Custom Countdowns & MySpace Layouts

Custom Countdowns & MySpace Layouts

Sunday, December 9, 2007


I'm sick - totally full-blown coughing, throat hurting, eyes & nose running sick:( Actually I've reached the stage that every breath I take feels like lung tissue is catching on fire - not so fun - and coughing - you can only imagine how that feels.

On Friday, I found out that a friend of mine (Brian) was sick & had to stay home from work - bummer for him - but I was glad it wasn't me. I swear, it wasn't 2 hours later that my throat started to feel like it was on fire. I was sure it was just the power of suggestion but now I know that it wasn't & although he was well enough to ride in a race today, I'm still stuck in the house feeling sorry for myself. I was supposed to ride 30 miles this afternoon but I totally bailed. I'm just hoping that I get better soon. This coming week was going to be a great workout week - I had no weird things going on with the kids to make me crazy trying to squeeze in all my various workouts.

Okay - enough whining for now...I think I'll go drink some hot tea.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hanging with the guys...

I've been literally hanging out with guys most of my life. First a long, long time ago (around 1979) when I started on the cross-country team there were virtually no girls in the sport. There was one coach for the team which consisted of about 25 boys & 5 girls. All of our practices were together so whether we were running miles on the road or through the woods, we all hung out together. No one thought this was weird. The next year on the track team, same thing. Boys & girls together because it didn't make much sense to get a separate coach for the 10-12 of us.

Around the same time I joined the high school marching band. Even though I really wanted to be one of the cute flag girls in the short little skirts, I happened to play trombone. Although I made the flag squad, the band director prevailed upon my sense of loyalty for the better of the group. We needed more brass players he I gave up my coveted short skirt and joined the rest of the guys in the brass
section of the band. Out of our 50 some horns, I was one of a small handful of girls in the section. Again, no one thought this was weird.

In about 7th grade, I met the person who would be my absolute best friend all the way through junior high, high school & into college. GASP! It was a guy. There was never any romantic relationship between us (even though we tried a couple of times). We shared all manner of thoughts in our many long conversations and to this day he probably knows more about me & who I was/am than anyone else around.

Fast forward to late 2004. Even though I had been running off & on by myself for years, when I decided to sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon I realized that I might need some support, camaraderie, advice...anything. I signed up for the Lifetime Fitness Marathon Training Group which again - mostly guys. There were probably 15 of us total with about 3-4 women on any given training run. Again - we ran all over the place - roads, trails, forests, you name it, we ran it. It was a great group. Some people had already run a marathon & freely shared advice & stories with those of us who needed it. Also, on our long runs, the group tended to spread out & people would usually pair up with anyone who ran their pace. Given the ratios of the group - you can probably guess
that women & men usually ended up running together (by themselves) but not once did anything other than running ever come of it.

Same thing here in Louisville. The running group I belong to is made up of both men & women. We all seem to run with whoever is around (both men and women). In addition, (those runners among you will understand) we talk about absolutely everything while running (and in mixed company also). Nothing is off limits - clothes, hair, sex, babies, bikini waxes, tv, relationships, bodily functions, you name it. We talk about pretty much everything - but somehow, everyone is able to control themselves in an adult manner & not fall to the ground in a mass orgy.

So, you're probably wondering, what if the point of all this?

Well, I've recently discovered that although runners tend to be openly helpful about the
sport, welcoming all comers - fast, slow, fat, skinny, boy, girl, there are some of those in the biking community who are not the same.

Now, I'd like to preface this by saying that pretty much all multi-sport athletes I've met & most of the bikers are very helpful & welcoming - going out of their way to make newbies feel included. However, it seems that there's this sub-group of guys (pretty much bikers only) who seem to have some conflicted feelings about the increasing number of women flocking to the sport.

As a specific example, I'd like to mention a locale where lots of road bikers hang out. Usually when I walk in, it's pretty much all guys - but that's often the case at the running store too. However, this is the place I go to in order to buy stuff for the sport & get my bike fixed, upgraded, etc. (CHA-CHING!) Now, like visiting Fleet Feet for running, I look forward to my visits to this place. I don't know very many bikers and I'm still learning, so when I drop in I'm looking forward to talking with others about biking, discussing the merits of certain techniques, maybe deciding on a bike upgrade, possibly even just hanging out, absorbing what's going on - others do. People even drop in here to just share a cup of coffee or shoot the breeze. Pretty normal - if you're a guy.

Apparently in this little biker world, when a woman drops in to browse, hang out, shoot the breeze, she must have some other motive in mind because she couldn't possibly be serious about biking could she? The concept of friendship between the sexes also appears to be alien. Ride together? God forbid...something else must be going on because we all know how extremely attractive people are after riding, running swimming for hours on end with sweat dripping off their bodies, salt crusted on their face, bike grease on their hands and legs and helmet hair. I know I'm really attracted to that kind of look - hold me back. Maybe it's just the fact that since these guys ride around in skin-tight spandex with girly designs on them they have to act extra manly-like the rest of the time. I don't know, but whatever it is, they need to take a lesson from the runners, multi-sport athletes and other bikers out there. The rest of us have figured out that by being as welcoming, inclusive and helpful as possible we might be able to entice more people to our sport. The more people in the sport, the more events we get to have. The more events, the more fun for all of us. I'm pretty sure there's absolutely nothing to gain by making people feel stupid or uncomfortable.

Also, if people are making subtle (and not so subtle) jokes when women walk into the store, well women will quit walking in. I can buy pretty much everything I need on the internet (and sometimes for less) but I enjoy going into a "real" store to get my stuff. FYI - triathlon is currently one of the fastest growing sports in the United States with women leading the charge. Age Group triathletes boast the highest income average of any of the "average-people's" sports out there. By alienating a sizeable portion of those athletes you obviously reduce your future income potential. We work just as hard (if in a different way) than you way to full of yourselves bikers and just want to improve like you do. Grow up boys - we're not 14 anymore & your little jokes are just not that funny. It might be hard for you to believe but our goal in life is not to get into your pants!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The State of the Union

Do you ever look around & wonder about the State of the Union? I know I do. Sometimes after reading an article, listening to the news, or just observing the goings-on around me I find myself wondering how we came to this? How did things get so screwed up? Well, let me tell you, all you have to do is take a trip to DC to understand. Between the actual travel & the city itself, it all begins to become clear.

When Kelly & I planned our Marine Corps trip to DC, we decided to fly into Baltimore & rent a car to drive to DC. Why? There
were better flight times & I was attempting to minimize the amount of time my husband would have to take off of work (for the 5 kiddos). When we arrived for our 6pm Southwest Airlines flight out of Louisville, I should have taken the almost full long-term parking and the security line as a sign of things to come. Our little Louisville Airport usually has a fairly manageable security line - 15-20 max minutes to get through. However, on this night, the line snaked through the main corrals, through the secondary corrals, through the meet & greet area and down the escalator. What's up with that? Turns out that a home & garden show had been in town for the week & had just let out. Apparently everyone decided to leave Louisville at the same time.

Kelly & I gamely got into line to wait (we were at the airport with plenty of time) and were immediately hemmed in by what looked to be every attendee at the garden show. In front, behind, both sides, we were completely surrounded by convention attendees who acted like they were still enjoying the party atmosphere of what appeared to be maybe their first time away from home (or at least from the wife). This one group standing behind us kept getting closer and closer until they were practically standing on top of us. If either of us were better endowed I'd think they were trying to get a look:) Then, when we got to the point where you actually have to take off shoes, belts, earrings, jackets & practically everything else you're wearing, they thought stripper jokes were very funny...hmmm - who knew that home & garden guys were such party animals?

We finally made it through the line & were actually lucky enough to arrive at the gate where we were still near the front of the line for the "A" group.
We wait, and wait, and wait some more. Finally the airline person announces that our plane should be landing soon. Wait some more - the plane arrives, the passengers get off, another announcement. There's a mechanical problem on our aircraft - something about the deicers. The mechanic is on the way. Wait some more - announcement that it should be 15 more minutes. Tick-tock. Finally, another announcement (as an aside, don't you hate it when they keep talking but only give you bad news. Each time you hear the PA come on you think - this is finally it! Time to board. But alas, it's always bad news.) We are going to switch aircraft and gates. Wow, I've never seen people move so fast. All of a sudden all those people at the back of the boarding groups see an opportunity to rectify what would probably have been an uncomfortable middle seat. People are jumping over seats, pushing around posts and each other. Something is just not right about this whole process. Good new, though. Kelly must have been a gymnast in a previous life because somehow, we end up near the front of the line again. Yeah Kelly!

Finally, we're on the plane. They give the usual Southwest spiel & we're airborne. They even offer free alcoholic beverages for all of our trouble. Unfortunately, the ride was so bumpy that they had to pick them right back up. That's okay, we made it to Baltimore in one piece & we were only 3 hours late.

Off to baggage claim, onto the rental car bus, out at the Hertz counter. We rent our gas guzzling Toyota SUV & are almost out the door. Wait - the rental car lady tells us we should take a different route than our handy dandy Mapquest directions because the highway is under construction. Who cares that it's
almost midnight & pouring down rain, she's convinced that we'll wait for hours if we follow our route so we make a few quick notes & switch to hers. It's all good she says, her route will merge into ours so if we just follow our directions after we get off the highway all will work out. Right? Wrong!

We did actually make it out of the building and into our car. However, that was the last time
we made it anywhere without getting lost! Who would have thought that following directions would be so hard? I've driven in Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, NYC, LA - never a problem. I just can't seem to drive in the Baltimore/DC area. Our first error (and really just a sign of things to come) was when we turned the wrong way out of the rental car garage. The rain was blinding but we actually thought we were following directions. Their version of left at the stop sign & ours was just different I guess. After getting turned around the right way we made it onto the highway headed towards DC. Making decent time in the storm, we dodged slow drivers, fast drivers, people without their lights on & still managed (I think) to actually take the right exit off the highway. After that, though, things went quickly wrong again. We kept going, and going, and going hoping to see some magic turnoff to our hotel in Arlington. We never did find it but almost managed to hit what I think might have been the Capital Building. At that point, Kelly called Ben (her husband). She woke him up or interrupted a video game or something but he was nice enough to play along. He somehow figured out where we were & how to get where we were going. As I was continuing to move forward while he was giving directions it was sometimes tricky for him to actually pinpoint things. Street names kept changing too. We'd be going forward on a letter street only to find out that we were suddenly on a number street. This happened several times and we never actually made a turn. Go figure. Ben got us out of DC and pointed in the right direction. Yeah for Ben!

10 minutes later we rolled into our hotel parking lot. We had chosen a hotel recommended by the race travel agency that was close to both the start & the finish line. Given the room rate, I was expecting it to be a nice hotel. NOT! The first tipoff was when the man at the front desk seemed upset by the fact that someone was actually checking in & bothering whatever it was that he was doing. He finally looked up at us took my name typed a few things on the computer & we thought he was checking us in. Minutes went by - boy he was slow - before another front desk guy just apparently wandered by. 1st front desk guy told 2nd front desk guy to check us in - huh? I'm not sure what 1st front desk guy was doing but it apparently didn't involve us. (Not sure I really want to know anyway). We start over again with 2nd front desk guy & somehow manage to obtain a room key. Finally! We grab our bags from the car, drag them to the very small, creaky elevator and make it to our room. Without elaborate explanations, I'll just say that it was the first time I ever stayed in a hotel where I considered actively checking for bedbugs! Yuck! (We don't recommend the Virginian Suites in Arlington.)

Next day, we head out to breakfast and get lost - but the chocolate pancakes at IHOP were worth it. We go to the race expo (and get lost). We go shopping (and get lost). You're probably getting the gist of things. I will say that Kelly was remarkably patient when I made her read the detailed Mapquest directions over & over again - even to the point of repeating distances, exit names, etc. In our defense, it really does seem that the directions were wrong. We'd head towards a street where we were to take a left turn and there would be none. Repeatedly we'd be following directions toward the Memorial Street Bridge & we'd miss it. Now, I'm not sure how hard it is to find a bridge that was apparently less that 1/2 mile from our hotel, but we never found it. The morning of the race we were able to find the train station that would get us to the start of the race but we somehow got on going the wrong way. (We did get turned around in time). I truly don't think I've ever been so turned around in my life. This city just doesn't make sense. We got lost so many times that we began to recognize alternate exits that we would take to get back to our starting place to begin again.

Finally, the race was over & it was time to go home on Monday morning. We were leaving extra early to get back to Baltimore for our 9 am flight because we heard the traffic could be brutal. All I can say is it was a good thing because......WE GOT LOST!