Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lamp Light

Still in Philadelphia. After a long day of work, I drank two beers at a bar/restaurant called The Khyber Pass. The significance of the bar is that it was the place I first saw Turin Brakes - it is fondly recalled as one of the most memorable days of my life. After the 14-block trek back to my hotel, all I wanted to do was sleep, but I remembered I still had to do my drawing, so I pulled out the sketchbook and my pen, and drew this "scary Halloween" lamp in my hotel room. (It reminded me of some of my drawings.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

More Hurricane Images

Today I was inspired by images of the disaster debris that Hurricane Sandy left behind. A place I remember from childhood is Atlantic City, New Jersey, one of the hardest hit areas. I decided to call this drawing "Boardwalk."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Window Drawing

This is a quick sketch from the window ledge in my hotel room in Philadelphia while I ride out Hurricane Sandy. It's all done in pen from the start.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Road to Philadephia

I drove from Cleveland to Philadelphia tonight. Philadelphia is in dead center of Hurricane Sandy's predicted landfall tomorrow. I encountered rain, rain, fog, and more rain. And four tunnels. This is the drawing I came up with when I got to my hotel, I'm calling it "Pennsylvania Turnpike":

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Last Leaf

I drew this in the car today on the way to dinner with friends. It's that time of year when half the trees are bare and the other half are almost bare. It's a line drawing in which I only took the pen off the paper twice for the tree part (even though the car was bouncing around).

I've called it "The Last Leaf" (because there has to be one, right?)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Streaming Consciousness

Today's drawing. It started as a simple outline drawing. I don't know exactly what I was thinking about when I drew it but there were a few significant moments in my day that probably figured in. I found out that I may never know exactly what happened on the bike to trigger the extreme pain that led to my dropping out of Ironman Kona - my doctor is now checking my blood for clues. I also found out that the only people who seem to matter are the really good athletes, which I am not. And finally, and most significantly, I was turned on to a band called Sonny & the Sunsets after The Shins covered one of their songs in last night's gig at Kent State. Check out their music if you're interested. I would describe it as country-folk-psychedelic-punk with lyrics that remind me of one of my other all-time favorite musicians, Jonathan Richman. It's all I listened to yesterday AND while I did my drawing:

Here's my video of the Shins covering Sonny & the Sunsets "Death Cream":

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shoe Gazing at the Shins Gig

Yep, drew this on my phone using Drawcast app between sets - before The Shins came on stage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Today's Drawing: The Errant Strand

The title of this post (and the ensuing artwork) comes from a Twitter update during the third Presidential debate. I had become fixated on a strand of Mitt Romney's hair that was apparently doing its own thing on Mitt's forehead that evening. Note that Barack Obama's hair stayed in place, but many tweeters also found time to comment on a different factor - how gray it was. It all seemed so superficial.

Mind you, I will never cast my vote for the guy with the best hair. But while I was watching the debate, my husband Jim was reciting the funniest tweets in his feed, and he came up with this one from @MoRocca:
"There's an errant hair on Romney's forehead. Is it ticklish?"
And I almost lost it because of my aforementioned fixation and my own guilty feelings of superficiality. But I have no plans on use my blog as a political soapbox. If you know me, you've either insulted me about or joined me in my political leanings - let's leave it at that.

But the hair still wags at me.. and here's my drawing for today, a representation of what it might look like up close. I've called it "The Errant Strand."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Somewhere Else

Today was a brain-frying day at work. I had planned on running during lunch, but that didn't happen because the weather became a downpour. I ended up sitting in front of my computer ripping my hair out trying to update a program I wrote that was dependent on something else that I had no control over - a something else that no longer existed in its previous form. So I had to figure out the something else, then integrate it back into my program.

By the time I got it working, it was 5:30 pm, and I realized I had been sitting in front of my computer without a break for about three hours straight. I verified that my fix was working and then promptly left.

On the way home I realized I hadn't done today's drawing yet.

As soon as I got home, I grabbed my sketchbook and started working on one of my stream-of-consciousness drawings, but it just wasn't flowing. So I turned the page and went to simple line drawing of some kind of vista, triggered (once again) by a song - the last song I listened to in the car on the way home from work, the one that was stuck in my head when I drew it: "Somewhere Else" by Marillion.

Anyway, it took about five minutes (not counting the time I was running around the house looking for a felt-tip pen, only to be rescued by my husband Jim with his trusty Sharpie thin line). And here it is. (I decided to call it "The Hills Have Hands.")

Monday, October 22, 2012

Three Makes it Official: the Musical Inspiration

Today I've surprised even myself and made it three days in a row drawing. What's more surprising is that today is Monday, I'm back at work, and I still found time to draw (a.k.a. lunchtime!). Unfortunately, today's drawing is not truly representational of the thing that triggered it - the music I was listening to. In fact, it is so NON-representational of the music that I'm kind of embarrassed to even mention the two were connected, but I guess this blog is my tell-all.

So, then, the music is a new album by Turin Brakes' vocalist Olly Knights called "If Not Now When?" I must note that the album name was somewhat influential in my deciding to do the Daily Drawing series. Although, until last night, all I knew about it were three things: (1) the album name (2) the titular song (3) the fact that the music was the result of Olly's working through a bout of writer's block.

A quick background...
People say "I remember where I was when..." (fill in your own earth-shattering moment). For me, one of those pivotal moments in life was when I first heard Turin Brakes. I was in Newcastle, England. When Turin Brakes came on stage, my life changed forever. I though I would have to be dragged out of the venue in cardiac arrest during their set. I never had such a strong reaction to music before. Since that day, I look forward to every sound they make. And I had been dying of anticipation until last night, when I received via e-mail the download link for Olly's album. I couldn't get the iPod hooked up to the stereo fast enough.

It was so worth the wait. "If Not Now When?" came just in time for me to work through my own artist block - one that was sort of self-imposed because of time conflicts - to get me back on track with my own creative energy. The album has an energy that ebbs and flows - and it takes you in directions that you don't expect. It defies all typical chord progressions. It has those spine-tingling harmonies that only Olly can deliver. I guess it reminded me of water (even though there's not much reference to water in the lyrics). I think it's because water is my fundamental comfort zone. I'm rarely happier or more at peace than when I'm in water or near water.

So, then, I bring you to today's drawing. If the concept came to me while basking in the calm fluidity of Olly's voice and music, why in hell does this drawing look like an oceanic horror story? Your guess is as good as mine. I hope Olly doesn't take it personally.

(And please, do NOT take my drawing as a statement about the music - if you're interested, please please PLEASE check out the video:

Here's the drawing. Yes, it's on notebook paper. No I'm not still in grade school.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 2 Drawing: it's a Streak

Today I started working on an idea I came up with for a tattoo involving one of my favorite animals: the Hawaiian green sea turtle. I don't know if I will ever get a tattoo, but I like the idea of a photo realistic one. I also don't have a clue how to design a tattoo. My husband is not too keen on the idea that I came up with in today's drawing - he likes another idea I came up with from art history: an image from a painting by Paul Klee (I will work on that one next - maybe not tomorrow, but next). Anyway, this idea is sort-of designed to go on my right shoulder. The colors are all funky (not as realistic as I would want, but I have limited colors available in my colored-pencil collection and I haven't used them since.. I can't remember when). I'm kind of embarrassed just putting this out there in a sort of unfinished state, but that's what this exercise was all about. So here it is.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Catharsis: a Beginning

The Kona fallout is in full swing. The crying. The insomnia. The questions. The search for answers. The kicking myself. The hating myself. The wondering about the future. The doubts. The fear of getting back into training just to fail again.

I've also had doubts about continuing to blog. I don't get much feedback here so I assume few people are at all interested. I guess I just write for myself. Of late, I've reconnected with a very good friend with whom I hope to run over the winter. He is a scientist and philosopher and I've been encouraging him to write a blog because, selfishly, I want reference material for our future running conversations. I told him my thoughts on whether I should continue writing despite having little impact. He gave me the following huge compliment: "Your stuff is interesting because you dare to try to do stuff that is big and then you 'break.' And you make the breaks sound so interesting."

So I decided to channel my negative energy into something productive involving this blog - a new goal to include in it. My thoughts went directly to the other great (creative) passion in my life - the thing I neglect when I'm training and racing - my art.

My new (and I admit, lofty) goal is to do a drawing a day for one year. Starting today.

I've given myself a little leeway. The drawings can be quick incomplete sketches or large-scale manifestaions in color. On anything from barmats or napkins to acid-free 100% cotton paper.

And so it begins... my first drawing is in a sketchbook, and it is a continuation of a group of drawings that I recently renamed "Catharsis" (at the suggestion of a friend) because it involves working through pain and injury.

And here it is, my first drawing in the series, a representation of how my shoulder feels since I fell on it while running this summer:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The One Thing I Didn't Prepare For: 2012 Ironman Kona Wrap

The Queen K - a long road that I never saw the end of.
On Saturday, October 13, I started my third attempt at Ironman Kona. My first attempt was in 2002, my second year of triathlon. I was a novice. I didn't respect the distance. I didn't respect the location. I didn't prepare adequately, and it ended in near-disaster. But I finished. My second attempt came last year, in 2011. I had a whole new respect for the distance, having had to work my way back from physical and mental injuries and many years off after being hit by a car. It took three tries to qualify, but I was determined to have a triumphant return to Kona. This time I would be well-prepared for the tropical heat and the wind. And yet again, I fell short of understanding the nutrition requirements - requirements now of a nine-years-older body. My race dissolved on the run, and I can only claim perseverance as I found myself on the side of the road begging the medical personnel at an aid station to let me finish despite a near-collapse. It took almost an hour to recover, but eventually, I did finish.

I vowed to go back this year and finally conquer Kona. But early in the year, the road back turned grim after a severe respiratory infection caused me to DNF at St. George. Then, several mishaps in early season races left me disappointed, discouraged, and ready to throw in the towel. By the time I toed the line at Ironman Louisville in August, I was worn out and lacking anything resembling confidence. But I HAD I made a commitment to myself, and I felt a need to either see it through - or sink to a new level of despair in my "season from hell."

And so I qualified and things began to look up. Kona became the goal, giving me the ability to slough off even further bad luck with a blow-out in Ironman 70.3 Vegas. It just became a "training race in hot conditions" for Hawaii. I was determined to stay focused, and every time I expressed fear or doubt, my husband Jim reminded me of that goal: "Remember, you WANTED this."

So I prepared for everything starting with everything that went wrong in 2002 and 2012 and continuing with things gone wrong in the "season from hell." I prepared for the heat. I prepared for the wind. I had contingency plans for every plague: dehydration, hyponatremia, too many calories, not enough calories, cramps, dizziness, nausea, blisters, sunburn, chafing, flat tires, trouble getting into my running shoes, not getting my special needs bags, starting the run too fast, getting clobbered in the swim. You name it, I had thought it through or practiced it.

But there was one thing I hadn't prepared for - the one thing I couldn't prepare for. A catastrophic biomechanical failure. Barring crashes or getting kicked in the swim, very few people injure themselves midrace, especially after a good taper. Thus, my breakdown on Saturday has left me utterly confused and mentally demolished. I never saw it coming. And I never experienced anything like it before.

It came after a great swim leg during which I was able to find patches of open water in the middle of the pack and navigate around every potential mishap. (My time of 1:02 in the swim was fast, considering the overwhelming complaints of rough water that morning.) Almost immediately upon starting the bike leg, I was in distress. There was pain in my left hip that felt like something was mechanically wrong. It made no sense - all my rides leading up to race day were asymptomatic.

Trying not to worry, I focused on keeping my heart rate in a comfortable zone. I was happily averaging over 20mph by the time I reached the ascent to Hawi and the turnaround at 60 miles. My nutrition had been damn near perfect, but by that point, a new pain had surfaced. The pain was on both sides of my groin and was increasing with every pedal stroke. I don't know if it was related to the hip problem (I suspect it was). I don't know if it was related to fighting a very strong crosswind on the Queen K (I suspect it was also). Whatever, it was getting more painful on the climb, and by the time I saw Jim at the turnaround, my concern was that I was flirting with a serious injury. I let him know something was wrong, but I continued on.

I didn't realize the full severity of the pain until I slowed down to pick up my special needs bag. After inching along to free my bottle of Gu Brew from the plastic bag, I reaccelerated and the pain almost sent me into tears. Yes, something was horrendously wrong.

We had the wind at our backs on the descent from Hawi, but instead of capitalizing on it, I spent the time trying to find a comfortable position on my saddle. Everybody and their brother was passing me now, compounding my physical pain with a mental one.

I did some thinking - maybe it was muscle cramping. It didn't feel like it, but I had to do SOMEthing. I took an extra Salt Stick capsule, then stopped at the next aid station to stretch and down a banana (this was the cramping contingency plan). I asked for a medic to help diagnose what might be wrong, but after three minutes waiting, I got back on my bike.

There was a crazy-strong headwind on the Queen K homestretch. The pain had subsided just a bit after the stop, but by mile 90, I was barely able to pedal without agony. If I could even finish the bike leg, I would probably have to walk the marathon. The pain seemed to emanate directly from my pelvic bone and had become excruciating upon every pedal stroke. I stopped at the next aid station determined to get a medical opinion - would I do a huge amount of damage if I kept going?

When I got off the bike, I pretty much had my answer. I fell to the ground in pain - I couldn't even walk. The aid station paramedic told me he wasn't going to let me leave until we had a medical consult. He helped me to a chair and I sat and iced it while we waited. Medical showed up 30 minutes later, and I discussed the injury with the doc. He confirmed that the pain was not likely a muscle cramp, but more likely acute tendinitis from overuse. I was done. I called Jim on a volunteer's cell phone.

They carted me to the finish line in the same van as Marino Vanhoenacker, the men's leader off the bike who dropped out during the run. I had to be carried to a cot in the medical tent, unable to put any weight on my legs. I wanted to cry but confusion and fear clouded my tears. The meds at the finish line had three different diagnoses, but I only heard one of them: pelvic stress fracture. It certainly acted like bone pain: no pain at rest, but white-hot searing pain when weight-bearing or trying to lift my leg.

Jim and my friend Julie (who came all the way to Hawaii for this crazy outcome) waited outside the tent for news. They were given a car pass to pick me up and take me to the Kona hospital for X-rays. Julie generously stayed behind to retrieve my bike (Did I mention I had to leave my bike at the aid station? Yeah, that caused a panic in the med van, to say the least.) At least she got to see more of the race.

I milked the House thing for all it was worth. I 
After six hours in the emergency room involving both X-rays and a CATscan, we still had no diagnosis, except it "wasn't a stress fracture." I was sent home with a cane, a bottle of Vicodin, and a serious Dr. Gregory House complex (i.e., according to Jim, I was hating the world).

Sunday, we did some sightseeing, I did a lot of crying, and then I limped through airports. I made one observation: that people treat you very differently when you have an apparatus such as a cane. (Ask me about it sometime, it was more than weird. Even Jim started noticing it.)

Despite my expectations, the Kona outcome really did seem like an appropriate demise to a triathlon season marred by race disasters. Even when I didn't race, bizarre things happened. Twice this year, I witnessed, at close range, two athletes being given CPR unsuccessfully after being pulled from the swim leg of a triathlon. I know I should remember these things before wallowing in despair over one season of mishaps, but it's still hard to invest so much time and money, and heart, into something and have it all go so wrong.

Julie, to whom I am forever grateful, says I just have to "shift my focus." It's a logical solution, but right now my heart needs to heal a bit. I mean, it was only two days ago and the disappointment is still welling up in my throat.

Some friends have said I should look at the bright side: yeah, it all went bad, "but at least I was in Hawaii." So with that, instead of race photos, I'll share my vacation photos... because it's true, I WAS in Hawaii and I was just as determined to enjoy the trip. Which I did - right up until about mile 62.4 of Ironman Kona.

Photos by yours truly and Jim:

We arrived in Kona and it looked just like I remember:

We rented a jeep so we could drive cross country (more on that later).

We went to Lava Java for cinnamon rolls.

And the Kona Brewery for you-know-what:

Monday we took a trip to an amazing inlet called PapakĊlea Beach. Formed by a collapsed cinder cone, it's one of only two beaches in the world where the sand is green. To get there, we had to drive the Jeep cross-country, all the while praying that we didn't end up in a ditch (which was very likely). This was a bucket-list item for me:

Yes, the sand really is green.

That same day, we also drove to the southernmost point in the United States:

Lava tube:

We continued driving... to Punalu'u Beach, a beach made of black sand that serves as a favorite resting (sleeping) spot for endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles:


Not dead, just resting:

There are turtles sleeping everywhere on this beach.

On the way back to Kona, we accidentally caught the sunset, and to my shock and delight, we saw the ever-elusive green flash (this was another bucket-list item). The video doesn't at all do it justice:

Tuesday, I went to Ironman check-in. On the way back to our condo, we met four-time Ironman Kona champ, Chrissie Wellington. She is nothing short of amazing. And yep, you guessed it, bucket-list item number 3: check!

And we saw another sunset:

and got lei-ed on the way to dinner:

On Wednesday, we went to the Ironman Expo and Jim met Ivan, the guy who does for Cervelo what Jim does for NASA. They exchanged business cards. It was all extremely cool. He is the second-nicest computational fluid dynamicist I know.

 Then I ran into six-time Kona champ, Dave Scott.
We met in 2002, but he denies it (and seriously, do you blame him?)

And then we drove up above the clouds to the Mauna Kea visitor center... to see..
yes, another sunset!

Thursday we took a tour of the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation which featured the most amazing aroma ever - of Kona coffee roasting - and met a cat named Pumpkin:

and saw our fourth sunset:

Then we checked out Keauhou Bay and downtown Kona before going to the pre-race meeting. 

On Friday, we checked in the bike at transition.

and, um.. we watched another sunset:

On Saturday... you already know what happened:

At the Kona hospital ER, it matters not how important you are in the triathlon world. You are merely "Unassigned Tourist" to them.

On Sunday, we went to the Coffee Shack to visit the geckos.

Then we found two very cool places while out exploring.

The first was the Pu'uhonua, or "Place of Refuge." It was a place that offered sanctuary to those who broke sacred laws (punishable by death). Law-breakers who could reach this place would have their sins forgiven and would be allowed to re-enter society. Amazingly, it occupied the space on the other side of a huge wall from the royal and holy ground of the Hawaiian Ali'i.

The second cool place was St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church, also known as the "Painted Church" because of its interior art painted by one of the priests.

We said farewell to Hawaii after we watched our final sunset on the way to the airport.