Friday, January 14, 2011

Daddy and the Mayonnaise Jar

Daddy has always been my hero.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have looked up to him and tried to make him proud of me.  He's proud of me, but he also worries.  When I did my first marathon, he asked me "Are you going to do the whole thing?  The whole 26.2 miles?  If you get tired maybe you should stop after a little while."  It took me forever, but I did the whole thing.

After Dad was diagnosed with lymphoma, I received a brochure for Team in Training, which trains people for endurance events, including marathons, triathlons, and cycling centuries, all to raise awareness and funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I did my first triathlon in 2007 and dedicated the race to him, and to my Grandmother, who passed away from leukemia.   Since then, I've done two more marathons and more triathlons, including two half ironman triathlons.  Pretty amazing for the girl who was always picked last (or, every once in a while, second to last) in gym class.  Along the way I have raised over $18,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with your help.  Daddy is very proud!

I want to make him proud again.  This time, you might think my goals are, well, a little crazy. 

"What could be crazier than what Amy's done before?" you ask.

One aspect of it is NOT crazy.  Once again, I'm raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training while doing endurance events.  Will you help me?  Here is a link to my fundraising site: Amy's TNT Fundraising Site  By making a donation, you can help find a cure for cancer, and help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.

Okay, so here's the craziness, in two parts:

First, on June 5th, I will ride a Century with Team in Training.  This means that I'll be cycling for 100 miles.  I rode 62 miles one day last year, and I was pooped!  And that was a relatively flat ride.  This Century, the Fletcher Flyer Century, is in Asheville, North Carolina, and has an elevation gain of 4044 feet!  By completing this Century, I will earn the coveted "Triple Crown," which is awarded to athletes who fundraise and complete a marathon, a triathlon and a century with Team in Training.

Second, on June 26th, I'll be competing in Ironman Couer d'Alene.  This is a full Ironman, twice as long as the half ironman triathlons I have done before.  I will travel a total of 140.6 miles in a single day.  To give you some perspective, this is approximately the distance from Birmingham to Atlanta, or from Durham to Charlotte, or from Richmond to Baltimore, or from Central Park to Albany, NY. 

And I will not be travelling 140.6 miles in a car.  No, first, I will swim 2.4 miles in a frigid lake that typically measures in the upper 50s. Second, after the swim, I will ride 112 miles.  The bike course is quite hilly; I am told more like Charlottesville than Richmond, and when you come down from the hills for the finish near the lake, the winds can be howling strong.  Third, once the bike ride is done, I will run a marathon.  Often it is hot during the run, but the good news is that it will get cooler.  Why?   Because when I finish the marathon, it will be pitch dark.  The race starts at 7 am, and the last finishers don't cross the line till midnight.  In fact, some people will cross the line after midnight, but their struggle is not "official."  You have to finish this race in 17 or fewer hours before they call you an "Ironman."  If you are too slow, you are labelled "DNF, which stands for "did not finish," as though you stopped some time during the day, went back to your hotel and took a nap.   You know I am slow as molasses, so this will be a struggle for me, but I am determined to finish in the allotted time and to hear the announcer say, "Amy Williams, you are an Ironman!"

There's one thing that really scares me about the challenges I have chosen this year.  In many respects, I must do them all by myself.  The Ironman, in particular, is an "individual" race.  If you pop a tire on your bike, for example, you must change it yourself.  You cannot find a smart looking spectator and slip him a twenty to change it for you. So, I must learn to do it, all by myself....

And that brings me to Daddy and the Mayonnaise Jar. 

The Scene:  Long Hot Summer, 1969, Birmingham, Alabama, in my kitchen.

Daddy:  Watcha doing, Amy?

Amy:  I'm making a baloney sam-mich.  I'm gonna do it all by myself.  I just need to add the man-naise.  URRGGGGGG!  (struggling to open the jar)

Daddy: Want me to open that jar?

Amy:  NO!  I am making this myself.  URRRRGGGGGG!

Daddy:  Okay, but let me see if it's broken (taking the jar).  Well, it seems okay.  Now, try again, but this time, try really hard.

Amy: (Opening it easily) I did it!  I did it!  I opened the jar all by myself!

Yeah....  All by myself. 

With this in mind, I took a bike maintenance clinic.  The first day was great: we learned to change our tires, and actually changed our tires while the teacher, Clint, an experienced mechanic, looked on.  If we got stuck, he'd come over and "make sure it wasn't broken."  Then he gave us homework. 

"Change your tires at home," Clint said.  "Everyone should be able to do it in 10 minutes, and after next week, my goal is that all of you can do it in five minutes.

So, a few days later, I set aside an hour just before work to change some tires.  I was all jazzed up.
I looked in my little bike bag and found two tire levers and a "CO2 cartridge."  This is used to pump a tire on the go when you don't have a tire pump.  Before getting started, I inspected the cartridge, and "SWOOOSH!" out came the air, like an air freshener. Dead soldier. No more CO2.  A mistake like this during the race could cost me the Ironman.  But for this practice, I had my regular floor pump.

I took off the front tire, easy peasy!  Cooking with gas!  I hooked, with great difficulty, one of my tire levers onto the tire and clicked it in the spoke. I attempted to stick the other lever under the tire nearby. There ensued 15 solid minutes of struggle, culminating in the end of each lever breaking off and lodging inside the tire. Knowing that a good surgeon does not leave a sponge in the patient's stomach, I spent another ten minutes retrieving the plastic shards from inside there and making sure they matched the other end so nothing was left.

On Saturday, during the bike clinic, I accidentally had stolen the two tire levers I used during class by sticking them in my back pocket and forgetting about them. I planned to pay for them later, but I marveled that I had them.  I think God stole them for me, actually , foretelling that I would need them, sorely, during my private practice. I got out the stolen goods and tried again. Stolen tire levers work better than those you pay for! The stolen goods didn't break under pressure, although I gave them a run for their money.

I got the entire tire off, inspected for glass, nails, etc. (which of course I wouldn't find because this was a "fake flat,") and put most of the tire back on. Most, but not all.  Ever try to make up a bed and the bottom, fitted sheet is just a bit too small?  You're almost there, and the other side pops off and hits you in the head, like a slingshot.  This was the same. 

I started to cry. It reminded me of tying to get a mayonnaise jar open at age 7. Where was Daddy? 

My vision blurred from the tears. I tried all sorts of things to shove the tire on. Fingertips, thumbs, palms. The surgical gloves Clint suggested I wear to prevent grease from getting my hands dirty began to shred into strips. My tiny finger muscles began to shake. Finally, miraculously, the tire was back on. By now nearly 40 minutes had lapsed.

I put the tire back on the front of the bike--that was easy. I almost put it on backwards, but corrected myself. (Would I have rolled backwards if I got it wrong?)   I got my pump and suddenly couldn't remember which way was "off" and "on." I use the pump all the time before I ride.  The way I usually remember which way it goes it to put it on till you hear the swoosh, and then you turn the knob and it stops and you can pump.

I kept putting the thing on, but, no swoosh! What is going on? I tried it both ways, and the air didn't seem to go in. Five minutes later I realized that a totally flat tire WILL NOT SWOOSH! There's no swoosh left in there.  I pumped the tire, up, up, up, nearly fainting. It was now time for work.

This tire change: 55 minutes. A far cry from 5 minutes! 

And of course, the lesson is that I will not be doing this century and Ironman "all by myself"?  Oh, I had better learn to change a tire by myself, that's true.  But I will need LOTS of help to do the Century and Ironman!  Please help me.  Contribute to my fundraising site if you can.  Amy's TNT Fundraising Site    But even more precious to me is the moral support I get from all of you. 

Together, we'll open the mayonnaise jar.  And make Daddy proud.

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