Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Disney World, Philadelphia, and it's almost Thanksgiving.

Well, I have been a terrible blog updater.  But lately the posts have bordered on more than just mundane, so I laid off for a while.  But recently I actually had some slightly interesting events, if you could call them that.  Last week I went down to Disney World.  I always enjoy a good trip to Disney World and it lets me act like the big kid I still am.  We went a few times when I was growing up, then I went with a few friends in college, and then we did another big family trip down there last May when I actually managed to squeeze in 26 hours of training around long days in the parks by getting up between 3:30 and 4 every morning, swimming in a smaller-than 25-yard pool, biking in the dark on a 2.4-mile loop over and over and over and over again, and running in the dark in circles.  Hey, you do what you have to.

This time wasn't quite like that as I had minimal training to get in that could be taken care of by awakening at much more sane hours and also riding the spin bike in the hotel gym.  This is one of the only times I am glad for my current training focus on running. 

Anyway, I'm going to admit that although I know I love it down there, I wasn't super excited to go.  I mean, when things aren't so great in life you're not that excited to do all of the fun things you usually love.  But it was really just the distraction I needed for a bit.  I went down and met up with one of my best friends from college and her husband and kids.  They are in the Disney Vacation Club and has some use it or lose it points and asked if I wanted to join them.  Let me think... ok, yes.  Between planning the trip and going on it, Heather discovered she was pregnant with child #3 so unfortunately that meant no extreme rides for her.  But fortunately for the rest of us, it made the decision of who stayed back with the 3-year old and the 16-month old that much easier.  We'll just have to go again later when she can do the rides. 

I might be unwilling to divulge this secret for fear that it might get out, but I figure even if the seven of you who read this take advantage of it I'll still be ok.  But the week before Thanksgiving is a fantastic time to go there.  While the parks seemed to have lots of people walking around, there was never a line for anything.  I mean NEVER.  A few times we got fast passes but never wound up using them because it wouldn't have made the wait times any faster.  I don't think I'd be able to tolerate Disney World if I had to wait more than 10 minutes to ride anything.  I honestly don't know why you'd even bother to go if you knew it was going to be crowded.  Why spend all that money when you're going to spend the majority of your time in lines?  I managed to do the Everest rollercoaster four times in the span of maybe 15 minutes.  Finally they stopped even bothering to make me get off.  Space Mountain?  No wait.  Thunder Mountain?  No wait.  Splash Mountain?  Tower of Terror?  Aerosmith rollercoaster?  Yep, get right on.  It was great. 

It was also probably the only time I've been ok with Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  Some of the lights were incredible.  Although the music just felt weird, being in shorts in the warm sun and having it feel like summer.  So if you get the chance to go then, I'd highly recommend it.  The weather was also perfect, which made up for the last time I was there and it rained literally the entire week.  Record setting, worse than a hurricane, almost 20 inches of rain that week.  At least we dind't have to worry about sunscreen.  But anyway, had a great time, hung out with some friends, enjoyed some good weather and then came back.

Except I didn't fly back to New Hampshire.  Instead I flew back to Philadelphia to watch my friends Kevin and Trent run the marathon there.  They drove down on Friday and were due to pick me up at the airport.  I kind of knew in the back of my head not to expect them on time, so I found myself a nice little corner with a comfortable chair and got my computer out and killed three hours until they got there.  Hey, as long as I can stretch my legs and stand up whenever I want, I'm fine.

Once they picked me up we headed to New Jersey to stay at Kevin's friend's house since they were actually at Disney World just then.  There was a note to feed the hamster, and Kevin told us to look around and see if we could find the hamster food.  Then he called us into the next room to see if we saw a hamster in the cage, because he definitely didn't.  Great, so we're thinking there is a hamster roaming around loose in the house and I started looking for any little debris on the floor because when I had a hamster as a kid that was how we always found her when she got out. 

Eventually Kevin had texted his friend and he said that she likes to burrow down underneath all the fluffy blue stuff lining the bottom of the cage.  So, fearing that we might get a little hamster bite to the finger, I started digging around using the eraser end of a pencil.  Finally I uncovered the white, furry little body burrowed way down at the bottom.  So great, she's not loose in the house.  But not so great, she's also not moving at all.  A couple of more forceful pokes with the pencil confirmed it: Bubbles is dead.  Great.  Lesson learned, kids: if you're going away from home, have someone feed your hamster in less than a week.  I mean, maybe it was just her time, but there was no food in that dish when we got there...

So that minor trauma ended and we tried to watch a movie but fell asleep instead.  Got to check out the Philly expo the next day and see a bit of Pennsylvania and only made it back to the house in time to eat dinner and go to bed.  I was glad not to be racing, but not glad that I was sharing a car with them and would have to leave just as early as they did.  At least we had managed to secure gated parking at an office building right close to the start line.  And it wasn't that cold of a morning, which made the spectating that much easier.  But it was definitely one of those mornings where when my alarm went off I had a few moments of, where am I, what's that noise and why do I have to get up right now?

The race was a success for both Kevin and Trent and as usual Kevin could hardly walk afterward while Trent sauntered down the street was no big deal.  To be fair, Kevin went 2:55 and Trent went 3:08, so maybe once Trent breaks 3 hours he will have equal trouble walking back to the car.  We immediately got out of town and after a quick stop to pick up our friend Leslie in New Jersey we finally headed home.  We were even home at a decent hour, and I was afraid it would be like 11 at night when we got back, but before 7 was perfect. 

So that was my big, exciting week that made me feel all well-traveled.  I relish any opportunity to travel without my bike.  In fact, all I had was my backpack so I didn't even have to deal with baggage claim.  So now here I am, waiting for Thanksgiving.  And I'm trying not to think too much about how this is the least I have ever looked forward to Thanksgiving, ever.  By far.  Aside from the one time I stayed in Los Angeles for the holiday, this is the first time I have to have Thanksgiving without my father.  Most of the time we have celebrated it with my mother's family, which is big and loud so Dad was more of a background fixture rather than the one running the show.  But that will probably only make it a little bit easier.  You see, for a while now it's been kind of easy to just convince myself that well, Dad wouldn't even be here right now with me, so what's the big deal?  There is no denying that he would be there at Thanksgiving dinner, no matter how much he would've rather stayed at his lake house and watched football all day.  We will miss you tomorrow, Dad.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm Officially Wintering in Tucson

So, I think I might have mentioned this before, but I am going to be spending the winter in Tucson.  I don't remember exactly when I decided it.  It might date all the way back to my 10th long ride last winter done alone in my basement when I had finally seen every movie ever made, including all of the really bad ones, and I thought I was finally going to go insane.  Whenever the decision was made, of course it never quite seems that real until you finally set up accommodations for when you get there.

Well, thanks to the power of craigslist, I will be subletting a place in northwest Tucson, a bit out of the city, from a guy who is going away for the winter.  This is great because it means it is not really a vacation property and in a way I'm doing this person a favor as well.  Plus, the location looks great, it's next to a golf course which leads me to believe that it is in a nice neighborhood, and according to Google maps, it is half a mile from a YMCA with a gorgeous outdoor pool and plenty of lap swim hours.  In short, I think it's just what I had in mind. 

This is exactly what I need on so many levels.  Obviously things have been a bit different in my life, we're still getting used to the idea that Dad is never going to be around again.  And admittedly right after that incident occurred I thought to myself that there was no way I was going to go away for the winter.  But time passed, and you know what?  It still feels like it's what I should be doing.  So I am. 

This is not my first winter of escape.  In 2003 I was living in Los Angeles.  That wasn't for the purpose of escaping winter but rather my brief attempt at having a career in the film business.  Believe it or not, that is actually what I went to college for.  Unfortunately, the summer before I left I also did my first triathlon, and the rest is history.  But anyway, I also decided to go out to Phoenix for the winter of 2007 in preparation for Ironman Arizona which back then was run in April.  I left my real job and headed across the country for what I considered to be the beginning of an amazing training experience. 

Well, when race day came around, although I was swimming and biking faster than ever before, I may or may not have tried to power through the hideous winds that kicked up on the bike course and somewhat sabotaged my run.  Of course, my marathon time that day is probably one I'd kill for now even though at the time I considered it a huge disappointment, and the overall time got me first in my age group and the Kona slot that goes along with it, but at the time, that wasn't good enough for me. 

But anyway, sometime during that fun outing I rode my bike from Phoenix to Tucson and realized very quickly that I'd picked the wrong city in Arizona to live in.  While Phoenix isn't entirely terrible, at least from where I was living, I was pretty much forced to drive my bike 20 minutes away from home and park somewhere to get a decent ride in.  On occasion I'd ride from my condo, stopping at lots of lights, riding briefly on the paved canal paths, then stopping at more lights.  But it was close to an hour of slowly getting out of town, which meant I'd spend an hour slowly coming back.  That is not the kind of riding I wanted to do.  And maybe for some people they don't mind driving their bike somewhere and riding, but that has never been of interest to me.  I like to get ready to ride from home, open the door and start pedaling.  And, fortunately, I think that this time I've gotten myself a place from which I can do that.

Having all of the details worked out makes it seem like much more of a reality and makes me much more excited about it.  I don't necessarily mind winter... until Christmas is over.  Then I'm sort of done.  I actually do enjoy skiing.  But I can't tell you the last time I went skiing that I wasn't with my father, who was always initiating trips to Cannon Mountain and when I worked for him sometimes he'd actually make me take a day off in the middle of the week to go with him.  Needless to say, I don't know that I'd be going skiing this year even if I did stick around.

So off I will go to warmer weather.  I really need to do this, I think.  I need the complete change of scenery.  I need to be in a place where I can just focus on the training and not worry about anything else.  I need to be free from distraction.  I used to be a lot better at getting myself through the training with other things going on, and I think that once I get back into that mind set, I'll be fine with it once again when I come back.  But for now, I just need that little push in the right direction. 

Because you know, if things don't turn around again next season, I don't think I can do this anymore.  I mean, this is sort of what I want to do with my life.  Or at least what I want to do with it until I get too old and ruined to do it anymore.  But I can't keep going back and forth from having decent seasons to bad ones for no good reason.  I completely respect the fact that there are so many triathletes out there who just want to go out and race because they enjoy it and don't really care what the outcome is as long as they finish.  I'm just not one of those people.  If I can't do it well I don't really want to be wasting my time with it.  So, I've got a lot riding on you, 2011.  Let's not mess this up.