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Sweaty Chic

Posted by C. Esch on January 29, 2014

As a grad student/scientist fashion is not a priority in my life.  I tend to be far more focused on function and comfort.  That tends to mean that I wear jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt every single day.

This March I’m going to be attending and presenting at a conference.  Additionally there are going to be potential employers and on site interviews at this conference.  All of this means  that I am going to have to dress like a professional for several days.

I realized that shopping was in my fairly immediate future and immediately began hyperventilating.  I abhor shopping.  In order to attempt to minimize the overwhelmingness of the venture, I decided to look online at Nordstrom a little.  As I was putzing around the website I came across a lovely free service offered: personal stylist.

I gave Nordstrom a call and left my information requesting a personal stylist.   Yesterday I received a call from Nordstrom to get a bit of information about me so they could better match my style needs.  Here’s how the conversation went down.

Nordstrom rep: Hi, Caroline! I just want to touch base with you and get some information about you and your personal style.  How would you describe your style?  Vintage? Trendy? Modern? Retro?

Caroline: Um.  I really think it’s more of a sweaty chic.

NR: Sweaty chic?  I haven’t heard of that before.  What does that entail?  What are the colors?

Caroline: It’s like I’m either on my way to or from a treadmill all the time.  Jeans, sneakers, t-shirts.  That’s it.

NR: Ok. What kind of t-shirts, capped sleeves, fitted..

Caroline: No. No. No.  Think race t-shirts and baggy jeans.  I am the antithesis of style.

The conversation continued as we discussed budget and sizing options.  I stopped trying to be funny at this point as it was apparent that my incredibly witty remarks were being lost on this woman.  I’m just thankful that this happens to be a free service because I’m not sure that I’ll be getting much more than a couple of entertaining stories out of it.

 

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How I Met a Time Traveler

Posted by C. Esch on January 22, 2014

My street never gets plowed or salted in the winter time.  It also runs east to west which means that the houses on the north side of the street do a fantastic job of blocking the sunlight.  Even the smallest bit of wintery precipitation manages to make my street into a skating rink.  Difficult to drive on and treacherous to walk on.  I had just turned onto my street on my way back from the climbing gym when a small hispanic woman darts out from the side.  She was carrying something that was as large as she was.  

She stood in the middle of the road precariously balancing the large object while waving frantically.  I was forced to slam on my brakes and the car lurched as the anti-lock brakes worked to stop the car on the slick surface.  I prayed that they would stop the car in time because this frail little woman had no chance against my car.  

The car stopped just inches before her and she wasted no time in hurrying over to my window.  I started to go again, not wanting to be held up by this woman. But she jumped back in front of me, demanding that I stop and roll down my window.  I figured if push came to shove, I’d have the upper hand.  Although, the grandfather clock could tip things in Abuela’s favor.  I cracked my window and she asked in a heavily accented wheez, “What day is it?”  

“Uh, Tuesday.” I managed to stammer back.  

“No. No. No.  What day is it?”  She insisted.  

“Oh, uh, hold on,” as I fumbled for the light on my watch.  “It’s the 21st.”

“Thirty-one?” she repeated back to me.  

“No.  The twenty first.  January twenty first.” I corrected.

“Ay Dios Mio.” she groaned before tottering off down the road, still toting the grandfather clock.  

When I recounted this story to my lab mates this morning, Tianjiao looked up from her laptop and said straight faced,”She was a time traveler.” 

I’m inclined to believe Tianjiao’s hypothesis.  

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Ride the Rivers Century

Posted by C. Esch on November 4, 2013

This is a couple weeks late, but better late than never I suppose.  There is a 100 mile ride put on by a local bike advocacy group called the Ride the River Century.  This ride utilizes bike routes and paths throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.  You cross three big bridges, ride along both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and ride two ferry boats.  I did the ride alone, or at least it started that way.  After the lunch stop at mile 57 a man passed me.  I latched onto his wheel for a while because there was a headwind and I wanted a little break.  But I dropped back after a couple of minutes because I didn’t want to be obnoxious and annoying.  I saw the guy at the next rest stop and he came over and talked to me.  “Thought you were going to hang with me for a bit there.”  he said.

“I thought about it, but I didn’t know if you’d be okay with it.” I responded.

“I was all for it.  I was getting ready to make you pull when I realized you weren’t there. ”  he said with a smile.

” Well, I’m getting ready to head out now if you want to ride together.” I offered.

“Go ahead.  I’ll catch you.”

So I took off and made it to the first ferry boat.  Soon after disembarking, my friend, whose name I learned was Bobby, joined me.  As it turns out, Bobby and I were a pretty good match ability wise on the bike so we rode together the remaining 35 miles.  (Sorry mom, Bobby is a middle aged lawer man with a family, not a prospect.)

Another day on the bike.  Another smile on my face.  Life is good.

Happy Caroline

Happy Caroline

My view for many hours that day.

My view for many hours that day.

 

Bikes on boats

Bikes on boats

 

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Cranksgiving Weekend

Posted by C. Esch on November 4, 2013

Temps were in the 50′s all weekend.  Leaves are pretty much at their peak color right now.  Can’t think of a better way to spend a fall weekend than with a little bit of mountain biking, a little bit of road biking, and a little bit of helping people.

Saturday I went out to Castlewood to take the mountain bike for a spin.  And to check out the fall foliage.  It was a great decision all around.  The trails were tacky, the leaves were brilliant, the day was great.

Oh my 'lanta!  Look at those leaves.  Absolutely glorious

Oh my ‘lanta! Look at those leaves. Absolutely glorious

I call this one red.  Also, it's very likely that those red leaves are poison ivy.  Or oak.  Or something that will cause an itchy rash.

I call this one red. Also, it’s very likely that those red leaves are poison ivy. Or oak. Or something that will cause an itchy rash.

Happiness on two wheels.

Happiness on two wheels.

On Sunday the temps were again beautiful.  And this time the sun was shining as well making the option to be outside  irresistible.  Too bad that I don’t ever feel that way about being in the lab.  Sunday was the Cranksgiving bike ride.  This is a ride where instead of paying an entry fee the directors ask that you spend that amount on canned goods for a local food pantry.  The ride has several routes all having stops at grocery stores for you to pick up your canned goods.  There are cargo vans waiting outside the store for you to unloads your goods into so that you can ride free and unencumbered by plastic bags.  Kate and I did the 50 mile route and then followed it up with copious amounts of food.

What does the fox say?  I still can't answer that question.  But I do know that he hunts and eats field mice.

What does the fox say? I still can’t answer that question. But I do know that he hunts and eats field mice.

That's a lot of food.  All brought in by cyclists.  Cyclists are good people.

That’s a lot of food. All brought in by cyclists. Cyclists are good people.

 

 

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Little Piney Creek

Posted by C. Esch on October 8, 2013

After only catching minnow after minnow at Blue Springs Creek I decided it was time to change up my waters.  Last weekend at the Berryman Trail Adventure Race, we floated on the Big Piney River.  I thought that I had remembered seeing something similar to this on the Missouri Department of Conservation website under the trout areas.  Little Piney River, which is conveniently in the same area, is a creek that hosts a population of wild rainbow trout.

Meet ROY G. BIV the trout

Meet ROY G. BIV the trout

After a rainy Saturday, Sunday promised to be chilly but sunny.  I loaded up my new rod and reel, hopped in the car and drove down to Rolla.  In my excitement to go test out my new fishing equipment I forgot that I was getting ready to head to a National Forest.  The government happens to be shut down currently.  That means the campsite that I wanted to access to use as a home base for my angling operation was also closed.

I was not anticipating this turn of events.  Luckily, I'm resourceful.

I was not anticipating this turn of events. Luckily, I’m resourceful.

But I’m nothing if not resourceful though so I followed the highway a little further to where I knew it crossed the river.  I took the first (gravel) road I could find after crossing and followed it back to the creek.  Ha.  Take that government.  You can’t stop me from fishing.

This guy was not happy that I was trying to go fishing.  He insisted on chasing my car and biting my tires.  I was so very thankful I ran into him while in a car and not on a bike.  His teeth looked very sharp and his bark was rather menacing.

This guy was not happy that I was trying to go fishing. He insisted on chasing my car and biting my tires. I was so very thankful I ran into him while in a car and not on a bike. His teeth looked very sharp and his bark was rather menacing.

I hooked up the rod and put on a caddis fly with a prince nymph dropper.  Don’t be fooled into thinking I chose those flies because they are good patterns to fish at this place at this time of year.  I didn’t have any idea what flies would work.  But I knew the names of those two and knew what they looked like so I picked them.  And I got lucky.  Because I managed to catch three little rainbows and a bluegill on them.  My dad will probably say they don’t count since I was using a nymph, but one of the trout took the dry fly, so even by my father’s view I didn’t get skunked.  The fish were by no stretch of the imagination large.  But they were definitely fish and not the bait that I had been catching previously, so I’m at least moving in the right direction.

Not only did I see fish, I also managed to catch sight of a marmot, some deer, a frog, and some butterflies.  A great day for a Neature walk.

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Berryman 12hr Adventure Race

Posted by C. Esch on October 1, 2013

Wherein Kate and I decide to do an adventure race…

I’m not sure whose idea it was originally.  But somehow Kate and I found ourselves signed up for a 12 hr adventure race.  Race day rolled around and we started realizing that we had perhaps underestimated the significance and difficulty of such an undertaking.  Kate is probably the most naturally athletic person I know and I had just completed a half Ironman so we figured that we would at least be fit enough to finish.  Turns out, fitness isn’t the only thing that counts when tackling an adventure race.  People make plans for this kind of thing.  They practice.  Because there are skills involved.  Like reading a map.

Wherein I look up bear sightings in Missouri

I was remembering a time in high school when there happened to be a black bear that got trapped in the hay loft of a farmers barn in the neighboring town.  There was a rescue operation and everything to get the trapped bear out of the barn.  Aside from that I haven’t really heard anything about Missouri’s bear population so I decided to look it up and see what the likelihood of running into Baloo was going to be since we were going to be wandering around the remote woods for 12+hrs.

MO bear sightings. Uh oh.

Wherein I wander through a nest of seed ticks…

During this adventure race the checkpoints that you reach on foot are for the most part not on trails.  They are out in the middle of nowhere and you have to bushwhack to get there.  A machete wasn’t on the required gear list, but I wouldn’t have minded having one.  Actually, that would probably be dangerous since I don’t have the steadiest legs when wandering around not on trails.  Kind of like when my grandad totters around his yard in Idaho with a running chainsaw.  It’s the epitome of safety.

After wandering to find a checkpoint I had just made my way through a particularly difficult bit of growth (read: there were so many burs grabbing my legs that it actually slowed down my movement) I looked down to see how many burs I had accumulated.  “Huh, those are some different looking burs.” I thought as I looked at the tiny brown dots covering parts of my pants.

Picture stolen from the internet. But my pants looked like this, only more ticks

I had wandered through a seed tick nest and I had hundreds, if not thousands of these little buggars covering my legs.  I quickly grabbed a rock and did my best to scrape them all off.  Once my pants stopped squirming I figured I was safe and we carried on with our trek.

Wherein we are the last people to finish the trek…

Kate and I waltzed into transition a mere 3 hours after the start of the race.  We went over to the bike area to discover that our bikes were the only ones left.  We were officially the slowest people on the starting leg of the race.

Wherein we almost save a life…

As we were riding along one of the mountain bike trails we came across another team.  First thing I thought as we saw signs of other humans was, “Thank goodness we’re on the right track.” Second thing I thought was, “Hooray, we are about to not be last anymore.”  Then we got to the team and realized that the woman on the team was injured.  To the best of my knowledge she had stepped off her bike and twisted her ankle pretty badly.  It was already starting to swell above her sock.  We made sure that they were OK and told them that we would make sure someone knew where they were once we got to the next checkpoint.

Wherein we take a road that stopped existing…

During the pre race meeting the race director let us know that there were some roads on the map that were marked “Loc App” meaning location approximate.  Sometimes they existed where marked, sometimes they weren’t marked, sometimes they weren’t where they were marked.  When we finished the trail section of the mountain biking leg we were supposed to be spit out onto a road.  Turns out the road was location approximate and as we followed  it along the grass got taller and more difficult to ride through until it was fairly apparent that we were in the middle of a field and the road no longer existed.

As we were standing there looking at a map to try and figure out where we were another couple road up on bikes and we all looked at maps together.  We decided to try and go up a trail that we saw nearby.  It led to yet another road that disappeared.  We got very good at bike whacking, bushwhacking with bikes.

Finally we decided to turn around and go back to where the trail had originally spit us out after the last checkpoint since that was the last place where we knew where we were.  We reached the end of the last trail and found the road that we probably should have turned on to begin with.  Oops.  After figuring out where we were and what roads we needed to take we headed on our merry way.

Wherein I nearly get bitten by a copperhead…

Copperhead. Not exactly a cuddly buddy

We were cruising along the backroads of the Mark Twain National Forest heading to the canoe put in when I saw Kate pass a snake on the road.  It didn’t move as she passed it so I assumed it was roadkill. A truck decided to pass me as I was about to pass the snake forcing me to stay on the shoulder near the snake opposed to getting out into the lane to avoid the roadkill.  Turns out I didn’t need to worry about getting out of the way of the roadkill because the snake was alive.  And as I rode by the snake it decided to strike at me.  Thankfully my foot wasn’t within striking distance.

Wherein we run out of water…

During this biking leg of the race both Kate and I sucked our camelbacks dry. We desperately needed to find the canoe checkpoint not only to keep going with the race, but so that we could put the iodine tablets we had to bring to good use and refill our water supplies.

Wherein we are NOT the last people to the canoe…

Those people who we met while we were on bikes on the location approximate road?  They still hadn’t made it to the canoes.  Suckers.

Wherein I discover I didn’t get rid of all the seed ticks…

We stopped along the canoe to grab another checkpoint.  I also wanted to wash off my legs in the river.  When I took off my shoes and socks I saw a ring of brown dots around my ankles.  Seed ticks.  Everywhere.  Biting me.  Sucking my blood. Gross.

Wherein we decide going down a river frontwards is too easy…

We were coming to a section of river where there were several trees in the water creating a fairly strong current and a bit of turbulence that we had to navigate.  As we got to the first tree the current caught us and we we got pinned sideways against it. As we got off the tree the current spun us around and we had to go down backwards the rest of the way through that section.  Kate was not amused.  I just liked to pretend we were being as awesome as Lewis and Clark.

Wherein it starts pouring down rain…

There we were, just paddling down the river when the dark clouds overhead opened.  It started raining, then it rained harder.  The water started pooling in the bottom of the canoe.  Conveniently my raincoat was in my dry-bag staying nice and dry.

It was about this point in time that I reached my limit.  I had all sorts of ticks biting me, they weren’t causing problems, just grossing me out knowing that they were there.  I was wet, I was hungry.  I wanted a hot shower and a comfortable bed.

Wherein I really want a coke...

At  the beginning of the race we had filled up resupply bags that we would come across later in the race.  We had two gallons of water, gummi worms, and a coke in ours.  I was really looking forward to putting non-river water in my camelback, to eating some gummi worms, to taking a wonderfully long drink of cherry coke.  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to our resupply bags.  We decided to head back to the race headquarters after finishing the canoe, so we were going to have to keep going with the iodine river water and I would have to do without my coke.

Wherein it gets really dark…

We were in the middle of the forest.  Night was approaching quickly.  There were no streetlights around.  That meant it got very dark very quickly.  Good thing we had headlights on our bikes otherwise we would have been in a world of hurt.

Wherein we cross the finish line…

We crossed the finish line at 8:30pm after going for almost exactly fourteen hours.  We were covered in ticks and mud with a little bit of blood mixed in here and there.  We were bruised and battered.  But thankfully we were finished.  And more thankfully there was cherry pie at the finish line.

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70.3 Branson

Posted by C. Esch on September 25, 2013

A few days after the Boston Marathon I called up my brother.   “So, I know it might be a littler early to be asking,” I said.  (He had run the marathon and was inevitably very sore still.) “How do you feel about 70.3?”  Without hesitation he said, “Sure.  Let’s do it.  I’m in.”  With that we each started training.  That training culminated this past weekend in the Revolution3 triathlon in Branson, MO.

Training

Leading up to the race it was common for my brother and me to be texting a couple times a day comparing workouts.  Always egging each other on.  We even set one day a week as swimming time trial day.  We would each swim the distance we had agreed upon the week before and compare times.  We each kept getting better, and it was fun trying to beat one another.

Pre-Race

Friday rolled around and I left work and went straight to the tri shop to pick up a wetsuit for Joseph.  Turns out the one they had for him was the exact same one that I have.  How cute.  We were going to be twinsies.

We drove down to Branson Saturday morning and checked in to get our packets and numbers then we drove out to T1 and dropped off our bikes.  The race was creeping up and we were both getting amped.

Sunday morning rolled around and we were up and at ‘em by 4:00am because we wanted to be on the road by 4:30.  I had a lovely pre-race breakfast of a smoked turkey, brie, avocado sandwich with some apricot jam.  Joseph had 3 scrambled eggs. We loaded up the car and headed down to the Branson Landing.  After setting up our stuff for the run we hopped onto a duck that was being used as a shuttle to the race start.

4:00am and looking good

4:00am and looking good

As we were cruising through Branson the driver came on the intercom and said, “Hope y’all trust me, ’cause we just lost our headlights.”  Um, excuse me.  What?  Thankfully we were near the Ducks headquarters so we just pulled in and transferred to another duck that was waiting for us in the parking lot.  We pulled out and were on our way.  Less than a mile after switching ducks the headlights on our new duck went out as well.  I started really wishing that I had my bike with me at that point so that I could just ride to where I needed to go.  I don’t believe I was the only person who had this train of thought.  The trip to the race start took almost an hour when it was only supposed to take 20 minutes.  And it’s a good thing we got there when we did, there was a mad rush for the porta-potties when we arrived.  Cooping up a bunch of nervous triathletes who have been obsessively hydrating is really a recipe for disaster.

The Start

Mom and Dad made it down to the start line just in time to see Joseph take off right behind the pros.  I was ten minutes behind him.  I was lined up at the start line and the announcers were giving us the countdown another woman in my wave noticed that her goggles had fallen off her head.  (That’s why you wear them under your swim camp, dummy.)  She was running around like a chicken with her head cut off and yelling, “My google’s are gone! My goggles are gone! Where are my goggles?”  Luckily for her my mom was holding my pair of warm up goggles (I warm up in a different pair of goggles than I actually swim in because I tend to make my goggles fog very badly and they do so less if it their first time in the water.  No, I don’t know why.)  So I grabbed the goggles from my mom and tossed them to the goggleless competitor.  She put them on just in time to hear the air horn sound so she could charge into the water without so much as a thank you.  I quickly followed suit.

The brother heading to the starting line

The brother heading to the starting line

The Swim

The swim was 1.2 miles long in Table Rock Lake.  At the pre-race meeting they told us that the water temperature was measured at 77.5 degrees.  Legal wetsuit temperature is under 78.  I had been monitoring the fishing reports for the area and they all had the temperature at 80 degrees.  I’m fairly certain they just dropped a thermometer down as far as it took to get the legal reading.  For that I was thankful.

The horn blew and I took off swimming.  I kept it at what I thought was a calm easy pace I could maintain for the entirety of the swim.  I knew that many people start too fast in the swim so when I immediately dropped to the back I wasn’t worried.  I just focused on sighting a buoy and  swimming to it.  I knew there were elven buoys in total so I just started counting down and doing my best to keep my strokes and breathing even.

The further out into the swim I got the more difficult it became to see the buoys.  The exceptionally warm water partnered with the cool air meant that the surface of the lake was steaming like a spiced pumpkin latte that I’m sure several of the spectators were sipping.  More than once people took off in the wrong direction and had to be corralled by a paddle boarder or jet skier.

I looked at my watch as I stood up out of the water 48 min.  I was pleased.  I started running to the transition area.  And that’s when I started feeling terrible.  Apparently, that easy pace I thought I was going was a lot more strenuous than I had anticipated.  As I reached the top of the ramp I knew that the turkey/brie sandwich I had eaten for breakfast was going to come around for a second visit.  My dad was frantically trying to take pictures on his iPad at this time and I wasn’t exactly being a cooperative subject.  But when I leaned over the fence and started tossing my cookies he understood why.  I thought that I had just made a very poor pre-race meal decision but I later learned that my brother had also thrown up after the swim and he made a smarter choice.  So, I’ll just pretend there was something in the water.

About 2.73 seconds before I puked.  Great timing, Dad

About 2.73 seconds before I puked. Great timing, Dad

The Bike

In transition.  Totally discombobulated due to the previously mentioned throwing up.  Oy.

In transition. Totally discombobulated due to the previously mentioned throwing up. Oy.

I ride a bike a lot.  As in almost every single day.  So typically a 50+ mile ride isn’t too difficult for me.  I knew this was going to be difficult going into it.  My goal was to average 15 miles an hour.  I ended up averaging 14.5.  I worked harder for those 14.5mph on that 56 mile ride than I have ever worked on any ride before in my life.  The first three miles out of transition are all uphill.  Then there are about 4 major climbs separated by rollers on the loop that we had to ride three times.

Taking off on the bike.

Taking off on the bike.

The highlight of the ride was when I was passing a guy on a climb and he looked over at me and said, “Man, you are kicking my ass.”  I was huffing and puffing too heavily to reply which is really all the better because I’m not really sure of a good retort to that.  Do I lie and say, “No, you’re doing great!” I do I kick him while he’s down and say,”Yeah, I really am.  You should probably give up now.”  I figured breathing heavily was the correct response so that at least he knew I was having to work really hard to kick his ass.

This is what the bike course looks like.
This is what the bike course looks like.

The Run

Running has never been my strong point.  Probably because of the not great knees.  But no one really wants to hear excuses.  I guessed that I would probably take as long to run these 13 miles and I would to bike the 56.  I wasn’t very far off on that guess.  Also, the tortise lied; slow and steady doesn’t win the race.  But it will get you across the finish line.  Which honestly was my only goal.  I’m a completer not a competer (otherwise known as a competitor but that doesn’t work as well with my complete/compete word play I’ve got going on).  So slow and steady is what I went for.  I moved my legs as fast as I could, which wasn’t very fast.  And I lived for the little schlurps of Coke I could get at the aid stations.  Coke and ice to pour down the back of my sports bra.  Those were my motivations.  And they worked.  I got through all 13.1 miles on my own two feet.

Just two kids plugging along.  Joseph is moments away from finishing.  I'm jealous because I have an hour left.  More exactly, 59 minutes.
Just two kids plugging along. Joseph is moments away from finishing. I’m jealous because I have an hour left. More exactly, 59 minutes.

While I was on my own two feet the whole time, I wasn’t alone.  The highlight of my race happened during the run when I was lapped by my brother.  He was also moving at a glacial pace at this point so we just plodded along together.  That meant I got to be beside him as he headed into the finish chute.  I still had one lap at that point.  But as I was nearing the final mile of my final lap I recognized a pained gait and blue t-shirt coming toward me.  My brother had come back to run my last mile with me.

The Finish

I finished, nearly an hour after my brother did. But under the eight hour mark by a minute.  And I wasn’t the last person on the course.  There were 12 people behind me.  So no DFL, DNF, or DNS.  A completion.  I think I have to call that a success.

We're happy because it's over.
We’re happy because it’s over.

I’ll take this week to eat and sleep, and I imagine my brother will as well.  But after that we’ll probably start taking suggestions for our next challenge.

 

 

 

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Bloody Bikes

Posted by C. Esch on September 11, 2013

Reginald, with blood.  But bikes don't bleed. Huh.

Reginald, with blood. But bikes don’t bleed. Huh.

Bikes don’t bleed, so how is it that my trusty steed, Reginald, has appeared to develop some kind of wound?  If you, dear reader, take a moment to think about where the stem of a bike is located you might receive some insight.  Not so familiar with bike/rider anatomy?  I’ll help you out.  It’s right below my nose.

My body has a weird response to a lot of stress.  I get nosebleeds.  I guess my body thinks that by bleeding profusely out of a facial orifice I’ll be able to get out of whatever stressful situation I’m in.  Too bad my body doesn’t think ahead and realized that I’ll have to go back to the stressful situation and finish, most likely with less time now and it will be even more stressful.  Senior year of college when I was getting ready to graduate and didn’t have a job waiting I got several.   Frequently at inopportune times, like when I was working in lab, or during a german class when the professor doesn’t really deal with blood well.  I digress.

Yesterday, I was trying to solve mass spec spectra for the fragmentation of maleimide tagged thiols.  It was about as stressful as it sounds.  Not that it was particularly difficult, but I hadn’t done it before and had no idea what I was doing.  After work I went on a bike ride stopping at a buddy’s house to hand out for a bit before returning to my apartment for the night.  While there she had me look at a homework problem for her molecular biology class.  The class is being taught by a chemist and so there was a problem about calculating the ionic strength and pH of a buffer (pH=pKa+log({A}/{HA}- Henderson-Hasselbalch in case you were wondering).  The two grad students might have made a slight error in reading the problem so the calculations we did, that were correct, weren’t making much sense for the way we knew a chemical system to react. It was stressful to say the least.  Finally I realized the error of our ways, we both sighed big sighs of relief, groaned at how nerdy of us it was to spend our night hanging out solving chemistry problems, and vowed to be cooler the next time we saw one another.

I then hopped on my bike to return to my apartment.  I was cruising along, about two miles from home when I got that runny nose feeling.  Uh Oh.  I hadn’t had a runny nose all day.  I dabbed the back of a hand to my nose and it came back red.  Well, there wasn’t much I could do but keep riding.  I didn’t particularly want to stop on a street corner in STL in the dark while bleeding from my face.  I did have to stop at a couple of stoplights on the way though and there happened to be cars around.  So to the two strangers who offered napkins to a bloody faced stranger on a bike when she tapped on their car window at 9:30 at night in STL, thanks.

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Chicago Triathlon

Posted by C. Esch on August 27, 2013

Esch and Lesch were together again, and under the most epic of circumstances: racing the Chicago Triathlon.

I drove up to Chicago after work on Friday.  I got to spend the night with one of my former campers from many years ago.  It was wonderful.

Saturday was expo/packet pick-up/ race prep day.  The nerves started building as we saw all the toned athletes strutting around with their wave numbers written on their calves.  We took as many opportunities as possible to flex our own calves.

That night we had dinner with many people from our days at WashU.  It was glorious/wonderful/excellent.  A dinner full of laughs, brain teasers, and the most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of meeting.  Exactly what one needs to get ready for a race.  After dinner we went back to our hotel room at the start line of the race.  (Lesch lives in Chi-town.  But her mom came to town for the race and got a hotel room.  Since it was closer to the race, and since we had to have everything set up in transition before 5:45, we crashed there for the night.)

Race morning came and we went down to transition, along with the other 8,998 participants, at 4:45AM to set up our gear for the day.  Since we were in wave 41 we had a few hours until our actual start time.  So, naturally, we went back to the hotel and had a leisurely breakfast.

Once we were fed we headed down to the start line to get on our wetsuits before we were herded into the starting chute.  We jumped into the water of Lake Michigan, the air horn blew and we were off.  1500m open water swim.  It was hard, yes.  But I finally managed to have a halfway decent swim.  35:00 min.  I’ll take it.

Upon completing the swim we were pulled out of the water by wonderful volunteers and had to run a quarter of a mile in our wetsuits to the transition area. Lesch had beaten me in the swim, but not by much because she was still there in transition when I got there.  I changed, as quickly as I could, and hopped on the bike with the goal of catching up with Lesch as quickly as possible.

5 miles into the ride I recognized a blue tank top and yellow bike and yelled, “Hey, Boo!” as I passed by Lesch.  Her response,”I was waiting for that.  I’ll just see you on the run.”  That’s what I was afraid of.

I averaged 20.2mph on the bike.  It was a flat, fast course.  I liked it a lot.

Coming into the run I was already hot.  And thirsty.  I knew that didn’t exactly bode well for the remaining six miles I had.  Since we were approaching the noon hour, the sun had really come out with a vengeance.  I was drinking multiple cups of liquid at each of the aid stations along the run, about every mile.  But I just couldn’t keep up with the sweating that was happening in the beating sun.  Lesch passed me at mile 2 and I didn’t see her again until the finish line.  By the time I got the finish line, I was exhausted.

I got a personal best on the day finishing in three hours and fourteen minutes.  I also got iced down with wet towels and bags of ice because I was hot when I finished.  But I’d rather focus on the PR.

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I don’t live in Montana…

Posted by C. Esch on August 21, 2013

…but that won’t stop me from acting like I do.  This past weekend I decided that it was time to go fishing again so I loaded up a rod, reel, fly, and picnic and headed down to Blue Springs Creek.  As usual, when it comes to fishing, my dad was right when he predicted that I would only catch guppies while I was there.  I did see some bigger fish, but the little ones attacked the fly with such gusto the moment it touched the water that it was impossible to leave it there long enough to catch a real fish.

But then I started to think, surely it’s a lot more difficult to catch a fish that has a mouth smaller than the fly to actually be caught.  First, allowing the fly to be eaten in such a way that it actually hooks the fish is tough.  Secondly, setting the hook without ripping the lips off the fish is also a challenge.  So, sure, I only caught guppies.  I was actually just working on my skill and finesse.  I’d call it a successful day.

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