Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Smell of Obsession

July is Tour de France Month in our house. The Tour de France lasts twenty-three days and involves several thousand miles of bicycling, mostly in France, by skinny dudes with really huge thighs.

I generally enjoy eavesdropping on the coverage, which is on the stupidly named Versus network. This year, however, the abundance of commercials for male enhancement and baldness products sort of put me off. Still, I never tire of Bob Roll saying “Tour DAY France” with a hick American twang for the 4,000th time, and I have been in love with Phil Liggett’s positively adorable English accent ever since he said that one competitor needed “to open his suitcase of courage.”

Have you ever noticed that Brits can say the oddest things and still sound so erudite?

Cycling, however, is just one third of George’s obsession: triathlon. Swim. Bike. Run. A shocking number of crazy people carry triathlon to its extreme and compete in Ironman races, which consist of a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. In forty-six days, we’ll be in Madison, Wisconsin, and I will be cheering George to (hopefully) his third Ironman finish.

He is the crazy one. Not I. I’ll be on the sidelines happily hoarse from cheering for sweaty, exhausted racers stumbling across the finish line to the sound of "John/Jane Doe, you are an IRONMAN."

There’s a Starbucks half a block from the finish line. Heaven above, I love Madison.

Training for a 140.6-mile race takes, as you can imagine, a lot of work and time. It also takes a lot of gear and specialized clothing. Generally speaking, the gear doesn’t bother me, especially now that George keeps his bikes in the garage instead of the living room. And yes, I used the plural bikes because he has four.

I cope with the dozen or so recharging cords for various data-collection devices (heart rate monitors, GPS systems, and such) without losing my cool. George tells me, “It’s all about the data.” I get that.

I don’t freak when inner tubes and CO2 cartridges and empty sport gel wrappers and sweaty do-rags litter my dining room table.

I say nothing when I walk into the garage and find a $4,000 bicycle, stinking of lubricant, leaning against my car. I just breathe through my mouth and gently move the bike to lean against HIS car.

When I got sick of him draping his tri suits and jogging shorts over the bathroom door, I showed my support by hanging hooks in our bedroom. He uses the hooks…sometimes.

I also tolerate seventeen pairs of running shoes (yes, I counted) scattered around our bedroom, and when he tells me he needs a new pair of $160 running shoes, I say, “Order what you need.”

But I draw the line at the smell of neoprene in my bedroom.

Last year, at Ironman Wisconsin, George started the race in a wetsuit that looked like a badly butchered whale skin. Holes, repaired with rubber cement, marred the smooth neoprene. Next to the other racers, he looked a bit shabby. Okay, a lot shabby. I felt bad, especially since I’m the Minister of Finance in the Raihala Republic and had cut the budget for the new wetsuit purchase last year, asking him to eek out one more race in his old Orca wetsuit. I truly had no idea it was in such bad shape.

This year, we saved to replace the Orca, and he ordered a 2XU wetsuit on sale for $400. Woohoo! He opened the box while I was away from the house. When I returned, I kept getting whiffs of something stinky and wondered what child brought tar into my house and where on earth he'd found it. I finally realized it was the smell of a wetsuit and thought, “I just can’t take this!” But I held my peace. The man was excited with his new purchase, and I know how tragic it is to have someone rain on my own acquisitive party.

Later that night, George carried the wetsuit upstairs, and I said, “I don’t want that stinky thing in my bedroom.”

He replied, shocked, “But I love the smell of fresh neoprene! It smells like…racing.” Then, with a beatific expression on his face, he buried his nose in the wetsuit and sniffed. Loudly.

The wetsuit has been draped over the glider rocker in our bedroom for a week now. The stink is terrible. Fortunately, I now sleep in Jack’s bed (I read in bed while George falls asleep and then move…he snores), but I still don’t want that thing stinking up my bedroom. Problem is, I can’t decide where to put it.

Our closet is out of the question. My clothes will stink, and I’ll smell neoprene everywhere I go.

The basement currently resembles Berlin in 1945, and I KNOW George won’t allow his precious neoprene to descend into a chaos firmly under the dictatorship of a nine-year-old with a huge imagination and love of costume play. I can’t wrest back control of the dungeon until the budding theater major is back in school on August 25, which is 27 days away. But I'm not counting.

The only solution that makes sense is putting the wetsuit into a Rubbermaid storage bin. I could get one that slides under the bed, nice and safe and contained. Best of all, I might possibly be able to sell this idea to Mr. Obsession.

Or maybe he just wants me to lay the thing in the bed when I leave each night so he can cuddle it.

Nah. Even he’s not that crazy.

At least, I don’t think so.


  1. Does Febreeze work on Neoprene?? hehehe... or even better.... how about moth balls in the rubbermaid and then for all those days the bedroom smelled, one race with a waft of cedar might just do it :->

    Enjoyed the essay... thanks for the smile.

  2. Susan - you are so very funny. What an interesting life you and George lead. I think the rubbermaid box is a great idea because it will keep the smell really strong and he will be able to open it and have a whiff whenever he likes.

  3. Kitty litter might work, Suse. . . you know the odor control stuff. It might just suck the stink right out of the tri suit!! You guys sound like a hoot'n a half!! Sit com material--honestly!! :D

  4. I just read this on Slowtwitch because my husband mentioned it to me. I remember the last one your husband posted was fantastic and this is as well! My husband completed his first Ironman in July and I remember waiting on the beach for it to start, the overwhelming smell of neoprene wafting from the beach. I just wanted to share my husband's favorite smell - new running shoes - when they arrive, he just can't keep his nose out of 'em. I'll keep checking this blog as I love your writing and we clearly have something in common :)

  5. All I can say is, you have lots of leverage to justify stamp, ink, and paper purchases. : )

  6. You are so funny - I have tears rolling down my cheeks! And I have to agree that my fellow Brit Phil Liggett is a superstar!

  7. I live just outside of Madison - lots of Starbucks and nice little hole-in-the-wall spots, too.

    I didn't realize the triathlon was coming up again so soon.


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!