations, and headed to the swim start. Getting started early helped, I didn't feel at all rushed.
Event warmup: Ha! The warmup was swimming the couple hundred yards from the boat ramp to the swim start.

Swim (2.4 miles swim - Completed in 1 hour, 42 minutes)

Well, I had done swims in rough water before, but I don't think it was ever anything this bad. Things were fine on the outbound leg, but quickly got worse at the turn. With the waves coming in and breaking over your side, it got pretty disruptive, not to mention the lovely side effect of nausea. Fortunately the "side-wave" action was short lived, the reward being another turn to swim directly into the waves. Ugh. Couldn't sight worth a damn on the inbound leg, but was actually pleased coming around on the first lap, hearing that I was at about 43 minutes. The second lap was all the same sensations, just worse because my stomach was feeling worse and worse. I almost lost it about 200M from the finish, started to dry heave. Stopping didn't help, because the bouncing up and down wasn't exactly a yack reliever. So, suck it up move number one of the day was just shutting it out, since there was no way I was going to bail on the swim with the end in sight. I was VERY happy to get out of the water.
What would you do differently?: I could have used more swim volume in training, but really the conditions and resulting inability to sight well had a lot to do with the result.

T1 (transition 1, swim to bike)
I always pride myself on being pretty quick in transitions. I had been telling myself that I just had to take it easy in an iron distance rate. Happily, the condition I was in getting out of the water guaranteed that I would take all the time I needed in T1. Very helpful volunteers in the tent getting my suit off and packed up. I already had my bike shorts on under the wetsuit, so it was just a matter of putting on my jersey, shoes, and helmet before heading out of the tent.
What would you do differently?: Nothing. I just needed to sit for a few minutes to get my bearings back.

Bike (112 miles - Completed in 6 hours, 51 minutes)

I knew this was going to be rough when I saw the wind forecast for Cambridge was 10-13 MPH, because once you get outside of town the winds are almost always stronger than the forecast. Sure enough, the first outbound section things felt great, but I could see everyone coming back going significantly slower. Even going (slower) back into the wind, I was feeling pretty good.
The first 30-40 miles were pretty uneventful, other than the wind. I alternated eating a Clif Bar and an Uncrustable every 45 minutes or so, which seemed to be working well. I really got demoralized, however, when I turned onto the road north to finish the first loop. The wind didn't really feel like it had let up, and the road conditions were pretty bad for a few miles in there. One fun part, like last year, the water had covered parts of the road, so there were a few "Wheeeeeeee!" moments riding through.
I finally got to the special needs stop at the high school, and was very happy to see my wife and daughter, who had driven out that morning to watch. There was a brief moment of panic, though, when the volunteers couldn't find my bag. Fortunately, they found it, I was able to reload nutrition, take some Tylenol, and head back out. I wasn't exactly looking forward to lap 2, since I knew the wind, rough patch of road, and mind-numbing distance were all still out there waiting.
All in all though, lap 2 went well. I stayed pretty focused, dealt with the rough patch of road, went through the (now deeper) water, and really just tried to deal with the boredom. Happily, I thought up a great time waster in the last 20 miles. Singing "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" over and over again might not seem like the greatest idea on the world right now as you're reading this, but it worked like a charm to keep me from going insane those last few miles. Or maybe I was already insane, and this was just a manifestation. Similar to Eagleman in June, I was really looking forward to the run, mostly because it meant I wouldn't be on the bike anymore.

What would you do differently?: I guess work on mental focus, but it's already hard on a ride this long, much less with the winds involved.

T2 (transition 2, bike to run )
Pretty uneventful, but the valet service for the bike was nice. With the water we rode through, I was really happy to have a dry pair of socks to put on, and also put my IT band brace on my right leg (which is the one that has always flared up). In prepping for this, I really thought I was going to have a hard time getting up and leaving the changing tent, but it was just kind of happened without me really thinking about it.
What would you do differently?: Nothing.

Run (26.2 miles - Completed in 6 hours, 9 minutes)

I actually felt really good leaving transition, and for the first four miles I was actually clicking off 10 minute miles without much effort. I slowed a little on the return leg, but was still back from the first loop in about 1.5 hours. I got to see my wife and daughter again, which was great. I actually thought for a little while that I might be done by 9PM, but, of course, my body had other plans.
Starting the second loop, my IT band starting acting up. But it was the one in my LEFT leg, aka the one without the brace. Okay, time to stop, switch it over, and really hope the right leg didn't act up, or I'd get to find out the answer to a question I've always had, "If someone has a limp in both legs, do you notice?"
I still had no doubt about finishing, I just knew it was going to take longer, and be pretty painful. So, I shuffled along, drinking at the aid stations, tried some soup, and felt my knee get worse and worse. Just before the turn around, I met up with Brian. He made the last half of the marathon a lot more pleasant than it could have been. He seemed to be in better shape than me, but seemed happy to settle into my pace, which involved walking for awhile after aid stations, and then eventually jog/shuffling to the next one. It was great having someone to talk to, mentally it was such a relief after 10 hours of just having your thoughts to yourself. It started raining somewhere on the second lap, which felt good at first, but as it picked up all I kept thinking about how miserable my wife would be back at the high school. I had tried telling her to just go back to the hotel, but she stuck it out, which was amazing of her to do for me (read about her perspective on the race at her blog:
Anyways, the last lap was pretty uneventful, except for it being pitch black, raining, and me almost tripping on a frog. We joked that if you had to DNF an iron distance, frog-related injury probably wasn't the best way to do it.
Before long, we could see the lights of the stadium, and agreed to run it in from the last aid station. Ok, we cheated a little and started back running at the first phone pole past the aid station. Brian was great and wanted me to finish in front of him, but when we got back towards the school, my wife and daughter (who I am grateful was somehow sleeping in her stroller) were there waiting to follow along beside me to get to the track, so Brian went on ahead to finish. It was so gratifying to see my wife, I couldn't help but cry a little as we got to the track surface.
We split up so she could be at the finish line, and as I jogged around, I was mostly surprised at how little emotion I was feeling. I was just drained of every emotion, and all I saw was the finish line. A couple of guys sprinted past just before I finished, which was a little disconcerting, but hey, it's a race; I'm just amazed they could run that fast at that point. I crossed the finish, got my shirt, had my wife put the medal around my neck, and than the greatest thing happened, my daughter woke up and gave me a huge smile!
What would you do differently?: Nothing, it was about survival.

Post race
Warm down:
As I mentioned, I was just spent in every way, shape, and form. My wife really wanted to help me get packed up, but I convinced her to just get back to the hotel and out of the rain. I packed my bike up, went to collect my bags, and when I saw that there was no wait for a massage (duh, it took you 15 hours), got one, which I think is one of the reasons I was mobile on Sunday.
What limited your ability to perform faster: Same as in my Eagleman report, I wouldn't change anything. I trained as much as I could while maintaining a somewhat normal family life. I would have loved to finish closer to 13 hours, and I never had any serious doubts about finishing, but the mental aspect of doing something this long is something you can't (in my opinion) completely prepare for, especially your first time. People can say having a child is a wonderful thing, but you don't really "get it" until you do it. It's the same thing here. Anyone who even tries an iron distance event is amazing (and crazy), but you you don't really "get it" until you do it.
Event comments: I will say that packet pickup, etc. seemed a little disorganized, but other than that I can't say enough about the race and the volunteers. The time they put in, and the encouragement they provide, is amazing!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I've always been a cynic when it comes to Matt's newly developed athleticism. I think to myself, How can running 10 miles make you feel better when you could just sit on your ass and eat a chocolate bar with me. That always makes me feel better!

I've been supportive, but rarely excited about the triathlons.

I was not excited about the Ironman. I was supportive by holding my tongue and telling him good job no matter what I was actually thinking.

Yesterday changed my mind. Not enough to want to participate or even encourage more insanity. Yesterday changed my mind about the human spirit.

This is not what I thought this blog post would be about when I imagined what I would write days ago. I thought then I would fill this page with anecdotes about how we whiled away the day while Matt sweated. I thought I would write little quips about amusing Matt moments. Yesterday, I learned that there is little amusing about Ironman distance triathlon.

Matt's day, and the day of those who finished with him, started early. The clock started ticking at 7 am while Grace and I were still at home. We arrived around 10 am and had our first Matt sighting around 1 pm. He says the waves during the swim were about 1.5 feet high and the wind was like a brick wall during the bike. I saw he was tired and frazzled during that first 1 pm stop to refuel his water bottles and food pockets, but was not effected myself yet.

I knew he was tired when he finished his 112 mile bike ride and hobbled into the tented area to change into running clothes. I willed him with every thing I had to come out of the tent. I knew if he had his running shoes on he would finish the race, because what is the point of starting if you weren't going to finish, right?

I panicked when he came back to the home base after the first of the 3 laps required to fulfill the 26.2 mile run. I could see he was sunburt, his face was white with sweat salts and his pace was slow. Gracie and I kissed him and sent him out for another 9 miles.

That is when I started to understand.

The sun was starting to set and the rain was beginning to sprinkle on and off. The winners were already finished as Matt started his marathon. Others were still coming in off their bikes as my husband was beginning his second loop.

When the skies were dark and the rain began to fall heavy, I rocked Gracie to sleep in her stroller shielded with umbrellas. I sat there watching faces. That's when I understood. When the already lack luster crowd support all but disappeared. I couldn't blame them. It was cold and windy and raining, but I refused to move to my car. I needed to watch faces and clap for each runner.

There was an old man, his leg said age 70, doing the full triathlon. I saw him coming in from a distance. His hobble was distinct even at 9:15 pm. I clapped for him. Way to go! You're almost there! I was so sure he was finishing. He was moving so slowly. At 9:30 he was back in front of me again. He wasn't done. He still had one more lap to complete. 9 more miles, alone in the pitch black rain.

That's when I cried.

The determination was unbelievable. His is a poignant story, but it is everyone's story. I finally understood that it is more about determination that fitness and conditioning. Nobody looked good as the finished the marathon. OK, the first few people to finish the thing looked good, but do they really count?

My prospective on the sport, and what it means to accomplish something like this, is forever changed. And while I knew I could always depend on Matt for anything, his show of sheer willpower and expression of mind over matter has forever changed my opinion of him. I now have proof that Matt will fight to the end no matter what the challenge is. And win.

The old man did in fact finish, 22 minutes before the cut off time of 11:59 pm.

And Matt? He can now call himself Ironman with a completion time of 14 hours and 57 minutes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Again. Again. Again. Again.....

I never really understood children’s music.

As a childless adult, I mocked it. As a parent, I mocked the parents who gave in. I really did feel superior. Gracie is happy listening to Jason Mraz and Pink, thank you very much. We do not need children’s CD’s.

Then she got a little older and the Wheels on the Bus came into focus. OK, whatever, I can sing a few rounds of this. It’s not so bad.

Then she learned more songs. And started getting mad when I screwed up the words. And wanted me to sing for the entire 45 minute car ride.

So I caved. You knew this was coming though, that I become one of them. One of the parent’s I had always mocked. The person who is blaring the Itsy Bitsy Spider when you pull up next to them at the stoplight. You can judge, it’s OK. I expect it.

It’s taken me – oh, a few months – to get up the gumption and admit that we own a children’s CD. So here is it, full out there. I present the Toddler Tunes.

And do you want to know why I’m admitting this? Because I’m buying more. Listen, I need more. I’m starting to get a nervous twitch from the repetition, and frankly, I am tired of listening to Gracie complain everyday that the damn CD doesn’t have Twinkle Twinkle on it.

I love my daughter, but I hate what I’ve become.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tactical Mistake

Upon Matt's return from Boston, he presented both Grace and me with gifts.

I got Beacon Hill Chocolates and Mike's Pastry cookies (becasue he couldn't figure out how to keep the cream in my beloved Lobster Tails freash for a day in the hotel and plane ride. Personally, I think he just wasn't being creative enough :) Seriously though, these things are good enough to be the sole reason for your trip to Boston.)

Gracie was presented with a Lucy the Lobster and Her Clacky Claws and this little finger puppet. ------------------>

Despite the truly clacking claw on the top, the book was a meh for Gracie. The tiny little finger puppet though! That is a winner. The puppet ate dinner with us last night. Literally. We had to tell her several times that plush toys do not belong on your dinner plate and that the lobster does not need to eat himself. Especially not my famous, I make them once a year because they are such a pain-in-the-butt, eggrolls.

Do you hear that Grace? Toy lobsters do not eat eggrolls!

Anyway, the lobster is LOVED. And at the grocery store I made a TACTICAL. MISTAKE.

At the fish counter I pointed out the live lobster tank. Shit.

I wasn't thinking, at least not all the way though to the repercussions of what I was doing. In my small minded 5 second thought process before I spoke, I assumed Gracie would squeal with joy over sighting the real thing and we would be on our way. Nope. The fish counter is only 1/2 way though our shopping routine. The first half of the trip she ate contraband, unwashed fruit and the second half she lamented with a wayward bellow for the lobsters.

Lober, where are you lober? Mama, where is lober? Is lober OK? I want it. I want to see lober. I want it. Lober, where are you lober? Mama, go see lober?

See what I mean? Shit.
I spend the next few minutes ignoring her questions, which were increasing in volume and pitch, to come up with a story. After Matt's request for Uncrustables was fulfilled (don't ask, but if you ever need them they are located on the bottom shelf of back corner behind the tequitos and pizza snacks at my gocery store), we fought traffic back to the fish counter.

OK, Gracie. One more stop by the lobsters. But they are sleeping and they can't come out of the water, OK? We will stop by and say hi one more time, but you'll have to wait until next week to see them again after, OK? OK?!?

And so we did. It went smoothly. Mama, I see them! Shh! lober sleeping. OK, we go now. I see again though?
When we got home Grace promptly told Matt, "Shh - lober sleeping" and walked away. But now? Now an extra 5 minutes is going to have to be built into every visit to the grocery store. Stuffing Lil' Rick into his Halloween lobster costume should be a big hit this year though.

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Beginnings

Today, my brother signed the paperwork to purchase his first home.

Tonight, Gracie and I have been invited to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with friends.

I love the idea of mid-year new beginnings. Sweet beginnings. Fall is always a breath of fresh air to me, as the best things in my life have always come this time of year.

So to all my friends and family, may today bring you wonderful new beginnings.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Breathing Room

As dictate by the prior chronicle of all Gracie's new shoes, I feel compelled to post this update.

Her new shoes are here. Goodbye Janines, hello McKenna.

So long to the old, worn out, stinky pair that is squishing her poor little piggies, and hello to her new pretties.

Nothing is better than seeing our little girl do an ecstatic little tippy-tap dance in her new fall shoes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Borrowed From the History Books

Matt is headed to Boston for a conference today. Awesome for him, sucks for me.

This - travel thing - is going to start happening more and more for him. Other people are starting to realize how cool he is. Cool enough to put up on a panel and force others to pay to hear him talk anyway. I have a feeling that this first speaking engagement is going to cause a ripple affect. Again, awesome for him, sucks for me.

I really haven't had to single parent all that often. Sure, there have been plenty of all day workouts and triathlon events, but that is during the DAY. Gracie and I can run errands and shop until she drops. NIGHT though, that is a whole other beast.

We've settled into a routine in our house. I give Grace her bath (because I don't mind sitting on the floor and splashing for 20 minutes, where Matt gets frustrated with the process) and Matt puts her to sleep (because it is the exact opposite, I have no patience for play after the lights are out).

Yes, I know we should not be rocking her to sleep with a bottle of warm milk at almost 2 years old, but that is a whole other issue that will have to be addressed sometime in the future. Like when our pediatrician, Dr. H, yells at us for it at her two year old check up next month. Anyway, at NIGHT Grace wants her daddy. For the next three nights she will only get mommy.

My plan? Shock and awe.

I don't borrow from G.W. (or any republican) well, ever, but in this case I'm going to run with the slogan. My plan is to wear her out. Stay at work until 4:30-5 pm so she can run around in even more manic circles that happen as the afternoon stretches at daycare and then pound her with dinner trips to places like Red Robin.

It'll all be win-win, right?

She gets to expel extra energy, which will hopefully tire her out more than normal and then will be sated with fatty, crab laden foods accompanied by balloons in an environment where screaming children are the norm. On the way home from said dinners, she will be so exhausted and belly bursting full she will fall dead asleep in the car and transfer easily to her crib, sleeping the entire night and waking cheerfully in the morning for another round of 'Daddy's Gone!' fun.

Right? Right?!? That is how this week will go.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To the OBX

We are back from vacation, as is apparent by this Tuesday workday timestamp.

The house was lovely.

The weather was not. OK, this picture below is lovely, but 75% of the trip didn't even have an inclination to give us such beautiful sunrises or sets. Matt and I did have the pleasure of seeing the fabled 'morning flash' if the sun breaking over the ocean at dawn. It was beautiful.

The same crazy storms that went up the East Coast and flooded New Jersey also sat on us. For 4 out of 7 days. The wind blew so hard that the three story house shook. SHOOK. Constantly. Particularly the little sun room that shoots off the side of the house.

This did make plenty of time for books (I read over 1,000 pages just myself) and snuggles, and games, and puzzles.

You can only sit so long in a strange house with a two year old before starting to go stir crazy though. Mixed in with the celebrations and laughter there was a lot of tension. So we took a trip to the Wright Brothers museum and a few mini tours around the neighborhood looking for horses.

Yes, I said horses.

While it rained they were smart enough to stay further inland, but when the winds broke and the sun shone we had horses. Down the street, in front of the house, on our patio.

Friday I finally emerged into the sunlight to grill. The horses had been in front of our house for awhile, but had disappeared. I trudged down from the third floor with 1.5 lbs of steak and a big pan of mushrooms to saute and squealed as I rounded the corner to the grill. HORSES!

Originally, there was four of them, all packed in like little sardines in the breeze way containing the grill.

Despite the weather, the ocean was still breathtakingly beautiful, Gracie loved the horses and I am all the more convinced that Matt is absolutely the one person that I could spend everyday with for the rest of my life.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


We're home. Exhausted, but HOME.
Please give me some time to recuperate and choose my words.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Going, Going, Almost Gone

The moment is almost here. Vacation.

We've been waiting all summer for this. Yes, there have been plenty of distractions between then and now, but the now has always been the shining beacon of home. And now is upon us.

We are packed. Only the food in our refrigerator and tomorrow mornings toothbrushes remain unpacked. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are beckoning our names. We've been trying to instill excitement in Gracie, Guess what? We are going someplace with the ocean and sand and HORSES and DOLPHINS!!

Yeah, that's right. I said horses and dolphins. We've rented a home right on the roadless 4x4 area of the Outer Banks were visits from wild horses are frequent and dolphin siting in the ocean before us is not uncommon. Other than that, there is little to do in this area, and that is exactly what we are hoping for.

Sand, surf, chlorinated pool and lots of rum based drinks. I will back next week with plenty of stories- preferably in that order.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Junkie Monkey is Back

Matt has worked for three different Agencies during our years in Maryland.

The second Agency has posts all over the world and as such, Matt was expected to carry a blackberry at all times, day and night, incase something happened in Zimbabwe that needed his immediate attention.

*It NEVER did.*

He kept the blackberry by the bedside for the first month or so. The thing would inevitably start buzzing at 3am, not because there was a crisis, but because someone in China decided to send an email. You can’t really be mad at the schmuck in China, it was work related and it was broad daylight there, but I could be mad at Matt for keeping the thing 2 feet from his head and not getting any sleep. So the blackberry was banished to kitchen.

Like most work-a-holics, the crackberry really is just that. He can’t help himself. He hears the siren song of the buzz and is drawn. It is actually better when it buzzes, instead of being rendered completely silent, because in silence comes paranoia. What if? What if?!! So he checks it every 5 minutes.

Any you know what? There is ALWAYS a freaking email. I can go all day without a single email. Matt can’t seem to go 2 minutes without one.

Anyway, when he left that agency, he turned in the blackberry. I was thrilled. He hand withdrawal shakes for awhile.

At his now job, they have decided to feed the addict. The crackberry is back.

Matt told me that a few of the guys he regularly has lunch with have a nickname for him, ‘Meetings’. I know, it is far from clever, but it really is quite accurate. His office quickly recognized that he is smarter than the average bear and much, much smarter than the typical government employee, so he was assigned special projects. Which lead to more special projects. Which has led to multiple meetings daily. Which has lead to some fairly high level meeting and projects. Meeting and projects that will soon affect the daily lives of the American taxpayer. Which has lead to invitations for him to speak at conferences.

Which has led to this…. the crackberry.

It was determined that since his brilliant mind is away from the office so much, they wanted to still be in touch with him and presented Matt with a shiny, still in the box new blackberry.


The one plus to it though, is that it has internet. Matt pulled up Google for me without hesitation to show off his new toy. If he can pull up Google though, that means accessing my Google Reader isn’t that much of a stretch. And if the Reader is ok, Blogspot is a Google creation…. So maybe you will be getting up to date reports from our Outer Banks vacation next week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Battle Royale

Gracie has been in daycare with the same three little girls since her enrollment. She and her best friend have had lunch dates since they were weeks old. All three girls have traveled together from classroom to classroom. They are sisters. They fight.

Oh, do they fight.

Now that they are all rounding the ripe old age of two, there is more consequence to their battles. More aftermath and carnage.

I arrived to pick Gracie up moments after this happened. There were no remaining tears and I’m sure the pains were quelled with hugs, from both her teacher and her offending sister.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I grew up with religion. Catholic religion. My brother and I were the only cousins out of… oh about 40… on my dad 100% Irish side of the family that didn’t go to Catholic school K-12.

There are 3 reasons for this:
1) My mom attended Catholic school K-2nd grade. When lessons in penmanship began, she was regularly beaten with a ruler for being left handed. 3rd grade my grandparents moved her to public school.
2) My dad attended Catholic school K-11th grade. During grades 9-11 he apparently spent vast amounts of time digging holes, refilling those holes and bathing the meanest Saint Barnard (the school mascot) as punishment for his antics. For his final paper in religion class he wrote and in depth analysis of the failings of the Catholic Church and called the Pope a fraud. He was asked to leave the premises and never return. He attended public school grade 12.
3) Catholic school is expensive.

Despite these ill feelings, my mom still made sure we were raised in the church. For the most part, as a child, I liked it. We went to mass every Sunday. We stayed after for CCD and catechism classes. I sang in the children’s choir, despite not being able to carry a tune. I stood in front of the entire congregation and did readings. I did these things because I wanted to, because Father asked me to and I could not say no to such a beautiful heart.

After my confirmation, my attendance started to slip. I was in high school after all. In college my attendance was almost non existent. I only went when my friend Bill asked me to go with him, and I am fairly sure he only went as penitence for all the drinking and carousing he did the rest of the week.

It was also in these years that I started to doubt so much of the teachings I accepted without question in my childhood. Particularly the Catholic Church’s hard line stance on a person’s right to choose- their partners and their bodies.

But I always seem to go back. In a fit of rage Matt and I decided to be married by a Methodist minister instead of the priest I wanted, but after much debate we still had Gracie baptized Catholic. When she starts kindergarten we will enroll her in CCD classes too.

We haven’t been to mass in months though. It’s odd because on some level I really do love going. I love the music and voices, the smell of flowers and incense, the routine. It is comfortable and never changes. Watching Kennedy’s burial on CNN this past Saturday, I sat on the couch eating a freeze pop and absent mindedly participating in the service. I’m sure others at home were doing the same thing.

I still find myself struggling with what I believe, but I know that I do believe. I guess that is one of the beautiful things about structured religion: It always welcomes you back with open arms.