Thursday, February 28, 2008

more race day mantras

ok, i lied.

this is my last post before race day.

i'm in a bad mood.

so here's some more mantras:
  • all alone.
  • this is all i have. the pain. the hurt. the suffering. this is all i have. this is all i am.
  • all there is, is the distance.
  • girls will leave me. friends will abandon me. family will hurt me. but still i still continue. it's all i can do.
  • other men have love. other men have fame. other men have fortune. punk-ass motherfucking losers. that's what they are.
  • all i have is suffering.
  • all of this, and nothing.
  • either you're an Ironman, or you're not.
  • either you're a hero, or you're not.
  • either you do, or you do not.
  • all alone.
it's time for my conversation with god.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

5,4,3,2,1: race day

this is my last post before race day.

i meant to have more stuff, but things were really busy with race check-in, equipment readying, course surveying, and race day logistics planning. add to that some frustrating correspondence regarding academics and work, doses of personal issues, and chaos on the future front, and things have been a little less than laid-back. in fact, it's been an emotional roller-coaster.

and it didn't help that i got some rejection messages for several post-doc applications while i've been here. kind of depressing.

in short, it's been a little stressful.

at the very least, New Zealand is beautiful. and people here are so nice. everyone is so supportive and it seems like the entire town of Taupo is out to make sure we're having the best experience possible. i could get used to this.

i've got everything set for race day. everything else is going to have to wait until later.

for anybody who wants to follow along, the race will be webcast at:

and you can track me live at:

you can check out the course at:

my race number is #210. the race starts at 7am New Zealand time on Saturday, March 1.

they're predicting misty/cloudy conditions, with temps in the 60s. sounds ideal. but we'll see about winds.

i'm not at 100% for this race. my back is still bothering me, and i'm dreading doing the swim and bike with this back.

but whatever. things are what they are. there's nothing i can do about it. all i can do is just go.

and pop an Advil every hour.

yeah, suckage.

but the state of the world is suffering. all we can do is seek enlightenment.

and when this is done...oh, will they sing songs of me in Valhalla.

race day mantras

things to think about on race day:
  • positive thoughts, fresh legs
  • hard core!
  • no pain
  • slow is smooth, smooth is fast
  • turnover, turnover, turnover
  • 1 count, 1 second
  • this is my adventure
  • all of life is suffering
  • the state of the world is suffering
  • samsara
  • it is what it is
  • i am zen, i am satori
  • man, am i losing a lot of weight today...awesome!
  • good and skinny, good and skinny, good and skinny
  • fried chicken, extra salt
  • pizza, extra pepperoni and cheese
  • baked potato, extra butter and broccoli and cheese
  • pancakes, with butter and (real) maple syrup
  • pancakes, with honey and nutella
  • pancakes, with hot fudge and ice cream
  • ice cream, with anything
  • nutella, with anything
  • marisa miller, with anything
  • adriana lima, with anything
  • alessandra ambrosio, with anything
  • victoria's secret, with anything
  • audrey hepburn sure was nice
  • advil, advil, advil, and when i'm done, more advil
  • i am sexy
  • everybody is wishing they were me
  • it'll be over by tomorrow
  • grandma and grandpa, i love you
  • oh lord god, show me why i am here
and of course, for poetry, i've been on an e e cummings trip lately:

it is at moments after i have dreamed
of the rare entertainment of your eyes,
when (being fool to fancy) i have deemed
with your peculiar mouth my heart made wise;
at moments when the glassy darkness holds
the genuine apparition of your smile
(it was through tears always)and silence moulds
such strangeness as was mine a little while;
moments when my once more illustrious arms
are filled with fascination, when my breast
wears the intolerant brightness of your charms:
one pierced moment whiter than the rest
-turning from the tremendous lie of sleep
i watch the roses of the day grow deep.
--e e cummings, it is at moments after i have dreamed

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
--e e cummings, i carry your heart with me

i love you much(most beautiful darling)
more than anyone on the earth and i
like you better than everything in the sky
-sunlight and singing welcome your coming
although winter may be everywhere
with such a silence and such a darkness
noone can quite begin to guess
(except my life)the true time of year-
and if what calls itself a world should have
the luck to hear such singing(or glimpse such
sunlight as will leap higher than high
through gayer than gayest someone's heart at your each
nearness)everyone certainly would(my
most beautiful darling)believe in nothing but love
--e e cummings, i love you much(most beautiful darling)

for variety, i'll add in:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kublai Khan

Saturday, February 23, 2008

countdown: Ironman New Zealand 2008

well, it's on now.

Ironman New Zealand is 8 days away. i'm flying out this evening. i'm planning on 2 weeks, with the 1st week being race-oriented, during which time i'm going with Endurance Sports Travel (reference: the 2nd week will be relaxation time hanging out in Auckland.

i've never use Endurance Sports Travel, or any other sports-oriented travel agency, but i figure it would be good this time, so i could travel with other people sharing the same experience i am...that, and EST is providing a bike mechanic, which by itself is worth its weight in gold, and they've done this race bazillions of times before, so i figure they know what they're doing.

this should be an interesting race. my parents have never seen me in any kind of athletic event, and they have never seen an Ironman or even a triathlon. so they'll have quite an experience. none of us have ever seen New Zealand, but i know that they are just as curious as i am about the country, especially since everyone we've known who's ever traveled there has had nothing but good things to say about the place.

incidentally, this trip is kind of important to me on another level...New Zealand was the last trip my grandmother ever made before she died, and she told me it was one of the best trips she'd ever made. she gave me a Maori jade pendant (which i later lost, and had to replace with another one). i'm bringing my pendant with me to remind me of her and everything she did for me--which was a lot more than any human being could ever be expected to do for another, since i think (rather, i know, in all the ways that a human being can really only know about someone they loved) that i'm doing this for her and her legacy. this is what i'll be carrying:
i'm pretty much in race mode, getting myself mentally prepped. i've been reviewing the IMNZ website (reference: on a regular basis. and i've shaved off my hair (all of it--including body don't have to do this, but everyone i know tells me that 1) it helps you mentally focus, and 2) it helps prevent chafing in all the wrong places at all the wrong times on race day)--you can checkout my haircut in the photo at the start of this post.

i've also been reading up on New Zealand. one of the big things i enjoy about travel is learning the history, geography, and culture of each place i visit. New Zealand just seems like an exciting place, and one not often visited by most Americans.

i've also been learning about Maori society. for those of you who don't know, the Maoris are the indigenous people of New Zealand, and are part of the Polynesian culture that includes Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, and so many other Pacific Ocean populations. the Maoris are famous on a global level for their haka, which is the traditional warrior's greeting (and hence can either be a sign of welcome or sign of aggression). you can see the version used by the New Zealand All Blacks (the country's national rugby team, which seems to be the country's unofficial religion--which verges on what can only be described as fanaticism) in their Addidas commercial:

you can see what this looks like on the field:

awesome stuff. they start off Ironman New Zealand with this. i'd like to learn it. i wish i knew the Hawaiian one (each Polynesian society has their own version of this...the Hawaiian one is called the hua'a), since i'd like to be able to offer a return greeting when they do it.

i'm going to send out an announcement about the race to family and friends once i get to New Zealand. the race is being webcast live, so i'll let everybody know they can watch me suffer.

i'm excited. and anxious. and a little worried.

part of this is to be expected with the sense of adventure--i've never done an international Ironman, and so have never traveled with this much equipment overseas. it's been a little bit of a challenge, since Air New Zealand has new weight restrictions, with no single item to be allowed no more than 70 lbs (you used to be able to pay a penalty fee if you went over, but now they won't allow this, and you either unpack to luggage to get under, or you leave it at the airport). you can see what i've got with me in the following series of photos:
bike box:
but my feelings are also due to some genuine issues.

things were a little more frenetic this past few weeks than i would have liked. i had last-minute dissertation revisions, grading for class, job interviews, postdoc and job applications.

the training taper wasn't quite what i had originally wanted, either. i got sick at the start of the taper (about 2 weeks ago), and whatever bug it was wiped me out for 4 days of no activity. i'm still not sure i feel quite right. i strained my lower back 10 days ago just standing up getting out of bed (talk about a freak incident), and while i managed to get emergency treatment with massage and acupuncture, things still feel a little ginger. i'm also getting some bizarre recurrences of IT band and piriformis problems, which are affecting my knees in so many wrong ways.

needless to say, i haven't gotten all the workouts in i would have liked, or as much rest as i had needed. i'm hoping that when i get to New Zealand i can take this next week and chill out for a little bit before race day.

you're supposed to trust the taper. but i'm starting to get concerned, seeing that the race is March 1 and it's February 23--and i lose a day crossing the international date line. i'm hoping everything magically comes together in time for race day. otherwise this is going to be a very painful experience.

but other than that, i'm looking forward to New Zealand.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

on the edge (occam's razor)

"your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding"

-kahlil gibran, the prophet

whenever people ask me about the Ironman experience, i always have a hard time giving them an answer.

it's hard to enunciate in words. it's such an overwhelming experience. the race. the training. the changes it asks in how you live your life. the sacrifices it requires that you make. the journey that it takes you on. the discoveries and lessons and secrets and rewards it gives to you on the way. it's more--and different--from anything else i've ever done.

i think the closest i've ever come to describing it is it's like being on the edge.

as in being far beyond the seductively comforting, horrifically confining constraints of the normal world.

physically, you're constantly riding the body's limits, going farther than most people would ever consider possible, or even sane. you're continuously pushing it climb the path to ever higher (and previously unimaginable) heights of performance, only pulling back just enough to allow it to get its bearings and regenerate and adapt to its new altitude. the goal is to intentionally go outside the comfort zone, with the hope that the body adjusts and rises to fill increased expectations. if done right, your body follows an ever-escalating cycle of performance to new frontiers once deemed only fanciful. but if done wrong, you either stray too far from the intended path and fall off into the chasm of overtraining to depths so deep you are unlikely to ever scale back, or go too little and never advance get the chance to explore the limits of your potential.

mentally, you're similarly asking the mind to change its ways of perception and thinking, regularly nudging it beyond the confines of understanding held and imposed by so often by so many, so that the borders of your awareness break the barriers of the mundane world and grow free to new horizons. if handled correctly, you'll experience a change in all sense of perspective, with a realization that things often thought impossible are in fact quite possible, and that things often thought complex are in truth quite simple, and that life--yours and others around you--can reach as far as you can dream...and that those dreams can become real as easily as making the decision to move one step farther forward.

there's something more than this, too.

at some point in the Ironman process, either or both in training and race day, you'll find yourself, emotions raw, body weak, mind numb, spirit spent, upon a trail you don't know and don't understand and don't know that you really want. swimming, cycling, running, walking, then stumbling, then shuffling, and then sometimes finally even crawling. so far out in the distance that you'll be beyond anyone or anyplace or anytime that you've ever known or can possibly remember, beyond anything remotely related to whoever, or whatever, it was you were before.

you'll find yourself.

and there will be no title, no status, no money, nor flashy car, nor fancy clothes, nor big house, nor shiny jewelry, nor assorted random consumer luxury goods.

and there will be no reputation, no inflated ego, nor pride, nor vanity, nor glory.

and there will be no half-truths, nor excuses, nor lies.

there will be, in short, no bullshit.

because in the vast reaches of the distance, this will all be seen for what it truly is: supremely, insignificantly, pathetically, comically absurd.

and in that one singular moment, whose significance you cannot deny and you cannot ignore, you'll be stripped bare. naked before creation. alone under heaven. out of reach of any sense of self or spirit or soul.

and it's then that you'll know the meaning of the profane and the sacred.

and it's then that you'll know the meaning of the mundane and the divine.

it's then that you'll see the truth.

about you, your world, and your god.

just like occam's razor, you tread the path dividing the trivial and the profound. it's a path followed by ascetic traditions of many of the world's religions, from Christian monks to Hindu mystics to Zen priests to Native American spirit guides, all of whom sought--and still seek--deeper truths about existence, to transcend the suffering of samsara to find their enlightenment of satori (reference:

it's a path that's only found free of the burdens of artifice and vice. it's a path that only taken by the devout. it's the path only open to an Ironman.

like you.

a solitary pious pilgrim, like so many others, making their forlorn way to the fundamental truths of life and living, and their meager place within the ultimate meaning that is the awesome monolith of all eternity.

out there, in the uttermost depths of the distance.

out there, far out on the edge.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

trouble in the taper (training notes 02-20-08)

i'm freaking out.

my taper went off a cliff.

i finished my last build phase the 1st week in February feeling pretty strong, but then i got sick, which knocked me out for 4 days of no activity, and right after that promptly strained my lower back.

that was all last week. now things just hurt. my ankle hurts, my knee hurts, my butt hurts, my back hurts, my shoulder hurts, my neck hurts. i've got a flare-up of my IT band and piriformis. i somehow strained my lower back in the freak act of standing up out of bed. and to top it off, my body seems to have magically decided to have a puffy episode and i'm now looking like a tanned version of the pilsbury dough boy.


normally, by this time in the taper, you're supposed to be feeling refreshed and starting to feel strong and lean, to the point that you're restless for the race to start and euphoric about the chance to just get it done. but right now, i'm feeling irritable, kind of depressed, pretty weak and very fat, definitely not happy, and really worried.

i got some treatment last Friday in the form of a deep-tissue massage and acupuncture to try and deal with my lower back strain. and i've done some workouts to try and hold on to some semblance of a taper (reference my training calendar:

but things aren't going according to plan.

i'm just not feeling right...especially for going 140.6 miles in this state.

and race day is only 10 days away and i'm flying out to New Zealand on Saturday night.

i don't know what the hell i'm going to do.

i just don't know.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

faith in the taper

the taper into race day is always a tricky thing.

if the taper goes on for too long or if it's too easy, you lose all the conditioning you had to suffer so much over so many miles over so many months to get. if it's too short or too hard, you never recover from the last overload of the final build phase and become mired in a malaise of fatigue. either way, you show up on race day at less than your best.

the general idea behind the taper is to allow yourself time (physically and mentally) to heal and recharge, with the goal of hitting a point of peak performance that coincides with your target race date. by the time you hit the taper, you've (hopefully) hit the high points of your training in terms of volume and intensity, and have (hopefully) built up the conditioning you'll need to draw upon on race day, and so (hopefully) can focus on simply getting ready.

in some ways, this is easy. by the time you end your final build phase and hit the taper you're often sore, usually tired, perpetually fatigued, and very much more than happy to do all of the above.

but in many ways, it can also be incredibly difficult. in the back of your mind is the memory of the sacrifices you had to make and the suffering you had to endure to get to the point you are now. the mere thought of all your hard-earned conditioning eroding in the recovery weeks before race day is more than enough to drive you to a state that can only be described in psycho-analytic terms such as paranoia, schizophrenia, hypochondria, neurosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anal retentiveness. you're constantly questioning if you've trained, rested, or eaten too much, too little, or entirely wrong. you're constantly fighting the temptation to go back and fit in one more build week, one more training session, one more overload. it's enough to drive you insane.

people tell you to resist these trials as just another one of the many tribulations of Ironman. they tell you that you have to trust the taper. to just let go, and above all, relax.

there's some very clear, very specific reasons for this. apart from the mental need to clear the mind and focus on the challenge that will be race day, there's certain physical processes that have to occur. from a medical science perspective, your body engages in a biochemical restorative sequence of reactions at the molecular level that reconstruct cell integrity and restore their energy-generating mitochondria. in addition, glycogen stores are replenished, neuro-muscular pathways are built, muscle tissues are constructed, blood vessels are expanded, and aerobic capacity is increased--essentially, everything you need to maximize the efficiency of oxygen consumption in the breakdown of adenosine tri-phosphate, which releases the energy that fuels the muscles that will carry you over the 140.6 miles of Ironman.

all of this takes time. free of stress or disruption. and hence, they call for the reduction in training in the weeks before race day.

but there's another reason why, too.

all of this is something you can't see, or sense, or monitor, or control. meaning that you have no idea if it is happening, or even if is true. it's a mystery crossing into the mystical with nothing more than the promise of a a result, it's a phenomenon that at its core is really asking you to believe.

you are, in essence, asked to have faith.

this is supremely ironic in a sport--in a world--driven by the material and the measurable. especially given the very real, very hard brutality that is the life you live on race day. the only things that matter then is what can be seen, or sensed, or monitored, or controlled.

but the funny thing is that you know, deep down inside, in places and in ways that only come out in the suffering of the long miles far out in the distance, that this is when faith--your faith--matters most.

because what you are asking for is itself a miracle. to go the distance, to do the race, to journey as far as is humanly possible, to reach the finish of the end within the sight of all creation. and somehow, within that time, come to an understanding of yourself, your world, and your God as much as you can know him.

you want all of this to happen. you want it to be true.

so that the mystery of all mysteries can become more than mystical, and the promise of a miracle can be made manifest.

and this is really why you believe.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

an Ironman Valentine's

it's that time of year again.

i dread this holiday. seriously, i do.

kina grannis: message of your heart

part of it is the overdone commercialized hype that's become associated with it. it's an industry of monolithic corporate dimensions, which 1) smacks too much of the man to this one-time-and-forever adolescent-teen-goth-punk-rebel-a-t-t-i-t-u-d-e, and 2) runs entirely contrary to the spirit of a holiday originally meant for more personal emotional sentiments.

dead milkmen: punk rock girl

another part of it is the occasion itself. it's just...saccharine. too sweet. too cute. too close. too much. it's like asking for a scoop of ice cream and then getting a freight truck-load--it's more than you ordinarily think about, more than you really want, more than you can possibly finish, and more than enough to make you sick.

and of course, there's the last part. the part you're probably guessing, and probably think i'm leery to admit, but which you may no doubt be surprised i can freely concede: memories.

and you know what i'm talking about.

seal: love's divine

the path of my life is one that i knew entailed certain consequences. despite what some people might say, it's not always possible to have everything, and there's certain choices over certain priorities that have to be made in a world of incongruous dichotomies facing creatures of only limited capacities. it's inevitable. there's only so much energy, and only so much time, in lives that have so much demand.

chasing a dual-degree graduate program, i knew, was going to limit my options for a personal life. that the 2 degrees were a JD and a PhD, each of which alone are often seen as intensely consuming experiences, only sealed the deal. as a graduate student, you're isolated in a limbo of classes, research, and work, trapped in a nether-world situated between undergrads, professors, and people in the real world, with little money, meager time, a tiny apartment, old clothes, an old car, and not much of an end in sight.

not the kind of thing most girls put up with for very long.

the weepies: world spins madly on

the decision to do Ironman didn't help. if anything, it made things worse. as you know, training and racing Ironman sucks up time. lots of it. and energy. lots of it. and money. lots of it. whatever surplus you had before is wicked away on swims, rides, and runs, along with the attendant weight training, physical therapy, stretching, massages, nutrition details, equipment repair, and recovery time frequently just spent lying in bed staring emptily at the ceiling.

again, not the kind of thing most girls put up with for very long.

joshua radin: closer

the result has been a long stretch of years of one relationship after another, none lasting much more than the obligatory hello-that's nice-how interesting-goodbye. most, i knew, never had a chance from the beginning. some i wished they did but never would. a few had tantalizing potential, but invariably ended up like all the others. all i've been left with are memories.

which is kind of the issue with Valentine's Day. because it brings up the memories. all of them.

bloc party: i still remember

and looking back across all the long miles of my life, all i can see is the wreckage of the landscape that is history of my relationships, and i realize that despite everything i've done, because of everything i've done, it was all because of me.

i can't help but wonder that there were those i should have spoken to, those that i should have given more time to, those that i should have hung onto...except that they really wouldn't have wanted me--what little of me there was, or is.

i hate Valentine's Day. hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it.

but there's not much i can do about it. and there's not much i can do about the past. all i can do is to try and do what any of us who hold the title Ironman is supposed to do: move on, and try to do better in the future.

in all the meanings of that phrase. not just a better scholar, or a better athlete. but a better man, a better person, and a better human being.

through all the long miles of my life.

savage garden: crash 'n burn

i guess that's really i can do. try to do better.

and hope that somewhere out there there's a girl who actually doesn't mind me and everything i do, and maybe--just maybe--does more than just put up with it, but actually maybe--just maybe--understands.

over all the long miles of our lives.

vanessa carlton: a thousand miles

cheers, kids. and oh yeah: happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 08, 2008

140.6 is so very far, and yet so close - finally: build phase over (training notes 02-08-08)

well, you can see my training schedule:


the build phase is over.

the training is over (or at least, the painful part).

the suffering, the agony, the torment, the insanity, the mind-numbing monotony, the hours and hours and hours upon hours followed by yet more hours, sucked up in water, wheels, shoes, sweat, dirt, wind, rain, ice, sun, clouds, cold, heat, grease, bars, gels, sunscreen, moisturizers, band-aids, heating pads, ice pads, icy-heat pads, Advil, glucosamine, vitamins, herbs, tea, oils, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, heart rate, intensity, duration, technique, aerobic, anaerobic, 2-a-days, 3-a-days, peak, trough, build, recovery, hard, easy, long, short, and motion motion motion through all the very ends of the earth and universe and even everything else beyond, all mixed in some horrific amalgamation that we all come to euphemistically know as the Ironman training schedule.

16 weeks.

that's all it was.

16 weeks from a level that most people would ordinarily consider the zenith of their fitness and the apogee of their health.

16 weeks to build--progressively, through regimented cycles escalating continuously in a inexorable ratcheting of 2 weeks build (and always more, and always harder)/1 week recovery (and never rest, just a little respite.

16 weeks to get to a state that many consider impossible, or at the minimum superhuman. but that you only consider as maybe, slightly, possibly, hopefully, entirely, completely, absolutely, indubitably do-able...or so you prefer to think.

16 weeks to get to a point that you can begin to think about 140.6 miles in one day (and in at most 16, or maybe 17, hours).

16 weeks.

and it still may not be enough.

but there's nothing more that you can do now.

race day is now only 3 weeks away. build phase is over. whatever you are now is whatever you will be on race day.

from this point on, it's the taper phase, where you get to play a very fine, very subtle, very complicated, very mysterious balancing act between letting your body heal and repair and recharge to the fullest reaches of its new-found capacity, while still avoiding any deterioration in any of the hard-fought, hard-won, and so painfully hard-earned conditioning you've spent so much time and energy and self and others to gain.

they tell you that the hard part's over.

they tell you that now you can--you have to--rest.

they tell you that you must trust the taper, and allow all the intricate, wondrous, mystical machinations of the cellular biochemical workings of your body to do their thing, and harden and cure the being that is your body so that it emerges in time and all ready for race day.

but right now, all you know is that you're tired. and beat up. and sore. and you can't think of much of anything else, other than the growing fear and anxiety and paranoia of the reality that is race day suddenly becoming very, very, very clear.

and it's very close.

and you don't know if you're ready.

all you can do is rest, and hope, and pray, and wait.

because 140.6 miles is a very, very, very long way to go.

and it's very close.

Monday, February 04, 2008

international pancake day--or: there is a god!!! (with videos)

oh yes.

oh my yes.

oh my god yes.

it is international pancake day:!!!

this is actually a bit of a pun (my apologies). apparently Pancake Day is a global analogy of Mardi Gras, both of which (believe it or not) are religious days in the Christian calendar.

most of us in the U.S. are familiar with the Christian religious observance of Lent, which is the 40-day period marking the death and burial of Jesus leading into the celebration of Easter marking his resurrection as the Son of God (reference: Wikipedia: Lent). and many more of us in the U.S. (including heathens, pagans, and assorted agnostics alike) are very much aware of Mardi Gras (or Carnaval), which is the bacchanalian blow-out party held to vent personal vices before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent.

but few (including me) were aware that internationally Shrove Tuesday (the day of Mardi Gras) is also Pancake Day. marked this year as February 5, 2008, Pancake Day is traditionally supposed to be the last opportunity to use up eggs, milk, and sugar, since during Lent only plain foods are supposed to be consumed as an expression of piety (reference: Wikipedia: Shrove Tuesday).

i should note that personally this is only academically interesting.

truth be told, i have to confess (another pun, ha ha, i know, sorry...just too easy) that all i really care about is that one of my favorite foods actually has an international holiday tied to it. and the fact that it's considered holy is undeniable proof that




awwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah, baby!!!

here's what i'm talking about:

as an endurance sport athlete, i spend countless hours engaged in endless physical activity burning untold numbers of calories. and i mean burn. at the paces i use in training, swimming burns 900-1500 kcal (normal calories) per hour, biking burns 600-1200, and running burns 800-1500 (reference: Centers for Disease Control, Cool Nurse, Nutri Strategy, Outside Online). and i'm doing these activities during workouts that go over 2-3 hours on average, with 1 hour at the minimum and 6 (or sometimes 7) hours at the maximum.

some of my friends and i once did a rough tally of the average number of calories burned per day during Ironman training. i think we came up with something on the order of 4,000-5,000 calories. considering that the recommended daily caloric consumption for an average sedentary male in my age group is 2,400 calories (reference:, that means that i'm taking in roughly 2x as much food as the average guy.

the running joke my buddies and i have is that this is the real reason people do Ironman: so you can go out and eat whatever you want, and still lose weight. as one of my friends observed: "weight loss plan? oh i've got a great weight loss plan. it's called Ironman."

thing is, it's not as much a joke as you'd think.

as strange it may sound, it's actually kind of hard to consume 4,000-5,000 calories a day. seriously. it is. especially nutrient-dense ones with the right composition of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and acids and minerals necessary to sustain a regular schedule of high-volume aerobic and anaerobic activity. even with 6 meals a day, i find myself struggling to find enough of the right foods. sometimes, i find myself just getting sick of eating--my jaw starts to hurt, i get nausea thinking about food, and i just get mentally fatigued thinking about the need to find food to deal with my hunger.

which is why you invariably start looking for the one thing most blubbery, chubby, chunky, fat Americans are trying to avoid: high-caloric density food.

like pancakes.




awwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah, baby!!!

with all their buttery, syrupy, yeasty, shortening-packed griddled goodness.

talk about calories...and all wrapped up in lovey wuvvy waves of sweetness, too!

and don't even tell me that they're fattening, and artery-clogging, and just plain bad for my health. cuz. i. just. do. not. care. if pancakes are bad, baby girl, then you might as well close the gates of heaven, cuz i know where i'll be going!

i cannot begin to tell you the number of times that i have dreamed about pancakes during the course of a long swim, long bike, or long run. the look of pancakes, looking at you, calling your name. the smell of pancakes, wafting with the aroma of batter frying on the pan, luring you forth from bed. the feel of pancakes, fluffy and oh soooooooooo soooooooft. the taste of pancakes, melting smooth and sweet and buttery in your mouth, just aching to be matched with your morning coffee.

oh my god. it's better than sex.

and all this time i thought i was the only one.

but now i know i'm not.

here's some great sites dedicated to pancakes (including, of course, recipes):
and just to show you that's it's a global phenomenon, i offer the following links for pancakes of the world that i know:
i have a special fondness in my heart for the last one--plättar. it's the first pancake i ever had, and holds a special spot in the fond memories of my youth in Sweden. i still make trips to the cafe' in Ikea stores just for a taste. and just to really reprazent the Swedish nation, i should give you:

of course, now as an adult, my worldly awareness and culinary sophistication has grown with my growth in cultural cosmopolitanism, and so i'm now happy to get any pancakes of any kind, and can appreciate each one as a reflection of the best aspects of their respective culture.

which reminds me...i did a 6-hr. bike ride today, and it was hard (courtesy of a strong headwind blasting the wrong way down some really nice hills). it made me really am hungry. and some pancakes would be really good right about now...




awwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah, baby!!!